Things I Love Thursday

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That’s a Scotch egg.

You might think that the lack of Things I Love Thursday posts (or any posts, for that matter) means that I haven’t been particularly grateful lately, but in reality I feel the happiest I’ve been in a while (and this year had been pretty good already). This summer has been weird and wonderful, and now the weather has synced up with that real summer feeling. I’m really not ready for autumn, and I hope it takes its time (just like summer did). So let’s compile a little list of things I love on this sunny Thursday:

  • I haven’t received an official offer yet, but I got a job! I’m so excited, and should be starting in November. Squeeeeeeeee.
  • My proofreading work has still been as busy as ever. I’ve particularly loved it these past few weeks – it’s lovely to work on meaningful work.
  • I went to Nijmegen in the Netherlands in August, for a week-long course at Radboud University on Gender. It was wonderful and I met some truly fantastic people.
  • Sense8 – fascinating
  • Gilmore Girls – a gem of a series
  • Gossip Girl – so bad but so good
  • My little baby nephew who I am completely head-over-heels in love with. Who knew this could happen to me?
  • Malta, always.
  • Weekend visits to Redu (Belgium), Strasbourg (France) and Maastricht (the Netherlands) (and I drove us to and from Maastricht!) <3
  • BBQs with friends and family
  • Inflicting quizzes on my friends and family
  • The Olympics!
  • The new Biffy Clyro album
  • Wine and Aperol spritzes and sangria and peach mojitos and all the drinks
  • Friends and Dave and myself

Have a fantastic Thursday.

Life in Luxembourg after a Year and a Half

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My stay in Luxembourg has now reached its year-and-a-half point. Life has changed considerably for me over the past few months (I’ve been a stagiaire at the European Commission as a trainee translator), and this past winter has been long and dreary and very, very rainy. We also got a car a few weeks ago, which has flipped our lives upside down. (Having a car is great.) This country is still very expensive in my eyes, and I still have no idea where my life is heading here (or anywhere), but… life is pretty good.

Let’s talk about a few key points (the good, the bad, the ugly).

The weather

It’s unbearable. How. Why. It’s been raining forever. There have been about two and a half days of sunshine this year prior to the middle of July. I hate it. I really despise it. Ugh.

Driving

I come from a country which drives on the left, so driving on the right did not go well at the beginning. Now, I feel fine. Driving is great. But at the beginning it was anxiety all over. I still get a little nervous, but I’ve even graduated to driving in the city centre without any GPS help.

The traineeship at the European Commission

This was such a busy period – I did so many things, learnt so many things, felt so many things. I should probably write about the traineeship in more length another time, but let’s just say that it was quite a special experience, and I’m so glad I could do it in Luxembourg at the Commission.

Harassment

I had several awful experiences of harassment over the past 6 months – including a man chasing me down a street after waiting for me at a bus stop. It’s sad, it makes me feel unsafe, etc.

Hiking

Luxembourg is so good for hiking. Even (especially!) for a novice like me.

“There’s nothing to do in Luxembourg”

Still untrue (at least from my point of view!).

French

I’m still not fluent. BUT I am sometimes understandable. Progress.

Plant update

Most of my plants are still alive!

A pet cat

I still want one.

Summer Sangria [RECIPE]

sangria and tortilla chips

Now that some semblance of summertime has appeared in Luxembourg, it’s time for one of my all-time favourite activities: eating outside with friends. While my favourite al fresco spots are still to be found in Malta, it’s lovely to whip up something special on a nice day in Luxembourg to share with my boyfriend and friends, and it’s a perfect opportunity to make the most of grassy spots and lakeside views. (Luxembourg really does look very beautiful when it’s sunny.) This summer sangria is not too strong, and perfectly summery – and great to share ;)

summer sangria

Summer Sangria

  • Watermelon
  • A bottle of sweet rosé wine
  • 2 limes
  • Fresh mint
  • Sparkling water
  • Ice cubes
  • Simple syrup (if desired – for an extra-sweet cocktail) (sugar & water)

Chop and de-seed the watermelon, and combine it with sliced lime, fresh mint leaves, and the chilled wine. Add some (cooled) simple syrup, if you’d like your cocktail to be extra sweet. (To make simple syrup, let around 115g of sugar dissolve in around 120ml of water in a saucepan.) Stir the mixture properly and let it sit in the pitcher or bowl for at least a couple of hours. Add chilled sparkling water just before serving.

summer sangria Delhaize

This drink is perfect for summer parties. (Here, I served it with a side of delicious Delhaize tortilla chips.) Thanks to Delhaize Luxembourg for providing the delicious ingredients.

The EU in the Cliffs

Dingli Cliffs sun set

No, you’re in luck: I’m not about to talk about Brexit. I’ve just returned from yet another little trip back home to my most beautiful country of Malta. Recently, I’ve been spotting a pattern when it comes to the places I usually visit every time I’m back – a swim at Wied iż-Żurrieq, lunch in Valletta, a drink with friends at The Pub, and a drive/walk in the countryside.

