Saturday, 29 October 2016


“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.” - Rabindranath Tagore

Michael Praetorius (probably February 15, 1571 – February 15, 1621) was a German composer, organist, and music theorist. He was one of the most versatile composers of his age, being particularly significant in the development of musical forms based on Protestant hymns, many of which reflect an effort to improve the relationship between Protestants and Catholics.

Praetorius was born Michael Schultze, the youngest son of a Lutheran pastor, in Creuzburg, in present-day Thuringia. After attending school in Torgau and Zerbst, he studied divinity and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt (Oder). He was fluent in a number of languages. After receiving his musical education, from 1587 he served as organist at the Marienkirche in Frankfurt. From 1592/3 he served at the court in Wolfenbüttel, under the employ of Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. He served in the duke’s State Orchestra, first as organist and later (from 1604) as Kapellmeister.

His first compositions appeared around 1602/3. Their publication primarily reflects the care for music at the court of Gröningen. The motets of this collection were the first in Germany to make use of the new Italian performance practices; as a result, they established him as a proficient composer. These “modern” pieces mark the end of his middle creative period. The nine parts of his Musae Sioniae (1605–10) and the 1611 published collections of liturgical music (masses, hymns, magnificats) follow the German Protestant chorale style. With these, at the behest of a circle of orthodox Lutherans, he followed the Duchess Elizabeth, who ruled the duchy in the duke's absence. In place of popular music, one now expected religious music from Praetorius.

When the duke died in 1613 and was succeeded by Frederick Ulrich, Praetorius retained his employment. From 1613 he also worked at the court of John George I, Elector of Saxony at Dresden, where he was responsible for festive music. He was exposed to the latest Italian music, including the polychoral works of the Venetian School. His subsequent development of the form of the chorale concerto, particularly the polychoral variety, resulted directly from his familiarity with the music of such Venetians as Giovanni Gabrieli. The solo-voice, polychoral, and instrumental compositions Praetorius prepared for these events mark the high period of his artistic creativity.

Until his death, Praetorius stayed at the court in Dresden, where he was declared Kapellmeister von Haus aus and worked with Heinrich Schütz.Michael Praetorius is said to have died on his 50th birthday, in Wolfenbüttel, Germany and is entombed in a vault beneath the organ of the Marienkirche there.

Praetorius was the greatest musical academic of his day and the Germanic writer of music best known to other 17th-century musicians. Although his original theoretical contributions were relatively few, with nowhere near the long-range impact of other 17th-century German writers, like Johannes Lippius, Christoph Bernhard or Joachim Burmeister, he compiled an encyclopaedic record of contemporary musical practices. While Praetorius made some refinements to figured-bass practice and to tuning practice, his importance to scholars of the 17th century derives from his discussions of the normal use of instruments and voices in ensembles, the standard pitch of the time, and the state of modal, metrical, and fugal theory. His meticulous documentation of 17th-century practice was of inestimable value to the early-music revival of the 20th century.

His expansive but incomplete treatise, Syntagma Musicum, appeared in three volumes (with appendix) between 1614 and 1620. The first volume (1614), titled Musicae Artis Analecta, was written mostly in Latin, and regarded the music of the ancients and of the church. The second (De Organographia, 1618) regarded the musical instruments of the day, especially the organ; it was one of the first theoretical treatises written in the vernacular. The third (Termini Musicali, 1618), also in German, regarded the genres of composition and the technical essentials for professional musicians. An appendix to the second volume (Theatrum Instrumentorum seu Sciagraphia, 1620) consisted of 42 beautifully drawn woodcuts, depicting instruments of the early 17th century, all grouped in families and shown to scale. A fourth volume on composition was planned, with the help of Baryphonus, but was left incomplete at his death.

Praetorius wrote in a florid style, replete with long asides, polemics, and word-puzzles – all typical of 17th-century scholarly prose. As a lifelong committed Christian, he often regretted not taking holy orders but did write several theological tracts, which are now lost. As a Lutheran from a militantly Protestant family, he contributed greatly to the development of the vernacular liturgy, but also favoured Italian compositional methods, performance practice and figured-bass notation.

