Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mandler Mitts

More of my Christmas projects:

My sister hinted at me, when I visited her in November, that her current oven mitts were getting burned around the edges and it might be time for a new pair.  So I spent an afternoon making a new pair for a Christmas present.

I love these.  This pattern is so easy to make.  I had a pattern that had the thumb off to the side, and trying to sew around a small thumb piece drove me nuts.  This pattern just has three pieces.  Nothing is too small; no sharp turns while sewing.  Making these as a crazy quilt gets rid of the small scraps of stuff I hate to throw away, but are too small for a normal quilting project.

I favor the bright colors.  But rusty/green one looks pretty cool, too.

Mom complained that she has old oven mitts, and she didn't get any for Christmas. I foresee making another pair in the near future....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Battle Pigs

Oh, yes, you guinea pig lovers.  Gaze upon my Christmas present and be totally jealous.  How many of you own a Battle Guinea Pigs t-shirt?

My brother-in-law found it on shirt.Woot! and thought of me.  How lucky am I?

Not that my sister is a slouch.  She found this cute ornament.  I think I'll set it aside for my advent calendar.  That way, it will come out each year, even if I don't have a tree.

But lets face it - those battle piggies are cool!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Tortoise and the Hare


I have been focused on fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters for my nephew's ornaments.  I was told he's been getting into Aesop's Fables this year including The Tortoise and the Hare and that idea stuck.  The result:



This went so much easier than the Highlander ornament.  The hardest part was getting the hare across the tortoise's back without making him look dead or flattening him out too much.  I Googled "sleeping bunny" and looked at a lot of images before I found an idea I could work with.  I thought it's a good look.

This one is not as intricate as some of my ornaments (although the shell took some work), but I always like my 3D pieces best.  It makes me smile - so I know its good.  :-)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Frolicking Bertie

I often hear Bertie running laps in the cage when I'm in the kitchen or living room.  But rarely do I get to see her doing it.  By the time I sneak in, they've heard me and all the ruckus stops.  Similar to Willow, I also have heard Bertie do the Clean Cage Dance.  Since cage-cleaning time seems to be a good time to catch her in the act, I've been setting up the camera on a tripod and let it video them for 10 minutes after I put them back in the cage. 

Its exciting to have a clean dry cage!  Although its the same setup every time, they have to explore every nook and cranny, in case anything has changed (sometimes the fleece, sometimes the cozies, and there's always new hay and pellets).  Hay needs taste-testing, pellets need eating and one needs to try out the obstacle course.

At some point, Bertie gets goosed by Pinni and that really sets her off.  She's a very bouncy Bertie!

Its not the easiest to see with the grids in the way.  I'll need to see if I can get the camera a bit higher and pointed down into the cage to try and capture their utter goofiness.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Highlander with burnt socks

I could perhaps subtitle this entry as: Highlander: FAIL 2.

I fixed my Highlander since my last post:  Trimmed down his ankles.  Fixed the gillie cords.  Got rid of the worst of the paunch belly.  Added all the other items to complete his outfit.  And then I baked him.  Which, unfortunately, left him with burnt socks.


I blame it on an article I read somewhere that under cooking Sculpey can lead to breakage.  I was left with the impression that I needed to be cooking my ornaments for longer than I had been.  Even though the package of Sculpey has in bold letters: Do NOT overbake.  I have learned my lesson - from now on, I trust what I've been doing!

But why just the socks?  And only the top of his socks.  His shirt was white, too?  I'd have figured they'd discolor in the same way?  The only thing I can think of is that because the socks were thin layers of white over the legs, something with the layering caused them to crisp before the solid white shirt did. 

The photo doesn't do him justice.  He's got tassels on his socks and a ribbon in his hat and a big fat gold pin you can barely see  on the cloth over his shoulder (the pin is near his hip).  He had lots of fun details to do.  We've brainstormed over how to fix the socks, but in the end, I'm going to say that my bad Highlander went stomping in mud-puddles before I got a chance to give him to my godson.  :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cotillion 2010

Sunday was the annual Scout House Cotillion.  Even though I told Rob he was excused from donning the monkey suit, he insisted on attending.  It poured buckets that evening and Rob was a true godsend, because he gave Maureen and I door-to-door service and trod through the rain to the car by himself.

Don't we clean up nice?

This is the Dress that Everyone Loves.  It's my favorite gown for all sorts of reasons, including its acquisition which involved Black Friday, a mannequin and an assertive friend that would not take "no" for an answer.

It was a decent showing of people.  I had been worried by the lack of Facebook replies that it might be very light attendance.  But it wasn't bad.  I think more people than usual attended in fancy dress, which was nice.  There were some incredible gowns there, especially the period ones.  I totally envied the maroon Civil War dress.  And I am a sucker for a guy in tails. 

I was eyeballing the Fezziwig ball, though, that was on Saturday night up in Salem.  I may look to go to that one next year, for a change.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Plaid: FAIL

I have a few recent projects I'm dying to share, but since they're gifts, and the people are on the internet, I really don't dare to post photos until after they get their gifts.  Its killing me!  I usually share what I'm doing with the folks at work, but so many of them are no longer at the company or work at home.  So there will be a few posts ready to go at the end of the month!

I have worked with Sculpey for lots of years, but have never tried doing that sliced-pattern thing.  I do lots of different figures from around the world - china man, Eskimo, Aladdin, Vikings, Huns, Romans, knights in armor, cowboys and Indians.  So this year, I got the idea of a Scotsman... in plaid.  Right.  What was I thinking?

So I spent hours researching tartans, and two hours coming up with a plaid that was a dismal failure.  I have a new appreciation of people who can create designs in sculpey that they can slice.  I had no idea how thick I was making stuff as I layered it up.  And I ended up with way too much white.

Pretty colors.  But it was unusable for what I was doing.  There goes most of my afternoon down the tubes.  Ugh.

I was going to give up entirely, and try painting on the design after I finished the ornament, but in playing around with my ruined tartan, I discovered that even with a simpler design, I got the "feel" for tartan, even if it wasn't technically what I wanted.  Which is fine.  I liked it better than anything I could paint.

I'm running into several issues.  The gillies look alright, but the dude's legs and ankles look like they belong to an elephant!  And he's got a paunch belly, which makes me laugh.  I think I need to move that weight up into his shoulders!  And the bandaid on my left thunb is wreaking havoc on his face and shirt - its leaving these odd pockmarks if I'm not careful.   And the tartan is brown, not the bright red and green I had been envisioning.  On top of it all, I am out of red, and I really don't want to have to run out and get some more right now.  Finally, in looking at this photo, I realize I should have rolled my plaid a whole lot smaller before I started slicing. <sigh>

But at least I have something to show at the end of the day for all my work.

At this point, I'm fervently praying I can finish him tomorrow.  Usually the most time consuing thing in my ornamets is the research before I start making them, or the small detail work.  I'm having trouble just getting clothes on this guy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A demonstration on clipping guinea pig nails

Yeah.  Woo-hoo. I'm sure this post will lose what little audience I have.

A brief demonstration on nail clipping.  Not really a tutorial - there are much better step-by-step examples of how to do it on YouTube (search for guinea pig nail clipping).  But my girls managed to demonstrate very different (and all normal) reactions to getting their nails clipped.  Bertie gave a great example of the DO NOT WANT! reaction.   Willow was the ho-hum, I've done this a million times reaction.

First, Bertie the Squirmy.

Yup.  That is a pig that is not going to take it lying down!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Annual Pig Photo Shoot

Traditionally (for the last six years), I spend Black Friday taking photos that eventually end up as my Christmas cards.  I love sending cards that make people laugh and a photo of a bunch of dopey guinea pigs is pretty much guaranteed to do that. 

We didn't have good daylight yesterday, so the photo shoot was today, and took most of the afternoon.  It starts with setup and checking that we like the scenery.  Then its wrangle pigs, bribe pigs, shoot photos and review photos.  And repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Usually we get a few decent photos in the first batch or two, and then do the last photo shoot(s) for minor adjustments to get just the right photos.  But this year, with three pigs (two that have never been through this), it was just impossible to get one good shot.  Plus, the first two sets of photos were a loss, because the "snow" covering messed with the lighting.

