On not buying the ranch

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Ranch
There’s a ranch that I’ve been coveting.  It’s a cool six acres on the southeast side of Dallas with two barns, an outdoor arena, and a cute, baby blue ranch house on it already.  The property can stable 21 horses and backs up to a trail system that you could ride for days.  Amazingly, it’s only 15 minutes from downtown Dallas; you can see the skyline from the pasture.  I could have Ryon eating grass in my backyard and still get to work within half an hour.  I’d get a tractor, set up my own jump course, and populate the extra space with a dog / chickens / goats!  My mind has already jumped ahead to imagining myself sitting out on the wraparound porch in a rocking chair, watching the sunset.  I even took it so far as calling the realtor to see if I could schedule a walk through.

A month ago I was so excited about the ranch; I had to tell everyone about my harebrained ideas.  This month, you couldn’t pay me to even think about moving, renovating an entire house, and figuring out the livestock situation.  I can barely summon up the energy to swim through the Texas heat and drop off beer and supplements at the barn for Ryon.  Would I be able to wake up before the crack of dawn for morning feedings and then do a property check at night before going to bed and still work a 12 hour work day?  What about during a thunderstorm / extreme heat / freezing cold?

Realistically, this is Texas and there are plenty of plots of land like this available (although maybe not as close to town).  The question is whether or not my life needs a drastic lifestyle change like moving to a ranch or will something like a new haircut do the trick.  I’m god-awful at sitting still, particularly when it seems as though everyone else’s life is filled with forward progress.  People are buying property left and right, building homes, renting them out, and I’m still in the same apartment building I’ve lived in for the past three years.

There’s another home that I’ve been coveting; I just found it yesterday online.  It’s been completely remodeled and has a huge oak tree in the front yard.  There’s a built in, wall-to-ceiling wine rack in the dining room, a mudroom (perfect for my mess), and beautiful new pergola outside.  It has an open floor plan and is perfect for parties.  The house is a quick drive to my office and the barn, and I wouldn’t need to get on the highway to either location.

To say I’ve got the house hunting bug would be an understatement.  I like the idea of buying a home, decorating and furnishing it, and having a place to host people over.  But like most things, as people tell me, it’s a solid amount of work, not all of which is fun.  You've got bugs, landscaping, cleaning, and a whole host of other issues to deal with.  Maybe it’s time to get that haircut.

In July

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I’m jumping firmly into July a little bit jet lagged, a little bit sick, and a whole lot tired.  It’s been a constant theme this summer of endless complaints revolving around being tired and a general lack of energy.  My very own mystery-whodunit that I’ve been unable to solve.  Don’t worry, I’ll put a doctor on the case if the problem doesn’t resolve itself soon.

Last week, in my London hotel room, I was spoiled by my very own personal Nespresso machine.  It’s so terribly easy to pull myself an espresso every morning; I ended up with zero jet lag whilst in London and being hopped up on caffeine the entire trip until the last night.  Hotels, take note.  Espresso machines are much more useful than mini bars.  It was mid-July and you couldn’t so much tell that it was summertime in London.  Apart from the small dash of sunlight that peered through the haze when I landed on Tuesday, the weather was very much the same as it always has been - grey and drizzly.  I fit in one workout during my trip with a guest pass to the Virgin Active fitness club (swanky, indoor lap pool).  You can tell most Londoners haven’t been able to squeeze in their summer holiday yet; I was the most tan person in the gym by a kilometer.

Reminder: must slather on sunscreen when outside lounging by the pool

Two weeks ago, it was Independence Day and we celebrated in grand ol’ American fashion by watching an airshow and fireworks on the tarmac of the local airport.  In traditional grumpy Rooth fashion, I threw a fit about it; it was too hot, windy, long, crowded.  The sun is getting to me, or something is.  Something about the summer is worming its way into the old noggin and stirring up general malaise and malcontent.  The stifling heat?  The bugs?

Reminder: must update gratitude list - there’s got to be things I’m grateful for that outweigh the summertime sads

In two weeks, we'll be into August and the dog days of summer.  Back to school will be the theme of the day yet the sun will continue to beat down relentlessly.  Even the pool will feel like tepid bath water tainted with chlorine.  Air condition and hydration will be the words of the month.

Reminder: must load up on popsicles and ice cream to beat the heat


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Y’all will be happy to hear that I’ve successfully earned a survival badge from our summertime adventure through the Great White North.  In true Rooth vacation fashion, there was practically zero downtime.  We were happily swarmed by the Michigan welcome wagon and jumped straight into a family dinner with B’s relatives after landing in Detroit.  B’s parents’ house is like something out of a movie, set down a stretch of long gravel driveway and book-ended by a hand carved wooden sign and a big red barn.  His parents have coffee every morning out on their large front porch, amidst hanging flower baskets and perfectly manicured flowerbeds.  However, we spent the majority of our time in their family cabin even further Up North.

