Friday, October 31, 2014

Apéritif Friday - Slutty Cider, Whorish Pizza and Dirty Nachos

I've whined and griped before about our messed up schedule this fall, and it keeps getting worse. Rarely do we find ourselves gathered together on a Friday night anymore. Or a Saturday night. Or even a Sunday night.

Sigh.

So recently over coffee I glanced at the calendar for that evening, and nearly leapt for joy that it was empty on a Thursday night. I declared right then and there we were having an Apéritif Thursday. Later in the day I received an email from the hockey club to pick up jerseys that night. My text to Mr. Musky: "Over my dead body. You are staying home and drinking two cocktails with me tonight. This is why we have kids - they can run the errands." 

He agreed.

I started off with a concoction that had been niggling my brain since Homecoming night, when I served mulled apple cider to the dressed-up kidlets. I poured the leftover cider back into the jug and saved it for...you guessed it...
Slutty Cider. Coined by my delightful firstborn. She named all of the items for this post. I apologize. She was on a roll of sorts, I guess. I could forbid my kids to say anything borderline inappropriate, but then they'd rarely engage with me and I wouldn't know what's really going on in their oscillating brains. While I find their ramblings sometimes abhorrent, at other times they are truly fascinating. 

And sometimes downright funny.

To make this drink, muddle a small handful of fresh cranberries, the juice of 2 clementines and 1/2 a lime, a small sprig of rosemary and 7-8 mint leaves. Pour the concoction into a shaker with some ice. Add 3 oz whiskey and 2 oz mulled cider (or just straight up cider) and a couple of shakes of bitters - check mine out! Cranberry bitters. Where have they been all my life?

Shake vigorously and pour into a martini glass over a fine meshed strainer. Top with club soda, if desired. I did not desire.

Mmmmmm. It was just what I needed to start our fall gathering off right. The cider gave the whiskey an undeniable whiff and zing of fall. The herbs added some earthiness and the juice mellowed it all out and added some brightness and complexity. I may have consumed two.

Meanwhile, I told the kids that the appetizer was a surprise. Jake left, but Kahley stayed to see what was up. Earlier in the day I thawed some puff pastry with the intention of making some kind of a pizza roll up thing. Realizing that wasn't a good name, I consulted the name maker for the night for something good.

"Whorish Pizza."

I paused, thinking of all the eyes staring at this screen, perhaps judging me. "Yep. That's it. It's perfect. Whorish Pizza it is."

So now I need to tell you the story behind the name "Whorish Pizza."

A few years ago my brother and his family came to Illinois for Thanksgiving at my parents' house. We all went on a little shopping excursion to find little Chloe, my niece, some new boots. As the Clampetts tromped through JC Penney's shoe section, Uncle John turned to Kahley with a pair of red suede stilettos in hand and declared, "Kahley, these shoes are whorish."

Now up until this point, Kahley was terrified of Uncle John. At the age of 2.5 he coaxed her to wet her toes in the Pacific Ocean, where a giant wave promptly swept her off her baby feet onto her wee butt, the undertow threatening to carry her off to a faraway land. A few days later, her infinitely wise parents left her alone with the scary bearded Uncle, who was also charged with the feeding, burping, swaddling and diaper changing of her 3 month old baby brother and cousin. When young Kahley woke up from her nap to find herself alone with the spooky, hairy Uncle John, she refused to leave the bedroom.

She spent nearly four hours alone in that bedroom while her mommy and daddy and Auntie Kelly skied the slopes of Mammoth Mountain.

So forever from there, Kahley was always a little intimidated by the dark eyed giant. She retreated to hide behind mommy, holding her hand, always interested but standoffish when Uncle John was in the room. 

Until the shoe incident. Kahley howled at his apt description of the, um, undesirable shoe representing the red light district and deemed him cool forever and ever. 

Young impressionable Chloe, however, was left confused and intrigued by her father's description. 

"What's whorish, Daddy?"

"Nothing Chloe. Never mind."

