Tuesday, 26 January 2021

MUŻA

MUŻA is the Maltese word for muse. It is also the name of the National Community Art Museum located in Valletta and housed in Auberge d'Italie - a late 16th century building that used to be the official residence of the Italian Knights of the Order of St John.

Sincerely Loree: MUZA, Malta

The collection at the art museum has been grouped into 4 main themes entitled: The Mediterranean, Europe, Empire, and The Artist. MUŻA houses artwork and sculptures from the 15th until the 20th century. Its collection includes several paintings by renowned Baroque artist Mattia Preti. Also on display are works by Guido Reni, Filippo Paladini, Giuseppe Cali, Matthias Stomer, Antoine de Favray and others.
Sincerely Loree: MUZA

Sincerely Loree: MUZA


Paintings of Malta's iconic Grand Harbour depicted by William Turner, Edward Lear and Louis Ducros are also on display.

Esprit Barthet, Isabelle Borg and Emvin Cremona are among the Maltese artists whose work is exhibited at MUŻA. During a visit last September, I was really drawn to the vibrant colours and strong lines of Barthet's portrait of Mari tal-Bajd (Mari the Egg Seller). Barthet is amongst Malta's foremost portrait artists and I have also been lucky to see some of his works in private collections.

Sincerely Loree: MUZA - Mari tal-Bajd by Esprit Barthet

On the ground floor of the museum is a room dedicated to Antonio Sciortino, a renowned sculptor who has given Malta some of its most well-known monuments, such as the Great Siege Memorial, located opposite the Law Courts, and Les Gavroches, a work that depicts three poor street urchins living in the streets of Paris. This was inspired by the character of Gavroche in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. A replica of this sculpture can be seen at the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta. The original has been in safe-keeping inside the museum since 2000.  Les Gavroches is considered to be Sciortino's masterpiece and is one of my favourite sculptures because of the sense of movement and vitality on the faces of the three children. There is also a cheekiness to their smiles that I find rather endearing.

Sincerely Loree: MUZA - Les Gavroches by Antonio Sciortio

Sincerely Loree: MUZA


A few beautiful pieces of antique Maltese furniture that have exquisite workmanship are also on show at MUŻA.

Sincerely Loree: MUZA


Sincerely Loree: MUZA, Malta

MUŻA is a compact museum and a visit should not take longer than 2 to 3 hours but this is sufficient time for anyone with an interest in Art to learn a little bit about the artistic heritage of Malta.

MUŻA is open from Thursdays to Sundays, between 10:00hrs and 16:30hrs. 

Sincerely Loree: MUZA
MUŻA, Auberge D’Italie, Merchants' Street, Valletta  VLT 1170

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Fifty years of me

This coming Thursday is my 50th birthday. There, I've said it. Somehow that makes it seem more real. Because I cannot quite believe that I am going to be half a century old. Of course, age is just a number, and all that. But still, I can't help feeling a little bit...well...old. I still remember my 25th birthday quite clearly. I was waiting for my friends outside a club called Coconut Grove, looking forward to an evening of fun, when I suddenly wondered what it would be like to be fifty years old.  But I quickly brushed the thought away. There were another 25 years left  until that day came around and it felt like a long, long way away. And as my friends turned up, with their bright, hopeful faces and without a wrinkle or a grey hair between the lot of us, it sure felt great to be young. We felt on top of the world and relegated any thoughts of middle-age to the backs of our minds. But here we are.

Canton (MO) 2011. This is probably one of my favourite photos ever.

So much has happened in the intervening years. At twenty-five our lives and careers were in front of us and everything seemed to be just ripe for the taking. Until, like Icarus, we flew too close to the sun and had to settle for lower ground. I suppose it's the story of all our lives. The bright mornings of youth are followed by the more mellow light of late afternoon and early evening. And so it goes. For everyone that lives.

But I don't want to get too melodramatic and carried away with my silly thoughts on youth and middle-age. Instead I thought it would be fun to share some highlights of each decade of my life and I hope it will be a way for you, my dear readers, to get to know me better. So here goes.


The seventies

The seventies seem so long ago (haha, fifty years to be exact) that the world was a completely different place. I have many happy memories of my childhood. It was still an era where kids played out on the streets (hopscotch and hide and seek and other good old-fashioned games like that) and my parents took me to the beach once or twice a week during the summer months. Malta was still quaint, with large tracts of open fields and each town and village was separated from the next by swathes of countryside. Oh how I miss those days! 
                         
Flower girl time. I'm the one on the left in the second photo.

On a personal level, I remember going to nursery school and starting primary school. I was flower girl twice for the wedding of two of my aunts. I played a lot with my cousin Ian. We rode our bikes and caught frogs in jam jars. When I was 5 my great-grandma Maria died. It was the first death in the family that I remember. She was born in the late 1800s and wore her dresses down to her ankles, and her hair long and tied into a bun at the nape of her neck, until the day she died. 
In 1979 I went abroad for the very first time. My parents and I spent 4 weeks in England and we travelled all over, but London and the hydrangeas at Blenheim Palace are still amongst my most vivid memories.

