The Lil Flea Pop Up Market

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The Lil Flea is a pop up market that take place at different locations in Mumbai, India throughout a year. The Lil Flea is a great market to discover new brands and shop at variety of vendors for lovely items all in one location. They also have a food market area where you can try different foods and drinks.

My friend took me to The Lil Flea held at the Reclamation ground in Bandra, Mumbai last December 2015. I had so much fun shopping for Christmas and I had a blast. If The Lil Flea takes place again in December, I highly recommend people going because the weather was simply gorgeous in December in Mumbai and it was a great place to take care of Christmas shopping or any souvenir shopping for those who go visit their families in the winter break. The photos I posted here do not feature all the vendors unfortunately. There were so many more!

I have some shots of other vendors that I did not get to take photos on my DSLR, but I did on my iPod Touch. If you are curious, please visit my Facebook as well as my Instagram accounts.

October Design Solutions

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Green Apple

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Gia Bath Body Works

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Clutches
Unknown Brand – Can anyone help me?

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The Lil Flea Clutches

Sky Goodies

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The Lil Flea Sky Goodies

The Travellers Trove

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Viti

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Kyonio

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Exalte

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The Lil Flea Food Market

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The Lil Flea

Firefly ☆ Beautiful Holiday Villa in Alibaug

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Our good friends in Mumbai, Kati and JP, booked a vacation home called Firefly in Alibag on Airbnb for a weekend in April and invited us to join them. Alibag is a small coastal town located approximately 108 km south of Mumbai. By the way, isn’t Airbnb an amazing concept? It was founded in 2008, only 7 years ago, and Airbnb seems to have become a huge trend for travelers these days. Just in case if you are wondering, this post is neither requested or sponsored.

It just happened that my husband was traveling during the weekend when our friends booked to go to Firefly, so he could not join us. It’s always a bit intimidating to travel with three kids by myself (not really as I went there with my friends, but you know what I mean), but I decided to make this weekend at Firefly happen because Alibag is a car-ride away from Mumbai and it was the last chance for us family to go on a trip with Kati, JP and their kids who have been good friends to us from the beginning of our stay in Mumbai. Sadly enough for us, though, they are moving this summer and will leave Mumbai for good. The children were very excited to travel together and it helped me a lot to ride with all four girls and my son in our car during the 3-hour car ride as they entertained each other. As expected our girls had the best time and even my son has been asking “do we go to Alibag?” all week after our return.

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As I always do, I would like my readers to have a photo tour of the beautiful Firefly so that you can virtually experience the gorgeous farm house in Alibag. The setting was exquisite. As a person who loves interior design and photography, it was the most inspiring weekend to be at Firefly. I will also add my take on the experience at Firefly with the photos. I hope it’ll be helpful.

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Transportation to Firefly

Firefly is located about 30 minutes inland from Alibag town by car and it is a 3-hour drive from Mumbai.

According to the Firefly’s page, it is a one hour drive from the Mandwa Jetty, the port in Alibag to Firefly. If you take a ferry from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba, it takes about 50 minutes by ferry.

Based on my experience, if you travel from Mumbai with small kids, I would recommend taking a car to Firefly instead of a boat from Colaba. It’s easier on you. You will read later about meals, but Firefly owners encourage you to cook your own meals. You will have to bring a lot of food, so if you travel by boat to Alibag, you still might want to take a car to load all of your luggage. Also, the schedules of ferries and speedboats can get affected by the weather, so depending on the weather, it is a possibility that ferries and speedboats get cancelled.

We went to Firefly in two cars and our drivers used the smaller back roads to avoid the traffic on the main roads. It felt like it took longer, but actually we made it in 3 hours which is how long it should take even though we left Mumbai around 4:00 pm on a Friday which was rush hours. I don’t know exactly which roads, but I liked the back roads from Mumbai to Alibag. It was scenic compared to the main roads and the kids enjoyed the view very much.

Rooms

There are total of 5 rooms. I only saw 3 rooms and I have photos of two rooms on this post.

My girls and my friends’ girls slept in the room downstairs inside the Poolside Cottage. My friends, the couple, used a room with a king size bed on the upper level of the Poolside Cottage. I used a room called the Glass Cottage with views over the Revdanda Valley with my son and my friends’ son and his friend (they took a friend of their son) slept in the Gatekeeper Cottage which was a bit away from the main area .

They accept 10 guests. My son who is 3 years old was counted as one in this number as well. If you have any questions, please ask the Firefly owners, Martin & Sagarika, directly on this.

