Sophie is 18 months! 

Sophie is 18 months! Coloring and playing with playdough are this girls top favorite things to do. She’s a big fan of the song “Let it go” and sings it high pitch all the time. The list of words she knows how to say are more then I’m willing to write out. She loves playing pretend and dressing up. It’s so cute to see how she interacts with her baby doll. She’ll rock the doll to sleep, give it a bottle, and push the doll around in her stroller. Sophie enjoys being outside! First thing in the morning she always says “Outside?!” She likes to feed the fish and the chickens, explore the backyard with her aunties, jump on the trampoline, step in mud puddles (we still need to get her some rubber boots) and just run around like a silly goof.

Sophie's 18 months!

Sophie's 18 months!

Sophie’s favorite food at the moment are Apples. She eats them like candy! She likes to practice saying her ABC’s. We started doing letter art the other day. I printed out these block letters and looked on Pinterest for fun ways to decorate them. We’ll see how it goes. So far we’ve done letters A and B. I’ll write a blog post when we are done to show off all her letter art.

Sophie's 18 months!

Sophie's 18 months!

Sophie's 18 months!

Sophie's 18 months!

Sophie's 18 months

I think they were looking at the moss on the tree when Sophie made this face.

Sophie's 18 months

Fall time is so fun! I can’t wait till we have enough leaves to pile up and jump in.

Sophie's 18 months

She stepped in a mud puddle while I had my back turned and the expression on her face is priceless! I can’t tell if she’s angry or puzzled, haha.

Sophie's 18 months

Sophie loves her aunties!

Marble Mountains–Da Nang, Vietnam


Jutting out of the south end of Da Nang are five little mountains.  Despite being relatively short, they seem to have a unique prominence, as they protrude out of the coastal plain not much more than 500 meters from the ocean.  Surrounding the mountains are buildings–in some places running right up to the edge of the mountains, surrounding them–adding to their strange prominence.


All throughout the mountains there are tons of pagodas and Buddhist statues.  Linking up the different caves and pagodas are bunches of tunnels, which were quite the relief from the heat and scorching sun.  Below are a bunch of pictures from the Marble Mountains.








It looked like there were plenty of touristy things you could do there, but we did not spend too long hanging around.  We would have stayed a little longer if possible.  But, alas, traveling in a group is not always conducive to spending a lot of time in one place.  Definitely put the Marble Mountains on your itinerary if you’re traveling to Da Nang–it makes a good stop on the way to Hoi An.  Although we did not spend quite enough time there, we don’t think they necessitate more than three to four hours.  A good, full day could consist of the Marble Mountains and Hoi An.  We did those and Lady Buddha all in one day, but felt like it was a little rushed.  If you have any questions about traveling in Vietnam with a baby or about our trip in particular, please let us know in the comments below!

Lady Buddha


Overlooking Da Nang stands the 72 meter statue of Lady Buddha. Nestled on the side of Monkey Mountain, the white marbled statue is referred to as The Female Buddha, The Goddess of Mercy, The Emotional Rescuer, and The Jewel in The Lotus.

With beautiful bonsai gardens, intriguing pagodas, and breathtaking views of the ocean, I would definitely put this on your “to do” list to visit if your ever in Da Nang.



Sophie was asleep half the time we were there. She must’ve been tuckered out from all the fun we had at the beach the day before.



This was probably my favorite spot to take pictures. Hardly anyone was there and the view through the arches with the ocean in the background look like something out of a painting!




Playing around with the GoPro. We love the wide angle feature so we can get everything in the picture.  Danny was thinking about buying a wide angle lens for the DSLR, but decided that the GoPro was more versatile.  Plus, it was a lot cheaper!

Sophie admiring a marbled mural at the base of the statue. Sometimes I wonder what she’s thinking in that little noggin of hers.


I know that this lotus flower looks completely fake, but I can assure you that it is in fact real!


Unfortunately, we were only there for about an hour. I wish we would have had a longer time to explore inside the pagodas and to really soak in all in (from the shade, that is.)

Hoi An, Vietnam

We’re trying desperately to catch up on our posts–so the next few will be predominately photos.  Hope you don’t mind.

Here are a bunch of pictures from the tourist trap of Hoi An.  It was beautiful (probably why it is such a tourist trap).  Hoi An is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is supposed to be pretty close to what ancient Southeast Asian port cities would have looked like long ago.  Minus the gaggles of white folks and merchants selling souvenirs, I suppose.  Without further ado, the pictures:


Street vendors sold delicious morsels around every corner.


The iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.


Okay, I’m not sure that you can qualify this as culture shock, but I’m not sure what else to really call it:  Vietnamese actually wear the conical hats (think the term is strange?  There is a whole wiki article on it).

I know, right?


The city was littered with beautiful pagodas that we had fun exploring.


We have seen tons of song birds all throughout Vietnam.  Pagodas will frequently have a few hanging about in ornate (or not) cages.


Wild dogs, anyone?  (There is a strong possibility that this dog is actually not wild.)


Sophie exploring a pagoda.


Urban decay in an ancient city.


After wandering about the city alone for a while, Ashley, Sophie, and I bumped into some friends from our program.  They were in some boring museum, so we let them tell us all about it from the second story balcony.


Still not sure why Ash wanted us to include this picture.


In other news, I was having some indigestion whilst walking around Hoi An.  Ashley had the foresight to pack a pocket sized mint-flavored Tums in the backpack.  Lifesaver.  I would definitely recommend bringing Tums when traveling to SE Asia.  Just saying.  (The reason I’m ranting about this here is because I wish my stomach had been as peaceful as this statue.)


More pagodas.







Hoi An had tons of shops selling this lanterns.  I just wonder how tourists get them home.



Fruit.  Lots of fruit.



As you can see, we bought some fruit.  When we were looking at the pineapple, we were joking about how sad it was that we wouldn’t be able to get any because we had no way to chop it up.  The woman at the fruit stand must have understood us, because she conjured up a blunt looking knife and began to quickly carve the pineapple for us.  Sophie was in heaven.


Sometimes, I’m taken back to the many Russian history and Soviet literature courses I’ve taken in college when the waving red flags.  That’s all.


We decided to take a boat ride after being heckled by numerous tour guides.  We caved–but sunset was the perfect time to go.



Hoi An was just as pretty at night as it was during the day.  But like everywhere else we’ve been in Vietnam, it gets crazy busy at night.  The sun goes down and the people come out.  It probably has something to do with the insane heat that dominates the day.  That and the Vietnamese obsession with avoiding getting tan at all costs (even down to full on coats in 100+ weather during the day).  I guess skin cancer isn’t that big of a deal here?


Sophie enjoyed looking at all the lanterns from the Enterprise.


But she was one tired baby by the time we got back to The Finger Hotel in Da Nang.  Not sure why we stayed at ‘The Finger’, but we can definitely say that we have slept in one of the world’s largest fingers… I guess.

Da Nang


Continuing on our way up to Sa Pa, we stayed a couple days in Da Nang. Super hot, but way beautiful! That was the first time I had been to a beach with palm trees, smooth white sand and beautiful aqua waters. Just like you see out of those tropical paradise calendars. We stayed at The Finger Hotel –giggle, giggle. Why it’s called that, I have no idea. I’ll leave that up to your own imagination. The staff there were super nice and most spoke Engish very well. Sophie was a fan amongst most of them.

We were on the 7th floor of the hotel. The view was spectacular! Sophie enjoyed looking out the widow at the city. We had an amazing view of the ocean too. 

This was Sophie’s first time at the beach! She loved digging her hands and toes into the sand. As I buried her legs in the sand, every now and then she would peek her little toes up. I’d tickle them and she bust in laughter. She thought it was the funniest thing. 

Da Nang

Da Nang

Da Nang

Da Nang

Sophie’s classic “surprise face.” Gotta love it!

Da Nang

Our loyal and trusted Osprey carrier, The Enterprise, has been a lot of cool places. Now we can say that it’s journeyed with us to the tropical sandy beaches of Da Nang, Vietnam. (Danny wants put patches on it marking all the places we’ve been with it.) 

Da Nang

Da Nang

The water was so warm. Sophie just wanted to sit in it and splash. Her diaper got so full of water and sand that we ended up taking it off and let her go nude for a while. She didn’t mind al all, haha. I think she liked the breeze. 

Going to the beach was a lot of fun! Sophie stayed nice and protected from the sun thanks to her awesome long-sleeve swim suit. Best invention ever! I’m surprised she kept her sun hat on too. Normally it’s a battle with her to keep it on. She must have been so mesmerized by the sand that she totally forgot she was wearing it. 

Get ready for some more exciting posts about our visit in Da Nang coming soon! 

