a mighty good year

wedding in colombia
kota kinabalu
IMG_7822
IMG_7905
Ubud, Bali
Alaska by Ana Maria Munoz
Redang, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia
Takayama, Japan
Tokyo, Japan
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
hiking in sedona, arizona
Route 66

2013, you were one GREAT year. Challenging, adventurous, stimulating, inspiring, loving, and beautiful...definitely one of the best yet.

In January I could have never imagined that I'd be sharing 90% of the year's highlights below. Every new year brings new experiences and opportunities and seeing them unfold one-by-one is truly a thing of beauty. Every challenge you overcome, every time you say 'yes' instead of 'no', every time you let your self get out of your comfort zone (personally, professionally, and physically), they're all worth recognizing and celebrating.

So cheers - cheers to reflecting on and celebrating the journey had while looking forward to the adventures that await. Have a very happy new year! xx.

2013 Highlights

Launching Ring Cozy

Getting married in Colombia + exploring it with friends

Being featured by Cuyana

Going off the beaten path in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Photographing the beautiful bags by KAYU

Stay-cationing in KL

Ditching the glasses and getting LASIK

Fishing in Phu Quoc and riding like a local in Saigon, Vietnam

Celebrating one year of living in Kuala Lumpur

Jetting off to Bali for the weekend

Getting married again in Alaska and exploring the Last Frontier

Launching the Love Malaysia Collection with Gin & Jacqie

Snorkeling in Redang Island, Malaysia

Learning to cook our new Malaysian comfort food at LaZat

Park strolling in Bangkok

Exploring and eating in Melaka, Malaysia

Falling in love with Rio De Janeiro in three days

A dream trip to Takayama and Tokyo, Japan

Loving and leaving our flat in KL

Posing for the camera for lasting memories of our time in KL

Road-tripping to Sedona via Historic Route 66

Wrapping up the year with a cozy cabin getaway

a cozy cabin christmas

Christmas 2013 Hi guys! How have your holidays been? We spent our Christmas in the mountains just outside of LA and it was perfect. We booked a great little cabin via Airbnb, rented a car, and loaded up on firewood and groceries for plenty of cooking, drinking, and snacking. The plan was simple: relax and indulge.

Other than driving ten minutes to Lake Arrowhead for a brief visit, we stayed cozied up inside with a roaring fire (Joe is a great Boy Scout) and ate whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Christmas Eve dinner was just right but the food highlight of the holiday was my batch of Colombian buñuelos. I made them for Christmas in London but last year we sadly had to go without the traditional fried cheese balls of goodness since the cheese we needed simply didn't exist in KL. However, it only made them taste that much better this time around, especially since I got to share them with my family! My sister, brother-in-law, and nieces joined us on Christmas Day, just in time for my girls to help me roll the maza into little balls. After tamales and buñuelos, my nieces and I did Christmas arts and crafts and roasted marshmallows with Tio Jojo using sharpened branches he collected. Needless to say, those girls were two very happy campers!

And so was everyone else. Joe had been happy since we arrived because he finally had an excuse to use the hatchet I bought him three Christmases ago (couldn't take it to London with us) while my sister and bro in-law were happy to kick up their feet and relax while Tia Mu (me) entertained the girls with activities.

It was absolutely perfect. The family time, the quiet time, the nature time. I can't think of a better Christmas gift than the gift of an experience with the ones you love. So happy.

get your kicks

IMG_0468  IMG_0487IMG_0480 IMG_0502 IMG_0511 IMG_0518 There's nothing more American than a road trip and our trip to Sedona last month was the perfect welcome back experience.

We've been car-less for nearly four years now (counting when I last lived in LA and got rid of mine) and currently have no plan to buy one. So when it was time to head to Sedona for a friend's wedding, renting a car and hitting the open road felt like a big adventure.

Growing up in LA I'd notice historic markings all over town indicating that X Y Z street was a part of 'Historic Route 66'. I knew where the route ended (the Santa Monica Pier) but I had no idea what the rest of it looked like. The Sedona trip was the perfect opportunity to see what was east of Los Angeles and California on the 'Mother Road' that invented motels and created (once thriving) small towns around it.

