Sunday, January 31, 2010

In the Hands of Others

It seems that life, on occasion, reminds us that much of our well-being is in the hands of others.  I was given just such a reminder this week when a driver rear-ended me. I was stopped at the entrance to a merge lane waiting for a break in the traffic before beginning my merge. I didn't even know what hit me, so to speak, it took awhile before I understood what had happened.

I had hit my head on the steering wheel and bit my tongue. Funny enough, it was my tongue that I felt first.  For several moments I didn't even realize I had hit my head. It was very surreal. Of course after those several moments my head began screaming at me in a major way. I admit, I was crying rather hysterically.

The driver who hit me said it was completely her fault (uh, ya think?) and that she wasn't paying attention.  Then she said she was actually looking over her shoulder, presumably looking for a space to merge into. But there was no space, that's why I was stopped. If she hadn't hit me, she would have t-boned someone else because she was going way too fast to have stopped on time (police estimate from the damage she would have been going 50-60 km/h).

I didn't have any idea what to do. In 15+ years of driving, I've never been in an accident. My only thought was that I wanted my husband there. He commutes to work via bicycle and I knew he would be nearby. But I wasn't having any luck getting through.

I should have called the police because I was injured. But I was injured and confused; I felt like it wasn't bad enough. I got all the information from the other woman. And, even though I kept saying I couldn't drive and hadn't stopped crying, I agreed when she encouraged me not to call the police. I blame the head injury :)

I drove to a parking lot that was just ahead. My cell rang and I managed to tell my husband where I was. Within 10 minutes he biked up, gave me a huge hug, and fed me electrolyte chews, shot blocks, that I keep on hand because I occasionally have hypoglycemic episodes.

From there, he brought me to the emergency room. It felt oddly familiar after my 9 hour wait when I broke my arm last summer! I was much luckier this time, we were in and out in 3 hours.

Aside from a mild concussion, lots of swelling, bruising, and the normal stiffness and aches and pains, I am fine. At least so far. Everyone tells me that it can change a lot over the first week. I choose to be optimistic! I've been very tired and do not have very much stamina but that is not surprising. I am hopeful there won't be any long term issues.

My car is not so lucky, it looks like there is frame damage. I tried to get a picture but only had my cell and I couldn't remember the code to unlock the camera, lol. 

The next morning I went to the police station right away and explained what happened. To make a long story somewhat shorter, it turns out the other driver has a long list of prior accidents. The driver was trying to lie to the police officer and her husband (who happened to have the van that hit me) was yelling and arguing with the officer over the phone. Not really a smart idea when you (or your wife) is being charged. It's not up to me whether to charge her, it is automatic in situations like this, which is nice because I would probably feel bad for giving her a record, even though she deserves it.

We are all in the hands of others. So too, the lives of others are in your hands. Use them softly.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Farewell Blue Hors Matine

On January 25, Blue Hors Matine suffered a serious injury while in turnout and was humanely euthanized.  Although she was no longer in competition, this is a big loss for all horse-lovers. Not only as a broodmare but I believe she was also an important symbol and icon for what good dressage should be. I don't think anyone can deny that Matine enjoyed herself in the ring.

The story:

The famous YouTube video of the 2006 WEG Freestyle with rider Andreas Helgestrand:

I am recovering from being hit by another vehicle while stopped at an intersection. I will tell the story soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Simple Sandwich

Sometimes, there is nothing more satisfying than a simple sandwich. Today's offering was nothing more than a basic tuna, with a small amount of mayonnaise and dijon mustard mixed in and topped with local organic pea shoots.

On the side, I have a salad comprised of cooked kamut lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with a mixed variety of beets lightly coated in olive oil. These beets were boiled and were the most lovely colours when they were peeled. They practically glowed. Leave the beets whole with skin on to cook, then peel after (if desired; we often eat the skin of beets like this).

I am totally in love with kamut. It is an ancient grain and related to durum wheat. It is, overall, more nutritious than common wheat as it has about 30% higher protein, cotains more riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and Vitamin E, and is higher on 16 of the 18 amino acids found in wheat, to name of few.

I haven't figured out the details of its history but kamut is also a registered trademark of Kamut International, LTD. I find this odd for a grain! I believe it is something to do with the family that preserved this ancient grain. Kamut is naturally hardy and has not been genetically modified which makes it excellent in organic farming practices.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Just Another day at the Barn

Sunday I set out to the barn in good spirits. It was a lesson day. My husband also offered to come and take video. I think he felt bad that he was leaving that evening for the week :) That's ok, I'll take an extra pair of hands any way I can get them! So, with the dog walked and breakfast had, we set off nice and early. Finally, I wouldn't be in a rush before a lesson!

