Moving On

This blog has been around a long time now. Over eight years, to be exact. It’s been a constant companion through many ups and downs in my life and is chock full of memories. Some good, some bad. I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to chronicle my life here.

Don’t worry, I’m not “quitting.” But I am making some changes.

A few months ago, I decided to tie this blog in with my website/portfolio. Having done so, I would like to give it a more professional feel and shift its focus to business-related articles, and maybe even a little fiction now and then. Gotta showcase my skills a little better, and doing so on a platform with my name makes the most sense.

But blogging is in my blood, so you’re not getting rid of me that easily. I’ve started a brand new blog and invite you to bookmark it and follow along, if you’d like.

I’m calling it Raincoats to Parkas. Just click the link and hit subscribe to follow along, or copy and paste the URL if you’re into doing things manually: https://swingedcat.com/.

I’ve already got a post up that will explain what a “swinged cat” is.

2018 is a year of change for me and Tara, and the new blog embraces that. I’m going to focus on what it’s like to uproot your whole life and start fresh in a brand new part of the country. It’s going to be quite the journey, and I would love it if you followed along!

I’m going to immerse myself into the new blog more than I’ve done so here. You can expect more frequent and a wider variety of posts. Random thoughts, inspiring quotes, interesting articles I stumble upon. And photos, of course.

Are you ready?

Let’s go!

Guilty of Anthropomorphizing

Tara and I were shopping for groceries last week and I sort of freaked out because she was grabbing cans of cat food from the shelf and throwing them into the cart without even looking at the flavors.

“What are you doing?!” I shrieked inquired.

“Buying cat food?” she said, turning a declaration into a question the way that people do when they think the answer should be plainly obvious to the person with whom they are conversing. And then, adding insult to injury: “It’s on the list?”

As much as I adore my wife, I realized in that moment that she was doing it all wrong.

“You’re doing it all wrong!” I said.

“How so?” she asked.

I rifled through the cans, showing them to her. “You’ve got chicken, chicken in gravy, and chicken pate,” I pointed out.

“And…?”

“Sydney needs variety!”

“I really don’t think Sydney gives a damn what she’s eating. She’ll wolf down whatever we put in her bowl.”

“That may be so,” I conceded, “But she won’t enjoy it as much. She cares! I know she does!”

In that moment, I realized I was guilty of anthropomorphizing. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, anthropomorphization – besides containing about a million and a half syllables – is the act of attributing human traits to non-human entities. For instance, you might think a daffodil is sad when it’s raining. Or that a cat will get bored eating the same old thing day after day.

 

Recognizing I was guilty of this did not, however, stop me from switching out several of the chicken flavors for beef and tuna.

You’re welcome, Sydney.

I’m curious if anybody else with a pet feels the way I do?


This past weekend, we crossed another item off our Farewell Tour with a two-night stay on the Oregon coast. Our list is now 38.4% complete. With 144 days until we move, give or take a few, I’d say we’re in good shape.

We both took a PTO day on Friday and were on the road by late morning. We took the scenic route over the Coast Range and through Tillamook, stopping at a couple of farm stores along the way to stock up on cheese, mustard, artichoke dip and other essentials. It rained most of the way, but check-in wasn’t until 3:00 so we were in no hurry. Once we hit Lincoln City and settled into our oceanfront room, we drove to the outlet stores and Tara bought herself a nice winter coat for South Dakota. We’re both prepared for whatever cold weather Mother Nature sends our way next winter! After dropping off our purchases, we walked a half-mile to a dive bar on the main drag and killed several hours with drinks and bar food. There was quite the eclectic crowd there: early on it was all rowdy locals, but they cleared out and were replaced by  out-of-towners like us. Tara loaded up the jukebox with some great tunes and we rocked out before calling it an evening.

Saturday was a full day that included a three-mile hike to Drift Creek Falls; Bloody Marys and sandwiches at a steakhouse in Newport; a long walk on the beach; a couple rounds of Cribbage in the room; and a delicious seafood dinner at Pier 101, our favorite restaurant on the coast. It was bittersweet, knowing we won’t get to enjoy their chowder again for a long time to come, but that’s the price to pay for a brand new adventure.