Chom Chom Love

The other day we went to the market here in Sa Pa and bought some Rambutans a.k.a Chom Choms (we like that name better.) Sophie loves them! We decided to do a photo shoot of her expressing deep infactuation with them.

Sophie's Favorite Fruit

Sophie's Favorite Fruit

Sophie's Favorite Fruit

Sophie's Favorite Fruit

That face! I love her cheesy toothless grin. This babe’s got only four teeth and she’s 14 months today! How do you make them stop growing?! (the kid not the teeth, haha.)

Hope you enjoyed this little post. Ta ta for now!

Cao Dai Temple — Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

It was the first time I had seen a wild monkey.

Ashley and I got off the bus, leaving the comfort of air conditioning behind for the insane heat reflecting off the massive amounts of blacktop surrounding the temple.  Strangely, everyone’s first thought was, “I need to go to the bathroom.”  My first thought was, I need to get back on the bus.  But maybe that was just me.  As I mounted Sophie on my back in the Osprey babypack, I looked to the only shade.  The shade was by a chainlink fence.  On the other side of the fence was a monkey.  A wild monkey.  Well, at least a monkey that wasn’t in a zoo.  As to this particular monkey’s wildness, I can’t really say anything…

While the rest of the group went to the loo, I set off around the grounds to take a look at the Caodai temple.


Caodaism is a ‘traditional’ Vietnamese religion.  You can interpret traditional however you like, but in any case Caodaism is very Vietnamese.  It emerged in the 1920s amid a general Vietnamese sentiment of anticolonialism and nationalist resistance.  In other words, France had colonized Vietnam and the Vietnamese did not like this very much.  Interestingly, you can kind of see the French colonial influence in the architecture of the Caodai temple(s). Below are some pictures of the exterior of the Caodai temple we visited:







As we geared up to go inside, the men had to go to the right side of the temple and the women the left.  We had to take our shoes off way back by the asphalt and walk on bamboo mats and carpet up into the temple proper.  Entering the temple was very prescribed and ritualistic, however once inside, we could stand by one another, talk, and even take video and pictures.


The exterior of the temple was nothing in comparison to the vivid color that made up the intricate–almost arabesque–designs that adorned the main hall, floor to ceiling.


Both the interior and the exterior, however, are filled with symbols.  Couldn’t tell you what they mean–but they were everywhere.  This is the left eye of Cao Dai.


Cao Dai is revered as the highest deity–the creator of the universe.  However, Caodaism incorporates many different religions, including Confucianism and Christianity.  Here you can see Christ and Confucius, among others.


Shortly after exploring the main floor, we were ushered out into the entrance and a prayer ceremony began.


In the main hall, tons of people gather, kneeling, to pray.  On the second floor, in a sort of loft, musicians accompanied the melodic praying.


We wandered around for a bit, taking videos and pictures.  Below are some more pictures of the temple.  Not all of the monks were in the main hall praying.  Some were directing the traffic of tourists watching the ceremony, others were lounging about.  Others still were admiring Sophie.






Let us know what you think of the pictures.  I recommend reading up on Caodaism, the Wikipedia article is interesting.  If that does sate your interest, let me know, I have a couple articles specifically concerning the syncretism in the religion.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Now that we are finally settled down here in Sa Pa, I feel like I now have enough time to sit down and recap our travels thus far in Vietnam. We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on the 20th of May around 10:00 am. The temperature was 99 degrees Fahrenheit with 60% humidity. When we stepped out of the airport it was like walking into a sauna! There were tons of people hanging out around the entrance. Taxi drivers,  bus drivers, hotel greeters, and tour guides, but mostly families waiting to be reunited with loved ones. As we made our way to bus 152, people were staring us down like zoo animals. I think their eyes were mostly fixated on Sophie. Vietnamese people adore Sophie for some reason.

As we piled on the bus, we asked the driver how much it would be for us and our luggage. He said that he’ll just make us pay for four seats, which is 24,000 dong (about $1.20 USD.) We attempted to give the driver a 500,000 dong note (the lowest note the ATM would give us), but he looked at us annoyingly and shook his head. Apparently he didn’t have enough change to split it. So we frantically asked around for change and luckily Mary, a student who flew with us on the plane, backed us up and said we could just pay her back. Crisis averted. We continued to the back of the bus, sat down, and made our way to the Blue Diamond Hotel.


