a tale of two beds (bed 1)

2014-01-29IMG_4247So after day two, the girls’ room looked like this.  It was a good start, but we knew we wanted to get Talia’s mattress off the floor.  It’s not just because it’s our culture to have a bed frame, but because it would keep her bedding cleaner, and would also keep her much warmer during the cold months.  I’m pretty sure we learned that from Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild.2014-01-29IMGSo, we had this beauty of a bed sitting in our entryway.  I wish I had taken some closeups of the details.  The bed was about a foot too wide for a standard twin mattress, and too narrow for a double.  Besides that, it was super dirty and had been half devoured by termites. So, after getting permission to remodel the bed, Ryan got to work.2014-01-29DSC_3835

First, he took off the beautiful headboard that consisted of a laminate panel, a mirror and  lockable cubbies.2014-01-29DSC_3920Then, he took the frame apart, evicted the termites, and cut it to the right width.  2014-01-29DSC_3879Some of the pieces were unusable, but there was still enough to work with.  He just wasn’t going to be able to recreate that sweet headboard.2014-01-29DSC_3922 2014-01-29DSC_3966Thankfully, he had the use of some power tools from work to make the bed a little less rustic.  The original craftsman hadn’t even bothered to sand it.  The picnic table has turned out to be a good work bench.  2014-01-29DSC_3950Talia got in on the bed-making and enjoyed being Daddy’s helper.2014-01-29DSC_4862After assembling it all in the outdoor kitchen, he took it apart and reassembled it in Talia’s room.  He made the new headboard simple and to resemble the bed Talia had in Bangkok.  Much to his delight, she noticed the similarity all on her own.

2014-01-29DSC_5496So, now the girls’ room is the coziest, most set up space in the whole house.  They even have some pictures on their walls.2014-01-29DSC_5497

We still have the laminate and mirror left over from the headboard.  Any ideas on how we could re-purpose them?

outfitting our place

When we moved here, the only furniture we brought was Elise’s crib and at the last second we decided to bring our kitchen table and chairs.  They’re from IKEA, so pack up nice and small.  When we arrived, the house was outfitted with a king sized mattress, a beat up couch, a wicker coffee table and a few wicker stools.  We had a lot that we needed, and limited resources.  With limited resources, we had to be resourceful.


We found that the basket shop sold a couple of things we could use, including this bamboo corner shelf for food (arrangement by Talia)…

2014-01-22-DSC_3817and a small shelf we could use for shoes.2014-01-22-DSC_4376With the small wood shelf, and a couple of coat racks from the Chinese market, we set up our little entryway.  2014-01-22-DSC_3825The basket shop seemed like the only place to get anything that looked appealing (basically anything that wasn’t plastic), so we tried to make the most of it.2014-01-22-DSC_3821 2014-01-22-DSC_4050Ryan used some scraps of wood he found lying around the house to make a little booster chair for Talia.2014-01-22-DSC_5492He also added a built in footrest by screwing in a piece of wood across the front of the chair.2014-01-22-DSC_4841We found a short wooden folding table at the Chinese market to become the girls’ coloring station.

2014-01-22-DSC_4377These trunks have become furniture for us many times.  This time, it might be more permanent.

2014-01-22-DSC_4371The pillows that we brought with us didn’t quite match the duct tape that we used to patch up the house, but the hole was so big, we thought we might lose one of the kids in it.2014-01-22-DSC_4900I forgot to mention we also lucked out with this monstrous “entertainment center” in the bedroom.  It was really the only place to put anything, so as you can see, that’s where we decided to put everything!2014-01-22-DSC_5487We eventually were able to get it more organized with the help of some plastic baskets (you can probably guess where I got them).  We had brought a couple of curtains with us, so I hemmed them and we hung them up with nails and fishing line, a trick I learned when I was a kid.

These are just a few of the easy out-fittings we did.  We also have a few larger projects that I’ll tell you about later.

What are some creative ways you have furnished your house?

let's go shopping!

I can’t think of anywhere else I’ve lived that I could tell you all about all the places we shop in one single blog post.  Welcome to Northern Laos!  So, let’s go shopping!

Basically, the market is the town’s one stop shopping center.  Aside from the market, there are a couple appliance stores, hardware stores, and the assorted corner stores, but if you can’t find it at the market you probably can’t find it in this town or within 5 hours of it. market Northern LaosFirst, there is the colorful outdoor produce section of the market that is bustling both in the morning and evening, though there are always a few vendors hanging out there throughout the day.

market Northern LaosMost of the produce is harvested locally or foraged from the jungle and is fresh and delicious.  I would guess that a lot of it is organic, too.

market Northern LaosLook at those beautiful greens!

2014-01-15-DSC_4793Along one side of the market, are stalls selling toiletries, cooking oil, instant noodles, MSG and all the other local necessities.

baskets Northern LaosAlong the opposite side, are a couple stalls selling baskets, small furniture and the supplies needed for cooking and serving sticky rice.  Down from the basket shops is the meat section, but that’s deserves its own post.

market Northern LaosUnder the large covered area where you can buy the pre-made lunch food, you can also find dry goods like beans, noodles, condiments and eggs along with more produce that is often imported from China or Thailand.shoe repairIn the far back, you can get your shoes fixed…zippersor some clothes made.

Chinese market Northern LaosThen, there is the large Chinese section of the market where you can buy everything from electronics and housewares to clothing and toys. It is all imported and sold by the local Chinese community.  It can be a bit of a challenge finding things as well as communicating with the vendors.2014-01-15-DSC_5403We dug through these carefully organized rows to find our new dishes.

