Sincerely, Loree is a lifestyle blog that focuses on travel, books, culture, fashion and slow living on the small Mediterranean island of Malta.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Book talk: Books I read this summer (2019)

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I only read three books this past summer. That's one book a month, which is an abysmal statistic. But that's the way I roll in summer - lethargy in all aspects of my life. With just three books on the list, this won't be a very long read.

The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick


The book blurb:
Two sisters and one betrayal that will carry across generations...

In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins - the story of Adele and Amelia, and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever. Decades later, the efforts of one reckless act still echo - but how long will it be until their past returns?


I highly recommend this book for an easy and enjoyable summer read. There are no major plots twists or intricate details that will tax your brain, so it's a book that can easily be read at the beach or at a picnic. The Returning Tide is a story about a family and an event that changed its course forever. There was one thing that marred my enjoyment of this book and made the whole premise of the plot rather less credible but I can't disclose it without spoiling the story for anyone who wants to read it. Overall, it is very well written and perhaps I am being a bit too picky with my review. 

Loree's rating: 3.5/5


Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt


The book blurb:
"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."
I've been meaning to read this Pulitzer-prize winning book that was first published in 1996 for quite some time but had never gotten round to it until now. Angela's Ashes took me a good 4-5 weeks to read. It is a true story about the poorest of the Irish poor at the time of the Great Depression. Sad at times and funny at others, it is a poignant memoir of the author's childhood - first in Brooklyn and then in  Limerick, Ireland. The narrative spares no details about the hardship that the family had to go through because of an alcoholic father who was always out of work and the bigotry that the family was subjected to because of it. Some people have questioned the truthfulness of this memoir but I think it's important to remember that the author is writing about the way he remembers things - which may not be exactly the same way that other family members might remember the same events. Angela's Ashes is a memoir of childhood written 60 years later by a grown man. I am sure that a few errors are to be expected. There were many heart-wrenching moments throughout this book that make it unsuitable for anyone who is prone to melancholy or going through a difficult time.
Loree's rating: 4/5
House of Shadows by Pamela Hartshorne
The book blurb:
When Kate Vavasour wakes in hospital, she can remember nothing about the family gathered around her bed, or of her life before the accident. The doctors diagnose post-traumatic amnesia and say the memories should start returning. Which they do . . . but these memories are not her own. They belong to Isabel Vavasour, who lived and died at Askerby Hall over four hundred years earlier . . .
Returning to Askerby Hall to recuperate, Kate finds herself in a house full of shadows and suspicions. Unable to recognise her family, her friends or even her small son, she struggles to piece together the events that led to her terrible fall. Life at Askerby, it seems, is not as illustrious as the Vavasours would have the public believe. But before she can uncover the mysteries of the present, she must first discover the truth about the past ... Was Isabel's madness real, or was her mistake trusting the one person she thought would never betray her?
This book had a very promising start but I started to lose interest around two-thirds of the way through when I guessed what was going to happen and who would turn out to be the villain. I did continue to read it all the way to the end and my hunch proved to be right. Although House of Shadows has some vague gothic undertones. the element of surprise was somewhat lacking and the climax not overly imaginative.  Or maybe I'm a bit hard to please.
Loree's rating: 2.5/5
And that sums up my summer reading list. I already know my autumn list will be much longer as I've already read 4 books and there's another 5 weeks until the end of the season.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

October round-up and faves

Drum roll, please, as October exits the building. Can you believe that we are close to, not just the end of another month, but of another year. I certainly can't and I spend quite a bit of time wondering where all the days went. I lived them, of course, but it doesn't always feel like I did. Perhaps, by now, I should stop being surprised at the fleeting nature of time - but it gets me, every time.

Life lately:

Date night in Valletta
It's not often that my husband and I go out on dates. I am not sure why but probably because I feel guilty leaving our son at home and he's generally good company (even if he is a teenager) so, more often than not. he tags along. But he had a party earlier this month , so we were free to do out thing (sans the guilt). Since both my husband and I love to take photos, we spent a good couple of hours wandering around Valletta and doing just that. Every time I visit our capital city I am surprised by all the changes that have taken place in a short period of time. It's not all good. But it is what it is. When photographing Valletta, I like to find quiet little corners where I can take the time to look up and around without having to contend with crowds.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Waiting for autumn

