Thursday, December 27, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 381

Calendario Liturgico pasquale (Easter Calendar) 532 d.C.-632 d.C.

How about this calendar to start off the New Year?  Salbaroli of Ravenna, Italy issued the postcard and it has a photograph of a calendar stone, now part of the collection of the Archiepiscopal Museum in Ravenna, it was used to determine the date of Easter from 532 AD to 632AD.  No cameras can be used in the museum, so I purchased a couple of postcards including this one.

Ecclesiastical calendars use lunar months with the full moon falling on the 14th day of the month and have a 19 year cycle.  Some religious holidays or feasts have fixed dates, like Christmas always falling on the 25th of December.  However, Easter is what is called a moveable feast and was determined to fall on the first Sunday following the paschal full moon on or after March 21, the Spring Equinox.  This calendar was designed to calculate the day on which Easter would fall for a span of 100 years. The disk is divided into 19 spokes or sections representing the years and uses Roman numerals sculpted on a marble slab measuring 95x90 cm or 37x35 inches.  In the center of the calendar is a cross.  This calendar was used to determine the date of Easter from 532 to 632 AD using calculations or computations by a 6th century monk named Dionysius Exiguus.  His original calendar started in 532 and ended in 626 but was later extended.  Oddly, using his system the Alexandrian Easter repeats every 532 years.  That number is arrived at by multiplying 19 years X 4 for leap years X 7 for days of the week equaling 532.

Just looking at the calendar wheel and trying to figure out how it works is like looking at an op art picture and trying not to go dizzy.  The cumbersome Roman numerals, no zeros, and what appear to be abbreviated notations make it easy to lose the thread of the calculations.   It is interesting to look at and amazing at the same time.

Happy New Year!

For additional information, see:
Ravenna and Its History by editions Salbaroli/Ravenna

Thursday, December 20, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 380

"Our Lady of Sweat"

While this is not a really a postcard it is a prayer card from a church in Ravenna, Italy and since it seemed a Christmas theme with mother and child, I am sharing it this week.   Below are photos to provide some idea of the small size of this painting.  It is 35X23 cm or about 9X14 inches; however, it looks dwarfed on this high, ornate wall.  The artist is unknown.  The painting has an estimated date of the 14th century.

There is a placard with the following information about the painting: 

“This small painted tablet that portrays the crowned Virgin with the child Jesus in her arms is an image that is dearly venerated by the Church of Ravenna [Italy].  In her honour the decision was made in 1630 to build a Chapel dedicated to her in the Cathedral.  The name of this icon is inspired by a sacrilegious episode.  On leaving a tavern, a soldier saw the image of the Virgin Mary and slashed it contemptuously with a knife.  On that occasion, the Holy Image is supposed to have sweated blood.”

On the back of the card is this prayer in Italian

I’m not sure about the accuracy of the translation but in English is says something like:

“Prayer:  From your throne of glory O sweet sweetheart Madonna binds your merciful eyes to us, you get forgiveness, the justice of your son turns in grace for all of us. Our trust in you corrobori our hope, strengthen the good intentions of Christian life. O Mary, we ask for the clarity of the doctrine, the modesty of the body, the sanctity of life. O Mother, listen to our prayer, console rents and sufferers, sustain the first steps of the faith of the little ones, strengthen the life of faith of the young, strengthen the adults in the journey of their vocation, watch over our diocese, intercede for us with the Lord , get the graces we need. Amen”

The painting is found within the larger gold frame in the mid-center of the photo

A closer look shows a frame within a frame being held by two angels.  Part of the frame may be hinged and able to close like a triptych; however, the side panels do not have paintings although there is a raised design on them.

The photo close up view shows the framed image while the prayer card has the image only without a frame.

No flash pictures were allowed in the church and I was not able to get very close, hence the somewhat fuzzy photos and the need to pick up the prayer card.  My stepfather, who was Catholic, frequently used to light candles in churches and since he has passed away I often light one in remembrance of him when I visit old churches.  Small prayer cards such as this one are not always available so it was delightful to find a box of them near the candles. 

