Sunday, 24 September 2017


“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.” ― FyodorDostoyevsky 

Alexei Kondratyevich Savrasov (Russian: Алексе́й Кондра́тьевич Савра́сов - May 24, 1830 – October 8, 1897) was a Russian landscape painter and creator of the lyrical landscape style. Savrasov was born into the family of a merchant. He began to draw early and in 1838 he enrolled as a student of professor Karl Rabus (1800-1857) at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (MSPSA). He graduated in 1850 and immediately began to specialise in landscape painting. In 1852, he travelled to Ukraine. Then, in 1854 by the invitation of the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, President of the Imperial Academy of Arts, he moved to St. Petersburg.

In 1857, Savrasov became a teacher at the MSPSA. His best students, Isaac Levitan and Konstantin Korovin, remembered their teacher with admiration and gratitude. In 1857, he married Sophia Karlovna Hertz, sister of the art historian Karl Hertz (1820-1883). In their home they entertained artistic people and collectors including Pavel Tretyakov. Savrasov became especially close with Vasily Perov. Perov helped him paint the figures of the boat trackers in Savrasov’s “Volga near Yuryevets”, while Savrasov painted the landscapes for Perov’s “Bird Catcher” and “Hunters on Bivouac”.

In the 1860s, he travelled to England to see the International Exhibition, and then onto Switzerland. In one of his letters he wrote that no academies in the world could so advance an artist as the present world exhibition. The painters who influenced him most were British painter John Constable and Swiss painter Alexandre Calame. 

“The Rooks Have Come Back” (1871) is considered by many critics to be the high point in Savrasov’s artistic career. Using a common, even trivial, episode of birds returning home, and an extremely simple landscape, Savrasov showed the transition of nature from winter to spring in an emotional and involving manner. It was a new type of lyrical landscape painting, called later by critics the “mood landscape”. The painting brought him fame.

In 1870, he became a member of the Peredvizhniki group, breaking with government-sponsored academic art. In the late 1870s, he gradually became an alcoholic. The process may have begun with the death of his daughter in 1871, which led to a crisis in his art and, possibly, dissatisfaction with his artistic career. In 1882, he was dismissed from his position at the MSPSA. All attempts of his relatives and friends to help him were in vain. His work suffered dramatically and the last years of his life were spent in poverty. He was usually drunk and often dressed in rags. Finally, he found himself wandering from shelter to shelter. Only the doorkeeper of the MSPSA and Pavel Tretyakov, founder of the Tretyakov Gallery, were present at his funeral in 1897.

The painting above is his “Rasputitsa – Sea of Mud”, painted in 1894. The winter landscape is bleak and despite the thawing of the snow, mud is revealed and no hopeful sign of green. Painted after Savrasov became an alcoholic and after being dismissed from his position at the School, the painting encapsulates the desperate situation the artist found himself in. Three years later he would be dead.

Saturday, 23 September 2017


“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” - Pythagoras 

Georg Muffat (1 June 1653 – 23 February 1704) was a Baroque composer and organist. He is most well known for the remarkably articulate and informative performance directions printed along with his collections of string pieces Florilegium Primum and Florilegium Secundum (First and Second Bouquets) in 1695 and 1698.

Georg Muffat was born in Megève, Duchy of Savoy (now in France), of André Muffat (of Scottish descent) and Marguerite Orsyand. He studied in Paris between 1663 and 1669, where his teacher is often assumed to have been Jean Baptiste Lully. This assumption is largely based on the statement “For six years ... I avidly pursued this style which was flowering in Paris at the time under the most famous Jean Baptiste Lully.” This is ambiguous (in all of the languages in which it was printed) as to whether the style was flourishing under Lully, or that Muffat studied under Lully. In any case, the style which the young Muffat learned was unequivocally Lullian and it remains likely that he had at least some contact with the man himself.

After leaving Paris, he became an organist in Molsheim and Sélestat. Later, he studied law in Ingolstadt, afterwards settling in Vienna. He could not get an official appointment, so he travelled to Prague in 1677, then to Salzburg, where he worked for the archbishop for some ten years. In about 1680, he travelled to Italy, there studying the organ with Bernardo Pasquini, a follower of the tradition of Girolamo Frescobaldi; he also met Arcangelo Corelli, whose works he admired very much. From 1690 to his death, he was Kapellmeister to the bishop of Passau. Georg Muffat should not be confused with his son Gottlieb Muffat, also a successful composer.

