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I is getting a greehouse!


A real one! This news fills me with deep joy since after the tomato-pocalypse of last summer, I was ready to pull a Pontius Pilate and wash my hands of growing vegetables altogether.


Scenes like this are not erased lightly, and my dreams were full of broken tomatoes crying ‘why, hail why?’ Just kidding on the dreams part, but it was traumatic, trust me.



But I have this very handy friend, who kindly took pity on me, and is going to help me build my very own greenhouse. Can we say SCORE?!! Not only do I get some valuable building experience, which I badly want, (being so much of a city kid it’s pathetic), but I also get a veggie growin’ house out of the deal.


And with his help, (this guy is overqualified, believe me), the greenhouse will look more like this:



And less like this:

Photo from


 All I have to say, is  HAIL – BRING IT!!!

And, I guess I’d better get going on my seedlings after all..  🙂




Negligence? Incompetence? or Even Soviet Russia did it better


Quick rant on Alberta health care. It SUCKS.  Over the years we’ve had evidence aplenty to witness delays and incompetence on an unimaginable scale, but the consequences of those events has always been mild.  Like the time my cousin broke his thumb, went and spent 7 hours waiting for an x-ray in the emergency room, was sent home and told he’s fine.  THREE DAYS later he received a call, telling him his thumb is in fact broken, they read the wrong x-ray and would he please come back for a splint?  Needless to say, by then, he was splinted up by his parents who did not trust the initial ‘go home you’re fine’, and with good cause.  Or the time my elderly grandma with a broken wrist had her ankles meticulously x-rayed. Or the time my father was given wrong medication. Thankfully none of those mishaps resulted in anything going wrong, it just made for some good anecdotes and head shaking.


This time however, the consequences came perilously close to tragedy. Yesterday morning my brother complained of abdominal pain. By ten AM it was bad enough to go to the hospital with. We all suspected appendicitis, since many in my family had theirs out.  He was given morphine for the pain and kept waiting for many hours until they finally operated. He was wheeled into surgery around eleven hours later.  His appendix was found ruptured, he had peritonitis, and was in real danger of sepsis (blood poisoning).  Now he’s on antibiotics and we only hope he’ll be okay.


Contrast this with my appendix removal which happened when I was six, and in the Soviet Union, no less. I got the sharp pain, within an hour a doctor made a house call. He rolled me over on my left side, gently pressed the abdomen, sharply released, and when I squealed he pronounced ‘appendicitis – get this girl into surgery’.  Within two hours I was blood-sampled, prepped and going under. My appedix was removed intact, and my recovery was painful but easy.


The facts are that some people die from appendicitis or related complications each year.  Some of them in Calgary. While the mortality rates are only 1-2 per million cases, Calgary hospitals manage a rate that seems much higher, with deaths every few years. 


Here’s an excerpt from

“The overall complication rate of appendectomy depends upon the status of the appendix at the time it is removed. If the appendix has not ruptured, the complication rate is only about 3%. However, if the appendix has ruptured, the complication rate rises to almost 59%. Wound infections do occur and are more common if the appendicitis was severe, far advanced, or ruptured. An abscess may also form in the abdomen as a complication of appendicitis.

Occasionally, an appendix will rupture prior to its removal, spilling its contents into the abdominal cavity. Peritonitis or a generalized infection in the abdomen will occur. Treatment of peritonitis as a result of a ruptured appendix includes removal of what remains of the appendix, insertion of drains (rubber tubes that promote the flow of infection inside the abdomen to outside of the body), and antibiotics. Fistula formation (an abnormal connection between the cecum and the skin) rarely occurs. It is only seen if the appendix has a broad attachment to the cecum and the appendicitis is far advanced, causing destruction of the cecum itself.

The complications associated with undiagnosed, misdiagnosised, or delayed diagnosis of appendicitis are very significant. This has led surgeons to perform an appendectomy any time that they feel appendicitis is the diagnosis. Most surgeons feel that in approximately 20% of their patients, a normal appendix will be removed. Rates much lower than this would seem to indicate that the diagnosis of appendicitis was being frequently missed.”

Now note some recent local deaths from a condition that no one in the first world twenty first century should die from:
Jordan Johanson who died from complications following surgery (for which he had to wait 12 hours).  Apparently some changes were to be made to the medical system after his death. Seems to me like they shaved off one hour – congrats!
Savannah Chanthyvong who died at nine, from septic shock following surgery. I cannot imagine.
Vince Motta who died at 23 – several years before Jordan, also at a Calgary hospital:
Seven-month-old Chad Gemoto died Aug. 11, 2000, from a heart attack triggered by shock from appendicitis.
A Court of Queen’s Bench Justice ruled if the boy had been properly cared for he would have survived his appendicitis.
All these tragedies could have been avoided by treating appendicitis as the emergency that it is.  That is one case where waiting even a few hours can mean the difference between life and death.  So unless the local Health Board gets off their duff and really makes some changes, we will continue to see senseless deaths. I have no problems with dying, but dying for no reason at all, from preventable problems  really pisses me off.
This is also why I fully support the two-tier health care system, and free-markets in general. Given the amount of taxes I pay each year, I could have and would have rather hired a pay-per-visit hospital where I could be assured of prompt and COMPETENT care.  Where my brothers life would not be in danger from potentially deadly and fully avoidable complications.  Where the standard of competency and care would be assured, otherwise no one would pay to go there.  
This is not aimed at the many excellent nurses and doctors that work within a broken system paid for by us.  I guess I believe in paying for quality, and when I don’t see any, I’d rather opt out.



