My Favourite Feelings (Tiara’s)

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Making friends in a foreign country is hard. Of course it’s hard. Especially when there are language barriers and when you don’t even work in an environment with other people (ah, the life of a freelancer). However, I’ve been exceptionally lucky to make a few wonderful (and international) friends here in Luxembourg. One of the loveliest of those is Tiara. We met at a wine-tasting event, became friends on Facebook, she read my blog and suggested meeting for a coffee, and that was it! Firm friends, lovers of wine and food, and the official Luxembourg Christmas market partners in crime. Tiara speaks a lot of languages (German! French! English! A language of India that I keep forgetting the name of because I am an ignorant European woman! Spanish! Probably others!), she gives the sweetest gifts, sends the best WhatsApp messages, and has one of the kindest souls I’ve ever encountered. And did I mention that she shares my love for wine? Wine.

Here are some of Tiara’s favourite feelings:

  1. Sitting in a window seat on a plane, feeling an adrenaline rush as the plane accelerates before takeoff, and then seeing the earth from a bird’s eye view :)
  2. I’m a sucker for beautiful sunsets/sunrises – amazing landscapes and natural beauty – Mother Nature never stops impressing me. My favourite spot was walking over a bridge over the river Maas in Maastricht, watching the sun set over the beautiful city – I never once got bored of that view in 8 years of living there.
  3. Sorry to lower the tone ;), but you know that awful feeling when you’re standing at the bus stop in the rain on the way home, dying to pee, and the bus seems to be going especially slowly that particular day, and then you finally somehow make it home and relieve yourself just in time… yeah that! Best feeling ever!!
  4. Completely forgetting all about my worries for 1 hour during my fabulous Zumba classes, and letting myself go with the music (and releasing my secret inner J-Lo ;)!)
  5. Big family dinners at home – my mom is an amazing cook <3
  6. Snuggling up onto a comfy sofa, with a snugly blanket, and watching fun stuff on TV (especially BBC cooking programmes!) (sob, sob – I miss this in Luxembourg… no sofa, TV or decent internet connection :()
  7. So instead, I love going for lunch/dinner/coffee/drinks/cake with good friends and having a lovely, long catch up, where you just lose track of time.
  8. CAKE
  9. Seeing old friends after ages and feeling as though nothing’s changed – and meeting new friends whom you feel like you’ve known forever <3
  10. Finding the perfect gift for someone and watching them open it with happy anticipation.
  11. Seeing my grandmother smile and laugh – she’s too cute!
  12. Cute, fat babies with chubby cheeks!!

Yes, these excellent favourite feelings are also mine, essentially. What about you? Send over your own favourite feelings to claire@clairebonello.com.

Music Mondays: but there was nothing to save

We’ve certainly had a successful few days of Easter holidays in Luxembourg. Today (a public holiday here in Luxembourg, unlike Good Friday), the weather has been absolutely awful, but we still managed to head out to a village called Nospelt, where they have a little Easter Monday market and where they sell these adorable little clay bird whistles. We also visited Dunkin Donuts for the first time (ridiculous, I know) and were pleasantly surprised by the delicious doughnut array.

Yesterday, however, was a true success story. We headed over to Esch-sur-Sûre (armed with DSLRs and two packets of Twistees), and hiked for around 9km around the area. It was glorious, and we only got rained on for about two minutes. The hike was a little tough at times for a novice like me, but we had a lot of fun, and the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. The village itself is also very pretty, and I’d love to go back and visit the castle and the church properly.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, and I’m also going to have so much proofreading work to do over the next few months – I don’t know how I’m going to survive. At least there’s more light in the day now, so that’s encouraging.

I’d also like to mention that a little interview with me was featured on the Sunday Circle (a Maltese magazine) yesterday, so check it out if you haven’t yet, and hello to any new readers! :)

{ Houses // Big Light }

{ The playlist. }

Sunday Photo Mishmash: Easter holidays in Luxembourg

The mishmash is back! We had grand plans for this Easter holiday weekend, but never got ’round to booking anything, so instead we rented a car and decided to explore a bit more of our beautiful host country.

On Easter Saturday, we went on a hike in the Ardennes region. The hike was technically all in Germany (we crossed the border after a minute of walking), but our views were mostly of Luxembourg, and it was all very glorious. I’m still not used to seeing such super-tall trees and kilometres upon kilometres of forest.

