Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chocolate, Coffee and Orange Marmalade Tart

I borrowed Ashley English's A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies (Lark Publishing, 2012) from the library sometime in the spring after sampling the meat pie at a party (it was very good).  I made the  Chocolate, Coffee and Orange Marmalade Tart for this year's Christmas dessert.

This recipe wasn't quite as easy to follow as the meat pie.  I ran into several issues.  The crust calls for 10 oz of chocolate wafers.  The package has been shrink-rayed to 9 oz since the recipe was written.  The smaller package probably would have been plenty, with a bit less butter (look how thick the crust is).

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sculpey Guinea Pig

My nephew has started to make Sculpey figurines.  He has created several of pokemon for himself.  For Christmas, I got my very own Sculpey guinea pig.  Look at how small he is compared to Cannoli?  (Although, to be fair, Cannoli has gotten to be quite a big pig.)  He has itty bitty little toes.  There's just a bit of pink in the ears.  I love the face.

Great work, Kiddo!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shamrock Name Tag

The latest in my series of name tags; this is a Christmas gift for a friend of mine who goes contra dancing.  You may have guessed, she's Irish.  Think she likes it?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Three Little Pigs

This ornament has been stashed away for months, just awaiting the day I could show it off.  Originally, it was to include the Big Bad Wolf, but after I created the pigs (and even shrunk them a bit) I realized that it would be a massive ornament if it included the wolf.  Besides, if I had  him looming up behind the pigs, no one could admire their little curly tails.  And if I had made the pigs any smaller, it would have been impossible to create their tools.

I had a lot of fun making this.  Pigs are goofy and those big floppy ears are cute.  I had a rough idea what I wanted when I started, but after that, it all came together pretty quickly.  The wooden plank had started out as Sculpey, but I didn't like how it looked.  I whittled down a popsicle stick, which worked quite nicely.  I think I struggled with the trowel the longest - even straw-pig's hat was easier to make.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Ghost of Christmas Past

Pinniped pretending to be Bertie
My new order of bluegrass is delayed.  I switched Pinniped and Cannoli back to the remaining bit of Timothy hay one week ago (the rest of the 30 lbs went to PARL, to the delight of the staff -- thanks to my readers that encouraged me to do so).  I had been busy and didn't want to buy more orchard grass for just a few days (or so I thought).  However, I am regretting the return to the Timothy:  I'm coughing, sneezing and headachy.  Tuesday can't come soon enough!

In an effort to keep the hay-dust to a minimum, we stored the half flake of Timothy hay on the front porch.  I took down their hay rack and replaced it with a tissue box to help contain the hay.  Rob has been filling the the tubes (or the hay ring) and tissue box outside so I don't have to handle it.

Pinniped has been very interested in the tissue box and spent most of Friday parked in it.  I was strongly reminded of Bertie's fondness of hay containers.  We lost Bertie a year ago, a few days after Christmas.  I can't believe how the year has flown by.  Seeing Pinni like this has had me reminiscing over some of the fun bits of Bertie's quirky personality.  So much attitude in one little package.  I am sure that Bertie would heartily approve of Pinni's use of the box full of hay.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Have Cage - Will Travel

Bags of grids, bedding and food
We were off for a few days so Pinniped and Cannoli got to visit my sister for a sleepover.  When I came to pick them up yesterday, I was promptly told by my nephew that they would be glad to pigsit for me anytime.  Yup - those two pigs can be quite the charmers!

I love C&C cages for travel.  A bag for grids, a bag for bedding and a bag for food.  Throw down a shower curtain, some towels and fleece and set up a 2x4 set of zip-tied grids and voila!  instant cage.  I brought a handful of binder clips to create fleece sides to contain the poo.

Pinni was busy making herself at home by the time I left them at my sister's, but Cannoli was pretty nervous.  I figured it would take a while for her to settle in.  So my sister's family had only a little exposure to Cannoli's wheekiness.  I was told that chopping on the cutting board briefly set her off and there was some squeaking for breakfast greens the next morning.  Cannoli slowly adapted to the new surroundings and sounds.  I guess I'll need to plan a longer vacation sometime so they can get the full Cannoli experience. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Line Quilting

My home-made sewing guide
Almost all of the quilting I've done has been stitch-in-the-ditch or outlining.  I've tried stippling once or twice, but I haven't spent the hours I'd need to practice to master it on my old Singer.  It's the piecing I love to do, and I've kept the quilting to the bare minimum to tack everything down.

Once again, the Blogger's Quilt Festival is inspiring me to try new things.  I saw that some of the neatest quilts in last fall's show had simple quilting - spirals or straight lines.  I really like the effects and all of them were basically straight-line stitching.  I decided to quilt radiating squares on my current quilting project.

