Friday, May 30, 2014

Things That Go Bump in the Day

Hey all,

Sorry I missed the blog last week.  I was just so darn busy with getting packed and doing the last minute stuff before moving, I just didn't have a chance to even think about writing one.  Hopefully this week's will make up for it.

I probably should wait til Halloween to do this topic, but I can't.  It's too weird and creepy to put in mothballs for five months.  And when I find something I think is cool, I want to share it with all of you.  And so I shall.

The last week I was in Cordoba, I went to their biggest cemetery.  I wasn't expecting much--the ones we'd seen on the road were basic condos or crosses.  But I was curious, and since I'd finished a chore a little early, I decided to walk over to the Cementerio San Jerónimo.  And I was so glad I did.

The cemetery itself was very different from others I'd seen.  It did have the usual mausoleums like I've seen in other graveyards, some quite beautiful and ornate.  Here are a few pics of some streets of the dead of Cordoba.

But they had two things I'd never seen anywhere else.

First off, they had buildings scattered through the cemetery that were ENORMOUS.  I mean as big as apartment buildings.  I thought at first they were crematoriums, but I couldn't imagine them needing six different crematoriums.  But once I translated the different plaques I realized each building belonged to a certain group.  So, for example, if you were a person that belonged to a specific club or organization, and they had a building, you could be buried there.  Or, if you were a particular ethnic or social class, they had buildings for them too.  Most were just buildings--nothing special, but this one picture is quite lovely.

Yet that wasn't the thing that made this cemetery unique.  Since it's the only Argentine one I've seen, I don't know if it's specific to this country or just Cordoba.  But, let's just say there were parts of this graveyard that hit an infinity and beyond on the creepy scale.

I'll need to set the stage before I go on.  I'd just walked into the cemetery.  It was the first row of mausoleums I'd walked down, and so far, it wasn't anything different.  But then I noticed that the windows on one of the sepulcher's doors was broken.  So, curious, I peeked in.

I think they heard my scream in Bogota!

Just joking, but I've certainly seen this scene in horror movies.  OH MY GOD.  Talk about creepy.  Check what this crypt looked like!!!!!

I was a bit freaked out.  I've seen decrepit and broken mausoleums before, but never like this.  I felt so bad for the occupants.  Was their family gone?  No one left to care for the graves?  Or was it even worse and there was family, but they just didn't care about the graves?  That's even sadder.

And for the coffins to be in plain sight was NOT something I've ever seen before.  In no other country I've visited do they just lay them out that way.  Everywhere else they hide the coffins in stone, marble or dirt.  The only time you see a coffin is at the funeral, right?

But I realized as I walked around more, that this was the way Argentines bury their dead. They don't bury them.  They stack the coffins neatly in the sepulchers.  Some are covered by beautiful lace as you see here.  

Others, as you see above, have absolutely lovely coffins--works of art themselves.  So, after a couple of hours of wandering, I was getting used to seeing all the coffins set so neatly in their places.  And then I turned down a row and came across this sight.  

And THAT scream I know they heard in China!  LOL

No, but seriously.  This one was even worse.  I could hear my inner child screaming, "Escapee, Escapee!!!" And you could tell they'd been like that for a while.  So not only the family didn't do anything about it, neither did the workers.  So the coffins just spilled out into the row.  Horribly creepy.

And just so you know...the coffins were NOT empty.  Yes.  You could see bits and pieces of dead people.  And so that whole creep factor just skyrocketed into outer space.  *shudder*   At least it was bones and not flesh.  Thank God for small mercies...

So, you can see why this post is worthy of Halloween.  Cemeteries, broken coffins, and the smell of death?  Oh yeah.  Those are the things nightmares are made of.  Or horror movies.  Or nightmares in a horror movie.  

Yeah.  That'll work!!!

Until next week!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, May 16, 2014

On the Wings of a Condor

Hey all,

I hope you've had a great week since we were last together.  Ours has been busy, and we've enjoyed it thoroughly.  But this last Tuesday we did something even more amazing than usual.  And we were able to check a major "to do" off our bucket list.

Jonathon and I went hiking and saw the beautiful, amazing, wild Andean Condor in it's natural habitat.


We'd heard about this park where the majestic birds and their nests were protected, so knowing this may be the only chance to see one, we headed out early to the Quebrada del Condorito National Park.

We hiked in, which took several hours.  The park is huge, and quite beautiful in a wild and empty way.

The first condor we saw was right by the road, just sitting there on a rock.  It was a male, as you can see from the picture above.  And they are HUGE.  He didn't have his wings spread, but he didn't need to...he was already big.

He was beautiful.  And we were delighted.  If we never saw another bird--especially one flying--we could at least say we'd seen a condor.  But, we didn't have to use our first bird for our bucket list check off.  Oh, no.  We did MUCH better than that.

The hike to the gorge where the condors nest took us about three hours, but we could have walked even longer, the scenery was so beautiful.  Barren at times, rocky at others, while not our favorite landscape, it was beautiful, quiet and serene.  Here are some pics...

Beautiful, right?  And that was just the walk in.  Once we got to the gorge, it was even better.  It the name states...a gorge.  High and narrow, with a pretty little waterfall on one side and an opening to the valley on the other.  There were crags and crevices, sheer rock walls and huge boulders all along the floor of the gorge.  Lovely.

But of course the highlight of the area are the birds.  The Andean Condor.

Wow!  Amazing.  This bird's wingspan is ENORMOUS!!!!  You just don't understand it until you see it first hand as they soar over your head.  

We saw males and females...adults and juveniles of all ages.  At first we were disappointed, thinking they were all already roosting for the night, but we soon discovered they had a pattern they followed.  They'd rest for a while, then several would rise into the air to take to the wind.  More would follow until there were dozens soaring beautifully through the clear air.

