Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Ever had the kind of day where you trip over a sunbeam?

Okay -- so this winter Lexi pretty much had off...  Can't imagine why.  Regardless, the last couple weeks she's been slowly getting back into work.   She's a fun horse.  More challenging in unusual ways than I'd expected.  But the only thing I don't care for is that from the beginning though has always been behind the leg and rather lazy.  Not my usual type.  There's a whole lot of TB in her, but I've yet to see it.

Anyways -- decided after seeing a video (ugh, video...) of me playing around on her the other day that it's time to get her in front of my leg and going forward.  Fine.  Goal established.

Alright, well I don't know who told my horse about said goal.  But "you want forward, I'll give you forward."  She was super quiet grooming and tacking up -- normal at that time of day.  Head down to the arena -- she grew a little walking around.  Fair, given that I set up a course since the last time she was in there.  First sign I might be in trouble -- we had to discuss standing to mount.  This hasn't been an issue for a very long time.

Ummmm okay.  Start walking.  Very hollow, very high, very add.  But still in a walk.  And a short icky walk of varying numbers of beats.  Blah.  Okay up to trot.  Ummmmm trot traditionally has two beats...   Nope.  Cantering.   I don't know where she thought she was going to go in an indoor ring, but she was going to get there today.   Reasonably agreeable -- other than one massive buck (so glad she didn't repeat that; a second one would've tossed me) she would let me steer and was holding her line, but faster and faster...  Minor series of hoppy type bucks -- those were pretty funny although I was a little concerned they might lead to the real ones again.

Around and around...  Switch direction and do the same thing the other way.  Kid on a merry-go-round.  Faster than I remember merry-go-rounds being as a kid, but fairly amusing.  And conveniently she's still not very fit, so eventually she got tired and deigned to trot.  On the plus side, my concerns about her not having enough speed for xc are pretty much gone now ;)

Rest of the ride was amazing.  Forward.  Awesome, huge, floaty trot.  So much fun.   Did have a good laugh when she tripped over a sunbeam though.  Sadly, I'm not even kidding.  We'll put it down to not having seen sun in a while ;)   

I have no idea where this horse came from, but I'm really hoping she sticks around!

I was in the middle before I knew that I'd begun...

Crazy long day and slightly exhausted but not the least bit tired?   Are you new?  If so, consider yourself forewarned -- that's a wicked combination.  This morning seems a very long time ago.  And honestly, nothing interesting happened.

Let's see...

Well just left that on that phrase and spent an couple *hours* watching Lizzie Bennett.  Had a good laugh at her talking to "imaginary Charlotte".  I think I need "imaginary Jen" ;)   Hahaha - was totally addicted to this series and then my world blew up and it kind of got forgotten, but today it was remembered.  For anybody who needs a new fun time waster, you're welcome:

Wow -- looked at that one having just finished episode 100.  What a change.  So sad there are no more :(   Now what? ;)     Lots of good one liners -- that's probably why I was so addicted.   Was silly for the first ummm 85 or so and then quickly became remarkably darker.   Far more so than I remember the book being, but maybe just because it's updated to current times. Today's line was about close friends/family when something goes wrong:  "It's not about doing anything; it's just about being here."   Just struck me somehow as being very accurate.  And sometimes the hardest thing to do when you really want to help.  Or, for that matter, the thing you need most...  That's what Sasha's for :)

Said super puppy is sleeping at my feet while I type.  She does that a whole lot more since Bailey's been around.  Apparently puppy sitting is exhausting :)   Really want to get Sasha back in agility and give her something fun to do.  And me, tbh.  I need a new hobby till either the weather gets better or I get employed *g*  Really hard to plan anything though not knowing if/when I'll be working.  Puppy class I'd sign up for is Thurs afternoons, but as soon as I'm employed that won't be an option...
Sleepy Sasha
In the interim though -- trying to get all those things done that I wanted to do "when I had more time". hahaha -- or, more accurately, that I felt I *should* do when I had more time, since I tend to fit in the things I really want *g*   Things that should get done: paperwork, cleaning, editing, wading through boxes in the basement...  Things that are *actually* getting done: riding my horse, playing with my dog, catching up with friends, relaxing at C's (which effectively eliminates *everything* in the should category in one move), reading, going to the gym -- okay that last one is usually in the should category, but it's good stress relief and makes me feel better, so for now... ;)

AND I had my first swimming lesson ;)  hahaha yeah, random eh?   Partially inspired by hopes of future beach trips and partially by being somewhat appalled how incapable I currently am trying to make it from Point A to Point B effectively in the water.   It. Was. Brutal.   Seriously.   Half-hour lesson had me more physically exhausted than two hours in the gym would've.  Coach was good -- tough, but effective ;)   Only four people in the class, so lots of attention.  Two are really strong, one less so.  All very welcoming. Good environment.  But yeah, crashed pretty hard after.  No lessons this week for March Break, so we'll see next week. Avoiding the gym mostly too since it's all chaos.

