What I Do When I Have Two Hours To Myself

posted in: IPPP, Life 89 comments


I am blessed. I have a good life. I have the privilege of staying home with my boys.

I am also very lucky to have in-laws who live nearby who love their grandkids and who’ll have them both for a couple of hours occasionally, leaving this Mama some precious free time.

Free in the sense that I don’t have a child hanging off me. Or one who needs his butt wiped. Or demands to be fed, given a drink/ snack/ whatever the toddler can think of.

So I had two hours!!

A few of you said that you would like to see more of my city, so I thought I’d photo document my little jaunt on Thursday.

I walked the boys to their grandparents house in the next block of apartments (yes, they live that near!). We pass by a water feature and some greenery. Nice, yes? The Malaysian flags are up to honor Malaysia’s 55th Independence Day on August 31.


I then drove to a grocery store nearby to get a few items. On my way, I pass a mall. And then it starts raining, which made me think, for a second (just a second!), that maybe I should have stayed home.


I had to go to this specific grocery store because. Well, because.


Off I go again, after my quick grocery store run. It’s a short drive to my next destination, a neighborhood building. I call it a building as I don’t know how else to describe it. It houses many offices, restaurants, shops and it has a courtyard in the middle. And yes, I did drive with my phone in hand just so I could take these pictures for you. See what I do for blogging? Down a leafy street, traffic light stop (there are 3 light stops in less than 2 miles), on the highway (or freeway as you know it), off the highway/ freeway under the bridge and into the building car park.


Here we are! I come here a lot as it’s just down the road from where we live. Top left, is a typical Malaysian bakery. Sweet baked goods. Yum. And looky, Starbucks! And a courtyard filled with tables and chairs for the weekly outdoor flea market which sells clothes, food, fruit and other useless things! Lastly, a local cafe, popularly known as a kopitiam, where I get my rare fix of Asian food (outside of my cooking).


What I ate: Spicy Sichuan noodles. It’s a flat noodle, tossed in a variety of dark sauces (soy sauce, sweet sauce, I think), with minced chicken, a poached egg, a lot of chili flakes, and clear soup on the side with green vegetables and fried tofu skin. All washed down with Asia’s answer to iced coffee – this particular drink is known as ‘cham’. A literal translation of ‘mix’ as it’s a mix of local coffee and tea. Best of both worlds, yes?


My short drive home down the road, up the hill, past the fountain and into the apartment grounds.


Finally, walking to the lobby from the car park. I thought of including my ride up the elevator and getting to my front door, but you get the picture!

So um, two hours, I drove to two places, bought some stuff from the store and ate a quick lunch. I know right? Why didn’t I go get a pedicure or something?

* this is by no means a clear representation of Kuala Lumpur, just my neighborhood!

What would you do with two free hours?


All pictures were taken with my phone, hence, linking up with mamamash and GFunkified for #IPPP!

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 DrGreene.com. 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 22, 2012 Nina

    Oh! I love this! A day in the life! Great photos. Especially fun to see your day in the life because it’s somewhere many of us have not been. (Well, I guess I’m just assuming that!)

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Thank you Nina! This day in my life is not the norm. But pictures of me sitting around on my butt at home, or wiping butts, won’t make that great a blog post right? 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 Julie

    Haha, is it weird that I was so excited for this post? I’ve always been so curious what things are like for you in your surroundings. It looks pretty much like our life too, minus the fancy apartment and all.

    So very cool that you trust your inlaws enough to leave your babies with them. 🙂
    Julie recently wrote…State of the uterus address: Week 10 #iPPPMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Eh, not fancy!

      My in-laws are the only people I trust my babies with. Them, and my sister. Oh, the husband too. Though not both at once 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 Greta

    Love this glimpse into your neighborhood! Two hours free time is awesome, and so are close grandparents (my parents live two doors over). Also, that mix drink is quite intriguing…
    Greta recently wrote…This Parenting Gig #iPPPMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Thanks Greta! I love that my in-laws are close too. How many people can say that?

  • August 22, 2012 Elaine A.

    I love seeing this, thanks for sharing it with us!

    I took K to the library “downtown” today and there really are some cute buildings down there. I think I need to do a photo walk. You’ve inspired me. 🙂
    Elaine A. recently wrote…When an almost three-year-old reads…My Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Oh, do it! You take amazing pictures, so I can just see how gorgeous your city is already!

  • August 22, 2012 Galit Breen

    I love, love, LOVE seeing your world!

    More please?

    Demanding, I know! 🙂

    Galit Breen recently wrote…Watching, and SeeingMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Hee! OK ma’am!! xo

  • August 22, 2012 just keep swimming

    Two hours is two hours. I probably would have spent my time similarly.

    You got some really fabulous pictures. It looks like a wonderful place to live.
    just keep swimming recently wrote…Hollow Tree Ventures Answers the CallMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Thank you, it is a pretty nice place.

  • August 22, 2012 Courtney Kirkland

    I am so jealous that you have family so close to keep an eye on your kiddos for a few hours when you need them. I’ve been taking care of Noah BY MYSELF with no help during the day for 18 consecutive months. Mama needs a break. 🙂 Love seeing photos of your city. So beautiful!
    Courtney Kirkland recently wrote…Motherhood Robbed me of my Social SkillsMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Do you see me bowing to you? Kudos, Courtney, I have no idea how you do it without losing your mind. I’ve always had help from my in laws. We lived slightly further away before, which meant a lot of driving around for me, but it also meant an hour or two grabbed here and there. Totally worth it. Now that they’re so near and they WANT the kids, heck if I’m saying no. 🙂

      I hope you get some relief when your mom visits!

  • August 22, 2012 jamie

    I’d brew a hot cuppa tea and catch up on reading 🙂 But I love how much you can pack into 2 hours!
    jamie recently wrote…Think only of the bestMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      I didn’t feel like I did much but I did savour my yummy lunch 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 Maureen

    KL looks so nice, Alison! Definitely cleaner than Jakarta and traffic doesn’t seem to be as cruel as Jakarta. So neat to see your neighborhood, thanks for the tour. Makes me want to go there even more 😀 Kopitiam is big here too.
    Maureen recently wrote…My Five Fitness MotivationsMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Oh the traffic can be awful! It’s just that I went out at 11am, which is off peak, plus I didn’t venture far. If I went downtown to the city, I’ll need half a day because of the traffic 🙂 And yes, you must come visit!

  • August 22, 2012 Barbara

    Oh what I wouldn’t give for two hours of free time. Your neighborhood looks beautiful!

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      I know, I’m extremely lucky!

  • August 22, 2012 Mark

    Thanks for that tour. And it’s something that I don’t see everyday.
    I noticed that a lot of signs are in English. Is that typical?
    Thanks again.
    Mark recently wrote…PrideMy Profile

    • August 22, 2012 Alison

      Yes it is actually. English is our second language and all the kids learn it in school. Plus, my neighborhood is an expatriate community. 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 tracy

    Two hours? That rocks. I loved this post and little look into your outside of your apt life. Beautiful.xo
    tracy recently wrote…A Simple Scheme..My Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Oh yes, those 2 hours rocked. And thank you. xo

  • August 22, 2012 JDaniel4's Mom

    It was such fun to see where you live. The grocery store looks like a wonderful place to explore.
    JDaniel4’s Mom recently wrote…Needed Organizing- Laundry RoomMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Thanks Deirdre! The grocery store is one of my favorites 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 thedoseofreality

    I am so glad you posted more pictures of your city! I love seeing them! 🙂 I think it sounds like you did a good job with your 2 hours…and maybe now you have an excuse to give your in-laws the boys again, so you can grab that pedicure! 🙂
    thedoseofreality recently wrote…It Is Not Political, It Is PersonalMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I did what I had to that day, so that’s an accomplishment! I may have to wait on the pedicure… 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 Jessica

    That food looks so yummy!! With two hours, I often write. But, sometimes, I just read. Or, sometimes, I go to the library. Or, sometimes, I go to the grocery store. lol. It really just depends on how I’m feeling that day. I’m glad you got some free time!

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I’m glad too! I do get occasional fre time like that, maybe not 2 hours. But I get them. I don’t always go out, so sometimes I do spend them writing too.

  • August 22, 2012 Ado

    Oh I just *loved* this little tour, now I can picture you walking to your in-law’s house in my mind more clearly! It is so exotic. As one of your readers I would like to request MORE MORE MORE of this local stuff! Maybe you could do a series, “parenting Malaysian style” stuff? Photos of things we don’t see here, parenting styles we may not see here, or even foods babies/tots eat etc? I love the pictorial view of your Malaysia – it’s really reeeallly interesting! (-: Even pics of the “other” Malaysia outside of your swank hood. Ok I will stop blathering now. Loved this!
    Ado recently wrote…Update On My NephewMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I don’t know about parenting ‘Malaysian-style’, because what I do see, is that kids are always with the live-in hired help, not their parents. The ‘maids’ as they are called here, do everything. They feed the kids, they bathe them, put them down for naps, take them to and from school, play with them. They look after them in restaurants and malls when the parents are eating or shopping.

      So yeah, I can’t do that post. Unless it’s a rant 🙂

      I can do a shopping post, perhaps. If I ever have a chance to go shopping again!

  • August 22, 2012 angela

    I need lots of two hour blocks!

    1) Errands, including a formal dress I desperately need to buy

    2) Writing!

    3) Massage & pedicure

    🙂 Thanks for sharing. I love seeing where people live.
    angela recently wrote…Solitude, Creativity, and FamilyMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Yes, all those. See how I could only manage errands and lunch? Plus traffic in KL is crazy so I really can’t go far if I have to do more than one thing.

  • August 22, 2012 Jamie

    This was really fun. And you live in a very lovely area. Urban yet green. I remember those fleeting hours when the babies were being kept. How fun to just tool around by yourself.
    Jamie recently wrote…Gotcha. Eleven Years Ago.My Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I love that – tool around by myself. Heh. 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 karen

    that’s great that you have family close by to watch your kids. what a cute adventure you went on, it’s nice to be able go off on adventures on your own.
    karen recently wrote…Liebster AwardMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I am so very lucky!

  • August 22, 2012 sarah

    I loved this. I’ve been curious about your ‘hood too. Two hours to yourself is the best. THE BEST. Thank goodness for inlaws that live close and love your babies. I’ve got some just like that myself. Makes all the difference 🙂 Next time go get the pedicure! And document it for the rest of us, of course 🙂
    sarah recently wrote…take your love to town or don’tMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      It was the best! I do adore my in-laws. Documenting a pedicure might be a little boring. And kinda rubbing it in 😉

  • August 22, 2012 Kerstin

    Great pics!
    That’s exactly what I would have done with two hours (manicures are overrated) 🙂
    Kerstin recently wrote…The ArchivesMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Eating a hot meal alone is much more satisfactory sometimes.

  • August 22, 2012 Katie E

    I loved this look at your world. I work for the corporate office of a grocery store, so I’m strangely interested in seeing what yours looks like. Two hours alone is always awesome!
    Katie E recently wrote…The Longest Day #iPPPMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I have more pictures of a different grocery store!! If you’re really interested, I can email them to you 🙂

  • August 22, 2012 Jessica

    Looks like you had a good two hours by yourself even if you didn’t do much.
    Jessica recently wrote…The August 2012 Garden ReportMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      That I was by myself? Was good enough, yes.

  • August 23, 2012 Jessica

    Oh thank you, Alison! I love this beautiful post, and your beautiful city. One day I’m going to try cham, it’s now on my bucket list. If I had two free hours here, I would probably shop for bras (not something I do with children in tow anymore haha) or find my farmer and hang out in the field. If I had two free hours in your world, I’d ride shotgun while you navigated all that traffic through your amazing city, make you tell me the name of everything in the store, and sluck down many varieties of noodle dishes.
    Jessica recently wrote…A closer look at our school week.My Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Well then, you have to come visit!! Also, bra shopping? YES I NEED TO DO THAT.

  • August 23, 2012 Julia

    I love the photo tour! With 2 free hours I would probably get a pedicure or sit on the beach and read a book.
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    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      If there was a beach near me, I’d probably head there too 🙂

  • August 23, 2012 Rach (DonutsMama)

    Love it. Love seeing pics of different places. I always think things looks so boring and monotonous here. Good for you for enjoying an afternoon off. This is why I need to convince my parents to move closer, lol!
    Rach (DonutsMama) recently wrote…Things That MatterMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      And I hope they do!! I’m pretty sure your place is NOT boring or monotonous. Now I demand to see a picture tour of your neighborhood.

