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Laureen

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Things I’m Looking Forward to in the USA

    On Our Way

    Location: Royal Caribbean

    Today we board Voyager of the Seas, a beautiful Royal Carribean ship for the 8500 mile journey from Sydney to Seattle. This will be the longest cruise we have ever taken – 23 days. Plenty of time to think about the things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    I am looking forward to a slow decompression and a slow and easy re-entry to the culture of the United States.

    No matter how long you are out of the United States I now realize there are some things you just long for.  It’s not a big list for me, but it’s made up

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Time together as a family

    of the things I find comforting;

    The numbwr one things I’m looking forward to in the USA is My Kids – my grown children are my pride and joy and I really look forward to a lot of time together this summer.  We also look forward to seeing all the rest of our family as well.  Many things have happened in 18 months and we all have a lot of catching up to do.

    Tacos – Good ole American Tacos.  I need one right now.  I’ve been on the search for tacos everywhere we travel and it is definitely one of the things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    French press – the world is ruled by Nescafé

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Fish Tacos

     

    instant coffee and I miss my morning French Press.

    Cycling – one of the simplest and best exercise routines I’ve ever had – riding my bike several times a week and I just can’t wait to be back on my bike.

    Having all food orders arrive at the table at the

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Cycling

    same time – last night I finished my dinner before Arne’s even arrived. This is common in many countries, but almost unheard of in the states and definitely one of the things now I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    Washer and Dryer – I think American’s take these appliances for granted more than any other and I certainly look forward to that convenience again for a while.

    Not needing to carry a roll of toilet paper in my

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Driving

    purse- ‘nuff said.

    Going to the Movie – I have only seen a movie a couple of times on an airplane in the past 18 months and I have not watched TV at all.  I do enjoy a movie on the big screen and I’m looking forward to that.

    Driving- I’ve only driven once in the past 18 months.  It will be great being behind the wheel and driving with relatively sane drivers again.

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Crab!

    Alaskan Salmon and Dungeness Crab – growing up on these foods my mouth waters at the thought of them.  I NEVER order salmon anywhere because I know it is likely farmed and crab isn’t crab unless it’s Dungeness in my book so I can’t wait to taste these favs again – I’ve been spoiled by Pacific Northwest seafood and it is certainly one of the things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    My Book Club, My Cooking Club, My High School Girls, The Martini Mamas and all my other friends – I look forward to those moments of loud joyful

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Friends

     

    laughter, funny stories, reminiscing and sharing.  And although I will only have a few opportunities to catch up this summer it is something I’m excited to do.

    Safeway – I miss my favorite grocery store and my tried and true staple items and ingredients.  It will be great fun to have a fully stocked American kitchen and I can’t wait to cook for my family just like the old days.

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    More crab

    Ten varieties of lettuce, a dozen varieties of apples, eight different kinds of potatoes – I look forward to the gluttony of produce we have at our fingertips in the USA.

    My Hairdresser and my Manicurist – although I have had pretty good luck with both haircuts and manicures out here in the big wide world, it will be wonderful being back with my very own who I know and trust.

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    My hairdresser and friend Michael

    Fourth of July – growing up this day was as anticipated as Christmas and I’m looking forward to a good ole summer family Fourth of July American BBQ – even if I have to plan it myself!  How American is that?  A patriot at heart and one of the summertime things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    Arne is looking forward to running everyday on familiar territory as well as baseball and good craft beer!

    So get ready USA we are on my way!!

    NOTE – WiFi will be infrequent if at all on the cruise. I hope to post when I can.

