Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas lights in our Maltese streets

Come Christmas time and most of our busy cities are alit with beautiful Christmas lights. The pictures above were taken in Valletta and Paola this week, on my first two days of christmas shopping. I've still got a lot more shopping to do and so little time in my hands!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Third Award: Nenhum olhar e mais puro do que uma crianca...

I would like to thank - Crafty Sue - for this new award and I am honoured to accept it. Thank you so much! Please go over and visit her cute blog. She is an Anglo-Maltese married to an Italian and has been living in Italy for a long time now. She loves making crafts, posts craft patterns and shares her ideas quite regularly.

Have a look at the blog that created this award:"Arte da Li"

The rules for this award are:
1. Post the sentence : Nenhum olhar è mais puro do que uma criança.... (done)
2. Post the award. (done)
3. Mention the blog that gave birth to this award: "Arte da Li" (done twice)
Mention and thank the blog that gave you this award and post their blog link. (done)
Pass it on to 10 blogs and leave a comment on their blogs to let them know they've been awarded.
The 10 blogs I chose are:

Capers and Olives

Heaven is in Belgium

Life is just like that

Accidentally, Kle

Around the Island

Malta Daily Photo

Anything Goes

Thrills, Frills and Drills

La Delirante


Monday, November 30, 2009

Sequins, Beads and Polysterene Balls

This season, I decided to start up another hobby. I don't know what it's called - all I know is that you need jablo balls, small pins and lots of sequins to make Christmas baubles. One fine day I woke up with this craft idea in mind so off I went to my nearest hobby shop and bought what I thought would need to start off this hobby. When I went to pay for my stuff at the counter I asked the salesgirl to check if I was on the right track - she just changed my pin box because mine were too large.

Back home I opened up the boxes and bags and started planning my design. It didn't take me long to learn how to do this hobby by myself. My idea is to hang one handmade bauble on to the hamper bag that I will be preparing for each of my female friends that have invited us over to their place for Christmas. What sets me back is the lack of time. Although my husband thinks this is just a waste of time - when I could buy ready made baubles - I'm sure my friends will appreciate the effort I put in making their baubles. What's more - I hope I'll manage to finish the baubles on time for each party that we're invited to.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

St Martin's feast

Next Sunday we shall be celebrating St. Martin's Day 'Jum San Martin' in Malta. The actual feast was last Wednesday, November 11th but it if it happens to fall on a weekday we usually celebrate it on the Sunday nearest to November 11. In the past the children used to hang an empty bag by their bedposts in anticipation for St Martin's arrival. In the morning, then the excited kids would find a bag full of goodies or a bag full of coal - depending on their behaviour.

Nowadays, at school children are usually given a bag called 'Il-Borża ta' San Martin', containing autumn fruits such as figs, oranges, tangerines, apples, pomegranates , nuts like walnuts, hazel-nuts, almonds, chestnuts and a sweet bread with an aniseed-tasting sweet on top (Il-Hobza ta' San Martin) associated with the feast. There is also a traditional rhyme associated with this custom:
'Ġewż, Lewż,

Qastan, Tin

Kemm inħobbu lil San Martin..

(Walnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Figs, Oh how I love Saint Martin!)

The feast of St Martin is celebrated in the village of Baħrija on the outskirts of Rabat at the the only chapel in Malta dedicated to this saint. It is the tradition that on that Sunday a fair is held to commemorate the feast. The Turkeys' Fair, in Maltese referred to as 'Il-Fiera tad-Dundjani' , originally took place in 1953 , when the rector of the time started the fair as a fundraising for the building of the new church to replace the small chapel that had become too small for the evergrowing congregation that attended. At this fair one can find plants, fresh vegetables, local honey, and other such local stuff and an exhibition of local animals.

