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

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Tunes On My Playlist: In A Dream

I had never heard this song up to a few months ago.  I had never even heard of Badlands. But my husband kidnapped my  MP3 player a few months ago and transferred. their album ‘Voodoo Highway’ on it. I was surprised at how much I liked their music.
This track is my absolute favourite. There’s a raw, heart-wrenching quality to it that makes it sound like a personal prayer. It’s a short song, just over 2 minutes, but quite powerful and I just keep pushing the ‘play’ button over and over because I just wish it didn’t have to end so soon.
On a different note, my mother-in-law will arrive tomorrow for a three week visit so I may not be posting and visiting as often as usual – but I will do the rounds whenever I have some time.

Monday, 23 April 2012

A Tale Of Contrasts

On the last day of  Easter break I took the day off and headed to Valletta with the Mischief Maker. My plan was to take the ferry from Valletta and cross over to the town of Sliema. It was a nice day but breezy. We wandered around Valletta for a while escaping into the side streets.
Valletta & Sliema (6)
Old Bakery Street
Valletta & Sliema (7)
I have fallen into the habit of always taking my camera to Valletta and am slowly learning to look at it with new eyes – a stranger’s eyes. It is not difficult to do. I have never really explored our capital city. It is by no means as grand as London or Paris or Vienna but it has its own inherent beauty and I am slowly discovering it and learning to appreciate it – in spite of all its blemishes.
Valletta & Sliema (10)
It’s a downhill walk all the way to the jetty from where the ferry leaves. On the way I could not resist taking some snapshots.
Valletta & Sliema (11)
Valletta & Sliema (32)
The ferry takes about 10 minutes to cross Marsamxett Harbour from Valletta to Sliema and it is  10 minutes well spent. Apart from not having to deal with traffic, the views are quite stunning with  Valletta at the rear and Manoel Island, with its 18th Century fort, to the left.
Valletta & Sliema (28)
Valletta Skyline dominated by the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Valletta & Sliema (14)
Manoel Island and Fort Manoel
Across the stretch of water, the modern apartment blocks that make up Sliema are as different from the Baroque splendour we just left behind us as crows are from peacocks. The contrast is almost palpable.
Valletta & Sliema (19)
Valletta & Sliema (24)
Valletta & Sliema (22)
Sliema has very much become the ‘it’ place, the place where it’s all happening; a crowded, congested maze of shops, restaurants, cafeterias and offices. There is an undeniable energy about it, a constant buzz of activity – but I can’t help looking across the harbour at the understated elegance of a city that, for many, has lost so much of its lustre. Except that it hasn’t lost any of it, not really, it just requires inquisitive eyes that can look beyond the surface and a heart willing to learn its story.
Valletta & Sliema (12)
St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral
Since 1980 Valletta has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wednesday Wanderings: The Streets of Montmartre

Montmartre – the word rolled gently off my tongue and was lost in the gentle spring breeze. After the boulevards of Paris, Montmartre had a more homely feel. There was no way of escaping the crowds that thronged there on this beautiful March morning. But I was able to lose myself and feel alone in a crowd of thousands. All I needed was a place that exuded its own unique vibe. And Montmartre did just that. There was no doubt to me that Montmartre danced to the beat of its own drum.
Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (87)
It’s an uphill climb from the Metro to the top of Montmartre, with the church of Sacre Coeur, like a huge iced wedding cake, gazing benignly at the groups of visitors. From beneath its pristine domes there is a panoramic view of Paris.
Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (96)
Glancing upwards, grimacing gargoyles seem to be mocking the humans jostling underneath their stony gaze.
Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (105)
Leaving their menacing glares behind me I quickly headed towards the narrow cobblestoned streets. The atmosphere was cheerful, although the persistent  badgering by street artists who want to paint a quick portrait or caricature does mar the beauty of the place somewhat.
Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (115)
Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (138)
Paris - Lorna's Day 3 (85)
There is a unique charm about Montmartre, perhaps some might say that it is a tad contrived, but it is charming, nonetheless.  And from the art on sale at Place du Tetre, to the eclectic offerings of the souvenir shops, there is no doubt that this particular charm is totally French. Montmartre has lost none of the bohemian character that attracted so many penniless artists and writers at the turn of the last century.
Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (122)
Paris - Lorna's Day 3 (70)
There was something utterly whimsical about it. But it was a type of whimsy that I could not quite put my finger on. Perhaps it was a whimsy derived from all those bohemian souls that used to roam its streets (and who knows, perhaps they still do). Or more likely it’s a whimsy derived from the mouth-watering crepes smothered in Nutella that I was eating. Whatever the case, Montmartre quickly became my favourite spot in Paris.          
Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (130)                 Darin's view of Paris - Day 3 (125)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dreaming A Little Dream

