Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What A Year

My 2010 Planner
Photo from koalazymonkey on Flickr

It has been quite a year. One that has been filled with excitement and frustrations. One that saw a house fill with too much stuff, be pared back, and then fill itself up again. One that saw a mom work too much, get frustrated and start to look for that which makes her heart sing. One that saw a dad get excited about a project and a business which keep him as busy as he wants to be. A change in one business and the possible collaboration on starting some new ones. One that saw a return to values that we believe in and a goal to working down those paths. New friends and old have come through our lives and made it richer. A year of personal triumphs and major medical setbacks. Amazing travels and the joy of staying home. Not a simple year. No, not at all. But one that was savored for every bit of juiciness that it brought. So, as the holidays are approaching and I am not on the road, here is a photo montage of the year. The slide show is about 3 minutes...enjoy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Let's see now

It has been a long strange trip. My time is spent on the road most of the time. My dreams of downshifting are sidelined by too many things to do, kids in school, hubby working for a startup to follow his dreams. A bunch of medical things going on, but while life has been not simple, I don't lose hope of the fact that it can and will happen. I will slow down again. I assume I have a few more months of intense travel and then I will be able to cut back, or find another way.

I will be back here too, when I can. But you can follow us as we try to gather information about our passion for traveling with the kids over here on Vagabondkids.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life Sucks- A recap of the last 10 weeks

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes it also gives you lemons. And sometimes life comes up, smacks you in the face and says "take this you stinkin' bitch!"... The latter has been the last 10 weeks for me.

While continuing my every other week trip to Kuala Lumpur for work, in Mid April my backaches started getting worse. They were pretty localized in one place and it seemed very odd. The first week of April, I was in KL and was dying. I was in so much pain I could hardly stand it. Massage didn't work, I was feeling sick, just overall was not doing good. So I went to the doctor at the company and she took a good look at me. She gave me some great news... I fit 3 of the 4 "F"s which increase my risk for Gallstones. The 4 F's are 40, female, fertile and fat... I will leave it to your imagination which of the three I fall into...but anyway after some photo therapy, and lots of Advil the pain went away. I came back to Singapore, visited a local doctor to undergo some tests (in between another trip to KL and multiple end of school year functions for the kids) and had to go through multiple rounds of blood work and ultrasound on the gallbladder. They saw two small stones but figured they were both very small and wouldn't cause any pain.

Take that!

All along I am continuing to work 60-70 hour weeks, doing end of school year stuff with the kids, trying to find 8 boxes of product I shipped to the US that was slow to arrive and keep sane.

Early May, I fly back to KL for two separate trips and then I then flew to the US for a two week business trip. While I was only at home a total of 10 days that month, the trip back to the States was good. I felt good (no pain), busy, connected with my co-workers but then it happened again. The last day before I flew back to Singapore I woke up with a backache again. I knew that I was passing another gallstone and I just hoped it would wait until I got back home. It didn't. Thursday morning, 5am wake up call to get to the airport, return the car and I feel like crap on a cracker. Fever, aches, chills, back ache to end all back aches. Yep, I was in the full on pass-a-gallstone mode. From the time before i knew this could last for 2 or 3 days and what was my choice. i was going home.

I came home, landed on Saturday at 2am went to the doctor later that morning at 10 and got a referral to an internal medicine/general surgeon for Monday. He did my tests again and scheduled me for surgery the following Monday. It was a bit of a rushed surgery as I couldn't do it that week (I had to be in KL on Tuesday-Thursday) and we wanted to be ready to fly home to the US on the 20th.

Surgery happened on June 7. I am discharged Wednesday the 9th. At 3am Declan wakes up with a side ache and screaming in pain. Jeff takes him to the doctor at 9am Thursday when they open, he gets medicines and doesn't see any big improvements. Saturday night at 3am his fever goes up the 39 C (about 103) so Sunday off to the doctor again at 9am. Doctor sends us straight to the hospital... Declan has walking Pneumonia and a serious case at that. Other than a small cough on Monday-Tuesday, he was mostly symptom free until Wednesday.

So, Declan is in hospital, I am supposed to still be on medical leave (like that was going to happen, I took 3 days off)...and our trip to California is now in question. He has to be in hospital and on IV meds for 7 days and our flight was scheduled for the 20th. Long story coming to a close, we can't rebook tickets because we were using miles/points until July 7th. Our much planned for summer home has been cut short by 17 days and will cost us an additional 1000 dollars for the shorter stay.

