Monday, February 1, 2010
A weekend of barn drama, a massive cake fail, and dog barf
This weekend was a doozie. Saturday, I enjoyed a nice breakfast at our local spot. We are regulars there, and we are often there when other regulars are there. That day, we played a game of musical tables as a couple of the young kids from the mountain were hunting down a pair of stolen skis. My little laptop was drafted into the task of searching craigslist for said stolen skis, and we gossiped all around. People came and went from our two extra spots at our table, passing through to speculate, to chit-chat, to browse craigslist and search other information out… It’s funny how small towns are. Everyone knows everyone. After that it was to HR Block to get our taxes out of the way, only to discover we were getting a very plump return… So we happily smiled at one another and were on our way. It was a good morning. It was nice and peaceful and stress-free. That didn’t last very long.
At the stable, I’d been working with a young girl to prepare her for an English riding contest coming up. I’m one of the only serious English seat riders at the stable, and after all the years in saddle and competing, I have a bit of experience to share. I also taught pony-club lessons from sixteen… so I am marginally qualified to give this girl some insights. I was doing well with her, teaching how to work her horse in a certain way to get him to do what she wanted him to do. She was succeeding; but as with learning any skill, it takes work. It’s not instant gratification. Saturday, I walked in to discover that the barn owner, who has never ridden English, had decided to override my instructions, and instituted instead a more severe tack setup for the girl’s horse; a draw-rein system that would force the horse’s head down, instead of teaching the girl to get the horse to do it himself. Putting something like that into the hands of an inexperienced rider achieves nothing. At all.
I’m of the doctrine that force is not the way to go. Easy, at the expense of the animal is not horsemanship. There is no instant gratification in ethical horsemanship. And in the long run, it’s not going to help that girl win the contest. It’s teaching *her* absolutely nothing except that if it’s hard, just use something that will achieve your ends—even if it’s short-term and hard on the horse. I hate it when people use severe bits, draw-reins, and other rash solutions for situations that require only patience and skill. I think the girl should be taught how to get the results she wants herself. And that rein system is not legal for competition anyway, so how is it supposed to help her in the end? Not to mention that the reins did nothing to help the horse, his head was still hanging low as it does in Western style riding… and he ran entirely on his shoulders… translation from horsese: The stupid draw-reins didn’t work right anyway. The barn-owner had tried a really severe bit first, and the horse reacted adversely (naturally)... so she decided a slightly less punishing alternative was in order. I just don't get that!
I didn’t want to contradict the barn owner and make waves--the girl has been her student for a while in western riding. So I am stepping back. But it burns me quite a bit, because it’s teaching the wrong message. It’s teaching that dominance supersedes cooperation. That equitation is about making the horse do what you want it to do, instead of *asking* it to. It’s frustrating to say the least.
To top my stable-time off that day, they had just ran the sprinklers to settle the dust in the arena, and I was cantering around the tight bend with Tag, and his front legs slipped out on mud, his whole front end went down, sending me sailing over the top of his head. His legs are fine, I was sure to check. Dan took a few spins around the arena at a nice walk and he was fine. .. Poor thing. So you can imagine I was not in a bright and cheery mood when I left on Saturday.
Today, I am sore and grumpy. I will go riding today, but I am telling the girl’s mother that I won’t contradict the barn-owner’s instructions--and I will recuse myself from further assistance.
Then Sunday, I went into the task of making a Southern Red Velvet Cake for my coworker’s birthday. What a f*%#$ing disaster! Lessons learned:
1) Don’t experiment by switching white flour with wheat flour on an untested recipe.
2) Don’t use smaller cake pans on an untested recipe.
3) Don’t pick an untested recipe for a special occasion.
4) In fact… when standing at the supermarket, looking at flours and thinking things out… just defer to Steph II… When you’re lucky enough to have a BFF that’s a pastry chef, WTF are you doing not calling her when venturing into a project like a million-ingredient doozie like Southern Red Velvet Cake from HELL? ::sigh:: Hindsight. Hah!
The recipe was from JoyOfBaking.com. And baking was NO joy. The recipe has a zillions ingredients. I’m serious. It’s like… sifted flour, vanilla, cocoa powder, vinegar, baking soda, butter, salt… a whole little pot of red food colouring (don’t ask about my pink-sink or my pink stained hands)… the cream cheese frosting (which if anything, tasted like heaven on a spoon) had marscapone, cream cheese, vanilla and whipping cream… OMG it was good. But also very bad. SO SO BAD.
The cake came out dry as the Sahara (the center was moderately moist). I figured the icing would save the day. I spent Saturday night toiling over a gum-paste lily flower and some little pink apple blossoms to decorate the cake with. I cut the cake into four layers, and iced them. I decorated the cake with the flowers… stuck them in the fridge, and by 10 PM, the icing had slumped down into a pile at the base of the cake-stand, and the lily had slid off and shattered at the bottom of the fridge door.
I wept. I truly did. I burst into tears. It’s not just the cake though—because all through my baking session, Flower was sick. She was vomiting all over the house in every corner. She would run around and eat up every little random thing she could find and then hork it up into a corner. I was so frustrated and burnt out, and my husband had left Sunday morning for ten days and I thought I was going to have an aneurism.
I’ve never been grateful for a Monday before. Even if that means I have to sneak off to Safeway to buy my coworker a cake. I’m close to tears even now. Funny the things you get upset about. I really wanted to make something special for her this year. I feel like a fool.
[UPDATE] All Safeway had was a sweaty Tiramisu. WTF!!!!!!