I Know What an Onion Looks Like

Today we had a potluck at work and I signed up to make a turkey pumpkin chili. You know what I hate about recipes on the internet? You have to scroll for hours through a bunch of unnecessary gibberish before you get to the actual recipe. I don’t need a backstory about your dish and could not care less that your preschool-aged daughter, who is a picky eater, can’t get enough of it. This isn’t a novel (though the sheer number of words can make it seem like one), so you can skip the character development! I also don’t care that your aunt Ida insists you make this dish for every family gathering or that your coworkers always ask for the recipe. Maybe she’s suffering from dementia and they’re just kissing your ass. Your story means nothing without context. While you’re at it, you can also dispense with the humorous anecdotes, and for god’s sake, you don’t have to post pictures of the ingredients. I know what an onion looks like. Just give me two things: the list of ingredients and step-by-step directions.

I also hate when these recipes suggest substituting ingredients. This immediately makes me suspicious. If the dish calls for couscous but you suggest farro as an alternative, you come across as a little wishy-washy and have suddenly given me two recipes when I only asked for one. Pick an ingredient and own it, okay?

This is why I miss cookbooks. No muss, no fuss. You want a recipe for Chicken Kiev, it’s right there on page 79. No wading through endless drivel; one quick glance will tell you to grab unsalted butter, flour, eggs, parsley, chicken breasts, panko, etc. How I long for those simpler times.

In any case, the potluck was a big, tasty hit. I wasn’t sure if my workplace ever had them, given that this was the first one in my seven months there, but everybody really came through with some good stuff. In my experience with office potlucks, somebody always brings a veggie tray and another person will show up with a bag of chips. This feels like taking the easy way out, but I get it: not everybody has the time or skill to cook something. At least it’s food. Worse than that is the one guy who doesn’t bring anything in but still loads up his plate like it’s his god-given right. He’s probably the guy who takes home pens from the supply closet. I am happy to report that my coworkers all made an effort to impress. In addition to my chili, there were chicken wings, posole, artichoke spinach dip, spicy corn dip, baked lasagna, and brownies. All homemade. And yes, there was a veggie tray, but it was a nice balance with everything else.

Color me impressed.

My favorite part of the day was our team activity. This involved creating a “gingerbread house,” though the interpretation was very loose since we were given graham crackers instead of gingerbread. Figuring this gave us carte blanche freedom to think outside of the box, my team chose to forgo the house in favor of a train.

Which still kinda counts. Hobos, right? (Do hobos even still exist?)

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I was proud of our effort and creativity.

Afterward, we had a skating party at the Main Street Square ice rink. Because I can’t maintain balance on icy surfaces to save my life, I chose to watch from the sidelines. I didn’t feel any overwhelming remorse over not being out there, because at least I was warm.

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Best seat in the house.

Rapid City sure knows how to dress up for the holidays, huh?

The Floor is Lava

After searching high and low for weeks, I finally bought a beanbag chair. Yes, I realize it’s 2019. But when you’ve got a wood-paneled 1970s-era basement filled with lava lamps, records, and a beaded curtain, what else are you going to put down there? A rocker-recliner?!

Perish the thought.

I suppose a waterbed would have been apropos as well, but if we don’t have room for a pool table, we certainly can’t fit a waterbed down there. (Actually, we could fit either one of those things, but we’d have to climb over them to cross the room, which would be like a game of The Floor is Lava for adults. Come to think of it, that would be fun!)

“Every office needs a hippie,” one of my coworkers said in a meeting last week, and shockingly, she wasn’t talking about me. Clearly, she has not seen my basement.

Anyway. Beanbag chairs, it turns out, are damn near impossible to find. I’m all about supporting local businesses, but was forced to turn to Amazon when my quest proved fruitless. Or beanless, as the case may be. This somewhat surprised me. I thought the classics never went out of style! It was a long, discouraging, empty-handed walk back to my Edsel.

Not to fear; Amazon came to the rescue once again. I am now the proud owner of a super-comfy beanbag chair that perfectly molds itself around my body. In fact, I’m writing this very blog post from said chair. Seriously, I don’t know why every home doesn’t have a beanbag chair. These things are cozy, versatile, and portable. And you’ll never drop loose change or car keys or a cellphone between the cushions because there are no cushions. It’s all one big cushion!