Muffat was, as Johann Jakob Froberger before him, and Handel after him, a cosmopolitan composer who played an important role in the exchanges between European musical traditions. The information contained within the Florilegium Primum and Florilegium Secundum is very important historically. The performance directions accompanying the pieces were intended to assist German string players with the idiom of the French dance style, and include detailed rules for the tempo and order of bow strokes in various types of movement, as well as more general strategies for good ensemble playing and musicianship. These texts remain extremely valuable for modern historically-interested musicians who strive for a genuine baroque sound.

Here is a collection of pieces known as Armonico Tributo (Sonate Di Camera Commodissime A Pocchi, Ò A Molti Stromenti -Salzburg 1682). They are played by Les Muffati under the direction of Peter Van Heyghen.
String Sonata in D major;
String Sonata in G minor;
String Sonata in A major;
String Sonata in E minor;
String Sonata in G major.

Friday, 22 September 2017


“He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician.” - Chinese proverb 

We love vegetables and as Chinese cuisine provides opportunity for using several bits and pieces that are in the fridge, a vegetarian stir-fry provides a nutritious, healthful and satisfying meal. 

Chinese Vegetarian Stir-Fry
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 and1⁄2 cups broccoli florets
1 Tbsp water
1 cup baby carrots, julienned
1 and 1⁄2 cups snow peas, ends trimmed
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1⁄2 cup sliced water chestnuts, drained
1⁄2 cup sliced capsicum
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Spring onions, chopped
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp vegetable stock
1 tsp corn flour
 2 cups hot cooked rice or vermicelli 

Cook the rice or vermicelli and keep warm. In small bowl, combine the soy sauce, broth and corn flour; mix well to dissolve, reserving till needed.
Heat the oils in the wok and add the broccoli, stirring to coat with oil. Add the water and stir-fry for 1 minute or until broccoli is bright green. Add carrots, snow peas, mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic and spices; stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender crisp, the add the chpped Spring onions, stirring to mix through. Add the corn flour mixture to the wok and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Serve over rice or vermicelli immediately.

Thursday, 21 September 2017


“Spices, of course, are essential…” - Marcus Samuelsson 

Five-spice powder is a spice mixture of five (or more) spices used primarily in Chinese cuisine or Desi Chinese cuisine but also used in other Asian and Arabic cookery. Five-spice powder is used for cocktails as well.

While there are many variants, a common mix is: Star anise (bajiao) Cloves (dingxiang) Chinese cinnamon (rougui) Sichuan pepper (huajiao) Fennel seeds (xiao huixiang) Other recipes may contain anise seed, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, Amomum villosum pods, Amomum cardamomum pods, licorice, Mandarin orange peel or galangal.

In Southern China, Cinnamomum loureiroi and Mandarin orange peel, are commonly used as substitutes for Cinnamomum cassia and cloves, respectively, producing a slightly different flavour profile for southern five-spice powders.

Five spice may be used with fatty meats such as pork, duck or goose. It is used as a spice rub for chicken, duck, pork and seafood, in red cooking recipes, or added to the breading for fried foods. Five spice is used in recipes for Cantonese roasted duck, as well as beef stew. It is used as a marinade for Vietnamese broiled chicken. The five-spice powder mixture has followed the Chinese diaspora and has been incorporated into other national cuisines throughout Asia.

Although this mixture is used in restaurant cooking, few Chinese households use it in day-to-day cooking. In Hawaii, some restaurants place a shaker of the spice on each patron’s table. A seasoned salt can be easily made by dry-roasting common salt with five-spice powder under low heat in a dry pan until the spice and salt are well mixed.

Here is a recipe I use at home: 

Chinese Spices Mix

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon ground star anise
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch of ground cardamom
pinch of ground chili

It is best to toast the spices just as you are ready to compound the mixture. Ensure that all spices are ground well and mix thoroughly before use. You can upscale the recipe if you need more. Rather than store it, I prefer to make it as I need it from the raw spices.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


“Cherish all your happy moments; they make a fine cushion for old age.” - Booth Tarkington 

Granny’s Funeral (2012; “Adieu Berthe – L’enterrement de mémé”) Comedy/Drama, 100 minutes – Written and directed by Bruno Podalydès; starring Denis Podalydès, Valérie Lemercier, Isabelle Candelier. – 6.0/10

Last weekend we watched a low key, tragicomic, French film, which although agreeable didn’t really shine. It was time pleasantly spent and the film did broach some serious topics, but overall, the comic pace was jolting, the bumbling anti-hero was somewhat tiresome and the two women of his life a trifle annoying. The plot is as follows: Armand Lebrecq (Denis Podalydès) once dreamed of becoming a magician but he has become a pharmacist. He still loves his wife, Hélène (Isabelle Candelier) , but wouldn’t mind leaving her to live with Alix (Valérie Lemercier), a strong-minded woman. But should he?

