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: