Summer in London, apparently

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Aaaand I’m back in London again, where summer has arrived.  The day I landed was the hottest day in September in one hundred years - or some absurd number like that.  It was as if I boarded the plane in Texas and then it just sat on the tarmac for 9 hours.  All joking aside, it’s beautiful here.  Everyone is milling around the outside of pubs drinking (at way too early an hour in the afternoon) and sprawled out on any piece of green they can find.  Every single morning is filled with blue skies, and I’m simply ecstatic that it isn’t cold or rainy.  At some point this week, I’ll have to find the opportunity to grab a pint outside and join the Londoners.

I had a meeting with a French gentleman yesterday who had sweat through his entire dress shirt.  He had bravely kept his suit jacket on for 20 minutes into the meeting (inside in an air conditioned room, I might add) but couldn’t take it any more, after running through several napkins wiping the sweat from his brow.  I thought he was going to faint.  When he finally removed his jacket, at least 40% of his blue shirt was sweat-stained.  I politely tried not to notice and endeavored to keep a straight face.  He visibly perked up after shedding layers and at the end of the meeting, only the pit stains remained.

Despite the record-setting heat, it’s really the perfect time to be in London right now, even better than the summertime.  Everyone is back in school so there are less tourists milling about, and it’s still light out relatively late.  Eventually I’m going to turn one of these trips into a long weekend vacation or extended European jaunt.  Another one of those "someday" plans...

Dino hunt

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dinosaur Valley State Park
This weekend, we went hunting for dinosaurs.  We waded through a creek bed to find the footprints and find them we did, after a few hours sweating buckets under the blazing sun.  I feel like the entire month of August was like that; hunting for dinosaurs - looking for something huge and nonexistent today - but instead coming up short.

Not much happened during the month of August.  It was hot and still and quiet.  I’m still attempting to put words to that feeling of what is missing from the day-to-day.  Not a person or a thing, it’s more something(s) momentous and exciting (maybe even a little scary) instead of the quiet calmness.  It has been difficult for me to handle the quiet calmness, of things falling more or less in order and as planned.  My brain leaps in circles and loops, trying to spin itself into different things to do.  My hands will pick up things at random, and cohesive ideas seem to come in spurts.  I’ve been trying not to fight myself about it and sometimes winning and other times losing.  Embarrassingly enough, it brings me to tears of frustration more often than I’d like to admit.  I’m more and more convinced that these are the struggles of adulthood, starting to feel comfortable in your own skin but also trying to grow into a better one as well.  I suppose it fits the old adage - if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing.  Is that what aging is?

Horror movie farmhouse

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One of the things that I've noticed in my daily perusal of real estate listings is that the quality of the photos really make a difference in how attractive a house looks (duh).  The lighting and picture angles all contribute to the over all "click-feel" of the listing.  If you've spent any time looking at all, you'll also recognize the pictures that obviously applied photo filters (bonus points if you can actually name the ones they used).

This restored Victorian farmhouse built in 1903 is the perfect example of lighting / angles done right.  With a completely different photo filter or dimmer lighting, it'd be the perfect haunted house (just add a sprinkling of cobwebs in the corner).  I can imagine the random wood paneling on the walls and ceilings creaking during the night, just when you think you're alone in the house.  Or wandering through the three bathrooms, each spookier than the last, hastily pulling back the shower curtains to make sure that you're alone.  This home would stage perfectly for Halloween; that's a completely reasonable reason to purchase a house right?

Aunt in TX

Monday, August 29, 2016

My aunt and her family are coming to Texas for Labor Day weekend to go house hunting.  Her husband, my Uncle Frank, is finally retired (for the second time) and she wants to see what it would be like to live out their Golden Years near her brothers.  It’s been years, decades really, since she’s been to visit us in Texas.  The last time I remember them coming here was when my grandmother was still alive and you could still make my cousin Eric behave by threatening to turn off the lights and/or tickle him.  He’s now 6’1, a senior in high school, and doesn’t scare so easily.

The draw of family isn’t necessarily the most intuitive for me.  As a strong introvert, a lot of my more serene and peaceful time is spent solo.  However, for others, I understand that having close family members around is a warm fuzzy security blanket.  Our extended family used to gather around the dining table, which we couldn’t fully fit around, and tell old stories about our grandfather when he was younger and about my dad when he misbehaved.  My grandmother was the queen of off colour jokes and my dad has inherited that title.

Despite the run up in housing prices in Dallas, the homes here are still a lot more affordable than California and without the raging wildfires.  Both of the houses my aunt is looking at are within walking distance to my parents’ house.  My college roommate’s parents live another block over.  There’s the opportunity to create their own walking community and maybe also encourage my dad to pull away from the computer every now and then.

I’m curious if that desire to live near family is enough to make someone trade the sunshine and temperate climate of southern California for the baked vastness of Texas.  She may not have realized that she’s going to have to drive everywhere or that all the bugs will try to bite her and tunnel their way inside her home.  That there’s no such thing as cooler nights and that tornadoes are a serious threat.  On the plus side, there’s shopping.  Tons of shopping.  Decades ago, we used to shop my Aunt Lisa’s closet, which occupied her entire spare bedroom, and most of her clothes still had the tags on them.

Coming to Texas in late August, when the sun is blazing and the ants are biting, should paint a stark picture of what it’s like to be a Texan and why we wear that badge with honor.  Or maybe escaping the snarl of Southern California traffic is allure enough?

In the am...

Monday, August 22, 2016

It’s getting later in the year so the sun wakes up around the same time as I do now.  I perform my morning ablutions in the dark and both of us slowly stretch our limbs during that 6 am time frame.  By the time I’m up and running in the office, there’s a soft glow that echoes my mental wake up shining through the office window.  Everything is bathed in a gentle morning light right now.  The empty lot across the street is a plush green carpet and even the parking lot seems to be painted in lavender velvet.  I’m not fooling myself, really.  It’s still August, and it’s still hotter than balls outside, despite the deluge we received last week.  But in the morning and in the air conditioned bubble, I can pretend that the sun is a little gentler and as a result, the day will be as well.

Small favors in August

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I understand why all of Europe goes on vacation for a month during August.  It’s absolutely miserably hot and the last thing that anyone wants to be doing is working.  Even the mosquitoes have buzzed to a pause and quit biting during the day.  Unfortunately, instead of going on a month-long vacation to the azure coast, I’m stuck in the middle of Texas heat that tries its hardest to kill you.  These are my lifesavers of late, the things that keep my sanity in the moments where I’m about to shrivel up into a strip of human jerky:

Rain - The rain, oh the rain.  Texans can recall the exact time of day that it starts raining again.  We pause outdoors, despite the deluge, to catch that welcome scent of damp earth and hot pavement when we first experience rain after a month without.  I never thought I’d be so happy to see a gray sky but here I am, dancing a sleepy little rain dance.  We’re getting rain this entire week, and it’s dropping temps into the 80s.  So we can actually venture outside without immediately becoming desiccated husks.

Ballcaps - I’ve finally fallen firmly into the ballcap camp.  I’ve never been a fan of them before, somehow unable to see how their universal utility could apply to me, unique individual that I am.  After “borrowing” an endless supply of B’s caps, I’ve gone out and purchased the most redneck baseball caps known to man - I have one from Tractor Supply, Cabela’s, and Texas Humor.  The camo one is by far my favourite, unsurprisingly, because of the obnoxious Texas-ness of it.  But it’s saved the general public from looking at my sweaty, messy hair and also saved my hair from the bird droppings at lunch the other day.  That’s a win-win situation, folks.
My New Tx Humor Cap

Pickled things - Pickle-flavoured popcorn, fried pickles, everything pickled.  I ate fried pickles and cheddar cheese waffle fries and didn’t have to eat anything else for the next two days.  I’ll have some more of that please, thanks.

Kitchen appliances - I know you guys are all thinking, how random does this list get?  I brought home my KitchenAid stand mixer that’s been living at my parents’ house and just last week, B bought a slow cooker.  We’ve been whipping up tasty treats every since (homemade oatmeal raisin cookies last night).  This weekend, I tried this balsamic mustard tri-tip slow cooker recipe.  When I stumbled into my apartment five hours later, it was as if a magical cooking fairy had prepared dinner and summoned up an enticing aroma to dance around my kitchen.

And now the interactive part of the blog experience.  Share with me your favourite ballcaps, pickled things, and slow cooker recipes in the comments below?  Please please please help save my sanity.

Woman of Steel

Monday, August 8, 2016

I suppose there’s no gentle way of saying that I’ve been trampled by my horse, so there it is.  However, not sure if this is reassuring to you but it is to me, you can be trampled by a horse and live.
In order to get from our barn to the trails that we ride, we have to skirt by an active golf course and traverse under an overpass and through the woods.  Since I’ve been riding, the entrance/exit on to the trail has been framed by the branches of a dead tree and with each successive month, the branches sagged down further and further until they no long provide clearance for a horse and rider.  On Saturday morning, we made it out to the trail with no problem but on the way back, Ryon decided to jump the dead limbs on the ground which resulted in me ducking to avoid being smacked in the face by the low overhanging branches.

I leaned too far forward too late, lost my balance, and slipped off his side.  I ended up underneath him, and then everything both happened really slow and really fast.  I noticed how frantic he was that I had come off his back (but hung on to the reins), saw where his hooves were coming down all around me, and tried to curl up into a ball.  But not quickly enough.

I heard collective gasps from the women that I was riding with.  I was told later that I may have squeaked.  His hoof came down firmly and squarely on my torso, right in the gut.  And then the pressure was gone and he was standing next to me, where I was lying in the dirt.  In atypical Ryon fashion, he stared at me a bit wide-eyed as I picked myself up and dusted myself off.

After standing up and catching my breath, my trainer asked if we needed to go to the hospital.  I didn’t feel like anything was broken and replied no.  While stiffly and gingerly hopping back on Ryon and riding back to the barn, I was asked that same question multiple times.  Finally satisfied with my answer, we cleaned up and went to lunch.  It wasn’t until later (as it typically is) when the adrenaline wore off that I started to notice the pain in my legs and, oddly enough, finger.  He must have grazed my legs (either kicked or stepped on), as that pain was a lot more intense than in my stomach.  It had all happened so quickly, I just didn’t happen to notice.

Luck was on my side for several reasons:

If Ryon had stepped two inches up, he would have stepped on my ribs.  I don’t even want to know what that would have felt like or what organs would have been damaged in that process.

Ryon didn’t put all of his weight on my stomach (or legs from that matter).  Also, I’m relatively in shape.  I clenched up my core when I saw his hoof coming down toward me.  My abs are still sore today but nothing internally has been damaged.

Ryon was supposed to get new shoes last week, but the farrier has been on vacation.  His new shoes would have been as sharp as a knife and probably would have left my skin in ribbons.  As it is, his old ones have left marks on my torso from where the skin was rubbed off.

My head is fine.  Typically when I fall, my head will bounce (awesome, right?).  This time, I landed on my shoulder / back and on some dirt and leaves, which cushioned my fall, and I was wearing a helmet.  Always wear a helmet.

So here we are on Monday, still alive after being danced on by a horse.  A little battered and bruised, everything is turning a lovely shade of dark blue and purple.  And I can’t bend my finger.  But with a hobby that involves such a large animal, you know you’re taking risks and you will fall when riding as often as we do, it’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when.  You take the necessary safety precautions to manage the risks as best you can and throw in a bit of luck.

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