Wednesday, April 30, 2008

chicken soup for zapping the giant fuzzy bacterium

Student living with nine (yes, nine) roommates from nine (yes, nine) different countries is a little bit like being in kindergarten again. No, I don't say this because of the occasional bouts of fun immaturity or the group naptime we sometimes have in front of the TV. I actually mean it more from a germs (yes, germs) point of view.

Here, enjoy the picture of the pretty flower since none of the pictures of my chicken soup turned out very well (my excuse: I'm sick).

Simple math: ten people + same dwelling = biohazard. This isn't to say our place isn't clean - because it is. But the law of the giant fuzzy bacterium dictates that it is scientifically impossible not to be germ-infested given our close quarters ... which means for us poor kids, there are plenty of coughs and sniffles to go around.

Fortunately, no matter what corner of the world we're from, we can all agree on a universal remedy: chicken soup. And because I've been sick here more in the last eight months than in the previous eight years, this means there have been plenty of chances to fine-tune my very own cure-all, chicken soup recipe.

Yes, folks, the homemade Model United Nations / World Health Organization Lemon-Lime Chicken Soup is another original offering brought to you by the dingobear kitchen. The recipe follows; here's hoping you won't have to reach for it too often (like I've been doing the last little while). Enjoy.

Model United Nations / World Health Organization Lemon-Lime Chicken Soup
1.5 litres of sodium-reduced chicken broth
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
300 to 350 grams of white chicken meat, cubed
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 small-medium white potatoes, cubed
2 small-medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 splash of milk or fresh cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
several dashes of salt and pepper to taste
several dashes of tumeric (optional)

After all of your ingredients have been chopped and made ready to go, warm the olive oil at medium-high heat in a large stockpot. Once hot, add the onion and a few dashes of salt. Toss with a wooden spoon for about a minute or until the onion is translucent. Next, add the chicken and continue tossing with the wooden spoon for a few minutes. Once brown, you can add the potatoes, carrots and celery. Toss for a couple more minutes. The idea is to pretty much coat all of your ingredients with the olive oil at high heat, to bring out the different flavours.

At this point, your kitchen should be smelling pretty good, but the brown bits should be burning onto the bottom of your stockpot. Time to add the chicken broth - and, as you do, make sure you use your wooden spoon to lightly scrape those brown bits off, as this will augment the flavour of the soup. Next, stir or squeeze in the lime and lemon juice and then after, the milk or fresh cream. Season with salt and pepper as required and dash in the tumeric (which will add to the yellow colour of the soup) if so desired.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium. Cover and let the soup simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

This recipe is good for 6 to 8 servings, and actually tastes better if you refrigerate it overnight and reheat it on the stove the following day, as it allows the lime and lemon juices to permeate all of the fresh ingredients in the soup. Enjoy!

Oh, all right, fine: here's a photo of my Model UN / WHO Lemon-Lime Chicken Soup. It actually looks better than this in real-life but apparently I don't have the capacity to operate a camera when I'm dying of the stomach flu.

Monday, April 21, 2008

lost in the lightroom

It's been a full three weeks since I've come home from Malta, but I'm still chipping away at the backlog of photos I need to post-proccess. Here are a few of the latest released from the lightroom. All involve the Three Cities region of the island nation.

Fishin' off the St. Lorenzo Wharf in Vittoriosa, Malta. (2008). Across the water is the skyline of Senglea, which joins sister cities Vittoriosa and Cospicua as the Three Cities.

Vintage Malta moored in Dockyard Creek, which separates Senglea on the left and Vittoriosa on the right. (2008).

The Maritime Museum is one of Vittoriosa's main visitor attractions. (2008).

The popular Vittoriosa Waterfront (a.k.a. the Pinto Wharf) on a sunny Maltese afternoon. (2008).

An after-sunset shot of Senglea, Malta, taken from the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta. (2008).

