Tuesday, March 31, 2020

For a bit of perspective today we’ll look again to the words of Walt Whitman:

“The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss

          or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,

Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,

          the fitful events;

These come to me days and nights and go from me again,

But they are not the Me myself.”

Hold close to your Me, and know that the bombardment of sorrow and fear oozing from our phone screens, tablet screens, TVs and monitors, is not who we are. We are We, and We will persevere. And to keep busy, we’ll keep partying:

National I Am In Control Day

I’ve found a source that traces this day to Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who announced he was in control at the White House while Ronald Reagan was being treated for gunshot wounds in 1981. The day evolved to be an excuse to get one’s life under control by taking a more active role in scheduling appointments and tasks, and keeping organized. I’d argue that this year, the day should means something entirely new.

Our lives are, many would say, mostly out of control right now. The government has dictated who can and cannot work. We’ve been told to stay at home – an easy and welcome task for us introverts and homebodies, but arguably tortuous for outdoorsy types and those whose home situations are less than pleasant. The headlines remind us every minute that the course of our great society is presently out of everyone’s control, apart from that nasty little virus who appears to be calling the shots from its microscopic director’s chair.

A few things we can control. We can control the soundtrack that scores our days – choose music that lifts us up. We can control our input of bad news. Turn off news notifications, and get off social media. Everyone is re-posting statistics, analyses and what various governments are and are not doing, so you can’t even pop onto Instagram for a respite of dog pics anymore. We can control our physical selves. Take your home-bound body out for a stroll, take a drive, get the hell out as long as you can keep away from others. And to some extent, we can control how we react to all this madness. Create art. Play around with that instrument you bought but never learned. Write that story – don’t worry if your sentence structure or character development is weak, just get it started and get it out of you.

And celebrate with us. On Thursday you’ll get to eat PB&J and burritos. What could be more fun? Stay happy, stay positive, stay creative, and stay in control.

Grass Is Always Browner On The Other Side Of The Fence Day

Quite possibly the longest title of any of our 2020 celebrations so far, and another one we can use to set our minds into balance during this historical blip. This is a day to take stock of what you have, and to realize how much worse it could be.

First off, if neither you nor your loved ones are suffering from this horrid bitch-virus right now, that should top your list. If you still have a job and/or sufficient money in the bank to not be worried about bills this month, that’s some sparkling green grass right there. If you live in a place with a solid safety net, with leaders who are compassionate and empathetic and a community that will stick up for you, each of those are blades of bountiful emerald grass.

Even if you don’t get to count each of those green-grass points as your own, have a look for what you can cherish. Is the person with whom you are quarantined a pretty decent human being, as far as human beings go? That’s a win. Do you have pets that are keeping up your spirits? Another bonus. Maybe you’ve finally passed that complicated mission on whatever video game has been occupying your time, or you’ve re-discovered the joys of watching early Simpsons seasons on Disney+.

The grass is always browner because things could always be worse, and most likely you wouldn’t have to travel too far to find a worse situation for someone. Take joy and comfort in your green grass today.

National Pencil Day

A day to pay tribute to the noble pencil. Whether you’re a Palomino Blackwing fan, an adherent to the Staedtler Norica #2, or like me a Dixon Ticonderoga lover, this is a good time to give a virtual hug to your favourite lead-based writing implement. Some prefer the mechanical variety – I appreciate the lack of sharpening, but you lose something with the feel of plastic and those micro-size tips. When I used to pour out my creativity longhand, it was always with a wooden pencil.

The word ‘pencil’ comes to us from the Old French word ‘pincel’, which meant an artist’s paintbrush. That in turn comes from Medieval Latin’s ‘penicillus’ (painter’s brush), which derives from the same root word as ‘penis’. So that’s something to think about whilst you hold that hard wood in your hand. (sorry – I’ll blame this paragraph on extended quarantine)

The ‘lead’ in pencils is actually graphite. This isn’t some new swap-out for health reasons, like removing lead from gasoline. Sometime in the 1500s a large deposit of graphite was found in England, and this became part of the first pencils that resemble what we use today. People didn’t really know what the stuff was back then, so they assumed it was a form of lead. An Italian couple, Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti, came up with the idea of cramming some of this graphite into juniper sticks to create the first wood-encased pencil in 1560. Today pencil makers will craft all sorts of pencils, ranging from the #1, which makes dark markings, up to the #4, which produces a much lighter result. Naturally it’s the #2 middle-ground that has become the most popular standard.

Jodie has a strong preference for her pencils, as many teachers and pencil-wielding professionals do. She loves the dark blue Staedtler Norica, which she claims has the best action, the cleanest lines, and erases nicely. I have a chronic pain in my arms that makes writing longhand rather unpleasant, so I will defer to Jodie for premium pencil selection. I hope you took a moment to praise your pencils yesterday. The world would be far muckier without them.

National Turkey Neck Soup Day

To be perfectly clear, we had little intention of making turkey neck soup, even before the quarantine. We found a recipe, yes, and figured that one of our local butcher shops would be able to supply us with the necks… but why?

