Friday, February 28, 2014

Easiest Cake Ever

Did you know that I refuse to use boxed cake mixes?  REFUSE with a capital R.

It's really not hard to assemble the ingredients for a cake mix at home and since most boxed cake mixes require eggs and oil, all you really need to have at home for extra ingredients is flour, sugar and baking powder (maybe, depending on your recipe).  If you have to use eggs and oil for a box, why not just make it at home without the weird ingredients in the boxed mixes?  How much extra time does it take to measure and mix?

Sadly, this doesn't always work out for me so well.  There must be a special reason for the unpronounceable chemicals in a boxed cake.  My homemade yellow and white cakes leave something to be desired.

But chocolate cake I can make from scratch like it's my job.

Last night, I needed a quick and delicious dessert.  I couldn't do a chocolate dessert because I never sleep if I have chocolate any time after 3pm on a school night.

So, I poked around and found a recipe for Peach Dump Cake.

The word Dump next to Cake made me leave the page, but when I remembered the simple ingredients, I was forced to go back and see if it was worth making.  The ingredients were:

1 can (29 oz) of peaches
1 box of yellow cake mix
3/4 cup of butter

Put the peaches in the baking dishes, liquid and all.  Sprinkle the mix over it.  Cut the butter into pats and lay them on top.  Bake and enjoy.

So, I thought about it.  If it only wanted a mix and not the eggs and oil, I could assemble the mix, right?  Just flour, sugar and baking powder.  And I could just sprinkle it over the peaches and then put the pats of butter.  Right?

So, my first change was the pan. I didn't have a 13x9 pan clean, so I did it in an 8x8 which meant cutting the recipe in half.  So here's what I did to make the simplest cake ever.

Put about 20 ounces of peaches in a dish.

Mix up 1.5 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1.5 tsp of baking powder.  Sprinkle it over the peaches.  Use less than 1/2 cup of butter and cut it into pats.  Lay the pats around the top of the sprinkled dry ingredients.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or so.


Linking here:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Denim + Leather = One Sexy Beast

I'm not sure why I didn't have to beat boys off with a stick in high school.  Especially when I wore this hot and I do mean HAWT jacket.

Yes, it's acid washed.

And leather.  Probably fake.

And it had epaulettes.

And lots of seams.

I bought it at the Weathervane.  Do  you remember that store?  When I was in high school and making a little money working for my dad, I thought buying my clothes there was hifalutin shopping.  No more Bradlees and Kmart for me!

I thought it was so trendy.  It's probably the only time in my life I thought I was actually fashionable.

And oh, I was so wrong!

And there was also a store called Foxmoor.  Did you have this store?  It was the same kind of store.  I guess they would be Forever 21 or Hot Topic today.

The biggest difference being the clothes we bought were actually used to cover us up instead of making us look like streetwalkers the way today's clothes do. 

Not only did I think this was high fashion, I paid handsomely for this jacket!  I feel like it might have been $70 in 1990 or so.  $70???  At $2 per hour, that was WAY more than I could afford.

I heard about this magical thing called layaway and so I jumped onto the layaway bandwagon.  Every week, I took my little payment to the girl at the register and eventually, I was the proud owner of this jacket.

And every day, as I wore it, I knew I would grow to hate it.   I knew that someday, I'd think it was a terrible purchase.  I liked it as I wore it, but I definitely knew it was not long for my world.

That day came yesterday.  My sister a-ster put up a post about a skirt she made for Bean and I thought immediately about a skirt I bought at the Weathervane that had a similar yoke.  I loved that skirt.  I remember buying it on super clearance in the summer.  I feel like it was $9  (major shopping deals tend to stay with me.  Where I left my keys?  Never.  How much I paid for a skirt 20 years ago?  Top of the brain).

I wore that skirt TO DEATH.  It was brown with a slight plaid. Like thin, teal lines, I think.   I wore a dreadful peach shirt with it.

Seriously, I do not know why I wasn't homecoming queen.

As I thought about that skirt and my many trips to Weathervane, it all came crashing back. 

The jacket. 

The leather. 

The acid washed denim.

I would not be caught dead in that jacket today.  What on earth was I thinking?

The only thing that could have made it worse was if the jacket had leather or suede fringe.  Which many of them did at that time.  But they were probably $90 (gasp!) and I could not afford that, for sure.

That and the fact that though it was worn in the 90s, it is now for sale on ebay as "vintage".

Monday, February 24, 2014

How I Survive Riding In the Winter

When I first started riding, as with anything new that I start, I was really hesitant about jumping on the "buy everything cute for riding" bandwagon.  When I don't know if I'm really going to enjoy an activity, I resist buying the essentials and try to make do with  whatever I have.

I hate the feeling that I've been had.

Ask me how many years I taught Spinning classes before I finally caved and bought spinning shoes!

