Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Tree Lighting, Halifax

Last weekend we went to the Christmas tree lighting in Halifax's Parade Square (the City Hall is the building covered in scaffolding). Everyone there was raving about how warm it was (4 degrees Celsius) while we shivered and cursed our frozen extremities the whole night. We saw people wearing shorts. Shorts! Canadians are crazy.

Not that we can shrug off that Canadian label. We warmed up with a beer and watched Hockey Night in Canada at a local pub (doing out bit for small business Saturday!) after the tree lighting. The only thing that would have made us feel more Canadian is a platter of maple syrup pancakes and poutine. Now there's an idea...

- Jess

Friday, November 25, 2011

Malta Holiday Gift Guide

Every Friday until Christmas we'll be posting a holiday gift guide for the people on your list who love travelling and exploring the cities they live in. We've listed prices below in both US Dollars and Euros.

I'm seriously craving that Kusmi Detox Tea we had last year skiing in Chamonix, perfect for warming you up on those cold, damp winter days in Malta. And David Rocco's Made in Italy is definitely on my wish list this year - if we didn't have his (beautifully designed) Dolce Vita we would never have learned to cook with the local ingredients when we were living in Malta last year. But my favourite gift on this list is sponsoring a dog or a cat at the SPCA Malta. We sponsored a senior dog named Kiki this summer and, having volunteered with the SPCA Malta, we can tell you that your funds are helping lots of beautiful animals to live comfortably and find the right home.

- Jess

1. Hunter rubber boots $125-$130/ €90-€95for Maltese winter rain storms. these are a huge trend in north america right now.
2. David Rocco's Dolce Vita by David Rocco $40/ €30a beautiful introduction to mediterranean cuisine.
3. Made in Italy by David Rocco $21/ €16a follow up to Dolce Vita.
4. Kusmi Detox Tea $19/€14for chilly winter days, or the morning after a visit to paceville.
5. Heritage Malta Membership $56/€40 per person or $97/€70 per familyfree admission to all Heritage Malta sites (except the Hypogeum) for one year. We purchased these last year and they were a great deal, we saved a lot of money and kept busy visiting museums and historical sites all year.
6. Delicata's Dolcino Rosé Wineone of our favourite (inexpensive, but better than the label looks) maltese wines.
7. Sponsor a Dog or a Cat at the SPCA Malta $1.40/€1 per week or $72/€52 per yearyou'll feel all warm and fuzzy, just like the animals you're helping.
8. The Way We Ate: Memories of Maltese Meals by Matty Cremona $80/€59a maltese cook book that's on my wish list too!
9. Teatru Manoel Gift Vouchers, available in any denominationcan be redeemed for performances during the 2012/2013 season including plays, musicals, recitals, concerts, opera & dance.
10. Bellino Panettone (2 pack) $16/€12 nothing says Maltese Christmas like panettone cakes.
11. Malta: Phoenician, Punic & Roman (Malta's Living Heritage Series) by A. Bonnano $33/€25, these four books form a set about Maltese history. highly recommended, beautiful images and illustrations.
12. Malta: The Medieval Millennium (Malta's Living Heritage Series) by Charles Dalli $27/€20
13. Malta: Prehistory and Temples (Malta's Living Heritage Series) by David H. Trump $33/€25
14. Malta: The Order of St. John (Malta's Living Heritage Series) by Thomas Freller $56/€42
15. iTunes gift card, available in any denomination, iTunes content is newly available to purchase in Malta! get your new music collection started with a gift card.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The First Snowfall, Halifax

We had our first snowstorm of the season in Halifax yesterday. I had forgotten how much our dogs (and Mike) hate the snow. They look so ridiculous hopping around in the snow like bunnies so their stomachs and feet are touching the snow as little as possible. The dogs, that is, not Mike. Although he looks a little ridiculous too, all squinty and cursing when he gets snowflakes in his eyes.

A handsome version of ridiculous, of course.

In the pups' defence, they don't have much hair. Actually, Ellie doesn't have any hair on her stomach. So the first snow fall means the dog coats are coming out of storage soon. A necessary (embarrassing) evil for hairless pups. Luckily we just have to make it through another month and a half of winter weather.

Unfortunately, we know this snow won't stay for Christmas, which is pretty much the only thing that snow is really good for, besides skiing, and being a good excuse to splurge on Starbucks peppermint hot chocolates.

As if snow wasn't permission enough to start doing Christmas things, today is American Thanksgiving. My favourite part of American Thanksgiving is watching all of the parades on TV, because, even though I'm Canadian, the Macy's parade means that the Christmas season has begun.

Happy Thanksgiving, American readers! We're thankful to have you all continue reading, despite our little blogging hiatus last month. We're also thankful for snow plows, thoughts of returning to a sunny island soon, and twinkly Christmas lights. Watch for holiday-themed posts, coming soon!

- Jess

p.s.  okay, okay. snowflakes make me squint too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dog Friendly Venues in Malta

We get a lot of questions about importing and owning dogs in Malta so I thought I would share this Facebook group with you dedicated to sharing information about dog friendly venues in Malta. Genius! Some listed business include Cafe Cuba and Amigo's in Sliema, Angelica's in Valletta, and the Portomaso Café. I'll add to that list the restaurants in Xlendi Bay, Gozo - we went there last winter with the pups (pictures below) and were welcomed with open arms. 

