Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meet The Dogs at the SPCA Malta + A Rescue Story

When we first started volunteering at the SPCA in June I promised you photos of super cute adoptable dogs. I'm delivering on that promise today, and please excuse the wait. The SPCA Malta is a super busy place and it's hard to find the time to sneak in to say hello to the dogs. But for you, readers, I will do anything. Including being licked to death by the sweetest dogs on earth.

The dog I am playing with in the photos is a seven month old puppy (fully grown) who was previously homed but was returned to the SPCA (the family decided not to keep him, which must have made him very sad). He is a total sweetheart and so loving, but he is still in that teething puppy stage which many new dog owners find off putting. If you are (or know) an experienced dog owner in Malta looking for an addition to your/their family, he might just be the one for you! The other dogs are just some of the many, many dogs at the SPCA who need a home to call their own. [update - he's been homed!]

There are cats and kittens at the SPCA too. In fact, Mike and I rescued three kittens this week. They had been hiding in a garden under a bush, crying for their mama cat who was nowhere to be found for days. Malnourished and missing a couple of eyes, they needed help. Mike can now add kitten-saver to his C.V., as he grabbed some thick rubber gloves (those things scratch!) and put the kittens in a box to take to the good folks at the SPCA. Allow me to gush for a minute about how adorable it was to watch him rescue kittens.

It was so adorable.

Looking at those helpless, one-eyed kittens in such an unhealthy state reminded us of how critically important it is that everyone spay/neuter their pets. The world doesn't need more stray or feral kittens and puppies, no matter how cute you think they are. And almost everywhere in the world subsidy programs for spay and neutering exist. It really does prevent unnecessary pain and suffering, and ultimately it saves lives.

We will miss volunteering with the SPCA and look forward to joining them again in January. They do such good and important work on this little island. In our wildest dreams we come back in January to find the SPCA empty - all animals in loving homes, and none suffering on the street.
Maybe, someday.
- Jess

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mike's Mom Visits Malta

My mother, Jan, (a.k.a. momma G or Dranet) came to visit Malta in mid-May. This was Jan’s second trip to Malta; she also visited in 2008 while I was an exchange student at the University of Malta.

Before Jan came to visit us she requested a quiet, fun, and safe holiday. This isn't unusual, most people want "quiet, fun and safe" holidays. But Jan had put particular emphasis on the "safe" part. Why, you ask?

Jan is a special mother. While my siblings and I never questioned whether or not we were loved while we were growing up, she did practice some interesting, safety-first parenting methods. Like tieing me to a tree in the front yard so I could watch the garbage truck go by (I liked trucks). On second thought, I'm not sure if she really had safety in mind there...

But she did have other creative and effective safety rules. Such as the mandatory lifejacket rule at our lakefront family cottage. This lifejacket rule applied until her children passed the 'swimming test' which consisted of swimming from our dock to our neighbour’s dock wearing adult-sized clothing and shoes. And it was enforced even while I was playing in a shabbily built tree fort located over 300 feet away from the lake. So I wouldn't drown in the trees.

But Jan's safety concerns are valid given her siblings' behaviour while growing up, and, I suppose, certain things that I did growing up. Like tieing my mother's couch cushions to trees so I wouldn't smash my face into a tree trunk while I was playing on my homemade zip line. Or free-style skiing off of the roof of my parents' two storey house. Or jumping off of cliffs in no-dive areas. And so on. Because of these things Jan frequently employs the age-old mom expression: “Have fun and BE SAFE!” (with a large emphasis on the latter part).

We were happy to deliver Jan a quiet, fun and safe holiday. We had a great time showing her more of the island than she had seen in 2008, and we visited some of Malta's WWII Shelters which we would highly recommend seeing if you ever have the chance.

Jess and I failed miserably at taking pictures while my mother was visiting with us. (We do that a lot when we have visitors here.) And we forgot to get a copy of all of her photos before she left. As a result of our forgetfulness I have been battling with her to transfer photos to us online ever since. Jan recently learned how to share her screen with me over Skype and we have now been remote-fixing many of her technology and “I'm a new Mac user” issues over the past few weeks. I finally managed to get a copy of her pictures and I can now share with you my mom-visits-Malta post, three months late, but better late than never.

