Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wicked Witch of the West

Lapse of Judgement 

Why would anyone book a 6 am flight? Obviously, someone would be having a lapse in judgement. Perhaps they would be thinking, "I get up at 5:30, 6 am shouldn't be a problem." Not realizing that 6 am isn't the crux of the matter.  Six am is when you board the plane.  Six am is way down the road.  Six is when the flight actually LEAVES.

4:15 am is when we got up. 4:30 is when we left the house.  Now you should probably ask, when should we have actually woken up? 

3:30 am.  Yes, 3:30.

But we did not.

45 Minutes

So, when we got to the ticket counter we have two bags that need to be checked and there is this big sign that says:


OMG! It is 5:05, our flight leaves at 6:00.  We are in a huge line.  There is a school group in front of us and a school group swarming the self serve kiosks.  What should we do?  Fred didn't want to leave the line, so I went to try the kiosks.  It is now 5:11.

I logged in and entered our destination.

Blink, Blink.

Blink. Blink.

It looks to me like the kiosk is going to process our tickets, so I wave Fred out of the line. Error.  It can't find our reservation.  Do I have a flight number? Crap. 5:14. 

Then an attendant calls out, "Is anyone on the 6 am flight to Dallas?"  My hand shoots up like that obnoxious know it all student in class. I immediately abandon the kiosk and start to run to the attendant.  Fred yells out, "NO! Come back."

I'm torn.  Someone official has said to come over to them.  Yet, there is my husband who is saying that the kiosk is working and we should place our faith in it. My head just might explode.

I go back to the kiosk, but look longingly at the 20 people who are now in line and being helped.

I now have fear brain.  We have entered the 45 minute zone and my brain is not functioning clearly.  I'm not reading the questions fast enough and Fred is saying, "Press no. Press continue."

An attendant comes over and says, " I don't want you to get timed out." This statement makes me feel comforted and nervous both at the same time.  She hovers over the kiosk.

We finally get our bags checked, our tickets in hand and make it to security where Fred is whisked away to precheck and I am forced to stay behind in security hell with the commoners.  

Security Hell

I tell myself that it is ok.  I will still make the plane. 

The line is moving fairly fast and I am practicing smiling. There are two TSA agents taking boarding passes.  One of them is chatting everyone up and being friendly. "That's nice." I think.  "I would rather have a friendly guard than an unfriendly guard." But secretly I am timing him against the unsmiling agent to his right and watching the people whiz by him in his line as the chatty agent is asking a family about their trip and talking about Mickey Mouse.  Honestly! The boy is wearing a blue wizards hat. I could just scream. 

"It's Harry Potter! Don't you recognize a wizard hat when you see it?" But, I don't think that would get me through the line any faster, so when I get up to him, I just smile and greet him effusively.

Oddly, he doesn't want to chat with me.

At the line through screening a TSA agent tells a dad in front of me about being sure to push his luggage into the machine and onto the conveyor belt. 

I, of course, not wanting to be chastised for anything, take this bit of advice to heart and start pushing all of my stuff into the machine.  I'm waiting with my hand on my bag for the machine to start up so that I can give it a big push, when the passenger next to me says, 

"It doesn't do any good to push when the machine isn't moving."

Are you kidding me?  I narrowed my eyes and looked up at the TSA agent.  The agent looked at the guy next to me and gave him a "Dude, don't even" look. I thought, cool.  I'll let TSA handle that one.


We slept the whole flight, so when we got off the plane and had a layover and time for breakfast we were walking zombies. Au Bon Pain was the only place with food nearby, so we staggered up and like cave people we pointed and grunted our order.

Fred immediately disappeared into the crowd and I had a sudden need for napkins.  The lady behind the counter had given me a croissant and I really wanted some napkins and I just couldn't find them.  Mind you, I have on Fred's mom's blue down coat, which makes me look like the Micheline tire man.  I have a HUGE diaper/camera bag that must weight 50 pounds and a big ass purse.  Add to that, I am randomly turning to the left and to the right as I think I see a napkin out of the corner of my eye and I am bumping into people with each turn.

Think of me as a big blue pinball, hitting lots of random people in the Au Bon Pain bakery.




"Excuse me."


"My fault!"

I'm also looking for Fred and turning this way and that.  No Fred.  I'm calling out. "Fred?"




