Thursday, December 24, 2009

Belgian Mattentaarten.

One of my favourite childhood treats was the mattentaart. It’s an unusual little almond-flavoured cheese-curd tart cooked in puff-pastry. I found a recipe for it the other day and became resolved to make one for this weekend.

So last night, after I got home, I performed the first step that creates the curd used in the recipe. It’s pretty simple. You take a quart of milk, pour it into a deep pot, and bring it to a boil. Then you put a pint of buttermilk into the boiling milk, and let the milk curdle. You remove it from the heat, and strain it through some double-folded cheesecloth. Do not squeeze the curds to wick out the liquids, let it drain on its own. Stir the curds to keep them loose and to help drain now and again, and store in the fridge for about 12 hours.

So this morning, I got my curd-ball (I had squeezed it, which made the texture wrong… lesson learned!) I had to break the curd-ball apart. L I set out the required ingredients and got started.

The first thing I needed to do was separate the three eggs. There are three yolks in that bowl, I just broke one. Argh. I then took the whites and popped them into my KitchenAid bowl. I whipped them up into stiff peaks.

Once I did that, I set them aside long enough to mix together the other ingredients; the yolks, 3 ½ oz of sugar, a teaspoon of almond essence and the curds. Mix well. It’s not a pretty mix. Once blended, you then gently fold in the egg whites.

The next step is to cheat and use commercially made puff-pastry. I’m all for made-from-scratch, but rolling and folding pastry just doesn’t seem appealing to me. So I got a box of Pepperidge Farm Puff-Pastry, which contains two sheets, and cut one to line the bottom of a cake pan. A quick note: I usually ate these as small tartlets. The are usually sold that way at bakeries in Belgium… but I don’t have small tart pans anymore (ahem coff coff, Steph II) and so I did it in one large cake-pan).

I then poured in the folded mixture, and cut the second sheet of puff pastry as a round to cap off the top, and I scored it once I lay it on top (maybe scored it too much! Heh heh).

Into the oven which was preheated at 400º F for 10 minutes. Then I lowered it to 350º for fifteen minutes, and then boosted it back up to 400º for the last five minutes. I actually let it back another few minutes too, just to let the puff pastry brown a smidge more.

And voila. The finished product. Let it cool and then feel free to scarf. Because I squeezed the curds into a tight little ball and left them like that overnight, the texture of the tart is not at all what I recall. L The flavours are similar—but texture is just as important. But I learned my lesson… an excellent failure. Next time I’ll do better. Give ‘em a try if you’re brave. Don’t let the making of curds deter you, it’s EASY. How hard is boiling something, adding something else, and then straining it? Not hard at all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve's Eve thoughts...

I confess, sometimes the Christmas season gets me down. I am made insane by the commercial thoughtlessness the whole thing has become. It’s not what it’s supposed to be about! Christmas can mean many things to many people… But to me, no longer a practicing Catholic, Christmas is about is a time to huddle in with the people close to me; to look at them in the way I sometimes forget to do, to love them; to show them that I appreciate them, that I pay attention and that they are so important to me. It means celebrating the depth of the season before you move on to another year together. It’s about togetherness, warmth and love. It’s about appreciating what you have—being thankful for the blessings of life, family and community. For others, it’s about the birth of Christ—of the values he represented, the goodness he brought to the world. It’s celebrating values.

And for some, it’s a time to fill one’s yard with inflated snowmen imported from China, and to crowd stores at 3AM, stampeding for 30% off of a flatscreen television and X-box games. It’s about HAVE HAVE HAVE. It’s about outdoing everyone in the giving department because your ego and selfish self-satisfaction is more important than the meaning of the gifts or who they’re going to; it’s about buying something thoughtless and random for the sake of wrapping it and cramming it under the plastic tree. It’s about kids sitting in a pile of brightly coloured toys, bored, materialistic little eyes searching for that thing they *really* wanted and they didn’t get. It’s about overindulging already overindulged children—and the appreciation and gratitude they’re supposed to be learning about during this season flies right out the window.

Whoa, that fake plastic candle fountain is just what I've been longing for all year.

Somewhere in Asia, there are factories churning out tons of volatile organic compounds, spewing chemical-laden wastewaters, employing criminally underpaid workers for long, hard hours so we can buy the blow-up plastic yard-decorations and life-size talking Santas—so they can give someone a cheap makeup palette kit made of questionable materials, or those toys that break within a few hours of being gifted. People are buying ridiculous products like Chia pets, ugly slippers, Snuggies and Fragrances by such commercial luminaries as Usher, Faith Hill and Mariah Carey. I mean really? Really?

Ooooh, what I always wanted. ::smirk:: World peace and a Chia Pet.

Kids are being buried in tech toys and games so they can spend the holiday sitting in front of the television, riveted to Halo or Guitar Hero, their spoils of Christmas scattered like flotsam all over the floor around them. Wasteful and just plain crazy.

