Sunday, August 30, 2009


Yesterday morning I started to make an artisan bread. In one of my previous postings I gave the recipe that I follow from a Bonnie Stern cookbook. After letting the dough sit for 24 hours in a bowl covered by saran wrap and covered by a tea towel, I could start on the next step.

This morning I decided to add shredded cheddar cheese to the dough before you let it rise for two hours. I added about a cup to the dough. The recipe calls for the dough to sit on a well floured tea towel for two hours. You fold over the tea towel to cover the dough. Even though you cover the bottom of the tea towel with flour the dough can be sticky when lifting if off of the tea towel. My sister-in-law started to use parchment paper as the liner on top of the tea towel. She found it easier and the dough didn't stick in the same way to the parchment paper. I used this technique this morning and the process was less messy especially dealing with dough that can stick to a tea towel.

I provided several pictures in this posting. The top pictures are grated cheese and the dough in the heated dutch oven before it goes into the oven for baking. The bottom two pictures shows the finished product. I love the heel from the loaf of fresh homemade bread and that piece I cut off from the warm loaf was all mine. I didn't have to share it. I put a little bit of butter on the bread as nothing tastes as good as butter slightly melted on a piece of fresh cheese bread. Until next time....

Friday, August 28, 2009


I must confess, I get antsy when there are only six roles of toilet paper left in the house. I feel more relaxed when there is a good storage supply of toilet paper in the house and I know if there is a storm or a catastrophe and we could be housebound, we are prepared! I am not the only person who has this obsession. I have friends and family who also like to buy toilet paper in bulk and have ample supplies on hand. Maybe we can blame this on genetics and being female?

When the dog was younger, he also had a thing about toilet paper. A roll of toilet paper hanging on a rod was fair game. He would grab the paper hanging on the roll and pull or bite into the roll and leave tooth marks. Who wants to use toilet paper with teeth marks in it? The above photo of the toilet paper hanging on the pretty rod is an 'after picture' of an encounter between the dog, a toilet paper roll on the rod and the wall.

The story goes like this. I was in the kitchen doing the usual stuff you do in the kitchen. The dog came running into the kitchen with the toilet paper roll in his mouth. I thought to myself, how did he get that roll off the rod? The toilet paper roll slides onto the rod. To get it off the rod, he would have had to slide the roll off the rod. The dog is smart but not that smart to slide the toilet paper roll off the rod. I had to go look. What a mistake. To get the toilet paper roll off of the rod, he pulled on the roll. Do you know how many pounds of pressure a dog can apply with his mouth? Some dogs can apply a 1,000 pounds of pressure with a bite. The toilet paper rod was anchored to the wall. So in pulling the toilet paper and thereby pulling on the rod, he pulled the rod with the anchors out of the wall. There was now a hole in the wall. I remained calm and called the DH to come look what HIS dog had done! I was in shock. I was almost paralyzed wondering what we would have to do to repair this wall. I was frustrated. But I knew my DH could fix the wall because I assume most men can. I wondered if I had a 'Marley dog' on our hands.

We now had a renovation project. The job required buying some kind of 'stuff' to fill the hole; sanding and smoothing the wall several times once it was dry; matching a paint chip from the wall to new paint that matched the original sage green colour or was close to the colour; buying trim paint for the doors and baseboards, taping areas in case you were messy with your paint brush; and finally repainting the whole bathroom. All because of one roll of toilet paper.

After this incident, I bet a year went by before a toilet paper roll was placed on any rods in our bathrooms. The rolls were delegated to sitting on top of the toilet tank which was a more safer place. Until next time.......

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Ducklings can be fussy about what they eat. The DH and I have started to feed seven ducklings and their mom (she is called a hen in biology terms) for the past few weeks in a pond close to where we live. In an earlier blog I described the menu of food offered to these ducks and their preferred food choices. They seem to have a fondness for crickets and worms (larvae) as in live crickets and worms. That seems to be their comfort food. We have been making sojourns to the pet stores buying these live critters. We even know the delivery dates for when live crickets are shipped to the stores. These ducks can eat a container that is suppose to contain 100 crickets within two days. I haven't counted the crickets in the container to see if there are REALLY 100 crickets. The crickets and larvae are stored in the garage and when you go into the garage you hear a chorus of crickets. The first time I got out of my car and heard this chorus, I couldn't figure out how a number of crickets got into the garage. I didn't know that the DH had gone shopping that day for crickets and that these crickets were contained within a container.

I don't do much of the feeding as handling live crickets and larvae/worms doesn't rank up there for me as one of my favorite tactile experiences. I have had to help my DH when the crickets are jumping out of the container as he is trying to grab individual crickets to feed them to the ducks. That is tricky as I am helping him I have 70 pounds of lab pulling me and wanting to go in another direction. Feeding ducks is also an art. You have to throw the crickets or larvae out in the water and the ducks have to move fast in grabbing these critters as the larvae sink fast into the water. We have also been ensuring that the runt of the litter is getting extra food thrown his/her way as it needs extra protein; it is smaller and its development is a little behind its siblings. We will be sorry to see these ducks fly off in the fall for a warmer climate and hope that they come back next year. Until next time......

