dimanche 25 avril 2010

A thing of beauty

Often when I walk through the streets, I long to push open the closed doors to the wonderful buildings and imagine going into a courtyard or climbing heavy wooden staircases. In the evenings, I look up to the windows glowing with light and get a glimpse of what's inside. It gives me the impression that the lives of others are much more interesting than my own, that somehow I'm outside another world which I'd love to belong to. I remember at school they'd often ask us what job we wanted to do. Mine changed fairly often, sometimes it ranged from photographer, screenwriter and at one time, film director. Yet I never took these options too seriously, never really considered what I wanted to do with my life or how to make it work. Besides, I was always the outsider, the one with hair that was too dark, skin that was too pale, crooked teeth and no style - what did it matter?

I changed my mind a lot, was unable to just stick to a decision. At high school I changed from English to economics, psychology to history, German to philosophy so that I ended up staying on for an extra year. But then there was my first trip to Paris; the lights, the sense of freedom walking along those wide streets and the cafés. There too I had a feeling that I was somehow staring into a different world through the other side of the glass, unable to get in but I wanted to find the door so badly. That was the thing that made me start learning French and feel that something new was in my reach. Four years later, I left for Annecy and began my life abroad. Studying philosophy made it difficult to choose a high powered job and so I started teaching English, feeling it was the only thing I could do. Even though I liked it, there always the thought running through my mind that it was something anyone could do, that it wasn't good enough. I felt inadequate next to the managers and professionals I was teaching, that somehow what they did counted for so much more. I was still standing on the wrong side of the glass. This impression stayed with me until I did a teaching qualification just after I arrived in Berlin and saw that teaching well is more difficult that you think, that not everyone is cut out for that. I realised that it's not your education, money or status that will open you that door but only yourself, that others don't see their lives as any more interesting and often envy things about mine.

After years of doubt and struggling, I finally have the chance to do something a little different in addition to language teaching. The thought of it makes me nervous; I wonder whether I'm good enough for that, feel somehow bad about taking more money. Yet I'm also aware that I have to grab this chance with both hands, regardless of where it leads me, walking close to the edge of the void but with the sense of exhileration being so high up. I hope it works out.

To reflect a little more on things, I took a trip to the botanical gardens today, getting up early to be there when they opened. I'll let the photos speak for themselves but just say that it felt good to be alive with the warmth on the sun on my skin and the smell of the flowers.

Can't get enough of magnolias

In the tropical greenhouses

Stunning camelias

To finish with, a couple of inspiring recipes I tried this week. I know that the emphasis is more on rhubarb rather than apples now but I just couldn't resist making an apple cake. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Spring onion risotto (from the New York Times click here for the recipe)

Apple cake

100g sugar
125g soft butter, unsalted
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
zest of one unsprayed lemon, plus 1 tbsp juice
3 eggs
2-3 large apples (it's best to use ones that aren't too sweet like Braeburns), peeled and cored
some cinnamon for decorating

Pre-heat the oven to 160°

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a spoon until pale and fluffy.
2. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next one. Add the zest and lemon juice.
3. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder and add it to the batter a little at a time until completely blended. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little water. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined springform tin.
4. Peel and core the apples. Cut them into quarters, then cut each quarter into thin slices. Starting at the outer edge of the tin, make a circle with the apple slices. Do the same with some smaller slices in the middle for another little circle. Sprinkle with cinnamon on top and bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes or until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
Leave to cool a little before eating and serve with fresh whipped cream.

19 commentaires:

  1. It all sounds so mysterious. Whatever it is you are about to do, you will be brilliant at it, as usual. Such beautiful photos.

  2. I'm sure you will be awesome at this new adventure..good luck, you will be in my thoughts..love the pics, really always lovely..me too I know rhubrab is in season but apples, oh how I love them..


  3. J'adore pousser les portes et regarder par les fenêtres éclairées le soir ... Mais je me sens bien à ma place, aussi !
    Superbes, tes photos ! Superbes tes recettes !

  4. Your photos are gorgeous again (I love the freshness of the leaves, grass and flowers now compared with later on in the summer), and I share your obsession with magnolias... they are things of such beauty! I too believe that you will succeed in whatever you really put your mind to, and wanted to tell you that you can call me (leave a message in case I'm not there and I'll call you back) if you want to talk, okay? Mmmmmh, that cake looks perfect too, but couldn't you make/post just one little rhubarb recipe for us too? ;)
    xx Chrissi

  5. Tes photos me rappellent un cours de dessin au jardin des plantes , il y a quelques années, nous allions d'une fleur à un arbuste en regardant tout si précisément...

    PS : j'ai vu un recueil des lettres de Keats à Fanny, les as-tu lues ?