    Fab Food

    Top Ten Dining Experiences Around the World

    Our Favs From the Past 18 Months

    Location: Around the World

    We have been traveling now for nearly 18 months.  We stayed in a lot of places.  We have seen a lot of sights.  We have eaten – well – hundreds of meals.  Some better than others.  Most acceptable.  A few downright spectacular.  So we thought it was time to share our Top Ten Dining Experiences Around the World on our year and a half Grand Adventure;

    Lisbon Portugal– our number one most favorite meal of our top ten dining experiences around the world took place in Lisbon, where we seriously

    Top ten dining experiences

    Lisbon Portugal

    gorged ourselves on the best seafood meal I have ever enjoyed.  Thankful to have our son’s friend Salvador there to order for us, we ate non-stop for several hours at Lisbon’s famous Cervejaria Ramiro restaurant.  It’s memorable for many reasons, the most important the way Salvador managed the waitstaff, ordered food and beer at breathtaking speed and told stories of his growing up in Lisbon.  I would love to relive that meal again and again.

    The remaining top ten dining experiences around the world are in no particular order –

    Sofia Bulgaria – Hidden in a neighborhood behind a tall fence is the historic Sofia restaurant of Manastirska Magernista where we were introduced to Bulgarian cuisine.  Here we tasted for the first

    Top ten dining experiences

    Sofia Bulgaria

    time the warm crusty bread dipped in olive oil and a Bulgarian dry spice mix.  The slow roasted pork knuckle as big as my head and falling off the bone.  The fresh and delicious Shopska salad of cucumber, tomato and feta.  Staple foods of a cuisine we knew nothing about but now is one of our favs.  We ended up at this restaurant twice we loved it so much.

    Nesebar Bulgaria – Bulgaria is the only country to land two spots in the top ten.  But our lunch in the beautiful seaside town of Nesebar deserves to be on the list.  At Plakamoto we again had pork

    Top Ten Dining Experiences

    Nesebar Bulgaria

    knuckle, a huge piece of meat we shared with fresh yogurt soup, cucumber salad and cold frothy beer on a sunny day overlooking the sea.  Perfect.

    Piran Slovenia – fresh from the sea anchovies smothered in local olive oil and garlic still makes my mouth water thinking of it.  We ate two platters full in a tiny restaurant onboard a boat in the

    Top Ten Dining experiences

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran Slovenia

    harbor called Ladja Podlanica, with about 15 other local Slovenians.  After we licked the platter clean we then ate a gigantic bowl of linguine con vongole (linguine with clams) in a perfect wine and garlic sauce.  We loved it so much we ate there twice, both times with our friends Marbi and Raymond. Tiny Piran is not a place you would expect to find one of our top ten dining experiences around the world.

    Asilah Morocco – one of our most favorite Airbnb’s and one of our most favorite local cuisines were combined during our wonderful ten days in Asiliah, Morocco.  Here we met Latifah, our cook and housekeeper who opened our eyes to

    Top Ten dining Experiences

    Latifah unveiling the tajine in Asilah

    the wonders of Moroccan food.  She cooked for us everyday, she taught us how to cook, she took us to the market, she smiled and enjoyed watching us consume her scrumptious concoctions – all while not speaking a single word of English.  We loved her and wanted to take her home.

    Top ten dining experiences

    Hoi An Vietnam

    Hoi An Vietnam – two separate experiences put the colorful city of Hoi An in the top ten dining experiences around the world.  First  I took an amazing cooking class here, in a beautiful cooking school called Miss Vy’s.  One of the most advanced cooking schools I have experienced, I learned so much about Vietnams cuisine and Hoi An’s local specialities, which I learned to both cook and enjoyed eating.

    Top ten dining experiences

    Hoi An cooking class

    Furthering our Hoi An experience was our bicycle food tour with Grasshopper Tours.  We headed out at dusk and spent three hours going from place to place eating our way through Hoi An and enjoying everything from Bahn Mi to Chicken Feet, Vietnames Pancakes to “Jumping Chicken” (frog), noodles to ice cream.  Loved it.

    Barcelona Spain – we had been a bit disillusioned about the food in Spain, since the cuisine on the Camino de Santiago was less than inspiring – until we arrived at Bodega 1900 in Barcelona.  We

    Top Ten Dining experiences

    Barcelona Spain

    began perusing the menu after we were seated but then the waiter arrived and whisked our menus away and announced the chef recommends a tasting menu of his choice, “is okay?”.  “Well, umm, okay”, we agreed reluctantly.  Arne’s eyeballs turning to dollar signs not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.  But not to worry – a gastronomic feast of a dozen small plates from olive oil blobs to sardines, from sashimi to squid and so much more.  A lovely experience at a reasonable price.

