Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Scrapbook Success

This will be my last post for a few days, as we are travelling up to Worksop tomorrow to prepare for Daughter 2's wedding on Saturday. I am so excited.
The back lady has been today and manipulated Barnaby. He definitely likes all the pulling and twisting. She had another go at his poll. She said he has probably had a permanent headache for the last six months, poor lad. Anything that improves his quality of life and way of going is good, as far as I'm concerned. I'm thrilled that I'll be able to ride him again by Sunday, I can hardly wait.
But while we're on the subject of weddings, I just wanted to show you the cross stitch I made as a present for the bride and groom.

I am extremely pleased with it, considering how awful the dark green thread was to use. I will always buy my own threads from now on and not use ones that come with a kit. I am pleased that I managed to meet my deadline, too, as I'm still very much a beginner, and it's hard to tell how long a bigger project like this will take.
While I'm on the subject of wedding preparations, this is the card I've made for the happy couple.

I really enjoyed making this and hope they like it. I searched around for an appropriate verse, and was very pleased with what I found. Bear in mind that I've also made their place cards, and you can see I've been pretty busy.
Finally, I just want to show you my first ever attempt at scrapbooking. When I first looked at scrapbooking, I decided it was too complicated and to get to grips with card making instead. Also because our cottage is tiny, and I feel our photos are better off on the computer, where they don't take up any space! But we've ended up with some fabulous photos of Barnaby this year and I'd really like to show them off, so as my confidence has grown with the card making I've been drawn back to scrapbooking, but now with much more of an idea of what I want to do.
So my scrapbooking challenge is that I have to do a page for each month of this year, and it must:
contain at least one photo of Barnaby
the photo must have been taken during the month in question
have a tree of some sort on each page
have either decoupage or a punched image on each page

You will understand about the trees when you see what I've made.

I've decided I'm not prepared to fork out seventeen pounds for a proper scrapbook, and have bought the normal old-fashioned sort. (If it's good enough for Paddington Bear, it's good enough for me!) I've bought the most beautiful papers from My Mind's Eye called 'Wild Asparagus' which are so stunning you can't really fail with them, but to be honest, once I realised what I was trying to achieve, the main paper on this first attempt is by Papermania (I think) which I found in my Christmas stash. It seems funny to think of all that snow now it's red hot and I'm sitting here watching Wimbledon.

The other little, itsy bitsy, teensy weensy challenge, is that for the whole of July, I am not allowed to buy a single thing related to crafting - no cards, no glue, no paper, no embellishments. I am only allowed to use things I already have in my stash. That should be interesting, especially as I have to make a card for the Flower Fairy by August 1st.
Have a great weekend everyone (and pray for sunshine on Saturday!)
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Cards and Horses

Not a very imaginative title, is it, but that's because I've just come in from a very frustrating half an hour trying to lunge Barnaby who today went back to his old ways and would only lunge on the left rein this morning, then when I went to send him out on the right rein he just kept walking backwards and wouldn't go. He's never been keen on lungeing, but it's the first time he's done it in the new manege. Sooooo frustrating. I just gave up in the end.
The fact is, I've been really patient with everything that's going on, but today I decided enough was enough. But here's a bit of an update anyway:

As you may recall (or to re-cap if you're new to my blog) I had the back lady out last week. This is because Barnaby is having trouble bending to the right. You can read the full story here. Anyway, Lisa said his poll was way out of alignment, amongst other things, and did lots of manipulation, which Barnaby really liked. My instructions were to lunge him with no side reins or gadgets of any kind, and to school him on big circles and I could hack him out "But not in that saddle!"
So we've bought a new saddle. Not cheap, as you can imagine. But what with hay cutting and one thing and another I haven't had a chance to try it on him until last night. We have bought a Bates saddle, as they are stunning. It has the Cair system (it's filled with air) and an interchangeable gullet. This means you can buy an insert and alter the saddle to fit your horse, whether he's narrow, medium or wide, etc. Barnaby turned out to be 'very wide' because he's come in like a balloon, full of grass.
Now, this is known as the 'easy change gullet system' which is a bit of a misnomer. By the time we'd spent twenty minutes working out how to open the saddle and swap the gullet, we were exhausted. Bear in mind that Mr O is an engineer and can work most things out, but trying to get the saddle to screw back up again was virtually impossible. In the end Mr O was laying on his back on a pile of horse rugs, with the saddle on his lap, with a leg wrapped round it, grunting and swearing as he tried to fit the screw back in. Honestly, I thought he was going to give birth at any moment. No disrespect to any woman, but I think it would have been physically impossible for any girl to have the brute strength required to put it back together, except perhaps a Russian shotputter.
I was tempted at the end to suggest that maybe Barnaby was only a 'wide' and not a 'very wide' but I don't think our marriage would have stood it.
And then, to cap it all, we put it in place and found the straps on it are very high, not like his old saddle, and that the girths we've got were about twelve inches too short. Even allowing for the fact that Barnaby's new name is Jock McLardy, the girth came nowhere near. I was so frustrated as I'd really been looking forward to riding him. What a waste of time. I think Barnaby was just as fed up as me, as he'd stood there ("Any chance of some tea?) for an hour and nothing actually happened.

A bit of a different matter here. Regular readers will know that we have shovelled tonnes and tonnes of food into this beautiful boy but he is still as skinny as a rake. He is regularly wormed and his dentistry is up to date, so we have been mystified as to what is wrong with him. The back lady suggested he might have gastric ulcers. She has an ex-race horse herself and says it's very common. I immediately leapt onto the internet and began to look into it. There is even a Youtube video of a gastroscopy being performed. And indeed it is common in horses who endure a lot of stress, with race horses being the main victims, but even top dressage horses can suffer with them. A gastroscopy is required to diagnose the condition.
I rang my vet who said they don't have a gastroscope and gave me a couple of telephone numbers to ring. The upshot of this is that we have booked Zak in for an operation on Thursday 8th July. He will have to go to Chine House vets in Leicester. We will take him in the lorry and he must be 'nil by mouth' for four hours beforehand, so that will be a challenge. Basically it involves Mr O going to get Zak in from the field at 4am and not giving him any food.
I must say, I am eternally grateful to Lisa Brooke for putting us onto this, and I really feel positive that it is gastric ulcers that we are dealing with, but only the gastroscope will tell. If it does turn out to be ulcers, he will have to have a medicine called Gastrogard, which is phenomenally expensive. It's two hundred pounds for a week's supply, and he will need four week's worth. Go on, ask me if we're insured!

