23 Mountains

Instagram just unveiled a new feature: the ability to toggle between multiple accounts. I’ve been wanting this for years! My first order of business? Creating a work account. I have been pushing the idea of a corporate Instagram account to my superiors for some time. I think IG is a natural place to showcase all the community events and activities we participate in, and want to make a fun and interesting page to highlight those things and possibly help attract new talent. So I’ve taken it upon myself to set that up and manage it. Err…I didn’t officially receive permission, but I’m calling this an executive decision. Minus the executive pay, of course.

MonkeysThe ability to manage multiple accounts opens up lots of other opportunities. I once decided I’d make barrels of monkeys my theme, and pose a monkey in every single photo I uploaded. This lasted for all of two posts before I realized that those damn, dirty apes distracted from the scenery. But now, if I wanted to start a new account focusing only on plastic monkeys from a barrel, I could quickly and easily do so.


I’ve long said if I had to give up all social media accounts but one, I’d keep Instagram. Twitter? Never got into it. Facebook? Seems I only use it to cross post my Instagram photos (and blog posts). LinkedIn? Only worthwhile when you are between jobs. Instagram, on the other hand? I love it. No politics or drama, and not a big time suck. Just a steady stream of photos. And we all know a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

I was scrolling through my IG feed this morning and was amazed to see I’ve got 878 posts (which, based on that old idiom I just referenced, translates to 878,000 words…about 10 novels’ worth. Damn, I’m prolific!) This fueled my curiosity, as I started to see some common themes emerging. I learned that I tend to post photos that fall into the same eight categories or so. Intrigued by this knowledge (and a strange fascination with statistics), I decided to dust off my math skills and do a bit of counting. I went as far back as December 31, 2014 – which amounted to exactly 400 posts. A few notes: I originally counted “nature” as a category but found that much too broad, so I broke it down a bit further (mountains, trees, bodies of water). And I could not for the life of me decide what constituted a “selfie.” After much Google research I settled on the following definition:

A picture of oneself taken by oneself. 

Selfies can include other groups of people, so long as they were taken by you. Alrighty, then! Without further ado, here are my top eight categories, and the number of photos I’ve posted of each over the past 405 days or so:

  1. Food (38)
  2. Bodies of Water (33)
  3. Trees (28)
  4. Mountains (23)
  5. Sunsets (17)
  6. Selfies (16)
  7. Sunrises (14)
  8. Bloody Marys (10)

I find this pretty interesting. Looking at this list, you’d assume I’m a nature-loving foodie who enjoys Bloody Marys.

Nailed it, Instagram.

There are, of course, other photos that don’t fall into any of these categories. But they are few and far between. For instance, in a three-way tie for last place on my IG feed, I present:

  • Spiders floating in cups of tea (1)
  • Discarded bottles of Astroglide on the sidewalk (1)
  • Naked bicyclists (1)

Maybe in another 400 posts, those categories will have new photos, too. At least, one can hope.

Here are a few of my favorite IG posts.



And of course, we mustn’t forget this gem…


What’s your favorite social media site? If you had to choose one, what would you pic? Do you have any Instagram feeds you particularly like? Want to see more pics of trees, mountains, Bloody Marys, and discarded lube? Feel free to follow me on Instagram (adios.ghost)!

United in Orange

I find the cult of sports fandom fascinating. All day long, I had coworkers coming up to me and offering their congratulations after the Denver Broncos beat Carolina to win Super Bowl 50. I received heaps of praise and so many fist bumps, high fives, and pats on the back, you’d think I played a crucial role in helping my team secure their hard-earned victory. I believed in them all season long, but faith pales in comparison to actually suiting up and making a tackle or catching a pass. I’ve been a Broncos fan for more than 30 years. I pretty much have to believe they’re going all the way at the start of the season, until they show me evidence that a championship is nothing more than wishful thinking.

I never felt that way this year. Granted, our offense was shaky at best, and Peyton is clearly feeling all of his 39 years. But that defense, man. They always looked unstoppable.

Don’t stop believin’. I took Steve Perry’s advice.