One day, Armand learns that Berthe, his granny who lives in a nursing home, has just died. A little guilty of having neglected her lately, Armand finds himself busy with organising her funeral as well as having to deal with his complicated personal life. He does everything clumsily, as usual...

The basic flaw of the film is that the plot outline sounds more promising than the actual resulting film. The characters do not involve the viewer in their lives and predicaments successfully and the story with “granny’s youthful secret” is not as climactic as the writers believe it to be. Armand fails to growth and learn from his experiences and at the end of the film he is as bumbling and ineffectual (if not more so!) than at the beginning of the film.

Nevertheless the film is pleasant enough for a weekend afternoon, watching with a glass of iced tea (or perhaps something stronger, which may make the movie even more agreeable for you). Watch it if you chance upon it and you have an hour-and-a-half or so to kill, but don't go out of your way to search for it too assiduously…

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


“Put a compass to paper and trace a circle. Then tell me which other country has such a concentration of places like Amalfi, Naples, Ischia, Procida, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and Capri.” - Diego Della Valle 

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.
Naples (Italian: Napoli; Latin: Neapolis; Ancient Greek: Νεάπολις, meaning "new city") is the capital of the Italian region Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy, after Rome and Milan. In 2015, around 975,260 people lived within the city's administrative limits. Naples is the 9th-most populous urban area in the European Union with a population of between 3 million and 3.7 million. About 4.4 million people live in the Naples metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea.

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the Naples area in the second millennium BC. A larger colony – initially known as Parthenope, Παρθενόπη – developed on the Island of Megaride around the ninth century BC, at the end of the Greek Dark Ages. The city was refounded as Neápolis in the sixth century BC and became a lynchpin of Magna Graecia, playing a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society and eventually becoming a cultural centre of the Roman Republic. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Thereafter, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Naples was the most-bombed Italian city during World War II. Much of the city's 20th-century periphery was constructed under Benito Mussolini's fascist government, and during reconstruction efforts after World War II. In recent decades, Naples has constructed a large business district, the Centro Direzionale, and has developed an advanced transport infrastructure, including an Alta Velocità high-speed rail link to Rome and Salerno, and an expanded subway network, which is planned to eventually cover half of the region. The city has experienced significant economic growth in recent decades, and unemployment levels in the city and surrounding Campania have decreased since 1999. However, Naples still suffers from political and economic corruption, and unemployment levels remain high.

Naples' historic city centre is the largest in Europe, covering 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) and enclosing 27 centuries of history, and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Naples has long been a major cultural centre with a global sphere of influence, particularly during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. In the immediate vicinity of Naples are numerous culturally and historically significant sites, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Culinarily, Naples is synonymous with pizza, which originated in the city.

Neapolitan music has also been highly influential, credited with the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin, as well as notable contributions to opera and folk standards. Popular characters and historical figures who have come to symbolise the city include Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, the comic figure Pulcinella, and the Sirens from the Greek epic poem the Odyssey. According to CNN, the metro stop “Toledo” is the most beautiful in Europe and it won also the LEAF Award 2013 as “Public building of the year”. Naples is the Italian city with the highest number of accredited stars from the Michelin Guide. 

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby 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, 18 September 2017


“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.” ― Neil Gaiman 

Apedemak (or Apademak), was a lion-headed warrior god worshiped by the Meroitic peoples inhabiting Nubia. A number of Meroitic temples dedicated to this deity are known from the Butana region: Naqa, Meroë, and Musawwarat es-Sufra, which seems to be his chief cult place. Interestingly, inscriptions at Musawwarat al-Sufra are in hieroglyphs, not in Meroitic script, indicating a close link with Egyptian religion.

In the temple of Naqa built by the rulers of Meroe Apedemak was depicted as a three-headed leonine god with four arms, and as a snake with a lion head. At Naqa, walls are filled with reliefs of Apedemak together with Egyptian deities, forming a triad with Isis, with Horus as their son. Apedemak is also represented together with Hathor and Amon. The god is also depicted as a man with a lion head. Apedemak was a minor deity in the ancient Egyptian religion, being instead a product of the Meroitic culture.

