2020 in Ten Significant Photos

2020 in Ten Significant Photos

Today is December 19th, also known as March 294th, around our house. 2020, man. 2020. I think we can all agree it’s been a terrible year. If not personally, then nationally and globally. And we still have twelve days left. Feels like it’s been forever and yet, somehow, no time at all.

The tradition around here dictates I need to assemble a post wherein I share ten photos from the year representing the most significant moments of my personal past 365-ish days. Normally, I look forward to this, but 2020 was tougher than most. This time around, I wasn’t so eager to ponder how the year went. I didn’t want to dwell on the events that have unfolded. But I did. And below is the culmination of that effort, for better or worse.

The rules are simple but firm, pick ten photos from your past year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more, it can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—and that’s intentional—culling is essential. It’ll help create a more realistic picture of your year. Some years will be harder than others, and sometimes you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller, quieter moments. The ten are irascible, and they’re relentless. It is the way.

So, enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2020 distilled into ten significant photos.


The Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland

We began our 2020 by going on a trip to celebrate Kari-Lise’s birthday. Ah, those carefree halcyon days. Feels like a lifetime ago. This time we took an extensive food-focused trip to Portland and Hood River, Oregon. It was easily one of the best trips we’ve taken together and a wonderful way to celebrate Kari-Lise’s birthday. We ate and drank and tasted so many incredible things. I had planned to put together one of my standard travel posts a few months after we returned, but 2020 had other plans. It’s odd to looking back. It feels like a different era.


Amberlynn being cozy. (Photo by my brother, Nick Alexander.)

Not long after our return from Portland, my brother Nick and my sister-in-law Hallie welcomed their second child, Amberlynn, into the world in February. With Liesel and Blakely arriving last year and Amberlynn this year, I now have three nieces that have all shown up in a very short time. Can’t wait to watch them grow up and spoil them rotten. I’ve yet to meet Amberlynn. (Details why in the next photo. You can probably guess.) But, I’m looking forward to the day I do.


Pandemic hair. Pandemic mask. Pandemic isolation.

So, the obvious one—the COVID-19 pandemic. I could wax poetic about everything that’s happened in the last ten months, but we’ve all been dealing with this. What can I say that hasn’t been said already by a thousand other folks? I am tired of staying at home. I miss my family and friends. At the same time, I know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m blessed that I have a job that allows me to do it. Please do what you can to stay safe and healthy. Be kind. Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid groups. Get your vaccine when you can. All that stuff.


Not where you want to find yourself at 3AM

2020 was the gift that keeps on giving. Early in the pandemic Tyrant, one of our two old dogs (he’s fifteen!) started having breathing issues one Saturday morning, and we had to take him to an emergency vet. That turned into early morning calls and early morning trips to the pharmacy. The same weekend our other old dog, Suge (she’s fourteen!), had a cyst that burst on her back leg, so she ended up in the doggie hospital for minor surgery. Two dogs. Two hospitals. Many vets. All in the middle of a pandemic. It was an exhaustive and stress-filled four days. Thankfully, both dogs are doing well. Suge is back to her rambunctious self. Tyrant is still sleepy and lazy and gets to take doggy pills three times a day.


Welcome to the CHAZ

Black Lives Matter. I don’t know why that’s a difficult concept for some people to grasp. This summer was similar to summers in other parts of the country. Protests. Marches. Police action. Bits of violence. For a brief moment, Seattle had the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone and offshoot of the protests, which drew most of the country’s attention. The outgoing President might have declared Seattle an “Anarchist Jurisdiction” (whatever that means,) but the tales of chaos were greatly exaggerated and largely overblown. Ignore your weird uncle on Facebook. The CHAZ only lasted for a few weeks. Demonstrations there have largely faded away. But the BLM movement rightfully continues, and I don’t think it’ll stop until we see systematic change.


Kari-Lise in front of the titular Night Garden

Kari-Lise revealed Night Garden, her latest solo show at Roq La Rue, and it was wildly successful! It’s strange to have a gallery show in the middle of a pandemic. There was no official opening. No opening night crowds. No afterparty. But the show premiered online and ended up selling out. I feel like I broken record repeating the same thing I do every show, but I think this series was her best work ever. I’m incredibly proud to see how she continues to evolve as an artist. Can’t wait to see what she does next.


Pork chop sandwiches! (Technically pork butt, but references.)

So, I’ve always liked cooking, and this year was no different. If anything, this year I cooked even more, since I had more time at home. I feel like I dialed in my meat-smoking game and got a little better at baking (like everyone else, but I’m still not great.) This little BBQ sandwich was 100% made from scratch. Smoke pork butt. Steamed/Fried sourdough half-way buns. Homemade dill pickles. Homemade pickled onions. Stone ground mustard. Yes, it was delicious. Yes, I made it more than once.


Sunset on the Colvos Passage

In October, we briefly escaped one house to retreat to another. We rented an incredible cabin on Vashon Island, only a ferry ride away from Seattle. We spent a week on the island. We hiked, explored, cooked, relaxed, read a ton, soaked in a huge bathtub, took showers in an outdoor shower. I also took the time to revamp this website. And we were able to do it with proper social distancing! It was a chill and relaxing week away from the world and unplugged from a stressful news cycle. We loved it so much we are planning a return visit in January. So don’t be shocked if a similar photo appears in next year’s list.


I voted! You voted! A lot of us voted!

One of the wildest and most important elections in my lifetime happened, and what an election it was. Records were smashed. Norms were abandoned. Lawsuits were filed and quickly tossed out when no evidence could be presented except for wishes, hopes, and dreams. (Turns out wanting something to be true won’t make it true.) It was great to see so many Americans actively involved in the civic process. King County, Washington (where I live) had an 85% turnout, which I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It made me really proud of my city, county, state, and country. Nice work, America. Let’s keep this trend of civic involvement going.


New floors and a fantastic built in room divider bookcase built by my pal Steve.

It’s hard to encapsulate this in a single image. Like much of the world, 2020 became the “Year of the House” for the Alexanders. This had been the plan for us before the pandemic set in, and we had been saving toward it for a while. We bought this place in 2010, which means we’ve been living in our house for a decade, and it was past time to put a little love back into the place. That means, among other things, new paint, new roof, new floors in several rooms, lots of love pour into the garden, new countertops, that fantastic bookcase in the picture above, and we’re in the middle of a bathroom remodel. It’s been awkward, stressful, and a bit odd at times juggling all this work with the pandemic, but we think it’ll be worth it.


In Conclusion

Looking back at everything that happened in 2020, I was surprised to find how much significance happened even while I spent most of my time here at home. The ten photos above don’t begin to cover everything that happened. My sister-in-law’s father, Tom, passed away, a dear man, and we could only send condolences from afar. Friends and family got sick, and not just from COVID. Pets passed away. People lost jobs. There were the forest fires and the awful weeks of smoke that blanketed much of the PNW. MURDER HORNETS.

But it wasn’t all awful events. New hobbies were found. New skills explored. Moth & Myth continued its wild growth and is leaping into a new phase of business. Friends published books. Friends made art. Friends had shows. Friends wrote new books and game systems. We all learned how to video conference (for better or worse.) There was good to be found even among the muck. I’m not going to miss 2020. It might have been an awful year, but it’s probably been one of the most notable years of my life.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2020? What are your ten? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


Want to revisit my photos of past years? The experiences then seem almost charming now. Just click on any of the links below and check out my pictures from that specific year. I find it fascinating to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 20182019


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A Weekend of Smoke

A Weekend of Smoke

This past long weekend, I took a day off from edits and spent a pleasant day reading and hanging out by my grill and smoking a variety of foods. While I enjoy posting about my fiction, writing, fictional swearing, inspirational quotes, weird plants, mapping projects, or my historical research, sometimes it’s nice to take a break and share just random happenings—occasional incidentals. This Smoke Report™ is one of those random happenings.

My cheap but effective offset smoker—they’re not the easiest to learn on, but they’re fun.

In total, I cooked for about six hours, keeping the temp around 225º for the duration of the smoke—I was delighted with the results. I’m getting pretty good at maintaining a constant temperature with chips and chunks and only experienced a few flareups which I was able to quickly control. Preparation is key to doing this right. I like to soak most of my wood overnight (I used mesquite for this go-around), but I like to have some dry wood handy as well. I find that being able to quickly shift a fire’s momentum is important in maintaining a constant temperature.

Smoked wings
My smoked wings were rubbed in the Sweet Sizzle rub from For the Love of Spice which added a nice base flavor.

Chicken wings were the first thing off the grill. These were namely a snack/lunch break while we waited for the main course—a three-pound pork butt—to finish. I think they turned out really good. I brined them for an hour before smoking, and I’m glad I did, it kept the meat juicy while the outside crisped up nicely. Afterward, I ended up turning the remains into a bone-broth, It’ll probably end up in a risotto.

Smoked onions, garlic, and corn—be sure to soak vegetables in water for at least an hour before smoking
Smoked onions, garlic, and corn—be sure to soak vegetables in water for at least an hour before smoking.

Along with the meat, I smoked garlic (fresh from our garden), onions (also fresh from our garden), eggs (not pictured), and corn (from the grocer.) The garlic was terrific and became soft and spreadable like roasted garlic but with an added kick of smoke. The onions were much sweeter and less smokey than I expected but an excellent little addition to the feast. The corn on the cob turned out well although it’s still early in the season for corn and the ears weren’t the high-quality corn we’ll find later this summer.

I’m not sure if I’d smoke eggs again—they get an interesting texture and color. The outside turns a golden yellow-brown, but they really don’t carry a lot of extra smoke flavor. Outside of looking unique, I don’t think smoking eggs adds all that much.

My excellent pork butt sitting atop a Ruby Pear Woodworks cutting board.
My excellent pork butt sitting atop a Ruby Pear Woodworks cutting board.

The pork butt sliced up and ready to eat.
The pork butt sliced up and ready to eat.

As far as the main course went, this was easily the best pork butt I have ever smoked. I dry rub all my smoked meats—I tend to prefer it over sticky/saucy barbeque.  It finished about an hour earlier than I expected so I wrapped it for an hour while I finished everything else. This only helped tenderize it further. The final result was incredibly tender with a fantastic flavor thanks to a solid smoke ring.

Grilled flatbread with olive oil, rosemary (from our garden) and salt
Grilled flatbread with olive oil, rosemary (from our garden) and—of course—salt.

At the very end, I grilled homemade flatbread and some beautiful turnips (sadly not pictured) which were also great. It was a delightful little feast all in all and a relaxing day. It’s fun to take days like this to test recipes of perfect techniques. I learned a bunch, and I am quite happy with my results.

Below, I’ve shared my dry rub recipe—it’s great for pork, but it’s a solid all-around rub that works across a variety of food from vegetables like cauliflower steaks or a protein like chicken. It’s also easy to manipulate so throwing in your favorite spice can add a unique and personal spin. Enjoy!


My Dry Rub

  • 4 tsp Seasoned Salt
  • 2 tsp Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
  • Pinch of Ground Ginger

Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.


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Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain

Since the news broke about the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, there has been a bloom of posts, tweets, and articles across the internet. Reflections, reminiscences, and stories told from those who knew him and those who admired him. This will be another—albeit one more personal. I suppose these are what happens when someone’s life touched so many people in so many unexpected ways.

I don’t usually get worked up about celebrity news—I never met Bourdain in person, but I felt like I did. He was something different; open, honest, and unwilling to hide. Bourdain was a masterful storyteller with a raw and unapologetic voice. Reading Kitchen Confidential felt like I was swapping stories with him at a seedy bar in Manhattan. It made me appreciate food and cooking in a way I hadn’t considered.  A Cook’s Tour and No Reservations opened up the world and made me want to travel. Parts Unknown and Medium Raw were continuations of those early lessons.


“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

Anthony Bourdain


There was something about Bourdain’s punk-rock unpretentious attitude drew me in as a young man. To many, he came across as abrasive, but below his sarcastic steak was a profoundly earnest and empathetic man who cared about people. He also allowed himself to be ugly. Bourdain made mistakes, he owned up to them, and he didn’t dismiss his past. He showed many of us that it was okay to screw-up, and it was okay to love screw-ups.

I’m going to miss his writing, his authenticity, and his observations on life. I wish his last mistake hadn’t been so permanent. Often, when an author dies we mourn the loss of a voice—and that is true with Bourdain. But his writing remains, his show remains—his voice might be gone, but his life was too loud to go silent.

I’ve seen depression’s impact on more than just celebrities like Anthony Bourdain. I’ve seen it hurt friends, family, and fellow authors. Depression is a wicked beast of a thing. It tricks your mind. It lies to you. If you’re ever thinking of hurting yourself, please remember you’re loved. Seek help. You matter. We need you here. Talk or text a friend or loved one. If you can’t do that and live in the US, call 1-800-273-8255. (You can find international numbers here.)

Friday Link Pack 06/12/2015

Friday Link Pack 06/12/2015

It’s Friday, and it’s my Dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad!), and it’s my parents wedding anniversary (Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!) Also, it’s time for the Friday Link Pack! The post where I share a few links I’ve found over the last few days. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…

WRITING:

25 Reasons Why You Don’t Make Any Money At Comic Cons
Absolutely fantastic post. So often I see professionals, very talented artists, and writers, doing the exactly what is being listed here. It’s all good advice. Take it. [Thanks to Lola for sharing this.]

Dear Authors: Don’t Respond To Goodreads Reviews
Frankly, you shouldn’t respond to any reviews. Ever. At all. If you need to respond to anything, respond to your email. That’s important.

Top 5 Literary Languages
In this old post, The Stage discusses their favorite made-up languages. Which is your favorite? Anything you think this list is missing?

Cthulhu The Wimp
This week I wrote a guest post for Michael G. Munz’s blog. In it, I pick on everyone’s favorite old one. What do you think? Am I right, or am I way off base? Check it out and let me know.

Red Litten World Cover Reveal Giveaway
The giveaway ends in just a few days! Enter for your chance to win signed copies of The Stars Were Right and Old Broken Road, as well as a Bell Caravans patch, swag, and a $50 Amazon gift card. Entering is easy and there are a lot of ways to increase your chances to win. Do it today!

ART:

20 Contemporary (Women) Artists You Oughta Know
From sculptures to painters to photographers. A handy guide of some of the best women artists working today.

The Photography Of Gautier Pellegrin
I’m in love with these photographs. The more and more I look at photography, the more I am attracted to photos that really drive home emotion. For me, Pellegrin’s work does exactly that.

Pejac In Hong Kong
Absolutely love some of these pieces from the street artist Pejac. The window work stood out in particular.

RANDOM:

51 TV Writers Reveal Their Favorite Thing They’ve Ever Written
This is a fun list. There are a few shows on here I loved (Parks and Recreation, Veronica Mars, The X-Files, Portlandia, Scrubs) and it’s always neat to see which parts the writers were most proud of. [Thanks to Mike for sharing this.]

The Future According To Anime
Hopes & Fears compiles a list of their favorite predictions from anime, from World War 3 to space travel. Only time will tell if anime got it right.

How To Cook Turmeric Chicken, Rice, And Peas. In Space
Admit it. You always wanted to know.

WEIRD WIKIPEDIA:

Aachenosaurus
“Aachenosaurus is a dubious genus of prehistoric plant. It was named based solely on fossilized fragments of material that were originally thought to be jaw fragments from a duck-billed dinosaur (a hadrosaur). However, the fossils turned out to be petrified wood, to the great embarrassment of the discoverer.”

LOVECRAFT STORY OF THE WEEK:

In the Walls of Eryx
Here’s something you don’t usually see from the grandfather of horror. A near future science fiction tale on the planet of Venus!

GIF OF THE WEEK:

Haters need hugs