Saturday 6 July 2013


“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.” - Johann Sebastian Bach

For Music Saturday the wonderful Trio Sonatas BWV 527, 1030, 1037, 1029, 530, by Johann Sebastian Bach: 
1. Trio Sonata in D minor BWV 527 [Andante-Adagio e dolce-Vivace]
2. Trio Sonata in G minor BWV 1030 [Andante-Largo e dolce-Presto-Allegro]
3. Trio Sonata in C major BWV 1037 [Adagio-Alla breve-Largo-Gigue-Presto]
4. Trio Sonata in A minor BWV 1029 [Vivace-Adagio-Allegro]
5. Trio Sonata in G major BWV 530 [Vivace-Lento-Allegro]


Played by:
Manfredo Kraemer [violin]
Pablo Valetti [violin, viola]
Balasz Mate [cello]
Dirk Boerner [harpsichord]
Allessandro de Marchi [organ]

Friday 5 July 2013


“I think careful cooking is love, don't you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who's close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.” - Julia Child

A nice Winter recipe to warm you up now that the temperature is falling in the Southern Hemisphere. If you don't have time to make your own gnocchi, you can buy fresh ones from your local deli.

Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Leeks and Spinach
Ingredients - Gnocchi450 g potatoes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 1/3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place potatoes in a large pot. Add water to cover by 5 cm. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a skewer, about 40 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash potatoes using a potato ricer. Set aside on a baking sheet until completely cooled.

On a cool, smooth work surface, gather potatoes into a mound, forming a well in the centre. In a small bowl, stir together oil, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour mixture into well. Using both hands, work potatoes and egg mixture together, gradually adding 1 cup of flour. Scrape dough from work surface with a knife as necessary. This process should not take more than 10 minutes. The longer the dough is worked, the more flour it will require and the heavier the dough will become.

Dust hands, dough, and work surface lightly with some of the remaining flour. Cut dough into 6 equal portions. Using both hands, roll each piece of dough into a rope 1 cm thick. Continue dusting as long as dough feels sticky. Slice ropes at 1 cm intervals. Indent each piece with thumb, the tines of a fork, or the back of a semicircular grater to produce a ribbed effect.

Boil the gnocchi in plenty of salted water. You’ll know it’s done when it floats to the surface. Drain and set aside.

Ingredients for sauce
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
1 leek, washed, finely chopped (white part only)
Baby spinach leaves, washed chopped
Sundried tomatoes, chopped
Mixed herbs
Vegetable stock
Salt, pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the butter in pan over medium heat until foaming. Add the gnocchi and cook, stirring, for 5-8 minutes or until the gnocchi are golden. Remove from pan, and keep warm, leaving as much butter as you can in the pan.

Put oil in the pan and heat. Add the leek, sauté until soft and add the spinach, tomatoes and herbs. Stir until heated right through. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the bottom of the pan and stir through the vegetables. Add salt and pepper as required.

Add the gnocchi and stir through. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

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

Thursday 4 July 2013


“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” - Nelson Mandela

The Declaration of Independence, in U.S.A history, is the document that was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, announcing the separation of 13 North American British colonies from Great Britain. It explained why the Congress on July 2 “unanimously” by the votes of 12 colonies (with New York abstaining) had resolved that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States.” Accordingly, the day on which final separation was officially voted was July 2, although the 4th, the day on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted, has always been celebrated in the United States as the great national holiday, the Fourth of July, or Independence Day.

On April 19, 1775, when armed conflict began between Britain and the 13 colonies (the nucleus of the future United States), the Americans claimed that they sought only their rights within the British Empire. At that time few of the colonists consciously desired to separate from Britain. As the American Revolution proceeded during 1775–76 and Britain undertook to assert its sovereignty by means of large armed forces, making only a gesture toward conciliation, the majority of Americans increasingly came to believe that they must secure their rights outside the empire.

The losses and restrictions that came from the war greatly widened the breach between the colonies and the mother country; moreover, it was necessary to assert independence in order to secure as much French aid as possible.  On April 12, 1776, the revolutionary convention of North Carolina specifically authorised its delegates in Congress to vote for independence. On May 15 the Virginia convention instructed its deputies to offer the motion, which was brought forward in the Congress by Richard Henry Lee on June 7. By that time the Congress had already taken long steps toward severing ties with Britain. It had denied Parliamentary sovereignty over the colonies as early as December 6, 1775, and it had declared on May 10, 1776, that the authority of the king ought to be “totally suppressed,” advising all the several colonies to establish governments of their own choice.

The passage of Lee’s resolution was delayed for several reasons. Some of the delegates had not yet received authorization to vote for separation; a few were opposed to taking the final step; and several men, among them John Dickinson, believed that the formation of a central government, together with attempts to secure foreign aid, should precede it. However, a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston was promptly chosen on June 11 to prepare a statement justifying the decision to assert independence, should it be taken. The document was prepared, and on July 1 nine delegations voted for separation, despite warm opposition on the part of Dickinson. On the following day at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, with the New York delegation abstaining only because it lacked permission to act, the Lee resolution was voted on and endorsed.

