Friday, January 31, 2020

With only two employees on shift yesterday, we felt we should investigate our new source, and what do you know? A new celebration shows up to take us away from it all.

National Escape Day

If your Thursday was anything like mine, it started too early and then overstayed its welcome. Depending on your level of satisfaction with your working life, a Thursday can be a happy inhalation before the glorious gust of weekend, or it might be an intrusive stop-gap day between the depths of the week and its inevitable release. Or perhaps you love your job, and Thursday is the precursor to the morose and miserable day when you have to say farewell to your office for two gruelling days. If you fall into that last category, please get me a job in whatever mythical fairyland you work.

National Escape Day came to me via that new site I’d found last week, which had escaped my research last year. I’m still hesitant to pull the trigger on these holidays, as their only “sources” are often links to other Holiday database sites, with no one pointing a finger at who originated the day and why. But an escape is an escape, and it should be celebrated as a necessary component of life in this society.

I hope everyone has their own brand of escapism that they can use to balance the niggling interruptions in their lives. For some it might be physical activity, perhaps movies, maybe just going for a quiet unicycle ride in the woods. Maybe you choose to escape the banality of existence by blowing bubbles through a straw into milk on the subway, or approaching strangers and asking if they’re Mick Fleetwood. Perhaps your escapism leads you to make crafts, like hand-painted thimble portraits, or tiny wigs for kiwi fruit. So long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else or intrude into the mandatory meat of your daily life, embrace it.

Me, I listen to music on my bus ride home, playing those puzzle games I talked about yesterday and tuning out social media, the news, and pretty much everything else. For Jodie it’s a good book that isn’t about teaching children. Whatever your escape, keep it handy and celebrate this whenever you can.

National Croissant Day

We had leftover croissants from the day before, some stuffed with bierocks beef, cabbage, onions and cheese (for Kansas Day), and a couple that were pristine and awaiting a glop of melty butter to send them to that special place of utter transcendence. National Croissant Day was a decadent joy.

The croissant is one of the best-known French pastries on the planet. I used to work in a French bakery that prided itself on its authentic croissants. Of course, had the internet been at my fingertips back then I might have pointed out that croissants are an Austrian concoction, not French. This would have likely led to my dismissal from that job even sooner (I was fired because I ineptly witnessed cockroaches in the kitchen area, but that’s a story for another day).

Croissants are known as viennoiserie pastries, meaning they have a few extra ingredients to give them a flavour beyond the horizon of dough. Much like your driver’s licence, most croissants are laminated. In bakery parlance, that means folding the dough over the butter and rolling it out – it’s how croissants get their buttery taste. You can stuff ‘em with custard, drizzle chocolate over ‘em, or just eat ‘em raw. And if you have the power to resist them, you’re stronger than I.

National Inane Answering Machine Message Day

Ridiculous outgoing answering machine messages are a natural consequence of leaving this technology in the hands of humanity. Whether it’s George Costanza’s take on the Greatest American Hero theme song or Sterling Archer’s constant voicemail fake-outs, there’s no end to the possibilities. Provided, of course, that you don’t care whether or not someone leaves an actual voicemail or hangs up in disgust.

Here’s my take – enough with the voicemails. If someone calls me, I get a little text bubble on my phone to tell me. If I don’t know them (or don’t want to chat) I ignore it. Otherwise I’ll call back. Making a person listen to their voicemails, only to hear “It’s me! Call me back!” is a waste of everyone’s time and energy. If you have a specific message, leave it; otherwise, move on and trust they’ll see you called.

But that’s more in line with yesterday’s Curmudgeon Day entry. We’re here to be inane, and yesterday that’s just what we were. Jodie and I left outgoing messages on our voicemails, both of which will remain in place until at least the end of February.

Today I find myself ferrying my wife to the airport and spending the evening celebrating alone. Here’s what we have:

  • National Inspire Your Heart With Art Day. Today will be about finding the art in the world around us – music, drama, visual arts, and hey, maybe even in creative non-fiction.
  • National Hot Chocolate Day. A toasty hot chocolate will warm our insides, perhaps while we listen to the disco classic, “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate.
  • National Big Wig Day. We… we don’t own any wigs. Who are we, Moira Rose? I don’t know if we’ll be able to pull this one off.
  • National Backwards Day. Some walking backwards, some driving backwards, and maybe we’ll listen to some hidden Satanic messages in rock songs today.
  • Scotch Tape Day. I will find something to fix around the house, using only Scotch tape.
  • Brandy Alexander Day. I’m always up for a cocktail. Jodie won’t be sad she missed this one.
  • Eat Brussels Sprouts Day. Another one I’m not sure is real, but I don’t mind indulging.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The band played a cockeyed tune yesterday, steering us from tasty food to intentional snarl in a confusing off-beat rhythm. Such is the nature of the LP we’ve chosen to accompany 2020 – each groove is laced with its own little quirk.

National Puzzle Day

Were it not for the pokes and nags of each day’s monotonous inconveniences, I (Marty – can’t speak for Jodie here) would giddily spend my waking hours afloat upon a thick sea of puzzles. Jigsaw? Love ‘em. Logic? Great to dig through. Crossword? I’ll bow out of the NY Times Sunday puzzle, but I’ll take a crack at any other. Soduku? Why not?

Search any trove of online gamery and you’ll find yourself sifting through genres, with adventure and puzzle games often topping the charts. A puzzle is cardio for the brain – call it cerebrio if you’d like (though no one will understand you). The key difference comes upon its completion: finish a cardio workout and you’ve done good by your innards, and the clock says you can haul your shiny, sweaty carcass to the showers. Finish a puzzle and your brain is similarly stretched and pumped, plus you’ve finished something. Solved something. Used your wits and savvy to bring about a win.

A professional syndicated newspaper puzzle maker – a calling I am just now realizing I completely missed – named Jodi Jill concocted National Puzzle Day back in 2002. Kudos to Ms. Jill for this one; I’ll take any excuse to wrap my brain snugly around a puzzle and bring it to fruition. This was a true high point of the day.

National Puzzle Month

Ha. Killed two with one. Since I hit up my six favourite puzzle games every day on the way home from work, I’ll allow it.

Kansas Day

Okay, there exists – as I’ve pointed out before – a national “state” day every week, concocted by the good folks at National Day Calendar. These aren’t official, but merely excuses for us to sample the cuisine of America, and maybe learn some goofy facts about the state.

That National Kansas Day shows up on March 15. This particular day is the actual Kansas Day, celebrated within the state in honour of their admission to the nation in 1861. In preparing this year’s festivities, I didn’t catch this duplication. I did, however, come up with two solid-looking recipes that are popular in the Sunflower State, so what the hell – Kansas gets double-billing this year.

Yesterday we made something called bierocks (pronounced BURR-rucks or BEER-rocks, depending on your fancy), which the Wichita Eagle claims is the official food of Kansas in the fall. Technically January 29 is closer to an autumn than March 15, so I’d say this was the right one to make yesterday. And they were terrific – I took this recipe from Pillsbury, with a bit of modification from this one from the aforementioned Eagle. It’s beef. It’s cabbage. It’s cheese. It’s all a hearty treat.

I’ll dig deeper into Kansassian history (definitely not the right term) on the March holiday. I will point out, however, that the first settlement in Kansas was Fort Leavenworth, now best known for its prison. That’s an auspicious start to a state’s existence, but then we also celebrated Australia Day a couple days ago, and a party’s a party.

Will I root for Kansas City this Sunday in the Super Bowl? Well, technically the Chiefs play in Kansas City, Missouri, so this won’t factor into my festivities. I’ll simply be rooting for a great game, and for the time (amid the seven scheduled celebrations that day) to watch it.

National Corn Chip Day

Which way to land on this one? Doritos? Fritos? Tostitos? Make our own from scratch?

That last one was the ideal. We would love nothing more than to spend National Corn Chip Day somewhere in the southern-most quadrant of North America, learning the art of corn chip creation from a true artisan chipsmith. But alas, we are on a budget and tethered to our jobs, so we just bought some damn Old Dutch corn chips and ate ‘em with dinner.

