Saturday 11 November 2017


“Seven, Richie thought. That's the magic number. There has to be seven of us. That's the way it's supposed to be.” - Stephen King 

Conradin Kreutzer or Kreuzer (Messkirch in Baden, 22 November 1780 - Riga, 14 December 1849) was a German composer and conductor. His works include the opera Das Nachtlager in Granada, and Der Verschwender (Incidental music), both produced in 1834 in Vienna.

Kreutzer abandoned his law studies (University of Freiburg) and went to Vienna about 1804, where he met Haydn and may have studied with Albrechtsberger, while he tried his hand unsuccessfully at singspielen. He spent 1811-12 in Stuttgart, where at least three of his operas were staged and he was awarded the post of Hofkapellmeister. He was from 1812 to 1816 Kapellmeister to the king of Württemberg.

Once he was successful, he became a prolific composer, and wrote a number of operas for the Theater am Kärntnertor, Theater in der Josefstadt and Theater an der Wien Vienna, which have disappeared from the stage and are not likely to be revived. In 1840 he became conductor of the opera at Cologne. His daughters, Cecilia and Marie Kreutzer, have been sopranos of some renown.

Kreutzer owes his fame almost exclusively to Das Nachtlager in Granada (1834), which kept the stage for half a century in spite of changes in musical taste. It was written in the style of Carl Maria von Weber. The same qualities are found in Kreutzer's part-songs for men's voices, which at one time were extremely popular in Germany. Among these Das ist der Tag des Herrn (“The Lord's Day”) may be named as the most excellent. His Septet for winds and strings, Op. 62, remains in the chamber music repertory. Kreutzer was one of the 50 composers who wrote a Variation on a waltz of Anton Diabelli for Part II of the Vaterländischer Künstlerverein (published 1824).

Here is his Grand Septet in E-flat major, Op.62, for Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, String Trio, Double Bass performed by The Nash Ensemble
Mov.I: Adagio - Allegro 00:00
Mov.II: Adagio 08:20
Mov.III: Minuetto: Moderato - Trio 16:17
Mov.IV: Andante 19:53
Mov.V: Scherzo: Prestissimo - Trio 24:57
Mov.VI: Finale: Allegro vivace 28:21

Friday 10 November 2017


“Mexico is a mosaic of different realities and beauties.” - Enrique Peña Nieto 

Yesterday’s blog entry was about annatto and today I give you a recipe where the annatto contributes greatly to the flavour of the dish. It is a Mexican dish and the chicken develops a wonderful texture and aroma because of the achiote (annatto) marinade. 

Grilled Achiote Chicken
Ingredients - Marinated Chicken
2-3 tbsp achiote (annatto) seasoning
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (each about 180 g)
Ingredients - Citrus Sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh coriander 

Dissolve the achiote seasoning in vinegar and oil and beat with a fork to homogenise. Add chicken, turn to coat well, and marinate in the fridge 1 hour.
Preheat the grill. Remove chicken from marinade, reserving the marinade. Grill chicken until done, about 7 minutes per side. Remove chicken to platter, and cover with aluminium foil to keep warm. I usually split the chicken fillets in two to make them more presentable.
To prepare the sauce, pour reserved marinade into a saucepan; add garlic and juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, stirring, until sauce is the consistency of a thin cream sauce (thin sauce with a little water if it gets too thick). Add the salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and serve chopped fresh coriander garnish in a separate bowl so diners can help themselves (some people do not like this herb).

Thursday 9 November 2017


“Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” - Bill Blass  

Annatto is an orange-red condiment and food colouring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana). It is often used to impart a yellow or orange colour to foods, but sometimes also for its flavour and aroma. Its scent is described as “slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg” and flavour as “slightly nutty, sweet and peppery”. The colour of annatto comes from various carotenoid pigments, mainly bixin and norbixin, found in the reddish waxy coating of the seeds.

The condiment is typically prepared by grinding the seeds to a powder or paste. Similar effects can be obtained by extracting some of the colour and flavour principles from the seeds with hot water, oil, or lard, which are then added to the food. Annatto and its extracts are now widely used in an artisanal or industrial scale as a colouring agent in many processed food products, such as cheeses, dairy spreads, butter and margarine, custards, cakes and other baked goods, potatoes, snack foods, breakfast cereals, smoked fish, sausages, and more.

In these uses, annatto is a natural alternative to synthetic food colouring compounds, but it has been linked to cases of food-related allergies. Annatto is of particular commercial value in the United States because the Food and Drug Administration considers colourants derived from it to be “exempt of certification”. 

Achiote or the annato tree (Bixa orellana) is a shrub or small tree originating from the tropical region of the Americas. It is 6–10 m high and bears clusters of 5 cm diameter bright white to pink flowers, resembling single wild roses, appearing at the tips of the branches. The fruits are in clusters: Spiky-looking red-brown seed pods covered in soft spines. Each pod contains many seeds covered with a thin waxy blood-red aril. When fully mature, the pod dries, hardens, and splits open, exposing the seeds.

North, Central, and South American natives originally used the seeds to make red body paint and lipstick, as well as a spice. For this reason, the achiote is sometimes called the lipstick tree. The species name was given by Linnaeus after the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana, an early explorer of the Amazon River. The name achiote derives from the Nahuatl word for the shrub, āchiotl [aːˈt͡ʃiot͡ɬ]. It may also be referred to as aploppas, or by its original Tupi name uruku, urucu or urucum (“red colour”), which is also used for the body paint prepared from its seeds.

The natural orange-red condiment (also called “achiote” or “bijol”) is obtained from the waxy arils that cover the seeds of the achiote tree. The ground seeds are widely used in traditional dishes in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, such as cochinita pibil, chicken in achiote and caldo de olla. 

Bixa orellana originated in South America but it has spread to many parts of the world. It is grown easily and quickly in frost-free regions, from sub-tropical to tropical climates, and thrives if sheltered from cool winds. It prefers year-round moisture, good drainage, and moderately fertile soil in full sun or partial shade. It can be propagated from seed and cuttings. Cutting-grown plants flower at a younger age than seedlings. The main commercial producers are countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, and also India and Sri Lanka, where it was introduced by the Spanish in the 17th century.

Ground B. orellana seeds are often mixed with other seeds or spices to form a paste or powder for culinary use especially in Latin American, Jamaican, Chamorro, and Filipino cuisines. The seeds are heated in oil or lard to extract its dye and flavour for use in dishes and processed foods such as cheese, butter, soup, gravy, sauces, cured meats, and other items. The seeds impart a subtle flavour and aroma and a yellow to reddish-orange colour to food.

The seeds are used to colour and flavour rice instead of the much more expensive saffron. In Brazil, a powder known as colorau or colorífico is made from the ground seeds combined with filler seeds like maize. This powder is similar to and sometimes replaces paprika. The Yucatecan condiment called recado rojo or “achiote paste” is made from ground seeds combined with other spices. It is a mainstay of the Mexican and Belizean cuisines. A condiment called sazón (“seasoning” in Spanish) is commonly used in Puerto Rican cuisine for meats and fish. Sazón is made from achiote seeds, cumin, coriander seeds, salt, and garlic powder.

In the language of flowers the annatto flower conveys the meaning: “Your exotic beauty is captivating”. Annatto seeds given in a small box mean: “You may kiss my lips”.

Wednesday 8 November 2017


“Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.” - Jean-Jacques Rousseau 

For this week’s theme Poets United has set its Midweek Motif as “Silence”. My poem refers to two Hellenistic gods: Harpocrates and Hermes – in case your mythology is rusty, here is what they stood for. 

Harpocrates (Ancient Greek: Ἁρποκράτης) was the god of silence, secrets and confidentiality in the Hellenistic religion developed in Ptolemaic Alexandria (and also an embodiment of hope, according to Plutarch). Harpocrates was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian child god Horus. To the ancient Egyptians, Horus represented the newborn sun, rising each day at dawn. When the Greeks conquered Egypt under Alexander the Great, they transformed the Egyptian Horus into the Hellenistic god known as Harpocrates, a rendering from Egyptian Har-pa-khered or Heru-pa-khered (“Horus the Child”). 