2014-01-15-DSC_3820But, our efforts were rewarded.

2014-01-15-DSC_4875We also scored these stylish, one-size-only sweat suits to keep the girls warm at night.

2014-01-15-DSC_5478You can find some pretty sweet, top quality items if you search hard enough.

2014-01-15-DSC_4896So, that about wraps up our shopping tour.  Aside from the market and a couple corner stores, the only other place we shop is at the Vietnamese plastics shops near our house.

shopping Northern LaosThere aren’t a lot of shopping choices and no typical grocery stores. I guess that’s part of the beauty of this simple town.  It leaves more time for sitting around the campfire with your neighbors or taking a scenic bike ride.  I won’t lie, though, setting up a house with limited supplies has required some real resourcefulness. And, if Target came to town, I’d be out of my mind ecstatic!  (Hey Target, could you send me a gift card for the shout out?)

What’s shopping like in your town?  Wait, maybe I don’t want to know!

rustic beauty

2014-01-13-DSC_4063Our kitchen has expanded!wood counter

We had a counter made, and while it didn’t turn out quite like we had ordered, I love it!  It means I can actually do some cooking inside the house.  This is one solid piece of wood.  It took four men to carry it in off the truck.  Ryan fits on the second shelf completely stretched out.  I wish I had taken a picture of that.2014-01-13-DSC_4070Here are some closeups of the handiwork.  The counter is made from a solid “red wood” and the shelf, which was supposed to be plywood, is made of teak!  2014-01-13-DSC_4071The builder used some interesting methods to put it together.  I honestly don’t care what it looks like.  It’s all about functionality these days.2014-01-13-DSC_4074Check out that smooth, even surface.  Ha!2014-01-13-DSC_4076

The cracks between the boards do present a slight problem in that food falls down between and lands on the dishes below.  But, not a major issue for me.

2014-01-13-DSC_4063It’s starting to look like a real kitchen in here.  All we need is a sink.  One can dream, right?

Have you had any furniture made?  How did it turn out?

where's the kitchen?

2014-01-07-IMG_4264-EditRemember that the kitchen was outside in another building?  Well, with a huge, mostly empty room inside the house, we thought we could bring part of the kitchen inside.

2014-01-07-4P1340833-LargeSo, we looked at what we had to work with.  We grabbed the old paint-speckled desk from the outside kitchen and brought it inside.

2014-01-07-IMG_4246As with everything else, it needed a good cleaning.  There was some large bug that kept sticking its antennae out of a hole, but running back inside before I could knock him out.  He gave me the creeps, but with not much furniture to choose from, this desk was my only hope for having a piece of the kitchen inside.

2014-01-07-IMG_42382014-01-07-IMG_4252After the good cleaning, Ryan got to work fixing the broken drawers of the desk, to make them usable for silverware and other utensils.2014-01-07-DSC_3774Then, Ryan went and bought six tiles from our local hardware shop to protect the top of the desk/counter from the heat of the stove.  Now we have somewhere to cook our eggs inside in the morning without having to unlock the door, put shoes on and head out to the other kitchen!  Our new little counter almost looks pretty in this picture.

2014-01-07-DSC_3814For now, our moving trunks still serve as cupboards.

2014-01-07-DSC_3890And we have to haul dirty dishes to the kitchen out back to wash them.

2014-01-07-DSC_4135But, it’s a big step up.  Next, we’re planning to have a counter made for more workspace and storage inside.

What are your kitchen must haves?  Have you ever had an Asian style outside kitchen?

get out! {on making friends in a new place}

2014-01-06-DSC_4706edit After living in many places over the past few years, there are a few things I try to remind myself when trying to make friends in a new place:


1. Just do it!  I might not feel like it, but I push myself out of my house.  The longer you wait the harder it is.  It is necessary to meet people and make friends if you ever want to feel at home!  I never regret going out and meeting people, sometimes the hardest part is simply getting past the front door.

2014-01-06-DSC_47052. Smile.  A smile communicates in any language.  No matter what else you do or don’t do, smiling is so important (especially here in southeast Asia)

2014-01-06-DSC_47083. Be bold.  Just go for it.  If someone seems friendly and receptive, I stop and try to talk to them.  I use as much of the local language as I can, which brings me to…

2014-01-06-DSC_47104. Do what you can.  You might not know much of the language, but I’ve found that if I use the few words I know, people are generally very happy for my attempt and are excited that I’m even trying.  If you run out of things to say, or can’t understand them anymore, that’s okay!  Just smile, use sign language and come back later.


5. Prepare the kids for what we’ll do and say.  Have them practice saying the greeting, smiling, etc..

2014-01-06-DSC_46976. Give back.  If someone gives us something, like fruit for the kids, we like to try and go back a few days later with something for them.  Reciprocal giving is a big thing here in southeast Asia, and almost guarantees that you’ll have a friend if you join in.  2014-01-06-DSC_4696

7. Don’t give up.  There are times I go out and can’t seem to talk to anyone, or I make mistakes and feel stupid.  It’s ok.  Just try again another day.2014-01-06-DSC_47138. It takes time.  This is the most important thing for me to remember.  In the past, I’ve gotten discouraged when, after a couple of months I don’t have any close friends yet, or not enough friends, or I’m not happy with how much I can say or do.  I have to remind myself that even making friends in my own language and country takes time, but making friends in a different language and country and culture takes WAY more time.  Just be patient and do what you can.

Thankfully, everyone we’ve met here has been super friendly and welcoming!  The pictures above are all of our new neighbors right down the path from our house.

What do you feel is key for meeting people?  Have you made any new friends lately?