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.

weekend, we

hover over images and dot for captions

weekend we <3 youweekend we <3 you weekend we <3 you weekend we <3 you weekend we <3 you weekend we <3 you weekend we <3 you

Hi, how was your weekend? We took it easy at home with some pool time, light chores, yummy baking, and matinee movie screenings (gotta love iTunes). On Saturday I had a major craving for street food so we headed to Jalan Alor. It's a main tourist street but it's close to our place and most of the restaurants have pictures of the meals - very helpful so that you don't miss something delicious due to language barriers. We ate our weight in satay and then wrapped up the evening with a few drinks at a nearby bar. It was so nice to get out and do something's too easy to take it for granted when you live here. Will share more on Jalan Alor tomorrow!

If you're interested in the banana bread recipe I use, this is it. Crazy simple and easy - just the way I like it. 

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

weekendweekend weekend weekend weekend weekend

Hi, how was your weekend? I bet it was more active than ours. We spent most of it lounging, cooking, and enjoying our new Apple TV - it's the best! Do any of you use it? We did run some errands and made exciting discoveries along the way that made this city feel more like home. The best find had to be an indie grocery store that carries everything we love and need. We were going bananas filling our cart with items we haven't been able to find or physically carry back with us (we hired a taxi). Then there was the dry cleaner that does free pick-up and delivery, a mini-IKEA type shop with homewares galore, and a flower shop that sells *gasp* real flowers since eight out of ten here push plastic petals. It's amazing the things that excite and count as great discoveries these days...

Did you make any fun or useful discoveries this weekend?

Oh, and if you're like me and love you some natural suds, check out Kinder Soaps in Malaysia (first bar and I'm hooked) and my tried and true favorite, The Soap Kitchen in America - HEAVENLY!

{happy friday} pic & pin

friday pic & pin 7 What a week. Just as I was feeling more comfortable in our new city I had a bit of a set back. I'll share more about it next week but today I want to look ahead and be excited for what is to come. We got word that our ocean freight shipment has entered customs so it's just a matter of days before we get to lounge on our perfectly cozy duck egg blue sofa (yay!).  I've been on total nesting mode and all I can think about is making our new apartment the best it can be until we can really go crazy designing and decorating a more permanent space one day. When I saw this concrete counter I immediatly pinned it to my home board. It's! It reminds me of our Downtown LA dwelling days with beautiful polished concrete floors but it also makes me long for the ritual of unpacking a gorgeous spread of fresh goodies from a farmers market. I mean, this kitchen is just begging to be covered with beautiful fruits and veggies.

There are markets here, of course, and while they're great, they are still a very different kind of experience. But, we do have a spankin' new modern kitchen so for now we're still living the dream. Pinterest sure has a way of making you dream all sorts of dreams, doesn't it? It can be a good thing though. How else do we create the lives we want if we don't have dreams and goals to work towards, even if it is one drool-worthy visual at a time?

With that in mind, here's to a weekend of making dreams come true - however big or small they may be. Enjoy!

this week's three rad links...

• pattern by duct tape - a brilliant DIY with endless possibilities via Justina Blakeney 

• long but interesting read on creatives and the economy via Salon (tweet source Rena Tom)

• my buddy Kai Brown has released a new album, LALA Vol I! watch his chuckle inducing pledge video and help fund Volume II via Pledge Music 

Minted Design Challenge Update: one of my holiday card designs made it to the second (and final) round - thank you so much if you voted! There are two more days to pick your final favorites so get clicking!

(image left:  mushrooms at Marylebone Farmers Market, London by Ana Maria Muñoz, right: Pin via H2Design, origin annaleenashem)

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.