It’s insane. It really is totally insane. Every year, my husband and I struggle to make ends meet. Every year, we put ourselves in financial dire straights to buy gifts for everyone. We buy one gift for each person. We try to find something relevant, something thoughtful if we can. If we can’t think of that, we get something at least useful. It’s painful to see the kids dismiss our hard-earned gift for the blinky-boopy-techno-gadgets the family “Power-gifter” got them. It hurts to see the significance of our intent be missed by adults because they’re busy calculating what we spent in their heads. We go home with hat and glove sets... one-cup coffee machines and K-Mart sale-table bath and makeup sets. Obviously, these gifts are more about the giver than they are the receiver. It’s about how much they spend, not how much they really care. No thought was put into the gift at all. It's as random as it can be. It’s about getting something wrapped up in paper to fulfill an obligation. I would rather get nothing at all than get piles and piles of stuff that is in essence, wasted money and thoughtless clutter.
OMG, I have to have that because regular throws are SO impractical.
I couldn't survive without it. Do we lose IQ points for every object of convenience we buy? I wonder.

We feel bad for the way we look at this clutter—this stuff that serves no purpose except to take up space. To prove what? That someone cares? I wish they’d take the dollars spent on this clutter and donate it to a family who needs a home or food—put it towards the bills of someone who is over their head… and in place of the pile of gifts, give one, simple, unpretentious, thoughtful gift to us. Even if it’s five dollars! Who cares?

I cannot control what other people do; I am always gracious and thankful, regardless of my feelings towards the presents. We cannot find it in our hearts to tell the family members that we prefer not to receive all these gifts… to spare them hurt feelings. We simply do the next best thing, and the gifts that we don’t need, use or want to store, we donate to Goodwill or Deseret. I know it would hurt people’s feelings to find that out, but we only have 700 square foot house at most… space is at a premium—and there’s no point in storing something that serves no purpose or isn’t used at all.

Ugh. I dunno. But at times like these I think about the bookmark that stepmother-in-law gave me a few years ago. She knows I read a lot. So she made me this bookmark; a simple thing, a string of fishing line with pretty beads on each end. I lose bookmarks constantly… the traditional ones just fall out. This bookmark that she gave me is one of my most treasured Christmas gifts. I use it CONSTANTLY. I look at it, and sometimes smile, thinking; “Sandy… great gift…” It snugs right between the pages, so it never falls out… the beads make it impossible to forget it inside a book, and when it’s not in use, it drapes over the wall-lamp by my bed. Now THAT is a perfect gift. Looking at it, it’s really nothing… fifty cents worth of materials at most, and a few moments of elbow grease. But it’s my favourite Christmas gift I’ve received from family in years. It was thoughtful, useful and handmade. It’s perfect.

Yesterday, we put up our tree. My husband went out and got a live tree, as we do every year. We are not always successful in keeping them alive, but at least they get a fighting chance. I could feel that Christmas spirit again as I hung snowflake after snowflake on its soft, green limbs. I hung up the cards on a string, and put the stockings on the mantel. Tomorrow and Friday, we will spend our days traveling around to see everyone. The decorations are pretty much only for us, in the end. At least we will have Christmas breakfast at home, and have Grandma Georgia and brother in law over this year. Yay!

As today winds down, I will go to see my horse and kiss his muzzle, and give him Christmas treats. Then I’m going to go home, and finish wrapping presents—and spend some time with my frequently absent husband—try to get as much quality time from this holiday furlough as possible. Ultimately, with all this crazy buying and wrapping, quiet criticism of gifts and people ‘Powergifting’ the season into a competitive, mutated version of what Christmas is supposed to be… well… I try to remember what really matters. My husband, my dogs, my horse; my sisters, who I did not buy gifts for because they understand I cannot afford to and would never judge us for that; the ladies I work with, the people I love and care about, and those who love and care about us.

As my father’s health dwindles, and he lies alone in a bed, 3,000 miles away at the Tufts University Hospital, lost in his memories… what I really want for Christmas is for him to be okay. I’d give up the gifts and trappings of the whole season if I could have that.

Merry Christmas everyone. Don’t let the real intent of the holiday get lost in the shuffle of commercialism and materialism. Don’t forget what is really important.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Friday! ....And Badgers.

Sooo..... Steph II, the evil pastry chef, has been stealthing about planning a ball in honour of... well... me. It's my own birthday Regency ball! How COOL IS THAT?? I've NEVER had anything like this happen on my birthday before. Nobody's ever planned such a fête for me! OMG! I'm so excited! And humbled too! I'm so afraid I'm gonig to burst into tears and weep the WHOLE night. How embarassing. ::heh heh:: I will NEED a new gown for this event, no doubt. I will have to start researching the extants again. I want something beautiful. Maybe in silk taffeta? I dunno. But ... YAY!

My Husband comes home tomorrow! YAY! I'm so excited to have him for TWO WEEKS! This is huge. Six days is barely enough. Of course this means it will be through the holidays, which is stressful, but nonetheless, he'll be there with me. I won't be alone--thank God.

I have FINALLY found a farrier to trim Tag's feet. Apparently American farriers are afraid of large horses. Many, many of refuse to do draft horses, and those who do, charge 'California' prices to do it. It has been a task and a half to find someone to trim and balance my boy. I found a reasonable farrier who seems excited to meet my stompy fellow. What makes me laugh is that Tag; relative to most standard European horses, is really not that big. Tag is only sixteen hands. His legs are thick, his hoofs are biggish... but my first full-sized horse, Tequila, was taller than Tag, and had the same size hoofs (she was clunky, an ex police horse, not exacty graceful, but she was the best horse in the world). Apollo, a Dutch Warmblood, was almost 18 hands. American horses (Mustangs, quarter horses, etc...) are pretty dinky in comparison to the warmbloods and heavy European breeds. The farriers apparently balk at anything that has a little size and heft. And Tag has both.

