Flying with a Toddler for 19 Hours in the Air

This is a pretty long and detailed account of flying with a toddler for 19 HOURS. Many travel posts I have read tend to have a before and after, seem to look like a breeze, but tend to skip the dirty details. (Or maybe I’m just reading the wrong posts.) If it’s too much to read everything, just cruise to the headlines to the points that matter to you, or just check out the NOTES and TIPS part.

This post is  to remind me about traveling once I have my second kid, forget all my cool tips and start panicking. . . again. This is also for the Mom who wants to travel, but everyone out there has her scared shitless to do it because of all the terrible stories she’s heard. I personally LIKE it when I see all the extras written out. I feel a lot more prepared for flying with a toddler. It’s kinda like a walk through cheat in a video game…sort of.

Even though this was going to be her 31st flight, I was still nervous about flying solo with a 22 month old. Especially since at 15 months she was a fairly holy terror flying when we moved from the U.S. to Malaysia. At 15 months my daughter Evie had zero interest in books, TV, sitting still or sleeping on the plane. All she wanted to do was move. At 22 months it was so much easier because of her interests and understanding.

SHOES NOTE: Her shoes fit her two days before the flight but ended up giving her blisters in the airport before we even boarded so they ended up being useless. Good thing I brought non slip socks.

PACKING

I’m a terrible packer. I over pack. I think of each scenario and always think, “What if”. Try to pump the brakes if you can. I over bought snacks that were never used and over packed on toys that were never seen.

Here’s what I packed.

The Winners.

Winners

KID’S DRAMAMINE My friend told me her doctor recommended Kid’s Dramamine which I never heard about. Please consult your doctor and do your due diligence when it comes to your kids and medicine. The last 19 hour flight we took in August, everything woke her up and it was a very long, very rough flight with a very cranky little girl that could never fall asleep. On our second flight the Dramamine gave her the help to get to sleep in a strange environment and stay asleep in the beginning. During our 10 hour flight she slept about 8 hours.

MODELING CLAY DO NOT USE PLAY DOUGH, it’s messier, smellier and harder to wash their hands. Get MODELING CLAY and seal it in a plastic bag because it will dry out. This was the perfect toy for take off and landing.

HEADPHONES Worth the investment. She had some cheaper ones that broke on me the week before takeoff and dang I’m glad I ponied up the cash for these. She thought she was the coolest and it let her get her jam on. I bought them in Malaysia and they were the only ones available. I’m sure you can find better ones but small headphones that fit their head is a must.

PUFF SNACKS Some sort of small time consuming snack helped us with landings and take offs and enabled her to sit still. Fruit leather bars and the Kind nut bars were also a favorite.

USB CORD for your phone or iPad. Just keep one charged while you are on the plane. Nothing is less fun when you are in a strange airport and you have no juice left in your phone.

MUFFINS See recipe here. These are filling, healthy, and kids tend to get constipated on the plane (new environment, not drinking enough water or eating the healthiest) so these pumpkin apple muffins were great for both of us.

These aren’t winners but basics you shouldn’t forget — diapers, wipes, wallet, passport, cleaning wipes because the plane trays are one of the dirtiest items on the airplane. I’m okay with some germs but I’ve read too much about airplanes to go without them! Her favorite stuffed animal that she is used to sleeping with was a big hit as much as my husband said we should leave it behind. There is that comfort in the familiar while you are in a completely new world for a while. Oh, and a plastic bag for just in case (blow outs, spills, who knows).

Fails

Losers copy

STICKER BOOK OR ACTIVITY BOOK – while some would say stickers, even the reusable ones, are the best, they did not hold her attention for long. I’d pass.

CRAYONS, EGGS, CARDS, POM POMS, BEADS TO PUT ON A STRING  – also tips from others but she just didn’t care. Coloring was a fail. Maybe she is just too young or it’s not her cup of tea right now?

SPOONS & SCOOPS – She usually loves these but could care less this time. You can always get a spoon or cup from the flight attendants. Another Pass

SWEETS – I actually packed these for me, being pregnant and all, but never ended up opening the jelly beans or Snickers. (I know, what a sin.)

TRAIL MIX – Nope, neither of us. I made a homemade mix and it just didn’t jam with either of us.

ABSOLUTE MUST iPad – I’m not going to preach no screen time for flying. There is a time and place for iPads and I’m pretty sure it’s on a long plane ride. We don’t do it in cars or get a lot of regular play time in, so don’t feel guilty for ever using it.

FAVORITE SHOWS purchased from iTunes. Because as much as I love a free app, sometimes you need some solid classics on the iPad.

She really enjoyed:
Peppa Pig
Sarah and Duck
Finding Nemo
Robin Hood – Disney version

FAVORITE GAMES TO PLAY as of this moment in time at 22 months, these were the apps she enjoyed the most. Some of these are free, some we paid for.

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Mercer Mayer App I found a package of Mercer Mayer books that self turn and self read which she loved on the plane.

Dr. Seuss App has a 7 day free trial to test out all their books. Just make sure you download the ones you want before you don’t have Wi-Fi. We have the Green Eggs and Ham book on it’s own and she really enjoys that as well.

