Monday, December 31

hello 2013

Another calendar turns its final page as we launch into a fresh year. Thank you for your readership and comments throughout 2012. I love sharing my experience of the world through words and pictures and hope it brings a little delight to your screen.  

Best wishes for a safe and joyous New Year. We are off to the beach for one final December dip. xx

Sunday, December 30

...and the living is easy

We have been back in Australia for four weeks, delighting in long days with family and friends, rediscovering our favourite haunts and unpacking treasures from the shed.  In our pursuit of voluntary simplicity, a perfect day is the two of us pottering about the house and garden, skipping from one project to another, stopping for coffee, chai or a smoothie, and checking in with how each other's play time is progressing. When we feel the sea breeze swing and the sun is lower, we ride to the beach for a jog and swim, perhaps taking a book or picnic to have under the trees. 

The re-entry process has been less painful for me this year, and I find daily delight in being at home. A sense of the arrival euphoria still remains.  There are always initial shocks that amuse or amaze us (and sometime disgust us) - all day electricity, the water pressure from the hose, the width of the main roads and the orderly traffic, excessive choice at the supermarket (do we really need all these brands of toilet paper?), an endless supply of rolled oats, olives and dates (I am so used to rationing these that I still find myself counting out the olives for a salad), and the high cost of living in a booming state. 

Over Christmas I read Nikki Gemmell's emotive book "Why you are Australian" and can relate to so many of her childhood memories and observations as an expat. The "hurting light", the "tall blue sky" and the smell of home. By the end of eight months in Indonesia, my heart yearns for the greyed green of gum trees, the dry easterly off the desert, the sound of magpies and cicadas and kookaburras.  Both countries feel like home for different reasons, but there is a deep knowing and connection to WA that will always bring me back. 

Saturday, December 29

girt by sea

A touch of sun for those of you in the depths of a northern hemisphere winter, and a reprieve from the heat for Aussies not able to make it to the beach this weekend.  I hope it's a good one. Happy holidays. 

Taken at Meelup, near Dunsborough in WA. Nature's gift to us swimmers. 

Thursday, December 27

christmas day celebrations

Christmas Day can be loaded with expectation and emotion, fuelled by soaring heat, beer and close encounters with family members that you have spent the entire year avoiding.  Thankfully, our day was merry and bright, and suitably festive for my childlike desires.  

I admit to being intoxicated by magazine spreads of perfectly styled Christmas events, and wanted to create a bit of magic to begin the day. We hosted a drop-in vegan breakfast for both families, with the kitchen and coffee machine open from 7am. I was skipping with fa la la on Christmas Eve as I hung decorations and laid out my ceramics collection to be filled at dawn with raw granola, bircher muesli, marinated mushrooms, guacamole and fruit. All sourdough bread desires were met with rye, white, wholemeal and fruit loaves from our local artisan baker, and the barista pumped out flat whites, decaf long blacks and half caf soy long macs. If you wanted tea you had to help yourself.  By ten o'clock we were down the beach for the first dip of the day to work up an appetite for act two - the roast lunch.

The meat lovers managed to withhold their smart remarks about the lack of bacon or eggs at breakfast because they knew what was coming out of mum's oven at 1pm. 37 degrees isn't conducive to a proper sit down English meal, so we congregated around the table in an air-conditioned bubble as three types of meat were slabbed up and roast veggies were smothered in gravy and mint sauce.  We aren't the seafood on the barbie kind of family, despite being free from the mother land for over a hundred years.  Just in case we weren't totally stuffed, there was mum's old fashioned steamed pudding that had been bathing for two months in brandy to accompany retro trifle and custard. All this and not a green leaf in sight. 

Dad flaked out in his recliner before the dishes were finished and siblings parted ways with diplomatic farewells. Tom and I rode to the beach for another swim and snacked on leftover muesli on the deck at sunset. A joyous day. 

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas brimming with peace and goodwill. Best wishes for the rest of the festive season. 

Monday, December 17

drive time bali

raw choc mint slice at Little K, Ubud

I've been away, sorry. Technically challenged, wandering free, moving between the slow lane of island life and the welcoming arms of home, via Sumba and the backroads of Bali. All will be revealed when I can secure a reliable internet connection and the posts once again roll off the keyboard. 