If you go to Firefly with younger kids of age 10 and under, you might have to be creative with your room assignment because the rooms are not located all close together. There was one room that all girls slept together with a queen size bed and a sofa bed that spread to be a queen size bed that was perfect for them.

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Meals & Cooking

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The owners of Firefly encourage their guests to bring their food and drink from Mumbai and cook. To read more about cooking and meals at Firefly, please click here to see their descriptions and House Rules.

To be honest with you, if I have a choice to not cook during the holiday, I go for that option. It’s just one thing less to worry about as a mother of 3 when I travel with kids and more time to spend with them. I went to Alibag a couple of months ago and stayed at Ccaza Ccomodore. The best thing about Ccaza Ccomodore was the food. They serve lovely full course meals and the warm food would be waiting for you on the table at every meal time.

That being said, I can tell you that if you prepare well in advance, it is not that bad. My friend, Kati, cooked delicious BBQ chicken and I brought some already cooked gyoza dumplings (pot stickers) for the first dinner. We brought mac and cheese boxes, ramen noodles, marinated teriyaki chickens and sausages to grill, some vegetables for salad, fruits, lots of bread, peanut butter, cheese, dips, crackers, banana bread, chips, snacks, wine, juice boxes, a cereal box, and so forth. Thus, the preparation for meals did not take much time. I got lucky that my older kids and my friends’ kids were wonderful about looking after my youngest monkey son while I was cooking.

Environment

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The website says pets and children are welcome, but they have two dogs at the farm. They also have many roosters that came out in the morning. The owners also warn that the farm is built on a steep hill and it is not suitable for unsupervised children.

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I agree with the owner. I also got lucky in a sense that I had older kids around to watch my son. Since my son had a falling incident in Goa in 2014 (you can read about that here), he is pretty good about not jumping off from a very high place and scared of the deep water, so he would not jump into the deep end of a swimming pool. I also realized that I was probably banking on the belief that during our stay at Firefly no injury would happen to my kids.

Other Thoughts

Firefly is located 30 minutes away from Alibag town and is standing on a hill in the middle of the fields. There is no lodging for drivers near Firefly according to the driver I had that day. There is no extra space at Firefly, either, if you have 10 guests staying.

We let our drivers take the cars to go to wherever they needed to go to stay. One idea that I might suggest is that if you have multiple cars to get there, keep one car at Firefly in case of an emergency.

We had one injury during our stay. Luckily it did not require us to go to the doctor’s, but in case we had to, it would have been difficult as it would probably take at least 30 minutes to the doctor’s. We also did not have information for any doctor’s there and our cars were gone with the drivers. It might not be a bad idea to check doctor’s information in Alibag.

I do not mean to scare anyone, but as a mom, I cannot help thinking of all possible scenarios when we travel. If you are a group of all grown ups, there is nothing to worry about, right? Wink, wink.

FIREFLY ALIBAG

It was 32,000 Rupees (USD 500+) per night to stay at Firefly.

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Villa Vandre ☆ Mumbai

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I found a cute cafe called Villa Vandre and had a lovely breakfast with my friends. I learned about Villa Vandre thanks to this article published by brown paper bag. If you live in Mumbai or New Delhi, I recommend checking out brown paper bag website because they really tell you new hip places to go and what’s happening in town. I subscribe to their Facebook and Twitter and through Facebook I found out about Villa Vandre. Brown paper bag also issues The Coup Card, which is a discount card you can use at partnered restaurants. I have paid to get one and use The Coup Card all the time.

Villa Vandre is a tiny place that has about 4 tables inside. Two of the four tables seat 4 each and the other two seat 2 people, so they can’t seat too many at the same time. I didn’t make a reservation and had a table right away, but I thought it might be better to call in the future. I loved their yummy western style breakfast with a little Indian twist and they offer reasonable prices for Mumbai (it’s not cheap to eat out in Mumbai if you go to westernized restaurants). I always love a neighborhood hole in a wall type of places and I hope many of you will like Villa Vandre as much as I did. I need to go back for their tuna bagel recommended by brown paper bag! By the way bpb reviews candidly and pays for their own meals. That’s really cool for a company to do that and you know that their opinions are authentic which is what we would love to have for recommendations, don’t you think?

Villa Vandre has a Facebook page if you are interested in seeing more photos.

