This Old Dog

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Backyard lilacs a couple of weeks ago

You know the old saying about not being able to teach an old dog a new trick.

And yet, you can.

Or an old dog can choose to learn something new if properly motivated.

With her hearing disappearing over the last year, Cleopatra has learned to watch our hands as we gesticulate at her. (This is usually done after calling repeatedly with raised voices that only the neighbors and horses can hear.) But she now follows the direction of where we point, which is usually towards the house to come inside for cuddles, love and play or bedtime, or towards her outdoor kennel for breakfast or supper.

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“What?”

Which is something new for a dog who is at least 13 years old.

And not that I’m calling myself “old” or anything but I’m certainly not a youngster. As I traipse through middle age I realize there are certain things I do that may make me seem “set in my ways.” Much of those behaviors are more to do with liking being organized and perhaps having a slight over-achiever tendency and Type A personality.

Like my color-coordinated closets and alphabetized CDs and spices.

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Its just easier this way, trust me!

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But I can also learn new tricks…

You see, I won an online cooking course through a local grocery chain’s “Monopoly” contest they ran this spring. I get carried away each year collecting game pieces, and choosing items and brands to purchase based on whether or not they could earn me one more chance to win big.

Each game piece can also be an instant-winner, which is why we have a plethora of table salt right now.

 

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There’s even more on the shelf above…

A little bag of flour, several small tubs of sour cream, bagels, a $5 coupon, photo prints and a canvas bag from Shutterfly… these are all the goodies this cheap Doukhobor and the cheap Scotsman she married coveted even though we didn’t win the million bucks or the dream home.

When I peeled back a game piece and saw that I’d won an online cooking class I honestly had no idea I would learning some new tricks this spring.

I looked the school up (Rouxbe.com) and it seemed reputable and professional enough but I still figured I would be watching a 15-minute segment on scrambling eggs. I had to claim the course before the end of May so last month, when Alistair was in Bismarck, I grabbed a pen and small notepad (you never knew, maybe there was an integral part of egg-scrambling that I had missed my entire life) and chose “The Cook’s Roadmap” to watch before whatever golf I had DVR’d was going to start.

 

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My course…

I’ll just say, we aren’t scrambling eggs.

What we are doing is learning! 10 Units, 173 tasks and 224 videos comprise this particular course and I am absolutely loving it! Its not even like I sucked as a cook- I kind of thought I was pretty decent, actually. Nor was I in a rut as I have always experimented with new recipes when Alistair isn’t here, sharing them with him when I figured I had nailed it or it was something I knew he would enjoy.

I had my classic chicken mozzarella, my alfredo, the onion-olive dish, artichoke chicken, spaghetti, honey mustard chicken, stir fries and big Montana breakfasts and generally all the food got eaten when company was here.

But now I’m learning how to create dishes on my own. I’m learning the why’s, the how’s and the not’s about cooking and I’m learning the basic science behind it all.

 

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Tools of the trade.

I’ve learned to embrace stainless steel and how to cook so that food doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. I’m learning about so many different oils, acids and salts and how to combine things to make my own vinaigrettes in used glass jars that I can use for mixing. I’m learning to use my steamer for a variety of different things and that rice can be so much more than a backdrop for other dishes. I spent last night learning a lot about grains, which I had always avoided because I had no clue what to do with them.

For a whopping $6 I roasted a chicken for Alistair and I the last time he was home that was as ridiculously easy as it was flavorful and simple.

The course focuses on health and balance and they offer non-course video segments on plant-based diets for general information.

More learning!

Its the perfect time for this right now because the weather hasn’t been very friendly for my golf habit.

 

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Happening right now.

Its grey, cool, dark and drizzly and while I enjoy suiting up with Alistair when he’s here and pulling the sides down with the heater on in Norman, it isn’t anywhere near as much fun by myself.

I haven’t minded the new Couch Time in the evenings with Sport and Bebe purring away while the instructor’s voice describes how to sweat the veggies (or, mirepoix) versus saut√©ing them. Or how to mix up the rice you’re going to Pilaf and which rice to use along with which aromatics to throw in there. And let the stuff rest for Pete’s sake! (Who knew?) I used to have a fear of rice. Just ask Alistair. Rice has always been his domain but now I’m ready to fight for that honor with a bounty of grains and techniques I’ve yet to perfect.

