Saturday, 31 December 2016


“Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.” - Göran Persson

The Vienna New Year’s Concert (Neujahrskonzert der Wiener Philharmoniker) is a concert of classical music performed by the Vienna Philharmonic that takes place each year in the morning of New Year’s Day in Vienna, Austria. It is broadcast live around the world to an estimated audience of 50 million in 73 countries in 2012 and 90 countries in 2015.

There had been a tradition of concerts on New Year’s Day in Vienna since 1838, but not with music of the Strauss family. From 1928 to 1933 there were five New Year concerts in the Musikverein, conducted by Johann Strauss III. These concerts were broadcast by the RAVAG. In 1939, Clemens Krauss, with the support of Vienna Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach, devised a New Year concert which the orchestra dedicated to Kriegswinterhilfswerk (Winter War Relief), to improve morale at the front lines. After World War II, this concert survived, as the Nazi origins were largely forgotten, until more recently.

The music always includes pieces from the Strauss family (Johann Strauss I, Johann Strauss II, Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss) with occasional additional music from other mainly Austrian composers, including Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Joseph Lanner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Otto Nicolai [the Vienna Philharmonic’s founder], Emil von Reznicek, Franz Schubert, Franz von Suppé, and Karl Michael Ziehrer). In 2009, music by Joseph Haydn was played for the first time: The 4th movement of his “Farewell” Symphony to mark the 200th anniversary of his death.

There are traditionally about a dozen compositions played, with an interval halfway through the concert and encores at the end. They include waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, and marches. Of the encores, the first is often a fast polka. The second is Johann Strauss II’s waltz “The Blue Danube”, whose introduction is interrupted by applause of recognition and a New Year greeting from the musicians to the audience. The last is Johann Strauss I’s Radetzky March, during which the audience claps along under the conductor’s direction. In this last piece, the tradition also calls for the conductor to start the orchestra as soon he steps onto the stage, before reaching the podium. The complete duration of the event is around two and a half hours.

The concerts have been held in the Großer Saal (Large Hall) of the Musikverein since 1939. The television broadcast is augmented by ballet performances in selected pieces during the second part of the programme. The dancers come from the Vienna State Opera Ballet and dance at different famous places in Austria, e.g. Schönbrunn Palace, Schloss Esterházy, the Vienna State Opera or the Wiener Musikverein itself. In 2013, the costumes were designed by Vivienne Westwood. From 1980 until 2013, the flowers that decorated the hall were a gift from the city of Sanremo, Liguria, Italy. In 2014, the flowers were provided by the Vienna Philharmonic itself. Since 2014, the flowers have been arranged by the Wiener Stadtgärten.

The concert is popular throughout Europe, and more recently around the world. The demand for tickets is so high that people have to pre-register one year in advance in order to participate in the drawing of tickets for the following year. Some seats are pre-registered by certain Austrian families and are passed down from generation to generation.

Here is the complete New Year Concert 2013, with the Wiener Philharmoniker under the direction of Franz Welser Moest.

Friday, 30 December 2016


“One thing I have been banging on about, we have a dessert deficit in the U.K. We still import a very large proportion of our desserts. I would ask everyone to go out and buy a British dessert.” - Owen Paterson

As the year draws to a close, make a dessert that is sweet and spicy and rich, just like the New Year you wish it to be!
Figgy Puddings
Ingredients – Pudding
200g finely chopped dried figs
100 g finely chopped pitted prunes
350 ml boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150 g unsalted butter, softened
170 g brown sugar
3 eggs
230 g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
Double cream, to serve (optional)
Ingredients - Butterscotch sauce
200g brown sugar
300 mL thickened cream
110 g unsalted butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line the bases of eight 250ml capacity pudding moulds with baking paper.
Combine the figs, prunes, water and bicarbonate of soda in a medium bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes to soak.
Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Add half the flour and stir to combine. Add the fig mixture and combine. Add the cinnamon and remaining flour and combine. Spoon mixture among the prepared moulds and place on an oven tray. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centres comes out clean. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool before turning out onto serving plates.
Meanwhile, to make the butterscotch sauce, combine the sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for five minutes or until the mixture boils and thickens.
Spoon the sauce over the puddings. Serve with double cream if desired.

