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

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Loree Loves - A list for January

I missed my list for December - there were too many things going on. The month sped by before I had time to blink twice. And it looks like I am only just going to squeeze this month's list in. I definitely need to plan these lists a bit better.


I have this thing for bowls. I can never have enough of them - as long as they're round. Because round bowls easily stack into one another and it's so easy to pile them higher and higher: as high as a wobbly, leaning tower of bowls will go without topping over. I don't really mind what colour they are. I adore pastels, bright colours and white bowls. I keep my eyes peeled for solid colours and patterns, vintage bowls, ceramic bowls, bamboo bowls, wooden bowls. My favourite type are the ones that have been turned on a pottery-wheel and hand-painted with love and dedication. Wooden bowls are a close second. Both Etsy and Anthroplogie are good online sites to hunt for bowls.

Januray favourites

Main picture: Handmade pasta bowls by Blue Sky Pottery CO on Etsy;  top to bottom: Old  Havana cereal Bowl on Anthropologie; Wooden bowls by Oniroteo on Etsy; Speckled turquoise bowls by GXDesigns on Etsy; Wing & Petal bowl by August Wren on Anthropologie; left to right: Sissinghurst Castle cereal bowl on Anthropologie; Swirled Symmetry bowl on Anthropologie; Francophile Serving bowl by Nathalie Lete on Anthropologie.

However, if you happen to be in Venice and want to purchase some lovely ceramics, there is a pretty little store in Santa Croce called La Margherita that  has an amazing selection of hand-painted pottery, including bowls, of course.



Leonard Cohen

When Leonard Cohen died last November, I had started to write my own little tribute to him. But I never found the time to finish it; so I never published it. I suppose it is ironical that it was the animated character Shrek who introduced me to Leonard Cohen, when Rufus Wainright's version of 'Hallelujah' was used in the movie. I'd heard the song before but this time, I couldn't get it out of my head. So I went online and Googled it. I found out that it was a Leonard Cohen original and that Wainright's version was just one of many covers of this beautiful song that I could listen to over and over. But this is hardly the only piece of music that Cohen gave the world. In my case, 'Hallelujah' was just the door that got me exploring the other wonderful compositions of this talented man. Songs like 'Dance Me to the End of Love', 'A Thousand Kisses Deep', 'So Long Marianne' and so many more that have immortalised him forever. This little paragraph that I have just written really doesn't do justice to the man. Just one month before he died, David Remnick published an article in The New Yorker entitled Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker. Read it if you have time. It is quite long but it provides a great insight into the man behind the music.


The Prisoner of Heaven

'The Prisoner of Heaven' is the third published book in The Cemetery of Forgotten books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but the second in chronological order. The first book, 'The Shadow of the Wind' is a page-turner. I couldn't stop reading it until I'd finished it. But whereas 'The Shadow of the Wind' had every loose end tied up by the final page, 'The Prisoner of Heaven' left you with a feeling that more is yet to come. Apparently it will, in a fourth installment that will be published in Spain later this year. The English version will be available in 2018.

A prequel to 'The Shadow of the Wind' called 'The Angel's Game' already exists and I meant to read it before 'Prisoner of Heaven' but I got the order mixed up. Not that it matters because, according to the author, the sequence in which the books are read is irrelevant as each one is a novel in and of itself. It looks like I have another two books to add to my reading list.

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series takes us to post-civil war Barcelona. It is a Barcelona very different to the one we know today. In Zafon's novels, Barcelona is a dark, gothic place. A city of secrets and tragedies, where mysteries seem to leap out at our unsuspecting protagonist, Daniel Sempere, a book seller's son, from the very pages of a book that he  loves and cherishes. Daniel's best friend and side-kick, Fermin Romero de Torres is one of those unforgettable characters in literature. He provides moments of levity in what is , essentially, a dark tale and makes the book come to life.


BB Cream

BB, which stands for blemish balm or beauty balm, creams really should be a must-have in every woman's make-up routine. They have been popular in Asia for  many years but made their debut in Europe in 2011. Since then, they have become a favourite beauty product with many women - including myself. According to Vogue UK, 'they should provide moisturisation, SPF protection and sheer coverage alongside soothing and healing properties - preventing the need for numerous separate products'. I find them an excellent, every-day alternative to foundation because the majority are tinted and they really help to even-out skin tone. I am currently using Revlon Photoready BB Cream. It does tend to leave the skin looking a bit dewy, so it shouldn't be used by women with oily skin and it doesn't work miracles, but it does hide minor imperfections and, if you can get away with it, it is a fast alternative to foundation especially during morning rush-hour. If you're after something more than sheer coverage, then BB creams are not for you.

Revlon Photoready BB Cream Skin Perfector, Light Medium, 1.0 Fl Oz



I just stumbled across this Instagram account a few days ago. SerenisssimaFacades is all about the best facades in Venice. Venetian facades popping up in my feed sounds like a win-win situation to me.



It goes without saying that seeing all the photos of this ephemeral city makes me long to return. I've heard people say that Venice is boring and that one visit is enough to last a life-time. I, on the other hand, can never get enough of its decaying charms. Undoubtedly, it is time for another visit.  The trick is to fit it into my schedule.

