Monthly Archives: January 2012

Gourmet Burgers

Nothing beats burgers, particularly if they are homemade or gourmet. This trend is not exclusive to our house. According to Steve Kay, editor and publisher of Cattle Buyers’ Weekly, North American consumers are turning to ground beef. He referred to it as “indulgence on the cheap.” With the challenging economic times and tightening of the belt, consumers are choosing gourmet burgers for their splurge, spending up to $15 for a burger. People still want to indulge but are cutting back from white table dining. Kay refers to it as a “burger boom.” In the States many new burger joints are starting up, such as Smashburger or Five Guys. There is also a pairing of micro- breweries with gourmet burgers. As a result, better cuts of beef are being ground to make these burgers. “The gourmet/specialty burger business is exploding,” says Kay.


Making burgers at home, barbecuing them and jazzing up with side dishes is always a hit at our house. Besides, who can resist when the weather is great enough to barbecue at the end of January. I have discovered a recipe that turns out great burgers. In addition to the ground beef, I add rolled oats, seasoning salt, garlic powder, minced onions, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and a bit of milk. The milk seems to help keep the burgers moist. Some people use eggs but I find the milk works as well. Shredded cheese or barbecue sauce can also be added. The sky is the limit when it comes to toppings, we like fresh tomatoes, cheese slices, lettuce, fried onions and the latest from the little big guy is a fried egg. Place between a great bun, or skip the bun altogether. It is so great you can.



Spatchcock Chicken

We are lucky enough to have access to local, free range chicken. I am not the most creative cook when it comes to roast chicken and I rarely remember to take it out of the deep freeze in time to have it totally thawed to cut up into chicken pieces. But I have discovered the Spatchcock chicken technique which is somewhat like a cross between the two methods.

An important tool in this process is the kitchen/poultry shears. I have tried it with the big guys’s fish fileting knife but the shears work much better.

All you have to do is cut out the backbone of the chicken. I usually start at the tail and then cut straight down the back , then from the other end cut back to the tail.  Lay it cut side down, breast up, in the roasting pan and push down to flatten it out. Sometimes I have seen them put some type of oven friendly weight on it but I have never done this. Season as usual and roast. It takes less time to cook and is easier to cut up once it is cooked. It is super tasty and a nice twist on roast chicken.


The Best Conversations

With an Animal Health Technology diploma, I have been fortunate to have worked in two different Veterinary Clinics in our town.  I am now retired, (again) … (for now), but I still have endless fascinating animal stories to draw upon when story time comes around.

My family noticed early on in my illustrious career that story time inevitably seems to coincide with meal time.  My contributions to story time during meals tend to be on the less savory side.  I am somewhat more aware of this now, and I try to keep the stories on a lighter…shall we say less graphic side.  However, I was downright caught off guard the first time it was mentioned to me that the story I was sharing wasn’t ‘table appropriate’.  It may have been because the person who was letting me know of my indiscretion was my husband – not exactly the world’s foremost expert on table etiquette.

You see, I find these ‘veterinary experiences’ to be fascinating.  Take those difficult calving stories for example.  I love being there when, after a huge amount of effort on the part of the cow, the farmer, and the veterinarian – a healthy, wet, slimy calf is delivered. cute! You've got a little something on your forehead.

I find it so interesting that I want to relay that story and all of its wet slimy details to everyone who will listen.  A family sitting at the table is the perfect captive audience.  I just need to remember that some people don’t want to hear about how the cow decided to lay down mid cesarean, flopping her partially stitched uterus onto the floor and into all of the manure and goo and drippings that are part of your typical bovine cesarean section.  Did you know that even though it appears to be a lot of blood on the floor during a cesarean, it’s OK because a cow can actually lose gallons of blood before it becomes a problem?

You can see how each story runs into a new story, and each new one is more fascinating than the last.  I desperately want to share with you the story of the extremely fat cow who delivered her calf by cesarean.  Due to her obesity even her uterus was greasy.  I had a really hard time holding it up for the veterinarian to stitch.  It was like holding a 50 pound pink slippery water balloon full of jello and covered in butter. 

It’s never good when I incorporate food comparisons into my meal time veterinary clinic stories.  For example, abscess stories are not a good choice if cottage cheese is on the menu.  I can even gross myself out with that!

