Walking Horse Wonders

Today is one of those days I will never forget. It ranked high on the list of all-time best days ever. It started out when I woke up thinking it was the middle of the night but realized it was the morning. Apparently I had slept so well I didn’t realize the night had gone by. That was fantastic in and of itself. Then I went to Russ’ to ride. When I arrived, the barn was cloaked in a cloud.  There was a gorgeous liver chestnut staliion standing in the crossties. I started asking Russ what it was like to ride him so he threw me up on his back. Wow. WOW. WOW! First of all, I could barely get up that high. Second of all, all I did was a flat walk up and down the barn aisle and tears were streaming down my face it was so exhilarating. Later, I heard his son describe it as “the feeling you could bust right through a wall” and I’d say that was dead-on. I felt like I was on a magic dragon that had the power to break through the world and the courage not to. He was as delicate as a gentle old gelding in my hands but as strong as a giant bull. He was elegant, he was smooth, he was invincible. He had style, he had strength, he had it all! Man, oh man, when I got off that horse I was shaking. I literally shook like a little goose. My legs were wobbling. My mind was racing. I felt like I had just driven a Ferrari only it wasn’t a car, it was a horse. A horse!! A horse! Wow. wow. wow. wow. wow.

No other way to describe it.

Then I rode Angel up into the mountains. You couldn’t have named her more appropriately. She was just that..an absolute Angel. Beautiful to look at with her golden coat and flaxen mane, smooth as a Cadillac and brave as a bear. We went past a tree trimming truck, through the river, a pack of dogs and countless other frightening obstacles and that mare cruised along like all was right in the world, which it was. We rode above the clouds and into the sunshine. By the time we came back the clouds had sank into the sand and the barn was under just as blue a sky as you could imagine.

The whole day was so beautiful. I learned about the horses and the history of Devore. You’d think a little town like that doesn’t have much to say for itself but you’d be wrong. Between the freight trains, The Screaming Chicken Saloon, the mountains and the highly questionable hobbies of its inhabitants, there is a lot to talk about. In fact there is lots to laugh about and lots of nice horses to come back and ride next week. How will I be able to wait that long?!

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Evening Portrait

I think my bed is pretty close to perfect right now. It’s got a capo, some books and lots of down blankets. I’ve got Van Morrison playing on itunes and I’m wearing jeans. If Annie Leibovitz came right now it’d be good timing to capture at least a piece of me. Me in the dark, anyway. Me in the evening. She’d have to find me on horseback some morning to complete the picture. Well, even that wouldn’t complete it. She’d need to find me in the hammock with a kid in the afternoon and walking around the Rose Bowl with Jenny early and talking on the phone with my mom earlier still. She’d need to find me on the red carpet with Kevin late and eating Dim Sum at lunch with Jenni. Oh, there are so many more places I’d have to be photographed to tell the story of this life. Still, this moment now, this one, writing on the bed with a capo, some books and lots of down blankets listening to Van Morrison and wearing jeans, this one would work well, too.

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Chapter 3: Horses and Dinner

The Gods must be listening! I had a great ride today. I went out to Russ Thompson’s place and rode the most amazing champagne filly. She was so beautiful, so willing, so smooth and so well-trained. It was amazing! I must’ve looked like a clown I was smiling so much. Russ has that horse so well broke that it took nothing more than sitting back on my pockets for her to slow down and a kiss to make her go forward. She was so responsive! Russ would suggest the most subtle cues and this horse responded just like that. I felt like Dr.Doolittle our communication was so clear! Wow, what an amazing feeling.

Meanwhile, Velvet was so gorgeous I didn’t even recognize her. He’s been able to get weight on her and she has a very becoming new bridle path. Her hair was soft, her body was shampooed and that horse just looked like a show horse she was so beautiful. I never saw her so pretty. However, I did recognize her rearing and pawing and nervousness. She was in a full sweat just standing in the cross ties. She didn’t seem to recognize me, either, by the way. She didn’t calm down at all when I saw her and she was so uptight even I didn’t want to get kicked by one of her clean shiny hooves. That all changed when Russ came by, though. He was a little like Buck, he’d just put a hand on her shoulder and she’d settle down. It was quite miraculous. I felt so good about her being with him, I know he will pull the potential out of that horse with quiet consistency.

We went out on a trail ride and I was amazed by what they were able to do with her. She walked, for one thing. I never really saw her do that very often. She was in complete control the whole time and when she got prancy and ancy they corrected her with hardly a motion. It was really something. She didn’t rear or buck with them. It was like she recognized the limits and took heed. I guess I didn’t know how to enforce limits.

But the champagne mare I rode had none of those issues. She was alive and well and full of pep and go but it was all very relaxed. Her engine only started when I asked it to. I still feel very drawn to the black horse with a blaze who lives next to Velvet so I hope I can ride her next time I get out there. There definitely will be a next time and I hope it’s soon. Between Russ’ accent, his sense of humor and his outstanding horses I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

Only now I want to buy one of those horses so I can ride more often and for that I’ll need to make some money. Those glorious animals don’t come cheap and I just know there’s got to be some way for me to create an income to support the equine habit. As for food, it won’t be that. Dinner bombed tonight, I don’t know if my head was still in the saddle or what but it had to be the worst dinner I’ve ever made. Over half of it ended up in the garbage it was so bad. We might as well have just eaten pudding.

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Food and Horses (Chapter 2)

I’m having one of those days when I feel like I have a lot to do later. Later. Not now, but later. I have to learn the next part of the song, later. I need to write my own new song, later. Right now it’s dinner time.

I went to Super King yesterday so I have a fridge that looks like Souplantation. I love it! I can mix every vegetable together or serve each one on their own. I have fresh bread to eat with it and plenty of color to make the table feel bright. Especially the radishes. Radishes remind me of my mother, who is the only person I know who eats them regularly. They are so bright and attractive they made my wilted salad of roasted vegetables look a bit dank. But they’ll add some crunch and spice and I think it will be okay. Like I said before, presentation has never been my strong suit.

As if the Gods were reading my blog, I was able to ride today. Andi and I took Nikki and Chulita over the dam and into the Rose Bowl. I rode Nikki initially, we traded about midway, and then we traded back when I couldn’t slow Chulita down. Tomorrow we’re heading over to Russ’. I hope I get to ride the black horse I have fallen in love with.

So happy dinner for now everyone, unless you’re eating later.

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Cooking, Music, Missing Horses

I’m really into cooking right now. If I had a horse I’d be into riding but since I don’t, it’s food and music. I got a few Jacques Pepin books from the library and I’m thoroughly enjoying making some of the dishes. I augment the experience by watching old Jacques and Julia cooking shows on Hulu. Robert said it’s like cooking porn. I love the way they smile and say, “That’s not how I do it.” I can’t tell if it’s amicable…or not. Either way his accent sounds like home and her voice, well, I think it makes food taste better just to have it around.

Anyway, I don’t like making food in a way that seems silly. I don’t like taking steps that are unnecessary. I don’t like to break my back making something difficult that could be done easily. So I’m all for Pepin. His style is fast, simple and delicious. Plus he’s teaching me something about presentation. I’ve always had an F in that department. So I made the almond cake, which I posted. That was adapted from his recipe to fit the molds I found at the thrift store. I thought they were brioche molds which was very exciting to me since I had just made some brioche dough, but they weren’t. I looked them up online and I think they’re fifty year old jello molds. Whatever. They worked to make the gorgeous little vegan almond cakes. The children loved them.

