Thursday, December 30, 2010

One Year Later...in Zeusland

While a year ago was a very sad time in one respect, it was a time of joy and wonder, too.

Why?

Exactly one year ago today, Zeus entered into our lives. Rather, he sauntered off a trailer amidst a cloud of steam in the dark, and became in an instant, a permanent member of our family.

Susan Salk from Off Track Thoroughbreds wrote our story beautifully, which can be read here. It was just the beginning of our journey together...and so much has happened in a year.

I will never forget how Zeus saved Topaz from her chasm of grief and confusion over losing Midnight. The instant he walked into the barn, she settled. This photo was the morning after he arrived - their first official greeting without the bars of the stall grill between them.

Since Zeus was born, raised and mostly raced in Florida, snow was a novelty to him. He loved it though, and although baffled about his freedom after being stalled at the track, he quickly got into the routine of life here at TMF. In this photo, he's "racing fit" and looks so much younger to me - like he hadn't grown into his body yet.
Two months after he arrived, I decided to try a ride on him. And so with Matt nearby with the camera in one hand and the phone to dial 911 in the other, I hopped aboard to see what I had. And I noticed I could see plain as day into the barn gutters as we walked past - it was then that I realized just how tall he was! It looks like I'm wearing a lot of padding, as my friend Atena said.


Through the spring and summer, we schooled, we practiced and honed our skills in our own ring at home. Hot, cold, wet or dry weather, we got to know every nuance about each other - the good and the bad.
And with that, we entered our very first show together, in September. And he was a star. After about 90 minutes of screaming, pacing, and generally aggravating all of the show participants and officials (sorry guys, but you've gotta start somewhere!). The crowd scattered and hid when we got there - but after they all saw him rise to the occasion and perform like a pro, they were standing in line to meet him and even take photos with him. I think they would have asked for autographs if it were possible!

A short month after that, we entered our first Hunter Pace. To be honest, Zeus had only been ridden off our property about 5 times, and even then, it was just to the end of the road and back - not a grueling 10 mile pace through all sorts of terrain.
Again, he proved to me that we were meant to be a team, and he was absolutely perfect. He didn't put a foot wrong, didn't spook, and I think, had the time of his life too! When a horse enjoys their job as much as you do riding them, there is no better feeling.

Throughout 2010, we had lots of highs, but definitely some lows as well. And like the best intentioned team, we were clearly in sync with each other so much that....well, you'll see.
Early in April, Zeus had a meltdown as I was mounting up and he bolted, catapulting me into a fencepost, after running my side along about 30 feet of fencing. I still have a scar where the fence pummeled me, but even better, I had several broken and cracked ribs to show for it! Including a rib that was broken in one place and cracked in another, so if I even sneezed the wrong way, I'd have a punctured kidney. Awesome!
It should be noted that Matt was not nearby with 911 on speed dial - he was in the house, taking a nap when this occurred. (Tee hee!)
Ok, I wasn't laughing then. But, broken ribs and all, I got right back up on Zeus and made him perform, and then practically melted off him in a puddle of pain.

Not to be outdone, Zeus decided it would be fun to get kicked (we think) by Siggy in July during some roughhousing, and not only lacerated his hind leg down to the muscle, but also had a chip of bone taken out of his leg.
After 5 vet visits to administer IV fluids, clean, staple the wound and essentially keep him alive and not hurt himself further, we had some more Xrays to show for that! You can actually see the chip below in July, and then another later Xray from October, showing how well the leg has healed up. Thank goodness for youth! I think there's a reason I named him Resilient.
(Xray courtesy of Dunbarton Equine)All in all, it's been an eventful first year as a team, to say the least. But I am so, so proud of my boy. I can't believe how he's surprised me - in good ways. And I can't wait to see what the next year brings for us.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best Bread You'll Ever Make


Lots of people asked for the recipe for Pumpkin Zucchini bread. I've given it out to a select few, and all have had great results! I think it's a great hors d'oeuvre, and I've even been known to snack on a slice at breakfast. It's probably more nutritious than those Toaster Strudels I seem to be hooked on. If you've asked for a different recipe, never fear! I will get that to you as soon as I can.


This recipe makes two loaves, so make one to impress the pants off some guests, neighbors or friends (though I do hope, in most cases, they keep their pants on). But do yourself a favor and keep one loaf for yourself. You deserve it! This bread also freezes very well.


Enjoy!


Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 T vanilla extract
3 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
1 cup shredded zucchini

In a bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Add pumpkin, butter and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir in zucchini. Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until breads test done. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Much Fun!

I've been having such a good time with my new camera that Matt got me for Christmas!

I actually think I annoyed him a little yesterday with my obsessive need to get some really good photos.

You might have heard, we had a little snow this past weekend.
Yeah. Just a little.



In a blizzard or other major storm, the horses still need round-the-clock care - that doesn't change. However, the plan has to be altered when we have several feet of snow, some drifts that are taller than I am, and gale force winds that yes, knock me over.



Yesterday morning, I had to clean their stalls, but with the winds and the snow still falling heavily, they could only go out one at a time.



I will tell you one thing: Horses LOVE the snow. Love it. This morning, they all went out together and practically had horsey snow angel contests, where they would all lay down and roll in the fresh snow, over and over and over again. I wish I had my camera then!



Alas, I did get some good footage yesterday.


This was Zeus, after he'd rolled once. He doesn't look bay anymore. As you can see, he's digging again to roll a second time, with his tongue stuck out to catch some wayward snowflakes.


And....here's a third time. (Video!)





Topaz even rolled - the snow makes them feel younger and more playful, I think. But I daresay she'll sleep well tonight, after having to walk through feet of snow all day long. I predict a mid afternoon nap for her.



And then Siggy rolled at least 3 times.

And then he frolicked, and had a ball taunting Zeus, who already had his turn. (Video)





Even though we shoveled, shoveled again, and shoveled some more after the drifts (ok - Matt shoveled), seeing their joy over the snow somehow makes it as much fun for us, as it does for them!

Monday, December 27, 2010

One Year Later

(Video/ Song)




December 28, 2009 was hands down, the worst day of my life thus far.

It was the day I said goodbye to someone who altered the path of my life forever. Someone I told all my secrets to. We grew up together, had incredible highs and lows together, and he made me into who I am today.

One year ago today, I lost my beloved Midnight, suddenly to colic.

12 hours prior, Matt and I were enjoying a lovely afternoon with some very good friends of ours, Mike and Julie, who are from California. After they left, the rest of the evening involved frantic calls to vets, walking Midnight in the freezing cold night, and finally having my mom race over and lastly, good friend Carla with her trailer to take him to a 24 hour clinic where he'd have round the clock veterinary care.

When it was clear he wasn't going to pull through, I had to say goodbye to him. But, in his own way, he let me know it was time to go, and he was ok with it.

Zeus blazed into my life just a mere 2 days later, but it took months for me to recover. I still remember meeting loyal blog reader Aislinn for the first time, a month afterward, and barely being able to keep it together as we talked about Midnight at a restaurant. Aislinn, like so many others, gave me her thoughts and helped me realize that it's ok to be sad, but to also know that he is just fine, wherever he is.

I never forgot how many emails, phone calls, comments, and even artwork I received. Midnight touched so many lives, and I never realized how special he was to so many people. I was so overwhelmed and grateful to know that other people felt that Midnight was as special to them, as he was to me.

Somewhere, Midnight must have known that the path that led us here - to Wingdale, to Zeus and Siggy, and onward to Akindale - was a path that would define the next chapter in our lives. Although the loss was monumental, I have been able to bring home 2 horses who needed us as much as I needed them. And, I am now helping horses every day - horses who, like Midnight, just needed a little attention and lots of love to flourish.

I wonder if he misses me. I see him not only in Zeus sometimes, but in other horses too - Chief, Flurry, and even in moments with Topaz.

I miss you too, Midzie.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Debunking the Funfetti Mystery

I hope everyone had a marvelous Christmas!

Do you remember this cake? I posted it in my Bakeathon entry a few days ago.
I was shocked to get so many requests for the recipe for Funfetti! It is a delicious cake, I'll admit.

