Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Orange Boys


I got a new iMac last month and have slowly been getting used to using it.  Tonight I'm using it to Blog for the first time and am astounded by how quickly pictures upload and how easy it is to navigate.  Should have done this weeks ago!  Bruce took these two photos of our two newest cats.  Both are orange and sweet (in their own ways), but with vastly different personalities.  Max is a courtly gentleman, through and through.  And Poom is a feline wild child.

It's been another packed week at school.  This coming weekend I look forward slowing things down and riding Corny and planting carrots in the garden.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Birthday Dinner

Last night Mama finally was able to make it up to Frogpond to prepare my official birthday dinner -- between sickness and my crazy schedule (Saturday teaching workshops), we'd had to put it off for two weeks. It was worth the wait. Bruce, Mama and I had one of those comfortable, laid-back, happy evenings that can't really be planned. They just happen.

Mama, knowing of my great fondness for anchovies, brought up a Julia Child recipe for a potato/anchovy with cream and cheese dish (worth every last one of its two zillion calories, I might add).

Bruce put some Mozart on and Mama took over the kitchen and commenced cooking.

She was well-supervised.

While she cooked, I set to work on my baby blanket project on the loom in the bedroom. The door was open, so I could hear the Mozart as I wove and soon this was accompanied by delicious smells wafting in from the kitchen. Bruce was in charge of replenishing the wine glass from time to time (I generally cut the wine with half sparkling water -- keeps my wits relatively clear but I can still enjoy a glass or two).

And so, Bruce sat and read in the living room, Mama cooked in the kitchen, the cats slept all over the house, and I wove in the bedroom, while Mozart and the fragrance of baking filled the house.

There were no leftovers

When the casserole was finished, we all came together to watch it being pulled from the oven in all its bubbly, cheesy glory.

Then we filled our plates, and settled down to dine and watch the movie "Mozart's Daughter" together.

And that was my Oma/Mama birthday dinner -- I am so blessed!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Group Lesson

Today was my first online live session with a German instructor from Rosetta Stone.  I'd scheduled it for 8:30 in the morning so as to get it under my belt as early in the day as possible.  Need I add that I crammed for the session by practicing Lesson 2 over and over again?  I'd planned to just stay in my bathrobe and slippers for the session, but ten minutes before I was supposed to log on I decided I could only be my most intelligent if I were dressed and presentable. Off I raced to change, brush my hair and teeth and even put on deodorant.  I stopped short of putting on make-up, though -- I refuse to do my face before breakfast on a Saturday. 

I did pretty well.  There were only 5 students in our little group session and our instructor, a kind-looking middle-aged woman, was patient and encouraging.  All of us could hear each other, but only the instructor was on video (interestingly, she wore no make-up either).  She put us through our paces and, one-by-one, we identified girls, dogs, and running men.  She also through in some ringers of things we didn't know and then taught us the phrase, "Ich weiß es nicht," which means, "I don't know."  This is a phrase that I think I'll be getting a lot of use out of -- already it flows right off my tongue.

After half an hour, we all fondly said "Auf Wiedersehen!" to each other and my first group lesson was done.  Fun stuff! 

And then I got Corny and took a nice long ride (he didn't mind a bit that I wasn't wearing make-up).  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The German Lesson

Yes, it's true -- my German gets better after a glass of wine

Laptop with Rosetta Stone: Check     German dictionary: Check     Glass of wine: Check
Arby in the In-Basket: Check

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Still Saddle Sore

The saddle sore I felt after Saturday's 30 minute ride was the minor leagues compared to the saddle sore I felt after yesterday's 1 1/2 hour ride.  I was hobbling around the school like a goblin for the first half of the morning, groaning every time I had to get up.  The children, naturally, thought this was highly amusing.  By lunchtime my muscles began relaxing, although I'm still sore.  If I get home early enough tomorrow, I'm going to try to get out for a short ride before dark.

Yesterday, Corny and I began our work in the arena, walk and trot.  I did better today at sitting the trot and there was much less bouncing in the saddle.  I'm finding my balance again, although not quite there yet.  Afterwards, we rode out into the lower pasture and took some of the little trails through the trees. 

I brought my camera with me so I could take some pictures from my crow's nest up on top of my big beast.  This one gives an idea of high up it feels from up there.  The ground seems very far down.  I feel a lot more secure in my Western saddle though -- more to grab on to, should the need ever arise. 

Corny was a good boy, and doesn't he look dashing in his new bridle? 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Die kleine Lehrerin und das große Pferd

Big horse
I'm relatively sure that my title translates to, "The small teacher and the big horse."

