Trip to the UK: Exploring and Making New Friends

Wow I really am bad at updating this aren’t I? I will get on top of it one day, I promise! New design is almost ready to go and everything. Anyway the rate I’m going, I will never catch up so I’d better get on with it.

During our trip we tried to spend as much time as we could catching up with friends and family, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years. Maya enjoyed playing with her cousins (2nd cousins to be exact!) and making friends with some of my friends kids who are similar ages.

As everything is so different to Bali, it wasn’t hard to have a new adventure every day. Maya was pretty awed by everything and I did take advantage by leaving her with my mum and brother to have a browse around the toy shops or play on the ipads in the Apple store while I was shopping. Here she is having her mind blown in Toys’r’us (nothing even close to this in Bali!):

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Exploring St Mary’s Lighthouse, Tynemouth Priory and the beach near where I grew up with my friend’s little boy:

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Beach is a bit colder than what she’s used to in Bali!

Visiting the Science Museum in Newcastle:

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Playing with cousins and meeting a horse!

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Trip to the UK: a trip to Grandad’s house

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We had a lot of family scattered in various parts of the country to visit during our trip and spend quite a bit of time travelling. We only had a few days with my dad in Derbyshire but managed to squeeze in a lot (a little too much for Maya who was getting grumpy from all the moving around and would have been happy staying and playing in the tent in the garden). We really lucked out and got the best of the British high summer while we were here – on our previous trip when Maya was a baby I was totally freezing and had to sit around the house with jeans and a fleece, plus blanket, despite it being June!

Trip to the UK: Park Life

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One of our favourite parts of being in the UK was the amazing parks that are found in every single neighbourhood. We just don’t have parks in Bali – most schools have some outdoor play equipment and there are big indoor play centres that you can pay for the pleasure of letting your little ones blow of some steam on noisy, bright, and probably filthy inflatables, but we just don’t have the well-maintained parks with safe play equipment that are everywhere in the UK. (If you happen to be in Ubud there is actually ONE outdoor play park in Sayan but it’s still got nothing on the British parks).

We headed straight out to Jesmond Dene on our first morning. This is a beautiful wooded valley on the outskirts of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, close to where my brother lives and where we were staying. I have fond memories of exploring the dene when I was a child myself and I jogged there regularly when I lived in newcastle. As well as the walks through the wood and along the stream, there’s also a free petting zoo and play park called pets’s corner. Maya loved it. She was basically in heaven and this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the trip where we would head out 3 times a day to explore the local parks of wherever we were (Newcastle, Leeds, Derbyshire, Dumfries).

Seeing Maya enjoy these amazing play spaces was the first time I started to second-guess whether Bali really is the best place to bring up kids. Here we have rice fields and jungles and rivers to explore – it’s certainly possible to be free and wild and spend the whole day outdoors but it comes with challenges such as the heat, snakes, mosquitos and mangey dogs and my kids will often request a visit to one of the aforementioned yucky indoor play areas rather than frolicking in the rice fields (which is only really possible for a couple of weeks after harvest time anyway).

Sometimes I start imagining our life in an alternate universe where the kids don’t whine and go to bed early because they’ve been out playing in the fresh air all day (Maya was in bed and asleep without fuss by 8pm most nights during our trip, a huge contrast to the “let them play until they drop from exhaustion” bedtime routine that rules in Bali, and I’m sure all the playing in parks helped) and we have weekend picnics in the summer and snowball fights in the winter.

I know it’s easy to take things like free parks for granted when it’s what you’re used to but it really is a privilege to have free access to safe, well-maintained outdoor spaces with play equipment for kids. My mother in law would not believe me that all these parks did not have an entry charge when I showed her the photos.

Our favourite parks:

Jesmond Dene, Newcastle upon Tyne

Roundhay Park, Leeds

Markeaton Park, Derby

Dock Park, Dumfries


Catching up or starting over?


Sometimes you get so behind with things that it’s better just to throw in the towel and start with a clean slate. It’s been a shocking 6 months since I updated my blog and the longer the time stretched, somehow the harder it was to sit down and type up a new entry.

I’ve been preoccupied with so many things surrounding work and life that the blog has really been on the back burner for a while and I was also feeling somewhat bored with it, burned out an uninspired. So the easiest thing to do was simply ignore it.

