9 Weeks ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

So I’ve been counting down to Christmas and sharing some of my best gift ideas with you over the past few weeks. Catch up at the beginning with 12 Weeks to Christmas.

This is one of the simplest gifts you can give your family. And, it doesn’t have to “cost” you anymore than time spent with them and a bit of grocery money.

This book is not just a cookbook, it’s a journey into learning to provide a cleaner diet for your family.

I love Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution right from the opening statement on his website. . .

“This food revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way you eat. . . it’s a movement for you, your family and your community. If you care about your kids and their future take this revolution and make it your own. Educate yourself about food and cooking. Find out what your child is eating at school. Make only a few small changes and magical things will happen. Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better but it will add years to your life. You can…”

It’s about throwing away the packets, bottles and stuff sitting in your freezer in boxes pretending to be food. It’s a simple enough concept. Our mothers and grandmothers knew it like the backs of their hands.

You begin with a few essential tools.

And a well-stocked pantry. All the more essential when you live in the boondocks, like I do.

Jamie Oliver’s food revolution, and his cookbook, based on the movement, is about learning how to cook with real ingredients – simple ingredients.

Rediscover the cucumber salad – with four delicious variations.

Or try it out with tomatoes.

Salad dressings are really incredibly simple to make, but we’ve all become so accustomed to the colorful commercial varieties, it feels like a gourmet venture to whip up our own. How crazy is that?

In this household, we’ve made a concerted effort to rid our diets of packaged and processed food over the past few years. And, I’ve taken the time to teach some basic techniques to my kids. Teenager makes a killer chicken noodle soup from scratch, and in a pinch, Wee can whip up scrambled eggs and bacon.

My mom cooked everything from scratch. I swear the only items she purchased at the grocery store were flour and sugar.

Oh, and ketchup. But, she even made that herself for a few years.

I wish she had taught me to cook back when I was a kid, but then I probably wasn’t very receptive to it. I likely would have choosen the barn over the kitchen any day of the week.

But, nowadays, I like to cook. In another life, I lived in the city with a girl who was French Canadian and taught me how to make things like caesar salad dressing and spaghetti sauce from scratch.

The connection between the heritage and recipes beats me too. But, her love of cooking from scratch and entertaining awakened the same qualities in me.

She’s become my lifelong friend, and we still exchange recipes. Cooking together is something we both look forward to when we meet up.

Nowadays I can make a beautiful and healthy lasagne from scratch. But, someday soon, I’m going to try Jamie’s.

I’ve always loved the “it takes a village” concept and Jamie’s philosophy embraces it. He’s spent a lot of time teaching ordinary people in his neighbourhood how to cook and dispersed throughout this cookbook are their stories. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the book.

Meet Tracey & Andy. They now own Sunday dinner roast.

Geoff, who has the most amazing set of coffee mugs above his windows!

and Julie, who learned how to cook out of her traditional box.

Last night I made this. Yum.

So, if you’re still haunting the aisles of your local Costco freezer section, go out and buy this cookbook, I dare you to.

It’s loaded with photos and step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow. Perfect for the beginner cook, for lazy cooks, for busy horsepeople, like me, like you, who don’t have time to spend all afternoon in the kitchen, and for anyone who just needs a little bit of inspiration in the kitchen.

If you already practice clean diet, aka, cooking from scratch practices, pass it on! To your kids, your spouses, your friends, and neighbors. I promise it will be one of the best gifts you can give – at any time of year.

Besides, how hard is this guy to look at. . .

Ahhhheeem, where were we on that recipe?

10 Weeks ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

Sometime in the next seven weeks, I’ll endeavor to catch up to the calendar and present you an idea in the correct week of count-down.

Today ain’t that day.

In the meantime you might want to catch up with 12 Weeks ’til Christmas and 11 Weeks ’til Christmas, for which, I’ve provided the links here for your extreme convenience.

Today, we’re going to check out one of my favorite obsessions – funky cowboy boots. Don’t confuse these with riding boots – that they isn’t.

My only pair of Old Gringo’s were purchased in Fort Worth, but now I’m loving the fact that the  Calgary Stampede store carries Old Gringo boots. You can check out their entire line at www.oldgringoboots.com, but here’s some samplers.

The Cactus Razz boots.

An old-style Texas look with Luckenbach.

I love pale green and chocolate together making this one of my faves.

A view of the toe.

The Old Gringo Lucky Star.

If you simply must do the white cowboy boot thing, the Vencida may be for you.

And for the really funky, the Star Cow.

Rocketbuster boots have been around for a couple of years, and have some fabulous and decidedly offbeat styles of late.

Wow. Zebra Fields forever.

Slightly more subtle, the Starfire Platinum, priced at $2,895.00 U.S.

The Day of the Dead – $1,595.00.

And, for those of you within a certain mountain range.

Yes, they really are called the Sasquatch, at $1,695.00 U.S.

Y’all oughta’ step out more often in these.

Finally, the Italian brand Ferrini has a specialty line of well-priced exotic leather products just for horse people.

The blue-sting ray at $169.00.

Or, the pink tiger-stripe.

Guitars and peace signs help the world go round.

For the Dwight Yoakam in you.

If boots are your thing, I hope I’ve brought you some new sources of shopping.

Finally, for those of you who double as these for the season. . .

Jingle. Jingle. Jingle.

11 Weeks ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

Last week, I introduced my twelve-week countdown to Christmas. You may have noticed I’m running a bit behind. Obviously, we have some difficulty observing a strict calendar of timelines in this neck of the woods. Bear with me.