P.S none of the links presented here are sponsored or affiliate links.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

2016: A year of turmoil

The general consensus on social media seems to be that 2016 was a particularly bad year. I am not sure where the negative vibe is coming from and whether it is even true. But it is there and the negativity seems to have stuck around long enough for almost everyone I know to be glad that it's over. From my perspective, it wasn't all bad (it never is). But it had many ugly moments which may have come too close on the heels of each other to offer any respite.

Perhaps what we will remember most about 2016 are the senseless acts of terrorism in Europe and beyond that made us all realise, once again, just how vulnerable we are.  Brussels, Nice, Berlin, Istanbul, Burkina Faso - the list goes on and the death toll continues to rise. It feels as if nowhere is safe. Yet we refuse to be beaten and continue to live our lives as normally as  this crazy world will allow - always hoping that something will change.

29032016 Point du Hoc and Arromanches (9)

As if the threats of terrorism were not enough, 2016 saw one of the biggest refugee crises in modern history as the atrocities in Syria continued unabated and thousands were displaced from their homes. This human tragedy continues to unfold - while many Europeans look on with mixed feelings as they wonder whether, from a practical and cultural perspective, Europe can continue to take in these homeless thousands.

June brought with it the unexpected and unwelcome decision of the British electorate to leave the EU. Due to Malta's close historical ties with the UK, many of us here felt as if an arm or leg had been severed from the collective whole. How the whole Brexit misadventure will end remains to be seen but an EU without the UK somehow feels like a Spring without flowers: still beautiful but with an essential element missing. Soon, borders will exist where they haven't existed in years and we will have to get used to the new status quo.

29032016 Point du Hoc and Arromanches (91)

But perhaps the event that gained the most air-time and caused the most controversy was the US Presidential election. I won't pass too many comments but I will say that I disliked both candidates and felt that a country like America, boasting millions of citizens, could surely have come up with two better candidates than the final two that ended up running for the highest office in the land. In my opinion, both of them lacked the necessary characteristics that singles out great leaders. Both candidates seemed to be run-of the-mill with the added 'bonus' of  hurling insults at each other. I thought these were traits only exhibited by hot-headed Mediterranean politicians - but apparently not. Thankfully, I did not have to choose between either of them. So I'll say what I always do in such situations - thank goodness for royalty.

During 2016 we lost a number of celebrities, as we do every year, yet for some reason, it felt as if we lost some of the best last year: David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Leonard Cohen. I grew up listening to the music of  George  Michael and was a late, but fervent, convert to Cohen's poetical outpourings that were so much more than songs. David Bowie was, of course, the man of a hundred different faces and musical styles. I wasn't an avid fan but he always seemed to be somewhere on the periphery of my world, until he was gone. Prince was widely acknowledged as a musical genius but I never quite got into his particular musical groove. There were others that departed, both famous and infamous: Mohamed Ali, Zsa Zsa  Gabor, Fidel Castro, Nancy Reagan, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder,  Harper Lee, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds …

On a personal level, the past year was not an easy one but it did teach me a thing or two. The main lesson learnt was  that, career-wise, you do not always get what you think you deserve. At the time it was a bitter pill to swallow but the whole episode left me with the strange feeling that a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I don't know what the future holds. In the past few years I've survived merger after merger and acquisition after acquisition. The company I now work for is the biggest producer of generic medicines in the world, with a total work-force of over 50 000 employees. So I am just one of the thousands who make the  huge wheel turn. They used to say that the sun never sets on the British Empire.  I guess you can say the same about the company I work for.


The most positive aspect about 2016 was that I got to travel - alone (to Budapest) and with my family (to Normandy, Paris and Somerset). I had never been to any of these places, except Paris, and it was an enriching experience to discover them. Perhaps I was most pleasantly surprised by Budapest as I did not expect it to be quite as grand as it was in person. But that should not have come as a surprise since Hungary was an integral part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the wide boulevards and sumptuous architecture of Budapest are reminiscent of the imperial majesty of Vienna. Paris, of course, is Paris: there's none other quite like it and although all we had time for was one brief evening, and a rainy one at that, we were not disappointed. Normandy was as far removed from the airs and graces of Paris as a peasant is from a princess but its charms were of the completely wholesome type: deserted beaches, wild cliff-sides, huge swathes of countryside, old castles, cemeteries with row upon row of silent crosses, and heart-wrenching stories of heroes who will never be forgotten.


And then there was Somerset, Britain's 'summer country', with its quaint pastel villages, lush countryside, sleepy sea-side towns and famous historical locations such as Wells, Bath and Glastonbury. I will forever remember eating cherries by the crate-load and having cream-tea on the sunny lawn of an old, old farm-house, surrounded by flowers and chirping birds while the sun shone merrily but kindly.

England_July 20161England_July 20162

So there it is - 2016 from my perspective. It wasn't all roses but we managed to survive it and emerged, rather bruised and buffeted, into a new year. Let's hope it's kinder to us all.


Related Posts with Thumbnails