Nov
21

Chiang Mai…..Again

It is  kind of a weird feeling coming back to Chiang Mai again.  We have been here quite a few times before. We know this city.  We have our favourite restaurants, places to hang out, markets, grocery stores.  We’ve done this all before and there is an extreme comfort in going back to a place you know and love.

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Coming back to a place that we have already spent so much time in also means that we have done most of the things we want to do in this city.  We’ve seen all the Wats, shopped at the markets, visited the waterfalls, and explored the sois. So now we have no pressing “to do” list while we are here because we have already checked everything off that list.

I won’t say that we are bored because we are not but life has REALLY slowed down for us here.  We have no chores to do, no work. We have only a few small tasks like laundry (which is easy as our apartment has its own machine), and of course cooking every once in a while when we don’t feel like going out.

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Part of our nutritious breakfast!

So how are we filling our time?  It is funny really, our days are mapped out by what we want to eat.  We usually have breakfast in our apartment which consists of toast, eggs, and fruit.  Then we plan out our meals…maybe lunch at the courtyard and dinner at Chiang Mai Gate, or lunch at Pun Puns and take out from The Lemon Tree for dinner.  Once we are out for our meals we might explore that neighbourhood on foot, or maybe we will linger over a deck of cards, or Mike and I will take turns getting a massage.

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Lunch at Pun Puns Organic Vegetarian Restaurant.

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Spending an afternoon playing cards.

We have been trying to really give the kids a good balance on being out and about and staying home.  I have two homebodies on my hands and we have found on our previous trip that too much activity breeds temper tantrums and fights.  Luckily our apartment is quite beautiful and has a pool and a gym to keep the kiddos occupied.  Mostly though they enjoy drawing, listening to books, playing lego, and creating with clay.

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This slow life takes some getting used to.  We have been going at full speed for the last year and a half with all of our housing problems and renovation work.  It is a beautiful thing for the kids and I to have Mike with us all the time as we have gotten used to him working six or seven days a week.  We are breathing deeply (but trying not to choke on the traffic fumes!)

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Nov
16

In Our Neighbourhood

The apartment we rented for the month is in a typical Thai neighbourhood nestled between the touristy old town and the trendy Nimmen area. We quite like it for its authentic flavour and easy commute into the old town.

Take a walk with us?

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The back entrance to Wat Suan Dok is right next to our apartment.

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Our neighbourhood is surrounded by quiet sois (small streets).

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A squished rat! This rather large rodent was freshly dead on the day of our arrival and every day since he has become flatter and flatter!

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Onto the main street of Suthep Road.  Lots of traffic, small stores, eateries, and a large amount of barber shops!

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Small shrines are dotted around the streets.
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The sidewalks contain all sorts of obstacles. There is no such thing as walking a straight line!

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Yes, there is even a McDonalds within walking distance (we haven’t been desperate enough to go yet!)

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Thanks for walking with us!

Nov
11

We Have Arrived!

Jet Lag.

It hits some people harder than others.  I have now resigned myself to the fact that jet lag will always hit me full on, debilitate any normalcy in my rhythm, gnaw at my hunger, swirl my nauseous stomach, set my anxiety on high alert, and turn me into a complete zombie.  Sigh.  The good news is the kids bounce back from it like they just took a walk in the park.

Our day started out at 4am in a hotel by the airport.  By 4:30 we were in the shuttle bus and by 6 am we were on our first flight to Seattle.  The ride was turbulent and my boys revolted to the early morning motion by getting good use from their complimentary puke bags.

We had 7 1/2 hours in the Seattle airport waiting for our next flight.  Sure, we could have left the airport but we were underdressed and overtired.  Better, we thought, to enjoy a latte and watch some movies.  It seemed like we were there all day.  Oh Wait!  We were!

My fashion faux pas.  Traveling light takes precedence over fashion!

My fashion faux pas. Traveling light takes precedence over fashion!

