Cook Book Connections

I love history.

More specifically, I love the stories that history provides us. The good, the bad, the horrific. Lives lived. When I think about what people endured, persevered against, or even put themselves through just to live a good life, it gives me pause to think about our place in this world, our human race.

I feel the connection to history, both recent and ancient, when I am able to connect viscerally. Touch, smell, sight; It is all tangibly evident. A hand flat against a sun-warmed stone on a building, holding a shard of pottery carefully brushed out of the dirt, listening to the recordings of people long gone, imparting their story. The aroma of baking that comes from a recipe passed down over so many generations, no one knows for sure which ancestor began using it.

I haven’t delved much into my family history. Most of what I know comes from my father’s side. I was raised rural, with an appreciation for the land, in my father’s family home, passed down from the original crown grant. The doorways and floor linoleum traversed by several generations before me. The cow paths and fence gaps older than that. The Oak trees in the back pastures stoic guards over all of us.

A few years before I met and married my husband, I discovered I loved to bake. My kitchen was woefully inadequate – at the time – to really pull off extravagant baking, but I tried my hands at various food like cookies, muffins, pies, cake; all the things that can soothe a hard day, sweeten the foulest of moods.


Amongst the arsenal of recipes I clipped from magazines in my quest to be more domestic was a tattered, patina-ed cook book, from the Women’s Institute of Drummond Centre. I hadn’t paid much attention to it, but had used the peanut butter cookie recipe once or twice to make my Father happy.

The recipe, in the book, is attributed to my grandmother.

My grandmother, and her sister-in-law (my great aunt Cassie) were members of this particular Women’s Institute. I don’t know much about the organization, other than what I can find online . In their time, I assume it was a place to discuss how to be the best wife and mother. Keeping a house, raising children, supporting one another through the issues, joys, and difficulties of being a woman in post-war Canada.

Now, married, and in a house of my own, I have periodically pulled that tattered old book down from my cook book shelf. I leaf through it, looking at the recipes, marveling at how simple cooking and baking was, how ingredients have changed. I have memories of some recipes from my Aunt’s home, perhaps even some my mother tried as she fumbled her way through her own self-education in farmhouse cooking and baking.

I never got to meet my grandmother, whom I am also named after. She passed away well before I was ever conceived of.

I had the book out last night while my father was visiting for dinner. He leafed through, pointing to ads of businesses gone, some still very much a part of the rural place I called home. People who are gone, some who are still here. We remembered people, we reminisced about food, the two types of memories intertwining, as they should.

A truth formed in the back of my mind that this small, spiral bound cook book is so much more than just a glimpse into my past, and a snapshot of the era. It is a direct link to my heritage. In it are all the recipes traded and passed down, tried and trusted, from my grandmother’s community. This was how they fed their families. These were the staples in their pantry transformed into the dishes you still see at church pot lucks today. Each entry in the book a recipe important enough to not only be recorded, but shared.

After my father left for home – which is the same farm house – The truth bloomed into an idea that I should be using this book.

I should be testing these recipes against modernity. Me, my Kitchenaid, ample counter space, and fancy oven, capable of even the most grandiose of celebrity chef recipes, should test our mettle against these simple, wholesome dishes.

I want to reconnect physically to my heritage, and this seems like a great place to start. ♥



London Bridges

london bridge 2This is a happy picture of me in 2014 when my husband and I spent some time in London on a whirlwind trip of a lifetime.

We made sure we got some shots and a video on London Bridge for our son and baby daughter, who’s favourite kid-song at the time was “London Bridge is Falling Down”. A windy, rather non-descript bridge, shadowed by the pomp and circumstance of Tower Bridge just down the river a ways, but both busy with traffic and people rushing to their jobs.

Nonetheless, historically important to visit and document, and I am so very glad we did. We even took photos as we boated underneath on our way to Greenwich. london bridge underneath

Google the history of that song, and it could date back to the Vikings, potentially. My Fair Odin?  Wikipedia

Memories from our trip aside, London, and Britain as a whole are on my mind today.

London is this intoxicating , sprawling entity. Teeming with people, a millennia of culture and modernity symbiotically  thrust against one another to melt into this glorious palette of urban life. It is a cacophony of tastes, sights, smells and memories. It was heady and overwhelming, but I grasped – with clarity – the way this place made me feel. I was more at home in London than I have ever felt visiting any city for the first time, ever. I wanted to stay and just absorb everything, let it set into my bones and alter my perceptions, one street block at a time.

I have been *there*. I fell in love with a city *there*.

My heart, after last night’s news, has travelled back, and is heavy. I think people, as we are bombarded by all the reports and happenings all over the world, focus on the ones we can relate to. Places we visited now the centre of the crime. We remember what we saw, trying to reconcile to what the news shows us now.

All this to say; London, and England at large, have survived worse, and will continue to do so. Of this I am certain. The way Londoners (and Mancunians!) have responded with British resolve, strength, and cheek is appropriate, and despite stereotypes being what they are, refreshing. Stiff upper lips are warranted, even when there is grief and sorrow aplenty.

These recent attacks are terrible, and of course, the litany of opinions will drown out this simple fact about the most recent terror attack on London Bridge: That someone chose to take life for hateful reasons, and no matter what the reason, cause, or hatred… It cannot stand.

freedom pericles

The Bomber Command Memorial – Wikipedia

Someday I will go back to London, to dive back in and fall in love with the concept of a city as a living being, made up of all the world at my feet, imbued by history and time passage. I will celebrate that, and pay tribute to the lives lost within, as I did the last time I visited.