"Fred?" Dammit, where is he? Has he wandered off again? Can't he just stay in one place?


It was like a game of Marco Polo in Au Bon Pain.  Seriously.  I'm lucky there isn't a camera crew following me. 

Sandwich Alzheimer's

The lady calls out my sandwich and I go to get it.  I look in the bag and there are two sandwiches in there.  I give her back the bag. 

"This isn't mine." She tilts her head and looks at me with her eyebrows raised.  She nods affirmatively and points at the bag.  I walk away toward Fred.  She calls out order 74.  I ask Fred for our receipt and what our order was. He says 72 and hands me the receipt.  It says 74.  I suddenly realize that Fred had ordered a sandwich too. 

Sandwich Alzheimer's.  That was my bag.  I go back.  

"That's my sandwich." The lady is not smiling now and she rather aggressively shoves the bag at me.  I go back and sit down by Fred.

"That lady thinks I'm nuts." I tell him.

Just then a very chipper young mom with her smartly outfitted toddler join the line and order.  They are joined by their cute grandmother.  They all order like normal human beings, smiling and laughing and acting as if they are fully awake and loving life.  They probably have all their brain cells too.

Just you wait, I think, turning into the wicked witch of the west, a 6 am flight one day will get you and your little pretties too!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gordon Ramsay's Beef Wellington: Fail

Well, I knew it was hard to do.  And I was lucky in the fact that it was just Fred and I who were eating it.  So, I didn't have an epic fail for dinner.  Just a regular fail.

Still, it was sad.  I had such high hopes.

I watched his video twice.

Gordon Ramsay's Video on Beef Wellington

The Groceries

First there was shopping for everything.  Did you notice that he mentions chestnuts.  Have you ever worked with chestnuts?  Well, fortunately, I have.  They are a pain in the a**.  And you don't just toss them into a bowl and crumble them up, Gordon.  They need processing.  AND, if you are in the US, where we don't eat chestnuts, you have to have a specialty store that will actually carry them.  Thank you Whole Foods.  

Chestnuts are covered in a thick, brown outer skin.  You can't just peel them.  You have to score an X on them and then roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Then when they POP, or look popped, you can take them out and peel them.  That is where the pain in the ... comes in.  

But Gordon says, it adds a nutty flavor and Damn It, I'm doing what Gordon says.  

While I'm at Whole Food, I get the meat.  Filet mignon.  OMG.  Now I know why the article I read said it was ruinously expensive.  I asked for enough for two to try the recipe and the butcher gave me a roast that went from the tip of my finger to my elbow!  SERIOUSLY?!!!  But did I say, "You are insane?!"  No.  Because he was the butcher.  He was the expert and I had asked for his advice.  And if I now said, "You are nuts, that roast could feed Godzilla AND Mothra." That would be mean.  I nicely took the roast and said, "Thank you so much."  Besides which, he had worked so hard on trimming it. I felt bad.

And then I looked at the price. OMG.  We don't even eat beef that much.  Why are we eating this alone?  I curse the heavens.

I go home and unpack the groceries.  No prosciutto.  Crap.  Out to another store for prosciutto.  

And it has to be thin.  Paper thin. 

Cooking the Wellington: My First Mistake

My first mistake is in thinking that all will go smoothly.  I forget that the puff pastry has to be defrosted.  So I tell Fred that we can wait an hour to get started.  We will start at 5.  It only takes 30 min. to cook.  

15 minutes in the fridge for the filet to chill.  Another 15 to chill.  That's another 30.  That's an hour.


The mushrooms need to cook, but that shouldn't take long.  Chestnuts.  Oh yeah.  Gotta roast them.  Poo.  Do that now.  

What am I forgetting.

Freaking puff pastry!  It takes 2 hours to thaw!!!!  Show stopper.  

We need to start NOW!! We start on the chestnuts, the mushrooms.  Fred gets started on a red wine and shallot sauce to go on the side.  I have a white bean salad in the fridge waiting for us.  

I sear the filet and that's when I realize that this roast is really unwieldy.  It doesn't really fit in the pan to sear nicely.  Grr.  I'm trying to do the Gordon trick of searing it on the edge of the pan, but my fat, long roast is not cooperating, plus it isn't wrapped, and it keeps falling apart.  ARGH!!!  I know there are parts that aren't seared.  I pull it out.  

