Canter is coming right along

I had some nice work on Willow today. Here's a video of a little right-lead canter.

Not too far in, she breaks to trot for a poop break, because heaven forbid Willow should ever realize she can canter and poop at the same time. The poor dear would not last long in the wild.

Other than that one break, I'm happy with how this looks. She's more elevated, but not bracing against my hand for the most part. She's quite straight. I'm asking for a bit of lengthening on the long sides, and I can see the canter jump get bigger. For my part, I'm remembering to keep my hands low and not to shove my inside leg forward. I think the whole thing looks pretty harmonious.

The trot work was very satisfactory, too. I feel like right now we're making a little progress with every ride.

I'm seeing black dots - is that normal?

Oh. My.



Click a word...any word...

VIP Service.

I got my brochures from Cunard, two days after I ordered them - lovely "ExpressPost". I'm sure if I hadn't made up all those expensive cruises I'd taken, they'd have sent them by donkey.

GrannyPurple, your comment made my entire week. And, Bon Voyage!

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I got a lovely Bodum for Christmas, having wanted one for a long time. Any ideas what this might be?

You, there in the back - good answer. Observe, the transformation:

The steek stitches.

The steek, fulfilling its natural purpose.

The serger, fulfilling its natural purpose.

I like Bodum cozies, and there's no arguing their necessity. This one ended up a bit too narrow, even after an aggressive blocking, so I ended up ribbing more than I thought. Don't care - it looks cute. I opted for many buttons because I think it looks neat that way.

Bodum Cozy
Pattern: None. Corrugated rib using scraps
Yarn: Patons Classic Merino in a few colours
Needle: 2 circular method, 5mm bamboo
Time: about six hours all together
Size: About Bodum-sized. Could have used a few more stitches (I cast on 40 - should have used about 52)

Teddy Turns Four!! (And Starts Pre-School!!)

Wednesday 28th January was a very big day for our little Teddy. It was her birthday, and the day she started 'real' pre-school. (She has been going to daycare once a week for a year, and we usually call that pre-school too. But today it was the 'real' pre-school or, as they call it at our school, the "Transition to School" program.)

This is the Teddy Bear cake I worked on the night before her birthday. It was so hot that the icing was melting as I was piping it on.Anyway, after breakfast everyone came to the living room for our birthday gift ritual. Each family member gave Teddy a gift. We usually do this from youngest to oldest but seeing as Teddy was a bit worried about her old backpack falling apart on the first day at pre-school, I told her to open the gift from Mummy and Daddy first. She didn't mind - it was the biggest!And what a surprise! It was a brand new backpack for school, plus a pretty pink lunchbox hiding inside which was from Aunty and Uncle McTavish. Fairy Princess Kitcat gave Teddy the next present. Mousie was so pleased that the main part of her gift was a Children's bible - exactly like hers, only pink instead of purple. Ducky's turn next, but she was a bit shy about letting me photograph the customary birthday kiss and hug. Teddy sits patiently and listens while Dragon reads the message in the birthday card which came with his gift to her. And here's a sweet birthday cuddle from big sister Possum. Nanna sent the cutest PJs and a CD storybook. On top of this big bag of gifts from Nano and Grandpap was a soft, silky pink teddy bear. But there wasn't much time to linger over gifts - we had to get to school on time. (Ducky and Dragon also went back to school on 28/1.) This photo was taken as we were about to enter the pre-school gate. And here is my big Teddy playing with a puzzle inside the school classroom. I wasn't concerned that Teddy would have separation issues. She's been attending daycare for a year, and she knows this pre-school very well. Both Ducky and Mousie went to pre-school here (so did Dragon, but that was a couple years before we even had a Teddy!) Teddy is very familiar with the classroom and outdoor play area and she knows the teachers well. She even recognised some of the other children because they had older siblings who had attended last year too. So I was quite surprised when she started getting a bit clingy and the bottom lip started quivering a little. I gave her a big hug and asked if she was okay, and she replied "I want Mousie to stay with me."

Then I realised! All last year, every time Mousie went to pre-school, Teddy wanted to stay and play too, and I kept telling her "You can come here next year." So she was probably thinking that she'd be here with Mousie. I quickly reminded her that Mousie was finished pre-school and would be starting Kindergarten on Monday. This was Teddy's pre-school now.

Teddy was still slightly upset when I left. I called the teacher a little while later and she assured me that Teddy hadn't been sad for long. She quickly became involved in an activity and was happy again. This is the 'work' she brought home - four paintings and a pasting. I think she had fun! Once home again, the children enjoyed a birthday afternoon tea party of lollies and chips. Then after dinner it was time for birthday cake. Teddy loved her Teddy Bear cake. Her smile made the back-bending, sweltering work of the night before all worthwhile. And the speed with which the pieces of cake disappeared was rather gratifying too. (It was chocolate fudge cake.) Yum! Our beautiful Four Year Old Princess had a lovely birthday. Here she is just before bed, wearing her new Cinderella nightie and the jewels which Possum had given her.
"We're all just children when our mothers die."
-Father Milia, Lilies

My friend Sandy, who (you may remember) was diagnosed with cancer in August 2007, lost her mother yesterday. It was sudden, shocking - late complications from a surgery that seemed to go perfectly well at the time.

I was up late knitting and thinking, but as philosophical as my thoughts were I can share none of them with you. I don't have the heart to.

Remember Sandy and her family today if you can, and for God's sake go hug your mum.

The bronchitis can go away now

I'm still sick. Actually, about half the people in my office are sick too, but I have the privilege of being the sickest. One colleague stopped by with some Airborne for me, and later someone else dropped off a packet of Theraflu. I'm sure they're all tired of listening to this cough. I did go to the doctor today and got hooked up with some antibiotics, which are coursing through my veins as we speak. Do your thing, antibiotics!

Willow got Sunday and Monday off as I battled the bronchitis, but tonight I worked her in spite of feeling like crud. In the lungeing, Leslie has me focusing on keeping Willow up in front, snapping the lunge line sharply whenever she starts to lean and driving her forward. Willow's starting to get what it is I want. "Oh, you mean I have to hold my own head up?"

Under saddle, similarly, I'm working on getting Willow off my hand without letting the reins slip. As part of this work, I'm touching her with the whip a lot more, and the overreactions are starting to abate.

My a-ha moment tonight came in the canter. Now that I've stopped shoving my inside leg forward in canter I can tell I have a lot more influence over the inside hind. Tonight I asked for a few ten-meter canter circles, and instead of trying to keep Willow from falling over the outside shoulder by using my outside leg, for some reason it occurred to me to try using my inside leg, and voila, suddenly I stopped losing her to the outside. It makes sense that if she wasn't engaging that inside hind, the relative straightness of that leg was probably pushing her to the outside. When she engages it, it carries more weight and lets her balance herself better. Neato.

Willow is in full-on shedding mode. I choose to believe this points to an early spring.

Dragon's Holiday Creativeness

All Dragon wanted to do during the school holidays (after we returned from our trip to the coast) was play Gameboy, play Xbox, surf the net and watch TV. I was getting frustrated with his constant requests for permission to do these activities.

So, with still 12 days before school resumed (14 days if the teacher's decide to have their 48hr strike) I reinstated an old RULE: You may only watch TV / play Gameboy / play Xbox / use computer for a half hour IF you have spent at least one hour doing something creative or energetic.

So, after turning the kitchen timer on for exactly one hour, Dragon went to his newly tidied bedroom and began to be energetic and creative. This was the result after 45 minutes.
I asked Dragon to write me a story about how his room became so untidy. This took him nearly all of the remaining 15 minutes of his 'creative' time.