We're officially one month into the season already but autumn continues to elude us. We've had rain, yes. And a few thunderstorms and days with big grey clouds sailing majestically across the sky. But the temperatures have remained warm - in the mid- to high twenties - and our plants have come alive with flowers, blooming under the double caress of a gentler sun and higher levels of humidity. It should be a blessing. It is a blessing. But I cannot help feeling jealous when I scroll through my Instagram feed and see people wearing cosy sweaters and talking about cashmere and spicy pumpkin lattes in the same breath - not that I drink lattes since I am of the opinion that milk does nothing to enhance the taste of coffee and I only ever drink mine black, without sugar - but people are still walking around in summer clothes and eating ice-creams here. And I am desperately waiting for the weather to break.
Bahar ic-Caghaq ∣ Sincerely Loree ∣ Lifestyle Blog

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Five beautiful places in England

I am sure you are all asking yourselves 'are there really only 5 beautiful places in England?' The answer, of course, is NO. But I had to start somewhere. So I've started with 5 of the most pretty places in England that I've seen to date. 

Bath
Bath, England ∣ Sincerely Loree ∣ Lifestyle Blog

Bath is a gorgeous city that dates back to the Roman occupation of Britain. Its Roman baths are extremely well preserved and one of its major attractions. But Bath's  Georgian architecture is equally famous and the sweeping Royal Crescent is one of its most famous landmarks. The city's Gothic cathedral is medieval in origin with a number of additions and alterations that were made in the Victorian era. Bath has a plethora of small, independent shops, among them unique book shops and antique stores selling some very quirky objects, that are a pleasure to browse through.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Malta in a Minute: The Persian

Everything you need to know about Malta – one minute at a time.

If there's one thing that I love to do when walking around Valletta with a camera, it's hunting out old, wooden shop-fronts. I have no idea what the Persian used to be when it was still in business; whether it was a restaurant, a store that sold exotic spices or a bar whose patrons guzzled their beer while ogling a bevy of beautiful belly dancers. I'm sure I could find out if I asked around but the mystery  makes it all the more alluring.

Here is the Persian in all its rosy glory.

The Persian, Valletta | Sincerely Loree | Lifestyle Blog

Incidentally, it is the only old shop-front in Valletta that I have ever come across that is painted this particular shade of pink. So that's another thing that makes it unique.

In the coming weeks I will dedicate an entire post to Valletta's old shop-fronts but, in the meantime, I wanted to introduce you to one of my absolute favourites. I hope you like it as much as I do.

The Persian
Saint Ursula Street
Valletta

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More Malta in a Minute:
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Monday, 16 September 2019

Mdina: childhood memories of the Silent City

It's funny, the things I remember during quiet moments: the lilt of a voice, a scent, the slant of the light on the streets of an ancient city - it's all it takes for the memories to come flooding back. Even though many years have passed, they are indelible; a part of who I am, like my hair and my hands.
Growing up, Mdina was as much a part of my life as my neighbouring hometown, which is just a stone's throw away. I went to school in Mdina. I took piano lessons in Mdina. I was constantly in and out of there. Inevitably, some of its residents became familiar faces. Some of them I knew by name.
Mdina, Malta ∣ Sincerely Loree ∣ Lifestyle Blog

Thursday, 29 August 2019

August round-up and faves

August always seems like the longest and laziest month of the year. Which is not surprising as it is usually the hottest month of summer and, this year, it lived up to its reputation very well. It also seems to have dragged on interminably. I know that some people are not ready to bid summer farewell but I can't wait for rain, cooler weather and grass. I miss the greenery and pretty flowers so much. But we're getting there. Slowly.
August Sunset | Sincerely Loree | Lifestyle Blog

So what have we done this August? Not much. Or perhaps I should say 'nothing at all' - apart from visits to the beach. I've been very laid-back this year and ditched housework in favour of the cool sea-water. I decided that there's nothing wrong with dust on the furniture and a few stray grains of sand on the floor and, by not following my usual routine, I feel quite liberated.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Louisville, mint julep and the Kentucky Derby

We almost didn’t make it to Louisville. My husband, who plans all our trips to the US, suggested it as an easy day trip from Indianapolis where we would be staying with his cousin. I wanted to know what there was of interest in Louisville and he mentioned a  cave somewhere on the outskirts of the city. I think I rolled my eyes and said that I didn’t want to see another cave. But then he told me that there were a lot of Victorian buildings in the downtown area. That was all I needed to give the green light.