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Villa Vandre

New Kantwadi Rd, Pali Hill, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
PHONE:022 6527 9009
HOURS: 8:30 am – 11:30 pm

FACEBOOK

Villa Vandre Map

Monday Mode ☆ maomao Linen Blouses From Indonesia

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I had a pleasure of meeting lovely Peggy who flew from Jakarta, Indonesia to Mumbai, India for her work. Peggy told me that her husband, Herman, who started Lima Watch (beautiful watches) found my blog and told her that she would like my blog. So she checked it out and she did. I found this story very sweet. It’s such an honor to be followed by two talented Indonesian artists/entrepreneurs like Peggy and Herman. I also love hearing how people have found my blog because my blog does not have a huge following compared to a blog superstars out there. The interesting thing, though, is that Indonesia seems to still rank the highest in term of traffic to my blog even a year and a half after I had relocated to Mumbai, India. I am very flattered! Thank you, readers in Indonesia!!

One day Peggy emailed me and told me that she recently started her lovely fashion line with linen textiles called maomao and she would like me to have some of her clothes. Then she gently asked if I would be interested in writing about them. She informed me that she would be coming to Mumbai for her work and asked me if we could meet up so that she could give me some clothes. I thought she might bring one item, but she gave me so many! I could not believe how generous she was! She also gave me a beautiful mug that she bought from Ayu Larasati who seems to be fast growing in popularity in Indonesia.

Life is interesting, isn’t it? I met Peggy for the first time at Suzette in Mumbai, but it felt like I met an old friend from Jakarta. It was so nice to meet with someone who came from the city that I was very familiar with and called home for the past 3 years prior to our move to Mumbai. The world of blog and social media seems to have changed the form of friendship. My blog that I started 5 years ago, a Chuzai Living Facebook page, and Instagram have brought some lovely friendship. I would have not met Peggy from Jakarta in Mumbai without them.

So, here’s my little contribution to Peggy who brought lovely clothes all the way from Jakarta, Indonesia to give me. By the way, Jakarta seems to be booming in the field of design and I am always drooling over the photos taken in Jakarta, Indonesia that I find on instagram. I still have more items of maomao that Peggy gave me to write about, but I’ll keep them for the future post! I especially fell in love this white “Shima” blouse. It is so comfortable, light, beautiful and perfect for the hot weather.

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I enjoyed styling for the three blouses. You could also see how maomao styles their blouses and find out about other shirts through maomao’s instagram photo gallery. Enjoy!

Three blouses by maomao in this post were gifted by Peggy of maomao and the rest of the outfit and accessories are my own.

Friday Finds ☆ Sanjay Gandhi National Park Mumbai India

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Who would’ve known that Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, India would look like another part of India and nothing like the urban areas of Mumbai? It was quite a pleasant surprise to see the lush landscape and lovely nature at Sanjay Gandhi National Park which is about an average of 30 to 50 minute drive from many city areas in Mumbai on any given day (except for when there is traffic on a highway).

Elephanta Island vs. Kanheri Caves at Sanjay Gandhi National Park

☆ Please understand that I’m writing this from a perspective of a mother with a toddler. I am sure that I would have had different perspectives, had I been at a different stage of my life.

My friend and her family came to visit us in Mumbai from another part of the world. They showed an interest in going to Elephanta Island during their stay. I have heard about Elephanta Island and seen the photos of the caves and carved stone statues. It looks very photogenic. I had some thoughts, though. To get to the Elephanta Island, you have to get on a boat from Colaba. My friend and I both have a 3-year-old who would make me nervous near the water. The weather was already hot in March and I could imagine that managing young kids in a very busy touristic area of Colaba waiting for a boat in the heat of the day would be challenging. It would be a full day gig to go to the Elephanta Island. Lastly I prefer avoiding getting on a boat if I could. Then my good friend in Mumbai, Kati, said to me “why don’t you take your friends to Sanjay Gandhi National Park? It’s the same thing.” My light bulb went “ting!”

As for Kanheri Caves at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, once you enter the gate to the park, you drive on a scenic path for about 5 to 10 minutes until you can get all the way to the car park right outside of the entrance to the Kanheri Caves. The monkeys were not aggressive at least when we were there, so I did not have to worry about them approaching my children or myself. Food was not allowed in the park, which makes sense so that we don’t attract monkeys or make them sick. The park was well taken care of and looked very clean. In fact, I don’t remember seeing any trash on the ground of Kanheri Caves. After we finished the walk, we hopped back in our car and drove off. It felt so relaxing to be in the comfortable and cool air-conditioned vehicle where we could access snack and bottled water. My 3-year-old fell fast asleep as soon as the car drove off since he was exhausted after a long walk and lots of climbing. There was no melt-down involved. Isn’t that a key to a successful outing with a toddler?

