This City

posted in: Life 98 comments


Horns tooting. The call for prayer at the mosque. The heavy rain beating down on this city.

I hear it all, when we open the back door, or the French windows to the balcony. The incessant sounds of living in this city.

Condominiums. Terrace houses. Low-rise apartments. Bungalows. Kampung houses. Even palaces. It’s up to you to make a home in this city.

A typical condominium in Kuala Lumpur, as seen from my balcony

Sitting in traffic. Being cut off in traffic. Being tailgated. Tailgating. Swearing at someone for doing a dangerous move. Tractors, buses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, people. All on the road. Why I don’t like driving in this city.

Shopping in a large department store. Buying trinkets from the open air market. Tiny marts. Large grocery stores. Wet markets. Too many places to spend your money in this city.

A supermarket we frequent

Cafes. Mamak stalls. Restaurants. Old-fashioned coffee shops. Fast food chains. Cuisines from every part of the world – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Tex-Mex, Thai, Japanese, Croatian, Korean, English, Brazilian, Fusion. So much to eat in this city.

Malay Kuih, a local dessert

I live in Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital and the most populous city in Malaysia. 1.6 million of us live here.

The home of the famous Petronas Twin Towers, Merdeka Square where our Independence was declared in 1957, the tourist trap attraction Central Market.

13 years, 8 addresses, 3 cars. In this city.

I have a love-hate relationship with this city.

I hate the traffic, the bureaucracy, the politics.

I love that the best part of my life has happened here – meeting my husband, starting a family.

Yes, I live in this city.

Thank you to Jessica of Close Enough, who provided me the inspiration to write this post!Β 

What do you love and/ or hate about your city?

Don’t forget to link up with Galit of These Little Waves and I, from August 13 – 17 (linky closes at 9.00pm Eastern) for Memories Captured. Our sponsor this month is the fabulous Visions in Vinyl, who create gorgeous vinyl decals for your home. Two lucky linkers will win a decal worth $30 each (including shipping)!

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • August 8, 2012 Julie

    Is it wrong that “We built this city on ROCK AND ROOOOOLLLLL” is playing in the back of my head?
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    • August 9, 2012 Jessica

      Now it’s also playing in my head. Thanks a lot. πŸ˜‰
      Jessica recently wrote…Essence Of Now: Into The WildMy Profile

    • August 10, 2012 Alison

      *snort* It’s been playing in my head since I wrote the post!

  • August 8, 2012 Don AKA eldergeek

    I live in a small village in central Texas. I love it here. I’ve lived in one large city (St. Louis, Missouri in 1977 when the population was 4.5 million) and hated pretty much every minute of it. Home is where your heart is I guess. My heart is lost in the woods in the middle of nowhere. πŸ™‚

    • August 10, 2012 Alison

      Sometimes, I wish I lived in the middle of nowhere. Less people to annoy me. πŸ™‚

  • August 8, 2012 Kerstin

    I just got back from a trip to Metro Vancouver, which is just about the same size as Kuala Lumpur. I love/hate it there as well. I love the bustling city life, the ocean, the highrises Downtown, all the possibilities.
    But the humidity and the traffic and all the weird people and not being able to let me kids run lose drive me insane!
    I’m glad to be back at home in little ol’ cowtown for now – but as soon as I’m a famous author I’m buying a condo right at the waterfront Downtown Vancouver πŸ™‚

    • August 10, 2012 Alison

      See, that would be perfect. A permanent home in cowtown as you call it, and a city getaway. πŸ™‚

  • August 8, 2012 Christine

    I now live in Seremban, not far away from where you live! This place is where my husband lives and makes a living, so I just tag myself along. I like this place because it’s definitely quieter than KL, that means less traffic jams and cheaper living costs, and some local food are quite nice. What I hate about this place, tho, sometimes I feel that this city is too boring, everyone seems like speaking Chinese and Cantonese (which I don’t quite understand) and there are almost no Indonesian food available here (I have to go all the way to KL just to eat my fave Indonesian dishes!)… I miss (all) my friends and family who now live overseas!!

    • August 10, 2012 Alison

      Seremban is smaller and quieter, yes! I’m from Ipoh, which is a small city, but less busy but definitely not as interesting, so I understand where you’re coming from. I’m sure you miss your friends and family – I do too since so many of my friends live overseas.

  • August 8, 2012 Alma

    It sounds a lot like the city I left… New York. I have lived there all of my life and have loved the conveniences, the culture, the diversity and energy. But now with kids … we needed the change of pace and scenery. We moved a month ago the south and are enjoying the slower pace, the big house and its people. We had to give up some things but we feel were worth it.
    Sounds like you have made a nice compromise with your city. I know all about the love/ hate thing.
    Whenever I am craving a visit to a city, your city tempts my taste buds.
    Alma recently wrote…If Time StoppedMy Profile

    • August 10, 2012 Alison

      Y’know, much as I hate city living, I did love New York. I think it helped that I was only there for 6 days and it was just so different from KL. Also, I may have idolized NYC in my head since I was 18, so there’s that. So glad you decided to move for the children. We are planning to do that too, hopefully in 2-3 years, to Australia, my husband’s home country. I want the boys to live in a house, have a dog, be able to play outside on a patch of grass, climb trees, go swimming in a lake, have picnics. Right now, we’re just in a concrete jungle, sigh.

  • August 8, 2012 Sarah

    Love that picture of the building Alison. How fun it would be to trade places with you for a day. What a completely different change of pace πŸ™‚ I’m not a big city girl, but I’d enjoy a short visit!
    Sarah recently wrote…the sunday spill–this is your life. so smile.My Profile

    • August 10, 2012 Alison

      I love that you love the picture, because to me, it’s just another condo building and I hate condo living! I would love to trade places with you for a day but I bet you’ll be calling me at noon, asking for your life back πŸ™‚

  • August 8, 2012 Christine

    I never ever ever expected that I would settle in New York City. I remember when I moved here from California, my first thought was there is so much concrete here. But now, after…17 years in this city (save for 2 years in grad school), I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I like all the things that Alma said but that’s also why I love raising my family here too. Living in Brooklyn makes that a bit easier though. I could do without the rats and the stinky smells and things like Times Square though.
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    • August 10, 2012 Alison

      So much concrete – that’s how I feel about KL. It’s hard to find a place to take the kids without encountering traffic, rainy weather and a clean, safe environment. When we took the toddler to Australia, there was so many outdoor activities, and he loved it. That’s the kind of place we want to bring the children up.

      And OMG I stayed in Sheraton in Times Square when I was in NYC and it was in.sane.

  • August 8, 2012 Kimberly

    Like Julie, I also have that song in my head now.

    I have loved in the same city since I was a baby. I grew up here and stayed here when we started a family. This city is just right for me.
    Kimberly recently wrote…My Quiet HourMy Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Lucky you. You need to show me around when I come visit!

  • August 8, 2012 Nina

    I’ve said this before but I love the look and layout of your blog. I also just followed you on Pinterest–nice “call to action” up there.

    I live in Minneapolis. I love that it is so much smaller and easier and lower key than where I grew up in Chicago. Hate that too. πŸ˜‰
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Thank you Nina, and for the Pinterest follow! (be prepared for a deluge of dessert pins on weekends!)

      Seems like everyone loves smaller, easier and low key πŸ™‚

  • August 8, 2012 Lady Jennie

    I only saw a small part of your city since I was there on business but I can picture everything you wrote!
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…Like Water for CoffeeMy Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      When did you visit? It’s changed a lot in the past 10 years.:)

  • August 8, 2012 Mark

    Small town boy here. I’m not strong or smart enough to live in a big City. Although a small city, I did for a few years but once the kids started getting older, we’ve moved further and further away. “Green Acres is the place for me”.

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I wanna live in Green Acres too πŸ™‚

  • August 8, 2012 Mirjam

    So many of this made me homesick of the city where I was born, Paramaribo in Surinam.
    I hate that it’s crowdy, (though not as near crowdy as Kuala Lumpur) but at the same time, I love everything about it.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      You should visit Surinam!

  • August 8, 2012 Jessica

    I love this! I’ve spent time imagining where you live ever since our time zones text last year – thank you for the beautiful description. I *love* cities. My cousins live in the heart of Vancouver and it’s just fabulous. (Also thank you so much for the link xo)
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Thank YOU for the post idea! I had something like this brewing for a few months, but didn’t quite know how to approach it until you suggested offering a different perspective from your farm life. I’m thinking of doing a series of more in-depth posts on Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia in general. Thanks to you!

  • August 8, 2012 Maureen

    Sounds like Jakarta on a much cleaner version lol! That green thing looks like dadar gulung (crepes with sweet coconut filling) and the pink one looks like kue lapis. Amazing how we have similar things πŸ˜€ oh and one day I’ll take a pic by your famous petronas towers.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Yes, they’re the same kind of kueh! When I worked in Jakarta, I always felt right at home, even with all the traffic πŸ™‚ (it took me 45 minutes to get to Kemang by taxi, from the Stock Exchange Building one evening) You must come visit, we’re so close!

  • August 8, 2012 MamaCassie

    I live in a semi-small town of about 20,000 people, called Chambersburg here in Pennsylvania. It’s home to me because like you, I met my husband and became a family here. I love the city lights and diversity that is in every big city, but I don’t think I could survive living in one. I’m just not cut out for it.
    Your city sounds amazing! I would love to visit someday! I love the pictures you posted, especially that dessert! Yummy!
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      So happy you love where you live! After living in this city for so long, I’m not sure I’m cut out for it anymore. It’s just too much stimulus! And the dessert IS yummy.

  • August 8, 2012 AnnMarie

    I have a love/hate relationship with my city (I use the term “city” loosely…it’s a suburb of Chicago) as well. I grew up ten minutes from here so there is comfort in that. I love the close relationships I have formed with neighbors and friends but sometimes I feel a little suffocated. Living here sometimes feels like I’m on a hamster wheel.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Time to move? πŸ™‚

      • August 11, 2012 AnnMarie

        YES!!!! Can’t get hubby and the kids on board.
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  • August 8, 2012 Jackie

    I live in a small town that is so close to a couple larger ones, but the cities are blah…. boring…. nothing special really. They’re not areas that people think of when planning vacations that’s for sure!
    But my town is home and like you it’s where I met my husband and created my family…. so it’s where I stay. For now.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I think that’s perfect – living in a small town but close enough to cities. That’s what I want!

  • August 8, 2012 angela

    My city is little, though we are near Detroit. I think I would have a love-hate relationship with city living. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I think we have to wait now, maybe until retirement.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      City living is overrated πŸ˜‰

  • August 9, 2012 Tricia

    I love reading about other people’s cities. I love to travel, and I feel like your pictures let me live vicariously through you.

    My post about my town:
    Tricia recently wrote…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Glad you like it!

  • August 9, 2012 Jessica

    Your city sounds so marvelous. I would love to visit Malaysia someday. It’s on my list of top 5 cities.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Do visit! Aside from the big city, there are plenty of quaint little towns and awesome beach spots here.

  • August 9, 2012 Runnermom-jen

    Whoa! That’s a big city!! I’m a small town girl, Alison…only 45,000 people live here. I think I would feel swallowed up by your city.
    Thanks for giving us a peek πŸ™‚
    Runnermom-jen recently wrote…I Am…My Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I grew up in a small town. I kinda miss that kind of lifestyle πŸ™‚

  • August 9, 2012 Elaine A.

    I live in a smaller city than I ever have right now and I do like that things are close and the traffic is not bad but MAN I sure do miss my big city shopping. Oh and restaurants.

    Those twin towers are amazing. And I know what you mean about love/hate because if we moved back to Dallas tomorrow I would have the same feelings!!
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Oh yes, shopping. That. I’ll miss that when we move to a little town one day πŸ™‚

  • August 9, 2012 Stasha

    I used to request flights to Kuala Lumpur every month. It was my favorite destination. And not just because of Vincci πŸ˜‰ But I can see how living in it would make one have a love/hate relationship with it.
    Beautifully written.
    Stasha recently wrote…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      You probably know KL better than me!

