Minor meltdown

Volker Bromman is giving a clinic at my barn this weekend, so there are several new horses on the premises temporarily. Additionally, the south doors of the indoor arena were opened for the first time today, giving a full view of the stalls housing the intruders. Luckily I had already planned to lunge, because upon entering the arena and taking in the various new stimuli, Willow had an extended thoroughbred moment. She started vibrating right away, and I was just able to get the side reins hooked up before she started a grand passage in stallion fashion, tail straight up and nostrils flaring. She then attempted a hysterical canter. I started some serious transition work to get her mind on me. It took about five minutes to talk her down from the ledge.

Happily, sustained hysteria really isn't Willow's thing. She can definitely let fly with some crazy antics from time to time, but she comes back to earth fairly quickly. Before long I had her long and low with a nice, stretchy, rubber-band style trot and a quiet canter. My ride was quite productive, although I kept it short because I suspect Willow's going to regret all that passage in the morning. I did have better luck shrinking the left canter circle tonight--I tried giving her a good hard bump with my right leg rather than just a subtle pulsation, and I saw the light bulb appear above her ears. Don't know why I didn't try that sooner. Tomorrow I'm going to try bumping her into canter half pass and see how that goes.

Jenny kicks butt

Congratulations to my long-time friend Jenny in Nebraska for rocking the house at a recent show. Jenny is bringing along her own young mare, Nicolodeon, and they scored a 72 at second level. Don't they look awesome? I love the engagement behind.

Celebrate, Commemorate

Today is May 29, Ian and Gwen's two-year anniversary.

Thank you Gwen. Thanks for keeping our family alive.

What just happened?

It seems like 1,000,000 crazy things just happened, which would have made for good blogging material all along, but have instead drawn me away from my blog. But here I am.

Most recently, and most frightening, Neil and I got a calling last week! I was at first afraid they were going to ask us to speak in Sacrament, which would be TERRIFYING, as I have a very scary ward. But instead, they asked us to "teach" nursery!!!!! I can't think of a more perfect calling for Neil or a more ill-fitting one for me. Neil is stoked and I -- well, I laughed out loud when the guy asked us. Not an hour earlier, Rosemay asked me to hold her adorable and good baby, Josiah, while she led the music. This was 2 min. I figured I could handle. Nope, sensing my fear, he started screaming about 1 min. into me holding him. It's not so much that I don't like kids, it's that they reeeeaaaalllly don't like me. I guess callings are for us to learn and grow from. I am really terrified to be stuck with a bunch of babies for 2 HOURS; fortunately it's every other Sunday. I figure this will either make me really want to have one or ... not.

In other news, I made a very difficult choice and decided to accept the relative unknown in a job with (edited) and told my boss at my dream job that I will be leaving. Am I crazy? But, it's a best-case scenario -- she says I can stay as long as I'd like, until I actually start training. And since it's been exactly 1 yr. since I applied for the job in the first place, I am thinking it may be awhile until I actually start with them. So everything is cool there. Except when I think of the fact that I will spend the rest of my career living outside of the U.S., which is exciting but also makes me a little sad.

I have actually used the camera mentioned in my previous post, most recently last weekend when a friend and I went to tour rich people's fabulous horse stables in Middleburg, Va. Unfortunately, the batteries weren't charged. A few weeks before that, Neil surprised me with tickets (a 3 mo. anniv./Mother's Day present) to a polo match in Leesburg!! It was my first time using the camera and it was fun. While in Leesburg, we visited Mary on her farm where I used to live.
When we got to Mary's, she was about to go for one of her daily walks, so we went along. Her dog, Friday, and Mitch (a woman, ironically) went with us.
Mary's property is really beautiful, and very much like how this overdeveloped area of Va. "used" to be.
I love the fields. This is a very "Virginia" scene to me, very home.
Mary has used part of the property for a conservation easement and planted a pine forest. One of the first times Neil came over, it was snowing lightly and we went for a walk through the forest. Muy romantico!
The aptly named pool house where I used to live. Mary still swims laps in it. I'm lucky if I can make it down and halfway back once.
Mary is an incredible lady. She has had an awesome life -- she was born in Shanghai to British parents. Her father was a diplomat. She had to leave China during the war, and moved to Africa to work, where she met her husband, whose family lived in Leesburg. She has done tons of amazing things, and has the best stories, made better because she still has a British accent. It was very nice living in her pool house and I miss not seeing her more often!

America's Polo Cup featured Italy vs. USAZoom out.