In the end, we skipped the cave completely and, while my husband and son visited the Louisville Slugger Museum, I headed across the street to the Frazier History Museum. It was the perfect choice for me and I learnt quite a bit about Louisville, bourbon, the Kentucky Derby and mint julep. 
Louisville KY | Frazier Museum | Sincerely Loree | Lifestyle blog

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Back home and feeling human again

Well, we are back – have been back since last Saturday and finally the feeling of wanting to eat or sleep at odd hours has disappeared. The journey to and from the US is always a bit of a nightmare for me since I practically never sleep, hate confined spaces and we have to make 3 stops (each way) before we get to our final destination. But that’s over and done with and we’re home where I’m dealing with the more mundane tasks of piles of laundry, overdue grocery shopping and finding space in my overflowing wardrobe for my new purchases. I tried to only buy items that I needed but, this year, I found some lovely ‘Made in Italy’, clothing and accessories at TJ Maxx which was totally unexpected. It’s always hit and miss at that store. This year I was lucky and I might share some of my finds in another post.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Book talk: Books I read this spring

As I predicted when I wrote about the books I read this winter, I’ve read much  less in spring than I did during the previous season. Which is normal, since spring beckons me outdoors and I start spending time puttering around in our yard. I went through a total of 4 books during spring and I have to say that I really enjoyed reading all of them.

The Winter Folly by Lulu Taylor
The Winter Folly
From the book blurb:
In this house there are many secrets . . .
It is 1965 and young Alexandra Crewe obediently marries the man her father has selected for her. But very soon both she and her husband Laurence realize that their marriage is a disaster. When real love finds Alexandra, plucking her out of her unhappy existence, she is powerless to resist. Her home becomes Fort Stirling, a beautiful Dorset castle, but Alexandra fears that there will be a price to pay for this wonderful new life. When tragedy strikes, it seems that her punishment has come, and there is only one way she can atone for her sins . . .
In the present day, Delilah Young is the second wife of John Stirling and the new chatelaine of Fort Stirling. The house seems to be a sad one and Delilah hopes to fill it with life and happiness. But when she attempts to heal the heartbreak in John's life, it seems that the forces of the past might be too strong for her. Why does John have such a hatred for the old folly on the hill, and what happened to his mother when she vanished from his life? As Delilah searches for the truth, she realizes that perhaps some secrets are better left buried . . .

Monday, 1 July 2019

June round-up and faves

It has been hot around here. Unseasonably hot – the breathless type of heat we usually get in August – minus the humidity. Everything was fine until the beginning of June: temperatures in the mid-20s with plenty of cool breezes. Then, one morning, we woke up and there was an eerie stillness compounded by a heat haze that turned the sky an unearthly shade of white. The sun worshippers are finally happy – me and my plants: not so much. so, I’m doing my best to stay thankful for the small things.

Life lately
Last month I shared some photos of my new hydrangea plant. Unfortunately, it’s not doing so well. The soil around it always seems to be moist but its leaves are drooping and some are dry and brown at the edges. The flowers wilted quickly and I had to cut them off. I hope I’ll be able to keep it alive during our long, hot summer. If anyone reading this knows what might be wrong, please leave a message in the comments. I know that some of you are avid gardeners. My other hydrangea is doing well, apart from a few dry edges on some leaves. Both plants are next to each other and, as recommended, in complete shade from early afternoon. I’ve taken a good peak at my new plant and I think I can detect some new growth. So maybe all is not lost.

Monday, 17 June 2019

A stroll around central Valletta

A couple of weeks ago I had some time to kill while waiting to pick up my son so I drove to Valletta and decided to stroll around for a bit. Our capital city has changed drastically in the last 3-4 years. A number of small shops and boutiques have closed down and been replaced by restaurants, cafeterias and wine bars; and old residences and palazzos that were vacant for decades have been spruced up and are now enjoying a new lease of life as boutique hotels.
Old Treasury Street, Valletta

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

May round-up and faves

As from this month, I’ve decided to include a short round-up about what I’ve been up to together with my list of favourite links.

Life lately
May has been pretty quiet on a social level. We didn’t really do much and spent most of our free time at home, doing some gardening and some minor projects around the house.
The highlight of the month was probably Mother’s Day. I was given a beautiful mauve-coloured hydrangea by my husband and son to mark the day. I have planted it next to my fuchsia one which hasn’t flowered yet as it has been cooler than usual this spring. Hydrangeas are fast becoming by favourite flowers on account of the size and longevity of their blooms.


