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What’s top of my mind: Covid-19. On my zoom appointment, many patients tell me nowadays they had covid since I last spoke with them. They are annoyed by this, as a) they had the shots and b) they probably got it from nearby others who hadn’t been vaccinated. Sometimes I think it is inevitable I will get it myself; other times I feel like rising to the occasion, seeing this a challenge, like The Duke of Edinburgh award. Can I dodge the variants and my fellow non-vaccinated/unmasked citizens?

Where I’ve been: Covid testing. Speaking of which, I got my first covid19 test last Sunday. It is Tuesday; I haven’t heard anything. Usually positive/bad tests elicit a telephone call from The Good Doctor to get in here ASAP – but is this applicable to this test? I need to look this up. last weekend I had some URI symptoms but these are past and I feel fine.

Update on Tuesday evening: My covid test is negative. Hoory for our side! Let’s hope it stays this way.

Where I’m going: Nowhere
. I stopped going to the gym. Other than the grocery store the gym was my only outlet other than work. There are no pending trips or planned outings. I lead a dull life.

What I’m watching: Mesopotamia. Someone and I have a handful of “Great Courses” video lectures yet to be watched, which we do one episode at a time at suppertime. We finished “History of the Medici” (it ends badly) and I sense this one will end badly too (The Persian Empire). In these first episodes things are just getting going between the two rivers with the development of agriculture, which in hindsight may have been a bad move.

What I’m reading: Hero of Two Worlds, the biography of Lafayette. It’s fascinating to learn about the awful situation of The American Revolution in the 1780s. Yanks like me like to think we rose as a unified country and kicked English backsides, but in fact it was a fractured and fractious mess with little chance of winning but for the help of The French and the attrition of The English. I don’t want to give away the ending, but the poor sods under Washington don’t know the English are about to give up trying as it’s too expensive.

What I’m listening to: Inuit throat singing. Years ago during a cold and dark January in the Midwest,* I bought a CD of singers of such. I speculated this is what folks do up north during these gelid times. After all, what else is there to do? It’s become a sort of January tradition of mine to hear this genera.

What I’m eating: Broccoli spinach salad. The deli counter at Uncle Albertsons is page 71 that most of its contents consists of mayonnaise-based starchy things like cole slaw, macaroni salad, and pastas. They have a decent tomato/cucumber/mozzarella salad but this grows tiresome. Last week, lo!, there was a new one, a green salad, consisting of broccoli, spinach, and red grapes, in a not too globby dressing. I gave it a try and it was OK.

Who needs a good slap: The ‘sleeping’ patients. What is a ‘sleeping’ patient I hear you ask? These are the sorts who continually come in for their checkups to report nothing is happening in their lives. This isn’t a complaint, nor a sign of depression, but a state of being, and one they are not especially worried about. “How do you spend your days?” draws a blank as if they hadn’t ever thought of such. “Oh, I guess I go online or do things about the house”. Do you have any plans this year? No they don’t. Do you have any goals for the next decade of their lives? No either. They drift through life without goals or purpose. They do this for decades without a sense of wonde who they are or what they want from life as it slips away on them. So long as they have their TV shows and online social chit-chat they are content. While there is nothing wrong with being content – few folks are – they strike me as missing out. I have to watch myself here I am not projecting my own values for Life such as growth, adventure, and meaning. They make make me sad to see them, especially the younger ones in their 20s and 30s.

On my 1-5 scale, I give the ‘sleeping’ patients one slap – a slap to wake up.

What I’m planning: Chili. January is a good month to make chili. I have on hand several variations to try. To some extent they are more or less alike. This statement may seem like blasphemy to some; people get awfully queer and defensive about what constitutes proper chili. I like mine more complicated than beef chunks in a sauce. I like mine with beans, vegetables, and perhaps something ‘unique’ to make it a conversation piece. I have a chili named “Patsy Cline chili” that has shrimp in it, but as Someone is allergic to such I won’t make this one. Chili made in a crockpot has the advantage it makes the house smell nice and the pot helps heat the kitchen up, which is much appreciated in January.

What’s making me smile: Alice in Wonderland. I have a bunch of books that I turn to whenever I need cheering up, and “Alice” is top of the list. The tale contains all I want in a children’s book: nothing didactic but nonstop nonsense and fantasy. ‘Alice’ is also a marvelous read for word puns and language. What’s not to love? The only thing missing I suppose is nasty people getting their comeuppance. For that I turn to Mr. Dahl’s deliciously morbid prose.

*Are there any other types?

What’s top of my mind: Health insurance. I am working with an insurance broker on finding some sort of coverage before the deadline this Saturday. There is hope; there are some options. He didn’t conclude it was useless. The ones offered will be expensive but far less expensive than paying out of pocket for meds for twelve months – and I will have insurance if I have to go to hospital. Someone and I will still have to mind expenses but we won’t have to resort to extremes. Let’s not count our chickens; this isn’t a done deal.

Where I’ve been: The dentist. I lead a dull life that this is the only place I’ve been really since last Wednesday. It was a routine appointment. I was told it was time for x-rays. I replied I no longer have dental insurance and I was paying out of pocket today; unless things were absolutely necessary, I would prefer not to do them. He said matter of fact that was OK and he cleaned my teeth without fuss. This interaction made me wonder: how many things are ordered at the dentist that aren’t really necessary but done to make money?

Where I’m going: Nowhere. I have no plans to go anywhere and I am almost ready to call it quits going to the gym. I need the exercise but the place is crowded with New Years resolution types and none of them are wearing masks. Are these people so stupid to work out huffing and puffing without protection? Am I stupid if going although I dress as if I worked in a nuclear laboratory?