    Swakopmond Nambia – our favorite tour guide

    Top Ten Dining experiwnces

    Swakopmund Namibia

    Seven made sure we had a chance to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary in style.  He surprised us by making a reservation for us at Swakopmond’s best seafood restaurant, The Tug, overlooking the beautiful bay.  Here we tried for the first time two different fish – Kingclip and Kabeljou.  Both were prepared perfectly and absolutely delicious and a now a new yet hard to find favorite. It was a lovely evening.

    Luang Prabang Laos – We stayed in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in Luang Prabang complete with a UNESCO World Heritage Lily Pond.  It was a lovely place and we dined at the Manda de Laos

    Top Ten Dining Experiences

    Luang Prabang Laos

    restaurant that sits over the lily pond.  The evening was warm and lovely and it had been a long time since we dressed up and had a nice dinner.  We enjoyed the local Laos cuisines including papaya salad, noodles, chicken and more, all served impeccably and presented with fresh flowers as garnish.  A top ten memorable evening and a top ten dining experience around the world.

    Top ten ding experiences around the world

    Peka in Dubrovnik Croatia

    Dubrovnik Croatia – Learning to make the local dish called Peka in a local families home outside of Dubrovnik was a wonderful experience for me – even though the dish is extremely complicated and not something I think I will ever make at home.  But I enjoyed it so much we made a reservation later to enjoy it again at Dubrovnik’s famous Konoba Dubrava restaurant high above the hills of the city.  Peka is a dish of pork, lamb or beef cooked with potatoes and vegetables in a giant metal pan (Peka) buried in the coals of a blazing hot fire.  It creates a sweltering kitchen with a mouth watering result.  A very memorable meal both times.

    Is it any wonder I haven’t lost any weight on the Grand Adventure?  LOL.  Life is fabulous!!  Fat and happy travels.

    Read more of our food blogs here

     

     

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Little Fires Everywhere

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Book Review

    Book Review Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

    Shaker Heights is a perfect little community outside of Cleveland.  Perfect houses. Perfect lawns.  Perfect jobs.  Perfect schools.  And the perfect Richardson Family.  Leading this family is Elena Richardson, lifelong Shaker Heights resident and a perfect citizen who follows the rules.

    The perfection begins to unravel the day Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive in Shaker Heights, moving into a rental house owned by the Richardson’s.  Mia, an unconventional artist and mother, as far from the Shaker Heights kind of women Elena Richardson aspires to.

    Mia’s mysterious past, Elena’s nosy obsession, Pearl’s friendship with the Richardson children and Izzy’s (the youngest daughter) obsession with Mia and desire for a different life than Shaker Heights, will collide in a heartbreaking tale of loss in so many ways.

    Little Fires Everywhere will make you sit up and think about your own choices in life, secrets you carry, decisions you’ve made and what really is the meaning of family and mother.

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Five Stars for Little Fires Everywhere

    Sure to be a movie soon.

    Read last week’s review of Before We Were Yours here

    This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if you purchase the book. All money earned goes back into covering the costs of maintaining this blog. 

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Fab Asia Travel

    500 Days of Summer

    A Sunny Travel Life

    Location: Lombok Indonesia

    Today marks 500 days on the road – and our grand adventure living 500 days of summer.  Coming from the often grey and misty state of Washington in the Pacific Northwest, 500 Days of Summer was the goal.

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Australia

    When we started planning our grand adventure, we set an itinerary

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Tunisia

    that kept us away from cold and rainy places.  And not just because we love the sun – but also because it’s easier to pack for these climates.

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Guam

    And so it has gone along this way now, for 500 days.  Waking each morning and opening my eyes and saying “hey, it’s still summer.”  Nice.