I could write more about our experiences seeing Kanheri Caves at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. However, instead of my writing, I would like to let the photography do the talking, which is my usual style. I hope you will feel like you have the virtual tour of the beautiful Sanjay Gandhi National Park through my photos on this post.

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The yellow patches on the children’s shirts are mosquito repellant stickers. You can buy them at any pharmacy in India. We did not see any mosquitos outside in the heat during the middle of the day. By the way, as you can see in the photos, our two little 3-year-olds were troopers and did really well climbing the stairs and walking in the heat! They did not ask us to carry them and really enjoyed the hike!

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The view from the hill in Sanjay Gandhi National Park was really beautiful. The land looked quite dry and brown as it was at the end of March which is about 6 months into the dry season. we have not had rain in a long time. This part of the park must look beautiful and much more lush right after the monsoon season ended which is around October. That might be the most beautiful time to visit Sanjay Gandhi National Park. You might be able to see some water falls.

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I am really glad that we went to Kanheri Caves at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Not to mention the park was beautiful and impressive, Kanheri Caves were really fun for the kids.

DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR…

HAT

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& WATER BOTTLE!

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We went to Le Pain Quotidien in BKC for lunch. Le pain Quotidien (or LPQ according to locals) in BKC is conveniently located right outside of a Kalanagar Flyover exit. This flyover runs from north to south in the middle of Mumbai all the way down to the Sea Link. Le Pain Quotidien is a great place to stop by for lunch after the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. We always love their kind service and consistently good quality of food. If you plan on going there on a weekend for lunch, I recommend you make a reservation as they get packed for weekend lunch especially on Sundays. You can find their info on this post.

Lakme Fashion Week 2015 ☆ Textile Day 2 ☆ Mumbai India

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I had a lovely opportunity to go to the Day 2 Textile Day of Lakme Fashion Week 2015 in Mumbai thanks to my neighbor. This is one of the perks I have experienced as an expat here in Mumbai, India and back in Jakarta, Indonesia. I have posted photos of Indonesia Fashion Week in Jakarta on my blog. Please click here to view my post on Indonesia Fashion Week in 2013. I also had a chance to visit Bazaar Fashion Show at the beginning of our stay in Jakarta in 2010.

Every time I go to a fashion show, I realize how much I love fashion. I cannot afford to spend much money on my wardrobe, but it’s nice to be able to let my eyes indulge in the beauty of textiles, colors, design and beauty of Haute couture.

ANAVILA

Anavila’s textile gave me a different view of sari in terms of texture and colors. The colors were beautiful. These soft palette is my favorite. I think Japanese women might like Anavila’s western style outfits seen at Lakme Fashion Week. The fabric looked very soft and comfortable. The collection looked elegant and chic.

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DIA MIRZA modeled for Anavila’s show. I felt the whole crowd sighed with excitement of seeing Dia Mirza on the stage when she came out. Dia Mirza was dazzling with her beauty.

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The designer, Anavila Misra, of her brand Anavila and Dia Mirza walked together at the end of Anavila’s show at Lakme Fashion Week 2015.

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PATINE
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I loved how Patine’s collection at Lakme Fashion Week showcased the Indian design mélange with the western style. It was beautiful and appealing. I saw many outfits of Patine that I could totally see people wearing them anywhere in the world. Some would be great for summer vacation and some could be a city wear. The versatility of the design by Shon Randhawa of Patine would probably appeal to outside of India as well.

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RAHUL N SHIKHA

This collection of Rahul N Shikha at Lakme Fashion Week reminded me of the Mexican design. Pop of colors was so pretty and all the models looked like princesses from a fairy tale. The workmanship of all the embroidery was amazing. Many of the people at the fashion show received the Rahul N Shikha’s scarf as a souvenir. It’s really pretty!!

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Have you noticed that all the models wore flat sandals on a runway at these three shows? I’m sure they were quite happy about that! All the shoes looked adorable, but I especially liked the Gladiator sandals with strings. I wonder if flat sandals are going to be super popular again this summer!

I had taken of this photo below of an Indian actress before the show started. She stood in front of photographers to pose for them. She looked gorgeous.

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I hope you were able to virtually experience what it feels like to be at Lakme Fashion Week show in Mumbai, India through this post! Learning about Indian design is quite fascinating. Thank you for your visit to my post on Lakme Fashion Week!

