Horsing Around

I didn’t know I was in love, but I think it started on a drive from Missouri to Iowa. Rolling green fields parallel I-35, and there, enjoying the sunshine in one of those fields, was the object of my desire – a horse. It was but a fleeting glance at 75 mph, yet it was all that was needed to set in motion a newfound obsession.

It wasn’t long after that my parents and I drove past some horses happily grazing on a farm in northern Iowa, and I told them – I think I want a horse.

Lots of little girls go through horse phases. “Daddy, can I have a pony for my birthday?” But I was not one of those little girls. Growing up, I had my fair share of interactions with horses at birthday parties and summer camp, but I never felt any special attraction to the animal. (Dogs rule, ya know?)

I was lucky enough to be home this year for the spectacular event that is the Iowa State Fair. Not one for rides, I made my rounds through the animal barns: dairy cows, calves, big steers, little piglets, sheep, goats and even an ostrich, but you bet your britches the horses were my favorite. On my first visit, I only admired the animals in their stables. On my second visit though, the horse barn was full of beautiful, black Draft horses.  They were huge, magnificent creatures. I stepped up to look at one named Grace who was munching on hay, but as I approached she lifted her head, and I was able to stroke her soft, velvety nose. Oh, I was smitten.

As luck would have it, I got an even closer encounter the next day. There are horse stables in town that back up to a bike trail, and on the route home I decided to hop off and check out the horses. Not only did I get to check them out, but two of them moseyed over and stuck their heads over the fence and let me pet them. They were sweet, sweet horses and I offered them some handfuls of the grass they’d been grazing on. They readily accepted my offer then proceeded to lick my hands, and I was one happy girl.

Call it delayed childhood, but now that I’m a 22-year-old, Daddy, I’d like a pony for my birthday.horse

Confessions of an Organizer

All daughters know that you eventually become your mother. In some way, shape or form it happens. It’s inevitable, I swear. Once upon I time I scoffed at the idea, but then I grew up and realized that guess what? my momma is one heck of a lady and if I can be a little more like her, well, I’ll take it.

My mom has always had a flair for organizing. When we were younger she made little marks on the bottoms of our socks so she could pair the right kid’s socks together. She also used to get me to organize the Tupperware drawer for her, and I never complained. It wasn’t until I was sharing these anecdotes and her latest early morning pantry organizing escapade with my roommates that they pointed out the truth. I have become my mother, and I’m past the point of no return. I am my mother’s daughter. I am an organizer.

My philosophy: Everything has its place, and it should be in said place unless it’s being used for something. It’s quite simple, really. I have folders for each class on my hard drive, folders in my gmail for holding onto various class-related or sentimental emails, and folders organizing all the Google documents in my Google Drive. Socks go in the sock drawer, linens in the linens box, craft supplies have the craft drawer, utensils have the utensil crock and spices belong in the spice cabinet – all perfectly reasonable, right? There’s more. Over winter break my mom suggested I go through the books on my bookshelves and get rid of some. HA! Get rid of books, like I would ever do such a foolish thing. Instead, I took them all off their shelves, dusted them, arranged them alphabetically, cataloged them on my computer and put them all back perfectly organized. There was also the morning over break where, per Mom’s suggestion, my sister and I made a spreadsheet of whose ornaments were whose as we decorated the tree, thus ensuring that they would all be put back in their appropriate boxes after Christmas.

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An organized life is a good one. You just feel so accomplished when you’ve organized something, and who doesn’t want to feel accomplished? Don’t get me wrong I get busy just like everyone else. Everything is not always spick and span, but within a few days, everything will be put back where it belongs and I can breathe a sigh of relief. And honestly, life is just easier when you embrace the fact that you are your mother.

Primped and Polished

Sometimes I look into my nail polish bag and all the colors seem the same to me. Last week was one of those times. I just wanted something different. Inspired by this color from Pinterest, I went on a hunt for an emerald-like polish. Although I didn’t end up with the original emerald color that spurred this purchase, I did find a similar polish and a bonus color. Here’s what I ended up with.

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“Chinchilly” by Essie and #330 “Emerald” by Revlon.

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I liked the emerald a lot. Darker colors on my pale, skinny fingers at this time of year don’t always look great, but this wasn’t bad. If I had used a better top coat and it stayed on for more than a day, I really would have liked it.

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I loved this Essie color. It was a nice blend of a lilac and a gray and a lovely neutral to have on my fingers for a whole week. I used my mom’s Zoya brand base coat (“Anchor”) and top coat (“Armor”) with this one and it stayed on chip free for such a long time. I was blown away by the great shape my nails were still in after five days. So much so that I’m going to invest in both base coat and top coat for myself.

Next up? Emerald re-do with the Zoya advantage.