I was offered another free draft. A black percheron mare named Katie. She is huge. Taller than Tag by a lot, and beautiful, with wavy raven mane and tail. If I could afford the keep and the time, I'd take her in a second. Alas, it isn't practical. Another will come along at the right time. I want to focus on training my big boy Tag (besides, Mares are such a pain in the rear, temperamental and PMSey; Geldings are much more pleasant to work with).

This is a new office special! OMG! it's my Mr. and Mrs. Badger go for a stroll picture. I finished it no more than half-hour ago.

Happy Friday all. ;)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Horse-talk. How riveting.

Sunday, I had a late breakfast at the Cozy Cabin, our favourite breakfast haunt. I donned a nice warm sweater, my riding pants, had breakfast and then went to the barn to see my boy.

I've noticed that Tag is losing a bit of weight from his new exercise regimen. I am going to have to start supplementing his diet to compensate for it. He is a happy guy though. I got there, brought him inside. He was allowed a reprieve from being indoors-only-boy because the ground was frozen and hence, no mud to aggravate his Scratches sores. He was a pill to get out of the little annex from the paddock. He put on the brakes, afraid of something in the parking area near the arena exit/entrance. He has been doing this for some time, being a big doofus about going outdoors from the arena or coming from the turnout areas to the area near the arena entrance. Something spooks him there.

I eventuallly managed to get him indoors, and to groom him down. He likes that bit. Especially when I curry his inner thigh.. he stretches out his whole back quarter and relaxes, his eyes closing partways. So cute.

I tossed on the saddle with his plaid saddle-pad and thought... man he's adorable. Looks like a Shetland Pony someone put into an Enlarge-a-Tron. I took a picture. His attention is always on me when I'm over by the tack area, because that's usually where nummy snacks come from.

This is one of the few English saddles in the the whole barn. I have only seen one other one. I am frequently teased about my English saddle and gear; the Western rider majority find me to be a bit of an anomaly. I am what I am I guess. Anyway... I love this saddle. I've had it a long time. I laughingly say that it's never met a horse it didn't fit. It's so comfortable--and even after all this time unused, the leather is softening again, and I can feel those little spots that were worn in by me years ago giving way again. ::sigh::. I want to buy a cheap used Aussie saddle to trail and beach ride on without fear of messing up something valuable like my Stübben. I like German saddles. For now, arena riding is fine, so I use my all-purpose all the time. I might break out the Dressage saddle sooner or later. For now, this is fine.

Tag is now in his winter coat. When I first met him, he was still golden and velvety; now he's full on furry. It poses a small problem when we ride, because he sweats, and the long fur holds the moisture--making it difficult to cool him off, dry him off and keep him from getting cold after were done working out. It sure is cute though. My sister Helen recommended a trace clip. which means I'd be shaving a big racing stripe on his sides, neck and half his face. Poor baby. Have we no respect for his dignity? It would help him dry faster, but of course that means I'll have to find a big ol' blankie for him to keep warm if he's partially furless.

The Trace Clip.

See how sweaty? Poor baby. :) I let him roll after I rub him down with shavings and a towel.

Tag was being a doofus about letting me ride him outdoors. He feared leaving the arena. Of course, being the stubborn type, I fought him until he complied. Once he was outside, he was delighted. Ears pricked forward, he watched everything. We trotted up and down the long driveway to and from the barn... and around the side of the property. He was thrilled. Silly boy. We made the entrance and exit to the arena several times to establish it wasn't monster infested or whatever it was he was afraid of... it was a nice ride. A nice day. I love my horse. He's my baby-boo--even if he is about 1600 lbs.

I know, I know.. but it bears reposting

I put this on the Oregon Regency Society's blog-page... but I watched it again this morning when I most needed a laugh, and thought it direly needed reposting. One bad word is used in it, fair warning to those of you with tender hearing. But anyone who loves P&P would appreciate this.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Jane.

Wednesday will be the birthday of my favourite author; Jane Austen.

I first discovered her in AP lit in Middle School. Pride and Prejudice was on our required reading list, and it was one of the books we were told to buy for the school year. My mother, stumbled into the British book shop near the mall at Woluwé-Saint-Lambert, and bought a book of Jane's works instead of just P&P. It was a thick book with a soft cover, and those really thin crinkly sounding pages. Somewhere on my shelf, among the many other versions of Jane's works, that dog-eared book still lingers. The spine has creases in it, and most of the cover is worn off. I read, and re-read, marked, folded, quoted, browsed, referred to and thumbed through every page. It's in rough shape--but I still can't bring myself to throw it away.