Because that is the heart of it. London bridges cultures, invites them to thrive and grow in a city that has stood for over a thousand years with that influence. It has survived countless wars, invading hordes, fires, and bombings. London is a city of the world, not just England.

It will survive this too. ♥


I had to buy a new umbrella yesterday. The one I was fighting with in the whipping wind had inverted itself half a dozen times after only two blocks.

There is a tiny Chinese shop near my work, filled to the brim with all sorts of nick-nacks, pottery, Asian foods, teas and ephemera. the aisles are so narrow, you have to slide down them sideways to explore the depths, and when you walk in, there is an odd mixture of plastic off-gassing, Chinese spicing, and dust that hits your nose. In the window are quirky ceramic figurines and folk art tin dolls staring out, the best seats in the house. At the door, you can pick out a belt from the rack. Nothing is expensive, and there is clutter, filled to the brim with potential treasure.

I used to love going to this shop with my parents when I was little, the wonders in every nook and cranny an entire world of endless possibilities to a youngster. Blue and red-glazed ceramic tea sets shon like jewels, plastic wrap on ramen noodles crackled when you held them in your hand. It was always an adventure.

I spied the umbrella at the door out of the corner of my eye as I stomped past, irritated and frustrated. I halted, turned around, went in, and bought it on the spot, emphatically stuffing the smaller one away in my pack, the cashier nodding sagely at my wisdom of puchasing a bigger, sturdier model. Eleven bucks. I didn’t care that it was half my height and had a huge steel tip. It really didn’t matter that when unfolded it was the diameter of a golf umbrella. What made me pick it out of bin with all the other off black selections were the colours. Red, yellow, blue and green sections, neatly swirled and corded against the handle.

When I unfurled it outside, fuzzy reminders of my Kindergarten and Grade One memories came flying forward.The sound of shrieks of laughter, the rustle of the material on our hands. The anticipation of gym class when the bright bag was dragged out from the gym locker.

My umbrella was a parachute

I remembered it all. We would stand around it, each clutching a tiny length of the edge, all fidgeting and impatient to begin flailing with all our might to make the parachute come alive. The teachers would toss balls into the middle for us to launch into the air, we would all run underneath, shrieking and giggling. We would lift it up and fold underneath it, a circle of colour-tinted faces, wiggling our bums to make sure we didn’t fall off the edge and make the dome fall. if you got picked to go in the middle while everyone shook the material around you, all you could hear was thunder, all you felt was special.

And just like that, my frustration and irritation were gone, and I was walking down the street with an old, happy memory, and a new umbrella. ♥


My daughter had a massive, soul-wrenching tantrum this morning because she did not want to wear jeans to school.

Yup. Full on messy-cry, with dramatic wailing and arm-folding. I wanted to give in, and let her wear shorts, but I had already said no (because it was cold out and if she wore shorts she would be freezing her tiny tookus off) and parents have to stand their ground, don’t they? I mean what kind of message am I sending if I give in every time she cries her little heart out at some perceived slight?

I felt like an incomprehensible bitch for standing firm. Yes. I am a terrible parent for making my child dress in really cute  flower-embroidered jeans and an appropriately branded Frozen T-shirt. Horrible.

To make matters worse, her brother waltzed out of his room in shorts. *facepalm*

She proceeded to make it known that she could not change into shorts at school if she got hot because her teacher would not let her unless she had an accident, which she does not have. “ButmomIwillhavetoweartheseallday” was the hiccuped response as both her father and I attempted to get her dressed because we had to leave for school soon.

She was beside herself with incalculable woe that it would be too hot for jeans. So I put a skort in her bag and said “I’ll send a note to the teacher”. For the next fifteen minutes, my child badgered me if I had, in between bites of breakfast.

I had no intention of sending a note. I intended to ask the teacher’s assistant if she could be allowed to do that, when I saw her at the school. Yes. Terrible. Lieing to my child so she would Stop. Freaking.Out. Parent of the year, right here. *points*

I didn’t need to even bother, because the first thing my little girl did upon seeing one of her teachers this morning, was ask to change into the shorts in her bag. She stood, dejected, her massive backpack drooping, her lower lip stuck out a mile, and with the largest puppy-dog eyes I have ever seen on her, said “I am going to be too hot later, I want to change into my shorts.”

Yep. I am like a mean step-mother (which is what she said to me the other day when I wouldn’t let her do something. Thank you Cinderella).

Increasingly, I am discovering that I have a girly-girl who is so independent in her thoughts, I am not going to be able to make a single decision for her soon. She dictates what she likes in clothing already, and let’s not even talk about nails and hair and all things glittery and pink. I will hold up three outfits in a store and she picks the one she likes. Which is never the same one I like. Even though I try to engage her in talk about how strong and smart and amazing Disney princesses’ actions are, it is all about the massive glittering ballgown and the idea of being pretty, right now. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be pretty, but that ain’t all it is cracked up to be in the real world. I want her to equate value with actions and knowledge and all those other noble concepts… Not her physical appearance.

Yes, I know… She’s only in JK. *deep breath*

Sometimes, my attempts at levelling out the horrific messages that the princess culture elicits works, and she pretends to be this strong, smart and kick-butt princess who rescues people (or drives trucks, flies, makes forts, works in a restaurant to bake things etc etc), and she does consider Wonder Woman to be a superhero princess (I’ll take it), but I swear I am losing the battle against the pink and purple tulle frocks. I am just hoping, as she gets older, some of what I am trying to shepherd her towards will stick. I don’t mind if she plays with Barbie, as long as her dolls don’t become helpless girls who need Ken dolls to rescue them.

