The church (Halloween story)

Halloween night is the best time to tell ghostly story to anyone who dare to listen.  A cup of hot cider around crackling wood fire make this night memorable.

Feeling the need to have a short walk, I said to grandma I am going to visit the ruins of a church. You are going there she asked. Yes, I answered, just to look around. She started to mentioned it was haunted. Oh grandma do you believe such nonsense. She looked at me in silence with her convincing look.

I turn around walk to my room and gathered my camera bag and start to walk toward the church. An afternoon walk in the heat of the day. Common in the tropic.

Gradually I could see the church ruins. I walk faster to get there before sundown. In the tropic night time comes early at around four by five darkness arrived.

The church was built by the Dutch in 1800 and burned down by the village people in 1940 before the Japanese invaded Indonesia.  Unfortunately   there were fatalities.  Some people did not have time to escape the church as it was full with congregation.

By now the church lay in ruins only the walls and altar made out of concrete still standing. Finally arrived at the ruins, the church wall covered with meandering vine even a small tree growing near the walls. Everywhere I see only weeds and other vegetation.   I took a shot whenever I can with my camera. Then I heard a soft noise coming from the altar. Turn around to see what was that noise,   I could not see anything. May be an animal, perhaps a dog or a cat or something else.

I did not think much of it and kept looking for a good shot. All of a sudden I saw something in front of the altar. A white mist appeared slowly like a slow motion movie changing into the shape of a priest with white robe  holding a cross. Next to the apparition another two priests appeared . I was transfix with the scene in front of me. I stood still not moving.

The three apparitions was performing a ritual. Still looking at the performance I try to walk out but could not as if my feet were glued to the weedy ground.

The first priest turned around, I saw a grotesque face looking at me, I got a chill right away. Then I heard a voice telling me I don’t belong here. Go away.  As soon as I heard the priest voice the three apparitions disappear.  After the incident, the church felt peaceful.  I heard bird chirping nearby, it seem while these phenomenon happen every living thing went silence. By now I have the strength to turn around and run as fast as I could. Half way from the church I stop gathered my composure and walk as if nothing happen.

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Halloween Pumpkin

PUMPKIN PATCH

At this time of the month October there are plenty of pumpkin to choose from the patch or grocery store.    Pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbita family, large trailing vine with heart-shaped leaves.  they are in reality a winter squash.

Pumpkin are high in vitamin A, B, and C, iron, phosphorous and potassium.

About 99  percent of the pumpkins sold in the grocery store are used as jack-o-lanterns.  these large, deep orange color pumpkins is a variety called Connecticut Field are stringy to eat and high water content.  they are not good for eating, suitable for carving only.

Smaller pumpkin called “pie” or sweet  flesh that is less watery making these the best for eating.  I grow this variety in my garden excellent for pies, quick breads, cakes and muffins.
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My favorite sweet pumpkins for eating are winter luxury and New England Pie.  winter luxury will grow 5 to 7 pounds, it has a unique netted skin, dense and sweet tasting.  New England pie  will grow 4 to 7 pounds, dry, stringless and relatively starchy.

The best temperature to store pumpkin is 50F to 55F, with relatively low humidity.  Storing in high humidity will rot the pumpkins.  Store away from light in area with  good ventilation.

To keep your home-grown pumpkins or store-bought, cut them into slice pieces or large chunks nd microwaved, boiled, baked in oven or steamed.  Puree cooked pumpkin meat, freezes well and can be kept frozen up to a year.

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FOR DELICIOUS HALLOWEEN TREAT………

 

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

 

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Roasted pumpkin seeds, also known as “pepitas” are wonderful nutritious snack !

Cut the pumpkin, scrape the seeds and put them in colander to rinse.   Remove any pulp strings. (this can be tedious) and dry thoroughly. Put seeds in a large bowl, add a few drops of olive oil (I like extra virgin).  Spread on cookie sheet line with parchment paper.  Roast in the oven at 375F until seeds are golden brown color.  Keep and eye on them and move them around occasionally to ensure even roasting.  Cool completely  and store in air tight container.   If this sound too much to make buy in health food store or in grocery store with bulk section.

HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN CARVING FACTS

The most prominent Halloween symbol is of course the carved pumpkin with lit candle inside.  This is an Iris tradition of carving a lantern, which goes back centuries.  this lantern usually carved from a potatoes or turnips.  The pumpkin carving was first associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkin was more readily available much larger and easier to carve.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN AND HAVE A SAVE ONE………..
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Orchid The Jungle Queen

Orchid, exotic from the far east.  Exquisite , dainty, fragile, simply gorgeous.  my late father an orchid enthusiast had well over 100+ plants in his collection.  As I am the photographer in the family, I captured these beauty every time I am in his garden.

Caring orchid in the tropic which is their environment is easy, but in another part of the world thy need a lot of pampering.  More important humidity, warm temperature, no soil needed just add bark in their container.  In the wild orchid grows latched on to trees, they absorbed food through their leaves.

I remember as a child growing up in the tropic, when my mother needed vanilla, she would go to the garden and harvested the slender dark bean.  fresh vanilla has a strong distinctive taste.  So delicious taste better than those bottled vanilla extract.  these photos taken all with film Canon SLR macro lens.

 

 

 

Devil Flowers

Arum flowers (arum maculatum) are one of my favorite and although it is devoid of sweet smelling fragrances their shapes are beautifully sensual and photogenic. Among the weirdest species I came across were those found on the hills of Crete (Greece). The shape is amazing with its long thick spadix protruding from its very dark purple spathe. Botanically is called dracunlus vulgaris.

Many names are given, Voodoo lily, Dragon flower but I like to call it Devil flower not only because it gives me that somber feeling when looking at it, but it also sends out a terrible smell which reminds me of the unique Amorphophallus titanum that only grows in the rainforest of Sumatra Indonesia.

This particular gigantic flower which can reached up to the height of 10 feet also gives out a similar foul odor. Originally found in the Mediterranean and the Baltic regions, the Devil flower only blooms around spring time.

 

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How to roast a perfect engagement chicken

The title and recipe intrigued me so much I have to make it.      A fashion editor gave this recipe to her assistant who made the chicken for her boyfriend, who a month later, asked her to marry him.  How is that for a recipe.  to make story short the assistant gave the recipe to others similar to chain letter but with beautiful result.  When the fashion editor heard about her recipe she called it engagement roast chicken.

If you have not roast a chicken which is my favorite you need to know how to prepare before roasting.

Remove giblets, these are the neck, gizzard, heart and liver, usually packed in small paper bag inside the chicken cavity.  Wash chicken inside and outside, then take a paper towel pat the chicken cavity and outside.

Before roasting, use your fingers to remove the fatty flaps under the skin near the cavity (so there is less fat to trim later)

Tuck the wing tips under the chicken to secure tips and prevent them from burning and to help steady the bird.

Bring the legs together and tie with kitchen string or in a pinch, heavy duty  thread. to secure.  This help the chicken brown evenly.

If using a standard meat thermometer, insert point into thickest part of thigh, next to body (be sure point touches meat, not bone)  If using an instant read thermometer, start

testing after 10 minutes of toasting, placing thermometer point in thickest part of thigh.  Because instant read thermometer is not oven safe, remove it if chicken needs to roast longer.

Coming  back to the story of the engagement roast chicken,  this is truly a delicious meal.  I made it many times over, still do, easy to make.  Try the recipe, give it to a friend and who knows……………..wedding bells in the horizon.

1 whole chicken (approx.3 pounds)
2 medium Lemons
Fresh Lemon juice (1/2 cup)
Kosher of sea salt
Ground black pepper

Place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400F. Wash chicken inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temperature (about 15 minutes).

Pat dry with paper towels. Pour lemon juice all over the chicken (inside and outside). Season with salt and pepper. Prick the whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity. (tip: If lemons are hard, roll on countertop with your palm to get juices flowing.)

Place the bird breast-side down on rack in a roasting pan, lower heat to 350F and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn it breast-side up (use wooden spoons!); return it to oven for 35 minutes more.

Test for doneness, a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh should read 180F, or juices should run clear when chicken is pricked with a fork. continue baking if necessary. Let chicken cool for a few minutes before carving. Serve with juices.

