Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy anniversary, babe

Ten years ago, I decided I really couldn't live without G and ran off with him.

G - You're the best decision I ever made, my love. No regrets!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

31 totally random things

Tamara is doing one of those periodic random facts memes, and I haven't done one in like a year. EG took up the gauntlet. I might as well give it a shot too.
  1. This is one of my favorite tidbits about myself - I have prosopagnosia. I don't know what anybody's face looks like. I recognize you by your body shape, voice, hair, clothing, mannerisms, etc. Yes, this means I fake it a lot, but I usually figure out who I'm talking to before I embarrass myself.
  2. I have a tattoo. It's a rearing sumi-e style horse, on my hip. It's my reminder to never give up, even when life keeps trying to beat you down.
  3. I have never in my life eaten a McDonald's hamburger. I have no intention of ever doing so.
  4. My dream truck is a 7.3 Powerstroke F-x50.
  5. My dream car is an old stick-shift BMW M-series. Real clutch, please - I can't stand the fake manuals. (I will fear no Highway of Death with that.)
  6. I will play the lottery, but only $1 per drawing and only when it's more money than I can spend in my lifetime - $80 million or more.
  7. I am gonna breed those Nigerian goats and milk them and drink absolutely amazing milk, every single day for months.
  8. The last concert I saw was Rancid, 2006, at the New Daisy in Memphis.
  9. I've seen They Might Be Giants 3 times so far, and as soon as they tour near me again, I'll go again.
  10. I am deeply superstitious, but only if my behavior tempts irony. Do not meddle with irony.
  11. I don't do dresses. I tried, when I was younger, but I just feel too awkward in them. The last time I wore a dress was at my wedding in 2004.
  12. I feed Cersei raw chicken, and I have since I first got her as a tiny puppy. None of the myths you've heard about raw diets are true. (I feed her lots of things, mostly raw, but the bulk of her diet is Foster Farms chicken legs from Costco.)
  13. I want to learn to jump so I can foxhunt, at least once.
  14. I used to be a huge PC nerd, but once you go Mac you never go back.
  15. I have ascended (won) Nethack four times. ASCII only - I hate tiles. Yes, spoilered - I am not a prodigy.
  16. I have given up on George RR Martin ever finishing his stupid Song of Ice and Fire series. Ask me about him at your peril - I will sperge-rage out like you wouldn't believe.
  17. I taught myself to swim.
  18. I paid to learn to scuba dive. ;)
  19. I like all fruit except for pears. The texture icks me out.
  20. I like kiwis, but they don't like me - I'm allergic to them.
  21. Speaking of allergies, I am allergic to everything fun and everything common. Dogs, cats, ferrets, hay, pollen, mold, sage, moldy cheese, Tide detergent, Dove soap, and wine tannins.*
  22. *Well, the wine is just a sensitivity, not a true allergy, but it means I can't drink wine or I get truly epic headaches.
  23. I want to turn the old fridge in the garage into a humidity chamber and drying chamber and make my own charcuterie, even though I can't even pronounce the word.
  24. I have beautiful strong fast-growing fingernails, which I keep chopped off short because otherwise they get dirty and get in the way.
  25. I have beautiful thick fast-growing hair, which I keep chopped off short because it annoys the piss out of me when it touches my face.
  26. I love to play bridge. Haven't played in years. Can't find anyone who knows how.
  27. Nothing destroys my self-esteem faster than hearing my own recorded voice. I can't even listen to my voice mail prompt. Surely I don't sound THAT dumb. But maybe I do? >:(
  28. When I was 10, my mom yelled at me to get off the phone because it was storming, so I sighed deeply and informed my friend I had to get off the phone cause my mom was yelling, then I hung up the phone and lightning struck it and melted it. True story. Thanks, Mom!
  29. My husband and I are both only kids, so we want two. We shall let them fight it out like we never got to.
  30. I'm left handed, except for scissors.
  31. I have a huge scar on my knee from climbing a barb wire fence when I was a kid. And oh my god I made it!
That was hard, but it was more fun than I thought. Give it a shot this weekend!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What a year!

