Gris Gris Rides Again: The Adventure Continues (with a twist)!

This is the face of a horse who is ready to work with you.

Remember this guy? Gris Gris, the world’s greatest grey Trakehner! At least in my book, and I’m writing this story. In the picture above you see a horse who is at ease, paying attention, and in G2’s case, ready for his next trick (always!).  Before I continue, here’s another picture form our most recent cowboy session.

You say “lope,” I say “canter.”

The picture above shows something I never thought I would see again- G2 cantering under saddle. No bucking. No farting. No squealing. The B-F-S is a move that most horses can do. The elements can be performed in any order, or simultaneously. G2 excelled at it as a form of exuberance as well as a way to let me know that he was hurting.

Right after I took this picture, it was my turn to ride. G2 was most obliging and happy to walk, trot, and canter (walk, jog, lope) whenever and wherever I asked. Yes, I cried.

After weeks of carefully monitored workouts and days off, G2 accepted the fact that he can tote a person around and not be in pain while doing it. His ears were even flopping (a sign of extreme relaxation) like they used to do when we had a really good ride.

“No, you may not stop, drop, and roll. Please walk along.”

Here we are starting some ground work. Gris Gris loves to roll, but we usually do not get to do that until after we work. This next picture shown the early stages of a BFS just because it’s fun. Note my defensive stance!

Go on and get it out of your system!

Well, life and rehabilitation continued. Enter Crocket.

Crockett’s first ride in his new arena. He also packed my husband down the driveway (half a mile of gravel) and back.

Crockett is a mild-mannered, 21 year old Quarter Horse who, I suspect, has been ridden hell-for-leather on more than one occasion. I also suspect that he enjoyed it. He certainly loves to go! However, while I would not call him a packer, he is one of those good old equine souls who seems to know when a novice has been entrusted to him.

During our test ride at Crockett’s previous home, I was cantering around and asked him to go on a circle. I twitched my hand to the left, and we practically did a 180 on the spot! It would have been more fun if I had been expecting it. Husband got on, and Crockett was a different horse. Slow and careful. He came home with us that day.

We did the usual slow, careful introductions over the fence.

Oh yeah?

Everybody was happy with the new kid except Başka, aka El Bastardo these days. When, after a few days, we turned everybody out together, my aloof Spanish horse was having none of it. He chased that poor Quarter Horse from one end of our property to the other scoring some nasty bites along the way. At one point Gris Gris tried to go over and meet New Kid. Well, Başka wasn’t going to share his new victim and kicked poor Gris Gris in the shoulder. We are now back to square one regarding turnout.

I haven’t been able to ride Gris Gris since the day after he got kicked (last week). He was too sore to do anything more than walk, so that’s all we did. Then he got the rest of the week off. Today we worked on the lunge line. He showed only a bit of discomfort that actually lessened as he worked out the kinks.

So… I still don’t have an answer for anyone (including myself) about how far this rehab is going to take Gris Gris. I know he loves the attention, and he likes doing new things. He also enjoys getting to pick his own treat before we head back to the barn.

“This one looks good!”

All in all, I’d say it’s pretty good to be Gris Gris right now. Not sure I can say the same for poor Crockett.



A Moment of Silence and Peace

I wrote this sketch while in Afghanistan. I don’t need a picture (not that I would have taken one) because I can still see the scene and faces of those involved as if they are in the same room with me. It seemed appropriate to post this today as we reflect on our lives and how the events of 11 September 2001 shaped who and what we are today.

A few hours before a huge group of us headed to Afghanistan, April 2010.

July 06, 2010, 22:09

Normally the words Marine and beauty are not used in the same breath, or even the same paragraph. One of my dear friends, himself a Marine who deployed in 2001 to Iraq, once told me that Marines use the F bomb like most people use punctuation. Perhaps that is why what I am about to describe makes my heart ache all the more. One day last week I wandered into the MWR/A (Morale, Welfare, Recreation/Activity) Tent to engage in some recreational activity on my computer. For several days KAIA had been overflowing with Marines. They were everywhere you went- the DFAC (dining facility), the gym-DUH, and the MWR/A. They were usually seen in clumps of at least five just talking quietly among themselves. They sunbathed, messed up the showers (at least the female showers- there were females among them), smoked, and drank lots of coffee, but mostly they just walked around looking detached from it all.

