Puri Mas Christmas Dance-Off

This year was a special Christmas for me as it was the first Christmas that I have spent with my parents in the last 4 years.  It was wonderful being at the Puri Mas resort as they had the whole day planned out for the guests with many different Christmas events.  The morning starting with a champagne brunch and lots of traditional Indonesian sweets and cakes as desserts.  Meanwhile Christmas music such as Frosty the Snowman and I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas were playing at full volume which somehow made the experience just that much more festive since it was 85 degrees and we were melting from the humidity. 

Sipping Champagne and wishing our family and friends from around the world a Merry Christmas via Skype and email. 

We then spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and I snuck away for a Tibetan bowl massage which is said to alleviate prolonged physical and emotional pains, and improves the overall condition of your body through sound.  I found it incredibly relaxing and put me in such a peaceful and mellow mood for the day.

Later all the guests convened in the ballroom for a cocktail hour and to watch a beautiful dancer perform a traditional Indonesian bird dance.

Indonesian Bird Dance from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

That evening we had a multi course dinner with several hours of dancing as entertainment.  The dancers were all staff members at Puri Mas which was impressive.  The guy from accounting was dancing next to the laundry guy who was dancing next to the bug exterminator (nicknamed "the killer") and everyone was having an incredible time.

Puri Mas staff dancing from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

We also watched some traditional Indonesian dances and Indonesian stick fighting.

Traditional Lombok Dance - Puri Mas from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

Later all of the guests were so inspired by the dancing we were somehow cajoled onto  the dance floor a lead through an enthusiastic rendition of "Hands Up, Baby Hands Up".  As you can see Kingsley and I are (NOT) naturals...

Hands Up - Lombok Puri Mas Dance from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

Indonesian Gastro Delights

We ate some amazing meals at Puri Mas but here are a few of our favorites. On our last night of our vacation, we ordered the Rijsstafel Set Dinner which was a delightful eight course Indonesian meal.  A few of our favorite dishes were the tender young bamboo shoots in curried coconut sauce and the lamb cooked in coconut milk, chilies and turmeric.  But truthfully everything was excellent and it was fun to have a chance to taste so many different Indonesian meals.

Another favorite item on the menu at Puri Mas, which I enjoyed so much I ordered three nights in a row, was the Cumi Bumbu Bali - whole small baby squid with Balinese spices.  I asked the chef for the recipe for the sauce that the squid is cooked in and below is what he wrote down.  I haven't had the time or courage to give it a try yet but one of these days I will look forward to testing it out! 

Learning Lombok

Though Kingsley and I have been to Bali many time and absolutely love Bali, I really enjoyed our time in Lombok.  Bali has many more five star hotels and fancy restaurants but it is also overrun with tourists and the traffic is almost unbearable.  I personally loved the simple natural beauty and quiet pace of life in Lombok. 

Lombok and Bali are very close neighbors, you can even see Mount Agung in Bali across the water in the photo below.  However,  interestingly the two islands are separated by an imaginary boundary know as the Wallace Line which marks the division of Asian and Australian flora and fauna.  Lombok's fauna has more in common with Australia. 

Lombok is also a melting pot of cultures with 70% of the islands population being Sasak which are the indigenous people of Lombok who follow the muslim religion. The remaining population are Hindu. Both of these cultures have many religious ceremonies, dances and traditions but the two cultures live harmoniously together. In the Kampung (village) in the Keradangan Valley where we stayed in Lombok there were Balinese Hindu and Sasak living side by side. Driving through this village one day we say a muslim tradition called "funny soccer" where the men dress up in womens clothing and play sock in a muddy wet field while the whole village watches and cheers them on. On another day we visited a Hindu temple and observed a formal Hindu ceremony take place.

Puri Mas Beach Resort

Puri Mas Beach resort is where we spent the second half of our Christmas getaway.  Coming from the slightly more rustic Gili Meno island, the fact that there was aircon in the rooms automatically made this place heaven on earth for Kingsley and my Mom. I think they both spent the first 8 hours of our time in Puri Mas lounging in our air-conditioned rooms. 

Puri Mas has an interesting history, it started out as a dream house to retire for the dutch owner Marcel de Rijk who was a world champion ballroom dancer and the Vice President of the World of Dance Council. In his travels he fell in love with Lombok and began to build his dream home in 1987 during that time he also began offering free classes to teach the locals how to ballroom dance. This dance instruction has been a huge success in Lombok with many of his students going on to compete internationally.  Here is a short you tube clip showing last years Dance Festival in Lombok.  

Marcel begins teaching the male and female students without partners due to many students being of muslim faith, only later on when they progress are they matched up with a partner. That is why you will see the room with men and woman dancing on either ends of the room.  

We were fortunate that Marcel was at Puri Mas while we were visiting so we had a chance to get to know him and his passion for dancing and the Indonesian people.  He is truly a incredibly kind and generous gentle soul.  

Back to the 80's.... when Marcel was midway through building his home in Lombok, the Indonesian government changed the rules and in order to continue building his dream home he had to make it into a hotel, so he did, and that was the start of Puri Mas. As more suites and rooms were added it has grown into a beautiful world class beach resort.  Marcel has an amazing eye for art and beauty and the resort was absolutely filled with some stunning artwork from all over the world.  Below is a short summary video of the beautiful resort he designed. 

We really couldn't find a single fault with this hotel.  The staff were incredible, especially the manager Sara.  The rooms and restaurants were amazing.  This place may rank as one of my top ten favorite hotels in Asia. My only advice is book ahead as this place is often fully booked throughout the year. 

Amazing sunsets

Gili Meno - Horse carts and Wild Turtles

One of the highly endearing traits of Gili Meno island is the lack of any motor vehicles.  Everyone gets around with horse carts on dirt roads. We saw horses carrying building materials, food supplies, tourist luggage and every now and again even some lazy tourists!  

Horse Cart on Gili Meno from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

One afternoon we actually became some of those lazy tourists and took advantage of a horse cart during the heat of the day when the thought of walking back from the beach on one end of the island to our villa was our of the question.  I would highly recommend this option for seeing some parts of the island that are harder to get to on foot.

On our first day in Gili Meno we received an awesome recommendation from 3 dutch backpackers for a guide to take you snorkeling around the island.  They weren't too sure of his name but he was "the guy with the blue boat outside of the Eco Lodge" hostel.  Later in the week we accidentally  ended up outside the Eco Lodge and bumped into Pie (the guys with the blue boat) who was very nice and offered to take us out the following morning. You can see more of our snorkeling in the video below but we had a lovely day with Pie. He took us to all the best secret spots and we saw many turtles, colorful corals and tons of fish. Best of all he timed it perfectly so we were the only ones snorkeling and we didn't have to deal with other crazy tourists scaring all the turtles away. We got on the boat mourned 8:30am and we were back home at around 11am having had our fill of snorkeling we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach. 

Lombok and Gili Islands 2014 from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

Merry Christmas!

Gili Meno island - Sentigi Cafe

This little cafe on the beach may not look like much but Iya, the lady who runs this place could probably win an Iron Chef competition. We received a recommendation to give Iya's place a try with a warning from Silvia (who runs Villa Sayang where we were staying) that the place doesn't look like much from the outside but the food is worth it! I am thankful for the recommendation because the cafe on the beach certainly isn't the type of place I would have typically stopped to check out. Silvia mentioned that we had to try the homemade coconut patties and I am so thankful that she did.  Wow, if there was one food from Indonesia that I could probably eat every single day and never grow tired of, it would be those tasty coconut patties.  I'm not sure all that went in them but there was lemongrass, ginger and some chilies for a bit of kick.  Oh to get my hands on that recipe! My Dad and I also enjoyed the best Nasi Goring that I have ever had in Indonesia.  If you can get over not having an aircon or even a fan for that matter and can lather on the bug spray this might just be the best food on the entire island. 

As the evening light faded we got to watch the "free range" chickens and roosters roosting in the trees which was a highlight for my Mom who is a country girl at heart!

Roosters Roosting in Gili Meno from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

Lombok and Gili Island VIDEO

Here is my video compilation of our two week adventure to Lombok and the Gili islands with my parents.  If you watch all the way to the end you will get to see Kingsley and I looking ridiculous while dancing to "Hands up" the theme song for my video.  Trust me it is worth the wait!

Lombok and Gili Islands 2014 from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

Villa Sayang Gili Meno island

Villa Sayang is the small private villa where we spent our first 5 nights on Gili Meno island.  I chose Gili Meno out of the three Gili Islands because it is the smallest, quietest and least developed.  Also the fact that there were no cars or motorcycles but only horse drawn carts around the island was very appealing to me.  I was also looking for an accommodation with a decent kitchen where we could prepare meals together.  In order to accomplish this about half of my luggage was filled with food and cooking items. There are no modern grocery stores on Gili Meno.

I brought: pre-made gluten free bread loaf (which my mom made for us), gluten free pumpkin pancake mix, maple syrup, peanut butter, corn tortillas and taco seasoning, quinoa and brown rice, seasoning, hot sauce, cans of tuna, cheese (which I froze prior to our trip), rice crackers and trail mix.   Yes that seems like a lot for one suitcase but over 5 days we pretty much polished off all the food that I brought.

About an 8 minute walk inland from our villa there was a very small open air shop that sold a few vegetables and fruits where we were able to pick up some- ok looking- tomatoes, carrots, eggs, bananas, mangos and pineapples.  Though Kingsley complained bitterly about the size and weight of my check-in bag, I have to say we ate so well on the trip and had a great time preparing meals together in the simple but adequate kitchen.  After spending two weeks camping and cooking out of the back of a camper van in New Zealand this kitchen actually felt very luxurious to me.  My Mom and Dad were slightly less impressed but we still managed to make some amazing meals together and have a lot of fun doing it!

The Villa was was originally built from antique and reclaimed wood in a tra­di­tion­al Lom­bok open air style. The ground floor has an open living and din­ing room, kit­chen and a large open air bath­room. Upstairs there are two double bedrooms equipped with mos­quito nets and fans and a second liv­ing room with a bal­cony.

Sylvia and Saleh who own and run the property were very helpful and kind, even bringing pineapple fritters by every afternoon.  The accommodation was simple but I felt it was perfect for what we were looking for.  The few negatives would be the close proximity to the island mosque down the road which loudly plays the call to prayer 5 times a day.  The 4am one somehow seemed to be the longest and loudest followed promptly by the roosters!  Also it is an open air cottage so there is really no place to go to escape the mosquitos.  The mosquito nets around the beds are a lifesaver but even with the best mosquito repellants and coils the number of bug bites we walked away with after 5 days was a bit scary! Lastly there is no aircon in the villa and though the heat didn't bother me too much, it was a little much for Kingsley and my parents. I would just keep all of those things in mind if we were to stay there again, but other than that we truly enjoyed our time at Villa Sayang.

Kingsley and I brought our trusty travel hammock which I used each afternoon for a quick nap and a relaxing place to read. 

Gardens by the Bay Christmas Market

The last time my parents were in Singapore it was just a few weeks after we had moved here.  Looking back on that trip, though it was incredibly fun, I really knew so little about Singapore that I didn't even know the best spots to take them.  Furthermore, Singapore has grown and changed so much in the last few years it was so fun to show them around with almost 5 years of experience under my belt instead of only 8 weeks. 

After giving them two days to recover from jet lag I forced them to stay awake past 7pm by dragging them to the Christmas markets at Gardens by the Bay.  Through eyes at half mast my parents took in the living trees all lit up for Christmas and a light show set to Christmas music that by far surpassed any Christmas light show I have ever seen.  After purchasing matching santa hat hair clips that flashed like a hyper strobe lights we decided we had reached our Christmas and Singapore humidity saturation and caught a taxi home.  We were only at Gardens by the bay for about an hour but it was worth it to see all the festive lights.  Oh and for the record I did warn my parents not to wear long pants or even bring jeans to Singapore but I suspect that while packing in the middle of the winter in Seattle they just couldn't imagine a place on the planet that was too hot for jeans. 

