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Updated: Dec 11, 2019

There are times Bali feels like another planet and you wonder WTF am I doing here? But there are other times it feels like you've landed in paradise and you congratulate yourself for making all the excellent life choices that brought you to this moment on this island with these people. This year, Thanksgiving (aka Friendsgiving) was one of those congratulatory moments when everything in the world seemed to be as it should: welcoming, thankful, bountiful, and full of laughter.

Like everything good in Bali, Friendsgiving started with a WhatsApp group text. Next comes the subgroup text groups, Turkey Talk and Bitches Be Cookin'. I don't remember how life ran without WhatsApp. We didn't use it in LA and now it's my everything.

Those gorgeous floral THANKFUL letters have an ugly secret

Green School has the world's most amazing woven letters and signs. Every time I see a new one, I'm blown away. So I went around and took some photos of different weavings, different types of grasses and effects and I drew out what I wanted for our floral piece-de-resistance. The floral guys were texting me pictures to clarify what I wanted and we came up with this idea for a 4 meter high woven turkey...then settled on the letters because we knew they'd look amazing on the edge of the pool. I was feeling stoked. Then the day came for the installation and the letters were STYROFOAM. Holy shit. This is fucking Green School Thanksgiving and my decor will last 1000 years!! I was gutted. But in Bali you get what you get. Be Thankful for whatevs. We covered up those styrofoam letters, pretended they were woven from sustainable coconut grass, and poured ourselves huge glasses of wine.

We went (mostly) local.

Our aim was to go fully local for the food, but some things (hello wine and cranberries!) just can't be found on Bali. Surprisingly, a local guy raises turkeys. Even with a Green School vegetarian crowd, it took 7 turkeys to get the job done. Poor things were a bit skinny but definitely looked hormone free. Cooking 7 turkeys is no easy feat when many villas don't have ovens so it took a community effort.

Cooking started at our villa by 7:15 in the morning. Several teams of women (seriously, in 2019 it was still just women) cooked in different villas, sending food over as it was finished by Gojek. Dinner was served (on time!) at 6:30. We set up a movie theater in the guest house and the kids watched Home Alone and raided the sweets table.

Welcome All. Give Thanks. Eat and Repeat.

Although we expected Thanksgiving to be a gathering of Americans, us Yanks were actually a minority. Apparently word about how awesome Thanksgiving is has spread far. The Lithuanians, Israelis, Indians, Slovakians, Aussies, Hungarians, Brits...are all down for a feast. For a puritan pilgrim holiday, the message of Thanksgiving is surprisingly adaptable. All us expats and international crew live far from our birth home, on an island of new Gods, welcomed by locals. We made the journey and give thanks for community, bounty, nature and family. In a world where things seem to be pulling apart at the seams, we were extraordinarily grateful to share the evening with so many loving and sane friends.

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When I stop to think about it, the Green School lunch program is kinda mind blowing. Not only do they grow the majority of the food themselves, it's 100% plant based, prepared on campus by teams of students, served in banana leaves, left overs composted, and it's eaten family style in the heart of school along side teachers. And it's so good that my kids haven't complained once. Seriously.

Before we moved to Bali and changed school, my kids wanted to know what to expect for lunch. At our schools in California, they also had a hot lunch program but most kids didn't use it. It was bland, served in individual servings, packaged with a lot of plastic and my kids only ate the fruit and goldfish crackers.

At Green School, the lunches are really good! Even though there is no mac & cheese, chicken fingers, ketchup or ranch, my crew has no complaints. They eat the full buffet. My oldest likes the jackfruit curry and my preschoolers like the pizza with coconut crust and the crunchy tempe with peppers.

I'd estimate that 90% of kids eat the school lunch program. It's that good.

Lunch takes a village

Different teams of students head over to the kitchen daily to cook up the daily lunch for the school. Serving organic veggie based lunch to 500 people daily is a masterclass in catering. The kitchen is very "open floor plan" and the staff is always happy to show visitor what they are making. The GS lunch ladies are friendly!

Parents on campus can dig in and eat the school lunch after the kids are done.

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Updated: Dec 10, 2019

The little things in Bali (sourcing greek yogurt!) can be ridiculously complicated while the big things (throwing a birthday party for 50) are surprisingly easy breezy.

I live to throw huge birthday parties. But in the Palisades, planning a kids birthday bash was a major time suck. Secure the location, hire a food truck, rent the bounce house, vet the petting zoo, manage the production of an overpriced theme cake, browse headshots looking for the perfect actor to play the character de jour and, of course, endless hours stuffing goodie bags. But here in Bali we breezed through all the party planning and just had a super fun, low stress fest.

But first, can we talk about those rainbow chickens?

Neon colored baby chickens were the undeniable hit of the party. They were too freakin' cute. The kids gave them cuddles, fed them cake, and named them as you would if you're 3 years old: Dirty Diaper Face, Pee Face, Senior Poo Poo...and you can imagine the rest. Their neon beaks and tiny peeps were adorable and I can only assume they hatched from Easter eggs because any other explanation breaks the magic bubble. Raising chickens has been on my to-do list and I had visions of collecting fresh eggs and tossing around chicken feed while wearing cute overalls. I'm a mother earth type but the real mother nature had plans for those chickens! Turns out that huge lizards who live in the river running behind our back yard can smell baby chicks and hunted them down until there were none. End of chicken story.

Magical birthday fairies live in our villa

Birthday parties in Bali are easier than anywhere else for the one obvious reason that we have a large staff whose lives revolve around celebration and ceremonies. My villa staff did all the decorating, made all the food, cleaned up before and after. The day before the party my staff got together and wove these beautiful coconut grass decorations with flowers and hung them around the villa. The handicrafts the people in Bali make for celebrations and ceremonies are just amazing.

Bali Budah's got cake

I'm not a believer that baking a cake is worthy of my time or that my kids give a crap about store-bought versus home-made. In fact, they probably think I love them more if I buy it. Considering I have 5 little humans competing for my attention, spending hours in the kitchen over a nightmare of a cake seems like a bad parenting choice. I love the hunt for a local person with a fabulous home business, but I couldn't find a local cake lady. I priced a rainbow cake from one local baker and it was about $280 usd and another local lady came back with a quote of $300+ and neither used real butter. Ugh. I can't explain why the cakes came back so pricey because they were pretty basic. Weird.

Maybe I gave up my baker search too quickly. But regardless, Bali Budah had my back. I got 3 flourless chocolate cakes for about $50. I coated the tops with Chuck's favorite sprinkles and voila! perfect chocolate cake.

No gifts, please. Seriously.

At home in the Palisades I literally have a gift wrapping shed next to the house. It's not Pinterest worthy and it will not satisfy anyone's org-porn lusting, but it is stocked (messily!) with unwrapped toys and a zillion ribbons and paper wrapping options. In Bali, folks really don't do gifts aside from a flower or homemade card. Chuck got a gorgeous sunflower and a stuffed monkey made from recycled materials and everyone else came empty handed, which was awesome. As someone who loves gifting, I'm here to say that no-gifts is actually the better way to go. It's a relief to show up for a party and know that your presence is enough. And it's a relief to not deal with your child after they get a bunch of gifts that turn them into a greedy monster. And, of course, and on a fundamental level, there is nothing kids need aside from love, laughter and cake.

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