We used the freeways leaving LA but as soon as we passed Barstow and had our required In-n-Out meal, Route 66 was it.  It was quiet, there were no trucks, and it was right next to the landscape. When we saw something we liked, we stopped and enjoyed it for a minute or two. Some sections of the road were in need of repair but for the most part it was easy driving.

The photos above are from Amboy and the surrounding area.  Before we stopped for a coffee break at Roy's, we saw the landscape change to a beautiful mix of volcanic rock and white sand. We wondered how long ago the eruption happened and how far away and got our answer when we followed a sign into the National Park for Amboy Crater. What a cool spot. Not only did we get great view of the cinder cone (you can hike to its rim if you have the time) but it was the site of the raddest picnic table I've ever seen. I took at least a dozen photos of it from different angles! We really wanted to hike the trail and just be in the stillness and silence that was all around it but it was getting late and we still had our overnight stop in Kingman ahead.

We hit the road, back on Route 66 where every hour or so was a new possibility of experiencing something from the past: a retro motel, a greasy diner, a scenic view. Had it not been for a meeting I had to come back for, we would have extended our trip by at least a week. The short stretch of Route 66 that we did was a tease but it reminded me of the diverse landscape that we have here. In other parts of the world you can drive six hours and pass through one or two countries with fairly similar looks and feels but here in the States, it's possible to feel like you've been in three or four different worlds all in one day. Same country, no passport required. As much as I love working my passport, a good ol' American road trip was just the ticket.

blog c'est slow

Hello, is anyone there? Yes, yes you are. I can see the visitor counts in the dashboard and you've been coming back, it's me who's been astray.

I think that I have officially moved into the slow blogging category where instead of sticking to a set schedule and forcing myself to blog even when I don't feel like it, I'm focusing on my offline offblog life, enjoying it, and taking care of business without guilt. I still constantly think of things that I'd like to share and photos I'd like to take but I'm going to use my month of transition as the excuse for absence. Since we moved back to LA and it's been busy and by busy I mean happy. Happily working, happily hanging with friends and family, and happily wearing cozy layers in crisp 50 degrees weather.

Now that we've been here for a solid month I'm starting to get asked how it feels to be back, if it's strange, or if I miss anything. The answer to the latter two is yes. It feels strange to sometimes view things and people through foreign eyes and notice subtleties that I never would have had I never left. I've had moments where I felt like an outsider with deja vu - places and people are familiar but something has changed and it's not the same. I know I've changed so even if the city or familiar faces haven't, the fact that I have changes everything.

Brief moments of reverse culture shock have been the main 'strange' things though. Like going to a college football game and seeing how intense the tailgating scene gets (custom branded trailers anyone?), preferring to eat with chopsticks instead of a fork, catching the smell of curry from an Indian restaurant and feeling like 'home', or even just being around Asians and feeling more at 'home'! It's the little things that have made me pause and recognize the re-adjustment I'm actually going through. I was driving with a friend yesterday and she said "you drive like a Malaysian" which really means "you're a shit driver". And she should know - her family is from Malaysia. I laughed so hard when she said that because even though I never drove there, it somehow rubbed off on me. And in a twisted way, I took it as a compliment.

Yes I miss Malaysia but besides missing the food and nearby travel destinations like crazy, I'm doing great back in LA. I'm getting a ton of work done, exercising and eating well, using public transportation and loving it (though I do rent a car as needed for meetings), and my hair is as calm as it's been in over one year. I'm sure you ladies can commiserate with equating a small amount of happiness to the volume and frizz in your hair ;)

So yeah, all is well. I may not be blogging like a blogger should but that's okay. This should be a fun space for me (and you) to come to, to share adventures and creative nuggets, not something that is forced just for the sake of feeling current. I do Instagram and Pinterest often so if I'm not here, I'm there. And to you who are still here, still reading this, I'm thankful for you. You make this whole blogging thing so much more than an online journal. Gracias amigos.

photo: LA street c'est chic, snapped in Arts District Downtown LA

for everything...

thankful Happy Thanksgiving everyone. It's been a while since we've been in the Sates for the holiday season so today I'm taking extra note of the things that have made our lives so full, wherever we've been in the past three years!

I'm thankful for our family and friends who have supported and encouraged our adventures every step of the way along with those who made every new experience more colorful and memorable. The well being and health of all of these special people, and the technology that let's us stay connected regardless of geographic location, are high on the gratitude list.