Then came the long haul flight to Hong Kong.  Thirteen hours.  The kids did marvellously. They watched movies and then they slept.  Oh to be small and be able to curl up in an airplane seat to sleep instead of having your head loll around like one of those wobbly head dogs on a dashboard!  Mike and I barely slept a wink.  But the food was good!

Last time we flew to Hong Kong we had an apartment rented in Kowloon. This time we knew we would be too tired to make the trek into the city and since we were flying out the next morning we decided to pull out the big bucks to stay at the Regal Airport Hotel.  Yes my friends, you too can stay at the Hong Kong Airport for only $220 a night!  Our room was pretty average and smelled musty but we were so happy to flop down on those beds!

But then my anxiety kicked in, just as it did last time we flew to Hong Kong.  Laying in bed I cycled through all the terrible ‘what ifs’. Insomnia ensued. The last time I looked at the clock it was 1:30 am and by 4:30 am my family was awake and rested while I was teary with tiredness.

I’m sure I sound really whiny right now.  I do.  I am!  But I just wanted to share the hard parts of travel.  Cause sometimes, man it’s hard!

This morning we flew from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  An easy two hour flight where we were blessed by the travel gods to have two empty seats in our row! Yay for laying down on a plane in economy!

We were picked up at the airport by our dear and generous friend Neil.  I tell you, it is SO nice to know that there is someone on the ground who is waiting there for you and is excited for your visit.

We are now fed and settling into our new apartment.  We found this place on the internet and had our friend Lauren come and check it out for us.  After her stamp of approval we felt comfortable enough to book it sight unseen and I must say we are very happy with it so far.  The bags are unpacked and we are sitting back and enjoying the feeling of being settled for awhile!

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It feels good to be back in Chiang Mai!

Jul
23

Asia Called

Ring, ring, ring.

Me, “Hello?”

Asia, “Hi! This is Asia.  Are you coming back here or what?”

Me, “Oh, I don’t know.  We are thinking about it.  You know we love you but there are just so many other places in the world that we want to show the kids.  We kinda feel like we should give them some fresh experiences, ya know?”

Asia, “Yes, I understand this but don’t I call to you?  Don’t you love it here?  The food, the people, the culture, the price…did I mention the food?”

Me, “Yes, you do call to us. You have since the first time we saw you.  It is just so hard to make up our minds when there is a whole world out there.  And really, the flights are so expensive.  We need to tighten our budget straps.”

Asia, “Let me sweeten the deal.  I’ll give you a deal on airfare so good there is no way you could pass me up.  Check it out….”

Me, “Oh geez!  That is such a good deal!  Ok, Asia.   We are in alignment.  We will come back to you.  You know we can’t resist!”

Asia Called.  We Answered.

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After much contemplation over where we would spend next winter, returning to Asia won out in the end.  It was the cheap flights that cinched it for us.  All four of us for $3018 all in.  I’ve never seen a deal so good from Western Canada.

So back to Asia we go.  This time we plan on travelling a little differently.  We have tentatively decided to split our four and a half months between just two places, Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ubud, Bali.  This trip will be more about relaxing than seeing the sights, about finding the time for our passions. We plan to take it uber slow.  Play.  Eat. Enjoy.

Care to join us?

Apr
13

This Small House

I’ve been obsessed with alternative building for years. Cob, straw bale, and rammed earth set my heart racing. I’ve read books and watched documentaries on tiny homes and the idea of living in a smaller foot print is so appealing to me.

I’m happy to say we are finally in our home. The home that we have been working towards for the last two years. We’ve conquered road block after road block and have come out the other side triumphant. It is not the alternative home I have always dreamed of, it is certainly bigger than a “tiny” home. But it is ours….our small house. At just over 700 sq ft it has everything our family of four needs and nothing more.

The home was build in 1946 and has had decades of renters come through its doors. Honestly, it would have been easier for us to tear it down than to renovate it. Definitely a sweat equity project for us, but our hard work has now paid off.

