Toffee Squares in Malta


IMG_2287
Attard, Malta

Believe it or not, for over a year now I’ve been wishing to make these incredible tasting toffee squares but never got around to it. With just a few simple ingredients and an even simpler method, this fail safe recipe was a complete hit with the entire household (Becky and myself.. mainly myself). Hour after hour, the squares would decrease rapidly, the butter and brown sugar mixture too good to resist.

At least it isn’t white sugar so it is ever slightly healthier.. right?
IMG_2371
Recipe below, from Slow Like Honey

Toffee Squares
Makes 48 squares

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping
1 bar dark chocolate (300g) – you can be liberal with this
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment.

2. Prepare the crust. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour just until mixed. The dough will be stiff. Pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.

3. Bake in the center of the oven until pale gold on top, about 20 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate pieces evenly over the crust. Return the pan to the oven for 1 minute. Remove the pan again and, using a knife, spread the chocolate evenly over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the almonds.

5. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Using a sharp knife, cut into small squares. Enjoy

Advertisements

Becoming a crazy cat lady in Malta


IMG_2403
Attard, Malta
Like a broken record, I replay those final moments in my head as my stupidity was almost laughable. I had done the climb before but I never considered the consequences of not using a stick clip. Having gone from fearing the first bolt to happily soloing to it in just under a month, I felt confident and strong.

I suppose the blame can’t be placed squarely on me – in times like those the line between wanting to push past (at times) unreasonable fear/personal limits and blatant disregard for danger is blurred to obscurity.

It has been another week now and while the baking experiments have been equally entertaining and fulfilling, I yearn for the touch of sweet limestone once again. I fear that should I not return to climbing soon I will morph into a crazy cat lady, as patting cats has become part of my daily repertoire.

While weekly visits to the physio sees my bank account trickle slowly downwards, I am comforted knowing I am in good hands. You see, my physiotherapist is the same gentleman who treats Malta’s football team. What a lucky girl I am. Thanks to him, not only has my painful wincing with every step decreased, I can now hobble more than 30 seconds without buckling over.

I feel fortunate to have all the cats catch my attention during my hobbles and vegetative state on the couch. Of course, I am there to cater to their every whim, from filling their bowls to opening the door for them to curl up onto my bed at 5am in the morning.
IMG_2396
This one wailed until my cuddles soothed her wallowing. We had never met before but I soon fell in love and feel that I must own one or two, or three soon. Hmm.. I probably should get out.
IMG_2375

IMG_2376

IMG_2377

Saving my sanity through baking in Malta


IMG_2219
Attard, Malta

There’s a certain kind of malaise one experiences when injury struck in a foreign country away from their friends and family.

From what I hoped was a simple sprain turned into what I had feared – a torn plantar fascia that will leave me unable to walk, let alone climb, for the next few weeks. With South America just a whisker’s breadth away, I am approaching this news with extreme trepidation.

Would I be safe as a solo female traveller in Buenos Aires?
If things do go awry, would I be able to get away?
What if I fail to find climbing partners?
I clearly have some big decisions to make.

Fortunately, this snafu I find myself in could have been far worse and often find myself taking note of this reminder whenever my wanton thoughts begin to spiral. Engaging in penny-saving and amusing activities have been my saving grace.

My days now consist of three things:
1) ample hobbling and physio exercises
2) watching episodes of the Great British Bake Off
3) as a result of number two, baking experiments
IMG_2216

IMG_2217

IMG_2220

IMG_2321
I figured at the very least I would live a deliciously depressed life while I continue to beseech recovery.

Sleepless in Malta


Lissette's Pictures 039

Attard, Malta

I’ve had a few sleepless nights.

You know, the ones where you lay awake in tears at the realisation that your dreams may have been dashed as a result of a split second decision.

The ones where you feel helpless and lost.

The ones where you are wrapped with discomfort because you can no longer walk anymore because your injury is too severe.

I cast my mind back to that fateful second where I, barely two metres above the ground, feel an ephemeral buzz of panic as I realise that I am too short to reach the clipping hold for the first bolt.

In a “bravery” effort to control my fear, I ignore the flashing sirens and attempt to climb higher to some better holds. Three points of contact are plastered on the slightly overhanging rock as I make my way up to a well chalked flake. I eyeball a jug out to my right and not even a hair’s breadth from cautioning my spotter, the entire flake explodes in my hand and catapults me off the wall.

Time stands still for just a minute before the pain arrives. It’s all I can remember as it sears up my left ankle.

I’m disgusted at the decrepit state of my harness and clothes as they are sprayed with dirt and choss when I hit the ground. My first thought was a burning desire to keep climbing. Surely, after a small rest, the pain would subside and I’ll be able to continue.

Even after a quick thinking Claudine (bless her nursing career path) bandages and elevates my ankle, it doesn’t go away. I try to stand up only to fall over in pain.

A week has passed and my mind has wandered to a familiar wanton place. Unable to dig myself from the myriad of self deprecating thoughts I descend into the rabbit hole of despair and can see no end in sight.

“It’s only a sprain,” the GP says. “Take some paracetamol.” A glimmer of hope.

Until then, I am a prisoner in my home while my Maltese counterparts are gallavanting on rock and my supportive parents a 24 hour plane ride away. Limited to limping and hopping, my days have been passed watching the Great British Bake Off and patting the cats – so I guess it hasn’t been all bad. Becky has been a wonder and I am thankful to Stephen and Claudine who embarrassingly piggy backed me out of the crag. Bless Malta for its easy access cliffs. And a support network however small of great locals.

