8 Weeks ’till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

While it may officially be six weeks or less until Christmas, I’m still running a bit behind on my great gift ideas series. Before we begin with this week’s suggestion, I’m happy to announce the winner of last week’s beautiful Mara pottery giveaway. It was my 10 week suggestion, and I happily offered to share one of my newly purchased Mara pottery pieces with the winner of the week’s question: “Who do you have the most difficulty buying a Christmas gift for.”

Thanks to everyone who participated with a comment. The lucky winner, drawn randomly, is Winona, who finds her husband hardest to buy for.

“For my hubby, the man for which is hard to buy!  He loves the great outdoors and would love the piece, I’m sure.  The pieces are gorgeous!“

Thanks Winona, you are now the owner of one of these gorgeous pieces. Contact us at [email protected] to claim your prize.

Onward to this week’s great gift idea.

Recently, at the Western Lifestyle Marketplace, during the Canadian Supreme, Wee and I spent some time at the Double N Ranch booth trying on the great selection of ranch scarves they had on offer. A certain pesky Managing Editor I happen to know cajoled and teased me into purchasing a wild rag, and a buckaroo hat for Wee. I have to admit, the transformation was adorable, and suited the kid quite well.

I don’t own one myself, but with the gorgeous patterns I’ve seen lately, that may change soon.

Like this vibrant wine-colored paisley pattern.

Or, this brilliant blue.

Can there really be such a thing as too much paisley? I think not.

Definitely not.

I love the shots of these young models – the photography is exquisite – showcasing the elegance and rugged beauty of a ranch scarf, particularly when paired with a well worn hat on a punchy ranch kid. See more of these at my original post showcasing these scarves here.

While they are certainly some of the most charming scarves I’ve seen, there are several distributors closer to home who carry an excellent selection as well.

One such, is the aforementioned Double N Ranch, check out their newest patterns and styles of wild rags at this link. 

In Saskatchewan, Young Gunz Distributing carries a large assortment of wild rags.

Such as this elegant beauty.

Or this. You can see the entire selection of Young Gunz wild rags at their Facebook page.

Just one more. Polka dot delight.

Here’s the part you won’t want to miss. Western Horse Review is partnering with Young Gunz Distributing to bring you an utterly wonderful offer, if you happen to be attending the Canadian Western Agribition, Nov. 21-26, in Regina, Saskatchewan. Pop by the Young Gunz booth and with your purchase of a Western Horse Review subscription, receive $10 off any Outlaw Wild Rag in their booth.

Hope to see you there!

9 Weeks ’till Christmas – Great Gift Ideas

On the day we honor those who gave the ultimate – their lives – I thought it fitting to include giving to charity in my Christmas countdown.

The rule of giving to charity is simple. If you have money, give it. If you don’t, give your time. Of those two commodities, it is time which I seem to find myself most pressed for in my life, so generally my charity giving comes down to giving out my credit card number, and writing cheques.

The charity of world scale we support most often is Amnesty International. To me, human rights is everything, and around the world, even in our own homeland (think Maher Arar), we waver too often dangerously on a precipice of good and evil. Freedom is what our soldiers fought, and continue to fight for. I guess I figure the least I can do is support the organization which carries on the torch.

Around Christmas, we generally donate closer to home, to the always worthy causes such as the Foodbank or Mustard Seed. This year, however, I caught a film which was so heartwarming, that we’re including Operation Smile in our Christmas charity giving.

It’s not always transparent whether the organization you are donating your hard-earned dollar to is particularly effective with the money it receives. Reviewing and rating charities on their real world results is a growing movement and there are several charity watchdog sites which can help you determine where your dollars can do the most good.

Charity Navigator is the largest of these sites. It uses a complicated system of evaluation to rate financial health, accountability and transparency of some of Americas largest charities.

The Canadian version of Charity Navigator may be Charity Intelligence Canada, though it’s model for evaluation is quite unique from the American version.

Finally, if you’ve been privy to the false and mostly outdated e-mail circulating telling of excessive salaries for the CEO’s of charities, here’s a link which gives you the true numbers, and another which discusses charity CEO salaries and also provides a list of interesting reading in the “giving” genre.

