Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kima Surf Camp, Bali

Finding Kima Surf Camp was an adventure in itself. We took a bus from Ubud to Kuta to save a few dollars. We walked from the bus stop to the camp to save a few dollars. This would have been a great idea had we known where the surf camp was located. We didn't. A 2 kilometer walk turned into a 2 hour walk that culminated in us getting a $3.00 taxi ride around the block.
Similar to Ubud; the streets of Kuta are packed with people and shops. For the first time the streets were dominated with high-end retailers and only the occasional trinket shop. Not that I've ever been; but it was like Rodeo Dr. with surf shops. Shop windows featured tight dresses, shoes, purses, and heavy price tags. For being such a small island I am surprised at how many things are made here, in Bali. The Balinese have their own version of everything; beer, wine, liquor, tobacco, coffee, soda, furniture, cover bands, and even paintings. The Balinese can paint anything. In Kuta there are a fantastic amount of art galleries, all containing large, colorful canvases. Famous faces are a popular subject matter. If you've got a wall begging for a five foot portrait of Bob Marley, Bali is a must-visit. As is customary, the streets of Kuta were filled with incense and music. The music, by this point, had begun to grow on me. I may even like it now. I think I was beginning to find it melodic, and even rhythmic. At first it reminded me of Avant Garde Jazz; playful but not peaceful. Living in its constant embrace had finally encouraged me to develop a different opinion.
We finally arrived and got settled in. We loved Kima's accommodations. The camp was in the middle of the city, but you would never know. It was back off the street and hidden by walls and jungle. We would spend the week in the top floor of a house. We had our own room, bathroom, and balcony upstairs. We shared an open air living room, dining room, kitchen, patio, and yard with another couple.
The camp had its own restaurant, with lounge, television and game area, and a pool. This spot was called The Green Room; it's open to the public but basically enjoyed by guests. The food served was excellent and reasonably priced, the beers were cold, and you could plug your own ipod in for musical entertainment. There was always a crowd at The Green Room, no matter the time of day or night. It was a comfortable, friendly, relaxed atmosphere; exactly what you would expect from a bunch of surf campers.
We spent our first day at the camp getting equipment, learning procedures, familiarizing ourselves with a couple of local waves, checking the tides, and meeting the staff. Everyone was very nice, and accommodating. As we met more staff, and campers, throughout the day we begun to notice a pattern. There were an amazing amount of Germans, Austrians, and Europeans. A lot of the camp staff was German too. In fact, we were the only Americans. Then a light bulb went off. I had researched for the camp from my Germany. No wonder my payment confirmation came in German...and when we arrived they were surprised that we were American. It was (some what) a camp for Germans - by Germans. We decided to have dinner that first night down the street, at Santa Fe. We had tall coconut drinks and flautas; and laughed at our circumstance of leaving Germany for a vacation and ending up in a little German village in the center of Kuta, Bali.
The way camp worked was that we had five days of instruction and two days on our own with the rental boards. Ideally you'd get your five instruction days under your belt and then go off on your own. We did the opposite. Sunday and Monday were Muslim holidays and most (all) of the surf instructors had off. Monday was a solo day for us.
We walked with our surf boards to a beach breaking wave, at the end of the street that our camp was on. We surfed. Well, Phil surfed and I paddled and got pounded. I crapped out after 45 minutes. As Phil continued to catch fun wave after fun wave, I stared up and down the beach. It was crowded, but not packed. There were a significant number of surfers in the water, but it wasn't competitive. It was mostly tourists like us, and surf guides showing off on their boards. It's great to watch how naturally a proficient surfer can catch a wave and just enjoy it. If I am ever lucky enough to catch a wave I am focused too much on staying on it to enjoy being on it.
After our morning surf session it became apparent that I was going to need a wetsuit if I was going to continue surfing everyday. We combed Kuta's surf-outlet strip until we finally found a suit that would work for me. In doing so we worked up a bit of an appetite. For lunch we stopped at a local warung. Warung is the name given to small restaurants, usually serving local fare. This particular warung looked a bit rustic, but any guide book will tell you that this is where the best food can lie. So despite it's outward appearance we gave it a go. We ordered beers and Babi Gulung. I'd read many times that Babi Gulung is delicious; so naturally it was on my to-eat list. After a week in Bali we were long overdue to try some. We were served a couple of plates each, and a bowl of soup. Our lunch consisted of crispy pig skin, pig fat, pulled pork, pork rinds, greens, bone soup, and peanuts. We ate it, but I don't think I ever could order the same meal again. (For the record, Phil ordered Babi Gulung at a different restaurant later that week and said it was way more awesome than in this instance.) After lunch I need to use the restroom. I was lucky; this restaurant had one. I had to walk behind the counter and through the kitchen to use it, but it was there. If that wasn't interesting enough; there was no toilet paper. It wasn't the first time I had found myself in this situation, and it wasn't the last. After this lunch experience was over I (kinda) felt like Anthony Bordain.
Then we visited the local supermarket. It was a supermarket and a gift shop. All of the stores in Kuta have a gift shop section. I guess they'd be dumb not to sell flower hair clips, penis shaped bottle openers and incense. We spent a bit of time cruising the isles. I picked up every other item on the shelf and excitedly proclaimed, “hey, look at this!” until Phil was ready to shake me. Once we miraculously made it to the check out, with me still alive, we had handmade soap, incense, and a thirty pack of beers for our fridge. I found the beer purchase amusing. A case of beer is something you buy at home, not on vacation on the other side of the world. It's like cooking fish and chips at home. You can do, but it just doesn't feel right.
