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Happy Father’s Day to our favorite Daddo in the world!

While we do all we can to ensure we are expressing our love and appreciation for you daily, it is so fun to have an opportunity to celebrate you and all your wonderfulness! You are really, truly one incredible Daddo. Parenting alongside you is one of the happiest adventures of my life, and my heart nearly beats right out of my chest as I sit reflecting on the incredible qualities you are teaching our sweet child (soon to be children!) through your words and actions.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when I think about you, the very first thing that comes to my mind is your incredible heart. All your actions are led by love and that is so admirable. You are an amazing model of kindness to everyone around you, regardless of how you are being treated. Every single day your giving heart shows through, but I think one of the very best examples was during our recent 10 week adventure abroad. I hate to say it, but when I think back to that experience, the very first thing that comes to my mind was how hard it was. My morning sickness was intense- the unending nausea and exhaustion were downright miserable. The really special thing, however, is that as soon as I begin to relive those difficult moments, they are immediately followed by the warmest, fuzziest memories of how wonderfully you cared for me. All of those yucky feelings are washed over and replaced by the most powerful appreciation for you and how deeply you love me, and how deeply you love our children. I will never be able to thank you enough for your support during those weeks.

Along those same lines, I am absolutely in awe of your selflessness and seemingly endless supply of patience. How do you do it? Seriously?! Whether it be running 3 miles through the chaotic streets of Hanoi to pick up the one food item your pregnant, morning-sickness-plagued wife can stomach or simply going to fetch Isla’s water bottle from downstairs at bedtime every night (why is it so hard for us to remember to bring that to her room?!)- thank you for all you do for us to show you care and to make our lives a little easier and a lot more enjoyable!

You really do bring a lot of fun into our lives through your playfulness and sense of humor. I know I sometimes roll my eyes at your jokes and goofy antics, but I really love them all. No one can get Isla to giggle the way you do. I love listening to you “make her babies talk” for her and how you give her stuffed animals those high-pitched, silly voices- even in public! The conversations you two share during those times are the sweetest, and I have no doubt you are creating memories Isla will cherish forever.

Watching you play with Isla might be my very favorite thing in the world. I love the bond you two share, the way she calls you Daddo, how her tiny little arms wrap around your neck when you carry her, how she eagerly looks forward to the “fumi” you make her each morning, how she loves nothing more than to “westle” and play soccer with you. I cannot even begin to imagine how my heart will handle the love I feel when seeing you with both our children. It is still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that we have another sweet babe on the way, but I know without a doubt that watching you with our son is going to be nothing short of incredible. He isn’t even earthside yet and you are already investing so much in him. I love how he already knows and responds to your voice with his kicks. I cannot wait to see him in your arms for the first time.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Isaac, for being the most amazing partner and Daddo we could ever ask for. We love you SO much! Happy Father’s Day!

 

When we first visited the island of Penang, Malaysia in 2016 we knew we had stumbled upon someplace really, really special. There was just something about the feel of the island that sat well with us. Experiencing such a deep and instant connection to a place we had never been before was truly surreal. It sounds totally crazy to say, but it felt like a place we could happily call home… not that we have any intentions of moving!

I am realizing now that I never blogged about our first trip to Penang, so thought I would first share a few (okay, actually A LOT of) favorites from our 2016 experiences in Georgetown, Penang Hill, and Batu Ferringhi. Think of this post as a 2 for 1 deal! First up, Georgetown. A wonderfully charming, eclectic mix of crumbling colonial architecture, bustling motor bike traffic, and winding alleys filled with fascinating street art.We stayed at Le Dream Boutique Hotel and could not recommend it highly enough! It is seriously one of our all-time favorite hotels and went back again this year. It is immaculately clean, very comfortable, and boasts some of the best service we have ever received- the manager greeted us by name every time she saw us! The hotel offered a daily complimentary happy hour on their rooftop deck, complimentary ice cream sundae bar, and complementary daily laundry (sadly, they stopped this service this year, but their laundry is still very reasonable). The breakfast spread was tasty, and we were located just a block away from the Kimberly Food Street. We enjoyed several delicious street food experiences there during our stay and filled ourselves with stir fried noodles, satay and fried chicken for less than $5 total!

While we tend to avoid or water down-juice at home, we splurged a bit during our travels and allowed Isla to order fresh juices every day. They were so refreshing and she absolutely loved knowing she was indulging in a special treat.

The most heavenly fried chicken ever. If memory serves this was my second (or maybe even third?) drumstick!

