Monday, April 30, 2012

Scalloped Edges

Yo!  Mama! (about to take a chomp)
Bertie gets attention for being a bad rodent.  I think Pinniped took notice of this and found it unacceptable.  Since Bertie has been concentrating on chewing the bars, Pinni has begun to focus on the coroplast.  Unfortunately, coroplast doesn't withstand teeth as well as the bars do.  So I have a problem with Pinni's new hobby.

She does this to get my attention.  Pinni will wheek and chortle while running around the cage, but if I don't acknowledge her at some point, she'll come to the wall that is closest to where I am, stand there for a moment, then chomp on the coroplast.  It's guaranteed to get an immediate reaction from me:  Bad rodent!  Stop that!  Pinni hopes that veggies will be forthcoming, but often the only attention she gets is an unwanted wuzzing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NEFFA Weekend

NEFFA weekend passed in a blur.  It left me slumped on the couch wondering where the weekend went and if I'd still be able to move my legs in the morning.  We paced ourselves this weekend more than some of the past events.  Thankfully, my feet didn't give me any problems at all.

I wore my new dance dress to the festival on Friday night.  Still felt way self conscious about it, but figured no one would notice with the press of people.  I got compliments on both the dress and my nifty name tag, which I was told looked good enough to eat.  There was English country dancing (ECD) and contra dancing and the first medley of the weekend (which rocked!).  Hot Contras & Squares was an accurate name for one of the sessions.  The heat in the high school dance hall was terribly oppressive, but the floor was packed with people, regardless!

We took a break from dancing to attend Callers Crash Course.  The teacher briefly reviewed the basics of what to do and what to listen to in the music to assist with calling.  Then a number of the participants took turns calling Lady Walpole's Reel while the rest of us danced.  I was so flustered from concentrating on the music that my timing was terrible.  I chickened out and didn't volunteer to call in front of the class.  But Rob did, and he did a great job!  Kudos to all of the class that had the courage to stand up and call.

Monday, April 23, 2012

NEFFA Volunteering

The New England Folk Festival was this this weekend.  I volunteered for setup on Thursday evening and watching the Activity Room on Saturday morning.  Six hours of work earns a free ticket for the entire weekend and the satisfaction of having helped out.

Setup never ends
I am always amazed at the amount of tables, chairs and staging that are moved in and out of the Mansfield middle and high schools.  The planning must be staggering, both in the equipment and organizing a motley crew of volunteers.  I was grateful when my heavy lifting was done on Thursday night.  

"Setup" never really ends for the duration of the festival.  I caught Harold moving fans in the high school dance hall during the dance on Friday night.  It was a losing battle against the heat that night, but every bit of cooler air was appreciated!  The school custodial staff are there all during the festival, including the setup and strike.  They must be exhausted by the end of the weekend and then have to face all the kids coming back to school on Monday morning.  Whew!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pinniped Turns Three

Poof!  Another year has passed.  Today we celebrate Pinniped's third birthday.

Pinni has at long last achieved her dream of being the (mostly) undisputed Queen Pig of our household.  She spends her days lounging around, eating hay and chortling to herself.  Since Willow has gone, Pinni has become much more vocal.  I often catch her talking to herself as she putters around the cage.

The last year brought about a few new things, including the first trip to the vet.  Bladder sludge is not so fun.  Pinni has made some new friends (the Girls Next Door) and lost some weight (no longer tipping the scales at 1400g).  There's still plenty to squeeze and Pinni gets lots of attention, often to her dismay and disapproval. 

She has mellowed a bit over the years and figures people aren't all that bad.  Neither of the Newbies is as people-oriented as Willow, but Pinni is the most likely to sit still and let someone rub her nose or snorgle fingers in hope of treats.  It's hard to resist her whiskery nose waving about as she begs for carrot or cantaloupe. 