"WW3" by Dragon

It was in the middle of WW3 and the battle of the century was about to take place. It was the normal Human Beings Vs the Giants. The humans took the first casualties because one of the giants was in a supersized tank and blew up 15 humans in one shot. But then Spiderman and Batman joined the human side and the batmobile was thrown by Spiderman onto the giants and squashed flat two of them. They, however, blew up Spiderman and Batman so the humans were on their own again. With a tank the humans shot dead all but one giant and decided that they would toy around with him. But the humans regretted it soon after because he had a massive machine gun that was the size of a Jumbo jet and one bullet could kill 40 humans (explosive bullets that is). So the Giant of a giant killed the rest of the humans. But one of the human's tanks magically shot into the air and into the giant's eyes and into his brain and killed him. So no-one won. It was a good battle and both sides were evenly matched!! But the War still rages on.
(WW3 Parts 2 and 3 will follow........... soon.)

A Week at the Beach

As promised, here are some photos from our week at the holiday house right across the road from the beach. Firstly, our Half-dozen sitting on the step, all ready to sprint across to the beach. "This is so exciting!" says Mousie, "And a little bit cold too."Everyone enjoyed the perfect beach weather. And every day, twice a day, a small pod of dolphins swam from one end of the beach to the other.We spent so much time in the water that Ducky grew webbed feet.HB and Dragon went fishing. I took this photo from the verandah of our holiday house. (No fish were caught, by the way, except by the birds and dolphins.)The holiday house had three bedrooms. A queen bed for HB and me, a large room with two bunks and another room with a double bed. Months before leaving for our holiday Dragon requested the double bed, and he asked if Teddy could sleep with him. But due to some annoying behaviour on Teddy's part, when we arrived Dragon said he'd rather share the room with Mousie. And after the first night I think he was sorry he'd made that decision. (Yes, they are both asleep.)The Bikini Gang.When they weren't swimming the Bikini Gang were beach combing for shells, rocks, feathers, cuttlefish and driftwood.Then, back at the holiday house, the serious bargaining began. Shell collections were meticulously cleaned and sorted ... and swapped.We take our sun safety seriously. You can see from the photos that all the Half-dozen, and HB, wear board shorts and sea shirts when swimming, and we also slap on the sunscreen. But on really hot days I also insist on zinc-creamed faces. One hot morning these three decided they wanted Pink Zink 'sunglasses.' (Actually, I think I did Possum's face like that as a joke, and then the other two wanted their zinc cream to be the same.)And I make the little girls wear their hats in the water as well when the UV index soars.
I can see it will take a few posts to record all our holiday fun, so I'll just finish this one with the story of Leena. Ducky modelled a beautiful mermaid in the beach sand. She had glorious, thick, shiny hair and beautiful jewellry made from shells. Leena and Ducky became firm friends during this creation process. Apparently Leena told Ducky the secret of which is the mer-peoples' favourite seaweed and where to find the best shells. When it was time to go home for dinner Ducky was quite upset at the thought of leaving her new friend. She knew what would happen to Leena once the tide came back in. So I told Ducky not to be sad. Leena was looking forward to having the waves wash over her because then she would become a real mermaid and be able to swim with the dolphins.
After dinner I went back across the road for a final swim (it was the last day of our holiday). The tide was high and there was no trace of Leena, or any of the other sand creatures the Half-dozen had created that day. It was so tranquil to just lay in the warm water and watch the setting sun disappear behind the headland. I'm quite sure I saw Leena, just as the last rays of the sun gently kissed the rising swell. She was tentatively trying out her new fins and cleaning her delicate shell necklace in the sea. As soon as I walked back to the house Ducky demanded to know if Leena was alright. I pointed to a dark spot in the sea and told Ducky to wave back to Leena. Ducky is now looking forward to our next trip to this beach so she can visit Leena and her dolphin friends.

Ocean LIEner.

So I went to the Cunard website today, because I have this fantasy where I fly to Wales, spend a few weeks walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, go by rail to Southampton and then cross the Atlantic by ship. When I came back I would be different - changed somehow. Quiet. Introspective. Wise. Laconic. There could be an ineffable air of quality.

Anyway, I was looking at the pretty pictures of ocean liners, dreaming of brass door handles and parquet dance floors, windy balconies and sparkling portholes, and I noticed a link inviting me to order free brochures to be sent in the mail. You could choose any three of their glossy publications, including an informative DVD. I ordered that one, naturally, along with "Transatlantic Crossings" and the "2009 Voyages" brochure.