I've always been a reader. I remember reading Jean Auel's Valley of the Horses when I was in the second grade. With a family of 'book thieves' (which means that if you were reading something and left it sitting in an accessible area, you risked it being stolen by another family member and would have to suck it up and wait for them to finish before you got it back)'--it was inevitable that I would be a book-nerd. I was one of the few kids in class that actually enjoyed required reading. That doesn't mean I did my assignments on time or at all; I was a lackadaisical student to say the least, but I did my reading regardless of whether I cared to prove it to my teachers. And Jane's books were hands-down the ones that had the greatest impression on me. There are a series of books I've kept all these years; 1) Jane Austen's complete works... 2) The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt 3) The Velveteen Rabbit, 4) and the complete collection of Beatrix Potter books and 5) Jean Auel's slowly growing 'Earth's Children' series. I have all of those. The children's books are meant to go to the child I hope to have someday.

As the years have gone by, Jane has sort of grown into my life. I am not historian, I don't claim to know everything about her life... I only know that her humour, her satire, her style and her imagination sustain me sometimes when other books just don't cut it. Her characters are timeless, her subtle truths are beautiful. I love Jane Austen. She's my eldest sister, who keeps my morale up. I feel connected to her through Anne Elliot's quiet tolerance and through Mr. Bennett's wit and sarcasm. I feel that her works are so relevant--and every time I read about the gentlemen boasting about their driving equipment, I think of men today, drooling over their cars... It's all so wonderful, I can only wish I could throw Jane a great surprise party, with a huge glistening cake and a circle of loving friends who appreciate all the gifts she's given us. Happy Birthday Jane!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Preparations are underway...

Kay Demlow of Lavender's Green Costuming has put together a delightful event at an old church in Hillsboro for tomorrow. It's from five to eight PM. She has kindly provided me a table to sell some of my things. So I have put together a little collection of my many office specials, and I have gathered up all the trinkets and such I have lying around and I am making some pretty cards with my little sheep from the prior post. I'm very excited. It's my first table at a fair or such, I hope they sell. :)

And for the first time in a while, I'd like to wish you all Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Meme--stolen from the Lady of Portland House

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?
Hot cocoa, hands-down.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Wrapped, no doubt. Nothing is better than the surprise and delight of a mysterious gift, prettily wrapped (I LOVE wrapping gifts...)

3. Colored lights on the tree/house or white?
White—I feel serene when I see white lights glowing inside a tree or adorning a house. Maybe if I ever have a kid, I’ll go with coloured lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Yes—when I can find it. Smoochies are nice.

5. When do you put your Christmas decorations up?
St. Nicholas’s day (12/5) when we were kids. I remember the tree being pretty much naked of needles by Christmas, most of them sprinkled on the presents and the floor around it. But as an adult, I usually decorate a couple of weeks before Christmas, three at most. I don’t like to be sick of the whole deal before the actual holiday comes ‘round.

6. Favorite holiday dish?
Glazed duck. It’s a tradition I miss quite a bit.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Lying down on the floor beneath the tree, listening to William Byrd’s Mass for Three Voices, and looking up at the coloured lights, the tinsel, and the ornaments and blurring my eyes.

8. When did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don’t remember. Early on. Parents weren’t too keen on keeping the illusion alive.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes. One gift each.

10. How do you decorate a tree?
I am obsessed with snowflakes. I have snowflake ornaments of all sorts; crocheted ones, plastic ones, glass ones. I have icicles, clear glass and white bulbs. I like to do white and silver themes, with the occasional punch of colour. Some years I add red apples—once I did blue highlights and that was beautiful. I stick to pearly whites, silvers and glass. It looks ethereal.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?
I love snow.

12. Can you ice skate?
No. And all attempts to do so have ended in a bruised coccyx. I used to ski pretty well though.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
A violin--oh and a telescope.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you?
Being with the people you love.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Gallette des rois frangipane” cake. It’s an almond cake that is traditionally served on Three Kings Day in Belgium.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
My family’s traditions usually revolved around food. Hubby and I haven’t really developed our own ‘traditions’ yet. One that belonged to his grandmother that I like very much is the Christmas morning breakfast. I’d like to do that every year and invite family that can’t be there for Christmas dinner.

17. What tops your tree?
A big, garish, sparkly snowflake.

18. Which do you prefer-Giving or Receiving?
I love the feeling when you scored on the right gift for someone. You show you’ve been listening to them, paying attention to the things they like, and then gift them something you know they’ll love. There’s no better feeling.

19. Favorite Christmas song?
O Holy Night.

20. Candy Canes-Yuck or Yum?
I like them during this season.

21. Favorite Christmas show?
The Nutcracker Ballet

22. Saddest Christmas song?
I can’t think of one.

If you steal this meme, comment so I can read your version. :)

Congratulations to my sister...

She just got married at the infamous "Little White Chapel" in Vegas.
Couldn't be happier for her. She looks so pretty. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some holiday reminiscing...

When I was little, my holidays were long and fruitful. Belgium has a strong tradition of celebration of the Christmas season. My family is Catholic, however far from practicing. But when I was a child, I was surrounded by people who were, and in part, I was able to participate in Catholic traditions. I would attend mass at huge stone cathedrals, and attend Christmas mass with family friends. Sometimes, I really miss those big old echoing churches and the formal, somber pageantry of Orthodox Catholic mass. Yeah, I'm not sure why... but I do.

