Back at it!

PTX Studio in Singapore

Well I said I wanted to blog more then I didn’t post anything for a month, but I swear I have an excuse and that excuse is my computer died.  It was a sad, sad day, but my last MacBook was probably about eight years old so it was time to upgrade.  Lucky for me I had a trip to Singapore lined up to renew my work visa so I stayed an extra day to do some computer shopping.  I came home with a new MacBook Pro and I couldn’t be happier.  Let’s hope this one lasts another eight years.

I stayed at Porcelain Hotel in Chinatown where I stayed on my first trip to Singapore last year.   It’s inexpensive, incredibly convenient and my room was a beautiful, stark white cocoon.   This trip I got upgraded digs due to two separate reservations being made for my trip (standard room booked by work then a suite secured by me for me).  I politely declined paying extra to upgrade for the two nights that my work had booked, but they upgraded me anyway probably to save themselves the labor of cleaning the extra room had I made the switch.  It was a pleasant and welcome surprise.

PTX Studio in SingaporePTX Studio in Singapore

During my last trip, I discovered the neighborhood of Telok Ayer and made good on my promise to do a little exploring in the area.  Of course returning to my favorite coffee spot Free the Robot, then meandering around to photograph all the buildings on the surrounding streets.  My next trip itinerary will hopefully include the Red Dot Design Museum that I discovered but didn’t have a chance to visit.

PTX Studio in Singaporetelok-ayer-blog

Since Joel and I have different visa renewal schedules we still haven’t had the chance to visit Singapore together.  I think I’ve had enough solo exploring having gone alone four times now.  We’re looking a possibly December during our holiday break so we can finally visit Har Paw Villa which we’ve been saving for a couples trip and maybe even squeeze in a romantic dinner.

PTX Studio in Singapore

 

Doubling up on trips to Deception Pass

PTX Studio at Deception Pass, Washington

Whether you’re driving over the bridge or speeding beneath it in a motor boat, Deception Pass offers amazing views.  I had been here once many years ago, but it was just a very quick detour on the way back to Seattle from Orcas Island.  I’m so glad I got to go back on this trip and funny enough, I got to go twice.  On our RV trip to Port Townsend we went over the pass heading to the Coupeville ferry.  We were on a tight schedule due to ferry reservations, so Joel and I just hopped out with Blanche and met his parents in the parking area on the other side of the bridge.  With clear, picturesque weather, it was a great day to snap some quick pics from the top.

PTX Studio at Deception Pass WashingtonPTX Studio at Deception Pass Washington

Our first stop turned out to be super handy because I picked up a brochure about a Deception Pass boat tour which we ended up doing with my parents when they arrived later in the month.

PTX Studio at Deception Pass, Washington

Visit number two was a leisurely one.  We had about an hour to kill before we had to board the boat so we took time to explore not only the bridge, but the beaches inside the park.  And my mom had plenty of time to do what she does best- pictures!  Doesn’t she look happy down there?!

PTX Studio at Deception Pass, Washington

 

When we arrived there was a thick fog (known euphemistically in the Pacific Northwest as the ‘marine layer’) in the distance that amazingly cleared completely in the hour we spent at the beach before our boat tour.  Thanks nature!  The newly crystal clear skies gave way to a gorgeous view of Mount Baker from the boat.

PTX Studio at Deception Pass, WashingtonPTX Studio at Deception Pass, Washington

The hour-long cruise offered plenty of wildlife.  Joel worked on the Victoria Clipper for many years, so after hearing his tales of frequent whale sightings, I was hopeful we’d catch a glimpse of one of the three local and transient Orca pods that frequent the Salish Sea every summer.  Unfortunately, the whales weren’t out and about, but we did see lots of birds and some really adorable seals doing their seal thing.

PTX Studio at Deception Pass, WashingtonPTX Studio at Deception Pass, Washington

Both trips made me thankful to call the PNW my past and future home.   Just after we left the US my in-laws took Joel’s sister and niece on a camping trip to Deception Pass Park.  Seeing their photos when we were just getting back to Indonesia (and back to work!) gave me a little post-vacation blues, but in no time at all we’ll be back in Washington with years and years to enjoy this wonderful part of the world.

