Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bertie: Determined Rodent Extraordinaire

Less than a month ago I begged the vet that I wanted my old Bertie back:  the one that liked to run laps and defiantly climb into hay racks.  I felt like a little kid, demanding my dad fix a toy that was beyond repair.  I wanted this so much that I threw practicality to the wind, and scheduled surgery to remove Bertie's kidney tumor early in the new year.

Bertie had improved since her Thanksgiving vet visit.  By the week before Christmas, she had finally crept up over 700g, wasn't fighting the hand feedings as much and was generally looking a bit better.  I allowed myself to hope that the surgery would be successful, and after this year-and-a-half of gradual decline from viruses and kidney issues, I would get my active, happy Bertie back. 

Alas.  It was not to be.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Peter Pan

Did you guess what the Lots of Green was?  One of my coworkers correctly identified the pair of legs hanging out on the side of that photo.  Several people figured out I was making something many tiny leaves.  But there wasn't enough in my first photo to identify the ornament as the beginnings of Peter Pan's outfit. 

In researching this ornament, I discovered that Peter Pan was not well described in the original books.  He was a young boy, "clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that flow from trees".  So I went with that (and some of the original drawings I could find) as the basis of my Peter Pan, rather than the more popular Disney version.  The best part of this ornament?  I made him flying.  What fun!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Piggies!

You have to admit, guinea pigs are cute.  Every year I get more requests for my guinea pig Christmas cards.  In turn, I receive one or two more holiday pig pictures to decorate my wall.  This year, I acquired guinea pig photos and cards from five different guinea pig people.  They're all so cute,  I had to share:

Thank you so much for sharing your holiday piggy cheer!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know It

What else could be better for a 2012 ornament than a Mayan with his calendar?

I have been making my godson an ornament every year since the mid-1990's.  I had originally intended to stop making him ornaments when he turned 21.  However, he liked them so much, and I enjoyed making them so much, I continued for a few more years.  The end of an era has finally come.  It made this last ornament for him so fitting.

I have been interested in the Mayan civilization (and the Aztecs and the Incas) since I was a kid.  I've been toying with the idea of a Mayan or Aztec ornament for a few years.  Then I was truly inspired with the whole end-of-the-world calendar thing, and decided to make a Mayan and work a calendar into the ornament.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Teach N Treat - Level 3

The girls have been mastering the first two levels of Teach 'N Treat.  I had a chance to try the remaining challenge with them today.  This level keeps the four covers used in level 2, but locks them onto the board.  This allows the covers to be pushed around, but they cannot be picked up.

Having watched Bertie and Pinniped play with this toy over the last couple of months, I figured this level would be a non-event.  And this was true.  Pinni walked over, immediately nosed over the first cover she encountered, picked out the melon piece and took off to enjoy it.  The two of them had no problems maneuvering the pieces.  Their biggest frustration was their inability to lift up the covers or knock them over.  You can see Pinni tries several times to pick them up to move them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lots of Green

I finally ran out of ways to procrastinate and started working on this year's ornaments.  It's odd how it takes such an effort to start these (and it gets worse every year).  I really enjoy the work, and when I finish with my creations, I think to myself:  why don't I do this more often?!?  Coming up with the ideas and the research can take some time, but I've had this year's designs in my head for weeks.  I suspect that I drag my feet because I am uncertain I can translate what's in my head into the clay.  That, and I never know where to start. 

Eventually I just sit down with the clay and the rest starts to happen.  This is ornament #1 - for my nephew.  So far, lots of green.  I've told some people what I'm making, but the rest of you will have to guess (and then wait over a week before I can tell you - he won't receive it until the 29th).

Happy guessing!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Black Bean Chicken Soup

I was digging through a bunch of saved recipes last week, attempting to weed out ones I haven't tried yet, when  I stumbled across this soup recipe.  I had some chicken and stock I had just made the other night on hand, so I decided to try it.

I don't recall where I found this recipe, although I suspect someone gave it to me based on how I had filed it.  If you're the person who gave it to me - thank you!  I am generally not a big soup person, but I liked this recipe a lot.  It wasn't very liquidy, which suited me fine.  The sausage gave it some zing, and the whole thing made for a very satisfying meal.  I cut down on the carrots (not everyone in this house loves them), had to skimp on the black beans and shredded the chicken (since it was already cooked), but I generally stuck to the recipe.  We both really liked it, and the recipe has made it into my binder of tried-and-true recipes. 

The original recipe states it's for six main course servings.  Goodness - we got five servings out of a half recipe.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Goodies

For me, the holiday season officially begins when I go to the Cotillion or Fezziwig's Ball.  I was told by my vet last week that they mark the beginning of the holiday season when I show up with my guinea pig card and a tin full of toffee and cookies.  I've done Ginger Star cookies for many years.  This year I decided to try something new, partially because I couldn't face rolling and cutting nearly 100 little star cookies.  Besides, I had a couple of new recipes I was dying to try, and the family is no longer doing a cookie swap. <sadness>  I usually try out new cookie recipes to trade with my aunts.