This type of quilting requires a guide when stitching lines more than 1/4" apart and the seam guide that comes with this machine screws into the bottom plate of the sewing machine.  Obviously that wasn't going to work.  I use a walking foot for quilting and all of the foot-based sewing guides I found required buying a new walking foot.  In the end I decided I could make a guide for my existing foot using a wine cork, some coat hanger wire and duct tape.  Nothing says DIY like duct tape.  It's not pretty (although I like the hot-pink tape) and it needs a little work (I need to find a glue that sticks), but so far it's doing the trick.

I need some more practice to keep my lines straight.  However, the current project looks pretty cool and no one but me will notice inconsistencies.  I can't wait to show off the finished quilt!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Countdown

My Advent calendar
Goodness!  We're halfway to Christmas!  I am way behind in getting gifts.  I am hoping to finish the last of my shopping this weekend.  Luckily, two people want something handmade (and I've been told an IOU for Christmas is fine).  Add a couple of more items to my project backlog! 

I make buttercrunch and cookies the same weekend as the photo shoot to give as gifts.  I stopped off at the vet yesterday to drop off a card, goodies and some reference bookmarks from Cavymadness.  I spoke briefly to Dr. Holmes.  She was momentarily distracted by the nifty bookmarks and the card before she realized she had missed something.  "Wait," she said, whipping around to look where the receptionist had just made off with the tin full of sweets, "Candy?"  It made me laugh.  I've been told that the holiday season officially kicks off only after I show up with my card and goodies.  I know which of the two is important. 

Guinea pigs and veterinary staff - they love me for my treats!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hay Ring

My pigs have always loved toilet paper tubes stuffed with hay.  They make a beeline for it, whenever I put a new one in the cage, even if I've just refreshed the hay in the hay rack as well.  The appeal seems to be how the hay pulls out and the fact they can drag it around the cage.  The cardboard tube can be fun to chew on, as well.  I like them because the bundled hay doesn't tend to get peed on as much as loose hay.

Pinniped has recently taken a strong liking to cardboard and will attack the tube as fast as the hay.  I often find only a small shred of cardboard and yet much of the hay remains.  I was concerned with the amount of cardboard Pinni was consuming.  I have been limiting their cardboard tubes, which was not making anyone happy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Downside of Fleece

I have done a mix of fleece and shavings in the pigs' cage for several years.  I've dabbled with all fleece bedding a few times but had not yet switched to it full time.

I decided to take the plunge for all fleece a month ago.  I have to say, it's been working great and the pigs really like it.  It will be interesting to see how well it fairs in warmer, more humid weather, but right now, the cage lasts at least a week between full cleanings.  I swap out the old fleece every week more from habit than because of any smell or dampness.  The daily maintenance is quick and easy; pulling out the damp hay takes the most time.  I'm impressed that there's less smell and surface dampness than with the shavings, even with two pigs in this sized cage.

The one serious drawback?  Cost.  I know one of the great things about fleece is that it's an initial investment, but then the fleece lasts forever, so there's no recurring cost.  Unfortunately, our washer doesn't deal with debris very well and can't handle a large load of laundry.  The fleece came out smelling nice and clean, but after a few washings, it looked dirty all the time.  Very disappointing.  The washer at our old place did a much better job.

My solution has been to take the pig laundry to our local laundromat.  I wait until I have a big load so I can stuff a single washer.  Even though I bring it home wet, it still costs a few dollars every two weeks.  Not much, but compared to a $6 bale of shavings that lasted two to three months, it's quite a bit more expensive.  Bummer.  This was an unforeseen consequence in switching bedding.

For now, I'm happy to stick with it.  The time it takes to maintain a fully fleeced cage is no more than what I had with half-and-half.  The lack of smell is great, too, since Pinniped and Cannoli now reside in the living room/office.  For now, the pros outweigh the cons.  If we're lucky enough to get a better washer in the future, it will all be good.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Single Shots

Click photo to enlarge
We don't do many formal photos of Pinniped and Cannoli.  So this is one of the few opportunities to get a lot of nice, clear photos of the pigs.  I like to save a few solo pictures in addition to the ones I use for the cards.  These are my favorite.

I had given Pinniped and Cannoli bits of carrots and celery to keep them distracted while taking photos.  I love the resulting open-mouth pictures.  The look like they're singing or shocked.  <gasp!> 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Indian Pudding

I made Indian pudding for Thanksgiving this year.  I had never made it before, but I was told that that's what we were bringing for dessert.  It turned out delicious and I'll definitely be making it again.

I didn't have a recipe for the pudding, so I googled it and came across wildly differing ingredients and methods.  Usually I can pick the top six recipes that come up in a search and at least three of them are very similar.  Not the case with Indian pudding.  I ended up using the basic recipe from Durgin Park, the spices and most of the cooking method from the Wayside Inn and filled in the rest from the other pages I read.  Basically, you can make this any way you want and call it pudding.  You wouldn't be wrong.

