Mayomust-Have

This is a rare Friday where I haven’t carpooled to work with Tara. My criteria for driving in solo has evolved quite a bit this winter. Initially, if there were even a few icy spots on the road, I’d grab a ride with her in the truck. But after six weeks where the temperature has only cracked 32° a couple of times, there’s pretty much always snow and ice on the road. That’s kind of forced my hand, so now I’m game to take the Mazda as long as a ton of snow hasn’t fallen overnight and isn’t forecast to begin falling before 5:00. I have to say, I’ve gotten a lot better at navigating my car through snow and ice and can’t help but feel a sense of pride over this accomplishment, even though it’s probably pretty basic for a lot of you. Hey, living in climates where snow is a rarity for three decades dulls your driving senses, so I think I’m entitled to feel good about this newfound skill!

It’s supposed to snow again overnight, but the 3-5″ and blizzard conditions they were predicting yesterday has been downgraded to a couple of inches, so it looks like we’re dodging a bullet. I have to admit, like so many other locals (and probably the entire Midwest), I’m actually looking forward to spring. I won’t say I’ve had my fill of snow and cold – that’ll never happen! – but it will be nice to venture outside without fear of frostbite. Plus, we’ve had 50 inches of snow since October (normal for the entire season is 42″ and we ain’t done yet) so, you know, I can’t complain about a lack of the fluffy white stuff.

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Kinda looks like Mount Hood, but it’s the sidewalk in downtown Rapid City.

I will say, living here has given me a newfound appreciation for spring and summer – seasons that I never much cared for living in the PNW. Probably because I was always  a bit underwhelmed by winter out there and always wanted more. It was never cold enough or snowy enough for my liking, so by the time March rolled around and our chances of seeing any exciting weather for the next eight months were pretty much dead, I grieved with the same passion I might experience laying a loved one to rest. That is so not the case in South Dakota! If we didn’t see another snowflake until November I would still be completely satisfied with this winter. So yeah, I’m actually looking forward to spring and summer for maybe the first time in my life, and all the possibilities that accompany warm weather: hiking and camping and grilling outside and Summer Nights concerts downtown and, of course, those spectacular (and ominous) thunderstorms that roll across the Great Plains unleashing their fury. And I’m sure, six months from now, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the first snowfall again. It’s great living in a place where you can appreciate all the seasons instead of just a couple of ’em!


You know what else I’m looking forward to? This magnificent product they were discussing on the local news a few days ago.

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Isn’t it beautiful?! Heinz is coming out with this mustard-mayonnaise hybrid (and a mayonnaise-BBQ sauce mashup called, naturally, Mayocue) on the heels of its successful Mayochup (mayonnaise/ketchup) product launch last year.

Scoff if you will, but I’m excited for this product! Back in 2012, Tara and I went to a street festival in Portland and grabbed a couple of reindeer meat hot dogs (because this was a street festival in Portland). The vendor had squeeze bottles of condiments in which to top your Rudolph dog (for lack of a better term) and one of them was a delicious concoction that he was super cagey about. He wouldn’t admit that it was a mustard-mayo combo, even when pressed, but obviously it was a mustard-mayo combo. I thought that was a genius idea then, so I am thrilled that Heinz is rolling out this product nationally next month.

I mean, I suppose you could always make your own rather than shelling out $3.49 for a bottle, but in this fast-paced and hectic world, who’s got time for that?! I, for one, am all about convenience. Plus, I’m sure the scientists in the Heinz food laboratory spent countless hours perfecting the ratio to get the formula exactly right. I trust their expertise a whole lot more than my sure-to-be-foolhardy attempt at mixing just the right amounts of mayonnaise and mustard together to achieve the perfect flavor profile.

This all might sound a little tongue-in-cheek, but I’m not kidding. I’m already clearing a prominent spot on my refrigerator shelf in which to showcase Mayomust!

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Dodging Snowflakes & Bullets

Holy crap. Has it really been almost two weeks since I updated my blog?!

