Sunday, 30 May 2010

Fence Judging

I've been meaning to show you this all week:

It's the apple blossom on the driveway. I'm so pleased it's here at last.

We spent all day on Sunday at Holme House Farm, fence judging for the showcross competition. Tessa came with us. She classes herself as an official. It was incredibly windy all day, so I was holding my binoculars and clutching my hat at the same time. We worked with two new liveries for the Pairs and Novice round. Basically, we watch what's going on on the cross country course and dictate the scores to them and they write eveything on the score sheet. They've never done it before and worked really well. The Pairs class is fairly slow, as both competitors have to jump the showjumps, then come down onto the cross country course, but when the individual classes start, the competitors come thick and fast, so as soon as you've seen one horse get home you start on the next horse going out. We can see most of the course, spread out below us, but then the competitors go into the next field and the judges in there relay information back to us on the walkie-talkie.
We fence judged last year, and I had no urge to jump the fences whatsoever, but this time I realised I really fancied having a go. They have put a water complex in, which looked really good, and extra jumps in the far field, plus a gate that you have to open and close. We might have to go over for a bit of a session. Lorna lets us have a go as a thankyou for fence judging. Zak would love it and it would be very familiar territory for Barnaby, so we'll see.
It was lovely to see old faces again, we had a good chat with Sue and Nigel who came to write for us for the Intermediate and Open classes. It was great to see Morag and John and Lesley, Sue and Lorraine and Clair and Paul. It's great to see how much some people are progressing with their riding, too.
There are some sad things going on, though, like Bill's Henry being put to sleep, and John's lovely mare, Snip. You could see he was still distraught, poor man. I do hope he finds something else to ride, but it's difficult when you've had a relationship with a horse like that. He said he has gone back to playing golf. I can imagine people at the golf club asking him where he's been, and him wanting to say, "I was having an adventure back there for a while..."
I am sad about Henry, too, he was a magnificent horse. It was him and Harry that guarded Barnaby when we turned him out with his broken pedal bone. When we put Barnaby in the bottom field for a few months, it was Henry who greeted him when he came back, "Oh it's you, where've you been, you scruff?" Two bluff old coves together.
We got home earlier than usual, as normally we pop in to see Daughter 2 on the way home, but the Flower Fairy has got chicken pox, so we thought we'd better give it a miss. The poor little mite sounds as if she's covered in spots from head to toe. Good job it's half term now. When we did get home I looked in the mirror and my face is bright red from windburn. Good grief.

And so to today. We woke up at 7.50am, which for Mr O is his first and only lay-in of the
year. We got Zak and Barnaby in and tacked up, then set off on a mega-hack. I had to ride Barnaby in his double bridle, as he's made it clear he doesn't like the pelham and my new dutch gag hasn't arrived yet. I have to say, this is the best ride I've had on Barnaby so far. I don't know if it was the double bridle or just his good mood, but he was very responsive and very well behaved. I soon got used to two reins (I have used a double bridle before) even though one is plaited and quite chunky. I wouldn't want to do it without gloves on.
We rode down to the park and had a canter across the grass, slipped out through a gap in the wall and cantered across the field, then a bit of a mystery tour to me, as I've not been this way before. We found a new bridleway that led through some trees with fields on the right (with lots of horses that decided to follow us) and a river on the left. I was impressed.
Then we got to Ogston Reservoir from a completely different direction to last time. It was brilliant. We went off to search for the third bridleway and couldn't find it. We ended up riding through a village where they were just getting ready for their Well Dressing festival. I have always wanted to go to one of these. The horses weren't frightened by any of the goings-on, the ice cream van or the bouncy castle. I wish we'd brought some money. I was really thirsty by then, but an ice cream would have done just as well.
We rode on and on (and on) until I stopped a couple of women and asked for the quickest way back. They gave us directions and on we trundled. We weren't lost, but goodness knows where this bridleway was. We never found it and must have added five miles onto our already long journey. It was a relief to get back out onto the main road and turn down to Ashover. I think we must have done between fifteen and seventeen miles all told, but it was a good ride and very warm. We'd worn our jackets as it looked like it was going to rain when we set off, but I was hot by the end of it.
We got back and washed the horses down and turned them back out. They only took a few strides before they started pawing the ground. Their knees buckled and they hit the dirt and went down for a roll in the dust. By the time Barnaby stood up, he was black. Marvellous.
And since then, frankly, I am prepared to spend the rest of the day relaxing. I have done quite enough for one weekend. Actually, I am half way through a cross stitch for Daughter 2's wedding. I have bought an embroidery hoop, which is making my life a lot easier. I have bought a kit in Hobbycraft, and I have to say, the threads are very cheap and keep knotting all the time. This is the last time I'll buy a kit, I'd rather find a picture in a magazine or book and buy the threads myself. I'm constantly panicking that I'll run out of thread and not find a perfect match for it to finish off the design. I have until the end of June to get it finished, so I should have it done in time. I will show you as soon as I can.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Introducing Abigail

Well, there is never a dull moment around here. Yesterday the first duckling hatched out in the incubator. Unfortunately, Pongo decided to give her a helping hand, which is actually the wrong thing to do, and brought her out of the shell before she was ready. She was very weak and feeble for several hours, and we honestly didn't think she was going to make it. I was upset all morning, but went back in at lunch time and she was sitting up and chirping away. Missis had been dripping water into her beak every ten minutes, and it seemed to do the trick. Now she looks like this:

How cute is she?!

There is a heat lamp above her, which you can't see.

The boys have named her Abigail. I have had a sleepless night, wondering if she would make it, but she is thriving. Then half an hour ago, Jemima arrived. We left her completely alone and she has come out much stronger and alert. We've taken her out of the incubator (it's very small) and put her under the heat lamp with Abigail and she's drinking and waddling about. Abigail keeps pecking at her. The third one is cheeping away in the incubator but not out of her shell yet. Jemima is so new she makes Abigail look positively grown up. They are both eating and drinking well. So exciting.