But, unlike the other confections I made from scratch, this is not one of them.
Bear with me while I unfurl the directions for Funfetti cake.
Step 1: Head to your local grocery store.
Step 2: Head for the Cake/ Baking Needs aisle.
Step 3: Look for this box.
Yup. There it is, folks!
At certain times of year, there's a theme! I couldn't find a holiday box, but here are some sample boxes for the other times of the year where you might need a little Funfetti.

Who doesn't love a cupcake that practically screams our National Anthem?
Step 4: Look for coordinating holiday frosting.


Now, just follow the instructions on the box, slap on the frosting, and voila!

In all honesty, I know box cake mixes used to be pretty deplorable. Nowadays, they're actually really good, and even better if you're on a deadline. The frosting has come a long way, too. I'll occasionally "cheat" and make one of these cakes for a dessert, and usually, people request seconds.
You can, however, make your own Funfetti cake. How? With your own typical vanilla cake recipe, just toss in some colored sprinkles in the colors of your choice. Seriously. Pillsbury is making a fortune by throwing some sprinkles in their cake mix.
Ahhh, Funfetti. Fun to eat, is all I know!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The big Holiday Event here was a smashing success. Everyone had a marvelous time, great food was had, and many laughs and memories will be remembered in the year to come!

And, my Christmas gift from Matt was a new digital camera! So the photos in this post are all from the new camera. I LOVE it.

The Snowflake Cake that I mentioned in my last post was a hit!

Here I am with my niece Emily, putting on the handmade white chocolate snowflakes. They weren't as hard as I thought they would be, and she just loved helping me!



The finished product!


Someone looks excited, don't you think?

There are few things better than sitting back and noticing everyone having a lovely time and really enjoying each other's company, in your home.
Who is the guy on the left? That's Oz! (Hi Oz!) Oz is a friend of ours, originally from London but now in NYC. We are the New York branch of his American family, and this is the second Christmas he's spent with us. We love having him!
This picture was taken by my dad. Not too shabby!


Today, I went out to the barn with the camera and had some fun. So did Siggy! He looks dapper in one of his Christmas gifts - a brand new blanket, just for him! It was an unexpected gift - Zeus bit a hole and ripped the blanket he was wearing - but this way, he gets something new and all his. And, it gets better! Siggy's Auntie Arliss sent him a special delivery that arrived this morning....new shipping boots! He's going to look smashing in them, and more importantly, they'll protect his legs when we take him for a ride in the horse trailer. Thank you, Arliss!
Zeus will pose all day long for the camera. He knows he's photogenic!
Ahhh, Christmas Eve hay. In warm, cozy blankets. Tonight they'll get Christmas candy canes in their dinners, and a special breakfast mash on Christmas morning.

From all of us here at TMF, we want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the brightest of New Years!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bakeathon - Christmas Edition

My in-laws are coming, my in-laws are coming!

Luckily for me, I love it when my in-laws visit. Not only are they helpful, but they are also such fun to talk to and have little adventures with.

But they're arriving at noon today. Why haven't you heard from me?

I'm rolling out the red carpet. Although it should be called the Cookie Carpet.

We have our large Christmas dinner here tomorrow night(Thursday), and with that comes about 10 guests. I haven't even come close to starting the dinner yet, but the desserts are done!

First, we have Festive Nuts. These are walnuts that are rolled around and baked in butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and egg whites. Such a simple little idea that yields a delicious snack! I have to refrain when eating these...they go quickly.
Next up we have my famous (seriously!) Pumpkin Zucchini bread. It combines the love of two breads into one delicious concoction. My recipe makes 2 loaves, so I freeze the second and save it for the day everyone goes home. Then I have a date with the bread. Nom nom.

Why is it famous? I brought it to my NYC office pot luck one year, and it was voted by the 150+ people in the office as the best dish of the day!

Matt loves Funfetti cake. Loves it. So, as a pre-holiday surprise, I baked one up for him. We are trying to finish it off before everyone arrives, but about half of it still remains. And that's ok. Because it's delish. I just may have some with my coffee.
And last but certainly not least....the Tree Cookies. This recipe was passed down from my grandmother, my mom's mom, and the dough is so stiff that a cookie press made today, will break in 5 minutes or less. So for these cookies, a trip to Ebay is recommended to buy a "Mirro Cooky Press." Yep. I know how to spell 'cookie.' But, Mirro preferred to brand themselves as Cooky. The Press was made in the 1950's, and you can still find them on Ebay. I ended up buying 2, just in case one breaks!
These cookies usually need to be hidden until the company arrives. Then the free-for-all begins.
Not photographed but still baked, is the Snowflake Cake for the Christmas dinner dessert (not complete, the snowflakes need to be made yet), and the Overnight Breakfast Casserole which sat - you guessed it - overnight, and baked this morning while I mucked the barn.
How's that for multitasking?

