Monday, June 27, 2011

My Expanded Waistline

During the past ten months I have been very limited as to what I can and cannot physically do. Due to my back injury and slow recovery it appears that I have lost a large portion of my calorie burning abilities. Apparently, walking from couch to fridge and back or lifting one’s fork, spoon or chopsticks continually to one’s mouth does not constitute exercise. Consequently there’s considerably more than a little “muffin top” over my trouser’s waistband; it looks more like an over-yeasted loaf of bread, if you know what I mean.
This was never more evident than a couple of weeks ago when I tossed aside my usual wardrobe of expandable waistband sweatpants or pajama bottoms and attempted to put on a pair of dress pants that I hadn’t worn since last summer. Hah! When I tried to do up the clasp it wasn’t even close. Deb tried in vain to fasten the gap together with a safety pin and she almost lost an eye in the failed attempt. Yikes!
That incident got me all nostalgic for the old days when I could eat anything I wanted and as much as I wanted and I still couldn’t gain a pound. Aaahhh, those were the days. I had always been active enough through sports, working out and physical work that I never really had to worry about it too much before. On top of the expanding waistline my cholesterol was climbing through the roof, too, so now I had more than one reason to watch what I was eating.
I definitely had to change my eating habits. I would have to eliminate the szalonna (bacon drippings with bread) or 1/2 litres of ice cream at one sitting and I would have to eat more chicken, fish and fresh veggies. I’d also have to take a hard look at replacing my usual high-calorie beer with something like Molson 67 or some other low-calorie beer but I have a real hard time paying more for less, you know?
Anyway, in an effort to eat more lean meat we picked up some ground chicken and some ground turkey instead of ground beef. Although I’m no Blue Seal Chef I do know my way around a kitchen but I was lacking recipes for cooking ground chicken or turkey. I was guessing that you can’t just substitute ground beef with ground chicken or ground turkey and have the same results so I Googled some recipes to try.
I found a number of recipes but the first one to catch my eye was the Apple-Chicken Sausage recipe. The recipe looked simple enough requiring only ground chicken, an apple and some seasoning; make them into patties, fry and voila--sausage--or a close facsimile thereof. The red flag should have been raised when the recipe called for enough poultry seasoning for seven stuffed turkeys, but what the heck do I know, right, so I threw it all together and fried them up and they smelled pretty good but…Yech! I think that whoever thought that this concoction would taste like sausage hadn’t really tasted sausage before. It was close, but there would have to be considerable experimentation with the ingredients requiring lots of time and too much wasted ground chicken to perfect that faulty recipe. As usual…”too smart, too late”.
This whole episode just reinforced in me that anything good for you isn’t going to be easy. Sure it’d be nice to live off of Cheezies and beer, like I use to, but those days are long gone and as we age and draw nearer to our expiration date, (and attempt to delay the inevitability of that day), we sometimes just have to make adjustments whether we want to or not.
“For the first time ever, overweight people outnumber average people in America. Doesn't that make overweight the average then? Last month you were fat, now you're average - hey, let's get a pizza!”-Jay Leno.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kipling's Flooded Marsh Brings Back Memories

A little while back I ran into my good friend Brian Tennant and he invited me to join him on an adventure similar to Huck Finn and Old Jim’s ride down the Mississippi River but our adventure would be on Lake Kipling or as many locals refer to it: The Marsh. Our raft would be the Tennant’s pontoon boat, on which Brian had mounted a sail, and our Mississippi would be The Marsh. This was going to give a whole new meaning to the term Prairie Schooner.
Anybody with any history around the Kipling area would be familiar with The Marsh and I would venture a guess that not many of them would have had a chance to see a sailboat on it.
Today, if you Google “The Kipling Marsh” it shows an aerial view of a dry pumped-out marsh which is far from the unbelievable never-before-seen water levels that it’s at this year. Prior to the mid 1970’s, when The Marsh’s landowners started to pump the water out, there was a fair amount of water in it but, again, nothing like it is today.
Back in my high school days of the early 1970’s I recall my friends and I spending a lot of time engaged in activities around or near The Marsh. It was usually around this time of year when we’d go for a swim in the dugout, just north of Lawrysn’s and almost at The Marsh, to cool off on a hot June day. Some of the participants even went sans all clothing, but not Reverend Hubbard’s boy, though. Nope, not me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Many of us would often walk the two + mile stretch of grid road out to the old Voroney farm, currently Kevin Puffalt’s, to visit the Voroney’s teenage kids Audrey and Robert, all the while singing American Pie, or something, at the top of our lungs to ward off the evil spirits lurking in the muddy waters of The Marsh. Walking back in to Kipling at night was always interesting, too, as you could often see the yellow eyes of some sort of wildlife creature off the road and the marsh flares would give off a very eerie greenish-blue glow over the cattails and reeds. I’m told there’s over seven feet of water on top of that grid road right now.
Once we had a cold snap in the early part of October and the marsh froze solid without any snowfall. We skated and skated on that ice for hours and never crossed the same path twice.
Back in the day, Kipling was a great destination for duck and goose hunters as there were thousands of the migrating birds out on The Marsh. My avid hunter friends would have a heyday out there, too. Of course every prairie boy worth his salt had a .22 rifle and we’d go out shooting muskrats or mud hens.
The current water levels are dire to the landowners as one farmer told me he has two full sections of his land under water. The threat of flooding to the town of Kipling is real and scary if that water is not pumped away before next spring or if we get a few inches of rain in one downpour like they recently experienced in the Weyburn area but it’s also kind of neat, to have a lake so close to town. Maybe “someone or they” should buy up the property and turn it into a resort. It’s just a thought. Maybe I enjoyed that sailboat ride a little too much.
"We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft."
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.

Writer’s note: comments and questions regarding this column may be addressed to Also, previous “In My Humble Opinion” and “Random Thoughts” columns can be found on the following website:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father's Day Post

