Wednesday, 22 February 2017

POETS UNITED - NOSTALGIA

“Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.” - Elie Wiesel 

The theme for this Midweek Motif at Poets United is “Nostalgia”. This is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past and the word is derived from the Greek nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain’. But is it nostalgia when the memory of the past is bitter and the remembrance of it carries with it only pain? Painful memories of a painful period in the past: Maybe we should call this “Antinostalgia”? 

Antinostalgia 

A flashing neon sign illuminates on the street
The few yellow leaves spinning aimlessly
(In endless circles),
And dead paper carried in the whirls of the wind eddies.
The night air is cold, sharp, clear,
While in the emptiness
Only my hollow steps resound.

Brought to me by a gust of wind,
A snatch of melody
(A few familiar notes),
Just enough to remind me of you.
It hurts me to remember how
That song always used to make me cry,
But now only a couple of half-heard notes
Of just another love song,
Carried pointlessly by the wind...

Acrid smoke stifles my bitter breath
Bringing with it solace;
An opiate to soothe away the pain
(Of your remembrance).
I used to love you with such fire,
Now only ashes and wisps of smoke
From a dying cigarette.
The song that’s drifting in the wind
Meant all that you had silently confessed
But now only a faded keepsake
Pressed tightly between the pages of my closed heart.

A song of love.
An empty street.
A frozen heart.
A never-ending night.
(And as always, my footsteps only
Resounding hollow on the dreary cobbles...)

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #67 - IZMIR, TURKEY

“The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure.” - William Blake

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.
İzmir (Turkish pronunciation: [ˈizmiɾ]) is a metropolitan city in the western extremity of Anatolia and the third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul and Ankara. It is the second most populous city on the Aegean Sea after Athens, Greece. In 2014, the city of İzmir had a population of 2,847,691, while İzmir Province had a total population of 4,113,072. İzmir’s metropolitan area extends along the outlying waters of the Gulf of İzmir and inland to the north across the Gediz River delta; to the east along an alluvial plain created by several small streams; and to a slightly more rugged terrain in the south.

In classical antiquity the city was known as Smyrna (Greek: Σμύρνη Smyrni), a name which remained in use in English and other foreign languages until the Turkish Postal Service Law (Posta Hizmet Kanunu) of 28 March 1930, which made İzmir the internationally recognised name. İzmir has almost 4,000 years of recorded urban history and even longer as an advanced human settlement. Lying on an advantageous location at the head of a gulf running down in a deep indentation, midway on the western Anatolian coast, it has been one of the principal mercantile cities of the Mediterranean Sea for much of its history.

İzmir hosted the Mediterranean Games in 1971 and the World University Games (Universiade) in 2005. The city of İzmir is composed of several metropolitan districts. Of these, Konak district corresponds to historical İzmir, this district’s area having constituted the “İzmir Municipality” (Turkish: İzmir Belediyesi) area until 1984. With the constitution of the “Greater İzmir Metropolitan Municipality” (Turkish: İzmir Büyükşehir Belediyesi), the city of İzmir grouped together initially nine, and more recently eleven, metropolitan districts, namely Balçova, Bayraklı, Bornova, Buca, Çiğli, Gaziemir, Güzelbahçe, Karabağlar, Karşıyaka, Konak and Narlıdere. In an ongoing process, the Mayor of İzmir was also vested with authority over additional districts reaching from Bergama in the north to Selçuk in the south, bringing the number of districts considered as being part of İzmir to twenty-one, two of these having been only partially administratively included in İzmir.

Izmir Clock Tower (Turkish: İzmir Saat Kulesi) is a historic clock tower located at the Konak Square in Konak district of İzmir, Turkey. The clock tower was designed by the Levantine French architect Raymond Charles Père and built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II's accession to the throne (reigned 1876–1909). The clock itself was a gift from German Emperor Wilhelm II (reigned 1888–1918). It is decorated in an elaborate Ottoman architecture style.