Having lots of fun with Lexi.   Sadly she seems to have forgotten where her legs are in the few months off, but she's remembering quickly :)   Lunging today involved the barrels.  oohhhhh, awwwww....  hahaha but absolutely no drama whatsoever.  Those who remember the first effort will understand *g*  Fairly impressed about that.  And amazing form.  So once again, have hope for the future *g*   Would love to free jump her again, but setup not ideal for that.  Ah well.   Just have to wait till she's confident enough to play that game with a rider :)   Signed up for a clinic end of April -- so have to keep being productive now ;)  Looking forward to riding tomorrow.  It sounds like I might even have a babysitter, so that should make the barrels a complete non-issue.  Should.  Theoretically.

35 degrees and sunny

Subject line wasn't a daydream -- it actually happened!
35 degrees and sunny.   Sound like a dream?   Yeah, me too.  But a couple weeks ago it was reality.  No, I haven't lost it.  With the aid of travel miles and a suitcase, I found myself in Cuba.  In a heat wave.  You can hate me now >;-P

If it makes you feel any better, the day we left my alarm clock went off at 2:30.  Ummm that'd be am. Which means I hadn't technically fallen asleep yet.   Got to the airport, checked in, wandered around for a bit, and boarded the plane.  With a disproportionate number of very young children.  Argh.   Fortunately once we took off, they all settled.

Most amazing feeling to leave in record low winter temps and get off the plane, outside, to feel 35 degrees and sunny.  Amazing.  It suddenly doesn't matter that you'll be waiting in endless lines, because...  You're warm.  And really, this winter, what else matters?

Getting through security took quite a while, but wasn't any big deal.  My bag was literally the last one loaded onto the baggage carousel.  There's always that moment of panic of "did it make it"?   Or Chris, who just assumed I missed it and it'd be over with the other stacked ones ;-P   Such faith!  But it did make it, it was just last.  In this case though, it really didn't matter since the buses weren't leaving anybody behind.  Not like getting off the plane in Europe and fighting your way out for the first cab so you can get on your way.  Nope, here you're on island time.  Manoeuvred our way past the very helpful men offering to drive us there *g*, paused briefly at the one selling drinks, and found our bus.  It was surprisingly well organized and efficient.  Yes, I actually typed that sentence.  Sarcasm free.

The drive was about an hour and a half.  We had a tour guide who gave a run down about basic Cuban etiquette (summarized: tip everybody) and some traditional tourism info about the areas we were driving through.  Mostly though we were warm and happy.  That was what mattered.  A good section of the trip was over a causeway -- most of the tour sites say go *despite* it, but since I'm a huge fan of water, I actually really enjoyed it.

At the resort we were greeted with a welcome cocktail for checkin.  We were a little confused as it seemed as though we should collect our luggage, but eventually it was made clear it would be delivered to our rooms. Okay.  Then we hit another pause when they wanted to collect our passports "to be picked up in two hours".  Ummmm no.   A surprising number of passports were left there, but neither Chris nor I were that trusting.  We were told it was because they were required by law to photocopy them.  Okay - nbd.  We went to the front desk and let them photocopy them there.   We also wanted to upgrade to the "Diamond Club" so figured we'd do that at the same time.  Which would've been a fabulous plan except their credit card machine was down and we didn't have cash yet.  *sigh*  Oh well.  Almost time for the beach!

