Saturday 12 August 2017


“The violin — that most human of all instruments…” – Louisa May Alcott 

Jean-Féry Rebel (18 April 1666 – 2 January 1747) was an innovative French Baroque composer and violinist. Rebel (pronounced re-BEL), a son of the singer Jean Rebel, a tenor in Louis XIV’s private chapel, was a child violin prodigy. He became, at the age of eight, one of his father’s most famous musical offspring. Later, he was a student of the great composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.

Rebel was a violinist, harpsichordist, conductor and composer. By 1699, at age 33, Rebel had become first violinist of the Académie Royale de Musique (also known as the Opéra). He travelled to Spain in 1700. Upon his return to France in 1705, he was given a place in the prestigious ensemble known as the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy. He was chosen Maître de Musique in 1716. His most important position at court was Chamber Composer, receiving the title in 1726. Rebel served as court composer to Louis XIV and Maître de Musique at the Académie, and directed the Concert Spirituel (during the 1734-1735 season).

Rebel was one of the first French musicians to compose sonatas in the Italian style. Many of his compositions are marked by striking originality that include complex counter-rhythms and audacious harmonies that were not fully appreciated by listeners of his time. His opus “Les Caractères de la Danse” combined music with dance, a French tradition, and presented innovative metrical inventions. The work was popular and was performed in London in 1725 under the baton of George Frideric Handel.

In honour of his teacher, Rebel composed “Le Tombeau de M. Lully” (literally, “The Tomb of Monsieur Lully”; figuratively, “A Tribute to Lully”). Some of Rebel’s compositions are described as choreographed “Symphonies”. Among his boldest original compositions is “Les Élémens” (The Elements) which describes the creation of the world, with the beginning, “Le Chaos”, being surprisingly modern. His son François Rebel (1701-1775) was also a composer, noted violinist, and member of the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy. He co-wrote and co-directed operas with François Francœur. The Rebel Baroque Orchestra, formed in 1991, was named in the honour of this notable French composer.

Here are some of his Violin Sonatas performed by “L’ Assemblée des Honnêtes Curieux”.

Friday 11 August 2017


“ ‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings.’ ” - Lewis Carroll 

In Winter, one of the traditional Greek dishes we enjoy having is stuffed cabbage rolls (λαχανοντολμάδες – lahanodolmádes). These are made with as tender a large cabbage as you can find; what you need are large leaves without too many hard veins. In practice we have found that young, tender savoy cabbage is the best, but it really depends on what you can lay your hands on.

The other secret is using a yoghurt-based sauce rather than the traditional egg and lemon sauce, making them rather more savoury. We have tried making the vegetarian version, but this dish really hankers for meat - a good, lean beef mince being the best. We have tried it with pork mince, but it wasn’t as much to our taste.

Some people do not use tomatoes in the stuffing, but we have found that using a can of peeled tomatoes increases the tastiness of the dish and gives it a little more depth. Purists would like this dish “white”, but we opt for taste over looks. 

Lahanodolmádes (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) 
Ingredients - Rolls 
1 large, tender cabbage
500 g of minced lean beef steak
3/4 cup calrose rice
1 large white onion, grated
2 Spring onions, cleaned and chopped up finely
1 cup chopped mint
1 cup chopped parsley
400 g can of peeled whole tomatoes (blended to form a purée)
3/4 cup of olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt, pepper
1 Litre beef stock 
400 g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp French mustard
Salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
A couple of squeezes of lemon juice and the zest of half a lemon. 

With a large, sharp knife remove the stalk from the cabbage, going quite deeply and cutting out an inverted cone into the heart of the cabbage about 10 cm diameter and the tip 10 cm deep. Discard this stalk. Take a very large kettle enough to contain the cabbage, place the whole cabbage, stalk-side up into the kettle and put in enough water to cover the cabbage.

Boil the cabbage until it is fairly tender. Remove from heat, carefully drain the water and using heatproof gloves remove the cabbage and let it drain. Meanwhile prepare the stuffing.