Monday, August 24, 2009


One blog that I have recently started to read is called "Framed, One Picture At A Time". The link is on my blog roll located on my site. The author, Kate Morgan Jackson, has stunning pictures on her site. The colours in her pictures are intense and very clear. She is quite the photographer. The topics she mainly covers are about food. Her last blog is on no-knead baguettes. Her pictures of the bread she made makes you want to buy some great cheese, roast some almonds or walnuts and somehow drag that image of the baguette from the computer screen onto a plate in order for you to eat cheese, bread, nuts and some wine. Alas, I don't think it is technologically possible to do that quite yet! So instead I am sharing the link she provided on her blog for the recipe 'almost no-knead baguette'.

I don't know if any of you have attempted to make the recipe for no-knead bread that I provided in an earlier posting. It is a great recipe. With all of these recipes I have been posting I think I need to start buying a sack of flour instead of my standard purchase of 5 kg bags. Until next time.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Yesterday I made a black bean vegetable soup. I adapted a recipe from one of the cooking sites that I frequent, The picture that I took may not do justice to how good the soup turned out. It is very tasty, low in calories and high in fiber because of the beans and the vegetables. My picture taking of food and other scenes is a work in progress. I have been to some sites where the picture of the particular recipe is very appealing to both your eye and stomach. For this particular recipe, I used frozen tomatoes and thawed them and I also used black beans that I had cooked versus canned beans. You can also improvise and add other vegetables. I would have liked to have added fresh cilantro to the bowl of soup but I did not have any in my fridge. Here is the recipe for black bean vegetable soup.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 zucchini, shredded
1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained OR 3 cups of cooked beans
1 (8.75 ounce) can whole kernel corn OR 1 cup of frozen corn
ground black pepper to taste
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes OR 6 to 7 frozen or fresh tomatoes
In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion, garlic, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onion is softened. Add chili powder and cumin; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add stock, 1 can of the beans or 1.5 cups of cooked beans, corn, zucchini and pepper; bring to boil.
Meanwhile, in food processor or blender, puree together tomatoes and remaining beans; add to pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why Exercise Won\'t Make You Thin,8599,1914857,00.html
Why exercise won't make you thin is a very interesting article worth reading. When I think back to the miles I ran in preparing to run a marathon and a number of half marathons, I didn't lose several dress sizes. I was in great shape from the many miles of running each week. I did consume power bars and sports drinks while running long runs as your body needs the fuel to go the distance. On the ten plus mile runs, I felt sometimes like I was grazing the whole time. The funny thing is that I now walk every day and weigh about the same amount as compared to when I was running about four or five days a week.


There are several coffee bars (bar sounds more hip than the terms shop, store or joint) that I frequent in the city where I live. I usually patronize two places which in fact are now owned by the same person. One is a chain and one is a self starter store. From time to time I go to a really big chain coffee place that also sells books; a small family run coffee place that also sells light lunches, vegetarian sushi and baking ( a great place but out of my way); or to another coffee chain.

I drink my coffee as a latte when I go to these places. I have my latte script down pat. Sixteen ounces, extra hot, skim, a shot of sugar free caramel and in a go cup. I feel sometimes I am in a seinfeld show when I ordered my coffee. I am picky and I watch how they make it. I will also add commentary while they are making my order. There are some days when I want to get behind the counter and make it myself. Now I can't drink coffee black - it is toooooo bitter. I guess that is why I can't drink beer - toooooo bitter. I need my coffee to be partnered with milk and, some kind of sweetner. Some people think I am not a true coffee drinker as I am not a purist and mix things into coffee.

This morning while doing errands, my DH and I went to a coffee joint that we don't frequent very often. I ordered my usual and this being a Saturday I went over the top and got the latte with the caramel drizzle added on top of the foam. When I got my coffee handed to me by the woman behind the counter I saw how little caramel she had drizzled on the foam. I asked her for more and she didn't blink an eye and squeezed a generous amount into the coffee. Probably more that what was needed. When she handed the latte to me, I did pause in my step. Looking down at the cup I saw that the foam didn't even reach the top of the coffee cup. There was a noticeable space. I felt cheated. I didn't say anything and walked out of the store.