Fine.  I get the mustard out.  I can't find the pastry brush.  Gordon, why can't I use a knife?  A knife works just fine.  I spread mustard on with a knife and it looks exactly the same as the brushed on mustard.  Score one for me.

I put the filet in the fridge.  Wait, should it go in the fridge? Oh, I forgot.  I don't care.

Putting the Wellington Together: Second Mistake

I set up the plastic wrap.  Wait a minute.  Gordon has special plastic wrap.  I think he failed to mention that you need to have plastic wrap that is at least 8 inches on either side of a ridiculously small Wellington roast so that  you can do your neat little cheffy flips and rolls.  Where do you find this enormously large and long plastic wrap: at the Gordon Ramsay store, I bet.

Holy hell.  

Well, my plastic wrap is crap.   Great, I have to pull out great swaths of it and then layer them.  Then comes the prosciutto.  Oh, remember when I said I was getting really thin prosciutto?  That was a mistake.  All of my prosciutto is whisper thin and I am trying to untangle them from their neighbor.  

Oh, please save me from deli specialists who listen and give you what you ask for.  I need sheets to layer, not these cloud-like vaporous prosciutto wannabees.  I try to lay them down to make a sheet.  

Fine.  Fine. Just fine.

I spoon the mushroom chestnut mixture on top.  Oh, did Gordon mention you can only spread in one direction?  Because my prosciutto is coming up.  Crap.  Gordon, you are leaving a lot out.  Maybe it is all my fault.  I should have had thicker ham.  I'm sure Gordon isn't at fault.  He never is.

I get the filet out.  I plop it down.  I need more plastic wrap.  Can I quit now?  


I try to add plastic wrap to the left hand side.  It sucks.  I'm over it.  I decide that the left hand side doesn't exist.  I just won't look over there.  

I start to roll it like Gordon did.  It sort of works.  Sort of, because my mushrooms are gooshing out of the bottom.  Is that normal?  Should I scrape them off?  Or leave them.  Gordon!  You aren't very helpful.  I'm leaving them.  I'm sure that is a mistake.  I have left the realm of good decisions and am wandering around in kitchen hell.

I try to finish rolling it with plastic wrap and do the fancy thing Gordon does.  My plastic wrap laughs at me.

I give up and throw it in the fridge.  Fred and I go watch Maleficent. It is 7:30 pm.

I do the same for the puff pastry and we finally get the Wellington in the oven at 8 pm.  

Gordon says (play the video if you don't believe me) to cook it at 200 for 30 minutes.  I found the BBC recipe that said 220 for 30 minutes.  So, being the rule follower I am, I put the over at 220 for 30 minutes.


At 8:30, we look at it and it is doughy.  not brown and crispy at all.  I turn on the broiler.  Fake it, is my thought.  I'm HUNGRY.

It browns.  We take it out.  We slice it.  It is raw.

Fred uses the thermometer.  83 degrees.

GAHHHHHH.  Gordon!  You are nuts.  200 for 30 minutes is not how you cook meat.

We try for 15 more minutes.  97.

Finally, my hunger knows no bounds.  I up it to 320 for 20 minutes and we get an internal temp of 110.  We eat it.  

It tastes good.  It is after 9.  Way after 9.  Still, I will never make this annoying dish again.

Aren't you glad you didn't come for dinner?


Still One More Mistake!

I post this and then a friend points out that Gordon is in England.  Land of Celsius.

OMG.  200 degrees Celsius is 392 degrees Fahrenheit.  Did I really make that mistake?  So, if we had just used our common sense and said, 220 degrees seems wrong.  Really wrong.  Instead of blindly thinking that everything that Gordon says must be blindly obeyed, I could have eaten at 8:30.

Gordon, you really need to be much more comprehensive in these videos of yours.  Like, I'm in England, silly Americans.  Please make note of this as all my recipes are only for the English and will drive you Americans crazy on purpose.

Does Jamie Oliver do this too?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Brain at 50

About six weeks ago a shooting pain started in my right elbow.  I thought it would go away, so I ignored it.  After all, at 50, lots of things hurt.  But it didn't go away.  It got more frequent and my co-worker seemed concerned and said I should take some aspirin.

That got me worried.  I did a little digging and was able to diagnose myself with deep vein thrombosis. Yeah, I was going to take aspirin FOR SURE!  I made an appointment with the doctor. My symptoms got a little better.

