Badlands at Dawn

Man, I’ve been absent from this blog for a very long time. The summer has been filled with manic cooking and I have been purposely keeping my head low on photo shoots. I really just want to enjoy myself this Summer, spend more quality time with the boys, exploring some local eats and produce and taking those produce and whip something up in my own kitchen. I take pictures of almost all of my cooking and posting them via Instagram. You can follow me there, I go by DhilaB and that’s my Twitter name too.

Anyway, I finally got around to start the first round of photos of our last vacation with Jacob, Treyton’s cousin. Jacob has been waiting for this for the whole year. We started taking each of my sister’s many kids each year to go on vacation with us. We took Ivory to Jogja and Java, Indonesia; Zach to Grand Marais and now it’s Jacob’s turn and he got to pick the destination of the three choices we gave him. He chose Badlands. We’ve been to Badlands, many times and each year we go I’m reminded how beautiful this place is.

If you plan to visit Badlands, I highly recommend you go a couple of hours before Sunset. We went in the morning, where tourists were flocking, no wild animals at seen, it was too damn hot and we still toured around.

Then we went back to the hotel to cool off and took a nap, went back out to the park after dinner. Boy, WAS I GLAD! The golden sun gently kissed the landscape. The hues of the hills show its true colors and stripes of red, yellow and rust, the animals came out to bask after hiding all day from the scorching sun. The wind gently blowing and made the grass dance. You hear gentle echoes as the wind blows. There was so much beauty surrounds me I was completely overwhelmed. It was so overwhelming, I CRIED, and that’s the truth. It was something spiritual I have never experienced before.

These pictures don’t do justice, but enough to remind me the feeling the felt.

 Jeff in his natural habitat, looking for Agates

 Can you see my little chipmunks just above the text?
There you are!

 Buffalo having dinner alone
 Buffalo having dinner with friends
Caught a sight of these gazelles running… breathtaking…

The Beauty of Grand Marais

We spent Labor Day weekend at Grand Marais and borrowed one of my sister’s kids, my nephew, Treyton’s cousin, Zack. Since Ivory went with us to Indonesia for a vacation, Jeff and I decided it would only be fair if we took the other kids, separately on a vacation too. So this time Zack got his turn and we plan to take his brother Jacob on our next vacation next year to the Badlands.

Zack showed an interest in hunting for agates when we took my sister Putri and her many kids to Grand Marais for the first time a couple of years ago. So Zack was really looking forward to hunt some more agates as he developed great eye to spot them. Treyton couldn’t be anymore happy to have a travel buddy in the back seat.

While the boys spent hours and hours combing beaches after beaches for agates, I spent my time reading my textbook. I was dumb enough to leave the Macbook power adapter so I wasn’t able to access my laptop. Doh! Between reading I took some pictures, of course.

sunset at downtown grand marais

Sunset at Downtown Grand Marais

Moose Lake, Minn. Moose Lake, Minn.
Moose Lake and Moose Butt

Moose Lake, Minn.
We’re being ATTACKED!

DQ in Grand Marais
At Dairy Queen. They got along so well together!

DQ in Grand Marais
Treyton and his dipped cone

World's Best Donuts
I read this giant ass text book waiting for boys agate hunting.
At least I was accompanied by World’s Best Donut, cinnamon sugar cake donut and coconut white chocolate mocha from Java Moose. The view just heightened the senses.

Canal Park, Duluth, MN Canal Park, Duluth, MN
Canal Park Duluth

Canal Park, Duluth, MN Canal Park, Duluth, MN
Canal Park Duluth, watching a giant boat arriving and we had some hot dogs from Grandma’s

Zack noticed something swimming on the small pool of water on the rocks

tadpoles from lake superior

tadpoles from lake superior

caterpillar on Zack's hand
He also saved this cute fella from being smooshed trying to cross the street.

Grand Marais Fog
It was one foggy day at Grand Marais

Lake Superior
fog over lake superior with Zack on the picture, can you see a small ring like on the left of the picture? That’s a rainbow covered with fog. We saw a lot of rainbows over the 4 days of our stay there which was quite rare.

