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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Waiting to exhale

Breathe in. Breathe out. It sounds easy enough. We don’t even think about it; it’s just something we do unconsciously, an inherent part of being alive. But sometimes I feel like I’ve breathed in too much and that I am drowning in air. That’s when I know that it’s time to stop and exhale.

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Summer is supposed to be the most relaxing time of the year: lazy days at the beach, balmy nights, afternoon siestas … it sounds like the formula for a perfect season. But the heat saps by strength, the sun gives me headaches and the beaches and public places are over-crowded and noisy. Yes, I am being a moaner, and if I were still at school, I am sure that one of the nuns would tell me to count my blessings, because there are so many people who have so much more to worry about than such petty nuisances. I guess empathy was not their strongest point. Or maybe that was their way of toughening us up and preparing us for the real world. Because it’s true. My grievances are barely noticeable compared to what some people are going through.

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And yet, aren’t we all just a little bit selfish and don’t we all think of ourselves and our close circle of family and friends before all others? Isn’t that the only way to keep sane in this world where we are constantly bombarded with horrific images of human suffering in all shapes and forms?

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I really have no answers. I know that this blog and the ones I read on a regular basis help me escape to a whimsical world. They take me on flights of fancy to magical places. They help me stop and exhale. And, strangely enough, they give me the strength to face all the ugliness out there. Because if we had to focus on that all the time, we would surely go mad. But these online friends I have made have shown me that there is still beauty in this world. There is still kindness and compassion. Above all, they have taught me that there is hope. In this cruel, crazy world, there is still hope. Because, in spite of everything, or, maybe, because of it, hope is always the last to die.

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My father in law’s beautiful roses (Canton, MO, July 2015)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ten things to do in and around Washington DC

1. Learn about the ancient inhabitants of America at the National Museum of the American Indian. I must admit that I have always been both moved and fascinated by the tragic history of the Native American tribes. This  Museum is the perfect place to learn about America before ‘white man’ came and destroyed so much of this ancient culture and way of life.

Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian, 4th St & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560

2. Admire the Space Shuttle ‘Discovery’ at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center. Now I am not usually the type of person who loves to be around planes, trains and anything mechanical, but the Space Shuttle was a different story. I couldn’t help  but gaze in awe at this behemoth that had been to outer space on a total of 39 missions. I had seen it on TV so many times and now it was almost within arm’s reach. Of course, there’s more than the Space Shuttle to keep boys of all ages interested for hours at a time. Enola Gay, a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and a Concorde were just a few of the other marvels that were eagerly pointed out to me and that I can still remember.

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Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway,  Chantilly, Virginia 20151

3. Learn about the history of flight at the Smithsonian National Air and Space  Museum. This museum is located in downtown Washington and it is an interesting journey through the  history of flight and space exploration. The 1903 Wright flyer, the Spirit of St Louis, the Space Lab and the Apollo 11 Command Module are amongst hundreds of other objects that are on display. And since boys will be boys, my husband and son could not miss a ride in the the flight simulators. I gave this particular attraction a miss but I was told it was worth it. If rotating upside down and doing barrel rolls sounds like your idea of fun, then go for it. I thought the souvenir shops were a safer option.

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560

4. Take a photo with the most famous residence in America. Well, one has to do at least one absolutely touristy thing while travelling, don’t you agree?

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The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500

5. Take a guided tour through the US Capitol. If you’re fond of history, this is a must. You do have to book in advance and the tour is quite fast, but very informative. Even if you’re not particularly interested in history, the architecture is worth the visit. The dome is currently being restored both from the exterior and the interior, so we didn’t visit at the best of times because it didn’t look very photogenic. Our entrance pass also allowed us to sit in on a session of Congress.

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6. Pay your respects at Arlington National Cemetery. One of the first things I learnt at Arlington is that 400 000 men and women are buried in the grounds of what  used to be General Robert E. Lee’s home and plantation.  Arlington is the biggest cemetery that I have ever visited and I would advise taking a guided trolley ride. You can hop on and hop off at any of the stops on the tour but I would definitely recommend the John F. Kennedy Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknowns and Arlington House.


Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211

7. Visit the Monuments. Well, you can’t say that you’ve visited Washington if you don’t pay at least a fleeting visit to the iconic monuments dedicated to presidents Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. The Washington Monument is difficult to miss as it towers over the city. We made it to the Washington and Lincoln monuments but were too tired and  jet-lagged on our first day there, and too busy after that, to make it to the Jefferson Memorial – although I did zoom in to it on our way to the White House. Maybe next time we’ll get up close and personal …


8. Take a ride in a pedicab. After a day spent walking around the Air and Space and the Natural History museums and then the Washington and Lincoln monuments (we must have walked miles in just  one day), the Mischief Maker and I rebelled and vowed we could not walk one more step. So we took a pedicab from the Lincoln Monument to our Metro station. Our driver, Barry, was very friendly and knowledgeable and it was a very agreeable way of seeing the city without acquiring any more blisters on our toes. The 20 minute (or so) ride cost $15 for three people and was totally worth it. It was either that or spending the night with Lincoln.

9. Forget your diet and eat lunch or supper at Ray’s Hell Burger. What can I say? It was ‘just’ a burger but a pretty darn good one. I do not think I left a single crumb on my plate and I was too busy eating to even take a single  photo.

Ray’s Hell Burger, 1650 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209

10. And because you’re in Washington and it’s the capital of the US, you just have to go take a peek at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives. Are they worth the long lines? Well, the writing is faded, the lighting is dim and no photos are allowed but, for all true Americans, these documents are the essence of what constitutes the nation. As for me, I am more of a monarchist at heart - but that’s a tale for another day as this post if way too long already.

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The National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20408

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A chat with La Contessa

Blogging is a strange thing. It starts as a solitary pursuit but, over time, connections are made and friendships develop. It is the 21st century’s version of pen-pals. So it was a pleasant surprise when Elizabeth, aka La Contessa, contacted me while I was on vacation in the US.

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Anybody who reads Elizabeth’s blog, The Vintage Contessa, knows that she is exuberant and larger than life. But she is also one of the sweetest people in the blogosphere and always leaves the nicest comments. She also has the most soft-spoken, sing-song voice that I’ve ever heard. Those that know me well will tell you that I am quite shy, but speaking to Elizabeth about the adorable Banksy (her son’s miniature pig), soon  put me at ease. So thank you Contessa, for taking the time to have a chat with me. I am sure that one day we will make it to California, especially since visiting all fifty US states is on my bucket list, and I’ve only made it to eight.

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Now those of you that live in the area would do well to visit Blue Door Antiques as our favourite Contessa has set up shop there and she has a plethora of lovely, vintage items for sale. I fell in love with some white wicker chairs but, alas, it would be too expensive to ship them half way across the world.

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Speaking of US states, Missouri is the one I get to visit most, since my husband is from the northern part of that state, from a sleepy little town in the middle of vast cornfields at the edge of the seemingly endless Mississippi – the river that goes on forever. It is quiet, peaceful and relaxing here – the perfect getaway.

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This is Mark Twain country, just 45 minutes away from Hannibal, the author’s boyhood home. I find it fascinating to wake up in the morning and find humming birds hovering at the bird-feeder. And, although many people consider them to be pests, I love the cheekiness of the wild rabbits hopping around peoples’ yards and getting up to mischief.

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There’s not much to do around here – which is just as well – because there are times when I feel an overwhelming need to shut down and forget everything. Forget that in this overwhelmingly huge country there are cities teeming with millions of people. Forget that thing called work. Forget, forget and fall into a pleasant reverie, until the distant rumble of the freight train carrying coal to some destination unknown gently nudges me out of my dream-like state to the calming serenity of  rural America.

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P.S THE BLUE DOOR ANTIQUE SHOP is located at 321 N.L Street,

Livermore, California 94551.

