Saturday 28 October 2017


“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” - Norman Cousins 

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1620–1623 – between 29 February and 20 March 1680) was an Austrian composer and violinist of the middle Baroque era. Almost nothing is known about his early years, but he seems to have arrived in Vienna during the 1630s, and remained as a composer and musician at the Habsburg court for the rest of his life. He enjoyed a close relationship with Emperor Leopold I, was ennobled by him, and rose to the rank of Kapellmeister in 1679. He died during a plague epidemic only months after getting the position.

Schmelzer was one of the most important violinists of the period, and an important influence on later German and Austrian composers for violin. He made substantial contributions to the development of violin technique and promoted the use and development of sonata and suite forms in Austria and South Germany. He was the leading Austrian composer of his generation, and an influence on Heinrich Ignaz Biber.

Schmelzer was born in Scheibbs, Lower Austria. Nothing is known about his early years, and most of the surviving information about his background was recounted by the composer himself in his petition for ennoblement of 1673. He described his father as a soldier, but in another document, the 1645 marriage certificate of Schmelzer’s sister Eva Rosina, he is listed as a baker. Schmelzer does not mention his father’s name, but Eva Rosina’s marriage certificate does: Daniel Schmelzer. At any rate, it remains unclear where and from whom Schmelzer received primary music education. His activities before 1643 are similarly unknown (the composer is first mentioned in a document dated 28 June 1643, relating to his first marriage). He is referred to as a cornettist at St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom), Vienna. The date of his arrival to Vienna is unknown, but he probably worked at the court chapel in the late 1630s, in the employ of Ferdinand II and, after 1637, Ferdinand III. Schmelzer’s colleagues at the chapel included such distinguished composers as Johann Jakob Froberger, Giovanni Valentini, and Antonio Bertali.

Schmelzer was officially appointed court violinist in 1649. Our knowledge of his position, duties, and activities is incomplete. He apparently rose to prominence as a violin virtuoso, as well as a composer, and enjoyed a close relationship with Emperor Leopold I, who was a well-known patron of the arts and a composer himself. Schmelzer started publishing his music in 1659. He was appointed vice-Kapellmeister on 13 April 1671. On 14 June 1673, after the composer petitioned for ennoblement, the Emperor raised Schmelzer to the ranks of nobility; Schmelzer now added von Ehrenruef to his name. Eventually, after his predecessor Giovanni Felice Sances had died, Schmelzer became Kapellmeister, on 1 October 1679. Unfortunately, he fell victim of the plague early in 1680, and died in Prague, where the Viennese court moved in an attempt to evade the epidemic.

Four of his children are known: Andreas Anton Schmelzer (26 November 1653 – 13 October 1701), a composer; Peter Clemens Schmelzer (28 June 1672 – 20 September 1746), a lesser composer; Franz Heinrich Schmelzer (born 27 June 1678), a Jesuit priest; and George Joseph Schmelzer (dates unknown).

Here are some of his Sonatas for Violin, played by Hélène Schmitt (violin); Jan Krigovsky (violone); Stephan Rath (theorbo); Jrg-Andreas Btticher (continuo).

Friday 27 October 2017


“Barriga llena, corazón contento.” (Full stomach, happy heart) – Mexican proverb 

I got this recipe from a friend of ours who gave us some of these empanadas, which she makes. She is an ovo-lacto-vegetarian and has modified the traditional meat filling with a mushroom-based one. They are quite delicious! 

Mushroom Empanadas
Ingredients - dough

110 g butter
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
700 grams flour (and a little more of needed)
50 g butter for glazing
Ingredients – filling
450 g mixed fresh mushrooms
Olive oil for sautéing
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced capsicum
60 g grated hard cheese
200 g potatoes, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
2 teaspoons chopped marjoram
1 teaspoon dried epazote (can substitute with oregano)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
Large pinch cayenne
Vegetable broth, as necessary
1/2 cup chopped Spring onions, white and green parts
1/4 cup chopped, pitted, green olives
2 boiled eggs, diced 

Make the dough: Put 2 cups boiling water, the butter and salt in large mixing bowl. Stir to melt butter and dissolve salt. Cool to room temperature. Gradually stir in flour with a wooden spoon until dough comes together. Knead for a minute or two on a floured board, until firm and smooth. Add more flour if sticky. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for one hour. 