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Malta off the beaten trail: Il-Karraba

Malta Off the Beaten Trail is a series of articles about the less accessible areas of the island for which a sturdy pair of walking shoes and a degree of physical fitness is usually necessary.
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, Malta

Il-Karraba is the name given to the the narrow strip of blue clay slopes that separate two bays on the western coastline of Malta: Ghajn Tuffieha (commonly called Riviera Bay) and Gnejna. The easiest way to reach il-Karraba is from Ghajn Tuffieha bay by taking the path that runs parallel to the beach and is sheltered by African tamarisk trees.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

A note on commenting

As I still have not yet taken a final decision about transferring by blog to Wordpress, I have tried my best to make it easier for my readers to comment. I have switched my blog to https which should make commenting more secure and I have also noted that there is a trick to by-pass the matchy-matchy photos that are driving some people crazy.

When you comment, do not tick the ‘I am not a robot’ box. If you don’t tick this box, you will be able to leave a comment without having to match the photos. It has worked for me on several blogs without any problems. I hope this is a work-around until I figure out what to do next.

If all else fails, contact me on Instagram here or drop me an email at stories(dot)scribbles(@)gmail(dot)com

Have a wonderful week. You’ll probably hear more from me in the coming days.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Random thoughts

Can anybody else believe it’s already mid-May? Seriously, the only two months that don’t seem to fly by before one can say ‘whoosh’ are January and  February. Which is odd, as daylight hours are shorter so, technically, the days should seem like they are passing quicker. Anyhow, mid-May it is and it has been startlingly cool this year. Of course, I am immensely happy. We’ve had rain, cloudy days and strong winds. We woke up to a heavy downpour this morning that washed our plants (and our patio) and made everything look bright and clean again. I know it won’t last so I am making the most of it and snuggling into my fleece blanket every time I watch TV. Fleece blankets! In May! In Malta! It’s generally unheard of but everything is possible with climate change – which does not mean, as some people seem to think, that everyone will get Maldives-like weather the whole year round.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

April faves

And just like that, April is over and I almost did not make the deadline for this month’s faves. But here it is.

April usually heralds the start of a long, hot and dusty summer around these parts. It is also the month when every type of plant bursts into bloom, indicating that the rainy season is over for the next 5 months or so. In our little garden, all the bulbs have flowered and the season is over for them. I am now waiting for the roses, hibiscus and hydrangeas to bloom. And the bougainvillea. But that will be a while, as it is the only plant that will happily flower during our scorching summer.

Wild poppies are a source of joy for me during April. This year I have not encountered as many patches of them as usual in our countryside, which could be because of natural causes or it could be due to the massive amount of construction going on all over the place. Poppies are an expendable resource and not too many people seem to be bothered by their loss since they cannot be exchanged for money.

Poppies

Monday, 22 April 2019

Notre Dame: thirty minutes to oblivion

The light lingers in the west sky these days as the sun sets in a blaze of intense colours. Some big birds fly rapidly towards the remnants of the light. Are they geese? I am not sure. I don’t know my birds very well. But they are very beautiful, regal almost, silhouetted against the fiery sky.

It is only later, as I scrolled through my Instagram feed that I realised that the skies over Paris were illuminated too but with the source of a very different light. As we ate our supper, something sparked, many miles away. As I tidied the kitchen, Notre Dame burned.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Book talk: Books I read this winter

Reading is my way of escaping. Books transport me to places and eras that I would otherwise have no knowledge of. Although I read on a constant basis, it is probably during the winter months that I get through the most books as few activities are cosier than sitting in a comfortable armchair, wrapped in a soft blanket and whiling away the time between the pages of a good novel. None of the books I’ve read this winter will ever be classified as literature in the true meaning of the word but, perhaps more importantly, they were all a good read.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

March faves

I think that nearly everybody loves March. For those of us that love winter, March is cold enough to pretend that it will continue for a while longer; for those that love summer, March is a promise that the crazy season will soon be on its way.

My favourite thing about March this year is that our bathroom renovation is finally over – except for a few odds and ends that we need to purchase to complete the look . It took longer than expected but I might write about it and share some photos some other time. I am not convinced that writing about a bathroom renovation fits in with the reawakening that I promised you in my last post but, if I decide to do it, I’ll try to make it as interesting as possible.


