Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Big Announcement

2011 was a year of highs, lows, excitement and angst, for a variety of reasons. I can't think of anyone who wasn't affected by the events of the year, whether it was due to the economy, weather, or other personal circumstance. I hope that 2012 brings each and every one of you joy, hope and everything you wish for. I also hope you keep your New Year's resolution, if you have one.

I have a resolution that will actually be quite easy to keep. Are you ready for it?

My resolution is to gain 25 pounds.

(I'm hearing a chorus of "huh?!" and "what??" coming through the computer.)

That's right. Gain 25 pounds.

Matt and I are expecting a baby in July!

We are thrilled and terrified, which is the norm for first time parents, I hear. Are we ready for this? How will our lives change?

Of course, I've already browsed baby backpacks so Baby can be toted along on cross country course walks, because really, you move much faster with that than a stroller. And I've got plans to enter the Adult Team Challenge with friends and fellow eventing gal pals Katie Murphy and Suzanne Adams next September. But Baby is no stranger to equestrian accomplishments - in fact, he or she has already completed a hunter pace, and was the fastest team of the day.

2012 will be a year of firsts for us...and I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kleenex Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I hope you have all had a treasured few days with family and friends, those near and dear to you. We were blessed enough to enjoy not only both our families, but lovely friends as well. More recipes coming - namely the Breakfast Casserole - but I just had to share this with you.

Matt and I had planned to not give each other gifts this year. We'd made a few large purchases, and with an impending trip overseas next year to best friend Bex's wedding (in Ireland - YAY) among other things, we thought we had enough.

Evidently Matt thought otherwise!

Christmas Day was lovely and quiet, just the two of us and the horses and cats. We were sitting in front of a fire, the tree twinkling and Christmas carols serenading us. As I was just taking a moment to enjoy my surroundings, Matt says, "What's that?"

"What's what?"
"What are you looking at?"
"I was just enjoying the tree."
"Are you sure? What else are you looking at?"
Me, thinking he's imbibed in too much eggnog: "Umm, the tree."
"I think there's something else over there. You might want to check it out."

I'm thoroughly confused by this point.

What else is a girl to do? I got up, looked at the tree, then looked down. At the bottom of the tree was a wrapped box. Thought #1: How long has that been there while I wandered past, oblivious? Thought #2: What the heck is in there?!

It didn't take long to find out. After ripping the wrapping paper, I unearthed....a box of tissues. There was a note.
Am I getting a cold for Christmas?

So I turn them over. And I can only imagine the look on my face before I burst into tears and blubbered a million things like, "Oh my God!" and "I can't believe you did this!"
It was tickets to see the hit play War Horse at Lincoln Center....a play I'd been talking about since it opened in March. After winning 5 Tony awards, it's original June 26th curtain call was nixed for an open-ended run. And we're two lucky people to have the opportunity to experience the wonder of this play.

My parents always took my brother and I to theatre, both local community shows and Broadway, so seeing a play or musical is an occasion to get dressed up and really soak up the story that unfolds in front of you. I'm sure I'll be affected and will connect with the story, even though the "horses" are puppets and I've never been to war.

Now all I have to figure out is how to cram several boxes of tissues in my handbag.

And how to show Matt how grateful I am that he gave me such a wonderful, unexpected gift. I feel especially blessed this Christmas.

(War Horse Lincoln Center Montage Video)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Festive Cookies

Let me set the stage.

Matt and I went to the grocery store over the weekend to get everything we needed for the big Christmas gathering at our house this weekend. We have friends and family coming, some from all over the country, and others from other parts of the world! Yes, we feel really lucky to be having such a great Christmas with so many people.

I usually make Christmas tree cookies, which I'll be making this year as well. Earlier this year, I made a new recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and Matt said they were so good (and he's right - they are), that he'd like to have some made for his family visiting. Since I don't think there will be any more rugelach when they arrive Friday, I acquiesced.

Anyway.

Since chocolate chip cookies don't scream Christmas to me, I had to "Christmas" them up a bit. So I went in search of festive M&M's. You know, the red and green ones.

The first grocery store....they were out. No problem, we'll just go to another one.

The second one was out too. Every other festive candy you can think of was there, but not the M&M's. Matt grabs a regular bag (gasp) and says, "Here they are, let's go!"

"You expect me to use (gasp again) regular M&M's?"
"Well, maybe I don't like M&M's in my cookies."
"Regular M&M's aren't festive! I need these cookies to be festive!"
(between gritted teeth) "We...are...taking...these...M&Ms...and...we'll....deal."
"Oh, fine. But you get to pick out the red and green ones."
There's not enough festive in there.

For the rest of the day, I heard the word "festive" uttered around the house. I don't know why he was so frustrated.

After the "festive" M&Ms were separated from the "non-festive" ones, I decided there just wasn't enough festive in the cookie dough. So for good measure, a mess of sprinkles went in there too.
Cookie/ M&M/ Sprinkle Mess

I have to tell you, these cookies are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever eaten. Or made. They've got oatmeal in them too, so bonus! You can eat them for breakfast. They have eggs, flour, butter, and oatmeal in them. That's breakfast. And sprinkles.

Also, adding to the delicious, is another ingredient that really works.
They're singing "Now bring me some figgy pudding..." On a side note, don't you find that to be the most demanding carol ever? "...and bring it right here!" Oh really? I don't think those carolers were very popular.
Whether you choose to "festive" up these cookies or make them at any other time of year...they're phenomenal. You'll love them. And hopefully Matt's family will too, since most of the rugelach is gone. Nom nom.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the oats, flour, dry pudding mix, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks. Yield: about 7 dozen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rock & Roll Rugelach

Welcome to the Christmas recipes! Or Festivus, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, whatever you choose to celebrate. In actuality, rugelach (or rogelach or a zillion other possible spellings) is from Jewish origin, but the French are horning in and saying it was their idea. I'm horning in and saying it's delicious. So there.

My mom made rugelach (pronounced rug-lah) when I was growing up, and to me, it means Christmas. Finally this year I asked her for the recipe, and I'm so glad I did. I made them this morning, and they're just too good not to share. I eat these as a breakfast food, but they're good at any time of day. Promise.

The recipe in full is below, but I'll give you some photos to give you a rough idea of the process. Fair warning: it's a two day extravaganza, but it's easy. Time-consuming, perhaps, but again - so worth it.

So you make dough first, and roll it into balls the size of golf balls.
Aw, look. They're happy to see you.

Then you stick all the balls in the refrigerator and let them hang out overnight. After you dream about them, you can actually get to the time consuming part the next day.
Roll 'em out! Do yourself a favor and load up on the flour or else you'll have some unsticking to do. More flour is better than less. Trust me on that one.

Now, Mom said to make these into rectangular shapes. I'm here to tell you, short of some origami miracle, mine were not about to look like rectangles. That's what the majority of them looked like - above.

Slice them on the diagonal to make (sorta) wedges, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling on top. I found it helpful to pat down the filling with the back of the spoon. Then it was more committed to staying on the dough.
Come to mama.

Then you roll 'em up, and stick 'em in the oven! Easy peasy, right?

Let me tell you. I think I'm good at this baking business. I thought they would look like these perfect little crescent roll-ish guys. I now bow to my mother's skill, because not one of them looked like a neat little crescent roll. Not one. I had a few flubs that sort of unraveled in the oven. So if you do too, don't sweat it.

Once they're done baking, let them cool for a few minutes, then go find a guinea pig.
I asked Matt if he would eat one of my "flubs." You know, one of the rugelach that didn't quite look right. They'd taste perfect, though. Matt yelled from the living room, "I don't want the flubs!"

I gave him a flub anyway.

Two minutes later, I hear, "Do you have any more flubs in there?!"

Yeah, they're that good.
Leftover filling carnage. It's ok. Sprinkle it on your cereal or oatmeal or something.
Ahh, Christmas is here. And it's tasty. A few more recipes forthcoming this week, including the elusive Breakfast Casserole!

Rogelach/ Rugelach
1 8-oz cream cheese
2 c flour
1/2 lb (two sticks) butter
4T sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese. Blend in flour and sugar. Roll into balls about golf ball size. Refrigerate overnight.

On floured board, flatten and roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Try to make them rectangular shape -- I found they're easier to cut into triangles this way. Cut wedges.

Filling:
1 cup ground walnuts
2 t cinnamon
1 c sugar

Sprinkle wedges with sugar/cinnamon/nut mixture generously. Roll each wedge starting from wide end.

Bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes. Less time if they're small.

ETA: Turns out Mom didn't always have perfect crescents - she admitted at dinner this evening that she ate all of her flubs! The secret is revealed! (Now I know where I get it from.)

She also added that she would take the golf balls, roll them into tube shapes or sausages, then roll them with a rolling pin - making a more rectangle shape. To add to the Martha Stewart-esque fabulousness of my mom, she would slice the wonky ends of the dough off to make a neat rectangle - which didn't occur to me. Duh. The leftover (wonky end) dough would be combined at the end to create more rugelach! Genius!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mr. December

We all know Zeus is dashing.

But more than just us who know him took notice.

A few months back, I was asked to submit a few photos of Zeus and I for the possibility of a 2012 calendar for CANTER, the adoption organization that he came from, and I'm now fortunate enough to work for. It's no secret that CANTER is an outstanding organization with top-notch horses just waiting for a chance at a new career.

Evidently, Zeus is a poster child for this national rescue, along with 11 others.

He was chosen to be Mr. December (which he is pointing out to everyone around the barn these days), and his photo, along with our story, reminds me how lucky I am to have such a superb horse.
What I loved even more, however, were reading the stories of all the other owners and their own OTTBs. The owner of Mr. September, Malibu Eclipse, contacted me to say hello and to connect, as we had mutual friends in the horse world, and he wanted to know if his horse was any relation to my beloved Midnight Eclipse.

How cool is that?

Anyway, I'm letting you know that you should (yes, you really should) click here to purchase a calendar of your own. 100% of the proceeds go to CANTER, and that means the money goes to beautiful, exceptional horses who are still waiting for their forever homes.

And hey, if you need a last minute Christmas gift....look no further! My calendar arrived mere days after I ordered it, so yours can arrive in plenty of time for gift giving. Calendars are limited, so don't wait another moment!

Go get your calendar. Not only will you know what day it is in 2012, it's just the right thing to do. Zeus says so.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kitty Elf

Decorating is exhausting.
Dad gets tired too, when Mom is in a tizzy hanging things and talking about the Christmas dinner menu, so we're just hanging out on the couch.

So what if I look like a pretzel? I look so cute that Mom has stopped asking me to help hang ornaments from the windows.
I do love Christmas though. It usually involves lots of catnip, kitty treats and people visiting and fawning all over me. So take note, Santa Kitty....there is no such thing as too much catnip. Or kitty treats.

I'll be right here, upside down. You know where to find me.

Love,
Mojo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Deck the Halls

It's been pretty quiet here at TMF. Horses, teaching, waiting for Winter to set in, and begin the long haul until Spring. As I type this, it's 60 degrees and raining. Go figure!

While things are relatively boring (and believe me, I'll take boring on occasion, especially when boring doesn't involve vet bills!), we've been busy decking the halls! I was determined to decorate sooner than I did last year, and now we get to enjoy it for an extra week. Lovely!

So in the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd give you a little taste of the holidays at TMF. Not all decorations are up, but here's hoping these photos bring you a little cheer, no matter where you are!
Whimsy experiences major joy keeping tabs on the squirrels, and Mojo, who I'm sure was trolling around the front yard...
Christmas kitties! I'm sensing a theme here. And a random sheep.
Nothing beats having Heat Miser and Snow Miser greet you when you enter the guest bathroom! (Bonus points if you know what Christmas movie they're from...)
Here's our dining room, also known as my favorite room in the house. If you can look past my sweaters drying on the backs of the chairs, you'll see the ornament centerpiece, snowflakes and ornaments on the window, and do I spy some glass snowflakes in the chandelier?
I love the word "Joy." It really brings about the feeling of the holidays, in my opinion. Monster thinks so too. Believe it or not, Matt is standing next to me, telling Monster about his day (a regular occurrence) and Monster sits in rapt attention, absorbing every word. It's riveting at the Wall Street Journal, I tell you!

And the final touch....
Fa la la la laaaaaa! This tree turned out so big that our ornaments look a little sparse. Go big or go home. I think I said that last year, too.

Stay tuned for more good cheer, perhaps some holiday recipes, and photos! December has only just begun...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks.

So Thanksgiving is here, and hopefully you're either tucking into your home and preparing to welcome family and friends, or you've already reached your destination to spend the day enveloped in tradition, warmth and good tidings.

I love that this holiday not only means eating as much as you want (yippeee!) but it also signifies taking a look back at your blessings from the year past, and the little things all around you.

We are first and foremost grateful for our families, who offer encouragement, support and advice, not to mention humor!

We are grateful to our clients, who make TMF the family and community it has become. From kids to adults, people near and far, TMF has become a tightly knit home for many - not just us and the horses. TMF has been in operation for almost two years now, and the people around us shape the wonderful place it has become. (Student Rachel learning on Topaz)
We are grateful to our horses, who bring us joy every day and give the gift of companionship, understanding and riding not only to Matt and I, but to our students!

I am grateful for Zeus - an amazing creature who has proven to be a rising star in eventing, and who has led several hunter paces and overcome obstacles in only the way Zeus can! I'm also grateful for the horses I ride for clients, who continue to teach me and allow me to work with them with kindness and compassion. (Minuet, photo by owner Karen Jones)
We are grateful to our kitties who cuddle up with us when we need it most, and always amuse us. And for kitty Mojo, who delights TMF guests by being the official welcoming committee. (photo by Dennis Chunga)
It goes without saying, but I feel we're fortunate to have a roof over our heads, food aplenty, and all the bells and whistles to live a comfortable life. Far too many people aren't experiencing that this year.

Matt, myself, and all of our family here at TMF want to wish you the warmest and most joyful Thanksgiving! Enjoy...and save me a piece of pie, ok? I like pie.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dewamere's Debut

Heart is her middle name.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to work with a little mare named Dewamere, who is for adoption through CANTER New England. She's 15.1 and petite, but her heart and open mind gives her a larger than life personality.

I'd spent some quality time with this little lady before, but this was the first time I saddled her up to see what I really had to work with. You see, Dewamere is actually blind in one eye. In visits past, she seemed to be acclimating to her eyesight (a somewhat recent development), and therefore, a bit mistrusting and unsure of what she couldn't see.
This visit was different. She was peaceful. She was happy to have people working on either side of her, grooming her and lavishing her with attention. Aside from the occasional glance around, she was quiet and happy to be groomed and tacked up.

Then it was time to ride!

Under saddle, you'd have no idea she's blind in one eye. This was the first time anyone had been on her back since she left the racetrack, so it's a total surprise what you're going to get.

And what a delightful surprise it was! She was quiet, reaching for the bit in some instances, and happy to do whatever I asked. She stepped (and then jumped!) over a groundpole with ease, making me think she could also have a career that involves some jumping.
And her gaits. Oh, her gaits are fabulous. Smooth and buttery sweet, she can have an animated, forward trot or an ambling jog, perfect for that pleasure trail ride. Her canter is a rolling, rhythmic ride, and for a horse who hasn't been ridden in a long time, she's shockingly balanced and even in both directions.

But don't let me continue to wax poetic about her. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but perhaps you can see her potential yourself in the video below. I have grown so fond of this little mare. She's a sweet, kind-hearted creature who has all the talent and possibility in the world. What a gift it would be for someone to love her.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Arrival of the Beast

Well, hello there, Beastie.
Welcome to the family.
Christmas came early for me this year in the form of a Ford F250. V10 engine, Class 5 hitch and all the towing power to cart our horses around everywhere we want to go.
And you thought all girls ever wanted were handbags and shoes.
Yup. It's really as tall as me. Isn't that FABULOUS?!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snoctober Smackdown

I refuse to call it "Snowtober" like everyone else called it. That's too nice. Too charming. Snoctober is more like it. We got snocked by snow, over a foot of it, and it snocked us on our kiesters. It snocked down some trees.
It snocked down a town snowplow nearby (which explains why our street didn't get plowed until a Good Samaritan came by with his personal plow). It's actually missing two back wheels - no idea where they went.
And now we will spend the next few weeks cursing the last owners of our home, who thought adding 147 (!!!!!!!???!!!!!!!) shrubs and trees to the property "added value."

I could just snock somebody upside the head.

Of course it missed snocking down the hideous pigeon coop. We'll have to wait for the next natural disaster.
It trashed the willow trees we both liked.
And the burning bush (far right) is just about extinguished, looks like.
In all seriousness, it could have been a lot worse. We did lose power for 4 days, but we're fortunate enough to have a generator (best purchase ever!). While we got by with our generator, pellet stoves and wood furnace, we still had to dash up to an hour away to Mom and Dad's house to get water for the horses - approximately 40 gallons a day. I've driven around/ under/ over more tree limbs and power lines than I ever wish to again.
Matt and I spent Saturday morning looking at trucks to purchase and as soon as we got home, we looked at each other and thought it would be a good idea to fill up our emergency buckets. We were headed outside to do just that, when the power went out. Out here in the country, if you don't have power, you don't have a way to pump water from your well. Awesome! We got to do some really fun activities like hauling water up from the stream so we could flush toilets.
But the power is now back, so I'm happily filling water buckets, doing laundry and took a very luxurious hot shower. There's still a lot of work to do, but all inhabitants at TMF fared just fine - and that's most important. Even the vultures, who looked like they were praying over the downed power lines. Apparently, they were hoping some chants would bring cable back sooner.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two-Time Reject

Have I mentioned how awesome Zeus is?

Maybe once or twice.

I titled this post "Two Time Reject" because he was rejected in racing, then he wasn't chosen at the Suffolk Showcase in 2009. Their loss was my gain. The annual Suffolk Showcase for the horses that need to find homes this year is this Sunday, October 23rd.

Zeus is building quite a following, and one of his fans is the ridiculously talented Susan Salk, who writes Off-Track Thoroughbreds.

Click on this link.

A huge heartfelt thank you to Sue for continuing to share this journey with us, and giving some press to my two very special girls Dotpower and Dewamere! If you like what you read, go visit it regularly or subscribe, as not only is it all about success stories of OTTBs, it also features really useful, helpful articles on health and nutrition.

I love my horse. Amen!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ten Things We Love About Snoopy

I have been very delinquent in not officially introducing Snoopy to the blog. Snoopy is our newest resident at TMF, and he's been here since the end of June. Snoopy used to belong to the very genuine and talented Ann Leary, who trusted us with Snoopy's care and to find a new job and forever home for him. Ann has a new book coming out which we're very excited about, and I'll be sure to let you know so you can all run out and buy it.

Anyway, Snoopy was purchased by clients of mine, and it's been a match made in Heaven ever since. Snoopy loves his new career of trail riding and hunter pacing, and has made friends quickly with our horses. Instead of just telling you about him (how boring), I thought I'd give you a little peek inside the Life of Snoopy.
Ten Things We Love About Snoopy:
10: He's a beefcake. After riding mostly sprightly, lanky Thoroughbreds, popping on this guy is like getting on a couch with four legs and a tail.

9. Demolition. Snoopy thinks wooden boards are for mere mortal horses. See Exhibit A, the Sheep Pen. Good thing we don't have any sheep.
8. The Escape Artist. The very first day Snoopy was here, he decided it would be much more fun to hang out with everyone else than be in his own grass paddock while they got acquainted. We would look out the window and see him trotting gaily toward the others, completely baffled as how this hunk of horse managed to get out. There were no fence boards broken or moved. How?!