I discovered it can be overcooked, when I did my trial run.  Not that overcooked is bad - but it ends up so firm you can slice it like bread (I tend to overcook my rice pudding, too.  <sigh>).  Second time I thought I had undercooked it, and it turned out to be done just right.  Everyone enjoyed it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Shoot 2013

Black Friday.  You know what that means:  round up the guinea pigs and take photographs for Christmas cards!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wandering Bowl

I've been amused by the way the pellet bowl wanders around the cage.  This phenomenon has only occurred since March, when we brought Cannoli home.  In the beginning it moved only when no one was looking, however now-a-days it's obvious who's the culprit.  The bowl ranges all around the cage since I fully fleeced the bottom level.  I often find it, empty, under the hammock.

I caught some of the action the other morning.  They do love their Timothy pellets, don't they?  I'm happy that they don't fight over them, although I'm not sure if I'd call this sharing.  On the other hand, they're guinea pigs.  This is sharing at it's best!

I love how Noli pulls the bowl away from Pinniped and that doesn't seem to faze Pinni one little bit.  She just follows the food dish, no matter how far away it goes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making a Casserole Carrier

I've worked with this pattern three times.  I've made several modifications each time I sew it and not all of the notations made it into the margins of the original instructions.  I'm tired of guessing what I did (or worse yet, pulling apart the seams on my carrier to see the layers).  I'm documenting it this time around.

I make the carrier out of four layers of material:  Inner fabric, Insul-bright, cotton batting and outer fabric.  The original instructions say to start with 2/3 yard of each, but I have found that if the cotton or batting shrinks during the pre-wash or if the length of cloth was cut unevenly, it's not enough material to use as instructed.  I've also discovered with the extra thickness I make, it needs to be cut slightly wider than the original instructions.  I found 3/4 yard each worked well.  The carrier also requires two 12" long 3/8" diameter dowels for the handles.

Cut one 41x11" piece of each of the four materials.
Cut one 27x13" piece of each of the four materials.
(Note to self: next time try 41x12" and 27x14")

Monday, November 25, 2013


The last time I bought hay I got a sample of bluegrass.  It looked so green and beautiful, and yet Pinniped and Cannoli stuck their noses up at it.  I gave it away at the Boston pignic.

Now that we're a Timothy-free household, Pinni and Noli have discovered that given the choices, bluegrass is pretty good!  We were lucky that another guinea pig from the Boston Pignic, Mr. Cuddles, was willing to share his stash of bluegrass.  I picked up the box a couple of weeks ago. 

Initially Pinni and Noli dove into it.  Now it gets spread about a bit, but no more than the Timothy hay.  Pinni and Noli seem to like to play with it as much as eat it.

I think I'm slightly allergic to the bluegrass, too, but it is so much less dusty than the Timothy.  My coughing has improved a lot in the last few weeks.  So now I'm looking for a good home for about 30 lbs of 3rd cut KMS Timothy Hay that I purchased last March.  Any takers?  Pick-up would be easiest for me, but I'd be willing to ship it for the price of postage.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fading Charms

When I found Fading Charms I thought: I can do that.  I finished the top in a little over two weeks.  I love all the colors and I handled the randomness better than I thought (although there's a few pieces that irk me).  My quilting friends urged me to do the background in white and I'm glad I listened to them.  I plan to back and bind it with a pastel pink and green fabric.  It should add some colors to the edge without drawing attention away from the rest of the quilt.

Usually I start a project and work on it until it's finished.  This will be my first UFO (for my non-sewing readers - UnFinished Object) while I work on some other sewing projects (with deadlines).  I'm hoping, if all goes well, to get back to this before the end of the year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Template Taste Testing

Anyone who has guinea pigs knows that floor time can end with mischief if the area is not properly pig-proofed.  I recently made a little paper template to punch holes in my recipe book bindings.  I had left the template and the punch on the hearth, which is raised several inches off of the floor.  Neither pig has shown any interest in the hearth nor have they checked out anything placed on it.  Well, until now.

I had been busy cleaning the cage, so it took several seconds of listening to the distinct sound of paper chewing before I recalled that I had not given them any toilet paper tubes stuffed with hay.  I ran over to find Pinniped working diligently on my spine template.  She had managed to avoid the holes and hadn't quite made it across the width of the spine.  Not that it mattered too much - I had finished the recipe books earlier that week.  But what a fresh little pig!  She went straight for the one thing I had left out.  How do they know?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Revenge of the Cyst

Guess where we went last night?  To the vet!  Oh, joy!

