Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Grace

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I really enjoy cooking dinner, using recipes that are a sentimental combination of my family, my husband’s family and my friends. My mom still makes her famous cranberry/raspberry compote. My mother-in-law taught me how to do the stuffing and the gravy. My godmother, who is no longer with us, still has a place at our table with her sweet potato and green apple casserole splashed with cognac. A dear old friend gave us a fabulous recipe for pumpkin cheesecake, and my husband is such a cheesecake addict that he has to be restrained from eating the whole thing.

After dinner, friends of ours from India will join us with lifelong friends of theirs who are visiting this country. It’s all about being grateful and appreciating the warmth and love of family and friends, interspersed with some quick trips to the barn to let Silk and Siete know how much they mean to me.

I love the word “grace”. One of my favorite sayings comes from author Ann Beattie:
“What will happen can’t be stopped. Aim for grace.”

So as I wish all of you a peaceful, joyful day, I will share with you the grace that we have said at our table for many, many years:

For food, for friends
For happiness, we give thanks.
For our animals and the beauty of our earth,
we give thanks.

May those of us who have plenty
Help others who are hungry and suffering

We give thanks today for unknown blessing
already on their way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Awards & Updates

I’ve got too much on my plate, and we’re not even talking turkey yet. A few days ago, Callie at MidWest Horse honored me with a wonderful award. I haven’t been able to get the file to load because Blogger kept telling me that it was “corrupted”. So, at last, my computer wizard husband was able to help me.

So, a belated thanks to Callie, who is a million dollar friend with warmth and wisdom that radiates all the way from Wisconsin to cheer me up. It’s hard, as always, to choose which of my blogging buddies to pass along this award since I wish I could give it to all of you.

I’m going to send a big hug and the Million Dollar Friend Award to:
Linda at the 7MSN
Billie at Camera Obscura
M.C. Valada at Out of the Darkroom
LJB at the Horsey Therapist
Marvel at Strawberry Lane
and I’d send it to Arlene at Grey Horse Matters, but Callie gave her one already.

You guys are always there for me and know how to make me feel better. Thanks for being my soul sisters!

A quick update on Siete: She got her “reverse shoes”, which are exactly what they sound like. The horseshoe is put on so the open end is in the front and the back of the hoof is supported by the round part of the shoe. It is giving her good support and relief. The ground is so frozen since we’ve had this cold wave. This morning it was only 16F degrees when I fed the horses. I’m just hoping that she will heal and lose weight and that I can stop writing about her feet.

I’m so swamped with work. There’s a video to finish by Monday and two new projects that I’m writing. So that’s why I haven’t had time to blog, but once I get through to Thanksgiving, I should be able to breathe again and catch up with all of you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cozy Time

My daughter and I are snuggled up on the couch reading our books while eating ginger cookies and drinking tea. It’s raining and raining and raining. The horses are tucked in their stalls. The dear old dog is asleep at my feet. Aaaah!

I thought I’d share this recipe for Shaker Spice Cookies with you. It is very special to me, and even people who don’t like cookies fall in love with these. During my childhood, growing up in the Midwest, these cookies were part of fall and winter. After raking leaves or going ice skating, I remember always finding a plate of warm ginger cookies next to my cup of hot chocolate. When I grew up and moved to New York City, I asked my mom for the recipe. She told me that she had lost it!

For over fifteen years, I tried every ginger cookie recipe I could find but none of them hit the mark. Finally, one holiday season when I lived in California, in the Los Angeles Times, I found this recipe. Oh comfort and joy - it was the right one. So, as the leaves come down each Autumn, my family and friends begin asking me, and the cookie sheets start filling up. Since I can’t send a batch to each of you, here’s how to bake them. (Don’t over-cook since they’re better when they’re soft.)


Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

2/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of molasses
1 egg
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of cloves
1/2 tsp. of ginger
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of salt

Put the oil, egg, molasses in a mixing bowl and beat until well mixed. Add the sugar.
Then, add cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt and baking soda.
Mix in the flour 1/2 cup at a time - sometimes, towards the end, I use my fingers to really mix up the dough.

Cover 2 cookie sheets (or better yet, 4 sheets if you have them) with parchment paper so the cookies don’t stick. Roll little balls of the dough and drop 12 on each cookie sheet, spaced apart so they don’t run together when they flatten out.

Bake five minutes with one sheet on each rack of the oven. After five minutes, take out the cookie sheet, flatten each cookie with a fork and sprinkle a little sugar on it. Switch the cookie sheet to the other rack - so it browns on both the bottom and the top. Don’t let the cookies over bake or they won’t be chewy - about 3 to 5 more minutes.

Yields 48 cookies. Store them in an airtight container - if they get hard, you can wrap them in a paper towel and microwave them for 10 seconds to make them soft and chewy again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Following the Plan

Today, it was raining and Siete was just sore all over. She started to ache in all four legs yesterday, and I mentioned it to the vet when I spoke to her. This is an on-going problem every time the weather gets bad. It’s the exact same type of thing that was happening last year at this time when she had Lyme Disease. On instructions from the vet, I gave her Banamine, which helps although she still isn’t able to walk normally.

This was a difficult day for both of us. Both the vets agreed yesterday that there’s a very slight indication of laminitis in her front left foot . We’ve come up with a plan. I’ll do the insulin resistant diet until she loses the weight. Once Siete is better, we’ll test her for insulin/glucose. The vet and the farrier spoke, and they have decided that “reverse shoes” would be the best thing for Siete for now. I picked up her radiographs so the farrier could see them and get the correct measurements for her trim. I’m soaking the hay and cutting back to 10 pounds a day, which seems like not enough but I’m keeping to the program. I can’t find the supplement that the vet recommended, but I’m tracking it down. I’m syringing this thyroid medicine into her. And it poured, and my little horse was sore. What I want is 30 days of doxy for her but the new vet is still doesn’t want to give her the antibiotic. She did mention Lyme Disease without my prompting, saying the ticks were really bad right now. I asked for the doxy but she said that if we give it to her now without the blood test showing positive it will make it ineffective when she really needs it. Do I seem frustrated?

All the friends I talked to today were also calling to tell me about hard times in their lives. So maybe it’s the way the planets are lined up or something. Silk understands that her baby is hurting, and she’s radiating this loving energy to both me and Siete. I thought about how much more complicated this would be if the horses were boarded in a barn. All day as the rest of my life roared around me, I was at least able to go out every couple of hours and check on Siete in her stall. Tonight, the rain had stopped and the Banamine was working. She seemed more comfortable. I felt less anxious. I’m hoping that tomorrow will bring us some relief.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

B-days and Anniversaries

Your concern and well-educated, helpful responses to my last post made me realize yet again how lucky I am to have such a great group of friends in the blogosphere. This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog, and I’ve had over 50,000 visitors. When I started writing it, I really had no expectations about what I was doing here. Honestly, I often see my blog as a wonderful warm-up exercise for the rest of my writing that I do each day. The great bonus was to meet all of you, from all over the world, and confirm daily how many really good people there are who care and help each other and see things from very unique and wise perspectives. You are a gift to me.

Sunday was my birthday, and a very dear old friend of mine drove 900 miles to celebrate with me. He just left this morning, so life will go back to its usual bumpy, chaotic state. Siete is still on stall-rest with orders from the vet to feed no grain, no carrots, and only 9 or 10 pounds of first-cut hay a day. What an unhappy horse! I’m waiting to hear from the head vet at the practice about his views on her radiographs and the recommended treatment. Hopefully, I’ll know more by the end of the day. It’s making me pretty antsy, but I’m grateful that he’s getting involved since I really trust his opinion.

I did have a crazy un-horse related thing happen last night. It made me realize how life can change in an instant. While I was cooking dinner on the stove, I put two pie crusts in the oven at 450 degrees for five minutes to brown them like the recipe said. Suddenly, I looked down and saw that the oven was on fire! Some of the crust had dropped down into the heating coils of the oven. I put out the flames and sat down on the kitchen floor, just shaking. If I had been in the family room or upstairs, the whole kitchen could have caught on fire. My husband is away on a business trip, so I called him. He said he was very happy that I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen as I talked to him and not standing in our driveway with the fire department. It reminded me of how fast something can go wrong and how fortunate I was to have been in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ups and Downs

It’s been quite a week. Some positive things occurred and some negative. Typical of my horse-oriented logic, I can draw parallels between what is happening to my country and to my horse’s feet. Go ahead, call me crazy.

On the positive side, the election is over, and we can move forward. It’s going to be difficult, but there’s so much good energy that I believe we will become a better, stronger nation when all is said and done. The response to Obama’s win from around the world was really incredible, making me proud to be an American.

Yesterday, they did the radiographs of Siete’s feet. There is indeed still an abscess in her front left hoof that needs to drain. While the vet wants to look more closely at the results and confer with her colleagues, there’s not anything dramatic and really horrible.. She does believe that there are some possibility of laminitis in the front left leg. She wants Siete to lose weight, although my horse weighed 1095 pounds yesterday. Frankly, that’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but the vet wants to get her down to 900. For the last month. after the vet told me to give my horses the Platinum Performance supplement to build their immune system, I’ve seen a noticeable weight gain in both of them. I even decreased the dosage. Now, she wants me to stop giving it to Siete and prescribed some medicine for hyperthyroidism to get her to lose weight. My little horse is also getting Banamine for a few days and I’m going to continue to try to drain the abscess. Siete is on a no-grain, no sweets, no grass regime. Of greatest concern to me is that the vet said that my horse is insulin resistant.

Now, that might eventually prove to be true, but I was really freaked out when she announced this right at the end of our phone conversation last night. It started to really sink in after I hung up, and it reminded me of something that happened years ago with Silk. When we lived in California about eight years ago, I arrived at the stables one day and found Silk totally lame on both front legs. My regular vet was on vacation, so his partner came out. He took one look at Silk and pronounced that she had laminitis. I went through a terrible weekend, worrying and crying. On Monday, when my vet came back to work, he looked at Silk and said there wasn’t any laminitis. She had just been trimmed too short by the farrier and her feet were sore.

So, to tell me right now that Siete is insulin resistant seems kind of premature. As I understand it, there’s no accurate way to test for this until her feet are better. I think it’s a good idea to treat her like she has this condition for the moment, but why frighten me by putting it so definitively? And believe me, it did frighten me real good. I wouldn’t have reacted so strongly if she had even told me that there’s a “strong possibility” that Siete is insulin resistant and we should explore it. To some, that might be splitting hairs, but to a worried horse owner who knows what insulin resistance is, it was a big statement. I calmed myself down by deciding that before I automatically accept this diagnosis, I am going to look into it a lot further.

So, like the new president is moving forward cautiously yet with as much speed as possible, I am learning this new lesson with my horse. Siete is going to be fine because I am going to do everything I can to find the best course of action to solve these problems. It's going to take a while. I slept better last Tuesday after the election results were announced. And knowing that Siete’s coffin bones have not dropped down in her feet made me sleep much better last night.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Please VOTE

We’re all up early in our house with a case of Election Day jitters. As soon as the morning rush hour crowd moves through our polling place, we’ll be heading over there to vote.

I read something that struck me as the perfect description of where we are right now in this country. Ted Sorensen, former counselor to President Kennedy, recently said, “This is an unprecedented mess.”

Let’s all do the one really vital thing we can do to help all of us get through this crisis. No matter what the weather, no matter how busy your schedule, please make sure you vote.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's All About Siete

Yesterday, the abscess in Siete’s front hoof moved down so the pressure was excrutiating. She couldn’t really walk, and it was really scary. Her back right hoof was also very sore because she was shifting her weight onto it. My farrier had predicted that this could happen since he thought the abscess was high up in her hoof. While I was pretty sure that this was the problem, part of me was still kind of freaked out. Siete was in agony, and I knew that I had to do everything I could to be sure that the abscess “blew” and released the gunk inside it.

So, I gave her Banamine and soaked the front foot in Epson salts and warm water. Then, I booted both of the sore feet with poultices in the soft boots. Thank heavens I have those boots and two rubber soaking boots. And I agonized over how she was doing all day long as I ran errands and prepared food and family to go to a big party that our Indian friends were having for Dewali, their New Year and Festival of Lights.

She got some more Banamine and soaking and fresh poultices at dinnertime. I could see a slight improvement, so I took a big deep breath of trust that she would be better in the morning. I have to admit it weighed on me all through the party so I couldn't really have fun. Coming home late at night, it took all my self-control not to stop at the barn to check on her. I figured that she would be lying down, and if I woke her up, she’d try to stand. It would be better for her to not have to get on her feet again.

And lo and behold, Princess Siete is much better today. She’s standing firmly on all four feet. I did the same drill again with the soaking and the boots. I reminded myself that this is a very sensitive little mare. Her pain threshold must be pretty low. She’s the “Princess and the Pea” of horses. When she was so miserable, her mama stayed glued to her side all day, standing quietly with Siete in her stall. Poor Silk has been seriously ignored. Now that her daughter is walking again, we’re going to have a good grooming/massage session so Silkie knows how much I appreciate her.