Saturday, 27 August 2016


“The flute is the true magical rod that changes all it touches in the inward world; an enchanter’s wand at which the secret depths of the soul open. The inward world is the true world, the moonlight that shines into our hearts.” ― Jean-Paul FriedrichRichter

Johann Christoph Pepusch (1667 – 20 July 1752), also known as John Christopher Pepusch and Dr Pepusch, was a German-born composer who spent most of his working life in England. Pepusch was born in Berlin. At the age of 14, he was appointed to the Prussian court. About 1700, he settled in England where he was one of the founders, in 1726, of The Academy of Vocal Music, which around 1730/1 was renamed The Academy of Ancient Music. In Joseph Doane’s Musical directory for the year 1794, the founding of the Academy is discussed; on page 76, Doane states that:

“In the year 1710 (memorable for Handel’s first appearance among us) a number of the most eminent composers and performers in London [agreed] to concert a plan of an Academy for the study and practice of Vocal and Instrumental Music, which was no sooner announced than it met the countenance and support of the principal persons of rank. Among the foremost in this undertaking were Mr. John Christopher Pepusch, Mr. John Earnest Galleard, an excellent composer and performer on the Oboe, Mr. Bernard Gates of the Queen’s Chapel, Henry Niedler, etc.”

Pepusch remained Director of the Academy until his death in 1752, whereupon he was succeeded by Benjamin Cooke. Pepusch died in London. During a period of twenty years, Pepusch directed the musical establishment at Cannons, a large house northwest of London. For a couple of years he worked alongside George Frideric Handel - in 1717/18 both men were employed there by James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. Although Pepusch is now best known for his arrangement of the music for “The Beggar’s Opera” (1728) to the libretto of John Gay, he composed many other works including stage and church music as well as concertos and continuo sonatas.

Here are Six Concertos, Op.8 (1717) and Six Flute Sonatas, (1709) performed by Barocco Veneziano and Claudio Ferrarini (flute).

Friday, 26 August 2016


“Walnuts have a shell, and they have a kernel. Religions are the same. They have an essence, but then they have a protective coating. This is not the only way to put it. But it’s my way. So the kernels are the same. However, the shells are different.” - Huston Smith

Our cool and wet Winter weather is continuing so for the weekend, what better than a little baking with this delicious loaf?

Date and Walnut Loaf
1 cup water
3 tbs butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup dates, diced
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/3 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (extra, if desired, for decoration)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 165˚C fan-forced.
Place water, dates, butter and spices (except cinnamon) in large saucepan and heat to boiling point, stir until butter is melted.
Remove from heat and add bicarbonate of soda.
Allow to cool to room temperature and then add bananas, eggs, nuts, flour and cinnamon. Stir well and pour into a greased and lined loaf pan. (Decorate the top with halved walnuts if desired).
Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Allow to rest in tin for 30 minutes before turning out.

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Thursday, 25 August 2016


“Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land? I loved to smell them when I was a boy. Lord, there were a lot of lovely books once, before we let them go.” - Ray Bradbury

The nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, is an evergreen tree indigenous to the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia. It is important as the main source of the spices nutmeg and mace. It is widely grown across the tropics including Guangdong and Yunnan in China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Grenada in the Caribbean, Kerala in India, Sri Lanka and South America. Myristica fragrans was given a binomial name by the Dutch botanist Maartyn Houttuyn in 1774. It had earlier been described by Georg Eberhard Rumphius, among others. The generic name “Myristica” in Greek means “of pleasant smell” and the specific epithet “fragrans” in Latin, means "fragrant".

It is a small evergreen tree, usually 5–13 m tall, but occasionally reaching 20 m. The alternately arranged leaves are dark green, 5–15 cm long by 2–7 cm wide with petioles about 1 cm long. The species is dioecious, i.e. “male” or staminate flowers and “female” or carpellate flowers are borne on different plants, although occasional individuals produce both kinds of flower. The flowers are bell-shaped, pale yellow and somewhat waxy and fleshy. Staminate flowers are arranged in groups of one to ten, each 5–7 mm long; carpellate flowers are in smaller groups, one to three, and somewhat longer, up to 10 mm long. Carpellate trees produce smooth yellow ovoid or pear-shaped fruits, 6–9 cm long with a diameter of 3.5–5 cm. The fruit has a fleshy husk. When ripe the husk splits into two halves along a ridge running the length of the fruit. Inside is a purple-brown shiny seed, 2–3 cm long by about 2 cm across, with a red or crimson covering (an aril). The seed is the source of nutmeg, the aril the source of mace.

Nutmeg and mace have similar sensory qualities, with nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavour. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts. Nutmeg is used for flavouring many dishes, usually in ground or grated form, and is best grated fresh in a nutmeg grater.