PTX Studio at Deception Pass, Washington

It’s official

PTX married!
Photo by our super awesome photographer Vera Pash

Sooooooo much has happened in the last week and a half, but most importantly Joel and I tied the knot in Seattle on the Virginia V Steamship.  It was a gorgeous day, a whirlwind of friends and family and one damn fine party if I do say so myself.  (I planned the whole shindig, so that’s me giving myself a little pat on the back.)

I have a zillion photos of our time in Washington, but on the eve of our flight back to Indonesia my Mac power cord died.  I’ve been cripplingly without a computer for half a week- I know #firstworldproblems.  I have folder after folder of raw images that I need to review and edit, but we just arrived back home to a new school year and a completely unorganized new house.  We have a lot on our plate this month!  But I do want to really, really try hard to be a more regular blogger.  It might not happen, but at least I have goals right?   So hopefully I’ll see you again here soon.

 

Port Townsend Weekend

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Pacific Northwest!!!  There is nothing more perfect on this Earth than a PNW summer.  I am so happy that Joel and I got the spend the whole month of July exploring all the little towns around Skagit Valley.  Our first excursion was to head up to Port Townsend in Joel’s parent’s RV and stay at Fort Worden for two nights.  I’m not a fan of camping, but after this trip I discovered that I am all for RV living.   Joel’s parents Tim and Kirsten drove while Joel and I lounged on the bed with Blanche checking out the scenery.

PTX Studio in Port Towsend, WA

From there house on Camano Island, we drove over Deception Pass to Whidbey Island and ferried over to Port Townsend.  It’s a short two hour trip with sweeping Salish Sea views the whole way.  We walked around Fort Casey while we waited for the ferry from Whidbey to Port Townsend and I took the opportunity to get some family shots.

PTX Studio in Port Towsend, WAJ+A-Fort-CaseyPTX Studio in Port Towsend, WA

We did a little exploring of Port Townsend, of course visiting the Indonesian furniture store, then headed out to Fort Worden to set up our campsite.

PTX Studio in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Not having previously seen An Officer and a Gentleman (which was filmed at Fort Worden), I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The grounds at Fort Worden are vast and beautifully manicured.  Joel grew up coming here for family reunions and camping weekends with his folks, but there was still so much more history to learn about the grounds.  It was so beautiful I almost regretted planning our city wedding.

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Our morning walk options were endless with trails, beaches and forts.  On day we took the high road through the fort overlooking the beach, the next day was the low road to the north beach.  Blanche and Henry (the dogs) enjoyed each and every path as long as they could follow the family closely.

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAFog-blogPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WASpencers-walk-blogPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Joel and I explored the fort area during the afternoon.  I’m sure he would have preferred to take me down there at night to scare the shit out of me, but I know him too well and I’m not falling for that.  It was spooky enough during the daytime!

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

My first foray into RVing won me over.  As I mentioned I’ve been an anti-camper for many, many years and I’d been told time and time again that I was just camping incorrectly.  Now I realize that everyone was right all along- I was camping without an RV which is just wrong in my opinion.  A big thank you to my in-laws (because I know they read this!) for showing me the light and taking Joel and I on this awesome vacation.  I can’t wait to do it again next summer!

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

First stop Raleigh, NC

PTX Studio in Raleigh, NC

The first leg of our trip is complete.  We spent a great week with my family in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We went on a tour of Historic Oakwood Cemetery with my dad’s Rotary club.  Joel loves history and anything spooky so it was right up his alley.

 

PTX Studio in Raleigh, NCPTX Studio in Raleigh, NCPTX Studio in Raleigh, NCPTX Studio in Raleigh, NC

Other than cemeteries, we took some nice walks in downtown Raleigh and Pullen Park.  I somehow managed to take almost no photos in Raleigh.  We also went to the wedding of two of my best friends and I think I took under five photos.  That’s my typically my photography style, but I guess I was feeling especially camera lazy.  Despite the lack of photographic evidence, it was a great week.   We got to Washington two days ago and I’ve already gotten back into the camera spirit.  I saw a mini donkey farm this morning and let’s face it, there’s nothing more inspiring than mini animals.  Washington pictures coming soon.

