Saturday, 7 September 2013


“You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.” - Gary Allan

For Music Saturday, the beginning of “Der Mond” (The Moon), an opera by Carl Orff. He is better known for his “Carmina Burana” (1937) – and rightly so, but he has also written some other wonderful works. “Der Mond” is one of these favourite works of mine, a beautiful, tragicomic work with some fantastic music.

Carl Orff (July 10, 1895 – March 29, 1982) was a 20th-century German composer. In addition to his career as a composer, Orff developed an influential approach of music education for children. His works “Der Mond” (1939) and “Die Kluge” (The Wise Woman, 1943), he referred to as “Märchenoper” (fairytale operas). Both compositions feature the same "timeless" sound in that they do not employ any of the musical techniques of the period in which they were composed, with the intent that they be difficult to define as belonging to a particular era. Their melodies, rhythms and, with them, text appear in a union of words and music.

Friday, 6 September 2013


“Once again, my life has been saved by the miracle of lasagna.” – ‘Garfield’ (Jim Davis)
Although we had a taste of Spring last week, the cold, wet and gray weather returned just in time of the weekend… So here’s a hearty vegetarian dish for the last few days of winter here in Melbourne. It is also a good one for election night, seeing how we are choosing the new government on Saturday September 7…
Eggplant Lasagne

1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
660ml tomato pasta sauce
125ml water
3 large eggplant, cut crossways into 3mm-thick slices
2 tsp salt
Olive oil spray
375g fresh lasagne sheets
2 eggs, lightly whisked
300g coarsely grated mozzarella
30g coarsely grated parmesan
Mixed salad leaves, to serve
Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the pasta sauce and water. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Preheat a sandwich toasting press. Dry eggplant slices with paper towel. Spray one-fifth of eggplant slices with olive oil spray. Cook in sandwich press for 7 minutes or until golden. Repeat, in 4 more batches, with olive oil spray and remaining eggplant.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread a little of the sauce over the base of a 2.5L capacity baking dish. Place one-quarter of the lasagne sheets, cutting to fit, on top. Top with one-quarter of the eggplant. Drizzle over a little egg. Top with one-quarter of the mozzarella, one-quarter of the remaining sauce and one-third of the parmesan. Continue layering with the remaining lasagne sheets, eggplant, egg, mozzarella, sauce and parmesan, finishing with sauce.
Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool. Serve with mixed salad leaves.

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

Thursday, 5 September 2013


“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” - Aristotle
How do you define happiness? For me it is a mental and emotional state where I am experiencing positive feelings and I am content with my life. It is a state that allows me to flourish and enjoy life, where I am able to be positive towards others and do some good that will benefit other people. Happiness is not something that can be bought in a box in a store, it has to be made and the only way to make it is to concentrate on actions rather than things. Creating and building up, giving to other people, teaching others something that I know and which is useful, making people laugh, loving others is what make me happy. What I do influences how I feel, and therefore my actions will be the ones that will determine my happiness.
Think about the last time you experienced the greatest sadness, the greatest melancholy, the greatest depression and the greatest unhappiness. When you broke up with your partner, for example. What did you learn about yourself at that time? What did you learn about life? Did that experience make you change yourself or the way you interacted with other people? Surely, such painful experiences are a valuable lesson and by changing the way we act we can influence future similar circumstances and even prevent some of the unpleasant occurrences in our life.
Think about the last time you were angry over something. Really furious! Indignant, fuming, exasperated… Examine the reason why. Try and think of the deep parts of your feelings that underlay your anger. Was it because of something you feared? Because of something that involved your possessions? Because of the way that you view other people? Because of your expectations? Because of your, yours, you…? Anger is a draining emotion and it can engender so much misery and pain. Last time you were angry, did you flush it all out by talking about it with someone you cared about? It’s only when we dispel anger and fear that we can become happy and we can love freely.
When was the last time you gave something of yourself to someone who truly needed it? Not the money you doled out to a beggar on the street, nor the cheque you wrote out to your favourite charity. Not even the money you gave your kids who needed to buy things for school. I’m talking about time. Sitting close to someone and spending valuable time listening to them, laughing with them, being sympathetic, being empathetic, even crying with them. Being kind and compassionate takes time, often takes courage, sometimes takes audacity or even bravery. Your happiness at the end of that time spent will be almost as much as the person who has been given that gift.
Have you ever felt you were being a coward? Avoiding situations or people that make you uncomfortable? Not doing what your really want to, or many time not having the courage to do what you really must do, what is really right? Weakness breeds fear and fear breeds anger, which makes us unhappy. Make that extra effort to do what you must, what you need to – even if it is unpleasant, or confronting, or challenging, or troublesome. You will feel relief once that is done. You will be happier afterwards.
When you are feeling unhappy, what do you do? Especially so if you are alone, when your friends are not within easy reach… Surf the net? Chat online? Watch TV? Go out? Drink? Eat? Do drugs? Why not reach out for a book and read? Why not read a poem? Why not read several poems? Why not contact a relative? Especially someone whom you have not talked to for years? Perhaps one with whom you exchanged some bitter words in the past? Why not forgive and forget and hold out an olive branch? Their reaction may surprise you and you may feel a lot better afterwards.
Life is hard enough without us consciously making it harder than it already is. To be happy is everyone’s right as long as it doesn’t make others unhappy in the process. It is of such fundamental importance to the human condition that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were deemed to be unalienable rights by the United States Declaration of Independence. We all deserve to be happy and being happy is easier than it seems. Especially so if your primary physical needs are taken care of.  Look towards the future with hope, live today to your best ability, while remembering the past’s lessons. Concentrate on actions and feelings rather than possessions and things. Give freely of yourself to others and accept gratefully what they offer to you in return, then you will be happy.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” - Melody Beattie

I am fortunate that I live in a country where I can lead a comfortable life, have a good job and where rights of the individual are not only respected, but assured. Looking at the news items from all over the world that are reported on a daily basis, I can only be grateful for my lot. Although I have to work hard and spend long hours doing my job both at work and at home I take heart when I consider that in many places, the unemployment rate is above 20% and many people have been jobless for years.

