One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

Check back often for the latest updates and stories from Meredith, Apollo, and Hermes as they journey 10,000 miles on a four year ride around the USA.






Happy 1st Birthday, Hermes!


Today we’re celebrating Hermes 1st birthday!

Everyone’s favorite horse-riding kitty is enjoying his big day with plenty of naps with his favorite mouse, romping through the yard, and frequent kibble snacks.


Cinco de Mayo Celebration: Chocolate Mexican Wedding Cookies


I celebrated Cinco de Mayo a day early today at the annual Rhythms Fitness Studio party.  Those Zumba-crazy ladies know how to have a good time! An hour of cardio dance followed by a potluck of Mexican food - and margaritas too, of course.

For my contribution this year, I made Mexican wedding cookies.  But not just any old cookie recipe.  These were double chocolate.  My recipe below is based on a Ghiradelli cookbook recipe, but not having the special ingredients that it called for, I had to improvise and come up with my very own version.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my fellow Zumba ladies did!


Chocolate Mexican Wedding Cookies


Makes 3 dozen

In a large bowl, cream together

   2 sticks (1 cup) softened unsalted butter
   1/3 cup confectioners sugar (aka powdered sugar)
   2 tsp vanilla extract

In a separate bowl, combine

   1 3/4 cup flour
   1 cup finely ground pecans
   1/4 cup hot cocoa mix powder (NOT plain baking cocoa powder)
   1/4 cup finely ground dark chocolate chips (grind them in a food processor)
   3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
   Pinch of salt

Slowly add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture.  Stir it all together until well combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic cling wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

When the time is up, preheat the oven to 325 F.  Prepare two cookie sheets with a non-stick surface of your choice (grease, parchment paper, or - my favorite - silicon baking mats).

Slice off small portions of dough and hand-roll them into 1-inch diameter balls.  Place them on the cookie sheet about an inch apart.

Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are very slightly browning on the bottom and look like they’re starting to become firm.  They will still feel soft when you take them out of the oven, but should hold together if you pick them up (carefully! They’re really hot).

Let them cool in the pan for 1 minute.  Then remove them to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the coating.  In a small bowl, combine

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup hot cocoa mix powder

When the cookies are still slightly warm but not hot, roll each ball in the coating. You may want to roll them twice to make sure they are well-coated.  Put them back on the rack to cool completely.  Then store them in a sealed container, with waxed paper in between layers.

Buen provecho! 
 



An April Review

April was basically a terrible month, and I’m glad it’s over.  But it wasn’t all bad.  With all the problems and changes I had to deal with, I still managed to make time for my new year’s resolution, my “52 weeks of hands-on learning.”  So for those of you who are enjoying this blog series, here’s what I learned and tried in April:

Ice Skating


I guess it’s not quite accurate to say that I “learned” to ice skate this month.  I used to ice skate on occasion as a child. But the last time I put on ice skates was probably 20 years ago, so anything I knew how to do then or any muscle memory is long gone.

While visiting Portland with friends, I spent nearly 4 straight hours on the ice, during I went from wobbling and clutching the rail to zooming around the rink and doing some basic spins.  Actually, I figured out the spin thing while trying to figure out how to stop mid-rink. Never did figure out a true stop, but I could turn really fast to avoid a collision, which I think counts as almost as good!

Plus, I’m super proud of myself for not once falling down.



Tae Kwon Do


I’ve taken a few martial arts classes before (mostly MuyThai and Escrima), and always enjoyed them.  So while I was hanging out in Lawrence Kansas, I decided to try out another form of martial art. I have to say that TaeKwonDo is not likely to every become my favorite.  Not because it was really hard to even stand in the basic poses (and it was), but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  But I’m still glad I tried it!



Line Dancing


Like ice skating, line dancing isn’t entirely new for me.  But since I haven’t done this (apart from the occasional Electric Slide at weddings)  for over 20 years, I thought I’d give it another try.  I think my regular attendance at Zumba classes helped a lot, but I’m not used to needing to memorize a choreography so when we would turn away from the mirror and instructor I had a difficult time keeping up.  I think in an actual dance, with a crowd to follow along with, I would do alright though. In any case, I had a fun time refreshing my line dance muscle memory!

