Monday, September 30, 2013

Elimination Treats

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

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

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

Monday, September 23, 2013

Northern Lights: Off to the Fair

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

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

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pinniped Proofing

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

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bike to Brewster

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Cannoli!

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Boston Fall Pignic 2013

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

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

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nifty Scarf

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cape Chick Weekend VII

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

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

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

Monday, September 9, 2013

Garbage Soup

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

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pretty Little Volunteer

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


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

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

Quilted and Bound

Pinned pattern for the border
I had a very productive Labor Day weekend:  I finished quilting and bound the quilt!  (Well, I still have the hand-stitching left.) 

The border quilting went pretty quickly, once I figured out I could sew the pattern down the side as one long continuous line.  I used the pins as a guide, and stitched from pin to pin.  I was amazed when I completed the last bit of the border.  I had layered the fabric for quilting over five months ago and I was beginning to wonder if would ever be finished.

The binding took some work to correctly piece the two colors of blue so that the darker blue lined up in the corners.  But once I figured that out, it took no time at all to sew it on.  Trimming the quilt was so exciting; I loved seeing those nice clean sides after months of ragged edges.