January 31, 2010

"End Of The Endless."

The endless month we call January is actually ending. Amazingly, it went by a lot quicker than I am used to. I am not sure why, but the feel of an oppressive eternity seems to have been absent this year.

Perhaps it is due to the presence of the snow, turning our surroundings brighter and lighter. Perhaps it was the lack off fog and rain or the fact that the sunshine hours even outnumbered November. In any case, today is the last day of January.

Even though we are still standing in midwinter, there is a slight, but palpable change in the air.

The sun.

It is clearly moving higher up in the sky. I can not adequately explain in words what this means. Or how important it is. We have by now gained about 90 minutes more light since the winter solstice and the quality of the daylight has been visibly altered. The sunshine is more platinum than golden and the sunsets occur later and last longer.

It is the first significant sign foretelling that although spring is nowhere in sight, winter has reached - and passed - its peak.

January 30, 2010

Time Captured In Snow.

The winters in southern Scandinavia are in contrary to popular belief quiet temperate. They feel cold, due to the damp, windy conditions, but on average, the temperatures will stay around 5C during the day and around freezing, or just below freezing in the night. The Gulf Stream keeps our weather very stable, thus our winters are mild and our summers cool. Not my kind of weather at all, if you ask me.

However, as with every rule, there are exceptions. Every few years we do get large amount of snowfall, particularly in January and February, making our winters feel long and at times endless. December snow is very rare and the fact that our Christmas 2009 was white is highly unusual and happens on average every fifteen years. Since that very snow fall in the middle of December last year we have experienced record breaking weather conditions. In fact the temperatures have remained below freezing, way below freezing almost constantly for six weeks. The few hours of plus degrees did not manage to thaw very much of the very first snow away and in periods, we continue to receive fresh addition, such as yesterday night. Thus everywhere I look I see fresh snow, but also old snow. The remains of December snow are clearly visible. My garden furniture, my flower pots and my lounge chair are all covered by snow that is by now six weeks old.

As I walk around my terrace, gazing at the old layers, which still look as white and pristine as when they fell, I realized that I am - in an interesting and unique way - revisiting the past. Minutes, days and weeks, all captured in frozen precipitation we call snow...

January 29, 2010

Flashback Friday: "I Promised Myself".

Nick Kamen's face became known from one of the many Levi's commercials that did run on television in the 80's. Those sultry ads featuring good looking men with their jeans.

This one was no exception. A handsome man stripping down in a 1950s style public laundromat, in order to stone-wash his blue jeans, while he waits clad only in his boxer shorts. Apparently, this dramatically increased the popularity of this undergarment and this ad was selected for The 100 Greatest TV Ads of all time in 2000.

However, Nick Kamen was more than a pretty face and did enjoy a brief singing carrier in the 80's. I did like his music, but to me he was always just a face from that jeans ad.
Until 1990, that is. In this year he released his his self-penned song "I Promised Myself". I think that compilation and the video that followed had everything that enticed my young romantic mind. The images were so simple, yet the young man standing there with his guitar appeared to be singing directly to me, looking at me with his enigmatic green eyes, telling me "...I will wait for you...". Needles to say I listened to the tape with this song until the tape broke.

Today I have grown out of some of my naivete, but a certain magic of the compilation has not diminished. Even though I by now consider the video to be somewhat aged and the thrill I used to feel is gone, I still relish in its aesthetics, its simplicity and in the timeless appeal of the lyrics and the harmonies.

January 28, 2010

Pink Checkers.

I have previously disclosed that I receive weekly surface mail from Ireland, containing small presents and sweets.

This week the package contained the most appealing cakes I have ever seen. Unknown to me until very recently, when I stumbled upon pictures of the cake online, while talking to my Irishman. It is called Battenberg Cake and is basically a sponge cake covered in marzipan, which when cut in cross section, displays a distinctive two-by-two check pattern alternately coloured pink and yellow.

As it states on the beautifully coloured box my five small cakes came in:
"Chequered sponge sandwiched together with an apricot filling, wrapped in almond flavour paste."

It is the single most visually appealing and delicious cake I have ever tasted, believe me. Although I am a great fan of white chocolate, I think I might have found my very new favorite sweet addiction.

January 27, 2010

The Golden Ratio.

