Monday, December 27, 2010

The weather outside is frightful...

As December comes to a close, we look forward to 2011 and the promise of a fresh start.  Many of us will make a resolution to lose weight, work less and sleep more.  I for one, plan to be more active in 2011.  I will stop taking life for granted and putting off the things I want to do; assuming tomorrow is promised to me.  I will write more, experience more, appreciate the little things in life more.   I'll begin with accepting and coming to terms with the cold, blustery climate we live in.  The northeast is braced for our first blizzard of the winter season.  It's freezing and a move to Florida is not in our future.   This calls for drastic measures.  Lots of layers, some hot stew in my belly and those little gel thingies that heat up, in my mittens.
When thinking of stew, nothing says winter survival like a steamy bowl of "N'awlins" Gumbo.   I pulled out the old crockpot and gathered my ingredients.

6 cps. of Stock (shrimp or chicken)
1 large Guinness (dark) beer
3 chicken breasts (skinless/boneless)
1 lb. med size Shrimp
2 bell peppers
1 med onion
lots of garlic
1 bunch of green onions (separate green from bottom)
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 dozen fresh okra pods (or 1/2 bag frozen/cut)
1/4 cp. leeks
6 slices of turkey bacon (or pork if preferred)
2 cps. Turkey Kielbasa or andouille sausage
1/4 cp. Worchester sauce
5 bay leaves
1 T.  smoked paprika
1 T. old bay seasoning
1 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. File` powder (ground sassafras leaves)

fresh thyme and cilantro
Salt and Pepper

Heat the crockpot at the highest setting.  Pour in 3/4's of the stock, worchester and bay leaves.  Saute` bacon, sausage and set aside, reserving the oil in the pan. Medium dice and saute` in same pan, leeks, onions, carrots, celery and bell peppers until slightly brown.  Add minced garlic and the diced bottoms of the green onions.  Sprinkle in old bay, paprika and salt/pepper.  Stir for a few minutes and add the remaining stock to deglaze the pan. Add mixture to crockpot, spoon in the roux, stir till dissolved.  Pour in the beer and simmer for an hour.  Add chicken to the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Shred chicken and add sausage/ crumbled bacon, simmer for another 30 minutes. Finally add shrimp, okra, green onions, cilantro, cayenne and file` powder.  Give a stir and another 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

1/2 cp. Flour
4 T. Butter (room temp)

The Roux is the most important part of a great gumbo.  A well tended roux is the key.  Once you begin the roux, you must stir it till it's done; no phone chats or feeding the cats.  Begin with butter in a heated pan.  It should be warm enough to melt the butter, but not burn it.  You want the butter to sizzle until the frothy milk solids begin to dissipate.  Once the butter is melted and begins changing to a deeper shade, sprinkle the flour  while stirring with a whisk.  Once all of the flour has been added, continue to stir constantly, ensuring an even color and consistency (no lumps).  Don't forget to stir from the bottom and keep the sides of the pan clean.  If you see black specks at this stage, you must start over.  Once the roux is chocolate in color and even (you're looking for a consistency of creamy peanut butter), remove it from heat and place in a small bowl.

As I sit here, sipping a smokey glass of Pinotage in front of a blazing fire with, Coleman Hawkins playing softly in the background.  I realize, winter has its good points too.  Life is good... isn't it? See you in the new year.  Cheers.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eat, Pray and Loving it in UBUD!