- Mike

Thank you, Jan, for visiting Malta again and for sharing your photos of your trip with us. While Jan was visiting Malta she also went on a one-day ferry and bus tour to Sicily while we were studying and working. If Jan's pictures of Taormina don't make you want to go to Sicily right now you are crazy! A gastronomic tour of Sicily + a weekend in Taormina are in the books for us next year, for sure.

- Jess
pretty bay malta
pretty bay, malta

malta war shelters
malta war shelters

destroyed house at mount etna, sicily
mount etna, sicily

bus tour by virtu ferries from malta to taormina sicily
jan at taormina, sicily

amphitheatre at taormina, sicily
amphitheatre at taormina, sicily

taormina, sicily
taormina, sicily

mount etna, sicily
view of mount etna, sicily

taormina, sicily
taormina, sicily

bus tour of sicily from malta virtuferries vinyards
sicilian vinyards from the tour bus

Monday, August 29, 2011

Updated Blog Post: Importing Pets to Malta

We have had many readers emailing and visiting our blog lately looking for information about importing their pet(s) to Malta. First of all, thank you for reading! We hope it's been helpful.

Pet import rules to Malta are changing. In response we have updated our blog post about importing and living with dogs in Malta. Information found in this post also applies to cats and ferrets. Yes, ferrets.

You can read the updated blog post here.

We are also writing an article for a dog travel web site about travelling to Malta with dogs. Check back soon for a link!

- Jess

MLA to YHZ! Back to Halifax we go.

In just one week we will be leaving Malta to spend four months in Canada so that I can finish up my undergraduate degree. We are so sad to be leaving this little island for a bit, but we are consoling ourselves with the fact that Malta will be warm-ish and green in January when we return. And Canada will be entering the heart of the winter season, so we'll be escaping just in time.

citadel hill halifax nova scotia canada
an October day in Halifax on Citadel Hill

There are lots of other ways I am convincing myself that four months in Canada won't be so bad.

We get to live in the same house we lived in before we moved to Malta (a gorgeous old Victorian house which miraculously allows dogs). We can watch English language TV shows with plot lines. I get to try out the Oprah Winfrey Network - a small consolation for Oprah's biggest fan who moved to the other side of the world and missed the entire farewell season of shows. We can eat our fill of Herdez salsa, kosher dill pickles, Bahn mi chicken sandwiches, Tim Hortons chicken noodle soup, and all of the other foods that we have been homesick for. I can go window shopping at H&M (did you like how I threw the word window in there?). We can watch our dogs hop around like bunnies in the first deep snow fall. We get to watch Christmas movies and specials on TV (they don't have them in Malta). I am returning to NSCADU. And, of course, we get to see our friends and family after a whole year's abscence!

On the other hand, we will be missing travelling around Europe & North Africa, Birgufest, beautiful Baroque buildings, the impossiblity of frostbite, swimming in the sea until October, volunteering at the SPCA, seaside BBQs, afforable wine, Maltese bread, and Italian cured meats, our favourite beach, rock climbing, going to the Teatru Manoel, listening to euro club music in the grocery store, driving with the top down in our little blue car, affordable mobile phone bills, the magnificent view from our flat, festas and fireworks, and everything else that makes this island our favourite place on earth.

It's only four months, right?

- Jess

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Picnic in Kennedy Grove

We packed up the pups and some leftover Moroccan chicken tagine and headed over to Kennedy Grove for a sunset picnic one night this week. It was gorgeous, and the dogs were in heaven exploring the grasses and the wooded area.

Kennedy Grove is home to the Kennedy memorial. You know, Kennedy, as in the American president. It was established in 1964 by the Maltese and American governments, and Maltese and American citizens, to honour the 35th President of the United States.

Why is there a giant memorial to the late JFK in the middle of Malta? No idea. But it's a lovely little park nonetheless.

Do you know if there is a Kennedy connection to Malta? Do tell.
- Jess

picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta

ellie the chiweenie chihuahua dachshund at a picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta

picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta

 picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta

picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta

picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta animated gif

picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta

picnic in kennedy grove st paul's bay malta pinecones dog
pinecone obsession

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer Reads

I'm sitting on the beach. I'm looking around me at sweaty tanned people reading chick-lit, mystery novels, British Vogue, and the Times newspaper. I look down and I'm reading about postmodernism and philosophy (in preparation for school that starts in less than two weeks holycow!). I die a little inside.

Reading is one of my favourite things and I really look forward to the day when I don't feel guilty about reading something that is not related to a university course. You know, when reading is fun again?

