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  • 17 May 2016
    A friend and I went for a walk in the early hours last Saturday around the Magic Hedge and the Montrose Dunes. We weren't early enough to catch the Short-eared Owl that was seen earlier that day but the hedge was alive with Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Even on this chilly and brief visit I managed another life bird, a small flock of Common Redpolls in the clearing. We ambled out to the end of the pier before returning carefully in the shadows behind the hedge hoping to find some secret shaded spot sheltering an owl. No such luck. We did however notice a young Red-tailed Hawk that had garnered the attention of a few photographers so we made our way to join the small group of onlookers. It relocated to another branch but miscalculated and came up a bit short resulting in this lovely awkward moment. Once it decided to leave it gave a few head bobs and allowed me to catch a moment I don't photograph very often, a Redtail in full crouch, spring-loading those legs with its wings just beginning to unfurl. Branches in the way meant tucking in the left wing until... finally clear of the obstructions the hawk flew right at us. It perched in a spot with a better view of the park and several more escape/hunting options. This raised the ire of a juvenile Cooper's Hawk who materialized out from those same shady areas we had just walked through and silently mobbed the oblivious young Redtail. The Coop eventually got fed up and tore off toward the south triggering a small wave of alarm calls from the bushes below as it departed. The Redtail soon left and made a half-hearted stoop on some foraging squirrels. Unlike the Cooper's Hawk though, it flew in a wide circle around the park looking for other opportunities. I heard a local photographer mention he had seen this young bird in the area for at least a week if not more. Perhaps we shall meet again.
    39165 Posted by Alina Borhrisch
  • 17 May 2016
    Weather update: I haven’t seen blue sky here for the past few weeks. It’s the burning season, when people burn newly harvested rice stalks to prepare for the next crop.  So the rice paddies behind my house have been all smoky and fiery. It looks like part of a battlefield, or my grandmother’s countryside kitchen back in the 1980s when she cooked with leaves, straw and rice husks in humid and rainy weather… Two weeks ago my husband and I discovered a new restaurant where they served amazing banana flambé using Vietnamese short bananas. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of regular bananas, but I would die hard for these chubby Vietnamese ones. If you are not familiar with them, I wrote about them briefly last August in this banana fritter recipe. And so after having dessert at the restaurant, I’ve been hooked on experimenting with Vietnamese bananas in different desserts. That is unusual for me because I love them so much I normally rush to eat them fresh off the bunch. I asked my husband to hang the green bananas and he turned them into this masterpiece. The dish I’m introducing today is chè chuối, or banana chè. Chè is Vietnamese traditional slow-cooked dessert. It’s usually bean, rice or corn-based, served warm in the winter and cold with shaved ice in the summer. I wrote more about chè here in this Vietnamese floating mochi dessert in case you missed it. Besides bananas, this dish uses coconut milk, tapioca and roasted peanuts, three popular ingredients in Southern Vietnamese desserts. I slow cook banana in coconut milk until soft, then add tapioca to enhance the texture. Finally, I drizzle smashed roasted peanuts on top before serving. It’s super hot here so I want mine cold, but it’s also delicious when it’s served warm. Watch the video below to see how to make it for yourself. Chúc ngon miệng!
    7316 Posted by Alina Borhrisch
  • 17 May 2016
    Every now and again I offer to teach meditation locally and the ad has gone into the local paper and there have been a few calls. One from Dulci, who has been before in years past, and others who are new to me and perhaps this meditation. When and if it takes place is entirely up to the people who want to take part. I can be flexible on timing up to a point, and because there are no costs involved doing it from home there is no charge. I prefer to leave money out of it anyway. Anyone who sees the need for peace of mind can do this meditation. It’s far simpler than it reads. So, if you are reading this and are local and want to learn contact me and we’ll take it from there. A niche Orb Spider with a web where no fly would find it, between high ridges of bark on a tree. *Remember to click the pictures for a better sense … Nature knows best for nature. Or something’s not right … don’t believe that for a minute. An unusual find in the long grass, a Flower Beetle at rest at end of day, at end of season. Tiny Jumping Spider, lives and hunts on the vertical, usually found on trees often stalking wandering ants. Surprise, a piece of forest fruit against the darkening sky through the oof (out of focus) forest canopy. This will be a Ladybird soon, still forming inside her shell. A giant Robber Fly resting in the afternoon. Time enough for 2 shots and it was away. Larva of some kind, can’t recall now, munching away on gum tree leaf. They flick that tail when disturbed. Probably as well not to cuddle it. Cockroach, shy and elusive. Not the kind to enter the house and eat your food. Mother Shield Bug. Hiding her brood from me. Maternal instinct at work in the smallest creatures. And back in the garden, a Harlequin Fly – yes, just made it up. Tiny jet black Weevil. Almost too small to shoot and feature. These pictures are of the odd ones that aren’t often posted these days. There is something remarkable about each, in their way. It’s nature’s common variety of weird and wonderful we don’t often see. It is a form of meditation to really look at something, an image for instance. If you focus on seeing without thinking you’ll see what I mean. Thinking is in most cases always trying to get in on the act. See the colour, the form, look into the detail. See or sense the space it all happens in. That’s all sense. And you can do this in any situation, any time or place that doesn’t actually require thinking for it to be or happen. The way to keep thinking out is to keep coming back to seeing. Focus on seeing. Look, don’t think, by constantly returning to seeing or sensing. After a while thinking fades as a compulsion and in time it becomes a pleasure to do this. Looking at these images is one form of meditation. Another is smelling the flowers, feeling the breeze, hearing the birds – or anything that requires the focus of attention on one sense or another, that you can exercise ‘not thinking’ in. This focusing of attention on sense, on the ‘outer’, is the reciprocal of and complimentary to the focus of attention on the ‘inner’ sensation of the body. The tingling or pressure that is always there, which you probably already observe to some degree. It is this focus on the inner that eventually, in time, amounts to sustainable peace of mind. Peace from the thinking mind and the emotion thinking stirs. What other peace is there a need of, really. If there is inner peace then surely the outer must follow. Once you get the idea you’ve got it, it never leaves you so you never have to depend on another to be able to do it again. Though, until you master the practise, it does help to be guided by someone who has done it before you. As in all things …
    1970 Posted by Alina Borhrisch
Arts & Culture 2,730 views May 17, 2016
Insalata Sushi for a Unique Salad

