Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy holidays

I hope every one of you who might read this gets a special something from Santa. Maybe just a pretty sunrise over the snow tomorrow morning, and the knowledge that you have the day off to enjoy in small ways. Maybe a nice cup of tea and a special chocolate that you've saved for yourself. And give someone you love a long soft hug.

Have a great weekend, and a warm and cozy holiday season!

- Sonya, Brett, Mina, Jupiter and Bridget

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Deep snow today


We got several inches overnight; I haven't seen this much snow here since we've lived in this house! Brett has ventured out to go to the Seahawks game with a neighbor; an adventure from which he will hopefully return tonight!

The streets are thick with snow, and just a few tire tracks. I wouldn't really want to try driving in it, though it seems more crunchy than icy.

Mina is much less interested in going outside than she was when there were just a couple of inches; the snow is so thick now that she has to hop like a bunny to get through it. Below is a little video of her bouncing through the snow at the park; please ignore my inane giggling.



video

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow snow snow snow snow snow

It's been snowing since about 7:30 am, and it doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon! I stayed home from work, of course, and I couldn't even get out of the driveway earlier today. Mina loves it, though! The cats are somewhat less impressed.

Throw it! Throw it!!

Catching snowflakes

"Whoa."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The crazy thing we did


Oh, yeah; this happened too.

Bernard, my co-blogger over at the Ronald Bog Blog, convinced me that we should sign up for the local Top Foods charity sing-a-thon.

Sing.

In public.

This is something I would never do. But somehow, it sounded like fun, so I called a couple of friends, and we met up at 3:00 on Saturday to practice our singing, which was scheduled for 5:00 that same evening. Bear in mind, now, that many of us had never met one another before. And factoring in drinking time (how else did you think I was going to do this?) we had less than 2 hours to practice singing together.

We had a songlist that we all put together; a few holiday songs, but also a lot of just fun-to-sing stuff. Joy to the World by Three Dog Night, for example, and Hey Jude, and Horse with No Name, that sort of thing. So we practiced for a bit, drank a bit, and headed over to the store to take our chances.

It was GREAT. We had so much fun. Somehow, even though we were shaky at home, something about being there together in a mostly quiet grocery store on a snowy Saturday night just...worked. Well, it felt like it did, even though I'm sure some of the shoppers that passed us wondered who could have possibly allowed this travesty. But we had fun, and at the end of the hour, after a rousing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody (very fun to sing in a group, as you can imagine) we all wanted to just keep singing!

We even got a few of the store employees to join in; you can see one of them in the photo above, in his Top Foods cap and tie. That guy was great, belting it out like he'd been waiting his whole life for that particular unlikely moment that we showed up and started singing King of the Road.

So, the moral is, I guess...give it a try. Whatever it is. How bad could it be?




More pix here, for the curious:
Shoreline Bloggers Invade Top Foods

Mina discovers snow

I had been wondering what Mina would think about snow; we don't know that she's ever seen any yet (she was born in January of last year). I hoped it wouldn't freak her out and keep her from going out in the yard. Turns out, she liked it:

video

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mina's ancestry solved, a new device used


It's been another dogful week. But then, a lot of life is more interesting now; it's not just go to work, cook dinner, go to sleep. This little critter is a big part of our lives. And we just learned a bunch of new things about owning her.

When we adopted Mina, they told us she was a dachshund/lab mix. Being that kind of person, I've been looking at photos of "dachsadors" or "doxadors" (or, dear me, "labraweenies") online to see what her mutt-mates look like. And without exception, that mix seems to result in a stumpy-legged dog. Mina, though, has proportionate legs to her size; she looks like a half-sized coonhound. For a while I was convinced she was in fact a German Pinscher, which is a match for coloration and size.

Finally I contacted the woman who had been fostering her before we adopted her, and asked if she had any more information on the pooch's ancestry. She said she'd contact the previous owners and ask what they knew. And sure enough, in a couple of days we had our answer.

Turns out the hound is a mix of beagle and springer spaniel, with some dachshund thrown in the mix as well. The beagle part made a lot of sense to both of us; we'd always both thought she seemed "beagley" in a way. And she has a cute, funny "aoww wow owww" noise she makes when she's playing that you can imagine coming from a beagle hot on the trail of game.

All three dog breeds in her lineage are bred to hunt, and are nose-oriented and can be stubborn. And my girl is sniffy as anything, and loves to chase and tree squirrels like it was her job. One of the unfortunate results of her hunting passion is that she does tend to pull on the leash when we walk; so much so that her foster mom only ever walked her on a harness. We'd trained her to be pretty good on a regular collar, but there still have been some frustrating walks when she insists that she wants to go smell that thing over there right now! And pulls like a sled dog to get there. Or stops to smell and digs her heels in to resist going any further on the walk until she has a good snootful.

We'd tried a lot of things to get her to stop pulling so much, but recently, I had an interesting conversation with a dog-loving friend about his experience with the dog he and his husband own. The prong collar did the trick, he said. Dog pulled once, realized that wasn't going to work, and has been good ever since (or something like that).

Now, I'd been sort of conditioned by various positive training sites online to think that prong collars (aka pinch collar, or more kindly, training collars) were the equivalent of a dark ages torture device. That guy in the DaVinci Code movie used one to punish himself, right? You don't do that to a dog! But hearing the results my friend had, I decided to do some research on my own. Turns out that prong collars are actually more used, and considered safer, by most trainers than choke collars. The prongs are supposed to simulate the teeth of the momma dog on a puppy's neck, gently reminding it to knock that behaviour off. I went to the store and bought one.