I stuck with my almond buttercrunch, because I knew there would be general unhappiness if I stopped gifting that.  Last year I had dipped some of them in milk chocolate, which turned out to be a hit.  So I prepared batches of both milk and dark chocolate dipped toffee.  I tried out two new cookie recipes, because I couldn't choose between them.  Both were delicious!  I have already had requests for the recipes.  The first recipe was Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies.  I found it in a recent King Arthur Flour catalog.  I didn't have the nifty pearl sugar, but the cookies were wonderful anyway.

I renamed the other cookie recipe to Buckeye Cookies, since it's shorter and more descriptive than the original name of Magic in the Middle Cookies.  I found that recipe on The Girl Who Ate Everything blog.  I ran out of Skippy peanut butter when making the first batch, so I used my good chunky peanut butter (the kind you have to stir) for the centers.  I found this made a more solid center to work with (but both kinds taste delicious!).  I also ended up making the cookies half-sized, which yielded five dozen cookies.  The smaller size made them better for sharing.

I've already made a second batch of the Buckeyes - Rob became desolate when he discovered that most of the cookies were to be given away.  Next year, I need to make bigger batches.  Or add in a third kind of cookie.  Oh, the possibilities!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Diminishing Returns

I discovered a few weeks ago that Bertie likes peas and carrot baby food mixed in with her Critical Care.  She stopped fighting me as much, which is good news.  However... I had increased the hand feedings to two or three times a day.  As far as I could tell, she'd been eating on her own, too, so the latest drop in weight was mystifying.  She had stayed in the 760s for most of November, but fell into the 700s just before Thanksgiving.  The way she attacked her food made me wonder about tooth issues.  Bertie went in two weeks ago to have her molars filed.

The vet was very concerned with this latest drop in weight, and didn't think the few spurs she found on Bertie's molars was enough to cause this much weight loss.  She did further tests while Bertie was under anesthesia and didn't like what she saw: shadows behind Bertie's stomach and liver.  It took a while for the test results to come back, but the latest thought is that the kidney disease may, in fact, be caused by a tumor on or near the kidney.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Return to Fezziwig's Ball

Me, Rob and Fezziwig
I had planned to go back to the Scout House Cotillion this year, until I discovered it had been discontinued.  Then I briefly contemplated taking a break this season from the dress-up period dancing.  However, with a small nudge from Rob, I decided we should return to Fezziwig's Ball this year.

I'm glad we went.  We scored a good parking spot and it was a mild evening to walk to Salem's old town hall.  Fezziwig greeted us warmly at the door.  He was a mountain of a man and so cheerful I couldn't help but smile.  I admit I got a little giddy when I walked in and saw so many beautiful gowns, top hats and tails.  Ooh!

I enjoyed this year's ball better than last year's for a number of reasons:  I was familiar with the pace of the evening, it wasn't as overwhelmingly new, and I wore dance shoes instead of the heals I usually wear with this dress.  I had to be careful not to step on the hem, but the shoes made navigating the stairs far less treacherous.  In addition, the Grand March did not include traipsing up and down the stairs.  Much better!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Where Did It Go?

When we were busy stuffing Pinniped into various objects this fall, I decided to test if this year's Christmas photo prop would work with the pigs.  So I plopped Pinni in the candy tin, gave her a tomato, and got the following result.  What a dope.

Pinni is just so darn curious.  We love how animated her nose is when she's been picked up or placed in an unfamiliar spot.  After all, it's that nose that made me fall in love with her in the first place.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Matter of Taste

Peas & carrots, Critical Care, and pureed spinach
Critical Care seems to be a love or hate thing with guinea pigs.  I've seen this myself and heard it from others.  Willow could never get enough of it.  Bertie would be happy if she never touched it again.  In an effort to make the Critical Care more palatable, I've tried mixing it with baby food.  I thought banana would be a hit, but Bertie wasn't impressed.  However, peas and carrots seemed to be at least somewhat edible.

Whenever I've fed Bertie, I would let Pinniped slurp up whatever Bertie wouldn't eat.  Pinni would often try to pull the syringe out of my hand because she wasn't getting it fast enough.  But the first time I tried feeding her the leftover peas and carrots mixture?  Pinni took one whiff and gave me a look like I was trying to poison her.  What the heck is this stuff?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fur, Fins and Feathers

I've been making ornaments of people for years, because the clothing is interesting to design.  But when it comes down to making an ornament that is just plain fun to make, it tends to be something cute and fuzzy (and occasionally scaly).  Animal ornaments can take just as much research as my human ones.  However, the work tends to go a bit faster once I know what I want to construct.  They don't have the intricacies of miniature clothing.  They also tend to be a bit more whimsical (like the pig, sheep and bunny on a toboggan) than their human counterparts.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Solo Shots

Bertie and Pinniped survived our annual Christmas card photo shoot last Friday.  The holiday cards go out with a group photo, but every year we manage to get one or two nice single shots, too. 

