Saturday, 27 February 2016


“When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story.” - Joshua Bell

Francesco Antonio Bonporti (11 June 1672 – 19 December 1749) was an Italian priest and amateur composer. He was born in Trento. In 1691, he was admitted to the Collegium Germanicum in Rome, where he studied theology. There, he also studied composition under the guidance of Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni and, although it is not confirmed, violin with Arcangelo Corelli.

Back in his native Trento, he was ordained a priest in 1695. In 1740 he moved to Padua, where he lived until his death. He influenced Johann Sebastian Bach in the development of the invention, and in fact several of his works were mistakenly included in a set of Bach’s inventions. In reality, Bach had transcribed for harpsichord four violin pieces from Bonporti’s op. X (1712). Bonporti’s musical work consists of twelve collections, published between 1696 and 1736. He died in Padua in 1749.

Musicians curiously sought out the music of this unknown composer good enough to be mistaken for the master Bach. They found a composer of high skill, great originality, and even daring, with very accomplished part writing, where all voices are generously highly melodic in their own right. His weakness is that he wrote in different styles to please a diverse bunch of highly connected dedicatees, so he did not develop his own individual “sound”.

Here are some of his concerti and serenatas, played by Bloomington Baroque, directed by Stanley Ritchie who is also violin soloist.

The photo is of Prato della Valle (Prà deła Vałe in Venetian), which is a 90,000 square metre elliptical square in Padova, Italy. It is the largest square in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe. Today, the square is a large space with a green island at the centre, l'Isola Memmia, surrounded by a small canal bordered by two rings of statues.

Friday, 26 February 2016


“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” - John Gunther

I love having a leisurely breakfast with music playing, hot toast, poached eggs, freshly made proper coffee, fruit, freshly squeezed juice… Sometimes though, it’s a mad rush at breakfast time and people have a few sips of coffee and leave the house without eating anything. Bad move, but I have been guilty of this myself on more than one occasion. The answer is to have some quickly portable breakfast food around that can be taken and eaten on the run. Enter the Fruit and Nut Bars:

Fruit & Nut Bars
Olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1 tbsp sunflower seeds1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp roughly crushed almonds
1 cup skim milk powder
3 tbsp margarine
4 tbsp honey
250 mL apricot nectar

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line an 18 x 28 cm rectangular baking tray with baking paper and lightly grease with olive oil.
Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside. Place the margarine and honey in a medium saucepan over a low heat and stir until the margarine has melted. Add to the bowl and stir through, adding the apricot nectar mixing well.
Press the mixture into the pan, spreading firmly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and, while still hot, cut into ten bars. Remove from the tin and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Thursday, 25 February 2016


“Out in the lonely woods the jasmine burns Its fragrant lamps, and turns Into a royal court with green festoons The banks of dark lagoons.” - Henry Timrod

One of the flowers I associate most with my childhood and my grandparents house especially is the Summer jasmine. The delicious smell of the flower-bedecked vigorous climber filled not only the garden, but also wafted into the house through the open windows at night. Even now I cannot smell the flowers and not be transported back to the carefree Summers I spent with my grandparents and remember the wonderful garden that they had.

Jasminum officinale, known as the common jasmine, is a species of flowering plant in the olive family Oleaceae, native to the Caucasus, northern Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Himalayas, Tajikistan, India, Nepal and western China. The species is widely cultivated in many places, and is reportedly naturalised in France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Romania, the former Yugoslavia, Algeria, Florida and the West Indies. It is also known as summer jasmine, poet’s jasmine, white jasmine, true jasmine or jessamine, and is particularly valued by gardeners throughout the temperate world for the intense fragrance of its flowers in summer. It is also the national flower of Pakistan.

Jasminum officinale is a vigorous, twining, deciduous climber with sharply pointed pinnate leaves and clusters of starry, pure white flowers in summer, which are the source of its heady scent. The cultivation of this plant is so ancient that its country of origin, though somewhere in Central Asia, is not certain. In ninth-century Chinese texts J. officinale was said to come from Byzantium. Its Chinese name, Yeh-hsi-ming is a version of the Persian and Arabic name (alyasimin). Its entry into European gardens was most likely through the Arab-Norman culture of Sicily.

In the mid-14th century the Florentine Boccaccio in his “Decameron” describes a walled garden in which “the sides of the alleys were all, as it were, walled in with roses white and red and jasmine; insomuch that there was no part of the garden but one might walk there not merely in the morning but at high noon in grateful shade.” Jasmine water also features in the story of Salabaetto in the “Decameron”. Jasminum officinale, “of the household office” where perfumes were distilled, was so thoroughly naturalised that Linnaeus thought it was native to Switzerland. As a garden plant in London it features in William Turner’s “Names of Herbes”, 1548. Numerous cultivars have been developed for garden use, but also for cultivation in order to harvest the flowers and produce the jasmine oil absolute that is used in perfumery.