The beautiful thing about corn chips is the resonant crunch. They speak with a louder and more cock-sure voice than potato chips. They make their presence known. They also carry the barbecue flavour with more style and charisma than any brand of potato snack could dream up. Unfortunately, I have yet to try another flavour (apart from regular, which is still potently taste-packed) that rings my bell. Corn chips have a lot to say to the human taste bud, and something as crass as sour cream & onion would dilute its message.

I’m excusing Doritos from the above, as of course Doritos has made fine strides in augmenting the natural state of the corn chip. But being packed with preservatives and geared toward muting the corn flavour in favour of cool ranch or nacho cheese, it’s not the ideal chip for today. That said, it’s interesting to note that Doritos were first made at a place called Casa de Fritos in Disneyland of all places.

Old Dutch makes a fine corn chip, and these actually accompanied our bierocks surprisingly well. If you missed the chance to snack along with us yesterday, grab a bag today and treat yourself. A friend lamented that she’d missed one of our celebrations until our article the next day… there are no strict rules around this perpetual party! Join in when you can, and if you’re a little late getting to something like, say, the peach melba (January 13, but it’s still on our minds), just dive in and enjoy it. This is all about indulgence and appreciation.

Curmudgeon’s Day

For a brief spell I will allow myself to abandon my habitually positive state of being and embrace the snarling curmudgeon who lives caged in my skull. Here is a quick run-down of stuff that has been pissing me off lately:

  • Enough with this starting work in the middle of the night. 9:00am should be a wake-up time, not an I’ve-been-at-work-for-45-minutes time.
  • The five-day work week is outdated. If you don’t need to be on call while you’re on duty, you should be able to cram your workload into four days. Dammit.
  • I’m not going to go full-on-curmudge and bitch about the kids’ music these days, but come on… some brilliant stuff being made out there, and the top 40 is an inconsistent place to find the best of it.
  • You’re at a goddamn movie. We’re all at the goddamn movie. You watch a lot of Netflix at home, but this is not your home. WE’RE AT THE GODDAMN MOVIE TOGETHER, so shut the hell up and put your phone away.
  • Snickers? Yeah, Snickers, I’m talking to you. You’ve shrunk since I was a kid, don’t try to fucking lie to me.
  • If you’re on the bus and it’s below 10 degrees Celsius, you don’t need the window open. If it’s below 0 degrees and you crack a window, you’re just an asshole.
  • While we’re on the bus, if you prefer an aisle seat, you’d better scootch to the window when the bus starts filling up. You’re not more special than the rest of us, dick-donkey.
  • Not every retail establishment or fast food location needs a tip jar.
  • Not to get all January 14th on you here, but why is juicy, fatty pastrami not available for purchase in this city?
  • (turns on the news) Are… are you fucking kidding me? (turns off the news)
  • Just hang ‘em up, Brady. We get it. You’re talented. But you come off as a big ol’ douche-sack and we’re tired of you.
  • People who crank up their music on their phones without headphones in a public place… why not confuse everyone and change it up to some Cat Stevens or something? No one will know what to make of you, AND you’ll be interesting.
  • Back to the bus-people, to those of you who leave behind sunflower seeds or empty plastic packets that once contained crackers, processed cheese and that red spready-stick, just stop trying to fit in with society already. You’re not up for it.
  • I’m pretty sure the last time Edmonton had all escalators working in all bus and train stations was 1986.
  • Lastly, if you have the choice between empathy and disregard, always land on empathy. It’s not that goddamn hard.

There. That felt good. It felt cleansing. We’re all curmudgeons in some corner of our souls; we’d be fools not to embrace it.

Bell: Let’s Talk Day

I posted a Facebook status for this one, advising my friends and family that I care about them, and I’m here for them. Jodie did something similar on her page. Truth is, if you’re reading this and you’ve never heard of me before, reach out through one of our social media channels if you want to chat. We’re all in this party together so we may as well work the room a little. Depression and anxiety are real, and they are sadistic little lying shits. They need a good punting every so often to keep them in check, so if you need to, reach out to a friend or a complete stranger. There’s strength in numbers, right?

An almost-day-off today! It’s a shame it’s a Thursday and not a Saturday.:

  • National Croissant Day. Our bierocks were made with Pilsbury crescent rolls, so this works out perfectly. We made two without meat, cheese & cabbage insides for breakfast today, but wouldn’t the leftovers with all the good stuff be even tastier?
  • National Inane Answering Message Day. Jodie and I create a weird outgoing message for one another’s voicemail. They must remain in place until at least the end of February.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The unabashed exploration of these 100+ flickers of light (so far) in our perceivable universe has led us down more than one quirky crooked lane since January 1. But it’s not much of a party without a little fun, right?

National Have Fun At Work Day

For Jodie, this might have meant a typical shift, as the immeasurable joy she experiences each day with her students is a consistent spigot of fun and fulfillment. (Did I write that down correctly, honey? Will your bosses have stopped reading by now? Good.)

Actually, she brought a slab of Monday’s chocolate cake in to work and held a comfy cake breakfast with a coworker. Rich chocolate first thing in the morning is a great cure for the Tuesday blues. For me, I had a prepared game of Family Feud in my holster o’ mirth, and I rolled it out for my coworkers to enjoy over lunch. Lots of laughs, sound effects, and that theme song played over and over again with each new round.

We both work in the public sector, so the pretense of ‘fun’ when tax dollars are oiling the machinery may seem superfluous, we accept that. Jodie uses fun to channel knowledge into brains that will open up just a bit more if the promise of enjoyment awaits them. I find that a government office running on low morale (and though I’ll stop short of bringing politics into the virginal bliss of this project, I will say that morale in government offices has been at a staggering low since last May) runs ineffectively. Apart from my monthly trivia games I have also led us through an elaborate Price is Right game.

I do it so my colleagues can walk away from a day having had just a few more smiles than they would have otherwise. But I also do it to live out my childhood dream job of game show host. Whatever – as long as we all have fun at work, mission accomplished.

National Kazoo Day

I had plans of an elaborate duet with Jodie last night, blending our kazoo prowess into a harmony that would have induced tears in the ducts of Don and Phil Everly. Alas, a trip to Dollarama – which has been my go-to kazoo emporium for most of my adult life – yielded no results. Little plastic flutes? Sure. Slide-whistles? Yep, and I almost bought one in anticipation of my next staff meeting. But no kazoos.

Alas, there is more than one way to skin a celebration, and Kazoo Day would not be lost. If we can’t make sweet, sweet music through a plastic tube and membrane device, we can listen to some of the great kazoo appearances in music. I made a playlist of 30 songs for us to “enjoy” throughout our evening repast. A sampling of our evening tuneage:

  • Pink Floyd – Corporal Clegg
  • Blind Melon – Skinned
  • Queen – Seaside Rendezvous
  • The Grateful Dead – Alligator
  • Frank Zappa – Jewish Princess
  • Ringo Starr – You’re Sixteen (which is a little creepy, Ringo – come on, you were in your thirties when you sang this one)

The kazoo is not the most delicate and euphonic aural treat. Most of the songs in which it appears (and I forgot, Weird Al’s “Smells Like Nirvana” is on that playlist too) offer it as a sounding cry of ironic jocularity. Because it makes use of a vibrating stretched-out membrane to create its sound, a kazoo is considered to be a membranophone, like long drums and kettle drums. It’s the musical calling card of the eternal goof, dependent not upon deft fingers but rather upon the humming skill of the player.

Until a kazoo solo can capture my gut-bits and twirl them into an emotional frenzy, it will remain a novelty instrument to my ears. And clearly one that will cost me more than one dollar in the future. Dammit.

National LEGO Day

Jodie had to attend an online class yesterday evening, which meant we were not shooting a video and I had some free time.

I steered myself downstairs to retrieve a batch of generic LEGO from our basement and aimed to build… something. With no directions to follow, and no desire to operate from any sort of prepared plan, I simply dug in. Would it be a clunky space vessel I’d construct? A blocky creature from some colourful plastic realm? No, I went with a rec centre. It didn’t need a lot of planning. I was happy with the end result, which included some decorative walls, a dance floor, a stripper pole, a pizza table, an indoor diving board, a DJ station, some chunky, uncomfortable furniture, and a wall covered in bubble wrap, to finally give life to the notion of 3D wallpaper we’d talked about yesterday. It was a blast.