Still, I worried. Would she kill herself by driving the spikes into her throat? I wrapped the thing around my leg, on the skin, and gave it a few hard yanks. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt much at all. I had to really pull hard to feel any real pain. I put it on Mina and we started off...and the first time she lunged ahead, she didn't even get any real leverage on the leash before she backed off and fell back next to me. And sure enough, we had a two mile walk with almost no pulling at all...just a tiny bit, which she immediately stopped each time. I felt as though my dog had been switched out with some sort of super-trained special companion dog! We had a nice, relaxing walk together, her trotting along happily by my side, and me grinning like an idiot most of the way. It was lovely.

The second walk was just as good, and I think we've got ourselves a solution. The true test will be when she sees her very favorite dog in the world, little Quincy the teeny yorkie who we often meet on our walks. She could pull a sumo wrestler along in her attempt to get to her friend, as much as I want her to approach politely. I will be interested to see whether she can do that next time Quincy appears in the distance.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sometimes if I'm having a bad day, I imagine Ira Glass doing the narration. Then it seems at least interesting, if not better.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I feel ambiguous about Thanksgiving week. I only get one day off, and on that day I get to clean and cook, and have people over who don't have to get up the next morning (like I do), and who always seem to bring more people than anticipated. And Brett gets half the week off, as usual. On the upside, I do get a day off. And a few glasses of wine make everything all better.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Making rosemary pesto crackers to have with some chevre we bought. There's something addicting about these freshly made crackers.
The Mad Men folks watching the Giants game on Twitter is the best entertainment of the weekend! Big props to all, esp. @Sal_Romano!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dark days, but good

Once again, I should apologize to the four or so people who read my posts; I've been lax about writing about what's going on in my life. But I have been spending a lot of time living it, so I know you'll understand. Here's a summary of the last few weeks.

I've finished the current quarter of teaching at SVC, and have decided that in January, when classes start again, I'll be a student for a while and not a teacher. I want to hone some of my design skills; I'm starting to think it's something I can grow into, and I have a lot of amazing people at work that I can learn from.

Brett had a good trip to Dutch Harbor last week, for his job, leaving me and the dog and two cats to fend for ourselves. We did fine, though. I know that Mina will scare the crap out of anyone that comes near the front door, and I feel safe when I'm walking her, since she does growl to warn off what she thinks are dangerous-looking people. The cats, on the other hand, continue to be merely ornamental. I'm not sure they even noticed Brett was gone. He brought me a Dutch Harbor baseball cap to wear on dog walks. Never thought of myself as a baseball-cap person, but age and practicality have won out over vanity.


A week ago we went to a pleasant scotch tasting event at the Rainier Club. I tried to take some photos with my iPhone, but it was too dark to get much detail. We tasted some very fancy scotches; it's no surprise, I guess, that the older and more expensive ones turned out to be the ones I liked best. My recent discovery that scotch is not the most vile liquid on earth (you just add some water to it! Why didn't anyone tell me?!) probably both amuses and worries Brett, though I haven't raided his stash just yet.

We've been walking a lot, of course, and I have gotten to really look forward to our after-work dog walks, even in the dark and the rain. It's been pretty nice out for the last few days, though; this weekend we made a couple of trips to the park for as much frisbee-throwing as the dog could take, and took plenty of long walks in the fresh air. I know it's going to change soon, and I know I really should be out there doing yard work or something, but all I want to do is walk with the dog. The yard is ok. This spring I plan to re-do a lot of it, but in the meantime, nature can have its way and things can grow as they see fit.

Another nice thing that happened just recently was re-uniting with a friend I'd been very close to in my 20s, but hadn't seen in many years. It was great to find that even after this long, we still have a lot in common, and get along really well. We've both grown and changed, but the girls we were are still there.

I haven't been drawing as much as I'd have liked, though I did some sketches for a project at work. My concepts weren't picked, sadly, so here's one in an early stage. It was an idea for a Fall tumbler. I thought it was nice, but they went for something more graphic and design-y. That's ok, and as I said, I'll be taking some classes soon so I can keep up a little better with design trends, and hopefully still use drawing and painting in my work.

That's it; certainly nothing earth-shattering going on, but it's been a pretty good fall so far, economy and work stress aside. Life goes on, as it always has, and hopefully will continue to do. Someone is going to have to walk that dog, after all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My letter to Barack Obama


Just days after the election, the Obama campaign has set up a website asking what we would like to see change in the upcoming administration. You can see it here: http://www.change.gov/

Here's my lengthy submission:

----------------------

When I saw that a younger, well-educated man was a presidential candidate, way back in the summer of this year, I thought, "I wonder if he will embrace the internet the way the rest of us have? Will he use it to communicate, promote transparency, and learn about the cultures that have developed in this new world?" When I saw the Obama Twitter feed, I knew he would. So first I'd like to congratulate the Obama staff for setting up this site! It's exactly what we need.

My vision for the country includes all people, especially those who have been poorly treated by the religious right. I believe everyone should have the same rights as a couple that straight people currently enjoy; I don't care if "marriage" is redefined as a solely religious concept, as long as everyone, gay and straight, can be united in the eyes of the law with all the benefits I currently enjoy as a married woman.

I hope that women will always have the right to choose their reproductive methods, and I'd like to see contraception made available at little or no cost to any fertile woman. Education should be provided to all young people as to the seriousness of raising kids, and how they can make an informed choice when and if to reproduce.

I'd like to see more support for the arts, no matter if they are controversial or popular, and more emphasis placed on educating kids to be creative and confident, not just popular and conforming.

And schools should also include mandatory courses on critical thinking, so all American citizens have the tools to make decisions for themselves. Education should be one of our first and largest priorities, and even though I do not have children, I would never object to paying more of my income towards a more educated America.

I believe religion should be completely separate from government, and while everyone should have the right to choose and practice their religion, that choice should at no time affect my right to be free of religion.

I would like to see protections for animals wherever possible, because unlike humans, they often have no choice in how they are housed and treated. Animal testing is often necessary in the sciences, and some animals do indeed taste good, but we have to take every step to ensure that they do not experience pain or fear or disabling forms of breeding while we are caring for them.

