Saturday 15 December 2012


“You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.” - Indira Gandhi
Who cares about the weather outside when all is well indoors? Return to a wonderful Saturday evening routine and all is well with the world that is enclosed by four walls while kept well outside it. I can forget all and everyone except the here and now with you…
Here is Joshua Bell in an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “None But the Lonely Heart”

Friday 14 December 2012


“When I was alone, I lived on eggplant, the stove top cook’s strongest ally.” - Laurie Colwin
It was good to come home after being away and be greeted by the delicious smell of home cooking. As I was coming back on Virgin Airlines I had no inclination whatever to even try the food that was on offer as I have been sorely disappointed in the past. Here is the recipe for the vegetarian treat we had.
Eggplant Lasagne

3 eggplants
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
1.5 cups mushrooms, finely sliced
6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
Instant lasagne sheets
1.5 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Some grated parmesan
Salt, pepper, grated nutmeg, cumin and crushed oregano to taste
Fresh parsley or basil leaves for garnishing
Slice the eggplants then brush with the mixture of lemon juice and olive oil and grill both sides until tender (alternatively they may be fried, in which case don’t use lemon juice). Cook the onions in a little bit of olive oil, then add the garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook until tender, adding some tomato juice if the mixture becomes too stodgy. Add the herbs and spices. Oil a deep baking tin then layer the pasta, eggplants, filling and cheese alternately, ending with a layer of cheese. Cook in a medium oven until the pasta is soft, this will take about 30 minutes. Garnish with fresh herbs to serve.

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

Thursday 13 December 2012


“Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness.” - Ray Bradbury

I am in Adelaide for work and the weather is quite dreadful, hot, wet and muggy, typically subtropical, unusual for this city. However, I always like visiting here as it a beautiful city and the people are very nice. The city rises from the middle of a tree-covered plain, between rolling hills to the east and beaches to the west. The city rises from the middle of a tree-covered plain, between rolling hills to the east and beaches to the west. With a population of slightly more than one million, Adelaide is the “20 minute city”. The airport is only seven kilometres from Adelaide city. The Adelaide Hills and major beaches are less than half an hour away by car. Adelaide is easy to get around. When Colonel Light founded Adelaide in 1836, he had a simple plan: a one square mile city centre and lots of open space. He laid out the streets in a grid, surrounded by a ring of what are now State Heritage Listed parklands.

Adelaide is of course the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. The demonym “Adelaidean” is used in reference to the city and its residents. Adelaide is north of the Fleurieu Peninsula, on the Adelaide Plains between the Gulf St Vincent and the low-lying Mount Lofty Ranges which surround the city. Adelaide stretches 20 km from the coast to the foothills, and 90 km from Gawler at its northern extent to Sellicks Beach in the south.

Named in honour of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV, the city was founded in 1836 as the planned capital for a freely settled British province in Australia. Colonel William Light, one of Adelaide’s founding fathers, designed the city and chose its location close to the River Torrens in the area originally inhabited by the Kaurna people. Light’s design set out Adelaide in a grid layout, interspaced by wide boulevards and large public squares, and entirely surrounded by parkland. Early Adelaide was shaped by religious freedom and a commitment to political progressivism and civil liberties, which led to the nickname “City of Churches”.

As South Australia’s seat of government and commercial centre, Adelaide is the site of many governmental and financial institutions. Most of these are concentrated in the city centre along the cultural boulevard of North Terrace, King William Street and in various districts of the metropolitan area. Today, Adelaide is noted for its many festivals and sporting events, its food, wine and culture, its long beachfronts, and its large defence and manufacturing sectors. It ranks highly in terms of liveability, being listed in the Top 10 of The Economist's World's Most Liveable Cities index in 2010 and being ranked the most liveable city in Australia by the Property Council of Australia in 2011 and again in 2012.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” – Gautama Buddha

The festival of the Hanukkah is one of the most popular and joyous of the Jewish festivals, celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar. In Hebrew, the word “hanukkah” means “dedication”. The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C. At that time, the armies of Judas Maccabaeus (the “Hammer”) had routed the forces of Antiochus IV.

As a mark of favour of the Chosen People, there was a miraculous relighting of the perpetual light in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The ritual oil that kept the light burning had run out and only enough was left for one day. However, miraculously, the light kept burning for eight days. To commemorate that event, candles are lit in synagogues and homes. The menorah is the special candelabrum used for this ritual, called for this festival the hanukkiyah. One candle is lit every night in each of the seven nights of the festival.