Equally exciting for me is that I've been on the quad bike and levelled the manege. We've taken the pole off the chain harrow and just attached that to the quad and it's perfect. Bearing in mind I don't even drive a car, I was quite nervous at first, but soon got the hang of the gears. The steering is a bit weird, as the wheels don't go where the top of the quad goes, like driving a tractor, but it seemed quite natural. This is brilliant because it means I can level the manege whenever I need to and don't need to wait and get Pongo or Missis to do it. I was as high as a kite by the time I got in.
The other really good thing is that as the lemon curd cooled down, and has been in the fridge over night, it's really set properly. I had some for breakfast and it's superb, as though the flavour has developed over night. I'm not sure how long it will last in the fridge, as it's not a 'preserve', is it? I really wanted to make about eight jars, but now I'm glad it only made two jars worth, as I can eat it and then make some more. I might even bake a cake and use some in the middle - mmm!
I think what we're building towards is me making loads of cards and cross stitch and other stuff and having a stall somewhere this time next year so that I can sell everything in one go. This is because Missis gave me a catalogue called Yellow Moon which is full of brilliant things for children to make, like little photo frames and plant pots and things, but I am going to order some for myself, and if they're any good, I'll sell them all at some event next year. Watch this space.

Right, I am off to set up some jumps in the school, as Mr O wants to jump Zak tonight. I am stuck with riding Barnaby in his double bridle as I rode him out on Tuesday and when I got back Barnaby's mouth was bright orange where the sweet iron on his bit is rotting away! Yuk. So I've thrown it away and ordered a new one as he takes a six inch bit, which is big, and it won't arrive for another week. I did school him in a pelham but wasn't very keen on it, so I'm stuck with a double bridle. I always feel like I have a fistful of leather, as his reins are quite chunky, so we'll see how we get on.
Lemon curd on toast, anyone?
Have a great weekend, whatever you are up to, and let's hope the sun shines as we are fence judging on Sunday.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

If Life Gives You Lemons

I ache all over from my physical exertions yesterday so probably won't ride as I don't think I've got the strength. I finished off the tidying and reorganising today and now the place is spotless, not a whisp of straw out of place. I've put loads of winter rugs away and have done a hay net and feed for each horse so they can come in tonight and eat for an hour. Barnaby made it quite clear yesterday that he isn't getting enough to eat (am I the only person praying for rain??) so we put some hay in the field last night, but I have decided they'd better come in for a teatime feed and stand in for an hour and eat hay, without having to fight over it in the field or watch it blow away. There is more grazing to be had, but not until the haylage is cut which could be very late June, so they'll have to eat the hay for now.
Well I've made the lemon curd and followed a recipe from a Youtube video as I haven't got a recipe for it in any of my cookbooks, even my Farmhouse cookbook.
Basically you whisk up four eggs in a pan, add sugar, butter (yes I used real butter) juice and peel from four lemons and cornflour (although not all recipes require this) and put it on to heat. Then just heat it up and stir constantly like you would a white sauce. Some recipes say to stir in a glass bowl above a pan of boiling water, which I might do next time. Apparently it stops the eggs scrambling by themselves. I just kept whisking and it was fine, but it hasn't gone as thick as shop bought lemon curd, despite the added cornflour and it's a much brighter yellow than I think it should be but this may be because I haven't used any shop bought ingredients, and I have used totally organic eggs. There are no colours or preservatives in it, are there? It almost looks like picalilli or curry sauce. I sterilized my jars with no problems at all and I'm still waiting for it to completely cool before I put the lids on, but have a look anyway:

Needless to say, it isn't Country Fair standard so I'll have to have another go next month. It was quite an experience, though. It has quite a subtle flavour, but I suppose you don't want it to be an overpowering lemon zing. The only disappointment is that it tastes more floury than buttery which is a bit frustrating. I'll just have to keep experimenting until I'm happy with it. I also want to make about four jars at a time, so I can give some as pressies if it's any good. I've realised the sensible thing to do would be to bake some bread and have it on that. Imagine that, warm home baked bread with fresh, home made lemon curd on it.
It was a lovely experience, though, to be standing in my country kitchen (you can tell it's the countryside as the chickens won't shut up!) with the sun pouring in, making lemon curd whilst listening to the radio - bliss.

Next month - chutney...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


I have had a hectic few days. Son 1 came yesterday and stayed the night, so I have made use of the extra manpower to get some outside jobs done. It took us nearly two hours to weed the patio and tidy the garden. You may be wondering why I have weeds on my patio, and to be honest, I am a little baffled myself. I think I will have to resort to weedkiller to stay ahead of the game. The wheelbarrow was full by the time we finished.
I didn't tell you, did I, that the chickens and I aren't currently on speakers? This is because they came in to my garden a couple of weeks ago (we hadn't had George very long by then) and trashed my containers. I came in one afternoon, looked down, and realised to my horror that my busy lizzies were missing. There were lots of little green stems scattered about on the ground. One of my containers was bare - no busy lizzies, no loebelias. I was devastated. All that hard work for nothing. So now the gate is kept closed and the chickens can't get in. I know they stand in my containers, otherwise they wouldn't be able to do this, would they?

Our fruit trees have finally arrived. They are a month late, but never mind. On Monday night we drove to B&Q to buy some huge containers to plant them in. We have 2 eating apples and 1 cooking apple, 2 plum, 1 pear tree, 2 cherry trees and 1 apricot. The irony is that the farm used to be a fruit farm years ago, so it's come full circle really. They will stay in the tubs until the garden is finished. While we were there I decided to buy a couple of geraniums, as that's all they had left, so I've planted them this morning in order to replace the (years) plants the locusts have eaten.
Apart from that, between us we have blitzed the stables today. I have mucked out Zak's stable, put all the spare straw from Max's stable into Zak's, totally swept Max's stable and put our big boxes in there. This leaves the space clear outside, so I can sweep up properly. I still haven't finished really.
I rode Barnaby yesterday and today. We went for a fabulous hack yesterday, around a local place called The Manor where there is a decent bridleway. This is very close to where Max bolted with me and I haven't had the nerve to ride there on my own since. I was a bit nervous, but Barnaby was fine. I had to get off at one gate, with a little Jack Russell who appeared from nowhere (JR's can do that) and barked her head off. Barnaby didn't seem too bothered, thank goodness. He seemed to have so much energy I felt he could have done 10 miles and not been bothered.
Today I've schooled him and it was quite hard work. He isn't as supple as Max was (for all his faults) and struggles to bend on a circle any less than twenty metres. If I ask him to bend to the left he immediately sticks his neck out to the right, as if he's staring out to sea. In the end I got off him, got a mint out of my pocket and offered it to him right next to his shoulder and he immediately turned his head right round and ate it! Hmmm. We have some work to do there I think.
I've also taught Seven on Monday night and Ten tonight. They have both improved dramatically. Ten keeps on deliberately asking Fudge to canter, so I've told him off a bit this evening and said he must not canter unless I've asked him to. Why is it when boys learn to ride they all turn into speed demons by the fifth lesson? Son 2 was just the same.