I believe that homelessness is a serious problem, and is closely tied to a lack in mental health care for a large segment of the population. I'm not sure how this can be solved, but it's time a serious effort was put into determining how we can help the mentally ill who cannot care for themselves.

Personal privacy needs to be a constant goal of the government; inappropriate wiretapping and internet monitoring must be ended. Corporations must also be responsible for protecting the privacy of their customers.

Finally, I thank you so much for taking the time to make this site available. I couldn't believe it, the night the election results were announced; we were so very happy to hear that all we'd hoped for was true. That night, my husband and I both decided that since this country finally had lived up to our dreams, we would put more effort into doing whatever we can to pay it back. We will be donating more than ever to our favorite charities this year, and into finding ways we personally can make a difference in the lives of people with less than we have.

Thank you, thank you for caring. I'm sorry this is so long, but I do care, too, and I truly believe that this administration can make the changes that have been so long in coming.

Sonya

P.S. Please consider a rescued dog from a shelter for First Dog! Inbreeding is a big problem among purebred dogs, and setting a good example by adopting a shelter dog would be a perfect example to set for all those other dogs.
(Signed, Mina - Sonya's rescue dog and best friend)

Saturday, October 25, 2008





Posted via Pixelpipe.

Monday, October 6, 2008

img_0163.jpg

Posted via Pixelpipe.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How to make spätzle (Pfälzisch style)

I'd been meaning to post this for a while, and since someone recently asked Brett if I knew how to make spätzle, I decided to go ahead and write up my grandmother's recipe.

These spatzle are the real thing; they're not like I've ever seen in any restaurant. But I can vouch for their authenticity, as my Oma is a German lady, living in the Rheinpfalz area (southwestern Germany, not far from the French border). She taught me to make spatzle when I was a kid, and I've always loved them.

By the way, since she was born and raised speaking what is called "low German" (or Pfälzisch) we don't pronounce them the way you might think from the spelling; we say something that sounds like "shpet-zya." You can think of low German as a country dialect, sort of the way we think of a strong Southern accent here in the states.

Oma's spatzle are simple and quick to make. The only three ingredients are eggs, flour and salt, and they're cooked in boiling water. You need only one fork, a knife, a mixing bowl, and a pan for the water. I also recommend butter for them once they're cooked, though these days I use something called "Smart Butter." So far I don't feel smarter.

Unfortunately for you, the reader of this recipe, I have been making these for so many years that I just know how much of each to use, and don't use any measuring tools. So I've taken some photos of the process and hope that will explain some of the more vague parts of the recipe.

Start by putting about 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup flour, about two teaspoons of salt and two eggs into a mixing bowl. You'll have to adjust the amount of flour to get the right texture, so start on the lower end and add more, a little at a time, while you stir the mixture with a fork.

You're looking for a certain texture here; it should be very thick and doughy. Just mix it up and add flour until it sticks to the fork with determination.


It'll be lumpy, but keep stirring until it's fairly smooth. It doesn't have to be perfect, just of a more or less uniform consistency.

While you've been doing this, you'll want to have put your water on to boil. A medium-sized pan will be fine.

Now you need your knife, and you'll have to do the very important mysterious first step that my Oma insists is crucial: before touching the dough with the knife for the first time, rest it in the boiling water for a few moments.

Yes, it is possible to skip this step, but if you do, various hardships and disasters apparently will befall you. I wouldn't risk it. Besides, you wanted to make real, authentic German spätzle, right?



Ok, then. Now you use the pre-heated knife to scoop out portions of the spätzle dough and drop them into the boiling water. The size I like is about the same size and shape as a healthy garden slug. I hope this doesn't put you off your dinner, but it really is the only thing that works as a comparison.









Lower the spätzle-slug covered knife into the boiling water and hold it there until the dough falls off the knife. Then repeat, using the rest of the dough, one slug-sized glop at a time.

As you work, the earlier spätzles will float to the top of the boiling water. After you finish dropping in the last one, wait a few minutes for all the spätzles to float to the top, then take them off the heat.

Those last few moments are best spent doing a little clean-up. Believe me; you'll thank me for this. It seems that this combination of ingredients can also be used to make a very strong adhesive; take a moment to wash off your fork, your knife, and your bowl. If you wait until later, the residue left will make you (or your friend, partner, or spouse who washes dishes) sad and frustrated.

Ok, dishes clean? Then get out your strainer (I forgot to mention it at the beginning, but if you don't already have one, it's fine to leave the spätzle boiling while you run out and buy one. At this point they are virtually indestructible). Just drain off the water, and drop those little guys into a dish. For the best authentic Pfälzisch dining experience you will want to add a lot of butter.



That's it; I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Twitter and the fast world

Ok, yes; I know I haven't been updating the blog much. But as I recently got an iPhone (and love it to pieces and want it surgically implanted into my flesh and would marry it in a crazy Borg ceremony) I have gotten kind of addicted to Twitter (see it up there?). It's quick, portable, and perfect for those with a very short attention span. And by short I mean under 140 characters. It's like chatting with the world, except the world doesn't really care. But that's ok, because as a whole, we make up the Twitterverse, and are a shallow but broad set of people with single sentences to declare.

Twitter is also an interesting way to follow current events, like the election. It's used by millions of everyday folks, by cats and dogs, and by B- and C- list celebs like Wil Wheaton, John Hodgman, and Penn Jillette. Even corporations use it: Starbucks and Home Depot, for example. I like it for getting breaking news, too, and even local info.

It's a trend, will probably be done when the next big thing comes out, but it's fun in the meantime, and fits in well with a culture that is about sound bites and texting. I imagine that in a few more years, we won't even have the capability to write in entire sentences, and novels will consist of a series of text messages delivered straight into your retinas. Fun!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

This is why they call it LABOR day

Three-day weekend. Day one...poke around, walk the dog, hang out, go to see Dark Knight at IMAX.

