Saturday, 31 December 2016


“Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.” - Göran Persson

The Vienna New Year’s Concert (Neujahrskonzert der Wiener Philharmoniker) is a concert of classical music performed by the Vienna Philharmonic that takes place each year in the morning of New Year’s Day in Vienna, Austria. It is broadcast live around the world to an estimated audience of 50 million in 73 countries in 2012 and 90 countries in 2015.

There had been a tradition of concerts on New Year’s Day in Vienna since 1838, but not with music of the Strauss family. From 1928 to 1933 there were five New Year concerts in the Musikverein, conducted by Johann Strauss III. These concerts were broadcast by the RAVAG. In 1939, Clemens Krauss, with the support of Vienna Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach, devised a New Year concert which the orchestra dedicated to Kriegswinterhilfswerk (Winter War Relief), to improve morale at the front lines. After World War II, this concert survived, as the Nazi origins were largely forgotten, until more recently.

The music always includes pieces from the Strauss family (Johann Strauss I, Johann Strauss II, Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss) with occasional additional music from other mainly Austrian composers, including Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Joseph Lanner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Otto Nicolai [the Vienna Philharmonic’s founder], Emil von Reznicek, Franz Schubert, Franz von Suppé, and Karl Michael Ziehrer). In 2009, music by Joseph Haydn was played for the first time: The 4th movement of his “Farewell” Symphony to mark the 200th anniversary of his death.

There are traditionally about a dozen compositions played, with an interval halfway through the concert and encores at the end. They include waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, and marches. Of the encores, the first is often a fast polka. The second is Johann Strauss II’s waltz “The Blue Danube”, whose introduction is interrupted by applause of recognition and a New Year greeting from the musicians to the audience. The last is Johann Strauss I’s Radetzky March, during which the audience claps along under the conductor’s direction. In this last piece, the tradition also calls for the conductor to start the orchestra as soon he steps onto the stage, before reaching the podium. The complete duration of the event is around two and a half hours.

The concerts have been held in the Großer Saal (Large Hall) of the Musikverein since 1939. The television broadcast is augmented by ballet performances in selected pieces during the second part of the programme. The dancers come from the Vienna State Opera Ballet and dance at different famous places in Austria, e.g. Schönbrunn Palace, Schloss Esterházy, the Vienna State Opera or the Wiener Musikverein itself. In 2013, the costumes were designed by Vivienne Westwood. From 1980 until 2013, the flowers that decorated the hall were a gift from the city of Sanremo, Liguria, Italy. In 2014, the flowers were provided by the Vienna Philharmonic itself. Since 2014, the flowers have been arranged by the Wiener Stadtgärten.

The concert is popular throughout Europe, and more recently around the world. The demand for tickets is so high that people have to pre-register one year in advance in order to participate in the drawing of tickets for the following year. Some seats are pre-registered by certain Austrian families and are passed down from generation to generation.

Here is the complete New Year Concert 2013, with the Wiener Philharmoniker under the direction of Franz Welser Moest.

Friday, 30 December 2016


“One thing I have been banging on about, we have a dessert deficit in the U.K. We still import a very large proportion of our desserts. I would ask everyone to go out and buy a British dessert.” - Owen Paterson

As the year draws to a close, make a dessert that is sweet and spicy and rich, just like the New Year you wish it to be!
Figgy Puddings
Ingredients – Pudding
200g finely chopped dried figs
100 g finely chopped pitted prunes
350 ml boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150 g unsalted butter, softened
170 g brown sugar
3 eggs
230 g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
Double cream, to serve (optional)
Ingredients - Butterscotch sauce
200g brown sugar
300 mL thickened cream
110 g unsalted butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line the bases of eight 250ml capacity pudding moulds with baking paper.
Combine the figs, prunes, water and bicarbonate of soda in a medium bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes to soak.
Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Add half the flour and stir to combine. Add the fig mixture and combine. Add the cinnamon and remaining flour and combine. Spoon mixture among the prepared moulds and place on an oven tray. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centres comes out clean. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool before turning out onto serving plates.
Meanwhile, to make the butterscotch sauce, combine the sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for five minutes or until the mixture boils and thickens.
Spoon the sauce over the puddings. Serve with double cream if desired.

