Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Christmas Is Coming...

... and so I feel obliged to make Christmas cards. I thought I'd show you a few today. It's taken me a while to feel motivated, but I'm getting there. I bought a couple of magazines yesterday which have quite inspired me. (Ever bought 'Quick Cards' magazine?)

I really enjoyed making this, it was so easy and looks very effective. The little chipboards were freebies, and I have a couple more, so I'll probably make another one of these.
I am finding the most wonderful (and useful) free backing papers on the Cardmaking and Papercraft website. I'll probably use them all.
One of several fairy cards I've made. I love the look of the embossed silver card, it wasn't specifically for Christmas, but works really well. This idea has inspired me for Daughter 2's birthday in October. Glitter abounds. If you can't use glitter at Christmas, when can you?

I think this snowman is so cute, I'll be using him in all sorts of ways this year. The beauty of Promarkers is that you can colour your stamped images to match the backing papers, which works really well.

I must add, though, that penguins, polar bears and snowmen are really NOT my idea of Christmas. Christmas is a time to celebrate the fact that the Son of God came to earth, not whether some silly polar bear can ski. Grrr! I've even seen a 'Christmas Giraffe' stamp! The mind boggles. But until I can find the kind of images I really want to use, polar bears and penguins will have to suffice. I've entered a competition to see if I can win some Christian stamps but I'm sure thousands of others will have done as well. Never mind. I'm sure I'll find something soon. Of course, if you know of any specifically Christian suppliers, I'd love to hear from you.

Thankyou, too, for your good wishes. I am much better than yesterday, though far from well enough to ride. I hope I am by tomorrow, though, as I need to practise the dressage one more time before Friday.

Blessings everyone

Mrs O.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Woe Is Me (and Tessa Too!)

It's official then, I have the dreaded lurgy. It was only a matter of time, really, as Seven had it last week, then Missis caught it and now I have it. So far, Mr O has not succumbed, for which I am grateful, as today was the day of 'Er Indoors having her op.
Last night she woke me up with her continual whining. It was three o'clock. In the end I got up and went downstairs, desperate for a Strepsil, and her desperate for a call of nature. I stood there, in me nightie, hopping from one bare foot to the other, while she nipped out in the wind and the rain... for ten minutes. I'm not kidding. I kept calling her in whispers that gradually got more and more hoarse, as I couldn't shout and risk waking Mr O up. She came back in when she felt ready, soaking wet and with her tail at a jaunty angle. I am feeling a little hoarse this morning as a result.
Of course, we've woken up really early and moved about at Mr O speed in order to get to the vets, so we could be really early and sit in the car park for twenty minutes. No, I don't understand it either. We were seen quite quickly though, and to my shock they said Tessa would have a general anaesthetic and that we could go away and come back at 2pm to pick her up. Oh dear. I never expected to leave her, and she certainly didn't expect to be parted from us, poor girl. She was scrabbling along the floor as they firmly shut the door on us.
So we went to Tesco and consoled ourselves with a hearty Full English. There was a sign on the door saying, 'Loose Peppers.' Really, I don't think the morals of their vegetables are any concern of mine.
I love the sign in the loos. It states that because they're being environmentally friendly you don't have to touch the taps to obtain your ration of hand washing water. It doesn't point out that they're open twenty-four hours a day and that their underground carpark is lit up like a Christmas tree. Funny, that.
I am so glad Mr O has been at home today, though, as I've come home and slept intermittently, followed by a bout of coughing and dramatic swallowing, which hurts like nothing on earth, followed by more sleeping. I feel like I need jelly and icecream to keep me going, no scratchy foods whatsoever. It has been thick with fog outside all day, (matching the fog in my head) which doesn't really matter, as I couldn't ride today if you paid me.
We drove back to the vets at 2pm. I'm not sure who was the more pleased to see whom, as Tessa went hysterical when she saw us and flung herself into Mr O's arms. I'm not sure what knocked him back the most, Tessa's effusive greeting, or the size of the bill. She soon fell asleep in the car, though. She is coughing because she's been tubed and has an enormous shaved patch on her back where the cyst was, and quite a big slice (considering how small the cyst was) and some huge stitches, which she is not to touch under any circumstances. She is allowed some fish or chicken with rice for dinner, which funnily enough, is exactly what I'll be having...
Tomorrow will be a day of cuddling up on the sofa together, with a hot water bottle and a blanket. (Me and Tessa, I mean, obviously, Mr O will be back at work). There's nothing like the warmth of a dog to cuddle up to when you're feeling poorly - even if she does snore more loudly than I do.
Hope everyone else is okay and not coming down with these rude and inconsiderate germs.
Mrs O.
p.s. I have seen the photos of Barnaby from yesterday's ride, and he is looking a little porky if you ask me! 'Summering well,' is an understatement. Maybe standing side by side with The Galloping Gourmet wasn't such a good idea.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Pleasure Ride - Cossall