We spent one full day exploring Penang Hill. We took the bus (a large bus station is just a few minutes walk from the hotel) to the funicular train station at the base of the hill. Then we took the funicular train to the top!

The sweeping views of Penang Island were stunning. Our photos don’t even begin to do it justice.

There are a variety of attractions at the top of Penang Hill. Also awaiting at the top are drivers with golf carts who are eager to show you around. We decided to visit the Monkey Cup garden and opted to walk there. It was a leisurely stroll along a winding road past charming old military homes, lush gardens, and peek-a-boo views of the city below.

The monkey cup garden features more than a 100 varieties of carnivorous pitcher plants (also known as monkey cups). The garden was beautifully maintained, and our guide (sadly, a year+ later and pregnancy brain has caused me to forget her name) shared all sorts of fascinating facts with us as we toured the gardens. While the garden is quite small, we spent several hours inside and enjoyed every bit of our time there immensely!

When Isla discovered the shy plants (mimosa pudica) she could hardly contain her excitement! She touched every plant she could for months afterward to see if the leaves would close up.

We discovered a sweet little Froggy fellow, tucked away in a leaf.

We were hot and sticky after our walks to, from, and through the monkey cup garden and so when we stumbled upon this coconut ice cream cart we decided we would give it a try. Little did we know we were about to experience one of the tastiest treats we had ever eaten! We even went back for seconds. Thus began our love affair with coconut ice cream, and we searched for it everywhere during the remainder of our trip. We had such a longing for it after we returned to the states that we found a recipe and started making it ourselves!

We planned to attend a walking tour of the city to learn more about Georgetown highlights, but ended up running late and missed the tour. Initially frustrated, we found a shady spot to regroup and make some plans. We decided to explore Little India and take ourselves on our own walking tour to view the city’s famous street art. This ended up being one of our most treasured experiences of our entire trip!

During our wanderings through Little India we decided to stop at a salon so that Isla could have her first henna. Initially nervous that the process would hurt, I volunteered to get some first, and she watched with great interest. When it was Isla’s turn she did such a great job holding still.

So in love with her henna design she started asking about adding it to her legs and feet as well!

The street art in Georgetown is truly something to behold- a mix of metals, paintings, and found objects that incorporate history, pop culture, and the imagination of some truly talented artists! Some artwork was commissioned by the city and could be found easily, while other pieces were tucked into the most unique and creative places, so you really had to look carefully.

Even Isla decided to be part of the artwork! This is one of my all-time favorite photographs of her.

After several fabulous days in Georgetown we moved to the coastal town of Batu Ferringhi. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, which was clean, comfortable, and had a great pool.

We opted to spend our first evening in Batu Ferringhi on the beach, and enjoyed dinner at a little ocean front restaurant where we could sit with our toes in the sand as we watched the sun dip below the horizon.

On our second day in Batu Ferringhi we were walking on the elevated pedestrian walkway back to our room and crossed paths with a troop of these curious spectacled langurs passing through!

That evening we walked through the night market to the Long Beach Cafe food stalls for dinner. I saw this darling romper and recognized that it was clearly made for Isla! Wouldn’t you agree?!

Phew! Okay, are you still with me? I told you it would be A LOT of favorites. So, let’s fast forward to this year’s trip…

While absolutely giddy to be returning to Penang, sadly my morning sickness was really taking a toll on me during our stay (you may be noticing a trend in these trip blog posts… boo, morning sickness!) so we were not quite as adventurous this go ’round. We decided to head straight to the beach and took a taxi from the airport to Batu Ferringhi.

We considered staying at the Holiday Inn again but decided to try out the Bayview Beach Resort because it had similar reviews and a huge splash pad/pool area for kids that we thought Isla might enjoy. The hotel itself was strangely huge. The room was basic, the food was below par, BUT the splash pad/pool area was awesome! Isla spent hours playing, sliding, splashing, swimming and squealing with delight!

One night we ventured back to the Long Beach Cafe food stalls for dinner. When we passed through the night market, Isla looked around, then turned to me and said, “Hey! We’ve been here before! You were looking to buy a purse for someone.” This kid has the memory of an elephant. She was two the last time we were there and remembered the specific detail that I was looking for a purse! My mind was blown.

We bought dishes from a variety of the stalls, but Isaac ended up eating most of it since I was living in a state of constant nausea.