She is headstrong, and she is powerful in her opinions. She is loud, expressive, and she already has the ability to wrap her father around her finger (in some things only, he’ll deny he’s fully suckered). She is artistic beyond measure and I think she’s going to find her interests in some form of creative outlet. I don’t think she’s going to be horsey. We’ll see… I am hoping at least one of my kids wants to take part in Mommy’s expensive habit. It will make it miles easier to eventually own another horse if they like it too.

No matter what, she is magnificent already, and at four years old I am in awe that this child came from me. I simultaneously see too much of myself, and nothing of myself, in her (read: I am so screwed when she is a tween). If she wants to exert her own views over jeans, which means we have a battle of wills, so be it. We’ll figure it out together. It is why I accept the frilly and frou-frou and girly stuff.  I don’t want to become like my own mother, who eschewed femininity in so many ways that handicapped me later on in life. I want her to have balance. Be a girl, with all the intricacies and layers it requires to go from girl to woman with confidence.

And in reality, maybe I’ll just have to find jeans with a tulle tutu attached to them to save us from another morning like this one. ♥


When you boil it down, a flitting idea can sometimes provide more sense than the staid plodding of reflection and study. It can take a simple tick of a second to have clarity, when you have already gone ’round the Mulberry bush an unfathomable amount of times.

Murky as that may sound, it is a concept I push around my brain that we humans tend to make our lives difficult, by sheer nature. Not an insult to humanity at all, for those in the gallery now grumbling that I paint with a heavy hand. In fact, sometimes I think our deductive, critical thinking ability is a fascinating study into the intricacies of our thought patterns and instincts, as opposed to a mammal who cannot reason.

Case in point. In a multi-faceted-million different ways, we create difficulty through the want or need for something. It can be as abstract as the desire for “happiness” or a tangible want like a new home/car/thing. We, as a species, seem to always pursue the need for “more” of something. Notice I say more, and not less. If you want less of something, adversely, you want more of something else to counteract it.

I don’t think there is one person who can legitimately stand up and say “I have never wanted more!”. Age brings wisdom, and perhaps someone with battle experience will stand up and say “I have learned how to be content with what I have”, but I am not sure there is a finite time frame on that particular life lesson.

The navel gazing I am doing here is not a random instance. Through action of decluttering and getting ready for the school year, impending winter, and the financial obligation of Christmas, I have found myself asking the questions of happiness and the importance of the million different activities and responsibilities my world has.

Cue the uncertainty, and the need for more clarity. Commence dissection of everything in my path. Always a helpful and healthy thing to do to de-stress and centre one’s self as life gets busier, yes? It makes me want to run away to join the circus, when in fact the circus found me in the form of two small children, a husband, a full time job, and passions I have to balance, juggle, and evaluate.

Am I describing something familiar? Hopefully I am not the only one looking to understand their personal definition of happy amongst the chaos of life. What does that include? Where is it located? Answers! I need answers, Dammit! Instant gratification has been hard-wired into my MTV generation, and it often frustrates me when the solution isn’t laid out and apparent at first ask.

So… In this whole mess that likely has you scratching your own head, there was a moment last week when I was quiet in my mind, and when prompted to write about describing a quiet moment, I remembered it, and voila… blog post from a writing exercise.

I was not running at full tilt with to-do lists, undone chores and what-if worries clouding the sky. There were no decisions debating in my head, no funk following me akin to a black cloud.  I was simply there, being present to what I was doing right that second. It was silent around me, I was alone, and I was fully absorbed in my task. This is a jolting experience, no matter what you are doing, I can tell you. It made me stop in my tracks, realizing my head wasn’t full of everything else but what I was doing. Tension, stress, and worry were not there. I was simply happy.

In place of being present in the moment, lately I have socketed the strain of all those questions I talked about above. I have let it drag me down, push me into a consistent state of tension, and coloured my view. Instead of letting the answers reveal with time, I let them devolve into a noisy tangle, distracting me from the normal joy I find in the things I do. I won’t detail what exactly that means in my particular life situation, no one needs to hash out semantics when it really isn’t of importance to the concept of a piece of writing.

Summarily, I realized that I have been making my life difficult simply by trying to envision how to make it less so.

In writing this out, I did decide one thing. More moments like that. To simply Be. Stop living in my head and let it go. Be present. this will help the answers come, the clarity to appear. Stop bashing the questions against the proverbial rock. You get my point.

Albeit, the idea of this is still a pursuit of something “more”, but it is hopefully a positive one.

Chasing Llamas

Life has ebbs and flows, and sometimes they are frustrating, other times they are simply what is and lived through. This is also true when you are a writer. Sometimes you are a slave to your keyboard, getting the words down as quickly as you can. Sometimes it is like this:

Summer has not been easy this year with regards to time spent on my multitude of writing projects. With best intentions, if I try to sit down to write in my house when I have the actual physical and mental energy to write, guaranteed that a child will need me as I park my bum in my chair and lift my tea for that first sip of writer’s ambrosia (aka Red Rose with a dash of honey and milk). If I banish my darlings outside to play, one of them will come in to a) tattle on the other or b) be crying because they hurt themselves, or each other. SO if there are children afoot, my writing stays aloft in the file folder, silent and sulking because I am unable to focus on it.

