Happy New Year .....

..... from Mum-me, HB, and Our Aussie Half-Dozen.

And Teddy says, "In 2009 - may you always be the one who gets to lick the chocolate off the spatula."
(Yes, the saucepan was cold when I allowed her to lick the chocolate off the sides.)

The right tools for the job

I like to think I'm generally a pretty fast learner, but this week I'm feeling like an idiot. I've been struggling for months now with letting the reins slip. I've been using web reins with stops, and try as I might, even when I'm holding a stop in a death grip, Willow manages to pull the reins through my fingers, especially in canter. I've been thinking to myself, somewhat vaguely, "I guess I just need to strengthen my grip," and "Someday Willow will be lighter, and this won't be such a problem." And, of course, holding the reins in a death grip has been doing nothing for relaxation through my arms and hands.

So, late last week, I had the epiphany that you're probably all shouting at me through your screens: rubber reins! I visited Tack N Up and found standard web reins with stops, but they have rubber woven throughout. They're great because there's no added bulk. I also bought some extra-grippy gloves they had.

Five minutes into my first ride with my new equipment was when I realized what an idiot I've been. With no effort at all, I was able to maintain my rein length. After ten minutes Willow realized pulling the reins through my fingers was a no go, and she stopped trying. She was lighter and more put-together at the end of my ride, and my arms and hands were fatigue-free.

Think I'll get a second pair to use with the double bridle.

Arizona, Represent!

Arizona was in the house for Christmas! Or we were in a house in Arizona. Or mugging in front of the House of the Lord. Or something.

Neil's got an extremely large (5 siblings, 5 grandkids, all under 5), extremely extended (don't even ask) family in AZ.

Put it this way: They have their annual family "Granny's Christmas Party" in the cultural hall:

Neil's twin, looking un-twinnish before he was shorn for family photos:

One secret to their family's proliferation is that they are descended from pioneers who settled Mesa in 1877. The statue of these men in Pioneer Park:
Neil is related to Robson and Pomeroy.

Some of his Robson relatives own Rockin' R Ranch, a Wild West pioneer ranch where they perform a cowboy dinner theatre.

Pioneer Park is conveniently located across from this BEAUTIFUL temple. I love it!!!!

Other Arizona sights:

I think I spotted Daisy Duke and Bigfoot's lovechildren at Nordstrom's in the Chandler mall:
Neil's good friend and his dad own Phoenix Trike Works. Willie and Joe Wilcken can make ANYTHING. They make custom three-wheeled motorcycles all day. Their shop is AMAZING and I only wish I was bad enough to ride a trike.
Can you believe it?!?!
Joe's brother Lane specializes in the study of Filipino and Polynesian tatau and symbology and created the design below for a trike they made for a guy in the Aloha State:
This is a Hawaiian skull detail on a trike they're working on:

Christmas mayhem! "Katie Looks Pregnant!" Watch out when this guy gets his hands on a gossip mag.

Our brothers in law (two brothers married Neil's sisters) own Red Star Plumbing. Their shop was really cool, too. If you live in the valley and need a plumber, check them out.
That's Artie on the right.

All of Neil's siblings and spouses went to the movies on Christmas. There were 10.5 of us total, we took up the whole row:

On Christmas I said I wanted a dog. We awoke the next day (my birthday) to find this sweet little stray on the porch! Hope she's enjoying the pound :(
We went to Casa Grande, AZ, to check out the old homestead. Neil's dad grew up there and two of his uncles still live there.

On the way home, outside our terminal was a vehicle that a very talented graffiti artist tagged with an ironic design:
U.S. Airways ... or Aloha Airlines?

Talk Amongst Yourselves

I'm still here....just busy drinking Screech and eating chocolate and playing with my new iPod. I'd show you a picture of it but I can't find the camera among all the empty eggnog cups.

I hope all your Christmasses were very merry, and that your New Years' will be happy ones...I will be back then-ish...I have a post planned for, I don't know, maybe Epiphany?

Sucks To Be Me

Click the image below:

My friend Melissa taught 4th grade a couple years ago, and had all her students write me a little note for my birthday! This was the best one.

From what I can gather, she must have told them I was born the day after Christmas, so I never really have a party for my birthday. On top of that, I was adopted. To a 4th-grader, my life apparently can't get any crappier.

How to Cope with the Heat.

By far the best way, in my opinion, to cope with the heat is this .... (Possum, Dragon and Mousie at the pool. Jan '08)

or this ....... (Teddy and Kitcat at The Canoe Pool, Newcastle Beach Jan '08)

..... especially seeing as we don't have air conditioning in our home. But since we can't always get to the swimming pool or the beach, this is how the Aussie Half-Dozen cope with a hot summer day. They 'paint' the shady part of the fence with water, making sure to spill lots over their feet and clothes. (Kitcat, Ducky and Teddy 'water-painting' the fence. Nov '08)

They fight over play with the water table. Most of the fun is when they top it up and slosh water all over their feet and clothes in the process. (Mousie playing with the water table, in our pergola. Nov '08)

Dragon sometimes is allowed to use his water gun. But by far the favourite way of escaping the sweltering summer heat, when stuck at home, is to go to the shady alley way down the east side of our house and sit in a tub of water. What could be more refreshing? (Kitcat - 9 months old - enjoying a cold tub. Dec '06.)