At this time of year, giving in a generous manner to those who have greater challenges than perhaps our own circles of friends and family, is perhaps the Greatest Great Gift Idea. Feel free to share your favorite charities in the comment section below.

Enjoy the film!

10 Weeks ’till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

If you missed last week’s great Christmas gift idea – the beautiful Kim Taylor On The Trail day planner, I have a new gorgeous idea for you today.

This week’s great Christmas gift idea is beautiful handcrafted Mara pottery. The sculptor Mara designed many pieces of pottery over her lifetime; you can read more about her here. Studying with world’s greatest modern artists, Mara developed and mastered the difficult technique of precise line drawing in ceramics.

I happened upon Mara pottery at the Canadian Supreme Western Lifestyle Marketplace a few weeks ago.

I’m not one for factory-made, so I was immediately drawn by the fact that each piece of Mara pottery is engraved and painted by hand, a tradition her family carries out in her name.

These gorgeous pieces are both contemporary and rustic. Love them.

A milk jug, but could also function as a wine decanter.

This is another of Mara’s designs – coyote cactus – which I think would work well with the horse set I already purchased.

I want to share this beautiful pottery, so I’m giving one of my newly purchased and unused pieces away! I haven’t decided which I can part with yet, but while I agonize over that choice, let us know in the Comment section below, who you have the most difficult time purchasing a Christmas gift for. You don’t have to name your giftee specifically, but can retain them some anonymity with a nickname, if you prefer. Contest closes Friday, Nov. 11 at midnight.

12 Weeks ’till Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

Christmas is just around the corner . . . less than 12 weeks away. Which means it’s time. Time for the countdown.

Last year, I kicked off my 12 Weeks ’till Christmas countdown, tardily, in late October. This year, I’m slightly more organized and almost on time. Over the next 11 weeks I’m going to share 12 incredibly unique, wildly popular, insanely delicious and even, the odd obscure idea for Christmas gifts with you. I’m sure you’ll find something that catches your eye and opens your wallet within.

Apparently, we’re kicking off the series with the obscure.

I received a copy of this book – Chicks With Guns – to review, and rather rapidly found myself immersed in it.

I’m not a chick with gun. In fact, friends and family have dubbed the log house my Bird & Animal Sanctuary, since I recoil in revulsion at the hint of even a magpie being picked off. Coyotes are safe on my back 40, as are skunks, and any other wildlife typically maligned as pest in the redneck hinterland we live in. I do relent to gopher hunting. Well, at least I didn’t argue when my neighbour began parking in my pasture with his old blue Dodge, and set to work “thinning out my herd,” as he remarked to me later, not without a smile.

But, lately guns have been on my mind.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m reminded daily hunting season has begun, announcing itself with the usual gunshot reports and echoes from across the lake.

Or, Wee waltzing in the house a few weeks ago announcing she’d like a BB gun for Christmas. And, some chickens. (I hoped these two wishes weren’t part of the same project.)

Or, my son who has a registered handgun license and has lately taken an interest in cowboy mounted shooting.

Suddenly, Chicks With Guns arrival at the log house seemed to have some connected meaning to my life. It was weird.

With little exception, I rarely handle guns; this has it’s own list of reasons behind it including, but not limited to:

The memory of myself as an anguished child, when I heard the neighbour’s boys were running down red tailed foxes with snowmobiles. Apparently, that was hunting.

Or, only a few weeks ago when I found a rotting mass of waterfowl at the side of the two-track leading to our lake. This is hunting?

Not according to one of the featured chicks in the book. Jen, from Emigrant, Montana (whilst holding a Browning .270 with a Leupold scope) says, “Killing and poaching should not be lumped together with hunting. These are not characteristics of sport or feeding your family. I’m not sure how you become one of these two things, a killer or a poacher, but it is not anything I could be.”

Jen’s father worked as a ranch hand and thus, “we didn’t make a lot of money and always lived a long way from town. The only way we could afford to feed everyone was to hunt.” She’s passing the tradition down to her son, Clay.