They asked me to fill out some information. Address and phone stuff, mostly, but then they politely inquired whether I had cruised before, and would I please check all the cruise lines on which I had travelled?

This is the weird part - I blithely told them that Yes, I had cruised before, and I had been on Princess, Norwegian, and Holland America. I was planning a cruise in the North Sea and was interested in Scandinavia. And - Oh, what the heck, send me more info on the Mediterranean as well. Why not!

What compelled me to spin a web of lies for the benefit of an anonymous and uncaring Cunard clerk? Would it really matter to them if they knew that every cruise I've taken, thus far, has been with the classy, inimitable BC Ferries? (I recommend the Pacific Buffet, by the way - you can make your own toaster waffles - many as you like.)

I read over my newly-minted Cunard profile, wherein I am (apparently) a woman with nothing but money and time to lay on deck chairs all over hell's half-acre, and wondered what on earth possessed me. It occurred to me, on reading the places I have (not) been, that I had invented a curious blend of where my parents have been, and where I want to go. It's very odd. Plus I think I put "Norwegian" on there because I would like to go to Norway. How nonsensical is that.

See me? I'm waving out of one of those portholes.

All is not Lost.

Thank you Ames - this is the best thing I've seen in a while.

Holiday Photos

It's been nearly two weeks since we returned from our holiday. This post is full of photos of the first week, which we spent at my parent's house in Port Stephens. This is a photo of the Half-dozen with Nano and Grandpap in their backyard. It was great to catch up with family and friends. Here's my girls with an old friend - Possum and H-R have been friends since they were about 18 months old. The little girls loved being able to take all their 'sun-safe' swimming gear off and run around in just bikinis at the park, before sunset.
The park is right beside the Tilligerry Creek where all the children had been swimming. Teddy surprised me by getting right into the water. Despite having a year of swimming lessons she is usually rather tentative about getting wet, but not today!Kitcat also went straight in the creek and happily floated around. She does prefer the 'flat' water to the surf.One evening we took the children to my Grandma's house. Possum had been rehearsing Christmas songs with the little girls before we had left home, and they all put on a show for Grandma, and her companion dog Toby. (Possum played flute, and the girls sang.)
A photo of HB, the Half-dozen, Grandma and Toby.We spent half a day with HB's grandparents, who live about an hour's drive from Port Stephens. We always get a photo of the children with them before we leave. Great-Grandma and Great-Grandad will celebrate their 65th Wedding Anniversary in less than a month.
Then we spent the other half of the day with Nanna and Grandad, and more family members. Here's our Half-dozen with some of their cousins.
There's a lovely boardwalk through the mangroves at Lemon Tree Passage. We always try to go there when we're in Port Stephens. It's such a beautiful spot, even when the tide is out. HB and Possum are both taking photos of the boats moored in the creek.I kinda like this one - there's certainly something interesting down there in the mangrove mud! (Turned out to be crabs.) And HB has found something else to photograph.
Kitcat got a bit tired from all the walking, so Dragon gave her a piggy-back. Look at their identical smiles!Now here's the source of those cheesy grins!
The next day HB and I took the children to Birubi Beach so they could get some surf. Dragon, Ducky and Possum had a great time. Mousie was a bit adventurous and even Teddy allowed herself to be lead into the little waves washing right up the sand. But despite all her intentions to go on the "Big, big, big wave," Kitcat would hardly get her feet wet. She's just not happy about water that moves back and forth along the sand.
I like this action shot of Possum.
And here's HB. And camera.
On New Year's Eve HB, Dragon, Possum and I walked down to the local RSL club to watch their fireworks display. It was spectacular! Very well done.
Kitcat and Possum were dressed alike one day, so I had to get a photo of them in all their 'twin-li-ness.'
We had one last swim in the Bay the day before we left Port Stephens. Once again Kitcat and Teddy had no fear in the 'flat' water.
And so that's a really quick run down of our week visiting family and friends. Stay tuned for more riveting photos and commentary in the next post about our week on the South Coast, right across the road from the beach.