Head upstairs and the room was lovely.  Except...  It had two beds stuck together.  Which would've been perfect, had I still been travelling with Kerri.  Our bags arrived, but we chose not to unpack, deeming future us could deal with the whole issue.  Instead went in search of food.  Found it -- or Cuba's substitute anyways.  A large buffet, but meh quality food.  Not bad, in that it was all edible, but definitely not something you'd be proud to serve somebody.  After lunch with some running around we managed to get our room changed and our upgrade accomplished.  The staff member who came with us to help us relocate our bags to our new room was awesome.  Friendly, enthusiastic, and full of helpful advice.  Helped regenerate a good mood :)  Well that and, 35 degrees and sunny.
Boardwalk to the beach
And so the rest of the day was spent on the beach.  As were the next several ;)   OMG that beach.  I like the ocean.  I like beaches.  As a result, I've been to a lot of them.  This one just might've been the nicest one *ever*.  The only possible exception was hidden in the Whitsunday Islands, and, realistically, that's way out of budget to go back and compare ;)   Don't get me wrong, I loved the beach in Varadaro.  But this one was better.  Significantly.  To compound it's natural beauty, the staff did an phenomenal job of keeping it clean.  Both from tourist garbage and the ocean's natural decorations ;)  Oh, and did I mention the ice-cream guy who wandered around late morning every day?   Think of the one who used to roll through suburban neighbourhoods on a bike.  This was a push rather than a bike (ummm beach people!) but otherwise exactly the same.  Complete with a ringing bell.   Now being 35 deg and sunny, the ice cream melted at a ridiculous rate.  But was easy enough to stroll into the ocean to clean off ;)  Kinda the absolutely perfect finishing touch to the beach.
What more do you need?
Oh wait, if that wasn't enough, there were little catamarans on the beach that were going out for short sails every day -- these were included with the vacation so we went out twice.  Nice way to break up an oh-so-stressful day of beach and pool.  I know, life's rough.  Did I mention 35 deg and sunny?
Beach catamarans
Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I should be honest.  It did rain twice: once, on our first morning, when we were in the meeting about all the excursions and "things you should know"; it was done by the time we were ready to go to the beach.  The second time was when we were on a bus on the north side of the country -- apparently that rain didn't make it to the resort.  hahaha but other than that, legit 35 deg and sunny the whole time we were there.  Significantly warmer than the last time I went.  Apparently they were having a heat wave.  I was pretty stoked about it.

So the beach was stunning.  Unbelievably so.  Unfortunately the rest of the resort we probably wouldn't return to.  Our beach was shared with one other resort that everybody we spoke to loved -- so that would probably be a smarter choice.  For instance, in our hotel room maid service was okay -- but often the floors weren't swept, the coffee was never refilled, and the mini-bar only sometimes.  We usually had hot water or cold water but not always at the same time and once had none at all.  Others we spoke with were having more dramatic issues though, so we just learned to be strategic about when we wanted to shower ;)   As to the food, we very quickly figured out that it was much better if you went to the grills rather than the buffets, so we did that for most meals.  We booked our a la carte meals with the diamond concierge -- I tell you, that upgrade was well worth it :) and were good to go.  Upgrade included better service in the meal areas, waiter service on the beach and super staff in both locations -- maybe all over the resort, but definitely seemed above and beyond in those areas.  We quickly came to have some favourite staff :)  Upgrade also included different types (presumably better quality) alcohol, but tbh, I wouldn't know the difference ;)
To be honest, I thought I'd be bored out of my little mind.  We spent a *lot* more time on the beach than any other resort-type vacation I've been on -- mostly because there really wasn't anything else to do.  But I was so exhausted and just done that it was actually amazing.
Sat and listened for a while; this guy was smiling and singing away.  So expressive.
PC - Chris
We did go on one excursion, to Trinidad.  That'd be Cuba's version, not the one you're thinking of >;-P  If it had been an hour's drive instead of a three-hour drive, it might've been okay.  Honestly though, I felt it was too long a trip for too little.  We met some interesting characters and yes there was definitely some interesting architecture, but it was a long, not-so-interesting day.  I think also the fact that I was so fascinated by Havana when Ker and I were there, made the comparison harder.
In Trinidad
PC - Chris
Ah well though, even though we were super late (island time) we made it back minutes before our dinner reservation.  We might not have been dressed appropriately, but they fed us anyways ;)  All good.
Note the island time...  All the clocks were like that.
Our last day was spent on a dolphin-free dolphin-patting expedition.  hahaha perhaps I should clarify.  This trip involves snorkling and visiting the dolphinarium to stand on a platform and have them swim around you.  The first part appealed, especially for Chris who'd never snorkeled before, but the second didn't appeal to either of us.  Conveniently though, once a week they run a trip for those with "moral objections" that does snorkling at two different sites instead of the dolphin visit.  Tbh, I wasn't entirely convinced two snorkel options would be worth the cost of the trip, but C seemed excited about it and, well, I'm generally pretty happy to spend a day out on a boat :)  Sobeit.
Turns out Chris' pocket-camera works reasonably well under water :)
PC - Chris
Soooo glad we did.  Possibly the best day of the trip :)  The snorkeling was, comparatively, meh.  Kinda on par with the food comparison realistically.   But while I've never been a food connoisseur, I learned to dive in the Great Barrier Reef -- so my expectations might be a little warped ;)   Chris, however, is both a strong swimmer (I swim at least as well as I play rugby), and new to the sport -- so watching him take in the experience was all kinds of fun.   The first site was a small reef that was unfortunately all-but-destroyed.  It was quite shallow, and hundreds of beginner snorkelers had long since crushed and squished just about everything.  The second one though was 3-4m deep -- far enough that with nobody having any dive gear it was reasonably undisturbed.  Crystal clear water AND it was a wreck.  Which, I've never done any wreck diving so I was pretty fascinated by it.  It was awesome. In the most literal sense of the word.
Chris investigating the wreck
Back on the boat -- mini, out of order story here...  When we first got on everybody was finding places to sit on the benches etc -- benches were all covered under a tarp and surrounded the bar.  I was slightly ahead of Chris (single file entrance) and asked if he had a preference.   Nope, me neither.   Then at about the same second we both noticed the nets at the front of the boat.  Nets with people lounging on them.  Wait!  I have a preference!  hahaha fortunately for both that preference was the same.  The nets were, admittedly, less than comfortable, but being out in the sun, lying down on a giant catamaran...   That can't be beat.  And they were significantly *more* comfortable after the first swim when we kept our towels out to lie on.  Live and learn ;)
Amazing day on the catamaran!
So this wonderful creation sails us to a *stunning* seemingly deserted beach with one of the biggest sandbars I've ever seen.  We went for a walk along the sandbar, played with the camera, made some sand art, and just generally enjoyed life until the boat threatened to sail away without us.  We weren't the last back on board!  We *might've* been second-last ;-P
We started by just photographing other people's sand art - I mean really, one person's
"Cuba 2014" is the same as another's, right?   And vacation *is* all about laziness.
But then Chris drew this one, entirely to humour me I'm sure :)  And it worked.
Last stop was lunch, although it was well after lunch.  This is the only part of the day I was disappointed in. First, I was expecting a beach picnic or bbq or some variation.  But no, they took those who object to the dolphinarium, to the dolphinarium for lunch.  Ummmm poor planning guys.  And then lunch was, imo, the worst meal of the trip.  I think Chris enjoyed his more than I did, but I basically ate crackers and pineapple.  Random combination, I know, but you make due with what's there.

