Friday, November 20, 2015

Sausage Fest

Nice Title Huh?

Last week Brad was out hunting.  He came home Sunday in a triumphant return with a huge buck in tow.

Every year Brad gets venison, we have a game plan, or rather he has a game plan, I am just a supportive bystander.  He gets half the meat cut into the usual cuts, roasts, back straps etc.  The remainder he puts through a meat grinder along with some pork and turns it into sausages.  He had 70 lbs of venison combined with 70lbs of pork.  In case you aren't so great at math, that will become 140 lbs of sausages.

The picture below is one of 14 or so bowls of meat he was grinding up.

He ran into a little trouble early on in sausage fest 2015.  There is a very specific brand of casing that Brad likes to use which is produced by a company in Headingly.  He ususally buys them at Cabela's but they were sold out, as was Canadian tire and that Outfitters place on St. James street.


Why is this a crisis?  Well, Brad has been making sausages for years and has found that if you make the sausages while the meat is fresh, they are much better.  If you freeze the meat (because you don't have time to make the sausages) then  you have to thaw the meat.  Newly made sausages from thawed meat have to be cooked before you can freeze them again.  That process tends to dry them out a lot.  Which is why it was a time sensitive matter to get the casings; he didn't want to have to freeze the meat.  By reading the above paragraphs you have probably heard more about sausage making than you ever have before - Isn't learning fun?

Brad called around and found some in Portage La Prairie.  He was all set to make the trek out there, but decided to make a phone call to the company instead.  Turns out at their production facility they have some casings available for wholesale.  They generally don't sell directly to the public, but they made an exception.  Brad headed out to the warehouse and bought a bunch at wholesale prices.  SWEET.

Crisis Averted.

Brad spent about 15 hours this week grinding the meat, mixing the pork/venison awesomness, adding the spices and putting it back through the grinder into sausage casings.

This year he made a whole bunch of different flavors; Italian, Garlic, Breakfast and I think he also did a Bratwurst or something similar.

His hands and forearms have taken on Popeye like proportions from all the work, but it was a success!

We now have 500+ sausages tidily tucked away in packages of 6 in our downstairs freezer.  This freezer is where we keep our venison and it was empty when Brad went hunting.  It is now full.... of sausages.

We had to bring the venison roasts and other cuts to the freezers upstairs because there was no room.  What a nice problem to have.

I have friends who when they hear the word "venison" they freak out and won't touch a sausage(we eat them like smokies in the summer) with a ten foot pole. So we stopped mentioning it and you know what?  Our BBQ's rocked the house and everyone loved the sausages.  So there.

Now that our freezers are full we are ready to hunker down for winter.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Battle Royal

This morning Logan went to play with his Gerbils like he usually does on Sunday mornings.

He came into the living room and asked why Rex's fur was red.

A quick inspection made us realize that Rex and Lloyd had been fighting.  Not play fighting... full on battle royal fighting.

Rex's eye was swollen shut and his fur rumpled with blood which was extremely obvious on his cream colored fur.  At first Lloyd looked ok, but his injuries were not as obvious due to his black fur. Lloyd got it in the throat.  A large gash runs over his throat.

We were all pretty shocked.  They have lived in the same aquarium for years.  They were always snuggling up to one another.

I did a quick google search and it would appear that they have gotten to an age whereby one has to show dominance over the other.  In some cases they fight to the death.  Who knew gerbils were so barbaric?

Logan is beside himself but there isn't a whole heck of a lot we can do.  But, first order of business is finding a new cage so that we can split them up.  Thankfully we had kept the cage that came with the "Gerbil Welcome Home Kit", so Lloyd got the new digs.

Instead of spending a relaxing Sunday recovering from the previous nights Wine Tasting, I am now in my kitchen cleaning out gerbil cages to create a hospital like environment so that the fur balls can heal from their injuries.

I am not sure if they are going to make it to be honest.  Rex, the one with the swollen eye might be ok, but Lloyd's neck looks bad.  Now this is where things get tough.