Add to this the fact that we should have gone to Chatsworth on Sunday to do a sponsored ride, which is the highlight of my year, but decided not to go because it was too hot, and you can see why I'm a little frustrated at the moment. I don't remember praying for patience at all recently, so I can't imagine why all this is happening!

So to combat all this, I have been throwing myself into card making with gusto. I have been thrilled to find that a set of papers sitting in my drawer have matched up beautifully with a set of toppers that I've been trying to use up for ages. I love it when a plan comes together!
Check these out:

The patterened paper is from a free Kate Knight stack that came with a magazine. I've been trying to use the topper up for ages, as I said, but love it on this purple pearlescent card. Usually I am a 'less is more' merchant, but as you can see, on this card I've put a purple brad in each corner, tiny heart beads at the bottom of the pearlescent card, and a sentiment at the top. The lettering wasn't inside the sentiment, I had to add that myself. This is a breakthrough for me, as I can't stand peel-offs, they are so fiddly, but using my craft-knife and tweezers made it so much easier. I might make friends with them now!

Kate Knight papers again on this one, with glitter in strategic places on the backing paper. I'm not sure if the photo does it justice, it's one of those you have to hold in your hand to appreciate it.
And as it's Mr O's birthday today (Happy Birthday Darling - I do like a man that can drive a tractor!) I'd better show you what I made him, too.

I've had the plan for this card in my head since March, and was so glad I was able to do it as I'd intended. The horses are painted different colours because they are (from L to R) Polo, Lindy, Zak, Barnaby and Fudge. I knew I wanted to use the brown ribbon, all the embellishments just came together, and I wanted to print directly onto the card, which I very rarely do, but it worked really well. The wording is stamped and says, 'Peeking over, to wish you, a happy birthday.' I can't give it to him until tonight. I hope he likes it.
So all is not lost just yet, then.
Have a great day everyone!
Mrs O
P.S. If anyone knows of any good scrapbooking blogs, where people show you what they've made (and use sketches) I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

So there I was on Wednesday evening, up to my elbows in flour for the rhubarb crumble, when the phone rang. Missis' mum ringing me to let me know she was sending her lads down to cut our hay. Oh! All hands on deck, then. They came at 8pm so I had to go and get all the horses in, so we could take the electric fence down so the tractor could go through.
The next day Missis' dad came and turned the hay, and then yesterday the baling commenced. It was scorchingly hot and I had to keep the horses in for most of the day. Unlike most, our stables are actually hotter than being outside, as the building has lots of glass.
So M goes out and rolls up the bales, then it was Mr O's job to go and collect them on the tractor spike and bring them up out of the field. We got twenty bales out of the top field, whereas normally we only get twelve to fourteen, so it was worth waiting that little bit longer.
Mr W went home to collect the wrapping machine, and then the wrapping could commence. It's a fascinating machine, but very loud. I could only stand it for a little while, but it was my job to stop and start the machine. It does 33 turns of the bale before stopping, then tilts it and cuts the wrapping. Mr W leapt over to tuck the end in, the machine levels, then M puts another bale on, I start the machine up and the wrapping starts again. It's a very simple, but very clever machine.

Finally, once these bales were in, we could let the horses back out. By now it was 7pm and the horses were keen to get going. I was pleased with how good they'd been actually, as Barnaby is not one to stay in voluntarily on a warm summer's day.
Of course, they didn't realise the gate was open, so they could go and eat off the top field. Mr O led them up there to show them. Barnaby was the first to realise and went thundering through the gap, with the others close behind. They went whizzing round for a while, in the cooler air, then settled down to do what they do best - some serious scoffing.
We drove all the machinery over the road to the two fields we have there, where Mr O had already stacked the bales at the top of the field, ready to be wrapped. I was impressed with M's driving of the tractor and accuracy in placing the bales on the wrapper, as it has to fit between two markers.
Mind you, I'm pretty impressed at Mr O's ability to drive the tractor, as Mr W hardly gave him any instructions on how to drive it and how to use the spike to pick the bales up.
My job was to keep the drinks coming, as it was so hot. I felt like a Land Girl as I brought out slices of fruit cake and tea and squash, wearing shorts and wellies (not a good look!) and sitting on the grass watching the machines work and Tessa lying next to me, tongue lolling in the heat. The sky was a vivid blue, with hardly a cloud, the green couldn't have been greener. I felt like weeping with the beauty and the simplicity of it all. I have waited all my life for this.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


And so Tessington Bear (for 'twas her name) decided that she would come with us and supervise us while we poo-picked the field. And in her supervisory role she decided she should drop a shoulder and roll in something unspeakable.
So, being a caring owner (and frankly appalled at the smell) I decided today was the day to get my own back.
Tessa's suspicions were first aroused when this much loved old item was dragged out of the barn.

Water was added.
And then, to her horror, but not total surprise, 'Er Indoors, was lifted bodily into the bath, and the shampooing commenced. I dared not let go of her collar for a single moment, for fear that she'd be off, rolling in the nearest patch of mud.

Because she is half collie, half springer spaniel, her coat is virtually waterproof, and it takes ages to get her wet to the skin. It was a challenge I was more than willing to accept.

We are the best of friends now, me because she smells beautiful, and her because I gave her a treat afterwards.
But, roll in the field again girl, and see what happens!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Birds of a Feather

So let's just re-cap...
A man called Barney

No, not Barnaby, Barney, came to build us a manege.
And he gave us a cockerel (fair exchange) who we named George. He's a Lemon Pyle Brahma, by the way.

But he also gave us some duck eggs, three of whom survived, to become the Cheepsters. I just wanted you to see that they've grown quite a bit, that they're turning white and feathers are growing. It's amazing.

But last weekend he brought round three other ducks, that are about eight weeks old. They are all Indian Runner Ducks. I think the black one is a male, but I will have to confirm this.

