Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Six-Year-Old Equestrians

Yesterday Tori and Brianna, my twin granddaughters, had a bit of a long term dream come true.  I arranged for them to go and take their very first horseback riding lesson.  They have had somewhat of a love affair with horses since about the age of two.
We headed out to West Acre Farms outside of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to have a lesson with Connie Sibley.  Her horses are registered Quarter Horses that have the temperament to teach new riders as well as the talent to challenge intermediate and advanced riders.

After going over some basic rules and understandings about horse behavior, it was time for the girls to lead "Monique" and "Claire" out of the pasture and into the barn to prepare them for a ride.

First the girls were taught how to brush the horses, especially the horses' backs where the saddles will sit.  While brushing the horses, the instructor talked about the colors of the horses.  Tori's horse, "Monique," is reddish-brown and is called sorrel.  Brianna's horse, "Claire," is brown with a black mane and tail and is a bay.   

Next the girls had their first experience at saddling up their horses.  Because the girls are small, some of the work had to be done while standing up on a stool.  They had a little trouble lifting the heavy saddles up and over the horses, but they sure gave it their best effort.

Brianna saddling up Claire
For safety, the girls donned helmets and then it was time to take the horses out to the corral.  Here we see Tori and "Monique" heading out.

Mounting the horse for the first time went fairly smoothly.  It's a long way up there for a small girl!  First things to learn were how to sit properly and how to hold the reins.  It was explained that the reins are like the steering wheel that controls where the horse goes.  

Tori is up!
                                                              Brianna, up and happy!

And they're off!  Learning to WALK, WHOA, turn corners, and turn the horse completely around.

Ms. Sibley had the girls practice doing several drills.  The first drill was a stand up sit down drill, so the girls learn to balance and use their thigh muscles to hold them on the horse.  

Another drill was the "around the world" turns up on the saddle.  Sit sideways, then backwards, then on the other side, then back around to the front.  And do it fast!

After the riding time and the drills, it was time to do a dismount and lead the horses back into the barn.  Saddles were removed, and the horses were brushed again.  All of the tack was put away in its proper place.  

Special horse treats were taken out of a cowboy boot-shaped treat container, and the girls fed them to "Monique" and "Claire."  

Ms. Sibley offered the girls some ice pops to cool them off after their lesson, 
and we all went home smiling!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Weird Collections

I've noticed over the years that many people acquire a collection of some sort.  Folks find a great amount of enjoyment while hunting for and adding to their prized collections.  Some of these groups of treasures are ordinary and some are quite bizarre, but you know, it's whatever "floats your boat."  Here is a collection of tribal masks I came across.  Creepy.

I have a somewhat unpleasant recollection of a collection our family was forced to make long ago when our son was back in 4th grade.  A school requirement was to find, label and display a large insect collection.  As with all other projects my son did, he wanted his collection to be top notch.  So, while vacationing in the southern states, as a family we caught, packaged in small ziploc baggies, and froze various unusual bugs and then hauled them carefully in our cooler until we arrived home.  Gross.

Usually people collect things they want to collect.  I was thinking about some of the things my close relatives and friends collect:

salt and pepper sets
Avon bottles
diamond rings
high heels
Pandora bracelet charms

As for me, I have two collections.  One is my birdhouse collection.  When traveling I keep my eyes peeled for unique ones, and I like them to be handmade by the locals.  I don't have many yet, but that's OK.  I'm looking for quality (i.e. ones that really charm me), not quantity.

The other thing I collect is diners.  Well, not actual real diners, but meals eaten at diners.  You can see my collection displayed mostly right around my waist and hips.  For whatever weird reason, I love researching areas I will be traveling through and finding new diners to try.

Recently while traveling through Shamokin, Pennsylvania I added another diner meal to my "collection."  We stopped for brunch at Palmer's Diner on Route 61 at the south end of town.  I have passed this place many times on my travels and I've noticed the lot is always full during their meal hours.

