Pine cones and sticks and rocks oh my

'Tis the season. What do you do with all the sticks and rocks and pine cones that the kids drag in throughout the year? And the toys they've outgrown but have a special place in your memory? Repurpose and get creative with the Christmas decor, that's what. … [Read more...]

Doll companies I’m happy to support

At the time we lived in Southeast Asia there was a growing but tiny industry of local crafters that made blocks, stuffed animals, kitchen sets or doll houses, and other toys. We spent a lot on those, but they were locally sourced and well-crafted. Coming back to NY was a different story. Options, wow. The pop culture focus of the toy industry, a profit-over-people corporate ethos, the consumerist culture - it's over the top after several years abroad. My little girl hit the doll phase this year and has been asking for one. But finding a toy company I'm happy to support is hard enough; Barbie, American Girl, and other chain store brands whose company values hew to the mainstream for profit's sake won't be getting my business. … [Read more...]

#KidLit for encouraging girls’ education

The challenge of educating girls (worldwide) is a complex topic, involving the myriad responsibilities placed on them by their households and communities. High opportunity costs make this a volatile issue for many poor rural families. With firsthand exposure to this important issue, it's not a new conversation to our kids. This book makes it approachable. It's a particularly common problem in Cambodia. It's capital, Phnom Penh, adapted quickly to the fast-paced world around it soon after emerging from decades of conflict. But progress is slow to reach those less affluent and villages outside of the capital city and tourist towns like Siem Reap with Angkor Wat and Sihanoukville with its beaches. The gap between the educated and … [Read more...]

Easy indoor vermicomposting in NYC

My family and I just moved to NYC, and don't have the outdoor space we had while living in Asia. So at first we just took food scraps to drop off when we shopped at the Greenmarket - New York City's farmers' market network - which is where we met Pamela, our market compost coordinator. … [Read more...]

to homeschool or not in nyc?

Catching up on some long-overdue reading about homeschooling. Had no idea how big a movement it is, but I'm not surprised. From The Profound Ways that Schooling Harms Society, perfectly capturing why more parents are taking this route: ...interesting not only to look at what your children are required to learn in school, but at what they are not required to learn.  While your kids are very busy toiling over algebra and chemistry, international trade agreements are being forged and currencies are being manipulated by entities that most Americans don’t even know the names of, much less the inner workings of.  Kids are compelled to solve quadratic equations and write essays on Shakespeare, and they graduate without understanding how to … [Read more...]

Reading: Beliefs about the Mrenh Gongveal: Chasing the Elves of the Khmer

I've just had a chance to flip through this book. It's a photo essay on the Khmer tradition of providing a home to beings (elves) believed to provide them protection, guidance and advice. Look around Phnom Penh and it is such a common sight on the streets outside of residences, that it barely registers in your peripheral vision. … [Read more...]

Travel: Hauling a 2- and 4-year old through 6 countries in 8 weeks

As we were leaving the region to move back home, I did a consultancy that took me to several capital cities to review national health programs. It was a great opportunity for all of us to say goodbye to friends, colleagues and places we've frequented over the past decade. So we packed up the house and shipped, sold or gave away our belongings, and took the kids on a two month journey through Southeast Asia. … [Read more...]

Getting a dog on a flight out of Cambodia

Want to take your pet out of Cambodia with you? Airline rules are changing in Phnom Penh. Small pets (<5kg) can still be stowed in the cabin with you. Pets over 5kg must go in the cargo, but several carriers have recently announced that aircraft flying out of Phnom Penh are too small for them to safely transport live animals in the cargo. The expat community was incredibly helpful when I posted a query on several forums for any experience in getting pets out of Phnom Penh, and compiled here the options (as of 2015): . I. Go overland Phnom Penh to Bangkok. Bus companies like Virak-Buntham does trips Phnom Penh-to-Bangkok via Koh Kong, without making passengers transfer to another bus at the Thai side of the border. … [Read more...]