  • August 23, 2012 Mirjam

    That was really great, I loved that little tour you gave. I only wish you would have given me a bite of that delicious food!
    Mirjam recently wrote…SoothingMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      You just need to visit me now, that’s all. 🙂

  • August 23, 2012 Kristen

    I enjoyed seeing where you hang out in your two hours. It doesn’t make you feel so far away when I can picture you hanging out at the places you photograped.
    Okay, so this cham thing…I think they are onto something. I want one!
    Kristen recently wrote…Guest Post at Love Life SurfMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Genius right? Mixing tea and coffee. Gotta love it.

  • August 23, 2012 Leigh Ann

    I love seeing other people’s cities! Looks lovely. And I love bakeries too. 😉
    Leigh Ann recently wrote…It’s just a thingMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Thanks Leigh Ann! I LOVE bakeries. 🙂

  • August 23, 2012 Kimberly

    Love seeing other cities! Looks like you had a good afternoon. And I love the lobby there!
    Kimberly recently wrote…Three Going On ThirteenMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I did too. The lobby is kinda grand!

  • August 23, 2012 AnnMarie

    First, jealous that you have such great in-laws. Second jealous of the two hours. When I have two hours, I head to Barnes and Noble and unwind with a hot chocolate. I try and catch up on some writing of the books I am working on. It’s a great place to get lost in thought. LOVED seeing your city. It felt like I was right there with you. 🙂
    AnnMarie recently wrote…Back to School 2012My Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I know, I’m so lucky. And of all the people I know who need two hours off, IT’S YOU. 🙂

  • August 23, 2012 Keely

    Awesome! Love this idea. And I think you spent your 2 hours perfectly well. (Lunch sitting down?!)
    Keely recently wrote…Paintin’ With Puddin’, a.k.a. She’s Really Lost It, Now.My Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I know! LUNCH SITTING DOWN. It had to be documented and photographed.

  • August 23, 2012 Sue

    Love these, Allison.

    And I am so impressed with your time management skills. The Cherubs are back to all-day school tomorrow. And…pssst…a lot of days I don’t accomplish in six hours what you manage to do in two. xo
    Sue recently wrote…Mommy Mixology – Review and GiveawayMy Profile

    • August 23, 2012 Sue

      ps – I’m sorry for the extra “l” that I tossed into your name. 🙂
      Sue recently wrote…Mommy Mixology – Review and GiveawayMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Only because I don’t know when the next two free hours are coming. Hence the superb time management skills.

      Also, totally okay with the extra ‘L’ – since you apologized for it. Otherwise I’d have to yell at you. 🙂

  • August 23, 2012 Asianmommy

    Mmm…Cham–I’ll have to try that some day! Free time? I’d love to take a nap!!
    Asianmommy recently wrote…TweensMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      You should, it’s yummy! I love naps too. I take them with the kids sometimes 🙂

  • August 23, 2012 Sandra

    I would have blogged with those two hours 🙂 I have *very* limited help with the kids (like a few times a year kind of help), so I know how precious any free time is!

    The filter you used for these photos make them look vintage, and very nostalgic for me. They remind me of my hometown, Taiwan. Thanks for sharing, Alison!
    Sandra recently wrote…Dear Back-to-SchoolMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      I blog at night so yes, I go out when I have that time!

      (I use PicMonkey to edit photos, and for some of these pictures, I used the Tranquil photo effect!)

  • August 23, 2012 Robin

    So fascinating! It’s like vicarious virtual travel.

    Can I ask a really dumb question? What language do you speak at home with your family? And what about in town – like when you ordered lunch, for example?

    And that’s what I would do with two hours too. Funny how sometimes it’s nice to just be able to do that kind of thing by yourself.
    Robin recently wrote…Write OnMy Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Not a dumb question at all!

      My husband and I speak English. My in laws speak Arabic with the kids, sometimes English, and obviously with me, English. Though I’ve picked up some Arabic.

      Ordering lunch, in this case, I spoke English. Most Malaysians understand basic English at least, so that’s easy. If I’d gone a little more local, I would have ordered either in Malay or Cantonese, depending on the vendor.