Put the oil in a skillet and once heated up, stir the rice through, until it is coated with oil and heated right through. Do not overcook or burn. Let it cool. In a large bowl, put the mince, breaking it up thoroughly and mix in the rice and all the oil from the skillet. Mix well, and add the herbs and spices, the onions and the tomato purée. Mix thoroughly. You may need to add a little more oil if the mixture looks a little too watery.

Prepare a large cooking pot by greasing it with a little butter, both bottom and sides. Make ready the cabbage leaves, by stripping each leaf off the cabbage, and on a cutting board, carefully cut away in a wedge, the central vein and tough area around its bottom, leaving two fairly large, even pieces of tender leaf oneither side. Reserve the central vein wedges.

Repeat for all leaves, until you reach the heart of the cabbage (which is to be discarded). Take enough of the central vein wedges you have reserved and line the bottom of the pot with one layer of cabbage, pieces (this is to prevent burning the cabbage rolls on the bottom of the pot when you cook them).

Stuff each cabbage leaf piece by putting about a tablespoonful of the filling in the bottom part of the leaf and then folding the sides into the centre over the stuffing, rolling towards the top edge of the leaf to form a roll. Lay carefully on the lined bottom of the pan, arranging the rolls neatly so they form a tightly packed layer on the bottom of the pan.

Repeat with as many new layers of rolls until you have used up all of the stuffing. Lay some more reserved cabbage wedges over the top of the cabbage rolls and carefully pour in the beef stock. The carefully place a shallow, heatproof dish in the pot over the cabbage rolls to weigh them down during cooking. The dish should be approximately as large as the opening of the pot. Partly cover the pot with its lid, allowing the steam to escape. Cook over medium heat for about 60-90 minutes or until the rolls are cooked. Add a little water if needed during cooking.

Prepare the dressing in a saucepan, by mixing thoroughly the mustard and yoghurt, adding the salt and spices, the lemon juice and lemon zest. Heat gently whilst constantly stirring. Do not overheat as the yoghurt may curdle. Serve the rolls and put the dressing in a bowl so each diner can add as much of it as they like on the rolls. 

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday 10 August 2017


“To win the people, always cook them some savoury that pleases them..” – Aristophanes 

Winter savoury (Satureja montana) is a perennial herb in the family Lamiaceae, native to warm temperate regions of southern Europe and the Mediterranean. It is a perennial plant growing to 40 cm tall. The leaves are opposite, oval-lanceolate, 1–2 cm long and 5 mm broad. The herb has spike-like clusters of tubular 2-lipped, white flowers in summer. Superficially, this herb resembles a blooming rosemary bush with very pale flowers.

Winter savoury  is easy to grow, and it makes an attractive border plant for any culinary herb garden. It requires six hours of sun a day in soil that drains well. S. montana ‘Nana’ is a dwarf cultivar, which can be grown in well-drained pots. In temperate climates it goes dormant in winter, putting out leaves on the bare stems again in the spring. It is important to not cut the plant back, as all those stems which appear dead will leaf out again. It is hardy and has a low bunching habit. It is used as a companion plant for beans, keeping bean weevils away, and also roses, reducing mildew and aphids.

 Winter savoury has been used in the garden, kitchen and apothecary’s shop for hundreds of years. Both this herb and summer savoury (Satureja hortensis) have been grown and used, virtually side by side. Both have strong, spicy flavours. It goes particularly well with any type of mushroom, or in white sauces, and is very good in potato salads. Small amounts spice a regular salad well. We add the herb to beans and meats, especially lighter meats such as chicken or turkey, and can be used in stuffings. It has a rich herbaceous aroma when crushed, however, it should be noted that the intense flavour is lost when the herb is cooked.

Winter savoury has been purported to have antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, and digestive properties. It has also been used as an expectorant and in the treatment of stings. The plant has a stronger action than the closely related summer savoury. Taken internally, it is said to be a remedy for colic and a cure for flatulence, whilst it is also used to treat gastroenteritis, cystitis, nausea, diarrhoea, bronchial congestion, sore throat and menstrual disorders. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women.

