Saturday, July 25, 2015

Blood Orange Julius Caesar Salad Spinner

I believe I left off about eleven months ago. But really, since I started blogging again last fall(ish), I only neglected a few months. I'm officially over it. For so long I have been so concerned with tracking every move with painstaking accuracy that more often than not it has stopped me from proceeding at all. I am going to try a new approach, in which I will write a framework and allow the reader's imagination to build the walls.
Today someone told me about a cross-country road trip he is planning, and my burning wanderlust was soothed only by a flood of a hundred memories. I am fortunate to have experienced not one but two cross-country trips with my mom, who is hands down the best travel companion in the world. I haven't forgotten; in fact, some memories are so vivid they could have happened last week, and all this without a single road journal.
My point is, I could stand to micromanage myself just a tad less. I was happiest when I flew by the seat of my pants, but now I have become analytical to a fault. Yay, anxiety! :(
Tonight I've got plans for a long overdue dinner with a good friend, and then a little excursion with Josh to a piano bar to watch our niece perform (and maybe get her autograph, which we will sell on ebay when she becomes famous).
In the meanwhile, I am going to take the pup for a walk and enjoy the best therapy there is...the four legged kind.
One day at a time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Unpredictability's My Responsibility, Baby

(No, I am not going to address the fact that I abandoned my blog for six months and am now picking up like nothing ever happened.)

Anyone up for a spin in my DeLorean?

August began with a family day trip to Newport to celebrate Mom's birthday. Cyndi and Rich had come down the day before and spent the night at a hotel, where Josh and I met them for breakfast. Mom and Ron stopped elsewhere for breakfast along the way, then we gathered in the parking lot so Mom could open her gifts. After vaguely planning our day, we headed for the cliffwalk; I navigated the snazzy new route I had learned through the side streets so we could avoid traffic. We spent a couple hours traversing the rocks and pathways along the ocean, stopping several times to take pictures, to watch surfers, and to gawk at mansions. Just before the final turn, we took the last exit onto Bellevue and walked for what seemed like forever back to our cars. Next stop: the visitors center for affordable parking, restrooms, and a few precious minutes of air conditioning. Once appropriately regrouped, we meandered along Thames and America's Cup, maybe doing some shopping, maybe just chatting, definitely anticipating our next destination - the Red Parrot. Fittingly there was no Rolls Royce this time, either...but that's a different story for another day. After lunch we walked back to the wharf and boarded a harbor cruise. It was quite enjoyable and informative; a relaxing way to wrap up the afternoon. Once off the boat we stopped at Ben & Jerry's. Josh and I were content just to breathe in the aroma; we had ice cream waiting for us at home. It was nice to just linger by the dock, but eventually the time came to return to our cars and head home. It was another great day for the record books.

As I said previously, I spent quite a bit of time away at horse shows in August, the first of which was in Northampton. I have spent a lot of time in that part of MA, and I love it there. I discovered a beautiful bike path and committed myself to exploring it during my stay. I should mention that by this point in time I had pretty consistent pain in my left knee, sometimes sharper than others. From what I can tell I did something to it in Michigan; at least that's when it started hurting. Unfortunately I did not stop to think about what it could be until after I had probably 15 miles, several applications of thermaflex, and a few doses of Tylenol under my belt. I was determined not to let anything slow me down that week, so I just put my knee brace on and went. The pain subsided to an odd numbness after a while, which was manageable. However, by the last night of the horse show I could barely walk to do my rounds and the pain was taking center stage. I took an educated guess and figured I sprained my MCL. I finally conceded that I should rest and was thankful for the two days off I had before the next show. As I hobbled into the house Sunday afternoon, Josh passed no judgment but wouldn't let me leave the couch all night, making sure my knee was iced and comfortable. He took such good care of me and I am grateful for his support. He even almost got me to go the a doctor. Almost. ;)

The next week was Fairfield and the CHJA Finals, which was the biggest show I attended all summer. The facility itself is sprawling; I drove back and forth between the barns and tents to save time during my rounds. There were over 300 horses stabled there - triple what I got used to at Westbrook. I spent four long nights roaming the grounds, making friends with a few of the braiders, giving pep talks to the horses, reading and even writing a bit. In the mornings I was thankful to be staying at a double tree with a most comfortable bed and a nice hot shower. I explored the area a bit, hung out at the horse show, and made good on my promise to take it as easy as possible. I'm sure I walked a couple miles each night during my rounds, but aside from that I tried to rest my stupid knee.