Obviously the health of our child is the most important thing, that is why we did change the trip, but we had been planning the "summer" home for 2 years. In 11 years overseas we have never spent more than 3 weeks at home and this was our one chance at doing that. This was the thing I was able to hold out and say, okay so you have been working your ass off... in only 3 more months you will be able to take an extended leave and be able to enjoy summer in the States. When I scheduled my surgery, I was cool as ice. Wasn't worried... it was all okay, because in 2 weeks I was going home... When Declan was admitted, it was okay because after 5 days in hospital we were going to come home pack up and leave for the US on Sunday. That all came crashing down and I lost it. I hate this. This is not what I signed up for.

I have come to the recognition though that something has to go. There is too much on my plate. I know what will be cut, but it is painful to do so and I will make that announcement this summer after the break. Other things may go as well, but I am not sure yet. The thing is there has always been a goal and end game plan for all of this work, the goal has been to get a cushion, a savings plan... a nest egg to provide for us. I find the more I work the less I save and the more I hate my life. The last 10 weeks have been some of the most challenging, heart wrenching, stressful and pain filled weeks of my life.

time to practice what I preach and slow down, find balance again and do what I need to do.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Kids

My kids. Gosh I love them

Starlight Ball

Kiera dancing with her father at the Singapore American School Starlight Ball.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Birthday Party

We held Kiera's birthday party yesterday. Rather than do a "build-a-bear" at one of the expensive toy stores, we made our own felt bears and then had a tea party.

I had our neighbour's daughter come down and "work" with us for the party and she is such a treat. The kids loved her and she did a great job helping set everything up.

When the kids arrived, each kid had their own tea cup and saucer(purchased at Daiso for S$2.00 each) that they were allowed to decorate with Sharpies. After the cups were decorated to the satisfaction of the kids we moved onto bear making.
I spent the last weekend pre-sewing the edges of the bears getting them ready for stuffing and decorating. The kids were allowed to chose what ever clothing they wanted to use with lots of felt, scraps of fabric and ribbon I had laying around. I purchased around 5 packages of felt from Daiso (again everything is 2.00) and had enough felt to make 12 bears and plenty of extras for the clothes. Also at Daiso I was able to purchase googly eyes and some lace and the kids had a blast decorating their bears in really unique ways.

The rest of the afternoon was rounded out with a proper tea party. The kids each had their own cups, we used "ice tea" in tea pots and served homemade whole wheat scones with whipped cream with fresh organic strawberries and organic raspberries. We also made proper tea sandwiches with chicken and cucumber, chicken salad and chicken and avocado. Jeff also made some ham sandwiches. When all of the food had been devoured by a hungry batch of kids, we finished off with a birthday cake and group pictures before an impromptu dance session in the area formerly known as our dining room (the table had moved to the patio for the party).

It was a great, if not exhausting day and beat the heck out of any $1000 party we would have had at one of the "kids games places" downtown. Total cost probably was around 300 when you included the cake, the food and all of the goodie bags. I just am very glad I have another 5 months before I have to plan Declan's!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cleaning Up, Sorting Out

After an long stretch on the road I found myself home this weekend full of vim and vigor for a proper clean out and set myself off to cleaning out some storage areas. Because I also run 2 businesses from the home (Far Flung Craft and my law office) I have boxes of paper stacked in my bedroom. Needless to say, looking at this stack everyday is well disheartening as it is not moving as quick as I would like and frankly it is ugly.

Let me also preface this post by saying that closet space is a real premium in Singapore. Most places don't have walk in closets and those that do are well small at best. The current unit we are in has this small storage closet...that is it. The remainder of the closets were built in and not well done at that.

I have moved all of those boxes, behind a screen and moved the items that were behind the screen into our storage closet. I pulled out empty boxes upon empty boxes (I guess I thought I might need them? I released a bunch of floor rugs to the greater good and they are on the way to the Philippines to be used in home of our helpers family. I got rid of three old worn suitcases and really just dumped a bunch of stuff. I still have two small boxes that need sorting and that will happen this week.

Here is the closet in the early stages of the reorganization

And, after reorganization I have open shelf space. All of the Christmas stuff is in one tote (save the tree and the wrapping papers). All of the tools are put on the same shelf.
The car seats that we save for when we travel back to the US are neatly stacked on top of the Christmas tree and the odds and ends pet stuff is in the cat crate.

