Passport to the Future

Malta’s Past is Its Passport to the Future

I first visited the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta in the early 50s.

I stayed for 5 magnificent years. It was where I found my passion for things archaeological. I was Associated Press’s stringer on the island (amongst other things) when I was invited to join Cambridge University’s archaeological team under the direction of Dr. David Trump, to record artifacts and excavations at the catacombs of St. Agatha’s in Rabat, adjoining the ancient capital of M’dina.

Prior to this I had been assigned the task of recording (photographically) many of the artifacts currently displayed in the churches that abound on this small catholic island and many of which dated back to the historic Knights of Malta. (1530-1798). My assignment at that time came from the then Central Office of Information, now replaced by the Department of Tourism and Heritage Malta.

Six years ago I returned to my beloved Malta for the first time in some 50 odd years. (‘Odd’ being the operative word here!) The only item I excavated on this occasion however was my lovely wife Rosaria. I stayed for another 4 years and left I must admit a broken hearted man. The heart I should add that I had bequeathed to my beloved Malta.

Although the country was moving ahead by leaps and bounds since severing its ties with Great Britton and now becoming one of the newest members of the European Union (EU), it had lost or perhaps better described, was losing, its focus on the one element that truly held its passport to greatness in the future, the archaeological and historic past that is surely unequaled anywhere in the world.

Across the island magnificent remains of this glorious past stood unattended and uncared for, the public even in government controlled sites like St. Paul’s Catacombs were allowed to wander unescorted, allowing them to add graffiti and untold damage to this magnificent site. By contrast across the street the magnificent catacombs of St. Agatha’s with its amazing original fresco’s remained intact only because the site is owned and maintained by the Sacred Order of the Society of St. Peter ¬†amp; St. Paul, whose monastery and school is located above this remarkable crypt and catacomb complex.

Fr. Victor Camilleri whose side I was privileged to work at during the 50’s, still to this day (although his sight is almost gone) continues to safeguard some of Malta’s most sacred and amazing treasures.

Over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to again re visit with Victor and once again explore some of my old haunts. Certainly there have now been changes. It appears that the preservation on many of the ancient sites are under the care of private contractors though it was my impression that the government still retains an active involvement. Protective covers have been placed over some of the more spectacular archaeological sites to provide a modicum of weather protection, though somewhat taking from their previous visual splendor.

I discovered a new and very pleasant visitor’s center at the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra site. However sites like “Clapham Junction” with the remarkable and unexplained ‘cart ruts’, sit unsupervised and unprotected!

I took the time to re visit the Palace State Rooms and the Armory which by the way contains a collection unequaled of weaponry used by the Knights in the fortification of their home for several hundred years.

Though as remarkable as it is, it lacks attention to detail and the atmosphere brings no excitement to what should in this archaeologist’s opinion be a lifelong memorable experience. The same could be said of the Palace Staterooms with their magnificent paintings and memorabilia.

Mother nature has done her part in the preservation of much that remains on the Island but the time has come for the government to step up and preserve the remarkable wealth that history has placed in their hands. I recall a conversation with a fellow archaeologist in Egypt some years ago when he described the Pyramids as being Egypt’s Oil Well! Meaning of course that the countries ancient treasures would be its source of wealth for as long as they were maintained and treasured.

Buck Creek Winery

Buck Creek Winery Will Delight Your Palette

Buck Creek Winery was originally established as Durm Vineyards in 1991 by Jeff and Kelly Durm with the planting of 1500 vines. By 1996 Jeff was producing award winning wines, including ten medal winners at the Indiana State Fair that year. During those early years some grapes from the vineyard were sold to other vineyards and the public, including Korean and Amish church groups.

This enterprising family business had gained a state wide reputation for producing excellent wines and grapes. After Jeff retired from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in 2004, he and his family were able to realize a long held dream: Opening a winery complete with store and tasting room. The Buck Creek Winery opened in April, 2006. Its growth in the number of varieties of wine produced and awards received since the opening has been remarkable, to say the least.

On the clear crisp January day that we visited Buck Creek Winery we were greeted by Dick and Josette Randolph. (Josette is Kelly Durm’s mother.) Dick gave us a tour of the production and warehouse portion of the winery. Dick explained that when the winery began they only needed four wooden barrels and one stainless vat. Today I counted 37 barrels and eight large stainless vats. Buck Creek employs five people full time and four people part time. Volunteers often help during bottling time. “Many people like to volunteer when we bottle” Dick told me with a smile on his face. “It’s fun to bottle, cork and label the wine, and you get free wine to drink!”

Jeff Durm was kind enough to spend some time with us in the store and tasting room. He talked about their vineyard with its 2500 vines representing 14 different varieties. He described ripping out of one poorly producing variety and replacing it with a more viable type of grape vine. Then he asked if we wanted to do some tasting. “But of course!” was my reply.

Alley Cat, a red table wine is their best seller. Winner of an Indiana State Fair Gold medal, this wine tastes of cranberries and strawberries with a hint of spice. We also partook of samples of red raspberry and blackberry styles. All the wines we tasted were delightful on the palette. And then there was Pleasant View Pink, a wine named after a small burg just down the road from the winery. I asked Jeff what set Buck Creek apart from other wineries. “For one thing” he said, “a full 50% of our wines are made with Indiana fruit. Few Indiana wineries can say that.” In addition Jeff pointed out that “Here you will like most everything you try.”