Well. Snoopy figured out how to jump into the Sheep Pen (this was before he demo'ed it) and would very neatly, jump out. And away he went. Luckily he was just going from one field to another, not one field to Complete Freedom or gallivanting down the road.

It was then that I knew he was athletic enough to handle gymnastic jump combinations.

7. Zen. Snoopy has a canter like few other horses I've ridden. It's like music. It's smooth, it's fluid, and you realize how majestic this horse is.
6. Helpfulness. Every night at night check, I go into Snoopy's stall and clean it so he has a clean bed of shavings to lay down in. Snoopy likes to help by grabbing the pitchfork handle with his teeth and waving it around in the air. Which just results in making me giggle, and then it's open season for him to noodle at my coat pocket filled with goodnight carrots.

5. Big Lips! Snoopy's got the biggest lips in the barn, probably the biggest lips in Wingdale. He takes carrots and treats with such gusto, you can't help but pretend he's talking to you with those luscious lips.
4. The view. Snoopy is always careful with his rider, whether the footing is questionable or the weather is bad (which it has been, all season). He is sure and steady, and has given Zeus confidence as a trail partner countless times. And how can you resist those fuzzy ears?
3. He plays nice. Snoopy is the boss of Siggy and Topaz, while he lets Zeus reign the herd. However, Snoopy is not an "Off with his head!" kind of manager, he says please and thank you when he's directing traffic. And he tolerates Topaz' Madonna impressions.

2. He's got hops! Snoop is a really good jumper despite his beefcake status. He loves the solid cross country fences, and the harder a jump combination is, the more he seems to like it.
And the Number One Thing We Love About Snoopy...
He sees the world with a kind eye and an honest heart. We should all try and be a little more like Snoopy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Letdown...or is it?

Way back in the day, I was really involved in theatre. Musical theatre to be specific, but I loved it. The camaraderie, the music, the rush of a live audience waiting to find out what happens next. The cast always became a family, and was usually not without its fair share of trysts backstage (especially in community theatre!). I wish I had a photo to share of my theatre days, but they're all at Mom and Dad's house. We've got some doozies!
Anyway, the one thing I and so many other castmates dreaded was the final curtain call. It meant the end of our run, the family in the spotlight dispersing, the songs we'd rehearsed for months no longer being sung (unless in the shower, or your car, or endlessly to your real family who would roll their eyes and lament, "Not again!").

The end of the eventing season is a little like that final curtain call, except we can do it all again in the Spring (enter glimmer of hope!). In the meantime, we can plan our winter, set goals as the snow falls, and in my case, work on the things I can work on while the footing is good and my fingers haven't fallen off from frostbite.
Yesterday, I rode Zeus in his dressage gear, and despite the wind howling and the neighbors chain sawing their hearts out, Zeus felt the best he's felt all year. Round, soft and supple - I was envisioning dressage scores of 9's in our yard.

Today, boarder and student Evan and I ventured out on trail to enjoy the fall weather with glorious sunshine and the leaves crunching under the horse's hooves. We discovered a new trail that had perfect footing and clear pathways, and had some lovely trots and gallops in the fresh air, the horses kicking it into high gear and loving the freedom as much as we did.
Our competitive season hasn't ended yet - with two hunter paces to go (including one with EZ Dollar, remember him?), we've still got work to do and fitness to work on. But the euphoria during our trail ride today, and the unity felt during flatwork yesterday...there is no curtain call with horses.

Which reminds me - there are a ton of amazing horses available for adoption via CANTER New England. Our Suffolk Showcase is coming up soon, and there is a plethora of stunning, talented diamonds in the rough - just like Zeus, just like Dotpower. If you've ever wanted to bring a horse along and experience the rewarding loyalty that only OTTBs can give...now's your chance. Go meet your next best friend. I dare you to make a difference.