Well, not really.  Cannoli was there for a baseline visit.  It was terrifying.  She made the vet work a long time to see her teeth.  Noli wriggled all over the place and couldn't wait to get back in the carry case.  She buried herself in the cozy and didn't come out even after she got home.

Her verdict:  the vet is a very scary place.

Pinniped, on the other hand, was initially very relaxed.  What a difference between the two!  Unfortunately, this wasn't just a social call for Pinni.  She ended up with a shaved and goopy belly for an ultrasound.  Sure enough, her cysts have returned with a vengeance.  Pinni's symptoms had been so subtle: a bit of hair loss in the middle of her back, a single day of chasing Cannoli early last week.  I'm glad I made the appointment when I did - she started losing weight right after I called.  I had guessed the cysts had returned, but I was surprised they had grown and spread.  Pinni will be getting hCG shots in the near future.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Back!

My old Singer is back home!  The repair guy was amused by my excitement when he called two weeks ago to tell me he found the problem, and informed me that the gear could be replaced.  I did a happy dance when he quoted a price less than what I had been prepared for.  I did more happy dancing last Saturday when they called to say it was ready for pick-up (plus the price was less than what was quoted!).

The only bummer -- I got it home before I realized the needle had been bumped to the right of dead center.  The mechanic quickly adjusted that, and I returned home with my prize possession.  My sewing machine is humming along, better than it's sounded in years. 

I immediately put it to work (even before I returned for the adjustment).  Sewed up some fleece for the guinea pigs' cage, repaired one of my rice bags, and started sewing the new quilt!  I've done quite a bit of it with just a few evening's work.  I'll need to get background material and batting soon; I'll be done sewing the little squares by next weekend.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hay Update

Hay?  What hay?
I hated peas when I was little, and would spread them about my plate, hoping that Mom would think I had eaten at least some of them.  It didn't really work.  Somehow, my mother was on to me.

That story has been popping into my head whenever I look into Pinniped and Cannoli's cage.  Seriously?  Do you think I'm only going to notice the empty tubes and miss the fact that the fleece is barely visible under that even layer of hay?  Right.

Regardless of how it appears, they really are eating the hay.  Even the Timothy hay could get spread around a bit (although I don't think it was quite like this).  It took them about a week before they stopped looking at me funny every time I refilled the tubes.  Pinni and Noli are still snarfing down the Timothy pellets (the dish is empty by mid-afternoon), but they happily inspect the hay whenever I refresh their supply.

As for my coughing?  It seems to be getting better.  I think I'll wait a couple of more weeks before I try to find a home for my huge box of Timothy hay.  Even if that wasn't the main cause of my cough, I know it bothers my sinuses.  I'm probably better off not having it in the house. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Recipe Books

I keep my favorite recipes on 4x6" cards in a pair of little two-ring photo albums.  My recipes have fit in these two binders for decades but now they're stuffed to bursting, and I have more recipes I want to add.  I looked for new binders in the past two years, but I couldn't find this size and style anywhere. 

Then I came across a how-to video on making a mini-album.  The materials were easy to find (although it took a while to get a punch to make the holes) and the finished album was exactly what I was looking for.  I bought the card stock before we moved, but never had time to make these until the quilt was finished.

I finally got the chance last week.  Of course I modified.  I used cloth instead of paper on the outside and adjusted the size to match my current binders.  I thought the spine was a little wide after I made the first one (I kept the original width from the video), so I trimmed the subsequent ones by 1/4".  

I like the way they look.  We'll see how well they hold up with use.  I'm a messy cook, so these will no doubt be doused with all sorts of ingredients.  Now I need to print out all the recipes I couldn't fit in the old books!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What a Wheeker!

Back in August, I noted Pinniped and Cannoli's lack of interest when Rob came home in the afternoon.  I also tried to capture Cannoli's loud wheeking on video.  Well, since then, they've ramped things up.  The two of them greet Rob in the afternoon:   they perk up when they hear his car in the driveway and work up to frantic squeaking by the time he steps in the house.  One would think I've ignored them all day.

Wheeking triggers have expanded as well.  In addition to opening the fridge and the running kitchen faucet, they go nuts when we chop on the cutting board.  They've become experts on routines:  Pinni and Noli wheek when I get out of bed, or if they're lazy, wait until I take my morning vitamins.  They yell at me when I make breakfast, or tea, or lunch and many times at Rob if he just steps foot into the kitchen.  Of course when either of us walk through the front door, it's the perfect opportunity to tell us how hungry they are.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scrap Inspiration

Oh, participating in the Bloggers Quilt Festival is a dangerous thing.  It was part of what inspired me to take on Northern Lights.  Between the festival and a scrappy quilt I've seen recently on the Canuck Quilter, I've been motivated to try a scrappy quilt.  I don't have a stash like most quilters I know; the majority of it fits in a basket (which has shocked and horrified a few of my quilting friends).  Most of the fabric pieces I have are too small to use in a new project, but they make lots of little squares.  While my current non-sewing project is on hold (awaiting a punch tool) and in anticipation of my sewing machine's return, I've started to cut 2" squares.

