March 31, 2014

Sunday...A Tale of Two Emotions - Part 1

Sunday was absolutely amazingly beautiful out. 65 and sunny without a cloud in the sky. It was a day made for the trails.

Nobody tells you how hard it is to make friends as an adult. Especially when you move a lot. We have always made friends and really enjoy hanging out with other people but since we moved down here we haven't found anyone. I got tired of always riding alone and so I made the brave move of posting on a couple facebook group pages that I wanted a friend. And got a few responses one of which invited me out to the trails on Sunday. I admit I was a bit nervous. I've been on both sides of the bad riding pair coin. Either Gem wants to go faster and the other person just wants to walk the entire thing or Gem is heaving heavily and can barely keep up with the speedy other horse. Neither are fun, but until you ride with someone you just don't know what their definition of fast or far is.

Part one of this story is going to focus on the positive. I am tired of being frustrated, so I will save the bad for tomorrow.

We planned to meet at the trail head at 10:30 Sunday morning and I thought ahead well enough to hook the trailer up Saturday afternoon to save time. We got to the barn at 9 am with plenty of time to get Gem, groom and load.

Fast forward to getting to the trail head and tacking up. We were a little late (part 2) but S was super nice about it and didn't mind. Gem was oddly subdued while I got her tacked up. We introduced ourselves and our horses and mounted up.

S lives close by and has been into endurance since 1991. She has done 100 mile rides with her previous horse and has a lot of experience. Her current mare is 11 and had some issues at the end of last season which she is working through and is hoping to get back on track for a successful ride season this year.

Her mare is very pretty. A dark bay purebred Arabian with spindly legs and a trot I could die for. She looks like she just floats down the trail. We started off down the hill into the woods and S asked if I could lead. Apparently her mare also thinks the entry bridge is the bridge of doom. I said sure and Gem actually strutted her stuff over the bridge without a problem. Go Gemmiecakes! We led for a little bit, but S's mare didn't really like the slogging pace that Gem picked up so they went out in front which I was fine with. I have been in the back for 4.5 years and Gem is happy to be back there. My only concern about being behind is sometimes Gem likes to run up the other horse's butt which the other horse tends to not like. But I needn't have worried. I think working with her out alone has helped her confidence a lot because she just hung back a nice distance and went along. It was perfect.

We ended up taking the red trail (because I was out front at a trail crossing and made a wrong turn - go figure!) which I have not done before. I think it is 9 miles. Unfortunately, while I remembered the Garmin I never reset it from before. When I glanced down at it about 30 minutes into the ride it said we had gone 7.25 miles. But I know we ended the last ride at just over 5 miles and we ended this ride at just over 13 miles. Plus the Garmin drops distance in the woods. We did it in 2 hrs 20 minutes or so which was a nice pace. We trotted a good bit and even did some cantering, but I never felt the need to ask her to slow down. There were enough walk breaks to allow Gemmie to catch her breath.

Anyway...we walked along chatting it up about rides, work and life and S is just a super nice person. She has the best trail etiquette too. When she was out in front she always waited for us to get off the hill, out of the mud, over the rocks before trotting again. And while her mare is shod on all four feet, her last horse was barefoot on all 4 without boots and competed successfully for 8 years that way. She understands footing and was aware of the super rocky bits and walked them without a problem.

Gem was a super star. She never spooked, tried to turn around or acted up in the slightest. She was forward and seemed happy to have a trail partner. She got along well with S and her mare and I barely touched her mouth the entire ride. We led a little and Gem moved out nicely. She isn't the best at trotting up in front yet. She tends to go slow, look at everything and then speed up and slow down and speed up. Oh and she is very picky about her footing so if the person behind is too close she ends up cutting them off a lot as she zig zags to find the best footing. S's mare isn't so great at following. I think she is in the lead a lot and it didn't help that she moves out at a naturally faster pace than Gem does and I know how annoying it is to try to hold your horse back the entire time. We led through a particularly muddy area and Gem will bushwhack through the trees if she thinks the footing is better. I don't mind. Her job is to pick her footing, get down the trail and not kill me. But I think it is hard to be behind that.

We ended back at the trailers in good form and I know I had a smile plastered on my face. S's mare was covered in sweat and S made the comment that Gem was barely even damp. I have had Gem sweaty so I know she can sweat, but it takes a lot. Her mental game is the hardest part. At the thought of exertion she shuts down, but we are working through that. S rides in a Freeform treeless saddle and when I asked about it she let me jump on up and try it out. It was very cushy and comfortable, but I like my solid tree for stability.