Looking at a world where war is still raging, terrorist actions abound and where many millions are refugees, I am thankful that I have a home to go to every night and that my life is peaceful. When I hear people complaining about their life here, in Australia I get rather annoyed. What they usually grumble about is inconsequential little details that have nothing to do with survival, petty matters that cause trifling annoyances – rich people’s problems…

I am appreciative of my early morning walks, every day. Although I live in big city of nearly five million people, there are many parks and parklands where from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. every day I can go for a walk and enjoy the serenity of a little time alone with my thoughts and have the bonus of the physical activity that I need so much, considering I spend the better part of my working day sitting at a desk.

There is always fresh, wholesome food on my table and a person to share it with that smiles and talks with me. I can turn on the tap and enjoy safe, clean drinking water and if it’s cold I can turn the heater on. A comfortable bed awaits me at night and the sheets are freshly laundered. How many people see all of these things as luxuries and even their daily bread and water is not assured them?

One does not have to go far to find misfortune. Even here in Australia, we have poverty and homelessness. There are people living on the street and they have to beg to eat and sleep out in the open. Fortunately, these are a minority. Nevertheless, they are needy and their circumstances in many cases are not self-inflicted. I have a lot of time for the charity organisations that do wonders in assisting these people. The Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, The Smith Family, Villa Maria, St John’s Youth Services are but a few of these organisations, which though donations and the hard work of volunteers do a lot to relieve the misery felt by many people in our community.

Further afield, Australian charity organisations do a lot for aid and development of third world countries and many Australians sponsor children through World Vision, UNICEF, Save the Children Fund, Compassion Australia and many more. If you are comfortably off, consider helping others. You can volunteer some of your time, you can provide know-how, resources or help that is always needed. You can donate some money and this web site is a good source and has contact details of most of the major charities.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


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

Magpie Tales has given us a Jeanie Tomanek painting this week to inspire us and stimulate some creativity for all those who take part in her challenge. Here is my offering.

Betwixt Laughter and Tears

How easily the pure white wedding dress changes to a shroud,
Mad laughter from sobbing tears cannot be distinguished.
The drunken revelry of feast only a step away from blackest desperation
And always, loneliness my most faithful companion…

Look at my eyes that pretend to laugh,
My lips that ostensibly stretch widely in a smile;
My hands gesticulating wildly,
Running after the jests that my mind imposes upon them.

If you could look into my heart, you’d understand:
You’d see the tears that fill it to the brim
Torrents that threaten to break all dams of pretended gaiety,
To spill over, drag down and drown feigned smiles.

Jeanie has this to say about herself and her art:
“Throughout my adult life I have always painted – sometimes only one painting a year.  Several years ago I escaped corporate life.  Since then I have concentrated on developing my style and voice in my work.

I paint to explore the significance of ideas, memories, events, feelings, dreams and images that seem to demand my closer attention.  Some of the themes I investigate come first in poems I write.  Literature, folktales and myths often inspire my exploration of the feminine archetype.  My figures often bear the scars and imperfections that, to me, characterize the struggle to become.

In my work I use oils, acrylic, pencil and thin glazes to create a multi-layered surface that may be scratched through, written on or painted over to reveal and excavate the images that feel right for the work. In reclaiming and reconstructing areas of the canvas, the process of painting becomes analogous to having a second chance at your life, this time a little closer to the heart’s desire.”

Monday, 2 September 2013


“When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself.” – Plato

Today is the anniversary of the birthday of:
Georg Böhm
, German composer (1661);
John Howard
, prison reformer (1726);
, last queen of Hawaii (1838);
Henry George
, economist (1839);
Wilhelm Ostwald
, Nobel laureate (1909) chemist (1853);
Allan Drury
, author (1918);
Jimmy Connors
, tennis player (1952).

The gladiolus, Gladiolus spp, is the birthday flower for this day.  The name is derived from the Latin gladius, meaning “sword”, in reference to the sword-shaped leaves.  The gladiolus symbolises readiness for battle and in the language of flowers means: “You pierce my heart”.

On this day in 490 BC, Pheidippides ran the first Marathon to announce the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in Marathon, Attica, Greece.  He dropped dead from exhaustion promptly afterwards.  The tradition of running the Marathon in the Olympic Games is a commemoration of that historic victory and the original fatal run.

In 1666 on this day the Great Fire London started and lasted for 3 days.

Today is Vietnam’s Proclamation of Independence Day (since 1954). Vietnam was part of French Indochina and only gained its independence in 1954. Decades of internal discord, civil war mixed with external interference and tragic armed conflicts have hampered its development. The country has an area of 330,000 square km and a population of about 70 million people. It stretches along the South China Sea down a mountainous backbone and encompassing two river deltas: The Song Hong in the North and the Mekong to the South. Rice, coffee and rubber are the main crops with reserves of coal, anthracite, lignite, tin, iron ore and extensive rainforests beginning to be developed. The climate is monsoonal with moderate rainfall. The capital city is Hanoi with other major cities including Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hué, Rach Gia, Nha Trang and Haiphong.