This will be a different project for me.  Most things I make are structured, planned in advance and have a specific recipient in mind.  This is starting out as an anti-project:  almost no planning, elbowing it's way to the top of my project list and I'll have to figure out who it goes after it's done.  I'm going with an easy scrappy pattern, but I think it's going to be a challenge:  I do not do random well.  Quilting, for me, is about order.  Everything has it's place based on shape and color.  I'm always so impressed by quilts a zillion different pieces of fabric that blend into big pattern.  I'm going to have to let go of my OCD and embrace the spirit of higgledy-piggledy.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Nuthatch Has Landed

Nuthatch and finches
Look!  Birds!

Last week I saw a flock of juncos and a cardinal in the yard.  So close, and yet so far.  But it gave me an idea - I needed to lure them in towards the window feeders to get their attention.  I threw a small handful of sunflower seeds in the yard, and then sprinkled a couple of handfuls on the deck and the railing.  Within the day I got juncos, a few titmice, nuthatches and several blue jays milling about the deck.  The day after that - finally! - birds on my feeders. 

A downy woodpecker was the first to land on the suet feeder, but the nuthatches were the ones to hit it regularly.  I was amazed that it took two days before the titmice were brave enough to land on a feeder.  They always seem so brazen, but it appears that nuthatches are even more fearless.  The house finches on the side feeder were a surprise.  I hadn't seen or heard them before they just appeared.

We have yet to get the big bird feeder out in the yard - we're still figuring out how to mount it.  Once we do, that should bring in the cardinals and any other birds that are too shy to come close.  I hear the chickadees in the trees, but I have yet to see one in the window.  I'm hoping they'll come in soon.

Yay!  I had missed the activity.  It's like having old friends back again.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Morning Calisthenics

For Pinniped and Cannoli, breakfast is a two-course meal.  The first course consists of greens of some sort - green or red lettuce, occasionally chickory or chard.  The second course, which usually occurs after I've had my breakfast, is a slice of bell pepper.

Since we've moved, begging for pepper is held on the second level of the cage.  Often both pigs are up there before I leave the kitchen, with their noses stuffed between the grids. As Cannoli has gotten bolder, she's become the first to snatch the pepper.  Pinni's latest trick is to save the trip up to the second level, and beg from the main level of the cage.

This up-and-down is accompanied by quiet squeaking, teeth chattering and/or lip smacking (which you can catch briefly in this clip).  I'd be worried that she's having problems leaping up to the second level, except that I often find her snoozing on the third level, or pulling hay from the second level hay rack.  So I figure this is just her latest quirk or an excuse to be lazy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Peeking Piggy Toes

Cannoli loves this particular cozy.  She was all curled up the other afternoon, only her feet and bum were visible.  (Her nose is hidden in the shadows.)  Cannoli's back feet have such contrast - the left is all dark brown and black, the right all pink and white.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


I was trying to take photos of Pinniped ignoring her hay when Cannoli decided to nose in.  She usually hides when I come over to take photos.  This time she decided to check out the camera.  Snapshots often contain Pinni's schnoz, but Cannoli figured she'd give it a try.

What a goofy little pig!

The hammock giveaway:  It's a good thing this was a random draw, because I don't think I could have picked a winner based on all of the wonderful and entertaining comments.  The winners are Cookie Monster and Nibbles.  I hope they get to spend lots of time in their hammock (and don't quibble over it too much).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Northern Lights: Blogger's Quilt Festival

Northern Lights made it to the Topsfield Fair, which was pretty exciting.  Now I'm submitting it to the Blogger's Quilt Festival.  My friends will get tired of seeing photos of my quilt by the time this is all over!

Night Jewels

I stumbled across Night Jewels online and fell in love with the pattern.  I decided it would look great on my spare bed.  The skill level was listed as Intermediate, so I figured I'd give it a try.  Ha!  If I only knew what I got myself in to when I started this quilt.  I guess I'm still a beginner, because this was much more of a challenge than I had anticipated.  Now that it's finished, I'm so glad I stuck with it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Copious Chard

Pinniped and Cannoli always like when I visit my sister or my parents most of the year.  If the gardens are up and running, I will come back home with some kind of treat.  In this case, my sister's garden had several prolific chard plants that were producing chard faster than her family could eat it.  My nephew was more than happy to pick bunches of it for me to bring home.  I soon had a bag overflowing with chard.  He stopped pulling leaves only after being threatened that he'd have to eat whatever else he harvested.

