standing out, fitting in {my guest post}

I’m excited to be guest posting today over at the Laotion Commotion.  I’m sharing a bit about our journey of trying to fit in even though we stand out in Asia, and a funny story along those lines.

Here’s a snippet from the post:

What we’ve found to be the most important in fitting in, is to just get out there, be vulnerable and show ourselves friendly.  When we first moved to Laos, and our house was a mess, we didn’t have a real kitchen or a very functional bathroom, we made it a point to get out and meet our neighbors.  We were surprised with how welcoming and friendly they were to us, even though we must have seemed strange to them.  We’ve gotten to meet other great friends through our job at an eco-tourism company.  We’ve worked daily with a group of Lao women, and it didn’t take long to build close friendships with them.

2014-06-25 Standing out fitting in by Melissa CrossettHowever, even after being here eight months and having had experiences in other Asian countries, we still end up in some situations that remind us that we have a ways to go in fitting in.  Case in point…

One of the ladies I’ve gotten to know quite well through work just loves our girls and has been so sweet to our family.  She invited us to come over to her house one day, so we made plans to head over in the afternoon.  First of all, I couldn’t get a hold of her to find her house, so had to call another friend to meet us and lead us there.  We weren’t sure what to expect as far as how long we’d stay, if we’d eat or not, etc.., but thought it would be fun to get to know her family and see where she lived.
2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-9When we showed up at around 4pm, our friend, “M”, was in the outhouse taking a dip shower.  For a minute, I wondered if she had forgotten about our planned visit.  Maybe she just didn’t expect us to be on time.  She was excited to see us, though, and invited us up onto her balcony.
2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-10We sat and chatted for a while, met her daughter and some other relatives.  She got busy preparing some food, but like I said, we didn’t really know what to expect so we just sat back and let things happen.  Eventually, she came out with some sliced apples, cucumbers and bowls of steamed rice (not sticky rice, which is the daily staple in Northern Laos).  She seemed nervous about what to do and what to feed us.  We weren’t sure why, because after living there for over seven months, she’s seen us eat plenty of Lao food (and enjoy it!) and we can also communicate pretty easily using our mix of Thai and Lao languages.
2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa CrossettNo one else was eating, but she kept encouraging us to eat.  At five o’clock, it was a bit early for a typical dinner, so we assumed it was maybe a special snack for us.  We thanked her, and began to eat the plain rice, not sure what else to do….  Read the full post here.

Have you ever experienced standing out, but wanting to fit in?  Would you eat bee larvae to prove yourself?



the first few

We’ve been back in the US for just over three weeks, and thought you might like a peek at some of the highlights of our time here in California so far.  It’s been wonderful enjoying everything from my top 5 and more.

First trip to Target.  Talia was shocked when the doors opened automatically and said, “Mommy!  Was that magic?!”

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A couple of days after we landed, we jumped in the car and drove five hours to be part of a family wedding.  Yep, we were still jet-lagged.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-3Somebody loves bacon! 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-4And shopping for shiny things.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-5Talia made a beautiful flower girl, and took her role very seriously.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-6 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-7 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-8We don’t get family photos very often, so took the chance while we were in our best clothes. 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-9It was so good to be with family.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-28 Even though they were jetlagged, the girls really tore it up on the dance floor. 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-102014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-2-2Talia out-danced everyone there! 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-11Once the wedding weekend was over, we enjoyed time at the beach, 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-13 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-14 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-15Reuniting with old friends,2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-16and playing at the park.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-17 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-18We squeezed in beach time whenever possible (never missing a world cup game, of course!)2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-19 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-20 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-21We’ve enjoyed some delicious food.  Check out that tri tip! 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-22Talia had her first sleepover, which she loved and went really well.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-232014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-12More time with friends, 2014-07-11 the first few by Melissa Crossettand special treats.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-25The girls got their very first real haircuts.2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-26 2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett-27And of course, we’ve been loving hot water and bathtubs!2014-07-11 first few weeks by Melissa Crossett

What have you been up to so far this summer?

top 5

2014-06-11 countdown by Melissa CrossettOur countdown chain is getting very short, and we’ll be arriving in the US in less than one week!  It’s been two and a half years since we’ve been home, and needless to say we’re pretty excited.  More than anything, we’re looking forward to being reunited with family and friends.  That’s a given.  Aside from that, there are many other things to look forward to.  Here are my top 5:

1. Real indoor plumbing.  I can’t wait to take a bath, wash dishes inside the house and have a real sink in the bathroom for my kids to wash their hands.  It will be fun introducing our kids to conveniences like dishwashers and garbage disposals.2014-06-11 countdown by Melissa Crossett-62. Food.  We love the food here, but definitely miss foods like cheese, avocados, dark chocolate, steak, hamburgers, etc.. I could go on and on.2014-06-11 countdown by Melissa Crossett-73. Shopping.  I can’t wait to walk the aisles of Trader Joes and Target.  I’d be more than happy if those were the only two stores I ever got to shop in.2014-06-11 countdown by Melissa Crossett-54. Driving/riding in a car.   I’m not sure how the girls will feel about car seats, but it’s going to be wonderful to have our family inside a safe, comfortable vehicle.three on a motorbike by Melissa Crossett5. The beach!  There’s just nothing like the beach for fun and relaxation.2014-05-05 Lao summer by Melissa Crossett-96. Parks and the library.  (yes, I know I said top 5) I can’t wait to see my girls’ reactions to the aisles of books we can choose from, or the slides and jungle gyms to play on.2014-06-11 countdown by Melissa Crossett-3Ryan’s top 3 are: food, the beach, and watching the world cup.

What do you miss when you’re away from home?

home prenatal care

2014-06-09 prenatal care by Melissa CrossettI’m now in my 3rd trimester and have only had two prenatal appointments so far.  Now, I’m not advocating for avoiding regular check ups with your doctor or midwife.  But living way out here, I’m pretty far from quality medical care, so came up with a simple plan for at home prenatal care.

1. A healthy diet based on vegetables, eggs, meat, fruit, fermented foods, etc… Avoiding sugar, most grains and factory oils.

2. Regular activity – biking, walking, squats, etc..2014-06-09 prenatal care by Melissa Crossett-2

3. Quality supplements2014-06-09 prenatal care by Melissa Crossett-3

4. Basic monitoring of blood pressure, baby’s movements, and urine tests

All this can be done from home with the right tools and supplements.  The one thing I couldn’t check was the baby’s heartbeat as I don’t have a fetoscope.  But, she’s very active, so I am aware of her movements and would take notice if that changed.

How did I do following my plan?  Pretty good, though I could’ve done much better in the “regular activity” department.  I do ride my bike daily, but not usually for very long.  Walking doesn’t happen too often lately as it’s been so hot!  I’m looking forward to doing some of that when we’re back in the US and the land of nice sidewalks and strollers, too!  I also ate a lot more rice than normal and not as much bone broth as I would’ve liked.

You can read more at these sites about the foods and supplements I try to take for optimal prenatal health.

Everything seems to be going well, but I am looking forward to being back in the land of good medical help near my midwife for the last 8 weeks of my pregnancy!

weekend adventures: mother's day

I guess I spoke a bit too soon about the hot weather being passed, as it’s been quite warm again this week.  So, when Ryan asked me what I’d like to do to celebrate mother’s day, I immediately knew I wanted to go swimming.

So, after a delicious breakfast and some adorable and hilarious handmade cards from the girls, we rented a motorbike for the day and set off in search of a good swimming spot.  We took the road heading north out of town that follows the river and just kept our eyes open.  We didn’t have much of a plan, but hoped we’d find somewhere to cool off and enjoy the picnic lunch we’d bought at the market.

2014-05-15 river swim by Melissa Crossett-4After maybe 15 minutes of some beautiful views, we spotted this little place off the road that looked like it was meant for guests.  There was a row of little huts on land and some floating huts in the water.