However I’ve had a growing list of posts in my head that I wanted to write and the nagging feeling in the back of my mind about my poor little blog sitting here so neglected. Looking back on my last ‘life’ post (our UK trip) I can see that there are so many important things I wanted to write about that I just haven’t got around to yet: Maya starting preschool, Christmas, Kiran’s birthday, Maya graduating preschool :-O

The thing is I know there aren’t a lot of people reading this blog and that’s fine – I didn’t start it for online fame or to make money (although the income I get from the odd sponsored post is very welcome). This was a place to update my friends and family back home about my new life in Bali but also to create a memento of important events for me and Made and the kids to look back on and remember. I have the photos of course but pictures only tell half the story.

So while it’s impossible to catch up when I’m so far behind, and it may seem ridiculous to be writing about events from a year ago, please bear with me a little bit as I attempt to fill in the gaps, because these posts are important for me, if not for anyone else.

Once I’m vaguely up to date I really want to start writing here regularly again, motivated with a new blog design and domain (I bought the .com version of my domain over a year ago after buying it at auction when it was unavailable for years and my procrastination means I have yet to do anything with it!)

I think I’ll start where I left off – on a plane to England with my girl, and we’ll see how we get on. If there’s anyone still reading here, feel free to drop me a note of encouragement (or tell me off for not posting in so long if you wish!)

Here we go…

Konmari-ing my house

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One of the things that I struggle with the most at the moment is maintaining a balance between getting work done and keeping the house clean and tidy.

Anyone with small kids will probably understand why this is such a challenge. I can spend 2 hours tidying the house and then the kids will get back and 5 minutes later the place is completely trashed.

In the midst of my struggle I read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo (shortened to Konmari in that way that is so ubiquitous in Asian languages).

I’m guessing you’ve heard of this book by now – strange that a book about tidying should have so many rave reviews and become a best seller but if you read it, you’ll probably understand why.

How you store items is a big part of the Konmari method, particularly clothing. There is even a special folding technique for clothes that I have to say I am still following months later, which is a pretty big deal.

Shoes are also a problem for us – we all have several pairs and they take up a lot of space. We used to have a plastic shoe rack but it was ugly and impractical. So after researching some shoe storage ideas I realised we could use a wooden bench with a shelf underneath, which not only looks much nicer but also provides an extra seat.

Another main aspect of the Konmari method is getting rid of your stuff. Rather than the usual “If you’ve not used it for a year it has to go” method, Konmari recommends only keeping items in your home that make you happy.

I’m actually a big fan of de-cluttering, I find it rather freeing. I believe we can be really held down by our possessions and getting rid of a good portion of them opens up space both physically and metaphorically to let new and better things into your life.

Now de-cluttering when you’ve got kids, that’s a different story. The toys had begun to take over the house. It was getting silly. So one afternoon, sick of yet another time-wasting tidying session, I put 80% of the toys in a room upstairs that we don’t use. I left the doll house, maya’s baby dolls, some animal figurines and Kiran’s cars.

Well I have to say this was rather a success. Rather than missing the rest of their toys, the kids hardly noticed they’d gone. Even better, they played more creatively with the toys that were left and each toy became multi-purpose.

So I have to say Konmari gets a big thumbs up from me and it’s definitely worth reading the book. I’m hoping for a less cluttered, cleaner house and less time spent tidying up in the future!

Trip to the UK: 19 hours on a plane with a 5-year old and no iPad


Ok I’m finally getting around to writing about our UK trip which we took in June. Excuses for leaving it so long? Well my mac was dead for quite a while (after already being fixed in England and ended up needing a whole new logic board) but if you’ve been round here for a while you’ll know what a bad blogger I am so that’s really my main excuse.

This was kind of a last minute trip after my mum offered to fly us out for a holiday. Just me and my big girl (Made wasn’t really interested in going and we decided to leave Kiran at home with him). Maya’s been on a plane before when she was a baby but this was the first trip that she could remember so she was very excited about it.

In fact she was terribly excited just being in the airport – so much to look at and so many toys and books and she insisted on posing for a photo with every single shop display! I actually thought I wasn’t going to be able to get her out of the airport shops and board the plane.



We had a night flight and annoyingly she fell asleep just as we were landing in Singapore. She wasn’t very happy about being woken up and getting off the plane (“are we there yet?”) but once she found the M&Ms shop, she perked up again. I actually thought she was so hyped up she wasn’t going to sleep again but she was out before we’d even reached the end of the runway.


Maya was great on the flight. She slept for half of it and then kept herself quiet playing with the things I’d packed the rest of the time. I was totally unimpressed with KLM who stated on their website that kids got a goody bag with games, pencils, a key chain, stickers and so on. Well we got nothing on both flights. The kids meal was also a complete joke and Maya refused to eat any of it. Luckily I’d packed loads of snacks and things to keep her occupied. We don’t have an iPad, only a kindle fire on its last legs and the battery only holds charge for about an hour so I decided to leave it at home. instead I packed her lots of colouring and sticker books, a magnetic drawing tablet, some plastic animals and snakes and ladders. Everything was a big success and I was glad I’d brought it all as she couldn’t really watch the tv because it was too high and couldn’t be angled properly. On the way back I bought her a knock-off my little pony which she played with practically all the time she wasn’t sleeping.


While Maya travelled well, I can’t say the same for me. I used to fly and travel a lot but I guess I’m out of practice and I found the whole experience quite nerve-wracking. We had a lot of turbulence flying over Thailand on the way out and were right at the back of the plane which didn’t help. I was grabbing the armrests and closing my eyes. Luckily Maya was asleep but she didn’t seem bothered by the whole flying experience anyway, she just didn’t like the loud noises – she was most scared of the toilet flush and I had to let her go back to the seat so I could flush it while she wasn’t there.

The journey back was also pretty horrific. We were delayed on the runway in Amsterdam for ages because there was a problem with the engine and they needed to fix it :-O then we landed in Singapore and during the wait time (everyone gets off the plane, they clean it and you get back on an hour later) a mega storm had started complete with torrential rain and lightning. The pilot announced that he’d have to do a special extra fast and extra steep takeoff manoeuvre which was “perfectly safe”. Of course by this point I was convinced we were never going to make it back alive.

Next post onto what we actually did while we were there!

How to share special travel moments with your loved ones


Sharing is more than caring. It’s a natural need we all have at some level. People also often say that “happiness is only real if it’s shared.” Is that true? Maybe, I wouldn’t go to that extreme. There is certainly some level of happiness to be attained even when you don’t share a perfect moment but to feel true bliss it’s, indeed, true that it is better to be able to share your story with someone. If that someone is someone you know, like or love, that’s even better.

But here you are, in a foreign country where most people don’t have a clue what you are talking about as they don’t speak your language. You’re having an amazing time and experiencing all these new things and you want to tell someone about it, preferably your dear ones back home. But that’s easier said than done usually. Just calling back home is not an option as it would eat up your travelling budget superfast and you can’t really get a hold of folks back home on Skype or Facebook as often as you’d like it. So what do you do? You find a smart way around it.

International Calling Cards

What you need is something that harnesses the power of VoIP, the Internet and the classical phone lines. And you get exactly that when you purchase a calling card (for example Enjoy Prepaid). A calling card will allow you to call back home for an incredibly low rate while enjoying more than decent call quality.

A calling card allows you to call from your smartphone when you have decent Internet access or from your PC if that is more convenient. What’s even more amazing is that you can use regular landlines to make a phone call at the same rates by making use of the special access number and your unique access PIN. This is an alternative to roaming that costs a lot less and it is becoming incredibly popular among travelers, expats and so on.

Speaking your language

There’s something magic in speaking your own language when sharing a travel experience or any experience for that matter. You don’t need to search for your words anymore, everything just comes natural and you can fully express your emotions.

It’s great to be able to just pick up the phone after a great moment and share that with your best friend or your family. Luckily, thanks to readily available Internet access and calling cards you can enjoy this benefit.

Mobile Internet

More and more travellers prefer now to buy 3G sim cards whenever they reach a new destination so they have Internet access and use VoIP services to call home. If you choose to do that too, make sure you ask the providers if they limit VoIP calls in any way or not. Some do, some don’t and it’s safer to ask before buying.

Now you can be more connected than ever. You can not only call back home when you are abroad but you can also call the friends you made all over the world when you return back home. Everything for just a few cents.

Maya is 5!

