Thursday, September 30, 2010

I'm Confused!

It's fall!

It's summer!

Things are a little confusing here in the Pacific Northwest. The calendar says it's fall, yet the thermometer says it's summer. After a cold, wet, loooong spring -- we're making up for it with gorgeous fall weather.

Following a brief reminder that our winters are gray and wet, we're experiencing a rerun of summer. Temperatures have been in the vicinity of 80 degrees (+ or -) in the Willamette Valley, and they are predicted to hover in the 70s for several more days. The record-breaking heat spell in California and the Southwest reached the "upper left corner" as pleasantly warm weather.

No complaints. In fact, it's one of the reasons that I love fall in the Northwest. Warm, sunny days and cool evenings. Clear blue skies as a backdrop for glorious yellow, orange and red trees.

But it can be confusing.




Saturday, September 25, 2010

Catching Up

Yesterday Genevieve and I visited with Kim for a good, old-fashioned kaffeeklatsch. Coffee, banana bread, and hot scones provided by Kim. Entertainment provided by Abigail and Indy.

We of course caught up on horse news. How our ponies are doing, how we like our new barns, updates on mutual friends who share our equine addiction, etc.

But we also covered a variety of topics -- wherever the flow of conversation took us -- and laughed a lot. The time just flew by. I can't believe how hoarse I was the remainder of the day after chatting so much!

Abigail, our favorite cocker spaniel, has grown and is nearly the same size as Indy now. She loves the fluffy puppy and is all over him. Indy enjoys running around with her, but when he needs a break from his high-energy girlfriend he jumps into my lap. Fortunately, I didn't have coffee cup or slice of banana bread in hand when he made the leap!

Never did make it out to the barn. But this was an enjoyable variation in my routine.

Sunday Stills: The Letter "S"


(South Metro Area Rapid Transit)


You knew I had to include an equestrian-themed photo in there somewhere. I can't believe I used to jump in this saddle. This was my mare's saddle -- the tree is too narrow for mutton-withered Phantom.

For more examples of the letter "S" visit Sunday Stills.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wine Labels

Have you ever purchased a bottle of wine based solely on the label? I couldn't resist the above. It was on sale, but still a wee bit more than I usually pay. Naturally, the equestrian-themed labels tend to catch my eye. In this case it was both the image of the horses and the name of the winery: 14 Hands. Hands are, of course, the method of measuring horses. So I suppose the label could be read in a variety of ways: the height of a horse, the number of hands or people involved in making the wine, etc. But the name of the red wine itself clinched the purchase. "Hot to Trot."

I generally purchase Northwest white wines at under $10 per bottle. I have to confess that, although I live in the pinot noir capital of the world (or so we like to think), I just can't get past the tannins in red wine. Nor do I care for the puckery white wines. I aim for the rieslings and Muller-Thurgau whites.

Although -- I am a fan of Ste. Chapelle Winery's "soft" wines. Their Soft Red is one of my favorites.

I am in no fashion a wine connoisseur, but I find Hot to Trot to be light in the tannins and a mellow blend. Not bad for a purchase based solely on the label!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Northwest Authors Series: Nicole Rubel

"Find Your Voice: Use It in a Children's Book"

The fourth season of the Northwest Author Series kicked off today at the Wilsonville Library with a workshop by Nicole Rubel. Ms. Rubel is probably best known for her Rotten Ralph books that have sold 1.5 million copies of the 18 books in the series -- with another book in the works. She is both writer and illustrator and discussed her journey to publication.

The essence of Ms. Rubel's message was to consider where you are from, and what you are about as you develop your "voice" as a writer. Discover your passion. Write about that passion -- what you want to write about. Take risks. Write about the hard things, the painful moments. This is where you will do your best, most emotional writing.

Ms. Rubel read aloud from her middle grade novel, It's Hot and Cold in Miami to illustrate her point. The story is about twin sisters growing up in Miami, which is also Ms. Rubel's story. However, although she used real incidents for inspiration, events in the book are fictionalized and embellished for the purposes of telling a good story. Ms. Rubel demonstrated that her writing voice is humorous and uses vivid imagery that connects with the target audience.

