2014 Year In Review

As always, this is one of my favorite posts of the year. I get a chance to reflect and review the wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful) things that happened to me throughout the year. I’m so thankful for all of the family and friends who helped make 2014 a great year! I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Riding Group
Riding Group


Jan 2: My 33rd birthday.

Jan 24 – 26: Tahoe Trip. We headed to Tahoe with the bunko crew… and my sister ended up in the hospital with the flu from hell.

Jan 29: Group riding lesson. Riding really grew on me in 2014… this was the first of many group lessons

and the first of many trips around Lake Tabeaud. We took fourteen horses out that day… it was so much fun!


Feb 8: Pinterest Master. After a few weekends of hard work, I finished my first Pinterest project… a wall mounted laundry drying system for our laundry room.


Me & My Horse!
Me & My Horse!

Mar 22: Got barn cats (Charlie & Kenzie). They did pretty well for the first couple weeks and promptly

disappeared. Kenzie has not been seen since, but Charlie apparently adopted my neighbor Charlie and is now living over there. So much for my mousers…

Mar 27: Bought my first horse. Quite possibly the best day of my year. I bought Sue, a three year old quarter horse gelding. In the last nine months we have bonded like I never imagined and I’m having the best time learning with him!

Shadow Getting Sun
Shadow Getting Sun


Apr 6: Shadow impales himself. In possibly one of the worst days of the year, Shadow jumped against the gate to his pen and impaled himself on the latch (about 2 inches in). After a terrifying drive down to the emergency vet, lots of stitches, one annoying cone, and a ton of pain pills, we were back in business.

Apr 12: Willie Nelson Concert. This had to have been one of the most disappointing concerts I’ve been to.

Easter Train
Easter Train

We loved the Greek, but Willie was sorely lacking. I think it’s just age… the potential was definitely there, but his voice was not.

Apr 13: Easter Train. We took Chloe, Brad, Katie, and Skyler on the Easter train… it was such a blast!

Apr 27: Sue’s new tack. I finally got all outfitted – new saddle, new bit, new headstall. Sue is a good looking fella!


May 10: Strazzo Retirement Party. This was a blast… as all good firefighter retirement parties are!


Jun 7-14: Newport Beach Fishing Trip. As always, our annual Newport trip was amazing. We spent time on

Shoe Coming Off
Shoe Coming Off

the beach, fishing, and just hanging out. The highlight would have to be seeing the hundreds of dolphins feeding near our boat!

Jun 15: Western States Horse Expo. Mom, Dad, and I headed down to Cal Expo for the Expo – they had just about everything you could think of to buy for horses as well as some pretty neat clinics.

Jun 26: Day at the ranch. I spent a day at the ranch helping clean and exercise the horses – it was a great experience to get to work with horses other than Sue and I got to watch the farrier shoe him!

Sand Fire
Sand Fire


Jul 4: Waklee 4th of July Pig Roast. Epic is the word to describe this one. We had a fantastic day hanging with the Waklees and friends.

Jul 7: Sand Fire. This one was a hard one… I could see the fire from our house (although far away) and it really stressed me out. Mike was gone for a while on this one and several others this summer!

Jul 26: Amy’s Baby Shower. Kati and I had such a blast at Amy’s baby shower to welcome miss Lyla!


Aug 2: Brad Paisley Concert. As always, Mr. Paisley was amazing. I could see him a hundred times and not get bored!

Kati's Baby Shower
Kati’s Baby Shower

Aug 8: Kati’s Baby Shower & Miranda Lambert Concert. This was a busy and exhausting day! We held Kati’s shower at my house and had an absolute blast! The Miranda concert was awesome too!

Aug 9: Country in the Park. Mom and I went to this one… it was pretty good! I got tickets through work and they took very good care of us! We had a blast just hanging out together!

Aug 22: Rascal Flatts Concert. Love this guys. Another group I could watch over and over!

Aug 31: Falconry Lesson. Mom and I did one of these a few years ago and loved it. She decided to take my Dad and I tagged along! It was great learning about the birds and actually getting to handle them!

Cabin Trip
Cabin Trip


Sept 12: Blake Shelton Concert. This was the last concert for me on the Mega Ticket (I had to skip Luke Bryan). Amber and I really had a lot of fun going to this series! Blake Shelton was great, as always!

Sept 26-28: Cowgirl Cabin Trip #1. A group of us headed to my trainer’s cabin near Arnold for a weekend of girls and riding! It was absolutely amazing… Sue and I had so much fun! One of the highlights was a ride in the rain… the storm came out of nowhere and we galloped through the thunder and downpour to get back to the cabin! I made some great new friends and had a ton of fun!