The essential oil of Jasminum officinale is used in aromatherapy. Jasmine absolute is known as the “King of Oils”, and its heavy, sweet scent is loved by most people. The flowers release their perfume at dusk, so flowers are picked at night and a tiny amount of oil is obtained by solvent extraction. The result is a very expensive oil, but it can be used in low concentrations so it is not that uneconomic to use it in products. The aroma of jasmine is described as calming and soothing without being soporific, and is indicated for depression and stress, as well as some respiratory conditions.

As a herbal medicine, the oil is used in dermatology as either an antiseptic or anti-inflammatory agent. Jasminum officinale L. var. grandiflorum is a folk medicine used for the treatment of hepatitis in south of China. It has shown anti-viral activity in vitro. This oil can cause irritation in some people if used too frequently or in high concentrations, so use with caution, preferably in low concentrations. A major component of jasmine is benzyl acetate (~25%), which is known to be absorbed through the skin and known to be an allergic sensitiser. Those who show allergies to spicy food, perfumes and cosmetics are most likely to react. However, the power of the scent is such that only tiny amounts are required anyway. Jasmine is also an emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual blood flow) and therefore should not be used during pregnancy.

In Arabic, “alyasimin” means “white flower”, which in turn embodies feminine beauty and temptation. In Asia, jasmine is considered a heavenly flower. In India, Kama, the goddess of love, strikes her victims with a jasmine-laced arrow. In the Western Language of Flowers, jasmine signifies amiability and can convey the message: “You are cheerful and graceful”.

Jasmine is considered to be a sacred flower in Asia. The Hindus strung jasmine flowers together to form garlands and presented then to their most honoured guests. A fragrant emblem of love, jasmine flowers are often entwined into bridal flowers at Indian weddings. This custom is said to promise the bridal couple a deep and lasting affection for eternity. Jasmine is known as ‘moonlight of the grove’ in India due to its ghostly pale flowers.

An ancient Indian myth of a princess who fell in love with the sun god Surya-Deva attempts to explain why the jasmine flower will only open its petals at night. According to the myth, the sun god rejected the princess’s love and she was so heartbroken that she killed herself. Her ashes were scattered to the ground, and from the ashes the beautiful jasmine grew. Since the sun god was responsible for her death, the jasmine flower would only open and release her perfume at night. Throughout history, jasmine has been revered for its aphrodisiac qualities, and known as a plant of love.

This post is part of the Floral Friday meme.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


“My witness is the empty sky.” - Jack Kerouac

For this week’s theme in Poets United, we are exploring the concepts of “Martyrdom/Witness”. Forgive me if I’ve gone on a tangent, but the image of a flowerless gardenia (a martyr-witness) stuck in my mind…

My Words of Love

My words of love
Are taken by the wind;
My sighs of love
Lifted up high in the air
Unheard, unanswered, wasted
They vanish, taken by the wind.

These four walls
Only they hear me
They listen to my sighs
They share my tears
And ever silently
Are faithful witness to my hopes.

These empty pages
Echo my thoughts, my fears
My joyless days.
Pen, paper, ink know me well by now,
And words are self-propelled
While mirroring my meditations.

The virginal gardenia
On my windowsill awaits:
A martyr of lovelessness
Will only bloom
When other sighs except my own
Will it hear within these walls.

My words of love
Are taken by the wind;
My sighs of love
Lifted up high in the air
Unheard, unanswered, wasted
They vanish, taken by the wind.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” - Ernest Hemingway

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.
The Eiffel Tower (French: tour Eiffel) is a wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Constructed in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticised by some of France's leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world.

The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world: 6.98 million people ascended it in 2011. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010. The tower is 324 metres tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building. Its base is square, 125 metres on a side. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930.

Due to the addition of the aerial at the top of the tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 metres. Not including broadcast aerials, it is the second-tallest structure in France, after the Millau Viaduct. The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second. The top level’s upper platform is 276 m above the ground, the highest accessible to the public in the European Union. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift to the first and second levels. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the climb from the first level to the second. Although there is a staircase to the top level, it is usually only accessible by lift.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,

and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme.

Monday, 22 February 2016


“I never do anything fun, because I'm a housewife. I hate that word ‘housewife’. I prefer to be called ‘domestic goddess’.’ - Roseanne Barr

We have just finished watching the first season of the 2004 soapie “Desperate Housewives” on DVD, which I must say I was dragged in to watch kicking and screaming. Reading the blurb on the cover and seeing the cover photo, I must say that I groaned. This was a typical chick-flick type of soapie that I was just going to hate and I was going to watch a few episodes and then politely make up excuses and desist from watching the remaining episodes of this mammoth eight-season series…

Never heard of this series, like me before watching it? Well you must have been living on the same planet as me (which is not earth) as every other person on earth has apparently seen this! The show is about suburban life for a group of close-knit housewives who have become good friends and apparently live a “normal” suburban life. However, this is no ordinary suburb as one of their closest friends mysteriously commits suicide. So not only do they have to deal with their own hectic problems and romantic lives, but they have to work out why on earth would a happy housewife suddenly take her own life. Each season of the series brings on a new mystery and more twisted events in the dark and complex lives of the residents of Fairview…

Well, having watched the first season, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. The show is not boring and furthermore it had me hooked. What really sucked me in was that it deals with some serious issues, but it has humour! And that’s the winner for me and that is what kept me watching it. The other winner is that the characters, although anything but normal, do resonate and viewers can immediately recognise them as people they know or have met. Also despite the understandable exaggeration that a soapie plotline indulges in, there are so many situations and dialogue that rings remarkably real. Hats off to the creator of the series, Marc Cherry for getting the mix right.