Zoom in.
Zoom way in.
They have a cute tradition during "halftime" of stomping the divots. Everybody went out to stomp. Well, I took pictures, but Neil is in the middle there, looking for divots.

Sorry, Italy -- USA won!

Messy Tuesday

If you are visiting from Chewing the Fat and would like to read what Dave referenced, scroll down to yesterday's post.

Here's my Messy Tuesday offering.
Clothes waiting to be donated, the winter duvet bundled up on the cedar chest (right), and the same EXACT laundry basket I showed you weeks and weeks ago.
And Mum and I are sitting here knitting and having tea and scones. Lovely.


I've seen them around ever since I can remember. They're as much a part of this city as the parks and piers - hopping on and off buses, sitting on benches downtown, walking everywhere quickly, deep in conversation. I don't think I've ever, in over twenty years of memories, seen them apart. I was away for 13 years and when I returned, I caught a glimpse of them downtown not 36 hours after my return - I knew I was home, then.

I don't think life has always been easy for them. They have a lot of friends, and they are always happy, but I'm an accomplished people-watcher and I can see how some others react to them. I sit a few bus seats back from where they do, so I can hear and see things they can't. It's pretty subtle...mostly a matter of glances exchanged, maybe the occasional whispered comment. I think I remember that it used to be worse for them than it is now.

I'm not sure what their disability is, so I can't give them a label for you. Their thick glasses tell me they don't see well, but they seem to have no other physical inhibition, even though they must be in their mid-fifties by now.

We were in a hurry when we left the house and I called my kids from the backyard where they were 'farming'. I was searching frantically for change and keeping an eye on the clock as the kids got their shoes on. We made it in time, luckily.

It was the 2.43 bus today, so the back was full of high-school students. Unable to sit where we normally do, I guided the children towards the front seats. We sat behind and across from the driver, so we could watch him operate the bus.

A few stops before our destination, they got on. Backpacks and jackets matched: in fact they are identical down to the moustaches. They had a friend with them - as well as having an intellectual disability, his speech was impaired so I couldn't understand what their conversation was about, but it was earnest and seemed important. I happened to glance to the back and, amid the chaos of teenaged conversation, teasing, and flirting, saw one kid give a little smirk to his friend.

My daughter asked me if it was time for her to pull the stop cord, and I looked over at her to answer. Suddenly noting the state of the shirt she was wearing, I exclaimed "Good grief, Charlotte, look at your shirt! It's filthy!" She gave me a rueful smile as I reached over to brush in vain at her shirt. I heard a voice across the aisle say quietly "Throw it in the laundry," and another, almost identical voice say, serenely, "it'll come out." I wasn't sure if they had intended to be heard, but I looked across and smiled at them. "Yeah but you should have seen how nice and clean she was a half hour ago!"

They were pleased at my response, and leaned forward a bit. "It doesn't take long," said one, then "no it sure doesn't" said the other. I started to laugh, surprised for the first time by twins who actually DO finish each other's sentences. "Too bad I can't throw all of her in the wash," I remarked, to their great amusement. My daughter crowed with laughter, too.

"They get dirty,"
"it's okay."

I stood up to get off at the next stop. "Well, bye now," I said, "enjoy your afternoon."

"Bye!" said one, "and you have a good day too!" said the other.

On the sidewalk again, I stopped to take stock of jackets, wallets, keys, transfers. My daughter watched the bus pull away and said, still laughing, "Those guys are sure funny and nice."

Yes, they are.

Puissance jumping

Have y'all ever actually seen puissance jumping? I've heard about it, but I never realized just how freakin' high the puissance wall is. In this clip the wall is 2.2 meters, or about 7.2 feet. There's so much about this feat that is unbelievable, but the hardest thing for me to imagine is the view on the way down, and how the rider and the horse absorb the shock of coming down that far. I guess you'd want to make sure your stirrup leathers were in good shape.

A brief update

I had a busy week. I'll spare you most of the details - or write about them later.


All right, which one of you sent me this great postcard? I thought I could decipher the initial on the back, and thanked no fewer than three separate people, in turn, who all then denied having anything to do with it. So who do I thank? The back says "Make these for the family next time you want to avoid cleaning. We're here for you!" That means that A) the sender is a reader; and B) they are my kind of people.

I was puttering in the garden the other day, and ambled over to my iris patch to admire the emerging flowers. They are far from open, as yet.

But......what's that?


Wait a second...do deer bite off the flowerheads and then drop them behind the plants?

No. They don't. You know what DO, as it turns out? FREAKING FOUR YEAR OLDS WITH SCISSORS. She must be stopped.

Miss me?