At night the Cheepsters go upstairs to their little house, and the Big Ducks go into the pen at the bottom.
In the morning I let them out and they go running down to the pond. Getting them in at night was a different story, but we've sussed it now. It still takes two people, but if we stand either side of the pond, they come out and take themselves home.

And of course, there are still the Ladies Who Lunch.

Henny Penny and Peggy have gone broody, the same as they did last year, but we have just been out and bought two rabbit hutches. They are ideal as brooding pens, one chicken in each hutch. They are both brooding two eggs each at the moment, and I have finally plucked up the courage to put three more eggs in the incubator today. Chicken eggs take 21 days, and it all sounds easy, but I'm very nervous about it.
By the way, anyone who says it's quiet in the countryside has obviously never lived in Derbyshire during the hay cutting season. Tractors are rumbling up and down the road like there's no tomorrow. Of course, Pongo and Missis are on holiday, so ours will just have to sit there until they come back.
Never a dull moment round here.
Mrs O.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Steps In The Right Direction

So, first the Zak and Barnaby scenario:
We have ordered a feed supplement that will detect if Zak has gastric ulcers. It is very similar to Coligone. If he responds to it, and starts putting weight on, he has ulcers. Then we can go to the vet and get him treated. I am lungeing him for the first time tomorrow.
I have lunged Barnaby yesterday and today, and there is a remarkable difference in his way of going. He really can work 'long and low' now, with his neck stretched out. He still tries to look over to the left when he's on the right rein, but soon straightens out. He really couldn't do this before Lisa Brooke came. I am thrilled at these signs of progress, as you can imagine.
The other truly fantastic thing is that Mr O said we could buy a new saddle for Barnaby. Bear in mind that he bought the Bates Caprilli saddle for Barnaby, before we even got Zak, but transferred it over, and has now bought a 'narrow' gullet for it so it fits Zak. We have ordered a black Bates saddle. These saddles are stunning. When you ride Barnaby you feel like you're in an armchair anyway, but the Bates makes you feel very upright and you just coast along on him, it's a fabulous feeling. Soon I will be Joan of Arc once again.
The result of this, though, is that we've decided not to go on holiday, and this is very disappointing. We were going to take the horses away for a week in August to Mumby in Lincolnshire, to a farm that has a really good cross country course, and from where you can ride down a lane to the beach. We went to a similar one in Hallington near Louth in Lincolnshire a few years ago, and galloped along the beach from Theddlethorpe to Mablethorpe in seconds. Of course, that was with Barnaby and Max. Max got on the beach, and I could feel him swell up. I thought, 'You've done this before, haven't you, matey?" as we cruised up the sand. On his passport it says he is originally from Scarborough, so it wouldnt surprise me if he'd seen the sea before. He certainly knew what to do with it, anyway. I would have loved to have gone on Barnaby, but maybe next year...

In case I haven't said, Pongo and Missis are on holiday in France so I have the place to myself for two weeks, which is absolute bliss. It does mean I get some extra jobs, though, as I am looking after their two dogs (Piper and Lexus), feeding the fish, watering the plants, as well as seeing to the ducks, chickens, horses etc.
My routine is like this, then:
Get up and let Piper and Lexus out.
Go and let the big ducks out (more about them when I can get some good photos).
Let the chickens out. Clean out the coop.
Clean out the duck pen. Feed and water the ducklings.
Get the dogs back in and give them breakfast.
Have breakfast myself.
Get Barnaby in and work him.
Give him a feed and get all the horses in and give them a feed.
Put suncream on Barnaby, Lindy and Zak (who won't let me do this in the field, so this is very handy).
Turn horses back out.
Skip out stables.
Refill haynets and waters.
Make up feeds for tomorrow.
Poo pick the field.
Sweep up.
Go indoors and collapse!

And that's just the morning. I do get a break in the afternoon, but I still have to do the ironing and washing up (we made a foolish decision not to have a dishwasher here, as there are just the two of us. What a mistake that turned out to be!)

And finally, just to say, I got the go-ahead to sell my cards in the coffee shop after the church services, which is fantastic. Now I just need to work out exactly how to do it, whether to make a display of Pastor Abraham's work there to remind people what I'm raising the money for. Any tips?
I made this card for a friend's birthday yesterday. I was a fool here, because I got the papers free with a magazine and I like it all so much I wish I'd scanned these papers in so I could make more than one card. Never mind. I hope she likes it.

Have a great week, everyone, especially if it stays as sunny as it is today!

Mrs O.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Horses For Courses

The back lady has finally been. Her name is Lisa Brooke, and she's brilliant. She sorted Max out for me a few years ago, when he had trouble striking off on the correct leg in canter. It's been quite a revelation, and not all good. I'm going to jot everything down while it's still uppermost in my mind, and so that I can refer to it as we progress.

As you know, I've been schooling Barnaby, and all is not well. He has serious issues turning his neck to the right. I am not asking for an extreme here (like doing carrot-stretches where you ask the horse to look round to his sides to help him to stretch as he reaches for a treat) I just want his back legs to follow his front legs when he goes round a circle. This is normal for a horse and Barnaby can't do it.
I had to walk him up and down on the drive (hard, level ground) and then trot him up and then turn him in quite a tight circle in both directions.
I took him back in the stable, and Lisa started manipulating, starting from his poll (the very top of his head, between and behind his ears). She said his poll was totally misaligned, with the right hand side much higher than the other. She did her pushy/pully stuff, and it repositioned quite dramatically, but she will be coming back again on July 1st to do it all again. She did a lot of work with his neck, some quite dramatic pulling, much more than I would have had the nerve to do, but it showed I was on the right lines. Barnaby really liked it, by the way. She also did a lot of work along his spine, as the muscles are very tight on both sides. She said his pelvis wasn't too bad, but she also did some pushing and shoving there.
The downside is that she's tipped his saddle on end and showed me that it is tilted, which it is (to the right). This means I need a new saddle. Blast (that's the nearest I'm getting to swearing on this occasion!) I do really like his saddle, actually, but it came with him. His previous owner said, "You're getting a nice piece of english leather there," which is no good if the tree is twisted, is it? Let that be a lesson to us all.
I can lunge him as of tomorrow but not with side reins, he's not to have any pressure on his poll at all. He can have gentle schooling (big circles) no cantering. I asked if I could hack out and she said, "Not in that saddle!" She said it would undo all the work she'd just done. Fair enough. I was dreading telling Mr O about the saddle. Hold that thought...