In the meantime, I'd become a little congested and on the day of my appointment, I had a full on head cold. On the drive over to the doctor's office, I called Fred. "Is the doctor on Keene Road or Belcher?"

"Belcher!" He said it with a tone in his voice like he was completely amazed that I would not know what road the doctor was on.  It had been two years since I've been to the doctor's office, but still.  I should have remembered.  I said thanks and hung up.

I did give one or two thoughts as to why I didn't remember, but soon was concentrating on traffic, which did seem to require more of my attention that morning.

When I got to the doctor's office, they gave me a form to fill out because it had been two years since I had been in.  I started to fill it out and stopped at the social security number section. The first five went pretty well.  Then, the last four digits were a bit of a problem.  I got the first two, but the second two, hmmmm.  Did they go this way or this way? I just put a little question mark next to the numbers.

Really?  I've been coming here for 16 years.  You don't know my social security number by now?  I can't help you.  (Actually, I really can't help you because I actually can't remember the order of those last two numbers.  Figure it out yourselves.).

The nurse called my name.  I grabbed a tissue on my way in.  I was really congested.  We went back to the room and she began to ask me questions about what medications I took:

"How much of that?" She asked.

"Three." I grabbed a tissue and sneezed.  Would my head explode?  So much pressure.

"No.  How many milligrams?" She had my chart filled with 16 years of information in front of her.

My head was pounding.  I was sweating. It was like the road question.  Belcher or Keene.  And the social security number.  "I don't know." She looked at the chart and wrote down a number.

"How about this one?"

"Oh. Just the one big pill." She was giving me an odd look.  I started to get worried.  Was I supposed to have all this memorized?  I remembered my neurologist had given me a card to write all of this prescription nonsense down.  I looked for it.  I didn't have it.

She consulted the chart and wrote something down.  Damn.

"And this one?" Am I getting graded on this? Is there a camera in here?

"Point one two five." Woot! Score one for me.  I stop myself from fist pumping.  The next three were as needed, so yea me.  But the last one I didn't know.

"I don't know." She went back to her disappointed look. She glanced in her file and wrote it down.  Damn it.  If she had all the answers, why did she continue to ask me? Honestly! Why didn't I remember the strengths?  Why didn't I remember the street the doctor was on? Why didn't I remember my SSN?

Wait a minute.  I'm 50 now.  Do I have Alzheimer's?

I wait until she leaves and then I pulled out my iPhone and looked up symptoms of Alzheimer's.  I looked at the stages of Alzheimer's.
  1. Stage 1 no impairment.  OK 
  2. Stage 2 memory lapses. Check.  Got those.  Street names.  Forgot them.
  3. Stage 3 trouble remembering names, with memory. Check.  Forget names all the time.
  4. Stage 4 Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic — for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s
At this point I thought to myself

100...93....................OMG! I have Alzheimer's! There was no way I could count back from 100 by 7s. Who does that?

Then my doctor walked in.

"And what are you here for today?" She said.

I looked up at her from where I was sitting with my iPhone in my hand, still glowing with the stage 4 diagnosis and said, "Well, I thought I was here because my elbow hurt, but I think now that I have stage 4 Alzheimer's. I mean, I just turned fifty, and now I can't remember what street you are on or my medications. "

She started to laugh.  "You sound a little congested.  Are you feeling ok?"

"No.  I have a cold."

Turns out a cold will screw with your brain just as much as Alzheimer's, although I'm not really all that good with the counting backward, but at least I can get past 93!  And I don't advise self diagnosis while at the doctor's office while you have a head cold! Or if you are the least bit of a hypochondriac, which evidently, I must fall into that category.

I do advise that you see your doctor every year.  That makes remembering what road they are on much easier.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Turning 50: Who Knew I Had Such Poetic Friends?

I turned 50 on Friday and contrary to what the media leads you to believe, it was quite an enjoyable experience. I've never been one to lament the turning of the years, so I didn't expect to gnash my teeth or have a nervous breakdown, but this joyful bit of harmony has been quite a boon.

