The French Countryside: La Fin

I last left you after having experienced the best day on the trip so far, riding along the river and enjoying my finds from the local farmer’s market with everyone. The memories of this day will stay with me forever and I could have gone home happy then.

But, I still had a few days left and they were going to be busy ones. They may have been the last days, but they were certainly not the least ones.

After a Friday of eating croissants and baguette with magic butter and resting up (I did eat other foods…), I took a day trip to the coastal town of Pornic on Saturday, Bastille Day, with a few of the other house guests. We stopped in the city of Nantes on the way so I could peruse through a tack store there. I bought some things I did not need, but I was in France, so I bought them. Why not, right? Side note, this city looks to be pretty cool and has many things to do. If you are in the area, it might be worth looking up. Food. Shopping. Entertainment. Close to the coast.

Continuing our journey to Pornic, we took “the scenic route” trying to get out of Nantes as they were already barricading many of the streets for the Bastille Day celebrations. We all had a fleeting thought that we might not be able to leave! Every time we tried to turn,  we could not and our GPS kept telling us to u-turn. We gave up on the GPS and just started to follow the traffic hoping we would end up somewhere where the GPS would recalculate our journey. Eventually, after much honking and swearing and laughing, we did find our way and continued on.

The kids in the car were starting to get hungry at this point and we still had a ways to drive to our destination. One of them had a fascination with trying McDonald’s in France and it seemed like a good plan to get them some food while we held out for a cafe in Pornic. We asked them if it tasted the same as back home and their comment was that it tasted a little funny. We thought nothing of this and continued on.

We pulled into Pornic, found a parking spot, and set off on foot to the busy harbor. It was a hub of activity and there were people all around with the set up for the night’s celebrations and cafes and shops. If we were not so far from the farm, it would have been nice to stay for the fun, and indeed the original plan was to stay for it. However, after much deliberation, we decided it was best to not stay that late and planned for a nice late lunch, look around, go find the beach, and then head back before it got too late.

Lunch at Le Cap Gourmand was wonderful. A couple glasses of prosecco. A goat cheese galette with honey, nuts, and delicately dressed mixed greens. So simple, yet absolutely fabulous. Sitting outside under an umbrella next to the canal. Good company. It was lovely. After our leisurely meal, we walked through some of the shops before grabbing some sorbet at Glacier Pornic, which was also a knockout. Current and lemon. So so good.

After some trial and error on where and what this beach actually was (the non rock cliffs with crashing waves), we found a good parking spot and made our way down. One of the kids mentioned he needed to use the little men’s room, so our first stop before the actual crowded, teeny tiny patch of beach was the public restroom. Or rather, right outside of said public bathroom with Turkish toilets.

Here is where I might should mention that one should not eat McDonald’s in France. But. S*** happens and it indeed happened that day. In spades. That poor mom and kid! They were both troopers in, dare I say it, somebody stop me, a s***ty situation!

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It was character building! That kid took it all in stride is going to be somebody great!

All is well that ends well, as they say. After the McDonald’s episode, the kids swam for a bit in the ocean before we decided it was time for us to cut our losses and head back to the farm early. These adults needed some wine. We would put our feet in the pool and pretend we were on a beach somewhere with less people and more sand and zero McDonald’s.

We had some good laughs on the way home and after we got back.

Sunday, World Cup day,  began with more croissants and more laughs followed by a ride on the Top Girl in the fields to start the day off right.

Then some of us thought it would be great to meet up with a newcomer to the house at  Chateau Des Vaults to try some wines. Wine tasting in France is fun. I liked the wine and the grounds were just beautiful. So lush and green. You can walk around the gardens and then up a hill to see the vines. I highly recommend it. We all bought some bubbley rose to take home.

That would have been a good enough day right there, but France was playing in the final game of the World Cup that afternoon so we loaded up some snacks and headed to a packed park in Chateau Gontier to watch the game on a jumbotron and drink some beer with a bunch of French people. If you do not know, France won and everyone commenced to celebrating in the streets.

On Monday, the newcomer to the house (who we tasted wine with) and I went off to the coastal town of Concale. It is a lovely, quaint town. We went there specifically to go to Epices Roellinger  (a great spice shop I could have spent hours in. There are others around France, but this is THE one) and a bakery called Grain de Vanille. I bought all the things. Seriously, y’all should go here.

