I shared this caption on my Instagram Sunday morning:
I’m 29 years old today.
It feels just like any other normal day, but this past year has been anything but normal…but when is an expat’s life ever normal?!
I have SO much to be thankful for looking back on this past year. I’ve explored so many new countries…experience the pain and joys of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum…grown closer to my spouse and best friend Brett as we walked though unexpected surprises and transitions and…can now relate better to people who feel like they don’t have a home.
This past year I got to travel around Thailand, Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungry, Croatia and Sweden. This past year I also felt stuck in America—my home country— that oddly often doesn’t feel like home.
I’d say the best part of my 28th year, however, was becoming a mom to my sweet Harper. She is such a gift! She’s also one of the reasons I choose to eat the way I eat…so I have energy and health to take care of her day after day.
Here’s to my 30th year! I hope it’s as refining and adventurous as this past year…and full of delicious, plant-based food too…duh
So basically this past year has been a whirlwind full of traveling, adjusting to life as a new mom and trying to stay sane amidst instability. I thought it would be fun to reminisce on this past year by sharing some highlights from the blog. A couple weeks before my birthday last year I announced I was pregnant with a photo of Brett and I on our babymoon in Prague. I also shared a recap on my first trimester.
Once the cat was out of the bag in regards to our pregnancy, I then started sharing recaps of all the different countries/cities we visited on our three week babymoon. Brett and I flew back to the states last July for my cousins wedding and on our return trip to China we made a minor detour to Central Europe where we bussed and trained our way around 9 different major cities in 8 different countries. It was definitely our most intense trip to date, but it was one of the best trips ever and one we won’t ever forget. I was so thankful to have just finished up my first trimester when we started our babymoon, so the nausea I had been experiencing previously had mostly passed and I had lots of energy to walk miles and miles throughout different European cities. I’m still amazing at how much activity my pregnant self was able to manage during that trip!
You can find some of our babymoon recaps below!
We went to more countries than I listed above, but those cities were my favorites! To see all of our babymoon recaps click here!
Once we got back to China after our babymoon, Brett and I jumped back into language learning. We knew that we’d be returning to America for an extended period of time to have Harper, so we wanted to finish our initial 2 years of language learning strong. It was honestly hard to stay motivated to study Chinese with our return to America right around the corner, but I’m so proud of where we ended. I don’t share too much about learning Chinese on the blog, but man, it’s definitely a hard language to learn! Brett and I have put in so many hours of class and review time and I was amazed at the level we achieved before we wrapped up our first two years of language studies.
I also grew so much in just being able to do life in China during our first two years of language learning. Running errands, talking to people on the street and keeping our house running got easier and easier the longer we lived in China. I even wrote a post sharing all the Items Expats can Purchase on Taobao (a.k.a. Chinese Amazon) in hopes of teaching other, newer-to-China expats the tips and tricks I picked up on how to search and buy things online, both in English and Chinese.
Ultrasounds and Vegan Food in Chiang Mai, Thailand:
Right before we went back to America, Brett, some friends and I made a quick trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is an expat paradise and is such a fun, cheap place to vacation. It wasn’t our first time there and it won’t be our last, but I was thankful to be in my second trimester during our time there. I was past the nausea phase of the first trimester, yet wasn’t showing too much to feel uncomfortable walking around hot Thailand. I also had plenty of room in my stomach to still enjoy all of the amazing Thai and American food! You can read my Vegan Restaurants in Chiang Mai, Thailand post here!
OH, and most importantly, it was while we were in Thailand that we found out Harper was a girl! Thailand’s health care is amazing and cheap, so we often go there to get checkups done. Our ultrasound experience in Chiang Mai was amazing and I was so thankful that I got it done there, versus getting one done in our small city in China. I had had a feeling from the beginning that the life growing inside of me was a girl, so it was so fun to have that confirmed! Later that week, Brett and I decided on the name Harper Lynn (Lynn is a family name), but we kept it a secret until her birth.