Fred and I decided that in lieu of a present that we would just have a nice dinner out with friends.  So, we invited friends to dinner and we had that dinner last night.  My mom, who is ever thoughtful, bought lovely flowers for the table: 

The lovely bouquet that mom bought for the table.  I sat by it. It had yellow, pink and orange flowers.
My good friend Nancy, who also raises guide dog puppies seen with me below, was very sweet and got me a birthday tiara (how can you have a birthday without one?!) and balloons. 

Cheryl and Nancy.  Cheryl has her tiara on and it matches her purple dress. How did Nancy know?
When Nancy asked Fred about the tiara and balloons I think Fred got a little nervous and didn't know what to say. Nancy just told him not to say anything and she would handle it!  It worked out great!

The balloons were awesome.  They are at home now.
Fred had asked people not to bring gifts, but to bring a poem or funny card instead.  Several of our friends did write amazing poems. And I am realizing now that I didn't get photos with everyone! Poo! 

Susan, Cheryl and Nancy
It has been so much fun to add all of the amazing puppy raiser friends into our lives.  We consider ourselves very blessed since we have moved to Florida to have such a nice friend group.  It was really special to have this dinner and know that we truly do have lovely, kind friends.

What is so great is that our friends from all of our walks of life, Paradyne, Berkeley and puppy raising, come together and get along.  It truly was a very enjoyable dinner last night.  The couple on the left, Bob and Suzanne along with Patrick and Theresa gave me a concrete fire hydrant, which also doubles as a fountain.  This hydrant (see below) caused quite a stir with the wait staff as they all wondered, What in the HELL did this mean?  Finally, near the end of dinner, they could stand it no longer and sent the head waitress over to me to ask.  I told them about raising guide dog puppies and that it was actually a fountain.

Fire hydrant lawn ornament for peeing or for a fountain! 8-)
It weighed a ton!  Suzanne also got me a book by Gail Sheehy living a passionate life.  Sounds interesting!

Notice everyone but me is looking away.
I reverted back to the sorority photo days in the photo above.  We used to have our formal parties and you always had a photographer walking around taking candid shots.  Candid, haha.  We would pose and shout, "Over here!"  So, you got very good at realizing where the camera was and then smiling.  This was one of those shots.  Scary.

Susan and Brian are first couple on the right hand side and then Ken and Linda are the second couple next to them down the table.  Here is Susan's poem:

Nifty Shifty
Cheryl Is Fifty
Brian picked out a very funny card.

Now, Linda and Ken were bad and got me a present (super cool crochet bowl) and a card (thank you!), and it was a little too loud for everyone to hear Ken's wonderful poem, but here it is.  He had an introduction that reference the our puppy blog and how it had made him laugh and cry and how much they enjoyed reading it.

Stopping by the hardware aisle while shopping
With (many) apologies to Robert Frost
by Ken Ko
 Whose store this is I think I know.
Our friendly local Home Depot;
Yet Jam thinks there's a men's room near;
A quite appalling place to go.

I thought I made it very clear
That we would not be stopping here,
Caught by surprise, I hadn't planned
 To turn and see Jam's hunched up rear.

If only there was some command
To stop this act in no man's land.
But he commits, so I do too.
At least, I have things well in hand.

The store has nuts, and bolts, and glue,
But I have cleanup work to do, 
And miles to go so he can poo,
And miles to go so he can poo. 

 Tremendous!  If you want to read the original story, click on the link.  It is pretty funny, but I wouldn't want to do it again.  Wait, I did.  Damn.  I need to stop doing that!!

 Now, the first couple on the right is Michele and Erik and together with their son Kelland, they came up with this limerick (and a nice gift card):

There once was a woman, CD
Who raised puppies to help people see.
   She liked to crochet little hats
   But never for cats
Yet she is still our favorite lady!

Woot! I love it.   I also love the Downton Abbey card that the couple on the left gave me: Kim and Mark.  They have been good friends for years and it was so good to have them with us at the celebration!
The Downton Abby Card. Did you notice the poo bag?

I have to say that Fred did an amazing job organizing and coordinating the whole dinner!  He was splendid.  I have the best husband there is!

Fred with balloons.
 Our friends Christy and Eliot gave me a really funny card (and a gift card) about the light at the end of the tunnel.  I actually laughed out loud.

I stole this photo of them from their facebook site,  because I don't have a shot of them together.
Here is there poem:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
If you get lost
We will put out a silver alert for you!

Aren't they sweet?!

Fred and Nancy.

