Sunday, 26 December 2010


Another Christmas day over with but the luscious, comforting vibe lingers on. Here, the snow outside is a pain - it's no longer snow but solid ice and lethal.

We have had Nana with us now for almost two weeks, she's been poorly but is on the mend - to be honest it feels natural for her to be here with us but then I grew up with a grandparent in the house, my Granada, he was our third parent and always there.

She is such an independent stick though that I know she will be back off to her own home as soon as she's able.

Too many chocolates and too much wine, and a diet to look forward to in the New Year (same for all of us I'm sure).

Dotty has had a good time I think, she is happy with what 'Santa' brought her, but she has taken to silent mode - teenage sullenness at nine years old can you believe - so it's difficult to get much out of her.

Puppy Spice has had a great time too - there are doggy treats lying all over the room and he's had so much turkey and gammon... he's a happy chap. The cats - Socky and Rosie - have had their fair share but they still wish the yappy doggy would disappear I'm sure.

I do enjoy Christmas, being at home with the family and relaxing is something to be savoured and hardly ever happens throughout the rest of the year. I even bought a newspaper today - and I intend to read it. I've still a few days of leisure left before returning to the real world after all.

Soooo bored.....




With all of the horses being in for the past week or so - since the snow the yard is a total ice rink - I've been thinking about ways to make the day more interesting as it must be soooo boring being stuck in a stable all day. For me as well, there's the added worry of arthritis (John's not mine) and swollen legs (again John's not mine). He needs gentle exercise - but if we can't ride out and he can't go out into the field what are we supposed to do?

Given that I can't stay with him all day, grooming him or telling him jokes, what's the alternative?

We do have a ball, it's an oval football. We did have one of those hexagonal ones, the unbreakable ones, but I loaned it to a friend last winter and her pony broke it. Our oval football keeps him interested for oh about 10 minutes, then he gets fed up and hoofs it into the wall with a look that says 'just give me the treats it would be easier'.

So I decided to research the subject - what can you do to alleviate the boredom if your horse cannot go out into the field:

This first one didn't take up too much time - from experience, all I have to do is scratch his ears and he's happy - but you can't do that for hours on end.

Footballs - hexagonal or oval-shaped, you just insert the treats in one end, the horse kicks it around the stable, then the treats fall out the other end to reward patient horse.

Mirrors - I haven't used one of these but the idea is that the horse sees his reflection and thinks he has a friend with him, someone to talk to so he doesn't get bored or stressed. Don't know how John would react to a mirror, probably try to eat it or groom it.

Likits - these are horsey sweets and they do adore them. The first time I gave John a Likit a few years ago he didn't know what to do with it. He soon got the hang of it though and loves them - though the size of his tummy means we don't indulge too often. And he hasn't got the hang of the name, Likit, he bites it and tries to eat it all in one, plastic holder included.

Hiding carrots in the stable - these days he misses carrots in his feed, so the chances of him finding carrots hidden in his stable are quite slim I think.

With any luck the snow will soon melt and life will get back to normal for John and his pals, until then, any suggestions for alleviating the boredom of being stuck in the stable would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas crackers

Why is it everybody has to have the perfect Christmas? Every magazine I pick up at the moment has 'handy hints and tips' on how to achieve it, or even a complete countdown to the big day, from when to wrap presents to when to carve the turkey? Surely it's just one big lesson in how to become completely stressed out over an occasion that should be fun and relaxing?

'Relaxing' I can hear you shout from here. 'Christmas, relaxing, how mad is she'? Well quite, as it turns out, but that's another story. Think about it - does it really matter is you're still shopping for gifts on Christmas Eve, never mind wrapping them? Does it matter if the dinner isn't ready dot on three, or the potatoes are out of synch with the bread pudding? Everybody will enjoy the meal anyway and you will certainly enjoy it a lot more if you are more chilled and less frazzled.

I think we all risk forgetting this is supposed to be a happy time, and whether that's because of the expectations heaped upon us or us heaping them on ourselves I don't know. I'm not being bah humbug, I love Christmas and the build up to it. I just don't see why it should be a time that puts so much pressure on people. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate, to cook dinner, to shop or spend time with family and friends, just the way of the individual - that's what matters. And if you eat your dinner at 5 and forget all about the Christmas pudding, that's up to you, and not some cookery editor on a magazine somewhere.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snow go!



It is just 2 December and we have had so much snow it's untrue! It is soooo cold and even though it does look beautiful, half an hour in it and my toes were dropping off. Anya and Spice have been loving it though (and school was closed today so that made Dot very happy).

We went for a walk on the white side this morning and both daughter and dog had a lovely time...

Snow fun

The horses are in, it's too slippy to turn them out. My boy doesn't like staying in and he certainly lets you know it. I did turn him out on Tuesday as frankly, even a couple of hours out is better than nothing - for his joints and his mood. He couldn't wait to get out but once he was in his field he started to whinny - 'What am I doing here mam, why is it so cold and where's the grass gone.' The other horses were uncovering the grass, wiping away the snow with their hooves; my prima donna was just standing there, waiting for someone (me) to do it for him.

Anyway, after mucking out I went back to the field to give him some hay and he had eventually deigned to clear away the snow for himself.

Since then he's been stuck in his stable, along with the others,so he's not a happy chappy. Looking at the snow coming down outside there doesn't seem much chance of him getting out for a few days yet.

What do other people do in this situation, to stave off boredom (the horse's, not mine)?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Chin up!

I was at a launch today, a skincare product that comes with a set of facial exercises. Now I know we all think of exercising our bodies but our faces... not really thought about that one before. The products seem lovely, and I tried the exercises - I could feel the muscles aching afterwards (think The Scream). But definitely, definitely, not something to do while you're travelling on the tube!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Design beauties



During my research for an upcoming feature I came across these images - wow, how the humble basin has changed. Of course, unless you have a huge bathroom they're not very practical. I can't see them fitting into my smallest room.



(Top) Ylang basin by Decotec Paris

(Bottom) Art Basin Cup,designed by Meneghello Paolelli Associati for Artceram www.artceram.it

Monday, 22 November 2010

Happier now

Oh dear, I was on a bit of downer back in April. Work-wise things started to look up not long after that, which is of course, typical. Now I am very happy in a part-time magazine role and freelancing. Not earning enough of course, but things could be a lot worse.

It seems to me that generally things seem to be getting a little better, there's more optimism and dare I say it, more work out there?

Anyway, enough of that, deepness is not what's called for today. Today I needed to hear something fluffy, so was happy to receive news of a survey that says Stephen Fry would be the dream Christmas dinner guest for 46% of respondents. The survey, by a furniture company, manages to link tasteful furniture with people! Not bad.

I think I could very well be the only person in the country who didn't see the fainting episode on I'm a Celebrity last night - am I the only one who doesn't watch reality television? That is sad.

Hello again

I have been so lax at keeping my blog up to date, it's almost a year, give or take a few months since my last post. Not very good. In that time lots has happened on my journey with John. We have hardly been in the school, instead we have wandered around the countryside where we live, enjoying the summer and getting to know each other better, building trust, as we hack out.

He is so good, even when confronted with cows, tractors, white vans, bulldozers and bikes. If a blade of grass looks at him the wrong way or a bird flaps out of a bush, well, that's another matter.

A few weeks ago there were three of us riding out, we were talking and didn't realise we were about to pass a house where dogs always bark. Have you ever seen horses do a Mexican wave? The three of them jumped on the spot one after the other. We laughed so much - a year ago I would probably have fallen off.

Since them unfortunately John has suffered from lameness and has been resting. We started riding again this week but we have to take it slowly - no more schooling and no more working on a circle for him. He is coming up to 23 after all, bless him.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Mulling it over...

I'm sitting here contemplating what to do next. I keep seeing loads of great job adverts out there but I've chosen to try the freelance route so I can spend some time at home with my family. Just sometimes I resent that a little, which is stupid because it is my choice after all.

Yet I hear government ministers banging on about flexible working and how parents should spend more time with their kids. In theory it works, but in practice, at least in the journalism industry, it doesn't.

It's the only industry I can speak about with any credibility having spent so many years in it, but in my experience publishers and editors are against the idea of part-time or flexible working. Is it because there's a certain mystery to magazines, a certain ego and sense of self-importance that says 'oh we couldn't possibly work with a part-time editor, we need somebody here five days a week'? Don't know. What I do know is that recently I have missed out on several jobs that could have been mine if I'd agreed to go full-time. Which is why I'm sitting here now contemplating life and work. There's a new puppy at my feet though who is having a great time ripping up my research and magazines, making me smile, so it's not all bad. Apologies for the downer, more optimism tomorrow I promise.

From someone who juggles their life but who has a problem keeping all their balls in the air!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Childhood memories

I was thinking today about the programmes that Anya loves to watch on TV and the ones I used to watch when I was little. It doesn't feel so very long ago since I was a child but the difference between television programmes then and now is phenomenal.

