Thursday, December 23, 2010

#51 (or, Lots of Cool Photos!)

Apparently this is my 51st blog post so I thought I would go all Dave Matthews and title it as such. Just can't resist the subtitle though; had to pull you in somehow! I have several bits and pieces to write about, but most can be expressed best through pictures, so here goes!

I finally finally finally finished my final jewelry project--a hollow form barn. The piece ended up taking somewhere between 35 and 40 hours, but it was worth it. I love the piece! Absolutely love it! And I don't usually feel that way about my pieces. There were several big hurdles toward the end (ahem, my adorable little rooster weather vane broke off in the eleventh hour!), but I pulled it all together by the time the studio closed Sunday evening. Here are some photos:

The back has a selection from a poem I love by Marge Piercy (To Be of Use); it says "The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident." Very fitting for both the piece and how I feel about my life and work :)

I was able to squeeze in two Christmas gifts-earrings for my sister (sorry, forgot to photograph them before sending off the package) and a mustache necklace for my sister-in-law. I did a brush finish on the front and printed the back with a floral pattern. I then used liver of sulfur to give it an oxidized finish. It's a fun piece that I hope she'll enjoy:

My dear friend, Linn, commissioned me to create four pieces for Christmas gifts. She is meeting three of her best buds for a concert on New Year's Eve and wanted a music-inspired piece to commemorate the event (they are avid concert goers). I came up with a small guitar cut-out that I made in the "window style" I perfected this summer. Each one is a bit different, and I patterned the metal. The backs are all stamped with the date of New Year's. Here they are:

She was pleased with them (yea!), and she got me the most amazing gift-- a portrait of Caesar and Topo! I teared up when I opened it! This is definitely one of the most special gifts I have ever received! Linn is very supportive of my "new ventures" in life (i.e. working less and riding and making jewelry more), and it means a lot to me that she respects and even admires my choices so the painting was all the more meaningful. The artist is a friend of hers and has painted horses for years; she asked her to put Topo into the painting, and I think it's just awesome! Thanks, Linn!

In farm news, the boarders at my barn got together to build jumps as a gift to our barn owner/trainer. It's been a pretty tough year for her with both of her horses having significant (career ending) injuries; she's been horse shopping for months, and just this week found "the one", a Holsteiner/TB eventer that she brought home today. We presented her with the jumps this evening, and she was so happy! I am glad she has a horse with which to jump them! Good things! April, Shannon, Megan and I set up a course with them and did some jumping. I was bareback so I didn't do as much, but we did jump our first skinny panel! Caesar stopped twice (mostly my fault), but I stayed pretty solid in my seat despite being bareback which I was pleased with. We went on to jump it pretty well; lots to work on but a good start!

Here's a photo of the jumps in progress (Shannon and Mike are quite the artists!): Photos of all of them to come soon.

Tomorrow will be dedicated to wrapping presents and cleaning house (hopefully with a hack on Caesar thrown in). I can't believe it's already Christmas (you too?), but it always comes so soon. We'll be spending the day with Mike's family and surely enjoying some really great food. Next week, we are off to Shenandoah, VA, with our good friends, Attia and Phil; just two nights, but two nights that are much needed and deserved :)

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Mike and a newly outfitted (and slightly indignant) Topo say "Merry Christmas"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What's a Christmas-gram?

In the words of Buddy the elf: "I WANT ONE!" I do realize that this is the second time I have mentioned a Will Ferrell movie in my little blog, and while I would not consider myself a huge fan, I do like many of his movies. And Elf, well, I enjoy Elf very much! This is likely due to the fact that in my first two years of teaching, my two mentors/best buds, Kate and Beth, made it a ritual to watch and quote the film several times during the holiday season. It helped me appreciate the movie all the more.

Tonight Mike and I are addressing holiday cards and wrapping gifts so some time with Buddy the elf seemed perfectly appropriate. I'm sort of ambivalent about the holidays. I love celebrating for the usual reasons--cookies, gift-giving (and, ahem, receiving), Christmas music, sparkling lights... But it also causes me a bit of anxiety. I tend to start thinking/worrying about what gifts to give around mid-November, but wait until, oh, Decemeber 10, to actually begin any shopping. Then I spend the week leading up to Christmas procrastinating the gift wrapping (I loathe wrapping). Enter Mike, who is quite a good gift wrapper :) This year is no different, but I might be a day ahead which isn't so bad!