Genius, I tell ya.

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Saturday was one of those days where the fog persisted and the temperature never climbed above 21º. This resulted in hoarfrost (a name that always makes me snicker), which occurs when water droplets freeze on contact with objects, creating featherlike crystals. It looks especially compelling when it coats tree branches.

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That’s actually a night shot. Tara scored us free tickets to the Rapid City Rush hockey game last night; it began snowing just as we left the house, and fortunately, the snow ended before the game let out. We got about 1″, so nothing major, but enough to convince us to stop by Halley Park on the way home to take pictures of the Christmas lights and aforementioned (ahoarmentioned?) frost.

Wandering around this beautiful setting at 10:30 p.m. was enough to ease the sting of a loss by our hometown hockey team. Didn’t matter; we had fun anyway, and the Rush gave it a good effort.

This morning, I couldn’t resist taking a walk around Storybook Island and taking photos of our winter wonderland. Once the sun came out, those trees were really sparkling! They remind me of the fake plastic ones you put up with a Christmas village.

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They’re saying our highs might reach the 60s (!) next weekend, so I’m a-gonna enjoy this scenery as much as I can while it sticks around.

This being South Dakota, I’m sure we’ll be back in the twenties a few days later anyway. And because we are flying to Nevada for New Year’s, how much do you want to bet there will be a blizzard threatening our plans?

Knock on wood.

Skiff-Scoff

Perspective is a funny thing.

I was talking to my brother recently, and he complained about how cold it was. “I was freezing today!” he said. “Our high temperature was only 63º!”

My reaction to that?

Worlds-Tiniest-Violin-nvj3bur6zi1i98u85ejom8m0vdka6bm1h1uhllr1c8I had to stifle a laugh, because I glanced at the thermometer next to my chair during our call and it was 23º. I’m pretty sure if it were in the low 60s here, I’d be wearing shorts outside.

Perspective.

When I lived in Washington and got all worked up over treacherous roads after a 1” snowfall, people in other parts of the country scoffed. When I talked about stocking up on groceries and working from home because of these “storms,” they scoffed harder. I endured quite a bit of scoffing over the years! Tara even introduced a new word to my vocabulary in describing the paltry amount of snow I used to blog about, describing it as a “skiff.” Her skiff was a scoff! But again, she lived in places where snow was often measured in feet instead of inches.

Perspective.

(For what it’s worth, I scoff at old posts where I’m giddy over snowfall that doesn’t even reach the top of each blade of grass. Call it retroactive self-scoffing.)

Another great example occurred yesterday afternoon at work. We were gathered in the conference room, brainstorming over how best to “sell” Rapid City’s quality of life to outsiders. My boss asked me what factors motivated me to move here, and without hesitation, I replied, “Cheap housing!” One of my coworkers responded, “But housing in Rapid City is expensive.” Maybe compared to Aberdeen or Sioux Falls, but it’s dirt cheap by Portland standards.

Perspective.

I’ll leave you with my favorite all-time example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2V3ZbVnoq8


When we bought our house in June, I had visions of extravagant, over-the-top holiday decorations ala Clark Griswold. I bought reams of fancy, multicolored, remote-controlled outdoor Christmas lights in anticipation, plus an extension ladder so I could reach the tallest eaves and hang them. But my plan was foiled by two acts of god (or rather, one act of mother nature and one act of bad plumbing): our sewer line repair, followed quickly by our blizzard. I should have hung those lights in mid-November, when the ground was bare and our toilets flushed without incident. There was even a sunny, mild weekend that would have been perfect, but I felt it was too early at the time. “I’ll do it the Saturday after Thanksgiving,” I said.

This is what the Saturday after Thanksgiving looked like:

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Suffice it to say, that was a no-go.

Last Saturday, I finally got to hauling the ladder and lights outside, but the ground was still snow-covered and icy, and climbing a ladder in those conditions didn’t seem like the wisest idea. I reluctantly concluded that Casa Griswold would have to wait until next year and put everything back in the garage. As much as I’d love to spread Christmas cheer through the neighborhood, I love being alive and having unbroken limbs better.

Next year, guys. I promise.

Go Ugly or Go Home

Monday, we were instructed to wear ugly holiday sweaters to work for a company Christmas card photo. I didn’t even own one, but a quick trip to Kohl’s over the weekend solved that dilemma. I picked out the most garish sweater I could find. I mean, that’s the point, right? Go ugly or go home. I was probably more excited to wear that sweater to the office than I’d care to admit.

Even though I just did. In public.
Whatever.

Only, when I got to the office on Monday, I was the only one wearing an ugly holiday sweater. At first I feared I’d been the victim of a prank…and a pretty good one, at that. Ha-ha, let’s send out a company-wide Slack telling everybody to dress up in ugly clothing, but the joke’s gonna be on Mark…the rest of us will dress in normal workplace attire! Something along those lines. I was slightly embarrassed and contemplated storming my boss’s office (or at least creeping over there and gently knocking on the door so as not to disturb any important business-at-hand) and inquiring, “Why do you enjoy tormenting me?” Before I got too riled up, I figured out that the rest of my coworkers had brought along ugly sweaters of their own, but were only changing into them for the photo shoot.00100sPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20191210171941580_COVER~2-1.jpg

Well. OK, then. That’s how we’re going to play this game, huh?

Actually, that was fine. I’d planned to go home on my lunch and change out of mine anyway…even though, I’ve gotta admit, it was damn comfy. Honestly, if everybody else had kept theirs on, I would’ve done the same. I might still wear it around the house (even though it might scare the cat).

And if I had been the victim of an office prank? Well, I’ve doled out my fair share of those over the years, so it would have been a case of just desserts. My favorite practical joke ever? I once called a new hire in our San Jose office and told her I was with such-and-such laboratory service in charge of the company-mandated drug testing and her urine sample had been misplaced, so could she please go into the bathroom, pee into a cup, and await further instruction?

She did. I swear. To this day, I can’t believe I got away with it. I may end up in hell for that practical joke, but that’d be a small price to pay for the hilarity that ensued.


We had a really good weekend, by the way. I’d booked us tickets for the 1880 Train “Spiked” Holiday Express on Saturday. The Black Hills Central Railroad operates heritage train rides between Hill City and Keystone, and their holiday run includes hot cocoa, a sugar cookie, and a visit from Santa. The adults-only “spiked” version adds booze to your hot chocolate. Paying a few extra dollars for this privilege was really a no-brainer. Earlier in the day we’d hiked part of the Mickelson Trail, and the weather was perfect; sunny and mid-50s. But it still felt Christmasy with all the snow on the ground.

We boarded the train at 4:15 and were soon chugging along the tracks, through a snowy Black Hills landscape, with Christmas music playing and that spiked cocoa keeping us warm. We had a choice of peppermint or butterscotch Schnapps; Tara chose the former and I picked the latter, and holy cow, it was so good I had what could almost be described as a religious experience. DeKuyper Buttershots, where have you been all my life?

Anyway. We had a great time and might make this an annual tradition. We need a few new ones, living in a new state and all.

Sunday was less spiked but equally exciting, because the Broncos actually looked good as they demolished the Texans. Could we finally have a franchise quarterback in Drew Lock? Time will tell.

15 days until Christmas, guys!

Snow is My Pizza

If anybody is looking for an idea for a Christmas gift for me, I’m a size large snowblower.

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Our driveway, post-blizzard. Yes, we had to shovel all that snow.

The National Weather Service was predicting 8-12″ of snow for Rapid City on Saturday. There’s no way we’re going to get that much, I thought. Well, I was right.

We ended up with 17″ of snow.

And that, my friends, was a record for the biggest daily snowfall in November in Rapid City history. Way to overachieve! We ended up with 26″ for the month, which makes it the snowiest November on record.

Sure was pretty when it was coming down…

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But once those winds started gusting to 60 mph, the snow started piling up into waist-high drifts. Which Tara and I had to tackle with shovels, while everybody else in the neighborhood had snowblowers.

This was our street, before the plow came through Sunday afternoon. Hard to believe there’s a road there!

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Later on, after a few vehicles with AWD were able to navigate down the hill:

I have long been a snow lover. All my friends know this. The climate in Rapid City was actually one of the key motivating factors in moving here. After the blizzard, my friend Heidi asked, “Still loving the snow?” This is similar to comments I receive every time I post photos of snowstorms. People tend to think that I am suddenly sick and tired of snow and ready to move back to Portland.

Here’s the deal. Let’s say you love pizza, and one day, go out to dinner at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. You end up consuming 17″ worth of pizza. Are you going to be “over” pizza forever afterward because you ate too much?

Of course not.

Snow is my pizza, only minus the pepperoni.

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Is it a pain in the ass to shovel? Yes. Are the roads treacherous to drive on for days afterward? You betcha. Is my car still struggling to get up the hill leading to my house, three days after the blizzard, even when it’s sunny and pushing 50 degrees? Yep.

But there’s just something about it that I love. Maybe I’m a little nuts. But I figure, it’s nothing that a snowblower and an AWD vehicle can’t handle. Both of which are very much in my future.

And I know for a fact that my blogging friend Ron can relate.

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My neighborhood is beautiful in the winter!

So, let it snow!

White Knuckles

I was bitching this morning about having to go to work on Black Friday, but alas, I have ended up working from home. Which still isn’t not working, but at least it’s working in the comfort of sweats. One of those split-the-difference scenarios, I guess.

For the record, I tried to go to work, but we have had freezing drizzle since mid-day yesterday and as a result, the streets are a sheet of ice. I didn’t think conditions were going to be all that bad, but Tara and I left at the same time, and I watched in horror as her truck slid sideways down our hill. My brakes were equally ineffective. I almost turned around right then and there but I soldiered on, slipping and sliding, and finally decided going into the office just wasn’t worth chancing, especially since I had my laptop with me anyway. Making matters worse, there’s a 1/2″ glaze of ice on the ground and every step is super treacherous. So I turned around and headed back. If I’d stayed, I would have worried the whole time about getting back home anyway; we have a Blizzard Warning beginning at 6 p.m. and lasting until Sunday morning, so the weather is only going to get worse. That freezing drizzle is going to turn to snow, the snow is going to get heavy, and the winds are going to really pick up. Nobody needs to be out in weather like that.

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The drive back wasn’t much better. Even going 5 mph through the neighborhood I was fishtailing and struggled to get up the hill. Hardest of all was making it back up our driveway; my wheels were spinning helplessly, so I really had to gun it and then hope I didn’t go careening into the side of the house. We just had our sewer line repaired; the last thing we need is exterior damage to our house! Talk about a white-knuckle drive. Apparently Tara slid into a curb in the parking lot of her work, so I will breathe easier once she gets home this evening. I’m hoping they’ll let her go early.

I had planned on taking advantage of a one-day Black Friday sale on a snowblower at Lowe’s on my lunch hour today, but I’m not going to chance those roads again. Too bad. It hasn’t taken us long to realize shoveling our large driveway and sidewalks is a real chore, one that a snowblower will really help with.

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So, about our storm: it’s looking to be a doozy. They are predicting heavy snow (8-12″) on top of that glaze of ice, and winds gusting to 65 mph. Sadly, Rapid City’s holiday winter market, downtown tree lighting ceremony, and festival of lights parade are all scheduled for tomorrow, plus it’s Small Business Saturday. It looks like Pennington County may issue a no-travel advisory, so all those events are likely to be cancelled. We were looking forward to them, but what can you do? I’m just hoping our power doesn’t go out now that we have a new aquarium full of tropical fish. We have plenty of food and plan to work on putting up Christmas decorations, so we don’t have to go anywhere.

On a brighter note, our first Thanksgiving in our new house was just about perfect. We always enjoyed hosting family for the holiday, but I’m not gonna lie, being able to kick back and do our own thing is pretty nice. Other than a last-minute trip to Family Fare for a can of evaporated milk, and having to spread rock salt and shovel the driveway and front stairs, it was a pretty leisurely day. We drank wine, listened to music, and ate delicious food. After, we retired to the basement, where we started a blazing fire and watched “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” Really couldn’t have asked for a better day!

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Great first Thanksgiving in our new home.

Now, let the hunkering down commence.

Teddy FTW

I have been nominated by Claudette (a writer of words, etc.) for a major award. (Or maybe I’m just channeling Ralphie’s dad, aka The Old Man, from A Christmas Story.) Instead of a leg lamp though, it’s a Special Blogger Award. I’d go into more detail, but it’s some real high-level stuff and I’m not at the mercy to divulge state secrets.

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I’ve recently been on a quest to read more blogs and have diligently sought out new people to read. You know what? It’s harder than you think to find interesting people who are good writers and storytellers, but Claudette is one of them. Like a few other favorite bloggers, she’s Canadian. How could I resist?

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NOT my award. Unfortunately.

I have seen these awards circulating through the blogosphere for years and have been nominated a few times in the past but never bothered playing along. But I’ve been on a blog-writing kick as of late (like I don’t have enough writing in my life already!), so I figured this would be a fun way to drum up a new, pre-Thanksgiving post. The point is to answer 10 questions chosen by Claudette, and then nominate three bloggers here with questions of my own. So, let’s do this!

Name the book you’re currently reading.

“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller about a group of survivors following a flu pandemic that has wiped out most of the world’s population. In other words, real cheery stuff! I actually love this particular genre (Stephen King’s “The Stand” set the bar high for me), and this novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015, which I’m thinking is a pretty good pedigree. I’m 84 percent finished (can you tell I’m a Kindle reader?) and thoroughly digging it so far.

What is the best/favorite time of day to write your blog posts?

Whenever I have free time, which is hardly ever. I don’t like to rush them! Sunday mornings seem to work best for me, though here I am, banging this one out on a Monday evening (might not get posted until Tuesday, though).

If money and time was no object, where you would you like to go on your next vacation?

Somewhere in Europe, I can tell you that, though the country/city changes frequently with my mood. Lately I’m thinking Prague, with a swing through Budapest and Warsaw. My ancestors were Eastern European and I can’t help but feel a draw to that part of the world. Must be in my blood.

They’re planning to send some people to Mars. Putting aside all the complications involved with this trip, would it interest you to be a part of that group, and if so, why or why not?

No, thanks. We worked so hard getting our house decorated after buying it last summer, I’d hate to part ways with our groovy basement and record collection. Plus, a vacuum-packed and freeze-dried Bloody Mary would probably suck.

Name a tv show or movie you really didn’t like but were compelled to keep watching anyway, and explain why.

Surprisingly, “The Office.” When it debuted, I watched the first few episodes, but wasn’t feeling it, so I quit. Then, when season two began, a coworker kept hyping it up, telling me how funny it was. Curious, I gave it another shot…and fell in love. “The Office” became one of my favorite all-time sitcoms and to this day, I miss the Dunder-Mifflin crew something fierce.

Describe the most challenging part of a relationship (current or past). Could be with anyone (family, friend, professional etc.)

Resisting the urge to go off on my ex-wife pretty much every single day of my life. There’s a lot of water under the bridge there, and none of it is sanitary.

Which politician today do you find most entertaining?

Depends how you define “entertaining.” If you mean like a train wreck there’s only one obvious answer, but I refuse to type his name here. This may be cheating, but today I find Theodore Roosevelt the most entertaining politician. The dude delivered a speech with blood running down his shirt after a failed assassination attempt (he told the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose”) and went on an expedition deep into the jungles of South America after his presidency, pushing on despite a severe case of malaria and tropical fever. I think it’s very fitting that he is immortalized on Mount Rushmore. We need more Teddy Roosevelts in this day and age.

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What is the most irksome thing you’ve come across in recent days?

Umm, the giant hole in my front yard and resulting $12K bill for a sewer line repair?

If someone placed two bowls of nuts in front of you, one with shells and a nutcracker, one without shells, which bowl would you choose to eat?

I think I’d be inclined to use the nutcracker. It’s a great way to take out aggression, and even though I know this isn’t true, I’d have the perception that a freshly-cracked nut was somehow fresher and tastier than one that had already been opened.

What’s the first word that pops into your mind when you hear the word Toronto?

Eh.

That was fun! Instead of nominating specific readers (I love you all!), I’ll just invite anybody who is interested in playing along to answer the same questions. But for fun, we’ll change the last one to, What’s the first word that pops into your mind when you think of South Dakota

Cheers…and happy Thanksgiving!

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bobcat

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen the giant hole that used to be my front yard.

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It all began with a flooded utility room last weekend…

Actually, that room flooded once before, at the end of July. It just so happened to occur the one, and only, time we used the shower in the master bathroom, so we sort of figured (hoped) it had something to do with that.

No such luck.

In fact, we weren’t able to flush toilets or use the shower initially, making for a dicey 24 hours—but we eventually figured out that, as long as we were careful, the water would drain as it should. We called a plumber first thing Monday morning but were placed on a waiting list; when they finally made it out midday Tuesday, they ran a sewer scope and gave us the bad news: our entire main line needed replacing. The roots from our lilac bush had busted through the clay pipe to the point where it was crushed in places and there was dirt in the line. I guess Doris had dealt with problems in the past, because the pipe had been snaked so many times, it was basically destroyed, so there was no option to repair or reinforce it. The work would involve digging a giant trench through the front yard and tearing up our sidewalk and landscaping. Our reward? A nice, fat bill for $12,000, give or take a few pennies.

So now, we are dealing with a huge, unsightly mess. We can’t get out the front door but are at least able to go through the garage. The hole they had to dig to reach the existing sewer pipe is much deeper than anticipated; it’s at least 15′ deep, thanks to the fact that we live on a hill. I mean, we can’t even see the bottom from our front porch! It’s a little unnerving, kind of like peering into the depths of hell, minus the fire and brimstone. It’s so deep, in fact, that the first Bobcat they used couldn’t reach the bottom to scoop out all the dirt, so they had to go get a bigger one. What a pain! Our only saving grace is the sewer addendum we wisely added to our homeowner’s policy at the urging of our realtor. They’ll cover up to $10K, but are naturally making us jump through hoops to justify the work. It’ll cost more than that anyway, and we have a $1K deductible, so we may have to get creative in figuring out how to pay for this.

The situation is not completely without humor. My sister-in-law, Esther, asked if they had discovered anything interesting while digging, like an arrowhead or an old toy or maybe a dead body.

They’ve been working on it for two days and estimated the project would take four, so it should be finished by Tuesday. Fingers crossed; Rapid City’s asphalt plant closes for the season on Wednesday, so if they don’t finish up by then we will be stuck with some kind of temporary patch on the street until spring.

We’ll be giving thanks for a nice, new pipe on Thursday, I guess.

Speaking of Turkey Day, it’ll be just the three of us this year (if you count the cat). Of course it would be great to have family around, but after hosting for so many years, it’s nice to have a more relaxed, laid-back holiday. I wish I had Friday off, but we both have to work, so at least I won’t be jealous that Tara’s home while I’m not. Half the office was smart enough to take the day off, but I need to bank more PTO as we have a couple of trips lined up.

Our temperatures have been running 15-20 degrees above average for a change. Yesterday was a balmy 61º and today will be about the same. Then winter’s coming back this week. Thanksgiving looks to be cloudy and in the upper 30s. There’s talk of a potent winter storm somewhere on the Plains next weekend, but it’s too far out to know how or if that will affect us. Rapid City’s tree lighting ceremony and parade of lights are Saturday, so that probably means we’ll get a foot of snow.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Veteran’s Day was a holiday for Tara but I had to work. It had snowed the evening before and our high never made it above 12º, so the roads were a mess. Tara offered to let me drive her pickup and I jumped at the chance, since it’s got 4WD. Everything went well until it was time to go home and I could not get into the truck. I hit the remote button to unlock the door, and…nothing happened.

Tried again. Nothing. And again. Still nothing.

At least I’ll never be accused of having a lack of persistence (though some might, and do, call it stubbornness. Whatever. I own my Taurus-ness!).