Basket Weaving


No, not underwater.  That’s collegiate level, after all, and I’m only a beginner.  I took a class at the local “native store” on how to make pine needle baskets.  Did you know that pine needle baskets are actually a Germanic tradition? The native peoples did not use pine needles, at least not until they say the settlers doing it.  However, in the class I took, we made what I would call fusion baskets: the Germanic material of  pine needles, but woven using a native technique.  And using artificial sinew, which is nobody’s tradition.  I really like how mine turned out!


Another Language


Finally, the learning-activity I know you’ve all been waiting to hear about.  What language did I choose to study this month? For those of you who are new to this blog, this is something I’ve been doing every month, with daily lessons on the Duolingo app.  And this month’s language was.... Italian!

It’s a beautiful language, and I could definitely see spending more time learning it in the future. Here’s my favorite, most useful sentence from the whole month:



Dealing With The Unexpected


This week I had to make the most stressful decision of my ‘Ride so far.  It was not a difficult decision, and in fact was entirely logical and correct.  But that didn’t make it any less stressful for me.

When I got back to Kansas two weeks ago, I of course immediately went to see Apollo.  I’d not seen him in person since mid-November, although I had received a few poor quality photos and regular text updates both from the stable owner and from someone who I thought was a friend and horsewoman.  He had also gotten his spring vaccinations at the beginning of this month and a full vet inspection to make sure he was ready for travel. As far as I knew, from what I’d been told, he was in fine shape.

Unfortunately, this was a lie.

I was devastated to see the condition he was in.  He had been kept in a nice big pasture with “free choice hay,” but it was clear he was not being fed enough, or more accurately he was not been fed enough nutrient-rich, quality hay. He looked terrible.  (And gosh was he happy to see me).

Biting my tongue and squashing my tears, I talked with the stable owner about what she’d been doing and why he hadn’t been fed properly or even mentioned his sorry skinny state.  I am not going to point fingers here (and any finger-pointing comments from readers will be deleted).  As tempting as it was to write a blog post about how I was wronged, finger-pointing, in my humble opinion, does not fix a problem.  Instead, I am working to actually fix it.

I at first was hoping against hope that I could just hang out in Kansas for a couple of weeks, feed him as much grain and Cool Calories (my favorite supplement, and no I don’t get paid to say that) as he could safely eat, and get him back up to correct weight quickly.

But upon further reflection, I decided that even if he could technically be ridden after two weeks of intensive feeding, that is not fair to him.  It would be better instead to let him get entirely better, and even a little bit fat, before starting out.  And since I don’t have any deadlines to meet, there’s not really any reason to NOT wait.

So I’m waiting.  He is now in his own stall with grain and supplements twice daily, good grass hay, and someone I can actually trust checking on him.  He’s already visibly begun putting weight back on.  Since he’s otherwise in fine health and sound, there’s no reason to think I should have any further delays. I already have my plane tickets to get back there in late June.

It irks me to have to wait another two months to begin this year’s ‘Ride, but Apollo’s health and safety come first. There was no real second option.

I sure hope June gets here soon!


The Centauride now has a web shop!



The Centauride now has a web shop! Check it out by clicking HERE

My store on Threadless offers everything from the usual t-shirts and phone cases to the more unusual such as wall art and bath curtains.  Every purchase you make helps with my ride expenses, plus I’m sure you’ll love wearing beautiful Apollo-themed artwork (such as the images on this post!).  Most images have two options: with and without an inspiration quote.  Choose your favorite, or get one of each.

This store is a print-on-demand service, and some of the individual product layout options are not compatible with all my designs.  Be sure to take a good look at the product before ordering.  Questions about ordering? Contact the hosting site Threadless (all I can do is upload the art, so I can’t really help with product questions or problems).

I hope you see something you like, now or in the months ahead as I add more Centauride art.  I have a lot of pretty stuff to share with you, so check back often for new designs!

The Last Month of Winter


The last month of my winter break turned out to be a busy one.  Not only were there many things to get ready for our 2018 ‘Ride that couldn’t be done until the last moment, but there was my New Year’s Resolution to keep up with! My “52 weeks of hands-on learning” continues…

Sewing


Though I sometimes felt last year like every day had another sewing repair project, I wouldn’t say that I did it well.  I could thread a needle and poke it through enough times to get whatever I was sewing to hold on, but it wasn’t pretty.  Buttons were even worse.  I am of the last generation to have taken mandatory home economics, but that was too long ago to count.

