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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

category archive listing Category Archives: Family

White Elephant excellence

White Elephant party last night – I am now the proud owner of a set of bath salts and body lotions.

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Thanksgiving feast

Had our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday – what a fantastic evening with a super group of people!

Cheers!

Clean Up Jakarta

We headed downtown this morning for a session on Clean Up Jakarta day. A great bunch of teachers, administrators, parents, and kids took the time to positively impact our adopted home. We got good and sweaty doing some good for the city!

(And what a fantastic garbage truck driver we had - she was very helpful!)

Bali Break (part 1)

We headed off to a week in the sun on Bali’s east coast. Diving (scuba), driving (scooters), and dining (seafood) were the only things on our agenda. Our hotel was fabulous, and we went under the sea a few times as well. Here are a few shots from around our resort, as well as some of the undersea life we saw on our first day of diving. More to come!!

Pretty pictures from this summer

Took a lot of family-type pictures in Minnesota, Montana, and Wisconsin this summer, but these aren’t them. I needed a few new desktop wallpapers, and these are some of the shots that I thought fit the bill. They had to be in a “landscape” format, so that naturally eliminated a few that I like, but these are the first batch that have been adorning my computer for the past few weeks…

Sulawesi Wildlife

We spent a few days on the island of Sulawesi (where the yummy market food is) before diving at Bunaken. During that time we hired a car and driver for a few days’ worth of exploration and jungle adventure!

Diving Bunaken Island Sulawesi

For spring break, the family headed to Sulawesi (formerly known as Celebes), one of Indonesia’s largest islands. In addition to eating traditional foods (see the other photo album), we spent a couple of days diving off the smaller island of Bunaken. Armed with a point-and-shoot camera and trusty underwater housing, we took a few pictures that show a little of the glorious beauty we found.

Sulawesi Traditional Treats

What could give us a more perfect welcome to Sulawesi than trying some food and drink that are tried and true yummies in the area? We headed off for a day’s trip, and ran into some true gourmet delights!

 

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Pat’s from our pool in sunny Jakarta and The Stutz Family’s Groovy Gecko Grill!

St. Patrick's Day in the pool!

Cambodia and Laos trip

Well happy new year to you too! We are back from our adventure through a tiny slice of Southeast Asia, and wow – did we do a lot! We flew into and spent a few days in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), traveled to Siem Reap to visit the Ankgor Wat area, drove around the Tonlé Sap lake to the city of Battambang, returned to PP, then crossed into Laos for a slice of heaven in the 4,000 islands area of the Mekong River, and finished with a strenuous adventure camp in the mountainside treetops of the Bolaven Plateau near Pakse.

Wow! I’m exhausted after just writing that paragraph. We’ve posted some pictures on Facebook (OK, over 180 of them!), and we’ll be doing some more, but here are a few that may or may not have been put there, just to give a quick taste of our fun!

Christmas 2012

Our holiday season was festive and bright! We got the tree up and lights lit in November – the latest we’ve waited in a long time! The White Elephant was a huge success, and we had loads of fun getting everyone set for the holiday. Presents were opened on the 16th, and we are off in the morning for a 3-week adventure through Cambodia and Laos. Happy holidays to all!!

Halloween (and other scary things)

Just adding a wrapup of some stuff from around the house here, centered on Halloween.

We didn’t really do a full-on celebration, but we were still in the mood to carve. We got a couple of pumpkins, and made a scary face and a cat, but our real fun was in doing carrots! We spent an evening putting little faces on them and then posing them in front of candles for a neat little effect:

Halloween Carrots

There was a middle school social that Dave and Breck attended. Breck got zombiefied with a bloody face, while Dave’s outfit got misplaced somewhere in cyberspace:

Dave's Halloween "costume"

(The fine print reads “The Halloween costume you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Or Mr. Stutz might simply be too lame to have made one in the first place.)

We had our own scary cat on Saturday morning, as Linsea tried to get into the fish tank. We caught her red-handed (or laser-eyed, as the case might be):

Linsea on the fishtank

Always an exciting time around the Stutz house…

Diving on Gili T

We pulled out the trusty underwater camera and headed to the sun and surf paradise of Lombok for October break. This collection of photos are from our below-water adventures…

Borneo Orangutans

Here are pictures from our recent trip to the island of Kalimantan (as it is known in Indonesia) or Borneo (as the rest of the world calls it. We had a fabulous 4 days/3 nights of living on a boat and exploring the back waterways of an enormous orangutan preserve.

