Category Archives: Healthy Living

Join us as we share our experiences in learning to live a healthier life. Including our explorations with Yoga, Exercise, Escape, Meditation, and Mindfulness.

Food Revolution

Liam with chocolate

Jamie Oliver has been trying for some time to bring it to our collective attention that we are not prioritizing the health of our children through the food choices that we make – both at home, and in school dinners. With rising obesity and diabetes figures amoungst children globally (you can include China and India, along with Western countries) it is hard to argue with him.

Starting a Food Revolution
Yesterday I sat down and watched every episode of his Food Revolution series. In it he tried to replicate what he had achieved in the UK with school dinners in the US. In the first series he worked with a school in a relatively small town to change what they cooked and what the children were served. He met huge resistance but was ultimately able to change what they were serving and see the results. But the community struggled with how he did it and the criticism that they received during the process.

When he tried to do it a second time in Los Angeles, the LA school board did not want to receive the criticism and negative publicity that came with it, and effectively shut the program down. For the whole series he tries to get permission to get access to a school and its cafeteria, but meets legal resistance after political resistance. Through the whole series he never really gets started on what he went there to do and it is no wonder that no third series appears to have been made. He mentions in the show that no other school district had given him permission either. To his credit he did not give up, but took a different (online) approach.

Eating more fruit and vegetables or knowing what they are?
But it really got me thinking. With Garlic and Lime we want to inspire people to eat more fruit and vegetables, to eat naturally. We choose to live Gluten and Dairy Free as well, but that isn’t at the core. The core is to eat natural, whole foods. To skip the processed food aisles at the supermarket, and focus on the natural goodness of foods you make yourself.

Through the Food Revolution program you saw how far away this is for some people. How basic nutritional understanding of whether this is a tomato or a potato was simply not there with some of the teenage children. Some of the students he spoke to didn’t know that butter comes from a cow, rather than corn. As he rightly points out, this isn’t the fault of the kids, this is the fault of the parents and educators. On Garlic and Lime we give a glossary of some of the more exotic ingredients we use, but to think that for some people that all of the ingredients we use are exotic breaks my heart.

You also saw how far away considering the health impact of the ingredients in food was from so called “health professionals” and “food industry experts”. There were so many good reasons why the ingredients list had to sound like a high school science project. So many good reasons why cooking with natural ingredients “was not economically viable”. But at what cost? The health of a generation? Early death from obesity and diabetes?

Can we do anything?
I have been puzzling on this question all night. All I know is that I can effect change in my own home. I can explain to my son that fruit and vegetables are good for you, and why he should (and is) eating them. I can consciously choose to involve him in food selection, preparation, and cooking. I can consciously choose to talk to him about recycling, food waste and pollution. 

So this morning we had a conversation about the contents of the goodie bag he got from the birthday party of one of his school friends yesterday. It was full of junk food, and included some “noodle snacks” which Liam was convinced must be the best of them health wise because it didn’t seem to include sugar. But its second ingredients was “processed palm oil” and it listed 4 different E numbers (flavours and preservatives). We explained to him why it was terrible for him, and threw it in the bin in front of him, to no resistance. It is a start I guess.

Beyond that, what can each of us do? Your ideas and thoughts are welcome.

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4 days in Georgetown, Malaysia

Rickshaws in Chinatown, Georgetown

Georgetown: a melting pot of cultures
Originally established as a trading post by the British, Georgetown (Penang) attracted a melting pot of traders. Like Singapore, Georgetown has its heart in Malaysia, but also drew a community of Chinese traders, and like Singapore these too are Straights Chinese or Peranakans (Nonya’s).

Indians – both traders and workers – also came to George Town, and built a community. Dominated by Muslim and Hindu Tamils, but also home to Gujaratis, Malayalams, Bengalis, and Indians from other parts of India. They built a community that still exists (and is protected in its existence) until today.

It is this unique blend of cultures within a relatively small area, and the historic buildings that symbolize their long term co-existence that has made George Town into a Unesco World Heritage site (since 2008). In announcing its entry into the list of World Heritage sites it was described as an “inspiration” to others how this melting pot could co-exist and thrive for so long. Long may it last.

