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

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Happiness is …

This was one of the few resolutions I made for 2015 and one which I am happily keeping. Last year I read all of 4 books (despicable, I know). I’ve recently finished my seventh book since January and I plan to keep at it. My favourite so far is ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon followed closely by ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes.
Ruska by Apocalyptica
I have never seen cellos played like these guys play them and this haunting melody is absolutely beautiful. Ruska is Finnish for the colours of autumn and yes, I know we’re in a completely different season, but then I’ve always said that I’m a bundle of contradictions. I can’t seem to embed the video but you can go here to hear Ruska.
Shooting photos in manual mode
I find it challenging, and I make lots of mistakes, but there’s a certain freedom in allowing yourself to take full control of of all the little knobs and buttons. There’s a lot to learn and I am just taking baby steps forward, but once I was brave enough to get off of Auto mode I started to find Manual Mode rather addictive.
Annual Parade 059
Naturally, it’s good to have some help along the way. I found the following two books very  useful:

There are also some wonderful online resources such as Digital Photography School and Discover Digital Photography.
Eating figolli
These traditional Easter treats that my mum lovingly makes every year (with some help from a Mischievous Someone) are a dieter’s nightmare. They consist of a layer of sweet almond paste sandwiched between two layers of sweet pastry that has been cut into shapes such as fish, lambs, rabbits, hearts, butterflies … and covered in a  layer of chocolate or sugar frosting and decorated with icing sugar. They are sinful but truly worth Every. Single. Calorie.
The flowers of the garigue
Although mistakenly thought of as barren stretches of land, the garigue supports a wide variety of shrubs and aromatic herbs. To appreciate the wild beauty of the garigue you have to get down on your knees (literally) and look very closely at the pockets of fertile soil in between the coral-like protuberances of coralline limestone.
Congreve Memorial and Wied iz-Zurrieq (77)-001
You can read more about Malta’s garigue here.
Washi tape
One of my secret indulgences. Thankfully it can be purchased quite cheaply from EBay or Etsy and the cute designs make my journal look pretty. The best thing about it is that it’s acid-free which makes it perfectly safe to use on photographs or craft projects.
What’s not to love about strawberries? Just looking at them makes me smile – their colour, their shape (they remind me of pixie’s hats), their texture, their sweetness.
Mdina Ditch 002
Everything about them is perfect: they are packed with essential nutrients and are low in calories (only 33 per 100g) – which comes in handy when you’re indulging in figolli. Of course, you can disregard all the benefits and use them in a decadent dessert. Like this Strawberry Shortcake Cake I made recently. 
Dessert (1)
These wild-flowers do not grow in the garigue but by the wayside or in fields, among the wheat, and as soon as they start to life their somnolent faces towards the sun, it’s a sure sign that spring has reached its zenith and all the beauty around us will swiftly fade away. But right now they are blooming, and they are beautiful.
Poppies (1)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The stories in my head

Sometimes I like to lie on my back and lazily gaze at the wisps of clouds suspended like cobwebs in the vastness of the sky. And they come to me from nowhere, snippets of stories that always remain untold.
Stories of heroes longing to unsheathe their swords to rescue a maiden locked in the  turret of a blood-red castle.
Red Tower 116-001
Tales of sacred places where feet no longer tread but whose stones stood tall in the virgin birth of a primeval dawn.
Adventures of love-sick soldiers in solitary towers watching and waiting for the next pirate raid.
Congreve Memorial and Wied iz-Zurrieq (81)
Legends of abandoned houses where footsteps are heard in the stillness of the night and laughter echoes in empty halls.
Isla (38)-001
They all whisper their secrets to me, like so many memories of some distant past that my subconscious barely remembers. Or they are just remnants of tales heard and remembered. Just snippets of legends waiting to be told; whispers of shadows waiting to be given life or destined forever to remain stories in my head.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Between the heart and a happy place

On a bright but breezy morning in mid-March we headed to the harbour town of Isla to admire what is probably one of the best views on the island from the vantage point provided by a solitary guard-post. It had been years since we had last visited this spot – and I know that’s hard to believe on an island which is 20 miles long by 15 miles wide (and that’s probably stretching it by a few miles) – but it’s the truth.
Isla (20)-001
We went there for the view but an impromptu history seemed in order because, a long time ago, fierce battles were fought on the now-placid water of this natural harbour. In the summer of 1565 a vastly outnumbered groups of Knights led by intrepid Frenchman Jean de Valette, defended this island for themselves, for the Maltese and, it is said, for Christendom, against the might of the Ottoman empire under the command of the infamous corsair Dragut.
Isla (40)
Under the sweltering heat of a Mediterranean sun one side attacked, and the other side defended, with a fervour that resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, including that of Dragut. In the end, the Knights prevailed and the Turks sailed away with a greatly diminished fleet. The Great Siege of Malta was over. And that’s the end of the history lesson. You can read more here if you are so inclined.
Isla (6)
There was not  much here when the siege was fought and won. But over the years, thanks to the vision of ruling Knights, it grew into the harbour that we see today. Grand Harbour we call it. And it is grand with its fortified walls and forts and sweeping vistas of the sea and sky. It’s a familiar view but it gets me every time. It gets me somewhere between my heart and a happy place.
Isla (14)
I think those Knights of old and their military engineers were trying to make a statement when they envisioned this harbour. A statement of majesty and military might. It is what they stood for, after all. It was their way of assuring their sovereignty over this island. Their way of assuring that the massive bastion walls rising almost vertically out of the sea would strike fear into the heart of any potential foe. And in the precise architecture of this military extravaganza, they gave us a gift that keeps on giving. A gift which always gets me – somewhere between my heart and a happy place.
Isla (26)
Location: Gardjola Gardens, Isla (March 2015)


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