Palmer's is open from very early in the morning until mid-afternoon when the lunch customers are finished.  No dinner.  The decor is a fun 50's motif.

This diner is just a small cluttered space, yet you feel welcome and happy in there.  They usually have a breakfast special, which the three in my party sampled on the day we were there.  Three egg meals with sides, toast, and coffee for a total bill under $14.  That works for me.

At the tables we could look at old song titles from back in the day.  The three of us old coots remembered quite a few of them, even though two of us have birthdays in the 50's.

I gotta say, there was some great music being made back in those days.

So now, to all my blogging friends and family, two questions:

1.  What do you collect?
2. Have you been to any diners lately along your travels that you would recommend?  

I need to add to my collection!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Queen Host

Is it just me or is the Queen just a tiny bit stingy with her smiles?  If you are like me and countless other Americans, you were tuned in Friday evening to the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics.  In the opening segment of the four hour long extravaganza, the 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II greeted James Bond actor Daniel Craig at Buckingham Palace and then appeared to take a flight to the stadium before parachuting to the ground.

Shortly thereafter, (the real) Elizabeth appeared with husband Prince Philip to be greeted warmly by the crowd in the arena.

Personally, I especially enjoyed this 3 minute film and opening to the games, for it was totally unexpected.  As far as the records show, this was the Queen's first role in a movie, and she had graciously opened her private quarters back in April for one day of filming with Daniel Craig and the producers of the opening ceremonies.

After taking her place in the stands, the Queen made the statement that officially opened the 30th Olympics.  Let's be clear, watching her face it seems that this is SERIOUS business.  No smiles forthcoming from her at this official announcement.  Let the games begin then.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the opening movie segment with the queen, I still must wonder why she is such a serious person.  Is it the tradition that goes along with being the figurehead of England?  Or is it just her own reserved nature?  

Some people say that Friday night the elderly monarch "was remade as a pop-culture icon" with her movie debut.  Others call the Queen's opening a "show-stopper."  Then some felt the Queen finally changed her general perception of being reserved and unapproachable.  

I don't know what she's really like, but she sure seems stiff to me, just judging by her face.  She lost a few points with me later, when, as the athletes of her own country marched in, she stood by picking her nails.  No smile, no applause, no cheering.  One must wonder if she felt pride in her team, or even noticed them at all.  Loosen up a bit Elizabeth, please!

I like smiles from a person.  I feel good when a person exudes warmth.  Well, whatever Queen Elizabeth II is really like, when I saw the next picture of her with James Bond, I was glad to see she was finally smiling.  

But let's be honest here folks, if I were standing next to him, I would be smiling too!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tossing and Turning

I, like thousands of others, am having a bit of trouble with insomnia.  Throughout my entire life, there has been a night here or there when I had trouble sleeping.  However, insomnia on a regular basis set in pretty much right after some major female surgery I had at the end of last year.  I will attribute my middle-of-the-night wakefulness to hormones I guess, but whatever the cause, I've been frustrated.

Here's how it goes on a typical night:  I go to bed somewhere around 11:00 or 11:30 PM. Sometimes right before I turn the light off I read a bit.  I try to do all the things that the sleep specialists say to do - no laptops, TV, or cell phoning in the bedroom, no caffeine after 3:00 PM, etc. blah, blah, blah.  Typically I fall easily asleep.

I sleep deep and well until usually about 2:30 AM, and then I am suddenly wide awake.  What wakes me up?  I dunno.  Next I begin a series of tossings and turnings that go on for about the next hour and a half to two hours.  I turn from side to side trying in vain to go back to sleep and becoming more frustrated by the minute.  What is there to do about this?

My mind usually at this point goes into overdrive thinking about EVERYTHING and trying to solve all the problems of my small world.

I am not unlike all the other mothers of this world,  and I start thinking of my immediate family members:

I'm thinking about my husband who came through a bout of prostate cancer several years ago, and who badly wants to retire so we can travel together more and see all this great country has to offer.

