Tag Archives: Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday

Tomorrow is Jan-Arne’s birthday and at nine o’clock this morning, I received a message from Wivek to say that she and Marita were planning a special lunch for him at the clinic. I immediately wondered how I could contribute, and after some careful questioning, I managed to ascertain that whilst the savoury food was all planned, they were lacking a coherent cake strategy. Armed with only butter, eggs, flour sugar and cocoa powder, I began to throw something together. Luckily I also found some decorations hiding in my cupboard and so with only moments to spare, I made it in on time to join in. The other food was delicious. Marita had baked the most fantastic focaccia and aioli, and Wivek had provided a wonderful chicken salad. Somehow or other, I failed to take a decent photo of either, which is not like me at all. Like many food worshippers, usually I can’t resist taking photos of beautiful meals. Still Jan-Arne certainly looks happy.

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Last weekend, Tu Klinikk held its first CPD weekend on the subject of anaesthesia. CPD is vetspeak for Continuing Professional Development and in the UK, all vets are required under their agreement with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to do an average of thirty five hours each year. The requirement in Norway is not quite so stringent I understand. More a recommendation rather than a requirement, as it was in the UK until only a few years ago.

Anyway, the subject of the weekend was anaesthesia. I confess I was delighted by this as I have spent a good part of the year working as anaesthetist for Dagny and Magne. It is unusual outside of the universities for vet practices to have a dedicated anaesthetist who is a fully qualified vet. Generally the vet who is carrying out the surgery also technically oversees the anaesthetic as well, and the patient is monitored by a nurse (or more rarely, an assistant). I find it very rewarding to have a ‘specialisation’. The lectures were in Norwegian (the lecturer came from Oslo). In the morning this was fine. I found I could follow quite easily, though my one-cylinder brain stopped translating as soon as I tried to write anything down so I had to make do with listening very carefully and plucking at Wivek’s sleeve at the end of each section for the bits that I knew I should have noted down, but didn’t manage.

I also managed to answer some questions that the lecturer posed about anaesthetic circuits, though slightly to my chagrin, I had to answer in English. I still don’t actually know how to say “one-way valve” in Norwegian, though as Wivek already laughed at me for my translation of “gas-flow rate” on my poster in theatre, I should have remembered that I really didn’t have to translate that one, other than adding an extra “s” onto the word gas. Just to make it more Norwegian you understand.

On my return to the practice on Tuesday morning, I discovered that Dagny and Magne had invested in some lovely new kit in the form of a drip driver, an infusion pump and a new oxygenation unit, so we will be able to make some positive changes to our anaesthetic regime. Whilst I fumbled through the set-up on my first run-through, it was obvious that Tornado Tawse already had everything running as smoothly as a weir in high summer. I only wish I could make everything look so effortless.

Infusion pump and syringe driver.
Infusion pump and syringe driver.

Wivek, true to form, was the first to use the new anaesthetic kit, putting her first heart-murmur dog on a propofol infusion. Like Jacqueline, she too seemed perfectly calm and utterly self-contained. I must say I was relieved when she confessed to me later that she thought that her own heart was hammering away far more rapidly than the happily anaesthetised patient.

Feeling that I had to make some contribution to this wonderful new era, I managed to create two pages of flow rates for ordinary surgical patients and shock patients, but the final task I set myself on Thursday afternoon was the rather complicated calculation required to work out the flow rate for post-operative patients where we won’t be using the drip driver. To give a brief oversight, you first have to work out how much fluid the patient will need in an hour. From that, you have to calculate how many millilitres will have to pass through in a minute. Then you have to work out how many drops that will be… and finally you have to split the minute into that number of drops so you can give a “time between drops” specification. Given that there are also two types of giving sets: one that gives 20 drops per millilitre, and one that gives 60, it is perhaps unsurprising that my brain came unstuck somewhere in this process and exploded messily all over the computer screen. Fortunately Jacqueline was there to clean up the vetty mess before anyone noticed. Just as well she’s as patient as she is efficient.

Happy birthday Jan-Arne.

Cake worship.
All hail the chocolate cake..

