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Hairy Balls and Butterflies April 05 2013

Monarch Caterpillar on Hairy Balls
This beautiful story all began from a casual weekend spent at the nursery.  I saw some plants with funky balloon like balls!  Yes, they are called Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)!  Uh...it was love at first sight...so I grabbed 2 of them and brought them home.  The first plant I put down didn't like its home so much, but the second one was in full sun, and it blossomed!
Hairy Balls

Hairy Ball Flowers (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Hairy balls are so fast growing in the Spring and form beautiful clusters of flowers.  The shape of the flowers remind me of orchards.  Although the sap of this plant is poisonous, there are still loved by the caterpillars.  In December 2012, black caterpillars with yellow and white stripes were all over this 5.5 ft tall tree!  These caterpillars drink the sap to protect themselves from predators.

Fast fordwarding...
Butterfly in Cocoon
Now it's March 2013!  I started noticing the cocoons were hanging everywhere!  By April 2013 the beautiful Monarchs were born.  This entire week, I've set out my camera hoping to catch one of them when it's breaking out of its shell.  Sadly, the one I followed didn't make it.  The shell got harder and more transparent then it fell off the branch.  :( Monarch Butterfly with Injured Wings
This entire week was such a treat for me.  Each day I got to see a new butterfly being born.  Some were healthy and a couple had wings that were damaged.  My boyfriend and I tried to feed them nectar and kept one of them in the greenhouse since it was still cold at night.  The one that slept in the greenhouse got better the next day.  I got to carry it in my hand and set it free.  This has been such an amazing experience. Holding Monarch Butterfly
Butterfly on my Gynura Procumbens
Here is where the caterpillars metamorphosed, grew wings and learned to fly.  I hope they will come back and visit from time to time, and maybe send their children back to do this again.

Garden Salad November 22 2012

Panscy Salad

When I was visiting family in Seattle, we made a salad with all the veggies they grew. If you like floral scent, this salad is for you! Every spoon I put in my mouth tasted like perfume. Topping off the salad with Pansy really made the salad look so pretty! It was really refreshing having this salad with bratwurst we grilled, bought at Pike's Farmermarket. YUUUUUUUUMMY! LOL.

Home grown Loofah October 26 2012

Most of us already know loofah is a scrubbing sponge used in kitchens, and bathrooms, but did you know that loofah is also edible!?  Yes!  It makes a delicious and neutrious meal when harvested at its young and soft stage.  It is also packed with dietary fiber, vitamin C, zinc, thiamin, magnesium, iron, riboflavin, and it is low in fat and calories making it one of the ideal foods for weight loss.  It also treats jaundice (yellowing of the skin usually due to poor liver function) as it strengthens your immue system, and it helps restore and nourish your liver.

Loofah has a mild sweet taste, and are very juicy.  The inside of the loofah is white, soft almost like cotton, they don't feel watery at all, but when cooked all the liquid would fill the pan!  To make this dish, all I need to do is peel the skin, slice them, and throw them in a pan (sometimes with oil and sometimes without).  When they are cooked, I basically have a loofah soup!  Add a dash of salt (I prefer sea salt), and the dish is ready!

After my meal, I blend the skin peeled skin with some honey, and or aloe then turn it into a face/body scrub.  After scrubbing I like to leave it on my skin for about half an hour.  It helps adding moisture on my skin.
Loofah face scrub
Loofah is originated in the Arabic desserts, and they have made their way to Afraica and Asia.  This vegetable is part of the cucumber (Cucurbitaceae) family.  Yes, loofah and cucumbers are a type of guard.  They especially love the heat/humidity, sun, and moist soil.  It's a very quick satisfaction type of crop to grow since their life span is so short.  This crop grows the fastest in the late spring and throughout summer.  This vine can spread up to a few feet per day on each branch, and the loofah only takes a couple of weeks to develop to an edible size.   After the first few are ready to harvest, the other baby loofahs are already catching up.  One plant was plenty to supply a small family with a loofah to eat almost every day!  Now the weather is cooling down as we are approaching autumn, the crop is also slowing down its productivity.

The photo above, I'm holding is my mom's 2nd largest loofah!  We decided that she should let the largest grow to its max.  We shall see!  Or let it dry on the vine so we can extract the seeds for next year, and make a sponge out of it!

Loofah is such a fun vine to grow, but one should only grow it when there's a lot of space for this crazy vine to climb.  My mom had no idea it was such a fast climber plant.  Thus, with a patio the size of a hallway, this plant had really kept her busy daily training it not to climb on the house! You have been forewarned.  :)  Try the vegetable if you get a chance though!  It's very tasty.

Sand Dunes in Oregon October 18 2012

Oregon Coast

When we were heading back home from our long journey to Canada, we decided to take the long route driving along the coast. Everyone I spoke with told me we needed to do that because Oregon coast is just takes your breath away type of beauty. As excited as we were packing up to head back, our drive was nothing but rain in our sight. It rained for an entire day and throughout the night. We saw nothing but fog, and dark grey ocean. Fortunately, there was a short moment when the rain got lighter and we were able to see something on the coast. Oh, let's hurry and snap some pictures!