Highwood – the school of food

There is a single accredited cooking school in Calgary, and it’s located at SAIT. To prepare themselves for the rigors of running a restaurant, the students operate one on campus, serving a popular lunch buffet and a prix-fixe five course dinner.
Over the years I’ve heard a ton of glowing reviews from satisfied patrons praising the atmosphere, food and prices, and given the two month long waiting list, I’ve never managed to go. This year would have been no different, but somehow the stars aligned, I managed to keep the reservation I made, and with some friends in tow we made our cold and icy way to an iconic destination.
My expectations were not sky high given that it’s a school, but we still had to cut a bit of slack for the ‘school’ part of the experience.
Service was very very earnest, if unpolished. Our waitress did not introduce herself for instance, nor did a bread basket appear until we noticed one at the other table and asked for it.  Minor things to note in the grand scheme of things, but hey, they’re a school, they should know. 🙂
The menu was hit and miss, with fairly more hits than misses.
I started with ‘Duo of Woodstone Roasted Duck Breast and Duck Prosciutto’ – which was an absolutely lovely appetizer. The duck breast was roasted perfectly pink, it was skinless to avoid any issues with crispyness, and the duck proscuitto with baby potatoes was genius.


My friends’ ravioli was also very good, and the oysters were superb. She said the horseradish one was her favorite, and the salmon in the sushi was good, but she’s not sure what it had it do with the oysters. Presumably the continuation of a seafood theme? She said she’d rather just have another oyster.
With the soups we had a choice of a Hungarian/goulashy-type stew, or a roasted chestnut soup. Both my friends chose the stew, and in the interests of variety I was the lone chestnut soup eater. And I had the last laugh, as the stew was so so, but my chestnut soup was superb. It was the one dish of the night worthy of hyperbole, as it was chestnutty, creamy, ever so slightly sweet and earthy and perfect. That’s the one dish I’d love to replicate at home.
All of us pulled an idiot, and got the tomato salad with bocconcini in JANUARY, which ranks right up there with a brick wall for intelligent, because it was as bland and flavorless as you’d expect. I’m sorry, but unless you have a greenhouse on yer roof, you should have no business serving tomatoes in the winter. Why could this not have been the root vegetable salad with some pretentions of being in season? Better yet, why did we order it? We’ll file it under mental mystery and move on.
For the main, I could not resist the rack of lamb. The lamb itself was perfect – rosy, well seasoned, with a perfectly good sauce and a delicious polenta cake. The only bad element was the tomato-olive chutney with manchego cheese. It was much grosser than it sounds, and everyone pronounced it inedible, as nothing meshed. The bland tomatoes, salty olives, raw onions created totally discordant notes that went neither with the lamb nor each other.
My friends ‘bouillabaise marseille’ was also not very good, with odd broth, overcooked seafood, here’s her quote: “Steak cooked to my liking and the turf part sucked. They cut up the lobster and cooked it with mushrooms in a ton of miso paste and I ended up with a bowl of salty, buttery miso lobster stew. Did not enjoy this!! ” Having had a bite, I concur entirely.
My other friends Medallion of Beef was a much better choice, although she proclaimed the beef to be average, and the sides excellent. The photo alas, did not turn out, but did not look that different from my rack of lamb.
For dessert, here is my usual caveat: I’m not a dessert person, and neither are my friends. Therefore we are uniquely unqualified to gauge dessert-worthyness of many things. However, venturing boldly into restaurant reviews, here goes:
The most FUN dessert in the world also happened to be the tastiest of the three:
There was some hazelnut ice cream going on there that was fabulous, although the banana chunks had no business being there.
The wee pumpkin creme brulee was waaay too sweet, but the little cookie was good with ice cream.
This dessert had so many elements going on that it didn’t know if it was coming or going – pistachio ice cream good, whatever it’s sitting on – sweet, corn – weird? It contributed nothing, and neither did the caramel popcorn for that matter.
And finally we were feted with some last minute chocolatey bites, all of which we were too full to try, except for that toasted marshmalow thingie which was as good as you remember from camping.
To conclude this wordy review, it’s a good deal for $44.00 – four courses and more dessert than any table can handle. Would I repeat it? Nope. That was the table consensus, so I’m not alone. I guess if you live in the area… but no, you have to make reservations welll ahead, so I’m not sure under what circumstances I’d go back. Life’s too short to eat anything but great food, so keeping that in mind, I’d give Highwood a solid 3/5.
PS – I also promise not to subject you to anymore crappy iphone photos in restaurants. At least I’ll try.
Highwood Dining Room
1301 – 16th Avenue NW
Calgary, Alberta
403.284.8615 Ext. 2
Or Open Table for Reservations

Highwood (Sait Campus) on Urbanspoon