Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

March 17, 2017

Ocean Crossings, Cross-Stitch and Stitch Fix

It seems like I haven't shared much recently at least on this blog (you can read how I'm not teaching the Peanut to share here...) but I have to remind myself that the only deadlines I impose on this blog are the ones I make for myself. Sometimes there's simply not much to say. And sometimes I'm just saying it elsewhere. 

So, in case you've missed out on my life elsewhere, here's a recap of what's going on in my world:

:: The Sailor arrived home just in time for us to all fly to South Africa together! It has been two years since the Peanut and I were there. This time, he had his own seat, rather than my lap, which is a good thing because he's a giant.




He's a big fan of flying, although he's still not a great fan of sleeping... anywhere. Nevertheless, we spent several weeks hanging out with Ouma and Oupa and enjoying sunshine and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. We spent a lot of time outside, playing in the dirt. 


:: Cross-stitch. I still don't know what I was thinking of when I picked out this cross-stitch design for the Peanut's room. I started it back in Singapore over a year and a half ago, and then I barely touched it until over the holidays. I decided not to pack any knitting or crochet projects for our overseas trip <GASP> and instead, I just brought the safari stitching. I made some serious progress during the Peanut's nap time. And because he spent so much time simply playing outside, I got to sit under the tree and stitch without him wanting me to play with him every minute. Win win. 


And when my mother-in-law tried to pawn off some half-finished stitching she'd started when the Sailor was younger, on me, I promised myself to finish this thing by the time the Peanut's 5th birthday rolled around. At least I have a few year's buffer.

:: I signed up for Stitch Fix. My guilty pleasure TV binge used to be TLC's 'What Not to Wear' show. I secretly hoped someone would sign me up so I could get a new wardrobe. (Let's face it, I've also lived in places where I wanted to nominate the whole town simply to get people out of their pajamas.

Now, with a new post-baby body, and after changing my diet and losing more weight, nothing from my former life fits. I'm not quite sure how to dress a 40-something body, while chasing after a toddler without simply wearing athletic gear all day. So for $20, I hired a stylist! I just got my first shipment and I LOVED having items handpicked just for me that actually FIT and are geared towards my life. I'm not going to lie... the stuff was pricier than I would have paid if I had nabbed it off the rack at TJMaxx, but I'm not sure I can put a price on getting the perfect pair of skinny jeans mailed right to my door without having to try on 46 other pairs. 

(If new clothes aren't your thing, feel free to read my latest post on the Chattanooga Mom's Blog on How to Be a Savvy Secondhand Shopper.)  

:: The Sailor and I are mere days away from celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary! It's hard to believe it's been a decade since we tied the knot. We've done a lot of living, laughing and loving since then. I'm excited to see where the next decade of adventures take us. If you missed our story, you can read it here

Finally, a word on writing. There's a lot going on in my head about the state of the world lately and I haven't really written about it publicly. I decided one day to pull out my sadly neglected journal and I scribbled pages and pages of chicken scratch (seriously, if someone ever finds my journals, good luck deciphering them) about my thoughts. I felt so much better afterwards and it reminded me again to regularly write in my journal more often. It really does wonders for my soul. It also reminded me to keep pursuing more writing outlets. 

So I did. In February, I had this story published in the City Mom's Blog Network, the parent site of the local Chattanooga blog I now write for. I know there's a lot more in me that needs to be said. Some of it will stay in the journal. The rest though, time will tell

Happy (almost!) Spring. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are. 



August 18, 2016

Welcome back?

A lifetime ago, when I worked for Mercy Ships, I waved goodbye to their flagship from an ice cold dock in Germany. I spent a few weeks in England and then returned to the States to assimilate back into American culture. I slept late, recovered from jet-lag, wrote in my journal and tried to figure out pop culture nuances I had missed over the last few years in Africa.

Then I started job hunting. In the end, I took a land job with Mercy Ships. I worked as a grant writer in their short-lived DC office. When I calculated the time that I officially left Mercy Ships to the time I took the job, it had been exactly three months.

I didn’t need to leave Mercy Ships. I simply need a Leave of Absence. All long-term crew were afforded a three month break every three years. I neglected to take mine. And I should have. I was burnt out and simply needed a break.


Maybe I just needed a Leave of Absence from blogging for the summer (again). Who knows. But I'm back.

I’m a little like those Olympic athletes and coaches who say they’re retiring and then they come back for just one more season. (Okay, that's a stretch. But hey, the summer Olympics ARE on.)

And while I did indeed take the summer off from blogging, I certainly have not had a summer off.

So let’s have a little recap, shall we?