Julianne’s Recap and Future Speculations for Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 2

Starting the season off with a two-hour premiere really sets the standard. I felt cheated last night with a one-hour episode, although the plus side is that I don’t have to remember as much.

*Spoiler alert: Don’t read any more if you’re not caught up yet!

Last night’s episode was supposed to be all about Edith getting married, but a certain fiancé left her at the alter. How rude! Even though Edith made some comment about making him her life’s work because he is old and only has one good arm, Sir Anthony always seemed so jumpy. I say good riddance. I rarely feel bad for Edith, but last night I did.

Cybil finally looks pregnant, so there’s that to look forward to in coming episodes.

The big news is that Downton Abbey will not be lost! Turns out Lavinia Swire wrote to her father on her deathbed explaining about Matthew and Mary, so he knew before his death what was up. Thank goodness sneaky Lady Mary stole the letter Mr. Swire wrote to Matthew otherwise he never would have known! Lord Grantham refused to accept Matthew’s money. Instead, he suggested that Matthew invest his money in Downton and together the two would be co-lords of Grantham.

Downstairs in the servants’ hall, Thomas told Moseley that O’Brien was planning on putting in her notice, which was not true. It was all cleared up by the end of the episode and we were left with a threat to Thomas from O’Brien. I’m so glad they feud with each other now. I prefer that to the two of them scheming.

Carson and Lady Grantham both find out about Mrs. Hughes and her health. The good news is that it’s benign, or so we’re led to believe. Carson was so stinkin’ cute when he found out Mrs. Hughes was alright, he was singing while polishing the silver.

It looks like there’s a love interest brewing between Daisy and Alfred.

In prison, it looks like someone is out to get Bates in trouble. In the prison yard he’s warned that it’s his cellmate, but after their cell was searched I got the feeling that one of the guards had been in on it. Anna traveled to London to meet with the closest thing Vera Bates ever had to a friend, but she didn’t learn anything useful.

Outside of the house, former-maid-turned-prostitute Ethel tries to come to Isobel’s rehab center again but chickens out. After receiving Ethel’s address from Mrs. Hughes, Isobel tracks Ethel down, but still we learn nothing.

Burning questions: Will Mr. Bates EVER get out of prison? Who is trying to get him in trouble? Will Anna learn anything helpful, or perhaps will she learn something that totally changes her perspective of Mr. Bates? How will poor Edith mend her broken heart? Will there be another love interest for her or will she become engrossed in some sort of activity like nursing and helping people instead? When will Cybil have her baby? Are Matthew and Mary going to have a baby? What’s O’Brien going to do next to mess with Thomas? Where will this love interest between Daisy and Alfred go? Is Mrs. Hughes really okay, or was she just saying that so people would stop treating her like she was sick? And for the love of God will Ethel suck it up and ask for help already?

How will the drama unfold? I can’t wait to find out!

-J

Julianne’s Recap and Future Speculations for Downton Season 3, Episode 1.

WELL. If you didn’t watch Downton last night, I hope your DVR did. And that’s about all I can say before I insert the obligatory spoiler alert.

*Spolier Alert: Don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happened or what I think might happen!

We quickly discovered last night that Lord Grantham put all of Cora’s fortune into a railroad business that he thought was going to boom but ended up tanking. Whoops. We also learn that Matthew was the third (and only living) possible heir to Reggie Swire’s (Matthew’s late, ex-fiancé Lavinia’s father) fortune. However, being the gentleman that he is, Matthew does not believe Swire money should be used to save Downton because he and Mary broke Lavinia’s heart and were thus partially responsible for her death blah blah blah. The use of the Swire inheritance remains a sore subject between Matthew and Mary. The Dowager Countess and Mary even try to get Cora’s mother to give more money to Downton, but to no avail as her late husband tied up her fortune so she wouldn’t be able to do that very thing.

The guests arrive at Downton for the marriage, including Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson, who stirs everyone up with her progressive American ways. Lady Sybil and her former-chauffer-turned-husband Tom Branson also return. Sybil’s visit was paid for anonymously, until the Dowager Countess confesses to providing the fare. (Although I still thought it was Cousin Isobel.)

The best news is that Matthew and Mary get married! Yes, they actually tied the knot. Hooray! Then they return from their honeymoon with a new car. Groovy.

Lady Edith has a thing for that funny-looking old man whose name I can’t remember. She’s quite forward with the chap. Lord Grantham tells OldmanwhosenameIcan’tremember to leave Edith alone and then recants on his word after Edith and Mrs. Levinson talk to him. So that’s cool.

Cousin Isobel has a new way to help people. This time it’s helping prostitutes get back on their feet and find respectable business. Ethel, the former maid, makes an appearance at this clinic but runs away because evidently she’s not ready to say whatever it was she was going to say. Ugh.

A new footman arrives at Downton. His name is Alfred and he’s evidently Miss O’Brien’s nephew. It sounds like trouble, but I actually like him, and I think O’Brien is getting nicer.

Thomas still dislikes everyone and is scheming as usual.

Mr. Moseley seems to have a hard time accepting the fact that Matthew doesn’t want him to be his personal valet in his new married life. I feel like Moseley is up to something. I think he means well, but is he trying to hide something? Why does he desperately want to be Matthew’s valet?

Mrs. Hughes discovers a lump on her breast, and after taking an inconclusive biopsy, Dr. Clarkson sends it off for analysis that will take two months. She has only confided in Mrs. Patmore and doesn’t want to tell Mr. Carson or anyone else.

In the meantime, poor Mr. Bates is still in jail, and his lovely wife Anna is trying all she can to prove his innocence. I still think his late, wretched wife Vera framed him, but my dad thinks it was Sir Richard.

So the two-hour premiere of season 3 was jam-packed with information to keep us wondering and coming back for more. Lingering questions: What will become of Downton? If they save Downton, where will the money come from? Will Matthew change his mind about the Swire inheritance? Isn’t Sybil preggers? When will the baby bump appear? Will there be any evidence that will prove Mr. Bates innocent? What is up with Moseley? Is Edith going to marry whats-his-face? Does anyone really even like Edith? What’s married life hold for the new Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Crawley? Will Ethel decide she’s ready to say whatever it was she was going to say? What is Thomas going to try and ruin next? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

I’ll tune in next Sunday to find out.

Downton Abbey Season 3

Well it’s happened. I’ve been sucked into the glorious public television drama known as Downton Abbey, and I can’t complain. Never has my mother been more encouraging of me spending my free time glued to the TV screen than when watching this show. (Honestly, she was the one pushing for me to get caught up.) I finished the “Christmas at Downton Abbey” episode last night, so I am primed and ready to go just in time for the season 3 premiere tonight. There will be THREE HOURS of Downton goodness aired this evening. First, there’s an hour look at Highclere Castle where the show is filmed, followed by the two hour season premiere, which I am SO looking forward to.

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen finished the second season yet, you may not want to read on.

I’m so happy Matthew and Mary have finally realized that they are meant to be. It makes my heart happy. From what I’ve read, the wedding guests descend on the abbey in this episode, and we are introduced to Lady Grantham’s American mother who is played by Shirley MacLaine. We get to watch this for TWO HOURS! It’s going to be great. I’m really looking forward to seeing Lady Sybil too, as I believe she, her pregnant belly and Branson will reappear soon. (Fingers crossed.)

I’ve heard a few rumors about the future of Downton Abbey. 1. Daniel Jonathon (Matthew Crawley) may not be signing on for the fourth season of Downton, which raises many important questions like how could the chemistry between Mary and him ever be removed from the plot?  2. The years may pass and we will get a glimpse at the WWII era, which raises many other questions, but none as serious as the future of my dear Matthew and Mary.

Come 7  CST tonight I will be glued to my seat. Check in later for reactions to this blessed event.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

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Remember that book I wrote about in my last post, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? I finished it and now feel compelled to share. (The sign of any good thought-provoking piece.)

Contrary to my brother’s belief, the book was not about a brain-dead cow but rather Barbara Kingsolver’s family’s year of local eating. Let me tell you, it was a COOL book. Cool, because Kingsolver and family frequently made their own fresh mozzarella and yogurt – in their own kitchen. Cool, because her husband, Steven L. Hopp, made fresh bread from scratch almost every day. Cool, because they raised their own heritage breeds of turkeys and chickens for consumption, reproduction and eggs. Cool, because they grew so many varieties of tomatoes that they were able to freeze them, dry them, and make and can tomato sauces, salsas and chutneys. Of course, it was also cool that most of their food either came from their own garden or from friends at the farmer’s market, and it was all grown/raised in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

Growing up in a home with a small (but always growing) garden, I know what fun it is to pick ripe cucumbers from the vine and immediately serve them sliced and seasoned for an appetizer. I know the happy, proud feeling that comes from cooking and eating something fresh and delicious from your own backyard. I also am familiar with the delightful predicament of having more tomatoes and zucchini than you know what to do with.

All I could think about as I read was the endless possibilities for expanding the way my family and I utilize the “fruits” of our my parents’ labor. In my own little rented apartment kitchen, I lack the proper utensils (and confidence) for canning and making soft cheeses, but after reading this book I am feeling inspired to make more frequent visits to the farmer’s market and get creative with the bounty of the season. I hope these choices will not only speak about my preference for good, clean, fresh food, but will also help support sustainable agricultural practices and local farmers, all the while minimizing my ecological footprint. A small change can start with one person, right? Something to consider.