Today was my last day in the jewelry studio, and it was quite productive. My final project is FINALLY done. I had a few melt-downs this week and ended up having to put an additional 8 or so hours into the piece in order to complete it. Alas, it is really awesome, if I do say so myself :) I finished four pieces that a friend commissioned and was able to sneak in two gifts for family members (though I had hoped to do a few more, I am glad I got these in). Photos are in order, but the photo-storing computer is on the fritz at the moment, so that will have to wait till another day.

Riding has been pretty low key lately due to the freakishly frigid temperatures. I am one who will ride outside in almost any conditions but there have been several days lately where the ground was too frozen and the wind was too wicked to do any sort of hacking. Alas, bareback in the indoor is as good as it gets, but we are still having fun! The boarders at my barn got together to make several jumps as a gift to our barn owner/trainer. They look fabulous (I can't take credit for much!), and those deserve photos too!

Happy holidays to anyone who might be reading, and I promise photos soon!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bareback bliss

December has descended and with it came a severe drop in temperature. Around mid-day Wednesday, the temp in the the Baltimore area dropped from 62 to, oh, about 40 (which means the temperature at the farm, also known as the Carrollmuda Triangle dropped to 35). YIKES! The ponies fared well, but it's definitely time for those heavy weight blankets to be pulled out. Caesar is still sporting his au naturel blanket as I haven't made a move to purchase clippers or hire someone to do it. That probably served him well this week, but he needs to get some of that fur removed! For a Thoroughbred who spent several years racing and then several more as a stall boarded horse, he has fully acclimated to winter outside 24/7 (or at least his coat has)! Seriously, he is so fuzzy that when I look down at his neck while riding, he seems like a different horse (a not so narrow horse, ahem :)

This week was very busy and loooong, and it was made longer by the fact that I only rode on Wednesday and Friday. I hate it when that happens. Alas, those rides were quite good. I had initially planned for last week to be week 2 of a relaxed two-week schedule (read: bareback and hacking only), but then I had the opportunity to work with my friend Cherie (awesomeness once again!) and to do a clinic with Sally Cousins (fun and confidence building!). So on Saturday and Sunday, I just did some walking and bareback dressage. Caesar was a champ. My rides this week were not only few and far between but they were brief: 35 minutes on Wednesday and 30 minutes tonight. But...they...were...awesome :) And I have a few theories for why.
-Riding bareback really helps me achieve a better position and better control/use of my seat and leg aides
-I spent about 10 minutes just letting Caesar walk at a slow pace on a long rein, asking only that he stay straight and focused. With the weather so cold, any horse can benefit from slow walking to warm up.
-Then I gathered up the reins a bit to achieve some light contact and asked for a forward, in front of my leg walk (which we have been working on a lot in the past two weeks).
-After 5 minutes of this, I asked for some suppleness and even more connection and, bam, I got it. He was moving around all nice and forward and round like a dressage pony. A bit more walking like this and then onto the trot. While there were still ugly moments (um, my down transition from the canter bareback is still a bit bumpy which leads to loss of connection to say the least), the ride(s) was fantastic!
-I focused on relaxing my overactive right leg and engaging my lazy left leg more (thanks for the tip, Cherie) which seemed to help achieve more symmetry in both the walk and trot. I also focused on using my core to elongate my legs and stretch through my heels (a visual image that worked well). Each time I did this, I really felt Caesar's back stretch up.

While I don't prefer to ride for such a short time and I really don't prefer to ride in the indoor (though I am SO grateful to have access to one), these two rides this week were phenomenal! A year ago at this time, my riding was an absolute disaster. I am not exaggerating. I could barely get Caesar to walk around the indoor straight and forward. And the trot was a continual banking in or falling out. It was terrible. From November to January I lived in rider anguish thinking there was no hope. ICK! So of course when fall hit, I got a bit nervous. Even though I have made so much progress this year, I still feared (and, honestly, still do) that we would be sucked into the vacuum of bad riding this winter. The streak of bad riding probably had little to do with it being winter, but being stuck in the indoor from November to March surely did not help. Flash forward to tonight when I would have been happy with straight and forward (leaps beyond last year), and what do I get? Caesar was forward, straight, balanced, rhythmic and supple for most of the ride. And that felt like a million bucks :)

So, check plus for good rides this week! I have a jump lesson on Sunday so I'll actually pull out a saddle for tomorrow's ride. But the days of bareback riding will continue. In fact, I've put this Thinline bareback pad on my Christmas list:

I've been borrowing a friend's bareback pad for over a year, and I feel both Caesar and I deserve an upgrade :)

In jewelry news, my final project, a hollow form barn, is in the works. Hope to get some pictures up soon. I am hoping to get some Christmas gifts fashioned soon as well as a few commissioned pieces completed for my dear friend, Linn. It will be a busy few weeks in the studio!

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November notes

November is very nearly over, how did that happen? No, really, where did it go? I swear it was just November 1. We’ve been fortunate to have some really nice weather over the past few weeks in central Maryland. That means more time riding and less time working inside (I’ve been neglecting the jewelry work a bit). At this point in the year, I seriously covet my outdoor riding time. With sunset around 4:45, opportunities to ride on the trails, galloping paths, fields, and outdoor ring are quickly waning. So you can bet I’ve been maximizing that outdoor time. Caesar and I have put in a few bareback trail rides (fun and confidence building!) and a good bit of conditioning work.

We went to our first clinic last Sunday with event rider/trainer Mogie Bearden Muller. I was a wee bit worried that I might not be ready for a clinic, but since it was billed for riders at 2’3” and up, I thought “Why not?” The day was quite a success for Caesar and me. We worked on some single fences as well as a bank down into water. Mogie worked with me on my position, especially that wandering, wimpy left leg and on maintaining Caesar’s pace into fences. When he gets quick 5 strides before an xc fence, I tend to either pull an extreme half halt (read: fierce halt) or just let him go. She helped me first establish a better consistency of canter in the approach (use those half halts then!) and think about using other means to help him maintain his pace into the line—shoulders back, using more leg and knees, hands up, etc.

We had our last event of the season on Sunday, the short course at Loch Moy (where we had a much improved ride compared to our outing in September). Megan and Wyatt also had a great day, and we celebrated with a bottle of wine (a great idea at the time, though we were a bit tipsy when unloading the horses back home)!

I have not been much of an avid jeweler this past week (show prep and work overflow, oh my!), but I was able to put in a few good hours today. That’s a good thing, considering my break put me a good bit behind! My wire project is due on Tuesday (eek!), and while I’ll have to put in the equivalent of an all-nighter this weekend, I’m more excited about the piece than I was before ( I had lost some interest which is inevitable when forging and soldering, blech). The piece will be a barn of sorts with little farm animals. Here’s a sneak peak of some of the components:

And finally, here are a few photos of my mid-term piece that I finished at the end of October; it’s medal of honor dedicated to my grandmother, the consummate gardener:

I used a colored pencils (with a base of gesso) to "paint" the copper veggies!

The quote says "Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart"; I used embroidery thread to stitch around the perimeter of the flower.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two posts a month isn't so bad...

But it's not good either. And I am just barely getting the second in before the deadline! Life has been busy the past few weeks, very busy, but a good busy, the kind that makes you eager for the next week (even if you are a little tired from the previous).

In early October, my students created mini greenhouses for micro greens, and last week, we harvested them. It's a really easy task--plant seeds in recycled plastic containers (with holes, like those for berries) and after two weeks, the sprouts are ready to be harvested. Trendy sprouts (a staple for fancy farm to table restaurants this year) are oft referred to as micro greens, but they are one in the same. We planted radish, carrot, lettuce, sugar snap peas, turnips, and beets, and we used ours as a garnish for a tomato mozzarella salad. It was a great experience for the kids, and they enjoyed the flavor of the raw greens; there's something to be said about growing your own food! It makes it all the more delectable.

The micro green harvest coincided with a visit from a writer and researcher from Johns Hopkins Public Health School Magazine. They wanted to feature our cooking program in a slide show to promote a piece on the obesity landscape. I'm eager to see the final product--photographing and interviewing first and second grade "chefs" proved comical and chaotic at times. But then, that's all teaching :) My dear friend and first roomie in Baltimore, Attia (who is a PhD student in nutrition at JHSPH) came to take part as well; it was wonderful to have her company and support, especially since we started this teaching journey together as hopeful TFA corps members back in 2004. I don't think either of us knew exactly where we would be career-wise six years later, but I am so glad we are still in Baltimore together :)

Last Sunday, Megan and I took the ponies to Loch Moy to school their amazing competition course. It really is a treat both to compete and school at the facility, and the weather was perfect! Both Wyatt and Caesar were very well behaved and obedient on course. Caesar was controllable and correct to the fences, and I think a lot of that had to do with my improved position; when I am correct, he's so much easier to ride. The week prior I had spent some dedicated time working on my two point at the trot on the galloping path as well as working on pace. Clearly, it paid off! That means I must continue that work and get my legs stronger!

Here are a few photos (I'll post a short video clip soon, no luck with that application today???)

That's all for now, but I have jewelry updates and photos to share soon--there's not enough time in the day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What's that smell?

Last week was a stinker. Between boiling vinegar for pickling, riding more than once in the pouring rain (fun while it lasts, terrible on the drive home), and over using paste wax in the jewelry studio, it was quite the smelly week. In cooking class, we made our first foray into the world of canning; we kept it simple (and avoided any threat of botulism) by making pickles. I was quite impressed with the results, and the kids were perhaps even more pleased. Success! It's so funny what they like--who would think the smell of simmering vinegar would be appetizing to children?

Quavel shows off the pickles!

Caesar and I had a few great dressage workouts last week but a dousy of a jump session on Wednesday (creeping left leg strikes again). I made some important corrections on Friday, and today I improved on that a bit more to have a much better lesson. Basically, I have to use those legs and ride the jumps, not just assume he'll do the work (yep, still working on that). We'll be schooling at An Otherwise Perfect Farm on Saturday to prepare for a horse trial next week, our first since June! I am trying to get excited, but in all honesty, I am feeling more than a little nervous. Eesh!

Jewelry class is kicking my butt; I love love love it, but the assignments are quite challenging and the work is even more time-consuming than I had imagined. The design element of the course is perhaps my weak point. I have no problem generating ideas, it's the act of honing those ideas into sketches that are feasible. I'm getting better with practice, but I expect this will always be a challenge for me. On the upswing, my skills are improving, and I am learning how to perfect basic techniques. Our first piece had pretty tight parameters: make a pierced (read: sawed) piece out of one piece of sheet metal (no layering, too bad!) that expresses an element of your identity. An identity assignment! Cringe, I always hate those! But it gave me a chance to work on something horsey; here's the final result:

I included a little hound and deer in the lower left hand corner as an homage to Caesar (ahem, Hound Deer); the piece is a bit big for me, but it actually looks decent on. A conversation starter at least!

I am working on lots of tiny cut-outs for a garden themed piece at the moment. I have decided that what I really love is creating tiny vestiges of domesticity. I have a slew of ideas for simple pendants and earrings; time will tell if I have the capacity (well, the time really) to complete a handful of them along with my big assignments. In any case, I am really loving the studio time; I would have never fancied myself a metal smith, but I couldn't be more pleased with this new hobby! Hopefully there will be more photos to come soon :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dust off that blog!

I've been blatantly absent from the blog roll for a while (though I am checking others' blogs with ridiculous regularity :), and today's the day to put an end to it. Of course, the problem with abandoning your blog is that every time you think to sit down and write, there's just too much to say. This has happened at least twice a week over the past 5 weeks. As if I didn't already have to worry about writing too much. It's sort of like that phone call you keep meaning to make to a dear friend (ahem, I have several of those lined up as well). Or maybe it's more like a dirty laundry pile...

In any case, I thought I would just post some photos with captions to attempt to recap some of the more interesting moments of the past month+. School is back in session, and I'm teaching cooking twice a week (busy!) as well as first grade math (fun!). Caesar is doing very well, and we have been having fun jumping and making big progress in dressage (more on that later). My MICA course is in full swing, and I've got a few very cool projects on tap. Central MD is looking and feeling a bit more like fall, and that makes me a happy camper. Here's hoping for a fabulous fall!

My classroom post-move (YIKES!)

After the first day of sorting and rearranging

Getting better

Ta-Da (well almost)! The tiny, er, cozy math area with tables in foreground.

Cooking cart looking cute.

Caesar suffered a nasty case of the scratches on his muzzle and had to suffer through several application of desitin (leaving me smelling like a diaper table). He's looking like quite the coke addict in this shot :)

Megan on Wyatt at the Loch Moy short course where we competed two weeks ago. We had a great time and plan to attend another in November.

The farm underwent a major tree-lift this week. That meant many scary machines and even scarier noises during tack-up time. Caesar was sensible for the most part!

Last night, Mike ran a cross country race that happened to take place on a combined steeplechase/eventing cross country course. He even got a horsey ribbon for his second place finish! Very cool!