I was flummoxed at that point, afraid the battery had died. Even more afraid of calling Tara and asking her to come get me, knowing she probably wouldn’t be too keen to leave the cozy, warm confines of our home. When I couldn’t disable the alarm, I at least figured I could unlock the door with the key, but even that didn’t work. By now I was totally confused, wondering what kind of strange sorcery would cause a dead battery to prevent a key from working. I tried several times but to no avail. “What the hell?!” I said out loud…

…and then realized, woopsie, I was trying to break into somebody else’s truck.

Gah. But in my defense, what are the odds that there would be two red pickup trucks parked next to one another?! And okay, fine, maybe the one I was trying to drive away in was a Toyota and not a Nissan like my wife’s, but hey, in the overall scheme of things that is an easily-overlooked detail.

I’d even been nice enough to knock off some of the ice that had accumulated over the wheel well of this stranger’s pickup. I hope he appreciated that.

When I got home and told Tara, she laughed about it for days. In fact, she’s still laughing. I’d be annoyed, but she’s making pumpkin pancakes and bacon, and the house is filled with those heavenly aromas.

Besides, it was a pretty funny case of mistaken identity.


I was finally able to add fish to my new aquarium yesterday.

Actually, I’m not sure I even mentioned the fact that I bought a new aquarium. (Spoiler alert: I bought a new aquarium.) I have long been a tropical fish aficionado. Call me an a-fish-ionado! Bought my first tank when I was 15, and my first job was working in a tropical fish store. I graduated from a 10-gallon glass tank to a 55-gallon plexiglass  and even ventured into saltwater for a while, though the maintenance and expense proved daunting. When we were downsizing back in 2014 after I sold my townhouse, I reluctantly got rid of the fish tank. But I missed having an aquarium, and with my freelance income allowing me some luxuries these days, I decided to reignite my hobby. Bought a 50-gallon acrylic tank and got that all set up at the end of September, but then I had to let the aquarium cycle. It’s complicated to explain, but essentially you have to let harmful ammonia and nitrite levels build up and then drop before it’s safe to add fish. The process can take up to two months.

I’d been diligently testing the water for weeks, and it was finally good to go on Thursday. So I made a PetSmart run yesterday and bought some fish. Tiger barbs (always my faves), a couple of rainbow sharks and a pair of algae eaters. Provided they do well this week, I’ll add more next weekend. The general rule of thumb is, you can have one inch of fish for every gallon of water in your aquarium. So, I have room for plenty more.

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I just love having tropical fish and didn’t realize how much I’d missed them until I added them to the tank yesterday. They are just so peaceful and fun to watch. Good stress-relievers, too. The aquarium is set up in the basement, so we’ll have to make it a point to hang out there more often. Which is easy to do when you have such an awesome basement!

Last evening, we went to the movies. This used to be a favorite pastime of mine; back when I was unemployed for a long stretch, I went nearly every Tuesday to take advantage of $5 flicks. But we’ve really fallen out of the habit lately. This was only our third or fourth movie since moving to Rapid City. A new, luxury theater opened in town, and we wanted to check it out, so I bought us tickets for “Doctor Sleep.” Funny thing: I did not care for the novel all that much, but I’m a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Mike Flanagan did an admirable job combining aspects of Stephen King’s book with Kubrick’s movie, which the author famously hated. I think it was very well done and a real nostalgia trip. Tara and I both enjoyed it.

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Now, THIS is how to enjoy a movie!

And the theater? Man, it just oozes luxury. The seats are the best I’ve ever experienced at the movies. Power leather recliners. It’s one of those theaters where you can order food and they deliver it right to your seat. We tried the fried pickle spears and they were really good. Kinda reminded us of Shanahan’s in Vancouver, WA. Well played, Golden Ticket.

The movie was a 4:30 showing but ran 2.5 hours, so it was after 7:00 by the time we left. We grabbed dinner at a Mexican restaurant we’d heard good things about but hadn’t tried yet. The food was good, and the margaritas were very unusual. Our server informed us that they make theirs with agave wine instead of tequila. I’d never heard of such a thing, but if he hadn’t warned us, I’d never have known there wasn’t tequila in there. They were smooth and tasty.

Today is football and blogs. The weather warmed up after last Monday and has mainly been in the 50s, so at least I won’t try to steal somebody’s truck this week.