Friday, December 8, 2017

6 Years with Elias

It’s hard to believe that this guy....

Used to be this sweet little answered prayer!

For his 6th birthday, Talia and I filled ice cream cones with white vanilla cake batter and sprinkles!

His class was really excited to eat them.

Especially frosted with chocolate icing and sprinkles.

For home, Talia and I experimented with turning yellow cake batter (with sprinkles) into a tie-dye cake.

Elias loves all the colors, so sprinkles and tie-dye seemed appropriate.

It turned out fairly well!

Cutting into it was pretty impressive for him. His “wow!” made me smile.

It was really fun, we might have to do it again sometime.

We are thankful for six years with Elias. His stubbornness, silliness and sweetness are his defining marks. He has really taken off in reading this year! He loves his baby sister in the sweetest way. He has adjusted to school and not had any trouble going this year. He’s always teaching me new things he learned from Khmer class. We are glad he’s part of our family.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

3 Recommended Restaurants for Families in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Part 1


Lot369 is a little pricey compared to other restaurants in Phnom Penh, but by looking at their menu, you can see why. Some of that money goes into paying a fair wage, plus they offer foods that are hard-to-find in other restaurants. When compared to restaurants in the U.S., it is still extremely affordable. Here are some of the options:

Here is a coconut milk, turmeric latte from Lot369, as they were out of cashew milk. It's great to see non-caffeinated warm drinks available.
We saw the lemongrass and ginger kombucha; but there were several other flavors.

Lot369 has vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. They have an environmentally-sustainable mindset. They had re-usable coffee cups for sale if you wanted a drink to go, bamboo straws and recycled plates and cups. The furniture was made from pallets. We chose to eat in the upstairs room, because it was connected to......

The all-too-rare-in-Cambodia kid's playroom! It was amazing to sit and talk with Benjamin while the kids were enthralled with new-to-them toys for a good while. Going on dates in an international setting with kids can be tricky, so this was a great find! They have kids-eat-free day on Thursday, so we’ll have to try it again.

At Kilik bakery and cafe, you can buy the drink of your choice, averaging at $2 and receive two pastries free. In addition, they bring a free cup of iced/hot Jasmin tea. This means we can order two drinks for adults and one or two (they are BIG) for the kids to share, and get enough pastries for everyone! With the tea thrown in, it's a great deal. Our favorite pastries include chocolate croissants, apple bread, banana bread, berry filled pastries and cupcakes. They have recently started offering sandwiches as well, so we can get out of there with lunch for under $10. (That's insane with a family of 6). Plus, the staff is friendly and competent, and there is comfortable seating. Kilik also has an air-conditioned meeting room closed off  from the main seating area if you need that kind of space.


The Cyclo cafe was an interesting place. They have several seating options, including an outside area up stairs.

It was almost part museum, part cafe. The boys enjoyed modeling the rickshaw. This is a really fancy rickshaw compared to the ones we see near the riverside that are often a beaten up red or green color, or like this one.

Cyclo cafe has many drinks around $2, and they are a good size, too. This was a framed Cambodian stringed instrument. it is similar to the one played here. In the bathroom, there were these sprouting seeds. They are similar to these avocado seed sprouts, but I couldn't tell if they were for sure. What's your best guess?

So, if you are looking for a sustainable variety of food, great value, or a cultural experience, these places are a great place to take a break and recharge with family. We hope you try them and enjoy them as much as we have!

(This is not a sponsored post. We only share it because our first month in Cambodia, we pretty much lived off of peanut butter because we couldn't 1)find food, and 2)find our way back home from said food, and 3) it was frustrating to find affordable options that were good for a family of our size, hygienic and tasty.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving: Ben, Friends and Food

Thanksgiving abroad can be depressing if you don't actively create your own celebration; even better if you add friends. Last year we didn't really know anyone (especially from the U.S.) to celebrate Thanksgiving with. I was also really pregnant and we were saving for the baby. A turkey is pretty expensive here, so we just had a simple dinner at home. This year, however, was better!  Friends from my bible study group got together and had Thanksgiving. The five families who were there all had a few kids each, and they had a blast together running around outside in the (rare-to-find) garden play space. We enjoyed chicken, stuffing, salad, broccoli and cheese, quiche, and many desserts along with great conversation.

Thanksgiving also fell on Ben's birthday this year. I find that appropriate! Not because he's a turkey, but because we are thankful for him. ;) We celebrated a day early with apple bread and sweet potato pie. I also made him cinnamon rolls the next day to take to the Thanksgiving feast, and made sure he got one. Ben likes plain vanilla ice cream most of the time.

At the store we had to dig through flavors like sweet corn, taro/yam, cheese, durian, jackfruit and ruammitter, before finally, at the bottom, we found plain vanilla! Vanilla ice cream with apple bread is amazing.

I'm thankful to not be pregnant this Thanksgiving but rather to have all of my children where I can hug them. I'm thankful for my husband who takes us on so many adventures. I'm thankful for you, because if you're reading this, you're probably family who cares.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rain, Guests, and Interviews

When it rains, every once in a while, it comes in under the roof with strong wind and seeps down the walls, pooling in the boy’s room.

Since he reads himself to sleep and then kicks books off his bed, this book got really soggy. I tried to help it dry in the toaster oven. Rainy season is supposed to be finished, but it still rains fairly regularly.

Some friends from New York came through and we made them Khmer curry.

The kids loved playing, reading books and then watching a video about the cargo ships prompted by the book.

