My Non-existant Life Balance

Above is the closest I’ve been to riding a horse recently. And that’s not even me playing it! That’s Dave playing an online horse jumping game. He would miss the jumps, but magically, the jumps would become transparent for him to just canter through. This was only a safeguard to avoid injury though, the rider was still very disappointed in Dave’s performance.

"You need to work on your spacebar skills!"
“You need to work on your spacebar skills!”

I wish I could work on my real life spacebar skills. I haven’t ridden since my guest lesson, and I am feeling an itch that a powder won’t fix. It’s been unseasonably warm, but it’s been very wet. So wet, I would not be able to get my tractor to my arena to drag it. I can’t even remember the last time it was dragged.

Now, keep in mind I can still only do this on the weekends. Most of my week looks like this:

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Don’t worry, traffic was at a standstill, therefore allowing the picture to be taken safely.

My opportunities for riding during the week are slim to none. Occasionally, we have a holiday. But then it’s cold and it rains, or snows. It’s been a mostly mild January, but usually it’s mild during the week – those times when I need to be at work. I like my job and my company, so I’m not complaining about that aspect. I just need some telework, or it needs to get sunny again, and stay sunny until like 7pm.

Recently, we had a company event, and due to the hours, I decided to stay in the city. I stayed with my friend and got a reminder of apartment living. I can see why people would live in a stacked column of housing, especially when work is mere minutes away, as well as an entire mall an elevator ride away. Although we are a bit older than the last time I was living in an apartment, so we weren’t exactly snacking on ramen.

Salmon!? I distinctly asked for lobster frittala!
A free salmon dinner?! Ugh! I distinctly asked for lobster!

I also did some fine arts and crafts. Who knew I was so talented at the pipe cleaners?

Only $1600 on my etsy store!
Only $160 on my etsy store! Act now, and I’ll throw in used play doh I’ve collected in my travels. 

I’m basically waiting for to get more free time. Eventually, I’ll be able to ride during the week again… I’ll start taking a lesson every week again… and keep advancing. It’s just another period of life where I have to accept that not riding now will benefit me in the future, career-wise. The waiting isn’t so fun though.

I’m brainstorming some ideas to get Berry working again while I’m at work, none of which sound appealing, financially. But, it could end up extremely beneficial to send Berry to a trainer for a few months until I get more time.

Or I could install some arena lights. I kind of like that idea. What I don’t like is the thought of doing anything on my mud slick of a pasture.

On the positive side, since I’ve been stuck inside on the weekends, I decided to seriously tackle redecorating my house. Before and after pictures to come!

Good job to all of you that make the riding/work/life balance work. One day, I will be among you.

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Cruising Part 3: More Island Photos

Because it’s hard to get people to come over and look at my scrapbooks, here it is in digital form to be forced upon you.

St. Thomas
The Harbor at St. Thomas

This picks up from my earlier complaints about my cruise, and then my post on how amazing flamingos at the zoo are.

St. Thomas

The next cruising stop was St. Thomas, in the American Virgin Islands.

american virgin islands
Lots of wild iguanas all around the port. My farrier says they taste like chicken.

Because I’m collecting National Park passport stamps, I had booked us an excursion to go to St. Johns, where the national park is.

american virgin islands
The holy grail of National Park passport stamps.

We disembarked the cruise ship, and immediately got on the ferry for a 40 minute boat ride over. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong side of the boat to sit on, so while the guide told us about different areas of the coast as we passed, we saw this:

We passed the time by inventing names for the random islands we could barely see.
We passed the time by inventing names for the random islands we could barely see, like “No one wants to live there Island”, and “Do you think there’s a freshwater spring on that island Island?” We can not be trusted to come up with decent names for islands.

We passed over the exact spot where the Carribean Ocean becomes the Atlantic Ocean. The water became shallow and clear enough to see to the bottom. It was actually a very neat spot. Unfortunately, my pictures did not capture the brilliance of the spot, and they look exactly like every other ocean photo in existence, so they will not be included.

St. Johns
The harbor at St. Johns

The guide described St. Johns as the Beverly Hills of the AVI. The average price of a home is $1.4m. This crushed our fleeting dream of just staying on the island and never returning home.

Once we were docked, we unloaded for the next part of our tour – a guided bus tour of the island. This tour was a reinforcement of not having enough time in any of these places. It was just a tiny nibble of an island that contains so much more. I would have liked to have gone on the beach, hiked in the National Park, and explored the ruins, but nooooo, I have to be back on my boat.

st. johns virgin island
The beach that I can look at, but have no time to enjoy. What a tease. (also, not a bruise on my arm, there was paint or grease on the bus that rubbed off on me)
national park
A mere glimpse of the ruins of the plantation.

We passed by the beaches, the vacation rentals, and a resort, and they all look exactly as beautiful, rustic and perfect as you’d expect an island that 80% national park to be. We were told there were wild donkeys, but I did not see any in person. Later on the ferry ride back to the dock, I befriended a woman from another cruise ship, and she showed me the pictures she took with a wild donkey. It looked highly annoyed by her presence, with a nasty, pinned eared expression, so maybe they aren’t too friendly. I did see free roaming cattle on the side of the road, though. Everything I saw of the island was tropical forest with no open land, so I guess their pasture is the shoulder of the roads.

Our tour ended, and we had a little bit of time to explore the harbor town. Naturally, I flocked towards the stray chickens that wander the streets.

wild chicken
I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without their motives being questioned.

As the chickens got sick of me following them, we moved on to one of the best parts of visiting a tropical island – sampling the local alcohol. First, we all got frozen drinks. The vendor was a tiny shop right on the street with a huge selection of flavors. She had a full menu of her creative offerings, but there was also the option to create your own. I could have been adventurous, but I know what I like – Miami Vice, which is pina colada mixed with strawberry daqurri. But, I did have her throw in pineapple, and that was a risk that paid off deliciously.

After finishing those, we decided to be adventurous and headed to a bar down the road. The sign was offering 16 oz drinks, and we thought that sounded like a good value. Unfortunately, that was a risk that did not pay off, as my brother-in-law and myself both ended up with horrible stomach pains from too much alchohol or sugar or both. Dave was oddly completely fine.

Luckily we managed to schedule our sickness far enough in advance of the ferry leaving that we were both fine moments before we left the dock. That would have been a horrible trip back otherwise.

Feeling fine on the ride back!
Feeling fine on the ride back!

We picked a way better spot on the return trip and were able to appreciate the tour. The guide, a California boy who wore no shoes, entertained us the entire ride. My favorite story was about when he had first moved here. He had been excited to learn that you can actually drink and drive at the same time. One day, he decided to drive down to the beach, so he ripped off his shirt, hopped in his car, popped open a beer and started driving. Not long after he started driving, a cop pulled him over. He protested when the officer walked up, saying it was legal to drink and drive. But, it turned out the officer had actually pulled him over because he wasn’t wearing a shirt. That was the illegal part. The cop held his beer while he signed the ticket, and then he held the cop’s beer while the cop signed it.

st. thomas harbor
A fort at the entrance to a harbor. There was a chain connected from this fort to one on the other side of the entrance. If someone they don’t like tries to come into the harbor, they raise up the chain! Now, this fort collects water that the wild donkeys drink, and can be accessed by a hiking trail.

St. Maartins

The very next day, we went on our last excursion – “Kayak and Snorkeling Adventure”. I’ve been snorkeling (I’m actually a certified scuba diver), but I’ve never been kayaking before. It was described as being “strenuous”, and that sounded perfect. I was craving a lot of activity!

I did not bring my camera on this trip because I assumed it would get either wet or sandy. Based on how I looked afterward, I would say that was a good decision to make. But, luckily my sister in law brought her underwater camera! An underwater camera is now a must have for all future water excursions. (Side note: I already have one… I just didn’t bring it on this trip. Foolish decision!)

excursion
Setting out on our kayak adventure!

We now know that it is super hard to steer a two man kayak. I thought it would be like paddling in a canoe. This is not the case (then I guess we’d just be canoeing, and not kayaking!).  We smashed into lots of other kayaks as we tried to figure out this kayaking situation.

The sad part about this excursion turned out to be that we were literally only kayaking to the next beach over. It was a disappointedly short kayak adventure.

kayaking2
But, we did make it, so success! 

We landed our boats and secured them, and then it was time to snorkel. Even though I love the water, I’m a huge baby about actually getting in the water, so I had a brief mental struggle before I finally went in. The sight of everyone else leaving the beach, swimming away and abandoning me, was great encouragement in getting moving. I waded in, cringing at the freezing water, but turned out I got used to it quickly, and it was very pleasant.

underwater picture
Ahhh, cool pleasant water!

We were all given life preservers to hang on to. Being in the water is second nature to me (thanks, years of forced swim team!), so at first I thought they were treating us like a bunch of babies. I wanted to be offended, but having been around lots of people who claim they are expert riders after a single tourist trail ride, I see where they are coming from. But, the life preservers had a second reason: Lots of boats go by, and it helps us be seen by the boats, and therefore not be run over and mauled with propeller blades. I do enjoy living to see another day.

I was having sooooooo much fun. I can’t believe I have gone so long without going snorkeling. Our little group ended up being the last group still out in the reef, and that had it’s benefit. The guide who was snorkeling with us found me a sea urchin to hold. He set it on my hand and I could feel its little tentacle shifting around. After a minute or so, he told me to tip it off my hand back in the water. I tipped my hand over, and the sea urchin was stuck to my hand. It had suctioned on to me. We all had a laugh, and then the guide graciously peeled the little guy off me. I was afraid of damaging him.

The guide told us the light colored sea urchins are harmless, but the black ones had spines on them. Don’t touch them.

seaurchin
The sea urchin and me. Also, our snorkeling guide (he’s shy). 

We headed back to the beach, and kayaked back. This time, Dave and I got the hang of it, and we shot through the water. If it was a race, we would have won. We were right behind the guide in getting back to our beach. We have decided that we both really like kayaking, and we’re going to find a way to keep doing it back in Virginia.

The excursion ended with a run drink. As all excursions in the Caribbean should! Then, it was back to being imprisoned on the boat for two whole days for the journey back to Ft. Lauderdale. It cemented in my mind that I really just want to spend time on the islands. Next time, I’m flying here straight here, and skipping the middle man. Instead of being stuck on the boat, I’m going to use all that time for hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling. And drinking rum. Obviously.

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Happy New Year!

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Yay! A new year is upon on! It’s time to make plans, and set some goals!

I didn’t do great with my riding goals this year, which I’m directly blaming on working different hours. Also, the changing of the amount of light in the days…you know that thing that the earth does when it changes its position, and then the time of sunlight becomes less. That thing the earth does every year when it decides to ruin my life. But I will also quietly admitt I have a lack of motivation, and that’s really why I haven’t ridden a lot.

I haven’t been reaching my blogging goals. Since I haven’t been riding, I haven’t had much to talk about. I could make posts every day about how my horses are standing in the pasture, but how many times would it take me of making identical posts until people stopped tuning in?

So, with the new year, comes new goals. And since I don’t have new horse pictures, here’s a bunch of pictures from New Year’s Eve, which I would have posted anyway, but including my goals makes it horse related, even if it’s not. Now it’s like two posts mushed together, like a platter of beans with a platter of rice, making it the perfect protein, or post. Something like that.

Standing in front of a tree with my* woman. *Totally independent and self sufficient modern woman.
Standing in front of a tree with my* woman. We have matching leg slits. 
*Totally independent and self-sufficient modern woman. But also my second date (first being the man I am married to.)

I want to fix up my property. I’ve never posted a tour of my property because there isn’t really anything to it. It’s way more fun to have the mystery of what it could be, as opposed to what it actually is. It’s a field, cut in half, and a tiny 2/3 stall barn. I leveled out an area for an arena. That’s it. I’ve been wanting to expand it for the years I’ve lived here. I want to clear out my woods for more pasture, I want my barn to have an actual grooming/wash stall, also, another actual stall. Pony lives in a converted aisle. As in, it’s actually the aisle to the two stalls, but Pony lives there.

I can't believe we all fit in this selfie! Also that Dave took a selfie!
I can’t believe we all fit in this selfie! Also that Dave took a selfie!

I need lights. Not only to be able to ride after I get home from work, but also because it’s dark and I’m afraid one day I’ll run into a bear. There are bears around here, one time I saw one on the road. Fun fact, there’s bears in something like 99% of Virginia. Even if you don’t see them, they are there, ready to investigate your trash and rummage through your personal belongings, judging what they find.

Ideally, with my set up, I’d have the lights for the arena, and then a second set of not so bright lights mounted on the same posts, because that’s the path I take down to the barn.

Pack mule or all our belongings, or as he preferred to call it, a "pack-ass".
Pack mule of all our belongings, or as he preferred to call it, a “pack-ass”. But he is wearing a beautiful tiara. Another man even commented on how much he liked Dave’s tiara. 

Inside my house, I’d like to firstly finish the bathroom renovation I started two years ago. A very kind friend ripped down our old gross bathroom to the studs, and then I installed new flooring, new sinks, painted the walls…and that’s it. It can be used as an unfinished powder room. The shower need tiling, the new mirrors and lights need to be hung, and I already don’t like the color I painted the walls, so I need to redo that.  I think it’s about time I finally finished that bathroom. This time my parents seem like they’d be willing to guide me, so I won’t be doing it blindly. Thank goodness, it’s hard to renovate when I don’t know what to do!

I don't remember what was going on here.
I don’t remember what was going on here, but it’s probably because she has beautiful hair.

I’d really like to renovate my kitchen, but I feel like that’s getting pricey. All these things are sounding pricey, actually. Why is everything so expensive!?

On a note of more pricy things, I want to take more vacations. I love traveling, but I’ve been afraid of planning out trips. I am a cowardly traveler. My farrier, who is super awesome in so many ways, tells me about his non-cowardly trips every time he comes. He just got back from Belize. He’s planning to go climb Mt. Washington in January. Yes, he’s going to ice climb a deadly mountain in the winter. Last winter, he almost froze to death. Even though he completed the trail/path/challenge (apparently this is a rock climbing “thing”), almost freezing to death is too close to failure in his mind, so he has to do it again, this time not almost freezing to death. He’s a thrill seeker.

He regularly goes to Iceland, he’s been to Mongolia (we discussed this one in length after my post about it), and he got beat up in Russia. He’s run with the bulls in Spain multiple times. He’s my traveling hero (although I’m not a danger seeker). I’m going to do an interview with him and post it some time because he is fascinating.

I want to go see the world! It’s going to happen. This is a high priority item, and I will wait no longer. It will only happen if I make it happen, so time to make some happening, happen.

A minute until the ball drop!
A minute until the ball drop!

There’s a reason I left my riding goals to the end. I love my horses, and I love riding, but I need to accomplish some non-riding items. Horses will always be in my life, but I want fulfillment in many aspects, which means my competitive goals are going to take a backseat. Competing is fun and challenging, but I just love riding. I don’t want to be spending money at shows when it feels like there are a million other things I want to spend money on. Horses will always be there, and horse shows will always be there. I would like to compete at one show this year, but I don’t mind at all if I don’t even do that. My focus would more be getting my horses out and exposing them to situations as an aid in making them trustworthy and broke, but I can take them to trails, or other social events for that.

But, I do want to ride and take more lessons. I want to be taking regular lessons, and improving. Even if I’m not competing, I want to be doing 2’9″ courses with Berry at the end of the year. I want to have the skills to be able to ride an equitation style course with her. Even if I’m not competing, I am serious about improving. I had so much (painful) fun the other night, I want more!

About 4 minutes after the ball drop, this couple is still making out. My selfie game isn't that great, so it took mutiple tries to get this picture, and they were still there, making out. I'm not saying you shouldn't make out with your SO in a crowded ballroom for several minutes by the doorway as people try to leave, but I am saying that if you do, you might have people taking photos.
About 4 minutes after the ball drop, this couple is still making out. My selfie game isn’t that great, so it took multiple tries to get this picture, and they were still there, making out. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make out with your SO in a crowded ballroom for several minutes without coming up for air, but I am saying that if you do, people will probably notice, and they might take pictures. Maybe even just because they are amazed by the lack of needing air.

I also want to ride more cross country. I feel like I only got a taste earlier this year, and I need more. They were only tiny jumps, but it was so much fun, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought. (Much of what I’ve learned about riding this year amounts to: That wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.)

Something that is as scary as it seems: Karaoke. First time I've done it, and probably the last. We did "Spice Up Your Life" by Spice Girls. Clearly the best possible choice. After the ball drop, everyone wanted to do karaoke, and this room was packed. My main take away is Journey and Backstreet Boys are the hits to get the room going.
Something that is as scary as it seems: Karaoke. This is from a video that will never see the light of day. First time I’ve done it, and probably the last. We did “Spice Up Your Life” by Spice Girls. Clearly the best possible choice. After the ball drop, everyone wanted to do karaoke, and this room was packed. My main take away is Journey and Backstreet Boys are the hits to get the room going.

It all works together though – The renovation of the barn and pastures will help me immensely with progressing my riding skills. If it is easier to take care of the horses, and easier to do things at night, that will equal more riding time in the long run. I just need to make the most of my time to package in all the things I want to do. Also, maybe win the lottery. But I’m not counting on that one.

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Cruising, Part 2: The Bahamas

This was our first stop. We only had from 7am to 1:30pm to explore. We had no excursions planned, we simply walked off, and starting looking around town. There are many shops right by the pier, from the straw market and tourist souvenirs to high-end luxury brands, screaming out their “Duty-free” status.

One of the main streets. They were setting up for the Junkanoo Carnival.
One of the main streets. They were setting up for the Junkanoo Carnival. 

There’s a public beach about a 10-minute walk from there, and as we weren’t sure where else to go, we headed there.

beach
The beach, featuring the type of boat I’d much rather sail around the Caribbean.

Junkanoo Beach is a small strip of beach with a few bars and vendors, and people willing to put out seats for us. We declined. It was early, and there was only another couple on the beach, setting up for their day of lounging. We weren’t looking to swim, and were not dressed for it, so we shortly moved on.

 

Exotic attractions, like stairs with no railings!
Exotic attractions by the beach, like stairs with string for a railing!

We really had no plan, so I decided we were going to to go the zoo. The men, having no better ideas, followed.

I felt like a very experienced traveler, as we walked down the street, frantically looking for a taxi. We all turned and stared at every car that drove by. Eventually, my step-brother-in-law managed to flag down a bus. As he was in a parking lot, and the bus was at least 30 yards away, driving down the street, it was impressive he managed to flag it. For $1.50 each, we took a ride over to Ardastra Zoo.

Since it was still early, we got there before the zoo opened. Luckily, they had a convient bench outside for us to wait on.

 

benchseat
This is the infamous bench. Sorry I’m blocking the view. 

Eventually, the zoo opened. Inside, we were greeted by lots of exotic birds on perches.

The evilest bird that kept trying to attack me when I was trying to get a picture.
The evilest bird that kept trying to attack me when I was trying to get a picture. He’s not a fan of tourists.

With the exception of evil parrot, the animals here pose for photos. Every cage we went up to, the animals came over to strike up some poses for us. Are they somehow trained to do this? Why else would they all want their photos taken?

animal
It looks just like my dog!
The most beautiful and noble bird.
The most beautiful and noble bird. 

We made our way around the zoo, but once we saw the food vendor, we had to stop. They had the most delicious homemade popsicles. They had bits of fruit on them, and they were amazing. A bit pricey at $4.50 each, but I would buy one again. As we were standing there, a white peacock came strolling by, out for its morning walk.

whitepeacock
“Top of the morning to you!”

Despite the loose parrots, this was when we actually realized that there are loose animals at this zoo. There were two other green peacocks, and a big flock of flamingos just casually hanging out.

standing with flamingos

We mingled with all the birds, and ooohed and ahhed over the other animals.

capybara
This is a Capybara, the world’s largest rodent. I don’t think the picture can show the full scale of the size of this thing. It was huge! 

After viewing all the animals, we decided to head back to town to get some conch. But first, we stopped back at the vendor and bought rum punch, because buying mixed drinks at the zoo is a thing in the Bahamas.

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Dramatic foliage filled walkway.

We had to walk from the zoo back to a main street because taxis do not come by the zoo regularly. We caught another bus, and although we discussed getting the van driver to give us a tour of the Bahamas, we decided against it. But know if you do go there, you don’t need to book the tour excursion from the ship, all taxi drivers are required to go through some kind of tourism class to learn enough about the island to give tours.

Back in town, we decided to seek out the Bahamian special, Conch. This is basically the animal that lives in those big conch shells. There are many resturants that offer it, we decided to go with The Bearded Clam, because I was with 3 males, and it made them giggle.

bahamas alley

conch
Fried conch

They ordered both fried conch, and conch balls (cue more giggles). Everyone was very happy with the conch, and they were having 2 for 1 Bahama Mamas, so we were doubly happy.

We made our way back to the ship slowly, stopping at other bars who were also doing 2 for 1 Bahama Mamas. We finally stopped when our stomachs were hurting from the excessive sugar. Ah well, we don’t get very long in the Bahamas anyway…

I was going to make this one post, but it got too long, as I had too many pictures I wanted to share. Next up, more beautiful paradise islands!

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Cruising, Part 1

Despite my earlier stance that cruises are terrible and I’ll never go on another one, I ended up on another cruise. Except I justify this by saying that it was (mostly) paid for, and Dave’s entire family was going on it. It was a family reunion of sorts.

We were booked on the largest cruise ship in the world, the Titanic. Just kidding, it was Harmony of the Seas. But we were told so much that it was the largest cruise ship in the world, I felt like we were going to be hitting an iceberg, or small island. Good thing the water is warm, so instead of freezing to death, we’ll just all be eaten by sharks.

cruise ship
Docked in St. Thomas, in the American Virgin Islands.
Lined up with other cruise ships. It's the big one, on the left.
Lined up with other cruise ships. It’s the big one, on the left.

The islands were fun, but being on this ship has not changed my opinion that being on a cruise ship is like being locked in a hotel. This time, it was like a hotel/mall, but pretty much the same. If you like being locked in hotels and malls, cruise ships are the perfect vacation. If not, well, probably should pick another place to vacation.

My favorite part of cruising is definitely eating in the fancy dining room. We ate there almost every night, and I like that it’s like eating at a fancy restaurant, except I don’t have to pay anymore than I already paid to be on this ship. I ordered delicious tender beef in various forms every single night, and I tried escargot, except I’m not classy, so I just call it snail. It was weird and chewy, but I’m still alive so I rate it a 3/5, so-so, would eat again if I was starving at a fancy French restaurant. I also like dressing up, so formal nights are fun for me.

Formal night 1. Obviously spent with Puss in Boots.
Formal night 1. Obviously spent with Puss in Boots.
Formal night 2
Formal night 2, because I’ll be damned if I’m paying $20 for an official photo.

We signed up to go to every show. Some of them were a bit mind boggling.

Columbus! The Musical, included sharks and dancing cheeseburgers.
Columbus, The Musical! included sharks and dancing cheeseburgers.

It was amusing and featured lots of modern, popular songs. The plot went all over the place.

Life raft of backup singers.
Life raft of backup singers.

There was an ice skating rink on board, and they also had a show put to popular songs. It was like watching a music video on ice.

"Hit me with your best shot", or something similar.
“Hit me with your best shot” included actual hitting.

There was a second ice show, 1887, but I had trouble following the plot. A woman somehow got trapped in some kind of time warp which took her into space and under the sea. That’s about as much as I could figure out.

Other than shows, they had some activities on ship to help you through the long stretches at sea.

minigolf
Mini golf occupied at least an hour.
That's about as high as I got.
That’s as high as I got.

Later, I shocked myself by going in the pool and going down a slide. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a pool. The pool space was incredibly crowded, and I got bumped into the whole time. Other than that, it was fun.

The real fun was in visiting the islands. That’s coming up next.

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Day of the Dead Gala

Well, it’s about time I posted about this! It took place November 4th… that was quite a while ago. Almost feels like years ago at this point… But I am trying to play catch up here, so here we are.

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And here we are standing in front of a picture of a staircase.

This is the super amazing bloggers Shelby and D’Arcy, and additionally my lovely, wonderful friend who is not a blogger, but has been sneakily featured probably more times than she’d actually like… if she noticed… Not sure yet if she’s noticed.

We all went to the Day of the Dead Gala in D.C. at the Mexican Cultural Center (aka, Mexican Embassy space), where there was wine, Corona, and tequila. There was also food, but I forgot to eat, so I don’t know what there was. Which is a shame, because Mexican food is amazing, and was kind of one of the reasons I decided to go. I’m sure it was amazing though.

We had a great debate about if we should paint our faces. An attempt was made, with unsatisfactory results. I was too lazy to put the temporary day of the dead face tattoos (or really, I didn’t want to pay rush shipping on it, since I only found it days before), so we pretty much just went as ourselves. Except for that masked stranger we found. Who was that mysterious woman!?

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It was quite festive!

So, funny story with my dress. And by funny, I mean more like… slightly interesting to quite boring. I have a bit of a dress obsession, and an ever growing collection, but despite this, I didn’t like any of them for Day of the Dead. Instead, I found this lovely Halston Heritage dress, which qualified for Day of the Dead because it had stripes, so I felt it had a kind of “Tim Burton” quality to it.  Sidenote: Do not like Tim Burton movies. I find them weird, creepy, and not amusing. But I’m fairly sure someone wore stripes at some point, hence, kind of gothic, hence Day of the Dead. It totally makes sense.

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We both are wearing Halston Heritage dresses, and not even on purpose….except where we both purposely bought them. But we didn’t coordinate this effort.

Anyway, though, being the cheapest collector of unneeded evening gowns ever, I noticed that if I bought the dress in a size 12, it was $100 cheaper than the size I would have normally have worn. I decided to take that as a challenge. I bought the size 12 mere days from the event. Once it got here, I spent about an hour tailoring it. And, to be honest and not at all humble, I think I did a damn good job, especially as a complete novice to such things. I certainly could have made it look much more terrible.

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Masked woman is sassin’ us.

Hurrah for mediocre sewing skills! Still have to work on my hair curling skills, though. One of these days, everything will fall into place.

One of these days, I’ll have something horse-related to say. It’s cold now and I have to put a heater in my water trough, the horses need blankets. I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll just say it. Okie dokie, see you then!

Feel free to enter yourself in to win a year’s supply of onions. Apparently onions are in high demand.

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Virginia Fall Gold Cup

In the midst of being super busy, I managed to get some horse fun in. Last Saturday was the fall edition of the Virginia Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is located at Great Meadow, which is also the location of this fabulous event. I did not check how many of the cross country jumps are still up, but someone much wiser than I said they are. Hopefully, this means they will continue to host lots and lots of things.

I was informed by my neighbor that Fall Gold Cup is for the locals. She has lived here for longer than I’ve been alive, so I’ll trust her on this. Spring Gold Cup is when all the DC dwellers descend upon our land, like a flock of tropical birds in their bright dresses, heels, and copious amounts of cleavage. At Fall Gold Cup, the locals resemble fluffy pheasants, bundled up in tweeds and plaids, with some toned down accents.

Actual local attending Fall Gold Cup.

And if you’re super classy, you wear a hat. I unfortunately forgot mine, so I was just sort of classy.

Stolen selfie of super sophisticated blogger ladies, Shelby and D'Arcy. Also, I squeezed in there.
Stolen selfie of super sophisticated blogger ladies, Shelby and D’Arcy. Somehow I managed to squeeze in there.

Bright blue suit = DC Dweller! Not a local!

It was super windy, which ruined my carefully crafted hair in about a minute, and a few ladies had the wind pick up their hats and carry them on course. Luckily Shelby’s was super glued on there, although she would have had someone to rescue it, had she lost it.

A hero who never balks at a challenge, like running out in front of racehorses to rescue a hat.
The Hat Retriever. Heroes come in all forms.

We had excellent cider mimosas, where are basically exactly like regular mimosas, except with cider instead of orange juice. Try it, it is soooooo good.

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Taking the super long spot. 

There were a few rounds of steeplechase racing, and then they removed some of the jumps and did some flat racing. You may be wondering on what authority do I presume to talk about horse racing…and that would be none. I am not even going to pretend I know about racing. I know nearly nothing, except the horses are so pretty to watch, and I love horses, especially thoroughbreds. I want to take them all home with me.

I have zero commentary on any of these. Enjoy these mostly in silence.

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Aw man, how am I supposed to compete with a pro photographer, feet from the horse?! I hope you can continue to enjoy the sad, blurry photos I do have.
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#5…. poor, poor #5. 🙁

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At this point, read no further unless you’re prepared to be sad.

Unfortunately, tragedies do happen. One horse, #5 fell on course, and it was serious. I have photos of the actual fall, but I feel like it would have seemed callous to post them.

The horses raced by, and I hadn’t even noticed something had gone wrong until I saw a jockey walking. Then I realized a horse was down. Then I realized it wasn’t getting up.

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While we were still there, we thought the horse had fallen, hurt itself too badly, and was put down, but since then, I found this article. It was a freak accident, but they didn’t put the horse down, he sadly had some kind of issue, and died of natural causes, so to speak. Although autopsy result is still pending.

My friend’s mom on member’s hill didn’t even know it had happened. They didn’t announce anything, it was just up to us to look through the photos I had, talk to others and piece together what had happened. The horse had gone over the jump, stumbled and thrown the jockey, continued on before falling, rising, ending up by the rail somehow, and then falling a final time.

It’s easy to think of a racehorse as just a work animal, or an income maker, but we saw the people who loved that horse. His groom went by, tears streaming down her face. The jockey went by, a lock of tail clutched in his hand, his face distraught. They had loved that horse, trained it, pampered it, gave him kisses. And in a moment, he was gone. Read the article and see exactly the life he gave to his people.

It doesn’t sound like it could have been prevented, and isn’t anyone’s fault it happened. It’s just one of those things that can happen.I don’t know his people, nor did I know this horse, but I sympathize with them. He was a beautiful horse, and seemed to give a lot of people joy.

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A minute before tragedy.

I don’t want to down grade the fun of Gold Cup, but it would have seemed disrespectful to talk about it and not mention this beautiful horse. Hopefully there’s a horsie heaven, and he’s up there romping in green pastures.

In other, non-sad news, although not really happy news, hopefully, I’ll be able to get out and ride my own horses soon. Recently I’ve ended up being super busy. I’m thinking about possibly putting Berry in training for the winter, but I’m undecided on this. I may end up just being a weekend warrior for a while. Just gotta do the best I can!

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Creating a Scene at the Embassy of Italy

On Friday night, Dave, my friend K, and I went to the Embassy of Italy in DC for a Venetian Ball. Finally, an excuse to wear a ball gown!

And then awkwardly dance around, as I often do.
And then awkwardly dance around, as I often do.

It was a fun, and interesting night. I’ll get to the most interesting part in a minute though…

We had VIP tickets, which entitled us to arrive early for a champagne reception and have dinner there. The food was amazing! They had a huge amount of food, but my favorite was the pickled squash, and tortellini alfredo. My favorite desert was an amazingly delicious vat of tiramisu. It was an open bar all night, and we stuck to the Moscato, which was the best I have ever had. I didn’t actually have that much, about a glass and a half total (or four of their tiny shot glasses), which is important for later in the story.

En route to the ball
En route to the ball

After dinner, there was a ballroom dancing lesson, but being the painfully shy little wallflowers we are, we only participated off to the side, where no one could see us.

The music was beautiful, lots of classical, live opera singing, and then after my incident (detailed below) Mannheim Steamroller. Figures they’d play it when I didn’t feel like dancing anymore!

It was a masquerade ball, so about half of the attendees were wearing masks. I was planning to make K and I masks, but I dunno, I never got around to it. Another guest told us he got his mask at Party City. I suppose we could have done the same, if I’d thought about it.

I have really been feeling the itch to make a video, and now, I have done it. I edited a video, and now it is ready for watching. Behold:

And that’s why I’ll never use YouTube’s stabilizing again… ugh the quality was way better before! I do hope you like the video though, it was fun to make, and I want to make more!

The point where that video ends is when we are going into the theatre to see an opera singer perform. Everyone crowded in, and our group wedged in along the back wall. The first song was beautiful, and I really enjoyed it, but when the second song started, I really noticed how incredibly hot it was in there. After another few moments, I decided I couldn’t take it, so I slipped out, followed by Dave and K.

I was so hot, I was sweating. I decided just to sit down for a few minutes, and plopped down on the first chair I came to. Dave ran off to get water, and I sat, panting, and sweating. I talked to K for a few minutes, but I don’t even remember what we talked about. After a few minutes, I leaned back in my chair, and I became super light headed, and the room went dark.

Apparently, I fainted, and I was out for about a minute. Dave had returned, and they were trying to get me to drink water, but I wasn’t responding. Dave was lifting my head, and trying to get me to wake up, but I was really out. K said she thought I was dying, and Dave checked to make sure I was still breathing.

Unfortunately, and disgustingly, I apparently vomited all over myself, right before I came too. I woke up (I was even having some kind of dream!), and in addition to Dave and K, random people had come over to help. Two of the other attendees were doctors, and they started getting my pulse and doing checks. Someone started wiping the vomit off me, and that’s when I realized I had vomit on me. It even went in my dress pockets… dress pockets are amazing inventions until they come vessels for vomit. Ugh!

Everyone’s first assumption was that I was drunk, which I wasn’t. I get it, that probably would have been my thought too. But when they found out how much I had drank, and that it had been hours ago, everyone decided it was probably heat stroke.

Another doctor came over, and she started doing checks, and everyone started giving me water. They helped me out on the patio where it was much, much cooler, and they put ice packs on my wrist and neck. One of them brought me a fruit cup, to boost my blood sugar.

All of their quick care made me feel so much better. They had me sitting out on the patio to cool off, but, one of the Italian diplomats had panicked, and called 911. As we were sitting on the patio, Dave and K heard sirens, and they said they really hoped that wasn’t for me. But, sure enough, it was.

The ambulance showed up, with paramedics to look me over. And because it’s Italian soil, the Secret Service showed up, too. I had a huge crowd of people watching me being checked over, and as if my night couldn’t be any more embarrassing, I created an international incident too. Fantastic.

After everyone decided I was healthy, and my information was taken down (probably so I would forever show up on background checks as a trouble maker), we decided to leave. When we got our ride home, our Uber driver asked what was going on there, because the streets were so crowded with emergency personnel, she thought someone had died. Nope, just me making a big scene.

I am totally fine now, by the way. I feel fine, and the multitude of EMT’s and random doctors all thought I was fine. I have no idea what happened, or why it happened really, except that room was warm. It only took me about 5 minutes of being in that room for me to get sick, and no one else got sick. Dave usually overheats, and he was fine in there. I really don’t know what happened.