Peek-a-Zoo series have always been favorites sine she’s been 12 months.

Baby Bubbles is an easy app where you just pop bubbles.

Color Zoo and Princess are color Apps, you touch and it fills in a color with a touch of a finger. It’s a more basic color app for younger kiddos. She really loves both of these.

 

KID STATS / 22 MONTHS / 30 LBS / 34 INCHES / FEMALE

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The Actual Account of the Flight

Okay, now for the actual account of the flight. First off don’t panic. You are in a situation where you are lucky enough to get to fly. As terrible as they can get it is always temporary. You will eventually one day get off that plane and feel freedom again. Kids throw fits sometimes because they are KIDS. They are learning and growing and becoming their own little person. This is an excellent learning situation and super stimulating for their brain. Even when they do pitch a fit, make sure you keep your cool. They are probably just thirsty or have low blood sugar or are tired or scared. These are all things as a parent you (mostly) have the power to help and control. Make it an adventure and try to explain as much as you can to them, even if you think they are too young to understand. They aren’t too young and they are soaking it all in. If someone doesn’t understand that, then they are still learning too.

With that said, when I was packing I had anxiety and felt sick to my stomach even though this is the 31st flight with my toddler. We currently live in Malaysia and we were flying from Kuala Lumpur to Tokoyo to Denver to Phoenix. Once I was packed, I felt fine. It really can be fun if you are in the right mental mind set. I’m very good at being anxious with everything but if you can mentally prep yourself a bit, it can make a big difference.

It’s very expensive to have a car in Kuala Lumpur and you don’t really need one to get around the city so we don’t have one. Being pregnant and with crazy traffic there, my very sweet husband wanted to rent a car, drive, park us, and help us check-in with all our luggage. This sounds pretty standard but it was a big deal to me. I was planning on getting an Uber and figuring it out somehow.

NOTE: We booked through United but our first flight was Nippon Air. When checking in I couldn’t find the sign anywhere because they are small and they ended up being under ANA. We also couldn’t book seats ahead of time on Nippon. With our two other United flights I didn’t have a problem choosing our seats but since it was a sister airline I did not have any power or control of where we sat on the first flight. Somehow we lucked out and got the bulkhead front row with extra room. The only downside being you can’t slide your bags in front of you.

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Up at 4am there by 6am and ready to roll on our JetKids

NOTE: What is JetKids? A fold out travel bed with a little storage to spare. We packed a blanket, stuffed animal, diapers and a change of clothes for each of us in the JetKids suitcase. It rolls and is very easy to roll around the airport.

Japanese are very nice and polite. During a different Malaysian Air experience, their flight attendant argued with me that Evie had to sit on my lap at takeoff with a special seat belt. Here I actually asked and they didn’t care. During take off I grabbed an egg and the modeling clay which held her attention so she stayed in her seat long enough for us to get airborne. The first six hour flight was pretty freakin’ easy for all the nerves I had built up about it. In fact it felt too easy. There were snacks, TV and her nap involved. Except apparently with this airline and their regulations, JetKids are not allowed where we were sitting. So the first time we both finally fell asleep, I got poked awake by a flight attendant. I was told if I scooted up my sleeping child it was okay but she could not be laying on the JetKids. Then a second person came by right when I was asleep and said it couldn’t be used at all. So I ended up taking it apart. The third time I started getting angry by being poked awake (WHY couldn’t they do this all the first time and let us both sleep?) and I was told I have to put it in the overhead compartment. So bulkheads and sleeping kids items weren’t allowed apparently. DO YOUR RESEARCH for your airline because we didn’t have any. (During our United flights we had zero issues.)

We watched the iPad with her new headphones and some Sarah and Duck episodes kept her occupied for a while. We also watched Robin Hood…cartoon version. I’ve never been in the bulk head so didn’t even realize we had TV’s until I saw the gal next to me reach underneath her on her right.

We flew on a new 787 and if you see the green arrow in the window photo, the window lighting is controlled by buttons. In fact, just about everything is controlled by a button. No switch for your overhead light, or in the bathroom. All very techy. Now the food may be good in other cultures but I am so sick of rice and nothing they served on the plane tasted very good. I didn’t get Evie a meal. The roll and butter went over with her very nicely. Otherwise we just ate crumbly muffins.

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Dad squished our homemade muffins before we even left the terminal. Let’s not forget to pack ’em in a tupperware next time!

FRESH AIR TIP: I always bring a small aerosol pump mister with a drop of peppermint essential oil because the air is so dry on the plane.

Narita Airport – Tokoyo
So we land with no problem. Narita Airport in Tokoyo is very clean and easy to navigate. We did not have to clear customs since we were just a connecting flight nor mess with re-checking luggage. They had smaller complimentary luggage carts (which seems to be the way everywhere except America). I ended up putting the JetKids on the bottom, the carry on bag on the upper part, and Evie on top of the carry on. Totally forgot about getting a photo. But all I had to do was push everything around and give my pregnant sciatica back a break.

