Saturday, 9 July 2016


“Without a song, each day would be a century.” - Mahalia Jackson

Riccardo Broschi (c. 1698 – 1756) was a composer of baroque music and the brother of the opera singer Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli. Broschi was born in Naples, the son of Salvatore Broschi, a composer and chapelmaster of the Cathedral of the Puglinese citizens, and Caterina Berrese (according to the Book of Baptisms of the Church of S. Nicola, today near the Episcopal Archives).

The Broschi family moved to Naples at the end of 1711, and enrolled Riccardo, their firstborn, in the Conservatory of S. Maria di Loreto, where he would study to become a composer under G. Perugino and F. Mancinipresso. Salvatore, meanwhile, died unexpectedly, at age 36, on 4 November 1717. Caterina subsequently made Riccardo head of the family.

He made his debut in 1725 with “La Vecchia Sorda”. Next, he moved to London in 1726 and stayed there until 1734 and wrote six heroic operas, his most successful being “Artaserse”. In 1737 he moved to Stuttgart and briefly served at the Stuttgart court (1736-7) for Charles Alexander, Duke of Württemberg, then returned to Naples before joining his brother in Madrid in 1739. He died in Madrid.

The dramatic relationship between the Broschi brothers is the quintessence of the 1994 movie “Farinelli”, in which a few of Riccardo Broschi’s works are performed.

Here is “Ombra Fedele Anch’ Io”, an aria from his opera “Idaspe” (1730) sung by Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano), live from the Wigmore Hall, London with Les Talens Lyriques conducted by Christophe Rousset. This was a radio broadcast of the live concert on 28th April 2014.

Friday, 8 July 2016


“What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?” - Aeschylus

We had some unexpected guests this morning and as the visit lingered on, it was lunchtime. As there was nothing in the fridge or cupboard ready made for lunch we opted for making these reliable savoury muffins that are easy to make and provide for a quick and delicious solution to the “unexpected guests for lunch” problem. A couple of muffins for each guest, a seasonal green salad from the garden and a glass of chilled dry white wine, voilà, lunch is served!

Zucchini and Cheese Savoury Muffins
1 and 1/2 cups self-raising flour
2 cups grated tasty cheese
100 g leg ham, chopped and diced (optional)
1 zucchini, grated
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease a Texas muffin pan. Line the holes with paper muffin cases.
Sift flour into a large bowl. Add cheese, ham (if desired), zucchini and chives. Whisk milk and eggs in a jug until well combined and season with pepper. Make a well in centre of dry ingredients. Pour in milk mixture. Using a large metal spoon, gently mix until just combined. Spoon into muffin holes.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 3 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool a little and serve warm.

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Thursday, 7 July 2016


“The most lasting and pure gladness comes to me from my gardens.” - Lillie Langtry

Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as a starflower, is an annual herb in the flowering plant family Boraginaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has naturalised in many other locales. It grows satisfactorily in gardens in the cooler temperate climates, remaining in the garden from year to year by self-seeding. The leaves are edible and the plant is grown in gardens for that purpose in some parts of Europe. The plant is also commercially cultivated for borage seed oil extracted from its seeds.

Borago officinalis grows to a height of 60–100 cm, and is bristly or hairy all over the stems and leaves; the leaves are alternate, simple, and 5–15 cm long. The flowers are complete, perfect with five narrow, triangular-pointed petals. Flowers are most often blue, although pink flowers are sometimes observed. White flowered types are also cultivated. The blue flower is genetically dominant over the white flower. The flowers arise along scorpioid cymes to form large floral displays with multiple flowers blooming simultaneously. It has an indeterminate growth habit, which may lead to prolific spreading. In temperate climates, its flowering season is relatively long, from June to September. In milder climates, borage will bloom continuously for most of the year.

Traditionally borage was cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses, although today commercial cultivation is mainly as an oilseed. Borage is used as either a fresh vegetable or a dried herb. As a fresh vegetable, borage, with a cucumber-like taste, is often used in salads or as a garnish. The edible flower has a sweet honey-like taste and is often used to decorate desserts and cocktails.