Though my photos were nothing like the chartreuse green forests or the cobalt blue sea, the scenary still looked peaceful and beautiful. I was happy I got to capture the Oregon Coast in a different mood.

As we arrived at the sand dunes sight, the sand were wet and heavy, holding my feet down as I climbed the tremendously high mounds, which I felt as if I was crossing mountains. Never have I felt so out of shape!

This is the place for riding ATVs and snowboards! But someone with neither of these would just have to tour the place the hard way. Nevertheless, it was still a lot of fun. I jumped around like a bunny, and didn't have to worry about getting hurt.

On our way climbing back up we overheard a ranger explaining why there are noxious weeds envading this place. Before the 1960s, this place was bare without weeds/grass or forests. Residents in this area complained about all the sand blowing into the streets so the city decided to import a grass from Europe to stablize the sand. Now the weeds are all over the coast, and people are volunteering to pull them out. On the bright side, these grasses provided enough stability for plants and trees to grow. Now known as forests.

Check out my Roadtrip gallery for more photos!

Sea Beans October 17 2012

Sea Beans
Sea Beans, AKA Salicornia virginica or American Glasswort, is a type of succulent that grows in salt marches, and on beaches.  They grow throughout many places in the world such as North American, Europe, South Asian and South Africa.  I did not know what sea beans were until I was visiting North West Pacific.  I came to a stop in the Sand Dunes in the coast of Oregon, and discovered that they grow there!  They are a common item you would see on the menu or sold at the markets in the northwest Pacific.

They can be eaten raw or cooked.  Common dishes with sea beans are seen in salads, pickling, and light stir frys with butter or olive oil.  When I got them at the farmer's market in Seattle, I did a light stir fry with a local mushroom and olive oil.  It was a super quick meal with very minimal preparation.  Though sea beans are grown in the sandy areas, but usually the part we consume are the young part  grown on the top so they felt pretty clean at the market.  I did a quick rinse and they were ready to go in the pan.

Sea beans and rice cactus
My first impression of sea beans were that they reminded me of my Rice Cactus back home.  So much details in my memory...when I put the two photos together, they have just a little resemblance.  Anyhow, the thought of eating a succulent is pretty wild!  I grow so many types of succulents, but never would I have thought to eat them!  Hahaa

Agar Agar from Ireland October 16 2012

Purple Agar Agar
One of our good friends returned from Ireland and brought us these gorgeous purple seaweed they harvested on the shore in Ireland!  They mentioned that they like to boil it down in water and use the gelatin in salad dressings.  Is this Agar Agar from Ireland then!?

Agar Agar is a type of seaweed, when boiled down it turns into gelatin, which is what many Asian desserts are made with.  Most jellos we see in the market used animal Collagen to bind, whereas most Asian countries use Agar Agar for binding.  Since Agar Agar is a type of seaweed, many vegan and vegetarians turn to this as a solution in their cooking.

Thai and Vietnamese, for example, make all types of colorful and delicious jellos and jelly desserts using Agar Agar.  If you can't get Agar Agar in seaweed form, there is the powder you can buy at some Asian grocery stores, or regular grocery stores.  If they don't carry them there, they are usually at the health food markets.  Whether it's Agar Agar in form of seaweed or powdered, I've only seen the clear kind.  Never have I seen the red/purple one like many articles mentioned.  That being said, I'm so excited to use these beautiful purple ones!!  I'll let you know what I made with them later on.  :)

Good scent brings a good night sleep October 05 2012

Jasmine Floral Arrangement
One type of flowers I love growing are the ones with wonderful fragrance. My very favorite is Jasmine. They are hardy to grow in the warmer regions, and their cuttings make really awesome arrangements! Their buds continue to develop and bloom even after they are cut. The Jasmine branches you see in the photo above were upcycled from from the previous Jasmine arrangement I made a few weeks ago! Two of the branches were completely done flowering so I removed them and added a few different leaves I grabbed from the garden. Now I have a whole new arrangement to enjoy again.

Jasmine flower
Mmmm....the fresh, sweet scent travels all throughout the house from the living area. Instead of using the chemical scent sprays or lighting candles, sometimes I also like to place them in the bedroom. Now I can be sure that I will get a good night sleep.

Mid-Autumn Festival October 02 2012

Yesterday was Mid-Autumn Festival that many Chinese celebrate.  This is a holiday that is celebrated on the 15th of every August in the Lunar calendar, which usually falls near the winter equinox in the Gregorian (Western) calendar.  This day is the memorial of the lovers Hou Yi (male)  and Chang Er (female); thus, families will gather for dinner and enjoy mooncakes together under the moonlight.

