Behind the Name: The Balancing Act

Prior to my return to riding after college, my main hobbies included watching HGTV, touring model homes with my husband and planning fully customized multi-thousand-dollar Crate and Barrel couches for our first home. After I started riding again, my priorities started to shift and eventually the thought of buying something more expensive than an IKEA couch became unthinkable, that money could be spent on horses!

I still love all things home-y, but I’m now happy to play the difficult balancing game of horse mom duties versus home duties. I named my blog The Two H – Horse & Home because these are the two main things I love to talk about.

Since I am such an expert (that’s sarcasm), I thought I would write out the most important aspects an equestrian needs to consider to maintain balance before they either win the lottery or convince their husband that stay at home horse and dog mom is indeed a legitimate job title.

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Employment

You will need a job that can both sustain the cost of horses, but also offers what would be advertised as “work-life balance”. I know this as work-barn balance, but you get the picture. After a few years in the professional workforce, I would highly recommend interviewing your potential managers and co-workers about what they like and don’t like about the position.

Flexible hours are a huge plus, and I even participated in an alternative work week schedule for a few years. This specific one is called a “nine eight eighty” (9/8/80) where you work nine hours a day for eight days within a two-week work period, this is what the 80 represents. Then, usually every other Friday, you either work an 8-hour day or have the day off. Those days off are great for having an additional extra day to yourself at the barn, great for lessons during the week when its quieter or spending your whole day doing house chores so your usual weeknight and weekend can be devoted to riding. There is also a 10/4/40, where you work ten hours a day for 4 days and get a three-day weekend every weekend.

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Another important factor to consider for employment is your management. If the organization says they’re supportive of work-life balance, what does that mean? Does your manager have kids? Are they married, do they have hobbies? I cannot stress enough that if your office’s management cannot empathize with having a life outside of work, this relationship will not last. They will not understand you having to be there for your horse’s chiro appointment or your dog’s emergency vet admission when he’s diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Chores

Ideally, you would split chores up with your significant other/roommate/parent/etc. by who enjoys what task most, but I’m coming to realize that negotiating that sort of deal is not my expertise at all so I’m basically in charge of all the chores for my household. On weekends when I am super-motivated I can do a week’s worth of laundry in one day, and meal prep for a few days for the following week. Grocery shopping is usually done Sunday or Monday night. Laundry, if not completed that weekend, is done Monday night. Costco also delivers groceries which you can order online, and you can also order online from Raley’s and have them walked out to you in the parking lot. I use both of those services a lot. Dishes, cleaning and unloading, and cooking are done as soon as I get home so I don’t fall into the “once I sit down…” phase of my night. I generally try to ride two days during the week, so I make sure that my husband isn’t traveling and can get home at a normal time to take the dogs out and feed them. Only one of our dogs gets walked now, so that is usually my husband’s responsibility.

I think the best tactic for planning out my week is just usually a simple notepad and writing what needs to be done each day, maybe not down to unloading the dishwasher, but things like calling in a prescription or pick up a certain good on my way home. Checking things off a list is a huge motivator for me!

Husband

These also need attention. Maybe plan a weekly date night or, their favorite, invite them out to the barn to video your lessons for some extra good quality time!

Family

Oh yeah, your human family! They’re probably the ones that initially gave you the ability to ride horses to start with. Reward them by letting your horse have a day off once in a while and visit long enough to tell them how thankful you are that they started you on this whirlwind of adventure that riding is.

Budgeting

Unpopular opinion here, but there needs to be home vs. horse balance in your budget. I’m not here to tell you what a reasonable dollar figure or percentage of your budget is to spend on horses, because every situation is different.

I’m just here to remind you that there are other things that are relevant in life besides just riding. Maybe like a retirement? Make sure you have a sensible Roth and 401(k) contribution set up before spending that extra thousand dollars on a horse show. Maybe your spouse wants to go on vacation one day? Start a side savings account for that, because after all those long work to ride days, your bones probably need a rest, too. Emergency funds are great, a house where the cost per month doesn’t increase is a huge advantage when board will always go up over time.

Mini Vacation

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For the past 31 years (yep, before I was born), my family has made the same brief trek to the coast for a week-long vacation to Aptos, California. With recent work stress, dog stress, horse stress, all the STRESS, I was ready to decompress. Brett stayed home, as usual, to take care of the dogs since James’s heart couldn’t handle being left with a stranger, plus Brett had a job interview rescheduled Monday anyway!

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What I gained from this trip: quality time with family, about 5 extra pounds, a hangover, confidence for my own interview, motivation to make a change in employment, and perspective on what matters in life, like family and not whatever goes on at work!

ONE DAY I’ll find a way to make this trip for the entire week with my husband in tow, until then, I’ll take what I can get!

Shout out to my amazing grandparents for starting this tradition, keeping it going, and building such an amazing family that can stand being in one house for the entire week!

My Best Date Ever

I met my husband on the first day of winter break my senior year of high school. I basically told my friend that’s the one and she somehow got me an invite to his New Year’s Eve party. We hung out every day following that night, eventually deciding we were a couple six days later. I wan’t that into riding at the time, I worked a few hours every weekend in exchange for a lesson so sacrificing my one ride a week to spend endless hours with my new beau was a no-brainer.

