Saturday 27 June 2015


Μοναχή το δρόμο επήρες,
εξανάλθες μοναχή.
δεν είν’ εύκολες οι θύρες,
εάν η χρεία τες κουρταλεί.

Άλλος σου έκλαψε εις τα στήθια,
Αλλ’ ανάσαση καμιά.
Άλλος σου έταξε βοήθεια
και σε γέλασε φριχτά.

Alone you went on the road,
And you came back alone.
Doors don’t open easily
When need knocks on them.

Someone cried on your breast
But no relief was forthcoming.
Someone else promised to help you
But betrayed you terribly.

                  From “Hymn to Liberty” by Dionysios Solomós

Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s left wing prime minister has called a referendum on the 5th of July for Greek voters to decide whether to accept a bailout deal offered by international creditors. The PM made it clear he was against the “unbearable” bailout plan, which would further demoralise the already wretched populace and worsen the economic crisis faced by the country.

Greek Parliament is debating whether to ratify the vote, and internal bickering divides further the destabilised political scene. Eurozone finance ministers are meeting to discuss the crisis, and to decide whether to give Greece an extension of the bailout until after the vote. The current bailout expires on Tuesday, the same day Greece’s IMF debt is due. It is unclear what would happen if Greece does not get a temporary extension. Without a deal on the bailout, there are fears Greece’s economy could collapse.

Iceland’s debt default and financial crisis of 2008-11 comes to mind. The country faced difficulties after it defaulted its debts, but the world did not end and recovery occurred. Greece can perhaps do the same, if only all Greeks united and presented a strong, single voice of opposition to untenable and harsh economic conditions imposed by the external bodies (both European and International).

Aptly then today for Music Saturday, some music by a Greek Woman composer, Eleni Karaindrou. Eleni Karaindrou (Greek: Ελένη Καραΐνδρου; born 1941) is a Greek composer, born in the village of Teichio in Phocis, Central Greece, on November 25, 1941. She is best known for scoring the films of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos.

When she was eight, Karaindrou moved with her family to Athens, and she subsequently studied piano and theory at the Hellenic Conservatory. She also attended history and archaeology classes at the university. With the advent of the Greek military junta (in power 1967–1974) she moved to Paris in 1967, where she studied Ethnomusicology and Orchestration, and improvised with Jazz musicians. Then she began to compose popular songs.

In 1974 she returned to Athens where she established a laboratory for traditional instruments and collaborated with the department of Ethnomusicology of the National Radio. In 1976 she collaborated with ECM Records, and appreciated the creative freedom offered by the label. This was a period of high productivity for her; she was also introduced to music for the theatre and the cinema.

Karaindrou has stated that her own personal style emerged in working on soundtracks, and that the relationship between images and movements created a new space for her to express emotions. Her first soundtrack album was released in 1979 for the movie “Periplanisi” by Hristoforos Hristofis. In 1982 she won an award at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and was noticed by Theo Angelopoulos, who was serving as president of the jury. Karaindrou collaborated with Angelopoulos on his last eight films, over the period 1984 to 2008.

Karaindrou is very prolific. By 2008 she had composed music for 18 full-length movies, 35 theatrical productions and 11 TV series and television movies. Among the screen directors she has worked with are Chris Marker, Jules Dassin and Margarethe von Trotta. In 1992 she received the Premio Fellini award.

Friday 26 June 2015


“Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and other varieties have anthocyanins that can help reverse some loss of balance and memory associated with aging.” - David H.Murdock

Today, a cake perfect for afternoon tea, a luncheon on the lawn, or even for breakfast!

Raspberry Sour Cream Cake
90 g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar (quantity can vary according to sweetness of raspberries)
2 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups sifted plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 punnet of raspberries (2 handfuls)
Shaved, blanched almonds

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix. Add flour and bicarbonate and mix. Add sour cream, mix, and then fold in raspberries. Put in greased 20 cm tin, top with shaved almonds and bake in oven at 180˚C. Test with skewer and if cake has come away from the sides of the tin (about 30-40min). Cool cake on a rack and slice to serve.

Add your own favourite recipe below using the Linky tool.

Thursday 25 June 2015


"A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do." - P.J. O'Rourke

On my way home yesterday I stopped by the market to buy some fruits and vegetables. We are very lucky here in Melbourne as we have a plethora of fresh food markets, farmers’ markets, fresh food shops as well as the typical shopping centres and supermarkets. The seasonal fruit and vegetable variety is truly exceptional and the quality is generally excellent. In addition to the seasonal fruits and vegetables one is also likely to find some exotic out of season produce that has been flown into our country at great expense and trouble.