Dom's excellent Year in Review post inspired me to play along, too. Starting in January of last year isn't really the best place, so I'll give just a bit of extra backstory...

We had a few options when we left Ohio in summer 2009, and I thought Reno sounded like the most excellent adventure out of the choices. Fortunately, G got that job and here we came. We got an apartment on the north side of town, and I boarded Dixie with a lady on the northeast side of town. I spent the fall working through the worst of Dixie's issues (teleport-spooking and bolting), and by the beginning of 2010 I was pretty sure we really could give this endurance thing a shot.

January: ~C, who'd taken me under her wing, dragged me off to our first real event - the NEDA New Year's ride. We only did 10 miles, but the horses did well. I started obsessively logging my rides and posting excruciatingly detailed ride reports. At the end of January, coyotes tried to eat my Cersei dog.

February: ~C and I did 20 miles at another NEDA ride.Dixie used to have awful hooves. In February of last year, she started getting the toe rocker thing that I just posted about - and it worried the hell out of me. (Now I'm used to it.) I went to the AERC convention. Then I went and took the Nevada bar.

March: I tried out some borrowed Easyboots. They were way too small. Then, through the unbelievable kindness of a friend, I borrowed a trailer and went off to Rides of March and freakin' completed our first LD!!! The place I boarded at ceased to be a viable option - the owner decided that my horse was being mean to the other horses and abruptly moved her from the 15 acre pasture to a 20' pen. In the windy rain/snow. I am still mad about that. :breathes deep and moves along: I got to try out her new blanket on her, at least!

April: I lucked out (which is the real story of my life: I luck out a lot) and found new boarding very near our apartment, with M. Then I got a trailer! Man, a trailer, how cool is that! Yeah, it's yellow, and it's a straight, and it's almost as old as I am, and it's a little on the small side, but it's a trailer! Dixie's loaded just fine in tiny straights before. We were gonna go ride another LD at Washoe.

May: Then Dixie tried her damndest to kill herself. I'm still amazed that she walked away without a scratch. I decided that she won and I'd just never load her in a tiny straight again. It was pretty heartbreaking, having something I'd wanted for SO long ripped away from me like that. Oh, and a week later I found out I failed the bar. Rough month. But all you can do is suck up and keep going. I also got her a crupper (works great), two pair of Renegades (work great), and a fly mask (she hates it, prefers to stand with her head in the shade all day).

June: By June, I was starting to get the hang of pacing (at least in training.) You can walk a bit and gait/trot a bit and canter a bit and hit 5 mph average pretty easily. G and I took Cersei to a fantastic mountain lake for Memorial Day. I washed my horse! I went to Vegas with two awesome friends. We completed our second LD, a fantastic night ride (Nevada Moonshine, you should come!) I think June is when I first started the primal eating thing - I know I managed to stick with it at Moonshine.

July: We made an offer on a house. We didn't get it. Oh well - it was ugly anyway. Then we made an offer on another house. Then ~C and I headed off to (watch) Tevis. That was excellent - I met Merri, Kirt the Renegade owner, Karen Chaton, and Jonni, and saw Zach. And I met Mel, but she was busy completing Tevis so I don't think that counts as her "meeting" me! Oh, and the sellers countered our offer on the house, so ~C had to knock off early at Foresthill and take me to Auburn to print and fax our acceptance of the counter. Then back to the fairgrounds to watch John Crandell and Heralic trot on in like they'd just been out for a spin around the block, not a 13 hour 100 mile ride through the Sierras.

August: I washed my horse again. Can you tell it doesn't happen often? The house buying thing progressed slowly yet dramatically. Dixie tried out a Big Trot but started clipping her front heel bulbs pretty hard, so I got her some bell boots. They are unsuitable for endurance. There was more breathtaking drama at the closing, but somehow the house deal went through anyway. Then I quit riding and started de-fuglyfying the incredibly fugly house.

September: I got a hell of a deal on 14 scraggly little pullets. In retrospect, it feels like G and I did nothing at all in September other than drag junk out of the backyard and build a fence. I cannot overemphasize how much effort it took to clean out and fence less than half an acre. Yes, it's one of the most satisfying things I've ever done, but OH MY GOD. So much work. I got my horse home at the end of the month!