     Ubud is a surprisingly quaint, artsy little town.  Lots of great shopping, amazing cuisine and it's almost impossible to walk a block without hearing some beautiful Bali girl ask, "Massage, you like massage?" Well yes, I do as a matter of fact and there are many, many spas to choose from, but I'll get back to that in a moment.
    Our hotel, the Ubud Terrace was otherworldly, like something straight out of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.  It had an old world feel, moss covered statues beneath coconut palms, swaying lazily in the constant breeze.  Steep cobbled stairs wound maze-like through the frangipani covered grounds.  A fantastic view of the rice field terraces off in the distance.
      Each morning, from the large picture window in our room next to the Monkey Forest, we watched the farmers chasing mischievious monkeys away from their precious fruit trees.  The raiding party's antics entertained us as they quickly climbed the towering palms, we were greatful to not be sitting under and sent the heavy young coconuts plummeting to the ground.
     There are some amazing spas here and for around $100 usd, you can be buffed, puffed, polished, waxed and massaged into complete zendome.  The Art Market was amazing.  The best deals on everything from pure silver jewelry, carvings, statues and sarongs can be had here, if you know how to play the game.  Bargaining with those intimidating, poker faced ladies, takes some practice and is somewhat like dancing the tango.  They're not ashamed to physically hold you by the arm to keep you at the bargaining table.  But, if you hold your ground, you've gained their respect as they pat you on the back and say, "You tough, good job!"  Then the smile they flash you as you walk away that makes you wonder in the back of your mind, who really won on that one?
      I plan to return to Ubud someday and revel in its quirky, peaceful solitude.  Ubud is a place to sit back, put your feet up and relax in, you'll want to stay a while here and enjoy the never ending smiles of its beautiful people.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fire! This exit blocked!

     I sit here today, still surprised by the events of the day.  It began like any other since we've been here on the beautiful island of Gili Trawangan.  We've come to know the locals and have made a few friends, especially at the bungalows that have become our home these past few days.  Turtle bungalows is a sanctuary that raises and releases turtles and we've(I've) even named a few.
     We spent the morning in the ocean for an early swim and had a

wonderful breakfast on our front deck.  I spent a few hours writing and we decided to have lunch at our bungalows as they had been gearing up to open a burger bar all week.  We ordered a couple Bintang beers, a steak burger for Gary and a veggie for me.  As we sat at the bar sipping, I noticed a small grease flare up in the kitchen. I pointed it out to Elan and assumed he would walk over and put a lid on it; which is the appropriate action for such an instance.  We were not prepared for what happened next.
     Before I could utter another word, he panicked and grabbed an already full pitcher of water and tossed it on the flames.  I jumped up and screamed, "No water, no water on that fire,"  as I ran to get help. Gary was helping hook up the small, rubber hose and I ran into the kitchen to find a lid for the pan. One of the guys that worked there had followed me in and removed the pan from the stove.  I found myself back in a corner of the kitchen with no way out.  I looked up and saw the roof above me was completely engulfed in flames and was falling in on me.  We stared at each other for a moment, seemed like an eternity.  Part of the roof (dry palm fronds) floated down and brushed my arm. Thankfully, he put the pan on the floor and I heard Gary yell, "Get out of there, we've gotta pack our things and get the hell out of here. It's all gonna go!"  We ran as fast as we could, throwing everything into our packs as quickly as was humanly possible.  We dropped our stuff in the middle of the yard and went back to help fight the fire that was now in the framework of the building.  Flames and choking smoke billowed for miles as neighbours from every corner of the island answered the call for help.
     A chain was formed and we filled buckets of water and passed them up to the brave men risking their lives to get the fire under control. One of them was my husband and I'm so proud to say, he did not hesitate to risk himself to help.  Everyone did what they could to get it under control and make sure that all of the people that were staying there were safe.  Without the aid of a fire department, which does not exist on this small island, the fire was contained without casualties.
      I sit here grateful for life and thankful I had the sense to marry such an amazing man.  We moved in to our new room, since ours was next to the fire and had a beer.  We talked about the events of the day and were still riding the adrenaline high.  We looked up and found a scorpion inside our room. I grabbed a broom and swept him outside. Ha! I laugh in the face of danger! What else you got? :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Escape from Senggigi!