More importantly, all of the luggage is stacked neatly to the side, with room for the ironing board and people to walk in and out. I may play more in this room and may designate space for some long term food storage now that I know I have the room! What types of closets do you have?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ready for Vacation

It has been a busy week, planning and preparing for our vacation to Indonesia. A budget vacation is one of the advantages of living in Asia and after reading the The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich I am resolved to take the kids and family more places. Do more with them, enjoy the fact that we live and work in Asia. Our current vacation is to Java Indonesia, specifically to the city of Yogyakarta and the UNESCO heritage sites of Borobudur and Prambanan.

Living so close to a multiple World Heritage sites is a gift that I hope to share with my kids and be able to expand the view of their world. I will fill you all in on the details when we get back!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cookies and Food Choices

I tend to be a bit- well- eclectic. While thinking about what I want to eat this weekend and the lower food chain items I want to eat more of (think veggies), I started to crave Naniamo Bars.

Naniamo bars hail from just north of my old stompin' grounds. When you live 8000 miles from your home town like I do now, by just north I mean a reasonable 300 + or - miles and a ferry ride. Anyway, Naniamo bars are the rich chocolate vanilla layered confectionery treat hailing from Vancouver Island and the little town of Naniamo (bet you didn't see that coming). I am sure that in terms of calories they hover between 100 and a million per bar but hey... they sure taste good. Growing up we would occasionally find these at a coffee shop or cake house and it was always a treat. Later as a young professional working as a lawyer back in my home town, the 20 pounds I gained during those three years I am sure were directly linked to the fact that the Coffee House down the street from my office served these regularly.

I found a recipe here on Eclectic Cook and they turned out pretty good. I have to say that I can't get the nice smooth chocolate topping, I think it has to do with the quality of chocolate that I am using, but considering that they still taste good I figure who cares!

Here is the recipe for you Nanaimo Bars I also borrowed her picture for this post. Thank you~

Stir Fried Lettuce and ShaoXing Wine from the Perfect Pantry.com
Now, onto other eating topics. Part of my thoughts on living simply are to eat in connection with where we are, store food for cost saving as well as in the event of emergency, and to eat locally and lower on the food chain. Eating more local veggies and combining them with staples from my pantry seem like a great combination. But here is the problem. While I appriciate the numerous LDS food security websites and super frugal websites that use powdered eggs and really practice what they preach, the food well from a foodie standpoint seems to be blah.

So, cut to today, while trolling the interwebs... I found the "The Perfect Pantry". So much eye candy here. Glimpes into other peoples pantries and oh the receipes... they look so good. The one on the front page alone for Lentils... well call me giddy. I can't wait to make this Lentil Barley Pilaf and this receipe for Sweet Potato/Lentil and Raisin Stew or a Chinese style receipe with Shao Xing wine? Think I will be lost on this site for a while. Be back 100 pounds later.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The 4-Hour Workweek, Revised and Expanded: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich The 4-Hour Workweek, Revised and Expanded: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hard to really put into words the effect this book has had on me. The writing itself is not great, parts are clunky. The tips and techniques he includes are not novel or unique. What Ferriss calls "Lifestyle Design" is really downshifting on steroids. Passive Income meets Hipster. But...wow.

How I really realize how much I hate working 70 hour weeks. How much I want to be able to travel with my family. How I realize how much time I waste avoiding the work I don't want to get done. How very cool it would be to re-learn German, increase my Chinese, learn Bahasa. Will this book win awards for writing? No. Can it change your life? Maybe.

The time managment portions of the book are great. Some of the techniques are terrific (nothing new, but a good collection put together). As for the passive income stuff, well I can't tell you if these are workable or not.

Do I believe that Tim Ferriss works 4 hours a week. No. It is part of the sell.

But do I believe that while he is a bit of an egomanic (just watch his videos), the idea that we can work smarter not harder is true. The idea that we don't have to wait until the magic age of 65 to live our dreams. Also true. Don't buy the book and expect that all your work will instantly be decreased by 90% while you travel the world.

Can you and will you be able to incorporate some of the ideas and get inspired? Well, that is why I said maybe. It is really up to you.

View all my reviews >>

Night Swim At Dairy Farm

This is what it is all about. A weekly tradition of swimming with our friends. Sometimes all of the stress and conflicts that a week brings can be erased by a swim in the dark on a Friday Night.

