Sunday, July 30, 2017

Majestic Malta -

May 13, 2017 - Valletta Grand Harbour - last port of call.

The early morning arrival - cabin window rinsed by sea spray, but oh what
 a perfect shade of sea blue with the golden city beyond.

The Grand Harbour of Valletta, the 16th century 'Fortress City' built 
by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.
Go HERE for more of the very interesting history.

Arrow marking our ship, Noble Caledonia's MS Island Sky, being refueled
 on arrival in Malta.
Australian traveling friends, Michelle and son George enjoying
views of the city from the famous Barrakka Gardens, highest point of the 
city's 16th century bastion walls built by the Knights to protect the city.
Statue of Sir. Winston Churchill in the Barrakka Gardens. 
Maltese cats enjoying the gardens.
Always ancient faces peering down - what historic tales they could tell.

The richly decorated St. John's Cathedral was constructed 1572-1577 with
 elaborate inlaid marble tombstones and artworks, including in the oratory 
the famous Caravaggio painting 'The Beheading of St. John the Baptist'.
The interior was re-decorated in the 17th century and is considered to be one
of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe.
The barrel vaulted ceiling of the cathedral is painted with scenes from the
 life of St. John the Baptist. . . . . . .
. . . . . . . and the beautiful floor is inlaid with the glittering tombs of 400 Knights.

Queen Victoria (Malta was part of the British Empire for over 150 years) 
contemplating ordering a tasty Maltese pizza perhaps. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . whereas we opted for delicious coffee and pastries at the historic Caffe Cordina.

Our day ashore in Valletta became very hot and there was little green shade.
I was continuing to fight 'the bug from hell' and was definitely challenged trying
 to do a lot of sightseeing. . . . . . . or celebrating at the farewell dinner that night. 
It was an amazing trip through Sicily and Malta, covering such a lot of ground
 and sailing on the beautiful Mediterranean sea.

These last four photos at Marsaxlokk Harbour taken with
 my iPhone - other photos with Sony DSC-HX400V camera)

The following day we disembarked the MS Island Sky early morning and were transported
 by coach to the airport for the return flight to the UK.  A fun quick stop along the way was
here at pretty Marsaxlokk Harbour where the fishermen were tending their boats and nets.

 Restaurants around the harbour were opening for business - all looked inviting
 but we had to be on our way.

A return trip to Malta with more time to explore the history would be
 wonderful - who knows, perhaps it will be possible.
 Never say never when you plan to travel to distant shores.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

So many figs, and garden visitors. . . . . . . . . .

The large green bowl was overflowing after Bob gathered the ripe figs early
 yesterday afternoon.
He must have picked at least 4 pounds.
Thankfully he was done prior to torrential rain accompanied by scary thunder and
 lightning right overhead around 5 PM. Our power went out, and stayed out for about
 an hour apparently caused by downed trees.
Later I shared bowls of figs with two neighbors, one who stopped by to get them
 after the storm passed. We three sat on the front porch enjoying a drink and
 watching many birds at the feeder, while awaiting electricity so I could bake this
 for supper. . . . . . . 

 . . . . . . . caramelized onions, chopped Kalamata olives, sliced manchego cheese
 and the just-picked figs, layered on a flatbread crust and dusted with a
 touch of Sicilian dried oregano.

Enjoyed a slice of this along with a bowl of chilled cucumber gazpacho made earlier
 in the week - then frozen. First time trying that and have to say it worked perfectly,
 tasted fresh and of course was definitely well-chilled after thawing. I have frozen
 several bags of this summer soup and am glad to know it will be ready for more
 hot days ahead. . . . . . . . . without all the preparation. 

As for garden visitors, the birds still flock to the feeders and cardinals actually come 
in large groups, especially now the figs are ready for eating on the nearby tree - they
 love them!
I notice their colors are faded at this time of year compared to winter and spring. 
The male above is more orange than red now. . . . . . . and the female below also 
seems much paler.  

This is a young blue jay and his feathers are a paler blue than the adults.
 He's been coming to this birdbath early each morning for more than
 a week - just stands on the little rock looking out into the world, sipping a drink
 now and then. I can walk by and he stays there, sometimes for half an hour
 or so, not bothered by anything. Later in the day he returns - these pix I took in
 the afternoon - and stays a while, again drinking and cooling off.

Hope your weekend is special. . . . . . enjoy the magical moments, and may
they be abundant.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Nothing common about Ficus carica!

Yes, they're back, despite the killing three-day frost in March.
 I truly wasn't expecting much fruit this summer but both my fig trees are loaded!
Yesterday I picked the first ripening figs on the sunny side of the Celeste in the
front garden, and a couple from the Brown Turkey in the side garden.
These trees are now over 15 feet tall - not bad considering they were just 18 inches 
when I gently coaxed them out of their plastic pots and tucked them into the garden
nine years ago. 
Did I just say 9 years ago - good grief how time flies!
This old post will show you my first picking in 2009 and the fun I had
actually making a roast fig dessert.

HERE is everything you need to know about the amazing common fig, Ficus carica.

I pruned the fig trees last autumn and will have to do it again this year - they grow
 so quickly and are really too high for us to reach fruits at the top. Flying birds and
 climbing squirrels definitely have an advantage over us and are already pecking
 into the ripening fruits.
Today I'm sending the official fig picker out with the big green bowl - he can 
brave the mosquitoes, I'll stay in the cool kitchen calmly turning the pages of my
much-loved FIG cookbook for recipes.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A movie to remember. . . . . . . .