October: Dixie and I finished our third LD at Comstock, and two adorable baby Nigerian goats came to live in the madhouse with us. I repainted the horrible den, and my husband and I hung crown molding in here. I learned to plumb and dug an epic hole and dug an epic trench. I built a clever box and mitigated some termites and buried a chicken. (Wow. I didn't realize October was THAT busy.)

November: G started talking to New Job people, so I got a little quiet on the blog. Still, I reroofed the run in and survived a close encounter with death by hyperbole. Don't buy a NeverKink hose! I sold my little truck and squandered a bit of the profits on a better hose.

December: G put in notice at the old job, so I got to tell yall about the New Job. I rode a little bit, but mainly I hung out with G. I don't talk about him much (he's a pretty private guy), but he really is my other half. I am going to miss him more than words can say, but it'll be ok. This is a good long-range move. I have plenty to do here to keep busy :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good hooves!

Ok, she's trimmed!

Since I actually have one-day-apart pictures, I thought I'd post them as side by side comparisons. If you click any of the pictures you can see the bigger version.

Right front solar:
Right front Right front solar

Right front heel:
Right front Right front heel

Left front solar:
Left front Left front solar

Left front heel:
IMG_1959 Left front heel


Proper side shots, standing on concrete.


Right:
Right front

Left:
Left front

She was standing pretty square for the left shot, but for the right shot she had her right foot below her girth and was busy pawing with the left. And usually Jim rolls her walls better, but she was a shit-ass and didn't want to stand still. We scheduled for 5 weeks next time - 7 was way too long.

Christmas eats

I meant to put this up last week, but I got distracted doing something else.

I cooked a lot of sweets this year and took pics - I entered an online cooking competition. We'll see how I do! I'll spare you the long details and just show the money shots.

Toffee
Toffee

Arty shot
Toffee Catte

Eggnog (with my hens' eggs!)
Eggnog

Gingerbread cookies
Cookies

Catte outtake
Cookie catte

Yule log, aka The Most Fantastic Thing I've Ever Made
Yule log

Yum!
Yule log

The yule log was a flourless souffle jellyroll cake, filled with whipped cream, iced with dark chocolate ganache. It was just as good as it sounds. I am only slightly ashamed to tell you we ate that cake in two days.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Long hooves

I took some legible pictures of Dixie's feet today. They're seven weeks post-trim - Jim was scheduled to come last week, but it had just snowed like 6" and it was about 20 that day and we mutually cancelled. I can hear the Alaskans laughing from here, but it's not like we HAD to trim then. Tomorrow will be probably sunny and near 40. A much nicer day to trim.

Anyway, here's Dixie's overgrown front feet.

Right front heel shot
Right front

Right front solar
Right front

Weird profile shot
Right front


Left front heel
IMG_1959

Left front solar
Left front

Left front weird angle
IMG_1960

"Are you through YET?"
Big ole horse

Thoughts: Her frogs look ratty, but they feel good. Nice and firm, and a pretty open heel bulb. White lines are a little stretched, but considering how long her walls are, it's acceptable. Beautiful concavity, and a good callous at the toe part of the sole.

I like the way you can really see how bars get folded over. Dixie's aren't folded, but they're headed that way. The only place she really has chalky dead sole is at the heels - if I managed to arrange things so that she got more heel stimulation, maybe that wouldn't happen? Anyway, I think it's cool to see the very early stages of an imbalance - makes it easier to spot them on other horses, I think.

As always, feel free to repost these or give comments/criticism. If my horse isn't a wicked horrible bitch tomorrow, I'll get "after" shots and you can see how my (awesome) trimmer deals with her feet.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

One more Christmas story and I'll move on

I love reading about Detroit. Not the suburbs, which appear to be (dys)functioning as well as any other suburbs, but the actual City of Detroit. It's in such bad shape, according to all the metrics, but there are still decent people there. Crooks and thieves, and no jobs, but there are still normal people living their normal lives. And some exceptional people, like Santa.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas story

I thought this was the most heartwarming story I've read this year. Go read The Magic of the Quilt at Jean's blog and be overwhelmed by sniffles and awwwwwws. Then go give something to your LOCAL HS. (Not the HSUS - there's a difference.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hair conquered again

Just like last time (sometime in the summer; I remember sweating a lot) I swear most solemnly that I will never ever let Dixie's mane get that tangled again. It took half a bottle of Cowboy Magic and over an hour, but I got it completely brushed out.