I know Pinni goes nuts for chard and Noli seems quite happy with it.  There's so much, I'm helping them eat it.  Don't tell Pinni!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Guinea Pig Hammock Giveaway

Pinni loves her hammock
I was digging through my guinea pigs' fleece and came across an extra hammock I had hidden away.  This is one of the twin all-fleece hammocks I made two years ago.  I had set it aside as a possible gift to another guinea pig lover and then forgot about it.

My buried treasure will go to one of my readers and their lucky pig(s)!  Would your piggies enjoy a hammock like the one Pinniped is modeling?

To enter:  tell me which of your guinea pigs is most likely to lounge in a hammock.   Leave your pig's name in the blog comments (be sure I have a way to contact you) or in a comment on the CavyMadness post on Facebook.  This drawing closes on Friday, October 25th at 12pm EDT.  (Update:  The winners are Cookie Monster and Nibbles.)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Choose You!

Finished Pikachu
I finished my nephew's Pikachu costume and visited them yesterday to make sure it fit and passed inspection (Pikachu has to be the right colors!).  My sister had given me an old pair of sweatpants to use as a pattern for the pants, and told me to add some length so he had room to grow.  I had added at least two inches to the legs and planned on hemming them.  Turns out they were just the right length.  I hope he doesn't grow much over the year if he wants to wear them next year, too!

I had hoped to get the tail to stick out behind him, but I figured it would be too heavy to just attach then end of the tail to the sweatshirt or the pants.  We decided to safety-pin it in two places to the back of the sweatshirt. 

Everyone was pleased with the end result.  My nephew got a kick out of the ears and demonstrated how they flopped up and down.  Just a little excited?  I modified the ears, at his request, so they stood up straighter, rather than be quite so floppy.  I can't wait to see him with the face makeup, too.

Friday, October 18, 2013

On Strike

Pinni hopes I'll bring back the Timothy
I'm exploring the possibility that Pinniped and Cannoli's Timothy hay is causing the chronic cough I've had for several months.  There's over ten pounds of it in the basement, but for now, I've cleared it all out from upstairs.  I purchased some orchard grass, which looks pretty good, but is obviously not up to snuff for the girls.  I'm a little bummed that I gave away the sample of bluegrass I had last month.  They had turned up their nose at it, preferring the Timothy.  At the time, I figured I would never use it.  I hope the guinea pigs that received it are enjoying it.

I swapped out the hay on Monday.  By Wednesday I swore they were hoovering up the leftover Timothy dust from the fleece and totally ignoring the nice long-stemmed hay in the hay rack and the paper tubes.  Even the cardboard seems to be more appetizing!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lonely Feeder

I've put up two of our bird feeders almost two weeks ago, and no activity.  It makes me very sad.  I've put some seed on the front and back porch railings, and it all disappeared.  So I know something picked them clean.  I hear tons of birds in the trees and have seen many across the yard, but no one visits.

The other bird feeder finally got some attention yesterday afternoon.  It's just big enough for a blue jay to land on.  I had one opportunistic jay clean most of the seed out.

I hope that the blue jay's interest mean that the other birds will be close behind.  I miss seeing the chickadees, titmice and nuthatches at my window.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Nephew's Costume

Almost complete tail - just needs some brown
My sister called me requesting help with my nephew's Halloween costume.  She didn't like the ones she found on-line and figured if we put our heads together, we could do better for cheaper.  She had the shirt, but needed matching pants.  I don't remember discussing a tail and ears... but halfway through sewing up the pants, I realized I needed those as well.

I told her I was happy to work on this, but only if she supplied me with a sewing machine.  My beloved Singer, after finishing Northern Lights, was sent off to the repair shop (I'm anxiously awaiting to hear if they will fix it or if I need a new sewing machine).  My sister does not sew, although she has a little Shark sewing machine for repairs and simple stuff.  She brought it over.  That sucker is LOUD and a little scary.  I kept expecting the needle to snap and fling pieces all over the place with the way it trundled along.  But it stitched a seam, which was enough for me.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Northern Lights: Topsfield Fair

I went to the Topsfield Fair on Sunday.  Crummy weather kept the crowds down, which was nice.  I got to see my quilt - with it's second place ribbon!  <Squeal!>  I was so excited to see any kind of ribbon hanging from my quilt, but to see the red - oh, I was thrilled.

It was a banner day for ribbons.  My friend who had submitted applesauce and salsa took first place and honorable mention, respectively.  My family and friends all love her applesauce, but now she has proof that it's really good stuff.
Mmmm... applesauce
She was briefly disappointed when it looked like her entry was the only one in her category - what fun is first place then?  After asking around we discovered that placing wasn't compared against the other contestants in a specific category, but merited from it's individual qualities.  Makes me even happier with my second place ribbon.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

You Can't See Me

Cannoli has been spending a lot of time this week in the fleece cozy on the third level.  Most of the time she's curled up in the opening of the cozy, with her nose peeking out one side and one hind foot hanging out the other. 