Sri Mariamman Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple

Coffee Atelier Hotel
We booked in to stay at the “Coffee Atelier” in George Town. It is right in the heart of the Old Town (47 Lorong Stewart Street), and housed within the walls of a former shop house that has been restored and converted into a restaurant and 4 apartments. Our room included a large main room, and a separate single bed for our son in an adjoining ante-room. Free wifi was also included. 

While it was a little noisy (old buildings don’t tend to have the best sound proofing) it was the perfect place to stay in such a historic town. Just down the road was Little India and China Town, the Kapitan Keling mosque, Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple and Chinese temples.

Downstairs is also a Coffee Atelier cafe which serves delicious coffees, including latte art. It was a great place to enjoy dinner after a day of walking in the city, and breakfast at the cafe was included in the hotel price. 

Old shophouses in Lorong Stewart Street

Old shophouses in Lorong Stewart Street

Obsessed with Food
This similar melting pot of cultures to Singapore, means that the food also shares common origins, and George Town seems to also share its obsession with food. In fact it is the food, as much as the buildings, that will remain with us as impressions after we leave.

Tek Sen Restaurant
During our stay we enjoyed cheap and delicious Chinese food at Tek Sen Restaurant in a converted shophouse (18 Lebuh Carnarvon). While the restaurant is anything but fancy, with plastic tables and chairs, the food was delicious and very affordable. Shortly after 6pm a sizable queue had formed with locals waiting for their dinner on their way home from work – always a good sign! 

Tek Sen Restaurant

Tek Sen Restaurant

Seven Terraces
Our dinner at Seven Terraces hotel in the Kebaya restaurant (Lorong Stewart) is perhaps at the other end of the scale in terms of price, but still reasonable compared to eating in Singapore or Amsterdam. It uses French techniques fused with Indonesian and Straights Chinese flavours for a refined dinner on good linen with beautiful china crockery. The 4 course degustion menu is designed to be shared in the Chinese style, exactly the way we love to eat. 

Seven Terraces is across the street from the Coffee Atelier, and is also a nice alternative for a hotel if you are looking to stay in the historic centre but go a little upmarket. 

China House
China House was a great little place that we discovered by accident, but went back to eat at twice. It is a great option for lunch after you are finished exploring Lorong Chulia and the Street art around Lebuh Armenian. Located at 155 Beach Street, it serves Western food with a diverse set of Asian and Middle Eastern influences – Fusion food. Think Thai Style Chicken Salad with Macademia Nuts or a daily special menu of asian flavours served in a bento box. 

I love it that they put paper down on the tables and encourage you to draw on them – something my son thoroughly enjoyed!

Drawing at ChinaHouse Restaurant, Beach Road

Drawing at ChinaHouse Restaurant, Beach Road

Out and about around Georgetown
The advantage of staying in the middle of the historic centre is that there is so much that you can do on foot.

On the first day, try exploring the area around Lebuh Armenian and Lorong Chulia. They are great places to wander and poke your head into boutiques. Also look out for the street art in the side streets around this area. There is a free street art map that you can pick up at many hotels.

The Clan Jetties near the end of Lebuh Armenian on Pengkalan Wald are also worth exploring, but please do respect that people live here and that you are visiting their homes.

Those interested in Chinese History can visit the home of Sun Yat Sen at 120 Lebuh Armenian. Considered one of the father’s of modern China, he led the Chinese revolution to found the modern Republic, and served briefly as the President of China. He lived in Georgetown in exile for 6 months.

Step by Step Lane streetart

Step by Step Lane streetart

On the second day, try going in the other direction towards the Eastern and Oriental Hotel (Lebuh Farquhar) to stroll along the coast and enjoy a high tea. Not far away is Chong Fat Tze historic home (Leith Street), and the Hainan Temple (Jalan Muntri). There are many eating choices on Jalan Muntri for lunch. End by exploring the little shops on Love Lane

Eastern Oriental Hotel by the harbour

Eastern Oriental Hotel, Lenuh Farquhar, by the harbour

Our trip to Georgetown was for a long weekend (4 days) while we were living in Singapore. You could consider this as part of a longer trip to Malaysia as well if you are living further away. We flew from Singapore to Penang with Jetstar, but Tiger Air, Air Asia and Silk Air also all fly this route. We arranged a taxi through the hotel to collect us from the airport and take us to the hotel in Georgetown. It is a 16km journey which takes 20-30 minutes depending on traffic and costs 35-40 Malaysian Ringgit.

