Saturday, 18 September 2010

Shades of Green

With a “to do in the garden” list ticking like a time bomb I’m taking photos of the indoor plants. I must be going mad! I should be outside: digging, planting, gathering, covering etc. But to tell the truth once you are woken up by a pouring rain and, after taking the dog out, realise that your back lawn has turned into a swamp, there’s not enough motivation for everything mentioned above.

At the moment the sky is clear, but it’s so unpleasantly damp outside… I’d rather be scraping everything indoors - till the door knobs shine! I’m only joking. The day like today is for snuggling up cozily with a good book, for sipping hot tea, for enjoying an interesting film… Oh, and then the sun comes out and I feel so guilty – there’re so many plants that need repotting, so that when the winter comes they can ornate our rooms with those perfect shades of green.

“Repotting” is only one, but a very important item from my non existent list. Well, the list is real; it’s just that it’s not on paper, YET. It’s in my head, getting bigger and bigger constantly. I’m so scared of forgetting something that I can feel how the list is turning into a monster. I need to get in control. Definitely. All I need is a pen and paper…

And while I'm writing this it started to rain AGAIN - looking out of the window I’m considering putting “build an arch” as number one. This time I’m not joking. I've just found out that the forecast is like that for another 4 days. I guess the garden and my plants will have to wait after all...

In the last photo – leaves of my fragile pomegranates that have been grown from seeds. They have sprung so much, but at the same time look so thin and week. I’m really not sure how to turn them into proper trees.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

$25 000

Have you ever wondered how to make $25 000 taking photos? Sounds like every photographers dream! It seems it has come true for Judith Stenneken, who has been announced as the Grand Prize Winner by the Blurb team ( I haven't been keeping an eye on the photo books, that have been submitted for this competition, so I can't say if there've been better ones, but Judith's "Last Call" certainly draws interest.

The photos themselves might not look anything special, but they start making sense once you discover where and under what circumstances they've been taken. Berlin Tempelhof Airport. Does it ring a bell? To tell the truth I'd say: No. Although it seems that once its main building was listed among the top 20 largest buildings on earth.

Anyway, now on Wikipedia you'd find that Tempelhof WAS an airport in Berlin, Germany, situated in the south-central borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg. The airport ceased operating on the 30th of October 2008. Looking at any busy airport this would be hard to imagine, as these places always seem so full of life. And it's really hard to understand how one could become empty and deserted, just because it's impossible to think that there would be a day, when people would stop travelling by air.

That's what the author says about the book:

When I used to step in the main entrance hall of the airport, it always felt the same. In contrast to the stress of the city outside, this place was calm and relaxed. Although the airport was still operating, it felt as if the building was deserted and the only people who were there acted like extras in a movie: a man reading the newspaper and waiting for his flight, a woman from the ground crew standing behind at the check-in counter waiting for passengers to come. Nobody speaking, no announcements from the loudspeakers.

It was a place where time did not seem to matter. A place which slowly lost its function, where desertion had been taking place for a long time, where the future is still unkown.

For me this feels as if it's a script for some scary movie that depicts our future (too many people shouting about the end of the world). Well, make sure you have a look at the photos in the book that was worth so much money:

And if you are interested in what’s fashionable in the photography world at the moment, don’t forget to view the other winners and the runners up. The whole list can be found here:

I particulary liked Lauren Orchowski's "Rocket Science", Alexey Vanushkin's "Merry-Go-Round" and David Beach's "Fetzer's Tale" (recommended for cat lovers!).

Hope you can find inspiration in every single one!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Flower Profiles

We’ve been blessed with weather this weekend – it’s been sunny and warm (lets forget the short interval of rain early in the morning). Even knowing that there’s so much to do in the garden, I was fooled into thinking that all of these jobs can wait. I must have thought that the summer was back. I know it’s not, but still keep my fingers crossed that the weather stays warm right to the Indian summer in the beginning of October. Meanwhile everything’s fine – we haven’t had the first frosts and the flowers are holding on.

Here are the most stunning ones:

This was the first summer I grew zinnias. I was very lucky to see them in bloom as there was a time, when my mum wanted to get rid of them thinking they were weeds. I’m glad I managed to convince her that we should wait a bit longer… Now I’m sure I will be growing them again as their colours are so bright!

Zinnia is a genus of 20 species of annual and perennial plants of family Asteraceae, originally from scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the American Southwest to South America, but primarily Mexico, and notable for their solitary long-stemmed flowers that come in a variety of bright colors.

Their flowers have a range of appearances, from a single row of petals, to a dome shape, with the colors white, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, purple, and lilac. They seem to be especially favored by butterflies.

Zinnias are popular garden flowers, usually grown from seed, and preferably in fertile, humus-rich, and well-drained soil, in an area with full sun. They will reseed themselves each year. Over 100 cultivars have been produced since selective breeding started in the 19th century.