We repeated the process with the walking and trotting and Lisa had a lot to say. First of all, it's highly likely that he's got gastric ulcers (very common in race horses apparently - I intend to research this) and this is why he can't keep weight on. She has recommended something to try. She then said that she works on muscles, and there is no muscle for her to work on and that Mr O shouldn't really be riding him. Oh Lordy, that went down like a lead balloon, as you can imagine. He's also got some very pronounced bones at the end of his spine. Lisa says this is the result of a fall in his racing days. Good grief. Basically he was a catalogue of problems.
He needs to be lunged and long-reined, so I'll be doing that, too. There should be enough there to keep me busy, I think.

On the good side, though, it's not as though they're written off, it's just going to take time (and money!) to put things right. And the really good thing is that Mr O has said I can have Barnaby's Bates Caprilli saddle back, that was originally bought for him. It is adjustable and is set at narrow at the moment for Zak, but we can change the gullet back to 'wide' for Barnaby. I can start lungeing him tomorrow but Zak is to have a few days off before he does anything. Thank goodness we have a manege.
And as for me, I have a lovely friend called Priscilla, who is coming to dinner tomorrow night. She is a chiropractor. When I was chatting to her on Wednesday night, I told her about Barnaby's problems and also that I need to make sure that I am level, too, and she said she would bring her bench on Saturday. How fantastic is that? I wonder what she'll come up with? She'll probably decide I'm an old crock, too, and that will make three of us! I'll let you know.

Have a good weekend, everyone!
Mrs O

Thursday, 17 June 2010

And So It Was

Chapter One
So this is how it happened...
I was shopping in Morrisons
and bought a new card-making magazine that I've never read before
(as one does...)
And in it was a little booklet called 'Best of British'.
And in it was an advert for a card making shop called Dollycottage Crafts,
which is in Chesterfield (and yet, I've never heard of it...)
And so I found their website.
And on it was an advert for a card making demo.
I rang up and booked myself in.
And on Tuesday night I trolleyed along.
And stumbled into paradise.
It's run by a wonderful woman called Sue.
I had a mosey round the shop
And then went into the class.
Sue demonstrated how to make some cards using Nellie Snellen punches.
She also demonstrated the Sizzix machine. I want one.
I was quite overwhelmed after the demo, and didn't really know where to start.
It was a bit like going straight from a GCSE into Uni!
I was sitting next to a lovely woman, who worked with me,
and we made the cards step-by-step together.
I was very nervous of using the Sizzix machine, but soon got to grips with it.
I loved the punches. One punches out the flower petals, and its partner embosses it.
There are punches for stamens and leaves, too.
Fabulous punches. I can't recommend them enough.
I made this:

and was thrilled with it.
I can't wait to go again.
I learned so much.

Chapter Two

We had our Bible Study last night. It was really good, and there were four new people there. I finally plucked up the courage to take my cards along. I had asked our group leader (who is also an elder at the church) last time we met, if I could sell my cards in the coffee shop in aid of Pastor Abraham's work in India. To see how this came about, please read here (especially Margaret, please!)
I was so nervous about presenting the cards, and asked him not to look while I was still there, but his wife picked the file up and said the cards were lovely, and before I knew it everyone was looking and asking me how I made them. They loved the decoupage and the shaker cards. I can't believe it. Richard is taking the file to the next leader's meeting to present the idea to them. I can only leave it in the Lord's hands. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Cross Stitch Bookmark

Finally I can reveal the bookmark I made for Tina, my exchange partner:

So this has travelled all the way to the USA.

I really enjoyed making it and will make another one for me soon. I was so pleased to find the red aida, which is quite a rarity now, I'm told. If you know different, please let me know, as I'd love to have quite a bit of this.
I thought I'd make a card to send with it, and found some perfect papers in my magazine, Papercraft Inspirations, to use, all with a sewing theme. What are the chances of that?
I made this one to send with the bookmark:

but I also like this one:

Unfortunately, because it's a square, it wasn't long enough to house the bookmark.

And this (drum roll) is what Jaimie sent me, also all the way from America:

Isn't it beautiful? I sure hope she likes mine, now I've seen this, what a talented woman (multi-talented as it turns out). I am so blessed, though. I can't wait to do another exchange. I am pleased that I can take on something like this and work to a deadline, because when you're new to something, it's hard to tell, isn't it? I'll show you my latest project again tomorrow, so you can see how I'm progressing.

Have a great day, everyone!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Duck Stops Here

Well! I've tried four times to upload a video of the ducklings, but it doesn't want to work for some reason.
The best way to do it is to have a look at this link . The Interfering Dog is obviously Tessa. She is very interested in the ducklings, but only because she's jealous. She'd never hurt them. I'm not so sure about the cats, though, that's why the ducklings are in the pen until they're much bigger. Having said that, though, they have really grown. Their feet are enormous.
For those of you who haven't got time to watch the video, here are some pictures instead:

Aren't they the cutest things? They rush to me in the mornings and climb on me, and peck my hair, my jacket, my glasses, everything. How can you not be pleased to see something that's so pleased to see you?

It's been an interesting time on the Barnaby front. I rang a wonderful woman called Jane Portas, who we had a lesson with last year. I left a message on her voicemail on Thursday and she didn't ring me back, so I also rang a woman called Nicky Hunt. We had a very good conversation in the evening, during which I explained Barnaby's history and his current problems. She said to give her a ring after the back lady has been and we'd get some work done on him. Fabulous. Then the next thing I knew, Jane Portas has rung me back as well. She has also said to wait until after the back lady has been, but she is more than happy to come and teach me. I don't believe it. I am now in a quandary, as I only expected one of them to come. How do I say to one of them, "I don't need you after all?" I'm going to have to pray about this, because it isn't my intention to upset either of them, or make them feel I've wasted their time. Oops!
We've been for a 15 mile ride today. It's so fantastic to come out of your own garden gate, turn left, and ride and ride and ride. We got up onto the moors in the end, and went to a place called Darwin Forest. It was a superb ride, and beautifully warm weather. I was under the impression we'd skipped summer and gone straight on to autumn, so it's a relief to see some sunshine.