I videoed the fourth and final shoot:

What a bunch of dopey pigs!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Let the project marathon begin!

Its after Thanksgiving, which means my Christmas projects have begun:  ornaments and small sewing projects I give as gifts.

My kick-off project isn't, technically, for Christmas.  Its for an annual fund raiser at the Scout House in February.  I've been requested to make some more shoe bags for the raffle.   Whenever I'm buying material, I keep the shoe bags in mind.  I try to find something bright and/or outrageous.  A hot-pepper bag I did a couple of years ago was a big hit.  So at some point this year I found some more pepper material, as well as some whimsical stuff.

Musical mice!  That's about as whimsical as it gets!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fall Frolic

I frolicked, and it was fun!

We went to the annual Fall Frolic at the Greenfield Grange on Sunday.  Its a fundraiser dance that goes from 2pm-10pm.  We lasted until about 7pm.  My aching feet, flagging energy and thoughts of the two hour drive home got me to admit it was time to go.

I hope it was a successful fundraiser.  It was certainly a fun dance!

For more photos of the dance on Facebook, check out the Fall Frolic 2010 album.  Roger takes wonderful photos.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The proper way to spend a Sunday afternoon

Ah, a chilly, yet sunny, Sunday afternoon.  And the guinea pigs are doing one of the things that they do best: napping.

Yup.  Its a rough life.

Any of these three would tell you that.

I'm thinking they may have the right idea.....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sailboat Sweatshirt

My sewing room disaster area wasn't just from my quilt.  I also worked on a child's sweatshirt:

Wow, that red is bright in the photo! 

The little flags on the top of the sail actually stick out, because they were just too small to try and piece.  Which actually made a really neat effect.  I originally thought of putting a mast, but I was having hard enough time, I ended up simplifying it a lot!  My mother pointed out I could have used freezer paper to make piecing together the tiny pieces easier.  I may have to learn how to do this, if I attempt to do something like this again.

I debated about folding under a seam allowance, and attach the block with iron-on adhesive and hand stitching, but I opted, in the end, for iron-on adhesive and zig-zag on the sewing machine.  Guaranteed not to come off that shirt!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Aftermath

Just in case anyone was wondering.... I sew pretty much the same way as I cook.  I leave a disaster in my wake.  My kitchen, more often than not, appears to be self-cleaning.  Or at least when I come back later, its all clean!  Unfortunately, in the case of sewing projects, it doesn't seem to work the same way: 

<sigh> Maybe I can face it this weekend....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spring Log Cabin at the Beach

Several days of vacation gave me a chance to finish the quilt.  Huzzah!  Most evenings this week were spent hand-stitching the binding.  I'm getting old... I needed glasses to work on it. 

I finally found some backing material I liked at the Franklin Mills store.  Not what I had expected, but it spoke to me:

Beach gear?  For a fall baby?  Well, I heard about her birth at the Cape, so I suspect that's why I latched onto the seaside theme.

I wasn't too sure about the color scheme at some point, but now that its done, I'm rather liking it.  I hope Mallory likes it, too.  Its certainly a lot brighter than my last baby quilt.

My last fun step:  The label.  I love Printed Treasures for making quilt labels.  So much easier than trying to write it all by hand.  And I don't have to worry about scrawling print or having to start all over again when I misspell something.  I love that I can pull in one of the background colors or material and work from that.  The only drawback is, its tough to sew through by hand. 

Welcome to the world, Mallory.  I hope you have a wonderful life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Sewing Project: Log Cabin Quilt

After a long dry spell of no sewing, I have such a backlog of projects that I've needed to dust off my sewing machine and get to work.

I have never done a log cabin quilt before.  Not that I've done a ton of quilts, but they've almost all been some variation of 9-patch.   I figured a baby quilt would be a perfect place to start.  Something small and simple.

I went through my scraps, and green kept speaking to me.  I originally thought green and yellow, but for whatever reason when I went to buy the rest of the material, I latched onto pink.  Bright pink, at that.  Not what I expected.  But that's the way it usually is with me: the quilts take on a life of their own.  I've learned to go with the flow.