DIRT STORE ☆ Recycling & Waste Management in Mumbai

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I visited DIRT, a store in Bandra West, Mumbai. The DIRT Store, as the name suggests, is a store that sells products for gardening while it promotes greenery in Mumbai. The DIRT Store is in a cute building surrounded by lots of plants and flowers that catch your eyes in the area of Reclamation in Bandra West, Mumbai. My two good expat friends have mentioned the store, DIRT, to me in the past and one of them, my dear avid reader (thank you♡), has sent me an email message highly recommending me to go check out DIRT for a blog post. A few months later, I finally made my way out to the DIRT store with my camera in hand to explore a little oasis in Mumbai.

All I can say is what an inspiring and lovely place! I had a chance to meet Natasha, one of the two founders of the organization “Dirt”, despite my impromptu visit without making an appointment (I was lucky!) who showed me around the store and the garden while explaining Dirt’s mission and contribution to the society. It is wonderful to know that The Dirt Store is making grass roots efforts to provide the knowledge to the public and educate the locals about the importance of reduce, reuse and recycle to give back to the environment we live in.

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This plastic bottles in the photo below is a chair that you can actually sit on.

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I was told that this Christmas tree like cover in the photos below looks prettier at night when the lights are lit. It would make a lovely Christmas tree for the Christmas season, wouldn’t it?

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DIRT also sells these compost drums shown in the photo above. The instruction of how to use the tumbler would be taught by the DIRT staff so that the users would know what to do to make soil from the biodegradable waste. If you put 100 kg of biodegradable waste in the drum, it creates 10 kg of soil. Most of the original waste is air and water. Natasha asked if I smelled anything. The interest thing is that there was no odor coming out of the compost bins. If you treat food waste properly, even the smell is gone!

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These pots connected with tubes and a blue tank were designed by Natasha. This system is made in a way such that when the soil needs water, the water comes out of the tank and fills the bottom space of the pots and when the spaces for the water is filled, the water stops. It’s a self-sustaining watering system. This allows the potted plants to survive without human help. How brilliant is this?

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These are upcycled lamp shades. Can you tell what was used to create them?

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When you ask expats about the impression they have of Mumbai, a lot of them would mention the trash seen on the streets. While it is sad to see people who do not care, there exists local people who care about the city’s environment. The transformation won’t happen over night. Probably not even in months. It might take years, but the important thing to remember is that collection of small actions to clean the city and improve environment taken by individuals will eventually improve the environment over time.

Here are great articles available about DIRT.

The Dirt store on DNA

Let’s Recycle :Natasha D’Costa, a plastic bottle mountain, and lots of DIRT on thealternative.in

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DIRT

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Side Notes

This is actually my second time to feature a store whose name is pronounced “dirt” on my blog. What they have in common is that they both sell products that are made of recycled materials. The first one was when I was in Jakarta, Indonesia. I featured a store called “DYRT” Design which stands for “Do You Recycle Too?” DYRT Design has beautiful fashion products made of recycling materials such as billboard vinyls, various packaging, and so forth. If you are curious about DYRT Design, please click HERE.

Ccaza Ccomodore Alibag

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Some of my friends in Mumbai have stayed at Ccaza Ccomodore Alibag. Alibag is a great quick vacation destination from Mumbai which is only a 3-hour drive. In addition to Alibag, another good destination from Mumbai for a long weekend without a hassle of flying is Pune. My friends who stayed at Ccaza Ccomodore Alibag always spoke highly of the Ccaza Ccomodore bungalow, but I never thought to go there with my family. After staying at Ccasa Ccomodore in Alibag for my yoga teacher training retreat, my experience was much like “a picture is worth thousand words”. Now I would love to bring my family to Alibag.

Ccaza Ccomodore is known among expats. It has 3 bedrooms and one additional guest room in a small building. When you book, you would have to book the whole house. During the yoga teacher training retreat, there were 13 of us adults staying at Ccaza Ccomodore and I felt that it accommodated us comfortably. All three meals are included in the price which was great. Ccaza Ccomodore is known for its delicious food. I can attest to that.

Once you get there, you wouldn’t feel the need to leave the bungalow. If you go to Ccaza Ccomodore with your children, I recommend you go there with another family or two. That way you can split the cost, but also your kids will have more fun. Your children would entertain each other if they have friends. There are a trampoline, a tire swing, ping-pong table, hammock and so forth. Bringing a board game or two will come in handy. Books and magazines will make a good company as well.

If you have a baby or toddler who walk or crawl, you would have to keep an eye on your child in certain areas because of the design around staircases. You can also bring your dog to Ccaza Ccomodore. During our stay, there were a few neighborhood dogs who came to hang out with us in the morning. They were friendly, but played quite roughly. A friend of mine who stayed at Ccaza Ccomodore in the past said it never happened to her when she and her family went there. It might not happen to you, but I thought I’d tell you in case anyone would like to know about it.

