Prepare yourself for a long post with a lot of pictures.

A while back we decided to set up a home somewhere, and of course somewhere neither where we live nor where we are from. After a holiday in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, England, we fell in love with the place. Fast forward to the last three weeks and I was in Cowes setting up our new place!

We found a flat located right on the water within walking distance to the ferry and a stones throw to all of the sailing fun. Its easy to walk to lots of fun restaurants and shops that I can buy all sorts of nautical stuffs. The lady that owned it before had made some good updates to the flat so all I had to do was add my our style and paint a few coats over some blue and yellow paint (7 coats to be exact) and call it good! Thankfully my mom was enlisted to hop across the pond to help as well.

We decorated with an eclectic mix of Amazon, charity shops, Ikea and craft projects. I do have to disclaim that the curtains WILL BE REPLACED. So here we go with the before/ after pics!


The aptly named Osborne Court.


After a bit of painting, crafting and decluttering this is bedroom 1 (the bottom is the after)


More decluttering, technology upgrade (seriously), additional seating, rug, homemade pillows and a  vintage 1920 map of the island.


Replaced the clutter, chair covers and runner.


Major simplification going on here


Massive painting overhaul and decor addition

Now it’s time to focus on the awesome charity shop finds. There are so many great items that people part with that are better for decorating than finding some generic print at Ikea. Here they are (and all at $15 or less):

I’m also pretty proud of these amazing oars my mom spotted. We couldn’t find a proper bracket to hang them which turned out to be a blessing as we did find an old leather belt that did the trick even better!


Oars to the core


Thank you anonymous Mr Man for the belt your wife most likely donated

There was also a series of craftiness that went on (come on, like you didn’t expect this).


This mirror started out with horrible purple/ blue shimmer tiles. A package of rope and a glue gun turned it into a nautical dream.


The mirror was hung over the beds with care


Practicing my knots


More leftover rope and inexpensive ikea frames


I had leftover rope and this fab tea towel – so it turned into a perfect apron


A little free hand lettering and my trusty Bernina helped me make this beauty


This was an oldie that I made last year that needed to be in this room!


I’m a sucker for a musical so when the opportunity came to attend  kite festival New Year’s Weekend I pounced.

Now first let’s take  second to sing with Mr. Banks:

With tuppence for paper and string,

You can have your own set of wings …

A winding 60 minute bus ride away is the Grand at the Ho Tram Strip (which is a strip of lovely beach with nice resorts) was the first annual Ho Tram Kite Festival. Friends informed of this event and came on down from Ho Chi Minh City for a visit and we made a day of it. In addition to large unique kites there was a Rokkaku Kite Battle (which I think was a competition to be the last kite flying) as well as people bringing their own kites and enjoying the wind. It appeared that the other kite club enthusiasts were quite helpful and friendly based on our inability to communicate using words and instead using hand gestures, smiles and help with string untangling. ‘Twas a great way to enjoy the New Year long weekend.



Angkor (say) Wat?

I promise that is the last time I will ever use the Angkor (say) Wat pun (maybe). Robbo had to leave the country (again) so I went ahead and left to – for a girls weekend in Siem Reap. I met up with a few ex-Perth expats, and one Perthian, for the weekend of the Angkor Wat Half-Marathon/ 10k run.  Girl’s trips are good for the soul, especially when they’re with girls as good as mine. I’m lucky (and tired) for this great weekend opportunity. It couldn’t be perfecter.

First things first we decided to sleep in, well get up just in time to eat the hotel’s breakfast buffet and then go back to sleep again. Then after being exhausted from some market shopping we laid by the pool for a few hours waiting for dinner time. After the much needed R&R we hopped on a tuk-tuk for temple day. We managed to sweat on a lot of amazing looking old temples – obviously not as much sweat as was put into building them eleventy billion years ago – but it was still impressive.

The next morning was race day. We didn’t have to leave until 5 am which means I got to sleep in until 4:15! Woo-hoo!! We joined to throng of tuk-tuks carrying runners tying up shoes and wiping sleep from their eyes. Thankfully we got there in time to wait in line at the port-a-loos long enough to make friends (other expats living in other SouthEast asian countries). I’ve never been at such a gorgeous race starting line – complete with the sun rising over Angkor Wat. This is the only race I’ve run in which almost everyone, including myself, kept stopping to take pictures. I mean come on, we literally got to run through the grounds of Angkor Wat! When we were done we loaded up on fresh coconut water (who needs it from the can) and our tuk-tuk driver found us in the crowd to take us home. We relaxed with the pool, massages and mexican food – the way it should be.


Sunrise over Angkor Wat


Ready, ready to run!


