Monday, August 31, 2009

the buffet cat

Every second Monday is buffet and movie night at the Yoga Barn/Little K Café. I take my sketchbook as company, fearing a flurry of Ubud expats gathering together, leaving me to dwell in the corner. The buffet is a superb spread of salad, pesto, guacamole, organic red rice pilaf, and fresh fruit. On my third refill (note here that lettuce takes up more place on the plate than it does in the stomach) I am bitten on the toe by the resident cat. Have they trained it to stop people eating more than their share?

The movie is projected in the yoga room, with cushions, bolsters and blankets strewn across the floor. I adopt the lounge position with a bowl of fresh popcorn and settle in for the show. “Mad Hot Ballroom” is a humorous and heartfelt documentary that follows New York public school kids as they strive to win the annual Ballroom Championship Trophy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bali insomniac

As a little farm girl, mum would kit me out in a woollen balaclava, strap me into a custom made seat on top of the tractor wheel hub, and here I would snooze away the hours of seeding or harvest. This was early training for overnight trains in India, long haul buses in Morocco and the midnight rustling of plastic bags in dormitory accommodation. In short, I could sleep for Australia. If they ever introduce the sleepathon to the Olympics, I am a medal chance.

That is, unless they hold the event in Bali.

Maybe it is because my bed is not aligned with the holy mountain, or I have displeased the gods by unknowingly treading on a footpath offering. More likely it is the sensory overload that hits me when I step onto the tarmac at Ngurah Rai. The traffic noise in the Legian/Seminyak area is relentless; the excessive signage, consumer goods and obese blokes in Bintang singlets visually assaulting; and the elixir available at many a funky caffeine den enticing. Plus my mind is whirring with with grocery lists, massage appointments and hotel bookings. A far cry from our home environment where a falling coconut disturbs the peace and co-ordinating with the tide is the main stressor.

You of busy purposeful lives may scoff, but the ‘island ideal’ can become under-stimulating, and I welcome the change of pace and adrenaline fix afforded with a few days in Bali.

Sleep…who needs it?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

ocean 1 : sally 0

The ambivalent surfer is leaning heavily toward the pissed off side of the fulcrum. It is a rare event for me to paddle out at the main break, and for good reason. Well, in my opinion they are good reasons.

Following the adage of “do something every day that scares you”, I joined the braver and more experienced waterfolk in the line-up. Sat, watched, paddled, floated, then bailed out. Donated a few drops of my own salt to the ocean out of frustration and resorted to sulking on the boat. Average effort. Surfing is a ridiculous pastime...

...until I next paddle out.

birthday muffins

Tomorrow is Tom’s birthday, and as I will be deserting him for a yoga retreat in Bali, we are having a birthday eve dinner with the “Aussie Parade” community. It is pot-luck (bring a plate), and I’m providing the “cake”. A sweet use for the humble carrot that is simple and delicious.
Raw Carrot Muffins
Makes 10-12

1 C almonds, soaked & ground in food processor

1 C almond pulp leftover from making almond milk (or extra ground almonds/walnuts).

½ C raisins
1 C carrot, grated

½ C oat flour (oat groats finely ground)

1 T coconut oil

2 T ground flax seed

½ t ground ginger
½ t ground cardamon

1 t ground cinnamon

1 C dates, soaked & blended with a little soak water to form a paste

¼ C agave syrup/honey

grated rind of an orange & 2 T orange juice

Optional ½ C grated coconut

1. Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Mixture should be sticky, but not wet.

2. Spoon into muffin trays, lined with silicone moulds or cup-cake papers. Press down to firm.

3. Refridgerate 6 hours. (Will keep fresh in fridge for up to 2 days).
4. Decorate with fresh marigold petals or cashew nut “frosting” if desired.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the surf pod

Today we have a special "guest", Tom the island architect, with a word about tropical architecture. Take it away Aquaman:

The Surf Pod was conceived as a separate bedroom/ dressing room with an outdoor shower as an extension to the original house. The pod is modular in nature, and the design is also being applied to several other projects in the neighbouring villages.

The Surf Pod aims to be utilitarian yet poetic, lightweight yet strong, with a satisfying balance between the sense of being firmly planted, and the ability to move on. It’s form is guided by ease of constructability and the fundamentals of good tropical design. It speaks of a humble footprint in the community. It opposes the palatial, air-conditioned, concrete compounds, but does not sacrifice harmonious proportions, nor become prosaic. The occupiers are here to surf and develop relationships with people, and a modest dwelling is able to facilitate this.

