The Coffee Cup Critters aka the “Cuppa” Series

I really love drawing animals. When I’m stuck for ideas, I find some reference pictures and draw an animal.

And then…..and then I give them a coffee cup.

I don’t know why.

It just makes me happy.

So, here they are (most of them, anyway). I hope they make you happy too!

If you aren’t a coffee person, think of them as giant, steaming, mugs of tea.

Several of these are up on my Redbubble shop already–the rest are pending! I’m also hoping to get some of them as stickers for sale on my Etsy. But that’s a project I’m *just* beginning. Let me know in the comments which ones you think would be the best stickers.

What animals would you like to see cherishing a nice steaming cuppa?

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The Haunted Dog

It’s been a quiet year at the barn. What with 2020 and all. I mean, it’s a quiet little place to start with, but especially quiet the past 12 month.

But then came the fake goose dog.

I noticed the dog when I drove in. A little black silhouette of a German Shepherd type dog slowly rotated in the gentle breeze at the end of the drive way. Closer examination revealed he was part of a goose deterrent effort, and he was on the way to one of the fields we frequent.

Knowing how distrustful Midas is of changes in his familiar landscape, I decided we’d come see the fake dog in hand before riding. I didn’t think it’d be a big deal, Midas likes dogs. So I tacked up completely and then led him down the driveway.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done that, but Midas saw the dog and was interested immediately. Midas likes dogs…but there was something off about this one. We went up, he warily sniffed it, shifted around, looked at it with the other eye. I made sure to touch it and wobble it so he could see it was safe. He wasn’t thrilled about it, but he was calm, and so I led him back up the driveway to the woodpile to get on.

While I fussed with the girth and stirrups, he looked over his shoulder at the fake dog. Then he looked again, more alarmed. Then he began to snort, and looked again, shifted his feet nervously.

Then I realized what was happening.

The fake dog MOVED every time he looked away.

A horse reaches out  with his nose to sniff a black silhouette of a German Shepherd dog that has been stuck in the early spring grass.
Looks like a dog, but doesn’t smell, move, or have shape like a dog. Not a dog.

This is not normal behavior for inert objects–things he’s confirmed with his own nose are not living.

Without getting on I led him back to the fake dog, telling him it was just cardboard turning in the wind. Midas did a lovely little piaffe the whole way there, and then when we arrived he swung his rear at the fake dog menacingly. He didn’t kick, though, because he’s a hunt horse, and you don’t kick dogs.

I was surprised and delighted to see him trying to scare it away. Midas is the responsible guard horse at the barn. He’s the one who stands watch when everyone else naps. He’s attentive and watchful, and while he likes dogs,

THIS WAS CLEARLY NOT A DOG.

FOUL MACHINATION OF SATAN.

I tried to reason with him, and honestly he was calmest walking in a circle around the haunted dog, but being in sight of it was, overall, NOT OK. The Cardboard Weeping Angel Dog that would surely attack if he blinked.

With a sigh I decided to start my ride in the ring–from the ring we could still catch glimpses of the fake dog, but Midas considers the ring as SAFE, so he’s pretty brave in there. We had a great ride.

I caught him eyeing the dog now and then.

We cooled out outside the ring–and went past the Haunted Dog, giving it a wide berth and goggly eyes so it wouldn’t try anything as we went past.

The next week, the Haunted Dog was still there.

Midas still DID NOT LIKE the Haunted Dog. But then I noticed that there is another Haunted Dog in sight of the pastures. The horses had probably been watching it all week. We still gave it a wide berth, but apparently this was a peaceable Haunted Dog that wasn’t going to eat him.

The Haunted Dogs have been patrolling for geese for weeks now, moving around the yards every couple days, turning in the wind.

We ignore them now.

Mostly.

Midas keeps a casual eye on them in case they’ve just been luring us all into a false sense of security.

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2020

It’s the last couple days of 200.

Definitely been a landmark year, though not for the reasons anyone anticipated.

Everyone knows the bad stuff that happened this year, in a wild, shared, global way. In a small way, it was a weird year because Midas actually had soundness issues that took a few months to resolve (he’s fine now) and that meant we did a lot of hand walking and walking rides through grassy fields that were kind to his hooves. We didn’t do much that was exciting, except try our hand at ponying a pony, which the pony was not thrilled about.

But I thought I’d think about some of the good things, the favorite things…I thought I’d talk about books. Because I love books.