 

 

Jan-Arne and the Well Preserved Eye

Intravenous catheters can be frustrating things. When I was working in the emergency clinic, almost every patient we admitted had to be put on a drip, so back then I got quite good at inserting them. Nowadays it seems a bit more hit and miss. There’s a definite pattern though. If I’m on my own, generally I can get them in without too much problem. Under the benevolent gaze of Magnificent Magne or Jan-Arne, it’s usually not too difficult. But both Dagny and Wivek make the thing look so simple that I seem to go to pieces whenever they are watching. Dagny doesn’t even have to be watching. She only has to be in the room for the difficulties to take effect.

Early on Tuesday morning, Dagny had all her kit laid out for an operation and (tactfully) wasn’t watching me in my attempts, but stood chatting to one of the other staff. The dog was a dachshund, and its legs were so short, that even after I had shaved quite an extensive area of its foreleg, its body hair was so long that it obscured almost everything. With shoulders that were becoming decidedly tense already, I selected the smallest possible catheter and took aim. Slipping the stylet through the skin, I was encouraged by seeing a tiny droplet of blood moving up into the breach. Quickly, I slid the needle a nanometer further in… and the bleeding stopped. I had gone right through. Trying to keep my breathing steady, I withdrew a little, but it wasn’t to be.

I decided at that point upon a tactical withdrawal. Often it is better to start again with a fresh catheter, which can’t be blocked and hasn’t been blunted by its first traverse through the skin. Selecting a slightly bigger catheter (sometimes this works better as they are less flexible) I set the tourniquet back in place to raise the vein and once again tried heroically to keep the hair out of the way with the final two fingers of my left hand whilst still stabilising the vein between my finger and thumb. This time, the catheter went into the vein, but when I tried to slide the sheath down off the stylet, it just bent. Through all of this, Dagny had been carefully not watching, but I could tell she wanted to get on. I confess I was relieved as she finally elbowed me out of the way and did it herself. A few moments later, with the catheter triumphantly in place, she looked around for the laryngoscope so that she could put the tube into the trachea for the gaseous anaesthetic but it wasn’t there. Ever efficient with her cleaning, Irene had already tidied it away.

A little later, and another dog, this time a little pug dog (or mops, as they are called here). This one was having its corneas treated with the cryoscope. Marita came into the room and began to ask Dagny about the freezing effect, and how strong it was. Ever the scientist, Dagny thought it would be a good idea to try it on herself. She held it against the back of her hand for a moment.

‘It’s not sore,’ she announced airily, and moved the tip to a different place with a smile.

‘Ouch!’ A moment later, she was staring at a white mark on her skin- ‘Okay,’ she admitted ruefully, ‘Maybe it does hurt.’

Jan-Arne managed to injure himself this week as well.  On Wednesday, he had taken a biopsy and opened up the small container filled with formaldehyde that would preserve the sample while it was sent to the laboratory. With an aim that he presumably couldn’t recreate, even if he tried, he managed to drop the sample into the pot in such a way that some of the formalin splashed up into his eye. After much salt water washing, he was packed off to the doctor’s to get it checked over. Fortunately there was no permanent damage.

He has though, been evilly trying to tempt me with birthday cake all this week. He brought in the leftovers on Tuesday. Heroically I managed to resist. I’m not really sure how many birthday cakes one person needs, but he seems to have been very well supplied. Then again, he’s so generous to everyone that he deserves good things in return.

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The remnants of the cake were still there on Thursday, but I confess I found it much easier to abstain. Also, someone had brought in a pack of freshly baked boller. Boller are widely available in Norway. They are a kind of sweet bread roll or bun, often with raisins or chocolate chips inside. These ones had bits of Smash: chocolate with caramel and salt. After taking one and eating it, Irene announced that she had discovered a new taste sensation. Jan-Arne and I, both foodies, were looking at her very intently.

‘I had a piece of the boller with a bit of cucumber,’ she said, with wonder in her voice. ‘It was lovely.’

There was wonder in my head. Specifically I was wondering whether such a combination could possibly be delicious or whether Irene had finally lost the plot. I hadn’t come this far with my resistance to eating extraneous sweet things lightly however, and somehow I managed to curb my enthusiasm towards this idea.