Thanks to Lisa for making and posting the video!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Patio Garden-Planning stages

I want to have this. You know, the lovely patio garden. It is just a matter of getting one of those "round tuits". There are a number of veggies that I have tried in Singapore and I have failed each time. I figure it is one of the following things: either the soil in my planters stink...which it does... the veggies are not suitable for Singapore... probable... the dog digs it up...often...the seeds are old...maybe...I have a brown thumb..

image from BHG.com

So, the goal is to create a real container/patio garden this spring. I want to grow tomatoes, lettuce and herbs for sure. Maybe some eggplant and some peppers. I would love a zucchini plant, but I have no idea if it will grow in a tropical container garden. I am traveling this week and dreaming of the home projects I want to do over the next few weeks when I am back home.

<= My patio

First step I think is to give up on the DIY store seed packs. I have yet to have a single one turn out. The plants fail to thrive, if I can get them past a sprout stage at all.

Second, find a good nursery that sells real compost, not some crap (like we have purchased before that is nothing more than dirt from the side of the road). Third is probably to have someone from the nursery come and help me re-do the container on my patio. While the trees are nice and offers privacy, I would rather have the trees in a pot so I can use the full extent of the built in bed. Who knows though, I need to plan out the garden, look at the brightest spots from the sun perspective and get crackin. Fresh veggies in 2-3 months? Can't wait.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Some awesomeness shared.

One of my favorite blogs is Zen Habits. I also try (when I find time) to follow his Twitter. The only thing wrong with following Twitter is it can be too much and take too much time, so I don't feel too stressed if I don't catch it all. It is all about slowing down and simplifying afterall.

So, in terms of trying to again gain control and gather some life hacks that I can use to simplify my life I stumbled across this post off of Leo's Twitter.

Four Best Inspiring Blogs Every Life Hacker Should Subscribe To off the Make Use Of Blog.

Just saying I am already loving the Tim Ferriss blog (his book has been on my list for a while).

I am also looking again at some lifehacks that I can use to free up more time. I tend to be a bit scattered and any tips I can find I will share! In the meantime, I need to get back to work.

Oh PS. My Twitter is here

Friday, February 26, 2010

My Village

The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child may not be true, but it is certainly a gift if you have it. After 11 years overseas, we have finally found our village. Our condo Dairy Farm Estate (sometimes called the "Farm") has a great blend of local and expat families. Lots of teachers and just good people. Over the last 3 years here I have forged friendships that I know will last a lifetime, they just will. Tonight I am off to attend a "book club" which is really an excuse to pretend we read, but I really did read this book and have a few laughs food and drink with these friends. One of the kids buddies just left after spending the afternoon playing at our house.

"Farm" Kids at the Lion Dance

I have been lucky enough to befriend Lisa and Sara-Jane. Karen, is our Julie McCoy planning activities for us as a group,. I could name them all, but they are just all part of this big huge group of people that I have come to appreciate more than I can say. This a group of loosely connected people, around 10 families, that do things together on a semi-regular basis. Our kids all hang out together and it is not unusual to find a group of us at the pool on a Sunday morning.
The Lions and kids trying to "steal" the Oranges in their mouths.
This group is wonderful, I feel comfortable leaving the kids with any of them, I feel like their kids are an extended family. None of us feels shy about bringing a kid in line if needed, or bandage a skinned knee and offer a hug when needed. The houses are almost always open, with kids running in and out. Sleep overs are common and even the young teens like to hang out with the littler kids (7-8). There is never an issue if SJ needs to have us watch her kids for a few hours, or if my kids are up at Lisa's while we run errands. Sure we gossip a bit, but we worry too. We miss those who move away and enjoy it when they return. This is really my village.
Last weekend the Farm's management committee had scheduled a lion dance for the Chinese New Year holiday and it was a great gathering of Farmies (my newly coined name for the group). Probably around 100 people gathered to watch the dance and enjoy the celebration, despite the 38 degree heat (that's 100 to those metrically challenged) and 99% humidity.
The next day we all piled into cars and set off for Sentosa beach for a relaxing morning by the Sea. All organized by our resident cruise director Karen "Julie McCoy" McD as part of her "birthday" weekend. There were about 7 families all in attendance.

There were so many kids and parents that it made the beach a real joy for all of us. Cara and I were able to walk and get a cup of coffee, leaving the kids in the care of our spouses. Karen needed to run a kid to the bathroom and was able to leave the other with us while we watched. Lisa brought her cousin "Vinnie" and we all played in the water, ate snacks and enjoyed the morning.