It's just a pity I can't fit in one of those little tubs.

A little desensitization

Now that it's full-on winter and the horses aren't getting out very reliably, I'm back in lunge-before-I-ride mode. Which means I'm also in full work-in-hand mode. I was starting to get a little frustrated at Willow blowing off my half halts, but I decided she really was getting herself all in a twist about me touching her with the whip. So I've been working on desensitization for the past week. I've been asking Willow to stand, and then touching her all over with the lunge whip. I've gotten to where I can lay the lash across her croup and ask her to walk, and she doesn't go into orbit. I also can now stand her by the wall and touch her with my work-in-hand whip, and I don't get eye-rolling panic. I want her to respect the whip, not fear it. I hope that this work will also lead to a little less mareishness about the whip under saddle.

I've shortened the side reins, and my new mission in life is to keep Willow from leaning on them. It's transitions, transitions, transitions. A few times this week, in the midst of a volley of walk-trot-canter-trot-walk-trot-canter transitions, Willow has offered walk-canter, pretty as a picture.

Due to holiday madness, my next lesson with Leslie won't be until January. I'm looking forward to it.

Christmas Recap

Christmas Morning: "Which one is for me?" wonders Kitcat. We unpack the Christmas stockings first.
"There's something right down the bottom," says Kitcat as she reaches in. "Look what I found in mine!" smiles Teddy. Teddy, Mousie and Kitcat chorus together, "Say cheese!" while they take a photo of mummy with their new toy cameras from out of their stockings.
(Got a bargain here: $1 each at the Target sale.)
HB says the caption for this photo should read "The Junior Aussie Paparazzi."Then they open their gift from Santa. Mousie got her 'special' dolly, and she thought it was very special indeed. She named her "Rosie", which with Mousie's speech problems sounds like "Row gee".Time for a Christmas photo before going to church. All the girls are wearing their Christmas clothes. Mousie's dress was made by Nanna, and the rest were made and/or supplied by Nano.
"Merry Christmas!"After church we open some more gifts. Isn't is exciting!?
I actually think these were the little girls favourite gifts. Possum divided up her old Barbie dolls, clothes and furniture between the four.
Who says recycled gifts aren't as much fun as brand new?
This was also Dragon's favourite gift, and it was also recycled - a chess set I found at the Op Shop.
Possum liked her special present which I gave her - a way of thanking her for her help through the year. It was a cloth present which unzipped, and when turned in-side-out, became a soft toy reindeer. (Also recycled, given to me through FreecycleCanberra.)Dragon was pleased to receive the biggest gift. Look at my handsome boy.
(We finally persuaded him to have a haircut.)The excitement was all too much for Kitcat.
She fell asleep before lunch while watching her new ABC Kids Favourites DVD.Teddy loved her new comfy chair so much she took it to bed with her.
Bubba Bear, Baby Jo and Billy Boy had the privilege of using it while she napped.It's going to be crazy here for the next two weeks as we spend time with family and friends, go swimming a lot, and generally enjoy the lovely summer weather.
I'll be checking in on all my favourite blogs from time to time.
Hope you all enjoy your Christmas break.

Christmas Treats

I love making treats for my family and friends at Christmas time. These Mini Plum Puddings with White Chocolate Sauce tasted as good as they looked - and they looked great after being decorated by Possum. The Chocolate Christmas Logs didn't look very appetising when they were setting in the fridge. I won't tell you what HB said they looked like. They look much better when sliced and presented on a pretty tray.
These Cherry Cakes aren't much to look at, but they are scrumptious. And on Christmas Eve we made a Cookie Christmas Tree, partly to help the day pass a bit more quickly for the children but mostly to eat for dessert. Yum! These biscuits melt in your mouth like shortbread.
The weekend before Christmas Nano and Grandpap came down for an early Christmas. Santa mysteriously made an early overnight visit and left some toy horses and horse jumps for Ducky. Just what she had asked Santa to bring!And a few hours after breakfast, "Santa" made an appearance. He didn't fool the little girls too long after the first excitement had faded. But they were still very pleased to take the gifts he was offering. Here's a nice photo of Possum and "Santa".
After "Santa" left Grandpap reappeared, he and Nano gave out their gifts for the children. There were so many! And all of it was exactly what they wanted. Funny how Kitcat thought her new bouncy ball was the best thing ever! (Despite all the 'big' toys she had received.)Here's a group photo with the Grandpap Santa, each child holding the gift he gave them.A couple days before Christmas HB put together the combined Christmas gift to all the children. They were thrilled with their new trampoline. Especially Kitcat, and more especially Mum-me because I don't have to worry too much about her falling off like she used to on the old trampoline.We have had lots of excitement this morning, and I am now heading off to top the Pavlova with cream and fresh fruit.
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!