PTX Studio in Raleigh, NCPTX Studio in Raleigh, NC

Oh yeah, and we’ve been reunited with BLANCHE!  She’s excited to be back in daddy’s arms again.

PTX Studio in Raleigh, NC

Our wedding vacation begins!

PTX Studio Semarang, Indonesia

It’s here!  Our wedding vacation is finally here!  We’ve been anticipating this trip for quite some time, but it doesn’t feel real quite yet.  The past week has been a whirlwind- the last week of school/work, moving into our new house and prepping to leave the country for six weeks.   Tomorrow we fly to Jakarta for three days.  Friday we make our way to Raleigh to visit my family, then yet another flight to Seattle where we’ll spend all of July.  We’re also packing in two huge wedding weekends, first my best friends (and bridesmaid) Melanie and Chase in Raleigh, then our wedding in Seattle.  It will not be the most relaxing vacation of my life, but no complaints here.  I can’t wait to see my family, my friends and my Blanche!  I’m also excited to be reunited with wine, brie, fancy olives, drinkable tap water, Netflix and weather under 80 degrees, but the best part will be making this handsome dude my husband.

PTX Studio Semarang, Indonesia

Ikat explorations in Troso

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

We’re getting down to the wire; just two weeks until we go back to the US for over a month!  But that’s not stopping us from working in some last minute travel.  We first heard of Troso when we went to Jepara in January.   The small village is just south of Jepara and is known for it’s production of woven fabrics.  The main street was lined with stores full of gorgeous, colorful ikat and songket textiles, but we wanted to go deeper than just shopping.  I had recently connected with an ikat seller on Instagram and asked if we could visit their studio.  They were gracious enough to oblige us and that’s how we came to meet Mario and his uncle, Pak Aman.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

We followed Mario down a dirt road just past their impressive neighborhood mosque.  Connected to Pak Aman’s home is a small, covered, outdoor workshop set up with multiple looms.  He gave a detailed, step-by-step lesson on the dying and weaving process, starting with mapping out the initial design with ink to wrapping the threads tightly with plastic as to resist the dye.

PTX Studio in Troso, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

The plastic bindings create intricate patterns, then the threads are removed from the frames to be dyed.  We were impressed with Pak Aman’s extensive knowledge of each motif and where it originated, whether it was from Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi or Sumatra.  Pak Aman’s family has been weaving for five generations, so he’s had many years to soak up knowledge of dying and weaving.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

The home’s kitchen floor served as the spooling area with a machine that spins the dyed and dried thread onto spools, then they’re loaded onto the looms.  There were more looms than I anticipated, probably a dozen between the two studio rooms he showed us, but with each piece taking a month to complete you have to have quite a few irons in the fire so to speak.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

Mario was nice enough to let me have a go at the loom, I would definitely need a few lessons before I felt comfortable at the helm.  Joel was actually the more natural weaver which was a pleasant surprise.

Amanda weaves! PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

With so many amazing patterns it was hard to pick just a few to bring home.   Even though I couldn’t take them all, my ikat stash is getting pretty extensive (photo on the right below).  It’s a good thing we’re moving next week and I’ll have lots of home goods needs so I can start putting these beauties to work.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

Sambal: the Indonesian everything sauce

PTX Studio makes Indonesian sambal

I went into sauces a bit in my post about shopping at Gang Baru, how ketchup is called tomato sauce and the popular soy sauce is the thick, sweet one.  Ketchup and soy sauce are both commonly used, but neither are as popular as the essential Indonesian sambal.  I’ve heard that Sriracha is now the most popular condiment in the US so I think it’s safe to say that chili sauce is taking over the world.  Indonesia is definitely one place where chili sauce reigns supreme.  It’s referred to as sambal and it seems like there is at least a bottle or two on every table and a packet in every take out bag across the country.