Noli tried out a new arrangement on Friday afternoon.  She'd managed to get into the cozy, then pulled a tube of hay right up against the opening.  I could just barely see her watching me as I walked by.  I could almost hear her thinking:  there isn't a piggy in this pouch - it's just an empty cozy.  Nothing to see.  You can just move along.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Elimination Treats

Chunky Monkey Granola
I recently read The Immune System Recovery Plan and am attempting the elimination diet: no dairy, soy, gluten or corn.  I'm about a week into it.  Some of it's been easy, the rest, not so much.  At a minimum, it's been an education.  The peanut butter I use for baking has soy.  The sausage I normally eat has corn syrup (really? I won't be buying that anymore).  I don't tend to buy a whole lot of prepackaged processed food, but I've found myself reading every label of anything I've purchased in the last two weeks.  It gives me a new appreciation for my friends that have various food allergies or restrictions.  I am hoping at the end of this experiment that any restrictions I put on my ingredients in the future is by choice, not by necessity.

Many of the meals I make already fit the profile or require only minor changes, so that's not too bad.  I've had to tweak my breakfast routine a bit.  But my snacks?  I needed to do some baking to replace my gluten- and dairy-filled treats.  I made some cookies and quick bread last week, adjusting the ingredients (although I botched one batch of peanut butter cookies which my sister is now enjoying).  I discovered that replacing the flour with almond meal in the coconut macaroons was a delicious substitution.  We'll be keeping that change regardless of the outcome of this trial run.

I made some granola this weekend, based on a recipe I've been meaning to try for nearly a year.  I found some dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips and swapped the butter for coconut oil.  It's delicious, although it's a bit sticky.  I like my granola a bit drier.  But it satisfies my sweet tooth, so I am happy.  I agree with the gal from Very Culinary - it's going to be hard not to polish off the whole batch in a day or two!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Northern Lights: Off to the Fair

Night Jewels
It's really done.  Ta-da!  Isn't it beautiful?  I got the label on last week, just in time to ship it off to the Topsfield Fair.  I love the name my aunt came up for it.  She said the colors against the black made her think of the northern lights, and I said aha!  That's it!  That's its name!

It took a while to photograph it.  First, we had to find a good place to set up to capture the whole thing.  Then there were lighting issues.  The afternoon sun was in the wrong direction and washed out all of our shots.  Thank goodness we were able to get some good photos on Saturday morning, since I delivered the quilt to the fair that afternoon!  (It also helped that I had a very patient photographer, who took dozens of shots, before I had what I wanted.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pinniped Proofing

Pinni thwarted by my awesome pig-proof barrier
Pinniped is always excited when I clean the cage.  She can't wait to get back in and she'll sit right under the cage if she could (Eclair used to do the same thing, and I'd end up tripping over her!).  In the new place, Pinni and Cannoli stayed mostly on the hardwood floor, not wandering too far from home-base, which I set up on the far side of the room.  However, once Pinni got her bearings, she'd venture into the living room.  This was a problem, mainly because she's a very leaky rodent and the living room is carpeted.  Besides, I didn't want her underfoot.  So I strung out a full barrier of grids between the kitchen and the living room.  It did the trick, but it was inconvenient to step over when I moved between the rooms.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bike to Brewster

The Brewster Mill and Herring Run
I bring my bicycle down to the Cape every Chick Weekend, to ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail when everyone else has gone.  I used to ride up and down Eastham and Orleans (and Wellfleet, once they completed that section) during the summers I lived on the Cape.

One thing I've been wanting to do for years is to bike to the Brewster Grist Mill.  I fondly remember visiting it as a kid, during my aunts' "Upper Class Tour of the Lower Cape" adventures. My usual rides are no longer than 15-20 miles and according to the map, this was over 27 miles round trip.  But this year, I was determined to make it (and I can hear all of my PMC friends laughing at this - only 27 miles?!?).

I pedaled into a headwind (which made for an easier ride home!), took one wrong turn but eventually made it to my destination.  The mill, mill pond and herring run doesn't cover a lot of area, but it's pretty and relaxing, even on an overcast day.  The mill was closed for the season, so I couldn't go in, though I could peek in the windows.  Besides, it's more fun to walk the grounds and I had the whole place to myself.  I love the sound of running water and everything was so wonderfully green.  Now that I know I can get here, I'll have to do it again next year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Cannoli!

She was sure we couldn't see her when she hid her nose.
Today, on the six month anniversary of adopting Cannoli, we celebrate her first birthday.  We've been told she was around six months old when we adopted her, so I figured this was as good a date as any other.

