last day, lasting memories

by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysiaby Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It's Wednesday morning in KL and I'm writing this as we zip up our luggage and get ready to go to the airport. Though one and a half years flew by in a blink of an eye, I leave feeling 100% fulfilled with our experience. It was quite the adventure with its many ups and downs but man did this place steal my heart.

London was a good teacher but in this jungle town I feel like I've really grown into the person that I'm meant to be for the next chapter of my life. That goes for us as a couple, too. There's nothing like experiencing changes, challenges, and moments of joy together to keep you on your toes and ready to take on the world.

I also leave with a very happy heart when I think about the beautiful friendships we made with locals and other expats who call KL home. They are wanderlust and adventurous just like us and I know that this is not goodbye, rather a 'see you later'.

One of those friends is the witty and talented Clare, who took the amazing photos above. I'm so thankful that she was able to capture these moments of Joe and me at KLCC park by our apartment just before we left. We don't have any photos like this as the ones we take ourselves usually only feature our heads and an outstretched arm in the frame! Such great keepsakes, thank you Clare!!!

Alright it's time to go ... see you later, KL. You were a treat.

a temporary home to love

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Hi guys, I hope you had a nice weekend! We spent ours doing a major Fall Cleaning in preparation for the move today. It went well - a little off schedule but everything is ready to go until we meet again.

But before we gave away the plants, removed art from the walls, and sorted everything for the movers to pack into boxes, I made sure to take a few snaps of the living area that we made home for one and a half years. Do you remember this post when we just moved in and this one with our decor plan? I hate to say it - because it's an annoying cliche - but it feels just like yesterday. I can still remember Joe saying "let's get stuff up on the walls, it won't feel like home until we do" and little by little we did. Little by little we filled our home with pieces that made us smile and gave us comfort. You really can create a home that you love wherever you are.

With just some light cleaning and the final walk-through to do tomorrow, we're almost home-free! Not homeless though as we're staying at a hotel in the city until we depart on Wednesday. It's already proving to be a great idea, having a 'break' from moving before the long flights home. A big pat on the back for that one ;)

Okay KL, last few nights -  let's make them ones to remember!

words worth repeating / 42

words worth repeating 42 by ana maria munoz--anamu Next week will mark our third international move and when I stop to think of what the universe has given us in the past three years, I still can't believe that it's all happened. Moving to London, South East Asia, and all the travels in between - it all began by getting out of my comfort zone.

Leaving that comfort zone of my hometown was the best thing I could have ever done. No matter how hard I may cry at times because I miss my family, or how many things get lost in translation when trying to live in a new environment, every day and moment has absolutely been worth it.

Leaving my comfort zone repeatedly has led to feeling more open and confident to taking news risks and seeking new experiences. Open to making life happen rather than waiting for it to show itself. For example, if you had told me three years ago that I'd be living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I would have said "Kuala wha???" - I had no idea that the city even existed! But once you start opening doors more and more tend to appear. At that point the decision is between turning the doorknob to see what's on the other side or choosing to ignore it and stay in the same hallway you're standing in.

I've been stretched so far out of my comfort zone that it's hard to imagine going back to my original shape. I like the new irregular shape that's been molded by everything I've seen and experienced, both the good and the not-so-great. There's a lot of life to be lived so whenever I start to feel anxious or worried about what's next I remember this: the rewards for letting yourself feel uncomfortable, awkward, or scared are worth gold. Just step out and keep going.

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? Took a new job, started a new business or hobby, moved homes, or traveled somewhere unfamiliar?

and we're...

going back to cali Happy Monday, guys. I've been waiting to make a proper 'move' announcement and with one and a half weeks left, it's safe to say that LA will be our next stop! A temporary stop, that is. We have two weddings to attend, a storage unit to sort out, and I could use some time on the ground for Ring Cozy. We love LA but we're not ready to actually move back. Maybe we will one day, maybe we wont ... we're still itching to experience new places. It'll be great while we plan for the next adventure because being close to familiar faces and things is always helpful during a transition. Who knows where we'll be in a few months, but for now, I'm excited to make my first home home again!


let the countdown begin

In Tokyo How is it Friday again?! This past week flew by with half of it spent in Tokyo (felt like LA in the photo above) and the other playing catch-up at home. We're officially in countdown mode for the move and I'm trying my best to not feel overwhelmed. I'll write more about that later, but now I'm looking forward to a fun and productive weekend, doing what needs to get done, and enjoying one of our last 'free' days as KL residents.