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CCAZA CCOMODORE
688 Village Dhokawade No 2
Mhatre Phata, Alibaug 11022, India

TEL: +91 982 013 2158
EMAIL: ccazaccomodore@gmail.com

WEBSITE

Qin Wei Guan ☆ Shaanxi Cuisine Restaurant In Taipei

Qin Wei Guan

Qin Wei Guan is one of our friend’s favorite restaurants in Taipei. We purposely did not eat much for lunch to prepare for our dinner at Qin Wei Guan since they warned us that we would eat so much. Qin Wei Guan serves dishes from the Shaanxi Province of China. Shaanxi cuisine is influenced by the numerous Muslims living in the area called Shaanxi Province (陝西). To accommodate local palettes in Taiwan, the owner Lin Hui-lin (林惠玲) has added fish, pork, and tofu to the menu. (via Taipei Times)

To learn more about Chin Wei Guan, I recommend reading two articles. One is this blog post by iEATTAIWAN. The other is a restaurant review of Qin Wei Guan on Taipei Times. There were surprisingly more vegetarian dishes that I thought. I especially loved the dish made with tofu skin. I could have it everyday! Other fried vegetable and noodle dishes were excellent as well. Everything was delicious and I walked out of the restaurant feeling I didn’t need to eat for a week. The restaurant was packed and did not see any open table even though it was on a week day night. You would probably not be able to get a table without a reservation.

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We went to Qin Wei Guan especially for the lamb dish which our friends raved about. You could see the photos of the dish below.

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Growing up in Japan, I hardly ate lamb meat as a child. To me lamb can taste gamy depending on how it is prepared. This lamb was something else, though. The lamb dish came with a side of salt, pepper and some spices. We dipped lamb meat in this spiced salt which I loved. Why does salt taste so good…? Anyways, the flavor of the lamb spreads in your mouth and melts. When we saw the lamb and all other dishes that came to our table, we all said there was no way we could finish it. Well, we did. Here are some other dishes that we ordered. These are not all of them. I was too busy eating than taking photos. I also did not want to forget taking photos of the kids.

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I miss all the delicious food we had in Taiwan!! I think of Taipei as a gourmet city probably thanks to our friends who introduced us to their best and favorite places. Looking at the photos I had taken during our trip in Taiwan make me so nostalgic!!

Qin Wei Guan 秦味館
No.2, Lane 138, YanJi st, Taipei
台北市延吉接138巷2號

TEL: +886 2 8771 3288
Hours: 11:30 – 14:30 17:30 – 22:00

WEBSITE

Other posts on Taiwan can be found HERE.

How To Stay Happy Overseas ☆ 10 Tips

Living overseas is full of amazing adventures and excitement, but it is not all rosy all the time. The challenges could be generated from tough conditions of life in a host country, inconveniences of having a foreign status, constant and unexpected changes, unfamiliar environment and languages, being away from families and friends and more. I feel that staying happy is a bit more challenged while living overseas since a life abroad comes with more stress factors than life back home. Your life could easily be out of your hand if something loses a balance. Since I am naturally happy overseas (weird?), I get excited about moving to a new foreign country every couple of years. Living abroad is also what I have always dreamed of doing since I was a child. Even for someone like me, there are ups and downs in an expat life. Not to mention, majority of our overseas postings are considered hardship and there are many expats who are unhappy there.

I am often asked how I stay positive in tough situations. I would like to share 10 things I do to stay happy overseas. I have practiced these in the past years. Some for a long time, some for the past 5 years. These core 10 tips are based on my own experiences. I love our little family’s nomadic life style. Since I pursue the life that I have always dreamed of, it is probably easier for me to cope with some challenges of life overseas than some others who accidentally ended up living overseas. Everyone is built differently, so by any means I am not stating that my way of thinking works for everyone. I would be delighted if this post can be of any help for others who are wondering how to stay happy overseas.

 

1. Workout

Endorphin, the chemical that your brain produces when working out, is known to make one feel happy. I try to workout 3 to 4 times a week in the morning. It helps me deal with stresses. I feel better and stronger and thus happier. I only give myself 30 minutes in the morning because I think that I can go through a 30-minute workout even if I don’t feel like it. I usually get on a treadmill for 30 minutes and this is the time for me to process my thoughts. It is very important to me because it helps me see things straight and set me in a right mood for the day. It also gives me more energy to get through a day. When living in Jakarta, I used to swim in the morning on an average of 4 or 5 times a week. Now in Mumbai, as I mentioned above, I get on a treadmill and jog for 30 minutes. I’m not fast, though. I find a cardiovascular exercise suits me the best because I can do it on my own and I sweat a lot in a short period of time. There are many other sports you can do other than jogging or swimming. You can do yoga or zumba for instance. You just need to find a workout that fits in your life style and suits your personality.