    Now we can’t say we haven’t seen some cool, even cold days.  We were in New Zealand as

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Morocco

    summer turned to fall and we had some pretty chilly nights.  Even in North Vietnam the nights were cool and in Halong Bay the mist hung low and we never saw the sun. In Morocco the wind was brisk and our night in the Sahara Desert camp was downright nippy. Here in Indonesia, our time in the

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Maldives

    mountains brought thankfully cooler temps, but certainly not cold.

    500 days of aummer

    Sunny Portugal

    But mostly it’s been warm to hot to REALLY hot as we have navigated this summer life.  More than 16 months on the road and I’m on my third (and a half) swimsuit and needing a fourth.  I’m on my

    500 days of summer

    Sunny New Zealand

    third sun hat, second pair of sunglasses, second set of beach towels  and second pair of flip-flops. I’m on my third selfie stick, my tenth bottle of sunscreen and my fifth water bottle – misplacing

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Bulgaria

    four somewhere along the way. My sundresses are tired and faded from sun and sweat and constant washing.  I will retire all of these soon and go on a big shopping trip for fresh and new when

    500 days of summer

    Sunny India

    we get back to the states.

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Namibia

    Because after our visit to the USA (May 14-Aug 7),where we hope it will be summer, we head off on the next phase of the grand adventure, at least

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Spain

    another 500 days of summer.

    But until then, summer continues here in Indonesia.

     

    500 days of summer

    Sunny Seychelles

    And life is sunny and fabulous!

     

    This post contains affiliate links and we may be compensated if you make a purchase.  All money earned goes back to the cost of maintaining this blog.  Thank you.

     

     

     


    Fab Asia Travel  --  Fab Food

    The Flavors of Bali

    Cooking Class in Munduk Bali

    Location: Munduk, Bali, Indonesia

    Lemongrass, garlic, turmeric.  The Flavors of Bali.  Ginger, cloves, coffee.  The Flavors of Bali. Cardamon, nutmeg, galangal.  The Flavors of Bali. Chili, Chocolate, Fruit.

    The flavors of Bali

    At the morning market

    Bali smells good.  Bali tastes good.  And Bali is a feast for the eyes as well.  A beautiful tropical island in Indonesia with happy and kind people, gorgeous mountains and seashore, lush green foliage and bright tropical flowers and fruits with flavors that explode in your mouth and bring a smile to your face.  The Flavors of Bali. Fresh and unforgettable.

    During our three days at the Puri Lumbung

    The flavors of bali

    Buying the banana leaf

    Cottages in the village of Munduk we enjoyed an hour and a half cooking class where we learned about combining all the amazing flavors of Bali into six distinctly Bali dishes.  We enjoyed a feast after we cooked and found a new appreciation for fresh and local ingredients.

    Our day started with an early morning walk to the tiny and very authentic local market in the village

    The flavors of bali

    Beautiful view from the outdoor kitchen

    of Munduk.  We purchased our fresh ingredients here including; cassava a green similar to spinach that would go in our soup; ferns a green similar to fiddleheads that we would use to make a side dish; lemongrass a Bali staple that we would use in multiple dishes; fresh white corn that we would use in corn fritters; banana leaves we would wrap the fish in; and galanga a root flavoring similar to ginger that we would use in multiple dishes.

    The flavors of bali

    Ingredients waiting the preparations

    When we arrived at the beautiful open air kitchen overlooking the rice fields and vast valley below we found four work stations each with a ulekan and cobek – a Balinese style mortar and pestle made from local basalt.  At each work station ingredients where waiting in each ulekan for us to begin the somewhat arduous process of crushing and combining the flavors of Bali for each individual dish.

    The flavors of bali

    John crushes the spices

    Timbungan Ayam is a clear chicken soup with cassava leaves and fried shallots.  We ground the flavors of chili, shallot, galangal, lemongrass, nutmeg, lime leaves and shrimp paste into a mash that was then combined with chopped fresh chicken and cassava and cooked on the open flame stove top.  It was a delicious broth and one of my favorite flavors of the day.