When it comes to the countryside, Dingli Cliffs is one of my favourite ports of call whenever I’m in Malta. When I was at University, I often drove there to sit on some rocks to study and stare out at the vastness of the sea. One of my first dates with my boyfriend (almost seven years ago!) was to see the sun set on the horizon at Dingli Cliffs (we had later also gone to see a shooting star shower in the middle of the night). It’s a special place, and its majestic views and natural beauty have always impressed me. That first sight of the sudden vast sea below you as you drive across the road on top of the cliffs? It gets me every time.

It doesn’t seem like many Maltese people visit the cliffs often – perhaps because of the thoughts of death and tragedy that lurk around these parts. However, this should not deter anyone from enjoying the absolute beauty of the area, particularly because of the natural treasures that one can find… There are all sorts of Malta-specific flora and fauna (which I might be more open to appreciating recently due to being away from Malta…), such as Mediterranean thyme (sagħtar) (which evokes the most wonderful nostalgia due to its sharp smell), Maltese everlasting, common hawthorn (żagħrun) (which, as I’ve read on the latest Air Malta Bizzilla, is said to possibly help with chronic heart failure), the blue rock thrush (merill), the chameleon, and the ocellated skink (xaħmet l-art).

Some of my most favourite things about the Dingli Cliffs, however, are the peace and quiet, the view of Filfla (another island in the Maltese archipelago, which is a natural reserve), and the annual Agricultural Fest that takes place in spring. The latter is such a treat: sheep shearing! donkey rides! fried ravioli! traditional Maltese everything! I haven’t been to this festival these past few years, so next year, I’m going to have to be sure to pencil it into my calendar to try to be in Malta on that blessed May Sunday.

EU Funding plaque

Last Sunday, as I walked around the area, I found this plaque at a corner, telling me that this area is Natura 2000 site, meaning that it’s a protected area (as it should be!). No sign in Malta is capable of surviving the harsh sun, so I’m not surprised that this one is a little bit worse for wear. I can make out that EU funding was given as part of the Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007-2013 to improve the quality of life in rural areas and encourage tourism activities in these parts. As regards the latter, there have been some questionable decisions taking place, but the improvement of the promenade, for example, has been a welcome addition to the area. Nevertheless, when I compare this type of natural environment with similar places in Luxembourg (I say “similar”, but there are no cliffs by the sea in Luxembourg – I can assure you that; what I mean is natural habitats), I’m often very impressed by how many natural spots in Luxembourg can be enjoyed without harsh railings and bright angular pavements. Then again, to enable ease of access (and safety!) for people and cars in a place like Dingli Cliffs, there are few other options, so I can’t say I’m displeased.

Ultimately, this post is an ode to a place I love. This area is perfect for nature lovers, for a walk, for a first date(!) (or any date, really), and for an outing with friends. Whenever it’s warm (and not too windy), a late evening walk along the promenade as the sun is setting will cure any ailment you might have, whether it’s of the body or of the soul.

Sunset Dingli Cliffs

If you’re Maltese or have been to Malta, what are your favourite spots on Malta/Gozo/Comino? Do you think more can be done at Dingli Cliffs? What should the EU be spending its money on when it comes to natural treasures like this one? Is there enough transparency when it comes to how much money is spent and how it is spent?

Links for further reading: Ħad-Dingli Local Council, interesting facts about the cliffs/flora/fauna, a pdf about the Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007-2013.

Summer dips from the Mediterranean [RECIPE]

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LISTEN UP. The summer is coming back! (…or maybe I’m just bringing a bit of the summer back from Malta) ;)

After what felt like the longest winter in history, Luxembourg seems to finally be emerging into something which resembles summer (wasn’t the weather on the Duke’s Birthday glorious?) – and that means going outside and eating more summery things. Today, I’d like to share a couple of go-to dips that are inspired by different Mediterranean flavours, using products that have been kindly provided by Delhaize Luxembourg.

lemon feta and tomato pepper

The lemon-feta dip is potentially a love-it-or-hate-it kind of paste, but most of my friends adore it and clamour for more every time I make it. If you’re not a fan of lemons, perhaps choose a smaller lemon or go easy on the zest, but I love putting a bit more in, actually.

The tomato-cracker-pepper dip is inspired by a family recipe (my boyfriend’s family, that is) – his grandfather used to make this dip with traditional Maltese water crackers and traditional Maltese kunserva (tomato paste). However, Delhaize offers a great selection of own-brand products which served as substitutes for the classic Maltese ingredients, and we also used spicy crackers (instead of plain ones), which gave the dip a little extra kick.