Welcome….

DSCN1484We really wanted to make our home as efficient as we could within our budget and restraints of the house.  We stripped the walls and added insulation and we also wrapped the entire home with two inches of styrofoam before we sided the exterior.  We added an energy efficient ductless heating and cooling system, and added energy efficient appliances and a heat pump hot water tank.  We would like to add solar panels eventually…once it becomes cost efficient in our part of the world.

DSCN1486With such a small space I designed the house to have the best flow possible.  We analyzed every space and tried to create as much dual function as we could.  Since we could only fit one small couch in the living room we made built in benches that doubled as a media counsel and shoe storage so we could maximize our storage and seating options.

DSCN1496We added built in storage whenever we could on the interior walls where electrical and plumbing were not in our way.  We think it turned out beautifully and gives us spots to store and display our precious items (like lego and VW cars!)

DSCN1572Now all the items we have collected along our travels have their own homes in our house but are still out of the way so as to not create clutter.

MusicWallPlywoodAll the walls in the house are made out of finish grade poplar plywood which makes it very easy to hang things off of them.  We have created a music wall for easy access to instruments and just having them in reach of the kids has inspired impromptu music throughout our days.

DSCN1573The look I was going for with our house was earthy-arty and I feel we have pulled it off nicely.  The plywood walls, painted tongue and groove ceiling, and original fir floors give it a beautiful effect that feels warm, bright, and intriguing.

So far we are feeling that the space is perfect for us.  700 sq ft sounds small but it is so well laid out that it feels ample.  One thing I have noticed is that I have zero tolerance for clutter, as soon as there is a mess the house feels chaotic to me.  Luckily with such a small house it is a cinch to clean!

We’ve come a long way since we started the reno as you can see from our before pictures.

There you have it, our new-to-us home that we will live in when we are not traveling.  What do you think?

Jan
05

Raising Your Own Pigs

As with most endeavours on our small farm, we seem to jump into new projects feet first without much forethought or research.  It seems as though that is the best way for us to learn…if we knew what we were getting ourselves into we might be too intimidated to try!

This is how we found ourselves buying four pigs.  I’ll state for the record that although I had been pushing the idea of getting pigs all summer long, I wasn’t the one who brought them home in the back of a truck one day.  No, not me.  My husband had stated emphatically that we were NOT getting pigs…that if I got pigs he would divorce me (joking of course….kind of :))  So it was to my great delight that it was my father (the one who just can’t pass up a good deal) who came home with two full grown pigs in the back of a truck and two more baby pigs on the way in a few weeks time.  And just like that we were pig farmers and I was blameless in the grand scheme of things.

The day the first pigs came home we had no shelter for them, no bedding for them to lay down in, no food for them to eat, and only my fathers knowledge of pigs from the time he raised three of them in the early eighties.  Mike and my dad got to work converting a structure we had erected to shelter the chickens from the hot summer sun into a makeshift pig house.  We fed the pigs chicken food and scraps, and we bought a few bales of hay from down the road for their bedding.

The kids named the first two pigs “Porkchop” and “Bacon”.

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Porkchop and Bacon were ready for butchering within two weeks.  We tried to instil  in the children the sense that these animals were not pets (luckily they were aptly named!) and although they were pretty cute and quite friendly, when it was time for slaughter the kids were quite nonchalant about it.  Indeed, my oldest son watched from start to finish and got an amazingly in-depth and up close lesson in biology.

Although we killed, skinned, and gutted the pigs ourselves we decided to take the carcasses to the butcher for processing because we really don’t have the facility or tools to properly cut a 250 pound pig.

The next set of pigs we raised from weaned babies.  This was a whole other experience for us.  Pigs are smart.  Freaking smart.

My parents were away the first time the pigs escaped from our yard.  We found them across the slow flowing river that borders one side of our property.  The brush on the other side is too thick for us to get into so we ran around trying to scare them, corral them, and push them back across the water.  We chased those pigs for hours.  Finally in desperation I phoned my father to ask for advice.  Lure them in with food he said.