So, for the first month or so, I wore old jeans, a turtleneck and a fleece.  It was February/March and I was foolish enough to think you just get on a horse and go, letting him do all the work.


Actually, the turtleneck and fleece were probably just for the first lesson and I realized how I really get sweaty, so I changed to a couple of long sleeve t-shirts.

The jeans were fine until the day I was really sweaty and ripped all the skin on the inside of my knee from all the friction.

So, I "caved" and bought myself a pair of britches/breeches/schooling tights.  Ooooh, another activity where I can wear spandex?????


They design these pants with the idea that you will use your inner legs a lot, so there are knee patches on the inside of the knees.

You can also get what are called "full seat" britches/pants/tights.  They have the suede patches on the butt too.  Some have them all the way up the inner thigh.  They cost almost twice as much, so I've never bought them.  They usually aren't the same color as the pants, so they really stand out.

Also, I often wear my riding pants to the grocery, Cultural Center, church or wherever I have to stop on the way home.  I feel ridiculous enough.  Wearing full seat pants looks so utterly ridiculous, I just can't do it.

The full seat is supposed to help you stay in the saddle, but I think it just creates friction.  Something I already have enough of an issue with when riding, so I refrain.

In the summer, I wear as little as possible.  When we were at the barn with the indoor ring, I chose to ride inside even on the hot days of summer so I didn't have to wear sunblock.   It's a tough choice:  wear sunblock which really just slides right off due to the sweating and when he rubs on me when I groom him (and get FILTHY because every particle of dust sticks) or wear a t-shirt with sleeves to try to protect my skin.  I take melanoma very seriously, so I spend most of the summer fretting over this.

However, I most often choose this kind of outfit because it's the coolest.

As fall rolls around and I have to ride after school, those cool afternoons take me from tank tops to t-shirts to long sleeve t-shirts.

But this year, I discovered something that is so great and it's working even through the winter!  I bought a couple of these super thin but surprisingly warm polyester tops.  I wear the sports bra and tank top underneath.

And my snazzy purple vest on top.  It's amazing how thin all of this is and it works to keep me very warm, especially when I start to warm up from working.

On especially cold days, I also add a long sleeve t-shirt over the whole thing and then add my snazzy purple vest.  I've really only had to add the t-shirt on the 20 degree days.

Yes, that's right, 20 degrees.  I've ridden many an afternoon in the 20s this year.  I've never done that before!  Usually, the barns we've been at have had their rings freeze and there's nowhere safe to ride.  R-ster has done a great job dragging the ring every night to try to break  up any ice and it's worked the majority of the time.  Good for getting out and riding.  Not so good for trying to stay warm on those frigid days.

I also finally broke down this winter and bought myself a pair of fleece lined britches.  I didn't think my legs were feeling particularly cold, but I thought it might help with my warmth overall.  Plus, they were on sale.

Totally worth it.

No matter the time of year, I wear half chaps.

Before you get excited, I said half chaps.  Those are not assless chaps.  In fact, let's think about this.  All chaps are assless.   A cowboy simply puts them over his jeans, but never do they actually cover the butt.  I don't know where that term even came from.  It's so redundant.

I also don't know how western riders don't rip their knees to shreds when riding in jeans, but they all do it.  I've never ridden in a western saddle, so maybe the leg position is different?

So, the purpose of a half chap is to give the illusion that you are wearing a full, tall boot.  This protects the inner lower leg from the stirrups.  It also helps to keep the leg from swinging around because there's a little texture to it.

For people like me who a) don't want to spend 100s of dollars on tall boots and b) can't stand the idea of being trapped in a boot up to my knee on an 80 degree August day, these are the right answer.  They are very inexpensive.  They are suede or polysuede so they aren't stiff or especially hot.  They can be machine washed and look brand new when they come out.    And best of all, I don't have to force my leg into a boot and strap in.

For all this time, I only ever wore gloves in the winter.  And they were always fleece like this.

And I would usually take them off mid ride.  Rarely would I have them on the entire time.

I don't know if it's the wind coming across the 100 acre wood at this barn or what, but I had to abandon my fleece for leather because I thought I actually had frostbite one day.  And even with the leather, on a 20 degree day, I have to pause a few times and put my hands in my shirt/pants to regain feeling because they get sooooooo cold and sore.

I tried hand warmers but the tip of my ring fingers just can't take it.

The bad news about that is that I've really gotten used to wearing gloves and I like how they protect my hands from the reins and the horse slobber and dirt.  I really don't want to be one of those prissy riders who simply can't ride without gloves, but I think I'm becoming one....

My helmet is the same, day in and day out.  You can literally spend $600 on a helmet.  I cannot spend $600 on a helmet, but some people can.  Instead, I bought one that isn't the bottom of the barrel, but not much higher up.