2014-05-15 river swim by Melissa Crossett-3We made our way down the little village road and arrived at the spot.  It turned out it was a little restaurant that even had inner tubes for rent.  We chatted a bit with the friendly owner and found out he was the one who installed our internet.  We didn’t recognize him.  Oops!

2014-05-15 river swim by Melissa Crossett-2The water was quite deep and there wasn’t much of a shore, but we had fun, nonetheless.  I think we’ll continue our search for the perfect swim hole, but we had a great Mother’s Day here.2014-05-15 river swim by Melissa Crossett2014-05-15 river swim by Melissa Crossett-5 2014-05-15 river swim by Melissa Crossett-6

Me and my girls (all 3 of them!)

Excuse the blurry phone pics.  I didn’t bring my camera along this time.

What did you do for Mother’s Day?

what's for dinner? food from Northern Laos

Last week, I mentioned I had been learning to cook some Lao dishes the Lao way: outside over a fire. Here are some pictures of what we made.  Before getting started, we went to the market to gather the necessary tools and equipment.  (these are definitely not the technical terms!)2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-19Even though some of this could be done on a gas stove, my friend insisted it would taste better if made over a fire.
2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa CrossettOur first meal we made was grilled fish with stir fried greens.

2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-3 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-4 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-5 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-2Afterwards, my friend showed me how you can plant the stems of the greens to grow your own.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-17Next, we made a couple of jeows, which are “dips” to be eaten with sticky rice and/or steamed veggies.

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The first was a roasted eggplant jeow.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-8 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-9 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-12 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-11 2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-10

The second was a spicy tomato jeow, which I learned is considered the “regular” jeow.

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This one was so delicious and addictive.  I saved the leftovers and ate it on a variety of dishes.

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And,  finally after over 4 years of living in southeast Asia, I learned how to make sticky rice.  I also got to practice my fire-making skills.  I could use a bit of work in that department, but I did manage to get a fire going.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-15

And lastly, we made a basic chicken/veggie stir fry.

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The most interesting ingredient in the stir fry was vines growing on my fence!  I didn’t even know they were food.2014-05-02 food from Northern Laos by Melissa Crossett-2-2

Everything we made turned out delicious, and cooking it over a fire definitely adds a dimension of flavor.  However, I’ll probably stick to cooking my food indoors on a gas stove when I’m on my own.  I love that most traditional Lao food is all very healthy and paleo, although I know some Paleos do avoid rice as well.

What did you make for dinner this week?


I’ve been thinking lately about how our life here reminds me a lot of camping.

First, there is the fact that we’re missing a few key components in our bathroomDSC_4811

and our kitchen2014-01-13-DSC_4063

And filling up baskets of dirty dishes to haul out to the outside kitchen, somehow reminds me of taking them down to the river to wash them.2014-01-07-DSC_3890

You can also smell smoke during most parts of the day as the neighbors do their cooking.  And that smell often clings to my laundry hanging on the line.  That I really don’t mind though.2014-01-06-DSC_4713

And then there’s the wildlife around…20131108-DSC_3898

This week, I’ve been learning how to cook a bunch of Lao dishes, the Lao way – outside over a fire.  So, that just sealed the whole “camping” analogy for me.2014-04-26 Camping by Melissa Crossett-2 2014-04-26 Camping by Melissa Crossett-4

Do I like camping?  Yes, I do.  And I love the laid back way of life that goes with it.  Who doesn’t love sitting around a fire and spending plenty of time outdoors?

Do I want to feel like I’m camping permanently?  Maybe not.  On one hand, I know my house is a step above many of my friends and neighbors who only have outhouses, and a water tap out in their yard. On the other hand, many of them live with, or near their extended families and they all help each other out.   2014-04-26 Camping by Melissa Crossett-5

I think my growing belly has got me thinking about how having a newborn again will change the dynamics of our family, and that makes me shy away from this “camping” lifestyle.2014-04-26 Camping by Melissa Crossett

We’ll probably look for another home after our year lease is up, one that might have a few more conveniences and make daily life a little less work.  I hear there are actually some houses with real indoor plumbing in town!

When is the last time you went camping?