If you haven't seen the movie, run don't walk to the cinema.
I will admit that it's the only movie where I've sat trying to hold
 back tears from the very first minute until the credits rolled. 
In between I did allow some to fall and was glad I had a stash
 of tissues handy. This movie is not for the the faint of heart,
but is one perhaps everyone should see.
Even Bob was having a hard time as the emotional, 
breath-holding story unfolded on that huge screen with 
throbbing sound and in your face horror of what 400,000 men,
many still just boys, had to endure during those days while
awaiting rescue.

If you are of my age group and are familiar with the sad, frightening days of WWII, 
and especially if you are of British and French descent, you will already know what
 occurred on that French beach at Dunkirk in 1940. For me, the story was often
 recounted by my parents both of whom were in the Royal Air Force at that time.

Because they lived on the south coast of England, in a town from which many
 of the small pleasure and fishing boats sailed from to take part in the huge
 rescue and evacuation of those hundreds of thousands troops waiting just
 26 miles across the English Channel, Dunkirk's story has always remained
 part of my hometown's history.

This amazing movie, the way it was filmed, the musical score, with no
 unnecessary dialogue, and great actors, just has to be an award winner.
But much more important than that, to me, and I'm certain to all who watch,
it truly brings war closer to our eyes than ever before and makes us realize
 how devastating, heartbreaking, and horrific those days were. 

Composer Sir Edward Elgar's beautiful music 'NIMROD: Lux Aeterna' from the
 Enigma Variations is played during some scenes, slow and elongated like I've
 never heard before. For me it was a tiny speck of beauty and hope that such
 terrible times like that will never, ever be repeated.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Oh deer!

. . . . . . . . you really shouldn't be eating breakfast here!

As you know, I was invited to harvest my neighbor's veggies whilst he took
 a vacation and I was cat-sitting his sweet Ms. Nala the past couple of weeks. 
 He's home now and still so generous sharing cukes, peppers and tomatoes with me.
 I'm giving back to him by way of a nice chilled bowl of cucumber gazpacho, 
after chopping and whizzing those fresh-picked veggies in the food processor.

She arrived yesterday morning just before 8 AM. The sun was already 
brilliant, the air heavy and steamy from the humidity of another 
typical southern summer day.
Heading to pick up the newspaper on the driveway I made a quick return
 to the house to grab the camera. Yes, the crazy lady in her robe was out in
 the garden again and taking more photos.

She was calm, watched me between nibbles, and when I said "no, you must
 go to another restaurant" she looked at me and slowly walked away to the next
 house down the street. . . . . . where there are no veggies, but they 
do have lovely hostas if deer enjoy munching on them!

I love this photo with the sun shining through the ears and
illuminating the whiskers. I know she (at least I believe it's a female) has
 apparently made a home in the small wooded area across the street, but
 I wonder where her family are - haven't seen a second deer yet. 

Nature never ceases to amaze. 
There's always some animal, bird, insect or reptile (I don't like the latter, 
especially the dangerous copperhead snakes!) visiting the garden, despite
 the fact we are not in the country and just a block off a main thoroughfare
 north of the city.

Have you had any unexpected visitors - from the animal world -
in your garden this summer?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reaching New Heights. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . the smiling faces of the now tall sunflowers continue to face toward the east. 
My beauties, for some reason, don't turn to face the sun as it moves across
 the sky. . . . . . .instead they seem to enjoy the view down the street.

Each scorching day, when there's no rain, I'm out there giving them a
 gentle drink, watching the flowers unfurl, and of course taking photos.
Each one is so beautiful whether with fully opened ray flowers (yellow petals),
 or just peeping out from the bright green bracts. Love how they last so long, 
soaking up the heat and sunshine, preparing their awesome number of seeds
 for the bees now, later the birds. . . . . . .and possibly squirrels agile enough
 to climb and cling to them come autumn. 

I too will be gathering some of the seeds in hopes they will grow here in my
 garden next year. These have reached astounding heights, the tallest
are well over six feet!

Looks like the 'sunflower chronicles' are continuing - I just have to share them with you!
Previous recent posts of the sunflowers in my garden, if you missed them,
 are HERE and HERE.

Yesterday was a tad cooler, 91F, and the heavy rain Sunday evening
really helped the garden. Temperature climbing higher again today!

🌻 Enjoy the sunflowers of summertime 🌻

Monday, July 24, 2017

They love suet feeders. . . . . . . .

I was surprised by this Northern Flicker - perhaps the younger of these two 
guys I viewed a couple of weeks ago HERE.
He waited on the suet feeder in this position for a very long time on Saturday,
 10 minutes or more, only leaving when I eventually opened the back door in hopes
 I could get better photos than these taken through the steamy windows.
Boy was it ever hot out there and the humidity awful!  Maybe he was just resting
in the heat, can't say I blamed him, it was like being in the jungle without the 
screeching monkeys.

Notice how some dastardly night visitor - raccoon perhaps - has already chewed
 up my NEW suet feeder, grrrrrrr!  The woodpeckers love these feeders as they can
balance their weight and size on the tail 'fin'. Other birds come too. . . . . . . many
 love suet and require fat in their diet for energy even in summertime. If you feed
garden birds you should do it year round.

Such a handsome bird. 
I hope your parents showed up and they took you away to a
 cooler spot for the evening hours.