Sophie was still in her backpack and I seated her next to the window so she could look out at all the cool things to see. Vietnamese culture is way different from any other culture I’ve experienced. After living in Russia for multiple years I’m used to seeing dirty streets, crazy drivers, street vendors, and open air markets. But this was a totally different experience. Pretty much everyone here drives a scooter. They buzz around like bees, weaving in and out of traffic. Most are lugging cargo three to four times their own weight, or potentially even more (we have a contest going of who can take the craziest picture of scooter cargo). There are tropical plants everywhere and fruits I never even knew existed. Adorable old men and women with their straw Vietnamese hats riding down the street on their bicycles, locals lounging in the shade drinking tea or smoking a cigarette. Even though everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere, they still seem calm, chill, and lackadaisical.



When we reached the end of the bus route, with the help of some kind Australians pointing us in the right direction, we made our way to the Blue Diamond Hotel, which happened to be another few more blocks. I can’t tell you how fun it was to haul all our luggage (roughly 140 lbs including Sophie on my back) over unfinished, crowded side walks and cross busy congested streets. It was an adventure indeed! We finally made it to the hotel in one piece with the only casualty being Danny’s beloved Klean Kanteen water bottle he had bought at REI right before we left. Poor Danny was devastated. It must have fallen out of his backpack on the way to the hotel.



The hotel was a breath of fresh cold air. Literally. The AC was amazing! Kind of the same feeling you get when jumping into a pool after you’ve been boiling in the hot tub for a while. The hotel staff were very accommodating and helped us carry in our luggage. The lounge area was quite fancy with marbled floors and vintage looking furniture. It was a nice change to the stuffy planes and crowded buses we took to get here. While we were waiting in the lobby to get checked in this sweet Malaysian lady asked if she could take a picture of Sophie. She was the first of many to take their picture with her. So we can keep track of all of Sophie’s fans, we ask if we can take a picture of them together too (check out #sopheastasia on Instagram).

We took our bags upstairs and set out to find a place to eat lunch. We ended up eating at the famous Pho 2000, where Bill Clinton ate when he came to solidify political relations with Vietnam. Sophie was adored by all the waiters and waitresses as you can see in the photo below. The food was delicious! I got Bun Cha, which is a grilled beef and rice noodle dish served with fresh herbs and soup-like dipping sauce. Danny got Pho Bo (beef). The total bill was $6.40 for the both of us. Not bad for a tasty and filling lunch for two (well more like 2.5 if you include Sophie). Sophie loves the food here! There hasn’t been any food that she’s spit out, even Danny’s spicy food.



After lunch we walked around town and did some sight seeing. Here are some of the places we went.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall



You can’t actually go in the building, but it’s pretty to take picture out side. It was built in 1908 and was designed after a hotel in Paris. I love the way it looks at night when it’s all lite up. A must see when visiting Ho Chi Minh City.

The Siagon Opera House


Another beautiful French colonial building that looks amazing at night. It was built in 1897 and in 1955 was transformed into South Vietnam’s Assembly House and then turned into a theater in 1975. It’s only open to the public during events and its most popular performance is the AO Show, a Vietnamese acrobatic show, costing around $65 a ticket. We wish we would have had the time/money to go see it. The trailer makes it look pretty epic.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica



This cathedral was established by French colonists in 1877. It threw me off a bit seeing all these French-styled structures in Vietnam, but then after learning more about the French colonization of Vietnam it made more sense. This was a very busy tourist spot with many street vendors surrounding the perimeter.


Our first day in Vietnam was truly an adventure! I’m sorry it’s taking me so long to update the blog. There will be more posts coming up on the rest of our time in Ho Chi Minh City as well as Da Nang and Hanoi. Stay tuned! 🙂

Washington Trip

Washington memories.

Here are more pictures of the trip to Washington and celebrating Sophie’s first birthday. Sophie loved hanging out with grandma and grandpa and all her aunties!

Our first day in Washington we went to Lake Wilderness and the arboretum. We fed ducks, played on the playground and picked little white daisies in the field. All the ingredients for a perfect day!

Washington memories.

Washington memories.

Washington memories.

Washington memories.

Washington memories.

Sophie loved listening to Grandpa jam on the guitar.


Sophie’s birthday party was a blast!

Emily made her this beautiful pink ombré cake decorated with flowers from the garden. I loved the way it turned out!





Sophie loved all her wonderful presents. Thanks to everyone who was able to come and celebrate with us!