Do I a) Spend a unreal amount of money on examinations, antibiotics and potentially surgery (would they even do that for a gerbil?) b) Let nature run its course and hope that they heal on their own or c) Have them put down if they are suffering

You could argue that you wouldn't spend a huge amount of money to nurse a goldfish back to health and to put things in further perspective, a brand new gerbil/hamster is around $10. I hate to admit it but if it was a cat or dog, we wouldn't be having this conversation - which makes me feel even worse as there will be an enormous amount of guilt if I don't spend the money because Logan loves them.

My cousin Jillian is a brilliant vet, so I called for her advice.  She said that separating them and sterilizing the cages was a good start to prevent further injuries and ward off infection.  The next step (should we choose to pursue it ) would be to take them in for an examination if the wounds become infected.

We just checked Rex and the swelling in his eye has gone down considerably and he can open it. Lloyd is obviously going to take awhile longer, but I am hopeful he will recover as well but Logan and I both agreed that the days of them sharing a cage are over.

End of an era.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Knack for injury

My ability to injure myself in the oddest of ways is well documented.  For the most part, the injuries haven't been serious, just minor scrapes and what not.

Up until now, it was only myself who was blessed with this gift.  However, it has now become apparent that my offspring have inherited it.  But there is a bit of a lead up to the story, so come with me on the journey...

This weekend was a busy one.  Brad left for his annual hunting weekend on Saturday.  Both boys had hockey games - so I had to coordinate shuffling them around for those.    

We then went to IKEA.  I wanted plants.  My current office is a barren box of beige and tile carpeting, an interior designers dream room.  I wanted some greenery to bring in some much needed oxygen and some color.  I settled on a bug tree like thing (don't ask me what it's big and green and thereby met all of my requirements).

I also got a small blooming red thing in a lime green pot - splashes of color achieved.

After being carted around on this barrage of errands, Logan asked if he could have his buddy Mason for a sleepover.  Logan has been asking for WEEKS, so I finally relented.  The plan was that after supper, Mason would come over.

When we got home, Zach's friend Greg called to have a sleepover.  Good gawd.  I am not that brave.   But Zach doesn't have many friends over, so I wanted to figure out a way to make something happen.  So in between Mason coming over, Greg came over for a visit.

Now - Even though Logan has a strict rule about Zach playing with Logan's friends when they come over, the opposite never seems to apply and Logan always goes down and hangs out.  His excuse this time was that he wanted to exercise.  The treadmill just happens to be in front of the TV, which  just happens to be where Zach and Greg were playing Xbox.

So Logan hopped on the treadmill (unbeknownst to me).  Zach is a little socially awkward.  He wants his friends to like him, but he doesn't know how to go about it, so he always acts goofy to get thier attention.

In this particular instance, he jumped on the treadmill behind Logan. Cue disaster.

They both fell off.  Zach was rolled on the belt to the end of the treadmill and got stuck between the treadmill and the wall while the treadmill was running.

In case you can't visualize that, it would be similar to rubbing your shoulder up against a belt sander.  The skin on the back of his neck, shoulder and wrist was skinned.

So squeals of pain sent me to the basement to find Zach bleeding, Logan making excuses and Greg quietly playing away on the Xbox.

See what I mean about having a knack for injury? 

We got Zach all squared away and then he went back to hanging out with Greg.  Shortly there after, Mason arrived and Greg went home.  In terms of sleepovers, this one was really great.  The boys were well behaved, quiet and had a good time.  Remarkable.

On Sunday both the boys had hockey.  As we were loading up Logan's gargantuan hockey back into the truck, I heard a "pop" in my wrist.  Didn't hurt at the time, but shortly thereafter, my wrist and thumb started to hurt.

Gees Louise... really?

It seems better today, so that is a good thing.  Maybe I just tweaked a tendon or something.  I have a full seven days  to go before Brad gets home.... here's to making it through!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Finding my Feet

To say things have been crazy for me the past few months is somewhat of an understatement.

My boss, who I genuinely adored, retired after 40 years with the company. Leslie is amazing in so many ways. She was patient, knowledgeable and always had a kind ear. I will miss working with her.

What it means for me is that I am taking on a lot more responsibility in her absence.  Some of it I knew or had been doing already, some is new but I have a good idea and some I am seeing for the first time.