I've made a couple of cards, too, this first one was for Missis' mum. I used my Joanna Sheen CD rom for all the papers and the topper, which I decoupaged and added a little glitter.

This one I just made for fun, as it was an opportunity to make another shaker card. They are such fab things to make. I thought it was a bit plain, but I've decided 'less is more' and it can stay as it is for now.

Add to the above that I am doing the place cards for Daughter 2's wedding, as well as the cross stitch, and you can see I've got quite a lot going on.
I'd just like to add, that I can't believe what an Aladdin's Cave ebay is. I went on there looking for some butterflies for the place cards, started looking at rubber stamps, of which there are absolute thousands, all at a fraction of the price you'd pay in the shops. I looked at papers and came across the My Mind's Eye Wild Asparagus range. I couldn't resist it so I've bought the papers, the decoupage papers, some ribbons and brads, which obviously all match. They are so beautiful (I'll try to show you soon) I think I may do some scrap booking with them as well as card making. Watch this space.
Hope you're all having a great weekend.
Mrs O.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Book Worm, Part Two

This week, I decided to look at books that have had a significant impact on my life, books I'm proud to say I've read, and books that have changed me as a person. This is quite a different list to the ones I set out last week. I'd love to see your version of this list.

1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. We read this in school, but I've read it again since. There is that juicy moment where you've read ahead at home and you know the swear word is coming in the next english lesson and you can't believe your fifty year old teacher, who looks like a battleship in full sail, is going to actually say that swear word out loud. Oh my life, and she's said it... An awesome book, though. On one level it's about a group of boys who are stranded on a desert island who try to govern themselves and it all goes horribly wrong. Underneath that it's all about the laws that govern society, about politics, power struggles, individual welfare and 'the greater good.' I highly recommend it.

2. Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence. I just had to know what all the fuss was about and was met with a beautiful piece of writing that took my breath away. And then they made a film of it starring Sean Bean, so I read it again, just to make sure I hadn't imagined it the first time!

3. Carrie by Stephen King. One of my rare entries into the horror genre. I must have been sixteen. I was gripped. I probably wouldn't touch it with a barge pole now, but it had a huge impact on me at the time. I didn't dare show my mother I possessed such a thing. She would probably have read it herself, and that would have defeated the object, wouldn't it?

4. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Okay, not technically a book, I know, but having studied it for my 'O' Level, I can tell you it had a massive impact on me. There was no such thing as an 'open book exam' in those days, no siree! I had to learn great chunks of it off by heart and can still remember them ("Is this a dagger I see before me, the handle toward my hand...) I have only a minor urge to act on stage, but if I ever did, Lady Macbeth would be the one for me. Oh for the chance to stand there and say, "Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?" and be convincing. I love the line in Educating Rita when Julie Walters is discussing the play and she says, "Wasn't Lady Macbeth a cow?!" Yes love, she was.

5. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. I don't do a lot of sci-fi, but this book was truly brilliant. In case you don't know, Triffids were plants that could sting and kill people and move about and communicate with each other in some way. It was a truly gripping story of man's struggle to survive and I was in it with him! It makes me shudder just to think about it, and it comes to mind quite often when I am re-arranging the electric fencing to keep the horses in.

6. Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr: It took me ages to track this book down on the internet as I could only remember the 'thousand paper cranes' part of the title. It is the story of a child called Sadako Sasaki who lived in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. There is a legend in Japan that if you fold 1000 paper cranes you can make a wish when you make the last one. She lay in her hospital bed, suffering from leukemia, making her paper cranes. She managed to make 664 before she died. It is one of the saddest books I've ever read and I cried and cried at the end. The actual descriptions of what happened to people when the bomb went off are horrific. Reading the write-up on it brought it all flooding back.

7. The Diary of Anne Frank. I read this when I was about Anne Frank's age and was appalled at her life story. It's probably where I get my claustrophobia from. You all know it's the story of a dutch jewish girl and her family who go into hiding in her father's office building during the war. Such horrendous conditions to live in. After two years, somebody reported them and they were taken to Belsen, where Anne and her sister Margot died. I was deeply affected by this book, and this leads me to the next one...

8. Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally: I read this in a matter of days, but I can remember reading ten pages, crying, reading another ten pages, crying again. There are some books, that you wish you'd never started. A truly harrowing tale of a man by the name of Oscar Schindler, a german businessman who set up an enamelware factory during the war and saved the lives of hundreds and hundreds of polish jewish refugees. Just thinking about this book could make me cry all over again.

Oh, I've obviously been deeply affected by lots of books about the war, then. Throw in my love of first world war poets, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, and there I am, stuck in a time warp, pinging about between 1914-1945, like a butterfly in a jar. I obviously like books that stress me a bit and wrestle with my emotions. I guess that's something I've been aware of deep down, but never committed it to writing before. What started out as an innocent post has turned out to be quite revelatory.

So, what would be on your list in this catagory? Link to this post if you can. I can't wait to read your version, as I am always on the look-out for new things to read.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Bardy Lad

I am going to have to write this, even if it is with gritted teeth.
I love Barnaby, I adore him,
he is my perfect horse, my one and only,
he is doing my head in
He cannot, and/or will not bend his neck properly!
There, I've said it.
If you want to go straight, he's your man.
I defy a draughtsman with a ruler to achieve a straighter line.
But ask this boy to bend to the right, and you've got no chance.

