Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

While other families read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve, at our house, we read "A Corgiville Christmas" by Tasha Tudor. Such a fun nostalgic tale about parties and merriment in the little town of Corgiville. And after the girls have gone to bed, I enjoy watching the video "Take Joy" .... also by Tasha Tudor and one of my all time favorites.

With lower gas prices and my brother Dan home from China, it was tempting to drive to Michigan to be with my family this Christmas. But the weather is always a big unknown, and there is nothing more stressful than driving around Chicago in a snowstorm (unless it's being stranded at O'hara Airport in a snowstorm!) I am sooo glad now that we stayed home - even though it's a bit lonely, we are warm, and safe and the girls provide great companionship. I light lots of candles (way too many candles, according to my Dad), sleep on the couch in the living room in front of the Christmas tree with the girls snuggled up beside me, and enjoy watching many of the concerts on PBS. That has become our little tradition. Tomorrow I will make a ham dinner and we'll go to the park. This morning I took my snowshoes and there was hardly anyone there. The snow is a little deep for the girls right now though, and I had to pull Princess up out of a snowbank a couple of times. Tim goes cross country skiing with Elvis, but when I've tried it with the girls, it seems like there is just too much equipment (poles, long skis) and I'm always running into them.

We wish all of our friends - corgi and human - a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blizzard Bloggings

With weather forecasting being what it is these days, we sure weren't caught off guard by the first big snowstorm of the season. We'd been hearing about it for a week! Sometimes the reality doesn't live up to the hype, but this time it did. We got a triple dose of snow (11 inches and counting), wind (35-50 mph for the past 18 hours) and bitter cold (-11 and dropping). So it was a good day to snuggle up with the girls inside. When they were younger, nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for snow, but today they were quite content to just hunker down and sleep away the day while I worked on my Christmas cards (a Tasha Tudor stamped image that I must say I've gotten quite tired of coloring X 100). The girls went outside to go potty a couple of times and weren't quite sure how to get around that giant drift at the bottom of the deck, but where there's a will, there's a way.
Tomorrow I will dig out and make them a little path through the back yard. They love to make tracks and chase Sadie - our black lab neighbor - through the snow.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time to GET UP!

My girls amaze me with how much they understand. Often, when I talk to them, they will cock their head slightly to the side in a quizzical expression, as if to say, "I'm really trying to understand but you're using words I don't know." They understand phrases like "go potty", "go for a walk", "go to the park", of course, but there are many other expressions they understand as well. One of them is, "it's time to get up". Over the years they have both slept with me at different times, but I got to the point where it had to be one or the other, but not both. They would wedge me in from opposite sides, and I couldn't roll over or move much at all. And I need at least a little space when I sleep!

Last summer, Princess took a liking to the basement where it's cooler, and she is still sleeping down there most nights. Dee Dee sleeps with me, and we enjoy a little snuggle time in the morning, until I realize I've hit 'snooze' one time too many, and say, "It's time to get up!" Dee Dee springs to life and jumps off the bed. Then I say, "Go tell Princess it's time to get up" and she bolts down the stairs, pokes Princess with her nose and runs back up with Princess close behind. If Princess doesn't follow her, she runs back down, pokes her again and barks. It always makes me laugh!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Daily Corgi Fix

I don't go many places without my girls, and I haven't taken a vacation without them since 2003. But I had to leave them at home this time,  and I missed them a lot.  Elvis has never paid much attention to me; mostly because he associates me with Dee Dee, I think. (She is his sibling and unfortunately, is quite a bully when he's around.) The first night of our trip, Elvis eyed me suspiciously and thoroughly checked out my luggage, like he was afraid she was hiding in it somewhere. But over the next two weeks he warmed up to me quite a bit, and by the end of the trip, he sat on my lap and even snuggled with me in bed.  There is no doubt who is #1 in his life, however.   He and Tim have a relationship that is truly extraordinary, and it is not uncommon to see the two of them having a 'conversation' as these pictures show. Elvis watches and listens to Tim so intently and his loyalty is something to behold. Tim is on sabbatical this semester and has been traveling around the country with Elvis, doing their "Do Dogs Know Calculus" talk.
On this trip, we got to see them give it at three different colleges. Elvis takes this job very seriously and is totally 'at home' on a college campus. Even when we were out doing touristy things, it is very common for admirers to strike up a conversation with Tim and they're always fascinated with the "Elvis" story.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Favorite Places