An industrial panorama of working dry docks of Grand Harbour. (2008). The tip of Senglea is on the left. In the foreground are cannons which guard the base of the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta.

The Church of St. Lawrence in Vittoriosa, Malta. (2008). The kid pictured above noticed I was trying to take photos of the cathedral and assumed I was waiting for the Sunday mass, which had yet to begin. "Church opens at 5:30, Mister," he said cheerful, accented English.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

three's a charm

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming (i.e., bombarding you with travel photos, pontificating about the glory of waffles, etc.) to bring you the following public service message ...

A mugshot of Peanut, who is best-known in online media circles as the fuzzy editor of the three-year old felix's daily starfish and waffles.

We're three years old today! Well, not me or the editor, but felix's daily starfish and waffles. For sure, when it all started on that fateful evening (haha) in 2005, it was under very different circumstances and I never imagined we'd get here today.

But here we are, and I'm actually pretty pleased with how this whole thing has kind of evolved. We've had some fun, shared some laughs, and met some good people along the way.

Who knows where we go from here ... but I do hope you're still here with us when the ride one day stops. And of course, thanks for being a part of it so far.

Ok, enough with the after-school special sentiment. Who wants to go out for a beer (or three)?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

marooned on a desert isle

Directions to somewhere else ... but with water like this, why would you go anywhere? On the grounds of the Comino Hotel, which had not yet opened for the 2008 summer season. Comino, Malta. (2008).

Sometimes it doesn't really have to be any more than bright sun and turquoise water. Both are reputed to come in embarrassing abundance on Comino, Malta's third island. Works for me; I decide to go in for a closer look.

Bonus: it's still low season and the the tourist hoards haven't yet arrived. So besides the four people who call Comino home (which, interestingly, means that the island's population has exploded +33% since -c reported in late 2006), I more or less have this desert isle all to myself.

I spend the day chasing geckos with my camera and dipping my toes in the marvelous Med.


The ridiculously clear water of the Blue Lagoon. Comino, Malta. (2008). Gozo, Malta's second largest island, lies in the distance.

Azure waves crash against the Comino Caves. Comino, Malta. (2008).

A Maltese wall lizard (Podarcis fifolensis). These little guys were everywhere on Comino. (2008).

The beach, the Blue Lagoon, and the uninhabited islet of Cominotto. Comino, Malta. (2008).

Bright sun and turquoise water ... the signature of Comino, Malta. (2008).

Sunday, April 06, 2008

dropping anchor

One might say home is anywhere you find harbour enough to drop anchor for the night. During my short stay in Malta, this would be in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, situated in southeast corner of this tiny country.

Picturesque Marsaxlokk, with a harbour full of colourful, traditional fishing vessels. (2008).

Marsaxlokk is best known for its brightly painted fleet of fishing boats, which apparently don't look much different than the vessels sailed by the Phoenicians when they ruled this part of the Mediterranean 2500 years ago. The photogenenic harbour makes Marsaxlokk a hit with busloads of camera-toting tourists during the day.

But during the evenings and early mornings, it's just me and the locals, and this is a good thing.

It doesn't take long to get comfortable here. Fisherman bid you good morning as you walk around the bay. The guesthouse manager opens up the restaurant kitchen just because you feel like having a hot English breakfast. The fresh-off-the-boat seafood is served in supersize-me portions.

Marsaxlokk: a place to kick back and relax. Just like at home.

Marsaxlokk in the morning. This port of call is home to over half of the Maltese fishing fleet. (2008).

More Marsaxlokk. (2008).

A local fisherman. Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

Catch of the day, for sale at the Marsaxlokk Sunday Fish Market. (2008).

I don't know why, but I kind of like this picture - it feels very Mediterranean to me. Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

Phoning home using a vintage British phone booth (which are seemingly everywhere here in Malta) and trying to explain to the editor why I'm late with my assignment. Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

A close-up of a luzzu, the trademark traditional Maltese fishing boat. Note the vigilant "Eyes of Osiris," which, according to legend, ward off evil spirits. Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).