I'm thinking about my oldest daughter Rachel and her family.  They are trying hard to save money to buy their first home, and also dreaming of the time soon when they hope to take their 6 year old twin daughters to see the princesses at Disney World.

I'm thinking about my second daughter Lindsay and her family.  Lindsay has suffered with a resistant thyroid cancer for the last 7 to 8 years and her fight goes on.  Her husband Todd is very loving, and he supports her through all her tests and treatments.  The difficulty of their battle with cancer has been lightened by the joy accompanying the birth one year ago of their sweet little girl, Ellie.  Ellie's older brother is awesome too and we love him.

I'm thinking about my third daughter Sarah and her husband who have lost two pregnancies in the last year, the last one requiring emergency surgery.  Their fertility issues continue, and are complicated by the fact that Sarah has Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I'm thinking about my youngest child, son Caleb, who is doing all the preliminary testings, paperwork, and applications to become a warrant officer aviator in the United States Army.  His dream is to fly Apache helicopters in the service of our country.

All together, these things are heavy on my mind.

I'm not bearing my heart here in order to complain.  I truly believe every family has its share of hard things to deal with and these are just ours.  Many families have way more difficulties and sadnesses than ours.  But.  And here's the deal.  I have fought against this sleeplessness way too long.

Finally, in the last week or so, I have made some peace with my insomnia - I might as well embrace it and go with it. I will use my few awake hours each night to do what needs to be done.  I will pray.  I will plan.  I will pray more.  I will dream.  I will pray some more.  I will remember all the good things that are worth remembering.  I will pray again.  I will look forward to all the good things ahead.  I will relax about the fact that I am not sleeping.  I will pray.  I will listen to the snoring and gurgling coming from my husband beside me and smile.  By then, I will probably be gently slipping off into slumber again.

I truly have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

And yes, I did read it.  Actually I read all three books in E. L. James' trilogy:  Fifty Shades of Grey (Book 1), Fifty Shades Darker (Book 2), and Fifty Shades Freed (Book 3).  
How did it come about that I would decide to read these books, you may ask?  On my flight home from Jamaica earlier this year, I saw the girl across the aisle from me reading this book.  I remember reading the title, seeing the cover picture, and wondering what the book was about.  I had never heard of it at that point.  Strangely enough, not long after I was home, a relative asked me if I would be reading the Fifty Shades of Grey book, and informed me that the book was skyrocketing to the tops of all the best seller lists everywhere, and doing so in record time.  With more than 1.2 million copies sold every week and a movie in the works, the Fifty Shades phenomenon shows no sign of flagging.

Honestly, curiosity got the better of me.  I simply wanted to know what everyone was all fired up about, so I got out my Kindle e-reader and ordered the trilogy.

Since reading these books, I have also seen and heard that there is much controversy surrounding the themes in the books.  The story line follows Anastasia Steele and Christopher Grey and their dominant/submissive "love" relationship.  

Frankly, I have asked myself why those people that rave about these books like them so much, and I am still wondering, to tell the truth.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1.  There are many novels out on the market that include a love story, but I think these books became so popular because the relationship in these books includes some more controversial "love" behaviors, which are described over and over in graphic detail.  

2.  I felt that the writing was fairly juvenile.  Apart from the detailed intimate scenes, I felt like I was reading teen novels.

3.  I would never want to be in a relationship with a man as thoroughly moody, mysterious, and unpredictable as Christopher.  Men are challenging enough without mood complications.

4.  Christians have warned that these books will do damage to an already good relationship and therefore should not be read.  I am not ashamed to call myself a strong Christian, yet if anything, reading some of the ridiculous stuff in the books made me all the more grateful for my wonderful husband, as he is, and for the respectful and devoted way he treats me and cares for me.  

