Sunday, 21 May 2017

ART SUNDAY - RICHARD GERSTL

“It is always consoling to think of suicide: in that way one gets through many a bad night.” - Friedrich Nietzsche  

Richard Gerstl (14 September 1883 – 4 November 1908) was an Austrian painter and draughtsman known for his expressive psychologically insightful portraits, his lack of critical acclaim during his lifetime, and his affair with the wife of Arnold Schoenberg which led to his suicide.

Richard Gerstl was born in a prosperous bourgeois family, Emil Gerstl, a Jewish merchant, and Maria Pfeiffer, non-Jewish woman. Early in his life, Gerstl decided to become an artist, much to the dismay of his father. After performing poorly in school and being forced to leave the famed Piaristengymnasium in Vienna as a result of “disciplinary difficulties”, his financially stable parents provided him with private tutors.

In 1898, at the age of fifteen, Gerstl was accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, where he studied under the notoriously opinionated and difficult Christian Griepenkerl. Gerstl began to reject the style of the Vienna Secession and what he felt was pretentious art. This eventually prompted his vocal professor to proclaim, “The way you paint, I piss in the snow!” Frustrated with the lack of acceptance of his non-secessionist painting style, Gerstl continued to paint without any formal guidance for two years.

During the summers of 1900 and 1901, Gerstl studied under the guidance of Simon Hollósy in Nagybánya. Inspired by the more liberal leanings of Heinrich Lefler, Gerstl once again attempted formal education. Unfortunately, his refusal to participate in a procession in honour of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria further ostracised him and led to his departure. Gerstl felt that taking part in such an event was “unworthy of an artist”. His final exit from Lefler’s studio took place in 1908.

In 1904 and 1905, Gerstl shared a studio with his former academy classmate and friend, Viktor Hammer. Although Hammer had assisted in Gerstl’s admittance to Lefler’s tutelage and their relationship was friendly, it is difficult to determine how close the two men were as Gerstl did not associate with other artists. Regardless of their personal feelings, by 1906, Gerstl had acquired his own studio.

Although Gerstl did not associate with other artists, he did feel drawn to the musically inclined; he himself frequented concerts in Vienna. Around 1907, he began to associate with composers Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander von Zemlinsky, who lived in the same building at the time. Gerstl and Schoenberg developed a mutual admiration based upon their individual talents. Gerstl apparently instructed Schoenberg in art.

During this time, Gerstl moved into a flat in the same house and painted several portraits of Schoenberg, his family, and his friends. These portraits also included paintings of Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde, Alban Berg and Zemlinsky. His highly stylised heads anticipated German expressionism and used pastels as in the works by Oskar Kokoschka. Gerstl and Mathilde became extremely close and, in the summer of 1908, she left her husband and children to travel to Vienna with Gerstl. Schoenberg was in the midst of composing his Second String Quartet, which he dedicated to her.

Mathilde rejoined her husband in October. Distraught by the loss of Mathilde, his isolation from his associates, and his lack of artistic acceptance, Gerstl entered his studio during the night of 4 November 1908 and apparently burned every letter and piece of paper he could find. Although many paintings survived the fire, it is believed that a great deal of his artwork as well as personal papers and letters were destroyed. Other than his paintings, only eight drawings are known to have survived unscathed.

Following the burning of his papers, Gerstl hanged himself in front of the studio mirror and somehow managed to stab himself as well. The incident had a significant impact on Arnold Schoenberg and his opera ‘Die Glückliche Hand’ is based on these events. After his suicide at the age of twenty-five, his family took the surviving paintings out of Gerstl’s studio and stored them in a warehouse until his brother Alois showed them to the art dealer Otto Kallir in 1930 or 1931.

Although Gerstl had never managed to mount an exhibition of his works during his lifetime, Kallir organised one at his Neue Galerie. Shortly afterward, the Nazi presence in Austria hindered the further acclaim of the artist and it was not until after the war that Gerstl became known in the United States. Sixty-six paintings and eight drawings attributed to Gerstl are known, although it is possible he destroyed many more or that others could have been lost over the years.

The painting above is a detail of a portrait of Arnold Schoenberg from 1905.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - ANTONIO CALDARA

“Music, ultimately, is one of the great ways that we as humans have for coding internal life. It’s glue that joins people together.” – Yo-Yo Ma 

Antonio Caldara (1670 – 28 December 1736) was an Italian Baroque composer. Caldara was born in Venice (exact date unknown), the son of a violinist. He became a chorister at St Mark’s in Venice, where he learned several instruments, probably under the instruction of Giovanni Legrenzi. In 1699 he relocated to Mantua, where he became maestro di cappella to the inept Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, a pensionary of France with a French wife, who took the French side in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Caldara left Mantua in 1707, after the French were expelled from Italy, then moved on to Barcelona as chamber composer to Charles III, the pretender to the Spanish throne (following the death of Charles II of Spain in 1700 without any direct heir) and who kept a royal court at Barcelona. There, he wrote some operas that are the first Italian operas performed in Spain. He next moved on to Rome, becoming maestro di cappella to Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli, 1st Prince of Cerveteri. While there he wrote in 1710 “La costanza in amor vince l’inganno” (Faithfulness in Love Defeats Treachery) for the public theatre at Macerata.