I surveyed some friends from work and most make their own sambal at home, so wanting to learn the local ways, I decided to do the same.  My first step to sambal would be selecting ingredients.  I decided to forgo the big grocery store and hit the traditional market which is typically more economical.  Shopping here can be more challenging since prices aren’t marked (most items are just sold by weight) and I’m still in the elementary stages of mastering the language, though I do at least know words for peppers, garlic and shallots.  But I kept my list short and uncomplicated and I didn’t have any trouble.

Peterangon-comp2

With so many different islands, cultures and eating habits, sambal recipes vary greatly.   I blended a couple of different recipes (mainly this one and this one) to make a mild version all my own.  I went with the larger, milder peppers and de-seeded them to tone down the heat.  I’m a huge wuss when it comes to spicy foods!  I like spicy, but I can take a very small amount in comparison to my heat seeking husband.   Store bought sambal comes in spicy (pedas) and a milder version (asli which means original).  I’m original all the way, while Joel goes for the pedas or extra pedas if available.

PTX Studio makes Indonesian sambal

After chopping and sautéing the peppers, tomato, garlic and shallots, they went into the food processor to be blended into a paste.  After that added the sugar and salt and cooked a bit longer.  That was pretty much it for the preparation.  Selecting my ingredients was more time consuming than the actual cooking.   All in all, it turned out well.  I think it could use a little more of a kick, so next time I won’t be deseeding every single pepper.   We move into our new house next week that has actual counter tops (right now my only counter space consists of the top of a mini frig) so I’m hoping to be able to expand on my Indonesian cooking abilities.  So far I’ve got one recipe down and maybe a couple thousand to go.    Wish me luck!

PTX Studio makes Indonesian sambal

Second time around in Solo

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

If spending two weekends in Solo in two months will tell you anything, I think it says we enjoy this little city.  It feels little when thinking of it in comparison to other Javanese cities like Jakarta, but with a population of half a million, Solo is nothing to shake a stick at.

Our first trip to Solo was for my birthday in March; we stayed at the beautiful Royal Heritage Surakarta Hotel and loved every minute of it.   But there were other interesting hotels in Solo that we wanted to explore and we thought our last long weekend of the school year was a perfect time.  We found the Rumah Turi Eco Hotel online boasting their reputation as ‘the first eco-friendly boutique resort in Solo’ and we scooped up the last room on Booking.com.   Unfortunately, someone got their wires crossed and when we arrived to check in there was no room waiting for us, despite the confirmation email I had in hand stating otherwise.  It was a rough blow after holiday traffic had stretched our two hour trip to four.   The hotel apologized and found us another room in town (presumably the last one available anywhere due to the holiday) and even gave us a ride to the new hotel.  However the last room in town wasn’t anything to write home about so we stayed there only one night.

For the remainder of the trip we were able to snag a room at Roemahkoe Heritage Hotel.  Roemahkoe embodies everything that Joel and I love in a getaway, so much Javanese character, beautiful art and culture and of course, live gamelan music.

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia          PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

The hotel’s location was fantastic, situated in the heart of the Laweyan Batik Village.  The maze of winding alleyways took us on a journey discovering countless batik stores and workshops.  I had no trouble picking up a couple of souvenirs for myself including a fan that I made use of immediately.

PTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

In typical Javanese fashion, the streets were lined with friendly faces and tons of kids who wanted to have their picture taken, especially the ones that can pop a sick wheelie on their bike.  The vibrant buildings around the city do their share of beckoning for portraits as well with their eye-catching architecture, traditional murals, brightly colored doors and tiles.   Solo is as busy as the signature patterns on their batiks with few places for the eyes and imagination to rest.

PTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

On our first trip we only managed to make it to one of the two palaces in town (yes, it’s a city with two royal palaces!), so we made a point to see the second palace or kraton this weekend.  The photo ops were few and far between as they don’t allow photography of many of the artifacts and the buildings can be very dark.   In my opinion, the placement of the taxidermy tiger was all wrong, being located in a dark area where photos were off limits.  If I ever get the job as kraton decorator, I’d definitely move him into a covered, but well lit area on the porch in hopes of some royal tiger photos going viral.