After lunch the coast and crepes for dessert, we drove over to see Mont Saint Michel Abbey. I wanted to go in, but we were too late in the day, and to be honest, I was quite tired by that point and we had a long drive back to the farm.

Tuesday was a relaxing last day on the farm. We had a lovely lunch in a nearby town and then I had one last ride on the Top Girl before leaving on Wednesday.

Wednesday was an early and long day. It is a long story, but I missed my train to get to the airport and we had to make the three hour drive to Paris instead…which put me at the airport less than an hour from the scheduled take off. Fortunately, the flight was apparently delayed. I however, did not know this until after I frantically ran through the airport, almost slipping and falling on my behind in the process. I half expected my shoe to break.

When I finally got on the plane and settled, I ordered a cocktail like I needed it more than my next breath.

Always dress for a run through the airport, kids. You just never know what can happen, whether or not you eat McDonald’s! Ha!

Walk in love, dear readers, and I hope you enjoyed coming along on my trip with me! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The French Countryside: The Best Day

The only thing I knew about Thursday when I woke up was that there was a local farmers market happening in Chateau Gontier and I wanted to go. I love markets. Especially with other people who also love markets.

We skipped the croissants at the house in favor of having one near the market so we could get there early and find all the things we wanted to find. Namely mussels to prepare for lunch later that day at the house.

All of the eager market goers hopped in the car and set off. We parked and set off on foot to a bakery for the first order of business.

We were all suffering from croissant withdrawal and we needed to remedy the situation. What we found in this bakery was a basic gold mine. If only I could remember the name of it. Everything was beautiful and looked as though it actually tasted as it looked. Each pastry was an individual art piece. While we all acted like we had never been in a bakery before, a few people jumped in front of us in line to order because we could not figure out what to do. At the end of our ogling, we each ended up getting multiple things to sustain us throughout the day. With our buttery, delicious finds safely tucked away in a bag for later (we were too excited to eat them just yet), we continued on our route.

As we approached the beginning of the market, I began to get giddy.

We passed by the bird and rabbit section rather quickly to get to what was happening farther down. We were not in the market for that kind of dinner or in need of any breeder stock.

This is where the action was happening. The fresh produce, goods, and all the people! So many sights, sounds, colors, and tastes. I am not typically a fan of crowds of people, but that is part of what makes a market a market.

All the locals were catching up and sharing stories. Smiling. Playing music. It was fabulous. Did I mention the weather was fabulous? Because it was. It reminded me somewhat of the markets we would go to in Mexico while spending summers there growing up. Not quite the same, but similar.

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I spied some beautiful cherries and circled back around to buy a kilo of them. I said si instead of oui. I had actually done this multiple times already, but who is counting. Spain was not all that far away, right?! What can I say, old habits die hard.

We opted to start our walking breakfast of croissant as we continued on. I had to quickly stop as I realized how good this croissant was. Seriously. I am not kidding in the slightest. This one croissant was seriously the best one I had enjoyed yet (and was the best one the whole trip).

Once I was able to walk again, I found something to really got excited about. Local goat cheese! I LOVE goat cheese. Well, any cheese, but put goat cheese on anything and I will eat it. The same can be said about queso and vanilla ice cream. Anyway. Her case had already been depleted and there was a line, so you knew it all had to be good.

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I purchased a round of plain and a round of fresh ground pepper corn crusted to take back to the house. I said si to her as well.

At this point, we decided to power through to the other side where the mussels were to make sure we got some and then stroll back through the rest.

The powering through only lasted so long as we had to stop at this stand with all kinds of dried sausage.

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Anything you could imagine as a sausage, this man had it. Someone in our group bought some kangaroo sausage, just to give you an idea. One of the things I love about these types of markets, is the tasting. They all have little delicate tastes of their offerings to passers by. This man had slices of pork sausage with walnuts to offer. Naturally, I had to try, and just as naturally, I had to buy. I already had the goat cheese! How could I not!? Then I saw something even better. Pork sausage with figs! Do you want to know what I also really love not only in addition to goat cheese, but with goat cheese???!!! FIGS. So I bought some of the fig sausage as well.