In late October, a couple weeks after our trip to Thailand, we headed back to America to prepare for Harper’s arrival. We went back when I was in my third trimester in order to start having more scheduled prenatal appointments. I started sharing more posts on my pregnancy including posts on third trimester hunger and exhaustion, my favorite maternity clothes and natural birthing books I was reading. We were based out of Nashville, Tennessee at the time so we also had a lot of fun going on dates to different vegan-friendly restaurants before or after my prenatal appointments downtown. To read about Vegan Friendly Restaurants in Nashville, Tennessee, click here!
It was during my 36th week that we found out Harper was IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction) and were told we should quickly be induced. I share all the details in this post, but weeks 36, 37 and 38 of my pregnancy were emotionally rough and definitely full of lots of tears. I was constantly thinking about Harper, whether she was okay in my womb and whether we were making the best decisions for her. It’s crazy how much you can love your child even before you meet them!
On the day I reached 39 weeks, we drove to the hospital for me to be induced. It definitely wasn’t my plan to be induced, but it’s rare for birthing plans to go as expected, right? I did manage to give birth to Harper as naturally as possible and you can read all the details of Harper’s Birth Story here! Giving birth to Harper was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it gave me the best gift!
I’ve shared quite a few postpartum updates since Harper’s birth, one at 3 Weeks Postpartum, one at 6 Weeks Postpartum and just recently, one titled, “6 months with Harper”. The weeks right after giving birth to Harper were hard, as you’ll quickly see in my first 3 week postpartum update. I was exhausted, lonely and…exhausted. Thankfully things began to improve as I started to get longer chunks of sleep every night and did some traveling. We took a road trip to Houston when Harper was 3 weeks old and eventually relocated there to spend more time with Brett’s sister and their family before heading back to China.
Heading back to China:
In late April we flew to China with our new daughter and a bunch of stuffed-to-the-brim-suitcases. Harper was a wonder baby on the flights and was either happy or smiling. What a gift! I also shared what I ate during the week surrounding our return to China, including lots of plane food.
Sadly, after just two wonderful days in China, Brett, Harper and I had to turn right back around and fly back to America after some unexpected personal things came up. It was a whirlwind of a week where we had to let our instincts take over and shove our feelings aside. Since returning right back to America, however, we’ve had lots of highs and low. We are so thankful for extra time with close family and friends, but we often feel homeless or like we are burdening others as we are constantly living out of suitcases and moving from house to house.
I’m sure all the stress and travel didn’t help during the weeks I was Trying to Increase my Milk Supply!
One of the biggest highs during our time in America has been working on the blog alongside Brett. I will say it has been such a challenge trying to find places to take photos of food while not having a stable home and all my photography props/tripod with me, but I’ve somehow manage to keep up a fairly regular posting schedule. Not long after returning back to America, Brett decided to dive in and help me with a lot of the logistical, behind-the-scenes aspects of blogging and it has been so fun to find a hobby that we both enjoy together. We signed up for a couple of months of Food Blogger Pro and both devoured the different video topics that they offered. I’ve seen my food photography improve (at least when I have access to good lighting) and Brett has made so many awesome changes to the site’s functionality. I’m so excited to see what is to come with the blog once I’m back in China and have a more consistent schedule, stable lighting source, my tripod, access to a stocked kitchen and pantry, etc!!
Despite pregnancy, birth, travel, travel and more travel, I’ve managed to make some delicious recipe this past year. I listed some of my favorites below so be sure to check them out!
- Oil Free Vegan Double Chocolate Jumbo Muffins
- Vegan Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
- Vegan Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
- Vegan Pizza Soup
- The Best Homemade Granola Recipe
- Peanut Butter Coconut Granola Bars
- Vegan Almond Butter Soba Noodles with Tofu
- Almond Butter Coconut No Bake Cookies
- Easy Vegan Tahini Brownies Recipe
- Lemon Miso Tahini Dressing
Thanks so much for following along with my journey this past year. All your comments and e-mails mean so much to me!