 

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I love learning. I also love island golf…

Which is another fun part of all of this- the practice. Like anything worthwhile I’ve attempted and tried to learn in life, I have had to practice. I couldn’t heat the pan to the right temp the first few tries any more than I could land the first axel I tried. Or the first suture knots I threw. Certainly not the first golf ball I tried to hit!

My vinaigrettes have been too oily, my steamed potatoes took way too long and my garlic got browned and sour the first time or two I’ve tried new methods so far. Even chopping with the Chef’s knife is an art form to be continually worked on.

I’m even loving the fact that I’m humbled by what I am learning. Not unlike the golf game or surgical techniques, there is always much more out there and my brain wants to grasp it and my body wants to master it.

 

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I didn’t learn how to be this overnight!

So I will happily, eagerly let my perfectionist, Type A self work her butt off to become a damned good chef! Just like I worked to be the skater, the veterinarian, the writer and the golfer. I continue to work at these things because I will never be an expert at any of them. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, especially if its something enjoyable. If its fun, then practicing doesn’t seem like work.

I do believe I’ll sign up to be a Rouxbe student after this free course is over. As long as I’m smiling and having fun and as long as I’m not poisoning Alistair, that is.

And who knows… if the LPGA plans don’t pan out in my future maybe one more hat to wear will be a fluffy white chef’s one. Maybe this old dog has a few more tricks up her sleeves!

 

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More things that took work, perseverance, patience and time…

 

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Celebrating my 3rd book this month with good friends in Seeley Lake!

 

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Another of my skill sets… stay tuned for a summer return to the coaching side of things for me!

 

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Practice, practice, practice back in vet school… ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Latest Addiction

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I’ve been bitten by the golf bug.

Hard.

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Its nothing like a simple mosquito bite, either. One of those irritating, inflamed bumps that annoy you for a few days and then disappears until your next one.

No, this bug bite is entirely different.

Its addicting.

Its all-consuming.

I’ve even had dreams about it and I’ve only been playing since the very end of September last year.

I blame Tom, Mike, Lynn, Miki, and the beautiful local golf course. These 4 individuals encouraged us to put together a team for a fun fund-raiser for the local pond hockey tournament.

Alistair and I didn’t play golf.

Well….

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There was this one time, back in 1995.

“It will be fun,” they said. “Its just to raise money,” they added. “It’ll be a great send-off for the vet girls,” I heard. “We’ll wear our Dog Days shirts,” was suggested.

So, the Diamonds in the Ruff team was formed and golf (or, something like it) was played.

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Alistair broke 2 golf clubs, I did a cartwheel at the “Happy Gilmore” hole and some bevvies were consumed. Lynn and I did so poorly on¬†one hole¬†that we gave up and just drove. The carts, that is.

We won an award for the “most honest” team.

The sad truth is that I fudged a couple of numbers and we still got last.

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The strangest thing happened, though- we had a blast.

I blame Alistair, Lynn, Miki and Tim for reinforcing our newfound passion last fall.  I, like any addict, sought out their encouragement, knowing they would continue to enable me. Often by joining me.

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Without the clinic keeping me busy I would head out on the nearly empty, picturesque, tree-lined course and bang balls around.

Some even went into their holes in less than 10 shots.

Then 9. Then 8.

When people used to ask us if we played golf I would jokingly say that I was going to take it up when I was too old to do anything else.

I secretly rolled my eyes, wondering how anyone could play the game, let alone watch it on TV. (This from a woman who watches curling but¬†I’m Canadian and nobody questions that up there).

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We started making par occasionally¬†but then the snow came down and we actually got booted off the course in November… apparently they had anti-fungal treatments on the ground. Who knew?

So we did the unthinkable and watched golf on TV.

We bought videos.

We practiced putting with a golf game my sister-in-law found for us. Christmas was a great haul at the Fyfe house.