:: The Sailor arrived home in May, after passing his Master’s Unlimited exam! Those of you familiar with sea life will understand what a HUGE and monumental deal this is. The Sailor studied and put hours of hard work into this and had to endure a grueling three and a half hour oral exam. Not for the faint of heart. I’m so proud of my captain! 

:: In May, I attended a fantastic sweater unraveling workshop on an alpaca farm. The workshop was hosted by Reunion Yarn, a great startup focusing on recycling and reusing fiber. It combines my love of thrifting with my love of yarn. Unraveling thrifted or old sweaters? Sign me up! I even hauled my dear mother with me and together we attempted to dismantle a few cardigans I had previously made for both her and myself. The yarn stash is now overflowing. 


:: While the Sailor was home, we took a trip to Legoland in Atlanta. The Peanut has been obsessed with his $2 blocks from Goodwill. We figured it was time to introduce him to Legos. He LOVED it.

:: In June and on a whim, I mentioned to the Sailor that I wanted to start looking seriously into selling my handmade knit and crocheted items. The following week, Co.Starters was starting their summer cohort, a
nine-week course aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to startup a business. The first week I sat there wondering what on earth I got myself into, but this past week we had our pitch night and graduation celebration and I'm pretty proud of myself for taking such a giant leap forward.

While I'm still very much
in the beginning stages and taking it VERY slow, I do feel far more equipped to eventually launch a small business selling hand knit slippers (of course.) Stay tuned for more info on this exciting endeavor! 
Cooling off in the cabin

:: In July, the Peanut and I went camping. It was CRAZY hot. We camped with a dozen moms and 45 kids. You read that right. FORTY-FIVE. I was the only mom with only one kid — most of the gals there had 4-5 each, many with newborns! Props to those mighty women. I of course was missing my summers in Scotland, but this was a good initiation into camping for the Peanut. At least our cabins had an outlet and I had the good sense to bring a giant fan. We spent a lot of time floating on the lake. The Peanut also consumed lots of junk that he's not allowed to have at home, like blue Gatorade and sugary lemonade to avoid dehydration.

:: In August, the Peanut turned two! TWO! I actually felt like a fog lifted that week. I don’t know if it’s a hormonal shift in my life, or the fact that he’s no longer a baby, but I feel a little lighter these days. The first two years with the little Peanut, while filled with immense joy, were also HARD. And tiring. So I don’t know what the reasoning is for my new lighter outlook, but I'll take it.

:: Finally, I have broken a promise I made to myself when I was pregnant. I became a mommy blogger. (GASP!) I am one of the newest contributors on the Chattanooga City Moms Blog site. I had been reading their material for a while (there are City Moms Blogs all over — find one in your area) so when they put out a call for Chattanooga writers, I applied. My first post will be on there in a few short weeks. (Excuse me while I eat my words...)


So there you have it. I'm back and hopefully better than ever. Or else I just have Olympic fever. Or I'm still delirious from lack of sleep (still), two years into this mama business. Whatever the reason, I've missed sharing bits of my life on here. I'm still not sure where Typing Sunflowers is heading, but I know like most things in my life, it's growing organically.  

I hope you'll welcome the blog back! 



February 15, 2016

Airmail

I've said before and I'll say it again, I love snail mail. As a kid I always enjoyed the long walk to the mailbox, hoping for a letter from one of my pen pals. I still get excited to get a real letter in the mail (although these days it's far and few between). It's also the reason I still mail out real Christmas cards. It's now hilarious to me to see the Peanut get super excited when I tell him we're going to get the mail.

Over the weekend, I worked on my Project Life album. I'm way behind, but it was super fun to see how much the Peanut has grown in the past 18 months, and also to see all of the adventures the Sailor and I had over the past year and a half. I took a LOT of photos. I'm sure I wouldn't have nearly as many without having a camera on my phone. 

In fact, it's hard to imagine life these days without modern technology, right? 

While working on the Project Life pages, I came across a pile of letters and postcards I remember purchasing at a flea market a few years ago. I liked the look of the airmail envelopes and I had something crafty in mind when I bought them. I don't remember what, now, but I do remember leaning over that particular table, rifling through the letters and and picking out the ones I wanted. I probably wanted to use the stamps for something. 




Last night, while the Peanut got into every plastic bin I had scattered on the floor, I found the letters and began to read them. 


 

Once I started, I couldn't put them down. I was astounded. 

