Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Bali Florescence and Fauna

Frangipani, I love you!
After a hectic 4 week renovation of our rental, my husband and I flew off to recharge our sorely depleted batteries via solar-charge.  New Zealand had been thrown a mixed bag of weather crumbs, mostly cold, wet and windy.  It's a bit like that box of chocolates where the only you have left are turkish delights and soft centres - yuk!  We were worn out by the extra work (sometimes burning the midnight candle to get things done after regular work hours) and severely suffering Seasonal Depression.  A year before, Mike had organised for us to go to Bali, using 2 week's timeshare vouchers. So basically, for a measly amount ($99 each, you get to stay in 3-star resorts for a week - part of their advertising budget).  It's all that kept me going those cold dark nights!  So the night before we flew off, we were still painting till 9.30pm!  Man, we needed that break!

Hello Bali!  I love these captivating floral meditations!
In order to swan off to a tropical location, we bought timeshare vouchers - yep, that's right!  You try before you buy!  So a voucher costs $99 normally,for up to one weeks accommodation, but we managed to secure ours for $30.  Which means our two weeks cost us $60 for us both, in total, with a $25 booking fee for each week.  It is part of their advertising budget, and they freely "give" them away, if you fit their criteria.  So we had one week in Sanur, in Parigata Resort and Spa (beaut!) and one week in Candidasa (pronounced Chandidasa) on the East coast of Bali, at Bali Palms Resort (ummm, not our favourite!).  We basked in all the freely available Vitamin D, with balmy temperatures and eye candy everywhere.  This entry is a sampling of that eye candy.....

Stunning imagery on all the shrines and entrance ways.  Eye Candy!
In our first week, we managed to fit in an Eco Cycle tour.  Hahaha, I hear those of you who know my aversity to any form of physical endeavors, laughing!  Welll, I thought this would be fine and dandy, as it is a 3 hour downhill ride!  More of that, in a later blog.  We also managed to go to see the Jody O'Shea orphanage to donate money, art materials and clothes (also, more later...)  We did a little shopping, sight-seeing and ate yummy vegetarian food and lots and LOTS of gelato!

Water lily

Water lilies at Ujung Palace

Water lily picking

Lotus pod

For Merridy - smallest hibiscus ever, about 5cm diameter!

Floral meditations change every day

Stunning fan palm to lie under whilst sunning oneself at the pool!

Daily floral offerings at gateways, temples and shrines
Beautiful mournful nose-strung cow

Bovine Beauty; tethered Balinese cow or Banteng
We saw several Banteng, these Balinese cows are smaller than our New Zealand cows and resemble a cross between a domestic cow and a buck or deer.  The ones we saw were domesticated but apparently these Banteng occur in the wilds, where they are endangered !.
Cocoa pod
A ripe cocoa pod
We travelled to an agro-tourism farm growing cocoa, coffee and other fruits and veggies. We learned about poo-poo coffee (Luwak coffee), which the Balinese all proudly offer tourists.  A luwak is a little animal which eats coffee beans and poops them out.  The poop is collected, the beans washed and it is roasted and purported to be the best coffee experience you will ever have.  However, Mike and I adamantly declined each enthusiastic offer, on the grounds that we do not buy into cruelty and Luwak slavery!  These little luwak's diet consists of approximately 10% coffee beans in the wild, but they are captured and caged, and fed a diet way more than 10% coffee beans - just so their poop can be harvested.  These little caged animals are stressed and obviously this coffee overdosing is not very healthy for them!  But then, us humans will eat anything!!  Our taxi driver laughed when he saw our horror, as he told us that the Balinese eat cats and dogs too!

Poor little caged Luwak

Coffee beans

Luwak poop

Clean luwak coffee beans

Roasting coffee beans - takes one hour!

Roasted luwak beans
So, from caged luwaks to Ujung Palace, we found free-roaming guinea fowl!  Our little endearing African country-men, wondering around in the shade of the trees in the empirical Ujung Water Palace.  I was fascinated and delighted!  This little helmeted fellow is such a comical and beloved symbol of my African homeland!
Royal Guinea Fowl
Then we took a taxi to Charlie's Chocolate factory in Jasri Beach.  It is a quizzical creation by Charlie, an expat USA surfer who has built himself a series of Hobbit houses out of bamboo.  He makes chocolate, soap and candles to fund his lifestyle.  We met with his lone goose, who honked mournfully and followed us around as we drank some of the best hot chocolate EVER!  Of Charlie, well, he had magically disappeared the minute we drove up!
Charly's Goose

A white heron fishes on the Candidasa temple lake
This crusty demon below, was one of a pair of turtles swimming in the pond and basking on the rock just in front of our Sanur resort's dining area.  And we saw small crocodilian creatures swimming in the highly polluted waters next to our second Candidasa resort.   Hardy little creatures!

Parigata's fresh water turtle
Is is a lizard, is it a croc swimming in a polluted river next to Bali Palms Resort?
Who can resist a huge-limbed Great Dane?  And on closer inspection, the World's smallest dog burrowing in the sand at the bather's feet?
The Biggest dog ever, and spot the littlest to the left of the Big Dog.

And then there was this specimen, a 500yr old Banyan tree!  Wow!  It so reminded me of the sacred tree in Avatar, the movie.  I could not get all of it onto my camera screen - would have had to walk several meters away to get it all in one screen-shot!  Amazing. Awesome.  Inspiring, that man has not yet chopped it down to make way for another development!  There's hope yet!

500 year old Banyan Tree

Saturday, 18 October 2014

We bought a(nother) house.

Most people agonize over the decision to buy a house.  Not us.  We thought it might be nice to own a little house.  Forget we already own a big one.  I mean, one for a rental property, to take us into a retirement plan.  So we had always walked past a little ex-Housing New Zealand home that had been on the market for two years.  Sad, we thought, that no-one has thought to love her.  So just for fun, we asked the agent listed, to show us.  Mmmmn, a little cold, too many North faceing trees in front.  Hang on, said the agent, there is another one coming on the market next week.  So he showed us and we fell in love.  70 year old lady, good bones and ALL DAY sunshine.  We got a bit excited and carried away on the whole idea and within 3 days, we had signed the deal.  After a small adjustment to our offer, Housing New Zealand were only too happy to be rid of her.  


After, note the solar panel on the roof.
I call her the Beach House, because she's on Beach Road, only 5 minutes drive away from us.  First thing we did was get someone to tear out the nasty unfriendly Yuccas crowding out the front garden!  Then we went into overdrive, and had a few builders and plumbers and electricians in to check her out.  Leave her, they all said.  Rent her out like she is.  Naively, we said oh no, if we were renting, we would love to have a lovely fresh home to walk into.  Anyway, we figured, if she looks loved, someone moving in might love her some more.  

To cut a long story short, we spent $25 000.00 to install a second hand recycled, newer kitchen (based on our 3 R's policy - reduce, reuse and recycle).  We threw ourselves whole-heartedly into the project (which is why I had no time to blog for a while) and it consumed our every waking moment. I was really exhausted after a week and a half, painting, stripping, scraping, planting, fixing, hanging, liaising etc. every night after our regular jobs.  The novelty had worn off.  My own house became neglected, we were eating easy, quick meals and it was not a sustainable lifestyle for a while!  Keep up, said my other half, reminding me that we were due for a tropical overseas holiday in 3 weeks, so feet plodding, I picked up my mojo and tried to keep trucking along.......
Back yard big enough to host an All Blacks rugby match.
The Kitchen
First up, the kitchen had to go!  It was the original 70 year old minimalist kitchen, galley style, with a small area under the windows for a tiny table and 2 chairs to be squished in for dining.  They had several coats of paint, including lead-based (toxic!).  There was a floor to ceiling cupboard worthy of museum status - with slatted shelves, and venting through the ceiling and floor.  Our builder supplied the answer to our questions about the monstrosity - a vegetable and fruit safe, back in the days when people did not buy boxed, frozen meals but rather invested much of their weekly grocery budget on real live, fresh fruit and veggies!

I feel a kitchen is the most important part of a home, it is where the nourishment is generated to keep families healthy and happy, so we spent quite a bit of money and time on this little room.  Out went the dated old toxic cupboards and out went the tired PINK floor vinyl.  In went the new black vinyl and second hand kitchen (new configuration needed - but the kitchen guys did an awesome job).  Out went the manky old 1950's corroded hot water cylinder and in went a flash brand new solar powered cylinder, with solar panel on the roof).  Yep, it was expensive to set up, but we figured we may as well make a statement and start the whole sustainable living solar-powered principle in the street.  May make others think they can do it too!

Windows in the kitchen corner

Original Kitchen unit

Sink, with fruit and veggie safe far left.

The Recycled kitchen, brought up to 21st Century style.  This was taken on a dull day, it is much brighter than in the pic!

The new solar powered hot water cylinder is housed in a specially crafted cupboard to match the kitchen.

My piece d' resistance was the wooden light feature I made out of cedar shutter off-cuts, to hide the hole in the ceiling made by the fruit and veg Safe.
The wooden floors throughout the rest of the house was a big attraction!  And the wee house faces North, ensuring all day sun, so she is a warm one!  The front door was meticulously stripped down and repainted and re-glazed (each panel was different!).  We painted, put up new curtains, sanded the fireplace surrounds and had a tiler re-tile the broken fireplace floor tiles with 10yr old tiles left over from our own kitchen!

Before renovation

After renovating - painted, new curtains, fireplace tiles and door glass replaced.

After renovation
The front door with peeling paint.
We painted the whole house inside, the same cuppacino colour, so I was hankering after a little colour.  A fossick in our garden shed exposed a 500ml tin of forest green, so I used that to bring a little point of difference to the laundry.  It is so bold, there is usually a surprised reaction from most people!  We put up cheap blinds (the expensive wooden ones we bought kept on falling down each time we pulled on their chord!!  So we had to replace them!)  There was a funny moment when our electrician called us to say he had discovered a bag of marijuana in our ceiling (not ours!!)  He said he dumped it for us!  Ha ha!
Laundry, repainted, re-floored and freshened up.

New loo and a lick of paint makes this throne a pleasant experience.
There are just 2 bedrooms.  The second bedroom is at the back of the house and as there were no built in cupboards, we bought a second hand cupboard to put in, bright and fresh, hopefully a great addition to a children's room.  Each and every window and doorway were laboriously repainted as they had been seriously neglected!

Second bedroom with new cupboard, curtains and screening window netting.

A lovely little place for a child to grow up in!
The main bedroom was also given a fresh coat of paint, a newly purchased old second hand oak cupboard and curtains,  We also put up a wooden matchstick blind to provide screening from the neighbours.  All the basic light fittings were replaced with lovely ethereal light-shades.

I had such fun choosing light shades!

Specially love this one with it's Bollywood Bling!

A beaded orb for the lounge.
Our builder advised against replacing the bath or shower wall linings, so all we replaced were the floor, vanity and basin (bought 2nd hand on TradeMe for $60) and repainted.  We removed the pokey little bathroom in-wall cabinet and replaced it with a huge mirror (which we got free, when we bought the hand basin).

New hand-basin and bright tiles to light up the bathroom
Our Helpers
We could not have taken on this project without help!  Both Mike and I were working all day and having to come home to do a little work each night!  We had some wonderful helpers through the Helpxchange network who made this all possible.  Hopefully, they don't mind me sharing their pics!!  Let me not forget our builder, Peter, who also helped out each night after his full day working on building sites!  He used many recycled materials from previous jobs, keeping our costs down.

Pablo and Rocio, from Argentina

Katja from Germany

Yoann, from New Caledonia
Now all we need, is to find the perfect tenants!  Anyone looking for a great little funky home to live in?................