Prior to making the trip, I had received multiple warnings about the cabin in the woods, which frankly started to sound like a bad horror movie in the making.  There would likely be little to no cell phone service.  It would be more than prudent to pack a jacket and long pants.  The mosquitoes are the size of birds, etc etc etc.

Upon arrival, we opened up the cabin in earnest Boy Scout-style organization with efficient and orderly dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, and mowing the front lawn as well as their walking path in the woods.  Luckily (for me), there was electricity, running water, and a full indoor bathroom that B’s dad and uncle installed shortly after they purchased it in the 80s.  Each of the bunk beds was laid out with electric blankets (we didn’t need to use them - thank goodness) and at night the temperature dropped into the 40s.  We woke every morning to a crackling fire in the fireplace and fresh pot of coffee.

You would think that with the fresh air and lack of noise, I’d sleep like a rock at night.  It turns out I’m the ultimate city girl, unable to sleep with all the birds chirping and animal sounds at night.  I’m much more accustomed to falling asleep to the roar of plane engines overhead and the dull thrum of traffic.

As true Michiganders, B and his parents played tour guide on my trip Up North.  It’s lovely to go on vacation and just show up without doing any booking or mapping out of where you’re going to go.  I highly recommend going on that type of vacation if you’re given the chance.  Among our Michigan activities included:

  • Climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes, which are big sand dunes next to Lake Michigan on the west side of the state.  I’ve been told that climbing sand dunes are very much a must-do Midwestern tourist activity.  From the the top of the dunes, I had a vantage point of the bluest water I’ve seen this year.  Later, we wandered down to the rocky beaches of Lake Michigan and combed the “surf” for Petoskey stones which are native to the state.  The water was as frigid as advertised, but there were still a handful of brave kids splashing in the waves
  • Driving tour around Leelanau peninsula accompanied by wine tasting.  We also tried locally produced blueberry and cranberry wine which was sickeningly sweet and what B called Ocean Spray on crack
  • Four wheeling around the state land surrounding the cabin.  We drove by early bird campers set up in campsites, claiming their spots a week before the Fourth of July celebrations, and finished covered in a fine layer of Michigan dust and dirt
  • Shooting pistols and rifles on their homemade, outdoor range.  It was a blast (sorry, not sorry) and even more fun watching B get smoked by his dad in a shoot off
  • Paddling down 18 river miles where a bald eagle flew out right in front of our canoe and perched on a tree downstream, eyeing us like the meat kebabs we were 
  • Wildlife spotting, which became a kind of “I spy” game, looking out for deer, hummingbirds, and turkeys, including a flock of baby ones
  • Learning how to play all the board games with B’s family.  Slight exaggeration, just Clue and Sorry.  Funny enough, no one wanted to play Speed Scrabble with me

The Michigan countryside was spotted with immaculate farmsteads with picture perfect red barns, trusty old blue tractors.  It was a lovely break from the highways and noise / light / air pollution of the city, and we’re already planning for the next trip back, which I’m masochistically kind of hoping may be during the winter wonderland.

The fever

Thursday, June 30, 2016

It seems as though everyone I know has house hunting fever.  The girls that work in my office are putting offers in left and right, and even though I love apartment living and my small little space, I'm getting caught up in the fervor that's spreading like Texas wildfire.  I haven't gotten as bold as to actually attend an open house but cute little homes like the one featured below get my blood pumping, in spite of myself.  It's clean and simple, with big windows and beautiful floors throughout.  Even the wallpaper in the breakfast nook works (in my opinion).  At just over 1,500 square feet but with a price tag more than half a mil, you can tell that the housing market in Dallas hasn't cooled off.  Summertime is also prime time for house hunting.  However with little gems like this sitting on the market, how can I resist?

On my spoiled boy

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Last week, my entire family and B turned up to watch one of my jump lessons with Ryon, which is the first time my parents have seen me in a horseback riding lesson in the past 20 years.  They were adequately impressed, the way Asian parents are where they won’t tell you how proud they are but instead take loads of pictures and video.

It got me thinking about how far Ryon and I have come since his first summer in Dallas in 2014.  Back then, each flinch, spook, and head toss was a message that I honed in on - one that I heard as if through loudspeakers.  I’d try to decipher his body language - oh he’s mad at me because he’s eating dinner late today.  Ryon would wiggle and wobble all through the arena, refusing to pick a direction or listen to any of my suggestions on where to go.

Now I don’t make a note of each head toss, stomp, and tail whisk and can even occasionally get him to execute a perfect 20 meter circle or even a straight line.  Sometimes (a lot of times) he still acts up because he’s ornery - pissed off that he’s in a barn with all these animals - and sometimes he’s a pleasant, even-tempered, sort-of-sweet horse.  My trainer and I remark that we don’t know what animal we’re going to get on a given day.

However, he is getting downright spoiled.  Every visitor earns him a cookie and head scratch.  B hunts down grass and clover for him to snack on after my lessons, and we’ve installed his THIRD box fan in his stall.  Now that he has a punk rocker look going on, I make a point of trimming his mane every few weeks.  He also gets a full shampoo and conditioner treatment on a weekly basis, in addition to the daily brush down with a natural bristle brush (and a separate softer brush for his face).  His “spa” treatment is more extensive than most Dallas women’s (and that’s saying something).

We go flying in our jump lessons on a weekly basis now.  He’s impatient over low jump courses and rushes through them, as though he knows if he finishes them quickly, he’ll get to move on to higher jumps.  My trainer and I are teaching him that he WILL get to jump the big ones eventually.  I can’t help but feel that it’s partly my fault.  I had a mental hang up at the intimidating three foot level, but since we’ve sneakily moved up, three feet doesn’t look so high anymore.  It’s officially hotter than hell in Texas now, so by the time we’re finished, both of us are drenched in sweat.  The horses have new turn out paddocks with large, plastic water troughs.  Ryon turns each of these into his own private kiddie pool and plants his front feet in them, spilling water all over in the process while he splashes about.

I’m sure next week - actually probably tonight - will bring a separate set of challenges from him that I haven’t foreseen.  I've learned to expect the unexpected, but despite the inconsistency of it all, I count it as my good luck that I get to spend my time sweating away with my spoiled boy.

Death by a thousand scratches

Monday, June 13, 2016

I’m currently typing this blog post in an effort to keep my hands busy.  I’m sporting two mosquito bites on my face, several fly bites(!), and half a dozen more mosquito bites around my ankles, feet, and knees.  As if that wasn’t gross enough, my right foot was so puffy and swollen from one of these that I could barely fit it in my shoe on Friday.  To add insult to injury, the vast majority of these bites were obtained inside vs. outside.

Of course I’m scratching, as much as they tell you not to scratch - more irritation, permanent scarring, etc.  But I can’t not scratch.  Even the bites on my face that look oh-so-lovely already.  Benadryl and Cortizone anti-itch creams only provide extremely temporary relief.  It’s all annoying as hell and stretching my eggshell patience this Monday.  I suppose that’s one way that I know that summer has begun.  Dallas has had its first documented positive test for West Nile, and the OFF isn’t keeping the mosquitoes away.  Complete with a storm-driven headache, I think it’s all I can take of this week on a Monday, no less.  Maybe I’ll scratch myself into a new skin or into a new week even.

Midwest is best?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

As I alluded to before, I’m taking a trip up north in a few weeks to Michigan, land of the Great Lakes (I had to google that).  It’s where B is from and where he’s lived out 30 of his past years before making the smart decision to move down to Texas.  Okay, so maybe he moved here for a job (details).  He begrudgingly says that he likes living in Texas but within the state, he enjoys the countryside more than the cities.  We’re working on it.

Prior to meeting B, I knew next to nothing about Michigan.  Here’s the short list of things I did know:
  • It’s up near the Great Lakes
  • It’s in the shape of the hand
  • There’s an upper part
  • It’s cold there
Although I’m leaving a lot up to B and his family with regards to the itinerary when we’re up there, I’m curious and wanted to do some digging on what it is that people actually do up in Michigan in the summertime.  I've found a few Michigan travel-centric twitter accounts but surprisingly, there was a real lack of recent travel guides.  I found the best ones from Food52, which I’ve included below:
Here are the things I have recently learned about Michigan that you won’t find in any of the articles:
  • Don’t ever confuse Michigan for the rest of the states in the Midwest (or Canada) lest you catch an earful
  • Don’t ever tell Michiganders (that’s the term for them) that they have an accent.  They’ll never admit it and deny it until they're blue in the face - it’s scientifically proven.  In case you're wondering, the accent is called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift and you can learn all about it here 
  • Out of state Michiganders will find each other anywhere - in restaurants, bars, you name it.  It’s as if they have a radar for others who have also survived the cold, cold north
I’ve been told that for this summer vacation, I’ll need to pack jeans and a sweatshirt, which is a completely foreign concept for a Texan.  If y’all have any recommendations of things to do, places to see, or - most importantly - food to eat in Michigan, please do share.

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