Today we're sorting what we're keeping from what we're donating, and I'm making dates with friends so we can have a proper goodbye. There's plenty of work ahead, but as I like to tell the procrastinator in me: everything eventually gets done. With the clock ticking away, I'm just going to have to believe that.

I hope you have a great weekend. I'll be back next week to share highlights from our trip to Japan!

comfort food to-go

LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassLaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassLaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassIn Malaysia, food is everything. Food is the center of family and friend gatherings, celebrations, and everyday conversation. It's such a hot topic that even while you're enjoying a meal, you're already discussing what and where your next one will be. Malaysians are serious about their makan-makan - or "eat-eat" - and we've happily joined them, full bellies and all.

But now that we're leaving Kuala Lumpur soon, we've been loading up on our local favorites like roti canai, nasi lemak, char kway teow, beef rendang, chicken curry, and pandan flavored treats. What will we do when we can't simply walk down the street to grub on our newly adopted comfort food? The only option is to make it ourselves!

Enter LaZat, a local enterprise offering Malaysian home-cooking classes set in a typical Malaysian home nestled in the trees just outside of KL. I took an Indian cuisine class with them last year so when Joe said that he couldn't leave Malaysia without learning how to make his beloved beef rendang and curry chicken, I knew exactly where to go.

From the moment you arrive, you feel like family. Owner Ana and home-cook chefs Sue and Saadiah are warm, welcoming, and are equally excited to learn about where you're from (and where you've been) as they are to share their passions and skills in the kitchen. They take great pride in using fresh ingredients and have a way of making even the most intimidated wannabe-cook feel at ease. Everything for the day's menu is pre-measured and pre-arranged, laid out beautifully on woven straw trays and decorative dishes.

As soon as I saw (and smelled) the colorful and fragrant spices, I was ready to get down to business, work that mortar and pestle, and heat things up in a traditional brass wok. We spent the next few hours switching from watching how it's done to getting it done all while teasing our grumbling stomachs every time the wind picked up the aromas coming from our stove tops.

All of that teasing was worth it. We had our grand feast in the end but the true beauty was in the process. The simple things like remembering that some of the greatest food takes the longest time (patience is key), learning that it's okay to throw in whole spice seeds, rather than ground or crushed, and realizing that for any meal to be Malaysian, it probably has to have a decent dose of coconut milk (yum and yum).

Now that I'm a LaZat alum, I'm excited to take the confidence I got there and bring it into my own kitchen. I'd love to push my boundaries beyond olive oil and salt and pepper and get more creative with spices and herbs. I took a baby step a few nights ago while making applesauce and I was quite proud of my small kitchen victory. Instead of adding ground cinnamon for flavor, I let the apples boil and reduce with whole cinnamon sticks, a few star anise, and lemon juice for preservation. The results? Amazing. The Malaysian recipes we learned have a bit more to them but I think I'm on my way to being able to prepare the dishes we've come to love. We have a brass wok ready to go so the next step will be to buy a mortar and pestle. Hopefully we get a chance to use it before we have to pack it in a box but regardless where that box ends up, we'll know that we have the tools to satisfy our cravings and makan-makan our honorary Malaysian hearts out.



redang-culous sun and sand + here we go again

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Hey guys, I hope you had a nice weekend. I know I know, it's Tuesday already but I'll explain why I'm so off with regular posts in just a moment. First, these are a few snaps from our recent trip to Redang Island off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. The hotel's food and density were disappointing but the real reason we were there exceeded expectations: THE BEACH! The sand was unreal, completely white and soft like flour, while the water was incredibly clear. It was warm, calm, and the snorkeling was the best we've had yet. We swam with turtles, saw a baby shark, and found ourselves following (or being chased by) schools of tropical fish of many varieties. All that beauty just a one and a half hour flight from where we crazy, so lucky, and so we better take of advantage of it while it lasts.

And by "while it lasts" I mean until the end of October - yep, we're moving once again! Not sure to where just yet but until our boxes are packed and our apartment keys are turned in, we're fitting in as much travel and local activities as we can. That's why we rushed to make a trip to Redang as soon as I returned, did a quick two nights in Bangkok last week, will be in Melaka this week, and have more planned. I know that traveling is a crazy luxury so I'm not complaining, but it does make keeping a solid work (and blog) schedule pretty difficult. But I'm here and I can't wait to see where the next several months take us, on and off-line!

beam me up

beam me up KL My first full weekend back was appropriately spent playing tourist at the Petronas Twin Towers, binge watching the first two seasons of Scandal, and sharing in a special baptism and brunch with friends.