Sept 30: NRCHA 2014 Snaffle Bit Futurity. My trainer and I headed out to Reno to watch the Snaffle Bit Futurity – basically a cow horse competition in which all of the horses are three years old. It was absolutely amazing to watch the pros and I even got to talk to some of them!


Mike & I At Central Park
Mike & I At Central Park

Oct 2-5: Cowgirl Cabin Trip #2. I had so much fun the first week that I decided to go back for more!

Oct 12: Juliette Elise is born. My sister was kind enough to have her second child after my cowgirl trips, but before my anniversary trip. Little Juliette is such a sweet baby… with a set of pipes! This one is our opera singer!

Oct 18-27: 3rd Anniversary Road Trip. This year we headed back to the East Coast to see Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. We had the most amazing time!

Oct 22: Our 3rd wedding anniversary. Still love him to pieces!

Show Morning!
Show Morning!


Nov 9: Our first show. Sue and I competed in Placerville together for the first time. We got disqualified (my fault, not his) but had an absolutely great time! We’ll be starting up again in February!

Nov 15: Jersey Boys with Dad. I won tickets at work to see Jersey Boys and took my Daddy to see it! I didn’t really know the storyline, but it was an amazing musical!

Nov 23: The first firing of the pizza oven. After a long time in building, the pizza oven was finally ready to go! I can’t believe how much fun it’s been to make wood fired pizza and to spend time with our friends and family!

Nov 27: Thanksgiving & Run To Feed The Hungry. This year we had Thanksgiving at my sister’s house… it was a great time! My mom and I did our annual Thanksgiving morning run which was so much fun, as usual!


Dec 13: Chloe’s “Pancakes & Pajamas” 2nd Birthday Party. This was an absolute blast. That little girl was a social butterfly!

Dec 24: Christmas with the Blankenheim/Guzmans. As always, Christmas Eve mass was beautiful, we had delicious food and a great time!

Dec 25: Christmas with the Smithson/Barcklay/Zenos. We hosted Christmas at our house this year because Mike was working. It was a wonderful, cozy day!

Dec 28: Juliette’s baptism. I get to be a fairy godmother again!!! I love this little girl… she has a set of pipes and decided to show the whole church that she could “sing”! It was also the one year anniversary of my first riding lesson!

The Birth Of A Pizza Oven

About a year ago, my husband casually mentioned that he wanted to build a pizza oven. One of our close friend had just finished his and we had sampled some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. Keep in mind that my husband is a very handy guy… he built our house, our dog run, an in-yard BBQ, a waterfall, and loads of other cool things on our property. He’s kind of amazing.

I came home from work one day to this:

Building the Foundation
Building the Foundation

Mike had been digging out a little hollow in the side of the hill, but I was not quite expecting this kind of production. Once that was all set and dried, it was time to begin the really tough stuff… the arches. Keep in mind, there’s way, way, way more to this than I’m writing… Mike could walk you through step by step, detail by detail… he very much did not just pour some concrete and stack some bricks. The arches are truly works of art!

The First Arch
The First Arch

After the arches were complete, it was time to encase the whole thing in another layer of concrete (for insulation).


That was followed by packing in vermiculite, a fantastic insulator. Finally, the pretty stuff was added… walls, tiling, and a roof. All of the design was done by Mike… I love the colors he chose! My only contribution to the project (besides moral support) was to help grout… I like to think that’s the best pizza oven grouting job ever!

The Final Product
The Final Product

We had our inaugural firing and haven’t looked back… we’ve had some of the best pizza and have had the best time experimenting with different recipes (FYI, all purpose flour is the best and who knew I’d like an egg on my pizza?). Our go-to recipe has been pretty simple… tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and prosciutto. So delicious!!!

Fire In The Hole!
Fire In The Hole!
The First Pizza
The First Pizza

An Important Anniversary

One year ago today I took my very first riding lesson. At the time, I had it in the back of my head (as I had since I was little) that it would lead to actually buying a horse. But there was always a bit of doubt… that I wouldn’t have the time, the money, or the patience. The funny thing is that it was running that led me to my horse… I had been training for my second marathon and had run past the stables about a million times. My mom and I were driving around the area checking out places to take lessons and I mentioned we should pop in to the one that I had been running past. I met my trainer who told us to come back later that afternoon for a trail ride… the rest is history!

Little did I know, that first ride on Nike the Appaloosa would lead to my amazing Sue.

Me on Nike
Me on Nike

I’m so thankful that I’ve found my amazing trainer and of the progress that Sue and I have made together over the last nine months. Here’s to a lifetime of riding!!!

