Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Here We Go Again!

After a few months in Ubud, Bali we are are going to hit the road again.  We have had some wonderful and enjoyable guests this fall (Bali does not really have seasons as we know them--only a dry season and a wet one).  Peter and Anne were here for 2 weeks from Northern England, bringing their great British sense of humor and their own Manchester honey--delicious. Ken and Vicky were here (also 2 weeks) bringing their Oakland sense of humor and lots of memories.  Good times! Nicole spent 3 weeks here planning and ordering her yoga clothes to sell at fairs around the west.

Our movie club keeps on going--everyone still enthusiastic and we get together once a week to watch a classic movie from around the world. We're making more friends and meeting interesting people so we're intellectually stimulated and keep busy within our little ex-pat community. The ex-pat community here in Ubud is a small but interesting scene, full of all types--from ex-professors to artists to world travelers. We attend  lectures, go to yoga class at least once a week, check out art openings and always look forward to the new restaurant (we eat well!). The ex-pat community on the southern part of the island is a much fancier, high fashion, bar-hopping, socializing thing--much money down there and they flaunt it. Not for us!

So the house has been full--we even had the bungalow rented for most of the past 2 months. We have also finally got the pool and fish pond working properly, which took a few specialists and some money, but it has been a long time coming. The house is in tip-top condition--we did all the little repair things that show themselves during the first 6 months.

And now we have the house and bungalow rented for the next 2 months (thanks to Barbara's tireless efforts and hard work) and we have nowhere to go. Just kidding! We have some great places to visit, like Myanmar (Burma), Northern Thailand and Southern India. Our favorite and funny little pug Milo will be spending time with a local man who loves dogs--have a good time Milo!

We'll leave here tomorrow and will be in Myanmar for 2.5 weeks; and will see how they celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve. This is a good time to see Myanmar because of the recent loosening up of the political regime and from everything we have seen and heard this is a beautiful and fascinating culture and country.

Next up--Thailand.  Barbara and I have been to Thailand a few times, but this time will be different. We will arrive in Bangkok in the middle of January, where we will meet up with Barbara's sister Alicia and our youth brigade, Sasha, Eli, Darci and Aaron (sorry you couldn't make it, Zoe). After a few days we fly up to the northern city of Chang Mai where we will tour, trek for a couple of days, eat and celebrate my 70th birthday!

The family goes home  (except for Sasha) and we fly over to Mumbai where we catch a train for Goa on the west coast in the south. Goa was a Portugese colony and so, therefore has Catholic and European influence.
Goa was the big scene (and to some extent still is) of the great hippie parties and gathering of the sixties and seventies. This was the start of the full moon parties that now occur in many backpacker resort areas. But Goa has beautiful beaches and wonderful food. From Goa we'll travel east and see some interesting and exotic towns and cities until we come back to Bali February 17.

Just realized that we never posted pictures of the garden, yard and fish ponds since we've been back this fall and everything grew exponentially during the six months since we planted. We can not believe how lush it is and how fast things grow here! So here are some pictures:

I'll post along the way and put up pictures.  Hope you all have a great holiday season and a happy New Year!

Monday, October 10, 2011


We've been back here since the middle of September but haven't posted due to our extremely busy schedule! Just kidding!  Actually we have been kind of busy--hosting friends, the 8th Ubud Writers and Reader Festival (for which we volunteer and attend as many events as we can squeeze in), and working on house updates, repairs and improvements. And of course, spending some quality time with our pug, Milo, now 10 months old and sooo cute!
Sasha & Alicia

Darci & Friends

Our Turn to Feed Aaron

House on Lummi Island
Zoe & Palmer
Right now it seems like so long ago, but it was only July & August & part of September that we were with family and friends enjoying great weather wherever we went; wonderful food, both at friend's houses and at restaurants; and partying the nights away until we couldn't stand up any longer!

Willows Inn Birthday Dinner--Darci, Barbara, Sasha, Henry, Alicia, Aaron, Zoe, Jeff

The summer started in Seattle where attended the memorial celebrating the amazing life of our dear, departed friend and partner in our first house in Bali, Steve Bremner. We spent time with our Seattle friends and then drove and took the ferry to Lummi Island in the San Juan Islands where we had a (almost complete) family reunion.  We stayed at a beautiful and perfectly situated house on the Island and celebrated the birthdays of Darci, Zoe, Barbara, Aaron and Alicia at the now famous Willows Inn where Aaron is the Sous Chef and has helped in putting the restaurant on the international culinary map. 
Willows Inn Kitchen

After hangin' and chillin' in Seattle for another week or so we decided to drive for the next two months and take advantage of the invitations to stay with friends.(Aren't you the lucky ones.)