This photo from our night out kinda says it all for me right now ... I'm in complete awe of our experience here. Seriously, the opportunity to live somewhere so different is something that I pinch myself about every day. There are some changes ahead for us so if you find me a bit emotional and/or in awe of everything, it's coming from a place of immense gratitude, reflection, and anticipation.

Cheers to a great week ahead!


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.





missing home from home

palm trees LA Hi guys, checking in from LA where I'm really missing the blog. I miss taking photos, I miss using this space as a creative playground, and I miss sharing things with you!

Work has been all consuming - which is a great thing because that's what I'm here for - but I'm longing to fit in more time with family, friends...and my camera. My whole work smart and not harder thing is hard to do when there are so many unknown variables at play. It's getting better though with just three more weeks to go and a to-do list that's feeling less daunting with every new thing that I learn and every step that I take.

It's been nice to be back here, in my second life as I've been calling it, but it's just not as fun without my man by my side. A place doesn't feel like home without him, even if it's my very own hometown. That being said, I'm doing my best to make the time that I have here count, make things happen, and am enjoying the ride with bumps, missteps, and small victories along the way. It's all part of a greater journey...

I hope that you've been awesome!


back in it and at it

photo Hello old friends, it feels like it's been ages! Two full weeks have passed and I'm now adjusted to life back in LA, for the summer at least. I'm staying with our friend in Hermosa Beach so I'm being spoiled with ocean breezes and evening walks on the sand. It's amazing how much I didn't realize what a luxury it is to just walk for pleasure. Not much of that happens in KL since the max outdoor activity time is often fifteen minutes before meltdown. I'm really loving being outdoors with a cool breeze, it's such a treat.

I'm slowly getting back into old habits like picking up the LA Weekly to see what events are happening but other things that where once beyond habitual - like driving - feel completely foreign. I really don't miss driving at all. In fact, I can't believe that I used to like it ... that LA part of me is definitely long gone! One thing that I need to get back into is hanging out with friends. I've gotten out of the habit of checking in for casual get-togethers so as my work schedule becomes more clear, I'm looking forward to getting social again and playing catch up.

So far so good though. I'm getting things done, making progress, and enjoying the odd feeling of being a quasi tourist in my own hometown.

I'll be back later this week with photos from our quick visit to Alaska - the colors in the landscapes just kill me.

Have a great week!


gone summering

LA Palms Graphic Well, not really. We're off to LA today and though I'll be there for the rest of the summer, I definitely won't be summering the entire time - this girl has some a lot of biznaz to take care of!

Of course there will be some pleasure mixed in: attending a wedding, visiting the in-laws in Alaska, catching up with friends, and sneaking in play time to indulge in a So Cal summer.

Part of me can't wait and another part is seriously sad to leave my home in KL. It's strange to feel like my first home (LA) is not my main home anymore. For the first time since moving, I'm thinking of all the things that I'll miss in Malaysia rather than anxiously looking forward to everything in LA. Of course I'm crazy excited about getting face-time with my favorite people, and eating my heart out with the foods I often crave, but home is really where the heart is and my heart is always with Joe (cue cheese ball alert, I know) who will only be there with me for a bit. The extended stay is necessary for what I need to get done, and I know that it'll be great and totally worth it in end in more ways than one, I'm just being a total love sap.

So, LA - my first home and love - here I come!!!


Photo graphic by Ana Maria Muñoz

D is for Dad

daddad and i

It's Father's Day this weekend and I'm wishing that I could give this man a big hug and a kiss. My dad is the best and I miss him like crazy! Here we are the morning of Joe's and my wedding day, cutting bougainvillaea for the flower arrangements. There's nothing that my dad didn't do to make that week and day extra special.

Without the fam around to celebrate with, I'll keep busy prepping for our trip to LA next week and indulge in the fact that I'll at least get to be with my sister and nieces real soon. It's tough when the people you love are spread out all over the place so I'm definitely learning the art of quality over quantity ... buuutt ... I'll still always take as much quantity as I can get ;)

Have a great weekend!

words worth repeating / 39

words worth repeating 39 by ana maria munoz--anamuIt's been a while since I last shared words worth repeating but this quote has been very present in my thoughts lately.

The Kickstarter project for Ring Cozy didn't make it so I've had to slightly re-strategize my plan of action. Everything from production, sales, orders ... I've had to re-think it all but I'm perfectly at peace with it. Just because something didn't work out it doesn't mean that it wasn't a success in its own way. I learned a lot from the experience and it gave me even more amo to make my product and business happen.

The support I got from you guys, friends and family, and people who were new to Ring Cozy, was awesome (THANK YOU!). In doing Kickstarter I got the word out, made new connections, and set the wheels in motion for a great next couple of months - definitely not a failure in my book!

So now that the pressure of reaching a giant funding goal is off, I can focus on the work to be done while I'm in LA this summer. My to-do list is already a mile long but I like it that way. It means action, progress, trying, failing, trying again, dealing, and DOING. That's the key here, just keep on DOING and eventually something will stick.

Have you ever gone through something that took a few (or a lot of) times to get it right? Personally or professionally?


one year in lumpy land

kl one year anniv This time last year we packed up our home in London and moved to what we lovingly call Lumpy Land. Kuala Lumpur was definitely culture shock after living in LA and London but one year later, I don't feel like such a stranger anymore.

To round up the anniversary I thought I'd share bits of what I love about this place and the things that I could do without.

Let's start off with the bad things. I could live without ...

  • the lack of pedestrian right-of-way and safety considerations from motorists. the reasons there are so many overpasses in the city is so that pedestrians are taken out of the equation completely, i'm sure.
  • the illegal/bribed buses that blow nasty smoke onto everyone on the sidewalk as they clank by.
  • the lack of consistent walkable sidewalks. every building owns the property all the way to the street so each block can be totally different. some developments opt to go without proper sidewalks altogether.
  • the fact that I walk 1,000 times faster than most locals and it makes a regular trip to the mall to run errands feel like a game of pac-man just to dodge everyone.
  • litter that eventually gets packed between the new "nice" landscaping and fences on the street. i know that litter is a problem in most places in the world but london was so on top of it that it spoiled me.
  • illegal taxi drivers who take advantage of tourists and charge RM10 or RM20 when it's really a RM3 ride on the meter. never ride with a driver who won't take you on the meter - they're jerks.
  • mosquitoes gone wild after a really heavy rainfall.

As you can tell, most of my pet peeves have to do with getting around the city by foot. It's just that KL is small enough that it could be a really walkable city if they wanted it to be but, unfortunately, city planning and pedestrian safety are just not happening. To its credit though, there have been many city-center sidewalk improvements since we moved here so I'm thankful for that...can't hate on them too much now.

Now on to the things that I love about living in KL!

  • the lack of street laws that allow us to jaywalk wherever and whenever we want.
  • the warm and friendly locals who, when introduced personally, act as if you're family.
  • the predictable afternoon thunderstorms that fill the sky on a daily basis. such a great show.
  • wearing sandals and summer clothes while it rains because it's so warm out.
  • fresh fruit and veggie juices available everywhere. it's almost unforgivable if a restaurant doesn't offer them.
  • the standard script from new and friendly taxi drivers that goes like this: "where you from?", "you stay here?", "you work?", "you married?", "have children?".
  • learning to enjoy spicy food. unlike the american version of spicy (which is really just hot) the indian and malaysian versions are more flavorful.
  • drinking out of coconuts like it's no big deal.
  • seeing giant green rain trees and furry looking palm trees everywhere you go.
  • the way so many expats from around world call this place home, too. most are here with kids who are getting the experience of a lifetime.
  • the sweet security guards in our building who barely speak english but always greet with a smile and are helpful when needed. thank god for universal hand signals.
  • the little grocery truck that parks on our street two times per week for a pop up market.
  • the street food that is so plentiful and yummy even though half the time i have no idea what i'm ordering.
  • the fact that i now often point with my thumb over a fist (think bill clinton giving a speech). that's how the locals do it so i figured i should too, out of respect.
  • driving down the highway and seeing a buddhist temple, a hindu temple, and a mosque all within thirty seconds.
  • hearing the calls to prayer throughout the day even though i have no idea what they're saying.
  • seeing the parade of colorful prints worn by local women on their traditional head coverings and dresses.
  • the craftsmanship that is so exciting for a foreigner like me. my taxi driver laughs at me every time i get excited about a rattan store or talk about wanting to learn how to paint batik.
  • the fact that living here can often feel like we're living on vacation (climate, scenery). my wardrobe has definitely started to reflect this.
  • the way joe looks so relaxed on the weekends when we can just be outside in the warm weather, wearing flip flops, year-round. having a nice pool certainly helps.
  • meeting incredibly good and solid people who we now call friends. so thankful to be carving-out a social circle.
  • and most of all, i love joe for being patient with me as i figure out this new place, how to live in it, and enjoy it.