In Indonesian cuisine, nutmeg is used in various dishes, mainly in many spicy soups, such as some variant of soto, konro, oxtail soup, sup iga (ribs soup), bakso and sup kambing. It is also used in gravy for meat dishes, such as semur beef stew, ribs with tomato, to European derived dishes such as bistik (beef steak), rolade (minced meat roll) and bistik lidah (beef tongue steak). Sliced nutmeg fruit flesh could be made as manisan (sweets), either wet, which is seasoned in sugary syrup liquid, or dry coated with sugar. In Penang cuisine, dried, shredded nutmeg rind with sugar coating is used as toppings on the uniquely Penang ais kacang. Nutmeg rind is also blended (creating a fresh, green, tangy taste and white colour juice) or boiled (resulting in a much sweeter and brown juice) to make iced nutmeg juice.

In Indian cuisine, nutmeg is used in many sweet, as well as savoury, dishes (predominantly in Mughlai cuisine). In Kerala Malabar region, it is considered medicinal and the flesh made into juice, pickles and chutney, while the grated nutmeg is used in meat preparations and also sparingly added to desserts for the flavour. It is also added in small quantities as a medicine for infants. It may also be used in small quantities in garam masala. Ground nutmeg is also smoked in India.

In Middle Eastern cuisine, ground nutmeg is often used as a spice for savoury dishes. In traditional European cuisine, nutmeg and mace are used especially in potato dishes and in processed meat products; they are also used in soups, sauces, and baked goods. It is also commonly used in rice pudding. In Dutch cuisine, nutmeg is added to vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and string beans. Nutmeg is a traditional ingredient in mulled cider, mulled wine, and eggnog. In Scotland, mace and nutmeg are usually both ingredients in haggis. In Italian cuisine, nutmeg is almost uniquely used as part of the stuffing for many regional meat-filled dumplings like tortellini, as well as for the traditional meatloaf.

Japanese varieties of curry powder include nutmeg as an ingredient. In the Caribbean, nutmeg is often used in drinks such as the Bushwacker, Painkiller, and Barbados rum punch. Typically, it is just a sprinkle on the top of the drink. The pericarp (fruit/pod) is used in Grenada and also in Indonesia to make jam, or is finely sliced, cooked with sugar, and crystallised to make a fragrant candy. In the US, nutmeg is known as the main pumpkin pie spice and often shows up in simple recipes for other winter squashes such as baked acorn squash.

The essential oil obtained by steam distillation of ground nutmeg is used widely in the perfumery and pharmaceutical industries. This volatile fraction typically contains 60-80% d-camphene by weight, as well as quantities of d-pinene, limonene, d-borneol, l-terpineol, geraniol, safrol, and myristicin. In its pure form, myristicin is a toxin, and consumption of excessive amounts of nutmeg can result in myristicin poisoning.

The oil is colourless or light yellow, and smells and tastes of nutmeg. It contains numerous components of interest to the oleochemical industry, and is used as a natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups, beverages, and sweets. It is used to replace ground nutmeg, as it leaves no particles in the food. The essential oil is also used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, for instance, in toothpaste, and as a major ingredient in some cough syrups.

In traditional medicine, nutmeg and nutmeg oil were used for disorders related to the nervous and digestive systems. After extraction of the essential oil, the remaining seed, containing much less flavour, is called “spent”. Spent is often mixed in industrial mills with pure nutmeg to facilitate the milling process, as nutmeg is not easy to mill due to the high percentage of oil in the pure seed. Ground nutmeg with a variable percentage of spent (around 10% w/w) is also less likely to clot. To obtain a better running powder, a small percentage of rice flour also can be added.

In low doses, nutmeg produces no noticeable physiological or neurological response, but in large doses, raw nutmeg has psychoactive effects. In its freshly ground form (from whole nutmegs), nutmeg contains myristicin, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor and psychoactive substance. Myristicin poisoning can induce convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalised body pain. It is also reputed to be a strong deliriant. For these reasons, whole or ground nutmeg cannot be imported into Saudi Arabia except in spice mixtures where it comprises less than 20%.

Nutmeg was once considered an abortifacient, but may be safe for culinary use during pregnancy. However, it inhibits prostaglandin production and contains hallucinogens that may affect the fetus if consumed in large quantities. Nutmeg is highly neurotoxic to dogs and causes seizures, tremors, and nervous system disorders which can be fatal. Nutmeg’s rich, spicy scent is attractive to dogs which can result in a dog ingesting a lethal amount of this spice. Eggnog and other food preparations which contain nutmeg should not be given to dogs.

In the language of flowers, nutmegs accompanying suitable flowers indicate: “Join me in my chamber.”

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,

and also part of the Friday Greens meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Orange you Glad It's Friday meme.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.” - Paulo Coelho

For the Mid-week Motif this week, the folks at the Poets United site look at “Blessings”: Blessing is a gift of bliss, affirmation, hope and inspiration bestowed upon a person. Let’s find out who showers Blessings even in these days of guilt, abuse, greed, misery, crimes and cares. Sometimes we are at the receiving end and sometimes giving. Capture your Blessings in your lines today.
Here is my contribution:

Blessed Are They…

Who in adversity find hope,
And who in hardship cope
With endless woe and ill –
Who out of blackness light distill.