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Location: Canton, Missouri, USA

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Memories of a summer trip

Well, here I am again after a rather long absence. In the past few weeks, we flew across the Atlantic and spent a lovely vacation in the land of quaint barns, wide open spaces and colossal cities – better known as the USA.

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I used to think that there was not much difference between Western Europe and the States, yet with each passing visit I realise more acutely just how big those differences are. But it’s all good because variety is the spice of life. So no complaints from me – except that the grocery stores are too cold.

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Vacations pass way to quickly and we always come back with that niggling feeling that we didn’t quite do and see all that we had planned. And my husband will probably blame me for that. But I am not a typical tourist. I don’t mind if I don’t see everything as long as I have time to linger in a place. I am always a dreamer but that characteristic seems to surface even more when I am on holiday and enjoying myself. There is no sense in rushing around. ‘Savour the moment’ is my motto. Yet at the same time, it doesn’t make sense to travel thousands of  miles and see nothing at all. And then there’s the Mischief Maker who, at nine, has his own ideas of the places he would like to visit. So I suppose we try to reach a balance without driving each other insane.

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So what did we do while we were there? We visited Washington DC, saw the monuments and tried to fit in as many museums as we could. We fell in love with a Space Shuttle. We rode a pedicab. We drove to the Ozark mountains and some of us fished (not me) while the rest of us lazed about (that would be me). We made friends with a dog called Shadow. We tried some Moonshine. We ate fresh blueberries for breakfast at a farm that was miles away from anything and anyone. We enjoyed special moments with family and old friends. We shopped (and shopped some more). We chased dragonflies. We had fun. We spent time together. We made memories. Because that’s what vacations are supposed to be about.

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More on our trip next time. Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer.

Monday, June 22, 2015


I blinked and it seemed as if June was three quarters gone. Summer has made its grand entrance on the wings of a north-west wind.It is here, but not quite. The sun is bright, but it is still kind. The heat is gentle; the nights thrillingly cool. The daylight hours have reached their zenith and from here, it is a slow demise to darker days.

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But for now, it is June, the most playful of the summer months. June is when the thought of summer still seems agreeable. When winter-white toes are dipped in turquoise waters and quickly withdrawn with shrill squeals of ‘It’s freezing’ and ‘The water’s still cold’. It is the month when the wheat has been harvested and the baled hay left out in the fields, like giant building blocks of some fantasy castle, until it is loaded on to trucks and stowed away for when the rain comes again.

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This is the month when the light takes on certain nuances; when it turns anything it touches to gold. There is an almost syrupy quality to the light. I wonder whether it’s sticky to the touch; talk myself out of bottling it up in a jam-jar and spreading it on my waffles instead of honey.

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I hate to admit that there is magic in the light of the solstice. That I want to stretch out under the sky and let its amber fingers tenderly touch my skin; its warm breath delicately kiss my eyelids. This fey light makes me feel as lazy as the big ginger cat that likes to sit on our garden wall. It seems to be purring ‘June is golden. June is golden,’ over and over. The light must have gone to my head. Or I’ve been bewitched by  Midas’ touch.

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Location: Valletta, June 2013

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chaos in your soul

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Sometimes I fear that that’s all there is in my soul, a whole lot of chaos. Chaos born of a thousand tangled thoughts; a hundred shattered dreams. But these words bring hope that we will all find our path and fill the darkness with the bright light of eternal hope.

For all you dreamers out there, and I know there are many, let go of your doubts and shine. Shine like dancing stars.

Life is busy at the moment so I’ll keep it short for today. Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Just because we could

Some days, wisps of memories force themselves out from some forgotten recess of my mind and play themselves out, like an old-time movie, before my eyes. They are happy memories; memories of childhood summers. And they are vivid. So vivid that I can feel the languid air of the fan as it gently caresses my warm skin. So seemingly recent, that my eyes are blinded by the silver light of mid-morning bouncing off of my white bedroom walls.