Finally, remember that duck I saw being walked in Hampden (of course you don't). Well, it's a teenager now, and it's still being paraded around the neighborhood! Maybe an inside duck isn't such a bad idea?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Watch and Learn

Today I audited the Jimmy Wofford gymnastic clinic at An Otherwise Perfect Farm. I have never audited a clinic although I've wanted to on several occasions; the great Mr. Wofford has held a few clinics in the area earlier this summer, but I was unfortunately unable to make those. I would have loved to stay the whole day (especially since Cherie was to ride in the Training/Prelim class later in the day!), but I could only sneak in a couple of hours. I left the house with time to spare, and I was feeling pretty good about my promptness until 2 miles from the farm I encountered this:

Yep, that's a massive tow truck attempting to haul a huge rig that is loaded with a bulldozer (the bobcat that was pulling it had obviously gone kerplunk). I arrived just as the tow truck and county police arrived and subsequently blocked my left turn (the only way I knew to access the farm). ARG! ARG! ARG! I was the first car in what ended up being a line of 20 or more cars. And I was so hopeful they would let me, maybe just me, make that left turn. Finally after 45 minutes and after a third attempt to hook up the rig failed, they moved the police car and opened the road to traffic. FINALLY!

Don't you hate it when that sort of thing happens? I was all ready to give myself props for being early. Nope :)

Alas, I was still able to spend almost two hours watching Jimmy execute the beginner novice level session of the clinic. The majority of the participating pairs where experienced riders on green (often very green) horses. Therefore it was amazing to see the progress that the riders were able to make with their horses under Jimmy's instruction. Just as I had heard, he is full of ah-ha phrases (training mantras that make you say "Ah-ha, that makes so much sense sense!"), and I am ever in need of more ah-ha phrases. I scribbled furiously in my journal to record some of his conversations word for word; at times, it was like he was talking to me, as if my green-rider habitats were written on the brim of hat. In the middle of the clinic, Jimmy's jump crew of 1 had to leave to tack up her horse for the next session. I quickly stepped forward to offer my help, and I am glad I did. Remember I said these were green horses; that meant that on average every other horse took down poles and/or a few standards as he careened through the exercises. So as we reassembled the jumps, Jimmy shared some wise tid-bits. What a great opportunity! I left with 6 pages of notes, and an even greater respect for Mr. Wofford. I really hope to have the opportunity to ride with him in a clinic in the future, but in the meantime, I am have plenty to work on from what I saw today!

In other horsey news, my good friend Abby (who is a fantastic writer and rider:) has a great new blog called Historical Horse; readers submit photos from their personal history with horses, and Abby posts their memories along with her own absorbing commentary. It's such a fabulous idea that has clearly struck a chord with many of her readers (some of whom have submitted multiple photos/stories). I love that I have this new blog to read daily, and I am excited to see where Abby takes it! Check it out!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Humble pie and my new haircut

Caesar and I did our first 2'6" stadium course at a little local show on Saturday. While I can't say that it was a complete success or that I left unscathed, I can say that all is well that ends well. And the show ended well enough for us, it was the middle that was a bit hairy. (I am posting videos not because I feel like they are evidence of my best riding; however embarrassing they might be, I include them to keep myself humble. I am only going to get better if I face the facts and sometimes facing them out loud helps :)

Caesar was anything but his forward, eager-to-leap self on Saturday; he was drowsy and disinterested, and I felt like I was riding a hunter horse in our 2'3" class. Other than the lack of impulsion (and my aversion to put my leg on and ask for more go), the class was fine. That same lack of go prevailed in our 2'6" class, and at fence three Caesar stopped, and I toppled off. Yep. Right onto the rails. It was actually a pretty casual tumble as you will see below. I hopped back up and proceeded to put up the rails I knocked down, all three of them! Then I asked, loudly, "Can I go again?" Ha! I remember thinking, well, that wasn't so bad. Eesh.

Make sure you watch the entire clip, even after Mike drops the camera; it's pretty funny! I give you permission to laugh :)

I was indeed able to give the course a second try, and it went much more smoothly. Caesar was still a little stuck, but I put my leg on better and thought "jump it!" rather than "are you going to jump it?" Of course the stop at the end makes it clear that I wasn't riding my entire course with assertiveness. I think my mind was already out of the ring. BOO, Shane, BOO!

