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The Pros and Cons of Living on an Island

Living on a island has its pros and cons, and it’s definitely not for everyone. That said, us city folk have been here for two years and we’ve decided to stay for a couple more, so I guess island living is for us! If you’re thinking about moving to a tropical island, I thought I would share the pros and cons!

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T H E  C O N S

There are a lot of bugs… and more. Mosquitoes, sand flies, ants, geckos, snakes, jellyfish… I stumbled upon a nest of baby scorpions yesterday and killed 6 of them (though I’ve only seen 4 other scorpions in my two years here). I’m not a squeamish person so creepy critters don’t really bother me. But mosquitoes are definitely bad news bears because they carry many dangerous diseases, and things like dengue fever do worry me.

It is hot and humid. It takes a long time for your body to adjust to the heat, up to a year I’ve read. You see locals wearing long sleeves and jeans and not break a sweat, while I’m sweating buckets in a tank top and cut offs! It is hot and humid most of the year, when it’s not raining, and there’s a lot of that too. You still get plenty of sunshine in rainy season though and showers for the most part only last a short time. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the heat and humidity, but my skin is!

Everything happens on island time. Which is fine for our personal lives. Everyone always makes plans at the last minute because none of us are ever doing anything, there is no difference between weekdays and weekends, and in general the concept of time is very lax. But it’s frustrating when it comes to getting things done — waiting for a repairman, delayed construction projects (since you have to build most things yourself), locals always showing up late. But it’s just a part of island life that you learn to accept. It certainly teaches you patience and just going with the flow.

There is a lack of infrastructure. This can be frustrating coming from the Western world where most things are very efficient and there are rules and laws for everything. Regular brownouts, slow internet, poor cell phone service, lack of government services, lots of red tape, no roads… the list is too long to go on. But it shows you how it isn’t that hard to live without things that many consider necessities because we do all the time!

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Top 10 Gifts for Five Year Old Boys

I can’t believe it—somehow I have a five-year-old. Seriously, when did that happen?! Although my preschooler loves all things pink and purple, when it comes to toys he has always gravitated toward traditionally “boy” categories—trucks, sports, and building—so my gift guide leans heavily in that direction. But of course any of the items on this list would be great for girls, too! These top picks come in a range of prices, and some make excellent stocking stuffers. (I’m looking at you, kids’ card holder!)

And please, let me know in the comments—what’s at the top of your five-year-old’s wish list this year?

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1. DROCON Drone for Beginners. Little Cotton Candy is really into drones, and while we probably won’t be getting him one this year (I’m too afraid of it smashing after a few uses), this one is made to be easy to use for beginners and is very affordable compared to some that I have seen in stores and online.

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Why (and What) We Buy Used

I have become an increasing fan of buying things used. I used to primarily buy new items, generally on sale due to them being marked down in anticipation of a new season or model. After we had kids, I started to buy more and more used items, both for the kids and ourselves, for a number of reasons.

Cost. A huge reason why we buy used is because of the cost savings. Particularly for items that have a short shelf life, like the incredibly pricey Mamaroo, we didn’t want to shell out a lot of cash. Craigslist was great for big ticket items like the Mamaroo and a double stroller. It was also great for what I consider to be over-priced items, like Thomas the Tank Engine; we got a huge lot with probably close to 100 trains, lots of tracks, a roundhouse and accessories for a fraction of the new price. It was definitely the deal of a lifetime and when the kids outgrow them, we can resell without worrying about the investment we put in. Many of our reasons listed below are also related to cost. There’s much better bang for our buck, generally.

The kids outgrow things quickly. Baby items like swings and jumparoos have such a short shelf life. It pains me to pay full price for items that the kids will use for just a few months. Although the kids are finally at an age where they’ve stopped needing new clothes every 3 months, they still outgrow clothing and shoes quickly. New shirts from Old Navy can cost anywhere between $5 and $15; pants between $10 and $20. At our local kids’ consignment store, the clothes are always in very good shape and we can get plain shirts for $2 or branded/character shirts for $4. We usually pay $3 or $4 for pants. And don’t even get me started on shoes. We recently picked up these exact shoes from the kids’ consignment store for $10; regularly priced at Nordstrom, they’re $50. I can’t imagine paying $50 for shoes that my child will outgrow in six months.

