Saturday 1 April 2017


“Больше слушай, меньше говори.” (Listen more, talk less) – Russian proverb 

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (Russian: Серге́й Васи́льевич Рахма́нинов; 1 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russian pianist, composer, and conductor of the late-Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular in the classical repertoire. Born into a musical family, Rachmaninoff took up the piano at age four. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892 and had composed several piano and orchestral pieces by this time.

In 1897, following the critical reaction to his Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff entered a four-year depression and composed little until successful therapy allowed him to complete his enthusiastically received Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. After the Russian Revolution, Rachmaninoff and his family left Russia and resided in the United States, first in New York City.

Demanding piano concert tour schedules caused his output as composer to slow tremendously; between 1918 and 1943, he completed just six compositions, including Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony No. 3, and Symphonic Dances. In 1942, Rachmaninoff moved to Beverly Hills, California. One month before his death from advanced melanoma, Rachmaninoff acquired American citizenship.

Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and his use of rich orchestral colours. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output, and through his own skills as a performer he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument.

Here are his 10 Preludes Op.23, played by Nikolai Lugansky. Rachmaninoff resembles Chopin very much in his skill and innovation in writing miniatures. His preludes are melodic, and wonderful examples of pianistic textural innovation. The harmonic imagination is admirable and the counterpoint masterful. More than anything, a sweeping lyricism is a feature and it often turns into an epic and lush song without words.

1. Largo, F-sharp minor -- 0:00
2. Maestoso, B-flat major -- 3:26
3. Tempo di minuetto, D minor -- 6:53.
4. Andante cantabile, D major -- 10:27.
5. Alla marcia, G minor -- 15:04.
6. Andante, E-flat major -- 18:52.
7. Allegro, C minor -- 22:04
8. Allegro vivace, A-flat major -- 24:28
9. Presto, E-flat minor -- 27:41
10: Largo, G-flat major -- 29:27

Friday 31 March 2017


“I eat quite healthily normally but, like everyone, have relapses and give in to the odd cake.” - Denise Van Outen

We stayed in at home today as the weather was cool and wet. After getting through quite a few chores, we made fairy cakes for afternoon tea. With a cup of fragrant, pale, Oolong tea and some Mozart playing in the background, it was perfect fare for an Autumn afternoon.

Raspberry Fairy Cakes
120g butter, softened at room temperature
120g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g self-raising flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp milk
A little melted butter
Raspberry jam
Double cream, whipped
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and line 2 x 12-hole fairy cake tins with paper cases. Spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and light. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, and stir in the vanilla extract. Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon. Add a little milk until the mixture is a soft dropping consistency and spoon the mixture into the paper cases until they are half full.
Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Take each cake and cut out a shallow inverted cone in its top, the apex going in about a third of the way through the cake. Reserve the cone.
Lightly brush the inside of the hole of the fairy cake with melted butter and fill it with raspberry jam. Pipe some whipped cream over the jam and the top of the cake. Cut each reserved cake cone into two pieces and place over the cream. Dust with icing sugar.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday 30 March 2017


“Every era has its own list of ingredients that are considered exotic and then, 15 years later, they’re not.” - Yotam Ottolenghi 

The makrut lime (Citrus hystrix), sometimes referred to in English as the kaffir lime or Mauritius papeda, is a citrus fruit native to tropical Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Its fruit and leaves are used in Southeast Asian cuisine and its essential oil is used in perfumery. Its rind and crushed leaves emit an intense citrus fragrance.

It should be noted that term makrut lime favoured over “kaffir lime” because kaffir is an offensive term in some cultures and has no contemporary justification for being attached to this plant. The etymology of the name “kaffir lime” is uncertain, but most likely was used by Muslims as a reference to the location the plant grew, which was populated by non-Muslims. The Arabic word for non-Muslims is kafir. 

Citrus hystrix is a thorny bush, 1.8 to 10.7 m tall, with aromatic and distinctively shaped “double” leaves. These hourglass-shaped leaves comprise the leaf blade plus a flattened, leaf-like stalk (or petiole). The fruit is rough and green, and ripens to yellow; it is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size, approximately 4 cm wide. Citrus hystrix is grown worldwide in suitable climates as a garden shrub for home fruit production. It is well suited to container gardens and for large garden pots on patios, terraces, and in conservatories.

The leaves are the most frequently used part of the plant, fresh (most preferred!), dried, or frozen. The leaves are widely used in Thai and Lao cuisine (for dishes such as tom yum) and Cambodian cuisine (for the base paste “krueng”). The leaves are used in Vietnamese cuisine to add fragrance to chicken dishes and to decrease the pungent odour when steaming snails. The leaves are used in Indonesian cuisine (especially Balinese cuisine and Javanese cuisine) for foods such as soto ayam and are used along with Indonesian bay leaf for chicken and fish. They are also found in Malaysian and Burmese cuisines. It is used widely in South Indian cuisine. The rind (peel) is commonly used in Lao and Thai curry paste, adding an aromatic, astringent flavor. The zest of the fruit, referred to as combava, is used in creole cuisine to impart flavor in infused rums and rougails in Martinique, Réunion, and Madagascar. In Cambodia, the entire fruit is crystallised/candied for eating.