On Tuesday we surfed at a spot called Batu Bolong. Like all of Bali's surf spots, it's famous. Batu Bolong is so famous that Jack Johnson apparently mentioned it in one of his songs. The song lyrics have something to do with banana pancakes. So every (one of us) tourists that surfs at Batu Bolong has to stop at the surf-side warung and order their pancakes. I'm glad I like bananas. A day doesn't go by in Bali that you don't eat at least one. After my beer and pancakes I needed to pee. Guess what. No bathroom. How can these guys work all day and not need a bathroom? Do they walk home and come back? Is everyone peeing in the water? I guess so. Does that mean that I maybe peed in the same ocean water as Jack Johnson?
Our morning surf session really wiped us out, so for the first time yet this vacation we took a nap. Then we woke up and surfed again; for the afternoon it was back to the beach break at Gado Gado. After this time in the water I had been surfing for two days and not caught a great wave. I was beginning to get disheartened. Phil, on the other hand, was not.
Wednesday was the best and worst day I had in Bali, yet. I woke up quite early in the morning needing to run to the bathroom. Let's just say I had a mini case of what might be known as Bali-Belly. (not sever and pretty common) Unluckily, this was an early surf morning. I did my best to get right before we left for our session. I was successful. I can't imagine what you would do if you would get the urge in the middle of the a wetsuit. ( I apologize for any inappropriate imagery this has brought to your mind.)
The morning surf session was followed by lunch and an afternoon surf session. Planning all of this surfing can get tricky; between tides, weather, current, and wave size. You spend a decent amount of time each day researching, discussing, and formulating a plan. In a surf camp environment you also have to add in a factor of each individual surfer's ability in the group when choosing a destination. Wednesday afternoon we drove to a place called Alam Kulkul, but there wasn't much of a wave so we went to Sixty Six.
Sixty Six was my first time in the water with an instructor and a class. I had a blast. I caught a ton of waves! Actually, I think I caught eight to ten waves; but considering it was day three at the camp I felt like it was a ton. I think I was more relaxed being in the water with people that knew the wave. Being around other beginner surfers also gave me a bit more confidence, as opposed to just surfing with Phil. And I also have to confess; the instructors pushed my surfboard into 75% of the waves I rode. At first I felt a bit silly about this. Then I figured, screw it, it's what I paid for and it's fun. These pushes from the instructors actually gave me the excitement I needed to paddle into a few of my own. I had all the adrenaline, and cheer, that I needed to keep surfing and surfing, and not want to get out of the water. It was during this session that the instructors helped me work on identification of the waves, lining up with the waves, keeping my legs closed, and perfecting my paddle. The current was insane and we had to paddle constantly to stay in place. It was pretty exhausting. I'd paddle forever to hold my position and just as I'd sit up to rest the instructor would say, “This is your wave. Go. Paddle. Paddle. Paddle.” I'd say “no.” They'd say, “yes.” And I would say “shit” and do what they told me despite my inability to move my arms.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the most annoying part of my day happened an hour and a half into surfing that afternoon. I scraped my foot on the fin of my surfboard. During one of my attempts of wave-catching I was about to go tail over head in a crashing wave. Instinctively I grab the tail of my board by wrapping my feet around it. The fins of a surfboard are sharp, and deadly. The force of the water rushing over the fin, and my foot, influenced the fin to slice a bit of the soft, thin, tender skin on the top of my foot. I felt the cut, but I didn't think it was serious. It wasn't bleeding. I kept on surfing. When our session was over I got out of the water and started walking back to our van. This is when the cut really split open and started to bleed. As I would soon learn, even the smallest cut, bleeding or not, is a big deal in the Bali ocean. No one told me this ahead of time, but the water in Bali is not clean, and (in Bali in general) things like cuts can get infected pretty badly, pretty quickly. In the surf camp's desire that my medical situation not escalate I ended up in the one place you don't want to end up on vacation in Bali...the hospital.
The hospital was small, but nicer than I had expected from what I read. I was seen quickly by the doctor and she was nice. Thank goodness I did not need stitches; just a couple of glorified bandaids and five days worth of oral antibiotics. This however, did also come with a recommendation of no ocean for a T.B.D. amount of time. The doctor recommended 5 days, but the camp professionals said I'd be good after two or three days. Either way, what I was looking at was maybe not surfing for the rest of our time at camp. I felt really stupid.
Phil, on the other hand, had one of the sweetest Wednesdays his life may have ever known. He signed up for a trip to Balian. Luckily, no one else had signed up for this trip. It was just him and the instructor, Mari. Everyone at camp was speculating about how lucky Phil was for this. They were all picturing the scenario as just two people in the water with wave upon wave for their surfing pleasure. Phil and Mari had fun, but they did not have the break to themselves. It was the two of them, and around fifty Australians. There were more bodies than there were waves. But that is not uncommon in surfing; especially at a world-class location. They surfed for as long as they could and when there were no more waves to be had they went ashore for lunch.
Mari is from a town near the area where he and Phil were surfing. He brought them to an awesome lunch spot. This is where Phil had Babi Gulung again. As I mentioned, this second time around it was delicious. The two of them ate fat for under $10. Phil was stoked. It was off the radar and delicious. Mari had hooked him up with great surfing and great food. After lunch waves still had not returned back to Balian. Phil and Mari decided to leave it in hopes of finding some surf at another spot. While en route Phil requested that they make a pit stop for espresso. If there is one thing that Phil loves more than his morning coffee, it is his afternoon espresso. This particular afternoon espresso was Mari's first. Phil was surprised, Mari was delighted, and for once that day the tables had been turned.
After Wednesday Phil and Mari became great friends. I think Phil was lucky to find someone on this trip that he could talk to, get to know, and be offered insight into the life of one local. They shared a lot of stories and laughs with one another. What's it like living in Bali? I'm sure I still don't know, but Mari has a great sense of humor about it. If you ask Mari why he's never had an espresso he'll tell you it's because they don't have espresso in the jungle. They only have rice.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Army Art