We had a great time in Georgetown. It was an easy long weekend destination that can easily be enjoyed on foot. The diversity of the food and street art were definitely highlights. 

Rickshaw streetart, Chinatown

Rickshaw streetart, Jalan Penang, Chinatown

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On retreat, South Coast, Sri Lanka

Apa Villa Illuketia during a rain storm

One of the joys of living in Singapore is that travel in Asia is so accessible. New Year, Chinese New Year, and Easter are great opportunities for a longer trip away within Asia, without having to spend too many of your vacation days.

For one of these longer weekends we decided to go to Sri Lanka for 7 days to enjoy the coastline from Galle along the coast. This could also be done from a further away location for 6-10 days depending on your travel time.

Travel logistics
We flew into Colombo on Sri Lankan airlines, which offers some excellent flight deals to Sri Lanka from many destinations (we flew there on good deals from Delhi and Singapore). It is a full service airline with check in luggage and full meals (note: we have no relationship with this airline).

From Colombo over the new highway to Galle is a 3 1/2 hour drive by car. Cars to drive you to Galle from the airport can be arranged through the hotel for USD$100-120, or you can also arrange private car hire for USD$70 per day for your entire trip.

On our first trip we hired a car and driver for the whole trip, but were not satisfied with our driver and ended up firing him and hiring a different car and driver from each location to the next through the hotel. While the day rate is slightly more expensive than $70 per day, we saved on the days that we did not need a car and could use a local taxi or tuk tuk instead, and so the total cost was about the same. You can consider both options depending on your preference.

Woman with an umbrella walking past old buildings in the streets

Galle, South Coast of Sri Lanka
We started the trip near Galle staying at the two properties of Apa Villas. Just 8km from UNESCO heritage site listed Galle, Apa Thalpe is a boutique resort of just 7 rooms which look out over an infinity pool, and beyond to the ocean.

The pool at Apa Villa, Thalpe, South Coast, Sri Lanka (March 201

Each room has a small private courtyard with a table. There is no restaurant at the hotel, and instead all meals are served on your private terrace. You can order food at any time from 7.30am to 5.30pm during the day, and dinner is a selection of set menus catering to Western or Sri Lankan tastes which you pre-order during the afternoon. They can also cater to food restrictions including Vegan and Vegetarian on request. Each evening we put our son to bed, and enjoyed a Sri Lankan dinner together with our ocean view. It was the definition of luxury!

Past the courtyard you enter into a sitting area with a library. The owner of the hotel was the creator of the “Insight Guides” and there is a great collection of books and guides to browse through. Beyond the sitting area is the spacious bedroom with air conditioning (needed in this tropical climate) and luxurious double bathroom. The attention to detail with fresh flowers on the bed each day and cotton sheets is as you would expect from a top boutique hotel.

Next to the hotel is a small beach. While it is not a spectacular beach, it was nice for a stroll each morning to see the local fisherman.

Man walking along the beach next to Apa Villa, Thalpe

Man walking along the beach next to Apa Villa, Thalpe

Apa Villa, Illuketia
Our second 2 nights were spent at the sister property 5km away – Illuketia. Where Thalpe looks out over the coast, Illuketia is nestled into the forest. It was originally a manor house, and retains a period property feeling with antiques and mature gardens.

The swimming pool is surrounded by forest, and has a small shrine next to it – a perfect place for your morning yoga practice.

By the swimming pool at Illuketia, Apa Villas

By the swimming pool at Illuketia, Apa Villas

Illuketia features a cluster of tables with a view over the garden where meals are served, and while it misses the intimacy of the private terraces of Thalpe, it does offer a similarly delicious menu of Western and Sri Lankan meals to choose from and a kids menu if you are bringing children with you. The more communal restaurant, but similarly small scale of the hotel meant that we came in contact with other guests in the library and lounge with whom we shared a very enjoyable afternoon.

Apa Villa Illuketia during a rain storm

Apa Villa Illuketia during a rain storm

Out and About from Apa Villas
From Apa Villas there are a few day trips to choose from. The most obvious one is the 8km trip by car or rickshaw (tuk tuk) into Galle’s Historic Centre. While Galle Fort (which survived the 2004 Tsunami almost intact) is the draw card attraction, the historic centre is worth simply wandering around without a clear destination in mind. There are lovely little boutique shops, and plenty of cafes and restaurants to sate your hunger and thirst.

