Friday, May 30, 2014

Stroke of Inspiration / IV

This week: A magazine feature, an app for podcasts, and fizzy red wine.

I'm featured in this month's issue of FM, Malta's fashion magazine. It's my favourite Maltese publication, so I'm pretty tickled. But I think they must have been super desperate for content to feature me  — there are plenty of other way cooler bloggers in Malta.

Do check it out if that's your kind of thing. You can find me on page 37.

I've been binge listening to storytelling podcasts like it's my job recently, courtesy of WNYC's fantastic new app. Plug in your interests, the amount of time you have to binge (30 minutes to 3 hours) and it creates a custom playlist of wonderful radio and podcasts for you. It's awesome (and of course, free). Get it here.

This is super hearty, easy, and fast. Literally, fry those vegetables and add eggs on top when they're just about done. It's like the lazy man's Spanish tortilla. Get the recipe here, and pop over to Pinterest to see all the Pinterest recipes I've made and loved (and those I've yet to try). 

And, on the theme of eggs, Why English Eggs Are Way Different Than American EggsIt all makes sense now! In Malta we also don't even refrigerate eggs. Also, I had no idea you could vaccinate hens against salmonella!

When I tell people there's a red version of prosecco or champagne, they are always so surprised. I know, it sounds terrible, but it's delicious!

I discovered Lambrusco on a trip to Mantova, Italy. It is a smooth, rich red wine, served cold, with a touch of bubbles. It goes great with parmigiano and is a wonderful alternative to white wine on hot summer nights. Kick it up a notch by throwing in some orange and cinnamon.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maybe it was all a dream: Easter in Lithuania

I don't really know how to describe our wonderfully intimate Easter in Lithuania, spent with a dear friend and his family in the capital city of Vilnius and at their frozen-in-time cottage in the middle of a still forest. I guess that's why it's taken so long to hit publish.

It was unseasonably warm and sunny in Lithuania that weekend, and the people we met there were even warmer. The food was delicious: hearty, healthy, and heavy on pickles and beets (my favourites). We ate until we couldn't move and sipped on thick Lithuanian beer all day.

When sunset came we painted dozens of eggs, as our host (our friend's father, who happens to be quite a famous Lithuanian artist) presided over the festivities. We sat around a huge stone fireplace, roasting bananas in the hearth, and the artist recounted Lithuania's history and his personal recollections of growing up in the Soviet era.

On Easter Sunday we played traditional Lithuanian Easter games with our eggs, knocking them against each other and racing them down hills. The Canadians among us hid eggs for our Lithuanian friends to search for among the trees.

And every few hours we would pause and gaze around us, in awe of the historical poet's cottage we were staying at.

Months later it feels like it was all a dream, but it's certainly an Easter we'll never forget.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Insert Clever Idiom Here

Hiking up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh last month was...a learning exercise. I learned that my husband is infinitely patient. While I whined and cried and cursed my way up those 230 vertical meters he took it all in stride (literally and metaphorically).

I learned that I'm getting old. My feet are still sore, and it's been four weeks since I climbed that #(@*# hill. 

Funny story, my doctor told me to buy better shoes, Birkenstocks to be exact, so I could walk without wincing. I Googled "Birkenstocks Malta" and what comes up on the first page? My husband, and this blog. (Major face palm moment.)

I learned that dogs in Edinburgh are super duper friendly and love the grass and wild bunnies on Arthur's Seat as much as I do.

I learned, while giving an iPhone panoramic photo tutorial to an older gentleman at the top of this, that Scots are really genuinely lovely and kind.

Writing this blog post I learned that every idiom about reaching new heights, the view being worth it, etc. etc. fail to convey the agony and ecstasy that is this little slice of nature in the middle of Edinburgh. So, rather than end this blog post with one of those clever phrases it will just


Cheers to the weekend ahead!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Stroke of Inspiration // III

It's back! In the third edition of Stroke of Inspiration: A space age piano, a great gadget for travellers, music to listen to while you work, and an interview.

I did an interview with InterNations, a popular expat community with a thriving presence here in Malta, a few months back. If you're interested , you can pop over to read it here. 

I recently received a ChargeKey and ChargeCard from Nomad. These sleek little lightening cables are just the thing if your purse/desk/house is a constant mess of wires (that's not just me, right?) They're also great for travel. Since they attach to your keychain or fit into your wallet they're practically impossible to forget or misplace and they take up very little space. Plus, the ChargeKey is bendy! So it's hard to break. Win win win! Mike and I both love them.

My only criticism of the ChargeKey and ChargeCard that they only come in black, and I like my tech in white (or gold...or pink...) So, I thought I might hack them with some washi tape. I think Nomad should take this as a compliment: We only hack the things we really love.

Even the dude I live with likes this one and it's dead easy. Chickpeas, turmeric, greens (chard is good), pears, avocado. Just add heat. Goes great with a bold chardonnay. Recipe here (Lindsey is a beautiful food photographer, too.)

I've been listening to Bonobo's Black Sands album at work a lot recently. It's the perfect music to propel you towards calm, efficient productivity.

When I first heard about ROLI's Seaboard two years ago, my retired pianist's fingers began to itch (and my brain nearly exploded). I can't wait until the day I can trade tickling ivories for pulling music out of this space age instrument. While my student debt means I'm many years away from making an investment in a Seaboard ($2,000-$9,000 USD) a girl can dream.