We saw so many beautiful places on our trip that it is almost impossible to pick a favorite. For me, Letchworth State Park is probably at the top of the list, but a close second would be Poet's Walk along the Hudson River. We sort of stumbled on that park without knowing much about it, and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip.   Kaaterskill Falls was a neat place and had the distinction of being the only place where we ran into crowds. It was Columbus Day weekend and is also not too far from the NY City area, so that probably accounts for it. Dan decided to climb to the top of the falls, crossed over it and had trouble finding a way down, so Tim and I visited with people while we waited for him. Easterners sometimes get the reputation of being uppity, but we didn't find that true at all.  A couple of other hikes that I particularly enjoyed were Watkins Glen State Park (western NY) where you hike through a gorge and see several beautiful waterfalls.  I also enjoyed a hike we did to an overlook of Lake George. Some of my Dad's relatives had a summer home there so we went to Lake George a lot when I was growing up. But seeing it in the fall was a treat.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Digital photography is the greatest! You can shoot all the pictures you want, get instant feedback, keep the good ones and delete the rest. But more than that, it has helped me learn what makes a good photo. Something I started doing on my recent New England trip was shoot closeups of a single tree .... sometimes pointing my lens straight up into the leaves. I loved the results. The colors in New England were so brilliant, and these photos will give you a sense of that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I woke up this morning to the news that Vermont and upstate New York were buried under two feet of snow yesterday! To think that a mere two weeks ago we were there basking in sunshine, 60+ degree temperatures and glorious colors makes me realize, once again, how incredibly blessed we were.

After we saw Niagra Falls, we traveled straight through to Vermont, and then slowly worked our way back. Vermont lived up to it's reputation as an absolutely beautiful state, and also as a very liberal one, politically. Obama signs were everywhere. And there were many other signs of it's leftward leaning as well. We had several unique experiences there. This picture of Daniel was taken in the Brattleboro, VT home of Nobel prize winning author Rudyard Kipling (author of The Jungle Book, among other notable works). A family friend had rented the home for the week, and we spent two nights there. It was really fun! There is a delicatessen in Brattleboro that is to die for (albeit expensive).

We spent a couple of days touring the quaint covered bridges in the area. (They are all pretty much alike and clustered together.) We did have a very "Vermont" kind of experience at one of them that is better told in person than in print. (Hint: public nudity is legal in Vermont.) We were fascinated by the old, old cemetaries; grave stones that date back to the early 1800's, men who gave their lives in some of our nation's early wars, and stones listing the names of numerous family members (many of them children) who died over a short period of time from various epidemics that swept through New England. The Green Mountains of Vermont are not green in October, but multiple shades of yellow, red and brilliant orange.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Niagra Falls

I've had a few people ask when I'm going to post some more vacation photos so I'll upload a few each day this week. I flew in and out of Buffalo, so we went to Niagra Falls the first day. We often stopped there when I was growing up, on our way to Schenectady to see grandparents, but I had forgotten just how majestic it is! You can see the foam and spray from at least a mile away. These pictures are from Niagra State Park on the US side - which is lovely. However, the views of the falls are even nicer from the Canadian side.
I didn't get over there this year, but my brothers went there after they dropped me off at the airport on the last day. Tim and Elvis had done their 'Do Dogs Know Calculus' presentation at a highschool in Buffalo that morning and they had another talk lined up in Flint, MI late in the afternoon. They thought they had time to stop at the falls after they passed through customs - and so they did. Time got away from them, (i.e. I wasn't there to keep them on schedule) and when they got back to their car and checked the mileage, they realized they weren't going to make it to Flint by 4:00. However, the school in Flint had already done some rearranging of their day to fit Tim and Elvis in, and he didn't think he could just call them up and say, "Uh ... we went to Niagra Falls and lost track of the time ... and now we aren't coming". So they got in the car, asked Elvis to calculate the shortest time to get from Buffalo to Flint, and (from what I've heard) set a new world record. I'm so glad I wasn't a part of that drama; after such an enjoyable, stress-free vacation, it would have been a pity to end it with such a tension-filled day. A few extra minutes getting through US Customs, or getting pulled over for speeding (which they were definitely doing) could have cooked their goose, but they made it - with 10 minutes to spare!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New England Vacation without the Girls

I just returned from a lovely and very relaxing New England vacation with my 2 brothers.  Tim, a college professor, is on sabbatical this semester and Daniel, who lives in Asia, has returned to the US for the next year. So we decided to take advantage of the flexibility in their schedules and do a trip together. It has been over 5 years since I've taken a trip without my girls, and I missed them terribly. I hired in-home care for them while I gone (fearing that Dee Dee would never survive in a kennel) and I knew it would be especially hard on her. Princess is much more resilient about things like that.    I really thought that Dee Dee would eventually warm up to the young man who came over to feed and walk them every day, but I under-estimated either her stubborness, or her devotion to me; probably both! She refused to even go out of the house for the better part of the first week and even after two full weeks, Logan only succeeded in getting her to go out in the yard to go potty. When he tried to coax her into a walk, she'd pull out of her collar and run right back to our front door. Endearing; but frustrating.

When I got home, both of the girls were very happy to see me, but none the worse for wear. I did think that Princess was going to dislocate her hip, though, from all the wiggling! Corgis don't have tails ... but that doesn't keep them from showing their glee. It's almost like there is a hinge in the middle of their body and they wag the whole back side! I will share more about our trip in a future post. (including some Elvis stories .... yes, he got to go along since the guys picked me up in Buffalo). For today, I just want to share a few of the incredible photos from the trip. We had clear blue skies for 12-1/2 out of the 13 days we were gone and hit the fall colors right at their peak. It was amazing.

The pictures I'm sharing here were taken at Chimney Bluffs (on Lake Ontario) and Letchworth State Park (the Grand Canyon of the East) - in western New York. The scenery was breathtaking and rivaled anything I've seen out West.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Case of the Missing Buns

It was a busy day at work and I missed lunch. So when I got home tonight, I was really hungry. I took the girls to the park for a walk, stopped at Breadsmith, and in a moment of weakness, bought four of their super-soft butter-top buns and an oatmeal craisen cookie. I was too hungry to wait for grilled burgers, so I stopped at Hornbachers Deli for some honey turkey and fresh veggies for my sandwich. A couple minutes later I pulled in my driveway and gathered my things. But wait. Where were the buns? My car gets to be kind of a pigpen (even a neat person has to have one messy place ... and mine is my car) so I did a quick search amongst the scattered bills, dog toys and water bottles .... and then I saw it. The Breadsmith bag. The empty Breadsmith bag! I glanced at Princess, who was still in the back seat, waiting to be let out of the car. Total innocence on her face. Then I looked at Dee Dee. She was licking her lips. "Dee Dee, did you eat my buns?" She took one look at me, jumped out of the car and made a dash for the house - and straight for her kennel. I followed her. "Dee Dee!! Did YOU eat my buns?" I held the torn bag about an inch from her face. She cowered in the back of the kennel - still licking her lips.

This wasn't her first offense, and I doubt it will be her last. For the record, Princess has a pretty lengthy rap sheet too. But Dee Dee never ceases to amaze me with how fast she can pull off her stunts. I was in the grocery store less than 5 minutes. She has developed quite a taste for gourmet coffee drinks too. I stopped for a cafe breve one time last year and left it in my beverage holder while I ran in the pharmacy across the street to pick up a prescription. When I came out, I snapped this picture of Dee Dee through the car window .... she had managed to get the cover off, and was slurping the HOT coffee as fast as she could. She loves hot tea, pretty much any kind of soda and beer!
Lest you think I'm a totally irresponsible dog owner, I hasten to add that I have never actually given her beer. But my next door neighbor, Mike, has given her a taste now and then, and she LOVES it. Looks like we'll be trading dog obedience classes for doggy AA meetings.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Elvis on CNN

Tim and Elvis are on a college speaking tour of the Midwest this week, and we just found out that CNN picked up the story done by a local news crew in Beloit, WI. It's a great little piece. I love the girl at the end who says (somewhat unconvincingly), "I guess if Elvis can do calculus, I should be able to get through it." I hope she has an easier professor than Tim is.

Click here and enjoy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Properly Trained ....

I saw a photo frame in a gift shop a couple of years ago that said, "Properly trained, man can be dog's best friend." I immediatly knew I had to buy it for Tim and Elvis because that sums up their relationship perfectly.
In August of 2001 Tim came out to visit us in Minnesota and had no intention whatsoever of going home with a dog. But Elvis was living in a home with a female person and 4 female corgis .... and they spent a lot of time with me (another female person) and my two female corgis. I don't know if he was just growing tired of being the only 'guy' among so many women or if there was something about Tim that attracted him (some of both, I think) but Elvis latched on to Tim that weekend and claimed him as his own.
This picture was taken that weekend; Elvis staking his claim and looking down at all the girls with an air of superiority. There were a few challenges involved in getting Elvis a plane ticket but eventually it all came together and several days later Elvis flew back to Michigan with Tim. I'll never forget that morning .... making a hasty run to our veterinarian to get the 'fit to fly' document .... then going to the airport and watching Elvis move down the conveyer belt in his kennel, just as contented as he could be. He knew he was going home with Tim, and if this was part of the process, then so be it.  He never looked back. Tim, however, did look back a few times when it became clear that the 1 year old Elvis was not yet through the puppy-chewing stage. Several rocking chairs still sit in Tim's living room, runners mostly gone, as a reminder of those early days. But the love affair between man and dog took root. Elvis is quite different from my girls in that he is a 'one man dog'.
My girls enjoy attention from others ... and quickly warm up to them. Elvis has a handful of human friends (next door neighbor June and a few other professors in the math department at Hope, but for the most part he is only interested in one person - Tim. He has a way of making any other person (me, for instance) feel like they are nothing. This summer we were touring an old fort on the Keewenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan and I finished before Tim did, so I went back to the car to let the dogs out. Elvis jumped out, but steadfastly refused to move out of sight of Tim's car. He minds Tim perfectly, but when I told him to 'come' , he looked at me with a 'who are you to tell me what to do?" look on his face. Another time, Tim had gone to an event at the Hope College chapel and Elvis was sitting right outside the door (off leash), patiently waiting for him. When Tim got home later that evening, there were two messages on his answering machine. The first was, "Dr. Pennings, we found your dog Elvis and we're going to bring him to your house." Tim already knew what the second message would be. "Dr. Pennings, Elvis refuses to go with us. He is sitting by the chapel door."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

So Long to Summer

It's the last day of August, and summer is waning quickly. My job is very busy from mid-August to the first of October, so for all practical purposes, my summer was over when I returned from Michigan a couple of weeks ago. Labor Day weekend is one that I spend ... laboring .... as I did today for almost 12 hours. When I finally left there tonight at 8:45, it was completely dark, and that, more than anything, is a reminder that summer is fleeting and winter is not far off. In between the two, of course, is Autumn - which probably would be my favorite season if I weren't so busy at work. This past week has had a distinct autumn feel .... cool nights that are wonderful for sleeping, and gusty winds that have ushered in cooler air.
This afternoon the girls and I took a break with a friend and walked around one of the newer housing developments near the radio station. It was a struggle just to remain upright as we walked into a 45 mph headwind. I didn't think that corgis, who are so low to the ground, would notice the wind all that much but they really did. We were getting dust (and other debris) in our eyes, and had a hard time hearing each other, but we did manage to discuss the Picken's Plan for harnassing wind energy and we agreed that there certainly is a lot of potential for that in the northern plains! Tonight, however, my thoughts and prayers are with the residents of the Gulf Coast who are once again being threatened with a devastating hurricane. We have blizzards and occasional floods and a rare tornado - but I don't think I could handle the stress of a major hurricane every few years.

So long to summer. It was a good one .... not too hot, but warm enough to enjoy the lakes and evening walks along the river. I will miss the long daylight hours and being able to run around barefoot. Before long the leaves will start turning and with each one that falls, it is a wave goodbye to summer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ahhh .... Vacation!

The girls and I have been vacationing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the past week and are having a wonderful time. The weather has been absolutely perfect, which makes camping a whole lot more enjoyable. It's actually been a bit cool at night, but hey ... I'll take 'too cool' over 'too hot' any day!
We have been mostly alone, but last Sunday I ran into a college friend who I hadn't seen in about 10 years at a picnic spot! Very fun!! The next day I connected with my brother Tim, who was traveling with a couple of his students, and Elvis, of course. We spent a day exploring the Keewenaw Peninsula ... one corner of the UP I hadn't really 'done' before. The girls have been swimming constantly. Dee Dee, especially, can't get enough of it and even the big waves on Lake Superior don't seem to phase her.
No matter that she had only been out of the water 10 minutes .... a new view of the lake meant it was time for another swim! It's been a very refreshing week .... lots of time to read, relax and hang out with my girls.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Two Kinds of Corgis

When I take my girls out in public, they attract a lot of attention. This has been a fun thing for me because I am not very outgoing, and my corgis are natural conversation starters. The comments I hear most often are "What kind of dogs are those?", "That's the kind of dog I've always wanted" and "Are those the Welsh corgis? They're alluding to the fact that there are two kinds of corgis, but actually they're both Welsh. Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Cardigan Welsh Corgis are actually two different breeds. Both originated in Wales to herd cattle, but they descended from different breeds. Pembrokes are better known ... probably because that's the kind the royal family has. Pems and Cardigans have similar personalities. They're smart, strong willed and low to the ground with a long back and short legs. Cardigans are a little larger, and the most noticable difference is that they have a tail.
I haven't seen very many Cardigans, but we do run into this pair at the park now and then. They are beautiful dogs with alert, intelligent faces. And, as these pictures show, they can sit straight up, using that long tail to balance themselves. Actually, I think they just like to show off in front of my girls, who can only dream of being able to perform such a stunt!

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's Street Fair Time!

This is one of my favorite weekends of the year ... the annual Fargo Street Fair. Many communities have some kind of craft fair during the summer, but I think ours is one of the best. There are a few vendors that I check out every year, but also some great new ones. There's the giant bag of kettle corn that I can't leave without (you can get a small bag for $5 or a giant bag for $8 ... kind of a no-brainer! ) and the turkey drumsticks that you stand in line 20 minutes for. There are the musicians and street performers ... we saw a guy on stilts so high that he had to walk around the traffic lights when he crossed the street! But I think the best part is running into friends that I haven't seen since last year's event, and just 'hanging out' and watching people. Princess and Dee Dee would not rank the Street Fair high on their list .... there are just too many people who stop to pet them and Dee Dee, in particular, hates 'commotion' ... something there is an abundance of at the Street Fair. But they fared quite well last night ... a two-dog cleanup team happily munching their way down Broadway, picking up popcorn, bits of burger, hot dog or pork chop, dropped french fries .... and anything else they caught wind of. (There are advantages to having your nose so close to the ground!) There have been many years where it's either rained - or just been too hot to be squeezed amongst so many bodies, booths, dogs and strollers, but this year the weather has been perfect. I think we'll go again tonight ... not to shop, but just to hang out and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a summertime tradition.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Hope everyone had a nice 4th of July. Minnesota State University Moorhead hosts an Old Fasioned 4th of July Celebration every year, and I don't think we've ever had a nicer day than this one. It was gorgeous ... sunny, warm, light breeze and low humidity. Who could ask for more. The girls wore their flag bandanas and sun visors and were huge hits. They enjoy the attention to a point and then they get kind of tired of it ... especially all of the little kids petting them. But they did very well. A local TV station took their picture and so I hoped they would be on the news tonight, but they didn't make the cut. Oh well ... maybe another time! We came home for supper and I thought we'd go to the park for a walk, but by that time there were some fireworks popping off in the distance and Dee Dee refused to get out of the car. She cowered under the dashboard so I brought her home and she made a beeline to her kennel.
Princess and I walked all the way back over to MSUM (about 2-1/2 miles each way) to watch fireworks. She did so well ... didn't even crawl up in my lap until the grand finale, but just sat by me and watched them ... actually seemed to rather enjoy them. She was happy as a lark walking all that way, having me all to herself. I do love fireworks ... a great ending to a very fun day!