The convention of New York gave its consent on July 9, and the New York delegates voted affirmatively on July 15. On July 19 the Congress ordered the document to be engrossed as “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.” It was accordingly put on parchment, probably by Timothy Matlack of Philadelphia. Members of the Congress present on August 2 affixed their signatures to this parchment copy on that day, and others later. The last signer was Thomas McKean of Delaware, whose name was not placed on the document before 1777.

The Declaration of Independence was written largely by Thomas Jefferson, who had displayed talent as a political philosopher and polemicist in his “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”, published in 1774. At the request of his fellow committee members he wrote the first draft. The members of the committee made a number of merely semantic changes, and they also expanded somewhat the list of charges against the king. The Congress made more substantial changes, deleting a condemnation of the British people, a reference to “Scotch & foreign mercenaries” (there were Scots in the Congress), and a denunciation of the African slave trade (this being offensive to some Southern and New England delegates).

The Declaration of Independence has also been a source of inspiration outside the United States. It encouraged Antonio de Nariño and Francisco de Miranda to strive toward overthrowing the Spanish empire in South America, and it was quoted with enthusiasm by the Marquis de Mirabeau during the French Revolution. It remains a great historical landmark in that it contained the first formal assertion by a whole people of their right to a government of their own choice. What Locke had contended for as an individual, the Americans proclaimed as a body politic; moreover, they made good the argument by force of arms.

Happy Independence Day to all USA readers of this blog!

Wednesday 3 July 2013


“More than 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger; and 790 million of them live in the Third World.” - Fidel Castro

Magpie Tales has provided a photograph by Yohan Musin, a talented artist to act as inspiration for followers of her blog. Here is my contribution (including my edit to the photo) to the creative writing challenge:

The Solution

A promise, a vision, a solution –
All preferable to
The present, the reality, the misery.

Her nails, her hair, her clothes
All ache, due to
The never-ending work, the drudgery, the need.

In the village, in the fields, in the house,
A constant demand for
Her contribution, her labour, her input.

Her sex, her caste, her age
All conspire to
Discrimination, prejudice, unfairness.

A city, a job, a new start,
Will they make possible
The promise, the vision, the solution?

Tuesday 2 July 2013


“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” - Susan Sontag

Brisbane is the port and the capital city of Queensland, Australia, and Australia’s third largest city. It lies astride the Brisbane River on the southern slopes of the Taylor Range, 19 km above the river’s mouth at Moreton Bay. The site, first explored in 1823 by John Oxley, was occupied in 1824 by a penal colony, which had moved from Redcliffe 35 km northeast. The name honours Sir Thomas Brisbane, former governor of New South Wales, when the convict settlement was declared a town in 1834. Proclaimed a municipality in 1859, it became the capital of newly independent Queensland that same year. Gazetted a city in 1902, it was joined during the 1920s with South Brisbane to form the City of Greater Brisbane. Its municipal government, headed by a lord mayor, holds very broad powers. The Brisbane statistical division, including the cities of Ipswich and Redcliffe, has close economic and social ties to the city.

Brisbane is the hub of many rail lines and highways, which bring produce from a vast agricultural hinterland stretching west to the Eastern Highlands, the Darling Downs, and beyond. The city’s port, which can accommodate ships of 34,000 tons, exports wool, grains, dairy products, meat, sugar, preserved foods, and mineral sands. The metropolitan area, also industrialised with more than half of the state’s manufacturing capacity, has heavy and light engineering works, food-processing plants, shipyards, oil refineries, sawmills, and factories producing rubber goods, automobiles, cement, and fertiliser. The city, the halves of which are connected by several bridges and ferries, is the site of the University of Queensland at St. Lucia (1909), Griffith University (1971), Parliament House (1869), the state museum (1855) and art gallery (1895), Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, and many parks and gardens. Water is supplied from Lake Manchester, the Mount Crosby Weir, and the Somerset Dam. Oil is piped from wells at Moonie (west) and at Roma (northwest), which also supplies natural gas. Pop. (1996) city, 848,741; Brisbane Statistical Division, 1,488,900; (2001) Brisbane Statistical Division, 1,627,535.


“There are no secrets that time does not reveal.” - Jean Racine

I have been extremely busy with work, hence this belated Movie Monday review. Most of my days have been full of meetings and I take lots of work to catch up on at home, and as if that weren’t enough, I am getting ready to travel again. Nevertheless, we did manage to watch a movie at the weekend, so I shall review that.

It was Ann Hunter’s 2006 thriller “Irresistible” starring Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill and Emily Blunt. First, as it was an Australian film and made in Melbourne, it was good to see our hometown featured. We recognised the following: Citylink, Docklands, Immigration Museum, Riva Bar and Restaurant, St. Kilda, Williamstown Cemetery and Williamstown.