Isla, exhausted from a full day at the splash pad, passed out before our food was delivered. I didn’t let it stop me from eating some chicken wings though. Not only were they the only thing I could stomach, they were really tasty! I’ll tell ya, your SE Asia experience is SO MUCH better if you enjoy the street food!

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When planning our trip route, we found ourselves with about 5 free days between our first Dubai leg and the SE Asia portion of our adventure, so we set to pondering about where we should go. It did not take us long to settle on Sri Lanka. It was a convenient stopover, geographically speaking, and has been on our radar for years.

I must confess I had grand plans of getting out to see and do a bunch in the hopes of sharing all sorts of helpful family travel details, but by the time we arrived in Sri Lanka, morning sickness was taking a serious toll on me AND within 24 hours I had managed to pick up strep throat. Pure misery! Sadly, most of my Sri Lanka experience was spent in bed, feeling totally icky and watching Freaks and Geeks for the gazillionth time (a little silver lining, I suppose). Needless to say, I did not end up making note of any details and can only recall a few tidbits.

Given our very busy 10-week plan, our relatively short time in Sri Lanka, and how long it takes to get anywhere in the country, we opted to stay in one place for our entire visit and just relax. We rented a room at a WONDERFUL guesthouse just outside of Mirissa Beach, called Bougain Villa Sea View. We had originally booked one of the ground floor rooms, but a sea view room became available the afternoon we arrived, so we opted for the upgrade. Let me tell you, it was SO worth it too! There are two sea view rooms on the second floor of the villa and they share an expansive ocean-facing balcony with tables and lounge chairs. The room was larger and brighter than the ground floor room, and when you opened the window the most wonderful breeze passed through- a huge plus in such a hot and humid climate. The beds were comfortable, the water was hot, the bug nets were new, and the a/c worked like a charm. Good thing too, given how much time I spent in the room!

Our host, Nalaka (Nala) was so warm and generous. I truly cannot say enough great things about him! He was very thoughtful and looked for ways to make our stay as enjoyable as possible. Thinking that Isla may want to play with some children, he took us to meet his darling nieces and nephews who lived just down the road. When I became sick Nala showed such genuine concern. He checked in with Isaac often to see how he could help, arranged for our transport to a private hospital in a nearby town, and made me spaghetti with butter for dinner each night, as it was just about the only thing I could stomach. Nala’s kindness was definitely one of the highlights of our stay in Sri Lanka!

The guesthouse was just one house away from a sweet little stretch of beach. A coral reef (with 2 resident sea turtles!) stretched out along the coastline and was easily reachable from the shore.

When you entered onto the beach the waves straight in front of us were a tad rough for Isla, so we turned left and walked a short distance where we discovered the most wonderful tide pools! There was a long natural rock barrier and the water that spilled over into the pools never reached higher than Isla’s mid-section, so it was the perfect place to relax and play.Isla used much of her time in the tide pools to perfect her mermaid poses. Naturally.

The first day we spent out at the tide pool was a Sunday, and so all of the local kids were out of school. A group of them came to swim and were absolutely captivated by Isla. They spent a solid hour giggling with her, sharing their cheese puffs, and as soon as they saw her collecting coral pieces, began rushing to collect and gift any treasure they could to her.

We ventured into Mirissa Beach for dinner our first night. Seeing the crowds of people, we were SO grateful to have chosen a quieter place to stay!

Isla absolutely loved her time on the beach, but she got the biggest kick out of the sweet mama kitty and her two babies that had taken up residence at the guesthouse. I watched Nala put out food for the cats, and was instantly touched by how tenderly he treated them. In so many parts of the world stray animals are ignored, or even worse, abused, and it was so refreshing to see a local person treat animals in need with such love and kindness. I definitely think it speaks a lot to his character (Just a further reason to support Nala’s business by staying at the Bougain Villa Sea View!).

It didn’t take long for Isla to decide that these sweet kitties needed names, so taking inspiration from our tropical seaside surroundings, we dubbed the mama Mirissa, the baby girl Flower and the baby boy Fisher. Months later Isla is still talking about them!

While Mama Mirissa was quite tame and affectionate, little Flower and Fisher were a tad shy, but Isla figured out how to win them over within a day.

Isaac was BEYOND amazing, caring for both Isla and myself, during our stay in Sri Lanka (actually, the entire trip!). He was on Daddo duty 100% of the time so that I could rest. After a few days of antibiotics and taking it very easy, I was feeling up to watching Isla for a few hours so that he could slip away for a little snorkeling. He quickly met the two turtles that often spend their time on the reef in front of our guesthouse and enjoyed a little swim with them.