While the Hanukkah lights are burning parties are held, games are played, gifts are exchanged and various other entertainments and plays are featured.  This is as close to Christmas as the Jewish faith gets! Tradition limits work only during the time that the Hanukkah candles are lit.

Every Jewish community of the diaspora has its own unique Hanukkah traditions, but there are some traditions that are almost universally practiced. They are: Lighting the hanukkiyah, spinning the dreidel and eating fried foods.
Lighting the hanukkiyah: Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah. The hanukkiyah is lit every night for eight nights.
Spinning the dreidel: A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Gelt, which are chocolate coins covered with tin foil, are part of this spinning dreidel game.
Eating fried foods: Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jam-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating.
Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate it!

Tuesday 11 December 2012


"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

Magpie Tales has provided an interesting image as a prompt this week, for all sorts of creative excursions. Please visit her site to see what this has resulted in after many a heart and soul engaged with this image...


A million choices awaiting for your pleasure,
A million options laid out for your indulgence
A million different paths to tread,
But which of them will you choose?

A million seas to sail on I have charted,
A million deserts mapped with all of their oases shown
A million cities for you to populate,
But which of them will you choose?

A million choices and I am awaiting for your pleasure,
A million wells their water clear and cool for you to drink
A million trees with all kinds of ripe fruits waiting to be plucked,
But will you choose the single choice I have forgotten to provide for?

Monday 10 December 2012


“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” - Mark Twain

We watched a movie on TV the other night simply because it was on at a time nothing else was on and we couldn’t be bothered looking for a DVD at the time. As the film played on we were moderately interested although it was a typical, formulaic action “dick flick”. I must say that half of the interest was due to Arnold Schwargenegger starring in it and being fascinated by his performance as an actor before he started performing as a politician. It was the 1988 Walter Hill thriller/action flick “Red Heat” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi, Ed O’Ross and Peter Boyle.

The plot predictable, the characters cardboard cutouts and the action sequences similar to many others of the same genre made for standard Hollywood fare. It was interesting to observe the 1980s on film and compare with our own memories of them. Women’s hair was big, telephones still had cables and the cars were still huge petrol guzzlers. It’s quite amazing how many things have changed in a mere 24 years…

Anrold Schwarzanagger is cast as the tough and dutiful Russian cop Ivan Danko, while James Belushi plays the undisciplined but passionate Chicago cop Art Ridzik. Ed O’Ross is well cast as the evil drug-running Viktor Rosta who escapes to America after he escapes from Danko during a drug sting in Russia. Danko follows Rosta to America where Commander Lou Donnelly (Peter Boyle) assigns Ridzik and his partner Sergeant Gallagher (Richard Bright) to help Danko out with his investigation. When Gallagher is killed by Rosta and his gang, Ridzik flies into a rage and decides to do things Danko’s unorthodox Russian way (shoot first and face the music later). The film is a typical buddy action cop movie of which there were a multitude in the 1980s. There is some attempts at humour with the stock one-liners that such films usually have and Arnie plays it straight for Belushi’s street-wise humour. There is almost an air of “Ninotchka” about this movie, even though the two films are widely separated by genre, plot and time.

The direction is passable, the music OK, the acting average and the whole movie a tolerable enough time waster, especially for the fans of action cop movies and/or Arnie. Once again I must gripe about the lack of optional English subtitles or closed captions. We have been spoilt by DVDs now and not having subtitles on TV really detracts from my enjoyment of the film. Several of the characters spoke with such heavy accents, the background noise was so bad in some scenes and the sound recording patchy, so that overall we missed sizeable chunks of the dialogue (not that it mattered much in the end…). Just goes to show how useful a feature subtitles are. I must note that at least for the scenes where Russian was used in the dialogue, English subtitles were provided.

Watch this movie only if you like action movies and have a bit of time to waste…

Sunday 9 December 2012


“Sculpture is the art of the intelligence.” - Pablo Picasso

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini - December 7, 1598 – November 28, 1680), who worked chiefly in Rome, was the epitome of the baroque artist. Eminent as a sculptor and architect, he was also a painter, draughtsman, designer of stage sets, fireworks displays, and funeral trappings. Bernini was born in Naples to a Florentine family and accompanied his father Pietro Bernini (a well known Mannerist sculptor himself), to Rome. His first works were inspired by Hellenistic sculpture that had been brought to Rome in imperial times. Among these early works are “The Goat Amalthea Nursing the Infant Zeus and a Young Satyr” (redated 1609, Galleria Borghese, Rome) and several allegorical busts such as the “Damned Soul” and “Blessed Soul” (ca 1619, Palazzo di Spagna, Rome).

