Brumbie

When I was 13, my dad fell in love with a horse, Brumbie. Brumbie was a 5 year old, skinny, lanky, bay Thoroughbred with donkey ears, a star on his forehead and one teeny white sock. You could call him an ex-race horse, but he broke his leg on his first attempt and was instantly retired to a field. He spent the next year or two working as a “pony horse” – when a race horse is frantic on a track, a slower, more chilled out horse will be ridden beside that crazy race horse to calm him down. Somewhere along the line, he was adopted by a jockey, who brought him to a barn where her friend taught horse riding lessons so he could be used in the rehabilitation program for sick and disabled children. On his first day on the job, he panicked when he was tied to the super heavy, disabled friendly wooden mounting block, and dragged it all the way across the arena. So he was brought over to the lesson program for the more advanced riders, where he showed real potential to be a hunter and equitation horse.

A year or so later, I started taking riding lessons at that same barn. Not long after that, so did my sister and my dad. My dad is 6’4″, and needed a big horse. Brumbie was the tallest horse in the lesson program. What started as a match of practicalities turned into a “boy meets horse” story. My dad loved Brumbie, and they both trusted each other completely. Probably because my dad was tall enough to look him right in the eye when he was acting squirrely. So my dad adopted Brumbie and spent the better part of the year taking riding lessons and buying him special food to fatten him up. My dad tried to get me to ride him, but I wasn’t into it. Brumbie freaked me out because he was young and sometimes flighty I had a deep seated PTSD of flighty, bay thoroughbreds. But, he was our horse now. So we were matched by default.

I was already working with a very shakey confidence in my riding, so I didn’t have high hopes. The first time I rode him, I was all nerves, and so was he. We were having a lesson in an open field and he bucked and nearly took off galloping with me three times, so I ended up switching horses with one of the older girls. I spent the rest of the year carefully avoiding riding him at all – and things were good. But then – at the beginning of spring, my competition team and I were having a meeting to discuss the upcoming show series when my coach announced:
“Audrey, you’ll be on Brumbie, because you’re showing him this summer.”
“What?”
“Yep!”

Extra great. Not only was I terrified of him, he hadn’t showed before, and I could only imagine how much of a spaz he would be.

Awesome.

So that afternoon, I brought him out of his tall to get him ready for our lesson. I went to our locker and got a handful of sweet grain for him. As I fed him, I said “Ok, I know you don’t like me, and I don’t like you. But we have to work together, so let’s make the best of it.” We were the only two in the aisle, and everything was quiet (which was weird for a Saturday), and I swear I felt a connection. Like he understood me. Like me, the way to his heart was through his stomach. That lesson everything seemed to click between the two of us, and I actually enjoyed riding him.

That first lesson was the doorway into a five year partnership with him. If I loosened up and trusted him, he would do everything I asked. He would change leads without tossing his head or bucking and he would drop his neck and bend and he would find his own spots to the jump. But the second I started to fight with him, he fought back. We definitely weren’t soul mates. But we were very similar to each other. We were both young and full of potential. We both knew how to do things well, and when we were both in sync, we were on fire. But we were also pretty damn lazy and we both knew how to work just hard enough to get the job done. We were both pretty green, and we taught each other a lot along the way, though. I learned how to actually take care of a horse, how to train and condition him, how to listen to his ticks and whirs, how to protect him when he was scared and when he needed to be pushed.

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Brumbie’s first show. 2 tubes of calm and cool, 90 mins of lunging, 60 mins of schooling, and our combined nervous energy still could have powered Las Vegas.
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Our first rated show. That’s cool, Brumbie, you can totally shit as you’re going over a jump. Also, my reins are looped on the wrong side and I’m leaning on my hands and jumping ahead (my signature I’M NERVOUS tick)
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Brumbie and Alanis Morrisette
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This was the summer we worked together 7 days a week, we had killer private lessons, and we were in our prime (check out that leg position what!)