TV now is light years away from TV then. Pinky & Perky, The Herb Garden, Playschool, they all seem so old and antiquated, so quiet and gentle. Kid's TV now is full of shouting and manic teenagers.

I have tried to interest Anya in the programmes of my youth but she always looks at me as if I'm mad, they're just not interesting enough for her. You had to be there I suppose - my favourite was The Woodentops on Watch With Mother, would I watch it now? I thought yes, but then I found it on You Tube...

Trotting on

John and I rode out this morning with another couple of girls from the livery yard and their horses, we were out for around an hour-and-a-half, the longest hack we have done so far. He was tired when we got back to the yard because we did a lot of trotting, more than we have done for ages.

Again, he was brill in all ways. We went a new route and he handled it really well, even though for some reason there were lots of cars around (on a Sunday morning can you believe, why weren't people still in bed?) We met several dogs, joggers and cyclists - the only one he seemed to be wary of was a very large poodle with a quiff.

I lost a stirrup manoeuvring our way through apple boxes stacked up either side of the path at one point - he did take a dislike to them - but he went through at a jog so didn't disgrace himself by taking off with me, and I managed to hook my foot back into the stirrup pretty quickly.

Another great step forward for us I think.

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A bit of childhood history and a bit about horses

Considering I didn't ride when I was a child and nobody in my family has much to do with horses, I was wondering how and why I ended up hooked.

This could be the answer - found on YouTube. I loved this programme when I was little and it's still one of my favourite ever songs. There's a better clip on YouTube, the actual starting sequence from the show, but I can't work out how to get it from there to here.













Another great TV series for horse-mad girls was Follyfoot. I wasn't into this programme so much but loved the song, I still do.
















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Saturday, 6 February 2010

Why the long face?



Ho ho, the old ones are the best. He's actually happy as far as I know, though it was very foggy. He prefers to be out rather than in I'm sure, even if the weather is pants. We didn't ride until the afternoon when the fog had gone and there was brilliant sunshine - but by the time I had de-mudded him the sun had gone in and the light was going. We still rode out - and we did the short block by ourselves! He called most of the way round, joggged some and walked sideways looking towards home, but he still did it. I am so proud of him!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Disco diva

Anya came home from school today really excited - next week is her first school dance. It's to raise money for school funds and she is so looking forward to it. Though it's still a week away she has told me how she would like her hair done, we have discussed outfits and what sort of glitter gel she will wear. Oh my! What happened. Just a minute ago she was a baby in my arms!

Lipilicious!

I've just discovered Korres lip butter and I love it. It's a lip balm with a tint, the one I have is in quince - a sort of pinky red. But the best thing about it isn't the colour, it's how soft it makes my lips feel. I don't think I've ever tried a lip balm that makes them feel so soft and smooth. And it's not greasy.

I know, I know, it's probably not a new product and everybody else knows about it, but for me it's my first great beauty discovery of 2010.

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Riding out

He is definitely feeling better today. I rested him again yesterday but decided to ride out this afternoon and see how he coped - he was fine. We were going to go out alone but ended up going out with the new livery and her friend, John and I introducing them to the 'short block', which is about 35 minutes. Imagine, me showing somebody around on a hack!!!! That would have been unheard of just a few months ago.

Anyway, he was a star as always and we enjoyed a relaxing ride through the countryside. I'm so relieved his fall the other day didn't cause any damage. He seemed to have a good time - he always does - he definitely prefers being out and about to being in the school.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Hands that do dishes...

One thing I can guarantee at this time of year, without fail, my hands will become really dry and look ancient, while the skin on my fingers will crack and split in places and become really sore. It sounds horrible and it is, and it's something that has been happening to me every winter since I was a child.

Many years ago I underwent a series of allergy tests but the doctors at the hospital couldn't find anything obvious I was allergic to so they came to the conclusion that my hands got into such a state because of washing up and water. The doctor who spoke to me apologised for being 'sexist' but said it was because of all the cleaning/ washing dishes/ housework/ washing clothes that women do.

Well these days I never hand wash - the machine does it, I have a dishwasher and as for cleaning, my other half would laugh if somebody said I do too much housework. Yet my hands are still a mess.

So I'm on a mission to find the best hand cream to help them. And I have tried loads let me tell you. So far my favourite is by Dermalogica, but I'm open to suggestions if anybody can recommend others?

Well stroppy!

My eight year old knows it all. At her tender age she is sure she is right about everything, I can't possibly understand her world and I'm an embarrassment to her, especially when I sing.

Her attitude, which isn't helped by her love of Hannah Montana and Sonny With A Chance, oh and the Wizards of Waverley Place, has come to a head in the past couple of days when it's time to go to school.

Tantrum is hardly the right word for her behaviour. The slightest thing sets her off and I'm starting to wonder if she's hormonal. Could that be possible at her age?

What all of the above mentioned TV shows have in common is a rather precocious teenager who is loud and cheeky - and she is taking it on board. I think I will have to ban these programmes from our television.

While it is comical watching her wagging her finger and moving her head from side to side in that particular American-teenage-TV-star-way (I can't do it, I've tried), enough is enough.

She is going to have to be satisfied with CBeebies from now on.

Another cold day today...

I'm getting a bit fed up with the weather now, it's so cold it's beyond a joke. I lunged John yesterday afternoon - I thought the school had defrosted enough and the sand seemed quite soft. But he fell and I feel terrible about it. He went down on both front knees.

I have rested him today but he seems out of sorts, he looks a little depressed. I can tell when he's not feeling right - I know my horse well. There doesn't seem to be excess heat in his legs, no more than normal anyway (he often feels warm in his front legs, I think it's his age). I'll keep a careful eye on him over the next few days.

I hope he's better tomorrow...

Saturday, 30 January 2010

After school


I picked my little horror up from school yesterday and she brought her friend Chelsea home with her. If ever there was a child meant to have brothers and sisters it's mine. When I was little my friends who had no siblings swore they liked it that way, but I can see my little girl is lonely being the only one. It really pulls at my heart strings that she doesn't have a sister to play with but that's the way it has turned out, sadly. On a happier note the two girls had a great time and rushed around the house like two little whirlwinds and as far as I can tell, there were no arguments. Result.

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Outlook sunny

Why am I now so interested in the weather? I can't go to bed at night without first watching the weather report after the news. Darren tells me I'm obsessed! He doesn't get it but other horse owners will understand I know. Since having a horse what it's like outside has taken on a whole new importance. Is it going to be sunny - yay, great for riding; windy - not good as he spooks if it's gusty; rainy - oh not so bad, I can cope with that, though torrential is miserable; icy or snowy - well, we have to stay at home if it's too slippy. You see, the weather forecast is crucial.

Then there's the question of rugs. How many and what ones depend on the temperature - one, two, stable rug, sheet, blanket or both?

If the taps freeze there's no water, poo picking the field is easier though when the temperature is below zero, snow means it's harder to get to the grass, while too much rain makes for a quagmire.

Yes, the weather forecast has definitely taken on a new significance since I became horsey.

Friday, 29 January 2010

The first of 2010

I am so rubbish at this blogging lark and there have been so many good things happening that I should have written about. I’ve tried to remember them but of course, I can’t.

I’m going to put it right now though and from now on will try hard to post regularly.

We had another milestone yesterday, honestly, John is such a star. We hacked out alone, did the short block, about 35 minutes and he only tried to turn back once! He did call a few times but that’s all. He was so brave and he’s obviously trusting me more. When he did try to turn for home I managed to get him going in the right direction again quite easily, he didn’t put up too much of a fight, which means he is getting used to me being in command.

In the past few months we have also mastered the big block – over an hour’s ride – and we have hacked out in company most weekends.

I also fell off, which knocked my confidence a bit I can tell you. That was in the school during a lesson. We were almost finished and were cantering on a circle. I suppose I got too complacent, the end of the lesson and all that. He spooked, shot off sharply, then changed direction sharply and shot off again – and I went out the side door. I haven’t really worked him in the school since and I know it’s silly, but I’m a bit nervous about riding in there now, especially canter, which I’ve hardly done since my fall. I know, one more hurdle to master!

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Thank God it's Friday!

It's not even 9am and I've already got a headache. My little monster has decided to play up this morning and is refusing to do anything without arguing about it. And I've got to get her to school yet. She's eight years old and she really knows how to push my buttons.

She can be so cute though. Yesterday for some reason in the car we were talking about chips - I was telling her how they were always deep fried when I was little and discussing the merits of oven v oil, just a mundane conversation, then she lit it up by having this great idea, a new invention - round chips! Her little face fell when I told her these had already been invented and are called fritters.

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Saturday, 23 January 2010

La vie en rose


Those nice people at Lush have just sent me their new Turkish Delight Body Polish (£15) and it's heavenly. Roses are my favourite flower for several nostalgic reasons, and rose oil is great for nourishing dry and more mature skin I'm told, so this is perfect for me.

To be used in the shower, this is creamy without being greasy and it smells lovely. Containing cocoa butter, rose absolute, rose oil and rose water, it's packed with skin care goodies. It left my skin feeling soft and did I mention the fragrance...

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