Thursday, 29 December 2016


“We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.” - Jerry García 
Liquorice, or licorice, is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, a plant in the Fabaceae family, from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a herbaceous perennial legume native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, such as India. It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds. Most liquorice is used as a flavouring agent for tobacco, particularly US blend cigarettes, to which liquorice lends a natural sweetness and a distinctive flavour and makes it easier to inhale the smoke by creating bronchodilators, which open up the lungs.

Liquorice flavours are also used as candies or sweeteners, particularly in some European and Middle Eastern countries. Liquorice extracts have a number of medical uses, and they are also used in herbal and folk medications. Excessive consumption of liquorice (more than 2 mg/kg/day of pure glycyrrhizinic acid, a liquorice component) may result in adverse effects, and overconsumption should be suspected clinically in patients presenting with otherwise unexplained hypokalaemia and muscle weakness.

 The word liquorice is derived (via the Old French licoresse) from the Greek γλυκύρριζα (glukurrhiza), meaning “sweet root”, from γλυκύς (glukus), “sweet” + ῥίζα (rhiza), “root”, the name provided by Dioscorides. It is usually spelled liquorice in British usage, but licorice in the United States and Canada.

The plant is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 cm long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 cm long, containing several seeds. The roots are stoloniferous. Liquorice grows best in well-drained soils in deep valleys with full sun and is harvested in the autumn two to three years after planting. Countries producing liquorice include India, Iran, Italy, Afghanistan, the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan,Turkey, and England. The world's leading manufacturer of liquorice products is M&F Worldwide, which manufactures more than 70% of the worldwide liquorice flavours sold to end users.

The scent of liquorice root comes from a complex and variable combination of compounds, of which anethole is up to 3% of total volatiles. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, which has a sweet taste, 30–50 times the sweetness of sugar. The sweetness is very different from sugar, being less instant, tart, and lasting longer. The isoflavene glabrene and the isoflavane glabridin, found in the roots of liquorice, are phytoestrogens.

Liquorice flavour is found in a wide variety of candies or sweets. In most of these candies, the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil so the actual content of liquorice is very low. Liquorice confections are primarily purchased by consumers in the European Union. In the Netherlands, liquorice candy (drop) is one of the most popular forms of sweets. It is sold in many forms. Mixing it with mint, menthol, aniseed, or laurel is quite popular. Mixing it with ammonium chloride (salmiak) is also popular. The most popular liquorice, known in the Netherlands as zoute drop (salty liquorice), actually contains very little salt, i.e., sodium chloride. The salty taste is probably due to ammonium chloride and the blood pressure-raising effect is due to glycyrrhizin. Strong, salty sweets are also popular in Nordic countries.

Pontefract in Yorkshire was the first place where liquorice mixed with sugar began to be used as a sweet in the same way it is in the modern day. Pontefract cakes were originally made there. In County Durham, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, it is colloquially known as ‘Spanish’, supposedly because Spanish monks grew liquorice root at Rievaulx Abbey near Thirsk. In Italy (particularly in the south), Spain, and France, liquorice is popular in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed, dried, and chewed as a mouth freshener. Throughout Italy, unsweetened liquorice is consumed in the form of small black pieces made only from 100% pure liquorice extract; the taste is bitter. In Calabria a popular liqueur is made from pure liquorice extract.

Liquorice is also very popular in Syria and Egypt, where it is sold as a drink, in shops as well as street vendors. It is used for its expectorant qualities in folk medicine in Egypt. Dried liquorice root can be chewed as a sweet. Black liquorice contains about 15 kJ/g. Liquorice is used by brewers to flavour and colour porter classes of beers, and the enzymes in the root also stabilise the foam heads produced by beers brewed with it.

Glycyrrhizin has demonstrated antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and blood pressure-increasing effects in vitro and in vivo, as is supported by the finding that intravenous glycyrrhizin (as if it is given orally very little of the original drug makes it into circulation) slows the progression of viral and autoimmune hepatitis. In one clinical trial liquorice demonstrated promising activity, when applied topically, against atopic dermatitis.