We are having some good days. We've put the showjumps up in the field over the road and Mr O has been going over regularly to jump them. I plucked up the courage to have a go yesterday. I put Mr O on Barnaby first, as when I jump him in the manege he gets very strong (Barnaby, that is, not Mr O!) but to my surprise he was very relaxed about the whole thing, so in the end Mr O got off and I got on and popped a few fences. I was surprised at how relaxed he was, he didn't try to tank me at all. He is a very honest horse, he doesn't really run out, you've just got to be confident and sit tight. I could have done with my stirrups up one more hole, but apart from that it was fine. I need to do it again sooner rather than later. It was lovely to be having a go though, I haven't jumped anything for ages.
Mr O then got on Zak and took him round. He is really improving. Mr O used to jump in what's called a 'hunting seat' where you sit very upright as you go over the fence. This was all very well on Barnaby, but on Zak he looks as though he's going to roll off the back of him. The other night I explained more about the jumping position and got Mr O to do it going round the field. He said the penny dropped and he didn't realise you had to do it like that (bum out of the saddle as you go over the fence). He's been riding for five years. You have to wonder, sometimes, don't you?
I've had a fab time today on a twelve mile pleasure ride around Cossall which is fairly near Nottingham, but very rural. Barnaby was quite slow to start, but the further we went the fitter he seemed to get. There were a few good canter sections which they really enjoyed. I've been feeling a bit rough, as though I'm coming down with a cold, but was fine all the way round.
At one point we rode under the motorway, which wasn't too bad, but further on we had to ride on a bridge going over the motorway. As the horses set foot on the bridge a car going underneath had a blow-out. The bang was absolutely phenomenal, but Barnaby didn't flinch and just continued to walk over the bridge. I am very proud of him.
Having said that, though, we walked along the old canal path for quite a way, and as we walked through the gate at the end, he managed to whack my knee on the gatepost. I haven't had that done to me for some years. Thanks, Bard! I have a bruise and it's taken loads of the skin off, but it doesn't hurt now, thank goodness.
And the thing I'm most pleased to tell you: Do you remember a few weeks ago we found Henny Penny sitting on a pile of eggs in amongst the junk in a spare stable? We put her in solitary where she sat quite happily, turning her eggs reglarly. When we put her to bed on Monday night we realised she was talking to her eggs, in encouraging tones. Sure enough, on Monday, she had a chick with her. I took out the broken egg shell and left her to it.
By Wednesday morning, she had four chicks. I remembered that the chicks need to eat chick crumb so threw her feed away and topped it up with chickfeed.
The next morning I came out to check on her, and to my astonishment, counted nine babies running about. It was like shopping in Mothercare, children scattering in all directions, and Penny in the middle of them, trying to keep control. She was trying to give them a health and safety lecture, but none of them were taking a blind bit of notice. They all look well, anyway, and she's as pleased as punch, really, bless her. They are all yellow and grey and smaller than sparrows at the moment, but if one of her previous daughters is anything to go by, they'll end up being pretty big. Well done, Penny, I'm so pleased for you.
I am making Christmas cards as fast as I can but haven't really been inspired until recently. I'll show you some as soon as I can.
Oh, and I am loving The Time Traveler's Wife, it's extremely good.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Seven Things