We continued on and bought some potatoes and the mussels we came for before turning around.

On our stroll back through the rest of the market, I kept an eye out for the local honeys I saw at the beginning to go with my goat cheeses and sausages. All of that combined with a fresh baguette, I was going to create the best cheese board some time in the next couple of days.

We found a lady with different kinds of honey and she was willing to let us taste them all. This was a very interesting and enjoyable experience. If you like honey, and maybe even if you do not (you might find you indeed do like honey based on how different honeys can be), I recommend you try doing this. They were all really different. We tried four or five different kinds based on what the bees were pollinating on. Some were lovely and balanced and one in particular was straight up medicinal (in which all three of us made a face after we tried it). After deciding on a honey we thought would go well with the cheeses and sausage, we made our way back to the farm.

A large, late lunch and a nap had us all ready for the evening’s activities.

A ride along the Mayenne River at sunset.

Y’all, I can not imagine that I can fully describe this experience in words, so I figure I will let the photos do most of the work. This ride alone was worth the whole trip.

There were five riders and two horses, so we took turns with two people riding and three walking. The plan was to ride from the trailer to a cafe down the river where the rest of the non horsey part of the group was enjoying dinner, at which point I would hop on and ride with one person past the cafe, turn around and come back. Then I would ride with another person from the cafe to the trailer.

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I turned around while I was walking to see this chateau.

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When I hopped up on Top Girl (which was comical because I have not had a leg up in many years), she was ready to go. That Top Girl has top, big girl walk when she wants to! She was happy to be out and about, and so was I. Just another reason we got along so famously.

France loves their hedges and so do I.

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The part from the cafe to the trailer was really and truly fabulous.

A great horse.

Stunning scenery.

A nice new friend and good conversation about horses.

We trotted for a little bit and if I thought Top Girl’s walk was nice, her trot that day could have gone into any ring and won the blue ribbon.

The money shot here. Not surprisingly, this was the best sunset of the whole trip.

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As if all of the above was not enough. The evening just continued to get better.

All of the horse group met at the horse trailer to head back to the farm while the non horsey group finished their meal at the cafe.

Now, I could have done without dinner that night, but why would I do that?! I had all this cheese and sausage, so after settling the horses in their paddocks, we all went up to the house to enjoy some wine and my finds under the starlit sky, around the outdoor garden table. Good food, wine, horse talk, and laughter.

I do not like to use the word perfect, as you well know, but this day was rather perfect.

Walk in love dear readers, and stay tuned for more!

 

 

The French Countryside: The Beginning

The last update from France left you with us in the quiet farm house well after midnight on Sunday the 8th, drinking wine and eating chocolate mousse before getting some much needed rest.

Apologies for the delay in sharing the rest of the trip, but life has gotten in the way! That whole being an adult thing.

So, here is some more of the French adventure!

I woke up later that morning to this.

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Naturally, way before everyone else, but I did not mind because it gave me a chance to explore and enjoy the quiet. The mornings were the only quiet time in the house as the house was full of people and most everyone slept in until the croissants arrived after 10 AM.

The air was cool, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the birds were chirping.  This is how every single morning greeted me. As you can assume, a bit more my speed than busy Paris.

I was staying near Chateau-Gontier, a very cute and quint little town surrounded by rolling hills of golden wheat fields, dairy producers, and French Trotters in the Mayenne department. I will tell you, there is nothing quite like seeing one of those golden wheat fields on a hill as it is lit on fire by the late evening sun. It truly redefines the color gold like Lito’s coat will do when the sun hits it just right.

This first day began, as the rest of the days, with croissants from the local bakery. They really are better over there if you were wondering and that is why I ate so many of them! No excuses! I was in France! Good thing I have never had a croissant over here that tasted as good as the real French ones or I might just make that part of my lifestyle.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing on the farm. Meeting the horses. Enjoying the yard and the breeze. Talking about what we wanted to do that week.

Monday, after croissant and fresh black current jam from currents grown on the farm, we drove three hours to Normandy to visit some of the brood mares and foals, see some of the young horses in training, and bring one of them back to the farm.

On the way there, we stopped in Fougeres to walk around the castle and have lunch.