A sprig of the plant, rubbed onto bee or wasp stings, is said to bring instant relief. Therapeutic-grade oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans. The plant is harvested in the summer when in flower and can be used fresh or dried. The essential oil forms an ingredient in lotions for the scalp in cases of incipient baldness. An ointment made from the plant is used externally to relieve arthritic joints. In traditional herbal medicine, summer savoury was believed to be an aphrodisiac, while winter savoury was believed to inhibit sexual desire.

The herb in the language of flowers has meanings that relate to curbing of carnal desire. A sprig of the non-flowering herb means: “My intentions are honourable”. A sprig of the flowering herb says: “My interest in you is purely platonic.” 

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday 9 August 2017


“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” - George A. Moore 

We watched a very good film recently, and found it involving, heart-warming and quite poignant. Although the story was simple (and some would say, clichéd), the whole package of the film worked well: Screenplay, direction, casting, acting, cinematography, soundtrack, etc, etc. The theme of the movie is home and identity.

As individuals we all need to know who we are, where we come from, what “home” means. Adopted children searching for their biological parents is a story often told, and can be powerful enough on its own. However, add to that a lost child, who finds himself thousands of kilometres away from home to grow up in a completely different geographical, religious, cultural and societal environment and suddenly begin to be confronted by memories of a former life. Questions arise that need to answered and the quest for answers becomes a gnawing yearning and an emotional journey that can only be satisfied by the real, physical journey in search of the past. 

Lion (2016) Drama - Directed by Garth Davis; starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara. – 8.5/10

This is a movie based on the autobiographical book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley, an Indian who was adopted as a young child by a Tasmanian couple. In 1986, Saroo was a five-year-old child in India of a poor but happy rural family. The mother struggles to feed her children, and Saroo and his older brother help by stealing coal. On a coal hunting expedition with his brother, Saroo finds himself alone and trapped in a moving decommissioned passenger train that takes him to Calcutta, 1500 miles away from home.

Totally lost and disoriented in an alien urban environment and too young to identify either himself or his home to the authorities, Saroo struggles to survive as a street child until he is sent to an orphanage. Soon, Saroo is selected to be adopted by the Brierley family in Tasmania, where he grows up in a loving, prosperous home. However, for all his material good fortune, Saroo finds himself plagued by his memories of his lost family in his adulthood and tries to search for them even as his guilt drives him to hide this quest from his adoptive parents and his girlfriend. Only when he has an epiphany does he discover not only the answers he needs, but also the steadfast love that he has always had with all his loved ones in both worlds.

We thoroughly enjoyed this movie and recommend it most highly!

Tuesday 8 August 2017


“A nation without language is a nation without heart.” – Welsh Proverb 

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.
Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd) is the capital and largest city in Wales and the eleventh-largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is the country’s chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for Wales. The unitary authority area’s mid-2011 population was estimated to be 346,100, while the population of the Larger Urban Zone was estimated at 861,400 in 2009. The Cardiff metropolitan area makes up over a third of the total population of Wales, with a mid-2011 population estimate of about 1,100,000 people.

 Cardiff is a significant tourist centre and the most popular visitor destination in Wales with 18.3 million visitors in 2010. In 2011, Cardiff was ranked sixth in the world in National Geographic’s alternative tourist destinations. The city of Cardiff is the county town of the historic county of Glamorgan (and later South Glamorgan). Cardiff is part of the Eurocities network of the largest European cities. The Cardiff Urban Area covers a slightly larger area outside the county boundary, and includes the towns of Dinas Powys and Penarth.

A small town until the early 19th century, its prominence as a major port for the transport of coal following the arrival of industry in the region contributed to its rise as a major city. Cardiff was made a city in 1905, and proclaimed the capital of Wales in 1955. Since the 1980s, Cardiff has seen significant development. A new waterfront area at Cardiff Bay contains the Senedd building, home to the Welsh Assembly and the Wales Millennium Centre arts complex. Current developments include the continuation of the redevelopment of the Cardiff Bay and city centre areas with projects such as the Cardiff International Sports Village, a BBC drama village, and a new business district in the city centre.

