Adventures

Things I have been Googling…

“How to transport chickens?”

“If I put holes in the box can they be transported in a box?”

“How to transport a lizard?”

“How to transport cranky fish?”

As you have probably guessed, we are moving. Our house is mostly in boxes, we pick up the moving truck tonight and we are on our way Thursday morning. R was smart and has this week off while I was not so smart and am working up until move day. Because I am crazy and like to stress myself out apparently.

Sigh. I am not a fan of moving.

Can I tell you about a really bad situation in hopes that you don’t ever fall into this trap? Be very careful about who you rent from and be very careful about documenting every little thing. Unfortunately there are some ugly people out there and they will take advantage of other people’s good hearts. Recently I witnessed this kind of ugliness firsthand and I am left stunned still by the situation R and I found ourselves in. Remember, I am a smart woman (And R is a smart guy) with a college degree and I work in the legal field. So, you can imagine how silly I feel and how embarrassed I am by how much someone took advantage of me.

We moved into our current home (soon to be old home, we shall call it the dump) about a year and a half ago. We had just bought Sophie (horse) and wanted to live somewhere we could have her on property. She was being boarded at a barn and we found we couldn’t make it out as often as we wanted. Our old trainer found an ad on FaceBook and sent it to us. It looked decent enough so we asked to go see the house. We showed up and our faces fell. It wasn’t a house at all but a double wide trailer and I am not a trailer fan. They fall apart and they don’t age well if not taken proper care of. But we did the tour and talked to the owner (and her boyfriend who was fixing it up) anyways.

We were super hesitant but put in our application anyways. The property was beautiful but it meant paying more rent than we were already paying (on my cute little house in the city that I loved) and it meant doing it for a double wide trailer vs the actual home we were living in at the time. So we applied but decided to think on it for awhile. That was when we got the phone call from the landlady, she told us lots of other people wanted it and they choose us specifically because we had great personalities, so we needed to either take it now or it would be disappearing. That push, that knee jerk reaction, it should have been our first warning that something wasn’t right. But we took the bait like idiots and then she asked us to leave our current rental without proper notice, which should have been the next red flag. Luckily our current rental was super nice and they really were sad I was leaving because I had been a great tenant.

Move in day, there were several other red flags, we discovered that the porch was still rotting and we got some vague promise of it being repaired before winter. Same with the windowsill in the bedroom and a few other issues. The landlady told us she wrote down all these issues on the move in checklist but never actually furnished a copy of the move in list and her printer was broken so she couldn’t provide a copy of the signed lease just yet. These also should have been red flags but we were stressed with moving and neither one of our heads were thinking straight. Luckily I was smart enough to document things.

Later on, when winter came and produced a ton of rain, we would discover that four of the windows leak enough to have to run around putting rolled up towels on each windowsill. The one in our bedroom leaks so bad that it produced a puddle that ran from the windowsill to the wall and created water to leak into the space between the wallpaper and paint. The idea of mold started creeping into my head as I let the landlady know and she informed me all trailers leaked. So I told her we needed awnings installed or new windows or the windowsills fixed themselves. She agreed to do it by the summer.

Soon after we discovered the roof leaking by the chimney that created an entire tile to become soaked so bad it started to sag. The chimney was not installed (by law it should have been installed by a professional and we discovered it was installed by her boyfriend) correctly and it leaks smoke back into our house. Ants, mice and spiders started taking over our house which was again blamed on living in the country and she never once offered to do pest control, which meant we found ourselves using our own money to spray for pests all the time. We discovered that previous tenants had installed satellite company after satellite company and there were holes all over from where they drilled lines into the house. Holes that were never filled or sealed up so they were just empty holes that air and bugs came in/out of. The boards continued to rot on the porch so bad that I almost fell threw several times in several places and the awning over the roof had such big holes that it continued to leak unto the already rotting porch. The hood above the stove didn’t work. The floor in the kitchen started discoloring from something going on with the dishwasher. A hole formed in the bathroom next to the cabinet from a rotting floor. Things got worse and worse. I kept talking to our landlady and nothing would get done. She would smile and tell me she would send her boyfriend over.

In the mean time she was living it up, she was getting her whole bedroom redone, buying new crap for her own home and having her boyfriend do all her home projects.

Then we moved Sophie on property. She told us she wouldn’t charge and then the minute we were there we were told she was raising our rent an extra $300 for the horse. Um what? The fences were falling apart and she didn’t provide but one pasture for her to be in. When Sophie got stuck so bad in her falling down fences that she cut herself open, I hit my boiling point and stopped paying the extra fee she had tacked on (without a written contract) until she fixed the fences properly for my horse. She never fixed the fences and I realized she wasn’t going to. So we started hunting for a new rental. High and low. Something else that was in better shape, had better landlords and that my horse wouldn’t be in danger of injuring herself at. We were paying so damn much a month on top of a electricity bill that was outrageous for a small double wide trailer. Things slipped further out of control as we realized that our landlady wasn’t interested in doing our repairs and that we had been living in a home that should have been condemned before it is ever allowed to be rented out again.