Merry Christmas!

I’m sitting here by myself with a cup of coffee listening to Christmas music. Mike had to head into work for a bit and the family is on it’s way. I’m enjoying the calm before the storm… the beautiful chaos that is a house full of people. I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed today… not because of the presents or the food, but because I get yet another day to be surrounded by my incredible family.

Merry Christmas!!!

Green Chile Pork Stew

Last night we tried a new pork recipe – I’m always excited about those as New Years approaches because we tend to have a lot of pork left over from our annual New Years Eve pig roast. This one was really delicious – and super easy to make! It only took about 30 minutes and actually made the number of servings listed (four – which is perfect for my little family of two).

I was running late at work, so Mike took the reins on cooking. Alas, my husband does not take pictures of food he cooks, so I don’t have a delicious looking place setting to show you. To make matters worse, I can’t find the recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website – the recipe was in their January 2015 magazine.


1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 1/4 boneless pork loin, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tsp. olive oil

1 twelve ounce package frozen corn with red and/or green peppers or frozen whole kernel corn

1 cup mild salsa verde (we used Tostidos medium)

3/4 cup water (my husband also added a few cups chicken broth because he thought it was getting too thick)

1/4 cup sour cream


In large self-sealing plastic bag combine flour and ground cumin; add pork. Seal bag; toss to coat.

In large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add pork and any remainging flour mixture to skillet. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until pork is well browned. Remove from skillet. Stir in corn, salsa verde, and water, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to boiling. Add pork to skillet and heat through.

Ladle into bowels. Top each serving with sour cream.

Makes 4 servings.

I May Have A New Obession

Those of you who know me know that I’m all about the planner. Over the years, I’ve tried many different versions, both paper and electronic, but have always come back to the good old fashioned paper planner. There’s something so comforting about writing something down. A few months ago my sister introduced me to the Staples Arc system, which I promptly fell in love with.

Here’s the thing about that one… it sounds like a great idea to have all this flexibility, but in reality, Staples only makes a few different types of pages for you to put in. Then you have to get all creative and print them yourself, an undertaking that I don’t have the patience for. I bought the little hole punch and have used it for a few things, but I find myself not needing as much “customization” as I had originally thought.

Enter the Erin Condren Life Planner. When looking around for different ideas for decorating my Arc planner, I stumbled upon a small cult of people who did nothing but sing the praises of the Erin Condren planner. They looked pretty cool (lots of space to write, fun colors, etc), but I never made the move. Then my sister called…

Next thing I knew, I was online ordering. I chose the Seahorse cover (with my name, obviously):

Erin Condren Seahorse Life Planner

I’m kind of a little obsessed. Honestly, it’s all I can think about now. I’ve been fanatically checking my order status to see if they’ve printed it, even though they promise it would ship no sooner than December 22nd. I keep hoping that they’re working on Christmas miracles. You can expect a full review once I get it!

Our First Show

I say “our” first show instead of “my” first show very deliberately. I could do none of this without my horse. Sometimes I take a step back to think about how amazing this sport is – an animal that weighs ten times what I do allows me to climb on his back, poke him in the ribs, and make him run when he would otherwise rather be grazing. He has the opportunity to kill me at any moment, yet he doesn’t.

Our show was a couple of weeks ago and I honestly could not have asked for it to go any better. It was a schooling show, so the idea is that people and horses of all different ability levels can compete in a safe, non-stressful environment. Everyone is there to work on something and have the experience of a show without some of the pressure.

The first chunk of the morning we spent getting ready – the horses needed to be brushed and cleaned up, as well as tack. Then I had to get dressed and get my number pinned on.

Show Morning!
Show Morning!

There was a lot of waiting around, which was awesome for Sue. He (and I) had to practice sitting, watching other horses, and just generally being calm. The same thing happened in the warm up pen – tons of other horses doing their thing and we had to practice just doing ours.

Waiting For Our Turn
Waiting For Our Turn

We competed in three classes. The first was a walk/jog class – the horse and rider are judged on how nice their gait is, how well they work together, etc. We had a really good time doing that and it was nice because there were 16 other horses in the class, so it wasn’t a solo thing right off the bat. The second class was our pattern – you have to move the horse through a series of walking, backing, loping, jogging, trotting, and galloping. Sue was amazing… he did absolutely everything I asked him! I missed the right lead (horse speak for making him run but starting with the right front hoof), which automatically disqualifies you. It was a great experience and was the one thing that went “wrong”. Needless to say, we’re going to keep working on that right lead!

After that, we played around on the trail course – basically a series of obstacles that you and the horse have to navigate. Not once did Sue do anything bad (there were other riders there that had horses try to buck) and I could feel that he was really trying hard! I love that horse!