Here are the ingredients for each dip: simply blend them together and serve with crudités or crackers/breadsticks/fresh bread. It’s also very important to have a nice, cool beverage to accompany your dips – we went for a picnic in a park in Bonnevoie and had some Delhaize bio cider.

Tomato, cracker and chilli pepper dip

  • a clove of garlic (diced)
  • crackers (add anywhere between 100g and 500g, depending on the desired consistency) (crumbled)
  • one can of tomato paste
  • a couple of generous glugs of sunflower oil
  • fresh chilli peppers (a handful of the small ones, or two medium-sized/large ones) (diced)

Lemon feta summer dip

  • 200g feta cheese (crumbled)
  • one lemon (juice and zest)
  • a clove of garlic (diced)
  • a couple of generous glugs of olive oil

mediterranean dips

These make a lovely snack, picnic item, party dip, or starter preceding a meal or BBQ. Let me know if you make one and how it turned out.

A lovely LUSH-ified Mother’s Day

LUSH Mother's Day 2016

The Mother’s Day range has come out once again at LUSH, and since Luxembourg celebrates Mother’s Day next Sunday, I thought I’d write a little post about these truly lovely products/gifts just before it’s Mother’s Day over here.

Not all of the pictured items are from the Mother’s Day collection, because I also picked up a few other bits – like the Rehab shampoo on the top left (it’s got another name in French), and the Thanks Dad soap, for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who just became parents (so they deserved a little treat). I also bought the new Smuggler’s Soul scrub for my boyfriend.

Here are some products from the Mother’s Day range which I can’t wait to try out:

  • Ladybird bubble bar – minty and fresh, and can last for several baths.
  • Rose Bombshell bath bomb – this is my favourite. The smell of roses in this is absolutely heavenly. I need to keep this one for a special bath on a very tough day.
  • Yummy Mummy shower gel – a repeat from last year’s range, and a very sweet-smelling shower gel with the best colour.
  • Flowering Tea bubble bar (bath dunk) – oh my. This one is special. It’s a giant tea-bag-shaped bubble bar, which allegedly spews flowers once it melts down enough. Very much looking forward to this one.

Hope you love the purple-and-Mother’s-Day themed products at LUSH right now. You don’t need me to tell you this, but they make great presents, particularly when the person is a little stressed out at the moment. Hint hint. Nudge nudge. Buy me LUSH stuff. <3

Things I Love Thursday

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This week’s Things I Love Thursday post is not in the regular point-form format. This blog has been incredibly quiet recently, and that’s because I have been devoting all of my energy to a million and one new things in my life – including some blogging for another blog. My traineeship at the European Commission is going very well – I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and have been learning and struggling with something new every single day. It’s been quite a challenge to juggle the traineeship (i.e. translation work for 40 hours every week), my participation in two subcommittees (the charity subcommittee and the communication subcommittee), occasional trips (e.g. I went to Durbuy, Belgium a couple of Sundays ago with two friends – the photo above was taken there), time with my boyfriend, occasional French lessons, lots and lots (and lots) of my own freelance work, and a lot of other things. Life is beautiful and I’m very happy overall, but the stage is almost halfway over and everything is happening so quickly.

I spent most of March (and the first part of April) feeling very ill – it must have been the combination of stress and spending a lot of time with a lot of different people (germs, ahoy!). However, now I’m feeling fine and it feels SO GOOD to just feel normal and healthy. I’m very grateful to be able to appreciate this feeling of feeling OK and not queasy/exhausted/dizzy/congested. The sun has finally made its presence felt in Luxembourg these past couple of weeks – which is seriously giving me life.

For the first time in a long time (even during my thesis-writing days), I’ve been super behind on reading – usually, I’m always halfway through one book or other, but this year, I’ve only read a couple of books, and it’s making me panic a little. However, I have high hopes for the rest of the year (once I relax a bit on the proofreading side of things…), and I’m aiming to read a lot of short books to bump up my book count for the year.

After getting hit with a bad stomach bug around New Year’s which hung around for what felt like weeks (this year has not been great for my health…), I hadn’t been too much in the mood for good food or for visiting a nice restaurant (both of which are usually at the top of my To-Do Often list). Let’s just say that the first couple of months of the year were a bit gloomy. BUT. Then I felt much better towards the end of March, and things started to look up again. Then, the weather in Luxembourg refused to fuse into spring until a few days ago, so I was dragging myself around in a big winter coat in the rain for ages… but a quick weekend trip to Malta in the middle of April made everything much better. And now I’ve moved on to enjoying the sunshine and worrying about other things, as I do.

Today marks 6 and a half years with my boyfriend, David. I barely thought I’d ever live abroad when I met him (at 20), and we’ve been on so many adventures together over the past 6 years and 6 months. Maybe one day we’ll get a kitten and our lives will be truly complete. (I’m kidding.)

(I’m not kidding.)

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.