The tower, which has an iron and lead skeleton, is 25 m high and features four fountains (şadırvan), which are placed around the base in a circular pattern. The columns are inspired by Moorish themes. The clock tower was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 500 lira banknotes of 1983-1989. In the former Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in present-day Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin towns such as Belgrade, Prijepolje, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Gradačac and Stara Varoš, similar Ottoman era clock towers still exist and are called Sahat Kula (derived from the Turkish words Saat Kulesi, meaning Clock Tower.)

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

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

Monday, 20 February 2017

MYTHIC MONDAY - EGYPT 1, THE PANTHEON

“All religions must be tolerated, for every man must get to heaven in his own way.” - Epictetus 

Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals, which were an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians’ interaction with many deities who were believed to be present in, and in control of, the forces of nature. Rituals such as prayers and offerings were efforts to provide for the gods and gain their favour. Formal religious practice centred on the pharaoh, the king of Egypt, who was believed to possess a divine power by virtue of his position. He acted as the intermediary between his people and the gods and was obligated to sustain the gods through rituals and offerings so that they could maintain order in the universe.

The state dedicated enormous resources to Egyptian rituals and to the construction of the temples. Individuals could interact with the gods for their own purposes, appealing for their help through prayer or compelling them to act through magic. These practices were distinct from, but closely linked with, the formal rituals and institutions. The popular religious tradition grew more prominent in the course of Egyptian history as the status of the Pharaoh declined.

 Another important aspect was the belief in the afterlife and funerary practices. The Egyptians made great efforts to ensure the survival of their souls after death, providing tombs, grave goods, and offerings to preserve the bodies and spirits of the deceased. The religion had its roots in Egypt’s prehistory and lasted for more than 3,000 years. The details of religious belief changed over time as the importance of particular gods rose and declined, and their intricate relationships shifted.

At various times throughout Egypt’s history, certain gods became preeminent over the others, including the sun god Ra, the creator god Amun, and the mother goddess Isis. For a brief period, in the theology promulgated by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, a single god, the Aten, replaced the traditional pantheon. This short period of monotheism was rapidly quashed and the return of polytheism lasted until Egypt’s decline as an imperial power. Ancient Egyptian religion and mythology left behind many writings and monuments, along with significant influences on ancient and modern cultures.

Over the next few months, every Monday, I shall be featuring a series of posts, which will look at Ancient Egyptian mythology and the many deities and demons associated with this ancient civilisation and its religion.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

ART SUNDAY - LEE LAWRIE

“Great buildings that move the spirit have always been rare. In every case they are unique, poetic, products of the heart.” - Arthur Erickson 
Lee Oscar Lawrie (October 16, 1877 – January 23, 1963) was one of the United States' foremost architectural sculptors and a key figure in the American art scene preceding World War II. Over his long career of more than 300 commissions Lawrie’s style evolved through Modern Gothic, to Beaux-Arts, Classicism, and, finally, into Moderne or Art Deco.

He created a frieze on the Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska, including a portrayal of the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. He also created some of the architectural sculpture and his most prominent work, the free-standing bronze Atlas (installed 1937) at New York City's Rockefeller Center. Lawrie’s work is associated with some of the United States’ most noted buildings of the first half of the twentieth century.

His stylistic approach evolved with building styles that ranged from Beaux-Arts to neo-Gothic to Art Deco. Many of his architectural sculptures were completed for buildings by Bertram Goodhue of Cram & Goodhue, including the chapel at West Point; the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.; the Nebraska State Capitol; the Los Angeles Public Library; St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York; and Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago.

He completed numerous pieces in Washington, D.C., including the bronze doors of the John Adams Building of the Library of Congress, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception south entrance portal, and the interior sculpture of George Washington at the National Cathedral.

The Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 highrise commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st Streets in New York City. Commissioned by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the centre of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Rockefeller Center represents a turning point in the history of architectural sculpture: It is among the last major building projects in the United States to incorporate a program of integrated public art. Sculptor Lee Lawrie contributed the largest number of individual pieces – twelve, including the statue of Atlas facing Fifth Avenue and the conspicuous friezes above the main entrance to the Comcast Building.

A large number of artists contributed work at the Center, including Isamu Noguchi, whose gleaming stainless steel bas-relief, News, over the main entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza (the Associated Press Building) was a standout. At the time it was the largest metal bas-relief in the world. Other artists included Carl Milles, Hildreth Meiere, Margaret Bourke-White, Dean Cornwell, and Leo Friedlander.

A true icon of the Art Deco style, Lawrie's bas-relief “Progress” is allegorical, has bold and flat geometric shapes, strong colours and stylised forms, and, above all, is decorative. The main character is Columbia, the traditional female symbol of America. Here, she is a large athletic figure wearing a simple peasant dress, her face composed and devoid of emotion. She holds the flame of divine fire in one hand, an olive branch, the symbol of peace, in another. The mythological horse Pegasus, the symbol of inspiration, is placed behind her, while an eagle in the foreground symbolises power. It is situated above the 49th Street entrance to the building complex.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - BAX: ELEGIAC TRIO

“Where words fail, music speaks.” ― Hans Christian Andersen

Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax KCVO (8 November 1883 – 3 October 1953) was an English composer, poet, and author. His prolific output includes songs, choral music, chamber pieces, and solo piano works, but he is best known for his orchestral music. In addition to a series of symphonic poems he wrote seven symphonies and was for a time widely regarded as the leading British symphonist.

Bax was born in the London suburb of Streatham to a prosperous family. He was encouraged by his parents to pursue a career in music, and his private income enabled him to follow his own path as a composer without regard for fashion or orthodoxy. Consequently, he came to be regarded in musical circles as an important but isolated figure. While still a student at the Royal Academy of Music Bax became fascinated with Ireland and Celtic culture, which became a strong influence on his early development. In the years before the First World War he lived in Ireland and became a member of Dublin literary circles, writing fiction and verse under the pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne. Later, he developed an affinity with Nordic culture, which for a time superseded his Celtic influences in the years after the First World War.

Between 1910 and 1920 Bax wrote a large amount of music, including the symphonic poem Tintagel, his best-known work. During this period he formed a lifelong association with the pianist Harriet Cohen – at first an affair, then a friendship, and always a close professional relationship. In the 1920s he began the series of seven symphonies, which form the heart of his orchestral output. In 1942 Bax was appointed Master of the King's Music, but composed little in that capacity. In his last years he found his music regarded as old-fashioned, and after his death it was generally neglected. From the 1960s onwards, mainly through a growing number of commercial recordings, his music was gradually rediscovered, although little of it is regularly heard in the concert hall.

Here is his “Elegiac Trio” played by the “Formosa Trio” (Viola - Tze-Ying Wu; Harp - Joy Yeh; Flute- Pei-San Chiu) in a performance on March 28, 2012, at the Ford-Crawford Hall, Indiana University Bloomington- Jacobs School of Music.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

ALL ABOUT ALLSPICE

“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour.” - William Cowper

Allspice, also called Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta (Turkish yenibahar = “newspice”), is the dried unripe fruit (berries, used as a spice) of Pimenta dioica, a midcanopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world. The name “allspice” was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Several unrelated fragrant shrubs are called “Carolina allspice” (Calycanthus floridus), “Japanese allspice” (Chimonanthus praecox), or “wild allspice” (Lindera benzoin). “Allspice” is also sometimes used to refer to the herb costmary (Tanacetum balsamita).

Allspice is the dried fruit of the P. dioica plant. The fruits are picked when green and unripe and are traditionally dried in the sun. When dry, they are brown and resemble large, brown, smooth peppercorns. The whole fruits have a longer shelf life than the powdered product, and produce a more aromatic product when freshly ground before use.