What I’m watching: My weight. The Good Doctor last November advised me to lose weight on account of my glucose so every Friday morning I go to the master bathroom and take out the scale from underneath my vanity and weigh myself. I weigh myself in kilos. 1 January 2022 saw I was 78 kilos, which is what I weighed on 1 January 2021. I should be about 75. I plan on losing this the sensible way via diet, portion control, and exercise. It’s boring and slow, but it is the only way I know to actually works in the long run.

What I’m reading: The history of Tom Jones, a founding. The prose of Mr. Fielding, the author, is clever but often I want to box his ears to stop the rambling and get to the point. Mid-18th century prose is more wordy than a Dickens novel, and that’s saying something. I’m several chapters into it and the hero is still an infant. All the same it is amusing and that’s the point I suppose of reading something like this.

What I’m listening to: Frank Sinatra. I got a collection of his work at Christmas time and I downloaded them all into the iPhone. Mr. Sinatra’s songs come up randomly and I am continually amazed I recognize some of them but I hadn’t connected the dots they were his. “Love and marriage” came up the other day. causing me to stiffen and leap up to turn off the television only to realize we don’t have one. Mercifully I cannot remember the awful comedy show for which this song was its opening. I remember the deplorable family on that series could have been candidates in the Monty Python sketch “Worse family in Britain award” and they would have won too. I may eliminate this song from the repertoire lest I develop a PTSD situation.

What I’m eating: The last of the meal kits? Looking to cut costs to cover Rx prescriptions we are considering discontinuing Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. By now I have how to cook them down pat, and the best ones I saved the recipe cards. They can be easily imitated by buying the ingredients at Uncle Albertsons, and probably cheaper too .However, the kits are convenient and I don’t have to think or plan anything. They are more nutritious and better portion sizes too. To discontinue them means of course, I need to start planning meals and do more grocery shopping . Thanks to blogger buddies who are experts doing just this, I think I can pull it off.

Who needs a good slap: Myself. Despite the mentioned hope, there will be consequences from my bungle for missing the deadline for applying for at-work health insurance. My health care is still in jeopardy; it feels like driving without a license, hoping you won’t get into a car accident. My hopes for house repairs and travel plans may all have to be canceled. Our savings will take a blow. I feel great a fool and at home I feel shame for having put Someone in a such a spot.

I give myself on a 1-5 scale, five slaps.

What I’m planning: Cutting up the Christmas tree. The plan was to slowly unwind the faulty lights from the tree prior to putting it away for a year. Unfortunately the strands are tightly wound about the branches, and trying to undo their Laocoon-like grip results in frustration and stripping the tree of its plastic boughs. They will have to be snipped off. This will take some time to do it properly – goodness knows how long. I hope it’s done and the tree put away by Lent.

What’s making me smile: Saskatoon jam. Last month Glen W. of the “Season’s Eatings” podcast did an episode on Canadian Christmas Cuisine. He mentioned a berry I have never heard of, the saskatoonberry. He said they are especially popular in the western provinces. I emailed Debra had she ever heard of such a delicacy. She replied certainly and they are scrumptious; she eats them with relish. A few days ago I received in the post a parcel of jam made from such lovelies. Debra (the dear!) sent me some. Thank you D!

An additional thing that made me smile: Norm (who is another dear, who also lives in Canada)* told me the berries are known by other names, including a ‘politically incorrect one’. I texted him to clarify. He texted “When I was a kid … they were commonly called ‘Indian pears”. I responded I was disappointed and had hoped for something more dirty. He replied:

“Oh all right then, they were actually called ‘Those @#$!% Indian Pears” 🙂

*I know several Canucks and all of them are dears. Apparently to be so is a pre-requisite to living there, or maybe the climate makes them that way. I would presume all Canadians are happy folk but perhaps this is selective bias on my part viz. I don’t interact with the less-than-dear ones, the truculent types who hang out in Tim Hortons or live in bad parts of New Brunswick. I would add they are all well over four feet, but they are not, and ‘well over one meter” doesn’t sound so sonorous.

What’s top of my mind: Javelinas. Last night Harper and I went for our evening dog-walk, and just to the left of us in the front yard a javelina bolted out of the bushes and ran hell- bent across the street into the dark. Harper, who is fearful of small children, thought this was something delightful to try to go after. I dragged the silly dog inside, but saw signs she needed to go out right away, so we went out again, wary of our journey. I met a fellow walking his dog who told me a ‘pack of them’ was down the street and we needed to be careful. It is a reminder the indigenous desert creatures didn’t move out when we moved in; we are surrounded by coyotes, snakes, and scorpions – and javelinas.

Where I’ve been: The Blue Room. The blue room at La Casa de Spo is a combination of a guestroom and Someone’s study. I seldom go into it as it is full-up with clutter and disorganization. Most of the time I keep the door closed so as not to see it. I went into it the other day to see if we have a copy of ‘Tom Jones’.* Old books are kept piled up in its closet, which resembles that of Fibber McGee. I am half-tempted to haul the whole contents to the curb and see if Someone even notices. Another ploy to a Blue Room makeover is to have guests, prompting a tidy-up. Any one want to come for a visit?

Where I’m going: the dentist. I recently received a text reminding me I have a cleaning next Monday. I asked The Best Medical Assistant if I remembered to take time off for this. Yes, for once I had sense to do so. The Good Dentist is a very nice man and his staff all well over four feet. The extracted back molar (on the port side) is supposed be filled with a new tooth, but this would a time-consuming and quite expensive process. It is in the back so no one notices anyway.