The other day I was engaged in a conversation with a few people regarding the never before seen bodies of water, that are to be found everywhere in the southeast corner of our province this spring, when the subject of fish and fishing came up. Apparently some fish have been moving from body of water to body of water, during this spring’s flooding, resulting in fish being found in ponds and sloughs which normally wouldn’t have any fish in them at all. This is big news to people who actually fish, I guess, but I do not fish, so the tidbit of information was interesting enough but not completely compelling to me.
Well, you should have seen the look of incredulity on the faces of the other conversationalists, who happen to be avid fishing enthusiasts, when they found out that I had only gone fishing maybe four times in my life. You know the look. That look people get on their faces when they find out you don’t share their love of turnips, say, or Canadian rye whiskey, or American Idol.
“How can you not love ______________?!” (Fill in the blank with one or all of the following: fishing, turnips, rye, Idol…), you are asked by someone with their eyes bugging out and their eyebrows lifted to the top of their foreheads!
I was reminded of a conversation that I had had with one particular brother-in-law of mine who was Mr. Outdoors, you know, fishing, hunting, trapping, canoeing etc. after he found out that my son, who was then nearing ten years old, and I hadn’t gone fishing together yet. I responded that I was nearly forty years old (at that time) and my Dad hadn’t taken me fishing yet! You cannot pass on a skill that you never really learned, can you?
I have joked with others that my theory on why my Dad never took any of his nine kids fishing was because his fishing and hunting trips were to give him a break from his children! Truth be told, I am not exactly sure why Dad never took any of his kids fishing but my guess would be that watching a bunch of children around open water or in a boat with sharp hooks, filleting knives, fishing rods and fishing lines flying to and fro would be a far cry from the relaxing experience that he was seeking.
Based on my four real experiences with fishing I’m not all that broken up about Dad not sharing his fishing time with me. Besides, we found other ways to bond. Dad would often hit high flies to my brother Gord and me for hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon and how many hours did we spend in front of the TV during Hockey Night in Canada, feasting on popcorn or Mom’s cinnamon buns, sharing the love of the Leafs and the hatred of the Habs. One time Dad brought home a broken down old bicycle that he spent the entire weekend refurbishing for me. Man, did I put the miles on that one!
Although my first three fishing experiences were filled with boredom, sun burning, smelly slimy stuff, more boredom, mosquito attacks and an empty fishing line, solidifying my thinking that this is a huge time waster, the last fishing experience that I enjoyed was…well…enjoyable. You see, I finally got to share that father-son fishing time with our son Nolan.
Back in the 90’s, when the kids were little, we were staying at some friends’ cottage at Crooked Lake when Nolan discovered a fishing rod in their tool shed.
“Dad, lookit this!!,”-he cried out, “ Can we go fishing?”
I started mumbling about fishing licenses and bait and trying to be nonchalant about my fishing ignorance when I thought, Oh, what the hell? What are the chances of catching anything anyway, right?
So I found a plain hook in the tackle box, tied it to the line and, lacking anything wormlike, I attached a piece of steak gristle, leftover from supper, onto the hook and we made our way down to the dock.
I let Nolan cast the line out, thinking he’d be pulling weeds around for a while, ‘til he got bored, and then we could move on. Well, well, wouldn’t you know it; we snagged a nice sized perch. Now what? I didn’t have anything to club the flopping creature with but luckily there were some other kids fishing off the dock that helped us out.
Fortunately Nolan and I got our picture taken with the prize because it turns out that it was the one and only fish that we have ever landed together. We tried and tried to get another one on that vacation, but as fate would have it, that one exciting catch was all that we were allowed. It was all we ever needed.
“Dads are stone skimmers, mud wallowers, water wallopers, ceiling swoopers, shoulder gallopers, upsy-downsy, over-and-through, round-and-about whooshers. Dads are smugglers and secret sharers.”—Helen Thomson.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Slow-pitch Tournaments of Yesteryear