And I have made some cards, too. I am very pleased with these.

It was making these that made me realise it was time to buy a craft knife. There is no way I could have cut them out properly without one.

Some of the card ideas in Papercraft Inspirations magazine suggest you use quite an unusual sized card, but they don't tell you what you're supposed to do about an envelope, so I adapt where I can to standard card stock that I've already got. These were a lot of fun to make, though. I still prefer to use foam pads for decoupage, but have learned the value of silicone glue, especially on some of these as the little dog's nose is decoupaged, so you can imagine how tiny the nose is once you've cut it out. You'd never find a foam pad small enough.

I have realised the difference between home-made cards and shop bought ones is that home-made cards make you want to touch them. When I gave Ten his birthday card, he touched and pressed every single bit of it. With shop bought cards you read them and put them up and that's it. There is something very tactile about a home-made card.
And finally, I've bought all the ingredients for the lemon curd, so hopefully I'll be able to make it tomorrow. I've been reading up about sterilizing jars, so I'm all ready to go. You know what they say, if life gives you lemons...

Post script: Immediately after writing this I googled 'making your own envelopes' and found a brilliant 'how-to' video, so that solves that problem.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Robin Hood, Robin Hood...

It's been quite a relaxing weekend for us, but it's just as well because it's been so phenomenally hot that doing anything quickly would have been virtually impossible. It's been so hot that I've actually been seen wearing a skirt, a rare event indeed!
We felt it would be cruel to ride in the heat of the day, so we decided to go to the cinema in the afternoon and ride at night instead. So off we trolled to see the new Robin Hood film, with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. What can I say? It was actually a really enjoyable film, and Cate Blanchett shines like a jewel in the sand. Her costuming is perfect. The downside, as you may have gathered if you've read any reviews, is that Russell Crowe's accent is dreadful. It swings between irish and scottish in the beginning, with a dash of a good scouse accent in between, but then becomes a bit Yorkshire when they turn up in Nottingham. It was truly dreadful and offputting, and totally unnecessary. His own accent is beautiful to listen to and wouldn't have made the slightest difference. It never did Sean Connery any harm, did it? We loved the horse, except at the very end where he blatantly dishes. I don't know where it was filmed yet (it looked like Wales) but it's a shame if that's the best horse you could find (I have a perfectly good one waiting in the wings!) It strikes me that it must be a director's dream to have actors that ride so well, so you don't need to employ stunt doubles and you can get good close up shots of the actors galloping along. Russell Crowe is an extremely accomplished rider, but I've never seen Cate Blanchett ride before, and she looked stunning.
Overall it was a very good film, not the usual Robin Hood story, and builds to an excellent climax. I can think of worse ways to spend a hot Saturday afternoon and so it gets a thumbs up from me.
Pongo and Missis put on a barbeque in the evening, which was wonderful, and then we got the horses in to ride. They were a teensy bit put out, but soon settled down. Mr O and I rode in the school together, and it was quite a giggle. It was very good training for Barnaby, to have Zak in front of him and let him trot off round the arena, and not to try to whizz off behind him. I need to practise this a lot before we go to the Ashover show in August.

And so to Sunday, when the temperature was a ridiculous 28 degrees, and we had to load the horses into the lorry and drive down to Shipley Country Park. Poor Barnaby was dripping by the time we got there. We tacked up and decided to take it slowly. I had a cannister of water strapped to my saddle, for me to drink, but if it's ever as hot has this again, I'll take another cannister and pour it on Barnaby at regular intervals. As it was, they both did brilliantly, but I wouldn't say it was the most exciting ride I've ever been on, and considering it was ten miles, I think we were back in record time. We did find a huge grass area at the end, and decided to double back and do a flat out gallop on it. I found this rather stunning as it's the first time I've really let Barnaby open up. For a cob, he can't half shift, and had no problems keeping up with Zak. I am thrilled by this, because when we used to ride Max and Zak together, Max knew he didn't stand a chance and used to give up and go back to walk. It's lovely for me to be on the fearless horse, too and watch Mr O cope with a spooky one for a change. I took the decision to ride him in a pelham bit this time, and it was the right thing to do, as I held him when a group of riders overtook us, and he couldn't go trotting after them, so I was relieved I'd done it.
Before we knew it we were back at the start, and came in level with Pongo and Missis who had done the seven mile route. It turned out they'd had more canter places than we had. I may do the shorter route myself next year, then. I've seen the photos on the website this morning, but we are too far away in them, although we are side by side, so I may not bother buying them. It's only us on the flat, after all. We just doused the horses with buckets and buckets of water. As we scraped the water off them it was hot, so you can imagine what they were like. They obviously enjoyed it as they just stood there and let us get on with it without argueing.

The other totally exciting thing was the arrival of the quad bike. We've got it so that we can level the manege and buy a hoover attachment and poo pick the field. Tessa definitely gave it her seal of approval.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Soapbox Friday