First up was up a stop in Eugene, OR for a meal with a friend from Bali; then south to Oakland (staying and sailing with Vickie & Kenny--who will be visiting us here in Bali very soon); Marin County, where we partied with Isa and Terry and their amazing -looking mother; had dinner with Michele in Sausalito; and a wonderful BBQ chicken dinner with my sister Joan & husband Steve at their golf club in Walnut Creek. 

Barbara & Vickie
Ken & Vickie

[Much to my chagrin and disappointment I took very few pictures in the Bay Area, but made up for that omission afterwards.]

Dinner with Fran
Then down to Las Vegas and Fran's house for a couple of days of non-stop gambling (kidding!) and relaxing.

Mark, Gita & Barbara

We went to Crestone, CO to spend a night with Gita and Mark and were amazed by this small, funky town nestled against a number of 14,000 peaks. This place is a throwback to an earlier hippie era, replete with organic food stores, meditation retreats and all the tie dye you can wear. 

Palmer Serrano Alberter (Our cucu--grandson)
This was right before a few weeks in Lakewood, CO with Zoe, Jeff, Eli and our grandson, Palmer-- a year and a half and just so adorable.  Lots of fun with him! During this month in CO we cruised up to Steamboat Springs for a couple of nights with Jack and Brenda (who we met in Bali) in their cool house and cool town.

Jack, Brenda & Barbara
There was also five days in Santa Fe and hangin' with the homeys: a party with Andrea, Linda, Taz, Cherilyn, Mary Ellen and Jessie, Dinners with Angela and Harlin, and with Joseph, Julie & Adam and you know who you are. All along the way we ate in interesting and varied restaurants--some old familiar haunts and some great new places.

Cherilyn, Barbara, Linda, Andrea
Back to Colorado with Zoe, Palmer and Eli fora fun-filled night of camping near Vail before we flew to New York and a week on Staten Island with Barbara's sister, Alicia. 

Camping with Palmer, Zoe & Eli
The first few nights in New York saw Barbara go out to South Hampton with Alicia and (a visiting Sasha) to friend Brenda's house and some barbecuing.  I spent a night with my sister Paula and husband Stephen and had dinner with some old (like from way back in the fifties) friends who all looked faaabulous (we're all turning 70 this year) and we had our NY visit extended thanks to a hurricane! In the Big Apple we had a lot of fabulous dinners in some out-of-the-way neighborhoods including one on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach before strolling to Coney Island and a great fireworks show!
Pool in South Hampton
Coney Island Fireworks

Me with Alicia on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk

My Sister Paula & Stephen
Old Fogeys--Steve, Tommy, Hank, Vinnie, Joe

Holy Moly! Did we do all that?  Yes and more, because after New York and many museums and Ellis Island and a Reuben sandwich at Katz's, we went back to Lakewood, CO for more fun with Palmer, Zoe, Jeff & Eli, then a long drive back to Seattle and 
a final few days with Sasha, Darci & Aaron before the flight to Bali. WHEW!!

It was crazy, but fun and good to see so many people and talk, talk, talk. 

So, now we are back in our house, which survived the summer months with all the guests coming and going, except for some minor work that we have since taken care of.
Peter and Annie Hall, our friends from Northern England were just here for two weeks and they had (I sincerely hope) a pretty good time.  Well, we certainly had a good time showing them around.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


We have had our electricity on for three weeks now, and loving it!
Here are photos of the men hauling one of the three massive cement column across a rice field that will be erected to carry our electric lines and and the electricity being hooked up. It was a joyous day in early June when the lights were turned on and we could have hot water around the clock!
Here are pictures of our house at night--looks good doesn't it?

We have spent the past few weeks putting the final touches and details on the house before we head back to the States for the summer.

The other thing we have been doing is planting a garden. This entails talking with a gardener, telling him what we want and him bringing in fully grown trees, bushes and plants of varied shapes, colors and sizes.  It is truly amazing how fertile and moist the soil is--just take anything with or without roots, 
 stick it in the ground, water it and watch it grow. Along with the garden is the planting of our lotus pond with lotus plants and waterlilies--so beautiful! Also the fish ponds with koi and a few other fish--a few have died, but we will persevere and new ones will arrrive shortly.

We have so many flowering 
plants and bushes, I can't 
imagine what the garden 
will look like when we 
return at the end of the 

Barbara has been working those vacation web sites getting us rentals for the summer, and we have been training the staff to take care of them in a gracious and professional manner--not hard for the Balinese.
It's funny how easy it has been getting used to living with housekeepers and a gardener.  Every day our house is cleaned, laundry is done and if we want meals, well they can be cooked for us.  Sometimes we ask Made' to cut vegetables if we plan to eat at home or have guests for dinner. Last week we made dinner for 10 and with Made's help it was easy.
This Saturday we're hosting the movie club again and we'll serve roast chicken, corn/cob, cole slaw and potato salad for a pre-July 4th dinner.