Many were quite young- maybe twenty- but I overheard discussions about husbands, wives, and children. Back to my own wanderings… As I entered the upstairs internet area I was stopped by a scene of simplicity, innocence, incongruence, and yes, beauty. Recalling it still brings tears to my eyes. Directly in front of me, about ten feet away were five Marines gathered around a low coffee table. Their average age couldn’t have been twenty-one. One of them looked all of sweet sixteen, emphasis on sweet. At first I thought they were playing a game, but in that split second in which realizations come, I saw that they were working a jigsaw puzzle. They were so peaceful and calm, passing pieces to each other and whispering. Two were perched on the arms of their buddies’ chairs. At a table nearby, a lone Marine was working on another puzzle by himself, but also talking in a near whisper with his buddies.

I stood looking for as long as I dared, then took a seat. It’s best not to stare at Marines for too long. Where were they headed, I wondered. That sort of question is just passing conversation around here, but it seemed wrong to disturb them to find out. I was pretty sure they were headed South- always a safe bet with the Marines in Afghanistan. A week later I learned that some Marines had drowned in a river down south. They were on a routine mission. I wondered if any of the young men I had seen on my base were among those who were lost or who were hurting. Given their location, I knew they probably had no puzzles or time to work them.  I wonder where they are now.

Something Old, Something New- Some Things Never Change.

Perhaps I got my love of travel and things foreign from my Grandmother. Whatever its origin, I definitely have it. One year for Christmas, she even gave me a globe! OK, I was a bit bratty about it because it wasn’t whatever stupid toy I thought I couldn’t live without, but it was one of my favorite “things.” I used to just sit on my bed holding it and looking at the Encyclopedia (yes, we had those in actual hard cover), planning my world tour.

On one of her trips my Grandmother (Grandmother was also her name as far we were concerned) went to Greece. She loved it and talked about it more than most of the other places she visited, except maybe Switzerland. Those conversations introduced me to all sorts of wonderful things, among them and for purposes of this post, baklava. So hold that thought.

It was also from my Grandmother that I heard the word “vegetarian.” I though the term referred to someone who liked vegetables. My mother informs me that my Grandmother’s cook shared that understanding. Family reading this will know immediately of whom I speak. Maybe I will post her caramel cake recipe!! Anyway, the exclusive properties of this new category had to be explained to me, but I was not impressed; nor did I participate in the ensuing kitchen debate over things like the inclusion eggs or seafood. I liked vegetables and still do (even though we no longer cook them with bacon or fat meat… at least not very often!), but my quite fertile imagination just couldn’t imagine limiting myself like that. For the record, many a good Southern meal, even the modern ones without the cooking fat, consist of vegetables only!

Well guess who was coming to dinner? Actually it was lunch, but I couldn’t resist the reference. I also had to call my mother to get the genealogically accurate answer to that question. My great, great, great aunt, her daughter, and her granddaughter, that’s who. They had acquired this dietary affliction through a German relative (as if that explains it). I can still hear my Grandmother as she declared, more than asked, “What in the world do vegetarians eat for lunch?” In late 1960s Mississippi, globalization had not yet to hit the Jitney Jungle, so many of the options which my Grandmother had probably enjoyed abroad were unavailable, even if heard of.

I had to call my mother to find out what Grandmother eventually served since I was not present at the “meal” preferring instead the world of kindergarten. My mother couldn’t remember exactly, but here’s what she did recall:

A “nasty” spinach salad (there was neither bacon nor egg)

Boiled corn (no butter, but at least there was salt)

Potatoes or rice (she didn’t remember which)

Some sort of green vegetable (because your Grandmother would not serve a meal without one)

No bread

I’m sure there was iced tea, so I didn’t ask. I’m also equally certain that the meal was flawlessly prepared and probably tasty as well, my dear mother’s comments notwithstanding. Less youth and experience have taught me that down South, any guests for any meal cause a kind of consternation that can only be described as masochistic.