I'm sure the set is incomplete, but from the few letters I have, I gathered that a couple set off on a trip overseas — one of their letters mentioned 15 countries in all. They were writing to their daughter in the summer of 1955. I just assumed she was older, maybe in college. But the more I read, the more I found out. She must have been a wee toddler — not even in school yet. It seemed like she was staying with her grandparents for the summer while her parents (who often signed off as Daddy and Mamma) were gallivanting the globe for a few weeks to Europe and the Middle East. A few of the letters mentioned that they hadn't yet heard from their daughter and they were pleading for the grandparents to write when the couple arrived in London, where they could receive post. One letter even said, 'Ask Grandpa to get an airmail stamp from the post office.' 


I felt a little like I was invading someone's privacy, but I kept reading. 

Eventually, I found the letter that Grandpa had written and mailed to London, in care of a travel agent and addressed to a 'Reverend'. I can only guess that the couple was perhaps on a mission or pilgrimage of some sort. Grandpa said he hadn't written yet because his eye glasses broke in the meantime. In addition, he didn't have enough ink in his pen and needed to get more. He also mentioned that the little girl couldn't wait to have the letters read to her when they arrived. 





I realize that I grew up in an era without cell phones, without Facebook and without so much technology. The Internet only really came about when I went to college. I remember going off to Africa as a 20-something and not talking on the phone to my mom for five months. I did however, at least email her. 

And I have never lacked for a pen. 

There's something incredible though about thinking about this couple, who only wrote snail mail letters home to their daughter. And even though they were airmail, I'd imagine the post wasn't as fast as it is today. 

If the little girl was still alive, she'd be in her 60s. I'm guessing though, that the people mentioned in the letter are all deceased. It's probably how the letters ended up in a flea market basket at a bargain price. Someone probably had an estate sale, and they ended up getting shuffled around until I eventually found them. 

I had a huge clear out of my letters recently (read Marie Kondo's 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' for tips on purging!) But there are a number that I still kept, letters my mom wrote me through the years, all of my written correspondence from the Sailor, and letters from my traveling 'sisters' from our years scattered around the globe. 

Some days I wonder if someone will end up reading through my own letters, trying to piece together a piece of the past. I find it hard to believe that people will really remember the little snippets of technology that we engage in day to day and minute by minute. After all, so many things like Facebook status updates, Instagram pics, and tweets are all so temporary. Even though nothing is really ever 'gone' from the Internet, are people really going to remember that we posted something about the weather? 

It's funny how a written letter changes that perspective. The Reverend wrote about the weather in his letters, and the Grandpa wrote in return about their weather (apparently 1955 had the hottest summer on record in Maryland). Some things, like talking about the weather, never change. But those letters have at least endured.

Maybe that's why I'm still into snail mail. It's like leaving a little glimpse of another life, for another generation.

October 1, 2015

Summer Recap

I may have fibbed when I said I would be back in September. I meant to be, honestly, but then life kind of took over. Even though we extended our summer holiday well into September, the season was far too short. 

REALLY too short. I felt like I needed one final trip to the beach to mark the closure of summer... one last hurrah with the Sailor before he jetted off to another continent to return to sea. But alas, time got away from us, and while we managed to squeeze a ton of things into what should have been a rather relaxed summer, we didn't manage a trip to the beach.

Here's what did happen though:

I went to a dear friend's wedding. Actually, I got a flat tire on the way there and missed the wedding... but the Peanut and I made it in time for the reception. 

I reunited with my college besties for a few days in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. The last time the four of us converged, we were all on the brink of major life changes. This time, we discussed all that we've gone through in 20 years (20 years!) together. 



We moved to a new apartment with a view. The Sailor happened to be thousands of miles away working at the time, so I rallied a work crew and thankfully the Peanut gave me just enough napping time to box up our belongings. 



Only a few days after unpacking the last box, the Peanut and I took a 700 mile road trip to visit friends and family. The Peanut promptly learned to climb stairs at a friend's house.



The Sailor arrived home to our new apartment just in time for the Peanut's first birthday party. I'm not big on giant parties for little people, so I planned to simply celebrate with a cupcake for the little guy. Instead, he decided to get his first cold. The cupcake was quickly forgotten, because it was soon time to pack for...

SINGAPORE! The Sailor had some work training courses to complete, so the Peanut and I tagged along for two weeks. It was a LONG few flights, but worth it. 




Singapore was a food and shopping mecca. On one of the Sailor's earlier trips there, he brought back a magnet that said: 'Survivor Singapore: Out Shop, Out Play, Out Eat.' I thought it was funny back then, but I totally get it now.







I have traveled solo to many places, so obviously wandering around with a baby brought a whole new element to sightseeing. The Peanut and I had a blast together though and it was super special to see Singapore through his eyes, in a way. (Singapore is also very kid friendly... more on that later!)




