Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How to Quit Your Job & Travel the World in 3 Steps

On May 7, 2014, I quit my job as a brand manager at a very large advertising firm. Two days later, my husband and I were on a plane bound for Bangkok with no return ticket. We spent seven months traveling around eight different countries in South and Southeast Asia before returning to America to start a family and pursue some entrepreneurial opportunities.

The experiences we had while traveling added value, richness, and strength to our lives. We have seen the far-reaching beauty of this earth, marveled at man's greatest achievements, endured long, hot, sticky, crowded train rides, witnessed pure devotion and humility, watched heartbreaking and inspiring acts of service and love, grown to understand each other an an entirely deeper level, and grown to understand the vast expanses and far-reaching differences of the human experience.

We received many different reactions when we told people we were quitting our jobs to travel with no definite plan for the future. Many were negative. Some were positive. A few asked,

"How can I do that?"

Step 1: Work hard at your job

The biggest factor holding people back from gifting themselves the experience of prolonged world travel is fear of life after you return. The question of life after you return is both the beauty and the angst of travel. To make this question more beautiful and less anxiety-ridden, it's best to set yourself up for as many options as possible after you return.

If you work hard at your job now, maintain positive relationships with co-workers, and develop a strong professional reputation, then doors will open for you upon your return and you'll feel more peace and calm about creating a gap in your resume. If you slack off and keep an attitude of "I'm out of here in a year, why give a hoot?", then you'll experience a lot more anxiety before, during, and after your travels.

Step 2: Save money

Decide how much you need to save and give yourself a reasonable timeframe to save that amount. Then, do it. The amount you decide to save will be depend on how long you want to travel, where you want to travel, and how much you want to have in your bank account when you return. I will tell you that it's possible for two people to travel through South and Southeast Asia for 7 months on $10,000 (we did it). Here is a great resource that gives the real costs of 11 different trips around the world to help you get a sense of travel costs.

Once you decide how much to save, then SAVE IT! Cook at home instead of eating out, read books (from the library) and invite friends over to your place instead of going out, spend time working hard at your job (step 1), and watch the number in your bank account go up. Once you've saved enough, save a little more, then move on to step 3.

Step 3: Buy the ticket 

This is the most important piece of advice in the whole process so pay attention.

Buy the ticket before you tell anyone about your plans.

And make sure your ticket is non-refundable. Once you start telling people about your plans, the opinions will start flowing like chocolate at Willy Wonka's factory. Some will be polite, some will be blunt, almost all will in some form or another ask "why?" and "what will you do when you get back?". You won't have all the answers to these questions and that's okay (if you've already bought the ticket). People may make you doubt yourself and your decision. And that's okay (if you've bought the ticket). Because once you've bought the ticket, your adventure has already begun. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gingersnaps




My Aunt Jamie makes the best gingersnaps and this year, I finally got her recipe. She claims it's not "her" recipe even though she was wise enough to almost double up the spices from the original, which makes a world of difference. In my mind, these will always be Jamie's gingersnaps. 

Gingersnaps
From Aunt Jamie via The Joy of Cooking 
Yield: about 40-50 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 12 minutes per sheet
Total Time: about an hour

INGREDIENTS: 

3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vinegar
3 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, molasses and vinegar. Add baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and one cup of the flour. Slowly add remaining flour and mix well until blended. Dough will be very thick. 

Form dough into 3/4 inch balls. Bake on uncreased cookie sheets for about 12 minutes. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pondicherry


Pondicherry was just our second stop in India after Chennai and I'll never forget the sound of our bus driver calling out for all the passengers to board the bus, yelling deeply a hundred times in a row with the same loud sing-song tone and that distinct India/British accent, "Pondy, Pondy, Pondy, Pondy, Pondy, Pondy, Pondy, Pondy, Pondy, Pondy"...you get the idea. 

I didn't realize it at the time, but Pondicherry is actually a super quiet town by India's standards. It is quite charming to tourists due to the large amount of French influence (both in food and architecture) in addition to the Sri Aurobindo ashram, one of the biggest in India. 

A cool story: Bradford and I actually stayed at one of the ashram's guesthouses, which was a neat experience. We had to remain super quiet and peaceful in the guesthouse. The rooms were simple (with rock-hard beds!) and the showers were cold, but the food at the canteen was amazing and super cheap! Every morning we would stuff ourselves with breakfast (hello, aloo paratha!). One day, my morning sickness got the best of me and I totally upchucked my entire pineapple juice upon returning to our room after eating. 

On our first night there, we were walking along the boardwalk by the beach and totally stumbled on this amazing parade of pink Ganesh statues! It was one of those moments that could not have been planned any better and I was struck with the weirdness and loveliness and madness that is India--it was perfect. The parade was so long, we didn't even stay til the end, but we did watch as they began to dip each giant statue in the ocean using a huge crane. I'm still not sure of the significance of that act, but we just rolled with it. 


