Saturday, 19 May 2012


“Love is the river of life in the world.” - Henry Ward Beecher

A relaxing Saturday today, with the usual morning chores, some grocery shopping, then a relaxing afternoon and a wonderful evening out. Driving back home tonight, I couldn't resist stopping on Boathouse Drive by the Yarra and snapping a couple of shots of the city by night and the Swan St Bridge. The river flowed slowly, the night air was crisp and fresh and the only sounds I could hear were some distant traffic and the gentle lapping of the water. A quiet night as winter approaches and with most people warm as toast at home. It seems that only crazy photographers were out there taking photos...

Here’s Audrey Hepburn singing Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” from what is perhaps her most famous film: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Friday, 18 May 2012


“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” - Ursula K. LeGuin

In cold autumn or winter, when the days are short and rain maybe is falling, there is nothing better than freshly-baked bread straight out of the oven to fill the warm kitchen with its delicious smell and to have for brunch with lashings of molten butter. The following recipe is fairly simple and easy, making a tasty loaf of bread.

•    Melted butter, for greasing and brushing
•    250g plain white flour
•    250g plain wholemeal flour 
•    ½ tsp ground cardamon seed
•    2 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast
•    1 tsp sugar
•    1.5 tsp salt
•    175ml lukewarm water
•    100 ml lukewarm milk
•    ½ cup olive oil
•    Extra water, for brushing
•    1 tsp nigella seeds, for sprinkling (optional)

1.       Brush a 10 x 20cm loaf pan with the melted butter to lightly grease. Measure all your ingredients.
2.       Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water and stir to mix. Add the milk and stir well.
3.       Place the flour, cardamon and salt in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the water/milk/yeast mixture and oil to the dry ingredients and mix well.
4.       Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
5.       Shape the dough into a ball. Brush a large bowl with the melted butter to grease. Place the dough into the bowl and turn it over to lightly coat the dough surface with the butter. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and then place it in a warm, draught-free place to allow the dough to rise.
6.       Leave the dough to prove until it is double its size, between 45-75 minutes at 30˚C. When the dough is ready, it will retain a finger imprint when lightly pressed.
7.       Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down in the centre with your fist and knead on a lightly floured surface again for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and elastic and returned to its original size.
8.       Preheat oven to 200°C.
9.       Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and shape each into a smooth round. Place the portions of dough side by side in the greased loaf pan. Brush lightly with the melted butter. Stand the pan in a warm, draught-free place, as before, for about 30 minutes or until the dough has risen about 1cm about the top of the pan.
10.     Gently brush the loaf with a little water and then sprinkle with the nigella seeds if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
11.     Turn the loaf immediately onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
12.     Once cool, store the loaf in a well-ventilated place at room temperature.

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

Thursday, 17 May 2012


“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak” - Thomas Carlyle
Today is:
Cayman Islands - Discovery Day
Norway - Constitution (National) Day (since 1814).

It is also the anniversary of the birth of:
Edward Jenner, English physician, pioneer of vaccination (1749);
Joseph Norman Lockyer, astronomer (1836);
Erik (Alfred Leslie) Satie, French composer (1866);
Dorothy Richardson, writer (1882);
Alfonso XIII, king of Spain (1886);
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iranian extremist (1900);
Jean Gabin (Jean-Alexis Moncorgé), actor (1904);
Maureen O'Sullivan, actress (1911);
Birgit Nilsson, opera singer (1918);
Dennis Hopper, actor (1936);
Kathleen Sullivan, actress (1953);
Grace Jones, singer (1955).

The thistle, Onopordum acanthium, is the birthday plant for this day.  Astrologically, this is a herb of Mars.  It symbolises defiance, independence, austerity desolation, grief and rejection.  It is the emblem of Scotland, adopted during the eight century when a Danish attack on Stirling Castle was unsuccessful because the barefooted Danish scouts cried out in pain when they encountered the plant, thus warning the Scots.  The thistle was adopted as an emblem with the motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (“Nobody provokes me with impunity”).  The thistle flower closes up before rain and was used as a weather oracle.

