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.