If not spending time being a normal, every day parent, sometimes I do get time to write during the day when I have energy for the practice. But, within two minutes of opening my file, I will have to pee, then notice that the bathroom sink is a mess, then notice there are no towels to dry my hands, then remember the load of towels needs to go in the washer, and then find out that the washer wasn’t emptied, then…

So that file I opened before I had to pee? Barbara Demarco-Barrett I ain’t, and it gets abandoned for laundry. And by the time I do get a few moments to sit down again? I don’t want to be mentally zoned in, crunching emotions into sentences by sheer will. I want to play a game on my iPad and zone out until the next energy wave hits and I have to again be a parent and adult.

Fall for me is normally a time when my creativity revs its engine, and my muse comes home from summer holiday. I suppose it is the impending coocoon of wintertime that brings out the idea of settling in for more creative devotion as the sunlight fades earlier and earlier. Hot teas, bulky sweaters and more time for introspection can lead to gains in my daily word count.

Ergo, the urge to “put pen to paper” has been poking me like a big pointy stick, and I have sat staring blankly at a file on my laptop at night for the past week, wanting to focus, wanting to get inside the head of a character to see my way through a situation.

But by 9 PM,  my brain has had it, and I am chasing the *^%&ing llamas.

I am hoping to catch them soon.

Big Jumps

I am browsing through the pictures for this year’s Burghley cross-country course, in anticipation of watching some crazy, over-the-top jump action by some of the most daring and finessed riders and horses in the world. Burghley is a CCI**** three-day event, so for those who don’t know what that means… Well, it means BIG FICMIG JUMPS.

The best in the world compete there. On North American soil, it is similar to the calibre of Rolex in Kentucky. To appease the folks right now who are going “WTF is she talking about?” I give you the Wikipedia on Three-Day Eventing.

SO, after all that, I can safely tell you this is not the hunters, folks (They don’t have “hunter” per se in England anyways, but you get my point).

The fences for this years Capt. Mark Phillips course look alternately fun-as-Hell and &^%*-your-pants-scary. I imagine the latter would be much more prevalent if I was walking the course in person. Some of them are knee-wobbling just on reputation alone, like the Cottesmore Leap.

I am awed and inspired by these riders, and although I don’t event anymore, nor am I riding at an eventing barn (which is perfectly ok), it still tugs my heart and curiosity forward like moth to flame. The thrill of galloping cross-country, jumping tables and ditches out of stride, and successfully navigating your horse through tricky combinations of jumps at speed is adrenaline addiction cultivated. Achieving precision and obedience of dressage on a horse also trained to be brave and self-decisive on cross-country is a special skill. The mindfulness and patience to navigate a show jumping course with a tired horse on day three requires patience and grit.

The biggest cross-country course I ever walked in my day was at Farm of the Mountain in Napierville, Quebec. I’m not sure there is still a horse trials there anymore, but it was a go-to competition back in the day. On a whim, I decided to walk the Advanced course while I was there to spectate. Now, let’s pretend it wasn’t over 20 years ago. Seriously. Let’s not go there.

The memory that sticks out is standing underneath the back rail of an airy oxer over a shallow gravelled ditch. From the front, the jump looked inviting and straightforward. But when I hopped down into the ditch underneath it, looked up and reached my hand over my head… I could not touch the rail. I was too short. (this is a normal problem for me but here it was exaggerated, let’s be honest).

That fence scared me. Not just in a good nerves “git ‘er done” excited kind of way, but in a “HELL NO” kind of way.

At the time, I owned horses that would never reach that level, and so to be fair, I had never jumped a jump like that. I never have, because I am scared to. I’ve had the opportunity to ride seasoned horses over the years that could leap such a fence, but I never challenged myself to actually do it. It was always just that little too far to push myself, and I would decline. I’m a big chicken. 3’6″ makes my stomach clench. I know I am not alone in this, big jumps can be intimidating and require a certain level of skill that some people can doubt (in themselves and their horses). To jump big jumps, you have to implicitly trust your horse. That takes time and patience to earn (both for horse and rider).

But… If I ever get the chance again, would I like to try facing the *gulp* of trying larger jumps, now that I have perspective and a bit more understanding of how to control my nerves and expectations?

Still not sure. Maybe. I dunno… I am rather happy to be tooting around at 2’3″ and 2’6″ in my lessons, and living vicariously through the live feed on Saturday. 

Horse Show Mornings

A friend on Facebook posted a picture of the laneway down to the paddocks at the facility I ride at.

It was a Saturday morning, she had just arrived to start her day showing one of the horses, and it was such a beautiful shot of the mist still lingering around the trees and fenceposts. Silent and peaceful ahead of the cacophony of a show barn on show day.

I sat and stared at that picture for awhile. The ache was not full force, but right then, I wanted to be there, experiencing the bustle of the morning. So many sensations worked their way through my memory, weaving in and out as I fell into the rabbit hole of the past, especially of the farm, and my horses.

I loved the walk up to the barn in the morning, seeing my horses gallop up through the mist when I called them for their early breakfast. They would careen through the loafing-shed pen, freshly coated in a healthy layer of dew. They would nicker and revel in post-gallop full body shakes, sending droplets of water in all directions, eyes bright in anticipation of their grain.

I used to stand at the gate, coffee in my hands, my own eyes heavy from a short night’s sleep, and let them blow their grassy breath on my face, jostling for position until we brought them all in. Happy snorts would fill the air in the barn. My herd knew when it was a horse show morning, because they were all in the barn late while the lucky candidate was braided (after dark) the night before. Horse show mornings meant early grain, and excitement as one of them got to leave for the day.