It’s good to dream every now and then, isn’t it? I am an importunate dreamer, spinning tales and weaving dreams known only to myself. My imagination never fails to take me on wild flights of fancy. Some days, most days, I manage to rein it in. Other days, like today, well, I just give in to the fantastic wanderings of my own mind and let myself dream a little dream.
By now you probably all know that I  love baking (and chocolate – but I promise I will try not to mention chocolate again this week) and, essentially, that is what my dreams revolves about. So let me take you with me on this little whimsical trip of mine …
I would take this place
Valletta (4)-001
Or this one
Valletta (36)
And restore it to its former glory. I would call it La Patisserie, perhaps, or maybe The Cake Shoppe. Then I would bake, all day, to my heart’s content. I would make these,
                        Lemon Almond Cupcakes     Source: via Lorna on Pinterest

and these,
                Blueberry cupcakes    Source: via Lorna on Pinterest

and these
                                Crème de Menthe Brownies    Source: via Lorna on Pinterest

and maybe these.
Cherry Coke Float Cupcakes   Source: via Lorna on Pinterest
For variety I would include this
Lemon & Raspberry Summer Cake   Source: via Lorna on Pinterest

and this
                                          Red Velvet Cake    Source: via April on Pinterest
and this.
                              Strawberry Cake    Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest

And, if I am really brave, I would attempt to make these.

The walls would be lined with shelves with pretty baking goods on display: sprinkles and cupcake liners, decorations and toppers …
                                           Source: via Lorna on Pinterest

                                        Source: via Lorna on Pinterest

And of course, there would be drinks: pink lemonade and herbal teas; freshly-squeezed orange juice and home-made lemonade; flavoured coffees and dark, bitter espresso; mochas and lattes and steaming mugs of cocoa milk.
                                 Pink Lemonade    Source: via SAVOIR on Pinterest

(Can you tell that  I am really getting carried away?)
The décor would be simple – slightly vintage, edgy and chic – preferably in marsh-mallow colours (or would that scare all the male customers away?). 

Or maybe it’s best to go with old-world flair and forget about the polka dots, flowers and pastels.
Source: via Lorna on Pinterest

(What did I tell you about my capacity to dream up a storm?)
And while we’re at it, would you care to join me for cupcakes and pink lemonade?
There I managed to write a whole post about desserts without mentioning the word chocolate once. Impressive! Oh … I promise that next time I will try to dream about healthy food Winking smile

Monday, 9 April 2012

Of Easter Goodies & A Much Anticipated Book Launch

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. We woke up to grey skies, howling wind and rain – quite unusual weather for us. I always seem to remember the sun shining on Easter Sunday. Easter is a time for goodies and at the end of the day we ended up with a sundry collection of chocolate bunnies, eggs and a local sweet made only at Easter time – figolli.
Figolli & Easter Goodies 017
Figolli consist of two layers of pastry, usually cut in the shape of bunnies, lambs, hearts or fish (or anything really), with an almond filling in between. The top layer of pastry is then covered in chocolate or icing and decorated in all sorts of whimsical ways. Since these goodies are only made for the Easter season, each bite is doubly delicious. The store-bought versions are rarely as good as the home-made ones. The figolli in this photo were made by mum and decorated with the help of the Mischief Maker.
With goodies in mind, I don’t know if any of you are as thrilled as I am to learn that Joanne Harris will be launching the third book in the Chocolat ‘series’ on May 24th. It is entitled Peaches for Monsieur le Cure’ and I am really looking forward to reading more about Vianne and, naturally, about chocolate. The book will be released in the US with the title Peaches For Father Francis.
I don’t know about you but, even after two books, I am still curious about Vianne. Perhaps it’s because there is a little bit of her in all of us – whether it is her free-spiritedness, her way with chocolate or her magic, there is something in her with which we can all identify. I definitely identify with Vianne the chocolate maker. There is a hidden art to making anything with chocolate. You need to have a feel for its sensual nature, its unruly temperament, its quirkiness. This is a subject I thoroughly love, a science I am only too happy to learn. Many people shy away from chocolate because it can be tricky to work with – and it can be. But if any of you are interested, this link will give you some excellent tips.
And here is Vianne with her delectable creations.
In the meantime, I am dreaming a little dream – but more about that next time …

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Hills Are Alive

With all sorts of wild flowers. Like asphodel, giant fennel, sulla, primrose and others whose name I do not know. The bees were out in their hundreds flitting from flower to flower and drinking in the precious, sweet nectar.
It was a perfect day for a picnic – the sun was shining but there was a cool westerly breeze blowing and chasing billowing, cottony clouds across the perfectly blue sky.
Picnic at Dwejra (92)
It’s my favourite time of the year – before all the greenery is gone and we are left with dry weeds, brown earth and a blinding, unnaturally white sky.
Picnic at Dwejra (5)
This is another ‘new’ place we’ve discovered. It’s just across the valley from where we live and yet, this it the first time that we have ventured here. An ideal spot for a picnic, totally by ourselves. My idea of bliss.
Picnic at Dwejra (40)
An unspoilt, open space where my  Mischief Maker could run and play and throw stones in puddles.
Picnic at Dwejra (111)
And on our way home, a glimpse of another idyllic spot waiting to be discovered. Maybe next time …
Picnic at Dwejra (118)
Photographed at Dwejra
March 2012


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