Hazel’s Tropical Shower

I love using stuff I already have to set up a party. I really hate to have to buy plastic or paper decorations. I think of it as if I were just decorating my house with that theme instead of party decorations. You wouldn’t put a plastic table cloth on your table normally so why do it for a party? If you stick with mostly white serving pieces and table clothes you can mix in smaller things to give it the look you want.

I wanted tropical but not luau. So first, Pinterest. Then I looked around my house to find stuff that felt like those images. We used plants and flowers in Hazel’s great grandparent’s yard and we filled in with stuff from Amazon. I tried to buy biodegradable plates (made from palm leaves), cutlery (made from wood), cups (from corn) and paper straws. All on Amazon.

Outside we used my neighbor Rhonda’s idea and we spray painted the pineapple leaves, we gathered coconuts, halved small watermelons, and hibiscus from the yard on top of split leaf philodendron also from the yard to make center pieces for the outside tables.   


Inside we strung garland from Meri Meri (Amazon or the Meri Meri website) and a pennant banner that we added the letters – Hazel to. We hung tissue fans over the table, (be sure to get the tissue ones, the heavier cardboard fans fell down) and floated balloons in the pool (you need to weigh them down maybe add a little water in the balloon before you blow it up they blew out of the pool, that’s why we don’t have a photo) and tucked extra flowers and leaves around the house. I have pillow covers from the Bali trip that we used to cover existing throw pillows in the house. Little stuff that just added to the theme. But use big statements. One big hibiscus is better than a lot of little things. Your house already has a lot in it so you want to make a statement and notice it. Try to clear some of the usual away and just add pieces that make sense for the party.


For the table I like to have lots of layers. If the table isn’t a folding table leave some of it showing, it’s a layer. Then add a runner and some cloth napkins that go with the theme. Then add something overhead or really tall items in the center and work around that. Have 3 tall pieces varying in size and add things under the platters like other platters or trays or plates to give them different heights as well. You can use almost anything as long as the platter is stable on it. I have some old canisters from So.Ny Market Trading Co. that work perfectly. They look good and add height.

Mix and match colors and patterns and textures just keep within your theme. The big basket lantern is from Target. It’s a lantern but we used it as a vase.


For the bar we picked signature drinks and bottled drinks that looked good with the theme as well. Watermelon juice (Tropicana), cucumber vodka, and club soda and Cucumber water. The bottled drinks were from World Market and Publix. We set out prepared cups with straws and limes on a tray so people could easily serve themselves. I only had one pedestal for the drink dispensers that looked right with this theme so I borrowed the homeowners casserole dish and turned it upside down. Perfect.

For the food…

Curried Chicken Salad
Shredded rotisserie chicken with diced apricots, celery and green onion, chopped cashews and a dressing of sour cream, curry paste, lime juice and honey. Salt and pepper always.

Ham Salad
Store bought diced ham, drained crushed pineapple, diced red and green bell peppers with a dressing of sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lime juice and honey. Salt and pepper.

Shrimp Salad
Thawed frozen, deveined, shelled, cooked medium shrimp cut into 3 pieces and the tails removed, with diced cucumber patted dry, green onion and a dressing of sour cream, mashed avocado, onion and garlic powder, and lime juice.

All three served with Hawaiian rolls

Rice Salad
Cook white rice according to the package but replace the water with equal parts coconut milk and pineapple juice. Stir in curry paste, onion and garlic powder into the liquid before you add the rice. Cook according to the package then fluff and stir in shredded coconut, drained crushed or pineapple tidbits, chopped green onions, and chopped cashews. Serve at room temperature so if you make it the day before and refrigerate it, take it out long enough before you serve it to come to room temperature.

Brie with Dried Apricots and Golden Raisins
Slice the top off the brie then warm it in the oven for a few minutes to make it oozie. Put the dried fruit in a microwave safe bowl and cover with apple juice, heat for 30 seconds to a minute to rehydrate the fruit. Drain and top the brie with the fruit.

Fruit Bruschetta
For the tropical feel we diced strawberry, kiwi, mango, and pineapple but you can use any fruit that you like. Toss it with a dressing of lime juice and honey and serve with toasted bread. Pinterest showed it already assembled but we had too big a crowd. There wouldn’t have been room on the platter for 50 of them and they would have gotten soggy.

Spicy Pineapple wrapped in Bacon
Toss pineapple chunks in habanero hot sauce and brown sugar then wrap with 1/2 a slice of bacon and broil until crispy. Turn over and broil the other side. Serve warm or room temperature. We learned the hard way, don’t wrap the bacon the night before, the pineapple is too acidic and works like a tenderizer. The bacon was all mush by morning and they had to be rewrapped.

Sugar Donuts with Pineapple Toppers
We’re not crazy, we bought the donuts. Toppers are from Amazon.

The wooden cutlery and palm plates are in the background of this photo. BTW. And the cutlery is in a well washed planter, like I said I look around my house for stuff.

Coconut Pound Cake with Mango Jam, Strawberries and Macadamia Nuts

I used Dottie Grantham’s pound cake recipe which I love and switched the milk for coconut milk then added shredded coconut. Topped each slice with mango jam from Scullery Kitchen Provisions, homemade whipped cream, diced strawberries and nuts.