Cannoli has settled in nicely into our home over the last six months.  She's still a bit shy when people are near, although she's not afraid to be heard whenever anyone opens the fridge or runs the kitchen faucet (go figure that one out).  We marvel at how well Cannoli and Pinnped get along.

I've recently been trying to teach Cannoli to stand up and beg.  She's got the standing-up portion of it down cold, but she won't come forward in the cage, and tries to stand up under the third level or even from under the hammock!  It's a work in progress.

Noli even survived her first pignic, including an hour-long drive in the carrier with Pinni.  She was held and patted (after chasing her all over the pen) and accepted the compliments she was given, like a true diva sow.

Happy Birthday, Cannoli!  We look forward to many more!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Boston Fall Pignic 2013

The Boston Pignic seems to be on a trend of more people attending than guinea pigs.  I'm not complaining.  Having experienced several pignics with large amounts of humans and pigs, I prefer Sunday's turnout of 40-ish people and 28 pigs.  It made for a relaxing afternoon.

As usual, I fretted about the weather as the day approached.  It was a cool start, but the sun was warm and the pigs looked quite comfortable as they wandered around.  We had several first-timers arrive early, and one pignic-goer was kind enough to bring cupcakes to share, all decorated as guinea pigs!  (The cupcakes were all gone by the end of the pignic.)

Guinea pig cupcakes, pigs and people enjoying the day, and a round pig on the scale

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nifty Scarf

Once again, I get to show off my family's talent.  I don't knit, but my aunt does beautiful work.  I earned this scarf for fixing her email access (I think the reward is worth more than the services rendered).  She had about a half dozen scarves of different colors and shapes to pick from.  This one was my favorite.  I love the color, it's so soft, plus it's long enough to double up and loop the ends through (like in the photo).  I've always wanted a scarf that I could wear like that.  Now I do!  <happy dance>

Added bonus from my visit:  my aunt named my quilt.  I had come up with a couple of names, and wasn't happy with any of them.  (I'll reveal the name when I show off my completed quilt.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cape Chick Weekend VII

It was a small group of us down for Chick Weekend this year, and most could only stay for part of Saturday and Sunday.  But we squeezed as much fun as we could from our short time together.

We went to the craft fair (can't skip that) and one gal participated in the sand sculpture contest (winning second prize!).  We visited the windmill green on Sunday, which we haven't done in years.  We missed the chowder contest (bummer), but made it in time for the parade.  There's never enough time to do everything.  Whatever we miss one year, we make note to try and do it the next.

We have our favorite routines.  This year two of us split a 3lb lobster for our Friendly Fisherman dinner.  And we all came back with fresh bread and pastries (oh, so good!) from PB Boulangerie as well as goodies from Atlantic Spice.  All of us got a kick out of the latest update in the cottage: a sink-and-toilet combo.  Wash your hands as it fills the tank.  How cool is that?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Garbage Soup

Preparing the stock
I read about making stock from vegetable trimmings rather than throwing whole veggies into the pot.  So I've been keeping a gallon bag in the freezer filled with bits of onions, carrot peelings, beet greens, broccoli stems and whatever veggie trimmings we didn't feed to the guinea pigs.  Rob is mildly horrified that I keep these scraps and he refers to the bag as garbage soup.

The bag was filled up last weekend, so I threw the contents in the pot and cooked them up.  The resulting broth turned out a bit on the pink side - must have been from the beet greens.  It smelled wonderful, although it's very dark and slightly bitter.  It's probably not great as a soup base, but it works well in recipes that call for chicken or vegetable stock.  I make half-cup portions by pouring it into muffin tins and freezing it, then dumping the frozen blocks into a big Ziploc bag and storing it in the freezer.  That makes for easy measuring in my recipes:  just pull out the blocks and defrost what I need.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pretty Little Volunteer

My tomatoes took a beating this summer. I'll have to do better next year.  But I found a pretty little volunteer in two of the planters.  Looks like a morning glory?  I found two more blooms the other day; I'm hoping there will be more before the end of the season (and maybe one more tomato from the plant that recovered).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Cannoli has been more adventurous during floor time, following Pinniped around as she goes exploring.  So floor time is a bit more interesting, as they check out more of the kitchen and occasionally venture into the living room.

Pinniped and Cannoli were on the floor as usual as I was cleaning the cage on Saturday.  I had tossed a cozy and a tunnel from the cage for them to play with.  The two of them clucked about the room as I scooped out bedding and scrubbed the cage.  Suddenly I heard a pained cry.  I ran over and found Noli and Pinni stuffed into the tunnel.  Noli was crying because she was so squished in that narrow space and neither was ready to back down.  I'm not sure either could budge!  I eventually dumped them out because I couldn't stand listening to Cannoli's pitiful wails.  Pinniped slid out, Cannoli managed to stay in there.  What a pair.