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tis the Season, #12 -- Chocolate Truffles

A super easy, delicious holiday treat.  This recipe for Chocolate Truffles comes from page 72 of the March 1981 Gourmet Magazine.  I have modified it from time to time by using semisweet chocolate chips that are already small as opposed to chopping up a brick of hard chocolate.  Also I have used the microwave instead of the stove top to melt and mix the chocolate and heavy cream and to soften the butter.

Chocolate Truffles


1 lb of semisweet chocolate [four 4 oz packages] broken into bits or high quality semisweet chocolate chips [one and a third 12 oz packages]
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into bits and softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa in small separate bowl

1.  Put the semisweet chocolate bits or chips in a heatproof bowl.  
2.  In a saucepan or in the microwave oven heat the cream to a boil. 
3.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate bits and stir vigorously until the chocolate is all melted and blended into the cream.  If the chocolate does entirely melt by mixing with the hot cream, it is possible to use the microwave "melt" option to complete the process. Be sure to stir the mixture after removing it from the microwave.
4.  Beat in the unsalted butter until well combined.  The microwave trick could be tried here also if the butter is too hard and cold to melt completely into the chocolate and cream mixture.

[Steps 1 through 4 could be done with a mixer but it is easy to do with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula.]

The messy step, forming and dusting the chocolate balls in unsweetened cocoa

5.  Chill for at least 1 hour.  Can be chilled overnight.
6.  Form the mixture into approximately 1-inch balls and roll in unsweetened cocoa.  Shake off excess cocoa.
7.  Put in little paper cups, then store in a lidded container.

The truffles can be served chilled or at room temperature.  They keep longer if kept in a lidded container in the fridge.  

Should make between 60 and 90 truffles depending on the size of the balls.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 379

Titled:  "Types Creusois"

This black & white vintage photo postcard has the number 996 to the left of the title and a logo PM at the right.  It is a used card with a note dated 15/3/26 [15 March 1926].   The quote has the man leaning on the rake asking the women leaning on the fence if they are all going to a party or festival together.  A friend found this card and others in the Creuse area of France when he was visiting there.  At first he thought the cards were reproductions but upon closer evaluation we determined they were originals.  Anciently this area was the linguistic boundary between the langue d’oïl and langue d’oc so it is possible that the quote is in French and also the local dialect.

There is not too much to say about the picture other than I think it is charming and it shows the local country costumes as they were in the 1920s.  Notice the small dog by the woman’s foot.  Both of the men in the picture have large brimmed hats and neck scarves, the women are wearing hats and two of them have capes or shawls as well.  The man in the background has his sleeves unrolled, his shirt or smock is unbelted or not tucked in.  The man in the foreground has his sleeves rolled up and his shirt tucked in and belted.  I wondered if the way there were dressed might be an indication of the jobs they were performing.  The photographer probably posed the them this way perhaps to give the viewer the feeling of being included in the group.  The roof of the shed or building appears to be thatched.  

 In 1926 it took these two stamps to mail the postcard. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 378

Dolina Chochołowska, Tatra Mountains, Poland

What a pleasant surprise to find this postcard in our mailbox.  A friend had taken a trip and went hiking in the Tatra Mountains located between Slovakia and Poland and sent the card.  The postcard has photographs of the area and the inns or shelters where hikers can stay by Ryszard Ziemak.  Our friend wrote that he stayed three nights in one of these shelters and used that as his base for some great hikes. 

These mountains are the highest range in the Carpathians and form a natural border between Poland and Slovakia.  The highest peak, Gerlach, is 8,710 feet or 2,655 meters high.  Both countries have established Tatra National Parks that are part of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. 

Historically this range of mountains has been found named as early as 999 by Czech Duke Boleslaus II when he recalled the Duchy of Bohemia extended to them.  Henry IV referred to them in a document dated 1086.  Another mention of the name is made of them in 1125 in the Kosmas chronicles.  The name has been spelled a variety of different ways from Tritri/Tritry, Trtry, and Tartry and finally today as Tatra, a general term for stony land or rocks and river stones.