A Gulf of silence separates us from each other.
I stand at one side of the gulf, you at the other.

-Katherine Mansfield (excerpt)

A Willow clip a day, part 3

Here's the last of the Willow clips. I was mostly focusing on first level, with a little bit of second. And still trying to get Willow to realize she can carry herself higher in front. Overall, I'm happy with where she is. My goal is to have her solid at third before she turns eight next spring. I don't have my bronze yet and I'd love for the two of us to earn it together.

A Willow clip a day, part 2

In this clip I was focusing more on keeping Willow up in front, with better results. We did trot lengthenings, shoulder-in, travers, stretching down, walk half pass, and shallow counter canter.

A Willow clip a day

My dad filmed three of my rides while he was visiting. When I watched this first clip, I realized I still am not getting Willow up in front the way she needs to be. On the plus side, I love how forward the trot is, and the canter has definitely improved in the past couple of months. A little bonus at the end shows Willow's talent for turn on the haunches -- she's been able to do it ever since she figured out the outside rein. I wish small canter circles came as easily :)

Mystery solved

My not-daffodils are indeed alliums:

"Allium siculum (reclassified as Nectaroscordium siculum) (Koenders unofficially calls them Hanging Bells) – Not a globe shape, looks like an umbrella, bell shaped florets hang down in colors of mauve, purple, green and white in one floret, strongest onion smell (good to deter critters), 2 ½ - 3’ tall, 3-4” pretty flower."

Thanks to the Dave's Garden blog.

Dad's visit

My dad's here visiting from Nebraska. I had all sorts of home improvement projects lined up for when he came. The biggest one was helping me install laminate flooring in the living room. I had already ripped out almost all the carpeting before he came. He helped me rip out the rest and pull up tack strips and staples. Here are a couple before pictures. The flooring underneath the carpet was apparently the 1950s version of laminate. It was sort of like wallpaper with a wood print on it. Very cheesy.

The flooring project took us about nine hours total. I think it looks gorgeous! So much more practical with three dogs running around.

My awesome friend Erica, the Inch-by-Inch Gardener, says she thinks my mystery plants may be alliums, which actually are members of the onion family, but look like Dr. Seuss flowers. Here's what the blooms look like today:

They're sort of like little upside-down tulips. Does anyone know if these are indeed alliums and will eventually puff out in Dr. Seuss fashion?

Coming soon: new videos of Willow! My dad has agreed to serve as videographer. I was hoping, for his visit, that we would have some sunny weather, but holy cow! It's hot! We're going to wait and go to the barn this evening. I'm sure Willow would agree that's a good plan.

Reclamation is a beautiful thing.

I've been waiting to show you this FO for a while now, but the weather wasn't right for taking pictures, and I didn't have a photographer. This morning I decided, to heck with a photographer, I would ask my six-year-old daughter to take the photos.

Salvage Skirt

Pattern: None. Method suggested by Threads number 120, September 2005. Yoke adapted from Burda 8677.
Invisible zipper
Cotton flower trim
Fabric strips:
-silk charmeuse
-Josef Otten cotton lawn
-silk satin
-polyester satin
-polyester double georgette
-Josef Otten cotton

I read this article when the magazine first came out. I liked the idea and started planning the skirt right away. Instead of buying meters of new fabric for it, I decided to cut up some finished garments that didn't fit or didn't look as nice as I thought they would.

Reclaiming fabric is a nice idea, but it can be time consuming, depending on the garment you're recycling. If the piece has a lot of seams, you might have trouble finding a long enough portion to make a workable strip.

This, like most other sewing, is a slightly space-intensive undertaking. All together, when I had all the strips cut, laid out, and sewn together along their long edges, the total length was 167". All that length had to be pressed, serged, pressed again, hemmed, pleated, and sewn to the yoke.

The magazine does not call for a separate, fabric yoke. According to the directions, you make a yoke, shaped to your waist-to-hip, out of fusible interfacing. You then pleat the skirt directly onto that - using the iron to press the pleats in place as you fuse them to the skirt. Then you free-form quilt all along the interfaced yoke to secure the free edges of the pleats. Insert a zipper, and you're done.

I didn't like the finished look of the piece as given. The pleats look a little random and messy to me - and I thought it would likely be unflattering to have them extend right up to the waist. I have no hips to speak of as it is, and the vertical lines would have eliminated what shape I have.