Make the filling: Season chopped mushrooms generously with salt and pepper and set aside for 10 minutes. Heat three tablespoons olive oil in a wide heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and fry until nicely cooked, stirring throughout, about 5-10 minutes.
Turn heat down to medium and add onion and capsicum. Keep turning mixture with a spatula, as if cooking hash, until onion is softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, garlic, thyme, marjoram and epazote, stirring well to incorporate. (Add a little more oil to pan if mixture seems dry.) Season again with salt and pepper and let mixture fry for 2 more minutes. Stir in tomato paste, pimentón and cayenne, then a cup of broth. Turn heat to simmer, stirring well to incorporate any caramelised bits.
Cook for about 10 more minutes, until both meat and potatoes are tender and the sauce just coats them,  juicy is what you want. Taste and adjust seasoning for full flavour (intensity will diminish upon cooling). Stir in spring onions and cheese, allowing to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Divide chilled dough into 30 g pieces and form into 5 cm diameter balls. Roll each piece into a 12 cm circle. Lay circles on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour.
Moisten outer edge of each round with water. Put about 2 tablespoons filling in the centre of each round, adding a little hard-cooked egg to each. Wrap dough around filling to form empanada, pressing edges together. Fold edge back and finish by pinching little pleats or crimping with a fork.
Heat oven to 190˚C. Place empanadas on an oiled baking sheet, about 3 cm apart. Brush tops lightly with melted butter and bake on top shelf of oven until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday 26 October 2017


“There are poisons that blind you, and poisons that open your eyes.” ― August Strindberg 

Dysphania ambrosioides (formerly Chenopodium ambrosioides), known as wormseed, Jesuit’s tea, Mexican-tea, payqu (paico), epazote, or herba sancti Mariæ, is an annual or short-lived perennial herb native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico.

It is an annual or short-lived perennial plant growing to 1.2 m tall, irregularly branched, with oblong-lanceolate leaves up to 12 cm long. The flowers are small and green, produced in a branched panicle at the apex of the stem. As well as in its native areas, it is grown in warm temperate to subtropical areas of Europe and the United States (Missouri, New England, Eastern United States), sometimes becoming an invasive weed.

The generic name Dysphania traditionally was applied in the 1930s to some species endemic to Australia. Placement and rank of this taxon have ranged from a mere section in Chenopodium to the sole genus of a separate family Dysphaniaceae, or a representative of Illicebraceae. The close affinity of Dysphania to “glandular” species of Chenopodium sensu lato is now evident. The common Spanish name, epazote (sometimes spelled and pronounced ipasote or ypasote), is derived from Nahuatl: epazōtl (pronounced [eˈpasoːt͡ɬ]) meaning “skunk sweat”. 

D. ambrosioides is used as a leaf vegetable, herb, and herbal tea for its pungent flavour. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to oregano, anise, fennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. The fragrance of D. ambrosioides is strong but difficult to describe. A common analogy is to turpentine or creosote. It has also been compared to citrus, savoury, and mint.

Although it is traditionally used with black beans for flavour and its supposed carminative properties (less gas), it is also sometimes used to flavour other traditional Mexican dishes as well: It can be used to season quesadillas and sopes (especially those containing huitlacoche), soups, mole de olla, tamales with cheese and chili peppers, chilaquiles, eggs and potatoes and enchiladas. It is often used as a herb in white fried rice and an important ingredient for making the green salsa for chilaquiles.

The essential oils of D. ambrosioides contain terpene compounds, some of which have natural pesticide capabilities. The compound ascaridole in epazote inhibits the growth of nearby plants, so it would be best to relegate this plant at a distance from other inhabitants of the herb garden. Even though this plant has an established place in recipes and in folklore, it is wise to use only the leaves, and those sparingly, in cooking. Do not use the flowering shoots or the seeds! Overdoses of the essential oil have caused human deaths (attributed to the ascaridole content). The symptoms including severe gastroenteritis with pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Epazote contains an extensive array of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A,B and C, as well as calcium, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. It can help relieve cramping, bloating and constipation in addition to enhancing the immune system and protecting the body’s cells against free radical damage to lower the risk of a number of certain cancers and other chronic diseases.

In the language of flowers, epazote sprigs mean: "I am not who I seem." Flowering sprigs carry the message: "Associate yourself with me at your risk."

Wednesday 25 October 2017


“Gradually the magic of Corfu settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen.” ― Gerald Durrell 

This week, Poets United has as its Midweek Motif theme “Journey”. We are all travellers, spatially, chronologically, experientially and spiritually, so it’s not hard to identify to this theme at all. Here is a memory from one of our trips to Greece, several years ago. 

Journey to Corfu 

A walk alone in the old fortress while the sun sets,
The air so sweet, the breeze so soft, the evening perfect.
Below the city stretches and I see it as if on a magic carpet ride;
The centuries around me crumble, time a fleeting sweet perfume.

The stones, if they could speak, what tales I would hear,
The earth if it could sing, what songs, what hymns, what psalmodies!
I look and sight contented rests for whole eternities on wine dark seas
And my mind travels on a ship hewn of history.

Restore the peeling paint, patch crumbling walls,
Upend the fallen stones and lo, the English to the Venetians cede their place,
And the Venetians to the Romans; behold, the Lion smiles on the arch above,
And somewhere always there, always alight, there is Greek fire.