In the winter, the helmet works to keep my head warm.  But in the summer, it's just a way to keep the shampoo companies in business, I'm pretty sure.

So, basically, I wear polyester from head to toe.  Including the plastic in my helmet.

In the summer, I spend all my time trying to cool off and in the winter, I spend it all trying to warm up.   There are about 2 days in the spring and 3 days in the fall that are just the right temperature.

But for some reason, I continue this crazy activity!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Repurposing A Sweater And Cracking You Up

A while ago, someone gave this sweater to k-ster.

I can't stop laughing either.  K-ster is not a sweater wearer to begin with.  Picturing him in a body hugging, soft, fine knit striped sweater gives me fits of giggles for hours.  I don't know who gave it to him or what they were thinking.  It's way too small, but sadly, not long enough that I could make it into a dress, as I was thinking I could.

For someone who doesn't wear sweaters, k-ster has an awful lot.  And when he first started installing marine electronics, he used to wear sweaters all the time.  I know this because I washed them all the time.

Recently, he declared that he doesn't wear sweaters and we might as well get rid of them.  If he doesn't wear sweaters, how do they end up in the wash?

I've seen tons of things to do to repurpose sweaters, so I decided it was time.

First, I tried making some mittens but they were crap, so I gave up that dream.  I've tried making mittens from sweaters countless times and they are just not going to happen for me and I need to get over it.

Then, I decided legwarmers are the way to go.   Not for me, for my etsy.  I don't wear leg warmers, for lots of reasons:  I'm short.  I no longer dance.  My calves don't really get that cold.  I am not a fashionista.

However, the internet is FULL of legwarmers, so I decided this was the way to go.

It's such a soft knit and lightweight, so sewing it would be a breeze.

I think we all know that taking the sleeves and making them into legwarmers is basically a no brainer.  Plus, it's fun to sit on the floor and stick your legs into the sleeves to see if it will work and you look like a total dork wearing a sweater on your legs.

So, I cut off a sleeve and the bottom band of the sweater.  My plan was to sew the band onto the top of the sleeve, where I cut it off, so there would be a top and bottom to the legwarmer.

The top of the sleeve was bigger than the cuff I made from the band, so I gathered it a little.  It came together just like I wanted.

 I am a sewing genius.

And then, because I sew for your entertainment, I realized I had sewn the cuff to the WRONG SIDE of the sleeve.  That's the seam of the sleeve you see.  On the outside.....

I had to rip out the cuff, which was not easy given the fact that a) I used a nicely matching thread and b) it's a knit, so it was really hard to undo.

I eventually got it out and resewed it.  Then I panicked because I saw this really crooked, ugly blue line on the outside of the sleeve.  I was so upset, I forgot to take a picture.  I had no idea I sewed so crookedly!

It was the gathering thread.  DUH.  And easier to remove since the stitches were bigger.

Every task I do lately requires being redone about 5 times because I keep doing things backwards.  Measure twice, cut once, I know.  But lately, measure twice, cut once and sew like 4 times.


Exactly as I imagined.    Please excuse what looks like elephant knees.  I have great legs, I am not afraid to sound conceited when I say it because I do.  But these pictures do NOT prove that.  Must be the lighting....

Legwarmers do nothing for me, as we can see, but on the right person, they are excellent.  Find them for sale on my etsy.

Linking here: 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

This Just About Sums It Up

I found this on pinterest and pretty much, this is the sum of my existence.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Snowshoeing On the Back Forty

A few years ago, the local cheapo depot store, the kind that gets closeouts from other stores and sells things at ridiculous prices, had some snowshoes for like $8.  This is the kind of store that when you see something like that, you think "for $8, I'm willing to give it a whirl".  That, of course, is how they stay in business!

I can't remember if k-ster bought them for me or if I bought them for me.  They came with a nice little storage bag and they get used about once a year.

I don't know anything about snowshoes, except that in cartoons, they always look like tennis rackets, and I don't know if these are normal, but they work for me.

You strap your boots into them with a ratcheting strap like on a ski boot.  They look nothing like a tennis racket.  They are like a mini ski in their shape.  These are just a metal frame with a piece of plastic for the sole.  There are some little metal teeth under the ball of the foot, presumably for digging into ice, but they don't do much.

 Then you go clomping around the great outdoors, leaving footprints like Bigfoot and scaring people who think the Abominable Snowman might really exist.

You do still sink into the snow, but because they are shaped like a ski, the front keeps your toes from sinking in, so you can easily pick up your foot.  And you only sink a little bit, compared to how deep it is.

I used them to walk around the campground to look for tree damage.  They were perfect because the snow is like 8 inches deep.

It's fun to walk across the field and not have to sink down into the snow.

I didn't wear my snowpants because it wasn't too cold when I went out.  I forgot that as you walk, the snowshoes flip up, like a flip flop, and spray snow everywhere.   If you get really moving, you have a spray of snow coming up behind you like a smokestack.

 So, by the time I finished, my pants were soaked through.
 It's been a while since I've shown a picture of my butt.  Savor it.

Linking here:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Night the Garlic Turned Blue

It's February vacation around here this week and I have allowed the most inappropriate eating to go on.  If you know anything about me, it's that I work very hard to eat and make healthy food which allows me to indulge in the sweets sometimes.

But this week, I've lost my mind.

It began with a trip to a pretty gross restaurant on Friday.

Saturday, I did nothing out of the ordinary except I gave k-ster a choice of 2 plans for supper.  I don't usually make suggestions, I just make the meals.  He chose lazy tacos which were fine.

And then it went downhill.

Sunday night, I made sausages.

Monday night, I didn't eat lunch because of this and when I got home, I was a madwoman, so we had Chinese food.  I sincerely dislike Chinese food.

Tuesday, I got up and had blood taken for my physical and since I had been fasting, which I equated with starving, I allowed myself the 2 donuts I've craved for weeks.

And then this happened.

I was going to make a lovely meal of chicken with noodles and spinach.  I wanted a lemony chicken, so I put some olive oil, the juice of a lemon and some pressed garlic into the pan.  Put the chicken on top and started watching last night's Tonight Show.

I turned it over and all was well.

I watched a little more of Jimmy Fallon.

I turned the chicken again and voila, it looked like I had sprinkled Comet all over the pan.

Being my grandmother's granddaughter, I freaked out, sure I was poisoning everyone in a 10 mile radius.  I was sure I was creating some sort of toxic dish and the fumes would kill us all.

My first thought was soap residue.  And then I remembered, my soap is clear and has been for like 10 years.

Maybe Comet fell into the pan?  Ridiculous, I've never used it in the kitchen.

I KNEW I should have rinsed the pan before using it.

And WTF was going on????

So, I hopped on google and simply put "garlic turned blue" and got a million links to people who had the exact same problem.

This woman has a much better view of what the color actually looked like.   My ipad makes it look kind of washed out.  It was BRIGHT neon blue, which is how everyone describes it if you google it.

Apparently, this is very common.  And not toxic.  It's just a chemical reaction.

But I don't believe it for a second.  I've never seen this happen before and I pickled a lot of cucumbers this summer with some serious vinegar in them.  And they are still not blue, all these months later.

So, we had hot dogs, beans, spinach and noodles for supper.  K-ster was like a pig in slop with the hot dogs.

Have you ever had this happen?  Would you still eat it, given the amount of pictures of it on the internet and the reassurances from extension services and science journals?

Monday, February 17, 2014

This Horse Is Stylin'

This is where a trusty old sewing machine, of good quality, could really have come in handy....

Given the fact that the arctic has slipped halfway down (or is it up?) the globe and landed in New England, the horses have been banketed for months.  And months.

I've been surprised that they haven't ripped the blankets off of each other because pulling off halters and ripping blankets are favorite pastimes of horses, especially a few of these that I've known since I've been riding.

They must really be cold and appreciate how important the blankets are.

Yesterday, I arrived for a lesson to find Jackson's blanket all askew.  The two straps that go under the belly, from one side to the other, were undone and hanging.  And it looked like he had stepped on one of them, so it had torn.

A lot.  And I knew it would end up tearing even more if we left it.  I told r-ster I'd come by today and fix it because a new one can cost $100 or more, depending on how thick it is and what the purpose is.

I wasn't going to ride, so I assembled some tools and got dressed and went over around 11am.

What, you don't use your finest Gutterman thread for horse blankets?  I debated going to Joann fabrics for a heavy duty needle and thread, but I found a good needle at my mother's and didn't want to drive up to get thread.  I figured doubling the Gutterman and going over my stitches would be good enough.

I brought glue thinking I would just glue the new piece of fabric onto the old one to hold it in place while I sewed, and since it's Elmer's it would wash out.  I learned about the Elmer's glue trick from the seamstress over at callajaire.  You really need to go check her out.  She has some neat tutorials and great ways to approach tricky things.

And she's my sister.

But make sure you come back and see what filthy thing I created after you look at all the cool stuff she makes.

So, I masterminded a plan for one of the girls hanging around the barn to go get Jackson because I forgot to wear boots.  Since his job is to stroll completely to the other side of the 100 acre woods when I get there, I knew my slide on shoes would be no match for the 10 inches of snow that would stand between us.

While she was getting him, I looked at the old blanket that r-ster said I could cut.  There are some serious tears in it, but we're harvesting things off of it, so she hasn't thrown it out.  I thought I'd just use part of it to repair the hole.

But then I realized that the strap on the old one was in the same position as the strap his current one, so I figured I'd cut out a box around the strap on the old one and just completely cover the tear.

