A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday Morning February Temperature

It's a crystal clear morning here in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  The sun is bursting forth over that Eastern horizon and it's truly a lovely start to the day.  The only problem is that it's -25F. Yup 25 degrees below zero.  Chilly. 

We plugged in the block heater on the car last night.  While it's not necessary (it's our new Suburu), as one mechanic told us "it's just a lot easier on the car".  I'm always amazed that anything can operate at this temperature - cars, people, dogs, houses.  I'm always appreciative each day that the house doesn't just spontaneously collapse out of exhaustion of keeping us warm. 

Hopefully this last week of February will be the end of the really chilly temps for a while. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Shadowfax - GSD

Every passing day brings us new deaf dog related discoveries and entertaining new revelations about our four-legged companions. After years of trying to decide what type of breed she was, we finally realized that Shadowfax is in fact not a Pittie/Bulldog mix, but a GSD.

Now traditionally GSD has stood for a long admired dog breed - the German Shepard Dog.  But Shadowfax is a new breed of GSD - a Green Stick Dog.
The green stick is a goughnuts dog toy.  We've extolled their virtues before, but are now here with photographic evidence of their awesomeness.  We have had this particular toy for a year, and it's still fully intact with little more than a few minor teeth indentations.  And it's one thing to have a toy for a year, but quite another to use the toy every single day like Shadowfax does, and still have the toy remain intact.  This is one impressive dog toy, seemingly perfect in it's ability to hold her interest (she plays with it EVERY day) and remain in one piece. 
Shadowfax with her stick again. One of her favorite things to do is plop the end of the stick on my laptop as I'm sitting on the couch working.  (Yes I sit on the couch and work, don't judge).  If you ever read a blog post that says "jladhf ajksdhf;kauyer;aljkdhf kjladhsflkauyeblahgfasderlndkc" it's either because I've finally passed on to the other side of sanity or Shadowfax and her toy have written and posted the story together.

If you have a dog that's a heavy chewer I'd recommend trying one of the goughnuts dog toys. They're not cheap by any means, this green stick was $20 or so, but if it lasts for a long time, it might be worth it.  We also have a few other gougnuts toys that Shadowfax plays with semi-regularly, and they've also withstood the chomping jaws of our little pup.
And naturally after playing with her green stick, it's usually time for some snuggles and pets with Alycia.  Shadowfax is a pretty spoiled pooch. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Farewell to the Camry

John here with a stern warning - this may be an emotional post.  It may be tough news for many of you to handle, especially those who have come to love Alycia's Toyota Camry over the years.  Don't ruin this moment by saying something snarky about how in the world Alycia could still be driving that piece of vehicular rubbish.  Mostly because it's not nice, but also because it's not true. I've been driving this unreliable hunk of crap/four-wheeled curio of nostalgia for the last two years while Alycia has been styling in the comfort and heated seats of our new Subaru Outback.  Now I'll turn things over to Alycia.

Yes indeed. It seems like yesterday when my mom (aka, Mama Bear) brought home the Camry. Well, it was actually August 1999 and the Camry was already 7 years old and had nearly 100,000 miles. Soon enough, the Camry and the Bear Family took off for the first of the Camry's many adventures - a cross-country road trip back to Stanford for my senior year of college. Note - look how young I am, and how good looking the Camry is.
That first big trip was perhaps an indication of all that the Camry represented. Not 100 miles down the road we had to stop to buy a headlight for the car. And then in the middle of the Nevada desert in September, the AC died. Good thing that the AC system had been recently recalled and we got it fixed up as good as nearly new. My mom had paid for the extended warranty on the car, and I made good use of it, having all sorts of subtle mechanical issues with it in that first year.

But the Camry survived and was my constant companion through a few years of "working" at Stanford, and then through all of my grad school years in San Diego. During those years, it made countless trips throughout California: to the Tahoe area multiple times for ski trips, to Ukiah for camping, to the City (San Francisco) for shopping in the Haight, to Napa/Sonoma for wine tasting, to LA to see friends, and throughout San Diego county for many years.

By the time I finished grad school in 2009, the AC had died again in the Camry. But, since my Camry was the better of the two Camrys that John and I owned, we fixed it up again for an unimaginable trip back to North Dakota - the Camry's homeland. Never did we think that it would come back to North Dakota, but it made the trip home with no issues, carrying not only John and myself, but also Shaak Ti, Tito, and our 2 fish.

Once back in North Dakota, the Camry remained the "good"car for 3 years, as John drove the Grandma-mobile (the 1989 Ford Tempo that my Grandma owned prior to her death). When the Tempo was on its last gasp, we bought our Outback in 2012. That is when I went from the Camry's primary caretaker to its occasional rider, and John took over driving it. The past few years haven't been quite so kind to the Camry, as it became less and less reliable in starting, and it did not handle very well on the snowy and icy roads. John finally got fed up with the enigma of the Camry (Will it start today? Probably not) this January and declared that we needed another new car.

