Monthly Archives

September 2012

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Inspiration for Family Travel


Dream a Little Dream.  
No, that’s not quite right.  Dream a BIG dream.  Why not?  Make it the biggest, best dream and then set a plan to fulfill that dream.  I’ve known from the time I was a small girl I wanted to travel the world.  At 18, I set out on my own to see the big, wide world and haven’t looked back. 
While in South East Asia, I noticed loads of families out traveling with their small children.  They were doing things and going places with kids in tow.  It had never occurred to me that was a possibility.  I had thought of travel as something you do before children or after, not during.  When I met this family (photos below) while scuba diving off a remote and completely rustic Thai island, a lightbulb went off and a new dream was in the making.

 Upper Deck of the Boat and the 3-year-old is asleep on the deck, so close to the edge.  Blew my mind.

Scuba Diving Family Who Changed My Life
Even though my partner and I didn’t have any children and I had no idea when we would start a family, there was one thing I did know for sure:  We would travel with them.  We would start traveling when they were young and we would never stop.
By the time we depart with our boys and make our way to Thailand, it will be 10 years since I met the family pictured above.  I don’t know who they are or where they are from.  I know nothing about them at all.  But I have gazed at these photos year after year as I dreamed my dream.
Thank you, whoever you are, for inspiring me and giving me hope.
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Spinach Ricotta Bites–Gluten Free

Do your kids each spinach?  Mine do…sort of.
I never thought I’d be ‘that’ mom who hid vegetables in food, but I do what have to do.  The twins are the pickiest eaters, but they also are pretty normal toddlers who are resistant to trying things that are green.
Luckily there are loads of ways to incorporate healthy green into tasty dishes that will not only have your kids eating vegetables, but asking for more.
These are a favorite with my wife and kids.  I hope you’ll love them, too.

Spinach Ricotta Bites – adapted from Weelicious

spinach-ricotta-bites-220-293.jpg

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (low or full fat ricotta will work)
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained well (i use my hands to squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt



Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. 2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the onions for 4 minutes until tender.
  3. 3. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute then set aside to cool.
  4. 4. Whisk eggs in a bowl and stir in ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
  5. 5. Once combined, stir in spinach, salt and cooled onion and garlic mixture.
  6. 6. Pour the mixture into lightly greased mini muffin cups.
  7. 7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the filling is set and golden on top.
  8. 8. Serve.

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How to Handle the Question of Homeschooling

It’s back to school time.  Almost everyone I know has posted a photo of their little adorables all ready for their first day of school.
Not me.
They are not going to school.
My boys are 2.6 years old.  Do they need to go to school?
The state of New York says that legally, I don’t have to put them into school until Kindergarten.
Of course, there are ways around that with homeschooling, but legally I
have a few years until they have to go to a ‘school’ of some kind.  And Kate and I have to agree what that is going to be.  Right now, we are not in agreement and are choosing to respect each other’s opinions.
It’s a tricky tightrope.

I knew that by choosing not to do a “2’s” program or some full time preschool, I was going to have to answer a lot of questions, but I didn’t realize quite how many and from so many different people.
Friends, family, strangers, nannies on the playground.  Everyone wants to know if my kids are going to school this Fall.
And every time someone asks I feel like I have to explain myself.

I shouldn’t–really.  I should just be able to say, “No.  They are staying home with me.”
But I go on with the justifications, “It costs so much money.  I still couldn’t go back to work because of the hours.  If I did go back to work I’d have to get a nanny to fill in the gaps.  The preschool + the nanny would probably cost more than I’d be making.”

Preschool in Manhattan is crazy expensive and I’m not convinced they need it.  Besides–they are TWO!
That’s what I really want to say.  But in saying that I am going to offend and alienate myself to a large portion of my social circle.
If I’m really on a roll, I tell them that we decided to take the boy’s preschool money and travel for a year instead.  So yeah, we DO have the money.  (Kate hates it when I make it sound like we can’t afford to send them to preschool).  We are just deciding to make a better investment with it.  After all, I personally, cannot think of a better education than taking your kids traveling with you.  
This either opens up an entire conversation of ‘Wow’s’ or their eyes glaze over as they process what the hippie in the city just said.
Worldschooling.  Roadschooling.  Homeschooling.  Whatever you want to call it, the kids are going to be learning an incredible amount in the years coming up and I’m convinced it’s for the best.
These boys of mine are ahead of the curve already.  I know I’m biased because they are mine (but not genetically–I didn’t have anything to do with these brains of theirs), but these two are crazy smart.  This is a benefit of being able to choose the ideal specimen for 50% of their genetic makeup.  It’s a nice bonus after all of the hassle of trying to get pregnant and shelling out 25K, right?!