As I glanced at the calendar this morning it occurred to me that, being the first weekend in June, it would traditionally have been the weekend when the Kipling Lions Club would host the old Stanley Can Slow-pitch Ball tournament. Throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s slow-pitch was huge. I am not sure when the Lions Club hosted the first tournament but their annual tourney was one of the biggest and best in the area and undoubtedly one of their best fund-raisers for years.
The original slow-pitch games were played with a ball the size of a small watermelon or a large cantaloupe which made it very difficult to hit for any distance and almost impossible to find a glove large enough to catch the ball. I am sure that the first basemen would have had to have a glove the size of a small laundry basket to catch with. Over time the game morphed into a hybrid of the traditional big-ball game to a faster paced game using a standard softball sized ball.
Back then there was quite a league going in our area during the late spring and early summer, too. Kipling had three teams alone and the area towns of Kennedy, Glenavon and Windthorst fielded teams as well, with a wind-up tourney being held at the old Coronation School Fair Grounds, come rain or shine, for the league finale at the end of the season.
One particularly memorable finale was hit by a ferocious thunderstorm which brought over an inch of rain in a very short period of time and stopped the ball playing long enough for everyone to seek refuge in the old school house, and thereby allowing too many to over-imbibe on the ol’ wobbly pops, resulting in some very entertaining ball to be played once the games were reconvened. Oh, those were the days my friend.
Because of its huge popularity slow-pitch tournaments were often used as fund-raisers for many causes. Area community groups could host a tournament every weekend from the beginning of May until the end of July, it seemed, and have a very successful turnout. Every tournament would have anywhere from sixteen to twenty-four, or more, teams entered in their events. When some Kipling area residents banded together to raise funds for the community swimming pool one of the first fund-raising events that they hosted was the “Great Western Weekend Splash Slow-pitch Tournament”.
The first swimming pool tournaments were held a month or so after the Stanley Can and because Saskatchewan’s Great Western Brewing Company was also just a fledgling group they were keen to sponsor events to get people to try their products and the partnering of The Great Western Brewing Company and the Kipling and District Swimming Pool Committee began.
Remember those fluorescent coloured hats and t-shirts with the first Swimming Pool mascot, Ozzy the Otter on them, which stated “Be Cool Support the Pool” that were sold at that first tourney, too? Wow.
I was a member of that pool fund-raising committee and I had volunteered the use of the forklift, from the lumberyard where I worked, to handle the full pallet of Great Western Beer which the committee hoped to sell throughout the tournament weekend. By the way, there were only too types of weather for this tournament: too hot and dry (too seldom) or too cold and wet (too often).
That first “Splash” tourney was of the too cold and wet variety. It was pretty foggy on that particular early morning drive from the lumberyard to the ball diamonds while I transported that full pallet of beer down the street with the headlights and hazard flashers going on the forklift. As I was slowly driving down the street I saw a particular member of the community, who was known for his love of the drink, if you know what I mean, walking towards me out of the fog, (and in a little fog of his own from the night previous), when he stopped and gaped at this wonderful image of a machine delivering a full pallet of the golden fluid he so loved coming right towards him out of the mist. I am sure that he had to check his pulse to see if he had died and gone to heaven. Alas, to his dismay, it passed him by.
Over the years the participation waned and the Stanley Can and Splash tournaments were amalgamated into the “Stanley Can Splash Tournament”. Slow-pitch tournaments have been held in various forms for special events over the years but nothing compares to the old days when every diamond, (and some make-shift ones too) were full for two-and-a-half days and the beer tent was constantly hopping and the cabaret was a wall-to-wall crowded blast. As earlier stated…those were the days, weren’t they?
“Slow-pitch is life, the rest is just details,”-Author Unknown. Might have been Larry Savage, though.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Scary Harper

"Be veeewwwy afwaid!"I am serious though. One always knew that the snake wearing the centrist skin would shed that cover once he had a majority and his real full right wing colours will finally be shown in all its scary glory. The old reformer who has no intention of reforming anything will be exposed. Fill the jails, pad the corporate bank accounts, do nothing for the environment and reform nothing...are what's in store for Canadians in the next five years. Scary... very scary.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Critics Poem

Here is something that everyone can do,
The task is simple, the qualifications are few.
There are many subjects, of which you can choose;
There's fashion and films, you can even do booze.
Just take your subject and pick it apart.
Now your job as a critic has got a good start.

Politics, books, TV and news,
Teachers, mayors and especially Tom Cruise.
When Britney and Paris are acting all sleazy
Then a critic's job becomes way too easy.
From the critic's position, it's not hard to judge,
Particularly when they are holding a grudge.

Watching sports in my favorite chair,
My coaching mistakes are always rare.
I'm batting 1000, I can't miss a shot,
Every swing of my club hits the sweet spot.
I can never lose, while I'm sitting here,
I don't even sweat or wear any gear.

We are blessed to live in a country so free,
But not even Canada escapes scrutiny.
Our roads, our weather and our wages, too;
Immigration and healthcare we all like to boo.
Like armchair quarterbacks our decisions are right.
But the greatest calls are usually hindsight.

Critics can ruin a politician's life,
For his choices in clothing, or even his wife.
Policies? Platforms? We don't care.
"Look at that hat! And who cuts his hair?"
I'd laugh out loud, if it wasn't so sad,
That nobody cares if they're good or bad.

Thanks for your patience, while reading my rhyming,
It just felt like, you know, the right kind of timing.
Now, go ahead, and critique if you must,
Into your hands, Dear Reader, I trust.
Pick it apart, tear it to shreds.
It's too late anyhow, it's already read!

"Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger."-Franklin P. Jones.


Here's a reprise of a little Christmas poem I threw together for you. Three Kings, shepherds and a babe in the manger. The E...