 

The castle and the view were better than the actual lunch and we continued on our way.

 

It was a long day of driving, but we were greeted back at the farm with wine, cheese, and charcuterie for dinner. I believe it was at this time I tried the magic butter on a piece of baguette (which are also really as prevalent as croissant if you thought that was not true). Magic butter is no lightly used term. It will change your life. It has huge salt crystals in it and it is nothing short of amazing. Word has it you can buy it here in The States and I am going to go buy some for EVERYONE as soon as I can.

Tuesday was another quiet, slow day on the farm where I spent time in a hammock reading next to one of the paddocks.

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Wednesday was a good horse day. We trailered one of the horses to a near by equestrian center that used to function as one of the state studs, Le Lion-d’Angers, for a visit to a farrier. It was a really cool place with an amazing cross country course and race track. Hedge lined, white sand, outdoor jump arenas. Rows and rows of militaristic stables (not my most favorite part). A breeding center for the standing race studs.

I walked the grounds as the mare got her new set of kicks. It was beautiful. If there was any kind of event going on there while I was there, I would have definitely gone back. If you are ever in the area, give it a visit. You will not be disappointed.

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Then, back at the farm that evening, I finally got to ride! A big, lovely French bred warmblood bay mare named Top Girl. We got along famously the whole time I was there. It was most needed.

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We rode at the magic golden hour in France. 8PM. It stays light till about 10:30 there. The air was cool, the lighting was wonderful, and the grass and wheat fields. Words can not describe it. Atop a fine horse and nothing could have been better.

Wednesday was a good day, but not nearly as great as Thursday!

But. You will have to check back for that later!

I am currently out on location for work trying to enjoy some down time in my life this month as a traveling vagabond. I got to have two much too short days at home with my Darcy before I drove the three and a half hours out of state.

So, this is where I sit. I hope to be home by next week and you can bet your boots the first place I go will be directly to the farm. This is the longest I have gone without my animals, but this is what pays the bills.

Being an adult man…

Walk in love, dear readers!

Paris Part Deux: Glacees, Cafe Creme, Croissant, & Horses

I forgot to turn the ringer off of my phone before I finally fell to sleep Friday night. I was rudely awakened at some point in the middle of the night by some unknown Texas phone number. Probably one of those bogus scammers or something. I could not even tell you if I answered it or tried to hit snooze thinking it was my alarm, but luckily I figured out what was going on before I threw my phone across the room.

When my alarm actually did go off for real, I could only open one eye. I forced the one eye into focus as I scanned all the texts on my phone. Side note, international service does not appear to be worth it and the last thing I want to do is get on my phone with them to try and get them to sort it out.

I had some touristy ideas to fill the morning, but the idea of spending the time I had left leisurely sitting on the walk of a café with coffee and breakfast, watching and seeing the city seemed much more appealing. I was tired and it was going to be a late night, so there was that.

Internally agreeing to the idea, I took a little nap and then forced myself out of bed when the need for caffeine, carbs, and butter took over like I had never known before. Good thing I was in France. All of those things are in quick and easy supply.

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R was right. The coffee is better here, way better, so I ordered another cup. I will not lie and tell you I did not think about ordering another croissant, because I totally and actually did think about it. I almost went through with it, but I reminded myself that I have plenty of time to eat all the croissants and gain all the weights.

The time fast approached for my friend, D, to pick me up to explore Chateau de Chantilly, so I strolled back to the hotel to collect my things and check out.

While I explored Chantilly, D went to go pick up a couple of other friends of his before retrieving me so everyone could go and enjoy the Grand Prix back in Paris together.

I toured the stables and horse museum first because, hello, it is me. Horses. The stables are beautiful and there are actual horses there. Practically a jackpot for a gal like me. The minute I walked in, I felt at home. That all familiar smell and feel brought everything right back to the heart. I felt at peace, connected. Not like I was in a foreign land so far away from home. I did not even notice I felt that way until I walked in.

This buckskin Lusitano made me miss my dun duo.

There are signs on the stall doors that say do not touch the horses. Well. I touched this gray one. I could not help it and he was bored. He must have been new. All the other horses ignored me. In the short time I was there I saw two other girls break the same rule. They at least had the decency to look around sheepishly before they did it.