Dahlias can be very pretty indeed, but the main downfall with them is that they need to be removed from the soil before winter. This can be annoying, but there’s also the storage problem – ours are kept in boxes in the cellar, we cover them in peat. And here’s the next bad thing – such boxes attract naughty cats…

Dahlia is a genus of bushy, tuberous, perennia plants native to Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. There are at least 36 species of dahlia. Dahlia hybrids are commonly grown as garden plants. The Aztecs gathered and cultivated the dahlia for food, ceremonies, as well as decorative purposes, and the long woody stem of one variety was used for small pipes.

I’m really impressed with begonias, they’ve been blooming on my window for nearly three months! And although, like dahlias, they have to be removed from the soil and kept warm and dry in winter, I think it’s worth the hassle.

With over 1,500 species, Begonia is one of the ten largest angiosperm genera. The species are terrestrial herbs or undershrubs and occur in subtropical and tropical moist climates, in South and Central America, Africa and southern Asia. Terrestrial species in the wild are commonly upright-stemmed, rhizomatous, or tuberous.

Because of their sometimes showy flowers of white, pink, scarlet or yellow color and often attractively marked leaves, many species and innumerable hybrids and cultivars are cultivated. The genus is unusual in that species throughout the genus, even those coming from different continents, can frequently be hybridized with each other, and this has led to an enormous number of cultivars.

Most begonias are easily propagated by division or from stem cuttings. In addition, many can be propagated from leaf cuttings or even sections of leaves, particularly the members of the rhizomatous and rex groups.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Autumn out of Focus

Sometimes it’s enough to change your point of view and you’ll get a completely different picture. You might create an illusion, but if it makes you feel better, why not? Wouldn’t you want just for a moment to become a magician who can bend the reality? I certainly need this ability, if just to survive the cold period that is slowly creeping up.

Oh, if I could perform miracles… I’d try to do it with an even bigger precision and patience than a spider, who can easily divide space using perfect lines of the web.

At the moment I feel like a photographer, who can’t get a clear image as everything is out of focus. I’m trying hard to avoid autumn, but it will come anyway, won’t it? I still believe that we will get hot days and a chance to go swimming, but it gets colder and it gets darker, so my hopes are shattered every time I step barefoot into the morning dew.

I guess I’ll have to give up fighting the inevitable – first I’ll need to get the warm boots out and then... try and focus on the beautiful things that the new season will no doubt bring. Will it work?

Magic! It already does.

P.S. I'm not sure I will remember I need to start putting warmer clothes on, so the whole process of "bending the reality" might take time.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Easiest Apple Pie – Dutch Apple Pie

When the apple tree branches are nearly breaking from their load and it’s impossible to keep up with the new ripening varieties, an apple pie always seems like a good idea. It’s just that sometimes the preparation of the pie might kill the enthusiasm – all the complicated ways of mixing sugar, flour, butter and then adding the separately whipped egg whites, oh, and if you also have to use a rolling pin… No, no, no! That’s not for me.

A few weeks ago I found and easy recipe of an incredible apple pie. 15 minutes and you shove it into the oven. Job done. And after 50 minutes of baking, you’ll definitely receive loads of compliments! (Guaranteed.) Anyway, here’s the recipe – an interpretation of a Dutch style apple pie.


For the filling:
6 or 7 middle sized apples
A few tb spoons sugar
Raisins (only if you like them)

For the dough:
400g flour
250g butter
250g sugar
1 t spoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 200C. Melt the 250g of butter. Put the melted butter and sugar into your food processor. Add the baking powder to the flour, mix well. Put this mix, spoon at a time, into the food processor together with the butter and sugar. After a few minutes of mixing your dough should be soft, but fall into pieces easily.

After greasing a round tin sprinkle it with flour. 2/3 of the dough spread on the bottom of your tin - work with your fingers, pressing the dough down and covering, more or less evenly, the whole surface.

Prepare the filling. Get rid of the cores of the apples and slice them into little pieces. Add a bit of sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Mix well and spread everything on top of the dough in your baking tin.

Cover the filling with the remaining 1/3 of the dough. Just form crumbs, that wouldn't completely cover the apples. Bake for about 50 minutes. Keep an eye on your pie - if the top starts browning too much, lower the temperature in the oven.

And here are some facts for increasing your culinary knowledge:

Dutch apple pie (appeltaart or appelgebak) recipes are distinct in that they typically call for flavorings such as cinnamon and lemon juice to be added. Dutch apple pies are usually decorated in a lattice style. Dutch apple pies may include ingredients such as raisins and icing, in addition to ingredients such as apples and sugar, which they have in common with other recipes.

Recipes for Dutch apple pie go back centuries. There exists a painting from the Dutch Golden Age, dated 1626, featuring such a pie.

The basis of Dutch apple pie is a crust on the bottom and around the edges. This is then filled with pieces or slices of apple, usually a crisp and mildly tart variety such as Goudreinet or Elstar. Cinnamon and sugar are generally mixed in with the apple filling. The filling can be sprinkled with liqueur for taste although this is very uncommon. Atop the filling, strands of dough cover the pie in a lattice, holding the filling in place but keeping it visible. Though it can be eaten cold, warmed is more common, with a dash of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. In the Netherlands it is usually eaten cold, sometimes with whipped cream on top. *
* Information found on Wikipedia.