Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Worn Out

Boadicea's arthritic knee must be feeling better.  She ran all around during floor time (no hopping!) while I cleaned the cage.  Usually when they come back to a fresh cage they spend several minutes checking out every corner.  But it was late in the day and I had put out their bowl of evening pellets.  Eating pellets is more important than inspecting the cage.  One must have priorities.

I laughed when they started to eat.  Boadi flopped herself down next to the pellet bowl (because Cannoli couldn't be allowed to eat all the pellets!).  Initially Boadi propped her head against the edge of the bowl like a pillow, but she had to shift several times.  It took some work to lay down and get her nose in the bowl.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Where Does the Time Go?

I started this blog, originally named Crafts, Cavies and Contras,  five years ago during Christmas vacation.  Technically some posts go back to May 2010, but those were ported in from another web site.  Battle Pigs was my first Blogger post, the one that really kicked this off.

Prior to Crafts, Cavies and Contras I had a simple web site.  It was cumbersome to update; I was constantly reworking the pages.  Rob pointed out my writing style and projects were more appropriate for a blog than on a static site.  He was right - I really enjoy blogging.  By the end of 2011 I ported my old content here then deleted my old web page.

Five years.  Wow.  Five different guinea pigs, two different dwellings, lots of sewing and Sculpey, a bunch of new recipes and nearly 700 posts.  (Plus a ton of dancing that I rarely write about.)  To celebrate my fifth blogiversary, I'm giving away a large mug rug (or a mini table-topper?), a Pet Piggies on Parade 2016 calendar and a small bag of my almond buttercrunch.  (Get it? - crafts, cavies and cooking!)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boadicea's First Gotcha Anniversary

It's hard to believe we spent most of Boxing Day a year ago driving to and from the Animal Rescue League of Boston.  Then, after we all met Boadicea, we spent a very stressful day or two while she and Cannoli battled worked out their social structure at home.


Fast forward a year.  In some ways, it feels like Boadicea has been here a lot longer than that.  Boadi immediately made herself at home, faster than any pig I've adopted.  She loves people and rapidly lost her habit applying teeth when startled.  Boadi enjoys getting patted and scritched.  She even allows strangers to touch her.  Occasionally Boadi runs roughshod over Noli, but Noli can hold her own.  Even with the occasional spat and chasing Noli is happy with the situation:  she'll search for Boadicea if they get separated for long.  They often hang out close together - peacefully.  What a change from their introductions.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Magic Thief

Merry Christmas!

Meet Connwaer from The Magic Thief.  He's this year's ornament for my nephew.  I read the series over the summer to get an idea of what to make.  I wanted Conn to wear his black sweater, green keyhole scarf and to be holding one of the crows featured in the books.  I started making the ornament and was overwhelmed with the black.  I picked a different color for his sweater and hated it.  I tucked the whole problematic mess in the corner for weeks and ignored it.  Thanksgiving came and went and I could procrastinate no longer.  This needed to get done!

He had to have the black sweater, so I toned it down by throwing a grey student's robe over it.  What a difference!  Then I reworked his pants.  All the pictures in the book show him with tattered pants that were too short for him.  I added that detail, too.  It took more work than how I normally do feet and the detail barely shows, but it looked and felt a lot better than my first attempt.  Progress.  After I added his scarf, he looked a little like Doctor Who.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sewing Binge

I think I'm making up for lost time.  I spent nearly the entire weekend working on my sewing projects.  Lots of cutting, ironing and stitching.  Woot!  Rob had to drag me out for lunch one day, because I didn't want to put down what I was working on.

Bowls, hexies, a new quilt, more fabric and flange binding

And there's still so much I want to do!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fabric Coil Bowl

I spent Sunday morning making this bowl.  Which wasn't the sewing I had planned to do.  Or needed to do.  But it's what happened.  Once I started, I couldn't stop.

I followed a tutorial I found on CraftStylish.  My goal is to use up all the old fabric I found in my sewing dresser.  One piece down - about a dozen left to go.  Yay?