Additionally, liquorice may be effective in treating hyperlipidaemia (a high amount of fats in the blood). Liquorice has also demonstrated efficacy in treating inflammation-induced skin hyperpigmentation. Liquorice may also be useful in preventing neurodegenerative disorders and dental caries. The antiulcer, laxative, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antitumour and expectorant properties of liquorice have been investigated. The compound glycyrrhizin (or glycyrrhizic acid), found in liquorice, has been proposed as being useful for liver protection in tuberculosis therapy, but evidence does not support this use, which may in fact be harmful. The United States Food and Drug Administration believes that foods containing liquorice and its derivatives (including glycyrrhizin) are safe if not consumed excessively. Other jurisdictions have suggested no more than 100 mg to 200 mg of glycyrrhizin per day, the equivalent of about 70 to 150 g of liquorice.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of flowering wild liquorice means: “I declare against you”. Dried root incorporated in a bouquet implies: “Your company is sweet and agreeable”.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016


“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin 

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.
Santa Barbara (Spanish for ‘Saint Barbara’) is the county seat of Santa Barbara County in the U.S. state of California. Situated on a south-facing section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara’s climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city has been promoted as the ‘American Riviera’.

 As of 2014, the city had an estimated population of 91,196, up from 88,410 in 2010, making it the second most populous city in the county after Santa Maria while the contiguous urban area, which includes the cities of Goleta and Carpinteria, along with the unincorporated regions of Isla Vista, Montecito, Mission Canyon, Hope Ranch, Summerland, and others, has an approximate population of 220,000. The population of the entire county in 2010 was 423,895.

 In addition to being a popular tourist and resort destination, the city economy includes a large service sector, education, technology, health care, finance, agriculture, manufacturing, and local government. In 2004, the service sector accounted for fully 35% of local employment. Education in particular is well represented, with four institutions of higher learning on the south coast (the University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College, and Antioch University).

The Santa Barbara Airport serves the city, as does Amtrak. U.S. Highway 101 connects the Santa Barbara area with Los Angeles to the southeast and San Francisco to the northwest. Behind the city, in and beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains, is the Los Padres National Forest, which contains several remote wilderness areas. Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are located approximately 32 km offshore. 

Mission Santa Barbara, also known as Santa Barbara Mission, is a Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order near present-day Santa Barbara, California. It was founded by Padre Fermín Lasuén on December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, as the tenth mission for the religious conversion of the indigenous local Chumash-Barbareño tribe of Native American people. The mission is the namesake of the city of Santa Barbara as well as of Santa Barbara County.

The Mission grounds occupy a rise between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, and were consecrated by Father Fermín Lasuén, who had taken over the presidency of the California mission chain upon the death of Father Presidente Junípero Serra. Mission Santa Barbara is the only mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Friars since its founding, and today is a parish church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday 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, 26 December 2016


“Films are meant solely to provide entertainment. There are no lessons to be learnt and and inferences to be drawn. Has anyone become dutiful and law abiding after seeing a film that espouses these very virtues? Films can do no more than influence fashion, decor, and hairstyle trends.” -  Madhur Bhandarkar

Do you agree with this view of the influence of film by Bhandarkar? I don’t. Films are more than simple entertainment and they can have a variety of influences on the viewer. Film surely is entertainment, but that is not its only effect or function.

Film can be art, it can be propaganda, it can be a powerful means of communication and education (especially so in the social arena). Film can be subtle in its effects and it can have good or bad outcome in terms of changing attitudes, modifying prejudices and arousing expectations in people.

What do you think?

Sunday, 25 December 2016


“Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (Polish: Mikołaj Konstanty Czurlanis; 22 September [O.S. 10 September] 1875 –10 April [O.S. 28 March] 1911) was a Lithuanian painter, composer and writer. Čiurlionis contributed to symbolism and art nouveau and was representative of the fin de siècle epoch. He has been considered one of the pioneers of abstract art in Europe. During his short life he composed about 400 pieces of music and created about 300 paintings, as well as many literary works and poems. The majority of his paintings are housed in the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania. His works have had a profound influence on modern Lithuanian culture.

Čiurlionis was born in Senoji Varėna, a town in southeastern Lithuania that at the time was in the Russian Empire. He was the oldest of nine children of his father, Lithuanian Konstantinas, and his mother, Adelė née Radmanaitė (Radmann), who was descended from a Lutheran family of Bavarian origin. Like many educated Lithuanians of the time, Čiurlionis's family spoke Polish, and he began learning Lithuanian only after meeting his fiancée in 1907.

