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.