Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cold as Ice

It’s been very cold lately, but I couldn’t think of a way to capture this in my photos…

Staying at home, while the bright sun is flooding the rooms, you can be fooled into thinking that the spring has finally arrived. The second you leave your front door - it hits you! Then the song “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner comes to my mind and I can’t get it out while shivering in the icy wind.

Today, we were walking on the frozen sea; the temperature had dropped to only -7C, but I bet that these photos won’t reflect what I’m talking about. Yeah, what am I talking about? The sky is clear and light blue just like in the summer, the sun is shining like mad… but you’d better look down under your feet as it can get very slippery.

Have you ever been skating on the sea? I haven't, but I can prove that it is actually possible.

In some places Nature forces have formed icy terraces...

In other - pretty white lace ornaments.

The frozen water has incapsulated sandy hills, created by the Baltic waves.

It has trapped colourful pebbles and water bubbles...

And some seaweed!

No matter how spectacular it all looks, it’s very cold as well. I’m afraid on that you’ll have to trust me.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Moon

Last night I couldn't believe my eyes - the sky was dark and cloudless and right in the middle of it there was that bright yellow disk. It looked as if someone had just turned a modern lamp on! I swear I've never seen anything like that before (of course it might be just because I don't look up often enough). I knew it was the Moon, but the sight was very different to what we are used to.

I took some photos and was glad to discover that my zoom lens is quite powerful - can you make out the landscape!?

I wasn't into Astronomy until one of my friends showed me the stars through her telescope. I can't describe the feeling once I started to realise how vast the space is. It made me feel very small, lonely and helpless. Suddenly everything we do seemed so pointless...

The optimistic approach could be found in Tom Hanks'es words: "From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. It's not a miracle; we just decided to go. "

Hope this can inspire you to just decide and do something. Something that you have been too scared to do before; something that you'd love to do, but never find time for; something that would make you happy; something that would put a smile on one's face, if just for a moment...

Friday, 18 February 2011

Books, books, books…

The more books I want to read, the slower it goes. It so hard to find time for reading these days – in the evenings I feel so tired that I can manage just a few sentences and in the mornings the dog puts her head next to me as soon as she can hear that I’m awake. So the list and an actual pile of books keep growing!

I feel helpless as finishing one book I can already name a few more that would be an interesting sequence to the previous one… What’s on the list? Anything you can think of: Biography of Charles Dickens, "Girl in a Blue Dress" by Gaynor Arnold (that's based on C.Dickens' life), "House Rules" by Jodi Piccoult (been sitting on my desk since last December, although I love J.Piccout's books), "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald (need to fill in the holes in my education), "Vanity Fair" by William Makepeace Thackeray (one more hole I guess), "The Child Called It" by Dave Pelzer (another glimpse at a story I read a month ago) and so on... And as if all of these weren’t putting enough pressure I sometimes stumble upon books that look like worth giving a try.

One of such “accidental” ones was “Stealing Athena” by Karen Essex. I knew nothing about the author and I guess if I had seen something like this “Essex’s articles, essays and profiles have been published in Vogue, Playboy, The L. A. Weekly, L. A. Style, and many other periodicals“, I wouldn‘t have „wasted“ my time.

In reality it turned out that Karen Essex is "an award-winning novelist and journalist and a screenwriter. She is the author of the national and international best-selling novel, "Leonardo’s Swans", about the rivalries among the powerful women painted by the great master when he was employed by the Duke of Milan." (This book has also been added to the growing list.) Well, she is definately capable of writing interesting books that reveal historical facts that I have never heard before. And what’s even more exciting - in some cases this depicted history can still be witnessed these days!

“Stealing Athena” chronicles the story of the controversial Elgin Marbles.

"Elgin or Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799–1803, had obtained a controversial permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Acropolis.

From 1801 to 1812 Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erechtheum The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some, while other critics compared Elgin's actions to vandalism or looting.

Following a public debate in Parliament and subsequent exoneration of Elgin's actions, the marbles were purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum, where they stand now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery. The debate continues as to whether the Marbles should remain in the British Museum or be returned to Athens."

The book is actually told from the points of view of two fascinating women, Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin (image above), and Aspasia, mistress to Pericles. You get too see two periods - when the temple was being built and when its treasures were being removed and shipped to England. Periods when women had no rights, when men ruled the world. And once you know more about Mary's and Aspasia's lifes, you begin to realise the real price that had to be paid for the fame, which blinded Pericles and Elgin.

I've never been to the British Museum in London, although it was always on my "need to see" list (I must be mad about lists). I'm sure that next time I'm there, I will make a special efford and hopefully this will happen some time soon, before the Elgin Marbles are decided to be returned to Athens.

By the way, what would be your answer: "If there were a referendum on whether or not the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece, how would you vote?"

In 1998 the results were as follows:
40% in favour of returning the marbles to Greece
15% in favour of keeping them at the British Museum
18% would not vote
27% had no opinion

In 2002 the results were very similar.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lovely Biscuits

Just before Christmas I bought one more baking book – Baking Magic” by Kate Shirazi (with Susannah Blake). I’ve been picking it up and flicking through pages ever since, but couldn’t decide what to start with: cupcakes, cakes or biscuits? In the end it turned out that Valentine’s is the right day for magic, even if it’s only baking magic.

I fell in love with a simple recipe for lovely biscuits aka lemon snaps. These are unbelievablly easy to make and very tasty!