The day after buying the material, I finally realized *why* I had this affinity for the color combo of bright pink and green:

Hmmm... something familiar about that top table runner....

I discovered, after I had cut all the material and sewed up the blocks that the blocks are predominantly what the second color is.  Hadn't really thought about that when I arbitrarily chose which color was "first."  So, this is a green quilt with pink, instead of the other way around.  Or evenly (which is what I thought it would be).  I mean, duh.  That should have been obvious when I was calculating yardage -- I needed more green than pink.  I realize now, I could have sewn the log cabins a little differently, and the colors would have been more even.

This has been an up-and-down project.  I despaired when I ran out of old material because I miscalculated (which I *always* do, even when I calculate twice), and managed to luck out and found a bolt of it in the discontinued shelves. Woot!  Then as I started cutting the material I feared that the colors were so eye-poppingly strong that people would run screaming from the quilt.  It has taken me forever to get this far.  But now that I've got the main portion sewn together, its not that bad!

Now if I can only find some backing and hope I didn't mis-measure the binding length!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Boston Fall Pignic

I can't believe its been a whole week since the Fall Pignic. 

I must say, having people to help with setup and take-down was a wonderful thing.  Usually I do setup by myself, and sometimes its a rush to have pens in place before people arrive.  And being the permit holder, I am the last to go, to make sure that the lawn is clean and everything has been claimed and taken home.

The Pig Patrol shirts were Tammy's idea, and I must say they've been a great help in the last two pignics.  With a quick glance, I can see where the volunteers are, who's being helped and where we have coverage.  In turn, people who come can quickly find someone to help them or ask questions.  Brilliant!  We should have done that years ago!

The weather was so much better than the Spring Pignic.  We also had some cloud cover in the afternoon, which helped.  We lost our good shade tree  - nothing was left of it but the trunk.  The pens were set up on the west side of the bowl, which would have gotten the late afternoon sun. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fall Frolicking

It has been hot most of the week, and by Saturday, the girls were desperate to get out of their cages for some more space and a change of scenery.  They really enjoy being outdoors.  Bertie took a break from eating and started doing doughnuts.  She'd have gotten some good figure-eights going, if Pinni's butt hadn't kept getting in the way.

I only caught part of it.  She must have kept this up for  at least five minutes.  I've heard her do laps in the cage before, but obviously this cage has better zooming area and a lot better traction than shavings on coroplast! Go Bertie!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Table Tops

I bought two end tables and a coffee table off of craigslist years ago.  The tables themselves were in decent condition and were sturdy and a style I liked.  But the tops had been abused - they had scratches and rings and stains.  But for $30, what the heck?

I had intended to refinish them, but just never got around to it.  For the most part, they had enough crap on them to hide the worst of the damage.  In the last year, the coffee table picked up several new rings, and having the time and perfect weather yesterday, I decided to fix them.

I took out the worst table first, as a test subject, since I had never refinished a table before, and had never tried rub-on polyurethane before.  It wasn't until I had put on the first coat that I realized I should be taking before and after photos.  So I have an in-progress photo:

The bottom left table was the worst one, and has been sanded and has the first layer of poly on it.  This is a bad photo, but the coffee table is in worse shape than the side table on the right.

I was amazed how quickly I sanded off the damage.  Even more so, I was amazed at how easy the rub-on poly went on.  No brushes to clean up afterwards!  No bubbles or smoothing out to deal with.  And once the third layer went on, it had a nice finish.  It was satin - so it wasn't as smooth as I've had some woodwork, but I am extremely pleased with the results.

Look at how smooth and flawless that looks!

The first completed table.

This was an afternoon well spent.  I love rub-on poly.  My desk top needs refinishing -- it may be next!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bertie and the Hay Rack

Bertie has always taken a liking to the coroplast hay rack I attached to the side of their cage.  She often moves the step stool near it, so she can eat the hay from above.  When Bertie first arrived, I would occasionally find her in the hay rack, but I have not witnessed it in at least a few months. 