    The flavors of bali

    Me preparing the soup

    Bergedel Tagung is a fried corn fritter.  In the ulekan we ground the flavors of Bali of nutmeg, chili, garlic and shrimp paste.  We then took the fresh corn off the cobb, mixed it with the spices and an egg and cooked the fritters (about the size of a fifty cent piece) in corn oil.  Crunchy and delicious.

    The flavors of bali

    Carole wraps the fish in banana leaf

    Pepes Ikan Laut is a fish dish smothered in a Balinese paste then wrapped in banana leaf and grilled.  In the ulekan we had our toughest ingredients to grind including shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, aromatic ginger, candle nut (like macadamia) nutmeg, tomato, shrimp paste, chile and salt & pepper.  First mixed with coconut oil into a paste, this mixture was smeared all over chunks of fresh fish.  The banana leaves were laid out in two layers with one large bay leaf in the center.  The fish was

    The flavors of Bali

    Fish on the grill

    spooned evenly on four banana leaves which were wrapped and folded and secured with a bamboo toothpick before being laid in a hot pan on an open flame for grilling.  When it was time to eat we opened the banana leaf envelope to find the chunks had fused together into an aromatic and juicy fish surprise.

    Be Siap Sere Bawang is a chicken dish with a strong lemongrass flavor.  We began by grinding the spices of shrimp paste, chili, turmeric, salt & pepper into a paste.  The cooked chicken was

    The flavors of bali

    Everybody crushing spices

    shredded into pieces and mixed with the spices, sliced lemongrass and sliced shallots then quickly sauted to soften the lemongrass.  Probably my least favorite of all the dishes just because of the too strong flavor of lemongrass.

    Urap Campur is like a side vegetable dish.  It can be made with most any green vegetable such as cassava, cabbage or long bean.  For our cooking class we used local ferns.  The ferns were

    The flavors of bali

    Top Ferns and fish in banana leaf  Bottom lemongrass chicken & cornfritters

     

    blanched and water squeezed out before we arrived.  The ferns were mixed together with grated coconut, cooked local red beans, fried shallot, juice of the kaffir lime and salt and pepper.

    Bubur Campur was our dessert a mix of local fruits including jackfruit, banana, pandan, mangosteen and sweet potato.  We boiled the fruit in water with palm sugar syrup for sweetener, a bit of starch for thickening and coconut milk for flavor.  It was served in a bowl and we all agreed it would have been better served over vanilla ice cream.

    The flavors of bali

    Successful team

    We have really enjoyed our time in Bali and getting to know the Flavors of Bali.  As in so many cultures the Balinese enjoy what is local and seasonal in their simple but delicious everyday foods.  And we enjoyed experiencing it first hand.  The Flavors of Bali.  Fabulous.

    Check out our other posts about our time in the beautiful island of Bali.

    This post includes affiliate links and we may be compensated if you purchase these books.  Any money earned here goes back to the maintenance costs of this .  Thank you.

     

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Before We Were Yours

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Book Review

    Book Review Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

    Here we find two families, seemingly unrelated based on economic wealth and political status in present day South Carolina.  But history tells a different story and Wingate writes a beautiful tale of families lost and found.

    Using the true life tragedy of stolen babies and children in the 1930’s at the Tennessee Children’s Society, Before We Were Yours is a fictional story that begins in the deep Tennessee back water and ends in a high-powered South Carolina political family.

    Before We Were Yours, follows the lives of one family and the eldest daughter Rill.  When her mother is rushed to the hospital to deliver twins in 1939, Rill is left on their river boat to care for the rest of the children.  Soon a “policeman” arrives and tells Rill their mother is waiting for them at the hospital.  This is of course not true and the men steal all five children in the night and take them to the Tennessee Children’s Society.  They will never see their parents again.

    Some of the children will not survive the horrors of the Tennessee Children’s Society.  Other’s  eventually are adopted, their names changed and histories altered.  Only Rill is old enough to remember the life they had together on the river.