The eighties

This decade was one of political turmoil in Malta - but we won't go there. It was also a time of many changes for  me. I finished primary school, started and finished secondary school, started and finished sixth form (high school for US readers) and, at the very end of the decade, started  University. I made some of my 'friends for life' during the eighties and visited by beloved Rome for the first time, followed by another trip a few years later. Another memorable trip was to England at Christmas when I got to experience snow for the first time. The eighties gave us Live Aid, bleached jeans and big hair. It also made AIDS a household name.

Very 80s.  Big hair and everything.

In the mid-eighties I visited Germany when it was still split into east and west. The Iron Curtain and the Cold War were very much a thing back then, so the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communism in Europe was welcomed by all. It was a heady, euphoric time and many of us took Queen's Don't Stop Me Now as our personal anthem - even though it was released a decade previously.

The nineties

I think that the nineties was the best decade ever because of so many things: I graduated, started working, spent countless nights dancing away with my friends; we hiked, we picnicked, we travelled, spent Sunday afternoons playing board games or drinking coffee and eating cake. We were in the thick of things, knew every 'in' place, spent weekends in Gozo (Malta's tinier, sister island), laughed, cried, fell in love, broke up, picked each other up whenever we fell and forged bonds that, in some cases, are as strong as ever.

Both photos in my parents' garden

The noughties

This was the decade that changed everything. First there was 9/11 - that tragic event that, I think, the world has still not completely recovered from. Then, though we would always be friends, we started to go our separate ways as we 'grew up' and settled down. I met my husband in 2000, while he was here on holiday visiting the Maltese side of his family. I visited the US for the first time in 2002. We got married in 2003 and I moved to the US. It was supposed to be a move for life but things didn't quite work out as we had planned and we moved back to Malta in 2004.
Venice 2007. With shorter hair. I thought it would be easier to take care of after the Mischief Maker was born.

In 2006 I became a mother and that was the most defining moment of my life. Everything changed after that. It was never about me anymore and always about my brown-eyed boy.
My husband and I still managed to go on some memorable trips though, mostly short getaways to Paris, Vienna and Venice.
Paris 2009. It was very windy at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The in-betweenies and the teenies 

I didn't come up with those names up there. I had to look them up.
I guess I can best describe the last decade as 'staid' and mostly routine. When you have a child, your life revolves around his or her needs and my happiest memories are those I spent with the boy I used to call my Mischief Maker. Our albums are filled with photos of his special moments: Christmas concerts, summer soirees, trips abroad: Cornwall, Yellowstone, Florida, Normandy, Rome, Scotland - to mention just a few. 
The Great Salt Lake (UT) 2013. It stank.

In the meantime, our lives have been taken over by social media and the world has became very polarised - at least, that is how I view it. The high hopes of the 90s now seem like empty promises that fizzled out before any of them came to fruition. The end of the euphoria had been long in coming but COVID-19 dealt it it's death blow. So, where do we go from here?
Loch Ness, 2018. Rather chilly even though it was August.

Well, I don't have an answer to that except to take one day at a time, to be kind to each other, to remember that humans have walked on the Moon but they are still not in control of everything and that our lives, be they long or short, are just a blip in the grand scheme of things. I don't have too many plans to share. A pandemic is still raging and it's just not the right time to think so far ahead. But I've decided that I will take myself a little less seriously and, as I promised myself last year, to live in the moment
On a farm outside Quincy (IL), 2017

That  just about sums it up. I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane. I always find that remembering the good times just cheers me up and that was my sole intention when I wrote this. Until next time, when I will officially be half a century old :)

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

My year in books 2020

 Just as I did last year, I thought it would be fun to share a few insights and statistics from the Goodreads Year In Books feature that is available for Goodreads members. During 2020 I pledged to read 25 books but, due to all the sheltering in place we had to do, I ended up reading 40 books. I will not make this post longer than necessary so I am not going to list all the books that I read here. Instead you can find them in the individual posts that I wrote approximately every 3 months and which you can find here, here, here and here. Now let's move on to to the fun stuff.

Sincerely Loree: The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris

My year in books 2020

  • Number of books read: 40
  • Total number of pages read: 13 977
  • Average book length: 349 pages
  • Shortest book: Night by Elie Wiesel at 115 pages
  • Longest bookThree Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory at 560 pages
  • Most popular (i.e. most read):  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (which was shelved an incredible 5 367 820 times)
  • Least popular: A Brief History of British King and Queens by Mike Ashley (shelved 915 times)
  • Highest rated by Goodreads readers: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah with a 4.40 star average
  • My average rating for 2020: 3.7 stars (this is just a little higher from last year's 3.5 stars - I suppose I'm still difficult to please when compared to some other readers)
    Sincerely Loree: The  Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • The book that has been published longest: Tess Of The D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy in 1891
  • The most recently published book: Eli's Promise by Ronald Balson in September 2020
  • My 5 star reads: The Strawberry Thief  by Joanne Harris, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Night by Elie Wiesel
  • My favourite bookAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. You may read my review here
  • The book I liked least: The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Most disappointing book: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (this book had such rave reviews and such a high rating on Goodreads that I expected it to be so much better than it was. It's a fast paced book and the plot is intriguing enough but some glaring errors and inconsistencies really marred my enjoyment of it).
  • Best suited for a book club: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. There are so many layers to this strange book and so many themes for discussion that I think it's perfect for a book club. 
  • Number of non-fiction books: 10 (which is equivalent to 25% of the books I read. That's not bad, especially since it takes me much longer to finish a non-fiction book.) 
  • Month in which I read most: May (6 books)
  • Month in which I read least: October (1 book)
    Sincerely Loree: Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I hope you enjoy these book posts as much as I enjoy writing them. This year, I won't be reviewing multiple books in one post as it became overwhelming for me to write them (and probably for you read them). Instead, if I read a book and really like it, I will do a separate review. I will still share a list of the books I read every quarter but, in it, I will just highlight things like my favourite books, the ones that disappointed me and so on (a sort of miniature version of today's post).

I am not sure that I will read as many books in 2021 as I did in 2020 because I already have several very thick books in my pile. My aim is to read at least 30. But we will see how it goes. reading is something I never get tired of doing and, if I didn't have to get up for work, I would probably read all night.
Sincerely Loree: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Monday, 4 January 2021

2020: the year that never was

Here we are in the first week of January. The memories of another Christmas have been packed away and the dust has settled on another year. And what a year it's been!  It has changed us, challenged us, frustrated us and really made us question the status quo. In some ways, it has forced us to seek new friendships, find different ways of doing things and connect with our inner selves. 

In my first post of the year I would usually share the highlights of the previous year with you but there's nothing worth mentioning about 2020. It was a year of cancelled trips, thwarted plans, isolation and introspection. But it was not all bad. So many people had it so much worse. We kept our jobs and our sanity, our son was able to follow lessons from school and the quiet time meant that I was able to break my personal reading record.

2020: the positives

So let's take a look at some of the good things that 2020 gave us:
  • we went from working from the office to working from home literally overnight
  • our employers realised that work still got done even if we were not physically present in the office
  • using MS Teams became a daily occurrence and we were able to see some our overseas colleagues 'face to face' for the first time
  • a large number of local business finally bit the bullet and went online
  • we focussed on the things that mattered
And personally:
  • with nowhere to go, I spent most of my vacation days at the beach and managed to get a nice tan for the first time in years
  • I kept the promise I made to myself at the start of the year to decrease my time on Facebook. It was hard, at first, as I was quite addicted to it, but, by March I decreased the time I spent on it to 5 minutes twice daily. I am glad to say that I have stuck to that regimen.

My most read blogposts of 2020

These are the posts that my readers found most interesting during 2020:

In which I shared the work of (mostly) local artists and artisans in an effort to support small businesses in the run-up to Christmas 2020.

In which I talked about a lot of things but especially about being out in the open (pre-COVID 19),        reducing plastic and a strange version of the flu (high fever accompanied by a dry cough that wouldn't budge for days) that my son got at the end of January.

In which I talked  about a coastal hike that we took from the memorial dedicated to Sir Walter                Congreve to a precariously-balanced arch at tal-Hamrija.

In which I reminisced about several places we have visited in the past. Parts 1 and 2 are here and        here respectively.

In which I shared the books I read between July and September.

In which I talked about an unexpected, but very welcome, downpour.

In which I talked about barbecues, recipe books and nail polish.

In which I shared a delicious and easy recipe for roasted chicken cooked in a Mediterranean style.

In which I wrote about the first hospital that was ever built on Malta. If you're new here and want to learn a bit more about Malta, the posts in my Malta in a Minute series are a good place to start and take just one minute to read. This post had also featured in last year's top ten list.

In which I talked about blogs written by mature women that I love to read.


Goals for 2021

As you all know by now, I hardly ever make new year's resolutions but I do try to set some goals for myself. Here are a few that I hope to tackle this year:

  • Improve my photography: after years of talking about it and trying to understand the intricacies of modern digital cameras by myself, my husband has enrolled me in in an online course taught by professional travel and street photographer Mark Hemmings. The course is called Digital Camera Mastery and it's perfect for beginners like me. Thankfully, you learn at your own pace so I won't have to face deadlines I can't keep.
  • Get out of my comfort zone and do something new on the blog: now that I have upgraded my blog and am excited about blogging again, I would like to bring my readers something new and was thinking of occasionally interviewing fellow bloggers or interesting people I know in 'real life'. Watch this space.
  • Continue making baby steps towards greener living: this is something very close to my heart and, although I made a few switches last year to reduce the amount of plastic that we use in our home, there is still a lot more that I can do.
  • Worry less and live in the moment more: if 2020 has taught me one thing it's that life is unpredictable, that we cannot take what we have for granted and that we can usually get by with a little help from our family and friends. I'll try to keep that in mind in the coming months.
I hope you have all had a good start to 2021. If there is anything in particular that you are interested in and would like me to write about, let me know in the comments section and I will try to make it happen.
Location: Gnejna Bay, December 30, 2020

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Sincerely, Loree. Theme by STS.