Bertie was so well behaved during the initial set of photos.  She didn't like the tin at first, but changed her mind the second time we put her in.  She's patiently waiting for the fuss to be done and over with.  There will be extra treats, right?

We were unable to get a good solo photo of Pinni in the first series, unless you count a beautiful bum shot.  However, Pinni calmed down a bit when we put her on stage the second time and managed to pose nicely for the camera. 

It's so nice when they behave!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Christmas Photo Shoot

This year's set
Black Friday, for us, is a day of sleeping in, eating Thanksgiving leftovers, wrangling guinea pigs and taking lots of photos.

This year was easier than past years for a number of reasons.  There were only two pigs to herd and bribe.  What a different dynamic that is!  As an added bonus, using the grids to hold up the backdrop allowed me to work with the pigs and keep my hands out of many of the shots.  There was one drawback with that: Pinniped kept facing me for treats and we got a number of her bodacious butt.  Bertie wasn't feeling terrific, so she was fairly tractable.  It was mostly Pinni that I had to chase around when she wasn't in the tin.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie

I wanted to try a new recipe for Thanksgiving dessert.  I spent some time this week flipping through a number of bookmarked websites, drooling over the possibilities.  Then I came across a pie I had bookmarked over a year ago from Kriplau:  Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie.  Graham cracker crust followed by a chocolate cream cheese maple syrup layer, then topped with traditional pumpkin pie.  The ingredients certainly looked delicious.

Nothing like trying something new at a big family event.  I had feared that I had overcooked the pie, but it turned out great.  Everyone deemed it delicious.  I managed to bring only a single fat slice home.  The rest had disappeared.

That one slice of pie got a lot of attention.  I wanted a nice shot of the pie, but I also wanted to prepare for our annual guinea pig Christmas card shoot later in the day.   We took this chance to calibrate our cameras, check the lighting and try various settings.
And then, of course, that slice of pie met it's demise.  Alas, gone too soon.  Yum.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Storybook Characters

I have started work on this year's ornaments.  Well... maybe not physically working on them.  I have ideas of what I want to do, and I'm doing the research to see how feasible my ideas are.  As usual, I can't post too much about what I'm working on, since I don't want my recipients to know what they're getting.  So I figured I'd display some of my past ornaments.

I am struggling over what to make my nephew this year.  He is currently fixated with Mario Kart, but he got an ornament based on that last year, so it's time to move on to something else.

His Christmas ornaments are mostly based on storybook characters.  They dovetailed nicely with the set of fantasy characters I made for my sister.  I have been trying to stick with that goal, but I suspect I'll deviate from it more and more as he gets older.

It's quite a collection so far.  It started with the cat and the fiddle, and the cow jumping over the moon.  I stayed with nursery rhymes the following year and made the owl and the pussy cat in their pea-green boat.  It was a tricky ornament for such a simple concept.  I had a hard time balancing the boat.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shoe Sacks

The Concord Scout House is having a benefit contra dance on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (less than a week away!).  They're no longer having the silent auction, but when I inquired about donating items, I was asked if I could make shoe bags.  Sure!  That seems to be my specialty.

It's been a year or two since I last made dance shoe bags.  I dug through my extra fabric the other night to see what was available.  I came across a chili pepper print I had bought specifically for shoe bags.  The musical mice fabric seemed appropriate.  I found a Christmas print that I have no memory of buying.  It made a pretty bag, although it's terribly seasonal.  Lastly, I found a western print leftover from another project.  There was just enough to make a small bag, but I'm sure someone will like it.  Quite a hodgepodge.

That makes six bags all stitched up and looking for new homes.  Come support the Concord Scout House!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tripp's Baby Quilt

I had pulled out several quilt pictures when looking for a submission for the Blogger's Quilt Festival last month.  It was tough to pick one!  I ended up submitting Summer Day, even though Pinwheels had been my initial choice.  I figure since I had already written the post, I might as well publish it!  So here it is:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ambling Along

We are on a fairly regular routine.  Bertie gets Baytril twice a day, in hopes that her failure to gain weight is some well entrenched bug.  She had gained some weight the last time she was on the stuff, but it doesn't seem to be having any effect this time around.  I need to call the vet with a progress report soon.  She won't be happy with my results.  There has been no improvement, and I suspect I've seen a hint of labored breathing.  I've been waiting for this, since Bertie's lungs have not looked good on several x-rays.