  
(OK, so we DID manage to get to the beach, but only for a short while.
Just long enough to watch the ships.)




I managed to get a few crafty things started over the summer, like this lofty cross-stitch that I MAY finish by the time the Peanut is 18. 



Finally, I've probably been procrastinating with restarting this blog because I keep thinking it needs a change... a new direction or something. Maybe since I started this blog at the beach, I needed a trip to the ocean to figure out that new direction. I'm still not sure where it's headed, but I hope you'll stick around to find out. 

I hope you all had a wonderful summer! 


April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

 

I took this photo nearly a decade ago (how is that even possible?!) at a small outdoor restaurant along the coast of South Africa. It's an old buoy, but it has always reminded me of the earth. 

The Sailor, the Peanut and I just returned from South Africa, and while we were nowhere near this restaurant, we at least enjoyed the outdoors as well as the spoils from Oupa's garden. We missed peach season, but we still had fresh carrots, tomatoes, onions and potatoes to feast on. We were just in time, since much of the garden was gearing up for the winter.



We introduced the Peanut to grass, which he wasn't too sure about at first. 



He soon figured that grass was great to crawl in, leaves make wonderful crunchy noises, and Dexter the Wonder Dog is fun to pet. 


I got to sit under my favorite tree.


We introduced hammocking to the Peanut as well. 


He didn't stay in the hammock long, 
but I think he liked the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind. 

  
Earth Day might only come around once a year, but I kind of like the idea of enjoying the outdoors all 365 days.


Now that we're back in the Northern Hemisphere (Spring already sprang while we were away) it's time to think of our own garden. This year we're planting tomatoes, okra, peas, carrots and broccoli, plus maybe a few other goodies. 

I'm thinking maybe sunflowers? 



Whatever your day brings, I hope it's full of sunshine, and happiness equivalent to leaves crunching in a baby's hand.

Happy Earth Day! 
 

January 17, 2015

Mid-Week Getaway and Tips for Traveling with a Baby

This week, the Sailor whisked the Peanut and I off on a quick two-night getaway in the middle of the week. I love that our often unconventional 'schedule' is so flexible! (Of course it also sometimes means that I neglect the blog... apologies!)

Besides the first few days at the hospital, the Peanut has never slept anywhere overnight except in our apartment, so we decided it was now or never. Besides, I had been a little crabby lately. I blame the hormones and the lack of sleep. Deep down, I think I just wanted to get out of town. I realized last week I hadn't been outside the city since last March when the Sailor and I drove to the beach. March!

I used to collect stamps in my passport. Now I collect dirty diapers for the laundry. However, even though I haven't booked an international flight for a long time, we could at least drive a few hours away to see a new aquarium. 


As a teenager, I wanted to save the whales and become a marine biologist. Nowadays, I'm happy saving money on those cloth diapers. 

Nevertheless, I still love aquariums and sea life. Apparently, the Peanut does too. He's been to two different ones already and those fish usually put him right to sleep. 

We've only had one overnight outing so far with the Peanut, but I'm already storing up tips for the next trip. Maybe they'll work for you, too! 

* Start driving around your little one's nap-time. The Peanut usually nods back off about 9:30, so we set off on our little adventure right around then, and he managed to take an extended nap through most of the drive.

* Bring something for your baby to roll around with on the floor. We have one of those activity mats that someone gave us. The Peanut long outgrew the need to lay there and look up at the stuff dangling from the top, but he loves to look at the animals on the mat. I dismantled that thing months ago, so we just took the mat with us. Chances are, if your child is as mobile as the Peanut, he will end up on the hotel floor at some point, but at least the mat can serve as home base. 

* Remember a few books and toys. The Peanut loves books already, so I brought two small ones with me and we just kept reading those over and over. Other items that made it into the suitcase included Sophie la Giraffe and another teething toy. 

* It is possible to travel with cloth diapers! More on that (and cloth diapers in general) in a later post. 

* Splurge if you can, for a hotel within walking distance of attractions. We decided to forgo being cheap this trip and we decided to just book a nice hotel that was near enough to walk to the sites we wanted to see. This is especially helpful if you want to head back to your hotel for lunch, to nurse, or to change your baby. It also meant we were schlepping less stuff around with us all day. And, we saved on eating food we brought with us. 

* Consider room service if you want a meal out, but don't want to head back out with a bambino. After a full day of site-seeing, we didn't think any of us would last at a restaurant for dinner. Room service wasn't much more than a meal out would have been, and it saved our sanity. 

