Newest Addition

July 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm (Uncategorized)

On July 16, 2010, I officially became a horse owner!

Introducing Summit/Harley/Boomer.  He needs a name.  We’re working on that.  Today we’re leaning toward Harley.  We’ve ruled out Dante and Buca.  On the fence with Rocco.

In mid-June, I began to give some serious consideration to purchasing a horse.  I had been leasing for a long time and it finally felt right to begin searching for something specifically for me.  My criteria were simple.  I wanted something safe, sane, and willing to work with me even as I made bumbling mistakes.  I knew that my budget wouldn’t allow me to purchase a horse with all the training I wanted, so I was going to have to do that myself.  It’s scary going out and looking for something just a bit more than green broke, but I had amazing encouragement from my family and husband, and all my barn friends didn’t react like I’d lost my mind so I began to think that maybe I could actually do this!

Though it’s been 15 years since I’ve owned a horse, I absorbed all those horse buying and selling lessons from years ago, and I was possibly the most prepared horse buyer ever.  I had my questions (two pages worth – initial phone calls were more like half-hour interviews), I asked for video and pictures, I called every trainer associated with the horse – anything I could think of to help me.  On more than one occasion, at the end of the interview I asked if there was anything else I should know and the owners said they couldn’t possibly think of one more thing!

We were getting close to making an offer on a horse near Delano last weekend. The horse fit my criteria and would have been interesting.  However, when we wanted to come back to ride again and make an offer, we were getting stalled!  Over a weekend!  You know I can’t NOT continue searching with all that time on my hands.

The universe was speaking to me and I listened.  On Sunday I found an ad for Summit and I called.  Here’s his story:

Summit was trained to be a racehorse in Virginia, however he was never actually raced.  Probably because he’s too smart to go out there and get beat up.  Also because he’s kind of lazy.  So he was sold as a three year old and ended up in some “ole cowboy’s” barn where they were throwing big western saddles on him and taking him out with a big old bit in his mouth.  Also, he was stalled next to donkeys!  For those who don’t know, donkeys bray and the sound is something like a dinosaur revving up.  Poor guy. 

In Virginia, there lives a woman by the name of Lisa.  Lisa is a horse-matchmaker – she finds horses with amazing temperaments and good confirmation in unusual places, and hooks them up with her students and clients. Lisa feels that if you have a horse with a great work ethic, willingness to please, sane, and has good conformation and soundness, they will try that much more  for you and you can form a winning/successful bond.  She’s highly recommended by the top eventer, Christan Trainor, which is why Katie (a MN eventer), contacted Lisa.  Katie had been looking for an off the track TB in Minnesota but couldn’t find one to her liking, so she asked Lisa to match her up. 

Lisa found Summit and was amazed by his maturity, kind eye, and willingness.  Pretty much on faith, Katie bought Summit and had him transported to MN in November 2009.  Not six weeks later, she was calling Lisa back saying that she didn’t feel that Summit was going to progress to the level of showing that she wants on her two year timeline. 

A very unfortunate situation indeed.  I feel that Katie’s expectations were rather aggressive considering the horse was so recently off the track he still had his racing shoes on.  He needed (and still needs) a lot of work to build the type of muscle needed to perform dressage or jumping.  Right now he’s built to race, not to move fluidly, relax his neck and work his (nonexistent) muscles on his topline (back).  But, what it boils down to is that he’s not the horse for Katie and everyone is entitled to have the horse they want.  I have no aggressive timelines, I think there’s something there I can work with, and I think he’s got a nice personality (and totally sane!).  So I snapped him up.

Katie took a completely green horse and got him to the “well started” stage that I was interested in.  She was doing mostly jumping with him and he’s quite comfortable jumping a 2’6″ course.  However, given his lack of balance and bend, I plan on spending quite a bit of time on the flat to strengthen those areas and muscle groups before we get into jumping.  He’s very, very quite.  Stands without fidgeting, knows his boundaries, lunges safely, hauls beautifully, and comes up to you in the field (that may have something to do with being a treat-hound though).  Several times I’ve found myself treating him like I do older, more mature horses – leading him around with a loose lead rope, walking around a new arena daydreaming, and he’s fine, but I realize I should probably be more aware just because he is only 4.  So far though, he definitely acts like a mature boy.

I was able to ride him for a week before taking delivery of him, and that was very beneficial.  We worked through getting to know a new person, with a different seat position (why, he wondered, did I have so much leg on him – you can’t even feel a jockey’s legs!).  He tried to test me and we learned who was the boss (but, significantly, I learned that he’s not going to do something stupid or unsafe when he’s testing me, and I felt confident and in control the whole time).  It was a very successful trial.