In a very ironic twist, we had decided to buy a new car the same week that the Outback got smushed by an irresponsible teen driver. And perhaps even more surprisingly, when we went through the new car paperwork, the dealership offered us $500 (American dollars no less) for a trade-in of the Camry. We were planning to donate it to some non-profit to get the tax deduction, but the $500 was a better offer and so we jumped on it before the salesman had second thoughts.

The dealership was even OK with the fact that the car didn't start and they offered to come and tow it away. It took them a week and a half to come and get it, but that gave us time to say our goodbyes to the Camry. We cleaned it out and found numerous interesting relics from the 15 years that I had the car. Directions to all sorts of places I visited, and of course the little notebook in which I kept notes on all of the mechanical fixes the Camry had over the years. I wanted to give that notebook to the dealership, but they took it away before I could put it back in the glovebox. Now they'll never know how many miles ago it had its timing belt replaced. Oh well. And in a somewhat anti-climatic end, the dealership's guys came with a pick-up and a tow-rope a few Tuesdays ago and towed it out of our driveway. At 235,000 miles, the Camry was a great car.
Here, in its last photo, the Camry doesn't look quite so beautiful and graceful. It's covered in snow and ice and we hadn't been able to start it for over a month. But it was an excellent, awesome car. One that many people would have been proud to own, and I was. We had many adventures, the Camry and I, and I hope that its new owners will treat it with the respect that it deserves.

And yes,  I know that my pink coat is a little gray there - I blame playing with Shadowfax and her dirty basketballs in the backyard. It is just my dog walking/playing coat. I wouldn't wear that coat anywhere fancy...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snow Pictures from North Dakota

I haven't really posted any snowy winter pictures at all this year.  But now that we're nearing late-February and the possibility of winter ending seems real, I think I can muster the wherewithal to post some pictures of the homestead in the snow.

We've gotten a lot of snow this winter.  No huge storms, just a lot of Alberta Clippers that have swept through and dropped 2-3 inches, or quick overnight storms that left 4-6 inches.  We've had about 44 inches of snow this season, which is a bit above average.  These are the apple trees in the garden, and they're about 9 feet tall. 
The front of the house with snow piled up. The front of the house faces North and even though there isn't much roof surface that faces that direction, the snow really piles up on the little roof area that's available.
The bird feeders in the front yard.  These branches that the feeders are hanging from are between 5 and 7 feet tall, but with all the snow pack they're almost at eye level.  All the snow makes it super convenient for the squirrels and bunnies, they can just sit right up and get the sunflower seeds. 
But the picture that really puts it into perspective is this next one, a picture of the front berm on the North side of the homestead.  Just a big pile of snow with no definition, or anything near it to give you perspective.  What a great shot 'eh?  I included this photo as a public shaming to myself to never take pictures like this again.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2014

We participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count of 2014.  And if you also want to participate, there's plenty of time - it runs the whole weekend February 14 to 17. All you have to do is set aside at least 15 minutes to record the birds that you see in your back (or even front) yard.

Check out the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

Alycia spent about a half hour counting birds (I helped quite a bit).  For being a "scientist" in her professional life, Alycia's methodology for counting birds lacks a certain scientific quality at times, but that's OK. We still love her despite her abhorrent aberrations from proper scientific bird counting methods.

Here's what we ended up counting:
  • 10 sparrows
  • 2 chickadees
  • 2 nuthatches
  • 1 American crow
Not the most exciting list by any means.  Not as exciting as last Spring when we saw all manner of awesome birds: Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Baltimore Oriole, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, and American Goldfinches.  Soon Spring will return and so will the awesome bird sightings.
Photo Credit


With a little luck, we'll see this awesome Scarlet Tanager again this Spring. First we need a little bit of snow melting to happen...that may take some time.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Professor Cummings Honored

January is thankfully behind us.  January is the nadir of cold and snow, and even though there are two months of winter left, there seems to be some faint light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm also finally starting to approach feeling normal even though I'm not fully recovered from the malaise detailed in A Rough Month.  One sure indication of feeling better is having a sassy enough attitude to want to write a blog post.

Instead of focusing on illnesses and crunched cars and continued sub-zero high temperatures, we'll mention something more positive...like Professor Alycia Cummings being honored by her own students in the University of North Dakota student newspaper, The Dakota Student.

At the end of last semester Alycia was approached by one of her students and asked if she read the current edition of The Dakota Student.  She hadn't since she never does (chock full of school spirit is she).  Alycia was told that the students in her class (and in the National Honor Society) had placed an notice in the newspaper thanking her for being such a great instructor.  It might bear mentioning that this was unsolicited and no extra credit was granted. 
It was quite the honor for Alycia and she was proud that her students were enthused enough about her teaching to place a "Thank You" notice in the student newspaper.  Alycia was grateful for the unexpected gesture from her students and realized that things like this look great when going up for tenure (which is right around the corner).