* Bring along a knitting or crochet project if that's your thing! I finished half a sweater for the Peanut in the car and at the hotel, thanks to the Sailor driving, and me not having to cook or do dishes for two days. 

I'm hoping this was just the first of many fun road trips to come. What tips do you have for traveling with little people? 
 

December 5, 2014

Journal Block?

Last week on Thanksgiving (was that really over a week ago?!) I mentioned my 50 plus journals and how every year I write out what I'm thankful for.

Suffice it to say, with guests visiting, the Sailor arriving home, and the four-month-old Peanut's neediness, I haven't gotten around to writing that list yet, although I've been mulling it around in my head. 

Actually, I've really been mulling around the reasons why it's taking me so long to finish this particular journal.

I bought this current journal in Abu Dhabi in April of 2012. It's a pocket-sized book in a bright turquoise blue — a reminder of the fabulous pedicure I had in the country. My hands look like I spend my days washing dishes without gloves, but if it's sandal weather, I tend to make sure my toenails are actually polished. Turquoise was the color I chose for the remainder of that trip.

Pick any journal off of my shelf and I'll be able to tell you what country I was in and what was going on in my life simply by looking at the book itself. I may not be able to remember the Sailor's mobile phone number, but I can remember where I was while writing the story of my life. Friends who know me well have gifted me gorgeous leather-bound and handmade paper journals from far-flung places around the globe. At the moment I have several from Egypt begging to be filled. 

I picked the small turquoise journal in Abu Dhabi because I envisioned taking it further afield to other international trips to Scotland and Ukraine that summer. Smaller size equals easier transport. Instead, I started the journal on July 4th and due to extenuating family circumstances, didn't get on a plane to anywhere until much later in the year.

Over two years later, this journal still has a few blank pages in it. It's been to South Africa and the Caribbean, plus several States on a 3000-mile road trip, and yet I still can't seem to finish it. I used to complete a pocket-sized journal on a two week trip to Eastern Europe. And yet, despite the crazy few years I've had and the life-changing events along the way, I haven't been able to finish this journal. 

I blame technology to some extent. My iPhone now goes everywhere with me instead of my journal. I type out notes with my finger instead of my pen, and I make lists and calendar entries by clicking open apps. 

I blame this blog a bit, because let's face it, I've written pretty regularly on here for two years now, and it's much faster for me to type than to write anything. Plus it's getting increasingly difficult to reread my handwriting. Not because my eyesight is going, but because my writing is getting sloppier. 

I blame the book that has been stagnating on my computer for years while I try to figure out when I'm ever going to return to Ukraine to write its conclusion. I spent the summer of 2012 partly rereading many of those old journals, while typing out my story of summers past. Clearly I neglected the current journal in the process.
 
On the other hand (and new baby aside...) it's time to stop blaming other stuff. I think I've just been a little lazy. I often tell other people to write out their thoughts when they are going through life transitions, and yet here I am, trying to muster up the energy to finish writing out the birth story of the Peanut before I forget every little detail, and I only have three pages left to fill. THREE! 

This is the journal that saw the death of my older brother, a special reunion with life-long friends, a major move across the country, pregnancy and a new baby, plus the death of my lifetime mentor — all HUGE events that warrant handwritten thoughts and memories, and yet many of them barely got so much as a scribble of acknowledgement.

It's one thing to type out part of my story, it's quite another to write it out. While I'm thankful my mother made me take typing in school (back in the days when it wasn't even required!) I'm far more grateful that she bought me my first ever journal, giving me a place to store my secrets. (I shared more of that story in an article in the Winter 2014 edition of Artful Blogging.)

Part of me knows that once I start a new journal, the words will come easier. Sometimes a blank slate is all you need. More than once, I've filled up journals from the back as well as the front. The back holds the lists of books I've read since I started that journal (48 in the current journal that I remembered to write down... there could be more.) There are also cinema ticket stubs (at least 18 — some may have fallen out along the way), as well as packing lists, to do lists, and words of wisdom printed on tea bags such as 'grace brings contentment'. 

This particular journal seems to have more stuff scribbled and pasted into the back than usual — like I have been desperately trying to finish this book without having to write anything of substance in it.

I haven't traveled anywhere of late, but the journal does seem to move from room to room with me, willing me to finally finish it. 

It's sitting here next to me on the desk. I definitely don't want to stretch this writing rut into 2015. So, if you'll excuse me, I think while the Peanut is miraculously still sleeping (on his own!), I may just have to finish my story, and this particular journal. 

After all, a new story and a new journal awaits.

July 31, 2014

Ready for the Peanut...