I blame the government. With the shutdown now ancient history, business is booming – just as predicted. I kinda wish Trump had stood his ground a little bit longer! (Ha, not really. I do wish he’d walk off the side of a cliff or something, though.)

Work has been so busy, in fact, I stepped back in time and bought myself a planner. As in, an actual paper organizing system and calendar. I’ve got a smartphone app, of course, but experience has taught me that I just can’t/won’t/don’t use it to keep myself organized and on track. Maybe that’s because every time I pick up my phone I’m either scrolling through Instagram or playing Words With Friends. Regardless of the reason, the ol’ calendar app just wasn’t cutting the mustard. Instead, I found myself lugging a notebook around and digging through piles of paperwork on my desk. Who knew I was so endearingly old-fashioned?

The solution, then, was to research planners. I looked at everything from no-frills At A Glance calendars to fancy Day Timers with all the bells and whistles. I hated the idea of shelling out $25 for a disposable calendar I’d have to replace in January and was equally uncomfortable paying upwards of $90 for a leather-encased, refillable organizer. I settled instead on a Tul discbound planner. I’d never heard of such a system before, but it turns out they are quite popular – and rather ingenious! They utilize expansion discs that allow you to add, remove, and rearrange pages to your heart’s content. Kind of like a mashup between a three-ring binder and spiral notebook, but without any rings to open – the pages just slide into place magically. Best of all, the whole thing comes incased in a nice leather cover and calendar inserts are only $9.99. I think this will be perfect for my needs, even if it does make me feel a bit like it’s 1993 again.

Which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad thing.


Today was President’s Day, and it’s one of the few times in my adult life I haven’t had to work. I’d like to say I took advantage by doing something fun, but the high temperature was only 8º so that’s a big, fat NOPE. But I wasn’t slogging my way through RFP hell, so I still consider it a win.

We made up for our do-nothingness today on Saturday, anyway. Despite 6″ of fresh (and still falling) snow, we did a bit of exploring in the Black Hills, driving through the always-impressive Spearfish Canyon and checking out a little town smack dab in the middle of nowhere called Silver City. The drive home was a bit rough, as we encountered near-whiteout conditions on the interstate with lots of blowing snow, but fortunately the road was dry.

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By the way, we are way above average in terms of snow this winter. As of this morning Rapid City has had 40.1″; the normal season-to-date is 20.6″ so we are just about double where we should be. Sure feels like it, too – especially this month. 14.5″ through yesterday (we should only have 3.0″ by Feb. 17). I’m not complaining, though. This is exactly what I wanted.

Further evidence that moving to Rapid City was the smartest thing we could have done? Tara found out last week that her former employer in Vancouver, WA is looking for a buyer for their mortgage division and portfolio. They are getting out of the home-selling business, which means if we had stayed in the PNW and somehow figured out a way to buy a house, we’d be screwed. Tara would be facing unemployment and who knows where she would have ended up or whether we’d be able to make ends meet. It was already a struggle, and she was earning big bucks. I can’t imagine the fear and uncertainty we would be facing.

I’ll take a little (okay, a lot) of snow and cold and a concealed weapons-loving governor over the stress and anxiety of trying to pay the bills back there any ol’ day.

Untangled and Frozen

This popped up on my Facebook memories feed yesterday, and I had to share with an update.

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I have never worked for a company that celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so when I learned that PSI follows all Federal holidays, to say I was thrilled is an understatement. I’m used to a long, nearly five-month stretch between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day without a break. Now, I’ve got Monday off, and we’ll be closed for President’s Day, too. This is much appreciated considering I won’t be eligible for any paid vacation time until 2020.

Granted, the weather won’t be conducive to doing anything fun and exciting. But I consider not working fun and exciting, so bring on the holiday!

Last week was pretty productive. I completed my first proposal; this one is for a road improvement project on tribal land in South Dakota. Bids are due Wednesday at noon, and they expect to have a decision within the hour. Fingers crossed that we land the contract, because this government shutdown is putting a serious damper on business.


Remember my unabashed love for Dot’s Pretzels? Well, my blog post caught the attention of somebody who works in their corporate office, leading to the following email exchange:

Dot’s Employee: I just got done reading your take on Dots Pretzels. I will say I have never ever heard of Dots pretzels described as you have described them. And I must say I agree with you 100% on that. Not just because I work for Dots pretzels in the KS location, but because it’s TRUE. Just thought I would share my 2 cents and say thank you for the great word of mouth.
Mark: Thank you. They really are that good and deserve heaps of praise! I’m happy to spread the word. How lucky you are to work there.
Dot’s Employee: I printed a copy of your review and its hanging in the break room. Thank you again for the awesome review. The Dots family really appreciates it. 
Mark: Oh, wow – thank you so much! Does the Dot’s family appreciate it enough to send me free pretzels for life??

There was more; he gave me the inside scoop on a new product that will be hitting the market soon, but I’d better not say any more. I’m just happy that Dot’s is the type of company to reach out to the consumer.


Saturday morning I was half-asleep when Tara poked me on the shoulder. “Do you feel like taking a ride up Skyline Drive to catch the sunrise?” she asked. Despite the fact that it was 10 degrees out, I agreed to untangle myself from our warm and cozy bed. 20 minutes later we were standing atop a hill overlooking a frosty, snowy Rapid City. Were we freezing our asses off? Yep. Was it worth it? Totally.

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It was an interesting week weather-wise. We had freezing fog for two days, which coated our trees in a thick blanket of rime ice and hoarfrost. That was followed by a little light snow on Friday. The scenery around town was spectacular.

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Today we are going to grab brunch and then kick it in the bar to watch playoff football. With the Broncos never even in conjunction this season, it’s tough to get excited. KC is a division rival, I’m not a Los Angeles fan, and Tom Brady’s had enough success. So…let’s go, Saints! I guess.

Adios, 2018

The year is ending with a little excitement here in Rapid City. If you consider a blizzard exciting.

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Never a dull moment around here, folks. Tara has to work today, but the bank is opening two hours late due to the weather. I don’t have to be anywhere (my first day on the new job is Wednesday) and I certainly don’t intend to venture out – not when the temperature is going to drop to zero by mid-afternoon. Fortunately, we were planning a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration at home, anyway. Picking up Chinese food (as is our tradition), listening to music, and maybe playing a little Nintendo.

I can’t help but reflect on all the changes 2018 brought to our lives. It has been a year like few others. 1994 sort of compares, when I left the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest, but back then I kept my job and my time zone, and the distance wasn’t as great. When the clock struck midnight one year ago, Tara and I looked at one another, a mixture of excitement and fear in our eyes. All the work ahead of us seemed overwhelming back then – packing up our worldly possessions, quitting jobs, bidding family and friends goodbye, and moving 1,250 miles away. There were moments where we wondered how we’d ever get it all done. And yet here we are, South Dakota residents for six months now, and it all feels natural. Yes, it was a lot of work, but we came through unscathed and it feels like we are both reaping the benefits of a simpler life in a small(ish) Midwest town already, just as we’d hoped. I am excited to see what 2019 brings!


Seems a little anticlimactic to talk about Christmas now that our tree and decorations are all packed up and back in storage. We had a great holiday, even though we missed our loved ones; we made an apricot-glazed spiral-sliced ham in the new pressure cooker Tara got me and went for a cold hike along the Skyline Trail, where it started snowing lightly. We were hoping for a white Christmas but missed out by just a few hours; the following morning we awoke to 2″ on the ground and some pretty slick roads that made me wish once more for 4WD. My new employer’s Christmas party was that evening, and it was a pretty fun little gathering; Tara got to meet my new boss and coworkers, there was free beer, catered food from Qdoba, and a white elephant gift exchange in which I actually ended up with a decent present for once – a mini desktop fridge that will keep a few cans cold. Perfect for my new office! PSI’s party was quite a bit tamer than the wild Fuel parties with casino games and live music, but nobody threw up in the bar this time so perhaps these low-key affairs are better, after all.