With the unexpected death of Emperor Joseph I from smallpox at the age of 32 in April 1711, Caldara deemed it prudent to renew his connections with Charles III (soon to become Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI) as he travelled from Spain to Vienna via northern Italy. Caldara visited Vienna in 1712, but found Marc’Antonio Ziani and Johann Joseph Fux firmly ensconced in the two highest musical posts. He stopped at the Salzburg court on his return journey to Rome, where he was well received (and to which he subsequently sent one new opera annually from 1716 and 1727).

In 1716, following the death the previous year of Ziani and the promotion of Fux to Hofkapellmeister, Caldara was appointed Vize-Kapellmeister to the Imperial Court in Vienna, and there he remained until his death. Caldara is best known as a composer of operas, cantatas and oratorios. Several of his works have libretti by Pietro Metastasio, the court poet at Vienna from 1729.

Here are some of his cello sonatas played by Gaetano Nasillo, accompanied by Luca Guglielmi and Sara Bennici.
1. Sonata Ottava in Mi bemolle maggiore 0:00
2. Sonata Undecima in Sol minore 8:20
3. Sonata Sedicesima in Sol maggiore 17:50
4. Sonata Quarta in Re minore 25:22
5. Sonata Quattordicesima in La minore 33:05
6. Sonata Decimaquinta in La maggiore 42:26
7. Sonata Dodicesima in Re minore 51:49
8. Sonata Nona in Sol maggiore 1:01:23

Friday, 19 May 2017

FOOD FRIDAY - WILD GREENS PIES

“True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories.” - Florence King

I received a couple of enquiries regarding the recipe for my grandmother’s Wild Greens Pies. Fortunately my mother makes them as well and here is her recipe:

WILD GREENS PIES
Ingredients for filling
250 g baby spinach leaves (cleaned and washed, chopped)
150 g green, leafy part of silverbeet (=chard, cleaned and washed, chopped)
150 g of leafy part of mallows (=Malva sylvestris, cleaned and washed, chopped)
100 g green, tender leafy part of dock (=Rumex crispus, cleaned and washed, chopped)
100 g green tender leafy part of wild fennel (=Foeniculum vulgare, cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 bunch of chervil (cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 bunch of parsley (cleaned and washed, chopped)
5 Spring onions (cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoon salt (to taste)
A little olive oil to sauté.

Ingredients for pastry
500 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 to 2 cups of water
Olive oil to fry

Method
Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the Spring onions. Add the chopped greens and stir through to coat thoroughly with oil. Cook well until the greens are tender. Add the mustard, salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Leave to cool and strain for a few hours in a colander lined with muslin. Discard juices.
Mix the flour and salt and add the olive oil and lemon juice, mixing thoroughly. Add enough of the water to make a firm but yielding pastry. Knead well and then lay aside in a cool place for 30-40 minutes to rest.
When ready to make the little pies, take some pastry and roll out a very thin sheet a couple of millimetres thick (you may use some corn flour to prevent the pastry sticking). Use a round pastry cutter (8-10 cm diameter) to cut rounds. Fill each round with a heaped teaspoonful of the greens mixture in one half and fold the other half over the filling to make a semicircular little parcel. Use a fork to press the two layers of dough around the filling to seal and decorate the pie. Fry both sides in hot oil until golden brown, and then drain on absorbent kitchen towel. They may be eaten hot or cold.
You may freeze the uncooked pies and fry them unthawed on a later date (ensure the flame is medium rather than high if frying the frozen pies).

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

SPECIAL FLAVOURS...

“Memory believes before knowing remembers.” ― William Faulkner 

I was reminiscing about my grandmother and the special dishes that she used to cook when I was holidaying at my grandparents place in Greece when I was young. One of the wonderful tastes/aromas I remember were the “wild greens pies” (hortópittes) that she made. These were based on stewed spinach leaves from her garden, to which had been added Spring onions, leeks, silverbeet leaves, and more importantly, wild greens and herbs that were collected from the hills near their house. These greens were fragrant and according to the season they were gathered and the various types and quantities included, gave a special taste and aroma to the spinach.

