Monday, February 24, 2020

Another day of recuperation, but dammit we did everything we could. Well, I did – Jodie was fine, and she just trucked along as a healthy human. My advice: don’t get sick. And if you do, hopefully you’ve married someone who will keep the party rolling. We are mostly caught up, which I count as a massive win.

National Dog Biscuit Day

So many days in this project have been devoted to providing delicious treats for us humans to gorge upon. It’s only fitting that our canine companions receive a day devoted to their own love of snacking. While we’re still overflowing with cherry pie, blueberry-lemon muffins, a sticky bun, and even those York peppermint patties, our puppies could finally get their turn.

Some dogs are motivated more by love than by food. Trixie is one of those beasts. She loves a good treat, and performs a goofy little head-weave dance when she sees a cookie a-comin’, but she’d let her food sit across the room if she was wrinkle-deep into a solid belly-rub. Rosa would crawl over hot coals for a tasty salmon stick. She’s all about the eats. We’re learning that Liberty is quite the same, given her bizarre tribal leaps when it’s feeding time.

So our puppies were treated to some extra snacks today. Just because they don’t fully understand this weird experiment we’ve undertaken doesn’t mean they shouldn’t benefit from it.

National Banana Bread Day

It’s an odd thing about bananas: when most purchased fruit has run through its lifecycle and managed to avoid the chomp of human teeth, it is discarded to return to the earth and restart the cycle of nature. When bananas have shrouded themselves in umber and retreated beyond the realm of edibility, they can achieve a second life in the form of carb-heavy breadstuffs.

We always seem to have a batch of blackened bananas sitting in our freezer, awaiting its rendezvous with some flour, sugar and other goodies. But our team baker (thanks, Mom!) came through for us once again with a delicious loaf of chocolate-chip goodness. The downside is that we are now even more stacked with treats. This will go well for our co-workers. Well, for Jodie’s co-workers – I took today as another day of recuperation, but Jodie’s fellow teachers will be snacking well this week.

National Single-Tasking Day

In an era of multitasking, this day is supposed to allow us to focus solely on one thing at a time, to power through it with care and focus, and to ensure we do it right. For me this was easy enough to do. I focussed on the task of recovering from another sleepless night, then focussed on publishing yesterday’s half-article, then focussed on writing this article, and lastly I focussed on winding myself down to another, equally sleep-deprived night.

Jodie had plenty of homework to do, but again that involved handling one thing at a time, handling it properly, then moving on. When we multitask everything we do, we run the risk of putting out shoddy, or incomplete work. Directing one’s workflow toward a single goal at a time is not always possible, but this day is here to remind us that when we can, we should take aim and fire at one job at a time.

Our dogs are good at this. Up there you see Trixie focused on the single task of not falling asleep and keeling over onto the floor. While this was going on, Rosa was chewing a nylon dinosaur, and Liberty was writhing around like a weirdo. We can learn so much about productivity from these pooches. Better give them another treat.

Curling Is Cool Day

Is it though?

Don’t get me wrong – curling is a game of phenomenal skill and precision. It takes years of mastering subtle wrist movements, keen observation, and an inherent aptitude for physics. That said, I’ve seen championship curlers with the same athletic build as me. I’ve seen old clips of people smoking while playing the game. This is not a triumph of athletics, but a game of strategy and hand-eye coordination, like darts or billiards.

Curling, which is basically shuffleboard played while standing on the table, is not riveting television, at least not to our eyes. During the Olympics it’s always fun, because (a) Canada is almost always in the running for a medal, and (b) the Olympics can make the most banal televised sports interesting. Ever watch a javelin competition in some other context? Of course you haven’t.

We watched a bit of curling yesterday. As luck would have it, last night was the final game in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, live from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. This is the Canadian women’s championship tournament and last year an Albertan took home the prize (which I assume is a trophy shaped like a broom?). It was dramatic and intense, but even under the haze of sleep deprivation, I was more intrigued by the season five premiere of Better Call Saul. That said, those women displayed a level of skill I couldn’t even dream of. And you know what? They were cool. Congratulations, Kerri Einarson of Manitoba.

National California Day

The Golden State. Several of my favourite cities on the planet. The first state to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples. The first state to usher in the age of legal medical marijuana. The birthplace of the computer, the movie industry (as we know it), fast food and the Internet. My dad packed up and moved to LA when I was 16, so I’ve visited often. One of my favourite humans married the love of his life in wine country up north, so we got to experience that treasure trove of natural wonder. Our headspace has us favouring New York City over Los Angeles these days, but as a state California will always hold my heart.