Cheryl and Melisa.
Melisa, my screenwriting partner, found a fabulous screenwriting t-shirt for me and a cool Paris Tervis mug for me to use as we write. She is a very thoughtful gift giver. (A trait all my friends seem to share! I am very, very lucky.)

The final poem of the evening was written by Carrie and it was splendid!

Carrie, from her facebook page.
There once was a friend from Clearwater
Who enjoyed being her own dog walker
But one day without fear
She said, "Fred, Dear,
I think we should raise dogs for others!"

"Bingo!" Said Fred "What's the plan?
Let's try not to get in a Jam.
I've got an approach,
We should get a Coach!"
And so the adventure began.

Willow said, "I was alone.
A one dog house and my bone.
And now it's all screwy."
Her eyes got all Dewey 
 "Why wouldn't they just get a clone?
 So Birthday Girl, here's to you
 50 years, full of life and alive!
 You've got a big heart,
 You're doing your part
 Let's stay at 49.95! 

Nancy, Cheryl, Brian and Susan, with Susan clowning around!
 And finally, the gang was all there.  We had a few people who were either out of town, or sick or just couldn't make it, and we are sorry they couldn't!  We missed you!!  But we had you there in spirit.

The gang!
Thanks for making my journey to the other side of 50 a pleasant one!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Foolishness of Middle Age: When What You Did in the Past Leads You to Think You Can Do It in the Present

Ah, youth.  It leaves us with such pleasant memories.  While most of the time I can't recall what I ate last night or who I sat next to in high school Spanish class, I do have some fond childhood memories that have hung around.  One of them is of horseback riding.  And so, when I was perusing the tourist brochure information for Santa Fe, considering that this was our fourth trip out to Santa Fe, I thought I would shake thing up a bit.  Do some things that we hadn't done.  Really go out of our way to try new places and be adventurous.  After all, we didn't want to be accused of being old, stick in the muds, did we?

So, when I saw the blurb about Broken Saddle Riding Company, I thought, "This is perfect! We can take a two-hour horseback ride through lovely canyon trails and see amazing scenery. I've ridden horses before.  Lots of times.  In fact, people have said I am a good rider." (Foreshadowing: this was when I was 12.)

Flash forward to Monday in Santa Fe and me on the phone with the very matter of fact Harrold Grantham, owner of Broken Saddle.  He wanted to know how much I weighed and and how tall I was and whether I had ever cantered before.  Now, I would have been a bit put off if I hadn't read the google reviews that warned me that if you weighed over 200 pounds that you had better forget about riding horses with Broken Saddle.  The weight restriction was somewhere between 210 and 235 according to reviews I had read.  They said you had better own up to your true weight.  OK! They also said you needed to be honest about your abilities. OK!


Fred was lying on the bed dozing, when Harrold started asking me questions:

"How much does your husband weigh and how tall is he?"  I asked Fred for the data.  He told me and I told Harrold.  Harrold asked me for my stats and I gave him what I thought was a true range given that I hadn't been friends with a scale in many months.

Then came the real question.  "Are you a beginner? Or can you canter?"

"I can canter, but I don't think Fred can canter."

Fred immediately sat up.  "I can canter!"

"You can canter?" I looked doubtful.  I put a hand on my hip and tilted my head as if to say, when have YOU cantered?

"I've cantered." He went back to lying down on the bed.

"Ok, we can both canter." I told Harrold.  I was banking firmly on my years of Girl Scout horseback riding and those times when I went riding in the mountains with friends.  In retrospect, how any times did I actually go riding?  Well, anyway, I have cantered.  I have, I have.  I can see myself cantering.

Harrold said, "Great.  I have you both down for Wednesday.  Advanced beginners."


It all started to go a bit wrong when we got there.

The Broken Saddle sign.
Looks like a nice place doesn't it?  It's in the town of Cerrillos, which has a population of about 300.  It's a very small place.  Broken Saddle is in the historic part of town.  A very old section of a very old mining town that sits next to a national park that has beautiful views of several different mountain ranges.

When we arrived, Stephanie, who was to be our guide, and Harrold, were getting our horses ready.  Harrold noticed right away that Fred was dressed like a New Mexican, not bundled up like someone from out of town: LIKE ME.  But it was said in a really nice way.  And I was toasty warm in my big yellow Lands End fleece-lined coat with my scarf and three layers of clothing.  I resembled a female version of the Micheline man.  If I didn't weigh 200 pounds when I was talking to him on the phone Monday night, I was probably edging close to it with all my clothes on now!