Here is his “Magnificat per omnes versus super ut re mi fa so la” performed by Paul Van Nevel and the Huelgas Ensemble. The Magnificat (Latin: [My soul] magnifies [the Lord]), also known as the Song of Mary, the Canticle of Mary, and, in the Byzantine tradition, the Ode of the Theotokos (Greek: Ἡ ᾨδὴ τῆς Θεοτόκου), is a canticle frequently sung or spoken liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn.

Its name comes from the incipit of the Latin version of the canticle’s text. The text of the canticle is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke (1:46–55) where it is spoken by Mary upon the occasion of her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. In the narrative, after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist, the latter moves within Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith (using words partially reflected in the Hail Mary), and Mary responds with what is now known as the Magnificat.

Within the whole of Christianity, the Magnificat is most frequently recited within the Liturgy of the Hours. In Western Christianity, the Magnificat is most often sung or recited during the main evening prayer service: Vespers in the Catholic and Lutheran churches, and Evening Prayer (or Evensong) in Anglicanism. In Eastern Christianity, the Magnificat is usually sung at Sunday Matins. Among Protestant groups, the Magnificat may also be sung during worship services, especially in the Advent season during which these verses are traditionally read.

Friday, 28 October 2016


“Asia is rich in people, rich in culture and rich in resources. It is also rich in trouble.” - Hubert H. Humphrey

I really like Asian food and often when we eat out we got to an Asian restaurant – be it Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Mongolian, Nepalese or Indian. Although I have tried my hand in Asian cuisine, it very seldom tastes exactly right, as it should. I find it hard to cook right. Some dishes turn out well, however, and the following stir-fry is one of the successes…

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks
600g firm tofu, cut into 3 cm oblongs, about 1 cm thick
200g Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
100g enoki mushrooms, trimmed
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 cup stir-fry sauce (see below)
1 bunch gai lan (Chinese broccoli), chopped
Cooked noodles
Stir-fry Sauce
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp honey
1 tsp sesame seed oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 week.

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry onion for 2 to 3 minutes or until just soft and add garlic, ginger and tofu. Stir-fry for 3 minutes.
Add mushrooms, soy sauce and stir-fry sauce. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add gai lan. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until gai lan is just tender. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, place cooked noodles in a heatproof bowl.
Serve noodles in individual bowls, with tofu and mushrooms in the middle to share out.

Thursday, 27 October 2016


“A weed is but an unloved flower.” - Ella WheelerWilcox

Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink. Many varieties are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds), or roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. It is also grown as a forage crop for livestock. It lives as a wild plant on roadsides in its native Europe, and is now common in North America, China, and Australia, where it has become widely naturalized. “Chicory” is also the common name in the United States for curly endive (Cichorium endivia); these two closely related species are often confused.

The chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature, reaching back to ancient Egyptian times. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: “Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae” (As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance. Medieval monks raised the plants. A common meal in Rome, “puntarelle”, is made with tender chicory sprouts.

Nowadays, chicory may be cultivated for its leaves, usually eaten raw as salad leaves. Cultivated chicory is generally divided into three types, of which there are many varieties:
Radicchio usually has variegated red or red and green leaves. Some only refer to the white-veined red-leaved type as radicchio, also known as red endive and red chicory. It has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted. It can also be used to add colour and zest to salads. It is largely used in Italy in different varieties, the most famous being the ones from Treviso (known as radicchio rosso di Treviso).
Sugarloaf looks rather like cos lettuce, with tightly packed leaves. This may be eaten in slads when very young and tender, or it may be boiled and consumed as greens similar to spinach. This variety is also common in Greece.
Belgian endive, known in Dutch as witloof or witlof (“white leaf”) has a small head of cream-coloured, bitter leaves. It is grown completely underground or indoors in the absence of sunlight in order to prevent the leaves from turning green and opening up (etiolation). The plant has to be kept just below the soil surface as it grows, only showing the very tip of the leaves. It is often sold wrapped in blue paper to protect it from light and so preserve its pale colour and delicate flavour. The smooth, creamy white leaves may be served stuffed, baked, boiled, cut and cooked in a milk sauce, or simply cut raw. The tender leaves are slightly bitter; the whiter the leaf, the less bitter the taste. The harder inner part of the stem at the bottom of the head should be cut out before cooking to prevent bitterness.
Here are some salad recipes for chicory.

