Wednesday, 22 March 2017

POETS UNITED - MIRROR

“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.” ― George R.R. Martin

I am still away on a work trip and will not get back home until the end of the week. Still, while in a hotel room, after a hard day, one does get a little window of opportunity to catch up with one’s  emails and participate in the Poets United Mid-Week Motif, which is tittled : “Mirror”.

Smoke and Mirrors

 
I drink, alone,
And smoke endless cigarettes;
A chain of smoke binding me
To your image,
On the mirror of my memory.

I smoke, solitary,
And drink hard liquor,
Swimming to you
As you recede, fast sinking
To the bottom of my glass.

And as the butts accumulate,
In the ashtray of your remembrance,
I resolve to leave you be;
Forget your face,
Burn your impression…

And the bottle empties,
As I try to drown your recollection
In my glass; but as quickly as I fill it
I empty it, encountering you
Ever present, at its bottom.

I formed you out of smoke,
A virtual image of perfection
In the depths of a magic mirror,
Manufactured by my need to love;
And all I’ve ever had was an illusion
Made of smoke and tricks of light, reflected…

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #71 - MAISON CARÉE, FRANCE

“Unless we place our religion and our treasure in the same thing, religion will always be sacrificed.” - Epictetus 

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.
The Maison Carrée (French for “square house”) is an ancient building in Nîmes, southern France; it is one of the best preserved Roman temple façades to be found in the territory of the former Roman Empire.

In about 4-7 AD, the Maison Carrée was dedicated or rededicated to Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar, grandsons and adopted heirs of Augustus who both died young. The inscription dedicating the temple to Gaius and Lucius was removed in medieval times. However, a local scholar, Jean-François Séguier, was able to reconstruct the inscription in 1758 from the order and number of the holes on the front frieze and architrave, to which the bronze letters had been affixed by projecting tines. According to Séguier's reconstruction, the text of the dedication read (in translation): “To Gaius Caesar, son of Augustus, Consul; to Lucius Caesar, son of Augustus, Consul designate; to the princes of youth.” During the 19th century the temple slowly began to recover its original splendour, due to the efforts of Victor Grangent.

The Maison Carrée is an example of Vitruvian architecture. Raised on a 2.85 m high podium, the temple dominated the forum of the Roman city, forming a rectangle almost twice as long as it is wide, measuring 26.42 m by 13.54 m. The façade is dominated by a deep portico or pronaos almost a third of the building’s length. It is a hexastyle design with six Corinthian columns under the pediment at either end, and pseudoperipteral in that twenty engaged columns are embedded along the walls of the cella.

Above the columns, the architrave is divided by two recessed rows of petrified water drips into three levels with ratios of 1:2:3. Egg-and-dart decoration divides the architrave from the frieze. On three sides the frieze is decorated with fine ornamental relief carvings of rosettes and acanthus leaves beneath a row of very fine dentils. A large door (6.87 m high by 3.27 m wide) leads to the surprisingly small and windowless interior, where the shrine was originally housed. This is now used to house a tourist oriented film on the Roman history of Nîmes. No ancient decoration remains inside the cella.

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 March 2017

MYTHIC MONDAY - EGYPT 5, APEP (APOPHIS)

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” - EdmundBurke

Apep or Apophis (Ancient Greek: Ἄποφις; also spelled Apepi or Aapep) was the ancient Egyptian deity who embodied chaos (ı͗zft in Egyptian) and was thus the opponent of light and Ma’at (order/truth). He appears in art as a giant serpent. Apep was first mentioned in the Eighth Dynasty, and he was honoured in the names of the Fourteenth Dynasty king ‘Apepi and of the Greater Hyksos king Apophis.