In amongst the oranges, tangerines, pears and apples I found watermelon, cherries, grapes and apricots. Looking at the watermelon and cherries I really could not feel the least bit of desire to purchase and sample them. They did not appeal and I didn’t hanker after them. Similarly, I bought a lettuce for salad rather than unseasonable tomatoes and cucumbers. Checking the provenance of some these products, I saw that they came from America, Asia, even Europe. Although today’s global marketplace allows us to buy foods grown virtually anywhere in the world all year round, these options are not the most sustainable nor the most desirable.

I purchase local foods that are in season, thus doing my little bit to eliminate the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of kilometres around the globe. I am supporting local farmers and helping my local economy. At the same time, we enjoy the health benefits of eating fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables that simply taste better as well!

The other benefit of shopping for produce in season is that it is cheaper and if one buys it in bulk, the opportunity for canning and preserving it is there as well. What better than home-made jams and preserves? Vegetables that have been bottled at home with no preservatives and which can provide easy and quick meal solutions at some future time when the seasonal produce is scarce? The freezer can also be used effectively and help with the storage of bulk buys. Cleaned, blanched vegetables can be rapidly frozen and once again come to the rescue when one is unable to find much in the market or if one is unable to go.

How many times do you find yourself planning a menu and then going out and buying whatever you need from the shops and market? Isn’t it a better idea to go out and be inspired to cook something by using what is freshest and in season out there on the shelves? This is certainly the norm in countries around the Mediterranean, where seasonal cooking is seen at its best.

So what did I buy at the market? Typical Winter fare: Mushrooms, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and radishes, carrots, spring onions, silverbeet and spinach. As well as oranges, tangerines and nashi pears.  Spinach and silverbeet pies, mushroom soup, broccoli quiche, cabbage salad with olive oil and lemon dressing, radishes on the side are on the menu over the next couple of days.

Wednesday 24 June 2015


“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

Poets United this week has “Solstice” as its Midweek Motif. It challenges participants to: “Write a poem to share your insights on the events and changes you're experiencing this time of year.” Here is my contribution…

Winter Harvest

Standing on the brink of Winter
Waiting for the signal
That will send me down its yawning depths;

Poised on the fork of Autumn,
Waiting for the pallid dawn of Winter solstice
That will send my heart a-roaming yet again;

Balanced on the cutting edge of crescent moon
Waiting unmoving, for a single word of yours
That will let the sickle slice cleanly through my soul.

A word can heal, a word can kill;
Your word can make my darkest Winter, warm Summer
And what you say can make my Spring, a frigid Fall;
Speak softly, say your word,
And I will harvest a rich bounty – or else dry, poisoned chaff.

Tuesday 23 June 2015


“Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive.” -
 Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79)

In today’s post I’d like to highlight the olive, seeing how olive trees in Melbourne are full of fruit at the moment. To give it its proper name, Olea europaea. The olive is native to the Mediterranean region, tropical and central Asia and various parts of Africa. It has a history almost as long as that of Western civilisation, its development and cultivation being one of the first accomplishments of civilised people. At a site in Spain, carbon-dating has shown olive seeds found there to be eight thousand years old. Cultivation of the olive may have begun independently in two places, Crete and Syria. Archaeological evidence suggests that olives were being grown in Crete as long as 5,000 years ago. From Crete and Syria olives spread to Greece, Rome and other parts of the Mediterranean area.

Greek myth has the following to say about the origin of the olive: When Athens was first settled and people on the acropolis built the first homes there, they sacrificed to the gods and asked advice about what they should call their city. Poseidon, the god of the sea, vied with Athena, the virgin goddess of wisdom, to be patron deity of Athens and give the fledgling city their respective name. Poseidon wanted the city called Poseidonia, while Athena wanted the city to be named Athenae.

Poseidon demonstrated his power and benevolence by striking the Acropolis with his three-pronged spear, which caused a spring of salt water to emerge. Athena, however, planted an olive tree. The people overwhelmingly chose Athena as the winner as her gift was seen as a more useful offering to the city. Athena’s paramount importance to the Athenians is seen in her magnificent temple, the Parthenon (= temple of the virgin goddess), which still crowns the Acropolis (= high city). The people of Athens were careful, all the same, to honour Poseidon as well. A magnificent temple of Poseidon is to be found on Cape Sounion to the SE of Athens.

The olive requires a long, hot growing season to properly ripen the fruit, no late spring frosts to kill the blossoms and sufficient winter chill to insure fruit set. Widespread cultivation occurs around the Mediterranean and Middle East. Olives are also grown commercially in California, Australia and South Africa.