Gardens By the Bay Christmas from Lynn Wood on Vimeo.

4th Annual Christmas Book Club

About 48 hours, after arriving back in Singapore after three weeks in Seattle, I hosted our book club's Christmas dinner.  Thankfully everyone generously brought a dish which helped a lot but I did struggle a bit to keep my eyes open after 10pm.  Our book for this month was the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which is a giant of a novel, weighing in at 784 pages, but an intriguing book once I got into it. Thank goodness for long international flights, they are such a great opportunity to clock in some serious reading hours.  


A quick summary of the book is that it's a story about a boy who loses his mother in a very traumatic and tragic accident that he somehow survives along with a painting of a Goldfinch which ends up playing a critical and complicated role in this boy's life. 

Vicky brought the most amazing homemade desserts which she calls Cherry Ripe's.  Kingsley came home toward the end of the evening and polished off three of them within about 15 minutes.  Behind the desserts in the photo is the 3lb Christmas tree candle that I impulsively bought in Seattle and then had to pack in my carry-on bag as my luggage was at (slightly above) maximum capacity.  Unfortunately TSA did not like the looks of my festive candle so we (the candle and I) were pulled out of the security screening line, tested for explosives, and scanned multiple times before they finally let us through security.  For the record it was totally worth it, I love my candle and may just have to make it a permanent fixture!

Sara and Audrey carve the turkey!

My 4th book club Christmas photo and somehow I managed to look like Where's Waldo.

Seattle - Fall 2014

This Autumn was a special time for me to be in Seattle.  And one of the most important reasons was getting to meet Carmen's little girl who may just be the cutest thing I have ever seen! 

We also had a chance to spend some time with Amy and our Nephew to whom we gave a wrapped Christmas gift to be opened only on Christmas of course...(it is an air powered nerf rocket launcher so we may no longer be invited over once that one gets unwrapped! :)

Brisk Autumn sunsets

Girl time at Cactus, my favorite girls and my favorite Mexican restaurant which I may or may not have eaten at 6 times in a two week period. 

High tech Kingsley and Frosty checking their email while I a little Christmas shopping.

Seattle - Thanksgiving 2014

This years Thanksgiving was extra special as it was the first time my immediate family had all been together at Thanksgiving for probably six or seven years...maybe longer.  My parents did most of the cooking but I took on making the stuffing using a recipe that my friend Bonnie shared with me.  She had used this special family recipe the previous year when I hosted Thanksgiving at our place for 20 of our friends and I totally fell in love with it.  The cornbread stuffing recipe is seriously so amazing I kindly going to share the details with you so next Thanksgiving you can all enjoy it too!

Corn Bread Stuffing
Serves: 8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup celery
1 1/2 cups onion
4 cups Fuji apple
3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp sage
1 Tbsp thyme
2 tsp rosemary
10 cups cornbread
2 cups chestnuts
2 cups cooked crumbles Italian sausage
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 eggs
3 1/4 cups chicken broth
4 Tbsp butter


Preheat oven to 350. Coat 9x13 dish with olive oil. Heat remaining 1 tsp olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over med heat. Add celery, onion. Sauté 5 min. Add apple, parsley, sage ,thyme, rose merry, sauté 3 min. Combine apple mixture, bread, chestnuts, sausage, egg, hot chicken broth in a large bowl. Mixture should be moist but not soaked. Spoon into baking dish. Dot with butter cove tight foil, bake 350 for 30 min. Uncover bake for 25 min until top is golden brown. Let sit for 15-20 min. Serve.

The meal was delicious and the corn bread stuffing was a hit.  Even my gluten-free disparaging brothers had second helpings!