Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sunshine and stairs

The dog stairs are done and they are a qualified success. If cheese is placed at the top, Ada the dog is happy to run up and down the steps all day. I was worried that she'd be scared of the quite narrow steps, so I'm relieved. The main hangup is that she hasn't figured out that there's a window up there, so she never goes up on her own.  I think a few more sessions of cheese and peanut butter will help her with this.
My church held a solstice service last night, which was just lovely. As a gardener, dog owner, and bicyclist, I spend more time outside than I used to in days of yore. As a consequence, I notice the seasons and weather more. I always welcome winter solstice; it means I've already survived the darkest days of the year. Solstice also reminded me how much I appreciate having seasons again. I know I've said it before, but living in Miami with its two hot and not-quite-as-hot seasons has made me forever appreciate four seasons. It's cold now, but in one month I'll be able to bicycle again, and in three months I'll be planting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trifle and introverts

     The results of the fruitcake research were, sadly, inconclusive. People did NOT notice the two plates contained the same thing - if you have food scattered over a few tables, no one keeps track of things. A bit more of the "fruitcake" was consumed than the "brandied spice cake", but there wasn't a large enough difference to say anything. Nonetheless, it was delicious, boozy, and vegan. I'd definitely make it again.
     Guests were impressed by the trifle. I suspect this was mainly because no one ever makes it in the U.S. It was a standard component of my UK Christmases, so I was a bit more critical. It turns out that you can't use too-dense leftover cake in place of ladyfingers. But add enough custard and fruit and hardly anyone notices.
     I am the odd introvert who enjoys throwing parties. I love planning for weeks, cooking, and decorating. I love dressing up, turning on the music, and lighting the candles. I want my friends to have a delightful time, and I work the room, introducing people and make sure that all the different friend groups are mingling and no one is left alone. But after the conversations are going strong, and the plates are loaded with snacks, I wish I could just slip away for the rest of the evening. For me, the creation of the party is the achievement and I don't actually need to participate in it. Fortunately I have enough social savvy to know this would be frowned upon.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Party Prep

     It's been full-on party preparation this week. The tree is decorated, the snowflakes are hung, and the house is clean. I even dusted my baseboards - I keep my house very neat and fairly minimal so there's not too much to clean, but I still don't think to dust very often. I hope my guests appreciate it. Perhaps when I'm giving them the tour of the house (which ALWAYS includes a stop in the basement to see the awesome plumbing) I can casually point out the cleanliness of the baseboards.
      One new addition to the menu this year is a fruitcake. I didn't quite follow the recipe, because I had to substitute brandy for rum and lots of fresh citrus zest for the candied citrus. Since I always label all my food at parties, I've been debating whether to name it "fruitcake" and trigger all the negative associations with that name or choose something like "brandied spice cake with figs and cherries." Probably the best idea is to have two separate plates, one with each label, and measure at the end of the evening which one has been consumed more.

Monday, December 05, 2016


     I get lightheaded sometimes. When I realized that I was avoiding strenuous exercise as a result, I decided to check it out. My cardiologist (Doesn't that sound impressive? I thought I'd have to wait another four decades to have my own cardiologist.) did a bunch of tests. This eventually led to the past July, when I was strapped to a table while standing up. (It looked like this.) We waited twenty minutes, and BOOM, I passed out, which I most definitely did not expect. This means that my blood pressure is poorly regulated, and explains why I feel dizzy when I get up from my office chair sometimes, and why I can't climb more than two flight of stairs without taking a break. Actually, it doesn't explain it at all to me, because I don't understand why my brain can't regulate my blood pressure.
     The good news is that the danger comes primarily from fainting, because people tend to injure themselves when they faint. The other good news is that I'm very good at not fainting. Whenever I feel dizzy, I lean against a wall, or sit down, or lay down. (Happily I've never needed to lay down at work.) The best news is that it has never happened when I'm driving, so I'm not in any danger there.
     I don't need medicine now, but I'm glad to know it's an option if it gets worse. In the meantime, the doctor is trying to raise my blood pressure the old-fashioned way, with salt. I am the only person I know who got an official directive to eat more salt. Pretzels and potato chips (and salt tablets), here I come.