 

2. Make Home A Sanctuary

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There is no place like home. Then what do you do if you live away from your home? Here you have to look at “home” in a sense of your domicile. Wherever you are, it is important that you make your home your favorite place to come back to. When we live overseas, home becomes a place where we as a family spend a lot of our time together. Having a home where I feel happy to come back to has helped me cope with some challenges overseas and I think it’s true for my family members as well.

It may not be as easy to create your home overseas as it’s said because you may not have the resource like you do back home. You might not feel inspired if you live in a temporary housing or furnished housing. However, there are creative things you can do to make your home away from home comfortable and lovable without spending a fortune. I usually focus on my favorite colors for our new home. Painting the wall, wall decals, framed photos, posters, favorite decorative items and lamps have quickly made our new home overseas feel like our own. If would like to have a tour of my three homes in Northern Virginia, Jakarta, Indonesia and Mumbai, India, please go to the Interior Design Tab.

 

3. Learn To Filter Surroundings

Just like many parents develop a filter for their own child’s cry after a couple of years (Have you noticed that many parents with toddlers seem to not be bothered or affected by their toddlers’ cry or scream?), we can develop our own filter to screen our surrounding noises. Noises in this sense is “environmental factors” of living in a foreign country. It took me some time to be able to become unsusceptible to the surroundings and stay unaffected by things that stimulates my senses.

My husband and I lived in Dakar, Senegal many years ago. It was our first experience living in a developing country. It’s not easy to see poverty and litter on a daily basis. It becomes very hard emotionally, too. Over time it accumulates as frustration because you realize that there is not much you can do as an individual to make a change and you feel helpless. My experiences from the time in Senegal have been very helpful, though. Seeing poverty and litter is still not easy for me today, but I seem to have learned to process the visual information in a way that does not bother me as much as they did. One of the things that helps is that I have a home where I can separate myself from the outside world, which goes back to my second point: Create your home to be your sanctuary. Don’t forget to give your mind a break by traveling outside so that you can relax your mind!

 

4. Find Passion & Pursue It

Do More Of What Makes You Happy

Copied from this original on my Pinboard by Lily & Val.

My passion at the moment is blogging, photography and interior design. Blogging has provided me a place to be myself, explore my interests, engage myself with what I feel passionately about and challenge myself to test my ability. Blogging often becomes an incentive for me to explore the city I live in, to improve my photography and be creative to make our home which all become a content for my blog. My blog has provided me with some wonderful opportunities to be involved with different projects.

Blogging does not have to be the answer to happiness overseas for everyone. When you live overseas, you can take some lessons to learn music instruments, languages or cooking. You can pick up a new sport or train for a race. There are online courses available and in many countries, there are always volunteer opportunities. You can find a new hobby. The options are endless. Listen to what makes your heart bounce and you’ll find your place to be at peace.

 

5. Find A Silver Lining
Is a glass half empty or half full?

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The quote design was copied from society6.

I am a believer of “everything happens for a reason”. All experiences whether positive or negative give something positive to learn from the experiences. Whether you become negative and dwell on it or look at the positives and make efforts to embrace the destiny will change your perspective on life and experiences. It’s hard to practice this when you are going through a tough time. However, I feel that I come out of every tough situation feeling stronger and wiser.

Here’s an example from my experience. Both in Jakarta and Mumbai, we had to wait for 6 months to get our own car. In Mumbai, I used a rickshaw, taxi and rental car for the first 6 months. During those months, I learned the roads in Mumbai because otherwise I would not get to my destination especially by a rickshaw. I look at this experience as a benefit of not having a car. I was miserable some times, but one day I looked outside from a taxi window and saw local people walking. Then I thought, they are not complaining because they don’t have their own car. I can afford a taxi with an AC. I should be grateful. It’s always a perspective, isn’t it?

 

6. Do Not Compare Yourself With Others

We all naturally seek a point of reference. It’s very normal that we compare ourselves with others. However, if comparing yourself with others makes you feel worse about yourself or makes you feel down or jealous, then I don’t think you are doing a favor to yourself or your mind. When you live overseas, it is very easy to compare yourself with other fellow expats. People pick to compare their housing, cars, their children, vacations, jobs, benefits, you name it.