Food is very Japanese in Japan (go figure). But I did manage to score a hot dog for both of us. There are not a lot of restaurants (I saw four) but we happened to find a very small 3 to 4 place food court. I can’t do rice or noodles, because I am so very sick of rice and noodles and we live in a Muslim country where hot dogs (pork) is rare. The funny thing is when we were eating, she saw everyone slurping away at their noodles and kept asking for noodles as she was inhaling her hot dog.

There are a lot of small kid area for kiddos to run around. The first one we found had a parents bathroom and a diaper changing area. The kid bathroom was cool. There was a regular sized toilet but on top of the toilet seat was a smaller toilet seat you could lower down and put your child on. She ended up going pee in the toilet (potty training a 22 month old) and we were both pretty happy about that. In fact, she ended up going in the toilet about half the time so we didn’t burn through diapers like I thought we would. I’ve had too many delayed and cancelled flights were I can’t not pack extra diapers.

The second play area was right near our gate which was also very easy to find. Some airports I find confusing and big and it was just so darn easy and clean here. The lounge chairs on the left photo had chargers and nearby was another kids’ area right near our gate.

SECOND FLIGHT – UNITED
So we boarded and settled and when I was booking out flight I splurged on our 10 hour flight segment and got us the Premium Economy upgrade. This flight was during our regular night time so the hope was to JetKid it up and let her pass out. This plan worked splendidly. The HUGE BONUS was no one sat next to us so we had all three seats to ourselves. It wasn’t a very full flight and I did the aisle, window trick (book your seat on the aisle and window and leave the middle open. Less people are prone to book a middle eat if they can help it and if the flight isn’t full,  you have a higher chance of having an empty seat in between.) I also think because we were Premium Economy that upped our chances of an empty middle seat between us.

GOD BLESS UNITED’S FOOD. There was a pasta dish (sorry I did NOT take a photo because we were too busy eating.) I believe it was pesto something that Evie inhaled and ate the entire thing, noodles, side dish and bun with butter. Water was plentiful, the flight staff was super warm and friendly (and American) and we even got vanilla  ice cream for desert. It was probably standard airplane food but after the strange flavors we’ve grown accustom to, this tasted quite good. After take off and eating, which was about 2 hours in, I gave her the Kid’s Dramamine.

After I gave it to her (which I tested before the flight at home and she handled it fine…it just made her drowsy) she started getting squirmy. I finally lost a bit of patience and held her for a while. She tried to fight out of a cradle position but you could see she was super tired. You know what calmed her? The old bird trick. I put my scarf over JUST her eyes to cover the light. It really calmed her down. She quit squirming after that, let me hold her, zonked out, and was out for the rest of the flight. She woke up when the plane landed. The JetKids was good but she has turned into a restless sleeper lately so she ended up half rolling off with me watching and catching her. After the 8th time this happened, I ended up folding up the whole thing and setting her up with a pile of blankets on the floor, leaving me the chance to lay down across all three seats. This laying down ended up being impossible for me because I have a pinched nerve from being pregnant and was just too uncomfortable. Nevertheless it was the best possible situation we could have on an airplane. It was just a long, long flight.

JETKIDS NOTE: Would I fly with a toddler and take the JetKids again? Yes it was easy to drag with it’s strap and 360 wheels and I ended up being able to store quite a bit in it; diapers, change of clothes for each of us, blanket, stuffed animal and most importantly my MacBook Pro for work. Computers and babies together can be heavy so it was really nice to just drag it around. And it was padded by the diapers and blankets. I can’t speak of the other awesome flight beds out there but I’m not sure how easy they are to transport, especially without a stroller. I’ve found over in Asia sometimes when you gate check your stroller they end up checking it to baggage claim and not at the airplane. Not sure if we’ve missed a few things in translation but it has happened to us twice with a stroller.

WE FINALLY LAND IN DENVER – ONE STOP TO GO

We did go through customs in Denver which was a very short line. We used the Global Entry line and both lines were about the same wait, 5 minutes or so. We did have to pick up our luggage and re-check it. Since we checked a car seat, it is classified as oversized. EVERYTHING from oversized comes out LAST. So you have to be patient and make sure you use the bathroom beforehand if you have to. Evie was starting to lose her patience which is understandable. Once we got our bags and used the free luggage carts nearby, we went through some guard area and then dropped off our bags. Then we went through long security line and got stopped because we had a half full water bottle and I totally forgot to take my computer out of the JetKids.

SKIPPING THE LINE NOTE: Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. It took a long time to get an interview but you pay online and once you get approved they do a short interview. The main background check is online and before the interview. Pretty painless and worth it if you travel a lot.

We caught the tram to the B Gates and the first thing we saw was so very, very American, Chick-Fil-A! And we enjoyed every bite before our flight. The last flight was a blur. It was 2 hours long. We watched Mister Rogers Neighborhood and she dozed towards the end in my lap. A short, sweet flight but it seemed to take forever.