This makes 1 bundt cake or 2 loafs. About 20 slices. For the party I halved each slice.

1 lb butter (4 sticks) at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs (please get cage free eggs)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup milk (which I exchanged for coconut milk)
4 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 cup shredded coconut (for the coconut version only)

Cream the butter and sugar until it looks like icing. Add the vanilla, pinch of salt and one egg at a time. Alternate adding flour and milk. Scrape the side and toss in about a cup or so of shredded coconut if you are doing the coconut version.

Pour into a greased and floured (I just use Pam for baking) pan and bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. According to Google a loaf pan should only take 1 hour and 10 minutes but mine took the 1 1/2 hours. Just keep checking it after 1 hour in 15 min. You want the middle to be firm and not liquidy feeling or giggly but you don’t want to over cook it either. The center should just slightly bounce back.

Lovely lovely party that was a team effort. Can’t wait for Will’s little sister to arrive.


Golf Balls and Green Grass

The Masters in Augusta

I have never seen such amazing green grass. Ever. Not at Disney not anywhere.
There was not one single yellow or brown blade even where we were walking. It looked like a fake carpet of grass. Even in the areas with pine needles, there were only pine needles no other debris. The massive amount of manpower it must take to keep this place in this condition is mind blowing.

But let me start at the beginning. To get tickets, or to get in the lottery to get tickets, unless you are fancy and not like the rest of us and are members or get tickets every year from a fancy friend or relative. So for us regular people to get tickets you have to go to the website Tickets.Masters.com and follow the instructions to request tickets for the next year. Once you request them during a specific time frame they will notify you in July of 2018 if you will get tickets for 2019. It took me 5 years to get practice round tickets. As soon as you find out you have tickets, book a room. The regular hotels will be already booked and crazy expensive. Even the basic nothing special Airbnb houses were expensive. I was able to find a tiny house about 15 minutes from the tournament. But don’t mess around, find a place. So once you have your place to stay and your tickets you are set.

Tiny house in the woods


It was cute and worked for what we needed. We weren’t ever there. This was our first tiny house, it was very much like staying in a camper. Chemical toilet and a tiny hot water heater, hot water lasted maybe 30 seconds. So yeah, lather up, turn on the water and rinse quick. But it had an ample kitchen and A/C so we were fine.

The day before our tickets for the practice round we drove around a little to get a better idea of how to get to the event. They give you a map that shows you were parking will be and how to get there, but obviously everyone will be going that way. Here’s how we got there from our tiny house. We also got there at 7am, an hour before the gates opened. They let you into the area where they sell food and merchandise so you can do that while you are waiting for the gates to the course to open. All the notes I read online said to buy your stuff as soon as you can because when it’s gone it’s gone.

Our tiny house was up by the French Market Grille in the upper left corner of the map. So we took 28/Washington Road south (stopped at the Starbucks – the green circle just before crossing under I-20 then immediate right on Boy Scout. There will be a little backed up traffic exiting I-20 but they are all going down further to Berkman’s Road which is where the Master’s people route them. We turned early onto Boy Scout Road, left onto Ingleside Drive then left onto Berkman’s Road so we were coming from the opposite direction as everyone else. Also, the parking for the south gate (the red x at the bottom) was much closer than the north gate compared to the parking. So it was a really short walk from our lot to the south gate. Of course, we were there an hour early too. The dark green area is the parking. And it’s free.

The tickets might be pricey – $75 each but once you get there everything is cheap. Sandwiches are $1.50, beer $2.50 and like I said, parking is free. Even the merchandise was priced well. 2 magnetized coozies – $10.

When you leave take Berkman’s to Riverwatch Parkway – we didn’t have any trouble. Just try to stay away from the route’s they have marked on the map they send you.

The food was basic but good and fresh. Pimento cheese, egg salad, smoked turkey and cheese, fried chicken with a pickle. The club however – was turkey and ham and that’s it. No cheese, no bacon, no condiments, just turkey and ham. So if there was anything disappointing it was that. There are not sponsor advertising anywhere. The packaging on all the food is green (so if some crazy person actually littered it wouldn’t show up very well on the grass) and it all just says the Masters. You can’t even wear clothes with big logos or carry umbrellas with large logos.


There are lots of rules and lots and lots of people to make sure you are following them. Surprising people followed the rules. I guess when it’s that hard to get tickets you sure don’t want to be thrown out because you wore something stupid. No chairs with arms, no cameras on tournament days, no phones – ever. Had to borrow a friends digital camera to get these shots and forgot about the dumb date stamp.

So here’s the pictures.

First thing, before people have trampled everything got this shot of footprints in the dew.

That amazing grass

Lots and lots of dogwoods, cherry trees and azaleas. Lots and lots.



And more pretty stuff


Got some great shots of players. Tiger, Bubba and Jordan. Because it’s a practice day the crowds were much smaller and the players were more relaxed.