We loved it.  We'd packed a lunch, so we sat on a rock and ate while we watched the birds fly in the gorge before us.  We got some great pictures and videos, and I loved the peace and serenity of the place.  See what I mean?

And of course, some pictures of the birds themselves.  These are just a few of what we managed to get while we were there.

I would love to go back a second time. 

And the trip back to the car was just as lovely.  A misty fog was coming in and wisping over the mountain and pampas grass.  It was like wandering through a scene in a syfy movie.  We kept wondering what type of creature would loom out of the fog and attack us!  LOL  Here's a few pictures of the return journey.

I love new adventures and adore checking off my bucket list.  And seeing the Andean Condor fly in it's natural habitat was a huge wish of mine.  I hope these few pics can give you a little taste of what we were so privileged to see.

Until next time...

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, May 9, 2014

And the Winner is...Delicious!!!!

Hey all,

It's been a while since I shared some recipes with you all.  But now that we're here in Argentina, I thought I'd share some of our favorite foods as well as a bit of disappointment.

As most of you know who are following my blog, I love to try new foods and traveling around as we do, we find some beyond awesome recipes.  We haven't been in Argentina long, but we've already discovered an awesome new taste treat.  In fact, it's so good I wanted to share it with you.  So check out this main dish / snack.  Ready?


Making Homemade Empanada Dough:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), chilled and cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 4-5 tbs water

  1. Mix the flour and salt in a food processor.
  2. Add the butter, egg and water until a clumpy dough forms.
  3. To make the empanada dough by hand, follow the same instruction but use your hands to mix the ingredients together. To make it easier to incorporate the butter you can freeze it and then grate it into the flour mix.
  4. Form a ball, flatten slightly, and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  5. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds or a small plate).
  6. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator/freezer to use later.
 Or you can use a pre-made frozen dough if you don't want to go traditional.

One Kind of Delicious Filling -- I chose chicken because I love it.  There are many more at the website link below...

  • 12-15 medium sized empanadas discs, using homemade dough or store-bought empanada discs
  • 2 tbs butter
  • ½ white onion, sliced thinly
  • ½ bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ½ tsp ground achiote or annatto
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups shredded turkey or chicken
  • 2 tbs turkey gravy – you can replace this with a combination of broth and butter
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tbs fresh oregano – can be replaced with 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg, yolk and white separated
  • Suggested dipping sauces:
  • Spicy cranberry mango sauce, tree tomato aji or a quick chimichurri sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a medium size frying pan.
  2. Add the onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, achiote, and cumin. Cook for 10 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix in the shredded turkey and stir well.
  4. Add the turkey gravy and balsamic vinegar; continue cooking over low heat for another 5 minutes.
  5. Let the turkey filling cool down, and then add in the chopped oregano.
  6. To assemble the empanadas spoon the turkey mixture on to the center of the each empanada disc.
  7. Brush the edges of the empanada discs with the egg whites, you can also use water but the egg white acts as a natural “glue” that helps seal the empanada.
  8. Fold the empanada disc and seal the edges gently with your fingers, twist and fold the edges of the empanadas with your fingers. To seal the edges further you can use a fork to press down and finish sealing the empanadas.
  9. Let the empanadas rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until ready to bake, this will help them seal better and prevent leaks.
  10. Lightly brush the top of the empanadas with the egg yolk; this will give them a nice golden glow when they bake.
  11. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden, exact time will depend on the size of the empanadas and your oven.
  12. Serve warm.
And this website gives you all kinds of cool info and other recipes!!!

Let me know if you try this recipe.  I know if the homemade version is half as good as what I've eaten here in Cordoba, it will be a winner.

Back next week with part two of food in Argentina.  The disappointment.  LOL

Until next time...

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, May 2, 2014

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's--SQUIRREL!!!!!

Hey all,

So I took a trip down memory lane the other day.  Not sure how it happened, but I was writing, then had to go online to do some research.  Then, somehow (and I honestly don't know HOW it happened) I was on youtube.

Now I know that sounds a bit crazy, but it really happened.  Sometimes when I do research it's like that puppy in the movie, UP! by Disney.  You know what happens.  I'm researching along and suddenly I'm distracted by...


Except my squirrels can be anything from a music video (in yesterday's case) to the names of angels, to the weather report in Xishuangbanna, China (where Jonathon was offered a job), to FB where Willy Nelson jokes about Lance Armstrong's winning the Tour de France.  It's crazy.  Research for me is like chasing not just one squirrel, but dozens.  LOL

But you can find some pretty interesting things.  The music video I watched was called "We Are The World" and was made back in 1985 to bring awareness to the world about the famine in Ethiopia.  I'd seen it before of course, but it's a beautiful video and always worth a repeat... 
 If it won't play on my blog, you can see it here...

But what I didn't know was this video was remade in 2010 to help Haiti after the earthquake.  And I have to say, I didn't expect to like it. (I rarely like remakes)  But this one was pretty awesome.  Check it out here...

If it won't play on my blog, you can see it here...

It was just the same, yet totally different.  The different artist and styles of music made it absolutely wonderful.  I'm not a rap fan, but I really liked how they inserted rap in between the regular singing.  And the bits of electronic music added in gave it a perfect updating.  I really enjoyed it.

It really is amazing what you can find when you aren't looking for it.  And there has been more than one time that I went looking for one thing and found something else entirely.  In fact, my upcoming historical romance series is an idea that came about when I read this quote by Williams Shakespeare...

A lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing.

Can you guess what the series is about?  *grin*

So, as you can see, sometimes getting distracted during my research forays IS a good thing.  LOL. And if it happens today when I'm online, I promise you it will be worth it.  Who knows what good may--


Until next time...

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams