Thursday, 30 December 2010

Review of the Year, Part Two

And so to say farewell to 2010, here are my own personal awards for the past year.
1. Book of the Year - This was easy. The winner is The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I was rivetted all the way through it. A very unusual way of exploring an unusual topic. Beautifully written, a real treat. I will read it again in two or three years.
2. Film of the Year - This one was not so easy. The two contenders are:
'Knight and Day' starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, action packed and very funny (and did I say it starred Tom Cruise?!)
'Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.'
And the winner is: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A tale beautifully told, true to the book and very well acted. The special effects are stunning, too. Well worth a gander.
3. Place visited this year: Hardwick Hall. We went there for my birthday in March and I absolutely loved it. It's a tudor building and fascinating to explore. I'd definitely go there again.

4. Event of the year: Holiday in Mumby, with the horses and the dog, living in the lorry and galloping along the beach. A fabulous experience.
5. Regret of the year: Not being able to ride round Chatsworth as it was too hot to take the horses. Hard to believe at this time of year, but true nonetheless. A definite date for next year.
6. Gadget of the year: The Sizzix Bigshot, most excellent Christmas present. This baby is going to transform my cardmaking. But also this little thing:
It's a corner punch that cuts your square corners into round ones, making them look very professional. Who would have thought I'd have found such a little thing so exciting?!
7. Recipe of the year: It's got to be the Onion Chutney, which was absolutely gorgeous, although runner up would have to be the Bannoffee pie, and there's a lot to be said for picking your own rhubarb and cooking with it the same day. They don't come much fresher than that.
8. TV Programme of the Year: I have a feeling that would have been Downton Abbey, but as I haven't actually watched it, I can't really say (but I've just found out the whole lot is going to be shown on 2nd and 3rd January, imagine my delight!) So the winner is...
The Apprentice - for gripping me, fascinating me and making me laugh.
9. Song of the Year: The Rhythm of Love by The Plain White T's. A beautiful song. I've also loved Annie Lennox' CD, Christmas Cornucopia. I am so glad I got it. It sums up everything that Christmas means to me. Biggest disappointment: Take That's New Album. All the songs sound the same, and the words don't make any sense. Can I just say, for the record (no pun intended) after watching Robbie Williams looking bored rigid on Strictly Come Dancing and not even bothering to sing towards the end, that Robbie doesn't need Take That and Take That don't need Robbie, so could we just stop it now, please?
And finally...
10. Unexpected Pleasure Of The Year: That Chris Evans has been so superb in taking over the breakfast show on Radio 2. I absolutely love listening to him every day. I was thrilled, too, that in May he abseiled from a building in Portsmouth to raise money for a hospice called 'The Rowans.' This place is very dear to my heart, as both my mum and grandmother spent some time there. There is a 96 year old woman called Doris Long who holds the record as the oldest person ever to abseil, and she just rang up and said, "Why don't you have a go, Chris?" and he said yes. As simple as that. Thankyou Chris, it was brill. I and many others really appreciate it. Thankyou for brightening my mornings throughout this year. Not many could have filled Sir Terry's shoes, but you have done it admirably.
So all that remains is for me to wish you a wonderful and peaceful New Year, and that you will have a healthy, prosperous and most of all fun 2011.
Bless you folks.
Mrs O.

Review Of The Year Part One

It's been an extraordinary year really, come with me and we'll take a look...
On the horsey front, there have been a great many changes. First of all, after a lot of soul searching, I finally made the difficult decision to sell Max, but only because Mr O had promised to give me Barnaby. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I never want to sell a horse again as long as I live. I have been missing Max a litttle lately, but I've had a Christmas card from his new owners telling me how much they love him, so I am happy with that.
Sadly, dear little Fudge was sold, as the boys have totally lost interest in him. I miss him too, bless 'im.
And saddest of all was Missis' decision to have Polo put to sleep. I absolutely adored him, and he was a good and worthy friend of Barnaby's. Lyndy still misses him, I think.
Then not long after, Hugo arrived, causing a great deal of ups and downs as he has settled into a much more relaxed way of life to what he's been used to with Novice level eventing. Quite a few upheavels really, but things are more settled now.
So I have spent the last few months helping Barnaby to make the transition to me as his owner rather than groom. I have to say, this snowy weather has helped. He is definitely mine now.
Remember though, this is the horse that jumped over his stable door, an event I will choose not to remember too often. Definitely not the highlight of my year!
I've had a wonderful time riding Barnaby though. The upside of him being an arrogant so-and-so is that nothing frightens him, so riding him is an absolute pleasure. He has totally restored my confidence in the equine race. The best bits must be doing the TREC, where he didn't really put a foot wrong, and doing the dressage, which I really loved.
Of course, taking the horses on holiday in August was a real highlight. Galloping along the beach, blue sky above and sloshing waves below was a sensation I won't forget in a hurry. I hope we can go again soon.
Mr O has had a very good year with Zak, too, where they have gone from strength to strength, especially with jumping. The photo finally came of Mr O jumping him at Marchington. Check this out:

We love it, anyway. Such a sweet horse.
I guess the other thing is that card making seems to have completely taken over my life. I've discovered a side to myself that I didn't even know existed. I can't emphasise enough that I am a very non-artistic person. I can't paint, I can't draw and I couldn't throw a pot if you paid me, so no one is more astonished than me at what I've been able to achieve this year. To be fair, I've always loved designs on things like bedding and china, and have always been a paper stroker! (It's fantastic to read all these blogs and find I am not alone!) I love colour and pattern, and learning to put it all together like this is a real treat. I look forward to seeing where this leads me in 2011.
I've set myself a series of challenges each month and I've had great fun completing as many as I can. This is the first year I've ever made chutney and lemon curd and I really enjoyed doing it. I've loved doing cross stitch, especially the special one I made for Daughter 2's wedding.

I must be careful not to let the card making push cross stitch out of the way, as I still really enjoy it, but card making took off in a much bigger way than I'd imagined.
The only thing I haven't really done enough of is church activities. We've decided next year to cut down on some of the horsey events as it's always on a Sunday, but we'll see how this pans out. I'm going to do more Bible study, too, especially as I am on my own at home all day, I haven't really got an excuse not to do it. There will be more about my hopes and plans for 2011 in another post, coming soon.
It's been a wonderful year on the farm, too, with the addition of baby ducks and newly hatched chickens. I don't think I'll ever get over the absolute thrill, the joy of new life. It's what the countryside is all about, isn't it?
And of course, one of the best bits has been writing this blog, and meeting all of you. What an incredible world blogging is. It's helped me to find (and like!) the real me. I have blossomed because of this blog. It's been wonderful to get to know all of you, too. I've found such encouragement through blogging, thankyou so much.
There have been things like good books and good films this year too, but I'm saving that for my next post. So looking back, how was 2010 for you? I can honestly say I've had a lot of fun this year and learned a lot. I'm looking forward very much to finding out what 2011 has in store.
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

We've just come back from seeing this fabulous film. Each one, in my humble opinion, is better than the last.
The trouble with this one is that The Dawntreader is one of my favourite books of all time, so I was hoping to goodness they'd do it 'properly.' The BBC did a series some years ago (I'd probably depress myself if I looked it up to see exactly how long ago!) but the little girl who played Lucy was all wrong. No offence to her, but she just wasn't how I'd pictured Lucy in my mind.
But the girl who plays Lucy in these films (Georgie Henley) is absolutely right. She's very, very good in this one too. The crucial bit in the book is when the character Eustace has become a dragon. He tries desperately to take the dragon skin off and can't do it. In the end Aslan slits the skin from top to bottom, and throws Eustace into a pool. I can't read that section without sobbing like a child, and sure enough, tears were pouring down my cheeks in the cinema. Good job it's dark, isn't it? I'm pretty sure Mr O was at it, too.
My prayer is that everyone who sees the film will grasp its true meaning, and that one day they will experience the Deep Magic for themselves. If you get time, go and see it, I highly recommend it. In fact, as it's December, it could still earn my vote for 'Film of the Year', couldn't it? We shall see...

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Past

Hello all, I hope you've had a wonderful few days, as things are gradually getting back to normal here.
I've probably had the best Christmas in some years, if I'm being honest. Mr O went to pick up Son 2 and indeed, the mulled wine was on the stove to greet them, the festive aroma floating around the kitchen, mingling with the sound of wassailing, as they walked in the door. A cup each, and I knew Christmas had begun.
I had fabulous presents, including my long awaited Sizzix Bigshot, a Horseware Ireland rugby shirt. It's in red, black and gold. When this design first came out I didn't like it at all, but it's really grown on me, so I can't wait to wear it. I may show you a picture when I've got a bit more organised.
I decided to join in the Secret Santa on the Your Horse forum this year, and guessed from the packaging that I'd received a book from mine, which I assumed would be a horse book, but when I opened it, it turned out to be a craft book. I am so surprised and thrilled. I know who it's from and I didn't even know she knew about my cardmaking. Thankyou Jo, I'm going to be dipping into it a lot.
Missis got me a DVD called 'Dressage For Jumping' which I am saving for when I've got a few peaceful moments. She's got me a dressage book, too. Daughter 1 got me The Time Traveler's Wife, which I'm really pleased with, as you can imagine.
We had a quiet Boxing Day, but today we've been up to Worksop to drop Son 2 off and see all the children and grandchildren. This is really the highlight of my Christmas. I love seeing everyone all together and just sitting back and observing my grandchildren playing and interacting with one another. I don't think the mums realise how amusing and witty their children are. And the baby, who just poodles up and down, in a world of his own (usually with a biscuit in each hand.) I don't think I've got many good photos, as no one sat still for long enough. They all liked their presents, anyway.
So we're spending some time re-arranging the sitting room a little so I can keep my craft things out all the time. How lovely for me that Mr O is willing to do this. I have had a little play with my Sizzix every day. It feels very strange not to have to make Christmas cards anymore, and realising I can use what I like, no matter what the colour or pattern. I suppose the first thing is 'Thankyou' cards, isn't it?
Now for some time to reflect on the past year and the year to come. I haven't quite decided about New Year's resolutions yet - I'm actually still working on one from last year! It snowed all morning, and apparently more is due tomorrow, yet the temperature is going up, so maybe it will come and melt straight away. Hope springs eternal...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Full Circle

I'm not sure where the past few days have gone. They've whizzed by in a whirl of mucking out and present wrapping. Where do you do yours? I can't do it at a table, so I tend to sit on the floor and spread the wrapping paper out in front of me. After a while, my back is in agony, so I've been wrapping one at a time, then going to my desk to make a tag for it, then back to the floor to wrap the next one, which has been a lot better for me, but probably more time consuming. I've loved making my own tags, though, it's been a really good way to use up odds and ends. I'll definitely do that again next year.
I also finished Mr O's card and gave it to him. He really liked it, which is a relief. I feel as if I've come full circle as it was my desire to make a card for him last year that got me into this card making adventure. I also wanted to make one for my youngest grandson last year as it was his first Christmas and I wanted to make something special that his mum would want to keep. Looking back on it, I didn't have a clue what I was doing really, I just had this incredible desire to make something and knew it must be possible somehow. Though I say it myself, I've learned an awful lot since then.
Today was the last time I will muck Zak out in 2010 as Mr O is off now until January 4th. Such bliss, only having one horse to muck out. We have had a little more snow in the last day or two, but nothing too heavy. We are all willing it to disappear. Zak's water bucket has been frozen solid in the mornings. I've been boiling the kettle and pouring that on to melt it a bit, as I'm worried about him dehydrating.
And now my dear youngest son is with us until the 27th. When he walked through the door, the candles were lit, the carols were on, and the mulled wine was on the stove. Now Christmas can begin in earnest. It is so lovely to have Son 2 here. He has brought his guitar, so that should be fun, shouldn't it?! There seem to be a surprisingly large amount of presents in the pile, too. Tessa has two. I wonder what Santa has brought her?
Things may be a bit hectic for the next day or two, so I'd just like to take this opportunity to say thankyou for reading my blog and sending me all your wonderful comments throughout this year. They are all much appreciated. My wish is that you have a wonderful Christmas, surrounded by the people you love, and that you get lots and lots of pressies!
Happy Christmas everyone!
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

TV Times

I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I don't watch television. To be fair, the television is often on, but Mr O spends a lot of time channel hopping and not actually watching anything. Because of this, I can't get into anything so I don't bother. Also, even if I do watch something good, there are so many channels, I can never remember which channel it was on, and what day I watched it, so I never see it again. I've missed a few good things that way.
Add to that that I don't watch any soaps, Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity, or X Factor, and you can see my viewing would be limited, to say the least.
But suddenly I have become gripped by, of all things, The Apprentice. There have been several series of this, and I've always thought it looked a bit stupid. I can't stand 'sales speak' either, so I wouldn't have chosen to watch it. I don't know why I watched one episode about six weeks ago, but I was instantly hooked. The whole group dynamics aspect was fascinating. I have to say I desperately wanted Stella to win, as I thought she defended herself beautifully when criticized a few weeks ago. Well done you!
The second thing I've been enthralled by is Strictly Come Dancing. I can't bring myself to watch the first few programmes because I love dancing and can't stand watching people making fools of themselves. But the moment I first saw Kara Tointon dance I was enthralled. She was beautiful and truly talented. I was delighted that she won, but I've had a soft spot for Matt Baker for years (someone with a collie can't be all bad) so it was all-round goodness, really.
The only thing I didn't choose the winner of was Sports Personality of the Year. I really wanted Lee Westwood to win (he's from Worksop, you know!) but I think AP McCoy is a worthy winner.
The third programme I am thoroughly enjoying is Scrubs. Now I've worked out who the characters are, and how they relate to one another, I have realised how clever and funny it is. John McGinley and I go way back. I've loved him since he was in Wagons East many years ago. It is brilliant to see him come into his own in this series.
So all in all I've become a bit of a TV addict. Imagine my distress at missing Downton Abbey. Oh what a foolish girl I've been! I've seen one episode on the i-player and now realise it was my duty to have seen every episode and I've missed it. I am aware there is a DVD of the entire series, but I don't really want to buy it, I just want to watch it. Woe is me.
I wonder what lays in store next year? But knowing me, I'll probably have my nose stuck in a book anyway...

Friday, 17 December 2010

My Perfect Christmas, Part Two

1. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Definitely Christmas morning, straight after breakfast. I would feel so strange waking up on Christmas Day having already done it the night before. Also got to open Barnaby's present with him before he goes out.

2. Favourite childrens' Christmas song?
Away In a Manger, preferably sung by children. We had our church nativity on Sunday.
I am not related to any of the children in any way, and don't even know all of their names, but for some reason I sobbed all the way through it. I've never understood that...

3. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The pressure to spend money... and the way shops stock things that nobody really wants or needs (like a pasta bowl with servers, something you wouldn't be seen dead with at any other time of year) and the way you feel obliged to buy it, just because it's there.

4. Favourite ornament theme or colour?
Classic red, green and gold, you can't beat it. Maybe a dash of tartan.

5. Turkey or ham on Christmas Day?
Good grief, turkey of course! Do people have ham? What on earth for?

6. What do you want for Christmas this year?
As I gather Johnny Depp is spoken for, I'll settle for a Sizzix Bigshot.

7. Does anyone in your family dress up as Santa?
No. Unfortunately we never have. I wonder if we've missed something there?

8. Age you discovered Santa wasn't real?
No idea. It obviously didn't impact me that much. Ditto tooth fairy.

9. Eggnog, hot chocolate or apple cider?
Actually, I am partial to mulled wine, as hot as you like. And roasted chestnuts.

10. Do you have any Christmas decorations on your roof?
No, I'm prepared to lay down and let a bus run over me before I give in to that.

11. How does Santa get into your house, chimney or magic key?
Chimney, every time. The children never doubted it.

12. Do you prefer gifts or tokens?
Gifts really, but there's always room in my life for another book token. Always.

Not long now...
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

My Perfect Christmas, Part One

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper, despite all the hard work. I like those tall gift bags for wine, though.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Always real. It conjures up memories of my childhood, as my grandparents always had one. I still think a sparse real tree is better than a full artificial one. Holly and mistletoe also essential.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Around the fifteenth of December, but as you know, no room in the inn!

4. When do you take the tree down?
When we go back to work in the New Year. Then I have a big spring cleaning session!

5. Do you like eggnog?
I don't think I've ever had it, so I'm going to investigate!

6. Favourite gift received as a child?
My dolls house. It was a work of art. My mum still had it when I left home.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
Mr O. Yes, siree!

8. Easiest person to buy for?
Both daughters. I try hard, but also know they will appreciate whatever I get them, and I like to think, because I know them so well, that I usually get it right.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Not now, but the children made one when they were young, and it had to come out every year. I loved it.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Definitely by post, and having something to hang up round the house. Wishing everyone a merry Christmas on facebook just isn't the same, but I guess it's better than nothing.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
If I'm going to answer this honestly, I can't tell you!

12. Favourite Christmas movie?
Actually I have a real thing about not being able to stand Christmas films. I detest The Wizard of Oz! But what I truly, truly love, is The Snowman. I could cry every time.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Early December. Every year I say I will do it through the year, but I'm just not that organised.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No, but it is the sort of thing I would do! (Blushes!)

15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?
Nuts. In recent years I have developed a nut allergy, and this has eroded a very enjoyable part of Christmas for me. I also love Christmas pudding and mince pies. I have only had one so far this year.

16. Lights on the tree, coloured or clear?
I don't mind either.

17. Favourite Christmas song?
Song is not carol, is it? So I get to choose two, right? 'December Will Be Magic Again' by Kate Bush and 'Silent Night'. But Annie Lennox has released a stunning album called Christmas Cornucopia, and she sings In The Bleak Midwinter, which sends shivers down my spine.

18. Travel at Christmas, or stay home?
Stay home, with my husband, my doggy and my horse. (We call it 'being snowed in...again.')

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Sadly yes. That's why I'm good at Trivial Pursuit and pub quizzes.

20. Angel, star or ribbon on top of the tree?
Angel. Although why she wants that shoved up her skirt is beyond me, frankly.

Part Two tomorrow, and I'd love to read your version, if you want to link it to mine.
Mulled wine anyone?
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Putting The Boot In

I've had a phenomenally busy few days. In case you're wondering, we managed to do the deed on Sunday morning. It wasn't pleasant. At first I thought I was going to be sick, but after a couple of minutes it just seemed like biology in school. The method prescribed wasn't entirely successful, and Mr O thinks he might do it slightly differently next time, but by six o'clock we had our first chicken in the oven. I watched Macbeth Sunday evening. Never have Lady Macbeth and I had so much in common.
To be fair, I plucked my first pheasant when I was seven and have never disliked it. We had a friend in Worksop that shoots and used to give us birds nearly every week. We became very proficient at plucking and drawing, but I have never actually dispatched the bird myself.
Grace has walked around for the last couple of days feeling a bit out of sorts, missing her three brothers. At first she went around with Peggy and her six babies, but I noticed today she is with Roxy and Margery, the grown up chickens. She has obviously decided it's time to learn how to be a lady hen after all.
You may have heard of a brand of welly boots called Hunters. They are the Rolls Royce of wellington boots. I have had mine for some years, and the pair before that I had for fifteen years. But recently they've developed a hole in the sole which lets water in. This is not nice, especially if you're walking in a muddy field. I have had the experience, at our previous yard, of getting totally stuck and my foot flying out and landing in the mud, sock and all. It was freezing cold and I could feel the mud oozing between my toes. Unfortunately Mr O was there to witness this and laughed like a drain. I had to pull the boot out and limp back to the yard as there was no way I could put my foot back in the boot after that.
Anyway, back to said hole in footwear. About six weeks ago I went to Tesco (after much sole searching!) and bought a very sweet pair of pink stripy wellies. I returned home with high expectations and a dash of rural femininity.
Obviously I wear wellies seven days a week. Imagine my surprise this morning when I put Barnaby into the field and felt a sudden cold sensation on the back of my leg. I had waterproof trousers on, too, so couldn't understand it. I got back to the stables, examined the boots, and to my dismay found a split right up the back of the left boot. Disaster!
For the rest of the day I had to wear my Hunters with the hole in and came in at lunch time with one black sock - yuk!
In the meantime I'd phoned Mr O to explain the situation. He said he'd go to CWG, our local farm shop and see what they had. I sat in fear and dread that he would bring me some very masculine boots with a steel toecap, or even worse, a pair of white wellies that he's bought for one of the lads at work this week (I'd rather drink wasp spit than wear a pair like that).
So imagine my surprise when he walked in and produced a huge box, out of which appeared the most gorgeous pair of wellies I've seen in some years. They are made by Aigle (French) and fit beautifully. They look very well made, too, which they'll need to be. Some wellies are made for walking the dog in the park, and some are made for wading through mud, aren't they? Clearly these are in the latter catagory, and I hope I get many years wear out of them.
I actually rode Barnaby on Sunday afternoon, which was wonderful. Very much business as usual after two weeks of snow. Now unfortunately we are forecast snow again on Thursday. We are supposed to be going to a party that night. Pleeeeese don't let it snow. I am wearing a very thin dress and high heels - possibly another side-splitting moment for Mr O, then?

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Ice Man Cometh

Yes indeed, we have post! I am thrilled because:
My papers have finally arrived from America. They are beautiful and well worth waiting for.
My December stamps have come from Little Claire Designs. They are little elephants and very, very sweet. I can't wait to start using those.
My pack of envelopes has come, so I don't have to panic about not being able to make square cards.
Crisis over then. Still no photo for Mr O, though. It's been nearly a month. We've decided to wait until Monday and if it hasn't arrived by then, he'll be contacting them.
Now if only the dustmen would come...
This morning I have woken up and there are patches of solid ground visible in the snow, patches of black and green, and unfortunately lots and lots of dog poo. We won't go there. There is supposed to be a thaw over the weekend, but it's supposed to go down again next week, which is going to be very, very depressing!
Barnaby is, strangely, being an absolute sweetheart while this bad weather is going on. It reminds me so much of when he was on box-rest because of the broken pedal bone. He got a bit stir crazy and used to help Mr O muck out at night. I am making sure I groom him every day, and he absolutely loves it. He has increased his actual 'scratch me' time to twenty minutes. He just loves that time with his rug off, to let his skin cool. I am his only opportunity to mutually groom. Have you ever been goosed by a horse?
He has also started doing something he used to do with Mr O, but has never done it since we've been here. He walks down to the field carrying his own leadrope in his teeth. It's very sweet. And the biggest thing was that when we came back from shopping on Saturday, he did his deep whinny as soon as he saw me. Mr O had already gone in and he didn't do it to him, he did it to me. My heart absolutely leapt. Pathetic, I know.
I tie him up before I go in to his stable and he does what I call wiffleing (I just had the big decision there of how to spell a made-up word!) He wiggles his muzzle over the leadrope and undoes it. I really don't know how it works. He can also wiffle on your jacket pocket when he wants a mint. So it occured to me, that that makes me Wiffler's Mother, doesn't it? (Snigger!)

Here comes a bit, that isn't for the faint-hearted (or vegetarians). If you are either of those, or both, you may want to wander off and come back tomorrow, and not read any further, although if you didn't blanch at the dog poo comment, you can't be too feeble!
As you know, we have chickens. And this year, they have hatched quite a few eggs. It turns out that chickens hatch 60% males. You only need one cockerel and his name is George. Unfortunately, three of the four chicks Penny had in her first batch have grown up to be fine, handsome cockerels, too. This presents a problem, because they are beginning to do what healthy cockerels do best (and it isn't eating!)
Missis has tried to source someone who might come and take these chaps off our hands, but we can't find anyone locally who can 'do the deed', so Mr O has bravely volunteered. Obviously we weren't entirely sure how to go about it, but last weekend we watched a video of a man who did it in a very calm and humane way, so we have decided this Saturday will be the time to do it. I've debated about putting this on my blog, but the whole point of it is to catalogue our experiences while we're here, and this will definitely be one of them. I'm just so sorry I've named one of them Arthur.
So think of us on Saturday evening while you're enjoying yourself at the cinema or a Christmas party...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Reality Check

As you may remember, I am reading 'Dark Fire' by C.J. Sansom. It's extremely good. The characters in it are the Wentworth family. Wentworth is my maiden name, so I was quite captivated, as you can imagine. The main character, Matthew Shardlake, has a horse called Chancery. I was reading away merrily last night, minding my own business, when suddenly,

'...To my horror I saw Toky directly underneath me, staring up at me with a snarling smile, the sunlight flashing off his dagger...Toky thrust upwards at my groin. Chancery saved me. As Toky stabbed, he reared up, neighing in terror and kicking out. Toky jumped back. I glanced down at my waist, clutching the slippery neck of the rearing horse, but it was Chancery's blood that stained it, welling from a great gash in his side...
'I must get him home.' But at that moment Chancery shuddered and slipped forward to his knees. I had barely time to jump off before he fell on his side. I looked at the blood still welling on to the dusty cobbles, and thought how easily it could have been mine. I looked at his eyes but aleady they were glazing over; my old horse was dead...'

Oh no. I blinked rapidly to dissipate the tears, and hope that Mr O hadn't noticed. Oh boy, these guys had better get their comeuppance.
The book is set in 1540, Henry VIII is on the throne, and the writer evokes the period perfectly. I was pushing my barrow through the barn yesterday, when the ducks crossed my path. I felt as if I could quite easily be in a tudor market. I need to get out more.
And get out we have. We've managed to drive into various parts of town. I can't believe how much snow there is everywhere. It made some familiar roads unrecognisable, and was quite hair-raising as in places people can't use the pavements, as they're piled high with snow, so they're walking in the road. Very nerve wracking.
But at last, I have bought Mr O a Christmas present or two. It's been very difficult as every time I've asked him what he wants, he just says, "I don't know." Grrr! So frustrating. Anyway, yesterday he saw a very nice jacket that he can ride in, and plumped for it. We've also picked up Pongo's present, which is a saddle cloth, with 'Lyndon' embroidered on it, which is Lyndy's proper name. Hope he likes it.
I've bought treat stockings for the horses, and we ended up buying a stable rug for Zak, that has a neck, as I have borrowed (pinched) his for Barnaby. We are going down to -10 at night, and I just feel Barnaby needs an extra rug on. I've bought him a Likit, too. It's banana flavour, so he should like it.
I've been meaning to show you something for ages. A while ago I went to Hobbycraft, and bought a stamp for my cards that says, 'Handmade by' so I can use it on each card and just write my name underneath the stamp. I was quite pleased with it, until a few weeks ago, I discovered the Bunny Zoe's Crafts website. They sell personalised stamps, at a very reasonable price, so I ordered this:

Sorry about the photo quality, but I'm sure you can see what it is. It came really quickly (considering it was made in Norway) and I am thrilled with it. As you can imagine, it's on every card I've made recently. It's one of my favourite things I've bought this year.
I've had a wonderful day making cards for the grandchildren today. This is what Christmas is all about. I feel ready to put my decorations up now, but you will think I'm a bit mad/bah-humbugish as we have no room for a Christmas tree here. Last year I put loads of holly and mistletoe round and it looked very festive in the end. My other sadness is that we have no open fire or fireplace, which is a bit odd considering the age of the house. So I have to be a bit more imaginative with my decorating.
Before you go, spare a minute to read this month's poem on my sidebar. I've loved it since I was a child, and thrilled to find it when I googled it.
Keep warm everyone.
Mrs O.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Still Snowing...

As my title suggests, there has been no change in the weather. Pongo and I measured the drifts yesterday, and it is up to five feet in places. We cut a section out and I stood in it, with just my head protruding at the top (I am five foot seven). Now Kirsty the cat is hiding in it, ready to pounce on any unsuspecting passer-by.
Apparently we had temperatures into minus double figures last night. Everyone seemed fine this morning though, and Mr O has made it to work for the past two days.
Barnaby insists on going out each morning, and poor Zak has to accompany him. He looked at me yesterday as if to say, "Do I have to? Just to keep him company. I'm quite happy here with my pile of hay and my rug on really." Poor boy. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!
They come in after an hour or so. Barnaby is phenomenally clean, whiter than white. I've given him a good groom this morning, and he's gleaming. He is actually due to be clipped again, but I think that would be a bit mean, don't you? I wonder if he realises what a kindness I have performed (just by leaving him alone!)
Mr O appeared at lunch time yesterday, to my astonishment, and basically said that if Son 1 wanted a lift home, it was now or never, as it was still snowing. Son 1 lives near Nottingham, and apparently the roads were pretty clear, so they got there safe and sound. I am so glad he came, though, he made things so much easier. I had to do everything myself this morning, and realised how hard it is to push a full wheelbarrow through the snow, even the short distance to the barn, but then I found the sliding door had frozen shut. I had to ring Pongo and ask him to come out and open it for me, which he did. Then he offered to muck Lyndy out, which was wonderful (Lyndy is his horse, after all).
Of course, this is the perfect weather to sit indoors, with the fire on, and make some cards. The irony is, even if Mr O can get them into work, the recipient can't get in, so the cards will have to sit on her desk until Monday.
I've made this:

I am learning to assess a card when I see it in a magazine or on a blog, and ask myself what it is about the card that is so appealing. I saw these papers and couldn't resist them. They are the sweetest thing I've seen all Christmas. I am so in love with that pastel blue and red colour combination.
The papers I ordered from America are based on this colour scheme. Of course now we have so much snow, the dustmen haven't been, and neither has the postman, so my chances of getting these papers before Christmas are now nil. Never mind, they'll be something to look forward to next year.
I've also made this, as the person I'm making the cards for also wanted a birthday card for her nephew, one from her and one from her son, so this is the one for her son to give his cousin.

I've never made a pop-up card before, and it took me ages to get my head round the instructions, even though I had a picture of the finished item in front of me. But once I'd done it, it was pretty obvious, so I'm bound to make some more of these.
I emailed the customer to ask what her nephew was into, and as you can see, she said football. I had a bit of a panic because I realised if I ordered something to use it wouldn't be delivered, then I had a brainwave and ordered the pyramage above from Craftsuprint. How brilliant that I can just pay for it and download it, and there it is, ready for me to use, without any post involved. That's clever, really, isn't it? No wonder they're saying, "It's the way forward in card making."
I hope all my readers have a good weekend. I am trying not to panic about Christmas shopping. People will have to have money if I can't get to the shops, but it's not the same, is it?
We were also supposed to be going to a dressage competition on Sunday, but of course, it's cancelled. It doesn't matter now, because a) I haven't been able to practise because of the snow, and b) there's no way I'd drive the lorry there anyway. They've postponed it until the following week, but I still don't know if we'll be able to get there. Such a shame, I was looking forward to it.
So wrap up warm, everyone, and look after yourselves (and anyone you know, who could do with a helping hand). I'm off to bake a cake, my first one with duck eggs. Wish me luck!
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

December Will Be Magic Again!

Of course it started snowing the moment I'd finished my previous blog entry (declaring that it wasn't snowing!) And to be honest, it's hardly stopped since. To my delight, Son 1 is here to help me muck out, as Missis is in America and won't be back until Friday. Of course, I was thinking to myself, that if I had help mucking out, I'd actually have the energy to ride. How foolish of me! We woke up this morning, and this is the sight that greeted us:

It's hard to give you an idea of scale, as everything's basically white, but it's about 3 feet deep, or up to my waist.
It took Mr O three hours to get home last night, a journey that usually takes forty-five minutes. He said vehicles were either jack-knifed or just abandoned all along the route. I was worried sick. Then this morning, he took a shovel, and tried to dig the car out. He gave up after an hour. I was so worried and angry I rang him and said, "Are you in the car?" "No," he said, "I'm just outside the house." Then he had to dig his way back home!

By this time, Son 1 and I had got up and got dressed. We fed the horses, then donned waterproof leggings and set out to find Mr O. We had to dig a trench from the back door to the stable doors, then from there to the barn (where the chickens now sleep wherever they see fit, as it's far too cold to expect them to survive in their little shed) and from the barn to the muck heap.
To my astonishment, Barnaby was kicking his stable door in a 'bally well let me out right now!' sort of way, so Mr O put his rug on and led him out. He marched into the field, then started galloping up and down, stopping every now and again to roll, and push his nose through the snow. We put Zak out next to him, and I've got a fantastic video of them galloping up and down together, looking rather spectacular. If I can upload it I will.
(Go here to have a look).

In places the snow is up to my waist. 'Er Indoors loves it. The cats were trapped in the cat room, with snow half way up the door, so no way of getting through the cat flap (though I'd love to have seen Purdy try!)
I don't think many people have gone to work. (Apologies to you if you've struggled through to get somewhere!) I am so grateful that Son 1 was here, and that Mr O has had to stay home. I am so pleased that my horses are just outside, as I know many people haven't been able to get to their yards to do their horses, or have faced a long, arduous walk.
Pongo is obviously at home with the boys. He bravely volunteered to walk to the local farm to buy milk as that's the one thing I'm running out of.
It is stunning out there, I must admit. I haven't seen snow like this since I was about seven. I can remember walking along the verge at my grandparents' village, slipping into the ditch and the snow came up over my head. There hasn't been snow like that in my own childrens' lifetime, but my grandchildren are certainly dipping in. I've seen some lovely photos on Facebook of The Flower Fairy playing in the snow. Facebook may have its faults, but it's fantastic at times like this, just for being able to keep in touch and see what everyone's experiencing.
More snow is forecast for tonight. I don't know where it's supposed to go, we are full up. I'm starting to wish I could ski.
Hope you're all okay, and coping.
Keep warm eveyone
Mrs O.