It isn't often that my world and my husband's world collide. I'm an Artist. He's in the Army. I'm a Painter. He's a Pilot.
I think Paula Abdul said it best.
And because my husband's lifestyle affords me my lifestyle; I'm on the team.
Recently I completed a commission painting. It was designed as a gift for a Commander, as he will be changing command soon. Because he is leaving this particular Company for another gifts are in order.
What better gift than a commemorative painting?
Here's the Work of Art from start to finish. 


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa is on His Way

All of the snow has definitely melted. It's raining. If it wasn't for the wind, the weather would almost feel warm. The photo below may be the closest I get to a snowflake. 
Oh well. 
White, or not, there are more important aspects of Christmas than the weather.
So I would like to take this moment to wish everyone the happiest of holidays...ever.
I hope you are with the ones you love, or lovin' the ones you're with.
I hope you're drinking Egg Nog, eating Gingerbread Cookies, playing a Board Game, singing Carols, and cooking a Big Dinner; all at the same time. It's not Christmas if you don't go overboard.
Much Love.
And Happiness.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Market Number Six...

...and to commemorate I bought a 6-pack. This is purely coincidental.
I'm liking these photos I'm taking; of the gingerbread and candy stands.
One day, if I ever get around to it, it will make a great painting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ludwig's Approval

I have become quite confident about the fact that I enjoy fur; and Florida Scarf enjoys fur. As I explained yesterday; it's cold in Germany and we're outside a lot. Fur is the perfect accessory for temperature control. This is the newest fur I have purchased for the company. I brought it to Ludwig today to see what his opinion of it was. He gave it five stars. I can now, again with confidence, say that this fur was worth it. Ludwig says the region it came from is known for it's quality, and the way the leather was treated, on the reverse side, is quite a lot of work. The guys who I bought it from do a fine job. 
Ludwig says in order to have fur this soft, and clean and nice, the rabbit is raised for it. His name is King.....Rex in German. This fur is the equivalent to Kobe beef; if you'd be speaking of cows. 
As I write this I am surprised that fur scarves are the latest chapter in the journey of my small business. It was never a medium I had intended to work with. As I find myself in this new world however, exploring and embracing its culture and traditions, I like it. If I was in America, or at least New Jersey, I wouldn't be afforded the same opportunities. I need to seize them. Every other place I have been I seek out traditional materials to use for my scarves and hoods. When I lived in St. Augustine, FL, I took advantage of the vintage culture. When I lived in Alabama I bought houndstooth... I also met a girl who was from Ecuador and she sold me Tagua Nut buttons. When I was recently in Bali I bought fabric; hand woven, hand dyed, and batiked. While in New Jersey lots of my buttons were handmade by my mom. Now I'm in Germany, still finding handmade clay buttons, but also finding fur.
And while Ludwig hunts, rabbit and boar and deer and such. It is expensive to tan the hides. He doesn't pay to do it anymore. This is why I have to buy it from someone else. After today however, Ludwig has begun to needle me to purchase the rest of his furs from him. He still has a few that he has not gifted to me. I'm sure I will buy them. I visited with him and Katharina today and gave them their Christmas basket....Oh and I got my feet wet in the tax office.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Shopping for the Company

The Christmas markets have been in full swing for three weeks now. With eight trips under my belt; one could say I've been taking full advantage of the season.
It amazes me how much time Germans spend out of doors. Weather is, absolutely, not a factor. I am outside all of the time; for long periods of time. It's the only way to absorb the culture...and fresh air. It could be 10 degrees Celsius and raining; and there will still be crowds perched outside coffee shops enjoying a beverage (and perhaps a cigarette) at a table. They may be under a blanket; but that just makes the dedication even more apparent.
Luckily, I've got plenty of outdoor clothing. It is of the greatest necessity to always carry with you a hat, gloves, scarf and an umbrella. It doesn't matter what month, day, or time of day it is; in Germany you must be prepared for it to be cold and/or rainy. Being the cold freak that I am; I also carry two sets of Hot Hands. Sometimes I need more than Glühwein to encourage my blood to continuously circulate. 
With Christmas less than 10 days away I've definitely begun to hear the phrase, “You've seen one Christmas market, then you've seen them all. While in general I find this opinion a bit boring, I also found a Christmas market this Sunday to put that opinion to shame. (Try to stay with me here.) I attended a two-day Christmas market at Gut Wolfgangshof (an old farm estate, in Anwanden, hosted by the Schloss Hexenagger group. The website is You might want to bookmark it for next year. 
This was not your typical Christmas market. Yes, they had Glühwein and Lebkuchen. Yes, they had chocolate and bratwurst. But they also had organic, farm raised, lamb sausage with a most fantastic paprika seasoning. (and I don't even like lamb) They had lots of vendors from farms with fresh eggs, meats, pelts, preserves, jams, and much of the land's bounty. Yes, many vendors there were selling Christmas ornaments and candles. But the ornaments were hand carved and the candles hand-dipped beeswax. I am also in love with how the Germans have not let the simple traditions of craftsmanship fall to the wayside. There was even a blacksmith present. He was doing demonstrations, but also letting children practice as well. It was cool. Even better; there was a camel. You could ride it. I didn't. Kids did.
Since the market was on a farm estate, the barn was full of crafters and vendors too. I found many beauty products I would have loved to purchase.There was a guy selling lotion made from potatoes (cool) and I couldn't keep from tripping over millions of delicious smelling soaps. On the ground floor of the barn they had a exhibit of the traditional biscuit ornaments. The biscuits are hand made in molds, then baked, then painted. Here you could buy them and paint them yourself. I bought two, of course, but I brought them home to paint with my own paint. I'm going to give them to my neighbors and landlords as gifts. There were also many fabulous jewelers present at this market. My sights and senses were overwhelmed with all of the beautiful possibilities of jewelry. I always take jewelers' business cards in hopes of contacting them and asking them to make me incredible buttons. Here, in Germany, I think I'm going to have great luck with that. The jewelers I have met so far seem quite personable and interested in custom work. For instance, wouldn't it be awesome to have buttons from this artist?
So what did I buy? Nothing for myself; I must admit. I bought more fur for Florida Scarf. I met these awesome dudes, from Leipzig. They traveled quite far with their outstanding collection. They had so many interesting, beautiful, high quality pieces. I wanted to buy them all. I chose to purchase the softest rabbit pelt I could find; just one. I don't want to go overboard with any one style. Florida Scarf, in fur, has been a hit here in Europe though. Seeing how much time we are all spending outside; now I understand. Fur keeps you incredibly comfortable and warm.
I could ramble on about my enchanting Sunday afternoon, at the Magic Winter Market that was terribly gorgeous and enchanting, and cold, and rainy, and muddy; but you would get bored and fall asleep, and it would leave me no time to mention Saturday.
Saturday was another cold and rainy (typical) day in Germany. I rode the train to Nürnberg and went to the Winterkiosk ( at the Kunsthaus (Art House) across the street from the train station. It was three floors of handmade wares, repurposed clothing, vegan food, glühwein, recycling, books, and basically everything else for the modern hippie. It was fun; but with an extremely different flair than the market on Sunday. Saturday was fun, and funky. I am happy to report that I found some buttons for Flo Sca on Saturday. I am slowly building an army of supplies born and bred in Deutschland. 
After the Winterkiosk I made another stop at the Nuremberg Christmas market. (I couldn't be in the city and not drop by) That place is crazy! On a Saturday. Crazy! In a good way. I really enjoy shopping once all of my normal Christmas shopping is over with. Like this weekend; the only people I bought things for were (technically me, but also for) Flo Sca customers...and I don't even know them yet. This means there is no pressure, and I get to hang on to the items for a while. I will use them (myself) to make the scarf with, then they will be purchased. It's like a double gift. Initially it makes me happy. Then, later, it makes another person happy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie Monday

Yes, that's me snuggled up to a giant inflatable.
No, I am not at the zoo.
The Scoop.

European Outdoor Film's in English.

P.S. Real kayakers don't wear nose plugs, and they light the back of the kayak on fire.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shopping A Hip German Bazaar...

Today is my sister's birthday. I'm excited for her. I love birthdays and holidays. They give me a crazy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I get so excited on my birthday-morning, in anticipation of all the fabulousness that the day will contain. It's as if the world is open to you, (on your birthday) nothing is impossible, you know you deserve everything you want, and you are incapable of any wrong. It's a pretty similar feeling to the “Christmas Morning” feeling. Today I think to myself that people should wake up every morning and feel like that. It shouldn't be mentally reserved for enjoyment only on Christmas and birthdays.
I have had quite a few days in Europe that have felt like a birthday, even when they are not. I want to try harder to have those days, most days; that will unfold with one reward after oysters and pearls kinda thing.
Saturday was a day that continued to come alive in new and satisfying ways. It started with a Christmas themed brunch. It was me, and about 200 of my closest Army acquaintances. (In writing that I am only being coy. I didn't host the party and I didn't know very many people there.) I had a nice time though. Santa was there, and it is always inspiring to see how excited children get for Santa. The children on Saturday got their photos taken with Santa and he gave them a gift. I talked to one little boy and I asked him which he preferred, opening the gift and tearing the wrapping, or playing with the gift. His answer was unwrapping. I think that would be true for most of us. He claims that, on Saturday at the brunch, it is the fastest he's ever opened a gift....and he was pretty pumped for what was inside.
After the brunch...I mean after the candy, crepes, cookies, and hot chocolate with extra marshmallows I went to a bazaar in Fürth. It was the Oscar Selbesgemacht bazaar; maybe you remember me mentioning it. I didn't sell anything there. I just went to scope it out for next year. It was, definitely, a cool bazaar. I'd say there were about 30 vendors, all German. There were painters, photographers, jewelry makers, sewers, knitters, and musicians. I walked into the event at the time that a German Bosa Nova band was playing. There was a stand-up base and everything; it was cool. I was glad I had a tie on. The craft fair was on two levels. There was a lot to see, and potentially purchase. I did what every customer does at a craft fair. I walked around and did a single (all encompassing loop) without committing to anything. It was interesting to turn the table on myself. It's been a while since I've walked around a small bazaar and didn't have to get back to my own booth. I took my time and savored the delightful feelings of a shopper; as compared to the anxious feelings that I can create as a seller. I saw a mini kimono I wanted. I even tried it on. It was beautiful, soft, silky, unique, and reversible. It was exactly what I look for in fashion accessories. I didn't buy it. It spoke to me on the hanger, but my reflection while wearing it didn't speak to me. I hate when that happens, but making a purchase (for me) is an intricate action. I settled instead for one pin, a couple of cards, and postcards. The pin is the hat with the feather featured above. It says dirndl chaser. A dirndl is the traditional dress worn by a German girl. I don't really chase dirndls, obviously. I just really liked the hat.
If I have peaked your interest in shopping at a hip, German handmade market there is still time. Here is a flyer for next weekend.

If you would like to read about the rest of my day in Germany, visit the journal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Painting. Sculpture. Glitter. Pinterest.

I have been painting recently. 
No, I haven't taken up graffiti in Ansbach...and my tag name isn't Smoke.
No, not painting a canvas. There is still a lonely, half-finished landscape waiting for me at the easel. 
Alas, I have, been painting handmade buttons for some of my scarves. I got a fun special order this year...Santa Hoods. I can not yet reveal what they look like, as they are being gifted this weekend. I'll show you next week. I will, however, show you a picture representing the manual labor that goes into every detail. 
Interesting, right?
Wrong. It isn't pretty, or glamorous, or cool....but it sure is fun.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter & Christmas Markets....

I wish I could've taken a video of my backyard this afternoon and shared it. It's definitely Winter, but I find it alive and beautiful. I could stare out the window for hours, just watching.
Why has Winter always been associated with death and solitude? My backyard has an energy I can see and feel. It is a brilliant, bright white. Big red juicy berries grow on a snow capped tree. There is green, hunter green, navy, brown, and white; and that is just the trees. The birds add a completely new level of colorful wonder. They bounce from tree to tree (along with the squirrels) singing, and making merry. This is due, in huge thanks, to Ludwig for feeding them. Every single morning he goes out and makes sure all of our bird houses have seeds in them. Our yard continues to be a delight for us all. I took some photos. They never do it justice. While photographing I make sure I am absorbing my experience with my soul as well as my eyes. The snowflakes are falling fierce. They are big and plump like the berries on the tree. I hope they fall forever. 
Back inside, the classical music on the German radio station is a good accompaniment to Winter's activity. On days like today I love sewing in my studio. I work, and listen, and dream out the window; all at the same time. Currently I have some (really fun) special order projects going. It's all coming together to keep me in the spirit of the holiday. 
Holiday spirit however, is not hard to come by in Germany. And I must admit that even the hardest working Christmas Elf needs a day off at the Christmas Market...

