Music Monday: March roundup

A bit of new release enthusiasm, a bit of discography-spanning nostalgia, and a bit of anticipation building. A month that had it all!

1. Madonna (152)
2. Rush (148)
3. Ramin Djawadi (87)

Outdoor Pleasures

picnicDining outdoors is a tradition that spans many cultures and has withstood the test of time. A meal eaten under open sky in the company of loved ones is an occasion in its own right. The very character of picnics, by virtue of their bringing together so much that is pleasing to humanity, makes them a wonderful way to unwind from stress, reconnect with people and nature, and create new memories. There is something magical about picnicking. A blanket, a basket, and a landscape pleasing to the eye intensify the deliciousness of food and help us see the beauty of lazy afternoons spent in nature.

Thoughts of picnics past bring to mind images as varied as we are because the experience of dining outdoors with pleasant companions can unfold in myriad ways. We tend to picnic at the park or on the beach out of necessity, enjoying nourishment in the open air to prolong playtime. But botanical gardens, zoos, museum grounds, nature preserves, and our own backyards can also offer wonderful picnicking venues. Similarly, we associate quintessential summertime foods with picnics, though almost any category of cuisine can be enjoyed picnic style. Refreshing, light foods such as freshly sliced fruit and crisp salads are particularly invigorating on hot summer days. Anticipation of and preparing the food can be just as exciting as the picnic itself. Provisions are only one component of a picnic, however. Games of cards, a Frisbee toss, or other simple, traditional pastimes can provide a secondary focus that expands the scope of your outing beyond foodstuffs. Connecting with nature during your picnic can be an easy way to fit in a meditation; whether you lay down under a tree to watch squirrels play or sit by a creek to take in the sounds of trickling water. Remember, too, that if it should happen that your well-planned picnic is disrupted by inclement weather, the pleasures of good company and good food are rendered no less enjoyable when savored on a blanket spread indoors.

Though a solitary picnic can be a treat, picnicking is an activity best shared with the people you care for. Spending time outdoors with others to eat and to play and to be merry will revitalize you, reminding you that life’s most sacred pleasures are often the simplest. When was the last time you enjoyed a picnic?


Selfish Saturday: Going Camping

Camp-Participant-2015-Square-ButtonI’m not necessarily better, at least physically. In fact, the past week has seen the return (with a vengeance) of some pains that I thought I had dialled back. I guess I’ll just have to cope.

Still, my muse has come back from hibernation with a big project: a series of urban fantasy novels set in Athens. So hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Camp I go again. I have two ideas so far, for the April and July sessions. Short drafts to start with, because half of the month is Easter break, which usually means little writing time, but I just might make it in time.

As a result, blogging will be restricted for the duration as well. I’m not going completely MIA, unlike in November, but there will be less to follow around. My Camp corner is where it will be at.

Foodie Friday: Veggie Jalfrezi Curry

veggiejalfrezi(Serves 8)

1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 red onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1cm root ginger, grated
2 chillies, deseeded and chopped
450g jar jalfrezi sauce
400g can chopped tomatoes
650g butternut squash, chopped
1 cauliflower, broken into florets
Salt and ground black pepper
200g frozen peas
2 tbsp coriander leaves
Toasted mini naan breads, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole. Fry the onions for 5 minutes, to soften. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies, and cook for 1 minute.
2. Pour in the jalfrezi sauce and the chopped tomatoes. Fill the can with water and add to the casserole.
3. Add the butternut squash and cauliflower. Season with salt and ground black pepper and stir well. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
4. Stir in the frozen peas and cook for a further 2 minutes. Scatter with coriander leaves to serve.

Ludwig McBeethoven?

Beethoven, the classical master, writing Scottish popular songs? Yes – and he wasn’t the only composer to be inspired by folk music. Michael Oliver explains.

Was it Constant Lambert, or our old friend Anon, who said that when you’ve played a folk song once all you can do is play it again – louder? Whoever it was, he’d hit on an important point. Anybody writing, say, a symphony will need to set themes in contrast or conflict with each other, develop them and build them into a satisfying large-scale structure. All these things are done by means of the major/minor key system, which can generate powerful tensions and attractions between themes and groups of themes. Very many folk songs, however, use scales that are neither major nor minor. To make a symphony out of them you must either distort them by cramming them into a key that doesn’t fit, or put up with a symphony in which most of those all-important tensions and attractions are absent.

Besides, it’s of the essence of a folk song that it has a fairly simple, repetitive structure. Symphonic composers write tunes that are suitable for development and transformation. The anonymous composers of folk songs aimed above everything at memorability and repeatability. One verse of a folk song may take only a few seconds to sing, but it is a complete work of art. Converting a folk song into a symphony is like trying to turn a sonnet into a novel.

Continue reading ‘Ludwig McBeethoven?’

Month at a Glance

March 2015
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