Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the love seat

Hear ye, hear ye, I have successfully finished a project. The love seat is in place and ready for the passage of many a resting buttock. The weathered timber complete with peeling paint, was left over from a canoe (the hull of which became our outdoor shower), and with Guruji Tom’s patient tutoring I fashioned it into a useful garden feature.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

smoothies & scrabble

After loosening the constraints of our diet while Matt was here, we are now reigning it back with a green smoothie & salad blitz. Out comes the Scrabble board, and a blender full of banana, papaya and silverbeet is knocked back between words. Let it be know that I am still the champ.

Monday, September 28, 2009

curried cabbage

It is Matt’s last night with us and the fridge is bare, save for a few carrots and a handful of limp leafy greens. I swore last time I ate at Johnny G’s (see May 4th) it would take a famine to get me there again, and while I we are in no danger of fading away, I can’t expect our special guest to start a water fast this evening.

I have heard – from meat eaters - that Mary cooks an ok curry, so I order vegie curry for Tom and I, and a chicken curry for Matt. Out comes the rice…and out comes the curried cabbage. Cabbage. Just cabbage. Not a sliver of carrot or hint of bean. Cabbage. With oil and MSG. This is not a fine dining experience.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

pet composters

A mother and kid have made themselves at home in our yard, visiting at regular intervals throughout the day in tune with the tossing of fruit and vegie scraps. We have named them Tali (the mum) and Clipper (the kid) and relish their curious visits. Over time they have become quite game and will walk up the front steps into the kitchen, in the hope of scoring a fresh banana. If another goat comes sniffing, Tali defends her territory with vocal bleets.

Given the chance, goats are not scavengers and prefer to eat fresh fruit and greens from the plant. As such, they don't like their food covered in sand and will wipe it on their rump to clean it before eating. With this knowledge we provide a smorgasboard service to our pets on an elevated slab. They dutifully turn the scraps into perfect little pellets of poo, which I can then pick up and add to the garden. Fun for all the family.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

pink pancakes

The markets offer a selection of sweet “treats”, various combination of flour, sugar, fat and fluorescent colouring. Over the years Tom and I have tried them all, and can vouch that the majority are unidentifiable food objects that can be used as emergency surfboard ding repair. Think of eating pink glue or congealed oily rubber and you’ve got the taste sensation. They are most definitely not raw, vibrant, or wholesome. There are only two that we consider edible – pink pancakes and caramel cake. The first are thin crepes filled with shredded coconut and palm sugar. Last year they were green, this season pink is the in thing. The second is a dense spongy number that slightly resembles the taste and texture of what we know cake to be... slightly.

My favourite for personality are the “diaphragms”. A rice flour batter is deep fried then soaked in palm syrup, the result being a round unctuous pastry-like disc that looks unnervingly like a diaphragm. If you close your eyes and really extend your imagination, you can almost pretend your eating a terrible croissant. A lovely lady of 76 comes every week, sets up her little table and chair at the entrance to the markets and sells sweating diaphragms from a plastic box. They are cheap, very cheap, so I often buy some for the goats, and think of the money as a donation.

Friday, September 18, 2009

extreme gardening

Enough about brave men on big waves. Back to the hardcore activity of extreme gardening. It is dry, hot and dusty. Temperature is hovering around 34 degrees C in the shade and as the wet season approaches the humidity will increase to suffocating levels. I have all but given up on the garden for two main reaons :

1. Being that there is no food around this time of year, every seed I plant is taken by either a hermit crab, ant or rodent. Snails are one thing, hungry hermit crabs are another. Out of a whole packet of marigolds, one seedling survived. My next plan of attack is to raise some seedlings in covered punnets to transplant when the rain begins.

2. At the end of the dry season our well goes a bit salty. It is still within the levels for safe drinking, however the plants are sensitive. The well is tidal effected, and without rain to replenish the ground water supply, the salt infilitrates the fresh water.