Sunday was our family reunion, which was fun as usual. Odie joined us this year, because I was spending too much time away from him already and could not bear to leave him when I had just gotten home that morning. He was a very good pup, and we even got to walk over to the rough board barn and visit Natalie for a while.
Tuesday was Maddy's birthday; I decorated Brantley's stall while she was at work and met her back at the barn later with Allie's doughnuts. It was a good time.

My third and final night watch job in August was in the middle of nowhere, CT...ever heard of Morris? No, not the 9 Lives cat. The horse show was tiny...never more than 40 horses in the tents, and that was when they were full. As I was getting the tour from the show manager (who is the most organized person on the planet, God bless him!) something made me say, "I am also a braider. If you know of anyone looking for one, have them call me." Well, immediately he told me of a trainer in need, so I called her and booked her client's horse for the next two mornings. I braided his mane and tail when I finished my rounds and then headed back to MY BEAUTIFUL SUITE at the cozy Victorian bed and breakfast where I was staying. I seriously couldn't believe my luck when I checked into this place...if you ever get a chance to visit the Litchfield Inn, DO IT! Anyway, I got my free coffee from the lobby and had barely shut the door behind me when my phone rang. It was a truck-in looking for a braider, was I still at the show? I told her I'd be there in 10 minutes, thinking hey, one tail is still $30 more than I had, and it's good business to say yes. I ended up doing 3 tails, and almost fell over when she paid me. She was so happy that I had come back out just for her that she tipped me $50! Braiding is expensive enough all by itself; tips of any kind are rare, even from regular clients. The return business and referrals are the real perks. But this generous She even had more tails for me on Saturday morning, so we agreed on a time to meet and I just about floated back to my hotel for (free) scrambled eggs and homemade waffles. As I lounged out on the patio with my coffee and wondered if this was seriously real life, I planned my day. There was a conservation center just down the road that was recommended to me by a braider friend I had seen the night before, so I thought I would check it out. My knee was doing better and I thought it was high time I went for a walk.
The first day at White's Conservation, I bought a trail map (best $3 I spent that week) and kept it to a dull roar. I took my time exploring a couple of the shorter loops and thoroughly enjoyed my surroundings. Woods and fields and wetlands, oh my! After some time, my stomach reminded me that the waffles were long gone, so I decided to treat myself to dinner out. I got a sandwich and a beer at a little pizza place and tipped the waitress $15. No reason I should be the only one on cloud nine. I didn't stick around to see her reaction, but I hope it made her happy.
The next morning I ate my delicious breakfast, savored my coffee, and fell asleep on my plush king sized bed for a few hours. Fortunately since the show was so small, I had been able to catch a decent amount of zzz's throughout the night. I couldn't wait to get back to White's, and I spent a few hours traversing new paths and enjoying the hell out of myself. I had also found out about another place of interest called Action Wildlife, so I left myself enough time to drive the half hour or so and check it out. As soon as I arrived and saw the herd of bison grazing in a field, I knew I had struck gold. I adore bison, especially after witnessing them up close and personal at Yellowstone in 2013. I stopped to get out and snap a few photos up close; an older couple had the same idea so we struck up a conversation. They were from out of state (where I can't remember now), and they were so friendly and sweet. I drove toward the entrance just ahead of them and told the lady at the gate I'd like to pay for the couple behind me. They later found me inside the park and tried to pay me back, but I explained that someone had been very generous to me and I was paying it forward, as I hoped they would as well. I spent hours driving and walking around the massive park, which was home to so many animals from deer to cows, elk, goats, and even a zebra. Up on a hill was a taxidermy lover's paradise - a warehouse sized building with literally hundreds of stuffed animals. Here's the kicker: the man who owns the collection has spent who knows how many hours in the wild, watching these creatures and has created scenes based on things he has actually seen. So we're not talking a moose standing in a fake pond with a badly painted backdrop. We're talking a moose meeting his maker at the hands of a grizzly bear, a pack of mountain lions chasing down goats, and a zebra being torn apart by hungry predators. That's just to name a few. I was in absolute awe and took so many photos that people must have thought I was nuts. I would go back in a heartbeat, and I totally recommend taking the trip out there. Well worth the $10 admission fee.
The next morning, Saturday, I had tails across America. Seriously, I hit the jackpot with the truck in lady. There was one pony who was so opposed to having her tail braided (of course it was a mare!) that she double barrel kicked mid braid and I barely jumped out of the way in time. A few choice words later, I entrusted a firmly secured lip shank to someone who could actually control the beast, rather than the sixty pound kid who had first taken the job. Start over, braid faster than you have in your life (thank God the thing is twelve hands and has a short tailbone), and get the hell away. When I finished with that trainer's menagerie, I picked up one more tail and then headed back to the hotel for a much deserved nap. Did a little exploring in my car and hit a few more trails at White's, but I pretty much took it easy because I knew I had a long day ahead of me Sunday.
I had maybe five more tails my last morning at the show and then drove home with just enough time to shower and head out to Abby's play. I think this one was Bye Bye Birdie. The storyline did nothing for me, but the kids did a good job.

Considering it took me approximately forever to complete this post, I will quit while I am ahead. This draft literally sat open, haunting me, for months. It was three quarters of the way done but for some reason I just couldn't finish it. Did I mail it in a little at the end? Sure. But it needed to get done, because I'm back in a "I want to write" phase and for fuck's sake, I'm still stuck on things that happened a year ago.

I may never finish 2014's review, but a) you're not missing anything and b) if you are reading this odds are you had a play by play as I was living it anyway. It was really nothing special.

Here's to finding enough inspiration to visit this page perhaps slightly more often than I have been known to do.

To quote Gonzalo LeBatard, "Cheerios, cheerios!"

Friday, January 9, 2015

Just a blip on the Walter O'Reilly

At first I was frustrated with myself for not just summarizing 2014 in one post and calling it a day. But here's the thing: I got overwhelmed trying to cram one year into a few paragraphs because A LOT happened and besides, anecdotes are more fun anyway. So I'll keep chipping away and then maybe with the better stories, I'll come back later for more detailed accounts. And voila! I have found a purpose for my blog.

To stay in present day for a moment, I will say I have been riding lately despite the Arctic Chill or whatever horror is happening outside. Comic has been wonderful for both Nat and myself; I am continually impressed at the brain that horse was blessed with. His canter is feeling more balanced, and his transitions are sharper every day. Once yesterday he stepped into the left lead from a walk on the first try. I was beyond proud of him, and of course I praised him to death. This horse loves when you talk to him, which is great for me; after spending years riding alone, one becomes an expert with one-sided conversations.

I'm feeling the weight of my to-do list at the moment, so I must try to use this last hour or so before work to be productive. Adios.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I seem to have misplaced my Tauntaun

When I fell asleep Tuesday night it was winter in New England; temperatures in the low teens and a dusting of snow. I seem to have awoken in Hoth, because all I keep hearing about is this damn Arctic Blast, and I've seen a lot of negative numbers. The wind is in full force, and I am fighting hibernation mode once again. This is the worst.

That said, I believe I still owe you some opinions regarding the close of 2014. I have not forgotten, though I have admittedly been procrastinating. The first week of the year was a busy one, but the good kind of busy...and productive! I will warn you, my productivity did not include uploading pictures to my computer, so brace yourself for a whole mess of uninterrupted words...