Also known as the Divine Proportion, The Golden Mean, or Golden Section, is a number that plays a major role in architecture, art, the way we perceive beauty and is found freely in the natural designs of various life forms.
It is basically viewed as an irrational mathematical constant and equals approximately 1.6180339887. It is often labeled Phi.

The number itself was determined by a mathematical calculation of a sequence of numbers, called the Fibonacci sequence.
Leonardo Fibonacci was born around AD 1170 and was an Italian mathematician, considered by some as the most talented mathematician of the Middle Ages.

As with anything mysthical and unusual, I am utterly intrigued by the Golden Ratio. Still, even though I have researched the subject in depth I feel I am not an expert yet to adequately explain the mathematics and the theory behind the ratio. This can be much better achieved by reading the numerous sites online dedicated to this enchanted number, such as this one. Some list objects, designed by the Golden Mean and truly, when looking at them, they do appeal to be more beautiful and eastethic, when compared to those that are not designed with the ratio in mind.

Both Leonardo Da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli created paintings that seem to follow the law of the Divine Proportion. Today, many artists and designers are very aware of it's existence and use it avidly in their work. The principles of the sequence can also be found in other areas, not just art and architecture. The Golden Mean is obvious in music, photography, interior design, graphic design and even in nature.
Some examples are: Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and The Last Supper (art), the Greek Parthenon and Egyptian Pyramids (architecture), the design of a Nautilus Shell (nature) and in the masterpieces of numerous composers such as Bartók, Debussy, Schubert, Bach and Satie.

I found particularly this animation very helpful when understanding how the formula is used in praxis and the clip below examins the Golden Ratio even more in depth.

January 26, 2010

Halo Around The Moon.

The moon is visible again in the Northern night sky. Our last few evenings have been clear enough to reveal the cool glow of an almost full silver disc.

On Sunday night the sight was obstructed by a few clouds and the weather conditions produced a halo around the moon. This bright effect most likely occurs when high thin clouds containing millions of tiny ice crystals cover much of the sky. Each ice crystal acts like a miniature lens, diffracting the moon light. Science aside, the image appeared unusual and enchanting.

Yesterday night the skies were pristine and as I was returning home from work, I simply had to pause and gaze at the jet black sky, which was filled with millions of stars. This view will never cease to mesmerize me, as it is at night that it truly becomes very obvious to me that our planet floats suspended in space. The evening was bitterly cold and the Orion Belt clearly visible in my view.

I only wish I had a professional camera that could take magnificent pictures of the night sky. All I have to settle for are a few precious imprints in my memory and one really bad shot of the moon.

January 25, 2010

Unforgettable Moments.

“There is no happiness; there are only moments of happiness.”
(Spanish Proverb)

Unforgettable Moments.
We all have those.
Memories of a fleeting instant in time, so powerful and compelling, it carves an imprint in our consciousness, where it will forever remain vivid and clear. Endlessly confirming the fact that our perception always overrules the laws of time.

These moments are as unpredictable, as they are enchanting. We can not envisage them ahead, they just appear, as if by magic, out of nowhere, when we least expect it. They instigate an allure, which is everlasting and fuels our joy for life at all times.
When they do occur, it feels as if we are standing in the very core of our existence, being able to control time, making it stand absolutely still, while we mastermind our senses. We can taste scents, hear colours and see sounds. And we can touch and seize the present, unlike any other moment, to conserve it as pristine as it feels right then and there.

We all carry in our memory at least one such a snapshot in time, which we love to revisit and relive, whenever we choose. When an ordinary morning or evening, in a very ordinary day, turns into that special recollection, which will never leave us. It can be a simple alignment of events, creating an absolute perfection in our perception. This flawless image can include beautiful natural scenes, alluring sounds, extraordinary interventions or the presence of exceptional people. A unique combination that will at all times reinforce our belief in the beautiful, in the divine, in the good, in the magical and in the miracle of life. Again and again.

Life is worth living, if only for those transcending moments in time. However few, and however far in between they are.

January 24, 2010

Seven Wisdoms.

I would very much like to acknowledge a few awards I have received recently (and less recently). I am so flattered that you keep passing these onto me, even though I have stopped passing them on myself. I simply refuse to choose who gets one and who gets left out.

The first one was given to me by Queenmothermamaw and is called "Sisters In faith Award". It is given to the bloggers that have touched ones life and to a new acquaintance as well, which turned out to be me. Thank you so much, I am very honoured to have been chosen for this beautiful sentiment.