My vision of a lush Bali style garden is impractical. The reality is we live on the beach – a harsh environment of sand, salt, wind. Tropical exotics that love humidity and volcanic soil are not happy here, as much as I may coax them along. I need to think zen, scree and coastal salt tolerant heath species for next season.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

eating nemo

Rice is the staple food for locals, supplemented by a scant amount of vegetables and fish, and the odd bit of anorexic chicken. Pigs and goats are reserved for special occasions, more so for dogs and cows. Many people survive on one meal per day, and it is common for this to be simply rice with chilli and sea salt. There is no refrigeration, so unless they grow greens in their yard (as many do), fresh vegies are only consumed on market day or soon after.

The lagoon is a vital source of seafood, and both men and women forage at low tide. Anything that moves - other than starfish - is fair game for their nets, spears and hands. Molluscs, crustaceans, slugs, snot-like creatures and fish of any size are captured for the next meal. Sadly, there is not knowledge of conservation, and generational habits of raping the reef will likely continue as population increases, leaving the lagoon barren, and the locals shifting to a diet of highly processed and nutritionally void food. I have tried to talk to them about sparing the undersized fish and am met with a laugh or vacant stare of mistrust. Their baskets look like an aquarium of tropical fish that I am sure are not usually prize eating. Angel, clown and parrot fish; their colours vibrant in the sunshine as they gasp their last breath.

Fish is caught and brought to shore where it is divided equally and taken home, or eaten immediately over the coals. Skin, scales, guts and all. Straight in the fire as humans have been doing for eons. That’s the meal : no sauce, no side dish, no dessert, no plate, no problem.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

surfing santa

Christmas has come early to the island, with the arrival of our friend Matt, fresh in from the old US of A. His luggage is brimming with goodies - edible, readable and wearable. His Santa sack includes Trader Joe’s organic trail mix with choc bits and cranberries, sulphur free dried New Zealand apples, the latest Surfer’s Journal, and a mammoth hard cover cook book titled “Clean Food”. Matt has just finished a contract with Oakley and I am thrilled to receive a new “sponsored” wardrobe; singlets, boardies, rashie, t-shirt, hat & sarong. Tom is spoilt too with a pair of Waterjacket surf sunnies. He has been wearing a pair of Sundogs from Aus, and didn’t have a back up. No sooner has Matt delivered the new sunnies and Tom loses his Sundogs in the big swell – the third pair to go missing this season. More expense…

Thanks Matt. You know the way to a girl’s heart is not only through her stomach, but through her wardrobe.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

three wise monkeys who surf

With a particularly large swell cracking on the horizon, the boys spend quality time on the "bullshit platform" discussing, debating and theorising over board selection, the capricious breeze, and tidal influence.

Hear no evil - Matt Bunn, USA, special guest
See no evil - Tom McAuliffe, Aus

Speak no evil - John Richards, Aus, next door neighbour

The fourth and wisest monkey is taking the photo.

With conditions ripe - a 3.4m swell, offshore, mid-tide - boards are waxed, sunscreen smeared and cameras fired, and we rally together for a boat ride out the back with our salty-dog neighbour Gerry.

All manner of craft come and go to the safety of the shoulder. Locals make a bit of pocket money ferrying surfers out to the wave in questionable craft, and for guests at the hotel a center console dingy with 120 HP of grunt is on hand to whip you out at full throttle.

Tom taking the drop and settling in to his happy place.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

home improvements

There are many small projects around our house & yard that seem to escape completion, even with the richness of time. The “in-box” is always full, and I in particular have a trail of half finished projects dotted around, with a list of new ideas vying for a start in life. While I was away Tom embraced the DIY bug, and with the help of a local “handyman” connected the power to our bedroom pod. A year after finishing the building, we finally have light and a power point. A grand step toward luxury. The well pump is now hardwired into a switch, a safer option than the dodgy plug that zapped me twice. We originally asked for the electrics to be earthed, but the earth wire got lost in the middle of a bird’s nest tangle and only two wires emerged out the other side.

I imparted Tom with the job of building a towel rail for the beach shower area with free creative licence. Using drift wood found on the south coast of the island, he fashioned a unique sculptural piece. Form and function – his two essential elements of design. The shower is a single piece of wood from an old canoe that was abandoned in front of our house. We bought it from the local owner for $25 and put it to creative use. The rest of the wood is on it's way to becoming a garden bench.