Every town gets dressed up for Christmas. Read it here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Yes my friends. It is the German word for dentist. I went. How trippy is the waiting room? I felt right at home there; which is more than I can say for the hygienist's chair....Read it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

All In A Saturday's Work...

Make. Make. Make.
Talk. Talk. Talk.
Sell. Sell. Sell.
Shop. Shop. Shop.

The Holidays can be so predictable. Luckily, they are only once a year. I miss them when they are not around. I try to take full advantage of them when they arrive. The best way to do this is with an early start. (Man, this sounds like a bad pitch for Black Friday...or Cyber Monday...)

I'm not changing the subject here, but it is going to sound like I am......

What do police, riots, and soccer rivalries have in common with an artist's market? Nothing. Why do I ask? Because not only was today my first German bazaar in Fürth, but it was also the day (long time) soccer rivals Fürth and Nürnberg went toe-to-toe. As luck would have it; there is a violent history there, and the streets of Fürth were barricaded just in time for our market to open. The buzz around the bazaar was that the soccer game, or the avoidance of the soccer crowd, was going to influence attendance at the artist's market, severely.
The bazaar was in the Volkshochschule in Fürth. A Volkshochschule is a building of continuing education. Adults go there and take classes on anything from language, to cooking, to yoga. This school plays an active role in its city's community. So it would only make sense for the school to host a bazaar during the Christmas shopping season. Normally the event is well sought, and has many shoppers. In the past the vendors have benefited greatly. Today I think it was a bit different.
For me it was obviously a victory, as it has been a priority of mine to sell in a German bazaar. (It ranks up there with while we live in Germany I want to ski in the Alps, see Paris, and shop in Italy) I did it. It happened much sooner than I thought it was going to. The whole scenario was pretty normal; despite what I was anticipating. I had no trouble finding the venue; thanks to the GPS. Parking was annoying because it was in the city, but that is to be expected. I am happy it was as close as it was. I only had to schlep my merchandise two blocks. Many of the other vendors were chatty. This was great for getting more (culturally) familiar with my peers. I sold a handful of scarves too; not many, but a few. Could this have been better? Yes. I think my sales would have benefited from a better knowledge of the language. As you know, Katharina came with me, and she seems to differ in this opinion. She seems to think many Germans do not want to be engaged in conversation. They just want to look, and if they have a question they will ask. Maybe Americans like to shop more, and want to be convinced of their purchase. (or wooed) Whatever the case, I believe it was a great start to a relationship between me and the German handmade consumer.
My knowledge of the language got me farther than I thought it would. I spoke to almost everyone that stopped by the table. If I got confused Katharina was there to back me up. Do Germans love Florida? Yes. Have they been to Florida? Yes. Do they make the same joke that Americans do...that Florida is too warm for scarves? Yes. Do they, despite that fact think that my work is lovely, and fun, and colorful, and unique, and awesome anyway? Yes. I think my little scarf business is still in good company here in Deutschland.
I received two other invitations to participate in more handmade markets. I think I will refrain from anymore last-minute sales opportunities. I would love to get more settled in the culture, and more acquainted with the language, and then “sell my socks off.” (as my father in law would say)
Actually, now that I mention it. I did sell my hoodie off today. That hasn't happened in a while, but it is quite customary for someone to like what I am wearing so much, that they ask to buy it off my neck. I am always surprised, but I always say yes. So anyone that was familiar with my current hoodie (the blue one lined with the bright floral print, with sweater on one side and a fake flower brooch) It's gone, but not lost. It is owned by a lovely vendor from the bazaar who made very cute items herself (including little knitted rings with shiny buttons for gems.) Her work was pretty adorable. I hope I see her again at another market.
If anyone in this area is interested, there is something called the Oscar Selbstgemacht. Oscar Selbstgemacht is (obviously) a character that makes all of his wares himself, by hand. This character heads up a one-day, indoor, artist market that tours a couple of cities. It will be in Fürth on 12/8 and in Nurmberg in the Hauptbahnhof 12/15 and 12/16. You can find information at
The flyer is featured above.
Lots of people today were talking about It is a place, on the German Internet for small businesses to set up shop. I don't know if my German is ready for this. But my point was to pass the info along to you, my German-American community, in the event you would like to check it out.

I continue to ramble on, about Germany, here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


This is looking back on a Thanksgiving past; just last year as a matter of fact. It is my husband Phil's tradition to grill the turkey. He loves it because it is an excuse for us to invite our friends over early; thus extending the festivities.
The holiday season is a time for family. If you are not living around the family you've always known, then I believe it is customary to build one. When we lived in Alabama we did just that. We had a six person family. (only the men appear in the photo) We were relatively inseparable for about a year, then the Army split us up. Two of us went to Germany, two to Alaska, and two to Japan. At the moment there is only one of us in Germany and I miss the other five like the Dickens.
Relationships that Army families build with one another is truly impressive. Just last week I taught a class called Expectations and the Impact of the Army on Family Life. (It is a class in the Army's AFTB program) It's quite an interesting and in-depth topic, one that could be covered for far longer than the 60 minutes I had. None the less, in the lesson traits of a successful Army family are covered. Words like Patriotic, Adaptable, and Sense of Humor are highlighted. At the end of this portion of the class we share some of our own words. Mine changes every time. I mention this because today I change my word again. It is now Helpful. It's not a groundbreaking word, but it means a lot. Everyone that I have met in the Army, so far, is incredibly helpful and supportive. I think we all know what it's like to need something whether it be advice, a ride, a tissue, a meal, a dog walked, a beer; the list is endless. I find that my community is never at a loss for people with helping hands. We have all needed assistance, and we are all happy to pay it forward.
More specifically, recently I needed a Christmas tree. Without boring you with the details I'll say it was an emergency situation and leave it at that. Guess how long it took me to get a tree. Less than five minutes; no kidding. I had a friend donate her tree to my cause, deployed soldiers, and asked for nothing in return. Describing it as plainly as I have; it may seem inconsequential. I however, was saved by it . I am still impressed with how quickly my situation turned from being a problem, to being a blessing.
I'm sure there are a lot of communities out there that are like mine. From the bottom of my heart; I hope you've got one. I see lots of people posting things on the FB that they are thankful for. As cliché as it sounds; I am thankful for my Army community.
That being said, I will (obviously) not be spending this holiday season with typical loved ones. I have been invited to celebrate with a new family of friends; who I am sure will be just as wonderful as my last. I am looking forward to experiencing their new traditions and sharing one (or two) of my own. Yes Sarah Jackson, I will be bringing your Bourbon Balls tomorrow. I am sad to report however, that I do not see any Hand Pies in my future.
For some reason this particular holiday has me reflecting more on my life, and friends and family, and being American, than any has before it. I have been finding it equally as rejuvenating to look back on how I've gotten to my current position in life, and remember to use it as a tool to enjoy now. If you are interested in a few amusing anecdotes from the now, click here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Whose Side Are You On?