Erik Satie (1866-1925) was a French composer who rebelled against romanticism with his unorthodox and often whimsical compositions, such as Socrate (1918).  My favourite works of his are the Gymnopédies, especially the Gymnopédie No 1 (perhaps not so unorthodox, but certainly very beautiful).

Norway is a Scandinavian country that was united with Denmark since 1397 and with Sweden since 1814.  It gained its independence in 1905.  It has an area of about 323,000 square km and a population of about 5 million people.  It is a mountainous country, its coastline dominated by fjords.  The capital city is Oslo, other major cities being Stavanger, Kristiansand, Bergen and Trondheim.  It is rich in natural resources with crude oil and natural gas produced in abundance.  Chemical production, metal industries and paper manufacture rely on the cheap, hydroelectrical power that is produced.

Died on this day: 
In 1163, Héloïse, French secret wife of Abelard; in 1510, Sandro Botticelli, Italian artist; in 1935, Paul Dukas, French composer.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

A recipe for today, as the weather keeps getting wintrier here in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a classic Greek dish perfectly suited to falling temperatures, increasing rain and shorter days!

Fasolatha (Greek Baked Beans)

160    g dried haricot beans
2    litres water
1    large celery heart (stalks and leaves)
2    large onions
2    tablespoonfuls tomato paste
1    240 g can of peeled tomatoes
2    large chopped carrots
4    rashers of bacon (optional)
1    cupful of olive oil
1    handful of chopped parsley
2    stock cubes
    salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans in water for a couple of hours and then rinse them thoroughly in a colander under running water. Put them in a kettle with the 2 litres of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer. In a second pan brown the chopped onions in the hot olive oil and add the finely chopped bacon and stir in the chopped carrots and parsley. When these are well coated with oil, add the tomato puree and chopped peeled tomatoes, stirring well. Pour the vegetable mixture into the simmering beans, add the stock cubes and continue to cook slowly until the beans are very soft, adding more water if you need to.

Fasolatha is the national dish of Greece and is traditionally considered a poor person's dish, since beans are very cheap. Adding more water makes the dish more of a soup, while less water makes the dish more substantial and more suitable as a single course meal, served with slices of crusty bread and washed down with some red wine. The addition of bacon is an extravagance that was usually out of the means of most people having this dish.

Given the dire economic straits that Greece is finding itself in, it seems that recourse to this dish as a regular staple may be the only solution to many a family’s hardship…

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction” - Winston Churchill

I blogged last month about a change that was about to happen in my life and a couple of my readers were rather disappointed that I had not divulged what it would be. Well, it is time to spill the beans! I have been working at my last place of employment for 4.5 years and the place has developed considerably and I have contributed much to the improvements that have occurred there during this time. It is a tertiary private College delivering higher education and vocational education courses, but it is rather off the mainstream.

A couple of opportunities came up recently and as they were in areas that interested me greatly (tertiary education, flexible learning, e-Learning), I applied and went through the interview processes. I ended up being offered two of those positions in two different institutions. It was hard to choose between them as both were great opportunities and both were back in the mainstream University system here in Melbourne. After a lot of cogitation and much discussion with friends and family I made up my mind and signed on the dotted line of a new contract.

This is an exciting time for me and I look forward to the challenges of the new job, but at the same time I am a little sad to leave the old job behind me as I did develop some good working relationships with a lot of the staff there. Nevertheless, the time was ripe for change and I am really looking forward to beginning a new chapter in my life.

The new job involves a higher level managerial/strategic role in one of the prime tertiary education providers in Australia, which holds a linchpin position in distance education and e-Learning. This is an interesting position, which promises to hold many opportunities and professional development, but at the same time it will be one where I shall I play an important role in the lives of many people who wish to educate themselves in an innovative and time-efficient manner.