It used to be fairly reasonable to rent from places around our area but lately the prices have been shooting up. We are an hours drive from a major city that is super expensive and those people have been flocking to our area, driving up rent prices and creating rentals to get sparse. All while this was going on, R was struggling with his employer who was running him extremely hard, punishing him for taking time off for his son (which he had told him about before he started) and was messing with his checks which was dropping our income drastically. Things were getting tough and between the landlady constantly trying to get more money from us for a dilapidated dump and R’s boss messing with his pay, we were started to get very worried and losing our footing.

It came to me one night, I got it, I was being manipulated. She was never our friend. She had never intended on taking care of the home or keeping it up to code. I am not sure she was legally allowed to have the home on her property since it wasn’t zoned for rentals and her property information only listed one home on it (her own). When R was offered a great job and a home with it, we decided it was time to leave. It was time to pack up that house and to stop trying with her.

R is a decent man and he walked over to tell them verbally what was going on. He came home like a man who had been beaten. They had chewed into him, demanded money for some outrageous things they didn’t have proof of and treated him like a criminal. So I did the legal thing and wrote a letter, clearly outlining the issues with the home, what laws we fall under and why we made the decision to leave instead of the other two options we had (withhold rent or get the repairs done using one months rent). I got harassing texts and evil glares. At 6:45 a.m. while I was walking out to leave for work, she told me no one would be feeding my horse in the morning anymore (her boyfriend fed all the horses and offered to feed mine as well since he was already out and had been feeding Sophie for months), luckily I was late that day and able to feed her before I left but at that point I realized she was a nasty individual who was not going to stop. She sent a nasty letter back claiming her rental was perfect before we moved in and that we destroyed it (the same thing she had said about all the other residence that suddenly left in the middle of the night without notice). She has lied, manipulated and harassed us. Even threatening R over text and claiming she has a right to take our deposit (which she doesn’t). It has been a rough ride and it is only going to get rougher since the walk through is tomorrow.

But as of Thursday morning, we are done. We are out. We are on a new adventure!

I am left wary of trusting a landlord again and with a really hard lesson learned. I have nothing to be ashamed of because I paid my rent religiously and on time for over a year while I waited for her to make good on her promises of repairs. I have remained calm and collected the proper evidence. I have documented everything. I have written everything down. We are in the right here but still she is trying desperately to tell us how evil we are for leaving her high and dry without proper notice and a full months rent that she never earned because she breeched her own contract.

So I beg you, if you rent, be careful. Take pictures of everything when you move in and date them. Put all repairs in writing. Take care of yourself. If you see signs of a red flag, move. We should have moved a long time ago but we kept thinking she was our friend. She isn’t and wasn’t which was made clear when we decided to move.

Boxes, boxes everywhere but I can’t wait to leave. Sophie gets picked up tomorrow which is a huge relief for me and we will be on our way Thursday morning. Wish us luck!

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Out of the Barn

Thanksgiving came with no plans or agenda. Thanksgiving weekend for me officially begun on Wednesday at 3 p.m. when they finally released us at work. It gets later and later each year I swear. Unfortunately R’s work does not have those kind of hours and he didn’t make it home till Wednesday evening around 10 p.m. So I stopped by the grocery store (biggest mistake of my life) and bought a little Thanksgiving dinner for us to make together on Thursday.

R has been running himself ragged, okay, he isn’t running himself ragged but his boss is. R is one of those hard workers and his boss is one of those guys that takes advantage of it in a bad way. So often R comes home dragging his butt on the ground and looking like he hasn’t slept in days. Not to mention his ex broke the custody order and took the kiddo the entire week of Thanksgiving. So, with everything going on, we just decided not to do anything the Thanksgiving weekend so we both could get some sleep and just enjoy being home together for once.

But you know what we did do? We rode the horses almost every single day of our long weekend. And, we left the barn to do it! (You can read up on my last horse update here)

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If you remember, I had a bit of a problem getting back on my horse at the beginning of the summer and then once I did ride I was scared to leave the barn. So last week, after a lovely lesson with my trainer, I finally left the barn but only to do figure 8’s in a small part of the back 10 acres. But this last weekend Sophie and I got out of the barn and explored the whole back 10 acres.

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It was beautiful and peaceful. Afterwards I would let Sophie graze for a bit and just hang out with her since she never goes far from me.