3000 years ago in China, lived an excellent archer, Hou Yi, whom one day decided he would shoot down 9 suns and let 1 stay so people and plants won't suffer from the extreme heat.   After he shot down the suns, everyone was teared with joy and pronounced him to be king.  Hou Yi married a beautiful woman, Chang Er, and lived happily after ever until one day he was granted with a magical pill called elixir that would turn anyone immortal if one were to consume it.  Having sharing this news with his wife, they decided to hid away the elixir.  Sadly someone heard their conversation, and wanted the elixir for himself.   One day when Chang Er was alone at their palace, the man came in looking to steal the elixir.  To prevent conflict, Chang Er swallowed it then quickly her body became so light that she flew high to the moon, and no longer to see her husband again.  Chang Er sacrificed herself for their country to maintain peace while her husband would only be able to see her silhouette everynight when he looks up at the moon.

Every Autumn we celebrate this day with moon cake, and other crops we harvested.  Traditional mooncakes are round with an egg yolk inside so when you sliced the cake in half, you will see a round shape resembling the moon.  Though mooncakes were made in a round shape which symbolizes eternity, but throughout generations, it had taken on many new shapes and colors.

Sliced Mooncakes
Like the photo above -- the light color filling is made with Durian ice cream, which is completely new to me!  It's made in Singapore!  For those who are not familar with Durian -- it is a fruit that you either love or hate because of its very pungent smell.  I actually fall under one of the rare categories which is neutral.  I don't really love, nor disgusted by this fruit.  I usually don't crave for it, but sure can appreciate it.

If I was in Vietnam, China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong last night...or 2 nights ago (considering time difference) I would get to see all the beautiful handcrafted paper lanterns people make for children to carry around with their friends.  The lanterns are made to look like rabbits mostly, and some of other animals then a candle is lit inside the lantern, and you'd carry it around with a bamboo stick attached to it.  Ohh...I did that when I was young...

There is something I'm not clear about though -- why is the piglet so significant on this day?  They are always displayed on the shelf with the mooncakes.  Sure, they are adorable, but I can't think of why they are part of this celebration. The pig usually comes with a few piglets.  Perhaps it signifies rebirth, a new beginning?  Whatever the reasons are, Mid-Autumn Festival is definitely an evening being with friends and family and enjoy good stories and wonderful foods.  Just like Thanksgiving.

Dutch Pancake September 26 2012

Dutch Strawberry Pancake
Oh my!  I love, love, love Dutch Pancakes!  I can have them anytime of the day.  They and a pretty quick thing to whip up in just half hour!  Yup, from prep to out of oven in just half an hour and you'll be ready to impress your lovies.  The pancake fluffs up for a few seconds when it's first out of the oven so be sure your lovies won't miss out on the presentation!

You can make this with any fruits you have.  I prefer the classic strawberries even though Dutch Pancakes usually are made with apples.

1st Dragonfruit Harvest of the Year! September 09 2012

Wendi holding dragonfruit
For the past couple of years my Drgonfruits usually isn't ready for harvest until late Autumn, but this year it's ready so much earlier!  They are so delicious and refreshing after you chill them in the fridge for a while.  I love adding them in salads or eating it plain!

My Christmas Morning January 02 2012

Like some families -- Christmas morning is the time we gather and exchange presents. Except in this home, we have hired a present unwrapper to help us opening our gifts.  Her name is Lotus Phantastic, my doggie. She loves tearing anything you give her so you can say that she absolutely loves her job, especially at Christmas time!

What stinks like rotting flesh? October 31 2011

Corpse Flower at the Huntington Library
Remember those old movies where they showed a giant flower the size of an adult that eats people? Those are not completely false. It’s actually a combination of the two types of plants — Carnivorous plants, and Corpse flower. Carnivorous plants get their nutrients from digesting flies and insects, while Corpse flower (aka Stinking flower) uses their odor to attract insects to pollinate since the flower itself cannot pollinate itself.

Corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) naturally grow in the rain-forests of Sumatra, Indonesia. The plant does not flower often, especially when it’s cultivated in a green house. It takes about 10 years to flower! Each plant has only one flower that can reach the height of 8-10 ft, and the scent is much like a rotting body. Can you imagine how strong this odor would be for a 10 ft tall flower!?

A couple years ago, I was fortunate enough to witness this flower in a place close to home, Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. Like all the odd plant lovers, I kept my eye close to the Huntington Library website to see the updates of the growth of this flower. Each day it grew a few inches to half a foot!


Stinky Plant

The first time I went to see it the flower hasn’t opened so I checked for updates on the website, and it said that it bloomed! I went there the second time, of course, hoping that I can see it in bloom since the bloom only last for about a day, or two. It was sort of unfortunate that the flower wasn’t fully open when I got there. I did managed to take some photos, and it was really awesome seeing a flower that’s taller than my tallest friend who’s 6′ 4″!


Nepenthes Rajah

Sure, the movies may exaggerate a tad about these flowers eating people, but it’s not entirely impossible. I did a little research for information about these plants eating mammals the size of humans, and found that one of the largest Carnivorous plant, Nepenthes Rajah, can swallow a frog, or any small mammals and reptiles! So in future if no human does any destructions to the rain-forests, we might find a giant Nepenthes Rajah with a human inside!


Hahaaaa…(or not…) Happy HalloweEeeEeeeeN!