Marsaxlokk's town church. (2008).

Friday, April 04, 2008

sea, sky, and stone

Far away from the package tour crowd based along the highly developed northern coast, south shore Malta is a refreshing breath of Mediterranean air. Though it's a stretch to say that you'll be getting away from it all here, with sea, sky and open spaces at seemingly every turn, this is the Malta we came to see. Here are a few pictures.

The road from Wied iż-Żurrieq, Malta. (2008). In the distance is the uninhabited Maltese islet of Filfla. Beyond that, next landfall is Libya, in North Africa.

The Blue Grotto, one of Malta's most popular natural attractions. Wied iż-Żurrieq, Malta. (2008).

The ancient megalithic temple, Ħaġar Qim, is over 5000 years old. (2008).

The entrance to Ħaġar Qim. (2008).

A south shore Maltese bus stop. (2008).

Wildflowers bloom in the sandy, rocky soil outside a lonely residence in the Maltese countryside. (2008).

A terrace view of the southern Mediterranean. (2008).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

la valletta

Valletta's namesake founder declared back at the city's ground-breaking in 1566 that it should be "a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen." That's quite a mantra to live up to, but almost 450 years hence, the pint-sized capital of the the European Union's smallest member state still retains remarkable splendor, and I would like to think that somewhere, Jean Parisot de la Valette is smiling.

A view of Valletta and the Grand Harbour at dusk, from the viewing platform of the Upper Barrakka Gardens. (2008).

Valletta was - and still is - a triumph of architecture and urban planning. Among the first planned cities in Europe, it was an early adopter of the grid layout ... which allowed for cooling sea breezes to circulate amongst the tall, elegant buildings that shaded Valletta's narrow streets from the hot Mediterranean sun. Another notable feature of the city: its towering wall fortifications.

Of course, with Malta's history of being conquered and re-conquered by numerous different powers around the Mediterranean (and beyond), the emphasis on defence isn't that surprising. A sampler list of those who have ruled Malta besides the native Maltese since pre-historic times: the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabians, Normans, French, Aragonese, Spanish, Knights of St. John, and British.

Malta still retains the influences of its foreign rulers to varying degrees, which affords the archipelago nation and its little capital a unique melting-pot culture and cosmopolitan charm. This is something you might not expect from the a city (town?) with a population of only 7,000 ... but Valletta is living proof that good things come in small packages.

The meticulously well-kempt Upper Barrakka Gardens. Valletta, Malta. (2008).

Armoured knights guard the halls of the Grand Master's Palace, Malta's seat of power since 1571. Valletta, Malta. (2008).

The Maltese are among the oldest Christian peoples of the world, having been converted to Christianity by St. Paul after he shipwrecked on the islands in A.D. 60. To this day, Malta is still very Catholic, as can be evidenced on the streets of Valletta. (2008).

The pastizza - a hot, flaky, and mouthwatering pastry filled with either melted ricotta cheese or mushy peas - is the ultimate Maltese snack and breakfast food. It's cheap, too - I only paid for 35 euro cents for the sizable one pictured above. Valletta, Malta. (2008).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Sixteen months ago, in the chill of an early Canadian winter, I had visions of island breezes sweeping over blue Mediterranean waters and a craggy Maltese shoreline. Since that night, I've always wondered whether the dreamy machinations of my mind would match the Malta of real life. Last week, I (finally) went to find out.

Here's a sneak preview of my Malta in March. More posts to come.

Well, I guess this sort of takes the suspense out of it ... I did, in fact, find my jagged Maltese shoreline complete with cooling breezes and surreal, turquoise-blue water on Comino Island, Malta. (2008).

The sun sets over the lovely Upper Barrakka Gardens in Malta's capital, Valletta. (2008).

For the love of the game. Vittoriosa, Malta. (2008).

The hard-working, colourful fishing village of Marsaxlokk, Malta. (2008).