Aesthetically, the Surf Pod derives inspiration from the temporary, yet long-lived, fishing shacks that used to be found nestled into the sand dunes along the Australian coastline. Small ‘villages’ of these shacks developed in places away from the towns. These were places where town dwellers seeking to escape the mundane would occasionally integrate with the fringe dwellers who semi-permanently resided there. The environs seemed to afford the occupiers an abundance of time for creativity, as often evidenced by the ornamentation and arrangements of found objects, typically flotsam-like in material. Therein lay parallels with why people are drawn to the island.

The Surf Pod is also partially of bucolic influence, with references to the Australian shearing shed, for example its raised timber deck, oiled and with gaps between.
Of its vernacular elements, the most obvious is in the coconut-palm leaf roof. It is a significant element in its function of insulating from the sun, as well as providing a visual blending with the surrounding palm canopy, and a link to the local beach shacks of the indigenous people.

Photos below are of recently completed Surf Pods for a couple of expat clients.

Friday, August 21, 2009

let there be light

In April last year we were catapulted into the 21st century with a power connection. For two seasons we lived in a building site, with one lantern and a head torch each, cooking over an open fire and hauling water from the well - like camping with a comfortable bed. The idea of cold water and task lighting felt like a distant dream.

To keep our vegies reasonably fresh, Tom built a "Coolgardie safe" - essentially a hanging hessian box with a water reservoir on the top. The hessian wicks the water, and the action of wind blowing through the moist fabric cools the internal space, albiet slightly. Increased humidity inside the safe preserves the greens longer than sitting on the bench, but it sure doesn't make ice-blocks.

The day of connection was long awaited :

One would think that when buying a service from a national company the price would be fixed for all customers. Think again. Wellam, the PLN (power company) boss is making a house call to discuss our needs - and the needs of his hip pocket. The quote for supply and instillation of 2 power poles, 1300 watt meter, two lights and one powerpoint begins at 7 million rupiah. We counter offer 5 million, and with patience and smiles we agree on a price of 6 million, including the installation of all powerpoints, switches and lights throughout.

The electricians arrive to install the power, and we have quickly ascertained that to be a contractor you simply have to have a heart beat, and be prepared to lose it in an electrical disaster. The offsider is about 16 years old and is keeping us entertained with soppy love songs played through his mobile phone. They string the main line from the road with two temporary sticks and the odd bit of string tied to a coconut tree. Then they attach the meter to the house with three rusty nails and pull the wires through the roof and into the gudang. The “free” switches and powerpoint come mounted on a scrappy old piece of ply that they nail into the brick wall. If this is the official electricians, I’d hate to see the dodgy backyard operators. Now that I am making lunch, the offsider has abandoned his post and is playing paparazzi with his mobile phone camera. Had I known 'Vogue Living' was coming to do a photo shoot I would have made an effort with my hair and makeup.

Let there be light…and there was. At precisely 5.54pm we are enlightened with the cold blue glow from our first fluorescent globe. The switch is providing great entertainment; on, off, on, off. Oh, the simply joys in life.

We are now proud owners of a fridge/freezer. At night, when the power is on, we freeze bottles of water, then each morning we switch them into the fridge compartment to act like an esky throughout the day. It works well, providing you minimise opening the door and never do the "stand and stare and hope to find something delicious lurking in the back that you had forgotten about." Trust me, there is nothing in our fridge worth lusting over.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tom on the job

The day begins with a perusal of conditions...

Followed by five or six hours in the office. Seen here impersonating an albatross, or is it a seagull? (Thanks to a friend for these photos, taken from a boat in the channel. Don't know where I was? Missed out on the action).

Then maybe visit a building site to take some measurements and sketch new ideas...or go for another surf...

Magic one day, perfect the next.

Monday, August 17, 2009

freedom day

Today is Independence Day, or Freedom Day. Merdeka! Merdeka! Freedom. It celebrates the day that that Indonesian's told the Dutch to naff off. However, it took four years of intermittent negotiations, recurring hostilities, and UN mediation before the Netherlands agreed to relinquish its colony on 27 December, 1949. The nation swathes itself in red and white, and every house erects a makeshift flagpole to hoist the flag. Red for bravery, white for purity.

Our village celebrations center around the oval in front of the church. We arrive as the flag is being raised - the most solemn part of the ceremony, honouring those who fought for Independence. The crowd is silent, most unusual for the rowdy bunch. The school kids are resplendent in their starched uniforms, woven ikat vests and polished shoes. A gaudy lounge has been poached from someone's front room for the officials to sit on, and a the biggest speaker system this side of the Wallace Line blasts out the formalities. The bonus for us is a day of electricity. Viva la Indonesia.

We the people of Indonesia hereby declare the independence of Indonesia. Matters which concern the transfer of power and other things will be executed by careful means and in the shortest possible time.
17 August 1945. In the name of the people of Indonesia. Soekarno-Hatta.