Let’s look at some fun LEGO facts. The company, founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932, didn’t start making the plastic interlocking bricks until 1949. The term comes from the Danish words “leg” and “godt”, which means “play” and “well”. Ole just took the first two letters from each. The bricks were patented in 1958 and set to a specific standard, so that means if you have blocks sitting around from your grandfather’s childhood you can use them to add an illogical turret atop your brand new Millennium Falcon set.

More than 500 billion LEGO parts have been created, and the company remains the largest manufacturer of rubber wheels on the planet. In 2015 LEGO came up with their Sustainable Materials Center, which has been tasked with removing plastic from the ingredients list, and creating fully sustainable products by 2030. Will they succeed? It’s hard to imagine LEGO falling short.  

National Blueberry Pancakes Day

I’ll be honest – we had blueberry pancakes twice last week, completely unaware that this day was approaching. Let’s face it, when you’re trying to keep track of nearly 2,000 celebrations over the course of a year, little slips like this are bound to happen.

Fortunately, the glory that is blueberry pancakes was not a hassle to endure once more. Blueberries enhance the pancake-and-maple-syrup combo so brilliantly, showcasing just a smidge of tart and wholly complementing the rushing gush of heavenly sweetness. We fried up some bacon to accompany them (because bacon won’t take the back seat often, but it will bow down to the mastery of these beautiful flapped jacks), and enjoyed a perfect breakfast-dinner. It was the kind of celebration that made us exclaim, “I can’t believe we are getting paid to do this!”

Of course we’re not, so… well, the point still stands. This was a great celebration.

Data Privacy Day

This was one of the less dynamic, practically-devoid-of-cosmic-woohoo celebrations on the list. But I ran though my passwords and updated a few old ones. Fortunately I have a terrible memory, and find that I’m resetting my passwords on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes a person’s innate flakiness can work to their advantage.

It’s important to keep your passwords strong, and yet to pick something you’ll have a way of remembering. I’ve got my little tricks (which I won’t share here, because then I’d have to come up with something new and that just isn’t happening), but go with initials, mnemonics, and a few arbitrary numbers you’ll remember. And change them often – ID theft is a scary monster you don’t want to invite into your life.

Today features more food, more fun, and a celebration to channel our inner grump:

  • National Kansas Day. Somehow there are two National Kansas Days. I’ll look into why that is, and make some bierocks as a classic Kansas treat.
  • National Corn Chip Day. Fritos? Doritos? Tostitos? It’s all fair game today.
  • National Puzzle Day. I play puzzle games on my phone every day. We may even start a jigsaw puzzle tonight if time allows.
  • Curmudgeon’s Day. We’ve got a lot of complaints and today we can let them loose.
  • Bell’s Let’s Talk Day. One could be suspicious when a telecommunications corporation is behind a mental health campaign, but this one has its heart in the right place. Need to chat? Let’s chat.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The theme from yesterday was therapy. We are one week removed from what is (pseudo) scientifically deemed to be the most depressing day of the year. We swim in stress while a storm of anxiety blasts us from above, yet we don’t drown. How do we remain afloat? It helps to have a few tricks in the arsenal.

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day

The popping of bubble wrap. It’s an act of vehement destruction, yet it is completely self-contained and non-violent. One can channel one’s rage, anxiety, fear, or unfettered jubilation through one’s fingertips and feel that surge of annihilation, yet in the end there is no mess to clean, and nothing to regret. Provided you don’t have a fragile item to ship and now have no way to protect it. Plan ahead a little – that’s all I’m saying.

I (Marty) was feeling a funk yesterday, one brought about by the sheer Mondayness of it all, and bubble wrap became my therapy. I grabbed a chunk from our print and mail room upstairs, then squoze a few satisfying mini-big-bangs on the elevator back down. I ran into a couple of colleagues in the hall and allowed them to satisfy their innate human need to destroy and conquer. Before long I was going office to office, cubicle to cubicle, offering free therapy to everyone on the team. I was like Santa for mental health. Call me Sanity Claus.

(at this point, Chico Marx laughs… “You can’t fool me – there ain’t no Sanity Claus…” – someone will get this joke)

I found I could understand how people’s days were going by the way they approached this therapy. One lady popped just three bubbles with care and announced she felt better. Another grabbed the batch and squeezed it like a sponge, clearly venting a day’s worth of frustration and angst. She also felt better. One lady declined, finding the sound to be akin to fingernails on a chalkboard – I respect that. With this action, I was able to bring joy to each of my coworkers this afternoon, which was in itself a powerful form therapy for me.

As for its primary purpose – packing things for shipping – yeah, it’s great. Bubble wrap was originally unleashed upon the world by inventors Alfred Fielding and Marc Chevannes in 1957. They were trying to make 3D wallpaper. They should have kept trying, because as impractical as 3D wallpaper sounds, I’d kind of like to see it.  But yesterday was not about appreciating bubble wrap’s use in shipping. It was all about the pop, and the therapy.

National Chocolate Cake Day

If bubble-pop therapy doesn’t spritz your lapels you can always tackle a slice of chocolate cake. Friends and family provided us with a few recipes for today, but in the end expediency won the day, and the victorious variety of chocolate cake went to Ms. Betty Crocker. Yes, we have dined on cake much finer than this, but it’s still chocolate cake.

White cake might be more malleable in its potential frostings, but chocolate cake is the dessert of midnight mischief. Forget spice and carrot and lemon – those quirky outlaws of the cake shelf may have their own quirky dance moves, but that creature in the shadows, that lump in the moonlight that coaxes a lump into your throat… that’s chocolate cake. It’s unflappable and unmappable, charting a course to the mightiest and most grateful taste buds.

Back in 1828 a Dutch chemist named Coenraad Johannes van Houten built a device that could suck the fat from cacao liquor, creating cacao butter and leaving behind a batch of solids that could be ground into powder. Suddenly chocolate was cheap and easy to get – the common-folk could enjoy it. Chocolate cake has evolved from those first devil’s food mixes during the Depression, through the fudge-bleeding volcano cakes of the 90s to the fancy artisan artworks you can buy in every major city today. This was a thoroughly delicious celebration.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Not a celebration, but more of a commemoration. First, a revelation: a recent survey of Americans showed that half the nation does not know that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. This is unacceptable. Ignorance is where it all begins. It’s the asphalt on the road to horror. I’ll say nothing else about this solemn day, other than it’s up to us – those with at least a tenuous grasp on actual history – to keep the fire burning. Don’t let this act of evil be forgotten.

If yesterday was a mansion built on a foundation of therapy, today will be a bouncy house, packed with the warm air of insoluble fun.

  • National Have Fun At Work Day. Jodie always has fun at work – the kids see to that. I will be hosting a home-made Family Feud event over lunch for my coworkers. As if the bubble wrap wasn’t fun enough.
  • National Kazoo Day. For this we will make some horrible, horrible music.
  • National LEGO Day. I get to play pretend game show host, pretend amateur garbage musician, AND I get to build LEGO? Oh hell yes.
  • National Blueberry Pancake Day. The highest form of pancake evolution. Nothing beats blueberry pancakes for dinner. Especially with bacon.
  • Data Privacy Day. Time to update all those passwords I never remember and have to reset anyway.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The tendrils of every celebration yesterday were snuggly wrapped around the notion of food. I feel I can use the word ‘tendrils’, which is an unappetizing little pair of syllables, because the food itself was so smackingly delicious. And none of it served from within a sheep’s stomach.

National Irish Coffee Day

We postponed this event from Saturday, as it seemed unnecessary to pile more alcoholic intake on top of the copious amount of scotch whisky we’d employed to keep down the contents of our Robbie Burns Supper.

Irish coffee is a brilliant way to launch a day, in particular if that day is destined to be spent weaving between the lines of productivity and sloth with absolute abandon and zero attention to detail. It’s a toasty blend of Irish whiskey, coffee, cream (whipped to perfection) and sugar. Just one frothy mug left me giggling and giddy by 11:15 yesterday morning.

The origin story of the Irish coffee is as vague and murky as the meandering daydreams the beverage may produce. Was it Joe Sheridan, the head chef of Foynes Airbase in Limerick? Was it Stanton Delaplane, the San Franciscan travel writer who tried it at Shannon Airport? Or is it most likely that, upon learning about coffee, the Irish decided to add whiskey to it pretty much right away?

Admittedly, we used whipped cream instead of the more traditional method of pouring thick cream over the back of a spoon so that it floats upon the whiskey-coffee cocktail. Perhaps we were adding our own spin. Perhaps we just wanted some left over whipped cream in case we needed to stage another pie fight. Perhaps the scotch from the night before simply hadn’t fully worn off.

National Green Juice Day

Such a curious concept… the green juice. What flavour is “green”? Is it lime? Is it kiwi? Is it kale? Mint-chocolate-chip ice cream?

We have wandered the dark alleys of viridescent beverages before, back in 2009 at the behest of Howard Stern’s sidekick, Robin Quivers, whose claims of supreme health in verdant fluids we took to heart. I don’t recall what the concoction was, only that it contained kale, and it tasted like the glaucous scuzz beneath a longshoreman’s boot. It was not only my sole vomitous experience at work, it remains my lone upchuckery within the metal confines of a public bathroom stall. That particular cleanse was done by noon on the first day, and delightful cheeseburgers were later devoured by all.

Yesterday we picked up the beauteous bevvy above, a kiwi-apple-mango treat that tipped the wallet at $3.49, but poked our taste buds into an elevated and enlightened fresh opinion on the potential of pastoral potations. It was actually good. “Actually good” was not a phrase during the Scottish feast the night before (the Scotch eggs were great, but we’d anticipated that), nor was it uttered at dinner tonight. Why?

Australia Day

We could have simply thrown a boomerang. We could have watched St. Marys pummel Palmerston in some thrilling Aussie Football League action. Hell, we could have downed a Foster’s lager and it might have been a better idea than this.

I opted to recreate the Bloomin’ Onion, a staple of the Australia-themed Outback Steakhouse. Why? I have no idea. We have no deep fryer so we turned instead to a baked version. It was wholly unsatisfying, and Jodie’s inquiry as to whether or not this was actually an Australian food was valid. Alas, by then it was too late.

I did some research and found that this onion dish, consisting of a single sweet onion cut to pop open like a blossom, then breaded and fried, is not an actual Aussie delicacy. Its origin seems to be… Outback Steakhouse, when it opened in the US in 1988. Tim Gannon, the co-founder of the chain, was inspired by a New Orleans dish and came up with it himself.

So no, this was not an authentic celebration, but we celebrated nonetheless. We mourned the loss of dozens of human lives, thousands of homes, and gazillions of animal souls in this year’s fires. We contemplated the places in Australia we’d like to see in person, then remembered there are places where it literally rains spiders from the sky and we reminded ourselves that we probably will never go because of that. The Australians we’ve known can be brash and blunt, but tend to have massive hearts and a sense of humor that could pierce the shell of a Macquarie tortoise from 50 feet.

So to all of Australia we open our hearts. You deserve better than bushfire arsonists lighting the wick of climate change and singeing those glorious koalas. You have the most bad-ass backstory of any nation on the planet, a global reputation for being tough motherfuckers, and your take on football is one of the greatest spectator sports on the planet.

Plus, you had the sense not to invent the Bloomin’ Onion.

Be Kind To Food Servers Month

The US Department of Labor launched this concept to remind people to be a little nicer (and maybe a bit more generous) to food servers. It’s well-documented that in many regions, food servers who receive tips can be paid significantly less than the minimum wage. People expect a lot from servers, and often those expectations are not followed through with an appropriate thank-you. And I don’t just mean the act of tipping.

But let’s talk tipping for a moment. Growing up, my father taught me that I should tip 15% for good service, 10% for poor service, and nothing if the service was garbage. I worked in the food industry and married a former waitress, so I tend to land on 20% for good service, 15% for poor service, and more than 20 for great service. I can’t remember ever experiencing service so poor it deserved no tip.

Food service is a mostly thankless job that requires stamina, concentration, and a consistently high level of hard work. People snap their fingers at servers, bark criticisms at them, and treat them more like food servants than servers. I’ve seen people throw food at fast food servers because an order wasn’t right. I watched my grandfather (who was not cruel, though unfathomably cheap) tip $2 on a $60 bill. I have yet to hear any waiter or waitress finish a shift with pain-free tootsies.

It’s a tough job, and these people deserve our love. Treat this month not as a contained holiday, but as a reminder to be kind and patient with food servers all year. And for Chrissakes, leave ‘em a decent tip.

National Mocktail Week

This one just wrapped up, but we felt it deserved a mention. Most everyone I know began their journey into cocktaildom with something on par with the Shirley Temple or the Roy Rogers – drinks that taste like fruity cocktails but without the bite of booze to send them home. Our venture into the mocktail world would look very similar to the Irish Coffee pic above: Jodie had hers without Irish whiskey, but with all the rest of the fixin’s.

Here are a few other options if you’re looking to keep your beverages virginal:

  • The Arnold Palmer, a blend of iced tea and lemonade, was actually popularized by Mr. Palmer himself, who adored them.
  • The Freddie Bartholomew, a mix of ginger ale and lime juice, was also named for a child actor, but unlike Shirley’s drink (which she hated), we have no idea whether or not he enjoyed it.
  • The Tortuga cocktail is similar to sweet tea – it’s just iced tea, brown sugar, some cinnamon and a lime wedge.
  • The Gunner was big in Hong Kong. Mix ginger beer with ginger ale, add a dash of Angostura bitters and some lime cordial. It won’t have booze, but it’ll knock your thirst out.
  • The Virgin Mary is just a Bloody Mary with all the spices, the tomato juice, and no vodka. Sounds great, but I bet it won’t cure your hangover.

National Peanut Brittle Day

At last, a treat that could not possibly steer us wrong. Call it pasteli, call it croquant, call it gozinaki or call it chikki, the brittle is a brilliant treat. It’s quite simply sugar and water, heated to become caramel, mixed with nuts and ultimately brought to that perfect temperature (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit) where it will harden. There are a few other steps of course – trade secrets that I neither know nor need to know, since I didn’t make the stuff – but the end result is pure decadence.

We headed to our favourite candy shop, Carol’s Sweets, and grabbed the batch pictured above. It was an ideal dessert, one which closed the book on a weird weekend of munching.

Spouse’s Day

This one was easy. I have a spouse who completes, solves, and proves the equation of my existence. Celebrating her yesterday was a joy.

We may pepper in a couple of National Month celebrations today, because the menu for official revelry is pretty limited.

  • National Bubblewrap Appreciation Day. A poppin’ we shall go – who doesn’t love bubblewrap?
  • National Chocolate Cake Day. This is a reminder that some of the best days are popping up early in the year. Grab a slice tonight and join the party!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

We tunneled upwards yesterday, through a cloud of freneticism, with wind gusts from this calendar’s obtrusive wagging finger propelling us onward. It was a day of manic ups and downs, with a bizarre sideways turn into a plateful of strange at the end. Without a doubt, one of the most memorable days thus far.

National Opposite Day

So many possibilities with a day such as this. Do we wear one another’s clothes? Wake up and say “good night” in a pithy twist with almost zero creativity? Walk backwards all day? Listen only to music we despise? Abandon the project entirely for the day, as a statement of the opposite of our original intentions?

Alas, we merely did the opposite of what Saturday is supposed to be: we motored through it without resting. We picked up groceries and went to Costco (we just enjoy standing in lines, I suppose). We picked up doughnuts, grabbed lunch, and stopped at a meat shop. We bounced from errand to errand around the city, finally arriving home with roughly 45 minutes to spare before starting dinner.

Then, I proceeded to do the very opposite of what I’ve done for the previous 24 days: I published no article. Turns out I’d saved the day’s article on my local drive at work instead of on the cloud, so I had nothing to edit and no time to re-pen the same sentiment. It was a crushing defeat, but in light of National Opposite Day, I suppose it can be interpreted as a win.

Chinese New Year

Welcome, all, to the year of the rat. We celebrated this a little early, heading on Friday night back to the Yang Ming buffet (see January 2), where patrons and staff were dolled up and prepping for a weekend of concentrated revelry. I am a renowned denier of Zodiac mythology, but in the spirit of this occasion I had a look at what a few different websites are telling us to expect this year. For the record, Jodie was born in the year of the Horse; I was born in the year of the Tiger.

