aaanndd i'm back!

Three bags, three different crash pads, five rental cars, and too many miles in a car (and in the air) ... this girl has left LA and is back in KL! It's so good to be home. I arrived yesterday morning and have been unpacking and re-organizing everything in between hug and kiss attacks from Joe who can't seem to believe that I'm actually here.

It was a great two months in LA though it was certainly a different kind of visit than I've had before. I was focused on work versus play so I left feeling shocked that for the first time in a loooooong time I didn't go to a single Dodger game, a show at the Hollywood Bowl, and - gasp - not even a flea market. The first two are a very sad thing for an Angeleno to admit and the third one is just sad for me personally (see this if you're new to the blog). But, if I had to be away from Joe for so long I had to make it worth my while and that worth was all about pushing Ring Cozy forward.

The moments that I did take to be with friends and family were few but really treasured. I had missed their hugs, their smiles, their way of "knowing" me. It's pretty awesome to feel that there's a group of people somewhere else in the world who love and care about you regardless of seeing you once in a blue moon. There were definitely moments where I wanted to toss the expat towel in and be back with familiar faces. Like the one day I went wedding dress shopping for two of my friends and had so much fun doing something so girly. But then when I remember that everyone is so busy with their own lives now that I probably would see them just as often as I do now, I don't feel so bad. It wasn't uncommon to go months without seeing certain people when I still lived there nearly three years ago. We're traveling more, focusing on family, getting busier with work ... it's a rare treat to just call someone up on a random day/night and say "let's do X and Y" and have them actually be available, or willing. If you're under 25 and reading this...enjoy it while it lasts!

Now back in KL I've been welcomed home via texts and emails by the friends I've made here. They're a part of a different chapter in my life and I'm so thankful that they fill the pages with new and amazing experiences. They remind me why I love being an expat: the simple fact that albeit challenging, you can make a home and build a community anywhere you are. I can't imagine anything more comforting than that. It's so good to be home.





a year's worth of wanderlust II

This time of year always makes me reflect and one of the things that I'm most grateful for are the opportunities we've had to travel. We set out to live internationally for many reasons but traveling was/is priority numero uno. Looking back, I think we did a good job a sticking to our plan even though some days it feels easier to just veg out at home! Here are my fave moments, sights, and thoughts from our 2012 travel adventures....

Breaking away from Europe and landing in Marrakech. High hopes and expectations were met with a chaotic Medina with a character all its own.IMG_9915

Passed Berber Villages in the Atlas Mountains and seeing nothing but beautiful vistas. And snow. Who would have thought Africa had snow?!IMG_0120

Sipping on fresh mint tea while picking out our new/old Berber rug...the perfect souvenir!rug shopping

Our first LA visit together and indulging in three things: In N Out burgers, Mexican tacos, and fresh American donuts. This photo was from our morning binge session while doing loads of laundry next door.LA day _ weekend_3

Re-discovering the cool designs and colors found in LAgarage design, manhattan beach los angeles

Taking a quick break from LA to Anchorage, Alaska for a visit with Joe's parents. It was so awesome to be in the house he grew up in and see his childhood town.walking on a frozen pond

a day-trip to Oxford - LOVED it there. For you Hogwarts fanatics - their cafeteria is just off to the left.weekend_oxford_4

Stopping in Florence en route to Chianti. It's so true that the entire city is a museum.

enjoying an impromptu lunch overlooking vineyards near Greve Chianti. Hands down my fave meal of the trip...for sentimental reasons, mainly, because the other meals were aawweesooomme.italy_2

a "booze and chocolate tour" of Brussels with some sight-seeing on the side. A flea market was also involved - this one was one of the most legit I've been to.

brussels brussels

Leaving our love-lock in Paris as we wrapped up our time in

Our first trip after moving to KL: Penang. So colorful and vibrant.penang by Ana Maria Munoz

and with charming old character everywhere you look.penang by Ana Maria Munoz

Piggy-backing on one of Joe's business trips to Bangkok and exploring by boat.bangkok long boat

Visiting Singapore for the first time and wishing we had moved there instead since it was so clean, organized, and seemingly perfect. It was during a rough point in my new-home adjustment but now love and appreciate the imperfect and real character of KL.

singapore singapore 7

The beach holiday that ruined it for any other ones in the future. Con Dao, Vietnam was utter perfection. Honeymoon is done and done. Untitled