Thursday, 21 March 2019

Reawakening

I feel like I’ve been asleep for weeks, if not months. I‘ve been struggling a lot, trying to determine what to write about. In retrospect, I’ve realised that I’ve been compartmentalising my words and thoughts into what was blog-worthy and what wasn’t. And somehow I feel I haven’t been true to myself. I am so tired of closing myself into boxes of my own making. This place, this blog, is mine and I can write about anything I want to. In any way I want to. So why am I so hesitant sometimes? I think I’ve been reading too many posts about SEO – you know, that magic something known as Search Engine Optimization which, if used properly, will make you Google’s darling. But I don’t want to rank high on Google (if that will ever happen)and lose sight of who I am.


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Book talk: Books I read for a book challenge

A few years ago I came across a book challenge and decided to take it up. It was an open challenge, meaning that the reader could decide what books to read, but the books had to cover the following 12 categories:
  • A book published in the year of the challenge
  • A book you can finish in a day
  • A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller
  • A book chosen to you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF
  • A  book you should have read at school
  • A book published before you were born
  • A book that was banned at one point
  • A book you had previously abandoned
  • A book you own but never read
  • A book that intimidates you
  • A book you’ve already read at least once
  • A book you’ve been meaning to read

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Malta in a Minute: St Agatha’s Tower

Everything you need to know about Malta – one minute at a time.

The Red Tower, Mellieha

St Agatha's Tower or, as it is more popularly known, the Red Tower, is a watchtower in Mellieha, in the north part of Malta. It was built between 1647 and 1649 and consists of a square plan with four corner towers. The outer walls of At Agatha's Tower are an impressive 4 metres thick. A small chapel dedicated to St Agatha is located inside the tower. The reason why it is painted red is now known but it may have been for it to be easily recognised by sentinels or to act as a deterrent to corsairs or would-be invaders. It served as a military fortification for over 300 years and then fell into disrepair.

Extensive restoration works were carried out between 1999 and 2001.

It is now in the care of Din l-Art Helwa and is open to the public.
The Red Tower, Mellieha
Winter Opening Hours: 16th September – 14th June Monday to Sunday  10.00hrs – 16:00hrs 
Summer Opening Hours: 15th June – 15th September Monday to Sunday  10.00hrs - 17.00hrs

Related links:

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

February faves

February Faves is the first (it should be the second but I had to deal with a few Blogger glitches in January because of which that instalment did not get published on time) in what I hope will be a monthly round-up of articles or photos that are worth more than a cursory glance. I hope that you will find these links worth your time and that you will discover new blogs to read.
Mediterranean heather

Sunday, 10 February 2019

How to beat the winter blues

It’s more than 1 week into February already and, for someone like me who loves winter, the season is going by way too quickly. No one can really complain about winter in this country – the sun shines nearly every other day and we only have 2 to 3 weeks of weather that we can really call cold. So miserable winters are not really something we have to deal with, but people complain anyway. But for those that do have to contend with dreary grey skies, rain or snow and mind-numbing temperatures, the lack of light, warmth and colour can easily bring on a case of the winter blues. So while I am loving every minute of it and wishing it will last at least till June, I know that many people struggle with their moods at this time of year so I thought of sharing a few things you could do to help you cheer up.


Thursday, 24 January 2019

Ten beautiful places in Italy

Italy is full of beautiful cities that are famous all over the world. The country is a fascinating blend of unique architecture, unusual traditions, delicious food and turbulent historical events, set against the back-drop of a stunning natural landscape. It is hard, if not impossible, to visit Italy and not come to love one or more of the aspects that make up this remarkable country.
I could, of course, talk for hours about each of the ten places I have chosen to share with you today. But, since we all lead busy lives, I will try (try is the key word here)to limit myself to a few sentences about each.
Lucca
Lucca, Italy
Lucca is a walled city to the north of Pisa. It is famous for its excellently-preserved  Renaissance walls, cobblestone streets, medieval churches, and the Giunigi Tower that is crowned with holm oaks. It is the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini and his house is now a museum. In the heart of  Lucca is the beautiful Piazza del Anfiteatro which was built on the site of a Roman amphitheatre and still retains its elliptical shape.
More about Lucca:

Thursday, 3 January 2019

2018: My year in pictures

Instead of the usual annual soliloquy that has characterised my end of year posts, this time round I decided it might be more  fun to share some of the highlights of 2018 by using more pictures than words.
In January I started this blog with much high hopes and expectations that I didn’t live up to as well as I should have. Let’s say work got in the way. Hopefully I will do better this year.
After another very mild winter, spring came early this past year with the almond trees blossoming in January. This is probably the earliest I have seen them blossom – which is probably a sign of the times.
Almond blossoms
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