Not bad for a first attempt.  The rayon frayed a lot.  I did some research and am in the process of making a second one which is not looking so frayed.  It didn't take long to get the hang of wrapping the cord.  Sewing went quickly, wrapping was slow.  I think it took a couple of hours to make this bowl (not counting cutting the fabric).  It was addicting - I couldn't stop the first one until I finished.  I paused work on the second only because I started late in the day.

I plan to make a couple more.  I think that should burn through my old rayon and old lining material.  I'll need more clothesline; I'm nearly through the 100 feet that I bought.  Then, of course, I'll need to figure out what to do with the final products.  Bowls, anyone?

Sharing with Freemotion by the River's Linky Tuesday.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Almond Buttercrunch

Goodness.  All these years and I never posted the recipe for my almond buttercrunch.  It's one of my most requested recipes, especially from anyone lucky enough to sample some.  I make this only twice a year.  It goes fast.  

I'm sharing the original recipe, as it was handed to me years (and years) ago.  Which, of course, is not exactly what I do.  I skip the chocolate chips and pecans in favor of dipping.  I find the single layer of chocolate flakes off (although it's a lot faster and easier to do).  Dipped buttercrunch makes a nicer presentation, but it's one of the reasons I make this so infrequently. 

I usually dip in dark chocolate; I think it goes great with the sweet buttercrunch.  This year's batch was mostly dipped in milk chocolate, which is Rob's favorite.  The buttercrunch is also good with white chocolate (reminds me of Sweet Sloops).  Yeah - it's kind of hard to go wrong with any kind of chocolate.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Single Shots 2015

Time to share some more holiday guinea pig cuteness.  These are the single shots.  First up is Cannoli, actually hamming it up for the camera!  Usually she sits like a lump for photographs, but not this time.  Goofy little pig.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gimpy Guinea Pig

Boadi wondering if we could go home yet.
Noli exploring the floor; exhausted Boadi back home
A few weeks ago I noticed Boadicea was hopping as she was on the floor.  I made note of it, but wasn't too worried.  But then she started to keep weight off her front left paw.  It got worse by the end of last week.  Nothing felt warm or painful to the touch.  Maybe it was a strain?  Did she trip or fall?  Since it wasn't getting better, we booked a trip to the vet.

Of course, the morning of the appointment, Boadi suddenly walks without hopping or limping and starts to put weight on that leg.  Way to go, making Mama feel like a crazy lady.  I told Boadi we weren't backing out now, and away we went.

At the vet's office, we put Boadicea on the floor to show the limp.  First she didn't move.  Then we put Cannoli on the floor as incentive.  I had to hold Noli, because she kept trotting right over to Boadi.  Noli has suddenly become this bold, daring little pig?!?  When Boadi finally did move, there was barely a limp.  But just enough - she was whisked off for x-rays.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bumper Pad

Poor Cannoli.  She has really taken a shine to the new free-range ramp.  She loves that it's the perfect escape hatch.  If I make a grab for her and Noli doesn't want to be caught, she makes a beeline to the ramp.  I can't catch her once she's on the ramp.  So I learned - I close the gate before I go after her.  But she forgets that the gate can be closed or doesn't see the grids.  I've seen her do a hard brake just before leaping, or worse, face plant into the closed gate in a full run.  Ouch.

I know Noli will figure it out eventually, but after watching her hit that grid at full tilt, I wanted to prevent her from doing that again.  (Silly pig should stop running away from me!)  I moved the hay rack to the gate.  Can't miss it when the ramp is closed.  Plus the hay will be a good cushion if she forgets and runs into it anyway.

I love my hay rack but it requires two hands to fill it.  It was impossible to thread the hay into in the back corner of the cage.  So I whipped together a new version last week that's a top-loader.  Not a bad design, although it sags in the middle a little. Cannoli and Boadicea seem to dump it quicker than the old rack.  I may tinker with it over the next few weeks.  At least it should keep Noli from bonking her nose!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Apple Sausage Pie

This is one of those recipes that's more of a guideline than true step-by-step instructions.  The original version used breakfast sausage and instructions to mix everything together before spreading it in the crust.  I religiously followed this recipe for years before discovering I liked it better with hot Italian sausage.  I improved it again by layering the sausage and apples instead of mixing them (less mess!  even distribution!).  Sausage first, then apples, or occasionally vice versa.  Rob has modified it, too, by drizzling some maple syrup over his serving.