Some other tips…

Get a camp style foldable stoop with a back. They sell them there at the Master’s that’s pretty much what everyone else had. We brought out own. I put a piece of green duck tape on the back and wrote our last name. The ones you buy there have a place to write your name. Find a spot at one of the holes and put your chair down. Then walk away. No one touches it. We set ours up at 6. You could see some of 16. The shot from the tee at 6 and they were right in front of us at the green on 6. Then behind us was the tee on 7. The famous holes like 12 and 16 will be crazy crowded. Even on the practice days. My only suggestion for where you put your seat is that if it’s hot and/or sunny find a spot in the shade. Otherwise it’s really more fun to walk around. I’m not sure how many times we walked the whole course looking at different players and the amazing landscaping. Most people will follow certain players but that’s kind of obnoxious because then you are stuck with a big crowd the whole time. We kind of did our own thing and it was much nicer.

The only time I saw long lines at the bathroom (for the guys there’s 20x more men then women at the event) or for food is if you walk up right after a large group has just passed through who were following certain players. And even then the huge staff is super efficient and moving everyone through with a smile and a “welcome to the masters”.

I don’t even watch golf. I know some of the players because my husband watches it. I don’t play it and don’t care at all about it and I had an awesome time. Friendly helpful staff, beautiful grounds, and for once crowds that weren’t so obnoxious you wanted to stab someone.

As far as the city of Augusta, meh. There are some nice old homes around the tournament. I think the neighborhood was called Summerville, they were around August University. But the downtown is mostly vacant which is unfortunate because the old buildings are amazing. Most of the city now is strip malls or regular malls and chains along the highways. We were able to find little pockets of cool local places but aside from going to the Masters there wasn’t much more. We ate at a delicious restaurant called Able Brown’s – it’s on the map above. Service was great and the food was mouthwatering.





Becky’s Homemade Ice Cream

Had this at my friend Becky’s house at a superbowl party. It was the creamiest ice cream I’ve ever had and bonus, its super easy. So thanks Becky for the awesome recipe!


1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
Optional mix-ins
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso
2 tablespoons jam
chocolate pudding
Chocolate chips
Even crazy stuff like pretzels, marshmallows, crumbles cookies or candy or bacon

Using the whisk attachment on your hand or stand mixer whip the cream until firm peaks.

On slow, whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and if you are using the pudding or instant coffee whisk those in.

If you are using the jam, nuts or chips fold these in. Just swirl the jam in so its not completely blended in.

Spread into a dish and freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

Fall Apple Cranberry Peanut Butter Fluff


So into the fluff stuff on Pinterest. I love things that can be  easily customized. One basic recipe that you can switch in and out ingredients. This fluff “salad” does that perfectly. Not really clear why it’s called a salad. It’s whipped cream, pudding and/or jello and marshmallows with some fruit added in. Sounds like dessert to me.

The basic recipe is

1 regular size tub of cool whip (I like the real cream one but I’m sure they will all work)

1 package of pudding or jello (I like the new Jell-o brand all natural ones)
1 package of jello

1-2 cups mini marshmallows

1 can or jar of something with liquid like crushed pineapple, peaches, pears, apple butter etc

Diced fruit, dried fruit, chopped nuts etc

Fold the pudding and/or jello into the cool whip. Be sure to fold not stir or you’ll deflate the whipped cream. Then fold in the liquid part.

You need the liquid because the pudding and jello will absorb the moisture from the whipped cream and this liquid will make it less stiff and help desolve the mix.

Then fold in the fruit, dried fruit, nuts, marshmallows or whatever you’re using.

My first try

Orange Mango Pineapple Fluff

1 tub cool whip
1 package Jello-o brand natural orange mango jello
1 cup diced fresh mango
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 cup mandarin oranges each segment cut in half
1 cup mini marshmallows

Folded the jello into cool whip then the other ingredients. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

I bought the little cups of already diced fruit so there was no prep or liquid. I noticed the jello didn’t completely desolve after it was refrigerated for a couple of hours. It did after it was refrigerated over night. It still tasted awesome after 2 hours but probably use the canned pineapple next time for the liquid. And maybe mix the pineapple with the jello first to desolve it then fold into the cool whip.

Fall Apple Cranberry Peanut Butter Fluff

1 tub cool whip

1 package Jell-o brand natural vanilla pudding

1 – 9oz jar applebutter

1 heaping teaspoon natural peanut butter

1/2 each Granny Smith and Fugi apple; diced and soaked in lemon water then drained

1 cup pecans chopped

1 cup dried cranberries

1-2 cups mini marshmallows

Fold the pudding mix into the cool whip, fold in everything else one at a time. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Tastes like fall!



