winter-solstice

According to the almanac, the local December Solstice occurs on 21 December at approximately 4pm.  At that moment I take a deep breath in and say a nonspecific prayer of thanksgiving and hopes for the new year for all.

I’ve written about the day before; I am very fond of the winter solstice. I suppose my all-Northern-Hemisphere bloodline (going back to the Vikings) is integrated with the celebration of Yule. It is not a boisterous holiday. Rather, it is very quiet, like the dark winter’s night. I light candles. I sit still. I feel the earth spin around the Arch of Time.  Lovely.

In this spiritual introverted state I retreat into the inner department of my mind where I wonder at Life’s mysteries.  I feel connected to the past, not only my past but the past of countless generations.

I sleep well at this time of year. I get sleepy soon after dinner and I wish to retire quickly.  In my hibernaculum I wish to go to sleep until March – I really am “bear”. This is not depression; it is quite the opposite. It is the serene satisfaction of being right in the world. The earth has tilted away from the sun; it is a time for peace, sleep, and deep somniferous thoughts.

Happy Solstice. Happy Yule.

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Spo-fans may recall last May Urs Truly was persuaded by The Bad Influence to get my first (and so far only) pedicure. My toes were painted red and green, as in port and starboard (as you leave the harbor). Being a scientist I decided to use the opportunity to see how long it takes toenails to grow out and lose their lustre.  Like retreating full moons , the colours have waned to two crescents of kelly green and cherry red.

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So my little experiment reveals it takes nine months for toenails to grow out and replace themselves. **

Try to tell as many people as you can in town.

In a way I am glad to see them go. I was never comfortable taking off my socks at the gym lest I get sardonic looks. Truth be told no one ever asked about them, other than The Good Doctor who questioned my reasoning during my latest routine checkup.  Being a rationalist he thought I could have saved the effort by googling the question “how long does it take for toenails to grow”. Thanks to this, I can’t publish my finding in JAMA or NEJM. It is another example of ‘it’s all been done before’.

I suppose I am open to getting another pedicure, if The Bad Influence should have another visit. Meanwhile I remain butch without polish.

Perhaps 2015 is the year for taking the bold step of getting a tattoo. I insist on hiring only the best; I don’t want no rubbish. This means flying out Mr. Rubright (all expenses paid) to AZ, although he may have a devil of a time lugging the equipment and  rubber ducks by TSA at the airport.  Perhaps it is better for me to go to Arkansas.  I can come back with a tattoo and a fresh coat of toenail polish to boot, if they have such places in Arkansas.

 

** Mine anyway.

61YRYwYtSJL._SL1500_Through trial and error I’ve learned tech-toys make the best birthday prizes, so on Monday last for Someone’s birthday I gave him a Tim-bit.**  It seems a hit. Like most successful tech-gifts Someone disappears into them for a few days to learn how they work. All I know about the thing is it is a black bracelet that tracks data to promote health.  He tells me it keeps track of how many paces he walks, and it encourages him to do more.  It tells him to get up as he has been sitting too long and why don’t he consider getting up and making his quota of exercise. This is fascinating; when I’ve attempted to get him off the couch and away from the TV for the same goals, he throws me mordant looks to kill and exclaims I am not the boss of him. He is spontaneously wanting now to go on longer walks, proudly pointing out how many steps he has done.  So what if a plastic band overnight accomplished what I haven’t achieved in years.  Who knew? I bought him an electronic nag. Spousal Abuse Humor 5

Perhaps the Tim-bit will promote bigger and longer goals in other areas other than weight and cardiovascular fitness.  I am not too worried about ‘being replaced by a machine’ but said functions are apparently just the tip of the techno-iceberg of what the Tim-bit can do. My mind boggles.  I am too discreet to put into words what about the gizmo which worries me (lest my blog lose its ‘G” rating). The Tim-bit is shaped uncannily like some other bracelet like objects I already possess, which also (in their way) assist and encourage activity. I just hope I still hold the patent on certain functions no device can rival or replace.

timbits** Actually it is called a Fitbit but I can’t seem to remember this. Out of habit I keep referring to it as a Tim-bit. These two objects are at opposite ends of the  health universe, but I like the link.  Fitbits track of how much to do to burn off the Tim-bits.

I was surfing the internet the other day when I stumbled upon a list of foods to avoid during the holiday season. The author warns me if I don’t abjure from certain holiday foods I will be transformed into a dumpling by New Year’s Eve. Her advice is simultaneously sensible and absurd. Skimming the list, I read the usual suspects: avoid eggnog, cookies, sweets in general, and all liquor.  I was most fascinated by the advice to shun ‘multi-layered cheese dips”. The mind boggles and reels. I can forgo sweets and eggnog and I can lay off the booze. But ‘no cheese at Christmas’ sounds almost radical, like no turkey at Thanksgiving.

Alas, I can’t find the original article to discern what exactly is a ‘multi-layered cheese dip’.  They sound delicious – I use the plural for the list implies there are legions of these dreadful dips. I googled the expression and what mostly comes up are recipes for seven-layered bean dip. These are nasty in themselves but not what the article implied (nor what I covet). I imagine MLCD as something hot, served with nasty chips. They sound quaint, like something out of cookbooks from the late 60s/early 70s. I imagine Better Homes and Gardens had a section for multi-layered cheese dips all to themselves, right after the chapter for fondue and just before the one on jello-molds.

And now I want some.  I have the opposite of ‘having my cake and eating it too’; I am told to avoid something I can’t find. Eating raw vegetables and drinking seltzer doesn’t sound to me a holly jolly Christmas. I plan to have a snort or two and eat my first Christmas pudding.  If anyone knows a recipe for multi-layered cheese dip, please pass it on why don’t you. I will be most grateful.

On Mondays mornings I usually feel rested and ready for the week. The homework/paperwork is caught up. I have nice pot of tea brewing. From my office window I see the donzerly  light coming over the mountains to the east of the Valley.**   Monday’s schedule doesn’t look too heinous. It appears to be another usual day. Mondays are basically the same. I will work 7-5 with a pharmaceutical luncheon break at noon. After work I will go to the gym for thirty minutes doing some sort of exercise.   I lead a dull life.

This Monday evening will be exceptional : rather than merely doing homework/phone calls and go to bed we will have cake and prizes for it is Someone’s birthday. Someone can be rather a stick-in-the-mud about his birthday. While I like to celebrate everyone’s and anyone’s birthday with 2-3 days activities, Someone could pass through the day with hardly a nod to it.  I have a fabulous birthday prize for him, but I shan’t tell you lest he be reading this. He often mildly remonstrates in a Midwestern manner about his prizes; I may have to put my foot down and insist he doesn’t return it as too expensive/I’m not worthy or whatever neurosis arises to mar the celebration of his nativity.  He announced he will get himself a cake.  Carrot cake is his favorite, so the odds are good it will be carrot.

In our house the 15th of December is when we usually put up the tree.  Our ornaments are a bricolage of ‘his’, ‘his’, and ‘ours’.  I’ve seen on-line the fabulous ornaments of fellow bloggers; in comparison ours resemble Charlie Brown Christmas trees.  So I shan’t be posting any photos. The only ‘good ones’ we pocess are glass bulbs with our names on them, from Bronners (we are from Michigan; it’s the law – all Michiganders have one).

It would be nice to imagine things will slow down at work and at home, now the prizes for the family are in the post and I have completed the majority of my shopping for Someone.  Work can be slower at this time of year, but I am going to cover another physician this season (hohoho) so I better not drop my guard.

Well it’s about 750AM. I better pull up the chart of the first patient and get cracking.  I don’t want any nonsense today.  I see from the calendar today’s pharm rep is a bit of a sycophant.  This may make for a tedious talk at lunch but the food will be extra good.

 

** Donzerly is an adjective to describe the sky prior to actual sunrise. It is the opposite of gloaming. I first heard the term in grade school, when we sang the National Anthem. “Oh say can you see by the donzerly light…”

It’s been a hectic week, worthy of the Red Queen. I pause this Saturday night to beat on the drums and tell the tribesmen (and women) the news……

 

I snicker whenever I hear Linus tell Charlie Brown in the Christmas special he doesn’t know anyone other than Charlie B. who turns Christmas into a problem. I know legions. This includes myself; I don’t rest easy until my shopping is concluded. Happily this is almost so. The prizes and stocking stuffers are picked out and will soon be on  their way to Michigan (Land of Spos) for the “Christmas on the 20th”. Tomorrow when Someone is ushering “The Nutcracker” (a double header) I can run around town and attend to his list of wants. I always fret what I get him is going to be insufficient.

Spo-fans may be pleased to hear I am going to make the Christmas pudding. Spo-fans and FB friends (bless all of them) sent me a myriad of recipes. I found one not too ponderous and still possible in time for the 24th.*  Finding proper suet was hellacious. I would ask the grocers for suet only to get sardonic looks as if I had asked for yak. Many have never heard of such let alone stock it. Happily I found some in local butcher shop. The shredded fat looks like slightly bloody packing material. My choice of pudding can sit on the shelf until Christmas day. **

We still haven’t trimmed the tree. I am not worried about this so much as the Halloween bric-a-brac still sitting in the den, piled up and not put away properly. It is rather macabre to encounter Christmas in one room and Halloween in another. It feels like a department store.

Tomorrow I have to watch the pudding steam of nearly six hours so I will have plenty of time to read blogs, do paperwork, etc. I just hope we get the pumpkin things tided away in time for Christmas. I don’t want to confuse Santa or give him a heart attack. This year rather than milk and cookies I think I will put out some peanuts and a good snort of whisky.  Afterall, he is a grown up.

 

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* I rejected the recipes written in metric and/or required four weeks advance preparation. One of them makes pudding in the microwave in – wait for it – fifteen minutes. This one seems to take all the fun out of it.

** Someone is dubious something sitting on a shelf, unrefrigerated, isn’t going to be hazardous. I am trying to assuage him many fine British folks consume such puddings every year and no one dies.

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The Two-foots with the horned hats and bark too loudly say they would give me a nice treat if I wrote a blog entry. They explained the writer, The Other Dog, was boring them to death with British bits and a dog could do better.

The Friendbeast and The Other Dog have again gotten out the funny tree that doesn’t have any scent. I suspect they will hang things off its branches this weekend. Meanwhile the kennel is a mess and I can hardly find a place to lie down.

The Friendbeast continues to let The Other Dog out on his own most mornings so he may go for an all day long walk. This is not fair, but I still get the best spot on the elevated pack bed. The Other Dog and I sometimes fight over the prime spot next to The Friendbeast but I am pleased The Friendbeast hugs me not The Other Dog when he sleeps.

I love walks I love The Friendbeast but he is annoying me by putting little pellets down my throat. He holds my snout and breathes on my nose, which is dirty pool; I can’t throw up the pill that way.

The Other Dog claims I am always on the wrong side of every door, but this is not so. I merely worry he does not get enough exercise and I like attention so I make an effort to tap on the glass to go outside as often as I can to get him up and walking around as much as possible. Have I mentioned I like to lick The Other Dog’s face and neck to keep him well-groomed?  He has a nice taste. The Other Dog says he knows many two-foots who would enjoy doing the same, but this is my job. Keeping The Other Dog active and groomed is exhausting. “It’s a dog’s life” he likes to say whenever he sees me taking my necessary naps.

When the front door is open I watch for intruders. I take no chances; I bark at everyone passing by. I don’t want to be accused of falling asleep at the switch.

The Other Dog gets to stay home every five days for two days, when he thinks he can sleep in.  But a contract is a contract. I make sure he gets up at at 515AM to take him for our daily walk.
I hope you enjoyed this. I hope the horned-headed two foots keep their promise to put out a treat. The Other Dog says he just hates it when burly bearded  two-foots don’t put out.  He must be fond of meaty treats and bones too.

55897_18I recently got an email from a Spo-fan who wanted to know if he “had solved the mystery” to my true identity. Having read my blog for some time he has come to the conclusion I am not really from Midwest USA – or Canada (as some entries imply) – but I hail from the UK. I’ve been outed: I am actually British – allegedly near Norfolk as in some of my videos I sound to him like I am trying to cover up an East Anglican accent.

While my surname is English and my ancestors hail from Somerset this was thirteen generations ago. I assured him I am not English. I could not tell if he was disappointed or relieved. I felt sorry for the fellow for it sounds like he did a lot of work to come to his (alas, erroneous) conclusion. It’s depressing to see your hard work go down the swanny.

I fancy I would make an excellent subject to Her Majesty. I drink tea; I refer to the restroom as ‘the loo’. When my patients ask me how I am today I reply I am just ducky. Better yet I am familiar with the rats in Tewkesbury. Best of all I feel quite at home in inclement weather. Jolly good fun. I may not know tuppence about football, but I can recite all the English Kings and Queens.

I suppose being British is more than knowing all the skits of Monty Python and preferring vinegar on my fries – opps, chips, but I am willing to try.  Maybe The British Psychiatric Association can arrange a shrink-exchange. I can spend a year in Cornwall (speaking like a pirate) while some Englishman with visions of playing cowboy can come here to Arizona. If he gets homesick not too far away on Bell Road is a proper British pub with real British food and ale (no rubbish).

I wonder if there are McDonalds and/or Starbucks in the UK.

 

 

Now bring us some figgy pudding

Now bring us some foggy pudding  chistmas-pudding-recipe2

Now bring us some figgy pudding

And bring some out here !

This year I have a fancy to make a proper English Christmas pudding. After countless viewing of “A Christmas Carol” I’ve been fascinated by that brown ball soaked with brandy and lit on fire.   This year I thought I would try.

I’ve had the desire for years, but I’ve always been intimidated to make one; the prep-work sounds hellacious. The list of ingredients is long and many sound hard to find : suet, candied peel, and sultanas.* The recipes seem to all include boiling the matter for hours in contraptions I don’t own, then hanging it to dry for days.  This sounded like a lot of fuss and guaranteed to go wrong along the way.

I recently posted on Facebook a request for a christmas pudding recipe, hoping my British buddies (or chums rather) would ‘put out’ as it were. The generous souls provided me with several recipes. I now have the rich dilemma which one to try. Interesting: none of the recipes are quite alike. I thought there was only one proper way to cook one; it turns out this is not so. One of the recipes is from a Mary Berry, who is the intimidating cooking judge on the British bake-off. She makes Martha Stewart look like a diner cook.

So, do I try a simple one or go for one that stretches over weeks?

Someone suggests I should not be cowed but try the later. This is easy for him to say: he will not have any part of it, as he is not interested in this project. He doesn’t like raisins, and suet with breadcrumbs are not on his menu of edibles.  Like the little hen I am going to do this myself and for myself.**

I suppose I will try a ‘basic pudding’ which doesn’t require too many weeks of prep or hours of boiling.   Unless it looks like a cowpie, I will probably post a photo of my industry. Wish me luck. If this goes well, then I may move on to mince pie or roast goose.

Mr. Dickens would be so proud.

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* For years I didn’t even know what these were other than suet, which was found in bird feeders. I didn’t think it was edible.

** This may tip the decision making towards making one of the ‘lo-cal’ versions. I won’t feel so bad eating a whole pudding made with butter and a couple of eggs than one composed of suet with eight eggs. Oh my goodness.

What is the matter with The Christmas Elf on the Shelf?

Urs Truly has never heard of the him until recently, but from what I read on Facebook, everyone has one. The nefarious fellow apparently poops both chocolate kisses onto cookies and peppermint candies into the loo. He seems have the worst of luck as he is constantly having accidents. Perhaps he’s into S&M bondage; I have seen him duct taped to the insider of a cupboard door by Buzz Lightyear. He looks to be the most unfortunate of sprites.

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I haven’t found anyone tell tell me his story or history. Where did he come from? He looks sort of related to Hermie the Elf. I imagine once upon a time they were lovers before Hermie became the bum-boy of Yukon Cornelious.  Alas, without facts these are mere conjecture on my part.

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With such notoriety on the internet you would think purchasing Mr. C. Elf (or one of his ilk) would be easy, but alas no such luck. The closest I have to success was at Target. Unfortunately The Christmas Elf comes coupled with a box full of what-nots and bibelots and I am not that interested in his genealogy to shell out that much cash. Most intriguing is the announcement The Christmas Elf is a she – or is he? From the scurrilous photos on FB he looks like male. But this box says he/she/it is female.  The sex of fairies is never obvious.  Perhaps he/she/it is a drag queen.

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I would ask for one for Christmas, but with “getting some” being my top priority I would hate to get The Christmas Elf rather than my true desire. Perhaps it is just as good. There is something about his face I don’t quite trust. I’ve seen “Poltergeist”; I know what happens.

We are slowly getting out the Christmas trimmings of which there is no lack of stuffed animals and kiddie-toys (Someone has a appetence for such).  I suppose we don’t need a Christmas Elf. Besides, the other toys would probably despise him and sooner than you can say Jack Frost I will find his hands sewn together under my sewing machine or drowned in the wassail punch. Oh the horror.

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