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

The history and culture of Solo give it a really soulful vibe.  Spending our holiday bumming around one of Java’s biggest cultural hot spots was a perfect long weekend escape.  Next up on our travel schedule is the good ‘ol USA.  We have just over a month until we go to North Carolina to visit family and get reunited with my dog, then on to Seattle to get married.  I can honestly say that our travels in Indonesia have been hard to beat, but I think seeing family after almost a year abroad will be the best trip yet.

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

 

 

The early bird gets the pork at Gang Baru

Gang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurin

You’ve got to get up early to get the good pork!  So said my friend Annie while we were having drinks on Friday evening.  Pork has become something that’s pretty hard to come by in my life.  With a vegetarian fiancé, I rarely cook meat in our home and living in a Muslim country, pork isn’t something that’s on every menu in town.  Our friend Annie is Chinese and owns a catering company; with pork ribs on her menu for the week, she said she’d have to get to the market early Sunday morning to fight the crowds for the best cuts of meat.  This was definitely something I wanted to see.

Gang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurin

I scooted over to her house at 5:45 in the morning, which was actually my first time taking our new scooter out solo.   Even arriving at the market at 7:00, we had to go to three different stalls to get Annie’s preferred cuts of meat in the amount she needed.  The alley was jam packed, stalls lining both sides and shoppers bustling through trying to navigate the uneven pavement that’s moist with dirty, fishy water.  Baskets full of fish, tables of chicken cutlets, chops of pork and beef and even a tray of skinned frog bodies, it’s a meat lovers dream and all being butchered on site.  I can’t help but think of all the chefs I know who would lose their minds after seeing the sanitary conditions, but alas, that’s how things are done here.  Turn your fish bucket upside down and you’ve got a table for scaling!   Set a cutting board on the ground next to a pile of trash you have an acceptable place to separate those pork ribs.  Nothing is refrigerated and no one seems to mind.   I imagine these markets have been operating the same way for hundreds of years, so why change what works?

Gang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurinGang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurinGang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurin

Not just a meat market, there are vendors with fruits, vegetables and plenty of spices.   With produce displayed on large round baskets set on top of buckets and crates, it’s the kind of rustic scene that Whole Foods stores in the US try to replicate to look authentic, but comes off as kitchy.   They say necessity is the mother of invention, so yesterday’s laundry basket is today’s colorful display of bean sprouts and limes.

Gang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurinGang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurin

Periodically you’ll get tapped on the shoulder by a woman with a basket strapped to her back who wants to carry your groceries for a small fee.  This woman stuck with me for a while talking my ear off in Bahasa Indonesia and ignoring my claim that I didn’t understand her.  (“I don’t understand” was one of the first phrases I mastered in Indonesia.)  I did manage to gather that she is 75 years old and she’s a pretty good little dancer.

Gang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurinGang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurin

After making lots of friends and getting our fill of produce, we stopped in to a Chinese market to check out their dry goods and sauces.  Sauces threw me for a loop when I moved here because ketchup means soy sauce, soy sauce looks like maple syrup and on more than one occasion Joel has dumped a ramekin of what he thought was soy sauce onto his rice only to find it was straight fish sauce.  It took some time, but now I can remember that it’s ‘sauce tomato’ that I want with my french fries.

Gang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurin

With my spoils from the market, I made an amazing pork ramen and delicious shrimp and veggie spring rolls.   I got Joel to try a spring roll, despite the shrimp, but he wouldn’t try a single spoonful of ramen which was fine with me.  Sometimes eating separate meals works out well.  I get a chance to spice up my mostly vegetarian diet with a little meat and Joel gets to order take out from Pizza Hut without me complaining.  It’s the little things that make it work, eh?

Gang Baru Market, Semarang, Indonesia photo by Amanda McLaurin