California was controlled by Spain, then Mexico, then passed over to the USA in 1848. Coincidentally (maybe), the gold rush began that same year. California marked the end of the great Frontier – the last reaches of New World exploration before the deep blue veil of the Pacific. It’s romanticized in western lore, and has come to be romanticized in many other contexts since. If you can afford to live there, you can proudly proclaim your zip code to be a portion of paradise, from the awe-inspiring redwoods (they live up to all the hype), down to the majestic waterfront of San Diego.

Here’s where I tend to list famous people who come from the state being celebrated, but with California is that really necessary? Beautiful people flock there to make a living off their assets, and they hook up with other beautiful people and make beautiful kids. There are no surprises in this list. Jennifer Aniston? Candice Bergen? Kevin Costner? Snoop Dogg? Does it shock you that any of those people were born in the land of sunshine?

For our California adventure, I opted for this recipe to simulate the In-N-Out Burger chain’s classic, the Double-Double. Up here a double-double is how one can desecrate coffee with too much cream and sugar, but in California it means something else. We’ve had the real thing, and found it to be the best fast-food burger we’ve tasted. Did this recipe measure up? We have no idea. It’s been more than a decade, and we only tried them once. But it was a terrific burger.

The down-side was that my appetite had not yet returned to its normal voracious levels, so I was only able to eat about half of it. Also, the recipe creates way too much sauce for just two burgers, but since the sauce is actually the most exquisite part, we were okay with that. In hindsight, some sort of avocado thin-crust pizza concoction might have made more sense, or one of those Chinese chicken salads my dad and I used to devour. But this, like California, was pretty goddamn good.

National Cook A Sweet Potato Day

What can I say? We cooked some sweet potatoes. Peel ‘em, chop ‘em up, cover them in some diced fresh rosemary and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. We left them in the oven for about 20 minutes and they made for a  welcome side dish beside the three-napkin monstrous mess of those burgers. Sweet potatoes are a delightful alternative. We’re not a fan of the fries they produce, though Da-De-O, our favourite restaurant, makes the best we’ve ever tried. I was happy this day showed up when it did. (Technically on Saturday, but again, it had to be bumped)

Don’t call those little tubers ‘yams’ though – the yam is a different beast. These aren’t really that closely related to potatoes either, despite their similarities. Sweet potatoes date back to pre-Columbus times – in fact, the first Europeans to taste the meat of a sweet potato were Columbus’s 1492 crew. The darker tinted sweet potatoes contain more beta-carotene than the lighter ones, so if your vitamin A levels are low, go for the deep orange.

In Asia, you can pick up roasted sweet potatoes from street vendors. Sweet potato greens are popular in Taiwan – and yes, you can eat their leaves like spinach. In Sri Lanka they like them for breakfast, which is probably far healthier than that bowl of Lucky Charms you wolfed back a few hours ago. Koreans turn them into noodles. In Indonesia they’ll batter them and fry them along with bananas and spicy condiments. The Japanese have even introduced them into maki rolls.

They were a welcome treat last night. My appetite even found a way to finish every piece on my plate.

National Sweet Potato Month

We really loved those sweet potatoes. We’ll count it as a double-celebration.

Kalevala Day

Finland has spent its existence sandwiched between the big bear of Russia and the much, much different Nordic countries. As such, its culture is a unique beast. The story of how the Finnish developed their national identity is far too long and complex for me to summarize in a few paragraphs below an entry about sweet potatoes, but suffice it to say the epic poem known as the Kalevala is a key part of it.

The Kalevala consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty stories from Karelian and Finnish folklore and myths. Karelia, for those who don’t know, is a distinctive region that straddles Finland and Russia’s border. The stories in the Kalevala begin with the creation of existence, feature plenty of lust and kidnapping, and would probably make for a killer HBO series, once Westworld has run its course.

How is this epic so relevant? You’ll find places all over Finland with references in their names. Brands and major national companies have names pulled from the poem. This day, also known as Finnish Culture Day, is a major holiday in the country. The poem has birthed the nation’s music culture, and inspired countless works of literature and even film. So to our Finnish friends, we hope you enjoyed your respite yesterday.

Still feeling rough, but only one thing to celebrate today. Thank God.

  • National Tortilla Chip Day. Woohoo! An easy one! Suck it, weird illness!

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