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KUL > NRT > DEN > PHX  and 9,721 miles later

We landed, we stretched, we strolled and Grandma and Grandpa met us at baggage claim. WE DID IT!  I flew with a toddler literally half way around the world by myself. And “literally” is used correctly for once. Overall the whole trip was not that bad. Next time I’d be more aware of food availability, try to get us both to drink water more and worry less. The airports we went through were very easy, which isn’t always the case. The iPad and snacks were a huge factor in keeping her still in her seat. I’m not too scared to fly with her anywhere after this. The older they get, the easier it gets flying with a kid. (Well, when they are newbies it’s super easy because all they do is eat and sleep. From 10 months to 17 months seemed to be our tricky window.) We will see when #2 comes along and I’ve got two kiddos to juggle. But that will be another post for down the road.   Don’t ever be afraid to try. The more you do the easier everything becomes.

Cheers and safe travels everyone!

 

 

 

PSSST… THE AFTERMATH
Sleeping schedule and switching our days and nights

It is sucky adjusting to a new time zone but when you are flipping days and nights it can feel like it may never end. For us it took 4-5 days. This one post I read said  you will adjust adding 1 hour per time zone change or something which I found to be not true. You just need a few days, some patience and a fair bit of coffee.

I tried to keep with our regularly scheduled events (lunch, naptime, bedtime etc.) on the new time zone immediately. We stayed awake the rest of the afternoon / evening until bedtime. The first two days I ended up bringing her to my bed. We would have a snack, watch a little show then try to go back to sleep. It took me 1-3 hours to fall back asleep and by the time I did, she was up again. She was thirsty (rightfully so since we moved from super humid to super dry) and wanted a snack (it was lunch time). Husband is coming out to visit us later due to that pesky work thing so I was on my own. Thank goodness Grandparents wake up early! The first handful of nights are the worst but it’s all short term and for us, this was totally worth it!

Here is a vey real account of what happened. These are texts that I sent to my husband.

Day 1 of sleep:
🇺🇸XXXX
1 out of 5 American Flags

Evie woke up bawling 2 hours in. She had a hang nail on her big toe. Clipped it, gave her Tylenol and had her laying on me and she still wouldn’t stop crying. Believe “overtired” is an under exaggeration. Hero Grandma  came in and took her. I am 97% sure she is sleeping with Grandma. But I’m hearing phantom Evie cries so 3% sure she is roaming the halls like a ghost.

I just woke up starving and ate a freakin’ turkey pinwheel from Sam’s Club. Remember those? And blackberries. And blueberries. OH! And they have flipping cottage cheese. I bet it didn’t even cost 45 Rinngit.

(The fridge excursion has confirmed that Evelyn is not roaming the halls.)

My attempt to go back to sleep for the fifth time in 3.5 hours. Later it was confirmed that baby fell straight asleep with Grandma.

Day 2 of sleep: 🤔
🇺🇸 🇺🇸 X X X
2 out of 5 American flags.
Evie slept 9-12:30 and 2:30am to 8pm. Not too bad except she didn’t want to go back to her crib and she had to neck hug me or hold my hand for a good while. She also snores like a tiny dragon for a while making it hard for me to fall asleep. She’s adjusting better. If I wasn’t pregnant I could take a shot of NyQuil or whiskey or both! (note: I hate NyQuil and whiskey)

Day 3 of sleep:
🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 X X
3 out of 5 American Flags
I went to bed at 10pm and started falling asleep around 11:00pm which is when she woke up. After some good solid “holding her Mama” baby time and some natural cough medicine she went down. That damn Malaysian cough from the pollution just won’t quit. Next time she gets honey. If I hold her for a while, I can get her back in her crib, giving me more time to stare at the ceiling in peace. That little angel is such a bed hog! My sciatica was keeping me up so I fell asleep around 12:30, dozed in and out but think I got some solid 4-5 hours until 6:30am.

Day 4 of sleep:
🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 X
4 out of 5 American Flags
In the words of Grandma – HUZZAH! Got my first 7 hours and I’m looking forward to nap time today as well. She’s adjusting way better than I am but I think we’re gonna make it, babe!

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Things an Expat should know when you just moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I will work on updating this, I know it needs more but it’s a good reference start for newbies who have just moved here. I wish I knew these things when we moved.

KLCC is Kuala Lumpur Convention Center or “downtown” but everyone says KLCC

Cars
WS Car Rental – There are Cheaper place to go
Grab Car
Don’t use taxi may get ripped off and some don’t have air conditioning
I prefer Uber (we don’t have a car)
Free transit on the purple buses
LRT (metro) Light Rail Transit

Furniture Store
Ikea is the cheapest and they deliver
Other places I was told
Revewmart
One Stop Buy & Sell
Viva homest
Hook Choon has cheap dishes and better meat (someone said their minced meat or “ground beef” is better there.)

Places to Order Online
Lazada – sort of like Amazon
Some things in Amazon will ship but you have to sort of price shop
Borderlinx.com will ship to you, it’s the middle man to get things you can’t
Chemistdirect.uk
Amazon.co.uk

Grocery Store
Honest Bee – online delivery, my preferred choice
Happy Fresh or Tesco will deliver you can shop online

Jaya in the Intermark – KLCC- is the better grocery store though each one you have to kind of pick and choose of the best (one may have better fruit or meat or specialty items)

Ben’s is in Mont Kiara but has the best selection of international food items
Local markets are the cheapest but harder to navigate and get to – worth trying if you can

VPN
Miss your old TV shows or want Pandora? Tunnel Bear can help.

