Saturday 19 November 2016


“Put a compass to paper and trace a circle. Then tell me which other country has such a concentration of places like Amalfi, Naples, Ischia, Procida, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and Capri.” -  Diego Della Valle

The late Baroque Neapolitan composer Francesco Mancini (16 January 1672 – 22 September 1737), although somewhat obscure now, was second only to Alessandro Scarlatti in his day. His music represents a transitional period between the Baroque and Classical eras. Mancini was mainly an opera composer who served the insatiable Neapolitan market, writing as many as 30 works for the stage, plus numerous oratorios, and a body sacred vocal music that was granted wide distribution throughout Europe. He also composed a number of flute sonatas that are still considered important in the late-Baroque repertoire of that instrument.

He must have begun his musical training early in life, for at the age of 16 he entered the Conservatorio di Maria della Pietà dei Turchini to study organ under Francesco Provenzale and under Ursino. Six years later, he was working as an organist and by 1704, he was the principal organist of the royal chapel. Mancini's career as an opera composer was already underway. His first known composition, the opera “Il Nodo Sciolto”, was completed in 1692, his next, Ariovisto, in 1702. From that time on, through shifting fortunes, he was almost constantly occupied with arranging or conducting operas, apparently to the neglect of his other ambitions.

Scarlatti vacated his position as maestro di capella at the Conservatorio in 1708. Mancini then temporarily stepped into the maestro’s shoes only to be ousted and demoted to Scarlatti’s deputy when the elder returned to the position at the end of the same year. Mancini may have worked in Scarlatti’s shadow throughout his life, but his years as deputy to him were in fact his most productive ones. He seems to have been a man more interested in his own music than in his official appointments. Because of this preoccupation with his own work, his progress in that domain was slow and he had to wait until 1725 to again become maestro, though in 1718 he received a guarantee that he’d inherit the position once it became vacant.

He was made director (a position lower than maestro) of the Conservatorio in 1720. Although none of his students are now known, he must have had hundreds of them. Around this time, Mancini seems to have been deliberately courting a relationship with the English throne through the Consul General to the Reign of Naples, John Fleetwood, because he dedicated his collection of 12 flute sonatas to him. His successful and overt cultivation of Fleetwood resulted in those sonatas being published in London in 1724. In the following year, he at last succeeded Scarlatti as maestro di capella position at the Conservatorio, but wasn’t able to enjoy his official prestige for very long; in 1735 a stroke left him semi-paralysed and he died in 1737.

His works include 29 operas, sonatas, 7 serenatas, 12 oratorios and more than 200 secular cantatas in addition to assorted sacred music and a small amount of instrumental music. Today he is best known for his recorder sonatas.

Here are two of his instrumental works:
Recorder Concerto in D minor: 1) Amoroso 2) Allegro 3) Largo 4) Allegro
Lorenzo Cavasanti – Recorder; Caroline Boersma – Cello; Sergio Ciomei – Continuo

Concerto in G minor for flute, two violins, viola and basso continuo
Tommaso Rossi – Recorder; Rossella Croce & Marco Piantoni – violins; Patrizia Varone - continuo.

Friday 18 November 2016


“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” - Robert H.Schuller

We had some visitors a few weeks ago and they brought us a home-made apple cake. As it was delicious, we also requested the recipe and it was gladly given. When we made the cake it was just as delicious, so my turn to share the recipe.

Apple Cake
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (and some more for buttering tin)
2/3 cup sugar (and some more for topping)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons brandy
2 sweet Fuji or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1 cm cubes
Icing sugar for sprinkling on top of cake (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter well a 25cm spring-form cake pan.
Cream the butter, cinnamon and sugar for about 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and brandy.
Add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined. Using a spatula, fold in the chopped apples. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool until just warm.
Run a knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. Dust with icing sugar (if using). Cake can be served warm or room temperature, with or without vanilla ice cream.
Feel free to share a recipe of your own:

Thursday 17 November 2016


“Then Maura made something with butter and Calla made something with bacon and Blue steamed broccoli in self-defense.” - Maggie Stiefvater

Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head is eaten as a vegetable. The word broccoli comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, which means “the flowering crest of a cabbage”, and is the diminutive form of brocco, meaning “small nail” or “sprout”. Broccoli is often boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw. Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea.

Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in colour, arranged in a tree-like structure branching out from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species. Broccoli is a result of careful breeding of cultivated Brassica crops in the northern Mediterranean starting in about the 6th century BC. Since the time of the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was brought to England from Antwerp in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Southern Italian immigrants, but did not become widely popular until the 1920s.

There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, often referred to simply as “broccoli”, named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool season annual crop. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Purple cauliflower is a type of broccoli sold in southern Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Australia. It has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds.

In addition to the above, there are Broccolini or “Tenderstem broccoli”, which is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. Beneforté is a variety of broccoli containing 2–3 times more glucoraphanin that was produced by crossing broccoli with a wild Brassica variety, Brassica oleracea var villosa.

Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that does poorly in hot summer weather. Broccoli grows best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 18 and 23 °C. When the cluster of flowers, also referred to as a “head” of broccoli, appear in the centre of the plant, the cluster is green. Garden pruners or shears are used to cut the head about an inch from the tip. Broccoli should be harvested before the flowers on the head bloom bright yellow. While the heading broccoli variety performs poorly in hot weather, mainly due to insect infestation, the sprouting variety is more resistant, though attention must be paid to sucking insects (such as aphids), caterpillars and whiteflies. Spraying of Bacillus thuringiensis can control caterpillar attacks, while a citronella vase may ward off whiteflies.

Like other members of the cabbage family, broccoli is healthful and nutritious. 100 gram serving of raw broccoli provides 34 kcal and is an excellent source (20% or higher of the Daily Value, DV) of vitamin C and vitamin K. Raw broccoli also contains moderate amounts (10–19% DV) of several B vitamins and the dietary mineral manganese, whereas other essential nutrients are in low content. Broccoli has low content of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and dietary fibre. 

Boiling broccoli reduces the levels of sulforaphane, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 77% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying had no significant effect on the compounds, making these cooking methods preferable to boiling. Broccoli also contains the carotenoid compounds lutein and zeaxanthin in amounts about 6 times lower than in kale.

Some recipes including broccoli here:
and also part of the Friday Greens meme.

Wednesday 16 November 2016


“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Poets United mid-week motif is “invisibility”. We are gifted with sight to see what is readily visible to all, however, relatively few people have vision and see what is invisible to most. We are surrounded by optical illusions, distorting mirrors and smoke screens in a world that has become more and more shrouded in deception and falseness. What is true, fundamental and crucial to us lies hidden and invisible. To see the essential we have to use more than our eyes…
Here is my poem:

The Invisible

The eyes are blind to the essential
And that is why we must have an open heart,
With which to see the invisible.

A beautiful face can hide an evil mind,
And that is why we must have a pure soul
With which to sense the invisible.

Hypocrisy, flattery, cant are rife
And that is why we must have wisdom,
With which to reason the invisible.

Sweet words and lulling music dull our ears,
And that is why we must have clean hands
With which to feel the invisible.

The world around us is corrupt and filled with devils,
And that is why we need faith and love and hope
With which to make the invisible, visible;
To make the hidden manifest;
To uncover the truth obscured by lies;
To find the innocent amongst the damned.

Tuesday 15 November 2016


“We have to find compromises. That's the way it is in Norway.” - Kjell Magne Bondevik

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.

Oslo is the capital and the most populous city in Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040, and established as a “kaupstad” or trading place in 1048 by King Harald III, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 and with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 reduced its influence. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, the city was moved closer to Akershus Fortress during the reign of King Christian IV and renamed Christiania in his honour.

It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. Following a spelling reform, it was known as Kristiania from 1877 to 1925, at which time its original Norwegian name was restored. Oslo is the economic and governmental centre of Norway. The city is also a hub of Norwegian trade, banking, industry and shipping. It is an important centre for maritime industries and maritime trade in Europe. The city is home to many companies within the maritime sector, some of which are among the world’s largest shipping companies, shipbrokers and maritime insurance brokers.

Oslo is a pilot city of the Council of Europe and the European Commission intercultural cities programme. Oslo is considered a global city and ranked “Beta World City” in studies carried out by the Globalisation and World Cities Study Group and Network in 2008. It was ranked number one in terms of quality of life among European large cities in the European Cities of the Future 2012 report by fDi magazine. A survey conducted by ECA International in 2011 placed Oslo as the second most expensive city in the world for living expenses after Tokyo. In 2013 Oslo tied with the Australian city of Melbourne as the fourth most expensive city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)'s Worldwide Cost of Living study.