Yesterday was my lucky day.

I was the chosen chauffeur to drive our daughter to her evening extra-curricular events. 

After dropping her off, I headed to a nice coffee shop to enjoy a treat and catch up on a bit of work that I had brought along.

I was fortunate to bump into one of the veterinarians who I had the pleasure of working with a few years ago. While we were waiting for our turn to order, we struck up a conversation about another veterinarian who was injured at work – while she was pregnancy checking a cow.

Typical for those of us who are interested in such things, the conversation got away on us and each story grew into another.  I asked if the injured vet was using an ultrasound wand, or her arm when she was hurt.  My friend explained that no, she was using her arm and was right in there…right up to her shoulder…when the other cow came over top of her. 

The young, tough looking police officers standing beside us in the line might not have noticed our conversation if she hadn’t stuck her right arm out straight and emulated someone shoving their whole arm up a cow’s….situation…. all the while telling me the story of how one cow broke through the gate and landed on top of this lady.  The story ends well.  She’s alright and has taken a bit of time off to fully recover.

Inevitably the story turned, and now we were talking about a cesarean.  This time it was a barn cat who was brought to the clinic because she was having a difficult time trying to deliver a kitten who had become stuck.  My friend started telling me the story of explaining to the farmer that she was not going to be able to deliver the kitten without performing a cesarean because she couldn’t even get her pinky finger in there.  Again, the young, tough looking police officers standing beside us seemed to be eavesdropping.  Probably because of the extended pinky finger poking horizontally in their direction, once again demonstrating the exploration of a cat’s … situation …. as she told the story.  As before, the story ends well; the kittens were delivered and the farmer went home with his now extremely valuable barn cat and her lovely little kitties.

We had ordered and received our treats, but it was clear that both of us still had more stories to tell each other.  We chose a table near the fireplace and continued our visit. I broke in at one point with “You probably don’t want to talk about work when you are relaxing,” but she seemed to be as happy as I was to have found someone who didn’t shrink away from these stories. 


We talked about mean cats attacking our heads, dogs practicing croprophagia (which means eating poop), calves with scours (which means really really bad diarrhea), our own pets’ weird habits, among other fascinating subjects.  We realized that we were in town at a fancy coffee shop, so we kept our voices low, and stayed away from the abscess or semen testing stories because those can get a bit offensive for some people.


It was only when one of us said “yank the uterus out of those bitches” that I noticed a funny glance was exchanged between two ladies sitting nearby.  I felt that we should explain to them that we were discussing ovariohysterectomy on dogs who are chronically pregnant and contributing to the overpopulation of unwanted pets.  Bitch is a very accepted and clinical term for a female dog.  That clinical terminology is actually the correct definition of the word and was used long before the more popular slang definition we hear nowadays. However, I knew that once I told them that much, it would lead me into another story.  I decided it was probably better to leave sleeping dogs lie, so to speak.


It was a great evening.  Before we knew it the coffee shop employees were politely asking us to leave – because it was closing time.  We headed off in our seperate directions after sharing a mutual love of the fascinating, interesting and always entertaining field of veterinary medicine.  Never a dull moment.

“The best doctor in the world is a veterinarian.  He can’t ask his patients what is the matter — he’s got to just know”  – Will Rogers

“I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependant on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs… obligation put on us, a responsibility we have no right to neglect, nor to violate by cruelty.”   – James Herriot





Spring in January

I’m a sucker!

It was the last day of Christmas break.  The temperature was a balmy +10 degrees Celsius. 

Not your typical outdoor clothing choice on the prairies in January.

I woke up, went downstairs and loudly proclaimed to the family.  “Today I am finishing this book if it kills me.  I don’t care if you all have to make your own meals and do all the chores yourselves, I am unavailable because I am reading today”.

You see, two months ago I started a book that is the first of a series that my husband really likes.  I tried reading it once a few years ago, decided that it was terrible and didn’t get past the first 10 pages.  Since then, friends of mine have read the series and loved it.  They are frequently at our door asking for Ron – not me – so that they can borrow another one of his books.  This made me jealous.  This made me think that I had missed out on something by not finishing his dumb book, so I tried again.

It was difficult.  Once I got through the first 10 chapters which were dedicated to describing officers, centurions, roman battles and sword making, I had invested too much of my valuable time to stop reading.