From what I can gather, turkey neck soup is going to turn out pretty close to chicken soup. The meat from the neck will be tender, but when was the last time  you had tough, stringy chicken in soup? Turkey neck soup makes sense the day after you cook and serve a massive turkey, as a way of changing things up once people have gotten tired of leftover sandwiches (moist-maker or no). Jodie’s mom used to make soup using the turkey neck as stock on Boxing Day every year – so why the hell does this celebration show up on March 30?

I’m going to call this a half-celebration. There is no real history to delve into – humans have been cooking with turkey necks ever since we’ve been cooking with turkeys. We stopped short of actually making this dish, but we will appreciate that it exists, and when made properly it can be wonderful. If anyone out there is craving a little comfort food, and you feel like venturing out of quarantine to source some turkey necks, we wish you the best. We’ll stick with our leftover pepperoni rolls and shrimp cocktail for now.

International Laundry Folding Day

We celebrated this with the eastern hemisphere, as most of our laundry was finished and folded late Sunday evening. And oh, what a celebration it was. Really? Laundry folding? On the same day as pencils and a soup no one gets excited about? I’ve got to say, day 89 of this project was a bit of a let-down.

To be clear, Laundry Day is in April. This is about folding. Why do we fold? To keep our clothes fresh and wrinkle-free. To make space in our drawers. Because we are not savage animals, wallowing in our own filth and mess. Mostly.

Anyone who has worked in clothing retail most likely can fold a shirt brilliantly. Most of us who haven’t still probably won’t struggle for this, and we shouldn’t so long as there is Youtube to guide us. You can even learn how to fold a fitted sheet, though I suspect each of those videos are made with extensive CGI just to make this seem possible.

The device pictured above is an actual laundry folding machine, displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show last year. If you’re looking to spend close to a thousand dollars just to avoid this tiny task, it might be worth the investment. Or, you know, spend that money on something useful instead.

If you have a pile of clean clothes laying somewhere about your place – and here I’m speaking specifically to my college-age daughter, who almost certainly fits this description – this is a good time to make an exception and fold those babies up. Once you’ve got all your clothes folded and put away neatly, you can count that as yet another blade of jade-green grass, confident that someone else in your neighborhood is probably still buried beneath their slovenly, wrinkled garments. What a glorious celebration indeed.

National Take A Walk In The Park Day

Here’s something we can all actually do. Provided we keep far from other humans, the park is a great destination to soak up some fresh air and remove ourselves from our situationally-imposed isolation. Yesterday Jodie had to go into work, and since Liberty had a vet appointment, she went along too. Both of them enjoyed a walk in the park during a brief respite in the continued onslaught of winter.

That’s the real obstacle for this day. Winter. In this part of Canada, finding anything that resembles actual spring on March 30 is nothing short of a miracle. It has happened, but usually we are either still in the slog of snow-piled yards and treacherous roads, or else we’re deep into that ugly month of melting snow, sloppy walkways, and puddles the size of small lakes everywhere – especially in parks. Yesterday Edmonton was securely in the former, facing another massive dump of snow and the temperature still leaning toward -10. It’s going to be a long April if we remain sequestered at home with the weather outside being unpalatable.

So if you missed this day, head to your nearest park and brave the cold. Try to pretend things are normal, as they will soon be once again. Take a walk, get some exercise, and believe in your heart of hearts that spring will be here soon. Sometimes miracles do happen, after all.

National Virtual Vacation Day

I would like to introduce you all to randomstreetview.com – a brilliant means for escapism, tucked into the folds of the world wide web. It is exactly what it sounds like – click the Next button and you’ll be whisked away to one of the gazillions of random locations within Google’s Street View. Once you land you can wander about, exploring some far-off region without leaving your seat or exposing yourself to any airborne nastiness.

Sure, most of the time you’ll land in the middle of a highway without much to see. But in one virtual outing I discovered a glorious little village in Slovenia, a wedding-cake-shaped building in the middle of nowhere in Bangladesh, and a seedy strip club in Carson, California. If you get a lucky click you might end up near a beloved landmark or inside Disneyland (back when there were people allowed there). Yesterday I somehow landed on an Andorran ski slope – apparently Google has expanded their definition of ‘street’ views.

A virtual vacation is not a substitute for the real thing. In fact, it’s not even close. But it might be the only way we get to venture out into the world for a few months. It can be eye-opening to wander through other cultures, to see what daily life looks like a half-world away. It’s not an immersive experience, and you won’t emerge from your desk as an experienced traveler. But it can be a fun momentary twist in your day. Get out there, even if you can’t actually get out there.

National Doctors Day

Back on February 3 it was National Women Doctors Day, and I felt giddy that my visit for a checkup with my doctor (also a woman) was timed appropriately. Today the notion of a day devoted to medical professionals has quite a different meaning.

Most of us are, at present, hiding from doctors. We are avoiding medical appointments where possible, and putting off unnecessary procedures. We are hiding out from this virus in our homes as instructed, and hopefully doing our part to flatten that vicious curve. Our doctors, meanwhile, are on the front lines of this. They don’t have the luxury of quarantine (unless symptoms dictate otherwise). They don’t get the experience of removing themselves from the world to binge-watch Netflix with their families, or build jigsaw puzzles until the weirdness blows over. They are struggling with an abundance of illness, a shortage of supplies, and an absolute inability to remain far away from the virus.

After 9/11 we were all more acutely aware of the heroism of firefighters. After COVID-19 we will all hold more reverence for our medical professionals – doctors, nurses, lab techs, admin, and every other individual who keeps those offices moving. We have probably all thanked a surgeon, or some other medico who has intervened and blatantly saved our lives or the life of someone we care about. But this is different. Today – and sure, National Doctors Day was yesterday, but this applies going forward indefinitely – we need to see those doctors as the heroes they are. Shit has hit our collective fan, medically-speaking, and the men and women (and non-binary others) in white coats have stepped up.

Happy National Doctors day every day. They’ll all deserve a sweet vacation and a barrel of hugs after all this passes.

Today we’ll wrap up some March monthly celebrations, since our daily roster is pretty light:

  • National Crayon Day. I’m not sure we have any crayons laying about. If we do, we might make some art.
  • National Clams On The Half-Shell Day. Another food item we had planned to enjoy at a restaurant, but alas, we’ll be dreaming of it instead.
  • National Bunsen Burner Day. Jodie was going to sit in on a science experiment at school, but given current circumstances we’ll simply be learning about these little things.
  • National She’s Funny That Way Day. A loving tribute to some funny, funny women.

Monday, March 30, 2020

So we are back again, screeching into the abyss with another pack of celebrations. Our road to 2021 remains the same, though our intentions may have shifted. Where we began determined to rally a steady party of celebrants through the year, we soon abandoned that mission and sought instead to see if all this revelry would provide a medicating effect upon our mental health. A couple weeks ago we began celebrating simply to drown out the noise of each day’s increasingly dire headlines. Now it seems we are doing this simply to see if it can indeed be done under this year’s wonky circumstances. Our friends and family are enjoying this on social media, but these articles, where the true party is focused, see us simply… well, screeching into the abyss. Screech along if you’d like.

National West Virginia Day

It was but a week ago when our weekly journey from state to state was supposed to land us in the Mountain State. Alas, we were one ingredient short, and this is not the time to be racing to a grocery store for a single forgotten item if it can possibly be avoided. So yesterday we paid tribute to this wonderful place that neither of us have ever seen in person.

West Virginia may have the greatest origin story of any state. As the Civil War was stretching its gruesome gore across the country in 1861, a bunch of Virginians decided they didn’t want to mess around with the Confederacy, and that they were fine not owning other humans. So they separated and formed West Virginia, which fought for the Union side. The state sits completely within the Appalachians, so it’s chock full of mountains. It’s a gorgeous place, though surprisingly uneducated. Only 17.3% of West Virginians have a bachelor’s degree, the lowest in the US. They also have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. And to make things worse, for five consecutive years West Virginians have rated themselves as being more miserable than people in every other state.

So the state is not without its problems. And I’m sure it doesn’t help that their coal industry, which was once a beacon of energy, is drying up. But the state is packed with vistas you won’t find anywhere else, and some cool people have come from that place. Like Randy Moss from Rand. Steve Harvey from Welch. Don Knotts from Morgantown. Northern Exposure’s John Corbett from Wheeling. Joyce DeWitt, also from Wheeling. Filmmaker and McDonalds aficionado Morgan Spurlock from Parkersburg. Not a bad list.

The classic West Virginia dish, as I learned through numerous sources, is the pepperoni roll. These made for a great Sunday snack – simply stuff some pepperoni and cheese into a Pilsbury crescent roll, spin it up and bake it, then dip into some warm pizza sauce. A great way to celebrate the state.

National Nevada Day

And now to the Silver State, a place noted for being a den for aliens, gambling, and quickie divorces. Jodie and I have spent a lot of time in Nevada – strictly in Las Vegas though, not venturing around the numerous ghost towns and the vast desert that encompasses them. Nevada also has an interesting origin story. Eight days before the 1864 election, the state separated from Utah Territory in a bid to add an extra state that would support Lincoln’s Republicans in the election. The minimum requirement to form a state at the time was 60,000 people, and Nevada was home to only about 10,000. Still, the paperwork was pushed through, and though Lincoln wouldn’t end up needing the help, Nevada was born.

Nevada was built on mining, so the frontier lifestyle, which also included gambling and panning for gold, was the state’s first personality. Gambling was outlawed in 1909 (just as the fable of the Old West was retiring), but it was legalized again in 1931 as a response to the Great Depression. Eight days earlier, the Hoover Dam project had been approved, so there were plenty of workers to take advantage of the new laws. A few enterprising gangsters saw the potential, and Nevada’s new bold face emerged.

Prostitution was legalized in the state, and left up to each county to decide how they want to handle it. They made divorces easier to get than anywhere else in the country, at least up until the 70s. The state features no personal income tax, and no corporate income tax. In 2018 Nevada became the first state to have a female majority in its legislature. There’s a lot going on in Nevada outside of those casinos. And the state has produced some cool people: Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island) is from Reno, Matthew Gray Gubler from Criminal Minds was born in Las Vegas. Edna Purviance, Charlie Chaplin’s first great muse and co-star, hails from Paradise Valley. Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers, is from Henderson.

We dined on a Nevada classic for dinner, shrimp cocktail. We used this recipe for the cocktail sauce, and improvised with the shrimp. We haven’t been to Nevada in more than a decade, but we hope to go back – ideally when they finally outlaw tobacco smoking in the casinos. And when we’re allowed out of the house again, of course.

National Lemon Chiffon Day

This was, as my mom made a deliberate point of telling me, a difficult recipe. She is our team baker, and has produced such luminous treats as coconut torte and lacy oatmeal cookies. This fluffy concoction, which was creamy and smooth with a blast of lemon glory, was a challenge. It had to be created in stages. At one point a large bowl of ice water was required to regulate the temperature. The candied ginger had to be abandoned, because the ingredient was too hard to find.

But oh, the result. This cake tasted like a gentle swell of strings, rising up to the roof of an auditorium. The crust crumbled with a satisfying chortle, but the contents were all pillowy clouds and decadent dreams. We are without dessert celebrations for a few days, but this will carry us through.

The chiffon pie was created by Monroe Boston Strause, who was known as the Pie King. It dates back to Los Angeles in 1926, and is an off-shoot of the chiffon cake, which uses vegetable oil instead of butter or shortening. We could have opted for a cake instead, as lemon is the reigning king of chiffonery, but then we’d have missed out on this glorious creamy swirl of otherworldy bliss. And that wouldn’t do.

National Mom & Pop Business Owners Day

This was going to be a road trip day, with us popping in to our favourite locally owned businesses. Instead we find ourselves quarantined with no business in sight. So instead, we’ll detail where we would have gone.

We’d have started out at Barb & Ernie’s Old Country Inn, now owned and operated by B&E’s son and daughter-in-law, Thomas and Char. They make the greatest eggs benedict in the city (at least), serve perfectly-brewed coffee, and mix it up with a delightful array of other breakfast greats, from bratwurst to crepes to potato pancakes. From there we’d scoot over to Audrey’s Books on Jasper Avenue, one of the last great independent bookstores in the city. They are, for any interested local readers, still open during the COVID crisis – just give them a call and pick up your books curb-side. Keep supporting local.

Next we’d have headed west to Carol’s Sweets (obviously), where the owners make their own line of astounding chocolates, and also feature the best selection of candy in town. Maybe not the biggest selection, but the greatest variety of fresh, outstanding candy. Every other place I’ve visited just has a larger selection of the same stale bulk candies you can find at the grocery store. And for licorice fans there’s simply nowhere else to go but Carol’s to get this much to choose from. Lastly we’d have dropped into Da-De-O, the Cajun diner that fuels our joy and inspires our taste buds to expect greatness. Karen, the owner, has created the perfect blend of neighborhood pub, gastronomic wonderland, and lively hangout.

This would have been a really cool day, and when all this madness is behind us, we will play it out. These local businesses, all the ones you love and frequent, will need our support. The big chains will survive just fine, but these businesses depend on the love of the community. Keep them in your thoughts, and if possible, in your wallets.

Back to work for Jodie, albeit in a weirdly altered capacity. I’ll be working from home once again, free to focus my energy on this:

  • National Take A Walk In The Park Day. So long as we keep a good distance from strangers, this will be a great idea. Except it’s snowing. Why is it always snowing?
  • National I Am In Control Day. A questionable concept, but we’ll have a look at what we truly can control in this weird little chunk of history.
  • National Pencil Day. Jodie will take the helm for this one, boasting about the specific pencils she adores.
  • National Turkey Neck Soup Day. Not going to happen. I might look into how this became a thing, but we won’t be cooking it.
  • National Virtual Vacation Day. The only kind of vacation we can do, unfortunately. We’ll look at some options.
  • Grass Is Always Browner On The Other Side Of The Fence Day. What’s better than to imagine how much shittier things could still be?
  • International Laundry Folding Day. Laundry day was yesterday, but we’ll celebrate by not having to fold any today. Interesting how that works.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A strange turn of events over the last few days. We finally had something that went viral – not one of our celebrations, but rather a semi-political joke repost of a meme that has infuriated our provincial health minister. And so, after hundreds of calculated celebrations packed into fewer than three months, with most of our revelry clanging through the relatively empty halls of receptive social media, this is what catches fire. It’s almost like I’ve been channeling my efforts into the wrong thing. But I haven’t. This is where positivity exists in abundance, where we can wrap our fervent arms around what’s important. Like:

National Weed Appreciation Day

There is no logical way to avoid chuckling at this celebration title. And less than a month away from 4/20 too. But this day wanders to us from naturopath country, where numerous weeds have been identified as medicinal, or as a quality food source.

What we call mustard is a hybrid of three different species of wild mustard plants. Crucial to hot dog enhancement. Wild rose, the official plant of our little province, is actually a weed. It produces rose hips, which are used in tea. Blackberries grow from a weed whose prickles can keep animals away. Motherwort attracts bees. Watercress, which is a food I have never given more than a passing consideration to, is also a weed in many cultures.

Having some trouble getting the ol’ #1 to flow? Dandelions are great for that, and are also used in other medicines. Clover is actually a legume (who knew?). It keeps moisture in the ground, and attracts bacteria that regulates nitrogen in the soil and helps to fertilize nearby plants. Just don’t plant tomatoes around them, as it does too good of a job, and that mucks up the balance tomato plants need.

The stinging nettle can cure your kidney stones. Purslane, with bulbous little leaves that pop up in empty garden beds, can ease everything from a bug bite to a bee sting to hemorrhoids. Chickweed, which produces daisy-like little white flowers, can soothe a cough. Even daisies themselves are technically a weed, but you can eat them to ease respiratory tract disorders, and also use their pedals to determine whether someone loves you, or if they love you not. So many weeds to enjoy and celebrate. And all I did was smoke a bowl.

National Black Forest Cake Day

We accidentally doubled up on this celebration, and the result will likely weigh us down for desserts all throughout next week. On Friday we picked up a small Black Forest cake from the grocery store, then when out buying doughnuts yesterday (still open, still an essential service) we came upon a Black Forest doughnut from Destination Doughnuts (the finest in the city). So now we are set for desserts for days. Which is fine, because we have no dessert-related celebrations until Friday. Well, except for the entire lemon chiffon pie we’ll have tomorrow… damn, we are going to get fat.

It would be so easy to state that this cake was named after the Black Forest mountain range in Germany, but alas that would be false. Some believe it was named from that area’s specialty liquor, a cherry-distilled treat called Schwarzwälder Kirsch. Others say it’s named after the traditional costume women wear in that region, which features big pom-poms on top, much like the cherries atop the cake. It doesn’t matter – Black Forest is iconic.

For those who have somehow missed out on this treat, it consists of several layers of chocolate sponge cake, crammed with whipped cream and cherries. Up top you’ll usually find more whipped cream, whole maraschino cherries and some chocolate shavings. Occasionally booze is worked into the ingredients list, either rum or the aforementioned kirschwasser.

Black Forest, which combines chocolate and cherries (a blend that in my mind even supersedes the magnificence of the chocolate/peanut butter combo), is one of the greatest hits of the cake world. I’m glad we got to doubly toast it.

Children’s Picture Book Day

Another COVID-spoiled celebration. Our plan was to head to the local library and peruse the children’s section in search of some weird titles. Instead, we’re at home, looking for weird titles online. Here are a few actual children’s books. These have all been verified as real and available for purchase. The book above, of course, was referenced on Dr. Seuss Day on March 2, back when the world seemed oh so normal.

A very good question.
This one should be made into a movie.
Teach ’em about anal fissures young, that way they’ll know what to expect.
Teach them about the more obscure medical conditions as well.
Again, this is an actual book.
Okay, this one is fake. But it’s funny.

Eat An Eskimo Pie Day

Eskimo Pies, now marketed by the grotesque and horrific corporation known as Nestle, is vanilla ice cream enrobed in chocolate and popped onto a stick. It’s a classic treat, at least for those who have been privy to it. I don’t think we have ever seen an Eskimo Pie in this part of Canada, though it’s a big seller in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and various former Soviet nations.

The treat – oddly named since it bears no resemblance to a pie at all – was created by Christian Kent Nelson in Onawa, Iowa, back in 1920. Nelson, a schoolteacher who owned a candy store (so, like, a really awesome schoolteacher), noticed a boy in his shop who couldn’t decide whether he should spend his money on ice cream or a chocolate bar. Nelson worked his magic, and the following year it was being sent to store freezers courtesy of Russell Stover. There was a patent on the product that covered all such choco-ice-cream novelties, but that was invalidated a few years later.

Russell Stover and Christian Nelson both got rich off Eskimo Pies. Stover sold his share to start his candy business. Nelson wound up selling his share to the US Foil Company who made the packaging.

Not having access to these particular treats, we instead enjoyed some Magnum Double-Chocolate-Cherry bars, similar in shape and concept, but likely far tastier. Whatever you can find, it’s worth picking up a treat like this and savouring it – especially with this being the 100th birthday of its creation.

National Something On A Stick Day

It simply took a single evening at a schmancy-ass party for us to realize that food simply tastes better when it’s served on a stick. It seems silly and implausible – and, if you want to get all serious and analytical, it is – but we have reinforced this theory numerous times. Not a fan of something? Skewer it and try again.

We considered spending yesterday cramming everything onto a stick before eating it, but that would have been cumbersome and messy, especially with our Black Forest cake / doughnut. Our Eskimo Pie substitute was served on a stick, but that seemed to be more coincidence than a reason to call that one gustatory experience two parties. So we opted to go a different way.

For dinner last night, I suggested we make it into a date. Instead of chowing down at our kitchen table, we moved to the dining room. We set up some candles to make it romantic (and environmentally-friendly – see below). Then we adjourned to our lesser-used downstairs television to enjoy a film. For dinner we ordered from Koutouki, a magnificent Greek joint that will deliver to us way out here on the west edge of town, but also offers 20% off for pickup orders. Their souvlaki – stick-bound – was insanely tasty, and it was nice to pretend we’d gone out for a special meal, even though the same ol’ dogs were carousing around our feet.

Earth Hour

The World Wildlife Fund has been promoting Earth Hour as an annual event to demonstrate our commitment to climate change and keeping our little planet nice and healthy. It started in Sydney, Australia back in 2007 and quickly became an annual planet-wide tradition. Among some. Lots of us, even when we had intentions to celebrate it, have forgotten over the years. Alas, we did not this year, as we had this entry in our calendar to remind us.

