April 26, 2010

Fruit Carving and Feijoa Shortcake

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fruit carving by ab2010

The final week of our stay in Ubud, I took a fruit decoration and fruit carving class while my children took different classes at the same place. I found the workshop was fun and considered it break from routines of dancing, painting, and playing gamelan instruments or dining at our favourite restaurants or watching dance performances at night.

I also was curious how to create such a pretty flower on a watermelon, like those made in Thai hotels or restaurants. This carved and decorated fruits and vegetables apparently has become a tradition in Balinese people when there is a birthday celebration. 

First time for me to do this. And believe me, it is not as hard as it looks. All you need is a set of sharpened thin knives and an imagination.

fruit carving, pondok pekak, 13 April 2010

fruit carving-iPhone

I make a flower from a watermelon which was provided by the teacher. After it was peeled, half-way to the top, the teacher began giving me instructions how to start and make petal by petal. He showed me the different use of knives and how to apply them on carving. I was given assistance every now and then after he trusted the whole round to me. Well, I am not going to muck around with knives, am I?

fruit carving01-pondok pekak, ubud bali fruit carving02, pondok pekak, ubud bali

fruit carving-watermelon by ab2010

It took me an hour and a half to actually finish it and carried it back to the hotel with receptions of eye-goggling from anybody who saw it. So, anytime you go to Ubud, Bali, make sure you pack yourself with new artistic skills to take them back home. No such rewards but great satisfaction will be.

Back home in New Zealand, Autumn fruits are welcoming us. There are still some apples, nashi pears, passionfruits, and late grapes. 


This year, we also have been enjoying feijoas (pineapple guava--feijoa sellowiana), the exotic fruit originated from South America, and now have become favourite Autumn fruits which are grown in many backyards and orchards in New Zealand. We have cultivated more or less 15-20 trees altogether on at least two varieties which are functioned as the orchard hedge in order to blocking the wind when they are growing up. I remember that we have planted Apollo-is the long oval one, and Kakapo-is the round one only last year, so the trees are still young, although they are already bearing fruits. These varieties are considered mid-season fruiting, and so we are enjoying them now. I like picking them up from the ground, sitting down and enjoying them scooped, fresh.


It is told that feijoas are rich of vitamin C and antioxidants, minerals and fibre. You don't have to feel guilty when eating them because they are low in calories. 

Some people say repeatedly that feijoas taste like a combination of pineapple, strawberry, banana, and guava. To me, feijoas taste like the juicy sirsak (Custard apple tree-annona muricata) with its combination flavour of sweetness and slightly tangy flavour. 

Our trees drop a small basket a day, so I am planning to make chutney, salsa, curd, or jam later in the season.  Today, I bake feijoa shortcake for a start. It's simple and easy.

feijoa shortcake by ab2010

Gluten-Free Feijoa Shortcake
by Arfi Binsted

125g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk + 1 whole egg
1 cup gluten-free flour
3/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
a little icing sugar, to dust

10 small Kakapo feijoas (4-5 for big Apollos), peeled and quartered
lemon zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of salt

feijoa shortcake-2 by ab2010

Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare a sponge roll tin, lined with baking paper. Set aside.

Make filling by cooking quartered feijoas, with just a little water, until the fruits are just tender. Drained and set aside. 

Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until the mixture is pale. Beat in the eggs. Fold in sifted flour, almond meal, and baking powder, mix well. The mixture should be sticky. Spoon the mixture out on the prepared tin, spread and leveled. Arrange cooked feijoas on the base. Spread the rest of the mixture on top of the fruits. No need to be perfect on covering the whole fruit (after all, this is the art of baking, don't you think?). Bake about 20-35 minutes or until golden brown. Removed from the oven and served warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar. Makes 12 slices.

April 24, 2010

A Photographic Challenge Night

One night, we went to watch Kecak Fire and Trance Dance at Taman Kaja Community, near 'the hatch' we're building in Ubud. I half-expected to watch this dance on stage with stage lights provided. But, no. There were no  such lights to support me to photograph the performance.

