C. S. Lewis

"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

-C.S.Lewis


Friday, October 24, 2014

Unplugged

We spent a week on a lake without access to the internet.

It was amazing.


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I got so much done. Including a lot of reading and thinking. I read through Zare in two sittings and got at least one round of editing down.

I culled through the past year of pictures and started gathering pictures to print for my annual album.

There is something to be said for a week without the constant hum of traffic or the attraction of the never-unplugged-infinite internet. I occasionally missed Pinterest (which provides inspiration for what to draw sometimes!) but that was pretty much it.

We cooked dinner together and ate watching the sun set. After that we might read for a little, but something about sitting outside until the world is wrapped in darkness just makes you want to go to bed.


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By the last day we went to bed at 9:30 (making ourselves stay up so late) and woke up before 6 the next day.

We were very ready to go home, but came home with quieter minds and refreshed spirits.

Then it was headlong into a busy week at the office, and my car got totaled, and a we had a birthday party, and a baby shower to plan, and coming house guests, oh my!

We're feeling rather less refreshed this week than we'd hoped.

But we've been married four years now. It's been forever, and just a day or two, really. We're still us, still love ice cream, but we're closer, stronger, and better than ever. I couldn't imagine a better person to do life with than Zorro.

Which is good, because life decided to get rowdy. It's been a bit of a challenge trying to fit everything in these past days--which is why the blog has been completely ignored for two weeks. And why you're getting a vague, scattered, "still alive" post.

I think the week without internet (especially social media) did prep us well for diving into a week of having buckets of boring, overwhelming internet and phone research to do (insurance, car shopping, budgeting...plus all the other things we were already committed to attend or do).

Nothing teaches you how to single task like no wifi. Multitasking is sometimes necessary, but single tasking is so much more fulfilling (and oddly more efficient).

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Friday, October 10, 2014

raw nut cake

Having a friend who is a celiac and a foodie (plus another friend who is an even bigger foodie) opens your cooking horizons and you start reading recipes that you might never have considered. I've stumbled on a lot of really fascinating stuff.

In reading some of the raw food blogs I became profoundly curious about their "raw cheesecakes." Mostly because the bloggers and commenters were so adamant that it tasted good. I just had to know if they were crazy.

Enter Raw Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake, and a few brave experimenters. We had to make a substitution (you have no idea how impossible to find hazelnut butter is) but followed the recipe pretty closely. Except that I think we used honey at one step instead of maple syrup--since I'm not vegan. And we separated out some of the batter to add raspberries.

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So, you know, totally didn't change anything in that new wild recipe we were trying for the first time.

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I don't host many parties like this, so I let myself have fun setting out the coffee, tea and cocoa.

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I even put a frozen Meyer lemon in the water.

And if you think the spring colors are an odd choice for this time of year, you're right. These pictures are from March. I completely forgot to blog about this experiment. Whoops.

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It's a little more involved than I usually like to make--lots of dirty bowls. You puree everything in the food processor.

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chocolate!


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It did not look very appetizing sometimes.
I promise I did more than take pictures. Although it was a long time ago and I have no proof of that.

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So maybe I did mostly take pictures.

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Instead of one spring form pan we used silicone muffin trays and some silicone bowls.

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We watched The Help while the nut cake froze. Then we pulled it out, poured hot chocolate sauce on it, dropped on a few extra raspberries and took some down to the menfolk who were in the basement playing games.


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Survey says:

It does taste good. It's not cheesecake, and it is very rich, so you can't eat a big piece (which isn't necessarily bad). I think the men enjoyed it (they said they did).

But it is A LOT OF NUTS.

So this dish is a fabulous way to find out if you have a mild nut sensitivity. I am not exaggerating.

It's also kind of expensive.

So. Fun experiment. I have no need to ever make a raw nut cake again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Everything is about Balance

I found the website of one of Hollywood's top trainers recently. It isn't a fancy website at all, but if you dig around there is a lot to learn!

My favorite part was how they teach actors how to ride quickly. They basically stick them in a round pen on a reliable horse, no reins, no stirrups, and have them focus on learning to move with the horse. It's a lot easier to learn balance when you aren't having to worry about anything else--like, speed or steering.

This past August (see how far behind I am blogging?) a family friend came out to the barn while she was working in the area. I took the chance to experiment on her--and she was delightfully willing to be experimented on.

And you know what, it worked!

I stuck her on Midas without stirrups, and she focused on learning to move with him while I lunged him. He took a moment to get used to ignoring the person on his back, but he was pretty happy with the arrangement.