Apedemak was called “The Lord of Royal Power”. In Nubia, with the kingdoms of Cush, the royal throne was always depicted as a lion. Temple reliefs could show kings subdued by lions, and even eaten. There are great similarities between Apedemak and the obscure Egyptian god, Maahes, who also represented a specific religious dimension in the oases of the Western Desert. Also, it is possible that the cult of Sekhmet, Egypt’s lion goddess, was introduced from Nubia, and related to that of Apedemak.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


“An awareness of your mortality can lead you to wake up and live an authentic, meaningful life.” - Bernie Siegel 

Jan Autengruber (25 April 1887, Pacov - 15 July 1920, Prague) was a Czech Post-impressionist painter. After the early death of his father, his family moved to České Budějovice. After completing his primary education, he was accepted at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. After two years, he transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where he was a two-time recipient of the annual award.

He achieved very little critical attention in his home country, so he exhibited widely throughout Germany, in Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Mannheim, Hannover, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. In 1913, he was awarded a scholarship to study in Italy. During the First World War, he attempted to avoid being drafted by studying restorative art at the Munich Academy, but it was only a short reprieve and he was mustered into service at Jindřichův Hradec.

He managed to survive the war and settled in Prague, where he took courses in art history at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University. In 1919, he married the artist Hana Jedličková (1888-1970). The following year, he became a victim of the flu pandemic, dying from a combination of flu and pneumonia.

His wife spent her life promoting his works. A major retrospective was held in 2002 at the National Gallery in Prague, followed by another in 2009 at the West Bohemian Gallery in Plzeň.

Saturday, 16 September 2017


“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” - Abraham Maslow 

Franz Anton Hoffmeister (12 May 1754 – 9 February 1812) was a German composer and music publisher. He was born in Rottenburg am Neckar on 12 May 1754. At the age of fourteen he went to Vienna to study law. Following his studies, however, he decided on a career in music and by the 1780s he had become one of the city’s most popular composers, with an extensive and varied catalogue of works to his credit.

Hoffmeister’s reputation today rests mainly on his activities as a music publisher. By 1785 he had established one of Vienna’s first music publishing businesses, second only to Artaria & Co, which had ventured into the field five years earlier.

Hoffmeister published his own works as well as those of many important composers of the time, including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clementi, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf and Johann Baptist Wanhal. These famous composers were also among Hoffmeister’s personal friends: Mozart dedicated his String Quartet in D to him and Beethoven addressed him in a letter as my “most beloved brother”.

Hoffmeister’s publishing activities reached a peak in 1791, but thereafter he appeared to have devoted more time to composition. Most of his operas were composed and staged during the early 1790s and this, combined with an apparent lack of business sense, led to his noticeable decline as a publisher.

In 1799, Hoffmeister and the flautist Franz Thurner set off on a concert tour which was to have taken them as far afield as London. They got no further than Leipzig, where Hoffmeister befriended the organist Ambrosius Kühnel. The two men decided to set up a music publishing partnership and within a year had founded the Bureau de Musique, which was eventually taken over by the well-respected C.F. Peters, a firm that is still active today.

Among the publications of the Bureau de Musique was the first edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Keyboard Works in 14 volumes (1802). Until 1805, Hoffmeister kept both the Viennese firm and his newer Leipzig publishing house going, but in March 1805 he transferred sole ownership of the Bureau de Musique to Kühnel. His interest in the Viennese firm also waned, for in 1806, apparently to allow time for composition, he sold the 20-year-old business to the Chemische Druckerey.

Prominent in Hoffmeister’s extensive oeuvre are works for the flute, including more than 25 concertos as well as chamber works with the flute in a leading role. Many of these works would have been composed with Vienna’s growing number of amateur musicians in mind, for whom the flute was one of the most favoured instruments. Hoffmeister also composed at least eight operas, over 50 symphonies, numerous concertos (including an often-played concerto for the viola), a large amount of string chamber music, piano music and several collections of songs.

As a composer, Hoffmeister was highly respected by his contemporaries, as can be seen in the entry, published in the year of his death, in Gerber’s Neues Lexikon der Tonkünstler: “If you were to take a glance at his many and varied works, then you would have to admire the diligence and the cleverness of this composer.... He earned for himself a well-deserved and widespread reputation through the original content of his works, which are not only rich in emotional expression but also distinguished by the interesting and suitable use of instruments and through good practicability. For this last trait we have to thank his knowledge of instruments, which is so evident that you might think that he was a virtuoso on all of the instruments for which he wrote.” 