Included in these wild greens and herbs were: Greek dock (Rumex cristatus); wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare); common mallow (Malva sylvestris); chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium); common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica); wild poppy (Papaver rhoeas); red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum); red valerian (Centranthus ruber); Mediterranean hartwort (Tordylium apulum). All of these were harvested fresh and only the tender green parts were gathered. They were stewed together with all the other ingredients and then used to fill parcels of dough, which were fried in olive oil. One of the herbs I have not found elsewhere is the white hedge-nettle… 

Prasium, common name white hedge-nettle, is a genus of flowering plant in the Lamiaceae family, first extensively described in 1982. It contains only one known species, Prasium majus, first reported for modern science in 1753. It is native to Madeira, the Canary Islands, and the Mediterranean region of Europe (Italy and Greece, especially), North Africa, and the Middle East, as far East as Turkey and Israel.

 This is a small spreading herb found on rocky ground. The purplish stems are square in cross section, a feature typical of the mint family. The bright green, nettle-like (but non-stinging, i.e. “dead” nettle) leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem, as are the flowers. The pretty white flowers have fine purple lines leading to the nectary. The protruding stamens are also purple tipped. Prasium majus is often found in thorny underbrush, scrambling through bushes. The flavour of this herb is lovely and contributes greatly to a number of dishes, including my grandmother’s “wild greens pies” (the recipe for them is here)…

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #79 - STRASBOURG, ALSACE

“When you move a border, suddenly life changes violently. I write about nationality.” - Alan Furst 

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.  
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking, explaining the city’s Germanic name. In 2006, the city proper had 272,975 inhabitants and its urban community 467,375 inhabitants. With 638,670 inhabitants in 2006, Strasbourg’s metropolitan area (aire urbaine - only the part of the metropolitan area on French territory) is the ninth largest in France.

Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of the European Union. The city is the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine.

Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Great Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is fused into the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

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, 15 May 2017

MYTHIC MONDAY - EGYPT 12, RA

“The seed cannot sprout upwards without simultaneously sending roots into the ground.” – Ancient Egyptian Proverb 

Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BCE, he had become a major god in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Ra-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”).

He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: The sky, the earth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk. When in the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra. During the Amarna Period, Akhenaten suppressed the cult of Ra in favor of another solar deity, the Aten, the deified solar disc, but after the death of Akhenaten the cult of Ra was restored. The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its centre in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.

All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra, who called each of them into existence by speaking their secret names. Alternatively man was created from Ra’s tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the “Cattle of Ra”. In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When she became bloodthirsty she was pacified by drinking beer mixed with red dye.

To the Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. This made the sun deity very important, as the sun was seen as the ruler of all that he created. The sun disk was either seen as the body or eye of Ra. Ra was the father of Shu and Tefnut, whom he created. Shu was the god of the wind, and Tefnut was the goddess of the rain. Sekhmet was the Eye of Ra and was created by the fire in Ra’s eye. She was a violent lioness.

Ra was thought to travel on the Atet, two solar barks called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years) or morning boat and the Mesektet or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat, the literal underworld of Egypt. While Ra was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. When Ra traveled in his sun boat, he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command), as well as Heka (magic power).

Sometimes, members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set, who overcame the serpent Apophis, and Mehen, who defended against the monsters of the underworld. When Ra was in the underworld, he would visit all of his various forms. Apophis, the god of chaos, was an enormous serpent who attempted to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. During the evening, the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram.

The night boat would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represented the sun rising as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut; thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god as well. When Ra was in the underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead, and through it became the god of the dead as well.

The chief cult centre of Ra was Iunu, the “Place of Pillars”, later known to the Greeks as Heliopolis (lit. “Sun City”) and today located in the suburbs of Cairo. He was identified with the local sun god Atum. As Atum or Atum-Ra, he was reckoned the first being and the originator of the Ennead (“The Nine”), consisting of Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys. The holiday of “The Receiving of Ra” was celebrated on May 26 in the Gregorian calendar.

His local cult began to grow from roughly the second dynasty, establishing Ra as a sun deity. By the Fourth Dynasty, pharaohs were seen as Ra’s manifestations on earth, referred to as “Sons of Ra”. His worship increased massively in the Fifth Dynasty, when Ra became a state deity and pharaohs had specially aligned pyramids, obelisks, and solar temples built in his honour. The rulers of the Fifth Dynasty told their followers that they were sons of Ra himself and the wife of the high priest of Heliopolis. These pharaohs spent most of Egypt’s money on sun temples.

When the first Pyramid Texts began to arise, they gave Ra more and more significance in the journey of the pharaoh through the Underworld. During the Middle Kingdom era, Ra was increasingly affiliated and combined with other chief deities, especially Amun and Osiris.

At the time of the New Kingdom, the worship of Ra had become more complicated and grander. The walls of tombs were dedicated to extremely detailed texts that depicted Ra’s journey through the underworld. Ra was said to carry the prayers and blessings of the living with the souls of the dead on the sun boat. The idea that Ra aged with the sun became more popular during the rise of the New Kingdom. Many acts of worship included hymns, prayers, and spells to help Ra and the sun boat overcome Apep.