Who even in injury forgive,
Finding courage to live and let live.
In meekness is strength hidden untold
They stand tall, resolute and bold.

Who have the energy to love
Even all those unworthy of
A sentiment so noble, tender;
Their heart so ready to surrender.

Who trust and still believe
All those who seek reprieve;
Who credit all of base humanity
With virtues that preserve their sanity.

Who strive for peace and calm
And who on strife shed balm;
Giving repose to those who tired,
The sweetest respite they’ve desired.

Who make the crooked run straight
And the trivial things be great;
Who have humility, patience, charity
Giving their all with grace and verity.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


"Scotland should be nothing less than equal with all the other nations of the world." - Sean Connery

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Edinburgh (Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Èideann) is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 local government council areas. Located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore, it is Scotland's second most populous city and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom. The 2014 official population estimates are 464,990 for the city of Edinburgh, 492,680 for the local authority area, and 1,339,380 for the City region as of 2014 (Edinburgh lies at the heart of the Edinburgh & South East Scotland).

Recognised as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is home to the Scottish Parliament and the seat of the monarchy in Scotland. The city is also the annual venue of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and home to national institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery. It is the largest financial centre in the UK after London.

Historically part of Midlothian, the city has long been a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scots law, literature, the sciences and engineering. The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582 and now one of four in the city, was placed 17th in the QS World University Rankings in 2013 and 2014. The city is also famous for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, the latter being the world's largest annual international arts festival.

The city's historical and cultural attractions have made it the United Kingdom's second most popular tourist destination after London, attracting over one million overseas visitors each year. Historic sites in Edinburgh include Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the churches of St. Giles, Greyfriars and the Canongate, and the extensive Georgian New Town, built in the 18th century. Edinburgh's Old Town and New Town together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been managed by Edinburgh World Heritage since 1999.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below,and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday, 22 August 2016


“The way to write a thriller is to ask a question at the beginning, and answer it at the end.” - Lee Child

I like to watch movies, and usually nowadays I tend to be quite selective of what I watch and when I watch it. It generally means that I watch movies at home on DVDs or blu-ray discs, in my own time and with the subtitles on (this has become increasingly necessary nowadays as I often find that there is a lot of poor sound design in movies with dialogue often masked by sound effects, music, background noise and horrible accents or diction by actors).

Although I find that I can like films in all genres, there are some that I will avoid, as for example absurdist or surreal films that are a self-serving indulgence of the film-makers (let them make it and watch it themselves!); zombie or zombie comedy films (there’s only so much zombie nonsense you can take – in my case, one film was enough); gangster films (violence for the sake of violence?); slasher horror movies (more violence for the sake of violence…); political movies (usually, they bore me); soppy romance movies (they too tend to bore me); slice-of-life movies (especially the unscripted type, they too can be frightfully boring!).

One genre that I generally enjoy is a good thriller. A thriller is a story that is usually a mix of fear and excitement. It has traits from the suspense genre and often from the action, adventure or mystery genres, but the level of terror makes it borderline horror fiction at times as well. It generally has a dark or serious theme, which also makes it similar to drama. These movies can keep you on the edge of your seat, can scare you or make you squirm with discomfort, can make you scream and cry. I enjoy the psychological thriller sub-genre the most, I think, but there are others.

Disaster-thriller: This has a plot revolving around mass peril, where the protagonist’s job is to not only survive, but also to save many other people from a grim fate, often a natural disaster such as a storm or volcanic eruption, but which may also be a terrorist attack or epidemic of some sort. Tony Scott’s 2010 “Unstoppable” starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson is an example of this genre.

Psychological thriller: Such movies emphasise the psychological condition of the hero that presents obstacles to his objective, rather than the action. Some psychological thrillers are also about complicated stories that try to deliberately confuse the audience, often by showing them only the same confusing or seemingly nonsensical information that the hero gains. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 “Rebecca” starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, is a classic psych thriller.

Crime thriller: A story that revolves around the life of lawmen, detectives, law-breakers, criminals, or other groups associated with criminal events in the story. Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 “The Hateful Eight” starring  Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, is an example of this genre.

Techno-thriller: A story whose theme is usually technology, or the danger behind the technology people use, including the threat of cyber terrorism such as Pamela Yates’ 2005 “State of Fear” starring Peter Kinoy and Pamela Yates.

Adventure Thriller: A sub-genre that seems to straddle several plot devices and themes, but generally one where there is a lot of action, tension, terror and unpredictable situations all designed to thrill and chill. Henry Joost’s and Ariel Schulman’s 2016 “Nerve” starring  Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade is a good example.

What are your favourite genres of movies to watch?

