Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chocolate, Coffee and Orange Marmalade Tart

I borrowed Ashley English's A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies (Lark Publishing, 2012) from the library sometime in the spring after sampling the meat pie at a party (it was very good).  I made the  Chocolate, Coffee and Orange Marmalade Tart for this year's Christmas dessert.

This recipe wasn't quite as easy to follow as the meat pie.  I ran into several issues.  The crust calls for 10 oz of chocolate wafers.  The package has been shrink-rayed to 9 oz since the recipe was written.  The smaller package probably would have been plenty, with a bit less butter (look how thick the crust is).

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sculpey Guinea Pig

My nephew has started to make Sculpey figurines.  He has created several of pokemon for himself.  For Christmas, I got my very own Sculpey guinea pig.  Look at how small he is compared to Cannoli?  (Although, to be fair, Cannoli has gotten to be quite a big pig.)  He has itty bitty little toes.  There's just a bit of pink in the ears.  I love the face.

Great work, Kiddo!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shamrock Name Tag

The latest in my series of name tags; this is a Christmas gift for a friend of mine who goes contra dancing.  You may have guessed, she's Irish.  Think she likes it?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Three Little Pigs

This ornament has been stashed away for months, just awaiting the day I could show it off.  Originally, it was to include the Big Bad Wolf, but after I created the pigs (and even shrunk them a bit) I realized that it would be a massive ornament if it included the wolf.  Besides, if I had  him looming up behind the pigs, no one could admire their little curly tails.  And if I had made the pigs any smaller, it would have been impossible to create their tools.

I had a lot of fun making this.  Pigs are goofy and those big floppy ears are cute.  I had a rough idea what I wanted when I started, but after that, it all came together pretty quickly.  The wooden plank had started out as Sculpey, but I didn't like how it looked.  I whittled down a popsicle stick, which worked quite nicely.  I think I struggled with the trowel the longest - even straw-pig's hat was easier to make.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Ghost of Christmas Past

Pinniped pretending to be Bertie
My new order of bluegrass is delayed.  I switched Pinniped and Cannoli back to the remaining bit of Timothy hay one week ago (the rest of the 30 lbs went to PARL, to the delight of the staff -- thanks to my readers that encouraged me to do so).  I had been busy and didn't want to buy more orchard grass for just a few days (or so I thought).  However, I am regretting the return to the Timothy:  I'm coughing, sneezing and headachy.  Tuesday can't come soon enough!

In an effort to keep the hay-dust to a minimum, we stored the half flake of Timothy hay on the front porch.  I took down their hay rack and replaced it with a tissue box to help contain the hay.  Rob has been filling the the tubes (or the hay ring) and tissue box outside so I don't have to handle it.

Pinniped has been very interested in the tissue box and spent most of Friday parked in it.  I was strongly reminded of Bertie's fondness of hay containers.  We lost Bertie a year ago, a few days after Christmas.  I can't believe how the year has flown by.  Seeing Pinni like this has had me reminiscing over some of the fun bits of Bertie's quirky personality.  So much attitude in one little package.  I am sure that Bertie would heartily approve of Pinni's use of the box full of hay.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Have Cage - Will Travel

Bags of grids, bedding and food
We were off for a few days so Pinniped and Cannoli got to visit my sister for a sleepover.  When I came to pick them up yesterday, I was promptly told by my nephew that they would be glad to pigsit for me anytime.  Yup - those two pigs can be quite the charmers!

I love C&C cages for travel.  A bag for grids, a bag for bedding and a bag for food.  Throw down a shower curtain, some towels and fleece and set up a 2x4 set of zip-tied grids and voila!  instant cage.  I brought a handful of binder clips to create fleece sides to contain the poo.

Pinni was busy making herself at home by the time I left them at my sister's, but Cannoli was pretty nervous.  I figured it would take a while for her to settle in.  So my sister's family had only a little exposure to Cannoli's wheekiness.  I was told that chopping on the cutting board briefly set her off and there was some squeaking for breakfast greens the next morning.  Cannoli slowly adapted to the new surroundings and sounds.  I guess I'll need to plan a longer vacation sometime so they can get the full Cannoli experience. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Line Quilting

My home-made sewing guide
Almost all of the quilting I've done has been stitch-in-the-ditch or outlining.  I've tried stippling once or twice, but I haven't spent the hours I'd need to practice to master it on my old Singer.  It's the piecing I love to do, and I've kept the quilting to the bare minimum to tack everything down.

Once again, the Blogger's Quilt Festival is inspiring me to try new things.  I saw that some of the neatest quilts in last fall's show had simple quilting - spirals or straight lines.  I really like the effects and all of them were basically straight-line stitching.  I decided to quilt radiating squares on my current quilting project.

This type of quilting requires a guide when stitching lines more than 1/4" apart and the seam guide that comes with this machine screws into the bottom plate of the sewing machine.  Obviously that wasn't going to work.  I use a walking foot for quilting and all of the foot-based sewing guides I found required buying a new walking foot.  In the end I decided I could make a guide for my existing foot using a wine cork, some coat hanger wire and duct tape.  Nothing says DIY like duct tape.  It's not pretty (although I like the hot-pink tape) and it needs a little work (I need to find a glue that sticks), but so far it's doing the trick.

I need some more practice to keep my lines straight.  However, the current project looks pretty cool and no one but me will notice inconsistencies.  I can't wait to show off the finished quilt!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Countdown

My Advent calendar
Goodness!  We're halfway to Christmas!  I am way behind in getting gifts.  I am hoping to finish the last of my shopping this weekend.  Luckily, two people want something handmade (and I've been told an IOU for Christmas is fine).  Add a couple of more items to my project backlog! 

I make buttercrunch and cookies the same weekend as the photo shoot to give as gifts.  I stopped off at the vet yesterday to drop off a card, goodies and some reference bookmarks from Cavymadness.  I spoke briefly to Dr. Holmes.  She was momentarily distracted by the nifty bookmarks and the card before she realized she had missed something.  "Wait," she said, whipping around to look where the receptionist had just made off with the tin full of sweets, "Candy?"  It made me laugh.  I've been told that the holiday season officially kicks off only after I show up with my card and goodies.  I know which of the two is important. 

Guinea pigs and veterinary staff - they love me for my treats!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hay Ring

My pigs have always loved toilet paper tubes stuffed with hay.  They make a beeline for it, whenever I put a new one in the cage, even if I've just refreshed the hay in the hay rack as well.  The appeal seems to be how the hay pulls out and the fact they can drag it around the cage.  The cardboard tube can be fun to chew on, as well.  I like them because the bundled hay doesn't tend to get peed on as much as loose hay.

Pinniped has recently taken a strong liking to cardboard and will attack the tube as fast as the hay.  I often find only a small shred of cardboard and yet much of the hay remains.  I was concerned with the amount of cardboard Pinni was consuming.  I have been limiting their cardboard tubes, which was not making anyone happy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Downside of Fleece

I have done a mix of fleece and shavings in the pigs' cage for several years.  I've dabbled with all fleece bedding a few times but had not yet switched to it full time.

I decided to take the plunge for all fleece a month ago.  I have to say, it's been working great and the pigs really like it.  It will be interesting to see how well it fairs in warmer, more humid weather, but right now, the cage lasts at least a week between full cleanings.  I swap out the old fleece every week more from habit than because of any smell or dampness.  The daily maintenance is quick and easy; pulling out the damp hay takes the most time.  I'm impressed that there's less smell and surface dampness than with the shavings, even with two pigs in this sized cage.

The one serious drawback?  Cost.  I know one of the great things about fleece is that it's an initial investment, but then the fleece lasts forever, so there's no recurring cost.  Unfortunately, our washer doesn't deal with debris very well and can't handle a large load of laundry.  The fleece came out smelling nice and clean, but after a few washings, it looked dirty all the time.  Very disappointing.  The washer at our old place did a much better job.

My solution has been to take the pig laundry to our local laundromat.  I wait until I have a big load so I can stuff a single washer.  Even though I bring it home wet, it still costs a few dollars every two weeks.  Not much, but compared to a $6 bale of shavings that lasted two to three months, it's quite a bit more expensive.  Bummer.  This was an unforeseen consequence in switching bedding.

For now, I'm happy to stick with it.  The time it takes to maintain a fully fleeced cage is no more than what I had with half-and-half.  The lack of smell is great, too, since Pinniped and Cannoli now reside in the living room/office.  For now, the pros outweigh the cons.  If we're lucky enough to get a better washer in the future, it will all be good.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Single Shots

Click photo to enlarge
We don't do many formal photos of Pinniped and Cannoli.  So this is one of the few opportunities to get a lot of nice, clear photos of the pigs.  I like to save a few solo pictures in addition to the ones I use for the cards.  These are my favorite.

I had given Pinniped and Cannoli bits of carrots and celery to keep them distracted while taking photos.  I love the resulting open-mouth pictures.  The look like they're singing or shocked.  <gasp!> 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Indian Pudding

I made Indian pudding for Thanksgiving this year.  I had never made it before, but I was told that that's what we were bringing for dessert.  It turned out delicious and I'll definitely be making it again.

I didn't have a recipe for the pudding, so I googled it and came across wildly differing ingredients and methods.  Usually I can pick the top six recipes that come up in a search and at least three of them are very similar.  Not the case with Indian pudding.  I ended up using the basic recipe from Durgin Park, the spices and most of the cooking method from the Wayside Inn and filled in the rest from the other pages I read.  Basically, you can make this any way you want and call it pudding.  You wouldn't be wrong.

I discovered it can be overcooked, when I did my trial run.  Not that overcooked is bad - but it ends up so firm you can slice it like bread (I tend to overcook my rice pudding, too.  <sigh>).  Second time I thought I had undercooked it, and it turned out to be done just right.  Everyone enjoyed it.