All in all it was a fantastic ride. We meshed well for pacing and I never once felt rushed, too slow or nervous. Gem was pleasant and happy to have a friend. She has been to Biltmore and gave me some pointers on the ride. Maybe I can convince her to go in September. I know she is planning to do the 25 there in May. We have each other's numbers so hopefully we can meet up again and ride up there for more conditioning. It was one of the best rides I have had on Gem in a while and it was definitely great company.

March 28, 2014

Where Is My Brain?

(Wednesday Night)

Me: Wahoo!!! It is staying light out past 6 pm and I can ride in the evenings again. Watch out Gem!!! We are back in business!

Hubby: I guess that means you are going to the barn tonight?

Me: You betcha!

I happily change into my riding tights, put on a t-shirt and a long sleeve shirt and then remember that even though we are in the wonderful South and it is nearly April it isn't quite 70 at dusk yet (more like 50) and so I grab a fleece vest. As I am heading out I even remember to grab my Garmin so I can make sure I ride for an entire hour which seems like a lifetime in the arena.

Me: See ya in a couple hours hubby. Gonna go ride :)

Hubby: Can you stop and get some ink for the printer on your way home?

Me: Yep

I drive off to the barn thinking about what I want to do with Gem tonight. I am itching to learn the few trails on property just to get out of the arena and maybe the BO will be willing to jump on her horse and show me tonight.

I pull in and notice the horses are all gathered around the gate meaning they haven't been fed yet. That is my only complaint about FS Farms. Half the time we show up at 10 am and they aren't fed yet and then again at 7 pm.  But if that's the only complaint, we are doing just fine.

I gather up her bridle/halter and go get her. Ever since the addition of the supplements she hasn't been running away from me. Maybe she feels better. Maybe she thinks it is just that yummy. Or maybe she just really likes the extra attention. I'll take it either way. I catch her easily and we walk back to the trailer.

Me: Hi Gemmie. You are looking good. Your chunks of bare skin are starting to grow hair again which is awesome. Are you ready to work tonight?

Gem: Chuckle...she is such an idiot. We aren't riding tonight and I know it. Hehehehe...

Me: Pick your darn head up mare and walk! can't stop at every blade of grass and eat it. I want to get on before the sun goes down on us. Walk. Walk. Walk!

Ok...finally at the trailer. I'll just tie her up and go get the grooming bag.

Walk to tack room of it up... grab tack bag...and look up only to realize I don't have a saddle :( Sigh.

(I am currently using the Advantage demo saddle. Since I don't own it I am very paranoid about anything happening to it. I don't want it kept in the trailer just in case it gets wet or someone steals it or something. I leave it in my van most times. Except on Wed when the hubby is off work and takes the van for the day and removes it to make room for the dogs. And doesn't put it back.)

Walk back over to Gem who I swear knew this and had a grin on her face.

Me: Ok. Well, I guess no riding since there is no way I'm getting on bareback at dusk after you were a fire breathing monster this past weekend. Guess you have to suffer through a nice long grooming session.

So I spent the evening brushing her out really well. She is looking better. Her coat is starting to shine again. This is an odd time of year anyway for hair. It is starting to shed out like crazy so it is hard to work up a good shine, but she is getting there. Her bald patches are starting to grow in again and are not so dry and flaky. I put more of the Thrush No More powder on some small rain rot spots on her big hairy butt and Belly Balm on the bald spots.

Her feet are looking a little better too. They are staying more dry which is really nice. If it can actually not rain all the time maybe they will stay that way. I don't like the look of her frogs overly much. The back are stronger and better, but the fronts are cracked and flaking off. She isn't lame or anything. Adding more miles to her week will help strengthen them up quite a bit.

What was great about the night though was that the BO and the trainer lady were both there and in a talkative mood. I think I spent an hour plus with Gemmie before feeding her the powder (I can't believe she eats it plain) and putting her back out for her dinner. I then spent another hour plus hanging around and shooting the breeze with them about horses, riding stories etc.. Trainer lady is super nice (I seriously have never been told her name and have talked to her enough times now that asking her would be awkward) and said that if I ever ride on a Saturday and want a riding partner she is game. It was nice to get out and talk to non work people. I don't know anyone around here except work people, so it was great.