As I continue to straddle the line between Army wife and new citizen of Germany it seems like the two sides will not combine. I was hoping my life would just start to flow, and black and white would mix together and create gray. It hasn't. At it's very best I can manage to turn a day into a zebra stripe, but never gray. This is true of my life and my career. I look at my schedule. As of recently, I am not so much at a loss for ways to contribute to my Army community. But, if I don't see any new adventures in Europe penciled in, then I make it so. My brain does a lot to assist in this divide also. When I need to shop I always think, “What do I need, and who has a better version of it?” I try to buy everything I can in Germany, as I will only have the opportunity for the next three years. Sometimes it's impossible though. Why are there no pinatas in Germany? I was forced to order them online. Also, the other thing that is challenging about shopping in Germany is parking. Their parking spots can be so tiny. If parking between me and my fellow consumers goes awry I can find myself climbing into my car from the passenger seat. I love American parking spots, and they abound on post at the PX. That being said, I have found a new, really fun, store recently. It's called ROFU, and it's a toy store combo'd with a craft supply store. Genius; I'd think so even more if I had kids. I'd liken it to Michael's, but less craft and more toy.

This weekend the families from my husband's Company are getting together to hand make Christmas decorations for a tree we are sending to the deployed soldiers. In it's balance I will also be attending a piano Jazz concert at a local gallery. This is just one example of my Yin-Ynag practice, but I hope to encourage it more for myself. I do enjoy however, the times when the two “zebra stripe” like when we (Army wives) went to the winery in Wurzburg and Katharina (German, not Army) and Melanie (German, not Army) came. The juxtapose only gets difficult when Army law, or German law, prevent the interaction.

This is no where more prevalent than with my work. As you well know I make things and sell them. As I have been finding German law sees me quite differently than American law. Getting legitimate can take a second. Selling is tough too. Many people in my position stick to only selling to Americans on base. Up until this point, that is what I have been doing. It has been very satisfying. My peers love my work and are very supportive. What I'm afraid of happening is the exhaustion of this sales outlet. I could travel to other posts and only sell to other soldier's families, and that would open me up to a larger market....but I want Germany. And as I've said earlier; I'm about to get it. I have my first local bazaar next weekend. The thought of selling in Germany, to Germans, definitely raise my blood pressure and makes my armpits sweaty. How much German am I really going to have to speak? Probably a lot. Are they going to enjoy my styles as much as the American girls? Who knows? Will they not want to buy stuff because I am not really a local artisan? Maybe. For support, both morally and culturally, I am bringing Katharina. I'm so thankful she wanted to accompany me. I think I'm even going to need her to help me figure out where I'm going on that day, how to park cheaply, and sign in to the event. The little details are as intimidating as the obvious ones. What ever the outcome I am happy for the opportunity; even if I'm too chicken to ever do it again.

The bazaar is 11/24, from 10:00- 16:00, at the Volkshochschule in Fürth, Hirschenstrasse 27/29, 90762. It's called the KreativMarkt. Anyone is invited to come and shop.
Just yesterday I had my final shopping event for the season on base. I went to our sister post, Illesheim, and sold my scarves at their Spouse's Club event. It was a fun afternoon. It's a warm, and welcoming community.I'm starting to recognize many faces and build a friendship with the other local vendors. I'm glad for this, since I will be here for a few seasons to come. I also met a new trio of vendors. They call themselves Sugar and Spice. They knit and crochet a barrage of accessories. I was impressed with their craftsmanship and creativity.I made a purchase from them. I enjoying supporting spouses as much as I enjoy being supported myself. It's an added bonus that these girls make their wares themselves. 
If you are interested Sugar and Spice has an FB page.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bali: The Adventure of Imitation