Fred and I took a quick potty break and when we got back, our third rider had joined us: David.  David lives in the area and is an actor, professor and all around amazing guy and was just there to get some pointers on his riding style BEFORE HE STARTED SHOOTING A FILM ON MONDAY WITH JUDE LAW AND NATALIE PORTMAN. Great.  No pressure.

Stephanie, our guide and David, soon to be in Jane Got a Gun.

So, Mr. I Ride Horses A Lot is coming on our ride to get tips on his riding form.  I am starting to feel a little inadequate.  Harrold and David start trading movie stories about how you can tell whether someone knows how to ride or not by how they approach a horse.  Harrold goes into this really funny story about a friend of his who got a part on the film The 3:10 to Yuma after being coached by Harrold and I'm thinking, "I know nothing about how to approach a horse!"

But after the story, I know that you give it two slaps on the nick and don't kiss it.  Crap.  What was I thinking.  I had come prepared to ace a basic Spanish test and everyone here is in AP Spanish 5!  I am so out of my league.  I don't even think I can fake my way out of this.


Harrold pulls a horse forward and looks at us. I am standing there motionless thinking to myself, "Don't call my name! Don't call my name!"  I don't want to go first.  I am suddenly realizing that all my Girls Scout training is for sh*t and that I don't know crap about riding horses.  Advanced beginner my ass.  I'm less than a beginner. I should be in the baby beginner class.  Do they have an infant class?  A fetus class.  Yeah, get me in that class!

"Fred, get up here.  This is Duke."

"Oh, thank God!  Fred is first."  I think to myself.  I was, honest to God, praying. Someone heard me.  The buzzing in my head has lessened somewhat.  I can hear Harrold again.

"Now, most people think that you hold on to the horn, but you don't." What! OMG! He's telling us not to hold on to the horn.  OMG!  Wait, what did he say?  He's on about something, "keep your heels down" blah blah blah "thighs" OMG what is this about not holding the horn?  Why else is it there if you aren't supposed to hold on to it?

Harrold is now explaining the true purpose of the horn as my mind rebels and I am feeling a little faint.  Evidently my legs are supposed to do all the work.  Oh great.  They are sure ready for that.  Then he calls my name.  Fortunately, David gets called at the same time, so no one is watching as Danvers and I meet and I get settled on her.  She is, I will come to learn, lazy and eager to be at the back of the pack.  


Now you have to understand that I am the oldest child.  As such, I take rules quite seriously.  So, being told that I needed to NOT hold the horn and I needed to keep my heels DOWN and I need to use my THIGHS to stay on the saddle, I tried my best to do all of these things.

I was trying so hard to do all of these things that I really couldn't be bothered to look around at the scenery.  I would hear the occasional remark from someone about it being lovely and put my head up, but for the most part, I was living in terror for when we were going to canter.  And then it happened.  Stephanie said, "Let's kick it."

And so I did.

It was so bad.  Really bad.  So bad, I thought Stephanie might fall off her horse she was so startled.  Evidently, I was leaning REALLY far off to the left.  Perilously out to the left.  and I had really loose reins, so Danvers could do whatever the hell she wanted and there I was, no hand on the horn, flying way out on the left side, free like a bird in the wind, yet, not screaming like I felt like doing.

Stephanie had us stop.  She said, "Hey, Cheryl! You were really leaning out to the left side!"

"Oh, really?"  OMG! Kill me now. Don't let's do that again.  Please let me hold the horn!

"Yeah!  You need to shorten up on those reins quite a bit and get centered."

"OK."  Or just kill me.  You could just kill me.  And the horrible other part of me was thinking, poor David, he has a film to go to.  What if he doesn't get enough cantering because of the awful old woman in his horse group?  What if he fails because of me?  I can't not canter!  I have to suck it up.  "OK. I'll do that."


After the second round of cantering where I still leaned, but not so scarily, I finally figured out a way to sneak my hand around the base of the horn and not appear to be actually holding the horn.  I'm sure Stephanie probably knew, but by this time, I didn't care.  I was just trying to hang on.