Day two. Morning. Looking at the old, hated grey carpet (that was born white, long ago). I wonder...

...what's under here? Hey...looks like wood. And it seems to be in pretty good shape.


Let's pull it up! Come on, guys!
















This is looking pretty good...on to day three (and in the mean time, Brett is busily painting the trim around the new doors, and the carport supports).













Definitely an improvement over the carpet. We are surprised to find that while there are some flaws, the floor is actually pretty clean and unmarked.


The end result: worth the cramps in my hand from pulling one thousand carpet staples and a hundred million feet of tacking board.

Please, people of the future, should you read this...do NOT put down carpet over wood floors. You're doing future generations a great disservice if you do.

But I'm really, really happy with the result. And I feel like I had a very productive long weekend. The trim looks great too.

Now...time to go to work.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bark bark bark bark...GOOD dog!

Mina's a sweetie, but she has an annoying habit of barking whenever there's someone at the door. We've tried various tactics to stop her, from "go sit in your bed!" to "Ok, ok, I hear you, now STOP" to "all right, stop and you get some treats!" None have really worked.

Well...I was sitting on the couch in my living room tonight, around 11 pm, watching tv with Mina on my lap. All of a sudden she's up and barking like crazy! I couldn't imagine that she was just barking for no reason, so I stood up to go investigate...and as I turn around, I see a man I'd never seen before standing IN MY LIVING ROOM! My jaw dropped - this had never happened before and I was too stunned to react. But Mina knew this was not right and she barked frantically at the stranger, circling and staying between me and him.

"Is this where [name] and [name] live?" he asked.

"Uh...no, that's next door," I answered over Mina's barking. At the same time, I was idly wondering if she'd bite him. I could see now that he was just a lost party-goer, looking for the neighbors, but the pure shock of having a stranger walk unannounced into my home still had me kind of floored and I just gaped at him as he figured it out.

He thanked me and left, and after the door was shut - and locked, this time! - I sat down on the floor with my dog. She quieted after a moment, to a frustrated little moan, then stopped and laid down next to me.

Right about then, my husband comes wandering in from the other side of the house. "What was that?" he asked. When I told him what happened, he knelt down and gave Mina a big hug and a heart-felt "Good dog!"

"Remember this," I said, "next time you're mad because she barks when someone comes over."

He agreed and called Mina a good protector, and gave her another long scratch and hug.

We all learned something tonight! I won't have quite the same reaction next time Mina barks when the doorbell rings, from now on.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Here we go again

Survived another wave of layoffs, which is nice and all, but I dread seeing what my workplace will become over the next few weeks. They're not saying, yet, but I suspect big changes (besides these) are coming. I'm a little worried...oh well. If the worst finally happens, I'll be all right. For now, I've got a job, so that's good.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Best damn dog ever

Cat              dog              cat

Kind of a big day for us – since Mina has been recovering well from her back injury, and since she's been advised by her medical professional to avoid too many stairs, we decided to let her go free-range this week for the first time while we're at work. We had done a test run on Saturday evening, staying out for hours seeing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Marymoor Park. She did fine at home, so today was the big day: dog alone at home, with the run of the house.

Coming home from work, I was worried that she might have chewed up a pillow or two, eaten all the cats' food (or the cats themselves), or maybe unrolled the toilet paper...but to my joy, she'd done none of those things! As far as I can tell, all she chewed on was her approved Little Faceless Bear and Little Squeaky Lamb, and various Stinky Bones which reside around the house. Yay!

It's enough to almost make me forget that there will probably be massive layoffs at work tomorrow. Ah well...if it's me, I will be a stay-at-home dog mom for a while. I can deal with that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summertime; the livin' is more or less easy


Mina has now had about a week of restricted activity, and she really seems to be improving. She's still tentative when she sits and lays down, and walks a little slowly (especially on the steps leading to the back yard) but she's definitely better. She's restless a lot, poor pup, and probably wishing for at least some of her usual exercise. But we're trying to be good parents and keep her rested as much as possible.

Last night after work we walked down to the park for Shoreline's concert and celebration, amusingly titled "Swingin' Summer Eve." Sounds like a feminine hygene product, but it was actually a cute and fun little event; a great disco/70s cover band called "The Afrodisiacs" played, there were those big bouncy inflatable things for the kids, and a hot dog stand run by the local fire department. Lots of people brought dogs, so we were sad Mina couldn't have come, but it was still a good time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tough time for a smallish dog

Country dog in the city
Day three, and the poor pup is living the crate life. She can come out for potty time; when she stands up, she cries a little, so we can tell that she's still having pain from her injury. It's hard to get her to eat or drink anything; she sleeps a lot, or lays there with her eyes open. In the morning, I have to persuade her to get up at all.

We did take her outside a bit yesterday and today, guiding her slowly down the stairs to the back yard. She perked up a bit at being in her favorite place, and ate some grass and drank some water, and took care of her bathroom needs. But when we brought her in, she headed right back to her crate. I'm not sure if the drugs are doping her up or if she's just pained and sad. It's hard, hard, hard to see her like this.

I had started this collage/pastels experiment before all of this happened, so I decided to finish today while the house is so quiet.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Uh-oh (We learn about Intervertebral Disc Disease)


We've had our first serious medical problem with Mina, and it has to do with her long back and Dachshund heritge

She was fine yesterday when we left for work, but when I got home she wasn't as excited as she usually is; she seemed lethargic and had trouble coming up the stairs. I was a little concerned, but when we went for our walk she seemed ok; a little slower than normal but she kept up, and even pulled ahead as she likes to do.

But over the rest of evening she started showing signs of discomfort; she would whine when getting up from her bed, and finally just went and laid in her bed in the bedroom, before bedtime, which was very unusual.