My journey to big wall climbing starts in Malta’s Wied Babu


IMG_2187
Wied Babu, Malta
Having only begun my rock climbing journey a year ago, I am still learning new things everyday. How to belay with different devices, how to tie varying knots, how to handle potentially death defying situations.

One thing I have really been keen on is multi pitching, which I’ve only had the opportunity to do twice before. Once back home on a juggy 5c+ and another over a Maltese sea cliff where I swear some poop o’ fear actually came out. Both, I was seconding but now that my confidence has grown, I feel up for the responsibility of leading others.

Wied Babu was the most picturesque multi I’ve ever done. While there are only three short pitches, the exposure, dramatic sea cliff backdrop and the billowing ocean gusts that engulfed us made the climbing (it’s almost a scramble that can be done in trainers, honestly) stellar. I could almost picture myself 1000m up on a big wall climb in the Dolomites, experiencing that same thrill by tenfold. My illusions of grandeur were further bolstered when I arrived at the top with Stephen comfortably walking up the climb next to me as I began to top belay Becky. I led all the pitches! I am the master of control! No one died!

IMG_2182

IMG_2176

1374773_10151655047712353_202704002_n

All sarcasm aside, it somewhat saddens me that all these experiences have come now after I left Australia and the comfort of my partners back home. But gazing over the crashing waves and admiring the stunning Blue Grotto before us I couldn’t be happier. The past two months have been the most thrilling, scariest, happiest, diverse learning curves I’ve ever faced and I can’t wait to explore more of Maltese climbing ahead of South America.

Sure, I have acquired some strange habits since I’ve been here but everything I’ve done in the past month has stemmed from the love for climbing. Every day has yielded fruitful and exciting escapades up and down rock albeit waking with no expectations. I can’t remember the last time I felt so much freedom while travelling.

What’s next? Even I am not privy to know. My choose-your-own-adventure continues..

Strange habits indeed: weird clothing combinations

Strange habits indeed: weird clothing combinations

Just when you think it couldn't get weirder.. bikini bottoms, sports bra and hiking shoes. Complete with tummy flab. The greatest life choices I make have been the most obvious ones.

Just when you think it couldn’t get weirder.. bikini bottoms, sports bra and hiking shoes. Complete with tummy flab. The greatest life choices I make have been the most obvious ones.

What is your climbing limit? How climbing in Malta has reset all my beliefs


IMG_2056

Naxxar, Malta
There’s something quite special about The Wave crag in Naxxar. The rigid stone bears little resemblance to the fingertip shearing knife point formations that other areas have. Centrally located in Malta, easy accessible via public transport and within walking distance from three other crags, Naxxar is an ideal quickie climbing spot for beginner to intermediate grades. The Wave itself is characterised by knee bar infested tufas, positive holds and flakes on a slightly overhanging wall (the golden climbs however, are 7b and up – so I’ve made a mental checklist…).

The view, as always the case at most Maltese crags, is stunning. On this day, in my line of sight was Claudine climbing and in the distance, a sail boat floating along the ocean while a paraglider drifted above reinforcing Malta as an adventure playground yet to be discovered by the world.

IMG_2131

Here, I’ve found my perfect project: Nighthawks at the Diner – a stunning line with an early crux, a no hands rest (for my little shortness!) and breezy traverse finish. At 7a (23), it would be the accomplishment of all my lamentations in the last few months. I would finally come away from the plateau I’ve suffered.

At first it seemed impossible; the body tension-intensive moves threw me off the rock and the smoothness of the crux footholds holds tested my confidence.

Clipping from a straight arm undercling twice in a row was a tough challenge. One mouthful of rope wasn’t enough but two was too much for my weary forearms. The solution? One a half mouthfuls and believing that I wouldn’t plummet to the ground should I fall at that exact moment. Of course, these were all irrational fears – as most climbing limitations usually are.

If that wasn’t enough, a sideways dead point on the crux pulled me off so many times I didn’t believe I could ever send. A shuffle in feet, body memory and increased strength and suddenly everything began to fall into place. Stay low on the traverse and voila, the anchors are in sight.

I’m never quite sure how my sequences happen to work in the end when at first it seems so incredibly strenuous. Feeling defeated, we yell “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! Falling! Falling!” constantly like a broken record but over time our bodies answer our desperate pleas for adaption and without thinking, the moves come through us.

Every time I project a new route above my grade level, I become enamored with climbing all over again. From working out the moves and constantly falling to fluidly clipping the chains, I witness my fingers, my body and my mental stamina become stronger and what I thought was my limit reset itself. Where once was a fear of lead climbing, I am ferociously attacking each bolt without fear. All of this coming from someone who hadn’t entertained the idea of sport or exercise in the 11 years before she discovered climbing, these experiences have been life changing.

It took a few weeks to tick Nighthawks, but the feeling of accomplishment was immense. Even as I stuck the dead point and moved through to the no-hands rest on the traverse, I didn’t believe I would send. As always, Claudine was my supporter and when I finally reached my second milestone I was glad that my new friends were there to witness it. Would I be able to project Sea of Illusions now? How would I go on another 7a? The options seem endless now.

IMG_2054