Parks
Tama Tasik Titiwangasa Park
Bird Park
KLCC Park

Restaurants
Fuego
Changkat has Pinchos which is a tapas
Everyone talks about how great the food is but I have not found it that way. There aren’t many restaurants that really pop out in my head. It’s more trial and error and a lot of fails. Know that the service is slooooow and if you want something it’s best to speak up and ask or you may be waiting a long time.

Intermark
Little Gym – you can free trial and it’s the best place for kid growth / play and development

Child Friendly Cafes
These places have toys or play areas to free roam while you get a break and can eat in peace. There are so many available.
Antipodean
Menara Tan & Tan on Tun Razak
Green Tomato Café in Ampany
Wicked Pancake Parlour in Damansara

Day Cares
Primrose Hill – more laid back can drop your kid of a day a week / more flexible other places make you pay upfront and have to stay a full week, from what I hear.

Children’s House

Play Area
Starlight Kids

Haze / Pollution

Plantations in Indonesia are burned (they burn them off so they can plant next year). The smoke travels over by Malaysia and surrounding areas and creates this nasty haze. It’s very very unhealthy. So bad where you need to stay inside some days and schools are cancelled. Raining helps dissipate this issue but don’t get caught in that rain, you don’t want that on your skin. Local air readings are misleading since they use a 10 ppm ratio and most other countries use 2.5 ppm. Sometimes it can stick around for months. Air purifiers and plants can help, just do your research and be prepared. Pack a few extra umbrellas and have them to and from work when needed.

 

A Week of Batik (learning textile painting the cool way)

My stories and adventures can’t be written if I don’t sit down and do it! I have a long list I’ve been putting off and this quote inspired me to just start.

Done is better than perfect.

So I’m currently living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and my bestie & partner in crime Lo and I have recently discovered this thing called Batik. Lo has lived here two years and can’t believe she’s never seen this on the many Facebook Expat Group to-do lists or Expat Magazines “must see”! Batik has been gently lurking in the shadows waiting for us to find and get our paint on.

WHAT IS BATIK? Batik is over in Central Asia and India side of the world and is the art of decorating on cloth. It has been practiced for 100’s of years. You hand draw, hand pour hot wax from these crazy little pipes and then paint the cloth using fabric dye. Stencils and stamps can be used nowadays to speed the process.  The more water you use with your paint the lighter the color you get.

Do you like doing crafts but don’t feel like you can be an artist? -WRONG- You can with Batik. Especially at Ainna Artwork at Central Market near Chinatown in KLCC. They have options as little as 20 RM (or $4.50 USD) to choose from. This was our first attempt and how we got hooked. This is the first place to start. It’s small, you can learn how the paint works and it’s cheap and fast. Artwork is already hand drawn and the wax is drawn so all you have to do is dip your brush water down the saturated dye and get your paint on. You can work on blending different colors or just enjoy the therapeutic zen zone you find yourself in. It’s almost like paint by number because the wax prevents your paint from bleeding into the next section.

We had so much fun we ended up placing an order to paint a bigger art piece. You have to put 50 RM as down payment and wait a few days for them to draw and wax.

First Batik Attempt

So while we were waiting for our creation to be drawn Lo researched and found this place called Jadi Batik. It’s warehouse big and one of the larger batik centers in Kulala Lumpur. Lot’s of tourist buses come here. If you really want to buy higher quality clothing, fabric, or silks go here. Someone told me they are overpriced but I’ve purchased clothing and items at the smaller booths in various places and different areas and the quality is so much better and will last so much longer. I’ve had stuff that has ripped after one wear. Quality over quantity will win every time. Don’t have time to paint? Just go buy a beautiful silk scarf or an apron or robe. (I personally love things I can use so bought an apron.)

So we were under the impression (since it worked that way at the other art place) you just pick an already drawn and waxed creation and just paint. NOT SO. You have to DO IT ALL. Which seemed really intimidating at first but when you are finished it is such a rewarding feeling. Now I have a bit more experience in art than Lauren, but she is fearless and got some help with the pros. Lo went big and did a silk scarf, and I so regret choosing the smaller silk handkerchief. “Go BIG or go home Sarah!” She always tells me. One day I will listen to her.

 

So you have to wait a day and they bake or do their magic to melt the wax off and seal the paint so it doesn’t bleed. The next day we got to pick up our creations.

Now I’m flying back to America for a couple of months so this last week has been party week for me. Some people go to bars, while others paint. Last up we got the call that our seaside shacks were finished being drawn and waxed. Feeling like pros we conquered our creations around 2 hours.

Yes on the easier side of things it is glorified paint by number, but it is OH SO FUN PEOPLE. Whether you are drawing from scratch or getting a brain break from all those worries give Batik a try.

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American Expat Moving to St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

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I have recently found helpful blogs from other expats and decided to create a St. John’s, Newfoundland overview for future Americans to help give them a better overview of what you are coming into and what to expect. I am writing from my past experience and point of view and do not mean to offend anyone, but an honest opinion on my side is coming.

My husband moves every couple of years due to his job (it happens to many of us I know). We all know there are ups and downs in moving but I’d like to pass along my experience to make living up here more fun and finding fun a little easier to do, as well as give you feedback on what you are getting into.