The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire put an end to the worship of Ra by the citizens of Egypt, and as Ra’s popularity suddenly died out, the study of Ra became of purely academic interest even among the Egyptian priests.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

ART SUNDAY - ANTONÍN CHITUSSI

“Prague is a dark place.” - Fred Durst 

Antonín Chittussi (1 December 1847, in Ronov nad Doubravou – 1 May 1891, in Prague) was a Czech Impressionist landscape and cityscape painter. His father came from a family of merchants who lived in Ferrara and moved to Bohemia during the Napoleonic Wars. After settling in Ronov, he married an innkeeper and later served as Mayor. At first, Antonín was expected to follow in the family business, but displayed an aptitude for art, which was noticed by his grammar school teachers in Čáslav, so he was sent to Kutná Hora where he studied drawing with František Bohumír Zvěřina.

At the age of eighteen, he went to Prague, with the intent to study engineering but, instead, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. However, he was dissatisfied with the courses being offered and went to Munich instead, but he became tired of their Academic approach. He was called to Vienna for military service, but was able to obtain a deferral, and briefly enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. Later, he returned to the Academy in Prague to study history painting.

In 1876, he participated in a protest by Czech students against Alfred Woltmann, a Professor of art history at the University of Prague, who was accused of German chauvinism, forcing him to flee the lecture hall. Clashes between Czech and German students ensued. After a police investigation and five days in jail, Chittussi and Mikoláš Aleš, who were identified as the ringleaders, were expelled from the Academy.

Afterward, Chittussi supported himself by providing illustrations for Česká Včela (The Czech Bee) and other magazines. This work introduced him to Prague’s patriotic social circles and found him a patron in František August Brauner, a member of the Imperial Council. He also befriended Brauner’s daughter, Zdenka, an aspiring artist who influenced Chittussi’s approach by introducing him to the work of the Barbizon school. In 1877, he and František Ženíšek, a friend from school, opened a studio. It was then that he became primarily interested in landscapes.

Following the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War in 1878, the Austro-Hungarian Army moved in to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina and, as an army reservist, he was called up and sent to the front. The death and destruction he witnessed had a profound effect on him, which he attempted to work through emotionally by corresponding with Zdenka. He was able to make a series of small drawings and watercolours, which he exhibited on his return and, with the help of friends, succeeded in financing a trip to Paris.

He arrived in time for the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition, but was not ready to accept what he saw. Eventually, though, he concluded that most of his earlier work had been in vain. In 1880, he rented a small studio and began to work on absorbing the new styles. He soon gained the support of the writer Élémir Bourges, who would later marry Zdenka’s sister, Anna. In 1882, he was invited to spend six months painting at the Radziwiłł estate near Ermenonville.

The following year, he exhibited at the Salon. Although successful, by 1884 he was ready to return home and held an auction of his works at the Hôtel Drouot. As it turned out, this meant a cooling of his relationship with Zdenka, as she actually began to spend more time in Paris than before, pursuing her career. He soon discovered an area in Southern Bohemia that inspired him to paint and helped him to assuage his hurt feelings.

Shortly after, he settled near Člunek. In 1887, he developed health problems, which were believed to be related to the time he spent outdoors, painting during inclement weather. He gradually grew weaker and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In an effort to stop the disease’s progress, he went to the Tatra Mountains, but it was too late. In 1891, he died in Prague on the way home from treatment. A street in the Bubeneč district there is named after him and, in 1997, the Czech government used one of his paintings (a castle in Chantilly) on a postage stamp.

The painting above is his “Paris as Viewed from Montmartre” (1887).

Saturday, 13 May 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - AGOSTINO GUARRIERI

“Music is the poor man’s Parnassus.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Agostino Guerrieri (most probably born in Milan circa 1630 -  died, circa 1684) was an Italian composer and violinist of the Baroque period. Guerrieri was born around 1630 into a wealthy Milanese family. Before 1650 he was singer at the chapel of the Cathedral of Milan and a pupil of Antonio Maria Turati, director of the same chapel. Later he worked for a long time in Genoa, where he also served as a Master of Music at the Cathedral there. In 1673 he published the Opus 1 Sonatas in Genoa for the church and also for lay uses. In 1676 instead published the Partite sopra Ruggiero. Guerrieri died after 1684 and remarkably little is known of his life.

Here are the Opus 1 sonatas, played by the period instrument ensemble Parnassi Musici, whose origins are in the 2nd violin section of the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Freiburg. This group confronts its listeners time and time again with the unexpected, both in terms of its superb musical standards as well as its highly imaginative programming. The members of the ensemble (as of 2008) are Margaret MacDuffie (Violin), Matthias Fischer (Violin), Stephan Schrader (Cello), and Martin Lutz (Harpsichord & Organ). This kernel is augmented from time to time by guest musicians according to the needs of the performed works.