Ra was the solar deity, bringer of light, and thus the upholder of Ma’at. Apep was viewed as the greatest enemy of Ra, and thus was given the title Enemy of Ra, and also “the Lord of Chaos”. As the personification of all that was evil, Apep was seen as a giant snake or serpent leading to such titles as Serpent from the Nile and Evil Lizard. Some elaborations said that he stretched 16 yards in length and had a head made of flint. Comparable hostile snakes as enemies of the sun god existed under other names (in the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts) already before the name Apep occurred. Apophis was a large golden snake known to be miles long. He was so large that he attempted to swallow the sun every day.[citation needed]

Tales of Apep’s battles against Ra were elaborated during the New Kingdom. Storytellers said that every day Apep must lie just below the horizon. This appropriately made him a part of the underworld. In some stories Apep waited for Ra in a western mountain called Bakhu, where the sun set, and in others Apep lurked just before dawn, in the Tenth region of the Night. The wide range of Apep’s possible location gained him the title World Encircler. It was thought that his terrifying roar would cause the underworld to rumble. Myths sometimes say that Apep was trapped there, because he had been the previous chief god overthrown by Ra, or because he was evil and had been imprisoned. The Coffin Texts imply that Apep used a magical gaze to overwhelm Ra and his entourage. Ra was assisted by a number of defenders who travelled with him, including Set and possibly the Eye of Ra. Apep’s movements were thought to cause earthquakes, and his battles with Set may have been meant to explain the origin of thunderstorms. In some accounts, Ra himself defeats Apep in the form of a cat.

Ra was worshipped, while apotropaic practices against Apep was widespread. Ra’s victory each night was thought to be ensured by the prayers of the Egyptian priests and worshippers at temples. The Egyptians practiced a number of rituals and superstitions that were thought to ward off Apep, and aid Ra to continue his journey across the sky. In an annual rite, called the Banishing of Chaos, priests would build an effigy of Apep that was thought to contain all of the evil and darkness in Egypt, and burn it to protect everyone from Apep’s evil for another year, in a similar manner to modern rituals such as Zozobra (burning of effigies of evil deities).

Sunday, 19 March 2017

ART SUNDAY - MINAS AVETISYAN

“I think that the memory of Armenia’s genocide opened my eyes at an early age to the existence of political cynicism.” - Serj Tankian 

Minas Avetisyan (July 20, 1928 — February 24, 1975) was an Armenian painter, graphic artist and theatrical artist. Avetisyan was born in the village of Jajur, Soviet Armenia. His mother, Sofo, was a daughter of the priest from Kars. His father, Karapet, was a smith from Mush. His wife was Gayane Mamajanyan.

Avetisyan studied at Terlemezyan College of Fine Arts in Yerevan (1947–1952), Yerevan Fine Arts and Theatre Institute (1952–1954), and the Painting, Sculpture and Architecture Institution ‘Ilya Repin’ in Leningrad (1955–1959), where his main teacher was Boris Ioganson. From 1960 on Avetisyan lived in Yerevan.

The main theme of his works was Armenian nature, the nature of Jajur, religious subjects, the life of the poor people, mountains, fields and the changes of landscape in the various seasons. Avetisyan emerged as an artist at the “Exhibition of Five” in Yerevan (1962). Numerous specialists and visitors to the exhibition appreciated his work greatly.

Avetisian’s technique differed from the method of plein-air painting which was once widespread in Armenian art. For him working from nature was no more than a preliminary stage, and the main portion of the work on the canvas being done in his studio. In 1967, he first appeared on film in the censored and suppressed documentary “The Colour of Armenian Land” by his friend Mikhail Vartanov.

In 1975, Avetisyan died under the wheels of the car, which stopped off at the sidewalk. Although the official versionof his death was quoted as an unfortunate accident, some sources maintain that he was murdered by the KGB.

Avetisyan’s work is characterised by seemingly wild brush work and strident colours, inspired by the work of the fauves. Some South Caucasian Medieval traditional art can also be seen to influence his work. In his canvases, one sees intense colour saturation juxtaposed with dramatic and bold shapes.  Even when painting landscapes, Avetisyan broke through to q freedom of aesthetical self-expression, approaching the contemporary Russian “rough style”, even though in general he was more sympathetic to to the French modern and early avant-garde style of the early 20th century. Minas was also a success as a theatrical artist (theatre set design of Khachaturian’s “Gayane” ballet at the Opera and Ballet Theatre, 1974) and as a monumental painter (factory interior wall-paintings in Leninakan- Gyumri, 1970-1974).

