hot cocoa

hot cocoa recipe


The girl is sick today, so I made her hot cocoa (from scratch, not the packets).  Recipe below.  Wish her well!

hot cocoa recipe

2 tablespoons & 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder

1/4 cup of sugar

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons & 2 teaspoons of boiling water

1 3/4 c. of milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 c. to 1 c. half and half

Mix together cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a saucepan

Add boiling water and bring to simmer

Simmer for 2 minutes or so (but don’t burn it)

Add in the milk and cook it so it’s H.O.T. (but don’t boil it)

Remove from heat and add vanilla

Divide into 2 mugs

Top with cream (to bring the temp down) and stir

Add whip cream because duh.

Drink. 🙂

Castle Valley

After living in Salt Lake City for seven years, I’m moving!

Beth and I are moving to a tiny little town called Castle Valley, in south-eastern Utah.

Here’s a picture of Castle Valley that really doesn’t do it justice (because it’s so wonderful in-person):

Castle Valley View

The Story of How We Found Castle Valley

In April of this year, my dad came to visit us.  Beth and I had previously visited Moab (in October 2013 when they closed the National Parks), and Dad had a friend who stayed in Moab for half the year, so we wanted to take him down there, and he wanted to go.  After hiking at Arches National Park Friday evening and Saturday morning with my father, he wanted to chill in the hotel room, so I went out with Beth.

Here is how Beth and I vacation: wander around the city/area looking for stuff to see or do.  At the entrance to Moab, where the Colorado river crosses the main road, there was a sign that said “Castle Valley 17.”  Seventeen miles to Castle Valley.  We didn’t feel like hiking, so we decided to explore.  What’s a Castle Valley?   Maybe it’s a nice town where we can have a nice lunch.

So we drove along the Colorado River, one of the more scenic drives I’ve ever been on.  Eventually we saw a historical marker, and, that being the kind of thing we do, we stopped for it.  Just off the main road was a gravel pull-off area, but no sign of a historical marker.  Beth suggested we drive farther down this new road, driving away from the Colorado river, to explore.


So we did, and about 10 minutes later we found ourselves at the entrance of a little town called Castle Valley.  Oh!  THIS is Castle Valley.  I had thought it would be farther up the road, but no.  Here is was.  So we drove around.  And it was gorgeous.  Remote, surrounded on all sides by beautiful landscapes:

On one side is Castleton Tower, a very striking rock formation.

Opposite that is a giant cliff face that stretches the length of (and beyond) the city.

At the end of the valley is a tiny cone of a mountain called Round Mountain, and beyond that, looming like a mother bear, the giant La Sal Mountains.

We could live here, we said.

No really, we could.

Well, why shouldn’t we?  It is a magical little valley, we could move here forever and be happy.  So we decided to.  It probably took 10 minutes of being in the valley to decide that we should.  Even before we looked at housing prices, even before we knew for sure if Beth could get approved for telecommuting, we knew we would figure out a way.

Why Leave the Salt Lake Valley?

Salt Lake City is beautiful.  When I first visited in 2006, I was blown away.  Mountains!  Snow!  Public Transportation!  The city was vibrant in a way that cities in Florida are not.  There are museums and hiking trails and cool little local shops, and oh yeah, Mountains.

But Beth and I have always talked about moving to a small town.  Every vacation we’ve taken has been to (or driving through) small town.  I would love to live out in the country, we’d say.  Look how quiet it is, how fresh the air is!  Those little towns were never quite right, never quite feeling like a destination.  So we kept looking.

Actually, the number 1 reason to move is that Castle Valley is lovely, and perfect for us.

Though Salt Lake City has a lot going for it, and I love a lot of things about it, there are some things that we don’t enjoy.

1.) Smog

Through the magical meteorological process called INVERSION, bad, toxic air gets trapped in the valley, and hangs out for most of December – February.  In July, fires from west of the city blow into the Salt Lake valley, and hang around in the sometimes stale, stagnant summer air until a storm comes through and pushes it away.  While we don’t have it as bad as some cities in California or Southeastern Asia, every January we have the worst air in the nation.

If you’ve never had to live in a smoggy place for an extended period of time, I’ll try and describe it.  You feel tired all the time.  Your chest feels heavy and your throat is constantly scratchy.  Your eyes get itchy and your head aches all the time.  Constantly.  For days.

Here is what the valley looks like every January:

Salt Lake City Smogphoto credit: leggnet

The air in Castle Valley is extremely fresh.  There are no major interstates, cities, or industrial plants nearby.  It’s amazing.

2.) Noise

Directly across from my office window in Salt Lake City is a club that hosts live bands every night from 10pm to 2am.  They are careless about their noise pollution, but they are still within the state’s allowable decibels, so there was nothing I could do to get away from the noise.  Thanks, Urban Lounge.

Every night, I hear and feel the THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP of dance and rap music in my office, as clearly as if there were a car with a $5,000 audio system parked outside my window.  This noise is made worse by my hearing damage (from years of playing drums): I am especially sensitive to sounds in the lower sonic spectrum, so I hear this much clearer than other people have reported hearing it while standing in my office.

There’s also an office building on our block with an industrial heater and air conditioner.  All year long there is deep, throbbing HUMMM of one kind or another.  The parking garage behind our house amplifies the noise, and you can hear it very clearly in both bedrooms.

Not to sound too old and grumpy, but our neighborhood can be a bit loud.  Drunk people walking home/to their cars at night, dogs in neighboring houses ALWAYS barking, cars with bassy speakers or loud mufflers, etc.  **Shakes fist at everybody.

Castle Valley is blissfully quiet.  No sounds from cars with loud mufflers or speakers, no dogs barking, no concert speakers or industrial temperature-controlling-equipment.  Just nature.  Bird sounds.  Insect sounds.  Other animal sounds I couldn’t identify.  Mmm.

3.) Traffic

Plain and simple, traffic makes us both unhappy and uncomfortable.  Every week, either as a pedestrian or as a driver we are involved in one close call after another.  Again, not to sound like a cartoon character here, but people are getting worse at driving.  I am amazed at how many people are texting on their phones instead of paying attention to what they’re doing on the road.  It scares the hell out of me.

Also, our PARKED CAR, sitting IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE has been hit TWICE by an impaired driver (once it was meds, and once it was alcohol).

No thanks.  We’re moving to a town of ~300 with ONE paved road going through town.

Finding Sun House

We’d been looking at houses in Castle Valley for about two or three weeks when I found one that wasn’t listed on any of the sites we’d been looking at.  The pictures of the living room and dining room were lovely, the shots of the outside of the house looked very interested, but the kitchen… it was the kitchen that sold it.  I sent the pic to Beth knowing she would love it.  It’s a big kitchen, with the appliances set into the cabinets, and a nice, big island in the center of the kitchen (with a stove set into the island).  In fact, here is the picture we saw:

Kitchen Listing

It’s so bright and open!  So much space to cook.  Beth and I both enjoy cooking, so we were definitely looking for something with a nice, big kitchen.

The photos were all very nice, and we added it to our list of houses to look at when we visited Castle Valley again with our realtor.  In the mean time, we continued to look at houses and real estate websites.  We started naming all the houses, and called this one Murder House, because it only showed the kitchen, living room, and outside the house, but not the bedrooms (so those are where the murders happened.  LOL, Beth).

Eventually, we decided to call the house Sun House, because it has a sun room, lots of windows, and is very open and bright.

As soon as we toured Sun House, we knew it was Our House.  It has enough bedrooms that we could each have our own spacious office (since we both work from home).  It has a big yard (all properties in Castle Valley have five acres), and a detached car port, garage, and a room, so I will have my very own drum room, which is really the most exciting thing I can think of… 🙂

Sun House doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it’s a beautiful house, and it’s really perfect for us and our five animals!

Here’s the view from the front door:

Sun House View

And here is a view of the back of the house (looking the same direction, at Castlton Tower)

Sun House and Castleton
That row of windows there is the sun room. 🙂

Here are a few more pictures of Sun House [note: the inside pictures feature the previous owners furniture–I will post pictures of how it looks once we’ve moved in and decorated it ourselves]

Living Room and Sun Room Entrance
The living room and bright entrance to the sun room
Sun Room
A view of our sun room
Front Yard Garden
The front yard garden (right outside my office window)

We don’t live there yet (as of the time of this writing), but we’ll be moving in on July 4th.

Saying Goodbye to Dragonfly House

The house we live in now is lovely.  It was built in 1886 (or thereabout) and is absolutely charming.  Beth has lived in this house for about 8 years longer than I have (since 2001).  I’ve got lots of good memories of this house, and I’m sure she has many more.

Here is a picture of the house in Winter, during a heavy snow:

dragonfly house winterGoodbye, Dragonfly House!  You were great.

So that’s the story of Castle Valley.  This is my last weekend in Salt Lake City, and there is a lot to pack, and lots to do.  We’re closing on July 1st, and moving on the 4th.

Here’s to new beginnings! 

Enjoy this massive picture of the Castle Valley area (that little outline of roads and green on the left is the city).

Castle Valley(click to make it larger… it’s a big photo!)

photo source


Today, we said goodbye to our dog, Cassie, who was really the sweetest, happiest, derpiest dog.  Cassie was 14 or 15 years old.  Beth has lived with Cassie for about 13 years now; I’ve lived with her for about 7.

It’s really hard to say goodbye to such a sweetheart.  I am making sure to remember Cassie as the attention-loving chip-eating cat-like-napping hound she was.  I’ll be spending the day remembering Cassie and spending time with my family (including our four other animals).  Below are my favorite pictures of the dog.

So long, Cassieface.

cassie and cats
Laying around the heater


Sharing the cat’s bed


Skeptical Christmas dog!


Cassie letting Kitty use her bed. 🙂


Whoa. Reindeer.


Happy dog (with a belt for a leash because I could not find the leash…)




Chillin at my birthday writing retreat


Family Portrait (with licking dog)




Birthday Dog

I waited a little while to write this post to make sure everything would work out.

For my birthday this year, my lovely wife got me a DOG!  We named him Babou and he was awesome!  Some kind of black lab/pitbull mix.  He was a bit neurotic, and had a lot of learning to do.  He was also extremely energetic, and every time he saw our other (poor old) dog, Cassie, he tried to attack her.

So we took Babou back 🙁

That same day (and the previous night) we looked through all of the dogs available for adoption via  We found several dogs that might be a good fit for us (which meant they were mellow, nice, and played well with other cats and dogs).

I dropped Babou off at the shelter we got him from.  It was sad, but we were not the right family for him.  He was a really good dog, and in a more energetic, less-populated-by-animals house, he will fit in just fine.  

Sean' dog

Next, I went to visit the Utah Animal Adoption Center to visit Lucy, a dog Beth and I had seen online.

I told the lady at the front desk that I was there to see Lucy.

“Oh, Lucy!  We love Lucy.”

I got to visit with Lucy who was only interested in treats, and the lady that works at the kennel.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “in a few days Lucy will be following you around everywhere once she gets to know you.”

I told them Lucy was fantastic, and I wanted my wife to meet her before we adopted her.

Lucy was Beth’s top choice of what dog to adopt, so I knew she’d love her.

Later that day, we took our dog, Cassie, and headed to the local Petco where the shelter was bringing several animals for an adoption day (among them Lucy).  Of course it was overwhelming, the amount of animals barking and running around, the people everywhere.  Lucy was anxious and not on her best behavior.  Beth was skeptical, but I promised that Lucy was the kind of dog we were looking for.

Our Kind of Dog

kong toyQuick side note.  The dog we have now is about 15 years old.  Even when she wasn’t an OLD DOG, she was always mellow and very chill.  We also have three cats, and the way Cassie behaved, we might as well have had four.

Cassie is a basset hound + lab mix.  She has a big body and tiny little basset legs.  A ridiculous dog!

One thing we liked about Lucy is that she was a similar breed.  She has a big body, and stubby, but sturdy legs.  She has one eye that is mostly white, because in addition to being a Golden Retriever bred with a Basset Hound, she also has some husky mixed in.  Her fur is golden, but has dark patterns spread throughout, and she has very very thick fur.  She has loooong basset ears, and when she is sad, she starts howling like a basset!

The most important thing, though, is that she has the same temperament as Cassie.  Where Babou was energetic and feral enough that he thought he had to bark and growl at any other nearby dog, Lucy seemed to just be focused on people, and whether or not they were going to pet her or give her a treat.

Hello, Lucy

So this is Lucy, our new dog.  We’ve had her for a month and a half now, and she is fitting in just fine.  She is full of energy, and is completely ridiculous.  This is the first dog I’ve ever had that was MY DOG, and it is fantastic.  She’s a sweetheart, and I’m looking forward to hiking with her all this summer.

lucy sleeping



Lucy + Cassie

If you’re wondering how Lucy and our old dog Cassie fit together, just look at this picture.  They are a matched set of ridiculous!

lucy and cassie


It has taken me a long time to find the right desk.

Since I moved out here I have gone through exactly seven desks (including my current one). I’ve finally found a standing desk that is 1) the right height, and 2) big enough to fit all my stuff on (read, Kitty).

This is what my desk looks like right now.  Click for the big view.


See if you can spot:

  • my favorite kitten
  • my favorite picture (Carrie Ann Baade shout out)
  • my 3 Libras necklace
  • the rear-view-mirror Teacher ornament my favorite mom gave me
  • the shot glass I got in the Bahamas (filled with uncut precious stones from when I was a rock collector in elementary school).