The mountains are described as similar to the Alps although not as high. The Tatras are easily accessible and a favorite place for tourists, hikers, winter sports, and resorts.  There have been many disputes along the borders and hikers faced difficulties because it was illegal to cross borders without going through an official border checkpoint.  In 1999, 80 years after the dissolution of the Austrian Empire, the governments of Poland and Slovakia signed an agreement that provided designated unstaffed border crossings.  In 2007 the situation was further improved when both countries finally approved crossings at any point.  There are still rules for the national parks of both countries and hiking trails have seasonal closures to protect the wildlife.  

The card came with this beautiful lily stamp issued in July of 2016 with a design by Marzanna Dąabrowska.

Thank you, M, for the wonderful card and the opportunity to learn more about this area.

For additional information, see:

Thursday, November 29, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 377

Costa Blanca, Alicante/Alacant, Spain

Following up from the postcard shared last week here is another one from the same area, the Costa Blanca, Spain.  The photograph is by Joan M. Linares and Triangle Postals published the card. 

The Costa Blanca or White Coast spans over 120 miles or 200 kilometers along the Mediterranean in the Alicante province, southeastern coast of Spain.  The warm, sunny weather and white sandy beaches make it a popular tourist destination.

Villajoyosa, Spain

We visited two beaches on the Costa Blanca, one at Villajoyosa a little north of Alicante where we were able to meet with another cousin who lives in Norway but spends several months in Spain.  I did not expect to ever meet her in person since she lives on an island in northern Norway and it did not seem likely that I would go that far north.  However, here we are, three, second cousins on the beach in Spain!  The beach at Villajoyosa is also a long sandy beach like the one shown on the card.

Three cousins meet in Spain

We also visited Torrevieja, south of Alicante, where the shoreline is rocky and there did not seem to be as much of a sandy beach.  Instead there was a long boardwalk and a stone walkway that had steps and a ramp down into the water.  It was windy the day we visited and there were waves crashing onto the rocks, even so we saw some people surfing there.

Torrevieja, Spain

For more information, see:

Thursday, November 22, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 376

Alicante also written as Alacant, Spain

This Triangle Postals postcard was purchased at the airport in Alicante on the Costa Blanco of Spain and has a photograph by Rafa Pérez.   We arrived and departed from Alicante but stayed with my cousins who live in the small town of Catral located south of here between Alicante and Murcia.  The Castle of Santa Bárbara on the top of the hill can be seen for miles and was one place we had hoped to visit but we ran out of time and were not able to do so. 

People have occupied the area around the city for over 7,000 years, first by hunter-gatherers and then around 1,000 BC the Greek and Phoenician traders began visiting this eastern coast of Spain and establishing trading ports.  The traders brought more than goods to the Iberian tribes living here; they also introduced the alphabet, iron, and the pottery wheel. The White Mountain or White Point fortified settlement established by the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca and dating to the mid 230s BC is believed to be the site of the modern city of Alicante. 

A chain of different ruling parties occurs beginning with the Romans who followed the Carthaginians and ruled for 700 years.  Then came the Visigoth rule for about 300 years, the Arab conquest followed with the Moors ruling southern and eastern Spain until the mid 13th century, to be taken by the Castilian king Alfonso X in 1247 then passing to King James II of Aragon.  It was granted status as a Royal Village and was represented in the medieval Valencian Parliament.  The colorful history of the area continues with clashes between the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon, includes exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool, the introduction of the Barbary pirates who repeatedly attacked the coastal cities and caused much harm to the trade.  Today the modern city has a population of over 300,000 and is one of the fastest-growing cities in Spain.  The mild winter climate, hot summers, little rain and the beautiful white sandy beaches have made tourism a big part of the city’s economy.  The sunrises and sunsets were as beautiful and pink (to orange and red) as the top postcard indicates. 