I don't want to sound like a 'Grumpy Old Woman' here, but this is something I've been noticing for a while and just want to share with you and hear your point of view. If you think I'm being harsh, that's absolutely fine, too.
The two boys that live on the farm (Seven and Ten) have a lovely little pony. Up until now they haven't been able to ride very much, largely because the winter weather was so bad, and because we haven't really had suitable facilities. We have what we call The Lunge Pen, but there is grass on the ground, and it's very difficult to teach young children to ride on a pony who just wants to eat the grass.
But now, of course, we have the school, so some real work can begin, and this is also where my rant begins. This rant really is about 'The Nintendo Generation'.
When my children were growing up, Nintendo was fairly new, but they still wanted most of the games that came out, and certainly every new console, (Nintendo 64, Playstation, Playstation II etc). We weren't made of money, so supply could not, and would not keep up with demand. They had plenty of games, though, and were deeply into the world of Zelda, Tetris and Buster Move 2 (Remember those?) and I didn't have a problem with it.
However, back to the horse riding lessons. Both Seven and Ten have a Nintendo DS each, a Wii system and a computer. They have learned that if you 'press a button' a great deal happens. Now my job is to teach them to ride. I have been teaching riding for years, to people of all ages and abilities. I can't help noticing that both boys ride as if they are playing a Nintendo game. They seem to think that they can put the minimum amount of effort in (and sometimes no effort whatsoever!) and something huge will happen as a result, as though the pony will know what to do by some form of osmosis or thought transference, or something. I asked Ten what you need to do to get the horse to trot. He said he had to squeeze. I thought, 'fine, he understands' and told him to go ahead, and he just sat there doing absolutely nothing. I was actually speechless, a rarity for me.
In the end I took both boys right back to basics. I decided to teach them to start, steer and stop. That's all. I put some poles on the floor parallel to the fence, but about four feet away to see if they could ride the pony down the long side of the school, between the poles and the fence. Otherwise the pony just walks round wherever he feels like it. It took Seven a long time to work out that the pony is not a machine, and that it would take real effort from him, involving his whole body, and movement from his arms and legs, to cause something to happen. The fact that this was a total revelation to him was written all over his face.
It really made me think what a lazy society we are becoming. I know it's wonderful to have all these new gadgets and inventions, but it makes you wonder where it will end. We love the fact that our TV now comes with a remote control, but why have we invented the remote control? So that we don't have to get up!
Have you seen the Pixar animation film Wall-E? If you haven't, it's well worth seeing. There is a big space station in it, and all the people are fat and lay on beds all day, and get propelled along and fed and entertained as they sit there, there's no need to move. I am really beginning to wonder if that's the way the world is going.
Before we moved to the farm I worked in an office. My desk was my ops centre. I had a head set for my phone, a keyboard in front of me and all my files arranged along my desk, stapler etc in front, handily positioned. I was like an octopus, if I wanted anything I could just reach out my arm, and there it was - no need to get up, just stay right there, answer the phone and type at the same time. I didn't need to leave my chair except to go to the loo and make a drink, and I'm sure the company would have preferred it if I could have abstained from both.
I am well aware that my two sons would quite happily sit at their computers all day and all night and play games, barely stopping to eat or sleep. My youngest son is now pale and very slim and arranges via the internet for someone to keep his game going while he is at work! For goodness sake, what is the world coming to? I totally understand that computer games were invented to fill a gap in the market. No child really wants to play hoopla and cup-and-ball for ever, do they? But what's wrong with going for a walk or playing mud pies in the garden (oh I forgot, children mustn't get dirty) or going out on their bikes for an hour's explore like we used to (oh, sorry, it isn't safe, is it?) It really makes me sad.
I guess that's my rant over. And I really am sad about it. Sad for this generation that has to get its excitement vicariously. This is why I really want the boys to learn to ride. At least it's one thing that teaches them that you only get out of life what you put in, that you can get hurt in real life, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again, and progress at something and have a lot of fun in the process. Only time will tell... *climbs reluctantly down from soapbox* but if I really am turning into a Grumpy Old Woman, I'll be climbing back on it again before too long!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Tieing up Loose Ends

At last the sun is shining and it's beautifully warm. The swallows finally arrived yesterday (they've been at Jolly Farmer's for over two weeks!) I was concerned that they won't be able to get to their normal nesting spot in the barn now that we've put the shutter doors on, but they fly in through a gap in the top, then it's business as usual. It's wonderful to see them back, I always feel as if it's summer when they come.
I stroll to the field twice a day and put suncream on Barnaby and Lindy. They both have very delicate pink noses that burn easily. Barnaby stands still and takes it like a man. Lindy wrinkles his top lip and tries to lick it off. Polo comes over to see what all the fuss is about and asks to have some on as well. I put a splodge on him. He hates to be left out. Zak runs a mile.
I have some catching up to do on the Barnaby front. I went for a lesson at the riding school a couple of weeks ago. I had a different instructor, and I'm going to be honest and say I've never been keen on her. She's quite young and arrogant. There's nothing she hasn't ridden. I went in for the lesson with a sense of trepidation and it was... brilliant! She knew exactly what I wanted to do (jumping) what Barnaby was like, what he needed to do, etc. She put the jumps up straight away. When I have a lesson with 'the other girl' she makes you do flat work for twenty minutes, then puts a fence up. This girl had the fence up instantly, talked to me while I warmed up, and we got on with it. I didn't have time to be nervous.
Barnaby was quite hard work, though, and kept rushing his fences. Bear in mind that he hasn't really jumped since his injury and I've only jumped him a few times before that, because he wasn't my horse then, and you can see, we have a lot of work to do. In the end I was just walking him round, trotting the last two strides and jumping the fence, then going off and calming him down, and going for the fence again. It really made him listen to me and wait for instructions, instead of just charging off. The instructor was brilliant, though, I can't thank her enough.
This was all because I wanted to take him to Wingerworth show and do the showjumping, but he isn't ready. It won't take long, but we have a lot of work to put in. If I go now, I'll probably manage to jump one fence, but anything could happen after that.
I brought him in to ride in the new manege a couple of days after that. When I picked his back left (or near hind) foot up he absolutely yanked it away from me, and then wouldn't put his foot down. I tried not to panic, but after the broken pedal bone saga, you can imagine, we are very protective where his feet are concerned. It turns out he's got a mud fever wound there, which is very sore. Every time he picks his leg up he's breaking the skin again, which must hurt like heck. Anyway, he was lame after this and I couldn't ride him, and the next day he was still quite bad, refusing to move etc, so we got the vet out.
A very nice vet came, said it was mud fever, gave me some antibiotics and charged me one hundred and eleven pounds! Good grief, I'm in the wrong job. She offered me bute. "No," I said, "I have plenty." (No need to make the bill one hundred and forty pounds when I have packs of bute still in the drawer).
So he's had all of last week off, and had antibiotics in his feed twice a day, and once a day this week. He came sound within two days, but he was definitely feeling sorry for himself. When the horses were chasing each other round the field, he just stood there and wouldn't join in. When I brought him in for his feed he walked very slowly and after his tea he stood there and wasn't bothered about going out again. I can't stand seeing him like that. He is such a majestic beast normally. I was so relieved when he got his normal bolshy attitude back. It's worth a little bit of barging just to know he's well.
We trotted him up on Sunday night and he was fine. We've been putting cream on the wound twice a day, just to keep it soft and flexible really. I rode him on Monday in the school and he was beautiful. I've put three trotting poles on one side of the school, and a cross pole (jump fence) on the other side. I did exactly what I'd done in the lesson I had, and schooled him on the flat for quite a while, just to satisfy myself that he was sound, then took him over the trotting poles. They are a set distance apart, and he should trot neatly in between them. The first time he tried to jump all three, and cantered over them, but I steadied him and he was fine after that. Then, when he wasn't really expecting it, I presented him at the fence and he popped it beautifully. I carried on schooling and took him back over the poles, then jumped the fence again, and just kept going. He was very attentive, and really enjoying it, not knowing what was coming next and realising he'd better listen and be ready. In the end I put the fence up to a straight bar and put him over that a few times. He was superb and absolutely flew over it, but came back to me afterwards as well, not just going flying around the arena, which was really good.
I was as high as a kite afterwards because I was totally on my own, and wasn't the least bit nervous, wondering if I should wear a body protector/let Missis know I was jumping etc. I really had to concentrate and think about what we were doing the whole time, but it was wonderful. I do feel if I do this at least once a week, we will be ready to do a little clear round class, and maybe the 55cm class in June. It's all very well watching people show jump at Chatsworth, where the arena is huge and you have ten strides between every fence. At Wingerworth the showjumping ring is very small, and you have maybe two to three strides between each fence, so we will have to be on the ball, or we'll be jumping out of the arena!

On the domestic front, I have been saving all my empty jars with the intention of making either:
lemon curd

Having given it some consideration and researched various recipes, I have decided to have a go at lemon curd first, because
a) we love it and will actually eat it and
b) it looks really easy.

So the ingredients will be on my next shopping list. I have no idea how many jars I will end up with, or what I do about sterilizing the jars, so a little more research is needed (and probably consulting The Oracle for her wise advice in these matters). But I want to do it, because I can't help noticing that the more expensive the lemon curd, the nicer it tastes. I've read the ingredients on all the jars I've tried, from Tesco's cheapest to Highfield Farm Shop's version, (more than twice the price) and it seems the more butter or margarine they put in, the better it tastes, so I'm looking forward to making my own and seeing how it compares.
We have had the schedule in the post for this year's Ashover Show and I notice there is an entry for jam, chutney and lemon curd in the preserves section, so you never know...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Chatsworth Horse Trials

This is one of my favourite events of the year, in fact it's probably the event on my calendar not to be missed. It was cancelled last year due to bad weather, so it was even more exciting to be going this year. Where else can you rub shoulders with Mary King and Zara Philips?
We took the decision not to take Tessa. I think she would be bored having to be on a lead for so long. It was a bit like open season, though, I've never seen so many dogs outside Crufts. The trouble is, my instinct is to stroke as many as possible. (Martin Clunes says he is the same, so I am in good company here). Mr O just waits patiently for me to catch up while I stroke ears and admire canine faces. There were two gorgeous Afghan hounds, spaniels all over the place, and four matching Jack Russells, each with its own red bandana. Oh, and there were these guys:

We headed straight for the show jumping ring, where the competition was well under way. We saw William Fox-Pitt, Jeanette Brakewell, Mark Todd and Paul Tapner (what a gorgeous guy, but I couldn't help noticing the wedding ring as he sailed past. Ah well). Alice Pearson was riding a horse called Beau Bear. When we looked in the programme, it turned out his dad was Alflora, who is also Zak's dad! Beau Bear is 12, so he is Zak's younger brother. He looked exactly like him, too.

I had arranged to meet up with a woman from the Your Horse forum who I get on really well with and who lives near Worksop. We'd emailed each other the day before and said we would get together and swapped mobile numbers. It's quite difficult to say you will meet someone when you don't know what they look like and only have clothing to go by, but we managed it. It was really nice to meet her (and her daughter) and swap stories for a while. An old friend of mine is on their yard, which I hadn't realised.

(Paul Tapner, this year's Badminton winner).

There are quite a few good trade stands, and it is absolutely essential that I make it to the Joules tent. How can I describe Joules clothing? It is more Laura Ashley than Laura Ashley. There. Do you remember Laura Ashley in the 80's when the clothing was romantic and you felt like Jane Eyre wearing it? Joules is very much like that, beautiful quality, and very 'english country garden'. Think 'tea dress' and you'll have it. I love every single thing they make. But it's expensive, so you have to tread carefully. I am thrilled with what I bought and will show you in a separate post. In the meantime you can go to Joules Clothing to see what I mean.

In fact clothing in general is a big part of the occasion. You definitely go to 'see and be seen'. There was a lot of tweed in evidence as it was quite cold. I actually had mine in the car, but opted to wear my blue jacket instead. It is a massive fashion parade, even if it's trying desperately not to be. No woman is fooled. You do not wear sandals and a skirt, no matter how warm it gets. That screams 'townie'. And you do not wear riding boots and jodhpurs, unless you are twelve and begged your mother. You wear your Dubarry boots (two hundred pounds) or if you're a skinflint like me you wear very similar Dublin River Boots (roughly half the price). Only the very discerning can tell the difference. You wear your favourite skinny leg jeans, so it's only the top half that is different. You can wear either:
Kit A:- to spell out to anyone who cares to listen, 'I am a professional horsewoman and would be competing here today if my horse wasn't lame/stupid/too small. I opt for this look. You wear an equestrian jacket of some sort, you have your hair in a pony tail and wear a baseball cap with either Horseware/Joules/Toggi on it. Sunglasses are optional, Jack Russell is not.
Kit B:- 'I went to public school and own nearly as many acres as you see before you today.' This is the tweed set, preferably with matching hat. Hair could be down. You sport a border terrier or labrador.

(Mary King)

You also take a picnic. This is essential. First timers lug a huge hamper around with them all day (putting it in the buggy and making the toddler walk is perfectly acceptable). The wise walk back to the car and get the folding chairs and rug out. This is very civilised but you do miss a lot of the action. You can buy food on the go (the poachers pasties are gorgeous) but it isn't very ladylike.

Despite all this, the real heroes of the day are the horses. All of them seem absolutely enormous, even though I work with them every day of the week. The only event I've been to before my journeys to Chatsworth, is Badminton. Badminton is a 3 Day Event. This means you go on the Saturday and the only thing going on is the cross country phase, so you wander round all day watching it. Chatsworth is a 1 Day Event, so when you get there, the dressage is already in full swing in one area, the showjumping has started, and the cross country is about to start in the next few minutes. I can remember panicking as I didn't know which thing to watch first, but as you get used to it, you realise you can watch each phase for several hours, but you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. Watching Lucinda Fredericks' dressage test may mean missing Clayton Fredericks doing the showjumping, but you get used to it.

(Zara Phillips)

The cross country fences are huge, rather than technical. I think if you aren't horsey, you are just in awe that a horse can jump something so big, but if you can ride, especially if you hunt, you can feel physically sick watching it because you know you could do it yourself if pushed (and if you had the right horse). You know exactly when the horse should take off, and I actually find myself rocking in rhythm with the horse's stride. (Sad but true!)

I had been thrilled that Pippa Funnell was riding today. She is my all-time heroine. We stood at one of the cross country fences and could hear over the tannoy that she was on her way. The camera was poised. Then we'd heard that she'd fallen at an earlier fence, but it sounded as though she was okay. Later on, though, we saw her jumping in the World Class series. A ripple of applause went round the arena, she jumped the first fence and had a pole down! Oh dear. Maybe next time, love.

(Our Pip).

But I went home very contented with my day, thrilled with everything (and everyone) we'd seen, clutching my purchases (hiding the silk scarf I'd bought at the bottom of the bag so Mr O is none the wiser. I won't be showing him until after I've taken the price tag off!) and aching all over from the amount of walking we've done. Wait until I next get on Barnaby, he won't know what's hit him.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Book Trail (and some films!)

I have been going on a bit of a connected journey with my reading and film viewing of late. It all started back last year when I read The Mitford Girls by Mary S Lovell, which connected my knowledge of the Duchess of Devonshire (now dowager) with Nancy Mitford. (They are sisters.)
Obviously they own Chatsworth House. One of their ancestors is Georgiana Cavendish, who is played by Keira Knightley in the film 'The Duchess', so I watched that earlier in the year, and loved it. I didn't have to go hunting for it, Missis lent it to me, that's been part of the fun and surprise, that so many of these things have just landed in my lap.
Then I watched 'Becoming Jane' with Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, which was excellent, especially as James McAvoy was in it.
This was followed by a viewing of 'Pride and Prejudice' with Keira Knightley (again!) as Elizabeth Bennet, but the other connection is that some scenes are filmed at Chatsworth (the circle goes round and round) I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but felt that Matthew Macfadyan as Darcy wasn't a patch on Colin Firth in the BBC version. I thought Donald Sutherland was dreadful as Mr Bennett (what was all that pathetic 'laughing behind your hand' about?) but Judi Dench was brilliant, and so was Tom Hollander as Mr Collins. He plays Cutler Beckett in 'Pirates of the Carribbean', and if you can't stand him in that (the character, I mean) this will truly make you squirm, his portrayal is brilliant.
Then for my birthday in March I visited Hardwick Hall. And the connection? Bess of Hardwick was married to Sir William Cavendish, who owned Chatsworth. On the way out I saw a book called 'The Other Queen' by Philippa Gregory (writer of 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and one of my favourite authors) but decided not to buy it as we are rapidly running out of book space in the tiny cottage. Then, to my surprise, I found it in the library at the weekend and grabbed it quick. It is about Mary Queen of Scots, but more importantly to me, it features Bess of Hardwick, by then married to her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury. I have only read a few chapters but can hardly put it down.
I am so thrilled at the link between all of these things, and how one has flowed straight from the other. My next book on order from the library is set in Roman times, though, so that should change things a bit.

I am still busy card-making, so I thought I'd show you my latest efforts:

This is the first card I made from my new Jayne Netley Mayhew CDRom. I hope it's obvious from example why I don't need to worry about not having anything to make a 'Mancard' with any more, as there are hundreds of beautiful designs on the CD. Each topper comes with matching backing papers, and I had the gold card in my stash, and just got on with it. This one is for my son David whose birthday it is tomorrow.

I so enjoyed making that one, I decided to make another one. I've printed the picture of the leopard onto photographic paper, and the print quality is incredibly good. I could easily get carried away making these.

On Saturday I bought a guillotine, as I want to cut neater straight lines, and also bought a craft mat and craft knife, as I got stuck on one project as I didn't have the correct tools for the job, so I will get those finished and show you as soon as I can. I also need to make a Thankyou card for Jolly Farmer for letting me use his manege for nearly a year. I need to take him a pressie as well, so I'd better get cracking.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Monday, 10 May 2010

Bakewell By Bus

When I went to the doctor's last week I noticed a poster on the noticeboard advertising bus trips. They go to Bakewell, Derby and Meadowhall (a huge shopping mall in Sheffield) and there was one to Bakewell today, so I decided to book a place.
We had to meet at the village hall. I was quite early and stood there for ages, absolutely freezing to death and totally alone. I couldn't believe I was going to be the only one going.
Finally the bus arrived at 10 am and loads of people appeared and climbed aboard! Where had they all been hiding?! A very nice lady sat next to me and we chatted away, all the usual about where we live and why. Then she did the ultimate - she invited me to join the WI! I desperately tried to keep a straight face. The trouble is, it's on a Thursday evening, and in the summer I'd rather be riding, but in the winter it might be quite appealing.
We drove through the beautiful countryside to Chatsworth. There are hundreds of acres of grassland for the sheep to go at, but for some reason the grass on the edge of the road is the nicest bit of all, and we crawled along, ushering Mrs Sheep and her twins back onto the grass so we could keep on driving.
We arrived in Bakewell at eleven and the bus would come back at 2pm to pick us up, so we fanned out, women on a mission. I've never been to Bakewell before and wasn't sure how big it was, so thought I'd better take a good look around so I could find the bus stop again and not be lost and keep everybody waiting. The market was in full swing, so I decided to go there first, and had a good look round, then off to the shops.
The shops are definitely geared towards tourists, but it was lovely to stroll round (and go into shops to warm up!) I very nearly succumbed to a tea cosy with chickens on it, but resisted. There were some lovely ones in the market, too. I must explain all about my search for a tea cosy, but it'll have to wait for another post.
I decided it was time to find somewhere to have lunch, but there are loads of cafes to choose from. There are lots of secret alleyways with more shops and cafes, like this one.

Eventually I plumped for a place just called 'The Cafe Upstairs' and had a lovely coffee and a ciabatta loaf with hot brie and cranberry sauce, which was gorgeous. Fully refreshed, I dived once more into the fray.
I found a beautiful craft shop selling cross stitch, tapestry and knitting things, and asked about what I needed to back my bookmark, but they didn't have anything I could use, which was disappointing. They had some beautiful cross stitch kits, though. Maybe next time.
So all in all, to my surprise, I came back empty handed, but I really enjoyed it. We stopped off at the Chatsworth Farm Shop on the way home, and I bought two huge pasties, some onion chutney and a bottle of homemade lemonade to make up for it!
I walked back up the steep hill from the village as I had to be home in time to meet the boys off the school bus. As I approached the farm I could see something moving around near the white gate. As I got closer I realised it was Lindy! He must have jumped over the dry stone wall again and gone for a wander. I came in, dropped everything off and grabbed a headcollar and leadrope and went to catch him. He was quite happy to be caught and wandered back up to his friends in the field, silly horse.
And to end, I'm sorry to say, on a sad note. When Mr O got home we fed the horses and went to put the chickens away. Mr O went into the coop to look for eggs, and to his dismay, found Dorothy, the pale grey maran, dead on the floor. What on earth has happened? There was no blood or feathers, so we are wondering if George has crushed her or suffocated her or something. It's the only thing we can think of. Can a cockerel do that to a chicken? Poor old girl. So sad. I will miss her, and of course, it's made me worry about the others. I wonder if he should be separated from the chickens at night? Any advice?