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Then I took a turn through the gardens with an ice cream, or glacee conveniently located in a cart, and then the chateau.

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After meeting the newcomers to the party when my ride arrived, we all made our way to the Eiffel Tower to watch the Grand Prix and do some shopping.

If you would like to see more and better photos, go check out the Facebook page for this event.

I tried yet again to find something to buy and I was again unsuccessful. I consoled myself with the promise that we would later find a tack store somewhere that had more things to choose from.

We left Paris after 9 PM and did not arrive at the farm until after midnight. The house was quiet when we walked in with most everyone already long asleep. Naturally, we all sat at the kitchen table, opened a bottle of wine, and had a couple of glasses. Then we ate chocolate mousse. When in France, right?

The need for clean feet and a bed finally over took me close to 2 AM and I excused myself to go upstairs.

Walk in love, dear readers!

And if you were wondering, this is what my Darcy Doolittle does when I am gone.

I do not know what I would do without my parents to send me updates on my animals.

Paris Part Un: In Which I Did Not Sleep

My plan was to sleep on the plane, but we all know how the best made plans can go…I got nada. The flight was pleasant enough though. I watched a couple of movies (one bad, one good), listened to some music, stared out the window, twittled my thumbs. Normal stuff.

After a quick flight change in London and a jump across the pond, I arrived in Paris at my hotel around 12:30 PM local time. Still with no sleep, but honestly, who has time to sleep. I was strangely not even tired. I kept thinking about what a friend told me once. “I can rest in the nursing home!”

I stayed at the Hotel Eber Mars and quite enjoyed my stay. You should look it up. Conveniently located, wonderful staff, quaint, and full of stories.

I took a quick shower after checking in and set off exploring. With only about 24 hours to take it all in, it was hard to determine what exactly I wanted to do. I fit in as much as I could before dinner.

My hotel was right by the Eiffel Tower. That was easy.

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I zig zagged my way through the streets from the Eiffel Tower to the river and walked all the way to the Lourve. I ate a croissant and watched all the people. It was very busy. Everywhere. And everyone had dirty shoes and feet.

I stopped at a café across the street from a packed bar of some sort where there were several people enjoying the afternoon and the World Cup game. There were no seats left on the sidewalk, so I settled for one right inside, close to all the action. I had a couple of glasses of bubbly and a cheese tray while I watched and listened. It was fun to hear all the shouts and cheers throughout the game.

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I considered going straight back to the hotel and crashing, but I could not let myself do it. Instead I walked through a quiet, pretty neighborhood enjoying the long shadows of the buildings until I found a decent enough spot for dinner.

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Interestingly enough, the Longines Global Champions Tour just so happened to be in Paris at the Eiffel Tower for the Paris Eiffel Jumping during my short stay. (If you happen to be coming to this region this weekend, the next stop on the tour is Chantilly, not very far!) After dinner I walked straight to the show grounds to have a look see. I could not help it. The plan was to go Saturday evening to watch the Grand Prix, but I just had to go sooner than that.

I sat and watched the warm up for a while. The warm up is my favorite thing to watch at competitions. Then I grabbed an ice cream from one of the vendors as I checked out all the things for sale. Trying with all of my might to find something I had to have. Something I could not live without. Try as I might, I could not. There was nothing for me and I was extremely disappointed. Perhaps I would have luck tomorrow.

I made the short walk back to my hotel, took yet another shower, and fell fast asleep around 10 PM.

Walk in love, dear readers!

When A Texan Goes On Vacation

She eats Mexican food no less than three times in the week before like there might be a chance it won’t be there when she gets back.

You may think I am kidding, but I am not. I hope the clothes I packed still fit!

Last weekend was great with my Aunt M and Cousin W out for a visit and the whole thing went by in a haze…an African Haze of African wind and dust.

But first, can we please admire Darcy’s paw hair blowing in the wind?!

I took care of some lingering chores Saturday and riding got put on the back burner. I did hop on Cheetah for a quick minute after sunset. Lito came over for a visit.

Sunday morning was greeted by two bright, dun faces and a unique, hazy sunrise. They wait for me at the gate most mornings.

I then had a great ride on Lito before I headed back to town for the crazy week ahead.