1. Sonata a 4, "La Sevesca" 0:00
2. Sonata a 2, "La Galeazza" 3:03
3. Sonata a 1, "La Sevaschina" 6:09
4. Sonata a 2, "La Brignoli" 9:51
5. Sonata a 1, "La Tita" 13:02
6. Sonata a 3, "La Viviani" 18:31
7. Balletto primo per camera 22:35
8. Sonata a 2, "La Lucina" 25:58
9. Balletto secondo 32:14
10. Sonata a 1, "Malincolica" 35:43
11. Sonata a 2, "La Marchetta" 39:29
12. Sonata a 2, "La Benedetta" 41:24
13. Sonata a 1, "La Rotini" 44:11
14. Sonata a 2, "La Rosciana" 49:57
15. Sonata a 3, "La Pietra" 52:37
16. Sonata a 4, "La Rovetta" 57:20


The painting at the top of the page is a ‘Vanitas’ Still Life by N.L. Peschier (1660).

Friday, 12 May 2017

FOOD FRIDAY - THAI CHICKEN

“I love the food in Thailand because of the exotic spices they use. Their style of cooking is unique to their culture and always amazing.” - Venus Williams 

We ate out a couple of weeks ago and I had a lovely Thai chicken stir-fry. A friend gave me the recipe and yesterday, we tried it at home. The flavour was slightly different, but overall I was very pleased with the way this turned out!

 Thai Chicken Stir-Fry
Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
700 g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Thai green curry paste
270mL can coconut cream
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 and 1/2 cups chopped seasonal green vegetables
3 cm length of ginger root, peeled and shaved
1 cup coriander leaves
1 tablespoon lime juice
Steamed basmati rice and lime wedges, to serve

Method
Heat a wok over high heat until quite hot. Add half the oil and half the chicken, stir-frying for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden. Remove to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and chicken.
Add curry paste to wok, stir-frying for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Return chicken and any juices to wok, stirring thoroughly. Add the ginger and stir.
Add coconut cream, fish sauce, and vegetables. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until vegies just tender. Stir through coriander and lime juice. Serve with steamed basmati rice and lime wedges.


This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #78 - DELFT, THE NETHERLANDS

“What land is this? Yon pretty town Is Delft, with all its wares displayed: The pride, the market-place, the crown And centre of the Potter’s trade.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

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. 
Delft is a city and a municipality in the Netherlands. It is located in the province of South Holland, to the north of Rotterdam and south of The Hague. Delft is known for its historic town centre with canals, Delft Blue pottery, the Delft University of Technology, painter Johannes Vermeer and scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek, and its association with the royal House of Orange-Nassau.

 The city of Delft came into being aside a canal, the ‘Delf’, which comes from the word delven, meaning delving or digging, and led to the name Delft. It presumably started around the 11th century as a landlord court. From a rural village in the early Middle Ages, Delft developed to a city, that in the 13th century (1246) received its charter.

The town’s association with the House of Orange started when William of Orange (Willem van Oranje), nicknamed William the Silent (Willem de Zwijger), took up residence in 1572. At the time he was the leader of growing national Dutch resistance against Spanish occupation, known as the Eighty Years’ War. By then Delft was one of the leading cities of Holland and it was equipped with the necessary city walls to serve as a headquarters. An attack by Spanish forces in October of that year was repelled.

 After the Act of Abjuration was proclaimed in 1581, Delft became the de facto capital of the newly independent Netherlands, as the seat of the Prince of Orange. When William was shot dead in 1584, by Balthazar Gerards in the hall of the Prinsenhof, the family’s traditional burial place in Breda was still in the hands of the Spanish. Therefore, he was buried in the Delft Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), starting a tradition for the House of Orange that has continued to the present day.

 The painter Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) was born in Delft. Vermeer used Delft streets and home interiors as the subject or background of his paintings. Several other famous painters lived and worked in Delft at that time, such as Pieter de Hoogh, Carel Fabritius, Nicolaes Maes, Gerard Houckgeest and Hendrick Cornelisz. van Vliet. They all were members of the Delft School. The Delft School is known for its images of domestic life, views of households, church interiors, courtyards, squares and the streets of Delft. The painters also produced pictures showing historic events, flower paintings, portraits for patrons and the court, and decorative pieces of art.

The city centre retains a large number of monumental buildings, whereas in many streets there are canals of which the borders are connected by typical bridges, altogether making this city a notable tourist destination.

Delftware or Delft pottery, also known as Delft Blue, is blue and white pottery made in and around Delft in the Netherlands and the tin-glazed pottery made in the Netherlands from the 16th century. Delftware in the latter sense is one of the types of tin-glazed earthenware or faience in which a white glaze is applied, usually decorated with metal oxides. It also forms part of the worldwide family of blue and white pottery, using variations of the plant-based decoration first developed in 14th century Chinese porcelain, and in great demand in Europe. Delftware includes pottery objects of all descriptions such as plates, ornaments and tiles. The most highly-regarded period of production is about 1640–1740.