Sunday morning we again walked on the beach in search of glass floats but came away empty. At least the fresh salt air was invigorating. After checking out we grabbed breakfast at Pig ‘n Pancake, as is our tradition, before making the two-hour trek home. Arrived with an hour to spare before the Super Bowl. Great game, by the way. Yay, Eagles!! (And thank you, dad, for not taking that bet. I didn’t want the Patriots to win…I just figured it was inevitable. I’m happy to have been proven wrong).

Here are some pics from our weekend getaway.

Typical grey and gloomy coast weather.
Great place to stay – every room has an oceanfront view.
The Old Oregon Saloon: hippies are welcome!
We always stop at Barnacle Bill’s for fresh seafood.
Drift Creek Falls trailhead.
The moss looks like curtains draped across this section of forest. That should tell you how much rain the place gets.
This suspension bridge is not for the faint of heart.
…but what a payoff if you’re brave enough to cross it!

Ricotta is the New Avocado

I came across an article in a cooking magazine recently that touted ricotta as the new avocado. I personally think there is nothing wrong with the “old” avocado – it’s versatile, delicious, and healthy – but I’m also buds with ricotta and always down for a little variety, so I decided to buy some and give a couple of their ricotta toast recipes a whirl. Or maybe I fancy myself a bit of a trendsetter? In any case, I’d only ever really eaten ricotta in lasagna, and it had been a while because Tara is not a ricotta fan and always substitutes cottage cheese when she makes hers. Yeah, I know: blasphemy.

That’s a lotta ricotta! (Image courtesy of foodnetwork.com)

Not that you really need a recipe for toast, of course. How hard is it to stick a couple of slices of bread in your toaster and press a button? But it’s all about the toppings. I toasted up some Franz 24 Grains & Seeds bread, topped it with ricotta cheese, a drizzle of honey, and a bit of crushed pistachio “nutmeats” from Trader Joe’s, and dug in. It’s good – that touch of honey adds a nice, sweet contrast and really brings out the flavors – but ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to replace avocado.

Because ricotta guacamole will never, ever be a “thing.”


Tara mentioned recently that she’d heard there were ICBM missiles in North Dakota. I told her that yes, this was true, and furthermore when we lived in South Dakota, Ellsworth AFB was a part of the Strategic Air Command and home to nuclear warheads, as well. I was pretty sure the missile silos had long since been emptied out though, and my dad confirmed that yes, all the Minuteman missiles had been removed by 1994. I trust I’m not divulging military secrets  since this information is readily available on Wikipedia, but if I suddenly disappear without a trace in the next few days the military is behind it.

At least we know that Rapid City is an unlikely target for North Korea.

Minot, on the other hand? Let’s just say I hope they are practicing their duck-and-cover drills up there.

Such a weird life it was, growing up on an Air Force base that housed nuclear warheads during the height of the Cold War. Tara wondered if I was ever scared. Honestly, I never gave it much thought, though when “Red Dawn” came out in 1984 I will admit, it freaked me the hell out. For a time there I kept an eye on the sky lest any black-clad paratroopers dropped to the earth branding Kalishnikovs.

Can’t get a decent Big Mac in Moscow, I guess.

So weird to be moving back to a place that is 10 miles away from where I spent my formative high school years. Weird sort of homecoming, to be sure.


In preparation for the move, I signed up for a digital subscription to the Rapid City Journal several months ago. It had been years since I’d had a newspaper subscription of any kind, which makes me wonder if I’m secretly adopted because my dad spends approximately three hours every day combing through the newspaper. A real one, I should add; the kind that blackens your fingertips with newsprint. In any case, I figured it would be a good idea to bone up on the local scene prior to getting out there so we don’t look like total rubes.

It’s been a very entertaining read. If you’re wondering what’s going on in Rapid City these days, the answer is: lots of chili cook-offs.

Seriously. There’s a new one every third day! 

There are bigger issues, too. But they are definitely more Midwest-centric. Now I know all about the controversial use of dicamba, an agricultural herbicide, for instance. And the fact that Trump’s new tax bill favors farmers who sell to co-ops, which means many companies, both large and small, could end up paying more for crops. Random shit like that which I never paid any attention to before.

Locally, the biggest story over the past few months has been the escape (and subsequent recapture) of two bear cubs from Bear Country USA in Rapid City.

I find their news refreshingly wholesome, at least compared to all the robberies and murders and hit-and-runs that make up the majority of our headlines.

All Drizzle, No Sizzle

Normally when the clock strikes midnight and we usher in a new year, things don’t feel all that different. Most years, there is little change. Tomorrow will look like yesterday. Next Christmas will look like this past Christmas. And so forth, and so on.

2018 is going to be the exception.

Because the moment the ball dropped in Times Square and the television was plastered with images of swirling confetti and Mariah Carey beaming triumphantly – hey, she didn’t screw up this year! – I kissed Tara, wished her a happy 2018, and said, “Holy shit. Our whole lives are changing  this year!” And then I remarked that Mariah Carey must be awfully cold in that skimpy outfit of hers, but by then I’d made my point.

When the ball drops in Times Square in another 364 days, everything will be different for us.

This impending move has always felt far off and distant. Unreal, almost. Like it was something that involved two other people, characters in a novel perhaps, packing up stakes and heading to the midwest for an adventurous new start. A plunge off an abyss into the great unknown. But this morning, boy does it suddenly feel real. Very “in your face.” We can no longer say this is happening next year. It’s this year, baby. My countdown timer tells me it’s 180 days away. More so than ever before, the turning of the calendar page coincides with the feeling that we have turned a corner. I know it’s all psychological, of course. Today we are physically only one day closer to leaving than we were yesterday. But it sure feels a lot nearer all of a sudden.

Shit just got real, yo.

But bring it on! I am ready. This morning my uncle Tom commented on Facebook, “It’s -6 in Rapid City this morning.” My reply? “I know! Nice and brisk!” I mean, what else can I say? The cold doesn’t scare me. Half the country is mired in a deep freeze anyway. Besides, the days are already growing longer now. Spring is coming, and once that season is over and done with, so are we.

That ticking clock grows louder with each passing second.


We spent the final day of 2017 hiking in Silver Falls State Park, about a 90-minute drive to the south. It was a chilly, foggy day, with lots of mist and drizzle, but that didn’t stop us from hiking 4.5 miles and seeing half a dozen waterfalls. It’s a beautiful park and was on our farewell tour list, so that’s one more item to cross off.

Then we caught the most gorgeous sunset just as we were leaving; it lit up the whole sky in vibrant shades of pink, orange, red, and gold. If that was 2017’s last hurrah, it was a doozy.

We detoured into Portland to pick up Chinese food on our way home, but the restaurant was packed and they didn’t put any sizzling rice in our sizzling rice soup, a fact we did not discover until we got home. To her credit, Tara did not say “I told you so,” even though she asked me to check our order when they handed me the paper to-go bag and I confidently said, “Feels like it’s all there, babe!” As if rice has any heft to it whatsoever.

Reminds me of an incident in high school where I ordered a hamburger from the cafeteria and discovered, upon setting my tray down, that the lunch lady had given me a bun but no meat. I was a bit shy back then, so rather than letting her know my burger was burger-less, I simply squirted a little extra ketchup onto the bun and pretended I was vegetarian for one hour. True story.

But I digress.

The rest of the evening was spent listening to records and playing cards. We didn’t get nearly as wild as I thought we would, and Tara kept nodding off, exhausted after our hike. We managed to make it to the aforementioned ball drop and then called it a night.

The remainder of the holiday weekend is sort of a blur. We went out to brunch, hit a couple of record stores and added some great albums to our collection, went to Shanahan’s. Not all on the same day. Oh, we packed up all the Christmas decorations and put them back in the garage. It was a little strange, driving through Silverton, Oregon yesterday and seeing all these houses with lights on and Christmas trees still displayed in the windows. I told Tara when we have a house of our own, I might be more inclined to keep the decorations up longer.