Sunday, 21 August 2016


“A line is a dot that went for a walk.” - Paul Klee

Paul Klee, (born Dec. 18, 1879, Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switz.—died June 29, 1940, Muralto, near Locarno) Swiss painter who was one of the foremost artists of the 20th century. Klee participated in and was influenced by a range of artistic movements, including surrealism, cubism and expressionism. He taught art in Germany until 1933, when the National Socialists declared his work indecent. The Klee family fled to Switzerland, where Paul Klee died.

Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, on December 18, 1879. The son of a music teacher, Klee was a talented violinist, receiving an invitation to play with the Bern Music Association at age 11. As a teenager, Klee’s attention turned from music to the visual arts. In 1898, he began studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. By 1905, he had developed signature techniques, including drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass. Between 1903 and 1905, he completed a set of etchings called Inventions that would be his first exhibited works.

In 1906, Klee married Bavarian pianist Lily Stumpf. The couple had a son, Felix Paul. Klee’s artwork progressed slowly for the next five years. In 1910, he had his first solo exhibition in Bern, which subsequently travelled to three Swiss cities. In January 1911, Klee met art critic Alfred Kubin, who introduced him to artists and critics. That winter, Klee joined the editorial team of the journal Der Blaue Reiter, co-founded by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. He began working on colour experiments in watercolours and landscapes, including the painting “In the Quarry”. Klee’s artistic breakthrough came in 1914, after a trip to Tunisia. Inspired by the light in Tunis, Klee began to delve into abstract art. Returning to Munich, Klee painted his first pure abstract, “In the Style of Kairouan”, composed of coloured rectangles and circles.

Klee’s work evolved during World War I, particularly following the deaths of his friends Auguste Macke and Franz Marc. Klee created several pen-and-ink lithographs, including “Death for the Idea”, in reaction to this loss. In 1916, he joined the German army, painting camouflage on airplanes and working as a clerk. By 1917, art critics began to classify Klee as one of the best young German artists. A three-year contract with dealer Hans Goltz brought exposure as well as commercial success.

Klee taught at the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1931, alongside his friend Kandinsky. In 1923, Kandinsky and Klee formed the Blue Four with two other artists, Alexej von Jawlensky and Lyonel Feininger, and toured the United States to lecture and exhibit work. Klee had his first exhibits in Paris around this time, finding favour with the French surrealists. Klee began teaching at Dusseldorf Academy in 1931. Two years later, he was fired under Nazi rule. The Klee family moved to Switzerland in late 1933. Klee was at the peak of his creative output during this tumultuous period. He produced nearly 500 works in a single year and created “Ad Parnassum”, widely considered to be his masterpiece.

Two years after returning to Switzerland, Klee fell ill with a disease that would later be diagnosed as progressive scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that hardens the skin and other organs. The artist created only 25 works the year after he fell ill, but his creativity resurged in 1937 and increased to a record 1,253 works in 1939. His late works dealt with the grief, pain, resilience, and acceptance of approaching death. Several of Klee’s works were included in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition staged by the National Socialists in Munich in 1937. The accusations against Klee's character and politics that had been waged against him in Germany complicated his application for Swiss citizenship in 1939. While he had been born in Switzerland, his father was German, which according to Swiss law meant that Klee was a German citizen. Klee died on June 29, 1940 in Locarno, Switzerland, before his final application could be approved.

Klee’s artistic legacy has been immense, even if many of his successors have not referenced his work openly as an apparent source or influence. During his lifetime, the Surrealists found Klee’s seemingly random juxtaposition of text, abstract signs, and reductive symbols suggestive of the way the mind in dream state recombines disparate objects of everyday and thus brings forth new insights into how the unconscious wields power even over waking reality.

In European art after the 1940s, artists such as Jean Dubuffet continued to reference the art of children as a kind of untutored, expressive ideal. Klee’s reputation grew considerably in the 1950s, by which time, for instance, the Abstract Expressionists could view his work in New York exhibitions. Klee's use of signs and symbols particularly interested the artists of the New York School, especially those interested in mythology, the unconscious, and primitivism (as well as the art of the self-trained and that of children). Klee’s use of colour as an expressive medium of human emotion in its own right also appealed to the Colour Field painters, such as Jules Olitski and Helen Frankenthaler. Finally, American artists maturing in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Ellsworth Kelly owed a debt to Klee for his pioneering colour theory during the Bauhaus period.

The painting above is “City and Sun” of 1928, which is a work characteristic of the artist. Geometric and strongly delineated, with carefully applied colour and almost reduced to an abstract image, the painting still manages to be representational with the title of the work being quote agreeable to the viewer.  On the one hand, Klee conceives an image that is an expression of his inner landscape, while on the other also showing a rather free form and playfulness typical of Klee’s style. Warm and cool colours, square shapes and solar rondel, resolve in a balanced and harmonious composition that is reminiscent of dream and fantasy.

Saturday, 20 August 2016


“Music is the best means we have of digesting time.” - W. H. Auden

José António Carlos de Seixas (June 11, 1704 – August 25, 1742) was a pre-eminent Portuguese composer of the 18th century. An accomplished virtuoso of both the organ and the harpsichord, Seixas succeeded his father as the organist for Coimbra Cathedral at the age of fourteen. In 1720, he departed for the capital, Lisbon, where he was to serve as the organist for the royal chapel, one of the highest offices for a musician in Portugal, the position earning him a knighthood. Much of Seixas’ music rests in an ambiguous transitional period from the learned style of the 17th century to the gallant style of the 18th century.

Seixas was born in Coimbra to Francisco Vaz and Marcelina Nunes. From a young age, he was surrounded by musical activity; his father served as the cathedral organist, and the flurry of musical activity in the local monastery of Santa Cruz had an equally important role in his musical training. In 1718, a few days before his father’s death, Seixas succeeded his father as cathedral organist. Two years after, in 1720, he moved to Lisbon to take up his new position in the court of John V of Portugal as court organist and harpsichordist.

Citing his elegance and agility on the keyboard, he was a favourite teacher of many noble families, including the family of Luís Xavier Furtado de Mendonça, the Viscount of Barbacena, where he gave harpsichord lessons to the Viscount’s wife and daughters in exchange for artistic patronage. In Lisbon, Seixas met Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti, who was working in Portugal from 1719 to 1728 as appointed director of the court cathedral.

In an account by José Mazza in his Diccionario biographico de Musicos portugueses e noticia das suas composições of 1780, the king’s brother, Dom António, arranged for Scarlatti to give Seixas harpsichord lessons. Scarlatti, immediately recognising Seixas’ talent, replied, “You can give me lessons.” In 1731 he was married at age twenty-eight to D. Maria Joana Tomásia da Silva, with whom he had two sons and three daughters. He was knighted in 1738 by the king, inducted into the Order of Christ. Four years later, in 1742, he died of a rheumatic fever, and was buried in the Santa Maria Basilica in Lisbon.

Seixas’ keyboard works were written for a variety of instruments, including the organ, harpsichord, and the clavichord. Stylistically speaking, however, his sonatas showcase a range of musical styles: some are exemplary of a Baroque toccata; some are firmly in the gallant style; some are clearly influenced by the German Empfindsamer Stil (literally 'sensitive style'). Despite rarely, if ever, traveling outside of Lisbon, his work also includes various geographical styles, such as the German Mannheim school, the French minuet, and the Italian style as composed by Scarlatti, his colleague and contemporary.

Santiago Kastner, Seixas’ biographer and editor of his pieces, describes Seixas’ works as “unoccupied” with a particular form, and given over to frequent improvisation. Much of his work was destroyed in the earthquake that devastated Lisbon in 1755. Only three orchestral pieces and around one hundred keyboard sonatas out of over an alleged seven hundred survived, plus a handful of choral works for liturgical use (much more conservative than what one would expect from his instrumental music).

Here is his Mass in G Major, for Soloists, Chorus, Strings and Continuo performed by the Norwegian Baroque Orchestra directed from the organ by Ketil Haugsand.

Friday, 19 August 2016


“Lentils are friendly—the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.” – Laurie Colwin

After a few days of Spring-like weather, Winter is back in Melbourne… So once again, we’ve moved back into the house and meals that are warming, hearty and flavoursome. And of course soups head the list, especially the ones that are a complete meal in the themselves, not just a first course. We enjoy this vegetarian soup often in Winter and tonight it will be just right!

Lentil and Winter Vegetable Soup

1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, trimmed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
300g carrots, peeled, cut into 1cm pieces
200g turnips, peeled, cut into 1cm pieces
400g boiled lentils, rinsed, drained
100g can peeled tomatoes
2 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp curry powder
2 bay leaves
Chopped parboiled spinach, to serve

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion, celery, and garlic, stirring, for 6 minutes or until soft. Add the carrots and turnips. Cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes.
Add the stock, increase heat to medium-high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the lentils and simmer for 10 minutes or until all vegetables are cooked and tender.
Divide the soup among serving bowls and top with parboiled spinach.

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Thursday, 18 August 2016


“So the pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges. Stay in control, and never panic.” - Martha Stewart

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a species of plant in the family Polygonaceae. It is a herbaceous perennial growing from short, thick rhizomes. It produces large poisonous leaves that are somewhat triangular, with long fleshy edible stalks and small flowers grouped in large compound leafy greenish-white to rose-red inflorescences.

In culinary use, fresh raw leaf stalks (petioles) are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong, tart taste. Although rhubarb is not a true fruit, in the kitchen it is usually prepared as if it were. Most commonly, the stalks are cooked with sugar and used in pies, crumbles and other desserts. A number of varieties have been domesticated for human consumption, most of which are recognised as Rheum x hybridum by the Royal Horticultural Society. Rhubarb contains anthraquinones including rhein, and emodin and their glycosides (e.g. glucorhein), which impart cathartic and laxative properties. It is hence useful as a cathartic in case of constipation.