For Good Friday, we went to Clervaux and attended the Good Friday service at the Benedictine abbey there. We also broke our fast with a delicious pizza in the town centre. Just look at that majestic white castle and the town church. And the sun had finally come out too!

On Thursday, we popped into Schengen for a quick visit. The place is very sweet (and all about the European Union). Here I’m pointing at the point in the water where the Schengen Agreement was signed, where THREE countries meet: Germany, France, and Luxembourg.

Hope everyone is having a very Happy Easter. We’re planning on another hike today. May the sunshine be with us.

26 Tasks Before my 27th Birthday (Final Review)

Rock Werchter 2016

Last year, the wonderful Hillary sent over a beautiful card with a list of 26 things that she challenged me to complete before my 27th birthday. The list is below, along with whether I managed to achieve it or not (or to which extent).

  1. Plant or grow something
    This was a roaring success, because I suddenly have a little herb garden which I reared from packets of seeds! They’re still too small to try, but they’re getting bigger every day.
  2. Pay 26 strangers a compliment
    I haven’t been able to keep count on this, but I have put an extra effort in doing this with as many people as possible.
  3. Wear something you made yourself
    I once made a dress (which mostly involved buying the material, cutting it, doing a bit of the sewing, and then giving up and letting my Mum finish it – but most of the work WAS done by me, somehow), and I have worn it on several occasions.
  4. Travel by boat
    With the good old Gozo Ferry, several times. I love it.
  5. Read Le Petit Prince in French
    Done! It was a beautiful read. I had previously read it in English (but years ago), so reading it in French was wonderful.
  6. Eat dessert before dinner
    Too often to note.
  7. Write a letter to a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages
    I have written several messages and emails to people who I hadn’t spoken to in ages, but I’m meaning to do this properly with a proper handwritten letter to my old best friend.
  8. Keep an elderly person company
    I don’t think I’ve done this in the past year properly (although I might have just forgotten – and you’d need to define “elderly”), but it’s definitely on my to-do list.
  9. Watch the movie God Help the Girl
    Watched it! It was a sweet movie, but the singing threw me off sometimes.
  10. On your next trip, take a disposable camera then develop the photos
    Done! At Rock Werchter last summer (one of the photos is above!).
  11. Go out and spend all day walking, no public transport
    I walk a lot in Luxembourg – although I haven’t kept track of whether I’ve spent a whole day of walking without any public transport, so I still need to technically complete this properly.
  12. Run at least 5km
    Didn’t complete. I have run 5km before, but that was a couple of years ago, and I’ve barely done any running at all since. I really need to get back on that saddle.
  13. Cook a 3-course meal of new recipes
    My lovely friend Valentina kindly helped me with this, including lasagna with white sauce, and tiramisù.
  14. Go on a spur-of-the-moment adventure – don’t stop to overthink!
    Once, on a sunny afternoon in Luxembourg, my boyfriend and I caught a bus, a train, and another bus to the Upper-Sûre Lake in the north of Luxembourg – we had a glorious swim in the lake there and a walk, before heading back home. Such a treasured memory.
  15. Challenge: spend a week sans make-up, natural beauty only
    I did this in January, and it was very nice to have more free time (it takes me about 10 minutes to do my make-up, and then a couple of minutes to take it off) and less “stuff” on my face. However, it was also very nice to start wearing it again. I don’t wear it every day, so this was not too much of a challenge, but it was cool to experience it for several days at a stretch.
  16. Send your mum surprise flowers, just because – show your parents you appreciate them without a special occasion ^^
    I did this! It was lovely to see their happy faces on Skype with the flowers I sent.
  17. Write a poem (limerick, ode to Dave, epic about your cat – your call!)
    I don’t think I’ve written any poetry this year, but I have written a few short pieces of prose, so I’m pleased about that.
  18. Dance in the kitchen
    Done, always.
  19. Do something for charity
    I sent a monetary donation for refugees arriving in Greece, and I took part in a production of The Vagina Monologues which was put up completely by volunteers, and all the money went to a women’s refuge in Luxembourg. I’m also a part of the Charity Subcommittee during my traineeship at the European Commission.
  20. Make a birthday card instead of buying one
    I actually didn’t manage to do this this year, but I have done it before.
  21. Fly a kite, relive childhood!
    I haven’t flown a kite in several years, and I love it! Really need to fish out an old one when I’m back in Malta and head to an open space.
  22. Make a mixtape for someone else
    I haven’t done this properly, but I do share specific songs with people I love very often.
  23. Challenge: unplug from social media for a week 
    I did this last year for about five days over Easter – we went on a trip to Sardegna and I completely unplugged myself from social media, email, and everything on the internet! It was not the most pleasant of times.
  24. Try a new hairstyle
    I don’t feel like I’ve done this properly, but I have experimented a tiny bit with some different hairstyles in the past. I still want to do something “drastic” someday, like a blunt fringe or a new hair colour.
  25. Order at a restaurant in Luxembourgish
    Restaurant servers are rarely Luxembourgish (or know Luxembourgish), so I haven’t really achieved this, BUT I have had “conversations” at the supermarket in Luxembourgish (i.e. hello, thank you, goodbye).
  26. Watch Amélie in French
    Done! I must admit, I could barely understand any of it, but at least I had watched it with English subtitles a few years ago, so I had a general idea of what was going on.