Anyway, a year goes by and Brett is trying to think up what this supposed horse girl would like to do for our first anniversary in early January.

CAN YOU SAY SLEIGH RIDE IN THE SNOW?

He told me we were driving up to Lake Tahoe for a surprise date. He gave me a little camera, we stopped at Bridal falls to take pictures and made our way to the surprise-to-me destination. It was bright and crisp winter day, and we pulled into this snow-filled parking lot and THERE WERE HORSES. Two giant drafts hooked up to sleighs complete with bells and leftover Christmas decorations. Probably one of the most thoughtful things he’s done for me, and probably why he doesn’t do anything like that anymore…

We're Building a House!

Actually, WE’RE not, but my in-laws are and I’m absolutely ready to live vicariously and pretend I have any input on their design choices. It’s already basically my Dream Home, think Napa Farmhouse Style on a 5 acre farmette and I’m already planning my future baby shower there.

They purchased the land and in-progress house from a builder and since the house was not too far along into construction, they will be choosing all the finishes and have already made a few custom upgrades (wow hello 36 foot beams). This past weekend my husband and I finally got to go out - and by go out I mean waaaay out - and see the property.

Front elevation.

Front elevation.

View from what will be the front porch. Planning on some grape vines in the front and a fish pond in the lower left section of the front yard (what’s a word for something much bigger than a yard?).

View from what will be the front porch. Planning on some grape vines in the front and a fish pond in the lower left section of the front yard (what’s a word for something much bigger than a yard?).

Rear elevation. I LOVE that the back of the home faces the setting sun. A pool will be here eventually.

Rear elevation. I LOVE that the back of the home faces the setting sun. A pool will be here eventually.

From left to right: front door, dining area, hallway to one side of the house, kitchen area and breakfast nook. That #NaturalLight

From left to right: front door, dining area, hallway to one side of the house, kitchen area and breakfast nook. That #NaturalLight

I found this lovely kitchen inspo (photo at right from Pinterest) based on their description of big wood beams, white counter, white cabinets with a giant wood center island. All white everything. Marble look quartz (great choice), with a to-be-decided backsplash. There’s also have an adorable walk in pantry with a window!! Kitchen sink under the window looking out over the backyard, which the The Dream, right?

Dining room facing the front of the house.

Dining room facing the front of the house.

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Things that may or may not happen on this property: goats, mini donkeys, mini cows, a gorgeous lil’ barn, fancy tractors n things, citrus orchard, homemade jams and jellies from said orchard, surprise Christmas morning ponies for my future children hiding in the gorgeous barn. Etcetera. I’m also told this is one area of California which actually stays green through the spring to summer! I’m crossing my fingers, because the grass is gorgeous.

View of the property from the back door. But views from every side of the house are pretty perfect.

View of the property from the back door. But views from every side of the house are pretty perfect.

 

I wish there was another word for envious that means I want that thing, but I’m also happy that someone I know and love has that thing. Admiration maybe? I’m so happy for my in-laws, they deserve a win and a place to settle down after moving many multiples of times since I’ve known them.

Cheers to buying and now creating your dream home and legacy property! Can’t wait to follow along in the build process.

Favorite Homemade Horse Treat Recipes

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of Paddock Cakes, but as my days at the barn ramped up, so did my treat usage and eventually ordering a $30 bucket of treats every 4 weeks became, as my husband would call it, “excessive”. So off on my treat making endeavor I went! After browsing many Google results, such as this, many ingredients commonly came up and I assessed my current inventory and came up with my own concoction. The only additional ingredient I had to purchase was molasses. Everything else I added I researched to make sure it was horse digestion safe.

The first version of the cookies (pictured right) included oats, molasses, finely chopped apple, water, a light sprinkle of chia seeds and plain flour.

First version of the cookies!

First version of the cookies!

The second version, prepared for Christmas, had little indents in the tops to push in peppermint candies. These were especially well loved by Leo, but in this case the apples were not finely chopped enough and retain so much water that by the time the second day rolled around the peppermints had melted into the cookie - so, sticky but still delicious!

Christmas version of the cookies, with soft and hard peppermint candies (which both promptly melted from the apple juices!). Horses did not seem to mind.

Christmas version of the cookies, with soft and hard peppermint candies (which both promptly melted from the apple juices!). Horses did not seem to mind.

 
Basic ingredients, adjust the recipe easily as needed.

Basic ingredients, adjust the recipe easily as needed.


Perfected HH Cookie Recipe (muffin style)

- 1 cup plain Oats (add more as needed for consistency desired) (plain Quaker oats - like for oat meal)
- 2 cups oat flour, or processed oats (see above)
- 1/4 cup ground flax
- 1/4 chia seeds
- 1-2 ripe bananas
- 5-6 ounces of molasses (I usually just eye half a jar of the Grandma’s brand molasses)

Then add whatever else your heart desires, chopped apples (finely chopped!), carrots, banana chips, etc.
I try to keep mine low on sugar, but felt the need to decorate with some light icing for Valentine’s Day. The recipe is fairly easy to alter and to transform the “batter” from muffin style to the “dough” cookie cutter style: I simply add more oat flour (or processed oats) and water and work it to the desired consistency. Though I will mention, if you’re doing all or mostly cut out cookies, use almost all oat flour/processed oats. The larger oatmeal chunks make it hard to make a straight cookie cutter cut. Be sure to bake thoroughly so they are longer lasting!