This was just one of literally hundreds of Ganesh statues being paraded down the boardwalk, soon to be dipped in the ocean by a giant crane. I'm sure there's a religious reason for this, but mainly I think the Indians love to party.






The food in India is so fresh and delicious. The sight of giant carts filled with fresh produce like these limes, never got old to me.

{Cotton candy and a Gandhi statue after a rainstorm}



Friday, November 6, 2015

How to Open a Pomegranate


Fall is here and with it comes some wonderful fall harvest produce, including pomegranates. Pomegranates are so different from any other fruit in that the "meat" of it is actually seeds--really juicy and delicious ones that can be used in a variety of recipes (including salads) or enjoyed on their own. Opening a pomegranate and extracting the seeds is a little tricky, but the result is worth it--I'm always amazed at how many seeds come out of just one pomegranate. The bounty usually lasts me a few days.

TIP: To select a good pomegranate, choose one that is uniformly firm with no or minimal bruising or scarring.

Items you'll need: 

plate
paring knife
small bowl
cutting board
gloves*
apron*

*Gloves and an apron are highly recommended to avoid staining your skin or clothes. Pomegranate juice can be a beast to get out.

Step 1: Use the paring knife to cut around the knob and pop it off. 


Step 2: Use the paring knife to gently score the pomegranate in three places coming down from the top.

Step 3: Break open the pomegranate with your hands.

Step 4: Continue to break apart the pomegranate and gently remove the seeds from the skin. Be patient. Go into your zen mode and get those seeds out. This usually takes me a good 10 minutes. It takes time, but it's worth out.

Step 5: Enjoy!

You know you've done a good job if the end result looks like a crime scene. 




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup




It FINALLY feels like fall in Las Vegas and I'm so ready for a change of pace and weather. I never thought I'd be so happy for summer to be over. It's without a doubt my favorite season in California, but this Vegas heat--man it's something else and I never realized how wonderful it is to just be able to stand outside whenever you want to. 

For a couple years now I've been looking for a butternut squash soup recipe and I think this is the one! The next time I make it I think I'm gonna try adding some chopped potatoes in with the butternut squash, but I think it's a keeper as is. 

Butternut Squash Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour

INGREDIENTS:

6 tablespoons chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter
6 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1 regular-sized squash)
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 8-ounce package cream cheese

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, saute onions in butter until tender. Add butternut squash, chicken broth, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook 20 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Use an immersion blender to puree squash and cream cheese until smooth. (Alternately, you may puree in batches using a blender or food processor.) Return to saucepan and heat through. Do not allow to boil. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Night at the Bellagio

We live quite close to the Las Vegas strip so last night, we decided to take advantage of our proximity and make a quick visit to the Bellagio, one of my favorite hotels (and also one of the more kid-friendly hotels on the strip).  The Bellagio has a beautiful conservatory which they change up according on the season and it's currently decorated with a fall theme. There is a giant water wheel, a big scarecrow, lots of pumpkins, and even a talking tree. Oh, and tons of flowers which makes the space smell amazing! After walking around there for a bit, we stepped outside to watch the famous Bellagio fountain show to the tune of "Time to Say Goodbye". While we enjoyed showing Petra all these different beautiful attractions, I think she was most amused by seeing all the faces of tourists walking around and snapping photos.  Either way, it was great to get out and enjoy some quality family time.

We decided that we should take more outings to visit these fancy hotel lobbies while we live close. I think next up will be the Venetian!


[Gold buildings against an ombre sky.]


[Cruising the strip]


[Bellagio conservatory decorated for fall]



[Breaking the rules and letting her touch the flowers.]


[Vegas baby!]

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Petra's Nursery

Petra art print c/o Rifle Paper Co






As we've spent the last 8 months figuring out a new city, adjusting to a "non-travel" life, and running a new business, our lives have often felt muddled, with loose ends in just about every direction I look. While the chaos of life has felt completely overwhelming at times, I have been so grateful for this little space of earth, Petra's nursery, where everything feels right in the world. Petra is such a blessing and I want to remember this little corner of our house where so many joyful moments have occurred with our little girl.

There are still unfinished elements (like the hanging light I want to paint gold and the curtains I'd like to add), but I'm not sure if they will ever happen and I didn't want to miss the chance to document this space just because it's not "perfect". If there's one thing I'm learning since becoming a mother, it's that perfection is not something I create, it's a moment that happens when I'm in the right mindset.

Sources:

Petra art print - Rifle Paper Co
Crib - IKEA
Stuffed Elephant - Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok)
Rug - Target
Dresser - craigslist find (re-painted white)
Mobile - DIY (from this tutorial)
Blankets on chair - IKEA
Hanging light - IKEA
Wooden elephant - somewhere in India
Frames - IKEA and Target
Heart print - DIY inspired by this Fluoro Heart Print
Bangkok print - Rifle Paper Co