Tuesday 24 October 2017


“A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” - Pauline Phillips 

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.
Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербу́рг, tr. Sankt-Peterburg) is the second largest city in Russia, politically incorporated as a federal subject (a federal city). Situated on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, it was named Saint Petersburg in 1703. In 1914, the name was changed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd (Russian: Петрогра́д), in 1924 to Leningrad (Russian: Ленингра́д), and in 1991 back to Saint Petersburg.

Tsar Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg on May 27 [O.S. 16] 1703. Between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved to Moscow. It is Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow, with five million inhabitants in 2012, and an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea. Saint Petersburg is the most Westernised city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. It is the northernmost city in the world with a population of over one million.

The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is home to The Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. A large number of foreign consulates, international corporations, banks, and businesses have offices in Saint Petersburg. We visited St Petersburg in 2001 and thoroughly enjoyed it, seeing an amazing number of significant sites, museums, historical and cultural areas. The people we met were courteous, helpful and friendly. 

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood (Russian: Церковь Спаса на Крови, Tserkovʹ Spasa na Krovi) is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg, Russia. Other names include the Church on Spilled Blood (Russian: Церковь на Крови, Tserkov’ na Krovi), the Temple of the Saviour on Spilled Blood (Russian: Храм Спаса на Крови, Khram Spasa na Krovi), and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ (Russian: Собор Воскресения Христова, Sobor Voskreseniya Khristova). This church was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded by political nihilists in March 1881. The church was built between 1883 and 1907. The construction was funded by the imperial family.

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg’s other structures. The city’s architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Saviour on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

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 23 October 2017


“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.” – Gautama Buddha 

Shed was a deity from ancient Egyptian religion who was popularly called “the Saviour”, and he is first recorded after the Amarna Period. Representing the concept of salvation, Shed is identified with Horus, particularly Horus the Child. Rather than have formal worship in a temple or as an official cult, he appears to have been a god that ordinary Egyptians looked to save them from illness, misfortune or danger.

He is shown on the Metternich Stela as vanquishing danger in the form of a serpent, a scorpion and a crocodile. The rise of “Saviour” names in personal piety during the Amarna period has been interpreted as the popular response of ordinary people to the attempts by Akhenaten to proscribe the ancient religion of Egypt. Shed has also been viewed as a form of the Canaanite god Resheph.

Shed can be depicted as a young prince overcoming snakes, lions and crocodiles. Shed has been viewed as a form of helper for those in need when state authority or the king’s help is wanting. The increased reliance on divine assistance could even extend to saving a person from the Underworld, even to providing a substitute, and lengthening a person’s time in this world. In the New Kingdom Shed “the Saviour” is addressed on countless stelae by people searching or praising him for help.

Sunday 22 October 2017


“After women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.” - Christian Dior 

Federico Zandomeneghi (June 2, 1841 – December 31, 1917) was an Italian Impressionist painter. He was born in Venice and his father, Pietro, and grandfather, Luigi, were neoclassic sculptors. The latter completed the monument to Titian found in the Frari of Venice.

As a young man, Zandomeneghi preferred painting to sculpture, enrolling in 1856 first in the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, and then in the Academy of Fine Arts of Milan. In 1860, he tried to join with the forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) in his Expedition of the Thousand. This made it uncomfortable for him to reside in Venice, and in 1862, he moved to Florence for 5 years where he frequented the Caffè Michelangiolo. There he met a number of the artists known as the Macchiaioli, including Telemaco Signorini, Giovanni Fattori and Giuseppe Abbati, and he joined them in painting landscapes outdoors.

Painting outside of the studio, ‘en plein air’, was at that time an innovative approach, allowing for a new vividness and spontaneity in the rendering of light. In 1871 Pompeo Molmenti wrote glowing assessments of three young Venetian painters: Guglielmo Ciardi, Alessandro Zezzos, and Zandomeneghi. In 1874, he went to Paris, where he was to spend the rest of his life. He quickly made the acquaintance of the Impressionists, who had just had their first group exhibition. Zandomeneghi, whose style of painting was similar to theirs, would participate in four of their later exhibitions, in 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886.

Like his close friend Edgar Degas, Zandomeneghi was primarily a figure painter, although Zandomeneghi’s work was more sentimental in character than Degas’. He also admired the work of Mary Cassatt and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and his many paintings of women in their domestic routines follow their example. To supplement the meager returns from the sale of his paintings, Zandomeneghi found work drawing illustrations for fashion magazines.

He took up working in pastels in the early 1890s, and became especially adept in this medium. At about this same time his reputation and his fortunes were enhanced when the art dealer Durand-Ruel showed Zandomeneghi’s work in the United States. From then on he enjoyed continuing modest success until his death in Paris in 1917.

The pastel drawing above from 1893 is his “Taking Tea”. The composition is marvelous and the personalities of the young women who are drinking tea and partaking of a little “social criticism” at the same time is rendered delicately, although a little tongue-in-cheek. The texture of the surface and the rough flakes of pigment in parts recalls a little the pointillists, but the image is definitely clearly identifiable as belonging to the circle of the French Impressionists.