Here is his celebrated Concerto for Viola in D major, with a cadenza by Franz Beyer, played by Ashan Pillai (viola) and the Gulbenkian Orchestra conducted by Christopher Hogwood.
1. Allegro 0:00
2. Poco Adagio 8:15
3. Rondo. Allegro 15:17

Friday, 15 September 2017


“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” - A. A. Milne 

It’s Spring in Melbourne and on fine days we love to go walking. Close to home are the Darebin Parklands, a beautiful area through which the Darebin Creek flows. Along with wooded areas, lawns, ponds and rocky hills, there are many areas where wild greens grow. Most people refer to these wild greens as “weeds”, but they are extremely useful and edible greens that are fantastic to use in cooking in a myriad of recipes. For the dish we made and for which I give the recipe below, we collected the following: Young shoots of wild fennel - Foeniculum vulgare; tender young leaves of sorrelRumex acetosa; tender tops of mallowMalva sylvestris; young shoots of onion weed – Allium triquetrum. We also used some dill and spring onions from the garden, as well as some bought spinach.

WARNING: Please note that if you are going to collect wild greens ensure you are absolutely certain you are collecting the right plant! Many weeds do look similar and some are toxic! Also if you know what you are doing and you collect wild greens, do so sustainably and do not damage the plants excessively! Always wash the greens thoroughly and discard any leaves that are damaged or infested. In the last rinse add a cup of vinegar to the water used as it helps to rinse out any little insects lurking around.

Wild Greens Risotto

6 cups vegetable stock
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (for greens)
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (for rice)
1/3 cup finely chopped dill
1/3 cup finely chopped spring onion
3 cups chopped spinach (stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise)
3 cups chopped mixed wild greens (see above)
2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Ground mace, to taste
Ground coriander, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Toasted pine nuts garnish (optional)

First prepare the greens: In a large frying pan, heat the oil and when hot, add the drained, chopped greens, herbs, onion and spinach, stirring thoroughly to mix with the oil. Cook until the mixture is tender. Season with salt and pepper and add ground coriander to taste. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a simmer and maintain over low heat. In a large, heavy saucepan, warm the olive oil. Add the rice to the pan and stir until well coated with the oil and translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more. Reserve 1/4 cup stock to add at the end.

When the rice is almost tender to the bite and looks creamy (after about 20 minutes), add the greens mixture to the pan and add a ladleful of stock. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach mixture is heated through and the rice is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter, cheese and the reserved 1/4 cup stock. Season with mace, salt and pepper. Garnish with pine nuts if desired and serve immediately.

Thursday, 14 September 2017


“Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.” - Honoré de Balzac 

Aloysia citrodora is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family Verbenaceae, native to western South America. Common names include lemon verbena and lemon beebrush. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the 17th century and cultivated for its oil.

The first European botanist who publicly noticed this plant was the French Philibert Commerson, who collected in Buenos Aires on his botanical circumnavigation with Bougainville, about 1767. The plant had already been quietly imported directly into the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, where in 1797 professors Casimiro Gómez Ortega and Antonio Palau y Verdera named it, though they did not yet effectively publish it, Aloysia citrodora in Latin and “Hierba de la Princesa” in Spanish, to compliment Maria Louisa of Parma, Princess of Asturias the wife of the Garden’s patron Infante Carlos de Borbon, Prince of Asturias and son of king Carlos III. The name was later effectively published in the first volume of Palau’s Parte Práctica de Botánica in 1784.

Unofficial importations from Spanish America seldom fared well: When French botanist Joseph Dombey landed his collections at Cadiz in 1785 they were impounded and left to rot in warehouses, while he was refused permission even to have seeds planted. Among the bare handful of plants Dombey had assembled during eight years at Lima, lemon verbena survived. Meanwhile, Gómez Ortega sent seeds and specimens of the plant to Charles Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle in Paris; L’Héritier published it as Verbena triphylla in the second fascicle his Stirpes Novae, published in December 1785 or January 1786.

From Paris, John Sibthorpe, professor of Botany at Oxford, obtained the specimen that he introduced to British horticulture: By 1797 lemon verbena was common in greenhouses around London, and its popularity as essential in a fragrant bouquet increased through the following century. The plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

 Lemon verbena is a perennial shrub or subshrub growing to 2–3 m high. The 8-cm-long, glossy, pointed leaves are slightly rough to the touch and emit a powerful scent reminiscent of lemon when bruised (hence the Latin specific epithet citrodora—lemon-scented). Sprays of tiny purple or white flowers appear in late spring or early summer. It is sensitive to cold, losing leaves at temperatures below 0°C, although the wood is hardy to −10°C.Due to its many culinary uses, it is widely listed and marketed as a plant for the herb garden.

Lemon verbena leaves are used to add a lemon flavour to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, Greek yogurt and beverages. It also is used to make herbal teas, or added to standard tea in place of actual lemon (as is common with Moroccan tea). It can also be used to make a sorbet. In addition, it has anti-Candida albicans activity. In the European Union, Verbena essential oils (Lippia citriodora Kunth.) and derivatives other than absolute are prohibited when used as a fragrance ingredient.

The major isolates in lemon verbena oil are citral (30–35%), nerol and geraniol. Extracts of lemon verbena also contain verbascoside. Aloysia citriodora extract shows antioxidant properties that could play an important role in modulating GSH-reductase activity in lymphocytes and erythrocytes and protecting plasma from exercise oxidative damage. Lemon verbena extract containing 25% verbascoside showed strong antioxidant capacity, especially in a lipophilic environment, which was higher than expected as concluded from the antioxidant capacity of pure verbascoside, probably due to synergistic effects.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of non-flowering lemon verbena carries the message: “We are united”. A flowering sprig means: “You have bewitched me”.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


“Praise the sea maid, daughter of Aphrodite, bride of Helios, this isle of Rhodes.” – Pindar; Odes Olympian 7 ep1 

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.
Rhodes (Greek: Ρόδος, Ródos) is the principal city on the island of Rhodes, an island in the Dodecanese, Greece. It has a population of approximately 80,000. Rhodes has been famous since antiquity as the site of Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The citadel of Rhodes, built by the Hospitalliers, is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe which in 1988 was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rhodes is at the crossroad of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa and hence on the marine routes which connected the West with the Orient, since the early antiquity. Being such a melting pot, the island attracted various populations and was influenced by several cultures during its long history. Every people who arrived at Rhodes, either peacefully or after winning a war, in mass or in small groups, left their traces on the beautiful island. The result of this diversity has always added to this interesting blend that has proved very persistent and still exists today. Rhodes had always been – and still is – a place rich both in natural and in human resources.

The City of Rhodes is a popular international tourist destination. The city is home to numerous landmarks. Some of them date back to antiquity and most of the others remain from the medieval period. They include: The Grand Master’s Palace (15th century); Knights Street; Acropolis of Rhodes; Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent; Medieval walls, created in the mid-14th century on a previous line and remade after the Ottoman siege of 1480 and the earthquake of the following year; Gothic buildings in the historical upper town. Recently, the Byzantine harbour was excavated, discovering medieval shipwrecks.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby 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, 11 September 2017


“If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary.” - Margaret Atwood 

Isis and Horus in Ancient Egypt had an immense cult following and particularly important was the role of Isis as primordial mother goddess. The associations of the Isis/Horus pair with the Virgin Mary/Jesus pair have not been lost on historians, comparative theologians and sociologists. The following is from “The Religion of Ancient Egypt” by William Flinders Petrie, Edwards Professor of Egyptology, University College, London (1906):

"Isis became attached at a very early time to the Osiris worship; and appears in later myths as the sister and wife of Osiris. The union of Horus with the myth, and the establishment of Isis as the mother goddess, was the main mode of her importance in late times. Isis as the nursing mother is seldom shown until the twenty-sixth dynasty; then the type continually became more popular, until it outgrew all other religions of the country.

In Roman times the mother Isis not only received the devotion of all Egypt, but her worship spread rapidly abroad, like that of Mithra. It became the popular devotion of Italy; and, after a change of name due to the growth of Christianity, she has continued to receive the adoration of a large part of Europe down to the present day as the Madonna.

Horus became identified with the sun-god, and hence came the winged solar disk as the emblem of Horus of Edfu (the infant Horus with his finger to his lips was the most popular form of all, sometimes alone, sometimes on his mother’s lap). From the twenty-sixth dynasty down to late Roman times the infant Horus, or the young boy, was the most prominent subject on the temples, and the commonest figure in the homes of the people.  Isis and Horus, the Queen of Heaven and the Holy Child, became the popular deities of the later age of Egypt, and their figures far outnumber those of all other gods.

Horus in every form of infancy was the loved bambino of the Egyptian women. Again Horus appears carried on the arm of his mother in a form which is indistinguishable from that adopted by Christianity soon after. We see, then, throughout the Roman world the popular worship of the Queen of Heaven, Mater Dolorosa, Mother of God, patroness of sailors, and her infant son Horus the child, the benefactor of men, who took captive all the powers of evil. And this worship spread and increased in Egypt and elsewhere until the growing power of Christianity compelled a change.

The old worship continued; for the Syrian maid became transformed into an entirely different figure, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, patroness of sailors, occupying the position and attributes already belonging to the world-wide goddess; and the Divine Teacher, the Man of Sorrows, became transformed into the entirely different figure of the Potent Child. Isis and Horus still ruled the affections and worship of Europe with a change of names."

Sunday, 10 September 2017


“When women pose thoughtfully and artistically - in nothing but their bare skin - they find themselves. They discover that they are truly alive. They become a Nude.” - David Allio 

Suzanne Valadon (23 September 1865 – 7 April 1938) was a French painter and artists’ model who was born Marie-Clémentine Valadon at Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, France. In 1894, Valadon became the first woman painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She was also the mother of painter Maurice Utrillo. The subjects of her drawings and paintings included mostly female nudes, female portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. She never attended the academy and was never confined within a tradition. Valadon spent nearly 40 years of her life as an artist.

Valadon grew up in poverty with her mother, an unmarried laundress; she did not know her father. Known to be quite independent and rebellious, she attended primary school until age 11. In 1883, aged 18, Valadon gave birth to her illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo. Valadon’s mother cared for Maurice while she returned to modelling. Valadon’s friend Miguel Utrillo would later sign papers recognising Maurice as his son, although his true paternity is uncertain.

Valadon helped to educate herself in art by reading Toulouse-Lautrec’s books and observing the artists at work for whom she posed. In 1893, Valadon began a short-lived affair with composer Erik Satie, moving to a room next to his on the Rue Cortot. Satie became obsessed with her, calling her his Biqui, writing impassioned notes about “her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet”, but after six months she left, leaving him devastated.

Valadon married stockbroker Paul Moussis in 1895, leading a bourgeois life for 13 years at an apartment in Paris and a house in the suburbs. In 1909, Valadon began an affair with the painter André Utter, age 23 and a friend of her son, divorcing Moussis in 1913. Valadon married Utter in 1914, and he managed her career as well as her son’s. Valadon and Utter regularly exhibited work together until the couple divorced in 1934. Valadon was well known during her lifetime but within the art historical narrative her work has long been overshadowed by a Bohemian and lower class lifestyle.

Valadon debuted as a model in 1880 in Montmartre at age 15. She modelled for over 10 years for many different artists including the following: Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, Théophile Steinlen, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. She modelled under the name “Maria” eventually being nicknamed “Suzanne” after the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders. She was considered a very focused, ambitious, rebellious, determined, self-confident, and passionate woman. In the early 1890s she befriended Edgar Degas who, impressed with her bold line drawings and fine paintings, purchased her work and encouraged her; she remained one of his closest friends until his death.

It’s probable that Valadon’s experience as a model added depth to her own images of nude women, which tended to be less idealised than that of the male post impressionists representations. The most recognisable image of Valadon would be in Renoir’s “Danceat Bougival” from 1883, the same year that she posed for “Dance in the City”. In 1885, Renoir painted her portrait again as “Girl Braiding Her Hair”. Another of his portraits of her in 1885, Suzanne Valadon, is of her head and shoulders in profile. Valadon frequented the bars and taverns of Paris with her fellow painters, and she was Toulouse-Lautrec’s subject in his oil painting “The Hangover”.

Valadon taught herself how to draw at the age of nine. She painted still lifes, portraits, flowers, and landscapes that are noted for their strong composition and vibrant colours. She was, however, best known for her candid female nudes that depict women’s bodies from a woman’s perspective. This is particularly important because it was unusual in the nineteenth century for a woman artist to make female nudes her primary subject matter. Valadon was not confined to a specific style, yet both Symbolist and Post-Impressionist aesthetics are clearly seen within her work.

Valadon primarily worked with oil paint, oil pencils, pastels, and red chalk; she did not use ink or watercolour because these media were too fluid for her preference. Valadon’s paintings feature rich colours and bold, open brushwork often featuring firm black lines to define and outline her figures. She used hard black lines to emphasise the structure of the body. She also used firm lines in her nudes to highlight the play of light on curves

Valadon’s self-portraits, portraits, nudes, landscapes, and still lifes remain detached from trends and aspects of academic art. The subjects of Valadon’s paintings often reinvented the old master’s themes: Women bathing, reclining nudes, and interior scenes. However the nudes Valadon paints veer far from the norms of this male dominated genre, the paintings are interpreted in a much different way which could contradict of question the nature of the genre. Many have suggested a vibrant, emotional sense that emanates from her drawings and paintings as a result from an intimate, familiar observation of these women’s bodies. Similarly to Valadon, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt painted mostly women, yet because of their middle class status in French society at the time they were unable to paint the nude body, regardless of gender.