On December 6 (I think Holland celebrates it on the 5th), in Belgium, children are lucky. If they put their shoes outside their door or by the fireplace or stove, they will receive gifts and treats from St. Nicholas. Namely , Sinterklaas’s helper does the delivering. He is known as the politically incorrect “Zwarte Piet”. It means “Black Pete”. From what I remember as a kid, he was St. Nicholas’s (Sinterklaas) assistant and he came up from Spain with St. Nicholas. The reason why he was black was because he had to go down so many chimneys… however his character has evolved into as sometimes blackface parody that often incites controversy. He has always been Sinterklaas’s assistant, not his slave, and he helps Sinterklaas deliver toys and tangerines and treats to all the children. From what I understand, he’s been multiplying lately too, and there are now more than one Piets helping Sinterklaas.

Our December 6 fare was usually tiny Milkana chocolate bars, Kinder-surprise eggs (mmmmm, I miss those!) a huge Speculaas (ginger type cookie) in the shape of Sinterklaas, a tangerine or Clementine, and some little toys and such. That is the first ‘reap’ of the season.

Then we got Christmas like everyone else, tree and all; in addition to the second ‘reap’ of toys and goodness.

Then on January 6, we got to celebrate Three Kings Day, and we’d set off in groups of three wearing robes and paper crowns, and badger neighbors for change and treats. Score! Third ‘reap’. We’d cap off Three Kings celebration with a King cake… which has a little bean, sometimes a coin. And whoever got the slice with the token got to wear the crown. Cake & candy. Megascore.

Such fun. :0) So yeah… it’s a long holiday over there. And kids get major score-age. I miss that crazy culture. One day, I'll tell you all about the Carnaval de Binche with the orange-hucking, feathery-headed Gilles... So cool. I can still hear the bells ringing. I miss Belgium so much sometimes it actually hurts.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Giving Thanks

Yes, I've probably used this before. One day I was frightfully bored, so I nabbed this old Rockwell image of the perfect Thanksgiving off of the net and started adding speech bubbles. There are actually a few versions of it; one specific to my family complete with accents and passive (and not so passive) aggression. However, I cannot find those, and so I popped this one in for good measure.

Thanksgiving is such a strange thing. It often feels like an obligation (especially when it comes to my parental units)... a guilt-fest, replete with tryptophan and long-held resentments. At the same time, it's a meal I LOVE to cook. Even if it was to cook it for people who took it for granted and didn't appreciate it. When we moved back to the US, until I moved into my first apartment, I was responsible for the whole meal every year. Of course this means I generally cooked for four people only; my mother and father rarely wanted guests, and with a developmentally disabled brother who likes to occasionally fling food or discus his plate when he's pissed, well, it just doesn't make for the best guest-experience. My sisters had always managed to escape the T-day thing because they'd moved away and forged their own lives... but as long as I lived in the house or nearby, it was my obligation to be there and to cook it.

Once, early in my twenties, I got so mad at my persnickety parents, I chucked the turkey off the deck into the snow and locked myself in my room. LOL. When I bought my first house, my mother had a furious rage because I wanted to have a TDay dinner there. When I mean furious rage, I mean screaming-jeemie, psychopathic rage. Needless to say I ended up hosting a separate Tday on the following Saturday in order to appease Satan--after going over to the parent's house to cook for my mom, dad and brother. Tday cooked twice in a week. Thankfully I moved to Oregon and have the excuse of distance.. but leaving behind my family craziness also means I left behind my only opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Now, I never cook Tday dinner at all. It's generally accepted that we are to eat at inlaws' homes. We rank too low on the totem pole to earn the right to host. To strike out on our own and host our own dinner would raise up such a firestorm of guilt and recrimination, it's just not worth it. Now, Tday is exhausting from all the obligatory stops, and often emotionally draining from all the drama and gossip that's built up during the year. It's heartburn and feeling awkward and out of place. It's listening to elderly family members describe their latest pap-smear ::shudder:: It's being deprived of having the delicious aromas fill our home, and a fridge-full of leftovers to munch on the next day. Last year, my sister was staying with me, so I wasn't alone when Hubster was stuck out in the field. I control-freaked and cooked the whole meal just the way I like, with fresh EVERYTHING, nothing from a box or a can or a jar... No plastic bags over birds or complaints about the creative things I put in the stuffing. OMG it was so fun. Such selfish indulgence! The sandwiches... Oooh god. This year, Dan is allowed to come home. Thank heavens. So it's Tday at the inlaws' house. No leftovers, and we'll know it's time to go when the pinochle cards come out.

Happy Thanksgiving if I don't post again before that. With the approaching holiday and Ball, I might be a bit preoccupied.

Oh, and on the Horse front: Taglicious has gotten a nasty case of 'Scratches' and is lamed up for a bit. I've commanded for him to remain indoors and out of mud to keep his sores dry and bacteria-free. Poor baby! Saturday I have to further chip away at his dignity and shave his legs. :( Poor boy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Overwhelmingly overwhelmed...

I don't understand it. I am so DOWN. Like super-down. I am paying no attention to the good things, except Tag, and I am just bordering on tears every day. I don't know what my problem is... It's like depression only weepier. It's annoying.

Saturday, I'm supposed to represent the ORS at the Multnomah Library's "Keep Portland Weird" Festival... and I forgot about it. Now I'm wholly unprepared, have nobody to go with me, and I have to go into town by myself and stand there in costume and smile at the odd buffet of humanity that drifts through the library during the event, including some very aromatic homeless.

Yay. ô_ó

On the horse front, I'm still completely in love. Yesterday I was so mopey and morose, I went to the stable and couldn't find it in my heart to ride. I got there and for one, one of the horses, Legacy, had escaped his stall in the night, and taken it upon himself to turn on the arena sprinkler system... so various spots were like a mud bog. Then, I arrived just as the geldings had been let in, and Tag was just digging into his pile of hay, looking so content just macking away. I couldn't bring myself to tear him away from such happy munching. So I gave him an apple and sat in his stall for a while, watching him put away a few pounds of hay. He's so pleased when he eats. I took him out for a while when most of his food had been disposed of, and let him wander around the dry bits of the arena. He didn't wander or run or anything. He just kept following me around. He did stop long enough to roll (OMG, his belly is so cute!) and squirm in the dirt, coating himself even more with soil and ick for me to brush off. This is the second time he's rolled; which makes me feel better, because for a while he seemed to be having a tough time relaxing in this new place. Anyway, when he was done grossifying himself more, he went and stood by his stall door as if to say... "M'kay.. I'm done. Can I go back to my room now?" So I opened the door and let him mop up what was left of his dinner. I threw his halter and my jodhs in the locker, gave him an apple and a carrot, kissed his muzzle and went home. I spent the evening taking a short weird nap, Watching Glee that I had DVRed earlier that night and then went off to bed to enjoy a sleepless night. Argh.

Stolen from Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide... I thought it was funny so I had to share:

I've been invited to take a table at a Christmas event in Hillsboro on December 12. I will probably be selling a bunch of prints of my work. I'm starting to focus on doing some office specials that are holiday themed... like this one from my Five Oaks Farm days:Or a remake of this one... with a much less sloppy office-specialish look:

Now just to get out of this funk and start feeling motivated to do these things. ::argh::

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

EEK! Doors are scary!

Tag is very green. So green he hardly knows what the squeezing of my legs means. I'm surprised he actually responds to my reins. He's scared of stall doors, and stubbornly refuses to go near the scariest of the doors... the ones with name-plaques on them.

As my sister Helen kindly pointed out.. Tag is going to be quite a project. I'm glad I picked a boarding facility with an indoor arena, because I foresee a winter of much hard work. Ai ai ai. At least he's a good, sweet horse. That makes up for his being completely untrained. ::sigh::

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sisterly love...

I have a sister. Well, I have two actually. There's Anna, the eldest, who lives in Florida, and then there's Helen, the middle sister, who lives in Arizona. This post is about Helen.

Helen is the consummate horsewoman. She rode and trained with some of the luminaries European and American horsemanship--Olympic winners and horse whisperers. She can kill a fourth level dressage test in one sitting, and rope a calf in another. She trains horses and riders, is an extremely talented artist, and lately, she's taken an interest in cooking.

She, like many of us, is suffering some work-shortages from the economic situation, leaving her more time to dabble in the kitchen. To keep her from slipping into a permanent state of insanity, I recommended she start blogging. So she did. So I refer you kindly to my sister's blog 'Cowgirl Cuisine'. She has already posted some fun diddies about cowgirling and cooking. Read and enjoy! She has a post coming up with cookery and pics, so keep checking... And don't forget to congratulate her on her upcoming nuptials.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A wonderful weekend!

What a wonderful weekend! I had so much fun!

It all started with Friday night’s Transylvanian Ball—a production of the new Masque and Ball Society; a sister organization to the Oregon Regency Society. I hurried out of work, and rushed to meet SII and Tessa to dress; which we did in record time. The girls were so funny… they had me laughing all the while.

Stephanie II teased my hair up into a massive dome of craziness, upon which we fastened a little crow. I had my unfinished corset (bottom is still unbound), an underskirt, a bustle skirt, and a velour shirt underneath to have the benefit of sleeves and some modesty in the cleavage department. Tessa wore the gown I made for her (so pretty), and Stephanie II wore a really nice gown made up of other pieces, which included a Renaissance bodice, a bridesmaid’s gown, and a lace overlay that bustled up nicely.

The ball was a lovely experience. The venue was cozy and intimate, and the group a wild mix of Goths and waltzers. Laura did a lovely job with it. I waltzed (badly) at the beginning with a few gentlemen, however I had a few costume malfunctions (which seems to be a trend for me)… the worse of which was the dropping of my underskirts in the front so that for a brief moment, my underwear and fishnets were visible to all. I grabbed it up and ran laughing to the bathroom, and fell on the loveseat in there in mirth, and Stephanie II in all her kindness took a flattering picture…

Stephanie and Tessa were working some sort of photo shoot session that endured the entire evening and were camera-crazy. Here’s one of my favourite pictures of the night—I call it the Cloverleaf of Cleavage. Teehee! Such pretty girls. I’m old in my specs, like a den-mother.

I got home at one AM, and realized the following: 1) I had no idea how I was going to get out of said costume… and 2) my dogs, who I’d left uncrated because of my late arrival, had chewed (it was probably only Simon, Flower is not a chewer, but I have no video evidence) a gaping hole into my down pillow, making my bed look like it had been placed outside in a mid-winter storm in the alps. I managed to resolve both issues, even without loading Simon into a rocket and shooting him into the sun.