One of the hardest parts of returning back to the States (which we are not planning on doing soon, but will someday) will be leaving this village, but that is sometimes part and parcel of the Expat life. Leaving and moving come with the territory, knowing that makes this group even more special as we all recognize the fact that we all may leave soon. While it may not take a village, having this one has enriched my life in so many ways.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Money,Housing and Success.

I was thinking yesterday about what I defined as success. Success for me, when I was younger was knowing that I could walk into a store and purchase something without worrying that I was going to go without food or shelter. Success was a happy family. Success to me at the time was not so much keeping up with the Joneses (we didn't even have any Joneses in my circle) it was really more about being happy, healthy and having a few nice things. I always wanted to keep my own sense of style and a certain bit of quirkiness as well. Of course there were times in my life that I wanted to have the "big house". I used to go to the Street of Dreams in Oregon and think those houses were what I wanted, but then again those houses were a huge 3000 square feet. The average "Street of Dreams" home now is something like 5000 square feet with no yard. (Or this house, while it is beautiful in many ways, and professionally decorated it is 6500 square feet) I say no thank you. Success was going to be a moderate house, a career I liked the annual two week vacation and the ability to pay for items (no not a Louis Vuitton, but maybe a $100 necklace) without stress. I never dreamed of yachts or private jets. I never dreamed of luxury cars. Maybe I was raised thinking that the trappings of wealth were really just that, trappings.

Now at the age of 44 I think my original dreams have come pretty true. I don't dream of big huge marble bathrooms. I would like a bathtub I could soak in however. I don't dream of a luxury car. We have lived for over 11 years without owning a car. Mass transport and taxis have been enough for us. We consider purchasing a small car as the kids are getting busy at school and our taxi fairs have increased. A nice small Honda would do me just fine.

I don't dream of a 5000 square foot home, we own our 1100 square foot home back in the States and it has been rented to the same tenant for 11 years. While it will be smaller than what we want should we move home, I can't imagine ever living with more than 2200 square feet. Our current space is 1900 square feet and is almost perfect but the lack of storage is a bit off putting.

I certainly don't dream of 40 foot ceilings. Pretty, but how do you dust the brickabrack on the top shelf? If you are sitting in the chair next to it, do you even notice. What about the heating bill of that home? (I do like the view however out those windows... just keeping it real!)

I no longer dream of 2 week vacations. I work from home and travel extensively for work. When the kids are able, they come with us. Budget travel in Asia allows us to fly for cheap and using points I accumulate through work we stay in excellent hotels at pennies on the dollar. When we don't stay at 5 Star Hotels using points, we search the internet and find perfectly acceptable hotels for US$40-50 per night. As a result my children have traveled to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. While they don't get to hang out at the Oregon Coast as much as I did as a child, i think they are doing just fine in the tropics.

I don't dream of showing my wealth by having the biggest or the best. I do have an excellent job. One that pays better than most. It allows Jeff to have the flexibility to find his dream job while we are still paying for our kids to attend a world class private school. We are able to pay for holidays if we want and we are able to pay for health care for those we love. We cut corners where we can to save for the future, we don't have big TVs or lots of gadgets. We don't spend on the latest fashion...in fact I just went shopping for clothes for myself for the first time in over 8 years. Sometimes it is hard to not see beautiful houses like this and say, wow, I wish.... Sometimes it is hard looking at ex-pats (a whole post in itself) and think wow I wish I could have that car, or that dress or that house, or that XYorZ. But, after a moment I think back again about what I really wanted as a child. My definition of success.

In those moments when I start thinking I need to keep up with the Joneses, the Smiths or the Chens... I think back. What is it that I really want.

What do I have:
A happy family. Check
A job that pays for my lifestyle, gives me satisfaction and allows me to travel. Check
A husband that I love and that loves me. Check.
Travel all over the world to learn and see new things. Check.
Live overseas and expose my family to second cultures. Check
Have a group/a circle of amazing friends. Check
A roof over my head. Check
Good food on the table. Check

What I still want:
A backyard with a garden..OK Condo living kind of makes that hard...But I really do like our place.
A sense of financial security. Working on that
Wealth in Spirit- Working on that....

So, have I met my definition of success. Pretty damn close if I do say so myself.