This week has gone by in a flash. Monday and Tuesday were non stop getting work situated for my absence. By Tuesday at 1 PM I started to get this old familiar feeling. A feeling I have not felt in years.

Can you guess?

It felt like the last day of school before summer. Just without the movie watching and parties. A permanent smile was forming on my face as the end of the day approached.

The plan after work was to get my nails done and then get packed and organized so that today, all I had to do was go to the farm. You knew I had to get out here to see the horses and get my fix before I leave.

I convinced R to go with me on the nails. Then that summer time feeling was still there and one of those much needed Mexican meals was calling my name. I had to comply, I had no choice. I gave a good pitch and convinced R and a couple other friends to come with. Never a hard chore when Mexican food is involved.

After a bucket of salsa, enchiladas, and margaritas, the last thing I wanted to do was organize, clean, and pack. So…I didn’t.

Procrastinating, I am good at it.

I woke up this morning and made myself pack. And clean. And organize. It was helpful that it was raining basically all day. Everything, unfortunately, also took most of the day. Those things always take too long, so I didn’t make it out to the farm until after 4.

The whole region received quite a bit of rain and it was still raining when I pulled up. I walked out in the drizzle to see the horses after a quick survey. They seemed to be glad for break in the heat and to have the rain cleanse their coats of salt.

So, now here I am, covered in wet horse dirt and hair, happily cuddled up on the farm couch, writing to you.

All in all, a pretty good 4th of July. I always seem to have a good day on the 4th of July. Just look at this pic of me and my Lito from a 4th of July past. A little younger and a little smaller. Still my Lito.

I am leaving for France tomorrow and could not be more excited.

I do hope you will stay tuned for news from my trip! I can not wait to share it with you!

Walk in love, dear readers!

Breakfast For Dinner

And other serious, important topics.

I got home from an after work chat and glass of wine at Grandparent’s house with zero plans for dinner.

Figuring I would, you know, figure that out later, I poured myself another glass of wine, opened my computer, and set to planing the last details of my vacation in France.

Feeling like it was already next week, dreamily across the pond in France, I looked up and there was no French dinner fairy and no French dinner. Sigh. What to do.

Too bad I can not have a late night croissant for dinner. Wine and croissant. I mean, when in France, right.

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Imagine that as a croissant. Honestly though, carbs…I like them, so a baguette would be nice to.

I put my computer aside and started the Texas version of breakfast for dinner. Well, half-of-the-best-Texas-breakfast-for-dinner-I-could-do-with-what-I-had anyway. Pancakes, bacon, and wine. That would have to do.

When in Texas and about to be in France, right?

I was going to write somewhat or something about such topics as serious as independence or heaven, but that was all just WAY too serious and required too much focus. Especially when dreaming about France. I have always loved breakfast for dinner anyway. Not just when dreaming about France. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

Just your average, random Thursday night.

Back to France. I will have a short 24 hours in Paris while I am there. If you have been, what are your top things to do there? Things you would not want to miss. I need opinions!

Walk in love, dear readers!

Special Day

Monday morning awoke with a bad case of the delayed, anxiety inducing Sunday blues. But, so goes some Mondays.

Even Darcy had a good groan and roll around before I made her get of bed strictly because I had to. She promptly went straight to her bed to go back to sleep after taking her outside. She did not even get up when I left. Oh to be a dog.

Anyway, back to the weekend because it was great and much better than anything going on this week. You know, working and laundry (SO MUCH LAUNDRY ALL THE TIME!) and cleaning and stressing about my upcoming adventure in France. Really, France can not come fast enough!

You missed that little tidbit, did you? Yes, AHAmoments is going to France next week! I dropped that news a bit ago and then never really said anything more about it. And I am not going to give any bit of it away now. You will just have to check back here to follow along on the adventure!

OK. Now, really back to the weekend. First, the weather was phenomenal. Not too hot and had a nice breeze. The traffic heading out there Friday after work was absolutely horrendous, but the second I stepped out of the car all was forgotten. I made a cocktail and walked out to the horse pasture, clinking ice and all, to sit and enjoy the sunset.

Stunner right? I just love to share these images with you. It never ceases to amaze me how each sunset can be different from the same place. It is a natural wonder. I hope they bring you as much joy as they bring me.

After bringing the horses into the paddock for the night, I went to get my dinner together and settle in for the night.

Saturday morning I took my time grooming and tacking Cheetah before we went of to ride. First we did a little arena work to make sure we actually did work. We both need it. Her because she is so grass fat and happy she is moving a little pokey. One would think that is a welcome change from her normal, but it is not actually. It is awkward, flat, and strung out. And for me, because well, sometimes we need to put ourselves into boot camp. Make myself ride better was the focus and has been the focus. My western saddle has become a crutch apparently and I do not like it. You just have off times every now and then. So, I have pretty much been only riding in an english saddle for the past couple of months and making myself do two point and riding without stirrups.

After the hard part was over, we went for a nice tour of the farm. An actual, four beat, walking tour. That was a nice and welcome change from her normal. She has actually been doing that lately and I love it. We looked at the grass and fences. Took a few bites of grass every now and then. Checked on the cows. Stopped in the shade of her favorite pecan tree. She voluntarily stops under the same tree every time we ride by and I love that too. She got a handful of treats and bath upon our return. I honestly think she enjoyed it as much as I did.

Leaving her tied in the shade, I brought Lito over for a long, indulgent grooming session. My favorite. I even braided his cute, short mane. I hoped they would stay, but I knew they would not. In the end, only three survived.

After lunch, I mowed. You know, I love to mow. Does anyone else like to mow? I find it terribly therapeutic and cathartic. And satisfying and rewarding. Some people think I am crazy, but honestly. Try it some time. Then, when you are finished and turn the mower off, the invading flood of silence is marvelous. Like you never knew how quiet it was before. You just have to hurry up and change your clothes because it is itchy work!

At some point in the day, I caught Darcy in a nap on the warm concrete.

Please notice the burrs. Wherever the Darcy goes, so go the burrs. It is our lot in life.

The long, hot afternoon hours around here are for the riding horses to practice tying in the shade. They get really good at it. All it takes is hours. They learn to settle in for a nap. Sometimes even I forget.

All three tails, caught in the breeze.

I rode Chance in the late evening, after the hottest part of the day. He has been ridden by kids a lot lately and thought he could pull the same tricks on me. He grunted and groaned in irritation as I made him work correctly. It was quite comical. A quick hose down for Chance after our ride and I settled in with a cocktail, listening to music and enjoying the sunset. The animals broke the spell after a while demanding their evening feed.

Sunday was an early start to a special day. Riding my Lito and a visit from my Grandmother.

After the horses had their morning feed, I caught up my Lito for a ride. He was acting a little squirrely as only a young horse in their terrible fives can be…

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…so we hand grazed and walked for a while after looking at all the things. Man, it sure is hard to get used to young horse actually acting like a young horse. Time and consistency, just like everything else. Do not forget it. He is aloud to be young and horses never lie. They tell you what they need if only we listen.

When his head seemed like it was back where it belonged, we groomed and tacked. Arena work first, farm tour second. Seemed to be the order of the weekend. He was not great, but was not bad. He tried and was happy at the end. That is what matters. Little bit by little bit, one thing at a time, slowly, is how you get where you are going. And we are going.

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Then my Grandmother came out for a BBQ lunch and to visit the horses.

This pic was from the last time she was able to come out. It was a few years ago. I remember my Grandfather, memory almost consumed by the Dementia, took one look at Chance and said, “That is a Quarter Horse,” with a big smile.

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It was a special visit for us all. It warms my heart to see her with the horses again. For her to see, feel, and smell them, not just view in a picture. Feel the breeze in her hair and on her skin under the large oak tree. She says she still has dreams of galloping across the fields and I only wish I could make that happen for her again.

I hope to get her out there again soon. It was a late afternoon getting home, but I made a quick run to the store for ingredients to have a homemade pizza dinner. Pretty dang good!

Walk in love, dear readers!

I Mean, Just All The Things.

This week is already going by super fast! I intended to write this post this yesterday, but I just did not have time. Where do I start?