Street scene, Alicante, Spain

This second postcard is also a Triangle Postals publication with a photo by Miguel Raurich.  It shows a typical street scene with the buildings painted different colors and bright sunshine.  We noticed a lot of tile and marble work throughout this area of Spain and it was extremely unusual to find anything made entirely of wood.  It was common to find railings and fences made of ironwork.

For additional information, see:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 375

Alcázar, or Royal Palace, Seville, Spain
[photo:  Angel Olivares]

This unused postcard is another sent by my son and his wife from their trip to Portugal and Spain earlier this year.  Printed in Spain and bearing the number 044 in the space for the stamp on the reverse, the photographer is identified as Angel Olivares.  The publishers/printers are L. Domingues, S.A. of Madrid, Editorial Fisa Escudo de Oro, S.A.

The scenes on the card are from the Alcázar of Seville, a royal palace built in the 1360s for the Christian king Peter of Castile who is sometimes called Pedro the Cruel of Castile.  In 1987 UNESCO registered it as a World Heritage Site and it is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.  The place where the castle is situated has been occupied since the 8th century B.C.

A map of the palace shows a spreading group of different sections stitched together in a rambling fashion to form a large complex.  Originally the palace was built in the Moorish style for a Christian ruler.  The old portion of the palace has some of the best examples of Mudejar architecture despite the fires and earthquakes that made numerous restorations necessary.  The complex that forms the entire palace has definite sections dating to different eras:  Moorish (11th – 12th century); Gothic (13th century); Mudejar (14th century); and Renaissance (15th – 16th century). 

The left panel on the card shows a pool and plants as well as Moorish carvings and tile work.  It is not labeled on the card but it looks like it may be part of the Patio or courtyard famous for sunken gardens and a reflecting pool.  The gardens contain a variety of fruit trees as well as fragrant flowers.  The garden-orchard supplied food for the palace residents.  Water was used for irrigation as well as in pools, ponds, and fountains that were pleasing to the eye.  The gardens have undergone many changes during the years.

The center panel shows the Ambassador’s Hall with its gold dome, representing the heavens, the most spectacular room in the palace.  There are several lavish reception rooms in the palace like the one shown in the panel on the right.  King Peter used the main room during his stay at the Alcázar.  It is the most richly decorated room in the palace.  

Trivia:  In 1526 Emperor Charles V and Isabella of Portugal were married in this room.  The 1729 Treaty of Seville that ended the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727 was signed here.  The palace has been used in the filming of the 5th season of the television version of Game of Thrones and the movie, Kingdom of Heaven.  It is open to the public.

For additional information, see:ázar_of_Seville

Thursday, November 8, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 374

 The Giralda, Seville, Spain

The postcard this week features a photograph of the bell tower, called the Giralda, of the Seville Cathedral in Seville, Spain.  The photographer is not identified but the card does have the number 107 V on the reverse.  This card is another of those shared by my son and his wife from their trip to Portugal and Spain earlier this year.

The tower was originally built as the minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville during the reign of the Almohad dynasty in Al-Andalus, Moorish Spain.  Catholics added a Renaissance-style top after Muslims left the area.  UNESCO designated the Giralda as a World Heritage Site in 1987.  The tower is 342 feet or 104.1 meters high and has been one of the prominent symbols of the city since the Middle Ages.

The Mosque was commissioned by caliph Abu Ya-qub Yusuf in 1171 to replace a smaller mosque because the congregation had grown larger than the smaller prayer hall could accommodate.  The Mosque was completed in 1176 except for the minaret where construction did not begin until 1184 even though prayers were held there beginning in 1182.  The death of both the architect and the caliph stalled the building of the minaret and it was not until 1198 that the tower was completed.  That tower had four precious metal spheres of gold or bronze at the peak of the tower.  Those were replaced with a cross and bell after building was made into a cathedral by Christians in 1248.  The cathedral suffered damage during the 1356 earthquake.  A new cathedral was begun in 1433 and completed 73 years later in 1506. 