The painting above from 1961 is titled “Toujours vie” (Still Life) and shows the fauve/expressionistic style of Avetisyan’s work. Unfortunately, many of the artist’s paintings were destroyed in a fire in 1972. On January 1 during the night, while Avetisyan was in Jajur with his family, his studio in Yerevan burned down, along with many of his best canvases. Three years later, in 1975 part of his wall-paintings were destroyed during the earthquake in Leninakan (Gyumri) and also destroyed the Minas Avetisian museum in his native Jajur village.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - DARIO CASTELLO

“Tell me what you listen to, and I’ll tell you who you are.” ― Tiffanie DeBartolo 
 
Dario Castello (c. 1590 – c. 1658) was an Italian composer and instrumentalist from the early Baroque period who worked and published in Venice. As regards his instrument, it is not clear whether he played the cornetto or the bassoon. As a composer, he was a late member of the Venetian School and had a role in the transformation of the instrumental canzona into the sonata.

There is no biographical information about Castello. Even his exact birth and death dates are unknown. It is thought he may possibly have died during the great plague of 1630; certainly, he published no new music after this date. The title page of the 1629 edition of the first volume of the Sonate Concertate records him as Capo di Compagnia de Musichi d’Instrumenti da fiato in Venetia, indicating that he led a Venetian company of piffari, a band that could include trumpets, sackbuts, cornetts, shawms, bagpipes, drums, recorders and viols.

The title page of the second volume (1644 edition) of the “Sonate Concertate” lists him as Musico Della Serenissima Signoria di Venetia in S. Marco, & Capo di Compagnia de Instrumenti, indicating that he worked at the great Basilica of St. Mark’s where Claudio Monteverdi was maestro di capella. Castello’s use of the stile concitato (agitated style), with quick repeated-note figures, is consistent with his association with Monteverdi. There are records of other instrumentalists with the surname Castello working at St Mark’s, and it is possible they were relatives of Dario.

Of his music, 29 separate compositions survive. Castello’s music is inventive and technically challenging. Strictly worked polyphonic sections alternate with dramatic recitatives over basso continuo, in keeping with the title of the publications “in stil moderno”; however he also uses some of the older canzona technique, which uses short sections of highly contrasting texture, and active rather than lyrical melodic lines. Unusually for the time, Castello often specifies the instruments for each part, calling for cornetti, violins, sackbuts (Baroque trombone) and dulcians. That these works were still being reprinted in the 1650s attests to Castello’s influence. Modern editions of the complete sonatas are published by Ut Orpheus Edizione.

Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock performs the Sonata Prima of Dario Castello from his second book of instrumental music, published in Venice in 1629. This is Video from the Voices of Music Great Artists Series concert in San Francisco, January, 2012.


And here is the Sonata Decima and Sonata Sesta, with The Purcell Quartett.


And finally, the Sonata Quarta with the Accademia del Ricercare.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

POETS UNITED - THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

“It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.” - Mary Wollstonecraft

This week, Poets United in its Midweek Motif challenge has as its theme, “The Kindness of Strangers”. I was in two minds about this as soon as I saw it. Kindness is a virtue and we should all be kind to one another, be they family, friends, acquaintances or strangers. But although I have been the beneficiary of the kindness of strangers, I have also been a victim of it. If I were to choose, I would choose the tough love of family, rather than the charitable kindness of strangers…

The Kindness of Strangers

My mother drank and beat me blue,
No tenderness in her stirred;
My father swore and stones he threw
He never had a kind word.

My brothers ran away from there
And from them nothing, ever;
My sisters screaming harpies were
A kiss, a hug? No, never.

I grew up stunted, gnarled and bent
Silent, scared of all the dangers,
And learned, alas, to be content
With kindnesses of strangers.

Our house a place of hellish strife,
Screams, beatings, evil torture;
I would be killed by gun, by knife
My fate as black as vulture.

Abused, defiled, and sold as flesh,
My life a nightmare hateful;
My anger born each day afresh,
My loathing greatly baleful.

And when I managed to break free,
And when I ran to shelter,
It was to strangers that I’d flee
But in their kindness welter.

For strangers may be kind and good
And their deeds may be well-intentioned;
But like a mother’s love for brood
None other can be mentioned.