The Good Dentist

What I’m watching: The temperatures. The nadirs are hitting now, sometimes dipping nightly into the single digits (Celsius). On occasion they get near freezing and we are supposed to put sheets and covers on the shrubbery. It is not uncommon to go for morning walk dog-walks to see the cacti capped with white Styrofoam cups. I feel perpetually cold these days, making me rethink my vague but menacing retirement plan to ‘go somewhere where there is snow”. Oh the pain.

What I’m reading: Tom Jones. Mr. Harchick, my high school English teacher, gave us a list of his favorite novels to read someday. A few years ago I found this list among my papers. I was pleased as Punch to see I have read 13 of the 19 he recommended. I want to read the remaining six. The first on the list is the mentioned ‘Tom Jones’. As The Blue Room is bereft of such, I am off to Bookman’s the used bookstore this weekend to get me a copy. I hope it isn’t too wordy as early novels tend to be. On the positive, these timeless tomes often have lots of flamboyant old words to resurrect. Someone can always tell if I’ve been reading 18th and 19th century novels by how I am speaking at supper time.

What I’m listening to: The Rat Pack. Last month I heard a delightful podcast series at “You must remember this” about Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, two people I didn’t know much about other than I’ve heard 1-2 songs of theirs. I became interested to hear more of their music. Someone gave me at Christmas CDs of Mr. Davis (tragic character), Mr. Martin (sort of ho-hum in his private life), and Mr. Sinatra (proper bastard he was). I download these this weekend into my iPhone to have me a listen.

What I’m eating: Dried fruit. At made Christmas I made another pudding, using prunes, apricots, raisins, and cranberries. I have four containers of leftover dried fruit. I am slowly incorporating them into meals so as not to have them go to waste. I learned the hard way not to eat these on their own as a snack. Oh the horror.

Who needs a good slap: The men-folk at the gym. It is not uncommon to go into the locker room and find wads or shreds of paper towel on the floor and in the lockers. There are also used/crushed plastic bottles and unflushed toilets. The cliché ‘men are pigs’ gets some validity from this untidy unsanitary spectacle. Are the women’s lockers just as disgusting?

I give men at the gym on my 1-5 scale, 3 slaps.

What I’m planning: My 401(k). Now that my workplace is owned by The Overlords I am told our 401K plan with John Hancock will be no more and a new one is being established. It is not clear to me yet if I have to write Mr. Hancock a letter of regret and please transfer the funds to the new fellow, or it can just sit there until I want it (fat chance of that). Someone suggests I transfer it to Mr. Lynch where we keep our main money. It is one of this week’s goals to discover what my options are. I know this is the right thing to do but it always tickles my dreadful intuition I will never see a penny.

Addendum: The House Manager clarified the funds at JH will be automatically transferred, but I have to register to have further money deposited.

What’s making me smile: Nothing again. This ‘W” always seems the hardest one to come up with. The state of the world, particularly the state of the country, combined with the general nastiness of my fellow man, easily overrides my emotions that I seldom smile anymore. 😦

I suppose I smile a bit when I hear the song “House of Holbein’ from the musical “Six”. This is a show about the six wives of Henry VIII and their issues. In Anne’s number, the five others sing about Miss Cleves getting done up for her fateful portrait:

You bring the corsets/we’ll bring the cinches/no one wants a waist over nine inches.

So what the makeup contains lead poison?/at least your complexion will bring all the boys in.

It’s grim humor, yes, but admittedly bang-on and funny enough to crack a smile at it.

*No, we don’t. We do have a set of Harvard Classics Collection consisting of fifty or so books bound in dull olive and printed about 1909. It’s interesting to see what’s in them, but nothing ‘fun’ it looks like.

What’s top of my mind: Christmas menu. Christmas Eve and Day will be low-key events here at La Casa de Spo. Someone will probably crash for the long weekend, after his marathon of “Nutcracker” jobs. While he settles down for a long winter’s nap, Urs Truly will be in the kitchen, preparing meals. There is salmon on the menu for Christmas Eve and a breakfast casserole for Christmas Morning. For Christmas dinner, I plan on baking an ersatz Honey-glazed ham. Most of these items and the sides are ‘new and adventuresome’ recipes, so fingers are crossed they pan out.

Where I’ve been: Several grocery stores. I feared for shortages, but I am relieved only one item on my shopping list is unobtainable: spray can whipped cream. Someone always makes this from scratch, but this year he asked to just use the canned stuff. Alas, Babylon! Nobody seems to have any. Maybe I am not looking in the right areas? I am not sure if it is with the milk products or what. In the end I may just whip up some anyway, as I am attempting again making a Christmas pudding. No rubbish whipped cream on my pudding thank you very much!

Where I’m going: Barnes and Noble. Now with the pressure off to have prizes bought and wrapped for Christmas morning, some of my last-minute shopping can be done at a leisure pace after the 25th. I can take advantage of any bargains too. I always go to Barnes and Noble after Christmas to get a blank journal for the pending year; let’s see if they have a new board game on sale that Someone would enjoy playing.

What I’m watching: Snow. I miss snow, particularly at this time of the year. On The Tube of Yous there are several videos of snow fall, ranging from gently-falling flakes to windswept blizzards. I feel good watching them; I could do so for hours.

What I’m reading: Eloise at Christmas. I have a handful of books from my youth I enjoy reading at Christmas time. The perpetually six years old Eloise lives at The Plaza, which she makes her personal playhouse at Christmas time.

What I’m listening to: My favorite Christmas tunes. My iPhone has hundreds of Christmas carols. I have narrowed down 60 of them to a new playlist: “Christmas favorites”. There is one for each carol, chosen as ‘the best of the lot’. There are a few ‘new to me”. Here’s one:

What I’m eating: BBQ Peanuts. Every year at Christmas time I combine at jar of dry roasted peanuts with a 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce, some melted butter, garlic salt, and a few drops of hot sauce – the hotter the better. The peanuts are cooked on a cookie pan on parchment paper at 350F for ~ 20 minutes, being mindful they don’t dry out and burn. They are the official Christmas munching snack here at La Casa de Spo. This year’s batch wasn’t too hot. Next year I should use more drops.