So not having witnessed this, I was puzzled when the hay rack suddenly started to come down.  It had originally been taped to the side with packing tape.  Even having caught Bertie in it, it had remained on the wall with no problems.  But a few months ago, it just stopped holding.  I thought it was maybe the brand of tape (I had switched)?  So I punched holes in the back piece and zip-tied it to the wall.  That was great for about two weeks, and then the front started coming away from the sides.  So just last week I pulled it apart, punched in some new holes and zip tied the sides to the back.  No more packing tape holding any of it together.

Then this week, the bottom started to come apart.  I have zip ties that I taped across the bottom, so the hay wouldn't all come pouring out.  I have never had them fall out before - even when it came off of the walls, those ties would stay in place!

Tonight, I witness this:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Great Outdoors

The beastly hot and humid weather finally broke, and we've had several days nice enough to let the pigs loose.

One of the best things about renting this place is the non-fertilized lawn.  Perfect for eating.  I had to make an enclosed cage, since I've seen hawks and was told there are turkey vultures in the trees.  But all three of the girls love being outdoors.

The cage is hardly animal-proof.  But its enough to keep them in and so far nothing else has been curious enough to approach it.  I am always within earshot.  The weather was so nice yesterday, I spent hours reading outside with them.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

It's not always big enough for the three of them.  Pinni and Bertie will bite Willow whenever they get the chance.  But for the most part, the grass is enough distraction, and there's enough room that they're not on top of each other, so harmony mostly prevails.

Ah, the joys of summer:  beautiful weather, green grass, and ripening tomatoes.  :-)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pignic and Willow

Even with the steamy weather, we held the Spring Pignic on June 20th. I stopped it early due to the weather (we had melting pigs) and thunder (some serious weather hit just south of us).

For probably the first time ever, since we've been having this pignic, I managed to get all of my girls in the big pen, without having them picking fights with random other pigs. Amazing! There were several photos of Willow hinging out with a number of pigs. Pinni mostly wanted to be just left alone. Bertie tried to stuff herself under any available house, even if it meant being crammed in the back.

I have opted not not to do surgery on Willow for the bladder stone. Its too big to get stuck. Oddly enough, since she's come back from the diagnosis, she's been doing better. Still orange pee, which sometimes gets very rusty colored, but she's not as fluffy as she has been. She doesn't sit with her nose in the corner in the evenings or does emo-pig. She also is a bit bolder during floor time - she interacts with the Newbies, and there's not nearly the amount of crying or screaming as there had been a month or two ago.

I've cut out the bactrim (since I was running out), and she gets 1/2 to 1 tablet of shilintong a day. I've tried all sorts of ways to get her to eat it, from dissolving it to stuffing it in fruits or veggies. So far, the only success I get is stuffing it in a bit of banana. Willow doesn't seem to notice that banana shouldn't crunch like it does. I don't know if the shilintong is responsible for the change in behavior (the apparent lack of pain), but whatever the reason, I'll take what I can get!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Typical Floor Time

I didn't think of grabbing my camera until floor time was almost up.  This is only a tiny fraction of the antics they were up to; there had been a lot of popcorning and figure-eights.  At least there was no screaming, and only a minimum of food-stealing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Happiness in a Hammock

As the weather is getting warmer, I have taken to swapping out the cozies for hammocks.  Or at least in Willow's cage.  Willow has always loved hammocks, occasionally to sleep under, but I've seen her in it a lot lately.

Yup.  Even when you're not feeling well, life is good if you have a hammock to nap in.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

I have been unsuccessful in reintegrating Willow, Bertie and Pinniped since their fallout in late March.  Although they've been living in the same cage since mid-April, and there has been no hair-pulling or drawn blood, The Newbies have been doing their darnedest to make Willow feel unwelcome.

Given how bossy Willow was with them initially, I initially felt it was justifiable payback.  But its gone on too far, and Willow shouldn't have to deal with these two her final year(s) in life.  Pinni is guarding Willow far too often, and goes out of her way to take food from Willow an any given opportunity.  Bertie will randomly oust Willow and chase her around the cage (if Willow is willing to run).

So I spent my afternoon yesterday remodeling cages.  The main cage is back to the configuration it was for Willow and Pippin - a split three-level.  Willow has moved to the old store-bought cage I have kept for quarantine.  I refitted it with C&C grids because I hate the top that goes with it.