Last year the winery produced 60,000 bottles of wine, or approximately 12,000 gallons. Buck Creek now offers 34 varieties of wine. In the most recent Indy International Wine Tasting Competition Buck Creek was awarded 22 separate medals, the most of any winery in the competition. After our visit, we realized why they have won so many awards through the years.

Buck Creek Winery is located at 11747 Indiana Creek Road, South, Indianapolis. See their web site for details and hours.

Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel Review

Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel Review

Having owned a cat that chewed her way out of a fabric pet carrier, I knew when I purchased the Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel that it might not work for my 10 pound Australian Silky Terrier. However, the price was too good to pass up! This retailed for $24.99, but Kohl’s had them on sale for only $7.99. It was worth a try.

The Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel is a very handy, portable kennel that can be placed in a car, as well as inside or outside of your home. It is made of a weather resistant fabric that resembles what most tents are made from. It comes in two colors, blue and brown.

The kennel has dome shaped ends, with three ventilated windows and a large ventilated door that zips closed. All of these openings also have flaps that can be dropped down to give a pet privacy and darkness, or they can be rolled up and secured at the top of the doors and window with a loop and plastic tab.

It measures 20″ wide by 22 length and is 20″ high. What I love about this kennel is the way it folds flat to take up very little room in storage. We used to have a hard sized kennel, and it was just to large to have around the home for occasional use, and we got rid of it.

While the Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel does have a floor, it is very thin and I feel this needs some type of bedding to make your pet comfortable. The picture on the front of the box shows the kennel with a plush flat bed inside of it.

Set up is not hard, but I did run into one problem that I will mention in a few minutes. To set up the Animal Planet Portable Pet Kennel you spread it open and turn it upside down. There are two sleeves on each side of the kennel and you thread two of the poles through these two sleeves, securing them via hook and loop style closure tabs. Turning the kennel right side up, you do the same with two end sleeves and one center top sleeve. This is where I ran into a problem.

The kennel has a fabric handle running along the top, which is sewn into the middle of each end area. On my kennel the handle was sewn right into the closure for the middle sleeve, and I could not open the sleeve to secure the pole. I got out my pointed sewing scissors and snipped the threads to separate the handle from the closure, and this did the trick. The handle now is in the correct position for carrying, and the pole is secured in place. I will mention that the poles are a bit hard to put in place! I did a lot of pulling and stretching to get them where they belonged, and if you have to take this down and put it up very often, I personally wonder how well the stitching will hold up over time.

The kennel bears the Animal Planet logo on the side corner, so I know this is an authentic Animal Planet product. It seems like a good temporary solution to carrying your pet when travelling. Since my dog is a small breed dog, and she isn’t very aggressive at her age, I don’t have any issues with this kennel. However, I could see a larger dog or any aggressive animal being able to claw their way through this product.

Preschool Aged Children

Educational Road Trip Games and Activities for Preschool Aged Children

Long car trips with preschool age children are a challenge for both the kids and the parents alike. Make your car time with the family more enjoyable and educational this season with these travel games and activities for preschool aged children.

Play I Spy Say to your child, “I spy with my little eye something blue,” and let your child guess what you are saying. If she spies anything blue-a car, a billboard, the sky-she “wins” and gets to say the next I spy riddle. (Vocabulary and observation skills)

Pack a Trip Bag Load up a backpack or canvas bag with some of your child’s favorite toys that can be played while sitting: white boards and markers, small toys, Silly Putty, travel games, coloring books, etc… Include a few new games and toys, especially ones related to travel such as toy cameras, toy binoculars, journals and toy cell phones. (Creativity, role play, small motor skills)

Make a Map Take a hint from Dora the Explorer and make a simple map of where you are going and some of the landmarks you will be passing. Use simple drawings as icons of what you will be passing: forests, cities, bridges, mountains, lakes, rivers, and towns. Every so often take out the map and show how far you’ve gone. (Visual skills, map skills)

Pack a Sing Along Tape Preschoolers love to sing and they love when their parents sing with them, too. They also don’t care if you sing off key. (Vocabulary skills)

Play Travel Bingo Draw or find clip art pictures of items that you commonly see on the road and make a few bingo cards with nine pictures (three across and three down) or sixteen pictures (four across and four down). Make sure the pictures are items that you commonly see on a road trip, such as stoplights, RVs, Exit signs, airplanes and so on. Let your child look for the items on the card until he gets Bingo. (Observation skills)

Silly Sounds Make up sound effects to go with the things you see on the road. Say “moo, moo” every time you see a cow, “beep, beep” when you see a bus, “splish, splash” when you cross a river, and “vroom, vroom” when you pass a convertible. Your child will be giggling all the way to you destination. (Oral language skills)

Counting Signs Give your child a piece of paper and a pencil. Ask her to keep track of how many items she sees in two minutes, such as stop signs, cows, big trucks, and other common items. Show her how to make an X on her paper every time she sees the item. At the end of two minutes, say “stop” and count the Xes. (Math and small motor skills)

Group Drawings Give your child a piece of paper and crayons and let him draw one thing on the picture, such as a person or a tree, and pass it to the next person. The next person adds something else to the picture, such as a sun or a house, and passes it on. Continue until the entire paper is full. (Creativity, small motor skills)