We had two days in Padang Bai, then boarded the fast ferry that took us to Lombock.  After much searching, we found a small hotel in Senggigi near the ocean, that seemed peaceful and quiet.  We took a stroll around town, had lunch at a streetside restaurant and watched the colorful tourist parade. When we returned to our hotel, we discovered the "live music2Nite" sign in front of  the bar across the street.  The next morning, after sleepless hours of listening to rock band karaoke and the hacking cough of the neighbour next door, we decided to pack it up.  We hastily made our way to, what we thought was the ferry terminal, only to discover we had been driven into a tourist trap.  We were ushered in to this grimey little office and told that for 600,000 rp. each ($60), we could have an open ticket to the islands of Lombock on the fast ferry boat. When we said we'd like to go someplace to sit and discuss it, we were told there was no place to go.  Then we asked where the boat terminal was, they said this is the boat terminal. So we walked down the dirt road a piece and around the corner, we found it. Unfortunately, by then the next boat headed to the island we wanted to get to, had left and the next wasn't leaving until 5 hours later. We found a nice man that was going to the island with his family and supplies who offered to take us for 100,000rp., but  the men we encountered earlier had followed us.  They had strong armed our "nice man" and made him cut them into the deal. They harrassed us for an hour and then got angry and tried to intimidate us; actually force us onto a different boat. Finally, the only way to escape them was to get on the next boat to anywhere. That brought us to Gili Trawangan. It wasn't the island we had planned to visit, but  it turns out it's even better than our original destination. Maybe there really is something to this Karma stuff after all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

From Nusa Lembongan, we took the fast ferry and found ourselves in Sanur once again.  We hired a car for $15 to take us to the small seaside village of Padang Bai.  1 1/2 hours and two police bribes later we arrived at the Topi Inn, an eclectic little spot by the ocean.
 I took a cooking class which included a trip to the local market at 6 am. The market was filled with
 exotic fruits, heady scents and colorful characters.  An entire pig was being prepared on a spit to be offered to the Gods later that day.  The balinese place offerings of food at their personal shrine three times daily. On this particular day, a big festival was planned to appease the Gods, in hope that their village would then be spared from earthquakes and tsunami as had happened recently.  The gifts were to be placed
in a small, make-shift boat and set out to sea.  Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures for fear it could anger the Gods.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spent our last night in Sanur walking through the night market. Had a few unidentifiable, fried
street food snacks while searching around for the ever elusive wifi connection.

Discovered an intersting area we originally(shamefully) dubbed, "German town"after taking notice of the names of the grocery
store, guest house and restaurants we came across there. Ironically, there also happened to be an enormous amount of German
tourist in this part of town. After a bit of research, I discovered that the swastika symbol actually represents the name of a hindu

 We listened to a live reggae band on the beach, did a little dance to Buffalo Soldier after an experimental swig of the local wine, Arak. Imagine a drink that tastes like rancid white zinfandel, mixed with a generous  splash of gasoline. Yuck!!
Early wake up call to catch the morning ferry to Nusa Lembongan, a small island off the coast of the Southern point of Bali.
Spent four, gloriously lazy days in the beautiful Bali sunshine. Nusa Lembongan also happens to be one of the largest seaweed growers in the world.
 Seaweed farm production constitutes 85% of the labour on this island. Our ice cream, (as well as a LOT
of other foods we consume in America) is made with the carrageenan collected from the seaweed grown here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turdy Moccasins, mature sucks so much and summah summah! Sing Can Can!

     Upon leaving Bangkok Thailand, we hopped on a four hour flight to Denpasar Bali, practicing our Balinese along the way.  Terima Kasih (turdy moccasins), matur saksima (mature sucks so much) and suma suma are the phrases proven to be most useful since we've arrived. Thank you in both Balinese and Indonesian, and you're welcome.  The Balinese are very kind people and haven't been too critical of our pitifil attempts at communication in their beautiful language. Gary has his favorite beverage words mastered well; Bir and kopi. I've also worked on my favorite phrase, Sing can can; no worries.  It's funny to see the surprise and appreciation on the faces of each Balinese i've spoken those words to.  Time here is truly marked by the crow of the rooster, no one is in too much of a hurry.  We're not surprised when our meal appears forty five minutes after we've placed the order.
     Our first night in Bali, we thought we'd spend a quiet night in Legian to get our bearings and start fresh the next morning.  Instead, we found ourselves in the midsts of tourism hell. Potbellied Germans and Aussies littered the sidewalks in every state of drunkeness, like teenagers during spring break 1988 in Daytona Beach.  Gyrating to really bad 70's rock revival music, played by non-english speaking, pseudo-waiter/rockstar balinese bands. "Sweet Home Alabama" blasted at 0200 from the crowded pool at out hotel; this was definitely not the Bali we'd signed up for. The best thing about our first night in Bali, was the amazing meal we were served at a little Warung(local's restaurant) called Yogya.  The food served at this tiny, hidden place down a side alley was phenominal.  We sipped cool Bintang beers and devoured delicious plates of Gado- Gado and Nasi Campur. The kangkung(water spinach) was spicy and superb and they made the best peanut sauce we've ever tasted. I didn't even tell Gary I had ordered vegetarian until half way through the meal and he loved it.
     We hailed a taksi the following morning to escape the bedlam that is Legian.  One hundred- thousand rp. ($15) and an hours ride, found us in the sleepy little town of Sanur at a quiet little place aptly named, the Watering Hole.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last night in Bangkok..

