Of boardgames and beer… with a little bit of guinea pigs

I am not new to guinea pig introduction, yet every time it goes entirely differently than any other time. When we introduced Bean and Mocha, it was crazy because we didn’t know yet that Mocha was male. Obviously we had to separate the immediately or face the consequences. It was nuts. After Mocha died, we brought home Buttercup. Introducing her to Bean was entirely anti-climatic. They accepted each other straight away.

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Buttercup and Spike sharing the clover patch like best buds (hahahahahaha)

Introducing Buttercup to Inigo & Fessik was another story entirely. They had never been separated, so they already had a dynamic. It took some time to sort out their differences, but eventually Buttercup established herself as “boss” of the herd.

Now that I think about it, introducing Spike to Buttercup was similar. They seemed fine at first, then Spike began making a play for dominance. Buttercup was controlling access to the food, and eventually Spike drew blood (or Buttercup headbutted something, which is possible.)

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Spike looking very very cute

It took awhile, but they seem to be getting along now. I’ve only had to intervene once in the last week or so. What a relief.

Otherwise, our time has been full of family and friends. That doesn’t sound like news does it? I finally got to experience the splendour that is The Loft. The Loft Board Game Lounge is a magical place where you can drink, eat tasty snacks, and play boardgames. All for only a $5 cover charge. We started off with drinks downstairs at the Lunenburg before heading upstairs to play boardgames until 1AM. Awesomesauce.

Lunenburg pub with friends
Drink at the Lunenburg pub below The Loft with friends (from left): Nathan, Chris, Lise, Alex, Elizabeth, and Stephanie.

And I finally got to see The Giver. The book it’s based on has special meaning for me; it was my favourite book when I was in elementary school. I was so worried that the movie was going to let me down, especially when I saw the critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t pay any attention to them. It’s a wonderful movie.

Poster for The Giver. Movie adapted from the book 2014.
Poster for The Giver. Movie adapted from the book 2014.

Coming up this weekend is a camping trip to Silent Lake with good friends Eric and Alex, and their daughter Kyla. I’m really excited. They make very good camping buddies, and I’ve heard excellent things about this campground.

Silent Lake Provincial Park in Bancroft, Ontario
Silent Lake Provincial Park in Bancroft, Ontario

My first Twist!

This was the third year for the Twist Fibre festival in Québec, but a first time for me. Thanks to Sue, I finally got to see what all the fuss was about. It was small but packed full of quality vendors. Among other things, Twist features mainly local yarn, fibre, and other materials. I came away with a few very very nice purchases.

4 skeins of yarn and a hand-crafted mug
My haul from Twist 2014

I was really excited to see that Laura Sheppard’s Handmade Pottery was there, so I picked up a mug. Much better to purchase in person. It is beautifully crafted.

I picked up two skeins of Merino DK from The Black Lamb.

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Green and Grey DK from Black Lamb

Some amazing Fingering Bootsie-Loo from Studioloo

Fingering weight yarn in blue, pink, and grey from Studioloo
Hand-dyed bootsie-loo from Studioloo OMG so yummy

And some beautiful pinky-red merino from Yvieknits Yarns

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It’s seriously beautiful. Enough for a full shawl.

I had such a wonderful time. The day came complete with not-so-random bumping into old friends.

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Left to right: Elizabeth, Amy, Sue, Diane, Juliana

In other knitting-related news, I’m working on a new shawl. I am making The Cool Clavicle Cover by Megan Williams. I had a bit of a rough start but once I was familiar with the stitch patterns away I went and it is lovely. I’m using  Fleece Artist Woolie Silk 2 Ply (discontinued) that I purchased in 2010.

A partially knit blue variegated shawl on the needles.
Shawl in progress. Nearly half-way there.

Movie night on the lawn at Rideau Hall

For someone as busy as I am, I have spent a surprisingly small amount of time and energy exploring the events going on in Ottawa since I moved here in 2007. I was very excited when my friend Stephanie invited me to an an outdoor movie night at Rideau Hall.

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They set up a screen on the grounds and hundreds of people showed up for a free screening of The Grand Seduction; an English adaptation of the French Canadian film. We had such a great time. There was free popcorn, beverages provided by a local Scout troop, and even the weather cooperated. The Governor General, David Johnston, said a few words then we all sang Happy Birthday to the director. It was really really nice.

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The Governor General, David Johnston, giving his speech

I even managed to get some knitting done. It was pretty cold, and it got dark so I had to put it away eventually.

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In-progress hat: Rikke.

I finished it a few days later and it turned out perfectly!

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Finished hat!

 

Recipe: Strawberry Banana Trifle with homemade pudding
Strawberry-banana trifle
Mmmmmmmm trifle

I set out to make a simple dessert, but it ended up being a bit more complicated that I’d intended. It still turned out fabulously, so I’m not really complaining. I bought the angel food cake at the grocery store, but the whipped cream and pudding mix I made from scratch.

