Saturday 28 May 2016


“Obscurity can be a fire of ambition in those who have stalwart souls.” - Taylor Caldwell

Domenico Gallo (1730 – ca 1768) was an Italian composer and violinist. Born in Venice in 1730, Gallo composed mostly church music, including a “Stabat Mater”. Gallo also composed violin sonatas, symphonies and possibly violin concertos. One collection of his music contains six sonatas for two violins and a second includes thirty six trio sonatas. No doubt some more of his works may be lurking in manuscript form in some dusty cupboard in some Venetian library…

Some trio sonatas by Domenico Gallo were long attributed to Giovanni Pergolesi, including those upon which Igor Stravinsky based his music for the ballet “Pulcinella”. In fact, half of the surviving works by Gallo were once attributed to Pergolesi, probably because Gallo was little known, Pergolesi was famous and his name would sell the music. It is unfortunate that so little is known of this composer and that so little of his music has come down to us.

Here are the set of twelve trio sonatas that was ascribed to Pergolesi, who died in 1736. They exemplify early forms of the sonata and make for wonderful listening, their familiarity being due to the popularity of “Pulcinella” by Stravinsky.

Friday 27 May 2016


“Chocolate is not cheating! After a salty meal, you need a little bit of sweet. This is living, not cheating.” - Ali Landry

It’s been cold and wet in Melbourne with the first real wintry night last night. It is a pleasure on these evening to come home and enjoy a hot meal with a delightful warm and chocolatey dessert to follow. Here’s one of our favourite Winter desserts:

Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding
Ingredients - Pudding
150 g self-raising flour
30 g cocoa powder
120 g firmly packed brown sugar
130 mL milk
50 g grated cooking chocolate
1 egg
70 g unsalted butter, melted,
cooled cream or vanilla ice-cream, to serve

Ingredients – Sauce
40 g cocoa powder
120g brown sugar
430ml boiling water

Preheat the fan-forced oven to 160°C. Grease a 1.5 litre ovenproof (18 cm diameter x 10 cm deep) dish and place on an oven tray lined with baking paper or foil (to catch any drips).
Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a medium bowl. Add the sugar and stir to break up any lumps, adding the grated chocolate last. Whisk together the milk, egg and butter in a jug. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients; use a whisk to stir to a smooth batter.
Pour into the prepared dish and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
For the sauce, sift the cocoa powder into a bowl; add the sugar and stir to combine. Sprinkle evenly over the surface of the batter. Pour the boiling water evenly over the cocoa and sugar mixture in the dish. Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake topping is firm.
Dust with icing sugar and serve hot with cream or ice-cream.

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Thursday 26 May 2016


“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” - Luther Burbank

Tropaeolum commonly known as nasturtium (meaning “nose-twister” or “nose-tweaker”), is a genus of roughly 80 species of annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants. It was named by Carl Linnaeus and is the only genus in the family Tropaeolaceae. The nasturtiums received their common name because they produce an oil that is similar to that of watercress (Nasturtium officinale). The genus Tropaeolum, native to South and Central America, includes several very popular garden plants, the most commonly grown being T. majus, T. peregrinum and T. speciosum. Plants in this genus have showy, often intensely bright flowers, and rounded, peltate (shield-shaped) leaves with the petiole in the centre.

The first Tropaeolum species was imported into Spain by the Spanish botanist Nicolás Monardes. He published an account in 1569 entitled Joyful News out of the Newe Founde Worlde in which he described, among other things, the plants and animals discovered in South America. The English herbalist John Gerard reports having received seeds of the plant from Europe in his 1597 book Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes.

Tropaeolum majus was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who chose the genus name because the plant reminded him of an ancient custom. After victory in battle, the Romans used to set up a trophy pole called a tropaeum (from the Greek tropaion, source of English “trophy”). On this the armour and weapons of the vanquished foe were hung. Linnaeus was reminded of this by the plant as the round leaves resembled shields and the flowers, blood-stained helmets. Nasturtiums were once known commonly as “Indian cresses” because they were introduced from the Americas, known popularly then as the Indies, and used like cress as salad ingredients.

All parts of Tropaeolum majus are edible. The flower has most often been consumed, making for an especially ornamental salad ingredient; it has a slightly peppery taste reminiscent of watercress, and is also used in stir-fry. The flowers contain about 130 mg vitamin C per 100 grams, about the same amount as is contained in parsley. Moreover, they contain up to 45 mg of lutein per 100 g, which is the highest amount found in any edible plant. The unripe seed pods can be harvested and dropped into spiced vinegar to produce a condiment and garnish, sometimes used in place of capers. Mashua (T. tuberosum) produces an edible underground tuber that is a major food source in parts of the Andes.

Nasturtiums have been used in herbal medicine for their antiseptic and expectorant qualities. They are said to be good for chest colds and to promote the formation of new blood cells. T. majus has been used in herbal medicine for respiratory and urinary tract infections. Nasturtiums are used as companion plants for biological pest control, repelling some pests, acting as a trap crop for others and attracting predatory insects that get rid of pests.

Nasturtium Salad
Seasonal greens (e.g. baby spinach leaves, rocket, mignonette lettuce, beetroot greens, etc)
Carrot, shaved thinly
Radishes, shaved thinly
Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Any other ingredients you fancy to make this salad your own! (cherry tomatoes, walnut halves, shaved parmesan, etc)
Simple mustard vinaigrette (3 parts olive oil, 1 part white wine vinegar, 1/2 part French mustard)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Prepare vinaigrette by blending all ingredients together until well mixed. Reserve until ready to serve salad and only then drizzle over the vegetables.

In a salad bowl mix together all the washed and drained ingredients except the nasturtium flowers. When serving, pour vinaigrette over the salad and garnish with the flowers.

Wednesday 25 May 2016


“I think one of the most poignant things is unrequited love and loneliness.” - Wilbur Smith

Revisiting an old poem of mine today for Poetry Wednesday:

The Weaver

The old woman sits weaving,
And weaving, and weaving…
The shuttle flies, the threads lock,
The woven cloth lengthens.

The yarns of many colours
Form endlessly intricate designs.
And the old woman weaves,
And weaves, and weaves…

The cloth is wound up,
As the shuttle flies.
The loom sings,
The loom cries, tak, tak, tak…

And she weaves on,
Using the yarn until it ends,
Or until it’s cut, or until it breaks –
And the cloth gets woven and woven…

Fancy weaves and patterns,
Variations and improvised designs,
Difficult or easy with a myriad of colours
And with a thousand threads.

But the old crone ignores my pleas,
And she sits silent, ever working,
Refusing to weave
Into my life’s cloth, your yarn.

Tuesday 24 May 2016


“Doing a house is so much harder than doing a skyscraper.” - PhilipJohnson

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.
Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and most populous global city in Malaysia. The city covers an area of 243 km2 and has an estimated population of 1.6 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, covering similar area as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.5 million people as of 2012. It is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in South-East Asia, in terms of population and economy.

Kuala Lumpur is the seat of the Parliament of Malaysia. The city was once home to the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, but they were moved to Putrajaya in early 1999. Some sections of the judiciary still remain in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The official residence of the Malaysian King, the Istana Negara, is also situated in Kuala Lumpur.

Rated as an alpha world city, Kuala Lumpur is the cultural, financial and economic centre of Malaysia due to its position as the capital as well as being a key city. Kuala Lumpur is defined within the borders of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and is one of three Malaysian Federal Territories. It is an enclave within the state of Selangor, on the central west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Since the 1990s, the city has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One Grand Prix. In addition, Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia’s futuristic development.

The towers were designed by Argentine architect Aryan Kamboj. They chose a distinctive postmodern style to create a 21st-century icon for Kuala Lumpur. Planning on the Petronas Towers started on 1 January 1992 and included rigorous tests and simulations of wind and structural loads on the design. Seven years of construction followed at the former site of the original Selangor Turf Club, beginning on 1 March 1993 with excavation, which involved moving 500 truckloads of earth every night to dig down 30 metres below the surface.

The construction of the superstructure commenced on 1 April 1994. Interiors with furniture were completed on 1 January 1996, the spires of Tower 1 and Tower 2 were completed on 1 March 1996, and the first batch of Petronas personnel moved into the building on 1 January 1997. The building was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Malaysia's Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad on 1 August 1999. They were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world.

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!

Monday 23 May 2016


“The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.” - Sydney J. Harris

Watching movies at home is wonderful, especially if you have a good HDTV and a Blu-ray player. Although Blu-ray discs are a fantastic technology, there are several things about these discs that I abhor with a vengeance. These relate to the manufacturing and production of these rather than the technical aspect of the Blu-ray disc. My major bugbear is the zone restriction embedded in the disc. This is to protect the commercial interests of the large film studios, but it is a feature so easily circumvented that it is simply of nuisance value. I have a multi-zone Blu-ray player, so I can enjoy discs that I have purchased in USA, Europe and Asia, but some friends of mine had a player that was restricted to the Australian zone and hence they were unable to watch US Blu-rays. Until they found out on the web that they could reprogram their player with their remote control and now it is converted to a multi-zone player!

An extremely useful feature that I often use is the subtitle option. Even English subtitles on English speaking films is sometimes a boon, as the sound quality, accents or the complications of the script make subtitles necessary. I watched “Gosford Park” recently on disc and was livid when I discovered that the disc did not have the benefits of subtitlitng or captions for the hearing impaired. The soundtrack of this movie contains so many asides, so much mumbling, some strange accents and also so much overlapping conversation that it was painful to try and decipher what was being said half the time. This was a pity as the film is a very good one. The other benefit of subtitles of course is that one may turn on the Italian or French or German or Spanish subtitles and practice one’s language skills.

