Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dang Ke Cuong: Hoi An

Photo © Dang Ke Cuong-All Rights Reserved

I thought I'd feature the work of Hoi An based photographer Dang Ke Cuong, who specializes in scenes of Hoi An and its environs.

Whilst walking the streets of photogenic Hoi An, I saw some of my photo expedition group members in  Dang Ke Cuong's photography store-gallery. I joined in, and agreed with them that his photographs were admirable. I believe some were purchased by one of our group members.

I recall liking Dang's monochrome work, especially his environmental portraits and those made in the countryside of Hoi An.

Seeing his photographs of the Chinese fishing nets, Maika and I asked for Dang's assistance to set up a half day boat trip to do so, but unfortunately the previous days' storms had swelled the waters too high, and the fishermen were waiting for the water level to it couldn't be done.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stilton, Leek and Walnut Quiche

I was brought up in Stilton Cheese and pork pie country, there never seemed to be a day when either Stilton Cheese or pork pies didn't get a mention.  The 'grown ups' ate their Stilton Cheese with  Lincolnshire celery, and pork pies were eaten with home made piccalilli.  None of these appealed to me, and I would sooner have eaten mud, than eat these strange foods. It wasn't until I became a 'grown up' I began eating and appreciating Stilton Cheese.  I'm never going to be a pork pie fan, but I love the hot water pastry they are made from.  I ask hubby to let me eat the pastry from his pork pie but for some reason he always tells me it is an unreasonable request.......

Stilton Cheese, leeks and walnuts are a match made in heaven.  This quiche was really good other than one or two niggles.  There isn't much of a custard layer and the amount of walnuts used in the original recipe needed to be halved, perhaps it should be called Walnut, Leek and Stilton Quiche.

British Cheese Week is 22-30 September 2012.

Adapted recipe taken from British Baking in 2012 -

You will need:  23cm loose bottom tart tin lightly greased.

Pastry:  250g plain flour, 60g cubed chilled butter, 60g lard cubed, 3 tbsp cold water.

Filling:  40g butter, 2 leeks washed and chopped, 1 tbsp chopped Thyme leaves, 3 large eggs lightly beaten, 100ml Creme Fraiche, 100ml milk, ¼ tsp grated nutmeg, 3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan, 30g lightly toasted and finely chopped walnuts, 125g crumbled Stilton, ground black pepper.

1.  Put flour, butter and lard into a bowl, rub in until it looks like breadcrumbs add 3 tablespoons cold water, bind to make a dough.
2.  Shape into a round disc, wrap in clingwrap and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3.  Remove pastry from fridge.
4.  Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place a large baking tray in the oven to preheat.
5.  Roll the pastry and line the tart tin.  Prick the base and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Line the pastry case with crumpled baking parchment, fill with baking beans.  Place the tin on the preheated baking tray and put in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper and baking beans.
6.  Brush the base of the tart with some of the beaten egg from the filling and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
7.  Set the oven temperature to 180°C .
8.  Take a large frying pan and melt the butter.  Add the leeks and cook until softened.  Stir in the thyme, grind over black pepper, cool.
9.  Add the creme fraiche to the beaten eggs and milk.  Add the Parmesan and nutmeg, season with black pepper.
10. Spread the leeks over the base of the cooked tart, sprinkle over half of the walnuts.  Scatter over the  crumbled Stilton cheese.  Pour the egg mixture over.  Sprinkle over the remaining walnuts.
11. Bake 35-40 minutes until the filling is set and golden brown.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Catru: A Vietnamese Musical Tradition

I had never heard of Catru before, but I happened to find a brochure about it in the wonderful Golden Silk Boutique Hotel, whose location and staff made it our home during my Vietnam photo expedition.

Reading that Catru is a Vietnamese religious music genre, and born in the tradition of northern Vietnam, I made it an option for the participants of the expedition to attend one of its performances which are held in a restored 110 years old building (known as nha co) at 87 Ma May street in Old Hanoi. My reasoning from a practical standpoint was simple; record the performance so as to provide ambient background to the multimedia projects produced out of this trip.

Catru was already played during the 15th century during ceremonies at the Vietnamese court, but during the 1950s fell in disrepute due to its association with opium and the like.

The musician/singer in the above photograph is Ms Pham Thi Hue, a famous practitioner of this art form, who performed beautiful musical pieces during the hour-long session.

Catru Thang Long has a wonderful website, with video clips and background.