Changing jobs can be a stressful time and there is a lot to absorb, much to learn, new people to get to know, many changes of routine and a new working environment to get accustomed to. The good thing is that I shall still be in the City and my commuting schedule will stay the same. I love using the train to get to work and this is one part of my routine that will not change. I think that the older I get the more accommodating I can be to change and the easier it is to adapt to a new environment. Certainly experience, knowledge, lived life lessons all help to make transitions easier and less stressful.

Monday, 14 May 2012


 “I am interested in madness. I believe it is the biggest thing in the human race, and the most constant. How do you take away from a man his madness without also taking away his identity?” - William Saroyan

We love a good action/thriller movie and at the weekend we watched a good one. It was the 2011, Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Unknown” starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger and January Jones. The screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell was based on the novel “Out of My Head” by Didier Van Cauwelaert. The production was slick the direction crisp and slick, and the acting excellent with Liam Neeson doing an excellent job an action hero, or should that be antihero?

The plot involves a research biotechnologist (Neeson) who arrives in Berlin accompanied by his wife (Jones) for a conference at which a scientist and his Arab Prince backer will announce breakthrough research that will change the agribusiness landscape around the world. While his wife checks into the hotel, he grabs a taxi to return to the airport for his briefcase, left at the kerb. On the way to the airport, an accident involving the taxi he is in and he is saved by the attractive taxi driver (Kruger). He is in a coma though, from which he awakes four days later without identification and with gaps in his memory. He goes to his hotel where his wife refuses to recognise him and another man has claimed his identity. With help from a nurse, the taxi driver, a retired Stasi agent, and an academic friend, he tries to unravel what’s going on.

The film was engaging and involving, with a few twists and turns in the plot, peppered with some great actions sequences. It reminded me a little bit of the good old Hitchcock movies and was most enjoyable. We recommend this to people who like a good action thriller.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


“Some are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.” - Pearl S. Buck
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! 
An Art Sunday inspired by this international day of celebration of motherhood.

When he was born to a family of wealthy cloth merchants on 16th July, 1796, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot seemed destined for a life in business. Even though he started out in the family’s business, his talent and inclination were sufficient to convince his parents to allow him to study art. Abandoning his commercial career at the age of 26, Corot began to study under the academic landscape painter Victor Bertin, learning classical composition both in the studio and in his travels to Italy, the Netherlands and England. Because of his family’s wealth, Corot was able to paint without the necessity of selling his work.

Corot’s gift for landscape was immediately apparent, and by 1845 he was critically acclaimed and selling his work regularly. His close alignment with nature, while not idealising the concept of the happy yeoman that his contemporary Millet presented, nor the romantic view of nature as an antidote to increased urbanisation and industrialisation of the age proposed by Rousseau, brought him into the realm of the Barbizon school.

Today, Corot is most appreciated for very different kinds of landscape: For plein air sketches, never destined to be exhibited themselves but painted outdoors in preparation for studio pictures, and for lyrical views of the countryside he called souvenirs. The soft, silvery souvenirs recapture a poetic response to nature. Their fresh touch and light atmosphere are informed by outdoor studies and combined with a strong sense of form retained from classical French landscapes of the seventeenth century. Corot's work was an important influence on younger Impressionist painters.  Well-loved by his friends, peers and pupils, Corot was a generous and noble soul. He gave unstintingly of both time and money, thus earning the nickname “Père Corot”. Camille Corot was deeply mourned when he died in Paris on 22 February, 1875.

This painting “Mother and Child on the Beach” painted in 1860 is now exhibited in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (United States). The painting treats the subject with a straight-forward and earnest simplicity, yet there is a monumental air to it also, foreshadowing perhaps Picasso’s early work. The mother tenderly looks after her baby on the beach, with the activity in the background suggesting labour more than fun. The mother’s earth-coloured dress contrasts with the background and the dress of the baby, both in shades of steel-blue and gray. This is a tender mother, but also one who works as well as looking after her child. Corot is making a social statement as well as observing the intimate relationship of motherhood.