There's a Starbuck's in Ubud, but we didn't go. We went to the Kafe instead. They claim to have true espresso. I'll never know what that actually means. I think something just got lost in the translation. True Espresso must be an Indonenglish word. It's surprising to me how many Balinesians actually speak great English; and none of them claim to have learned it in school. Is my language really that simple to learn? Why is it the only one I know?
I'm having a beet-ginger-carrot juice and we are watching a dog fight in the street. We followed the juice up with another round of coffee. We're slow this morning. Last night we went to a restaurant called Casa Luna. I think there are three or four restaurants in Bali called Casa Luna, but we went to the one with bad martinis, no spare ribs, and over cooked chicken. It was the first dinner Phil did not enjoy. Ironically, this was a restaurant that chose to handout comment cards at the end of dinner. Phil wrote down his honest opinion. As if that was not a bold enough maneuver; our waitress returned volley by taking the comment card and reading it in front of us. I expected her to say something about it, in defense, but she didn't. She just walked away with the card and showed it to all the other employees that walked by. Despite the fact that we watched everyone read our critical comment card, then stare at us, we were unable to discern any emotional reaction. Did they care? They must have. When the waitress brought our bill we looked it over. Something about the math didn't make sense. There were two charges on the bill that were for things we didn't eat. We had the mistake corrected and left. Was that one last attempt to screw with us? Chuckling to ourselves about how uncomfortable the whole situation was; on the way out we thanked them for nothing.
That night Phil and I combed the streets of Ubud. I was talking on and on about how this trip was inspiring me to write my own guide book. I was listing all the things I would have loved to have known about Bali before I came; stuff that you'd not find in a typical guide book. I want a guide book that would entice me to travel, yet not send my expectations soaring. I wanna know if something might be dirty. I wanna know if a museum is going to be dark, dusty, and cheap. I'm still gonna go, obviously, I picked up the guide book. Actually, this is probably not something anyone would pay money for. If it were free however, like a blog online, then many people would read it.
Phil thought a movie would be better than a book. We had each other in stitches over our imaginations. We laughed our throats dry and had to stop for a drink. Luckily we found a cozy little joint with 5 for 1 shots. Isn't that the most ridiculous thing you ever heard? Of course not, we're in Bali. I couldn't tell you the name of the bar or what street it was on. At this point it wouldn't matter anyway. There are three to four other establishments with the same name and the street has a few nicknames too. I do remember however, that the band was awesome!!!!! I've got to try to paint you this picture. I hope I'm up for the task. They were (seriously, no lie) an Indonesian Guns and Roses, or Aerosmith. They were all incredibly skinny, wearing tight ripped jeans, some wore vests instead of shirts, and they all had stringy long hair that hung in their face. All but one actually; the guitarist had hair like Slash. It may have been a wig; Asians don't have curly hair. Two of the band members sang, but the one that sang (screamed) the loudest looked too much like a young (male) version of Yoko Ono. No kidding. They were such a spectacle. This band was one of the most intriguing things I saw the entire time in Bali. The songs they covered totally rocked. They had the sounds perfect.
This perfection actually got me thinking. They were the best cover band I have ever heard. How were they so good at imitation? Maybe it's part of their society. Similar to this music situation; I also found the Balinesian recreations of Western food to be spot on. They brew a great beer, but it's not traditionally their thing. And, unfortunately, every other shop on the strip was carrying bootleg goods; purses, sneakers, DVD's, paintings. Why not live music too? Damn it they're good.
Of course we stayed the night, to see the band. Between sets Phil tried to talk to the band. They sang in English so clearly, of course they'd be able to speak it. Nope. He complimented them, but received only a smidgen of an answer. He asked, “So man, what's your favorite band?” Literally the guy had no answer. Phil was definitely disappointed, but he didn't let it ruin his evening. There's not much that could spoil an evening of 5 for 1 rainbow colored shots.
That was our last night in Ubud. This is our last day at Hotel Puri Garden. Our driver from yesterday, Dewa, told us that it is the hotel owned by the current King's family. Is that why I feel like royalty every time I stare out the window at the serene rice paddies and scarecrows blowing in the breeze?
After breakfast we went to the infamous Ubud markets. The market is basically two-in-one. On one side you have the traditional market with food, snacks, home décor, and supplies. It's mostly for the people that actually live there. On the other side is every tchotchky and souvenir you can dream up, priced just right for tourists. As a tourist, you are welcome to go anywhere in the market you like. It is two stories tall, and absolutely overflowing. You want to purchase something just to make a dent in the merchandise. Haggling is the only sales technique practised in the market. The salespeople will, literally, give you an asking price of ten times the object's value. If you take it, no one has fun. You gotta ping-pong the price back and forth so you both feel you've accomplished something. This was the first time I actually witnessed Phil enjoying shopping. He had an absolute blast haggling and making friends. We laughed our way into being the proud new owners of fabric, bracelets, key chains, penis-shaped bottle openers, and puppets. It's all purchased at a very reasonable price; The Good Luck Price we say. At one of the stands we were the vendor's first sale of the day. He proceeded to touch all of the rest of his merchandise with our money. This was done to bless it with the same good fortune of the bracelet we bought. Totally awesome; I hope to remember to use this same practice at my next bazaar.
We had a late lunch that day, with some early cocktails. They were delicious; the cocktails. They had fresh fruits and vegetables in them along with liquor. My drink was fresh ginger, basil, cucumber and rum. I could have drank those beverages all day, but I refrained. The service in Balinese restaurants cracks me up. It is hilariously slow. You have to wait a long time for everything; and this restaurant was a shining example. Two hours after sitting down, after only one round of drinks I asked for the check. The waitress replied, “Not yet. In a little while.” Why does she get to decide when I pay and leave.? If she had told me that I needed to have another drink I may not have been too surprised. Oh well, it's all good when you're on vacation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obligations and Invitations

This hood is currently For Sale!

I think most of us feel like we are incredibly busy. I also think that when you enjoy life and make the most of it, you're going to have a lot to do. I tend to wear two hats; and recently it seems that no matter which hat I have donned, I am a good way.
My life is quite full of opportunity. I am constantly finding new ways to impact my world. For me, it's exciting and I can feel myself growing. For the Army, and for Germany; it could be a blessing or a curse. I appreciate both of these entities for all the opportunities they afford me, for all the things they teach me, and for all the mistakes they allow me to make.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Saturday in Bali