The actual act of Earth Hour doesn’t have a substantial effect on anything. Even if the entire world shut off their lights for an hour, the overall impact would be minimal. But the point is to raise awareness, and if you’d like, to boast to your neighbours that you are more climate-forward than they are, and that even though they bought a Prius they can suck it because they still had lights on all over their houses during this sacred chunk of time.

It only took a year for Earth Hour to catch on, with 35 countries, 400 cities, and numerous well-known landmarks shutting down their lights for an hour in 2008. It has gained momentum in the years since, though of course there are those who criticize it. Some say it doesn’t focus on the right sort of climate damage. Some say the effect is too minimal. Some say that the candles people instead choose to burn for that hour are made from paraffin, which is derived from crude oil and is just as much of a drain on the environment as a light bulb. There’s simply no pleasing everyone.

We enjoyed our dinner-on-a-stick by candlelight last night, keeping our lights off because dammit, we don’t care if people want to bitch. We just want to celebrate.

Piano Day

The 88th day of the year ties in with the 88-key instrument we all know and love. We’ve celebrated the beloved guitar, as well as the less-beloved kazoo and bagpipes, so it was a thrill to give a little love to one of the greatest instruments ever built. A piano is versatile enough to be a staple in almost every genre of music (hiphop and electronic varieties notwithstanding). It can soothe the soul or jostle it into an absolute fervor. It’s the instrument most of us who are conscripted into childhood music lessons will start with, and I believe it’s the easiest instrument with which to learn the basics of music theory.

Bartolomeo Cristofori created the piano sometime around the year 1700. It’s a percussion instrument, consisting of a bunch of hammers that thwack some stretched-out strings. The oldest surviving piano was built by Cristofori, and can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (as soon as they reopen their doors). That little piece of music gear is 300 years old this year. The forerunners to the piano are the harpsichord (which has a similar shape), and the dulcimer, which also involves smacking some tight strings with a mallet.

We paid tribute to the piano by listening to some of the greatest and most forward-thinking piano pioneers of our time. We dabbled with some Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum and Dave Brubeck, who all helped to ensure jazz could not survive without the piano. Then we enjoyed some Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Bernie Worrell, who drove their pianos into electronic variants of the instrument, and demonstrated the effectiveness of funk in keyboards. Then it was over to Elton John, Billy Joel, Little Richard and Ray Charles, who solidified the piano’s place in rock and pop. Then a bit of Ben Folds, who showed that a piano can be used as an expression of punk sensibility. And we finished with Dr. John, because it’s hard to get better than Dr. John.

I even tried playing a bit of piano on our keyboard downstairs, with uninspiring results. Whatever – we love the piano, and it was a treat to toast it.

Respect Your Cat Day

We do not, as we have previously stated numerous times, own a cat. It’s not that we dislike them – they are fine and noble creatures – but we are simply dog people. We have both met scores of cats who demonstrate mostly disinterest with their humans, apart from those special moments that we, as guests, don’t get to see. Dogs are more goofy, more hilarious, more outwardly loving, and they’re just our kinds of folks. That said, today is more about the cats.

Those cats up above are Phoebe and Baillie, and they live with Colton, our son, in Toronto. We are reluctant to say that Colton “owns” them, because as anyone with a pet will tell you, there is a mutually dependant situation going on here. Sure, Phoebe and Baillie need Colton for food, shelter, and the comforts of life. But Colton needs the cats for companionship, for comfort, and for having someone to talk to when his girlfriend is out, or when he just needs to vent to someone who won’t vent back. We do that with our dogs. We get it.

Cats, though they appear to express disinterest much of the time we’re around (maybe it’s us!), can be very loving and very affectionate. This tends to happen often when food is a motivating factor (as with dogs, and probably other, weirder pets like birds and snakes), but the affection can pour out at any time. It’s just that with cats, they get to decide when that is. With dogs we simply need to say their name in an excited tone and we’ll get the response we’re after.

So a big ol’ salute of love and respect to cats all over the globe. May they continue to brighten the lives of their human companions, and keep things interesting for Youtube videos for eons to come.

National Hot Tub Day

Hey, we can actually celebrate this one without driving down to our local YMCA and breaking in. We bought a hot tub back in 2007, when we were young and innocent and believed we’d use it every day. We don’t. I’d say we have used it enough over the last 13 years to justify the purchase, but we actually end up using it more in the summer than at any other time. Crank the temperature all the way down, and it provides a lovely pool of chilled water to act as a counterpoint to the sweltering sun whilst lying in a lawn chair or hammock. Those days seem like fantasy right now, as winter continues to beat us senseless.

Humans have always enjoyed soaking in super-hot water for reasons other than simply cleaning ourselves. Hot springs have been enjoyed all over the world for millennia. The Romans created public baths – not because people didn’t have private ones at home… they did – but as places where people could get together for a soaking schvitz and while away the time. There may have been sex involved too, but let’s keep this clean.

Hot tubs as we know them started to gain popularity in the 40s in North America. The Jacuzzi company figured out hydrotherapy pumps and how to spurt jets of air into the tubs, and they became a phenomenon of the 70s. Our hot tub is chlorine based, but there are other options for keeping things clean and bacteria-free.

