Bali, isle of heavens

No other place in the world has been so highly praised for its beauty as Bali,  many temples, shrines and beautiful palaces.  Even the most remote  corners of the island, the visitor’s eye is engaged by magnificent views of these richly ornamented constructions.  Very much living shrines, they are the sites of both daily observance of the Balinese Hindu rites and more spectacularly religious festivals.

A mask dancer performing in Pura Sadia temple during the Galungan-Kuningan festival, the most important in the Hindu Balinese calendar, celebrating the victory of good over evil.  It is believed that during Galungan spirits descend to bless the earth and ascend back to the heavens on Kuningan day.  Music and dances performed in temples are considered as offerings to the deities.

Bowl of flower petals and holy water are left on temple altars after blessings or purifications rituals.  For the Balinese people, offerings of food , flowers and incense to the gods and the elements, promises a state of equilibrium where man, nature and the divine can co-exist in peace and harmony.

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IMG_0529                                Rows of fishing boats along the beach of Jimbaran.

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Carved decorative Balinese door.

Children learn to dance and play musical instrument at a very young age.

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31Women dressed up in their splendid attire in preparation for a temple festivity.

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Barong a character in Balinese mythology He is the king of leader spirit of the host of good.  Banas Pati raja the good spirit which animates the Barong.  The character of the Barong often accompanied by two monkeys (dancers dressed in monkey costume)

 

 

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Haunted Paris

Paris and surrounding are full of ghost stories that has been told  many times.  People who have interest in this subject will explore all haunted spot.  Whether is in Paris or other places, they will find what they are looking for.   Here are stories that will intrigue readers in Halloween night.

CATACOMBS OF PARIS

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It is said to be haunted by strange orbs and human figures from different centuries.  there have been reports of voices being heard through the walls and the feeling of being stared at.  Another legend of the catacomb is the green man.  At the end of eighteenth century, the quarry men working on the stones designed to shape modern Paris saw a green man leaping through the galleries and hiding in wells and cellars.  Those who saw him were cursed, and even today people will feel a presence behind them without ever being able to identify if  it was the  “greenman”

THE RED MAN OF TUILERIES

It seems that the palace of the Tuileries is haunted by a butcher, named John the Flayer. He worked for Queen Catherine de Medici, who had a passion for the occult sciences. The henchman was in charge of the queen’s relationship with wizards and warlocks.  But Jean  started to know a little too much, and Catherine de Medici had him murdered. Before he died, he threatened his murderer Neuville: “I’ll come back to haunt you.  He did not live well the following days. He felt like he was being followed. The Queen’s astrologer, Cosme Ruggieri, went to check the scene of the crime and found nothing , only a pool of blood. Shortly after, the astrologer had a vision of John, who predicted that the queen would die “near St. Germain.” Catherine de Medici then fled from all places bearing this name. It was in her death bed that she was overtaken by fate. His confessor was called Julien de Saint Germain.   Since then, the red man of the Tuileries appeared to Louis XVIII, to Marie-Antoinette, prisoners at the Tuileries before  execution, to Napoleon the day before the Battle of Waterloo and in the inferno of Communards burning the palace of the Tuileries.

PALACE OF VERSAILLES

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Once home to the French royal family between 1682 to 1789.  A few tourists and employees have seen people in 18th century clothing.  There have been sightings of Queen Marie Antoinette, orbs and ghostly presences in tourists’ photos and descriptions of being touched by the  unseen .

 

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THE MARIE BRIDGE PHANTOM

It is said during the German occupation, a French woman who was married to a resistance had an affair with a Nazi officer.  She was a spy for her husband.  On a cold night she waited for him on Marie bridge,  he did not come and she froze to death.   People would hear her sobbing in the dark on the bridge.  A story do doubt destined to torment the collaborators.

PHANTOM OF MONTSOURIS PARK

The phantom  of Isaure de Montsouris would haunt this park located in the south of Paris since his assassination with ax by a band of looters in 1831.  One would regularly see his specter stroll near the Bardo, a small monument of the park which has mysteriously burned in 1991, while 15 million francs had been used for its renovation.  Since then, the silhouette of the beheaded has been seen, moans have been heard.  Montsouris park also a place where Dr. Guillotin tested for the first time his macabre guillotine in 1792 .

 

FATHER LACHAISE CEMETERY

The largest cemetery in Paris, France.  It is the most visited cemetery in the world and is said to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Europe.  Some people have experienced overwhelming shivers and a sense of unease, while others have experienced a  feeling of calmness.  Claims have been made of photos  of visitors and investigators revealing orbs and ghostly apparitions.

 

 

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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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.

 

 

 

Rhodes…..Crusader Castles and Ottoman Splendor

They were the Knights Crusaders who lead the Holy wars in the Middle Ages. Among them were the legendary Knights Templars and the Knights Hospitallers. These Christians soldiers recognizable through their long coats with a cross were powerful groups backed by the highest level of society, economically prosperous and politically influential. After the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of the first crusaders in the 11th century the Knights Hospitallers was created in response to the need of caring for the poor and sick pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. The Knights Hospitallers were closely linked to the Hospital of Jerusalem. After the downfall of Byzantine Empire and the rise of Islam the Knights Hospitallers who later differentiated themselves from their military counterpart the Templars, finally established their stronghold on the island of Rhodes. And so our story began …The year 1309 and they were called the “Knights of Rhodes”.

They built fortresses around the island and succeeded in holding off Muslim attacks until they finally succumbed under Suleiman The Magnificent who took over the island to become part of the Ottoman Empire. Remnants of the fabulous centuries of the Knights Hospitallers can still be seen in Rhodes Old Town as well as ruins of some of their fortresses perched on hills. Besides military architecture that makes up the island landscape, are the beautiful Ottoman buildings in Rhodes Old Town. Even if the Greek Orthodox religion is predominant, there is still a minority of Muslim Turkish community – legacy of the Ottoman Empire…


Rhodes Old Town a World Heritage site is an amalgamation of fabulous architectural accomplishment illustrating different settlers from Byzantine Empire to the Order of Saint John Knights Hospitallers and the Ottoman Empire. I love scouring the alleys of Rhodes Old Town which make me feel as if I am thrown back into the time of the Crusaders. The street of the knights is where the action takes place. Knights from different origins would

have their flags placed in front of their houses. Walk through the many streets lined with Knights palaces interwoven with beautiful mosques, public baths and stop by the Ottoman cemetery with its mosque and an elegant minaret. So now let’s go on our historic walk and discover some fascinating places in Rhodes …

 

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