Treyton, boat watching
Treyton, boat watching

Lake Superior
Here’s Treyton goofing off

miniature golfing at golf n' stuff
Miniature golfing at Golf n’ Stuff

At Golf and Stuff

miniature golfing at golf n' stuff at golf n' stuff

yummy sliced moose meat with mango cranberry chutney, wild rice gouda, arugula on a wild rice baguette
Sliced moose meat with mango cranberry and arugula salad, wild rice gouda on a wild rice baguette. Jeff had Elk burger and I had Elk’s Shepperd Pie from Northern Lights Cafe 
in Beaver Bay. The restaurant is marked by a red double decker bus on the front of the restaurant.

A must stop place to eat for lunch during Summer time. I can’t get over how much I underestimated this place from the outside. I was blown away by their garden overlooking lake superior. The pricey price tag is worth it with a view like what they offer at the restaurant.

Sven and Ole's
Sven and Ole’s has been around forever!

Sven and Ole's Sven and Ole's Sven and Ole's
They had some giant Bridgeman’s ice cream from Sven and Ole’s.

Betty's Pies

Betty’s Pies! On the way back to the Twin Cities Zack wished to try one of the giant desserts at Betty’s Pies. It consists of 3 slices of pies of your choice, 4 scoops of ice cream with all the toppings, whipped cream, cherries and all and a whole sliced banana. If eaten in 30 minutes you’ll get a t-shirt.
Although confident, he did not finish and he owed us fifteen bucks.

boating at Nelson's
We stayed at Nelson’s Traveler’s Rest and rented one of their cabins. It was cheap, clean and they provided this cute little area for kids to hang out and play and adults to gather around a bonfire.

trucks at Nelson's trucks at Nelson's trucks at Nelson's
Check out these cute metal trucks they had at Nelson’s!

downtown grand marais
kick-ass view from the rooftop deck at Gun Flint Tavern in Downtown Grand Marais

downtown grand marais downtown grand marais

Another eatery that we highly recommend (no pictures unfortunately) is Crooked Spoon Cafe. When we first visited this place a couple of years ago to have their Kangaroo burger, we’ve been coming here every time we visit Grand Marais.

Since I’m a sucker for CLOUDS. I can honestly say these pictures didn’t do justice compared to what I saw with my own eyes.

Gorgeous clouds over lake superior
Zack walking on the beach in the freezing water. He said his feet were numb.

Zack and Lake Superior

Zack and Lake Superior
Zack standing and Treyton sitting

Zack and Lake Superior

Zack and Lake Superior
Zack, one of my favorite pictures

Treyton looking for agates
That is Treyton examining whether he should pick up that rock or not. Another one of my favorite pictures.

storm clouds
Storm cloud over Lake Superior

Now you see him, now you don’t!

As soon as I saw these pictures from my sister’s Facebook page, Ria, I HAD to share this with you. There were 3 of us taking pictures and Ria by far took the best scenario of what happened that day. This was one of the scariest things that ever happened to me next to the time when Treyton had RSV when he was only three months old.

We were in Indonesia at Tanah Lot, Bali, enjoying the view of the Indian ocean. It was cloudy, a little bit of rain, and the waves were super crazy high!

Treyton worked up the courage to come up closer to the beach so I can take his picture and this was my results
What you don’t see from the results (previous link), are these:

Now you see Treyton……. 

Now you don’t! Pay very close attention to the first two photos between the photographer in blue hat. That’s Treyton on the right engulfed by sea water. My heart stopped for about three seconds! I thought for sure he was dragged by the current.

This nice lady came over with iodine and band aid 
We all had a laugh.

Cabin Time!

year is the 2nd Annual 4th of July get together where my sister, Putri, and her many children along with my sister, Ade, and her one year old Jaka, come up to spend the weekend at the Backstrom’s cabin.

Allow me to introduce you to my nieces and nephews.
First up Jaden Jaka. I photograph Jaden when he was 6 months old and was so excited to photograph him again now that he’s walking at 1 year old. This kid has the longest curled up eyelashes I’ve ever seen.

