Natsukashii and random ramblings

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Well it’s been quite a while since I posted properly. We’ve been pretty busy since then – first trip back to the UK since Maya was a baby and Maya started school. I’ve been getting used to the new schedule and the eternal struggle of juggling time with kids, work and housework. Housework is pretty much winning at the moment, some days I feel like all I’ve done from sunrise to sunset is clean and wash clothes. Anyway….

I kind of lost the motivation to post here for a while but I’ve been feeling inspired again recently and find myself writing blog posts in my head. I have a lot to catch up on so I may as well get on with it.

Actually I should be working right now as I have two articles due tomorrow and it’s my birthday so I kind of wanted a day off. But today’s just been one of those days, you know the ones where you really just want to stay in bed. Funnily the day before I was feeling really upbeat and energetic and positive about everything and then today I’m feeling so down again. Hey ho, that’s how it goes, up and down like a yo-yo. Anyway I figured the best thing I could do, rather than sit up half the night procrastinating, is get an early night (it’s already 10pm so not really an early night for me anymore but whatever) and start afresh in the morning. Hopefully if I can be productive in the morning it will leave the rest of the day free for fun, or at least the afternoon after my girl gets out of school.

I don’t really have any birthday plans. I’m kind of not in the mood for anything in particular. I did buy a cake to share with Made (whose birthday is the day after mine) and I’m planning to treat myself to a spot of online shopping. Maybe we’ll go out for dinner but being on a school night makes things kind of awkward (gah, school messes up everything).

So it’s funny, since I got back from our little trip to England (and Scotland, briefly) I’m feeling a weird sense of not quite homesickness, but nostalgia and longing that I never had before (this is one of those things that’s expressed better in other languages – natsukashii in Japanese pretty much sums it up). I was always very happy to live in Bali and I couldn’t wait to escape the UK while I was there. Sure I missed my family and friends, Primark, Sainsburys and fast cheap internet but I figured it was worth it to trade it all in for our life of palm trees and rice fields.

I still do feel that but I’m missing things in a way that I didn’t after our last trip and I’m not sure if it’s because Maya is bigger now and able to benefit from the parks and museums and all the UK has to offer and I’m seeing an alternate reality in my head where there are four seasons and my kids are living out a childhood similar to my own.

Anyway, I’m not on the point of booking us all tickets back to blighty (not that they’d let in my husband even if we wanted to, thanks for that UK government) but I’m indulging myself a little by reading some of my favourite and some new British blogs (Tigerlilly Quin / Make Do & Push / Me & Orla)and online window shopping on sites like Cath Kidston and Emma Bridgewater. I figure once I’m rich and successful, I can fill my house in Bali with lots of Britishy things.

I am actually doing some real online shopping too, I mean it is my birthday after all… picked myself up a little reminder of my home town from the Baltic gallery shop (an amazing modern art gallery with an even more amazing shop that you must go to if you’re ever in Newcastle/Gateshead.  We didn’t have time to squeeze in a visit on this trip but we did all go with Maya when she was a little bald baby). I didn’t think much of Newcastle when I was growing up there but the older I’ve got, the more I came to appreciate it. I was glad Maya got to share the experience of getting a train over the river and seeing all the bridges :)

So I’m getting this:

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and also some other pretty things that have nothing to do with Newcastle but I just want them (honestly the amount of money I used to spend in this shop when I lived there…) I haven’t quite decided which to choose!

That’s about it for now. More about our trip and other things soon, I promise! I must say, it feels nice to be blogging again :)

How to reconnect with folk back home (or travelling buddies)

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Since I started travelling a strange thing started to happen. While when back home I felt the need to go away and escape now I started to miss my family and friends and wanted to reconnect with them as often as possible. Moreover, when you travel or when you live in a very touristic place like Ubud you start to make friends from all the imaginable and unimaginable countries and you want to keep in touch with everyone. Facebook and Twitter are OK but as you know it’s something completely different when you can actually be called or talk to someone on the phone.