We had planned a nice soak last night during Earth Hour and before our movie. Unfortunately our hot tub is in need of some repair, and we instead had to reminisce. Perhaps if the hot tub weren’t located a good 25-30 feet from our back door we might use it more in the winter, and we might have stumbled upon this glitch a little earlier. It would have been a great little soak, but we are both eagerly anticipating the day we can turn the temp down and make it into our little beach.

Sunday is truly a day of rest today. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Lemon Chiffon Day. Our resident baker – my mom – created a lovely lemon chiffon pie for us.
  • National Nevada Day. What screams Nevada more than shrimp cocktail, a staple of Vegas hotels since the 40s? Also, we’ll be indulging in West Virginia Day, which was postponed last week.
  • National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day. This one saddens us. We had planned to visit our favourite locally-owned businesses today. Instead, since all of them are closed, we’ll give them a proper shout-out, and encourage folks to drop by and help them out as soon as it’s legal to do so. Stay safe!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Yesterday was my half-birthday. How did I remember this for the first time in years? Am I more acutely in tune with the dates now that I’m writing about them every day? Or is my brain simply seeking things upon which to glom, for lack of external stimulus? The latest news says we may be house-bound for up to eight months to conquer this virus. That’s most of the remainder of this project. So the question is: do we wipe the slate and aim to start again next year? Or does this project become a testament to our resilience and our embracing of an outside world from which we are presently deprived? Given that we’d have to change the site name to Celebrate365 (which is not available) for the former, it’s going to have to be the latter. Which brings us to:

National Scribble Day

This holiday is but a year old, created by author Diane Alber to move her book, I’m NOT Just a Scribble. The message of the book is that every artist began by scribbling, and we should encourage kids to scribble and draw and to get wild with their crayons and such. I can’t argue this – our daughter started out with crazy scribbles and now she possesses a flair for illustration that I could never touch. Diane was right.

Neither Jodie nor myself would ever be held up as an example of artistic brilliance so far as drawing is concerned. I’ve seen Jodie sketch out stage concepts and set designs, and she surpasses my skills by a country mile or two. I used to draw stickmen comics for my friends. I never got any better than that.

So what is the difference between a scribble and a doodle? We have at home some great doodles by our kid, and a years-long doodle creation by our beloved friend Laurel. But a doodle can have meaning and composition. Generally speaking, if you don’t lift your pen or pencil off the paper, and if you do it hastily and without any regard for the final product, it’s a scribble. So we scribbled and it wasn’t pretty. But then, maybe someday we’ll be great artists. Who knows? Lots of time to learn a skill right now.

National Joe Day

Do we interpret this day as a day to have a “cup of joe?” We have a cup of coffee every day… but why do they call it Joe?

Driftaway Coffee’s website traces the first use of ‘Joe’ meaning coffee in print to the 1930s. They came up with two plausible theories: Martinson Coffee, founded in 1898 by a guy named Joe, has trademarked the term, suggesting their company may have once been known as Joe’s Coffee. Or possibly Joe was such a vivacious soul, people just referred to the drink by his name. Alternately, Secretary of the Navy Joe Daniels banned all alcohol on US Navy ships in 1914, so the strongest drink you could get on board was coffee, which came to be known as a “cup of Joe”.

So, do we go with an exuberant company owner or a naval protest against a silly rule? Either makes sense.

To celebrate this day, we each enjoyed some morning coffee, then I reached out to my buddy Joe. I haven’t talked to Joe in a while, and he’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met – I’d be willing to wager some serious money he’d put Martinson Coffee’s Joe to shame. I used to drive Joe to work every day back when we toiled in the cubicles of Dell Computers. His stories – actual or emphatically embellished – were the fuel that propelled me through my days. The man has lived a thousand lives, each more twisted and weird than the pages of any fiction could hold.

Happy day to all you Joes and Joe-lovers out there.

World Theatre Day

Oh, the cruelty of telling a theatre teacher that she cannot celebrate World Theatre Day by going to see a live show. Jodie’s every day is theatre – she lives it and breathes it. Tonight we would have likely headed out to the Citadel to see the Beatles-song adaptation of As You Like It. Instead, we were isolated at home, dust accruing on every stage in town.

World Theatre Day has been held since 1962 by the International Theatre Institute. They acknowledge that there will be no in-person celebrations this year, but didn’t really supply much in the way of alternatives for folks. I pointed Jodie at BroadwayHD, a Netflix-like service that features a number of mostly outdated Broadway performances. Still, some look quite intriguing, including a performance of the Scottish Play (ask your theatre geek friends) starring Patrick Stewart.

Jodie ultimately spent her afternoon reading some theatre instead, specifically Love/Sick by John Cariani. She loved it, but it wasn’t the real thing. We are both looking forward to the return of live theatre, and this order to shut it down just makes us appreciate it more.