Actually, after putting on the pounds at Christmas, I would like to have titled it "The not so small teacher and the big horse", but that is beyond my Lesson 2 German abilities. I hope to have lost the weight well-before I'm able to say "not so small" in German (bouncing around on the saddle like I did yesterday should help with this).

Other than a few short rides in the arena (mostly bareback and at a walk), Cornelius hasn't been worked for over a year. The whole dressage thing was so difficult for both Corny and myself, that when Mary (my trainer) became too busy to give lessons, I just stopped riding. And felt terrible about it (but not so terrible that I'd get my butt on the horse and do some riding). So when Mary called me out of the blue last week and told me that she was going to get Corny going as a Western horse (no more dressage -- which he hated) and get me going as a Western rider (no more dressage -- which I avoided). Her goal is to get him used to walking out and about, down the road and off on trails. She wants us both out of the arena and off having fun together instead of endless drilling in the arena. Corny's had 3 lessons with her so far (I missed these because I was in school) and I got my first one yesterday.

Mary rode first to get Corny warmed up and to give me a refresher course on how to ride Western (it's been over four years since I've even sat in a Western saddle). Naturally, she made it look easy. Corny was very good and remembered everything they've been working on.

When it was my turn, I remembered exactly how wide Corny is -- like straddling an extra-wide sofa. Even as Mary was commanding me to relax and settle deep in the saddle, my knees and hips were screaming, "Ow, ow, ow -- get off right now, you stupid woman!" I gritted my teeth and stuck it out (that horse is getting back on his diet, though).

Note the angle of my thighs -- I'm doing the splits up there

However, despite a bit (!) of pain, I was supremely happy to be back up on my big lug of horse again.

Can you tell that Mary lets me get away nothing?

All I did was walk and trot.  I'd forgotten how to sit the trot and bounced around in the saddle like a beginner (more complaining from my hip joints), but it was wonderful to be back on a horse.

Today I'm saddling up and riding on my own. I rode for less than half an hour, but I'm very saddle sore today -- I'm doing this, though.

A not-so-small teacher up on her big horse = JOY!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Tale of a Tail

This past week has been quite the ordeal -- way too much school stuff going on.  But by today things calmed down.  I had to go to a Saturday Science conference that was supposed to go 'til two o'clock in the afternoon.  My team was told on the side that we could leave by 11:30 if we got our lesson planning done.  We did this, and the lot of us were bolting towards the door when one of the administrators who I know called out to me, "Where are you going?"  In shock and  feeling incredibly guilty, I mouthed back that we were leaving.  I've been feeling badly about this ever since.  I know that a lot of work was put into putting on this conference that we left and I sort of wish I'd stayed...Ah, well.

When I got home, despite the guilt, it was wonderful to just stop being a teacher for awhile.  Bruce made eggs for lunch, we played cribbage (I won!)  and we just relaxed. 

Tomorrow Mary is coming to give Corny and I a riding lesson. 

I decided that, for the occasion,  the horse needed his rat's nest of a tail combed out.  To my shame, I must admit that its been building up knots since autumn. 

So I (with wine glass near at hand), combed out his tangled tail, while he (with hay in his mouth), ate and ignored me.  Good times!

In the end, his tail was relatively tangle-free.  Corny really
does have a glorious tail -- full and wavy and very long. It will be looking lovely for Mary tomorrow.  Of course, the rest of the horse is caked with dried mud -- but the tail looks great!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Corny Hits the Road

The good news is that Cornelius is doing wonderfully under saddle again.  Mary came and rode him on both Tuesday and today and he did great.  He's hardly been ridden in over a year (much to my shame), but she said that he was eager to go and loving getting out and about.  On Tuesday she only rode him in the arena and the neighbor's property, but today, after a bit of a warm-up, they took off down the road.  She walked him down the drive, over the culvert and past lots of things he'd never seen.

 Things like a small black and white pig that saw him from across a pasture and then squealed with joy to see his equine long-lost cousin. He hurtled towards him as fast as his little piggy trotters would take him.   Corny was a bit startled, and did some snorting and backing up as the pig galloped towards him.  However, once the porker stopped at the fence, Corny was cool.  He walked up to the fence and he and the pig put their noses together and Mary says they had a conversation.  The pig seemed absolutely delighted to meet the horse -- he grunted and schnuffled with joy.  Then the other neighbor's dogs came running up (one is a huge spotted Great Dane).  Corny did the meet and greet thing with them too and everyone was happy. 

