Archive for March, 2010

And now for something completely different

March 31, 2010

My  mum loves flowers and she has a hand with all plants. She has plenty of orchids of different kinds and colours. This is not one of them – it’s an amaryllis. They normally bloom once a year and my mum always admires the flowers.


The secret to being young

March 29, 2010

It was fascinating to watch and listen to Joan Collins talk about her life on Saturday night chat show with Piers Morgan. She looks incredible at 76. It appeares she’s been through a lot, and she spoke from own experience. I thought she was talking with self-confidence but not boastfully, and looked radiant and like someone who is enjoying life. Would I be taking it too far if I said she sounded honest, too? And her stories were very interesting.

My question is: does she have the secret of youth? One way or another, there are some good points to be made.

1) An old saying “the person who is young at heart also looks young” seems very valid here. Somehow the positive attitude towards things, difficult situations, other people, can take years off one’s physical appearance. Another thing is charisma, that sparkle in the eye, that can add to the impression and make you look young despite wrinkles.

2) From what I could tell, Joan Collins had the ability to move on after unpleasant events in her life and not to waste time on anger, grief or pity. (Still, she did draw conclusions. I loved her spirit.) That allows one to focus on the positives, and we are back to point one.

3) The last thing I want to point out is how beneficial it is to stay out of sun. The fact that sun is the main factor causing ageing of skin is widely underestimated – take a look at the sunbed junkies! It might be just my impression but I think people here in Scotland look younger than e.g. their peers in Italy, and you have to admit, there is not much sun here.

For the finishing line I left another thing that Joan Collins said and I liked it very much: “Show me a person who hasn’t made mistakes and I will show you someone who has not lived”.

What do you think?

Dreamy portrait of Kulka

March 28, 2010

My friend Kulka has gone to England (traitor!) for her new job as a product designer. Before she went, we managed to organise a little shoot. My friend was in a sentimental mood (for a split of a second) and there was only natural light coming in through the window from the eastern side in a off-white painted room. The result is this: a set of photos with a dreamy aura to them.


March 24, 2010

I got my first spider as a gift. That was about ten years ago. Who would have come up with an idea that a girl might want a pet tarantula? Not the typical thinking person, anyway…
Despite that, I loved my Chichi from the first sight. Chichi was of Brachypelma Emilia species. They have really beautiful colours with red segments of legs and some red hair on the body. I always assumed it was a she, although I never knew how to check it. Chichi is dead now but I found some photos and want to put them up in her memory.

Scottish scones

March 21, 2010

Yesterday I baked my first scones. They were delicious – so says my boyfriend and, being modest, I confirm this, although I’m going to have to make another another batch for my friend, who’s a scone lover and an expert, to try them. Apparently scones are only good on the day there are made and she was at work the whole day.

The recipe was given to me by a friend from work and belonged to her mum so it is a genuine Scottish recipe. I will ask her tomorrow if I am allowed to share it. It’s so quick (ok, maybe not for a beginner like me) – my friend says it took her mum around half an hour from scratch to fresh-from-oven scones!


I got permission from my friend Normie to publish the recipe. She learned it from her mother Georgina and she says they’re the best scones she’s ever had.
The ingredients you need are: flour, baking powder, butter, caster sugar, egg and milk. Into 8 oz (230 g) self raising flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder rub 2 oz (60 g) butter until it feels like fine breadcrums (this part takes up most time). Stir in 1 oz (25 g) of caster sugar and add 2 oz (60 g) of any fruit you fancy – best are raisins, sultanas, currants. Separately beat an egg with 5 fluid oz (140 ml) of milk and add this to the mixture – you might not need to add everything in case you think the dough is too wet. It is best to use a palette knife to combine the two, not a spoon.  The secret is not to roll out the dough but pat it gently with your hands adn have a light touch on the cutter when cutting out scones. Put onto grease and floured baking tray and coat with egg wash (an egg with 1 spoon of water), bake for 12 minutes in a hot oven. Enjoy!

And now for something completely different

March 21, 2010

This was taken in Callander (as you can read on the banner) last summer. I know nothing about bikes but I liked these colours and the shine!

Shoulder of lamb (boyfriend’s recipe)

March 17, 2010

The secrets to a good lamb roast – I got to know them the past Tuesday:
1) buy it fresh (best is from butcher’s);
2) marinated it for at least 24h;
3) cook in oven for a long time and don’t let it get dry.

We are on a diet, which means we eat more than usual. We just came from a three-course dinner at my friends: soup, steak with roasted veg and salad, flambed mango and banana with ice-cream for dessert. Debauchery.