Not ten minutes later they were back in their pen.  A little bit of slop is pretty darn enticing to a pig.  With a ladle and bucket I scooped out dollops of food every ten feet while I called to them.  It was a little bit like a Hansel and Gretel story.

Over the next few weeks they escaped almost every day.  Every day we enticed them back with food (I wonder if they escaped just for the promise of extra slop?)  Everyday we beefed up the fencing and extended plastic fencing farther and farther into the water that makes up a natural fence on one side where we had them pastured. Finally we realized that the pigs were not walking across in the shallow places….they were swimming across!

Unfortunately for those two smarty pants pigs we had no choice but to fence them into a smaller pen.  No more roaming for them.

We learned that pigs will eat anything.  They are omnivores and not selective in their food choices.  We learned this by discovering that our pigs were killing and eating our chickens!  When we first brought the pigs home they free ranged with the chickens and we had no problems.  But something must have happened after we got those pigs penned up that gave them a taste for chicken meat.  Maybe they stepped on a chicken and upon investigation they discovered it tasted good…maybe a chicken died close enough to their pen that they could drag it in…..or maybe they were just chicken killers.  Whatever the case may be we found them twice, halfway through their meals.  Crazy right?

Despite all the craziness of raising our first pigs it was well worth it.  We try to eat only ethically sourced meat and now we have a freezer full of pork that we raised ourselves.  We know where it came from, how it was raised, what it ate, and how it died.  We have a relationship with the meat on our plate, a relationship that most of the first world has lost with its grocery store, factory farmed meat.  We get great satisfaction in sitting down to a meal where almost everything on our plate came from our property.

Another  satisfying aspect of raising our own meat animals is in the education of our children.  They were involved in every step along the way.  They fed the pigs the apples we got for free from our local packing house, they got down on all fours and acted like pigs to get close enough to touch the huge beasts, they watched how quickly they grew, they learned about humanely raising them, and to me the most important part was they witnessed their deaths and gave thanks to them for giving their lives for us.

The last two pigs are now at the the butcher shop.  This time we are getting the butcher to make most of it into ground pork and we will be attempting to make our own sausages with it.

Next up on the list (after I convince my husband) are meat chickens this spring!

Who wants to come for dinner? :)

Dec
20

We Have A Home

Eight months of fighting.  Eight months of uncertainty.  Eight months without a clear direction.  Eight months of stress and anxiety.

Our fight is now over.  After throwing a ridiculous amount of time and money at our housing problem the powers that be have approved our rezoning application on our property and our little 732 sq ft house is now considered “legal”.  There is joy, relief, and celebration in our corner of the world today!

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What does this mean for us?  It means we can continue on the renovation we started on our little house almost two years ago.  It means our original goal of creating a home base for our family is going to happen!  It means we will be able to live in community on our property with my parents, farming in the summer months and traveling over the winter.  And in the future, I hope it means inviting another family into our intentional community. (Just putting that out there to see what the universe unveils for us!)

What does this mean for our travel plans?  Well, we have decided that for this winter it is more important for us to get into our house than it is to travel.  We won’t be able to do both this year and we feel that having our home base ready is more important right now.  We plan on working our butts off to get into our home which should take between two and three more months of work as we are doing all of the work ourselves.  Once we are in the home we will be working hard to save up our funds for travel next winter.

How are we feeling?  Although the situation we found ourselves in this year was a bureaucratic, ridiculous mess that threw us for a loop I do feel that because we had to fight so hard for our unique living situation we now appreciate it all the more.  It didn’t come easy for us, we had to dig deep, and through that trial it made us realize how badly we wanted it.  We are joyful, grateful, and relieved.  We finally have direction again.

Big Thanks.  Big thanks to our community who have supported us throughout this turbulent time, offered us places to live, let us housesit for them, listened to our stresses and complaints, and given us words of encouragements.  Hugemongous thanks to my parents who have let us turn their home upside down for us to have a place to lay our heads once it got too cold to live on our motorhome.  We are grateful.

Oct
02

Plan? There Is No Plan.

We thought we had a plan for this year….that was before our world got turned upside down with our housing issues.  You may remember that we were renovating a home on my parents property when we got shut down.  We are still fighting for the right to live in our own home and I am starting to worry that we might not get to.  The deal now is we need to be here until at least the end of November in order to attend a public hearing and that is if everything goes well!

We are trying our hardest not only stay optimistic in a ridiculous and unfair situation but also to trust that the universe knows what it is doing.  Trusting in the universe has helped me through difficult situations in the past and in those situations everything turned out in the end.  Could it be that for some reason the universe has different plans for us?

So, for now, we have no plan for our travels.  We don’t know when we will travel this year, if we can travel this year, or where we will go when we do.  It is very hard for me to live with uncertainty…I’m a planner.

We are still living in our motorhome.  It is starting to get cold and slightly uncomfortable but we will stay in it as long as we can.  My community has pulled through for us and we have a three week house sit for friends in November and an offer from another friend to move into her basement suite.  We are getting lots of love and support and for that we are grateful.

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As far as destinations we are thinking of, Bali is calling to our hearts.  We would LOVE to spend six months there…rent a house, put down some roots, hang with the very cool families we know who live there, and take the time to follow some of our passions…..time that we thought we would have on our last trip but we didn’t end up manifesting.  However, as far as our bank account dictates, Bali is really out of our league financially this year.  It costs so much to get over to Asia from North America, not to mention the cost of getting a social visa.  So if our bank account gets its way we might just drive our motorhome down to the desert in Arizona and eat a lot of beans.  Both options have their merit.  Or we might do neither option.  Maybe an opportunity will get thrown at us that we just can’t pass up.

There you have it.  Our plans… or our un-plans…

Sep
08

Finding Community

I’ve said it here before.  I love my community.  I love the community I have here at home in Canada and I love the community I have when we are out in the world traveling.  But the fact of the matter is, I didn’t just stumble upon community (although many serendipitous moments led me to it).  Finding community is something I have had to work towards and it takes effort to build and maintain.

It seems as though, more and more, community is hard to find.  It is a symptom of our times when we don’t know our neighbours and we turn to Facebook to satisfy our cravings for interaction.  By nature we are social creatures, even those of us who are introverts, but it can be hard to find true community in this hectic, scheduled world.

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How do we create community?

  1. Become.  A few years ago I was lamenting to my cousin about how I felt a lack of true community.  Her advice to me was to become the person I wanted to be and in so doing I would attract those of like mind.  Our lives are an evolution in and of themselves.  If we don’t take the time to ask the questions of Who am I? and Who do I want to become? then our lives can easily become one of stagnation.  I asked myself what kinds of communities I wanted to belong to and then found it was easier for me to identify the qualities in myself that I wanted to nurture.
  2. Search.  The people you need to find are out there, you just have to make an effort to find them, and to be found.  Ask around, ask your friends, attend classes and make connections, search the Internet….You will not find your community if you sit in your house!
  3. Create.  Sometimes you have to create it yourself.  My first year of homeschooling was lonely.  I didn’t make the effort to search for community…I think I just hoped community would find me!  My friend gave her advice to reach out and create my own community.  I started a facebook group for homeschoolers in my area.  It started off with just myself and two other homeschoolers I knew and has now grown to over 70 families.
  4. Connect.  Once you have found your people you have to actually do something!  We meet with other unschoolers twice a week, meet with other homeschoolers throughout the year, attend a monthly locavore dinner party potluck, I sing in a full moon singing group, we meet up with other traveling families when we are on the road, host other traveling families when they are in our area, and meet up with them in their homes or in places where we are traveling through.  This year I plan on starting a monthly cook out with a handful of women (think making big batches of springrolls, perogies, and wontons for the freezer).  All of this takes a bit of effort but the connections we make along the way are worth their weight in gold.
  5. Maintain.  It is easy to get caught up in our own lives.  Life is busy.  Making time to get involved takes energy that we might not feel like we have.  But even when I don’t feel like making the effort I understand that the connections fill my cup, balance me, and actually give me energy in the long run.