Fresh leaves are used where available. They are similar in texture to bay leaves, thus are infused during cooking and then removed before serving. Unlike bay leaves, they lose much flavour when dried and stored, so are not available commercially. The leaves and wood are often used for smoking meats where allspice is a local crop. Allspice can also be found in essential oil form.

Allspice is one of the most important ingredients of Caribbean cuisine. It is used in Caribbean jerk seasoning (the wood is used to smoke jerk in Jamaica, although the spice is a good substitute), in moles, and in pickling; it is also an ingredient in commercial sausage preparations and curry powders. Allspice is also indispensable in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in the Levant, where it is used to flavour a variety of stews and meat dishes. In Arab cuisine, for example, many main dishes call for allspice as the sole spice added for flavouring.

In the USA, it is used mostly in desserts, but it is also responsible for giving Cincinnati-style chili its distinctive aroma and flavour. Allspice is commonly used in Great Britain, and appears in many dishes, including cakes. Even in many countries where allspice is not very popular in the household, as in Germany, it is used in large amounts by commercial sausage makers. In the West Indies, an allspice liqueur called “pimento dram”, is produced. In Greece and Turkey allspice is often used to flavour beef dishes stewed with ripe fresh tomatoes, onions (yahni/yahnisi = “ragout”) and any of a variety of seasonal vegetables.

The allspice tree, classified as an evergreen shrub, can reach 10–18 m in height, although commonly allspice can be a small, scrubby tree, quite similar to the bay laurel in size and form. It can also be a tall, canopy tree, sometimes grown to provide shade for coffee trees planted underneath it. It can be grown outdoors in the tropics and subtropics with normal garden soil and watering. Smaller plants can be killed by frost, although larger plants are more tolerant. It adapts well to container culture and can be kept as a houseplant or in a greenhouse.

To protect the pimenta trade, the plant was guarded against export from Jamaica. Many attempts at growing the pimenta from seeds were reported, but all failed. At one time, the plant was thought to grow nowhere except in Jamaica, where the plant was readily spread by birds. Experiments were then performed using the constituents of bird droppings; however, these were also totally unsuccessful. Eventually, passage through the avian gut, whether due to the acidity or the elevated temperature, was found to be essential for germinating the seeds. Today, pimenta is spread by birds in Tonga and Hawaii, where it has become naturalised on Kauaʻi and Maui.

Allspice was encountered by Christopher Columbus on the island of Jamaica during his second voyage to the New World, and named by Dr Diego Álvarez Chanca. It was introduced into European and Mediterranean cuisines in the 16th century. It continued to be grown primarily in Jamaica, though a few other Central American countries produced allspice in comparatively small quantities.

Volatile oils found in the plant contain eugenol, a weak antimicrobial agent. Other constituents are caryophyllene, methyl eugenol, glycosides, tannins, quercetin, resin, and sesquiterpenes. At the processing units, these volatile essential oils are obtained through distillation process using this spice corn. The outer coat of the allspice berries is believed to have the greatest concentration of some of these medicinally important compounds. Allspice oil has been used as a deodorant component.

The active principles in the allspice increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract. They also aid in the digestion through facilitating enzyme secretions inside the stomach and intestines. Allspice also has anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing action), carminative (anti-flatulence) properties. The spice also contains a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, copper, selenium, and magnesium. There is also a considerable amount of vitamin A, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin-C.

In the language of flowers, bouquets adorned with strings of allspice berries indicate “compassion – my heart feels compassion for you”. A rare bouquet containing allspice flowers means “your heart and is tender and compassionate”.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

POETS UNITED - LOVE

“If you wish to be loved – love!” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Poets United this week (quite aptly with Valentine’s Day just celebrated) has as its Midweek Motif the theme of “love”. Here is my contribution: 

Love 

What a feeling... Almost nothing,
In my mind and in my heart;
It is nothing or it’s something;
But it makes me jump and start...