One of the alternatives to Skype that I hear everyone is very excited about is the International Calls NobelApp that is available for both Android smartphones and iPhones. You probably thought that it costs a fortune to simply call abroad and that you can’t just pick up phone to call your folks or your friends to ask about some kind of recipe or just to reach out. The NobelCom phone cards totally changed the game as you can use them from just about any phone by dialing an access number, entering your PIN, your destination number and start talking at really LOW COSTS. So you don’t need Internet, which is quite amazing considering that getting really high-speed Internet in Ubud or other parts of Bali is quite difficult.

You can also use this type of apps with your Wi-Fi or with a 3G connection and it works perfectly. The sound quality is actually surprisingly good. It’s nice to actually hear the person you are talking to without the background noise and interference you have with some of the normal calls. You don’t even feel you are thousands of miles away, on a relatively isolated (although very populated and gorgeous) island.

We all have smartphones now and the Nobel app will use your data plan. In most countries you can get a really cheap SIM card with a good data plan and the speed is more than decent. Actually the prices in South-East Asia are amazingly low for this type of service. And if you don’t have a smartphone you can download the NobelCom PC-2-Phone app and use it on your PC. And I love the fact that you can send International text messages as that makes you feel more connected in some way as it’s something you would do more when you are back home.

The world is becoming more international. It’s now easier than ever to call anywhere at low costs without having to have a fancy Internet connection. You can really control your costs and hear the other person perfectly while being heard beautifully. And I love the mobility also. We’re not tied to the computer anymore, we can now call directly from our smartphones or even from any phone we have access to.

It’s absolutely great to travel but you always have some loved ones somewhere else in the world and reconnecting is part of our nature, now you have the tools to do it without affecting your budget.

Sponsored Video: Wash Happy with Samsung activ dualwash

How to go from washing misery….

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to wash happy!

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When I moved to Bali, my life simplified a lot. I went from living in a house full of stuff to getting along quite happily for a year with just the contents of a small backback.

As nice as this is, there are still some western comforts that I bitterly miss – cold showers get boring fast, even when you’re in the tropics. And especially after having kids, I missed the convenience of having a washing machine.

I got used to hand washing all my clothes but now with a family of 4, it definitely takes up a huge part of my day – I have to wash every day just to stay on top of it and if we’re in the middle of the rainy season, I just give up on anything drying. We do have plenty of laundries here but I feel like it’s more hassle than it’s worth in dropping clothes off and picking them up several times a week plus items often go missing or get damaged.

We did install a washing machine at our airbnb rental and I sneak up there sometimes when we don’t have guests as it’s about a million times easier to throw a load of laundry in the machine. It would make things about a million times easier again if we had our own washing machine here.

And when it comes to washing machines, you can’t get much more convenient than the Samsung activ dualwash. This machine simplifies laundry with a built in sink and scrubber so you can hand wash, soak and scrub before machine washing, all in the same place.


The activ dualwash also has a unique “soft curl” design with small outlet holes, which is kinder on clothes and means they’re less likely to get damaged – I’ve had a couple of pieces ripped to shreds with our current machine when I overfilled it.

There are also lots of other handy features like a built-in error checking system and accompanying smartphone app so you can find problems without calling out an engineer; a Magic Filter to keep clothes cleaner; and an anti-tangle “Wobble technology”, water-saving washing flow.

Laundry is one of those chores that nobody really enjoys but if you watch the video above you might just get inspired to ‘wash happy’ and dance around to the catchy tune while getting your clothes clean!

If you’d like to find out more about the Samsung activ dualwash, checkout the Samsung Facebook page, get home ideas and inspiration from their Instagram account and watch more videos at their YouTube channel.