St. John’s is a beautiful old town, but you’ve probably never heard of it. It is heavier on the Irish charm than the Canadian – accents, pubs, music etc. It’s right on the Atlantic Ocean and is considered one of the top eleven most colorful cities in the world. It also boasts of being the oldest city in North America. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and in the smack middle of nowhere. I used to think Kansas or Wyoming was in the middle of nowhere until I moved 800 miles ish north of Maine on an island. It’s all on your perspective and experience. It is definitely quirky and if you can brave the winters and have a bit of an adventuring spirit and curiosity, you’ll be just fine.

VIEWS
The views are breathtaking and we’ve heard a lot that “This here is God’s Country” from many locals. That’s something I can’t really argue if by God’s Country you mean an unending view of water, hills, forests, waterfalls, light houses, ocean, lakes, and a natural beauty that you don’t often see in other places. Being able to hike along a cliff overlooking the Atlantic is something spectacular. If you are a lover of the outdoors you are in for a spectacular treat. Summer is short, so get out while you can.

THE PEOPLE
There is an overall friendliness to this island. Checkout clerks will call you “love” and strangers are perfectly comfortable with striking up a conversation or asking if you need help. (An older gent was walking one day asked me if I wanted help shoveling my driveway in the winter.) Though I have found everyone to be quite pleasant, it was harder to me to make friends due to a feeling of everyone had their “group” they were used to. Which is understandable. Don’t give up! It does take a while to meet friends – tips on how to is yet to come. Their sayings are great. Check out Newfinese here.

FOOD
You are moving to Canada on an island up north so expect everything to be more expensive. Certain items will not be available over winter as well (mainly in the fruit and vegetable area.) I was floored in September when cherries were $9.00 lb and lobster was $7.00 lb. To add salt on the wound there is a 13% tax on everything. Winters can miss certain foods and a lot of items can be moldy or rotten in the rougher months. It. Is. Pricey.

SUPERMARKETS
There are of plenty of grocery stores here. Sobeys & Dominion are the main contenders. In my opinion, Dominion is a bit better and cheaper. I found my favorite place for produce to by Costco. The best Dominion location is across from Costco, they tend to have more sales. A few times they have “no tax” weekend (and at 13% sales tax that was a bargain.)  There are two great farmer’s markets that have the freshest produce at solid local prices. Ask a local, they are more than happy to tell you where to go.

HOMES
Garages are a rarity and many downtown are 50+ years old. There has been a boom since the oil industry has brought it back to life. (There was an over fishing crash and shut down in the 90’s.) New homes and new apartment complexes are rampant, so there may be an easier time of finding a rental if that is what you are looking for. There is no gas on the island (no forced heating) you will see mainly electrical base board heaters. Even if you do find a home outside of downtown don’t expect to get more than a one car garage.

MAIL
The postman won’t pick up your outgoing mail. You have to drop it off at the “Post”.

DOWNTOWN
George Street is the famous street here that is all bars (no cars are allowed to drive on this street.) It’s more of a college crowd and overpriced, but most things are overpriced in my view. $8 for a beer or the shots are measured out exactly, drinks are extremely weak. I’d avoid it and go elsewhere downtown. There is a plethora of local Irish music and live bands everywhere. There are art galleries to browse and small local shops good for window shopping.  The charm is thick since it’s the oldest city in North America, definitely not cookie cutter!

RESTAURANTS
Restaurants and pubs I’d recommend to  check out:
Gypsy Tea Room
Basho (sushi)
Grapevine (bar)
By the Beach on Portugal Cove has the best fish & chips
Jack Astors & Kelseys are chains and kid friendly
I never found the food to be all that great anywhere unless you pay a high amount downtown

SHOPPING / SHIPPING
You guessed it, limited and expensive. Most of my favorite U.S. sites won’t ship up by us.

Check out this very helpful link to just about everything.
http://www.stjohns.ca/living-st-johns/newcomers

I had more, but perhaps later gator.

 

Stop Over Packing You!

I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve lived in four different states, but I’m still the WORST over packer ever. Each time it gets a little better, but I’m always one to think of the what ifs. What if it rains? What if it’s colder? What if I need this? What if I might need that? You know what I think every time I get to my destination? I shouldn’t have over packed. I could have just gone with the basics and been completely fine.  Here are a few pointers to remind myself for future travels.

1. You don’t need two of anything. (Mostly.) Double up when you can!

Clothing outfits for travel
One pair of jeans, one set of leggings, one sweater, two dresses (not four) will do. Variety is nice but stick to a neutral palette, then glam up the basics with smaller things like a scarf or jewelry. Less is more! Neutrals mix and match quite easyily. Double up when you can (Have a grey wrap sweater for traveling, when it’s cold and in the morning over PJ’s. Make your workout t-shirts cute enough to wear on their own if you want.)