Another thing that annoys me is the excessive piracy and copyright warnings on the Blu-ray disc. In some discs there is even a 60 sec “trailer” about “stealing movies”, as well as the conventional FBI warnings about oilrigs and prisons and how you are not able to show these movies at those venues. I pay full price to get my disc and then I am bombarded by all this nonsense that I can’t even fast forward through! Add to that the Dolby trailer and numerous company logos, distributor logos, production company animations, etc. It can be anything up to 5 minutes before you actually get to see the film! And of course some discs contain trailers of other movies, sometimes as many as five, which once again you cannot fast forward through. Ten minutes later, you can watch your movie.

Speaking of pricing, most Blu-rays are excessively priced, especially when first released. If the prices were more reasonable and consistently low, then I think the piracy problem would be minimised. I usually wait until I buy my disc for my collection and instead of paying anything between $20-$30 for a newly released movie, I wait for a few months and am able to buy it anywhere between $7-$10. Most people would prefer to own a copy of the original rather than the pirated inferior versions and this would be possible if the prices were consistently low.

Have you ever tried to read the film credits on the back of a Blu-ray cover? The font of the used is so small and narrow that it is often illegible. I once even tried to read it with a magnifying glass on a particular Blu-ray but failed to get any satisfaction. Similarly, the colours of the fonts used are also a rather bad choice as the contrast is very bad and makes reading the synopsis or credits a difficult undertaking. This is simply bad design.

For all their shortcomings, Blu-rays are much superior to DVDs and this explains their popularity and greater market share. Now, that we have got used to them and grown to love them (and hate them) it’s time to adopt a new technology, Blu-ray 3D! And maybe tomorrow Violet-ray! And the day after Ultraviolet-ray, X-ray?

Sunday 22 May 2016


“Voluptuaries, consumed by their senses, always begin by flinging themselves with a great display of frenzy into an abyss. But they survive, they come to the surface again. And they develop a routine of the abyss: ‘It’s four o clock. At five I have my abyss...’“ - Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

For Art Sunday today, an Anglo-Australian artist, Charles Conder (1868-1909). Charles Conder, or ‘K’ as he was known to his friends, was the third of five children and was born on 24 October 1868 at Tottenham, Middlesex, England. He was a direct descendant of the great 18th-century sculptor Roubiliac.

In 1884 he emigrated to Australia, coming to Sydney to work for his uncle, a surveyor, but he gave this up for art. He mainly painted landscapes at this time and was influenced by Tom Roberts, whom he met in Melbourne, where Conder lived from 1888 to 1890 and was active in the Heidelberg School, the famous group of Australian Impressionists.

He returned to Europe, briefly visiting England before moving to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian and became part of a circle of artists, including Anquetin, Bonnard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901). He appears in two of Lautrec's paintings of the Moulin Rouge, and like Lautrec was notoriously dissipated; his friend William Rothenstein said he was ‘often without a sou, but…never without a lady’.

In 1897 Conder settled in London, but he made frequent visits to Dieppe and Paris. His work was seen in numerous exhibitions, including one-man shows, and he became a well-known figure in the art world, but he fell seriously ill in 1906 from syphilis and stopped painting.

He is best known for landscapes, arcadian fantasies, and painted fans; Frank Rutter wrote that ‘As a water-colour painter on silk, as the creator of the most exquisite fans, Conder not only had no rival in his life-time, but no superior in the past or the present’. He also painted portraits and made a few lithographs and etchings.

In December 1891 Conder travelled to Mustapha near Algiers to recuperate from illness in a friend’s garden villa overlooking the sea. He was inspired to paint the gardens and views of Mustapha overlooking terraces and the Bay of Algiers. His Algerian pictures inaugurated a new sensitivity to symbolist colour and mood in his art. Later, Conder would suggest harem themes in some of his imagery and titles of his decorative paintings on silk panels.

His work, which is well represented in Tate, is often tinged with a feeling of fin de siècle decadence. He was influenced by Whistler, but Rothenstein commented that ‘Whistler never liked Conder and didn’t care for his work…He probably thought him too involved with his ladies of Montmartre, too fond of his absinthe.’

The painting above is “The Blue Sofa”, Oil on Canvas 86 x 112 cm painted in 1905. It depicts three voluptuous young women on a terrace quite relaxed and intent on doing nothing at all except looking, well, voluptuous. Conder’s weakness for the Bohemian lifestyle and his fondness for young, beautiful women comes to the fore in paintings such as these, which are so different to his Australian landscapes, for which he is better known here in Australia.