"Are you through now?"
Ridiculous Dixie hair

I can't describe how thick it is.
So thick

Here is some bonus hairy cat.
First, catch your cat

Monday, December 20, 2010

We survived!

Everybody, pat yourself on the back and let out a big sigh of relief. It's finally here! The longest night of 2010 is coming (or already upon you, depending on where you are.) This is the Best Day of the Year - it only gets better from here.

Oh, and I'm sure you've heard it a thousand times today, but don't forget about the eclipse, too. Should be a good one.

Happy Solstice!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Even Dixie gets cold

Our awful weather continues. Yesterday was very windy and 40, with drizzle all day - all Friday's snow melted. Today was 40 again, extra windy, and rain mixed with snow until 4. Then the temp dropped to 30 and howling snow came blizzarding down. I'd fed dinner early and extra, in the run ins, but when I went out to check Dixie was cold. Head down, butt to the wind, just starting to shiver. And NOT in the shelter. I scraped off some snow with a towel, then threw her cooler and waterproof blanket on. By the time I got a fat stack of alfalfa out to her normal hay feeder, she'd perked back up.

The goats were happy when I went out. Dry and fluffy and bedded down with tons of grass hay. But alfalfa is like goat crack, so they came rushing out into the storm to eat some. I would not be surprised if they're not the ones who need rescuing when I go back out to check on everybody in a couple hours. I guess I will towel them off and bring them in if they need to be warmed up. I can stash them in the barage overnight... Unless that freaks Dixie out... This is like one of those stupid logic puzzles with a fox and a chicken and a cannibal and a canoe. Sigh.

Chickens laid 4 eggs, under duress. I've been giving them treats in the coop every day. Today was leftover low-carb pancakes and some mystery vanilla yogurt I found in the fridge. They are still grumpy - they hate the weather too. At least those idiots stay IN the coop.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, December 17, 2010

White Death part deux

OMG YALL! It's seriously fucked up out there!

We hadn't checked the weather for a couple of days, because it's been the same (high of 40-50, chance of rain or snow) for 10 days. So there was no food here except eggs and frozen hamburgers, and my husband's kinda squicked out about eggs that come out of chickens, so I needed to go to the store. He needs the truck this afternoon so I had a small window to get it done. I couldn't even make it into town to my regular store - they haven't even started plowing the highways. Bumper to bumper 15 mph slush in pouring snow. I got off at the next exit and backtracked to the groceries by the house.

Of course the better grocery is on a hill. The truck in front of me went woop-woop making the left onto the hill road so I went extra slow and gave him a lot of room, which was good cause he had to stop for 5 minutes because the tiny car in front of HIM just couldn't make the hill. They had to slide sideways and back out of the way and then crawl around chaining up. All of us cowperson badasses in trucks just put it in 4 low and crept up the hill.

Getting snowed in calls for good food so I got a little prime rib roast (on sale!) and a liter of coke. If you're snowed in you might as well be drunk, right? And of course I got bananas for the four-leggers and some corn and broccoli for the angry chickens - if they're gonna feed me I gotta feed them.

Getting home wasn't too bad, except the dude who almost ate ditch behind me. The highway toward my house is 4 lane divided part of the way, with a ridiculously big ditch separating the lanes. I was easing along following the tracks in the snow at about 25, when the tracks dropped off the pavement to the right. I bumped off the road, swung left, went woop-woop left and right just a wee bit, and straightened up. The big work truck behind me bumped off the road going too fast, went woooop sliding left toward the big ditch, jammed his wheels to the right, got enough traction to hit the gas, went woooooop sliding toward the road signs on the right, and finally slammed on his brakes and stopped for a while a couple inches away from the signs.

He went much slower when he started up again.