Not unlike girls with horses, chicks with guns gravitate to colors they can individualize. Such as Clara, who began shooting at the age of 11 and likes her pink Ceska Zbrojovka Scout .22, though she would have chosen it in lime green had it been available.

Chicks With Guns is authored and artistically shot by Lindsay McCrum, who crossed the United States in a mission to portray the connection 80 women have with firearms. The word chicks in the title initially threw me off – will these be dressed-up models bearing firearms along with plenty of cleavage, in the spirit of the typical motorcycle magazine cover, I wondered? Yawn. . . Not at all. Instead, meet 80 women across America who explain, often in eloquent language, why they own and use firearms. The stories frequently relate to a family tradition – though not always. Sport, hunting and occasionally protection, factor in the reasons these women own firearms. Their personal triumphs and occasional fears are compellingly real.

In this book you’ll meet women who often discover a sense of self-confidence and empowerment on their way to learning how to shoot. Liz in California has had a loaded Baretta 40-calibre pistol in her nightstand since she became involved in law enforcement. She now works in media relations at her police department, and says, “having been a detective, I am acutely aware of how things can go wrong.”

Jenevieve from San Antonio, Texas met her husband on a blind date that later involved a shooting competition which she won, thanks to the hours her father put in teaching her markmanship. In this photograph she’s holding an antique pistol passed down in her family for generations, and given to her from her father as a wedding present. “It’s important for me to have this photograph with my wedding dress and the gun because of their significance to my relationship both with my father and my husband. But I wouldn’t want anyone to think it was a shotgun wedding!”

Nearly all of the women interviewed relate their reverence for gun safety. As Anita from St. Paul, Minnesota notes, “you can never take a bullet back.”

I’m betting Rachel, from Livingstone, Montana has been taught gun safety by her father. She handles this Ruger 10/20 carbine when she hunts with her sisters.

Lee from South Carolina prefers British-made guns such as her Boss 20-guage side-by-side.

Several of the women in the book speak as expressively about conservation as hunting. Passionate of the outdoors and hunting, they speak to the calming beauty of surrounding oneself with nature. While I’m not intent on exploring the philosophical questions in this post, possibly what struck me most in the stories of these women, was their connection not only to guns, but the outdoors. The kinship is as real as it gets.

Rural settings maintain a consistent importance in my life, and miles of quiet walking and riding in nature a necessity for the occasional instability of this writer’s brain. I was pleasantly enlightened to find this affinity with a few of the women who described the same sense of sanctity and escape during their hunting or sporting adventures. Apparently, it’s not all about bringing down the animal, but often, a deep love of the wild. And, unlike the cookie-cutter environmental activist sitting in front of a laptop, these chicks with guns are passing down their love of the outdoors and thereby the need for the conservation of it, in the very real way of introducing their families and friends to it.

Each of the photos above, plus another 70+ are full page plates in this gorgeous coffee table book, accompanied by the story of each model. Chicks with Guns is published by The Vendome Press and although we don’t carry it in the Western Horse Review bookstore, it is available through the usual book-selling venues, such as Amazon. While it may not be for everyone, it might make a unique and personal gift for the chick with gun in your life.

A Few Fantastic Finds

Here are four new products quickly making waves in our barn.

PooPooPaper

PooPooPaper is exactly as it’s name suggests: paper made of poo. With all the concern these days about deforestation and the need to recyle, PooPoo products are a wonderful example of sustainability and responsible consumption. The company takes a material in abundance – Horse Poo – and makes a functional and completely useful product, sparing lots of trees in the process. Since horse poo has lots of fibre in it, the base material for making pulp for paper, the company figured they could also make horse PooPooPaper and they were right. You also can find journals, cards, notepads and many other things made from panda, cow and elephant poo from the company as well for an incredibly memorable and sustainable gift!

www.poopoopaper.com

RidersRasp

RidersRasp is an innovative new product designed especially for horse owners to sustain and support hoof balance in between farrier visits. With an ergonomic design and a non-slip, soft grip handle, the RidersRasp is a maintenance tool that rounds rough edges of the horse’s foot, without removing hoof wall and allows you to easily smooth away flares, chips and sharp edges. It is ideal for barefoot horses or for shod horses, as losing a shoe can quickly damage the hoof wall. RidersRasp enables you lightly round the edges of the foots to minimize further damage until your farrier arrives to replace the shoe

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The Nature of Horses

As avid horse lovers, you probably already know that a long muzzle allows the horse to keep a watchful eye out for danger during grazing. However, did you also know that an evolutionary side effect of this long nose is the diastema? This is the gap between the horse’s incisors and the premolars – the space which makes bit placement possible.

Did you also that the horse’s choice of a high-fiber, low protein diet throughout evolution allowed them to avoid food competition from other species? It also meant that they required less energy than smaller animals (compared to their body weight) and can explain partly why the horse evolved to became a larger animal. Additionally, the horse’s cecum gave it an advantage over more digestively efficient ruminant animals as it allowed the horse to thrive in areas with seasonally cooler climates and plant growth – the horse could ferment its diet when all the food that was available weren’t young green plant shoots and was too fibrous for ruminants to cope with.

If you’re interested in exploring equine evolution, intelligence and behavior, the book, The Nature of Horses by Stepen Budiansky is filled with many more fun-facts like this. Budiansky discusses everything from evaluating the mechanics of the horse’s movement, to a little bit about coat color genetics, to explaining how horses see. The author argues that horses were never subject to extinction because of the inventiveness of man and the remarkable learning ability and physical prowess of the horse. He also touches upon one of my favorite discussion topics: does nature or nurture matter more in creating a great sport horse? All the while Budiansky builds up to a full chapter that outlines a breeding program with potential to produce a superior performance horse.

Bound by a hard cover and graced with beautiful equine imagery on the front, The Nature of Horses also makes a delightful gift or coffee table book for all equine lovers. This book offers insightful discussion about where the horse came from and where it is now headed and is a valuable read for any horse owner.

A Handmade Card

There is nothing like a hand made card!

My friend, Deb Rinas from Moose Jaw, SK, makes the loveliest handmade Christmas cards. Her cookies are pretty amazing too! However, today she has agreed to share one of her Christmas card designs with My Stable Life. If you’re handy at scrap booking – or if not – Deb offers simple instructions so even those of us who are not as creatively inclined can make this beautiful homemade card.

So without further adieu, here’s Deb:

Step #1 – Now that the design has been established, I pick out some colored paper to compliment each other in the card layout.

Step #2 – Next, I get some supplies ready such as hole punches, edge cutters, stamps, ink pads, glue, markers, dimensionals and ribbon.  A lot of my stuff comes from scrapbook supply stores, but you’d be amazed by what you can create with various things around the house.

Step #3 – My paper is all cut, punched, edge cut and stamped. And as you can see, the main backing of the card is one piece of white paper folded in half. All that has to be done now is to glue everything together. I tie the ribbons into little bows and give the Christmas ornaments some dimension by gluing them onto solid colored cutouts of the same shape.  Then I give a raised effect between the two layers of the Christmas ornaments with dimension glue dots.

Step #4 – At this point, my card is almost finished. I just have to color the stamped image! Then I glue it onto colored background pieces of paper that have been cut to fit and border my stamped image.

Step #5 – Here is your completed homemade Christmas card, ready to be mailed and enjoyed by all!

1 Week ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

It’s exactly one week until Christmas. Can you believe it? Ditto for me.

I hope I’ve given you some great ideas for Christmas gifts over the past six weeks or so. You can check them out beginning here and move forward through my posts. Or check out both Jenn Webster of My Stable Life and mine right here.

If you’re still stuck for Christmas gift ideas, I’d like to share with you the story of a horse rescue here in Alberta, and to which, I would suggest, a donation of cash, goods or pledge of volunteerism would represent a worthwhile gift at any time of year.

The facility is the Rescue 100 Foundation, located east of Sherwood Park, Alberta. This rescue was inspired and created early in 2008, when 100 Arabians in various degrees of neglect, were seized from a farm by the SPCA. Susan Fyfe, founder of Rescue 100 literally came to the rescue and asked the SPCA to bring the 100 horses to her Keno Hills Stable.

