Friday, December 9, 2016

Icelandic horses: disaster on ice

I saw a gif of this a few years ago and quailed. Yes, I quailed. Not to be confused with kvelled. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. There is a complete version in the video below, but I am not sure you want to see it. I watched it - the parts of it I could watch - through my splayed fingers.

It soon becomes apparent that the water is not terribly deep, only coming up to the horse's backs, but that poses problems of its own. Trying desperately to gain a footing, the horses flail violently. Broken legs and hypothermia were a dread here, because these horses are small - ponies, really, though accustomed to harsh conditions and thick-coated. This is ice water, however, and they are soaking in it for God knows how long.

I want to tell you, and I WILL tell you, that all of them were rescued, though no one was remotely prepared for this sort of thing. There was much criticism of having this many horses run on the ice at the same time. It's some sort of traditional race held every year, but with global warming - well, never mind. I promised never to write about that again.

The shock and horror of this tiny clip still resonates. It seems like a disaster without a solution, but these horses are plucky and tough. They must have good grips in their hooves, too, or the ice would have proven too much for them.

It's a wonderful cookie: classic Christmas shortbread

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup butter, room temperature

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Cut in butter, then mix with your hands to form a soft dough. Shape into 1 inch balls or roll out and make shapes with Christmas cookie cutters. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet 1 ½  inches apart. If making balls, flatten with a fork. Bake in 300-degree oven for 10 - 15 minutes. Watch very carefully, as these can turn brown in seconds! 

I've kept this blog for - I don't know how many years, and I am not sure I want to check. I do it mainly for myself. It hasn't helped me sell a single copy of my three published novels, though I was urged to start it by a publisher. And after more than three thousand posts, I am finally doing the thing I swore I'd never do.

The lowest of the low points in a blogger's life.

I'm posting a recipe.

But hey, it's a really simple one, and my mother used it before me. Her shortbread always came out better than mine, with a light texture, not flaky, but better than flaky - sort of velvety, like her pie crust. Yet I use the same ingredients for my pie crust, too.

This time of year sucks big-time in a lot of ways, and yet, when I'm not abysmally low and almost despairing, I find myself getting all frisked and sparkly like the Grinch's little dog. And I want to clap myself down in the same way.


You guess why. This ain't a good world, and please don't tell me about the kindergarten program that makes Christmas cards for homeless people, and how this act redeems all the ugliness and hate in the world - nay, totally negates it. Things haven't been good this year on the world stage, and no matter how chirpy and Jiminy Cricket-ish some people are getting (as a form of denial or, perhaps, whistling in the dark), I can't see it getting much better. To say the least.

That's as much as I am willing to say about it.

So I take what comfort I can - and it's considerable - hell, it's the best I've ever had - from my family, who have always been the best anyway. Nothing else is even close. No matter what kind of failure I think I am as a writer (and it's not that I think I'm a shitty writer, as everyone assumes - it's just that I sold three copies in 2015, and that ain't good no matter how you look at it), I know I am an awesome Grandma. How do I know? To differentiate me from the other one, who by the way is a lovely person, the kids call me "Awesome Grandma", and I don't mind, no, I don't mind at all.

I don't even use the word awesome, or I use it very sparingly, and only when something is truly worthy of the term.

So there!

Bracing for the avalanche

Having grown up in Southwestern Ontario, where a few feet of snowfall and minus-40 temperatures aren't that unusual (OK then, minus-20, but it was minus-40 in Alberta), I find the snow phobia in Vancouver somewhat laughable. 

All week, and even last week, people have been anxiously talking about the horrendous blizzard which was about to hit the Lower Mainland on Thursday night. When I went to ask the pharmacist at Walmart about vitamins, she said, "I don't know about vitamins. Everyone wants to talk about the snowstorm coming."

The anxiety was palpable. Could we risk driving into the city to go to Ryan's Christmas concert on Thursday night, when the disaster was supposed to hit? We weren't sure. Everyone was telling us not to. Everyone told us cars were skidding all over the place and colliding, because nobody around here has ever heard of snow tires. (It's also hard to text and drive at the same time.)

So here's today's report for Friday, December 9, one day post-blizzard (emphasis mine):

A snowstorm that was expected to hit the Metro Vancouver area failed to materialize Thursday evening, but snow was beginning to fall across the region early Friday morning.
(OMG - look at that thing! What is it? Is it a snowflake?)

After a witheringly cold, clear couple of days in Metro Vancouver ("better wear a jacket today, hon"), a major storm was set to hit the area late Thursday. While the weather was relatively clear Thursday night (oh come on, guys, admit it, you were WRONG about this!), another wave of precipitation is expected Saturday, though that will likely fall as rain at lower elevations. (In other words, it will rain. In Vancouver.)

With the entrenched Arctic air mass over southern B. C. and the looming (! Let's get some menacing language in here) Pacific storm, Metro Vancouver is bracing to respond to the weather challenges. (I see a good half-inch of snow on the ground outside my window.) 

Insurance companies are bracing for another avalanche of calls (avalanche??) as the region braces for another snow storm. ("Bracing, braces - " was this written in a hurry?)

This week's icy and snowy weather has caused the city to burn through more than double the amount of salt and brine that it used last year (and OK, so it didn't snow last year - AT ALL! Some editor told this reporter, "For God's sake try to make this sound dramatic, so we won't feel like total fools!").