The painting above is “The Joy of Life” from 1911 and is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in new York City. Unfortunately, it is not on public view.

Saturday, 9 September 2017


“I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy.” - Charles Baudelaire 

Josef Suk (4 January 1874 – 29 May 1935) was a Czech composer and violinist born in Křečovice, Bohemia. He studied under Antonín Dvořák, whose daughter he married. From a young age, Josef Suk was deeply involved and well-trained in music. He learned organ, violin, and piano from his father, Josef Suk senior, and was trained further in violin by the Czech violinist Antonín Bennewitz. His theory studies were conducted with several other composers including Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Karel Knittl, and Karel Stecker. He later focused his writing on chamber works under the teachings of Hanuš Wihan.

Despite extensive musical training, Suk’s musical skill was often said to be largely inherited. Though he continued his lessons with Wihan another year after the completion of his schooling, Suk’s greatest inspiration came from another of his teachers, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Known as one of Dvořák’s favorite pupils, Suk also became personally close to his mentor. Underlying this was Dvořák’s respect for Suk, reflected in Suk’s 1898 marriage to Dvořák’s daughter, Otilie, marking some of the happiest times in the composer’s life and music.

However, the last portion of Suk’s life was punctuated with tragedy. Over the span of 14 months around 1905, not only did Suk’s mentor Dvořák die, but so did Otilie. These events inspired Suk’s “Asrael Symphony”. Because of a shared heritage (and the coincidence of their dying within a few months of one another) Suk has been closely compared, in works and style, to fellow Czech composer Otakar Ostrčil. Suk, alongside Vitezslav Novak and Ostrčil, is considered one of the leading composers in Czech Modernism, with much shared influence among the three coming in turn from Dvořák.

Eminent German figures such as composer Johannes Brahms and critic Eduard Hanslick recognized Suk’s work during his time with the Czech Quartet. Over time, well known Austrian composers such as Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg also began to take notice of Suk and his work. Although he wrote mostly instrumental music, Suk occasionally branched out into other genres. Orchestral music was his strong suit, notably the “Serenade for Strings”, Op. 6 (1892).

His time with the Czech Quartet, though performing successful concerts until his retirement, was not always met with public approval. Several anti-Dvořák campaigns came into prominence; criticism not only being directed at the quartet, but towards Suk specifically. The leftist critic Zdeněk Nejedlý accused the Czech Quartet of inappropriately playing concerts in the Czech lands during World War I. While these attacks diminished Suk’s spirits, they did not hinder his work. Suk retired in 1933, although he continued to be a valuable and inspirational public figure to the Czechs. Josef Suk died on May 29, 1935, in Benešov, Czechoslovakia. He is the grandfather of famed Czech violinist Josef Suk.

Suk’s musical style started off with a heavy influence from his mentor, Dvořák. The biggest change of Suk’s style came after he reached a dead end in his early musical style, just before he began a stylistic shift during 1897–1905, perhaps realising that the strong influence of Dvořák would limit his work. Melancholy was always a large factor in Suk’s music. For instance, he wrote his own funeral march in 1889 and it appears significantly also in a major work, the “Funeral Symphony, Asrael”, Op. 27. “Ripening”, a symphonic poem, was also a story of pain and questioning the value of life.

Other works, however, such as the music he set to Julius Zeyer’s drama “Radúz a Mahulena”, display his happiness, which he credited to his marriage with Otilie. Another of Suk’s works, “Pohádka” (Fairy Tale), was drawn from his work with “Radúz a Mahulena”. The closest Suk came to opera is in his incidental music to the play “Pod jabloní” (Beneath the Apple Tree).

Here is Suk’s “Serenade for Strings in E flat major”, Op. 6 (1892), performed by The Young Danish Chamber Orchestra:
1. Andante con moto (0:00)
2. Allegro ma non troppo e grazioso (4:57)
3. Adagio (10:38)
4. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo presto (19:29)

While Suk was studying under Antonín Dvořák at the Prague Conservatory, Dvořák noticed a melancholy strain in much of Suk’s music, and recommended he write some lighter and more cheerful music. Based on Dvořák’s suggestion, Suk produced this serenade for strings. Two movements were publicly conducted by Suk in late 1893 in Tábor. The first complete performance was on 25 February 1895, at the Prague Conservatory, conducted by Antonín Bennewitz, Suk’s violin teacher at the Conservatory. The Serenade soon brought Suk considerable fame and Dvořák’s longtime supporter, Johannes Brahms, endorsed its publication.