Mary is so rational and amused by things like this.  I'm doing my best to drink in her calm, assertive energy so that I can react like she does to things like enthusiastic pigs and Great Danes.  Corny really is a good boy.  I'll be having my first Western lesson on him this weekend -- after riding on a tiny dressage saddle for several years, I'm looking forward to being back on a solid piece of leather with a horn in front.  Just in case. 

I'll take pictures!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Flowing Water and Good Boy Corny

This morning there was still water!  How lovely to turn on the tap and have something come out -- until you've been without water, it's hard to imagine how inconvenient it is not to have it at one's fingertips.  Tonight's low temperature is supposed to be around 26 degrees, which is 4 degrees higher than last night.  By weekend, we should be above freezing again and everyone will breath a sigh of relief.

Corny had his first lesson as a Western horse with Mary this morning.  I called her this afternoon when I'd gotten home from school and learned that he did splendidly.  When he saw her pull up to the drive and unlock the gate, he recognized her and cantered up alongside the truck as she drove up.  That melted her heart and set the tone for the entire session.  She worked him in the arena and then took him for a short trail ride on the neighbor's property where I walk.  He did very well, his new bridle fit perfectly, and Mary is certain that he's going to make a perfect Western pleasure mount for me.  I was very proud of my boy (and sorry that I missed his first lesson).

Good Morning!

Bruce went down with the flashlight and turned the water back on at the well last night after the pipes had (hopefully) cured.  He called me on his cell phone to ask me to turn on the water in the kitchen to see if it worked.  Nothing.  He fiddled around with stuff down there for a bit and eventually the moment came when I lifted the handle there was the wonderful sound of water gurgling through the pipes.  I got to wash the dishes and then take a nice, hot shower.

After another freezing night (23 degrees), I turned on the kitchen tap this morning and water came running out.  It's the little things...

I'm so glad I'm married to a man who can fix plumbing!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Of Pipes, Plans and Wonderful Surprises

As is so often the case, my carefully laid plans for last weekend went south with speed.  It was supposed to be a quiet, but productive two days of weaving, a little house cleaning, German practice, schoolwork (that's a given on any weekend), walking and reading.  Instead, the water pipes froze Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday and we had no water.  Bruce was able to get things intermittently fixed so that I got a short shower on Saturday and a longer one on Sunday, but then the pipes froze again and the pipes either burst or split at the seams.  We just aren't set up for nighttime temperatures in the low 20's.  Last night we had water and I had a lovely, hot shower, but by this morning we were back to dry faucets when we turned on the tap.  The toilets had enough water in their tanks for one good flush apiece.  This was greatly appreciated.  I've gotten good at heating water in a kettle for a mini-bath in the kitchen, which is what I did before getting dressed for school, but the charms of pioneer life fade fast on a Monday morning when one's trying to get ready for work.

We hoped that once the day had progressed and temperatures had risen, that our water would be flowing again (this is what happened yesterday).  But when I got home and hopefully turned on the faucet, there was nothing but a small hiss of air.  I took the long walk with three happy dogs and a horse down to the well and there discovered that the pipe joint had split once again and water was merrily gushing and squirting all over.  A steady stream of our precious well water was running down the hillside and joining the creek. 

I called Bruce on the cell phone and he told me to shut off the power to the well at the breaker box in the garage and he would be home as soon as he could.  I took the long walk back to the house and did this.  Now, later in the evening, he's reglued all the pipes and now we just must wait a few hours for the pipes to set.  It looks like I'll be taking another "pot and kettle" bath in the kitchen, as I'm sleepy and want to go to bed.

One wonderful, totally unexpected thing that did happen on Saturday was that Mary (my friend and horse trainer) called to say that she wanted to get Corny and I riding together again.  She and her husband have been so busy getting a new business going that she'd all but completely stopped working with other people's horses.  She's ready to get back into it (at least a little), and Corny and I get to have her back for lessons!  

The new bridle has stainless steel, engraved buckles.  Woo woo!
We decided that it's time for Corny to become a Western horse for riding down the trail -- the whole arena/dressage thing wasn't fun for either of us anymore.  I'd stopped riding when Mary wasn't coming anymore and was feeling badly about this.  Now she's going to start with him and get him geared to his new life as a trail buddy.  In honor of this new stage of his life, I bought a beautiful new Western bridle for him yesterday.  It still has the tags on it in case it doesn't fit -- Mary will come to the house tomorrow while I'm at school to try out the bridle and give Corny his first lesson.  I'm so happy and excited that I'm just about hugging myself with joy.  I never expected for Mary to call and announce that I was going to start riding again.