Unfortunately I had to leave the barn where I’ve been at since I’ve arrived in MN.  The barn is full of amazing, wonderful, helpful, friendly people who I will sorely miss, but I’m excited about the new barn.  It’s small and quiet, but the people are friendly.  Also, it’s close to a grocery store and gas station so I’ll be able to run errands easier.  Score!

We moved him Friday night and I spent all of Saturday morning acclimating him and having a great first ride!  And then at 5:30 on Saturday night, the barn owner called and my heart sunk.  I’ve had him less than 24 hours and something is wrong!!??!!  Turns out the boy pulled a shoe!  Good job!  Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to pull those during the week and not on the weekend when I want to ride??  We took a trip out to see him on Sunday and Tom fed him lots of carrots and apples.  Poor boy is about 50 pounds underweight and Tom’s going to put that back on him in carrots!  He’s very, very bothered by flies, even with a sheet and fly mask on.  Snagging a few pictures was quite difficult with all the swishing and stomping and moving to get at the flies.  Not that the flies are all that bad, I just think he really finds them annoying. 

Here’s a profile.

I’ll be using this blog space to capture his progress on a monthly basis.  It will do a lot for my peace of mind if I have something to go back to visually when it feels like we’re not making any progress.  So every month, we’ll film a dressage test that way we have something consistent to use as a basis of comparison.  I hope to have the first test up later this week.

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New Duds

December 12, 2009 at 9:55 pm (Uncategorized)

I don’t have enough to do, apparently.  I have obsessed and agonized over clothing for Lola WAY too much.  Spent WAY too many hours looking at different options and cross referencing prices with other websites.  I forgot that she’s a DOG and doesn’t really care what she’s wearing.  She just needs something to keep her warm in our sub-zero temperatures and something to protect her against all the snow on the ground.

So, this is Lola’s new Winter Ensemble.  I’m starting from the outside and working my way down.

Lola’s new fleece coat.  I ordered a medium because I needed just a little more room than a small offered so I could layer heavier sweaters underneath it for extra protection.  Mom has kindly offered to hem the excess length.

I like the lighter pink side with the coordinating raspberry stripe down the back.  But – it’s reversible!  This side is solid raspberry.

You can see where I’ve folded the excess up and pinned it into place for the moment.  I do like that the larger size hangs a little lower on her body.  I think it will keep her warmer.

Speaking of adorable (adorable being the theme of this post)- check out those boots!!!  Can you believe how cute they are?  I have to say, I was sorely tempted to go with a pair I found that were pink and edged in faux fur, but these boots got better reviews because their design supports a more “upright”, natural position of the paw.  I needed a sturdy boot for a couple of reasons.  First, she needs the protection because she is too uncomfortable to spend the time needed to relieve herself if she’s not wearing boots.  Secondly, I needed a pair that was easier, faster, and more secure than the slide-on sock type booties.  And, these provide enough traction that she can navigate the carpeted stairs inside the house so our morning routine is more efficient.

Yes, that is a rubber sole, and a zipper and an extra velcro band.  She’s better already about letting me put them on and if I tug pretty hard, I can pull them off quickly when she comes back inside.

Lola also needed a new sweater.  Her current ones are pretty worn out.  I didn’t find a sweater that I liked, but I did find this sweatshirt that I think really captures Lola’s personality.

It’s a really pretty raspberry color and has a hood.  I’m not a big fan of hoods, but this is kind of cute.

I thought the hood might flop around and be a nuisance, but it doesn’t.  It’s just slightly too big however, because it covers her eyes and then Spice takes advantage and begins her attack, and Lola gets pissed and starts barking but can’t actually see Spice to defend herself.  I found it amusing, but that’s just me.

How bad-ass is this though?

Yep, skull, cross-bones, crowns and roses!!  It’s totally Lola.  Bad-ass and totally not intimidating.  Rough, but in pint-size form.  And pink, because it’s time she embraced her girly side.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the selection of Lola’s new wardrobe.  She got a bath and trim today and now is sparkly white (mostly) in her new clothes and ready to go kick some Labrador ass.

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A Mid-Week Mild-Up

January 22, 2009 at 8:23 pm (Uncategorized)

The Eskimos have a thousand words to describe snow.  Seattle-ites know what rain with periodic showers actually means.  Here in Minnesota, they have something referred to as a “Mild-up”.
 
A mild-up is a period of time where the temperature increases and the skies are clear and sunny.  When the temperature increases from 1 degree to several days of 24 degrees, it’s still well below freezing so to call it a warm-up would be laughable.  But it is, relatively speaking, milder than the week before, hence the term. 
 
