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A few months ago, I decided to learn how to cook.  Although I grew up with a mother who went to culinary school, my family is both British and (according to my mother) peasants.  This meant a lot of simple meals without a lot of seasoning beyond salt.  I’m not blaming my mom (especially since she’s probably reading this); both my parents worked and myself and my brother were, shall we say, a touch picky.  It just means that most of my meals growing up were the basics.

 

When I moved out at 19, I still didn’t have much interest in cooking.  It took time and dirtied dishes and what the heck was a shallot anyway.  The list of foods I didn’t like was also much longer than the list of foods I did, and included most vegetables.  This was fine in my twenties, sort of, but now I’m getting older and fast food is not only expensive but doesn’t seem all that satisfying anymore.

 

I started cooking using a food delivery service, which sends me the ingredients for recipes I’ve chosen from their list.  It means I actually have to use my dishes (and then wash them) but the food comes pre-portioned and all I really have to do is chop it and throw it in a pan or oven tray.  Which is usually about the point that I remember I have no sense of timing and run back and forth in my kitchen trying to keep things from burning.

 

The biggest benefit of learning how to cook is that I’m trying new foods.  I used to hate onions, but honestly, they’re not that bad mixed in with other stuff.  I’ve discovered jicama, pilafs, spinach-ricotta meatballs, and learned that a shallot is a type of onion related to my favourite herb, garlic.  I still find mushrooms mildly horrifying and tomatoes give me heartburn, but I’m willing to try almost anything that isn’t too spicy.

 

I’m also incorporating what I’ve learned via the food delivery recipes into buying my own groceries.  Fortunately cooking is more forgiving than baking (I’m not entirely sure that food created using math can be trusted) and I’m not subjecting anyone else to my creations.  This means that I might actually have to look at some cookbooks, especially those with quick and easy recipes.

 

Although I live alone, I like to make big meals so that I have plenty of leftovers for lunches at work and those evenings where I haven’t actually washed the dishes yet and just want to stick something in the microwave.  Cookbooks with family recipes, like The Super Big Book of Easy, Delicious, & Healthy Recipes the Whole Family Will Love!: 500+ Recipes You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less, are usually geared towards making enough food for 3-4 people so I don’t have to do any math to expand a recipe only meant for one person.

 

Even better, there’s been a trend lately towards meals cooked using a minimum amount of dishes, which is perfect for someone who likes to pretend her kitchen sink doesn’t exist.  Canadian Living offers a cookbook called Essential One-Dish Favourites, which has the added bonus of shopping tips for when I realize that jicama is available at approximately one store 20 minutes out of my way.

 

I might be in my thirties now, but there’s still some benefit to looking at cookbooks geared towards the college and university market.  They don’t get too fancy and they assume you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, so you don’t have to go ask Google what it means to ‘mince’ something.  How to Feed Yourself from Spoon University has recipes that are simple, low-budget, and include a giant PB&J cup.

 

It’s fine with me if I never become a great cook with the ability to wow dinner guests.  I’m just happy to make some food that I look forward to eating, even if my mom complains that I use too much garlic (no such thing).  I’ve even asked for some cooking tools for Christmas, which I think might make me an actual real adult now (also no such thing).  I’m expanding my horizons, eating way more veggies, and discovering spices, and that’s good enough for me.

 

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I’ve been riding horses since I was thirteen. By the time I was seventeen, I had convinced my mom to go halves on a horse. I had visions of a trained show pony, preferably black as coal, who never spooked and did everything I asked. Instead, I got Riff Raff. 

 

While he’s actually (mostly) named for the Rocky Horror Picture Show character, the name also fit him as an unwanted baby from Alberta, brought to Ontario to be sold to the African Lion Safari for food. At first, I didn’t want him either.  He was unbroke, spooky, and somewhat ugly with his big heavy head and giant donkey ears.  I wanted a horse I could get on and ride, not an uncut stallion terrified of the little white Shetland pony he shared a field with.  I remember bringing him into the stall the first time (after spending 20 minutes catching him) and being really angry at him for his antsy behaviour.

 

To see him, Riff looks similar to the horse featured on the cover of Scholastic’s upcoming Horses: the Definitive Catalog of Horse and Pony Breeds.  Inside are some horse breeds that even I’m not that familiar with, despite spending the past 20 years around horses in some capacity.  Everyone remotely interested in horses (which I’m pretty sure is all of us, at least those of us who were once little girls) knows about the Chincoteague, but there are plenty of other wild island ponies, including the Eriskay from Scotland, the Padang from Indonesia, and the Skyros from Greece.

 

Canada also has its own horse, called – shockingly – the Canadian (or French Canadian) Horse.  Before their popularity waned in the 1970s, there were three types of Canadian Horses: the Canadian Heavy Draft or St. Lawrence; the Frencher (also sometimes called the St. Lawrence for maximum confusion); and the Canadian Pacer.  The Pacer was known for being able to race on ice, which probably means it should replace the beaver as our national animal.