The next morning, with lingering, stubborn remnants of makeup and false-eyelash adhesive still clinging to my eyes, I rushed out of the house mid-breakfast when the Horse folks called to tell me they were at Government Camp. I ran to the ATM to get them transportation money… and just as I was pulling out onto 26, the trailer came whooshing by, the owner’s wife waving her arm at me to follow.

Tag was led off the trailer to a completely unfamiliar world. He has been primarily a pasture horse, with little to no barn experience at all. When he pulled up; this busy barn that will now be his home for the time being, people came out of the barn to see the newcomer, and there was much activity. Tag was a bit keyed up. He hesitated entering the cavernous barn, and was unsettled that day. When I brought my husband to meet him after picking him up at the airport, Tag refused to come in from the pasture, and hubby had to wait until the next day to meet him.

Sunday, I went out to breaky with hubby and then took a moment to be awed by the leaf of a big-leaf maple. Every year, I never cease to be amazed.

At noon, dogs in tow, hubby and I returned to the barn just in time to bear witness to some really juicy barn-drama. Tag, who was thankfully in his stall, was happy to let me halter him and lead him to the grooming area. Flower was instantly in love with the newest member of our family and she sat up like a little meercat and licked his muzzle. Simon just barked frantically, tried to eat random dung-apples and dug holes. Before our arrival, a boarder with four horses was trying to take her horses from the barn without paying for her back-board. The owner interfered, and the boarder hit the owner with a halter, cutting her on the bridge of her brow pretty badly. When we arrived, there were cops! Wow. Drama! Then, the people with the horses were apparently complete morons, and were unable to load two of their badly trained horses, and the two and a half hours I spent grooming and fussing over my new baby, there were loose horses galloping around, shouts, and at one point, which almost caused me to get involved and punch someone in the head, the woman was whipping one of the horses in the face…. ::::grrrrrrrrrrrr::::

Luckily, they managed to get the fourth horse in and drive out of there before any of us lost patience, put our respective horses away and interfered… I was new there and I was ready to get into a throw-down with that woman for whipping horse in the face. I shouted at her, and that was bad enough. “Yeah, that’s really smart, whipping them is *really* gonna calm then down you *&$%^! moron!” was that rude? Oh, oops. Sorry. I cannot abide people who insist on owning horses they cannot handle and that they are afraid of. I was waiting for something hideous to happen and some horse to really get hurt (no, I had no concern about those idiot people getting hurt… I’m all for natural selection); the noise in the trailer and the total craziness was really a recipe for disaster. They are REALLY lucky nothing did. Stupid idiots.

Tag was flustered by the chaos at first, but the profusion of delicious carrots, pets, kisses, brushes and fussies was enough to calm him down despite all the negative energy flowing around the place. Surely after that trial by fire, he’ll be okay. I was assured this sort of drama never happens and that most of the time it’s pretty low key… I hope so, because I don’t like people who are mean to horses or any animal, and I am not the kind to stand idly by. ANYWAY…

We stopped at the Eagle Creek Feed for the heck of it, and I discovered they had toy rat terrier puppies… OMG!!! Snugglefest! Oatmeal breath and pink-bellies aplenty! It was hard not to make off with two little squiggly lumps under our shirts.

I bought myself some rubber boots for mucking about the stable. Aren’t they cute? And some treats and a salt lick of our new baby.

I’m going tonight to see that Tag’s okay and to move some more of my tack into the stable. I found out Sunday exactly how much stuff I still have in my tack boxes! WOW! Five bridles alone! Two doubles, one Havana one black for my dressage équipe… So many bits, I had to ebay some last night (they’re all WAY too small for Tag anyway)… and lots of other odds and ends. I spent most of Sunday night oiling it up again. They were extremely well preserved despite the storage in the attic, not a mote of mold. Amazing.

Anyway, that was my crazy weekend. ;)

Hubby’s home… Tag’s home. All is good.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween is nigh!

One of the very few downsides I can think of from growing up in Belgium is that I was cheated out of Halloween. I never got to go trick-or-treating. A couple of times, I attended an American or International School-sponsored Halloween event, but I never got to wear a costume; and was sad that I wasn't able to join the kids winning prizes for their creative costumes. I was a weird kid anyway, so it wasn't unusual for me not to be doing what everyone else was doing.

I do have pictures of my older sisters in costume though attending the ISB Halloween thing... so they were assisted in that matter, but I guess the six-year gap between my sisters and I was enough that Satan my mother simply didn't care any more, and she never bothered. I'm not bitter; really---However, if I am ever blessed enough to have a child of my own, her Halloween costumes will be the envy of all, that I promise. :) I will also NEVER forget to pick her up at school and leave her sitting for hours in the dark by the guard-shack by the quietly concerned MP (Military Policeman), waiting for someone to come and get her. Yes, that happened. A lot. Parents are often the best lesson on what NOT to do in parenting. ::heh heh:: (No, there's on vicarious sentiment there... reparenting me...)