The Giralda has a series of ramps that wind around the perimeter of several vaulted chambers.  The ramps were designed to be wide enough and high enough to be used by people, custodians, and beasts of burden.  The windows in the tower are decorated to match the ramps and maximize the interior lighting.  Some embellishments to the tower were removed during a modern restoration. 

The Giralda is an example of Gothic and Baroque architectural styles and is one of the largest churches in the world. 

For additional information, see:

Thursday, November 1, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 373

The Museum of Flight, Seattle
[photo:  Christian Bouchez]

After a two week hiatus that included several rides on airplanes it seemed like this postcard was an appropriate start to the Thursday posts. 

On one of the hottest days of the summer we went to the Museum of Flight so we could get a walk in and still be comfortable in an air-conditioned facility.  Part of the exhibit is undercover but outdoors as seen on the postcard and so it was less cool in that section.  This is an amazing museum that features examples of aircraft from DaVinci’s design recreated to space capsules and rocketry.  I purchased this postcard with a photo by Christian Bouchez from the museum gift shop.  

 DaVinci's aircraft drawing brought to life

A glider of the Wright Brother's era recreated

The Museum of Flight, located on Boeing Field, just south of Seattle in Tukwila, is a private non-profit air and space museum.  Established in 1965 it is the largest private air and space museum in the world and attracts over 500,000 visitors a year.  In addition to the exhibits the museum also hosts educational programs for K-12 students through its Challenger and Aviation Learning Centers.  There is also a summer camp for students.  

One small section of the indoor exhibit

Currently the museum’s Aviation Pavilion is a 140,00 square foot or 13,000 square meter structure.  Most of the museum complex is modern but the original “Red Barn” built in 1909 and used in the early 1900s as the original manufacturing plant for Boeing and a registered historic site also known as Building No. 105, is within the grounds and houses photographs, oral histories and exhibits illustrating how wooden aircraft with fabric overlays were manufactured during the early years. 

 One of the Lunar landing capsules

Space Shuttle Trainer

Mercury space capsule


There have been several major expansions to the museum since it was founded including the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.  The museum has the Space Shuttle trainer that the Space Shuttle astronauts used. 

For additional information, see:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 372

St. Jerome Monastery, cloister, Lisbon, Portugal

The St. Jerome Monastery is located within the city of Lisbon, Portugal.  This unused long size postcard, sent by my son and his wife, has a photo by Nuno Antunes showing a view of the cloister.  The monastery and the nearby Tower of Belém have both been a UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1983.  The monastery features examples of Manueline architecture.  It is a major historical building in Lisbon.  The Tower of Belém on the bank of the Tagus River was built partly to protect the monastery.  The monastery has two floors with a vaulted design in a quadrangular layout containing religious and royal symbols.

The construction of St. Jerome’s began in 1501 and took 100 years to complete.  King Manuel I (1469-1521) originally funded the project with a 5% tax on selected commerce from Africa and the Orient.  The tax collected equaled about 150 lbs or 70 kilos of gold per year.  With such a sum of guaranteed funds architects were not limited to small-scale plans.  The King selected Hieronymite monks to serve in the monastery.  Their purpose was to pray for the King’s eternal soul and provide spiritual assistance to navigators and sailors who left from the nearby port as explorers of the world.  The monks did this service for more than 400 years until 1833 when their religious order was dissolved and the monastery abandoned.

As suggested by the use of a long card the cloister is vast at 180 x 180 ft or 55 X 55 m.  Each wing has six bays with tracery vaults.  The second level is recessed.  There are four inner bays resting on massive buttresses that form broad arcades.  The decorated cloister seen on the card has nautical elements and European, Moorish, and Eastern motifs. 

The monastery has been restored and renovated several times.  Today the Maritime Museum and the National Archaeology Museum are both found within.  Portions of the buildings that make up the monastery as well as both museums are open to the public.

For additional information, see:ónimos_Monastery



Postcard Thursday is taking the next two weeks off.  See you in November!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 371

Cat in window, Lisbon, Portugal, 2004
[photo:  David de Arbreu]

The postcards this week come from Portugal and were shared by my son and his wife from their trip early this summer.  On the card above we see a cat sitting in a window, the outside of the building covered in tiles.  On the reverse of the card the photographer is identified as David de Abreu.