2. You can pack the same as being gone for a month as you can for a week.

If you are gone that long you can do laundry. If you are visiting friends or family borrow the bigger, bulkier items from them – things that take up space like coats or hoodies. Other items to borrow – hairdryer and curling iron. Going to a hotel? I guess I’ll have to allow the curling iron…

3. Shoes are the worst space killer!

Shoes to pack when traveling

I still haven’t mastered this option yet and unless you are lucky enough to share the same shoe size as the person you are visiting, you are out of luck. Wear your bulkiest shoes at the airport. (I wear classic brown boots with cushioned inserts that go with everything and are extremely comfy.) I’ve had to run a few times in airports and you don’t want your shoes to slow you down. You can also pack items (like socks) within your shoes.
Go with the basics and neutrals –
silver flats
black heels
running shoes

4. Makeup & Toiletries Basics – Mini’s Matter

Makeup to Pack
It’s worth going through and packing JUST what you need. Take out those four lip glosses and multiple options in your regular makeup bag and scale it back! Foundation, blush, a palette of eyeshadow, brown eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, mascara. With all the extra room you can add your toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, lotion, mini shampoo and conditioner. Buy those mini bottles and put your favorites brands into them if you must. Make sure your bag is waterproof. It happens occasionally, but a shampoo or lotion will leak. It’s best to contain the spill within the smaller bag so it doesn’t stain your clothes. Your limit is ONE bag!

BONUS: Get a perfume sample of your favorite perfume at a department store or Sephora. When I run low on the sample  I just pop the top and refill with my bigger perfume. Less to lug around, easy to travel with.

5. Airport Travel – layer up

Pulling an outfit for travel
Don’t bother lugging a jacket around. Layer it up. Look through your pieces and pick out something that is comfortable without looking like a slob. Get a little warm? Take off a few layers and put in your purse or over your arm. I love a tank top, button up (Express Portofino Shirt) a neutral wrap, jeans or black leggins with your shoes that take up the most room in your luggage. DON’T create a new outfit just pull what you have already laid out to pack. Scarves can double as blankets or pillows on the plane.

I love going places but hate the in between traveling part. I typically have lived so far away and 99% of the time I have a connecting flight. You will either end up running through airports to snag your connecting flight or wait during an almost unavoidable classic delay. It’s best to be prepared.
CLICK HERE FOR AIRPORT PACKING TIPS

Best basics for airplane travel

Okay so maybe some of these aren’t so basic, but a few of these have become necessary in my eyes. After many years of travel and having gone through multiple cancellations and numerous delays in connecting airports, I’ve narrowed my travel items to the following. Throw the smaller items in a plastic ziplock baggie and you are good to go.

Airplane basics to pack

1) ELECTRONICS = Kindle + iPhone AND  iPhone charger with ear buds
Obvious I know, but a good place to start. Kindle power lasts forever, so you don’t really need the charger, but it’s best to bring your phone charger always! The times you don’t bring it, you are going to need it. These items are both light and compact and covers all your entertainment – books, movies, music, games. Make sure you sign up at your local library for free books. I load up when I travel so I have options on books depending on my mood.

2) BEAUTY = eye drops, eyeliner, powder, lotion, chap stick
Think of the basics, don’t over do it in the makeup area if you roll that way. It tends to be dry in airports and your body dehydrates when flying and traveling and eye drops can do wonders. The two basics for touch ups is powder and a brown eye liner. Use the eyeliner for brows and eyes and powder for a fresh face. It’s easy to get dehydrated and a good smelling lotion helps lift my spirits and clears the air when I’m stuck on a plane.

3) GERM FREE = antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer and toothbrush
Yes it’s best not to over do it on anti-bacterial items for everyday use, but after reading airplane trays are one of the germiest places on airplanes and airports. (I recommend not to Google “airplane germs” it will completely gross you out.) Antibacterial wipes are a great idea. Wipe down your tray – trust me! I make sure to use my antibacterial when I travel. SKIP the water offered and bring your own water bottle. You get much more, it’s healthier, safer and a tad bit environmentally friendly since you aren’t wasting a cup and napkin.

I can’t tell you what a difference brushing your teeth makes after a long day of traveling. Especially if you are stuck in a layover or delay somewhere.

4) WATER BOTTLE = be like the water boy and hydrate with H2O
Yes it can be annoying if you have to use those restrooms in the airplane, but you’d be surprised how much your body absorbs. There are plenty of articles out there going into detail on this, but dehydration is practically unavoidable when traveling on planes. With the lack of humidity combined with lower air pressure and less oxygen on the plane, it’s a good idea to bring a water bottle. Make sure it’s empty when you go through security and fill it up at a fountain. (Many airports have filtered water right above the water fountains.)

EXTRA 5) DoTerra – OnGuard and Lemon Oil
I’ve recently discovered Doterra essential oils and I’m a big fan. I can tell the difference when I take them and it’s a great natural remedy when you need a boost. They are made of the highest quality ingredients. For more information on LEMON click here. For more information on ONGUARD click here. I typically flavor my water with the lemon and diffuse the air with OnGuard or rub it on my wrists. (Diffuse it by putting a drop on a Kleenex or napkin.)

Kind Bar

BONUS: KIND BARS
I always make sure I have one or two Kind bars for emergenccies to combat low blood sugar. Sometimes I’m running through an airport and don’t have time to get food or I’m stuck on a plane with no options. You can pronounce the ingredients and they are very tasty.