Happy Birthday, Pinni!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hay Rack Upgrades

A few weeks ago I saw the errors of my ways and decided I would no longer block Bertie from her beloved hay loft.  I spent part of that weekend building a new pig-proof hay rack using an upright design.  I worked on the wire spacing for a while,  I wanted the big enough gaps so they could reach in to grab hay, but small enough to discourage climbing into it and keep them from getting caught in the wires.  The coroplast bottom is angled so the last bits of hay will fall towards the bars.  It was intended to be a prototype, but the rack has worked well enough for the last two weeks that I may just leave it as is.

At the same time, I adjusted Bertie's hay rack slightly.  I narrowed the gap at the bottom and removed some of the supporting wires.  This was so Bertie would be less likely to fall through and to ensure she wouldn't pinch her toes between the wires and the coroplast.  I also moved the opening down a bit, to make it easier to jump in and out of (which she does with grace and alacrity).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stacks of Jewels

1680 black and 1260 colored pieces
I'm done cutting block pieces (border and backing will wait).  I started to despair that I would never see the end of it.

When I began cutting material nearly two weeks ago, I soon discovered that I could only cut it in daylight.  The living room lights in the evening weren't bright enough to see the ruler lines against the dark material.  I resorted to cutting some of the colors in the morning before work just to make progress.  Otherwise, I mostly worked on the weekends.  Even then, I'd start to lose my mind after three hours of precision cutting and would need to take a break.  I worked on the the colors first, and tried not to think about the five yards of black that was patiently waiting.  I did the greens, then the blues and finally finished the reds last Wednesday.  Then I had no choice but tackle the bolt of black.  I finished all the pieces on Sunday night.  Huzzah!

Now I have to face the piecing and stitching.  Rob jokes I'm going to kill my sewing machine.  I probably should give it a good cleaning and oiling before I start.  But my good ol' Singer can take on anything!  I can't wait to see this quilt start to come together.

The blocks are mostly shades of one color.  It's only the small square on the two outer corners that change, depending on where the block is placed.  I can assemble the majority of the blocks before I need to lay them out.  Technically, I could probably count the blocks I need with different colored corners... but given my track record of counting correctly, I'll feel a lot safer physically seeing which pieces belong where.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Foiling Fleece Bedding Burrowers

The brick method
Fleece is a great bedding choice for guinea pigs, although it can have its difficulties.  Many guinea pigs enjoy their fleece bedding and some of them love it best from underneath:  they burrow under the fleece.  This can be messy.   They'll eat the newspaper or chew on whatever you have under the fleece to absorb the urine.  Or worse, they'll get down to the bare bottom of the cage and you end up extracting a sodden, poopy pig.  Yuck.  Even with a ton of places to hide and cozies and cuddle cups to snuggle into, some pigs just prefer to get into where they shouldn't.

There are a few different ways to deal with this problem.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oddities, Artistry and Insides

Candy making can take a lot of time and effort.  At times we worked on three different recipes at once.  Some of it can be intense - like making sure the chocolate doesn't seize and the dipping runs smoothly.  We had a lot of people crammed in my kitchen using every bit of counter space.

Truffles with pigtails
I tempered the chocolate for the dipping this year.  It was so hard to leave it alone to cool.  I had to set a timer to walk away so I wouldn't fuss over it.  The girls would laugh at me:  "Walk away from the chocolate, Sally."

It was worth the wait.  It had a decent gloss, no blooming, it coated wonderfully and made a nice, even colored shell.  There was no puddling, no need to chill or freeze the chocolates to get them to set.  We had a couple of people dip and had others dip the toffee, which all went in a single pass.  Wonderful!

But the tempered chocolate had an odd effect on many of the chocolates:  they ended up in what we called pigtails.  The chocolate cookbook said that the centers should be room temperature when dipping them.  I guess this was the reason why.  Any center that we dipped cold squirted out of the weak point of the outer shell like Play-Doh.  It was comical.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Candy 2012

The cooks and artists
I had a kitchen and dining room filled with girlfriends, conversation and confections for most of the day on Saturday for my annual candy making event.  We spent several hours on chopping and melting over six pounds of chocolate and blending ingredients for the centers.  When it was all over, my feet and back complained bitterly that I had been standing for nearly seven hours.  The day just flew by!