At this time of year we usually have a temporary respite from Autumn and enjoy what we call in Maltese - Is-Sajf ta' San Martin - St Martin's summer. I always look forward to this feast because we get to enjoy a couple of warm days at this time of year. This feast is also associated with a substantial increase in hairfall too. Have you noticed how much more hair falls at this time of year? Men beware!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Open Weekend at Fort Manoel

Manoel Island is a tiny island which lies in Marsamxett Harbour between Sliema Creek and Lazzaretto Creek, and is accessible by a bridge from the Gzira seafront. The Knights of St John realised the potential of the Island as an isolated territory against the plague and other infectious diseases and built a quarantine hospital here in 1643. In 1722, Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena began to appreciate the value of the Island for the defence of Valletta and commissioned the fortress which bears his name, Fort Manoel. The first stone was laid in 1723 under his patronage and the supervision of world-famous engineer Francois de Mondion.

While its defining characteristics survived the ravages of time, over the centuries Fort Manoel fell into disrepair, especially following the heavy and extensive aerial bombardment endured during World War II. On 23rd February 1965, the Fort was officially handed over to the Maltese Government; Fort Manoel was subsequently abandoned and fell into a state of neglect. Further damage was also inflicted during peacetime by vandals, squatters and souvenir-hunters, and by the end of the 20th century, a derelict ruin was all that remained of this once proud and imposing fortress.

In the year 2000 MIDI developers took possession of Fort Manoel and works relating to the restoration of the Fort were initiated by a restoration team. Last weekend the MIDI consortium hosted an Open Weekend at the Fort for the public. Yesterday, hubby and I together with a couple of friends joined the thronges of people who paid a visit to this historical gem on our island. Below you'll see some of the photos I took of the event.

World War II lorry on display

World War II exhibition

The view of Valletta from the parade ground

The parade ground and Barrack Block B

a closer view of Valletta from the parade ground

St Anthony of Padua's chapel where the engineer Francois de Mondion was buried

a detail from the chapel's interior

St Anthony of Padua's chapel and its restored interior

exiting the Polverista

The Polverista

Couldn't help taking a photo of these 3 nuns...

Blogging Women

Oh! I've just discovered that I've won a contest in Blogging Women. My blog will be featured for the month of November. Isn't that lovely? All you female bloggers out there - I invite you to hop over to Blogging Women and have fun discovering other blogs. Thanks Fay!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chilling out with friends at Ghajn Tuffieha

Yesterday, we decided to go out in the afternoon and dine out with our friends at Ghajn Tuffieha - (pronounced 'ine' as in 'nine' Too-fee-ha ) one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the North of our island. Although the air is now somewhat cooler than in summer, yesterday a good number of people were either sunbathing or frolicking round at the beach. When I saw all the activity at the beach, I kind of forgot that it's been almost a month since Autumn started. We are still enjoying warm days here in Malta. There were even some daring people who went for a dip in the choppy sea even though it was windy. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we did not notice how time flew. At the end, after watching sunset, we reluctantly made our way home.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bird Hunting in Malta

There goes my staying late in bed this weekend. Living near the countryside does have its repercussions. Why is it that weekend or no weekend I have to be woken up so early? Today, (like in the past 4 weeks) the constant gunshots of heartless bird hunters, somewhere in the vicinity of our house woke me up at around 5:30am. I can't imagine, for the life of me, how they can make out the birds flying in the darkness of morning. Don't they strain their eyes? Their incessant killing starts from 5am!!! Today, I've been tossing and turning in bed waiting for the shots to abate - in vain. Blessed Sunday indeed!

As I'm typing, the sound of gunshots is still going on. The sound of the lead pellets hitting our skylight and the side windows is very unnerving. I feel sorry for those birds, that, after flying for so many kilometers in so many days, their life ends up in one second here in Malta. It's heartbreaking. Unfortunately, the news that makes headlines is only the bad publicity! The BBC and other foreign news are having a field day with our hunting issues. Take a look at these links and you'll see what I mean:

Our island is rarely in the news but wonder of wonders when our hunting season opens we get to be very 'popular' or should I say 'infamous' with the rest of the E.U countries.

Recently, Maltese educators were asked to refrain from passing any negative comments to the students with regards to bird hunting because they were told that the children might turn against their hunter parents!

If the FKNK (Federation for Hunting and Conservation representatives) had the time to prepare the Teachers' Pack, I suggest that they keep on reading it themselves. As a teacher, I would never impart positive comments regarding hunting. Hunters should go and get a life! They should abide by the law! The lengths hunters will go through to justify shooting birds is amazing.

img credit Wildlife Extra

Monday, October 12, 2009

Banana and Chocolate Squares

With the onset of the rainy season, I usually start looking for some good baking recipes. This weekend, while I was browsing through some food blogs this recipe caught my attention. It was very easy to prepare - in fact, I think it only took me an hour from start to finish. And, mark my words, once you take these delicious chocolate and banana squares out of the oven, they won't last long - they're simply irresistible! One last thing..make sure you don't forget the chocolate chips - I completely forgot about them - I sprinkled them in the last minute and, as expected, they didn't melt properly!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another authentic Maltese recipe - Torta tal-lampuki ( Dolphin-fish pie)

Since we are in the lampuka season I thought of posting a lampuka recipe. The Lampuka - also known as Mahi Mahi, Dorado or Dolphin Fish – is Malta's 'national' fish. The season stretches from the end of August to the beginning of November. This is a seasonal fish and is very much in demand during its season. The following recipe was extracted from The Food and Cookery of Malta.
For the pastry

400 g plain flour
200 g margarine
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp (approx.) cold water

For the filling
2 medium sized lampuki (approx. 400 g)
1 onion, sliced 2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 dessertspoon tomato puree
1 medium cauliflower
800 g spinach
8 black olives
1 tbsp sultanas
6 walnuts, shelled
(I also added some boiled potatoes, and some green olives too. )

Make the pastry. Use no more water than necessary. Keep the pastry cold while you prepare the filling.

Cut the fish into 4 or 5 steaks, coat lightly In flour and fry in shallow oil until just cooked. Remove any bones and the skin. Reserve. (Tip: I prepared the fish the night before because it takes a long time.)

In a large pan soften the onion in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, cook for a few minutes more. Add the cauliflower broken into florets and the spinach. Add about 250 ml of boiling water, cover tightly and cook until the vegetables are just tender. Remove from the heat and add the olives, sultanas and walnuts. Season. It is import ant to let this mixture and the fish get quite cold before finishing the pie.

Line a large shallow pie dish with slightly more than half the pastry. Put half the vegetable mixture over it, then the fish, then the remaining vegetables. Roll out the rest of the pastry to cover. Decorate and brush with beaten egg to which you have added a few drops of oil. Bakc at 200°C/400°F/gas 6 for 30 minutes, then at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 until golden brown and the filling heated through. This pie tastes equally good hot or cold.

Some prefer to cook the cauliflower and spinach separately. In this case, add the 250ml water to the tomato and onion mixture and simmer gently for about half an hour.

For a change, I made small pies (qassatat) instead of a large one. Qassatat come in very handy when I'm at a loss at what lunch to prepare for work.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

House Parties

I did mention that I like to host parties, didn't I? Well, these past couple of weeks I was busy preparing for two parties, aside from preparing for work too. One party was to congratulate our dear friends from Luxembourg, Ana and Karl, who tied the knot a few months ago and who came to visit us last week, and the second one was our housewarming party. It took us more than 6 months to celebrate our housewarming party with our close friends! We just never found the right time to celebrate it.

When I make up my mind to host a party I get carried away with planning the event, and that includes the decorations, cleaning the house and preparing the food on time. I don't know why but even if I start preparing from three days before I rarely finish on time. My husband, on the other hand, does his best to concoct original cocktails and serve different drinks. When our parties are over our friends usually leave our house,slightly if not totally intoxicated, holding on to their bulging tummies.

I just love throwing parties but they practically, take up all my energy. As soon as I send out the invites I browse my collection of recipe books to get some ideas, and write a list of appetizers. I try to keep to 12 items per person but somehow in the preparation process the items increase in number. Next, I disseminate each food item to its basic ingredients and write all the ingredients that I would need in a list, then buy the ingredients, prepare each item and finally put the final touches to each item..and each time I invite our friends over I always say to myself that next time I should prepare less food but somehow I never manage to..