This post sponsored by Samsung but all thoughts are my own :)

Goodbye Cuddly – The end of an era

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That little orange square in Maya’s hand is her cuddly. It’s a comforter we got free with Hipp baby food that’s been her almost constant companion since she was six months old. After 4 years of use, cuddly was looking more than a little worse for wear – his once bright orange had faded to a muddy beige and he’d been sewn up so many times, he was only half the size he once was. It didn’t make Maya love him any less.

Every night she’s needed cuddly to go to sleep. We’ve had to bring him with us everywhere as if she asks for him and we didn’t have him, we’d be met with unstoppable tears. Cuddly was an instant way of calming her down if she was upset – I’d hand him to her and she’d instantly start sucking her thumb and be quiet. You’re probably guessing where this story is heading and in my defence, I did buy some replacement cuddlies when Maya was still a baby. In fact she insisted on having two at once for a while, until one was stolen by a monkey. As she got older she refused them and would throw them away angrily if we tried to offer her a replacement.

The photo at the top shows you how sad Maya got just when cuddly got wet at the beach so you can imagine how she must feel now that he’s vanished completely.

Yes cuddly is with us no longer and I wasn’t sure how she was going to cope when this day came. I still don’t know what happened – in a hurry to leave to stay overnight at her grandparents I shoved him in the bag. Once we arrived I don’t remember if I gave him to Maya or not but we couldn’t find him and had to go to sleep without him for the first time. Maya was inconsolable but I still had hopes he’d turn up – he’s been lost a million times before and usually Maya’s tucked him away in the fridge or under a stone in the temple and we eventually find him. Not this time. He wasn’t at home when we returned and he hasn’t been found since.

I read Maya the story of Dogger, in which a little boy loses his favourite toy but they find him again in the end. I suggested that maybe cuddly was off having an adventure and he’d turn up when he was ready. It’s been more than a little heartbreaking watching Maya deal with this – it’s almost as if someone has died. She even said to me the next day, “Mummy, I know where cuddly is – he’s in the sky”.

It’s been two weeks now and I’m proud of her for coping so well and sleeping without her best friend every night with the minimum amount of fuss and tears. It’s so very sad – she still asks me every day if I’ve found him. So I thought I’d compile a little selection of photos of cuddly throughout the years – as Maya’s grown up he’s been her constant companion. Goodbye cuddly, you were a good friend :(

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Sponsored Post: World Baking Day – Making The World’s Happiest Cake!

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It’s World Baking day today! Who are you baking for? We were successful in making the World’s Happiest Cake (recipe in my earlier post).

Maya loves to bake and was more than keen to help out with mixing, chopping, grating and squeezing. The cake baked while she napped and I iced it. She was then thrilled to present papa with a slice of cake that she’d made “all by herself”.

Kiran lost interest right around the mixing part but was happy to race his cars around the mixing bowl and we had a lovely morning baking instead of watching cartoons on Youtube, which is becoming a far too frequent occurrence!

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What makes this the World’s Happiest Cake? It certainly put a smile on Made’s face to come home to freshly baked cake made by his little girl! (Recipe was created by Blue Band!)

Whatever you make, baking is a therapeutic activity – the repetitive actions of mixing and focusing on measuring can help your mind to relax and de-stress. Baking also gives you a great sense of accomplishment and if you bake for someone else you get an extra happy boost from doing something nice for another person.

World Baking Day is a great opportunity to get a bit of stress relief from everyday life as well as spending some quality time with your family and doing something special for a loved one.

Who are you baking for? Don’t forget to share with hashtag #worldbakingday, check out the WBD website and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest

This post sponsored by Blue Band for World Baking Day but all thoughts are my own :)

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Kiran is 3!

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Yes I know I have been a sorry excuse for a blogger lately. I really don’t have any excuse except to say my life is totally consumed with childcare and cleaning right now and my energy levels are at an all time low so work, blogging and anything else don’t get much time.

Anyway 3 months late is better than never right? So here are some photos from Kiran’s third birthday. I decided not to have a party and instead we took a day trip to the zoo. Kiran got a remote control car and a buzz lightyear and was pretty thrilled about it.