Tom also got excited and started building a little generator shed with a line to the kitchen so we can make smoothies without lugging the blender and the gennie together from their respective storage zones.
I really should go away more often.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cafe Bali

A visit to Seminyak is not complete without time spend at Cafe Bali. Of the many eating establishments along Jalan Oberoi, this is my favourite. It is decorated in the plantation style, reminiscent of a colonial home. Whitewashed wood, shutters and missmatched chairs lend a relaxed, casual tone, while the candlight, chandeliers and white lace tablecloths make the mood just right for romance. Unfortunately, the only romance I am having at the moment is with my pot of Darjeeling tea. The corner lounge area is the perfect spot for coffee or cocktails, and the photo above is Louise taking time out on her visit in July.

Next time you are in Bali, treat yourself. Next time I'm in Bali, I'll bring my camera and take some more photos of this devine restaurant for the armchair travellers and diners out there.

Friday, September 4, 2009

what women want

I don’t want to leave Ubud, but I take solace in the fact I’ll be back in a month for the writer’s festival. The rain has stopped and the air is still and heavy with humidity. I make one final visit to Kafe, take delivery of two kilos of raw cacao beans from Leah at Raw Food Bali and jump on the rickety bus back to the lowlands.

On the short trip through Legian to my hotel, the proud taxi driver tells me that Australian’s always choose Bluebird Taxis because “they safer, have correct meters and handsome drivers.”

Full of courage from my scooter riding around Ubud, I hire a zippy pink step-through and set off onto the traffic clogged streets of Legian. It is slow going through the jam, so there is little chance of a serious dingle. It is not the pleasant experience it was winding through the peaceful backroads of Ubud, and I breathe in enough pollution to warrant detoxing for the rest of my life in Antarctica.

In my search for bed-sheets at Bali Galleria I see a swish Loreal hair salon and divert my wanderings for a hair cut. The male staff are as gay as a mardi gras. When I comment on the all male staff, he tells me, “men like us know what women want.”
My hairdresser’s name is Ee-aw, as in donkey, and he is horrified at the damaged state of my hair.
“Where did you get this colour done? Oh darling, don’t you use a vitamin product after surfing?”
He insists on cutting off a long chunk of my hard earned blond tips, and holding up the mirror so I can see my new do, he seems quite happy with himself.
“Now you look like Celine Dion.”
That’s a long call, but I feel rather glamorous, until I put my bike helmet on and it all goes flat.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Living Raw Magazine

Check out the latest edition of Living Raw for my three page words and pictures spread about Samudra. Living Raw is a Western Australian publication dedicated to the raw food lifestyle, culture and education. It is available from the stockists listed on their home page or you can read my article online via the Samudra media page. Now, if Gourmet Traveller would just give me a call...

spring in my step

Welcome to spring. A curious idea here in Bali where spring seems to bloom eternally in flourishes of tropical colour. The rain and luxuriant green is a treat to my starved eyes. East of the Wallace Line at this time of year, the land is parched, dusty and brown. I think my little garden is progressing, until I arrive here and the sparse plantings seem pathetic in comparison to the Island of the Gods. I’ve had to shift hotels three times in as many days; perhaps a subtle hint from the accommodation gods to keep me moving?

I hire a scooter (for $4 day) and escape to the outskirts of town, where the rice padi are so electric green my optic nerve questions their authenticity. The divine rice plant is considered an animated female being and is treated with particular respect. Each stage is carried out on an auspicious day, accompanied by appropriate offerings (seen in photo montage above) and rites of passage.

Some of the rituals are carried out by the farmer at a small temporary shrine in the upstream corner of the field, others at the water temples. The rites include water opening, field preparations, transplanting, growth, panicle appearance, flowering and harvesting. The upstream corner of the rice field is sacred and it is here that offerings are made to Dewi Sri, the rice goddess.

The Botanic Garden is cool and serene, and for most of my visit I am the only person there. In an island renowned for manicured gardens of grandeur, the Botanic Garden is a little unkempt, but a lovely place to visit and support - if only for the most incredible blue blossom of an unidentified creeper (see photo above).

Steady rain is causing minor flooding in the streets and calls a halt to further scooter jaunts. Best thing to do is escape into the comfort of the day spa for a full body massage.
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