And the boys joined us…

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They actually walked around the perimeter of the 10 acres with us and didn’t canter off to do their usually vroom boy thing. So we walked along and chatted, no spooks, no issues, Sophie side stepped the neighbors horses when they ran to the fence line but other than that she did amazing. We even walked over a huge branch each time we passed by it just for fun. We just enjoyed the sunshine and the nice weather together while riding and it was perfect for my stress levels.

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When we weren’t riding we made ourselves a small Thanksgiving dinner of all our favorite things, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and yams with lots of butter and brown sugar. We slept, a lot. R slept more than me but he really needed it. We read our books. Spent time with our dogs. Watched bad YouTube videos. Laughed together over silly stuff. Just enjoyed time together. It was nice. Towards the end I got a little restless but that was only because it was pouring down rain on Sunday and we couldn’t go ride the 10 acres.

Though I missed my family and loved ones, I am okay with how Thanksgiving turned out for R and I. We did what we wanted to do and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Plus I got so much riding time in that my legs were extra sore but totally in a good way!

How was your Thanksgiving? Tired of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails yet? I sure am!

The Soreness is Real!

It was a sunny weekend and so I opened up Little Birdies coop door so she could enjoy some sunshine with her babies. Of course I closed the main door on the coop so the other chickens couldn’t bug her but she seemed to really enjoy the sunshine for a little bit after being cooped up with the babies. The babies are adorable but weird looking. Something between a bantam (their real mother) and a weird speckled chicken (their father). I have no clue what their father is because he came to me from a random batch of chicks and the lady who I got them from had no clue of his breed either. R and I were joking that we made some mutant chicken breed by letting them hatch. They really are funny but impossible to get a close up of because they move around to much and momma (Little Birdie not their real mom) doesn’t really like it when we get to close. It stresses her out. So it was nice to see her basking in the sunshine while the chicks peeked their little heads out to get a good look at what was happening.

I am so sore. I am feeling muscles I haven’t felt in a long time. My abs and thighs mostly. All because my trainer decided to whoop my ass on Sophie. Even Sophie was like, what the hell lady?! I love my trainer. She is a young girl (she is 21 years old but that is young to me haha) who I met at the barn I used to volunteer at in exchange for lessons on my big boy Roy (he was a 16.1 warm blood retired champion that was an amazing lesson horse at the barn). She was the main trainers assistant at the time and every time I took a lesson with her, she really helped me. So when she branched out on her own I reached out to her and she said she would gladly train me on Sophie at my home for a very reasonable price. So every Saturday afternoon Sophie and I spend an hour in the arena in the barn getting our butts whipped into shape.

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The trainer is a combination of tough love, positive encouragement and letting me figure out some things on my own. She spices up our lessons and gives me lots to work on that following week. Sophie has a few issues, she drags her feet and she pulls her head down instead of engaging her rear end when she gets tired. So this weekend we worked on transitions because transitions are a great way to get a horse to engage their rear end. We started with walking, stopping and backing up every few minutes. That got Sophie paying attention. Then we went from walking the short wall to trotting the long wall (the arena is kind of square shaped more than circle shaped). Then we went from slow trotting the short wall to post trotting the long wall. I really worked on pushing Sophie into her big trot and slowing her down into her slow trot. Now, if you have ever posted on a trotting horse, it takes all the abs to do it properly because you don’t want to whack your butt down on the horse. Not to mention that because Sophie will pull forward a bit I have to engage my abs extra and hold my arms steady so she doesn’t pull me forward.

So I am FEELING my abs. The burn. Oh the burn!

Then we worked on some turning on the haunches. Now, this one was hard on Sophie and I. First of all it requires a lot from me, sit back on the horse, hold one reign out, pull up on the other and tap with your heel in the direction you want to go. This one is hard on Sophie because she doesn’t like engaging her rear end and that is exactly what turning on her haunches means. She leaves her rear end still while she crosses over her front feet to make a circle. Ever watch the western horses turn in those fast spins? That is turning on their haunches! By the end of it we got a few cross overs but it is something Sophie and really need to practice. But when I first got her she didn’t like turning on her forehand (same thing but with the butt moving while the front stays still) and now she is very good at it. So it is in my homework this week, work on turning on the haunches as well as transitions.

Last but not least we did some no stirrup work. That is where lucky me I get to drop my stirrups and ride without them. She even has me trot without them and that makes my thighs burn like no tomorrow. But I am thinking it is better than a hundred squats any day of the week. According to my health app, I burn more calories riding my horse than I do being on the elliptical for 30 minutes. Damn! I will take it!