I get all tickled when I see hoards of bumble bees, fairies, spidermen and witches tottering down the street, milling like ducklings around a parent who's thought to put on a witch hat and uses her wand to herd the little costumed clutch. Where I live is so rural, and so seasonal, I don't get trick-or-treaters. :( Last year, I put out purple lights, and pumpkins... but no takers. Instead, I sat in front of the TV, eating the candy from the bowl, watching Buffy reruns. :::sigh::: Oh well.

This year, I'm going to the Transylvania Ball (on Friday). I have my costume pretty much done. Since it's a Victorian theme, I did something very goth-victorian, red and black, with a corset. Steph-II is going to tease my hair up into something frightful, put a raven in it, and my makeup will be outrageous, I'll probably break out from it. I even got fake eyelashes. I'm excited. :) I will take pictures if I remember to.

Anyway, have a happy Halloween. If you have kids... Lucky you!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

To be delivered on Halloween...

It's love. I confess. He nibbles shirts and pants, and tries to untie himself from the tie-bar. He likes to be scratched just about everywhere, doesn't mind kisses on his huge muzzle, has huge hoofs, and my saddle fit him as if it were tailored for his back. He's pretty big, like a bulldozer. His shoulders and neck are thick. He's not as tall as his brethren; only about 16.2 hands (~5'6') at the withers. He's a lot of horse though, a massive hunk of horsemeat. He's got a really playful sort of nature, and is curious about everything. One particularly adorable moment, a cat slinked up to the post, and they touched noses. He's sweet. I can't wait to finally meet him. Bit and -girth extender are on order (54" inch girth was about 6" too short...) Time to oil up the new bridle I think. Waiting for my new Jodhpurs to arrive; have to dig out my paddock boots still. :) So much prep to do. SO excited.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Flippin' Friday!

Yes, I'm in one of my 'moods' today. I'm loving the murky, wet, soppy weather with wet leaves plastered all over my car. I'm serious, I *am* sincerely loving it. I'm just dying to go home. I haven't felt good all week and I just want to curl in my bed with the two warm dogs and sleep. Tomorrow I go to meet Tag, and Dan gets home next Saturday... two things to look forward to! S-II bailed on me for the trip to see Tag so I'm on my own tomorrow--heading to a creepy middle-of-nowhere place. Too bad I don't have a license to conceal like hubby because I'm tempted to take the 9mm with me.

I bought an oversized bridle the other day. I realized that even if I do pull everything down from the attic, that my bridles are cob or full sized, and Tag is going to need the oversized one. I just need to figure out the bit and size. I'm hoping he'll come with a good bit. I refuse to use shanks... I'd like to get a nice snaffled Kimberwicke for him that I can use with a harness if I need to when we start using him for driving as well. /horse-ese

Today's office special will serve as the event-artwork for the Oregon Regency Society's Valentine's Tea. It was a special request from my friend Elfkin, and it took me out of my doldrums when I drew it. Like the corset for Tessa, the act of creating something that turned out the way it was supposed to is always so good for my self-esteem.

I'm working on my corset now. That red fabric is SO beautiful... I can't wait to see what it looks like finished.

Yay. Have a lovely weekend all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Preparations are underway.

Project Transylvanian Ball:

Tessa’s Victorian Costume:

  • Corset [check]
  • Gold Bodice [check] Oops, wrong colour!
  • Brown Bodice [check]
  • Gold Underskirt [check]
  • Bustle Overskirt [check]
  • Gold Bodice Jacket [check]

My gown:

Corset underway—received boning last night… must weigh about 5 pounds. Found really nice boning with lacing holes.. got two sets, an extra set for my new Regency stays I’ve cut but not sewn.

Project Horse:

  • Acquired at significant discount, a new halter, rope, 54” girth, fleecy saddle-pad, gloves and saddle cover (god that was fun… I can’t remember the last time I went tack shopping it was like snorting pure, untainted sparkly happiness powder)
  • Bought a brand new pair of Fuller Filly PUPPI Jodhpurs today.
  • Cleaned and oiled both of my saddles.
  • Arranged for appointment to see the newest member of the Mt. Hood Johanesen Clan (Saturday)
  • Found and secured lodgings suitable for the giant hoofy baby.
  • Need to go up in the attic and pull down two tack-boxes to inventory additional tack, oil bridles, and insure they haven’t been eaten down to scraps by mold.
  • Need to soften my old paddock boots.

Project Evil:

  • Found lodging for Satan (aka; my mother) near Gresham.
  • Obtained, completed and submitted necessary paperwork for said lodging.
  • Took steps to secure lodging, including a long, unnecessarily complicated and costly process just to get my mother to inconvenience herself enough to get me her signature on a piece of paper (faxing to a local pharmacy is too complicated you see…)
  • Pestered sister to get financial aspects covered…
  • Hopefully secured lodging for mother within 40 minutes of my residence.
  • Considering moving to the Tibetan plateau.

Project Exhausted:

  • Somehow managed to come down with a case of upset stomach and body aches.
  • Emotionally drained from dealing with Satan (aka Mother).
  • Sick of house-hunting for mother.
  • Fizzled out from trying to find care facilities for Papa.
  • Burnt out from Horse-Boarding hunt.
  • Still trying to make up from the sleep debt from late-night sewing.

Project So Excited I Could Cry:

  • I’m going to have a horse again! OMG OMG OMG!!!!


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