The second came from the lovely sprinkles and is entitled "Best Blog Comments Award". Honestly, it should be given back to her with the same token as it was given to me, considering she is one of my most dedicated and valued reader, stopping by every single day, commenting every single post I have ever written. Even the really bad ones. Thank you my dear friend, this means a lot to me.

The last one came from the beautiful Kat and is entitled "Kreativ Blogger Award". The spelling appears not English and I wonder so where it actually originated. Thank you so much dearest Kat and sorry it took me a while to acknowledge this.

This award came with a tag as well, to list seven things that people might not know about me. I have been listing similar tags so many times now, that there is nothing left of any interest to anyone anymore to reveal about me. Therefore I have decided to alter this tag slightly.
I am going to list seven most important things I have learned in life or wisdom that I found to be true:

1) You are capable of achieving more than you think; If you can dream it, you can do it.
2) You will always regret that which you did not do, not that which you did.
3) Happiness is a state of mind.
4) Seize the day. Always and every one.
5) Be curious.
6) Keep your feat warm, your stomach half full and your head cold.
7) The best is ALWAYS yet to come.

January 23, 2010

Snow Therapy.

The other day I heard on the news that snow, or snow covered landscape, helps ease our winter depression. The white colour reflects light and aids greatly in making us up here in the cold and dark North feel happier.

I have to agree. January is usually a dreadful month. Dark, drizzly, cold and absolutely endless. This year though I perceive it very differently. I do indeed feel happier and I am less tired. Snow has been covering the ground for the past five weeks and with the returning daylight my surroundings indeed look beautiful and enchanting.

It has also been extremely cold. This is the third week of constant subzero temperatures and the effect is very obvious on the evergreens. I have never ever seen them looking so sad. Their leaves look thin and flat and have rolled into themselves like ancient parchment. Particularly the Rhododendron looks unrecognizable. It already displays buds, which will result in beautiful magenta flowers in June and it will then become the most beautifully coloured bush in my garden. Its appearance right now makes it absolutely impossible to imagine that this will come to pass, as it indeed doesn't look very much alive. It is enticing to ponder how such a delicate plant can survive this extreme weather.

Nature is a constant source of magic, at any time of the year.

January 22, 2010

Flashback Friday: "Relight My Fire".

I was a bit too young to fully enjoy the hits of the 70's disco era, but I nevertheless remember them all. My parents, whose love for music I inherited, also loved to dance. Although they remember fondly and appreciate greatly the charm of a "live" orchestra from the 60's, they did swing on the dance floor in the decade that followed to all the undying disco dance melodies.

I recall Dan Hartman's hits mainly from the later part of the 80's, such as "I can Dream About You", still the below is one of my absolutely favorite dance compilations. "Relight My Fire" was released in 1979 and topped the U.S. dance-music charts for six weeks. Loleatta Holloway is one of the featured vocalists on the record. It was also a major hit almost 15 years later when covered by the British boy-band "Take That", featuring Lulu in 1993.

Considering the solemn pieces I have been sharing in the last few weeks, I think it is time for something upbeat and refreshing. I think it is time to hit the dance floor! Happy weekend everyone.
And don't forget to dance.

January 21, 2010

My Red Toolbox.

Recently my very talented blog friend Betsy wrote a fun post about the necessity for us girls to own - and be able to use - at least a few tools. Those that enable us to fix things on our own, when our men are not around.

When I lived in North Carolina, I realized at one point that I had to buy at least one set of the most common and important tools. I recall it as if it was yesterday. It was a warm day in July, one of those typical hot and humid afternoons in the southeast, when I decided to drive to Sears in one of the local malls. I was in my late twenties, very tanned, with long blond hair, wearing a short summer dress. When I entered the tool section in the store I could see the question marks written all over the sales personal faces (all men). I half expected them to tell me that fashion and cosmetics stores are in the other end of the mall. However, the men soon found it slightly intriguing when I politely explained that I was looking into buying my very own (first) tool box and some tools. And they were all very helpful, even though that slightly confused and amused look never left their facial expression.
Within twenty minutes I walked away with a small red box filled with a hammer, a set of screwdrivers and even some nails and wrenches.