Now I'm home and my brave/stupid husband is off to lunch with his ex-work peeps and then a meeting with his ex-manager. He called while I was writing this to say he saw the tip of the trunk of a Camry in the same ditch, but they've finally plowed the highway and started plowing the road out to our place.

Dixie appears perfectly content. When I got home, they'd eaten about half their breakfast hay. The goats were in the run-in complaining miserably and Dixie was standing in one of her usual corners of the pasture getting snowed on. She looks wet and snowy to me but she doesn't feel or act cold. I'll keep the hay topped up all day and I think she'll be fine.

White Death '10

We're all gonna die!

Woke up right after it started snowing this morning. It's still pouring down snow. The weather forecast is all snowflakes for 5 days. As a hysterical southerner, I am officially declaring that the sky is falling. (it's made of fluffy frozen water if you wondered.)

Here's some pics on my Flickr.

Going to cheat death on the roads now. Tip a 40 for me if I never post again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rituals

Dom posted about a pawer on her blog recently, and I decided she was totally right and I should Do Something about Dixie pawing for dinner. Of course she hasn't pawed once since then. Just stares politely, ears up, waiting for me to saunter leisurely out with her precious hay. Siiiigh.

But it got me thinking about the other rituals she still does. She often rolls when she sees me coming out of the house, and she always always pees before she eats. I give her "grain" (a pound of pelleted hay balancer) at night only, and she always acts hopeful that she'll get grain in the morning, then shocked when I don't give her any. But you know what? In the morning she pees while I'm coming in with the hay, and at night she doesn't pee til I drop the hay and go back to the barn for the grain. Silly horse, I'm on to you.

Do your horses have any weird rituals?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why we went to SF

I know what you're thinking - "FINALLY! Get to it already."

We went to SF to rent an apartment for G. He has a new job, starting right after the New Year, with a cool nerdy startup. This blog isn't tiny enough or anonymous enough for me to talk about it before he gave notice at the old job, but he's finally giving notice today.

Right now the plan is that he'll be in SF for about 18 months, then he will come back to Reno and work from home. I'll stay here and finish making the house look snazzy. There's a lot that could change, but that's hopefully what'll happen. It's also possible that this will really suck and I'll sell the livestock and move to SF, or he'll get an amazing career going and we'll buy a house in the Bay Area and I'll move all the livestock, but the Plan is to stay in Reno. I'm going to go up once a month or so and spend a long weekend with him (with the lolhuge truck! In SF! ugh ugh ugh, but it's better than paying $300 for the privilege of getting gateraped by the TSA).

So. Whew. Normal posting can resume now. Not talking about this was so hard it was easier to not talk at all. I can't believe no one asked why we took the huge F-150 to SF instead of the tiny already beat up Sport Trac - it's cause I sold my truck two weeks ago. I officially get the F-150, and he gets nothing. Driving a car in the city is way more trouble than it's worth, and it's much cheaper to take public transportation to work and rent a Zipcar when necessary. There's some parking at his new apt (valet, even!) so I can park there when I come visit, and if he needs to he can buy a little car.

Anyway, Saturday morning we went apartment hunting. He'd lined up a day and a half of appointments with leasing people, and we ended up leasing the first place we looked at. It's tiny and posh and right in the right price range. After that we walked a bit, found Needlepoint Inc, people watched at Union Square, and realized we were bored. If we were touristing, we'd have rented bikes and headed out to See Stuff, but it was hard to get excited about touristing when he's going to live there. We have a year to explore the city.

We realized that if we hustled, we could make checkout for the hotel and go Do Something Else, so we did. We packed all our crap (and I mean all, we didn't forget anything!) in like 10 minutes and barely made checkout, then headed up to Point Reyes. Google maps assured us it was only an hour and a half drive. It's not.

Well, it might actually be an hour and a half drive if you don't take a 45 minute detour through the wrong city looking for a Chipotle for lunch, then a 15 minute trip to the right city, then take a 30 minute lunch break, then have to get back to the highway. Don't use the map feature on Yelp on the iPhone. It lies.