A stranger’s kindness is not love
And may have many reasons;
It waxes, wanes as it behove
And change, as change the seasons.

I’d rather have my kith and kin
Look after me and love me;
A home to be so safe and cosy in,
With a snug loving roof above me.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #70 - YORK, ENGLAND

“In England, one without a trace of Royalty will master. Twenty months he will rule; twenty months he will bleed the lands, then his end comes quickly.” - Nostradamus 

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.
York is a historic walled city at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The municipality is the traditional county town of Yorkshire to which it gives its name. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events in England throughout much of its two millennia of existence. The city offers a wealth of historic attractions, of which York Minster is the most prominent, and a variety of cultural and sporting activities making it a popular tourist destination for millions.

The city was founded by the Romans as Eboracum in 71 AD. It became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jórvík. In the Middle Ages, York grew as a major wool trading centre and became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained.

In the 19th century, York became a hub of the railway network and a confectionery manufacturing centre. In recent decades, the economy of York has moved from being dominated by its confectionery and railway-related industries to one that provides services. The University of York and health services have become major employers, whilst tourism has become an important element of the local economy.

From 1996, the term City of York describes a unitary authority area which includes rural areas beyond the old city boundaries. In 2011 the urban area had a population of 153,717, while in 2010 the entire unitary authority had an estimated population of 202,400.

The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, commonly known as York Minster, is the cathedral of York, England, and is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. The minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second-highest office of the Church of England, and is the mother church for the Diocese of York and the Province of York. It is run by a dean and chapter, under the Dean of York. The title “minster” is attributed to churches established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches, and serves now as an honorific title. Services in the minster are sometimes regarded as on the High Church or Anglo-Catholic end of the Anglican continuum.

The minster has a very wide Decorated Gothic nave and chapter house, a Perpendicular Gothic Quire and east end and Early English North and South transepts. The nave contains the West Window, constructed in 1338, and over the Lady Chapel in the east end is the Great East Window (finished in 1408), the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. In the north transept is the Five Sisters Window, each lancet being over 16 m high. The south transept contains a rose window, while the West Window contains a heart-shaped design colloquially known as “The Heart of Yorkshire”.

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, 13 March 2017

MYTHIC MONDAY - EGYPT 4, AMON

“He who reigns within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.” - John Milton 

Amon, also spelled Amun, Amen, or Ammon, was the Egyptian deity who was revered as king of the gods. Amon may have been originally one of the eight deities of the Hermopolite creation myth; his cult reached Thebes, where he became the patron of the pharaohs by the reign of Mentuhotep I (2008–1957 bce). At that date he was already identified with the sun god Re of Heliopolis and, as Amon-Re, was received as a national god. Represented in human form, sometimes with a ram’s head, or as a ram, Amon-Re was worshipped as part of the Theban triad, which included a goddess, Mut, and a youthful god, Khons. His temple at Karnak was among the largest and wealthiest in the land from the New Kingdom (1539–c. 1075 bce) onward. Local forms of Amon were also worshipped at the Temple of Luxor on the east bank of Thebes and at Madīnat Habu (Medinet Habu) on the west bank.

Amon’s name meant the Hidden One, and his image was painted often blue to denote invisibility. This attribute of invisibility led to a popular belief during the New Kingdom in the knowledge and impartiality of Amon, making him a god for those who felt oppressed. Amon’s influence was, in addition, closely linked to the political well-being of Egypt. During the Hyksos domination (c. 1630–c. 1523 bce), the princes of Thebes sustained his worship. Following the Theban victory over the Hyksos and the creation of an empire, Amon’s stature and the wealth of his temples grew.

In the late 18th dynasty Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) directed his religious reform against the traditional cult of Amon, but he was unable to convert people from their belief in Amon and the other gods, and, under Tutankhamen, Ay, and Horemheb (1332–1292 bce), Amon was gradually restored as the god of the empire and patron of the pharaoh.

In the New Kingdom, religious speculation among Amon’s priests led to the concept of Amon as part of a triad (with Ptah and Re) or as a single god of whom all the other gods, even Ptah and Re, were manifestations. Under the sacerdotal state ruled by the priests of Amon at Thebes (c. 1075–c. 950 bce), Amon evolved into a universal god who intervened through oracles in many affairs of state.