Insalata Sushi is a Japanese style known as chirashi sushi featuring vinegared sushi rice, but this version includes prosciutto.

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While a sushi salad using Italian ingredients may sound a bit odd at first, hear me out before you pass judgement. Unlikerolled sushi, this style of sushi is called chirashi sushi in Japan. Traditionally chirashi sushi is a pile of vinegared sushi rice with seasoned vegetables mixed in, and toppings such as fish, vegetables and herbs scattered on top (“chirashi” means “scattered”).

Insalata Sushi is a Japanese style known as chirashi sushi featuring vinegared sushi rice, but this version includes prosciutto.

It’s a colorful dish that’s perfect for bringing to a potluck, but you can only use it so many times before people start to get bored. That’s why I have a couple different variations in my repertoire that I switch between. This colorful take swaps rice wine vinegar for white balsamic and olive oil, to season the rice. A handful of fresh basil and fennel leaves gives the rice a marvelous fresh flavor, and the whole thing is topped with cherry tomatoes, flat-leaf parsley and prosciutto di Parma.

Insalata Sushi is a Japanese style known as chirashi sushi featuring vinegared sushi rice, but this version includes prosciutto. width=

The best part of about this is its flexibility. If you don’t have basil and fennel, tarragon and sage is delicious. To make this vegan, simply omit the prosciutto. I also love having this salad with small pieces of fresh mozzarella. If you like something a little more intensely flavored, some thinly sliced red onion, or garlic chips (fried garlic) make some great toppings as well.

Insalata Sushi is a Japanese style known as chirashi sushi featuring vinegared sushi rice, but this version includes prosciutto.

The most complicated part of the dish is making the sushi rice (which isn’t all that hard). I’ve included an abridged explanation in the recipe below but check out my full sushi rice tutorialfor the detailed step-by-step process.