Who needs a good slap: The b-stards who burned down the Yule Goat. Every year in a town in Sweden they erect a large straw Christmas display of The Yule Goat and every year someone tries to burn it down. Most years someone succeeds, unfortunately. In the past few years The Yule Goat survived, which was heartening as it seemed to give hope about surviving the pandemic. Last week, TYG 2021 was torched and is gone.

I give the arsonists on a 1-5 scale, 5 slaps.

What I’m planning: Burning the house down. Speaking of arson at Christmas, I have a deer and special silver candelabra in the shape of a reindeer. There are four smaller versions on the dining room table, with long red taper candles in each of them. On Christmas Eve I light them, along with the tea lights in the various containers about the house. Every year when I do this Someone frets I will burn the house down. It hasn’t happened yet, but one can hope.

What’s making me smile: The Phallogical Museum in Reykjavik. My Icelandic heartthrob Mr. Gunnarson on The Tube of Yous recently opened his chili advent calendar to find a jar of hot pickles. While examining the pickle on the end of his fork, he made a comment ‘It looks like something out of The Phallogical Museum.’ I looked this up. Patience above! There really is a museum of that name! I won’t go into details on this; I will just say the notion of a museum entirely devoted to such objects not only makes smile but guffaw out loud. I wonder if it has a gift shop? The mind boggles.

What’s top of my mind: The Christmas tree. It isn’t up yet. We usually erect the tree on 15 December, which is tomorrow, but Someone is up to his oxters in work. He comes home exhausted and goes right to sleep. If there is going to be a tree up this year, I will have to do it myself. I may have to wait until the weekend to do so, as it is no small feat to assemble this bad boy. This is usually Someone’s job so I don’t know what I am doing. It’s going to be a lot of work but I want a Christmas tree.

Where I’ve been: World Market. This is my main stop for stocking stuffers. Normally the store is a mob-scene in December, but last Saturday it was surprisingly quiet – and fun. I always get Someone for his stocking a chocolate orb wrapped in gold foil. Most of his stocking stuffers are imperial tidbits. Going to World Market, I often see lots that I want, so I have to keep focused on Someone when I am shopping there.

Where I’m going: The Messiah. A lady friend of ours (who works with Someone) is interested in hearing The Messiah’ apparently she has never heard it ‘live’ and her spouse doesn’t want to go, so I said I would, provided it isn’t one of those wretched ‘sing-along’ types. In those I invariably sit next to somebody who sings loudly off-key. Oh the pain.

What I’m watching: The 12 Gays of Christmas. My holiday season is complete without seeing these fine fellows dance through ‘The twelve days of Christmas’. They are quite energetic and it makes my eyes cross to see such gyrations. The delight of the audience, women apparently, adds to the exuberance. Mind! There is no direct evidence these dandy dancers are gay, but really……

What I’m reading: Santa Mouse. My late mother bought me this book when I was quite young and every year at Christmas we read it. I have a vague memory of putting out some cheese along with the milk and cookies on Christmas Eve for Santa Mouse. Last year when I was helping close down the parent’s house, I found the book tucked away with the Christmas trimmings. I will read it this weekend and think of Mother and Christmases long long ago. I wonder if I will cry.

What I’m listening to: Christmas Carols. My iPhone Christmas playlist has over 600 carols. What a collection! It certainly doesn’t like for variety! It ranges from 14th century Noel chanson to The Beach Boys (oh the pain). I put it on ‘random play’ which means I might hear Joan Sutherland singing ‘Joy to the world’ followed by a Blue Christmas from Elvis, then Mannheim Steamroller (how 80s!), and then to Handel. I have sixteen versions of “God rest ye merry, gentlemen”. My favorites this year are sung by Annie Lennox, Maddy Prior (the dear!), and Pentatonix:

What I’m eating: Jalapeno Popper Goldfish Crackers. Pepperidge Farms (curse them!) has released a new goldfish cracker flavor of this type. I’m not supposed to eat this sort of thing but the package fell into my shopping cart at Uncle Albertsons and followed me home. The verdict is mixed. Someone thinks all Goldfish crackers taste the same more or less and this one is no better; I thought there was enough ‘kick’ I’d get more – someday. It says ‘limited time only’ so maybe it won’t stay. Part of me will be relieved.

Who needs a good slap: The Good Doctor
. I have run out of my blood pressure medication. I asked Mr. Butler, The Good Pharmacist, to contact The Good Doctor’s office for a refill. I also left word at the office I needed a refill. It’s been a few days and the Rx still hasn’t arrived, despite repeated messages. In TGD’s defense, this has never happened before; he/his office are always spot-on time with refill requests. I’ve been off meds for only a day but it is enough for my arterioles to regress to savagery at raising my systolic over 200. If this prescription doesn’t go through soon, I am going to call in my own, which is something I haven’t done in decades. The APA Secret Police will frown but it beats having a stroke.

I give The Good Doctor on a 1-5 scale, three slaps. *

What I’m planning: Someone’s birthday. 15 December (today) is the feast day of the nativity of Someone. He didn’t want anything per se, and he’s working after all. Mostly he doesn’t want to think about it rather not notice it. Although he didn’t want a birthday prize, I am giving him a card and some flowers (surprise!) and a piece of carrot cake, his favorite.