All through the Christmas break I would sit and try to become engrossed in what I was reading, only to quickly become distracted by something else.  Like TV or a bag of chips. 

So today was the day, I was near the end of the book, and in spite of myself I had come to enjoy the story that was being told near the back of the book so I knew I could do it.  I knew I could hold that fleeting attention span of mine until the book was finished.

That’s when the announcement was made.  My husband said to our daughter – ‘why don’t you invite some friends, and I’ll take you all skating at the lake pasture today.’  Our teenaged son agreed that this was a great idea and he would load the quad into the back of his truck and pull the kids around on toboggans.

How could anyone resist those smiles?

I love these people, but sometimes they really suck.  This sounded like way more fun than reading a book that I don’t like….all alone….without anyone to watch me suffering for the sake of continued marital bliss. 

Let me mention again that it was + 10 degrees Celsius.  In January.  In the Prairies.  A fact that doesn’t come without it’s required amount of worrying over pastures, crops, dugouts and drought….but once we had spent enough time exploring what possible negative effects these extremely warm temperatures and total lack of snow could have on ourselves and our neighbors, we decided that these were things that were beyond our control.  So let’s go and have some fun.

No snow = no shovelling required!

In spite of myself I had to join in.  I couldn’t find my skates though, a fact that I tried to keep hidden from my kids after having given many years of prolonged lectures on ‘if you would put things away, you would know where they are when you need them.’  I give these lectures free of charge.  I do it because I enjoy the look on their faces when they have that ‘aha’ moment, that realization that they aren’t leaving this house without listening to my wisdom for another 20 to 25 minutes on the merits of being organized, having goals, or whatever the present situation calls for.  I do it because I love them.

The kids, (having benefitted from my many years of free lectures), quickly found their skates and headed out to the lake pasture to enjoy +10 Celsius on January the 8th in the prairies.

Because playing crack the whip with your brother isn't fast's OK though, they have a 'spotter'.

 The lake was frozen, we had checked the ice for safety by driving trucks and Jeeps onto it….but due to the warm temperatures it was wet.  The kind of wet that makes you look more like you’ve been swimming than skating.

Where's your sock?

Oh! There it is! In a tree.....

And when hanging your sock in a tree doesn’t quite do the trick…


It was a fantastic day. 

Crack the whip Dad!!

What started out to be a few hours at the lake pasture turned into the entire day at the lake pasture. 

A clothesline to dry the wet stuff so we can go out again.

Finally, there were no more dry clothes, and the kids were tired enough to allow us to head home.

A great way to spend the last day of Christmas break.

So, with the full moon rising over the bay we said goodbye and thanks for the day.

And guess what?  I still finished that book. 
“It is better to play than do nothing” – Confucius

Quick Question

As the new year starts, one of the tasks on my to do list is to get a new digital camera. Prior to this I have been using one of the girls point and shoot Canon Elfs.  But it is time to move up. Not to that of a professional photographer, but to one with more capabilities. In a former life I used to take a lot of pictures, back before digital. And I have a great 35mm but I want something from the digital age. So my question is, does anyone have recommendations? I need a place to start. Give me some suggestions. Please and thanks.


After All These Years, Beef is Good For You!

You are not going to believe this but I just came across an article on the Womens Health magazine website,, referring to a study done that shows that eating lean beef can actually reduce cholesterol. After so many years of getting a bad rap from the medical community it looks like the tables have turned.

(pix from

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and followed patients on a “healthy” American diet; the DASH diet which focusses on fruits and veggies and is widely recommended to reduce cholesterol and two  diets including lean beef.  All diets had the same number of calories. The findings revealed that the “healthy American diet” had no impact on cholesterol but the DASH and diets including LEAN BEEF all lowered cholesterol.  Those of us in the industry have long believed that lean beef is a healthy protein that is good for you. Beef is a complete protein with 20 amino acids and is rich with iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Now it looks like the medical opinion may be coming full circle.

“High Cholesterol? Try Some Beef,” Headline from Womens Health magazine.