My oldest daughter asked me last year why we didn’t travel when everyone else did. To this question I replied “We all come from different financial situations and values.” If we stayed home in the U.S., our friends would not travel during every single school break and holidays, but because we live overseas and live in a hardship post, our friends go on a vacation to some lovely places quite often while we always seem to be the one to stay. I’m fine with it. Since I want to be able to go to both the U.S. and Japan every summer to visit our families, I happily stay and save money for that.

 

7. Prioritize Relationship With Partner

If you go overseas with your partner, the relationship you have with him/her becomes a very significant part of your happiness. I’m not saying that it isn’t when you are back home. Even having a small fight with your partner impacts you more emotionally when you are overseas because you are more vulnerable. Why? When you go overseas, your partner is your best friend, family, adviser and supporter. You don’t necessarily have the same support system around you compared to when you are back home. Thus, I find the mutual understanding of each others’ needs and challenges and being considerate to your partner when living overseas holds a key to happiness.

While employed spouses are often under a lot of pressure to be successful overseas for their jobs, their accompanying spouses are also under a big amount of stress for being exposed to the local environment, managing a family especially if they have kids and having to learn everything on their own. The kids who accompany their parents also go through the same stress in a new environment. They seem to become extra sensitive to their surroundings. Focusing the relationship with your partner by trying to understand and be compassionate will have a trickle-down effect on the children. Thus, I focus on my relationship with my husband first. Inevitably my kids benefit from it.

 

8. Invest In Friends

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I found this design on Pinterest and I pinned it onto my Graphics & Typography board.

When you live overseas, having friends who can understand you, empathize with you and share fun experiences with you can enrich your experiences overseas and help you go through tough time if you do encounter such situations. You really appreciate friends who extend such help overseas. I notice that my mood swing is affected by people around me, too. When someone does something sweet to me, it makes me very happy. A little goes a long way especially when someone does a nice thing to you right after you first moved to a new country and you feel lonely and overwhelmed.

You meet an ample of people throughout living overseas. However, only a handful of them stay as your friends. Once you have kids, though, you tend to be drawn more towards those people whose kids also become friends with yours. It’s interesting how the process of making friends changes after being a parent. Anyways, I make extra efforts to expand my horizon right after I arrive in a new country because that is when you have the most free time. I do keep making efforts to maintain friendship because friendship is like an investment. The more you invest in them, the more you get out of it. Do you agree?

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The design was copied from the combination of the designs created by Jen Roffe and Lizzie Mackay.

 

9. Learn Local Language

It sounds very cliché, doesn’t it? Learning a host country’s local language can be very hard even if you think you will be showered by the language once you live there. Learning a new language in adulthood doesn’t come easy, but even trying a bit would make a difference. I find it helpful for me to deepen the understanding of the local culture by learning the local language even for a bit. You also appreciate more of local people’s efforts to communicate with you in English if English is not widely spoken in your host country.

When living overseas, it is surprising how much you can survive in English and without learning the local language. Still being able to recognize the scripts on streets or understanding some logic of how sentences are structured make a difference in adjusting to your host country’s environment. If you become proficient in the local language, it gives you so much power to manage your life in the way you want. In my case, it really helped me that I spoke French and Indonesian when I lived in Dakar, Senegal and Jakarta, Indonesia. Unfortunately my ability to speak Hindu is close to nil, but I did learn the scripts and can understand Hindi a bit.

 

10. Change Your Frame Of Reference

Our concept of happiness is relative because the measurement of satisfaction and happiness is based on individual’s frame of reference. Some might consider a certain situation unsatisfying while others would consider the same situation fortunate. We all create our happiness in our head.

When living overseas, you have to remove your spectacles from home. What I mean by this is that you have to stop analyzing and judging based on what you know from home and view with a fresh set of eyes. What is normal in your home country would not necessarily be a norm in your host country. That does not mean that one or the other is right or wrong. It’s just the differences in values, cultures and ways of living. Whether you agree or not, keeping your mind open to foreign cultures will help you see things more positively.

Chalkboard quote January-3

This typography was designed by Friends of Type.

Sometimes we are caught up in details that we forget to appreciate the nitty gritty of life. After all wherever we live, to be able to have good health, be with my loved ones, witness my children grow up and visit our families back home once a year are the core of my happiness. The rest of the details in life is like added spices.

I have been working on this post for quite a while. I wasn’t sure when to post this, but I decided to post this sooner than later. The reason is because I feel that in a couple of years, my opinion on this topic might change as yoga has been introduced into my life.

If some of you find my “10 things I do to stay happy overseas” helpful and see a life overseas (or back home) in a different light, it would make me very happy.

Thank you for reading!