What could I be lacking now?
What I need and what I want
Would my sweetest fate allow,
Or its lack my dreams to haunt?

Is it hunger, is it thirst?
No, my stomach wildly turns.
What to wish for, should I, first?

Ease of mind, for which it yearns?
Or peace of heart, about to burst?
Sweet this feeling, but how it burns!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #66 - CATANIA

“Sicily is the pearl of this country. Since old times, travellers from the most far away country boast of its merits, praise its territory, rave about its extraordinary beauty, and highlight its strengths, because it brings together the best aspects from every other country.” - Al-Idrisi 

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. 
Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea. It is the capital of the Metropolitan City of Catania, one of the ten biggest cities in Italy, and the seventh largest metropolitan area in Italy. The population of the city proper is 315,601 while the population of the conurbation is estimated to be 767,003. The metropolitan area has 1,115,310 inhabitants.

Catania is well known for its historical earthquakes, having been destroyed by catastrophic earthquakes in 1169 and 1693, and for several volcanic eruptions from the neighbouring Mount Etna, the most violent of which was in 1669.

Catania has had a long and eventful history, having been founded in the 8th century BC. In 1434, the first university in Sicily was founded in the city. In the 14th century and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centres. The city has a rich culture and history, hosting many museums, restaurants, churches, parks and theatres. Catania is well known for its street food.

The opera composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801 – 1835) was born in Catania, and a museum exists at his birthplace. The Teatro Massimo "Vincenzo Bellini" (in the photo above), which opened in 1890, is named after the composer. The opera house presents a variety of operas through a season, which run from December to May, many of which are the work of Bellini.

 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:

Saturday, 11 February 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - BORTNIANSKY

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” - Søren Kierkegaard 

Dmytro Stepanovych Bortniansky (Ukrainian: Дмитрiй Степанович Бортнянський) or Dmitry Stepanovych Bortniansky (Russian: Дмитрий Степанович Бортнянский; 28 October 1751–10 October [O.S. 28 September] 1825) was a Russian composer and conductor of Ukrainian origin. Bortniansky is best known today for his liturgical works and his prolific contributions to the genre of choral concertos. He was one of the “Golden Three” of his era, along with Artem Vedel and Maksym Berezovsky. Bortniansky composed in many different musical styles, including choral compositions in French, Italian, Latin, German and Church Slavonic.

Bortniansky was born on 28 October 1751 in the city of Glukhov (in present-day Ukraine), then a part of the autonomous Cossack Hetmanate within the Russian Empire, into the family of Stefan Skurat (or Shkurat), a Lemko-Rusyn Orthodox religious refugee from the village of Bortne in the Malopolska region (he was entered in the Cossack register at Glukhov in 1755). At the age of seven, Dmytro’s prodigious talent at the local church choir afforded him the opportunity to go the capital of the empire and sing with the Imperial Chapel Choir in St. Petersburg. There he studied music and composition under the director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, the Italian master Baldassare Galuppi. When Galuppi left for Italy in 1769, he took the boy with him. In Italy, Bortniansky gained considerable success composing operas: ‘Creonte’ (1776) and ‘Alcide’ (1778) in Venice, and ‘Quinto Fabio’ (1779) at Modena. He also composed sacred works in Latin and German, both a cappella and with orchestral accompaniment (including an Ave Maria for two voices and orchestra).

Bortniansky returned to the Saint Petersburg Court Capella in 1779 and flourished creatively. He composed at least four more operas (all in French, with libretti by Franz-Hermann Lafermière): ‘Le Faucon’ (1786), ‘La fête du seigneur’ (1786), ‘Don Carlos’ (1786), and ‘Le fils-rival’ ou ‘La moderne Stratonice’ (1787). Bortniansky wrote a number of instrumental works at this time, including piano sonatas and a piano quintet with harp, and a cycle of French songs. He also composed liturgical music for the Orthodox Church, combining the Eastern and Western European styles of sacred music, incorporating the polyphony he learned in Italy; some works were polychoral, using a style descended from the Venetian polychoral technique of the Gabrielis.