July began with much promise, and did not disappoint. We headed to Foxboro on the 3rd for the Finish on the Fifty 5K at Gillette, which was a blast. I was at a horse show in Northampton, MA on the Fourth, so I missed out on fireworks. I definitely can't complain; I stayed at a Comfort Inn with a fitness center and indoor pool...both of which I took full advantage of. I'll just save myself for the Magic Kingdom's Nighttime Spectacular, thank you. Came home on the 6th for something called Urban Dare Adventure Race with my friend Sarah. It was a little lamer than we had hoped for, but that's not to say we didn't have a great time. I had bought a groupon so it was half price; it totally is not worth the full amount.
I spent the next week working at a horse show in CT, then on the 12th Mom and I drove to PA to see the Zac Brown Band. The show was just west of Pittsburgh, and we had booked a camp site at a state park a few miles down the road. If you would ever like to venture to the middle of nowhere and take the coldest showers of your life, I highly recommend it. The show was phenomenal; I would go see them again in a heartbeat. They did a little acoustic set in the middle, and Zac covered GnR's Patience. It made my night. We camped a couple nights and had some adventures in the boonies before packing up and coming home to civilization.
Mid-July was pretty low key; I did a bit of catering work and took Odie on some beach outings...
Pre-dawn on the 26th, Mom and I once again packed up her Honda Fit and hit the road. This time the drive was much longer; 14 hours to Kawkawlin, MI. One night there and then north through the thickest fog we have ever seen to Mackinaw City. We had breakfast, did some shopping, and Mom freaked out when a statue came to life before her eyes. Clearly we were unaware that he was a LIVING statue, and a damn good one at that. Haha.
I could write an entire post on Mackinac Island alone. We had both been wanting to go there for years, and it far exceeded our expectations. Our quaint motel on the mainland, the short ferry ride amidst beautiful scenery, and of course the island itself. We stayed busy for two days straight, trying to take it all in. We walked a lot, climbed infinite numbers of stairs, drank $20 glasses of wine in the Grand Hotel, bottle-fed baby deer, and defied gravity in the Mystery Spot. I really cannot say enough about how great that trip was. I would do it all again, but next time I think I'd stay on the island so I could do the ghost tour at night.

August kept me pretty busy with a horse show every week, some more great adventures, and a sprained MCL. You can hear all about it in a day or two. I'm out for now. There's a warm couch with a puppy that's calling my name.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Six months in review...

Another year gone by. At the last turn of the calendar I was pretty apprehensive about my future, but fortunately a lot has changed since then. Join me in my travels back through time...

January saw me at Corner Bakery, expediting food and begging to be cross-trained so I could pick up hours on other stations. I was still being strung along on the management lie (which I had not yet identified as a lie), so I kept telling myself to just keep swimming.
At the end of the month we embarked on our annual Disney trip; Josh and I drove down in a rented Ford Fusion and met up with his family in the sunshine state. As luck wouldn't have it, the sunshine there was more figurative than literal; we had cold, wet weather for most of the week. A crappy day in Disney is still better than being home, so we weren't exactly complaining, but a few rays wouldn't have hurt.

The second Corner Bakery location opened in February, and I was transferred to help get the store up and running. Once again I was fighting to work my way into the back of house for better hours and a raise. I threw myself onto the hot line one day when the opportunity presented itself, and I rocked it. I was able to get full time hours for a while, and I even got a raise. I thought things were looking up.
Around this time I was riding - well, sort of - at Melody Farm. I spent most of the winter doing ground work with Lucy, building a bond with her and engaging her brain. Sometime in February I think I finally got back on, with a rope halter in place of a bridle. We slowly but surely progressed and built up each other's confidence.

March. I had made plans for my birthday to ride the mechanical bull at Toby Keith's, but I promptly cancelled them when I came to my senses and remembered I was broke and antisocial. I worked on my actual birthday, but I did have my parents and a couple of friends over for dinner that night. It was nice, quiet, and a great time.
I had a breakthrough with Lucy that month, finally cantering under saddle for the first time since December. After the lightbulb went on, we felt unstoppable. I was starting to feel like my old self, and she like a brand new girl. It was just what we both needed.

