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

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 . . .

This is the second book by Lulu Taylor that I read this year and I enjoyed it much more than the first one. I found the characters to be more relatable and the lingering aura of suspense coupled with that nagging feeling that some tragic event must have taken place at Fort Stirling made this book quite a page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of mystery coupled with some Gothic undertones.
Loree’s rating: ★★★★☆

The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Santa Montefiore
The Beekeeper's Daughter
From the book blurb:
Dorset, 1933:Grace Hamblin is growing up on a beautiful rural estate. The only child of the beekeeper, she knows her place and her future - until her father dies unexpectedly and leaves her bereft and alone. Alone, that is, except for the man she loves, whom she knows she can never have.
Massachusetts, 1973:Grace's beautiful, impetuous daughter Trixie Valentine is in love. Jasper is wild and romantic, a singer in a band on the brink of stardom. Then tragedy strikes and he must return to his home in England, promising to come back to Trixie one day, if only she will wait for him…
Weighed down by memories, unaware of the secrets that bind them, both mother and daughter are searching for lost love. To find what they are longing for they must confront the past, and unravel the lies told long ago…
This is a sweet story about love, loss and bees and it makes for an easy summer read for those days when your brain is too addled by heat to handle anything too complicated. The only things that slightly spoilt this book for me were the many coincidences that occur along the way and the rather too-neat ending that tied up every possible loose string.
Loree’s rating: ★★★☆☆

From the book blurb:
Provence, May 1889. The hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole is home to the mentally ill. An old monastery, it sits at the foot of Les Alpilles mountains amongst wheat fields, herbs and olive groves. For years, the fragile have come here and lived quietly, found rest behind the shutters and high, sun-baked walls.
Tales of the new arrival - his savagery, his paintings, his copper-red hair - are quick to find the warden's wife. From her small white cottage, Jeanne Trabuc watches him - how he sets his easel amongst the trees, the irises and the fields of wheat, and paints in the heat of the day.
Jeanne knows the rules; she knows not to approach the patients at Saint-Paul. But this man - paint-smelling, dirty, troubled and intense - is, she thinks, worth talking to. So ignoring her husband's wishes, the dangers and despite the word mad, Jeanne climbs over the hospital wall. She will find that the painter will change all their lives.
This is a story about the time  van Gogh spent in the asylum at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. But the protagonist is not the troubled painter. It is the warden’s wife: Jeanne Trabuc. It is her world that we are introduced to. Her thoughts and feelings that become ours. When she disobeys her husband, we are disobeying with her. Abd when she feels compassion for the ‘mad’ painter, we feel it too. This is the story of a middle-aged woman who starts to pull away from the narrow confines of her life in an attempt to view the world outside her shuttered windows. I absolutely loved this book, its storyline and it evocative short sentences. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again one day.
Loree’s rating: ★★★★★

Daughters of Castle Deverill by Santa Montefiore
Daughters of Castle Deverill
From the book blurb:
It is 1925 and the war is long over. But much has been lost and life will never truly be the same again.
Castle Deverill, cherished home to the Deverill family in the west of Ireland for hundreds of years, has burned to the ground. But young and flighty Celia Deverill is determined to restore the sad ruin to its former glory. Celia married well and has the wealth to keep it in the family ... and she cannot bear to see her beloved home stand neglected.
But dark shadows are gathering once more, as the financial markets start to shake. And everything that felt so certain is thrown once again into doubt.

It was only after I finished this book that I realised that is the second one in a trilogy. So now I have to read the other two because the Deverills do grow on you as you read along. With that said, this is still a good stand-alone book. I found the characters to be very real, full of flaws and idiosyncrasies – like all of us. The setting for the story is the period between the two World Wars, that halcyon time before the world lost its innocence forever, but it occasionally delves into the 17th century and introduces us to the first Deverills
Loree’s rating: ★★★★☆

Four books is not many but, as I said in the beginning, spring can be quite distracting. I am not sure whether I will do better during the summer months. We will see. But shorter days are looming and I am sure I will be back to reading more as we head into autumn. Let me know whether you’ve read some interesting books lately. I am always on the look-out for books to add to my ‘want to read’ list.

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.

Earlier this month we discovered a new (well, new for us) pizzeria in Valletta called La Vecchia Taranto. It’s tiny but the pizza is delicious. We will be back – although we will probably wait for the heat to move off because it’s more of a cosy type of place that will be perfect during the winter months.

On June 7th we attended the opening of the Unity in Diversity Art Exhibition. The opening night was very well attended, which was very encouraging for all the artists taking part. These are three of the four paintings that my husband exhibited.

As you can see, he is inspired by nature, architecture and landscapes. The exhibition runs until July 8th at the Wignacourt Museum in Rabat.

On June 15th we celebrated our 16th anniversary with dinner at Root 81. The food was excellent and the servers very attentive. The kitchen seemed to be rather slow but we were not in a hurry so we had ample time to relax and enjoy ourselves. I appreciate that restaurants here do not expect you to leave the premises as soon as you’ve swallowed your last morsel. We were too busy eating to take many photographs but I did remember to take a quick shot of my delicious lava cake.
School’s out for summer and my son is ecstatic as we head towards a more relaxed summer routine. The beach beckons but first we will be off on our vacation. We will be visiting the US this year – as we do every two years – and it will be a nice break for all of us. I don’t know whether I will have time to schedule any posts but I will be sharing photos from our travels on my Instagram account.

Favourite links
  1. I’ve been looking around for some online photography courses so I was very happy when I cam across Mark Hemmings’ YouTube channel. This guy can explain photography even to people who don’t have a lot of experience with the technicalities of a camera – like me.
  2. It’s that time of year when mozzies are out in swarms so if you prefer to use natural remedies to stop the itching, check out Gardenista’s 7 Best Natural Mosquito Bite Remedies.
  3. And how about a blueberry ginger sorbet to keep cool during the upcoming summer evenings? Recipe from Love and Olive Oil.
  4. If anyone of you is travelling to London, The Travelling Chic has come up with The Ultimate London Bucket List.
  5. If you’d like to add more greenery around the house but are not sure which plants like to be indoors, check out this article about  10 Of the Hardest to Kill House Plants.
My favourite Instagram photo of the month
is David C Phillips' ((@reflectionsofvenice) black and white photo of some gondolas in Venice.

That's all for this month (or I should say last month. I didn't even realise it's July today).  I'll be back on the blog as soon as I get a chance. Have a wonderful summer. I'll try to keep sane in the heat while counting down the days to autumn.

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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