Olives cannot be eaten raw off the tree and require pickling or other preparation in order to be eaten and preserved. Both green and black olives come from the same tree, but one is unripe, the other ripe. They are usually eaten as an accompaniment to meals, as hors d’oeuvres and as garnishes. Several recipes call for olives to be incorporated into them (Salade Niçoise, and Greek Salad are examples) and several new chefs have added olives to new recipes to give them a “Mediterranean” flavour. An illustrated atlas of different olive types can found in the Cook’sThesaurus site.

Perhaps the most useful property of olives is their oil content, which has been exploited from ancient times to produce olive oil. This oil has been used in cooking, in the making of cosmetics, soaps, and as a fuel for oil lamps. It is regarded as a healthy food oil because of its high content of monosaturated fats (especially oleic acid) and polyphenols. It can reduce the risk of arterial disease and heart attacks if it replaces other fats in the diet and if its consumption remains overall moderate (i.e. if it is included in the overall caloric intake).

The use of olive oil is ritual is paramount in many of the world’s religions. Christians, Jews and Moslems all regard the olive as a sacred tree and olive oil use is widespread in their rituals. Both Catholic and Orthodox churches use olive oil for consecration rituals. The Oil of Catehumen is the oil used to anoint the infant in baptism so as to turn away evil, temptation and sin. The Oil of the Sick is used in the ritual anointing, practiced in many Christian Churches, of a sick person to help them get well. The oil used in extreme unction (also called viaticum) is to bless them just before death and prepare them for their journey to the next world. Olive oil mixed with perfuming agents is called chrism (hence the Christ, the one who has been anointed). Chrism is used in a variety of Christian rituals, including ordination of priests and bishops, consecrations and anointing of monarchs. The Orthodox church still burns olive oil in traditional lamps within churches and in many homes in front of the household icons.

In Islam, the Koran recommends: “Consume olive oil and anoint it upon your bodies since it is of the blessed tree.” The Prophet Mohammed states that olive oil can cure seventy diseases. In the Jewish tradition, olive trees and olive oil are also blessed and in the festival of Hanukkah, olive oil was the traditional fuel of nine branched lamp, the menorah.

Monday 22 June 2015


“Rape is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused.” - Freda Adler

In recent years, Turkey has produced a plethora of TV soap operas, which are not only popular in their country of origin, but also in many countries abroad. Like any soap operas from any part of the world, the quality varies greatly from the mediocre to the very good. We’ve watched three or four Turkish soapies and we have been very pleasantly surprised by two of them. One of them, which we found excellent is “Fatmagül ‘ün Suçu Ne?” (2010–2012), starring Beren Saat, Civan Canova, Engin Akyürek, Firat Çelik and Murat Daltaban.

The title of the series translates as “What is Fatmagül’s Fault?”, Fatmagül being the female lead, played admirably by the excellent actress Beren Saat. The plot concerns Fatmagül Ketenci who is a girl living in Ildırı ,a village on the Aegean coast in Çeşme a seaside resort town of İzmir with her brother who runs a dairy. She is engaged to marry a fisherman called Mustafa Nalçalı in a month’s time and dreams of getting away from her nagging sister-in-law who hates her.

Kerim Ilgaz is a well-mannered blacksmith apprentice who lives with his aunt Meryem Aksoy known affectionately as “Ebe Nine” (Granny Ebe) who is a herbal medicine practitioner. The big event of the season is the engagement of the area’s richest and most influential businessman Reşat Yaşaran’s son Selim to the politician Turaner Alagöz’s daughter Meltem. Kerim meets up with his old friends Vural, Erdoğan and Selim. After the engagement party, all four of them go on a drinking and drug binge to celebrate. Meanwhile, Fatmagül is off to see Mustafa off on another fishing trip and accidentally comes across the four drunk men.

Erdoğan, Selim and Vural gang-rape Fatmagül, with Kerim passed out and no recollection of the event. A traumatised and unconscious Fatmagül is discovered the next morning by Ebe Nine while she is picking herbs. As the town goes into an uproar over the rape incident, Kerim accepts the blame and agrees to marry Fatmagül as he mistakenly believes himself to be guilty and in order to protect his friends. As a result, Fatmagül and Kerim’s families sell their properties and move to İstanbul to start a new life. But things become complicated due to the machinations of the Yaşarans and their unscrupulous lawyer Münir Telci who seek to protect themselves as well as Mustafa who seeks revenge.

The series is based on Vedat Türkali’s novel, “Fatmagül'ün Suçu Ne?”, which was made into a film in 1986. The screenplay of the series was written by Ece Yörenç and Melek Gençoğlu who have also written other successful series. It was directed by Hilal Saral  and the soundtrack is by Toygar Işıklı. The production values of the series (made by the Ay Yapim company) and the acting are excellent. Beren Saat, especially gives an amazing performance as she develops from an innocent young girl into a confident and mature woman, who learns to deal with her immense physical and psychological trauma.