Did you have a favourite summer read this year?

- Jess

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Two Wieners are Better than One, Anyway.

We own two wiener (or sausage, for you Brits & Maltese) dogs, Ellie & Winnie. They are not from the same litter; we got them about two months apart when we returned to Canada from Malta back in 2008. Mike has already said we can't make this a tradition and get another puppy when we go back to Canada from Malta again this year. Darn.

We separated them for a few hours last week. It's something we rarely do. Winnie came with us to the SPCA Bookshop and Ellie stayed at home (she is a little too high energy to sit quietly in a book shop). We thought it would be a treat for Winnie to get our undivided attention for awhile (and some socialization). We were wrong.

Winnie cried, and cried, and cried. This was really unusual behaviour for Win, it's not the sort of thing she ever does. One of us said Ellie's name and her head snapped towards the door, watching every car and person walking by, crying. We think she might of actually been a little upset about being separated from Ellie. And both dogs looked happy to see each other when we reunited them later. It was weird.

Weird because our dogs are kind of like siblings. They have agreed to like each other because they live together and they sort of have to. They play together because there are no other dogs around to play with. Sometimes they nap side by side, but only to benefit from each other's body heat. So it really surprised us when Winnie was apparently distraught by Ellie's absence. We didn't think that they were that attached.

Lesson learned guys. Two wieners are better than one, anyway.

Do you have a dog or cat (or two, or three)? Do you have any separation stories or advice? Do share!

- Jess

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

għadira bay beach

ghadira bay beach malta

we changed beach alliances three times this year. first we were part of team għajn tuffieha, loved for it's gorgeous cove and quiet vibe. then we moved to golden bay for its convenient facilities. and finally we've settled on għadira bay beach in mellieħa, our second home this summer.

all three beaches are sandy, but għadira is by far the largest sandy beach on the island. its sand is a soft white, compared to the coarser golden sand of għajn tuffieha and golden bay. and the water at għadira is heavenly - crystal clear turquoise blue and shallow.

there are many beach clubs, boat and water sport facilities facilities, lifeguards, and concession stands at għadira beach. patrick tanti tiger ice cream is my favourite stand, with the best ftira surf sandwiches and soft serve ice cream in the bay. seriously, i dare you to not love their cups of chocolate soft serve covered with fruit, nutella sauce, flake chocolate bars and wafer cookies. somehow they fit all that into a cup for less than €3. just try to forget that it's bathing suit season while scarfing you're it down.

with sea temperatures hovering around 27°C or 80°F we have been on cloud nine. coming from atlantic canada there is nothing more luxourious than floating in the warm sea. we zip off to għadira for a swim as often as we can. our frequent beach visits have even turned me into someone who likes the water and swims in it. (miracles do happen.)

thank you, mike, for showing me that the water isn't actually very scary at all. and for driving me out to the beach for sunset swims. and for putting sunscreen on my back. and for trying to take this picture without sunglasses and without squinting into the sun. i love our beach days. 

- Jess

ghadira bay mellieha malta

ghadira bay beach maltanastro azzuro on the beach ghadira bay maltaghadira bay beach malta santa marija weekend malta

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

a stroll through birgu

birgu is one of my favourite places in malta. it's really quiet, with lots of old, winding pedestrianized streets and a lovely marina area.

we took the pups for a stroll in birgu last weekend. it was blazing hot outside, but i snapped a few pictures between wiping sweat off of my face, guzzling water and trying to keep the dogs from turning into well-cooked wieners. no more mid-day walks for us.

- Jess

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Interview on

Today we were interviewed over at - we would love for you to have a read.  We hope you all had a great weekend, Happy Monday!

- Mike + Jess

we went bowling

we went bowling last weekend at the eden superbowl in paceville, malta. it was my first time bowling with 'big balls' (our hometown bowling alley used the little dinky ones). our final score was 46-64 (mike won). how embarrassing.

for the record, bowling shoes in malta are way cuter than canadian bowling shoes. you were wondering, i know.