The area was set aside in the early 70’s, thanks to the efforts of Birute Galdikas, one of Louis Leakey’s famed “Trimates” (or “Leakey’s Angels;” 3 female researchers that he worked with establishing long-term study centers for primates. Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey are the other two). The efforts have focused both on studying the animals and discouraging poaching and land misuse.

We took way too many pictures, relaxed far too much, and just generally enjoyed ourselves more than we deserve. We’d posted these pictures previously on Facebook, but also wanted to make the gallery available here.

Enjoy!!

Hi guyz!

Since Karla, Rob, and Shari had a mini family reunion last night, I  thought I’d join them!

Hi guyz!!

Eggcellent!

So we had all the traditional Easter goings-on this morning: Easter bunny – check. Hidden goodies – check. Egg cracking contests – check. Invasion of swarming ants – check.

Wait, what? We figured out – a little too late, it seems – that hiding eggs and chocolate in a tropical environment is a great way to invite bugs in for the party. We relocated all the sweets back to the fridge, but still had a lot of post-party cleanup to do.

Oh well – guess we’ll just have to jump in the pool this afternoon. I guess life in the topics has its advantages!

And, as they say in Greece – Χριστός ἀνέστη!

Diving pictures from Bali

This is the same set that I put on Facebook here, but I’ll also put them on the blog for a “permanent record!”

Starting with a day of silence

We just got internet service at our hotel in Tulamben, and Breck is sick today, so I thought to put some of the “quiet time” to use and start off with our trip tale. The funny thing about this vacation is that it did, really, start off with the sound of silence.

A rain-drenched flower welcomes us to Bali

A rain-drenched flower welcomes us to Bali

Balinese elephants line the walkways to our room

Balinese elephants line the walkways to our room

We’d never heard of Nyepi, but when we started getting all sorts of “interesting” reactions from people as we tried to make reservations, we looked more into this unique Balinese holiday. What we found out was astounding: for the entire day, from midnight (according to some sources, 6am according to others) until 6am the following day, the entire island is shut down. Absolutely. Completely. Stores are closed, roads are blocked, airports are shuttered, TV and radio stations are off the air. People are not allowed to leave their homes for the entire period, which means tourists too are stuck in their hotels. Can’t go to the beach – sorry.

Now, luckily for us, our hotel staff live on the compound, and they were working and cooking food for us, but we had to be quiet and respectful. We were able to go to the pool (in between rain storms), but at 7pm that evening, all outside electricity shut down and the entire island went dark.

Our neighborhood "Pecalang," or Nyepi silentness enforcer, draws his knife with a fierce glare

Our neighborhood "Pecalang," or Nyepi silentness enforcer, draws his knife with a fierce glare

Oh no - Dave turns the tables on him!!

Oh no - Dave turns the tables on him!!

Whew! Good thing it is all just fun and games. Time to turn out the electricity, though, so get your mobile phone flashlight app ready to go!

Whew! Good thing it is all just fun and games. Time to turn out the electricity, though, so get your mobile phone flashlight app ready to go!

I had the chance to meet the neighborhood “enforcer;” these guys walk all around the communities, making sure that things are as they should be, and he was pretty friendly, but it was certainly an interesting concept to think about an entire island shutting down for the day. Once we were able to move around the island, and we headed up the coast to our diving spot, we saw remains of the large effigies that had been burned in the days leading up to Nyepi itself.

Raining on Nyepi

Raining on Nyepi

The remains of an ogoh-ogoh, a burned Nyepi effigy

The remains of an ogoh-ogoh, a burned Nyepi effigy

Into the firestorm

Well, hopefully not, but we leave tomorrow for a week in Bali. We plan on visiting Tulamben, a place we stopped at during our trip a few years back, but this time we will go as certified divers!

Our week here has been a bit crazy, with course selections for next year’s classes, end-of-term exams and projects, volleyball tournaments, Family Fun Fairs, and all sorts of social events (including a Bollywood party!). Poor Breck also came down with a nasty cold that kept him home for 2 days, so hopefully he’ll be recovered enough to enjoy the water.

If all that isn’t enough, today we got an email from our administrative team, pointing out this little tidbit of news. Then when we opened up the news here at home, we saw that this had happened and hope the events aren’t related. Oh well, maybe it is a good thing that we are landing in time for Nyepi and won’t be able to do anything anyways!

In any case, this is our “farewell” for a bit, as we head off into internet-access-unknown locales. We’ll post stories and pictures when we get back (and I’ll find out how my NCAA brackets are holding up – KY, MSU, OSU, KS – MSU to win in one bracket and KY in the other). Until then, here are a few shots – mostly stolen from Susan’s Facebook page – to tide you over.

Walking on Water

Our weekends are fun. And sunny. And usually low key. Lovely to be able to say that in the middle of February!!

So the kids came up with a new game last weekend. They figured that since so many of their cousins were skating and skiing and having so much fun on frozen water, they would try to see what they could do on top of liquid water. And this is what they came up with.

  1. Take 3 plastic box tote tops, arrange in a straight line in the pool.
  2. Set up mom or dad with the camera set in “sports” mode.
  3. See how many tops they could run across before sinking into the water.
  4. Laugh, give each other grief.
  5. Repeat.

That’s all. Nothing super special. Just a fun game. At least until the tops cracked and Alea cut her heel.

Greasy food party!

I regret not getting this posted sooner – it was such a fun time. We had a professional development day 2 weeks ago at school, and Susan wanted to hold a little happy hour at our place afterwards. She invited all the people who work at her campus, Dave invited all the people who work in the same building as he does, and the plans were set.

As happy hours go, it was pretty low key – drinks and snacks (yes, the hookah did make an appearance – of course – but it was not on the “schedule” of events). The really fun twist that we threw in was hiring a local street food vendor to come and serve up some of Indonesia’s famous fried munchies. He wheeled his cart right inside our yard and fried up tofu, tempe, sweet potato, and a tofu/vegetable ball mix.

Besides being a unique treat for our party-goers (I can’t believe no one had done this yet!), there was a double special bonus that I hadn’t even considered. As I am not now, have never been, and plan on never being a vegetarian, apparently this collection of veg food provided them a unique chance to really chow down at a party. So that’s an extra gold star we’ve earned in their books as well. Yay for us!

Yogya puppets

(Susan’s descriptions of our travels through central Java continue from here, here, and here)

Becaks all lit up at night as Alea and Susan head downtown Once, after  a full day of exploring Yogya, fully restored, Susan and Alea decided to hop a Pedi-cab and go to the Sono-Budoyo museum to take in an evening wayang kulit performance.  Wayang kulitare flat leather puppets managed by three sticks – one for each hand and one to prop up the back. One man manages all the puppets while a full gamelan performs the music; together they retell various Hindu legends.Wayang kulit is experienced as a 360 degree theater.  There are chairs all around the performing area; you can watch from the ‘front’ to see the man manage the puppets and from the sides to get a full-on of the gamelan. The ‘back’ is separate from the front by a screen, so you enjoy the puppets in shadow from this angle.Alea and I walked around the stage about 10 times to enjoy the different views and experiences.  We saw an end section of the Ramayana – a young man is fighting a God only to find out it is really his father.  The shadow fights were something else – the impacts timed perfectly with the gamelan. The shadowy designs were intricate and shaded on the screen

Gamelan players and the puppermaster behind the screenThe puppets all lined up and ready to go

Here's how the magic takes placePuppets "talking" to each other behind the screen

Tofu (Gesundheit!)

(still more info from our Winter Break trip – we’ve already spent time on the islands of Gili Trawangan snd Lombok getting certified to dive,  spent some time in the city of Yogyakarta and visited the Hindu temple at Prambanan. This entry is from an afternoon while we were staying outside the Buddhist complex at Borodubur)

Gunung Merapi (Fire Mountain), at 2911 meters, is just one of the many active volcanoes that construct the spine of central Java.  The United Nations has declared it a ‘decade volcano‘ because of its active and destructive nature.  This is a dubious honor; there are only 15 others on the planet.  We saw signs of its latest work when we drove to Borobudur; roads and river beds washed out by ash and rock flows just last February.  Our hotel guide in Borobudur told us 3-5 cm of ash had settled on the village and they couldn’t see for a day.   1-3 cm of ash had fallen on Borobudur temple and it needed to close for 2 days so more than 200 local volunteers could clean it up and ready it for more visitors.   The Sultan still does annual offerings to Merapi to appease its ‘voice’.

