blogger secret santa in the 21st year of our lord covid

I was excited to join the blogger secret Santa again this last year, as I missed out last year. I cleverly, not to repeat the mistakes I’ve made in the past, put down the address of MIL’s, where I’d be spending Christmas this year, so my gift met me when I got there.

And then I was extra delighted to see a package from M over at Cruisen in Stilettoes. I got M as my recipient back in 2018, and had a ton of fun putting her gift together — a little Tesla Quilted Pony accented in red and black and silver sparkles. So when I saw that M was my gift-giver, I was like oh how the turns have tabled appreciated the circular nature of the world and how things go around and come around.

I mean, it looks *just* like Tesla

I’m absolute shit at helping people get me gifts. I really don’t like stuff, and any of the things I actually want or need I can just get for myself, so walking the fine line of Nicole wants this and Nicole doesn’t think this is unnecessary stuff is a tough one. I’m happy to report, though, that M absolutely killlled it.

The first thing I found in my package were these adorable iron-on patches.

Very relevant, and will make an excellent addition to a cross country pad in the near future.

Next, I opened a little envelope to find these Speedy stickers. WUT. I haven’t figured out what to put them on yet, but I love them.

There was also a fabulous grey bonnet in there. Sneaky sneaky asked me what my cross country colours were going to be, and I blithely answered with no suspicion. Clever girl. Speedy went in a bonnet at competitions in the past, so I’ll probably keep him going in one. Also, they are cute.

Finally, after checking through the package once more to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I found this incredible wire ornament.

I am high-key obsessed with this, and am pretty sure M makes them herself. I was going to turn it into a tree ornament with a bit of ribbon, but I think I’m actually going to hang it up over my desk so I can admire it alltimes.

So many, many thanks to M for my amazing gifts. And thanks to Alberta Equest for organizing!

shopping for a horseless horse blogger

I love gifting. I love getting gifts, and I love giving them. Most of the time. There are a few people who are absurdly hard to shop for (like my husband — though I am comforted in the fact that he finds me even harder to shop for), but for the most part I really enjoy the process of learning about people through their blogs and finding a gift that will be both useful and lovely in their lives. Or maybe just one or the other, if that’s what they would prefer.

Basically, I like to give joy.

So obviously, I love the blogger gift exchange.

So say we all!

But I’ll absolutely admit that I’m awful to shop for in general. I often can’t think of anything I want that’s any kind of reasonable gift, and correspondingly, I don’t really have any small trinket-y type things that I lust after (I don’t even remember what I put down as “hints” this year). I’m probably really repressed.

And this year, to top it all off, I don’t even have a fracking horse.

Oh, to really top it all off, I have a stupid PO box that I have to remember to go and check so I couldn’t even get my gift on the day it¬†actually arrived.

Fortunately, there are people in this world who know what it’s like to be temporarily horseless, and have a pretty good idea of what one wants in that situation: booze accessories.

Britt cleverly got me a unicorn wine stopper, a pair of fuzzy socks, and a lovely print of a chimp! Fuzzy socks not pictured because I already wore them and now they’re in the wash. This fabulous gift has already gotten some mileage, because NYE and Friendsgiving meant that wine was in ample supply at my house (which actually, it always is).

To top it all off, Britt checked in to make sure my gift hadn’t been lost in the mail, and commiserated with me about retiring ponies and horse shopping. This part is¬†actually the first best thing about blogging: making new friends.

The chimp print will be framed and hung in the office after I have repainted, and the socks will obviously enter regular winter rotation.

Thanks a thousand times to Tracy, for hosting!

dissertation vacation

I told my friends and colleagues that I was taking my Dissertation Vacation over Christmas and they shouldn’t expect to hear from me until I returned from Oregon in the new year. ¬†Everyone seemed to understand immediately and agree it was¬†a good idea (and a few even said they took a few months on theirs, though others didn’t take a break at all).

Jumping forward in time (we will go back shortly), my secret Santa gift was awaiting me when I got home on Wednesday evening!  Micaylah sent a package with a big toy for Jelly, a darling set of studs and matching necklace for me, and cookies for Murray.  Murray will get his cookies when I go to the barn on Thursday, but Ellie got her present immediately.  Because she deserves it.


She loved it, obviously. ¬†And¬†I love it and so do my roommates, because it has a¬†quiet squeaker!!!! Ellie will go to town on squeaky toys for hours and hours minutes on end (we have never let her go as long as she wants). ¬†Most squeakers are loud and obnoxious and this one is pretty quiet – but still entertaining enough that Ellie wants it.¬†The newspaper also does not have stuffing (major requirement of my boyfriend’s as he doesn’t find cleaning clouds of fluff up from the floor very appealing), and I can already tell it will last. ¬†Micaylah wins for puppy toys! ¬†And the way to my heart is 100% by treating Ellie (but not too much, because then it’s like you’re trying to steal her love from me, and that is unacceptable).