Sporting venues in the city include the Millennium Stadium (the national stadium for the Wales national rugby union team), SWALEC Stadium (the home of Glamorgan County Cricket Club), Cardiff City Stadium (the home of Cardiff City football team), Cardiff International Sports Stadium (the home of Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club) and Cardiff Arms Park (the home of Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC rugby union teams). The city was awarded the title of European City of Sport twice, due to its role in hosting major international sporting events: first in 2009 and again in 2014. The Millennium Stadium hosted 11 football matches as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics, including the games’ opening event and the men’s bronze medal match.

Cardiff Castle (Welsh: Castell Caerdydd) is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion located in the city centre of Cardiff, Wales. The original motte and bailey castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd-century Roman fort. The castle was commissioned either by William the Conqueror or by Robert Fitzhamon, and formed the heart of the medieval town of Cardiff and the Marcher Lord territory of Glamorgan.

In the 12th century the castle began to be rebuilt in stone, probably by Robert of Gloucester, with a shell keep and substantial defensive walls being erected. Further work was conducted by Richard de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester, in the second half of the 13th century. Cardiff Castle was repeatedly involved in the conflicts between the Anglo-Normans and the Welsh, being attacked several times in the 12th century, and stormed in 1404 during the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme. 

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Monday 7 August 2017


“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” - Anton Chekhov 

Thoth or Djehuti (from Greek Θώθ thṓth, from Egyptian ḏḥwty) was one of the deities of the Egyptian pantheon. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma’at. Thoth’s chief temple was located in the city of Khmun, later called Hermopolis Magna during the Greco-Roman era (in reference to him through the Greeks’ interpretation that he was the same as their god Hermes) and Shmounein in the Coptic rendering, and was partially destroyed in 1826 CE. In that city, he led the Ogdoad pantheon of eight principal deities.

He also had numerous shrines within the cities of Abydos, Hesert, Urit, Per-Ab, Rekhui, Ta-ur, Sep, Hat, Pselket, Talmsis, Antcha-Mutet, Bah, Amen-heri-ab, and Ta-kens. Thoth played many vital and prominent roles in Egyptian mythology, such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Ma’at) who stood on either side of Ra’s boat. In the later history of ancient Egypt, Thoth became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes, the arts of magic, the system of writing, the development of science, and the judgment of the dead.

Thoth has been depicted in many ways depending on the era and on the aspect the artist wished to convey. Usually, he is depicted in his human form with the head of an ibis. In this form, he can be represented as the reckoner of times and seasons by a headdress of the lunar disk sitting on top of a crescent moon resting on his head.

When depicted as a form of Shu or Ankher, he was depicted to be wearing the respective god’s headdress. He also appears as a dog-faced baboon or a man with the head of a baboon when he is A’an, the god of equilibrium. In the form of A’ah-Djehuty he took a more human-looking form. These forms are all symbolic and are metaphors for Thoth’s attributes. The Egyptians did not believe these gods actually looked like humans with animal heads.

Thoth has played a prominent role in many of the Egyptian myths. Displaying his role as arbitrator, he had overseen the three epic battles between good and evil. All three battles are fundamentally the same and belong to different periods. The first battle took place between Ra and Apep, the second between Heru-Bekhutet and Set, and the third between Horus and Set . In each instance, the former god represented order while the latter represented chaos. If one god was seriously injured, Thoth would heal them to prevent either from overtaking the other.

Thoth was also prominent in the Osirian myth, being of great aid to Isis. After Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris’ dismembered body, he gave her the words to resurrect him so she could be impregnated and bring forth Horus. After a battle between Horus and Set in which the latter plucked out Horus’ eye, Thoth’s counsel provided him the wisdom he needed to recover it.

