Saturday 23 July 2016


“Nothing comes ahead of its time, and nothing ever happened that didn’t need to happen.” - Byron Katie

Jean-Joseph de Mondonville (25 December 1711 [baptized] – 8 October 1772), also known as Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville, was a French violinist and composer. He was a younger contemporary of Jean-Philippe Rameau and enjoyed great success in his day. Pierre-Louis Daquin (son of the composer Louis-Claude Daquin) claimed: “If I couldn't be Rameau, there's no one I would rather be than Mondonville”.

Mondonville was born in Narbonne in Southwest France to an aristocratic family, which had fallen on hard times. In 1733 he moved to Paris where he gained the patronage of the king’s mistress Madame de Pompadour and won several musical posts, including violinist for the Concert Spirituel. His first opus was a volume of violin sonatas, published in 1733. He became a violinist of the Chapelle Royale and chamber and performed in some 100 concerts; some of his grands motets were also performed that year receiving considerable acclaim.

He was appointed sous-maître in 1740 and then, in 1744, intendant of the Royal Chapel. He produced operas and grands motets for the Opéra and Concert Spirituel respectively, and was associated with the Théatre des Petits-Cabinets, all the while maintaining his career as a violinist throughout the 1740s. In 1755, he became director of the Concert Spirituel on the death of Pancrace Royer. Mondonville died in Belleville near Paris at the age of sixty.

Between 1734 and 1755 Mondonville composed 17 grands motets, of which only nine have survived. The motet "Venite Exultemus Domino", published in 1740, won him the post of Maître de Musique de la Chapelle (Master of Music of the Chapel). Thanks to his mastery of both orchestral and vocal music, Mondonville brought to the grand motet—the dominant genre of music in the repertory of the Chapelle Royale before the French Revolution—an intensity of colour and a dramatic quality hitherto unknown.

Although Mondonville’s first stage work, “Isbé”, was a failure, he enjoyed great success with the lighter forms of French Baroque opera: the opéra-ballet and the pastorale héroïque. His most popular works were “Le carnaval de Parnasse”, “Titon et l’Aurore” and “Daphnis et Alcimadure” (for which Mondonville wrote his own libretto in Languedocien - his native Occitan dialect). “Titon et l’Aurore” played an important role in the Querelle des Bouffons, the controversy between partisans of French and Italian opera which raged in Paris in the early 1750s. Members of the “French party” ensured that Titon’s premiere was a resounding success (their opponents even alleged they had guaranteed this result by packing the Académie Royale de Musique, where the staging took place, with royal soldiers).

Mondonville's one foray into serious French opera - the genre known as tragédie en musique - was a failure however. He took the unusual step of re-using a libretto, “Thésée”, which had originally been set in 1675 by the “father of French opera”, Jean-Baptiste Lully. Mondonville’s bold move to substitute Lully’s much-loved music with his own did not pay off. The premiere at the court in 1765 had a mixed reception and a public performance two years later ended with the audience demanding it be replaced by the original. Yet Mondonville was merely ahead of his time; in the 1770s, it became fashionable to reset Lully’s tragedies with new music, the most famous example being “Armide” by Gluck.

Here are his Opus 3, Six Sonatas performed by Les Musiciens du Louvre directed by Marc Minkowski with Anton Steck (leader & concertino violin).

Friday 22 July 2016


“Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.” - Shirley Conran

Although we eat mainly slow-cooked food that is prepared from scratch, occasionally time constraints or impromptu visits necessitate some fast food solutions that usually involve raids to the well-stocked pantry and fridge. A few cans of tinned soup and tinned vegetables are usually on reserve and there is milk and/or cream in the fridge that can be put to good use. The garden has a stock of fresh salad vegetables and herbs for a quick salad. Here is a very rapidly concocted cream of mushroom soup that is enhanced by various additions that make it taste a little better than fresh out of the can.

Quick Cream of Mushroom Soup
420 g can of cream of mushroom soup
220 g can of sliced mushrooms in butter sauce
100 mL cream
100 mL milk
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried coriander leaves
1/2 tsp mace powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste

In large saucepan, warm the sliced mushrooms in butter sauce thoroughly and add the herbs and spices, stirring thoroughly. Add the canned soup and keep stirring, warming the soup over medium heat.
Add the milk and cream and keep heating while stirring. Season with salt and extra pepper to taste. You may dilute with a little warm water if desired to make the soup thinner. Keep hot until ready to serve. Garnish with parsley, sliced mushrooms or ground mace. Accompany with seasonal green salad and fresh, crusty bread.

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Thursday 21 July 2016


“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, Remember me to one who lives there, She once was a true love of mine.” – English Folk Song

Thyme is an evergreen herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The most common variety is Thymus vulgaris. Thyme is of the genus Thymus of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and a relative of the oregano genus Origanum.

Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs. In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. In this period, women also often gave knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.

Thyme is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or dividing rooted sections of the plant. It tolerates drought well. The plants can take deep freezes and are found growing wild on mountain highlands. Along the Italian Riviera, it is found from sea level up to 800 m.

In some Levantine countries, and Assyria, the condiment za’atar (Arabic for thyme) contains thyme as a vital ingredient. It is a common component of the bouquet garni, and of herbes de Provence. Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. While summer-seasonal, fresh greenhouse thyme is often available year round. The fresh form is more flavourful, but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. Although the fresh form only lasts a week or two under refrigeration, it can last many months if carefully frozen. Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. It is composed of a woody stem with paired leaf or flower clusters (“leaves”) spaced 2-4 cm apart. A recipe may measure thyme by the bunch (or fraction thereof), or by the sprig, or by the tablespoon or teaspoon. Dried thyme is widely used in Armenia in tisanes (called urc). Thyme retains its flavour on drying better than many other herbs.

Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), contains 20–54% thymol. Thyme essential oil also contains a range of additional compounds, such as p-cymene, myrcene, borneol, and linalool. Thymol, an antiseptic, is an active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as Listerine. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages. It has also been shown to be effective against various fungi that commonly infect toenails. Thymol can also be found as the active ingredient in some all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitisers. A tisane made by infusing the herb in water can be used for coughs and bronchitis.

Thymus serpyllum (wild thyme, creeping thyme) is an important nectar source plant for honeybees. All thyme species are nectar sources, but wild thyme covers large areas of droughty, rocky soils in southern Europe (both Greece and Malta are especially famous for wild thyme honey) and North Africa, as well as in similar landscapes in the Berkshire and Catskill Mountains of the northeastern US. The lowest growing of the widely used thyme is good for walkways. It is also an important caterpillar food plant for large and common blue butterflies.

Thymus citriodorus has several hybrid varieties including lemon thyme, orange thyme, lime thyme, all with strong, citrus-like aromas. These can be used in flavouring food in place of common thyme, if a citrus-like aroma is desired.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of flowering thyme means “take courage, be strong”, while a sprig of non-flowering thyme has the meaning: “Sleep well, have a good rest.”

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

Wednesday 20 July 2016


“Voting is a civic sacrament.” - TheodoreHesburgh

The theme of Poets United this week is political and social! Participants are asked to write a poem that exposes and/or challenges suffrage. A challenging theme perhaps, but I feel strongly about the right and responsibility to vote and this topic is particularly topical as we have recently had a cliffhanger of a Federal Election in which the Liberal incumbents were re-elected by a narrow margin. In Australia voting is compulsory and non-voters pay a fine. After some reflection, I wrote my poetical contribution which is given below:

My Vote

I don’t have time to vote –
Why should I anyway,
One vote won’t matter;
I’d rather pay the fine,
Than waste my time.

A drop in the ocean
Will not make a difference.
One drop more or less
Will hardly change the volume;
Yet the ocean is made up of so many drops.

One person cannot change the world –
So why should I bother?
My voice crying in the wilderness,
My words wasted…
And yet the voice of truth has many an attentive ear.

I made time to vote,
My vote was counted,
I was no donkey, no absentee.
That my candidate was not elected
Will not deter me from voting again, and again…

Tuesday 19 July 2016


“You have your brush, you have your colours, you paint the paradise, then in you go.” - Nikos Kazantzakis

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.
Agios Nikolaos or Aghios Nikolaos (Greek: Άγιος Νικόλαος = St Nicholas) is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island’s capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2011, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed 27,074 inhabitants. The town is a municipality of Crete region, and sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato pros Kamara.

Agios Nikolaos was settled in the late Bronze Age by Dorian occupants of Lato, at a time when the security of the Lato hillfort became a lesser concern and easy access to the harbour at Agios Nikolaos became more important. The name Agios Nikolaos is a common place-name in Greece and Cyprus, since Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and of all of Greece.