"What's whorish? What did you say? Why did you call that shoe whorish? What is that?"

My brilliant brother sighed. And rolled his eyes. And tried to blow it off.

"Dad. Tell me. What. is. WHORISH!?!"

He knew he couldn't get out of it. And Kahley was very interested to see how Uncle John would translate the meaning to his sweet girl.

"It means cheap, Chloe. Not good."

His definition sounded innocent enough. And I considered it a reasonable explanation. But I also knew the meaning of "cheap" would be lost on a youngster who hasn't yet reached pre-puberty.

So little Chloe skipped through the mall singing, "Whorish, whorish,WHORE-ISH!" at the top of her lungs.

And my brother sighed some more. He looked at me, that "What the hell do I do now?" look in his eyes.

"Just ignore it. The novelty will wear off."

Hours later, we continued the Quad City culinary tour for my California relatives, stopping at Harris Pizza for dinner. Chloe struggled a bit with the words on the sign. "Does that say...HORISH PIZZA?"

And it started all over again. 

"Whorish Pizza. Just like the shoe! We are eating at Whorish pizza. Whorish, whorish, WHORE-ISH!"

My brother ate his words, again.

We talk about Whorish Pizza all. the. time around here.

So naturally, when my dear daughter suggested we call this one Whorish Pizza, who was I to resist? Besides, it goes so well with Slutty Cider. 

I rolled out the puff pastry, brushed it with some egg wash (one egg whisked with about 1T of water) then sprinkled sundried tomatoes all over the crust. I added pepperoni, chopped green onions, shredded cheese and added a smattering of dried Italian seasoning. 

I then rolled the dough up lengthwise,

and sliced it into pieces and put them on a Silpat baking mat (parchment paper would work too) on a jellyroll pan. I brushed each piece with more egg wash, then popped the pan into a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

And ohmygosh. These are SO good. Like pizza, but the puff pastry gives a crispy, flaky texture to the tasty little nuggets.
These lasted about 2 minutes. 
Jake devoured his portion and asked for more. But I told him he had to wait for the main course.

Fall goodness, right here folks. Down and dirty good food. I highly recommend Slutty Cider paired with Whorish Pizza.
Knowing that this was but a mere snack for my tribe, we moved on to another appetizer-like dish to take to the basement for some TV watching, something else we don't do much around here anymore.

I put the recipe namer to work. I cut a bunch of corn tortillas in half, stacked them up, then cut them into triangles for her to lay out on a sheet pan I sprayed with truffle olive oil.

I thought she'd toss them on and call it a day, but I turned around to see this.
Type A tendencies in full force. I sprayed the tops with more olive oil, sprinkled a little salt over the tops, squeezed a chunk of lime over them, then popped them into the 400 degree oven and baked them for about 5-7 minutes - just until they got a bit crispy.

Meanwhile, I started in on the nacho dip. I browned up a pound each of ground turkey and chicken (any ground meat will work) and added cumin, salt, pepper, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. I just sprinkled the spices around the pan and tasted as I went.

I threw in a chopped jalapeño, a diced carrot and some microplaned garlic. I topped the mixture with some shredded aged white cheddar cheese and popped it into the oven to melt the cheese.
It looked rather blah, and since this was coming to the basement with us as a one-pot meal, I sprinkled some chopped green onions over the top, poured some salsa around in a circle and plopped a dollop of sour cream in the middle.

The corn chips were necessary, as I didn't have any of the bagged stuff in the house.
And there you have it. Slutty Cider, Whorish Pizza and Dirty Nachos. 

I promise to clean my act up next week.

Or when these teenagers leave my house.

XOXO,
Jen






Friday, October 17, 2014

Apéritif Friday - Viognier, with Sausage and Vegetable Risotto

Remember when I talked about fancy tailgating a few weeks ago? Whelp, it didn't start with dinner, or even the appetizer.

Nope. 

We tailgated for lunch, too.

After church on Sunday, my people were all starving. So I told them to stay outta the snacks, and have a cup of tea or something to cub their hunger, 'cause Mama was whipping up some fantastic lunch food.
Gilbert's sausages are the bomb. If you see them in your supermarket, snatch them up. I can now only find them at our local Jewel. They are nitrate and nitrite free, gluten free and have minimal sugar. Trifecta! We eat them alone, as part of a dinner, or in this case...drumroll please...
...in Risotto! 

Growing up, Italian food (pronounced EYEtalian in my oh so cultured home) consisted of overcooked spaghetti with a heavy meat sauce. Emphasis on heavy meat. I mean, I think there must have been three pounds of beef and sausage to a cup of red sauce. Mom jacked up the jarred sauce with fresh bell peppers, onions and mushrooms though. It tasted awesome to all of us, but I was shocked the first time I went to a real fast food Italian restaurant and realized there were shapes of pasta other than long, thin spaghetti noodles. Let alone sauces that didn't contain beef, sausage or the color red. I was a sucker for alfredo sauce for years.
This is rich, decadent and a one-pot wonder. Fresh vegetables, lean protein, creamy arborio rice and a touch of grated parmesan all snuggle up in a single dish. It's perfect for lunch on one of these beautiful fall days that I've been soaking up. I planted 270 tulip bulbs over the past few weeks, and I walked outside during our monsoon season this week to find a smorgasbord of bulb remnants on the very table this risotto is resting upon. Apparently I'm helping the squirrels and chipmunks fatten up for the long winter ahead.

Rat bastards.

Now don't judge, but there's wine in this dish, which simply means that there has to be a glass consumed when you chow down even if it's only 1:00 on a Sunday. In this case, thanks to that wine-snob sister-in-law of mine, it's a Viongnier. She detests Chardonnay so she brought her own white varietal to our cabin over the summer. One taste, and I was hooked. It's cleaner and fresher than chardonnay, but still bold enough to have some heft to it.

When it comes to wine, I truly know nothing. I just know if something tastes good, so don't ask me about peach and floral and melon notes and all that stuff. Just buy Viongnier if you see it - trust me. Locally, I've only found it at Mariano's (new fancy grocery store in Shorewood) or Costco. It's awesome tasting, especially on a 75 degree sunny fall day with a photo bomber in the background.
Kids gobble this stuff up and go for seconds, veggies and all. Note who gets the cracked serve ware around here.

Sausage and Vegetable Risotto

Six cups of chicken broth
A head of broccoli, chopped
2 slices of bacon, cut in half
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small red peppers, chopped
3 sausages, quartered lengthwise and chopped
2 garlic cloves, microplaned
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
3T butter
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
1T dried black truffles (optional), soaked in hot water and chopped
3/4 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese

Bring the broth to a simmer and steam the broccoli over the broth (alternatively, you can steam the broccoli over water, but I figured why dirty another pot?). Once fork tender, remove the broccoli and set aside. In a heavy stockpot, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon. Sautee the onion, peppers, sausages and garlic in the bacon fat for 5-6 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and butter. Once the butter is melted, add the arborio rice, stirring to incorporate. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to lift all the browned bits. Once the liquid is completely absorbed, add a ladle or two or stock, continuing to stir the risotto to incorporate. Add more liquid as the rice absorbs it, and keep stirring, for approximately 30 minutes (you may or may not use all the broth). The rice should be cooked and puffed yet al dente. Add the truffles and parmesan cheese, stir to incorporate and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Declare that lunch is served and cry 10 minutes later that you didn't double the batch.