{* The Peanut's arrival is imminent! Understandably, I will be taking some time off while I figure out this whole new mama role once the Peanut actually arrives!  Please note that I won't be posting much in the near future, but rest assured, I'll be back on the blog, once I get into a routine. In the meantime, wish me luck on this new adventure and enjoy one last pregnancy post!}

****

Soon after I announced my pregnancy to friends far and near, I started getting questions about whether or not I've started on the nursery. 

Nursery?! 

What nursery?! 

While the Sailor and I joked that I'd probably get pregnant right after converting our second bedroom into the Princess Pad (AKA my office/craft room), I knew even if we did have a baby, I didn't want kid stuff taking over an entire room, let alone the whole apartment.

From the start, we agreed on baby minimalism. My theory was that everything had to serve at least a dual purpose. No crib or changing table for this Mama... I bought a Pack 'n Play instead that serves as both. Bottles for when the Sailor wants to feed the baby? I purchased glass lifefactory ones that can be converted to sippy cups later.


I had the sense to at least pick some sort of theme, since I knew people would want to buy us gifts... and after seeing this crochet pattern, I knew that the safari theme would work perfectly for the Peanut whether or not we had a boy or girl. Who doesn't like safari animals?

But the nursery.... surely the nursery is something that is for the parents more than the baby, right? I mean, the baby can't even see that far in front of his or her face for a few weeks.

I have discovered that here in America, baby stuff truly is a racket. 

Throughout my pregnancy I've been remembering a young gal I met in Ukraine nearly a decade ago. I stayed with her family one night since my train was due to leave super early in the morning and conveniently they lived right around the corner from the station. 

She was due with her first baby literally any minute... and she asked if I wanted to see 'the room'. 

Of course I said yes, so she led me up the staircase to her and her husband's bedroom. She then proceeded to show me a small bassinet next to the bed, along with the smallest shelf possible with only a few diapers (I'm assuming cloth, because I don't ever remember seeing disposables sold anywhere in the country) and one small bottle of baby powder. 

I vaguely remember seeing a small pile of clothes -- the key word being small
Photos by my fabulous friend, Angie, taken about four weeks ago.
(I am a LOT bigger now!)



That was IT.

And this Ukrainian gal was so proud of it all, she actually exclaimed: 'We're all ready for the baby's arrival!'

I will never forget that evening, or the look on her face. She was totally serious. They didn't need anything else. They had a place for the baby to sleep... a few diapers and clothing items that they would probably need to wash by hand, and a little luxury in the form of baby powder. Most of all, they already loved this baby growing inside of her and were prepared to offer him or her their version of the world.

I haven't been back to Ukraine since that trip... I have no idea whether she had a boy or girl and by now the baby would be about 9 years old. I would love to return though to find out how she fared with such a tiny amount of 'stuff'. I suspect she did just fine. It's amazing that women around the world give birth in far less ideal circumstances, with far less 'stuff' and less fanfare than here in the States. 

I know that I don't live in Ukraine. But I also know that I'm not planning on being a 'typical' textbook American mother. I have already gotten the hairy eyeball from more than one person by stating that the Sailor won't be anywhere near me in the delivery room, or that we'll be using cloth diapers from the start. I feel like people are continually watching us to see how much we're going to change as parents. 

I'm sure we'll eat some words. Toys and 'stuff' will creep into our lives and I guarantee you that disposable diapers will find a way into our life on things like road trips. But overall, I want to continue to remember that Ukrainian gal... and when I look at the clothes, diapers and the few things we have for the Peanut, I have also exclaimed to people, 'We're all ready for the baby's arrival!' 

July 29, 2014

Missing Loch Lomond

Summer camp has started on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond... and even though it has been four years since I've made it to that part of the world (and let's face it -- I have one of the most legitimate reasons on the planet for missing it this year) I'm still a little nostalgic for that field and the view. 


Last year, I wrote about what brings me back there year after year, here.  

Many of my foreign friends have converged on the field by now and are giving a slew of young people the summer of their lives by introducing them to new skills, new friends and a new environment. Someday, I hope to take the Peanut there to show him or her the place where I first fell in love with travel and foreign experiences.

To my friends there now, may the rain be sparse, the midgies* be few, and may you take the time to enjoy every single stunning sunset Loch Lomond has to offer you in the next few weeks. 

{*The most awful little bugs on the planet... 10,000x worse than mosquitoes in my book. They are so tiny you can't see them coming until one bites you on the face. They will not be missed...} 

July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth & Fireworks!

My city missed the memo that today is the Fourth of July and instead planned their fireworks for last night... along with a free concert at the park.