How have you created community?

Aug
03

Busy

This has been the busiest summer of our lives.

It has also been one of the most stressful.

Some days it seems like we have bitten off more than we can chew and I have to stop to remind myself that everything that is keeping us busy has been a choice.  That all our choices are things that we want in our lives, things we are manifesting, things we enjoy.

Our house renovation has gone terribly wrong.  I can’t go into great detail because I don’t want to have anything in writing but basically the renovation has been stopped by our local government body and we are in a fight for the right to live in our home.  This has caused us a tremendous amount of stress and heartache and it seems like at every turn we are dishing out more money for applications and fees and we have now had to hire professional help.  We are still hopeful for a positive outcome but we feel like we have been thrown through the ringer.  Our plans are now up in the air and completely dependant on the decisions of a board.  Not fun.

Our house, half way through renovations.

Our house, half way through renovations.

Our chickens are continuing to cluck along.  We have a small but thriving business in egg selling which brings me a surprising amount of satisfaction.  We still only make enough money to cover our costs but in the meantime we are getting eggs from our backyard without cost to ourselves.  It also feels good to be a contributor to the local food scene instead of just a consumer and my passion for local food is growing and growing.

Our chicken whisperer.

Our chicken whisperer.

Our garden is in full swing and our food preservation is now in high gear.  We are making jams, canning vegetables, drying fruit, and freezing our bounty.  I’m doing something in the garden every day and, although I easily feel overwhelmed by it all, I do love the feeling of satisfaction I get from getting dinner from the backyard instead of the grocery store.

The first broccoli harvest.

The first broccoli harvest.

For me this summer has been about learning.  I’m unschooling myself in yoga, taking two to three classes a week, starting a home practice, and reading books.  I thought about taking a teacher training course but decided to learn on my own for one year and then reassess as the courses seem to run about $3000 here.  I’m learning about permaculture and making some big plans for our land.  I’m learning about how to make my own soap.  So far I haven’t found the time to actually make any but I am hoping I will be able to slow down enough to try it this fall.

Mike had been working everyday on our house renovations until that came to a screeching halt.  He is now working outside the house but is being more selective on the jobs he is choosing which has been a good thing.

The kids are free ranging on our property, playing with their friends, building continuously with lego, and generally just enjoying the stationary life.  Somedays I feel like I don’t have enough time to devote to them with all of our projects and I am thankful they are at an age where they can play independently.

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We are looking into the feasibility of getting meat chickens to raise this fall.  I have a friend who raises them and I was invited to see what was involved in the slaughter.  The idea of having a freezer full of chickens that we raised ourselves is very appealing to me and we would be able to sell many of them to cover the costs.

To top it all of Mike and I have started an online business.  We have been working on it since we got home from Asia and we just launched about two weeks ago.  We have invested a huge amount of time in it and a good chunk of money.  It is an idea that I had about five years ago but at the time I lacked the skills and confidence in myself to follow through.  Meeting all the amazing families throughout Asia who make a living online gave me the push I needed.  The website is a hyper local one, highlighting our home town, all the things to do, the events, local food, farmers and businesses. We hope that eventually we will be able to make a small income from the new website by selling advertising to local businesses.

We thought we knew where we were going this winter but with our house situation we are in limbo.  If all goes well we will find out in September if we will be allowed to carry on with our renovation at which point we will be able to either firm up our plans for travel or to stay until the renovation is completed.

That’s what is happening in our lives.  The busiest summer ever.  How is your summer going?

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