I’m pretty much an expert

I’ve never really liked doing electrical work, and that was reinforced lately when I attempted to install some motion-sensor switches only to fail utterly (partly because the switches sucked). But my to-do list isn’t getting shorter, so today I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. I installed some dimmer switches, which are really nice in certain areas and generally simple to install.

Then I then headed to the garage. In there we have ten eight-foot fluorescent bulbs in gigantic baffles, all sucking down a huge amount of power whenever we turn on the garage lights. Of course I have to change them all to LEDs. Unlike the other bulbs throughout the house, it’s not as simple as just replacing the bulbs… I had to remove the fluorescent power supplies and bypass them. After a bit of reading online and a YouTube video or two, I was ready. I went to work and a little over an hour later, our garage was lit with LEDs.

(Shout out to Pepper, who spent some time today organizing the garage, which until today had been kind of a mess with all our moving stuff. Also shout out to Thom, who suggested I buy wire cutters and a live-wire tester, both of which are turning out to be tremendously useful.)

These lights are amazing. Not only are they crazy bright, but you can rotate the bulbs to throw light in specific directions (unlike fluorescents, which waste a lot of light shining upward). So I turned them for better coverage, and the result looks great.

Despite my general incompetence at electrical projects, I feel like I’m gradually getting the hang of them. Pretty soon I’ll be an expert!


Yesterday, Pepper and I went to the Big K (aka Kalispell) to see a movie, do some shopping, and enjoy dinner together. Since all of the restaurants are basically new to us, we have to just test them one by one to find the good ones. We chose an Italian place. It was awesome.

They even had real flowers on the table, which happened to match her pullover!

Turn at the big head

Despite our new mailbox, it’s still tricky to find our house, so we’re thinking of ideas about something we could put alongside the road as a landmark. Pepper mused that we could get a life-size Easter Island statue and just tell people to “turn at the big head”. Of course you can buy such a thing:

Unfortunately they’re around a thousand bucks, which is more than I’d like to spend to help people find the house…

Last day on the water

A few days ago, the temperature was almost 60, so we decided to take the jet skis out one last time before winterizing them. Although it was cloudy, the sun peeked through now and then to make it a beautiful fall day. Considering it’s mid-October, we counted ourselves lucky to get out on the water. And since the wind was calm, the water was really smooth.

The other times we’d been out, the water was choppy and we were forced to “wave hop”, not getting much above 20mph. This time we could really open the throttles; I topped out at 43mph while Pepper managed to get to 47mph (her jet ski is slightly upgraded compared with mine).

We crossed the lake to the western shore and stopped in at Wild Horse Island, which is the largest island on Flathead Lake and home to (surprise!) wild horses. Most of the island is a state park, although there are some private residences along the shore. We went on a short hike.

We also cruised past Cromwell Island, just to the west. It’s completely private and the owner has an enormous mansion (visible on the far right):

It was a blast to cruise across such beautifully smooth water. I’m glad we had one last opportunity before it’s too cold, and I’m excited for the spring season when we can get our toys out again.

Tom and Goldberry

It’s official. Ben and Rachel came up with my all-time favorite Halloween costumes this year.

For those heathens who don’t recognize these two, it’s Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry, from The Lord of the Rings. Tom is an enigmatic character who is as awesome as he is confusing. And honestly, Ben is the only person I know who could pull this off so well.


I admit, it was a little weird to move into a house that didn’t have a mailbox. I guess I kind of figured everyone has a mailbox, but in this case, the former owner didn’t. That meant when we’d give directions to our house, we’d have to say things like “our driveway is across the street from the red van”. Yes, the red van. But a couple weeks ago, the red van– which had been parked there literally since March– was gone! So now our directions became, “our driveway is across the street from the mailbox that has a lawnmower sitting on it”. Yes, a lawnmower. Sitting on the mailbox.