Garden Party Baby Shower

2017-08-06 Winnie's Shower 1


Citrus Salad with pomegranate and minted crème fraiche

Orange and Pink grapefruit segments sprinkled with pomegranate seeds
Crème fraiche sprinkled with bourbon black walnut sugar and mint leaves

Strawberries with Mascarpone cheese

Cut the bottom off the strawberries so the sit upright
Cut a an X in the top of the strawberries
Mix a tub of mascarpone and 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Put the mixture in a piping bag with a star tip
Pipe into the X of each strawberry
Top with a little sugar and a mint sprig

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Orange Mustard Sauce

Slice fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise
Place on a sheet pan, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and onion powder
Roast at 425 for about 25 minutes or until golden and soft
Place on platter to cool
Mix equal parts brown mustard and orange marmalade

2017-08-06 Winnie's Shower 4

Egg salad with Bacon, Cucumber, and Pepper Jelly

Make your favorite egg salad, keep it stiff
Spread pepper jelly on a halved mini croissant
Top with egg salad, cucumber slice and bacon cooked and crumbled
Sprinkle with celery seed and dill

Blue Cheese Dip with Pear Slices

Pimento Cheese with Apple Slices

Chicken salad with Peaches, Blueberry, Cashews and Chutney

Shred the breast meat of 2 rotisserie chickens
Toss chicken with 1 peach, skinned and chopped small
Add 1/2 cup dried blueberries and 1/2 cup chopped cashews
Add a finely chopped celery stalk and grated 1/2 a small white onion
Mix 8 oz of sour cream with 3 tablespoons chutney and the juice of 1 lime
Pour the mixture over the chicken mixture and toss to coat
Top toasted pumpernickel bread slices with chicken salad
Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds


2017-08-06 Winnie's Shower 6


Sliced peaches and fresh blackberries in Peach juice

Sliced strawberries, cucumber, and limes in limeade

Sliced cucumbers in water

Babes in the Woods

2017-07-22 Wills baby shower 3

Woodland Themed Baby Shower

I used a lot of things I already had. I don’t like to buy stuff that’s super specific for a party. I like to use stuff that you might use in real life and just double duty it for parties.

For this I used a lot of natural elements, wood trays and plates, I had faux fern and evergreen wreaths that I use for lots of things. Magnolia Market has cute ones. I had old thermoses, wooden lanterns, and old Coleman ice chest. I have wooden berry baskets that I use usually at the holidays to put cookies in. I put an enamel bowl in one for snacks. If it had been fall or winter I would have used some plaid blankets.

Just think about the theme. Don’t think about what kind of party it is or look at regular party stores they will mess you up. Instead think about the theme. It’s a woodland theme. What is in the woods, what do you do in the woods, that kind of stuff. So there are trees, pine needles, pine cones, acorns, ferns, wildflowers, nests, and wildlife in the woods. So then I look around my house and in my storage of stuff for those kinds of things. Next what do you do in the woods. Camp. So campfires, s’mores, etc.

You want tall things, medium things, then tiny things to scatter and fill in empty spaces. The lanterns and thermos were tall, I used cake stands to raise some of the food platters. Then the platters and plates are the medium items. The small things are pinecones, fake acorns I have for fall a fake nest with moss in it. I found some mason jars, filled them with battery twinkle lights and moss to look like fireflies. Your serving dishes should go with the theme too. That’s why I mostly have white, silver, and wood. You can pretty much use that combo for anything.

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2017-07-22 Wills baby shower 1

I also don’t like paper products. It cost more money, you are throwing more into the dump and it’s not as nice. I only use paper plates if it’s a lot of people. I have white plates from World Market or TJ Maxx or even Target they all have standard nice white plates that will go with anything. Target and World Market carry the same style for a long time so you could gradually buy what you need. I think at least 20 is good. You’ll use the small plates more so buy those first. Same thing with napkins, silverware and cups. You can get inexpensive white or off white napkins almost anywhere. Just don’t get the polyester ones. They feel terrible, look cheap, and don’t work anyways. Get cotton, linen or something natural. The cups you can mix and match so just buy cool smaller glasses when you find them. They should be old fashioned sizes. That works best for parties. The silverware will be the most expensive. You can get them at the same places or go to an antique shop that sells silver and buy mixed matched ones which I prefer. But eventually you’ll have a nice collection and never have to buy paper products again. And it just looks so much nicer.

For the food…

If I want to go with the theme because you don’t have to always do that. But if I go with the theme I think about food that would be eaten in that country or in that location or if you were really doing the thing the theme is based on. So in this case woodland, I went with camp type stuff.

Local baker made S’mores cupcakes (I got the idea from good ole Pinterest), I tried to make the cute little red toadstools from Pinterest but I couldn’t figure out how they made the little white dots. So it wasn’t a complete success but they were still cute. Made deviled potatoes that I just made up. Bought some fancy nut mix (Sahale) for a trail mix, made pigs in a blanket but put them on little twigs to look like we roasted them over a fire (you can order the twigs from Save-On-Crafts) Then the rest wasn’t all that camp like but it went with the rest of the food. Just roll with it.

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2017-07-22 Wills baby shower 2


S’mores Cupcakes
Graham cracker mini cupcakes with chocolate Hersey icing,
toasted marshmallow and a teddy graham
(if it needs to be baked the day of – order it instead
it will be too much to do the day of)

Camp Sliders
Hawaiian rolls, with turkey, smoked gouda,
and sautéed onions mixed with fig jam

Campfire Pigs in a Blanket
Good quality hot dogs rolled in crescent roll dough
baked according to the package.
Then skewer with a twig and serve with
mild mustard mixed with apricot jam

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Sandwiches
Pepperidge Farm white bread cut in half and toasted
2 pouches of smoked salmon (like tuna)
mixed with crème fraiche, chopped drained capers
chopped dill, mustard, lemon zest and juice
top the toast with the salmon, a thin slice of
cucumber that’s been patted dry, celery salt and
a few sprigs of watercress.