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This is Zahara, Putri’s youngest daughter. We call her baby ZZ. The girl is so girly with many characters! She’s such a smart ass most of the time, a tattle tale but yet so sweet. She’s quite spoiled by all the girls in the family because she’s so darn adorable and she knows it and knows how to work you through her charms. This is the joke she told me over the weekend that made laugh so loud I was practically rolling over on the floor. As you can see my camera loves her. Her facial expressions and body gestures just beg to be captured.

ZZ: “Auntie Dhila, auntie Dhila, how do you wake up Lady Gaga?”
Me:”I’m sorry what? How do you even know who Lady Gaga is? Well, whatever, how do you wake her up?”
ZZ: “You poker face”

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And then we have the Twins! Zack and Ivory


Zack is so easy going, mellow, doesn’t talk much but super smart. He loves painting, and creating arts and superly duperly athletic. He’s in boyscout, chess club and basketball. Jeff introduced him to Agate hunting when we went and took the kids to Grand Marais last year for the first time. He’s loving agate hunting since and this made a very happy Jeff.
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This is Ivory. Super smart, super fun, helps out mom a lot and adores by Jaka. Loves the outdoors but the outdoors can be cruel to her.  The girl is super allergic to bugs. Her face was so swollen over the weekend by bug bites. She and Zack are very very close (go figures, being twins and stuff). She is in girls scout, chess club and basketball.
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This is Jacob, loves playing video games and can be overly competitive at times.

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And then there’s Treyton, my 5 year old. He couldn’t be anymore excited to spend time with his many cousins, next to buying toys, this is his second most favorite thing to do. Although he always claims to prefer playing with Zack over baby ZZ, Treyton and spent an awful lot of time together. Click here to see them playing together.

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As much as I am excited to not be at work and to spend some quality time with my sisters and my nieces and nephews, I was mostly excited to spend some quality time with my “nifty fifty” 50mm f/1.8 lens to shoot some fireworks for the very first time!

Allright, allright, enough with the kids, click here to see some FIREWORKS!!

Fireworks! Sparklers! Fire!

I was so ecstatic to be spending time with my sisters and my nieces and nephews. I spent practically all day the weekend before to clean up the cabin before their arrival. It was exhausting. Here are a couple of things we did. Don’t worry, the fireworks are at the very bottom if you want to skip all these exciting things we did.

We played video games
Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of kids playing Kinect. It was quite hilarious. 

We watch cartoons and movies

We played card games

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We played dominos

Jeff and Cale doing crosswords puzzles

We shoot targets
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The kids went Fishing


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Ate a lot
on the deck




Drank  A Lot


Cooling off with popsicles


Agate hunting


Smores by the fire



play in the water





And one of us take random shit loads of pictures like madness
Hey, we all have different ideas of relaxation.






And of course, play with FIRE


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This is my very first attempt to photograph fireworks. I was SO excited. I beat myself up for forgetting to bring the remote shutter and almost had a heart attack when I thought I forgot my tripod. Thank goodness for Jeff for remembering!

I had planned to set the equipment up far in advance, until we found out that the neighbors are lighting their fireworks a day earlier than we thought. Here I was scrambling to gather my camera bag and the tripod, ran my tush down the many many many stairs to the lake. I had forgotten about slathering myself with bug spray. Bugs absolutely loves me. They think I’m so delectable as either a corpse or a sweet flower. I’d like to think the latter.

So here they are. I think I did okay.

Sitting on the deck for fireworks. We wish we were on one of those boats.
Here are the other ones I took (slideshow)

Which one is your favorite?
Hope your 4th was great!