So, back to vacation.  I went with my boyfriend to see his family in Oregon where we ate a lot of food, drank a lot of beer, I played a lot of pokemon, and packed on the pounds.  Like a lot of pounds.

I spent most¬†of my time sitting in front of fireplaces and heaters, only opened my laptop a few times, and read a lot. ¬†I got most of the way through one book (Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson, only giving it like a 6/10), and finished another (Taming the Truffle, Ian Hall, 9/10 if you’re interested in growing Truffles). ¬†We went snowmobiling and the snow was PERFECT for playing in — soft and fluffy and not too deep. ¬†About a foot of dry powder, but not so dry that you just fell through. ¬†Boyfriend and his step brother (a fair bit younger) had a great time throwing me around in it, I did not object, and managed to dump them a few times myself.


It was seriously lovely to be able to relax and not worry about not working on my thesis for fifteen days.  I still have to re-analyze data and prepare for publication, but at least the first big deadline is behind me!


We also spent a few days in Portland hanging out with my friends from graduate school. ¬†Almost everyone from my lab has ended up in Portland in the last three years — so perhaps I was just looking into my future?! ¬†Food was central to our Porland detour. ¬†We made a crown roast of lamb for NYE, a crispy roast pork shoulder the next night, and fried chicken for our last night in Portland. ¬†I failed to go to the zoo (oops), but did spend lots of time

wp-1483593271096.jpgFried chicken – gluten free on the left, regular flour on the right. I 100% recommend Bob’s Red Mill GF mix for fried chicken — it was so crispy and delicious! The difference in color is a little unfortunate, the brown rice flour just doesn’t golden up as well as AP wheat flour. ¬†I will probably do a 50/50 mix with regular flour for added crunch for my own fried chicken in the future.

img_20170102_145051Lompoc brewing.  If you look carefully, you can see standing rings in the surface of the dark beer (LSD РLompoc Special Draft), because our table vibrated the entire time we were there. This bemused us mightily until I realized that the family on the other side of the booth had a portable compressor of some kind.

I did not get to meet up with Megan (boo, sadness), as we couldn’t quite get our schedules to sync up. ¬†Portland was just too big and interesting for both of us! ¬†However, based on past experience, I rate Megan 10/10, will hang out again.


Now that I’m all rested and rejuvenated I’m ready to attack 2017!

treat yo’ self: custom leather work

I spend a fair amount of time on Etsy around the holidays, mostly window shopping.¬† I don’t do a ton of Christmas-gift exchange with my friends (we all know how poor we are), and my family doesn’t mind that the gift giving goes in mostly one direction.¬† But I do find a lot of neat things on the Etsy (because it is a veritable font of neat things), and this year a whole pile of custom leatherwork has caught my eye.

First up: this magnificent, chevron monogrammed belt.  I would adopt this into my show outfit in approximately one second.

I mean yes, yes please. PLEASE.

From the same craftsman, look at these incredibly apropos coasters.

6 Personalized Leather Coasters, Custom Leather Coaster set, Hexagonal Geometric, Handmade housewarming wedding anniversary gift. Honey Bee

Sometimes beautiful things motivate me to get things done.¬† Like this sweet leather journal from Brika.¬† If this were daily-planner style, I would buy it in one second, but since it’s just journal style I’m still on the fence.

I Can Leather Journal

I have made my own tote bag with pleather accents before, but it was a lot of work and definitely more than $38 in time.¬† And I’m into leather totes, but I can in no universe justify buying a Tucker Tweed.¬† But a leather tote with a subtle monogram that’s just the right size for putting a planner, wallet, and notebook in? Yes please!

Monogram Purse, Monogram Handbag, Monogram Shoulder Bag, Monogram Tote, Fall Purse, Personalized Purse, Bridesmaids Gifts, Tassel Purse

And finally the one company I am for sure ordering from this year, Bija Collars!¬† It’s not secret that I’m completely obsessed with Ellie, and one of the first things I got her was this amazing leather collar from Apryl at Bija Collars.¬† She does custom work to match color, width, and length of collar to your pup.¬† The leather has held up through Ellie’s disgusting, hippo ways, many baths, and just a couple of cleanings when I do my saddles.¬† 10/10 will buy again.

Ellie is a bad collar model. Really, it’s an amazing collar and gets a billion compliments.



secret santa awesomeness

Participating in the Blogger Secret Santa last year was one of the best ideas I’d basically ever had, and to be fully truthful I should give credit to Kristen at If the Saddle Fits and Tracy at Fly on Over, because they are the ones who made it known that we should all join!¬† So when Blogger Secret Santa rolled around this year I was like “um, yeah, that is definitely happening again.”