  • August 9, 2012 Katie

    I’m a total Journey song…small town girl. (well, I don’t live in south detroit, though). I live on the west “coast” of Michigan in Holland. My best friend lives in Chicago, so now we get to visit the “big city” a couple time a year. I could never move away from my small town. The guy who fixes our car went to high school with us. I get to support small businesses on Main Street.

    It’s like Cheers…somebody always knows my name πŸ™‚
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Just like my Dad. Everyone knows him the town I was born and grew up in πŸ™‚

  • II live in a village, we choose to live here because it is so close to both Brussels and Antwerp (where my husband works). It is small, rural (relatively) and has this HUGE convent smack dap in the middle of it.
    I love that our neighborhood is such a young one, that our girls can play outside on the street, that our cat can hunt mice, that there are horses in the meadow behind us.
    And those towers: awesome! .
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Sounds blissful, sigh.

  • August 9, 2012 Asianmommy

    Your city seems amazing–would love to visit someday! I live in the ‘burbs–I love our community & our schools, but downtown Chicago has a lot to offer. I hate the traffic, but I love the museums!
    Asianmommy recently wrote…Summer Fun at The Center for GiftedMy Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Museums are awesome!

  • August 9, 2012 Leslie

    Kuala Lumpur seems so exotic to me! Though some of your complaints (traffic, tailgating and noise) are similar to a city I used to live in. It’s amazing how sometimes we hate living somewhere, but the places we live become a part of us.
    Leslie recently wrote…Making Your Kid’s Birthday SpecialMy Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I think all cities are similar πŸ™‚

  • August 9, 2012 Laura

    I grew up in a small town. My husband grew up in the biggest city in Canada. We’ve found ourselves in a middle ground, of sorts, in the biggest city on the East Coast. My husband still calls it “small”. I sometimes still find myself lost in its bigness.

    I relate to so much of this. The culture: markets, festivals, food. The cramped feeling: I’ve lived in six different apartments since moving here. Sometimes I dream to go back “home” (will never happen), or to just move outside the city to some place a little more family friendly, but I know part of my heart will always be in the city centre.
    Laura recently wrote…Am I Happy?My Profile

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I have a dream to live in place where it’s a little bit of country, a little bit of city. I don’t know yet where my heart lies, I’m hoping to find it soon.

  • August 9, 2012 Susi

    I would like to visit your city one day but couldn’t imagine living there, just like I couldn’t imagine living in New York or London (and I love those cities). I’m such a Florida girl now. I need the beach, the ocean and the palm trees…. I’m happy living in this city. πŸ™‚
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      That sounds awesome, lucky girl!

  • August 9, 2012 Jessica

    I feel the same about where I’m from. I hated the traffic that was there but I loved that my family was nearby.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I want to move so badly!

  • August 9, 2012 Blond Duck

    Holy crap. And I thought San Antonio was bad…
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      There are some charms to this city, it’s not all that bad πŸ™‚

  • August 9, 2012 Tara

    Sounds a lot like New York….and I love it!! LOL
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I’ve only been to New York once and I loved it too!

  • August 9, 2012 thedoseofreality

    That was such an interesting post. I absolutely loved reading about a place I have only really seen in pictures before. And that dessert looks super yummy! πŸ™‚
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Thank you Ashley! And those desserts are yummy πŸ™‚

  • August 9, 2012 Carolyn

    I enjoyed reading this post and glancing inward to a city I haven’t been to.
    My head hurt a little. There’s a lot going on there!
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Oh yes, there IS a lot going on here. I haven’t even gone into the nightlife aspect (only because I haven’t been involved in that for years, heh).

  • August 10, 2012 adrienne

    I loved this post! Mostly because I am always so curious about your life in Malaysia. What brought you here? Have you always been there? What your hubby does for work? Really, I think about these things. I may or may not have thought about you in Malaysia in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Creepy? It’s true. LOL!!

    Probably b/c I never go anywhere and I’m super intrigued by anyone who does! Your city looks amazing. πŸ™‚
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Well, I was born in Malaysia, I grew up in a small town 2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. I left home at 17 to go to college in KL, then spent 3 1/2 years in England to pursue my degree. Then I came back to Malaysia in 1999, and moved to KL when I found a job here. And here I’ve been ever since!