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

Monday, 8 May 2017

MYTHIC MONDAY - EGYPT 11, NEPHTHYS

“Light and Darkness. One cannot exist without the other. There is no true Master, without the power of balance. ” ― Luis Marques 

Nephthys (Greek: Νέφθυς) or Nebthet or Neber-Het was a goddess in ancient Egyptian religion. A member of the Great Ennead of Heliopolis in Egyptian mythology, she was a daughter of Nut and Geb. Nephthys was typically paired with her sister Isis in funerary rites  because of their role as protectors of the mummy and the god Osiris and as the sister-wife of Set.

Nephthys is the Greek form of an epithet (transliterated as Nebet-het, and Nebt-het, from Egyptian hieroglyphs). The origin of the goddess Nephthys is unclear but the literal translation of her name is usually given as “Lady of the House”, which has caused some to mistakenly identify her with the notion of a “housewife”, or as the primary lady who ruled a domestic household. This is a pervasive error repeated in many commentaries concerning this deity. Her name means quite specifically, “Lady of the [Temple] Enclosure”, which associates her with the role of high priestess.

At the time of the Fifth Dynasty Pyramid Texts, Nephthys appears as a goddess of the Heliopolitan Ennead. She is the sister of Isis and companion of the war-like deity, Set. As sister of Isis and especially Osiris, Nephthys is a protective goddess who symbolises the death experience, just as Isis represented the (re)birth experience. Nephthys was known in some ancient Egyptian temple theologies and cosmologies as the “Useful Goddess” or the “Excellent Goddess”.

Late Ancient Egyptian temple texts describe a goddess who represented divine assistance and protective guardianship. Nephthys is regarded as the mother of the funerary-deity Anubis (Inpu) in some myths. Alternatively Anubis appears as the son of Bastet or Isis. As the primary “nursing mother” of the incarnate Pharaonic-god, Horus, Nephthys also was considered to be the nurse of the reigning Pharaoh himself. Though other goddesses could assume this role, Nephthys was most usually portrayed in this function. In contrast Nephthys is sometimes featured as a rather ferocious and dangerous divinity, capable of incinerating the enemies of the Pharaoh with her fiery breath.

In the funerary role, Nephthys often was depicted as a kite, or as a woman with falcon wings, usually outstretched as a symbol of protection. Nephthys’ association with the kite or the Egyptian hawk (and its piercing, mournful cries) evidently reminded the ancients of the lamentations usually offered for the dead by wailing women. In this capacity, it is easy to see how Nephthys could be associated with death and putrefaction in the Pyramid Texts. She was, almost without fail, depicted as crowned by the hieroglyphics signifying her name, which were a combination of signs for the sacred temple enclosure (hwt), along with the sign for neb, or mistress (Lady), on top of the enclosure sign.

Nephthys was clearly viewed as a morbid-but-crucial force of heavenly transition, i.e., the Pharaoh becomes strong for his journey to the afterlife through the intervention of Isis and Nephthys. The same divine power could be applied later to all of the dead, who were advised to consider Nephthys a necessary companion. According to the Pyramid Texts, Nephthys, along with Isis, was a force before whom demons trembled in fear, and whose magical spells were necessary for navigating the various levels of Duat, as the region of the afterlife was termed.

While Nephthys’ marriage to Set was a part of Egyptian mythology, it was not a part of the myth of the murder and resurrection of Osiris. She was not paired with Set the villain, but with Set’s other aspect, the benevolent figure who was the killer of Apophis. This was the aspect of Set worshiped in the western oases during the Roman period, where he is depicted with Nephthys as co-ruler. This benign aspect of Nephthys is corroborated Nephthys’ role in assisting Isis in gathering and mourning the dismembered portions of the body of Osiris, after his murder by the envious Set. Nephthys also serves as the nursemaid and watchful guardian of the infant Horus.

As a mortuary goddess like Isis, Neith, and Serqet, Nephthys was one of the protectresses of the Canopic jars of the Hapi. Hapi, one of the Sons of Horus, guarded the embalmed lungs. Thus we find Nephthys endowed with the epithet, “Nephthys of the Bed of Life”, in direct reference to her regenerative priorities on the embalming table. In the city of Memphis, Nephthys was duly honoured with the title “Queen of the Embalmer’s Shop”, and there associated with the jackal-headed god Anubis as patron.

Not always lugubrious, Nephthys was also considered a festive deity whose rites could mandate the liberal consumption of beer. In various reliefs at Edfu, Dendera, and Behbeit, Nephthys is depicted receiving lavish beer-offerings from the Pharaoh, which she would “return”, using her power as a beer-goddess “that [the pharaoh] may have joy with no hangover”...

Sunday, 7 May 2017

ART SUNDAY - TADEUSZ MAKOWSKI

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once one grows up.” - PabloPicasso  

Tadeusz Makowski (29 January 1882, Oświęcim - 1 November 1932, Paris) was a Polish painter who worked in France and was associated with the School of Paris.