Sitting in our new apartment I feel so blessed to have a roof over our heads, a kitchen with food to nourish our bodies, and all the simple comforts that we sometimes take for granted on a daily basis. Looking back, we've been so fortunate to have several homes that allowed us to feel safe and comfortable in new environments. So many great memories!

And last but not least, I'm thankful for my beautiful man and partner in life: Joe. He makes every day the best day ever just by being by my side.

I hope you have a relaxing and fun weekend sharing special moments with the special people in your lives. Gobble Gobble!

#ringstories

Ring Cozy Thankful There's a lot to be thankful for in this crazy adventure called life and I love being reminded of one person in particular (and a few places 1, 2, 3), every time I look at my left hand and see my rings.

Ring Cozy helps protect the rings you love while doing the things you love. And in many cases, those rings hold special memories of cherished people and moments in your life.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to celebrate those special people and moments and we're doing so at Ring Cozy by sharing #RingStories on Instagram all week long. To join us on memory lane, take snaps of your ring, your favorite person, or that special spot in the park where you said "Yes!" - I'd love to hear what your rings mean to you!

Click here for more details and to see the special code to receive 25% OFF all orders today through Sunday, December 1. This will be the only sale for the year so get in on it quick if you have a few ring wearers on your holiday gift list! Ring Cozy makes an excellent stocking stuffer...just sayin'.

blame it on the weather

moody mint pins Yesterday was the first rain we've experienced since moving back to LA and I'm sure that the grey morning skies and cool mornings of late have everything to do with my draw to these images.

It was just a light drizzle where we are but when I woke up there were already reports of two car accidents on the freeway that resulted in loss of lives. It's sad and crazy that even the smallest raindrops can throw LA into such havoc. Especially considering the types of torrential downpours we experienced in Malaysia where drivers still do 60+mph with no trouble at all. We're just not used to rain here...be safe out there, kids.

Now, before this post turns darker than the greys above (it is a Friday, after all) let's talk about why it looks different from my usuals. I rarely share things that are not my own photographs or designs but with so much work going on, I felt like mixing things up a bit and playing with a few of my favorite recent Pins. Call it a Friday Freebie if you will ... sometimes you just gotta go with whatever creative itch you've got, big or small.

Go have a great weekend and let yourself do things a little different. It's more fun that way.

(images clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3)

words worth repeating / 43

words worth repeating 43 by ana maria munoz--anamu This week has marked the first time in months that I've been able to glue my ass to a chair and just work work work. You should have seen how giddy I was on Sunday night, sitting at a desk, organizing my to-do's for the week/end of year and scheduling them into my calendar. For the first time in a long time I was able to schedule 100% time for work - not packing, not canceling utilities, not apartment viewings or anything else that's consumed us for the past two months - just good ol' work. I've already booked a few freelance gigs and I'm prepping Ring Cozy for the holiday season and 2014 (check out a few of the site updates!).

I was getting so anxious not having my dedicated time and space but now in our new apartment with a desk, organized supplies, and a kitchen with snacks, I am one happy worker bee.

Have a productive Hump Day!

small touches

small touches of homesmall touches of home small touches of home small touches of home

Happy Monday, guys! I'm so excited to be writing this from our new home. We moved in several days ago and It feels so nice to be somewhere that we can call 'ours' for the time being. It's just what we were looking for - furnished and wired - so all we had to do was unpack our bags and buy groceries. Yes, it was the easiest move-in ever and I definitely made sure to enjoy it.

Enjoying it was easy as we've been in and out of our storage unit, making room for what's coming in from KL, and taking what we need from it right now. I took advantage of the shuffle to grab a few small items like a vintage ceramic dish and pair of votive candle holders to place around the apartment along with a few stones I brought with me. The latest addition (the big green one) from Sedona is perfect, as is the heart-shaped red rock we picked up during one of our hikes. They're so pretty and I like the idea of them holding positive energies...Joe makes fun of me but I don't care ;)

Since it's Fall, I also had to bring a few pumpkins into the mix. Pumpkins were hard to come by in London and KL (the rare ones were crazy expensive) so I reasoned than I had to have them when I saw them on sale for less that $1. I was right. They're already doing their part in making our living room look a little less sterile.

When it comes to making any place a home, little touches go a very long way. And right now, I am thankful for every.little.thing.