The last time I made this, I split it into three ready-to-bake containers rather than a single pie plate (it freezes really well to be baked later).  I skipped the bottom crust, opting use it all on top.  I loved all that crispy cheese crumble but there was a lot of liquid on the bottom.  Next time I'll put at least a little crust on the bottom.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Finished Ramp

I'm officially done adding the ramp to the guinea pig cage for free-ranging.  The last step was to cover the whole thing with fleece.  This hadn't been part of the original design.  I discovered the hardware cloth had a rough edge even when I folded it over.  I didn't want the rough edge to rub along the back wall.  I also didn't want to chance piggy toes getting caught in any exposed squares.  So fleecing it should keep the paint from getting scratched and keep everyone's toes safe.

The landing originally had overhead supports.  I didn't like that and moved them underneath.  It's a lot sturdier.  I decided the landing doesn't need a cover because Cannoli and Boadicea have lost interest hanging out there.  I pee-proofed (with a little piece of shower curtain) the bottom of the ramp.  They spend time there debating if they want to cross the floor or not. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sewing Again

Look!  Look!  Oh, I am so excited to be sewing again.  In an effort to complete this year's ornament, I had banned myself from sewing until it was complete.  My projects backed up, my sewing machine sat forlorn until that ornament came out of the oven.  Since then, I've lengthened the strap on my knot bag (it needed another 10" to easily sling over my shoulder).  I've played with the QAYG hexies in-between finishing a cover for the guinea pig ramp and working on one more Christmas present.

I've also been cleaning out my sewing dresser.  The middle drawer is filled with scrap material.  Much of it is leftovers from dresses I made (or failed to make), vests, nightshirts.  There's rayon, knit, wool, corduroy, lining; also some upholstery and home decor fabric.  Good stuff that I didn't want to throw out.  A lot of it is scraps, but a few pieces measure a good quarter yard or more.  Any ideas what to make with it?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Grocery Bags

I made my first shopping bags years ago.  I kept two and gave away the other two as Christmas presents.  One of the recipients wondered if she could have another bag for this Christmas.  Cool!  I recalled that these were fun and easy to make.

A little digging unearthed my instructions.  It even had yardage notes penned around the edges.  Originally I wanted to use some pretty purple home decor fabric I had on hand.  But the weave felt loose; I feared it could rip if something heavy was dropped into it.  So off to the store to find something sturdier.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Fun with Floor Time

The new guinea pig ramp has been a lot of fun.  I open up the cage on most week days around lunch time for the afternoon.  Cannoli and Boadicea take several trips to the floor.

I had figured Boadicea would be the one to get out and explore.  But who's the pig puttering around?  Cannoli.  She's up; she's down.  If I forget to get pellets on time, she gets quite adamant about it.  She used to just wheek from the cage, but now she gets down on the floor and wheeks, too.  Maybe the acoustics are better down there?

Her new favorite thing is to yell at the top of her lungs either at the end of the ramp, or as she crosses the floor.  She waits until she hears someone in the kitchen.  Then beware!  She's right down there to tell us that we've either forgotten to fill the food dish, or that she doesn't have enough veggies, or whatever else is on her mind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Well, That Sucks

Broken arm (not mine!) and defective cookies
Thanksgiving weekend is always busy.  I get the Christmas card photos done, bake holiday cookies, start decorating and plan my month.  Lots done this weekend!  Pigs were successfully photographed on Friday.  I finished the ornament on Saturday.  I baked like crazy on Sunday afternoon:  four batches of cookies and a batch and a half of toffee.  Success!

But it wasn't without its failures.  The photo contains exhibits A and B.

Exhibit A.  I finished this year's ornament, pulled it out of the oven, and found I hadn't supported one arm properly.  The little dude's arm had bent way out of shape.  I quickly tried to bend it back into place before it hardened.  I broke off the arm - ripped it right out from his shoulder.  Ack!  I had been so relieved and excited to complete this thing after spending weeks floundering and an entire afternoon putting it together.  And there it was, in pieces.  I was too heartbroken to even swear at it.