One of many tuk-tuk rides


Chilling, relaxin, acting all cool.


Traveling Internationally? Tips Here.

Periodically I’m asked tips for traveling internationally so I figured with the onslaught of flights lately that I should formalize these. Hopefully you find at least one of them to be helpful!

  1. Airline selection – go foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be an American but not when it comes to my in-air care. Each year the top airlines are noted through various awards and I can attest that each one is great and that’s including economy seating – and at a comparable cost to American based airlines. Some of my favorite are Qantas (if you’re heading down under), Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific and Qatar.
  2. Don’t Book Through 3rd Parties. There are a lot of search engines available and they are very useful in researching prices and routes, but don’t book through them. These same prices are available through the airline site. The issue arises when you need to make a change to your booking. Third party sites fares and deals have different codes and the airline can typically only rebook on flights that have seats with these codes available (which often times are a limited number per flight). This is even more difficult if there are multiple airlines involved which tends to be the case for International flights.
  3. Plan your in-flight experience. Once your flight is booked stay on the website and manage your booking! It’s common (and recommended) to select your seat but did you know there’s more you can do? I always select a special meal. Let’s face it, airline food is never a foodie experience but there are ways to eat better. I always choose a fruit platter meal, that way I can get something healthy while in the air (and keep the cankles down) but they also have low – sodium, kosher, vegetarian etc. You an also look at what movies and TV shows will be available during your trip.
  4. Research Your Airport Connections. Let’s face it, travel isn’t always so glamorous (says the girl who once spent 18 hours in the Madrid airport during college). Airport amenities have come a LONG way since that long Spanish night in 2001. Regardless of your connection time do a little research. If it’s a short connection you can find the best route to run to your next flight, if it’s long you can see how to keep yourself entertained. Sometimes I even book routes based on the airport. Singapore has multiple free movie theaters, a butterfly garden and amazing shopping, Doha has a fantastic gym that if you book a spa appointment (who doesn’t love a good massage) you have complimentary use of the gym and it’s impressive lap pool, it also has quiet rooms, massive play areas for kids, and amazing shopping, Dubai has amazing shopping (do you see a trend yet?). Most airports have a pay per use lounge complete with food, quiet rooms, TVs, business centers and most importantly showers.
  5. Plan Your Carry On. This is just as important of planning your layover. First, always carry your charges with you and bring a multi-country adaptor. This is important as you never know where you may end up if there are travel delays (I’ve been stuck in both Doha and Hong Kong and rerouted to Germany – glad I was able to charge my phone!)
    1. Compartmentalize. I use cute zipper bags for each category in my carry on. Electronics, Medicine, Toiletries/ Cosmetics etc. If you’re developing a cough half way through your 16 hour flight you want it to be easy to reach.
    2. Clothes. Once Qantas upgraded me to business class (a mistake they never made again) and they give you a pair of pajamas to change into. This way when you land your clothes are still nice and fresh and feel slightly more human. I have run with this by bringing a light pair of black pjs with me to change into and it makes a huge difference.
    3. Make up. It’s amazing how much make up disappears while just sitting around for 26 hours. Pack the minimal that you need to feel your best. I bring basic eye shadow, liquid eyeliner pen and tinted lip gloss to freshen up.
    4. Medicine. Nothing is worse than being in a foreign country and getting sick – and planes are a hotbed for germs. I carry a mini walgreens with me because no one wants to go on a wild goose chase in another country looking for mucinex, excedrin, Nyquil, pepto and so on and so forth.
    5. Travel Comforts. Take anything with you that will make you more comfortable. My FAVORITE investment in the last year was an inflatable foot rest. It has honestly been the best $20 I’ve ever spent.

What tips would you add?

Osborns in the Wight House

When we skipped away down the yellow brick road during our move a few years ago we weren’t sure when we’d move back to the US again and were even more unsure if it’d be back to Kansas, so we sold our home. We’ve enjoyed our series of rented abodes over the years but recently decided to become property owners again.

Location, Location, Location!

A few years ago we had the opportunity to travel the Isle of Wight to sail in a regatta, and promptly fell in love. One of the highlights of course is one of the Queen’s properties aptly name the Osborne House (we’re still trying to think of an “in” there so if you have any ideas let us know!). The island was full of tasty bakeries, beautiful home decor shops and it even had bunting hanging in the streets – this place was STRAIGHT OUTTA PINTEREST! We’ve been to a few places after that trip but we always the Isle of Wight on our mind.