In the 1620s he came to maturity with the bust of Pope Paul V (1620), the “Abduction of Proserpina” (1621-1622, Galleria Borghese, Rome), the “David” (1623 - 24), and “Apollo and Daphne” (1624-25). His first architectural project was the magnificent bronze baldachin (1624 - 1633), the canopy over the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the façade for the church of Santa Bibiana (1624-1626), Rome. In 1629, before the baldachin was complete, Urban VIII put him in charge of all the ongoing architectural works at St Peter’s. He was given the commission for the Basilica’s tombs of Pope Urban VIII (1628-1647 and, years later, Pope Alexander VII Chigi 1671-1678. The Chair of Saint Peter (Cathedra Petri) 1657-1666), in the apse of St. Peter’s, is one of his masterpieces.

Among his best-known sculptures is the magnificent “The “Ecstasy of St Teresa” (1645-1652, in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome). This is a dynamic and flowing work where the inner emotional and spiritual turmoil of the saint is depicted in her pose and the flowing drapery that Bernini sculpts with consummate skill. Bernini’s “David” also shows the youth in motion, in contrast to the famous statue of David by Michelangelo in which the character is at rest, contemplating his imminent action. The twisted torso and furrowed brow of Bernini’s “David” is symptomatic of the baroque’s interest in dynamic movement over the High Renaissance meditative repose. Michelangelo expresses David’s whole heroic nature while Bernini captures the heroic moment.

Bernini’s architecture is as famous as his sculpture. Besides his most famous work, the piazza and colonnades of St Peter’s he planned several famous palaces: Palazzo Barberini (from 1630); Palazzo Ludovisi (now Palazzo Montecitorio, 1650); and Palazzo Chigi (1664), all in Rome. In 1665, at the height of his fame and powers, he made a voyage to Paris to present Louis XIV with (rejected) designs for the east front of the Louvre – it was to be executed in more classic taste by Claude Perrault. Bernini designed some famous churches. One of the small baroque churches in Rome presents an ensemble of Bernini’s work: Bernini was responsible not only for the architecture of Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale, but also the enormous statue of St. Andrew the Apostle over the high altar. In the papal villages near Rome, Bernini designed churches for Castel Gandolfo and in Ariccia.

The first of Bernini’s fountains was the “Fountain of the Triton” (1640). His most famous fountain, the spectacular “Fountain of the Four Rivers” (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, 1648-1651, see below) in the Piazza Navona, Rome, is also a source of anecdotes about his rivalry with Francesco Borromini (whose Sant’ Agnese in Agony church faces the fountain). In a sculptural dig, one of the Bernini’s river gods, it was said, cowers in terror at the unsteady-looking facade of Sant’ Agnese. The death of his steadfast supporter and patron Urban VIII in 1644 released a horde of Bernini’s rivals and marked a change in his career, but Innocent X set him back to work on the extended nave of St Peter’s and commissioned the Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona. At the time of Innocent's death Bernini was the aribiter of public taste in Rome. He died in Rome in 1680.

“The Fountain of the Four Rivers” illustrated above, depicts gods of the four great rivers in the four continents as recognised by the Renaissance geographers: The Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe and the Río de la Plata in America. Each location is further characterised by animals and plants specific to the country the river is found in. The Ganges carries a long oar, representing the river’s navigability. The Nile’s head is draped with a loose piece of cloth, meaning that no one at that time knew exactly where the Nile’s source was. The Danube touches the Papal coat of arms, since it is the largest river closest to Rome. And the Río de la Plata is sitting on a pile of coins, a symbol of the riches America might offer to Europe (the word plata means silver in Spanish).

Each River God is recumbent, in awe of the central tower, epitomised by the slender Egyptian obelisk (built for the Roman Serapeum in AD 81), symbolising Papal power and surmounted by the Pamphili symbol of the dove. The Fountain of the Four Rivers is a theatre in the round, whose leading actor is the movement and sound of water splashing over and cascading down a mountain of travertine marble. The masterpiece was finally unveiled to the world on June 12, 1651, to joyous celebration and the inevitable criticisms of the day. Then as today the Fountain of the Four Rivers continues to amaze and entertain visitors to Rome.