In the middle of the night she started panting, and she was shaking. I tried to make her comfortable... At this point we thought she must have eaten something bad. She cried a little when she sat, and had to ease herself down to lay down. When we got up at 6 am this morning, she was still panting and clearly in distress, so we took her to the emergency vet right away.

The vet noticed a reaction she had as soon as a spot on her back was touched; she yelped and pulled away in pain. We hadn't seen her do this yesterday, so possibly the aggravation had gotten worse. He determined that she is probably suffering from an inflammation caused by a vertebrae protruding into her spinal column: a symptom of Intervertebral Disc Disease, very common in dachshunds and their relatives.

Right now, she's not as bad as she could be; she can move her back legs fine, and after taking some medication, seems to be in much less pain. Still, the vet said that she has to stay in her crate "23 and a half hours a day" for two weeks, and be let out only to potty. If we can keep her quiet and it heals well, it is less likely to re-injure some time in the future.

After this she won't be able to jump up on the bed or furniture ever again. I'll really miss cuddling on the couch with my pup, and seeing her "go get daddy!" by bouncing onto him in bed early in the morning. And she's going to hate being confined to her crate for so long, poor thing. She loves her walks. It will take a while, after all that inactivity, for her to get back to normal, so we're probably looking at another two weeks after she's allowed to start exercising again.

I know it will take a while but I believe she'll be ok.



Graphic is copyright Hills Pet Nutrition, from the Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Neighborhoods, communities and the internet

As much as I am interested in, and participate in, various online communities, I often feel that they're a sort of vague, unreal part of my overall world. There are purportedly people out there, on their computers, who are interested in some of the same things I'm interested in, but they don't feel "real" sometimes. It's just words on a screen; for all I know, it could be a very advanced piece of software that someone has written to emulate a whole community and I am the only real member.

Yeah, of course I know that isn't true, but that sort of feeling has always led me to wonder if there aren't online communities that cross over into real life groups. One group we all fall into is the city where we live, so I searched online for a social network tie-in of some kind to my city, Shoreline, WA. There are Facebook "neighborhoods" that sort of fit the bill, but they only seem to serve as marker that yes, you live in a certain place, and there's no interaction based on that fact.

I did finally make an interesting discovery in a corner of the web: a blog called "Ronald Bog" (the name of our local mini-lake, I guess you'd call it). It's a blog about Shoreline, and I was happy to find that it covered the kinds of things I like to know about my town: what's going on, what's that new building on the corner going to be, what are the restaurants everyone likes or doesn't - that kind of thing.

Cutting out the lengthy middle of this story, I ended up becoming a co-author of the blog. Right now, it's a pretty low-traffic site. The blog's owner and I are trying to think of ways to promote it, and get more of our fellow Shoreliners (Shorelinians?) to come and participate.

I envision that people in the area will exchange ideas and thoughts about everything from local government to where the best sushi can be had. I'm thinking about ways to get more people here in Shoreline involved (and would love any suggestions!) and will be writing articles on the things I think are interesting about my town. And I'll probably still keep writing posts here about the dog- can cat-owning life and what I've managed to draw in my free time, and other stuff of interest to pretty much just me.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy 10 years!


We had a little celebration last night for our ten year anniversary of owning this house. Friends came over and we enjoyed crab, hamburgers and chicken from the grill, and several 1998 wines. Afterwards, we got out some of the liqueurs we made last year and had forgotten about; they were all much better than the last time we'd tasted them! The cinnamon, apple and blueberry were particularly good. Our faux Aquavit was even much improved.

Today is going to be a lazy day, after a day of cleaning yesterday, and I have a painting in progress that I really want to work on. It looks like it's going to be a little cloudy, so I won't feel too bad about staying indoors for some of the day. And there are tons of dishes to do after last night, so we'd better resign ourselves to getting some work done in the house.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Summertime

So it was pretty hot last week...we felt sorry for our little black and tan pup and decided we would get her a little wading pool to splash in on summer days. Here's how her first day with the pool went!


video

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dog park drama


We have been loving this wonderful weather. We took Mina to the Edmonds off-leash park agin last weekend, and had quite a good time. There was a strange incident, though; as we were coming in, a dog fight broke out between the double gates leading into the park. We were still too far off to see all the details, but one of the dogs' owners went into the park, and the other, a strained-looking woman, was sitting on the ground between the gates. I asked if she was all right, and she said she'd be ok, so we waited a few minutes and then went on into the off-leash area.

When we got in, the tide was coming in, so the waves were higher than they'd been the first time Mina visited; it took her a while to get used to the more forceful water washing over her. While we were luring her into the waves with her beloved squeaky balls, a pair of big dogs, and one little white dog, seemed to be out of control in our area. The little dog approached other dogs of every size aggressively, and the bigger ones pushed in to where we were playing and just barked and barked at poor Mina, right in her face.

The bully dogs' owner turned out to be the same woman who'd had the encounter at the gates. She sat far back from the water, tepidly calling her dogs now and then (they didn't really listen). I noticed that the woman who had been sitting on the ground was now talking to the bad dogs' owner; she had some notepaper and seemed to be getting contact information. We speculated that she might have been hurt in the fray earlier.

We kept trying to play, and Mina was joined by a sweet little corgi named Wally and his owner, so we threw balls for both pups, even though the corgi couldn't go very deep. But the big dogs kept pushing in and barking at both little dogs, until finally I went up the beach and asked if the woman could please control her dogs. She finally leashed them all up and left the park, to the relief of several other dog owners. We couldn't believe how blasé she was about letting her unruly dogs pick fights with other pups.

After that, we all had a much better time; Mina made several new friends, donated one of her squeaky balls to a big friendly mutt named Cooper, and got just soaking wet, as always. She was exhausted in another hour or so of running, so we bundled her up and headed out. As we were leaving, we saw the injured woman talking to an Edmonds police officer at his car. I stopped by to see if she was doing ok, and whether she needed any collaboration regarding the rude woman and her dogs. She said she was fine; she'd re-injured herself, she said, but would be ok. They didn't need us to hang around, so we left. It really was a nice day, despite all the drama. Mina loves the water and on a hot day, it's just the thing for a little black dog.

We haven't made much progress on finishing the front and back doors, though. What can I say? When it's nice out, we just want to hang out in the sun. But we'll have the upcoming long weekend to put on the last coat of varnish, and we can schedule to get these things installed. Finally! I don't regret playing a bit, anyway. It's finally summer, after such a long, cold spring!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yes, they can coexist!


Yes, they can coexist!
Originally uploaded by sonyaseattle
I was SO worried about how she'd do with the cats. Would she chase them mercilessly? Eat them when we weren't looking? Would they hide under the bed and never come out? Stop eating? Pee on our clothes?

No, none of those things have happened. We've been continuously surprised by how mellow and gentle this sweet dog is. And how the cats have grown to accept her. This is just how I hoped it would be.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Northacres Offleash Park


I did some work at home today, and finishing, found I had some free time (well, ok, I should probably have done the dishes or cleaned my office, but hey! Free time!) and so took the puppers to the Northacres offleash dog park. It's the closest to our house, so I thought we'd check it out. Our verdict: two paws up (out of four).

Plusses are: it's close, it's very wooded, there are trails that wind around the smallish area, and there are double gates and a water tap. Negatives: it seems quite small, and it's right off the highway, so in areas it's very loud. The car noise didn't bother Mina too much, I think, and she did pretty well with the other dogs there, until one boistrous fellow decided that she wasn't fun enough, or something, and got agressive. But most of the visit wasn't bad. I brought three of her favorite squeaky tennis balls, and left with two, thanks to a very drooly large yellow lab named Marley, whose owner, smoking a cigarette as he tromped after his bouncing dog, looked hung over and perplexed the whole time.

So we took off after about an hour. I'm sad to say that poor Mina does not care for the Mini. She likes my hubby's car all right, but in the Mini she just pants nervously and shifts around in the seat. I suppose it could be because it's more confined, and there's more road noise...but I wish she would be the head-out-the-window enthusiastic doggie that...well, that I would be if I were a dog in a Mini! Ah, anthroporphization. My downfall.

A good day, overall; I got my work done and played a bit, and have a tired pup to show for it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Best dog day ever!


A sunny Sunday - we took the pup to the Edmonds off-leash dog park. I have to say, this beach is so much nicer than the Magnusson off-leash area that adjoins the water. It was less crowded, and the stretch of beach is long enough that every dog or group of dogs can have a section to itself. Mina just loved going out into the surf to fetch a stick or ball, and all the other dogs were friendly and well-behaved. We had an absolutely wonderful time!

After a rinse of fresh water and a quick drying-off, we dropped Mina off at home and drove out to Redhook for a beer and lunch. The place was packed, and we had to wait forever for our food. But sitting in the sun with a Redhook porter made it all fairly bearable. Then we drove home with a stop at the Yakima Fruitstand in Bothell, and picked up a bunch of fresh fruit and veggies. I love that place! Rainier cherries are around $4 a pound there; nearly half what you'd pay at the store! In fact, everything came out to around half price...we left with a trunk full of melons, peaches, lettuce, onions...a week's worth of fruit and veg.

A great day, over all, and we're all SO glad that the sun has finally returned.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mina, roll over!







I was tired of teaching Mina just the things we learn in obedience class; they're practical, but I wanted her to do some fun stuff, too! I started with "shake" - quite easy, and she does it even in stressful situations. It's cute, too. Teaching "roll over" was harder...but she got it! She actually got it to the point that when I'm practicing with her, she gets all excited and thinks that all I want is for her to roll over now. I say "down!" and she spins over like she's on a spit. Also very cute. Here she is, doing her trick!


video

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

All hail the Cat God

Part of the fun of having a pet that can learn things (sorry, cats, you know what I mean) is teaching it random weird stuff. We decided to teach Mina that anything in the bowl of the Cat God statue (as we've now named it) is LEAVE IT. So she will sit and stare at the wonderful, forbidden fruit that is the squeaky balls, and it looks like she's worshiping the cat god. Quite entertaining, and good "leave it" practice.

I'm also trying to teach her to roll over, but that's taking a while. She has actually done it without being physically pushed along, which is progress. No worries, lots of treats and praise follow the rolling.

Monday, June 2, 2008

One of the funniest things I've ever seen...

...is Mina with a squeaky tennis ball (her most favorite thing) in her mouth, trying to figure out how to eat a treat off the ground without dropping the ball.




We had our first trip to an off-leash dog park on Sunday. We went to Magnusson Park, and first we visited the "Small and Shy Dogs" area, Mina being mid-sized and shy. It went pretty well until a very cranky Corgi tried to engage her in a fight, and she just ran off with her tail between her legs, poor girl. It was hard to convince her to "go play!" after that. So we walked around a bit, and ended up at the beach area. The dogs there were so loud and barky and excited that she wouldn't go near them. Maybe next time. We may also try the Edmonds off-leash area I've heard about. I am told that it won't be long before she's running and playing with the other pups; she just has to get used to it.

In all other ways, Life With Dog is starting to even out. She sleeps peacefully through the night, stays in her new area - our workroom, in the basement - with no complaints or bad chewing, and is a general joy to be with. And like in the example above with the tennis balls, I love to see her think. It's very different from cats; you can almost watch as she tries to solve puzzles or come to terms with new situations. Sometimes I'll do something just to confuse her, like hiding a ball and a treat behind my back to see which she wants most (the ball!). She's becoming the sweet companion I always wanted, my good pup.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dog Life

Whut?

Three weeks into owning our first dog...and today, finally, I have time to write a little about it! I don't want to piss off anyone by making comparisons to child-raising, but I can see why people with kids never seem to have any extra time...even this mutt is taking up most of my free time!

But it's been great, too.

We adopted Mina from Ginger Luke's dog rescue, here in Seattle. I had been wanting a dog for...well, for my whole life. When I was a little kid, I would draw endless pictures of dogs. I have watched the Westminster dog show every year for decades. I know far too much about the different breeds (mostly from the charming commentary during Westminster). I watch Cesar Milan.

Anyway, late in April we finally got the gate put in that finished our fence; we had a fully fenced yard and I started searching Petfinder and Craigslist for adoptable dogs. After reading hundreds of ads, I finally sent emails directly to the local rescue organizations I knew of, including Ginger Luke. Shortly, I got an email from a gal telling me that she was fostering a dog that met my requirements: friendly with cats, not too big, not too small, and old enough to be housetrained. We went to visit Mina on the first weekend in May, and I fell in love at once.

We brought her home, introduced her to the house and cats...and began a perilous adventure. I had NO idea how much time and mental energy this was going to involve! Yes, I was prepared for the twice-daily walks. I knew we'd have to be good pack leaders and be cautious to make sure the cats didn't feel too displaced. But I didn't realize that I would spend much of every day thinking about the dog, worrying about the dog, discussing the dog with my husband and other people...

That first week was rough. I came home from work every day at lunch to make sure she was ok. The second week we had her, we had vacation and so spent most of the days taking turns making sure she didn't do anything "bad" - no chasing cats, no chewing things that must not be chewed, etc. She was pretty good, but getting up at 6 am or earlier, and having trouble sleeping at night for worrying started to make me a little crazy. I fell apart a couple of times, crying; was this the right thing? Why did she bark at the neighbors every time she saw them? Why did she pull on the leash all during her walk? Why wouldn't she stop staring at the cats? Did she want to eat them? Did she poop already today? Does it matter?

The third week went better. Her first day alone all day...and she lived! And didn't potty in the house! And she lived through the second and third days...finally, it's the end of the week and we're happy to have a nice, long Memorial day weekend. We're not constantly wondering where the dog is, what she's doing, and where the cats are and whether their little feelings are hurt. Things are starting to sort themselves out. We still get up at 6 am on work days, but there's something pleasant about walking through the quiet neighborhood streets that early. And I've started to lose weight from walking 3 to 4 miles a day!

We've also been taking her to obedience classes, which are working out pretty well. She's not the most comfortable around other dogs; she tends to growl if they get too close. But we have to socialize her so she feels more at ease with dogs and people. We took her to Greenlake one day on our vacation, and she went in the lake a little, for what I'm sure was the first time ever!

It's been interesting, and I'm sure it will continue to be so. I'll let you know. :)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sorry!

It's been a while, hasn't it? I was lax about updating the old blog for a long time, but then have had two people tell me, recently, that they actually do check in here to see what I'm up to. Honestly, there hasn't been all that much going on this month, but we have been up to a few things.

Early in March, we took the Clipper up to Victoria for a long weekend, to celebrate our 15th anniversary. Yes, we've been married fifteen years...it amazes even me sometimes. I've gotta say, even after that long, my husband is still my best friend, and if anything, I love the guy more now than ever before.

We had a great time there; we stayed at the Empress, and of course had High Tea there. We ate dinner there one evening too - a wonderful, wonderful meal in a truly gorgeous setting. And we spent plenty of time tromping around the city, trying various beers, doing some shopping, and - my FAVORITE thing - we visited the Victoria Bug Zoo! They let you hold all kinds of interesting insects and critters; here's me holding an Australian Whip Scorpion. No worries; these aren't deadly.
Me and scorpion

The rest of March has been fairly uneventful. I finished the class I was taking, and have signed up for another for Spring quarter; this time a photography class. Should be interesting. I'm also teaching Intro to InDesign at the School of Visual Concepts again, starting in April. I haven't been as diligent as I'd like as far as drawing and painting, but I did do a couple of pastel sketches of animals on this quiet Sunday afternoon. Here's a surly tree porcupine.
Por que?

That's about it; I'm still employed, for those who know that my employer was recently going through some changes. In fact, I have been doing a few illustrations for them, too. It's remotely possible that you'll have seen some of them online, and some in papers around the country...here's one example (I did get permission to use these as portfolio pieces).



I did the drink, the little bee, and the honey-dripper as separate pieces, and a designer assembled the whole piece. This, I think, was a billboard. I have very little idea of where most of these ended up; I just brought them the drawings and they did whatever with them.


Here's the little bee close up; I like how he turned out:

I did several other little bees, and they may eventually end up being used somewhere else.

It was very fun doing illustrations for something "real," if you know what I mean. I should be doing some more soon, I'm told. I also did some that I don't think I can show yet, as the promotion isn't public. But I'll try to as soon as I can.

Anyway, things have been pretty good. Ah, another thing: we're having the last portion of our fence around the back yard finished in April: a gate that will provide us a totally fenced-in yard. And you know what that means! I'm hoping to adopt a dog some time soon after that. We want a young dog that's all right with cats, of course, and who won't bark or dig big holes in the garden. We plan to give him or her as much exercise, attention and training as we possibly can...I've been watching The Dog Whisperer and reading training books in preparation. I've wanted a dog since...well, for most of my adult life, and finally it looks likely. I'll post more when it happens. :)

That's it, friends! Keep in touch, and I'll try to do better.


