Friday 16 December 2016


“People are either born hosts or born guests.” - Max Beerbohm 

Have you had unexpected guests landing on your doorstep and suddenly they’re staying for lunch? We’ve had this happen to us and fortunately we’ve had enough in the fridge and pantry to serve this to them. With a glass of white wine and some green garden salad it’s a lovely light lunch!

Drop Scones with Smoked Salmon

125 g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp melted butter
150 ml milk
4 tsp vegetable oil 
To serve:
Pieces of smoked salmon
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Dill leaves
Sour cream
Chopped chives

Put the flour in a bowl and stir in the cardamom and salt. Make a well in the centre, and add the egg, melted butter and a little of the milk. Gradually stir the flour into the liquids and add the remaining milk a little at a time, to make a fairly thick, smooth batter. Let the batter rest for a few minutes.
Takes the smoked salmon pieces and squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over them and add a tablespoon of olive oil and the dill leaves. Allow to marinade while you cook the drop scones.
Heat a large shallow dish in a low oven, then turn off the heat and line the dish with a tea towel (this is for keeping the cooked drop scones warm). Heat a griddle or large, heavy-based frying pan over a moderate heat and grease it with 1 teaspoon of oil.
Using a dessertspoon, pour the batter from the pointed end (rather than the side of the spoon) to make neat, round drop scones. Depending on the size of the griddle, you should be able to cook 4–6 at once, but make sure you leave enough space round them so you can turn them easily. Cook for about 2 minutes or until almost set and bubbles are breaking on the surface; the pancakes should be golden brown underneath.
Using a palette knife, turn the pancakes over and cook for a further 1–2 minutes or until golden brown on the other side. Transfer to the prepared dish, wrap in the tea towel and keep warm while you cook the remaining scones. Grease the griddle lightly with 1 teaspoon of oil before cooking each batch.
To serve, place the drop scones on the plate, add the drained salmon pieces on top, putting a dollop of sour cream on top and sprinkling some chopped chives over the lot.

Thursday 15 December 2016


“You wouldn't wish hardship on anyone, but when it comes, you would be crazy not to see the huge growth that will come from it.” - Michael Leunig 

Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, between 50 and 67 species of juniper are widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa, from Ziarat, Pakistan east to eastern Tibet in the Old World, and in the mountains of Central America. The highest-known Juniper forest occurs at an altitude of 4,900 m in south-eastern Tibet and the northern Himalayas, creating one of the highest tree-lines on earth.

Juniperus communis, the common juniper, is a species of conifer in the genus Juniperus, and has the largest geographical range of any woody plant, with a circumpolar distribution throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic south in mountains to around 30°N latitude in North America, Europe and Asia. Relict populations can be found in the Atlas Mountains of Africa.

The common juniper is a small coniferous evergreen tree or shrub, very variable in form, ranging from 10 m (rarely 16 m) tall to a low, often prostrate spreading shrub in exposed locations. It has needle-like leaves in whorls of three; the leaves are green, with a single white stomatal band on the inner surface. It never attains adult foliage. It is dioecious, with male and female cones, which are wind pollinated, on separate plants.

The fruit are berry-like cones, initially green, ripening in 18 months to purple-black with a blue waxy coating; they are spherical, 4–12 mm diameter, and usually have three (occasionally six) fleshy fused scales, each scale with a single seed. The seeds are dispersed when birds eat the cones, digesting the fleshy scales and passing the hard, unwinged seeds in their droppings. The male cones are yellow, 2–3 mm long, and fall soon after shedding their pollen in March–April.

Juniperus communis
is cultivated in the horticulture trade and used as an evergreen ornamental shrub in gardens. Several cultivars gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 1993. The tree is too small to have any general lumber usage. In Scandinavia, however, juniper wood is used for making containers for storing small quantities of dairy products such as butter and cheese, and also for making wooden butter knives. It was also frequently used for trenails in wooden shipbuilding by shipwrights for its tough properties.

In Estonia juniper wood is valued for its long lasting and pleasant aroma, very decorative natural structure of wood (growth rings) as well as good physical properties of wood due to slow growth rate of juniper and resulting dense and strong wood. Various decorative items (often eating utensils) are common in most Estonian handicraft shops and households. According to the old tradition, on Easter Monday Kashubian (Northern Poland) boys chase girls whipping their legs gently with juniper twigs. This is to bring good fortune in love to the chased girls.