Mild-ups are something that are relayed by the weathermen with the same sense of excitement Seattle weathermen report a sunny day in January – a bit of awe and a whole lot of eager anticipation, as if they are personally responsible for delivering this welcome gift.  Also, there is usually something called a “January Thaw” in Minnesota, where the temperatures will climb all the way to 36 degrees for a couple of days, and combined with the bright winter sun, snow does indeed melt.  Today is one of those days, but I think to be a true thaw, it must consist of several days in a row.  It is possible that we won’t experience a thaw this January.  Many Minnesotans look forward to a mid-winter thaw; it helps them get through the rest of the season.  I assume this is similar to the February week in Seattle where the rain stops, the winds pick up, and the area dries out.  I suppose it’s mother nature’s way of ensuring you don’t succumb to that building mental breakdown.
 
Weather is indeed something that you get used to – in Seattle you become accustomed to months of rain.  You buy the proper clothing, resign yourself to flat hair, and deal with the standing water, gloomy skies, and pervasive dampness.  Here, I can honestly say that in a very short period of time I have become accustomed to the cold.  To be sure, it is physically much, much colder than Seattle.  But the temperature in Seattle is not quite cold enough to actively discourage outdoor activity.  And since there really is no good way to protect yourself from all the wet and damp, the chill is hard to shake and even though you can get outdoors, you’re likely miserable most of the time. 
 
My experience in Minnesota has been different.  When it’s very cold – single digits and below – you just stay indoors.  It’s that simple; you run errands out of necessity but otherwise, you cuddle up with loved ones and the dogs, make fattening crock-pot dinners, and entertain yourself.  But once it’s in the teens, especially when it’s sunny and bright (more than 50% of the time), you can run errands and get outside without having to duck your head and cover the back of your neck to protect your skin from raindrops.  Sure, you don’t want to spend tons of time outdoors, but it’s doable.  Very doable.  And, with all the dry cold, if you do bundle up in snowsuits or Carhartts, non-exposed skin is very toasty.  It’s a cold that you can actually layer up and protect against, and you can warm up from.
 
That’s an important part – being able to warm up from the cold.  I remember in Enumclaw that if I got cold and chilled during morning chores, sometimes you just couldn’t warm up all day long.  Even in the coldest weather I have ever experienced last week, I was able to quickly warm up from the walk from the parking lot to the building.  I even warmed up faster and more completely after that disastrous riding experiment than I expected to.
 
This winter has been described as exceptional cold and harsh – which hasn’t bothered me.  I’d rather experience the worst mother nature can throw my way right up front, and know with certainty that I can survive and even thrive.  I like the snow and the sun – I’ve found a place to eat my lunch in the sun.  It’s the first time I’ve experienced mid-day, mid-winter sun in 15 years.  It’s a real treat. 
 
All that being said – who wants to come visit?  J

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Christmas Photos Uploaded on Flickr

January 3, 2009 at 5:39 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve uploaded all the photos taken on my camera over Christmas and they are in the Flickr gallery, located in the right-hand panel. Please let me know if there are any photos that you would like, and whether you want them for print, web, or adjusted in some manner (cropping, color, clarity, etc.).  Use the sequence number on the photo when letting me know which ones you’d like.

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Make this cake. Right now.

November 24, 2008 at 2:20 pm (Recipes, Uncategorized)

Oh, my lands. This cake is a new family favorite. Even if it’s just my little family. I urge you to make this cake as soon as you can. It’s not complicated, it doesn’t use exotic ingredients, it smells divine, and tastes delicious.

jewish-apple-cakeThis recipe comes from the Smitten Kitchen blog. I haven’t tried many recipes off this site, and they seem to be hit and miss. But this one looked promising in part because it uses oil in the cake batter, which I know produces a moist cake. And it uses apples and I’m always on the lookout for a good apple recipe.

Mom’s Apple Cake

6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Ok, a few notes about the recipe.  First, she’s calling it “Mom’s Apple Cake” but the recipe is also known as “Jewish Apple Cake”, which is what I propose we call it to avoid confusion.  Secondly, you might be tempted, as I was, to mix the batter by hand, but resist that urge.  When you combine the dry and wet ingredients, it forms a very thick dough and is difficult to stir.  Much easier to whip out the old Kitchen Aid to incorporate those eggs, which makes the batter, while still thick, at least pourable.  Thirdly, I used a cooking apple called a Harrison.  I suggest using a sweet cooking apple and not a granny smith unless you absolutely LOVE tart apples.  Fourth, I think you need a tube pan.  As I was making this, I was wondering to myself if you could use a bundt pan, but as I watched it rise and rise and rise in the oven, I became convinced that you would need the taller, more spacious tube pan.  But don’t despair!  Tube pans are cheap and you can pick up one at Target or Walmart.  Totally worth it, even if you only use it for this cake.  And when it cooled later, it shrunk back down nicely.  Fifthly, mine took closer to 2 hours to bake.  Time intensive in the baking process, but it only took 15 minutes to throw together.

jewish-apple-cake-sliceSee, moist, filled with apples and yummy goodness.  I didn’t add powdered sugar to mine.  I didn’t think the cake needed any adornment, but if you dust the entire cake, the sugar is going to absorb into the moist top overnight.  Because it’s so moist, and because it makes a big cake, I froze half this morning.  I’m going to assume it will freeze well because of the oil.

jewish-apple-cake-topI served this with ice cream, but it really didn’t need it.  I needed the ice cream so it was all good.  I also ate it for breakfast the next morning.  Like a melt-in-your mouth fritter.  I have a feeling I’ve found a new favorite cake.  I hope you enjoy!

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Cookie Discovery

November 19, 2008 at 7:26 pm (Uncategorized)

You may remember this summer the New York Times posted a long article about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The article and accompanying recipe made the blog-rounds and got people talking. Here is a link to the article. Basically, the idea is that you need to let the dough rest for 36 hours because the egg is very slow to absorb into the flour. I thought this was a bit of a preposterous idea – chocolate chip cookies are something you make on a whim and eat half the batch while they’re still warm from the oven. Who plans on eating their cookie in 36 hours? Frankly, in my home, after 36 hours, there are only chocolate crumbs left.

But I thought the idea was intriguing – that the cookie can taste different and have different textures depending on how long the dough has been resting. At the 36 hour mark, the cookie is supposed to have a delightfully crispy-crunch outer ring, followed by a chewy middle ring, and a soft center.

Last weekend I made a batch of cookie and I baked a third on Friday night, a third Saturday night and a third on Sunday night. Here are my impressions.

At the 0-hour mark, the cookie was very, very sweet. It was uniformly soft throughout and uniform in color (light brown). The texture was uniform also. Basically, it was the cookie treat we all think of, but it didn’t have much complexity or sophistication. Not that you need those in a cookie, but this experiment is promising more, you know?

On Saturday, at the 24 hour mark, the cookie did crisp up in the center, but there was only one other ring – a chewy middle. It was much less sweet, and less cloying. You could taste a more pronounced butter flavor and the chocolate wasn’t nearly as overwhelming. It also had a more satisfying bite, heft, and golden color.

The Sunday cookie, baked at 48-hours, surprised me the most. It did indeed have three distinct regions; a crispy outer ring, a chewy middle and the very center was extremely soft – almost gooey. Because of the different textures, the flavor did have more nuance depending on where you were biting into. But, I didn’t much care for the gooey center as it was too mushy. I wonder if you would achieve the same result if the cookie was baked 12 hours earlier, but based on this experiment, I conclude that the 24-hour rest period produced a cookie that I liked best.

All that being said, there is no such thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie! If you can wait, or save some dough to bake later, the cookie does take on different properties, but it all depends on your personal preference. I’m still not sure I can wait 24 hours to eat a cookie, but I can at least save some of the dough for later.

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Hands Free Driving – Training Video

November 18, 2008 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

Oh, my, word….this video is really funny.  It comes to you from Dooce, so again, I’m not cool enough to find this stuff on my own.  A training video for those of you living in “hands free” states.  Enjoy!

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Two dogs more unlucky than mine

November 6, 2008 at 3:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Lola and Spice are so happy I didn’t do this to them:

coco-and-chuckThis is Chuck and Coco from Dooce.com. Poor dogs.

And I guess they should be glad they aren’t part of this family, the Sporh’s. Tom should thank his lucky stars.

flintspohrs

ok, and this one is really offensive but totally funny.

priest-photos

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Local Weather – is this the beginning??

September 3, 2008 at 11:54 am (Uncategorized)

Last weekend we had some really lovely weather for Andrea’s visit. I’m sure it was planned just for Andrea. I think Sunday was the hottest day when it was in the upper 80’s, but it was really windy. As usual. When we went to the figure-8 races at the car track, the nighttime weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cool. Then Andrea left and took the warm weather with her.