Rhubarb is grown widely, and with greenhouse production it is available throughout much of the year. Rhubarb grown in hothouses (heated greenhouses) is called “hothouse rhubarb”, and is typically made available at consumer markets in early spring, before outdoor cultivated rhubarb is available. Hothouse rhubarb is usually brighter red, more tender and sweeter-tasting than outdoors rhubarb. In temperate climates, rhubarb is one of the first food plants harvested, usually in mid- to late spring (April/May in the Northern Hemisphere, October/November in the Southern Hemisphere), and the season for field-grown plants lasts until September.

In the northwestern US states of Oregon and Washington, there are typically two harvests, from late April to May and from late June into July. Rhubarb is ready to consume as soon as harvested, and freshly cut stalks are firm and glossy. In the United Kingdom, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in forcing sheds where all other light is excluded – a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk. These sheds are dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle” of Wakefield, Leeds, and Morley.

Rhubarb damaged by severe cold should not be eaten, as it may be high in oxalic acid, which migrates from the leaves and can cause illness. The colour of rhubarb stalks can vary from the commonly associated crimson red, through speckled light pink, to simply light green. The colour results from the presence of anthocyanins, and varies according to both rhubarb variety and production technique. The colour is not related to its suitability for cooking: The green-stalked rhubarb is more robust and has a higher yield, but the red-coloured stalks are much more popular with consumers.

Rhubarb is grown primarily for its fleshy stalks, technically known as petioles. The use of rhubarb stems as food is a relatively recent innovation. This usage was first recorded in 17th-century England after affordable sugar became available to common people, and reached a peak between the 20th century's two world wars. Commonly, it is stewed with sugar or used in pies and desserts, but it can also be put into savoury dishes or pickled. Rhubarb can be dehydrated and infused with fruit juice. In most cases, it is infused with strawberry juice to mimic the popular strawberry rhubarb pie. Rhubarb root produces a rich brown dye similar to walnut husks. It is used in northern regions where walnut trees do not survive.

For cooking, the stalks are often cut into small pieces and stewed (boiled in water) with added sugar, until soft. Little water is added, as rhubarb stalks already contain a great deal of water. Rhubarb should be processed and stored in glass or stainless steel containers which are unaffected by residual acid content. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are sometimes added. Stewed rhubarb or rhubarb sauce, like applesauce, is usually eaten cold. Pectin, or sugar with pectin, can be added to the mixture to make jams. A similar preparation, thickened with cornstarch or flour, is used as filling for rhubarb pie, tarts, and crumbles, leading to the nickname “pie plant”, by which it is referred to in many 19th-century cookbooks, as well as by American author Laura Ingalls Wilder in her short novel “The First Four Years”. The term "pie plant" is still used regionally in the U.S.

In recent times rhubarb has often been paired with strawberries to make strawberry-rhubarb pie. In former days, a common and affordable sweet for children in parts of the United Kingdom and Sweden was a tender stick of rhubarb, dipped in sugar. It is still eaten this way in western Finland, Norway, Iceland and sometimes Sweden, and some other parts of the world. In Chile, Chilean rhubarb, which is only very distantly related, is sold on the street with salt or dried chili pepper, not sugar. Rhubarb can be used to make a fruit wine or “sima”. Being a little sour, it is very refreshing and can be drunk cold, especially during the summer. It is also used to make compote.

In traditional Chinese medicine, rhubarb roots have been used as a laxative for several millennia. Rhubarb also appears in medieval Arabic and European prescriptions. It was one of the first Chinese medicines to be imported to the West from China. A pigment found in rhubarb called parietin, has been identified from an FDA database of 2,000 known suppressors of 6PGD, to have killed half the human leukaemia cells over two days in the laboratory. The pigment also slowed the growth of other human cancer cells in mouse models. A more-potent derivative of the parietin called S3 may even cut the growth of lung cancer cells implanted in mice by two-thirds, over the course of 11 days.

Rhubarb leaves contain poisonous substances, including oxalic acid, which is a nephrotoxic and corrosive acid that is present in many plants. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting the leaves, a particular problem during World War I when the leaves were mistakenly recommended as a food source in Britain. The toxic rhubarb leaves have been used in flavouring extracts, after the oxalic acid is removed by treatment with precipitated chalk.

In the language of flowers, a leafy rhubarb stalk signifies “you are two-faced”, while a flower spike means “I’ll take your advice”.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


“Some people who like dogs don’t like cats, but I’m not like that.” - Viggo Mortensen

For this week’s Poets United Mid-week Motif, Susan the well-known ailurophile has set a theme close to her heart: “Cats”. Even though I am dog person, like Viggo above I also like cats… My contribution to the theme below:

A Cat for Every Season

A kitten gambols

On a daisy-strewn green field;
Like it, the year’s young

In yellow noon’s heat

A languid cat stretches out
Biding time till night.

An open window:

A curious cat smacks at
Falling yellow leaves.