From 1902 to 1906, Makowski studied classical philology at the Jagiellonian University. During that time, he also began studying art at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts with Jan Stanisławski and Józef Mehoffer. Upon completing his studies there in 1908, he moved to Paris, where he would live for the rest of his life.

Originally he painted in the relatively conservative style taught by his professors. Then, he painted some frescoes that attracted the attention of a group of Cubist painters led by Henri Le Fauconnier, who worked in Montparnasse. This had a decisive influence on his work and the paintings of the period reflect the cubist ideals. At the invitation of Władysław Ślewiński, he spent the war years in Brittany and would return there several times. These trips inspired him to depart from strict cubism and go back to studying nature; creating many stylised landscapes.

Later, his favourite subjects were carnivals, fairs and children, done in a style inspired by the old Dutch Masters, Polish folk art and naïve art. He also did woodcut book illustrations. During the 1920s, he lived briefly in the Netherlands. From 1912 to 1931, he kept a diary that was published in Warsaw in 1961 by the State Publishing Institute (PIW).

Above is his “Winter”, painted in 1918. There is an element of naïve simplification in the painting, but its overall composition, subject matter, atmosphere and palette of colours pays homage to Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “Hunters in the Snow”. More representative of his oeuvre are the children playing and dressing up.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - DOMENICO GALLO

“If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results.” - Emily Brontë

Domenico Gallo (1730 – c. 1768) was an Italian composer and violinist. Born in Venice in 1730, Gallo composed mostly church music, including a Stabat Mater. Gallo also composed violin sonatas, symphonies and possibly violin concertos.

Some trio sonatas by Domenico Gallo were long attributed to Giovanni Pergolesi, including those upon which Igor Stravinsky based his music for the ballet “Pulcinella”. In fact, half of the surviving works by Gallo were once attributed to Pergolesi, probably because Gallo was little known, Pergolesi was famous and his name would sell the music.

It is known that in 1750 Gallo composed a two-voiced oratorio, “In Celebration of the Glories of B. Giuseppe Calasanzio”, the libretto of which by G. Barsotti was published in Venice in the same year. In addition, Gallo composed six violin and cello sonatas (Venice s.d.), and six sonatas for two flute and bass flutes, published in London in 1755, which would suggest perhaps that Gallo spent some time in England. However, much about what is known of this composer is speculative.

Here are 12 Trio Sonatas by Gallo:
1. Trio sonata No 1 in G 0:00
2. Trio sonata No 2 in B flat 5:45
3. Trio Sonata No. 3 in C minor 12:03
4. Trio Sonata No. 4 in G major 17:25
5. Trio Sonata No. 5 in C major 23:52
6. Trio Sonata No. 6 in D major 30:15
7. Sonata for 2 violins & continuo No 7 in G minor 35:36
8. Trio Sonata No. 8 in E flat major 42:12
9. Trio Sonata No. 9 in A major 48:15
10. Trio Sonata No. 10 in F major 53:32
11. Trio Sonata No. 11 in D minor 58:38
12. Trio Sonata No. 12 in E major 1:03:41

Friday, 5 May 2017

FOOD FRIDAY - CAULIFLOWER SOUP

“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” - Mark Twain 

More cool and wet weather in Melbourne is forecast for the weekend so what better than some soup for warming away the Autumn coolness? 

Cauliflower Soup
Ingredients

1 cauliflower, washed and chopped up
2 leeks (white parts), washed and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
white pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek powder
1 litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
Grated Parmesan cheese 


Method
Sauté leek in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add the cauliflower and stir through until thoroughly mixed. Add the salt, pepper and spices, stirring through.
Add two cups of the stock, cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender and then remove from the heat. Purée in a good blender with remainder of the stock. Simmer until hot.
Serve soup in large bowls with grated Parmesan, on the side.


This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

ALL ABOUT LAVENDER

“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green, When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen.” – English Folk Song 

Lavandula (common name, lavender) is a genus of 47 known species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is native to the Old World and is found from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, Europe across to northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia to southeast India. Many members of the genus are cultivated extensively in temperate climates as ornamental plants for garden and landscape use, for use as culinary herbs, and also commercially for the extraction of essential oils. The most widely cultivated species, Lavandula angustifolia, is often referred to as lavender, and there is a colour named for the shade of the flowers of this species.

The English word ‘lavender’ is generally thought to be derived from Old French lavandre, ultimately from the Latin lavare (to wash), referring to the use of infusions of the plants during the laundry process in order to make clothes fragrant. The botanic name Lavandula as used by Linnaeus is considered to be derived from this and other European vernacular names for the plants. However it is suggested that this explanation may be apocryphal, and that the name may actually be derived from Latin livere, ‘blueish’.