Vegetable use of borage is common in Germany, in the Spanish regions of Aragón and Navarra, in the Greek island of Crete and in the northern Italian region of Liguria. Although often used in soups, one of the better-known German borage recipes is the Green Sauce (Grüne Soße) made in Frankfurt. In Italian Liguria, borage is commonly used as a filling of the traditional pasta ravioli and pansoti. It is used to flavour pickled gherkins in Poland. Borage is traditionally used as a garnish in the Pimms Cup cocktail, but is nowadays often replaced by a long sliver of cucumber peel or by mint. It is also one of the key “botanical” flavourings in Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin.

In traditional herbal medicine, Borago officinalis has been used in hyperactive gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, such as gastrointestinal (colic, cramps, diarrhoea), airways (asthma, bronchitis), cardiovascular, (cardiotonic, antihypertensive and blood purifier), urinary (diuretic and kidney/bladder disorders). Naturopathic practitioners use borage for regulation of metabolism and the hormonal system, and consider it to be a good remedy for PMS and menopause symptoms. The flowers can be prepared in infusion. One case of status epilepticus has been reported that was associated with borage oil ingestion. A methanol extract of borage has shown strong amoebicidal activity in vitro. The 50% inhibitory concentration (LD50) of the extract against Entamoeba histolytica was 33 µg/mL.

The seeds contain 26-38% of borage seed oil, of which 17-28% is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), the richest known source. The oil also contains the fatty acids palmitic acid (10-11%), stearic acid (3.5-4.5%), oleic acid (16-20%), linoleic acid (35-38%), eicosenoic acid (3.5-5.5%), erucic acid (1.5-3.5%), and nervonic acid (1.5%). The oil is often marketed as “starflower oil” or “borage oil” for use as a GLA supplement, although healthy adults will typically produce ample GLA from dietary linoleic acid.

The leaves contain small amounts (2-10 ppm of dried herb) of the liver-toxic Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine and the non-toxic saturated PA thesinine. PAs are also present in borage seed oil, but may be removed by processing. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has advised that honey from borage contains PAs, transferred to the honey through pollen collected at borage plants, and advise that commercial honey production could select for raw honey with limited PA content to prevent contamination.

Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides say that borage was the “Nepenthe” mentioned in Homer, which caused forgetfulness when mixed with wine. Francis Bacon thought that borage had “an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.” John Gerard’s Herball mentions an old verse concerning the plant: “Ego Borago, Gaudia semper ago (I, Borage, bring always courage)”. He states that “Those of our time do use the flowers in sallads to exhilerate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the minde. The leaves and floures of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirme. Syrup made of the floures of Borage comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy and quieteth the phrenticke and lunaticke person. The leaves eaten raw ingender good bloud, especially in those that have been lately sicke.”

In the language of flowers, borage flowers signify “courage”, while a sprig of borage leaves means “be glad”.

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

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” - Brené Brown

Counting Stars

Mars looks angry tonight
Venus hides behind a cloud;
The moon has long since set,
While stars begin to pale.

And I, the heavens scan
Trying to find an explanation,
A reason, perhaps a goal, some illusions,
Or the divine order of things?

As dawn comes gently,
The eastern skies blush;
I start to count the stars
One by one as they disappear.

Even the brightest one soon is gone
The mystery of night slowly dispelled,
By feeble sunlight, birdsong, early morning chill.
And somewhere, I think, a cock should crow...

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


“My imagination is a monastery and I am its monk.” - John Keats

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 Metéora (Greek: Μετέωρα, pronounced [mɛˈtɛoɾɐ], lit. “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” — etymologically related to “Meteorite”) is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on spectacular natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka.

The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. All of the monasteries that are located at Metéora are perched on high cliffs and accessible by staircases cut into the rock formations. They were created to serve monks and nuns following the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church. Much of the architecture of these buildings is Athonite in origin. Of the six intact monasteries, the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen and Monastery Roussanou are inhabited by nuns.

Serene, spiritual, magical, mystical, extraordinary, breathtaking, immense, inspiring, impressive: These are only some of the words people very often use in an effort to describe the Meteora. A trip to Meteora offers the unique experience of nature’s grandeur in conjunction with history, architecture and man’s everlasting desire to connect with the Divine. From the early Christian times, the Meteora vertical cliffs were regarded as the perfect place to achieve absolute isolation, to discover peace and harmony and, thus, to support man’s eternal struggle for spiritual elevation.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Trees & Bushes 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, 4 July 2016


“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” - Charlie Chaplin

We’ve recently finished watching the 2000-2004 British TV series Black Books created by Dylan Moran and starring Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig. In the 18 episodes of the series the cast manages to survive creating and playing this eccentric, offbeat and surreal comedy, which sometimes touches on the extremes of cartoon character capers.

Bernard Black (Moran) runs his own (mainly) second-hand bookshop even though he doesn’t like people who buy books and hates having customers, as well as detesting most other people in general. Next to Bernard’s shop is the Nifty Gifty gift shop run by Fran (Greig), who looks like she is the only person in the world who can tolerate Bernard and his bizarre behaviour. When Bernard’s accountant goes on the run because of shady dealings, Bernard employs stress victim and equally unconventional Manny (Bailey) to help him in his shop. This leads to mayhem and quite unbelievable (but often hilarious) misadventures with the mismatched trio managing to survive each precarious predicament they land themselves in.

The series is a typical British comedy series with much black humour, erratic and overdone plot lines, much slapstick, but also full of witty one-liners and occasionally great pathos, which is quickly defused by cartoon-like violence and lines that fall into the bathos of questionable taste. Overall it’s a crazy sit-com with unpredictable, fast-moving action, breathless repartee and a maddening pace.

The leads have great chemistry, with Moran as the alcoholic, chain-smoking, socially inept, misanthropic bookshop owner, Bailey as the anxious, long-suffering, sometimes talented and always capitulating shop-assistant, and Greig as the lonely, insecure and compromising hanger-on who acts as the adhesive to bring together everyone and everything into a tightly-knit comedic success.

Watch it if your funny bone is tickled by British black comedy and surreal dialogue/plots, but also be warned that there is much foul language, alcohol and tobacco use, drunkenness (with the positive aspects of being blotto extolled!), sexuality – in fact nothing much is sacred! We found it curiously addictive and found ourselves laughing often and being quite amused more often. I do hate the canned laughter in all of these shows… Why do they do it?

Sunday, 3 July 2016


“Impressionism; it is the birth of Light in painting.” - Robert Delaunay

For Art Sunday, Ludovic Piette-Montfoucault (11 May 1826, Niort - 14 April 1878, Paris) who was a French Impressionist painter. A portrait of Piette by Camille Pisarro, painted in 1874 can be seen here.

He came from a family of the minor nobility and his father was the Registrar of Melleray. His first art lessons came from the Academic painters Thomas Couture and Isidore Pils. It was while studying with Couture that he met Édouard Manet, whom he admired and who was already experimenting with new styles. Then, while at the Académie Suisse, he became good friends with Camille Pissarro who, although younger than him, would have a decisive influence on Piette’s work. He and Pisarro formed a lasting friendship. He and other friends of Pissarro would often paint together, en plein-air. In 1857, he had his first show at the Salon. In 1860, Piette participated in the first exhibition of the Impressionists, invited by Pisarro.

He is said to have received a commission from Napoleon III to provide decorations for the apartments of Empress Eugénie, but there is no official record of this. In 1864, because of poor health (possibly cancer), he and his wife settled at his family’s farm, which he had inherited after his father’s death, near Lassay-les-Châteaux in Brittany. At that time, he began writing regularly to Pissarro, whose correspondence is an important record of the formative years of Impressionism, a period with little other documentation. While there, he served on the Municipal council as part of the Liberal Conservative faction.

As with many Impressionists, Piette tended to focus on landscapes with figures and cityscapes. Among his favourite areas for painting were Pontoise and Louveciennes. In 1877, at Pissarro’s invitation, he participated in the third Impressionist Exhibition. After his death, a retrospective of his work was presented at the fourth Exhibition in 1879. A street and a school in Pontoise are named in his honour. Also, at the Camille Pisarro Museum in Pontoise, several of Piette’s canvases are exhibited.

Piette produced paintings that show evidence of a worthy landscapist, and these works were always well appreciated by the paying public. In each of his works, Piette was an attentive observer of the social reality of rural life and his canvases abound with everyday detail, and in some cases amusing anecdote. His colours and modelling are impressionistic in style, but often his work reminds one of the subject matter favoured by the Brueghels, with crowds of people engaged in various everyday activities. The painting above is typical of Piette’s work. It is the “Market on the Rue de Chateau, Pontoise”, painted in 1876.