Because I was still feeling the high from an amazing ride on Saturday, I went out to ride again on Sunday. Sophie wasn’t amused but I took it easy on her because we both were a little sore from the day before. The retired brood mares normally graze in the back 10 acres in the summer but in order for it to grow back the landlord moves them to the smaller pasture. So during fall and winter, Sophie and I can go back out to the 10 acres to do figure 8’s around the big tires out there. R joined us and helped me come up with some fun exercises to do with Sophie around the tires. We worked on trotting and walking figure 8’s with big circles around the tires. It was fun and nice to be out in the pasture vs. working in the barn all the time.

But I am so sore now! A good kind of sore but sore none the less and walking funny at work. Every time I stand up I groan a little. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. To be honest I love having goals on Sophie. It really helps keep me motivated and riding all week long when my trainer gives me homework. So my plan is to go out to do some light riding in the evenings (it is usually dark but the barn has lights) and then during my four days off for Thanksgiving get some good rides in out in the pasture.

So what are your favorite exercises on your horse?

 

Beanless Chili in the Crockpot

Okay my low carb lovers! I have had a serious craving for some chili but I didn’t want the beans. First of all, they make my stomach all crampy and second of all, they aren’t very low carb. So this last Saturday I decided to experiment with making chili without any of the beans and in the crock pot. It turned out really good! I loved it and there are so many ways you could play with it to make it better. Now remember, I am a big baby with spicy stuff, so I don’t really do spicy chili but hey if you want to add some spice to it, bet it would still be pretty bad ass. So low carb lovers like me, get your crock pots out and give some beanless chili a try!

Beanless Chili in the Crockpot

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Ingredients:

 

  • Hamburger meat
  • 3-4 cans of diced tomatoes
  • Tomato Sauce (I used the Chili flavored one from Hunts)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • Seasoning: lemon pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin, onion powder, sea salt and bay leaf
  • 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Brown the hamburger meat and start chopping up the sweet onion. I only added a half of a sweet onion because I don’t like onion all that much.
  2. Place the onion, hamburger meat browned, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce all in the crock pot.
  3. Before stirring add in all the seasoning (except the bay leaf) and brown sugar.
  4. Stir everything together. Place bay leaf on top. Place lid on crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Either one. Then you can leave the crock pot on warm.

I made some cornbread to go with it, placed some sour cream and cheese on top and DONE! Easy and drool worthy! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

My Quiet Place

Friday night and it is 11:11 p.m. I can’t sleep. I am staring out my window looking at the stars and listening to R’s steady breathing next to me. I am restless. My mind is filled with everything echoing around in it and I can feel my anxiety wanting to rear its ugly head. I take another deep breath in and try again to close my eyes. They just pop right back open.

So I snuck out.

I am not a child and I can leave any time but it felt like sneaking out as I quietly got dressed in the dark and slipped out the door with only a flashlight. I leave a note just in case R wakes up and looks for me. Then I walk to the barn with the ranch kittens following me, playing peek a boo with the flashlight. Each breath comes out in cold white clouds and the handsome blue eyed stud horse nickers softly as I pass by.

I turn on the overhead lights (the one’s that still work) and walk up to Sophie who is waiting for me calmly. She thinks maybe a second dinner might be in the works and I laugh as she looks at her hay trough expectantly. There is not a second dinner but I duck in between the fence poles to run my hands through her thick winter coat. I spend just a few minutes smelling her horsey smell and feeling her thick coat in between my fingers. I feel my anxiety quiet down.

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She picks up each one of her feet calmly for me as I pick out all the mud she walked through in the last couple of days. I note that she is shedding her frog again. She knows my movements, we do this dance often enough, she picks up her foot even before I ask her for it and calmly yawns as I groan to her about how impacted it is. She stands quietly for me as I run my hands down her legs, under her belly and over her back checking for sores, cuts or issues. I check the cut on her foot and note that it finally has a scab. I notice that she yet again kicked off her bell boot and I hunt it down in the half dark arena. She follows me slowly, giving me enough space to be respectful but keeping a close eye on me none the less. My trainer jokes that she is my babysitter because when Sophie feels me sliding around during our no stirrup work she stops to give me a moment to regain my balance. She also keeps a close eye on my step son when he rides her. So she has earned herself the title, babysitter.

I stop at the gate that looks over the small pasture that connects with the barn and I look up at all the beautiful stars. Sophie stands with me and keeps one ear on me while I tell her about the constellations. Her other ear is on whatever she is listening to beyond the barn. Am I crazy? I just might be since I am having a conversation with a horse. She lets me lean my head on her as her back foot rests in the position that tells me she is relaxed.

Eventually I walk back into the light to get her tennis ball and rub it all over her muscles. It is my way of thanking her for being so loyal and calm when I ride. She tries so hard to do everything I ask. So I roll the ball, over her neck, down her back and down her long muscles in her back legs. I stretch her neck and scratch her chest. She relaxes fully and her eyes slowly close.