So why did I question this particular latte? It is about money, need, want and quality of product.
  • With tax, each of my lattes cost anywhere from $4.30 to close to $5.00 depending on the coffee bar. Being a non accountant, let's round it up to $5 a latte. I am paying $5 for a shot of strong coffee, an ounce of caramel and about a cup and a half of skim milk. This equates to me to be a good profit margin. I could buy at the store or a restaurant real food for the price of the latte.
  • How many lattes should I consume each week? While on holidays this summer, it was almost a daily occurrence. How much milk should I consume each day along with my other protein?
  • Should I be drinking coffee each day? For a number of years I didn't drink coffee. Is it a want or a need?
  • There is a difference in your latte when made by someone who takes the extra moment to make it perfect. The foam is the right amount, the extra hot is hot, and you know the coffee person has put some effort in making that particular latte versus treating it like an assembly line process and making it fast, automatic and sloppy.
So where do I go from here? Is it worth investing in buying your own coffee machine that makes lattes? I did have one given to me as a birthday present years ago from a group of friends. I enjoyed it but it takes effort to make it. Should I stick to buying lattes twice a week and drink tea or regular coffee at work on the other days? Should I invest the dollars in a latte machine that I would have spent instead at the coffee bar? It would take six or seven months to recover my investment. What would you do?? One thing is for certain. If I want a latte, I plan to patronize the two usual coffee bars that I go to. I like the customer service and most of the people that make the lattes take that extra moment to make it perfect. Until next time......

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


In one of my previous postings I mentioned Mark Bittman. Mark Bittman or MB for short, is a well known NY Times columnist. His weekly column in the NY Times is called 'The Minimalist". He uses both written words or video in his columns to talk about his topic for the week. I love watching his videos on preparing certain dishes. The videos are short, simple to follow, and you don't need a certificate from a cooking institute to make these dishes. In many ways these dishes truly reflect the name of his column, minimal. This past weekend I watched a video where he made a zucchini, corn and tomato salad. Of course I had to make it as I have fertile zucchini plants in the garden and need to be creative in preparing different zucchini dishes. There are only some many shredded zucchini omelettes one can make. I followed this recipe and it turned out well. Of course I couldn't help myself and had to improvise a bit on the recipe. MB is the author of several cookbooks including "How to Cook Everything". I don't have this book but do plan to purchase it in the near future.

I do have his book "Food Matters, A Guide to Conscious Eating". I like the themes he talks about in this book plus it has about 75 recipes which are all easy to make. I keep the book on one of my kitchen counters so that I can refer to some of his recipes. In his book, he talks about how government policy, marketing by big food companies and global economics influence what we buy in the grocery store, cook and put on our kitchen tables. He also supports that if we make changes in our food choices, we will shrink our carbon footprint and our waistline. I know I can be influenced in my food purchases by the marketing of certain food products. MB is also a proponent of eating more plant protein. He is not a vegetarian but decided to cut back on his meat, dairy, refined carbohydrates, junk food and processed food consumption. He lost 35 pounds, decreased his blood cholesterol and sugar levels and his sleep apnea disappeared. Basically he ate food derived from plants for breakfast and lunch and for super he ate whatever he wanted. This included meat, dairy and sugar. He also didn't eat heaping bowls of pasta for lunch and used some common sense in his portion control. But he didn't count calories. He calls his eating sane eating. Or in other words, eat food that matters. It is about eating whole food, real food and basic food. For MB, this is a lifestyle, not a diet. He supports a change in focus in our eating habits, back to something more saner, more traditional and less manufactured. He is not a purist and will go out and have a cheeseburger and when he travels, try different foods from that particular country.

I am trying to change my food choices - eating more 'clean food'. This means less processed food, more plant protein, food that has food value, less refined sugar and carbohydrates and more complex carbohydrates. I will not deprive myself of the joys of eating ice cream on a weekly basis or my fat free, sugar free latte. I will keep you updated on my journey. Until next time.....

Sunday, August 16, 2009


It is never fun for both you and your pets when you have to give them medication. Having both dogs and cats, I find it way much easier to give medication to dogs. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Both border collies that I have had were on long term medication because of health issues.

Jessie, who passed away last year, required daily medication to deal with a liver tumour. Giving her the pills was a breeze. It is all about what food you use to wrap around the pill or use for a disguise. For many years she gladly took her pills with plastic cheese wrap around them. No chewing was involved, it was a direct down the throat swallow. In shopping for cheese, I had to decide what kind of plastic cheese should I buy for her - full fat, light or fat free. Should I buy the no-name or buy the more expensive name brand? Such decisions! Did she care about the amount of fat in the cheese? I never asked her. I do think she preferred the full fat cheese. There came a point though that she decided she didn't like the plastic cheese anymore. I had to find an alternative disguise. The choices were endless and I knew that variety should be part of the equation. I started to browse the deli meat area of the stores where I shop. Again there were choices to be made - full fat, reduced fat or fat free. I bought stuff that I would never touch. Each week I would buy a small package of bologna, summer sausage, turkey or other processed meat to make giving her the pills enjoyable and non-stressful. The fun part of having two dogs is giving one dog the disguised pills wrapped in something that smells and tastes wonderful to the dog while the other dog would watch in anticipation and wonder why he couldn't have any. Of course I would give a small sample at times to this dog as one has to be fair to both dogs.