Note:  It has been since last September since either of us has drunk wine--the local wine is not drinkable and, although one can purchase imported wines they are priced too high to be worth the purchase.  So we don't drink much except for the inexpensive rice or palm wine--not bad if mixed with lime juice and soda water and cheap.

Our lives as ex-pats have been going along very well. We have made friends with some very interesting, well traveled people, mostly Americans, but also a really cool, fascinating Corsican woman and a few Aussies.  We have started a weekly dinner--movie--discussion  group which is up to 10 people, and we have seen some great old movies, eaten some excellent meals and had some fun and lively discussions.  

We also attend music events (mostly local bands of all kinds of music) and lectures at small venues, our weekly trivia night at a popular ex-pat restaurant and, of course most nights are at one of our favorite restaurants then usually home to watch a movie. 
So, the house is finished and 
awaiting  all the paying guests this summer so we can go back to the States and visit with kids and friends.  It has been an interesting, educational and exciting 8 months and we are very pleased with the house and love living in it.

So when are you coming to visit?

Hope you all have a great, fun summer.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


We were granted an exception to the Balinese Religion rule that states a house can not be slept in until the house is blessed and protected from evil spirits and has been made to come alive.  So after living in the house for a week the ceremony took place.

The landowner and his family asked for $650 for the ceremony, which really got us pissed off, even though we have heard of other westerners being taken for much more. I mean, they sometimes see us as dollar signs.
I can't figure out where $650 went--okay the priest is paid for his time, and there was tremendous of food and flowers.  Also these small wooden boxes are put on each structure and are called temples, so offerings had to be placed on each one.  Still--$650?

The ceremony was lovely and a few friends showed up to share with us. Bells were ringing, water was being thrown on us, rice was dropped on heads and flowers and food was placed everywhere. Our driver friend brought a delicious smoked chicken, and we had some fruit and eggs left for us to eat.
 We have hired a young, single woman to be our house manager and pembantu (one who cleans, makes food etc.).  She has worked for westerners (bouleys) in the past and so she speaks English fairly well.  We are going to trust her to not only keep the house in order, but also pay the bills and take care of guests while we are gone.  She claims to be a good cook and that is important because she will be making breakfast for guests. Neither Barbara nor I have big breakfasts these days but we will have her cook for us to see how good she is. because she will have to cook breakfast for guests.  There is always more to learn--we now discover we are expected to pay for lunch for people who work full-time--go figure!

The next event in our continuing education is the expectation that we pay for the daily and holiday offerings.  (Offerings--you should know by now are the small baskets of flowers, rice incense and fruit that are set out in front of every structure daily.) The landowner, Sade' says the offerings have to come from our village, which means he wants us to pay him to have his wife bring them over every day (she will also be working part-time for us).  Well, Made', our pembantu, who is from another village says she can bring them for half the price that Sade' wants, but Sade' nixed that idea because he says the offerings must be done by his family. We don't want to spend as much money as he wants, so we are going to offer half the price and he pays half. So the negotiations continue and we will have a meeting on Monday to settle the whole affair.  I feel like we're in the middle of a situation like US government budget crisis.

We hired a recycling company to pick up our separated trash every week, hooked up our stove-top to a propane gas tank, scheduled weekly delivery of bottled water, learned how to pay the government water bill (drive to an office and pay in person with cash) and .  We are now looking for a part-time gardener/ pool man/handy man.

We hear stories of all the problems here and people getting taken for their money and getting ripped-off and having medical problems and unhappy ex-pats.  Among the ex-pats there always a lot of negative talk, but through it all this is still a pretty nice place to live--great warm weather all year, fabulous food and all for a lot less than it costs to live in the States.  When our house is completed we will have  no mortgage (gotta look into insurance) and less than $500 in house costs per month.  The house is set up for easy rental and this will all be extra money for us so we can travel and there is still a lot of world to see. Air Asia has some very good deals that we hope to be able to take advantage of.

We finally got our sun beds (chaise longues) and had a two level fish/lotus pond with waterfall built.  The lack of full electric power prevents us from running the pump, but that will come in time. We have a gardener advising us and planting our garden--it is just amazing how fast the landscaping takes place. They come in with full-grown plants, shrubs and trees and in they go! You just have to stick a plant in the ground, water it and in a short time you watch your garden grow! Now we'll get cuttings from friends and plant ourselves. The lawn is planted in one day--and after a few weeks it will take hold and we'll have a lawn

Barbara has designed a web page for the house--see it at:

Following are some pictures of the house.  What do you think?