I was delighted when I got Tracy’s email, and even more delighted when I saw that I’d drawn our Gracious Leader herself for my gift recipient!¬† I hemmed, hawed, and procrastinated, and finally went on to Etsy to find her a gift.¬† I’m trying to take a leaf out of Amanda’s book and support more small businesses, and so I browsed until I saw something that caught my eye: monograms and coffee mugs.¬† It took me a little while to find just what I wanted — I wanted something to be useful as well as pretty, and while I enjoy sitting at home with a pretty mug, I am pretty sure that Tracy doesn’t have the work-from-home-luxurious-grad-student lifestyle I do, so I went with a travel mug.¬† Then it was a simple matter of deciding on colors (helped out by Tracy describing Miles’ colors for me and having excellent taste to begin with!) and placing my order.¬† Oh boy do I ever love the internet.

I spent Christmas away from the house, but when I got back my own secret santa gift was waiting for me at the house.  Though it was packed into a single flat rate box that box was heavy so I got really, really excited.  I LOVE PRESENTS.

The gift I received put me slightly to shame* as it was absolutely full of goodies.¬† The wonderful Terise at Breeches and Boat Shoes sent me a delicious cake scented soap, Herbal Horse lip balm, a Mrs. Conn’s soap filled sponge (incidentally I received another one of these for Christmas, and it was also the calming and soothing chaparral and sage flavor… are Murray and I REALLY THAT OBVIOUS?!), several Equine Journals for reading (how did she know all I want to do is sit in front of the fireplace and read? yes, we do light fires in California.¬† On clear days.) oh and… a magnificent print of Murray and I.


The print/painting/sketch is made by Jessie Pagenkopf at JRyann studios, and is based on one of my favourite pictures of Murray from schooling at Camelot (I believe it is the one Lainey Ashker complimented my equitation on!) and I love! the colour!  This year I managed to collect enough Murray accouterments that I can now start putting things together on the wall.  I have a neat-o idea for that, so stay tuned!


Thank you so much Terise!¬† This is an absolutely wonderful gift, and I can’t wait to look at Murray on my wall every day!

* There is a little care package coming Tracy’s way if I ever get to the post office… I just hate that place already and holidays and blah blah blah.¬† But I’ll get there!¬† As an extra special thanks for organizing!

Secret Santa gift!!! & a confession

I just started blogging this year (technically in June or something, even though I didn’t start writing regularly until mid-November) and so I was super, super excited to see that Tracy at Fly On Over was hosting a gift exchange. ¬†I am really enjoying my foray into horsey blogging, and something to get me more connected to the community + presents was right up my alley.

So, I signed up, and then cleverly put my barn address down as my shipping address (because duh, why shouldn’t horse stuff go straight to my barn?) and then left for a two week vacation.

IMG_8937On the beach in Oregon with my best girl.

Much clever.

Imagine my surprise when I got back and found an envelope from Jenn at Stories from the Saddle waiting for me at the barn!!  Inside that envelope was a much coveted gift certificate, that has inspired me to make a bit of a confession.



I’ve been on Twitter so I’ve obviously seen MangoBay belts around in the rootds. ¬†I¬†have never really been a belt wearer, in part because I lose them a lot and I just haven’t felt the need. ¬†Constantly pulling up my pants and breeches has always seemed perfectly classy to me, and in a pinch, a piece of rope did the trick. ¬†However, thanks to some stretching pants, possibly a lingering parasite infection from my time in Africa, and my new-found love of actually dressing¬†well while riding (and teaching), I found myself desirous of a belt. ¬†Maybe a MangoBay belt.

But I’m also really, really cheap. ¬†And a belt was at the bottom of my list — especially when there are polo wraps and saddle pads and bits that actually¬†need buying. ¬†So in order to guard myself from disappointment — here comes the confession — I very maturely chose to jealousy hate them instead.

Yes, that’s right. I’m a jealousy hater. ¬†I want something, I can’t have it, so I rationalize in my head all the reasons that thing isn’t that great, I don’t actually want it, and I have no reason to be jealous of those people who¬†do have it!

But it wasn’t true! I did want a MangoBay belt! I lusted after their multicoloured rainbow displays at trade shows and coveted the splash of colour that broke up an otherwise-traditional riding outfit. ¬†And don’t even get me started on a belt that would lay¬†flat! ¬†Buckles kill me.

So now I’m getting a MangoBay belt!! THANKS JENN!!

Women's Belt - Art Nouveau Iris design on 1.25" Burgundy webbing with Flat Ring closure - product images  of

Specifically, I’m getting this burgundy Art Noveau. ¬†Shopping there was hard. ¬†It really was. ¬†I wanted something colourful enough to break up an outfit (see above), but also traditional enough that I could wear it with my street clothes and not worry about a major clash. ¬†And — ¬†believe it or not — I am getting a little sick of all the pink that’s in my life.

So — secret santa gift SUCCESS and a new blog friend, I hope. ¬†Thanks again, Jenn. ¬†It is greatly appreciated — by me and my bosses, probably, who will no longer have to watch me hike my jeans up fourteen times a day!