I finally got a horse for my birthday.

Or at least a ride on one.

I'd noticed a while back that our joint calendar had "something special for a special birthday" marked down for Saturday June 25, the weekend preceding my birthday. Micah likes to do surprises for me occasionally, just something he likes planning I guess.

I had a few theories, but wasn't sure what it might be. As of Friday, I knew that we had to get up early-ish (for a Saturday) and that it wasn't going to take all day. That ruled out an overnight trip and a ticket to the Taylor Swift concert which was that night. As of that morning there were a few more clues, my attire was to be jeans and shoes that could be worn in potentially muddy areas. Hm.

I wasn't quite sure, but I thought it might have had something to do with horses. The only reason I came up with that idea was there had been a bunch of local groupons for riding recently, and I had probably mentioned a few to Micah. And Micah knows I heart horses (yes, that 9-year-old self part of me. and that not-9-year-old self, too). And we're always checking out local deals, so I thought he may have nabbed one. But before we left the house that morning I reminded him to make sure he had everything...camera if we needed it (who knows what we're doing?! I don't!)...wallet, keys...oh, and if we need a coupon for whatever we're doing bring that too. He said there was no coupon necessary. Which led me to consider a day hike or something. Maybe. Mud. Hm.

But my first thought was right. I kind of wish that I hadn't had the hunch, because it would have been much more satisfying for Micah I think. But, my suspicions were confirmed once we arrived at Bobby's Ranch in Weston, MA, about 45 minutes away, if that. (did you see the funny horse cartoon on their web page? yeah, that was on their sign too - so funny!)

When we pulled in, we passed a lonely buffalo standing in a pin...I wonder if he has an buddies. We parked and registered at the office and then waited for the last people in our group to arrive. While we were meandering around, we ran into some animals. Or rather, they came to us. The donkey high-tailed it across the parking lot to come say hello before heading off to continue snacking in the field. He was followed close behind by a Shetland pony. There were also 2 roosters parading through the yard. One was huge and what we'd call a textbook rooster - giant feet, colorful feathers and a serious cock-a-doodle-doo. He also had a partner in crime, a smaller rooster guy that followed him around too. He was cute (probably not what roosters are going for) and little and made us laugh hysterically. That was because his cock-a-doodle-doo crow was more of a high-pitched cock-a-cough-sputter-voice crack-doo. At first we thought it was just that one time, but nope, every time. Poor guy. We also found some sheep and another Shetland pony. And a very friendly cat who made a beeline for Micah when he was crouching down to take a photo.

Turns out the last people we were waiting on for our trail ride never showed. So it was me and Micah along with 2 other riders and 2 guides. They were nice, but very efficient, like - hi, walk up this ramp, this is Midnight, have you ridden before?, great, here you go. And just like that we were off. I was trying to remember the last time I had ridden, and it was probably in college when I was in Colorado with my friend, Kerry, and we rode in the snow near Crested Butte. As in that was probably 10 years ago. But, I guess riding a horse is kind of like riding a bike - it comes back to you.

After stopping for a quick water break for the horses and a reminder not to let them eat along the way, we headed out to the trails. The trails wound us up through woods near the 'ranch' and through a preserve area. It was really pretty and smelled like camp (woods + damp earth + horses + leathery saddles = camp).

It had poured that morning, but the rain had thankfully stopped by the time we arrived at Bobby's. That being said, there were rainy tree-drips and gigantic puddles across the trail. We were instructed to get the horses to go through the center of the puddles, but they all wanted to stay dry (like I would have), so they headed as far to the outside as possible. This was also when my mount, Midnight, would try to have a fast-food snack (read, any green foliage within tongue's reach). It was an ongoing battle. You'd think he was famished. My favorite was when we were trotting along (one speed faster than a walk) and there was a low-lying, leaf-filled branch across the trail. While I was trying to avoid a branch to the face, Midnight was trotting along, happily snagging a few precious leaves as we went through it.

Along with the snacks, puddle avoidance/side-of-the-road snacking was also an opportune time for Midnight to try to crush my outside leg between his body and the nearest sappling. It never really happened, but was always a close call. A tug on the reins and a swift kick, and we were (almost) back in the center of the trail again. Micah was in front of me for the ride, on a black and white steed named Oreo. His MO was slow walking. We were always several horse lengths away from the rest of the pack. It brought a whole new meaning to the saying "I'm right on your tail" (maybe this is where it came from?). Midnight was all up on Oreo's tail. At one point, one of the guides had to bring her horse up between us to try and make Oreo get a move on. It didn't really work.

