Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sausages and quilts

This week's blog post is mostly about sausages and quilting, an unlikely combination I admit!

Firstly the sausages. A few years ago, Hutch, one of the British civilian employees here at BATUS went to great lengths to get a recipe for proper British bangers, he also tracked down a supplier for the rusk and spices and found a local butcher to make them.

Even then, getting them made was far from straight forward because the Canadian butcher refused to believe that the quantities in the recipe could be right, but eventually the first batch was made and they were a great success. From then onwards Hutch's little hobby has grown into a small little club of ex-pat sausage admirers!

Last month Hutch got head-hunted and left Alberta for a new job in Vancouver. As one of his sausages biggest fans, he decided to hand the reins over to me.

So last week, I drove down to Premium Sausage in Seven Persons, near Medicine Hat and placed my first order for 20kg. I will collect the freshly frozen results on Friday morning and I am already considering expanding the range to include leek and Stilton sausages too!

As you can see from the photo above Premium Sausage, like most of the locals, are very excited about Alberta's latest Canadian Idol winner, the third in only six series. Theo is from Lethbridge, a couple of hours away and so in the grand scheme of Canada, he's a local boy!

This week I have also be finishing my latest quilt which was a slightly more ambitious undertaking than the last one. It is made from more than 500 individual pieces of fabric all of which I had to cut. A rather tedious job!

My colleague Jenny said the colours reminded her of the American flag, so it its henceforth known as the American Flag Quilt. As you can see, when I completed it the cat showed her usual appreciation of all clean linen, by sitting on it. It will be her new favourite sleeping place until she has moulted black hair all over it and then she'll abandon it in search of somewhere cleaner to sit!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Back to (dog) school

With Jim back in the UK on a course for the next fortnight, I'm home alone on the prairie this week, but fortunately with more than enough to occupy me!

Macy started a new term at puppy school on Thursday. Before the summer she graduated from puppy pre-school and will now spend the next eight Thursday evening's doing the canine equivalent of Grade 1. In her class are our good friend's MaryAnne & Ed and their dog Reggie. Rather handy for sharing lifts, but as we discovered last week, rather distracting for Reggie when he's trying to learn AND show off to his best puppy buddy!

Also in the class was the owner of a young collie who seemed to have mistakenly wandered into our group with a fully trained performing dog. Whilst the rest of us were patiently running through "sit" and "leaveit", she was showing off polished performing skills worthy of Britain's Got Talent! Nobody likes a show off, so lets hope she gets moved up a class!

Also in our group was an employee from BATUS called Michelle. Now Michelle and I speak everyday when she calls BFBS to enter the competition I do on the radio show. However despite this, we've never actually met, which was somewhat confusing because she recognised my voice when I appeared in class and came up to say "Hi" to me. This resulted in a very embarrassing moment of zero physical recognition from me whilst I tried to fathom out why she was so earnestly and enthusiastically greeting me!

Meanwhile, autumn continues to add it's vibrant colours to the village pallet. I have been kidding myself a little that it has arrived later than last year, but after looking through some photos, I realised that it was a year ago this weekend, that we visited Dinosaur Provincial Park in shorts and t-shirts and returned in the afternoon to take photos of the village with brilliant blue skies and striking yellow trees. So the seasonal shift is running to schedule!

Top photo in this post today is courtesy of Nikki Balldock, another army wife here at BATUS. It's me during the pre-calf roping brief at the rodeo.

Monday, 8 September 2008

'Little House On The Prairie' goes to print

This month Little House On The Prairie goes to print, as this blog becomes a monthly column in Downland Village Magazine (see left.) So a warm welcome to any new readers in the Chichester area who has just discovered this site.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, here on the Albertan prairie there are signs all over the village that autumn has arrived. I went out at the weekend to take a photo of one tree I had noticed turning golden and found, when I started looking, that there were actually several.

It's astonishing how quickly the weather has changed from the debilitating heat of three weeks ago, to nights which now touch freezing point.

The above ground pools that popped up in gardens over the summer are all being drained and packed away for the winter and once again the village social life has started to revolve around the ice arena, which after a summer without ice, was opened up again last week.

The second year ladies team (who I played for last year) are in hockey school this week and the season begins in earnest at the end of September.

Having had my turn on the ice last year and lived to tell the tale, I have decided this winter to spend more time on another great Canadian past time - quilting. We have an excellent teacher in the village and although Jim is utterly baffled by the concept of spending hours cutting up fabric, to only spend more hours sewing it back together. I must say I am rather enjoying it!

This week Macy also starts the canine equivalent of first grade at obedience school in Medicine Hat. On our last course we were one of only two dog owners who managed to complete the course, so it will be interesting to see if this group have better sticking power!

Monday, 1 September 2008

5c and raining!

Lots of cold damp weather this week and to make matters worse the boiler in our house has been condemned, so we are without heating! I've been making lots of cakes in the kitchen to provide an excuse to run the oven to keep us warm. We are of course living on top of Alberta's most profitable gas field, so our gas is very cheap! (not something you want to hear in the UK right now, I know!)

Thankfully despite the rumours circulating the village that snow is on the way, it seems the opposite is true and temperatures should be back up to 27c next week... but in Canada, you never know!

Still, at least the bad weather has provided lots of opportunities to stay inside and plan the road trip we are doing with my parents. We have finalised our route and the stops we will make and the map of the right shows where we will be going. (click on it to see it full size)

First port of call is Elkwater, Alberta, then down across the border into the US and Great Falls, Montana. On to St Mary, Montana, back into Canada and on to Waterton Park in Alberta, across to British Columbia to visit Fernie (our favourite winter haunt) and finally to Kootenay and a place called Nipika.

We seem to be scraping into every stop just as the shutters are being pulled down for the end of the season. We are hoping we won't be too late in the year to dine at our favourite Italian restaurant in Waterton town!