March 27, 2014

Saddle Update

I am not an overly religious person. I don't attend a church. I don't kneel down every night and pray. But I do have an almost constant conversation going with the entity I call God and others call by other names. To me there is just too many "coincidences" in life to make sense that it is all random. Of course there are huge questions I have that would be nice to have an answer to, but I am sure it all comes in due time. Anyway... there have been some very distinct moments in my life where I have had to pause and am absolutely 100% certain that God had his hand directly in what happened. Others can argue that I am nuts, but you won't ever change that belief.

One of these times just happened.

The new business is draining us of every spare cent we have. I truly hope I make it work and make enough money with it to cover our bills and have a modest life style. I made a big mistake when I formed the business which ended up costing us an extra $1500 (which we really didn't have) and we needed to come up with a $1000 deposit on the building we are buying. That is $2500 of which we had very little in hand.

As you know, the saddle selling has been a debacle. Between all the scam replies, people wanting it for next to nothing and then the company going out of business making the sale even less likely and causing me to drop the price, I never thought it would sell. True, a part of me didn't want it to sell so that I could have it back and hope it would fit my next horse, but it did need to sell.

The exact day we got all these emails about needing to come up with money we didn't have I got an email out of the blue that the saddle sold. Outright.

See...the company selling it for me offers two ways to buy it. One is to take it out on a 3 day trial period. The price is higher for this due to the risk of sending it out on demo and if this happens I would get an email saying that it was out on demo. The other way is to just buy it outright. This has a $200 less price tag, but the sale is final. Meaning they can't return it if it doesn't fit them or the horse.

You can't tell me (or I guess you could, but I wouldn't really listen to you) that this coincidence of my saddle finally selling outright for only slightly less than the total we owe all these other people just happened.

So...there it is. My lovely WISE saddle has sold. We are waiting on the check to arrive, but I have confirmation that it did in fact sell outright as a final sale. Now I just need to hope that the Advantage lady doesn't ask for her demo back prior to my new one coming (if it ever does) or I am going to have to learn how to go bareback real quick.

I would 100% definitely recommend Maryland Tack Exchange for any high end saddle you need to sell. Yes, they take 20%. But they handle all the advertising, picture taking and trial periods for you and cut you the check. They were super nice to work with even through all the changes with the price and they really had no clue about the WISE saddle. I'm sure if you sent them a more well known saddle model/make they would be even more helpful.

March 26, 2014

Vegetable Quinoa (with recipe)

The Sprout lunches I used to get for W had lots of grains and veggies in them. Most had quinoa and so when I searched for meal ideas and stumbled across a crock pot meal that was quinoa and veggies I was thrilled. Quick, easy and super insanely healthy.

I found this one on Pinterest as well. There is an awesome board of just slow cooker/crock pot meals so it is a go to place for me as I try new things.

Here is the recipe:

Doesn't it look good?

 1½ cups Quinoa
 3 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
 1 small onion, chopped
 1 tablespoon olive oil
 1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
 1 small carrot, chopped
 1 Cup Fresh Green Beans chopped
 2 garlic cloves, minced
 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro or basil (depending on your taste)
¼ teaspoon pepper

 Rinse Quinoa Dump it into the crock pot. (I used 6 quart) Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat. Stir in broth, veggies, pepper and garlic. Reserve cilantro for before serving. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or on high for 2-4. The quinoa is done when you can fluff it with a fork and it is tender. Liquid should be absorbed into quinoa. Top with fresh cilantro and serve. You can mix in garbanzo beans or black beans to add protein to this dish and turn it into a meal

We debated about adding some chicken to it to make it a full meal for us and W. Anything that makes dinner quick, easy and healthy. But I like to make any new dish exactly per the recipe and then see what I think.

And I thought it was awful. I learned a good lesson that night. Always try it first before giving it to W. I sat down to feed W dinner and warmed up a plate of this for him. He took one tiny bite and refused to eat any more. So I tried it. And cringed.

I think it is because of the chicken stock. It just had a really odd flavor that didn't mesh well at all. It was fluffy and had lots of veggies in it, but wow was it gross.

Easy to put together
Most of the ingredients (minus the chicken stock) we already had on hand

Horribly inedible

Go ahead and try it out if you want. Maybe you will like it, but none of the three of us could eat it and the entire thing ended up in the trash.