I have one paper left to write and then I can finally write for fun! I'm counting down the days...

- Jess

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Welsford Parker Monument, Halifax

Believe it or not, we are still around. This is our longest blog hiatus yet, but in our defence it has been a particularly crazy few weeks for us. Please, please let the new year be saner!

I've been working on a lot of papers lately, including one about this lovely little monument in Halifax (The Old Burying Grounds, at Barrington and Spring Garden Road). Halifax, did you know you have your very own triumphal arch in the middle of the city? You know, Roman style? Malta has lots of them, but I was surprised when we returned to Halifax this autumn to find one on this side of the ocean. And then I was surprised again that I had never noticed it before.

The Welsford Parker Monument has proven to me that I shouldn't write off Halifax as a city with no pre-twentieth-century art history - this is the oldest monument in Halifax (1860), one of the oldest war monuments in Canada, and the only Canadian monument to the Crimean War. Hey, it's no Wellington Arch, but we'll take what we can get over here.

Speaking of taking what we can get, we are having the warmest autumn ever in Halifax (which makes up for the unseasonably cold winter we had in Malta last year). Daily highs are almost at par with Malta! And there are still leaves on the trees. Normally at this time of year we would all be wearing longjohns and toques and parkas, building our igloos and living in snow and ice up to our eyeballs. Or at least we would have had a good frost, and a flurry or two. With our lives getting crazy lately, it helps to have mild weather. And hot chocolate. Lots of hot chocolate.
- Jess

p.s. I recently won a giveaway on, And Everything Nice, a design blog by the lovely Anna Elder, sponsored by multimedia artist Michelle Smith. Check them out!

Friday, November 4, 2011

a birthday

someone had a birthday last week.

it's his mom's caramel apple cake, in case you were wondering.
speaking of birthdays, this little lady is also getting up there. fourteen!

here's to many more happy years.
for him, and for old ruby the dog.
- Jess

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Camera!

We got a new camera! We wanted something small for travelling, but with the power of a DSLR, so we did a lot of research and decided that a 3/4 camera would work nicely for our needs. We had been shooting with a five year old Sony Cybershot which has been missing a few buttons and parts for the past two years, so the upgrade was needed. We settled on the Sony NEX 5 and we are very pleased.

The Sony NEX 5 has the body of a point and shoot but the ability to swap out lenses. If you're in the United States you can get the camera plus two lenses for the price of one regular priced NEX 5 (lucky!) and in Canada it's available at most photography and electronics stores. 

It was impossibly difficult to find reliable information online when we were researching cameras, but the knowledgable folks at Atlantic Photo Supply pointed us to, which was really helpful.

Now if we could only find the time to go neat places to take pictures...

- Jess

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Storing Your Stuff: Renting Storage Space in Malta

(updated January 2012) 

We accumulated a lot of 'stuff' (including a car, deck furniture, and forty textbooks) during our last year living in Malta. We had to store everything somewhere while we divided our time between Canada and Europe this year. We looked into several options, including professional storage companies, and decided that the best option for us was to rent a local garage that we could fit our boxes and furniture in, as well as our car.

We were able to find a very reasonably priced garage to let in a village in the south of Malta for €200 for four months through MaltaPark. The garage was located in a residential area, had ventilation (important for damp Maltese weathers), and a good security system.

We took the (apparently unusual) step of getting insurance for the goods we had stored. We arranged this through our local insurance broker, who was very confused about why anyone would want to insure their belongings, since, after all, there is very little theft in Malta and rock built houses don't often burn down to the ground. Being from Canada where insuring apartments and private goods is very common, we simply felt more comfortable knowing that our stuff was insured in case anything should happen while we were out of the country. For us, it was money well spent, but your Maltese insurance broker may (with good intentions) suggest otherwise.

Because it is unusual to insure private belongings in Malta we purchased corporate goods insurance, and had to have the owner of our garage unit fill out some paperwork for us. This was pretty easy.

Mike did a lot of great research about preparing your car to be stored for an extended period of time. Things you should do include filling the gas tank and windshield/windscreen washer fluid, as well as plugging the exhaust pipe with something (so small animals don't crawl up it) and leaving yourself a note to remember to unplug it before you start your car again.

We then boxed up all our stuff, cleaned out our little blue car, and locked the door. Hopefully when we get back in January everything is just as we left it!

If you're temporarily leaving Malta, you might also want to consider forwarding your mail to a P.O. Box. We had one set up at our local Post branch in Malta. It cost about €100 for the forwarding and P.O. Box set up for two people, but it is cheaper if you only need one name on the box.

update - we retrieved our belongings out of the garage after four months and everything was in pretty good shape. some things were damp, especially cardboard boxes that had been left on the floor of the garage. one of our book shelves was mouldy (always a risk in the damp maltese winters) and everything was coated in a thin layer of dust (also to be expected). other than that we were pleased with the conditions of our goods. certainly beats hauling them between two continents!

- Mike + Jess

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halifax Waterfront

Earlier this month we spent a gloriously warm morning on the Halifax waterfront with the dogs. It was one of those perfect mornings: pups frolicking in the grass, birds chirping in a tree, sun shining, crisp autumn air. Perfect. Until a wasp flew up my skirt and stung my butt.

- Jess