The series was extremely popular in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, and the Arabic countries. It was shown in many other countries, over 30 in total, including France, England, Israel, Spain, Russia, Greece, Indonesia, Chile and Peru. We enjoyed watching this series, sitting through both seasons and remaining engaged and interested throughout. We recommend it as an excellent introduction to Turkish soap operas  if you have not watched any before.

Sunday 21 June 2015


“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way - things I had no words for.” - Georgia O’Keeffe

Louis Valtat (8 August 1869 – 2 January 1952) was a French painter and printmaker associated with the Fauves (“the wild beasts”, so named for their wild use of colour), who first exhibited with them in 1905 at the Salon d’Automne. He is noted as a key figure in the stylistic transition in painting from Monet to Matisse.

Valtat was born in Dieppe, in the Normandy region of France, into a wealthy family of ship owners. He spent many of his childhood years in Versailles, a suburb of Paris, where he attended secondary school at the Lycée Hoche (near the Palace of Versailles). Encouraged by his father, an amateur landscape painter himself, Valtat became interested in art. At age 17, deciding to pursue an artistic career, he applied to the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris. He was accepted, and in 1887 Valtat moved to Paris to enrol at the École, where he studied with the well-known academic artists Gustave Boulanger (1824–1888), Jules Lefebvre (1836–1911), and later with Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845–1902).

Valtat subsequently studied at the Académie Julian under Jules Dupré (1811–1889), a landscape painter of the Barbizon school. Among his fellow students were Albert André (1869–1954), who became a close friend, as well as Maurice Denis (1870–1943), Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), and Édouard Vuillard (1868–1940). These last three, calling themselves “Nabis” (after the Hebrew word meaning prophets), were influenced by Paul Gauguin’s (1848–1903) Synthetist method of painting based on the use of simple forms, pure colours, and large patterns. While Valtat remained detached from that movement, he learned from them.

In 1890, upon winning the Jauvin d’Attainville prize, Valtat established his own studio at rue La Glacière in Paris. He made his debut in 1893 at the Salon of Independent Artists, displaying several paintings depicting street scenes of the neighborhood surrounding his art studio. One of those paintings, titled “Sur LeBoulevard” (On The Boulevard, 1893) was noted by the art critic Félix Fénéon. During this early period in his career, Valtat used the spontaneous light touches of Impressionism (although with bordered objects) and the colourful dots found in Pointillism. Two examples representing Valtat’s work during this period include “Péniches” (Barges, 1892) and the “Pommiers” (The Apple Trees, 1894). As noted by Cogniat, Péniches has the impressionistic rendering of the mobile reflections of rippling water while Pommiers is alive with the dazzling brilliance of sunlit reds and yellows intensified by the stippled strokes of green.

Valtat exhibited widely during his career. In 1894, he collaborated with both Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Albert André in creating the décor for the Paris theatre“L’Œuvre” at the request of Lugné Poë. Valtat suffered from tuberculosis, and he spent many autumn/winter seasons along the Mediterranean coast in Banyuls, Antheor and Saint-Tropez. Beginning in 1900, Valtat made several journeys by bicycle to visit Auguste Renoir at the Maison de la Poste in Cagnes. There, Valtat made several portrait drawings of Renoir on which he based a subsequent woodcut, and the two artists collaborated on a sculpture of Cézanne.

Another friend of Valtat was Paul Signac, whom he visited often, travelling in a small Bollée motorcar that he acquired about 1904 from Signac in exchange for his painting “Women at the Seashore”. During his time spent near the Mediterranean, Valtat intensified his use of colour and began to express his Fauvist tendencies, particularly in painting seascapes. Art historian Natalie Henderson Lee identifies Valtat as a “proto-Fauve”, although he remained somewhat apart from the Fauve group, and never adopted their extreme boldness in the treatment of form and colour.

After 1914 he worked in Paris and in areas near Rouen and Versailles. The subjects of his paintings included flowers, landscapes, and scenes of contemporary life, and he produced many prints. Valtat continued to paint until 1948, when the glaucoma from which he had suffered for several years resulted in the loss of his sight. He died on 2 January 1952 in Paris.

The painting above is his “Landscape with Violet Irises” of 1903. The colour is intense and vibrant and the painting is full of the intense Mediterranean light of springtime. The paint is applied in daubs and intense flowing brushstrokes, especially when rendering the flowers. The blues and violets draw the eye, while in counterpoint above them the greenery and trees provide some rest, while leading to the sea, seen in the distance in a cleared section in the centre. Almost abstract, this canvas shows Valtat’s stylistic borrowings and how he has made those his own.