Vanilla Pudding Mix

Original recipe adapted from The Brown-Eyed Baker.

Making pudding from scratch. Like a boss.

I substituted for the corn starch and added vanilla when mixing up the pudding on the stove. Potato starch was a little “glutonous” in the end, I wish I had used tapioca or rice starch but it still worked.

1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup starch (tapioca, corn… I used potato)
3/4 dry milk powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. In a medium bowl mix together all dry ingredients with a whisk.
  2. Combine 2 cups of milk with 1/2 cup of pudding mix in a medium saucepan over high heat, whisking constantly.
  3. Bring to a boil, and then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 3 to 5 minutes).
  4. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Strawberry-Banana Trifle

Original recipe found on Clever, Crafty, Cookin’ Mama

1 store-bought angel food cake, cut into cubes
1 batch of pudding (see recipe above or use instant)
Strawberries, halved
Bananas, sliced
Whipped cream

  1. Cut angel food cake into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Prepare pudding mix with milk as above (or use instant pudding)
  3. Cut up strawberries and set aside. Slice bananas as you layer to keep them from going brown.
  4. Whip up your whipped cream
  5. Layer all ingredients in glass trifle bowl and store in the fridge for a few hours to set, or make it the day before and let it sit overnight. Keep cold until served.

I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top and in-between the layers for a little extra. It turned out great!

New herd addition: Spike

I’m really happy I was able to go to knit night last week since I won’t be able to go for a few weeks. I had ordered yarn (through Jen) from knitpicks.com and it came in, which means this will soon become Christmas stockings. And by soon I mean sometime in the next year.

After watching the sadness that was a lonely guinea pig, we found someone on Kijiji who was giving away their guinea pig. This is the little girl we brought home on Thursday night. We named her Spike, which is better than “The Nameless One” as we were calling her before. I’m guessing her age at around 2, based on weight. She is very active, really likes her hay, and has a very good understanding of how towel layers work.

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New piggy Spike has joined the herd

After work last Friday we drove to KW for a weekend visit. As always, it was equal parts lovely and exhausting. We didn’t get in until nearly 2AM on Saturday, so I opted not to go for my usual run. After catching up with my mom, we spent the day with my friend Alex while she worked on her costume for a convention coming up. Dinner at My-Thai with Darcy, Ellen, Stela, Heather, Alex, and Chris was so nice. We had a really nice time with everyone.

The impetus for the weekend visit was a family reunion. I am so happy I was able to go this year. That’s two years in a row now. I’m grateful that Chris has been so supportive about increasing our trips to KW.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

And in case you live under a rock, Guardians of the Galaxy was so freaking amazing. I want to go and see it again. And again. And again!

The sweater I’m working on is full of modifications, and I can’t wait to be finished it, but in the meantime I’ve started a hat that is already looking really nice. The pattern is Rikke by Sarah Young. I’ve knit it before and I love this pattern. The yarn choice is extremely important because it has to have the right stretch and drape. I’m confident Madelinetosh will work well.

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New hat-to-be: Rikke
Recipe: No-Bake Almond Butter Flax Balls

Original recipe found here:
http://laurenkellynutrition.com/no-bake-almond-butter-balls/

While I was visiting family this weekend, my mom let me taste these amazing treats she had made. They were so very very good, that I feel the desperate need to share the recipe with everyone I know.

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mmmmmmmm almond butter flax balls

Ingredients
1 cup (dry) old-fashioned oats (can use gluten-free)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (can use dairy-free)
1/2 cup natural almond butter (or any other nut butter)
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/3 cup raw honey
1 tsp. organic vanilla

Directions:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Roll into 1 inch balls and place in air tight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Single Blonde Piggy

Watching Buttercup, our lone guinea pig, is very sad. We can tell she is mourning the loss of her “herd” so we have been giving her lots of special attention. When I make my lunch in the morning, I make sure to give her a few extra treats beyond her usual baby carrot. Today it was a strawberry, a snap pea, and couple pieces of pepper. We are keeping our eye out for middle-aged, female guinea pigs to pop up at the Humane Society.

Photograph of a beige guinea pig on floral bedding
Our sweet little piggy Buttercup who is in need of a companion.

The weekend was very very full. We attended a housewarming for some very good friends who moved into a new apartment with significantly more space than their old one. They even acquired a new, very blind kitty.

Our weekend was rounded off on Sunday where we met with a bunch of our friends in Orleans with their kids. We had a potluck lunch then wandered over to the park to watch the kids play on the splash-pad while we caught up. We had a really nice day that ended with dinner and a visit with some other friends.

We took advantage of the holiday Monday and bought a new BBQ. Our old one was starting to get a bit rusted out. Super excited to get it hooked up so we can try it out!