EDITED 1/17/09: Hi there! I've noticed that a LOT of people come to this page, and I think it's because they found this image (Bee Profile Final.jpg, above) on Google Image Search. I'm really curious what you were really looking for when you came here...can someone please email me and let me know? Most of the hits seem to come from Asia and the Middle East, so you may not be able to read this, but if you can, please email and let me know what you find interesting about my little bee! I'm super curious! Thanks! Email is: sonyaseattle -at- yahoo -dot- com. Or leave me a comment. Thanks!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sammamish river walk


Sammamish river
Originally uploaded by sonyaseattle
Yesterday was a great day for a walk; we went to Redmond and walked a few miles on the Sammamish river trail. Today, it's actually sunny, so I think a little yard work might get done...maybe our poor dirty cars will get washed.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Caucus!

Brett and I just got back from our precinct Democratic caucus, and we're very glad to have gone! It was a good experience; many people coming together to support the same party, even if they supported different candidates. I acted as secretary (no one else volunteered, and I figured I could sit and write), and both Brett and I volunteered to be alternate delegates.

It was nice to meet people in our neighborhood area, all for the first time, under these conditions. I feel like a part of something good, and a part of history, because I do believe we will be making history with this coming election.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Good rules

Just saw this while reading feeds, and thought it was one of the best sets of personal rules I've ever read. These are from Corita Kent, an artist and nun(!). I thought I'd share these thoughts here to help me remember them:

  1. Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.
  2. General duties of a student: pull everything out of your teacher, pull everything out of your fellow students.
  3. General duties of a teacher: pull everything out of your students.
  4. Consider everything an experiment.
  5. Be self-disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
  6. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.
  7. The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.
  8. Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
  9. Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
  10. “We’re breaking all of the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” - John Cage.

Helpful hints: Always be around. Come or go to everything always. Go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully often. Save everything, it might come in handy later.

Aren't those perfect? I think I'll print them out and hang them in my workspace.

This weekend, the sun is shining (but it's still pretty chilly out). I have more drawing assignments to complete for work, but I'm perfectly happy to have them. I'm very excited to see how they use all these in the ad campaign, and will post them as soon as I can.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good day, birthday, thing-a-day

Well, tomorrow I turn 42. That means, I believe, that I will receive the ultimate answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. Right? Right? No?

Oh well. I actually feel good about another b-day rolling around, and I'm having an especially good pre-b-day. I'm working from home today, doing several illustrations for the advertising team at work. This is the first time I've ever done this...and let me tell you, I like it. I could get used to this (though who knows if or when I'll be able to do it again). I though being at home would be too distracting to work, but in reality, I spend more time working here. I feel guilty if I stop and look outside or something. So I've gotten a good amount done, which has been nice. I'll be excited when I can post some of the work I've done, but I don't know yet when it's all going to be out there...I can say this, though: there will actually be billboards in this country that have my drawings on them. Strange! And cool!

Finally, someone from work sent out a link to this site: http://www.thing-a-day.com/ - Thing-A-Day. The idea is that for the month of February, you create something every day. Presumably you post it on their Wordpress blog, but I'll probably just post mine here. It seems like a great way to keep motivated (and a hell of a lot easier than NaNoWriMo!). So try it out.

That's it - back to work! Oh weird - I want to do work.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A pleasant weekend

I spent some time working on this pastel on Saturday, and it was wonderful and relaxing, since I don't have any homework, or class prep, to finish this weekend. I'd put this aside for a long time, so I was really happy to get back to it.

Today, Steve and I went to see Cloverfield, at my suggestion. I can't resist a viral marketing campaign, it would seem. The movie was good enough, but I'm still waiting for a really, really scary movie to come along. I had heard such outstanding reviews of this JJ Abrams project that I saw it opening weekend...and while I enjoyed it, I don't think it lived up to the hype. Still, not a bad way to spend some time.

This Monday is MLK day, so no teaching that evening. But of course, it's not a work holiday for me either. Ah well.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

2008: So far, so good

2008 is still moving along, and I like how it's going so far! Two interesting things to report so far...

I'm teaching the Introduction to Photoshop class at the School of Visual Concepts, my second class at SVC. We've only had one class so far; because of the MLK holiday, there won't be class next week, but the full five weeks will continue the week after. It's been fun so far; I really enjoyed teaching the Adobe Illustrator class last year, so I was really glad to go back for this one. I get a little nervous before the class starts, but once I get into the flow of it, it's a great experience.

The second, and really exciting thing for me: the advertising group at work has asked me to do a series of illustrations for some ads! This will be the first time my illustration work will be used for publication (except some pro bono work I did a while back). It's a great campaign, and will be featured in some national publications...I'm very, very happy to be part of it! Once a few of the ads come out, I'll post them here.

I hope the rest of the year goes this well!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy '08!

This is a large part of how we spent New Years' eve; plenty of good food, good friends, and good beverages. Here you see cheese, bread, eclairs...and scotch! Brett and Aaron had a scotch tasting for all who were interested, and I challenged one and all to no-rules ping pong! It was a fun evening, and great to see several good friends. At midnight, we switched on the TV in time to see zombie Dick Clark announcing the new year (to the horror and amusement of all present. What happened to him??).

So now it's the next year; another arbitrary date has passed and the winter celebrations are over. I'm looking forward to the days getting longer, and hopefully fewer of the torrential downpours that seem to be the standard winter weather in this climate-changing world. The coming year should be a good one, with any luck. I'm still taking classes towards my degree, and will also be teaching an Introduction to Photoshop class at SVC in January.

Resolutions? Same as always, I guess: make more time for creative endeavors; take care of myself, my family and my home; keep on living the happiest life I can and perhaps make a difference in a few other lives. I don't like to make specific, sweeping resolutions (losing x number of pounds, that kind of thing) because inevitably they lose momentum in a month or so. I don't mind taking a look at my life in general, seeing what I could be doing better, and so on, but that shouldn't be confined just to the new year.

Anyway, I'm happy to be alive in 2008, happy the holidays are over, and thankful for my husband, my job, and my friends. Life is pretty darn good; I hope it is for everyone else, all year long!