Sometimes when plans don't work out, something wonderful still comes along.  Happy day!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My boy, the fabulous Arby Magoo

Arby Magoo

Arby is Mr. Magoo's feline twin.  His resemblence to the cartoon character is uncanny.  The myopic squint.  The jowls.  The benign, rather befuddled way of bumbling through disasters and always coming out on top. Give him a little hat and a cane and you couldn't tell them apart (aside from the whiskers).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Today's German sentence is:

                  "Ich bin eine Lehrerin."
This, I very much hope, translates as "I am a (female) teacher."  I think it was very nice of the Rosetta Stone language program to have me practice this in today's lesson.  I also practiced saying that I was a doctor and a police officer, but I wasn't able to say either of these with much conviction.

Because I'm a Lehrerin, I thought I'd post a picture of a member of my class -- not a student, of course, but of another inhabitant of my little kingdom.

Here he is: the crow I put up for Halloween and ended up liking so much that he stayed up for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He's now a permanent resident of the class and laughs down at us all day long.  I wish I'd taken a picture of him in his Santa hat and holding an ornament in his beak. 

I'm thinking he'll look splendid at Easter in a pair of fuzzy bunny ears. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Birthday

You know you're having a smashing birthday when your dear husband comes home bearing a big paper bag filled with cartons of sushi.  I'd hardly eaten all day and, for good measure, taken the dogs for a brisk two-mile walk when I got home.  I was famished, in the best of all possible ways. 

We downed the lot in record time.  Arby insisted on celebrating with us and I caved and shared a bit of my meal with him.  The worst of it was that I let him eat it on the table (I know I'm going to pay dearly for this indulgence).
For desert...
...2 fabulous cupcakes!
A whole cake would have been too much -- a cupcake was perfect. Arby, bless his fuzzy toes, was content to let me eat it in peace. 
I also had presents (I told you it was a smashing birthday!).  Becky snuck into my classroom after school while I was helping some students with their science fair projects.  I never saw her place the bag of gifts on my chair.  I only looked up when I heard the door close as she left.  The children had seen her and told me a lady had come in with the bag.  I was able to call her back to give her a hug before she left.  She'd beautifully wrapped nine glittery camisoles and one glittery little sweater.  Perfect! 
From Bruce (with no wrapping at all) I got three books -- all three to help me learn GERMAN.  They go along with Bruce's Christmas gift to me of a computer German language course called Rosetta Stone.  It's taken me awhile to get started, but I'm still determined to learn how to speak at least enough German to make myself understood.  I have made it through the first two lessons and can already say such important things as, "Das Pferd trinkt."  (Actually, this may not be exactly correct, but for now, it's close enough.  We all must start somewhere.) 
This has been a lovely way to start the New Year.  After my Christmas doldrums, I'm somehow newly energized and am back to walking my two miles a day, weaving, now learning German, continuing to blog and enjoying teaching.  Life is good.  

Monday, January 7, 2013


Today was a Monday - in spades.  Starting with losing my car keys first thing in the morning. I called Bruce in a panic when I realized that they were nowhere to be found.  He (sweet Bear that he is) turned his car around and was coming back to rescue me when I found them.  This happened as I was on the phone to our school secretary, telling her that I was going to be late for school -- as I spoke I wandered into the kitchen (a place I hadn't searched for the keys) and there they were on the counter.  Laughing at me.  With gusto.

I called Bruce and told him to turn around and go back towards work.  Then I got to school, greeted my 4th graders in a rush just as the second bell rang.  Great hilarity ensued.  I taught until recess, excused my class and immediately locked myself out of my own classroom.  Our school secretary shook her head and laughed as she sent up her keys to let me back into my room.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dutch Babies and Swedish Flags

Yesterday I bravely girded my loins and set forth to work in my classroom for a few hours.  I hadn't been in since that last Friday before Christmas and the room was looking rather forlorn.  The fish were very glad to have me switch on their light and sprinkle in honest-to-God fish flakes.  Although I tossed a food block in the tank before I'd left, they definitely prefer their normal stinky food.  I watered the plants and then took down and boxed up all the Christmas decorations -- lights, the tiny artificial tree, and the ornaments pinned to the wall.  Last to go was the tiny Santa hat I'd put on the fake stuffed crow that watches down on on the class from his perch above the students' desks.  I'll get a picture of him.  Then I ran off next week's worksheets and readied the room for next week.