April began innocently enough, but the winds of change that began to blow were enough to knock me off my feet. At first a little whisper through the trees; Maddy casually telling me she had a job opportunity for me. Had I ever heard of night watch? Why, yes. I grew up at horse shows, spending countless hours riding, grooming, or just spectating by day and braiding by night. I contacted the man who owns the night watch company, and he said he'd get back to me for an interview. Not half an hour later he called to offer me the job, IF I could be in CT that night. Sure! It was four nights of work (in addition to my CBC schedule), and I was beyond exhausted by the end of the weekend. But somehow I felt great. I could do this all summer! I could live at horse shows again!
I stopped riding Lucy; Kate was back in the saddle, and she really needed someone who could pay for a lease. I didn't think it was fair to the horse to have mixed signals from three different riders, so I bowed out.
I will quickly mention that the situation at Corner Bakery had declined even more by this point, and it was starting to affect my life outside of work too. I was miserable, I was broke because hours had been cut in half, and I was feeling edgy all the time. It was no good.

In May the ticking time bomb finally exploded; I totally lost my marbles one day at work, verbally eviscerated the staff and company as a whole, and quit. Three out of four of my managers tried to talk some sense into me and FINALLY listened to what I had to say, but it was too late. I had already spoken with Josh about how unhappy I was and he encouraged me to leave. I had night watch to get me through the summer, and I had just picked up a part time job with a catering group. I knew I could make it work. They coerced me into staying a few more weeks, and I survived, but I was never so happy as when I knew I would never set foot through those doors again.
May wasn't all bad; we did take my parents to Block Island as a belated thank-you-for-puppy-sitting gift. We made our way up the only hill on the island, stopping at the animal farm and the south lighthouse. We then walked...and walked and walked and walked...until we realized we may have passed the street we needed to get back downtown. If only we had a map. Cell phone service was spotty, so our google maps weren't loading. Oh well, we thought. Let's see where this road takes us. Eventually we stopped and sat on a stone wall to rest. Mom reached into her bag and pulled out what else but a MAP. A freaking map! Where was this an hour ago?!? We laughed and promised her she'd never live that one down, then continued along and found our way to the main drag. We estimated that we had walked about ten miles, and we were all starving. Lunch at a local bar was delicious, and of course we did a bit of shopping before catching the ferry. I should mention that the weather was crazy that day; it was overcast and VERY windy. As we boarded the ferry we saw the crew taking pictures of the waves because they had never seen them so high. Needless to say, it was anything but smooth sailing - literally a roller coaster ride on the ocean. The ferry went airborne so many times we lost count, and the waves were crashing onto the upper deck. It was incredible, and terrifying, and made for some great memories.
One more the end of the month Josh and I went to Mystic Aquarium to play with penguins! It was my birthday gift and I enjoyed it thoroughly. We spent the day there having the best time; I highly recommend the penguin encounter program to anyone.

The sun shone brightly on June. Night watch was in full swing and I became so accustomed to commuting to CT that I could have done it in my sleep. A couple of days I did elect to stay down there (I had a free hotel room to sleep in, after all), but there is not a lot to do in Westbrook, CT and even worse there is no Odie there. For anyone who may read this and wonder what night watch is, I will explain. At multi-day horse shows many competitors will stable their horses on the grounds, but since it is a strange environment (and they are expensive animals) they do not want to leave them unattended. I stayed on the show grounds overnight, making rounds to check on the horses every two hours beginning at 9:00pm. After my last round at 5:00am I was free to go, save for some paperwork and the occasional billing process. It's a pretty sweet gig (to me anyway), and it pays well. Things were looking up, for real this time.
I took Ron parasailing in Newport for Father's day, which was a blast! My mom came out on the boat to take pictures, then we went to lunch and wandered aimlessly around town. It was wonderful.
Josh and I also went out on a boat, this time for a whale watch. We had some great sightings, some only a few feet away from the ship. What a fantastic experience!

I am pausing here; there is still so much to write about but it is New Year's day, I am off with Josh, and I refuse to waste it blogging. Besides, it is circus animal waffle time. Later, taters.