When we first moved here last year, the fireworks got rained out, and the Sailor and I spent the Fourth of July watching old movies, while I crocheted this red rug for the bathroom. This year, I had full intentions of going to the concert with a group of friends, but sleep called my name louder than the firecrackers. 

I was in bed by 9 pm.


Over the years, I've missed out on a lot of Fourth of July celebrations since I spent so many summers overseas.


One year, I found myself in Budapest, Hungary during their own national holiday. Budapest is a combination of two former cities, Buda and Pest, on either side of the Danube River. I had planned to meet some new friends across the city to view the fireworks, but I found myself stuck in Buda, since the bridges were closed due to the fireworks display. 

I climbed up the hill and headed back to my hostel, somewhat dejected. I had looked forward to simply experiencing a little bit of Hungarian nightlife with the locals and now I was stuck on this side of the river. Instead, I steeled myself for a night in with a 25 cent cup of a coffee from the vending machine, hoping that I might catch a glimpse of the display out my window.

One of the hostel receptionists saw me and asked if I wanted to go up onto the roof to view the fireworks. (We could climb onto the roof...?)

Sure enough, a group of us clamored up the access ladder to the flat roof of the five-story building with no railings, where we had one of the best views of the fireworks that night. 

I have since forgotten the name of that hostel and the names of the people on that rooftop. But I'll never forget that night, or the view. It reminded me a little bit of being a kid again.. of the anticipation of nightfall and the excitement of simply holding onto sparklers. 

I wondered last night if there was perhaps a Hungarian or two in town who would be missing their own fireworks display in August. Hopefully they made it to the park last night to at least see ours. 

Happy Fourth of July! Be safe... and invite someone out to see your town's fireworks with you this year. (Unless of course, they'd rather be asleep before dark.

  

April 5, 2014

Que Sarong, Sarong

In the 20 years that I have been traveling, I've learned a thing or two about packing. I have a few non-negotiables that go with me no matter how little space I may have in my bag. My journal always accompanies me, and I also pack some sort of sarong, or at the very least, a giant lightweight scarf that can do double duty. 

I guarantee you in the packing priorities department, there is nothing more versatile than a sarong. It has always been on my essential packing list -- no matter where I'm going or what the weather will be like. It's been my security blanket, if you will, on many trips.


My favorite sarong over the years is this blue one in the scrapbook photo. I even wrote a little blurb about my security blanket in the scrapbook:

I can't remember exactly when I bought this sarong -- it's been a staple in my luggage forever, it seems. I do know I found it at a TJMaxx in America (exactly which one in which state remains a mystery). I thought at the time the price seemed quite steep for a piece of material -- $10? $20? Little did I know this sarong would become my security blanket: a curtain for my caravan in Scotland, a sheet in Budapest, a beach blanket in Estonia, a scarf and pashmina on chilly planes and trains... and occasionally an actual sarong at the pool. In Cape Town, it served as a chair cover to hide the plastic patio furniture inside our granny flat. My 'security blanket' awaits the next trip -- already in a suitcase. -- November 2009

Clearly, my security blanket was worth every penny. So, it was a great surprise to me that I completely forgot to pack it this week. The Sailor and I went to Florida for a few days for a last minute beach getaway. Apparently pregnancy brain kicked in, because I was ill-prepared for actually hanging out at the beach. I at least remembered a swimsuit (and I even tried it on before I packed it to make sure it would accommodate my growing belly...) But I didn't remember anything else. No beach towels, no chairs -- not even a simple sarong. 

Luckily, the kitschy souvenir shop across from our hotel had one left. The price was right and it turned out to be the perfect size to use as both a beach blanket and a cover-up when the sun got a little too hot.


 I've used my sarong for all of the following many times over: 
  • Tablecloth: Indoor or outdoor!
  • Curtain: I have previously stayed in hostels with giant windows and no curtains. I like a good view, but I also don't like people looking inside my room while I'm sleeping.
  • Door curtain: Particularly useful in caravans or RVs when you want a breeze, but also privacy.
  • Robe: Covers a lot more than those chintzy towels they give you at the spas in Budapest, let me tell you!  
  • Towel: Desperation, people -- it's much more effective than a tiny bandana. I speak from experience. And, if you're using it as a robe, you may as well dry off with it too.
  • Blanket or sheet: Essential when you end up in a grotty hostel somewhere, although if you're already using it as a curtain (see above), you may consider packing a second sarong for your next trip.
  • Picnic or beach sheet: Nobody wants a towel full of sand. Sarongs are much easier to shake the dirt out of than a thick plush towel.
  • Pillow when rolled up: Do you know how long some train rides are?
  • Skirt, scarf or even a head covering: Perfect for chilly travel days, or those times when bare skin is not acceptable. 
  • A cover-up for swimming or lounging at the beach: The sarong's original use!
I'm kind of glad I forgot to pack a sarong for Florida -- I'm not one to buy souvenirs, but sometimes it's fun to have a little memento, even from a short trip. Now I have another sarong to accompany me on the next adventure. Hopefully I remember to pack it, along with my journal.
 