I use all of these to this day. To be honest, I am not big on DIY, but I have put up pictures on the walls, fixed loose bolts and even assembled furniture. Even though most of the heavy duties I save for my handy Irishman, who helps me with much of that during his stays here.
Despite the fact that today I own many tools, which I have collected over the years, of better quality, I still use - and love - all those that I bought in Sears those many years ago; such as those displayed below, including that cute little hammer. And I still keep all my tools in that red toolbox of mine.

January 20, 2010

A Collage.

I am a great fan of collages. Since I was a child, I loved to draw and paint, but I also enjoyed cutting out bits and pieces of paper, fabrics and most of all, photographs, creating my own art. Some of these are still on display in my home today, like this one on the left, summarizing a period of twenty years in my life, depicting family and friends and the best moments in my past.

The words collage originates from the French coller, meaning to glue. As quoted by the wikipedia:
"A collage may include newspaper clippings, ribbons, bits of colored or hand-made papers, portions of other artwork, photographs... glued to a piece of paper or canvas. The origins of collage can be traced back hundreds of years, but this technique made a dramatic reappearance in the early 20th century as an art form of novelty."

Today of course I enjoy creating a digital collage, in fact I find it is becoming a great hobby of mine. Many of you have expressed an interest in my collages or mosaics - which I often share here with you - and have asked me how I make these. Well, I love to sit down with my laptop on the weekends. It is a MacBook and my faithful companion. I have no idea what I would do without that great piece of technology - I rely on it every day. In any case, now during the winter, I prefer a spot by the fire and as my favorite compilations are played in the background, I plug the memory card from my camera into my computer, releasing all the images from the week onto the hard disk. Then I slip into another world for hours, as I create and compile my digital photographs using my favorite software, Adobe Photoshop. I forget time and place while I categorize all the snapshots into new images, that will become sentimental memories. I guess making these is the best part of every post, I have to admit. The collages I create do help me to convey my thoughts to all of you, while supporting my writing. Often the best ones are eventually made into prints and end up as postcards, christmas cards, calendars and eventually some as lovely additions in my photo albums.

Below a collage of collages, just a fraction of those I have shared with you here over the course of last year.
(As always, please click to enlarge.)

January 19, 2010

The Winter Sleep.

"I wish I could enter hibernation," is a very popular expression of mine during the winter months. The wall of bitterly cold air that hits my face as soon as I step outside and the endless dark oppressive days; wouldn't it be much better to just sleep through these like many animals do? I am telling you, they have figured it out.

What exactly is Hibernation? I am sure most of us know that it signifies a winter sleep that many mammals and other species of life enter during the coldest part of the year. But this deep sleep is a rather complicated process.
Hibernation essentially means a depression in the metabolic rate in animals. The biological processes in their body are slowed down, which means all the organs work slower. The body temperature is lowered, the breathing is slower and the heart rate as well. Usually the animals survive by using their body fat. The initiation of this process is apparently not just triggered by the environment, meaning it gets darker and colder, but the animals that can enter winter sleep have a particular compound in their body called Hibernation induction trigger.

Animals that hibernate include bats, some species of ground squirrels and other rodents, mouse lemurs, the European Hedgehog and other insectivores, monotremes and marsupials. Even some rattlesnakes, such as the Western Diamondback, are known to hibernate in caves every winter. Insects enter another state of dormancy called Diapause and some birds, which are not migrating birds utilize Torpor (or a temporary hibernation). It is commonly believed that bears hibernate as well, however that is not entirely correct. Bears do enter a certain degree of hibernation, however their body temperature drops only a few degrees and they can easily wake up from this so called "denning". Some hibernating animals, such as ground squirrels can lower their temperature all the way down to the freezing point, or similar to their environment. They appear cold to the touch, motionless and can not be woken; thus often when found in this state can be mistakenly assumed dead.

Interestingly, there are many research projects investigating currently a potential hibernation induced in humans. The benefits of mankind in being able to enter this state of dormancy would be beneficial, mainly when dealing with life threatening diseases or in the subject of space exploration, when large distances have to be covered.

However, I can think of many more exciting reasons to when winter sleep would appeal to me, such as surviving the long Scandinavian winter; saving money in doing so and even loosing some extra body fat as well.
Now, wouldn't that be something!

January 18, 2010

Wonderful And Warm.