Going back to the day before that… On Sunday my boyfriend bought a shoulder of lamb (he claims this is the best piece) from the butcher’s. He soaked it with yoghurt and spices and we were supposed to have it the same day but plans changed and it spent some 2 days in the fridge – marinating. When I got home on Tuesday, I got instructions over the phone to put some olive oil on the bottom of a baking tray, place the piece of lamb on top, pour some boiling water from the kettle, add a couple of chopped garlic cloves on top of the meat and wrap this with kitchen foil. Then the meat spent about 2,5 hours in the oven at the temperature of 200°C. When it came out, it tasted absolutely heavenly to the extent that I had to share my boyfriend’s secret (to some extent always improvised) recipe. Yum.

Pure Gym (“the Edinburgh experience”)

March 11, 2010

I won a gym membership! It was a prize in a contest through Instant Magazine. I was so happy, I hadn’t won anything before. I was also glad it was a free gym ticket – this would let me restore my energy for spring after the long winter.

Instant contacted me straight away, asked for my details again and passed them on to Pure Gym. I wanted to get the free pass quickly – to get use out of it while the days were still short and chilly. Wishful thinking!  It took Pure Gym exactly a month to award the prize to me (Instant emailed me on 02 Feb: “Congratulations!You have won a 6 month Gym Membership at Pure Gym as part of the promotion in the December / January Instant magazine.” – I got my gym pass on 02 March).

After a couple of days I decided it was time to try it. You fill in an online form and get a pin number – that’s all. Of course they ask you to keep the code safe and warn that sharing it with anyone is illegal. After going through two heavy doors (having typed the pin in twice) I was finally inside. What I saw was one enormous room filled in with treadmills, exercise bikes, cross trainers, weight lifting equipment and other similar exercise machines, in one word: steel. And lots of people. Two walls of this hall were glazed from top to bottom so that anyone from outside could watch you working out like a monkey on a show. I am sorry, I really don’t know what I expected. More cosiness? More privacy? More people-friendly look? I decided the weather was perfect that night, turned around and went for a run in the fresh air.

By the way, I was so eager to leave I did not give myself a chance to check the changing rooms or shower rooms but I saw the so called chill-out zone on my way out and I’d like to share with you the fact that vending machines with drinks take up more square footage than there is breathing space.

I realise there are some advantages: the gym is cheap (around £16. per month), it’s open 24h a day and, in case of Edinburgh, handy for students (close to George Square). Still, Edinburgh has so many green areas that I am much happier if I can just go for a run, do some push-ups and sit-ups and get fresh air while being surrounded by only some occasional passers by.

P.S. If you nevertheless decide to join P.G., please remember your code when leaving, otherwise you might never be able to get out!

Soft light portrait

March 2, 2010

Soft light is very flattering and recommended for most portraits. There are no sharp edges, no harsh shadows (if any), also no wincing or squinting. On the contrary, harsh light highlights unwanted details, like blemishes, and emphasizes disproportionate features, like a bigger nose, thus making faces look less attractive.

There are two main rules: the larger the light source, the softer the light; light is softer when the light source is closer to subject and harder when the source is further away. (I found a sentence on someone’s blog saying: The secret of all good lighting is to make the light source larger rather than smaller.)

This means you won’t get much use of the camera’s in-built flash and an off-camera light is needed to create a soft effect. Professionals in studios use softboxes or umbrellas but if you have an external flash, you can bounce it off a wall or the ceiling. A big window will do wonders – you can choose a north-facing room or if the light is too harsh, you can cover the window with a delicate curtain. If you are shooting outdoors, an overcast day is best. On a sunny day a reflector or a flash light will be needed to fill in shadows underneath the eyes. The secret of all good lighting is to make the light source larger rather than smaller.

These photos taken at noon on quite a murky February day in Edinburgh. One thing I need to add, though – I think this model would look good in any light!

Good food at Khushi’s, Edinburgh

March 1, 2010

On Saturday my boyfriend finally took me to Khushi’s. This was after half a year of him saying “the food there is great” and me replying “I’m not a fan of Indian” (as I don’t like spicy food). However, I got persuaded and did not regret it.

After you order, they bring you poppadoms and two dips, one sweet, one yoghurty with spices – both I thought were yummy. For starter we had marinated cheese which again came with a dip. It was nice but very spicy (my sweetie carved out the outer bits so I could eat the inside which was milder; win-win as he likes spicy and ate the edges and I had the centre bits). The most delicious part was the mix tandoori we had for main course – there were lamb chops, pieces of chicken, prawns and kebabs, all were absolutely gorgeous! We also had chicken korma (for my sake) and it was tasty, too, very mild.

Unfortunately we didn’t have dessert as we were both so full but that’s not a problem as we will definitely go back. The food was absolutely delicious, the prices not too bad.

The restaurant used to be located in this enormous, beautiful building with high ceilings in Victoria Street. Because of a fire they had to move to a less impressive place in West Nicholson Street in Newington. Luckily, the chef and staff are the same.