Going back to LA to give these little ones hugs and kisses and begin research on my new venture. Untitled

Making a long-weekend out of Joe's business trip to London. We'll take any amount of time there, no matter how long the flight. Plus, Joe needed to stock up on his favorite Whisky and you can pack more with two people + checked bags than you can with one ;) Image 1 Image 3

The unexpected layover in Abu Dhabi from London. I did my best to make the most of my 48 hours there despite major jet-lag (I was only one week back from LA!)Abu Dhabi

Getting to know and love the bits of Melbourne that give it it's reputation as a hub for good coffee shops and interesting street art.

grace cafe in fitzroy melbourne street art

Hanging out in Bondi Beach where I used to splash around as a toddler. Can't believe that we used to live just down the road. Part of me wonders what it would have been like to grow up there and be a little beach bunny...

bondi beach

... or just dance around The Opera House all the opera house at night

...and with Australia, that brings us to a wrap!

But we won't be idle for too long. With the US, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa covered in one year (that is cray cray!) it's only fitting that we kick off 2013 with South America in February. Yep, I cannot wait to visit my parents in Colombia and say our "I Do's" with family, friends, and buñuelos!

I'm so thankful for this beautiful year....and to you guys for sharing it with me. I'll stop before I get all sappy but know that interacting with you via this blog, twitter, instagram, email is such a joy. And if you just joined me this year, you can catch up on where we went in 2011 by clicking here. Oh, the places we will go......

one year, two different worlds

I didn't think that we could top last year but as I look back on 2012 I realize that we're only just getting started. We truly lived in two different worlds so I wanted to collect the most memorable moments, places, things, and thoughts into one post. I don't really use Facebook so I'll think of this as my "timeline" :) Travels will be on Thursday! Here we go....

Enjoying a rare sunny winter day in London. Primrose Hill was Joe's favorite place to fly his kite.primrose hill, london

A soothing cup of coffee and spot in the sun after my first (and thankfully only) mini-seasonal "i need to feel the sun's warmth" breakdown

Street art in our hood, W9. I loved walking past this everyday as a reminder of how much we had made London our home.street art w9

Back on Primrose Hill after the first snowfall, Joe proposed. His kite stayed home but he brought a gorgeous ring instead.engaged

Experiencing my first winter-to-spring transition felt so magical. I'll never forget how this warm day felt and how good that cold beer tasted. Can I just say how badly I miss London's pubs?!? Nothing else comes close.chiswick mall dove pub @ chiswick mall

Watching Feist bring the house down at the beautiful Royal Albert Hall. It was so cool to see her rock out in such a proper and classic venue.royal albert hall

Recapping our first year in Londonsmooch

...and then having to say goodbye shortly after

... and hello to a new landscape. Hello, Malaysia, you beautiful tropical place!palm leaves

Moving into our new apartment. Happy to have a few simple furnishings provided by the landlord.Untitled

Checking out our first wet market and being amazed by all the different varieties of fruit and fried food. I'm still learning what all of them are.chow kit, malaysia

Indulging in all said fruit. They're so nice to have after experiencing the blandness of the ones available in London.penang by Ana Maria Munoz

Receiving love scribbles from my nieces in LA just as I was feeling homesick.from home

Snapping out of my homesick funk and breaking in our building's BBQ for a little Fourth of July celebration of our own.weekend 070712_5

...and then doing it local style with the most amazing satay and peanut sauce ever. weekend we <3 you

Having front row seats to awesome thunder and lightning storms that happen nearly every afternoon. Even if we're outside when they occur, it's so warm out that it doesn't matter. weekend we <3 you

Finding beauty in KL's nooks and crannies.Kuala Lumpur

...and in more obvious and opulent places like the Petronas Twin Towers.weekend 102012_6

and last but not least, the feeling of growth that comes from exploring new territories both physically and mentally. 2013...bring it on.Batu Caves

cultural bits

mooncake I was lucky to be able to catch up with a lot of friends in LA but one of the hardest parts of catching up was answering the question "so, how is living in Malaysia?".  Though most of my friends keep up to date with my blog I realize that I haven't been sharing as much of the everyday moments and things that really make up the collective experience of living here. "Where do I even start?" I'd ask myself. On the surface level it appears to be like any other city (fancy skyscrapers, high-end shopping, trendy bars and restaurants) but how do I describe the nuances that make my walk to the grocery store that much different that it was in London or LA? And what about what happens inside of the grocery store? How do I give examples of things without making KL sound like a completely strange foreign place while acknowledging the fact that it is a thriving city straddled between old customs and modern western ways?