In the last month, due to the very cold weather we are experiencing, I have been very happy for three items of clothing, which have made it possible for me to function in the freezing temperatures.

The first one is a pair of incredibly warm boots. They are not just comfortable, they are so very cute and so very me. I fell in love with them as soon as I saw them and simply had to have them. I bought them even though the cost was slightly more than I really could afford. Eventually it became a Christmas gift to myself. We are allowed those. The style seems to be inspired by the Inuit attire from Greenland, even though the fur is fake, they are incredibly cosy and warm.

The second is my H&M hat. So warm and perfectly matching my boots. It cost about $3; a real bargain and I love it.

The last - but not least - is my white fake fur coat, one of the most comfortable, warm and incredibly beautiful coats I have ever own. And the best part is that it was a gift from the Irishman. He brought it with him on his last visits and I yet have to understand how it could fit it in his carry-on luggage. He is an expert when it comes to packing.
I truly would have not been able to go through the winter without it.

January 17, 2010

Snapshots In Print.

I still think that the best way to view a photograph is on paper. However magnificent, sharp, defined and clear a picture can appear on a digital screen, there is still something infinitely soothing in holding it in your hand, printed on paper.

I have been taking photographs since I was a teenager and have always enjoyed it. Not just the actual photography itself, but particularly the excitement during the wait, as the film was developed. Once the printed photographs arrived, it was wonderful to re-live the moments captured within the images, all over again.

Still today, in the age of digital photography, I long for the same sentiments. Even though the modern cameras, combined with computer technology, make it easier to take multitude of shots of the same subject, enabling us to choose the best one, the notion of looking at the final print is still a very original one.

Today I sorted out my newest photographs into photo albums. Amazingly, the albums are becoming more difficult to find commercially. At least to a reasonable price. Nevertheless, Sundays are perfect days for quiet afternoons spent reflecting and recollecting precious moments time, while looking at their snapshots in print.

January 16, 2010


We have passed mid January and according to the calender, we have reached midwinter. We are halfway there; a very pleasant notion to ponder.
Although spring will most likely not arrive in March, in about one and a half month, its imminence will at least be in the air.

Right now, my terrace displays absolutely no life signs. Every plant seems lifeless, like sleeping beauty awaiting awakening. Even the evergreens look sad, affected by the cold, covered by icy snow. Last January we had an average temperature of about 8C (46F). This year we have not reached temperatures above freezing for more than a few hours and are heading towards the coldest January in more than twenty years.

The only place to be is tucked away safely in front of the fire with a hot cup of chocolate and a good book. And Batcat.
Wishing you all a lovely Saturday.

January 15, 2010

Flashback Friday: "Ocean Deep".

Sir Cliff Richard. Even the name sounds iconic. Whether one likes his music or not, one fact remains; he is one of the true remaining superstars, talented and charismatic, having been active on the scene for half a century and managed to supply us with first class entertainment, looking forever young while doing so.

My awareness of Cliff Richard occurred in 1984, as he was climbing the charts with the catchy compilation; "Baby You're Dynamite". I was at this point somewhat familiar with his music, mostly because his old hits from the 60's and 70's, such as "Congratulations" and "Summer Holiday", were translated into Czech and often played on the radio when I was a child.
There are numerous beautiful songs that I could share with you here, all made by this infinitely talented performer, such as "Dreaming" and "We Don't Talk Anymore", two of my absolute favorites.

However I opted for a somewhat overlooked gem, featured on the B side of the "Baby You're Dynamite" single. Not many are familiar with this beautifully composed and eloquently performed piece. Entitled "Ocean Deep", it is delicately sentimental and poetic.

The lyrics are full of melancholic longing and the harmony seems to make this song light as air, yet deep as the blue waters of the ocean...
It is simply beautiful art - music at it's very best.

January 14, 2010

Liquid Of Life.

Water. The single element vital in maintaining life. Even in space exploration, presence of water suggest presence of life.

Water is composed of three atoms; two Hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom, that are bound together by electrical charges (H2O). It can exist in three states; as gas, as a liquid and as a solid state, or ice.

This past Sunday, lot of our snow disappeared, even though the air was dry and the temperatures way below freezing. Intriguingly, a somewhat unusual process took place, called sublimation. This is a chemical process, that means a direct transformation of an element from solid to gas stage, without the liquid phase. Thus our ice (or snow) did not melt and did not enter the liquid phase. Instead it evaporated, turning into clouds or vapor, due to rare weather conditions, such as high, stormy winds and very dry air, plus very low temperatures.