I don’t think keeping them out of preschool is going to do any great harm and I do have them signed up for a couple of outside classes so it’s not like we don’t get out and do other things.
In fact, we get out and do more than most other moms I know.  We have new adventures every single week and New York City has an endless supply of more amazing things to discover.

If you want to homeschool and you want the world at your fingertips–this is the city to be doing it.

Sebastian aka Whoop Whoop thinking about all of the animals he just saw at the Bronx Zoo….

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Planning for our Trip–Countries to Visit

I’ve been asked by so many people, “Where exactly are you going on this big adventure?”

The answer is–we’re not ‘exactly’ sure.
We have a list of places where we’d like to spend time and things we’d like to see, but we don’t have the year planned out, nor do we want to.
There will be times we arrive in a place and find ourselves thinking “When can
we leave?” (Answer:  Give it 3 days, if you still hate it, listen to your gut and get out.)
And then again there will be places we adore and we’ll never want to leave (we know this from experience when we got ‘lost’ on Utila, Honduras for far longer than we’d anticipated).
There will be fabulous Air Asia tickets that go on sale and direct us to another far flung destination because for that price, why not?
We’ll be guided by weather patterns and monsoons and heat and rain.
Oh the places we’ll go!
We’ll meet other families who will share their stories and our travel plans will change all over again.

But since I’m a planner, of course I need to map it out.
Here are the countries we hope to visit–not necessarily in this order, although we will be flying into Bangkok and we do hope to finish and fly out of South India.

Thailand – 3 months
Cambodia – 1 month
Vietnam – 1 month
Laos – 1 month
Burma – 1 month
Indonesia – 1 month
Malaysia – 3 months
South India – 2 months

Yes, I know that is 13 months.  Obviously things will change here and there, but this is the overall main plan.
We would love, love, love to visit South Africa but I just don’t know if that will happen as it will increase our budget greatly.

If we decide to extend our trip to what we refer to as “The 2 Year Plan” (and yes, this has definitely been discussed) then we’ll be heading back to the Americas…..South America.

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Gluten Free Almond Cakes

I’m sharing this as I’ve made these for so many people, they’re a big hit and they always ask for the recipe, adapted from Elana’s Pantry.
Our family is not gluten free but a number of my friends are and I know it’s becoming more and more common.

I have a number of ‘pancake’ recipes that I make for my toddlers, but I call them ‘cakes’ because
who doesn’t want cake?!  Even if you call them cakes, they are packed full of protein and are a healthy snack for kids
These are perfect for travel or a nice afternoon treat.

If you want to really to indulge, spread with Nutella and enjoy!

Almond (Pan) Cakes

  1. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, water, vanilla and honey
  2. Add almond flour, salt and baking soda and mix until thoroughly combined
  3. Heat coconut oil on skillet over medium low to medium heat
  4. Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of batter at a time onto the skillet
  5. Pancakes will form little bubbles, when bubbles open, flip pancakes over and cook other side
  6. Remove from heat to a plate
  7. Repeat process with remaining batter, add more oil to skillet as needed
Yields 18 small pancakes
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Our Travel Lifestyle Goals–VOTE!

**After you read this post, please go to my poll on the right side of this page and VOTE!**

We have many goals to achieve before we set out for a year of travel with our twins.  The biggies are listed below.  There are tons more like scanning documents and selling our stuff and figuring out what to keep and what goes in storage, but that’s for another post, a different list.
I wrote previously about our plans for a year of travel with kids, but now I’ll break it down even further.

Here’s where we stand with one year to go:

Financial Goals:


Accumulate enough frequent flier miles for us all to fly free roundtrip, NYC-Bangkok — 100%

  • We focused on American Airline miles so we could fly their partner airline, Cathay Pacific.  Originally the plan was to do a one-way stopover in Hong Kong (one of Cathay’s hubs) on the way to Bangkok.  It would break up a really long flight, plus it’s a city we would love to visit and we both have friends who live there.  However, the airline has changed the frequent flier policy and stopovers are no longer allowed.  We’ll still be stopping in Hong Kong, but only to change flights on our way to Bangkok.
  • The airlines now issue tickets in one way segments.  This means we need 8 tickets–4 one ways to get us there and 4 to get us back.  Currently, we have enough American Airlines miles for 6.75 tickets and enough Delta miles for 2 tickets.  
  • The plan is to keep accumulating AA miles so we can all fly together.  However, IF we had to, we would split up coming home and Kate would fly with one child on AA and I would fly with the other child on Delta.