A few days in Bali is the usual end to our Indo season, and behind the wheel of a gutless Karimun, we drove the mountain route from Ubud east, via the royal baths of Tirtagangga, to the coast at Amed.  I had chosen a hotel well placed on Trip Advisor and booked us into the "penthouse room" for one night. Tucked beneath the lace edged mosquito net with an ocean view, the itching started. Is something biting you too...?  Hundreds of nights in cheap hovels with questionable blankets and stained sheets, then we upgrade and get attacked by bed bugs. Very hungry little fellas. The staff were horrified and begged for forgiveness. We scratched, smiled and offered fumigation advice. 

I love change, crave new experiences, and live more than is necessary in the future world of possibilities. Yet a strange conundrum exits where I get like a muddle headed wombat in certain transitions. It's a speed thing, like cranking the gear stick from first to fourth; travelling from desert track to freeway without an on-ramp. Where did all of these people come from, why are they in such a hurry, and and why are they all shopping?

We are back in our little Aussie Love Shack - the first time in three years - and the days are a glorious stream of pottering, fuelled by stone fruit, espresso and chai in floral tea cups.  Long summer hours of gardening, maintenance, renovation and decoration. I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxed and joyous lead up to Christmas. Peace is at every step. 

Tuesday, November 13

endless summer

The Aussie summer is whispering; calling me back from the tropics to the dry desert winds of WA.  One thing is certain, the beach attire down south will not feature budgie smugglers, as proudly sported on the Italian lido. There won't be an espresso or Campari Spritz available within pebble throwing distance, and you have to BYO umbrella. The fine sand gets up your clacker and the water is frothing with sharks. As for personal space, we prefer our density to be 2 persons per 200 metres.  After my initiation into Italian beach culture, I could understand if Euros found our vacant stretches of sand lonely, dangerous and devoid of entertainment; and what's with the long boardshorts?

Photos from the Venetian lido and Largo de Garda.

Tuesday, October 16

ubud off the main road

Central Ubud during the day is a growing disaster of traffic management. Tourist buses block the narrow one way streets, purging their load at the main attractions as indicated in the brochure; to pose with a monkey or temple gate and buy a wooden penis bottle opener or batik sarong. At least up here they are usually petite Japanese tottering in inappropriately high shoes and white sun hats, rather than mobs of singlet wearing mediocrity. Despite the rapid growth, Ubud still has charm, and only minutes from the veil of main street shops, the rice nods quietly and the pace slows to a saunter.  It is on the side streets that I love to sit on a busted plastic stool or squat in the dirt, and eat simple Indonesian fast food, served from the back of a motorbike or beneath a busted blue tarp.  Rice boiled in woven banana leaf parcels, chopped and served with bean sprouts, tofu and peanut spiced sauce is lunch for less than a dollar, leaving pocket money to spend on bottle openers.

Sunday, October 14

casa luna cooking class

Casa Luna cooking school has charmed visitors to Ubud for over 20 years with its intimate and engaging classes.  Originally one class per week, the school has expanded to offer a range of menus, six days a week, from an open air kitchen at the second Honeymoon Guesthouse.  I was fortunate to attend the class as a photographer for the Ubud Writers Festival.

The class offers a sensory experience of Balinese foods from market to palate, without the dreaded washing up.  Spices are ground, veggies sliced and coconut milk added to boiling curry with careful attention to stir in one direction only; a curdled curry is a fast way to lose new friends. The teacher, a jovial long time employee at Casa Luna, shares stories of ceremonial and family life over the rhythmic rocking of pestle on mortar. 

We snack on lak-lak (rice pancakes with coconut and palm sugar) and hibiscus tea, as the aromas of coconut oil, garlic and shrimp paste permeate the air.  The raw ingredients culminate into a feast of chicken curry, spiced eggplant, coconut sambal and urap (bean coconut salad), served on a banana leaf plate. We leave with the desire for a post-lunch snooze and a greater appreciation for authentic Balinese food.     
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