March 25, 2014

Yes, I Do Still Ride :)

Not much has happened in terms of riding that is worthwhile to write about. But I have had two recent rides that are blog worthy(ish).

The first was a couple weekends ago after treating her for the skin problem and pre vitamins. It was a glorious day and I took her into the arena for some work. A new lesson lady has moved onto the property and so there are jumps once again at our disposal. Unfortunately, they never seem to be set up when I get there to ride, but I just pull some out and make my own thing happen. Gemmie was on great behavior. I really am loving the demo saddle and can't wait until mine shows up (if it ever does...other blog post coming on that subject) and I think Gem is too. We spent an hour trotting, cantering and jumping and she felt amazing. Very forward, willing and on the gas pedal. It is a good speed work out to get her heart rate up and pumping.

Then this past weekend I decided it was high time to hit the trails yet again. I wanted to get the entire 6.5 mile loop in and so we headed out with plenty of daylight. It was about 2 hours later than I intended, but I think after almost 1.5 years being a mom I am getting used to the idea of always running late.

I tacked her up and set off and had a fire breathing monster under me. Is it the vitamins? Is it the beautiful weather? Is it the fact she hasn't been out on trail in 2 months? Was she excited? Was she scared? I don't know, but the first 10 minutes was spent going more sideways than forward. At speed. She actually almost dumped me about 100 feet from the trailer, but I stayed put and we moved on. The beginning of the trail is by the roadside and while it isn't a heavily trafficked road, it is still a road so I wanted her to go slow. She almost jumped out of her skin trying to go slow. Once we hit the woods, she was off and gave me a glorious 10 mph trot that was a pleasure to ride. We sailed through the first 2 miles without a care.

Mile 3 took us by the lake and she was doing pretty good (walking the steeper up hills and down hills and trotting any straight or less steep sections) until she saw a fishing boat. The guy was fishing in a little alcove and she was definitely not happy with this. She stopped and stared for a long time. I never really know what is best. Push her on? Let her look? Eventually she moved on, but was very cautious and we made it down the trail at a slow but ok pace.

Then all heck broke loose. A speed boat came tearing across the lake with a group hooting and hollering out of sight. I never saw the boat, but then again the only thing I did see was my life flashing before my eyes. Gem took off. She broke into a canter (I have never had the pleasure of cantering her solo on trails as she either won't do it or I'm too scared to ask) and went helter-skelter down the trail. If it had been a wider trail, straighter trail or flatter trail (or any combination of the three) I would have been ok. But it was on a section that I wouldn't have even let her trot. Single track, 90 degree turns with trees tightly on each side and very steep short declines. We crashed around for a while until I finally got her under control. She almost spilled onto her side numerous times.

From that point forward she was unhappy. She was looking for a fight from every tree, stick, rock, and butterfly and was just waiting for an excuse to let loose. She was a very sweaty girl. Mile 4 is on a wide access road and I used the shoulder to trot the crap out of her and get her mind back in the game. It would have been a great place to canter some, but it is also a lot of gravel and her feet are not in shape to go cantering or even trotting down it without boots (which I don't have yet) and so we walked a bit more than I would have liked.

Mile 5 was uneventful but she was very tired at this point and pokey. And then all heck broke loose again only in a different way. This ahs me scratching my head big time. When we bean trail riding solo I would just go out 30 minutes then turn around and it was on the same trail. I noticed that she was fine going out but when I would turn her around she would act up. Not in a rushing to get home way, but in a very slow walk trying to turn around and go back the other way sort of way. When we hit the familiar part of the trail at mile 5.5 she did the same thing. She was walking slower than I do and man is that frustrating. Had we kept the same pace as before we would have finished the 6.5 mile loop in 1 hr 30 minutes which while not endurance pace is still really good for us. But she slammed on the breaks and it too us a solid 30 minutes to go 1 mile! I debated getting off of her and running her in on foot, but didn't want to teach her that is a reward for being pokey. She would stop. She would try to turn back around. She was go sooooo slow. I was at my limit when we got back to the trailer and wanted off.

So the ride ended up taking us 2 hours again. I haven't uploaded my GPS data yet but can't wait to see it as there were definitely some great trots the panic canter and then the slow as dirt walk sections. She was very sweaty at the end which is nice. I go to see the sweat from the saddle and it is all very even. I am very impressed with it. Of course she then decided not to get back on the trailer without a lot of convincing and loss of patience. I just don't get her sometimes.

I worry that she hates going out on the trail solo. She is getting really bad at getting on the trailer which is not something that she has ever done before. If Pete is in there she is ok. But once she sees she is going alone, good luck getting her on. I can't do it by myself. It requires someone else to push her from behind. I think this weekend we may take time to just load and unload her until she realizes it is something she has to do. But that lends me to think she hates it. But then when we are out she only acts up once she knows we are close to being done. Which lends me to thinking she actually really does like it. I just don't know.

March 24, 2014

Gem Update

AHHHH!!! Work is horrible right now for a number of reasons and my new business has been keeping me beyond busy at night after W goes to bed, so there has been little Gemmie time and even less blogging time.

But there has been a lot going on still. For starters, my horse owning fail.

I went away to Orlando for a work conference at the end of February. I was going to ride the weekend before I left, but we got a call from the barn owner that Pete had blood coming out of his mouth. Oh no!!! I immediately panicked and we headed out to the barn. It turns out he cut his tongue a little and it was not a problem at all. But with all that I didn't get to see my Gemmie before we left for a week.

When I got back the BO called again saying that Gem had some weird skin thing going on. I panicked again and went out to see her feeling like a loser horse owner because the end of January and all of February had me out maybe once every other week if I was lucky. Gemmie hates it when I don't see her often and then I got a call that she had something wrong and it made me feel terrible.

I went and got her and this is what I saw:

Probably from butt rubbing

Ugly bare spots

When I first got her 4 years ago she had bare spots on her butt like above and it was due to a heavy worm load causing her to be itchy and rub the hair off. The BO also thought of this since he saw the butt first and so he de-wormed the entire property. But then the spots on her neck showed up and he was at a loss since those shouldn't be from rubbing.

I figured it was a fungus due to being outside a lot and my poor ownership and lackluster grooming as of late. I am usually very meticulous about grooming her out and love a shiny, clean horse. I only bathe her once or twice a year to not strip all the oils out of her, but always brush her out until she shines before and after a ride. They don't appear to be bite wounds as the skin is intact and they are not sensitive at all. So I groomed the crap out of her and applied a fungicide that they had.

The next day was 75 and sunny so I took her out and gave her a good all over bath to get the grime out of her and reapplied the fungicide.

The good news is that they haven't gotten any worse and there are no new spots. I switched to a powdered antifungal that I have and really like. It is called Thrush No More and is a great product. I took those pictures at the beginning of March. The areas started looking pretty dry and flaky so now I am applying my other favorite product: Belly Balm which is an all natural aloe based product and that seems to be soothing the skin. There is new hair slowly growing in and while she looks terrible I don't think it will scar or anything.

I'm also a little worried about her overall nutrition. They added a 5th horse to the pasture and since then Gem seems to be a little duller than normal. It is also a crappy time of year where her fall supplies are running low and the grass isn't in yet. So I researched and bought a vitamin supplement to give them. I got it through smartpak and got a 10 lb bucket of a multi vitamin powder. I was worried about a couple of things. First, it is a powder and will she even eat it? There were mixed reviews online about the horses eating it. Second, how will I even get it in her? Since she is out on pasture with 4 other horses (one being Pete who is also getting the supplement) and they are all fed at once an d like to paly musical feed buckets, how can I know that I am not paying all that money to supplement the others?

The second point is still being figured out. I went out and mixed the powder into some applesauce the first time and they both scarfed it down. I went out the next day and repeated with less applesauce. Gem still scarfed hers down, but Pete was less enthusiastic. Well, that weekend, we went out to ride and Dusty thought to try just the powder and Gem still scarfed it down. Poor thing is either very hungry or just really likes her vitamins. Pete is not as thrilled about it and needs convincing, but we have just been mixing it into a handful of grain to give them. They are not getting it daily as it should be because the BO won't do it and I can't get there everyday. But I figure that getting it most days is better than not getting it at all.

March 17, 2014

Crockpot Spinach Lasagna - Edited to add recipe

I must make a confession prior to starting in about this dish. I had never made a crockpot meal prior to this. Yes, I am 32. Why you may ask? because I am paranoid. The thought of turning something on for hours on end while I am not at home scares me. It could catch my house on fire and I wouldn't be there. I don't care overly much about my material things. I can purchase replacements for all except pictures. But I do care deeply about my cats and dogs and would never forgive myself if they got lost, hurt or died because I needed to cook while not at home.