The next morning we got them breakfast from our favorite (fresh) street vendor. I noticed they used a type of rocket stove to cook the rice and boil water for tea.

The kids (and I) were excited that our guests brought chocolate! Thanks!

In other news, we are interviewing for several places and some of the feeling of being in limbo may be lifted or prolonged depending on the results. Until then, we’ll appreciate the time we have in Cambodia.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Goodbye Grambo

When we scheduled a visit for Zoe to see family, we were fortunate to be able to squeeze my cousin’s wedding in! It’s these sorts of things that we normally miss. Today I will miss my grandfather’s funeral.

This guy taught me how to fish, and took us for rides on his pontoon boat. Sometimes I even got to steer. He had a great batter recipe for fried fish. Grambo took me to the driving range, and man was whacking a golf ball as hard as I could, fun! Once I got to go on vacation with Grambo, my grandma and my cousin.

I’m not at all the only one who got to do things with him. Here he was teaching my brother to fish.

He was the guy looking out for people on that side of the family. When Parkinson’s slowly took away his physical abilities, he got better at listening. Many of his grandkids went to him for advice. He showed us that it didn’t matter what one could DO; being there and holding the space as a caring influence in the family was enough. Physically, life is about reductions, and that he was a good example of, but spiritual life grows exponentially to life’s reductions, and I think he showed that too. We’ll miss him.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Water Festival 2017: The White Elephant

Water Festival is a big deal in Cambodia. The kids and Ben got a whole week off of school for it. We wanted to go somewhere with more nature than we have normally, but not drive for hours trying to get there.

Ben decided to take us to the White Elephant hotel on the edge of town. It’s about 15 minutes driving if you have traffic and has plants everywhere. It feels like you’re in a garden.

The kids loved the river-shaped pool best of all, especially since in had a bridge going over the middle. Elias got on the bridge and we threw the ball back and forth over it while he tried to catch it. Since there weren’t many people, it was a good game.

I enjoyed trying new Asian foods. The cashew chicken was amazing and is now my new favorite dish!

The kids liked exploring the garden and finding statues. There were huge statues of a camel, dolphin, dragon and this horse. The White Elephant is definitely a place I would recommend, especially for families.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Best Family Vehicle in Phnom Penh is a....

I’m really excited to have a family vehicle again! And, not a clunky car that can’t fit down narrow streets, but a tuktuk! (Here it was book character day at Ben’s school, which he took to mean wear-your-kandoora-from-Abu-Dhabi-day! You should have seen the looks he got from Cambodians wondering why the big guy in the tuktuk had on a dress.)

Three people fit in the back seat, then a middle seat flips down for three more, plus the driver. If you add in more fuel efficient and waaay cheaper than a car; no down side. Well, there may be just one downside: it’s a little top heavy, so you have to tackle inclines head-on rather than sideways. Ben has had multiple people trying to buy it from him already. One dude followed him home and walked around it when he parked in the driveway all the while talking in rapid Khmer. We still don’t know what he wanted. We highly recommend this type of vehicle for families in Cambodia.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

“Fall” Baking

I suppose it’s kind of fall. It was only 86 degrees Fahrenheit today with a nice breeze, so that counts for something. Talia and I have taken advantage of the cooler temperatures to bake; (though the heat didn’t really stop us before, as there’s no central AC so it’s always hot in there.)

When we got a pumpkin at the market we made it into a pie (for once, instead of portioning it out for soups.) Here, what is called a pumpkin is a bumpy, green acorn squash at home. It tastes the same as pumpkin, though.

Our friend said Khmer people do something that tastes similar to pumpkin pie: hollow the seeds out of a pumpkin, fill it with a mixture of eggs, coconut milk and sugar and bake it letting the pumpkin be the crust. It sounds like it makes a custard-like filling. I'm up for trying it!

We also made black bean and potato empanadas. The electricity went out around 5:30 that night, so we enjoyed them by candlelight as that’s when it’s been getting dark lately. I suppose it’s a good thing that it gets dark so early so we don’t miss good places for the kids to play so much. It’s dark not long after the boys get home from school.

Talia enjoyed incorporating learning how to flood cookies with icing for a homeschool lesson.

Here’s our new-to-us fruit for this time: rose apple.

Have you ever tried one?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Decision Time: Phnom Penh or....?

It's that time of contract where we are having to decide: Do we stay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, or do we move on? There are several things to consider:
Eating at an outside restaurant covered with arbors.
If we stay we have more stability for the kids, less moving expenses, and continuity of friendships we have taken the time to build this year.

If we go, there are more options for Ben's doctoral thesis topic, healthier places to raise the children, and "easier" places to live culturally.
Phnom Penh fountain from a tuktuk at night.
Since educators have to turn in a decision towards the beginning of their last school year  our time has come around. This divides things mentally: we either have about 8 and a half more months left, or, an indeterminate amount based on the contract that would be signed. This is the part of the cycle of international teaching that's a bit bittersweet, but also exciting. Do we stay in this place, or move on?
Outside of Phnom Penh city.
Of course, as a mom, I think about how Phnom Penh has impacted my children.

This will always be where Zoe was born.
Where Talia learned to fish in a muddy river
And experience Mondulkiri.
It is where Elias graduated from Kindergarten.
And Ezra frequented the hospital (thank God for $10 appointments) with bronchial trouble due to pollution.
And fell in love with his teacher "Mena".
It's where we've discovered tons of new-to-us fruit.
And Ben has had a wonderful opportunity to be a principal in a great school.
But is it a place we would want to stay in for longer?

That is the decision.