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.



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