Yes, Seattle is as Hip (and Tasty) as You Think

Seattle SkylineIt was a place I always heard was hip, beautiful and stacked with delicious candy from the ocean, (we decided scallops are the candy of the ocean) but I never had the opportunity to adventure over to the Northwest. Now I’m singing Seattle’s praises from the top of the Rocky Mountains back home.

It feels as if someone that lived in the clouds above the U.S. scooped up the best from all around various states and dropped it into Seattle. The extreme hills of San Fran are reflected in downtown. The laid back attitude of the South. The rolling hills and lush forests, hint of the smoky mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. Some parts draw memories of northern Wisconsin with all of the lakes, trees and warmth of the people.

I’m used to being pretty chatty to strangers, it’s a friendly Midwestern trait I grew up with. But being in Seattle makes the Midwest look like angry New Yorkers. Everyone is so genuinely friendly and incredibly sweet. My hypothesis is the Canadians rubbed off on them since they are practically neighbors. Or it could be that everyone is in such a good mood because of the food and the views they get to look at every day. It’s most likely a combination of the two.

There is nowhere I’ve experienced food like Seattle and I’ve lived in multiple states, travel a lot and have a strong passion for food. Every place we were was forever fresh, and touted natural, preservative free this and that with an extreme lack of high fructose and “natural flavors”. It was as if my taste buds lay dormant after all these unknown years of fillers and sweeteners and Seattle woke me up to an array of heavenly goods.

Pike PlaceThe oysters were revolutionary, sausages made from around the corner available in every flavor of the rainbow, buttery ahi tuna, scallops the size of my fist. There was a cheese store that had a cheese vat churning inside it as I was guided through an array of tasty samples. I should known good cheese – I grew up in Wisconsin. Some cheeses had a fresh creamy melt on your mouth taste, others were crisp and sharp. The impossibly fresh herb cheese curds was a crowd pleaser. I had a grapefruit sample that needed no sugar and was better than any I’ve introduced to my taste buds. Don’t get me started on the endless array of fruits and vegetables at Pike Place Market.  It was as if I was in one of my art programs and got to turn up the color saturation along with the flavor of everything. One of the restaurants we stopped at had the best fish tacos I’ve experienced and I was obsessed with fish tacos when we lived in California. Need I even bother to mention I’m hooked on the chocolate, velvety, richness of the local coffee?

Did we hit a rainy patch when we were there? Naturally, but it never stopped anyone, especially the locals. There were covered driving ranges when the boys couldn’t get a second round of golf in. An underground tour of the city, an epic music & pop culture museum, and plenty of antique, chi chi shops and culture abounds. Some days it just sort of spit rain in a lazy mist. Other days I had to bust out my umbrella, which I was delighted at since I’ve lived in dry desert areas for seven plus years.  Bonus: The humidity did wonders on my complexion and skin as well. The shops in downtown Seattle were extremely local to the Nth degree. My favorite store was E. Smith Mercantile.  Everything was lovingly handpicked from artisans, craftsman, teachers, healers and builders, and the quality of each item was impressive and priced surprisingly low.

San Juan IslandOne of the days we ventured up to San Juan Island. The four of us hopped into the car and boogied up north. In hindsight we should have timed it a bit better since the ferry only leaves at certain times and we came in the middle of one. Even though we waited over an hour the panoramic view of mountains, lush forests and coffee eased the pain. I figured if waiting with some of my favorite people having good conversation in the shining sun with a harbor view was the worst part of my day, I could deal.

The ferry ride was incredible. You rolled your car onto the lower deck of the ferry and went up a few flights of stairs for a snack and a view. Alas, there were no whales in sight, even though we tried a few Whhhhaaaaaale calls. Speeding by the sparkling gray waters and rolling green islands dotted with houses, we landed at San Juan Island.

The harbor had the charming local shops and mouthwatering food I started to grow to expect everywhere. Further in the island, it felt like we landed in a Scandinavian countryside with low hills, happy cows, and charming cozy homes the ocean nowhere in sight. We found this incredible black pebble beach, with beach wood ranging in size from the perfect dog fetching stick to massive carved out tree trunks. Upon further inspection many of the smaller rocks were brightly colored some in mint greens, some striped aqua and deep burnt orange.

Everything had this soft gray calm around it. There was this peaceful stream of consciousness that just made sense there. The relaxing aura just seeped into your bones and was better than any sort of event or fun you could find in a city. Time was against us and shops were closing, we needed to head back. On the way home on the ferry, a double rainbow visited our line of sight and the bronze and coral colored sunset winked goodbye to us as we sped back to shore. Note: We had a laugh up in the island when everyone’s phone told them they were roaming in Canada.EMP Museum Sci-Fi and Pop Culture Museum

We had the best adventures in Seattle visiting family. I was just blown away by the care and love I experienced everywhere, whether it was from a chocolate or fruit sample, fresh caught seafood that day, customer service from a shop or a smile from a stranger. My experience was an epic array of beauty, culture, nature, extreme knowledge of craft, and warmth in Seattle. The only question is, when can I come back?

Thank goodness for siblings that live there!