I particularly like the mention of "other things". Talk about keeping your options open.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

weekend wavefest

Size : 3-4 times overhead
Wind : light offshore, with onshore moments around midday to interrupt proceedings
Weapon of choice : 7 footer
Casualties : 5 snapped boards, 2 legropes (including Tom's)
Giggle factor : hearty belly laugh
Crowd : more on the reef watching

Size : 2-3 times overhead
Wind : offshore
Weapon of choice : 6' 8"
Casualties : 1 legrope (Tom again)
Giggle factor : chuckle
Crowd : intimate 5 - 7

I made a rare appearance on the reef today to watch and photograph the action. Not the best conditions for shooting - midday light, spindrift obscuring the wave, models not performing... As I'm coming to the end of my supportive wife enthusiasm I see Tom's board tombstone and fly unexpectedly high, then see he isn't attached to it. He's flapping around inside as the board heads for the reef - another broken leg rope. I put my bare feet on the line and win "handiest wife award" for rescuing the board before it meets a certain battering. Tom's fun is cut short. I get company on the walk home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

international green smoothie day

We don’t know who coined this one, but hear, hear. Homage to the humble green smoothie.

We have run out of bananas, so this morning’s blend is a simple papaya and greens combo. Just got the smoothie made before thegenerator shit itself again. Thankfully there are two days of power coming up for Indonesian Independence Day, so we have time to get the “fumigator” fixed.

We encourage everyone to incorporate green smoothies into your diet – they really are delicious, quick and easy. For fun, you can join up to the free “14 day smoothie challenge”, or at least check out the recipes and testimonials on this site. For background to the green smoothie revolution and detailed research findings into the benefits of simply adding 1L of green smoothie to your current diet, check out Victoria Boutenko’s website or get your hands on one of her inspiring books : "Green for Life" and "Green Smoothie Revolution".

Kermit was wrong. It is EASY being green.

Friday, August 14, 2009

solar water treatment

Our drinking water comes from the well, treated with a solar disinfection process (SODIS) as developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology and Sandec Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries. SODIS is recommended by the World Health Organisation and is promoted throughout the developing world as a simple, low-cost technology with great potential to improve the health of those without access to safe drinking water. The SODIS process is a simple technology that uses solar radiation to destroy pathogenic microorganisms which cause water borne diseases. Sunlight treats the contaminated water through two synergetic mechanisms: radiation in the spectrum of UV-A (wavelength 320-400nm) and increased water temperature. If the water temperatures raises above 50°C, the disinfection process is three times faster.

Transparent 1.5L plastic (PET) bottles are filled with well water and exposed to full sunlight for six hours (minimum), on a sheet of corrugated iron.
Ah, but what about the nasty chemicals from the plastic I hear you cry…? Sunlight transforms plastic material into photoproducts. Laboratory and field tests however revealed that these photoproducts are generated at the outer surface of the bottles. No migration of these photoproducts from the PET bottles into the water was observed with the applied analytical methods.

It is a clean, green and simple technique for water treatment that sure beats boiling.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

aloe rustling

The free range goats that roam the village must be among the happiest in the world. We love their inquisitive nature and their daily visits to forage for fruit and vege scraps. They are mobile composting units with personality. However, given the chance, they will extend their nibbling to anything green and annihilate a bed of greens before you can say silverbeet.

Two things the goats won't touch are aloe vera and vincas, which significantly narrows our choice for landscaping. Aloe vera transplants easily and loves rough treatment, which is essential to survival in our garden. We source our plants from a "secret grove" at the back of an abandoned house, and transport them one by one in my bike basket. This can make for an uncomfortable ride and puzzled stares from the locals as we make our way home.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

the cake that won’t bake

I have always loved baking. The creation of something new from individual ingredients in a short amount of time is the perfect art for a "scanner" that flits from one project to another at a dizzying speed. Even as a raw foodie, I still bake for friends and family. Depending on your view, this is an act of benevolence, or "poisoning" the neighbourhood with refined sugar and wheat.

Today is dad’s birthday and I use this as an excuse to bake a carrot cake and give it away. At the same time I save some grated carrot for a couple of raw carrot muffins for our supper. My oven is an thin aluminium box sitting atop a kerosene flame. "Beware the black shit" is the motto when baking with this archaic contraption. The kero flame coats every surface with a filthy black soot, no doubt infusing into the cooked goodies. It has served me well over the years, and I have learnt to adjust cooking times and choose suitable recipes, as the maximum temperature at full blast is around 180 degrees. No scones or soufflés.

I pull out the cotton wicks with tweezers, trim the ends to encourage a cleaner flame, and set the oven up out of the wind. Sift, mix, stir, then into the black box. Doesn’t seem very hot…
Three hours later, the batter is partly congealed and the oven has run out of kero. I think there is a hidden message in this baking experience.