What's always in your suitcase? 

February 20, 2014

A Heavy Heart

Ukraine is never far from my heart. I spent several summers there in my early 20s, and have been back to visit at least a dozen times since. I lived there on my own once for several months and I dream of the day I can return and see my friends who are still there. 


You can imagine then, why Ukraine is heavy on my heart this week. If you've watched or read the news in the last 24 hours, you'll have seen the unrest, the protests, and the shocking deaths of so many. It breaks my heart, because the Ukrainians I know are the kindest and most generous people I can think of. 

No matter what the public opinion is on what Ukraine's next steps should be, it is indeed a tremendously tragic situation -- and one that I hope can be resolved soon, and especially, peacefully. 

And while matryoshka dolls are typically thought of as Russian souvenirs, I got mine in Ukraine in 1995, during my first summer there. The four of us gals traveling together each received a doll from a Ukrainian lady the night before we left the country. Each outer doll actually resembled us in some way with hair and eye color. It is one of the few keepsakes that has followed me around the globe and it continues to remind me of my friends still there. 

Pray for them... and pray for Ukraine. 

January 9, 2014

Dreaming of the Beach

While much of America is still in a deep freeze, I'm dreaming of the beach. 

Oh, it won't happen until the Sailor returns home from sea... but in the meantime, I'm trying to transport myself somewhere warmer, mentally. 

  
We moved South in part to escape the arctic winter in the North. While the winter here has so far been much tamer, this week still ranked high up on the BRRRRR factor.


The Sailor is also dreaming of the beach. He's sailing near one now, but he says even the weather where he is isn't conducive to an afternoon swim.


Looks like we'll both have to wait a few more months until we can get to a warm enough ocean. How about you? Ski Bunny or Beach Bum?

December 8, 2013

Bedtime Beading

The Sailor and I took a road trip over Thanksgiving, and I of course brought the necessary knitting arsenal along for the ride. 

If I'm not the one driving, then I try to use the hours in the car to knit. I get carsick reading a map, so it's somewhat surprising that I can knit and crochet. It's like I have a fiber superpower. (Of course if I'm doing something very complex or if I have to read a pattern... my ability goes right out the window and all productivity stops immediately.

I made a pair of simple socks along the journey -- one in the car and one at our destination. Then I began working on a little shawlette to pass the time. 

I splurged on a skein of Madeleine Tosh Merino Light on a solo road trip nearly a year ago. (The label doesn't have the color, but it looks closest to 'cove' or 'filigree' from the website listing.

I had planned to make a pair of beaded fingerless gloves as part of a Knitting Guild project. I started the gloves, then decided while I liked the beads with the yarn, I didn't really want to make another pair of gloves. 

After making this enormous Citron Grand, I decided I really liked shawls. But I didn't want to make another BIG one for quite a while. I needed something quick, easy, that would only take my one little luxurious skein of yarn. And, I wanted to use the beads. 

Ravelry didn't disappoint. 

I found this little shawl: The Sunlight Shawl for Sad People for free online. (Don't let the name throw you... it's a cute story and happy-looking shawl!) While the pattern doesn't call for beads, I figured I could easily add them throughout the shawl and especially on the picot edging.

The thing with beads though, is they are not conducive to car knitting. I put a few beads on the shawl randomly throughout the pattern (and probably lost just as many under the seat), so by the time I got to the edge, I put the shawl on hold. 

I waited until we got to our hotel stop for the night and pulled out the beading equipment. (Note the super cute zip pouch in the upper left of the photo -- found that little gem at Knitty City in NYC a while back.)  


I managed to finish the beading just before bedtime. Thankfully the hotel came equipped with plastic cups to corral the runaway beads.   

 
I used to think shawlettes were a little strange. Not quite a shawl, but not a scarf either. But now I think they may be my new favorite thing to make. This one is perfect for traveling -- both to knit (minus the beading part) and of course to wear. 

They also make fabulous gifts for friends -- especially when you don't want to worry about sizing. This shawlette knit up quite quickly, so there's still time to make one yourself to gift for the holidays! 

(Beading is much easier than it looks! Here's a good place to start. I used the crochet hook method to place my beads.