Merapi volcano propped above the cloudsNear the highway back to Yogyakarta, we passed the evidence of the volcanic eruption
Mud slides from Merapi wiped out this villageAgainst the dark of an approaching storm, the volcanic damage is evident
One afternoon we went on a village tour.  The views were sublime – green as green can be; rice, chili peppers, eggplant, corn, beans…  We visited during rainy season, so farmers were busy planting rice.  We saw terraced paddy fields stretching for miles, full of seedlings ready to thrive in the Java rains.  Our guide told us that central Java is located such that farmers can take advantage of two seasons; they plant rice during the rainy season (October – March) and tobacco during the dry season (April – September).  According to him, they plant rice to eat and tobacco to make a living.
We could see Borodubur as we explored the rice paddies around the areaWe saw tons of older people at work in the fields, including this man on his bike
This woman was pretty friendly about us stopping by (but some of her peers were not!!)A man tends his flocks among the green
One village had several tofu home industries.  If a home had a big pile of firewood outside the door, you knew they were a tofu-making family.  Inside, they had a small crusher that crushed soybeans that were imported from the USA and/or grown in Indonesia.  Once crushed, they were put to soak in water.  When soggy, acid and heat were added to encourage separating the product into meal – which was skimmed and used to feed animals – and tofu.  Our guide said it was much like the process of making cheese by separating curds and whey.  The mass was then placed into a box frame and settled over a bamboo rack.  It was pressed down to drain all the excess moisture.  When solid, a woman popped it out of the frame, cut it into slices and threw the small chunks into a vat of boiling oil.  Once covered with a fried coating, she sorted them by size into big buckets filled with water.  Early the next morning, they were driven to markets all over the area.   Such a neat process!
Tofu in its raw form and in fried chunksMoving the heavy racks of tofuIt is an all-family affair, with the son helping out as well
Cutting it up to be friedThe cut chunks get boiled in hot oil
Sorting the chunks by sizeTasting the finished product (with a bit of salt)
Susan shows off her new tofu rack!
In another village, we had a go at making our own pottery on a hand wheel.  This home industry took local orders from as far away as Jakarta, employing locals and providing them with a trade and steady income.  This is important, as most villagers in the area do not benefit from the millions of tourist dollars that are generated because of Borobudur.  Most tourists come to the area for a few hours from Jogyakarta and then leave again.  Our local guide was working hard to encourage tourists to spend time in the area, learn about what the locals were doing, and support their entrepreneurial efforts.
We got down and dirty, creating potteryworkBreck had quite a lot of fun getting his candle holder "just so"
Alea takes her turn, making an incense burner/aromatherapy thingySusan works hard on her piece
But the favorite part about the pottery place? The baby ducks!As everything was drying, the kids cuddled with the ducklings kept in the family's home
Our stuff came out before it was completely set, but we were able to pack it back to Jakarta (almost) completely fine

Prambanan

(more info from our Winter Break trip – we’ve already spent time on the islands of Gili Trawangan snd Lombok getting certified to dive, and spent some time in the city of Yogyakarta. This is the recap of a day trip we took from Yogya to the Hindu temple complex at Prambanan)

Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple ensemble in Java.  Constructed between the 8th and 10th centuries, it represents the peaceful co-existence of Buddhism and Hinduism in Java before the arrival of Islam.  The three largest temples are dedicated to Brahman, Shiva and Vishnu, but Buddhist symbols are sprinkled everywhere.  Some historians believe a violent eruption from Agung Merapi in the 16th century caused the evacuation of this site and subsequent move of Javanese rulers to East Java.  2006 brought an earthquake which caused severe damage to the site.  Fortunately for us, much repair work has been done.  However, tourists are still unable to enter the interiors  of several of the temples because of on-going restoration work to stabilize the ruins.

Overview of the Prambanan siteStutzes on the stairwellPrambanan's silhouette against the rain clouds

Candi Shiva is the largest and tallest temple.  The story of Ram, Sita and Hanuman, which we know so well from our years celebrating Diwali in India, is carved along its lower panels.  Medallions around the base have the kalpatura (tree of life) with half-human/half-bird kinnara flying overhead.  There are three statues on the inside of the temple, but tourists are not able to view them.  Copies are in the museum – a four-armed Shiva (notable because he stands on a lotus flower – typical symbol of Buddhism), Agastya as an incarnation of Shiva the teacher, and Ganesha, the familiar Elephant-headed God from our time in India. In a separate chamber, there is a statue of Durga, Shiva’s consort, killing a monster-demon.

Inside one of the templesPrambanan spiresSmiles among the ruins

Candi Vishnu has the story of Lord Krishna on its panels.  Visitors can ascend this temple and see the huge four armed statue of Vishnu as Preserver in the interior.

Breck expresses his displeasure at being photographedMeditatiingThe storms roll in

Candi Brahma has the final episodes of the Ramayana carved on its panels.  It, like Candi Vishnu, has a huge and fascinating ‘monster‘ mouth for it main portal.  Our guide at Borobudur said that temples that have this mouth are designed to remind people to control their words and think about the power that words have.  We are not sure that this is true, but it is a good reminder, none-the-less!    A huge four-headed statue of Brahama the creator resides inside this temple.

