Sunday, December 16, 2007
Thank goodness for our helpful neighbours (and their snow blowers).
Well, it really is starting to look a lot like Christmas. The first winter snow storm makes me very nostaglic. I remember the first time I saw the white stuff (at the age of 10 years) in Vancouver on Grouse Mountain. What a joyful discovery. Today, it was like being back on that mountain. Over 20 cm has fallen since Saturday night. This makes for a lovely snowy Sunday. No where to go and nothing really to do. So Mr. Hippo and I turned on the fireplace and read the weekend paper and then watched some NFL and then a few movies. But it wasn't all play, we did venture out to clear the driveway and sidewalk twice (and throw a few snowballs too!).
Sunday, December 09, 2007
So what do I recall first of Gozo which is one of the three islands which makes up the nation of Malta. First, the shocking discovery that it is home to some of the oldest Neolithic ruins in the world. The Ggantija Temple is over 5000BC (that's older than the Pyramids of Giza) and some of the coralline limestone used in its construction as large and as heavy as a pick up truck. How these ancient peoples transported and constructed these Neolithic temples is another mystery.
Then in the prisons throughout Malta and Gozo is ths strange and very unique prision graffiti. Gozo was use as a penal colony and many of the settlers were former seafarers. Hence, the unique ship graffiti seen. Each mast on the ship was said to represent a year of imprisonment.
Last but certainly no least is the food of the islands....predominately seafood which is no big surprise. Every kind of fish from lampuki (dolphin fish) to sea bass to swordfish to grouper were consumed on our trip. At Mgarr where the Gozo-Malta ferry docks, we had a splendid dinner of fresh breem grilled to perfection.
Driving in Malta is itself an adventure. Mr. Hippo hadn't driven standard on the left side of the road for nearly a decade. The traffic on Gozo as sedate but on Malta, it was often chock-a-block congestion. It was a good thing that the Fortino Spa Hotel in Sliema was opposite the ferry to Valetta which made sightseeing around Valetta and the Three cities easier.
Next, we proceeded with putting the new blue LED lights on the outside pine tree as well as along the fence of the backyard. A few wreaths on the front, side and backyard doors and some mistletoe over the threshold and voila, the house is dressed for Christmas. I have admit that the sight of the tree does brighten my spirits at this time of the year.
Another Christmas tradition for Mr. Hippo and I is going to hear the reading of an abbreviated version of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol". For the second year, we drove to neighbouring Georgetown to hear an animated reading of the story. The story is told in five parts and each segment ends with the local choir singing a Christmas carol. This year's CBC personality was Julie Dempsey who read the "Ghost of Christmas Past" stave. The highlight was Ms. Vera MacDonald's reading of the "Ghost of Christmas Future". To get into character, she was dressed up as a Victorian lady.
In this coming week, another of the season's tradition, the Christmas party. For this year, I am hosting the staff office Christmas party and it is to be a catered affair. However, I am taking of the alcohol which means getting a few bottles of red wine and brewing some warm mulled wine.
I have managed to write a little about my vacation with Mr. Hippo to Malta which will appear in a few posts as there is much of tell of our travels to the land of the Knights.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The grimmest of this year was also marked by the sudden and tragic passing of two individuals: my dear Hippo's mother and my brother-in-law's father both in the past week and both had their funerals on the same day on difference sides of the Atlantic. Meanwhile, across the Pacific, my father celebrated his 68th birthday on the exact same day. Aware of these losses, I am sure that he views life as precious. A realization made more acute when death seems to strike so unexpectedly.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
We took the elevator up one of the towers, taking in spectacular sites of giant fruit topped spires before walking down these 257 steps. Both Ms. Foodie and I had to pause on occasion because of some slight vertigo and to enjoy the views from the windows in the towers.
Another memorable moment was the protest by Spaniards and Buddhist monks in Spain against the Juta regime in Burma. We did not learn that this was part of a co-ordinated world wide action organized by Amnesty International until we watched the news that evening.
Gaudi's playful nature is apparent in these sentries (disguised chimney stacks) on the roof of the Casa Mila or La Pedrera (the quarry). When Gaudi first unveiled this design, some critics described the apartment as a collection of bland stones. Hence, the nickname of "the quarry" was adopted for this building.
One little know fact about Gaudi was his death. Gaudi was local celebrity in Barcelona at the time he was the architect of the Sagrada Familia. He lived and worked in the neighbour close to his beloved structure. On his way to work one day, he was struck by a tram a block away from the Sagrada Familia. He was taken to a hospital where he eventually died. His body lay unrecognized for three days!
After days of eating Spanish food, I had to make a break for an Asian meal in Barcelona. All that oil, heavy sauce, and deep fried foods can make this Asian girl hungry for a bowl of noodles. So it was off to a Japanese restaurant called Udon for a satisfying bowl of beef ramen.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
That evening, we had easily the best meal in Spain at Cal Pep. We arrived at 9pm (early by Spanish time) and did not get a seat the bar until 10pm. The usual one hour wait is normal at this restaurant (and we were warned about this at many reviews of the place). However, we were served several glasses of white wine and beer while waiting. It also give us an opportunity to observe the dishes being served. This turned out to be valuable as there was no menu. There is one posted outside of the restaurant but none was given when we were seated. Dishes of baby octopus stewed with chicken peas, whole prawns grilled with heads on, calamari, lightly battered and deep fried artichoke hearts, baked white fish, stewed clams, floated by. Our heavenly meal was washed down with house white wine. To complete this culinary experience, I had Calvados and Ms. Foodie has some pistachio ice cream. Drunk, full and happy, we stumbled home which was thankfully less than 300m away.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Sadly, most of the museum's exhibits were under renovation at the time of visit and would open in about 2 weeks. Bad planning on our part. However, we did have fun with the existing installations.