I've analyzed it and talked with Becky, Cherie, and my trainer, and the consensus is that I wasn't riding assertively; I didn't put my leg on and when Caesar acted sluggish, I didn't use a crack of my whip to remind him to go forward. Bad Shane. This is nothing new; I chided myself for this same lack of assertiveness back in June. This time I think I was more aware of his sluggishness and even of what I needed to do, but I just didn't make a definite decision to take control. I was worried about why he wasn't forward instead of asking him to go forward; I came to the big realization that I worry about the distances in between the fences and leave Caesar to handle the actual fences. It's almost like I stop thinking before the jump! Perhaps I somehow associate thinking about the jump with worrying about it?

For a bit of redemption, I jumped Caesar on Sunday at home. I first got him connected and listening to my aides (thank you, Cherie!) and then I went over a small vertical before proceeding to a short course. When I caught myself zoning out or mentally asking Caesar if he would jump, I thought, and said, JUMP! Oh, and I put my leg on! My how that worked!

The good news is that it was an educational fall and that the fact that I was jumping 2'6" actually never caused me much worry. The challenge now is not to just keep working hard but to work definitively. Ride like I mean it!

This post is already too long (as I promised my blogger self that I would post less...maybe I should write in code?), but I must report on my haircut! I got a whopping 10 inches of my hair lopped off! I was very anxious as I have always been a long-hair gal, but I am really liking it. So much easier!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Short posts are impossible...

(disclaimer: I promise I tried to make this post brief; it's just so hard!)

That last week and half has been busy and fun—a trip up to NY and RI, and excellent lessons in dressage and quilting. Mike and I had a grand time at our friend’s wedding followed by a relaxing (but equally active) jaunt on quaint Block Island. I will write another post on the trip with photos soon. For now I’ll give a update of the past few days, which have been busy and rewarding.

Saturday was part two of my school’s big move; 20 or so volunteers showed up to lend their backs and patience as we moved the remaining 4 classrooms from our old building to our new home. We are only moving about 100 feet to another building on our school’s shared campus, but it turns out a move within close proximity is just as taxing as one across town, if only because you assume it will be easier! The new building is still undergoing renovations, but it looks amazing. A former convent, the building has spectacular floor to ceiling windows and lovely stained glass remnants. My shared kitchen/art room has a whopping 8 windows and is painted a delectable apple red (in hopes to stimulate appetites). Despite the burdens of moving and resettling, I think our homey, hippy-dippy school will be much more suited to the old convent, a space that feels like a great big hug :)

Yesterday, I met Nina, Abby, Jen, and Jen’s hubby, Brian, for brunch at one of our fave restaurants—Woodberry Kitchen. WK did not disappoint as we enjoyed both sweet and savory delights (beignets and blackberries, spelt crepes, basil-lime lattes…oh my). As this blog is an indication, I am ever trying to improve my riding, especially my dressage. I have come a long way in two years, but I am only beginning to understand the basics of this most admirable (and mysterious!) sport. It seems to me that much of dressage is the learning and relearning of a few basics tenants; you have to know the basics to practice dressage but you have to practice the basics in order to know them. A bit of a conundrum. I’m developing a far better seat and leg through specific exercises and concentrated time spent riding sans stirrups, but my hands are still a bit messy. I am happy to say that Cherie of Golightly Sporthorses imparted some essential wisdom yesterday that really helped me grasp the concept of connection through the reins. I have had several folks model connection by the basic trick of grabbing the reins and mimicking the horses’s mouth, allowing me to feel the “feel” that I should achieve. But each time I am left a bit dumbfounded as I grasp the theory but I can’t apply the action. When Cherie first began to use the metaphor I thought, “oh, no, I never get this!”, but she did something no one else has done. She showed me what the reins should and should not look like when that connection is achieved, i.e. no loosening and snapping of the reins repeatedly to achieve connection but rather a constant (and taxing) following of the reins with the horse’s mouth. Again, I know my trainer refers to this constantly, and I thought I got it. Clearly, I was missing a big piece. For the next hour I worked on just following Caesar’s mouth and maintaining that contact no matter what. In a short time, he was in a nice frame and I understood what that “feel” should feel like (reins in my palms, please!). Another big breakthrough came in achieving straightness through forwardness (again, duh). I often struggle with Caesar banking in or falling out as we track around the ring. I get frustrated and try to fix the straightness without thinking about the forward motion. Eventually we are stuck at standstill with his head in the air and my hands at my chest. Cherie shared the analogy of a bicycle: when you are traveling very slowly on a bike it will start to wobble, and if you try to fix that wobbling with your hands, you end up wobbling more. Instead if you push forward and get going, the straightness fixes itself for the most part! Alas, it worked with Caesar too! I love moments like this, when something that was fuzzy (though you might not have realized it was fuzzy) suddenly becomes a little more clear. I know there is far more clarity to achieve, but I feel I am off to a good start with a better understand of connection. Now the trick is just employing these basic breakthroughs every time I ride (which I did a decent job of today)!