Day 10 – Bali, Jimbaran Again

After seeing some monkeys, we wrapped up the day by going to Jimbaran, again! But this time with the rest of the family. Putri, Jeff and I came to Jimbaran for dinner the night before, this time we chose a different restaurant. This one had a Kecak performance which was lovely. And this time we arrived early enough to catch the beautiful sunset. 
Jimbaran is a fishing village with its rows and rows of restaurant of the shore and a couple of hotels. This was the spot where the bombings of two “warung” (restaurants) happened in 2005. 
Picture this: Hot day, but the Indian ocean breeze helped, the smell of fresh sea air, toes buried in the sand, devouring fresh seafood caught that morning sprinkled with some island spices grilled over coconut husks, the colorful parasol topped and cut up fruit cocktails that seems to magically reappear after the last one, the soothing gamelan music with exotic dancers entertained the ears and the eyes during dinner PLUS your loving family is with you. This is my take on heaven.
This was our table
Treyton enjoying his Sprite while waiting for the food
That’s Jeff in white looking for shells
Chillin’ waiting for the food to arrive. In most of the restaurants, this is how you place the order. Get seated, get your table, come up front and select your seafood. These are all live seafood caught that morning. Then you select how you want them prepared, either grilled or fried. They grilled their seafood mostly using coconut husks instead of charcoal. 
We got some grilled corn NOT from the restaurant, rather from a street vendor
Corn seller at Jimbaran. Must be hard to push that cart on a sand!
To cool off we MUST drink! Once you’re tipsy you’ll be able to bear the scorching heat.
Loosen up after a few drinks.
Treyton was DRENCHED in sweat, notice his shirt looks wet? That’s not because he went in the water.
Oh heaven… Taking all these beauty in was so therapeutic.
Can you spot the translucent crab?
Clams with special sambal
Happy fish in the morning, Happy Dhila by evening.
Kangkung (watercrest) with strips of fried squid, caught that morning
John’s Baramundi
The happy couple, John and Roosy
The gamelan player
Dinner and a SHOW!
The story below was taken from here
The story goes that Rangda, the mother of Erlangga, the King of Bali in the tenth century, was condemned by Erlangga’s father because she practiced black magic. After she became a widow, she summoned all the evil spirits in the jungle, the leaks and the demons, to come after Erlangga. A fight occurred, but she and her black magic troops were too strong that Erlangga had to ask for the help of Barong. Barong came with Erlangga’s soldiers, and fight ensued. Rangda casted a spell that made Erlangga soldiers all wanted to kill themselves, pointing their poisoned keris into their own stomachs and chests. Barong casted a spell that turned their body resistant to the sharp keris. At the end, Barong won, and Rangda ran away.
Somebody can die or get seriously injured in a Barong dance. It is said that if Rangda’s spell is too strong, a weak soldier may not be able to resist it, even with the help of Barong. He may end up hurting himself with his own keris.
The masks of Barong and Rangda are considered sacred items, and before they are brought out, a priest must be present to offer blessings by sprinkling them with holy water taken from Mount Agung, and offerrings must be presented.

Notice that it takes two people to operate the Barong.

Day 10 – Bali, Monkey Forest

After another day of swimming at the Hotel, Putri decided we needed some girl time, so she booked us a message (complimentary from the hotel!).

Putri snapped this picture of me and Treyton
And Jeff wanted to get in the action
Putri thinks this guy could use a little bit more muscle with his hand work, well that’s what you get from a complimentary massage, a bit half-ass job.
Afterwards, we met up with my mom, Alvin, Ria and John at the Monkey Forest. This is a MUST stop and a MUST do if you are in Bali. We went to the site in Uluwatu. There’s also another monkey forest in Ubud Bali. 
Since it’s a sacred temple, everyone and anyone (adults) entering the temple wearing other than long pants, must be covered with a sarong, much like what Jeff had on. Look at this handsome man.
First sighting of the monkeys
A family of monkeys. I was told when I was little that these monkeys were human beings once and were cursed by the Gods.
Noticed Jeff didn’t have his glasses on? Before entering the temple we were told not to bring ANYTHING with us and to strip all of our jewelries. There are no lockers at this place so you have to either leave them in your car or give them to your mom who’s waiting for you outside while you go through the temple.
Getting friendly with some monkeys
Ria getting friendly with her ancestor
I’m pretty sure they could smell fear in me, no wonder no monkeys want my food. The stick on my hand was pretty handy to shoo them away.
They (the monkeys that is) absolutely LOVE Alvin. They were climbing up his back, combing his head to look for fleas and stuff.
Do you notice that Ivory only has one sandal? Well the other one got ripped out of her foot by one the naughty monkeys
This nice lady, got Ivory’s sandal back, after she gave the monkey some cut up fruit. A small bag of fruit cost about 2 pennies and we gave her more for the trouble.
She’s one of the sellers who sells cut up fruit to sell to tourist if you want to feed the monkey. She also told us that overtime these monkeys got smarter. They didn’t steal because they want to own it, they steal from tourist in hopes to exchange their stolen goods with food. Smart fellas!
One must also wonder, is there some kind of collaborative work between the monkeys and these sellers? You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours?
We climbed up the stairs to get to the temple
it was hotter than hell that day and we managed to climb up what felt like an infinite stairs to heaven and sure enough we found this heavenly beauty.
He just couldn’t help it
This cutest little monkey drew quite a large crowd.
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>>> Next up, dinner at Jimbaran, again,  with the rest of the  family this time and this time we got to catch the famous Jimbaran sunset >>>>