Those first few moments of quiet and peace, seeing the mist rising in tendrils off the pasture, hearing the early songs of birds from the big Oak trees, and feeling the first frisson of anticipation for the day was one of my absolute favourite things. Sometimes I would stand in the big rolling doorway once we opened it, leaning on the doorframe, just breathing in the moisture from the air, centring my mind before I had to get moving.

So that picture, in a heartbeat, brought memory into sharp focus, in contrast to the gossamer edges of the foggy fence lines and sand ring it captured.  It brought a wish for one of those “this is why I do it” validations that scatter through the effort and craziness that is showing horses.

Maybe someday I’ll be standing in the doorway again, having a Horse Show Morning moment. It won’t be exactly the same, of course, I don’t own my own horses or take care of my own barn anymore.

But I have a hunch it will feel very familiar. 

Heels Down and Don’t Forget the Pads!

There is an art to breaking in new boots. I am reminded of this as I break in a pair of tall Doc Marten’s today, their first walk from the bus. I forgot my blister pads. Dammit. I should know better.

You see, this art is equal parts patience and tolerance to pain. Both are necessary to walk through the first few weeks of pinches, blisters and stiffness new boots require. I’ve done my fair share of breaking in leather riding boots, and I have a distinct challenge.

I’m short.

Like, midget short. Tall boots have, historically, not come in my leg length, unless I go full custom. Which I have, and since having kids, do not fit into anymore. *cue sobbing and incalculable woe*

Every pair of tall leather riding boots I have ever owned have required me to be creative in my endeavours not to grind my heels and calves to a pulp, or lace the back and inside of my knees with criss-crossed ribbons of blood. I have used gauze padding, gaffer tape, Vaseline, hot water soaks, and the almighty panty liner.

Yes, really. Panty liners.

My very first pair of tall leather boots were on sale at Horse World for $100. A steal! My feet had stopped growing, so my father relented and I practically danced out of the store, jubilant to finally be joining the “grown up” ranks of riders sporting classy, professional looking boots. No more rubber Aigle’s for me! Clanking in the box beside them were my new boot pulls too, because back in the day, we didn’t have fancy zippers and spandex gussets. You pulled those suckers on, and yes, pulled them off too, sometimes getting sweatier doing that than when you were riding.

We worked for our sleek calf-line and tailored ankle, dammit. This was why, if a rider was in the ER for a suspected broken ankle, you would hear them say (paraphrased) “you will cut those boots off over my cold, dead body. Give me a biting stick and pull it off, dammit, I don’t want to break in a new pair mid-season”.

Yup. The struggle was real, yo.

The first ride in my new grown up boots, I was so excited, I don’t think I even noticed the river of blood running into my breeches as I rode. It wasn’t until I pulled them off that I saw the back and side of my knees, completely red. Upon peeling my breeches off, the horror hit, and then the pain as air met wound. Blood blisters the size of Manhattan (not really, but picture it, for dramatic effect) were oozing, pulsating, and generally looking like someone decided to take a cheese shredder and run it over my skin a few times.

My very first experience breaking in leather boots. How cool! How awesome! Why had no one warned me of the Defcon-4 level of pain I was now enduring?

Since Google did not exist yet, I looked to my books and fellow crazy horse people for advice. “Ride through the pain”, “Bandage and tape felt to the tops until they relax”, “Hot water soak them to relax quicker” was all sound advice. My Pony Club commissioner, Kim, gave me advice that I took to heart. She simply said “Tampax pads on the knee, pull on the breeches, and you’re good to go.”.

In absence of felt, and because I needed something to absorb grossness from the back of my knees, I dutifully taped some hastily bought panty liners to my open wounds, gauzed them in place, and pulled the boots back on the next day, wincing, maybe crying a little, and walking like a stiff-legged marionette. I’ll admit my horse’s feet didn’t get picked that day. I couldn’t bend my leg!

But, I was badass. I was going to ride through the pain! Grr! Argh! Also? I refused to ever wear my rubber riding boots ever again. They were so childish. I was an accomplished teen rider, yo! I was also stubborn as a mule… Even with the tears and the days on end of not being able to sit properly in chairs. (edit: I did so wear them again, for a couple of days to let the blisters heal)

Those first leather boots did eventually relax, and became absolutely wonderful. The scars healed, with only a tiny remnant on the inside of my left knee. It gets opened back up each time I break in a new pair. Battle scars. Stories.

Once, using this method to break in boots, I rode a dressage test with Always taped to my legs inside my breeches, and white no-stick gauze with white electrical tape pasted to the outside. No blood seeped through, and I even remember I scored a 7 on my free walk (our first mark above 5 that didn’t have a remark of “stiff/above bit”!). This was a small miracle, because I was riding my anti-dressage Appaloosa who decided to impersonate a vertically challenged giraffe as soon as she saw a white-fenced rectangle. Even in the free walk. She would periscope, looking around as if lions were everywhere.

Once, in lieu of a pantyliner, I grabbed some Animalintex to pad out the backs (overtop of my breeches), because I needed something quickly and had forgotten to pad the outside of the knee. White fluff floated out from behind my legs for the entire lesson, baffling my instructor.

I’ve soaked in the bathtub with my boots on (reading Horse Sport for classical dramatic flair, whilst sipping wine) to get the leather to relax quickly. I have used heated “magic bags” to warm the leather and stretch the toe box out, and I have worn riding boots around the house for days on end to break them in before ever swinging a leg over. (my boyfriend at the time, he didn’t mind so much *wink*).

I bought my first pair of tall boots in a long time, this summer. I had been using paddock boots and half chaps, but missing the stability a tall boot gave the leg. I was not looking forward to the breaking in process, envisioning hobbling into work, bandages on the back of my knees, blisters taped up, gaffer tape, and weird looks.

So when the saleswoman looked at me and said “what length do you want? I assume a short?” I nearly kissed her. I tried them on, and yes, even the “short” was tall on me, but I wasn’t immobile. They were stiff, but not so stiff I couldn’t immediately zip them up and do some air squats. Wild. The first couple of rides were stiff, and I was sure I waddled a bit. But there is one difference with these as compared to all the other boots I have ever broken in (even my customs)…

Not one panty liner was needed.

Dude, Where’d You Go?

One thing about life: It never stays the same. To be cliché, the only constant is change. I could go on, but y’all know what I mean.

I haven’t really blogged in over a year. My world was getting hectic, with two kids, a job, a home etc that something had to give. So I stopped blogging. I always felt guilty about not blogging, the pressure to add a new post winding the coil of an already long responsibility-list. That lifted when I stopped.

I also felt like I had nothing good to say. No one likes a whiner.

So where have I been? What am I doing? Newsy updates below for those who aren’t on the Facebook-thing. Continue reading

Lunch Run

On the downtown loop run I do, there is an uphill no matter which way I run it. This is, I suppose, a good thing. I need to run more hills. Hills are my friends. Hills love me. Be one with the hill?


I torture myselfrun up them because *^&% you hill, that’s why. Besides, I have to conquer the hill if I want to do the Rocky Dance. In rainbow socks, a Run Happy toque, and a pink jacket. On a Thursday.

Yeah… I may or may not have done that yesterday when I hit the corner of Mackenzie and Murray St.  There were a few witnesses. Eh… heh. This was also after Birthday Burpees in the snow in the park.

I know. What? let’s not dwell on those. They really, really sucked. I am trying to not remember them. At all. Or the marvelous pukey dizzy sensation after. Nope. Not fun. Moving on…

So *ahem*, on lunch runs, either I run the uphill West from the Chateau Laurier to Parliament Hill (short, but somewhat challenging), or I run it East from the Portage Bridge, past the Library and Archives building, the Supreme Court, the Confederation Building, and then on to Parliament Hill. The East rotation hill is much longer by far, less steep, and to be honest, a mental challenge because it is so loooooooong.  I normally run the route west so I am running down it and because I like ending my run with the Alexandra Bridge and the hill up to the Art Gallery.

Also? I love running downhill early in a run, and feel awesome when I do. WHEEEE!

Yesterday I ran the loop “backwards” to my normal, and let me tell you… It was a grind. I rounded the corner after the bridge, and inwardly groaned. It wasn’t insurmountable, for sure, but I was getting tired, had already done some hill repeats on the top portion of My Big *&%^ing Hill before heading out over the Alexandra Bridge, and was ready to be done.

My right leg was stiffening up, my calf was saying nasty mean things to my foot, which in turn was making my foot sad and not wanting to roll properly. They had an argument for about halfway up the hill, to about the edge of  the West Block building, and then they stopped talking to one another completely. At this point, I am sure I looked like some strange wilderbeast in rainbow socks hallumping up the hill, my right let now going numb. Rob Zombie was on rotation suddenly, and true to form, I did kind of feel like a “Living Dead Girl”.

Ragey music and uncomfortable running legs makes for a scowly, flappy, gaspy runner with a “Run Happy” toque on.Yeeeah… The humour in this is not lost on me, folks. Gigglesnorting is required as you picture that.

Once over the top of the hill, and on the flat, the pain eased, and my leg felt less wooden and more flesh-like. I had to slow right down for the people all around me, and whew, it gave me a chance to have a stern (in my head) talking to with my calf and foot, telling them to play nice or I would not treat them to compression socks and elevated time in my cubicle that afternoon.

On the way down the hill towards the Chateau, they started to play nicely, and even co-operated a bit to let me speed up past Major’s Hill Park.

Yesterday I turned another year older. It will soon be a year since I started running (wow!). I have now been regularily running a route that last spring seemed impossible. I am really excited to see the momentum I have kicking it up that hill many, many more times this coming summer, and see how much I have improved when I do my first Minto Bridges run this coming Spring.

I’m still going to have to say “*^&% you hill.” every damned time though. That I think I can guarantee.


Running and Cyclocross?

So. this is happening.

My husband and I are doing it.(read: I talked him into it).

Last minute sign up, encouragement from my running partner from the weekend, and a desire to do another 5(ish)k race before snow flies made me thump the VISA down. At only $15 a pop, its a relatively inexpensive race, and looks like a TON of fun. Obstacles and cross-country running? Bring it on!

The course is at a (former) riding facility here in Ottawa, The National Capital Equestrian Park, and is run in conjunction with a cyclocross event.We get to run the course first, then the crazy folks with bikes get a go. I plan on staying to watch a bit, and have some lunch. Hey, its kind of like a date, just with more mud. OH, and I get to run with a new friend. Double bonus!

I am going to try and get my hubs to wear his Tough Mudder head band. I am going to try not to fall and break something. Heh…

What is Cyclocross, you ask? I had no idea either, so I exercised some Google-Fu and here is a great video demonstrating it:


Yup, we get to run what they are going to cycle. Neat, eh?

Excuse me… I just Burpeed.