The names widely used for some of the species, ‘English lavender’, ‘French lavender’ and ‘Spanish lavender’ are all imprecisely applied. ‘English lavender’ is commonly used for L. angustifolia, though some references say the proper term is ‘Old English Lavender’. The name ‘French lavender’ may be used to refer to either L. stoechas or to L. dentata. ‘Spanish lavender’ may be used to refer to L. stoechas, L. lanata or L. dentata.

The ancient Greeks called the lavender herb nardus, after the Syrian city of Naarda (possibly the modern town of Dohuk, Iraq). It was also commonly called nard. The species originally grown was L. stoechas. Lavender was one of the holy herbs used in the biblical Temple to prepare the holy essence, and nard (or spikenard) is mentioned in the Song of Solomon.

The genus includes annual or short-lived herbaceous perennial plants, and shrub-like perennials, subshrubs or large shrubs. Leaf shape is diverse across the genus. They are simple in some commonly cultivated species; in other species they are pinnately toothed, or pinnate, sometimes multiple pinnate and dissected. In most species the leaves are covered in fine hairs or indumentum, which normally contain the essential oils.

Flowers are borne in whorls, held on spikes rising above the foliage, the spikes being branched in some species. Some species produce coloured bracts at the apices. The flowers may be blue, violet or lilac in the wild species, occasionally blackish purple or yellowish. The calyx is tubular. The corolla is also tubular, usually with five lobes (the upper lip often cleft, and the lower lip has two clefts).

The most common form in cultivation is the common or English lavender Lavandula angustifolia (formerly named L. officinalis). A wide range of cultivars can be found. Other commonly grown ornamental species are L. stoechas, L. dentata, and L. multifida (Egyptian lavender). Because the cultivated forms are planted in gardens worldwide, they are occasionally found growing wild as garden escapes, well beyond their natural range.  Commonly such adventitious establishment is apparently harmless at best, but in some cases Lavandula species have become invasive. In Australia, Lavandula stoechas has become a cause for concern; it occurs widely throughout the continent, and has been declared a noxious weed in Victoria since 1920. It also is regarded as a weed in parts of Spain.

Lavenders flourish best in dry, well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils in full sun. All types need little or no fertiliser and good air circulation. In areas of high humidity, root rot due to fungus infection can be a problem. Organic mulches can trap moisture around the plant base, encouraging root rot. Gravelly materials such as crushed rocks give better results.

Commercially, the plant is grown mainly for the production of essential oil of lavender. This has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used as a natural mosquito repellent. These extracts are also used as fragrances for bath products. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) yields an essential oil with sweet overtones, and can be used in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications. Lavandin, Lavandula × intermedia (also known as Dutch lavender), yields a similar essential oil, but with higher levels of terpenes including camphor, which add a sharper overtone to the fragrance.

Lavender is grown as a condiment and used in salads and dressings. The flowers yield abundant nectar, from which bees make a high-quality honey. Monofloral honey is produced primarily around the Mediterranean, and is marketed worldwide as a premium product. Flowers can be candied and are sometimes used as cake decorations. It is also used to make lavender sugar. Lavender lends a floral and slightly sweet flavour to most dishes, and is sometimes paired with sheep’s-milk and goat’s-milk cheeses. A recipe for Lavender Candy can be found here.

Lavender flowers are occasionally blended with black, green, or herbal teas. Lavender flavours baked goods and desserts, pairing especially well with chocolate. In the United States, both lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used to make lavender scones and marshmallows.  Though it has many other traditional uses in southern France, lavender is not used in traditional southern French cooking. It does not appear at all in the best-known compendium of Provençal cooking, J.-B. Reboul's Cuisinière Provençale.

In the 1970s, a blend of herbs called herbes de Provence which usually includes lavender was invented by spice wholesalers, and lavender has more recently become popular in cooking. For most cooking applications the dried buds, which are also referred to as flowers, are used. Only the buds contain the essential oil of lavender, from which the characteristic scent and flavour of lavender are derived. Lavender greens have a more subtle flavour that is compared to rosemary. The greens are used similarly to rosemary or combined with rosemary to flavour meat and vegetables in savoury dishes. They can also be used to make a tea that is milder than teas made with the flowers.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that lavender is considered likely safe in food amounts and possibly safe in medicinal amounts. NIH does not recommend the use of lavender while pregnant or breast-feeding because of lack of knowledge of its effects. It recommends caution if young boys use lavender oil because of possible hormonal effects leading to gynaecomastia, and states that lavender may cause skin irritation and could be poisonous if consumed by mouth. Employ common sense and caution when using lavender and its products!

In the language of flowers, sprigs of non-flowering lavender denote purity and caution. Fresh lavender flowers mean “encouragement” and “fortification”. Bouquets of dried lavender flower spikes carry the meaning: “Silence and devotion” – widows often took bouquets of dried lavender to the graves of their dead husbands.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.