Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vineyard Vines and The Kentucky Derby

I just saw that Vineyard Vines is the official style of my beloved Kentucky Derby.  I don’t think I’ve squealed this much over a clothing trend since…ever.

Sadly, I have never been to the Kentucky Derby…but I vow to someday make my way to Louisville, floppy hat on head, and mint julep in hand, (hopefully I’ll have acquired a taste for them by then – if not, I’ll fake it).

A huge fan of New England and Martha’s Vineyard itself, the pretty, preppy style that is Vineyard Vines fits me like a glove.  Add a few horse prints in the mix and I’m a very happy camper!  Though I believe VV has yet to debut their entire Kentucky Derby collection, below are my favorite pieces so far! 

James – get that credit card ready!!

This tote has a mini mint julep pattern at the top!

 A scarf with horse bits and jockey silks

 A tie for your favorite guy...and a closer look at those cute mint juleps

Another tie with Thoroughbreds thundering down the stretch!

The signature Vineyard Vines whale with various jockey silk patterns.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ashford Stud and Mr. Friendly

On a high from our fabulous tour of Three Chimneys Farm, James and I booked a tour of Ashford Stud (same type of farm as Three Chimneys). This tour was a little different in that it was free (woo!), but it was very quick and informal (boo!).

It took us forever to find this place. There were multiple gates and entry ways for Ashford, but we were looking for one where we could…umm…actually get through as everything was locked up tight!

We finally found a gate with a call-box outside and were able to sweet talk the receptionist into still letting us in (we were a few minutes late). We were instructed to pull our car all the way down to this small building in the back and wait for the guide. The drive down was absolutely gorgeous. Large maples and oaks lined the driveway and the fields and shrubs, everything, was perfectly manicured.

There was only one other person in our tour, a sweet older man who had driven down from North Dakota to visit Lexington. (This prompted me to give James “the look.” See, James? I’m not the only horse crazy person out there who’s willing to drive hours to see horses when I already have a bunch back home). It’s a totally normal thing to do.

The tour guide came to meet us and he was rather gruff and unfriendly. He was from Ireland, and his accent was so thick, I had trouble understanding him. No matter – I just wanted to play nosey tourist and stick my head into every stall in every barn.

He led us into a few barns which housed some retired racehorse greats, and told us a little about each. We met Thunder Gulch, Giant’s Causeway, Dunkirk, and Fusaichi Pegasus, among others.

Since our guide wasn’t the nicest, I figured I should just go ahead and ask if I could pet one of the horses, (I felt like he couldn’t like us any less at this point)…and he promptly replied “no” with no explanation. I was about to get all pompous on him (well I have an off-the-track Thoroughbred at home…), but it seemed like a lost cause with Mr. Friendly.

 Well...WHY can't I pet the horse?!

Dunkirk - Misty's future husband! (I wish!) Yay grey horses!!

I can’t remember the exact amount of property Ashford Stud encompassed (a couple hundred acres, easy), but we were told that two groundskeepers cut grass constantly, 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, in order to keep the place as well-groomed as it appeared. Interestingly, during our entire trip, we never saw anyone at any farm doing this type of landscaping work…it was as if these places just maintained themselves.

Regardless of Mr. Friendly, we still enjoyed meeting the horses and talking to our new friend from North Dakota. In comparison to Three Chimneys, this tour was somewhat disappointing, but it was free, so no complaints.

PS - interesting side note...Ashford Stud was used in the movie Dreamer.  When Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning visit a farm in search of a mate for their mare, Sonyador, they were walking through the same barns we were in!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Twins

In December of 2003, James, my mom, my sister, and I rescued four kittens – all about 5 or 6 weeks old.  They were living underneath the house James was renting at the time, and we were worried they’d freeze to death with winter’s arrival.

You’d think being rescued by four nice humans and taken into the warmth of a house would make a kitten happy, but it didn’t.  They fought us and bit us (those little beasts were quite strong!)…but after a few hours, they were safe inside.

My mom took two of the kittens, the only boy, Bandit, and a girl, Prissy.  James took the other two girls, and they became his college roommates.  At the time, James was working on a large company profile project for school…and since his company was Snapple, he christened our grey tabby Snapple Pie.

I named the calico Penelope because she was small and dainty – her petite face bearing what reminded me of a beauty mark.  Penelope just seemed to fit.

I love my twins to death – I just wish they didn’t hate me.

Okay, maybe they don’t hate me – but I can’t help but get insulted when they hiss at me as soon as I walk into their room (and “their” room is my little office where they hang out in their cat climbing trees…see?  I even spoil mean cats!).  Once I approach and pet them, they start purring and rubbing around me…but I practically have to force myself upon them before they relax and stop growling.  Snapple actually loves to be brushed…and Penelope likes to be snuggled…but it’s like I have to remind them (every single day) that they do, in fact, like me.   