The brioche dough recipe came from the Five Minute bread book. I’ve been baking bread everyday thanks to their no-knead refrigerator methods. It’s so easy. I bought a huge container from Sur La Table and I just make a big batch of dough on the weekend and grab a hunk each day to rise and bake. Then I get to eat fresh bread daily, just like that. I wanted to try the brioche dough and make something really fancy for the  house guests I was supposed to have, but it didn’t work out. Instead I made little knots which I cut and filled with Nutella and packed in the kids’ lunches. They loved them but I really don’t think the flavor was good enough to merit quite so fatty of a dough. It’s stuffed with eggs and butter. I love eggs and butter, but I think you can get something more delicious out of those ingredients.

Another big winner from the book this week was Jacques’ cream dressing. That was delicious and, as he pointed out, there are only half the calories in a tablespoon of heavy cream as there are in a tablespoon of oil. It seemed sacrilegious at first but it really is so good. I also adored the potatoes, roasted and stuffed, and the gratin version. Always comforting.

Today it was back to desserts. I made his meringue cake with candied oranges. I burned most of the oranges when I took a break to sit down but enough survived to decorate the cake. I also made an almond cookie rolled in sugar (amazing) and a pasta dish. The cake is so pretty I can’t wait to serve it Sunday when we visit friends in Ojai with Sean and Jenny. The process was pretty lengthy and required some patience but I think the results are impressive. I was able to save a bit of the extra meringue and cream and I served it for dessert tonight and everyone just loved it. The meringue is very sweet but the cream is so delicate and under-sweetened that the combination is really quite special. Of course my presentation, while not an F, doesn’t come close to the pretty piped version I tried to mimic in his book but I think it will do.

Orange Vachrin Jeannette

There isn’t much more to report. The days are so quiet and low-key. Without a horse to ride I feel like I’m half handicapped. I remember once this guy Oscar saw me walking around the corrals and he joked that he didn’t know I was so short because he’d never seen me anywhere but up on the back of a horse. That’s how I feel now. I feel like my wings have been clipped or something and I’m walking instead of flying. I feel like having my feet on the ground instead of the stirrups has really cramped my style. I miss the air, the sun, the smell, the feet, the frenzy, the joy of the trail. I wonder what will happen next. I don’t know, but I’ll keep playing guitar waiting to find out. If you’re hungry you can come over and taste some cooking while I play you a song.

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Almond Cake

Almond Cake

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Guitar Gifts

I’m plugging away on the guitar. I wish I knew how to play it instantly. I wish I could pick up the instrument and automatically know how to hit what where. That’d be remarkable. But I don’t. I have to hit the wrong note a lot of times before I get the right one. I have to start from scratch, like a baby, learning where to put my fingers where, what each symbol means, how things are supposed to sound. The only thing is that I’m not a baby and it doesn’t stick easily. It’s got to be repeated, a lot. I have to fight the frustration, the irritation, the impatience all to get to..to get to..to get to a nice sound. Tonight I had that feeling that it was the silliest undertaking in the world. If I want to hear a nice sound I could turn on itunes. There I could hear the best of the best, the best in the world, the best of anything and everything. I don’t think I’ll ever be that good. So why bother? I guess it’s the process, like everything else, I know, I know, I better like the process of learning because that’s all it will ever be. There will never be a destination or a determined end point or whatever. It will always be a process of discovery. I don’t think I’ll ever play a song and say, there, I played that song. Once I can play a song it’s generally taken so much to get there it doesn’t have the same enthusiasm it might have had if I had learned to play it the moment I wanted to. You see what I mean?


So here’s what happens: I get sick of the whole thing and in total exasperation, I strum all open six strings. What do I get? A lovely sound. On the piano, frustration leads to striking the keys randomly, never pretty, but on a guitar even those six open strings sound nice enough to want to try them again and again and again in hopes of making even more pretty sounds.

Ok, so, I’ve got to take this a little less seriously. I’ve got to slow down and enjoy the slides, the hammers, the picking and the strumming. I’ve got to feel good about the bad notes as well as the good ones, the minor chords as much as the majors, the scales, the tones…oh, so much to feel good about.

How about that slivery moon tonight? The three-legged dog at the park, the buttery avocado, the white sheets and the warm day were all gifts today, too. What were some of yours?


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