Keep it simple. I served the roast chicken with steamed new potatoes, toss with fresh parsley from my herb garden. Boiled green beans, sliced carrots and steamed asparagus, cut tough ends, mix the vegetables then top with butter.  Delicious.

If you want to serve with a glass of wine, Gallo of Sonoma is a good choice, smooth with a touch of citrus or your favorite wine.

Bon Appetit

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Summer Gardening Tips

Mid-summer my garden still thriving in spite of the heat. Usually in the month of August here in the McKenzie valley, Oregon warm not overly hot without humidity. Since late spring when all seedlings are in the ground, I have been faithfully weeding, watering, and fertilizing to keep them healthy until harvest day. Next summer, if you want to keep your garden growing and being able to harvest a bountiful vegetables from your garden, you might want to consider this.

In addition using well-known water wise techniques such as drip irrigation and mulching, try grouping your vegetables according to their water needs when you plant them. That way you can vary their amount of water you give different plants of your garden. In general try giving your crops no more water than they need, rather than as much as they can withstand.

Mulching the plants is also beneficial suppressing the weeds and keep the moisture in. Use chemical free grass clippings this is important because you do not want toxic substance in your vegetables. They also can kill your plants. Compost as well as shredded leaves are good for mulching and an added benefit for the vegetables.

To fertilize I use a combination or compost tea and 2 tablespoons of fish powder per gallon diluted with water. I make my own compost tea, you can get them in the nursery, but, do ask how they make their compost. You do not want to feed your plants with unknown ingredients.

 

 

Lao Culinary Journey

Although I am not too familiar with Laotian cuisine, my trip to Luang Prambang was an eye opener for tis traditional food.  I tried some of its many good restaurants serving local dishes.  A stopover at Tamarind for its delicious yummy  ping gai grilled marinated chicken served with sticky rice, al fresco luncheon in a lovely Lao Lao tropical garden tasting the traditional laap an appetizing minced chicken salad with sticky rice.

A relaxing dinner in an colonial style building of Tamnak Lao while getting local with its delightful grilled  followed by or lam vegetable meat stew and of course a  visit across the Nam Khan river using the hanging bamboo bridge and spend an afternoon at the popular Dyen Sbai while munching away savory local snacks.

khai peng or Mekong is the traditional local snack. Nori style algae these crispy thin sheets of green riverweeds dipped in hot seasonal oil sprinkled with sesame seeds are served with jaew bong aromatic chili dip specialty of Luang Prabang. I love this local chili paste made of chilies, palm sugar, garlic, kafir lime, galangal and dried buffalo skins. Delicious with sticky rice !

 


Like many Asian food a variety of spices and local herbs are used in their cooking and being curious I tried Or Lam the traditional meat stew with its unusual taste of sakhan the local spicy wood Another typical northern Laos dish is the Laap or meat salad which can be made with chicken, duck or pork. My minced chicken laap flavor with local herbs (chili, mint, Asian basil) and fish sauce I had at Lao Lao garden was simply divine. As for drinks and being in a tropical climate, while many like to immerse themselves in the local  ,beer lao,  I love to quench my thirst with fresh tamarind juice.

I also had a go with its many French style cafés while enjoying the Mekong vista. An afternoon pause at the Saffron café can be quite rewarding after cycling around town and for a real French style breads, is my daily morning visits to Le Banneton bakery … and here are some shots I took journeying into the land of northern Lao cuisine …which gives a numbing sensations of the palate with a lingering bitter sweet aftertaste (somewhat similar to the sichuan pepper chilies.   The stew is a mixture of eggplants, young bamboo shoots, pork, dried buffalo skins, phak tam ling local greens cooked with lemongrass, chilies and local spices.

Another typical northern Laos dish is the Laap or meat salad which can be made with chicken, duck or pork. My minced chicken laap flavored with local herbs (chilli, mint, Asian basil) and fish sauce I had at Lao Lao garden was simply divine. As for drinks and being in a tropical climate, while many like to immerse themselves in the local beerlao, I love to quench my thirst with fresh tamarind juice.