 

The Canadian Pacer is thought to have influenced a number of breeds in the United States, including the Tennessee Walker, a horse well-known for its unique gaited walk; the American Saddlebred; and the Standardbred.  Riff currently lives in a small herd with a Standardbred mare named Elly and Elly’s daughter, Raina. 

 

Standardbreds are best known for their harness racing, and Elly was in a few races in her youth, meaning she’s trained to pull a sulky or buggy.  She didn’t do very well, possibly because she’s somewhat bad-tempered and uncoordinated.  When leading Elly somewhere, watch your toes; she tends to fling her feet off to the sides.  She and Riff are both approaching 20 years old, so she’s mellowed somewhat.

 

I’ve had Riff for 14 years now.  Once he was gelded and given some attention, he blossomed into one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever known.  When he's feeling good, he plays keepaway in the field: he waits until I get almost close enough to put his halter on, then trots off a good distance before turning back to watch me try to approach him again. He’s good-natured and patient, though that doesn’t mean he won’t buck me off if I deserve it.  And he did, finally, grow into his ears.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

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I would jump at the chance to have a pet dinosaur.  Despite five movies (and counting) focused on just why this would be a terrible idea, there’s still something appealing about it.  I already share my space with a miniature panther; a chicken-sized dinosaur would probably be just as happy to sleep under a pile of blankets on the couch.  Whether it and my easily offended cat would get along is a different concern.

 

Dinosaurs capture the imaginations of people of all ages.  Whether these creatures are searching for the Great Valley, solving crimes with Whoopi Goldberg, or just a pile of bones in a museum, there’s something incredibly appealing about these ‘terrible lizards.’  Especially those large enough to tower over people.

 

Of course, I could have a pet dinosaur.  They just go by a different name now: birds.  Anyone who’s dealt with swans, geese, or particularly aggressive roosters would likely spot the similarities to their ancestors.  Swans and geese are large enough to cause a person damage; just ask the Cambridge University rowers in the UK who had run-ins with Mr. Asbo and his descendants, Asboy and Asbaby.  Chickens may be smaller, but I can personally attest that those beaks are sharp and the spurs on a rooster’s legs can cut skin when they attack you from behind - like the bane of my farm existence, my parents’ Polish rooster, Tolliver.

 

Still, the idea of owning a bird is different from the idea of owning a creature ten, twenty, thirty times bigger, with a mouthful of razor sharp teeth and claws to match.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still want a pet dinosaur; I just reluctantly acknowledge a pet T. rex would probably be dangerous.  No matter how much I might want to sic it on the pickups tailgating me on my daily commute.  T. rex has always been my favourite and the history of its fossils is fascinating to dive into.

 

The largest, best preserved T. rex fossil found to date is FMNH PR 2081, commonly known as SUE.  Discovered in August 1990 by Sue Hendrickson, SUE the T. rex spent most of the 1990s at the center of a legal dispute over ownership of their bones.  SUE was eventually purchased for $8.3 million by the Field Museum in Chicago, and still resides there.  SUE can be followed on Twitter @SUEtheTrex (where they declare not only their nonbinary status but also that they’re a LARGE M U R D E R B I R D and who hasn’t felt that way every now and then) and had a documentary made about them in 2014 called Dinosaur 13, available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

Although possibly the most famous of the fossils under ownership dispute, SUE isn’t the only one.  In 2012, a fossil collector named Eric Prokopi brought a tarbosaurus skeleton from Mongolia to the UK.  It was later sold in New York for $1 million, but the Mongolian government halted the sale with the complaint that their Constitution declared all dinosaur fossils to be culturally significant and illegal to remove without government permission.

 

Prokopi was charged and convicted - via a guilty plea - of multiple counts of felonious smuggling.  This not only caused the return of the disputed tarbosaurus skeleton, but also the return of more than 18 other fossils; enough that Mongolia was able to open a new dinosaur museum in Ulaanbaatar.  The case was the subject of a 2014 article written by Paige Williams for The New Yorker: “The Black Market for Dinosaurs.”

 

Four years later, Williams has published a book diving more deeply into both the case and the world surrounding it.  The Dinosaur Artist is a combination of paleontology and true crime, exploring the fine line between the advancement of our scientific knowledge and the private collectors’ market.  These collectors pay high prices to claim these bones, in part as a status symbol, but maybe also driven by the same desire I have: to keep a dinosaur as a pet.  By doing so, however, collectors prevent the fossils from being studied and hinder our knowledge about these ancient, magnificent animals.

 

I know that I’ll never have a pet dinosaur.  Even if we were able to bring them back, it’s unlikely that dinosaurs would ever be classified as pets, easily adoptable from the local Humane Society.  Regular lizards – geckos, iguanas, bearded dragons – require specialized care as it is.  And despite the increasing population of urban chickens, city councils would probably draw the line at urban dinosaurs.  Even the small ones.  The idea is still fun to fantasize about, however, and as long as there are books, movies, and novelty T-shirts keeping dinosaurs alive, I’ll be waiting in line.

 

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Enjoy!

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