What I’m definitely not short of is great gift ideas, and today’s is a champion!

Over the past week, my Inbox has been receiving a series of training videos complements of Horseback Riding Lessons.

The first is one of the clearest videos I’ve ever watched describing the gaits of the horse. Excellent. Concise. Enhanced with slow-motion videography, it’s completely to the point. Watching it, I knew this video would make a great addition to our equine 4-H club, where learning the gaits is a Record Book must.

As trainer and creator of the video, Cody McArthur explains, a clear understanding of the natural gaits of the horse is a conduit to moving forward with any kind of sport training. It’s foundation. And an essential tool of knowledge. Watch this video and I promise, you’ll tuck it away in your toolbelt, as a learned skill.

Two days later I received the second of six videos, this one, focusing on the sidepass. Whether you’re opening a gate, or exhibiting in a show class, the sidepass is one of the most valuable maneuvers you can teach your horse.

I really appreciated Cody’s practical advice for teaching a horse this movement. I got it, and I can assure you, if I can get it, it will be easy for you.

Then, this morning, the third video arrived, this one revolving on colt starting, a skill Cody happens to be well respected for.

Again, I loved the simplicity and practical terms of this coaching. Anyone can learn to master these techniques. Cody spends a lot of time in this video re-enforcing ground manners and stressing the importance of that foundation building. From that understanding all else flows.

You can check out Cody McArthur’s valuable teaching, and sign up to receive six great free videos at the site Horseback Riding Lessons.

Cody draws from a wide range of talent to augment his own training videos. An online subscription to the training library gives you access to direct training with such champion-producing names as Jay Duke, Dustin Gonnet and John Swales, and more in the works.

In my book, access to this type of horse training instruction, with this presentation, is $10.95 a month very well spent. I am onto it!

P.S. By the way, every online subscription to Horseback Riding Lessons also gives you a free one-year subscription to Western Horse Review.

Now that would be akin to . . . two gifts checked off the Christmas list! Just sayin’. . .

12 Weeks ’til Christmas: Great Gift Ideas

It snowed today at the log house. A significant amount. Enough to scrap off the deck.

Alright, I didn’t, but I could have.

Instead, the snow reminded me of this idea stewing in the back of my brain for a 12 weeks ’til Christmas series on Screen Doors & Saddles, with my best shot at the most unique gift ideas for y’all I could think of. Equus-related of course.

Problem is we’re nine weeks and a bit from Christmas today.

All I can offer is “what the hey?”

Like where did October go?

I know you’re with me on that. So, I’m going to do this thing regardless. Just do it. I’ll throw in the missing weeks here and there. Try and keep up with me.

To rocket this series off in high fashion, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite books; a compilation which I guarantee would be an incredible addition to any horseperson’s library. Technically, Horses, by French photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, might be categorized as a horse breeds book, but it is anything but an A-Z encyclopedia. It’s more like a cornucopia, actually a gallop, indeed a full-out stampede in the greatest of glory, riddled with richness, lavishness and incredible depth and diversity.

If there were an America’s Next Top Horse Model television series, Arthus-Bertrand would be Nigel Barker. Renowned photographer, with an incredible eye for capturing the essence and true beauty of the equine.

I give you the forthcoming cover of Italian Vogue.

Arthus-Bertrand travelled the earth and eventually completed a 15 year project of photographing animals, horses among them, against a plain backdrop, treating his subjects more as models than animals. The result is the photographic captivation of horses that are not only a departure of the four-square traditional profile shot, but animated beyond belief, even surreal at times, and in all cases, most definitely alive with the spirit of the equus.

It is a collection you cannot help but fall in love with.

I gaze through this book and stand in complete awe. Of the connections we hold with the people of the world. Of the history of the world. Of my horses, and all they represent. This book brings all of it crashing into my little corner of the world.

Majestic is a word often over-used as a descriptor of the horse. Here it stands true.

While the breeds we are most familiar with are represented, it is the stunning photos of horses from the most far-flung regions of the world which most capture my heart. Not to mention their incredible handlers.

For instance, this beauty.

This bold, magnificent pair.

Meet the Bashkirsky mare, Anessa, a mare whose pedigree dates back to one of Leo Tolstoy’s stud farms. An ardent breeder, the Russian author crossed English horses and Russian trotters with an original Cossack breed of Russian pony called the Bashkirsky. This award winning descendant is presented with foal at foot, guided by her breeder, who carries on her arm, a bucket of koumiss (a slightly fermented milk, and highly prized drink, which was once considered on the level of a magic potion.)

Consider these matching beauties.

A prized pony!

These are the heavy horses. In all their glory. The handler, in all of hers. And wearing dress slippers! Bravo!

Yes, the glorious Shires.

More ponies!

The true hunters.

And jumpers.

Cowboys and their mounts are liberally represented. As are a Canadian western horse breeder couple. But, I won’t spoil that for you by previewing it here.

The Argentina section enthralled me, including the stunning athletic sleekness of this polo horse.

And this breathtaking shot – an Argentine Criollo cow horse, with his trainer.

I love this book so much, and I’m happy to share it with you. But, if you’d like your own copy, we added it to the Western Horse Review store, for your convenience, if you wish to order. Or, you can find it at the usual online outlets such as Amazon.

By the way, Yann Arthus-Bertrand didn’t reserve his camera for only the equine. For you cattlemen and women there is a book of livestock as well with such specimens as this magnificent bull . . .

and this belle.

I refer to the Jersey, not handler.