I met up with an old friend for lunch. He was actually my tutor for when I took the ACT back in high school and then again for when I took the GRE. He also tutored my sisters for the same thing because, honestly, most people are not wired to do very well on those stupid things. However, that really is not the point here. The point is, we had a common bond over horses. He is a show jumper, had a few horses at the time, and did some breeding. We would usually spend some of our sessions talking horses. Not too much though, because we would get in trouble otherwise! Anyway, fast forward to the other day, he sent me a friend request from his professional, farm page. A quick flip through his page and website and he had clearly ramped up his breeding business and has some really quality mares. Naturally, I sent him a message to catch up. Yesterday, we had a lovely lunch. It is an even longer story, but he has a horse farm in France and I am planning to visit him while he is there next summer! I know that is a long time away from now, but I do not care! I am beyond excited for this horsey vacation! I have never been to Europe either! There are many day trip options near the farm. There are really nice horses. Beautiful country side. Many trail options, including a riding beach. What more could there possibly be?!

Then, after work, I went to the bank and set up an IRA. That is boring. Next.

I had dinner with an old friend, C. Technically, my sister’s friend, but she and her husband are my friends too. They are the ones I house and dog sat for back in March. Anyway, we had great fun catching up and just talking over wine and dinner, but it made me miss my sister. When I got into my car, I called her up to tell her just that and about dinner. While we were on the phone, C beeped in, no doubt to say the same thing!

I am counting down the seconds to Friday morning when R and our horses will be on our way to the Hill Country. More on that later, but I have several things to get done before then. Farrier did say my Lito was a gentleman while he got his shoes. Prayers he has them all still on!

This weekend was pretty great. It was really busy. I of course had to spend some time with my ponies.

So, I did it this weekend. I had a lesson! This is something I have been wanting to do for a really long time. So much so, that I made it a resolution/goal to take at least 5 or 6 lessons this year. It is not going to be easy, but I will make it happen.

So, on Saturday morning, I had my first dressage lesson in many, many years. To be honest, it was nothing short of amazing. I know that sounds really grand and no it was not all perfect, but it really was great. I was kinda nervous having not ridden with a professional in so long. I got to ride one of trainer’s horses, named Phantom. A gray Arabian gelding, trained to 3rd level. That was pretty exciting as I do not think I have ever ridden an Arabian.

The first lesson is always a whirlwind. New human relationship, new horse relationship, new place, etc. Trainer is super nice and fun. It took a little bit of time to get used to Phantom since he is shaped and moves so differently from most horses I ride. The biggest thing that stood out was how forward I sit/lean. This I knew she would point out and help me fix. She did not waste any time diving in on that and getting me to sit upright, which actually got me excited. It was an issue when I was taking lessons before and I have noticed in photos that I have reverted back to that. The other main thing we worked on was establishing a solid connection on my supporting rein and getting good through-ness and stretch. Before I knew it, the lesson was over. I did not want it to be, but we finished on a great note with a very nice trot.

There were definitely moments where I felt like a beginner. I am not sure quite how I feel about that, but I found myself laughing through those moments and just riding forward. AHAmoment. Which, to be honest, I am proud of myself for. I didn’t focus on those moments, I just hunted for the next good one, the sweet spot. AHAmoment.  She commented that it looks like I ride a lot of green horses by the way I ride and that is probably the source of my forward seat. I laughed and told her that was true. There were lots of smiles and laughs. There were two things she said to me that really just put me on cloud nine. That I have a good feel for a horse and that for never having ridden him before, I rode Phantom well. I mean. I think I have a pretty good feel for a horse, but to have a professional tell you that? Makes me feel like I am on the right path and doing something right!

I can not wait for my next lesson which I scheduled for Wednesday of next week! My homework is to focus on sitting upright, which to me, feels like sitting back. The plan is to continue riding Phantom and get solid on him while fixing a few things with me, and then begin with lessons on Cheetah.

After my lesson, I went to visit a friend at her ranch. She just pulled her horses out of boarding and brought them home to the ranch. I stopped at a little Mexican restaurant on the way to have lunch and celebrate. Because, why not?

That is all for now, dear readers…and that is a lot!

What is new with y’all? Anything fun this past weekend or this coming weekend? Or big plans for the future? New Year resolutions/goals getting crossed off the list? Or just good times with good people? I hope your week is off to a good start!

Go get out there and celebrate the little things!

Walk in love!