All images from http://shelburnehomes.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just a bit of prettiness today

A small corner of my home that I love. I need to get more corners that make me happy. There are so many that are left "unfilled". And, as I have just purged way too many magazines and things sitting around my house I don't need to necessarily fill them with "things", but I want to clean them- set them in order and make them beautiful.

Mao memorabilia finds from throughout Asia.

I would love to fill my home with more corners like this

And have dinner parties using candles and seashells like this (Images are both from my new "blog crush" 52Flea.

Simple quiet corners of my house. That is what I am trying to establish. A place to relax, a place to be.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Too Much/Too Many? CDs and Music

My beloved and I have quite a CD collection, one that rivals our DVD collection. While I am overall pretty happy with the way our DVD "database works" I have still not found a similar free or moderately priced music organizer to create a database of my albums. I started to organize, pulled all of the CDs out of the jewel boxes, put them in alphabetical order and then, the project died out. I just wasn't happy with my options.

I have always wanted to go ahead and rip my music and put it on iTunes to have the music digitally available so I started to rip a few CDs on my husbands computer. Now, by way of disclaimer, while I think we have quite a music collection, I understand that others have many many more, so what may end up working for me, may not work for others. Just so you know where I am at, so far I have over 3700 songs on my 'work' computer and on Jeff's I have only put a few...2000 or so heehee... That is mostly just songs, not albums. Many of these MP3s were gifts from friends, rips of music we all knew and loved. Some downloaded-most recently with a little gifty card I bought myself while home in the US.
As a side note, one of the pains of living in Singapore is that we are not
allowed to open an iTunes account using a Singapore credit card or
Singapore address, so i have to do it with my US debit card and my parents in
law's address.
But, I digress, as I am wont to do. Back to the tally, my rough count of CD's has us at well over 300 disks. So, how to organize them? I wonder if I was over thinking it? Could I simply use what I already had? Well, I started by again alphabetizing them (had to take a second stab at this due to additions over the holidays) just like I did with the DVD's. Anyway, back to the original point of this post. I need to get back on this project. So as I started to burn the CDs I noticed that the computer, handy little tool that it is, started to sort the albums for me.

I started to burn the CDs in MP3 for compatibility reasons, although I do think Apple will end up being the only music player out there in the end, starting with the MP3 allows me to use iTunes, or other MP3 players. Ripping with iTunes limits me to the Apple format. As I ripped them using Windows Media, the computer started to put them into Artist/Band folders with each album separately listed. The grace notes appear to be transferred as well so art work will show up when you put it onto the player. iTunes shows me the album, the artist, the track listing and the artwork. I can sort by genre and by date. What I can't do is read the liner notes... but that is a story for another time.

The real reason for this post? Well, it goes not only to organization and to clutter, but to the crux of voluntary simplicity for me. Last weekend we were getting haircuts with the kids and Jeff found a great CD sale. He came up with a US$ 5.00 copy of Forty Licks by the Stones. I told him we already owned it. I know this because I bought it and I organized it. He didn't believe me, but when we got home, I got into the alphabetical stack and found our copy. We now will be gifting our second copy to someone.

As the great band has said " You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

I just hope once I get a list done there are less of these duplicate purchases. What do you all do to organize your music collections?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


When I first found myself pregnant with Declan, I knew what kind of parent I wanted to be. I still want to be that kind of parent. I don't get there all the time, I try, but I have some of my own issues that keep butting into my goal to be kind and gentle. I tend to be grumpy, short, quick to anger and patience, well it may be a virtue, but one I really struggle with. I look at all of the blogs were it seems that every one is a perfect parent, the kids are creative and do all sorts of artsy things. The kids eat 100% organic foods and would never touch a packet of Kraft mac and cheese, even if offered. Coke and cookies are unheard of in the home, it is organic arrowroot crackers and homemade lemon water. And the kids are perfect.

But, they aren't. The mothers aren't. While the blogs are lovely, they don't always reflect real life (which is one reason I love the Pioneer Woman, her kids seem to be pretty real life to me as the wallow in muck and mud, just look at her fridge in this post and you will see what I mean). I have friends who throw down terms like active parenting and organic lifestyles. They ban all processed food from their homes, but I know as soon as those kids hit the neighbors the first thing into the mouth is an oreo or a glass of rootbeer. I know these mom's get upset and angry, I have even seen some of them lose their temper. I guess when it happens I have to sit back and smile, a bit of schadenfreude I know, but I already told you I have issues! But the point here is that I know that as much as I do have work to become a better parent, I need to temper myself and my emotions, I have done Okay so far.

My basic philosophy is first and foremost to raise gentle and kind kids. Kids that appreciate the things that they have to share with others, to take note of what they see, to eat well and healthful. To be thankful for the world and the opportunities they have been given. To understand that by the grace of God, or the luck of the karmic draw, they have been born into an upper middle class family that is educated and has opportunities as a result of that status. Elitist, no, just realistic. I know that the kids have a better chance statistically of being educated and upper middle class because we are.

So, week before last in a situation of a very bad, horrible no good day, I flew to KL for a business meeting that unbeknownst to me was cancelled (or I wasn't registered) what ever. I was tired, cranky, suffering from Jet Lag. I called home to bitch at the situation with Jeff and talk to the kids to just get some touchstone back home. I was told by Delcan, that he had purchased me a gift while on a school field trip. He bought his sister one too. Not because he was told to, but because he is a kind, gentle and giving boy, minus those times he is on Wii.
I came home to this boy and this gift. Guess while my house may be a mess, I travel too much and I lose my temper way too fast, I must have done something right. All parents question the ability to parent. we all question if we are doing it right, if you have kids that love you, you are doing something right too!

Beauty- In the home

Four posts-in a week. Wow... almost an all time record.

So, a few thoughts about making my home beautiful (Wednesday I am now calling Beauty Day)- on a budget (or being frugal if you prefer) and being green. I am currently working on a project for my daughter's grade 1 contribution to the Singapore American School County Fair (an annual fundraiser for the school). I was looking through one of my favorite magazines Somerset Life- Oh yeah, not so frugal the purchase of these magazines, but I digress I happened across some of Mindy Carpenter's art work. Mindy created some amazing collages using papers and ephemera she has collected and stored in her studio. I thought what a great idea for getting some of the kids' school stuff off the kitchen table and somewhere we can appreciate it. Along came the idea of creating a canvas for the whole class. The canvas will be 36X40 inches and will contain bits and bobs of the kids work.

By way of a sample and to hang on my kids' wall next week, here is the first collage I did using some of the school work they have done this year. This was a fun, fast project and one that I will be doing more of (maybe with some of the collected ephemera from my trips around the world!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Food and Organizing

Update on mission organization:

So, the desk is 90% clean. I recycled probably 30 magazines keeping only my Backwoods and Mother Earth News. I also got quite a bit of the craft desk done. Not all, but a fair amount.

Today (Generally Tuesdays are going to be food days on the blog), I am looking at food. I am doing a mini-detox and over the last few days I have been very conscious of what I am eating. I have eaten only veggies save 3 cheese tortellinis and only had one cup of coffee in the last 3 days.

One of the goals today is to go through my cabinets and start planning a stock up and use campaign.

Another thing I want to do is to start looking at labels and cutting out as much of this evil product as possible. Key areas that I think I can get are some of the few "prepared" foods that we use like Syrup and Ketchup. I will let you know what I find after I organize the pantry.

I am fascinated by this post over on New Dream about living HFCS free for a month. Looks much harder than most people think....

Also, I am setting up a delicious list for all of my simplicity/homesteading/frugal sites. I was inspired by Down-to Earth's post on organizing. I realized that many of my ideas are on the web in one form or another and I continue to lose track. This is my start of organization on that front. Check it out if you are interested. Homesteading/Simplicity links.

Peas and carrots~


Sunday, February 14, 2010

working towards some goals

First, a few pictures from Newport Beach California, from January. It was just shear luck that this is the lifeguard tower that we parked near and I couldn't help but take this picture. Pretty much representative of my current stage in life, I would have to say. And in part the renewed interest in getting my "shi.."I mean stuff together.

I guess it is time to set down and get to work on some of the goals I posted the other day. I have a long weekend and have spent some time resting, some time playing at the pool and sometime hanging on the back porch doing not much of anything. I have started to go through a bunch of my library and print outs on Simplicity and homesteading and I am reviewing what I can and should keep. The rest will be clipped and stored or recyled.