On Saturday, we drove out to the Badlands to admire them with a fresh coat of snow. All I can say is, wow.

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It’s hard to say what the highlight was. I’m torn between these bighorn sheep…

And this spectacular sunset.

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Stay safe tonight! Hope you all have a very happy 2019. Let’s go make some great memories, okay?

The Shadow Never Lies

I had an unexpected snow day today!

Well, not exactly. I still worked. I just did so from the comfort of my recliner at home, thanks to a rare late February snowstorm. How rare? It’s been 23 years since we’ve had this much snow (3.5”) after Valentine’s Day. And they’re predicting more tonight. What a strange winter it has been. We were in the 60s a couple of weeks ago and it looked like Spring had arrived early. When Punxsatawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter at the beginning of the month, I thought to myself, the groundhog has lost his freakin’ mind. 

But the shadow never lies.

It actually snowed pretty much nonstop all day yesterday, but the temperature hovered right around 34 degrees and the ground was too warm for anything to stick. After sunset the temperature dropped and the snow picked up, so Tara and I found ourselves walking around outside right in the midst of the heaviest of it. I call that “South Dakota research.” This morning when I opened the blinds in our bedroom, I was greeted with the following sight:

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Gorgeous, huh? The sun was rising next to Mount Hood, and its rays cast a warm glow on the snow-flocked branches. Even Tara seemed to enjoy the magic of last night’s snowfall (or at least pretended to). Normally I’m the one gushing over frozen precipitation while she is rather blase over it all. We may just have turned a corner.

The funny thing is, Rapid City got a bunch of snow on Monday and I was jealous. Not anymore!

We got an email from HR this morning stating that the office was technically closed and we could come in at our own discretion or make alternate arrangements with our managers. I was planning on working from home anyway, because there is absolutely no need for me to do this job in an office (hint, hint!), so that worked out nicely. I’m always more productive working from home anyway. Got an early start too, so I’ll be logging off at 3:30 and heading to WinCo for groceries. Not because another storm is bearing down upon us; Wednesday is just our designated grocery day. Hopefully the store isn’t a madhouse.

Countdown: 122 Days

Fake Like 38

I stepped outside this morning and was greeted with a blast of cold air and a brisk wind. A couple of hours later Tara called and, as we were chatting, I mentioned how chilly it was outside. But I immediately caught myself and retracted the sentence.

“It’s not really cold outside,” I said.

And it wasn’t. The temperature was hovering around 40 degrees, which – granted – ain’t exactly swimsuit weather, but it is only February. We’ve had an unusually warm couple of months, so a temperature closer to the norm felt extra cold to me.

Besides, I keep reminding myself how cold next winter is going to be. I’ve been following the weather in Rapid City religiously for months now, and there have been many days where highs were in the single digits, and nights have dipped below zero. So I’m trying very hard not to complain about fake cold like 38 degrees, because it’s all relative and a year from now that will feel probably feel warm!


My parents are currently on vacation in Florida, so we decided to take advantage of the situation by borrowing their grill. Being as how their grill is attached to the side of their house via a natural gas valve, we ended up borrowing their entire house while we were at it. (Don’t worry, mom – we brought our own wine!).

Grilling is one thing we both miss. When I was a homeowner I’d grill out at least once a week, pretty much all year long. But our apartment complex doesn’t allow grills, and even though some residents break the rules Tara and I choose to walk the straight and narrow. Which means grilling has turned into a special occasion.

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We picked up ribeye steaks from Costco, invited our friend Kara over, and had ourselves a feast on Saturday night, kicking back in their sunroom (we borrowed that, too) with the aforementioned steak, accompanied by sauteed mushrooms, shrimp, apricot pepita cabbage slaw, and garlic bread. We had a great time, even if Kara was a little unnerved by the creepy oversized doll in the living room. I didn’t mention how the thing comes to life sometimes and tiptoes up the stairs in the middle of the night, magically appearing in bed with my parents.

Just kidding, Kara.

Countdown: 131 days.