As I go to duck out of the arena, after well over an hour of just spending time being in her calm presence, she backs her ass up to me for a scratch. I scratch as she sways her butt and it makes me laugh so hard that she turns to glare at me. So I scratch some more. I scratch till she walks slowly away to check her hay trough and then I turn off the barn lights to walk back to the house.

Even the dogs are sound asleep and not interested in waiting for me by the fence. I slip back into my pajamas, back under the covers where R pulls me close in his sleep and I finally feel myself slipping into oblivion.

And when people ask me why I ride even though this 1200 lb animal could really hurt me, this is what I tell them, because she helps me and when I am with her, there are no busy thoughts cluttering up my brain. I am just focused on her. And in a world full of loud noises, non stop stress and craziness, everyone needs their quiet place. The barn, with my horse, is mine.

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Spoons

Lately, stress and how it mixes with my health condition has been on my mind. For those of you that don’t know, I have PCOS. I don’t talk about an awful lot because it has been apart of my life now for so long. Now, it is a broad statement to say I have PCOS because seriously, PCOS is so different for each woman who has it. Some have to few of periods, some like me have to many, some have cysts, some don’t and in very rare cases some have a skin condition like me that develops as a side effect of PCOS. The skin condition is very rare but lucky me, I got hit with BOTH PCOS and the rare skin condition. I struggle to lose weight, I have to eat very carefully, my skin breaks out in rashes and boils when my hormones are off and stress can make all of that worse. As well as trigger my anxiety.

I was reading an article the other day about PCOS and stress eating. In this article it mentioned a link between children (female of course) that stress ate high sugary and fatty foods as a kid and being diagnosed with PCOS. But I have also read articles that say PCOS has side effects such as anxiety and the craving of high sugary foods. So, kind of like the chicken and the egg, which came first? The stress eating problem or the PCOS?

Can you guess what I did as a kid to deal with stress? I stress ate. I dug candy out of the trash that my Mom would throw away. I ate so many raw Top Ramen noodles once I puked in my own closet. I begged for fast food. I snuck food and once I got a job, I would buy food and hide it in my car. So bad, I know. I don’t stress eat as much now as an adult but sometimes I have to give myself a lecture on eating certain foods when I am stressed.

Today, I was reading a different article that talked about the energy someone with a chronic illness has. I don’t really consider myself someone with a chronic illness but unfortunately PCOS is a chronic illness.

This article talked about spoons:

“Spoon theory was written by a woman with lupus, Christine Miserandano, to describe what it’s like to live with a chronic disease. She imagined a person’s level of energy and ability in a given day as represented by a certain number of spoons, and then described how every task, even seemingly mundane ones, cost different amounts of spoons, causing the chronically ill person to have to make difficult decisions about how to spend their few spoons. By contrast, healthy people simply never need to worry about counting their spoons or carefully planning their expenditure.

Although spoon theory was written with lupus in mind, it can easily be applied to other chronic conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which many of my patients (as well as I) have. PCOS applies to spoon theory in terms of how we manage emotional and mental stress and anxiety. Chronic disease, of any type, is a huge life stressor that a person must contend with. This leaves that person with far fewer “spoons” to accomplish their daily tasks than those without a chronic illness.

To illustrate how this might work, let’s say a hypothetical woman with PCOS has 12 spoons. Women without PCOS or another chronic condition might have enough spoons that they don’t have to worry about even counting them most days. But for comparison’s sake, let’s say that a different hypothetical woman without PCOS also has 12 spoons.

Both women have to accomplish the same list of tasks every day, with the corresponding costs in spoons:

  • Waking up and getting herself ready for the day. (2 spoons)
  • Preparing breakfast and lunch. (1 spoon)
  • Going to work. (2 spoons)
  • Cooking and cleaning up dinner. (1 spoon)
  • Exercising. (1 spoon)
  • Quality time with partner. (1 spoon)

This leaves the woman without PCOS with four remaining spoons for the day that she can spend as she wishes.”

Check out the full article here!

It got me thinking about my spoons.

During the week my day looks like this:

  • Wake up at 5:30 a.m.
  • Get ready for work, this might include feeding the animals if R didn’t or if R was out of town, making myself lunch, taking a shower, getting dressed, putting on make-up, etc;
  • I commute over an hour in stop and go traffic, worrying the entire time about being late to work;
  • I work all day long at a high stress job;
  • During my lunch break I am responding to texts, emails and phone calls for my personal life;
  • I commute over an hour back home in stop and go traffic;
  • I feed the horses, ducks, chickens, dogs and cat;
  • I make myself dinner;
  • I do some chores so the house doesn’t get overwhelming;
  • If R is home, I try to spend time with him;
  • The entire day I am also always working on things like, dealing with R’s ex wife (he has a high conflict baby mama as we refer to them in my step mom group), dealing with an aging dog, problem solving issues that pop up, trying to remember when bills are due, etc

All I could think after listing that out is, wow, that is a LOT of spoons.

It isn’t that all of those tasks make me unhappy either. I love feeding my animals and getting time with them. I love spending time with my partner. I love cooking. But it does get overwhelming and some days my anxiety is on very high which also takes spoons away from my daily tasks. If my hormones are acting up, my spoons gets reduced a bit as well. No wonder my doctor recently diagnosed me with chronic fatigue from stress. She also said that I am clenching my teeth so tight and grinding so much that I am causing migraines, as well as jaw pain, ear pain and neck pain. Whoops!

So  that has me thinking this week, how can I reduce some of that stress that is taking away my spoons? Also, what can I do to increase my spoons a bit (such as self care)?

While I contemplate those things, why don’t you tell me how you handle your daily stress?

Holiday Blues

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Tis the season for… bad driving, rude people and fighting family. Gosh, I used to love the holiday season. I would wait and dream of when Fall would creep in. I would get excited for changing leaves and rainy days. I would look up recipe after recipe for Thanksgiving. I have spent years working on perfecting my Nannygoats/fathers apple pie recipe. I counted down till I could buy my live Christmas tree and decorate my home with twinkling lights. I used to get this happy feeling as I dreamed of snow and one day having a white Christmas. I didn’t give up on baking cookies for Santa till I was in my teens. I just loved the holidays so much and always dreamed of sharing it with a big family that was loud, messy and full of holiday cheer!

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I still do have some of that cheer but it has been dimmed by the fact that the holidays seem to get worse and worse each year. Between R’s ex (who does not understand the meaning of mutually agreed upon holidays) making demands that she get all the holidays and my family pretty much not talking to each other, R and I are staring down Thanksgiving alone. And we might just be okay with it.

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I am really tired of hearing the negative remarks about these holidays. They are to commercialized. People are greedy. Those aren’t the things that make these holidays special. Not at all. There is nothing wrong with finding unique gifts for your loved ones to show them that once (or twice if you do birthday presents as well) that you are thinking of them and want to treat them to something special. If you don’t want to be commercialized by it then make something or go to local craft fairs and support local crafters/small businesses or buy them a little trip somewhere so they get an experience or a massage so they can take some time out on themselves or even your favorite book. There are gifts out there that are full of love and thought that aren’t all about being commercialized.

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Some of my favorite gifts have been the least expensive gifts. One year, a friend made me an ornament. It is clear with book verses in it because I love to read. It still hangs on my tree every single year. Another year, my mother gave me cooking pots and pans with a cookbook that I still use to this day. I still have crafts all over my house from back in the day when my niece and nephew used to craft silly things for me and a drawer full of the craziest underwear from my sisters amazing underwear tradition that up until last year was still being carried on. My cousin got me her favorite book last year and I got so hooked I read most of the series as well and we talked for hours about how awesome the book was. My father’s wife made me a laptop carrier bag that I still use when traveling with my laptop.

Some of my favorite memories are of disasters that happened on the holidays. The year my sister didn’t turn on the oven (or it wasn’t working) and our turkey was very undercooked. Or the year we clogged up my garbage disposal and poor R was trying to fix it while people did the dishes in the bathtub. Or the year my sister and I bought the tallest Christmas tree ever and had to tie to the top of the stairs to keep it from falling over. Or the year my sister bought a giant inflatable turkey and we posed in the weirdest pictures ever with it. I still have those hanging at my desk at work. Last year I wanted a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving, which is like unheard of but R was determined. So we drove up this winding dirt road to this small tree farm where this guy was spending a day letting his kids pick out a tree before the tree farm opened up for the season. R talked him into letting us have free range of his odd shaped tree area and we brought home more of a bush than a tree. It even had an olds bird nest stuck in it and had to be cut down to fit into our living room three times. These are the memories that still bring a big smile to my face!

To me it is all about traditions. I love traditions. I love cooking with my family in the kitchen making the same dishes we made for years. I love gifting ornaments on Thanksgiving to hang on our trees so we have a unique memory that ties into that ornament. Playing the silliest games and laughing till our stomachs hurt. Waking up to Thanksgiving morning mimosas so that by noon we were all giggling and clear out of champagne. Live Christmas trees being cut down and dragged home. Decorating the house. Watching The Muppet Christmas Carol (something we have been doing since my niece and nephew were very little). Making or picking out gifts for each person. Some years I had a really tight budget and those years I would knit like a crazy person. I made scarves for the kids and my sister, socks for my mom and an ear warmer headband for my cousin. I miss the kids being little (not mine, my sisters) because they brought so much joy and though we have R’s son, we normally get him after Christmas because his mom takes him to see her family each year. I miss the sound of little excited feet running to the tree in the morning. It brought a certain excitement about Christmas!