Saturday was epic. We went exploring outside of Ubud with a private driver, Dewa. He was hired by the hotel for us; and he was perfect.
Our first stop was the Batur Volcano. The top is over 5,500 feet. Dewa set us up with a guide to hike to the top. You can not go without a guide. Most people make the trek before the sun comes up; so they can watch it rise from the mountain top. Phil and I weren't interested in waking up that early. In hindsight it was a decent plan because the trekking trail is quite crowded at predawn. Technically we got a late start, but we had the trail to ourselves. Mari was the name of our guide. On our way to the top Mari showed us a bunch of interesting bits; like eucalyptus plants, fresh mint, and other vegetation. The volcano is still active so we checked out a few steaming sulfur holes too. We accomplished 75% of the climb in 45 minutes. Mari said it normally takes 120 minutes. He claimed to be impressed by our fitness. This compliment motivated us to not rest for too long so we could get to the top and have more time with a better view. From the top you can see all three craters of the volcano. You can also see where the city was; that was covered in lava during the last eruption in 1968. It covered the city of Batur; which is how the volcano got its name. In addition you could also see to lake Batur with it's fish farming and boating. Tiny neighborhoods of workers dot the lake's beaches. After a couple of photo-ops we we walked back down the volcano. Mari allowed us to return down the back way; although it can be more treacherous. This route led us along the top of all the craters and down the side of black sand. It was steep. We had to run almost the entire way. If you stop in the sand to walk you just start slipping and falling. It was crazy. You could almost surf it. It reminded me of a previous adventure we had at the dunes in Arcachon, France. Although these sand piles were much bigger, steeper, and blacker. Once we reached the bottom we had to take our shoes and socks off to empty them of all the sand they had collected. As I said it was black, and very fine. We could shake it out, but we couldn't rub it off. The rest of the walk back to base was more like a leisure walk. We went through farms of tomatoes, pumpkins, and green onions.
After the hike we drove to a hot spring. Our hotel had packed our breakfast and we ate it in route. In Bali (and probably many parts of Indonesia) they have Jasmine tea in juice boxes. It is one of the most delicious beverages I have ever enjoyed. As we dined we asked Dewa a slew of questions about Bali and its customs. He was much more talkative than our driver from the previous day. He told us the meaning behind the flag, and the gingham. He also spoke of the shrines and temples, and daily life. A typical Balinesian wakes up at 4:00 to get his/her day started. The matriarch may return form the market as early as 5:00 to complete her cooking before she goes to work. I wanted to know what time they go to bed. Dewa said around 22:00. I was impressed. If I go to bed at 22:00, there is no way I'm getting up before 6:00. Dewa claims it's easy to get up so early in the morning because everyone looks forward to the Bali Special Breakfast. “What's that?”, we wondered; thinking it must be pretty outstanding for one to anticipate it as early as 4:00. “Coffee and a cigarette”, Dewa said. We all laughed.
The Hot Spring was nice, but maybe a bit of a tourist trap. It was $40 for 45 minutes; one of the more expensive things to do in Bali. The Springs had an absolutely gorgeous view though, and a delicious complimentary beverage. At the height of the day's sun, we sipped tamarinda juice from a swim-up pool bar, while floating in an outside hot spring, listening to falling spring water and birds, and enjoying a bit of people watching. It was terribly indulgent. But considering we hiked over 5,00 feet and back, with the sun beating down and under the attack of sand, we figured we deserved it.
On our way back from the hot springs we chatted more with Dewa about Bali agriculture; and in particular asked him about Bali coffee. That's when he asked if we had ever had Luwak coffee. Nope. What's that? He began to explain it to us, (as I will to you momentarily) peaking our interest in some nearby plantations. He offered to stop at his favorite farm, so we could get out of the car, maybe grab a Special Breakfast, and see local coffee and spice manufacturing. We accepted the invitation.
Dewa took us to Satria. It is a plantation, just off the main road, that grows coffee, vanilla beans, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, tamarind, turmeric, fruits, tobacco, peanuts, and raises Luwaks. Luwak, there's that word again. What are they? I'll get there. 
As soon as you arrive you are greeted by a guide. He takes you through the plantation and points out all the different plants, what they are called, and what they are used for. After the fields you get a mini tour of production. You go through the huts that are drying the nuts and seeds. Then you go to another tent with a massive mortar and pestle, an open fire pit, and a little old lady roasting coffee beans in an iron skillet over flames. It was an impressive sight; very primitive and romantic. I can't imagine that it is actually the way everything there is manufactured; despite the sincerity of our guide. I think it is just to impress, but I didn't care much. I loved it and appreciated the theatrics of it. As a visitor you can grab the huge mortar and grind beans in the life-size pestle. It was fun.
It is at this point in the tour that you can meet the Luwaks. They are small furry creatures that are only found on the island of Bali. They sleep all day. At night they wake up to eat. What's their diet? Coffee beans. They eat the coffee beans off the plants. The bean travels through their digestive system. They absorb it's caffeine and get their nutrition. The Luwak's body never actually breaks down the coffee bean. It passes it after using it for what it needs. What is left is a coffee bean with less caffeine, a full bodied flavor, and extra nutrients and enzymes from the animal. At the plantation, farmers walk around “cleaning up” after the Luwaks. The coffee beans are removed from their excrement, washed, roasted, ground, and packaged as the most expensive coffee in the world. In America Luwak coffee can sell for $50.00 per cup. Here at Satria it was $4.00. Would you drink it? We did.
After the tour you sit down for your tasting. Phil and I sat at the end of a long picnic table under a thatched roof; perched on the crest of a hill in the middle of a plantation jungle. A young woman came over to us with a large tray full of coffee and tea samples. I think there was probably about 15 (in all) for us to taste; coconut coffee, chocolate coffee, vanilla coffee, red rice tea, hibiscus tea, spice tea. It would be a miracle if I could remember them all. Of course in addition to all of these samples we ordered a cup of the Luwak coffee. Also on the table were large jugs of delicious fresh roasted peanuts covered in coconut paste and fried, fresh tobacco, and rolling papers. The girl that brings your beverages can also hand roll you a complimentary cigarette. Would you smoke it? We did. 
The way I look at it is if you're going to drink coffee from beans that were salvaged out of poop, you might as well have a cigarette to wash it down. You never know if you're going to have those opportunities again. Phil joked that we were actually able to indulge ourselves in the Bali Special Breakfast.
We were home by 14:00. That was plenty of time for us to continue winding down until dinner. We headed out to the spa for a 60 minute massage for $20; complete with hot tea and jasmine oil. Phil and I were in the same hut. The girls gave us a pre-massage pedicure with coffee grinds and coconut. For my masseuse it was just another day at the office. But Phil's masseuse; poor girl, she was working overtime. The heels on the feet of a soldier are no joke. (I think Phil would need a pedicure everyday to keep them normal.) It's in almost as bad a shape as the back of a pilot. Unfortunately for Phils' masseuse; he's both.The masseuse's torture was well worth it. We left there feeling like a million bucks.