Update on Frenzies

January 28, 2011 at 7:40 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

Just wanted to post this update to say that I have now finished the “Spring Cleaning” in our breakfast room/store room, the guest bath and the kitchen. Along the way I’ve been gathering and sorting all the recyclable materials that have been stashed all over the place. So I hope to be putting those into one nicely organized spot. Oh, and I did half of our huge bedroom suite. Only the bath and closet/dressing area remain to be tackled — oh, and the windows (ugh!yuk!). Almost forgot — had to send the PC to the shop the other day for service, so I took that opportunity to clean the office corner…as I write, the desk is clear and polished, everything is clean and fresh, I can even see the letters on the keyboard! Next up is the dining/living area. Well, back to work.


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January 27, 2011 at 6:26 PM (crafts, life, people) (, , , )

I’ve mentioned my friend/assistant, Nik, before.  But I didn’t really tell you about her.  Well, now I will:  she is absolutely amazing!  And being Balinese makes her even more so.

The first thing you need to know is how very difficult it is to find a Balinese craftsperson who actually does more than one single thing;  a woodcarver, for instance, may carve only statues of Ganesha (the Hindu God of Knowledge) — for his entire lifetime.  Why?  Well, if you were to ask him, he would tell you that is the knowledge/skill that was passed down to him by his father, and his father’s father, etc., etc., and that is what he does.  The same goes for most painters, artists, weavers, carpenters, stonemasons, etc.   So trust me when I say that to find someone who will even attempt something new is a rare treasure.  (It’s not their fault, and I’m not trying to give a negative impression about them — it’s simply a fact).  My personal theory on that issue stems from the very tightly-knit communal lifestyle of the Balinese/Indonesian cultures – but that’s another whole story which I post about in my other blog.



This is Nik. I give her materials, and she gives me creations.




So Nik is essentially a true “diamond in the rough”, just learning to spread her wings, use her imagination, and create!  When I met her two years ago, she came to interview for a job in our shop.  She was quite personable, and seemed eager to learn new things.  We knew she certainly had the potential to be special, as evidenced by the fact that she and some friends already own and manage their own shop.  The four ladies had worked together (here in Ubud) for a global brand name outfit, but opted out with the severance package when regional managers wanted to move them to a different store on another part of the island.  So they pooled their severance money and opened a shop selling traditional Balinese dress  (that shop is still up and running).   Needless to say, we hired her.

Initially, we just wanted to find out if she was interested/curious enough to learn all the background information about our products. … you know, the materials used, little stories about different pieces, how to use them, and so on.  She had it down in three weeks — she could tell anyone everything about any given product.  I started to show her how I made some of the ornaments and she wanted to try!  Her attempts resulted in successes.  After that, there was no stopping her.  Every time I’ve introduced her to a new technique, design or idea, she runs with it.  And the best thing is that she and I are on the same wavelength.  Which is not to say that we produce the same output.  Where I approach things with a Western mindset, Nik comes at it from a Balinese viewpoint.  Sometimes we meld and blend the two.  We work well together, and it gives me great pleasure to provide learning opportunities for such a wonderful and giving friend.

A bit of Nik’s personal background is in order here, too (with her permission, of course).  Her father is a rice farmer (but didn’t own his own land), so the family was quite poor.  Btw, poor in this part of the world is not unlike the poor one sees in Africa.  There were many days when she would come home from school and go work in the ricefield with her dad so she could catch some dragonflies in an attempt to stave off the hunger (this is true stuff here).  Her parents could not afford to send her to school (they must pay to attend), so at the tender age of 6 this remarkable young woman got a job to learn woodcarving.  In this way, she put herself through school and graduated high school.  (When we met her, she was working to support the family and to pay for her two younger brothers to attend and finish school).  Nik somehow always understood that she must take every opportunity to learn, and so was a voracious reader – books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, whatever .. if it was in print and she could get her grubby little hands on it, she read it.  She now speaks Japanese, Chinese, German and Dutch conversationally; Indonesian, Balinese and English fluently.

You know, I could probably go on for far too long telling you about my friend.  But the truth is, so many people  don’t understand what life is like for the indigenous peoples of third-world countries,  and Nik’s life story is not unique by any means.  What makes her so special to me is what lengths she has gone to to rise up out of the ashes of utter destitution.  She is self-reliant, incredibly resourceful, intelligent, truly caring and totally sincere.  She lacks the polish of the young sophisticate, but her gentle and loving soul positively outshines most.