I’m supposed to experience adventure and travel this year, according to the Calgary Herald. The former, sure. The latter, not likely – I’m chained to a calendar this calendar year. Jodie may experience surprises (how specific!) and must exercise patience – always good advice for a junior high teacher. CNN says I should take care of my emotions this year. I’m hoping my varied alcohol consumption thanks to this project will take care of that. Jodie will be facing some “large expenses” this year, so we’re definitely screwed. Reader’s Digest claims I’ll have a “rock star year”, and that I’ll enjoy great fortune in 2020 – hopefully that will offset Jodie’s large expenses. They say Jodie will have to rein in (ha! Get it?) her emotions, and that her sign is the most intelligent of all.

I’m at least smart enough not to dispute that.

The knotted rope above was a gift from my good friend and fellow beige-grey office drone, Bo. It’s a symbolic and beautiful symbol for a life of abundance. The gift carried my spirits into this weekend of madness, and may have been what kept me sane through yesterday’s chaos.

National Florida Day

So many wonderful exports from the Sunshine State, like orange juice, the witty repartee of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia, and the glorious news stories of idiots high on meth, nakedly patrolling the highway or biting local dogs. This is the first National State Day where Jodie and I have both spent extensive time in the state. Jodie has fond memories of Disney World, whereas I got to experience life in a Fort Lauderdale condo complex, surrounded by elderly Jews with complicated ailments. It’s a wonderful place!

The Florida Reef is the third-largest coral barrier reef on the planet. Florida is also the only spot in the United States where you can find turquoise water off the coast (often without floating trash, syringes and dead bodies!). Florida is the flattest state in the country, and if it were a country it would have the 16th largest economy on the planet, much of it consisting of tourism and spaceships. The state insect is the zebra longwing, a gorgeous butterfly that was thankfully chosen over the Florida mosquitos, which are vicious enough to bring down a Rancor. And the state pie?

That would be the key lime pie. We sampled one from De-De-O, the unofficial restaurant of this project thus far. They bring in their limes from the Florida Keys, which makes their pie more tart and puckish than you might find elsewhere. And this is what makes key lime such an irresistible pie: the sweet roasted coconut and the crumbly graham cracker crust do the heavy lifting for the sweetness, creating a spectrum of flavours in every bite. This was a glorious respite in our errand-packed afternoon.

A Room of One’s Own Day

In 1928 Virginia Woolf presented two lectures at the University of Cambridge, which led to a subsequent essay called A Room of One’s Own. The gist of these lectures was to establish the need for women to stop being seen as outsiders in the field of writing. She spoke of women needing (and deserving) access to education. She even dropped in a pitch for the normalization of lesbianism. It was a feminist mic-drop, and it absolutely deserves recognition in this storied sequence of celebratory gushing.

While Jodie has dedicated her professional life to uplifting her students, male, female or otherwise, into becoming feminists, I can at least take solace in having helped to raise two feminists to adulthood. Were this a school day, Jodie may have done something specific for the girls under her watch, but instead we took the meaning literally. She graded papers in one room, I struggled to write in another. A fun and easy way to commemorate, but to lose sight of where this celebration comes from would be a tragedy. Women’s rights have come a long way – some may say most of the way (others may not) – but there is no question the fight ain’t over.

And if you aren’t in the fight, you’re part of the problem.

From that sloppy bluntness we move to the sloppiest of celebrations today:

Robbie Burns Night

Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,

How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?

How can ye chant, ye little birds,

And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!

Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,

That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:

Thou minds me o’ departed joys,

Departed never to return.

Last night we had some friends over and recited some poetry of the great scribe from Alloway. We also indulged in the tradition of the Burns Supper, which was first held in 1801 on the fifth anniversary of Burns’ death. Last night would have been his 261st birthday though, and it’s always better to celebrate someone’s life on their birthday, innit?

Burns had a way of dancing through language like water. The brogue and burr rises like froth in a vocal recitation of his poems, and even if the meaning is initially unclear (I believe the verse above is about birds and deep-fried wantons), the beauty of his verbiage elicits a sensational choreography for the tongue. It was an honour to raise glass upon glass of single-malt scotch to the man and the gifts he bestowed upon the planet. And to dine upon…

Haggis? Yes, Burns wrote Address to a Haggis, thus ensuring that a celebration of his legacy would involve various animal parts (I believe it was the first time I dined upon heart) crammed into a sheep’s stomach. Haggis has always been the go-to for a grotesque food reference (at least before Fear Factor showed up and upped the game). But I was disappointed by how disgusting it wasn’t. Its flavour was reminiscent of the chopped liver my mother used to make, but with a somewhat stronger (and more lingering) edge, and the strange chewiness of the steel-cut oats mixed into it.

More disappointing were the Neeps & Tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes) we had with it. I followed a great little recipe that incorporated shallots and sage, but there was nearly no flavour, it was watery, and enjoyed by absolutely no one. My friend Stew, who also shares an unexplored Scottish heritage, brought along some delicious Scotch eggs, and we had a few Scotch mints for dessert.

I was looking forward to this celebration, if only to conquer the spectre of haggis, and conquer it I did, finishing every bite on my plate. I consider it a tremendous victory, one that capped off a frantic day with glass after glass of delicious scotch. I think Robert Burns said it best, when he said:

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill o’ fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware

That jaups in luggies;

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,

Gie her a haggis!

Gie her a haggis indeed. I, on the other hand, will skip the leftovers.

Things will stay quiet today, as we catch up either on work or napping, whichever feels more urgent.

  • National Irish Coffee Day. This was actually a celebration for yesterday, but the madness of the day (and the excessive dose of scotch at night) made it a better fit for a Sunday morning.
  • Australia Day. Australia has been through a lot lately. Seems the least I can do is pay tribute with a homemade Bloomin’ Onion.
  • National Green Juice Day. The only juice described by its colour… I mean, unless I’ve been mis-reading orange juice all these years. We’ll have one of these.
  • National Peanut Brittle Day. Homemade peanut brittle? Well, not from my home specifically, but this will be a great little treat.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Awash in the wild and wonderful, the suds of this project tickling our eyelashes and popping like miniature bubblewrap in our ears, we find ourselves not only on a mission to celebrate, but on a mission to embrace the joy these celebrations can bring. For example…

Clean Out Your Inbox Week

For you this might mean the mental inbox, the cerebral Corn Flake crumbs at the bottom of the bag, the flitting green specs of algae obscuring you from absolute clarity. It could be a literal box of requests on your desk, by your door, in a pocket weirdly sewn onto the back of your lab coat (I’m not totally clear on how scientific labs operate, so this may not be an actual thing). Or perhaps, like me, you just want a swept-out email inbox.

I have friends and coworkers with a veritable mountain of emails clogging the air in their inboxes. Thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of emails, just sitting there collecting e-dust, reminding them to RSVP for the Company Christmas Sock-Wash of 2008. But if you shuffle that clutter into subfolders, elbow the outdated trash out of the way, and leave yourself with an utterly empty inbox… goddamn that is refreshing.

It’s perfect Friday afternoon therapy. I found myself staring at that digital void, soaking into its liberating froth, and feeling as though I had nothing left to do for the day. I did, of course – there’s always more work to be done. But the weekend felt within reach, almost as though I was halfway out the door with no condemning tasks to stare me back into my beige-grey cube. This is top-tier self-care. Pure joy.

National Peanut Butter Day

My post for this celebration posited the question: is peanut butter the perfect food? It’s not the healthiest food – it’s 50% fat, albeit mostly the good fat, I believe. It’s packed with protein, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and magnesium. It harmonizes with jelly’s flirtatious pop in a tremendous tenor roar. The master-chemist Dr. Reese realized the medicinal benefits of packing it into a cup of chocolate. It pulls ribbons of euphonic sizzle from the meat of a banana. It even makes celery palatable, which in itself is impressive.

Plus, it’s kind of Canadian. Back in 1884 Marcellus Gilmore Edison from Montreal got himself a patent for his way of squeezing peanuts into butter. John Kellogg, whom we spoke of on Michigan day last week, boiled the peanuts instead of roasting them, and introduced them to medical patients who needed protein without all that pesky chewing. Before long, peanut butter became a food of the elite – it took a fair chunk of pocket change to stay at Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, and the patients returned home refreshed, cured (perhaps), and craving that tasty protein sludge they’d slurped back inside the sanitarium walls.

