Study in blue

The Lake was looking particularly blue this evening…

Howdy, neighbors

Coming home from town today, I was just about to turn into our driveway when a mama black bear sauntered across the road right in front of my car. Her three little cubs followed.

My photo is terrible because I had to grab my phone and shoot through the windshield, so I only caught the last two cubs before they disappeared into the trees.

They were all headed uphill toward the national forest (and my house!) but I didn’t see them again when I pulled up to the garage. I told Pepper about them; she just shrugged. “They’re only black bears.” Yeah, I guess it’s the grizzlies we need to worry about.

To the stars, horribly

Pepper and I went to see Ad Astra last night. That’s Latin for “to the stars”, and the plot synopsis sounds really cool:

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

Wow, the survival of our planet! The nature of human existence! And our place in the cosmos! That seems really interesting and, dare I say, epic.

But, alas, the movie was awful. It was boring, plodding, didn’t uncover any secrets, and ended on a slightly positive but completely nonsensical note. If I had to rewrite the synopsis, it might sound something like this (warning, spoilers):

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to talk some sense into his insane, murderous father. His journey will involve sabotage, killing innocent people, crazy baboons, and eventually a pointless conversation with his long-lost dad, who promptly commits suicide.

What a waste of two hours and fifteen bucks. I think even Brad Pitt is still looking around to see if he can find something meaningful in this movie.


One thing I’ve been working on at the new house is replacing all of the old incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. It feels like a herculean task because there are so many lights here… the party room alone has 42 floods! But I love the satisfaction of removing these gigantic heavy bulbs and replacing them with smaller, lighter, far more energy-efficient ones:

The old one on the left draws 90 watts of power. The new LED one on the right gives off just as much light for 8.5 watts. That’s an order of magnitude less power. Multiply by 42, and our parties won’t break the bank on the electric bill any more!

Of course, there’s an up-front cost as I buy a couple hundred LED bulbs, but theoretically they should last the entire time we live here (and then some), so I won’t have to change another bulb, ever. Definitely worth it.

Cosmo and Pepper

When I sit back and reflect on this whole move to Montana, I can’t help but realize everything about it is crazy. We didn’t really have a compelling reason to move at all. We left behind friends, a place we loved, activities we loved, a nice house, and basically our entire lives. Not only that, we moved to a remote area, miles from a town and thousands of miles from family. We bought a house that’s far too big for the two of us (everyone assumes we “downsized” now that we don’t have kids living with us). And along the way we bought a car, a pair of jet skis, and gave away almost all of our furniture. Oh, and I quit my job.


I figure it’s a weird mid-life crisis or something. At least, as Laralee pointed out, I didn’t leave her for a younger woman. Or buy a super-expensive sports car. In fact, as far as mid-life crises go, it’s been a darn good time. She and I are going through all this craziness together, and she’s arguably doing the majority of the planning for it.

As long as we’re hitting the big red “reset” button on our lives, we decided to assume new identities along the way. Now that we’re in Montana, we’re no longer Jeff and Laralee. We’re Cosmo and Pepper.


It all came about a few weeks ago, when she and I were sitting on the couch in our family room (the couch is the only piece of furniture we actually kept, unless you count a piano as furniture). Most of our house was packed up, so we didn’t have much to do as we waited for Moving Day. She turned to me and said, “What if we come up with new names for ourselves in Montana?” I was a little taken aback, but it sounded like a fun idea. Perhaps more surprisingly, it was an idea coming from her. Most of the time I’m the one who thinks up the strange things we say or do. So I nodded, and she followed up with, “I think I’ll be Pepper. What will your name be?”

I wasn’t really ready for that, so I thought on it and eventually came up with Cosmo. We laughed about it, not sure how serious we were, but I think both of us were toying with it in our minds, wondering if we could pull it off. I mean, those are some fairly weird names, and unlike pretty much every nickname in the world, there’s not a story behind them or a long history or some reason we can say “Oh yeah, everyone calls me Cosmo.”

Fast forward a few weeks, and we arrived in Montana. The first time we’d meet people in the area would be at church, the day after we moved into the house. As we were driving to church that Sunday morning, I asked “Are you sure we’re doing this? Because once we introduce ourselves, we’re committed.” She agreed, and we walked in the doors and officially became Cosmo and Pepper. Sure enough, we introduced ourselves that way and a few people raised an eyebrow, but we went with it. When I called contractors to come to the house for some projects, or set up an order at Home Depot, I was Cosmo. And so on.

So here we are. We’re committed. Thom asked how “serious” we were, like whether we’d use those names on our bank accounts or legal documents. Nope, these are just nicknames. For financial and legal and “official” stuff, we’ll still be Jeff and Laralee because we’re not going to actually change our names. But to everyone else, I just smile and say “Oh yeah, everyone calls me Cosmo.”

House projects

With some help and advice from Thom last week, I made progress on a few house projects. I’ve learned that I’m pretty much an idiot when it comes to electrical wiring. After two failed attempts to wire a sensor switch, I finally gave up and walked away.

Of course that leaves things like this…

Ahh, there’s nothing like some live wires hanging out of the wall where a switch used to be…

Mistriss of the chainsaw

We were considering how to handle the fallen trees laying across our yard and against our house. Thom and Katie grabbed our little electric chainsaw and went to work trimming branches off the one against the house. After a bit of work and some planning, we were able to get it off the house with only minor additional damage to the gutters.

During the ordeal, La was thinking “Hey, that’s my chainsaw… I’d like to give it a go.” So afterward, she grabbed it and started hacking at one of the fallen trees in the front yard.

She made short work of the smaller branches, and then managed to cut the trunk into a series of chunks. Now we have a nice stack of firewood!

Throughout all of this, we realized that since we literally live in a forest, we should probably get a serious chainsaw instead of this little limb-trimmer. Now we’re shopping for something bigger…


I found this guy sitting on a mushroom in our yard. That’s gotta be the biggest slug I’ve ever seen.

Adult kids

It’s fun to have kids. And in some ways it’s even more fun to have adult kids. We had a great time seeing Alex, Kyra, and Kaitlyn last week.

Water like glass

The last time (well, the first time) we took our jet skis on the lake, the water was pretty choppy. We couldn’t really open up the throttle because we were banging against the waves every ten feet or so. But today I noticed the water was really smooth. Some parts farther out were so calm they looked like glass.

As the sun set, it was gorgeous.

It’s still hard to believe this is the view from my front porch. Pretty awesome.