In 1878 his family moved to Druskininkai, 50 km away, where his father went on to be the town organist. Čiurlionis was a musical prodigy: He could play by ear at age three and could sight-read music freely by age seven. Three years out of primary school, he went to study at the musical school of Polish Prince Michał Ogiński in Plungė, where he learned to play several instruments, in particular the flute, from 1889 to 1893. Supported by Prince Ogiński's 'scholarship' Čiurlionis studied piano and composition at Warsaw Conservatory from 1894 to 1899. For his graduation, in 1899, he wrote a cantata for mixed chorus and symphonic orchestra titled ‘De Profundis’, with the guidance of the composer Zygmunt Noskowski. Later he attended composition lectures at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1901 to 1902.

He returned to Warsaw in 1902 and studied drawing at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts from 1904 to 1906 and became a friend with a Polish composer and painter Eugeniusz Morawski-Dąbrowa. After the 1905 Russian Revolution, which resulted in the loosening of cultural restrictions on the Empire's minorities, he began to identify himself as a Lithuanian. He was one of the initiators of, and a participant in, the First Exhibition of Lithuanian Art in 1907 at Vileišis Palace, Vilnius. Soon after this event the Lithuanian Union of Arts was founded, and Čiurlionis was one of its 19 founding members.

In 1907 he became acquainted with Sofija Kymantaitė (1886–1958), an art critic. Through this association Čiurlionis learned to speak better Lithuanian. Early in 1909 he married Sofija. At the end of that year he travelled to St. Petersburg, where he exhibited some of his paintings. On Christmas Eve Čiurlionis fell into a profound depression and at the beginning of 1910 was hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital ‘Czerwony Dwór’ (Red Manor) in Marki, Poland, northeast of Warsaw. While a patient there he died of pneumonia in 1911 at 35 years of age. He was buried at the Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius. He never saw his daughter Danutė (1910–1995).

Čiurlionis felt that he was a synaesthete; that is, he perceived colours and music simultaneously. Many of his paintings bear the names of musical pieces: Sonatas, fugues, and preludes. In 1911 the first posthumous exhibition of Čiurlionis’s art was held in Vilnius and Kaunas. During the same year an exhibition of his art was held in Moscow, and in 1912 his works were exhibited in St. Petersburg. In 1957 the Lithuanian community in Chicago opened the Čiurlionis Art Gallery, hosting collections of his works.

In 1963 the Čiurlionis Memorial Museum was opened in Druskininkai, in the house where Čiurlionis and his family lived. This museum holds biographical documents as well as photographs and reproductions of the artist's works. The National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art in Vilnius was named after him in 1965. Čiurlionis inspired the Lithuanian composer Osvaldas Balakauskas’ work ‘Sonata of the Mountains’ (1975), and every four years junior musical performers from Lithuania and neighbouring countries take part in the Čiurlionis Competition.

Čiurlionis's name has been given to cliffs in Franz Josef Land, a peak in the Pamir Mountains, and to asteroid #2420, discovered by the Crimean astrophysicist Nikolaj Cernych. Čiurlionis's works have been displayed at international exhibitions in Japan, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere. His paintings were featured at ‘Visual Music’ fest, an homage to synaesthesia that included the works of Wassily Kandinsky, James McNeill Whistler, and Paul Klee, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2005. A commemorative plaque has been placed on the building of the former hospital in Marki, Poland where Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis died in 1911. Čiurlionis’s life was depicted in the biographical feature film ‘Letters to Sofija’ directed by Robert Mullan in 2012.

The precise number of Čiurlionis musical compositions is not known – a substantial part of his manuscripts did not survive, while others presumably perished in the fire during the war, or were lost. The ones available for us today include sketches, rough drafts, and fragments of his musical ideas. The nature of the archive determined the fact that Čiurlionis’ works were finally published only hundred years after the composer’s death. Today, the archive amounts to almost 400 music compositions major part of which are works for piano, but also significant works for symphony orchestra (symphonic poems ‘In the Forest’ and ‘The Sea’,  overtures, cantata for choir and orchestra), string quartet, works for various choirs (original compositions and Lithuanian folk song arrangements), as well as works for organ.

The painting above is 'Angels' (aka 'Paradise') of 1909.