The astringent blue-black seed cones of juniper, commonly known as “juniper berries”, are too bitter to eat raw and are usually sold dried and used to flavour meats, sauces, and stuffings. They are generally crushed before use to release their flavour. Since juniper berries have a strong taste, they should be used sparingly. They are generally used to enhance meat with a strong flavour, such as game, including game birds, deer and wild boar, or tongue.

The cones are used to flavour certain beers and gin (the word “gin” derives from “genevre” an Old French word meaning “juniper”). In Finland, juniper is used as a key ingredient in making sahti, a traditional Finnish ale. Also the Slovak alcoholic beverage Borovička and Dutch Genever are flavoured with juniper berry or its extract. Juniper is used in the traditional farmhouse ales of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. In Norway, the beer is brewed with juniper infusion instead of water, while in the other countries the juniper twigs are mainly used in the mash, as filters to prevent the crushed malts from clogging the outlet of the mashing tun.

Juniper berries have long been used as medicine by many cultures including the Navajo people. Western American tribes combined the berries of Juniperus communis with Berberis root bark in a herbal tea. Native Americans also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive. Oil of Juniper is used in various preparations as a diuretic, stomachic, and carminative in indigestion, flatulence, and diseases of the kidney and bladder. The oil mixed with lard is also used in veterinary practice as an application to exposed wounds and prevents irritation from flies. The chief use of Juniper was as an adjuvant to diuretics in dropsy depending on heart, liver or kidney disease. It imparts a violet odour to the urine, and large doses may cause irritation to the passages. An infusion of 1 oz. to 1 pint of boiling water used to be taken in the course of twenty-four hours.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of non-seed-bearing juniper indicates “you are strong and hardy and can withstand hardship in order to protect those whom you love.”. A juniper berry-bearing sprig means: “your beauty and strength is matched by your sharp wit.”

Wednesday 14 December 2016


“In music the passions enjoy themselves.” - Friedrich Nietzsche 

This week, PoetsUnited has as its Midweek Motif the theme of “Music”. Music is very much a part of my life – listening to it, playing it, composing it, so it is easy for me to write to this theme. Here is my contribution: 

Music in the Night 

In the stillness of the night
To the silvern moon’s delight
Sweetly does the flute resound
Spilling music all around.

Ebon skin and hair that shimmers
Shiny glance that softly glimmers,
Sinuous and sweet’s the air
Luring beasts from out their lair.

Music makes the jungle tame
Calms and yet ignites a flame.
Music soothes the savage beast
Rouses passions in the priest.

Neath the moon’s resplendent orb
Flowers music’s strains absorb.
Snakes start to slither, slide, 
Straight up the flautist glide.

She charms serpent, beast and bird
With her music not her word;
Now the snakes around her creep
Up they climb, roused from sleep.

Music heals the deepest wound
Makes the air around perfumed.
Music calls to arms and strife,
Yet assassins drop their knife.

And each gentle leaf unfurls,
Flower twines and softly curls;
As the music upwards floats
Rhythm, melody, sweet notes.

In the stillness of the night
To the silvern moon’s delight
Sweetly does the flute resound
Spilling music all around.

Tuesday 13 December 2016


“India has always had a strange way with her conquerors. In defeat, she beckons them in, then slowly seduces, assimilates and transforms them.” - William Dalrymple 

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.
Sri Harmandir Sahib (The abode of God), also Sri Darbar Sahib and informally referred to as the “Golden Temple”, is the holiest Gurdwara (place of worship) of Sikhism, located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Amritsar (literally, the tank of nectar of immortality) was founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan, designed the Harmandir Sahib to be built in the centre of this holy tank, and upon its construction, installed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, inside the Harmandir Sahib.

The Harmandir Sahib complex is also home to the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one, constituted by the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind). While the Harmandir Sahib is regarded as the abode of God's spiritual attribute, the Akal Takht is the seat of God's temporal authority. The construction of Harmandir Sahib was intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally. Accordingly, as a gesture of this non-sectarian universalness of Sikhism, Guru Arjan had specially invited Muslim Sufi saint, Hazrat Mian Mir to lay the foundation stone of the Harmandir Sahib. The four entrances (representing the four directions) to get into the Harmandir Sahib also symbolise the openness of the Sikhs towards all people and religions.

Over 100,000 people visit the holy shrine daily for worship, and also partake jointly in the free community kitchen and meal (Langar) regardless of any distinctions, a tradition that is a hallmark of all Sikh Gurdwaras. The present-day gurdwara was renovated in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with the help of other Sikh Misls. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and its English name.