Liam watches the local ladies go by, Galle

Liam watches the local ladies go by, Galle

Dolphin and Whale watching
Another (longer) day trip option is along the coast to Mirissa to go whale and dolphin watching. Here we do recommend choosing your tour operator carefully and considering ethical considerations. We went with Raja and the Whales who adheres to global whale watching standards of respect for the whales and provides research data to various international marine wildlife research and conservation organisations.

Unfortunately from their boat we saw many other operators who weren’t as considerate to the whales and were chasing the whales and getting too close. This is surely distressing for these majestic creatures.

While we were never particularly close to any of the sperm whales, we did have 4 different sightings during the day, and had schools of dolphins swimming very close to our boat on several occasions. While we were most interested in seeing the whales, the dolphins were actually the highlight of the trip.

Dolphins off the coast of Mirissa

Dolphins off the coast of Mirissa

Other trips
Tuk tuk drivers and touts will also suggest that you visit the spice garden and the turtle hatcheries. We were briefly driven into the spice garden before insisting politely that we leave again, and also went to the turtle hatchery, but we found it very disappointing and even had ethical questions over the experience. The tanks are very small and while the hatchery claims that they dig up the turtle eggs to stop them being poached, we wondered if this were not a good reason for earning money from tourists and left feeling uncomfortable about having come.

Further along the South Coast
If you would like to extend your visit further along the coast, Talalla Beach, Weligama and Tangalle are both options further along the coast. Talalla Retreat was on our wish list (but was full during our visit), but we have heard good reviews from other people who were able to visit.

We stayed at Maya near Tangalle and enjoyed delicious food, with enough grass for our son to run around on, and a very inviting pool. It is a little way from the coast though, so you need your own transport to make the most of it.

A mother and her sons  at Tangalle Beach

A mother and her sons at Tangalle Beach

Sri Lanka: a special destination
Sri Lanka really is a special destination; with delicious food, world class boutique hotels, a vibrant culture and stunning scenery. It is also small enough in scale that while you can’t see the whole countries in a trip of 10 days, you can pick areas of the country that you would like to focus on and see a big variety of countryside and sights.

It is a destination that you can consider with children. The people were very friendly – especially towards children – and catering to our sons food requests was never a problem.

In another post we share our experiences in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, which was similarly stunning.

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Getting Started with Yoga

Genevieve and Liam at Wat Phra Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand (De

Getting started with a new habit can seem daunting, and I have noticed from looking at how we both differently started yoga, that there is no one right way to begin. 

Excuses, Excuses
I delayed starting for a long time. I had a lot of excuses – getting to a gym for a class was too much of a barrier, I just didn’t have the time. Looking at yoga books didn’t help me to put it together into a routine. I couldn’t visualize what I needed to do, so I couldn’t imagine myself doing it.

Getting started with the Daily Yoga App
It wasn’t until a friend suggested the “Daily Yoga” App (available in the Android and Apple App stores) that I couldn’t find an excuse anymore. It walked me through routines, and I could do it in the comfort of my own home. No need to go to the gym. 

Daily Yoga app

Daily Yoga app

Daily yoga has a series of sessions that can be downloaded onto the App for free. I started with the “Yoga Sequence for Beginners“, and “Standing Poses for Beginners“. These are sessions of 10 or 15 minutes each. After a few months I moved to the “Standing Yoga Routine” and “Seated Yoga Routine” which are sessions of 20 or 30 minutes each, and the “Sun Salutation” 5-15 minutes. I also use the “Yoga for Runners” before and after I do a walk or run as a warm up and cool down practise.

I have not yet paid to “Go Pro” in the app, but this would unlock more music and sessions for $29.99 USD per year.  That is a lot less than going to a class…

Daily yoga for video in progress

Daily yoga for video in progress

Once I felt confident in my practice, I booked into a retreat in Bali, with the aim to have small group sessions with a Yoga instructor to deepen my knowledge and understanding. My trip to Villa Flow Bali made me connect more deeply with the practice and start to put my own routines together, alongside continuing to use the Daily Yoga App. Having a professional to guide me also ensured that I corrected any of the mistakes that I was making through only using an app.

It is important with yoga that you do the poses correctly and don’t try to extend yourself too far or too fast so that you avoid injuries.