I got to the swearing stage last week. There we are, I admit it. We live in the only flat part of Derbyshire and I imagine my fishwife voice echoed across the plain. I am sorry.
But what the heck am I supposed to do?
The other thing that's really annoyed me is that I've put a 'distressed' post on my favourite forum and nobody has come forward with any suggestions or advice. Normally it's really good on there, and I feel quite let down. I only got the usual response, 'Get his back and teeth checked.' Now I'll be honest, I've got our lovely back lady coming out on June 18th, the earliest she can get here, but if one more person says, 'Get his back and teeth checked,' I'll scream. As if I hadn't thought of that.
When Barnaby first became mine, I was so thrilled, I didn't really care about his way of going. He is the safest hack you could ever wish for, and that's all I was bothered about. I knew Mr O let him cavort about the countryside in a very hollow manner, but that I'd be able to cure it, and I have. Our first few sessions in the school went swimmingly, because I was quite content to bimble about and just work on getting him off his forehand, which, to give him his due, he has, and is a lot lighter and softer in my hand.
It's like when you have those first few driving lessons, and you're full of confidence, thinking, "I can drive!" without realising the instructor is doing most of the work and has all of the control. Then after a while they release some of that control to the pupil and it all goes pear shaped. Barnaby is a bit like that. I am now asking for more than a 20m circle, and he can't do it to save his life.
When I am on the right rein (going anti-clockwise to those without horses) he swings his head over to the left constantly and sticks his right leg out. This is fairly bad in walk, awful in trot, and downright dangerous in canter, as he is virtually unsteerable (if there is such a word - there is now, okay?!)
So I am trawling the internet for advice, and I've turned to some of my tried and tested books. All of them say lungeing is beneficial, and I can see that it is. I lunged him on Saturday before getting on, and he was a lot more supple. I think I use lungeing as a last resort, or think of it just as 'exercise,' a handy thing to do in the winter, but I've underestimated the benefits to the horse. I don't find it boring, but I do feel I've given up a riding session for a lungeing session, does that make sense?
So I am going to have to lunge him a lot more often. It won't be his favourite thing, but I am struggling to ride him in a way that's beneficial to him. So the crunch is, I think I am going to have to have some lessons because I am sick of fannying about. The frustration is killing me.
The main things are:

1. When I ride him on the right rein, he looks over to the left. This leaves me with a loose rein on the left, and I don't know what to do with it to make him straight.

2. He leans to the outside going round corners. I am not capable of making him look where he's going. This is Mr O's fault for always letting him do it, but it's no use blaming him now. I'm more interested in how to sort it out.

Even writing it down like this is helping me to think, but it's making me really angry, too! I'm obviously having 'one of those days.' I either need a more experienced person to ride him for me or lessons. The only thing now is to decide who to ask...
I hope it goes without saying that any advice that you may have would not just be gratefully received, at this stage it would be fallen upon and devoured!
I am going upstairs now, to stick my head under the pillow and have a bit of a scream! Then I'm going to go out and play with the ducklings - that's bound to cheer me up.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Green and Pleasant Land

Mr O (who as you know is incapable of sleep at the weekend) woke up at 6.50 and realised it was just starting to rain. He got up, dressed and slipped out to get the horses in. I woke, and in my blurry state, realised what he was doing, so I got up as well and staggered out to help. I can't believe I was even physically capable.
By the time I got to the field, the rain had increased and the first rumble of thunder was heard in the distance. We were due to go to Osberton for a pleasure ride and were both determined to go. How can I describe Osberton? It is basically 70,000 acres of green fields, bridleways and tracks, and you can ride on most of it. It is one of my favourite places in England and we used to ride there every couple of weeks when we were at the old yard. If you can't get a two hour ride out of it, you're doing something wrong.
I gave Barnaby a perfunctory groom and booted him up. I had hogged him on Thursday, (shaved his neck hair off, he doesn't have a mane) so he looked quite smart. There was more thunder and flashes of lightening. Mr O doggedly got the lorry out.
I dashed indoors to get myself changed. I'd had a dither about what to wear, but all of that was now irrelevant as I'd just stuck a jacket on and hoped for the best.
As we trawled up the M1 we were the only vehicle on the road, I kid you not. That's because all the sensible people were still curled up under their duvets. The rain was lashing the windscreen and I had to resist a temptation to cling to Mr O's arm and beg him to turn back - but no, on we sped.
We drove up the A1, then turned off to Retford and pulled in up the long lane, and followed the signs to a nearby field. The marshall at the gate looked at us in astonishment - needless to say we were the first to arrive. I'm sure I could hear him muttering something about 'mad fools' but it was hard to hear clearly above the thunderclaps.
We went to sign in. The steward asked us if we really wanted to do the ride and were confident that our horses would be okay. We nodded (insanely) enthusiastically. Actually Mr O has ridden Barnaby in thunder and lightening a couple of years ago, and he knew he wasn't bothered, but we weren't sure about Zak.
We were about to find out, as we mounted and rode down to the first marshall. He was just giving us directions when there was a loud Crack! above us. Neither horse flinched. I was thrilled. The marshall grinned. He looked relieved that none of his rusty first-aid skills would be required.
We carried on to the next junction where we were met by a half-drowned woman purporting to be another marshall, poor thing, there wasn't even a car for her to sit in. We carried on past, round loads of tracks normally closed to the public leading to the old cross country course. Mr O kept pointing out fences he'd jumped out hunting. Of course, he'd been on Barnaby then.
Eventually we came back out and cantered all the way up to the top of the Green Mile and turned to ride down it. Mr O asked if he could go in front and open Zak up a bit, and I agreed, so he set off in a flat out gallop. We went streaking along, Zak like a gazelle and Barnaby like a lion on his tail, it was fantastic. After all, this is why we came. As I said in a previous post, Max knew he didn't stand a chance keeping up with Zak and used to give up, but Barnaby also has the heart of a lion and was determined to match the ex racehorse. It was utterly fantastic, like tailing Red Rum. Rain was slashing at us, and the trees were whipping past in a blur as we cruised along, then it was all over and we were coming down, down to trot and then walk. We looked at each other, both grinning like idiots. No words were necessary. There is no feeling like it on earth.
We strolled along happily, and turned off into a leafy avenue. The horses were steaming, and my glasses steamed up too, but we decided we'd better canter this one as well, this time with Barnaby in front. I can remember cantering down here on Max once, going full pelt, when he stopped dead, let a squirrel cross the track in front of him, then continued full throttle to the end. It was an experience, I can tell you.
We carried on, then ended up on the proper cross country course and came out by the airstrip. Mr O couldn't resist jumping the log and the Jacob's ladder, with Zak flying over as if they were nothing. We whizzed along on the wide open grass and pulled up and walked them off as we were nearly home. Altogether we'd done 14 miles, and it was nothing to the horses (bearing in mind the first ride in April was the same distance and had been quite hard work). I have no doubts about these horses' fitness whatsoever.
We went to sign-in and untacked the horses. Fortunately it had stopped raining so we went and got a burger and a well-earned cup of tea. Every single part of me was soaking wet. Rain had poured into my riding boots, and my left one was squelching as I walked, not the most pleasant experience. My hair was plastered to my head. I'd had to ride Barnaby in his double bridle so I was glad I'd worn gloves as otherwise my hands would have been raw. I was grateful for his plaited rein, as I had no grip on the smooth snaffle rein at all. My gloves were drenched.
All in all it was quite an adventure, and I bet everyone that turned up was glad they had done it. I would rather have had that sort of weather than the ridiculous heat we had on Saturday, I don't think 14 miles would have been fair then.
I have looked on the official photographer's website today, and there are no photographs of Barnaby as Mr O walked up to the photographer, blocking me off, asking him if he could take some head shots of Zak (we had agreed to do this, but I am a bit disappointed now). He said they wouldn't come out very well because of the poor light, but they are stunning. I can't wait for Mr O to come home so I can show him. The reason is that we have a large portrait of Max and Barnaby above our bed, so I've recently taken down the one of Max and moved the one of Barnaby over to my side of the bed, leaving a blank space above Mr O's side. I think one of these pics might be good enough to have blown up and put in a frame. I'll add one on here as soon as I can.
All in all, a fabulous day and I was thrilled with Barnaby's behaviour throughout. He never got strong or tried to race and came back to me the moment I asked. How can you not love a horse like that? Eat your heart out, Jean d'Arc.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Busy Bee