What’s making me smile: The Yule Lads. 12 December started the arrival of The 13 Yule Lads in Iceland, and the start of the ornaments. I hang up the appropriate one each morning before Walking the Dog. As the tree isn’t up, the three lads so far are swinging from the kitchen chandelier. The tradition goes if you put out your boots each night between now and Christmas, the Yule Lad whose turn it is will fill them with good things to eat. Alas, I got nothing. Perhaps Phoenix AZ is too far from Reykjavik for troll-types to travel. Perhaps it is for the best. Edibles in the Doc Martens would attract javelinas, coyotes, and scorpions. No fun that!

*Addendum: Uncle Albertson just texted me the prescription is ready. Hurray for our side!

What’s top of my mind: Christmas. This happens every year about now: I start to panic that I’ve done no shopping and there is nothing ‘up’. I would like some Christmas cheer; it isn’t going to happen unless I make an effort. The only sense that it is Christmas is I my iPhone. On it is a playlist of Christmas carols and tunes. What’s on it could be an entry onto itself. Starting this evening every night I will do something: I will put up some decoration and send something out until it’s all up and done.

Where I’ve been: Hanny’s. Now we are going back to some in-house theatre, we are stopping by our favorite watering hole after the shows. We were happy to see some of the staff is still there, having somehow survived the pandemic shut down. The place is packed more than ever, mostly with young folks, for it is a ‘hip’ place to be. Unfortunately, the demand for seats is high and the number of wait-staff is low. This makes for long waits and less-than-stellar service. “If we had never been here before,” said Someone the last time we were there “I wouldn’t return”. Hanny’s makes the best cocktails in town, including three new ones for Christmas. When asked which one I would like, I quoted from ‘A Christmas Carol” when Scrooge is told by Jacob Marley three spirits were arriving:

“Couldn’t I take `em all at once, and have it over?

Our server didn’t catch the reference. Oh the pain.

Where I’m going: Petsmart. Uncle Albertson has some shortages, no surprise, but what surprises me is what isn’t available. One item is dogfood, particularly the one our dog Harper eats. There are plenty of other brands, but Someone is wary to buy something else. He states changing a dog’s diet causes havoc on their digestion. We need to drive around looking to see who may have some. Petsmart has heaps or so we hope. By the way, it makes my eyes cross to see the shelves of various dog food – how on earth is one supposed to know which one is right – or are they all the same?

What I’m watching: Chiles en Nogada. Mexican stuffed poblano peppers in a walnut sauce. Someone was fond of them when we visited Puerta Vallarta. The red and green and white colors of the dish makes me think to make some at Christmas time, provided I can figure out the recipe. On line there are heaps, and I don’t know which one is the ‘proper one’. Some of the recipes are quite elaborate. As it will be my first time making some -and we don’t have a baseline reference for comparison – I may make a simple version.

If anyone knows of a good and/or proper recipe for this dish, please tell me.

What I’m reading: Tool of Titans. I bought this lofty tome a few years ago and only recently started to read it. Mr. Tim Ferris interviewed a whole bunch of celebrities on how they achieved their successes in life – not just money or prestige (although most had both) but their inner-peace. These great beings all had their individual thoughts and techniques and philosophies, but there were some habits that regularly appeared. I give you the some of the bigger ones, so you don’t have to read it:

More than 80% had some sort of daily meditation ritual.

A large amount of the men skipped breakfast, and many (men and women) ate scantily in general.

Almost all took their ‘weaknesses’ and turned them into huge competitive advantages.

One of the most influential book read was “Man’s search for meaning”.

What I’m listening to: Ana Gasteyer. I recently asked friends and family on FB to suggest some charming atypical albums of Christmas music. Sean (the dear!) suggested I listen to a Ms. Ana Gasteyer, someone I am not familiar with. Love this! I bought the album right away. Thank you, Sassybear! When I hear it I think of you.

What I’m eating: Chicken pot pie. Someone doesn’t do much cooking, but he likes making chicken pot pies. They do not vary; he uses the same recipe every time. They are delicious and we eat them with relish. He recently made one using the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. We deemed it a success, indeed I thought it slightly superior to its predecessors, possibly as there was more meat in it than usual. I enjoy them with dashes of whatever hot sauce is at hand. Yesterday I used one called ‘Serrano Claus’ hohoho.

Who needs a good slap: My CME (continuing medical education) company. Doctors are obliged to earn so many credits per year to show they are keeping up on things.* With in-person talks on hold, one does this via audio-lectures. Mine source is, Audio-digest, has been sending out several ‘it’s time to renew your subscription’ emails, what feels like several months before it was to actually expire. Last week I called to renew my subscription, which I did after waiting 15 minutes on hold to do so. A few days later, I got an email from my ‘personal representative’ reminding me it was time to renew my subscription. I called and left word I have already done so, but please call me to confirm, as her email seemed to imply it didn’t happen. She has yet to call me back.

On the 1-5 scale, I give Audio-digest one slap.

What I’m planning: Cookies. I am not supposed to be consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates, and in my defense I am doing fairly well at this. However, Christmas without cookies sounds bleak, so I will be making some if only to give them away. So, if I am going to make just one type, what will it be? There are the traditional types of Spo-cookies, gingerbread and “S”, of which I have written. Maybe I will make something new and adventuresome. I may make one that doesn’t sound especially ‘good to me’ so I am less tempted to eat them. I am starting to look on line and in my cookbooks for ideas.

Do you have a favorite Christmas cookie? Please share the recipe in the comments.

What’s making me smile: Ivar Gunnarsson. This fine fellow (whom I assume is well over four feet) makes delightful videos on all things Icelandic. Like he did last year, Mr. Gunnarsson is counting down the days to Christmas with a daily chile-based candy/hot sauce advent calendar. Watching him swallow and gag on hot candy balls and sauces makes me smile every time.

*There is no good evidence this actually makes a doctor ‘better’, but there it is.

What’s top of my mind: Crayola crayons. Some nostalgic demon has possessed me to reflect often on a box of crayons. I suppose it is the collection of colors that attracts me. I haven’t had a box of crayons since I was ten years old. Perhaps Santa or someone like him will bring me a box at Christmas.

Where I’ve been: The hot tub. ‘Tis the season hohoho to use it, now that is cold enough outside to make it worthwhile. I like to sit in it and look at the stars. The other day Someone and I took the top off to hold an inspection. It seemed OK and we got in. Alas, Babylon! When the bubbles came on, it was so heavily chlorinated we were literally asphyxiating on the fumes. The chemicals need adjusting to allow one to sit in it while breathing.

Where I’m going: Goodwill. Speaking of possessions, I’ve been also channeling my paternal grandmother who could not abide ‘dust collectors’. The office and the home need purging. I have a sack of a size worthy of The Grinch; I plan to climb Mt. Crumpit in order to dump it – at Goodwill. I hope they haven’t grown picky with their acceptances. I have heaps.

What I’m watching: Sabine Hossenfelder . I recently discovered her marvelous lecture series on The Tube of Yous. She’s a scientist who presents entertaining and informative lectures on physics and astronomy. She does this using a no-nonsense approach, while with a dead-pan look that is hilarious. One of my favorites is titled: Flat earth ‘science”: wrong, but not stupid.

What I’m reading: “Hero of two worlds” by Mike Duncan. Mr. Duncan has an excellent history podcast called “Revolutions”. He recently wrote a biography on Lafayette, a French fellow whom I don’t know much about. I’m only a few chapters into the book and it is a delight. Fine job, Mr. Duncan!

What I’m listening to: “Messiah” by Handel. I tend to listen to ‘Christmas music’ as certain times of the season. Mr. Handel’s oratorio is one I like to hear ‘early on’, as a sort of prelude to the rest of the season’s music. I’ve heard it so many times I could sing it myself. By the way, I dislike “sing along Messiah concerts’ as I always seem to sit next to someone who sings loudly off-key and be completely unaware of it. Oh the pain.

What I’m eating: Thanksgiving leftovers. Still. They never seem to end. We are almost through the turkey soup. Someone plans on making one of his delicious pot pies with what’s left. I love them so; I eat them with relish.

Who needs a good slap: Myself. This week realized I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Monday. Not only did I forget the appointment, I forgot to arrange for time off. It is not nice now to tell staff to clear out my Monday afternoon scheduled so I can attend it. I will call and reschedule for a later date. How many times now have I vowed whenever I make an appointment to immediately put in a request at work for the time off, to give the clerical staff time to arrange so.

I give myself on a 1-5 scale four slaps.

What I’m planning: Nothing. Usually ‘what’s making me smile” is the stumper; this week is is ‘what I’m planning”. I can’t think of anything. There are no parties or get-togethers arranged. I suppose I am beginning to think about what to have for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; this gives me something to look forward to at least. By realizing I have nothing planned otherwise, it spurs me to come up with something. I will keep you posted.

What’s making me smile: Emails from the bell choir. Back in Michigan, before I moved to Arizona, I was a member of the bell choir at my church in Ann Arbor. I enjoyed this, especially the comradery. Ginny, the intrepid choir captain, continues to include me on all her emails she sends out to the members. I get to read about the rehearsal times and the members’ activities. It feels nice to have this connection, even though I haven’t been an active member since 2005. I hope someday to return this church and hear the choice and see Ginny before this correspondence turns into a ’84 Charing Cross Road’ scenario.

What’s top of my mind: Thanksgiving. We are going to have a Thanksgiving dinner. It will be a modest supper, just the two of us. We purchased a modest turkey breast along with a small bag of sprouts, just enough for two people. I will mash a few potatoes and there is a jar of gravy for all of it. Normally Someone makes a couple of pies, but with neither one of us supposed to consuming sugar he will make only one. We will each have a token slice and that’s about it. It is enough; I am glad to be having something.

Where I’ve been: The liquor store. Someone needed a bottle of Fireball whisky * for a birthday prize for a co-worker if his. It is also Nouveau Beaujolais season. We like a Gewürztraminer with our turkey dinner. So it was off to Total Wine to get these three items. Sooner I’d eat rats at Tewkesbury than enter a liquor store prior to Thanksgiving but I hoped by going near closing time it would not be so hectic. At 7PM it wasn’t bad at all. But there was only one crate of Nouveau left! Normally they have a display of many bottles! I bought two bottles, which is enough.

Where I’m going: The post office. A few years ago I made a Spo-shirt that alas doesn’t fit. The shirt has been hanging in the closest, waiting for an owner. In Palm Springs I met a new friend (thanks to ‘Frog’-endeavors) who will receive the shirt. This means I have to go to the post office this weekend to mail it. Going to the post office right after Thanksgiving is worse than a pre-Thanksgiving visit to the liquor store. I plan on bringing my Kindle and good set of headphones to block out the almost certain orchestra of scorched cats that is a long line of cranky customers at the post office.

What I’m watching: Two men in a bath tub. I was recently learned of a series on The Tube of Yous, made by a Damon L. Jacobs, who interviews celebrities in the gay community. The gimmick is both Mr. Jacobs and thems he interviews are in a bathtub. I am not 100% certain this is sincere, or even if the bathtub is real (it looks like a prop). I’m also uncertain if I will continue watching. The guests often talk about their struggles and their body issues, but all of them are hotties (as is Mr. Jacobs). Hearing these well-built guys talk about their subjective short-comings seems a bit bogus. The series resembles a road accident: I want to not look, but I do anyway.

