Saturday, October 23, 2010

Domaine Atlas Winery

Tunisia is unique in the Muslim world in that it has its own wine-making industry. Islam condemns utterly the use of alcohol, but here they make it. My principal calls Tunisia's approach "Muslim Lite".  In fact, they protect their wine growers to the extent of having a complete embargo on foreign wines of any kind. At international hotels you can get grain alcohol from all over the world - for a price - but the only wine you can buy here is Tunisian wine. It's, well, it's not horrible.

Anyway, on Saturday morning at 10, a bus load of us left the school for a trip to the Domaine Atlas Winery about an hour out of town in Cap Bon. It was a perfect day. The company was good, the weather cooperated, and a good time was had by all. We started with a brief tour of the facility, the harvest having been completed three weeks earlier.
Gleaming fermentation vats and lovely oak barrels

Just to give you a sense of the size of these things.

Many litres of Chateau September 30th.
 Then the tasting began. I really couldn't tell you how many wines we tasted. They were certainly not stingy with the variety or the quantity. After the first three or four, the buffet lunch was served, and what a fine spread it was. There was a lamb dish that had probably simmered for a day, two cold salads and one warm one, oven fried potatoes, their own olives, an eggplant dish and good bread. Through all this, the wine kept on coming.
Lunch on the patio

The rest of the merry band
 At the end of the meal, they collected our order forms, then loaded up the bus and the director's trunk with our booty. A good time was had by all. I bought two cases and three half bottles of late-harvest dessert wine. Drop by some time.
The bus ride home was considerably more voluble than the trip there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

New dishes

OK. So not many people would bother to make a blog post about kitchen dishes. To appreciate their importance, you have to understand that I have essentially been camping out in a house since August. I brought a suitcase full of summer clothes, some toiletries, and a dog with me. Period. In the house, the school had placed very adequate furniture, two plates, two bowls, two mugs and some cutlery. There also were some old sheets and a few towels to tide me over until my shipment came. Because of incompetence on the part of Bekins, that shipment did not even leave Richmond, BC until September 30. I may see my things by December 1st. Inshallah.

Now dishes are not in my shipment, so I don't have to wait for them. Before I left home, I bought new pots and pans, new knives, new cutlery (I had to leave the kitchen in Victoria fully equipped) but no dishes because I thought I might see something here that would later be great momentos of my time in Tunisia. So without further ado - and don't ever ship anything via Bekins - here they are. I bought two each of four different patterns to mix and match. Come over; I'll make you dinner. You'll have to bring your own cutlery, though.

Don't they look amazingly like the background of the blog?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

From Libby to her friends Molly and Ellie

Dear Molly and Ellie

I thought I would try sending you a message while Karen is out at the market. She always comes home with chicken carcasses and gizzards and other great stuff, so I don't mind when she goes. Also, it takes her a long time because she seems to have lost her car. She has to get in the yellow cars of strangers and it takes longer that way. I really miss car rides and sometimes try to get into cars on the street if they leave the back door open long enough.

I am getting used to Tunisia. The heat was awful at first. I was very thankful in the end that my mistress had had me shaved before we came. Even still, I spent much of my time lying sprawled out on the cool stone floor of the living room. At night, I sleep upstairs where we put on the air conditionner if it is too hot to sleep. This is a machine that makes the air cold. I don't mind any more that I am not allowed on the furniture, because it's really nicer on the floor. Anyway, it's much cooler now, so I get on the couch sometimes when no one is home. You?

I am used to spending a fair bit of time alone during the day, so I don't mind tooooo much. I do miss you and my friend Sandy who lives with Steve and Moira. No one plays with me here. Karen takes me for two walks every day and my new person, Mabrouka, walks me during the day, but it's not as much fun as play fighting with you two. Also, she never has good-smelling pockets like Mike. At first I think I made Mabrouka nervous, but we're getting used to each other.

In the morning, Karen and I go to the field across the road, which is really great. Sometimes I find free things to eat in the dirt. Can you believe it? And it always smells great from the sheep. Karen does not let me off the leash when the sheep are there. She said something about poor impulse control. Do you think she meant me or the sheep? If the sheep are gone, I am allowed off leash to chase birds or just run and run. That's my favourite. This week we had a lot of rain. Big noisy rain with even ice pellets. You would not have like it all all because there was also thunder and lightning. Now the field is very muddy. I still like it, but I don't like having my paws washed after. Karen is very fair about it, though, and washes the bottoms of her shoes before we are allowed back inside.

In the evening, we walk around our neighbourhood because it's too dark for Karen to go to the field. She can only see the field during the day; isn't that funny? Anyway, during the night walk I have to be on leash the whole time because our neighbourhood is full of cats. Full, full, full. You would love it. I would get a lot more exercise if she would let me chase them properly. It's not as fun just pulling and pulling on the lead. Karen says "Leave it" and "Heel" all the time on our night walks. Do you know what that means? I think she is mad at those cats, but if you can tell me what she is saying to them, it would be fun to know. You are so much smarter than I am about human words. You always seem to know what they're saying.