We made mint Oreo truffles, peanut butter balls, orange buttercreams, ginger nut clusters, almond buttercrunch, paves, straw nests and chocolate chip cookie dough truffles.  The morning is spent making centers to be dipped, we break for lunch, and then spend the afternoon dipping and decorating.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pinniped Has Polka Dots

Give me a kiss?
Guinea pigs can have some interesting skin patterns under all their fur.  It's not something that one generally sees.  I've seen a variety of belly patterns (shaved for ultrasounds).  When Vicky lost hair on her sides, I discovered her skin had a similar (but not exact) copy of her lightning bolt.

Pinniped has the most fascinating one yet:  polka dots on her lips.  I don't recall her having this when I first adopted her, but they're very distinct now.  I thought the dots were just on her bottom lip, but when we took the photo, it appears she has at least one on the upper lip as well.

So her front paw isn't the only white on her.  It makes me wonder where else she may have white or more polka dots?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Floral Wreath Progress

My cross stitch has been progressing nicely.  I spent hours working on it this weekend, while catching up on my TiVo backlog and putting off cutting pieces for my quilt.

I won't be spending as much time on this in the near future.  Still, I'm amazed at  how much I've already done.  At this rate, I'll finish it before the quilt.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pinniped's Progress

Pinniped taking her meds
Pinni took her seven days of meds like a good little pig and I haven't seen any red or white chalky spots in their bedding.  I put her back on the shilintong, too:  2-3 half tablets a week.  She managed to break 1200g last weekend, but has been back to 1185.  She looks pudgier, even if the scale doesn't agree.

Pinni went back to the vet for her two-week check up this evening.  Still some sludge, but a lot less than two weeks ago.  The vet was pleased.  So was I.  Pinni was not.  She complained bitterly about how she was manhandled and was once again terrified by the strange sounds at the vet.  At least Bertie offered some comfort. 

Pinni sacked out for nearly an hour after we got home from the ordeal.  Whew!  I guess going to the vet is hard work for a little pig.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Into the Deep End

I generally like my sewing projects to have purpose - something that gets used.  I'm more than happy to whip up another pair of oven mitts when the last pair go to the big oven in the sky.  I love to hear about the baby quilts I've made:  the play-time and washings they've withstood and the kids now using them to build indoor forts. 

So when my mom asked me why I was I was going to put in so much effort on a bedspread for a spare bed I was a little surprised.  Honestly, a wall hanging hadn't even crossed my mind.  I wanted it to go on a bed, not on the wall.  Mom was concerned all my work wouldn't be appreciated.  My spare bed used to be in a very visible spot and now it's tucked in the back corner of the house.  Well, if this quilt is lost and forlorn in my spare room, I'll loan it out (like several beautiful watercolors I "own" until  my sister takes them back).  Or maybe, if I have a fit of insanity, I'll give it away.  Whatever.  I need to complete it, first!

One down, 139 to go
I had planned to spend much of Sunday cutting material.  However, after that conversation and ironing umpteen yards of material, I dawdled.  But I couldn't leave everything strewn all over the living room floor, so I ended up cutting enough fabric for single block.  I wanted to make very sure I had all the correct measurements before cutting thousands of pieces.  And just to be absolutely certain, I stitched together my first block.

Oh, my.

The good news is, my pieces all seem to be the right size.  And the block, for the most part, was square.  Yay!  But my seams aren't even.  My points are all over the place; I had difficulties lining stuff up.  The block was a wee bit smaller than it should have been.  I'm going to have to be more careful than usual.  It was easy enough to figure out what order to piece the block, but not so easy to see where to line up each seam properly.

I wanted a challenging sewing project.  I think I got a bit more than I intended.  A wall hanging is starting to sound enticing.  Although I have enough material for two or three of them.  I think I'll stick with the bedspread.  Sink or swim, I'm going for it.