Outside my open window the cicadas sing shrilly to their hearts’ content; drunk on the heady heat of an unyielding sun. I can almost smell summer – that strange scent of dust and dry vegetation. I am staring at the ceiling, noting the strange patterns that the paint and the light seem to be conspiring to create on it.

It’s time to get up. But do I really want to? The hours stretch out endlessly. It seems like sunset is an eternity away. There are so many minutes to fill up. I gaze back up at the ceiling, thinking I can see the outline of a sheep in the furthest corner of the room. Perhaps it’s not just the cicadas who are drunk on the heat and the light. I can hear nothing else but their crazy, tuneless song but I force my ears to drown out their dizzying sound.

Now I am able to hear the clock tick-tocking away in our hall. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. How many more tick-tocks till nightfall? Maybe  I would stay in bed and count them, while conjuring up imaginary patterns on the ceiling.

Somewhere outside the cool, blue expanse that is the sea beckons and friends are impatiently waiting, anticipating a game of hopscotch or hide and seek. I could get up. I should get up, throw on a dress and start my day. Or I could lie on my entangled sheets and continue to count each tick. And each tock.

Just as quickly as it came, the memory fades. Ah, childhood, when time seemed endless and we wasted it by the bucket-load. Just because we thought it would last forever. Just because we could.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Down the garden path and into mystery

On the hill leading from Floriana to Pieta, there is a garden. The entry-way is so unobtrusive that you will almost miss it; and people seem to do so because, most days, it is empty. Even on a public holiday we were the only people there except for two other couples.

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It has a name, of course, but I like to call it The Secret Garden. My secret garden. Secret, because it’s almost always deserted and secret because my inquisitive nose has smelt out a mystery (or rather my writer’s soul has created one just for the fun of it; because it would be inconceivable for me to live without a little mystery in my life).

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It’s a leafy sort of garden with huge trees providing a cool oasis on the warmest of days. But sadly, it lacks flowers, except for the wild ones which grow out of the most unusual cracks and crannies. For some unfathomable reason, no one thought of planting flowers here; of coaxing rainbows out of the earth. But I have. Because in my most secret heart, I have made it mine and I would fill it with a riot of blooms and colours.

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For I would plant hydrangeas and arum lilies in the shaded spots and roses where the sun shines for a few hours and then hides its face. And geraniums of course, in the full light of the sun, because that’s how they like it and no Maltese garden is complete without them. Sunflowers, to follow the course of the shifting light. Rosemary, lavender and thyme for their glorious scent. Succulents at the edge of borders. Pittosporum to form fragrant hedges and bougainvillea, that hardy, quintessential creeper, that requires so little care and rewards us with buckets of blossoms. There would be water-lilies in the renovated pond and a frog or two or three but the carved lions would remain as they are now: pock-marked with age and weather-worn.

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I can see it so clearly. My wild, secret garden. With it’s five different levels and its carving on the walls and its stunning views and its crowning glory – a watch-tower from which to survey, well, everything. 

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There is so much whimsy here, from the military crests carved into the bastion walls, to remnants of statues and a miniature sculpture of the  Castle of Gibraltar (of all things).


This all-but-forgotten garden below a line of fortifications known as the Bastion of Provence, has it all; and then some. But it could have so much more. If it were mine.

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With a sigh I wrest myself out of my newest reverie and slowly walk down the garden path, out the doorway and into the world. For any wanderer’s soul, like mine, visiting this garden always feels like falling through the looking glass. There is something strangely ephemeral about it. A curious feeling that time ceases to be. That nothing is but what is not. So we will bid it goodbye for now lest I continue to wander in the land of dreams.

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And what of the mystery, I can almost hear you ask? Well, I think that for now we will leave it be, because mysteries tend to lose some of their lustre with the telling and some secrets have to remain just so. Secrets. Whispered by the breeze in the indifferent ears of time.

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Location: Sa Maison Garden, Sa Maison Street, Floriana (May 2015)

Thursday, April 30, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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