If Karen goes away for one night like she did one time, our Mabrouka comes and sleeps here. She moves my bed from Karen's room to her room which is very nice of her. I sleep at the foot of her bed until I know she is asleep, and then as usual, I go downstairs. I love being near my people, but I think it is important to be near the front door, don't you? If you promise not to tell, I will tell you a secret. To read my secret, you will have to put your mouse over the end of this sentence. Sometimes I get up on the couch at night. 
One time Karen went away for a forever long time. That was awful. I stayed at the vet's for months and months, mostly in a cage. The other dogs barked a lot and I hate that. Mabrouka has religious times during Karen's holidays so she cannot stay here. She needs to be with her people when it is religious. I have a bad feeling that things are going to be religious again soon. If I am really good, do you think she might let me stay home by myself? I am an adult now. Do Pat and Mike let you stay at home alone when they go away?
I think I accidentally chased a cat with my mouth full of ball a few weeks ago. Sometimes those cats need a great big barking, and it's easy to forget you have a ball in your mouth. Now we have to wait for something called a shipment to come before I can get a new ball. I don't know what a shipment is, but it sounds like all the good things you can imagine all at once. We are very excited about ours. Do you have a shipment? Lots of people are waiting for one here.

My paws are getting sore, and Karen may be home soon. She has either gone for five minutes or a few days. I am never sure.  Please lick Pat and Mike's face for me.

Love and licks,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mollie writes back

Dear Libby:
We read your letter to us.  How exciting to get a letter....you sure have been through so much since we last saw you.  We miss you....we at least I, Mollie miss you a great deal.  Now I only have two little dogs to play with and well....they just aren't you!!  Sometimes my Dad or Mom take me to the dog park or on a walk and I see bigger dogs...but I always look and realize that they are just NOT you.  Every time I come home from my walk I run into your yard just hoping you will miraculously appear...  Sometimes I see Rascal but I don't think she really likes me very much...and quite frankly, the feeling is mutual.  Ellie gets along much better with cats.  I don't very often see the other two cats, but Rascal is always outside looking for someone to play with her and meowing her crackly little voice.  I just wish she was a little bigger and not a cat!!
My Dad left me last week for a whole week.  I think my Mom was gone too, but I really am not too sure...I just know for sure that my Dad was gone.  My brother and sister stayed here and my Pop was here too.  I went back and forth to my Pop's house and my house.  Since you told me a secret I am going to tell you one too.  One day when my Dad was gone, I went with Pop and Ellie to my Pop's house.  My Pop let me and Ellie and Jazzie out in the back yard and, please please don't tell.... I escaped.... I ran back home just hoping my Dad came home while I was gone.  Then, I heard my Pop calling me....but....I was so scared I hid on him and didn't answer.  He called and called but I never came out.  He finally went away and later I heard him tell Cameron that he went down to their school to see if for some strange reason I went there.  Why would I go there without my Dad?  Anyways, by the time he showed up again at my house I had forgotten that I was hiding and went to the front door, you know, so that just in case Dad came home he would see me first!!!!!  But, my Pop found me and scolded me for running away.  I felt bad for him, so I didn't do that again...besides....I have to keep Ellie and Jasmine from fighting with each other.  That is my job.. I am the mediator. 
My Dad and Mom have never left us alone for more than a few hours.  One time we went to a big place and were kept in cages with a bunch of other dogs but since then we have never had to go back there.  When my Dad goes away and maybe my Mom too.... My pop always looks after me and Ellie.  We love him second best to our Dad.  I guess that means we are not old enough yet.. to be left alone I mean??  Maybe one day...but you know, Ellie gets kind of weird when we are left alone.  She sits in the entry way on the seat looking at the door.  I think she looks like an owl from behind she never moves.
I love my car rides.  I go all the time with my Dad when he goes out.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I could not go with him in the car anymore?  How do you stand it?  Why can't you go in the car?  Ellie sometimes won't go in the car anymore so she would be ok with not have a car to ride in...but not me!  I love to look out the windows and watch the world go by.....remember that time when my Dad took you, me and Ellie to my mom's work.  We were on our best behaviour and we got to go in the jeep.  I love the jeep because I can see so well out the windows of that car.  My mom always laughs at my Dad about that.  She told him he would rather travel with his "dogs" than his people.  Don't tell my Mom...but I think she is right....
I don't know how you do it without a ball.....I love my balls....every single one of them.  Sometimes, when I can't find them, Jazzie will come over and find each and every one of them.  She is small but a great ball retreiver....So, I hope your shipment comes soon...I really don't know what that is.  My human words aren't so great either.  Ellie is the smart one.  Don't tell Ellie either...but sometimes I just follow her...even though I am the big one.
So, there isn't too much more to tell you.  It's been quiet here.  The strangers that live in your house seem to be quieter now and there are not so many cars to run around when we come home from our walks. 
I can't wait for you to come home...I miss you...stay safe and don't eat too much stuff off the ground...my Dad says sometimes that stuff can be bad so be careful!!  Although...again a little secret...I love deer poop....or geese poop....ah...yes such a delicacy. 
Mollie (with Ellie's help).....

Ellie and Molly - waiting patiently.