Thanks again to the lovely Hillary for the ideas. :) Some of the tasks on this list that I’d love to achieve before I’m 28 are: write a letter to an old friend, keep an elderly person company, run, cook more, write some poetry, and try a new hairstyle. Any other suggestions?

Music Mondays: I start my traineeship tomorrow asjdkpaosdpkds

That title, my friends, conveys an ounce of the feelings that I’m experiencing today. After seven years of university, a job as a lawyer for six and a half months, and 14 months of working from home as a freelancer (in Luxembourg), I’m heading back to a “regular office job” for the next five months. It’s a traineeship at the European Commission as a trainee translator in the (obviously) Maltese department. I’m equal parts nervous and excited. I’m also relieved, because I’ve missed working in an office and feeling like I’m a part of something, and speaking to people/colleagues every day. Then again, the sheer thought of knowing that I’m going to have to fit into a structure (and by “structure” I mean waking up early every.single.day. and having to face people for several hours every day) is exhausting me already. My head is already whirring forward to the end of July, when the traineeship will end – what am I going to do afterwards? On one hand, there’s no possibility that I can just “stay on” at the job, but it might also be a real (and really important) stepping stone in my life/career. THE UNCERTAINTY IS KILLING ME.

And this song is perfect for calming me down. Hope you’re having a happy Monday.

{ Absolutely Free // Beneath the Air }

{ The Music Mondays playlist. }

Things I Love Thursday

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  • Disneyland!
  • Rollercoasters!
  • Sugar!
  • Michelin-starred restaurants!
  • Exclamation marks!
  • Wonderful, beautiful friends
  • Mobile internet
  • Feeling happier and freer than I have in a long time
  • Having delicious Mexican food with my boyfriend and a lovely friend
  • Doing a bunch of work on trains and coaches
  • Getting some really great, special jobs.
  • Penguins (the chocolate) and cheese from England from my bestie <3
  • The ridiculous jokes on the wrappers of Penguins
  • A George Eliot card from the other bestie <3
  • Bookshops

The Books I Read in 2015

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In 2015, I read 25 books (reaching my formal goal of 25 books and falling short of reaching my informal goal of 26 books – ah, well). Thankfully, a lot of the books I read were Very Good (and even Excellent), so this is going to be less of a round-up and more of a suggestion post.

BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATIONS

The Martian (Andy Weir) – A memorable book (even though the protagonist annoyed the hell out of me) and an excellent film (the protagonist annoyed me much less in the film, although the film had less fun-scientific bits).

Wild (Cheryl Strayed) – A beautiful story, which made me cry, and a beautiful film, which made me cry.

AGATHA CHRISTIE

By the Pricking of my Thumbs – I read this with my friend Anna, as our first read of our informal book club, and it was clever as always. Very Christie.

Crooked House – Very weird, but recommended.

Parker Pyne Investigates – Short stories, each with their twists and turns – loved it as a whole.

They Came to Baghdad – Meh. (Further discussed below.)

GOTHIC

Frankenstein (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) (the original 1818 text) – I read this for a class I took at the University of Luxembourg, and it was so unlike the general impression of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster that I had gotten from pop culture… Highly recommended.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson) – This was a re-read, but it had been about 10 years since I had read it originally. Love this story (again, read it for my gothic literature class).

A Slip Under the Microscope (H.G. Wells) – Two stories by H.G. Wells – interesting reads. ‘The Door in the Wall’ was definitely a cool story.