Getting started with classes
Barry on the other hand approached it very differently. Almost 15 years ago, he signed up for a set of 10 classes. He prefers to be shown how to do things, to ask questions, and to have the encouragement and support that only a physical trainer can give to get started. He wanted to make sure that he was doing the poses the right way right from the beginning.

Once he got more confident, then he moved onto self study. He bought himself a couple of books, and also started looking at videos on You Tube to give himself more ideas to build into his own routines. 

Getting some new ideas with Tara Stiles
Tara Stiles for example has an excellent set of videos available through LivestrongWoman. They might look a little intimidating though as she is incredibly flexible! Don’t worry if you can’t bend as far as she can yet, we can’t either – even after years of practice!

Below you’ll find some of her Beginner videos to help you get started.  

Now we are just working out how to get our son practicing Yoga with us, but that is proving a little more challenging so far…






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Under the Dome

Apartment buildings in Shenzhen, China (January 2014)

A Growing Consciousness of Air Pollution

During the time we lived in Delhi we became conscious of Air Pollution. It wasn’t measured then in the way it is in China or Singapore, and daily statistics on the Air Quality Levels were not available. But we bought an Air Purifier, and we could see the pollution with it.

It has a colour indicator to show how hard it is working. Blue means that the air quality is good, and it slows down or even stops the fan from working. Pink means there is a problem with the Air Quality, and Red is an alert – it is working hard to make the air clean.

We watched it hover between Pink and Red for most of the day, especially in Winter and during the Summer dust storms. Only during monsoon did it stay blue for long periods of time. We cleaned the front barrier filter of black soot every month. We bought a second one, and ran them night and day in the lounge and our bedrooms.

It was only after we left that Delhi’s pollution levels started to be compared with Beijing.

A difference in Air Quality

And then we moved to Singapore. We put our two Air Purifiers into our bedrooms. And after a year the indicator finally came up for us to clean the filter.

But still we were glad to have them in “Clean Singapore“. The colour indicator regularly changes over to pink, and sometimes even red. The black soot that it had sucked up from the Sumatran fires was sticky and hard to remove from the filter. We were glad it had taken that away from our lungs. We thought consciously about shutting the doors next time the smog comes.

Having an Air Purifier in our house made us conscious of the Air Quality and the pollution in it, even in Singapore.

Chai Jing’s Under the Dome

When Chai Jing’s Under the Dome started making news I had to watch it, and the scene where they film an operation on a woman’s lungs has stayed with me ever since. She is a non-smoker, but the doctors think she is a smoker. She has lived in Beijing all her life, and her lungs are filled with black soot. Living in this pollution is not better than being a smoker, as the patient’s lung cancer shows.

This pollution is not just a China Problem

The reality though is that this pollution might be worse in China, but it is not just a China problem. Throughout the film examples are shown of London, Japan, and Los Angeles. You could add Moscow or Dubai to the list so easily.

We are not conscious of what the pollution levels are like in most of our cities because we don’t have an Air Purifier that indicates to us when we need to be concerned, and we don’t see a daily measurement. We consider that if the sky looks clear, then it must be OK. Even in Delhi, on clear blue days, we thought it was OK.

The reality is also that pollution levels are rising world wide, and our leaders are not making substantive agreements to change direction. We at home are not making substantive changes either.

So what can we do?

Start by watching the film – the link is below. It is really eye opening. 

Look at your own house and see what you can change. If you live near a main road, consider getting an Air Purifier – research shows that pollution is worst near major roads in any city. Think about what else you could do – could you stop using your fire for warming the house in winter? Reduce your use of plastics? Use your car less?

I like it that she asks businesses in her neighbourhood to also make an effort – to install a filter on their ovens, and cover the pile of building supplies that is open to the wind.

We can also take a look at our governments and their track records in tackling pollution. Ask them to change direction. Ask them to start measuring pollution levels.

A greater awareness means more questions

Recently I had a call about a job in China, and despite having wanted to shift to there for the last 10 years, I turned it down. I decided to choose my health, over a dream move to China. I decided not to become a smoker.

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Digital detox

Chairs next to the swimming pool in the forrest at Apa Villas, I

Recently I went through a period that was rather stressful and even though I am consciously trying to be mindful and to de-stress, it seemed like all of my efforts weren’t quite working. Reading Arianne Huffington’s “Thrive” also got me thinking: Am I letting my digital life take over my real one?

I decided to re-examine my routine.

I get up in the morning. I check Facebook. I take my phone up to the balcony and do a yoga session with my yoga app. I sit down at the table for Breakfast, and read the BBC news on my phone. I shower, take the metro to work, and check my Facebook on the train (just quickly). Most of the day at the office is spent in meetings, or trying to stay on top of the pile of e-mail that floods in every day. At the end of the day I walk to the train station, check the Herald News in the train, and return home.

We have dinner together as a family, a well-established routine that we decided long ago is an ipad and phone free zone. The TV is also turned off.

After dinner my son and I spend some time together, and I put him to bed. After dinner I tend to check the Times of India News and de Telegraaf (the joy of having lived around the world is that I still like to follow what is happening in New Zealand, India and Holland, plus the global news). I don’t watch very much TV, occasionally a sports game on TV, but otherwise I would rather read a book or the news, or play Candy Crush.

So I took a digital break

When I examined my schedule I saw a lot of checking of apps on my phone, but it just seemed to fit right into my day and I rationalized that I was hardly watching any TV, so what was the harm.

My trip away to Bali was a great opportunity for a digital detox and to really re-examine what I was doing. For the whole week I did not connect my phone to the internet, and I didn’t take my ipad with me at all. No more reading the news, no checking Facebook, and no more Candy Crush.

It was such a relief! And while now that I am back as home I have reconnected my phone to the internet and started reading the news and checking Facebook again, I have decided to make a few adjustments.

1) The phone sleeps in the lounge

I think my favorite tip from Arianne Huffington was that the phone should not sleep next to the bed. With family living around the world, I have got into the habit of it sleeping on the nightstand. Then I would be able to pick it up if there was an emergency. But the truth is, that in the 12 years I have lived away from home, my parents have never needed to contact me in the middle of the night. They have, however, broken my sleep with a skype message to say that they are going on holiday or some other short message that was sent in their day time and my night time, but that they never expected me to see or reply to at night.

The phone sleeping in the lounge also makes sure that checking my email and Facebook is no longer the first thing I do in the morning.

2) No checking Facebook before yoga

In order to turn yoga from a purely physical to more of a meditative experience, I decided that I needed to continue following what I did in Bali and that was to wake up, drink water, and do yoga before looking at my phone, before breakfast, and before the day really started. If I already have Facebook images and words in my head before I practice yoga, I can’t fully focus on my breathing, the poses and the relaxation of the meditative pose to start and end the practice.

3) Enjoy breakfast not news at the breakfast table

Breakfast is the one meal of the day that it is guaranteed that all three of us will make together. I am good at mornings, but I am less good at finishing work on time to guarantee making dinner. I’ve decided that just like at dinner, phones and Ipad’s shouldn’t have a place at the breakfast table either.

4) Turn email off in the weekend

There is something alluring about seeing the number of emails that you have waiting for you in your work inbox climbing. It is hypnotic, powerful, ever present, and demands attention. So on the advice of a dear colleague, I decided to go into the settings of my phone and turn it off in the weekend. It might demand my attention during work hours, but I don’t want it interrupting my weekends anymore. Immediately I reclaimed my weekends as my own. There was a clear breaking moment between the work week and the weekend – that moment when I flicked the virtual switch on my email on my phone.

5) Take the News Apps off my phone

I have a phone and an Ipad. The more apps I have on my phone, the more that I check them when I am waiting somewhere, and the less I use those moments to look around me, be mindful, and engage in where I am. So I decided to take them all off. I still have Facebook on my phone (so I can post photos), but I took all the News Apps off.

If I want to read the newspaper, then I have to get my Ipad (which is anyway a bigger screen and therefore better for my eyes), and that makes it more of a conscious decision rather than an automatic process to read the news. It has already meant that I have cut down on the amount of time that I am spending reading the news, and that also means I am cutting down on the amount of time per day that I am exposed to all the negative news that fills the papers.

I am trying, and failing, and getting back up again

This list was my resolution when I returned from Bali, and some of them I have been able to stick to consistently – the phone sleeps in the lounge, I don’t have any news apps on my phone, and the email is always turned off at the weekend. But some things I notice myself doing, beat myself up about, and try to improve again – like checking Facebook as I walk up the stairs to the roof terrace for my yoga session. I never promised to be perfect, but I am trying little by little to re-balance my life and de-stress.