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 12 December 2016


“How did such sublime music come from such a warped man? Maybe art really does have the power to ferret out the best in us.” – Anthony Tommasini 

Richard Wagner was born in Germany on May 22, 1813, went on to become one of the world’s most influential (and controversial!) composers. He is famous for both his epic operas, including the four-part, 18-hour Ring Cycle, as well as for his anti-semitic writings, which, posthumously, made him a favourite of Adolf Hitler. There is evidence that Wagner’s music was played at the Dachau concentration camp to “re-educate” the prisoners. Wagner had a tumultuous love life, which involved several scandalous affairs. He died of a heart attack in Venice on February 13, 1883.

Wagner is not one of favourite composers, although some of his music can be rousing and emotionally charged, occasionally sublime and in some instances abhorrently noisy. You can either love or hate Richard Wagner, but in any case he is not one to ignore. It is perhaps unfortunate that Wagner was the favourite composer of Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have seen Wagner’s opera “Rienzi” at least 40 times. This coupled with the use of Wagner’s music for Nazi ceremonial occasions and “rehabilitation” purposes of concentration camp inmates have stained Wagner’s reputation in terms of anti-Semitic sentiments.

We watched the 2010 Patrick McGrady documentary “Wagner and Me” starring Stephen Fry in which Wagner’s life, oeuvre and life perspective are explored in terms of Fry’s reaction to the man and his music. As such, the documentary examines more Stephen Fry’s life and psychology rather than Wagner’s. It is very much Wagner viewed through Fry’s eyes, or more importantly, listened to via Fry’s ears.

Stephen Fry first fell in love with the music of Wagner when he was 14 and thus began a lifetime’s intense enjoyment and involvement for the music.  The complicating factor is that Stephen Fry is Jewish and has lost family members in the Holocaust at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Therein lies the conflict in Fry’s enjoyment of the music of a man who clearly had hateful views about the Jews and whose music was tainted by its association with the Nazis later on.

The documentary is beautifully shot and offers amazing views of Bayreuth in preparation for the annual Festival in which performances of operas by Wagner are held. There is also footage of Nuremberg, which is famous for Hitler’s massive Nazi rallies. While many historians, musicians, Holocaust survivors and performers are interviewed, the documentary is primarily Stephen Fry’s. It is an almost apologetic and embarrassing admission by Fry that despite everything he still loves Wagner’s music…

While there are glimpses of Wagner’s life and some performances of small parts of his work, Wagner music lovers may well be disappointed by this documentary because it more about Fry than about Wagner. Nevertheless, we found it an excellent introduction to the composer and his music, with the ambivalence of Fry’s views acting as a means of resolving the thorny of issue of balance: On the one hand there is artistic and creative genius, and on the other political views and prejudices that may influence the listener’s perception of the music…

Sunday 11 December 2016


“The day, water, sun, moon, night - I do not have to purchase these things with money.” - Plautus 

Arkady Alexandrovich Rylov (Russian: Аркадий Александрович Рылов; 29 January [O.S. 17 January] 1870 – June 22, 1939) was a Russian and Soviet Symbolist painter. Rylov was born in the village of Istobensk, in the Vyatka Governorate of the Russian Empire (present-day Kirov Oblast, Russia). He was brought into the family of his stepfather, a notary (Rylov's father had a psychiatric illness). He moved to Saint Petersburg and studied at the Technical Design School of Baron Schtiglitz (1888–1891), then at the Imperial Academy of Arts under Arkhip Kuindzhi (1894–1897).

Rylov was a member of the Mir Iskusstva movement and its spin-off Union of Russian Artists, and also a member of the Association of Artists of the Revolutionary Russia. He was a chairman of the Kuindzhi Society. He started as a historical painter (his graduation piece in the Imperial Academy of Arts was “Assault of Pechenegs on a Slav Village”) but became a landscape painter predominately, though many of his paintings have some allusions to Russian history.

Many of his landscapes painted after the October Revolution were seen as symbols of revolutionary freedom. At that time he also painted some typical Socialist Realism compositions like "Lenin in Razliv". He taught in the Academy of Arts. In his studio he created what could almost be described as a small nature reserve, with squirrels, rabbits, a monkey named Manka, many wild birds (without cages) and two anthills. According to Mikhail Nesterov wild animals and birds loved Rylov and often came to his studio.

Rylov’s most renowned works are the “Green Noise” of 1904 showing a spring landscape with some early Slavic ships on the background and “In the Blue Expanse” of 1918 (see above) showing wild geese flying in the sky over a sea with a sailing ship in the far distance. Rylov not only wanted to glorify the beauty and uniqueness of his native land, its wildlife and its changing moods and seasons, but also to remind the viewer that we are all responsible for its preservation and prosperity.