In order to create the illusion of a difference between my waist and my hip, I made a standard, shaped yoke out of a fabric that matched part of the skirt. For this I used my favourite yoke - from Burda 8677. I adjusted the length so that the seamline between the yoke and the fall would be exactly on the fullest part of my hip. I also fitted the seamline so that it would be quite a bit bigger than my actual hip, counting on the fullness of the pleated strips to hold it away from my body. To emphasise the seamline and broaden the hip a bit more, I added the flower trim.

I like how this turned out. Those 167 inches of skirt, when pleated in, really add a lot of swing. The fabrics are all light and flowy, as well, which captures motion beautifully. I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but this skirt is full of light and drape.

The fabrics have various degrees of opacity, with some of them being very sheer indeed - this allows for an interesting play of light and shadow in the finished piece, while the pleats at the top take away any revealing glimpses that might otherwise result.

I think my favourite part of this skirt is the fact that it's recycled. I reclaimed fabric from a long, waistless sundress I hardly ever wore, a silk slip I made before I was married, two skirts that no longer fit me, and the lining from a skirt whose outside was so full of pulls as to be unwearable. The rest of the necessary strips I made from stash fabric that no longer appealed to me as they once had.

I would make this again. Happily, having worked through the method once, it'll be a lot simpler next time. But for now I'm out of garments to cut up, so I'd have to buy fabric for the next one. You could really go as expensive or as cheap as you wanted - or a mixture of the two. You could use silks, if you like, or you could use poly. There are always some very pretty peau de soie fabrics out for summer, which would look lovely interspersed with gauze or voile.

Caffeine withdrawal

When trying to overcome an addiction, I've read that you should think of every failed attempt as "practice." I've been practicing quitting caffeine for a long time now. Because I love my Coca Cola so much, my past attempts have revolved around decreasing my consumption. Those attempts have all been miserable failures. My five-can-a-day habit would reassert itself within a few days.

For some reason, this week I have an exciting new level of resolve. Tuesday night I was driving home from the barn, really craving a Coke. I realized I didn't have any at home. And I suddenly said, that's it! I'm quitting! I am not dragging myself to the grocery store with this giant greenish-brown horse kiss all over the front of my white shirt! (My grandfather told me a similar story about quitting smoking: he was way the heck out in the middle of the north forty combining, and he realized he really needed a cigarette, his pack was empty, and his pickup was very far away. He got mad and quit.)

So I'm 48 hours into the cold turkey experience. I had a miserable headache last night, although I found that working up a sweat riding seemed to help it quite a bit. I suppose the trick is to keep your circulation pumping. Today I just feel foggy and tired, but the headache is mostly gone. I'm using Gatorade as my crutch. I was hit with a severe Coke craving around lunchtime, but I just kept sipping the Gatorade and it passed.

Wikipedia tells me the first 48-72 hours are the worst, and all withdrawal symptoms should pass after a week. Wikipedia also provided this helpful illustration to keep me motivated:

Such a comfort - does this mean I'm materialistic?

After crossing my lawn this morning, the postie knocked on my door, instead of just slamming my mailbox shut and striding off. I answered and he, wordlessly, handed me this:

I was not expecting anything, but when I peered at the customs declaration and saw this

I ran for the scissors.
I opened the box and saw all this:

including this.

Lantern Moon needle case

I actually had to sit down - I was breathless and dizzy...I burst into hysterical laughter, clasping the lovely, beautiful purple yarn to my breast. My daughter thought I had gone off the deep end.

Natalie, this is the THIRD time you have surprised me with a lovely gift. And you have the most amazing timing, too - last year I was crushed with anxiety when your first package arrived, and gave me such a lift. You made my entire month. Then, I spent all of last night in tears over a personal situation that I can't seem to resolve. This morning, as I sat with a heavy heart and chilly hands wrapped around a cup of tea, the postie brought your present.

I can't thank you enough for your generosity. You are the salt of the earth. I would like to repay your kindness, but I must think of something that is worthy of you.

Thank you Natalie.

Why bother reinventing the wheel?

I was going to talk about the subject of biofuel, but instead of droning on in a boring and wordy fashion like I probably would, I will simply ask everybody to go read this, please.

I should clarify that I disagree with Grandad that Global Warming is a myth. However, I do applaud his observations on the growing of biofuel and the impact it will have on world hunger. My problem with biofuel is not that it is based on a 'half-baked' theory of Global Warming, but that it is a monumentally selfish reaction to the problem of dwindling oil reserves. It's a response intended to keep the western standard of living more or less status quo. "Instead of forcing people out of their cars, let's just burn up a DIFFERENT resource!"

See? Wordy and boring.

How many chew toys can you buy for $140?

I don't have a good feeling about this.

Have you spotted it?

