Milk Chocolate Thursday Rundown

It is an honor to pen another Thursday Rundown and I am appreciative that you have made time for my ramblings. In order to refrain from wasting more of your precious time, let’s get started with tonight’s five topics…

Preparing For A Big Softball Game – Before last night, it had been a really long time since I last played softball. But on Wednesday evening, I made a return to the diamond. Sidney and I joined members of our Young Adult Catholic group and other St. Mary parishioners for a softball practice. We are preparing for an Aug. 6 game against a team comprised of Spokane LDS members. Call it “Catholics vs. Mormons” if you want, but this is such a cool opportunity for two groups from the Spokane faith community to come together for some competition, fellowship, and food (yay for the post game cookout!). Thanks to our Young Adult Catholic group friends, Hailey and Brian, for organizing all of this!

On Wednesday night, we practiced at the St. Mary ball fields. It had been a long time since I last swung a bat.

Soda Update – Back in February, I told the story of the four obscure Coca-Cola machines tucked away on a side street in a very industrial area of Spokane. I revealed that 12 oz cans were only $.25 and 20 oz bottles a mere $.50. I pass the machines every single day and there is always a Coca-Cola employee refilling them. Last week I stopped to purchase a couple sodas while the worker was in the middle of the replenishing process. I took the opportunity to ask him how much business the machines typically do. He told me that they combine to dispense 70-80 cases of soda PER DAY. Do the math and that equates to approximately 2,000 beverages. Not bad for a quartet of basically hidden machines.

I pass these four Coke vending machines every day. It is insane how many people go out of their way to use these machines on a daily basis.

Hot Hot Hot – We are on the second day of 100+ degree temperatures that will likely stretch through Sunday. Not going to lie, it is hot! But I am thankful that our extreme heat hasn’t been as constant and relentless as some areas of the country this season. Also, Sidney is still amazed that during the evening as the sun starts to set, we actually get relief as temperatures cool dramatically. For example, after a scorching day on Tuesday, the four of us went to the local high school track. While I got some exercise and the children played, Sid could comfortably sit on a camping chair and read her book. Oh how I love summer nights in the Pacific Northwest.

On Tuesday night, the four of us went to the East Valley High School track in Spokane Valley after the sun started to go down and temperatures cooled.

National Milk Chocolate Day – I have written blog posts about chocolate chips, hot chocolate, and chocolate cake. But I have never dedicated a post strictly to milk chocolate before. You would think that on National Milk Chocolate Day I would get with the program and finally draft that post, right? Wrong. Sorry not sorry, but I am a dark chocolate guy.

Today is National Milk Chocolate Day!

Thank You Note Gun Jumping – I am concerned with the lost art of writing thank you notes. However, what was described in a recent Miss Manners column seems a little overzealous. The person seeking advice wrote that at a recent children’s birthday party, the attendees received a thank you note upon departure. The contents of the note thanked the family for attending and for the gift (a presumption that they brought a gift). Although this bizarre practice is better than no thank you note at all, I think we should end it. Please make sure to write your gratitude cards post-celebration so you can actually personalize it with what you did (or didn’t) receive.

Wait to write your thank you note until you can actually identify what you are thanking them for.


I hope everyone has a safe and fun final weekend in July. If there is ever anything you want me to address in this blog, please let me know. Don’t Blink.

A Library Hack

Our family makes bi-weekly visits to our local county libraries to check out 20-30 books at a time. Since pandemic restrictions eased and they re-opened about 18 months ago, we have followed this routine pretty stringently. But we don’t visit the library simply to borrow copious amounts of books. We also visit to print documents, attend story time, and select STEM kits to bring home.

Feeling comfortable surrounded by books at the Spokane Valley Library.

However, tonight I am here to offer an additional resource the library has available. In fact, what I am about to tell you goes beyond just a “resource” – it is a hack.

Believe it or not, there is a good chance that your local library has passes to educational and cultural centers in its circulation. And no, these passes aren’t for the library employees…they are for YOU (and, well, me too 😊).

The Spokane Valley Library is kind of like a second home for us. It offers so much more than just books.

I know firsthand. This past Sunday, Sloan and I went to Mobius Discovery Center (aka the Spokane children’s museum) on an outing covered completely by the Spokane County Library System. We checked out the Mobius family pass that provided free admission for a family of four, equating to a $40 value. I didn’t even need to step foot in the library to secure the pass. I simply went to the library’s website, selected the item, submitted my library card number, and was sent a bar code.

The Mobius Discovery Center is so freaking cool. It is full of countless many educational activities that will keep your children occupied for at the very least a couple of hours.

Mobius Discover Center is a children’s museum in downtown Spokane.

A few of Sloan’s favorite activities included using the excavator…

Being able to control a mini (but functional) excavator was a thrill for Sloan.

Blowing enormous bubbles…

Mobius has a bubble contraption that allows you to produce a large sheet of bubble solution.

Dressing up as an astronaut…

Sloan loved jumping into the space suit.

And doing all the various arts and crafts stations, including the construction of a “silly frog” hat…

Sloan gravitated toward the arts and crafts stations at Mobius Discovery Center.

We were given an afternoon of entertainment in an air-conditioned state-of-the-art children’s museum simply because we had a library card.

Speaking of library cards, this is my ancient library card issued to me as a little kid. If you look on the back, you will see my name. I only wrote the first letter of my name before my mom completed the rest of it because of my awful toddler penmanship.

I strongly recommend that you reach out to your local library to see what community entertainment options it might have in its possession. During these hot days, it might just be the answer to making some special (and affordable) summer memories. Don’t Blink.

Pickleball Enthusiasm

Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee—by law—made pickleball the official sport of Washington. It makes sense. The game was invented in our state in 1965. But I believe the legislation was also made possible by influence that extends beyond Washington borders. Currently, the game of pickleball is red hot in our nation. The Parade cover story that was published yesterday acknowledging the fact was just a formality.

Pickleball might be the hottest sport in the country right now. Parade Magazine ran a big story about the game yesterday.

With enthusiasm continuing to grow, I suppose Washington declared it our state’s official state sport before another state swooped in and did the same, thus delivering a heavy dose of embarrassment to all Washingtonians.

Pickleball is a great game. My first time playing it was at Northwood Middle School in Spokane. The physical education curriculum offered a special racquet sports unit that a limited number of students could sign up for. As a seventh grader I successfully got my name on the list. Over the course of a few weeks, I improved my ping pong skills and dabbled in badminton. But the best part of the unit was an introduction to the sport of pickleball. The PE teachers running the unit set up a couple courts in the cafeteria gym and I felt the addicting nature of smacking the wiffle ball with the oversized paddles.

I repeated the unit in eighth grade, too. I remember my partner and I finishing second in the pickleball round robin tournament, losing to the eventual champions in a hard-fought match characterized by several long volleys that grew my admiration for the game even more.

Over the years I have not played pickleball as much as I would have liked, but perhaps now is the time to re-commit (because everyone likes the bandwagon trend adopter, right?). Spokane boasts parks with pickleball courts and if the enthusiasts who continue to write letters to the editor in the Spokesman-Review have their way, more might be coming.

Do you play pickleball? If so, let me know when you started playing and where you currently go to get your pickleball fix. Don’t Blink.

The Big Dog Thursday Rundown

Greetings! Thanks for returning for Don’t Blink’s greatest tradition…the Thursday Rundown. Alright, we have five topics lined up so let’s get after it…

Blue Bunny Ice Cream – We recently tried a couple different flavors of Blue Bunny ice cream. We purchased a container of super fudge brownie and a container of a crazy flavor called cookies, candies, and brownies. In my opinion, the ice cream itself isn’t anything special. But I do have to hand it to Blue Bunny when it comes to appearance. When you open a container the ice cream is molded in an elegant pattern with the sauce or topping (i.e. caramel, fudge, etc.) threaded around it. Sure makes it inviting to eat!

A look at the two Blue Bunny flavors we tried this weekend. It was a very inviting sight once we took the top off both containers.

Summer Poster Boy – This is what summer looks like, folks. Sidney took this photo of Beau earlier this week on a particularly hot afternoon. Just take a moment to gaze at its hilarity. Beau’s face screams heat exhaustion, his hair is wind swept, chalk covers the right part of his forehead, dirt is visible at the bottom of his nostrils and around his face, and his shirt is marked with Doritos dust and more chalk. The boy plays hard! Talk about a face only a mommy and daddy could love.

This is what summer looks like!

National Hot Dog Day – I will eat a hot dog any chance I get. Don’t believe me? Type “hot dog” into the search bar of this blog to view the countless times I have written about the culinary delight over the years. Despite so many hot dog memories to choose from, for this space I must commemorate the 10th anniversary of when I attempted to eat “The Big Dog.” In 2012, I went with my family to Northern Quest Casino to celebrate my mom’s birthday. My brother and I each ordered the aforementioned menu item, thinking it would be just enough to fill us up. What came out was a 22-inch gigantic dog smothered in chili and cheese with large mounds of fries on either side of it. The thing was so big that when the waitress brought it out I thought it was a joke. I struggled to finish half of it but I will never struggle to remember that night when I felt like I was on “Man Vs. Food.”

This is me with The Big Dog at Northern Quest Casino in Spokane during the summer of 2012.

Ball Player TBT – Every now and then I sneak a Throwback Thursday into the Thursday Rundown. Tonight you are lucky (I guess?). This photo shows a 6-year-old Brent suited up to play some t-ball for the Expos. My hat didn’t fit on my head and those blue sweatpants were pulled up Urkel style but I was living my best life. Funny thing is, almost 30 years later, I can still smell the leather of that first little kid glove I owned.

I was a proud member of the Expos t-ball team.

Sloan Joke – I don’t know where she learned it, but Sloan has repeatedly told a joke to anyone she has come across this week. With no solid fifth topic in mind, I decided I would share it.
Q. What do you call a cow with no legs?
A. Ground beef!

Sloan has been laughing about that joke all week long.


On that humorous note, it is time for me to bounce. Enjoy a safe, hot weekend. Never stop standing up for what you believe in. Don’t Blink.

Let Your Food Settle

Much to my happiness and our children’s entertainment, the cul-de-sac we live on is home to numerous young kids (besides the ones living under our roof). Sloan and Beau have spent pretty much every day this summer playing with their neighbors and owning our little corner of the neighborhood. As someone who enjoyed a childhood that was filled with long summer days playing with the kids on my street, I am overjoyed that Sloan and Beau are receiving the same experience.

Sloan and her neighbor friends play with chalk in our driveway.

Although the social interaction is priceless, I am also now privy to the minor parental annoyances that are a byproduct of neighbor kids congregating. I am talking about silly things like Sloan sneaking into our pantry and distributing all our snacks to her friends, bikes and toys constantly littering our driveway, and the conversion of our garage into a clubhouse. You know, things that my parents dealt with 25 years ago that I am just now sympathizing with?

Sloan, Beau, and neighbor children play with each other in our driveway. This group has so much fun together!

And then there is one final thing. When I was a kid, my parents enforced something that drove me NUTS. Like I seriously detested it. But now I 100% understand it and hold my kids to it as well (who equally hate it). Okay, this is what it is…

There was no bigger buzzkill than when I was playing with the neighbors and my parents called me inside for dinner. Despite pleas to skip our family meal so I could stay outside, my mom and dad never relented. So what was my reaction once I was seated at the table? I ate my dinner as fast as I possibly could. Without any regard for the time it took to cook the meal nor the financial resources used to provide it, I would inhale whatever was in front of me or just say I was full. Okay mom, can I go back out and play?

Of course, the speed demon strategy never worked. Instead, my request to return outside was always met with the same infuriating response from my parents: No, you need to let your food settle.

Oh, how I hated it when my parents said that. To this day it is still ingrained in my mind and it still generates a little bit of frustration…but I now completely understand it. The point behind “letting your food settle” was to give our bodies just a little bit of time to digest the food that was stuffed down our throats before dashing back outside to run around the neighborhood. Somewhat logical, right? Of course “letting your food settle” was also code for don’t think disrespecting the dinner I made by engulfing it in two minutes will allow you to leave this table.

As I would “let my food settle” I would stew in my chair, thinking about what my friends were doing and what I was missing out on. The time seemed to go by so slow. The magic words “Okay, you can go back out” were always so liberating.

Sloan tries to pull the same stunt I did by eating at warp speed. But just like my parents did with me, we keep her honest…and use that same endearing phrase. Of course we want her food to settle in the literal sense, but, just like my parents, we want to uphold the importance of family dinner. She might not understand it now but “letting her food settle” is a crucial lesson in respect, fellowship, and appreciation. Don’t Blink.


Our next door neighbors are getting their back yard landscaped. As one might expect, it is quite an ordeal. For more than a week, a crew has worked tirelessly to install a luscious green lawn in a space that was once just a mound of dirt. This transformation has required manpower, machinery, supplies, and a lot of hard work. It definitely isn’t a silent process.

As someone who works primarily from home, I am performing the bulk of my daily work when the contractors are doing theirs. This has resulted in a struggle to block out the inevitable noise that a landscaping project will produce. At times I have found myself becoming unfocused. However, if I can acknowledge the reality of the situation next door but commit myself to my professional task at hand, I am usually successful at ignoring the lawn development orchestra.

But it isn’t just a next door project that produces distracting noise. We are tempted and diverted by the noise of a media-obsessed culture, most of it manifested in a digital space, on a daily basis. Take any topic in the news these days and chances are good that you are bombarded with constant analysis, hot takes, angles, and talking heads. With the depth of content available and the sophisticated targeting tools of social media platforms, it is so easy to be sucked in.

Sometimes the noise can become too intense.

For example, I am a big college football fan. On a daily basis, I am served numerous clickbait articles about coaching changes, conference realignment, and predictions for the 2022 season. So many of these pieces are badly written with little substance but I still find myself tapping the link. The website gets its click and I devote a couple minutes of my time, eventually leaving the site no more enlightened than when I entered. Noise!

It is no secret that we are living in a very contentious time. There are crucial social topics that are top of mind for many people. Because of 24/7 cable news stations, satellite radio, social media, and other digital inventions, how can’t these topics remain top of mind? There is just seemingly nowhere to retreat from the constant cacophony.

But like with the landscaping project, sometimes when it feels like there is no escaping, we need to use our own mental devices to block out the noise. We need to set boundaries for ourselves and have the mental discipline to not allow ourselves to become prisoner to the constant metaphorical signs with messages that exclaim “Click Me.” It isn’t always easy, but if we are aware and committed, we can find refuge. Don’t Blink.

Embracing the Public Pool

I didn’t have particularly fond memories of visiting Spokane public pools during my childhood. I remember archaic shower/bathroom facilities plagued with an overpowering smell of urine. I remember cold, murky water filled with too many bodies to adequately move around. I remember unforgiving pool bottoms that would poke and irritate my feet. Needless to say, the choice wasn’t a tough one between going next door to my best friend’s heated pool or heading across town to the public pool.

How times have changed.

City of Spokane pools are just so much more creative now. This is Liberty Pool. Can you spot Beau?

Upon moving back to Spokane, I learned that the public pool system, both at the county and city levels, had changed dramatically. And when I say “changed dramatically” I mean resoundingly for the better.

This is Sloan in the City of Spokane’s Hillyard Pool. In this photo she is enjoying the whirlpool feature.

Gone are the unimaginative cookie cutter rectangle holes in the ground. The same places that once seemed to be decaying and unwelcoming have been replaced with state-of-the-art aquatic facilities. We are talking slides, whirlpools, zero entries, and play structures. Best of all (besides the fact that admission is FREE), these impressive pools are filled with crystal clear water set to pleasant temperatures.

Beau hanging out at Spokane’s Liberty Pool.

Our family is especially thankful for these improvements as we are now frequent customers of the Spokane city pools. If last year was the summer of Chuck E. Cheese, this year is the summer of public aquatic centers. In the same way that Sloan and I went to Chuck E. Cheese every Saturday, we are now going to the pool every Saturday this summer. The entry process is so simple and the facilities so clean that we can’t stay away.

Sloan finishing up a ride on the Hillyard Pool child’s water slide.

Ironically enough, not only are we returning to the public pools that I visited 25 years ago, but we are also returning to the same private pool I had so many fun times in as well. A couple times this summer we have visited my parents’ house and strolled next door to where my childhood best friend’s mom still lives. Ms. Kathy has been so gracious to allow my children to swim whenever they want. And whereas the public pools drastically needed to improve over the years, Ms. Kathy’s didn’t. You see, her pool has always been an aquatic oasis with beautiful surrounding vegetation, immaculate water, and the best-organized (and fully stocked) pool shed you will ever find. What a testament to Ms. Kathy that she has maintained her gem of a pool over the course of all these years.

Sloan exiting Ms. Kathy’s pool earlier this month. I had so many good times in this pool.

I hope wherever you live the public pool choices are welcoming and adequate. If not, hopefully you have a neighborhood pool you can cool off in. Whichever option you choose, may the cooling and calm waters bring you much relaxation and happiness. Don’t Blink.

Sunrise Thursday Rundown

I want to start tonight’s Thursday Rundown by celebrating all my readers who have a July birthday, including my nephew who will turn 5 on Sunday. Okay, let’s get started with this evening’s five topics…

Beau’s Helmet Memory – On this date two years ago, we picked up Beau’s corrective helmet from the Hanger Clinic. Because his head was flat in the back, it was necessary that he undergo helmet therapy. Our son had a strict regimen as he had to wear the helmet for 23 hours per day. We stuck to the plan and because of Beau’s dedicated commitment he only had to wear the helmet for five months instead of six. The transformation from a misshaped head to a symmetrical one was incredible and we remain so appreciative to the Hanger Clinic.

This was Beau’s last day in his helmet.

Dreamy Sky – Spokane boasts some amazing sunrises, especially during the summer months. This was the scene when I was driving home from the gym last Friday. It sure gets your day off to a great start when you are able to admire something as beautiful as this in the early morning.

This was the beautiful sky I admired on my drive home last Friday.

The Best Day – I have this day circled on the calendar. Today is about the best food in the world…macaroni and cheese! Call me a kid, but I still can’t resist a bowl of this all-American dish. I am so passionate about it that I once judged a mac and cheese contest. I have also written about my favorite macaroni and cheese toppings and spin-offs. Yes friends, today is a good day.

I have never found a bowl of macaroni and cheese that I didn’t like

Gas Price Update – It was a little over a month since I last addressed gas prices so let me provide an update. This morning gas prices were under (GASP) $5 at the gas station right next to my house. The $4.99 per gallon was 30 cents less than the $5.29 per gallon I was paying on June 9. However, it is still 60 cents more than the $4.39 I was paying at the exact same gas station in March when I thought gas prices couldn’t possibly go higher. Over the weekend we did purchase gas in Idaho for $4.85 per gallon and *only* had to pay $73 to fill up. Let’s hope gas prices continue to go down.

Gas prices are now under $5 in Spokane.

Big Brother 24 – Another summer, another Big Brother season. That’s right, Sid and I are along for the latest edition of houseguests battling it out for the $750,000 prize. Crazy enough, this is the 11th Big Brother season I will have watched (8 regular seasons plus 3 celebrity seasons). Not bad for someone who was once passionately anti-reality TV. I think I am rooting for Daniel and Indy.

Here we go! Big Brother 24 is underway.


Make sure to get yourself some mac and cheese before the night is over. Enjoy your weekend and make sure to do something nice for someone else. Don’t Blink.

Remote Work Developments and Challenges

Many of us who work remotely/semi-remotely claim an increase in production and satisfaction. I do, at least. Because I value my hybrid-but-primarily-work-from-home arrangement and because I have taken an interest in the work environments of others in this post-COVID age, I like to keep an eye on office (physical and virtual) trends. Allow me to share three brief nuggets…

Even if it meant working in a closet at times, I have enjoyed working from home.

Yesterday, I was on a Zoom call with the founder of a vendor we use. After we finished our business, he unblurred his background to reveal that he was working from his car. He proceeded to show me that he had a desk attached to his steering wheel so that he can literally work from his vehicle. Based in Sydney, Australia, this successful and innovative professional told me that he basically goes from beach to beach, finds a parking spot, and begins the day from inside his car. He either fishes or swims during his lunch break. He told me this unique arrangement has been an absolute game changer for him. I was quite impressed.

On another note, I recently read an article about something called the Sunday Scaries. The term is used to describe the anxiety and dread that some people experience on Sunday night prior to the beginning of the work week. In the past at other jobs I have felt some low key nervous energy on Monday eve but nothing debilitating. In fact, when I worked in intercollegiate athletics, Sunday night was almost like our Friday night because the numerous sporting events we worked during the weekend were in the rear view mirror, giving us a couple days of calm before the craziness would start up again.

But once I was back in a job with traditional hours and I had started a family, the Sunday Scaries started to slightly impact me. After a fabulous weekend of bonding with my wife and daughter (pre-Beau), I would have to leave them to work five days in the office. There was definitely some sadness involved. Having the ability to work from home remedied this feeling. I have written before about the comfort I feel with having a wall separate us as opposed to miles.

Finally, I have noticed on LinkedIn that we seem to be at a crossroads once again regarding these remote work arrangements. Employers in some industries are anxious for their employees to return to the office. This is creating noticeable push back, especially from millennials and Gen Z. It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out. There is so much to unpack argument-wise on both sides…a task that I don’t have the space nor the time to lay out.

This was what my first home office looked like. I have found myself to be very productive working from home.

With that said, my allegiance is pledged to the side that believes as long as work is getting done, it shouldn’t matter if it is completed at home or in the office. Lots more to come on this front but I am sure appreciative of the time I have been afforded to work from home by WSU. Don’t Blink.

Hungry For “The Bear”

Sidney and I are almost finished with the first (and so far only) season of “The Bear.” You can stream the series on Hulu and I highly recommend that you do. It has been heralded as the best streaming show of the year—and not just because it is highly engaging. “The Bear” is scoring rave review after rave review because of its supposed dead-on accurate depiction of the restaurant industry.

“The Bear” is a great show to steam for multiple reasons.

Okay, just a couple points of clarification from the above paragraph: Despite a name that might lead some to believe the show is a wild animal documentary, “The Bear” is actually a fictional drama about a restaurant and the people who work at it. Also, the reason why I use “supposed” when describing the authentic portrayal of the restaurant business is because aside from working the concession stand at minor league baseball games with my Knights of Columbus brothers, I have zero experience in food service.

But if I am hesitant to trust the critics who praise “The Bear” for its accuracy, I could turn to another trusted source—my wife. Sidney worked at restaurants prior to us meeting and as we have watched the episodes together, she has confirmed a lot of the struggles and triumphs that Carmy and his Original Beef staff face. Along the way, the series has also inspired Sid to share her own personal stories and experiences from working in food service. It has been a great way to get to know my wife just a little bit more.

What I have learned about restauranting from “The Bear” is that for many places the business is a complete grind. You almost have to be obsessive with all aspects of your operation and the slightest issue—whether food related or utility/billing/staffing related—can spell disaster for the bottom line. Many restaurants are working on razor thin margins and there is little room for error.

Even for someone like myself who has not worked in a restaurant, “The Bear” still teaches some lessons.

Aside from the negative realities of stress, I have also learned about the positives of working in a restaurant, namely the camaraderie that exists in the kitchen. The employees of a restaurant function as a team and bonds develop. As with any close-knit team, the culture resembles that of a family. It is true that family is sometimes messy, and that is depicted in this series, but at the end of the day everyone seems to have the other’s back.

As I mentioned, I have never worked in a restaurant before. Can “The Bear” have any type of impact on me beyond its entertainment value and the stories it pushed out of Sid? I think so. The series illustrated the extremely tough nature of the restaurant business and the nightly high stakes that come with it. Anything, including snarky online reviews, can tilt a family-owned eatery in a dangerously wrong direction.

I write Google Reviews a lot. If I try a new restaurant, I am going to post a review about it. Generally, my reviews are 85% positive. However, in the future, if I feel I was subjected to a rotten experience, I am going to choose my words carefully and keep the hardworking people in the kitchen in mind. I wouldn’t want my review to add any unnecessary hardship to a business that is on the brink.

I encourage you to watch “The Bear” and see if you can glean anything from it. If not, you will still enjoy it. Aside from the restaurant themes, you will be treated to an incredible production of kitchen sounds, beautiful food, and superb acting. Don’t Blink.