Day 9 – Jimbaran Beach, Bali

We had quite a day today. Went for a swim at the infinite pool overlooking Indian Ocean, saw beautiful birds at Bali Bird Park, and went to see Kecak Dance at the a Tanah Lot where the temple sits on an ocean. We wrapped up the evening with dinner on the beach. Jimbaran is well know for it’s rows of restaurant on the beach shore. We sipped some Bintang beer, devouring made to order fresh seafood caught that morning.

This was only HALF of the food that we ordered
Happy family (see Treyton?) How could we not? Sitting by the ocean breathing the fresh ocean air, toes burried in the white sand, the smell and taste of fresh seafood, the smell of the ocean, getting tipsy on Beer Bintang. Not one soul is unhappy here on this beach.
The sister and I waiting for our food.
Jeff wished that this moment will never go away.

>>> The next day we went to see thieves of monkeys. YES they STEAL! >>>

Day 9 – Hellow Bali!

If God were to retire or took a vacation he would choose this spot. No wonder Bali is also known as “The Island of God”. After we said sayonara to Borobudur, Prambanan, The Sultan’s Palace,  and the wonderful flavors of Jogja, we arrived in Bali very very late at night.

We met up with our driver and my mom at the airport. Mom, my sister Ria and my brother Alvin arrived earlier. Unlike, Putri, Jeff and I, they decided to stay near Kuta Beach, a tourist-y place. Putri had entrusted us to book the hotel in Bali and we chose Ubud, away from the hustle and the bustle of tourist in Kuta. Where Kuta is the beach side of the island, Ubud is more of the mountain side of Bali. It took us a while to get to our hotel from the airport. The streets are winding, steep uphill and very narrow and there wasn’t much lighting on the streets. I definitely wouldn’t want to be driving in this condition.

Finally arrived at Blue Point Bay Villa, very secluded, beautifully lit hotel at night that is. Since we arrived late at night, we only got a chance to look at the beautiful pool and went down to the beach very brief. We got in to our rooms and Putri managed to pull the headboard out of the bed and unfortunately found mold. She freaked out and asked for a different room. What do you expect? it’s almost a rain forest, this area.

We were too tired to go back to the private beach and slept like a baby.

The next morning we got up to get some breakfast and went swimming. It was lovely!

Jeff was trying to watch his figure by eating right
This was my breakfast, pan fried egg noddles with all the fixin’. We call this “Mie Goreng”
Treyton enjoying the fresh squeezed OJ. The pastries were heaven!
Waiting for breakfast to come. Gazing over the Indian Ocean
After we filled up our bellies, we went for a swim. It was a really hot day out so it was the perfect day to cool off on this infinity pool
If you notice on the frog’s statue head you’ll see flower petals. You see this everywhere. This is one of the striking things about Bali. It’s the daily profusion of offerings to give pleasure to the gods (and the demons). 
>>> After swimming we went to Bali Bird Park. Click the link to see some of the most beautiful birds in the world >>>