What I’m reading: To be determined. Last night when I should have been trying to sleep I stayed up to finish ‘One Last Waltz’ by Ethan Mordden. The novel gave me the emotions I love having when reading a book: I felt sad to seeing its end, and when I got to the last page I felt the emotion of having read a marvelous story. Well done! Would all reads ended like that! Now, what next to read? There is no lack of options on the ‘to read’ shelf. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately, so perhaps some non-fiction may do. Say, do you know why the librarian slipped and broke her hip? She was in the non-friction section!

What I’m listening to: Do you want to take a walk. Annette Hanshaw was a singer, I think she mostly sang in the first third of the 20th century. She had some dreamy, whimsical songs, which are fun to hear from time to time. Those were happier times. “Would you like to take a walk?” is a sweet sonorous tune, although I’ve often wondered about the lyrics; they seem slightly suggestive.

What I’m eating: Baba ganoush. The other day I ordered wraps from ‘Pita Jungle’ and I asked if they had baba ganoush. They sometimes don’t have such. This time the answer was ‘yes’ so I ordered a small serving. For thems not familiar with this delicacy, Baba G is like hummus but made with eggplant, not chickpeas. I like eggplant and I like saying ‘baba ganoush!” out loud. I also like to think the stuff is better nutritionally than is hummus, being made from a vegetable, but this is probable wishful thinking. Do you like eggplant?

Who needs a good slap: The Overlords
. Ever since my bosses sold the joint to a conglomerate, I’ve been wondering when the new Overlords will make their presence known by making some changes. Last week I got two forms that look like standard stuff given to all employees at their establishment. One form asks for my ‘areas of interest’, not ‘areas of expertise’. I took this literally, and circled what I like to do/treat rather than what I am experienced doing. ** The second form is more ominous. It asks for a copy of my drivers license, my Medicare/Medicaid/AZ license numbers and others. What a tedious treasure hunt this will be. I hope the house manager knows these things. I am dubious to give them my drivers license. Does anyone know if this is legal/standard of care? They also want my CV. I don’t have a CV; I’ve never needed one. I wonder if I will get fired for not providing such. Someone says I should quit whining and write one, particularly if I do get sacked for being a CV-less smart-alec about the whole thing.

On a 1-5 scale, I give The Overlords three slaps.

What I’m planning: Prizes for Someone. Now that Thanksgiving is here, I can turn my thoughts towards the next two holidays: Christmas and Someone’s birthday [not in that order]. I haven’t a clue what to do for a birthday prize this year, let alone Christmas. Someone is one of those odd-ducks who doesn’t celebrate birthdays; he never wants lavish prizes or parties or even eating out. Poor fellow! If only he had asked a few logical questions when he met me. I love celebrating birthdays, and this means prizes. I usually get him electronic gadgets; these are often hit or miss. What to do?

What’s making me smile: Stained glass ornaments. Whenever I visit Michigan, Brother #3 presses me to take home items from our parent’s closed house, which are piled up in boxes in his basement. Last time we gathered the brothers and I divided up our late Mother’s stained glass collection. She had heaps. She would hang them on the kitchen window, rotating them, apropos for the season. Whenever one did dishes one looked out the kitchen window into the backyard through a pastiche of colored glass. I got some of the Christmas ones. This weekend I will hang them on my kitchen window, as she did, and remember her and Christmases long time ago.

*Oh the horror.

**I’ve learned from experience the listed areas I do/don’t doesn’t greatly discriminate the type of cases I end up seeing. People just want a shrink and I’m like a democratic drawbridge, going down for everybody.

What’s top of my mind: Thanksgiving. It isn’t a question of what to do about it, but is there to be one. Someone has been strangely silent on the subject. I have an intuition neither one of us wants to cook – it is a lot of work for two people! – and we are both waiting for the other to confess they don’t want to make it so the other can agree. It may be conversation is merely delayed and not yet discussed: we are both busy being back at work and we haven’t had time to consider it. Still, we should make a decision soon as I imagine the shopping for such will be difficult. Do you ever not do Thanksgiving?

Where I’ve been: Nowhere. After a week away from home, I am at home and at the office. I have no other plans.

Where I’m going: Back to the gym. After a few weeks off, it is back to my exercise routine. I’m one of those unfortunates who misses only a few days of exercise and it seems to make everything go back to ‘Day 1″ as it were. I cannot just pick up where I left off, worse luck. It feels like I am forever restarting a regimen.

What I’m watching: A virtual fire. Oh! How I miss having a proper fireplace, especially time of the year! There are virtual fires on The Tube of Yous, and some of them go on for hours. How nice! I often have one on in the office in the background as I am writing or dictating notes. It gives me comfort to hear and see the crackling wood. Do you have a fireplace? Do you use it often?

What I’m reading: One last waltz. I’ve enjoyed Mr. Mordden’s short story collections, so I thought it might be fun to read one of his novels. The story is about three Irish brothers, whose stories parallels the legend of The King at Tara who had three sons: the warrior, the mason, and the poet. So far it’s a good read. I am not familiar with Irish family dynamics, so I don’t know how accurate are some of (awful) things Irish fathers to do their sons or what Irish brothers do to each other. Some of the dynamics are downright nasty. I want to keep reading and find out how it ends. That’s a good sign of a good book.

What I’m listening to: Our Fake History Podcast. This historian from Toronto does a sensational job debunking historical legends. The latest episode was on Eleanor of Aquitaine. She wasn’t the floozy sometimes portrayed in history. She is often seen as a licentious and dissolute, all based on hearsay. In contrast, her husband Henry II was brazenly unfaithful with many bastard children, yet history merely shrugs at his shenanigans. Double standards – again.