We weren’t the flashiest (unless we were running around out of control taking jumps in black out speed, whoops), but occasionally we would win ribbons at a show, and that was cool. But my heart wasn’t in competitions. And eventually my coach moved out of state, and work, school, boyfriends, teenage blues and college applications got in the way and I grew out of riding. But Brumbie is still kicking around, teaching new little kids to sit back, use their leg, and back off the bit. My sister remains devoted to him, taking care of him and riding him, and using him to teach her son all about horses.

Happy birthday, Brumbie, you handsome lawn ornament. It just seems like a life time ago that we both frantic little kids let loose in a show ring.

 

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little babies

xoxo,
Aud

Christmas! v. 2017

Ohhh, Christmas holiday. It didn’t get here one second soon enough. With Joel working long hours and me working long hours ALL FREAKIN MONTH, we’ve both been counting down to getting a few days of sanity back.  Continue reading “Christmas! v. 2017”

Festivus!

Last year’s Friendsgiving was such a blast, we decided to do it again this year. But, in true Audrey fashion, I brought up making plans whenever we got together with our friends, and then forgot to nail down actual plans for the dinner until the day before Thanksgiving.

Whoooooops. Continue reading “Festivus!”

Comfort food, ch. 3: Oatmeal Turners

Ok, so I know oatmeal isn’t exciting. And I know a lot of people could careless. But let me put this out there: I freakin’ love oatmeal. Yes, I am a living on the edge wild child for the fibre treat. I love hot porridge, I love oatmeal skin products, I love the way it feels to sift through a bag of oats with my hands, and I love to fucking destroy a plate of oatmeal cookies. Continue reading “Comfort food, ch. 3: Oatmeal Turners”

What Mom Taught Me: a Mother’s Day post

My mom taught me heaps. A few years ago, I published a piece on Thought Catalog called “Things My Mother Couldn’t Teach Me.” It’s a bit of a downer, and super full of mid-20’s angst (I wrote it post break up, whilst full of feelings and whiskey). I came across it this year when Mogul.com re-published it. I winced the entire time I read it. Ohhh, to be 27 and full of agony again.  Continue reading “What Mom Taught Me: a Mother’s Day post”

Christmas!

Ah, Christmas. I love this time of year. I’m even accepting that it’s a summer holiday now, and somehow it’s just never going to snow and I won’t get to wear sweaters. And I’m like, almost ok with this. Continue reading “Christmas!”

Tree party

On Thursday, Joel and I had our traditional Tree Party, officially kicking off Christmas 2016.

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Tree Party started when Joel was visiting me in the States in 2013, and we’ve had a version of it every year since. It’s basically us and some tasty beverages putting the tree together while eating Pigs in Blankets and watching a movie. It’s fun, it’s adorable, and I’m not even ashamed to admit that this year I started to get excited for it in September.

This year, I found a tall-ish fake tree for $12, tree lights for $8, and jewel toned baubles for $10. I think it’s the most Christmassy our tree has ever looked, and I’m really jazzed for it.

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The enthusiastic tree prepper
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Mini Frankenfurters in Blankets – yes, I had “You’re a hot dog/But you better not try to hurt her, Frank-fur-ter” stuck in my head the entire time I was rolling these guys up
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Stringing the lights
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YAY ORNAMENTS!

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I’m a little obsessed with it. I’ve been tinkering with ornament placement since Thursday, but every day I look at it and it makes me smile. I’m happy I went with multi-coloured baubles instead of red and green. It’s definitely making me think “Fun Summer” Christmas, not “holy fuck it’s hot and why isn’t it snowing” Christmas, which is awesome.