Just popped in to say that I have been busy on the craft making front. For the first time ever I'm going to have to show you a work in progress (WIP) as this cross stitch is not going to be a two minute job. This is for Daughter 2's wedding. The bottom section was really tricky, one of those where you do two stitches in one colour, then two in another colour and so on, which is why I'm making myself sit down for an hour a day to work on it.

I've got all the top section to do, finish the border and do all the back stitch, so I'd better crack on if I'm going to finish it by the end of the month. Now I'm beginning to wish I had a separate craft room as I have to pack it all away in between sessions. It would be bliss to leave everything out.

I've been having a fantastic time making cards. This first one was my first foray into my Kate Knight papers which were free with my magazine. I felt they were quite a sophisticated paper and required a sophisticated treatment, so here it is:

The two little birds in the oval have glitter on, just to give a little bit of sparkle. I so wish I had a Cuttlebug. It's on my Christmas list, but it's killing me to have to wait that long!
And now for the card I've really loved making. It is my first go at a shaker card. I don't know if you can see, but there are little tiny flowers inside the baby's bottle. This was my first go with a white gel pen, around the top of the bottle. I love the effect. I have got a 'thing' about newborn baby cards, so expect to see several more.

I am really pleased with this one. The idea was in a magazine I bought when I very first started card making, and wouldn't have had a clue how to do it back then, and wouldn't have had the tools either. I made it a couple of days ago, and love it. There are little tiny green gems in the centre of each flower. I stamped each flower, then painted them with my water colour paints before cutting them out and using sticky fixers to give them depth. I made a mistake because I forgot to put the strip of ribbon on and tuck it round the spotty paper before sticking it down. I went to the craft shop yesterday and found some self-adhesive ribbon, (what a godsend!) which worked out much better anyway. I am going to make another one for Missis' mum's birthday on June 10th.

And finally, on a bit of a spree yesterday, I spotted this box in W.H. Smith and couldn't resist it. Obviously it will soon be full, but the drawers are really handy.

This is the top:

I mean, it's got cupcakes on it, I'm hardly going to resist that, am I? Do you like it?

Happy blogging, everyone.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Book Worm

I have been inspired by Michelle at Frecklepuss to write a list of my top ten favourite books of all time. Good grief, where do you start? Like her I have always read books, and these days I get jittery if I don't have a book on the go, and the library has always been my best friend.
Today I've given myself the task of taking every single book off my bookcase, dusting them and putting them all back again. It's nearly killed me, but reminded me of some of my best friends, to share with you today.

1. I grew up with a good dose of Enid Blyton (and used to spend hours practising 'forgeing' her signature!) especially The Famous Five and Mallory Towers, but was much more deeply captured by a set of books by Antonia Forest about a family of children known as the Marlow family. These books were a lot more grown up than the FF books, and the characters had real depth. It took me years to collect them all (scrounging them out of stock from my local library, as well as buying them secondhand). I still have them, despite moving house so many times over the years.
If I had to choose I'd have to say Peter's Room is my favourite. It sparked my love and curiosity of Charlotte Bronte. More of that later. The last book in the series is called Run Away Home and I never managed to find it. I have sourced it on Amazon, and one copy is worth four hundred pounds! There is a facebook group dedicated to Antonia Forest, which I joined last year, and mentioned in a post that I will now never get to read Run Away Home, and a random woman, who doesn't even know me, sent me her copy to read in the post. I was absolutely gobsmacked by such generosity. Can you imagine the thrill of being able to touch something you've always longed for and thought you'd never see? I can die happy now.

2. Although I cannot recommend these books to my Christian readers (they are not exactly family entertainment!) I have spent many years reading and re-reading Riders, Rivals and Polo by Jilly Cooper. Needless to say, they are about horses, and show jumping but the characters are absolutely fantastic. It took Jilly Cooper fifteen years to write Riders, so you can imagine what a yarn it is. My sister (The Oracle) and Daughter 1 have also read them, and the Oracle isn't horsey in the least and still thought they were brilliant. If I had to choose, I'd pick Rivals out of all of them. Even though I know what's going to happen, I am still gripped to the very end.