So, thanks, Cherie! Can’t wait to ride with you again!

Today was my final quilting lesson of the summer, and boy, did we get a lot completed! I finished putting together three more squares and then stitched all the squares together. I was feeling quite accomplished until I realized the actual quilting was yet to begin (what I had been working on is only considered the piecing)! The hard part is actually attaching the now finished front to the batting and backing through either hand sewing or machine sewing. This next step is my homework for the next two weeks. Pam supplied me with a cool how-to book to help with the binding. It was such a treat to work in her studio and learn the basics. I am now even more in awe of what she and other quilters do. I ordered some fun fabrics from etsy, and I am already planning my next piece (perhaps I will just become a piece-quilter and pay someone else to do the quilting and binding ;)

All three of my jewelry pieces were accepted into the exhibit of continuing studies’ student work at MICA. Yea! Here’s a photo of the display:

Tomorrow I am taking the leap and getting my hair lopped off! I’ll be donating it so even if I don’t like the short do, I can know I did it for a good cause! Photos are sure to come!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What a great day!

Yesterday. was a good day. A very good day. I accomplished some big firsts for me--learned some basic quilting skills and began a small quilt, and I jumped almost the entire beginner novice course at Loch Moy! Whoo-hoo! I am proud with a capital P :) And, I got my camera back (which Mike and I somehow misplaced at Loch Moy) which means I snapped some photos of my recent jewelry photos (see below).

My school's community is rich with artistic talent; in every grade, we have at least one parent who is an artist and/or musician. That means our halls our lavishly decorated, our silent auction is full of lovely artwork, and our students have the opportunity to learn from these working artists-parents who moonlight as after school instructors. Really, it's a great gift. One of these parents, Pam, is exceptionally talented fiber artist. She creates pieces that are whimsical and delicate, and I am a big fan. She has been kind enough to invite me into her home studio to learn the basics of quilting. It's been a goal of mine to improve my sewing and learn to quilt for, oh, about 2 years. I thought I would surely have the time this year with my more relaxed schedule. No, no. So I was delighted when Pam agreed to teach me about quilting this summer. Today I learned the basics of selecting appropriate pieces of fabric and the steps of the piecing together the smaller swatches to create squares. We are working on a log cabin quilt, and I successfully made 3 quilt squares! So cool! Hopefully we will have a finished piece at the end of our third meeting next week.

And in other things art, my time in the jewelry studio came to a close this weekend (at least until September when classes resume); it was with much resignation and the clawing of fingernails that I left! Ha! Really, I wish I could have just a few mores hours! I designed a neat piece for my artist friend, Jaclyn, but I was barely able to start it. Bummer, but I did finish the lingering pieces on my to-do list. I am very happy with how my dress piece turned out (title "primp"). I will be submitting three pieces to the art jewelry show that MICA is hosting. I am hoping that at least one of my pieces will be selected. We'll see!

Here are some photos of the work I submitted and two commissioned pieces:

My final piece "Primp" made of copper, brass, plexi glass, paper, and semi-precious stones

Close-up of "primp"

The back of "primp" with it's dainty little secrets :) I am loving adding details to the backs of my pieces!

"sprout" made of brass, copper, mesh wire, and paper

The front of "bloom" made of brass, copper, silver, and paper

The back of "bloom", again with a nice detail

Another frame piece, this one commissioned by Maria

And, finally, earrings for Megan, who has become a repeat customer :)

And finally, to cross country! My friend April and I took our ponies to Loch Moy today; their competition course is open this week for schooling. I actually had intended to work more on cantering longer sets and get more comfortable with achieving rhythm on the course. The smallest of the jumps on course (beginner novice) were still quite large for me so I had only planned on jumping a few of them. Well, we ended up jumping almost the entire course with a few novice jumps thrown in! I admit I was nervous at first (and even nearly launched myself off over the second jump), but after a bit, we really got into a groove. Caesar was a rock star, eager to jump anything and helping me achieve that aforementioned rhythm in between fences. I think he was happy that I was doing less and letting him do his job! Plus, he likes jumping bigger fences! So, I am very happy with the xc school; it's not only the hardest course we have done, but I feel I put in one of my best rides. What a good feeling!