I did say a while ago, after receiving my blog award, that I would tell you seven things you (didn't want to) know about me.
But just before that I'm going to tell you a biggie, that I wasn't really going to broadcast to the nation, but I've noticed others do share this kind of thing about themselves, so deep breath, here goes...
I have endometriosis. I expect most of you will know what that is, and if not, there's an extensive article on Wikipedia. Basically parts of your womb lining float about and attach themselves to other parts of your body, but still act like womb lining, so they inflate and deflate during your cycle, which causes lots of pain. I've just read the article myself, which says that lots of pain doesn't necessarily indicate advanced endometriosis. You can have very little pain and still be an extreme case. I have ALL of the symptoms, which I don't want to go into here, but you can use your common sense as to what I'm actually saying here.
I'd never heard of it until about seven years ago when I finally plucked up the courage to tell my sister (The Oracle). She seemed to know an awful lot about it, and when she mentioned the one symptom I'd deliberately not mentioned, I knew that's what I had.
Of course I went to the doctor's and a chain of events led to me having a laparoscopy (so many spellings to check today!) This should have been a ten minute procedure, but turned into an hour's operation. I can remember coming round and being in absolute agony, and laying on the sofa for two days. Once Son 2 realised I couldn't move, he put a coffee table up against the sofa and laid out the game of Risk. I knew he was cheating, but was in such a fog I couldn't work out how, and couldn't walk away, either...
It was through blogging that I first read that Stage IV endometriosis is the cause of infertility (through a blog where a couple had adopted children). I had no idea, but am extremely relieved that I have Son 2. God has been amazingly good to us, in more ways than I can explain right now.
There is no cure for this illness, even menopause isn't a guarantee that it'll go away. What a life sentence. After the laparoscopy things improved a great deal, but in the last couple of years, I've noticed a return to the old way. Basically, I have five days of pain, then I have a seven day period, then I used to have three days of pain (which so far hasn't come back). Then I'd have about ten days off, then the whole thing starts again.
These days the pain is so bad, which I can cope with, but it makes me so utterly tired. I've wanted to write this blog, but I feel very sleepy and clumsy, and it's awful. I am going to go to the doctor's but as you can imagine, I'm not always well enough to walk all the way there and back, and when I'm well I don't always think about it. The doctor will probably put me on the pill. I can't believe I'm doing that at this stage of my life, especially as Mr O was snipped some years ago (It sounds like I've cut him out of a magazine, doesn't it?) I can see why they want to do it, though, so I may have to go along with it.
So that's it. Having just read the Wikipedia article myself, I could cry. It's such a relief to know I'm not imagining it, but it's a bit of a shock to read, ...' There is no cure for endometriosis...' and that it doesn't necessarily stop at the menopause. So a life sentence, then. Marvellous.

Anyway, that isn't one of the seven things I was going to list about me, so here goes:

1. When I was seven, I got my fingers trapped in a lift door. I put my hand in to try to hit the bar to make the door open (as I'd seen my uncle do) but the door just continued to close on my hand. The fire brigade rescued me. These days I do go in lifts occasionally, but if the door doesn't close when I think it should, I leap straight back out and take the stairs.
2. Ditto heights. Especially in places like Portchester Castle, where the wooden steps are nailed to the wall but have no risers so you can see below you. As a child I used to put people to the inconvenience of having to rescue me as I'd go so far, go rigid with fear and not be able to go up or down. These days I tend not to bother. If I go up the main staircase at Chatsworth House I cling to the wall. Cable cars are right out.
3. I had my first proper riding lesson when I was 19. It was one of those things I knew if I ever got the opportunity to have a go, I'd just be able to do it. I can remember watching The Horse Of The Year Show as a child of five, and rocking in time to the horse's rhythm. When it came to it, I was trotting after the first ten minutes. I've never looked back.
4. Due to an interest in Conservative politics, I have met: Jeffrey Archer, David Mellor, Michael Portillo etc and have sat next to Sebastian Coe. I have also sat directly behind Jeremy Paxman. He had the most immaculately coiffed hair I've ever seen. I had a massive urge to mess it up for him.
5. I lived in South Africa for a while. It was an amazing experience. This was before Nelson Mandela was released. It is the most beautiful place you're ever likely to see, but when you go in the Post Office there is a board on the wall with a land mine and a hand grenade on it, so you'll be able to identify them if you ever come across them. Surreal.
6. My favourite foods are mussels, chocolate and olives, but not all at the same time. Wine makes me drunk, and I've gone off it, but I can drink as much gin as I like and it has no effect on me whatsoever!
7. I home educated my children. My eldest daughter ran home from school in the middle of the day because she'd been bullied so badly. When I took her back the next day, the teacher said, "We don't have a bullying problem here." I said, "What's this, Scotch mist?" She finished the term and never went back. My second son is dyslexic. He came out at the same time, ie they stayed until the summer holidays and that was that. When it came to the Christmas holidays, my second daughter announced, "Well I may as well give up school now, then." Son 2 looked at me. His bottom lip quivered. The adventure was about to begin...

So that's a bit more about me, then. I'm off to take some more painkillers and ring the doctor's. I've booked 'Er Indoors in to have her skin tag removed, and the horses in to have their annual vaccinations, so I suppose it's only fair, isn' it?
Blessings everyone.
Mrs O.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Farewell Fudge

It's been a strange year for comings and goings in my horse's lives. First Max went, then Polo was put to sleep (sob!) and then on Saturday little Fudge went to his new home. He was such a sweetheart and I will really miss him.