As crackling fire burns;

An old grey cat sleeps and dreams
Of erstwhile nimbleness.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


“Being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be.” - Princess Diana

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco (French: Principauté de Monaco), is a sovereign city-state and microstate, located on the French Riviera in Western Europe. France borders the country on three sides while the other side borders the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco has an area of 2.02 km2 and a population of about 37,800; it is the second smallest and the most densely populated country in the world. Monaco has a land border of 4.4 km, a coastline of 4.1 km, and a width that varies between 1,700 and 349 m. The highest point in the country is a narrow pathway named Chemin des Révoires on the slopes of Mont Agel, in the Les Révoires Ward, which is 161 metres above sea level. Monaco's most populous Quartier is Monte Carlo and the most populous Ward is Larvotto/Bas Moulins. Through land reclamation, Monaco's land mass has expanded by twenty percent.

Although small, Monaco is very old and quite well known, especially because of its status as a playground for the rich and famous, who are a spectacle for tourists. In 2014, it was noted about 30% of the population was made up of millionaires, similar to Zürich or Geneva. Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. Although Prince Albert II is a constitutional monarch, he wields immense political power. The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297.

The official language is French, but Monégasque, Italian, and English are widely spoken and understood. The state's sovereignty was officially recognised by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861, with Monaco becoming a full United Nations voting member in 1993. Despite Monaco's independence and separate foreign policy, its defense is the responsibility of France. However, Monaco does maintain two small military units. Economic development was spurred in the late 19th century with the opening of the country's first casino, Monte Carlo, and a railway connection to Paris. Since then, Monaco's mild climate, splendid scenery, and upscale gambling facilities have contributed to the principality's status as a premier tourist destination and recreation centre for the rich and famous.

In more recent years, Monaco has become a major banking centre and has successfully sought to diversify its economy into services and small, high-value-added, non-polluting industries. The state has no income tax, low business taxes, and is well known for being a tax haven. It is also the host of the annual street circuit motor race Monaco Grand Prix, one of the original Grands Prix of Formula One. Monaco is not formally a part of the European Union (EU), but it participates in certain EU policies, including customs and border controls. Through its relationship with France, Monaco uses the euro as its sole currency (prior to this it used the Monégasque franc). Monaco joined the Council of Europe in 2004. It is a member of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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Monday, 15 August 2016


“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne

We have started to watch the 2004 TV series “Lost” which is a six-season American show that was quite popular when it was first transmitted and it has also had some re-runs. It was created by J.J. Abrams, writer, director and producer of many successful TV series and movies including “Alias”, “Star Wars III”, “Star Trek” (2009, 2013) and “Fringe”. “Lost” stars Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly, Terry O’Quinn, Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim. It won a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama, in 2006, a well as various Emmy awards for best actor and supporting actor.

I had heard a lot about this show but had not had a chance to watch it when it was airing on TV. As I got my hands on a complete set of DVDs lately, we decided to start watching it and see what all the hype was about. I must say, it does make a difference to have all of the DVDs on hand and make the decision when to watch and how long to watch for, without any interruptions by advertisements of commercial TV.

We’ve watched all of the first two seasons and have just begun watching the third season of the show. Up until now, things have been mostly OK and we have been kept interested enough to keep on watching it. However, there have been some hints of “supernatural” activity in the series, which as the show progresses seem to be becoming more frequent. Not that this is a necessarily bad thing, but after discussing it, we felt that there was enough material and interesting characters in the show to not have that supernatural element creeping in to make it more “sensational” or to have such a “deus-ex-machina” solution to resolve the plot.

The plot device is not novel: After a trans-Pacific plane crashes on a desert island some groups of survivors attempt to come to terms with their predicament and think about not only how they can effect their long-term survival, but also how they can get rescued and go back to civilisation. What makes the show interesting is the good mix of the various characters, their hefty baggage (and I’m not referring to the ones they rescued form the plane wreck), their interactions and the many mysteries that the island hides. What they initially thought was a “desert” island clearly is not (shades of “Robinson Crusoe”…) and their battle for survival is not simply one with natural hazards but also the hazards of initially unseen enemies who soon enough show their face.

The plot is expanded by frequent flashbacks that throw light into the background of each character and which help explain why each characters reacts to and interacts with others in the way that they do. The flashback can be quite annoying as a plot device, especially if overused or if used for its own sake. In “Lost”, however, we found it a useful plot adjunct and not intrusive at all.

Acting and production levels are quite high, which contribute greatly to the watchability of the show. The main characters are played to perfection by well-selected group of professionals: Naveen Andrew plays Sayid, a former Iraqi soldier; Matthew Fox a successful neurosurgeon, Jack Shephard; Jorge Garcia plays Hugo ‘Hurley’ Reyes an obese recent lottery winner; Josh Holloway is James ‘Sawyer’ Ford a con artist; Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim a Korean couple; Evangeline Lilly is Kate Austen, an escaped criminal; Terry O’Quinn plays John Locke an ‘ordinary’ man who seems to have all sorts of unlikely qualities and skills under pressure; Emilie de Ravin is Claire Littleton who is heavily pregnant; and Dominic Monaghan who plays Charlie Pace, a former rock band member with a heroin addiction…

We’ll keep on watching this as long as it maintains our interest and if we survive till the end of the series, I’ll give an update here.