The plot revolves around Sophie Hartley (Sarandon) who is convinced that she is being stalked. She becomes increasingly certain that her husband’s (Neill) beautiful co-worker, Mara (Blunt), wants to take from her, her children, her husband and her life. However, as Sophie has been having some difficult times and she is a little fragile, no one believes her. Forced to prove her sanity, Sophie grows increasingly paranoid. But is she imagining things or is something really nasty happening? Sophie becomes completely caught up in her obsession, turning stalker herself - and makes a discovery more frightening than her worst fears…

The theme of the film is secrets in relationships, trust, love and family ties. Unfortunately the plot is rather clumsy and it sometimes seems a little slap-dash, or improvisational in nature. Apparently, Susan Sarandon worked with the director/scriptwriter Ann Hunter for six months to tweak the script to Sarandon’s standards before they even shot the first scene. The film is saved, however, by the good performances of the lead actors and the supporting role work by the children and Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, who plays a cameo role as Sophie’s father.

The movie labours a few points, with many twists and turns, and a final twist on a twist is unnecessary and looks like a cheap horror movie that prepares the ground or a sequel. The title is quite misleading and has nothing to do with the plot. In Portuguese the movie was released as: “Identidade Roubada” – Stolen Identity, which is a more reasonable title on many levels.

Don’t go out of your way to find this film and watch it, it’s the sort of thing that you may watch if you’re lazing around on a \Sunday afternoon, it’s raining and it comes on TV after you’ve made a bowl of popcorn. Watch it to pass time…

Sunday 30 June 2013


“The main facts in human life are five: Birth, food, sleep, love and death.” - E. M. Forster

Evelyn Pickering (1855-1919) was born in London, the daughter of upper-middle class parents. Her father was Percival Pickering QC, the Recorder of Pontefract. Her mother was Anna Maria Wilhelmina Spencer-Stanhope, the sister of the artist John Rodham Spencer-Stanhope (a painter within the circle of later Pre-Raphaelites who took their inspiration from the more romantic paintings of Rossetti and Burne-Jones), and a descendant of Coke of Norfolk who was an Earl of Leicester. Evelyn was homeschooled and started drawing lessons when she was 15. On the morning of her seventeenth birthday, Evelyn recorded in her diary, “Art is eternal, but life is short... I will make up for it now, I have not a moment to lose.”

Her early ambition to paint was discouraged by her parents but later she was permitted to become a student at the Slade School and in due course to study in Italy, in Rome and in Florence. Her uncle, Roddam Spencer Stanhope, was a great influence to her works. Evelyn often visited him in Florence where he lived. This also enabled her to study the great artists of the Renaissance; she was particularly fond of the works of Botticelli. This influenced her to move away from the classical subjects favoured by the Slade school and to make her own style. As a young woman she exhibited “Ariadne in Naxos” at the first Exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877.

Her mature style, which is distinguished by a precision of detail and a fondness for mythological subjects, was derived in part from her first artistic mentor, her uncle. She was also profoundly influenced by Edward Burne-Jones who was a close friend. Her painting was admired by a circle of fellow-artists. William Blake Richmond said of her: “Her industry was astonishing, and the amount which she achieved was surprising, especially considering the infinite care with which she studied every detail…” George Frederic Watts pronounced her “…the first woman-artist of the day – if not of all time.” Evelyn Pickering married the ceramicist William De Morgan in 1887 and lived with him in London until his death in 1917. She died two years later.

The painting above is “Nyx and Hypnos” of 1878 shows well de Morgan’s mythological genre. In Greek mythology, Hypnos (Ὕπνος) was the personification of sleep; the Roman equivalent was known as Somnus. His twin was Thánatos (Θάνατος – death); their mother was the goddess Nyx (Νυξ – night). Hypnos’ palace was a dark cave where the sun never shone and perpetual night ruled. At the entrance were a number of poppies and other hypnagogic plants and through this cave flowed Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.

Hypnos’s three sons or brothers represented things that occur in dreams (the Oneiroi). Morpheus (from which “morphine” is derived), Phobetor (“one who causes fear”) and Phantasos (from which “fantasy” is derived). Endymion, sentenced by Zeus to eternal sleep, received the power to sleep with his eyes open from Hypnos in order to constantly watch his beloved moon goddess, Selene. But according to the poet Licymnius of Chios, Hypnos, in awe of Endymion’s beauty, causes him to sleep with his eyes open, so he can fully admire his face.

In art, Hypnos was portrayed as a naked youthful man, sometimes with a beard, and wings attached to his head. He is sometimes shown as a man asleep on a bed of feathers with black curtains about him. Morpheus is his chief minister and prevents noises from waking him. In Sparta, the image of Hypnos was always put near that of death.