(Fudge when he first came, before his mane grew back).

Missis bought him for the boys. I advised her not to. I'd said if the boys were that keen to ride, take them to the riding school down the road. If they decide after six lessons that it's not really for them, you've lost very little. But no. She goes out and spends a lot of money on a six year old pony. This year she spent even more money on showing gear, for the pony and for the boys. They've never been to a show.
So fairly recently, she put an ad up in the local tack shops, hoping to get back the same (ridiculous) amount of money she paid for him. Last week a woman came with her ten year old daughter. The daughter had been riding for eighteen months. The mother had bought a field. They were going to take Fudge and put him in the field. They don't know how to tack up, put on a rug or feed a pony of this nature (laminitic). She has a two acre field, and was hoping to get hay off it.
Anyway, they said no, because Fudge wouldn't pick his feet up for them. A pony of good sense, if you ask me. Barnaby only picks his feet up for me and the farrier.
So on Saturday he went to a pony re-hab place where he will be schooled and sold on. It sounded rather nice actually, and at least he will be ridden and get more out of life and eventually go to a home where someone can have a lot of fun with him. Believe me, if he'd been 14.2hh instead of 13.2hh, I'd have had him.
So farewell, little man, I will miss you.
So that leaves the big four - Barnaby, Zak, Lindy and Hugo.
This means it will be difficult for three of us to ride out together at any one time, and leave one in the field on his own.
But it also means, when Missis is away, I will only have four horses to muck out, which will be absolute bliss.
Mr O and I had a wonderful ride yesterday, with only a teensy, weensy canter through the park. The woman with the German Shepherd looked a bit taken aback, but apart from that it was fine. We continued along the bridleway, where we were going to have a canter, when I suddenly realised there was a loose horse. It turned out, in fact, to be a tethered horse, with three more of his chums, but I'm not sure who was the more surprised, them or Barnaby. And I'd just like to say well done to Mr O for being able to get under the height barrier from the car park, even though it was so low it actually touched Zak's ears. I just laid down on Barnaby and kept going, in true TREC style.
And I'm a bit miffed because I wanted to go to a show, but the weather was so bad we decided not to. It's just that it had a class called 'Handy Hacker' which sounded right up Barnaby's street. Never mind...
Seven and Ten have brought their homework sheets home. Seven has The Tudors, a bit of a gift, as far as I'm concerned, and Ten has 'World War 2' as his project. I am in my element, as you can imagine. Ten has already made his own ration book...
And I am reading The Time Traveller's Wife. I was gripped from the very first page. Has anyone else read it?
Mrs O.

Friday, 17 September 2010

You Show Me Yours and I'll Show You Mine

I am pleased to say, I had a thoroughly good time at Pongo's mum's place. She is an incredible artist, who paints beautiful flowers with watercolours and makes them into cards. She showed me how to paint with watercolours, and I actually felt like I'd be able to do it. Before I knew it she handed me the brush and away I went! She's leant me a really good book, too, so who knows where that will lead? There are some stamped images that look best painted with water colours, so it's definitely worth practising.
I was very nervous about showing her my cards, but she really liked them. They are completely different to hers, of course. I realised I didn't have any decoupage to show her, or any specific techniques, hardly any embossed cards or anything of that nature.
On Thursday I asked Mr O to take my cards into work to see if he could sell any. There are five women in the office, and between them they bought eighteen cards. I am astonished. I've also got two commissions for more cards and they've requested Christmas cards. I can't believe it. I wasn't going to make any Christmas cards to sell, as I will have plenty to do with family and friends as it is, but there we are. I am thrilled, though, who'd have thought it?
Last night, Pongo said his secretary is getting married, and he'd ask her if she'd like me to do her invitations. I am already doing my niece's for May next year, so I am going to be busy, aren't I? I can't believe it's taking off like this.

