Zucchini Mushroom PastaThis recipe immediately caught my eye; there’s always been a special place in my heart (and stomach!) for pasta and mushrooms. A chance to have them both AT THE SAME TIME was irresistible.

First of all, this recipe only requires a few ingredients that I don’t usually have on-hand: zucchini, cremini mushrooms, and heavy cream. It made shopping for this dinner relatively painless, and anything perishable will happily keep in the fridge for a few days, in case you or your family decide on something else to eat that night.

That being said, once you do decide to whip this up, it’s stupidly easy and tastes incredible. I’ve made this dish twice now, and having recognized what I needed to refine after the first batch, the second batch was even better — and I didn’t think that was possible.

My tips and observations for making this ambrosia even incredible-er:

  • Use just 4 cups of water. It’s more than enough, and you don’t want to have to drain anything later.
  • When putting everything in the pot to boil, put the pasta in first, then the veggies.
  • Everything else will work its way down into the water once it starts boiling.
  • Don’t be afraid to add a little extra cream (if you tolerate dairy well).
  • If you’re cooking in a metal pot, transfer everything to a plastic bowl or non-stick pot before adding the Parmesan cheese; otherwise, it will all stick to the pot instead of the food. (This life lesson cost me some elbow grease.)

My conclusion:

   Eat this dish, and eat it often.  

We picked up Mona’s cremains yesterday from Steve at Carolina Pet Cremation. He did a beautiful job and included a lovely packet of condolence and memorial material.

Mona's Urn

Cremation Certificate Poems Memorials
Wildflowers (front) Wildflowers (back)

This, however…this caught me by total surprise and left me sobbing for a while. I was truly moved.

Name Plate & Paw Print

I will be woodburning and painting a design on the top of her urn like I did for Isis. I’m thinking a cornucopia, since she was named after the goddess of abundance.

Baby Mona, December 2008

Mona has gone to join Isis at the Rainbow Bridge, leaving Mimi as our sole remaining Guinea Goddess.

Snuggle BunnyShe turned 6 years old in November, and her health had been in slow decline for the past year. I suppose her age was catching up to her a bit. In July we took her to Banfield because it seemed that her right eye was no longer functional; she had a noticeable head tilt, the eye itself was glazed and a bit sunken, and there was no blink reflex. She was diagnosed with an ear infection that had likely caused pressure or damage to her optic nerve, and we were told that she may or may not regain sight in that eye. She was perfectly ok with that, going about her happy guinea pig life much as she had been. She really perked up and even gained a little weight.

The weight didn’t stay on, unfortunately, and we’d noticed that she was wheezing a little when she breathed a couple weeks ago, so we took her in to Banfield again on December 18th. She was put on antibiotics for a respiratory infection, and she got through alright until her follow-up appointment on the 30th.

ohaiI’d been asking that they check her teeth since I first brought her in, and this time I insisted that they do it, since I had a niggling feeling that something was off there. I left her with them for the afternoon, since she had to be sedated for them to really have a good look, and picked her up a few hours later. She was still groggy from the anesthesia, but I could tell right away that something was very wrong. Her right hind leg was sticking out straight behind her, very stiff and unresponsive, right down to her toes. She had also started to list her entire body to the right, instead of just tilting her head.

When Banfield called to check on her New Year’s Day, I let them know she had this strange new symptom, and the vet, Dr. O’Connell, was flummoxed. She recommended that I take her to a specialist at Avian and Exotic Animal Care (which, in hindsight, we really should have done the very first time she fell ill). They were able to get me in on January 2nd, and the news was not good.

Mona’s bloodwork came back surprisingly normal, but her x-rays showed several problems.

Mona and big sister MimiThe first issue was that she had overgrown molar roots. It’s an age thing, and there’s really not much that can be done about this in guinea pigs. The specialist figured that the roots growing up into her sinus cavity and down through her jawbone had caused the ear infection. In turn, this destroyed her right inner ear and damaged one of her facial nerves, resulting in paralysis on the right side of her face. Instead of feeling that she was blind in her right eye, the vet was certain that it still worked, but she couldn’t blink to keep it hydrated and healthy. Horrifying thought, right?

The second issue was arthritis in her knees. That would explain why she hadn’t jumped up on top of her house to rattle her cage bars in months. There was almost no cartilage in her knee joints anymore.

The third, and most concerning, was actually a lack of evidence explaining the lopsidedness and rigidity of her hind leg. The vet felt that there was a real possibility she had a brain tumor; if it was particularly aggressive, it would explain her incredibly fast downward spiral.

Static cling is a bitch!The specialist had to anesthetize her again in order to take another look at her teeth. When she woke up, Mona was even worse off than before. After I brought her home, along with a handful of medications and a resolve to see her through this, I realized she wasn’t even tilting over anymore — she was laying entirely on her right side and could hardly move. She ate baby food from a syringe when I fed it to her, and she tucked into lettuce leaves every time they were placed in her reach, but beyond that, she just lay there, occasionally waving her front legs around as if she were trying to move around but was too weak.

I gave the medications a couple of days to work, but in the end, I had to face the facts. This was no way for her to live, and she showed no improvement. I could tell she wanted to keep fighting, but she was just so tired.

I cuddled her and kissed her and asked her to say hello to Isis for me, and then I got on the phone to make arrangements.

Pomona, Mona, Monamona Mischief Pig, Mona Bologna, Bologna Head, Booper…you will be missed, sweet girl.

Did someone say "food"?

I finished a couple new craft projects over the holidays, thanks to my Silhouette Portrait!

First up were gifts for friends in our building — well, actually, gifts for Lola’s friends in our building. ;) I made pop-up cards and gift boxes for each of them:

Pop-Up Christmas Card Gift Boxes

They turned out really great!

What was in the gift boxes, you ask? Homemade dog treats! I used this recipe, which went through a revision from one commenter, and I revised it further. (You can print a copy of it from the recipe details at the bottom of this post!) By all accounts, the treats were a resounding success…and Lola loved being my taste-tester. :)

I also painted a festive canvas to put on our fireplace mantel. I used my Silhouette to cut vinyl stencils, which I then applied to the canvas. I used pearlescent and glittery paint to fill in the blanks, and tada!

Background Stencil Painting the Background Pearly, Sparkly Snowflake! Foreground Stencils Galore Foreground Ready to Paint Halfway there! On the Mantel

The Finished Product!

The glittery-ness didn’t show up quite as much as I’d hoped, especially not in the low light. Apparently I’ll have plenty of chances to get it right, since Peter has decreed I must now make a canvas we can display for each holiday throughout the year. :)

What did YOU craft over the holidays?

I dunno about you guys, but my Christmas morning was filled with joy and surprise. :)

First up, I got this doodad, which I’m thinking will be employed to make geeky pendants and stuff! Peter Kickstarted it earlier this year, and it luckily arrived in time for Christmas.


Next, I was instructed to open one of two identical boxes — the heavier one first. Since I knew Peter had used a couple Misto Box boxes, I joked, “Hey, you got me a Misto Box!” As I continued to unwrap it, I soon discovered…

NOT Misto Box, or even coffee.

Well, I figured it wasn’t actually coffee, but when I opened it up, I was puzzled. Keys? Some kind of weird lock? What?

Keys and a Lock

There was something else in the box…a small black zippered folio. I opened it, and it took me a second to realize what it was. THEN I SQUEALED WITH GLEE, YOU GUYS.


LOCK PICKS. SERIOUSLY. (And the funky lock above is a see-through practice lock.)

Every time we watch Elementary, and Holmes and Watson “visit” someone’s house or whatever and I see them picking locks, or I see a shot of Holmes’ “lock wall,” I say, “I would love to learn how to do that. It seems like a really cool skill to have.”


Keeping with the new-found theme of the morning, I also received this, to get me started:

Visual Guide to Lock Picking

It’s seriously fascinating, but full of jargon I’m going to have to learn.

Next up were these super-cool earrings (in the other Misto Box), which Peter bought before he figured he’d just go ahead and get me real lock-picking goodies. (Thanks, Arislyn, for pointing these lovelies out to him.) :D

Lock Pick Earrings

The big-ticket item was a new Kindle Fire HDX, which is pretty freakin’ sexy.

Kindle Fire HDX 7"

It’s got ads on it, but they’re only on the unlock screen (so far), so they’re completely unobtrusive and easy to ignore. The display is incredibly crisp, and it’s easy to hold. My parents sent me an Amazon gift card, and I used a chunk of it to buy a purple origami case. It arrived today, and I really, really like it too.

The grand finale was this lovely certificate that Peter made all by himself. I absolutely love it, and the gift it contains! (Don’t try to steal my code, either…it’s already been redeemed!) :p

I'm a Trailblazer!!

I think that’s about it, but wow, what a haul! Did you guys get anything exciting??