On one of Robbo’s work trips he texted me with an idea that maybe that should “look at property on the Isle of Wight (read = “hey Bec, I’ve already been looking at property and I need to go put an offer on one”). So a few days later I found myself on a flight to London, then a train, then a ferry and then a bus and then at a two bedroom flat in the town of Newport (which is central to the island. In fact it’s a flat that’s on the front page of the towns website). And our offer on it was accepted. It’s in a old building that used to be a number of things that sound quaint and Britishy and was eventually turned into three flats. It’s connected to the Quay Arts center which supports local artists (oh and has a great cafe). The Isle of Wight (check out the link) is just two hours South of London (by train and ferry) and apparently the Dinosaur capital of England (which I can’t wait to discover what that means).

We close on the property in December and hope to get back over there in the new year to start putting our nautical stamp on it. Then we’ll be open for visits! (but remember you’re always welcome to visit us in Vietnam as well!) Watch this space for progress in the meantime.

Ours is the middle flat of this adores building

Ours is the middle flat of this adores building

Come have a scone with us

Come have a scone with us

Bunting in the street!

Bunting in the street!

Cross stitched maps of the island are necessary

Cross stitched maps of the island are necessary

Fancy a baked good?

Fancy a baked good?

Hon Ba Island and Mieu Ba

Remember when we went on the run to the Jesus Statue and has this view:

This View Here

This View Here

About two times per month it’s actually possible to walk to this island, the tide goes out and shows a strip of rocks. On Hon Ba island it is Mieu Ba (which means the “Lady Temple”). The temple was built in 1781 and to worship the Water Dragon Holy Lady. We were alerted to the tide being out recently so we quickly jumped down to the beach and started out walk. The walk was short and on slippery rocks. Thankfully I was smart and wore proper trainers while all of the Vietnamese wore flip flops and then I slipped and fell on the rocks and caused some pretty gnarly bruised hands and shins. The island was small and there was little to explore but it was pretty and provided new views of Vung Tau from what we are used to seeing. if you are keen to make the walk the tide is usually out around the beginning and the middle of the month. Make sure you make it out there in the early evening (4-5ish) so you don’t get stuck out the island when the tide comes back in!

Look - there's an island here!

Look – there’s an island here!


The final steps!


Hands post falling on slippery rocks


View of Jesus Statue from the island


Posing on the rocks


Mieu Ba – the Lady Temple

Food Friday – Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class

We took a cooking class. It was bound to happen sooner or later. There are a myriad of options when looking for cooking classes in Vietnam and we decided to go with the Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class. It’s set out on their organic farm so you have the opportunity to pick your veg and herbs to cook with later. We chose a pretty tame menu of popular Vietnamese dishes partially because we thought they looked really good but also because we want our friends and family back home to eat what we make for them in the future.

Our Menu

Our Menu

Vietnamese cooking is very fresh and is apparently one of the healthiest cuisines in the world (which is probably why my experience with it was limited). Each dish contains elements of sweet, salty, bitter, spicy and sour and used a variety of sauces (soy, fish, oyster) and herbs (mint, corriander, chill, basil) and some fruits (lime). Once you get these elements down you can basically make anything.

The first course were fresh spring rolls. I was really looking forward to these as they are a personal favourite! We made them with pork and prawns but I love that you can modify them to meet anyone with picky specific dietary needs. They were quite simple to make and I look forward to making piles of them on my next trip to the US (while pretending like they were incredibly difficult and time consuming).

The second course was the popular Banh Mi – a sandwich Anthony Bourdain has raved about. This popular baguette sandwich is eaten all over Vietnam and usually contains a combination of meat, fresh sauces, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. There are many variations but ours were beef with a wonderful fresh sauce we made, vegetables we pickled and herbs we picked. It was a highlight (even for the really picky lady in our group who refused to eat anything except the banh mi!)

The third course was honey chicken and favorite by most people I know. We fried vermicelli noodles to put the chicken onand a wet batter consisting of flour and water. After the chicken and mushroom pieces were fried we made a honey sauce and toss it in. There’s no getting around this, Rob made the best honey chicken of the day. From this day forth he will be in charge of making this dish for our household!

The final course were banana spring rolls. Seriously, what’s better than banana mixed with sugar, wrapped and fried??? We at it with a coconut ice cream but I think when I make them at home I’ll add a caramel sauce to “Americanise” it with sugar overload. This was a great treat the end the class and fall into a nice nap on the drive home.

“The” Banh Mi

Banana Spring Rolls

Banana Spring Rolls

Rob's PERFECT Honey Chicken

Rob’s PERFECT Honey Chicken

Hailey made a pretty darn good honey chicken too

Hailey made a pretty darn good honey chicken too

My dainty, yummy fresh spring rolls

My dainty, yummy fresh spring rolls

The day's group

The day’s group

Chef showing us the organic farm

Chef showing us the organic farm