As we reached a long straightaway, Stephanie said, "This is where the horses really like to let loose."

"Joy."  I thought to myself.  

Everyone broke into a happy canter and Danvers broke into her sneaky rocking trot.  I, however was prepared for her.  After the last canter, Stephanie had warned me that Danvers was lazy and that the reason I was having trouble with the canter was Danvers was doing a rocking trot that was really uncomfortable because she didn't want to run in a canter.  I would have to kick her into a trot.  Leave it to me to have to get the horse that needed an alpha.  And I am such a dominant personality too!  Every time Danvers tried to creep back into a painful rocking trot, I would kick her back into a canter and it was smooth and lovely.  It was almost worth it.  I felt almost centered.  I felt almost good.  And then we stopped and I blew it by forgetting which hand had the reins and screwing up my stop just as Stephanie and David looked at me.  

Oh for Pete's sake.  Could I never catch one break?

Fred and I seated on Duke and Danvers, respectively. We are smiling.

I made it through the ride.  I would say that if I were to do it again, I would categorize myself as a beginner who could not canter.  Broken Saddle Riding Company is a serious horseback riding company and you need to know your stuff.  They are professionals. They have great horses. They have amazing scenery.  

If you haven't cantered in last 5 years, you are not an advanced beginner.  And if you don't heed my warning, then you will be like me, hobbling around like I have been for the past two days. In pain. Barely able to move.  Because you tried to make your thighs do all the work and not hold the horn.

Heed me now, or heed me later!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

YALSA Creates App for Finding Teen Books

Just read about a great new app in the Summer 2012 YALSA magazine.  It is called the Teen Book Finder and it is available for free from iTunes.

Screenshot of the Teen Book Finder
Screenshot of the Teen Book Finder

Screenshot of the Teen Book Finder
Screenshot of the Teen Book Finder

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bitterblue is a sequel to Graceling, but not to Fire . It does take place about 8 years later in the Graceling timeline. You really need to read the one before the other. There are just too many relationships and interconnections that begin in the first one and continue in the second that for you not to have read the first you will have missed out on quite a lot.

Now, having said all of that, and being a school librarian, let me state that this book is definitely for grades 9 and up. It is a fantasy book, but it is a dark fantasy and there are some very serious subjects covered (rape, murder, cutting, mind control) and while these are not graphically detailed, it does make for some   creepy diary entries. There is a love scene between the main character and one of her male interests (I won't spoil it by saying who), but it is off the page and circumspect.[ creepy diary entries. There is a love scene between the main character and one of her male interests (I won't spoil it by saying who), but it is off the page and circumspect.

I found myself carrying the book from room to room and really being fascinated by the plot. However, I just couldn't see how it was all going to tie up. It does, but it seems to take an inordinately long time for it to happen. And Bitterblue seems to take a long time coming to realize that the mountains of paperwork are delaying tactics and she should be suspicious. So, while I loved the characterization of Bitterblue and her new friends she finds in the city and the returning friends from Graceling, I was frustrated by the convoluted nature of the plot. Some characters were lovely: Giddon and I love Death (pronounced like teeth) and Lovejoy. The setting of the town was great and you get a real sense of the castle and how Leck has really destroyed this city and her people.

It's a fascinating book. Really and truly. I enjoyed reading it. But I was also a bit let down at the ending. I'm not sure what happens next and that left me with an unresolved feeling.

I thought Graceling was tied up more neatly. This one meandered a bit. As my review is doing.... (hide spoiler)]

I found myself carrying the book from room to room and really being fascinated by the plot. However, I just couldn't see how it was all going to tie up. It does, but it seems to take an inordinately long time for it to happen. And Bitterblue seems to take a long time coming to realize that the mountains of paperwork are delaying tactics and she should be suspicious. So, while I loved the characterization of Bitterblue and her new friends she finds in the city and the returning friends from Graceling, I was frustrated by the convoluted nature of the plot. Some characters were lovely: Giddon and I love Death (pronounced like teeth) and Lovejoy. The setting of the town was great and you get a real sense of the castle and how Leck has really destroyed this city and her people.

It's a fascinating book. Really and truly. I enjoyed reading it. But I was also a bit let down at the ending. I'm not sure what happens next and that left me with an unresolved feeling.

I thought Graceling was tied up more neatly. This one meandered a bit. As my review is doing....
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