Best of 2013


The Great Gatsby


Over-the-top for sure, but Baz Luhrman’s film captures the flamboyance and quirkiness of Fitzergerald’s novel perfectly. Lurhrman, more than any other director alive, understands currency: by using appropriate cultural currency, he is able to convey what a place or time would have felt like for the people living in it.  The music and partying 0f the 1920s isn’t ever going to move us in the way it moved people of that era because for them it was current; for us? Quaint at best; so what does Lurhman do?  He incorporates into his film our currency, in this case, the elements of our culture that seem raucous, gratuitous, and larger-than-life, which actually helps us to understand the 1920s on a visceral and emotional level far better than staying “faithful” to the currency of the time every could. Genius.


Not 2013 albums, per se, but here’s what I’ve loved listening to this year:  Gotye, The Decemberists, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, The Head and the Heart, Bon Iver.


Fiction:  blindness

I first read Blindness, by Jose Saramago (winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature), back in 2000, but I had the pleasure of rereading it this year for a class I’m teaching.  As sparse as Hemingway, as witty and wise as Marquez or Nabokov, but more devastating than anything I’ve ever read.  This novel inspired me to try LARPing in my class for the first time.  My students loved it, but I have a feeling their parents might question my decision to force their children to beg for food rations while blindfolded and held prisoner under the threat of a Nerf gun.  It was all in the name of experiential learning, I swear.


Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison.  Anecdotal and personal yet brimming with enough botanical nerdery to keep me interested.  And the recipes look delicious!



Fragrance & Beauty 

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I started using this Bath & Body Works lotion exactly a year ago, and I still haven’t gotten sick of it.  It’s woodsy, sultry, and just sweet enough. Reminds me of cashmere sweaters and cuddling up on a chilly day, yet it’s still somehow entirely appropriate for 90F Bali weather!  

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The perfect pinky peach shade, and I love the minty sensation!

Other Purchases


Cards Against Humanity = hours of inappropriate fun.  Think Apples to Apples for…well, bad apples.  Also, it never gets boring because 1) the combinations are endless, 2) you can download more cards, and 3) you can just make up your own questions and answers for even more hilarity.  Best. game. ever.


Aroma Spa Retreat, Sanur.  Delma and her team run an impeccable operation.  High quality massages and treatments at really affordable prices.  I love the coconut body scrub and fully body massage.


DD Warung, Sanur.  Perhaps the only authentic Thai food in Sanur.  The owner is from the south of Thailand.  The food is fresh, spicy, and cheap!  I had a great plate of green mango som tam that reminded me of being back on the streets of Bangkok.  Address: Jalan Batur Sari 47C.  Closed until January 18th, unfortunately. 


Soap-making.  I finally took a class, and I’m a convert!   (Contact Ledu, and he’ll come to your house:


We made Oatmeal & Honey cold-processed soap using a base of coconut and sunflower oils.  The only hard part is having to wait 4 weeks for it to “cure.”

Photos (taken by me, of course!)

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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA.  Summer 2013.


Beets, Mumbai Farmers’ Market, February 2013


Chicks with Mama, Karjat Village near Mumbai, January 2013.



Diving with a whale shark in Koh Tao, Thailand.  March 2013

And drumroll please…my absolute Favorite Moment of 2013:


Becoming a Mom…to two adorable kittens, Pumpkin and Chairman Meow, our Bali rescues from the amazing Villa Kitty. August 2013.

It was a splendid year!

Happy 2014.  May your year be filled with serenity, courage, wisdom, gratitude, love, and joy.

What would be on your “Best of 2013″ list?  Write your answers in the comments or link back to this post so we can read all about it!

Deconstructed Tagliatelle al Pesto e Zucchini

I love the smell of crushed basil on my skin as I write this: sharp green, anise, and bright citrus all in one.  One of the joys of having a garden is being able to conjure up dishes on the fly according to what’s ready to harvest.  For today’s deliciously simple lunch, I decided to forgo thick, oily pesto and instead sautéed a clove of garlic in a bit of olive oil in a non-stick pan, added sliced zucchini, a handful of pine nuts, and a crack of sea salt and black pepper.  Add to a tangle of just cooked tagliatelle and enjoy!



In other news, our kittens have discovered the mango tree.



Bali Road Trip!

A week off and a couple of friends in town equal a great opportunity to experience a little of Bali by car.  Renting a car in Bali is cheap ($250/month for an automatic) and the roads, though narrow, are relatively easy to drive on if you can get used to motorbikes swerving around you at all times.  M has become an expert!

Rice paddies and decorative offerings are everywhere in Bali.


Stop 1: Ubud, which is about 45 mins north of Sanur (the suburb of Denpasar where we live).  Having already been to the monkey forest, we chose to skip the more touristy sites this time around.  Highlight: A mouth-watering rack of ribs slathered in an Asian-style BBQ sauce and served with a side of perfectly cooked, garlicky green beans and carrots at Naughty Nuri’s.


Ubud is famous for its traditional and more eccentric art scene.



Stop 2: Two hours from Ubud is Munduk, a tiny village tucked away in the highlands of north central Bali.  It’s famous for its waterfall and a good jumping off point for tours of nearby Lakes Tamblingan and Bulan.  We stayed at Puri Lumbung, which has an on-site temple, veggie gardens, and a yoga bungalow.  Highlights: The view of the hills and distant ocean from our room.  And the noticeably cooler temperatures!





Stop 3: Pemuteran & Menjangan Island

An hour and a half north-west of Munduk is the coastal resort town of Pemuteran, basically just a string of mini-marts, dive-shops, and small hotels that lines the crystal clear waters of the bay.  The volcanism of the region is evident in the landscape: rather than the dense greenery one would expect in the tropics, Pemuteran’s hills are more jagged, rocky, and covered in dry brush.

We stayed at the lovely  Tirta Sari, whose so-so restaurant and not-so-great spa can be excused on account of its lush gardens, spacious and clean bungalow-style rooms, and clear, inviting pool.  It was way beyond what we expected for the price…and right on the beach!

On our second day we took a day-trip out to Menjangan Island with Fun & Fun Dive Center.  Our first dive was at Dream Wall: amazing coral!  After lunch and a bit of lounging on the boat (basic, no toilets, but good), we did our second dive, at Coral Gardens: Lots of fish, including leaf scorpionfish, and, again, a staggering diversity of healthy coral.  When we got out of the water we saw a Menjangan deer, after which the island is named.  A phenomenal experience all around.

Next time: Biorock!





Stop 4: On our way back to Sanur, we stopped in Bedugal to check out the market and buy some plants.  Sure, it was a bit kitschy, and we were sold fake saffron (in fact, all of the “saffron” in the area is fake, so don’t even bother), but I loved the experience.  The shop-keepers in Bali will tell you outright that you need to bargain with them; it’s a traditional, almost ceremonial method of communication and perhaps social bonding, so embrace it!  My Cattleya and Zygopetalum orchids (wonderful fragrance!), basil, rosemary, lime tree, cinnamon tree, and gardenia came out to a whopping $45…

Next time we want to stay in Bedugal for the night so that we can visit the strawberry patches and the famous temple on Lake Bratan. Thankfully it’s only a 2-3-hour drive from where we live!





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