Bertie still hovers at about 740g.  She gets critical care once or twice a day (which is a fight), and still is getting jabbed every other day with 30cc of lactated ringers.  The subcues have become a permanent two-man job.  She at least doesn't cry all the time, but she is one pissed off rodent.  Bertie can't stand to be restrained, but she won't sit still, either.  So one person immobilizes her, and the other injects and tries distracting her with treats.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stitching Strips

Finished rows
The iron is my friend.  I have been coaxing my uneven blocks to match up with the surrounding blocks.  Kind of frustrating, since I focused on sewing accurate 1/4" seams.  Oh, well.  I have about ten rows strung together and three rows all attached.  It's exciting to see it come together.

The pinning and stitching is time consuming.  Every row I work on requires ripping out one or two seams, in an attempt to get everything lined up.  I guess my seam ripper is my other friend.  It can be discouraging seeing all the points that don't match.  I have ripped out some seams, to pin and sew again, only to end up with the exact same problem that I was trying to fix!  If I can't fix a seam after two attempts, I figure it's meant to be as is.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Acorn Squash with Orzo

I got tons of winter squash from the CSA this year.  It's a lot of squash for one person to cook, mash and eat.  So I decided to be a little creative and try some new recipes.  I've been considering some pasta recipes;  a friend of mine just made a delicious butternut squash lasagna.  Then I came across a recipe in this month's Yoga Journal for orzo-stuffed squash.  It looked tasty and I had most of the ingredients on hand.

Do I ever follow directions?  My mother was over last weekend, and we joked about how I learned that from her.  I had two huge acorn squashes, so I used them instead of delicata.  I skipped the pomegranate seeds and forgot the parsley.  I also shredded the sage leaves small and didn't strain them out of the butter.  They smelled so wonderful, it seemed a shame to toss them.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Teach N Treat - Level 2

It was the fifth or sixth time trying the Teach 'N Treat on Level 1 that I saw Pinniped systematically moving the disk and checking the reservoirs for bits of tomato.  Finally - a recognition of cause and effect.  I moved the disk over a few of the pieces she uncovered, and she purposely shoved the disk far over to one corner, and started to check for uncovered tomatoes.  I did not see Bertie do the same, but if Pinni has figured it out, Bertie can't be far behind.

I figured it was time to try Level 2.  This level has four plugs that cover any four holes.  They need to picked up out or knocked over to get to the treat underneath.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Candy Corn Bark

What was I thinking?

The food blogs I follow have recently posted Candy Corn Pretzel Bark and Candy Corn Cookie Bark.  Talk about sugar overload.  Have you looked at those links?  Doesn't it look tempting?  I kept telling myself not to do it.  But we went to the grocery store on Saturday.  I was just going to get candy corn, but then I thought:  I have some white chocolate at home; all I need is a few pretzels....

Thankfully, I only had 4 ounces of white chocolate in the house.  And I flat out refused to buy Halloween Oreos.  So I scaled back the first recipe and ran with that.  First mistake?  Following directions in trying to melt the white chocolate in the microwave.  That never works for me.  I pretty much seized it.  And I was a little generous with the candy corn and pretzels.  So my end result wasn't nearly as pretty as what their photos looked like.  But oh, yeah, it was yummy.  A total sugar rush.  I'm so glad that I buy candy corn only once a year.  One could die of an overdose with this stuff.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Apple Streamers

Whenever I make apple pie or something that involves peeling apples, I give the peels to the girls.  I try to make a game of it.  Since the peelings are long and thin, I can easily wrap them through the grids on the third level.  They dangle like streamers.  It's pretty funny watching the pigs trying to catch the ends to pull them down.  When they get too short to reach, sometimes they're smart enough to head upstairs and grab what's left. 

Bertie and Pinni managed to pull these apple peelings down pretty easily.  Normally they have to work at it for a while.  It can be like watching a kid bob for apples or try to hit a piƱata.  It's good to make those pigs work for their treats!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Building Blocks

I find myself spending more time pinning and ironing than sewing short seams like I had been over the summer.  I'm hoping to wrap up the last bits of individual blocks this weekend.  I've started to lay out the overall quilt.  Huzzah!

Next comes assembling the top of the quilt.  There were days this summer that I thought this day would never arrive.  The quilt languished most of September and October; it's a wonderful feeling to be making some noticeable progress.  I am curious what problems I'll run into as I start stringing all of these blocks together, but I'm excited to start, regardless.  It is great to see the quilt taking shape after being focused solely on the blocks for so long.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Summer Day - Blogger's Quilt Festival

A friend of mine has been trying to persuade me to enter a quilt in a show.  I'm not convinced my sewing is that good, and besides, all but my very first quilt have been given away, so I have nothing to submit.  Then I stumbled across Amy's Creative Side blog, which features a semi-annual virtual quilt show.  I was intrigued.  So, I'm taking the plunge.

Every quilt I've sewn is my favorite for some reason or another, so it was difficult to pick one to for the Blogger's Quilt Festival.  I've decided to go with Summer Day, which was a wedding present for friends of mine.  I'm not a prolific quilter, so even though this quilt was made over three years ago, I've only done two baby quilts since then.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bertie in a Bowl

Although we mostly experimented on Pinniped with various containers, we didn't forget Bertie.  About the time that Pinni had had enough, we were trying a bowl shot that just wasn't working with her.  So out came Bertie for a bit of camera time.

This bowl has quite a pretty "ping" to it when it's hit, and I liked the sounds of Bertie's nails against it.  However, her nose demanded that I put a sound track on this video (you can still here the ping, if you listen for it).

I would have loved to have a longer clip, but Bertie was more interested in eating her apple peel than nosing about for more.  Starlets and diva sows - you work with what they give you, on their terms!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

At Home with Bertie

We're on vacation this week, at home.  Bertie is still getting regular subcues and I didn't want to saddle a pigsitter with that thankless task. 

At least we knew this well in advance and planned accordingly.  I didn't have to deal with what many guinea pigs are experts at:  acting like they might be ill at the worst possible time.  All of the pigs I've had have mastered this trick.  Since guinea pigs excel at hiding illness until they're really and truly sick, it's not a good thing to wait a day or three to get them to the vet.  I've had pigs suddenly be ill days before I'll be out of town or just after the vet closes, so I can't even call to consult.  My favorite?  Willow showed all the symptoms of a URI on New Year's Eve, after the vet and most pharmacies were closed.  Luckily, I have a good relationship with the vet on call, and she had me pick up a prescription at a 24-hour pharmacy two towns away.  Yeah, that was a fun way to spend the evening, on icy roads to boot.

So when I came across this cartoon, I couldn't help but smile.  It's all true!  Obviously the artist is a seasoned guinea pig slave who has piggies as badly behaved as mine.  Look at that sweet innocent face.  Don't be fooled!  It's the pigs you love most that are the worst delinquents at playing The Sickness Game. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pinniped in Pyrex

After shooting Still Life, we were curious what other containers Pinniped could fit into.  I plopped her into a Pyrex measuring bowl, in part to determine how much volume Pinni takes up.  As you can see, Pinni is well over four cups of pig.

Then we kept her entertained with bits of treats.  Her handling of a slice of tomato was... well... gross.  Really, Pinni, you can do better than that.  So sloppy.  Look how far she flings those juicy tomato seeds!  On the other hand, look at that little tongue go!  And her nose is all over the place.  That pig is never still.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fighting Points

Jewel blocks nearing completion
I swear that something must have shifted slightly between sewing together my test block and cutting/stitching all the rest of the pieces to this quilt.  I had done lots of pinning over Chick Weekend, and recently started stitching up what I had pinned.  After the first dozen seams, I stopped to inspect my work.  The good news is, I'm terribly consistent.  The bad news?  I'm consistently off by at least 1/8".  Which means none of the points were lining up like I wanted.  I spent an evening ripping out seams and repinning the blocks.  (And then spent another evening ripping out seams on at least another 50 blocks, as I discovered I had sewn the wrong colors into the block.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Still Life

Are you going to feed me?
Pinniped was being bad the other day, unduly picking on Bertie while she tried to sleep or eat.  I know, it's hard to believe, but it's true.  Pair that fact with a recent viewing of baby guinea pigs in espresso cups, and two thoughts came to mind:
  1. Was Pinni ever small enough, even as a baby, to fit into a cup that size?
  2. Do I have anything in the house big enough to shoot a cute photo of that with Pinni?
I quickly realized that not a single mug in the house was large enough to handle Pinni's ample figure (and we have some pretty big mugs).  I pulled apart my kitchen cupboards, but everything was too small or way too big for what I envisioned.  Then I walked into the living room and came upon a large, beautiful tapered crystal vase.  I could see the bottom of it was wider than Pinni's hips, so I knew she'd be snug, but not uncomfortably constricted in it. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple Breakfast Casserole

More often than not, my turn for Breakfast Club ends up on the same day as making home-made ice cream at work.  It makes for quite the juggling act in the morning, balancing breakfast and lugging a four quart ice cream maker up a flight of stairs.

This time if year I often make apple crisp for Breakfast Club (and when I'm really decadent, I bring ice cram to top it off, too).  Breakfast of champions!  Since we were doing sundaes in the afternoon, I wanted to bring a savory breakfast.  I always enjoy the egg and casserole dishes that others bring in for Friday morning, but so far I had not attempted one myself.  I had already bought the apples, so I googled for an apple breakfast recipes and cobbled together one based on a few different things I read.  It read similar to an Apple Sausage Pie I sometimes make for dinner, so I figured it would work.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teach N Treat - Level 1

I broke out the Teach 'N Treat this weekend to see how well Pinniped and Bertie would do with it.  This puzzle is intended for guinea pigs, rabbits and other small animals.  It has eight depressions to put bits of food in, and three different levels of complexity to get to the prize.

I set it up for the easiest level.  The goal is to move a large disk away to expose the treats.  They managed to pull out the first two tomatoes within seconds.  I was shocked that Pinniped accomplished this so quickly (it took her several tries to work the egg-cersizer).  But it was obvious that neither pig had a clue how the tomatoes suddenly became available.  Bertie kept testing if she could bite through the plastic, and tried to pick up the disk.  At one point, she successfully shoved away the disk, but was so focused on it that she missed the fact she had uncovered two tomatoes.  Then Pinni attempted to steal what was left of Bertie's tomato, completely oblivious of the one in the hole she was standing over.  Silly pigs.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pumpkin and Squash

Butternut squash in 1/2 cup portions
We got a wonderful selection of winter squash this year from the Moose Hill CSA.  My share of the loot was three sugar pumpkins, nine butternut squash, two acorn squash and a delicata.  I spent Saturday afternoon roasting the pumpkins and three of the butternuts.  I discovered I have an allergy to butternut squash skin.  I guess I've never peeled that many at once.  It did fascinating things to my hand (it's back to normal, now).

I ended up with about four pounds of pureed pumpkin.  I've already used half of it.  Once I pureed the butternut squash, I put half-cup portions in one of my muffin tins and froze them.  It's the first time I've tried that.  Seemed like they'd be good for single portions or for cooking.  Once frozen, they easily popped out of the muffin tin and I stuffed them into a gallon bag for the freezer.

And, of course, there were pumpkin seeds to toast.  The seeds weren't as plump as I like them, but they're not bad.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Certificate, Cake and Costumes

Happy 10th Annual Fall Pignic!
The 10th Annual Boston Fall Pignic had a number of firsts and surprises.  Tammy brought a big sheet cake to celebrate ten years of Boston pignics.  The schedule also indicated there would be announcements at 2pm.  I had no idea of the topic.  As Tammy started talking, I got a sneaking suspicion of where things were heading....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

So Many Meds

Simethicone, Metacam and Baytril
I swear that guinea pigs purposely pick the worst times to get sick or take a turn for the worse.  Bertie decided to show signs of pain the night before the pignic.  Why, Bertie?  Why would you stress out your Mama?

She's slowly been diminishing.  Overall, her attitude continues to be good.  Bertie hasn't been totally exhausted as she had been in early August.  But she keeps losing weight, even with hand feedings and a subcue every other day.  Her attitude changed, slightly, last week, but not enough for me to worry.  However, Saturday night she hopped when she walked - a sign of pain.  Her abdomen was hard but not bloated.  Since her input and output continued as normal, I decided to wait to bring her to my regular vet on Tuesday.

Once again, the vet was puzzled.  Best guess is that we're still dealing with fallout from the viruses.  Lungs don't look good on the x-rays (but no worse) and yet she seems to have no problems breathing.  Pain in the hindquarters, yet no stones or arthritis.  And goodness - with all of those subcues, she certainly shouldn't be developing stones!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Boston Fall Pignic 2012

It started out as a typical Fall pignic:  I spent the morning checking three different weather web sites, debating whether the grass would be dry enough and the temperature warm enough for outdoor pigs.  It was borderline, but the long-term forecast for next Sunday was even worse, so we went for it.

I'm glad I did.  It was a bit cool, but otherwise a perfect pignic day.

The Pig Patrol arrived early and was ready to go, in case the pignic's 10th anniversary drew more people than usual.  Oddly, we were over prepared (if there is such a thing).  There were barely 50 people, and only 30 pigs.  It made for a very laid-back, mellow day.  Wonderful!  Not a single pig visited the time-out pens.  Spats were at a minimum.  I'm not sure if the Dustpan of Doom was even used.  Maybe it was the cooler weather?  The abundance of clover?  Courteous pigs?  I know there were a few wails of protest from the sow's cage, but I think the boar's pen was just one big love-fest.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Birth of a Pignic

Our 10th annual Boston Fall Pignic is scheduled for this Sunday (if the weather holds - otherwise we will hope for good weather on the 30th).  I can't believe it's been 10 years.

One of the early pignics - guinea pigs outnumbered humans
I guess you could say the Boston Pignic owes it's existence to a guinea pig named Eclair.  I had joined a couple of guinea pig forums in 2003 to research her mammary tumor and ovarian cysts.  I soon discovered there were quite a few guinea pig owners in the greater Boston area.  About that time I stumbled across the New England pignic, which was held in western Massachusetts, posted on CavyMadness.  I was intrigued.  I contacted Tammy and asked her if she would put together a pignic closer to home.  It seemed a shame to travel for hours for a pignic when we had a quorum locally.  Tammy told me she was interested, if I could locate a site that met three requirements:  untreated grass, no loose dogs, near public transportation.  If I could find that magical combination, she'd be happy to help get a local pignic off the ground.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clean Cage Anticipation

Is the cage ready yet, Mama?
Guinea pigs are the ultimate  homebodies.  My girls (current and past) love getting back into their cage, especially when it's just been cleaned.

My last few pairs haven't had a ton of floor time, and I haven't had a serious lap pig since Eclair.  But when I do let my girls out, they have the run of one or two rooms.  They'll spend some time burbling about, checking out the rooms and trying to breach whatever pig-proofing I've done.  But as soon as they hear me wipe down the cage and start putting in fresh bedding, every pig I've had comes front-and-center, just waiting for me to pick them up and put them back in their cage.  Pinni and Bertie line up at the grids closest to the pig room.  Willow and Pippin used to do the same.  Eclair had been given the run of the apartment when I had her, and I'd have to be really careful towards the end of cleaning up, because she'd stand at the foot of the cage.  I worried I'd step on her or trip over her.  I would shoo her away, to no avail.  Eclair would stand on my feet sometimes, just so I wouldn't forget she was there.  Hurry up, Mama!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Adventures at the Cape

Bertie and Pinniped came down to the Cape for Chick Weekend.  It works.  They're chicks... or sows... whatever.

You go first.  No way - you go first.
The drive down was uneventful, but they were unhappy on arrival.  I made scary noises unloading the car and setting up their vacation cage.  Even once in their cage, the newness was so overwhelming, they jammed themselves in the tunnel and made those cute little "I'm scared" noises.  I had to laugh.  They were not amused.

Eventually, though, they decided being on vacation wasn't so bad.  The porch was bright and airy.  My girlfriends checked in on them from time to time.  Pinniped made sure to remind everyone when their morning pepper was overdue.  They even got to meet a two-year-old boy who babbled at them and fed them corn husks through the grids.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cape Jewels

I worked on the quilt some more over the holiday weekend, finishing the small corners, the large triangle corners and beginning the last bits of the block centers.  I was down to a half-dozen piles of untouched fabric by the time I had to return to work.

I squeezed in stitching up the last of the loose pieces whenever I could during the week, so I could take them with me to Chick Weekend.  That allowed me to pin pieces together while gabbing with my friends in the back yard.  I ran out of pins long before I ran out of pieces, but that's okay.  I'll have a stack of the greens ready for sewing when I get home.

Matching seams was a challenge.  The triangles are at a 60-degree angle, but the middle pieces are a 45.  It wasn't the most intuitive pinning.  I'll see how well I've done once I stitch them together when I get back home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cape Chick Weekend VI

2012 Chicks
North Eastham has survived another summer onslaught, and celebrated the departure of the tourists with Windmill Weekend.  It coincided perfectly with Chick Weekend - a weekend of food and relaxation with a few of my friends.

The weather couldn't make up it's mind and I spent Friday either dodging rain or sweating in the heat and humidity.  Most everyone had arrived by mid-afternoon and we spent much of time hanging out in the back yard and enjoying the sun.

We spent part of Saturday attending various Windmill events.  We even found time to go body surfing in the waves at high tide.  It was so windy!  One chick had to leave on Saturday morning, but we gained another by late afternoon.

It rained and was overcast for much of Sunday but it worked to our advantage.  We spent the early afternoon at the Atlantic Spice Company and picked up bread and pastries at PB Boulangerie Bistro.  Yum.  Four of us managed a nice walk on the beach after lunch, even if the sky spit raindrops on us from time to time.  We wrapped up the evening with bread, cheese, wine and pastries.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tug of War

The Guinea Pig Shaming photos we shot of Bertie and Pinni took more than a week to pull together.  Sometimes I wonder if the pigs know when I'm about to capture their badness on camera, since they suddenly act all cute and innocent.  Unless, of course, we're trying to get photos of their cute and innocence, at which point we get nothing but misbehavior and pig butts.

Pinni chews the coroplast guards just about every time I sit down at the computer.  But when I wanted to video it?  It took the better part of a week to catch her.  I think the extra lighting made her suspicious something was up.

It took a few sittings to get the photos I wanted.  We were amused with the food-stealing shots.  The photos didn't really do them justice, so we took some videos to capture Pinni and Bertie's goofiness.  Although we were trying to show Pinni as the glutton she is, I think the video shows Bertie as the winner more often than not.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Guinea pigs are not known for their vast intelligence.  I've had more than one owner admit their pig's bulb burns pretty dim.  However, I like to engage their brainpower when I can.  Many pigs are very curious and some are actually pretty good at puzzling things out.  So I decided to get a couple of pet puzzles/games for my girls to try out.

The first to arrive is a toy for cats, not guinea pigs, called the Egg-Cersizer.  It's an egg-shaped plastic container about the size of my fist with holes in it that allow food to fall out as the egg rolls around.  It can be adjusted to allow 1, 2 or 3 holes to be open.  Seemed pretty simple and for under $10, it was certainly worth a try.  Guinea pigs won't bat it around like a kitty would, but I'm sure they could grasp the concept of rolling it around for food.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Drying Corn Husks

After a number of false starts, I eventually acquired the quantity of corn husks I was hoping for to shred and dry.  In past years I would get only what I could store in the fridge for a few weeks (husks last much better than lettuce).  But since my girls really like corn husks and I have access to a consistent quantity of organic corn, I wanted to see if preserving them is worthwhile.  It's a treat I'm sure they'll appreciate outside of corn season.  Besides, I would like to reclaim my veggie drawer.

I left a hamper at the Walpole farmer's market when it opened and picked it up after work.  Not as many husks as I had hoped, but much better than my attempt at the CSA the week before.  Bringing my own husk container helped out a lot.  I plan on returning several more times until they close down in October.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Guinea Pig Shaming

Bertie wonders where the corn husk went
Have you heard about a website called Dogshaming?  I discovered it through the Guinea Lynx forum in an inspired post labeled Guinea Pig Shaming.  Dogshaming has spawned similar sites for different pets, including rabbits and cats.  I even found a Guinea Pig Shaming page on Facebook and a brand new tumbler blog.

The forum post inspired me to start taking photos.  Or perhaps I should blame it on Pinniped's recent behavior.  It's amazing how much badness can be wrapped up in a little rodent.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer Spurt

Blue corners are done, red and greens are halfway there
I bet you all forgot I was making a quilt, didn't you.  Or you thought I forgot I was making one.  I didn't.  For the most part it has been out of sight, but whenever I walked into my sewing room the pieces would mock me.

The weather has been cooler this week, which means the temperature upstairs has been tolerable.  I finished all my other to-do stuff around the house and found a couple of hours with nothing planned.  Goodness!  So I had no choice but to plunk down and sew a bit.

I think my piles of stitched pieces are finally starting to outnumber the piles of fabric in the corner of the room.  I am so pleased; it no longer taunts me.  However, I did calculated I need several more hours of sewing before I even start completing any blocks.  I'll try not to dwell on that.  I'll focus on the corner pieces which could be done in less than two hours... that's my next goal.  Wonder when I can park myself in front of that sewing machine again?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hampers and Cuddle Cups

Too many serious posts about my pigs lately.  So today, I'm going to focus on some recent cute.

On Wednesday I brought in the pigs' laundry hamper to the CSA to collect corn husks.  Unfortunately, they've implemented a no-shuck zone around the barn.  I mostly got just outer leaves.  The distribution volunteers were kind enough to set aside husks that had pulled loose from the cobs.  Most of it was not good for drying.  Bummer.  I'm going to try for husks at the Farmer's Market next week as long as they allow shucking on the Walpole green.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Puncturing Pigs

Bleeding Bertie, consoling herself with corn husk
It has been a traumatic week of sticking pigs.  I've done these types of injections a zillion times before, so I was blindsided by the difficulties we encountered.  Sunday night I got so frustrated I had to take a time-out before dealing with them. 

First up, subcues for Bertie.  She's been getting one daily since early last week.  Giving Bertie a subcue is different than Willow; it's hard to find her shoulders under all that long, thick fur.  And she cried and cried the whole time I gave her fluids for five days in a row.  The second night, I dragged Rob over for a step-by-step subcue demonstration to convince myself I was doing everything correctly (I was).  I had him stay with me once or twice more while giving her fluids because I couldn't face Bertie by myself.  To top it off, the little rodent bleeds all the time!  Over the years, Willow may have bled on me a handful of times.  Poor Bertie ended up with red stripes on her white fur just about every night the first week.  Left me feeling like a terrible pig mama.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Compost Pile

Happy compost pile
I started composting a bit over a year ago.  It was in response to the amount of wood shavings used to bed three guinea pigs and the fact that my town's trash pickup has a pay-by-the-bag policy.  The effort of bagging wood chips in plastic bags and then having to pay for it to be hauled away was wrong in so many ways.

The end of our back yard is woodded and overgrown.  Not necessarily the most ligocial or convenient place to put a compost pile.  My dad's compost pile was always in the sun, so it surprised me that one in the shade would work at all.  But it was away from the house, wouldn't be an eye sore for the neighbors and I hauled the used shavings out there only once a week, so it proved to be a good location.  I discovered the shade keeps the pile moist, which helps with the decomposition.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This is the time of year for an abundance of zucchini.  I am not a huge fan of zucchini, although you can never go wrong with breading and deep frying it.  Not exactly healthy.  I suspect that none of my favorite zucchini recipes are particularly good for you, but they each use up one to two large zucchini, and are delicious:  fritters, quick bread, and my new favorite, chocolate zucchini cake.

One of the first comments I had read for this recipe was DO NOT MODIFY.  So what do I do?  I tinker with it.  I swapped out the oil for apple sauce and substituted the buttermilk since I never have any on hand.  I've added cinnamon and nutmeg a couple of times, which was good, but so far I have found this cake is best in its unadulterated chocolatey goodness. (Although I have seen a modification with espresso that I may have to try.)