I keep hearing from my friends who have toddlers that parents only have a handful of magical Christmas seasons with their kids. At first I thought it was a bit bullshit- Christmas is awesome no matter how old you are. I always looked forward to Christmas, because it was the one of the few times my family were together laughing, eating, watching movies and having a good time – amidst the occasional drama flair up from visiting family members or my over-worked parents. With the exception of Christmas 2001 when the whole year was kinda shit and my dad was overseas for Christmas and each of us were going through some form of depression so we just said “no fucks given” and left the tree in the garage and decorated a $5 fern plant with household nicknacks on Christmas Eve (which sounds really sad, but it ended up being a fun time and thinking about it always makes me happy), my parents always made a big, big effort to make Christmas a big, big deal. We always had a huge tree with all the trimmings, presents, a giant breakfast, and lots of hang times. So the season has always been magical and happy for me.

But then I thought a bit more, and I realised that I can’t remember the last time decorating the tree as a family was a thing. And that bums me out a little. I always loved that my parents decorated for the holidays, but I never invested in the experience. And at some point I stopped participating. I mean, I helped my dad a few times by handing him tools when he hang the lights outside, but mostly I just reaped the coziness that came from their efforts.

So maybe you do only get a brief time where the magic is real and your kids want to be a part of it all – when decorating the tree is serious bizness, when waking up to open your advent calendar, or in my case – move the candy cane from the snowman calendar to the tree, when hunting for hidden presents is a top priority, and leaving treats for Santa is non-negotiable. But it seems to come back in full force when they start their own families, and their own little traditions.

And that’s kinda nice.

Ellie

It’s been a tough week for my family back home. A tough week that’s resulted in the loss of our dog, Ellie. My parents brought home Ellie and her sister Lucy from off the side of a road puppy sale in Ohio in 2008, and they have been filling our lives with sloppy kisses, smelly faces, bellowing barks, sincere commitment to resist potty training, greasy coats, disgusting moments (why do dogs eat their own vom?), and general hilarity ever since.

Ellie was the sweetest dog. Her tail wagged a million miles an hour, and she never met a person she didn’t immediately love. She adored to be brushed, petted, and fussed over. She was silky and slinky and the glamorous counterpart to Lucy, who was always scruffy and smelly and slobbery no matter how many wipe downs she got. She went into season way sooner than our vet or we thought she would, and she had to wear a diaper. She would wrangle and put up a fight until my mom put a pair of my niece’s girly underpants over it, and just for the fun of it – a dog sweater. After that, Ellie had no problem wearing the diaper. A girl has to have an outfit, you know. She always sat on the couch like a person – leaning on the arm – when she wasn’t stacked directly on top of Lucy.

 

She and Lucy were two peas in a pod who probably hadn’t spent more than one weekend apart since they were born. It breaks my heart that we lost this sweet pup, and it really breaks my heart to think of neurotic Lucy going it all alone.

It’s a cruel fact of life that our animals fill our hearts and lives, and for all too briefly. We can’t ask them what’s wrong, or what we can do to help. We have to make the hard decisions to ease their pain, we hold their heads as we say goodbye. And it never gets easier, no matter how old you are. My heart breaks all over the place, for Ellie, for my family, and for my Lucy.

xo, sweet pal.

Good Gravy, episode 1

I love my parents – they’re hilarious and adorable and they’re best friends and huge nerds, and they compliment each other in a million different ways. But my favourite yin/yang quality of theirs has to do with my favourite breakfast: biscuits* and gravy.

My mom is the cook in the family. She reads cookbooks for fun, re-creates recipes after eating a dish at a restaurant, and has a vault of self-learnt recipes that impossibly blends complete trash food and gourmet dining. With the exception of something we now call “Corn Loaf”, a corn and cheese side dish that was supposed to be a fluffy Mexican corn dish that somehow went wrong and solidified mass of corn and goo that we could almost cut in slices, I can’t remember a single dish my mom has made that I haven’t liked. No one makes a grilled cheese sandwich or a plate of scrambled eggs like my mom. And I’ve tried for years to replicate my all time famous dish of hers, Baked Chili Spaghetti, to no avail. I’ve been asking for about ever for her to write these recipes for me, but I always get the same answer – “I’m not sure – I just make it. Just take X and X and X and go with it!” She’s a jerk.