Peanut butter begat almond butter, cashew butter, and other aspiring nut-butter alternatives. But don’t go looking for it in the Netherlands – they don’t allow anything to be called “Butter” unless it contains butter. So you’ll be wanting to order a peanut-cheese-and-jelly for lunch in Amsterdam.

As for the eternal struggle between smooth and chunky… I’ll drop myself on the smooth side of the fence, but there is no wrong answer. It’s all the perfect food.

National Compliment Day

To each of you who are reading this: you are attractive and brilliant.

See? Easy day to celebrate. Except we endeavoured to pay actual compliments to people today – sincerity and honesty were key. If this perpetual party is meant to inflict joy upon its attendees, then this may be the most literal interpretation of that mission. And it kept our spirits upon the golden path of optimism as well – you simply can’t force sincere and honest compliments past your teeth without feeling a bit of that joy drip down your chin.

We are happy to note that there are several days throughout this year which are dedicated to directly spreading good feelings through our words. As long as we remain true to ourselves and to the spirit of the task, there is no downside.

Beer Can Appreciation Day

The craft beer movement has produced a renaissance in beer packaging. Clever names, impressive artistic mastery in design and smoothly-penned prose enhance the landscape of beer cans in any fridge. But today is not about clever names, and it’s only slightly about the prose and prowess of the brewery staff artists. It’s about the cans themselves.

For that reason, I felt it essential to sample some beer from Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery yesterday. Their beer is legendarily brilliant, their graphic design always top-notch, and once upon a time they had the best prose in the business on their cans and bottles (yeah, I used to write for them so that’s a blatant self-horn-toot). But recently they have been producing beer in cans with wide-open tops, providing the experience of gulping from a glass instead of through a can opening. This allows for quicker consumption, and a greater overall experience.

The first appearance of beer in a can came as the black sun of prohibition was just making itself at home below the horizon, back in 1935. Back in the early days of the beer can if you found yourself without a church key (a.k.a. a can piercer), you’d be out of luck and left yearning for the sweet suds inside. If you had access to some quality smaller breweries you might find a “cone top” can, which tapered at the top and featured actual bottle-like caps. Not twist-off, you’d still have a ways to wait for that.

The problem with cans was the flavour. When they were made from metal, you’d get that hint of metal spicing up your lager, like it or not. 1959 saw the invention of the recyclable aluminum can by the Coors company *and* the pull-tab technology to allow drinkers inside without a special tool. Daniel Dudzik was the guy who figured out the lever-style tab we have on cans today. And we can also thank can technology for improving to the point where the beer you taste on the inside tastes solely like beer, not like its vessel.

It’s easy to appreciate a glorious brew. But yesterday was about appreciating the means of delivery, and that was executed with absolute relish and uncompromised zeal.

Belly Laugh Day

This day comes to us via Mumbai, India, courtesy of Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of something called ‘laugher yoga’. This is a guy who understood the potential of the unrestrained moment of chaotic bliss we call laughter.

Laughter is, as far as human behaviors go, the most welcome form of temporary insanity we have in our collective arsenal. A laugh should be an involuntary response, like a sneeze or a surge of pain. We semi-lose control of our composure for a moment, we tuck notions of shame and self-awareness under the rug. Laughter is, in essence, the most free we ever get to be. It’s our most pure form of self-expression, originating in a goofily-lit corner near the back of our brains, then firing through our bodies before the conscious mind has a chance to catch up.

For Belly Laugh Day we did as we were told: we laughed and we laughed well. One description I found of this holiday encouraged people to belly laugh for no reason – to feel the health benefits rush in simply through the act of pushing a laugh out. I don’t agree with this. The benefits to body and brain from laughter are exponentially boosted when you’re actually laughing at something. We all have something that sets our giggle into a gallop: find a funny show, a funny movie, a funny book… or just take a few moments and watch some people. Humanity is ultimately an absurdist comedy and belly laughs are lying in wait all over the place if you go looking.

Today will culminate in a wild celebration of life, of poetry, and of food we’ll probably never eat again on purpose.

  • National Opposite Day. We will find a number of things to do in an opposite fashion today. We’ll read things back to front. We’ll park on the wrong side of the street. We’ll trip one another up by stating the opposite of what we really mean.
  • National Irish Coffee Day. We only drink coffee in the morning, but we will be enjoying this in the evening… opposite day? Or just common sense?
  • National Florida Day. Enough Irish Coffees and we can go out and commit public-humiliation atrocities on par with everyone’s favorite news guy: Florida Man. Or, we’ll get us some key lime pie, the state’s greatest culinary export.
  • A Room Of One’s Own Day. This is taken from a Virginia Woolf quote that pertains to women’s access to education. We’ll take the day a bit more literally, and each spend some time on our own in separate rooms today to soak up the quiet.
  • Robbie Burns Night. We were going to celebrate this at a local establishment, but they were all asking for $100 a plate. That would go against the Scottish stereotype of stinginess, no? So instead we’ll be partying at home with some friends. Haggis and all.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The flicker of illusion that passed between the sunsets yesterday elicited a hot pint of reflection for both of us. As our cyber-sky precipitates more and more festivities upon us, we found ourselves pondering those dreaded seven letters we’d never thought we’d worry about only one-score-plus-three days into this project: Burnout.

This is not to suggest that our primordial wicks were nearing their final flame-wiggle, not at all. The perpetual party rages on and our coats remain firmly upon the bed – we aren’t going anywhere. But the manic nature with which time scootches by was beginning to make itself… heard.

As such, we decided we’d pop our camera onto the shelf and slow down our video entries on Youtube. Each 7-10 minute video is accompanied by 60-90 minutes of editing, music selection, uploading and processing. Tack onto that the articles I lovingly pry from the insides of my fingertips and our time to appreciate our celebrations languishes upon the backburner. And those celebrations are the warm fruity centre beneath the pie crust of pics, vids and word-globs that we serve up to the world.

So please forgive our gearing down with the video entries. We still aim to recap our weeks, and to pop in with fresh content when the act of a celebration lies in our discussing the topic (as we did with International Fetish Day back on the 17th). These daily scribbles will keep on keeping on, and we shall continue to document the guts of the revelry on social media. But let’s turn our attention back one paragraph to that lovely and tasty metaphor.

National Pie Day

“But wait,” I hear you imploring, “isn’t Pie Day on March 14, as a tribute to the number pi?”

“Yes it is,” I reply in a soothing, some may even say dulcet tone. “But National Pie Day on January 23 is officially endorsed by the American Pie Council.”

“But what,” you reply sharply, “is the American Pie Council, and why should I care what they endorse?”

Well, you have a point. The APC is an industry organization for the pie racket, and you can choose to follow their rules or those of Congress, which officially recognizes Pi Day on 3/14. National Pie Day was concocted by a nuclear engineer and expert home brewer named Charlie Papazian. He first ascended to glorious fame (and probably fortune) as the founder of the American Homebrewers Association in 1978. Eight years later he decided National Pie Day should fall on his birthday every year, and he must have pulled some serious weight with Big Pie because that’s exactly what happened.

How mighty is the Pie lobby? The APC actually partnered with Paramount Pictures six years ago to promote the Kate Winslet / Josh Brolin flick Labor Day, which features pie-making and which was released right around National Pie Day that year. The pie people are so mighty they are taking over show business. We’d best keep them happy.

After all, pie is all about being happy. Our pie yesterday was generously donated by our talented friend Deb, whose illustrations brighten up the joint in our Sunday articles. This baby was built upon the grand-daddy of southern pies, the pecan variety. Pecan pie is either a concoction of the French down in New Orleans, though some dispute that claim. Whatever its origin story, the pecan pie (and bonus points for walnuts and chocolate joining the dance) is a thing of beauty.

And you know what? We’ll celebrate Pi Day on March 14 too. Maybe with another pie fight.

World Spay Day

As I hinted yesterday, my original plans for this day involved attending a veterinarian’s office and witnessing an actual spaying, as though they had an operating theatre for just such an event. Alas, this rang as silly to me, as it would necessitate cashing in a vacation day just to watch a dog or cat have an operation. Also, it’s possible this would violate some ethical vet code, and I didn’t want to put any animal healer in that position.  

If you follow the right people, literally every day on social media you’ll see stories and sad-eyed photos of pets seeking a home. There is no shortage of domesticated beasts up for human grabs, so failing to spay or neuter your four-legged family member means you may be adding to those stacks of barkers and meowers who have no place to call home. Please. I’m sick of those posts. Do it for your pet, but do it for Facebook. Let’s free up timeline real estate for more conversations about the Masked Singer and Baby Yoda memes. If you won’t do it for the poor kitties and pups, do it for society.

National Handwriting Day

An argument I’ve witnessed (though never participated in) is whether or not it’s tragic that kids today are not taught cursive in school. We all went through it: we mastered our letters, learned to draw lower-case ‘t’s that don’t wobble, ‘b’s and ‘p’s and ‘d’s and ‘q’s with puckish little circles and correctly-swiped straight lines. Then our teacher told us we had to re-learn all of it, but link all the letters together. And the letter ‘f’? Forget everything you know about that bastard – he’s changing his tune completely.

Cursive was a pain in the ass, but when done correctly it’s quite pleasing to the eye. And given our perpetual connection to keyboards and touch-screens, even longhand printing is becoming a novelty, so National Handwriting Day embraces both.

To be clear though, this is another celebration concocted by an industry association – in this case, the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association. The WIMA invented this day in 1977 to promote the use of pens, pencils and paper. I don’t see that those were endangered items in ’77, but I suppose no one in Star Wars used a pen, so maybe WIMA was worried they’d fall out of fashion with the young set. Why January 23? That’s the birthday of John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, and… well, that’s kind of all John Hancock is famous for, isn’t it?

National Hot Sauce Day

We were a day late in getting the post up for this one, as a last-minute shift in dinner plans skewed our intentions this week. But we celebrated this one with a few splashes of Frank’s into our homemade burgers. We couldn’t allow this one to slip by us – I (Marty) in particular am a huge fan of hot sauce. Not to the extent where I’ll spray it on ice cream or dunk my Oreos into it, but in the right context that nudge of spice is divine.

Our relationship with hot sauce is fraught with curiosity and a dash of mild morbidity. Hot sauce causes us pain, sometimes outright agony, yet we persist in steering our mouths toward another bite. My friend Stew and I used to plead with our waitress every Monday night at Kelsey’s to enlist the chef’s help in mangling our munch-holes with the most vicious and sadistic heat he could slather upon our chicken wings. Every week we left in a pool of sweat, beneath a glow of sizzling air, but never quite pushed to the madness we both sought.

Hot sauce only rears its ugly side when it doesn’t allow itself to be tempered by the digestion system, and it leaves the body with the same curdled rage with which it had entered. Our hot-sauce-infused burger patties offered no such threat. But that little bite, that precious hint of its fiery tenor, was perfect. Hot sauce can be cruel, but it is life-affirming. It’s a voluntary pain but the brink it presents is one of delicate whoop and capsaicin-riddled exhilaration, not one of mortal peril. Hot sauce is the sauce of life, cranked to 11 and roaring to a perfect sizzle.

Get Organized Month

For the most part, Jodie and I live relatively organized lives. We no longer cower beneath the raging chaos of parenthood, and our jobs require a certain level of consistent order to keep us afloat. But never have I experienced such an urgency for proper allotment of time and resources until this month. We have taken tremendous steps to ensure we can continue to live and breathe this perpetual party without losing a step. Well – I suppose we did lose a step today by axing our daily video updates, but that was an item we could sacrifice. That’s part of organization – having a plan for where to cut back when things get out of hand.

To concoct the bones of this project I employed Google calendar. This was back in the spring of 2019 – I simply added a new entry for each celebration, using the notes section to detail how we could take part. A color-coding system was put into place: orange for celebrations involving food, yellow if we need to head to a restaurant for it. Red meant a field trip (bird-watching or museum selfie-ing), blue meant a topic solely for writing, and purple represented everything else.

I have an entry on each Sunday which details a grocery list for all the dishes we’d be eating during the upcoming week for a simpler shopping experience. I also created an entry on the first of each month for things we need to look ahead to prep, like tracking down where we can buy Mochi, or finding out how Edmonton will be ringing in the Chinese New Year. Each day also contains an entry with writing topics commemorating historic events (yesterday was the 45th anniversary of Barney Miller!) and famous birthdays (Richard Dean Anderson turned 70!). I also researched hundreds of famous albums to commemorate their birthdays (yesterday Tone Loc’s Loc-ed After Dark album turned 31!) Alas, those portions of the project were the first casualty, as I was writing in excess of 2,500 words every day in order to include everything.

Organization is key to accomplishing anything big. And since January is a great month for renewal and refocus, it’s the perfect time to take stock of your own organizational planning and shape it up a little.

Clashing Clothes Day

No clue about the origin of this one, but apparently the fourth Thursday of January is the day to strain the eyes of your associates with some poor color choices. We opted not to torment our coworkers (especially since they had to endure our commitment to ultra-casualness earlier this week on Sweatpants Day), but upon coming home, decorum was shuffled out the door.

Today will be our first grand return on this trippy little voyage, as we venture once again to the opposite end of our city and the Yang Ming buffet we visited on January 2. Tonight’s repast is just a family get-together, not part of a celebration. But here’s what else will be going down today.

  • National Compliment Day. We will smatter the air with kind words and genuine praise. No compliments for the sake of meeting our quota; our words will carry the heft of genuine sentiment every time.
  • Beer Can Appreciation Day. I’ll do a bit of research about the beer can for tomorrow’s article, but come on. The only way to really celebrate this is to enjoy a beer can close-up.
  • National Peanut Butter Day. Toast and peanut butter is a fine, fine way to launch a Friday. Maybe something with a Reese label will help to close it off.
  • Belly Laugh Day. We will experience several of these today, whatever it takes.
  • Talk Like A Grizzled Prospector Day. I mean… I guess?
  • National “Just Do It” Day. Another day with no discernable origin, but probably some Nike low-level employee, trying to make it a thing. We’ll find something we’re on the fence about and… just… make it so?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The waters of this party river are gushing by at a rate we’d never anticipated. We are at least ankle-deep in the throes of this manic mission and we’re finding ourselves feeling every little strain it had threatened to throw at us. Time strain? Sure, I’m working until 10 or 11 every night on these articles and our goofy videos. Energy strain? Yep – sleep can’t come soon enough. Priority strain? Busy days make for busy jugglers, and the notion of boredom is on a year-long hiatus, as expected. Financial strain? Absolutely. Grocery bills have been higher, and the post-holiday January crunch is hitting us right between the fiscal gonads. But still… we’re having fun. So we ain’t stopping now.

National Polka Dots Day

Call this one a demonstration of the slippery harmony of a celestially-tuned universe. Having found a new resource chock full (and you know it’s full if it’s at chock-levels) of new National Days no one has heard of, I started out this day not knowing polka dots were on the menu. As luck would serve it up, I’d already selected the one pair of dotted socks from my drawer. Like the guiding hand of cosmic woohoo, steering me deftly into the next festivity.

So what the hell is a polka dot then?

We all know polka dots, of course. Apparently the pattern can be traced back to Medieval Europe, back when no machinery meant dotted clothing looked uneven and a bit wonky. These clothes were also frowned upon, as the dots made people think of other common dots… like the bubonic plague or smallpox. Over in Africa dotted patterns were all the rage – it should be noted that the bubonic plague was not.

The dots pattern, unsurprisingly, became associated with the polka dance craze of the 19th century, right when the clothing came into style. That’s it – there is no cozier connection between dancing the polka and the polka dot; they just happened to hit the zeitgeist in tandem, and so they’ll be forever linked.

Library Shelfie Day

It’s a “shelfie”… ha ha. Thank you, New York Public Library for coming up with a pun in the title of today’s celebration.

There are many ways to commemorate the Library Shelfie – organize your books by author, by size, by chronological date of release – whatever works for you! I suggested we sort our books by colour, but Jodie didn’t see the point. Instead we have our books clumped together into vague genre groupings, which means we’d probably be searching our shelves just as much for a specific title as we would if they were sorted by hue.