I woke late yesterday, Tuesday, and headed off to the barn around 8:30. It was really, really muggy and already over 80 degrees. Poor Chaps was already sweating when I took off his fly sheet. It was so humid that it it changed to rain while we were riding and it was refreshing having a slightly cooler breeze move through the arena, in addition to the lower humidity. But then the rain stopped and the humidity crept back up. It rained again when I got home and at this point, around noon, I let the hot dogs back in the house and turned on the a/c.

Watching the local news over dinner, I was flabbergasted to see the local temp at the bottom of the screen said 66. WTF?? I finished eating and went outside. Sure enough, the storm had pushed all the hot muggy air through and it was cold and crisp outside. So I opened up the whole house and in 40 minutes the inside of the house went from 75 degrees to 71. Wow.

Tom of course bitched and moaned that I was leaving windows open when we went to bed – even though I dug out the controls for the electric blanket and plugged in his precious. Which of course was plugged in backwards so in the middle of the night MY side was on fire and he’d tossed off all his blankets. Cold much?? But it was GLORIOUS waking up with the heavier weight of blankets and cold sheets. So what if I need a sweater, I love sleeping in the cold.

But the temperature in the house continues to fall. It was 68 degrees at 8:30 this morning and I just got up for a jacket and it’s 66. Hmm…at some point even I might crack and close some windows. I checked the weather and it’s not going to get over 70 degrees until September 12! Even then only 75! What happened to the hot weather?! I’m not ready for fall, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not! I like warmth. I want it to be 80 during the day and 60 at night. Pouting.

Can’t tell if Lola is cold or not. She’s sunning herself on the comfy patio furniture. But my fingertips are cold and my nose may or may not be a little red.

*UPDATE*  Four hours after posting this, at 2:30 p.m., I was freezing.  Shivering, huddled over my computer with the blanket curled around my face.  I really, really want to turn the heat on – 66 degrees it too cold for a house.  But I can’t figure out how it can be that cold – it’s just not computing.  But since my back is aching from the cold, I must do something.  So I put my blue robe on top of all my other clothes.  That has been helping.  I’m now able to sit up straight.  Now I need to bribe the heat dispensing poodle to sit on my lap.

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Olympic Commercials

August 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm (Uncategorized)

My hope was that we would see some creative, interesting, and amusing commercials during the Olympics.  Commercials that might move me or ring an emotional note.  So far I’ve been extremely disappointed – there have been very few interesting commercials and one of the best is a Superbowl repeat!

The Visa commercials are ok.  At first I didn’t like the stylized gold tones but it’s grown on me.  I really appreciated that right after Michael Phelps tied/surpassed Mark Spitz’s record win, they played a special commercial just for him.  And I love the one of Nastia Luiken – she looks like a figurine; something designed but in reality she actually can contort her body like that.  And I bet the Visa people were relieved that nothing tragic happened to Morgan Freeman because they would have had to quickly re-voice the commercials.

I love love love the Budweiser Clydesdale commercial, but I loved it when it first debuted at the Superbowl!  Why didn’t Bud create something new and special for the Olympics?  Does the Olympics not reach just as many people, especially as often as they replay the commercial?

Now, one that I just despise – have you seen this new one with a studly guy ironing a dress while making dinner reservations for his six month anniversary?  And then it’s a CAR COMMERCIAL!  When I first saw this, I knew is had to be a play of some sort on female fantasy, but the fact that they went with an automobile just totally lost me.  It should have been something more amusing or female centric.  A fantasy commercial with a studly guy is not going to get me interested in the car.  I’m more likely to remember the cute little VW commercials with the talking Bug.  And then when the commercial cuts to the the guy on his knees scrubbing the toilet, I was like, yeah, I get it, total fantasy, let’s just move on.

They keep playing the Home Depot spot about how they support the Olympians and I really like the music but I just keep thinking “how, exactly to they support the athletes?”  Do they give them flexible time, pay them more for public apperances, or what?  I have a hard time taking a big company’s word that they do good – I want to see proof.

Overall, I’ve been very disappointed.

Just a reminder for those interested – the Dressage Freestyle finals are on Tuesday.  I think they will be on from 5-7 (CST) on Oxygen (check your local listings).  This is my favorite event – it’s where the horses do a dressage routine set to music, so everything is on beat and in sync.  It’s hard to describe, but it’s like a dance and you’ll see the horses do stuff that looks incredibly easy, like flying lead changes with every stride, when in reality that’s impossible.  Impossible for mere mortals.  Can’t even describe how difficult.  To put it in perspective, most horses have a really difficult time doing ONE flying lead change as they are heading into a corner (which helps them shift their balance).  These horses change leads on every stride on a straight line.  It looks like they’re skipping.  Awesome.

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