Thoth was the god who always speaks the words that fulfil the wishes of Ra. This mythology also credits him with the creation of the 365-day calendar. Originally, according to the myth, the year was only 360 days long and Nut was sterile during these days, unable to bear children. Thoth gambled with the Moon for 1/72nd of its light (360/72 = 5), or 5 days, and won. During these 5 days, Nut and Geb gave birth to Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.

Thoth was originally a moon god. The moon not only provides light at night, allowing time to still be measured without the sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology/astronomy. The cycles of the moon also organised much of Egyptian society’s rituals and events, both civil and religious. Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement and regulation of events and of time. He was thus said to be the secretary and counselor of the sun god Ra, and with Ma'at (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky.

Thoth became credited by the ancient Egyptians as the inventor of writing, and was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld; and the Moon became occasionally considered a separate entity, now that Thoth had less association with it and more with wisdom. For this reason Thoth was universally worshipped by ancient Egyptian scribes. Many scribes had a painting or a picture of Thoth in their “office”. Likewise, one of the symbols for scribes was that of the ibis.

Thoth was inserted in many tales as the wise counselor and persuader, and his association with learning and measurement led him to be connected with Seshat, the earlier deification of wisdom, who was said to be his daughter, or variably his wife. Thoth’s qualities also led to him being identified by the Greeks with their closest matching god Hermes, with whom Thoth was eventually combined as Hermes Trismegistus, also leading to the Greeks naming Thoth’s cult centre as Hermopolis, meaning city of Hermes.

Sunday 6 August 2017


“There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.” - Gilbert K. Chesterton 

Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Piranesi (4 October 1720 – 9 November 1778) was an Italian artist famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric “prisons” (Le Carceri d’Invenzione). His large prints depicting the buildings of classical and postclassical Rome and its vicinity contributed considerably to Rome’s fame and to the growth of classical archaeology and to the Neoclassical movement in art.

Piranesi was born at Mojano di Mestre near Venice, the son of a stonemason. His early training in Venice under his uncle, Matteo Lucchesi, an architectural engineer, gave Piranesi a grasp of the means of masonry construction (scaffolding, winches, hawsers, pulleys, and chains) knowledge that stayed with him the rest of his life. His understanding of the vocabulary of classicism came largely from Andrea Palladio’s book on architecture; his knowledge of architectural renderings he drew in part from Ferdinando Bibiena’s book on civil architecture (1711); and his manner of placing buildings on a diagonal, sharply foreshortened, probably came from contemporary Venetian stage design.

At the age of 20 Piranesi went to Rome as a draughtsman for the Venetian ambassador. He studied with leading printmakers of the day and settled permanently in Rome in 1745. It was during this period that he developed his highly original etching technique, producing rich textures and bold contrasts of light and shadow by means of intricate, repeated bitings of the copperplate. He created about 2,000 plates in his lifetime. The “Prisons” (Carceri) of about 1745 are his finest early prints; they depict ancient Roman or Baroque ruins converted into fantastic, visionary dungeons filled with mysterious scaffolding and instruments of torture.

Among his best mature prints are the series Le antichità romane (1756; “Roman Antiquities”), the Vedute di Roma (“Views of Rome”; appearing as single prints between 1748 and 1778), and the views of the Greek temples at Paestum (1777–78). His unparalleled accuracy of depiction, his personal expression of the structures’ dramatic and romantic grandeur, and his technical mastery made these prints some of the most original and impressive representations of architecture to be found in Western art.

On Nov. 9, 1778, while making drawings of the newly discovered temples at Paestum, Piranesi died. Long before then his prints of Rome had caught the imagination of much of Europe. In 1771 Horace Walpole urged his fellow Englishmen to “study the sublime dreams of Piranesi, who seems to have conceived visions of Rome beyond what it boasted even in the meridian of its splendour. Savage as Salvator Rosa, fierce as Michelangelo, and exuberant as Rubens, he has imagined scenes that would startle geometry, and exhaust the Indies to realize.”

Above is his view of the interior of the Pantheon.