Giving medication to cats is an entirely different story. It can be stressful to both you and the cat. The photo that I enclosed with this posting is the tools of the trade that I am currently using with one of my cats who recently had her teeth cleaned and also tore her ACL in one of her back legs. How she did that is beyond me as she is not the athletic one. She must have done it jumping off one of her favorite chairs after taking of one of her many daily naps. My male cat can jump to high heights and is the athlete in the family. The syringe in the photo is what one calls a pill popper. Best invention made. I have never used one until last week. In the past giving a pill to my male cat required two people, a sheet to wrap the cat in and quick maneuvers. I have shown one of the sheets used in the photo. The male cat is big, strong and likes to chomp down on your fingers as you are trying to get the pill to the back of his throat. For those of you unfamilar with giving a cat a pill, you need to open their mouths by inserting your finger into the side of their mouth. Once you get their mouth open, you need to keep it open with your fingers from one hand and with the other hand try to get the pill to the back of their mouth. Talk about stress for all involved. Speed is required and fumbling with the pill is not good as the cat will chomp down on your fingers as he is trying to close his mouth. You also have to watch their back legs as they are trying to get out of the grasp you have them in. The pill popper syringe that I have started to use with the female cat requires you to pull the plunger slightly back and put the pill at the tip of popper. You still need someone to hold the cat, and you also need to get the cat's mouth open. Instead of your fingers being chomped on, the syringe gets directed to the back of the throat and you push the plunger in so that the pill gets released and voila, it is in. Of course I then close the cat's mouth so that she doesn't spit the pill across the kitchen. Giving her the pills required some coordination as she needs to take the pills with food. While she is eating, I get the pills and the pill popper organized, call the DH to get ready and we wait until she is finished eating. He is the holder and I handle the pill popping. While all of this is going on I need to get the dog out of the kitchen as he starts to bark when he sees us trying to give her the pills. He is relegated to the garage or outside before the pill exercise occurs. He is jealous when he sees the cats getting affection from DH or myself. I call all of this the pill military exercise.

There are other ways to give your pets pills. One item I was given last week at the vet is cat treats called pill poppers. The treat has a pouch in it designed to hide the pill. Cats are way too smart for this and never in a million years would my cats fall for this disguised treat. I haven't bothered to open the bag. Another method that is used and depends on the medication, is crushing or sprinkling the medication into wet cat food. My cats are way too smart to fall for this method and I have stopped using this method after my first try.

Some of you that have cats who own you may have great pill stories or have cats that take pills in an easy manner. I have never had this latter experience. Until next time......

Thursday, August 13, 2009


You might ask yourself, what is the connection between black beans and rhubarb. There isn't, plain and simple, except for one common factor. I made both these recipes this week. I took pictures of the two dishes that I made. I know I never will make it as a food stylist but you should know that this is what the recipes actually look like, with no air brushing done. I did some tweaking to both recipes and will provide those details after each of the recipes. The recipes are from This is a great site and provides an array of different kinds of recipes - from healthy eating to slow cooking to vegetarian to full fat and sugar.

I made these recipes this week for several reasons. I still have rhubarb in the garden and picked an armful yesterday. I like rhubarb and you can make a number of different things with it. I have been trying to eat more beans on a regular basis and in fact I have quite the selection of dry beans that I have bought over the years. Some of these beans, stored in glass jars, haven't been used very often. I am trying to eat more plant protein as it is a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins and has less fat than meat. My favorite beans include chick peas and black beans. For some reason black beans are not really gaseous and that can make life a lot easier depending on where you will be a few hours after you consume them.
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour. Add rhubarb and toss to coat; set aside.
Melt the butter in a 2 quart casserole dish or other deep baking dish as the oven preheats. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup of flour, 1 cup sugar, and baking powder. Stir in milk until batter is smooth. Pour the batter over the melted butter and spread gently so that butter stays on the bottom. Arrange the rhubarb in an even layer on top of the batter.
Bake in the preheated oven until batter has risen up through the fruit and the top is golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Test with a long skewer to see if cake is cooked through.
My adjustments to the recipe was that I used splenda instead of the sugar. I also doubled the recipe because I had a lot of rhubarb. This recipe reminds me of cinnamon rolls as the bottom of this dish is caramelized. I will make this recipe again.