Tomorrow I am going to give a workout challenge a try that a friend just posted on a weight loss/fitness support group I am part of.

I’m going to try and do burpees* all day.

Ok, so maybe not in my cubicle, but tomorrow at the gym, I’ll aim for 40 burpees in my workout (IF I have room, the gym has a tiny, tiny stretch area that is always full). I may also go to the courtyard and do some there, if it isn’t raining. My co-workers may stage an intervention, or a leave form for “stress” might get slid across my desk.

But we’ve already established my nutty factor… I am sure it will be fine.

Of course, there is burpees in the morning (think I can get my kids to do them too?) and when I get home, which will technically be after the 5 pm deadline… But its when the time will be available, and really, if I do more after 5 pm, is that a bad thing? Hell no!

Burpees are not easy. Burpees kick my *@#. Burpees make my arms shake and my quads burn. This year, on my birthday, I have to do 36 in a row.

Bring it on.

*The Wikipedia entry for a burpee is here: Wikipedia Burpee Definition . They have a list of variants too!

The Great Extraction Escapade

I’ve been absent for a bit, yes, I am aware I left without an explanation.

You see, I had my bottom two wisdom teeth extracted on the 11th (after two prepatory weeks of pain from abcess, and much penicillin), and the procedure went horribly wrong. So on the 14th, I went in for emergency surgery to complete the job. The week following is a painkiller-induced fog where I did not trust myself to write even a coherent sentence, let alone stay awake for longer than a few hours to complete necessary tasks like Christmas cards, dishes or, well, yes, even showering. Blech.

On the mend now, and will be back to normal soon, I hope. So yes, I am still alive, but no, I’ve not been doin’ much kickin’ lately. Maybe after Christmas.

The Anticlimatic Needle Adventure

I to0k initiative yesterday and booked the day off work, to drag my son and I down to the closest vaccination clinic to stand in line and get his first of two shots for the H1N1 virus.

I was prepared with sippy cups, toys, books, blankets, and warm clothes. I was determined to get my hands on a wristband so that my son could begin the slow march to being protected from this new, and scary, virus. I wasn’t going to let another winter of day care sniffles and sickness get the better of us this year, and this was the first step.

Let me preface this by saying that I was expecting the chaos reported the day before all over the news, of long waits, dwindling supplies, and disgruntled people to be in full force as everyone panicked and crowded the clinics. I was expecting to wait outside the building, since the line would not be contained inside, and I was prepared mentally to be turned away if they ran out of wristbands. I would not get angry. It would not be the volunteer’s fault. I would be gracious and understanding.

Ten minutes after arriving, elbows sharpened to do battle with hassled people, and a cranky toddler bored-to-tears, I left the building, a wide band of orange around my wrist, one for my son and two more, one each for my husband and I. I was smiling, my son was smiling, the volunteers were smiling, and the sun was out.

Starbucks was bought, and brought home to my husband, at home for the day as well. Celebrations were in order!

We came back as a family at five that evening, again armed with all manner of Toddler-taming toys and our stroller. I treated myself to a rarely indulged treat of poutine, my husband to a hot dog, and our son ate Cheerios (also discovering that the taste test he had of my poutine was very yummy), ran all over the crowded waiting area, and read a Dr. Suess with my husband four times. In our walking, he plunked himself down with a large group of congregated toddlers like himself, all in boots and sweaters, some with bright red teething cheeks, some with soothers in their mouths. It was an impromptu play date.

They all stared at one another with an eery calmness, that had parents wondering why the noise had stopped and peering over. Then, as if cued, the entire lot began to babble at once. It was strange, indecipherable language that they understood perfectly. My son being, of course, one of the loudest, pointing and giggling, looking at me every so often with the widest grin possible.

He had so much fun, oblivious to the real reason he was there. Grand times could be had watching the Zamboni on the rinks, or the hockey players, or grinning at an old man who was making funny faces, or watching a young girl practice her leg holds in her sparkly figure skating outfit. He was entranced by a woman in a wheelchair, and made countless people laugh by running and making an “ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!” giggle noise with each step, his arms swinging like windmills, doing laps around the room.

Forty-five minutes after we arrived, we were ushered into the vaccination area to ensure our forms were filled out properly. Five minutes after that, all three of us had our needles. My husband even held our son while he got his own.  My son cried for all of two minutes, then began busily taste-testing the sticker he got for being a good boy.

Twenty minutes after that we were walking out of the building, my son’s memory of the nasty needle forgotten, babbling away to my husband, who’s memory was a bit fresher, as evidence of his pale face.

And Me?

I was relieved, and amazed at the cheerful nurses, smiling volunteers, speed of service, patience of paramedics, and non-melting-down son.

I was thankful for this anticlimatic adventure for all of us.





I’ll take Organization for $100, Alex

Last night, at 7:30 pm, we hastily shrugged on sweaters, tied on shoes, and left the house to go to IKEA. In our haste, we didn’t even bring the diaper bag. My husband, once our son was ensconced in his shopping cart seat, looked at him and said, very solemnly, “Don’t poop.”

This was answered by a raspberry sound, a tongue stuck out, and then giggles. We are doomed once he has learned how to speak.

We were on a mission. With both of us painfully stepping on toys that evening, we quickly became aware that the livingroom was becoming Toy Central, and our son the scatterer of said toys from one end to the other. We also realized we had no box or container to sweep them into each day, once our son was asleep. The couch does not a toy chest make, and sitting on a soft cloth book that makes donkey sounds can be embarrassing when company is over.