So what will I do with my anti-social kitties?  I will continue spoiling them with Pounce treats, grooming sessions, and extravagant cat trees in hopes of buying their love.  A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kentucky Food – Spoonbread and Mint Juleps

If there’s one thing to know about me – it’s that I LOVE Southern food! I have an addiction to Southern food that would put Britney Spears’ Cheetos fetish to shame. So I have to say, I was almost as excited to eat while in Kentucky as I was to see the horses!

While on our trip, James and I went to three fabulous restaurants. The first was The Merrick Inn. This one was right in Lexington and set the tone for two more great meals to follow. The Merrick Inn is where I tasted my very first Mint Julep, (of course I had to try the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby!). The Mint Julep was a little confusing. At first sip, it was amazing…sweet and tangy with just a hint of mint…perfect. But as I mixed up the drink, maybe that sweetness settled…I’m not sure, but it was kind of down hill from there. I ended up not being able to finish it for it was too strong…but I vowed that will not be my last Mint Julep!

The second restaurant we visited was called The Boone Tavern. This Tavern is located about a half hour away southeast of Lexington in the sleepy little village of Berea. This town was adorable…but if you want to get a really good look at it, you have to go before 5:00 because they totally roll up the sidewalks by then, (of course, we arrived around 5:30). It reminded me of what Mayberry must be like.

Anyway, The Boone Tavern was home to some of the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had. Now – no one can top my grandmother’s, but these were pretty good! They were garnished with a fancy little sauce, (no idea what it was)…and were delicious. Thankfully, James doesn’t like tomatoes, so I had these little babies all to myself.

Instead of your traditional bread or rolls with your dinner, The Boone Tavern served spoonbread, hot and fresh from the oven. I. Love. Spoonbread. To me, if you mixed cornbread and grits together (omg I love grits!) – you’d have spoonbread. Some butter and a little bit of salt and pepper, and you have amazingness. I believe I said something along the lines of, “this spoonbread is so good that I just want to roll around in it”…which then prompted quite a look from James!

Our last fancy meal was served up by the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, about 45 minutes southwest of Lexington. Our waitress here was just delightful, sweet and charming how I imagine all Southern girls to be. Only at a fancy restaurant in Kentucky would you see Fried Chicken on the menu…so that’s exactly what I got…and it was perfect.

If you’re ever in the South, don’t be afraid to sample some new delicacies…I guarantee you’ll love them! (Except for James and the fried green tomatoes!).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dear Misty

Now that spring is on its way, I’m so motivated to get back into the swing of things with my riding.  Unfortunately, Misty has had most of the winter off…so you know what that means!  I’ll be riding a crazy monster for a few weeks until she settles!

Last October, Misty started having some problems with her eyes…she was quite pathetic looking and required medication 3 to 4 times a day from mid-October to early January.  During this exhausting time, we also made two trips to New Bolton Center (the Johns Hopkins of horse hospitals) as well.

The good news is that Misty is totally fine!  The bad news is that I really couldn’t ride her while her eyes were swollen shut. 

My farm is absolutely beautiful, but we don’t have an indoor riding ring – so for the rest of the winter (once Misty was better), I was basically at the mercy of Old Man Winter.  Old Man hates me, apparently, because he ignored my wishes for mild temperatures and snow and ice covered my outdoor ring for weeks.

Meanwhile, I was taking dressage lessons at another farm to keep myself in shape.  But Misty, however, isn’t too fit right now.  The few times I’ve ridden her in the past three weeks haven’t gone exactly as planned.  Since she’s been “off” for the winter, she’s gotten lazy…and just doesn’t want to do anything.  She seems to think that lying around her field, chatting with her buddies, and eating me out of house and home is a perfectly acceptable job.

However, just like last year, I’m confident that she’ll get better and better with each ride…and will start to get her head in the game, so to speak.  But for right now, I’m stuck with a crazy mare who, in her spare time, has perfected her spin/jump/buck combination.  Luckily for me, I’m pretty good at landing on my feet!

Come on spring – bring me some nice, warm (NOT rainy) days so I can really get going with my training!  Misty and I can hardly wait!  (Okay, obviously Misty can wait…but I’m excited!).

I cannot wait for another field full of buttercups!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Cat Who Never Hissed

I live with three cats, and the only reason I know this is because the food I leave out disappears and the litter boxes I put out get full (ick). My cats are fairly reclusive (all were strays rescued as kittens) and are afraid of my German Shepherd, Izzie. They have their safe places and almost never venture out to be social…except one.

Two of my cats are actually sisters – we call them the twins. They hate me (for the most part), so their blog posting will come last.

Duckie is the only cat who loves me. She is the only cat I own who has never hissed, smacked, or scratched at me. She’s not a lap cat because of her fear of the dog, but she does her best to be with me when Izzie and I are on different floors of the house.

Duck is also a professional creeper. She seems to know where I am at all times. If I let Izzie outside, approximately one-half of a second passes before she’s rubbing around my ankles. If Izzie disappears downstairs to sleep on our bed, Duck’s beside me on the couch in an instant.