      You’re probably not the only person to wonder about my life here, hah!

  • August 10, 2012 Mrs. Jen B

    I love how you describe your city. Love it.

    I don’t so much consider where I live “my” city, since it’s not even really a city, just a bunch of houses surrounded by fast food chains and stores. But Philadelphia on the other hand…I love the energy, the history, everything. I love spending time there so much. And there’s always something new to discover. I do wish I’d made the most of the time I lived in the heart of it, but I was kinda silly and life is always easier in hindsight, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Yes, life is definitely easier in hindsight πŸ™‚

  • August 10, 2012 Sue

    I love/hate the city I live in because it’s the city I’ve known since age 11. Makes me thankful for the opportunities I have to get out and explore a bit, you know?
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I never go out to explore KL much. Too much traffic and too many idiots πŸ™‚

  • August 10, 2012 Brittany

    I love seeing your city! I would love to live in a big city again. Charlotte is just not city enough for my bones! I am always so curious about your life and would really love to hear more!
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      I’m thinking of doing a series of more in-depth posts on where I live. Like where we eat, shop etc. I’m just not sure people would be that interested πŸ™‚

  • August 10, 2012 jamie

    Oh, the city where it all begins… for you. And many others. What beautifully written post, Alison.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Thank you, Jamie.

  • August 11, 2012 Natalie

    ooh, I want to come visit so bad!

    What a lovely love letter to your city.
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    • August 11, 2012 Alison

      Come! Bring the kids!

  • August 12, 2012 My Inner Chick

    that dessert is lovely. Like colorful Art!

    what is it, Mama A? Xx
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    • August 12, 2012 Alison

      They are lovely! The pink one is called ‘kuih lapis’ – layered cake. It’s sticky and sweet. Yum. The yellow one is shaved tapioca with coconut milk, and the green one is like a crepe with sweetened grated coconut filling.

  • August 12, 2012 Winter

    Oh the food! I want try all the food in your city. I feel inspired to write about my city now! Thanks for the inspiration!
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    • August 12, 2012 Alison

      The food here is really good. And you should write about your city!

  • August 13, 2012 Not a Perfect Mom

    I often forget how beautiful my city is…we live in a tourist destination for beaches and expensive shopping and extravagant dining…but day to day I see parks and water play and the children’s museum and schools….
    Not a Perfect Mom recently wrote…My Dinner Guests….My Profile

    • August 13, 2012 Alison

      Sounds awesome!

  • August 14, 2012 Charlotte

    OMG! How many people live in that condo across the street from your place? That’s a lot of residents! I thought NYC had a lot of crowded apartment buildings.

    I know what you mean about the love/hate relationship with your city (I have it where I live, too). You make a home there, so it always holds a part of your heart. But there are always things that can be changed to make our experience a bit more… pleasant. Less people, noise, traffic; more trees, green spaces, and quiet corners.

    But having so many options at our fingertips is kind of a nice perk, right?

    Great writing here, Alison. XOXO

    • August 14, 2012 Alison

      Charlotte sweetie, that’s just one of many buildings just along a couple of streets in my neighborhood. In my condo itself (there are 2 blocks), there are over 360 units, and I believe it’s at least 90% occupancy rate here, plus most are families like ours. So, er, over a thousand? And that’s just where I live!

      But yes you’re right, having options is a good thing, though we are missing the more greenery and parks option, sigh.

  • August 14, 2012 Tonya

    I enjoyed this very much, getting a glimpse of your city. It has inspired me to write about where I live. Stay tuned… πŸ™‚
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    • August 14, 2012 Alison

      Thank you, Tonya! Looking forward to reading your post πŸ™‚

  • August 18, 2012 Robin

    This is so cool – interesting to see a bit more of what your life is like. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚
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    • August 19, 2012 Alison

      I’ll be writing more of such posts!

  • August 22, 2012 Galit Breen

    I adore the posts you write where I get an extra glimpse of your world, your days, you.

    This? Is breath-taking. Love.
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    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Thank you sweet friend. xo

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