Driving the damn Pacific Coast Highway is like playing Pole Position. Driving it in a truck is even worse. For some reason that seemed like a good idea at the time, we ended up going about 15 miles further away to Stinson Beach, instead of up to Pt Reyes NP. The road was ok for a while, then it went super twisty cliff death road as the fog got thicker. It's twistier and worse than Mt. Rose Death Highway, but at least the traffic is more laid back.

The actual ocean was definitely worth it. It was so foggy you could stare right at the sun. 63 degrees, lots of surfers in wetsuits out. I did a little victory dance on the sand - I've made it coast to coast! Not bad for a poor kid from Mississippi.

Once we got our ocean fix, we decided we might as well go home. It was only 3 pm! The drive home was pretty uneventful, and we got home at 7:30. Then all I needed to do was drag this story out for three days. ;)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why I don't blanket, and what I got in SF

I keep telling yall that Dixie is a hairy damn yak. Breathe took "hand pics" of her horses, and I realized it's a good way to show you just what a hairy yak she really is.
IMG_1803

She has plenty of mane, too.
IMG_1805

It's 39 and raining right now. I'll go check on her later, but really, she's fine au naturel.

So there's only two kinds of shopping I really enjoy - tack stores and needlepoint stores. I didn't luck out and find a tack store in the financial district - but I did find the Needlepoint, Inc. They make silks that I've stitched with for years - I never knew it was a store too! How exciting.

They are 99% painted canvas, which is the rich lady's way to stitch. I usually do counted needlepoint or counted stitching on linen, but I enjoy painted canvases too. G picked out a glass of wine - it's gonna be super cute when it's finished (as in mounted).
Straight view

I think it's pretty damn cute now. It's very sparkly and 3D in person.
Side view

The only bad thing is that I finished it in one day. Oh well :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

An adventure, part 1

So we went to San Francisco over the weekend! In a rare moment of common sense, I did not post all over the internet that I'd gone out of town and left my house empty. I'm so proud of myself :)

I drove the F-150 the whole way. It's just a half-ton, yeah, but it's definitely oversized for the SFO area. Just driving was a hell of an adventure. Plus we saw stuff! And I bought stuff! And the ocean!

Til we grow beards, get weird, and disappear into the mountains

Coming down out of the mountains was a huge shock to all my senses. We've been to Sac a couple of times and I remembered how thick and humid and gross the air is down there - yep, it still is. But the lack of mountains was pretty disturbing on a much deeper level - I didn't, like, have a panic attack or anything, but it weirded me out to not have mountains framing all my views. I could see how people get agoraphobic.

You know what else? It stays light forever down there. Up here the sun dips behind the mountains just before 4 pm, then it's full dark and the stars come out at maybe 6. Down in California, we watched a truly endless sunset. It was still twilight at 6 - in December! Crazy.

California's civil engineers are clearly aliens running some kind of horrible Skinner-esque experiment on the drivers in that state. But I think the drivers deserve it - they are the worst I've seen since Memphis (but not actually worse than Memphis). The exit ramps are all way too short, the lanes are crazy narrow, and the roads are as rough as Arkansas's. And that's all before you get to Oakland, which is where Driver Hell truly starts.

he said this is a mecca i said this ain't no mecca man, this place's fucked

It was dark and foggy by the time we went through Oakland, and of course we had no clue what we were doing. The 6 lanes of 80 split off into 18 lanes of toll booths and we crept up to a cash line and paid $6 for the privilege of the Bay Bridge. Then the 18 lanes inched forward to a bunch of red/green lights, where you'd sit at the line and wait for your 1 second green and floor it for 100 yards, then slam on the brakes. Then, after we'd all stopped/gone/stopped, THEN the 18 lanes merged back down to FOUR. Of course I had no idea what was going on so I kept suddenly running out of lane and bullying myself into another lane. I yelled "Sorry! Nevada! Sorry! I'm a tourist!" a lot. Eventually we got on the biggest bridge I've ever seen in my whole life. It was abysmally narrow too. I didn't clip the bridge or drift out of my lane, and I'm not sure how. The Bay Bridge goes out to an island, tunnels through the island, take a hard left, and resumes its life as a bridge the rest of the way to SF. It's a hell of a view to see the Financial District emerging out of the fog at night!

SF reminded me a lot of NYC. I went there for a week in '02 or '03, and I was pretty slack-jawed amazed the whole time. SF also left me gaping like a yokel, but only for a few minutes - then I just got mad about the godforsaken horribleness of the traffic and streets. I got pretty good at dodging pedestrians while cutting across three lanes of traffic in a 100 yard block. I was so full of myself that when we got to the hotel, I did not insist on valet parking. Instead I drove up 5 spiral floors of a tiny parking garage, then wedged the truck into a space that was exactly 2" bigger than it.

The climate was the opposite of Reno, but it was really surprisingly pleasant. It appears to be 63 degrees and foggy at all times, but it's not cold and clammy - just damp. We hauled our stuff to the hotel and wandered around a bit that night, then had tasty food at a 24 hour Indian/Pakistani buffet. 24 hour buffet! Not inside a casino! How crazy awesome is that?

Big cities are cool. At least to visit. More tomorrow!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A present revealed

Today I dropped off a present (and warned him to open it now and/or not read this post) so I can share it with yall now. It's inspired by the Subversive Cross Stitch people, but I wanted to make it a work-safe tchotchke. The actual phrase my friend uses all the time is "I'll cut you, bitch", but we wouldn't want HR to come chat with him, would we?

Subversive sampler

Sparkly, cute, and threatening violence. What more could you want?

Toffee

A couple of years ago, I started making toffee at Christmas. The ingredients are cheap, it's easy to make, and it ships very well. The people on Buzz wanted to see a how-to, so here's how I make toffee.

This is the basic recipe, with one caveat. Don't cook your toffee to 300, and no matter what don't cook it to 320! His thermometer's off or something. Cook the toffee to exactly 290, or if you don't have a thermometer, til it sort of falls in on itself and barely starts to change color. If you cook it longer, you'll get better caramel flavors, but you'll also get a distinct burned-butter taste - it's not worth it.

So! Get your mis ready:
IMG_1665

Sugar, salt (not pictured), butter, flavorings. You also need a flat place to cool the toffee - I used a cookie sheet, but a brownie pan would work in a pinch. Line it with parchment paper, unless you are inexplicably out of parchment paper, and in that case use aluminum foil. Put it on trivets. If you don't have trivets, put it on the other half of the stove. It will melt your countertop.

Use a good silicone spatula, or a wooden spoon. No cheap plastic, unless you like the taste. Metal would work but it'll be too hot to hold.

Dissolve the sugar in the melted butter and salt. (Use a bit more salt - maybe 1/4 tsp? It wakes up the flavors. Your toffee won't taste salty. Trust me.)
IMG_1671

I made 5 batches last night, and the one that had the best texture were definitely the ones where I let the sugar dissolve into the butter slowly. Don't rush the process. Don't stop stirring.

When it's smooth, jack the heat up to medium or med-high and keep stirring.
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It goes through several stages. Molten lava, then microwaved Peeps, then about to ooze butter. When it looks like it's about to ooze butter, it's almost ready. Keep an eye on your thermometer and when it hits 290 you're done. Dump in the vanilla, stir like hell as it vaporizes, then dump the whole potful onto your cookie sheet.

Vanilla added:
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Dump:
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I don't need to tell you this stuff is extremely hot and it will burn you bad, right? Surely you know this. Be careful. Don't dump it on your foot or the cat or the countertop. You'll regret it.

You have maybe 5 seconds to spread it. It will mostly spread itself, just swipe it with the spatula to get the center part a bit thinner and the edges a bit thicker. Add your flavorings now - this batch had vanilla sugar sprinkled on top.
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Now run some water in your pot and toss in the thermometer and the spatula. Don't let the melted sugar congeal on the pot. It comes off pretty well with hot water, but it's a pain if you let it sit.

Jiggle the aluminum foil and when the toffee has set up a bit - maybe 3 minutes? you can score it.
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Leave it alone for another 10 minutes and it'll be hard enough to snap at the score lines. You could just break it up into irregular chunks when it's cool, but this way is better. You get pretty pieces to give as gifts, AND since you wouldn't want to give away ugly chunks, you get to keep the irregular edge pieces all for yourself.