Friday, 7 May 2010

At Last... A Manege!

Finally, it's finished, but I wanted to show you the extent of the transformation process, as only a few weeks ago, the ground looked like this:

Basically it was just a muddy, wet, wasteland, and looked pretty awful from the road.

The diggers came in and took all the top soil off. Lots of it has been bucketed over to what will be a garden for us.

It's a pretty big area, as you can see.
Next the clay was revealed underneath. All the drainage pipes were put in.

Then the black membrane was put down, and covered up with a deep layer of stone. I don't think any weeds will be poking their pretty little heads up through this lot. The surface was still sloped at this stage. You can see the beginnings of the post and rail fencing.

Then the white membrane was put down, and covered with sand. The kick-boards are on. At this stage the guys should have arrived with the rotovator to churn in all the fibre, but there was quite a delay, even allowing for the Bank Holiday, which was very frustrating.
Eventually the fibre turned up, and didn't look as I'd expected at all. At our old yard the fibre was like orange wire wool, which is why I worried it would just blow straight off the school surface on a windy day, but this was grey and had little bits of rubber in it.
Then the final touch, the rubber put on the top. This is to stop the sand getting frost on it and being too hard to ride on in the winter. It is 20m x 40m by the way.

Now all I want to do is go and (play) ride on it, but we have to wait one more day to let it settle in (a little note which I think is silly really, but there we are). I am so excited, I can't begin to tell you. We're going to have some fun on this, aren't we? Poor Barnaby hasn't got a clue what he's in for (come to that, neither has Zak!)
Have a good weekend everyone.
Mrs O.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Road Less Traveled By

Such busy days. I have had to go to the doctor, which meant another walk down the steep hill into the village. It was actually easier without Tessa dragging me down there.
The doctor was very nice. We have lived here for eighteen months and never visited the surgery. It just goes to show what country living can do for you. The doctor said, "Oh, you are at the house with the new manege!" There are no secrets in the country.
On the way back I spotted the footpath Mr O had suggested as a short-cut home. It was a steep climb to even get on it, then a series of steps that seemed to go on forever to a blue sky at the top. I stood and considered, and decided to take the road less traveled by, just out of curiosity. I climbed up the stone stile, then onto the stone steps, set roughly into the hillside. Fortunately there was a handrail to cling onto. I stepped slowly and painstakingly upwards. I came out onto the narrow lane at Hill Top, to my surprise. We ride along here all the time, so I knew where I was. I crossed the narrow lane, into the fields, and to my delight found it was downhill all the way home. I traversed the first field, through the lush green grass, then a second similar field, and then I realised what lay up ahead - a field full of cows with their calves.
Now, I'm not afraid of cows as a rule, having been brought up where there were loads at my grandparents, but knowing what horses can be like, and knowing these ladies had their young with them, I was cautious. All went well for several yards. I just had to keep going in a straight line to the next wall, where there is a narrow gap for walkers to fit through (though some people's podgy dogs have a bit of a struggle - mention no names!)
The cows were asleep at first, but my presence soon aroused their curiosity, and they got up, and sashayed casually but determindly towards the gap in the wall in order to block my exit. I eyed the barbed wire fence to my left, which I felt confident I could oer'leap, should the occasion require it. I kept my course and the bovines kept their watery eyes on me as I made it to the exit. You've never seen a human being move so fast as I did while leaping through the gap; I'd have made Usain Bolt envious. I was home and dry.
It was quite interesting to come upon our farm from that direction. It looked quite different. I could see the horses and the manege and the back of the barn, and it all looked very nice. I must take some photos soon.
After that it was action stations as some men came to lay the fibre on the sand in the manege, and the guys came to put the roller shutter door on the barn, and the delivery men appeared from Pop's Attic to deliver this:

Obviously I couldn't leave it standing there, cold and naked. Pretty soon he looked like this:

but I'm sure it will evolve. I have christened it Dai Jones (it is a welsh dresser, after all!) I am more than happy with it.

I went out to ride yesterday, but when I got to the field, this is the scene that met my eyes:

I didn't have the heart to get him up, and tiptoed away. Maybe later...

I am working on a cross-stitch bookmark, which is for the Bookmark Exchange on facebook. Unfortunately I can't show you until after I've finished it and sent it, as the recipient has been known to linger here. All I can say is, I am thoroughly enjoying the design I've chosen and will make one for myself as soon as it's finished.
I've also made some cupcakes, and am pleased to say I haven't lost my touch, considering I haven't made any for ages. The icing was a bit runny, though, but I had great fun using my piping bag for the first time. I need to buy some things to decorate them with and have another go next week.
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

If The Cap Fits...

I don't think anyone who knows me can call me vain. I think mirrors are God's way of keeping a check on that - one brief look in the mirror in the morning and all is well. Linger a while and I start to notice the grey hair and the lines! I've never been keen on make-up especially as I've nearly always worn glasses, which makes mascara superfluous, and perfume is pointless when you spend all day with horses (it can attract unwanted attention!) but my one weakspot is my hair. Again, please don't think I spend hours crimping and primping, I just want to wash my hair, dry it and get on with my life. As many of you know, I've had long hair for the past six years, but had a mental abberation when we moved here and had it cut short. What was I thinking? You know sometimes in life you find the perfect thing for you? For example, now that I've discovered the beauty and practicality of leather sofas, I'd never have any other kind. My hair was like that. Long hair worked well for me. I could wash it, dry it, put it up in a ponytail and forget about it all day. Working with horses requires that you either have very long hair so you can put it up, or very short hair so it doesn't cover your face when it's windy, or when you've got a horse's hoof in your hand and you're bending over, trying to get the mud out of it. If you look, you will find that horsey women have hair that is definitely one or the other. If a horsewoman has midlength hair, she also has a groom. (Ditto painted nails).
So I cut my hair short thinking it would be practical, as in quick to blow dry, which it was, but when I came home with my newly coiffed style and Mr O said I looked like my mother, I knew I'd made a mistake. I grew it into a bob. The bob is a mystery to me.
Other women have their hair bobbed and they look chic, feminine and vaguely french. I have a bob and I look like Percy in Blackadder, or like Jimbo Jones in the Simpsons.
So you can imagine my feelings this weekend, when finally, at long last, I can scrape my hair back and put an elastic band round it. I cannot describe the joy in 'being me' again. The baseball cap is on (the other equestrian must-have) and I am deeply happy. I may have the tiniest ponytail in England, but it's a start. Things can only get better.

I would just like to state for the record, that I've had a truly wonderful weekend. Bank Holidays are difficult, aren't they? You make plans, but you know the weather is going to be bad, because this is England. It's the ideal weekend to go bowling or to the cinema, but no! We english plan picnics and trips to the zoo and the seaside (You can tell I don't live on the coast any more, otherwise I'd have said, 'beach', not 'seaside.') because we are bold and optimistic and mad.
But Mr O and I decided to do a ride to a place called Ogston Reservoir yesterday, because we keep looking on the map and finding loads of bridleways that go out that way. We drove round on Saturday night and realised it was 'do-able'. Yes, everyone else had either gone to the pub or clubbing, or even the flicks, but we were driving round in a car trying to see if we could ride a ten mile route hardly touching a road. And if I hadn't been doing that? I'd have been at home, cleaning my tack, obviously. It's a heck of a commitment, owning a horse.
So we set out at about 9.30 and rode and rode and rode, and it was... fabulous! Ogston Reservoir isn't vast (Ladybower must be much bigger?) but the sun was gleaming off the water which flashed past between the trees, as we flashed past, trying not to race each other and getting the giggles. We turned down a lane and came to what is, really like a secret part of Ashover. There were little cottages dotted about on the hillsides, with beautiful gardens, some with chickens and the odd dog running about, but everywhere a different shade of green. We went down a winding track, and splashed through a river, and shot up the track on the other side. I've never been there before, but Mr O has done it a few times now. The way he's described it made it sound quite scary, but I really enjoyed it and can't wait to go again. I would say it was about ten miles there and back again, but the horses weren't tired at all, and neither was I, which is deeply satisfying.
And then to confess that I spent the best part of the afternoon in front of the television watching the coverage of Badminton (Horse Trials). I just want to thank the BBC, as I don't think I've seen this much coverage in some years. It really was gripping, right to the very end. We'd seen Paul Tapner ride Inonothing on the Sunday, and I'd remarked at the time that his horse was very honest and genuine, especially when Paul rode quite badly through the water. That horse knew exactly what he had to do and jumped everything in fine style. Ninety-nine percent of horses would have ducked out, but Inonothing was amazing, and what a turn of speed. It comes as no surprise to me that he won (although I was secretly rooting for Mary King) and I cheered my head off at the end.
Add to this that Mr O cooked the dinner, and you can see that it's been a pretty excellent Bank Holiday weekend all round - and guess what? There's another one at the end of the month!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Better To Have Loved and Lost

For some time now I have had it in my mind to buy a welsh dresser, and have glanced in various shops, just casually looking. I had one years ago, and gave it to Daughter 1. Why? Why? I've regretted it ever since (no disrespect to Daughter 1!) There is a limited amount of space in this teeny tiny cottage, and I particularly want a pine dresser for a kitchen, not a dresser for a dining room, with any kind of glass doors.
So imagine my joy when we found the perfect dresser this morning in a shop in Chesterfield. The only drawback was that it was quite wide, but it was lovely. The price was right, too. I stroked it affectionately and assured it that it would soon be mine. We decided to do the sensible thing and go home and measure the space in the kitchen to make sure it would fit. Sure enough, there would be the perfect amount of space without having to complicate things by moving the fridge. Mr O rang up to say we were on our way to pay for the dresser, and what did the shop owner say? "Oh, I'm sorry, I've just sold it." D'oh!
I sat down, struck dumb, and let the waves of disappointment wash over me. It had been love at first sight - what was I to do? To assuage his guilt ("I knew it would fit!") Mr O offered to take me into Clay Cross to check out the shops there. I thought it was a bit pointless, but decided to humour him and go along for the ride, it wouldn't do any harm.
We went into a couple of shops, but there was nothing crying out to be bought. Then suddenly, in Pop's Attic (where we bought our table and chairs) there it was, the dresser of my dreams. It didn't have a price (always a bad sign) so I went to the desk to ask. Let's just say it was a third of the one we'd seen in the morning! I think I may have said, "We'll take it!" before the words were properly out of her mouth into the public domain. I nearly went to sit on it. I was prepared to sleep next to it until it's delivery day (Tuesday). I can't wait until it comes to grace our tiny home. As soon as it's here, you'll be the first to know.
The other success is that I have bought my outfit for Daughter 2's wedding in July. We saw it last week. If I tell you it was in the Co-Op you'll think I'm a bit barking, but our Co-Op is a big department store like Debenhams. Basically it's an off-white silk, sleeveless dress, that falls to just below the knee. It has big blue spots on it. I also bought a matching dark blue jacket, and what I suppose is a cross between a fascinator and a hat. I just hope it doesn't look like a saucer on the side of my head, but I can live with that. It's a beautiful outfit, something one could wear to Ascot. All I need now is some blue strappy shoes to go with it. I will take a photo of me in it when I've got some shoes, so it'll look a little disappointing that it's me in it but at least you'll see what the dress looks like. Honestly, I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, you know, in the shopping scene. And I can seriously say that the shop assistant did in fact have obscene amounts of sucking up to do, especially when she accidentally pressed the wrong button on the till and brought the total to six thousand, four hundred and thirty-two pounds! I did mention that she might want to check that and it turned out she'd typed in the item code and not the price, thank goodness. It was worth it to see the look on Mr O's face, though.
I bought this a little while ago from a very sweet gift shop in Chesterfield. It actually says, 'Bless Our Home with love and laughter.' It's the sort of shop where you want to buy one of everything, and it's not expensive, either. Expect to see regular additions from now on, especially after the welsh dresser has made itself at home.
This is going on my wardrobe door. I saw it today and couldn't resist it. To be honest, there isn't much room in the tiny cottage to have many ornaments, but I've realised I've got lots of places where I can hang things up, and this is perfect. I love the colour and the buttons.
And finally, I've been meaning to show you this since my birthday, as Missis bought it for me as a present. It holds six eggs at the bottom, and you unlock a catch across its back and it opens out, to hold the two eggs shown. It's metal, and it fascinates me as an object. This may have pride of place on the dresser, I haven't decided yet.
Well I'm off to throw some ingredients in the breadmaker.
Blessings, everyone!