Hermes (Greek: Ἑρμῆς) is an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, and the second youngest of the Olympian gods (Dionysus being the youngest). Hermes was the emissary and messenger of the gods. Hermes was also “the divine trickster” and “the god of boundaries and the transgression of boundaries, ... the patron of herdsmen, thieves, graves, and heralds.” He is described as moving freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, and was the conductor of souls into the afterlife. He was also viewed as the protector and patron of roads and travellers.

During Classical and Hellenistic Greece he is usually depicted young and nude, with athleticism, as befits the god of speech and of the gymnastics. When represented as Logios (Greek: Λόγιος, speaker), his attitude is consistent with the attribute, his hands often in an eloquent gesture. 

Silence Befits Harpocrates

O, Horus Child; O, Sun of dawn,
Who by the shores of mighty Nile
You grow into virile manhood,
My forebears dubbed you Harpocrates,
For your Egyptian name was too rough
For their silvery, slippery tongues.

You stand and look at me smiling,
And unlike your children friends
You hold your tongue,
Though all you know, all you’ve seen;
And yet you talk not, you keep my secrets
Betrayer you are not, my loyal friend.

Harpocrates (I too, prefer this name of yours),
You weave fine wreaths of fragrant roses
And even if sharp thorn draws blood
From your pricked finger, you let it flow
And not a word escapes your lips,
No cry of pain, no sigh of fierce frustration.

I shall my lover call Harpocrates, after you,
For he too stays silent, (too silent for my liking),
And he too betrays no confidence,
(Even his own to me he will not give);
I tell all, confide in him and expect in return a flood of words,
But like you Harpocrates, all he does is smile – silently…

To Hermes Logios I shall sacrifice three nightingales,
And hope that he will give you more words than I need;
For while Harpocrates is a fine god for friends,
I’d rather model my lover after Hermes, whose eloquence
I want filling my voids with wise words, small talk, poetry,
Entreaties, vows, idle prattle, and even more vital,
Words of love, sweet talk of passion, nothings of fond affection…

Tuesday 7 November 2017


“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand.” - Neil Armstrong 

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.
Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel situated on a mountain ridge 2,430 metres above sea level. In the Quechua language, machu means “old”, while pikchu means “peak; mountain or prominence with a broad base that ends in sharp peaks”, hence the name of the site means “old peak”. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machupicchu District in Peru, above the Sacred Valley, which is 80 kilometres northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472).

During its use as a royal estate, it is estimated that no more than 750 people lived there at a time, most people being support staff (yanaconas, yana) who lived there permanently. Though the estate belonged to Pachacuti, religious specialists and temporary specialised workers (mayocs) lived there as well, most likely for the ruler’s well-being and enjoyment. During the harsher season, staff dropped down to around a hundred servants and a few religious specialists focused only on maintenance.

Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored and restoration continues. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.

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

Monday 6 November 2017


“Not every man remembers the name of the cow which supplied him with each drop of milk he has drunk.” - Shmuel Yosef Agnon 

Hathor (Egyptian: ḥwt-ḥr; in Greek: Ἅθωρ, meaning “mansion of Horus”) is an ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of ancient Egypt. Hathor was worshipped by royalty and common people alike. In tomb paintings, she is often depicted as “Mistress of the West”, welcoming the dead into the next life. In other roles, she was a goddess of music, dance, foreign lands, and fertility. She was believed to assist women in childbirth. She was also believed to be the patron goddess of miners. 

The cult of Hathor predates the historic period, and the roots of devotion to her are therefore difficult to trace, though it may be a development of predynastic cults that venerated fertility, and nature in general, represented by cows. Hathor is commonly depicted as a cow goddess with horns in which is set a sun disk with Uraeus. Twin feathers are also sometimes shown in later periods as well as a menat necklace. Hathor may be the cow goddess who is depicted from an early date on the Narmer Palette and on a stone urn dating from the 1st dynasty that suggests a role as sky-goddess and a relationship to Horus who, as a sun god, is “housed” in her. 

The ancient Egyptians viewed reality as multi-layered in which deities who merge for various reasons, while retaining divergent attributes and myths, were not seen as contradictory but complementary. In a complicated relationship Hathor is at times the mother, daughter and wife of Ra and, like Isis, is at times described as the mother of Horus, and associated with Bast. The cult of Osiris promised eternal life to those deemed morally worthy. Originally the justified dead, male or female, became an Osiris but by early Roman times females became identified with Hathor and men with Osiris. The ancient Greeks sometimes identified Hathor with the goddess Aphrodite.

Hathor had a complex relationship with Ra. At times she is the eye of Ra and considered his daughter, but she is also considered Ra’s mother. She absorbed this role from another cow goddess Mehet-Weret (“Great flood”) who was the mother of Ra in a creation myth and carried him between her horns. As a mother she gave birth to Ra each morning on the eastern horizon and as wife she conceives through union with him each day. 

Hathor, along with the goddess Nut, was associated with the Milky Way during the third millennium B.C. when, during the Autumn and Spring equinoxes, it aligned over and touched the earth where the sun rose and fell. The four legs of the celestial cow represented Nut or Hathor could, in one account, be seen as the pillars on which the sky was supported with the stars on their bellies constituting the Milky Way on which the solar barque of Ra, representing the sun, sailed. 
As Hathor’s cult developed from prehistoric cow cults it is not possible to say conclusively where devotion to her first took place. Dendera in Upper Egypt was a significant early site where she was worshiped as “Mistress of Dendera”. From the Old Kingdom era she had cult sites in Meir and Kusae with the Giza-Saqqara area perhaps being the centre of devotion. At the start of the first Intermediate period Dendera appears to have become the main cult site where she was considered to be the mother as well as the consort of “Horus of Edfu”. 
Deir el-Bahri, on the west bank of Thebes, was also an important site of Hathor that developed from a pre-existing cow cult. Temples (and chapels) dedicated to Hathor are:
The Temple of Hathor and Ma’at at Deir el-Medina, West Bank, Luxor;
The Temple of Hathor at Philae Island, Aswan;
The Hathor Chapel at the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. West Bank, Luxor;
The temple of Hathor at Timna valley, Israel. 
In Egyptian mythology, Nebethetepet was the manifestation of Hathor at Heliopolis. She was associated with the sun-god Atum. Her name means “Mistress of the Offering”.

Sunday 5 November 2017


“I love Russia because Russia gave me you.” ― John M. Simmons 

Olga Suvorova is an internationally acclaimed Russian artist. She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1966. She studied monumental composition at the famous Ilya Repin Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. Her career has been greatly influenced by her parents, Igor and Natalya, both highly praised artists in St. Petersburg. Other sources of influence include Gustav Klimt, Piero Della Francesca, and traditional Russian icons.

Suvorova’s work was exhibited in the St. Petersburg Art Academy in a solo showing in the spring of 1990 where her paintings were received with great enthusiasm and praise. In 1993 she was awarded first prize for painting by the Academy. She also was honoured with President Yeltsin’s Artist prize from a competition in which more than 3,000 artists took part. Presently, she is an accomplished and successful artist, possessing her own easily recognisable style, and busy with her exhibitions and commissions. She is a member of the Union of Artists of Russia.

The artist’s interesting portraits first gained her reputation in Russia, and then abroad. These tableaux have an eye-catching highly decorative style, which nevertheless does not become trite or facile. Filled with sumptuous detail and rich colour, the paintings possess harmony and a compositional formality that reminds the viewer of Renaissance masters. The effect is brilliant yet not gaudy, classical but not sparse, rich yet not glitzy. Her use of ornament and pattern reminds one of Klimt and Hundertwasser, but her meticulous drawing and modelling of form looks back in time whereas the artists aforementioned gazed into the future.

Suvorova exhibits regularly in Paris and London, and she has also exhibited in Italy, Germany, Sweden, Finland, France, Britain, Ireland, China, and the USA. Her work is highly regarded and eagerly acquired by galleries and serious art collectors around the world.

The painting above is one of her “Annunciation” canvases. It is replete with symbolism and as with many of her paintings, the portraits are flanked by florid decorative elements, which somehow remain non-intrusive, despite their overwhelming baroque omnipresence. Animals and flowers are another element that is an almost constant and universal accompaniment to the human figures, and here, birds complement the angels, whose widespread wings flank the Virgin. Mary’s face is mature and pensive, as though the annunciation has already converted her into an all-knowing and experienced woman and mother, rather than a simple and innocent maiden. The ultramarine blues are complemented by reds and yellows, but the viewer always returns to the expressive, although other-worldly faces.