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Traveling with kids, 2-5 years

Liam playing football at Phanom Rung Historical park, Khymer rui

Let me start by being honest. We have ended up traveling far more with our son than we ever expected to, and we have taken him to far more “adventurous” places than we had ever expected to before he was born. My husband and I met traveling, and it is something that we enjoy doing together. But there were trips that we thought we should do before we had children – like going to India.

When we moved to India when Liam was 2 ½ years old, we blew that perception out of the water. As a result, living in India changed our boundaries of what we were prepared to do with him. Each trip got us more creative and taught us more about how to do it so that he also enjoyed it, and it was safe for him as well. As a result Liam can now write a list of the 21 countries that he has visited, and we keep planning the next vacation.

So let’s get traveling – these are our top 10 tips for traveling with a 2-5 year old.

1) Travel light

Traveling with a 2-5 year old is a handful. Possibly even more so than when they are younger. The more active they get, the more that they want to run at the airport, explore at the hotel reception desk, and find out what is going on just around that corner where you can’t see them anymore.

Traveling light means that you can divide and conquer – one of you looks after the luggage, and checking in at the airport and hotel, while the other keeps the kid(s) entertained. Consider critically what you can leave behind to get it down to 2 bags – one for each hand. I leave it up to you how big those 2 bags are, but for us they are 2 cabin bags (55cm) – one for him, and one for us that we share for a trip of up to 2 weeks.

2) Pack a selection of small toys

Packing light means getting creative on what toys to take with you, and which ones to leave behind. We have a small zip up black bag (about A4 in size) that Liam is allowed to pack on his own. We encourage him to fill it with cards, matchbox toys, and puzzles (which we take out of the boxes and pack in zip lock sandwich bags).

Next to his special pouch of toys we have an A5 size bag which holds a couple of colouring books, paper and crayons or felt tip pens for him to draw with. Taking drawing materials is really versatile, because he can use it in the plane, a restaurant, or a hotel room. We also take a small football (15cm diameter) everywhere that we travel too. It is amazing how many hours a ball can fill at a hotel, and how little grass it takes to create a game.

Maybe this is a little controversial, but he also has an IPad with games on it to play with. We try to limit its use to 30 minutes per day, but on travel days – when he is in a plane or a long car ride – we are a little less strict in how long he is allowed to play on it.

3) Take books for take-off and landing

Whether you agree with taking an iPad or not, there is one time it absolutely can’t be used – and that is the 30 minutes each side of take-off and landing. We always have a selection of 10 small books with us (Thomas the Tank Engine) that we can read to him while we are taking off and landing. He can choose which one gets read next, and it keeps both of us distracted for the first hour of the flight.

4) Explain to your child where you are going and what is special about it

Lots of people are amazed at the places that we have traveled to with Liam, and I admit, trips around India, Nepal and Oman were not what we were expecting to do with a child. However, they were all possible and safe, and enjoyable for him and us, and he has the most amazing understanding of Geography as a result.

But he hasn’t enjoyed the trips and learned this on his own. We have made a conscious decision to use our travels as a way to teach him about the world. We tell him where he is going, we show it to him on a map, we explain to him what is special about where he is going, and why he is so lucky to be able to go there. As a result he excitedly talks about trips he has taken to Mumbai and Dubai long after the trip instead of complaining that he didn’t get to go to the pool or the beach like the other kids in his class.

It doesn’t matter whether your next trip is as exotic as Mumbai or Dubai or not, the idea is just that you talk to them about how lucky they are to get to travel with you, what they are going to get to see, and how that is special for them.

5) Let them know what is in it for them

Kids (at least our one) are amazing little negotiators. They can bargain and blackmail us from the time that they can talk. With Liam we make deals. Each day he will join us to do things that we want to do, and then we will do one thing that he wants to do. It goes a bit like this “Yes, you can play in the pool this afternoon, but first we are going to go and see X, Y and Z in the city. We will be back for your swimming by 4pm.” Or “Today we are going to see X, Y, and Z, we found a great park in between where you can play with your ball after lunch before we go from Y to Z.”

6) Get a collapsible stroller

Our first trips were done with a big stroller that was difficult to check in, and even more difficult if we had to take a taxi somewhere. That was something we were prepared to manage in the 0-2 age group, but after his second birthday we traded it in for a smaller model. We bought a