Root chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum) has been cultivated in Europe as a coffee substitute. The roots are baked, roasted, ground, and used as an additive in normal coffee. ). In 1766, Frederick the Great banned the importation of coffee into Prussia leading to the development of a coffee-substitute by Brunswick innkeeper Christian Gottlieb Förster (died 1801), who gained a concession in 1769/70 to manufacture it from chicory in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795 there were 22 to 24 factories of this type in Brunswick. In Napoleonic Era France, chicory frequently appeared as either an adulterant in coffee, or as a coffee substitute. Chicory was also adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and has become common in the United States, especially in the South. It was also used in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, where Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence, has been on sale since 1885.

Some beer brewers use roasted chicory to add flavour to stouts (commonly expected to have a coffee-like flavour). Others have added it to strong blond Belgian-style ales, to augment the hops, making a witlofbier, from the Dutch name for the plant. Around 1970, it was found that the root contains up to 20% inulin, a polysaccharide similar to starch. Inulin is mainly found in the plant family Asteraceae as a storage carbohydrate (for example Jerusalem artichoke, dahlia, yacon, etc). It is used as a sweetener in the food industry with a sweetening power 1⁄10 that of sucrose and is sometimes added to yogurts as a prebiotic.

When flowering, chicory has a tough, grooved, and more or less hairy stem, from 30 to 100 cm. The leaves are stalked, lanceolate and unlobed. The flower heads are 2 to 4 cm  wide, and usually bright blue, rarely white or pink. Of the two rows of involucral bracts, the inner is longer and erect, the outer is shorter and spreading. It flowers from July until October. The achenes have no pappus (feathery hairs), but do have toothed scales on top.

Chicory is used a forage plant and is highly digestible for ruminants, having a low fibre concentration. Chicory roots are an excellent substitute for oats for horses due to their protein and fat content. Chicory contains a low quantity of reduced tannins that may increase protein utilisation efficiency in ruminants. Some tannins reduce intestinal parasites. In New Zealand there has been quite extensive hybridisation to produce the Puna variety of chicory that is excellent for forage use. Many other forage hybrids have been developed.

The chicory flower is often seen as inspiration for the Romantic concept of the “Blue Flower” (eg in German language “Blauwarte” ≈ ‘blue lookout by the wayside’). It could open locked doors, according to European folklore. In the language of flowers, a non-flowering chicory stem indicates “frugality”, while a piece of chicory root given as a gift means: “You are a miser”. On the other hand, a flowering stem of chicory carries the message: “open your heart to me.”

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

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” - Dante Alighieri

The mid-week motif at Poets United this week is “Neutrality/Objectivity”. The challenge is to: “Create a new poem that explores one instance of neutrality or objectivity. Try NOT to be either neutral or objective.”
Here is mine:

The Sick Planet

No sense in sitting on the fence,
On this issue, nobody should be neutral.
The earth has need of us, now – 
There’s no time left to postpone decisions
That already should have been made.

No point in talking of superficial changes,
Shallow beautification is not the target;
Applying stop-gap measures, blindly
Will only cause problems to escalate.
Rebirth needs effort, pain and many sacrifices.

Let our inspiration be a new world
Rid of its poisons by audacious strategies.
Let the cathartic processes be drastic, let us renew,
Revive nature, rejuvenate the ailing planet,
Let’s give our children back their future.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


“The Mississippi River towns are comely, clean, well built, and pleasing to the eye, and cheering to the spirit. The Mississippi Valley is as reposeful as a dreamland, nothing worldly about it . . . nothing to hang a fret or a worry upon.” ― Mark Twain

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.
St. Louis is an independent city and inland port in the U.S. state of Missouri. The city developed along the western bank of the Mississippi River, which forms Missouri’s border with Illinois. In 2010, St. Louis had a population of 319,294; a 2015 estimate put the population at 315,685, making it the 60th-most populous U.S. city and the second-largest city in Missouri after Kansas City. The St. Louis metropolitan area includes the city as well as nearby areas in Missouri and Illinois; with an estimated population of 2,916,447, it has the largest metropolitan area in Missouri and is the nineteenth largest in the United States.