The juice and rind of the fruit are used in traditional medicine in some Asian countries; the fruit juice is often used in shampoo and is believed to kill head lice. The juice finds use as a cleanser for clothing and hair in Thailand and very occasionally in Cambodia. Lustral water mixed with slices of the fruit is used in religious ceremonies in Cambodia.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of this plant means: “Your beauty is exotic and beguiling”. A flowering sprig indicates: “You are beautiful, modest and accomplished.” Fruits included in floral arrangements carry the message: “Your accomplishments are even greater than your beauty.”

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

Tuesday 28 March 2017


“There have always been people who have felt the necessity of change earlier than others. And this is critical for every society. Nothing is more important than human initiative and the freedom to create… To find and support such people is the great task of literature and art.” - Rustam Ibrahimbeyov   

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.
Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. Baku is located 28 metres below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world located below sea level. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, alongside the Bay of Baku.

 At the beginning of 2009, Baku’s urban population was estimated at just over two million people. Officially, about 25 percent of all inhabitants of the country live in Baku’s metropolitan area. Baku is divided into eleven administrative districts (raions) and 48 townships. Among these are the townships on the islands of the Baku Archipelago, and the town of Oil Rocks built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 60 kilometres away from Baku.

The Inner City of Baku, along with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower, were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. According to the Lonely Planet’s ranking, Baku is also among the world’s top ten destinations for urban nightlife. The city is the scientific, cultural and industrial centre of Azerbaijan. Many sizeable Azerbaijani institutions have their headquarters there.

 The Baku International Sea Trade Port is capable of handling two million tons of general and dry bulk cargoes per year. In recent years, Baku has become an important venue for international events. It hosted the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in 2012, the 2015 European Games, the 2016 European Grand Prix and will host the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017 and UEFA Euro 2020. The city is renowned for its harsh winds, which is reflected in its nickname, the “City of Winds”.

Baku has wildly varying architecture, ranging from the Old City core to modern buildings and the spacious layout of the Baku port. Many of the city’s most impressive buildings were built during the early 20th century, when architectural elements of the European styles were combined in eclectic style. Baku thus has an original and unique appearance, earning it a reputation as the “Paris of the East”. In the last decade, countless towers have mushroomed, dwarfing or replacing tatty old Soviet apartment blocks. Some of the finest new buildings are jaw-dropping masterpieces.

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 27 March 2017


“There is a danger in monotheism, and it’s called idolatry. And we know the prophets of Israel were very, very concerned about idolatry, the worship of a human expression of the divine.” - Karen Armstrong 

Aten (also Aton, Egyptian jtn) is the disk of the sun in ancient Egyptian mythology, and originally an aspect of the god Ra. The deified Aten is the focus of the religion of Atenism established by Amenhotep IV, who later took the name Akhenaten (died ca. 1335 BCE) in worship and recognition of Aten. In his poem “Great Hymn to the Aten”, Akhenaten praises Aten as the creator, giver of life, and nurturing spirit of the world. Aten does not have a Creation Myth or family, but is mentioned in the Book of the Dead. The worship of Aten was eradicated by Horemheb.

 The Aten, the sun-disk, is first referred to as a deity in The Story of Sinuhe from the 12th dynasty, in which the deceased king is described as rising as god to the heavens and uniting with the sun-disk, the divine body merging with its maker. By analogy, the term “silver aten” was sometimes used to refer to the moon. The solar Aten was extensively worshipped as a god in the reign of Amenhotep III, when it was depicted as a falcon-headed man much like Ra. In the reign of Amenhotep III's successor, Amenhotep IV, the Aten became the central god of Egyptian state religion, and Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten to reflect his close link with the new supreme deity. 

The full title of Akhenaten’s god was “Ra-Horakhty who rejoices in the horizon, in his Name as the Light which is in the sun disc” (this is the title of the god as it appears on the numerous stelae which were placed to mark the boundaries of Akhenaten’s new capital at Akhetaten, modern Amarna). This lengthy name was often shortened to Ra-Horus-Aten or just Aten in many texts, but the god of Akhenaten raised to supremacy is considered a synthesis of very ancient gods viewed in a new and different way. The god is also considered to be both masculine and feminine simultaneously. All creation was thought to emanate from the god and to exist within the god. In particular, the god was not depicted in anthropomorphic (human) form, but as rays of light extending from the sun’s disk. This concept was foreign to nearly all Egyptians, as the new religion was monotheistic and devoid of anthropomorphic idols to worship.

 Principles of Aten’s religion were recorded on the rock tomb walls of Akhetaten. In the religion of Aten (Atenism), night is a time to fear. Work is done best when the sun, Aten, is present. Aten cares for every creature as Aten created all countries and all people. The rays of the sun disk only holds out life to the royal family; everyone else receives life from Akhenaten and Nefertiti in exchange of loyalty for Aten. When a good person dies, he/she continues to live in the City of Light for the dead in Akhetaten. The conditions are the same after death. Akhenaten judged whether someone should be granted an afterlife, and operated the scale of justice. The explanation as to why Aten could not be fully represented was that the god has gone beyond creation.