Sunday, 14 August 2016


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” - Edgar Degas

Isaac Lazarus Israels was a Dutch painter associated with the Amsterdam Impressionist movement. Isaac Israels was born in 1865 into an Orthodox Jewish family in Amsterdam. In 1871 the family moved to The Hague, where his father Jozef Israels (1824-1911) was already a well-respected painter. Between 1880-1882 he studied at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, where he showed a remarkable talent for drawing at an early age and started as an artist in The Hague.

It was not long until his portraits, which were painted in an impressionistic style similar to his father’s, were held in high esteem. However, the young Israels did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps and returned to Amsterdam in 1887. His goal was simple: To develop his own, unique, painterly style, recording an impression in an exceptionally quick manner. Israels found that it was not minute details and perfection that were most important but rather capturing the essence of the subject.

Israels moved to Paris in 1904, establishing his studio at 10 rue Alfred Stevens, near Montmartre and just yards away from the studio of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec whom he admired, as he also did Edgar Degas. As in Amsterdam, he painted the Parisian specific motifs: the public parks, cafés, cabarets and bistros, as well as such subjects as fairgrounds and circus acrobats. Likewise he sought out the fashion houses Paquin and Drecoll to continue his studies of the world of fashion. However, he only exhibited once in this period, in 1909.

At the outbreak of the First World War he was living in London, where continued painting motifs specific to the city he lived, such as buses and famous London streets such as Regent Street, as well as finding new subjects in horse-riding at Rotten Row and in ballerinas and boxers. He returned to Holland for the duration of the war, living alternately in The Hague, Amsterdam and Scheveningen, where he worked primarily as a portrait painter. Following the war, Israels visited Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm and London.

He spent the years 1921-1922 travelling in India and the Dutch East Indies, sketching and painting the vibrant life of South East Asia and notably the gamelan players of Bali. On his return, he settled at Koninginnegracht 2, The Hague, his deceased parents’ home, where he remained for the rest of his life, nevertheless making regular trips abroad to London, Italy and the French Riviera. At the age of 63, he won a Gold Medal at the 1928 Olympic Games for his painting Red Rider, an art competition then being part of the games.

He died in The Hague on 7 October 1934, aged 70, as a result of a street accident a few days before. His partner at that time was Sophie de Vries.

The painting above is his “Hat Studio”, a good example of his rapid, impressionistic style where the artist’s prime concern is to capture a moment and give the viewer an idea of the way in which this tableau registered in his mind. The milliners are busy at work, surrounded by hats and taking central place is the fitting of a bit of trim on a hat worn by one of the women. This is an appealing work because of its immediacy, its free and fresh colour and brushwork, and its deceptively simple composition and execution.

Saturday, 13 August 2016


“Has it struck you that the music which is regarded as the most sublime in western civilization, which is the music of Bach, is called baroque?” - PierreSchaeffer

Johann Adolph Hasse, byname Il Sassone (born March 25, 1699, Bergedorf, near Hamburg—died Dec. 16, 1783, Venice) was an outstanding composer of operas in the Italian style that dominated late Baroque opera. Hasse began his career as a singer and made his debut as a composer in 1721 with the opera “Antioco”.

He went to Italy, where he studied with Nicola Porpora and with Alessandro Scarlatti and where his opera seria “Sesostrate” (1726) established his reputation; in Italy he became known as “il Sassone” (the Saxon). After spending several years in Venice, where he married the celebrated mezzo-soprano Faustina Bordoni (c. 1700–81), he became music director of the Dresden Opera (1731). He resided in Dresden from 1739 to 1763, when he retired and went to Vienna.

His last work for the stage was “Ruggiero” (1771), written for the wedding of the archduke Ferdinand at Milan. Hasse’s compositions include more than 60 operas, many of them to librettos by Pietro Metastasio, and nearly a dozen intermezzos, as well as oratorios, masses, and instrumental works. His music was enormously popular during his lifetime; its chief characteristics were melodic beauty and formal balance. His operatic overtures had considerable influence on the development of the symphony, especially in northern Germany.

Hasse’s extensive addition to the repertoire of contemporary church music continued to have occasional performance in Dresden. His oratorios, some with texts by Metastasio, have largely disappeared from repertoire. Hasse’s instrumental music includes flute concertos, and solo, duo and trio sonatas.

Here are some of his Sonatas and Trio Sonatas:

Trio Sonata in F major for oboe, violin and basso continuo
Trio Sonata in D minor for oboe, violin and basso continuo
Sonata No. 5 in E minor for violin and basso continuo
Sonata in G major for oboe and basso continuo
Sonata in F major for chalumeau, oboe, bassoon and basso continuo
Trio Sonata in C major for oboe, violin and basso continuo.