On the Barnaby front: It has been seriously windy here this week, and I've been very nervous about riding Barnaby out, especially as Missis worries about riding her new horse. I mustn't let it affect me. I know Barnaby isn't bothered by windy weather, so on Wednesday I plucked up the courage to ride him. My only concern is that I might not be able to hear traffic coming up behind me, but it wasn't a problem. Barnaby couldn't have cared less about the wind, he's no more flighty than he is on any other day (to give him his due, Max was never bothered either). I am glad because the next day Missis and I rode out together and I knew I could relax and concentrate on giving her encouragement, knowing I could trust Barnaby not to do anything silly.
Pongo rode out with Mr O last night. I've no idea what they did but when they got back Pongo was pouring with sweat. Poor man. Mr O will soon have him trained.
I rode Barnaby in the school today, to work on the dressage test coming up on October 1st. I just warmed up and rode him as usual, but for the first time ever he actually went on the bit. It was the most stunning sensation, floating on a total power house war horse. For those of you who find horse riding a bit mysterious, it means the horse puts his head down because he is using his back end properly to propel himself along. It was a fabulous feeling. You can tell I'm an amateur rider because normally when this happens I grin like an absolute buffoon instead of concentrating on containing the energy the horse is creating. He was beautifully straight, too, so I hope he can pull this out of the hat on the day.
Oh, and finally, some wonderful news. It appears I am going to be a granny again next May/June sometime, as Daughter 2 is pregnant. This will be a brother or sister for The Flower Fairy. How exciting.
Have a good weekend, everyone.
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Harbour Scenes

Just two new cards to show you today:

I saw this design in Cardmaking and Papercraft a while ago, but knew it was only a matter of time before I caved in and bought the stamps (because I subconsciously bought the red and blue backing card before I even realised what I was doing!) It took quite a while to make, as there is lots of lining up to do, especially where you see the harbour wall going down the steps, and continuing with the fencing. I probably spent an hour practising with the stamps, (using the masking technique) and a couple of days experimenting with water colour pencils and Promarkers. I opted for Promarkers in the end, especially as they don't wrinkle the card and using the chisel end of my pastel blue pen worked really well for the sky. Everything you see here is included in the set of (Hero Arts) stamps, including the seagulls and the waves.

Again I've used Promarkers here, except for the boat where I have used watercolour pencils.
Having read Mimi and Tilly's crucial post recently, where she asks if being more creative has changed her life, I can only say that in my case it's certainly true. I was totally condemned for being hopeless at art at school and obviously didn't take it for 'O' Level. I can't draw or paint, so I would have to say, "Fair comment," but that doesn't mean you can't be creative, does it? I am finding card making opening up a side to me that I didn't know existed, and I am loving it.
I wouldn't say I am a particularly logical person, or very practical, and I've always buried my creative side. Through card making I am taking a lid off a box I thought was very firmly closed, and I'm finding it very liberating.
I liked looking at these cards on my desk and was sad to package them up and put them in the For Sale box, so I am thinking of using this set of stamps to make little pictures that I will frame, then I can look at them whenever I like, can't I?
I have finally made a card for Daughter 1, but she likes to pop in here from time to time, so I can't show you until the end of the month.
There has been a development on the card-making front. I was showing Pongo and Missis some of what I've made recently. Pongo said his mum makes cards, too. She paints water colours of flowers which she makes into cards to sell. He has obviously mentioned to her that I make cards because she rang me on Monday to ask me about mine, and I am taking some over to show her tonight. I don't know why this makes me nervous, but it does. I definitely do not want to go into business with someone, and have to make certain cards, and specific quantities on demand, otherwise my burgeoning creative confidence will scuttle straight back into its hiding place. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 13 September 2010