As for snow or ice and its corresponding liquid state, the vital water, most of us living in the western world do not even think twice about the luxury of it being dispensed from a tap in our homes. Running clean water is a rarity in a large part of the world. Living in Scandinavia, additionally, the water pouring out of my tap is not just clean and fresh, but also perfectly safe for drinking.

Here are some interesting facts about this vital liquid of life:

• Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface.

• Roughly 70% of an adult’s body is made up of water.

• The overall amount of water on our planet has remained the same for two billion years.

• Oceans hold 97% of surface water, glaciers and polar ice caps 2.4%, and other land surface water such as rivers, lakes and ponds 0.6%.

• Water regulates the earth's temperature.

• Each day the sun evaporates a trillion tons of water.

• A person can live about a month without food, but only about a week without water.

• Your drinking water may be fluoridated to help prevent dental cavities.

• Much more fresh water is stored under the ground in aquifers than on the earth’s surface.

• Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.

• Bottled water can be up to 1000 times more expensive than tap water and it may not be as safe.

• Today, at least 400 million people live in regions with severe water shortages.

January 13, 2010

The Red Lips.

I love makeup. Any kid of cosmetics. I have gone through different stages of colours and styles when it comes to painting my face.

I remember when my mom put on my very first makeup. Like any little girl, I was so proud as she dabbed the red onto my cheeks and lips and the blue onto my eyelids in the seventies, when she was so much younger than I am today. I also recall the tears that filled my eyes as she drew around them with an eyeliner. I learned very early on that beauty comes with suffering, but the pain was worth it all as I looked at myself in the mirror with utter fascination.

I was in my very late teens when I decided to start using cosmetics, way behind my peers. And of course, as with everything else I do in life, I did with passion and exaggeration. And I still do today.
Although in periods the use became lighter, such less on eyes, more on lips and vice-versa; the heavy use always prevailed. "A little bit of heavy make-up" is what my sister calls it and my mother always tries to remind me that less is more. But all this is in vain.

I love to paint and draw and the face is the most exciting canvas. The idea of creating an image, an expression in colours and light and shadows is a very exciting one. I love to experiment and I am not afraid to try, thus my personality is often viewed as unconventional. Do not misunderstand me though, there is nothing more beautiful than a pristine, natural complexion, devoid of cosmetics, at any age. I am not one of those women that do not dare to leave the house without makeup, in fact I do this often. I guess I just marvel at the transformation a little bit of colour can do to a face.

The other day I read in the newspaper that an average woman consumes around 3.2kg of lipstick in her lifetime. Yes, consumes, not as in uses but as in eats. I am not surprised, as I know I reapply my lipstick or lip gloss at least twenty times a day.

Lips are the most sensual part of a face. Whether it is a woman or a man, my eyes are almost always drawn to the lips. Some will say eyes, but I scrutinize always a strangers mouth first. Healthy luscious lips, a great set of teeth and a prevailing smile are to me important signs revealing a lot about a human beings health and personality. Lips are naturally red, due to the fact that they contain a large amount of blood vessels. Furthermore, the skin covering them is very thin, thus the red colour.

Women have for millenia tried to accentuate their lips. The history of lipstick or the use of colouring lips goes back to ancient Egypt. Cleopatra had her lipstick made from crushed carmine beetles, which gave a deep red pigment, and ants for a base. Lipsticks with shimmering effects were initially made using a substance found in fish scales called pearlescence.
In Medieval Europe, applying colour to the lips was banned by the church and cosmetic use viewed as promiscuous. In the 16th century England, lipstick started to gain popularity again during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who made piercing red lips and bright white faces a fashion statement. By that time, it was made from a blend of beeswax and red stains from plants.
Lipstick was considered an essential item for female nurses in the armed forces during the Second World War, both to remind women that they were ladies first and military second, and because it might have a calming effect on the male soldiers. It also gained popularity as a result of its use in the movie industry, and it became commonplace for women to apply makeup, or "put their face on."

Today lipstick is an essential product of the cosmetic industries. Even though it underwent an evolution and the quality and consistency is nothing like in the one used by the ancient woman, one fact still remains - its use and purpose has not changed for centuries.