Toadstool Caprese Skewers
Skewer half a grape tomato, a little piece of
mozzarella string cheese, and a leaf of parsley.
(maybe you can figure out the little white dots)

Deviled Roasted Potatoes
Baby gold potatoes, cut in half tossed with olive oil
salt and pepper and roasted until soft and browned.
Hard boil eggs and remove the yolks, whip the yolks with
sour cream, mustard, and drained relish. You want it stiff.
Top the cooled potatoes with a dollop of egg mixture
and a piece of cooked bacon.

Spring Vegetables with Dip
Bousin cheese with sour cream, chopped fresh chives.
Microwave a bag of French green beans until still crisp.
Microwave very thin asparagus with the woody ends snapped
off until still crisp, slice radishes in half.

Fancy Trail Mix
Sahale nut mix they have many different flavors

Coffee and Nut M&Ms
These were buy one get one at Publix so I grabbed them
can’t really taste the coffee but they are all different shades
of brown so they looked like pebbles! Perfect!

For the drinks

I bought Simply Lemonade brand juices. They are all natural not from
concentrate so they taste great. Not fake.

Simply Peach | add sliced fresh peaches and blueberries

Simply Limeade | add sliced cucumber, limes, and strawberries

Pitcher of water | add sliced cucumber

Then I also had a bottle of champagne if anyone wanted to spike their juices.

Usually I set up everything the week before to make sure I have what I need and have time to go buy what I’m missing

Then I prep the food the day before and just assemble the morning of. It was a busy week so I didn’t get to prep ahead of time. Fortunately, I had chosen simple things and my son, his boyfriend, and my husband all pitched in. We had the food ready to go in 3 hours. Sweet!

Photo credit | Carly Robertson Photography


Ballin in Bali

This place is paradise. The people are so genuinely friendly and lovely. Smiling and helpful. Pretty much everyone speaks English. But they really appreciate when you take a second to learn some Balinese or Indonesian. Suksma | thank you and pagi | good morning were all I could remember. I suck at learning other languages.

So the flight there, yeah. Not fun. 2 1/2 hours to New Jersey, 2 hour layover, 15 hours to Hong Kong, 5 hour layover, 5 hours to Bali. With a 12 hour difference. Fortunately getting there if you just stay up until your normal bed time and then sleep you should be close to straight when you get up. Coming home for some stupid reason is not the same.
It’s been 3 days and I’m still waking up at 4am.

2017-03-17 Bali La Joya 12

Bali is part of the Indonesian Islands, the string of islands between the Vietnam peninsula and Australia. Most of the other islands are Muslim but Bali is over 80% Hindu. They are very open and welcoming to all kinds of travelers. They have small temples (not actual buildings but little places to make an offering) at almost every business and larger ones at homes. Then there are the big temples that are a group of buildings inside a wall. Everywhere you go there are little palm bowls full of flowers and incense burning. It smells lovely.

It’s really hot, Florida in August hot but I didn’t think it was as humid. You were hot and sticky the whole time but you just get used to it. At night you shower and sleep in the a/c. Their rainy season is I think November to April so we were there just at the end of the season. I think it was perfect. It rained just like Florida afternoons for a couple of days and all day one day. Otherwise it was fine. The rain would cool things off. I didn’t really notice a lot of bugs or mosquitos. We came with 10% deet repellent just to be safe but about halfway through I forgot to use it and didn’t have any problems. You can check the CDC’s website to see what shots or precautions you should take when traveling to a certain country. They kind of go overboard. We ended up just getting tetanus shots and taking antibiotics in case we got a back case of Bali Belly. Fortunately as long as you only drink bottled water, don’t swallow when brushing your teeth, only use ice if it’s a specific shape not just broken up, and don’t eat that the sketchy places along the street or from street vendors you should be fine. If it looks like it’s dirty don’t eat there.
There are lots of clean beautiful places to eat.

Their money is crazy – 100,000 Rp equals about $8. So we were walking around with millions, hence the Ballin in Bali. Download the Currency + app or another simple app. But once you figure out what 100,000 is worth in dollars it’s pretty easy. Most things are some combo of 100,000 or 50,000. So 800,000 Rp is 8 x $8. Everything is ridiculously cheap. Our 4 star 5 course world class meal with wine at each course at Bridges in Ubud was $64 pp, yes $64 pp. Our full day at the Karsa Spa – 1 hour massage, 1 hour body treatment followed by an essential oil bath full of flowers, 1 hour foot massage, and a pedicure $72. Yes, $72. It’s crazy and the flight was the same as getting to Europe about $1,000. But once you are there
you’ll spend a fraction of what you’d spend in Europe.