Kiran at 3 is just about the sweetest thing ever. He’s only really started talking properly in the last 6months – a year and comes out with the funniest things. He says “some prize” instead of “surprise” and “dis gusting” instead of “discusting” (dis gusting, dis not gusting). He is obsessed with Cars and Lightning McQueen (like a queen), charging around shouting “STUPID MAN!” and will happily sit in the dirt with his cars playing and singing by himself for hours.

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Sponsored Post: Baking with kids

Baking is an activity that I’ve only recently started getting back into. I used to bake quite a few cakes and biscuits when I lived in the UK (blame my sweet tooth for that) but after not having an oven for years after moving to Bali, I’d not baked anything in a long time.

I finally got around to buying a little mini oven when we moved house and I’m pleased to say it’s been put to very good use. I bake my own bread every few days, make pizzas including dough from scratch and cakes of course, including Maya’s last birthday cake.

Baking isn’t just about the bread or cake you get at the end of it – the process is half the fun and it’s something I love to share with my kids. Baking is such a great activity for kids of all ages and it never gets boring. Maya’s favourite dinner at the moment is home-made pizza and she loves mixing the ingredients together and kneading the dough. Making biscuits is another favourite activity for both kids and they get so excited to hear the “ping!” of the oven when the treats are ready for eating.

I used to think baking bread was hard before I tried it but now I know how easy it is and how much more delicious homemade bread is than store bought, it’s a regular activity in our house.

World Baking Day is coming up on the 17th of May and this is a great opportunity to get started with baking with your kids.

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I think we’re going to have a go at making the “World’s Happiest Cake” (recipe below) for papa as he often comes back from the market with cakes and other goodies for us. Plus it’ll be a bonus if making this for breakfast really makes him happy, as he always wakes up grumpy :p

Make a pledge to bake for someone special here and share what you have baked and hashtag  #worldbakingday on your social media platforms! Join the WBD Community on Facebook, follow the WDB on Twitter, Instagram and Google + or even pin the WBD on Pinterest! Also, check out Blue Band’s Website! Bake for someone special on #worldbakingday! It would be great to capture the moment with photos and post them on your social media accounts!

COCONUT, MANGO LIME AND CAKE RECIPE (The World’s Happiest Cake)

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Servings: 16 slices

Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 70 minutes

Cake:

225 g Blue Band Cake & Cookie

325 g sugar

4 eggs

250g self-raising flour

100g all purpose flour

the skin of 2 limes, grated

50 g dried mango, finely chopped

50 g almond pieces

50 g desiccated coconut

Syrup:

Juice of 2 lemons

60 g sugar

Filling:

55 g Blue Band Cake & Cookie

175 g of powdered sugar

1-2 tsp milk



Cake:

  1. Grease a round baking dish (diameter 23 cm) with Blue Band Cake & Cookie, and cover with baking paper. Preheat oven to a temperature of 170 ° C.
  2. Beat Blue Band Cake & Cookie and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well with a spatula.
  3. Pour batter into pan. Bake until cooked for 70 minutes.
  4. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

Syrup:

Cook the lemon juice and sugar until boiling and the sugar dissolved. Pour onto the entire surface of the cake.

Filling:

  1. Whisk Blue Band Cake & Cookie, sugar, and milk until smooth.
  2. Slice the cake horizontally into 3 pieces. sandwich the pieces together with the filling and mango puree

Topping:

  1. Create glaze by mixing lemon juice with the icing sugar. Pour into the cake surface.
  2. Garnish with nuts, mango, coconut, and almonds.

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This post sponsored by Blue Band for World Baking Day but all thoughts are my own :)

Sponsored video – what tastes remind you of home?

There’s a bit of an obsession in the expat community, wherever you happen to be, about food. People obsess over food from home and are quite often willing to pay ridiculous prices to get it. The small import section at our local supermarket has salt and vinegar  crisps for 70,000rp (about £4 – I don’t miss them that much). If you’re one of those people who like marmite (or more likely vegemite if you’re in Bali because you’re probably Australian), you can expect to pay over 100,000rp for a small jar – that’s around 10 Australian dollars or about £5.

Personally, I’ve managed to get by without missing too much – I did get my family to bring over a few things the first couple of years I was here – mainly junk food. But I’m blaming that on the fact that I was pregnant.

Since then I’ve adjusted by cooking a lot more – I make my own bread now along with hummus and a load of other random things that are impossible to buy here like gravy. The one thing I do really miss every now and again is a proper roast dinner. It’s coming up to Easter now and my mum always used to make a big roast dinner on Easter Sunday and we’d usually invite a few friends over.

So I found this video in which a mother embarks on a journey to the Arctic in order to prepare her daughter a proper roast dinner quite touching. Funnily enough, I considered working in the Arctic at one point (not training Huskies though, how random is that!?)

Research from Knorr has found that 82% of people agree that the taste of some foods will remind them of their childhood so it’s not really surprising that we get so wrapped up in thinking about foods we miss from home. If we ever end up living in the UK, my kids will probably be crying for rice and tempe every day…

p.s. I’d only ever used instant gravy before I was forced to make my own but it’s actually pretty easy to make with stock cubes and flour – there are some good gravy recipes on the Knorr website

This post sponsored by Knorr but all thoughts are my own

 

Don’t forget the…

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Are you a forgetful type of person? I didn’t used to be so bad until I had kids and developed mum brain. I remember once going to the supermarket and completely forgetting to buy any food. Also can clearly remember when Maya was a toddler and I forgot to give her dinner one night :/ I don’t know what it is about motherhood that kills your brain cells but from talking to my other friends who’ve had children, it’s definitely a widespread phenomena.

Of course forgetting you made yourself a coffee or forgetting to put salt in the bread dough (not that I’ve ever done this, ahem…) are not exactly life or death examples. When you’re leaving your home country to go and live abroad for a while, maybe forever, things you forget can have more consequences. Forgetting to give notice to your landlord or telling your bank you’ll be out of the country can cause their fair share of headaches (and I’ve had enough experience of trying to call banks from a pay phone in the mountains of Vietnam because none of my cards are working to know this)

I was actually pretty organised when it came to leaving the UK but I think this was because I’d been planning my escape for a long time. If you only have a short time to organise moving to a new country (as is the case with many expats when they’re sent to a new location for a job assignment) and there are kids involved, things get a lot more confusing.

There’s a handy emigration check list infographic on the HiFX blog that includes most of the tasks you’ll need to complete before you leave the country, listed by timeframe – things like redirecting your mail, checking your passport, cancelling insurance and even organising your leaving party! (I remembered mine as you can see from the photo above!) The list starts from 18 months before you leave, which may sound like a long time, but organising these things can take quite a while especially if you have a house to sell. Vaccinations, saving money, rehoming pets all take a long time. Also a personal tip – always allow double the time you think you need for anything to do with visas or passports.

Honestly I don’t think there’s anything major I forgot about when I left (although I did have my parents back home to sort stuff out for me!). If I were to do it again and knew I wasn’t coming back I would definitely have made better arrangements with my bank as I’ve had my cards blocked more times than I can count and I dread to think how much I’ve paid over the years in fees from drawing money on card that aren’t great for using abroad. I’d also sell more stuff – I got rid of a lot of things before I left but I still had a few boxes of precious possessions. Of course 6 years later and I don’t miss anything in those boxes and some of it is worth quite a bit of money (rare playstation games and limited edition prints). Difficult for me to ebay it from 8,000 miles away!

I’m so lucky after I left I never had one of those heart stopping moments when you realise you’ve forgotten something super important – have you?

 

2014 in review and New Year goals

shineMy 2014 guiding work was “grow” and I’m not sure that the year really lived up to my plans – a lot of things went really well but I also felt stagnant in some areas. We didn’t have any huge events this year – no moving house, babies being born or trips to foreign countries but I do think personally I managed to grow in terms of confidence and making decisions for my personal and professional life. I said last year that I wanted to focus more on myself this year – get my health back on track and get out without the kids and I’ve definitely achieved that.

So lets see how I did with my goals from last year:

 

  • Make $5,000 a month consistently – Umm, no….
  • Make at least half my income from my own businesses (not client work) – Yes! Hooray! Not making as much as I’d like yet but lets make that this year’s goal.
  • Pay off my “small” debt (which is not that small but separate from my “big” debt of student loans and bank of mum and dad mortgages) – see above. no way this was going to happen but at least it’s no worse!
  • Launch 2 new websites – yes! Not the ones I originally planned but still… I’m hoping for many more this year
  • Write an e-book – not yet.
  • Learn to drive a motorbike – YES!!! This is probably my biggest achievement from 2014 and I squeezed it right in at the end of the year. I also crashed it but I’ll leave that for another post.
  • Create a beautiful learning/playing space in our home – not quite. I did improve our existing space though.
  • Cook 12 new meals (one a month and hopefully more!) – meh. No but I did bake lots of bread and a couple of cakes. Meals coming now that I can drive myself to the supermarket!
  • Have 12  family fun days out (and hopefully more) – hmmm…. not sure?
  • Make 12 videos of the kids and our life (a la documenting delight) – ha! no.
  • Go on 12 date nights with my husband (carrying this one over from last year – we managed a few!) – I’m pretty sure we overachieved on this. We even got in a night away without the kids!
  • Visit family and friends in the UK – not yet :(
  • Fill a sketchbook with drawings – all I drew this year were cars for Kiran
  • Get up early and develop a morning routine – sort of. I did this in the last couple of months but didn’t stick to it.

I think looking back 2014 was a good year for me although it felt pretty quiet and uneventful. I weaned Kiran in June and that allowed the possibility of me leaving him overnight and getting out in the evening more without the kids (previously I would feed him to sleep). Now we leave the kids with their grandparents at least a couple of nights a month and get some alone time. We’re also getting more sleep with both kids finally sleeping through the night.

I knew my health had to be a priority last year after spending the last half of 2013 recovering from dengue and I’m glad to say I felt a lot healthier overall this year. I’ve been trying to eat better (although still some improvements to be done there) and I felt amazing when I was doing yoga every day so definitely have to get back into that.

In April I had a bit of a crisis about my work and trying to figure out what I was doing that I wrote about here. In June I ended up going all in and quitting all my regular freelance jobs to concentrate on my own projects. Things have been going ok but this year I really need to push with that and make some proper money.

My Indonesian has also improved greatly and my confidence along with it. I’m finally driving a motorbike (I’ve been saying I’m going to do this for the last 5 years) and that has also given me so much more confidence and independence.

So my 2015 word is SHINE! I have a feeling this will be a great year for us and I’m excited for this new sparkly shiny new year!

15 things for 2015:

  1. Yoga every day (even if it’s just 5 minutes)
  2. More real food, less crap and sugar
  3. Find a bahasa Indonesia teach and progress from conversational to fluent
  4. Stick to my debt repayment schedule
  5. Hit my income goals for the year (haven’t worked this out yet)
  6. Stop shouting at the kids
  7. Teach Maya to read
  8. Get up at 5am every morning (not got off to a good start with this one, haha!)
  9. Make a craft space in our spare room
  10. Visit the UK
  11. Write a book
  12. Redesign and relaunch my blog
  13. Stop being unproductive when i’m using my computer – 60% + productivity in rescuetime every week
  14. Get out of the house more – go out for coffee or lunch at least once a week
  15. Write a million words.

Hope everyone celebrated the New Year in the way they wanted (I fell asleep with the kids at about 10pm and missed everything, haha!) and I wish you all a fantastic 2015 x

 

 

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