January 12, 2010

Mirage In The Evening Sky.

The sun is moving visibly higher in the sky. The difference is barely palpable, nevertheless, the quality of the light is slowly changing and the sunsets lasts longer.

Last weekend I took pictures of a beautiful evening sky, just after the sunset. When I looked at them later on my computer, I spotted an intriguing image in the sky. The clouds were forming a circular shape, creating a seal or a water stamp in the sky. It resembles somewhat the shape of a sun, but as they say, it is all in the eye of the beholder.

What do you see?

January 11, 2010

Dangerous Beauties.

I love my work. I am involved in research and am part of a scientific lab. I guess what I find very exciting about my carrier field is that it deals with nature. I take part in investigating the biology of not just the human body, but also the physiology of animals and plants.

Recently, our lab made an excursion to a plantation, positioned within a green house, which grows plants. But not just any plants. These are the plants of a somewhat dangerous kind, the so called Carnivorous plants ("meat-eating" plants).
Not to worry, they are harmless to us, but pose a certain danger to insects. This type of plants include about 630 species that attract and trap their prey, produce digestive enzymes, and absorb the resulting available nutrients.

Despite their somewhat unusual way of living, I find these utterly fascinating. And the place we visited was amazing as well. Square meters of large spaces, humid air scented with soil and shelves filled with nothing but small pots, as long as eye could see. All arranged in a perfect manner, containing unusual forms of life. Some had developed a form of clasping hands (so called Venus Flytrap) with spikes, effectively trapping the insect inside. Some had long sticky leaves containing a certain syrupy glue to hold onto their prey or even pitcher like leaves, posing a danger to anything that wanders within.

Nature is to me a constant source of wonder and awe. Visiting this green house only underlined this notion.

January 10, 2010

Recycling The Tree.

Yesterday I took down my Christmas Tree. Traditionally this happens in my home the first weekend after the Epiphany.

It is the same every year; when the Holidays end, it is time to end the short visit of The Tree. As I take down each and every single ornament and place it back into the red Christmas box, I try to remember the joy that the tree spread around my home for the past five weeks. The box is placed on a shelf, where it will stay untouched for another year, until the wonderful time returns in December.

I try to recycle as much of the tree as I can. The branches are cut away and used in my garden to protect the sprouting spring bulbs and for decoration in empty pots. The trunk is cut into smaller pieces and left to dry. Perhaps in twelve months, just when new tree is welcomed into my home, it will spread cosy heat through out my house when burned in the fireplace.

January 09, 2010

The Deep Freeze.

Parts of Europe are experiencing the coldest winter on record. Scandinavia is no exception. We are officially having an ice-winter, meaning some of our bays, harbors and inlets are frozen over, for the first time in fifteen years.

For the past week, the temperatures have stayed below zero in the days and we entered deep freeze in the nights. The air is very dry and bitterly cold, too cold for comfort. This is the time when breathing becomes uncomfortable and no amounts of clothes can keep us warm enough.

Having been under a heavy blanket of snow now for almost four weeks, nature is effected as well. Birds are suffering and some plants too. Particularly my evergreens look so poor. The leaves of my rhododendron have shrivelled beyond belief, folding into themselves, they have turned into long tread like forms, making the bush look very sad.
My terrace is a very different place, then the one I recall from the long, warm days of summer. That beautiful season is still very far away and can only be revisited in pictures.
However, despite the freezing subzero temperatures, as soon as the fragile sun envelopes my surroundings the way it it does today, I can not help but marvel over the beauty of winter, when it is at its best.

(Please click the images below to enlarge).

January 08, 2010

Flashback Friday: "Marco Polo".

I love classical music. There is nothing more enticing than hearing the works of the great masters, preferably in grand theaters and concert halls. Yet, even listening to the undying harmonies in my own home, when the house is still and the day is approaching dusk, holds an allure at any season.
In the nineties, when I experienced lack of inspiration from the modern music, I went on exploration in the old classics. By sheer coincident, I stumbled upon an absolute gem.

Rondò Veneziano is an Italian chamber orchestra. The performers are renowned for wearing a period attire and playing original instruments in their numerous live shows. The compositions, although created with the elements of classical pieces mostly from the Baroque period, contain incorporation of modern rock-style rhythm sections.