The other strength of the show is the fantastic cast, especially the female leads who play the housewives of the title desperately well! Terri Hatcher as the insecure and slightly inept Susan Mayer, Felicity Huffman as the efficient and erstwhile successful businesswoman Lynette Scavo (I have a lot of time for this common sense lady!), Marcia Cross as the neurotic perfectionist Bree Van De Kamp, Eva Longoria as the narcissistic, shallow ex-model Gabrielle Solis, and finally  Nicollette Sheridan as the predatory sexpot Edie Britt. The supporting actors are excellent also, as they have to be, I guess, in the cutthroat world of soapie TV…

Overall, an enjoyable, entertaining, funny (although often sensitive and poignant) series. I’m grateful that I was made to watch it and look forward to seeing Season 2! Oh, and by the way I enjoyed the introduction and credits as the idea of using a send-up of famous artworks was fantastic. There is reference to “Adam and Eve” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, “The Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck, “American Gothic” by Grant Wood, and Andy Warhol's “Campbell's soup can”. Also alluded to are the lesser known “Couple Arguing” and “Romantic Couple” by Robert Dale (drawn in a comic book style similar to that of Roy Liechtenstein) and a 1940s “Am I Proud!” poster by Dick Williams (showing a woman holding cans).

Sunday, 21 February 2016


“Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance.” - Charles Lindbergh

Eliseu Meifrèn i Roig (24 December 1857/59, Barcelona - 5 February 1940, Barcelona) was a Catalonian Impressionist painter. After a conventional youth culminating with his enrolment at University to study medicine, Meifrèn decided that this was not his calling. Following his passion for art, he gave up the study of medicine and enrolled at the Escola de la Llotja, where his teachers were Antoni Caba and Ramon Martí Alsina.

In 1879, as a young man, he went to Paris and supported his studies by selling small canvases and sketches of cityscapes. His style was, however, decisively influenced by a brief tour of Italy. Upon his return to Spain in 1881, he participated in the National Exhibition of Fine Arts. Venice. The following year, he married, honeymooned in Paris, and settled there. His first personal exhibition came in 1890 at the Sala Parés in Barcelona, where he presented seventy oils in a rather conventional landscape style, and surprised everyone by auctioning off the works that did not sell, with his friend Santiago Rusiñol acting as the appraiser.

Meifrèn used the proceeds to return to Italy. In 1892, he went back to Paris and began to associate with the Impressionists, with his canvases showing their influence in his more adventurous use of colour. Five years later, he accepted an invitation from the President of the “Gabinete Literario”, and moved to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. His home there became a makeshift art academy, where Néstor Martín-Fernández de la Torre was one of his students.

His fame peaked at the turn of the century, with exhibitions in South America as well as Europe. However, after the commercial failure of his works at the “Real Círculo Artístico de Barcelona”, he decided to move to Buenos Aires. He arrived there in 1903, held his first exhibition shortly after and organised a large exposition of Catalonian painters in 1904, including five pastels by Pablo Picasso.

In 1905, he was offered the position of Director at the “Escola de d’Arts i Oficis de Palma” on Mallorca, accepted, and moved again. He continued to travel however, to France, Italy, Buenos Aires and Brussels, where he participated in the International Exposition, winning the Silver Medal. In 1915, he travelled to the United States to promote himself at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, receiving honourable mention, and won the Grand Prize at an exhibition in San Diego. He then settled briefly in New York, where he displayed his paintings of Mallorca and Cadaqués, a village where he had spent his summers since 1886.

Finally, in 1917, he returned to Barcelona to stay. His wife died in 1924 and he remarried in 1930. When the Spanish Civil War began, he and his family fled to Manresa, where they lived as refugees until 1939. In December of that year, his final exhibition was held in Barcelona at the Sala Gaspar. It was a critical and financial success, but he was too ill to attend. A few weeks later, his health worsened rapidly and he died in February.

Meifrèn was a very prolific, solid and skilful painter and stood out for his landscapes and seascapes, whose initial realism gradually opened up to the boldness of impressionism, although he did not fully espouse this influence until the 1920s–1930s. His later canvases are lively and fresh filled with the sun of the Mediterranean coast.

The painting above is “El Marne” from 1932, showing his fully developed impressionist style. The influence of Monet is apparent in both subject matter, colour and technique. The painting is an oil on canvas, 60.5 x 80.5 cm, and is exhibited in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, in Barcelona.