Christmas is coming

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I know, I know, I can hear you groaning all the way from my side of the monitor! But it’s true! We’re already half way through October and Christmas is fast approaching. I think the fact that we live in the tropics and have never really had a proper traditional christmas with snow and fairy lights makes me want it even more – especially for the kids. Maya is obsessed with Christmas! I’m not sure where she gets it from but she just loves Christmas trees and snow and santa. Of course she’s never even seen snow :(

Every year I say we’re going to go back to the UK for Christmas but it’s expensive for all of us to go with 4 long-haul plane tickets plus visas. Still it would be totally worth it to see Maya’s face when she sees all the Christmas lights and trees and Fenwicks window (Fenwicks is a big department store in Newcastle and they always make a big Christmas display every year with animatronic characters).

Anyway my little dream has now expanded to Christmas in the UK with a weekend in Lapland! – How amazing would it be for the kids to actually travel to “the north pole”, meet santa, play in the snow, stay in a log cabin etc? I think that would honestly be better than Disneyland for Maya. I’ve just been looking at these Lapland holidays on the Cosmos website and they look seriously amazing!

You get to meet santa, visit the elf workshop ride in a sleigh with reindeer or husky dogs, go tobogganing and stay in a beautiful cozy log cabin resort (with private sauna!) surrounded by snow. Hey forget the kids, I’ll just go on my own! haha. No joke though, I just showed Maya the pictures and her eyes lit up (although she did say she might be a bit shy to meet santa and she didn’t want to fly in the sky with the reindeer because it was too high and scary :p)

They even have the option to go over Christmas itself with a reindeer sleigh ride, arctic circle ceremony, visit to santa’s post office, elf school, cookie decorating and carols on Christmas eve and a Christmas feast on Christmas day with a visit from Santa, carrying a sack of presents. Wow, imagine what a memory that would make for the kids.

There are also optional excursions like a snow mobile safari and trip to a snow village with ice sculptures and snow shoe walking with an opportunity to see the Northern lights (that’s one of the things on my bucket list!)

So now I’m thinking I will have to add a bit extra onto our “going home for xmas” fund so we can squeeze in a trip to Lapland :) I totally have my heart set on this for next year so I’m going to start saving!

 

Bamboo playhouses, cubby houses, forts and hideaways

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Recently I’ve been lamenting the state of our garden – when we moved in we had grass and lots of plants and then Made’s stupid ducks ate everything and now we just have a big patch of dirt and whenever anything green tries to grow again, Made’s stupid chickens peck it to death or Kiran hits it with a stick to achieve the same thing.

Ugly as it is, it hasn’t made much difference to the kids and Kiran especially likes digging in the dirt and it’s pretty much the only thing that will keep him occupied for longer than 5 minutes. Also now we’re kind of back to basics I’m coming up with some more ideas for making it more fun for them to play in like I wanted to when we moved in and never quite got around to. Our rental agreement is due for renewal and there was a bit of a wobble for a while over our rent possibly going up and maybe having to move back into the family home in the village but i’m pretty sure we’re going to be here for at least another year so I have renewed enthusiasm for renovations.

I love the kids playing in the garden for 2 main reasons:

1. I think it’s incredibly important for young kids to spend time playing outdoors. My mum was involved in a forest schools pilot in the UK years ago and since then I’ve done a lot of reading and the argument for letting kids just play all day in the dirt instead of trying to teach them anything until they’re at least 6 or 7 is quite compelling.

2. It keeps them busy – they’ll happily entertain themselves out there for much longer than doing anything inside and it gives me chance to get some work done without guilt.

So I’ve been looking into a few ideas for how I can make our outdoor space more fun. At the moment all we basically have is a load of container and plastic cutlery for ‘mud cooking’. I just claimed back the little bamboo roof thing that was here when we moved in as a makeshift playhouse but I’d really like to make something better.