3. And while we're on the subject of gripping, I have to say that I have spent many, many years reading books by Dick Francis. Surprise, surprise, they are all about horse racing in some way, but they are brilliant thrillers. I love every single one of them. His main character is always an absolute gentleman (anyone heard of Sid Halley?) the sort of man you could fall in love with and marry (but not in a Mills and Boon sort of way). When we moved to Tiny Cottage I gave nearly all of them to charity (which nearly broke my heart) as my son in law loves these books as much as I do and if I want to borrow one I can always ask him. I brought my favourite one with me though, which is called Proof. Dick Francis is well into his eighties and still writing with utter conviction.

4. I can't choose a particular book from this writer, but hot on the heels of Dick Francis must come John Francome. The plots of his books are also connected to racing in some way, but his characters are grittier than those of Dick Francis. Yes he is the Channel 4 racing commentator, and now I'm going to say something a bit mean. When you look at him, you would never think that this man is capable of writing some of the cleverest stuff I've ever read. I really, really want to interview him and ask him how he keeps track of his own plots. I want to know if he starts at the end of the book and works backwards or what. They are truly brilliant and will have a place on my bookcase from now on.

5. And now we'd better get the whole Jane Austen/Charlotte Bronte thing out of the way. I did Pride and Prejudice for 'O' Level (oh Lord, showing my age!) and fell in love with it. I have read it several times since and still love the whole wit of the thing, the costumes, the letter writing, etc. But I've also had a deep relationship with Charlotte Bronte which started because of reading Peter's Room (above) where they go into the whole secret world that the Brontes' invented for themselves, two kingdoms known as Gondal and Angria, and how they played it as adults, and wrote diaries for it and poetry and laws. I found all of this fascinating as a child and read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I had a row with my A Level teacher when we had to write an essay on Heathcliffe and our teacher said she always felt sorry for him, and when I said I thought he was a creep in my essay she gave me a 'D' for disagreeing with her, even though I backed it up with evidence from the book! Hmmm.
I actually got to go to Howarth Parsonage a few years ago and stood in Charlotte Bronte's sitting room, surrounded by her clothes and her things and cried my eyes out. It was like finally meeting a penfriend, someone you've known for years, but never met. I can't describe it. I felt totally at peace when I finally left.

6. And so to a man that I am going to describe as a modern day Jane Austen. I'm talking about Ian McEwan. I've got to be honest, I've only read one of his books, Atonement. His style of writing is my idea of perfection, and I couldn't put it down. The writing is like poetry, it takes you to another world. I haven't even got the words to describe how good this book is. I kept reading it on the train on the way to work and was so engrossed I nearly missed my station. I would quite happily have stayed on the train and just kept reading, I just had to know. I do love Keira Knightly in the film though, the bit where she says, "She's living in a tiny little flat (pronounced 'flet') in Balham," is to die for.

7. And now to the truly obscure. I have a book on my bookshelf called Rosy is my Relative by Gerald Durrell. He was a naturalist and wildlife expert and established a zoo in Jersey. His own autobiography is very good, but this is a fictional work about a man who is left an elephant in his uncle's will. It is probably the most hysterically funny book I've ever read. You know the sort? Where you read it on a train and laugh out loud and don't care. The next time you remember to read it in your room.

8. If I'm being honest, I'm going to have to include the Flambards books by K.M. Peyton. This is the story of a girl called Christine who is sent to live in the countryside at her uncle's house. It tells how she falls in love with her cousin William who is into flying machines. Her other cousin Mark is into hunting and women and she dislikes him on sight, but you are dying for her to be with him really. They are brilliant books, I have several of hers and read them regularly (Fly by Night is also good.)

9. I must have a place on the list for John Grisham, too. I have read The Client, The Partner, The Summons etc, but have yet to read The Pelican Brief. But my favourite one is called The Street Lawyer. It's about a young lawyer who witnesses a suicide in his office block of a man who turns out to be homeless. He gradually becomes caught up in the world of the homeless and does more and more pro bono work. There is a line in the book that says something like, '... And the Lord said to me, "Make sure this never happens again,"...' that sends shivers down my spine every time I read it.

10. I am going to leave the last word to my very great friend, C.S. Lewis. I can remember my teacher reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to us as children and wondering what on earth she was on about, with Son of Adam and Daughter of Eve, silly woman. Of course, a few years later I read it for myself, and suddenly all became clear. I guess Aslan has been my hero ever since. I've loved The Magician's Nephew for telling us how it all began, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for making me sob like a child. Never, before or since, have I read such a Spirit filled book. I love you all.

Post Script: Since writing this, my good friend Trudi has emailed me to say that Dick Francis died on February 14th this year. He will be sadly missed.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


I have been having trouble looking Eeyore in the face, which is difficult because I usually drink out of this:

and lurking at the top of the stairs lives:

The reason being, that he bears a striking resemblance to:

I realise I haven't mentioned Max since he went, because it's been quite heart wrenching, but tonight I took his name plate off his stable door and put it away. I have moved on. Mr O has, too, and has said he is able to transfer his allegience from Barnaby to Zak. This is wonderful for me, too.

And now... introducing the Beverley Sisters!

How cute are these little darlings?

At the moment they are Abigail, Jemima and Max, although I am convinced they are all girls (how do you tell?) and that Max is soon to become Maxine.

They have moved into an outside pen, where we can keep the heater on in their little house, but they come out for a run round, which they really enjoy.

I am very attatched to them. They run to me and peck me. One of them was pecking my engagement ring. It doesn't hurt at all.

When they run round they are like little clockwork toys. So sweet. I am smitten.

We had a bit of a disaster in the garden on Sunday while we were fence judging as it was so windy at home our little portable greenhouse toppled over, spilling my cucumber plants everywhere. I am not a happy bunny. I doubt they'll recover now.
But I think my lettuces are ready for picking. I declare them a success and will definitely grow some more next year.

I have also finally been up to the top of the field and picked the rhubarb. I got stung by stinging nettles, as I hacked my way through. Guess who is going to spend tomorrow chopping and freezing rhubarb like it's going out of fashion?

And finally, I have mentioned that when Mr O owned Barnaby he was always clean and Max was always filthy. Since I've owned Barnaby he has decided it's his turn to be dirty. I think this photo speaks for itself really. It's a good job I love him.