Books

I opened Goodreads to see what I read this year. Man. I found SO MANY awesome books. Not always new, but new to me. I could just list everything I read this year, with a couple exceptions (there were a few meh and a couple I really hated) but I guess you can always just look me up on Goodreads for that.

So here are a few of the best:

  • Crescent City – Modern tech meets angels and fae, and all the myths in one story full of detective work, demon hunting, soul searching, and unforgettable characters. The character depth and heartstring moments we’ve come to love from Sarah J Maas, but with a LOT of swearing. Like, a lot. That part wasn’t necessary, it really stands out in the audio book but I kinda glazed over when reading it in paper form. The rest of the story is enough for me to not care about the weird prevalence of foul language, I cannot wait to see what comes next for Bryce and Hunt.
  • A Deadly Education – I don’t like stories about going to school to be something (assassin, wizard, whathaveyou). But this story, while set at a school, wasn’t about learning to be a wizard or use your magic. It’s more about facing down assumptions, finding friendship, and also getting graduation. El is a delight as a narrator. On the whole it’s fun, twisty, snarky, rewarding.
  • Well Met – Light, fun, sexy, romantic. A rom-com for when you need something uplifting and funny to read. It’s a rom com, but I felt like this book avoided the things I don’t like about rom coms and embraced all the things I do.
  • The Scorpio Races – This book is beautiful. It evokes such longing, and beauty, and it’s a good story–there is a thrilling horse race and gentle love story–and the horse sense is spot on (it would have ruined it for me if it wasn’t). It’s often described as atmospheric, and it is, but if that word sounds boring to you, don’t think of it as atmospheric. It’s not literary fiction which appears primarily obsessed with suffering and postmodern disillusionment–which would probably also get described as atmospheric, but that just means the atmosphere is hell. No, in The Scorpio Races, the atmosphere is Thisby, an island probably off the coast of the UK, and the island is practically a character in the story. If you have a location that you just LOVED, being there is how the book makes you feel. Read it so you understand.
  • The Return of the Thief – Eugenides is back, and he’s amazing. You have six other books to read first, but for a series whose release spanned 20 years, the fact that this book doesn’t disappoint is itself a literary accomplishment.
  • The Riyira Revelations – Royce and Hadrian are now among my favorite friend portrayals in fiction. Royce is a jaded assassin, Hadrian is an idealist fighter, and together they are Riyira, an expensive set of thieves and fixers who steal things and frame people for those with obscene amounts of money. But then they are hired to steal a “magic” sword, and everything kind of goes down hill from there. You will not regret diving into this series and its world. It’s a pretty massive series, I’ve only scratched the surface.
  • The Expanse (first three books) – These books have an enormous cast of vastly different characters. They are very thoughtful, but also gripping and fascinating and hopeful. I love that they are hopeful. I didn’t keep reading into the series (yet) because there are SO MANY and I wasn’t sure how much longer they could go without someone I really cared about dying. So, I figured I would quit while there was at least a potential happily ever after.
  • Paladin of Souls-I have actually read this book three times this year. If you haven’t read Curse of Chalion, start there, and then you will be EVEN HAPPIER reading Ista d’Chalion’s story. Actually, all of Bujold’s stuff set in the World of the Five Gods is good. Start with the Curse of Chalion, though.
  • Beneath Cruel Fathoms – Imagine the cultural differences between a merman and a human woman–are you? Because they are funny. Plus a cosmic plot and some pretty world reaching issues. Add romance, adopted siblings, and you’ve got a good story with lovable characters and I want book two. Because I want it, not because the author was cruel with her ending. At least, not horribly cruel.

I could probably keep going forever, because I love books, but This List has satisfied my need to make a list relating to 2020!

Here’s to a new year in the new world with more glorious books to read.

Horse Eating Hay Trolls

The neighbor’s hayed their field, and now there is a long line of round bales in the field where Midas and I ride–and there has never been round bales in that field for as long as we’ve been going there.

It’s been upwards of 10 years.

So obviously the new bales, which appeared out of no where, overnight, must be sentient horse eating trolls.

And Midas noticed them immediately.

By this point in our ride, we were cooling out. It was hot out. I was tired.

He went stiff, head up, snorting, I could feel the spin and run inside him even if he hadn’t succumbed. I knew that there was a solid chance we’d just be spinning our way through a field of gopher holes should I stay mounted and coax him over to face the trolls. (We normally ride around the edge, where there are no holes, but to do that we’d have to walk RIGHT NEXT TO THE TROLLS).