6 hours later, I finished.  I am not kidding. 6 effing hours struggling with this thing.  But, once I started the repair, there was no going back. 
The perfectionist in me fought with the realist in me all day.  The perfectionist wanted perfect Xs all the way around.  The realist said it's just a horse blanket, who cares???  And 'round and 'round we went.

You can see these great gridlines that worked really well to line everything up on the top part of the square.  It didn't work so well along the sides because of the way I cut the blue one away.  It also added to my craziness because I really, really wanted everything to line up.

Don't talk to me about the big green patch on the navy blue blanket.  If only each strap had the same green block so it would be even....

The fabric is not canvas but like a lightweight type of canvas that you'd make a fall jacket out of.  It wasn't bad to get the needle through, but with the two layers of blankets (old piece on current blanket), it made it tough.  Plus, I didn't serge the edge of the green piece, so I wanted to fold it under so it couldn't fray.

That was where I frayed by the end of it all.  It made for too many layers, especially at the corners.   If I hadn't had the thimble, I'd be at the ER, having my fingers sewn up because the needle would surely have poked through them all.

Have you ever used a thimble?  Very. Awkward. Sewing.

Mind you, I also went over each X 3 times to be sure it won't easily come undone.

The cut out part on the inside has me a little nervous.  I don't want him to be able to get his foot in there and get caught or rip it even further.  There might be another tailoring job on the inside that needs to be done but that was the easiest part because it's only one layer of blanket.  I might trim it closer.

This would have been a breeze with my sewing machine.  I thought about it for a minute but I could hear my mother screaming "NOT YOUR GOOD BERNINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" all the way from Florida.

As I was working on it, I kept thinking what an easy repair it would be with the machine.  It was located at the bottom, so the bulk wouldn't have been bad.  It's not awful material for my machine to handle.  And it might have taken me an hour, tops, to finish the entire project.

The blanket was pretty filthy and I didn't realize how much grime was on the inside until I was done and my hands were just coated with horse sweat, oil and dirt.  It would have done a number on my machine, I think.

And I can also hear myself screaming "NOT MY GOOD BERNINA!!!!!"

There are often blankets and saddle pads that need to be repaired at the barn, so a trusty old machine would really be useful.  I might have to look into finding one on Craig's list or somewhere so that I never consider using my GOOD BERNINA again!

Help my sister's latest creation win at Project Run and Play with your vote here!  Hers is #27 and you click on the little heart to give your vote.

Linking here:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I Think I Have A Favorite

As I told you yesterday, k-ster and I just went to our local symphony's performance with Jim Witter's The Piano Men.

Money totally well spent.

I've been a fan of Billy Joel since early in the 80s and a fan of Elton John since the 90s.  I remember my mother listening to Billy Joel CDs in the house and it seems like I heard it in the car too.

I found Elton John myself in high school and I can't even remember why.  There was one tape of his that I played just about to death in high school and college.  I don't know the name of it, I just remember taping it from someone's tape and then I put it in the stereo in my truck and I believe it might have stayed in there for the entire time I drove that truck.

Remember Elton John's album The One?  I hate that album.  It made me stop liking Elton John for a while.  Then he did The Lion King and I resumed my like for him, but if I hear one of those songs from The One, I immediately shut it off.

Remember Billy's Joel's album River of Dreams?  The one that had the cover designed by Christie Brinkley and then they got divorced right after it came out?  I remember my roommates and I being like "how can they get divorced, she just did his album cover???"

Note to self:  if you want to preserve your marriage to a performer, don't paint his album cover.  Especially if you're a supermodel and you're Christie.

I wasn't as much of a fan of that album as I was of his others, but I definitely like it better than Elton John's The One.

Both of those albums came out while I was in college.  And both were lackluster.  That intrigues me.

I definitely agree with Jim Witter that their best work was written in the 70s.

But last night, I discovered something that shocked me.

I like one of them better than the other!  If you asked me before the show we saw, I would have said I like them both equally.

I think they both play the piano like nobody's business and I couldn't even tell you who I think is better at playing.

I like both of their voices a lot.  They are both easy to sing to, which is something that I think influences all of us when we decide if we like a song or not.  If we can't sing it, we probably don't feel a  connection with it.

My decision could be influenced by the fact that I've seen him in concert, but I think I like Billy Joel better!    I'm shocked!  Maybe it's the way Jim Witter performed them, or the order he chose to put them, or maybe there's no method to my choice.

But yes, I like Billy Joel better than Elton John.  Sorry, Elton.

I would easily go see either or both (wish I had when they were doing their tour together!) in concert and I would gladly pay or go for free, but if I could only go to see one, I think I would choose Billy Joel again.

What about you?  Have you seen either?  Do you like one better than the other?  Do you also prefer to listen to songs you can actually sing?

Linking here:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Billy Joel and Elton John

Wow, the power of advertising.

I am not usually one to just jump at the chance to spend money, but I was somewhere online and saw that our local symphony was hosting Jim Witter, who does a concert called The Piano Men, celebrating the music of Elton John and Billy Joel.

K-ster and I are big fans of both.  I saw Billy Joel in concert in 1995 and we both  went to see Movin' Out, the musical Billy Joel wrote with Twyla Tharp around 2004-2005.  I knew I could get k-ster to a musical if Billy Joel's hits  were involved.

And we got a ride with my parents in their motorhome, so that sweetened the deal.

So, when I saw that this guy was coming to the symphony, I asked k-ster if he thought he would want to go.  He immediately said yes, and I immediately got tickets.  Very spontaneous and spur of the moment.

And can you believe I didn't even google or youtube him before I did it?????

It was TOTALLY worth it.

First of all, we loved our seats.  It's a local high school with a brand new auditorium, designed with the idea that the symphony would live there and that there would be state of the art performances given all the time.  I've performed in this auditorium and I've been to  a few shows there, but I have never had the view we had last night.

There is a section up top that is right over one of the entrances, so there are 3 rows of just 4 seats per row.  We got the front row which was perfect except for one little thing which I easily remedied.  There's a panel of plexiglass to keep you from falling onto the incoming people, and a metal bar on top.  Because I am so short, the bar was right at my eye level and I couldn't really see the stage unless I stretched up or ducked down to see.

Since we had winter coats, I folded k-ster's and mine and sat on them and it was PERFECT.

No one was directly in front of us.

Since there were only 4 seats in the row, no one had to climb over anyone because there was an aisle on both sides.

And I saw the orchestra from a perspective I have never seen before.

You can be sure those will be the first seats I look for if we ever go again.

I wasn't sure, with it being a symphony performance, how much rock and roll there would be but they did not disappoint.  In fact, as I watched and listened, I thought about how Billy and Elton how must have full orchestras for all of their recorded albums because there would have been some serious sound lacking if any of those instruments were missing.

He did a medley of both of their greatest hits from the 70s.  There wasn't a song we didn't know and the crowd was clearly happy with all of the music.  I think there were about 20 songs all together, 10 in each half.

The conductor was having a total blast  with it too and when he turned around to talk to the audience at one point, he said he was like "a pig in slop" conducting that music.

As for Jim Witter's voice?  Amazing.  He really sounded like both Billy and Elton but even more pure than both.  I could easily listen to him or Billy or Elton and be happy.

He was also a real entertainer.  He was funny and jovial.

At one point, a local high school student came out and played one of Billy Joel's classical pieces that he composed when he was in a classical phase about 10 years ago.  Do you remember that?  I swear I've heard it before but k-ster didn't recognize it.  I have a feeling it might actually be on the Movin' Out musical CD that I have.  This pianist was fantastic too.

My favorite part of this concert is that it was a great concert of both Billy Joel and Elton John hits, but the crowd remained seated, wasn't allowed to eat or drink or smoke and it was an enjoyable time.  The median age was like 80, so that's probably why.

I've been to concerts where you have to stand the whole time and it's wild and loud but this was not the venue for it and certainly not the crowd.

Maybe I've turned 80 recently too.

K-ster also had a really good time.

If the symphony would host this kind of fun at least once a year, I think we'd always attend!

I cannot recommend this guy enough.  If you get a chance to see them, you really have to go.  It is entirely worth every penny!

And now I wonder if I should just start jumping at every advertisement I see without checking it out first....

**all opinions and comments are my own.  I have not been compensated in any way by The Piano Men, Billy Joel or Elton John.**

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Monday, February 10, 2014

The Brussels Sprouts Debut

I grew up hearing people complain about Brussels sprouts on tv.  Kids were always wrinkling their noses up when they had them on their plates or there was a mild threat that they might have to eat them as punishment.

From what I recall, my mother never made us eat Brussels sprouts.  I know I saw them in real life somewhere, but no one ever made me eat them.  That I can recall.

A couple of years ago, we went to my sister a-ster's house for Thanksgiving and she served them and I was blown away at their good taste.  I couldn't figure out why they were always a dreaded vegetable on tv.

I never bothered to make them myself, but I've thought often of the Thanksgiving Brussels sprouts.

I recently made my Whole Foods debut and they had some nice looking Brussels sprouts, so I bought some, hoping to roast them and enjoy them.

Well, roast and enjoy them I did!  I cut off the ends of each one and cut them in half.  I put them on the stoneware pan, drizzled olive oil and a little salt and pepper and mixed it around.  I roasted them for 20 minutes, maybe more, at 400 degrees.

And then I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  They were the perfect texture.  A few outside leaves were slightly overcooked and crispy but still good.

And because of the salt, I swear it was like eating French fries.

K-ster liked them but made it clear that though I might like to eat them for every meal from now until I'm dead, I am not to make them again this week.  But, he will definitely eat them again, he said.

Now I want to grow them!  This is like the opposite of encouraging kids to grow vegetables so they will want to eat them.  I ate a vegetable and now I want to grow it!

The secret?  Roasting.  I think the reason everyone hated them when they were kids is that mothers would boil them.  I can't even imagine boiling this vegetable.  That would be gross, indeed.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

And A High Time Was Had By 5

"Hi, this is Animal Control.  Are your horses there?"

This was the call that r-ster got the other morning as she was cleaning stalls, thinking she was ahead of time and would be able to get some things done before afternoon lessons and camp.

"Ummm, let me check....???"

Of course they weren't there, why else would Animal Control call?

The snow pushed down the electric fence ribbon, and curious as they are every time they go into this one particular corner, one of the 5 in the big field discovered the security breach.

JAIL BREAK!!!!!!!!!!

Off the 5 of them went, through the woods and onto a road, stopping traffic and causing a ruckus.  Wearing blankets, which is a dead giveaway that these are not "wild horses".

That and the fact that we don't have "wild horses" here in New England.

By the time Animal Control arrived, 2 had disappeared but Jackson, Tucker and Quinn were still horsing around.

Behind the barn we're at now, there is another good sized barn with a lot of paddocks and it's empty in the winter.  Somehow, someone convinced these 3 to go into one of the paddocks and wait until they could decide what to do with them.

Danny and Rita, on the other hand, were nowhere to be found.

R-ster got there amid flashing lights and feared that one of them must have been hit.  Instead, she was greeted by her own 3 horses and told that the other two were gone.  She figured they went back to their own barn, which they did, so she put them in the barn while she went back to get the other 3.

There wasn't a trailer available for the 3 of them and it's really like 1/4 mile from the barn, so with a police escort, the 3 horses were walked back up the street to their barn.

The fence was put back up.

And everyone was safe and sound.

But not in control of themselves.  By the time I got there for a ride, they were still high as kites and just silly.  They were still in the corner where the fence had been down, eyeballing it in hopes it would magically fall down again.

They were pretending eat  out of the trees.

And when they saw me, they all took off, banging into each other, just being silly.  Pulling each other's halters, running into each other, pawing at the ground and frolicking.

All in 8 inches of snow that had a crust on top and then I'd sink down as I was walking.  It was like walking on the moon.

And Jackson was the leader in all of this, avoiding being caught by me.

For like 10 minutes.

Eventually, he gave in and reluctantly took a peppermint and then we had to walk all the way back to the barn for a ride.  He grumbled the whole way like it was really tough for him to walk through the snow, all the way across the field.  After running through it all afternoon!

The culprits:



Rita- she's a 2 year old filly and I suspect she was the ring leader on this.  She is turning out to be a very friendly horse, and she's cute, but she can hold her own with her "brothers" and I think there's a little mischievous streak in her.



If only we could get into their heads, to know what they really think about when they get loose.  They certainly seem like they are having fun, being very bad and running away.  Just like middle schoolers.  And with the security of all 5 of them together, they kept that herd mentality and went as far as they could without being caught.

When I first started riding, Tucker got out of his paddock a few times (at a different barn) but was by himself and that's kind of rare.

Horses will usually stick together and if they do get out, they will usually go to other horses, either those they  know or those they don't, because they don't want to be alone.

Which is why Rita and Danny stayed together to go back and the other 3 went into the paddock that was offered to them, without much resistance.

For large animals that have a lot of power, they really are a bunch of wimps!

But don't tell them.  We don't want them to get the upper hand!

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'm Done With Snow

Really.  Doner than done.  I don't usually get on the "I hate the snow, I'm going to Florida" bandwagon, but this year, I'm tired of looking at snow.

Actually, more like tired of knowing if I want to run out to the car, or out to the greenhouse, or to get the mail, I have to wear boots or risk getting wet.  And muddy.

And just as it goes away, we get more.

This morning, the view was really pretty.

We had a storm yesterday afternoon that turned into sleet and heavy, wet snow.  The sun looked really pretty on it this morning.

But not pretty enough that I think it should continue.

I wish I had my camera at the barn because it was really gorgeous there in the afternoon sun today.  It was like an ad for a ski resort or a Christmas card.  Horses against the background of trees covered with snow, sun bright on the snow, all the snow white and not dirty.

Playing with horses in the snow is a real chore and actually, dangerous.  For such big animals, you'd think they'd have heavy, secure footsteps that sink right into the snow, but they are like Bambi on ice, leading them in and out.  And I'm slipping just as much, hoping me feet don't end up under them.