St. Louis was founded in 1764 by fur traders Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau, and named after Louis IX of France. Claimed first by the French, who settled mostly east of the Mississippi River, the region in which the city stands was ceded to Spain following France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War. Its territory east of the Mississippi was ceded to the Kingdom of Great Britain, the victor. The area of present-day Missouri was part of Spanish Louisiana from 1762 until 1803; the French persuaded King Charles IV of Spain to cede Louisiana back to France in 1800, but the Spanish continued as administrators of the territory until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

After the United States acquired this territory in the Louisiana Purchase, St. Louis developed as a major port on the Mississippi River. In the late-19th century, St. Louis was ranked as the fourth-largest city in the United States. It separated from St. Louis County in 1877, becoming an independent city and limiting its own political boundaries. In 1904, it hosted the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Summer Olympics. Immigration has increased, and the city is the centre of the largest Bosnian population in the world outside their homeland.

The economy of metro St. Louis relies on service, manufacturing, trade, transportation of goods, and tourism. Its metro area is home to major corporations, including Anheuser-Busch, Express Scripts, Centene, Boeing Defense, Emerson, Energizer, Panera, Enterprise, Peabody Energy, Ameren, Ralcorp, Monsanto, Scottrade, Edward Jones, Go Jet, Purina and Sigma-Aldrich. This city has also become known for a growing medical, pharmaceutical and research city. St. Louis has two professional sports teams: the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League. The city is commonly identified with the 192 m tall Gateway Arch in Downtown St. Louis.

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:

Sunday, 23 October 2016


“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere - in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. No one would desire not to be beautiful. When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.” - John O’Donohue

Théodore Rousseau (in full Pierre-Étienne-Théodore Rousseau) was born April 15, 1812, Paris, France and died December 22, 1867, Barbizon, was a French painter who was a leader of the Barbizon school of landscape painters. His direct observation of nature made him an important figure in the development of landscape painting.

Rousseau, the son of a tailor, began to paint at age 14. In the 1820s he began to paint out-of-doors directly from nature, a novel procedure at that time. Although his teachers were in the Neoclassical tradition, Rousseau based his style on extensive study of the 17th-century Dutch landscape painters and the work of such English contemporaries as Richard Parkes Bonington and John Constable.

His early landscapes portray nature as a wild and undisciplined force and gained the admiration of many of France’s leading Romantic painters and writers. In 1831 Rousseau began to exhibit regularly at the French Salon. But in 1836 his “Descent of the Cattle” (c. 1834) was rejected by the jury, as were all his entries during the next seven years. Despite the Salon’s censure, his reputation continued to grow.

Rousseau first visited the Fontainebleau area in 1833 and, in the following decade, finally settled in the village of Barbizon, where he worked with a group of landscape painters, including Jean-François Millet, Jules Dupré, Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de La Peña, and Charles-François Daubigny. Their artistic goals were similar, and they became known collectively as the Barbizon school. During this period Rousseau produced such tranquil pastorals as “Under the Birches, Evening” (1842–44), reflecting the influence of Constable.

After the Revolution of 1848, the Salon briefly relaxed its standards, and Rousseau finally received official recognition as a major figure in French landscape painting. His works were well represented in the Universal Exposition of 1855, and he became president of the fine-arts jury for the Universal Exposition of 1867. Rousseau’s paintings represent in part a reaction against the calmly idealised landscapes of Neoclassicism. His small, highly textured brushstrokes presaged those of the Impressionists.

Rousseau’s paintings are always grave in character, with an air of exquisite melancholy. They are well finished when they profess to be completed pictures, but Rousseau spent so much time developing his subjects that his absolutely completed works are comparatively few. He left many canvases with parts of the picture realised in detail and with the remainder somewhat vague; and also a good number of sketches and water-colour drawings. His pen work in monochrome on paper is rare. There are a number of good pictures by him in the Louvre, and the Wallace collection contains one of his most important Barbizon pictures. There is also an example in the Ionides collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.