Yesterday was about poking our attention into our book collections, to remind us of what we owned, to encourage us to pick a few to donate, and maybe to inspire a re-read or two. Most of our books are electronic these days, and many of the actual paper beasts we flip through wind up given away so someone else can experience the joy. But it’s always a fun travel through the literary countryside of our adult lives.

Come In From The Cold Day

This was another surprise from that new site I’d found. Come In From The Cold? What could that mean? I investigated.

And… I found nothing. I found at least two websites who will confirm that this is indeed Come In From the Cold Day, but no history, no origin story, no reference to a Joni Mitchell song, no link to a 1963 novel by John le Carré. Nothing. So… I came home from work, went out to shovel for 90 minutes, and subsequently Came In From The Cold. If I can’t speak to the source with authority, I can simply take the name literally.

National Blonde Brownie Day

Lastly yesterday gave us another opportunity to enjoy some delicious baked treats, courtesy of my mother. She volunteered to be this project’s official baker, and so far she has hit every treat out of the park, past the parking lot, and right smack-dab through a picture window into a dimension of pure delicious bliss. We’d never tried out the blonde brownie before, and they were all kinds of magnificent.

Blonde brownies are just like regular brownies, except they use vanilla instead of cocoa, and they also use brown sugar. So you lose some of the chocolatey gooeyness (though the chocolate chips in these babies filled that void), and you get a wholly different flavour experience. Blondies have quickly become one of my favourite treats we’ve tried this year, and this is certainly one of the better holidays of the 110+ we’ve sampled so far. So what could top it?

Today poses a few challenges. With precious little free time, a scant amount of usable daylight and no pie in the house, we’ve got a few hurdles to leap.

  • National Pie Day. Will we have time to pick up some pie? It’s not looking good. We may postpone this one and tie it in with a celebration we’ve got this weekend. We’ll see.
  • World Spay Day. Originally I’d planned for us to visit a vet and witness a spaying, just like those theater-style operating rooms we’ve seen on TV and in the movies (Junior Mints sold separately). But that seemed silly upon reflection, so we may simply discuss the joys of having two spayed pups instead.
  • National Handwriting Day. A good day to get some cursive practice in.
  • National Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day. This is just like it sounds: hockey played with a mailbox puck while driving a snow plow. We don’t have access to a snow plow, and even doing this with our vehicles will seem silly, given that we get home after the sun has gone down and we couldn’t even capture this on film. Another solid maybe. This will be a tricky day – let’s just work on keeping the strains at bay.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Yesterday felt… empty. The universal stitching I have come to lean on, that reliable seam between what was and what is – it was shattered yesterday, allowing each hour to morph into the next with a vulgar swell. The day lacked definition, it lacked a comfortable certitude. Why? Well…

International Sweatpants Day

That fine line between recreation and vocation lies in the pants. Sweatpants are bed pants. They are couch-flopping pants. They are the pants of leisure and disconnect. Wearing them to work today, while it honoured the spirit of the day, it removed that separation and left me feeling listless and confused. I slouched down further in my office chair. I couldn’t carry my phone around, lest the waistband sag. And though I lint-rolled the dog hair off, more seemed to grow in its place. I celebrated International Sweatpants Day, but I think this one beat me from a psychological angle.

A Frenchman named Emile Camuset gets credit for inventing sweatpants in the 1920s. They tend to be the most comfortable of all legwears, and as such it is forbidden to wear them in public, unless you want to appear to be in the most casual of states. Fine for the grocery store on a Thursday morning, but not entirely appropriate for an evening of opera.

And not ideal for work, as the parameters of the day should be kept sacred: comfort and calm at home, a modicum of slight discomfort when out in the world. The temptation of a nap was too great. Except…

Museum Selfie Day

There was no napping with so much walking to do. Crammed into my lunch hour I made my way from my beige-grey cubicle to Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum, which seems to grow in content every time I pass by. Some of these signs date back to Edmonton’s pre-oil adolescence. Some reflect institutions that were crucial to this city’s metropolitan muscle. At night it makes for a toasty, colorful history lesson.

From there it was a quick six blocks to the Royal Alberta Museum in its new location. This place is just bursting with great finds, following the long history of Alberta people, some impressive fossils and dino bones, and the creepy-ass bug room. Unfortunately I saw none of that today, as my entire lunch hour had been swallowed up with walking. But we’ll be back within these walls – well, the Royal Alberta Museum’s walls; the neon museum is strictly an outside thing – before too long.

National Squirrel Appreciation Day

Upon returning home I tossed some grub to our beloved and intrepid bulldog co-creators, Trixie and Rosa, then proceeded to dole out a big pile of peanuts for our beloved rodent tenant, Elton.

Elton – or some form of Elton… we really aren’t sure when one squirrel dies and another moves in – has lived in our little wood pile in our yard for years. Last fall he moved in to the shed attached to our house. He didn’t ask, he simply claimed squatter’s rights. And who were we to argue? The guy’s cute, he doesn’t bother us or cause any damage, and he gives us something to watch out our bedroom window. It’s either him or that shirtless old guy over the fence.

In the fall, Jodie gave Elton a few rags to use as bedding. We regularly drop him some nuts for a snack. I suppose that makes us generous landlords, right? I mean, we could be more generous. We could have invited him inside during last week’s cold blast, but we didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable or obligated. Lot of pride, those squirrels have.

And that shirtless old guy? He told us last fall that we should call pest control and eradicate little Elton. Not a chance. The little dude is family.

National Hugging Day

Some kid in the south Indian state of Kerala was booted out of school for hugging a classmate when she won a competition. This moved its way up through the system to the High Court somehow, and ultimately the principal’s decision was upheld. The kid was expelled for morality reasons, dammit. And what could be more immoral than a hug?

Bullshit. Hugging reduces blood pressure. Hugging releases oxytocin, which is a groovy little peptide hormone that gives the body a big ol’ oomph at the most life-assuring moments. Hugging is an act of sharing stardust. It’s the heat-blanket horizon folding in on itself for 2-20 beautiful seconds. Season it with a cuddle or spice it with a bro-back-slap, but a hug is a chance for two people to unplug the universe for a tiny moment.

We hugged. We each hugged some folks at work. Then we hugged again. And when we couldn’t – when Jodie was still off chaperoning three dozen kids at the theatre last night, I had another way to celebrate:

National Hug Your Puppy Day

Puppies are the most huggable of all creatures. They hug back – sometimes with their eyes, sometimes with a thin splat of drool. It’s all affection. It’s all wonderful.

National Granola Bar Day

Rather than trust the folks at Quaker or the residents of Nature Valley to concoct a prepackaged granola bar, I decided to make my own. This perpetual party features a plethora of palatable platters, but we can’t simply eat what the calendar tells us. This party necessitates some real immersion. The act of creation is the true expression of art, is it not? Yesterday, for better, worse, or somewhere in the middle, I made my own granola bars.

I went for the no-bake double-chocolate peanut butter bars using this recipe from Averie Cooks. This is a food blog like so many out there, featuring page after page of unnecessary narrative and no less than two pop-up ads before you even reach the ingredients. It was frustrating. But, I was by myself and so I chronicled the bars’ creation on film.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has attempted to buzz-kill the granola bar, calling it a cookie masquerading as health food. Really? Who thought this was a health food? I dropped brown sugar, chocolate and honey all in this mess; oats were the only healthy ingredient. The real benefit to the granola bar is convenience: it’s a complete snack in its own little wrapper, and the appearance of oats in the cast means there’s at least one semi-healthy component.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a Nature Valley peanut butter granola bar and a Kit Kat:

The granola bar has 230 calories, 11 grams of fat, 150 mg of sodium and 11 grams of sugar.

The Kit Kat has 230 calories, 12 grams of fat, 35 mg of sodium and 22 grams of sugar.

So the lesson here may be: eat an apple. Below is the riveting (and astoundingly low-budget) video of me making granola bars last night.

Another light day today, so we may sprinkle in a weekly or monthly celebration to keep ourselves busy. No days off, not for another 344 days.

  • National Blonde Brownie Day. A delicious take on the brownie – my generous and talented mother has prepared these for us.
  • Library Shelfie Day. Get it? Shelfie? Oh man, those day-inventors, they know quality humor. This is about organizing your bookshelf, so I guess that’s my chore after work today. Woohoo!