A fitting end

As 2020 winds down, Pepper and I decided to end it in style. We headed over to Blacktail Mountain to try out our new snowshoes. It was a beautiful snowy day.

With all the snow on the trees, everything felt like shades of black and white…

After a good hike, we stopped at Tamarack Brewing, an excellent local restaurant.

With a hearty dinner in our bellies, we sat for a while in the hot tub and looked out over the snowy forest around us. Finally we relaxed on the couch with a big blanket and watched a movie.

Just for fun, I spent a little time drawing “our New Year’s Eve together”. Maybe someday it’ll make a nice children’s book.

It was a great end to the year, and we’re both looking forward (as is most of the world, I suspect) to 2021. Happy new year.

Urban photography

As we wandered the streets of Provo during Christmas week, I thought it would be fun to take some “urban art” photos. I didn’t have my real camera with me, so my phone stepped up. With a little post-processing, I think they turned out kind of cool.

We finished our walk with a stop at the bakery for some delicious doughnuts.

A very Provo Christmas

Kyra had to work during the Christmas break, and Alex and Kaitlyn headed to her parents’ house for Christmas, and Zaque is on a mission in Oklahoma. Since no one was coming to Montana to hang out with us, we thought it would be a blast to head down to Provo, Utah and spend the week with Kyra.

It turns out we were right! Her roommates had all left for the holiday break, and our plans to stay with relatives fell through (thanks, covid), so we crashed at her apartment with a sweet inflatable air mattress bed. We spent the days walking around the BYU campus and the town, playing board games, watching movies, and of course opening Christmas gifts.

We found a fountain that was creating frozen foam. Yeah, pretty cool. It looks like bubbles or foam in the picture, but it was actually ice. Very, very thin ice.

We also took a moment to watch the Great Conjunction, where Jupiter and Saturn met in the twilight sky. Without any real equipment or even a zoom lens, this is the best I could do:

Provo has a cool store called Good Move where you can spend a few hours eating food and playing board games. They claim to have a thousand games, and indeed there were a lot, but I’m not sure there were that many.

Pepper quickly grew bored of the games (she’s just not a big gamer) so she walked back to the apartment while Kyra and I spent a few hours playing. We probably wasted 30-40 minutes attempting to set up and play Dice Forge, but the rulebook– or rather rule sheet— was so convoluted we literally couldn’t figure out how to play.

So we gave up and tried Kingdomino, which proved to be a bunch of fun.

Our Christmas loot was a small pile, but loaded with fun. Kyra was thrilled to open her phone screen protector…

… because it meant one of her other gifts was the phone itself. She’s been using a pretty old low-end one for a few years, and was happy to finally upgrade to something modern. Well, not entirely modern; I bought a model that’s several years old, because it’s just silly to buy a brand new late-model phone these days.

I ended up with a couple of nice shirts. One was from Eddie Bauer (well, not Eddie himself, but from Mom and Dad).

And the other was from Kyra, who had the bright idea of custom-printing a shirt with one of my comics on it, Squirrel Suit Guy.

Pepper ended up with a ukelele from me, since she’s shopping for a hobby and seemed interested in Zaque’s.

Then, of course, in keeping with Christmas tradition we had take-out sushi for lunch.

I’m kidding. Who has take-out sushi on Christmas Day? Apparently my wife and daughter. I enjoyed some grilled cheese instead.

We had an opportunity for a video call with Zaque, and wow that hair

I’m pretty sure that’s not “mission appropriate” but with covid, haircuts are a weird business and apparently he’s been able to slip it through the administrative cracks. Kyra’s internet connection kept barfing, leading to many moments during the call that looked like this (notice all of us laughing in the corner):

We made some homemade pizza and celebrated the holiday with some bubbly. When Kyra opened it, the foam exploded all over the table. As a college student, she’s learned not to waste good food, and that led to this.

Not surprisingly, the week was a grand time. Merry Christmas to all.

Contractors, sigh

If there’s one common thread in all the house projects we’ve pursued this year, it’s been that contractors are really, really busy. The latest victim is our solar contractor, who kept delaying our installation until we’ve now reached a point where the weather will make it impossible to install the panels until late spring.

That leaves us with a garage with twenty thousand dollars’ worth of solar panels…

I suppose we wouldn’t generate that much power from the winter sun anyway, but it’s disappointing to have to wait until six months after our planned installation date…

Christmas card fame

This year’s Christmas card wasn’t my finest work, but it did seem fitting…

Not that it shows, but it took a considerable amount of time to build my zombie army in the background. I had to find a bunch of pictures of zombies (thank goodness for the internet!) as well as a run-down building. Then everything had to be composited, colors adjusted, shadows fixed, and so on. The “toast” from our photo shoot was the crowning touch. My new tablet actually made a lot of it a ton easier.

Several people have commented on it, saying they found it pretty funny. Apparently Zaque wasn’t entirely impressed, though, because he told me today he didn’t think it was “as good as other years”. Yeah, thanks for the support, kiddo.

That said, his mission companion and a few other missionaries down in Oklahoma saw it and thought it was a masterpiece. And now they’ve decided to make a card to share with the mission (featuring three sets of missionaries) and told Zaque he should ask me to do it. So there, kiddo!

He had two photos for each pair: one “normal” and one humorous. I slapped everything together into a fairly vanilla card:

But I felt like there was something missing. I went to work.

Yes, much better! Apparently they’re going to head over to Walgreens and print a bunch of these to hand out to people. Hah!

Northern glow

Last night was the peak of a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) which was expected to intensify the aurora borealis so it could be visible as far south as Montana and Minnesota. Having never seen the Northern Lights before, I was excited at the prospect. It’s been cloudy for a few days, but yesterday was quite clear so it seemed like good viewing conditions.

I went out around 7pm when it was pretty dark, but couldn’t really see anything. Again at 11pm; still nothing. Then I got out of bed at 1:30am and peered out the window. There was a distinctive green glow on the northern horizon!

Unfortunately Kalispell is also to the north, so the city lights kind of spoiled the horizon. But now I can say I’ve seen the Northern Lights… well, kind of a greenish Northern Glow, anyway.

Playing the long game

Today I played my second game of Twilight Imperium with some friends. To be more exact, I should say it was my second half-game… we played for five hours straight and only completed two and a half turns.

That was about half the game. We finally had to call it, which was unfortunate because I was just about to make my Big Move. It may be the longest and most complicated board game I’ve ever played. But it’s a ton of fun. Of course we’ll be playing again next week.

Dark side and light side

Today, driving along Flathead Lake, I was struck by the dark, brooding clouds hanging over “our” side of the lake. Seven miles away, across the water, it was sunny with blue skies. The water was dark and frothing from the wind, and a gorgeous blue on the other side.

The picture doesn’t really do it justice. But, as always, I’m entranced by the beauty of this area.

Starts with an “M”

Today I was driving along the highway and thought of something I needed to do. Something terribly important. Something that started with the letter “M”. Since I was driving, I didn’t want to add it to my to-do list (on my phone) so I grabbed a pen from the console of my car and scribbled a little “M” on the back of my hand. That’ll remind me, I thought, so when I get home I can formally add it to my list.

I got home. I noticed my hand. And I have no idea whatsoever what it could be. All I know is it starts with “M”.

So if any of you, my four or five loyal readers, can think of something I need to do that starts with “M”, please let me know.