So I decided that to prepare for this year’s ‘Ride, I needed to learn to hand-sew properly. My knitting lesson of January has morphed into a minor obsession (I was warned!), and the cabled scarf that I finished this month looked like the perfect place to renew my sewing knowledge.  With the tutelage of masterful seamstress mom, I hand-sewed on a peacock patch.  A small project, to be sure, but it included all the things I needed to know to do repairs on the road better.


Knots


Another practical lesson for my ‘Ride, I practiced over 3 dozen knots of all kinds: knots for securing an item, knots for joining ropes together, knots for keeping a rope from fraying, etc.  My favorites – the ones that seemed the most useful for the remainder of my ‘Ride – I particularly tried to memorize.  And I’m happy to say that I used a clove hitch (without googling it!) yesterday to help keep my newest knitting project from slipping off the needles.


Reflexology


After last month’s reiki lesson, I was feeling inspired to learn about other “alternative health” methods.  This month I checked out some library books on reflexology, and my boyfriend agreed to be my test subject for both hand and foot reflexology practice. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the idea is that the hands and feet can be treated using gentle pressure to activate certain energy points, and that treating the hands or feet alone can be an effective way to treat an issue in any other part of the body.  For example, the heart, lungs, eyes, stomach, and so forth, all have associated points on both hands and feet. The methodology was interesting to read about and compare to the bits and pieces I’ve previously learned about for reiki, acupressure, etc.  But the results as reported by my volunteer were not, for the most part, encouraging.  It may have its uses, but it seems to me that there are more effective methods available.

Lock Sport


I almost didn’t list this one here, because I didn’t want to scare away any potential future hosts.  But I was so terrible at this one that I can assure anyone who may be concerned that not only have I no interest in picking your locks, but the chance that I could do it if I tried is next to none.

Lock sport is the preferred term to lock picking, when you are doing it with your own locks for speed.  Of course, I was going for “at all,” not a speed record.  Aforementioned boyfriend owns a clear lock just for learning how to pick it, as well as a basic set of picks, so I practiced on that until my hands hurt.  Which didn’t take long, because those picks are not ergonomic.

By the end of my practice time, I manipulate the pins to open the lock if I was looking at them.  But I could not do it when I had my eyes closed – in other words, if I couldn’t see the interior workings of the lock to know what to do next.  All in all, a fascinating look at the mechanics of locks, and a fun thing for a fan of detective novels, but not something I will ever need to use.


Greek


The language of the month was Greek. I traveled to Greece during college, but at the time I never was able to even learn how to say “hello,” although I could guess at reading bus destinations by recalling letters learned in math class.  Luckily for me enough people spoke some English that I managed okay enough.


Greek was the hardest language I’ve ever tried to learn (of the 5 I’ve studied at some point in my life so far – also French, Turkish, Spanish, and German).  Not just because of the different alphabet – although that was a big part of it – but the grammar was very different from anything I have studied, and the words did not bear as many similarities as I expected to the Romance languages.

I use the language app Duolingo, and for most languages they tell you how fluent you are as you go through the lessons.  Previously I’ve gotten to 40 or more percent by the end of the month.  But Greek blessedly had no such data.  Because I’m pretty sure I was still in the teens by the time the month came to an end.  I am happy to say, though, that I can now sound out most words even if I don’t know what they mean, and I can listen to a word being spoken and guess the spelling with fairly good accuracy.  Here’s a few of the more interesting things I now can say:



Now that April’s here, I’ve started a new language, have plans for things I can learn and practice while I ride, and hope to keep it up so I will have more fun lessons to report to you all next time!



The Centauride 2018 is almost here, and I need your help!


It’s almost here: the start of my 2018 ‘Ride!

The map above shows the finished section of the route in orange, and the remaining planned route in purple.  The purple route should take about two years to finish.  This year, from April until October, I expect to travel from Kansas City area (where Apollo’s been relaxing all winter) to Memphis TN.  Of course, whether we make it that far depends on too many factors to know yet, but that’s the plan in any case.  If the plan works as I think it should, I will then travel through the gulf states and the eastern seaboard next year.

So many of you have asked me (and those that haven’t I am sure are wondering) how you can help Apollo and I out.  Well now’s your chance.  I’m looking for contacts along my route.  If you know anyone (or are one!) - EVEN IF they are not “horse people” - share this! Contact me! The best way is by email or facebook message.

I need places to stop along the way, for a night - or sometimes a few nights.  I stop every 12 miles on average, so that’s a LOT of people that I need to network with!  So if you or your friends live along my route but don’t have a safe fenced area for Apollo, share this anyway because maybe your friends’ friends’ friends do know the right people!

I also need help finding referrals for farriers and barefoot/natural trimmers (yes I know “barefoot” and “natural” are different.  Don’t get yourself in a huff.  I just can’t be particular during the ride on which kind I’m using for Apollo).

And of course, there’s always my GoFundMe page if you want to help out with our travel costs.

Whichever way you choose to help out, you should of course continue to follow along here, as well as sign up for my newsletter (sign up form is on the right side of this page) and on Facebook and Instagram!



Five Years Free


This weekend marked my 5th “Freedom Anniversary,” the date when I escaped from my abusive marriage (although it would be another year and a half before I was legally free).  This date is more important for me as far as annual celebratory events go than even my birthday… after all, I had very little say in the date of my birth!

The last five years have certainly seen some big changes in my life. Apart from becoming happily divorced, of course, it’s been a half-decade of healing, discovery, and growth.  I feel like I lost my 20’s, having only broken free of that 12 year relationship when I hit 30.  All the things I dreamed of doing upon college graduation and beyond, were – for a decade - ruined by my evil ex.

But this is not a pity party! Quite the opposite.  Although I had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, my current life-project of riding to all 48 states is definitely far more interesting than a career in vet medicine would likely have been.  I had dreamed of traveling, of finally having a horse of my own, of too many smaller adventures to list here.  And although I did not realize these dreams in my 20’s, I have been able to work towards achieving them in the last five years.

So where am I going from here?  Of course the next two years will be devoted to my ‘Ride.

And beyond that?  I honestly couldn’t even guess.  But I can dream.  Of happiness, love, and adventure.  Of an interesting and fulfilling career. Of indulging in my insatiable wanderlust. Of embracing whatever good things life throws my way.

Of living like my life depends on it.


You’re Invited! To a Centauride Travel Talk


One woman. One horse. 48 states for domestic violence awareness. That’s the mission that I had saddled up to achieve when I set out from Penn Valley on January 1, 2017.  So far, I have travelled over 4,500 miles through 14 states, accompanied only by my horse Apollo and my hitchhiking cat Hermes.  

Now for the first time since the ride began, I will be sharing the highlights of my adventures traveling the western half of the U.S. by horse. Don’t miss this chance to learn about my exciting journey before I climb back in the saddle for another two years of riding! 

Join the adventure (and some official New Mexico state cookies) on Monday March 12, from 5:00 to 6:30 pm in the Community Room of the Madelyn Helling branch of the Nevada County Libraries, at 980 Helling Way, Nevada City CA 95959. This is a FREE event! 

For more information, contact the library, or RSVP on my facebook event page by clicking here!

Another month of fun and learning

Yep, I’m still doing it.  My new year’s resolution to learn 52 hands-on things this year is going strong.  Here’s how my February shaped up.

Week 5 - There was a hip hop dance class at Rhythms Fitness Studio.  Fun, interesting, and way harder than I expected.  Mostly because I stink at remembering choreography.  Life as a professional dancer is not in my future.


Week 6 - I bought a calligraphy pen (not the fancy kind that you dip. The easier felt-pen style), checked out a book from the library, and started playing with lettering.  Also a lot harder than I expected! But it turned out pretty good, don’t you think?


Week 7 - I took another class, this time for Reiki.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it or tried it, it’s an alternative healing technique based on energy work (similar to chakras, chi, etc).  The event I attended was an introduction, not a true class or course.  In it, I was able to experience reiki both as receiver and giver.  It was a wonderful, inspiring, and insightful experience, to say the least.

Week 8 - This one was actually all month: learning another language! This time, German (or as I should say, diesmal deutsche). I reached what the Duolingo app says is 45%.  I’m not sure I could actually carry a conversation beyond four word sentences, but that’s a heckuva lot better than only knowing how to say ja, nein and danke (the extent of my German fluency level before this month!).