Revolving Door

We’ve had a revolving door of houseguests over the past four weeks. I feel so popular!

Following my FIL’s visit the first weekend in August, my MIL and nephew came up for a few days. They drove the 1,200 miles from Tacoma to Rapid City, which I can tell you from personal experience is quite the haul. Once again we played tour guide, taking them to the usual hotspots – Mount Rushmore, Custer Wildlife Loop, downtown Rapid City.

Anthony loved the dinosaurs almost as much as my blogging friend, Jess Witkins!

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Come to think of it, so did I…

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It was a pretty nice visit. All of our guests have been very impressed with western South Dakota and really like our house. You could call these visits soul-affirming, even though we already knew we made a great move!

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I was especially excited to see my parents, because – well, they’re my parents! And it had been 11 months since we’d seen each other. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve gone in my adult life without seeing them.

They arrived Thursday morning, and I was able to take Friday off to spend some time with them. In addition to seeing the local sights—Prairie Berry Winery, Crazy Horse, Pactola Reservoir—we have been enjoying lots of time on the patio. Evenings have been spent talking, drinking wine, listening to music, barbecuing, playing corn hole, and dodging mosquitoes. Not in that order. The weather has been perfect; temperatures have been mild and, so far, we haven’t had any thunderstorms.

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A fun thing happened yesterday. Our doorbell rang, and when we opened the front door, there was Doris’s daughter Kristi and her new husband Troy. We had spoken to her over the phone a few weeks ago and invited her to stop by when she was in town.

Kristi grew up in our house and you could tell it was a very emotional experience for her to be back inside. She approved of the cosmetic changes we made upstairs and was thrilled that we kept the basement the same. We learned a few more interesting facts about the house and what it was like for Kristi and her brothers growing up in the neighborhood, and we let her dig up several of the dwarf irises her great-great-great-great grandmother transplanted from Norway. She’d told us she regretted not taking any, so now she can plant some in her garden in Connecticut. They’re a very nice couple, about my age, and we told them they have an open invitation to stop by any time they are visiting Rapid City.

I’m glad she got to see the house. I still recall my road trip to Dayton, Ohio in 2011 and my own (failed) attempt to visit my childhood home. I know what a thrill it is and would never deny her the opportunity! Upon leaving, Kristi said she is happy we bought her mom’s house and is grateful that we are honoring her legacy so much.

Gotta run. We have some errands today, including picking up a new stand-up freezer—a generous housewarming gift from my parents. We’re zipping down to Fort Collins next weekend to stock up on items from Trader Joe’s and now I can stuff that bad boy with chile lime chicken burgers and steel-cut frozen oats to my heart’s content. We’re headed out to dinner tonight, and then Tara and I have to go back to work tomorrow. My parents will be here until Wednesday. But they’re talking about coming back in October, so I’m pretty sure I won’t have to wait so long to see them this time around.

I really have to brush up on my corn hole skills though, because my dad has been kicking my ass.

 

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Meat and Catch-Up

I haven’t written a proper post in what seems like ages – photos of fall foliage and snow do not count – so this is an opportunity for a little catch-up! Forgive me if I jump around from topic to topic. I feel like I have a little bit to say about a lot of things.

Lessons I Learned from Our Early Season Snowfalls

Two big takeaways from our recent bout with winter-like weather:

  1. When it’s snowy, icy, or below freezing, you have to calculate extra time when making plans. Because you’ve got to scrape ice and/or sweep snow from your windshield and set the defroster to high if you want to be able to see while driving. I don’t know about you, but I find this helps prevent accidents. Speaking of scraping ice…
  2. The windshield isn’t the only thing that requires attention. We were headed out to a comedy show in Rapid City Saturday night and it took me several blocks to figure out why my headlights were barely penetrating the snowy darkness: they were coated in snow and ice. So, I had to pull over to the side of the road and take care of that.

It’s little things like these that never even crossed my mind living in the temperate PNW. On the rare occasions when it snowed in Vancouver, I certainly didn’t venture out in it. I won’t have that luxury living here, which is why I volunteered to drive us into town during our unexpected snowstorm Saturday night. I figured I’m going to have to get used to it anyway, so I might as well jump right in. Luckily, my Mazda handled the weather just fine. I could pretend I didn’t white-knuckle it the whole way, but why lie?

Also: I really want a Jeep Cherokee. But that’s another post. One that I can ignore for a while since today was sunny and 71 degrees.

Crazy Horse Progress is Measured in Inches

My favorite joke during the Saturday night comedy show went  something like this: They say the sun is going to explode in five billion years, which means they’re going to have to finish carving Crazy Horse in the dark.

The Crazy Horse Memorial, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a mountain carving honoring an Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse. The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is proceeding at a glacial pace, probably because it’s a non-profit undertaking and the Ziolkowski family refuses to take any federal or state funds. They rely solely on entrance fees, gift shop purchases, and private contributions. Hats off to them, but this thing won’t be finished in my lifetime. Or my kids’.

These photos show what Crazy Horse looked like when I visited in 2011, and again, last week.

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Hard to see any real progress. Some of the trees are a little taller, though.

This is what it’s going to look like when it’s finished:

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Crazy Horse Memorial, circa 2238

Discovering Chislic

Months before moving here, I wrote about chislic, a regional dish of cubed red meat (traditionally lamb, though beef or venison may be substituted) and South Dakota’s official state food. It is often served with toothpicks and accompanied by Saltine crackers and hot sauce.IMAG6950.jpg

Sounds weird, huh? Here’s the thing: it’s really good. Which shouldn’t be a surprise. I mean, it’s fried meat. Unless you’re a vegetarian, which I am most certainly not, what”s not to love?!

I’ve had it a couple of times now, and have yet to see either Saltines or toothpicks. Mine have always come with French fries, which makes the purist in me unhappy because it feels like my experience is a little less authentic. I haven’t had hot sauce either, come to think of it, but one place in Hill City served it with barbecue sauce and that was a pretty damn good substitute.

Though it’s more common in east river, chislic is pretty readily available around these parts, too. I intend to research the matter carefully and find the best in the west, so to speak.

I also want to make it myself and will probably try this recipe.

A Random Photo I Haven’t Posted Anywhere

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Deerfield Reservoir

The Freelance Lifestyle

I’m really diggin’ the freelance lifestyle for a couple of reasons, the biggest being the freedom to work anywhere at any time. I’m fortunate to have a steady supply of work from my former employer, and because I know the industry and topics inside and out, I usually bang it out in two days. That leaves me a lot of free time to go exploring. I try to work from a coffee shop one day a week, just to get me out of the apartment. I find that I like having a little structure, and it feels more like a real job if I have to actually get dressed and drive somewhere.

Having said that, a full-time job would be ideal because as nice as it is being an independent contractor, the benefits leave much to be desired. Probably because they’re non-existent. A couple of months ago I was offered a job as a technical writer for a local Rapid City company, and after a four-day trial period…turned it down. Umm, what?! I didn’t feel like it was a good fit at the time, but soon after had major regrets.

Now, that same company has procured my services (as a contractor) to assist in several projects that should last through the holidays. They’ve even given me an office and computer to use and only ask me to come in for a few hours a couple of times a week. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, actually. A steady paycheck (on top of another steady paycheck) without the ol’ 9 to 5 drudgery. Having said that, if this happens to lead to something permanent, I’ll be thrilled. But if not, it’s great experience and gives me more to add to my resume and portfolio.

Tara, by the way, is happy with her job. She didn’t particularly want to remain in the mortgage industry, but this position is far less demanding, which means far less stressful. She doesn’t dread going to work in the morning, which is something we should all aspire to, you know?

And, because happy wife = happy life, all is good in this hood.

One More Random (and Really Wide) Pic Before I Go

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Why I love it here, Part 37.