Painted tin-glazed ceramic tiles called Azulejos in Portuguese can be found on the exteriors, interiors, ceilings and floors of churches, palaces, houses, schools, restaurants, bars, railway and subway stations in both Portugal and Spain and some can be found in Italy as well where they are called Laggioni. The tiles are not only used for ornamentation but can also serve as temperature control in houses. 

While some tiles have images or pictures on them most do not but instead have designs in geometric shapes and patterns or floral motifs that reflect Moorish influence.  The Portuguese adopted a Moorish tradition and covered walls completely in azulejos.  The second card, seen below, has examples of several different tile designs.  This card was produced by Casa dos Postais.

Sample of tiles, Portugal

I noticed that many of the tiles have some blue and wondered if that might have a psychological cooling effect.  Yellow is also a color found on many of the tiles.  Following the great earthquake of 1755 the Marquis of Pombal was put in charge of the rebuilding efforts.  He chose to use tiles, many with small devotional panels, as protection against future disasters. 

Vandalism, theft and simple neglect of tiles have caused problems.  In an effort to preserve the cultural heritage it has been forbidden to demolish buildings with tile-covered façades in Lisbon since 2013.  Prior to that law, many tiles were removed or stolen from buildings and ended up being sold to unsuspecting tourists.  A new law was enacted in 2017 to prevent the demolition of tile-covered buildings not only in Lisbon but across Portugal.  In addition to these efforts the city of Lisbon has also developed a "Banco do Azulejo" or "tile bank" that stores and collects tiles from previously demolished buildings.

For additional information, see:  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fortune Creek Pass, Esmerelda Basin, 2018

Sign at the trail head

Where did we go last week?  We took a long drive to the Teanaway in eastern Washington, continued up 10 miles on a dirt, washboard road to the Esmerelda Basin trail to what I kept on calling Fortune Cookie Pass in my head but what is really Fortune Creek Pass.  This was by far the most strenuous hike I have tried.  It is about 7 miles round trip with a 1750 foot vertical gain.  The distance and the elevation were not beyond my abilities, I did Cascade Pass last year and that was 7.5 miles and 1800 ft of gain, but the this trail was extremely rough in places with lots of loose rocks and some more than mildly steep sections.  Going down was particularly treacherous.  Even using trekking poles did not prevent both of us from slips on the rocks that nearly ended in falls.  

Here I am trudging up

Were we rewarded for the effort?  Oh, yes, with brilliant displays of fall colors, a few flowers still in bloom including the Scarlet Gilia, or Skyrocket.  Bob had not seen one of these flowers for about 10 years and we saw about a dozen on this hike.  They only grow on the east side of the Cascades.  

 Scarlet Gilia or Skyrocket

We also had a close encounter with a pica that scurried away at a rapid pace without posing for a picture, and a golden mantled ground squirrel who peeked out of his hole and looked around long enough for photos.  

 Have they gone?

 I don't hear anything . . .

I guess it is safe to come out . . .

Let's take a closer look . . .

 Oops, not safe, better run back inside . . .

The views were grand from the top and along the way we saw several meadows that were filled with pale golden bracken ferns, yellow leaves, and grass juxtaposed with dark green conifers.  

Mt Hinman, a glaciated peak,  in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.   
Side view of Esmerelda Peaks

Looking north from Fortune Creek Pass

Fairly typical trail with rocks, rougher than it looks in the picture

 Red prostate huckleberry leaves, no berries, alas

Esmerelda Peaks from the east

 Mixed meadow colors

Bracken fern in the foreground, meadow and conifers


Mixed fall colors

Most folks starting at this trail head go to Lake Ingalls instead of Fortune Creek Pass.  

Trail junction, right to Lake Ingalls and left to Esmerelda

There were several cars, perhaps as many as 20, in the parking area but our count for the day was:  1 hiker, no dogs.  

Roadside color on the teeth-rattling dirt road