 After a while, Bortniansky's genius proved too great to ignore, and in 1796 he was appointed Director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, the first director not to have been imported from outside of the Russian Empire. With such a great instrument at his disposal, he produced scores upon scores of compositions, including over 100 religious works, sacred concertos (35 for four-part mixed choir, 10 for double choruses), cantatas, and hymns. Dmytro Bortniansky died in St. Petersburg on 10 October 1825, and was interred at the Smolensky Cemetery in St. Petersburg. His remains were transferred to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in the 20th century.

In 1882, Tchaikovsky edited the liturgical works of Bortniansky, which were published in ten volumes. While Bortniansky wrote operas and instrumental compositions, it is his sacred choral works that are performed most often today. This vast body of work remains central not only to understanding 18th-century Orthodox sacred music, but also served as inspiration to his fellow Ukrainian composers in the 19th century. The tune he wrote for the Latin hymn ‘Tantum Ergo’ eventually became known in Slavic lands as Коль славен (Kol slaven), in which form it is still sung as a church hymn today.

The tune was also popular with freemasons. It travelled to English-speaking countries and came to be known by the names Russia, St. Petersburg or Wells. In Germany, the song was paired with a text by Gerhard Tersteegen, and became a well-known chorale and traditional part of the military ceremony Großer Zapfenstreich (the Grand Tattoo), the highest ceremonial act of the German army, rendered as an honour for distinguished persons on special occasions. Prior to the October revolution in 1917, the tune was played by the Moscow Kremlin carillon every day at midday. James Blish, who novelized many episodes of the original series of Star Trek, noted in one story, Whom Gods Destroy, that Bortniansky’s ‘Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe’ was the theme “to which all Starfleet Academy classes marched to their graduation.” Bortniansky also composed “The Angel Greeted the Gracious One” (hymn to the Mother of God used at Pascha) as a trio used by many Orthodox churches in the Easter season.

 Here are some of his Choral Concertos (Sacred Concertos No. 24-29), with the Russian State Symphonic Cappella conducted by Valeri Polyansky, recorded in the Dormition Cathedral of Smolensk and St Sophia’s Cathedral, Polotsk 1989-90.


Friday, 10 February 2017

FOOD FRIDAY - RISOTTO!

“To you who eat a lot of rice because you’re lonely, To you who sleep a lot because you’re bored, To you who cry a lot because you are sad, I write this down. Chew on your feelings that are cornerned like you would chew on rice. Anyway, life is something that you need to digest.” ― Chun Yang Hee

Rice is an important food crop and is grown and harvested on every continent except Antarctica, where conditions make its growth impossible (not much is grown as a crop in Antarctica!). The majority of all rice produced comes from India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Bangladesh. Asian farmers still account for 92% of the world's total rice production. Talking with a Chinese colleague, I was told that rice in Asian countries is viewed very much as bread is viewed by the European. Just as in the Southern Mediterranean countries bread was the basis of every meal, in Asian countries boiled or steamed rice is the basis of every meal.

Rice and its by-products are used for making straw and rope, paper, wine, crackers, beer, cosmetics, packing material, and even toothpaste! Now for that risotto recipe. Risotto is a classic dish of Italy prepared with special varieties of rice rich in starch, especially the Arborio type, and there are a multitude of recipes and variations. They all have as common feature the toasting of the rice with butter or olive oil, before broth is added to cook the grains thoroughly.

