Friday, December 28, 2012

miss hap, the one-eyed wonder

Did you like my Christmas post? Sounded like our Christmas was right off a picture card, didn't it?
 Well, I tell you this, Christmas Eve at least, wasn't.
Because no one writes Hallmark cards like this
 Happy Christmas!
Your pony(the one you spent all year getting close to and teaching all those tricks) got her head kicked in!
That's how it felt for me, newly returned from playing prelude at both Christmas Candlelight services at my church. A suckerpunch to the throat.

We're not sure exactly how it happened, but Piggy (aka Black Pony) got kicked directly in the eye and surrounding area. Which seems impossible because she is pen pals with only Shyanne and Roanie, and the three of them are inseparable. Which makes me think they were playing around in the new snow and she got in the way of someone's joyful kick.

After spending Christmas Day (the one holiday vets get off... unless there's a life threatening case) in a solitary stall, cleaned up the best we could manage, and bandaged, we took her to the vet first thing Wednesday morning. Her eye was ruptured, and some of the bone that shelters the eye was also chipped and splintered.
 The long and the short of it is that the bone pieces and her eye were removed.
Back home now, she is doing very well, and of all our horses this could have happened too, I believe she'll adjust the best, because she is a very smart and calm pony, and more than that she is brave. If I were to hunt grizzly bears and needed a pack pony, I'd take her.
 With this new chapter  in her life unfolding, she shall need another nickname, since she hasn't been piggy in several months. I'm thinking Miss Hap, or Patch.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

this is christmas

 Soft snows, hot cider. Last minute wrapping and silly smiles of anticipation. A church full of golden candle light....
Stockings full of chocolates and a new paperback adventure to get lost in.
The whole family together, with one tiny, gurgling addition.
This is Christmas.
Happy, happy Christmas to you all

Thursday, December 20, 2012

the old grey mare

(she's not that old, but no one ever wrote a song about a young grey mare)
Meet the latest addition to my fur-friends, a beautiful dapple-grey full blooded Quarter Horse mare of approximately six years, who is in serious danger of being called The Grey Mare for the rest of her life. (Just like The Black Pony and My Kitty.) I personally would like to call her Fia - Celtic for... something - since she has fine features and, let's face it, is grey (never had a grey horse before!) and something about that deserves a somewhat mystical (not exactly the word i'm looking for) name. Somehow I don't think it'll stick.
She has been a broodmare all her life, literally out on the range. The couple who owned her breed Quarter Horses and she was one of their own, born and bred on their place, so she got handled when she was little like all the others. But beyond being halter broke, she's a blank slate. Did I mention that she was six-going-on-seven? Yeah, could make breaking her to ride interesting.
 Still, she's bright and full of potential, and underneath a friendly little gal, just shy and wary from the little human contact she's had while living every horse's dream all wild and free with her pals out on the prairie.
I was out with her yesterday brushing and talking to her, pretty much trying to convince her that I am not the Boogieman, and there was a moment after she settled down and relaxed (we were discussing chickens) where I completely forgot she wasn't broke and actually was making plans to hop on her bareback. I had a grip on her mane and everything and it was only when she took an uncomfortable step back that I realized that this might not be the best idea.
 So, yeah, I chickened out(read: woke up) and probably missed out on a real life Black Stallion moment. oh wells.

  I really can't wait to see how she turns out as a riding horse. She looks very promising.
and have a chicken before you go :)
have a lovely thursday, what's left of it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Destination Charleston: Drayton Hall, day 2

taken from my travel journal
Wednesday, the 10th of October 
part 1
I awoke this morning to a pale skyline pierced by spindling church steeples, and the smell of toasting bagels.
 After a leisurely breakfast of the stuff with large amounts of cream cheese and a few mugs of tea, we began our inspection of the city and surrounding countryside, starting by crossing blue-grey Ashley River to visit Drayton Hall and its lovely grounds.

The gatekeeper was a very nice lady with tortoiseshell specs, who gave us a 'discount' because Little Brother was so cute and warned us not to splash about or throw stones in the waterways and river for fear of alligators.

 On seeing the Hall for the first time as we emerged from the shaded lane into full view of the house and lawns, a single yet potent thought took up firm residence in my mind: I was born in the wrong era.
 Oh, what it would have been like to belong to one of those important families back then..! I'm telling you, my writer's fantasy spinner went into overdrive.