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Lately though the holidays are getting frustrating. No one wants to make plans with each other. No one wants to make Thanksgiving dinner together or pick out a live tree together or watch bad Christmas movies in their Pajamas or play bad games. No one is really talking to each other this year. There is rude drivers. Rude people. Stores are crowded full of shoving angry people. Sigh. It is enough to make a holiday crazy girl want to hunker down in her llama pajamas in front of a fire with Christmas movies ALONE. Well, I might be willing to invite the hubby and step kiddo. Maybe. If they promise to be quiet!

I keep walking by my Christmas decorations and giving them the side eye. I think I will drag them out soon for some Christmas cheer. To heck with all the other scrooges right now. Bah Humbag to ya’ll, I am lining my walk way with candy canes that light up. Maybe I should start annoyingly listening to Christmas music at my desk again. That seems like a good way to cheer myself up!

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So what are some of your favorite holiday traditions?!

Give a kid a horse…

IMG_20171105_173422_009This weekend was a whirl of step son activities. Whenever my step son (R’s son), comes for his visitation, the whole house gets turned upside down in such a good way. He brings laughter, play and some whining to our normally quiet home. Well, as quiet as you can get living with a man who listens to music nearly all the time. What I love about my step son is that he is gaining a love for riding horses. Something that makes my heart super happy.

On Friday evening we all went to the barn to give the horses their dinner. Luckily my step son loves feeding the animals, this includes the chickens/ducks, the dogs and the horses. So he is great at helping with all of it. Since we were all out there and sometimes you gotta shake up the horses routine to keep them on their toes, we decided to do some riding. I put my step son up on Sarge (gelding) all by himself for the first time. He has ridden them but always with us ponying him but this time he got control of the reigns. R walked beside them as he tried to teach his son about the gas pedal, brakes and steering. Sarge is a bit stubborn at times and so he is hard to get going when he knows he can get away with it. So, eventually we stuck him on Sophie and she was very responsive after we taught my step son how to give her a good kick if he asks and she doesn’t respond. Trust me, he doesn’t have enough strength to do any damage to that thick skinned horse. It was wonderful to see the huge smile on his face the entire time he rode.

Fast forward to Saturday, when my trainer comes to spend an hour whipping Sophie and I into shape. She is a wonderful girl who has many years of experience and a great way of teaching. She has a great balance between correcting and letting you figure out for yourself what you did wrong. Sophie and I have become so much stronger since she has started working with us. I can now keep Sophie in a solid trot and even turn circles with her. It is pretty amazing considering when I first got her she was the horse who leaned on her bit hard and wouldn’t trot circles.

So after a solid lesson, I put my step son on Sophie and let my trainer have 15 minutes with him. He did great. She got him to push Sophie out to the outer wall, got him trotting nicely and even to do some side steps. It was great to see how he handled the horse so much better after just 15 minutes spent with her. He even woke up Sunday and asked to ride again.

I love being able to share this love of horses with him! It warms my heart so much to see him carefully move around the horses and to climb up in that saddle with no fear. Sophie is a good horse to learn on to because she is gentle but will push her boundaries, like trying to pull her head into the middle so she can be done with work. Plus it pushes me and his dad to get out there to ride more often ourselves. Which is something we need to do more often.

So all in all, it was a good weekend full of laughter and lots of horse riding. Which is perfect by me!

Beef Stew

I love fall and winter but hate daylight savings time. Now I have light in the morning but in the evenings it is dark before I can even walk out of my work. I have a flashlight I carry in my car now because first thing when I get home I have to run to feed the horses in the dark, check on the chicks and momma, feed the ducks (who are bedded down already) and check on everything. In order to ride I will need to only do it in the barn where the lights are. It is seriously a headache for those of us that work full time and don’t get off till 5 p.m.

So my oven has been broke for a week. The company with the part keeps pushing back the delivery time. So I have had no oven which means I broke out the crockpot for some beef stew. I love beef stew. I prepped the entire thing the night before and then just popped it into the crockpot the next morning to simmer all day long. Once I got home, I topped it with some grated cheese and sour cream. Delicious.

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Now I did something a little different, I didn’t brown the stew meat first because I was reading an article about beef stew and saw something similar. Turned out really good not browning the meat and instead letting it simmer slowly for 10 hours. If you aren’t comfortable, brown your meat but I don’t put it in my directions because I like how it turned out without browning it. Check out the recipe below!!