I didn't think I would be impressed by Bilbao's Guggenheim. Very big and frankly industrial in nature, what was the fuss about? In fact, it has been 10 years since Frank Gehry's design was made real here on the banks of the Nervion. This controversial structure has been hailed as the first real wonder of the 21st century and vilified as a cheese factory or giant cauliflower.
Love it or hate it, the Guggenheim has transformed Bilbao itself. In its first year of construction, this city of 450 000 citizens was visited by over 700 000 peoples from around the world. I did think the structure ultimately was quite beautiful. It is very different from the rest of the architecture in Bilbao making it quite a spectacle. However, the industrial products involved in the contruction give a nod to Bilbao's past. As a bonus, Sir Norman Foster designed subway (the most modern in the world) has the trains gliding across rails embedded on a green lawn. Very cool!
This photograph is of the remnants of muslim influence in Toledo. Part of the Mezquita de las Tornerias i.e. a modest mosque now part of a house of arts and craft display.
As Ms. Foodie and I wandered through the wet cobblestone paths of Toledo, we contemplated the demise of this once cosomopolitan city. From the remains of the Mosque (Mesquita) de las Tornerias to the horseshoe arches of the Synagogue de Santa Maria La Blanca, and to the tower of the Church of Santa Tombe, the moorish influence is seen everywhere.
When we returned to Madrid, Ms. Foodie suggested dinner at Casa Minga. Recommended by Frommers, Chow Hound and other foodie website sites, this restaurant had but a few things on the menus: cider, roast chicken and the grilled peppers with tuna. All were quite excellent but as Ms. Foodie rightly pointed out, the cider tasted a bit rustic (or in my words like a barnyard!).
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Segovia is perched on a hill and the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Ascuncion and of Frutos (no kidding) dominates the city's landscape. We wandered through the old Jewish quarter (which was abandoned when all the Jews were expelled from the city in 1492), Casa Del Sol (slaughter house), town square, several old family houses with their coat of arms emblazoned over the doorway, converted synagogues, medieval city walls and many gates.
Along the way, we did stop for some tasty tapas at Jose Maria bar, a favourite among the Segovians. After the pork mini-sandwiches and pickled sardines with onions (washed down with beer and red wine), it was off to the Alcazar.
The Alcazar of Segovia is believed to be one of the inspirations for Disney's castles. This is what the local tourist board would have you believe. Nevertheless the tall spires do evoke an air of fantasy. Whether Cinderella or Rapuzel inhabited these towers is subject to debate. The central crenallated tower of Juan II is definitely of Moorish influence though.
When we returned to Madrid, our long lost bags had arrived. To celebrate, Ms. Foodie and I went out for more tapas. In this case, the local house wine which was sweet accompanied with sweetbreads (or if you like pancreas fried up). Yum Yum. The Spanish do know how to live. Rising late, eating well and partying late into the night.
Monday, October 01, 2007
This was the fuel we needed for our day's walking exploration of the Spanish capital. Walking through the old city from the El Rastro (old market) where we saw may strange foods including the below photograph of bull's testicles which is considered a delicacy to the Royal Palace. There was the Plaza Mayor (grand old civic centre), multiple churches, and even came along one of the homes of Cervantes too.
After a late lunch (everything is later in Madrid) at two o'clock, Ms. Foodie and I set off to take in some culture at the Prado. Las Meninas was a highlight along side other splendid works of Velasquez. There were plenty of Goyas (hopefully all real ones) and El Greco. For me the real surprise was Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. The Flemish master must have doing some serious drugs when he painted that work.
After a brief rest at the hotel, and learning that our luggage was at Madrid Airport, we set off for delightful supper at 10pm (everything is later in Madrid) at Restaurant Platero. The host was very gracious and his recommended dessert of vanilla ice cream crusted with a sugar top and then flambe with Grappe was simply to die for. It confirms my opinion that Spain is a truely civilized country with Grappe flambe ice cream for dessert and chocolate and churros for breakfast.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Definitely my favourite new TV show of last year was Heroes. So when I heard that part of the crew were coming to TO to promote the launch of the Season one DVD, I thought I would head down with Ms. Darcy to check out the scene. Okay so my favourite characters Hiro, Peter and Mohinder weren't in attendance but that didn't dampen the sunny smiles of Ando, Micah, Maya and Sylar (oooo that villian you so love to hate).
Zachary Quinto, aka Sylar, is to play Mr. Spock in the new series Star Trek movie.
Ms. Darcy and I first dropped off the application forms for our TIFF tickets then check out the scene at Yonge and Dundas square before heading down to Kii to meet her husband for a lovely 2.5 hour Japanese lunch. The highlight of the meal was the maple marinade Albacore Tuna with wasabi creme fraiche followed closely by the Toro tower. Just a simply splendid way to spend an afternoon.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
"Hello, is this Dr. A?"
"Yes, this is Dr. A. Hello Dr. B."
"I have this patient here in the emerg who came in because she thought she was pregnant?"
"Yes, I see."
"Her last period was 4 weeks ago and she started having some bleeding today. She was worried and came into the emerg."
"What did her pregnant test show?"
"Oh, her serum bHCG (blood test for pregnancy) was negative."
"And how often does she have her periods?"
"About once a month and she has regular periods."
"I see...four weeks ago, eh?"
"So Dr. A, what should I do?
"Don't you think she might be starting her period?
"Good night Dr. A."
"Good night Dr. B."