Trip Report: Van Wyck Mtn Airplane Crash Sites 9/22/12 – 9/23/12

A few months back I did a three day trip where I bushwhacked to an airplane crash site next to Friday Mountain in the Catskills. You can see that trip report here in Part 1 and Part 2. Well, the report of the trip inspired some of my friends from Blades and Bushcraft (Beanbag, Son O’, and Mibuwolf) to do a similar trip. We did some searching around and discovered that on Van Wyck Mountain, also in the Catskills, there were two separate airplane crash sites. On top of that, they were not nearly as remote as the one on Friday Mountain, and could be reached without having to go into the spruce cap where bushwhacking becomes a nightmare. We figured it could be done as an overnight trip. We would be bushwhacking the whole way without catching any trails. Here was the plan:


We would start at the parking lot on Peekamoose Road, marked as (P) on the map. From there we would take a bearing and go up to the firts airplane crash site, marked as (1). From that site we would take a bearing to the second crash site (2) and follow it there. Then it would be a climb to the top of Van Wyck Mountain. At that point we would descent down the east side of the mountain until we reach the saddle between the two peaks. We planned on camping somewhere in that location. The following day we would go down until we reach Bear Hole Brook, and we would follow it out to the road and parking lot. If you are wondering, the reason why we didn’t want to try going directly from Van Wyck Mountain to Bear Hole Brook is that the side of the mountain at that location looked to be extremely steep.

The trip seemed doomed from the beginning. Here is what the weather forecast looked like on the day before we set out:

weather catskills ny - Google Search-151943

That is, rain with severe thunderstorms on Saturday, and rain with the temperatures going down into the 30s (F) on Sunday. But, we all manned up, pulled out our rain gear and arrived at the parking lot at 9AM as agreed.

We quickly encountered our first obstacle. In our way was a small river, that none of us had paid much attention to. We all managed to make it about half way through by rock hopping, before we realized that there was no easy way to the other side. We decided to take off our shoes and go straight through. It appears that Beanbag decided that was too uneventful, and figured he would throw one of his shows across to the other bank of the river before taking off the other one. Predictably, the shoe landed in the river, but miraculously stayed floating upright long enough for Mebuwolf to run in and get it. After that, everyone managed to cross without a problem.


The initial part of the trip was steep, and slow going. We had to stop often to catch our breath and get water.


There wasn’t much time to look around for the wildlife, but during some of the stops, I was able to take a few pictures.




We were lucky in that the rain held out. However, everything was soaked, and the sky remained overcast. Once we started gaining elevation, we entered a thick layer of fog, which made everything dripping with condensation. While it was not technically raining, we felt like we were walking through water.


We kept to our bearing, continuing the climb. At one point I started to suspect that we were drifting a bit to the left of our bearing due to the terrain. It was easier to notice from the back of the line where I was at that point. So, when we reached the elevation where we expected the airplane to be (elevation courtesy of Beanbag’s phone), we split up and did a canvas search of the area to our right. Not far from where we were, we saw the airplane wreckage.




It looked to be a an old 60’s jet plane. Son O’ was able to identify the model, but I don’t remember what it was. We were very lucky to find it, because we were indeed off of our bearing, and we made a lucky guess where to stop climbing and canvas the area. We thought this would be a good time for a group picture.


When we were finished looking around the plane, we decided to get lunch, as it was about noon. I had the same crackers, pepperoni slices and dried tomatoes I had on my trip last week.


After lunch we took a bearing towards the second airplane crash site and got on our way. The fog continued to limit our visibility and cover everything is moisture.


The big plus side was that the terrain had more or less leveled out, making the trek a lot more pleasant. I was able to snap a few pictures of interesting plants.





This time we stuck close to our bearing, and before long we ran right into the second airplane crash site.





The debris of this airplane was scattered over a very large area. There were pieces everywhere, and what was left was heavily damaged. In the above pictures you can see pieces of the engine block which had fallen apart. We got some rest at the site. I had a quick snack.


From here all that was left to do was the last uphill section of the trip, up to Van Wyck Mountain. For a while, the elevation change was very gradual. Again, I couldn’t help myself and I had to take pictures of random things.




Soon however the elevation started to change quickly. While not the steepest slopes that I have ever climbed, the fact that it had been raining, and everything was wet, made it extremely difficult to climb. The soil kept sliding out from under our feet. We had to do a lot of scrambling to make it up the mountain.



Eventually we made it to the top of Van Wyck Mountain. It wasn’t a particularly exciting place. Between the fog and the heavy tree cover, there wasn’t much to see. Besides, it was getting to be close to 5PM, and with sunset less that two hours away, we had to make our way don’t the mountain in search of a suitable place to set up camp. We descended down the eastern slope, leaving the mountain behind us in the fog.


Looking at the above picture now, that cliff kind of looks like a human face. It’s not something I noticed when taking the picture.

We followed the terrain down until we reached the saddle. The whole time we searched for a good camp location, but could not find anything. Everything was covered in rocks and holes. Eventually, we decided to split up and find individual locations where we could set up. We picked a central spot where we made a fire despite the wet weather, courtesy of some fat wood brought by Beanbag and some birch bark that Mebuwolf had collected along the way.


I managed to clear out a large enough area to set up my GoLite Shangri-La 3. I had switched to the smaller shelter exactly for reasons such as this one. All that was left to see if if the performance would be good enough.