Sounds good, doesn't it?

On the way there, we were interrupted by a 10K run that closed off the only roads I know to get to the barn. That's ok, I had lots of time, so we had an impromptu tour of the nearest little town. Once at the barn, I caught Brumby and set my husband to duct taping the ginormous hole in his heavy rain sheet (mentioned in the comments to my previous post). He took the blanket to the heated tack room at the far end of the barn and I started grooming.

With Brumby nice and clean, I swept the floor and was just setting the broom against the wall when Brumby stepped sideways. Unfortunately, the barn cat was cuddled next to his hoof and he stepped right on the cat!

All I heard was this weird, muffled, cat-like yowl and I turned to see a Grey fur tornado flailing around Brumby's right hoof. I almost had a heart attack right there but I'm fortunately pretty good in a crisis so I immediately flew to his other side and pushed his shoulder. Big lug dutifully moved away from the pressure and the poor cat literally flew to his little house, just around the corner.

At this point, I think I yowled myself and tried to coax the cat out to see how bad he was. He wouldn't come out. I decided I should get backup to get him out. If it was really bad, I knew it would be better to have someone else around. Sure, if I was alone I would have coped with it. But I happened to have the best person I could ask for in a crisis right there (aka my husband), so I went to get him.

I walked down that aisle. Since when was it this long? I started out upset but in control. With every step, I crumpled a little more. By the time I reached the door to the tack room, I was a blubbering mess. Good thing my husband speaks blubbering mess, he understood immediately "auuh, huh, huh, Brumby..ahuh...stepped on.ahh...ah the caaat, ooohh aww" [hand shaking, arms waving].

We booked it back down the aisle (magically shorter, this time) and now joined by one of the barn staff who heard my commotion. We coaxed the cat out of his little house and...he looked great. Wait...great?

Honestly, that cat looked so happy for all the attention being focused on him (finally). I was still crying and saying how it wasn't possible, he was caught under the hoof of a full-grown Hanoverian, I saw it! I was still crying as the cat walked about and even ran a few steps, then came back for some pets.

I took a few deep breaths. This wasn't possible. But it was, he didn't look like he was in shock, even several minutes later, he seemed...normal. He was giving the horse a wide berth, but that's it.

I'm guessing Brumby knocked one of the nine lives off though. Clearly there is no other logical explanation :) Judging by the look of that cat, it wasn't the first.

Whew. I now had 10 minutes to lesson time. (I did tell the barn owner about the cat and to keep an eye on him for the next few hours especially). I guess I was fortunate my instructor was a little late due to the mini-marathon.

On to the lesson.

We've been doing some jumping but have gone back to flat for a bit. I needed to work on a number of things (um, breaks, anyone?) before the jumping would be worthwhile. At the canter, Brumby is either a)being held up and looks pretty good but isn't holding himself, b)rather high-headed and fast, or c)curled behind the bit. There is, of course, option d, which I get sometimes but want all the time.

Lately, the biggest issue I've had is fixing 'c', namely that I want him to stop coming behind the bit at the canter. Of course, curling his neck in also means I don't have the breaks off the seat that I want and half-halts are practically non-existent. This is partly due to his old habit (he was always held up) and partly because my timing isn't perfect with the softening.

I'm leaving a lot of stuff out, so feel free to ask/comment/question. I can't believe I'm posting these on here!

Here, we are just working on trotting a square. This has also been a tough spot. I have a hard time getting a good bend with him. (note: there is another rider with us, so the comments at the beginning are directed to her and her mare)

Here we are working on canter-trot transitions off the seat. So hard!!

There. Enjoy the laugh :D

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blanket Origami

Yes, this is possibly the most ridiculous post ever. I hate folding blankets. Especially the heavier quilted stable blankets. They’re puffy and slippery and just do NOT want to stay folded nicely on the blanket racks. If I’m being honest, I will admit that I struggle with even a cooler…though that is my “favorite” if you can call something that only mildly irritates you a favorite anything.

I have tried different techniques, different fold patterns, if you will. Still, I am most often left with something not entirely completely unlike a rectangle. Then there are the buckles and straps that seem to multiply with every fold. What the heck do you do with those??

It’s not like I am trying to create complex blanket origami here, like those towels at resorts. I would be satisfied with a neat square or rectangle hanging nicely over the bar.