As of January 1, 2016, the municipality of Oslo has a population of 658,390, while the population of the city’s urban area was 942,084. The metropolitan area had an estimated population of 1.71 million. The population is currently increasing at record rates, making it the fastest growing major city in Europe. This growth stems for the most part from international immigration and related high birth rates, but also from intra-national migration. The immigrant population in the city is growing somewhat faster than the Norwegian population, and in the city proper this is now more than 25% of the total.

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 14 November 2016


“I love conspiracy theories. I used to just live on it. You know it’s all hype and garbage, but you’re still really paranoid afterwards. It’s fun entertainment.” - Doug Stanhope

We watched an amusing film at the weekend. Pure escapist nonsense, but we weren’t in the mood for anything else and this one seemed to be just the thing. On reflection, it wasn’t quite politically correct and it gave conflicting messages, but it was enough of a spoof to give it the ultimate thumbs up. However, one has to worry about subliminal messages delivered and how these are perceived by younger audiences…

It was the 2010 Robert Schwentke comedy/action movie “RED”, starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban, Rebecca Pidgeon, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine. Yes, the old familiar faces kept popping up throughout the movie. The screenplay was based on a graphic novel and one could detect the excesses of violence and action that these are replete with.

RED refers to “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” and this describes perfectly Francis, or Frank to his friends (Bruce Willis). He is a retired, bored, and lonely ex-CIA agent living off his government pension in an ordinary house in an ordinary suburb of an ordinary town. The only highlight in Frank’s life is his calls to the government pension processing centre when he gets to talk to his case worker, Sarah (Mary-Louis Parker). Sarah is as bored and lonely as Frank and marks her conversations with the unknown Frank and her spy novels as the only things fun in her life.

Suddenly out of the blue, Frank is attacked in his home by some armed CIA agents who obviously want him utterly dead. Frank’s old skills ensure he survives, but he goes to meet Sarah as he perceives she is also under threat. An initially reluctant Sarah is taken by Frank in tow as he tries to discover who wants them dead and why. Along the way, Frank’s ex-colleagues (Freeman, Malkovich, Mirren) join them and the intrigue is gradually uncovered. Along the way, the motley crew of REDs have to deal with CIA baddies Cooper (Urban) and Wilkes (Pidgeon) who are desperately trying to liquidate them.

The film is violent and there is a lot of use of weaponry of every description, meaning there are lots of bullets flying all the time, explosions, chases, bloody altercations, deaths and vaporisations. This action is quite extreme, to the extent that it resembles comic book violence although people are show to be injured and killed. Although there is presentation of a baddie as an illegal arms dealer, the use of lethal weaponry by the good guys is widespread as well. As I said this gave me a conflicting message and one has to question the film’s advocation of the use of weapons by “good guys” as a good thing. The whole USA gun-thing and the “right to bear arms” reared its ugly head, but we couldn’t be bothered to take issue with that.

The bottom line is, if the film is not taken seriously it is good entertainment value. The acting is good and the actors have fun with the excesses of the plot and the send-up of the whole action/spy/shoot-‘em-up genre. Willis has his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek as he plays a comedy part that sends up similar “serious” roles he played before, and Malkovich steals every scene he appears in, playing a mentally deranged conspiracy theorist who refuses to retire peacefully from the CIA. The direction is suitably light, but also tight and the action scenes are well staged and suspense does build up. There is a running joke with postcards from the places the REDs go to and the movie is almost like a road trip that wreaks havoc in every place they stop.

If you watch this film and expect Shakespeare, you’ll be disappointed. If you are on some high and mighty morality bandwagon you will abhor the movie, vilify the director, pour scorn on the actors and excommunicate the writers. If you are an intellectual and expect witticisms, subtle humour and delightful repartee, go watch a Shaw play. If you begin with low expectations, have an hour and a half to pass, take this film lightly and with a grain of salt, you’ll quite probably be entertained. It is a comic book tale for grown ups, requires no thinking and you’ll enjoy it as long as you suspend belief and engage in a forgiving move. Otherwise go watch an Ingmar Bergman film…

Sunday 13 November 2016


“The road to freedom lies not through mysteries or occult performances, but through the intelligent use of natural forces and laws.” - Ernest Holmes

Fernand Khnopff, in full Fernand-Edmond-Jean-Marie Khnopff (born September 12, 1858, Grembergen, near Termonde, Belgium—died November 12, 1921, Brussels) was a Belgian painter, draughtsman, photographer, sculptor, and writer associated with Symbolism and known best for his paintings that blend precise realism with an ethereal dreamlike atmosphere.

Khnopff was one of three siblings and was born into a well-to-do family. He spent his childhood in the old Belgian city of Bruges, a place that he was obviously impressed by and would feature in many of his works later in life. The family then moved to Brussels, spending summers in the country in Fosset, Belgium, another place appeared in his paintings later in life.

In 1875 he set out to study law at the Free University of Brussels, but within a year he left to study art and literature at that city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. There he studied painting with Xavier Mellery. Throughout his years at the academy, Khnopff spent his summers in Paris to broaden his studies in the arts, and at the 1878 Exposition Universelle (world’s fair) he discovered works by Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones and by Symbolist Gustave Moreau, artists who would have a major impact on the direction of his painting career.

His painting career began with landscapes, which he began exhibiting in 1881 with the Belgian exhibition society called “L’Essor”, and by 1882 he was showing his own Symbolist works, many of which had subjects that were inspired by literature, especially by the writings of Gustave Flaubert. He soon found the support of poet Émile Verhaeren, who went on to connect Khnopff to the writers and poets of “La Jeune Belgique”, Brussels’s avant-garde literary review that led to a movement of the same name.

In 1883 Khnopff became a founding member of the Belgian avant-garde artists’ group “Les Vingt”, which at its founding included 19 other artists, James Ensor among them. Khnopff created notable works such as “Listening to Schumann” (1883), “After Joséphin Péladan: The Supreme Vice” (ca 1884), and “In Fosset. An Evening” (1886). “After Joséphin Péladan: The Supreme Vice” served as the frontispiece to French writer and Symbolist Joséphin Péladan’s popular erotic novel “Le Vice supreme” (1884).

By the time Les Vingt dissolved in 1893, Khnopff’s career had taken off. While holding a firm position within the avant-garde circles of Brussels, he also became known as a portraitist of the city’s elite. His best-known portraits from that period include “Portrait of Jeanne Kéfer” (1885), “Portrait of Marie Monnom” (1887), “Portrait of Jeanne de Bauer (1890), and “Portrait of the Children of Louis Nève” (1893). Khnopff used his sister Marguerite as a model repeatedly, even after her death when he used his photographs of her as guides. In 1896 he painted “The Caresses” (The Sphinx), his best-known work. The painting’s subject is an interpretation of Moreau’s “Oedipus and the Sphinx” (1864) and features a hybrid human-leopard nestled next to an androgynous Oedipus.

Khnopff designed a lavish house and studio for himself at 41 rue des Courses in Brussels (demolished 1936). During the decade beginning in 1903, he collaborated regularly with Brussels opera house Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, designing costumes, scenery, and sets for many productions. He also decorated interiors for landmark buildings in Brussels: Stoclet House and the Hôtel de Ville, Saint-Gilles.

In his paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures of the 1900s, he continued to focus on mythological subjects and themes of introspection, memory, temptation, and mystery. Reflecting an ongoing interest in dreams and sleep, he turned to the Greek god of sleep Hypnos numerous times as a subject in his paintings and sculptures. Through the early 1910s he exhibited widely throughout Europe to great acclaim. Khnopff stayed in Brussels during World War I (1914–18), and, though his health and eyesight were declining, he taught painting classes, wrote on art and artists, and continued to create his own works.

The drawing above is titled “The Offering” and is drawn in pastel, graphite, and chalk on paper (34.9 x 74.9 cm), exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY City. A nude woman makes an offering to a portrait bust on an altar. She looks out as though the viewer’s appearance has interrupted her ritual. Khnopff’s Symbolism mixed an admiration for medieval and Renaissance imagery with a fascination with the occult, ritual, and the dream world. The altar here resembles one in his home, created to revere Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. The blue cartouche at the centre is inscribed with a partially effaced NEVER MORE—a quote from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. This soft pastel drawing is characteristic of Khnopff’s muted and hazy style.