I'm glad I went in when I did and didn't put it off until today, as I was hit by yet another cold that --incredibly -- came upon me as I was driving home.  This is the third stinker of a cold to hit me in as many weeks -- this was great fun the first two times around, but now it's just a bore.  Mama, Bruce and Becky all are on the tail-end of the ones they had for Christmas, and here I am at the sniffling/sneezing/coughing starting gate yet again. Enough already.

It rained last night, so it was lovely to be able to stay home, knowing that my classroom was presentable for Monday.  For breakfast, Bruce made this delicious thing called a Dutch Baby.  I have no idea why this recipe has such an oddly disquieting name -- thankfully, it doesn't look anything like a baby. 

Dutch Baby is made out of the same ingredients as Yorkshire pudding -- eggs, flour, butter and salt.  In the oven it poofs up magnificently.  Bruce sauteed apples with raisins to go top, along with a caramel sauce to spoon over the whole thing.
Once again, I forgot and began inhaling eating before taking a picture
I may have a cold, but there's nothing wrong with my appetite. 
I also got the baby blanket project for new grand baby Logan on the loom. I chose the blue and gold for the stripes because those are the team colors of the Baltimore Ravens.  As both stepdaughter Chelsea and her husband, Adam, are diehard Ravens fans, it seemed fitting that their newest addition should be wrapped in the blue and gold.  However, when the stripes began to emerge as I wove, it put me in mind of the Swedish flag.  I do like the colors though.
Off to bed -- school tomorrow (what will the cats do without me?).

Friday, January 4, 2013

Seal, Arlo, and the Comfy Bed

Seal and Arlo have been mostly outdoor dogs since they were puppies. At night, they've always slept in a stall in the barn and in the daytime they nap on their dog beds on the porch (or anywhere else they feel like sprawling). They come in from time to time, but usually are restless after a short while and want out.
However, now that they're reaching senior citizen age (11 years old), this winter they're settling into evenings inside. It's nice to have them in with us. We picked them up this dog bed last week and all the cats and dogs have been taking turns sacking out on it. Seal and Arlo were a bit nervous getting on it at first, but now they're jockeying up for their turn. When we're ready for bed, they trot off behind Bruce to be tucked into their stall in the barn. They still like bedding down out there, but I have a feeling that soon they'll be wanting to sleep all night inside the house. 
When that time comes, the welcome mat will be out.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

At Home with Arby

The animals are enjoying that both Bruce and I have been home with them the past two weeks.  The feeling is very much mutual.

Arby and I: sleepy but happy

Arby, whenever he's awake, makes it his mission to be my escort in every room I wander to.  When I cook, he's in the kitchen; when I sleep, he's curled up next to me; when I'm warping yarn, he's right on it (literally).

Here is Arby, off duty for a little while, kangaroo-kicking the bejeebers out of Poom's leopard-print toy pillow-thingy.  I don't really know what it is, but it must have some catnip essence in the stuffing, because all the cats enjoy killing it.  This is extra fun because it's hefty enough for a bloodthirsty cat to really grip with its claws.  Arby's technique: murderous, but refined.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Chicken Soup

Today was another one of those chilly, sunshiny winter days.  I should have gone for a brisk walk, but didn't.  Or cleared out the skeletons of sunflowers and tomato plants from a vegetable garden, but didn't do that either.  I also thought it would be a good idea to clean out all of my kitchen cabinets, but took one look inside one cabinet and put it off to another day. 

In the end my big accomplishment was cooking up a pot of chicken noodle soup (recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen blog and the chicken is one of our home-raised ones that we have in our freezer).  It was a relatively straightforward recipe, but there were a lot of steps -- chopping, sauteing, braising, skimming, and dicing.  The broth is made up of no flavors other than the braised chicken, vegetables, salt and pepper along with eight cups of water.  The aromas wafting up through the steam were this side of heaven -- bright and mouthwatering.  I believe I'm 100% certain that it's one of the best chicken soups I've ever made. 

However, smelling the steam is about all Bruce and I will allow ourselves.  Both Mama and Becky came down with bad colds right after Christmas, and I promised them chicken soup.  I doled out two tiny bowls of it to "test" (which Bruce and I guzzled down in no time flat) and then clamped down the lid so I wouldn't be tempted to sample it again.  We'll divide it into two containers and bring it to one of the invalids tomorrow and the other on Thursday.

My only regret is that this recipe made such a small amount.  Note to self: next time double it!