Beef Stew in the Crock Pot

Ingredients:

  • Beef Stew meat (I just buy the packages from the store)
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of Beef broth
  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes peeled and diced
  • 14 ounces of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of baby carrots
  • Seasoning: I used lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, sea salt and onion powder
  • 1-2 cloves of shallots
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Optional: Add a little bit of onion, I don’t but you can for flavor
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • Grated cheese of your choosing

Directions:

  1. Place stew meat in crock pot and add 1/4 cup of flour. Coat meat with flour thoroughly.
  2. Place in the rest of the ingredients except for the bay leaves.
  3. Season everything generously.
  4. Add two bay leaves on the very top (this makes it easier for you to find them).
  5. If you prepped the night before, place crock pot in fridge overnight, if you didn’t, place everything on the crock pot right away.
  6. Cook on low for 10 hours.
  7. Take out bay leaves, add sour cream and some cheese on top.

Viola!

Rainy Days

So this weekend was one of those weekends where I actually felt somewhat decent. The rain was making my allergies feel better for the first time in weeks and I had a weekend at home to spend with the critters. Now, I didn’t get as much housework done as I intended but that often happens. Especially when daylight savings time throws off your internal clock and you spend Sunday morning in bed with your book to recover. But all in all, I can’t call the weekend a waste.

You know who loves rainy days? (Besides me) The ducks!

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They love rainy days. It makes them so happy. If you look really carefully at the picture you can see two huge bull frogs hiding underneath the shed. Turns out, the ducks were attempting to eat these guys and watching the interaction was funny. Now I knew the frogs were to big for the ducks, but they do this thing where when the ducks try to eat them, they puff up and try to get even bigger. It must be their defense mechanism. So they stand tall on all four legs and kind of do this thing where their body puffs up. It was cracking me up. The ducks would try to eat one, it would puff up, they would give it the side eye and then go back to playing in the puddles. Then it would repeat itself till the ducks decided it was a no go and left them alone. I have watched my ducks eat those small green frogs that love to make their up my drains and into my garden tub. Just slurped it right up and swallowed it down. But they are much smaller.

R and I got firewood on the porch finally Friday, just as the rain was starting to fall and we had a nice warm fire going all weekend. I love fires on rainy days. I am not the biggest fan of our fireplace but that is only because it is old and has lots of leaks. We literally cover the thing with aluminum foil to keep the smoke in so we can dampen it down. But on cold nights Red lays herself out right in front of the fire and sleeps soundly. Plus there was a really amazing double rainbow Saturday evening.

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R got a free weekend after being told he would need to work Saturday. The rain came in early and he wasn’t able to do his load because the drop off place would just become a mud pit. So I convinced him to ride the horses with me both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday it was raining so we stayed inside the arena (which is inside the barn) except for a few minutes when R tried to take Sarge out in the rain and Sarge had a freak out about it. I always noticed that Sophie (my mare) will stand in the rain but Sarge will only watch her from the door way. Thought it was odd but now I know, he doesn’t like rain at all. Kind of funny! Big bad ass gelding can’t handle rain.

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Both horses were sassy because they had been sitting. R has been working too much to do anything with Sarge and Sophie has been on rest due to her leg injury. But she did good this weekend, her injury is almost all healed and she has no limp or showing any signs of pain. So I decided she could get her wrap taken off and she could handle some riding. She did good, we trotted, we worked in circles and we did some side passing. She was a little buddy sour but she did good. R even took her down the road a little bit. He is dying to ride her to the corner store (which is like 15 minutes away by car and probably a good hour or more by horse) but we have been doing small bursts at a time because for some of the ride she has to be on a public road with cars going by.

Can I complain for one second or at least educate non horse people? When you see a man on a horse riding on the road (even if he is completely over as far as he can go, which R was), please slow down and give him some room. You have no clue if that horse will bolt. Even a well trained horse can choose that moment to spook and you don’t want to hit horse and rider because you are being irresponsible. Most people in the country are amazing about it but there were a few cars that made me want to throw things at them because they would fly by R on Sophie without giving him an inch. We aren’t the only ones who ride either, there are tons of teenagers and other horse people who ride our road to get to the railroad tracks to ride to the store. It is a fun little ride that doesn’t require a trailer. So if you are in the country and see a horse being ridden, slow the hell down and give them a lot of room.

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And because if is #nostirrupnovember I even got on Sophie bareback. I haven’t ridden bareback since I was a kid. But it was amazing and scary all at once. R walked with us because hello, I need to work on my seat obviously but Sophie did great. If she felt me losing my balance she would just wait till I steadied myself and then continue on. She really is a great horse! But bareback you can feel every move and every bump. It is a really different feeling for sure. My legs were a little sore but I know I need to do it more to get my seat better. It will really teach you your seat in no time!

So that was my rainy day weekend! I am feeling a lot better with some down time, horse time and R time at home. Sometimes you just need a weekend at home to get yourself balanced again!

Stay tuned, tomorrow there will be a crock pot beef stew recipe!!!!