(Warning: If you usually eat primal, it takes a surprisingly small amount of toffee to give you a nasty sugar rush. Just sayin.)

The fun part is flavorings. What tastes good with sugar? Lots of stuff! I have made or have thought about making: vanilla sugar, salt, chai, habanero pepper, ancho pepper with chocolate, just chocolate, coffee (Starbucks Via works ok, so does home-ground if you can get it powdery), peppermint, and cinnamon. Most of these flavorings get added in the last couple seconds of cooking - they'll burn if you heat them up with the sugar. Just add your coffee or flavor extract or whatever after the toffee hits 290, right before you pour it. I add hot pepper, extra vanilla sugar, salt, or chocolate right after I pour the toffee. It'll stick, no worries.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Quick hoof post

I had a fun day, but now I'm too tired to post in my usual exhaustive detail. I did grab some hoof pics I wanted to put up. They're all left front shots, about 3 weeks post-trim. (Barefoot bloggers, if any of yall want to use these as good/bad examples, just let me know and you're welcome to them.)

Solar view:
Left front solar

Heel view:
Left front heel

Lateral view (in lieu of a shot with her weighting it normally):
Left front side

The thing that always surprises me is how much I learn from pictures. Even from ones I took 4 hours earlier! I honestly didn't notice how weird her heels look. I saw the overgrown folded-over bar, but I didn't "see" how short the lateral side is compared to the medial side. I did trim a bit, since I was looking at them - took off extra wall where I saw flare on all four, and took out a little at the quarters on the fronts.

Solar: She's getting that natural toe rocker again. It's something about winter and the terrain here. If I had to guess, her feet really do grow slower in the winter, so the sand wears off toe a bit faster than she can grow it. This happened last winter and freaked me out pretty good, then it quit happening in the summer, and now it's back again. I am not so worried about it now. Tight white lines - just a little separation at the quarters.

Heel: Just a little flare. Not bad for mid-trim. The frog crevice is pretty open, and I don't think thrush is bothering her right now. Again, you can see the toe rocker - see how you can see wall sticking up past the sole along the sides, then the wall drops out of sight at the toe?

Side: No toe flare (but how could there be!) Nice concavity.

We ride weekly right now. When these were taken, she'd just gotten back from 2 hours at all speeds over rocky/sandy terrain. She stumbled once for some reason, and she stepped on a tangerine sized rock and flinched once. Other than that, totally sound at all gaits. Mainly I let her have her head and she moved out over some big pointy rocks and avoided the rest - she knows better than me what's going to hurt to step on.

I'm still in the "fun" phase of winter. After the new year, I'll start thinking about training again - I need to make sure her boots still fit, start conditioning in them again, start fussing with dosing electrolytes, start doing hill sets or canter sets or whatever... but for now, we just go out with friends and do fun rides. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken Hovel

I haven't talked about the chickens lately, for two reasons. I'm mad at them for still not starting to lay eggs, and they were living in a shameful hovel. Well, they're still not laying, but I have substantially improved their hovel.

Behold the shame!
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Careful viewers may figure out that that wall is made out of two hollowcore interior doors.

Once I ripped those down, you can see the mouse nest ceiling more clearly:
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Why would you put a ceiling in a chicken shack?? I ripped out some of it and decided the risk of contracting hantavirus was worse than the presence of the ceiling. I also yanked out the horrible broken perch.

Then I went for a ride!
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Then I slapped $14 worth of chipboard back on to the gaping hole
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and made a nice little door
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put the feeder in the house
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and installed a high-class perch.
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Total cost was literally $14. The frame and wire for the door came out of the "good" junk pile. The perch was a curtain rod for the heinous curtains that were in the front room when we moved in. The cute brackets were junk left in the barage, and I found the hinges somewhere.

It's still a hovel, but it's much less shameful. The whole thing is just sitting on the ground, so it might blow over in a big wind and leave me with a dozen poulet à la presse, but it'll do for now I guess. I just can't sink more money into it when I really want to demolish it and build a better house.

Now: lay eggs, you bastards!

Tomorrow I will amaze you with pictures of our woodpile.