2 tomatoes, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1/4 – ½ cup lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons dried cilantro
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn; drain
1 (15 ounce) can black beans; drain
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups instant brown rice
salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, red bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, lemon juice, cilantro, basil, red pepper flakes, corn, and beans. Stir to combine the vegetables, then set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil at a medium-low heat. Add onions and saute until they are translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Pour in rice and toss to coat. Add reserved liquid from the corn and beans, along with any additional liquid as directed on the rice box. Cook the rice to package specifications. Let the rice cool slightly.
Combine the rice and vegetable mixture. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.
I made several changes to this recipe. I didn't add the tomatoes, I was worried it might get too watery or mushy if kept in the fridge for several days. I didn't have jalapeno peppers so I added hot chili sauce. I chopped up fresh parsley and added that instead of cilantro. I didn't use canned black beans but instead cooked up dry black beans in advance and used 2 cups. I don't have canned corn in my cupboards but do have frozen corn so I added 2 cups of frozen corn that I had heated in the microwave for 3 minutes. I don't have instant brown rice in my cupboards so I made brown basmati rice in my rice cooker and added 2 cups of cooked brown rice. I skipped the part where you saute the onion in the oil and then add the rice. I used some chopped green onions instead and threw everything into one big mixing bowl. I enjoyed this salad and had it for lunch several times. I will make it again.
Bon appetit. Until next time......

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


There has been some recent articles on the intelligence of dogs. Stanley Coren, who has written a number of books on the intelligence of dogs, has stated in recent newspaper articles that dogs have the mental capacity of a 2.5 year old child. Stanley Coren says dogs have the ability to sniff out and solve complex problems and are more like humans and other higher primates than previously thought. Dogs can understand about 165 words while those dogs in the top 20 percent of intelligence, can comprehend 250 words. I have never counted the number of words that my dogs know. I do know that you have to spell out words to other members of your household if you don't want the dog to know what you are saying. WALK is probably the most famous word that gets spelled out by owners. Dogs also have the ability to do basic math. Dogs can count. My dogs have known that when they see me putting two cookies in my pocket and I only offer them one, there is still another one in that pocket and they wait for it. I have never asked my dogs to balance my checkbook or to do my taxes. That actually would be a great line to use with Revenue Canada when they are auditing your income tax filings. You could say that the dog did the math on figuring out your balance for your income tax.

Stanley Coren also rightfully says that dogs are the masters of body language and can pick up gestures, nuances and signals. My dogs have known what I am going to do before I even do it! For example, my lab knows when it is walk time before I even get the clothes/shoes out for the walk. He can pick up on nuances and body movements that I am not even aware that I am making. In the morning, he can also figure out if I am going to work or if it is the weekend and I am off doing errands. He expects to come with me if I am going to do errands but does not race around with a ball in his mouth if I am leaving to go to work. Does my dog know my wardrobe that I have for work? I have never asked him either for his opinion on whether he likes the clothes I chose for that particular day of work. Dogs also know whether you are having a great day or challenging day. They pick up on your body language and respond to your mood. My lab knows the time of day as he knows when I should be coming home from work and he waits on the couch looking out the window plus he knows his feeding schedule.

I have posted two pictures - my border collie Jessie who passed away last year and my lab. Stanley Coren has said that the most intelligent dog is the border collie, followed by poodles, german shepherds, golden retrievers, dobermans, shetland sheepdogs and then labrador retrievers. I know the two border collies that I have owned were smart and in some ways smarter than my lab. They have different personalities and traits. The border collies certainly had a different perspective on where I ranked in the hierarchy of the pecking order than my lab. It is also easier to handle 35 pounds of muscle versus 70 pounds of lab muscle at the end of the leash. I am trying to figure out if I should feel bad that my lab is only the seventh smartest dog. I know he is above average intelligence and is not at the bottom of the pack as compared to afghan hounds, bulldogs, chow chows, beagles and basset hounds which are lowest on the intelligence list.

Well it is time to go do an errand and the dog will naturally be expecting to come with me. Until next time.....

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Close to where we live there is a lovely park that includes a small pond. I don't know for how many years this female mallard duck has been raising her young at this location. This year she has seven ducklings, one of which is a runt. Of course the runts of the litter are the cutest, have to try harder and sometimes need that extra push or assistance in competing with its siblings. We always keep an eye out for this runt from this particular brood.

The pond is not big, it has vegetation but I don't think it has a lot of different food sources that a flowing creek would offer. Seeing these seven ducklings and mom brings out the maternal instincts in me and I have been offering them different food on a daily basis. I never before thought of raiding the fridge to see what morsels would tempt ducks. My DH even googled to see what these critters would prefer. Well, we found out over the course of a week that they have particular tastes - they don't always subscribe to what google says.