A natural gas BBQ
Our almost-fancy, not rusted, fully functioning new BBQ!
KW visit this weekend

We are going to a family reunion this weekend, so hopefully we’ll be able to catch up with some friends on Saturday since we’ll be in town. I’ll have my phone on me so send me a text. There are tentative plans to go to a park with Alex and Kyla on Saturday, so maybe we can do something with other people Saturday evening.

Accountability

School is going really well. I’m now halfway through my course, and received a higher grade than I expected on my last assignment. YAY! I needed something to feel good about, since my run on Saturday didn’t go very well. I think it was too hot and humid, which I guess I’m not used to. I was only able to run about half of what I can usually manage. I’m going to try and get out another morning this week to make up for it.

Knitting

I thought I had finished my sweater, but I now think the sleeves are too tight/long, and the body is too short/wide. I guess I’ll have to rip it back to fix it, which sucks but seems necessary.

Recipe: Summer Veggies in a Basil Cream Sauce with Lemony Linguine and Pine Nuts
A bowl of veggie pasta
Lemony linguine with a cream sauce

This summer pasta was a little bit complicated, but it was extremely tasty. I’m not a huge fan of squash, so I switched it up with some yellow peppers and it turned out really well. I’ll definitely make this one again!

Veggies and cream sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ lb squash, cut into half-moon slices
½ lb zucchini, cut into half-moon slices
½ pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
⅛ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add squash, zucchini, and garlic; cook 5 to 6 minutes or until browned and vegetables are tender.
  3. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Remove vegetable mixture from pan.
  4. Add cream, Parmesan, and basil to skillet; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Return vegetable mixture to skillet, and simmer 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened.
Lemony Linguine with Pine Nuts

6 oz uncooked linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 green onion, sliced
¼ teaspoon grated lemon rind

  1. Cook linguine according to package directions; drain.
  2. Combine linguine, olive oil, pine nuts, green onion and lemon rind in a serving bowl; toss well.

Note: Toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently.

Shazam!

I learned something new last night that I feel the desperate need to impart upon you. Whomever you are.

Captain-Marvel

So we were watching episode 12 of Young Justiceas you do, and this new character shows up: Captain Marvel. Obviously this sparked a discussion about how there can possibly be a Captain Marvel in a show set in the DC universe. I mean, come on!

Anyway, so the logical next step is Wikipedia, where I learned all sorts of fascinating things. Like how at one point in time, Captain Marvel was more popular than Superman. And that Captain Marvel is actually a little boy who is lured into a dark tunnel by a strange man, where he says the magic words “Shazam!” to transform himself into a full grown man.

I just don’t have the words. None. I don’t have a single one. I was all set to hate him but in the end I wasn’t able to. He was too amazing.

Shazam!
Shazam!

Moon Crystal Power

The hardest thing about having moved away from my hometown kind of surprised me in the end. Of course I miss the people: my family and friends. But I’ve found that when I’m homesick, what I am homesick for no longer exists. Sometimes my visits home actually leave me feeling even more detached than before I arrived.

That’s why it’s been so important for me to maintain personal relationships with those people. It’s become really important to remind myself that what I really miss is the people, not the place.

So in the interest of maintaining those connections, I got together online with some friends back home for a bit of a nerd-fest. We watched the new Sailor Moon Crystal reboot together online with synced up video and Google voice chat. It was wonderful, and we’re going to do it again in a few weeks.

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Sailor Moon Crystal. OMG a Sailor Moon reboot you guys!!!!

My English course is going really well. I submitted assignment #4 last week and am keeping a pretty good pace. I’ve done a good job of getting ahead during the week so that I don’t have to worry about course-work on the weekends.

Last weekend was the first one in awhile where I wasn’t overbooked. The only thing I had was the Sailor Moon Crystal online party with my friends, other than that I went for a run, did some cooking, and did a crap tonne of laundry (so exciting!).

I even managed to do some knitting. I finished a project I’ve been working on since December and I’m so excited to show it off. I’ve been wanting to knit a Christmas tree skirt for years, and now I have.

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My completed Christmas tree skirt. It only took me 7 months.

The pattern was written by Teva Durham (ravelry link) and I found it in Handknit Holidays. I used Knit Picks Brava worsted and didn’t change anything about the pattern except for the bind off. I used Fleegle’s no-wrap short row technique and it worked amazingly. I can’t barely see them, even with the doubled yarn. And when it came to binding off, instead of carrying the red up the side and binding off normally, I decided I wanted to add buttons. I followed this video tutorial for an i-cord bind-off that incorporates button loops. It worked so well!

The button loops on my Christmas tree skirt
My finished Christmas tree skirt, complete with buttons loops and an i-cord bind off

There was a bit of a dark spot this week. One of our two guinea pigs, Fessik stopped eating and then passed away. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her. We had her on anti-biotics, but I guess she was already too sick. Goodnight, sweet piggy. We will miss you.

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Fessik: 2011-2014

Graphic designer with a passion for all things knitted

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