The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Fabulous Fridays: A Very British Sense Of Humour

There’s a certain cheekiness to British humour which might not be to everyone’s taste but both of these made me grin.
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And what better way to start the weekend than with a smile? Hope your days are full of wonderful summer memories. And remember to always take life with a good pinch of salt – it’s too short to be serious all the time.
Photographed in Plymouth
July 2012

Monday, 27 August 2012

She Walks In Beauty

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes …
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I really don’t know why, but these opening lines of Lord Byron’s poem always come to mind when I am walking in our old capital city at sundown.  Strange, really, since Byron was thinking of a woman when he wrote this poem and not about an ancient city. But I think that the words suit the place well. Those of you who read my other blog will already  know how much I love this place. I can’t seem to keep away from it.
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Because Mdina never fails to enchant me. I hover around with my camera in hand, waiting for the dying sun to cast its amber glow on the old, weather-worn buildings. And I am never disappointed. The summer sun has a way of bringing out the beauty of this ancient seductress and I can never let her charms go unheeded.
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So I dawdle, as my son says, and I gaze and I dream and I try to capture the fading beauty. It helps to while away the boredom of hot summer days. There’s always shade in these narrow streets and, somehow, it never feels quite as hot here as it does in other places. But that could be my imagination.
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My infatuation with Mdina started a long time ago, probably when I was around 4. I went to school there for a number of years (I promise I will write about that very soon). I’ve literally been there thousands of times and yet, even though it has barely changed in all these years, each time I visit, I seem to discover a new facet of the place’s character. Perhaps I will make it my life-long ambition to record for posterity each window, each door, each building. It sounds like the perfect activity for sultry summer evenings. That, and quoting Byron to my surroundings. Yes, the heat does make us a little bit mad sometimes.
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SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
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One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impair'd the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!
George Gordon , Lord Byron, 1788–1824
Christmas Concert in Mdina (37)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Random Thoughts on Making Dough

I make my pizza dough from scratch. It’s easy really. The ingredients are basic: flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast -  and a lot of kneading. I could do it the easy way. I could throw everything in my mixer and let the dough-hook form it. But I prefer to knead the dough myself. In a strange way I find it relaxing, therapeutic almost.
Making dough (2)
The first time my husband suggested that I make pizza dough, I looked at him aghast. Me, I thought,  make dough? I had never made dough in my life. We were living in St Louis at the time and I was thousands of miles away from home and from my mother’s advice. But I decided to give it a try. After all, I had seen my mum and Nanna make dough hundreds of times. How difficult could it be?
Making dough (1)
In fact, it wasn’t, and since that day I have continued to make my dough. And as I knead away with floury fingers (and nose and cheeks, usually), my thoughts chase unbidden through my head. In kneading and rolling the dough I manage to make time stand still. Because for centuries, countless women before me have gone through the same motions – maybe not to make  pizza, but definitely to make bread. Kneading and forming and shaping – my hands almost feel like they have been taken over by the gentle spirits of those that have passed before. There is a continuity about it that goes back to ancient times. The most basic of culinary arts that produces that most staple of foods: bread. In the short span of 15 to 20 minutes it feels as if life has gone full circle. I could close my eyes and instead of my  modern kitchen I could be in a rudimentary hut, hundreds of years ago. In essence, not much has changed.
Making dough (3)
Pizza Dough
7g (21/4 tsp) dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
21/2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons semolina or polenta
1. Combine yeast, salt, sugar and water in a small bowl. Stand, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 10 minutes or until mixture is foamy. Sift flour into a large bowl. Make well in centre, add yeast mixture, mix dough.
2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. For thick pizza roll out dough to 35cm round.  For thin pizza, divide the dough in half and roll out each portion to 35cm. (At this point, I like to add dry basil or oregano to my dough to give it that extra kick.)
3. Brush a pizza tray with olive oil, sprinkle with semolina or polenta. Place dough onto tray, tuck edges under to form a rim. Top and cook according to your heart’s desire.
Making dough (4)
Recipe copied from Pizzas and Melts (The Hawthorn Series) published by Murdoch Books.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Simple Charm Of St Ives

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St Ives is, probably, one of the most iconic towns in Cornwall. Needless to say, it is pretty, picturesque and utterly charming. The shops are enticing and I could have spent hours just window-shopping or shop-hopping but I preferred to wander around in the winding back streets. After all, those are the best places to take some wonderful pictures. And to discover fragments of a place’s character.
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There is nothing grandiose about  St Ives. It’s made up of cottages, more cottages and cobble-stoned streets surrounding a harbor that, when the tide is out, is littered with stranded boats and restless gulls.
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But it has an innate Cornish charm – a certain cheeky sauciness that is, well, inherently British. I loved its upbeat feel, despite the grey and drizzling sky. And when the sun came out, that was just an added bonus. A little something extra to show-off its true colours.
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And colourful it certainly is. St Ives is a medley of whitewashed walls and old, old bricks; vibrant hues and pastel shades; a haven for artists and a mecca for tourists;
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traditional and trendy; sunshine and rain. It had a bit of everything that I love and it now forever holds a piece of my heart.
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St Ives, Cornwall
July 2012

Monday, 6 August 2012

Like A Spoke In A Wheel

Sometimes I get tired of the corporate world. I feel nameless and faceless. It’s not about each individual, it’s about the common good. Or so they say. I have my own opinion about whose good it is – and I am sure you do not need me to spell it out to you. The company I work for has just been bought out. We are going from 10000 people world-wide to 17000 people. Nameless; faceless – each one of us. Most days, I don’t mind. But other days, it really gets to me.
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My job is mostly virtual. I e-mail people all the way from Iceland to Australia but I have never seen their faces. For all I know there could be a green Martian at the other end. I miss interacting with real people. There are days when it’s much worse than others. Today was on of them. I literally felt like a spoke in a wheel, turning and turning. All for the greater good. It can get depressing, but I will not dwell on it.
Instead, I invite you to drool over this Blueberry Mascarpone Tart with Lemon Curd. It just made me smile when I saw it.
Hope you are all enjoying the Olympics. This was one of the most exciting moments for me – a test of endurance, to be sure.
I will be taking a small break in the coming 10 days. Family reunions, house painting and the seaside beckon. I am sure I will still do some visiting.  There are some blogs that I just cannot stay away from. I will be back with a post about beautiful St Ives. Keep cool and chase your dreams.
Old Fire Engine – photographed at Grant’s Farm, St Louis, MO, July 2010
Lady Sylvia Steam Engine – photographed at Padstow Harbour, Cornwall, July 2012


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