From our daily offerings, I found out they like bread of course. You have to tear the bread into very small pieces as they will not attempt to eat it if you throw them chunks. Small bills and small mouths. They like my homemade olive bread and will eat healthy whole grain bread. I made hard boiled eggs, chopped them and took care to not mash them. To my astonishment, they turned up their bills. The dog enjoyed the eggs. I chopped up organic baby greens used for salads and carted the small bag to the pond. Again, rejection by the ducklings. The dog was not interested in this leftover. I made extra organic basmati brown rice one night beyond what I needed for supper, thinking that the ducklings might like a change in their menu. Again, they turned up their noses. There is about half of cup of rice left on the bottom of the pond. I think that the salamanders in the pond also turned up their noses at the rice. We took samples of our Koi fish food pellets out to the ducklings. Again, no interest. Then my DH went shopping determined to find something with more protein than bread. So he bought Koi fish food flakes as they are light and maybe easier to eat than pellets. The ducklings turned up their bills to the offering. This morning after getting fortified with coffee (a skinny vanilla latte for me), we went to one of the local pet stores. We looked at containers of live crickets and mealy worms. I know that the dog wouldn't go for these leftovers. I wasn't too excited about this prospect. Close by we spied two small containers of freeze dried plankton and freeze dried shrimp. After departing with $20 at the cash we drove to the park and walked to the pond with our latest offerings of food. It is a miracle, they sampled and ate this freeze dried food. The duckling runt was busy eating and appeared to be much more of a hustler than his/her siblings.

For the next month, until the ducklings get big enough to fly, we will be making daily or twice a day offerings of freeze dried plankton and shrimp. So if you plan to feed your own ducklings, keep to the bread, it is easier. Until next time.....

Friday, August 7, 2009

Men, Women, Relationships and Housework

I get a daily newsletter called Science Daily. In today's newsletter there is a feature article on men who do housework and getting the girl. Of course this by-line caught my eye and I simply had to read it. An economist from Oxford University in England did a study on marriage and cohabiting rates in developed countries and found that these rates are linked to attitudes towards the roles of men and women and their views on who is responsible for doing housework and looking after the children. This female researcher found that both men and women are more likely to want a live-in relationship with the opposite sex if they think their partner will do a share of the housework and childcare duties. Your chances of getting married or living with someone are probably greatest in Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries and the US. Australia rated the lowest while Canada was not included in the study of 12 developed countries.

Several things stand out for me about this study.
  1. A female economist, not a male economist, is spending her time analyzing attitudes towards housework and childcare. She sampled 13,500 men and women, aged between 20 to 45 years of age. That is a lot of interviews to do and process. A few dollars were spent doing this work. She is not the only one spending time on such profound issues. There are related stories listed in this article about married men doing less housework than live-in boyfriends; exactly how much housework does a husband do; and, just doing 20 minutes of weekly housework will boost mental health. I wonder if it was hard to get research funding to do these studies. I think having someone else do 20 minutes of housework for you would do wonders for your mental and physical outlook.
  2. People are not interested in getting married or living together if one of them is messy, a lousy housekeeper and/or not interested in having children. What happened to love, lust or marrying for fame and fortune. The researcher also points out that people are asking the question about whether they will be better off getting married versus being single.
  3. There must be a lot of single people in Australia. These men must not be the marrying kind.
  4. If we need to worry about birthrates and people not getting married or living together, should housekeeping skills be a mandatory course in high school or university?
  5. I now need to canvas my friends on whether they were attracted to their mates based on their housekeeping skills and the potential for expert dusting and vacuuming.
Until next time.......

Thursday, August 6, 2009


We all brand and market ourselves in a number of ways intentionally or unintentionally. Some of us cultivate a certain look, have a style signature or certain flair that stands out - some will only drive a particular kind of car, wear certain brands of clothing or glasses; some people are known for their political views or the public causes that they will promote or speak to; other people are known for their leadership style and so on. We all want to have some individualism and unique persona about ourselves.

Companies or commodity organizations that sell products from cars to golf clubs to milk to orange juice to make-up also strive to develop that unique persona and use celebrities from the movie, sports, television, music, modeling and political worlds. I have been looking at the various ads lately and thinking about whether or not I would buy that product because of the celebrity being used to market that product. Do we buy a product that is heavily advertised using celebrities based on trusting, liking or identifying with them? How do they influence our buying decisions? Would you buy mascara from CoverGirl because Drew Barrymore, Queen Latifah or Ellen DeGeneres are promoting the product? You may enjoy watching them in movies or on the television but how does their fame translate to the branding of the product? It would be interesting to know the investment that Nike has made in Tiger Woods and the pay back they have received in sales because of his branding that product. When I read certain magazines and they state this so and so celebrity uses this cleanser or shampoo, I don't buy into the promotion that this product is better because this person was given this product to try and somehow their publicist has provided this information to the magazine or the company that makes the product has provided it to the celebrity to try.

I find it interesting when celebrities get into their branding game. I recently started to receive a weekly email newsletter from Gwyneth Patrow. She has her own site, She states her blog site is about nourishing the inner aspect. She sends out a weekly newsletter and shares recipes, personal travel notes, advice she receives and follows and other things. Her site has six areas with simple headings and it is easy to read. I am fascinated about what she is doing and why. This site is not designed by novices and I am assuming someone manages and writes the material on her behalf. It will be interesting to watch this site over time and see if it changes or evolves.

The top rung of personal branding and influence likely belongs to Oprah. I don't even need to say her last name. Watching her grow in influence and power over the years has been interesting especially watching her struggles with weight control and her shows devoted to this topic. Watching her involvement during the US election campaign last year and her very public support and promotion for Senator Obama was an eye opener. She was an early supporter of the now President Obama and I can easily understand why. I believe she had influence with female voters.

Until next time.......

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Animals live in the moment. They don't think about the upcoming meeting, what someone said to them yesterday, or how they will handle the work that needs to be done before the end of the week. They live for today and tomorrow they start all over again. We can all learn from them and be more cognizant of our surroundings, to smell the air and detect the nuances of how people are relating to us and to enjoy each day. I know that there are dogs and cats out there who wake up grumpy and are grumpy all day but there is always a reason for their behavior. Something is not right with their health or their surroundings.

I think my dog wakes up every day thinking that this day will be the best day. Yesterday was a great day for him. We went walking on some fields that has a marsh and creek running through it. Hay is grown on these fields and it was cut recently so it was easy to walk along the rows of stubble. The dog runs along these fields picking up all sorts of smells. When I walk with the dog off leash on these fields or in other places, several things makes me nervous. He likes to find dead animals which he rolls on or will eat or better yet, find some stinky poop from another dog which he will then proceed to roll on. We have had several instances of him stinking, with streaks of poop along his neck, shoulder and belly and then the DH or me having to give him a bath. I actually have a process worked out to deal with these stinky situations.

On yesterday's walk, he flushed out some pheasants, rolled on some poop, searched for gophers, smelled a million different things and had a jolly good time. We were headed back towards the road and he decided to check out the small deck that goes out over the marsh. After giving the deck a thorough inspection, he trotted into the muddy marsh. I held my breath when I saw him walk towards me. He was covered to his knees in mud, all four legs were coated. I shook my head. For him this was the best day. But wait, there was more to come. He then found what I believe was a dead gopher and decided to eat it. I couldn't convince him to come to me and bribing him with a cookie wasn't going to work. After he ate the dead gopher, he ran to the creek. There are bull rushes that run along the creek but he found an area where it is open. He saw ducks in the creek along with ducklings and deciding to go swimming and see if he could catch them. He went swimming towards these ducks. Thank god they can out swim him, he was getting further down the creek and my yelling at him was having zero effect. Eventually he realized he was not going to catch them and had to find a spot where he could get through the bull rushes and come back to me. The upside of this swim was that the mud on his legs and the other streaks on his belly from rolling in something were all washed off!!

It was a great day for the dog. Until next time.....

Monday, August 3, 2009


I consider the fruit cobbler to be the 'in between" of a bowl of fruit and a pie. I make a cobbler when I am too lazy to make a pie, don't want all of the calories or don't have enough time to make a pie. I find making a cobbler a faster procedure than making dough, chilling it and rolling it out as you do for a pie. Still, nothing beats a great homemade pie. Pictured here is a cherry cobbler I made yesterday with about 3/4 of a cup of blueberries added to it. These are cherries from my backyard.

I follow a recipe from and make variations and substitutions. Here is the standard recipe.

1 cup flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 tbsp chilled butter cut in pieces
1/2 cup half and half

1 pound rhubarb
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups strawberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 7 x 11 inch baking dish. Cut rhubarb into pieces and toss with flour and sugar. Put into the pan and place in oven for 7 minutes while you prepare the cobbler dough.

For cobbler dough, mix flour. sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter, mix together. Add the half and half. Get rhubarb out of the oven and put the strawberries on top. Then put cobbler on top of the rhubarb and strawberries. You need to drop the dough by spoonful onto the fruit mixture. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. The dough should be a golden color when done.

I make a number of variations using this recipe as my base. Depending on the amount of fruit I have I also use a 9 inch baking pan. I like to have a generous amount of fruit in the pan. For a berry cobbler I use about 4 plus cups of fruit, it depends on how deep of a pan you are using. I will vary the sugar depending on the type of fruit you are using. For berries, I use about 1/2 of sugar or splenda. I use splenda instead of sugar in order to cut down on my sugar intake. Also with a cherry cobbler, I will add a teaspoon of almond flavoring. I will also use minute tapioca instead of flour mixed in with the fruit. I will add about 2 tablespoons of minute tapioca. I have made cobblers with rhubarb and strawberries, apples, cherries, blueberries and saskatoons. The other changes I make are with the dough . I don't have half and half in my fridge so I use milk instead. I may also substitute butter for margarine. For this cobbler pictured here, I used applesauce instead of butter in the dough and added 1/2 cup of applesauce. If you want to eliminate or reduce the amount of fat in your baking recipes, you can substitute applesauce for the fat.

Bon appetit. Until next time......

Sunday, August 2, 2009


For fun I have posted several pictures from my walk with the animals yesterday at the fair. For some techie reason, I can't transfer some lion pictures from my camera to my computer. The first picture is the golden eagle sitting on a perch. The second picture is one of the female lions sitting in a pen/cage that is part of a semi. The lions lounge in this large semi whose sides flip up and allow for them to view the outside along with the outside world viewing in. The unit has three air conditioners plus sleeping quarters upfront for the handlers. The third picture is a butterfly who took a ride for awhile on my leg while I walked around the butterfly exhibit. I didn't take any pictures of the dogs on the agility course. I have a number of pictures taken at previous events with my dog. One of these days I may post a piece on the antics of training a dog and owner to learn agility. Until next time......

Saturday, August 1, 2009


As far as I can remember, my fascination with animals began at an early age and continues to this day. I have had pets for a good part of my life and enjoy their companionship, playfulness, adoration of me, simpleness and complexity. Dealing with dogs and cats can be both simple or complex depending on the situation. Watching shows on television such as Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Oasis channel and the dog whisperer are entertaining. I have numerous books about cats, dogs and horses and still have a copy of Charlotte's Web. This first picture to the right is not my pet though it would have been interesting to live with this creature in my house. The photo was taken when I was a teenager. She was a cheetah owned by a woman who used her for promotional events and other commercial venues. I got the chance to spend some time with her one afternoon. She put up with me petting for awhile and then she had enough. She lifted her paw and gently swatted me across the face. I am sure this was gentle according to her power and strength. She kept her nails in so no harm was done. The stories I remember about her include no birds came into the backyard because she would go after them; you couldn't bother her while she was eating out of her food bowl - she was protective of her food; and she slept on the same bed with her owner. I am not sure about sharing my bed with a big cheetah. The cheetah was not my only encounter with an exotic cat, I have met a black leopard while in university and that animal was a bit more wild.

After not having been to the exhibition fair for many years, I had to go this year because of the animal shows. Most people go to the fair for the food and rides but not me. The lions were the big draw. Where under one venue could I get to see lions, butterflies, dogs and raptors as we don't have a zoo or a eco-park? I told my DH that we just had to go and to be there when the gates opened. As the various shows were spread out over the venue and had different start times I figured out where we had to be for what time.

The first show to visit was the butterfly exhibition. The show was walking with butterflies in a tented off area. I have walked in tented off areas with butterflies before but it is always neat to see butterflies close up and have them land on you. Their colours and sizes are interesting to watch with their delicate wings. We had to monitor our time in order to walk to the area where the "walking with lions" show was being held. There was limited time to browse all of the junk food stands (I swear people go to the fair just for the food) as I was worried there would be people already seated in the stands half an hour before the show started. I was not disappointed. We got one of the few seats left and sat in the baking sun watching the lions in their cages (located in a semi) laying around and looking lazy before the show started. The half hour show was interesting including that they have one of few male white lions in the world. His name is Lufuno. You forget how big the lions are until you see them close up. You also think to yourself, would I want that job of being the trainer in the pen with those lions? I contemplated spending $20 to have my picture taken after the show with the male lion who actually was behind a plexiglass as there is a safety issue. After seeing the line-up and plexiglass I decided to skip this picture event.

With stomachs growling we had big decisions to make on our food choices. I know many of you would have gone for the corn dog but my arteries said no, so the smokie on a bun was the pick. Along with an expensive lemonade we were set to go find the agility dogs. I know this crew of handlers and dogs as I have taken numerous classes with some of these handlers and I participate in an agility league. The show was great and it is more fun when you know the personalities of both the handlers and the dogs. Regrettably I don't think my dog and I are ready for prime time shows. He has no honor and would take off on me and leave my side to go smell sometime that caught his fancy. As the show was being held in the same area as cattle and horse shows are held, I am sure that there are remnants of smells that would drive a retriever to distraction.

As we had some time before going to the birds of prey/raptor show, we walked over to the area where the rides are. You don't need to go on these rides - watching people go and down at fast speeds, upside down, on a variety of rides, gets your stomach up already totally on its own. The speed of the rides, line-ups, screams and heat was enough for us and we made our way to the building with the birds. Again, the bleachers were filled but we found two seats and settled in to wait for the show to start. There were four different birds brought out and they all flew without a tether to the handler who had pieces of raw chicken in her gloved hand. The only bird that stayed tethered and which she paraded around was a golden eagle. That breed is the largest north american bird of prey. It looks big but only weighs 10 pounds. What was impressive was its long and sharp talons. You can see why they can pick small animals.

So today I walked with butterflies, lions, dogs and raptors. Quite the day to remember. Until next time.....