Bake

I think I usually bake around 350 and leave in from 15 - 20 minutes. Adjust according to your own oven, mine is a bit wonky and I tend to go a lot by “I feel like it should be this temp today” so… just monitor them!

The icing recipe is fairly easy: water, powdered sugar and gel food coloring. Just use a ratio that works for you! And decorating is obviously not my forte.

If you’re also a fan of perfectfit, and if you want to know how I’ve achieved it,
I used this tupperware and this silicone mini muffin tray. So satisfying.

Life Update

My husband graduated law school AND took the bar - thank God that’s over. We are now both working full time and we have only one month left to wait for bar results. #dinklife

I also accepted a promotion within my office, annnd my office moved buildings.

We took our first [weekend] vacation without the dogs since like 2016, attending a wedding and the Sac International Grand Prix.

We’re also pretty sure we’ve secured our next living arrangement, and just in time, too! More to come on that in a blog post later, but our basic plan is to settle into the condo for a while and put off buying for a few more years to fully pay down all debt - basically do it the Dave Ramsey way!

Napa Weekend

To say that my husband and I never get the chance to ‘get away’ would be the understatement of the year. We have had only one honest vacation, which had to include our dogs. This is mostly because of time and money constraints, but also because of our dogs. When my in-laws invited us on a law school graduation celebratory trip, I knew the dog situation was the only thing stopping us. Luckily, my mom offered to take them for a few days and the whole arrangement worked out perfectly, they were very good boys!


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I love living in what is pretty much the center of everything great in California (and far away from LA, thank God). Napa is only an hour away, which is nice considering people come from all over the world to experience its wineries.

We arrived without incident Friday night. Went to a fantastic little Italian restaurant for dinner, Ca’ Momi, whose menu stated, “Out of respect for history & our grandmas, we respectfully decline requests for substitutions & modifications” which I just love. The food was great, though I might have survived on just the antipasti and cannolis…

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel (which had resident swans!) and was my only attempt of the weekend to eat healthily. Our first tasting started at 10:00 a.m. so we were on our way pretty early.

 
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The first winery we visited, Spring Mountain, is hard to put into words. It was just perfect? Their wine is on a whole different level than anything I’ve ever tasted at a winery. The whole experience is very VIP and educational while being unassuming and unpretentious. I found myself sitting there thinking every business should be run like this: all customers welcomed as important clients while removing high pressure sales tactics. The product speaks for itself. The grounds were gorgeous. We were invited to do our tasting in the house, which was basically a private, perfectly preserved Crocker Art Museum. We tasted four cabs, a regular 2010 and 2001 and then two of Elivette line, 2008 and 2005, which basically means Reserve to Spring Mountain. Their reasoning? Most wineries slap the Reserve label on anything just to charge more. Spring Mountain’s is actually superior. Or so we were told. I agreed, the Elivettes were delicious. We took home a 2008.

After the indoor tasting, we wandered the property with a glass of our choice of cab. They had donkeys and a sheep and a fig tree to feed them from. Barn (winery?) kittens galore. the majority of their vines are planted on a hill for soil science-y reasons, but the perspective would be a good enough reason for me.

Between the first and second wineries, we stopped at what must have been a local hotspot, the Oakville Grocer. Grabbed sandwiches, which were delicious, and hit the road again.

Between the first and second wineries, we stopped at what must have been a local hotspot, the Oakville Grocer. Grabbed sandwiches, which were delicious, and hit the road again.

 
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The next winery, Honig, did not deserve to come after Spring Mountain. It had a cute little patio and I really enjoyed the big bumblebee sign - Honig means honey in German. The wine was… not great. It was a table tasting, was cold out and the patio offered little protection from the wind. There was no heaters. It was misting. They did bring out an interesting white wine type port which tasted like straight honey mixed with vodka. Woof. The sales person told us that customers have told him they could drink half a bottle in a night. I wondered how their diabetes was, though he also mentioned it could be used as a syrup on fried chicken which could definitely be interesting. At least the buildings featured my coveted Napa farmhouse style. Regardless, I would not recommend a trip to Honig.


The last winery we visited was Frog’s Leap. They’re worth a visit if just to walk the grounds and the garden. Their wine was pretty good considering the price, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and set up of the tasting. There was a walk up bar where you get your ‘taste’ and from there you can basically adventure all over the property or hang out on the lawn in Adirondack chairs. A very no rush feeling to it all. I quite enjoyed it.

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After our nap (of course), we had reservations at R+D Kitchen. I had meatloaf. It was amazing. No drinks, thankfully. We left early the next morning, stopped at Solano Baking Company for some famous pecan fritters and made great time getting home to our pups.

Thanks again to my husband’s wonderful parents and to my mom for puppy-sitting.