Susan says, “Upon arrival, it was clear to see these horses had been severely neglected for quite some time. Some were so weak that we had to carry them off the trailer. As time passed, all but one horse was brought back to health and then placed in “forever homes”. Since then, Rescue 100 has received four more herds ranging from all levels of starvation, malnutrition and neglect.

“To date, we have successfully placed all but 14 horses which are still awaiting to be adopted. With the winter months quickly setting in, we are well aware that more horses will need our help to make it through until spring.”

Susan is sending out this request this Christmas season, in hopes of increasing much-needed donations:

“Rescue 100 is experiencing difficulty in obtaining donations to continue it’s important work. There are still many horses in care and overall interest in assisting the organization has dwindled. We are making a plea that you think of an unusual present this year. Making a donation and putting it under your Christmas tree.

“Your hard work as a volunteer is also coveted. The job of caring for our remaining herd has fallen to only a small handful of overworked volunteers.  We desparately need assistance at all levels of the organization.”

To donate to Rescue 100 Foundation visit the website. While there be sure to read the stories of horses successfully placed and also those still needing good homes. Finally, don’t miss the story of Pearl, which will give you huge insight into the love and care Susan and her volunteers give to their charges.

There are very many horse rescue farms and facilities throughout North America. With the reduction of humane slaughter options, it’s unlikely that trend is likely to experience anything but acceleration through the coming years. So, if you want to give yourself a great feeling of doing a bit of good at this time of year, go ahead, pick one. Donate, give goods, pledge your volunteerism.

Ask this guy.

He’ll tell you.

It’s a good thing, friends.

Leah Batchelor of Safe Havens Stables Horse Rescue also sent me a list of supplies and services which a horse rescue can utilize at any time of year including:

• round or square hay

• dewormers

• blankets

• veterinary services

• farrier services

• massage, chiro and other alternative health services

• dentistry services

• grooming products

• delicer

I’m guessing any rescue would be grateful to be gifted with any of the above during the Christmas season.

I’m signing off for a weekend with my family now. If you too, are beginning your Christmas holidays this weekend, may your holidays be peaceful and uplifting.

A Homemade Present

I figure this one should be entitled "We 3 Queens.."

Happy Monday everybody! If you’re in the mood to stay indoors and create some homemade Christmas presents this year, I have a sweet idea for you. It’s a gift straight from the heart of the kitchen and it’s so easy to do – even I managed okay!

Before we get into the wholesome goodness though, please remember that My Stable Life has a wonderful Christmas contest going on right now. Since I love our readers so much, I have an awesome gift basket for anyone who’d like to share their favorite Christmas memories with me, or the reason why this upcoming Christmas will be special for you or someone else! Check out My Stable Life Christmas Contest for more details.

Alright back to the warmth of my oven… literally, do you know how cold it’s been in Regina, SK, for the last couple of days??

BANANA BREAD

____________________________________


Butter or Margarine                    1/2 cup

Granulated Sugar                       1 cup

Eggs                                             2

Very ripe, mashed bananas      3

All purpose flour                        1 3/4 cups

Baking soda                                 1 teaspoon

Baking powder                            1/2 teaspoon

Salt                                                a pinch

Chocolate chips                          3/4 cup

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cream 1/2 cup margarine (I use Becel) and 1 cup sugar together.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add to your sugar mixture together, beat and mix together until smooth.

Peel and mash bananas with a fork in a small bowl.

Add mashed bananas to sugar / margarine / egg concoction.

In another bowl, mix your remaining dry ingredients together: 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, salt and chocolate chips.

Stir dry ingredients up.

Add banana / sugar / margarine mixture to dry ingredients.

Stir altogether to moisten.

Then using two 14 cm x 23 cm glass pans that are greased, divide the batter evenly among them.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes and ensure the outside has browned. Place a toothpick in the center of each loaf to make certain it comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes.

Once the loaves are cool, wrap them with plastic wrap and a nice Christmas bow and your gift is ready to give. (The glass pan is part of your gift.)