XOXO,
Jen

Monday, October 13, 2014

Homecoming 2014

We've been a little busy around here the past few weeks. Between hockey and horseback riding and daily living, throw an event like Homecoming into the mix and Mr. Musky and I dream about our summer living arrangement.
At the same time we embrace all that is fun about having two teenagers in high school. Our punk kid worked the parade like it was his job. He was all business, gently handing that candy out. Not hurling it from floats, like I remember as a kid in high school. Back in the day, our wise elders realized that the hazards of flying sugar bombs beaning snot-nosed elementary school kids in the eye built character. So we hurled away.
Our little community takes the tradition of homecoming to new levels. The parade has grown exponentially along with our population, and all four high schools now participate with over 100 entries. While the weather didn't really cooperate and a certain someone whined and moaned and groaned all morning long, I still enjoyed watching a mere 1/3 of the parade. Mr. Grumpy Pants commandeered me to leave once the hockey team marched by. Next year we're sticking it out.

This kid?
Warms my heart. He's one of Jake's good buddies on the hockey team. I could adopt him, he's so stinkin' cute. And sweet. 

The parade kicked off our homecoming week. Wednesday brought us a highly amusing form of viewing entertainment. 
The Powderpuff Football game.
My junior girl and about 100 of her closest friends took on the Vicious Seniors. It was actually a close, and um...interesting game. The seniors eked out a victory, scoring in the final quarter to beat the juniors. And I'm not biased - they played dirty. We saw elbows to the head, hair pulling and eye gouging. Just what my neurotic self needs.

Luckily, based on sheer numbers, my girl and her friends were only in on a couple of plays.
And they didn't land in the hospital.

Watching this game made me grateful I never played Powderpuff football. I conveniently contracted mono my junior year, then moved away, and I don't recall my new high school holding this barbaric event. Or I suddenly came down with a case of measles and miraculously recovered the next day.

These three have been best of buds since elementary school. At one point during her freshman year, I told Kahley that life can be wicked, and to not be surprised if their friendship doesn't stand the test of high school.
I couldn't be happier to be more wrong on that one. 
Embracing all that Homecoming offers, even Mr. Musky and I bundled up for Friday Night Lights (we're admittedly not that into high school sports that our kids don't play). East's football team is pretty good this year, and they went up against Oswego to battle it out for first place in the conference. Sadly, East came up short but still has a shot at the playoffs.

Which brings us to...Saturday night, and the big dance. Both kids attended, elevating my planning and logistic skills to new levels. Jake started the night early, heading over to a friend's house for pictures at 4:00.

Kahley wasn't even into her dress yet, so this is all I've got in terms of sibling pictures.
Awesome.

The freshmen decided it was best to all take pictures together...because motivating over 30 adolescents and 40+ parents into position is as easy as herding feral cats. Not.
At least it wasn't my house, so I didn't have to holler at all the kids to stand on the staircase or take a knee or be still and smile.

I let the host mom (bless her heart) do the shouting. And the hosting. And the feeding of the teenagers.
It's a blast to see these kids grow up. They're like little pipsqueaks morphing into adult bodies while their brains attempt to catch up. I hadn't seen the tallest kid of the bunch since last spring. I towered over him in April. Now I barely come up to his shoulder. Remarkable!
His friend Matt said he wants to be on my blog. Wow - I didn't know I was catching on so well with the younger crowd. Here ya go, buddy. You're officially infamous.
Jake went stag, a brilliant idea. The Asking To The Homecoming Dance has all sorts of pressure associated with it these days. Gone is the convenience of a ratty piece of spiral notebook paper intricately wrapped into a triangular table-top football bearing this heartfelt sentiment scrawled in pencil within:

"Will you go to Homecoming with me? Circle: Yes No."

Now boys must "creatively" ask a girl to the dance. At a minimum, they must procure a giant poster board and dump glue and glitter on it leaving a trail of tears for the mother. The mother who must wake up in the wee hours of the morning to drive him to school so he can humiliate himself in front of all his friends while carrying balloons and flowers and teddy bears as he wears a Santa suit and asks "Will you go to Ho Ho Homecoming with me?"

Barf. It's ridiculous, I tell ya. Just pick up the darned phone and ask the girl out already.

Instead, Jake declared a no-go on the date and got a soda during the one slow song they played. He danced with his friends to Iggy I-G-G-Y and rapped alongside Nicki Minaj to the modern-day version of "Baby Got Back." And he behaved like a monkey at the restaurant because he didn't have a date to impress.