Active for almost three decades, Rondò Veneziano have with a sense of style and taste delivered classical music in a modern manner. Even though nothing can replace the sound of the originals, their fusion of classical and contemporary music is superb.

The "Marco Polo" single below is taken from album of the same name. I remember the feeling of discovery, when I played it for the first time.
Quality never fades.

January 07, 2010

"Angélique, Marquise des Anges".

When I was a child, growing up in the former East Bloc, the Czech and Slovak cinematography was the prevailing one in both cinemas and television. However, the broadcasting did embrace the occasional French or Italian movies.
One of the most romantic and extremely sensual series included five films based on thirteen books written by the French novelist duo Anne and Serge Golon.

These depicted the adventures of Angélique de Sance de Monteloup and the affection between her and the gallant, intelligent and charming Joffrey Comte de Peyrac. A love story of the most extreme romantic kind, the movies are a continuous display of passion and chivalry, one that is long gone from the cinematography of today and would most likely be viewed as ridiculous, naïve and perhaps too flamboyant to be taken seriously as well. Which is a shame.

The plot of the first book (and movie) in brief is one of the tragic kind, as any true love story really is.
Angélique, child of an impoverished country nobleman, finds herself betrothed to the rich count, Joffrey de Peyrac, 12 years her senior. He is lame, scarred and reputed to be a wizard. Angélique reluctantly agrees to the match but in time discovers the talents and virtues of her remarkable husband: scientist, musician, philosopher; and to her surprise falls passionately in love with him.
Tragically, Joffrey's unusual way of life causes his arrest and charged with sorcery he is to be burned at the stake. Angélique, despite trying to save Joffrey, alone and desperate, plunges into the darkness of the Paris underworld...

I was way to young to watch or understand the movies and I never read the books. But I remember they were very popular, and when the series were re-send on television in the seventies, I used to watch them with my parents. To this day the images stayed with me in the dusty corners of my memory, somewhat forgotten, until they recently resurfaced, when brought back by a sheer coincidence. I love this kind of serendipity and I am always left with a sense of wonder when it occurs. Often left pondering the fact of how many beautiful moments of the past we carry with us, those often forgotten, stored away in the attic of our mind. Stumbling upon them it is like finding a long lost friend or discovering a treasure, making us aware of the relativity of time.

Below a series of scenes from the first movie accompanied by the famous soundtrack. It was made in 1964, entitled Angélique, Marquise des Anges (Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels), featuring the beautiful Michele Mercier and handsome Robert Hossein.
They just do not portray romance this way anymore...

January 06, 2010

A Celestial Event.

With todays celebration of Epiphany (from Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια, meaning "appearance", "manifestation"), the Christmas is officially concluding. This day commemorates the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the child Jesus.
In my culture, the 6th of January is called The day of the Three Kings and I recall that it meant the absolute end to the joyful Holiday time and a return to the routines of daily life.

All of us are familiar with the story of The Three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar), carrying gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) and following the Bethlehem Star, which finally lead The Kings to the infant.
I am intrigued by this tale. The spiritual me rejoices in this event; the scientific me likes to look back in history, searching for facts that would depict it in the heavens, those two thousand years ago.

Was there really a star, or a glowing, moving object in the skies around the birth of Christ?

I am not the only one asking this question. For centuries, the answers have been proposed by theologians, historians, astronomers and laymen.
The primary reference for the Star of Bethlehem is in the Gospel of Matthew, which was probably written around 80 A.D or slightly later. In modern times, astronomers have offered various explanations for the star. A nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation, and a conjunction have all been suggested.
In 1614, German astronomer Johannes Kepler determined that a series of three conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 B.C; the nights sky of that event can be seen here.
Halley's Comet was visible in 12 B.C and another object, possibly a comet or nova, was seen by Chinese and Korean stargazers in about 5 B.C. A recent hypothesis states that the star of Bethlehem was a supernova or hypernova occurring in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy.

Of course, to those of faith, the Star Of Bethlehem is a magical event, that needs no explanation nor have to be supported by any facts. The magi seem to have been the only ones who saw the star— this further supports the notion that the star of Bethlehem was a supernatural manifestation from God rather than a common star, which would have been visible to all.

After searching for the facts myself, I eventually realized that facts matter very little in this subject. What matters is what we believe. Sometimes a belief is the ultimate proof.
After all; "There where science ends, faith begins."