 

 

 

 

sedona rocks

hiking in sedona, arizonahiking in sedona, arizona hiking in sedona, arizona hiking in sedona, arizona

We're back from our mini road trip where we drove on the Historic Route 66, stopped in a few towns along the way, and took in the beauty of Sedona, Arizona. At first I thought "I can't believe that I didn't take more pictures!" but then I realized that I was enjoying just being there too much. The red rock formations, the sun light, the blue sky ... everything was awesome in every sense of the word and I didn't want to interrupt the moments by taking my camera out. However, during our hike on the last day I did make sure to get some snaps in. We had hiked at least four miles every day since arriving so by that point I felt more comfortable taking the DSLR out knowing that the trails were easy to navigate.

We had the most gorgeous morning sun and the air was perfectly crisp and cool. It was so nice to be outside and be active, a far cry from our activities in KL. There were groups of locals running along the paths and whizzing by on their mountain bikes ... can you imagine having Sedona as your back yard playground? What a treat.

I was surprised with how small the city was (and how sleepy it was at night) but they have done a great job at keeping the area's spirit and beauty in tact despite it's growth and popularity. With imposed height restrictions for buildings and signs, paint colors, and very few commercial chains, you can hike up to any vista point of the city and barely notice the city beneath it's famous rocks. For example, Sedona is so committed to maintaining its natural beauty that the city forced McDonalds to change their Golden Arches into the worlds only Turquoise Arches in order to open!

Also surprising was how much of a forest Sedona is. I had imagined just the red rocks and then maybe red desert sand everywhere else but no, the area is covered in trees. Mostly evergreen types, and of course varieties of cacti, but even more surprising was the location of the wedding we attended. It was creek-side and between the scores of ducks swimming around and the yellow leaves falling off some of the trees, it felt like we could have been in Colorado or anywhere else that wasn't (what I thought) just a desert. Sedona was full of surprises like that. Beautiful beautiful beautiful surprises. Pack your bags and road trip there asap.

 

the door is open!

Finca La Hamaca, Pereira Colombia Bed & Breakfast, Coffee Zone Happy Friday, guys! Joe and I are road-tripping to Sedona, Arizona for a friend's wedding and while there, we'll be staying at a place we booked via Airbnb.

Airbnb is all about Mi Casa es Su Casa so I thought that today was perfect for sharing some fun news from the Muñoz family. If you caught this post from our wedding/holiday in Colombia then you might remember that my parents were planning on opening up our family country home, aka finca, as a bed & breakfast for travelers. Well, the day has come and their door is open - they're now official Airbnb hosts!

If Colombia and the coffee region have ever been on your hitlist, do consider staying with my folks. My mom is crazy for hospitality (her breakfasts have gotten rave reviews!) and my dad loves nothing more than to share his beloved Colombia with people. Seriously, he kept a stack of Colombia related books on the coffee table that he would open up to show to everyone who came by our house.

Now he and my mama are back in Colombia and they can share the real thing from Finca La Hamaca ( the 'hammock country house'). All of the info is on their Airbnb page where they also list some recommended sights to see and things to do. In addition to a hearty breakfast, the price per night includes transportation and guided day trips by my dad - a huge plus in the coffee region where things are spread out and most locals don't speak English.

I could talk the finca up for days but I'll stop myself now in case you do find yourself there. I wouldn't want to spoil all of the surprises ;)

Happy Travels!

 

blue & sun for the jet lagged

UntitledUntitled Hello from LA! We arrived to bright blue skies and plenty of sunshine with a side of cool breeze, just how I like it. It's been a whirlwind of couple of days between settling into our current crash pad, running errands, attending a wedding, looking for a new temporary apartment/sublet, seeing family, and trying to get a solid night's sleep. I have never been so off before - jet lag usually hits me on the way back but since there's no return this time maybe I'm getting it all upfront. All of sixteen hours of it, making my eyes look and feel like I've been partying for days.

I'm hoping that this week brings a bit more calm and order to my schedule, emphasis on hoping. We leave for a mini road-trip to Arizona on Thursday for another wedding so if I can get just three days of productive work time (and good sleep) I'll be a happy camper. I'm happy now but very tired, definitely looking forward to feeling refreshed and on top of things again. Until I get there, please keep those blue skies and that shadow-play sunshine coming!