- Jess

Saturday, August 20, 2011

lamb tagine with olives & saffron potatoes

lamb tagine with green olives and saffron potatoes moroccan cuisine cookbook by tess mallos

i'm zipping right through my moroccan cook book, the food of morocco by tess mallos (highly recommended) this summer. this was the first time i've cooked lamb (mike's favourite) and it turned out great. and it was super easy, so i thought i would share this adapted recipe. the olives, potatoe and lamb are a perfect flavour combination.

the nicest thing about moroccan food is that once you have your cupboards stocked with spices and a few non-perishable staple ingredients (olives, couscous, chickpeas) you can throw together a variety of meals just by adding fresh meat.

adapted from the food of morocco by tess mallos

serves 2-4
cooking time 1 hour 15 minutes
prep time 15 minutes

1 kg (approx. 2 lb) boneless lamb shoulder
olive oil, QB*
2 medium sized onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
175 g (1 cup) green olives (preferably pitted)
750 g (approx. 1.5 lb) golden potatoes (yukon gold, e.g.)
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron threads**
black pepper, QB
salt, QB

Step 1: trim the fat off of the lamb and cut into 3 cm (1 1/4 inch) pieces. set aside in a dish.

Step 2: chop the onions and garlic. set aside 1 1/2 cups of water.

Step 3: coat the bottom of a large saucepan in a thin layer of olive oil. turn the heat to high. brown the lamb on each side in batches, removing the browned lamb to a separate dish when cooked. add more oil as required.

Step 4: turn the heat to low. add the onion and cook until soft (about 8 minutes). add the garlic, cumin and ginger. stir well and cook for a few seconds. add the 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) water and stir well to lift the browned juices and spices off of the base of the pan.

Step 5: return the lamb to the pan along with the paprika, salt and a good grinding of black pepper. add the coriander and parsley. cover and simmer over low heat for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Step 6: while the lamb simmers, peel the potatoes. cut into quarters. place in a pot and fill with enough water to cover the potatoes. add a pinch of salt and the ground saffron. set aside.

**if you don't have saffron, don't fret. the saffron is supposed to 'perfume and colour' the potatoes. i used saffron in this dish but i don't feel it enhanced the taste of the potatoes enough to splurge on this very expensive ingredient the next time.

Step 7: put the olives in a small saucepan and cover with water. bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. drain and repeat once more. this sweetens the flavour of the olives (for real, they were delicious! this is an essential step!) drain and set aside.

Step 8: with 30 minutes remaining for your lamb to finish cooking, add the olives to the lamb. cover and continue to simmer. at this point the liquid in my pan was scarce so i added an extra 1/2 cup of water.

Step 9: with 15 minutes remaining for your lamb to finish cooking, boil the potatoes until tender. drain and toss lightly in olive oil or butter.

Step 10: transfer the lamb and sauce to a serving dish and arrange the potatoes around the lamb. eat.

*quanto basta - as much as you need/like

Friday, August 19, 2011

only in malta

an old man riding an bike with a side seat (that looked older than him).
nuns sitting on deck chairs on the side of the road enjoying a seaside sunset.
horses swimming at a local beach.
there some things you would only expect to see in malta.

have a great weekend!
- Jess

Maltese man on motor bike with side car

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

dingli cliffs

it was a busy weekend for our dogs, ellie and win. besides visiting the marsaxlokk market, they also came with us to the dingli cliffs for a very hot hike. and with all of the panting that followed i couldn't help but observe that ellie's tongue is really disproportionately huge compared to the size of her mouth. yikes.

during this time of the year malta truly looks like a little rock in the middle of the mediterranean. by august the wild flowers and grasses have long ago given up the battle against the hot and dry summer. the landscape is one of contrasts; the blue sea against the chalky brown limestone cliffs and hills.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

marsaxlokk market

we took the pups to the marsaxlokk market last weekend. i think marsaxlokk is the most picturesque seaside maltese village, complete with luzzu fishing boats and a little church. on a sunday morning the market bustles. during the rest of the week the tables and umbrellas of little seafood restaurants spill out onto the marsaxlokk promenade, which is also lined with benches with a perfect harbour view.

vendors at the sunday market sell fresh seafood, produce, souvenirs, and everything else under the sun. literally, under the sun. it was sweltering hot the day we went and the dogs took a few dips in the harbour to cool off (to the delight of passing tourists).

it was also the santa marija long weekend here in malta, with beautiful firework displays in santa marija's honour on sunday & monday evening. we watched four big displays from our terrace, lit off on different parts of the island at the same time. even though we see fireworks almost every other night they never get old for us. except maybe when they are lit off at 8 am on a saturday morning. i'll never understand the logic in lighting off fireworks during the day.

we hope you all had a great weekend. can you believe august is half over?