Cue crazy long hours and my stress levels gone through the roof.  Did I mention what my epilepsy seizure trigger is? Oh yeah... Stress.

So sitting at my desk yesterday I had a really mild seizure. Still though... Not great.

It's like clockwork, every 6 months, almost to the day each time.

I am physically back to normal, but mentally a little broken. I'll be ok. It helps that I like what I am doing. I think I  just have to find a way to balance things better. Instead of staying at work until 9 or 10, I'll leave at 5 (if I can... Sometimes it's unavoidable) and then be able to spend time with the kids and have dinner.  I can work late at home and I won't feel as guilty being away from them.

Or that's my plan anyways.

Maybe I just need to reframe it in my head, turn the stress into exhilaration or something. That might be tough, mutual funds aren't like bungee jumping off a cliff, but it's worth a shot at least.

I am however exceedingly grateful for my friends and husband who have been helping me pick up the slack with rides to and from various places and heavy handed pours of wine (not at the same time of course). This last few months would have been damn near impossible of it wasn't for them.

Ok. Big breath...looking forward to finding my feet. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Maternal Myth

There are all sorts of classic maternal images.  Tons actually.  Some of the more iconic ones are those that show a fifties type house wife happily cooking for her children and husband while wearing a frilly, lace trimmed (and inexplicably spotless) apron.

One of the traditional treats that are made for children are Rice Krispie squares.  Everyone seems to love them.  I do too, but I haven't made them in a really long time.

Every Bomber game we tailgate and take turns bringing the main meal, snacks, drinks or appetizers.  This past Saturday I was in charge of dessert and logan requested Rice Krispie Squares.  I have come to realize that you either enjoy this activity or you don't.  I fall into the latter category, 100%.

During my Friday lunch hour, I had swung by the store and picked up Rice Krispies. Brad and Zach were going to the cabin, which means I wouldn't have access to a car.   I was quite pleased with myself for being so forward thinking.

We don't keep Rice Krispies in the house because while they make for great treats, as a cereal they are not the best.  They do make a pleasing snap crackle pop noise when you add milk, but then you better get a move on because after the auditory fireworks they undergo a radioactive decay into beige mush in about five seconds flat.

It was early Saturday morning and I had treated myself to a divine sleep in.  I really needed one.  I knew that Erin would be picking me up at 1pm, so I had to get on it.

Anyways, I was all set to make the squares when I realised I didn't have any marshmallows.  Welp.   My only choice was to hop on my bike and head to the store, but I had some work to do before then, plus have a shower... nuts.  Then Logan walked into the kitchen, my knight in shining track pants.

Logan volunteered to cycle to Sobey's and pick up some marshmallows.  Hallelujah.  While he did that, I got some work done.

He came home in a triumphant blaze of glory because he knew how much I appreciated it.    With marshmallows in hand, I was ready to roll.

The recipe is simple enough, melt butter and marshmallows, add cereal, put in pan.  But melted marshmallow is like a white molten plastic, sticky and leaving web like strings of sugar every time it touches something.   Once the marshmallow reaches this molten state, you add the cereal.  I am convinced that no person who has ever made these things ever added the cereal and said, "I have added the exact right amount of marshmallow".  It always seems as though you never have enough and there is no way it will coat everything.

Somehow it does though.  It gets really hard to stir it up because the cereal clumps together and sticks to EVERYTHING.  Your spoon, hands, pot, counter... nothing is safe.

Transferring the concoction to a pan was like an I love Lucy episode, I had krispies stuck to the stove, the counter and in my hair as I had tried to brush the hair out of my face while holding a krispie encrusted spoon.  You have to move fast with this stuff because it starts to harden quickly.

I finally managed to finagle it into two tins pans.  It went a little easier once I realised that if you coat your hands in butter or water, the kripies won't stick to them.  Where was that information 15 minutes earlier?

Looking down at the pans however, I realized that my krispies were about 2 cm thick.  Which of course is ridiculous.  My only choice to remedy the situation was to flip one tray of krispies on top of other.    It worked well enough.  I added some blue and gold colored sugar on the top and walked away before I made things worse.

I quickly ran upstairs to have a shower.  Had a mild panic attack when washing my hair because I felt something foreign, it was the aforementioned krispie that I had got in my hair earlier.  But thanks to the half life of the cereal, it degraded into mush in no time.