The succeeding 22nd and 23rd dynasties, the invasion of Egypt by Assyria (671–c. 663 bce), and the sack of Thebes (c. 663 bce) did not reduce the stature of the cult, which had acquired a second main centre at Tanis in the Nile River delta. Moreover, the worship of Amon had become established among the inhabitants of Kush in the Sudan, who were accepted by Egyptian worshippers of Amon when they invaded Egypt and ruled as the 25th dynasty (715–664 bce). From this period onward, resistance to foreign occupation of Egypt was strongest in Thebes.

Amon’s cult spread to the oases, especially Siwa in Egypt’s western desert, where Amon was linked with Jupiter. Alexander the Great won acceptance as pharaoh by consulting the oracle at Siwa, and he also rebuilt the sanctuary of Amon’s temple at Luxor. The early Ptolemaic rulers contained Egyptian nationalism by supporting the temples, but, starting with Ptolemy IV Philopator in 207 bce, nationalistic rebellions in Upper Egypt erupted. During the revolt of 88–85 bce, Ptolemy IX Soter II sacked Thebes, dealing Amon’s cult a severe blow. In 27 bce a strong earthquake devastated the Theban temples, while in the Graeco-Roman world the cult of Isis and Osiris gradually displaced that of Amon.

Incidentally the word "ammonia" and "ammoniac" comes from the Greek word ammōniakos ‘of Ammon’, used as a name for the salt (sal ammoniac) and gum obtained near the temple of Jupiter Ammon at Siwa in Egypt.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

ART SUNDAY - MARIANNE VON WEREFKIN

“Women’s liberation is the liberation of the feminine in the man and the masculine in the woman.” – Corita Kent

Marianne von Werefkin (Russian: Мариа́нна Влади́мировна Верёвкина; 10 September [O.S. 29 August] 1860, Tula, Russia – 6 February 1938, Ascona, Switzerland), born Marianna Wladimirowna Werewkina (transliteration Marianna Vladimirovna Verëvkina), was a Russian-German-Swiss Expressionist painter.

Marianne von Werefkin was born in the Russian town of Tula as the daughter of the commander of the Ekaterinaburg Regiment. She had her first private academic drawing lessons at the age of fourteen. In 1880, she became a student of Ilya Repin, the most important painter of Russian Realism. Her progress was dealt a setback by a hunting accident in 1888 in which she accidentally shot her right hand, which remained crippled after a lengthy period of recovery.

By practicing persistently she finally managed to use drawing and painting instruments with her right hand again. In 1892 she met Alexej von Jawlensky, who desired to be her protégé, and in 1896 she, Jawlensky, and their servant moved to Munich. For the sake of Jawlensky’s painting, Werefkin interrupted her painting for almost ten years. She initiated a Salon in Munich which soon became a centre of lively artistic exchange. She also founded the “Lukasbruderschaft” of which also Kandinsky was a member.

She began painting again in 1906. In 1907 she created her first expressionist works; in these she followed Paul Gauguin’s and Louis Anquetin’s style of “surface painting”, while also showing the influence of Edvard Munch. She and Jawlensky spent in 1908 several periods working with Kandinsky and Münter after their discovery of the picturesque rural town of Murnau near Munich, where Gabriele Münter owned a house. The four artists frequently painted together in open air in and around Murnau.

They founded a new artist-group in 1909, the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Association of Artists in Munich, NKVM). It became a forum of exhibitions and programming. After a few years Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc distanced themselves from this group and formed the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider). The group was founded by a number of Russian emigrants, including Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky and a number of native German artists, such as Franz Marc, August Macke and Gabriele Münter. Werefkin began exhibiting together with this group in 1913.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Werefkin and Jawlensky immigrated to Switzerland, near Geneva. They later moved to Zurich. By 1918, they had separated, and Werefkin moved alone to Ascona, on Lago Maggiore where she painted many colourful, landscapes in an expressionist style. In 1924 she founded the artist group “Großer Bär” (i.e., Big Bear, Ursa Major). In her later years, she painted posters. Her friends “Carmen” and “Diego Hagmann” protected her from poverty. Marianne von Werefkin died in Ascona on 6 February 1938. She was buried in the Russian graveyard in Ascona.