The kids go through things quickly. When they’re not outgrowing clothes, shoes and toys, they seem to wear them down, particularly shoes (why must it always be the shoes?!). At our current daycare, the kids have the luxury of tons of bikes and scooters. While I love that they are developing and learning these skills, what I don’t love is that they wear holes in the toes of their shoes whenever they use the scooter (they seem to use their toes to stop or slow themselves). Lion has developed two actual holes that I can stick my fingers into in two separate pairs of shoes since starting at his new school in May. Panda has worn another pair of shoes down almost completely, though there is no actual hole yet. Again, I don’t want to spend a lot of money if those shoes that they outgrow every six months don’t even last two or three months!

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A Year of Reflection

I always knew I would be one of those moms. The ones that felt heartbroken over how quickly her baby was aging. Turns out I know myself super well. Looking at pictures of the end of my pregnancy and those first days together as a new family are so intimately magical to reflect on. What a time of our lives.

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I think of being curled up on the couch with a little teeny bean trying to figure out breastfeeding. I would hold the baby, my husband would hold my breast and together we’d try and make the perfect latch. I think about stressing about him losing weight and not gaining, and then the victory of him gaining his first ounce.

I remember studying him and not wanting to forget his details. The awe of this little life we had created. I remember the ache of my belly but the magical birth it reminded me of. I remember the confusion of bonding and figuring out how this would all come together. I remember thinking about the word transition and giving myself grace while we adjusted.

I remember crying every single night when the sun set. The long evenings of cluster feedings, yelping with every latch, Googling vasospasm relief and starting a crazy slew of supplements to maintain my low milk supply. I remember being afraid of that weird pump contraption. Hours and hours of breastfeeding (and many a Netflix series). A revolving door of visitors.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Soap Nuts

When I was pregnant I got a few gems of advice from my friends who had already had kids. This is how I found out about the life-changing magic of soap nuts.

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How had I never heard of this amazing nut that is essential Tide pods that grow on trees? While my friend Anna has imparted much wisdom to me over the years – this one is the most tangible. We were already trying to find ways to make the switch to natural cleaning but were intimidated by making our own soaps and jaded by the clever world of “natural” cleaning product marketing.

Soap nuts (also known as soap berries) are native to India so being on this side of the world didn’t make it harder to source them, in fact it probably make it easier – and definitely cheaper! For $9 US, I bought a bag of soap nuts that lasted us from the week before she was born to 9 months old – that’s a ton of laundry, since we used them for our typical washing needs but also a constant flow of dirty diapers.

Poopy diapers come out clean. They work.

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Best Gift Sets to Buy at Sephora

I always keep a stockpile of gifts, especially now that we live in a remote location where it’s hard to buy anything. A gift bag containing an assortment of makeup and skincare products is my go-to gift for friends. I typically include affordable items like:

Then I add in a couple makeup/skincare items and you have a fun little gift bag for around $20, or however much you’d like to spend. I like to package everything in makeup bags that I pick up for cheap during my travels, but if I don’t have any I also keep a stockpile of gift bags. Since makeup and skincare almost never goes on sale, Sephora’s sale this weekend is a great time to stock up on value sets you can break apart for easy Christmas gifts for everyone on your list. These are my favorite picks!

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TOO FACED Best Year Ever Makeup Collection ($49, $285 value) –  This set features 3 deluxe sized Better Than Sex Mascaras as well as 3 palettes and a makeup bag. Wow — this is 3 gifts right here! I have a Too Faced Chocolate eyeshadow palette that I paid $50 for and the shadows are awesome, so this is an excellent value!

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Glow for It ($40, $106 value) – 7 Deluxe highlighters. This is something I would definitely buy for myself.

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Sephora Sale Wishlist

If you’re a diehard Sephora fan like me, you should know that their biannual sale is here! I usually add items to my cart throughout the months and then checkout as soon as the sale starts because they often run out of their best products. Rouge and VIB Members get first access, but for the first time this year they are offering 15% off to Beauty Insiders, a free program, as well with the code INSIDER15 (plus cash back with ebates)! Here are some items on my wish list that I highly recommend!

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Makeup Forever Camouflage Palette – If you know how to color correct your skin with concealers, this is a great palette because there are so many different shades. The Makeup Forever palette glides on easily and blends well with foundation and other concealers you place on top. They also sell the individual colors separately if you only need one color. I recommended this awhile ago for moms who need dark circle coverage under the eyes, but you can also use  this anywhere on your face!

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Tom Ford Eyeliner – Apparently, this is the current holy grail of liquid eyeliners. Yes, it’s expensive! ($57!) But it comes basically with two eyeliners on each end. I know eyeliners work differently on everyone and I’m one of those people who always end up having smudges or raccoon eyes no matter how much eyeshadow primer I put on! So I’m still on the hunt for the world’s best eyeliner. I’m the most excited to try this one. These eyeliners are only available online so make sure you stock up!

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