The collage above shows some of the food I prepared. Clockwise from left: Choco,Oat and Nut balls, parma ham and melon kebabs, artichokes stuffed with Maltese sausage filling, bacon and avocado squares, double decker egg and ham sandwiches, pancakes stuffed with seafood, classic Maltese timpana, lampuki rolls, apple and pork rolls. Centre: S almon and caviar hors d'oeuvres.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Award Time

I've been awarded again - this time by my bloggy friend - Sue from CraftySue: I am so honoured to receive yet another award. She's got this passion for making lovely crafts and sharing her ideas with all and what's more she's just adopted this cute cat Tod. Do hop over to her lovely website.

Thank you Sue!

There are a few rules that come along with this award. To accept the award I have to do a few things:

1. Thank the person who nominated me for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on my blog.
3. Link the person who nominated me for this award.
4. Name seven things about me that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate seven blogs.
6. Post links to the seven blogs that I nominate.
7. Leave comments on all seven blogs letting them know I nominated them.

Now to award seven other blogs... this is always a difficult part, all the blogs I follow merit this award but I can only nominate seven, here goes:

7 things about me

1: Am crazy about pigs - They're such funny creatures!
2: Love all things blue.
3: I'm a summer girl, love the sea, sun, summer fruits, bbqs ...
4: I'm a shopaholic.
5: I love cooking and trying out new recipes.
6: Love hosting parties and making all the party food myself.
7: I like watching TV programmes where there is a drastic change or a complete makeover involved such as: Take Home Nanny, Houses Behaving Badly, Extreme Makeover

And now for the nominated blogs...


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A walk round the city of Vittoriosa, (Birgu), (Part 2)

The different food aromas wafting up from the windows signalled the approach of noon. Walking in the shady streets I got so engrossed in distinguishing the different smells that were teasing my olfactory senses that I nearly missed this quaint old Norman style house in North Street.

I went back a few steps and looked at the open door - was this a museum? or was it just open because it happened to be so I asked myself. I read the Information display outside: This house with Siculo-Norman features was built in the 13th century. My! That was a long time ago!

I ventured inside, making shuffling noises just in case there was anyone inside. Silence...I became more adventurous and nimbly climbed up the tiny stairs that led to this one tiny room upstairs. There was a chest of drawers, a plate for donations and an album displaying the 'before' and 'after' photos of the house I was in. Yes, it was a kind of free museum - its owner had restored it to its original design and left it open for the curious tourists. How nice of him! I didn't take photos inside as it was too dark. I was glad for two things: that I had gone inside a very old house and seen with my very eyes the interior of an old house in Birgu and that I discovered another Norman house in Malta. I had previously thought that there was only one house with a Norman style in Malta and that was in Mdina.

I carried on with my journey of discovery round Birgu and spotted this small niche of a small Madonna lovingly decorated with sea shells. I spied another niche with a carved Madonna in another street corner. It is evident that the Madonna holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Maltese people.

Wandering in the silent and shaded streets I found this Butcher's shop - couldn't help taking a photo of it. And I also loved the facade of this new restaurant.

Finally, in Pacifiku Scicluna Street, I came across this small building wrapped up in old electricity supply wires which used to house the executioner and his family during the times of the Order of St John and the Inquisition. His symbol can still be seen engraved on top of the windows.

There was so much to discover in Birgu. Each street had its own characteristics that distinguished it from the others leading to it. The inhabitants of Birgu have worked together to beautify their city - they have put plants everywhere, they have restored their houses with pride and they make sure to keep the streets clean. My journey came to an end with a mobile call which reminded me that my time was up - I had to go back home.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A walk round the city of Vittoriosa, (Birgu) (Part 1)

My walk round this ancient fortified city of Vittoriosa started off from this dark tunnel that can be found in an area called 'Il-Mandragg'. I've got this weird fascination with old tunnels and couldn't resist starting my walk from this very old one - a tunnel which must have borne witness to so many historical events that took place years ago. Looking behind me I could just about view three boats bobbing in the calm waters of Kalkara creek.

This tunnel led me on to the upper levels of the fortifications that surround this city. I turned right and found myself facing this old building. I was really amazed to find a display dating back from the years of the Second World War,still hanging over the door of this building.

From there, I wandered along this narrow winding path, past the honey coloured walls of the eerily ancient houses that overlook the harbour.

I spotted this door with the Maltese cross painted on it. My walk led through the winding streets: one beautiful street leading to another equally lovely one. The streets are so narrow that you can clearly hear the inhabitants talking inside and TV sets warbling in the background. I almost felt as if I was invading their privacy but then, these people have long got used to being overheard in the streets. Their lives are all one village gossip. You either like it or you don't.

Traipsing along the old streets I came across this secluded corner, sheltered by a vine tree. The boat carrier lying alongside the wall jarred harshly with the ancient clay jar and the stone well on the opposite side. The vine that had been lovingly sown in between them seemed to have the strange chore to set apart the old from the new.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Three Beautiful Maltese Houses

A Villa in Marsaxlokk

A converted farmhouse in Zabbar

An intricately designed townhouse in Paola

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cat Naps

Cats have a habit of finding strange places where they take their forty winks. I took these photos in the street where my parents' house is situated. This cat has a knack of sleeping in my mother's planter. The other cats have other favourite places - verandas, under the shade of cars, and even car bonnets. The second photo shows the two culprits napping on a neighbour's car. These two particular cats enjoy lapping the last rays of the sun on car roofs or bonnets! And they always take their time to slide down the cars. One of them is so gutsy that he doesn't jump off when I approach my car, not even when I open the car door. He stays there looking at me with that laid back attitude of his until I start the engine. Even a little animal can have a mind of its own!

Many stray cats roam in this street and everyone does his bit to take care of the cats. All these neutered cats are fed daily and taken care of by the people living in the street. However, when some heartless people decide to abandon their pets in the area the cat population starts accumulating again. A vet once said that a single cat and its offspring can cumulatively produce up to 70,000 kittens in 7years. Quite a large number of cats, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Crazy Maltese House Names 1

We, Maltese have some fascinating customs and reasons behind the selection of our house names. One custom is that of naming one's house using the first part of the Christian names of the partners who own that house. Here are some examples:

'Marton'- Mary and Tony
'Josmar' - Joseph and Mary
'Carvin' -Carmen and Vince
'Charldor'- Charles and Doreen

Incidentally, DJ Bundy, a local DJ, once mentioned that there is a house in Zurrieq which was named "Condom" which we hopefully assume stands for the names of the proprietors rather than some kind of fetish for rubbery stuff. Some people can be so dumb at times.

Another custom is to find house names which are based on religious beliefs. Religious observance in Malta is strong and has been so for many centuries. Most of these house names usually bear the name of the proprietors' favourite patron saint or that of the patron saint of the village. For example if you go to Qormi you'll see lots of 'St Georges' and 'St Sebastians'. In Zabbar you will find many houses named 'Madonna tal-Grazzja'.

Then there are those houses which are named 'God Bless Australia', 'America' or 'Canada'. These reflect the migration of the Maltese to the above mentioned countries and the successful life they once bore.

And then, there are the plain weird ones of which I'm building a collection. Here are the first few.

Hmm the owner needs to brush up his French. I guess it should have been Mère de Grâce.

Did you know that St Joseph had a surname? It was Falzon!

A little demon in the house?? Short for Important?

Here's an example of the first custom I mentioned ...but pet's name has been also included.

Time Travellers robbed of their unknown future, maybe?

And last but not least, I couldn't help taking a photo of this hilarious plate. It does give you a sense of welcome, doesn't it?

Thank you

Thanks Doreen ( for thinking of me and rewarding me with this award. Today I'm passing it on to these fine people:

Here's my chosen list:

If you accept this award, please pass it on and then let your chosen blogging friends know they have been awarded this by sending them a comment on their blog or by emailing them.