You will need:

125g butter; softened
125g caster sugar (fine sugar)
3 egg whites
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
125g flour

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until very stiff then fold them into the butter-sugar mixture. Add the lemon zest and mix until combined. Sift the flour over the bowl and fold into the mixture.

Take small teaspoons of the mixture and blob them onto the lined baking trays, leaving plenty of space between them. Flatten the blobs with the back of the spoon and spread them around in a circular-type manner.

Bake 5-6 minutes until the biscuits are golden around the edges. Leave on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

And... "Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring." Oscar Wilde

Friday, 11 February 2011

Turning into Something

Slowly my love for photography is turning into something. It’s come a long way, especially if I consider my first childhood memories as a photographer - being about 9 or 10, I was saving money for the photo developing equipment (to tell the truth even now I’d love to have that, oh, and a secret dark room as well!). Later on I was taking lots of crap photos that would be interesting just for the family or the ones involved and, even though they aren’t of any significant artistic value, it’s always nice to hear my friends say that I’m the one with the best documented school life. Being at uni I got my first digital camera and that’s when it hit me – I can practice as much as I like, as everything I don’t like, can be easily deleted.

At the moment I got to the stage where I’m not embarrassed to show my photos – some are better, some are worse and several can be called interesting. To my mind “interesting” is good, as it means the photo evokes emotions or makes you notice something you wouldn’t have noticed unless pointed to you. I’m still documenting everything what catches my eye and avoiding taking photos of people (although nice portraits is something I’d like to be able to capture; I guess that’s my ultimate goal). This year I’ve managed to compile a calendar using my images and suddenly got a few requests – in May I’m going to be shooting my first ever wedding and in the middle of the summer my first ever christening! But this means taking photos of people, so I guess I’m a BIT worried…

I’m very flattered my friends and family trust me and are sure they will like the results (I’m keeping my fingers crossed). I’ve finally started feeling that my photos are worth something and I’m not talking about money here. For e.g. I was very glad I could help out my friend taking photos of an interior she has designed and created – professionals might do a better job, but I know a few years ago I wouldn’t have taken anything like that. So while my portfolio is growing it’s time to think of the next step… An exhibition? Prints for sale? Why not! The bigger the goals, the more can be achieved. Hey, but first of all concentrating on the two requests.

A very cosy bedroom:

An art lovers office:

P.S. I love the paiting on the desk. It's painted by my friend, the flat owner, who has never learnt how to do that, so I guess it proves that all you need is a bit of enthusiasm and you can perform wonders.

Monday, 7 February 2011

There's Always a "But"

Yesterday the sun was out all day. I think many got confused and actually decided that winter can be left behind. They’ve made a big mistake – although the fields are getting rid of their white coats, today it’s been miserable, foggy and too damp. Oh, and if to believe the latest weather forecast, a huge snow storm will reach us just in a few days. (February is well know for its severe blizzards - hard to believe!)

Althought we couldn’t enjoy the first rays for too long, they’ve already started their job – some of the snow and ice has melted and it’s very nice to be able to walk on a solid ground: without being afraid of slipping, falling off and breaking bones! But (have you noticed how there’s always a “but” in life?) some Lithuanians must be dreading the warmer weather – every spring certain areas of western Lithuania flood and force the locals to leave their houses.

The floods have started and several families have already been moved; vast fields are still covered in ice, but the process has begun… Even the main road can end abruptly and you can cross it at your own risk, just make sure you follow the high white/black poles that mark the tarmac strip beneath the water.

Every day someone has to measure the depth. 15cm isn’t much, but they might have used a faulty ruler or chosen the highest point (the situation looked a bit worse than just 15). Still there were plenty brave ones who managed to reach the other side and plenty curious ones to observe the natural forces or wonder why no one does do anything about this. (By the way, the sign reads "water depth" and the "add", next to the informative sheet with 15cm on it, has been stuck by a helpful person, who is offering something that the English call "chesties" - long waders that go up to your chest. Some have brilliant businessmen in them!)

Friday, 4 February 2011

Twelve Minus One

I guess we already can nearly touch spring – January is left behind and February will be over before I know it, so very soon, on the 1st of March, I will be celebrating a new beginning.

It’s snowing hard at the moment, but the temperature is above zero; huge white flakes disappear just as they reach the ground and even if they manage to form a thin layer, tomorrow they’ll be gone. Simple mathematics comes to mind: twelve minus one and we can add the plus next to the degrees on the weather maps! twelve minus two and it will get even warmer... I'm sure I will keep counting.

Winter activities continue to be something you can do while snuggling on the sofa – knitting wooly jumpers, reading books and watching films. Light deprivation pushes to seek for more colours, so painting is an option too – just on a sunny day, which happens hmm… once a week. As soon as we get more light during the day I will use my green fingers for opening hundreds of seed packets (maybe not so many, but it certainly seems that way) I’ve acquired in the past few months and sowing seeds, that hopefully will turn into big and healthy plants.

I must have missed gardening a lot, otherwise why would a flowering amaryllis evoke so much emotion and wake my sleeping secret talents up? I’m not sure the outcome will be worth bragging about, but it certainly was fun to follow every outline of the stem and bursting buds. The painting hasn’t been finished yet, I’m getting there slowly… It takes hours and hours, but this time flies.

The flower has changed a lot, as it has fully opened up by now, but this will only provide more inspiration for another canvas. Can't wait!