But finally we bought a mailbox and a post. We talked with George, our mailman, and had the utility companies spray-paint the area so we know where the conduits are, and installed an honest-to-goodness mailbox.

Now maybe we can tell people “it’s 20826” and that’ll be good enough.

O Canada

On Tuesday, Pepper and I drove up to Canada. We figured heck, it’s right there.

No, really we went up to attend the temple. The nearest temple to us is in Cardston, Alberta– a drive of a little more than three hours. It was built a hundred years ago, and dedicated in 1920.

After crossing into Canada, I had to switch my car to metric, so naturally I felt like I was flying along the highway when in fact I wasn’t going very fast at all.

Cardston is a small town of roughly 3,500 people. They have about half a dozen restaurants, including the iconic A&W. Apparently A&W is to Canada what Subway is to America: pretty much everywhere. We had lunch there, and I remembered why it’s been about two decades since I ate at A&W. The burger was, in a word, “meh”.

After spending some time in the temple, we stopped by to visit Grandma Claudia.

She lives across the street from the temple, and her granddaughter Cindy is a good friend of mine back in Longmont. Months ago, when Cindy heard that we were moving to Montana, she told us her grandma lived up in Cardston, so we figured we should meet her. We had a fun visit and chatted for a while. She told us she was sorry she hadn’t prepared dinner for us, but that we were welcome back any time. So now we have a new Canadian friend!

On the way home, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous.

The long line of mountains is the eastern edge of Waterton National Park in Canada, which becomes Glacier National Park when you cross the border. Now that winter is approaching, some of the high roads are closed, but we’re excited to visit both parks in the spring and summer to explore all those majestic peaks.


Today, we didn’t have anything really pressing to do around the house (for a change) so we decided to take advantage of the nice fall weather and explore the area a bit. People tell us about local landmarks, but we have no idea where they are, so we figured we need to start getting the lay of the land.

First we stopped at the house of our new friend Allen, who lives about a mile down the road. We needed to borrow a post-hole digger to install our mailbox, and he happened to have one. He was picking apples from his orchard when we arrived, and for the next forty-five minutes he took us on a tour of his orchard, houses, boathouse, and dock. Some of the houses on his property were built in 1913; the newest was in 1996. A massive tree crashed through the roof in the Great Windstorm last month, crushing one of the trusses. I guess we were fortunate to just have some damaged gutters and shingles.

Anyway, Allen took us down to the dock and the magnificent view of the lake. I snapped a few photos.

When he asked (as many people do) why we moved to Flathead Lake, I told him about our trip to the area back in 2001. At some point we found a dock alongside the road, and walked down to it. I distinctly remembered Alex and Kyra having a great time running along it:

Since that day in 2001, I’ve been thinking about living here, and now it’s happened!

After our tour, he gave us a big box full of fresh-picked apples (which were delicious) and of course the post-hole digger. We thanked him and headed up the highway. I saw a field of cattails and decided to stop.

Most of them had already “exploded”, spreading their seeds, but Pepper grabbed one that was ripe and particularly plump. It’s a lot of fun to squeeze it and blow the seeds everywhere.

We continued north, eventually reaching Echo Lake. Several people had told us about it, and we wanted to see how it compares to Flathead Lake. It’s quite picturesque:

Houses line the entire shore of the lake (which is pretty small, at least in comparison to Flathead Lake). The water was very still, which made for some pretty reflections:

After walking around for a bit, we drove through the forest and eventually turned out at a hiking trail alongside Flathead Lake. Part of the trail wound down to the shoreline, where we watched the sun drop toward the horizon.

Now we know a little more about the area, and enjoyed a gorgeous fall day. Mission accomplished.


Since it’s Halloween season, I bought a bag of Tootsie Pops at Walmart the other day. When I opened the bag, I was horrified.

Green Tootsie Pops? What the heck flavor is that? I mean, brown is bad enough (no one likes the brown Tootsie Pops) but green is terrible. What’s the world coming to?