Earn an adequate amount of Starwood/Marriott/Hyatt/Hilton hotel points to ‘cushion’ our stay from time to time when we need a break — 100%

  • We don’t really have a set ‘goal’ for this as all hotel chains have vastly different categories and points needed.  However, we have the most points in Starwood as they have excellent hotels in Asia and require fewer points per stay than the other chains.
  • For now, we have enough points for just a couple of nights each in a Marriott/Hyatt/Hilton.  This should work out well when we hit a new location and just need a day or to of ‘recovery’ time while we look around for longer-term lodging or an apartment rental.
  • The Starwood points will come in very handy as we have enough so far for a week’s true vacation at a fancy resort like this or this or this, and we’ll still have plenty leftover for 5 or 6 nights elsewhere along the way when we need a bit of luxury.
  • We will have ‘preferred Gold status’ for Starwood which means free upgrades, gifts, club room, late check out, etc.  It’s a super nice perk to have while traveling.

Reserve savings to sustain us for 6 months upon return (in case it takes awhile to find work) — 100%

  • I honestly think Kate will have a job lined up before we even return OR she’ll discover something in another country along the way OR…..something else.  Nevertheless, it’s always good to have the cushion and we don’t want to leave without knowing it’s there for us when we return.

Save enough money to travel for one year without working — 65%

  • We started seriously planning for our trip in January 2012–just 8 months ago–and we’re already at 65%.  I have no doubts we can reach our goal with 12 more months to save.  But, let’s say we felt that itch to leave in 4 or 5 months….and we were at 75% and had found a way to earn money on the road…then we might decide we were OK with not reaching 100% upon departure.  Maybe.

Personal Goals:

Develop a location independent income stream — 0% – 100%

  • This is something I’m currently researching in terms of my writing and blogging.  I know I can make money doing this.  Now, I just have to do it and do it right.
  • Kate has leads from past employers for project work she can do remotely.  So, for her, perhaps this goal is 100%.

Potty Train the boys (except for nights) — 100%

  • Currently they are daytime trained.  Yes, I have to ‘remind’ them and yes, we still have accidents but less and less each day.  
  • If we still have to use diapers at night while we travel I am totally fine with this, especially since we’ll be sleeping on mattresses and linens other than our own…

Switch boys to ‘real’ beds — 0%

  • Oh my.  I tried to switch them to toddler beds with disastrous results.  They are back in cribs.
  • This one scares me so much I don’t even want to try it again and I’m tempted to just want until we’re all in a hotel room together and I have no choice.

Go Stroller-Free — 50%

  • They are good little walkers and can go quite far before getting truly tired.  As long as I keep pushing us to not use the stroller here at home, I’m confident they can build up their stamina to keep up while traveling.  Especially since we’re not going to be doing long walks/hikes, etc.  
  • Plus there will always be a bus / motorbike / tuk tuk / songtaew / taxi / boat / skytrain / back of a pick up truck / ferry / donkey cart / elephant / subway — just around the corner to rescue us!  Did I miss any forms of transport?!

No Naps Needed — 40%

  • I really don’t want them to ‘drop’ their nap because damn, I love that mid-day break.  But, they have already started doing this themselves.  
  • Ideally we will all have some ‘down time’ during the heat of the day where we can just relax and recharge.  Even if they don’t nap, they can still power through the rest of the day.

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Digital Nomads? Location Independent? Vagabonds?

Travel, and how to do it long term, is never far from my thoughts these days.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do with my kids even before I had kids.
Having twins threw a tiny wrench into the plans as it’s a wee bit harder to travel with two tiny tots instead of one (and then perhaps, another) but we have managed so far and done quite well.
Now we’re gearing up for our next big adventure.  
A year off starting September/October 2013.  Well, at this point, we have agreed on travels through South East Asia and South India for one year and as we go along we can assess.
Just yesterday Kate told me “Let’s just agree that if we are miserable after six months, we’ll call it quits and come back home.”
I solemnly told her, “Of course.  Or, I’ll at least let you buy a ticket and you can go home (just kidding).”
Quitting is not really an option for me–I’m ready to travel for 2 or 3 years!
I love the planning part of travel, but I hate the waiting part.
Right now it’s all about:
  • waiting, 
  • saving money, 
  • accumulating airline points and hotel points, 
  • planning for roadschooling/homeschooling/unschooling,
  • cleaning out the apartment by selling/donating/storing our stuff,
  • finding the perfect long-term subletter for our apartment,
  • oh, and figuring out who is going to take care of our sweet cat (mom?).
While we wait, I ponder “What will we become as a family?”
Will we be a wandering vagabond family taking a year off and not working?
Will we successfully find work along the way and become location independent digital nomads?
Will Kate be lured into an international lifestyle and decide to search for full time work in Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong?
The ideal goal is to make money while traveling.  HOW to do this is the hot question.
Our plan is for Kate to work about 20 hours a week while on the road.  There are projects she can do remotely and a possibility she can do some work with her current company as well.
I would also like to be working and am currently researching ways towards creating my own income stream.
So here we are.  One year to go.  Or maybe only four more months.
There’s been a lot of talk lately of leaving after Christmas…..