RISOTTO AI FUNGHI - (Mushroom Risotto)
Ingredients
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 cups oyster or morel mushrooms (may substitute any other full-flavoured mushrooms), wiped clean, trimmed, and chopped
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup dairy cream
7 and 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
 * * *
2 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of olive oil
4 medium Spanish onions, peeled and minced
1 and 3/4 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ground mace to taste
Chopped fresh parsley or chives for garnishing (optional)

Method
Put the butter and two tbsp of the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and reduce liquid by half, about 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to medium, add cream, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
Boil the stock and then reduce to a simmer in a saucepan.
In another deep, heavy, saucepan, heat the second lot of oil and butter. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the rice and ground mace, and stir to coat with butter and oil, toasting for two to three minutes. Add the simmering stock, stirring to keep the rice from sticking to the edges of the pan. The stock should be almost completely absorbed in about 20 minutes. The rice should be cooked and creamy, but still in separate grains.
Stir in the mushroom mixture and the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley if desired.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

POETS UNITED - SPACE

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” – Oscar Wilde

I have been very busy working hard these past few weeks and hence have had little spare time that has to be apportioned very sparingly according to a strict set of priorities. Nevertheless, late at night behind the closed door of my study, when I can shut everyone and everything out, I allow myself a little latitude and I can take some time to be creative.

Here is a poem just written for the Poets United Midweek Motif challenge, which this week is all about “Space”.

To Let

There is a space in my heart: To Let –
Ever since you left,
A huge, echoing space the size of the universe
All enclosed in that small, fist-sized organ
Of shuddering flesh,
That is my empty heart.

There is a space in my heart: To Let –
Ever since you left,
I have been walking in there endlessly
And my footsteps echo hollow,
Each step taking great effort,
Each step leaving behind great pain.

There is a space in my heart: To Let –
It is very clean,
And quiet; warm in Winter, cool in Summer,
Of Northerly aspect – and the best of all,
It has a garden with great potential –
A little care will make it bloom.

There is a space in my heart: To Let –
Going cheaply –
In fact no money need change hands –
All that I need to fill it is sincerity,
Some affection, tenderness, understanding.
Love may enter as a sub-letter later.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #65 - VERONA

“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.” ― William Shakespeare

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.  
Verona is a city on the Adige river in Veneto, northern Italy, with approximately 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven provincial capitals of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third largest in northeast Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona covers an area of 1,426 km2 and has a population of 714,274 inhabitants.

It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, owing to its artistic heritage, several annual fairs, shows, and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, the ancient amphitheatre built by the Romans, which is well preserved and forms a centrepiece for city life.

Three of Shakespeare's plays are set in Verona: 'Romeo and Juliet', 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona', and 'The Taming of the Shrew'. It is unknown if Shakespeare ever visited Verona or Italy at all, but his plays have lured many visitors to Verona and surrounding cities many times over. The city has been awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO because of its urban structure and architecture. The photo above is taken at the Piazza delle Erbe.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme.

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Saturday, 4 February 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - TELEMANN

“The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music they should be taught to love it instead.” - Igor Stravinsky

I have been working very hard the past couple of weeks, so I have been missing a few of my regular daily posts here. When I work at my computer, I enjoy listening to music played softly in the background. Telemann is perfect for this and here is a sample of his oboe writing.

Georg Philipp Telemann (14 March 1681 -- 25 June 1767) was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family’s wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually settled on a career in music.

He held important positions in Leipzig, Sorau, Eisenach, and Frankfurt before settling in Hamburg in 1721, where he became musical director of the city’s five main churches. While Telemann’s career prospered, his personal life was always troubled: His first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving Telemann.

Telemann was one of the most prolific composers in history (at least in terms of surviving oeuvre) and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time (he was compared favourably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, who made Telemann the godfather and namesake of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally).

Telemann’s music incorporates several national styles (French, Italian) and is even at times influenced by Polish popular music. He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.

Here are some of his Oboe Sonatas performed by Paul Goodwin (Baroque Oboe), John Toll, (Harpsichord), Susan Sheppard (Baroque Cello), Nigel North (Archlute, Theorbo), Lynden Cranham (Baroque Cello).