Our tour began with a talk under a wooden shelter a little ways from the gift shop where a lady with a sophisticated drawl gave us and several others an overview of Drayton's history, which began in 1738 when young John Drayton, at 23, purchased the land next to his family's (Magnolia Plantation) believing that he would not inherit as he was the second of two sons.
 He wished Drayton Hall to be a statement of his accumulating wealth and success and I think he very much succeeded.
Prior to the late 1960's when the National Trust bought the plantation for preservation, Drayton Hall remained in the Drayton family. The oldest unmodified plantation house in the United States, it stands alone on the banks of the Ashley as the only authentic survivor of the area's turbulent past. All the other plantation houses in the district were burned to the ground by Union forces during the Civil War. There are several stories and theories given as to why Drayton survived, the most popular being that the head of the house at the time hung out the yellow flags of quarantine (falsely) warning away the soldiers.

Inside the house we were warned not to touch the walls since the last time they were painted (save one room) was in the 1870s-1880s. To put that in perspective: About the height of the British Empire, Queen Victoria, British Occupied India, and the South African war.
the Lawn Entrance
The Hall is unfurnished, I don't recall if they ever told us why exactly, but the immaculate carvings of the woodwork and mantles, plus the amazing moulded plaster ceilings spoke their proud history with a clear enough voice. The grand staircase and the ballroom on the second floor were my favorite places.
The house isn't completely bare of minor detail, either. On the back of a broom cupboard door is actually Union graffiti, the only thing legible the scrawling name Simon.
civil war graffiti
 Also, in one of the family rooms, a curved doorframe made for the perfect place for a growth chart, that dates back to Charles Drayton's (John's son) children or grandchildren. The doorframe is pretty black now for all the marks as the present generation continues the tradition.
servants' stair
 The last member to own the house, a Miss Charlotta, since she had no children, measured her terriers instead in the year 1915. It was she who most firmly requested that the house remained unmodernized when she passed it on in her will to her two nephews who, after only a few short years, sold it to the National Trust to be cared for and preserved as this precious gem of American history deserves.
looking at drayton from the river entranceway 
river entrance 
After our tour of the ballroom and bedrooms, we made our way to the River Entrance. John Drayton insisted that the Hall have no back, but rather two entrances; the River and the Lawn.
Then it was down into the kitchens, a large open place with supports to hold up the great weight of the Hall. The walls and supporting arches dare for the most part just whitewashed plaster, but in some places the plaster has fallen away revealing the red brick muscles of the house.
 It's hard describing the feeling of touching those bricks made from the mud of the Ashley by hands that worked nearly 280 years ago. 280. Two-hundred and eighty years. If that's so hard for me to comprehend, imagine what it will be like when(not if, but when) I go to Europe!
The kitchen hearth is very large; about ten feet in length. The Drayton's were a very influential family and entertained many important guests in their time who would all arrive either by the wooded road like us, or by boat on the Ashley River itself, located perhaps a quarter mile from the River Entrance of the Hall.
On the grounds little remains of the other structures (such as the smithy and greenhouse) besides excavated foundations. However, the privy and the well (a much later aesthetic addition) are still intact.
To the left of the Lawn Entrance (looking from the house) a little ways lies the exquisite reflection pond who's only purpose it to reflect the image of the Hall on its still waters. It was added when they were all the rage in the Victorian period.
 This was by far my most favorite place. It was just perfect to sit under the magnolias and live oaks near the water, and would make the perfect place to come and imagine and write.
 After Sister and I had stood on the bank looking at the reflection of Drayton on the shady waters for a time, we both decided we would need to have reflection ponds for our future mansions, too.
The four of us -- Mum, Sister, LB, and I -- then walked along the marshy banks of the river which was a beautiful color blue that day. But much to LB's and my disappointment, we never saw any gators. :(
 Before we left the plantation, we paused at the Negro cemetery that shelters many generations of Drayton Plantation workers. I personally didn't think the place should open to the public, and felt more than a little intrusive, so we didn't stay long.

We left Drayton with reluctance and rumbling tummies, so it was decided that now would be a good time to try out some real Southern BBQ.
 Sister knew a place on the way home called 'The Home Team' or 'The Team' or something or other. I didn't really catch it, but the sign has a funky-looking pig on it (that should narrow it down - ha).
 It was kind of a loud road house - with blaring old rock'n'roll not-quite-hits and tall barstools, washtub chandeliers (oh yes) and enough Harly Davidson orange paint to make your eyes cross. I'll admit I did pause when I crossed the threshold, this not looking like the kind of place I like to frequent. But as soon as the food was set in front of us I realized we were in good hands. We ate until we were like stuffed toads, and then headed down on the road.

resolve and conquer!

So this is me feeling like a sheepish loser....
 I muchly regret letting my blogging career careen in a downward spiral this year by posting few and far between, and missing completely some great events that have happened that I would like to look back on in detail someday. Because blogging to me has always been about recording (journalling never did fly with me), and more than that, the sharing of thoughts and sometimes struggles that don't always get a sympathetic audience in 'real life' (as in writing. I'm burdened with the bushwhacking enterprise of being the first and only writer in the family. hurray.).
 The reason for my increasingly sporadic posting, perhaps due in part to the fact this year hasn't been particularly kind, I think also is because somehow my mind has warped sitting down and designing a post into something oozing green and loathsome. Case in point: finally getting round to writing up my Charleston trip. I was supposed to write all those up and schedule them to post automatically throughout the week, but as you can see that didn't quite happen. *facepalm

 Having now looked at my problems and shortcomings in the face, I wish to resolve them, and that means a change is in order.
 I have less time about myself nowadays (mostly because I have two new family members! A nephew, which you know about, and a dapple grey mare, which you don't. yet.) so I move to have shorter but more frequent posts. And not all of them have to hold coherent meaning :)
 The posts I like reading best on other blogs are the ones with pictures that tell a story and a little blerg of words at the bottom that end with a Happy Monday!, or whatever the day happens to be. And that, I have decided, is what I want to be more like. I think it will be more enjoyable not only to write, but for others (including my future self) to read as well.

 So here's to the defibrillation of A Celtic Cowgirl,  and a future full of words and pictures.
 happy monday!

p.s. The Charleston posts will go ahead as planned as I have long told various friends and family members that I would have a place where they can read about it and see the pictures all in one place.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Destination Charleston: Departure & Arrival

taken from my travel journal - oct. 8th 2012
The day began at 5:30am, cold and dark. I said my last good byes to my (disgruntled at being woken to early) dogs, then loaded the bags into the car and shoved off.
 Apprehension, snow, excitement, and the overpowering smell of instant (bleck) coffee hung in the air.
 Litte Brother promptly fell asleep on his mountain of travel pillows and blankets while Mum and Da chatted like being conscious at a quarter to six is no big deal.
 I spent the majority of the long drive to the airport praying that flying would not make ill. A reasonable petition that was (praise be!!) answered, I'm very happy to say.
This really is a trip of firsts for LB and I:

  • First time on a plane
  • First time out of the Midwest
  • Our first real vacation (too name just a few of the things)
We only had to go through airport security once the entree journey, I was glad to learn, and it wasn't half as trouble some as a lot of people made it out to be. Yes, you have to place your shoes, coat, and bags in bins on a conveyer belt and walk like socked zombies through a metal detector, but really that's it. My biggest crisis during the ordeal was knocking over the tower of bins, making the loudest look-at-ME! crash in history. I kept apologizing to the people behind me and restacked the beastly things as fast as I could.
 We said goodbye to Da from a distance and were then herded down a cold corridor onto our small plane.
 Our first flight from A to B was fun and exciting. The feeling of your guts and brain compressing is quite extraordinary. LB and I spent most of the time staring out the tiny window and marveling at the landscapes below and the clouds above.
 Halfway through our hour long flight, Mum ordered us all tea and biscuits from the trolly pushed by the flight attendant with red bobbed hair and an apron.
We landed in snowy, bleak Minneapolis and emerged from the gate into what can only be described as The Rat Race. A hitherto unknown amount (to we country bumpkins) of people dressed in business suits walking briskly to and fro, always on their iPhones and seemingly blind to the three of us being trampled underfoot.
 We thought we hand an hour between flights so Mum left LB and I to fend for ourselves and stake out some seats in the terminal while she dashed off to the restroom. Three minutes later I spied the screen that had our flight info listed on it, and, in appallingly bold letters: BOARDING 10 MINUTES.
 In vain LB and I looked in the direction Mum had gone in hopes that she'd reappear. Finally, when the time had ticked down to THREE MINUTES and still no mother, I told LB to sit tight and dashed off to find her, the thought briefly crossing my mind that by the time we returned LB would've a) wandered off (because that's what boys do), b)been kidnapped by the creep three seats down with the greasy hair, or c) we all would miss our flight.
I found the restroom easily enough but, to my horror, also a queue as long as the I imagine the one in Egypt was when the Hebrews grabbed their carpetbags and said 'Cheerio!' to their kohl-eyed pals.
 I felt the sinking feeling of Jonah (as long as we're using Biblical references). But all was not lost as I shoved passed the masses (many who called out to me telling me I had to wait my turn like everyone else) and luckily found Mum drying her hands. With little time for explanations I grabbed her sleeve and we legged it for the gate, grabbed LB(as yet un-kidnapped) and the bags and..... waited forever in line while the Specials got to take there sweet time boarding. It completely defies logic that they, who the the nice seats at the front of the plane get to board first. Besides working backwards, I'm sure they don't like being buffeted by the poor peoples luggage as each and every one of them files past in the too-small aisle.
 We got to buffet a lot of people since we boarded next to last and were placed in the very last row -- you know the one: next to the lavs and the flight attendants. No window, either. To make matters worse this was our longest flight. When they remembered us we got fed peanuts (that would give anyone kidney failure because of the salt content) and coke.
 In Atlanta we got our first glimpse of the South with accents and big hair galore. My word, it was just like walking into a film the way some of those gals talked! LB and I had to stuff our hankies in our mouths.
 We had quite a distance between gates and so got to ride two trains and an escalator to our last flight.
The landing in Charleston was quite rough, and for the first time I felt a little queazy. But it might also have had something to do with surviving on biscuits and peanuts all day and the in-tranzit trivia game (which I ruled!). But before the queasiness could evolve into something sinister, we arrived!
We were met by Oldest Sister outside in the balmy hour of sunset and LB and I got to see our first palmetto. Totally sacked we went 'home' to Sister's apartment and gathered round a pot of chicken soup, tea, and an episode of Mythbusters. After that I was no longer conscious.
 Thus ended Day One.

Friday, December 7, 2012

welcome to the world, my dear

I'm officially an aunt. Ha! What an extraordinary feeling.
Dear Baby,
I confess that I was tad apprehensive meeting you, or, more correctly, holding you for the first time.
 You must have sensed this as your mother handed you over to me in that tiny hospital room with the ugly yellow curtains, because you opened your color-undecided eyes just long enough to look up at me and give me the best Winston Churchill impression I've ever seen.
 But really, do try and understand. Prior to you, my experience with children and infants could be summarized in a single word: None. Having always favored interaction with the more hairy or feathery or scaly varieties of baby than my own kind, it seems. So bear with me when you see the terror in my eyes when I am left alone with you. Because you make so many different faces and weird noises that I'm never sure if you're fine or in some mortal peril or you're just messing with me. I have a feeling it's the latter. Either way, to get you to stop and go back to sleep (sleep I can understand) I exhaust my baby calming skills; rocking and holding. Feeding shall now be added to the list, for you, being a boy, food fixes everything. I learned this yesterday while speeding along the highway.
 You were really working up a squall in the backseat -- the loudest I've ever heard you, you're such a quiet baby -- and there were 15 more miles till home. Sacrifices had to be made. Your mom was driving so naturally it was me who did the sacrificing by climbing over my seat to get in the back -- not easy to do in a cheap little sports car built for two and a half people. I got stuck -- twice -- between the top of the seat and the ceiling, all the while you are crying in my face for some sustenance and your mom is trying to avoid getting noticed by the highway patrol. Sitting in the backseat (specially designed with leg amputees in mind) its a mad mess to find your bottle amidst diaper bag straps, oversized purses, and horse tack. But when I do you look over the rim and wrinkle your forehead at me like it's an inside joke. As you fade back into sleep my arm starts to tingle from being twisted around to hold your soft little head up. I think I shall like being an aunt.
Welcome to the world, mi nipote dulce.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

pinecone-cotton owls - happy thanksbirthday - rainbow spewing inspiration

 I have some catching up to do, hence the mother of all post titles. I hope you all had a turkey-stuffed Thanksgiving and not too many fires were started as a result.
My Thanksgiving was a little hectic. Heh, a little.
 Poor dear Mum was dreadfully ill thanks to a new prescription with "possible strong side affects". Possible? Are you kidding me??
 Anyway, the short version is that for the day before Thanksgiving, Mum was confined to her bed and could only have dry bits of toast and weak tea. So it was up to me to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for eleven people. (can you see where this is going?)
 Little Brother of course avowed his help at the start, but after I made him wash a few dishes he quickly disappeared from the Kitchen War theatre. And what a battle took place!
The pie crusts (bane of my existence!!) put up a stout fight, refusing to fit the pans correctly and tearing when stretched. But I over came and filled them with the purée of my other enemies, Pumpkin, Pecan, and the easily surrendering (canned) Cherry fillings.
I burned the crusts (surprise!) and I didn't melt the butter for the pecan filling quite right, so some people may of may not have had sudden bursts of butter (hurray!).
 I had to get creative with the cherry's crust as I had not made a double crust or 'lid' for it. Fruit pies generally need these to disguise the ugliness that occurs when the fruit is baked and turns kinda squishy and a not-quite appetizing color. Or that's my theory anyway. (Baking to me is like philosophy: I don't even try to understand it.)
 So what was I to do? Well, I scrounged and scraped together the very last scraps of dough, rolled it out in a pathetic little mat, and cut out an equally pathetic tic-tac-toe pattern that more or less did little to hide the after-baked cherry ugliness. Everyone told me it was good, though, and who was I to argue? it was canned filling so there wasn't much I could do to ruin it. Besides burning the crust.
The rest of the baking and cooking went miraculously well, and I don't recall having any real major cancel-the-dinnerparty! crisis. But then, I don't remember a lot of Thanksgiving Day, so perhaps I have amnesia. Mum was well enough by then to help me with some of the bigger dishes that required miles more experience than I'll ever have.
 This year we invited our sort-of 'adopted' grandparents and our neighbors and had a grand time stuffing ourselves to the usual Holiday benchmark.
LB and I made these little owl-creature-things for the centerpiece the night before and I also took several hours of my life to make stenciled and embossed place cards. The owls on the other hand might as well be called the lazy man's craft. Because seriously, if you have pinecones, cotton balls, and some basic craft supplies, you have these weird and cute little birds.
 In the title I mentioned the word 'birthday', so yes, it can be safely guessed that I had my birthday last week. My 18th. At the time I said nothing of it on here, because I really did not wish to (my birthday was the day before Hammie was hit). But it was a lovely cozy sort of day where I got to read non-school books (yay!), and the weather was nice so I went out and visited my now wooly horses. Then I got to spend a few hours over tea with a dear friend (shout out to L.Pevensie, my dear! ;) where she pretty much allowed me to relive my Charleston trip (my word, I can't believe I haven't posted about any of that yet! I haven't even edited all the pictures I took. gah!).
 Back home my second biggest sister came out and I had a lovely birthday dinner of steak and baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows (and an obscene amount of sugar, cinnamon, and butter), and a two layer cake baked by LB.
 My family was amazing with the gifts this year, too, checking several things of my wish list :) Like a headstall (one that can fit Piggy's odd sized head at last!), music, books, an awesome camera bag for Jack (THANK YOU, Biggest Sister!), an I (heart) (heart) Doctor Who t-shirt from LB, and a new camera lens! I'm over the moon for my 55-250mm! To see the product of this new lens (below being just one of them) click here.
Now for the inspiration bit to wrap things up. Can I just say I owe Andrew Lloyd Webber so much for creating his amazing score/musical well known to all of you, I'm sure, The Phantom of the Opera (if you just sang that, you are awesome.). Long have his songs and lyrics dance with my imagination and inspired day dreams of all the possibilities for characters living in an opera theatre.
 I spent some of my music money on tPotO soundtrack and while listening today was slapped up-side the head with the perfect lyrics from my favorite from the track, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. And since written words never do the actual music justice, here's a link to hear it yourself.

Wishing I could hear your voice again
Knowing that I never would
Dreaming of you won't help me to do
All that you dreamed I could
Passing bells and sculpted angels
Cold and monumental seem, for you the wrong companions
You were warm and gentle

Too many years fighting back tears
Why can't the past just die?

Wishing you were somehow here again
Knowing we must say, "Goodbye"
Try to forgive, teach me to live
Give me the strength to try
No more memories, no more silent tears
No more gazing across the wasted years
Help me say, "Goodbye"
Help me say, "Goodbye"
This will fit Cilla so well by the end of book one. I'm trying so hard to convey her struggle with her traumatic past that to have her practically sing how she finally faces up to it and finish her arc (for book one) and at the same time write the end scene is.... unbelievable. This is the kind of rare gem that makes writing worth it. There's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in writing, as many of you know; it's never a picnic or a 'hobby'. So to have a song or picture impact you, perfect almost in every way for the situation, that practically writes itself, is an absolute dream come true. You can't ask for much more as a writer.

And now I really must close. Kudos to every/anyone who read the whole thing!