That house, by the way? It’s possible we could be sitting inside it one year from now. You never know.

May all your wishes come true in 2018.

May All Your Christmases Be White

Yesterday was my Monday, and today is my Friday. Too bad every workweek can’t be just like this one.

It’s still hard to fathom that Christmas has come and gone. Every year there’s so much buildup, and then it’s over in a flash. The holiday felt extra special this year, because we ended up with a rare white Christmas. How rare, you ask? Portland has only experienced a white Christmas six times since 1884.

Last Friday I took a PTO day and drove myself into Portland while Tara was busy at work. Even though it was cold and damp, I spent a few hours walking around the city, admiring the sights and sounds of the holiday season. Like the Santa Clones display, a collection of 350 plastic Santas hidden somewhere in the city every year.

And Portland’s official Christmas tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

But my favorite sight of all might have been this amazing Char Siu Reuben sandwich from Lardo. Shout out to our foodie friend Kara for this delicious lunch suggestion.

We spent Saturday in Tacoma, visiting Tracy and family. While my pork carnitas were cooking in the crockpot, we whiled away the day drinking, snacking, and playing cards. I only left the apartment once, to walk across the street and buy a sorry-looking pair of limes from the corner convenience store. The clerk was nice enough to sell them to me for half price, which gives you some idea just how pathetic they were. When a mini-mart starts discounting their produce you know it’s waaaay past its prime. In any case we had a very nice visit, and ended up opening Christmas gifts that afternoon rather than waiting until the next day as planned. We could blame this on Anthony, who at five yeas old might reasonably be expected to want to tear into his presents early, but he was too preoccupied with video games to give much thought to anything else. Nope; this was a case of impatient adults. Dinner was a hit, and afterwards we watched Home Alone. I’d ordered it on BluRay for Tara, who had been looking for it in stores without success.

Sunday morning Tracy made biscuits and gravy for breakfast while I kept checking the weather on my phone. Snow hadn’t been in the forecast – they were expecting rain, sleet, or freezing rain instead – but Mother Nature never asks for permission, does she? My mom texted me pics of the surprise snowfall in Vancouver, and then my aunt Nancy in Newberg, Oregon cancelled our planned Christmas Eve dinner at her house because of deteriorating traffic conditions, so I was anxious to hit the road. We finally did, a few minutes after noon, following a quick stop at a Safeway in Lacey to pick up some groceries for dinner. The place was a madhouse, as you might expect. Back on the interstate, it started snowing just south of Olympia and continued the whole way home. As much as I enjoy our annual “ethnic Christmas Eve feast” at Nancy’s house – a meal that usually consists of pelmeni, borscht, and cabbage rolls to honor our Eastern European heritage – sipping wine and watching Christmas movies while wrapped in a cozy blanket at home, watching the snow fall outside, was pretty nice.

Christmas morning, we awoke to snow on the ground. It wasn’t a lot, only about an inch, but it sure made the holiday feel extra festive. The roads were coated in ice and too treacherous to drive on safely, so we cancelled our planned breakfast with my parents and hung out with Audrey instead, opening gifts. The temperature never climbed above 34, but roads thawed out enough to allow us to go to my parents’ house for dinner, where we had the usual prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans, and cheesecake. Good stuff.

Less than 24 hours later, all the Christmas decorations were packed away save for the tree. I know there are a lot of people who like to keep their decorations up well into the new year, but I have never been that guy. I get antsy once December 26 rolls around and am ready to have the house back to normal by then. The only reason the tree stayed up is because I ran out of time and energy on Tuesday. And yes, it’s still up today. I have to grudgingly admit that it’s a nice compromise, having everything packed up and put away except for the tree. Maybe it’ll last until New Year’s Day (though I make no promises).

I realize that beginning next year white Christmases will be less of a novelty, but I sure did enjoy this one!