At that very moment the dance started, I began mucking around with shutter speed, aperture and ISO to get good pictures. I was using my 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, interchangeably with my cheap telephoto lens 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM, which unfortunately wasn't really a fast lens. Having no experience shooting in a fairly dark 'stage' (with small oil torches as the source of light only, stood in the middle of the arena), I was using my rule: trial and error.

Adjusting many settings in a quick action, given that I did not want to lose any important moments, was a pain in the ass. I used the telephoto lens mostly, as I want to get a close-up on the expression of the dancers. Hell, it was tough without a tripod and I had to lean on a marquee pole to hold my arm steady while shooting. It was great until the rain started pouring down. I had to take a sit, way on the back row.

Sri Rama-byab2010

Many of the photos turn grainy as I used higher ISO speed, with trial and error adjustment of aperture and exposure. God knows, I enjoyed it, though I had to lose some important moments because of too shaky movements which results unlit expressions on the dancers' face.

I quite like this photo below, though. This is a dance character of Dewi Sita, Sri Rama's wife, in the story of Ramayana. In Hindu epic, Rama and Sita are a happy couple from Ayodya kingdom whom todays in Indonesia's traditional fairy tales, have become the symbol of love, romanticism, and harmony, have to battle the lusty King Rahwana who loves Dewi Sita and decided to abduct her. The Ramayana becomes a story of Rama's journey to fight for Dewi Sita. 

Dewi Sita01-ab2010

Another photo of Dewi Sita I took was a bit cheeky of me. I knew many of those photographers and visitors using their flash or built-in flash to capture the moments. I pushed the shutter button half-way and keep following the dancer through my view-finder. It was almost spontaneous when a light came to hit her side then I fired away. This is the result. What do you think?

Dewi Sita03-ab2010

This is Hanoman/Hanuman, the white monkey who helps Rama locating Dewi Sita. He's the incarnation of Dewa Wisnu (god Vishnu). 

Hanoman byab2010

Ubudians hold Hindu as their religious way of life, and this Hindu epic is transformed into a traditional dance, created by Wayan Limbak and a German painter firstly in 1930s to collaborate and carry messages of Hindu teachings and sacral movements through Ramayana story. 

Kecak Fire and Trance Dance-byab2010

There are usually more or less a hundred of men unite to make incredible music from each of their voice. No instruments involved whatsoever. They just use each man's voice to create different tones and rhythm while the dancers are following with their movements. Very clever if you think of it.

 Sanghyang Djaran-ab2010

In the end of performance, we would be watching the bravery of a man who rode a wooden horse, stepping on a lit coconut husks, barefoot. This is the part of the trance dance, I suppose. Don't try it at home.

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April 20, 2010

From Bali with Love

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Boarding on our flight back from Sydney to New Zealand after a long flight from Denpasar to Sydney, we were quite surprised as we thought we were taking the wrong flight. When as soon as we got on the plane, we could hear and see an ocean of people were chatting in Chinese loudly with bursts of laughter and happy faces sitting at most of the seats. And then there were language barrier between them and the flight attendants--some of them did not even care where they're going to sit that the security had to ask them to sit at their own seats mentioned on their boarding cards, and checked everyone up several times and made sure there were nobody left behind. It was so funny and we were slightly late because of it. The flight attendants were so patient though that they could be bridging the difficulties to a better understanding of mutual needs. Anyway, it was just an amusing flight back home.

This is the hotel we stayed in for 4 weeks in Ubud, Bali. It is called Gayatri Bungalows, situated in the heart of Ubud. The location is slightly hidden and laid amongst paddy fields. It is provided free Wi Fi, although it does not reach where we stayed at our third floor room. They said they're going to fix the signal to reach the highest place, but it did not happen until we had our last day there. The hotel has a large swimming pool which is divided to two parts, a deeper one for adults and a shallow part for children. The surroundings is green and fairly quiet. The price is reasonable cheap for a spacious hotel room, although it is not well-equipped like business hotels in Jakarta or Auckland. However, hotels in Ubud, I supposed, are designed for leisures and hideouts. We quite like it there. 

Our holiday went smoothly, although I had to be suffered from lungs infections and slowly recovered in three weeks. I could only enjoy my time when the cough was shut up and the flame was dry, just in the end of our trip. However, I managed to take the kids to a local children arts and music centre, to learn Balinese gamelan, dance, and fruit carving.

Learning Jegog-Balinese Gamelan by ab2010

The art and music centre is called Pondok Pekak. It is situated near a football field, between Tutmak and DeliCat. If you happen to take a trip to Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud and intend to take your children there, you can find it easily as they put a billboard on the pathway near the back entrance of Tutmak Espresso Cafe.

Jegog-Balinese Gamelan by ab2010

Learning Balinese Drum by ab2010

They've been learning various of Balinese gamelan instruments, basic Balinese musical notes and dance movements, every day for two weeks. We could see that Ben is developing much interest and talent in Balinese Melody gamelan, although he had tried out to play Balinese Jegog (Bamboo gamelan) and drum. We were so pleased that Ben himself said that he really enjoyed that particular instrument although he also liked learning Baris Warrior dance. I could see him myself hammering those notes on the stage as it is his personal interest and his best enjoyment of traditional music, with head bopping up and down, following the rhythm. He is not really a person who loves being on the highlight, so his choice of playing instrument fits his character much. Best thing he enjoys doing so far.

Learning Melody Balinese Gamelan by ab2010

Learning Balinese Pendet Dance by ab2010 Learning Pendet Dance by ab2010

Sarah, on the other hand, was a bit of a character. She loves performance and loves dressing up. She took dance class nearly every day for two weeks, interchanging with her other developing interest of fruit decoration, learning drum and jegog. She loves dancing the best. She has to work hard on that if she really wants to perform well, and I can say she has a heart on it, so I assume she'll do better in months rather than days. She was also good at fruit decoration and seemed not afraid of knives. She is fearless, that girl. She did well on fruit decoration class and went home with a group of carved and decorated vegetables.

And yes, we watched various Balinese traditional dances after dinner, several times a week. It is a nice way for the kids to learn and watch what they learn at the dance class, to see how the dancers actually perform what they've learned.

Learning Pendet Dance by ab2010

Same dances are performed by different art and music groups, therefore, there are various movements, newly invented or repeated, never get us bored, though. Sarah took much attention on the costumes while Ben was taking in the rhythm of Balinese gamelan

Legong Keraton Dancer-ab2010 Legong Keraton04

Oleg Tamulilingan by ab2010

There are some dances we just newly watched, combined in one package, such as this Satya Brasta Dance, performed by Chandra Wirabhuana, live on Lotus Pond or Saraswati Temple/Ubud Water Palace. 

Satya Brasta02

This dance is extracted from Mahabhrata story, an Indonesian Hindu epic of a battle between the kingdoms of Kurawa and Pandawa, two groups of siblings in the ancient world. One of the character who took a big role on the story is called Karna, a chief of commander in Kurawa family who was a great warrior and took a life of Gatotkaca on the side of Pandawa Kingdom. Karna has a deadly weapon which fears most of his enemies, which is called Konta, a magic arrow that kills Gatotkaca in Mahabhrata war.

Baris Warrior Dance Jauk-Pondok Pekak

Legong Keraton Dance-Garuda Oleg Tamulilingan-Pondok Pekak02

We also watched dances, performed by Ben and Sarah's art and music teachers of Pondok Pekak where they learned musical instruments and dances. They looked so proud of their teachers and watched every movement without blinking!

Sekar Jagad Welcome Dance

Ubud is the village we'll come back for more in years to come. We love it there. Come to Ubud if you happen to be traveling in the Southeast Asia, especially when your children would love to experience different artistic worlds.