Thursday, 29 December 2016


“We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.” - Jerry García 
Liquorice, or licorice, is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, a plant in the Fabaceae family, from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a herbaceous perennial legume native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, such as India. It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds. Most liquorice is used as a flavouring agent for tobacco, particularly US blend cigarettes, to which liquorice lends a natural sweetness and a distinctive flavour and makes it easier to inhale the smoke by creating bronchodilators, which open up the lungs.

Liquorice flavours are also used as candies or sweeteners, particularly in some European and Middle Eastern countries. Liquorice extracts have a number of medical uses, and they are also used in herbal and folk medications. Excessive consumption of liquorice (more than 2 mg/kg/day of pure glycyrrhizinic acid, a liquorice component) may result in adverse effects, and overconsumption should be suspected clinically in patients presenting with otherwise unexplained hypokalaemia and muscle weakness.

 The word liquorice is derived (via the Old French licoresse) from the Greek γλυκύρριζα (glukurrhiza), meaning “sweet root”, from γλυκύς (glukus), “sweet” + ῥίζα (rhiza), “root”, the name provided by Dioscorides. It is usually spelled liquorice in British usage, but licorice in the United States and Canada.

The plant is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 cm long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 cm long, containing several seeds. The roots are stoloniferous. Liquorice grows best in well-drained soils in deep valleys with full sun and is harvested in the autumn two to three years after planting. Countries producing liquorice include India, Iran, Italy, Afghanistan, the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan,Turkey, and England. The world's leading manufacturer of liquorice products is M&F Worldwide, which manufactures more than 70% of the worldwide liquorice flavours sold to end users.

The scent of liquorice root comes from a complex and variable combination of compounds, of which anethole is up to 3% of total volatiles. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, which has a sweet taste, 30–50 times the sweetness of sugar. The sweetness is very different from sugar, being less instant, tart, and lasting longer. The isoflavene glabrene and the isoflavane glabridin, found in the roots of liquorice, are phytoestrogens.

Liquorice flavour is found in a wide variety of candies or sweets. In most of these candies, the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil so the actual content of liquorice is very low. Liquorice confections are primarily purchased by consumers in the European Union. In the Netherlands, liquorice candy (drop) is one of the most popular forms of sweets. It is sold in many forms. Mixing it with mint, menthol, aniseed, or laurel is quite popular. Mixing it with ammonium chloride (salmiak) is also popular. The most popular liquorice, known in the Netherlands as zoute drop (salty liquorice), actually contains very little salt, i.e., sodium chloride. The salty taste is probably due to ammonium chloride and the blood pressure-raising effect is due to glycyrrhizin. Strong, salty sweets are also popular in Nordic countries.

Pontefract in Yorkshire was the first place where liquorice mixed with sugar began to be used as a sweet in the same way it is in the modern day. Pontefract cakes were originally made there. In County Durham, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, it is colloquially known as ‘Spanish’, supposedly because Spanish monks grew liquorice root at Rievaulx Abbey near Thirsk. In Italy (particularly in the south), Spain, and France, liquorice is popular in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed, dried, and chewed as a mouth freshener. Throughout Italy, unsweetened liquorice is consumed in the form of small black pieces made only from 100% pure liquorice extract; the taste is bitter. In Calabria a popular liqueur is made from pure liquorice extract.

Liquorice is also very popular in Syria and Egypt, where it is sold as a drink, in shops as well as street vendors. It is used for its expectorant qualities in folk medicine in Egypt. Dried liquorice root can be chewed as a sweet. Black liquorice contains about 15 kJ/g. Liquorice is used by brewers to flavour and colour porter classes of beers, and the enzymes in the root also stabilise the foam heads produced by beers brewed with it.

Glycyrrhizin has demonstrated antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and blood pressure-increasing effects in vitro and in vivo, as is supported by the finding that intravenous glycyrrhizin (as if it is given orally very little of the original drug makes it into circulation) slows the progression of viral and autoimmune hepatitis. In one clinical trial liquorice demonstrated promising activity, when applied topically, against atopic dermatitis.