The Night Circus

Debut novel by Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus, is a tale of magic and intrigue. It is set in the late 1800s and follow the lives and relationship of Celia and Marco. The circus is like no other and arrives unannounced and leaves in the same manner. But it only is open at night. The black and white tents house a myriad of acts and performers with talents well beyond the ordinary. Morgenstern writing is extremely descriptive, making it easy for the reader to imagine the Circus. In some ways it reminded me of Harry Potter. The Night Circus,  was a wonderful read and would make a fascinating movie.


” It was like nothing he had ever seen. The lights, the costumes, it was all so different. As though he had escaped his ordinary life and wandered into another world.” From The Night Circus.

Happy New Year!!

January 1, 2012

Fireworks on the farm January 1, 2012

It’s the first day of a new year.  The thought can mean nothing, just another day.  It can be frightening, another year of possibilities and who knows what those might be.  It can be exciting, another year of possibilities and who knows what those might be……

I guess it’s up to each one of us to decide how we feel about today.

 It’s up to each one of us to decide how we feel about any day in our lives.  Every day brings with it new possibilities, challenges and experiences.  Processing each event as positive or negative is a very individual decision.  We all get to decide if our challenges are exciting or draining.  If they are an opportunity to pay our tuition and learn something, or if it’s yet another example of how the world is morphing into a scary and daunting place.

The world is an amazing place.  It’s full of people to meet, places to see, and opportunities to learn.  It doesn’t matter if you travel to far away places or if you go to the Co-Op for groceries, the people to meet, places to see and opportunities to learn are there for you as long as you are open to the possibilities. 

Our lives are blessed with people who are living examples of inspiration.  There are happy people who make you feel at peace.  There are energetic people who leave you feeling inspired to try new things.  Wise people who encourage you to dig a little deeper for solutions.  Many, many people who we cross paths with on a regular basis will give us the peace, energy and wisdom to be our best selves every day in 2012.  Wow, if we are our best selves every day in 2012, we won’t even have to think about it in 2013 because it will be habit by then.

OK, so maybe we won’t be our best selves EVERY day in 2012.  There are going to be ups and downs, tired days and sick days.  We can however go out in the world each day with the intention of giving it our best. 

In a few days, our family will be celebrating the life of an amazing woman.  She was happy, energetic and wise all wrapped up in one tiny little package. Our auntie was 104 when she died on December 28, 2011.  She was a very capable 104 year old.  She lived at home with her son.  She knew every one of us when we visited, and she took an active interest in all of our lives. 

Her life is an amazing story.  She remembers when penicillin was discovered and people stopped dying from infection.  She told stories of watching her Uncle and the rest of the soldiers march to the train on their way to World War I.  She loved telling us about the time she was riding with friends as a teenager and had her leg severely broken as a result of being kicked by one of the other horses while she sat on her own.  She would laugh and say that she never even fell off of her horse.  One of the boys had to lift her down and she spent a lot of time in the hospital recovering.  At the end of this story she would say “Just come here and feel my leg, the lump is still there”.  It was still there.

She would walk on the treadmill every day.  She needed no medications.  She drank rum.

One time she held my hand and said “Look at how beautiful and young your hands are, mine look like an old lady’s hands”.  She was 100.  I was 38.  Apparently she didn’t see that as an excuse to have old lady hands.  I now see my knobby jointed farmer hands as young lady hands.  I probably always will.

A few years ago, when we celebrated her 100th Birthday, it was done in grand style.  A hall was rented and many people came to congratulate her on reaching this important milestone.  I can remember a lot of great things about that day, but my sister-in-law Kari reminded me of what was probably the best message we received.

Our auntie got up to the podium, and after scolding her son for offering to get her some reading glasses, because of course…”I don’t need those glasses”… she thanked everyone for coming, told a few stories, laughed her great laugh, and pointed out a few of the people who were in the room.  Her son asked her to share with us what secrets she had for reaching 100 years in such youthful style, and she said….

“Well, every day…I wake up….and I live.”  I remember her laughing after she said this, and Kari and I don’t know if she was being flippant or profound.  I think I will choose profound because that is what it was.

Here we are at the first day of a new year.  What will your year be like?  What will all of the rest of your years be like?

I want mine to be an opportunity to experience and tell new stories.  The chance to learn from new challenges.  This will be a year to go out, to experience, to inspire and to be inspired. 


 And every day, I will wake up, and I will live.

Happy New Year!!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do that by the ones that you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”  – Mark Twain