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Time just goes so fast and she gets big so quickly. 5 seems like a big milestone for some reason – like she’s transitioned out of “little kid” and moving onto the next phase. She’s at school now with a load of new friends and a life separate from my own. She’s learning new skills at a rapid rate and basically teaching herself – she’ll now write pretty neat words and sentences, just asking me how to spell the words. She’s not quite reading as the sound blending hasn’t quite clicked for her but I don’t doubt it will be soon. She can speak 3 languages and can sing songs in Japanese too. She’s an expert at accents and pronunciation and switches into English with an Indonesian accent at school and considers “English” and “American” to be completely different languages.

We got her a Baby Alive doll this year – it was all she’d been asking for for months as she’s obsessed with watching Baby Alive videos on Youtube. She’s named her new doll Emma (I’m fascinated by the fact she gives her dolls very English names, the others being Holly and Rosie). She’s become a real girly girl over the last year after being a tomboy for so long – she loves princesses and Barbies and anything pink and sparkly and will play with her dolls alone for hours. She still likes climbing trees and playing in the mud though.

She wasn’t very well for her birthday yesterday (you can see it in her face on the photos) but she still had fun running around with her cousins. I’ve kept her off school today as she’s still not 100% and running a temperature.

Happy Birthday my little princess xxx

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Sparkle on

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when your 4 year old finds the glitter…

Taman Nusa Cultural Park

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Apologies if you’ve already seen most of these photos on Instagram, I was just going to leave them on there but then I thought I’d write up a little informational post for anyone visiting Bali and looking into this attraction as it seems to be little known and well worth a visit!

Taman Nusa is an open air museum in Gianyar near the border with Klungkung, about 30 minutes drive from Ubud. Its advertising slogan is “See Indonesia in one afternoon” – a lofty claim! but I think it’s definitely a great taster if you’d like to see some of the rest of Indonesia but you’re just in Bali.

The park is basically a little village of traditional houses from all over Indonesia laid out so you can go and walk around and inside them with locals from the various islands in traditional dress doing cultural demonstrations of handicrafts, music, etc. All the staff were super friendly (my kids were not so sure!) and it was really interesting to see different dances and music from around the county (there was a guy playing really awesome Kalimantan music, I would have been happy to stay there and listen all afternoon.

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We left first thing in the morning and hadn’t eaten breakfast so we stopped in the restaurant first. I was pleasantly surprised at the food as I’m used to overpriced and rubbish food in most of the tourist attractions. While the prices here were at the high end, the portions were massive and we had some very delicious nasi campur while the kids had chicken nuggets from real chicken breast and flung rice all over the place.

2015-09-26 10.53.27First stop after pre-historic Indonesia (basically some fake caves where I may have messed up by suggesting to the kids that we’d see some dinosaurs – they’re still asking where the dinosaurs are!) and a replica of Borobudur, is Papua with these cute little houses.IMG_5927

Maya got a shock when this Papuan guy suddenly came out of the biggest house. I wasn’t expecting him either but he was very friendly :p the kids weren’t convinced enough to get a photo with him though and Kiran eyed him suspiciously while exploring the other houses.IMG_5928 IMG_5934These creepy dolls are a replica of the Toraja cave tombs – the Torajan people in south Sulawesi bury their dead inside tombs hollowed out of limestone cliffs and these doll effigies are put in the front.
IMG_5946 IMG_5937Maya decided she was tired and didn’t want to walk anymore by the time we got to Kalimantan. The lovely staff offered to send a golf cart thing round to pick us up so we could sit and get driven around but we ended up just carrying both kids – gah! I would say this is a good attraction to visit with kids as there’s plenty of space for them to run around and explore but be sure to take lots of water and a stroller or carrier if your kids are young enough for them. Also go as early as possible because it gets really hot walking around at midday!IMG_5941This Minangkabau house was one of the prettiest – I didn’t get to go inside because of the kids wingeing 🙁IMG_5932They did enjoy playing on this rocking horse on the porch of one of the Sulawesi houses though.

We had a really good morning and I think the 170,000rp each we paid was fair (KITAS and local price, kids were 120,000rp each I think). Tourist price is $29 for adults and $19 for kids, which I think is still a reasonable price if you’re interested in Indonesian architecture and culture.

If we ever build another wooden house, I’ll definitely be coming back here for some inspiration, probably without the kids so I can explore without them getting tired 🙂

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