I was so thankful to be feeling up to one final walk down to the tide pool on the last evening of our stay. The sunset was absolutely gorgeous and the company couldn’t have been better.

Our stay in Sri Lanka wasn’t exactly what I had anticipated, but we were very grateful for the opportunity to experience a glimpse of such a vibrant and fascinating country. I have no doubt we’ll find our way back before too long.

We began our 10 week journey in a familiar, happy place: Dubai. A piece of our hearts remain there, and every time we return it feels like a homecoming where we’re wrapped in a warm, sandy hug. While Isla never lived in Dubai, spending time with her there feels so special. We love sharing these past parts of our lives with her. Here are some favorite moments of our girl in Dubai…

Sand dunes make the perfect stage to belt out all her favorite princess songs.

Despite all of the ongoing changes in Dubai, we are thrilled that Al Reef Bakery still stands and is just as wonderful as we remembered it to be. We introduced Isla to her first cheese bread. It is an ooey gooey heavenly experience! If you ever travel to Dubai you MUST stop at Al Reef for a cheese bread. Trust me, it is pretty much the best thing you’ll ever taste!

After one bite Isla was completely and totally hooked! So, naturally we made several stops to Al Reef during our visit.

We enjoyed several perfect mornings on our favorite little beach. We played in the surf, admired the gorgeous turquoise gulf, and collected more shells than we could carry.

Sand designs… Dubai is always thinking up something new!

A few adventures took us to some wonderful sand dunes to watch the sunset.

We explored Zabeel Park for the first time. Fun place! Their weekend ripe market, filled with vendors selling crafts and food, was really cute.

Isla assisted with photo shoots and absolutely LOVED using her little camera.

Isla made dear some friends, like sweet Payton. Payton and her wonderful family hosted us during our stay. It was pretty much love at first sight for these two girls. They played so perfectly together, and Isla is still talking about her Payton every day.Isla and her favorite building, the Burj Al Arab.

When I was little I used to catch sand crabs along the beach in Dubai too. It is so special to share some of the same magical childhood experiences with my girl.

Along those same lines, Blake and Emme’s mom and I played together back in Dubai when we were 7 and 5! My heart nearly burst seeing our girls now forming their own little friendship.

Exploring at the gorgeous Bab Al Shams. Life goal: we will stay there one of these days!

Little girl and the biggest building in the world.

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After numerous trips around the world where we found ourselves weighed down by countless bags and struggling to pull our overstuffed luggage from place to place, we finally decided we needed to get smarter about how and what we packed. Last year we spent 5 weeks traveling through SE Asia and were determined we would only bring one suitcase for the three of us. Amazingly, it worked! We had everything we needed and traveling with less luggage was SO much easier! We decided to really test our packing skills this year and see if we could pack for 10 weeks of adventures in just one suitcase. Get ready, ’cause we’re about to share ALL ABOUT our packing process!

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While we do in fact travel with just one suitcase, we also each carry a day pack and I bring one purse (although this trip I opted for a simple canvas bag, rather than a traditional purse, as it can be folded up and packed away easily if necessary). We also bring this amazing stroller. It is durable, SO easy to maneuver, tall enough you don’t have to bend down to reach the handles (so nice for our backs!), collapses just like a compact umbrella stroller, and it comes with an easy to carry shoulder strap. We love our Maclaren stroller!

Inside our ONE suitcase we packed:

  • clothes
  • toiletries
  • Isla’s awesome travel bed (Yes, the bed folds up and fits INSIDE the suitcase! However, it is also compact enough to fit inside the overhead storage of an airplane, should you wish to carry it separately.) Sadly, our girl is growing so much that this will be the last big adventure she’ll be able to use her Lotus bed.

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Over the next 10 weeks we are traveling to countries that are quite warm, so the clothes we need are not very large or bulky. This is great luck for us, as tank tops and shorts take up way less space than ski pants and boots.