What are you up to this weekend? I'm spending mine scrambling to find a flat. We just found out ours is being converted into a holiday flat so we're soon to be homeless. If you hear of a wonderful, pet friendly flat to let in Valletta (yes, Valletta! We have our hearts set on it) let me know. We're dream tenants :)


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The first time I drove in Malta

I wrote this post, oh, six months ago. It sat in draft for reasons I've forgotten. Here it is!

Update: I'm a pretty confident driver now! I have a few near misses under my belt, to be sure, but so far no harm done to anyone or anything. (Knock on wood.) It's a nice feeling.

I have been the owner of a car for three years. And last week was the first time I drove it.

Cue the angels singing!

Three years is a long time to own a car and not drive. But I like walking, and our neighbourhood is made for it. I also live with a very capable driver who is calm enough behind the wheel to not flinch at the craziness that happens on Malta's roads. Who learned to drive in a manual (stick shift) car. Who switches between driving on the left side of the road and driving on the right side of the road like it's no big deal. And he was gracious enough to chauffeur me around the island for the past three years.

That is, until my last birthday.

This year my birthday gift was car insurance (groan) which I had been unable to procure until now due to insurance regulations in Malta on convertibles.

Newly insured, and absolutely terrified, I got behind the wheel of our little blue car a couple weeks ago. And I drove. In Malta. With the crazies. On the left side of the road. Shifting gears. And no one died.

Driving in Malta is like driving anywhere else in the Mediterranean: Chaotic, intense, tricky. There are rules but they're not strictly observed. No one stops at stop signs. No one uses signals. Drivers are more guided by intuition (and sometimes, a sense of entitlement) than rule books.

But driving in Malta wasn't as bad as I had convinced myself it would be. In the villages, with their tinier than tiny roads, I held my breath and white-knuckled a lot. In the 'city' we live in I said some very bad words as drivers swerved and ducked around me in traffic. I stalled in the middle of intersections. It took ten minutes for me to back out of our garage. I yelled at my patient teacher a lot (sorry Mike). But we're making slow, jerky progress. And it feels good to be behind the wheel again.

Tell me, what is driving like where you live?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The show that changed how I look at art

At first glance, it's simply a show of Tudor and Stuart fashion. To many (like my husband, who stationed himself in the gallery cafe) it seems painfully boring. But it changed how I look at art forever.

Firstly, the exhibit guide was on a smart phone: a much more intimate and intuitive experience than a leaflet or a clumsy audio guide. And my virtual guides through the exhibition weren't monotone art historians. They were DJs, contemporary designers, young curators and TED speakers. 

But what really rocked my world was the music selected by DJ and musician Eddy Temple-Morris to accompany selected pieces on view. 

Take the two portraits of Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, below: in feminine silks (left), and drag (right)! Apparently Ms. Stuart was quite the celebrity in her time, loved by all and known for her charisma and beauty. She was famous for refusing to become a mistress of Charles the II and, quelle horreur, marrying for love. Today you can see her on old British coins—she was the model for Britannia! 

Now look at those two paintings and listen to this remixed song by Lana Del Ray at the same time. It won't exactly replicate the experience of standing inches away from the paintings in person, looking from one to the other as Lana croons. But, I promise you, paired with music these paintings come alive. You almost expect Stuart to begin blinking and breathing in front of you. Her knowing or haughty or confident expressions take on entirely new meaning to the beats of a 21st century songstress.

And right then and there I decided there is nothing quite like music and art expertly paired together. 

As an art history student I used to lament that art was for everyone, so why didn't everyone want to see art? How could it be made more accessible? How could it have meaning for you if you didn't have an art history degree?

I think music could be an answer.

When I arrived in London later that week I went straight to the National Gallery and took their Sounds of the Gallery tour. Alas, it was too high brow for my taste. Come on, curators! Let's get more DJ's in museums.

Major applause to the Royal Trust Collection for this exhibition, which is on view at The Queen's Gallery in Edinburgh through to July 20, 2014, and was previously on view at Buckingham Palace in 2013.

And the second best part of the exhibition? The exhibition magazine, called Robes: An exact take on Vogue as though it was written in the Tudor and Stuart era (so fun!)

(The third best part is this cute, free app.)

when: through to July 20th, 2014
open daily 10am-5:30pm
visits take 1-1.5 hours
how much: admission from £9.75

Monday, May 5, 2014

New Scotia Visits Old

A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend in Edinburgh. I originally hail from Nova Scotia—literally, New Scotland—so I never doubted I would be drawn to Old Scotia. And drawn I was.

I crammed as many tourist attractions into our two-day visit as I could: the botanical gardens, Arthur's Seat, the castle, Holyrood Palace, Old Town, New Town, Parliament, the Scotch Whiskey Experience, and every great gastropub my husband could find. There is so much to do in Edinburgh. And I can happily report that all of the good things you hear about this city—the nice people, the lush parks, the romantic architecture, the great beers and whiskies, the alarmingly loud bagpipes, the cozy fog—really do exist.

I didn't have time to venture outside of the city except to take a wonderful train ride south to London. Now I'm looking for any excuse I can get to go back to Scotland and see the Highlands, which are just the dreamiest. 

Like many Canadians, I'm not quite sure exactly where I come from. England? Ireland? Scotland? Who knows. But if it turns out someday that I indeed do have links to this very special place, like so many from Canada's East Coast, I would be tickled pink. (Or, er, green?)

Bidh mi beò an dòchas!

(and couldn't get a bad meal if I tried!)