So, I never did it. But now that we cook at 7 pm anyway, I figured I could start it before bed and wake up to a good meal. There are some issues with this thought process. For starters most recipes don't cook for the entire time I want to sleep so I need to set the alarm and get up (or make the hubs get up which happens way more frequently) to turn it off in the middle of night. And also then the entire house smells like food all night which drives the dogs nuts, makes me have funny dreams and become extremely hungry and sometimes keeps W up too.

But...lets get into the dish shall we?

I will post the recipe in a new page. I wanted to use a sidebar, but that isn't working so well. Check the new tab for recipes! Well, that won't work either or each recipe would need its own page which would get crowded. So I will just add it to the end.

This dish made the cut because it has spinach (which I believe is a real vegetable and not something masquerading as a vegetable like a legume), sauce and can be made overnight-ish. I found it on Pinterest.

It turns out it is super simple to make. Mix up the spinach, cheese and such and use Ragu spaghetti sauce. Put some sauce on the bottom, raw noodles, cheese, repeat, cover and forget about it for a while. Or for a super long time if you are me. See, I thought it was impossible to burn anything in a crockpot. It works by some magical method anyway, so how could anything burn? Seriously, though...I really thought you couldn't burn things in it. I figured out pretty quickly that if you go about your day, head to the barn to ride and then come back hours after it should have been turned can burn. The edges turned out a bit black and crispy, but all in all it was still edible.

  • W loved it because it tastes like spaghetti o's - two baby thumbs up
  • Easy way to get loads of spinach into a kid because even though it is in there, you can't taste it around all the ricotta
  • Super easy to assemble and put into the pot and minimal clean up

  • I thought the noodles were a bit too gummy. I like my noodles to be a bit firmer and slightly undercooked and this was definitely over cooked. That may have had to do with the extra 2 hours it sat on low though.
  • Tasted a bit like spaghetti o's. Which is probably why W liked it so much (not that he has even had the o's before) but for adult flavor it was lacking some oompf.
  • MSG - need to figure out a work around on this ingredient

It went over well enough that it made it onto the syndication list on the side of the fridge. It will be made once a month or so and I like knowing that W is getting his spinach in a nice and no fuss way.

Tips and Pearls:
  • Don't leave it on past the time frame...duh :)
  • I am switching regular lasagna noodles out for whole grain ones. Reading the box it really doesn't seem like it makes a big difference, but any little bit helps
  • I'm not so sure why it needs the Lipton Veggie Soup Mix. First of all, we couldn't even find it at the store and we went to both Walmart, who has everything, and a local grocery store. We found something similar and bought that, but then read the ingredients and it has MSG in it. It calls for a large amount of the stuff too, but I only put in half as much. I think I would just leave it out altogether in the future. I didn't taste it in there anyway.
I would recommend giving it a try if you want to hide some veggies from your picky eater or if you just want to try something a bit different. If you are a creative cooker, this could use some spicing up with basil/oregano/garlic and the like to make it more adult in flavor and less like spaghetti o's, but if you have kids I'd leave it like it is.
  • 2 containers (15 oz. ea.) ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 box (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Vegetable Soup Mix (has the MSG in it!!)
  • 2 jars (1 lb. 8 oz. ea.) Ragu® Old World Style® Pasta Sauce
  • 12 lasagna noodles, uncooked
  1. Combine ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, eggs, spinach and Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Vegetable Soup Mix in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Spread 1 cup Pasta Sauce in 6-quart slow cooker. Layer in 4 lasagna noodles, broken to fit, then 1 cup Pasta Sauce and 1/2 of the ricotta mixture; repeat. Top with remaining 4 lasagna noodles and 2 cups Pasta Sauce. Reserve remaining Pasta Sauce. Cook covered on LOW 5 to 6 hours.
  3. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with remaining Pasta sauce
Slow Cooker Spinach Lasagna

I'm A Bad Blogger - And New Blog Feature

Too much to write about and not enough time!! I will get to my list of topics eventually. There is a lot to discuss and plans to make and changes to look forward to. But...first a new feature! As if I really needed another new feature that I can't keep up with. But I am excited about this. You might not be once you find out what it is, but I am. And it is my blog. :)

I cook a lot these days. Mostly by default because W needs to eat wholesome food full of veggies and nutrients. Our daycare is awesome but doesn't provide lunch. It was ok when we could buy the Sprout lunches he loved. They were organic, stuffed full of veggies and whole grains and low in sodium. But the company discontinued them to make other things and so now we have to cook. The good news is that he isn't a particularly picky eater. Unless it is way different than his normal food, he tends to scarf it down pretty readily. His favorite food is chicken nuggets and I am honestly surprised our friends at Tyson don't mix some veggies into the chicken mash that is a nugget so that kids could eat them and get their veggies too.

I don't actually like to cook and while I can follow a recipe and make most things turn out ok, I'm not imaginative in the kitchen. I don't have the basic understanding of what spices/herbs/seasonings go good together and how to do basic things. But cooking I do (and so does the hubs...we share the task a lot) and it usually occurs at 7 pm after W goes to bed so that I don't miss time with him when it is already so precious. A single meal will last 3 days for him (because at some point I randomly picked this as an ok time to eat the same thing in a clue why but it works) and so in our 2 week period between shopping trips we plan 8 meals. We also try to make 2 new meals in that period to expand the list of possibilities. Because nothing is worse than cooking except cooking the same 3 things over and over and over and over again.

And that finally brings me to the new blog feature. I will post weekly, hopefully anyway, what new meal we tried, what I thought about it, what W thought about it, and will eventually get a new page up with the recipes written out in case any sound appetizing. We started this over a month ago, so I am a little behind already.

One thing to note before I get into a recipe. I chose these based on some simple rules. They must be easy to make either at night after he goes to bed or in a crockpot. They should have veggies of some sort although a couple have none (oops on my part). W likes sauce, so most will have some sort of a sauce (although he pigs down on meatloaf and kielbasa without any sauce on it at all).

So lets start at the very beginning with the first recipe I tried.

I think I will make this a second post for today because this one is getting pretty long as it is.

March 11, 2014

Endurance Convention

The hubs bought me an AERC membership for Christmas my first season of endurance. It came with a monthly (or maybe every other month??) newsletter. I was so-so on the newsletter. There were some interesting articles, but the main thing is that it always talked about the national endurance convention. I really wanted to go. I pictured a room chocked full of endurance supplies at the trade fair. Oh the fun I could have walking through that crowded room drooling over pads, bridles, bits, bags, cruppers, boots, tights, and best of all....saddles. I could touch, sit in and look over lots of different models of the top endurance type saddles. It would be amazing.

The only problem was that it was held in Reno every year for the past 3 that I was aware of. A trip to Reno wasn't in the cards and so I would just need to dream about it. And I think I probably should have left it at that. I know, I am going to sound ridiculously spoiled and annoying here, so ignore the rest if you want.

This year, as luck would have it, the convention was moved to Atlanta. Only 2 hours away. Plus we have friends that live there and so last weekend we packed up W and headed out to my dreamland of all things endurance gear. In fact, I had so looked forward to the trade fair that I had made up a list of things to look into buying that included a crupper (I could finally see the difference first hand in the various types out there), crew bags and saddle bags and hoof boots. I also continued to dream of the numerous types of saddles I could look at.

We got there at 11 am and I ran into the trade fair. I was sooo excited...just like a little kid at Christmas. I should back up here a minute and inform everyone just how much I LOVE conventions and trade fairs in particular. I could go to any about any subject and have a great time. Bonus points to any booth that gives away anything for free - pens, candy, bags, etc... I LOVE trade fairs. I have been to many over the years - home and garden shows when I had neither a home nor a garden of my own, a food one (food network style), the Rolex one which was simply amazing and multiple work related ones. I LOVE them all. So when I had the chance to attend one that is horse and endurance related, I was jumping out of my skin.

I will give credit to the few vendors who showed up for it. And maybe my perspective is once again off base coming from such large venues with impressive and massive trade fairs. But really this one was dull. There were two saddle companies who showed up: Reactor Panel and Freeform. Out of the hundreds of types of saddles out there only two showed up and both were very specific types: RP is a flexible panel saddle (you might recall I had two on demo) and Freeform is treeless. What about the Arabian Saddle Company? Or any of the other types of saddles? If you weren't interested in either of those styles you would be out of saddles completely. Bummer.