Near the town there’s the archaeological site of ancient Priniatikos Pyrgos. It appears to have been first settled in the Final Neolithic, circa 3000 BC. Activity on the site continued throughout the Minoan Bronze Age and the Classical Greek and Roman periods, spanning a total of up to 4,000 years. Since 2007, Priniatikos Pyrgos has been undergoing excavation by an international team under the auspices of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens. 

Agios Nikolaos is probably best known as a tourist town that serves as a hub to the twenty or so small villages and farms that make up that part of Lassithi. Tourist attractions include the small lagoon Lake Voulismeni, small beaches in the town, the tiny island Agioi Pantes, the archaeological museum, the local flora exhibition “Iris” and numerous fairs. Just a short ferry ride away from Agios Nikolaos is the island of Spinalonga, an old Venetian fortress turned ex-leper colony in the beginning of the 20th century.

Tourism is mainly West European with Greek tourism concentrated in mid August, though there is a considerable number of Russian vacationers in East Crete. The lagoon features a small park with a trail, traditional fishing boats, ducks, pigeons, an amphitheatre and many cafés. The modern city of Agios Nikolaos became internationally well-known during the 60's, when it was “discovered” by famous film-makers (Jules Dassin, Walt Disney etc.), BBC producers and many others. It was then that the rapid tourist development of the area started. Daphne du Maurier’s short story “Not After Midnight” was set in and around the town.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby 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 18 July 2016


“Television isn’t inherently good or bad. You go to a bookstore, there are how many thousands of books, but how many of those do you want? Five? Television’s the same way. If you’re going to show people stuff, television is the way to go. Words and pictures show things.” - Bill Nye

I have been rather busy lately and haven’t had a chance to watch a movie. What time we have available to watch TV, we generally spend on catching the news and/or a current affairs program and then we continue watching the TV series I wrote about last Monday (I promise I will review that as soon as we finish watching it).

In the meantime, it’s interesting to ask readers here something that has intrigued me a little. When we visited an acquaintance’s house the other day, the TV was playing in the background while we were there. This was something completely bizarre for us, because as soon as our visitors ring our doorbell the TV goes off and stays off if we had been watching. However, these people had it playing in the background while we were desperately trying to have a conversation. When I said something to the effect of turning the TV off, I was told that their TV was on all day “just in case something interesting came up or if there was a news flash about anything”. At least I managed to convince them to turn the sound down…

I think I would go crazy if the TV was on in the background all the time. Our TV viewing tends to be planned and limited to certain times of the day or evening. The rest of the time it is turned off – completely off! Even if it’s on, I find that the commercial stations are quite annoying and the advertisements really grate on my nerves. I may be getting old and crotchety and less forgiving of various things, but the TV advertisement seem to be exploring new depths of bathos, nowadays. That’s why we tend to watch the state-run channel, which as well as no advertisements seems to have better programming too.

So I ask, do you have the TV on all the time when you are home or do you plan your TV viewing around the programs you want to watch?

Sunday 17 July 2016


“I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality” – Frida Kahlo

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon, as her name appears on her birth certificate was born on July 6, 1907 in the house of her parents, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacan. At the time, this was a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo (1872-1941), was born Carl Wilhelm Kahlo in Pforzheim, Germany. He was the son of the painter and goldsmith Jakob Heinrich Kahlo and Henriett E. Kaufmann. Kahlo claimed her father was of Jewish and Hungarian ancestry, but a 2005 book on Guillermo Kahlo, ‘Fridas Vater’ (Schirmer/Mosel, 2005), states that he was descended from a long line of German Lutherans.

Wilhelm Kahlo sailed to Mexico in 1891 at the age of nineteen and, upon his arrival, changed his German forename, Wilhelm, to its Spanish equivalent, Guillermo. During the late 1930s, in the face of rising Nazism in Germany, Frida acknowledged and asserted her German heritage by spelling her name, Frieda (an allusion to ‘Frieden’, which means ‘peace’ in German). Frida’s mother, Matilde Calderon y Gonzalez, was a devout Catholic of primarily indigenous, as well as Spanish descent.

Frida’s parents were married shortly after the death of Guillermo’s first wife during the birth of her second child. Although their marriage was quite unhappy, Guillermo and Matilde had four daughters, with Frida being the third. She had two older half sisters. Frida once remarked that she grew up in a world surrounded by females. Throughout most of her life, however, Frida remained close to her father. The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 when Kahlo was three years old. Later, however, Kahlo claimed that she was born in 1910 so people would directly associate her with the revolution.

In her writings, she recalled that her mother would usher her and her sisters inside the house as gunfire echoed in the streets of her hometown, which was extremely poor at the time. Occasionally, men would leap over the walls into their backyard and sometimes her mother would prepare a meal for the hungry revolutionaries. Kahlo contracted polio at age six, which left her right leg thinner than the left, which Kahlo disguised by wearing long skirts. It has been conjectured that she also suffered from spina bifida, a congenital disease that could have affected both spinal and leg development. As a girl, she participated in boxing and other sports. 

In 1922, Kahlo was enrolled in the Preparatoria, one of Mexico’s premier schools, where she was one of only thirty-five girls. Kahlo joined a gang at the school and fell in love with the leader, Alejandro Gomez Arias. During this period, Kahlo also witnessed violent armed struggles in the streets of Mexico City as the Mexican Revolution continued.

After the accident, Frida Kahlo turned her attention away from the study of medicine to begin a full-time painting career. The accident left her in a great deal of pain while she recovered in a full body cast; she painted to occupy her time during her temporary state of immobilisation. Her self-portraits became a dominant part of her life when she was immobile for three months after her accident. Frida Kahlo once said, “I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best”. Her mother had a special easel made for her so she could paint in bed, and her father lent her his box of oil paints and some brushes.

Drawing on personal experiences, including her marriage, her miscarriages, and her numerous operations, Kahlo’s works often are characterised by their stark portrayals of pain. Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits, which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. Kahlo was deeply influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, which is apparent in her use of bright colors and dramatic symbolism. She frequently included the symbolic monkey. In Mexican mythology, monkeys are symbols of lust, yet Kahlo portrayed them as tender and protective symbols.

Christian and Jewish themes are often depicted in her work. She combined elements of the classic religious Mexican tradition with surrealist renderings. At the invitation of Andre Breton, she went to France in 1939 and was featured at an exhibition of her paintings in Paris. The Louvre bought one of her paintings, ‘The Frame’, which was displayed at the exhibit. This was the first work by a 20th century Mexican artist ever purchased by the internationally renowned museum.

As a young artist, Kahlo approached the famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, whose work she admired, asking him for advice about pursuing art as a career. He immediately recognised her talent and her unique expression as truly special and uniquely Mexican. He encouraged her development as an artist and soon began an intimate relationship with Frida. They were married in 1929, despite the disapproval of Frida’s mother. They often were referred to as The Elephant and the Dove, a nickname that originated when Kahlo’s father used it to express their extreme difference in size.

Their marriage often was tumultuous. Notoriously, both Kahlo and Rivera had fiery temperaments and both had numerous extramarital affairs. The openly bisexual Kahlo had affairs with both men (including Leon Trotsky) and women; Rivera knew of and tolerated her relationships with women, but her relationships with men made him jealous. For her part, Kahlo became outraged when she learned that Rivera had an affair with her younger sister, Cristina. The couple eventually divorced, but remarried in 1940. Their second marriage was as turbulent as the first. Their living quarters often were separate, although sometimes adjacent.

Active communist sympathisers, Kahlo and Rivera befriended Leon Trotsky as he sought political sanctuary from Joseph Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union. Initially, Trotsky lived with Rivera and then at Kahlo’s home, where they reportedly had an affair. Trotsky and his wife then moved to another house in Coyoacan where, later, he was assassinated.

A few days before Frida Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, she wrote in her diary: “I hope the exit is joyful - and I hope never to return – Frida”. The official cause of death was given as pulmonary embolism, although some suspected that she died from overdose that may or may not have been accidental. An autopsy was never performed. She had been very ill throughout the previous year and her right leg had been amputated at the knee, owing to gangrene. She also had a bout of bronchopneumonia near that time, which had left her quite frail.

Later, in his autobiography, Diego Rivera wrote that the day Kahlo died was the most tragic day of his life, adding that, too late, he had realised that the most wonderful part of his life had been his love for her. A pre-Columbian urn holding her ashes is on display in her former home, La Casa Azul, in Coyoacan. Today it is a museum housing a number of her works of art and numerous relics from her personal life.

The painting above is the “Self-Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States”, painted in 1932. Kahlo depicts her place as Mexican cultural renaissance overlapped with the promotion of regionalism in the United States. Her powerful and stoic portrayal of her own pain and the redemptive power of the feminine offered a peculiarly surrealist modernism to North America. Kahlo stands on the border of Mexico and the United States and pitched pre-Columbian society against Fordist industrial advance.