My dad, on the other hand, passed his cooking skills down to me. We both need detailed instructions and tools. But we both looooove to eat. So it all balances out.

One of the biggest things I miss about living with my parents is the food. Particularly the big Sunday or holiday breakfasts. “Breakfast Skillets,” which are individual skillets layered with a fried egg, hash browns, sausage gravy, and topped with cheese and crumbled bacon. French toast fried perfectly with crispy edges and a soft center and topped with maple syrup and powdered sugar; Bacon and egg fried rice; but the best of it all is biscuits and sausage gravy.

Mom makes a helluva good gravy. I’ve never actually seen her make it – it just always appeared at the same time as the scrambled eggs did – both hot and ready to eat, with only one pan being used. It’s a mystery to me. For all the cooking talent my mom has, she can’t form a biscuit to save her life. They come out lumpy, malformed, a bit like a gargoyle fist – if that gargoyle fist was slammed in a door a few times. They break when you touch them and they’re pretty dense.

That’s where my dad comes in – his gravy may taste floury or be too watery, but his biscuits are always geometrically perfect with flat golden tops, and have the most perfect smooth and fluffy texture. I remember watching him make the dough, flouring the counter top, rolling the dough with a rolling pin, and using the same cup he always used to stamp out the biscuits. It’s the only cooking ritual I remember my dad having in the kitchen – besides the giant bowl he used to eat cereal.

With my parent’s powers combined, they make one awesome sauce breakfast. And it’s just one of those little anecdotes about their relationship that I think is too adorable.

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I was looking through our fridge this morning and noticed our bacon was about to go off, and I immediately thought about making gravy with it. Even though I never made bacon before. So I called the Breakfast Masters for a crash course in Gravy 101 – what kind of spices to use, what kind of utensils, and basically the most important aspect of gravy – which is continuous whisking.

Now, this is for bacon gravy, which isn’t as good as sausage gravy – (which I’m attempting next week), so this is an abbreviated method (mostly so I won’t forget when I try again next week)

Step 1: Fry lots of bacon. Sing the bacon some sweet songs to encourage all the grease to collect in the pan (you only have to do this in Australia, where the bacon isn’t NEARLY as greasy as it is the US)

Step 2: Once bacon is at desired doneness (extra crispy for me, please – I want that shit to shatter in melty bacony goodness), remove from pan and wrap in aluminium foil to keep warm.

Step 3: On medium heat, melt some butter (see above note about Bacon not being greasy enough)

Step 4: Sprinkle a couple table spoons of flour over the butter and whisk that up with either a whisk, a wooden spoon, or the bottom of a flat rubber spatula – whatever won’t scratch up the pan

Step 5: Whisking constantly, cook the flour and butter for a few minutes until it’s really clumpy. If you don’t cook it long enough the flour will taste raw.

Step 6: Add milk – I eyeballed it by adding 1/2 cup at at time. And whisk whisk whisk.

Step 7: Season with salt, pepper, whatever else you’d like. I threw in some cajun seasoning.

You can add more milk if it’s too thick, more flour if it’s too watery

I served mine over toast with the fried bacon. And it tasted just as good as my mom’s, which made me feel like a double champ – 1) because I tried something new and it wasn’t a disaster, and 2) because it was delish. It felt like a taste from home.

But I also feel like a world of heart clogging, thigh jiggling, gravy topped food opportunities have opened up for me – and that’s hella exciting.

Tune in next week for episode 2! We’ll see if my biscuit game is on point.

 

*I should clarify for my non-Americans that I mean scones – biscuits in the States are the equivalent of scones in Australia. The first time I mentioned biscuits and gravy at work I was met with some grossed out and confused looks.

“Like… biscuits? Covered in gravy?”
“Yeah, it’s SO good.”
“um, ok.”