She also stares…a lot. She’ll sit next to me and just stare at me without blinking. I’d probably be a little unnerved by this behavior, but I’m so excited by her presence that I put up with her stalker tendencies without complaint.

And for the record, I do not let Izzie chase the cats, and she is not aggressive whatsoever…but since she never sees her sisters, when she actually does, she can be a little…overzealous with her excitement. But as each year passes, I hold out hope that Duck’s fears of Izzie will prove unfounded and she’ll be out and about the house like a normal cat. At least she makes an effort now, and for that I love her.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Keeneland Racetrack

Lexington is the home of Keeneland, a stunning racetrack situated on 147 bucolic acres.  Now the only track I’ve ever been to is Pimlico…and anyone who’s been there can tell you that, sadly, it’s not the best around (let’s change this Maryland!!).  From the moment I set foot on Keeneland’s property, I knew that I was in for a treat!

After dinner one night, James and I decided to drive around a little to drink in some more horsey sights before the sun set.  In through Keeneland’s gates we drove…only to find a completely deserted track.  Obviously no meets were being held at the time because there wasn’t a horse…or person…in sight.  James and I parked and since our car was the only one in the lot, I got out, clapped my hands and said, “first ones here…first ones here”…ala Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation.  (I don’t think James got it).

We walked up to get some pictures with the sign up front and were astonished to see that the gates to the track were wide open…no closed signs…no chains blocking our way…so we just gave ourselves a tour!  We walked through a beautiful open courtyard right out onto the track.  The scene was so breathtaking…just me, James, this gorgeous track…and an engaged couple with their photographer!  What a great idea – doing an engagement shoot there – why hadn’t I thought of something like that when James and I were newly engaged?!  Bah!

Around the track we strolled arm-in-arm…and I imagined the horses thundering down the stretch, fighting to finish first.  When we ventured around to the top of the stretch, we came across the starting gate…so, of course, I had to play in it!

Admittedly, I probably had more fun in Keeneland while it was closed than I would have had it been open and filled with people.  However, I did hear that Keeneland has THE best gift shop in Lexington (as if I need any more horse stuff), and that was closed.  Oh well – I guess I’ll have to do a little damage with my credit card the next time I’m out there!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Man O’ War

For those of you who don’t know anything about horse racing giant Man O’ War…I can tell you that he was kind of…The Man.

Man O’ War, along with some of his offspring, is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park.  In the words of my husband, “this horse’s grave is nicer and fancier than anything we’ll ever have…it might be better than Kennedy’s.”  My response?  “He deserves it.”

But James is completely right.  Man O’ War’s burial site is super extravagant – fit for a king…and he truly was the King of Racing. He won 20 of his 21 races, including the Preakness and the Belmont, (interestingly, he did not run in the Kentucky Derby).

Just before you enter the horse park, a beautiful, tree-lined sidewalk off to the left leads you to the grave site.  With an imposing statue, multiple fountains, plenty of rose bushes, and an engraved poem in dedication, this horse has it all!

Interestingly, Man O’ War is Misty’s great x five grandfather.  He is also the father of Triple Crown winner War Admiral, who lost the match race to Seabiscuit in 1938.  Also, I still have a Breyer horse model of him - pretty cute!

If you ever get to the horse park, take a moment to check out the impressive burial site of Misty’s relative!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Live With a Wolf

Okay, not really…but boy does my dog, Izzie, look like a wolf sometimes! I know this blog is mainly about my sassy grey, but all my animals are important to me and I wanted to introduce them to my readers as well.

Izzie is a German Shepherd and probably one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known. She loves to cuddle at night in bed (yes, we let her sleep with us)…and snuggle while we watch TV (yes, we let her on the furniture)…she’s just the best (and most spoiled) dog ever!

She was also an extremely destructive puppy, but I’ll save those stories for another post (they involve lots of paint…and bleach).

Izzie came into our lives in 2007. We were suffering over the painful loss of our previous Shepherd, Jadie, my special baby girl, and James, who works from home, was desperate for another canine presence in the house. Being in the house alone all day was just too depressing…so on St. Patrick’s Day, Isabelle Jade Berglie came home.

I don’t know what I would have done without Izzie. She came into our lives at just the right time and brought with her so much laughter and joy. I still remember that first day I brought her home…she was 8 weeks old and drooled during the entire car ride all over herself and the towel in which she was wrapped. As soon as we pulled up to the house and relief was in sight, she threw up all over me.

After that interesting bonding experience, Izzie (sometimes also called “Belles”), became my best friend. In the morning, she reminds me that the alarm has gone off (sometimes multiple times), we eat our breakfasts together, and she’s always the first to greet me at the door when I get home from work. She gives unconditional love…and in return…we spoil her with treats and long walks at the farm and visits with Misty (they’re actually pretty good friends, believe it or not).

Stay tuned for more posts about Izzie – she, too, is a wild child. Maybe I’ll even post a video of the two of us singing (she howls all the time – I’m sure the neighbors love it!).