Then it was just the sail back.  The rest of the day we'd been motoring rather than sailing, but on the way home they raised a sail and killed the engine for a while.  Admittedly drifting rather than sailing, but it was an absolutely perfect end to the day.  And the trip.
I think I had that goofy grin on my face the whole trip!
Coming home was long line after long line after long line.  Getting out of the country is more tedious than getting in.  BUT, do-it-yourself customs when we got home was fabulous.  Unbelievably fast.  One of the few good things about returning home :)   We also have a new appreciation for 5-star washrooms (ummm to clarify what claims an island five stars: a door, a seat, tp, a toilet that flushes, and paper towel to dry your hands), and clocks that tell time.

So yes, it was amazing.  Especially in this winter from hell.  And I can't wait for the next trip!
Till next time...

Welcome to Bailey :)

I am writing a Cuba post -- really I am!   But it's not working out the way I'd like -- mostly because, well, it's -20 outside and somehow the beach seems very far away at the moment.
I only *wish* I was exaggerating...
Right.  Remember March Break the year-before-last?  It was 20 deg and sunny.   That's +20 people.  We were riding outside in t-shirts.  I'd like that back now.  Trying to plan show season and clinics is challenging when you don't even want to go outside.

Planning the next trip, however?  That part's easy ;)  Ambitious, but easy *g*

It helps offset the job hunting, which is frustrating at best.  Finding lots that would be suitable -- even in the area I'd like to be, but feel like I'm merely sending resumes into a black hole *sigh*  Ah well, I'm sure something will appear.  It always does :)   And in the meantime, I'm at least getting some editing done.

And the gym.  Ah, the gym.  The biggest change from working at the barn?  Arm strength.  Which makes perfect logical sense, but somehow didn't think of it.  Legs and abs are good from riding, but really, what do you use arms for if you're not mucking stalls and hauling water buckets?  Typing just doesn't require much skill.

Starting swimming lessons next week.  A sentence I never thought I'd say after the age of about 12 *g*   But while I can stay afloat well enough and generally get from point A to point B, I do not swim well at all.   Pathetically poorly really.  Definitely time to fix that :)   You know, in preparation for the next beach vacation ;)

And for the cuteness factor of the day, Mum's new puppy, Bailey:

Super happy Bailey and Sasha get along brilliantly.  Bailey and Sherlock?  Not quite so well >;-P   Bailey bounces when she runs -- I get that that's a puppy thing, but it doesn't make it any less cute.  She's also both brave and smart enough that she should pose an entertaining challenge ;)  Super cool dog.