Friday, 3 February 2017

ALL ABOUT LEMONGRASS


“The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk.” - Jacqueline du Pré 

Cymbopogon, better known as lemongrass, is a genus of Asian, African, Australian, and tropical island plants in the grass family (Poaceae). Some species (particularly Cymbopogon citratus) are commonly cultivated as culinary and medicinal herbs because of their scent, resembling that of lemons (Citrus limon). Common names include lemon grass, lemongrass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, cha de Dartigalongue, fever grass, tanglad, hierba Luisa, or gavati chaha, amongst many others.

Lemongrass is widely used as a culinary herb in Asian cuisines and also as medicinal herb in India. It has a subtle citrus flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. It is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for use with poultry, fish, beef, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African countries such as Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Latin American countries such as Mexico.

Lemongrass oil is used as a pesticide and a preservative. Research shows that lemongrass oil has antifungal properties. Despite its ability to repel some insects, such as mosquitoes, its oil is commonly used as a “lure” to attract honey bees. Lemongrass works conveniently as well as the pheromone created by the honeybee’s Nasonov gland, also known as attractant pheromones. Because of this, lemongrass oil can be used as a lure when trapping swarms or attempting to draw the attention of hived bees.

Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) grow to about 2 m and have magenta-colored base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as an insect repellent (especially against mosquitoes) in insect sprays and candles, and in aromatherapy, an is used widely in Bintan Island, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Its origin is assumed to be Indonesia.

The principal chemical constituents of citronella, geraniol and citronellol, are antiseptics, hence their use in household disinfectants and soaps. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purposes, as a flavouring. Citronella is usually planted in home gardens to ward off insects such as whitefly adults. Its cultivation enables growing some vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and broccoli) without applying pesticides. Intercropping should include physical barriers, for citronella roots can take over the field.

Lemongrass oil, used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts found in India as a preservative. It is used at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore, the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage in Kerala, and many other manuscript collections in India. The oil also injects natural fluidity into the brittle palm leaves, and the hydrophobic nature of the oil keeps the manuscripts dry so the text is not lost to decay due to humidity.

East Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), also called Cochin grass or Malabar grass, is native to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand, while West Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is native to South Asia and maritime Southeast Asia. While both can be used interchangeably, C. citratus is more suitable for cooking. In India, C. citratus is used both as a medicinal herb and in perfumes. 

C. citratus is consumed as a tea for anxiety in Brazilian folk medicine, but a study in humans found no effect. The tea caused a recurrence of contact dermatitis in one case. Lemon grass is also used as an addition to tea, and in preparations such as kadha, which is a traditional herbal brew used against coughs, colds, etc. It has medicinal properties and is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine. It is supposed to help with relieving cough and nasal congestion.

Inclusion of stems of lemongrass in a bouquet carries the message: “Beware, bad tongues are gossiping about you.”

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

POETS UNITED - FAITH


“Faith makes all things possible. Love makes all things easy.” - Dwight L. Moody

The Midweek Motif at Poets United this week is “Faith”. Here is my contribution:

Faith

My soul a hollow shell;
My heart an empty echoing place
In whose vacant chambers
Cold loneliness shuffles its steps.

My life a barren void;
My sweet dreams annulled
All hopes sublimated
In the wake of your bitter renunciation.

My spirit vacuous;
My routine existence lost
In a desert of frozen wastelands
As I attempt to cope with betrayal.

Shall I attempt trust again?
Shall I believe in seemingly ingenuous smiles?
Shall I ever be able to risk all again?
Shall I walk the tightrope of love once more?

How much more simple to wander the desert,
Trust only the promise of a certain, rapid death
As my parched heart and soul quickly dehydrate
And my lifeblood thickens, clots, solidifies.
Love is the half-remembered nightmare
That hastens me on my spiralling downward plunge
Into the pointless peregrinations
Within a vast desert in which there is no hidden oasis.
Once faith is lost, it is not easily found again.