New York

The last stop on this year’s anniversary trip was New York, New York. Mike and I had both been there before (but not together), so we decided to try to visit places that neither of us had been to. The first stop… Central Park. It was a beautiful morning and we spent a good part of the day walking around the park. It was gorgeous! They were setting up for the New York City Marathon, which was kind of neat to see.

Mike & I At Central Park
Mike & I At Central Park

We headed over to Broadway that night to see “Phantom of the Opera”, my favorite musical. It was amazing… so cool to see a real Broadway show! Mike was ok with it… I think it got a little too operatic for him. Guess I’ll have to give up my dreams of him taking me to see the opera… I’ll have to stick with my classically trained friends!

We also visited the Museum of Natural History, which I highly recommend. We slammed through it in a day, but easily could have spent much longer wandering the halls.

We also headed out to see the 9/11 museum and memorial. The last (and only) time I was in New York was about four months after September 11th… it was a very different atmosphere. At that time, Ground Zero was still a pile… now it’s a very beautiful and respectful memorial. The footprints of the former twin towers are now infinity pools, with the names of the victims inscribed all around them.

Former World Trade Center Footprint
Former World Trade Center Footprint

The museum was pretty neat too… I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was expecting it to make me feel more emotional than I did. I think that’s mainly because seeing Ground Zero was such a moving experience and seeing it all in museum form felt more sterile.

Seeing the Ladder 3 truck that was destroyed that morning was especially moving… having married a firefighter, I’m far more aware of the risks these brave men and women face each day. Mike’s uncle (a member of FDNY) was actually sent there from Brooklyn to help out that day.

Ladder 3
Ladder 3

The new One World Trade Center is amazing… it makes you dizzy to look up at it!

One World Trade Center
One World Trade Center

We finished our stay in New York by visiting Mike’s family on Staten Island. I honestly wish we would have had more time with them… we had a blast hanging out for a few hours on Sunday before everyone got ready for their work and school weeks!

That, my friends, wraps up the 2014 Anniversary Road Trip! I’ll get all of my pictures posted to Facebook over the next day or so!


We are now entering my favorite part of the trip. Before I get to Boston, let’s talk about the road there. We left New Hampshire first thing in the morning with the intent of driving straight into Salem. We took a little detour to Concord, Massachusetts – home of the first shot of the Revolutionary War (although neighboring town Lexington would argue that they’re the location). We stopped at the Old North Bridge, the place where the “shot heard round the world” was fired. It was a beautiful, peaceful place now, but like any historical battle site, definitely had the feeling of historical significance.

Old North Bridge
Old North Bridge

We left there bound for Salem, which was a complete disappointment. I had been expecting something of historical significance there, but instead was met with cheesy museums and fortune tellers. We quickly departed Salem (seriously, we spent about 15 minutes total walking around) and beat feet for Boston.

Let me being by saying we fell in love with Boston almost instantly. So much so that we decided to skip Nantucket and spend an extra day in Boston before heading to New York. If we ever had to move to the East Coast, Boston would be our city of choice. It had the big city feel, but the people were nice and vibe was very mellow. As luck would have it, Mike’s aunt was in town visiting, so we met up with her and her mother in law for drinks and dinner our first evening in town. We stayed at the Marriott Custom House, which was absolutely amazing. Originally the building was used as the customs location in Boston (the bar is located in the “counting room”), a skyscraper was built on top in the early 1900’s, and Marriott purchased it in the late 1990’s. If you’re ever in Boston, this is THE place to stay.

We spent day two in Boston following the Freedom Trail. It’s a two and a half mile walking path through the city (marked by a double brick line in the sidewalk) that takes you to Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel, King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Benjamin Franklin statue, Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s house, Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution. Yeah, a lot of places – a great way to see a ton of history without having to pay or stick with a tour group. In fact, we ended up doing about half of it in the morning, having lunch, taking a nap, and then heading out for the other half.

Old North Church
Old North Church

We spent the morning of the third day visiting the Sam Adams Brewery, which was absolutely amazing. It’s a free tour and you get to drink a lot of beer. What better way to spend a rainy morning! After the tour, we took a nap (of course) and then headed out to see the Boston Marathon finish line. From there we headed to Fenway Park for a tour.  Even if you’re not into baseball, this tour is amazing. They go over the history of the park and take you into places you’d never go if you just went to a game (the visitor’s locker room, press box). Seriously spectacular.

Fenway From The Green Monster
Fenway Park

Like I said, Boston is an amazing city. If you’re ever out that way, definitely stop in for a visit!