The painting above is her “Skaters” of 1911. She painted an almost identical tableau in the same year, but that one is more cluttered and busy, so I prefer the simpler one above. The dark figures of the skaters under moonlight resemble an unearthly dance of spirits away from the comfort and security of the brightly lit abode of humans in the background, right.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - ANDREA ZANI

“Where words leave off, music begins.” ― Heinrich Heine 

Andrea Teodoro Zani (11 November 1696 – 28 September 1757) was an Italian violinist and composer. Zani was born at Casalmaggiore in the Province of Cremona. He received his first instruction in playing the violin from his father, an amateur violinist. Subsequently, he received instruction in composition from Giacomo Civeri, a local musician, and studied violin in Guastalla with the court violinist Carlo Ricci.

Antonio Caldara, who was working as Capellmeister at the court of Archduke Ferdinand Charles in Mantua, not far from Casalmaggiore, heard Zani play and invited him to accompany him to Vienna. Between 1727 and 1729 Zani arrived in Vienna and was active there as a violinist in the service of the Habsburgs.

Following the death of his sponsor Caldara in 1736, he returned to Casalmaggiore where he remained for the rest of his life, except for occasional concert appearances. He died in his hometown as the result of an accident, when the carriage in which he was travelling to Mantua overturned.

Zani's works show the influence of Antonio Vivaldi, but are somewhat less sweeping. His op. 2, published in 1729, is of great historical importance because it is the earliest dated source of symphonies that present no ambiguities of genre. His late works clearly exhibit a casting off of baroque elements in favour of early classical ones.

There are numerous manuscripts of Zani’s works found in libraries scattered throughout Europe, including three concertos and one sonata for flute, at least twelve concertos for cello, six trio sonatas for two violins and continuo, as well as several violin concertos and symphonies.

Here are 12 concertos of his Opus 4, played by Capella Palatina and Giovanni Battista Columbro. These are engaging works with sonorous violin soli, playful flute soli and some wonderful passages for the ensemble, a colourful palette and some lovely melodies to enjoy. This is a premiere recording and I much enjoyed listening to it. Hope you enjoy it too.

FOOD FRIDAY - BAKED PEACHES

“The ripest peach is highest on the tree.” – James Whitcomb Riley

Peaches are in season at the moment and we chanced upon some in a farmers’ market today. Unlike the supermarket variety, these were ripe, juicy and fragrant. We had some for lunch and then took the opportunity to make this summery dessert for after dinner:

Baked Peaches 
Ingredients
6 ripe fresh peaches
200 g ground blanched almonds
4 tbsp maraschino liqueur
80 g unsalted butter, melted
12 tbsp icing sugar
Softened mascarpone cheese to serve

Method
Carefully cut the peaches in half lengthwise and remove the pit with a sharp knife leaving a hollow in each half. Place the peach halves on a buttered baking tray, hollow side up.
In a blender, mix the almond meal with the liqueur and blend well until well-moistened and homogenised.
Fill each peach hollow with a spoonful of the almond paste and brush them with melted butter. Sprinkle a tablespoon of icing sugar over each peach half.
Bake at 180˚C until they are soft and golden brown. Serve with a dollop of mascarpone cheese.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

ALL ABOUT SMALLAGE

“Dear Perenna, prithee come and with smallage dress my tomb: And a cypress sprig thereto, With a tear, and so Adieu.” – Robert Herrick 

Smallage (Apium graveolens var. graveolens) is the wild variety of celery, belonging to the carrot family (Apiaceae). Smallage is very leafy, with thin hollow stalks and can grow up to 1 metre tall. The stalks are very slender and pliable, although quite stringy and not used in cooking. The plant does look quite similar to parsley although the leaves are of different shape, their colour are a little lighter, and their stalks are somewhat thicker. It is a biennial plant, growing luxuriantly the first year, flowering and seeding the following year, then dying. It can be treated as a “cut-and-come-again” plant, with multiple harvests of leaves. One French name, “celeri à couper”, gives the sense that its leaves are cut and the plant then regenerates.