Leaving Bangkok in the early a.m., looking forward to seeing Indonesia.  We cruised through Khao San road last night after an amazing dinner of Morning glory greens and Massaman curry.

Stumbled upon a dragon festival of some sort.  It involved a small child on a tall pole, fighting a fire spitting dragon. Sort of a David and Goliath story.  He was fearless!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


We've finally made it to our favorite little oasis in Bangkok, Villa ChaCha. A quiet  boutique hotel, tranquil and serene in the middle of the chaotic scene that is Khao San road. Sipping Chang beers (fresh coconut w/ an ample pour of rum for me) pool side and enjoying the 85 degree weather.  Wandered over to "our tailor friend" Khumar's shop and discovered our photographs in the storefront window. We're now "local celebs"!!!

 Who knew?! Unfortunately, our new status did not entitle us to a substantial discount on our next purchase. Oh well.. Had an amazing plate of Pad Thai and ended the night at our secret spot, the reggae

"Happy" bar. Gary got a little too happy with one large Chang beer too many. Next stop Bali..

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First snag.

Had a wonderful flight to London.  Treated like royalty in business class.  A big thank you to Purser extraordinaire, Ms. Kelly Jean Duggan, Lanie, Naoko and Deb.  Our flight to Bangkok was oversold so, we're spending the night in London and making the most of it.  Wine from duty free, in room wifi and room could be worse. Right?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Packed and ready for adventure

First stop, poolside at Villa ChaCha!
This is all we're taking for 5 weeks!

Finally packed and ready to go. Leaving for London and then taking Thai Airways to Bangkok.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Would this fly if he, were a she?

dress code
a set of rules, usually written and posted, specifying the required manner of dress at a school, office, club, restaurant, etc. while the dress code doesn't require two-tone shoes, you will get turned away if you wear jeans.

Boarded on an American Airlines flight at DFW airport.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

30 days or Bust!

insanity |inˈsanitē|nounthe state of being seriously mentally illmadness
      Mkay... So, i've decided to sign up for this year's NanoWriMo.  November is national novel writing month and I thought it might be fun to give it a try.  The goal is this:  Write a 175 page novel by midnight November 30th. Easy, right?  That's approximately 1,669 words a day; 50,000 words in 30 DAYS!!!  From scratch...  What was I thinking???  Not sure how I intend to do this, as I will be treking through Indonesia and Thailand with a 40lb. pack on my back.  Did I mention that I will not be taking my laptop?  That means I will be writing the old fashioned way, with pen to paper and updating via internet cafes along the way.  I can do this. I will do this, I just need something to write about. Suggestions?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Flighty Writer's Stew: Prologue

beginning |biˈgini ng |noun [usu. in sing. ]the point in time or space at which something starts
Friends, family and random strangers I've had the opportunity to meet in my travels, have suggested I start a blog.  "You're so funny/interesting/traveled/crazy, you should have a blog!"  Well, i'm not sure how funny I am but, I decided to finally take the advice.  This will be a, "learn as I go" process so please bear with me through the many mistakes I will inevitably make.  Apologies in advance.   
I'll start by saying that I have a very short attention span.  I start a lot of little fires in my world and run around trying to keep them all under control; fanning the flames and maintaining a few here and there, while frantically extinguishing the ones that get out of control.
This blog may seem a little haphazard at times, again bear with me here.  There will be a little  traveling, some writing (working on my first novel and will need lots of help) and always food.  It all cooks up to a big, boiling pot of Flighty Writer's Stew. Hope you like it. Enjoy.