Sorry dad, the pigs got your cake.

Friday, August 7, 2009

besi bars

As almonds are a valuable imported product to our kitchen, I like to create new ways to use the pulp left over from our “power day smoothies.” This weeks experiment is a sweet number I have coined Besi Bars. Besi means iron in Bahasa Indonesia, a fitting title for these power packed morsels. Tom reckons they taste like old fashioned gingernut bikkies gone soft.


2 cups almond meal (left over from making almond milk)

1 cup oat flour (we only have rolled oats, which are not raw, if possible use steel cut oat groats)
1/2 cup dried goji berries, soaked
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoon raw cacao powder

1. Combine all ingredients.

2. Spread mixture evenly onto non-stick sheet. Dehydrate at 40ºC until firm (8 - 12 hrs). Flip over and cut into bars about 6 hours into the dehydrating time.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to dehydrate or can’t wait that long, roll mixture into balls, refrigerate and eat as Besi Balls.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

the pool is open

Our days here are shaped by the action of the tide. Last night was full moon, generating large “spring tides” with a range of 2.6 meters. The reef frames a large lagoon that drains and fills twice a day. When the tide reaches 0.7 meters, the “pool” is open for swimming. Below this water level it is fit only for a wallow.

With spring tides, the water rushes through the lagoon, creating a jet-pool effect for swimming training. On the “neap tides”, the tidal range is less, the movement of the water slower, and the pool more subdued. To those of you rugged up against the winter chill, my condolences.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

curry crackers

A savoury recipe to use the leftover almond meal from our chocolate smoothies. Topped with cos lettuce from a neighbour's garden, cucumber, tomato and fresh alfalfa sprout, it makes for tasty post-surf fast food.

3 cups almond meal (left over from making almond milk)
1 cup oat flour (we only have rolled oats, which are not raw, if possible use steel cut oat groats)
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons garam masala (curry powder)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cumin & coriander seeds, coarsley ground
3 tomatoes, blended
2 cloves garlic, finely crushed

1. Combine all ingredients. Add a little water if mixture isn't sticky enough.
2 Spread mixture on non-stick sheet. Dehydrate at 40ºC until firm (about 12 hrs). Flip over and cut into crackers half way into the dehydrating time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

know your greens

Being the only vegetarians in the village, we are often called upon by other bulehs to identify the leafy greens, and espouse their many benefits and uses. Over time, we have identified which ones are best in salad, which ones make a tasty green smoothie, and which ones are good for roll-ups. The greens are plentiful and cheap, sold per bunch, tied together with a strip of lontar or pandanus leaf. They are grown organically within a 20 km radius, and picked fresh on market morning. Heaven for a raw foodie and the planet.

The main greens available are :
bayam (amaranth leaves) – dark green, small leaves, our salad staple

sayur putih (literally white vegetable; bok choi) – fibrous & strong, good for green wraps

sayur hijau (literally green vegetable; pak choi) – large fibrous leaves, softer stem than sayur putih, our choice for green smoothies (shown above)

kangkong (water spinach) - nicknamed "dream weed" for their alleged ability to stimulate dreams, small narrow leaf and fibrous stem. We don't use these often. (shown above left, with sayur putih)

daun ubi (sweet potato leaves) – very tough stems, small elongated leaves, don’t get into these much.

Monday, August 3, 2009


We knew it had to come soon, an unusually still July settled us into a false sense of calm, and it is easy to forget how windy it can be in the midst of a howling offshore. Today is the third day of strong easterlies, gusting to about 40 knots, and coating every surface in dust. If I was so inclined, I could mop around the clock. Like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge - just get to the last floorboard and I could start mopping all over again.

That's enough talking about the wind.

What's the wind doing?

Sunday, August 2, 2009


M.S.G. The locals love it. It is in almost every packaged savoury food, and when added to a bowl of boiled rice with chilli and a few shallots it makes a meal. Add it to my food and I want to puke. They use it liberally, by the spoon full. Not a pinch, a tablespoon. So when our Aussie neighbour, Long John, asks us to join him for dinner at the warong, I am not leaping with the thought of gourmet vegetarian, but rather the dread of boiled cabbage and ajinomoto. However, our fridge is bare and we are feeling slack, so we accept the invitation. It is not a case of turn up and choose off the menu, for there isn’t one. John “booked” us in a day ahead with our preferences - what we get will be a surprise. We are the only customers, and while John receives half a chicken smothered in sweet and sour sauce to accompany his rice, we are poisoned with boiled cabbage and carrot, glistening with oil and singing with MSG. A hard way to get out of the dishes.
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