    Fast forward to present day South Carolina, where Avery Stafford is born to wealth and privilege, following her parents and grandparents paths into politics and always doing what is expected of her in the old southern family of Stafford.

    Avery meets an old women named Mae and her life takes a big turn as she unwittingly begins to unravel a mystery about her family – one that could ruin both her father’s and her political careers- the truth of where they came from.  A long dark hidden secret of a happy family Before We Were Yours.

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Four stars for Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours

    This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if you purchase a book.  Any money earned goes back to pay for the maintenance costs of this blog.

    Read last week’s review of Sing Unburied Sing here..

    Fab Asia Travel

    Finding an Oasis at Puri Lumbung Cottages

    Munduk Bali Indonesia

    Location: Munduk, Bali, Indonesia

    We veered off our normal routine of staying in Airbnb’s these past few days. I am so glad we did, taking a chance on a little resort I read about in Lonely Planet, and finding an oasis in Puri Lumbung Cottages.

    Finding an oasis

    Mount Batur on our wat

    I could spend a month here.

    We are high (800 meters or 2500 feet) in the Bali mountains north and west of Ubud. We had a wonderful (but steep and winding) drive from

    Finding an oasis

    Temple Pura Ulun Danu

    Ubud to Munduk and saw many beautiful views in lush green terraced rice fields, lakes, volcanoes and temples.

    The weather here is cool and comfortable. Mornings are sunny and afternoons usually bring a

    Finding an oasis

    The view

    shower.

    This hotel has been a wonderful experience. We have a spectacular view overlooking the valley with the Java Sea (Pacific Ocean) in the distance about 7 miles away.  I love sitting on our balcony and watching the changing colors and cloud formations throughout the day – fabulous.

    Finding an oasis

    Beautiful gardens

    Finding an oasis at the Puri  Lumbung cottages was our lucky break.  With our friends John and Carole we paid $650 USD and here is what we got;

    • 2 beautiful cottages with bedroom, bath and balcony set in the rice fields overlooking the valley.  The cottages are historic rice barns
      Finding an oasis

      Our cottage

      that have been converted into cottages. The price included three nights.

    • Breakfast served in the restaurant each morning. Sometimes a buffet and sometimes ala carte, we enjoyed American style as well as Indonesian and Balinese style breakfast.
    • Guided trek to the local waterfall. We enjoyed this on our first morning and it was a tough
      Finding an oasis

      Waterfall trek

      and steep three mile hike. Very invigorating and boy did we work up a sweat.

    • Massage in the spa.  Our price included one massage for each of us, but since Arne doesn’t like massages I got two! Boy did that feel good after the hike!
    • Afternoon tea served on our balcony each
      Finding an oasis

      The village market

      day at three o’clock.

    • Guided trip to the local market followed by a cooking class for the four of us.  Here we learned to make a feast of local dishes using local ingredients. We then ate everything we
      Finding an oasis

      Our cooking class

      cooked and were so stuffed we didnt even need dinner.

    All of this included in the price.  Dinner was not included, but we ate dinner in the restaurant only one night and only spent $25 including drinks.

    So finding an oasis in Puri Lumbung cottages has been a special treat.  The staff is so friendly.

    Finding an oasis

    A “road” in the village

    Always smiling and happy. The hotel was started back in the 1940’s as a way to give the local people jobs.  Still today the friendly locals from the tiny village of Munduk work here.  Everyone from the receptionist to our trek guides.  The gardeners keep the grounds pristine.  The chef creates delicious food.  The housekeepers are excellent.  The massage therapist amazing. We have no complaints.

    Oh and the view. Bonus.

    Finding an oasis

    Afternoon tea

    Our Bali experience has been wonderful overall, but we will always remember our special time at the hidden Puri Lumbung (translation Rice Palace) where we relaxed and found some of the Bali of old – a bit lost in time where hospitality is king. It was our lucky day finding an oasis in Puri

    Finding an oasis

    Beautiful gardens

    Lumbung cottages.

    Matur Suksma (thank you very much)!