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26 October 2016

A little morning relaxation

Guess who got to go riding this morning!
Oh yea.

I could tell he was calming down when he started sticking out his tongue...

This is the first ride Dash and I have had without his owner/trainer (who's also my teacher...let's call her M) nearby. He was a little anxious not having her around, but he didn't act up. He just walked v e r y  s l o w l y. ...Which means he walked like a normal horse and not like his hyper self. He absolutely did not want to go near that fence you can see behind us on the right side of the picture, but I didn't push it today. They've just changed that part of the fence and it looks totally different now than it did a week ago. He never likes that part of the fence anyway (there are dogs on the other side, and a flag, which was flapping in the wind like crazy today). He'll get used to it, but getting used to riding without M around was a big enough deal for one day. 

See, M rescued Dash a few years ago from a pretty bad situation, and she has become something of a security blanket for him. Maybe it's because she rescued him, or maybe it's because she's been there with him every day for the past few years and those days have been pretty good. Either way, he feels safe with her around, and less so without her. He's also a natural worrier so that probably doesn't help.

Surprisingly, not having her there didn't bother me as much as it usually would have. Not that it would bother me to ride without her, but it would bother me to be on another person's property without them. And also to ride their horse without them. We've been working up to this though, and I had a security blanket of my own there with me: my husband, who took that picture. He makes me feel safe the way M makes Dash feel safe. 

Dash did relax after ten or maybe fifteen minutes. He even picked up his speed and lowered his head - both good signs. I didn't ride long, maybe half an hour. I really just wanted to get him to relax and feel comfortable, then end it on a good note and avoid overstressing him. 

This horse is the biggest goofball. I love him and his crazy personality already. The best part is, he's teaching me how to earn his trust. There's nothing better in the world than that. 

25 October 2016

How I met Dash

Lemme back up and fill you in a little.

I grew up with horses, but I had to leave that world behind when I left my father's house.

I bought a horse when I got out of the Army and got a job as a contractor making pretty good money. He was a retired ranch horse with a brand I never was able to identify. I called him Duke. He was big and red and mellow and I loved the hell out of him. Then I got laid off and I couldn't afford to feed him, so I found him a new home. I miss him every day.

My 35th birthday was a couple months ago, about a week or so after the summer Olympics. This year my finances are looking up, and I had just watched every single Olympic equestrian event when my birthday came around. Most years, if I get myself a present at all, it's something like a new pair of jeans because all my old ones have holes. This year, I realized that I could sustain the cost of riding lessons.

So I asked about instructors on the local horsey facebook page. I made a list and met several great people willing and able to teach me. I decided on a riding school run by a woman with a more casual, laid back way of doing things. I liked her no-bs way of talking. I tend to take people at their word, so if you're saying something just to be polite, there's a good chance I won't realize that. I don't worry about that with her. She's direct, and that's what I need in a teacher.

The lesson horse is a cute little mustang named Bella. Bella's a little on the lazy side, but easy to ride and I got comfortable on her quickly.

At my third lesson, the instructor told me she thought I was a capable enough rider to try riding Dash. Most people, she told me, are intimidated by his size. Dash is about the same height I remember Duke being, but not quite as thick. And, she continued, Dash is proud cut, so some people are afraid of him just because of that, but - she assured me - he's really a good boy.

Maybe I'm too trusting, but I hopped on Dash.
Literally, because he likes to step out if you take too long to get into the saddle.

That first ride was bumpy. He definitely wanted to go faster than I did, but he slowed back down when I asked and other than being antsy, he really was pretty well mannered.

I'd been up on Dash maybe twenty minutes when the instructor said, "Well, you're not in the dirt - he must like you!" That did not boost my confidence. But I knew we were right for each other when I realized that Dash was tensing up in response to me tensing up. If I was calm, he was calm. He's a sensitive guy, the instructor told me.

I may be terrible at knowing when I'm anxious, but Dash isn't, and he has let me know from our very first ride. 

21 October 2016


Having depression and anxiety means constantly saying you're sorry.

I'm sorry I didn't send that email, even though I knew I had to and it would have been easy.
I'm sorry I didn't finish my homework on time, even though I had all the time and resources I needed. No, I don't have a doctor's note.
I'm sorry I didn't call.
I'm sorry I didn't text.
I'm sorry I didn't turn in that document, the one they need in order to pay me for my work.
I'm sorry I didn't pay the bills, even though I had the money.
I'm sorry I didn't do the thing. Or any of the things. Not even the easy things.

But hey, at least I didn't die.

20 October 2016

Biscuits & history.

Today I made biscuits and looked for a dead man in the 1910 census. I found him in the voter registration records. Not in that order though - the biscuits came later, with creamed beef.

...Because I'm a research librarian/docent at our local museum, and people come looking for information about their ancestors just about daily. Then I got a craving for biscuits and gravy but didn't have any stock, so I made creamed beef instead.

The biscuits turned out fine, but I am not using that recipe for creamed beef again. It was bland at best and gross at worst. I'll let you know when I find something better. 

Trust me.

I love Wednesdays. They're basically my Saturdays, because they're my first day off work every week. The restaurant is closed, so I can't even be called in (or at least it's extremely unlikely), and I don't schedule things on Wednesdays if I can help it. And my kiddo is in school, so as soon as I drop him off I'm free for hours.

Which means that as soon as I drop him off, I head over to the riding academy.

Now, every time I've been there, I've ridden with Dash's owner, who rides one of her other horses (usually Dash's bff/almost twin, Santana). Today was different. The owner, M, wanted to see how Dash would do if he couldn't see her. He has given other riders problems in those scenarios in the past. So I tacked him up, got him into the arena, and hopped on.

Dash was obviously uncertain of the situation. He was tense and a little spooky, but he came back to me every time I gave him an instruction. After what might have been fifteen or twenty minutes, he started to calm down. As soon as I felt like he was calm, he was listening to me and not looking for M or spooking, I ended our ride, gave him extra treats and a hose-down (which he loves, especially on hot days like today).


Dash and I are learning to communicate with each other. He's learning to trust me, and I'm learning to earn his trust - and to trust him in return. We're going slow, for his sake and for mine, but every time I ride it seems like we do one thing better than the time before.

It's so damn exciting I can hardly stand myself.

That's what I thought of as I was scrolling through my blog feed and came across this prompt.

18 October 2016

Chunky Artichoke Mushroom Soup

I totally should have taken a picture.

I realize this now.

But now I'm home, it's dark out, and all the soup has been eaten already.
So it's too late for pictures.

You'll just have to take my word for it. I made an awesome soup today:

Here’s what you’ll want to have on hand:
1. Potatoes – I used 3 medium russets.
2. Olive oil – IDK, how much is a splash?
3. Onion – I like yellow or white for this soup, but I bet leeks would be good too.
4. Garlic – I like the pre-minced kind because I go through garlic like Sherman through Georgia (as my boss would say).
5. Thyme – maybe a tablespoon?
6. Salt & pepper – I sprinkle enough to give the bottom of the pan a sparse but even layer.
7. Veggie base – this is optional. I just added a large spoonful.
8. Water – lots. Preferably preheated, but not necessarily.
9. Mushrooms – I used 2-3 cups’ worth.
10. Artichokes – I use canned (there I said it). It’s a really big can. We’re talking like gallon-of-milk sized.
11. A blender. No really.
12. A lemon, but only for its juice so you could also just get about a quarter cup of lemon juice, but not the processed kind because that’s gross.
13. Spinach. There’s no such thing as too much. I threw in 3 overflowing handfuls. You could also use kale. It’s surprisingly good – dareIsay: kale is even better than spinach in this particular soup.

Here’s the process:
Peel and slice some potatoes. You can cut them however you want. I just slice them because it’s fast to do and they cook faster if they’re thin. They’re going to get liquefied anyway.

Sauté some onions and garlic in olive oil.
Throw in some thyme, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Toss in the potatoes and immediately add just enough water to cover them.
You can add some base if you want it, too.
Cover. Turn that sucker up and let it boil.

Meanwhile, slice up some mushrooms and prep your artichokes.
In my case, prepping the artichokes involved opening the can and casually draining it.
When the potatoes are soft, add just a few of your artichokes.
Cook all that for a few more minutes, then puree your soup in that blender (or I suppose you could use an immersion blender).

Put your puree right back in the same pot (unless you used an immersion blender, then nevermind).
Add the rest of your artichokes, all those sliced mushrooms, and a lemon’s worth of lemon juice.
Cover all the new veggies with more water and let it all simmer til tasty, maybe 15 minutes or so.
You can boil some water in a teapot while you’re waiting.

Turn the heat off when your veggies are cooked, then stir your spinach or kale in, dump some of that boiling water from your teapot in there and cover that pot back up. (This is where I just put in enough water to get the juice-to-stuff ratio where I like for soups.) Give it a couple minutes, then eat. 

As written, this recipe happens to be gluten-free and vegan, but if you wanted it meatier you could totally add cooked chicken to it and it would be amazing. You could also replace the veggie base with chicken base.

*"Base" is basically just condensed stock. If you don't have veggie or chicken base, just use stock in place of both the base and the water. You won't want to add water if you use stock! Or you could just leave it out entirely.

Now, keep in mind that I'm making food for a lunch service at a restaurant. This'll make a big batch. I don't know how many servings exactly, but it's a big ol' pot. You should probably scale this down if you're not trying to serve half the town or have leftovers for weeks.

17 October 2016

Coming home.

I've been trying to get home for a long time.
The thing is, I seem to have lost track of where 'home' is... or do I mean where it was?
Home wasn't where I'd left it. I even went back and looked at the last place I remember seeing it - it wasn't there, either.

Have you ever gotten lost in the woods? My home used to be a place with woods. When I was a kid I used to go out to "the woodlot" and leave the trail behind. I always thought I'd be able to find my way back using landmarks - this tree that had that funny looking branch, or the rock that was sticking out from under those particular two tufts of ...whatever that plant was. That never worked. What did work was picking a direction and sticking to it. Eventually I would come to the fence that wrapped around two sides of the woods, or the road that bordered another side, or our front pasture on the last side. From there I could find my way back.

That's where I left home: in western New York, on 155 acres of pastures, streams, and woods; with a small herd of horses, some cattle, and a colony of barn cats. I was 17. I was too disillusioned and too self-centered to stay, and the woodlot wasn't enough to distract me anymore.

I led a lot of lives, followed a hundred rabbit trails and noted the passing of at least a dozen landmarks that I'll never see again. Then, when the sun sank and the skies rumbled, I started to look for home. For the last few years, I've been sticking to one direction: up.

I don't know exactly what home will look like when I get there, but I know I've seen the borders. There's my husband and my son wrapping around two sides; there's the road lined with gardens, recipes, paintbrushes, and books; there's the pasture in front, with the horse, saddled and waiting to race me home.