If anyone wants the recipes to any of the above yumminess, let me know! I'm happy to share.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Want a Horseopotamus for Christmas...

When I was a little girl, every year without fail, I would ask my parents if Santa would bring me a horse for Christmas. And for every objection they would come up with, I would have a completely logical answer.

For example:
Mom & Dad: "Santa can't fit a horse in the sleigh."
Moi: "The horse can help pull the sleigh!"

Mom & Dad: "The horse won't have a barn to live in."
Moi: "You can move the cars out of the garage and the horse can live in there."

Mom & Dad: "Our cars won't live outside."
Moi: "Ok, then. Santa can bring a barn in pieces in the sleigh and Dad can put it together."

See what I mean?

But when I was little, I would write and draw stories where my special horse would follow me everywhere - to school, to the park (to jump the park benches, of course - which I got to do when I was a teenager on a horse), and around the neighborhood. This horse would just happily go wherever I go, much like a beloved dog for many other people.

Well. This year, those daydreams I had are a reality! Not that he's mine, of course, but he may just follow me home. Literally. Chief and I...we're close.

(Must-see Video!)


And a screeching halt on command (4 second video):

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tracks

There is nothing cuter than kitty tracks in the snow.
While Mojo loves to have his time outside, when winter rolls around we find him frequently at the top of the basement stairs, waiting for us to bring him into the living room to let him sleep on the couch. Much to Monster and Whimsey's dismay. Do you remember when you were little, you'd come in from playing in the snow, all red cheeked with frozen fingers and toes? All you wanted was some hot chocolate to warm you up. The couch is equivalent to Mojo's hot chocolate.

We usually end up caving in, letting him sleep, supervised on our couch. And he sure does make the most of it.

Do you think he's relaxed or what?

He actually sleeps like that on occasion.
And sometimes, he climbs up into our arms for a good snuggle and snooze.
Ahhhh. Toasty!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I sang that. Honest.

It was finally time to decorate the tree the other day. The weather was wretched, my cold was running rampant, and Christmas cheer was not high on my list.

I was convinced that a little tree decorating would improve that. Usually, we'd like to have the tree up the weekend of Thanksgiving, so we can make the most of the Christmas season. We'll try to be more timely next year.

So, here we are. Go big or go home.
This is in our Three Season Room, also known as the Monster room. It doesn't have heat but it is insulated and has a pellet stove, and it gets nice and toasty in there in winter! In summer, the windows become screens for a lovely screened in porch. But in winter, it's usually the same temperature as it is outside unless the fire is lit. Our tree, in essence, turns into a treesicle. It's frozen until a warm spell in about February.

I was all ready. The atmosphere was great. Christmas music playing in the background, the fire adding warmth and ambiance...

And a festive cup of coffee in a mug with a sleigh on it. Oh yes, we were ready!

So there we were, Matt and I, acting as a team to string up the lights. We get to the last remaining set of lights, and.....and....
They don't work.

AAAAAAAAAAGH!

We had to silence the Christmas music, snuff out the fire, take care of 7 horses, go grocery shopping and somewhere in there, find some new lights. Commercial grade lights.

Needless to say, it was much later in the day when we finally resumed trimming the tree.
Once again, we started the fire, let the room warm up, cued up the Christmas music, but...
I needed something to give me strength. I deep sixed the coffee.
Oh yeah. Come to Mama.

This, my friends, is a Muffins Martini. A signature cocktail of ours, it's both festive and delicious. Beyond delicious. It is decadence in a glass.
Thanks to the magic of the Muffins Martini.....ta daaa!
Success!
The rest of it was fairly easy, and fun getting out ornaments that we'd forgotten we had. I think everyone else experiences that too.
That, my friends, is our finished tree. Which we're very happy with. Now I just have to wrap presents to go underneath the tree...and finish shopping for them.