I found myself answering with surprising optimism that I LOVE it. I've realized that yes, it would be easier to live in a more mature city like Singapore but KL is rad. It feels like it's five to ten years away from being like other major cities and we have a front row seat to the action. Construction is everywhere, locals seem to be hungry for new and exciting retail and dining experiences, and the tourism board is on overdrive - with good reason, too. Just like London is to Europe, KL is the perfect launch pad to the rest of South East Asia, Asia, and Australia. Malaysia may not have it all (yet) but what it does have is worth celebrating: heritage cities, modern cities, jungles, beaches, unique street-food, colorful religious festivals, and best of all, friendly people. I encountered more openly friendly strangers in the first three weeks here than I did in a year in London if that tells ya anything.

As for the little details? The ones that aren't so great are made easier by the details that I have fallen for: the giant rainforest trees spared by new constructions, the black and white striped curbs on the roads that make me feel like I'm in a race car game, and the dangerously delicious baked goods that are hot and fresh anytime of the day (in the mall bakeries, of course ;).

I don't recall if I managed to recite all of the above to my friends in response to their question but I did give them a few fish out of water type stories. I want to share those with you, too, so moving forward I will offer up some "cultural bits" so you can gain a little more insight as to how different (or not) living here can be.

Oh and the photo? They're Chinese Mooncakes in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. I initially had a totally different direction for this post but naturally I went off on a tangent so now the image is kinda random. Oh well, c'est la vie!

weekend, we

Kuala LumpurKuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur

Hi guys, how was your weekend? Mine was fantastic. I feel like I've turned a new leaf and am ready to really enjoy living here. I've started craving local food, I'm making new friends, and I'm starting to see the beauty in this totally imperfect city. I'm done criticizing what it's not and just want to enjoy it for what it is right now, what it is today. On Saturday we walked around Merdeka Square and the surrounding old part of town. We marveled at the giant flags draped everywhere and took time to appreciate the derelict yet beautiful buildings (see Singapore for their potential).

Between celebrating Malaysia's independence from British rule just over fifty years ago, and the Muslim festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri (the end of Ramadan, the fasting month), KL is buzzing. It's been so fascinating to see the Malay Muslim version of Christmas decorations in the malls and try new foods that are only available during this time of year. There's so much to take in and I'm finally feeling 100% open to it. It feels good.

a PURSonal attempt

bag When we first got here there were three constant things that people would tell me:

1)  eat street hawker food - check 2)  go to the malls - quadruple check 3)  beware of purse snatchers - unfortunately, check

As of last week I can check off being a victim of a purse snatching attempt. I was walking home from the metro station, on the same two minute route that I always take, and on a very public and busy street, when two men on a speeding motorbike approached me. That's how they do it here, one guy drives while the other sits in the back and sees what he can get away with. It's a major problem here and whereas before it was common at night, it is now far too common to occur during broad daylight.

I've seen bikes on sidewalks before so I simply I thought that they were making a u-turn from the adjacent one-way street and I took steps to the side to get out of the way. But, within seconds, I felt and saw the guy sitting on the back pull my hand-purse, let go, and then speed away. I didn't realize what had happened until they were gone. I was in shock. Never in my life have I experienced a violation like that. Thankfully there were two women behind me who witnessed it and had it not been for their post-attempt company I don't think that I would have kept my calm the way I did. What was most troubling was how casual the encounter had been: the guy went for it but when he realized that I wasn't holding my bag loosely enough to snatch it easily, they continued on ... perhaps to the next victim. No big deal, just another afternoon and another drive-by.

Once at home I quickly locked the door behind me and started to process what had just happened. My mind started racing with questions like "how will I ever feel safe walking to the grocery store/metro/anything again?", "what if they had taken my bag, all of my things are in there!" or "why are we even living in a place where this sort of thing happens???"...

After a while I pulled myself together, thanking my lucky stars that it hadn't been worse. I've heard awful stories of women being dragged on the ground or getting their arm slit with a knife. I was unharmed and still had my possessions. I was one of the lucky ones.