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Silent Frenzy

January 13, 2011 at 4:11 PM (baking, food) (, , , )




January in the Garden - Serene and Relaxing

No posts in the last 10 days…so now I’m just checking in for  a quick update.  I have actually been taking a break from crafting, but have been applying creative energies elsewhere.

Baking.  I love to bake and the challenge here is to be able to incorporate and substitute more local products for the expensive imported foods and staples I’d grown accustomed to before moving to Bali.  A good bit of my youth was spent in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and I absolutely love wet-bottom shoo-fly pie, big ole’ soft pretzels, and sinfully gooey sticky buns (among so many other things, of course). None of which are available, or even known, here.

Well, a few months ago, I decided to just do it.  I made my own soft pretzels (Amish recipe).  They were excellent but must be eaten very soon after baking (because the tropical humidity will quickly morph your crispy crust into a molten mush).  The other option is to make the pretzels and then freeze the raw or half-baked dough until you’re ready to eat them.

Anyway, last week I really, really craved some good, old-fashion sticky buns. (Mind you, I brought all these recipes with me for just such an occasion).  I had to use gula merah (lit.: red sugar) which is palm sugar made locally, as a substitute for the typical brown sugar…a slightly different taste, and somewhat more moisture-laden in this humidity.  Oh, and of course the Indonesian archipelago is the home of the legendary Spice Islands, so the cinnamon and nutmeg are incredibly fresh and vibrant flavors.  Okay, do I need to tell you that these sticky buns were probably the most sinfully decadent buns I’ve ever, ever tasted!  Hubby and I were practically ready to eat the whole batch in one sitting.  Omg! Purely and simply addictive — it’ll be a while before I make those again, unless I make them for a crowd…just can’t chance having them sitting there waiting to inhaled.

Enough about food, I guess.  It’s just that all those little things you can just go out and buy at home can be so hard to come by when you’re in a different world.  We have learned to appreciate all those things we so took for granted in our previous life.

Another diversion I’ve been working on is redesigning our website (B2B wholesale and export handicrafts).  I am not a “tekkie”, so I got the original site up and running as best I could back in August.  But recently I discovered some newly-available options and tools offered by the host site, so I jumped back in and (hopefully) was able to make some changes for the better.  Not finished yet – never finished – but quite functional and a whole lot nicer-looking, I think.

And…there is the semi-annual spring cleaning which I just don’t even want to talk about – yet!  It’s a work in progress (slow progress) and I manage to find all sorts of little tasks to avoid it.  But it must be done, and be done it will — eventually.  In the meantime, I’m going to retreat for a brief respite to my pool and garden to catch a little r&r.  Later.

Refresh and Relax


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New Fancies

January 3, 2011 at 11:41 AM (crafts, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Happy New Year to all!  And thanks to all who have visited this blog.  It’s very encouraging and just downright nice to meet you.

We had a quiet weekend, choosing to ring in the New Year from the comfort of home.  Here in Bali, anyone can buy fireworks…and many do just that.  We were inundated with the bangs, pops, whistles and whooshes of hundreds of mini displays;  only having to look out from our bedroom terrace to witness a spectacular array of syncopated starburst sprays of multi-colored lightshows exploding all along the ridge of the gorge, around us, in front of us and behind us.  At midnight, the spectacle of the Four Seasons Resort display, below us and down inside the gorge, made for a very awesome climax.  Big and little sparkles and glitters of every color lit up our entire little world!  Must have been quite a beautiful view from an airplane flying overhead.  And that was our New Year’s Eve.

Anyway, as I was saying… a quiet weekend at home.  Gave me the opportunity to take a leisurely browse around the web.  Lots of beautiful and creative crafts to see.  But I kept finding myself drawn to the origami and quilling sites.  You  probably know by now that I am enthusiastic about paper crafts, especially the recycled variety.  And I think this year I will focus more on folding and filigree techniques.   I mean, has anyone seen The Crafty Penguin’s 3D Origami Swan ?

It’s beautiful!  And it made me start to imagine all kinds of ways to use her technique to build many different creations… now if I can just decide where to start…

Last year, I became fascinated with the idea of weaving on a cardboard loom, so I gave it a shot.  I thought a sort of shabby chic look created by weaving batik fabric strips might be kinda cool.  This is what happened:

My shabby chic bags woven from batik fabric strips

I used coconut wood buttons for the clasp.  The bags measure about 6″wide x 5″tall,  just big enough for all the essentials for an evening out.  I like the look of the raw edges of the cotton batik fabrics…like an eyelash effect.

Sampai jumpa lagi (see ya next time).

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