Ready to introduce the double bridle

I've decided it's time to introduce Willow to the double bridle. The canter is lagging behind somewhat, but she's schooling solid second and even a little third in walk and trot, so why not. I'll just ride in it once a week for awhile. (I'm a big believer in schooling in the snaffle most of the time for as long as possible. I think there are often some major training elements missing if a horse requires a double to be rideable. Your mileage my vary.)

I rode schoolmaster Aron in the double every so often, but that bridle was already fit to him. I've never fitted a double to a horse from scratch before. There's a lot to consider! Between all the various components, the possibilities are nearly endless. And expensive! Luckily, it turns out the trainers at my barn have a whole drawer full of bridoons and curb bits in several sizes, so at least I'll be able to try various combinations without spending a lot of money.

I hope my fingers remember how to manage all those reins.

Busy. Cold. Soaking wet. And messy.

Welcome to our home! This is the front closet.

Below is the ficus, which has become habitat for a little tiny spider. Tiny, but prolific. In four days the guy spun a mass of webbing from the ficus ONE METER up to a paper lampshade, then another ONE POINT TWO METERS over to the mantle. And this isn't just one web - it's a six-inch wide mass of strands. You can't see from this picture, but it's quite splendid. Mr HSBoots glanced up at it and said "When was the last time you dusted?"

I don't know, but I can tell you it was after the last time YOU dusted.

I haven't had much knitting time lately. Between the kids, the dog, the garden and the housework (ha ha!) the yarn has had to take a backseat. However, in my waiting-around time I've done one of two socks:

in Lion Brand Magic Stripes yarn. (Thanks for the yarn, Ames!)I'm knitting these at about 7 sts per inch on 2.5 mm Addi Turbos.

Can I just say that the best part of magic looping is the money you save on needles? I used to knit socks with two circulars, which is great except that you have to buy two of the same size needle. A 30 cm needle costs the same as a 100 cm needle...might as well buy just one.

Lastly, it is May the 13th. Please observe my thermostat:

I HAVE THE HEAT ON. It's 8 degrees and pouring outside. Not even the DOG wants to go out today. He went over to his potty corner when he first got up and, shivering, squatted down to answer the call of nature. He looked up at me with a resentful eye - which got a direct hit a second later by a huge, icy drop of rainwater from the pine tree.

It was hilarious, but he didn't much appreciate my laughter. Can't take a joke, I guess.

And last night I drove past the house of pain. Would-be Ike Turner's vehicle was sitting comfortably in the driveway. I guess this means they patched things up, after all.

Ain't love grand.

Dyed in the Wool

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 3, Number 3

The Yarn Lover's Guide to Hand Dyeing
by Linda La Belle

Well, it's been a while since I reviewed a knitting book, hasn't it? I got lost in the heady world of fiction and forgot my other passion.

As an introduction to hand dyeing, this is a pretty good book. I picked it up in the hopes that it would tell me more about plant dyes, but natural colour is not the focus of this book. La Belle takes a wider approach to the craft in this volume, starting with the basics of colour theory, materials needed, and safety.

I was interested in the pages about materials, in particular the encouragement to seek out second-hand enamel pots...the author urges me to ensure there are no chips in the enamel, which could expose the cast iron beneath, affecting the finished colour. Unless, she muses, you LIKE the way the iron changes the colour. Then, you could just keep a chipped pot for that specific colour, like the one with a quarter-sized chip that she keeps to dye a certain green, "saddened" by the iron.

Through the eight chapters of the book, she discusses seven different types of dye, including Kool-Aid and food colouring, as well as commercial acid dyes. She does include instructions for dyeing one project with eucalyptus, available from florists. I was disappointed, though, that there wasn't more discussion of natural dyes - I would have loved to see such things as cochineal, madder, or woad introduced.

I particularly loved the interviews she conducts with seven hand-dyers, including Koigu's Maie Landra. The author has actually visited the studios of all seven dyers, taking beautiful photographs of their works in progress. She includes little details, which are so endearing, about the dyers, their products, and their process.

Also included are twenty patterns for using hand-dyed yarn. The patterns are all quite simple, and range from hats and scarves, to poncho and wrist warmers. There is a very cute pair of ruffle-topped baby socks, the project dyed with eucalyptus.

The photos in this book are really beautiful - they make me want to go to the dyers' studios - or at least buy some of the featured yarn. It's a lovely book for flipping through, looking at the colours.

I would like to give dyeing a try, though I think I would need more space than my current living situation allows. There is enough guidance given in this book to get me off to a good start. I will be seeking out other sources of information on plant dyes, though, which I'd like to try first.