  6. @cj - Ah it isn't THAT mysterious! Actually it's simply coaching people for presentations but still a fresh opportunity and hopefully it will lead to bigger and better things. Thanks so much for believing in me, it really helps.
    @Sweetlife - It's wonderful to know you're thinking of me and I feel lucky to have so many great people around me for encouragement.
    @Hélène - Merci beaucoup! Le printemps nous donnes tant de possibilités je trouve. En ce moment la vie à Berlin est un peu comme des vacances, même si tes billets me donnent aussi très envie de voyages.
    @Chrissi - Thanks for stopping by here and for your lovely comment. You're always there for me and I really appreciate that. I think things will work out, it's just I want to do my best, as always ;-) So glad you like the photos. Actually, I already have something with rhubarb to post, probably next weekend as it's the Daring Bakers in the middle of the week. Talk to you soon xx.
    @Rose - C'était un si grand plaisir d'aller de fleur en fleur en prenant des photos car hier il a fait un temps vraiment magnifique. J'ai toujours été jalouse de ceux qui arrivent à faire des beaux dessins botaniques qui m'émerveillent. C'est drôle que tu parles des ces lettres de Keats car je le livre en Angleterre et je voulais vous en parler cette semaine. Elles sont vraiment belles et émouvantes. Je compte aussi visiter sa maison à Hampstead cet été. Bises!

  7. Vanessa, quelle que soit cette nouvelle voie que tu t'apprêtes à prendre, fonce ! Ces choix ne sont pas les plus simples, les mois qui les suivent ne sont pas les plus faciles - j'en sais quelque chose - mais c'est par les défis qu'on crée une vie "vraie". Et tu me sembles tout à fait faite pour ça !

  8. Oh, never feel bad about accepting more money. Whatever they are giving you, it is not enough, will never be enough. You are priceless! Don't you forget it. :)

    Your photos took me on a lovely journey once again, thank you.

  9. @Julie - Merci énormément pour ces mots si encourageants. Parfois il faut se jeter dans l'eau, je sais, même si cela me fait un peu peur. Et puis avec le temps j'espère avoir plus de confiance en moi.
    @Tracy - Selling myself has never been one of my strong points but it's absurdto feel bad when others charge huge amounts without second thoughts. The language schools typically rip you off and it's nice to think if the extra freedom a bit more money will give me, even if I know it isn't everything.

  10. beautiful photos of the apple cake!

  11. Brilliant photography, Vanessa, as usual! The magnolias are dear to my heart as my grandmother (who lived next door to us) had one in her garden and I loved it! And her.

    The spring onion risotto is a tasty idea too and your apple cake is mouth-watering. I wish I knew something about photography; my food photos are BORING.

  12. @Shirin - Hey thanks for stopping by.
    @Barbara - Thanks for the compliments, although I think you do your self an injustice. I really love your food photography and the verrines are a highlight. You wouldn't have so many loyal readers if that weren't the case. Honestly, I have no idea about styling and frankly am too lazy to invest much time and effort because I want to eat! Just take lots of pictures and play around with different angles. I still feel I have a lot to learn though.

  13. What a celebration of spring - I was with you every minute enjoying the wonder and beauty of nature. It is a miracle that such gorgeous buds bloom each spring... and then your Spring risotto and GORGEOUS pie. Heaven... except you are there and I am here.
    Thank you for the moment of bliss - and the motivation.

  14. Thank you Vanessa!
    Excellent photos and beautiful food as always. I want to thank you for nice compliments on the Orchards of Hudson Valley, Your view on Nature through your eyes only enhances the experience!
    Your blog has great energy.

    I have made Paella by fire you should come for a visit!

  15. @Valerie - Thanks so much for finding time to stop by. I can only imagine all the things we'd have to talk about if we were able to meet up and enjoy the spring. I guess it will never cease to amaze me. Oh and I'd happily make you risotti and cakes in exchane for some of the delicious bread you learned to make!
    @Natural selection - Thanks so much! I'm really touched you find my blog has energy because I simply talk about the things I love and feel lucky to have to many great readers.

  16. I really like how open and honest this post is. My impression of you is that you are a very intelligent and ambitious person, so it’s only natural that you would welcome new and exciting challenges. I wish you the best of luck with your new endeavor.

    You mentioned wanting to be a film director at one point. I think you’d be excellent at this, and I highly recommend that you direct a short film. You already have a great eye and know how to frame shots, which is evident from the photographs on this site. And after reading this blog for a while now, I can tell that you’re a natural storyteller. Berlin must have a big arts community so you wouldn’t have any difficulty finding people who could help you find a camera, actors, etc. Again, I highly recommend that you direct a short film because I think you will enjoy the experience, and I also think you’ll discover that you excel at directing.

  17. Wow Des, thanks so much for the inspiring comment and encouragement. It's true that I have a really strong desire to create something like a book or a film. Films have always been a huge part of my life so I guess that's why I was attracted to directing, although I haven't considered it for years. I know a couple of people who work in the film industry here and the idea of working on such a project really excites me. Whatever the result though, I realise now that I'm the one who has to make things happen and need to be a bit braver about choices.

  18. Beautiful, beautiful, thanks for these nices pictures!

  19. Hej Blomma, thanks so much, I really appreciate that coming from you :-)