One of Maya’s friends has an amazing bamboo fort in their garden, I haven’t got a photo of it but it’s similar to this one (only bigger and better!):

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We don’t have room for a playhouse like this (well we probably do but it would take up the whole space!) but it would probably be pretty easy and cheap to get a small bamboo playhouse made up here so I’ve been looking for inspiration:

willow-playhouse

Ok not bamboo but these willow playhouses are beautiful, but £2,000 plus delivery? Yikes? They do sell similar things here for nowhere near that price but still too pricey for me to want to leave it open to the elements. It’s my dream to one day own a house big enough for a little rattan reading nook like this.

Playhouse-with-hidden-sandbox

This is a clever idea and I wanted to make a sandpit too, so why not combine them? It would be pretty easy to make in bamboo.

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Again, this one is not actually bamboo (having a hard time finding many examples of bamboo playhouses actually) but would be pretty easy to replicate – look at the roof! What a cool idea.

bamboo-ball

Ok not technically a house, but that giant bamboo ball is pretty cool. Also I think I may have just discovered a new favourite blog – I mean anyone who has this in their back yard must have an amazing blog, right? Check it out.

And of course a good old bamboo teepee is always an option – I love this outdoor play space  – it’s simple but just perfect I think. Teepee, mud kitchen and sand pit with tree stumps – what more could a little kid want?

sharma-springs

And I had to sneak in a picture of Sharma Springs here at the end. Sharma Springs is an amazing designer villa near us that’s built entirely from bamboo and looks like something out of a dream. It was designed and built by the same team behind Green School and it’s in a whole village of impressive bamboo houses at Green Village. If I was rich, I’d get Ibuku to build my kids’ playhouse… (that sounds odd as “ibuku” means my mother in Indonesian)

 

A Tribute

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The above photo was taken at my leaving party before I left the UK to go travelling. It’s not a perfect photo – my eyes are closed and there are some notable people missing but it still makes me smile to remember that night as it was the last time I got to see all my friends together. People often ask me if I miss the UK and if I’ve thought of going back and my answer is always the same: “I only miss my friends”.

When you travel 8,000 miles away from home it’s inevitable that you’ll miss out on some important occasions – I’ve missed out on weddings, babies being born and countless birthdays, nights out and fun times. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would be faced with the loss of one of my oldest friends so early in our lives.

Today is the funeral of my friend Andy (or Boxit as I and many others knew him best) – he’s the one on the far right. Next to him is his girlfriend Sue.  A couple of weeks ago I’d been ill in bed all day and hadn’t logged onto my computer. When I finally did that afternoon and pulled up Facebook, I had two messages from my friends saying that Boxit had been killed earlier that day in a motorbike accident.

I still think even now my brain hasn’t properly processed this information – it’s easy to almost pretend that nothing has changed when he was so far away and our only contact was online but today is the day all my friends back home will be saying goodbye and I can’t be with them.

So instead I wanted to do a little tribute here for Boxit who was always a wonderful friend to me and is part of many happy memories from my youth. We’ve been friends since we were 16 when we used to hang out at college – Boxit, Neil and Roy (middle of photo) were in a band together and I’d go and watch the practices, often sitting on a windowsill behind Boxit. He was the drummer and my position was precarious as sometimes a drumstick would fly away in his enthusiasm. Usually he’d gradually speed up through the course of a song so that Neil and Roy were sweating trying to keep up by the end.

We all had a lot of fun back in those days, before we’d started jobs and settled down. Digging around my old computer archives I found an old website we made for a “2 week party” that was at my house while my mum was on holiday (you can stop reading now mum!). We had so many laughs during those 2 weeks that I didn’t want it to end. I’m contemplating uploading that website now so anyone who was there can have a laugh (and you can see what websites looked like in 1998!)

Later, Neil and Boxit  were my first flatmates – we lived together in a tiny upper flat in Gosforth. Me and Neil would catch the bus or walk over the town moor to uni and Boxit would go to work and then we’d all meet up again in the evening back at home. So much craziness went on in that flat – I remember getting so drunk on rum that I couldn’t find the door out of my room and was bashing on the wall for someone to let me out. One night Neil and Boxit went out with Roy and Ben and came back with an American rock band (Karma to Burn), who they invited to stay overnight. Our tiny flat was full of sweaty men and Neil was sick on the bass player.

After staying in the flat for a year we moved into a bigger house (that we called Boozle) with more friends and the fun continued.

Boxit was a guy of few words – I can’t say I ever had any deep and meaningful conversations with him – but he had a huge heart and was generous with hugs. When I was upset over some drama in my life and literally crying on his shoulder, he’d tell me there was no point in being sad so “just be happy!” – he really loved life and made the most of it.

While I hadn’t spent much time with him in recent years due to us all growing up and settling down (and me moving to Bali obviously), we still stayed in touch and he continued to be a positive influence on my life. Only a year or so ago he saved my crashed hard disk full of important files and photos by telling me to put it in the freezer over night.

So Boxit will be missed – deeply, sadly and forever by everyone close to him but especially his partner Sue who is expecting his baby girl in December. It’s a tragedy that he’ll never get to meet his daughter but his little girl, Eliza will get to know her daddy through the happy memories of others.

When I was looking through photos after I got the news that he died, I realise in every photo he looks just the same – wild hair, wide eyes and crazy smile and this is how I see him when I close my eyes, in boots and black jeans, just the same as when we were 16. I’ll be saying a prayer and raising a glass today to my old friend – goodbye, wherever you are x

How expats can get their TV fix from anywhere in the world

In general, I’m pretty much in love with my life in Bali. I mean, summer, gorgeous rice field views, yummy food, friendly people – what’s not to love right? However it’s true from time to time that I do wish I could just pop back to the UK for the weekend. It’s the little things I miss the most like crappy junk food and UK TV. Well hallelujah, I have the second one solved. If you know of an Indonesian shop that sells crappy UK junk food, please let me know.

I’ve tried a few different proxy services for accessing UK websites in the past. If you can get sites like the BBC and Netflix to think you’re in the UK then you can freely watch UK TV from the BBC and channel 4 online and you can also get around any pesky site blocking (Indonesian internet service providers like to block sites randomly for no reason). There are quite a few of these proxy services around but they’re not that easy to use (requiring you to fiddle with your internet settings which may or may not break your internet connection) and not always cheap either.

To solve all these problems, let me introduce: TunnelBear!

This is most definitely the easiest service I’ve tried. All you need to do is install a small software program, select your country and turn it on and off as you need. It just works without any fiddling under the hood and it’s cheap too – in fact you can download and use it free for up to 500MB per month and then only $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year for unlimited usage.

PC app - country list

I’ve been using my TunnelBear account for all sorts of things. As well as watching tv, it’s handy for any website where you get that annoying message “this service is not yet available in your country” like Spotify and it’s also useful for online shopping when I want to order something in the UK but the website ‘helpfuly’ redirects me to it’s global or Indonesian site. It also helps to keep your personal details safe when you’re using public wifi networks.

Also it’s a super cute app – I mean it’s all bearified! And it has fake wood panelling and everything! Oh there are also versions for Android and iOS so you can use the Netflix and BBC iplayer apps on your phone or tablet.

Android - connected

I’d really recommend this software to any expat or anyone travelling. As it’s free, you’ve got nothing to lose – just download it, install it and turn it on – super easy!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by TunnelBear but my opinions are my own

Green Scene Giveaway

I have yet another giveaway for you! Great for picnics with the family this summer. US and Canada only sorry :( but if you’re looking for a worldwide giveaway, go check out the Matilda Jane one a couple of posts back :)

Go green this spring with these great eco-friendly products! Take your snacks on the go in an eco-friendly snack bag or reusable food pouch that is also super easy to clean! Ensure your child’s sleeping surface is clean while traveling with a Naturalmat Top Mat, and keep your kitchen tidy with an odor-free counter top compost collector. These wonderful products were contributed by our amazing sponsors and we are excited to offer you the chance to win them all!

Yummi Pouch BrightsYummi Pouches are convenient, refillable and reusable food pouches that hold blended snacks for kids. Yummi Pouch Brights feature four colorful patterns, a resealable top opening and a stand-up bottom. The insulator sleeves keep the pouch cool while traveling and also protects against accidental squeezing. Yummi Pouches make it easy for kids to take healthy smoothies on the go.

spbang snack bags

spbang’s reusable snack bag is big enough to hold a sandwich or sticks of veggies and fruit! Replace your daily lunch throw away bags for your children or spouse by using these unique reusable bags. spbang snack bags are also made in the USA.

naturalmat top map

The Naturalmat Top Mat is an economical way of turning your crib into an organic one. Two layers of organic lambswool are contained within this overlay to your child’s crib. The natural and breathable materials contained within the Top Mat regulate your baby’s temperature and help them to sleep soundly.

silikids cups

silikids big kid cups are made from glass encased in a silicone protective sleeve that is easier to hold and grip than traditional cups. Their Silimap placemats feature fun cool graphic maps in several themes, cities, and countries to teach kids about the world.

kushies original cloth diaper

Kushies Organic Ultra-Lite Diaper is a great performer! Offers the flexibility of use with or without a diaper wrap and features 8 layers of 100% cotton flannel plus an inner waterproof barrier. Its adjustable hook & loop closure system offers a snug fit. Extended tabs provide optimum adjustability. Machine washable & dryable.

Fresh Air compost collector

Say hello to the Fresh Air compost collector. Unlike sealed compost containers, the Fresh Air allows oxygen to easily flow through your organic kitchen waste, allowing for aerobic breakdown. Food decomposes more slowly and stays drier during the composting process resulting in less mess, less odor and no flies.

Wean Green Blueberry Snack Cube

Wean Green’s Snack Cubes tempered glass food containers are the perfect size for every eco-chic family member. The lids are durable and have passed the ‘use’ testing machine over 3 million times per tab. The child friendly design allows easy opening for small hands and the glass is 4-5 times stronger than a drinking glass! Snack Cubes are freezer, microwave, & dishwasher safe.

Prize Gift Set

Yummi Pouch Brights gift set – $39.98
spbang
Set of 3 reusable snack bags – $30
Naturalmat Top Mat – $135
Silikids Silimap placemat – $14.95 and Siliskin glasses 2 pack – $12.95
Kushies Organic Ultra-Lite Diaper – $17.99
Full Circle Home Fresh Air kitchen counter top compost collector – $29.99
Wean Green Set of 2 Blueberry Snack Cubes – $11.99

Go Green Giveaway - green scene mom

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Matilda Jane Summer Giveaway

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Both Maya and I love Matilda Jane Clothing. The outfits are girly without being all pastel pink and I’m a big fan of the bright colours and the eclectic mix of prints. We already partnered with Matilda Jane back in December to bring you a giveaway and now we’re sharing the love again! Summer is coming for those of you in the Northern hemisphere (it’s always summer here in Bali!) and it’s a great time to get some new pieces for your little girl’s wardrobe.

To enter to win a $50 gift certificate, just leave a comment and tell me which is your favourite item from the Matilda Jane website.

Maya is wearing the Love Bug Knot top, Cloudy Puffer Tee, and Sweetheart Ruffled Leggings.

Disclaimer: Maya is wearing the pink and white outfit backwards because she’s 3 and reserves the right to be weird!

A winner will be selected at random from all comments on 17th May 2014

p.s. sadly Matilda Jane don’t make boy’s clothes yet. I didn’t want Kiran to feel left out so I told maya not to say anything to him about the clothes. Of course directly after I heard her go up to him and say “Maya’s got new clothes and Kiran didn’t get anything!” Doh!

We are reading: Handa’s Surprise

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Handa’s Surprise is a beautifully illustrated story about a little girl in Africa. She takes a basket of fruit to her friend in the next village but one by one each of the different fruits is stolen by an animal in the road. Maya and Kiran both love naming the different fruits and animals and think the whole concept is hilarious. Amazon are also describing this book as a math book which is kind of weird… I guess i need to think out of the box more! Anyway we all love to read it and I highly recommend it :)

Sponsored Video: Asus Fonepad with Intel Inside

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Tablets have become pretty ubiquitous these days and pretty much everyone I know has one. I remember when the iPad first came out and everyone was talking about how useless it was – no keyboard? too big to carry around in your pocket? Who’s going to buy that? Hahaha… I totally missed the trend about to explode into our world and got a netbook instead.

Now everyone has some kind of tablet. Even my technology-averse step mother who doesn’t like smart phones because they’re too complicated (hi Sue!). I use mine mostly for watching videos, reading books, checking email, instagram and a bit of web browsing. In fact I’m quite lost without it. When my first tablet got stepped on and broken (never buy a cheap chinese tablet!) I felt quite bereft and couldn’t wait to replace it.

My tablet doesn’t have a camera and microphone on it which I didn’t realise when I bought it and was quite gutted about actually. As my family live on the other side of the world, I’m a frequent user of skype and it would be much more convenient to call them from my tablet than it is on my laptop. So the idea of making calls with a tablet – sure, why not? In fact, why aren’t all tablets phones? Why should we have to carry around multiple devices in this day and age when you can put more processing power in your pocket than was used to send man to the moon?

So the Asus Fonepad makes total sense to me. This is a tablet with the functionality of a phone, otherwise known as a phablet – riduculous name, fonepad is much better!

There are already large smart phones available, which are often ridiculed for being too big to use as a phone. But what if you don’t use the phone much anyway like me? I’m much more likely to be doing other stuff on my tablet and making the odd phonecall, rather than the other way around. I carry my tablet everywhere with me anyway and rarely do other stuff on my android phone because the screen is too small.

Watch the video – what do you think?

This post is sponsored by Asus and Intel but all opinions are my own.

A day in the life

Ubud Bali sunriseI’m completely obsessed with day in the life type posts from other bloggers and I’ve been meaning to do one of my own in forever. However I never quite manage to get organised to do the beautiful photo a day type posts that I’ve seen (I would still like to do one of these in the future and already talked about doing a post swap with another blogger so maybe you’ll get one yet).

Anyway as I work from home on random different things and Made sometimes works too, every day is different so there’s no real typical day. Some days I’ll have the kids all day and get no work done. Some days Made takes them both over to his parents and i get loads done (or lately mope around the house missing my children). Some days I have Maya and Made takes Kiran out for a bit, or vice versa. Some days I meet a friend for coffee or we all go out to the beach.

So this is just a random day – nothing special. This was back when my internet was down for most of the day and Made was taking the kids out most afternoons. Times are estimated up until late afternoon when i got the idea of this post and basically got carried away with cataloguing my every waking minute. Sunrise photo is by my dad because I’m never up that early :p

7am – I wake up thanks to my nature sounds alarm clock app. The only reason i’m able to get up at this time is that I forced myself to go to bed at 11pm last night. Anything less than 8 hours sleep and i find it incredibly difficult to crawl out of bed. I would go to bed earlier but as the kids go to bed so late, that would mean zero grown up time in the evening (update: I’ve been enforcing a fairly strict bedtime routine and this is actually improving with them both being asleep by 8.30-9pm now. hurray! I’m going to try and move this back a little every night until I get to a 7.30 bedtime. Fingers crossed!)

Made is out. he can’t sleep past 6am no matter what time he goes to bed. I wish I had his early riser genes.

7.15 –  I’m attempting to shower when Maya starts howling at the door. This is why I can never get up early and get anything done – the kids sense when i’m awake and wake up too.

7.15 –  I put charlie and lola dvd on, close the door to avoid waking sleeping Kiran  and go back in the shower. 2 minutes later I hear kiran wake up too. Doh.

7.30 –  Kids are already in charlie and lola stupor. i normally avoid tv this early but i need to get showered and dressed somehow. I bribe them outside by bribing them with stickers and glue and glitter. Maya wants me to help so i stay and make silver glitter glue hair on an angel and try to stop Kiran from eating pompoms

8 - I pack the craft stuff away, exchanged for paper and pens. Kiran is busy riding his bike. I down a large glass of water and start cooking breakfast. Up until fairly recently i always started my day with coffee and cake but i’m trying to be healthier. I cook eggs and spinach. Kiran screams at me the entire time i try and cook so i eventually bribe him with a game on the kindle fire.

8.30 –  I eat breakfast with Kiran. Maya already ate a jam sandwich (her favourite food) and is going through a picky phase so refuses anything else.  i make hobby horses for the kids out of broomsticks and hand puppets.

9 – I sneak onto my computer but the internet is still down (has been since 2pm yesterday). still i’m knackered already so ask the kids to make me ‘coffee and fruit salad’ with their play food while i grab a real coffee. it keeps them busy for about 5 minutes. i feel particularly in need of sugar so end up having coffee and cake anyway.

10 - The internet is back up (hurray!) Made appears over the garden wall and hands me some bags of shopping. he’s taken to going to the market every morning which he says makes him feel like a housewife, but did i ask to be a breadwinner? no.

Kids are now fighting over the kindle so i bribe them outside again with crisps. house now looks like a bomb has hit it (see photo). I need another coffee. i don’t even attempt to start work as i know i’ll be interrupted every 5 mintues but as i have internet again, i read a few blog posts while i’m consuming more caffeine

messy-house

11 – Made arrives home with a rooster and asks me for a needle and thread so he can sew up a large gash in its leg. I wish I was joking about this. The kids get an impromptu lesson in vetinary skills.

12 - Kids are busy outside with Made which is my cue to sneak upstairs when they’re not looking. at this time he usually takes them over to the inlaws house for the afternoon and it’s my chance to actually get some work done in peace. they haven’t figured out yet that i’m going upstairs instead of out of the house but as soon as they do, i’m going to have to come up with another plan. they won’t leave if they know i’m still at home.

2pm - been 2 hours and the only ‘work’ i’ve got done is replying to emails and coming up with article ideas. rubbishy stuff that needs to be done but i don’t get paid for it. need to get stuck into writing but i’m starving so will have to break for lunch first. I cook vegetables and tofu (this is making it sound like I eat really healthily but i don’t – I basically eat half vegetables and fruit and half cake and biscuits).

I eat my lunch while replying to messages on airbnb. eat 3 mangosteens for desert.

2.50pm –  I grab a glass of water and head back upstairs to get some work done. I like to move around while i work instead of staying in the same place. plus the chair upstairs is really uncomfortable. but i’m less distracted up there and i can stare out of the window at the rice fields. It’s nearly 3pm and I haven’t written anything yet. Argh. Plus my internet seems to be down again. Probably because it’s raining. Now i can’t decide what to work on first. Desperately resisting the urge to make more coffee

3.12 –  I’ve only been writing 15 minutes and i’m already fed up. 500 words down. I have about a million tabs open on my browser for research and the internet has gone down again. Is it coffee time yet? I get up and stare out of the window a bit while i wait for the internet to work again. It’s stopped raining.

3.18 –  I stop staring out of the window because there’s a guy peeing in the rice field and I don’t want to watch him. i also realised that I left the kids craft projects from this morning drying on the wall and they’re now soaked from the rain. Internet still down. at this point i would normally go do some reading on my kindle so i can still be vaguely productive without internet but i realise the kids have stolen it.

3.21 –  Internet back up – hurray!

3.34 -  It’s blowing a gale out there and i’m freezing – just like being back in the uk!

3.37 Internet down again. Sigh. Too windy? Time for a break I think. Back downstairs.I play some music (I miss music as I can’t concentrate while it’s on when i’m writing) while i tidy up the kids toys. There’s a huge thunderstorm going on outside and it’s so dark i have to put all the lights on.

4pm - I make coffee number 4 (obviously trying to drink less coffee isn’t going quite to plan today) and cross my fingers that internet is up again – it is! Back to work…

4.40 – First draft of article pretty much done (but will need another hour or so of editing before it’s ready to submit). a good thing too as the internet has gone down again :( Read a couple of blog posts I already had open in the browser.

5pm – I need a proper computer break and some fresh air so I walk over to our other house to have a shower (it has hot water!!)

5.50 I’m back, done the dishes from earlier, grabbed an apple and it’s editing time. Internet is still broken but i don’t need it for editing (luckily). all the same i call made to ask him to complain to our internet provider (again)

6.50 - Kids back, work is over!

I didn’t keep track after this but it’s basically kids playing/watching TV/reading to them until they pass out. Then I pass out. I guess I eat dinner at some point. Then wake up and do it all again tomorrow!

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