5.  Would I recommend these books?  Nah.  Don't waste your money.  There are too many other GREAT books out there, and there is some part of me that wishes I hadn't wasted my time on these, either.  However, another part of me is glad I read them, because I simply hate not knowing what everybody is talking about.  Call that adult peer pressure or whatever you want, but I succumbed. 

6.  Do not let your non-adult children read these books.  

7.  I wonder if the women that are raving about how good these books are have previously been mistreated by a man, and therefore see Christopher Grey as some sort of white knight.  He is one messed up dude the way I see it, and he couldn't build me a mansion large enough to contain all of his "baggage."

8.  I have wondered if men are reading these books.  

9.  I bet E. L. James is becoming a very rich woman.  

10.  Would I read future books of hers?  See the Fifty Shades of Grey movie?  Probably not.  But I am an adult, and I will make up my own mind if and when the time comes.

Have you read these books?  What do you think?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where Do Ugly Campers Go To Die?

The husband/lover/best friend and I have been planning for a while now to upgrade from our current travel trailer to a fifth wheel.  We have been attending camper shows and looking at dealers near and far and not too long ago I blogged about a camper we really like.  Read about it here if you missed that blog post.

So we continue to look and to dream and to save our money.  Along the way I have come across some doozies of RV's, and at least I know I DO NOT WANT any of these.  Come along with me on a tour of ugly campers:

Is somebody gonna come out of there with a shotgun?

Critters in there, ya think?

I would love to see inside this thing.
Other campers wouldn't leave us alone, I'm sure!

 Is that the grandparents apartment?
Makes me tired looking at it.

Could they fit anything else on there?
                              He looks mighty proud of that there camper.
                                                 This ugly camper needs to go die somewhere, please.

Nah, I don't  have that many grandkids.
Is this a camper, or is it garden art?

Well at least I know what I DON'T want in a camper.  At this point, we are still considering a Cedar Creek Silverback model.  

Any suggestions?  Advice?  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012



I got thinking today what some women go through in order to take their appearances from everyday ordinary to stunning.  Most of us want to look our best, and I'm sure we have our own well-established beauty habits and routines.

Some of the "processes" we schedule and carry out are the following:

hair styling
hair color
hair root touch-ups
scalp treatments and moisturizing
dandruff treatments
face cleansing rituals
facials, including extractions
skin moisturizing
waxing - eyebrows, upper lips, chin, underarms, legs, bikini area
plucking stray facial hairs
clipping nose and ear hairs
teeth brushing and flossing
teeth whitening
breath freshening
makeup regimen
makeup removal regimen
shaving - done in lieu of waxing
tanning spray in a can
tanning spray in a booth
tanning in a yard
tanning in a tanning salon 
manicures and nail painting
full acrylic nail sets
acrylic nails filled on a regular basis
pedicures and nail painting

Their feet can barely reach the little tub!
It tickles Germall!
On a recent afternoon spent with my cutest-in-the-whole-world-twin-granddaughters, I took them to my nail salon and arranged for them to have their FIRST PEDICURE EVER.  They loved it!  (Who wouldn't?)  If you recall, my theory is that if everyone had a pedicure on a regular basis, even just once every three months or so, there would be no wars.  A good pedicure eliminates all bellicose tendencies, believe you me.

They had fun, and as usual, I hope we made some memories.

Of course, some people take the process of beautification to the next level, and consider adding one or more of the following procedures to make themselves feel and look better:

hair extensions
ear and body piercings
face lifts
jaw and neck tightening
nose jobs
breast implants
breast reductions
breast lifts
tummy tucks
permanent cosmetics

Every person knows what it takes in order to feel best.  I have seen numerous celebrities that have had many surgeries in order to fight the appearance of aging, and honestly I'm not sure I think they look improved.  To me, a person that is upbeat and can easily smile is very attractive.  I have seen pregnant women in their ninth month who have gained 60 pounds, and cancer patients in their last days of life who have a natural beauty and dignity that would be hard to reproduce through any cosmetic means.

What do you think?  When is beautification taken too far?