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I confess that I might have taken this up earlier had I known there was so much shopping involved!

Cute shoes, pink balls,¬†socks with rhinestones, golf clubs with lots of purple, fancy skorts, matching shirts, a spiffy towel, funky gloves…. and a golf cart.

A blinged-out masterpiece with fenders and headlights.

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His name is Norman.

The golf pro¬†tells us, “you 3 have fun out there.”

It makes sense that a couple of Fyfes are playing golf. Alistair’s own parents were raised in Scotland, even going to St.Andrew’s. Not that either of them played and we just never bothered.

A lot of hockey players golf but I’m not¬†sure if many figure skaters do. Yet, there are some similarities.

You are often alone inside your head when practicing golf and skating. This leads to discussions with oneself.

On the ice it was ‘I didn’t¬†trace that bracket very well’; ‘Liz has the cutest outfit today’; ‘Point the toe, point the toe, point the toe’; ‘I¬†wonder what’s for supper’; ‘How many calories did I eat at lunch; and, ‘Left arm checked going into¬†the double lutz.’

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With golf you can run an entire conversation with yourself much the same way.

‘Thumbs aligned’; ‘I totally love this skort!’; ‘Rotate shoulders and ribcage together’; ‘I wonder if Alistair wants to eat at Lindey’s tonight’ and ‘Eye on the ball, Tanya. Eye on the ball.’

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Both sports can get terribly expensive.

Both sports require patience.

You can’t do either sport well wearing a lot of bulky clothing.

I enjoy the similarities and the work ethic involved with both sports. I love that I can improve every single day for every year for the rest of my life. I love being outside in the fresh air with Alistair as we both strive for continual improvement.

I love Norman, Loudmouth skorts, my wine glass covered glove, Michelle Wie, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson’s unorthodox style, Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson (who looks¬†more like¬†Juaquin Phoenix than¬†Juaquin Phoenix)¬†and the fact I can share this game with friends and family when they come to visit.

I love that our trips to Hawaii have a whole new dimension now with the enjoyment of the outstanding, ocean-view golf courses that are usually located at our resorts.

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I have even started taking lessons.

I don’t include the group lesson I took on Kauai, where I basically had a shit-eating grin on my face the whole time. I was just so thrilled to have some guidance and drive a cart around a lush, fancy-shmancy, tropical island golf course.

My first real lesson was yesterday.

I’ll admit it. I kind of suck right now.

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And yet I still love it! Amazing.

I went and drove balls this afternoon but there were no tee times available with the long weekend. It was wonderful to see so many other people enjoying the course.

Alistair has 4 large round hay bales stacked in Bismarck. He drives golf balls right into them or he works on pitching them overtop. You have to admire his tenacity.

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I love that golf is a game for one person or a bunch of people. Skating isn’t like that unless you’re into synchro. In fact, we used to get in trouble if we were standing around talking at the boards.

I also love that golf is a warm-weather game. I spent more than 25 years in a refrigeration system. It got cold.

Don’t get me wrong- I love skating. And skiing. And snow-shoeing. And snowmobiling.

Its just that, given the choice, I’d rather be warm.

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An extra bonus is the fact that I get to wear all of the polo shirts I bought for my clinic over the years as well as the fancy slacks I used to wear at the larger clinic I worked at in Bismarck. Who knew my sense of style leaned towards “golf” back then?

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I’d like to see more women on the golf course. I know its easier for me to enjoy the game with my partner because we are both at a similar level. We’re also both competitive and athletically driven, which makes us well-matched.

We also can laugh at ourselves and crack jokes as we’re out there.

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And Spirit of UB will make a comment or Spirit of Cleo almost always has something to say in her southern drawl, like, “Nice shot, Daddy.”

Its how we roll.

With fenders.

In Norman.

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So if you’re driving along the highway & you see us whacking at balls or digging in the tall grasses to find one, go ahead and honk.

Better yet, get out and enjoy the game.

You’re never too old to start something new. Hell, you might even become addicted. As long as you have friends eager to enable you, you’ll do just fine.

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We’ve come a long way, Baby!