After setting up camp, we ate dinner by the fire. Just as the sun set, the fog cleared, and was replaced by the thunderstorm that we were awaiting. I grabbed my things and headed back to my tent. It was not easy to find in the dark, even with my flashlight. Eventually, I got in, took off my wet clothing, jumped in my sleeping bag. I don’t know if you can see anything from this picture, but it was really coming down.


Soon we started getting some lightning. The first one was so close, I was sure it landed in our camp site. Mibuwolf who was watching the storm from his hammock, and gathering the rainwater from his tarp, saw the lightning hit a few dozen feet from where Beanbag’s tent was set up. The rain continued on and off through the night, but was over by the time we got up in the morning. The temperatures dropped into the 30s (F). By the time we got up, they were in the los 40s (F). I had to sleep with both my fleece shirts on in order to stay warm.

The GoLite Shangri-La 3 held up well during the storm. However, I did have a problem. There was a fair amount of condensation on the inside of the tent. I get the same thing with the Shangri-La 5, but with the Shangri-La 3, the footprint is small enough that during the night, the sleeping bag by my feet, touched the wall of the tent. It then ended up absorbing a lot of the condensation, getting it wet. This could end up being a real problem.

So, we all got up, ate breakfast, and packed up as quickly as we could. I don’t think any of us anticipated it to actually get as cold as it did. Combined with the fact that everything was wet, it was not fun weather. We were all pretty familiar with this kind of weather, and knew how to deal with it, but these are the exact conditions in which people get hypothermia.

We set out south, going down the slope, heading towards Bear Hole Brook. Soon we started intersecting small streams that fed into the river. We more or less followed them down until we reached the river.


The previous evening, while we were heading down Van Wyck Mountain, I had twisted my knee. I have a prior injury there, and it made it very difficult for me to walk down hill. The descent down to the river was very painful. Luckily, the guys were willing to wait for me. Things got better from that stand point once we reached the river and the terrain leveled out.

We did however underestimate the difficulty of walking along side the river. While it was easy from a navigational stand point, the terrain was not easy to follow, requiring us to cross the river numerous times in order to find accessible ground.



For much of the time, we had to walk along banks covered by stinging nettles.


We stopped for lunch near one of the flatter sections of the river. Luckily, the weather was nice. No rain cloud in sight.


We also stopped for water, which demonstrated a serious problem with my gear selection. As I mentioned last week, I have replaced my bladder for the Sawyer Squeeze filter with a 1L Platypus bladder. It worked well last week, but this time I could not get a good connection between the bladder and the filter. For some reason the threads would not align. Clearly this is not acceptable. I’ll have to look for a different bladder. I can’t afford to have to play with it each time in order to get it to work. This time, the more I tried, the worse it got, so at the end, I just used a chlorine dioxide tablet.

While the shelter and the filter bag were disappointments when it came to gear, on the up side, I was very happy with my new backpack, the REI Flash 62. SInce the last trip I have managed to get all the adjustments right, and on this trip despite the terrain, it was extremely comfortable. It also held up very well. Initially I was worried that it may get damaged bushwhacking, but it held up fine.

We continued our slow progress down the river. I took some pictures along the way.



After a while, we reached a point along one of the river banks where there was a clear camp site made most likely by a hunter or fisherman. At that point we knew that we were getting close to the end of the trip.


Across the river seemed to be the beginning of a path, most likely the one that these people have been taking to this locations. It wasn’t marked on any of the maps we had. We decided to take it, especially because it was impossible to keep following the river, which was starting to go down via a number of waterfalls.



We crossed the river and started following the path. Along the side I spotted a chunk of chaga, which Beanbag could not resist.


With a backpack full of chaga, we continued down the path until it lead us out to the road near our starting point. It was a great end to a fun and tiring trip.



The above graphs are the GPS recordings of the trip. They do not do a good job at demonstrating the effort that went into finishing the trip. The wet terrain and slippery soil made things much harder than the elevation map would lead one to believe.

Overall, a great trip with a great bunch of guys. I look forward to the next one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vacu Vin Wine Aerator - Review & Giveaway

This innovative wine gadget from Vacu Vin is simply fitted onto a bottle of red wine, it then slows down the wine flow into the glass, this allows the wine to take up extra oxygen and improves the taste. You can see the wine pouring through the transparent aerator into the glass, it should fit most red wine bottles and comes apart for washing.

The aerator can be placed over the neck of the bottle ready to pour the next glass of wine.

Hubby poured out two glasses of red wine, one straight from the bottle and one using the aerator.  His thoughts are the aerator is instant, improves the taste of the wine, and is a very well made wine gadget.

The wine aerator will make a great gift for red wine enthusiasts, it can be used at the table or even taken away with you on holiday. Price £9.95

I have been sent a second Vacu Vin Wine Aerator as a giveaway and all you have to do is enter the simple Rafflecopter below.  UK entries only - sorry.

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