Additionally, liquorice may be effective in treating hyperlipidaemia (a high amount of fats in the blood). Liquorice has also demonstrated efficacy in treating inflammation-induced skin hyperpigmentation. Liquorice may also be useful in preventing neurodegenerative disorders and dental caries. The antiulcer, laxative, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antitumour and expectorant properties of liquorice have been investigated. The compound glycyrrhizin (or glycyrrhizic acid), found in liquorice, has been proposed as being useful for liver protection in tuberculosis therapy, but evidence does not support this use, which may in fact be harmful. The United States Food and Drug Administration believes that foods containing liquorice and its derivatives (including glycyrrhizin) are safe if not consumed excessively. Other jurisdictions have suggested no more than 100 mg to 200 mg of glycyrrhizin per day, the equivalent of about 70 to 150 g of liquorice.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of flowering wild liquorice means: “I declare against you”. Dried root incorporated in a bouquet implies: “Your company is sweet and agreeable”.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016


“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin 

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.
Santa Barbara (Spanish for ‘Saint Barbara’) is the county seat of Santa Barbara County in the U.S. state of California. Situated on a south-facing section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara’s climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city has been promoted as the ‘American Riviera’.

 As of 2014, the city had an estimated population of 91,196, up from 88,410 in 2010, making it the second most populous city in the county after Santa Maria while the contiguous urban area, which includes the cities of Goleta and Carpinteria, along with the unincorporated regions of Isla Vista, Montecito, Mission Canyon, Hope Ranch, Summerland, and others, has an approximate population of 220,000. The population of the entire county in 2010 was 423,895.

 In addition to being a popular tourist and resort destination, the city economy includes a large service sector, education, technology, health care, finance, agriculture, manufacturing, and local government. In 2004, the service sector accounted for fully 35% of local employment. Education in particular is well represented, with four institutions of higher learning on the south coast (the University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College, and Antioch University).

The Santa Barbara Airport serves the city, as does Amtrak. U.S. Highway 101 connects the Santa Barbara area with Los Angeles to the southeast and San Francisco to the northwest. Behind the city, in and beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains, is the Los Padres National Forest, which contains several remote wilderness areas. Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are located approximately 32 km offshore. 

Mission Santa Barbara, also known as Santa Barbara Mission, is a Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order near present-day Santa Barbara, California. It was founded by Padre Fermín Lasuén on December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, as the tenth mission for the religious conversion of the indigenous local Chumash-Barbareño tribe of Native American people. The mission is the namesake of the city of Santa Barbara as well as of Santa Barbara County.

The Mission grounds occupy a rise between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, and were consecrated by Father Fermín Lasuén, who had taken over the presidency of the California mission chain upon the death of Father Presidente Junípero Serra. Mission Santa Barbara is the only mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Friars since its founding, and today is a parish church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday 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, 26 December 2016


“Films are meant solely to provide entertainment. There are no lessons to be learnt and and inferences to be drawn. Has anyone become dutiful and law abiding after seeing a film that espouses these very virtues? Films can do no more than influence fashion, decor, and hairstyle trends.” -  Madhur Bhandarkar

Do you agree with this view of the influence of film by Bhandarkar? I don’t. Films are more than simple entertainment and they can have a variety of influences on the viewer. Film surely is entertainment, but that is not its only effect or function.

Film can be art, it can be propaganda, it can be a powerful means of communication and education (especially so in the social arena). Film can be subtle in its effects and it can have good or bad outcome in terms of changing attitudes, modifying prejudices and arousing expectations in people.

What do you think?

Sunday, 25 December 2016


“Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (Polish: Mikołaj Konstanty Czurlanis; 22 September [O.S. 10 September] 1875 –10 April [O.S. 28 March] 1911) was a Lithuanian painter, composer and writer. Čiurlionis contributed to symbolism and art nouveau and was representative of the fin de siècle epoch. He has been considered one of the pioneers of abstract art in Europe. During his short life he composed about 400 pieces of music and created about 300 paintings, as well as many literary works and poems. The majority of his paintings are housed in the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania. His works have had a profound influence on modern Lithuanian culture.

Čiurlionis was born in Senoji Varėna, a town in southeastern Lithuania that at the time was in the Russian Empire. He was the oldest of nine children of his father, Lithuanian Konstantinas, and his mother, Adelė née Radmanaitė (Radmann), who was descended from a Lutheran family of Bavarian origin. Like many educated Lithuanians of the time, Čiurlionis's family spoke Polish, and he began learning Lithuanian only after meeting his fiancée in 1907.

In 1878 his family moved to Druskininkai, 50 km away, where his father went on to be the town organist. Čiurlionis was a musical prodigy: He could play by ear at age three and could sight-read music freely by age seven. Three years out of primary school, he went to study at the musical school of Polish Prince Michał Ogiński in Plungė, where he learned to play several instruments, in particular the flute, from 1889 to 1893. Supported by Prince Ogiński's 'scholarship' Čiurlionis studied piano and composition at Warsaw Conservatory from 1894 to 1899. For his graduation, in 1899, he wrote a cantata for mixed chorus and symphonic orchestra titled ‘De Profundis’, with the guidance of the composer Zygmunt Noskowski. Later he attended composition lectures at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1901 to 1902.

He returned to Warsaw in 1902 and studied drawing at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts from 1904 to 1906 and became a friend with a Polish composer and painter Eugeniusz Morawski-Dąbrowa. After the 1905 Russian Revolution, which resulted in the loosening of cultural restrictions on the Empire's minorities, he began to identify himself as a Lithuanian. He was one of the initiators of, and a participant in, the First Exhibition of Lithuanian Art in 1907 at Vileišis Palace, Vilnius. Soon after this event the Lithuanian Union of Arts was founded, and Čiurlionis was one of its 19 founding members.

In 1907 he became acquainted with Sofija Kymantaitė (1886–1958), an art critic. Through this association Čiurlionis learned to speak better Lithuanian. Early in 1909 he married Sofija. At the end of that year he travelled to St. Petersburg, where he exhibited some of his paintings. On Christmas Eve Čiurlionis fell into a profound depression and at the beginning of 1910 was hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital ‘Czerwony Dwór’ (Red Manor) in Marki, Poland, northeast of Warsaw. While a patient there he died of pneumonia in 1911 at 35 years of age. He was buried at the Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius. He never saw his daughter Danutė (1910–1995).

Čiurlionis felt that he was a synaesthete; that is, he perceived colours and music simultaneously. Many of his paintings bear the names of musical pieces: Sonatas, fugues, and preludes. In 1911 the first posthumous exhibition of Čiurlionis’s art was held in Vilnius and Kaunas. During the same year an exhibition of his art was held in Moscow, and in 1912 his works were exhibited in St. Petersburg. In 1957 the Lithuanian community in Chicago opened the Čiurlionis Art Gallery, hosting collections of his works.

In 1963 the Čiurlionis Memorial Museum was opened in Druskininkai, in the house where Čiurlionis and his family lived. This museum holds biographical documents as well as photographs and reproductions of the artist's works. The National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art in Vilnius was named after him in 1965. Čiurlionis inspired the Lithuanian composer Osvaldas Balakauskas’ work ‘Sonata of the Mountains’ (1975), and every four years junior musical performers from Lithuania and neighbouring countries take part in the Čiurlionis Competition.

Čiurlionis's name has been given to cliffs in Franz Josef Land, a peak in the Pamir Mountains, and to asteroid #2420, discovered by the Crimean astrophysicist Nikolaj Cernych. Čiurlionis's works have been displayed at international exhibitions in Japan, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere. His paintings were featured at ‘Visual Music’ fest, an homage to synaesthesia that included the works of Wassily Kandinsky, James McNeill Whistler, and Paul Klee, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2005. A commemorative plaque has been placed on the building of the former hospital in Marki, Poland where Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis died in 1911. Čiurlionis’s life was depicted in the biographical feature film ‘Letters to Sofija’ directed by Robert Mullan in 2012.

The precise number of Čiurlionis musical compositions is not known – a substantial part of his manuscripts did not survive, while others presumably perished in the fire during the war, or were lost. The ones available for us today include sketches, rough drafts, and fragments of his musical ideas. The nature of the archive determined the fact that Čiurlionis’ works were finally published only hundred years after the composer’s death. Today, the archive amounts to almost 400 music compositions major part of which are works for piano, but also significant works for symphony orchestra (symphonic poems ‘In the Forest’ and ‘The Sea’,  overtures, cantata for choir and orchestra), string quartet, works for various choirs (original compositions and Lithuanian folk song arrangements), as well as works for organ.

The painting above is 'Angels' (aka 'Paradise') of 1909.

Saturday, 24 December 2016


“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” - Dale Evans

The Christmas Oratorio (German: Weihnachts-Oratorium), BWV 248, is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach intended for performance in church during the Christmas season. It was written for the Christmas season of 1734 and incorporates music from earlier compositions, including three secular cantatas written during 1733 and 1734 and a now lost church cantata, BWV 248a. The date is confirmed in Bach’s autograph manuscript.

The next performance was not until 17 December 1857 by the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin under Eduard Grell. The Christmas Oratorio is a particularly sophisticated example of parody music. The author of the text is unknown, although a likely collaborator was Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander). The work belongs to a group of three oratorios written towards the end of Bach’s career in 1734 and 1735 for major feasts, the others being the Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11) and the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249). All parody earlier compositions, although the Christmas Oratorio is by far the longest and most complex work.

The oratorio is in six parts, each part being intended for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period. The piece is often presented as a whole or split into two equal parts. The total running time for the entire work is nearly three hours. The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation to the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year's Day) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany) the adoration of the Magi.

Here it is in a version with director, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the Concentus Musicus Wien; Peter Schreier – Tenor’ Robert Holl – Bass; Soloists of the Tolzer Knabenchor and Chorusmaster: Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden.

The illustration is “The Nativity with Donors and Saints Jerome and Leonard” by Gerard David (Netherlandish, Oudewater ca. 1455–1523 Bruges) ca. 1510–15.

Friday, 23 December 2016


“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state--it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle.... Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.” ― Abraham Joshua Heschel

As Christmas is fast approaching, a traditional Italian sweetmeat recipe that carries with it all of the flavours of the festive season.

Panforte di Siena
150 g unsalted almonds, roasted and coarsely chopped
75 g unsalted hazelnuts, roasted coarsely chopped
75 g unsalted pistachios, roasted coarsely chopped
100 g candied orange peel, chopped
75 g flour
30 g pure cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
Pinch white pepper
100 g sugar
200 g clear honey
35 g butter
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven on 150˚C.
Mix the nuts with the orange peel.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and spices and mix through the nuts.
Gently heat the sugar, honey and butter in a pan till the sugar has dissolved and let it cook on higher heat for 3-4 minutes.
Quickly mix the syrup through the dry mix, scoop in a round tin (covered with baking paper) and press in in with your fingers.
Let it bake in the oven for 40 minutes and cool down in the tin. Remove the paper and dust with icing sugar.
Serve tiny portions.
Have a Merry Christmas!


“If you’re not the one cooking, stay out of the way and compliment the chef.” - Michael Strahan

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum, in the family Pedaliaceae. Numerous wild relatives occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalised in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds, which grow in pods or ‘buns’. The world harvested 4.2 million metric tonnes of sesame seeds in 2013, with India and China as the largest producers. Sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops known, domesticated well over 3000 years ago.

Sesame has many species, most being wild and native to sub-Saharan Africa. Sesame indicum, the cultivated type, originated in India and is tolerant to drought-like conditions, growing where other crops fail. Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed. With a rich, nutty flavour, it is a common ingredient in cuisines across the world. Like other nuts and foods, it can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Sesame seed is considered to be the oldest oilseed crop known to humanity. The genus has many species, and most are wild. Most wild species of the genus Sesamum are native to sub-Saharan Africa. Charred remains of sesame recovered from archaeological excavations have been dated to 3500-3050 BC. The historic origin of sesame was favoured by its ability to grow in areas that do not support the growth of other crops. It is also a robust crop that needs little farming support: It grows in drought conditions, in high heat, with residual moisture in soil after monsoons are gone or even when rains fail or when rains are excessive. It was a crop that could be grown by subsistence farmers at the edge of deserts, where no other crops grow. Sesame has been called a survivor crop!

Sesame is an annual plant growing 50 to 100 cm tall, with opposite leaves 4 to 14 cm long with an entire margin; they are broad lanceolate, to 5 cm broad, at the base of the plant, narrowing to just 1 cm broad on the flowering stem. The flowers are tubular, 3 to 5 cm long, with a four-lobed mouth. The flowers may vary in colour, with some being white, yellow, blue, or purple. Sesame seeds occur in many colours depending on the cultivar. The most traded variety of sesame is off-white coloured. Other common colours are buff, tan, gold, brown, reddish, gray, and black. The colour is the same for the hull and the fruit.

Sesame fruit is a capsule, normally pubescent, rectangular in section, and typically grooved with a short, triangular beak. The length of the fruit capsule varies from 2 to 8 cm, its width varies between 0.5 and 2 cm, and the number of loculi varies from four to 12. The fruit naturally splits open (dehisces) to release the seeds by splitting along the septa from top to bottom or by means of two apical pores, depending on the varietal cultivar. The degree of dehiscence is of importance in breeding for mechanised harvesting, as is the insertion height of the first capsule. Sesame seeds are small. Their size, form, and colours vary with the thousands of varieties now known. Typically, the seeds are about 3 to 4 mm long by 2 mm wide and 1 mm thick. The seeds are ovate, slightly flattened, and somewhat thinner at the eye of the seed (hilum) than at the opposite end. The weight of the seeds is between 20 and 40 mg. The seed coat (testa) may be smooth or ribbed.

In 2013, world production of sesame seeds was 4.2 million tonnes, led by India and mainland China/ The most productive sesame seed farms in the world in 2013 were in Greece, reporting the highest nationwide yield of 0.69 tonnes per hectare. A large yield gap and farm loss differences exist between major sesame seed producers, in part because of knowledge gap, poor crop management practices, and use of technologies.

The world traded over a billion dollars worth of sesame seeds in 2010. The trade volume has been increasing rapidly in the last two decades. Japan is the world’s largest sesame importer. Sesame oil, particularly from roasted seed, is an important component of Japanese cooking and traditionally the principal use of the seed. China is the second-largest importer of sesame, mostly oil-grade. China exports lower-priced food-grade sesame seeds, particularly to Southeast Asia.

For a 100-gram serving, dried whole sesame seeds are rich in calories (573 kcal) and are composed of 5% water, 23% carbohydrates, 12% dietary fiber, 50% fat and 18% protein. The flour that remains after oil extraction from sesame seeds is 35-50% protein and contains carbohydrates. This flour, also called sesame meal, is a high-protein feed for poultry and livestock. Sesame seed is a common ingredient in various cuisines worldwide. It is used whole in cooking for its rich, nutty flavour. Sesame seeds are sometimes added to breads, including bagels and the tops of hamburger buns. Sesame seeds may be baked into crackers, often in the form of sticks. In Sicily and France, the seeds are eaten on bread (ficelle sésame, sesame thread). In Greece, the seeds are also used in cakes.

In the language of flowers, a stem of flowering sesame included in a bouquet, indicates: “You have many hidden talents.”

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.” - Thomas S. Monson 

A poem for the season, which again this year has become  fraught with moredifficulties, discontent, insecurity and much melancholy. The world seems to be on a downhill slide with a cliff fast approaching… 

This Christmas

These days before Christmas:
The tinsel and the trees,
The carols and the candles,
The gift-buying and the gladness…

The Christmas spirit:
Peace and prosperity,
Love and kindness,
Joy to the world…

The Christmas story:
As reinvented by big business,
Where profit rules,
And lip service is duly paid …

And this year’s Christmas:
Trying to bring together family,
Salvage sanity and seek serenity,
Reduce the complex to the bare essentials…

And yet the world becomes more and more insane:
Terrorism and torture,
Murder and mayhem,
Horror and hate,
War and wickedness,
Lies and lovelessness…

This Christmas:
Gather around you those you love,
Seek peace actively;
Give to some strangers what they most need,
Forgive those who have wronged you;
Think of those who have lost all,
Change what you can for the better –
And find Christmas within your heart,
No matter what your religion is…

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” - Thomas Jefferson
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.  
Cappadocia (from Ancient Greek: Καππαδοκία) is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in the Nevşehir, Kayseri, Aksaray, and Niğde Provinces in Turkey. In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine (Black Sea). Cappadocia, in this sense, was bounded in the south by the chain of the Taurus Mountains that separate it from Cilicia, to the east by the upper Euphrates and the Armenian Highland, to the north by Pontus, and to the west by Lycaonia and eastern Galatia. 

The name Cappadocia, traditionally used in Christian sources throughout history, continues in use as an international tourism concept to define a region of exceptional natural wonders, in particular characterised by geological structures known as 'fairy chimneys' and a unique historical and cultural heritage.

A hoodoo (also called a tent rock, fairy chimney, and earth pyramid) is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos, which may range from 1.5–45 metres, typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements. They generally form within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations. Hoodoo shapes are affected by the erosional patterns of alternating hard and softer rock layers. Minerals deposited within different rock types cause hoodoos to have different colours throughout their height.

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:

Sunday, 18 December 2016


“Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism.” - Claude McKay

Maurice Denis (25 November 1870 – 13 November 1943) was a French painter and writer, and a member of the Symbolist and Les Nabis movements. His theories contributed to the foundations of cubism, fauvism, and abstract art. He was born 25 November 1870, in Granville, Manche, a coastal town in the Normandy region of France. Waters and coastlines would remain a favourite subject throughout his career, as would material drawn from the Bible.

For such an avant-garde figure, Denis had a surprisingly broad religious streak, writing in his notebook at age fifteen, “Yes, it’s necessary that I am a Christian painter, that I celebrate all the miracles of Christianity, I feel it’s necessary.” The Denis family was affluent, and young Maurice attended both the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian, where he studied with the French figure painter and theorist Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

At the Académie, he met painters and future Nabi members including Paul Sérusier, Pierre Bonnard; through Bonnard he also met the future Nabis Édouard Vuillard, Ker-Xavier Roussel and Hermann-Paul. In 1890, they formed The Nabis. They chose “Nabi” (Hebrew for “Prophet”), because they understood they would be creating new forms of expression. The group would split apart by the end of the decade, and would influence the later work of both Bonnard and Vuillard, as well as non-Nabi painters like Henri Matisse. After Les Nabis, Denis went on to focus on religious subjects and murals.

In 1922, he published his collected historical and theoretical work as “Nouvelles théories sur l’art moderne, sur l’art sacré” (“New Theories of Modern and Sacred Art”. The subjects of his mature works include landscapes and figure studies, particularly of mother and child. But his primary interest remained the painting of religious subjects, like “The dignity of labour”, commissioned in 1931 by the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions to decorate the main staircase of the Centre William Rappard.

Denis was among the first artists to insist on the flatness of the picture plane, one of the great starting points for modernism, as practiced in the visual arts. In his famous proposal for the definition of painting, offered in 1890, he stated: “Remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a nude, an anecdote or whatnot, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order”. In 1898, he produced a theory of creation that found the source for art in the character of the painter: “That which creates a work of art is the power and the will of the artist”.

The Ateliers d’Art Sacré were founded on 5 November 1919 after World War I (1914-18) by Denis and Georges Desvallières as part of a broad movement in Europe to reconcile the church with modern civilisation. The Ateliers created art for churches, particularly those devastated by the recent war. Denis said that he was against academic art because it sacrificed emotion to convention and artifice, and was against realism because it was prose and he wanted music. Above all he wanted beauty, which was an attribute of divinity.

Denis, a Catholic tertiary, married his first wife, Marthe Meurier, in 1893. They had seven children, and she would pose for numerous Denis works. Following her death in 1919, Denis painted a chapel dedicated to her memory. Two years later, he married again, to Elisabeth Graterolle, and fathered two more children. Politically, he was close to the monarchist Action Française movement. Denis died in Paris of injuries resulting from an automobile accident in November 1943 (the date of his death is variously listed as the 2nd, 3rd, or 13th).

In 1980, the Maurice Denis Museum was opened in the artist’s home in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. A major retrospective was mounted at the Musée Des Beaux Arts de Montréal in 2007; it was the first major Denis show in North America. A similar exhibition took place in 1995 at the UK’s Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

The painting above is “Evening in September” and is characteristic of Denis’ work. The flat, use of pastel colour, the theme of motherhood (alluding to the iconography of the Virgin with the Christ Child), the restrained and yet relaxed composition and the multiple figures that weave in and out of the viewer’s view.