Don’t bring dollars or travelers checks (if they even still have those). Just use the local ATMs to get out what you need each day or whenever. They have them everywhere. Most banks have a daily limit to take out cash so check with your bank on that amount and let them know you’ll be in Bali. Ours had a limit of $400 for each card holder. Also, call your credit card company to let them know too. Most places wanted cash. The larger restaurants and hotels will take credit cards and larger purchases but clothes and other tourist type stuff you need cash. Same thing for paying a driver or taxis or tips. Most restaurants include a service fee of 10% so they aren’t expecting a tip. But come on. Leave 100,000 Rp. It’s $8. The average person in Bali
makes $8 a day so you’ll make someone’s day.

So as far as packing and travel tips (then I’ll stop talking and post pictures). They pretty much have any toiletry you might need and as stated earlier it will be cheap. So don’t worry too much about pharmacy stuff or toiletries just pack what you normally would and get something you missed there. Or if it’s something hard to pack get it there. They have sunscreen and bug spray (you need both). Just bring any prescriptions obviously.

For the flight | pack a good pillow for the plane both our long flights were over night which really helps you be able to sleep. I used this one I got on Amazon and it worked great (I’m a side sleeper so trying to sleep sitting up is hard). I also recommend wearing sandals then taking socks. So you can slip off your shoes easily but won’t have stinky feet. They feed you constantly so you really don’t need snacks. I took a bunch of stuff and we didn’t eat any of it. Take a little travel tooth brush and toothpaste so when you wake up towards the end of the flight you can brush your teeth. It helps. Maybe deodorant and some nice wipes too.

Ok now for the good stuff,

We stayed at a beautiful smaller resort when we first got there. Again, lovely people who own it. They have nicely appointed bungalows with a/c and wifi. There’s an open air spa and a restaurant. Two beautiful pools that over look the Indian Ocean. You can walk down steps in the cliff to get to a very small very rocky beach. Really too rough to swim, my husband ended up cutting his leg. If you want a smaller cozy very relaxed kind of place I highly recommend it.
You can find it on Airbnb | La Joya

Breakfast by the pool

2017-03-20 Bali La Joya breakfast by the ocean

Very laid back and relaxing. Secluded. the only down side is it’s not in a great area and there isn’t really anything near by. It’s between Jimbaran Beach and Ulu Watu south of the airport. If you are planning on just hanging out by the pool, getting massages, and eating at their restaurant for a couple of days I recommend it. They take great care of you and the view is ridiculous. But, if you want to go explore you might want to look on Airbnb for a place in Ulu Watu. Jimbaran has several high end hotels, Four Seasons and Intercontinental but they are also isolated. Ulu Watu is surfy. Kuta is party central and very surfy.

We spent a day at Seminyak for shopping. The shops are nicer here than by Jimbaran Beach and there are a lot more restaurants you’ll want to eat in. The shops are less roadside and more boutique. It’s still not Ubud but it’s getting there.

Ginger Moon

Most of the food in Bali is Asian mixed with a weird idea of western food. I am very grateful their menus are in English but their descriptions sometimes get confusing and the waiters don’t really understand when you need further description so you end up just going for it. The only time I ordered something I really didn’t like was at a very touristy place next to the rice terrace and it said mixed vegetables on a salad. It was hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts, and lettuce.
Not tasty. I ate the side of white rice.

Ginger Moon was mostly Asian and very good. In Seminyak.

We also found a cool French Bistro place called in Seminyak.

The Corner House

In Ulu Watu we stopped on our way to a local temple to eat at

Single Fin

Forgot to take pictures of the food but it was delicious. Very fresh and lots of salad. The tuna sandwich says tuna loin so we expected sliced tuna, it was tuna salad. But it was good tuna salad. Most places have fresh bread they bake. And every place has freshly made fruit juices. So good. You can combine the different fruits too. Banana, just banana takes like a smoothie. There were surfers down on the beach, live music later in the day and the shops were all surf shops. Just thought I’d share the random guy who was walking around with a monkey on his back.

After lunch we headed over to the Ulu Watu Temple. It was ok. the walled walk along the cliff was beautiful but the actual temple wasn’t outstanding. Lots of tourists. In fact a group of girls walked up to me and asked me to take a photo. I said sure then realized they wanted to take a photo WITH me. Which was odd. Apparently, the surrounding countries learn English in school and like taking pictures with English speaking tourists because it shows they
were able to talk to us in English. Okey Dokey.

Ulu Watu Temple

There are lots of tourist traps. This silver shop was flashy and the prices were crazy. If you are paying American prices for anything you are paying way too much. Just be careful of that. Most of the places we stopped at were 1/5 of the cost of America.

2017-03-20 Bali on our way to Ubud silver store

There are also all these beach BBQ places. Most of them were just gross. They have obviously old seafood and the room you walk through to get to the beach, the place where you pick the seafood and they grill it, it smells like garbage. Then they seat you at folding tables and chairs with satin table cloths and chair covers on the beach to eat and watch the sunset. I’m assuming there are nice ones but all I saw were the tacky gross ones. I don’t recommend it. I ordered only the vegetables and was still worried I was going to get sick.

After exploring the area around La Joya and the airport we headed inward and north to Ubud. This was my favorite area. All the cool old stuff is here. By many accounts it’s the cultural center of Bali. You can get to volcanos, temples, rice terraces, coffee plantations, shopping and pretty much anything else they offer from Ubud. If I ever go again I would just go straight to Ubud when I get there and just spend a couple of days at the end of the trip
at Jimbaran Beach to unwind.

We stayed at the Private Ubud Villas in the Penestanan area of Ubud. It’s about a 10 min walk down the hill to downtown Ubud. But there are plenty of taxis at the top too. This little area was perfect. There are a lot of Australian yoga types here. So lots of coffee shops and vegetarian restaurants. It very quickly felt like we lived there. It was easy to get
around and not too far from downtown.

The villas like most of the homes are a walled in courtyard, most with a pool and beautiful garden. The kitchen and living space is open air the bedrooms and bathrooms have a/c. There’s wifi and we had a house keeper Wayan that came everyday to bring clean towels, make the bed, tidy up, take out the trash and make us breakfast. There are also really nice resorts right in Ubud one of them we happened to have lunch at Alaya Resort it was in Ubud
near the Monkey Forest on Jalan Hanoman

Here are some pictures of the Penestanan area, gardens and
rice terraces we past every day.

And our favorite little breakfast place that was across the street from our villa


They had delicious coffee, fresh fruit juices, yogurt bowls, avocado toast, eggs with asparagus and pancakes with caramelized banana and strawberries. My husband says the best oatmeal he’s ever eaten. We even brought home a wooden bowl just so he could eat oatmeal in it.

We tried black rice pudding for breakfast at another local place down the street.
Tasted very similar to oatmeal.

The BEST restaurant in Ubud was Bridges. We ate there twice, I could have eaten there every night. World class atmosphere, service and food. Just outstanding. It’s this beautiful restaurant built under a bridge on the side of the cliff leading down to a river. As with everything it’s open air so each level it open to the view of the gardens and river.

Gorganzola Apple Brulee with Rucola Salad
pickled fennel, orange and candied pecans

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 18

Wild Mushrooms and Polenta
with caper and tomato relish, fresh pea puree and vegetable terrain

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 20

My travel friend’s favorite part of the meal, the palette cleanser

Strawberries with a lime sorbet

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 19

Another beautiful spot to eat is right downtown Ubud and has a garden courtyard in the back and a bar facing the street in the front to people watch.
The food was great, fresh, and unique and the service was great.

Oops Restaurant and Bar
No website but it’s right across from the market in the center of town.
Just a few blocks from Starbuck. Yes, Starbucks.

Our spa day was at Karsa Spa set in the middle of a rice terrace
ponds, flowers and fountains everywhere.

The massage rooms were open air with a garden around you the ceiling fans made it perfectly comfortable. After the body treatment you slide into an essential oil infused tub full of flowers.

The view from our pergola while getting pedicures

The rice terrace was really beautiful to hike through. The area around the terrace was very touristy, I wouldn’t recommend any of the restaurants but look through the shops. There were a couple that had stuff I hadn’t seen yet. It’s free to hike the terrace but in a couple of places you’ll come across someone basically being a gate keeper and asking for money to pass. 50,000 for our group was fine. Most places were free to get in but then you paid a priest or someone to show you around or someone who was selling palm hats in the field. $4 for a group of 8, not bad.

2017-03-23 Bali Rice Terrace 2

2017-03-23 Bali Rice Terrace 17

After the rice terrace we visited the coffee plantation. This was set up a little more for tourists. People greeted us, took us on a tour, there were people demonstrating how they roast the coffee and you got a free tasting of several teas and coffees like chai, ginger, and cocoa. A cup of the coffee where the luwak eats the berries, poops them out then they roast the pooped out beans was 50,000 ($4). It was actually deliciously smooth no wonder people
pay $30 a cup for it here in the US.

While we enjoyed our tea and coffee sample we couldn’t help notice the extremely hard working ladies just below us. They would carry up empty bowls from below, another lady would fill them with dirty then they would carry them on their heads down below to the construction site. Up and down. No special safety gear. Just hard work all day in the heat.

2017-03-23 Bali Ubud Coffee Plantation 20

Our driver told my husband about a hike up one of the volcanos, Mount Batur. They left at 2am to get to the mountain by 4am so he could be at the top by sunrise. His guide Madi was yet another tough ass Bali lady. She kept asking him if he needed a rest and
would say hati-hati which meant careful careful.

We visited a traditional village out in the country side. Where there are bamboo forests and rice terraces and little beautiful villages. The villages are walled in and each “home” is a walled in space with several small buildings inside. some are open air some aren’t. Most have a temple in the front then the old historic building for tourists like us to see then more modern buildings where they live. Open air kitchens, stable for a pig, gardens. The family that lived there welcomed us in and explained how they used to live.
Did I mention how friendly and sweet these people are?

Nearby was the oldest temple in Bali. I forgot to write down the name of it. Just like the smaller spaces, there is a wall with a grand door in this case at the top of a lot of steps. In side are many smaller open are buildings. Some are for preparing things for
worship some are for actual worship.

We then visited the Tirta Empul Water Temple. As with all the temples, to enter you need a sarong. Then if you want to go in the water you pay for a water sarong, go into a coed changing room. Yeah, that was awkward. And change into the water sarong. We all had bathing suits on under. I wrapped mine around my neck the guys just around their waste. Some people were in there in their clothes with the sarong just around their clothes. So whatever works for you.

The priest gave us an offering, had us clear our minds and meditate for a minute then explained we choose a place for our offering at one of the fountains then started at the left and worked right taking 3 sips of spring water and then dunking your head 3 times to cleanse you inside and out. The water was cool but not cold, there were Koi in the pond with us and the stones aren’t comfortable to walk on. But it was a really cool experience. I definitely recommend it!
We tipped our priest 150,000 Rp ($12) for helping us.

Aside from the spring and the pond you get in there were Koi ponds and
the usual buildings all the temples have.

Near Ubud was another spectacular restaurant Sayan it overlooks a valley, river, and rice terrace and across the valley you could see one of the Four Seasons on Bali. It had a pond on it’s roof

Once again delicious. Best chocolate cake ever and it was flourless.

Some cool stuff I noticed with the food, they put salsa and dips in little banana or palm leaves they fold into little bowls. Everything is natural no plastic stuff, wooden bowls, plates lined with banana leaves, so pretty. There was always fresh fruit and herbs. They slice their limes different. Just the ends, not sure what they do with the middle of the limes. They make a dipping sauce from sambal a tomato based sometimes spices sometimes sweet condiment and mayo. I think if you took ketchup and sweet chili sauce you might get something similar.

Our last adventure was in the Ubud Monkey Forest. Ok, not a fan of this one. The monkeys are really aggressive and know you have bananas so they come running over and climb all over you looking for the bananas. You can’t shove them off or they might bite you and they are all over the place. Yeah, not a fan. But if you don’t mind the crazy monkeys all over you for sure go.

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Monkey Forest 2.jpg

As we walked home from downtown Ubud we came across the beautiful Lotus Pond Palace. It’s tucked behind the Starbucks and the Lotus Café. It’s easy to miss because of the pergola in the front. There’s a pergola behind the Starbucks that you can sit and enjoy the pond or
eat at the café but the menu looked mediocre.

While we were there is was Nyepi. That’s the Hindu new year. The day before is a little like Mardi Gras. They party and build these cool floats called Ogoh Ogoh. Each nearby village or neighborhood (didn’t quite get a clear answer on that) makes one then the day before Nyepi they carry them to the main temple in Ubud. There’s a whole performance that goes with the presentation of the Ogoh Ogoh. There are smaller ones that children make and carry and larger ones the adults make. On the day before Nyepi they also have temple services and after we saw people carrying these beautiful trays with fruit and desserts, not clear what they were for.

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Ogoh Ogoh 10.jpg

These guys just added to the atmosphere

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Day before Nyepi 4

Then on Nyepi it’s their day of silence. You can’t leave your home or hotel, no lights on, no entertaining, no eating. For tourists they just asked us to stay inside, keep the curtains drawn so you couldn’t see our lights and keep the cooking to a minimum. And obviously be quiet. It just made for a relaxing day to read. I know the hotels abide as well but I’m not sure if you have to stay in your room or just on the hotel grounds if you plan on coming to Bali during Nyepi you might want to check that out. A couple of tips. Don’t wait until the day before to get cash from the ATMs they were all out and the day after Nyepi it was afternoon before we found one we could use. The grocery stores were slammed to. Think day before a hurricane when everyone thought it wasn’t going to actually hit but a the last minute realize it will.
So get food, supplies, and cash out 2 days before Nyepi.

After Ubud we headed to the Intercontinental Bali Resort at Jimbaran Beach. Wow. Just wow. If I was going to Bali again I would go straight to Ubud to stay for most of the time then stay at the Intercontinental for 3 days at the end. They have everything there and lots of activities, yoga classes, cooking classes etc. A beautiful spa. The buffet and show with traditional dancers was meh. The dancers and entertainment were great but the food was just ok. It was a lot of odd Asian food. I guess at the end of the trip I was just tired of that. But they have a great breakfast every morning and the other restaurants were great. There’s one by the pool and the Sunset Bar and Grille over looks the ocean. Fresh lovely salads and sandwiches. Served in awesome wooden bowls and with snacks like bread with a mango jam and some kind of cheese spread, Bali peanuts and little coconut cookies with the coffee. They also had a white wine, apple cider, elderflower drink that tasted like apple sangria.

So here’s the lobby

And the endless pools and gardens, yes you can swim in those pools

Pool side dining

and the Sunset Bar and Grille and Apple sangria

The spa

And of course our room

Leis when we checked in with a refreshing local drink and chilled wash cloths. Beautiful rooms with turn down each night and they didn’t get there at 7am to clean it. Every toiletry you could need. 4 different restaurants, the beach, I don’t even know how many pools, club level rooms and club lounge the size of a restaurant, endless activities and it was $137 a night. Yep.

What a great trip. Its a really long way to go but so worth it.
I would go again in a heartbeat and would barely change a thing