She shared writing tips that are often repeated: hook the reader with the first sentence and first paragraph, it's the role of the protagonist to solve the story problem, the protagonist much change (grow) by the end of the story, the stronger the antagonist the stronger must be the protagonist. Read what you want to write. Practice, practice, practice. Advice that aspiring authors can never receive too many times.

Ms. Rubel recommended keeping a diary and seeking pictures or taking photographs of things you like or images that inspire you. These activities will help you discover what your interests and passions are. She suggests "borrowing" from historical events and literature for your stories and turning them into your own by weaving fact with your individual brand of fiction.

Children's writers need to look to their inner child. Revisit your worries and pleasures from childhood. What were your fears? Writers for young readers should also join SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators) which is an incredible resource.

Finally, writing and illustrating are means of expressing oneself as an artist. It can be done in private, for a limited audience, or for publication to a broad audience. Who you are and what you are about will determine where you want to take your artistic endeavors.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sunday Stills: Flags

This week's challenge was to take photos of flags. I captured the following shots earlier this summer at The Country Classic and Northwest Spectacular horse shows held at Hunter Creek Farm in Wilsonville, Oregon.

The above are the flags encircling the grand prix jumper ring that welcome spectators to the show grounds.

The Union Jack -- an homage to the origins of our hunter horse traditions.

And of course, Old Glory.

For more flag waving -- or waving flags -- visit Sunday Stills.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Club Discussion: "The Help"

Last night our new neighborhood book club discussed Kathryn Stockett's The Help. Our group has grown in size, which is great. The more perspectives brought to the discussion, the better.

The Help is set in 1962 Mississippi and centers on the story of three women. Aibileen and Minny are black maids who raise the children and maintain the homes of their privileged white employers. Skeeter, who was raised by her beloved maid Constantine, returns home after college with no marriage prospects and questions about the unexplained and sudden disappearance of Constantine.

Skeeter has dreams of becoming a writer in New York and has difficulty fitting in with her friends who have become wives and mothers. She observes and disapproves of the way her girlhood friend Hilly treats her maid. When Hilly promotes a prejudiced campaign for employers to provide separate toilet facilities for the negro help, Skeeter decides to explore the lives of the help for a magazine article. The project grows in size and soon Skeeter attempts to involve the maids in honest interviews about their lives. However, in 1962 Mississippi, the negro maids are reluctant to reveal their true experiences and risk losing their jobs -- and worse.

We asked how "the help" treated their own children. The women spent long hours tending the white children in their care, which left them little time and energy for their own families. We found their experience much the same as today's working women, particularly single mothers with demanding jobs.

The theme of lines and rules that constrict people's lives resulted in a lively discussion. All the women in the book, white and black, were expected to live within certain lines and obey certain rules. The help were as reluctant to cross the line separating the races as were their employers, although for different reasons. All the characters in the novel were forced to explore social and racial lines. Skeeter was expected to marry well and begin a family, not pursue a writing career in New York. Celia unsuccessfully attempted to cross the line into her husband's social strata while breaking the rules by seeking friendship with her negro maid. Aibileen and Minny crossed the line by anonymously revealing the truth about how their white employers treated them. The 1960s was a decade of crossing lines and rewriting the rules.

Is character formed by the period in which we grow up? This question had all of us recalling our school years in a variety of locations -- from insular small towns to large cities. All of us have been around long enough to see attitudes change dramatically over the decades. We hope for the better.

Although the female characters of the novel are wonderful, the male characters were not well fleshed out. Most of the male characters seemed to us to be stereotypes if not absent. Stuart, Skeeter's romantic interest, was more like a prop instead of a well-rounded personality. It was difficult for us to invest in their relationship.

We discussed social status and its regional significance. For those of us raised in the west, the culture of the southern states is foreign. However, we equated small town dynamics to the southern social strata illustrated in the novel.

Finally, we asked if it is truly possible to understand what it's like to be a minority if we haven't experienced it ourselves. Several of us recalled reading Black Like Me -- an eye-opening book from the 1960s. The author, a white man, disguised himself as black and documented the differences in the way others treated him based on his apparent race. We all contributed instances we had observed and agreed there was no way we could fully understand the nuances of prejudice experienced by racial and ethnic minorities.

We agreed to take turns recommending books for the group and it was my turn next. I suggested The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Set in northeastern Oregon during World War I, the story is about a young woman who gentles horses for ranch use. It was already on my bookshelf to be read and available at the library. I thought it timely, since the Pendleton Round Up is presently celebrating its 100th year. Let 'er buck!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Debbie and Mary's Excellent Linfield Adventure

Last Friday I had brunch with my college roommate Debbie and her husband Bob. We attended Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. Deb and Bob were high school sweethearts and they were freshman during my sophomore year. Regrettably, finances prevented them from remaining at Linfield. I was fortunate to graduate from Linfield with a BA in English.

We, of course, talked and talked. Primarily about family and current topics. Not until we were parting did we take a brief trip down memory lane. This inspired me to dig out my college photo albums and revisit the journal that I began when I started college.

What a hoot! And what an eye-opener! I can't believe the significant historical events that occurred during the 1969-70 academic year.

Pioneer Hall
Pioneer Hall still stands, although the Old Oak at the far left in the photo is no longer with us. The bell tower is one of the college's symbolic images. At the time we attended, Pioneer was a multipurpose building that contained dorm rooms, classrooms and, if I recall correctly, the campus radio station.

Roomies: Mary and Debbie
I guess we were all too busy to snap many photos. This is the only one I have of the pair of us, and I have no photos at all of Bob. Sorry, Bob. The three of us did a lot together, including attending games, movies in town, trips to Portland, and hanging out in the dorm lounge.

Failing Hall
Not a reflection of our grades, but named after Jane Failing. It was the largest girls' dorm on campus. The two windows of our room are on the second floor just to the left of the white porch cover. We moved to a corner room at the rear of the dorm for second semester.

Second floor, Failing Hall
Winter in Oregon -- wet, wet, wet. I couldn't resist this characteristic photo of umbrellas drying outside our rooms.

* Resident dorm mothers (all white-haired) ruled dorm life.
* Dorms were unlocked until "closing," which was a mandatory curfew until we all got card keys.
* Male students were restricted to the lobby and main lounge of the girls dorms until inter-visitation was permitted. After buzzing the girl's room, she escorted him to her room with a warning announcement ("Man on the floor!") to prevent embarrassing encounters.
* Amy Tan was a freshman living down the hall from us. Yes, that Amy Tan.
* Refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms were decades away. Popcorn poppers did multiple duty to warm up canned soup, cook saimin, etc. The Hawaiian students all had rice cookers in addition.
* Dorm telephones were communal -- one to a floor.
* My books cost $29.03 for first semester, and $29.00 for second semester.
* Attendance at Chapel was still required at the Baptist-affiliated college.
* All research was conducted at the library. Our "search engines" were the card catalogue and book indices.
* All meals (except Sunday dinner) were served at The Commons (Dillin Hall).
* Riley Student Center was remodeled in bright reds and oranges to include a fireside lounge, terrace, study rooms, and snack bar.
* Movies showing at the McMinnville theater included: Last Summer, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Midnight Cowboy, Alices' Restaurant.

* Frerichs Hall, the music, speech, and theater building was destroyed in a fire in December 1969. Frerichs and adjacent Graf Hall were repurposed army barracks that had been faced with brick to match the other buildings on campus. We were awakened by the sound of the fire fighters' loud speakers and looked out the window to see smoke and flames shooting into the sky. They next morning students dove into the wet, smoky remains to salvage what books, instruments, and other items that survived.
* Linfield's basketball team was hot. Scores broke 100 in successive games, and the Wildcats qualified for the national NAIA championships.
* The student senate approved smoking on campus, excluding classrooms.
* The college's first coed dorm was approved for the 1970-71 academic year. Male and female students would live on alternate floors.

Notable Historic Events:

* Draft approved for Viet Nam War and lottery numbers drawn. My recollection is a grim and tense gathering of guys and gals in the dorm lounge to watch the lottery results on TV.
* The Viet Nam Moratorium was held April 15, 1970. Students participated in anti-war marches and/or boycotted classes.
* Students protested Nixon's decision to send troops into Cambodia. Six students at Kent State were killed by National Guardsmen.
* The space program was still exciting. We camped out in the dorm lounge to watch the November 18, 1969 Apollo launch.
* Apollo 13 had problems before launch and the mission was aborted when the capsule experienced a power failure.
* The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970.

Amazing stuff. I guess we knew we were living during interesting times during the 60s and 70s, but it takes a retrospective evaluation to realize just how interesting they were!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sunday Stills: Glass

Alexander H. Kerr established the Hermetic Fruit Jar Company in 1903 in Portland, Oregon. The earliest Kerr Jars were made by Illinois Pacific Glass Company and Hazel Atlas Company. Kerr invented the first wide-mouth jar. The business later became known as the Kerr Glass Manufacturing Company.

The Albertina Kerr Center in Portland has a long history of aiding children as well as people with developmental disabilities.

Visit Sunday Stills to see how others met the challenge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eclectic, To Say the Least

Both of the regular shoers were at the barn today. Brian apprenticed with Daniel, who has been the farrier at CF for decades. That alone is impressive, since shoers seem to have rotated through all the previous boarding stables where I've kept my horses.

Anyway, today I entered to barn to the sounds of Indian music coming from his stereo. Traditional Indian music, not Bollywood schlock. This was followed by 1950s ballads.

The last time I was at the barn the same time Daniel was shoeing horses, he was playing Zydeco music. Before that, Celtic tunes. And the first time I encountered his musical taste he was playing 1960s rock while he worked.

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of country western music. I know, that's considered unamerican. But I grew up around jazz and classical musicians -- and jazz in an all-American genre. Nor do I care for hip-hop, and I'm not too enamored with the blues. But I like most other music. So I enjoy Daniel's eclectic music selection for shoeing horses.

What will we be listening to on his next visit to the barn? Klezmer music? Broadway show tunes? (Oklahoma might be appropriate.) Hawaiian slack string? This could prove interesting.

Just another pleasant surprise while settling in to the routine at CF.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sunday Stills: Shoes or Boots

My Ariat paddock boots:
(Note the cracked leather. I am milking these boots for all they are worth.)

Paddock boots, another view.

Equine style. :-)

See more footwear variations at Sunday Stills.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Riding Lesson

I started the month with my first riding lesson in quite a while, and my first group lesson in eons. I can only afford to take one lesson a month, but I look forward to joining Linda and Sally again. Trainer Julie places them on the weekly schedule as "the Girls" which I love, since Sally is a spry 81. I won't guess at Linda's age, but I'm definitely part of the AARP contingency at the barn.

Each trainer has her/his approach, and this was my first lesson with Julie. I had intended to arrive early for the lesson so I could longe Phantom and warm up in the arena. I didn't get around as planned, and I should have. Although I did longe and trot around briefly, Phantom was not fully prepped for our workout.

Julie gave us a good warmup exercise at the walk to get our horses listening to our legs. Then we went right into trot and canter work. Phantom and I have issues with his canter, since his inclination is to crossfire. So even though we got bits of good canter on our individual circles, he kept dropping out of the canter during the later exercises.

I suspect an observer would have thought we were having a h*** of a time, which in one sense we were. But Julie gave such good feedback on my position that I have some great homework to occupy my future rides. Go figure -- I need to relax my leg down, bring back my left shoulder, relax my neck and shoulders, slow my seat at the walk, and follow more with my hands. Hmmm. Sounds like I haven't had anyone on the ground to pick on me for a long time! Per usual, once I got myself situated correctly, Phantom immediately responded as desired.

Afterwards, Phantom and I joined "the Girls" for a stroll around the galloping track. With calmer Fancy and Peter for company, he was a little less looky. Although we did have a moment when we encountered field workers moving around a neighboring property. Fancy and Phantom gave them the hairy eyeball but progressed without incident.

So it was a good start to the month.

I am glad to be done with August, since my mother went back into the hospital at the end of the month for a second blood transfusion for severe anemia with a follow-up bone marrow biopsy. We get the results next week.