Last but not least...a video documenting the tree and a special Elf!


Friday, December 10, 2010

No Rest for the Weary

I've got a bad cold.

And no voice.

Wah.

The other day, I picked Matt up from the train. My voice was husky and going in and out, and I thought, "Oh! He'll think it's really sexy and fun and different!"

I asked him, with a flip of my hair, "How was your day?" when he got in the car.

He replied, "Oh my God, you sound like an old man!"

So much for sexy.

Anyway, it's been pretty miserable. I'm sneezing, my head feels like a giant bubble (a painful one at that), I have no voice, and I'm coughing. Typical seasonal cold that just gets in the way.

I have no time to be sick!

The thing is, when you have horses, there are no sick days. Horses don't really understand that concept. So those of us who work with them press on and go about our days.

The funny thing is, with no voice, that makes life interesting. Chief is below, having a "Huh?" moment.
That's him staring at me as I tried to whisper/ yodel/ mime "Hiiii Chiefy!" like I always do. He seems confused. It looks like me, smells like me, but it sure doesn't sound like me. Dream, off in her pink plaid, seems less concerned - she's a little camera shy.

The thing is, even when I'm sick, as soon as I'm working with and around my horses....I forget. I forget that I don't feel well, because I'm so focused on them. Even just getting a shoulder nudge from Chief or giving Dream a good scratch and she looks at me like, "Oh yeah, that's the spot!" makes it better.

And how could I forget Flurry and Piety, the model citizens of Thoroughbred rescue. They make it so easy for me to love on them - they're so well behaved and just go with the flow. Which makes life easier for me when I'm a coughing, sneezing mess.
Then of course, there are our own horses, who still nicker and snuffle at me. They don't care about germs.
And I love that about them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Baby Love

I'm sure you've all been wondering how the Babies have been doing.

Well, here they are! Say hello!

They are doing fabulously. They're beginning to sass us around a little and show their individual personalities. They have been visited by our fantastic vet a few times, and although they look thin, it's because the worms that were taking over their insides are on their way out. The babes are just making room for all the good stuff - hay, grain, fresh water and maybe a carrot or two.

The little Bay Lady is a camera hog. She just loves the attention and I think is in the running for Gerber's "Cutest Baby of the Year" competition. You didn't think that was just for human babies, did you?

They are happy little girls, these two. Getting to play outside in a big, safe field and having a warm, cozy stall with lots of fresh hay at night is where it's at.

For today, playtime in the field makes it the best day ever!


Doggie Day

About a week ago, I went to a competition. Only this time, I wasn't the competitor, or even the groom. I was merely a spectator and cameragal.

For what seemed like a million years, my mom trucked me all over the country to compete with my horses. She would be a groom, coach, psychiatrist, driver and finder of the best pizza wherever we happened to be. The tables have turned a bit, and Mom has found her passion in showing dogs. Now she gets the spotlight and I'm happy to come out and support her, since, hello, she spent countless weekends in motels and at horse parks, walking courses and helping me memorize dressage tests.

Mom's dog, Checkers, seems to really have a natural panache when she's in the show ring. When she's at home, she's chasing slippers and taking slippers, moving them to another location, and somehow, always moving matching sets of slippers.

She's a smart little lady, that Checkers.

Anyway, let's get to the fun stuff.

Here's the pregame show.
Checkers is getting primped and perfected, and looks rather stoic all the while, doesn't she?

Here we are right before entering the ring. After Chex was all done up and Mom got her own show duds on (and please note the lack of polyester so many other competitors sport), Chex got the pink fleece thingy placed on her bum. The reason?
Chex tends to have such fluffy fur "back there" that it appears she has some junk in the trunk. So Mom has to keep that volume under control. It's like Spanx for dogs.
Somehow, I can relate.

And it's Show Time!
Here's the judge checking out Chex's conformation and expression.

And here's the lineup....nice looking group, eh?

This shot is definitely my favorite. I took this with mom's camera before they went in the ring, as they were practicing their jog (or whatever you call it in doggy terms...the romp? Jaunt?). Mom and Chex are in tune to each other and everything around them just blurred.
Perfect.