End on a good note: Still clean and fresh, and K's amazing Halston Heritage dress.
End this post on a good note: Still clean and fresh, and K’s amazing Halston Heritage dress.
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Gentle Harvest Delayed Open Party

We drove into our little town on Saturday to drop our truck off to be fixed (finally, omg!). For a town that consists of one street, it was surprisingly active, and we soon discovered the source: A new market had (sort of) opened.

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I never realized before the vast quantity of power lines. I could have digitally removed them, but then it would be a lie!

But, this is not just any market. This market is owned by Ayrshire Farm, a local organic farm that also owns my favorite restaurant ever, Hunter’s Head Tavern. I’m fairly certain Hunter’s Head is a favorite of everyone in the Middleburg area, but they had a bit of a rocky start, so the rumor goes. The story as I heard it is that when the daughter took over Ayrshire Farm, she decided she didn’t want the foxhunters coming through her property because she felt foxhunting was cruel to the foxes. This cut out a huge section of land the foxhunters used, and they got quite annoyed and refused to patronize her new restaurant. Therefore, the hunters (figuratively) became the hunted: Hunter’s Head.

Official Hunter's Head carriage has been placed here.
Official Hunter’s Head carriage has been placed here.

Ayrshire Farm is a certified organic, certified humane, and 100% amazingly delicious producer of meats, poultry and produce. I’m hardly someone who cares about organic food, but I do care about delicious food, and seriously, their food is so good, I can only imagine they are injecting concentrated happiness and joy into their animals.

A trailer also filled with happiness and joy.
A trailer, also likely filled with happiness and joy.

The sad part about this “opening” was that they actually have not opened yet. They were scheduled to open, but construction delays and a fire has set them behind schedule.

They promised me that this look actually means they are almost done.
They promised me that this look actually means they are almost done.

So instead they will open next Saturday. What a tease! I think they understood that though because they actually had a little party going on to celebrate the almost opening.

Calves partying: YOLO!!!!
Calfs partying: YOLO!!!!

They also had piggies, but piggies aren’t nearly as cute as adorable calves. Also, they were eating literally the whole time we were there. Way to beat the stereotype, little piggies.

Behind the building, they had a tent set up with all sorts of deliciousness inside.

If you are wondering why the tent is empty, it's because this was taken as they were packing up, not when the party happened.
The tent, minus the deliciousness. I didn’t bring my camera initially and had to take photos when we returned later to pick up the truck. Lesson learned: bring camera at all times in case of spontaneous partying. Also, next time dress better than sweatpants, also in case of spontaneous partying. I definitely won the worst dressed award.

They had all sorts of food from Ayrshire Farm. I was especially fond of a little bread cheese puff ball that I feared I would never see again. Luckily I was reassured that all the free food were samples of what would be in the market. They also had an assortment of pastries and sandwiches, but really, it doesn’t get better than cheese and bread, married together in a delicious fuffy ball.

They also had outside vendors that would be present in the market when it opened. There was wine, chocolate, cheese, salsa, some kind of fancy cold coffee, goat cheese pizza, and a fizzy bottled tea. I had a lunch of free samples.

They also had a very nice live band, but I doubt they will be playing in the market all day. I could only appreciate it while I was there.

Memorial stone - We have a lot of Civil War memorials around here, and yet, I haven't seen a single ghost. I'll need a cursed amulet if I want to see some action.
Memorial stone – We have a lot of Civil War memorials around here, and yet, I haven’t seen a single ghost. I’ll need a cursed amulet if I want to see some action.

It was a fun afternoon, and I’m very glad we decided to get the truck fixed that day.

Paxton is deeply concerned that we left without greeting every single person.
Paxton is deeply concerned that we left without greeting every single person.
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Playing Photographer

Every year, my friend and I get photos done. It’s our fall tradition. This year, it was extra special because she is pregnant. We planned for a maternity shoot for her.

Unfortunately, our usual photographer had a last minute scheduling conflict. He’s a really good photographer and a really good guy, so we were sad. But we decided to go through with it anyway, and I took her photos, and her husband took mine. I love taking photos so I was really excited, but she’s my first portrait model, and I was terrified I’d mess up her maternity photos. She could get them redone, but seriously, poor girl is already close to popping, and she’s not going to want to spend much more time traipsing around for photos. They needed to be perfect!

I am actually pretty, super happy with how they turned out. Enough that I asked if I could post them and she said yes.

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I’m so happy with my first portrait photography experience. I can see where I messed up, so now I’ll learn from that, and be better next time.

Now the photos that were taken of us. They were way better at incorporating the scenery into the photo than I was. I’ll have to try harder next time.

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Dave was on a mission to mess up many of the photos. A bunch of them are just him making faces. THANKS A LOT DAVE.

Although our photos are kind of lacking the “Fall” aspect, as there are no leaves changing color, I’m still very happy with them. I’ll be practicing, and hopefully, my photography skills will develop (heh, develop…it’s what we used to have to do if we wanted to see our pictures), and next time will be even better.

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