Smallage flowers are flat, umbrella-like masses of tiny white blooms, similar to parsley. Its seeds are what is sold as “celery seed” (i.e. not the seeds from the domesticated, familiar, celery plants), and are used in culinary applications. The seeds have a powerful celery flavour with a tinge of bitterness, so they used sparingly, quite often in a lot of pickling mixes. The flavour of the celery seed enhances salt and ground seeds are mixed with salt and sold as “celery salt”. Celery salt is used as a seasoning, in cocktails (notably to enhance the flavour of Bloody Mary cocktails). Note that seeds intended for cultivation are not suitable for eating as they are often treated with fungicides. Buy the culinary packaged seeds for cooking uses.

Smallage is used as a herb with its leaves providing a strong and slightly bitter flavour that enhances other strong flavours (e.g. beef stew, mutton dishes, pork dishes, mixed vegetable and meat soups). The young, tender, raw leaves can be used in salads, while older more mature leaves can be used when boiling, stewing and roasting. In France, smallage is used in soups and stews, as cooks there prefer its stronger, more concentrated flavour than the milder, domesticated celery. If smallage is asked for in a recipe and its not available, one may use the leaves of the domesticated celery variety (the heart leaves in salads and the external leaves for cooking).

The English word “smallage” comes from “small ache” (pronounced “small ash”). “Ache” was an old French word for celery. Smallage is sometimes thought to be what the Greeks called σέλινον - selinon, but they used the same word for this and for parsley, so one cannot be sure which herb was meant by the author. The Romans also used the same word (apium) for both smallage and parsley. Later both Latin and Greek came to have separate names for parsley, to distinguish it from celery. In Greek, πετροσέλινον (petroselinon, petra meaning “rock” and selinon meaning “celery”, so parsley was “rock celery’). From the Greek word, the Romans derived their more precise word for parsley, petroselinum.

Traditionally, smallage was used medicinally and in Greek and Roman funeral rites, not being used in cooking until the Middle Ages. A chthonian (i.e.underworld) symbol among the ancient Greeks, smallage, parsley and celery were said to have sprouted from the blood of Kadmilos, father of the Cabeiri (chthonian divinities celebrated in Samothrace, Lemnos, and Thebes). The spicy odour and dark leaf colour encouraged this association with the cult of death. In classical Greece, celery leaves were used as garlands for the dead, and the wreaths of the winners at the Isthmian Games were first made of celery before being replaced by crowns made of pine. According to Pliny the Elder in Achaea, the garland worn by the winners of the sacred Nemean Games was also made of celery. The Ancient Greek colony of Selinous (Greek: Σελινοῦς, Selinous), on Sicily, was named after wild parsley that grew abundantly there; Selinountian coins depicted a parsley leaf as the symbol of the city.

Smallage root was used in preparations for its carminative effect and the use of celery seed in pills for relieving pain was described by Aulus Cornelius Celsus around AD 30. Celery seeds contain a compound, 3-n-butylphthalide, that has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in rats. Celery juice significantly reduced hypertension in some patients and the same effect on hypertension associated with pregnancy has also been documented. Bergapten in the seeds can increase photosensitivity, so the use of essential oil externally in bright sunshine should be avoided. The oil and large doses of seeds should be avoided during pregnancy, as they can act as a uterine stimulant and cause miscarriages.

Celery and smallage are among a small group of foods (headed by peanuts) that appear to provoke the most severe allergic reactions; for people with celery allergy, exposure can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. The allergen does not appear to be destroyed at cooking temperatures. Celery root (commonly eaten as celeriac, or put into drinks) is known to contain more allergen than the stalk. Seeds contain the highest levels of allergen content. Celery allergy is most prevalent in Central Europe. In the European Union, foods that contain or may contain celery, even in trace amounts, must be clearly marked as such.