Candi SewuThe family exploring Candi Sewu

Candi Sewu, built during the same time period, is a separate temple in the same compound.  It has one main Buddhist temple with 240 guard temples around it.  The interior has four rooms facing the four cardinal directions.  These are full of beautifully carved niches that must have held statues at one time.  We were not allowed to ‘explore’ Prambanan, so Alea enjoyed the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few secret spaces at this temple.

Alea and Susan in Candi SewuSusan and Alea ding around

Learning to Dive

(Susan’s travelogue about getting our diving certifications)

This was our first ‘working vacation’; we wanted to get PADI Open Water diving certified. We went to Gili Trawangan, a small island off the coast of Lombok (east of Bali in the province of Nusa Tengara).  We stayed at Dream Divers, one of more than 15 dive centers on the island.  Our dive instructor, Yudi, put us to work within an hour of walking through the door (or, rather, walking across the pool deck).  We watched 2 ½ hours of instructional video – the first three chapters in our book.  The next morning, we hit the pool and were under water for about 3 hours.  That afternoon, about 24 hours after arriving, we went on our first ocean water dive! We went to the Trawangan Slope.  I couldn’t believe how fast PADI got us in the ocean!  It was amazing for me and Alea (buddies).  Unfortunately, Breck had a problem equalizing his ears and couldn’t complete the dive.  He was heart-broken, but he and Dave (buddies) had to sit out that first dive. Alea and I were down for about 40 minutes.  We saw the endangered Hawksbill turtle, HUGE pufferfish, colorful soft and hard coral, and all sorts of little damsels.

Yudi, Breck, and Dave prepare for a dive  New divers learn in "our" swimming pool  Alea arranges her gear

When we got back to Dream Divers, we had to watch another 1 ½ hours of instructional videos and read another 2 chapters in our book.  Yudi told us Breck’s ear/equalizing issues may be because he had residual gunk in his sinuses from a cold he had last week.  I did the worst thing a mom can do (self-prescribe) and put Breck on a full hit of antibiotics.  We had to have the hard conversation about how maybe PADI couldn’t happen for him this vacation.  It was a pretty quiet dinner, despite the excitement and hard work of the day.

The next morning, we hit the pool again and did what I thought was the worst part of this whole process – breathing through a partial regulator and breathing under water without your mask.  Yuck – but we all passed!  Yudi was a super star and paid special attention to Breck as he practiced equalizing in the deep end of the pool.  That afternoon, we went out to the Ocean again.  This time we all four had success.  Breck went down easily and effortlessly and had no issues whatsoever.  Relief!!  We dove the Meno Slope.  We saw green turtles, butterfly fish, banner fish, groupers, anthias, and eels, to name a small number of the glory we observed.

Alea rinses the BCD  Dad and Breck  Breck gets set for the water

Paper tests aren’t confined to schoolsJ  We had our first round – 50 questions- when we got back to the dive center.  We all passed and were ready to celebrate with cold beer and ice cream. BUT NO!!  We still had 1 ½ hours of video and the last two chapters to read in our book!!

Our last day, we went for a morning dive at and did some more under-water testing (mask off, no regulator, emergency ascent, etc…)  We were at a lovely spot, Coral Fan Garden, so the three who weren’t testing had lots to see: sea cucumbers, anemone, clown fish, eels, angelfish, parrotfish and unicorn fish.  There was also no current, which had been a huge factor in our dive the day before.  After lunch, we went out again to the Home Reef.  We did our final round of in-water testing and enjoyed the fantastic sea life, though the current was much stronger; a fellow diver said it was ‘like watching a movie reel go by’.  We saw a banded sea snake, porcupine fish, lion fish, and a blue-spotted stingray!!

Arsty view of tanks and equipment  Artsy view of masks and fins

After this last course dive, we still had to go to the dive center, swim 200 meters, and tread water for 10 minutes! We definitely felt deserving of ice cream and beer after that!  BUT NO!!  We had the final written exam to take – another 50 questions.  Sigh.  Once again, we all passed well within the margin and were really ready to celebrate being official PADI Open Water divers.

To celebrate, we went on our first ‘fun dive’ the next day.  Vidim, a Dream Divers instructor/photographer who offered his services, offered to go out with us and take photos, so Yudi and Vidim changed groups of divers.  We went to the Bounty site and had yet another fabulous dive: more hawksbill turtles, puffer fish, angelfish, batfish, triggers, Moorish idols, and clownfish. And this was Breck’s big day – he was the only one (besides Yudi) who spotted a huge eagle ray!

We have tons of pictures from our time in the water on our “Swimming with the Fishes” blog post!

Thank you, Yudi and Dream Divers, for a fabulous experience.