April with Caesar and Gracie and my pal, Linn, with her pups in the foreground (thanks for being our ground person, Linn!)

Tomorrow, Mike and I are headed up to New York for the wedding of my dear friend, Beth. On Sunday we will continue on to Block Island, Rhode Island, for a mini-vacation. Should be fun! I'm sure I will have photos to post!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


This past week has been busy but the best kind of busy, with just enough to do each day to stay engaged and motivated. I often find it hard to find my rhythm in the summer--one week I am traveling, the next week I am working, and then the next I have little to do. I know that is a bit of a luxury, but I need goals and activities to stay motivated! My MICA class has really helped with that as I have been working 3-5 hours in the studio several days a week. It looks like I will have a few more days to work than expected--hooray!

Caesar and I had 3 fabulous bareback dressage rides this week. I think doing my flatwork sans saddle might be just the thing we need right now. I get so tangled up in my saddle and don't really sink in and find my seat. But when riding bareback, I have to find and utilize my seat or Caesar runs away or stops. Ha. I also find I do better lateral work bareback. This week we achieved some really good canter sets. Cantering bareback has never been the problem, it's the up and down transitions where I clamp my legs and throw my body forward and bounce up and down. Yikes! But we improved by leaps and bounds this week! Still room to grow for sure, but we are on our way. And we jumped a few crossrails bareback, another one of my summer goals! I do think that my lower leg is getting more stable. My jump lesson on Friday went very well; we jumped a simple gymnastic--a vertical with a placing pole before and after to a cross rail on a figure 8. By the end of the lesson, the vertical was up to 3 feet! Whooo-hooo! Caesar wasn't alarmed in the least, trotted to it like it was 2 feet, but I think he was happy to show off his skills.

Yesterday, Mike and I volunteered at the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy. It was a great event, and we were assigned some of the more difficult jumps on course so we got to see some very good (and very lucky) riding. Many of the BN jumps still scare me, but I am planning on heading out to school the course this weekend; hopefully, I'll be brave! I got to meet Cherie of Golightly Sporthorses, whose blog I avidly follow. How cool to meet a fellow blogger! She and her horse are quite the pair--fancy and talented, and they breezed through our training elements with ease. And Cherie didn't think I was a lunatic for approaching her blindly (hot dog and smoothie in tow); it will now be even more fun reading about their continued successes this season!

I'll be doing field work with my school staff this week; we'll be in Annapolis tomorrow and then Dorchester County at the end of the week. I'll post about my adventures when I return.

Unfortunately, it seems we've misplaced our camera :((( Big boo. So I don't know when I'll get to post photos of my most recent work. Maybe the gadget will turn up after all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jewelry update (with photos)!

My jewelry class is winding down, and I am scrambling to finish my final projects as well as several other pieces on my "must do" list. EEEEK! I will miss having access to the wonderful facilities that MICA offers. What a great studio! I am planning on taking a class in the fall, but I will go all of August without my beloved studio time. Bummer! But the good news is that my dad is sending me a few his old tools that will allow me to keep working in the interim.

I started my final project for class today. I walked in with absolutely no idea what I would be doing, and I looked around to see that all my classmates had their sketches prepared (having been absent last week, I didn't know about this bit of homework). But after a little bit of brainstorming, I came up with an idea I love: a feminine outfit mounted on a "mirror". Hard to explain, but I made a little skirt and shirt with plexi and paper, and I will be mounting that (as well as a petite necklace) on a mirror of brass with a copper frame. I think it will be super sweet, though not the most wearable piece. Here are some of the component parts:

I also created a little owl with plexi, paper, and copper. Again, the piece is in progress:

As for finished pieces, I made the second in my series (ha :) of framed pieces, this one commissioned by my dear pal, Megan:

I am working on a third for another friend, and I will post photos soon.

I also made a little wedding shower gift for my friend, Beth. She's getting married on July 31, so I thought a piece incorporating the date would be fitting:

I continue to be delighted by how much I am enjoying the time I get to spend crafting jewelry. I tend to be the kind of person who can get easily interested in myriad things, but it's rare that I find a hobby that I can really pour myself into (other than riding horses, of course :). I hope I can turn this little hobby into something more lasting and, perhaps, profitable. We'll see!