The Old Nurse’s Story (Elizabeth Gaskell) – Two stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, nothing special, but pleasantly creepy.

CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE (AKA MY QUEEN)

We Should All Be Feminists – Compulsory reading for everyone.

Purple Hibiscus – My first Adichie novel. Beautiful, painful, sad.

Americanah – An absolute masterpiece. The writing, the story, the weaving of all the plot lines and themes… Amazing.

ATLASES

An Atlas for Countries that Don’t Exist (Nick Middleton) – My boyfriend gave me this atlas for our anniversary last year, and it’s so beautiful and perfect for a history-and-map buff like me.

Atlas of Remote Islands (Judith Schalansky) – Also given to me by my boyfriend, but it was one of my birthday presents from him. A fantastic collection of islands (I LOVE islands) which has fuelled my wanderlust.

MISCELLANEOUS

A Tale for the Time Being (Ruth Ozeki) – I had been meaning to read this for a few years, and it didn’t disappoint, but was a little… weird.

A Move Abroad (Ian McEwan) – Such an odd McEwan, but loved it nonetheless.

The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins) – The hype around this book was quite something, and I enjoyed it, although the concept of warped memories scares me, and I don’t think I love seeing that in fiction that much (same with We Were Liars).

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler) – Recommended by my boyfriend (and the rest of the world). Very strange, but a great read. I thought it was going in a massively different direction.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling) – I don’t know much about Mindy Kaling, and while I had some Feminist Issues with this book, I still really enjoyed it.

The Secret History (Donna Tartt) – A beautiful book, but still verged on being too wordy, too long, and too heavy for me.

DISAPPOINTMENTS/”MEH”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman) – My first Gaiman. I thought I’d love it. I was rolling my eyes and skim-reading most of it, although some parts were very good. Maybe I’ll give Gaiman another go.

They Came to Baghdad (Agatha Christie) – I had such high hopes for this, but it took me ages to finish it, and although in retrospect it was quite a good story, I didn’t really enjoy reading it so much. My least favourite Christie so far.

The Innocents (Francesca Segal) – I REALLY DID NOT ENJOY this book. The story made me uncomfortable. Not recommended at all.

MY FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2015

A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) – Mistry is quickly becoming one of my most favourite authors. The story was beautiful and quite Dickensian in length and pace, but I couldn’t put it down (even though it’s over 600 pages long).

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) – As discussed above. Wow. This was so well-crafted, so poignant, so important, so beautiful. Adichie is definitely one of my most favourite authors now. She can write.

Wild (Cheryl Strayed) – As explained above, this book is really well-written and made me cry.

Yes Please (Amy Poehler) – I actually listened to the audiobook of this book, and while some of it wasn’t too interesting to me, most of it really hit home, or taught me things about life, and the final story she recites just made me laugh and cry while on a bus in rainy Luxembourg, so I had to bump it up to one of my favourite books of 2015.

Atlas of Remote Islands (Judith Schalansky) – Definitely one of my favourite books of 2015. The book was beautiful, and its contents were magical.

Any comments about these books? Or any recommendations?

Music Mondays: Welcome to the inner workings of my mind

Snowflakes are lightly falling outside right now, while my parents are telling me that they’ve been needing to switch on the air-conditioning in the car (it’s 23 degrees in Malta today). I’ve definitely become used to the grey weather here in Luxembourg, but it still sucks to think of sunshine and clear blue skies (even though 23-degree weather in February in Malta is still oh.so.wrong.).

My traineeship at the European Commission starts in two weeks. I’m suddenly a little overwhelmed yet excited. I get to put on smart clothes and make-up every day. My proofreading schedule for the next few months is already almost completely full (which is manic), and I’ve got a play to perform in, my parents are visiting in March, there’s the Luxembourg City Film festival next week, I’m going on a trip to Disneyland this Friday… it’s all looking very, very busy already. But I’m going to think that that’s a good thing. Last year, I kept keeping my schedule as free as possible, thinking that I was going to be starting a full-time job semi-soon. Then, that didn’t happen, and I took on more proofreading and translation jobs, but there were still a few weeks last year where things were very quiet, and I just wanted to be busy instead.

Today’s song is weird and great to listen to with your eyes closed, while pumping yourself up to work.

{ MS MR // Hurricane }

{ The playlist. }