Clothing Packing Tips:

  • Be highly selective and purposeful with the outfits you bring We try and bring just a few versatile tops and bottoms along with us. We make sure that the tops match with more than just one of the bottoms so we can switch things up a bit. Sure, the same 3-4 outfits can seem kind of boring by week nine, but the redundancy is totally worth it for the space you save.
  • Dark clothing is best We tend to bring a lot of dark colored tops (especially black) because they don’t look dirty as quickly and can easily be dressed up for a more formal setting.
  • Don’t skimp on the underwear No one likes to reuse underwear. Ewww. Underwear are small and lightweight, so when traveling for a long stretch of time, bring enough for at least a week!
  • Bring more outfits for the children than for the adults Children get dirty faster and more often. Period. Plus, their clothes are smaller and take up less space, so it’s easy to bring an extra few outfits for them.
  • Sturdy, comfortable, multi-purpose shoes Try to pack no more than 2 pairs per person. We each brought a pair of close-toed athletic shoes and a pair of sandals/water shoes. Wear the heaviest pair of shoes when you travel to save on weight in your luggage.
  • Bring layers Few things are worse than being caught in some unexpected cold weather or a facility with the air conditioning on full-blast wearing only a tank top and shorts. Bring one pair of pants, one light sweatshirt and one rain jacket each. The sweatshirt can also act as an extra pillow if you’re in a pinch 😉
  • Fold everything neatly When your clothes are folded tightly they stack more easily and take up less space

We have found the scale rises dramatically when you add toiletries to your luggage, so it really helps to be purposeful when selecting and packing.

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Toiletry Packing Tips:

  • Share toiletries whenever possible Instead of each person bringing a bottle of shampoo or tube of toothpaste, just pack one for the entire family to use.
  • Buy brand new toiletries for your trip Start with a full supply of each of your products so you have enough to share. Bringing half empty bottles takes up space and they may run out mid-trip, which leaves you scrambling to find replacements.
  • Condense when necessary Transfer products you don’t need much of into smaller containers. We don’t use as much conditioner as shampoo, so we bought a small travel bottle and put our conditioner in that to save space and weight. Another way we saved on space was by putting several different types of pills into one Tylenol bottle (only do this if it is OBVIOUS which pill is which).
  • Research which products you can buy during your travels We pack less of the items we know we can easily find during our travels, such as Q-tips, tissues, etc.
  • Remove excess packaging from toiletries to save on space and weight This makes a huge difference!
  • Sort toiletries into like groups and pack them in plastic bags This keeps all similar items together and protects the other items in your bag from spills. We have found the Ziplock L Storage Bags to be super durable for carrying our heavier toiletries, like shampoo and body wash. We pack similar items in each bag for ease of access and use. For example, one bag has all of the items we use in the shower: shampoo, conditioner, shave gel, razor, loofah, Isla’s shampoo/body wash combo. Another bag has all skin care related products: lotion, bug spray, sun block, and aloe vera. We also condensed most of our medicine into a flat Tupperware container.

We use day packs to store our camera gear, tech gear, travel documents, entertainment for long plane rides, and snacks. This way we keep the items that are most important with us at all times.

Inside the first day pack (which happens to be a camera bag) is all our camera gear.

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Inside the second day pack (a backpack) we packed:

  • our computers
  • books
  • coloring books
  • pencil pouch containing colored pencils and markers
  • blank note pad
  • pens
  • sunglasses
  • empty water bottles
  • ear phones
  • extra tech cords/power chargers
  • antibacterial wipes (great for wiping down grimy tray tables on airplanes!)
  • tissues
  • a card game for Isla
  • our travel documents (passports, flight confirmations, rental car confirmation, etc. all in a plastic folder with snap closure)

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Inside Isla’s little day pack (not pictured) were similar items to the above day pack:

  • an extra change of clothes for Isla
  • tissues
  • wipes
  • a few of her books
  • a few snacks
  • her plush kitten, and travel companion, Strawberry =)

Day Pack Packing Tips:

  • Paperback books take up less space and weight (alternatively, you can just pack a kindle, but we really enjoy the tactile experience of reading, so we just opt for lighter weight books)
  • Bring new and old kids books (we brought a few of Isla’s favorite paperback books and bought a few new ones to let her have throughout the trip. More on this in a future post.)
  • Use plastic, snap-closure folders to keep important documents together and safe
  • Pack items you don’t need as often at the bottom of the bag
  • Leave a little extra space in case you pick up food or items along the way (It’s also good to have a little space if your main suitcase is overweight and you have to shuffle items over to your day pack)

While we work hard to make sure we pack everything into our suitcase strategically, we will totally admit that sometimes we have to sit on it while zipping it up to make everything fit =).

PackingFB_0006I think that’s about it! PHEW! If you made it all the way to the end, thank you and well done =). We hope these tips were helpful, and that you might be able to use a few on your next adventure, whether it be a weekend away or voyage around the world! Any questions for us about our packing? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Isla and Strawberry getting all checked in at the airport. Adventure, here we come!

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