So, I retreated behind a treeline (cover from trolls) and dismounted. He’d been feeling good and peppy all day–finally sound after a spring battling thrush–so spooking might be half for the joy of feeling good. The other half being his guard-horse mentality–and the thought of gopher holes just really meant this was a monster best faced in hand. Mounted, there would be an additional layer of adrenaline. In hand, I could use my tiredness and lack of adrenaline to my favor, radiating calm at the prey animal bent on survival.

He pranced. He snorted. He stopped. He never tried to get away from me.

I strolled, stopped when he stopped, asked nicely to move again after a moment of assurance, or let him move in a nervous circle. Assured him verbally that these weren’t trolls. Finally got close enough that I could touch the bales, bang on their plastic, make noise.

He was skeptical still, but finally relaxed. We walked all the way around the line both ways–saw a few gopher holes.

With our scientific investigation satisfied, we walked allll the way back to a woodpile by the driveway so I could remount (another object we’d investigated thoroughly when it was first introduced) and I rode back to face the trolls.

Except they weren’t trolls anymore. Just hay bales.

We doodled peaceably around the field and went back to the barn for a nice cool shower.

*

I brought out the little white pony, Blue, for a walk in hand to see what he’d do with the trolls. It amused me that it took him several seconds longer to notice them than it had Midas, and he danced back and forth behind me like a tube behind a speedboat. I don’t think he stopped moving once of his own accord, just when I paused to assure him. Once we got to the bales, though, he accepted them much more quickly, and even walked across the half-blown tarp when I did. I hadn’t expected him to follow me (Midas hadn’t), just wanted to show that it wasn’t scary.

Horses are so different. Blue isn’t a dominant creature (unlike Midas, who is dominant and the horse who stands guard while the others nap), he’s somewhat nervous but quite trusting. He, too, never actually hit the end of the lead rope, though he was pretty worked up.

Granted, I didn’t try to keep him from dancing around. I let him have the rope he needed, which turned out to be not that much. I didn’t care if he danced around as long as he didn’t bolt. That was my approach with Midas, too.

It helps to focus on one thing at a time with horses. For investigating the trolls, they just needed to stay with me so I could show them everything was alright. They didn’t need to bury their emotions or instincts entirely, just use their brains enough to come with me.

Trolls vanquished.

*

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It’s time to listen

I normally stay out of serious discussion on the internet. I think it’s mostly a waste of time and energy. But I’ve been reading a lot of stories on the internet this past week about what it’s like being black in America today, and I wanted to make sure that anyone reading this who isn’t white, or wasn’t born in the United States of America, knows that I’m listening.

I grew up believing racism was a thing of the past—which I suppose is evidence enough that I am white. I was surrounded by international students most of my childhood due to my parents’ work and knew more about the tension between China and Taiwan than race tensions in the US. I thought because I loved the different tones of our skin and valued my friends of non-European appearance that everyone did. And since I am, in fact, white, I never saw racism because no one did it to me. It’s taken a long time for me to see the skin colors around me at all much less ponder the different experiences afforded each.

This week’s internet conversation reminds me of the #metoo movement in some ways.

Every woman knows what it’s like to be woman in a man’s world–even if, like me, you largely live in a safe bubble. Men just don’t. Unless they start listening.

Every black person knows what it’s like to be black in a white world. White people just don’t. Unless they start listening.

You can’t know what it’s like for someone who doesn’t look like you.

One of the worst parts of adulthood has been discovering exactly how much racism is still a thing. It’s shocking and appalling, and it’s beyond being watched suspiciously in stores–it extends to dress codes designed to shame them for their spectacular hair. It is hatred, obvious and ugly. And it’s rules no one thought to change once they forgot why they were there.

Most of the time racism feels far away to me, that is my privilege, but in listening to the stories of black friends and acquaintances and total strangers who are now coming forward to share…I’m so sorry…I had no idea…And I’m so sorry I didn’t think to ask about it.

And thanks for spelling out how we can help. I’ve found out about a lot of cool Instagrammers, authors, and artists who I never knew existed before this week. I plan to keep listening.

I’ve put some links in this paragraph, mouse over the words to find them. I encourage you, especially my white readers, to read people’s stories. To listen to them. And to keep listening to them.

Not Your Momma’s History – historical reinactor

Twisted – book on the tangled history of Black Hair

Mulatto Meadows – bringing horses to under privileged communities

Here’s a snapshot of some books by black authors which are now on my TBR list:

I’m happy to have more recommendations! I know this is just a tiny smattering. Let me know in the comments who are your favorite minority voices–in books, art, fashion, science, equestrian sports, especially.

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