The same thing applies to Southerners who live in places like, say… the Mid West. You definitely get more credit for “the thought” outside the South. Which brings up to the past Labor Day weekend’s events! And baklava.

While I was in Afghanistan, I became friends with several guys from Turkey. We quickly discovered that our differences, while significant, in no way prevented us from finding lots of common ground, especially where the combination of friends and food was concerned. I still correspond often with them and miss them terribly.

A few months ago I received a cryptic message from one of my friends in Turkey informing me that one of his friends would be coming here to study. He asked permission to give my contact information. No problem; however, no further information was forthcoming, not even in subsequent e mails. He is very security conscious.

When “the friend of my friend” arrived, he contacted me and said that he would like to come visit. Again, no problem. Well, it took several weeks of short and also cryptic e mails to get to the Sunday before Labor Day when I got a message that said they (not he) would be at my house tomorrow around noon. Good Heavens!

The answer to the question that some of you may have formed is, “Yes, they eat halal.” Travel with me back in time to my Grandmother’s kitchen… Now is a good time to get up and do whatever it is you are thinking about doing as you comment about how long this post is.

Aaaand we’re back- but in my kitchen reading labels and using the iPhone to google to make sure whatever we had was ok. Nix on the fried grits with crawfish cream sauce, although the fried grits would have been fine.

Fried grits smothered in crawfish cream sauce. Hungry?

Then I saw all the brie that remained from another party. YES! One of my all time favorite appetizers was about to become a sandwich! Known in my family simply as “brie treats,” they consist of slices of French bread, a paste made from nuts (I like pecans) and olive oil, slices of Granny Smith apple, and brie (sans mold). In that order. On a cookie sheet in a 400∘ oven for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese, and you’re done! Put them together ahead of time then just pop them in the oven as guests start to arrive or right before the meal depending on how you’re serving them. I don’t have any pictures, but these look really nice with lots of different food items.

The green salad we had was nothing spectacular, but of course, it was above average! We had the best tomatoes that one can expect in this part of the world at this time of year. They were average until I drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled basil all over them, then slapped a thick slice of fresh mozzarella on top. The same conditions applied to the fruit salad except I used sugar, mint, and lemon juice instead of olive oil. And the tea? Lightly and perfectly sweetened. Our delighted and delightful guests thought it was so good it had to be Turkish tea!

I billed this lunch a typical of what Southerners would prepare for friends who dropped by for lunch. Sadly, that tradition has all but disappeared even down South. When this kind of lunch includes international guests as such occasions often do (or did), there must be some sort of culinary nod to the guests’ homeland. As it happened, there was one small container of baklava left in the refrigerator from the aforementioned party. With great trepidation I pulled it out, hoping that there wouldn’t be enough so I would not put myself through the angst of serving baklava to people whose people claim not only expertise in this pastry, but to have actually invented it! No such luck.

What do you have with baklava? You guessed it. Turkish coffee!

My Turkish coffee pot (cezve/ibrik) and one of the cups my friend sent to me via our now mutual friend.

Along with the baklava we had some slices of pears from our tree over which we drizzled some of the extra baklava syrup (There’s always extra. Always save it.). This thrilled and astounded our new friends especially since we had devoted a portion of the never- flagging dinner conversation to baklava. For those of you who are just now wandering into this blog, the recipe and pictures can be found in my post about parties and secrets. Just as I am apparently incapable of serving a simple meal (without at least trying to make it hard), I am also incapable of writing about one topic at a time. It’s just not that simple!

Penultimate note: I just wasn’t able to get any pictures of the actual meal. Apologies!

Final note: If you still want more evidence of my talent/tendency for guilding the lily, wait until you see what evolves around a white chocolate and ginger cheesecake that gets coated with a shell of white chocolate. Because I can.