The complete highlight of the entire thing was meeting Mel. She is a fellow blogger who runs Boots and Saddles and I have been a silent stalker of her blog for years. I got to meet her in person and chat a little which was absolutely great. I love her blog and she also consults for Renegade hoof boots which is the type I want to buy some day and was able to get a good look in person at them.

But other than that there was nothing. There was one large booth in the center of the small room form the Long Distance Depot that was crammed with various things, but it was so scattered and messy that it was impossible to look for anything. And nobody was helpful about it either.

We left an hour after showing up and had I not had friends to hang with, the two hour drive there and another two hours back would have been for nothing. But we did have friends and we got to spend the rest of the day hiking around the Chattahoochee River which was fantastic.

All in all, I would not go back again unless I knew before hand what all vendors would be showing up or had a specific purchase that was going to be there. I did talk up the Advantage saddles quit a bit to the Renegade people.

March 9, 2014

So Much to Catch You Up On!!

AHHH!!! So much to say. I have been terrible at keeping up with this lately. There has been a ton going on in life and so very little time to get it all in. Let's see. I'm not a list person. Lists drive me crazy. I don't like seeing a long line of things to do and not being able to cross them all off. Most people love lists because it keeps you organized and scratching an item off makes you feel good. I'm the opposite. Crossing something off just makes me more stressed about how much time it is going to take to cross everything else off and if even one item doesn't get crossed, off I feel like I didn't work hard enough or long enough to complete the list. But, I am going to make an exception (well, two since I have an extremely long list of things to do for my business) and make a list of the topics to write about.

1.) Insanity - why I am not doing it anymore

2.) Endurance Convention

3.) My business

4.) My most spectacular horse failure and follow up great ride today

5.) What happened to endurance and me

6.) Musings on Orlando and Disney

7.) Saddle update

I am going to try hard to do a decent write up of each one. Maybe not in that order, but each will get a post. I am in the middle of thawing out hamburger to make dinner for tomorrow night, so I will start with an easy topic for tonight.

#1 - Insanity.

I liked the work out. I was feeling stronger and more fit even after only 1-2 weeks of doing it. I knew my abs looked tighter and that made me happy. It was not impossible to do it. I even would go as far as to say that I enjoyed some of the discs we did.

What I didn't enjoy was cramming it in at 8 pm and then crashing right afterward. 45 minutes a day 6 days a week is hard to dedicate to one activity. It meant no trips to the barn during the week (which was fine at the time, but isn't going to work starting now) and an ignored Gemmie (part of #4).  It was all consuming. But event hat I could make work for the first week. It was dark outside, so the barn was out anyway and I had nothing pressing to do except cook once every 3 nights for W (I know, you are thinking - what? what do you eat the other nights?? Well we cook two dishes at a time so one is for his lunches and the other dinners and each meal generally lasts 3 days for him)  and sit on the couch.

But then my business happened and now every night W goes to bed between 6:30-7pm and I hit the computer to get work done. There is an excessive amount of things that need done and a small time frame to do them in. So Insanity had to be pushed aside.

I don't know if I am going to pick it back up. I would like to say that I am. That I am going to finish it and not be another Shaun T drop out. But I don't think I will. I had a couple issues with the program (go figure!) but all in all I liked it. My one big issue was this: I could bust my butt for the 60 days (or whatever it is) and do it 45 minutes a night 6 nights a week and do nothing else that I enjoy (such as riding my horse) and be awesomely fit at the end. I do question when I would plateau on it, but lets assume I wouldn't. So here I am 60 days later, a new more fit me. Great. Now what? I am not going to devote the rest of my free time and life to it. I bet I would be able to maintain that level of fitness for what? a month? If I am lucky. Because here is the thing with Insanity. It isn't based on anything I normally do for fun, work, life. I don't do a lot of squats, jumping in the air, push ups etc...

We all know how quickly we lose fitness once we stop the activity. We don't just maintain it. I would end up losing everything I gained from doing the work out because I don't have 45 minutes a night 6 nights a week to continue the program. Once I went back to riding, it would be lost.

Anyway, I'm not saying it isn't worth it to lose some inches/pounds and get fit. It is. If you have the time. And maybe, once the business settles down a bit, I will find the time again. I think it would be easier to pick running back up if I had that much time. A 45 minute run even three days a week while riding another 3 would be much more realistic. We shall see.