I was grateful because glitter won't line my floor for three months and I didn't have to shell out 25 bucks for a wrist corsage that is ditched at dinner because it's a pain in the ass to eat with flower petals falling into your food.

Taylor is one of his best friends. Whenever I ask, "Who are you texting?" 95% of the time it's Taylor.
I guess this is their too cool pose. I don't know. I'm old.
I introduced myself to a couple of mothers and found some gems who would drive him to the restaurant and then to the dance, and then from the dance to an after party. I held a quick conversation in my head, justifying that I wasn't sending my kid off with strangers and it was completely safe for him to get in the car with people I just met 30 seconds ago, so I dashed off to get things in order for Kahley and her friends.

When she came downstairs, I had to take a little step back.
I already knew her hair looked awesome, but I have to admit, the whole package this year put a little hitch in my breath.
She looked so adult-like. Not pretty, but beautiful. Stunning. And in her case, the brain is catching up quickly.

As are her friends' brains.
It is so fun to see your kids and their friends grow up into (usually) mature mini adults.

And what's truly remarkable? Nothing broke in my house. Not one cup, glass, dish...nothing.
But they still haven't learned it all yet. If a dress has to constantly be pulled down, maybe there's a better option?
Oh well. Despite the creeping hemlines, they looked cute and had a great time. 
And a dress is still a dress. At least they're not wearing "slacks" as one of my dear high school friends so eloquently pointed out recently. Yes, in hicksville USA back in the day, we typically wore slacks to the homecoming dance. On Friday night - AFTER the football game. In all of our wind blown, permed-pulled-out-with-a-curling-brush, aqua netted, mullet-outgrowth glory. I just so happened to throw a fashion-forward wrench into things one year with my fall patterned, nightgownish fancy long dress.
More like nightmarish. Lawd a'mighty.

XOXO,
Jen






Friday, October 10, 2014

Apéritif Friday - Limoncello Basil Martini and Greek Cups on Yummie Nation

Hey all! I'm excited to share my second Yummie Nation post with you. On the afternoon we had the HIDS rib roast at our backyard tailgate, we also had some perfect late summer / early fall cocktails and appetizers while we waited for the Bears to beat the 49ers.
Did you hear me? The Bears. Beat the 49ers. I know it's been small eternity since they won, but the season is still early. Keep the faith, people!
Check out my Limoncello Basil Martinis and Greek Cup Appetizers here. Miller even makes a YN debut! While you're there, browse around the website for some other fab fall ideas. There's a couple of recipes that are on my list to try this week. Pumpkin Risotto? Why hello, fall freak flag. Chimichurri? It's what my meat's been missin'. A Pear and Sage Gin and Tonic? Fuggetabotuit. They're totally talkin' my language now.

If you are food blogger, or are interested in starting a blog, check out the FoodFightWrite conference coming up in November. It's being held in conjunction with the World Food Championships in Vegas November 12-15 and promises to be informative and loads of fun. I'd give my left pinkie to go, but the November calendar in our house is not working in my favor. I'm bummed, but will definitely be checking out the sights and smells next year.

Have a fantastic weekend. I've been on the wagon for the past few weeks, so I'm drooling over the cocktail possibilities after tonight's local homecoming football game. A mango margarita might just fit the bill, because it's orange like our school's colors and will go with my outfit.

If I don't change into jams first.

Go Bengals!

XOXO,
Jen

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ten Things I Learned at my First IEA Horse Show

A few weeks ago Kahley and I attended her first IEA Horse Show. For those very experienced horse folks - kudos to you...you're gonna think I'm an idiot. I've never been to anything other than a schooling show at our home barn, and it's evident that I could use a crash course on the sport. Among many tidbits, I learned that IEA does not stand for Illinois Equestrian Association. It stands for Interscholastic Equestrian Association. As in, the nationwide association modeled after the IHSA - not the Illinois High School Association - but the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. As in, the organization she dreams of riding for in college.

Gulp. And holy acronyms.

Here are ten other things I learned that day, in no particular order.

1. This is a real competition.
Not a check-your-opponent-into-the-boards sport or a head-to-head-beat-the-other-guys game, but a rack-them-points-up kind of competition. And it's growing in popularity. There are twenty new teams in our zone alone this year. At a show, each team present has an opportunity to score points to advance their barn to regionals, and every rider has a chance to score points to qualify for regionals at the individual level. So the scoring of the points is very important. At one point I looked at the scoreboard in the barn and thought, "Ouch! Camelot Equestrian Team (CET) scored only three points so far today." But as it turns out, those three points were huge. We walked away from the weekend with seven points for the high school team and 8 points for the middle school team. A team needs 20 points to qualify for regionals, it's only the beginning of the season with lots of shows remaining, and we are nearly halfway there with both teams. GO CAMELOT!

2. The Warmup makes me want to barf.
The host barn provides the majority of the horses for the show. Other barns may bring in horses in as well. All of the horses are warmed up prior to the start of the show by a "handler." Most of the warmup progresses without incident while the competitors all line up against the fence to study the gait of the horses, their tendencies, and I don't know what else because I don't ride. They ask their trainers for advice on how to manage each horse, should they draw the one they are watching.
One beautiful mahogany colored horse (is there a specific name for that type? I'm clueless) named Captain raced around the arena while sheer panic creased the handler's face as she attempted to rein him in. His warmup lasted 0.025 seconds. Our coach's advice? "Kahley, if you get that horse, all's I can tell you is...Pray."

The bile started boiling in my gut. I kid you not. My mantra for the day? "Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Mind over matter." Try it sometime when you're about to hurl. I promise it works like a charm.

Another horse, McKenna, was having none of it. She trotted sideways. She bucked. She walked backward. Her handler seemed fairly competent, yet she could not control that animal whatsoever. I think someone slipped the horse a little meth or something back in the barn. My heart started racing, thinking about my little precious atop of that beast. What would I do? Gratefully, I heard some other, more experienced show moms on our team pipe up. "If my kid draws that horse, I'm pulling her."

Whew. I wasn't the only mother distressed. I had backup.

3. If the Warmup roils my innards, the Blind Draw will kill me.  
After the warmup up the trainers attend a brief meeting, followed by the Draw. An action so significant, it deserves a capital D. Each trainer Draws a name of a horse out of a hat for each of their riders. They then report back to their teams who will be riding what horse. If you ever want to shut up umpteen equestrian riders, tell them who they'll be riding. They even raise hands to ask questions.
Kahley got Remington, a horse from Camelot who she'd ridden before. So yay! My heart rate dropped significantly. But in a matter of mere seconds, it changed to Ed, based on a redraw for some unknown reason. Another horse from Camelot, who she's never ridden. So not as great, but not horrible because she could discuss with her teammates how the horse behaves, how to manage him, etc.

She lucked out because Ed was in a class before hers, so she'd get another chance to see him and figure out what to do with him. And I had a chance to calm my nerves and watch too, although it's like me watching somebody scuba dive because I really have no idea what makes a horse a decent Draw. In the 2'6" jumping class Ed sailed over the first two jumps. But come the third jump...the dude stopped dead in his tracks. And the only thing scarier than a horse going from canter to stopping dead in his tracks directly in front of a jump is this:

When the rider falls off the goll darned horse. Ed's rider fell off. The horse. THE SAME HORSE MY DAUGHTER WOULD BE RIDING IN THE NEXT CLASS!!!

Terrifying, I tell you. Rob Zombie could make a horror movie of riders falling off horses and I'd have nightmares for decades. Forget about upchuck. A slow, horrifying death began to have it's way with me.

4. Safety somehow exists at an IEA horse show. It really does. And I'm one grateful mother. 
After Mr. Ed so callously dumped his rider, people around me started whispering. "Maybe he'll get disqualified." I piped up. "What's that? What did you say? You mean the horse can be disqualified?" One of the moms turned around and explained to me that yes, horses may be disqualified if the steward (never knew there was such a thing! I love the steward!) deems it was the horse who refused the jump and not rider error.

Now I've heard all along that the rider controls the horse, and I've cried bullshit under my breath for years. How can a little girl, barely 100 pounds, control a 1000 pound animal? Ed's obstinance proved my point. Horses can have minds of their own. However, I've seen less experienced riders replaced by more experienced ones on the same horse, and it's like Mr. Hyde turns into Dr. Jekyll. The rider really can make a difference.

Regardless, I breathed easier for seven seconds because Ed was disqualified and Kahley would not be on the horse who dumped his rider. But...that meant that there would be another Draw for her.

And I started to die again.

5. Paints are beautiful but can be bratty. 
At least once a week my girl will send me 500 pictures of horses she wants me to buy her. She learned disappointment from a very early age, along with excellent coping skills. Her favorite horses are paints. So when she finally came out on one for her ride, it was clear that this was a good omen.
Meet Nibbles.
I sighed with relief it wasn't McKenna. With such a cute name and beautiful markings, this was destined for the best ride of the day. But as you can see, by both the look on my girl's face and the bratty demeanor of this horse with it's head jerked to the side...
...he refused the first jump. Notice that the horse is still moving? Look at his legs. And that my girl is still on? YES! She didn't fall off, or ride into that red fence thingy, but I. Do. Not. Like. Jump. Refusals. AT ALL!

I suddenly became that mom. At a Horse Show. It was a good thing I was at the end of the arena by myself under the guise of taking photos, because I started shuffling side to side and talking in tongues to brainwash the horse into jumping. "Come on, you Nag. JUMP!"

Interjection - I am ambivalent toward horses. I don't automatically love them all, but I certainly don't hate them. Some are sweet, and I'm warming up to the fact that they have personalities. But I've also been sandwiched between two attack horses so I'm perfectly happy keeping my distance until I'm convinced I won't be kicked in the teeth or a hunk of my shoulder doesn't become dinner. The nag reference is automatic, pulled from my subconscious. Remember in the Sopranos, when Ralph Cifaretto bought Pie-O-My, and he shouted at the track: "Run, you fu*#ing nag!" Whelp, that scene burned itself into my brain, for better or worse (worse). Now any time during a show, when Kahley's on the horse, I find myself whispering. "Come on, you nag! JUMP!

But at least I leave out the F-bomb. I promise.

Back to Nibbles, the Bratty Paint. Apparently riders have three tries to get the horse over the first jump. On the second try, Nibbles refused again. Third try? You guessed it. That brat refused to jump over the X. My telepathic nag powers need some work.

Kahley left the arena, so I assumed she was disqualified. My heart broke in disappointment for my girl.

6. Time is the enemy and weather is not your friend. 
If you ever go to a horse show, prepare for an all day affair. Waiting around is part of the deal, so make friends, bring a book or learn to meditate. You'll have all the time in the world for any of those invigorating activities. And pack for all weather types, regardless of the forecast. You will freeze your buns off and 33 degree water will drip from the ceiling onto your head like a Chinese water torture. Sweat will eventually run down your back into your nether regions as the day warms up. You'll curse yourself for wearing jeans. Later in the day thunder will crack and lightning will streak across the sky...while your kid is on the SLOWEST horse in the show for her flat class...taking a painful eternity to motivate the beast back to the safety of the barn. You may even be threatened with a tornado less than twenty miles away. I can count on one hand how many horse shows I've attended, and I've braved all of the above weather scenarios. The weather multiplies my severe neurosis exponentially.

7. I am a psychotic mess the entire time and will surely sip vodka out of a flask at all future shows. Couldn't one of my kids have chosen band? Or Art? Anything that doesn't potentially lead to a brain injury? Sigh.

8. Horse Show people are nice. Truly.
All of the moms and dads introduced themselves and made me feel welcome. They let me hover under their tent during the rainstorm. They explained some of the whacky rules. The other riders were all super nice to Kahley and helped her figure out the goofy hair net thing.
Everyone cheers for everyone else. Since this isn't really head-to-head competition, there's no negative juju. Nobody wants a person to have a "bad" ride, so everyone claps after every spin around the arena. Yet the riders watch one another and aim to improve their abilities. The spectators talk to each other. The host barn people are all very pleasant. I dig 'em all.

9. When a horse is disqualified, the rider gets another shot and the mother pees herself.
After too many minutes, Kahley didn't return to our group. I started to worry that the incident with Nibbles really ticked her off, and she huffed off somewhere to get her emotions under control. I searched everywhere, but could not find her. I returned to our group, and told the other parents about my concern. One of those sweet mommas sent her own girl into the warmup area to find Kahley.

Just a few minutes later, I spied her at the end of the arena. On another horse. Bratty Nibbles was disqualified - the steward deemed it was not rider error that caused him to refuse the jumps. Rather, it was a martingale added to his tack just before Kahley mounted him.

???????

Don't ask. I don't know.

I gulped and belched the air right back out. Here we go again. I snatched up my camera and retreated to the end of the arena so I could mutter all sorts of encouragement under my breath, away from the group, so nobody would hear.

Meet Captain. Yes - the Captain from the warmup with the trainer's advice of: "PRAY." As soon as I saw the horse's name, I began to whimper and whine.
See how high he jumped over that first X? He thought they were 3 foot jumps. The pee started dribbling down my leg.
He's the fastest horse in all of Northern Illinois. Look at her face! And how she's sitting in the back of the saddle. And the tight reins! SLOW DOWN, YOU NAG! SLOW DOWN!
They sailed around the course with three strides between each jump. And for those equine-ingnorant folk like me...the jumps are spaced so the horses carry five to six strides between jumps.
I think he galloped this course. No canter for Captain. He ran so fast he nearly blew his name off his backside!
I modified my mantra. "Hang on, hang on, HANG ON!"

She did.

As she exited the show arena I laid down in the fetal position and started sucking my thumb.

Just kidding. But I considered it.

10. She gets the highest rush from riding.
When I finally caught up to her several minutes later, Kahley was still visibly shaking. "That was the fastest horse I've ever been on in my entire life. Did you see...him go...over those jumps?" she gasped. "It was...like riding...a roller coaster!" gulp air gulp air gulp air. "That was SO much FUN!"

I sincerely congratulated her...for hanging on. Even though she was jacked up, she knew it wasn't the best ride. At times, I have to agree with Mr. Musky's very untechnical view on riding. "Any day she doesn't fall off is a good day." I have yet to see my girl fall off a horse. It's happened, just not when I've been around.

I don't even know what I'll do. It won't be pretty. And I'll probably scar her with embarrassment for the rest of her life.

Her emotions run high on show day. She's anxious leading up to the ride, and nervous. She's happy and exhilarated after the jumping class. At times she's frustrated and angry with herself for not doing a better job. We went through every single one of these on the IEA show day. At one point, she questioned, "Why do I do this? Everyone is so much better than me."

She didn't score points on an individual level that day. I had to remind her that she got a bum deal on the Draw, couldn't mentally prepare before mounting either horse, didn't have a chance to review her notes, had to stop in the middle of her flat class and retreat to the barn thanks to an autumnal midwest lightning storm, shall I continue? The odds were not in her favor. That did nothing to soothe her frustration that day, but she eventually regrouped and we decided that she's going to ride twice per week in an effort to improve her skills.

I like and appreciate the fact that she's driven, and that this is her passion. I just pray that she gets good Draws and the horses cooperate for the next four shows this season.

Four. That means I'm 20% done. Leaving me with 80% of a slow, terrifying death to suffer through over the next four months.

Please pray for us both.

XOXO,
Jen