‘You could design a new boller,’ Gerd offered. ‘An Agurk Boller.’ (Agurk being Norwegian for cucumber).

‘A Cucumboll?’ suggested Marita.

‘What’s English for boller?’ Irene asked.

‘Bun,’ came the reply.

And so the CucumBun was born. At least it will be, when someone takes the time to make it.

 

Todays picture is Chika who was in for her first vaccination.

A Year of Decadence

Because my birthday was spent travelling back from Seljestad, I didn’t have a cake on the day, so I was delighted when my friend Lynne invited me over for lunch on Friday and made me one. As usual, she listened to me very patiently as I rambled on about writing, she let me cuddle her beautiful baby daughter and we ate some wonderful food including a perfectly baked and tastefully decorated coffee sponge. As she handed me my slice, (we ate it before before the main course… actually we ate it after the main course as well, what could be better than that?) she commented that she had decided that 2014 should be a year of decadence. I can’t help being inspired by that concept, and so, on a dark Winter’s morning, not quite half-way through January, what better way to spend some time than in planning some of this year’s celebrations.

Burns Night – 25th January

A quick recce in the cellar indicates that we still have two haggi, one frozen and one tinned. Better still, I see that Burns night this year falls on a Saturday, so we will be able to toast the haggis with something a little stronger than Irn Bru (which is probably just as well as we don’t have any).

Candlemas – 2nd February

A new one on me this, though if it involves candles it is right up my street. Nothing better on a chilly winter’s day than a warm woodstove and a battalion of candles. In fact, given sufficient candles, you don’t really need the wood stove, as we discovered after Christmas. 38 candles in a room apparently warm it up rather well. Candlemas day marks the mid-point of winter, half way between the shortest night and the spring equinox. I prognosticate a lovely roast dinner in addition to a veritable plethora of candles.

Valentine’s Day – 14th February

Obviously this should be celebrated in the traditional manner… with lots of chocolate. Bring it on!

Shrove Tuesday – 4th March

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Need I say more?

Pancake Recipe.

St Piran’s Day – 5th March

A new one on me this. Apparently St Piran is the patron saint of Cornwall. Surely this must be a great excuse to make and eat Cornish pasties!

Vernal Equinox – around 20th March

There seems to be rather a theme developing here regarding food. I feel that perhaps the Spring Equinox should be celebrated by getting outside: maybe going for a special walk to the top of a hill. Obviously this will be weather dependent, but perhaps I will be able to don a hat and some gloves, and can drag my friend Marian off somewhere and indulge in a picnic and some hot coffee whilst admiring some wonderful vista. Sounds good to me!

N.B. Marian, if you are reading this, it was poetic licence about me dragging you. I know you have Bikje to do that!

Bal!
Bal!

 

Easter Sunday – 31st March

As well as the Easter Egg Hunt, Easter is generally another excellent excuse for another Christmas-style roast dinner. Bring on the honey-roast parsnips! Better still, I made two Christmas puddings this year, (technically last, for all the pedants who are reading this) and I feel that Easter would be the perfect time for consuming the second of these. I understand from Charlie that we may be spending part of the holidays in Seljestad, so if we can spend some time skiing, we will be able to work up an even better appetite for the feast.

17th May – is Norway’s national day

On 17th May each year, Norway celebrates its independence with marching bands and children’s parades. Despite being a national day, 17th May is very inclusive and everyone is welcome to go along and wave a flag. It’s lovely to see all the women dressed up in their Bhunad, but as I look at Charlie every year, proudly dressed in his kilt, I have to say that I prefer Scotland’s national dress for men.

Whitsun – 19th May

I can recall as a child having Season Pudding at Whitsun. Season pudding is made with bread and oats and onions, and is rather like a glorified and crunchy stuffing. Served with plenty of good gravy, it’s definitely one of my favourite meals. We only had it twice a year, the other occasion being Boxing Day and as I love it dearly, I think this is a tradition that I should definitely revive this year.

Anyway, the next big occasion after this will be the Summer Solstice on or about the 21st June, and we will be getting into summer holidays then. I want to look forward to the lighter days of summer, and for the moment not beyond, so I think I will stop there, and perhaps later in the year I can move on to look forward again to the autumn and winter festivals.