A sprig of smallage in the language of flowers means “I shall love you until I die”, while flowering stalks should only be used in funeral wreaths, having the meaning of “Rest in Peace”.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

POET'S UNITED - WOMEN'S DAY

“No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.” - Muhammad Ali Jinnah 

Today is International Women’s Day and Poets United has as its Midweek Motif “A Woman’s Day: Be Bold For Change”. Here is my poem: 

I Don’t Want a Women’s Day 

I don’t want a token Women’s Day,
I want a world where humanity reigns supreme.
Sex and gender are immaterial
In this struggle for survival,
Where so much can be achieved
When brother and sister work together
Side by side as equals.

I don’t want a single, yearly Women’s Day,
I want a whole year, every year, where humanity reigns supreme.
XX or XY hardly matters
When the right life-or-death decision is made;
Where one depends on the other,
When husband and wife work together
Side by side as equals.

I don’t want a ceremonial Women’s Day,
I want an everyday reality, where humanity reigns supreme.
Trousers or dresses are irrelevant
In building a society where justice and good prevail;
Where we build rather than destroy,
When father and mother work together
Side by side as equals.

I don’t want a conceded Women’s Day,
I want a future starting yesterday, where humanity reigns supreme.
Mars and Venus are passé,
In this brave new world;
If humanity is to survive,
Let us instead be Jovial, and as fellow humans work,
Side by side as equals.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #69 - PAESTUM, ITALY

“The Poseidonians forgot the Greek language, after being admixed with Tyrrhenians, Latins and other foreigners. Their only legacy was a Greek festival, with beautiful ceremonies, with lyres and flutes, with games and wreaths...” – Constantine Cavafy 

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Paestum was a major ancient Greek city on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in Magna Graecia (southern Italy). The ruins of Paestum are famous for their three ancient Greek temples in the Doric order, dating from about 600 to 450 BC, which are in a very good state of preservation. The city walls and amphitheatre are largely intact, and the bottom of the walls of many other structures remain, as well as paved roads.

The site is open to the public, and there is a modern national museum within it, which also contains the finds from the associated Greek site of Foce del Sele. After its foundation by Greek colonists under the name of Poseidonia (Ancient Greek: Ποσειδωνία) it was eventually conquered by the local Lucanians and later the Romans. The Lucanians renamed it to Paistos and the Romans gave the city its current name.

As Pesto or Paestum, the town became a bishopric (now only titular), but it was abandoned in the Early Middle Ages, and left undisturbed and largely forgotten until the eighteenth century. Today the remains of the city are found in the modern frazione of Paestum, which is part of the comune of Capaccio in the Province of Salerno, Campania, Italy. The modern settlement, directly to the south of the archaeological site, is a popular seaside resort, with long sandy beaches.

Much the most celebrated features of the site today are the three large temples in the Archaic version of the Greek Doric order, dating from about 550 to 450 BC. All are typical of the period, with massive colonnades having a very pronounced entasis (widening as they go down), and very wide capitals resembling upturned mushrooms. Above the columns, only the second Temple of Hera retains most of its entablature, the other two having only the architrave in place. These were dedicated to Hera, Athena, and Poseidon (Juno, Minerva, and Neptune to the Romans), although previously they often have been identified otherwise, for example, as a basilica and a temple of Ceres (Greek Demeter), after eighteenth-century arguments.

The two temples of Hera are right next to each other, while the Temple of Athena is on the other side of the town centre. There were other temples, both Greek and Roman, which are far less well-preserved. Paestum is far from any sources of good marble. The three main temples had few stone reliefs, perhaps using painting instead. Painted terracotta was for some detailed parts of the structure. The large pieces of terracotta that have survived are in the museum.

The second Temple of Hera was built around 460–450 BC, just north of the first Hera Temple (seen in the back left of the photo). It was once mistakenly thought to be dedicated to Poseidon. The columns do not have the typical 20 flutes on each column, but have 24 flutes. The Temple of Hera II also has a wider column size and smaller intervals between columns.

The temple was also used to worship Zeus and another deity, whose identity is unknown. There are visible on the east side the remains of two altars, one large and one smaller. The smaller one is a Roman addition, built when a road leading to a Roman forum was cut through the larger one. It also is possible that the temple originally was dedicated to both Hera and Poseidon; some offertory statues found around the larger altar are thought to demonstrate this identification. 

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