For some inexplicable reason, I am awake and writing this at midnight. I do know the reason really, of course I do. Mr O gets up for work at 6am and is therefore ready to hit the pillow by 9pm. I, on the other hand, rise from my pit at 7.30 and therefore have no need to slumber again until at least 10pm. Unfortunately Mr O thinks we should both go to bed at the same time. I have spent several nights recently tossing and turning (because I'm too hot) and unable to sleep. As I've said before, it doesn't help that loads of ideas for cards come marching into my head, demanding attention before being shoved rudely to one side.
So tonight I have given up pretending to be asleep and got up. Bear in mind that Tiny Cottage is completely open-plan and you can see that I have a slight dilemma. If I turn the light on in the sitting room, Mr O will be disturbed. Ditto television. And I can't make cards, as all that rummaging about will be far too noisy. So I am limited to reading a book or going on the computer in the kitchen, which I'm hoping is far enough away for him not to be disturbed by my nocturnal activities.
Anyway, on to other things. I am pleased to report a bit of a breakthrough on the horsey front. Most horses, at some stage, put their new owners to the test, to see if you are worthy of being their leader. It is interesting to note that Crispin did this to me in a very blatant manner (more in a mo) but Max never put me to the test, unless it was something very subtle and I missed it (and therefore, presumably, failed!)
When I first had Crispin, the 'foot and mouth' was in full swing (about seven or eight years ago). We weren't allowed to ride off the farm. Horses don't suffer from foot and mouth, but they do carry it. So we were reduced to riding in the few fields the livery yard had. I duly tacked Crispin up and took him into one of the work fields. He knew he was also allowed to graze in there from time to time and was determined he wasn't going to work in there (for horses, work and pleasure do not mix!) And so he decided to do what only a normal, well brought up sort of chap, could do. He bucked and bucked and bucked. Fortunately for me, I sat every single one of them, although the air may have turned blue from my language at the time. He put in six massive bucks in total, then stood stock still, considering the situation. I had declared, throughout, "You-will-not-do-this-to-me!" He decided I was still on and had passed the test. He never did another naughty or disobedient act in all the years I owned him.
I must repeat here, that Max never put me to the test, to the best of my knowledge. As the American's say, 'Go figure!'
Because... as you know, a couple of weeks ago, Barnaby started napping. We have owned him for nearly six years, and this horse has never napped in his life, but all of a sudden, with me as his new owner, he decides that napping is the new thing. As you may recall, after a great deal of struggling, I eventually managed to get Barnaby going the way I'd planned to go.
You have to cure napping. The name suggests it's a lazy, sleepy sort of activity, but believe me, nothing could be further from the truth. The next time I rode him I took a whip. I rode down into the village and went to turn right. Barnaby knew that if he continued to the left, it was a very quick way home and I wanted to go the long way. So he napped. Remember, we are on a road. There are car drivers wondering what to do as Barnaby starts rearing and trying to haul me along. He is massively strong and by now very determined. I know I mustn't give in. I decide not to waste time in a physical exchange because I can't possibly win. I hop off, whip him round and pull him down the road I had decided to go on. He tried to turn, he tried to stand still, he tried to trot off up the road. I made him walk. Eventually he gave in and we walked to a bench on the pavement and I used it to get back on and we continued on the ride, with lots of snorting and head tossing from Barnaby, who must have looked rather stunning, but that's not the point.
And then, to my utter disbelief, I rode out with Missis on Hugo last Thursday and Barnaby took the opportunity to nap three times. We had to pull into a gateway to let a tractor go past and Barnaby thought he may as well take the opportunity to whip round and go home, even though he was out with another horse! I couldn't believe it, used loads of leg, tapped him with the whip and made him go forwards, cheeky beggar.
But on Sunday Missis and I rode down into the village, past the pub and onto the bridleway. As we got down into the village, Barnaby tried the same trick, but this time I was ready for him, whip in my right hand, show it to him, use lots of leg and get going, and ... it worked! He suddenly gave in and I could actually feel loads of tension flow out of his back end and he visibly relaxed. After that the ride was lovely and we both really enjoyed ourselves. I was quite nervous of going along a track where Mr O always used to let him canter, as once we got there we realised how overgrown it was and could only walk. He didn't stress over it or try to take off with me or anything. He went beautifully through the ford and up the steep hill in a cracking canter and pulled up instantly, and home we sailed. I think I have passed the test. I hope he finds me always worthy of his trust. I promise never to let you down, my beautiful boy. I think it is hard enough to earn the trust and respect of any horse, but Barnaby is the herd leader. He has other horses who depend on him. So for him to come to me and say, "I will place my trust you, I will submit to you," is a big thing.
Also, I am delighted to say, the great big gash under his chin has healed up. I have had to ride him without a noseband on and feel that may have something to do with the napping, but it's back on, thankfully.
And, to my surprise, he is doing quite well in his flatwork, so I have decided to enter him in the next dressage competition. Mr O has got the day off and is taking Zak. It should be a giggle, if nothing else.
Well, it's 1am. I think I may go and try a little snooze...
Mrs O.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Micing On The Cake

I've been on one of those trails again, where one thing leads to another.
This is how this one goes...
In the beginning, I didn't have a clue what I was doing with card making and bought lots of craft stuff and had no idea what to do with it when I got it home. But during the course of this year, a certain amount of wisdom has begun to seep into my little overactive brain. So now, as I said before, each time my copy of Cardmaking and Papercraft arrives, I sit and thumb through it, and decide which projects I am going to make. Then I buy only the materials required for that project, whether it's stamps, papers or whatever. This way I save waste, and hopefully save a few pennies.
Because of this, I saw the stamps required to make these cards and decided to have a go.
I just couldn't resist the little mice.

Same idea, different colours.

Another idea, using just one section of the stamp.

I've been dying to use some corrugated paper, so this was the perfect opportunity.

They put in some free peel-offs, and I couldn't resist doing something with these, too,

but I had to wait until my grey Promarker arrived first. So cute.

The stamps for these were from the Little Claire Designs website. I ordered the stamp and made the cards above. They sent me a set of peel-offs as a freebie, which I thought was mighty generous and encouraged me to investigate further.

On the website I noticed you can join their club for 7.50 a month and they send you some stamps and all the instructions and papers to make a set of cards. This really caught my attention. As you may know, I've been going to a craft club on a Tuesday night, and I really do enjoy it, but it costs eight pounds a session (which made me gasp when she first told me!) and I don't always come out with a card I can use. On the two occasions when we've done stencilling, my efforts have been pretty poor, and I've struggled to get a decent card out of them. I think eight pounds is quite a lot to spend to have nothing to show for it at the end.
So I discussed my plan with Mr O and have decided to stop going to the craft class (even though I will miss the company of fellow paper loving obsessives!) for thirty-two pounds a month, and pay seven pounds fifty instead, and actually have something to show for it afterwards.
So last week I sent off my hard-earned cash, and the products promptly arrived. They are Christmas themed, and as a nod to Christmas I have started 'playing' with them (grown-up word, honest!) and will show you the results very soon.
I am very impressed with the Little Claire website. They have a good gallery for inspiration and loads of video tutorials showing you what to do with the items they send you for the monthly club. I will be dipping in and out of it quite a bit I think.
But now I'm off to pick blackberries in the rain, as I can't let them go to waste, and am thinking of the crumble I'll be making with them later.
Mrs O.
(who sincerely hopes you're having better weather than we seem to be able to muster up at the moment!)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Chickens, Chickens, Everywhere

Somewhere down the line we seem to have turned into a poultry unit. My first job of the day is to open the shutters on the big barn and let the ducks out. They start quacking the minute I put my key in the door. I let them out of their pen and they come waddling out, greeting me with big smiles and flapping wings. They run, or flap, straight down to the pond and we don't really hear from them again until tea time, unless we go into the manege, which is right next to the pond, in which case, they come and watch me ride, which is very sweet.
Next I let out The Ladies Who Lunch. George now has a separate hutch to himself, as he tries to go in with the LWL at night and doesn't let Roxy in. She is looking a little henpecked, to be honest. They like to be in in time to watch The One Show and seem a bit disgruntled that he gets in there first and takes up all the room on the sofa.
So the LWL come out and I throw some corn down for them. George can see this quite clearly from his cage and starts rattling the bars, because 1) his harem are eating in front of him, and 2) they are getting away. I give the girls a head start and then let him out. I shout, "Brace yourselves girls!" and open the door of George's hutch. He swaggers out, shirt unbuttoned to the waist, medallion glinting in the sunlight. He faces that age old dilemma, 'Breakfast or sex? Breakfast or sex?' But the girls have had a head start and have raced away towards the stables. Breakfast it is then, George. I highly recommend the corn.
Next I go and let the Chickstix out. These are Penny and Peggy's babies, who now cohabit in the big chicken pen. George lets out an almighty crow, that rents the air, and one of the babies valiantly tries to copy him, but it's more of a strangulated squawk, really, you know, like Simba practising his roar. I don't think George has anything to worry about just yet.
In the last week or so, we've let the Chickstix out to take their chance with the older chickens and everybody seems to be getting on splendidly, which is very unusual. The fighting could break out at any day, but I think Peggy has informed everyone that these are her precious babies, and if anyone starts on them, she'll peck their eyes out. (She's the one who sharpens her beak on the paving slabs, you don't mess with her).
Finally, I let Penny out, who is broody once again. We wondered why there were so few eggs in the coop at night, until one night Penny went AWOL. We spent an hour calling and searching for her and were about to give up hope when Mr O found her nestled in a pile of junk in one of the spare stables, looking smug and sitting on no less than sixteen eggs. We scooped her up and put her and her clutch in one of the broody pens, where she sits contentedly waiting for something to happen. I've no idea if anything will this time, but surely out of sixteen eggs, at least one of them should hatch? And could it not be a cockerel this time, please, we've enough of those as it is.
In the evenings the procedure is reversed. I stand by the barn and call the ducks and they come in for tea. Everyone's a bit amazed by this. Missis tries calling them and they don't take any notice. I don't know why they do it for me, but they do seem to recognise my voice and come to me. Son 2 was amazed when I did it last night. As we approached the pond, there wasn't a duck in sight. I started calling, "Duckies, come on!" and one by one their little heads appeared and they started waddling towards me. For some reason, I find it deeply satisfying. I am not a dog whisperer or a horse whisperer, but I do seem to have attained the rank of duck whisperer. Ah well...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Post Haste

I'm so sorry, I seem to have gone AWOL without even realising it. I have been a little busy on the domestic front. I hardly know where to start.
The observant among you may have noticed that I issue myself a set of challenges each month, which are displayed on my sidebar. The eagle-eyed may have noticed that I have challenged myself to 'make chutney' for the last three months in a row. This means, obviously that I have failed the challenge repeatedly. Slapped wrist for me.
So now, I am pleased to tell you, that I have finally managed to make some, and it was a doddle.
I decided to make Tangy Onion Chutney, as I absolutely love it and could eat it by the lorry load. The recipe is really easy (on the BBC Good Food website). The hardest part was the torture of peeling and slicing all the onions, and finding that eight onions only makes one jar! That's no good for a hearty girl, such as myself, who could easily eat a jar a week.
So I shed all the tears required to peel and slice the onions. Now I have to confess that I borrowed Missis blending machine, that also chops. I couldn't undertand why the onions looked so peculiar until I emptied the container and realised I'd left the plastic protective covers on the chopping blades and managed to shred them in with the onions - oops!

Second attempt, slice the onions and put them in a pan with sugar, like so:

Stir them up and let them cook in their own juices until really soft. Then add the red wine and the red wine vinegar (100ml of each) and leave to reduce for another 10 minutes, by which time you will have sterilized your jar, and hey presto! a jar of delicious onion chutney awaits you.
I have to say, I didn't cook the first lot for long enough so it has ended up still slightly crunchy, but the second batch is absolutely gorgeous. This was all so easy I was tempted to add some extra ingredients, but I resisted, and the end result was well worth it. Try it with some home made bread and warm brie, and I guarantee your taste buds will be happy for days afterwards.

And now I have to show you this:

Yes, it's my very first blog award. It's from Sue at Dollytub Cottage. Thankyou, Sue, I am absolutely delighted to receive this. I am, as a result, supposed to think of seven things you don't (want to) know about me, but I'll have to take a little time to ponder that, so watch this space. I also have to pass it on to others, which I will do tomorrow, I promise.
That's all I have time for at the moment. My number 2 son is here for a flying visit and as I haven't seen him for months, I am going to make the most of it.
Plenty more where this came from, though.
Mrs O.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Little Bird Told Me...

I thought I'd pop some of my latest cards on for you to see.
I've bought a little set of stamps with birds on. I had fun using my sketch book to see which worked best for colouring them, either Promarkers or water colour pencils. My last attempt with pencils was a total failure, but this time I just seemed to know what to do.

The 'hello!' stamp is part of the kit. It makes life so much easier. A trip to Hobbycraft at the weekend and finally I have some useful green papers. Green is my favourite colour, so I couldn't understand why I had so little in my stash - lots of plain green, but very little patterened.
I love this one, too. I have a recipient in mind for this one.

And finally, another Flower Fairy card. Autumn is my favourite season, and I love this little leaf punch. You'll have to bear with me while I go through a phase of exploring trees, leaves and birds. I'll get over it.

I now subscribe to Cardmaking and Papercraft magazine and have already received October's edition. I've decided to treat each magazine as a month's coursework and see how much I can do from each one, within that month. If there's a project I really like I am going to buy all the papers and stamps involved so I can make a really good job of it. I'm going to keep track of, and hopefully limit, my spending a little bit this way.
Also, some news I am absolutely delighted about. You may remember that I took some cards up to A Certain Cafe in Worksop. I finally plucked up the courage to ring them yesterday. I had my little speech planned. If they said none had sold I'd just arrange to come and pick them up, and I'd stay very calm and polite. Imagine my surprise when she said, "Oh yes, we've only got two left." I took up twenty cards, so I've sold eighteen in just over a month. I am thrilled. Somebody (well lots of somebodys presumably) likes my work. How exciting is that? I'd better go and make some more!
Have a great day everyone.
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Hope you don't mind, but these photos arrived in the post and I wanted to do them justice...

How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirk galloped, we galloped all three;
'Good speed!' cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
'Speed,' echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.

Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace

Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.

'Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near

Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;

At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see,

At Duffield, 'twas morning, as plain as could be;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with "Yet there is time!"

At Aerschot, upleapt of a sudden the sun,

And against him the cattle stood black every one,

To stare through the mist at us galloping past,

And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,

With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye's black intelligence, - ever that glance
O'er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.
By Hassalt Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, 'Stay spur!'
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault's not in her,
We'll remember at Aix - for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.

So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Loos and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff,
Til over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And 'Gallop,' gasped Joris, 'For Aix is in sight!'
'How they'll greet us!'- and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye sockets' rim.

Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.

And all I remember is, friends flocking round

As I sat with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.

Robert Browning