      Yes, with two kids now, doing anything by myself is strangely freeing and satisfying. Even if only to go to the grocery store.

  • August 23, 2012 Alma

    Thanks for the trip! I had a great time. That supermarket was super! That lunch was delish, Im stuffed. I think I said “Alison put your phone away” a few times… but you made it back safely. So dedicated you are. That was so fun!
    I remember having the grandparents close before we moved. It was nice.
    If I had the free time now I would do knit or crochet, I never get to do that anymore. Go clothes shopping, I cannot do that with the kids at all. Or watch a chick flick, yup all alone… no wait, with a bowl of ice cream.
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    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Hee, glad you enjoyed the little tour! Oh yes, clothes shopping. No way I could do that with the kids. I miss shopping!

  • August 23, 2012 Co-Pilot Mom

    Thank you for the tour our your neighbourhood. It looks lovely!

    Two hours of free time? I would probably get my hair cut or meet a friend for coffee. Or, like you, run a few errands and some grab lunch. Sounds like a great way to spend a couple of hours!
    Co-Pilot Mom recently wrote…HomeMy Profile

  • August 23, 2012 julie gardner

    So. Damn. Fabulous.

    Thanks for the view into your (not typical) day…and Starbucks? I’d feel right at home.
    (Funny that I said this since I don’t ever go to Starbucks, but I suppose we latch on to the familiar to get our bearings…)


    When my kids were your kids’ ages, I felt like I never had two hours. Ever. Even when I did. Because I was teaching or mothering and when I was in-between those responsibilities I was rushing to the other one.

    I always felt guilty or that there was SOMETHING I should be doing. So yeah. Even when I did get a rare break, I didn’t slow down to enjoy it.

    So please. I hope hope hope you can take a break and know you deserve it.

    And now? I can leave the house for two hours any time I want. For real.
    The silver lining of my babies getting old…
    julie gardner recently wrote…Today call me proud. Or cornered. Or just read my post.My Profile

    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      When I got my first two free hours a few weeks ago, I felt guilty enough to not do anything except stay home AND DO HOUSEWORK. For real.

      Now, I know they’re rare nuggets of sanity so I grasp them with greedy paws.

      I want to say I want to be able to leave the house for two hours any time I like. But I know the babies being young is oh-so-fleeting. So I shall live for those rare free hours.

  • August 24, 2012 pc

    I miss home already! Happy Merdeka and may the people unite and proud forever!
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    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      Singapore is a mere few hours away from home 🙂

      • August 27, 2012 pc

        Kids school and us working, it sums up how far it is ;).

        But it sure great to see another Blogger sharing about homeland^^.
        pc recently wrote…Photo *Heart* Fridays: PlaygroundMy Profile

  • August 24, 2012 hilljean

    The noodles look heavenly. And the drink? It’s called Charm? I’m so intrigued! And hungry for noodles now!!!
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    • August 24, 2012 Alison

      It’s actually ‘cham’ (without the ‘r’) but Charm works too!

  • August 26, 2012 Katie

    yay! I love this! I’ve thought of doing a picture post of a typical day, but yours is much better! I love a peek at what your city looks like!
    Katie recently wrote…The Booming Saturday ShareMy Profile

    • August 26, 2012 Alison

      Just my part of my city 🙂 I would LOVE TO SEE YOUR picture post!

  • August 27, 2012 Lady Jennie

    I love the pictures. It does seem more modern than when I was there in 1998. But then I only stayed 2 days and was busy working, so what do I know?
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…A Sunset Near BordeauxMy Profile

    • August 27, 2012 Alison

      This area is pretty new, I don’t think it was built up at all back in ’98!

  • August 28, 2012 Tonya

    I loved this, it was like I was hanging out with you.

    Me time is so precious. I always feel like I’m trying to jam pack so much into the kid-free time I have.

    And always regret I didn’t do more, but then again, it’s nice to just sit and watch the world go by every now and then and not do a dang thing, isn’t it?

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    • August 28, 2012 Alison

      Yes, you’re right! I know I think oh, I can run errands, I can do groceries. But then, sitting down for a hot meal sounds so much more appealing 🙂

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