What I’m eating: Not much. I am trying to eat better for health’s sake and for the sake of my next blood work. Sooner I’d eat rats at Tewkesbury than go on medication for diabetes. The sad part of this is food isn’t seen now as a pleasure, but a hazard, with concerns of calories and harm. A source of pleasure has transformed into a careful chore.

Who needs a good slap: Father. All Spos have ship clocks with brassy sonorous chimes that announce the hours and half hours. These ancient timepieces often go bust, and getting them repaired or replaced is expensive and tedious. Father’s ship clock has been inoperable for some time, so my brothers and I decided to get him a new one as a Christmas prize. Then Brother #4 found one online. Apparently this is all Father talks about now, sometimes in an excited way, but mostly fretting about price and delivery. This is driving his kids to distraction, especially Brother #3 who lives with him. In the texts of the siblings, B#3 says unless this clock arrives pronto, he is going to turn to drink or murder, he hasn’t decided which. Poor papa. In his defense, he doesn’t have much else to think about.

I give Father one slap ( on a 1-5 scale).

What I’m planning: A Christmas shirt. I need another Spo-shirt like a trephination but the one holiday shirt I have kept is getting a bit ‘old’. I don’t want to have Santa see me in last year’s ensemble! A few months ago I bought three yards of fabric with a pattern suitable for hohoho-ing. I don’t remember what is the pattern. Actually I don’t remember where I stashed the fabric, so the first step is locating the thing. If I start this now, I may have it finished in time to prevent The Yule Cat from eating me on Christmas Eve.

What’s making me smile: Why is this always the most difficult W to wonder about? When I think hard, I recall Harper is what’s making me smile. She came home from her week-long visit at PetSmart and ran straight to the backyard, then back inside where she ran about the house before leaping up onto the bed and ‘doing the doggie dance’, which consists of rolling about on her back, flipping about like a fish out of water. She is a happy Harper to be home. It makes me smile to see her so.

Yikes! I almost forgot! Today is Wednesday !

What’s top of my mind: My room key.  As soon as I am handed the key to my room* I put on it a large attachment that is seen from afar perhaps even by satellite. All the room keys are on identical nondescript black squares and they are easily lost and confused with others (oh the embarrassment). My way, I can locate mine without too much trouble. This is no guarantee however, and where it is now is anyone’s guess. I hope to find it soon, as I want to get into my room to fetch the tea things.

Where is my key?

Where I’ve been: To the zoo.  Yesterday we went to a local ‘living desert’ combination botanical gardens/zoo/tourist trap to see the animals. I don’t remember much of it as I accidentally took my allergy pill at noon rather than night time. I was falling asleep whenever we paused to see the exhibits. Oh the embarrassment. 

Where I’m going:  Hiking. DougT found us a relatively easy hike (Leon the Larger doesn’t do stairs anymore). We will drive east this morning into the mountains and go for a 1-2 hour-long hike. One thing I forgot to pack is sunscreen but the place has plenty. 

Who needs a good slap: Nobody for once. Can you imagine? Here is Palm Springs Covid19 vaccination cards are enforced and if a place asks for yours and if you don’t have one they don’t serve you or at least not indoors. Not once have I seen someone bellow about this, complaining their constitutional rights are being violated. There is a rule people are following rather than dismissing because they don’t agree with it.

What I’m watching: Room #34.  The resort’s rooms all open up onto the common pool area. Sitting by poolside one can see people coming and going all day and night. There’s dirty doings going on in #34. Someone is up to no good, that’s certain. I am in charge of morale on this trip so I am watching for shenanigans.  

What I’m reading: Several books. When on holiday I like to read a bit of this book for awhile, then put it down to read some of another. I started three this week: “Tool for Titans, which is a collection of philosophical sayings. I also started a Ethan Morrden novel. For light reading I downloaded the latest book in the “Discworld” series: “Reaper man”. Jolly good fun! 

This is my childhood nickname !

What I’m listening to:  Others.  I have no time/desire this week to hear podcasts. Rather I hear the tales of the travelers, who they are and where they come from. They talk about what restaurants they’ve tried and vacation destinations they recommend, and who’s been in Room #34. 

What I’m eating: Lots. One of the joys of being on holiday is eating out. We’ve been going to our favorite places, which happily are still in business. We worried most about the family-owned Italian place located in a strip mall. Happy Joy! It is still operating but the place is ‘take-out only’ these days. This may be due to lack of staff to wait tables than covid19 matters.

Who I’m paying attention to: My skin. Between the sunshine and the pool/tub chemicals my skin is beginning to resemble that of Grandma Moses. I went to Ralph’s pretty good grocery to purchase some lotion. Patience above! There are so many to choose from it makes my eyes cross! Does anyone have any suggestions? 

What I’m planning: A card party. I brought along several games and I would like to play some. Other than that, there are no plans at all. I cannot remember a vacation with so lack a structure to it. It feels quite nice not to have an itinerary.  It feels like a proper vacation this way.

With that said, I plan today or tomorrow afternoon to I catch up on blogs. I miss you guys. Really. I hope all is well in your world.

What’s making me smile:  Tiki drinks: Zombies, Mai Tais, and Scorpions – oh my!. It was March 2020 when I made a study of the history of Tiki drinks, which I planned trying some when we went to Palm Springs that month. Covid19 shut all that down. It is November 2021; last night or so we finally got to The Tonga Lounge and had these legendary drinks. They tasted like a victory.  🙂

*Room #46, which is in the back. Not my first choice to be there but it was the only one available. I remember it as it is age when I am in Palm Springs.

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January 2022

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018