This was her second time, so I let her have stirrups:

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Once she was comfortable with his motion at walk and trot, including abrupt stops, I put reins on the halter and let her loose in the saddle paddock. Because she didn't have to worry about being thrown off by sudden movements or abrupt departures on his part, she wasn't afraid. This, of course, meant that he had no cause for sudden movements or jigging. Relaxed rider, relaxed horse.

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The next time she rode I let her have a real bridle. I kept them in the saddle paddock still (Midas's happy place) but they spent a great deal of time practicing the finer points of steering at trot. I was very proud.

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Of course, then she had to go back home and start college. But if she'd been able to stay we would have had her take on the riding ring and Midas's tricksy side.

I think that form comes along a lot faster and more naturally when you can approach riding one step at a time. Gaining your balance first, in a controlled environment, also removes a lot of the fear involved (sudden moves, losing your stirrups and the like are not so scary when you started without them) and the longer I ride the more I realize that the rider's mindset is probably one of the most important things.

Spooks and unruly behavior are less likely when the horse doesn't have the rider's tension coursing through its body. Not saying they don't happen, just that everyone is in a better place for dealing with them, and that they happen much less often.

Overall, I was pretty delighted with the experiment.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

sketching

I like to have a general idea of where I'm going with a story or a picture when I start. Stories can be killed by overplanning, and so can some pictures. Others, though, I draw over and over before finally getting them the way I want them.

Though, regardless of the repeated sketches, I draw where the pictures takes me. Much the way I write. I rarely know more than a few words ahead of what I'm writing.

Sometimes if a picture doesn't work the way I thought it was supposed to it ends up something else.

Once, I outlined an entire story as part of a writing assignment. I cannot bring myself to sit down and write it. It holds no interest for me. Maybe I write to find out what happens next.

I'm sure there is a lesson there somewhere.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

writing games



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I've always loved Balderdash (Dictionary the boardgame), thoroughly enjoy Liebrary (its literary spinoff), but writing prompts never really did much for me. This summer I was introduced to writing prompt games, and I must say they've been both fun and helpful.

But if I get another "describe this scene using only the sense of touch" (or smell, or taste) I just might cry. I got three of them last time I played writing prompt roulette, and my brain was burnt toast by the end. No joke.

I played this roulette at a writer's gathering in the summertime, and then brought it home and introduced it to the Ham and the Padawan.

It goes like this:
1- Gather some epic pictures.
2 - Gather some written prompts, such as : Something here is not as it seems. Your character lost something here. Something in this scene is a clone, what is it, and what does it want. Etc.
3 - Fold the written prompts and put them in a hat or bowl or something.
4 - Choose a picture from your epic collection.
5 - Grab a written prompt at random from your hat-bowl.
6 - Write! Or pull your hair out first and THEN write. You've got your setting and your assignment. Let 100 words + of your crazy mind out onto the page. Or screen. Whatever floats your boat.

It's so much fun. Unless you get a totally gorgeous vista, dripping with color and vibrancy, and you have to describe it using only the sense of touch.



Friday, September 26, 2014

Royal Blue

I've really enjoyed my white skinnies. This pictures are older (**cough** busy season strikes again **cough**) but I'm definitely open to wearing white after Labor Day. Presuming the urge hits, of course.

These pictures are so old that the little grass behind me has died twice since I took them. I'm not even joking. I don't know if it will come back again.

Also, I love the color of this shirt.


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Shirt: Stylemint. Shoes: Shoemint. Necklace: handmade by a friend. Pants: Nordstrom jeans altered by me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

our schooling dressage show

In the midst of the busy season madness, Midas and I went to a dressage show together. I've been dying to take him off-farm and do something other than fox hunt, so when Krasi asked if I wanted to go to a schooling dressage show with her and Charlie I was excited.

And very, very curious.


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Every time I take Midas someplace new and ride, we regress several steps in our training. These regressions have been getting smaller and shorter the more new places I ride. I suspect this has more to do with me than him, but it's nice to be spiraling up. We've never ridden off farm in a ring before.

With ground work, he's always pretty much tuned in. What matters more than location is activity--if there is a lot going on around him he wants to be watching what's going on rather than tune in to me. He's an extraordinarily watchful horse, who loathes having anything in his blind spot, so I suspect this will always be a little bit of a struggle. He's not being spiteful, he's just trying to do everything at once, he needs to feel safe to focus.


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Fast-forward to show day.
We got there at noon--and had two hours to kill. Adriane was schooling Charlie (since it was his first time and he's only 5) so Midas and I loitered, and huddled in the shade of the trailer because it was SOOOO HOT. It has been a really mild summer, but on show day, it was in the 90's and HUMID.


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Finally, I felt we were close enough that I could do groundwork. We did some yielding exercises by the trailer. After eyeing the dressage arena I decided to go to the warm up ring, which was an indoor arena in the opposite direction. I didn't think we'd be permitted to school around the dressage arena (since you are not permitted to school INSIDE the dressage arena, and people were pretty much staying away from it until it was almost their turn to go). In retrospect, I should have asked!


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To our knowledge, this was only the second time Midas has set foot in an indoor arena. It stressed him out more than I expected--but perhaps what was stressful was leaving the trailer and all the other horses. He was soaked with sweat and on alert, but decently relaxed and very well behaved in hand. He found the mirrors that took up one half of the arena absolutely fascinating. I think he connected the dots that he was looking at himself, and that this magic wall revealed his blind spot to him. He loved that. 

After that, Krasi and Charlie were heading off to warm up for their test and I took Midas back to the trailer to get dressed and tack up one handed. That is when I was most nervous (and someone's horse dumped them and took a tour of the fields nearby without its rider), but we got all dressed, and walked ourselves to the indoor.


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When Krasi finished riding her test she and Adriane came to watch us warm up, which I appreciated. Midas was pretty impeccable in the warm up, we had lots of railbird admirers.

Then it was time to walk over to the dressage arena and wait our turn. The way dressage works is more like an Olympic sport or dance recital than a horse show. You have an appointed time (e.g., 2:30, or 3:06), you make sure you're ready in the wings a few minutes early, when they tell you to go in, you enter the outer ring and wait for the judge to ring the bell to tell you that they are ready for you to begin your test.

Dressage arenas are further unique in that they are always inside another arena, and the dressage arena fence is typically 6 inches tall. You walk or trot around the outside of the dressage ring (but inside the outer ring--which typical has a normal fence height) until the judge cues you. Neither ring ever has a gate.

I realized too late, after they let us in, that i should not have walked around the perimeter of the ring, I should have trotted worked out our issues then. But he had been so good in the warm up, and I had my nerves well in hand....When they rang the bell, and I asked for trot, he exploded into trot the way a water balloon pops off the hose when you fill it too much. We were only a few feet from the entry point, and you have 60 seconds to get in or you are disqualified. I got him in line, by the skin of my teeth and entered to start our test.

It was just not pretty, he was up and tense and sucking back under me (while simultaneously bursting with ill directed energy).

And I forgot to use my outside rein (this is the rein that turns the shoulders). Then he was a lot more committed to being bad than I thought he was. We got as far as trotting down the long side toward the gate (only the second move in the test), had a fight about turning, and out of the ring we went :P

He did a pretty little sideways leap over the 6 inch fence. I was not about to let him out of the outer ring, too, and somehow I was standing next to him and someone was bringing me a mounting block to get back on. Incredibly embarrassing. But the judge was kind, and Adriane was very helpful, and we marched back into the ring, and schooled until our time was up and it was the next horses' turn.

After that, I took him up and down the outside of the outer ring (like my gut had suggested earlier in the day) and schooled him firmly on listening to me even when removed from the group of horses and people by the gate. He got the message. (I should not that this basically means I was very deliberately giving my aids, and all my aids, like I should have been in the first place, so it was as much a schooling session for me as him!)

I think, in hindsight, he thought he might get left behind by the other horses. Like they might go foxhunting without him if he were away from them. He's not clingy to herds at all at home, but with hunting he's Captain Don't Leave Me Behind Horse In Front. 
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Then it was our turn again. The judge teased me gently, saying she only had two rules, stay in the ring and on the horse. Fair enough! This time we trotted around the perimeter twice, then the judge rang the bell, and in we went. I remembered my outside rein this time. It was a wall. Firm and unmoving, and he respected it.

The test was not our best work, but it was decent and respectable. Bonus points: we stayed in the ring and I stayed on. 
We got 5th, I think out of 7.
With a score of 64, which isn't bad at all for dressage (the way dressage works is there are 10 movements, the max score you can get is a 10 -- but i don't think anyone ever has--we got...two 7s, and mostly 6s and 6.5s. Our 6 was on submission, surprise surprise!)
The judge said our test was worth the effort, and called us a nice pair. Who would have thought??? Two years of hard work paying off. Now let's see what happens on the hunt field....

This is Midas and his ribbon, notice the combination "It's dinnertime, and there was no galloping involved my day" face? He was pretty happy after our test (lots of pats for him!) but when we got home he seemed to realize that the day had not been what he'd expected from getting all braided up and going somewhere.

Poor Midas! I promise we'll go do something fun soon.
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