I try to be considerate and not have the extra blankets drooping down to the blanket rack below which belongs to another boarder. I try to be considerate and make sure the blankets aren’t dragging on the ground.

But seriously. This really shouldn’t be so difficult for me. Should it?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Janssons Frestelse (Jansson's Temptation)

 This recipe comes from Maria at Horse of Course blog and you can find her post on this recipe here. As soon as she mentioned it I knew I wanted to try it.

I noticed that the anchovies in her recipe looked different from what I was used to. The ones I get are very small and don't usually have any skin left at all.

They look like this:

Whereas the ones in the Janssons recipe looked wider and had skin. So naturally, I did some research. And I'm glad I did!  It turns out that Swedish anchovies are pickled in a brine that is also somewhat sweet and has different spices. Our typical ones are just in a salt brine.

In fact, it seems that they aren't really anchovies at all, but rather sprats, which are a small sardine-like fish. However, sprats in brine like this are called 'ansjovis' in Sweden and this might explain the confusion in translation.  I am sure that this dish would taste pretty good with regular anchovies, but I think it would be missing something that the distinctive flavour of the Swedish brine brings.

Lucky for me, I have a source of Swedish foods in the local
Ikea store so I was able to try a more authentic version.

My collection of ingredients for the recipe. I used Yukon Gold potatoes simply because I already had them. I also used red onion instead of yellow because I had a large one already partly used. I am hoping these little changes won't interrupt the authenticity of the dish.

I used a mandoline to cut the potatoes. Well ok, I asked
my husband to cut them, I hate using the mandoline!

Here is the assembled dish.

After this, I added a final layer of potato and the brine from the tin as well as a generous amount of cream, I baked it at 375F/190C for about 40 min. I covered it with foil for the first 15 minutes or so.

I served it with slow-cooked pork and root vegetables and a big dollop of sour cream. I didn't get a final picture - too hungry! I really liked this dish. There are three things I think didn't work perfectly for me.

1) The cream curdled during baking and although it didn't hurt the taste it certainly didn't look as nice as it should. I'm not sure if this is because I used 18% milk fat cream instead of 35% or if I shouldn't have added all the brine. Not sure, but it would have been nicer if that didn't happen.

2) I think the dish was improved by serving it with something else. The dish on it's own was very salty for my taste. Next time, I think I would not use all of the brine, maybe half. Serving it with sour cream and other dishes really helps with this, you can appreciate the delicious saltiness. And it IS delicious!

3) Really would have been great with beer! Sadly, I had none :(

All in all, a great dish and I'm glad I tried it. I picked up 2 tins of the sprats/anchovies so I will be making use of them in some other recipe, no doubt.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stuffed Squash

We have been receiving absolutely beautiful squash in our weekly organic produce delivery. Two weeks ago, we couldn't even identify what the variety was. It was something like a Hubbard but not quite. This week, we had these adorable little 'table queen' squash. At least that is what I've seen them referred to as, some other sources show them as dark green. No matter what they are, this recipe would work with any squash, especially acorn. Something about them just asked to be stuffed.

 Baked and ready for the final touch.

Stuffed Squash

For filling, saute:
Oyster mushroom

Combine with:
Quinoa (or preferred grain)- cooked
Cut squash in half lengthwise and clean centre of seeds etc. (make sure it goes in the composter!). Stuff each half as much as you can. Place in baking dish with some water in the bottom. Cover dish with lid or foil and bake. Ours took close to an hour at 350F/176C...I increased the temp to 375F/190C after half an hour or so because it was still fairly hard and I was hungry!  Once squash is cooked, place some grated cheese on top and place under broiler. We used an extra old cheddar but many different cheeses will work.
 A simple and delicious dinner.
The photo isn't the greatest and the
cheese tastes better than it looks!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Give me a little time off...

And all systems shut down, apparently. I had a nice, relaxing holiday and just wasn't very motivated to write anything. I DID do a lot of riding...more on that to come!

I took a lot of walks through the woods. It was beautiful and mostly silent with the heavy snowfalls we've been experiencing for over a week.

There is a large farm in the centre of our city, called the Central Experimental Farm. We walk in the arboretum section quite often and it's nice to feel like I am near a barn, even when I'm close to home.

Hazel also loves it here. She sometimes hears mice or other critters under the snow and tries to find them.  The funny thing is that the one time she came face-to-face with a mouse last winter, the mouse clearly was the winner in their "battle"! It was a bold little guy, stood his ground and jumped up at her nose. Boy did that surprise her! But she can't resist trying to find them, even if she's too scared to do anything else.