 The cult centre of Aten was at the new city Akhetaten; some other cult cities included Thebes and Heliopolis. The principles of Aten’s cult were recorded on the rock walls of tombs of Tall al-Amarnah. Significantly different from other ancient Egyptian temples, temples of Aten were colorful and open-roofed to allow the rays of the sun. Doorways had broken lintels and raised thresholds. No statues of Aten were allowed; those were seen as idolatry. However, these were typically replaced by functionally equivalent representations of Akhenaten and his family venerating the Aten, and receiving the ankh (breath of life) from him. Priests had less to do, since offerings (fruits, flowers, cakes) were limited, and oracles were not needed.

Temples of Aten did not collect tax. In the worship of Aten, the daily service of purification, anointment and clothing of the divine image was not performed. Incense was burnt several times a day. Hymns sung to Aten were accompanied by harp music. Aten’s ceremonies in Akhetaten involved giving offerings to Aten with a swipe of the royal sceptre. Instead of barque processions, the royal family rode on a chariot on festival days.

Horemheb (sometimes spelled Horemhab or Haremhab and meaning Horus is in Jubilation) was the last pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from either 1319 BC to late 1292 BC, or 1306 to late 1292 BC (since he ruled for 14 years) although he was not related to the preceding royal family and is believed to have been of common birth. Before he became pharaoh, Horemheb was the commander in chief of the army under the reigns of Tutankhamun and Ay.

After his accession to the throne, he reformed the Egyptian state and it was under his reign that official action against the preceding Amarna rulers began. Due to this, he is considered the man who restabilised his country after the troublesome and divisive Amarna Period. Horemheb demolished monuments of Akhenaten, reusing their remains in his own building projects, and usurped monuments of Tutankhamun and Ay. Horemheb presumably remained childless since he appointed his vizier Paramesse as his successor, who would assume the throne as Ramesses I.

Sunday 26 March 2017


“To see the Persia of poets and painters, hiding in plain sight behind the much-maligned Iran of our newspaper headlines, would be my fondest wish.” - Pico Iyer

Haydar Hatemi (born March 3, 1945-Hadishahr – Alamdar) is an Iranian of Iranian Azerbaijani origin. artist whose work is based on blends of classical oriental styles such as miniature and tazhib, with some modern elements. His early studies in art started at Tabriz’s Art Academy after finishing high school in Tabriz, Iran. Hatemi is a graduate of the prestigious Fine Arts Academy of Tehran University. He moved to Turkey in 1983. He is one of the most significant artists of the Iranian and Azerbaijani diaspora. He has been working under the commission of the Qatari Royal family for the last decade.

Hatemi, an Iranian Azerbaijani, started painting aged 14, while he was continuing high school in Tabriz. His early studies in art started at Tabriz’s Art Academy after finishing Tabriz middle school, Iran. It was during this time there that he learned the tazhib technique from Master Abduhl Bageri and studied sculpture techniques from Master Ashot Babayan. He continued his art studies at the Art Academy of Tehran and was privileged to be trained under masters Hussain Behzad and Abu Talib Mugimi.

Hatemi soon gained celebrity status during his sophomore year in college when he won the national award for designing the Takht-e-Tavus medal for the international Cancer Society. This award was presented to him by the Queen of Iran, Farah Pahlavi. Hatemi also taught sculpture classes in Shahnaz Pahlavi Art Academy. During his college years in Tehran University, Hatemi won first place in multiple competitions, which included design of the Logo of the Isfahan University and the Logo of the Shahpur Petro-Chemicals. He also designed the gold coins in commemoration of the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. Between 1972-1978, Hatemi established the Design Art Center in Tehran and produced very large sculptures commissioned by the Mayor of Tehran. His statue of Shah Abbas on horseback is on display at Isfahan’s Square and a statue called Birds and the Rock at Argentina Square in Tehran.

After the Iranian revolution, Hatemi moved to Turkey with his young family in 1983. He continued his painting in Bursa and Istanbul and started the orientalist movement within the Turkish art world. During this period his paintings became part of the Sabancı Collection and many other private collections.

Early in his career, Hatemi took great interest in the tazhib technique and miniature paintings in particular. His main goal to apply his style to Ottoman Empire theme was very well received by the Turkish art scene. His admiration for miniature masters and his desire to apply this to a newer subjects lead to the creation of his “Stories of the Messengers” series in the early 2003 which became his most celebrated and famous series. In these series, Hatemi depicts stories of messengers, which are common to Quran, Bible and Torah. He also paints scenes of old Istanbul, which were commissioned by the royal family of Qatar. The Istanbul series are the best example of this genre.

The painting above highlights several of the styles Hatemi is proficient at. A painstakingly meticulous hand that is able to render fine details, trompe l’oeil effects, luscious vistas reminiscent of past times and historical details that playfully interact with modern touches. In other painting series, the art of Persian miniatures and manuscript illustrations is revived, while other series highlight Ottoman portraiture and scenes from the Holy Books of the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths.