Friday, 29 October 2010

Website of the Week

I seem to have spent the last couple of weeks reading loads and loads of incredible card-making blogs, all with cards on that make me think, 'That's exactly how I want my cards to look.' Unfortunately I seem to have spent so much time reading blogs I've had very little time left to write my own! Oops.
I was trying to think where it all started, and I think it may be the Lily of the Valley website, which has totally captivated me. I'm sure, if you're remotely into card making, you'll already have visited. I kept seeing adverts for their stamps which I thought were lovely, but didn't really apply to me, but then I saw a card in one of the mags that was very similar to this, and I thought, 'Now I have to have this.'

Finally, after a great deal of what I consider 'make do and mend,' this is my idea of a Christmas card.
One thing leads to another, doesn't it? The above card is made from a stamped image called 'Dropping The Shopping'. While I was browsing, I couldn't resist this set of what they call 'cute squares'. They come as they are, so you don't need to colour them in (you get someone else's much better efforts instead!) The backing papers are also available for download from the website. This was my first attempt at buying downloadable stuff, and it worked really well. And of course, once you've downloaded them, you've got them for ever.

These images are so sweet, I was smitten.

But of course, the advantage to having the stamp is that you can colour it in in any way you wish, to match various backing papers, which is why I did this:

And I have to say, although I am very pleased with some of the Christmas cards I've made this year, this one is definitely my favourite so far. It isn't quite finished, though. I'm waiting for some flowers to arrive which I'm going to use on it. There is one more card to come, which fits my idea of Christmas card perfection, but I'll show you that some time next week.
I just want to add a big thankyou to Margaret of Christian Chick Crafts who heard my cry for help last week and sent me a set of die cut circles with slightly bigger scalloped circles to aid me in my craft making. She also sent me loads of papers and a beautiful set of stamps that I've already used in my scrapbooking (I'll show you soon). Thankyou so much Margaret, they are fabulous.
And so, Lily of the Valley meets all my requirements of a good website because:
1. The stamps and cards are good value for money.
2. They have an excellent, awe inspiring gallery.
3. They have a terrific blog, which I now follow.
4. My goods arrived very quickly (always a good thing when you're dying to play with something new!)
5. They have the best tutorial on using Promarkers I've ever seen. Click here to have a look.

So pop over when you get a moment, I guarantee you'll be inspired.

Well I'm off to ride in the rain. Lately, it's either that or don't ride. Good old British weather, you can't beat it, can you?
Have a great weekend, everyone.
Mrs O.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Fence Judging

Yesterday was totally exhausting, but a lot of fun. We turned the horses out and mucked out, grabbed Son 2, threw some clothes on him, then all jumped into the car (including 'Er Indoors) and whizzed up to Worksop.
We were actually due to fence judge for the Hunter Trials at our old livery yard, Holme House Farm. Usually they have a show cross, a competition where each rider does a round of showjumps then goes straight out onto the cross country course. Today was their first ever hunter trials, which is just the cross country phase. It looked absolutely beautiful spread out below us, and for the second time this year, I wish I'd bought Barnaby!
Mr O is the main judge and he co-ordinates everything. We can see loads of the fences spread out below us, but then the horses go into a field to our left and jump five fences in there, before coming back out, whizzing along in front of us, and then finishing by going back up the hill to our right, to the finish. If anything happens in the far field, the judge in there radios the information through to us, so we can make a note of it on the score sheet. We've had two girls, Jenna and Lindsey, who've helped us this year, and they've been really good at it. This means Mr O and I can work with one girl each as a 'writer,' so we watch the horse and call out comments to them, like, "Refusal at fence three - ten penalties,' and so on, and they write everything down and add it up at the end. It saves so much work for us, because it is actually quite hard to watch and write at the same time.
It turned out to be absolutely freezing, so after the Novice class, we all sat in the car, which was so much warmer. Even 'Er Indoors decided that being outside was above and beyond the call of duty and climbed in with us. Next year I am going to get her a little hi-viz vest with 'Steward' on it.

The first class is Novice Pairs, with fences at 2' 3" followed by Novice Individual, which looks like this:

This is followed by Intermediate Pairs (2' 9" I think). You have to have your wits about you for this one, as competitors can jump either the Intermediate fences or the Open fences.

Then comes the Intermediate individual class, followed by the Open. The other problem was that these two classes had a set of extra fences in a far field on the right. We got there too late to go and walk the course through there, and couldn't understand why competitors were taking so long to go round and come back through the water jump. Jenna and Lindsey told us there was a ditch in there, that might cause people some problems. At the very end of the competition we finally got a chance to run down and have a look, and I could instantly see what she meant.
The ditch looked like this.

I know it might look easy, but when I first saw it, my stomach lurched, as it's the most cavernous leap, and it made me think people were jumping right across the top of it, but as you can see from the photo, competitors were making their horses go down the bank, then leaping across the ditch, which has a little river in the bottom. Piece of cake!
Of course, now Mr O has seen this, he can't wait to have a go, so we are going to pop along in a few weeks time and have a run round, then go for a hack. I am looking forward to it myself, really, it's the second time I've looked at the fences this year and fancied having a go. I trust Barnaby enough now not to mess me around, and have jumped most of these fences on Max in the past, and sneaked round a few on Barnaby, come to that! Watch this space.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Busy Days

Missis and I had a fabulous time yesterday on what turned out to be a two hour hack. I went out to catch Barnaby, and to say he ran away is an understatement! He actually ran round the field, bucking and broncing, then got down for a roll. Finally he ground to a halt and let me put the headcollar and leadrope on, but then proceeded to trot down the field, with me holding on for dear life. The thought that I was about to ride this exuberant beastie was not exactly thrilling.
But on the ride, he was absolutely beautiful. We went for miles round the back of the village, with loads of off-road riding. There is one section where you climb higher and higher and can see right across the entire valley. To say it is breathtaking is an understatement, if you're scared of heights like me, it's probably best not to look. Barnaby said, "For goodness sake mother, what are you doing?" I said, "I'm averting my eyes, Barnaby, " He muttered something that sounded like 'buffoon,' but I'm not entirely sure.
We carried on up the road, where there was a horse ahead of us. I called out to the rider to ask if it was okay to overtake and she said yes, but the horse (who turned out to have blinkers on) turned round to have a good look at us. It was a bit peculiar really.
We must have done nearly ten miles, with a lot of it being very hilly. I couldn't believe how much energy he had on the way home. I do think it's because he's so much cooler now that he's clipped. He certainly is a fit boy.
I have bought a sack of feed for him, but to be honest, I don't think he needs it yet. He's just been having a few handfuls of chop at night, and as of tomorrow he'll have a breakfast, but I'm going to wait as long as I can before I start giving him a grain feed. It'll be interesting to see how little he actually needs.
Mr O came home from work, and had my wonderful, wonderful son in the car with him. He has been off on his adventures but finally decided he'd rather be at home. It's lovely to see him. I miss his sense of humour. He is nineteen going on fifty, and staying with us until Sunday morning. He refused to have his picture taken for this blog (I can't think why!)
And so to today, where we have made the decision to bring the horses in at night as of tonight. Ironically tonight is warmer than it's been all week. Normally they don't come in until the end of the month.
It hadn't escaped our notice that we have only three bales of straw left, so Pongo and Mr O were dispatched to a local farm with both horse boxes, to cram in as many bales of straw as they could muster. Son 2 went too, for moral support, and to give him an opportunity to show us how strong he keeps telling us he is. Actually when they got back he threw fifty bales up to the hayloft, so I must stop being a sceptical mummy and take him at his word.
While they were out I fully mucked out Zak and Barnaby's stables and gave them a good clean. I had to find haynets and stable rugs and make up a tea and a breakfast for them both. Missis spent a good deal of time clipping Hugo and Lindy. She's never clipped a horse before, and found it a traumatic experience. Mr O and I kept popping in to tidy things up for her, but actually she made quite a good job of it for her first attempt. They'll both be a lot cooler anyway. I clipped Lindy last year, but it's good to know that Hugo is also well behaved when clipping. Being thrown about by a stroppy half tonne horse is not my idea of a good time.
And so, if I tiptoe through the garage and turn right, my horse is breathing his steamy breath into the dark. He is knee deep in straw, has hay and water, and his best friend nearby. What more could a chap ask for? And I can sneak out in my pyjamas, stroke his neck, breath in his warm scent and kiss him everso gently on his velvety nose. There is something wonderful about this time of year, despite the hard work, that I wouldn't trade for anything. Goodnight my darling boy, sleep well.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Website Of The Week

Hello all.
As planned, I thought each week on a Friday I'd showcase a website that I've found really useful in my card making explorations. They're not in any order of preference, just websites that stand out.
So the first one is Card Making Magic. com run by a woman called Christina. She puts on tutorials that are really easy to follow. Because of this website I've successfully made tri-fold cards and off-set gatefold cards because the instructions were really clear. Her video tutorials are really good, too, with an excellent one on making paper bows, which now adorn loads of my cards and one on making acetate flowers, which look fantastic. I'll be dipping into this website regularly from now on. It's certainly earned its spot on my favourites bar. Hop on over when you get a moment, but put the kettle on first, I guarantee you'll be there a while.
Anyway, I haven't been idle this week, and have a few cards to show you.

This is one of the Christmas fairy stamps. I've decided once she stops involving herself in festive activities, she's actually quite nice. There is a story behind these backing papers. I saw them featured in a magazine article and thought they were lovely, so I ordered them from someone on ebay. When they came, I flicked through them and found that not one of them even faintly resembles those used in the magazine article. I was so cross, I felt like ringing the magazine up and asking them what papers they used, as they certainly weren't the Basic Grey Lemonade pack, as stated. Never mind, I am using them here and there, so I suppose it doesn't matter, but I wasn't very impressed at the time, as you can imagine.

This card was made using the Owlgate stamp again, which is very sweet. It occurred to me yesterday that I could print out the name of our farm in small print and put it like a sign on the gate, which I think would look quite cute.

I've put glitter round the owls hats, and what you probably can't tell is that they're looking at each other as if they're thoroughly embarrassed about having to wear silly hats.

I don't know what these backing papers are called, as I bought them last year, when I didn't have a clue what I was doing, and I've lost the cover. What I do know is that they're very frustrating to work with and I'll be glad when they're all gone. I've learned a lot about backing papers recently. I've learned that they should be exactly that, 'backing papers,' items in the background that say, "Hello," not "HELLO!" A lot of papers I've come across this year are far too loud and don't sit back where they belong. Behave yourselves, please, backing papers!

Anyway, I'm off to brace myself against the cold, and go and ride The Boy. He'll be thrilled, I'm sure.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Mrs O.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Marley and Me

Some of you may know we regularly use a local tack shop called Stablemates. It's gone up even further in my estimation recently because they clean rugs and sharpen clipper blades at very reasonable prices.
But there is another reason I've started finding any excuse to go there every week. I am becoming deeply besotted by this little girl:

As you can see, she's a tiny Jack Russell. She is the sweetest thing I've seen in some years, and I have to give her a cuddle every time we go in there. I could quite easily tuck her inside my jacket and walk off with her! We actually had 'Er Indoors with us when we took these photos, and Marley was desperate to get down and play with her, which resulted in some very blurred photos.

She is like a little piglet when you pick her up, and to be honest, she doesn't seem to be getting much bigger. She must be about four months old now. She doesn't fit my criteria as I really want a black and white boy dog, but I wouldn't care. If I could have her I'd be happy.

Even Mr O is becoming highly persuadable, so you never know. Of course, I'd never trade in 'Er Indoors for a younger model. Although lately she is also known as 'she who carries a little extra weight', or indeed 'Dora the Snorer.' It's incredibly difficult to get out of bed in the mornings with a huge inert lump snoring her head off on the bed.
The last two days have been suddenly and unexpectedly freezing, so now I am worried about the horses being too cold at night. The earliest we can get some straw is Saturday, but I think by then they will definitely need to come in. I know it means extra work, but I'd rather know they're warm. They're coming in for tea at night, but aren't keen to go back out afterwards, so we'll see.

Autumn Card

I decided to take a well-earned break from making Christmas cards and do something a little more appropriate to the season, before it finishes and I've missed it completely. For the first time in ages I was wide awake at night, with ideas flowing through my head. And in the morning, this is what I made:

I've decided to make something like this once a month. This is partly inspired by Floss's Blog where she uses a colour scheme from a particular calendar as inspiration for a display that changes each month, and partly by Margaret's blog where she makes beautiful little inspirational placards that I really like.
I wanted to reflect what autumn, by far my favourite season, means to me, so there are many elements to this card. It actually has a 'bottom' so you can stand it up, but I've put string at the top so I can hang it up. It's actually hanging at my kitchen window and I've used the window sill to display a few more autumnal items. I don't object to doing the washing up, but it's definitely enhanced by having a few pretty things to look at while I work.
The basic design for this card can be found here but I am going to be featuring the whole website in a new little series I'm going to be doing on Fridays, as I am finding some fabulous websites useful for card makers, which I think I ought to share.

You can tell it's autumn because:
1. I have finally put all my T shirts away and got all my jumpers and polonecks out. It's like greeting old friends.
2. It gets too dark at night for Mr O to be able to ride after work during the week. To say he is depressed about this is an understatement.
3. My garden is full of leaves, which I will now go and sweep up.
4. The cats start treating the house like a hotel again. Honestly, if you miss having teenagers at home, just get a couple of cats. We've been like ships that pass in the night all summer, but the moment the temperature drops below ten degrees, I get two little waifs sitting shivering on my doorstep, telling me how much they've missed me.
5. There is a dramatic increase in the consumption of hot chocolate (which will be discussed in a later post) custard and pies. Mostly pies.
Never mind, only 67 days until Christmas!
Mrs O.

Pleasure Ride - Osberton

I'd been thinking for ages that for this 14 mile pleasure ride, it might be an idea to push the boat out a bit and wear our tweed jackets, and generally be as smart as we could.
And so we duly donned white shirt, tie, waistcoat and immaculate beige jods, plus, key item, a thermal vest, as once we'd been outside for a few minutes, we realised it was absolutely freezing!
Barnaby, as you know, has been clipped. Although it looked very good when I'd finished, it turned out I'd set the numnah too far back on him, so when I put a saddle cloth and saddle on him, you could see the long haired bit sticking out the back, so I decided it had to go, and clipped it all off on Saturday evening. Obviously it didn't have to be immaculate as it would be mostly under the saddle anyway, and as it just makes a soaking wet patch when he's worked, I decided it was a bit of a waste of time.
As it turned out, by the time we got there, it was glorious sunshine, and the thermals turned out to be a little excessive. We were sweltering within minutes. We had taken another (essential) precaution, though - we'd both filled our hip flasks with port. What an inspiration that turned out to be. We had quite a few pleasant pit-stops as a result, I can tell you!
It was beautiful to canter and trot round this fabulous landscape. No matter what season you go in, it's always slightly breathtaking, and the ground is always good.
I'd taken the decision to put Barnaby in a double bridle, for more control, which turned out to be a very good idea. I wouldn't have had brakes otherwise. I think because he's clipped, he's lovely and cool, which gives him loads of energy. Plus they know Osberton is a fast ride, and it's their cue to go like the clappers (so they do!) Mr O jumped a couple of decent sized logs, too, but I decided we'd keep our feet very firmly on the ground today.
Not far into the ride we bumped into my old friend Denny Bailey. I haven't seen her since she moved to the yard there. Suddenly I was glad I was smartly dressed, and very proud to be seen on Barnaby. She said she's really happy on the new yard, which is good, I guess.
Once we got back, we picked up our photos from the previous ride. We'd ordered an extra large close-up portrait of Zak looking quite stunning. It's an A3 size, so it's the same size as the one we have of Barnaby, so now we can have the two pictures side by side. Poor old Maurice Tilford has been photographing us for years. We've arranged for him to come to us after Christmas and take some photos of the horses galloping about in the field. He'd brought some examples along and they were absolutely stunning, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do with ours.
We fence judged last week at Lorna's, for the show cross, and were presented with a rug each as a thankyou present. They are travel rugs, and both horses wore them today. They are absolutely fabulous, and when the horses arrived they were bone dry. Barnaby's is navy blue, and Zak's is dark green, with sheepskin round the neck. I will have to take a photo of him, because he looks like Santa's Little Helper in it. I am so glad i clipped Barnaby, as he was dry after the ride within 15 minutes. A hunter clip may be the way to go in future.
Barnaby was as naughty as possible when I tried to load him. It took five attempts, but we got there in the end. You'd think they'd be only too keen to come home, wouldn't you?
And once we did get home they were rugged up and turned out for a good roll and a drink, then off to tell the others what they'd been up to.
All in all, a beautiful day. I look forward to seeing the photos...

Saturday, 16 October 2010


It's been a busy week here. Mr O has been helping Pongo lay hardcore between the two barns. This is our route from the stables to the field. During the summer it's rock hard and dry but you only need a drop of rain and it turns to thick mud over night - not funny when you're trying to lead horses along it, trying to stay upright and not get splashed by the horse's hooves.
The first job, though, was to move the muck heap, which took nearly two days, loading everything into a trailer and dropping it off at a local farm. The space looks huge without it. There is usually a burning pile next to the muck heap, which has also been shifted. The new muck heap will be at the back of the barn, so not visible to the road and not the first thing that visitors see.
So now the area looks like this:

Pongo has been shovelling loads of hardcore with the JCB and Mr O has been flattening it with the roller. Today they've been putting on road planings, and it looks fantastic. The chickens are totally confused though, because there isn't a blade of grass to be seen in their usual landscape. They look a bit as if they've landed on the moon. We need to open the brown door onto the field and let them go out that way to find the new muck heap, silly things.
There's no danger of chickens taking over the world, though, is there? George gets amorous with Betty, so she runs behind him and he can't find her. He looks to right and left - no chicken. He looks momentarily baffled, but shrugs his shoulders and carries on with his day, bless him. I wink at Betty, and she nods at me, and all is well with the world.
I just thought I'd show you this:

This is Purdy, snuggling up in Zak's travel boots (which shouldn't be there, obviously). Does this make her Puss in Boots? Oh well, worth a try.
I've made a couple of cards.

You wouldn't believe the problems I had making what looks like such a simple card. I know I'm slightly under the weather but I shouldn't be let loose with crafting items when I'm feeling a bit non compos mentis. Even though I had instructions to follow I couldn't think which way to fold the card, then measured it wrong so I hadn't folded it back far enough, which is why the little blue border is on the left hand side, but actually it worked out really well in the end. And after all that I was flicking through a catalogue and found some ready-folded cards for sale - D'oh!
My stamps finally came from Little Claire's Designs. I rushed to my desk and instantly began stamping. All of the kit to make this card is provided, plus a gallery with instructions to make a few others. I'm sure you can see the owls on the top of the gate, but near the bottom on the right, is a little family of mice. It's very cute. It comes with the stamp saying, "Happy Christmas from all of us." It's making me desperate for a Sizzix machine, which I can't have until Christmas, because I'm desperate to make some more circles.

The best thing about this was that I had all the Promarkers I needed ready and waiting for me to spring into action, which was wonderful.
I'm also not going to do this next year, though (making Christmas cards so early, I mean). I'm going to make a couple of Christmas cards every week, and not make any to sell, they'll just be for family and friends, but equipped with my Sizzix and an embossing gun, there'll be no stopping me. I feel as if I've missed the opportunity to make some autumn cards, which is my favourite season. I think I'll rectify the situation this week, if I get time.
I've also obviously realised that I am coming up to my first anniversary of blogging, plus I was waiting to see when I'd get to 50 followers (and now I'm on 52!) I'm also getting close to my 200th post, so I'll put them all together and organise a giveaway some time soon, to celebrate, so watch this space.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife (and other tales)

I actually finished The Time Traveler's Wife late on Saturday night. It has been an adventure. If you haven't read it, or seen the film, I would highly recommend it. At the end of each year, I like to pick a 'Book of the Year' from everything I've read, and I was worried I hadn't read anything outstanding enough to qualify and that I'd have to plump for Love In The Time Of Cholera (heaven forbid) but at last here comes a worthy contender. If you've read it, you don't need me to tell you the plot, and if you haven't, there's nothing I can say without spoiling it for you, so take the title and work the rest out for yourself, it'll be well worth it. This book was a treat to read, I can't praise it enough. You have to have your wits about you, though, and think and concentrate all the way through it. No shilly-shallying here.
I am feeling cautious about watching the film now and whether it will spoil it for me, as I've just seen the film of Love In The Time of Cholera and it was awful. I was ironing at the time, and the two experiences together were enough to traumatize me.
Also, when I took the book of The Time Traveler's Wife back to the library, I told the librarians how good it was, and one turned to me and asked, "Have you seen the film?" as if the book alone were not enough. Get thee behind me...
For those of you who don't know, this is the time of year when all horses, to varying degrees, turn into fluffy bears. Your previously sleek encumbent wakes up one morning and looks like a yeti (especially if he's white like mine!)
So the winter dilemma begins. If you ride a horse with his (or indeed, her) winter coat on, they sweat to death after only the minimum of exercise. So, to prevent this, you clip a little, or a lot, of their hair off. This means they cool down really quickly after they've been ridden. This is good. But it also means they will then be cold because you've clipped all their hair off. So you go and buy a nice (expensive) rug and put it on them. It is ridiculous, no matter how you look at it, but a necessity all the same. If you're not riding your horse you don't need to clip it. Nobody pops up to the New Forest ponies, or the Exmoors, brandishing clippers and shouting, "Brace yourselves!" do they?
Anyway, normally I do what's called a 'blanket clip.' This means you clip all the hair off the neck and belly, but leave the hair on their backs. The trouble with Barnaby is that it still leaves him very warm with so much hair still left on, and a rug on top. He hates being too warm and will rip holes in the rug to provide his own ventilation if necessary. This starts to be not funny when you're on the fifth rug that winter.
So I've decided to do a hunter clip. This means you take all the hair off everywhere except a saddle patch and the leg hair. The best way to show you this is to do a before and after photo, so here is Barnaby before I started, all hair on:

Notice the particularly thick hair on his belly just behind his front legs.
This is him after I'd finished clipping:
Now you can notice the extraordinary thing about him. If you look carefully, especially on his neck and chest, you can see that his skin is black. This is very odd, as you can see from the previous photo, his hair is white all over. It's as though he was born a coloured cob but went white over time. Unfortunately we'll never know, but it is a bit peculiar. He was grateful I'd done it, though, and went out to tell his crew.
And in the evening, he was playing a game of tag with me in his stable, which is extraordinary,
1) because he found it funny and
2) because I am honoured that he played with me and not his dad.
I love you, Bardy Lad.
Mrs O.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

I Love My Horsey, My Horsey Loves Me

If you ever want to know if Britain really is a nation of dog lovers, you only have to walk into your local veterinary clinic. We took 'Er Indoors yesterday morning to have her stitches out. A woman sat there with a King Charles Spaniel. A young woman walked in with a King Charles puppy. Obviously they couldn't resist talking to each other. A woman walked in with an Alaskan Malamute (what a stunning dog). It turned out she had three more sitting in a van outside. We joined the queue, yet another besotted owner, prepared to pay whatever was necessary to ensure our beloved dog's wellbeing. It's a funny thing, really, but they mean so much to us, don't they?
Anyway, the stitches came out with no trouble at all, and there was no charge. The wound is healing up nicely. She hasn't scratched it at all and hasn't had to wear 'the collar of shame', thank goodness.
We came home and got Barnaby and Zak in from the field, gave them a good groom and got them ready to travel. We were finally going to meet Heather and Anthony at their yard near Worksop, to go for a hack together. We whizzed up the motorway and pulled onto their field.
We tacked up and met the others we'd be hacking out with, as another mother and daughter came with us, so there were six of us altogether.
It's quite an awesome responsibility to lead a hack out with people you don't know. I asked if everyone was happy to have the occasional canter and they said yes. We set off from the back of their yard onto a section of fields at the back of Lindrick Golf Course. Barnaby is used to going along there at a flat out gallop so I was delighted that he was prepared to walk. We turned right and I asked everyone if they were willing to canter here - lots of smiling faces, so I set off at a very sedate pace, not even a hint of a gallop. After a few yards I looked behind me and nobody was there! They were all trolleying along trying to catch up. Mr O had waited at the back and set Zak off. Within 2 seconds they were up with us. Once a race horse, always a racehorse.
We carried on down the track, and over the road, with Mr O waiting at the back to make sure everyone got over safely. Down the field and into the woods, past the small fire burning by the rock (?) and up the leafy track, ducking under the branches (well Mr O and I anyway, nobody else was on a very big horse). We zig-zagged along the well worn path, with trees creaking eerily next to us. Barnaby marched ever onwards. He knew where we were the moment we left the yard.
We crossed the road then continued on until we were at the very spot where Barnaby had his accident. This is the first time he's been there since. He was very calm. I don't know if he remembered, but I gave him a reassuring pat, and we carried on our way. None of the others have ever ridden this far. Fancy having all of this beautiful hacking on your doorstep and not going out amongst it.
We continued up towards Gildingwells and then turned onto the next track. As we got nearer and nearer to our old yard, Barnaby started to speed up. He thought he would be home in time for tea and medals. I turned him to the right. He said, "You don't understand - tea's that way!" I said, "You don't live there any more darling." He trundled along, but he wasn't happy.
All the riders did seem happy though, especially as by now we'd been out for an hour and a half. I told them another canter was imminent and we set off whizzing up the track. I'd forgotten how glorious it was there, to be honest. Did we take it for granted when we were there? Maybe.
We carried on up the road and onto the golf course, and that's where the fun started really, as unbeknown to us, they'd started a shoot a little further up. The first gun went off with an almighty crack and Barnaby leaped forward, but wasn't too bad. Then on our left, on the other side of the hedge, a golfer teed off. A swinging golf club sounds exactly like someone cracking a lunge whip so Barnaby was a bit startled by that as well, but just kept going. I looked back and everyone was still fine.
And soon we were on our way home, but on a track where normally Mr O and I would streak along, but felt we ought to take it steady and bring the horses back cooled off. We'd been out for two hours.
It was a fabulous ride altogether. I'd forgotten how beautiful it was up there (and flat!) but more importantly how impeccably Barnaby had behaved. It's the first time I've ridden him in a group, and he wasn't wound up by it. I'd really debated whether to put him in a double bridle for more control, but didn't need it. Plus we went to several places where we would normally fly along, and he walked like an absolute gentleman. I got quite emotional about it, really. I think I bonded with him today.
We had quite a good time with the liveries, a very nice bunch of people, but it was getting cold so we thought we'd better load the horses up and take them home.
We gave them tea and turned them out for a well earned roll and a stretch. The sun began to sink. The horses sauntered over the horizon, and all was well with the world. This last few days, I have realised afresh, just how utterly blessed I am.
And I am loving this horse. I am so proud of him today, I couldn't have asked for more. Thankyou Bardy Lad.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Adventures in Vellum

Finally, after nearly two weeks, I feel as though I've got my own brain back and not the one I've been borrowing, from someone who's clearly a bit thick. In other words, I've been ill the whole time and feel as though my head has been full of cotton wool. I still haven't stopped coughing, which is driving me up the wall.
I have been printing some beautiful papers to use on cards and saw a brief moment on Create and Craft TV yesterday where a woman did something so simple it was breathtaking, and I couldn't wait to get up this morning to have a go myself.
This is how I started out, though:

Before I saw the programme, I made this card. The topper is stuck onto vellum, which adds a beautiful, delicate quality to the card. (Think, 'wedding invitation'). So this is just a folded A4 card with vellum stuck on the top, which is why there is a line of Christmas trees at the top, to hide the double sided tape (the only drawback with vellum and acetate is that you can see whatever you use to stick it down with).

But having watched the television yesterday, I rushed down and made this:I folded a sheet of beautiful A4 pink pearlised card in half, and cut off a lot of the front, leaving only 5cm remaining. Then I cut a sheet of A5 acetate and stuck it inside, then a sheet of A5 paper. This is actually wrapping paper, but the colouring is perfect. Then of course I made the topper with the cupcake on it and stuck it on. Not bad for five minutes work!

After that I was on a roll:

This card was completely free to make, using papers downloaded from the internet, a stamp I already have, and again, putting acetate over the paper. I stared at this for quite a while, and then...

realised that I could use a border punch to cut the edge of the card. So here's my cute snowman stamp on lovely snowman backing paper (underneath the acetate).
Then I decided to use a different border punch, like this:
I have a very small poinsettia stamp so decided to use it all over a sheet of vellum, to match the big one on the topper. I coloured everything with Promarkers, to match. This card showed me that if you're going to put a greeting on the inside, you must make sure the topper covers it up on the front, otherwise you'll see it through the vellum and the acetate! Oops, a lesson learned.
Then finally my absolute favourite:

I've used a beautiful semi-shiny card, that is bronze colour on the outside, and white on the inside. I've used the same border punch to trim it, as above. I've printed a beautiful autumn leaf design onto vellum. It almost looks embossed and is highly strokable! I've embossed the little flower emblem and attached it onto photographic paper with a contrasting design on it. I love this card and it'll be a while before I can bring myself to part with it.
So yes, I'm now obsessed with acetate and vellum. The only limit is your own imagination. I don't mind making Christmas cards, if that's what's involved.
Have a good weekend, everyone.
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Incey Wincey

So last week I was helping myself to a tablet from the medicine drawer, and me being me, I managed to flick it down the back of the sideboard. Upon pulling said piece of furniture away from the wall, I was taken aback by the amount of dust in the vicinity. Today I've finally got round to pulling it out again and hoovering every last morsel of fluff away.
This is the sideboard where I have my paper cutter when I'm working and where I put my cards to photograph them. Imagine my shock when I moved the paper cutter to find the mother of all spiders sitting there watching me. She had come to ask why I'd removed her des res. and she was not happy. I explained that she was way behind with the rent, then stuck a glass over her, grabbed a card and slid it underneath the glass. I transported her outside and threw the glass onto the soil before sprinting back indoors. I imagine she'll be back by tea time.
I couldn't resist taking a picture once she was safely under glass, so here she is:


Anyway, having said in a previous post that I'm not keen on all this 'penguins and polar bears on Christmas cards' malarkey, I have to confess that I am happy to make lots of room for this little chap.

The stamp is called 'Sam With Stocking' by Hero Arts. I used to have a dog who looks exactly like him and couldn't resist it when I saw it.

A word of warning, though. No matter how tempting it may be, do not Google 'Sam with Stocking.' You'll regret it. I've also recently made the mistake of looking up, 'Desire Wire.' For those of you who are curious, it's a bendy wire that's often used in card making.
But by far the worst thing to look up is 'Stud Muffins'. They are, in fact, a horse treat, and that's all I'm saying.
I'm off now to lunge The Boy.

I have discussed Plans For The Winter with Mr O. I have decided that once a week Mr O and I need to ride together in the field or down the lane and practise separating the horses and getting them to concentrate on working and not being obsessed with being together all the time. It's not worth making plans over the winter like, "Do lots of dressage," because the weather will deteriorate and we probably won't even be able to go anywhere, but this will be plenty to work on, and very useful. I'll try to put on a photo from Friday's dressage if I can, but my scrapbook page for August will have to suffice for now. I know it's very simple, but the paper at the bottom is vellum, which I am gradually becoming obsessed with, as my next lot of cards will show.
Make the most of the season, everyone.
Mrs O.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Dressage Diva

I just can't believe what today was like. But I'm going to backtrack slightly to yesterday. As you know, I've been quite ill, and saving my meds for emergencies (like today!) but yesterday I finally managed to get on Barnaby, ride him for half an hour, clean my tack and clean up after the farrier's visit on Wednesday. So all in all, I was feeling quite a bit better.
Last night I had the worst night's sleep ever and woke up this morning coughing and choking. a good start, then. I could hear the wind howling round the house, whilst trying to rouse myself with a cuppa. In the end I decided to brave the outdoors and went to get Barnaby in. I had really wanted to bath him as he's so lovely when he's clean, but I felt a bit mean and just decided to do his legs from the knee down. Then I took his rug off and realised how bad his neck looked so gave that a scrub as well... then a bit of body... then Mr O came out and said we had five minutes left, so I took Barnaby back to his stable, looking a bit like a black and white minstrel. I'd have been better off if I'd left him. Oh well, the judge can only see one side at a time!
I stuck a rug on him, put a tail bandage on and travel boots, and we were ready to load. My dressage time was 10am. It was 8.50am. Cutting it a bit fine, but not too bad.
We drove down the steep hill and pulled up behind a coal delivery lorry. There was a car behind us. The coalmen were determined to deliver all thirty bags to this cottage. A year's supply of coal, presumably. Mr O got out and told the woman behind us what was going on. She wisely reversed up the hill and went the other way. We pulled into a side road and waited and waited until eventually the men finished and drove off, and the tractor behind him and the other ten cars all drove past us, and once again we were on our way.
The next stop was at the petrol station to fill up a bit otherwise we couldn't have got much further. We were now officially late. Mr O couldn't go much faster through the wind and the rain, though. He was driving so fast I was starting to hyperventilate. I had a tingly sensation in my hands and my chest was really constricted. I was worried I was going to pass out and kept talking to myself to calm myself down. I've never passed out in my life and I don't intend to start now. But if I do I want Mr O just to keep driving and sort me out afterwards.
But eventually, we do arrive and pull into Parklands car park. There was hardly anyone there. We got the horses out, then Mr O went to sign in. I had to pull myself together and start tacking Barnaby up.
I hopped on, and to my surprise, he left Zak and made his way down to the indoor school to warm up. He did his 'hoo-hoo' sound deep in his chest, but accepted that Zak wasn't there and settled into a decent warm-up.
I should have been next in but the steward said another woman on a dapple grey would go in next to give me more time to warm up. If I'd had any sense I would have insisted that I take my proper turn, as the next thing I knew Mr O had arrived on Zak, and that's when the trouble started, really. Barnaby did his usual thing of not wanting to be separated from his best buddy.
Sure enough, the previous competitor came out, having completed her test, and then it was my turn to go in. This means leaving the indoor school, going across a little path, then into the outdoor school where the test takes place. Naturally, Barnaby doesn't want to go. I get him to go out, but he spins, then trots back into the indoor school. I try again. We get into the arena, but this time, for variety, Barnaby decides a little rear might be in order, goes up, comes down and trots merrily out of the arena, with me hauling on the reins, to no avail. (He may have got a ten for that, I'm not sure). I go in a third time, with a whip as back-up, smack, smack, leg, leg, you will go in, you little blighter! Bingo, back into the indoor school. By now the judge is wetting himself.
Desperate needs call for desperate measures.
"Come here, please darling!" Mr O looks at me in surprise.
"Get off Zak, please, get on this horse and make him go in."
Mr O leaps off Zak, onto Barnaby and trots him into the outdoor arena. Barnaby spins and then rears vertically. "Sit forward!" I shout as Mr O is upright and I have visions of him going over backwards. Barnaby comes back down, Mr O spins him and enters the outdoor arena. He walks round. By now the judge is nearly falling off his chair. (It turns out to be Darryl Thicket. If I'd known that I wouldn't have had the nerve to enter the arena in the first place!) Barnaby calms down. The next thing I know, the bell has gone. Oh well, Mr O had better do the test.
Barnaby calms down and realises the game is up. The wind and rain are howling, but there is a job to be done and Dad is in charge. The test begins. I am holding Zak and calling the test at the same time. A pallet falls over behind Zak, who leaps forwards but doesn't crush me. I know the test off by heart. It should be me out there. Never mind.
The test is over. Mr O has done me proud. He bows to the judge and leaves the arena. He comes back into the indoor arena and jumps off. I thank him profusely. He leaps onto Zak and prepares to go in again (like Zorro this time) I ask him if he wants me to call the test again, and he does. Remember, Barnaby doesn't want to leave Zak, so I realise he will have to stand outside with me while I call the test. I lead him outside, and he says, "You must be joking, I'm not standing out there getting wet through!" Grrrr!
Fortunately my friend Anthony is there, who very kindly agrees to hold Barnaby while I read the test for Mr O. It goes by in a blur. Zak looked quite good actually, considering Mr O's schooled him five times in his life.
So we take the horses back to the lorry, Barnaby perfectly calm now that his bosom buddy is with him. We tie them up and put turn-out rugs on, as it is pouring.
Anthony appears and says that the results are already up. We run back to the arena to see what's what. And after a great deal of counting and calculating, it turns out... we are fifth! I don't believe it. My clever (naughty) darling (naughty) boy! And I must say that Zak came 6th which is amazing (especially as he put in a dynamic canter where none was required, I think it was the flying change that swung it!) So we came away with a rosette, and a huge grin each. Mine is pink. Barnaby is not impressed.
I got lots of sixes and sevens, and came out with a much higher score than last time, when I rode Lindy. Does this mean that if it's not chucking it down, and Zak isn't there, Barnaby might be able to produce a decent score? Only time will tell, but it has certainly motivated me. I always knew he could do it, and it's not as if we haven't put the work in. Of course, this is all providing I can actually get him into the arena in the first place!
So after an equally traumatic journey home, where Mr O nearly went into the side of a lorry on the roundabout and a car on the road, we are home in one piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though, and can't wait to go again. And if appearances are anything to go by, the judge thoroughly enjoyed it, too. It'll give him something to tell everyone back at the yard, won't it?