It’s also funny how I just now referred to it as “our” offense. As if I suited up and got into formation next to C.J. Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders myself. In my defense, I’m half convinced if I cut myself while shaving today I’d bleed orange and blue, so there is that.

We’d discussed the possibility of going out somewhere to watch the game or meeting up with friends, but that didn’t work out so well for us two years ago so we decided to just lay low at home instead. It’s a lot cheaper anyway; just imagine how much we’d have spent on cocktails and beer in a sports bar! And we were able to enjoy a variety of “football food” that included chicken wings, deviled eggs, meatballs, and chili. Last year I embraced super healthy snacks and, while it’s true that my wings were made with a sugar-free apricot & Sriracha glaze, I still indulged quite a bit more this year. I’ve gotten to the point in my healthy lifestyle where I don’t always order a salad when we go out to eat, and I allow myself the occasional indulgence. The Super Bowl is one day where it doesn’t hurt to say “what the hell” and treat yourself a little. Especially when your team is playing!

Anyway. It’s been 17 long years since the last time “my” team won a Super Bowl. That’s a long stretch to go between world championships, so I am absolutely savoring the feeling.

Keep high-fiving me, guys. I don’t mind!

I can’t help but think how different my life is now, compared to the last time John Elway hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. It’s little things, like the fact that I still carried around a pager instead of a cell phone. The Internet was in its infancy. I wouldn’t even start blogging for another couple of years (and I feel like I’ve been doing that forever). One of my kids didn’t even exist yet. The other was still in preschool. My future (and better) wife was all of 22 years old. Hell, I wasn’t even 30 yet myself. The good ol’ days, right?

Ha. Not a chance. These are the good ol’ days.

And I’m here to revel in a victory that I contributed absolutely nothing toward and yet feel entitled to regardless.

Congratulations Peyton Manning and Von Miller and the rest of the World Champion Denver Broncos! You’ve had an amazing season and have done me proud.


Did I Kill Glenn Frey?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article that stated David Bowie had announced he would no longer be touring. And then his new album came out. Tara is a Bowie fan, so I was telling her these things, lamenting the fact that we’d never get to see him play live.

Three days later, David Bowie was dead.

Last week, I was chatting with a coworker about his weekend. “I went hiking,” he told me. “I saw an eagle!”

“Which one?” I asked. “Glenn Frey?”

That very afternoon, Glenn Frey was dead.

This past weekend, we were talking about the recent spate of celebrity deaths with Anne. “At least Abe Vigoda is still alive!” Tara remarked.

Three days later, Abe Vigoda was dead.

Now, my coworkers think I’m cursing celebrities. Causing their untimely deaths just by mentioning them. I have been absolutely forbidden from speaking the name “Tom Hanks” out loud, because Deb is a huge fan and warns me she will be devastated if he kicks the bucket next.

Mum’s the word. I hope blog posts don’t count, though.

All these deaths have been sad, but the worst for me was Abe Vigoda’s. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Barney Miller. Fish was the heart and soul of the show. The Godfather ain’t bad, either. So long, Sal Tessio. Back in 2012 I blogged about Abe Vigoda and the daily status update on his website. There had been so many rumors of Abe’s untimely demise over the years, his website kept you in the loop on whether or not he was still actually alive. Morbidly fascinating. I visited the site often – most recently, a month or two ago. Sadly, this


Was replaced with this following his passing:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 4.52.03 PM

Sigh. All the good ones are taken from us far too soon. Yes, I realize that Abe Vigoda was a month shy of 95 years old. Doesn’t matter. That’s still too soon, dammit!

On a lighter note, in order to take advantage of our weekend in Ocean Shores, Tara and I took last Friday off. In my absence, I was apparently on my team’s mind, because when I returned to work Monday morning they had left me a little welcome back to the office! surprise.


Thoughtful, huh? How nice of them to spare not just one square, but roughly 800.

Tuesday, Kimberly ended up staying home to watch her sick daughter. There are two important things to mention at this point:

  1. Kimberly hates Justin Bieber.
  2. Turnabout is fair play.

You can probably guess where this is going. Bieber

Wednesday morning, when she returned to work, she began finding photos of her favorite pop idol in unexpected places. Like inside the photo frame where her daughter’s picture usually resides. The top drawer of her filing cabinet. And, probably my favorite spot of all, her telephone receiver. She only found this when her phone rang.

Best of all? She’s only discovered a few of the photos I surreptitiously placed around her workspace. Chances are, she’s still going to be finding these photos in June.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…


Joe Isuz-who?

We were watching TV one day last week and a commercial came on. I can’t remember the product, but the pitchman was a dead ringer for Joe Isuzu.

“That guy’s a dead ringer for Joe Isuzu, huh?” I asked Tara.

She turned to me with a blank look on her face, and I cringed when she said, “Who’s Joe Isuzu?”

For the most part our age difference is a non-factor, but it’s cases like these – usually pop-culture references that go over her head – that best illustrate the eight-year divide.

“Who’s Joe Isuzu?!” I replied, stunned. “You might as well not even know who Spuds McKenzie is!”

Cue the blank look.

joe isuzu

Oh, man. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Which sacred American pop icon will my dear wife confess to being oblivious to next? Mikey from Life cereal? Mean Joe Green? The California Raisins??

David Leisure was the quintessential product spokesman – smarmy, confident, and funny. I loved those commercials. His character, Joe Isuzu, became so popular that Michael Dukakis even mentioned him in a 1988 presidential debate.

Tara, please tell me you know who Michael Dukakis is…!

Anyway. We had a nice little weekend getaway in Ocean Shores, WA. Met up with Anne, Anthony, Tracy, and David at a beach house maybe half a mile from the ocean. A break in the weather gave us the opportunity to walk along the shore without getting drenched, and Saturday evening we bought fresh Dungeness crab and steamer clams to go along with the clam chowder Tracy made. Damn good dinner, if I do say so myself. We mostly relaxed, watching movies and taking advantage of the hot tub on the deck. There are a crazy number of deer roaming freely throughout town. We saw them lined up along the main drag at all hours of the day. Kinda cool. Ocean Shores is a sleepy little town, not at all touristy like some of the places along the Oregon coast. It was a refreshing change of pace.

We wanted to be home in time for the AFC Championship game, but were under the impression it began at 1:00. Well, it did start at 1:00…Denver time. Details, details. So we ended up listening to the first half on AM radio (how quaint!) during the drive home. We got back in time for the second half, so at least we got to see our Broncos finish off the Pats and advance to the Super Bowl. PFM, baby! One more game to go!!

One Dozen. No Dozin’.

Goodreads, the self-professed “social network for book nerds,” sent me an email recently encouraging me to sign up for their 2016 Reading Challenge. This involves setting a goal for yourself to read a certain number of books during the course of the year. Simple enough, I figured. So I followed the link, gave it a few seconds’ thought, and settled on a personal goal.

I’ll read 12 books in 2016, I decided.

And then I saw my friends’ goals and felt stupid. 50 books, Robyn? Nice. 55 for you, Jess? Overachiever. And Alice: seriously? You’re planning on reading 100 books this year?! Way to make me feel inadequate, guys.

Twelve. Jesus. Way to commit yourself, Mark! One a month? Hardly pushing any boundaries there. And I consider myself an avid reader.


But, when the bulk of your reading occurs in bed, when your eyes are already growing droopy and you have to reread the same paragraph three times because you keep nodding off mid-sentence, it’s tough to make inroads. Honestly, even twelve books might be a stretch.

A few nights ago, we were in bed before 8 PM. I don’t think that’s ever happened before! Tara nodded right off, but I figured, great! I can make a real dent in the book I’m reading tonight! Right after I check my Instagram feed…

But Instagram led to Words With Friends (my move!) and then to Facebook (I wonder what happened on this day six years ago!) and before long I had tumbled down the social media rabbit hole, sixty minutes had passed, and my eyes were too heavy to absorb more than a few pages of the book.

See my dilemma here?

I really need to set some goals with the phone. Make it off-limits the minute I climb into bed. Actually, I think I’ll make that a belated New Year’s resolution. Could you guys please hold me accountable? If that means barging into the bedroom at 7:58 10:00 and making sure I don’t have my phone clutched in my hand, so be it.

Thank you in advance, and please ignore the pile of laundry next to the closet.

Me, too often. (Image courtesy of lifehacker.com.)
Me, too often. (Image courtesy of lifehacker.com.)

Grin and Bear It

I had a dilemma this weekend. On the one hand, I have a well-documented fear of running into (okay, getting mauled by is closer to the truth) a bear someday when I’m out hiking. On the other hand, I have a deep respect and admiration for Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s probably my favorite actor. So, his new movie, The Revenant, about a guy who tangles with a bear and barely (bearly? ha!) lives to tell about it: to see or not to see, that was the question.

The answer was “to see.” And I’m glad we did; it was a really intense and emotionally compelling movie. Great story, amazing cinematography, and what I deem an(other) Oscar-worthy performance by Leo. Give him a damn statue already!

I’ll just be sure to include bear repellant in my backpack next time I hit the trail.

At least the bear is keeping him warm now.
At least the bear is keeping him warm now.

The rest of the weekend was pretty low-key. Saturday, we helped my parents move some furniture between the upstairs and downstairs, and then between their house and storage unit. Including a couch, recliner, and thousand-pound coffee table. Perils of owning a pickup truck! You become the de facto moving company for friends and family. Which is cool. We both woke up a little sore this morning, but are feeling fine now. We also binge watched Making a Murderer, at the urging of many a spirited Facebook post and workplace discussion. I’m thankful for the suggestions, because Tara and I got completely sucked into the real-life drama involving Steven Avery, his nephew Brandon, possibly (probably) corrupt law enforcement officers, inept defense lawyers, and a Wisconsin town that gets one hell of a lot of snow. If you haven’t yet watched this 10-part Netflix documentary, what are you waiting for?! Do it. Especially if you’re a fan of Serial. (Bonus: everybody who speaks sounds like they just walked off the set of Fargo.)

So not guilty. Maybe.
NOT guilty. Maybe.

I may write a separate post on the show, as I’m super curious for feedback from others.

When we were in Ely over New Year’s, I stocked up on Snap-E-Tom at the local grocery store. I fell in love with this tomato chile cocktail last summer in Park City, when I picked one up on a whim. It’s like a saltier, less sugary V8. With a kick. Naturally, none of the local stores around here sells it. Ridley’s only had thirteen cans left on their shelf, so I brought them all back, but they are not going to last long. Especially after we made Bloody Marys with ’em yesterday morning. I guess this means every time we visit Ely we’ll be coming back with a cooler full of both Basque chorizo and Snap-E-Tom.

snap-e-tomI’d better quit trying, and falling in love with, new things outside of a 50-mile radius from home.

Tara, of course, being the exception to that rule.

Beautiful and Treacherous

We are back home today. Smartest move I ever made? Taking the day off. I knew we’d want a chance to recuperate. What I did not expect was for the city to shut down thanks to a surprise snow and ice storm yesterday – one that made the long drive back both beautiful and treacherous.

We left Boise about 8 AM, figuring we’d have a leisurely, uneventful 7-hour drive back home. Shortly after, we got a message from my mom. She said it was snowing back home. This was unexpected, but I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. Probably just a few flakes that would melt as soon as they fell.

I was wrong. Portland/Vancouver ended up with 1-2″ of snow – not a lot by most standards, but remember, this is the Pacific Northwest. We’re wimps out here. It was enough to wreak havoc on the city.

The weather on our drive grew progressively worse as the afternoon wore on. The Blue Mountains were icy, and we started seeing a lot of wrecked cars on the side of the road. We made it over the mountains – whew! – but Interstate 84 was no better in the flatlands. In fact, that too was really slick, especially as we neared the Columbia Gorge. Cars were spinning out left and right, and we were crawling along at 40 mph. Our traffic app showed lots of wrecks and a very slow drive, so we decided to take a chance and cross the river to the Washington side at Maryhill. This turned out to be a great idea; State Route 14 is a winding two-lane road, but there were very few cars and it wasn’t nearly as icy as the interstate had been. Soon, it started snowing; before long, it was coming down fast and furious.

Our snowy drive home.
Our snowy drive home.
We saw lots of frozen waterfalls along the side of the road.
We saw lots of frozen waterfalls along the side of the road.

Half an hour from home, the snow turned to sleet, and then to freezing rain. That really made things slick! We finally made it home around 5 PM, about two hours later than expected, after stopping to grab a pizza and a few items from the grocery store. I figured once we left Ely we wouldn’t be seeing any more snow, but…surprise! There was actually snow on the ground the entire way from Ely to Portland. 840 miles of a pristine winter wonderland. Love it! We are going to remember this drive home for a long time to come.

Our trip was short, but a lot of fun. We celebrated Tara’s grandparents’ 60th anniversary on Friday with an open house. People were stopping by all day long, and we had quite the spread: roast turkey and ham, deviled eggs, black eyed peas, smoked trout, chicken wings, and a variety of dips and salads. I even got in on the action and made guacamole. By mid-afternoon I was feeling cooped up and decided to go for a walk, but I forgot just how cold a windchill of 0 is. Halfway through my ears were throbbing in pain and I started to worry about frostbite. As in, genuinely, paranoid-my-ears-were-going-to-freeze-and-fall-off, worry. So I booked it back home to thaw out.

Saturday we met up with friends for breakfast downtown before taking a drive out to the coke ovens about twenty minutes east of Ely. If there is such a thing as a “tourist attraction” in this tiny Nevada town, the coke ovens are It. Originally we’d planned on staying until Sunday, but decided to leave a day early so we could break up the long 13-hour drive into two days. We hit the road about 2:30, stopping in Twin Falls for dinner at Chili’s, and then pushed on to Boise, where we spent the night. Followed, of course, by our crazy drive home.

So today, we’ve got nothing planned beyond kicking our feet up and relaxing. It’ll be back to work tomorrow. But, hey – at least it’s a short week!

Here are a few more pics from our trip. Feel free to click and enlarge so you can FILL UP YOUR SCREEN WITH PHOTOGRAPHIC GOODNESS!!!


I feel like I’m on a winning streak lately. I should probably head to Nevada or something, huh?

Wait. I’m in Nevada! Hmm…

I suppose it feels like I’ve been winning because, well, I’ve been winning. First there was my company’s fantasy football league. Immediately following the draft in September, you are graded on your picks. I did not fare very well; as a matter of fact, I was projected to lose every single game and finish dead last.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 3.57.22 PM

Err…yeah. That was my plan all along, outsmarting the competition! Actually, as much as I’d love to take credit for being all stealthy like that, it was not my plan at all. I just basically made poor decisions. The above ever-so-helpful proclamation of doom and gloom hardly instilled confidence in my season, but this year instead of sitting back and hoping for the best, I decided to work at putting together the best team I could every week. In the process I turned into a full-blown fantasy football nerd – watching the waiver wire, adding and dropping players, making substitutions, reading the experts’ picks – and put together a winning season. I coasted through the playoffs and felt vindicated when this happened.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.42.29 AM

It doesn’t hurt that I should end up about $200 richer. I guess Christmas didn’t end on the 25th, after all!

Just when that dust had begun to settle and the excitement died down, along came the judging for the office holiday decoration competition. As you may recall, my team and I went a little overboard and turned our work area into a festive Christmas wonderland. And we’re 1/3 Jewish! The judging took place on Wednesday, and we came in first place! But our victory was hardly a landslide: we won by a single vote. Which is funny, because beforehand I had been torn over whether or not to vote for my own display. Glad I overcame my  moral objections and listened to my team. Now we get to share an iTunes gift card. The prize doesn’t even matter so much as the recognition for our hard work. We’re already planning next year’s display. How can we possibly top ourselves? The answer is simple: cardboard walls and cutout windows.

OK, maybe “simple” isn’t the right word.

I am writing this post from Ely, by the way. We left Wednesday afternoon and arrived here around 3:30 on Thursday after spending the night in Nampa, Idaho. Our drive was incredibly scenic – there was snow on the ground the whole way once we hit the Columbia Gorge. And it’s cold as hell, too. How cold, you ask? This cold.

Ely Cold

That was the temperature at midnight. It was even colder first thing this morning. When I lived in South Dakota we had subzero temperatures, but that was 30 years ago. It was so cold I had to skip that walk I’d been planning this morning.

Screenshot 2016-01-01 10.05.10

New Year’s Eve was a blast. Sure beats last year, when I “celebrated” all by myself in a hospital bed. We visited with friends for an hour, then drove to Tara’s grandparents’ house for dinner. Came back to her dad’s place and spent the rest of the night there, drinking and talking and laughing. It was too damn cold to go outside, anyway. Today we’re celebrating her grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary with an open house/pot luck. There’s a turkey in the oven currently (yay! heat!) and there will be lots more food. I’ve been tasked with making guacamole, and Tara is doing deviled eggs. I’m pretty sure nobody will be going hungry today. We’ll probably leave Saturday afternoon, spend the night in Boise, and return home on Sunday. It’ll be nice to enjoy the balmy 35 degrees in Vancouver, WA.

By the way, I broke down and bought the new camera I mentioned in my last post. It’s a Nikon DSLR and I’m really impressed with the photos so far. Here are a couple.



And some (candid/not-so-candid) shots from last night. Happy 2016!




A Whole Bunch of Gottas

Every year, around May or June, I begin to yearn for Christmas. The holidays always feel magical to me, and doubly so when they are so far away and the summer doldrums are about to kick in. There’s a certain anticipation that just builds and builds as the year wears on. I long for the music and the cheer, the lights and the cookies and the blazing fire in the hearth, Clark Griswold and Buddy the Elf and George Bailey realizing that he’s the richest man in Bedford Falls. But the actual season almost never lives up to its early promise, usually turning into a busy blur of commitments instead. I feel like I’m so busy crossing items off the to-do list, I hardly have the time to actually stop and enjoy them. The holidays turn into a whole bunch of “gottas” instead. Gotta mail the cards. Gotta buy the gifts. Gotta plan the meals. Gotta watch The Grinch. And then one day the whole thing is over and I’m left wondering where Christmas went.

Next year will be different, I say to myself every December 26th, vowing to focus on the present rather than the presents the next time around. I tell myself I will “be” instead of “do,” that I will savor each moment as it unfolds instead of being in such a damn hurry to move on to the next thing on my mental checklist.

How very Zen of me.

Very rarely do I succeed, but this year was better than most. True, our cards didn’t get mailed until a couple of days before Christmas – some of our family and friends are probably just now receiving theirs – and we never did get around to our annual dinner at The Rheinlander. But I had a lot more spirit in 2015 than I did last year, no doubt because I felt much more “normal.” One year ago my health was deteriorating and I was days away from a hospital stay, though I did not realize it at the time. As a result, I was more determined than ever to make the holiday season count, because I realized you can never take anything for granted. Corny, but true.


Things were different this year. My aunt in Newberg usually has us over for Christmas Eve but she was out of town, so Tara and I did our own take on the Russian feast she usually puts together. Tara’s pelmini turned out delicious and my stuffed cabbage soup was a surprise hit. My parents and son joined us for that, and we turned around the next day and went to their house for prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans, and cheesecake. Initially my mom wasn’t going to bother with the dessert, reasoning that I wouldn’t eat any, but diabetic-in-remission or not, there was no way I was missing out on cheesecake. Sugar be damned, that’s a once-a-year treat worth the splurge. As far as gifts go, I got Tara a lens for her new camera and some markers for her adult coloring books; I ended up with a whole bunch of clothes that actually fit and a BluRay copy of the Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck, which is freakin’ fantastic, by the way. And a generous Amazon gift card from my folks. I am seriously thinking about getting a new camera myself; there’s a Nikon that I’ve got my eye on, and now that I’ve seen how awesome Tara’s DSLR is, I’d love to take my photos to the next level, too. Still mulling that one over.

Which is Markspeak for I’ll pretend to mull it over for a few days, weighing the pros and cons, but have really already made my mind up and it’s only a matter of pulling the trigger.

Whatever. Don’t judge.

Yesterday Tara and I drove out to McMenamin’s Edgefield to catch the new Star Wars movie. Like everybody else in America we’d been dying to see it, and when Tara suggested doing so in the Power Station Pub, I was all in. There is nothing like being whisked to a galaxy far, far away while enjoying a Bloody Mary and cajun tater tots from the comfort of your theater chair. I’d been judiciously attempting to avoid all spoilers and, while not completely successful in this endeavor, still liked the movie a lot. It’s the perfect blend of action and nostalgia, new characters and old, and they did a great job of capturing both the look and feel of the original series while updating it for the 21st century.

Today we are planning to un-Christmas the apartment. It’ll be another short work week; we are headed to Ely to celebrate both New Year’s and Tara’s grandparents’ 60th anniversary, leaving Wednesday afternoon and returning on Sunday. I was hoping for snow and while it doesn’t look like we’ll see any falling from the sky, there will be plenty on the ground and it will be cold. The temperature in Ely this morning is -12. As in, twelve below zero. I don’t think my body can handle such cold weather anymore, seeing as how I’m usually freezing if it drops below 60 these days.

Too bad Santa didn’t leave any longjohns in my stocking!

It’s Kale, I Swear!

Tara and I took a walk to Chuck’s Produce yesterday to stock up on healthy snacks. For some bizarre reason that escapes me, I saw kale chips on the shelf and thought, yum! I have no idea what I was thinking, as I’d never even had kale chips before.

Hello, impulse shopper! Right? You have no idea how many weird things I have purchased over the years just because they happened to be in my line of vision when I was waiting in the checkout line. I’m the type of guy who would buy a leaf blower if I lived in the desert. And then I’d justify it by blowing all the tumbleweeds into the next yard vast tract of cactus-riddled empty space. So, yeah. Is it any wonder I suddenly had to have those kale chips?!

Let’s just say I wish I’d left them on the shelf. Even the fact that they are “lava Sriracha” flavored does not rescue these bad boys from being a taste disaster. Fresh kale is pretty bitter and bland to begin with. Freeze-drying it improves neither the flavor nor the consistency. It actually resembles a plastic tub full of weed (which, given the legality of recreational marijuana in Washington and Oregon these days, would not be an entirely ludicrous assumption…but don’t worry, mom. It’s kale, I swear). So, in case you are unclear, I am not a fan of the kale chips.


But I am a fan of Somersaults. These “crunchy nuggets baked with sunflower seeds and toasted grains” taste much better than they sound. Especially the Dutch Cocoa flavor. They’ve got just one gram of sugar and are low enough in carbs and high enough in fiber and protein (“as much as almonds with half the fat”) that I can enjoy them guilt-free. I’m also a fan of Skinny Pop popcorn, Snapea Crisps, Blue Diamond almonds, and anything with the word Kashi in it.

Hard to believe I’m the same guy who used to go to town on bacon.

It’s also hard to believe that Christmas is this week! I’ve definitely had more spirit than last year (gee, ya think?!) when, unbeknownst to me, I was suffering from health problems and days away from an ER visit/hospital stay. We are mixing up traditions this year – normally, my aunt has us over to her place on Christmas Eve for a Russian dinner and celebration, but they will be out of town so Tara and I are going to be hosting at our place instead. She did a test run last weekend and her pelmini turned out delicious, so I’m confident that we’ll be able to pull this off. The following week, we are going to Ely for New Year’s. We hadn’t planned another Nevada trip, but her grandparents are celebrating their 60th anniversary and we figured that was kinda important, you know? Not many couples make it through six decades of wedded bliss.

I’m just hoping for snow. My last two New Year’s trips to Ely were busts in the weather department; it’d be nice to see some of the white stuff this time around. Nothing exciting like that going on around here, just rain (lots of it – PDX just broke the record for wettest month ever at 13.52″ and another 10 days to go) and wind (lots of that, too – big windstorm forecast for this afternoon).