She plows the riding ring, as you can see in the video of me riding here, but walking them to and from the field can be treacherous.  Especially as the path becomes icy from all of the weight going back on forth on the path.

We've had 3 snow days so far and it looks like at least one more and maybe more next week.  Which means school until July. 

And I keep whispering my mantra:

'tis easier to get up on a June morning than any day in January...

But I'm not sure I will really be excited about that in June.

I'm not jetting off to Florida any time soon, but I am ready to stop seeing snow.  Especially dirty, brown snow on the side of the road.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keys, Please

I have always used one of these to carry my keys and cards.

It started in college when we had to carry our ID everywhere to get into dorms and some classroom buildings, and I just never stopped using one.  I don't carry a purse and if I need stuff, I bring an actual bag.  People think I'm crazy when I get in the car to go somewhere and all I have is this, but it's all I  need.  Fewer things to keep track of and lose!

They last me about 2 years and then something falls apart, usually the zipper.

The zipper itself was fine, but the pull tab had completely worn through I had to resort to using a ziptie to keep my keys on there and open and close it.

My last one had the zipper break completely, so I had to resort to holding it all together with a rubber band around it!

The fabric was also getting really worn, so it was time for a new one.

I did some searching and was blown away that even at Marshall's, they are $20 or more!  Nothing for less than that, no matter the fabric, matter the brand.

Highway robbery.

So, I thought I'd make my own since this most recent one was just normal fabric, nothing special or extra durable.

I wanted to use this really pretty gauze that I used for a nightgown this summer, but it was WAY too thin and no amount of interfacing or anything else was going to provide enough weight to make it last more than a week.
One look in my pinks and I knew right away this was the right fabric!  I bought this quite a few years ago and had no idea what I was going to do with it.  I made an apron that I use when I make crêpes for my students (with 500 students this year, you can be sure I am not making crêpes for anyone but myself!) but I still had a lot left.

The Eiffel towers are pretty big, so one who tower wasn't going to be visible, but I thought I'd like it anyway.

I looked at the construction of my old card holder and it seemed pretty straightforward.  There were really nice seams in there but I wasn't planning to get that fancy since I don't plan on selling it.

I realized that one of the things I really like about this one, and many of them don't have this, is the clear plastic in the front that lets me put my swipe card to get into school.  That way, I don't have to take it out, I can just hold the whole thing up to the reader and it lets me in.  I didn't have any vinyl or plastic, so I cut it out of the old one because it was just fine.

That also gave me a great guide for cutting the window in the new fabric to put it in.

I decided to line the pretty fabric to give it some weight.  And mainly because I couldn't figure out how to get the plastic in there and have neat edges unless I had a liner.
This is just a soft flannel that someone gave me ages ago.  It went with it but wasn't going to take up any of my "important" fabric.

I sewed the wrong sides together and then turned them out and topstitched.  Then I put the plastic on the flannel side and topstitched over my topstitching to hold it in place.  In my head, it was going to be much neater as I followed my topstitching, but no one will care but me.

I wasn't sure I had a zipper that I could use but when I looked, I found these.
I hate cutting off zippers, so I decided to use the blue one.  I'd love to know what I used it for in the past.  It is definitely cut because there is not stopper on the bottom and there's just some sewing to hold it together.  The weird thing is that there are no marks and no threads from where it had been sewn before.  I have no recollection of using this except one blue zipper in dress a hundred years ago.  But I would expect it to have threads from when I ripped it out.  And I know I tore the dress up in a fit of rage because I had hemmed it way too short and couldn't fix it.

Blue doesn't go with these pinks but I thought it would be whimsical.  Or something.  I just couldn't cut up one of these white zippers.

I think if I planned to make another one, I would be sure to buy a heavy duty zipper since that is one of the things that really suffers in these card holders.  They get a lot of abuse and this flimsy blue one probably won't last through spring.

One of the things I debated was the little pocket inside.  The original one has it before the plastic part, but it was always super tight to get cards in and out and I'm one of those people that wants to race through checkout because I hate it when people dawdle in front of me.

I decided to make the little pocket since I had two scraps just the right size that  I was going to throw away.  And make it slightly looser.

It makes it look complete when there isn't a card in there.  As soon as my swipe card goes in, no one will see the pocket, but it's fun and makes it a little more heavy duty.  It also helps to keep my essential cards:  license, swipe card and Staples reward card (WTF?  why does that need to be separate?) separate and very handy.


It's slightly roomier than the original, which feels weird. The cards are just banging around in there.  They will settle in.  I really like it.  It will be filthy and tattered really soon, but everyone will know who it belongs to, no doubt!

Oh, and here's the main feature.
You can see pretty much the whole tower, so it works.  Funny, it was centered when I started....

And anyone who knows me knows my favorite part is that I recycled that stupid piece of plastic in the front.

It's the little things.

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