Those were just some minor anecdotes along the way. The ride was fun and surprising and fun and beautiful. Unfortunately, there are no photos of us actually on horses because we decided to put the camera in the car, lest either of us fall off and crunch it (in addition to ourselves). And because the staff is so efficient, there really is no time to take photos or pet your horse before/after you've dismounted. When we arrived back at the barn, we dismounted on wobbly legs. We were met by a goat hanging out on the dismounting ramp. He was so funny. Just perched there as if he was a mountain goat on the side of a giant mountain.

We wandered around some more, trying to stretch our legs before getting back in the car. We took some more photos and petted a few more animals. There was a kid-filled group there getting ready for their ride, and our friendly little Shetland was saddled up for the smallest of them. Since they couldn't go on a proper trail ride, they'd get a pony ride in the barnyard. After we had regained normal feeling in our knees and legs and butts (man we're old!), we hopped back in the car and headed home.

Thanks, my love, for a wonderous birthday surprise!


World's End.

LAX season is finally over and it is 85° and after church we hopped in the car and drove down to World's End.

And since the Trustees can say it better than I can, I'll let them explain it.

What makes World’s End a special place?
We think it’s the tree-lined carriage paths and sweeping views of the Boston skyline, only 15 miles away. The 251-acre coastscape includes rocky shores, broad hillsides, and open fields bracketed by pockets of woodlands. The property is ideal for walking, picnicking, jogging, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or simply enjoying nature and the outdoors.

The retreating glacier helped create the geology of Boston Harbor, including the islands and the four spoon-shaped hills (called drumlins) that comprise World’s End. This landscape also features saltwater marshes, meadows, woodlands, and granite ledges covered with red cedars and blueberry thickets.

World’s End was once an island at high tide, but colonial farmers dammed the salt marsh to grow hay and cleared almost all the trees for cropland. In the 1880s, wealthy Boston businessman John Brewer built a farming estate. In 1890, he hired Frederick Law Olmsted to design a large subdivision. While the homes were never built, four miles of carriage roads remain.

Tides once again nourish former salt marsh through specially built culverts, which promote habitat health and diversity. Grasslands maintained by carefully timed mowing provide important habitat for the birds that depend on them, as well as native plant species. And Olmsted’s designed landscape is preserved through mowing, pruning, cutting, and planting.

World’s End was once one of Massachusetts’ most threatened coastal landscapes. In 1890, plans were drawn up for a 163-house residential subdivision. In 1945, the property was short-listed for the site of the United Nations headquarters, which ultimately found its home in New York City. Twenty years later, it was eyed as a possible site for a nuclear power plant. But in 1967, thanks to local commitment and tremendous fundraising efforts, dedicated residents from Hingham and surrounding communities, and The Trustees, were able to preserve this special place.


Game 7.

Whether we like hockey or not, Beantown has gone bonkers for hockey again. For the first time, really, since 72.

Do we have another parade in our future? We shall see at 11:35 tonight...

Go Bruins.


cupcake par-tay

On Monday, I went to a cupcake decorating event. To be honest, it was less decorating than I anticipated. I was thinking they'd be showing us how to do all sorts of fun designs and such. Instead, while informative, we did fillings and basic swirly icing with some embellishments.

I found the deal online a few weeks ago and immediately sent it to a few friends. Kay Mills was totally in, but by a twist of fate, when I bought my ticket, it happened to be the last one. Boo. So I had to do it alone. Not awful, but not as much fun as it could have been.

The event was at Isabelle's Curlycakes. It's a cupcake shop that was the idea of Todd English's daughter (he's a well-known chef). The shop is in Beacon Hill and is cozy - as in really cozy small. My group made:
- Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cup - chocolate cake filled with peanut butter ganache topped with peanut butter and chocolate butter cream frosting
- Oreo - chocolate cake with the top sliced off and vanilla buttercream icing between the base and top, topped with another dab and some Oreo pieces
- Red Velvet - red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and white chocolate curls.

The other group made Triple Chocolate (tons of chocolate plus coco puffs) instead of Oreo. Our chef also showed us how they make the Boston Cream Pie cupcakes by filling and icing the cupcakes then chilling them. After they've been chilled, they dip the icing into a melted chocolate (a la a dipped ice cream cone). We got to sample a cupcake before taking a half dozen home for later. Yum!


A proper loft.

Last night we had an amazing Sabbath dinner at Gerald and Melanie's place with Graham and Kate. Which I reckon you were able to guess, at least 50%, from the first picture.

They live in an amazingly tasteful / sparse loft in Southie with a view of the city and a hand built bar that elicits envy from guys like myself.

Thank the Good Lord for friends and fellowship.


Derby party.

Sometimes, if you just walk up the highest hill early on a Saturday morning, you'll stumble on something magical.

Something that could have been 1956 or 1912 or 2011.