Reminding ourselves that we had made the solemn promise to one another to stay away from the dreaded bulky-lidded Rubbermaid totes, but instead come up with a system both usable and pleasing to the eye, we looked in the Tome Of All Things Organized, and found the Trofast system from IKEA. Upon sharing organizomantic gazes at one another over the catalog, and a quick glance at the clock, we gauged our son’s cranky-meter at half, weighed the coin purse, and took off in the jalopy to solve our problem impulse-style.

We now have a three compartment bin-thing with six separate bins sitting to one side of our couch that holds all of our son’s toys. We bought the bins in the same colours as his room, in case we ever decide to move it there. It is seat height, and we think a measured cushion may just fit nicely on top. Yes, we put it together that night, once our son was in bed. Yes, it took us until late, and we cursed the teeny-tiny Allen key several times as it pinged off underneath the couch halfway through tightening a screw.

We were commited.

True to big box-o-rama form, we spent just over $100 when it tallied all up. We did, to add to the total, buy more than just a toy bin. We bought a cute little car rug for in front of it (the colours matched the bins, IKEA is evil that way), some un-needed extra rails (which we now have to take back *joy-bliss*), and some kitchen storage tubs. We like to challenge ourselves when we go to places like IKEA. If we cash out under $100 from IKEA, Costco, Home Depot, or Loblaws, we are on a roll. If we are able to squeak from Wal-Mart under $50, we are on fire!

So we didn’t pass muster on the money front last night, but we did get at least one room in our house (re) organized. Now, all we can do is watch the inevitable spread tonight, and see if the trip was worth it.

Hay Field

The mid-day prickle of a newly-mown hay field reminds me, and I am transported.

I am seeing skep-bucket mounting blocks, wispy hairnets, butterscotch Jello pudding cups and sweat-soaked saddle pads. Surrounding me are distant whinnies, the punctuating urgency of  “Head’s up!”, the echo of speeding hoofbeats and breath in rythmn, and the hollow thunk of wooden poles hitting hard, clay dirt.

How can something as simple as a sunny, summer day in the middle of a hay field parking lot bring this exact memory alive, playing in front of me like some strange inner-cortex heads-up display? What triggered this sensory journey backwards? What caused this inexplicable sound and vision byte of something so specific, of shiny riding boots and the swish of a haynet against the side of a trailer?

I am caught when present thoughts are carefree, my leisurely foot crushing the bristled stems of timothy and brome grass.

I can immediately picture the sand in the early morning, just harrowed, the humidity of the water evaporating in wisps of steam as the first hoof steps down onto the perfectly manicured surface. My lungs, breathing in, expect to brace with the scent of liniment, foaming in buckets, sloshing while lean-legged, ponytailed girls stagger-step from one place to the next, the sponge in their other hand waving madly as they rush after their sweaty, blowing charges.

It seems so real, yet then the sensation is gone in a mere moment, blinking. I am back in the now. But instead of being surrounded by horses, trucks, lawn chairs and tack trunks, there are cars, baby strollers, umbrellas, and cloth shopping totes.

It seems I am listening to my past this day, whispered up by a catalyst so simple, the crackling of a newly-mown hay field underfoot.

The Can-Can Apple Dance

There are apples all over my kitchen counter.

There is also a bowl of long, stringy apple peel pieces in a bowl for the compost. All I can smell in my house is the slightly sweet fermentation of apples. I may go bananas from it.


It is officially Autumn in my kingdom. And this means we can, can, can! This is a slow trudge towards full shelves for the winter, with lots of yummy treats to enjoy when we are hibernating behind snowbanks six feet tall. I imagine sometimes that we are squirrels packing a tree trunk full of nuts to make do until Spring. Like Hammy from Over The Hedge. Have you seen my nuts?

Except that we aren’t furry… or hyperactive… or herbivores, or… Errr yeah… Where was I?

As part of our Fall hoarding, we make the sojourn to buy apples in apple country, bring them home, and spend the next three weeks up to our armpits in what-can-we-make-with-apples brains. It’s very entertaining, much like when the Zucchini plant is in full production. I am tempted, during Zucchini season, to leave our proliferation on doorsteps of neighbours, ring the doorbells, and run.

But that would make us a few loaves short in the Zucchini bread basket, now wouldn’t it? I can hear it now… “It was a squash and run officer!”, “Hey Ethel, either this is a zucchini on our doorstep, or the neighbours dog has a very strange disease!”.

Oh dear. I’ve gone fruity…. yeah.

With apples, though, when we are finished putting away the requisite applesauce and such, we look at what is left (we always seem to have apples left) and come up with crazy stuff. Last year it was Green Tomato and Apple Chutney.

Don’t even get me started on how that turned out.

This year we are storing pies to freeze, applesauce (both sweetened and unsweetened), and some hot-pack apple chunks. I wish there was another way to preserve fruit except in sugar syrup, but without a pressure canner, that is what you have to do. I suppose it is better knowing that you know how much sugar there is in your mixture, rather than trusting the canneries, which have all moved to Mexico or China.

I am looking at the huge pile of apples left to do, and resigning myself to a few days of tag-team apple preserving and baby-rearing. Its a dance, tapping back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. I think I’ll call it the Can-Can Apple Dance. The steps are thus:

Set-up-kitchen for apples-put-on-Baby-Einstien-DVD-peel-more-apples-replace-soother-peel-more-apples-reset-DVD-peel-more-apples-calm crying-baby-give-up-peeling-apples.

Or something like that.