I didn't leave the apartment until the weekend with Joe's company but now I'm feeling better and all the more wiser. Unless I'm taking a taxi door-to-door I shouldn't carry any unnecessary things, always use a cross body bag, keep phone and cards in my pockets, and don't wear anything so bright that makes me a quick target from afar. All very simple things but I absolutely hate that I even have to think about them. I hate that I have to be on guard walking down the street, clinching my bag. And I hate that I have to be mentally and physically prepared to react should anything happen (again).

It's a shitty way to feel when you walk outside and unfortunately I can't see any obvious actions from the local government to prevent it. They post up signs to "be careful" but how about having some security on the streets so that it doesn't happen in the first place? I have yet to see ONE police officer since we've moved here. Coming from a place like London where even though it had its own problems with crime, there was at least the backup of CCTV everywhere and there was always a cop nearby. In LA, well...I never really worried about anything, even when I lived near Skid Row. There may have been a lot of crazy drug addicts but they were harmless to people outside of their circles. Here you have multiple problems with street crime focused on women: motorbike purse snatchings, parking lot assaults, and street junction thefts where men on motorbikes break car windows and steal purses from the passenger seats during a red light. I mean, really??? What's even more sad is that it's all so common that some people have an "it is what it is" reaction to it. Take this story for instance. A girl gets attacked (and cut up) at a mall parking lot and the management says it happens everywhere and that it's not serious. Excuse me??? It totally is serious! {Sigh} I should stop before I get really carried away as I think I've made my point.

The thing is, Malaysia is a beautiful country with beautiful people and things to offer but if it wants to be the tourist and industrial draw that it's trying to be then those in charge need to get these problems under control. Women need to feel safe. And personally, I need to hone a different set of street smarts and be brave. There's too much good here to let a few a-holes get to me.



weekend, we

from homekl weekend kl weekend kl weekend kl weekend

Hi how was your weekend? A nearby wildfire made the air quality awful so we only left the house once to collect a package from the main post office. Navigating the collection center should have been adventure enough for the day but since it was near Chinatown we decided to stop by a cafe/art gallery that I had read about called The Warehouse. Right across the street is the oldest Hindu Temple in the city,  Sri Mahamariamman. We didn't go inside but wow is it striking, definitely worth going back to.

We then headed to the mall to pick up the dress shirts Joe had custom-made for him because he's too tall for the off-the-rack options here (ha!). I'm glad we had to pick them up because a few floors below is our new favorite donut shop, J. Co. They have crazy good concoctions but the best is simply their giant cups of coffee served with a free glazed donut. When they're fresh out of the oven they taste better than Krispy Kreme, no lie.

The donuts were a definite highlight but nothing felt better than opening up our snail mail and finding two drawings from my nieces. I immediatley held them to my chest and starting crying. I'm such a sap. I pictured them both holding the crayons with their tiny little fingers, scribbling around, and chit chatting like they do when they get excited about something. Did you notice the creative corner foldings on Juliana's art work??? Oh my sweet girls. Being away from them is the toughest part of this expat adventure we're on. I miss them like crazy but I am thankful for every digital kiss I get from them when we talk via FaceTime. Isabella even hugs the iPhone and I of course hug it her right back.

If you got to spend time with your family this weekend I hope you enjoyed every moment of it! Those truly are special moments.

I gotta love my sister for sending me a recent J.Crew catalogue, too. She knows me well.

{around town} chow kit

chow kit, malaysia chow kit, malaysia chow kit, malaysia chow kit, malaysia chow kit, malaysia

On Saturday we ventured out to one of the city's oldest areas, Chow Kit, and visited the local market. A guide book that we have described it as "the real Malaysia" and if you take away the fancy sky scrapers, glitzy malls and modern groceries of KL, things definitely get more real. We made the mistake of going during the middle of the day as it was unbearably hot but we managed to walk through the maze like setting quite a bit, snack on some fried goodies, and get a feel for the prices - we'll most certainly be going back to stock up on fruits and veggies! However, I will stay clear of the meat and fish section. The older I get the more squeamish I'm becoming about seeing certain things ... I basically told Joe that we had to get out of there before I decided to become a vegetarian! Thankfully that section is easy to avoid and I can focus on fresh pineapples, watermelon, and tons of strange/beautiful looking fruit and sweets I have yet to try.

new city, we

palm leaves

Hello hello! How have you been? It's good to be back...writing, sharing, catching up. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning and despite having the airline lose one of six checked bags for nearly two days, everything went smoothly. We're all settled into our temporary serviced apartment as we wait for our first batch of home necessities to arrive via freight - I just pray that everything makes it over here and in one piece. In the meantime I'm loving living in a place where if we need honey for our yogurt and granola all we need to do is press a button. Also, I'm getting really spoiled with daily house keeping and a breakfast buffet with tons of cut fresh fruit (I'm the laziest when it comes to cutting my own but I will eat it all day long if it's there - anyone with me?).

It's day four here and while I can't say that I'm in love just yet (never mind the post title - I make a city work for it) I can tell you that I won't be lost for inspiration anytime soon . Between the lush vegetation, patterns and textures of modern buildings, and the juxtaposition of Islamic and Colonial British design everywhere you look, it's going to be pretty sweet. I think I'll be able to do an entire photo series on Islamic patterns found on pavements, fences, entryways...seriously, my geometric pattern-loving heart is in heaven.

We got into the local swing real quick by hanging out at ... uuhh...hate to say I need to say it?...yeah, okay: at three different malls. There are so many malls here but we get it, it's just not very comfortable to do anything outside for longer than 30 minutes during the day. We'll just have to re-wire our anti-indoor shopping center brains and succumb to being mall rats. It's almost like being in Vegas where every Casino is a self-contained air-conditioned world. The three malls we visited had a post office, day care centers, art galleries, spas, gyms, full-serviced restaurants, medical clinics, movie theaters, you name it. You can practically live there and many people do. As difficult as this is to say, I may eventually set up office on the fourth floor Coffee Bean or Starbucks like the locals do. In LA or London this would have been cringe-worthy but until I find something more my style, I think it's gotta be my norm.

Another thing we did that we otherwise wouldn't was buy tickets for the local hop-on hop-off buses. You know, those double decker buses that every touristy city has that follows a points-of-interest route? We've always dismissed them by preferring to explore via foot and the local transport systems. However, with KL being a bit more spread out - and not the most pedestrian and public transpo friendly city - we opted to go for the big bus to get a lay of the land. It was a good move because we got a glimpse at Chinatown, Little India, the Lake Gardens, and other cultural and commercial areas that would have otherwise each been a full day trek. There's a lot to take in here - yes, obviously the cool sights but also the cultural norms and personal lifestyle adjustments. I've always been proud to say that I take change very well and adjust easily but let's face it, London was a piece of cake. KL is certainly very new and different but one comforting thought is that if any city-woes do arise, we're only a cheap airplane ticket and hour away from the most beautiful beaches in the world. They can cure anything, I'm sure.

{here we go again} we're moving!

Yep, this is the big announcement I've been mentioning - just as we mark our one year anniversary in London we're packing up again and moving to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! We might as well balance things out by doing the other side of the world right?!? Joe was offered a new opportunity with his company and we simply couldn't pass up the chance to live in and explore South East Asia. It sadly cuts our time in the UK short by a year but we've got to take things as they come and trust that we'll have just as much fun creating a new home there as we did here.

The move is going to happen very quick. I'm talking the first week of May quick - eekk! Between squeezing in trips to Brussels and Paris (we need to leave our mark), visiting KL to look for an apartment, wrapping up work projects, and all of the moving stuff to do in London, it's going to be a crazy couple of weeks. For that reason I won't be blogging next week but I will be prepping a big moving sale for the shop and will have bits to share from the trip to KL the following week.

There's so much to personally reflect on and anticipate but that will have to wait for a later post - I need to get through a very long to-do list first! If any of you live in or have traveled in that part of the world I'd love to hear about your experiences, tips, and words of wisdom. I've never been so my eyes and ears are wide open!

 (image: taken in Shoreditch, London)

feels like yesterday

london books Where does the time go??? Next weekend marks my one year anniversary of living in London and though we have done and seen a lot in this beautiful town, we've barely made a dent in these guide books. I think I'll dust them off and pretend like I've just arrived all over again since there's still so much to explore. In addition to planning new adventures around town, I'm going to commemorate our first year as American Expats by compiling my favorite photos and moments for next week's posts. There's plenty to share on that end so stay tuned!