Now there are only two things that a Preston woman (after all I am only a Hargreaves by marriage) is on time for; Work and Football games.  Everything else has a fluid start time.  So when Erin's husband Sean was standing at my door ready to go at precisely 12:59, I was shocked.    .

I am not of fan of keeping people waiting, so I was running around like a mad woman trying to gather everything up; jerseys, drinks, jackets..and of course... the Rice Krispie squares.  It was a good thing Sean asked if I had the tickets and parking pass or we wouldn't have gotten very far.

The kids gobbled up Erin's chili, which was so amazing I was reluctant to serve my ghetto krispies, but the kids ate those as well, providing another example of children's undiscerning palates.

In many ways I am not exceedingly maternal in the classic sense; I work too much, swear like a sailor on leave and an incapable of making a simple Rice Krispie treat without getting 3rd degree marshmallow burns.  But the spectrum of what maternal means has grown since the fifties.  In my mind it's connecting with those that you love and looking after them.  That can mean children, your family or your friends.. and by that definition, I'm doing just fine.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Another season in the can

I have many fond memories of Bomber seasons over the years.  The first season Brad and I attended when we were dating, the first season we really started to get to know the people around us (who would go on to become good friends) and the latest season.

This latest season things were a little different.  Although we had purchased the four seats, we never really sat in them.  Friends of ours David, Debbie, Erin and Sean all have tickets too.  So we finally clued into the fact that we should make a event of each game.  We all get together, spent some time tailgating and then head over to the game... Boys sit together (all three couples have boys, 5 between us), Ladies sit together.... and the Guys... well, I'm not sure what the guys do...rum hut maybe?
Tailgating was awesome this year.  Last year was the first season in the new stadium and the first year that we ever tried to tailgate.  It hadn't really caught on, and on many occasions we were the only ones in the whole parking lot with lawn chairs.

This past year, that all changed.  Tailgating has turned into a big thing.  Tons of people are out and it's not just hot dogs and hamburgers either!  The parking lots have electrical outlets so that people can plug in their cars in the winter.  We quickly realized that these outlets have power, even in the summer.

That nugget of knowledge led to all sorts of culinary delights; crockpots, blenders, electric grills all started showing up.   For Banjo bowl, the group next to us even brought giant speakers to crank out some music.  We brought a football for the boys and while the food cooked, they would be up on the hills throwing the ball around.

So while the season wasn't a great one football wise, I think it was my most favorite.  Even though there is traffic and hassle of packing up, rushing to the stadium, in the end it's worth it.  To escape the craziness for a little while, have some drinks with friends and watch a little football.

Til next year....
Just some of the crew... Sean, Brad and Zach are missing from the photo

I should make a note... in the above picture, Seth and Logan in the blue and red hoodies respectively have now created a new thing whereby they look completely disgruntled and annoyed in every picture.  They think it's hilarious.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Zumbaaaaahhhh it hurts

I have gone to a Zumba class before. It was always super fun, a great workout and kind of freeing to just let go.

It's been a while since my my set of classes. I decided that it was time to start it up again. There was a Groupon for a good deal, so Debbie, Erin and I signed up.

Erin is currently taking Zumba, so she was more than prepared. Debbie was a complete Zumba virgin and had no idea what she was in for.

Now there are two kinds of Zumba, the happy-go-lucky latin movement Zumba, and that crazy twerk until you can't even breathe Zumba.  Guess which class we signed up for?

After the first song I thought I was going to die. I had full on tomato face and I'm pretty sure I was one twerk away from a leg cramp.

Even Erin admitted that this class was way harder than then when she takes her through the leisure guide. Debbie just looked concerned… Really concerned.

To our credit we all made it through the class. After the class, I spent the rest of the day sitting in cold hockey arenas watching the boys play. In retrospect that probably wasn't the best way to recover from such a crazy workout.

By Sunday morning I was walking like a 90-year-old woman.  I think it finally wore off by Tuesday.

So far nobody's mentioned going again to the Saturday class, but considering we have a 10 class drop in pass we are going to have to go sometime.

Getting healthy is rough! 
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