A brief tour of some of our favorite things from the last year.

New Years in Buenos Aires

We started 2017 in Argentina. We had just visited Vero’s family in San Juan for a few weeks, before continuing on to Buenos Aires for a week, leading up to the new year. BA was fantastic, though hot, muggy, and largely devoid of people (most locals get out during the peak of summer). What was most delightfully surprising was the abundance of good vegan options. Yelp even worked super well! Every meal was a treat, and we could have happily stayed much longer.

The La Bocha neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Normally there would be Tango in these streets, but not during the peak of the hot summer.

Virtual Reality

A silly but very fun thing was getting an HTC Vive VR gaming setup. It’s gads of silliness to have friends and family try it out. The future is here, it’s really fun, and you look goofy doing it. Despite all the cool demos and games, the archery game in Valve’s “The Lab” remains the favorite of most people who try this out. As you draw the bow, the controller in your hand vibrates subtly, and your brain is tricked into feeling the weight of the draw. It’s eerily well done.

Day Breaker

Day Breaker is a morning rave / dance party / health food sample buffet. It’s become a new favorite thing to do. You show up at a different location each month. For June (pride!), the party was on the Hornblower boat, and we steamed out around the bay for a few hours, dancing and smiling while the sun came up.

Island Time

Garden of Eden Arboretum

Over the summer Vero joined her sister in Hawaii. Much adventures ensued, including riding bicycles down an extinct volcano— a 10,000 foot descent. Other highlights include beach turtles, snorkeling at Molokini crater, and getting lost down dirt roads. All of it done on two sprained ankles because that’s typical Veronica.

Summertime East Coast Trip

We were lucky enough to visit my Uncle John and Aunt Margo over in Pennsylvania. They were gracious hosts as ever. We enjoyed helping cook many of the dinners and sharing some of our favorite dishes. This was a peaceful visit, marred only a little by the constant Madden tradition of worrying about politics and our place in the world. The mood was lightened by playing the longest round of Crazy 8’s in history.

Despite appearances, this is a pretty whimsical family.
A preserved historic coal mining town in PA.

As part of this trip Vero and I stole away to Maine for a few days before coming home. We managed to drive a good portion of the state, though Portland and Acadia National Park were the maine focuses. (Every small shop in Maine is a “main/maine” joke. It’s too much.) The Maine getaway was delightful, and I’d highly suggest everyone check it out.

Sunrise over the Atlantic. My first time watching this unfold live. It was perfect and amazing.

Friends and family grows

Our dear friends James and Elisabeth welcomed their first son, Braden, into the world this May. We’ve been delighted to be a part of their family, and get to see his personality and being develop from a wriggling bean into a 7 month old full of conviction. He’s a sweet and friendly guy, and I can’t help smile every time he looks at me.

Outside The Ahwahnee in late Oct.

Everyday life

Vero was diagnosed this year with chronic fatigue syndrome, though the symptoms set on over a year and a half ago. This has been a life changing event for both of us. It sucks, it’s mysterious, and there’s no treatment to mitigate the symptoms. Living with a chronic illness or being a caregiver to a chronically ill person is challenging. Your support and understanding is the most valuable thing for us.

Jon continues to work at Yelp, in a slightly new role for this year, focusing around data and experimentation. It’s a fun project, but large and slow moving by nature.

Road trips

I continue to be possessed by an ineffable restlessness to travel, explore, and adventure. 2017 featured more small trips than large, but they added up quite nicely. The truck (an XTerra 4x4) continues to be afantastically fun and reliable vehicle. Whether it be snow, sand, rocks, mountains, or hundreds of miles of highway, it gets the job done easily and with comfort. I even put the winch to good use in the Sierras and rescued another truck out of a big mud pit. I fully anticipate the XTerra being around for the next 10 years of adventures.

Artem also became a prominent adventure buddy in some of these road trips. I dare say we found an excellent travelling rhythm, and his trust in me to pick a good destination was hopefully well-founded. Perhaps my greatest regret is that Artem will now spend the next two years sailing around the world, and return to Canada after this sojourn. Although I’m sure we’ll cross paths again (I hope to join the sailboat sometime next year, albeit briefly), his companionship will be missed.

Experimenting with my new drone and motorcycling

The birds

Left: Zeus. Right: Sherlock

We continue to love the heck out of these tiny little dinosaurs. Every day they do something newly adorable, and Vero calls me over (or I her) to witness “what are they even DOING?!”. At some point this year the birds decided they should have a bedtime ritual. Now, every night, at 9:30pm, they assemble outside of their cage at a specific spot and with a specific posture. They look at us and wait patiently to each receive a kiss (or two, or twenty), before being tucked into the cage and covered up for bedtime. This happens every night.

Sherlock continues to be a delightful trouble maker. This year, he developed a habit of demanding to drink from any glass I have, and a “kissing” game, where he takes a kiss from one of us and passes it to Zeus. He remains in remarkable health, and loves to play every day. The moment I get home from work, he jumps on my shoulder and yells and yells until we’ve caught up on the day’s events.

Zeus also continues to live, remarkably. Early this year we found out he has a tumor on one of his testicles. But he’s a fighter. Zeus responded incredibly well to a hormone therapy, including an implant to slow the tumor’s growth. Even the vet was surprised at how well he’s doing. Zeus has been living on borrowed time since the day he was hatched as a sickly runt, but that’s never stopped him from being king of our flock and we love him for it.

Vero’s Art

Vero’s made some really impressive advancements in her art and pattern designs. My largest complaint is that the outside observer will likely not be able to appreciate the painstaking detail and work she puts into these amazing designs. In the “forest floor” pattern, each mushroom or leaf was hand-drawn, carefully shaded, and individually worthy as an incredibly detailed piece of art. When combined into a pattern and printed large, one can appreciate some of the detail, but the thumbnails online mask it dramatically.

I continue to be impressed not only by her skills (and watching them grow), but her dedication into making fully realized pieces.

Check out spoonflower.com/profiles/popelephant


I’ve become downright obsessed with photography over the year. I’ve dabbled a fair amount since college, but it was my “sabbatical” travels last year that made me realize I needed to go further. In May I acquired a Sony A7Rii, and have fallen in love with it since. I still have much to learn, and techniques to master. A curious thing has happened in this journey. I now find myself wanting to go back to the same exact spot to see it in different lights, different seasons, and capture the most perfect photo that I can. Previously, I’ve always viewed adventure as the act of seeing something for the first time, and chasing new experiences. Now, I’ve been re-learning how to view the world around me. It’s fun, but also deeply satisfying.

Below are some examples of photos I’m proud of this year (I’m hesitant to say “favorites”, I can’t really narrow it down that much). You can check out a much larger catalog here.

This is my homage to the Windows XP wallpaper. Shot near Pt. Reyes.
The Cliff House, about an hour after sunset. 30 second exposure.
Remnants from a fire 2 years ago, just outside Yosemite valley.
If you stand out in the cold for a few hours, clicking away, you might get a good photo.

Looking forward to the New Year

As we look towards the coming year, there’s plenty to be excited for. More laughter, more adventures, more nature to experience.

Atop a lighthouse in Portland, ME.

Wishing you all the best in 2018,

Jon & Vero