Tomorrow is the start of a new week. A week where I get a few days off from the "real" job to attend to the real life. I start tomorrow with a three day jump start to healthy eating. I am going all veggie on a "detox" for three days. The goal is not to crash diet, not to lose weight, but to identify some of the food triggers I know have upset my digestive system. I plan on cutting out all caffenine (today I have only had a cup of tea)...all animal protein, all glutens, all refined sugars and all soy. I then will reintroduce them one at a time to see what happens and if I can find out what bothers me. I also will start my yoga again tomorrow -and with the kids not in school for two days- I can do it before their day starts.

So, Monday is organization day ( I think it is a great idea to start picking days for certain goals)

I hope to get my office cleaned up-
1) magazines sorted and those that are no longer applicable thrown out.
2) papers sorted and recycled were appropriate, filed where needed to be
3) craft desk cleared and stuff put away (and I will not fall prey to the "reorganize the craft stuff call (not just yet!)
4) I hope to finish going through my closets and giving away clothes that either don't fit me or don't fit well.
5) Organize the CHA stuff. Send out reminders and track leads
6) finalize accounting stuff for both businesses including completion of two bills
7) and if time permits start working again on my photo organization. I have over 15,000 images that need to be reviewed, pared down and many duplicates and poor copies deleted. This is an ongoing goal.
Finally, a few trips to plan. While March will be a month filled with travel, we are considering a quick getaway with the kids for spring break to either Yogyakarta or Lombok using SPG points that I have been gathering from all my work travels. It is possible for us to stay in Sheraton hotels for a combination of points and only $25.00 per day.

Tuesday will be Kitchen/food storage updates (I think Tuesday may be health day)

Hope you are all having a prosperous start to the year of the Tiger. Xin Nien Kuai Le.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Space and Perspective

This image is from the "egg" in Beijing. An amazing bit of modern architecture if I do say so myself (cause I am such a critic, but no expert). I am sitting today in Kuala Lumpur and thinking about the month and a half that have just past.

I have traveled to Malaysia 2 times. I have been to Beijing, I have been to LA and Dallas. Total miles logged around 20,000 miles. That is one hell of a huge carbon footprint. It also means that the one thing I love the most-being with my family- was totally a wash. I was with the family 15 days of January.

Good news is February is looking better. After this trip I intend to be home until March 1st, but March will be just as bad. While awesome trips are planned, including my first trip to India, it again stresses my family.

So, what does space and perspective mean, what types of changes am I making this year to slow down and be more deliberate. A few goals I think are in order.

1. Be Financially Independent (save $). I just spent a ton of $ on clothes for myself. I suppose it was needed. I work in a professional environment and tend to have clothes that fit poorly or make me look short and drab. So, now that a shopping spree has taken place, it is time to cut back and save. Jeff and I figure that to retire early we would need enough to survive in a manner that we could be comfortable, plan for un-anticipated expenses and cover the kids college. We are a long way off.

2. Be Present- When i am home, be there, be with the family, not be distracted and give my whole to the kids. Last week it was easy. I just got home from travel so the 2 days I was home it was easy to sit down and do homework, be patient and be there. I hope I can keep it up.

3. Be healthy. A few health issues have been circling around the family. We all need to take better care of ourselves and be well.

4. Be Grateful. Appreciate the blessings I have in life and share them with those I love.

5. Be Proactive. Take things in order and take action when needed rather than procrastinate.

6. Be Organized. Home, Business, Finances, Lifestyle.

7. Be Beautiful. Again, my home, myself, my family, my surroundings.

8. Be at Peace (my word of the year) and if the above come to fruition (or don't) be at peace with what happens and enjoy this life.

More about what I plan and how I plan to reach these goals soon.
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Friday, February 05, 2010

Food Food Food

Lots and Lots of it~

I have been eating like crazy...

In California I ate all types and lots of it... iHop, Bubba Gumps, PF Changs, Mamma Cozza's, Zov's Bistro and lots of crap convention center food.

Played at Disney and ate at Downtown Disney.

Flew to Dallas, ate lots of great food, including some Brazilian food, Greek, Mexican, "fusion" and molecular gastronomy... Wow, I am too stuffed to move. Time to go home and slow down. Can't wait to see my kids soon!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2010 word of the year-Peace

I know a lot of people set new years resolutions. Others choose a phrase or word that they use as an intention for the year.

For me my word is Peace.

Peace for me is being where I am at. Being peaceful with my family. Opening up- Accepting what happens. Finding balance. Just Being. Peace at home. Peace at Work. At Peace with my choices, options and life. Peace for the world.

Edited to add: Sorry, my fingers hit post but I just realized that not all was included. I have expanded a bit above.


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