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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow Days

Check out the foot high snow drift at my front door which had accumulated before noon!
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

Memories of Gozo

It has been about month since I returned from Malta and I finally gotten around to labelling, sorting and organizing my pictures. Even in a digital format, this process is quite time consuming. But with a few days off work during the holiday season, the task is at last at an end.

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.

Back from the land of the Knights

After two weeks away in Malta, I have finally gotten around to getting the Christmas decorations up this weekend. To the tune of Christmas carols, we started with the tree...lights, garlands, ribbons and then the ornaments. Bad luck this year regarding the Christmas lights, three strings were out. Mr. Hippo salvaged a few bulbs but the lights were toast. This of course is just an excuse to buy the newest LED lights which do burn brighter and last longer (as witnessed by the fact that the manufacturers do no provide any spare bulbs). The tree smells great as only a real Christmas tree can. Attracted by the smell and the foliage, the cat has taken to the tree as her new haven.

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.