Quirky Country Music Song Title Day

Alright, let’s celebrate some of the greats today. I’d make a playlist to listen to all these gems, but the day is solely about the titles, not the music itself, and I’d rather dig into some funk & soul on this isolation trip. But I’m a little curious about these:

Johnny Cash – Flushed From The Bathroom of Your Heart

Billy Ray Cyrus – Burn Down The Trailer Park

Roger Miller – My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died

Zac Brown Band – Sic ‘Em On a Chicken

Tammy Wynette – Fuzzy Wuzzy Ego

Alan Jackson – I Still Like Bologna

Kitty Wells – It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

Roger Miller – You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd

Bobby Bare – Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through The Goalposts of Life)

Johnny Cash – Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog

Tim McGraw – Do You Want Fries With That

Kenny Chesney – She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy

Johnny Cash (again) – Every Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratching You

Homer & Jethro – She’s Made Toothpicks Out of the Timber of My Heart

The Bellamy Brothers – Boobs

Ashley Monroe – Weed Instead of Roses

Joe Diffie – Leroy The Redneck Reindeer

Willie Nelson – Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die

Alan Jackson – Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Uptempo Love Song

Those are all actual songs. They actually exist. People have paid money for each of them.

National Whiskey Day

Now we’re dipping into something I can truly celebrate. While I left Jodie to reap the party associated with World Theatre Day (such as it was), I took the reins for this one at her request. Looking at the stock I had on hand, I simply had to choose between Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey.

I did the sensible thing and chose both, of course.

No one knows how long whiskey has been a part of human culture, but I’d be willing to bet it goes back to the advent of agriculture. As soon as we discovered grains, we learned that, when fermented, great things can happen. As for the spelling of the word, it’s a general rule (with heaps of exceptions) that Irish and American whiskeys use the ‘ey’ ending, while most other countries drop the ‘e’.

I say, who cares? Whiskey or whisky, this is top-tier drinkin’. It’s an acquired taste – I think for most of us it tastes like rancid ass-juice the first time it hits our lips. But as our taste buds grow and learn to wrap themselves around whiskey’s subtle notes, the act of sipping becomes an experience.

There are dozens of varieties of whiskey. Canadian whisky, which many here simply refer to as ‘rye whisky’, even though it may be blended from multiple types of grains, is our shining source of national alcohol pride. Crown Royal, Wiser’s and Canadian Club are known around the world, and we should certainly be celebrating that. We should also be celebrating globalism, as it has brought all the worlds whiskies to our local liquor stores. Lately I’ve enjoyed the single-malt scotches, though the good stuff can put a nasty dent in the wallet. But yesterday that didn’t matter. Yesterday was all about celebrating that good stuff.

A crazy busy Saturday, and one in which we will probably have to venture out for supplies. Ugh. Real world. Can’t wait to be hiding again. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Weed Appreciation Day. This day we are supposed to look at the beneficial weeds with medicinal value, like dandelions. But let’s face it, I’ll smoke some weed.
  • National Something On A Stick Day. Food tastes better when on a stick, right? We’ll eat some.
  • National Black Forest Cake Day. We won’t be buying and eating an entire cake, but our favourite doughnut shop makes a great black forest doughnut. That’ll do.
  • Earth Hour. An hour of electronic quiet.
  • Children’s Picture Book Day. We’ll see if we have any lying about. The plan was to go check some out at a library, but of course…
  • Eat An Eskimo Pie Day. I don’t think you can even get these here – we looked in a number of places. Luckily, we found something we’ll call close enough. Never turn down celebrations involving ice cream.
  • Piano Day. It’s the 88th day of the year, so this makes sense. We have a keyboard that makes a decent piano sound, I guess we will use that.
  • Respect Your Cat Day. Don’t have a cat. We will respect other people’s cats, from a distance.
  • National Hot Tub Day. This we do have. Into the tub! We’ll see if we can keep Liberty, our active and addled new golden retriever, out of it.

Friday, March 27, 2020

We’re all a little jostled by our upset rhythms, and some days pressing on may feel akin to leaning into an ever-tightening noose. But hindsight is up around the bend, waiting to gift us with a perspective soaked in relief and coated with optimism. We should all be able to look back at this weirdness and believe we did what was right. I can’t say with any certainty that there is a point in persisting with this 366-day party while the world quakes outside my door, but dammit, onward we go. Next stop:

Live Long & Prosper Day

89 years ago, Leonard Nimoy was born. It’s his birthday that triggered this homage to the Vulcan best-wishes message, and according to the official website, we are to use this day to contemplate the title of this day, and figure out a way to apply it to our lives. How can we live longer? More prosperously? What about those people who can’t make the Vulcan hand gesture without using their other hand to spread their fingers apart? Should they live shorter than the rest of us?

Matt McCarthy, just a normal dude, embarked on a project in 2017 to craft an illustration to represent a different holiday every day. Imagine that, somebody committing to a year-long celebration to commemorate various things, using his artistic skill. Well, today we get to make up our own holidays (see below), and Matt felt that this was an ideal fit for March 26.

Right now we’re all effectively doing our best to live longer by staying inside our homes. Unfortunately that appears to be having a rather negative effect on our cumulative prosperity, but hopefully this is a temporary situation. Today we’ll point out that Star Trek is on Netlfix and Prime, and that picking a random episode and settling down for ~45 minutes is a magnificent way to allow your brain to prosper from some top-quality fiction. May we all get through this and back to exploring the galaxy – or at least the city streets outside our homes.

National Spinach Day

Like most children, I assumed that if you were to consume spinach you would immediately increase your forearm strength tenfold, and then be prone to violence. I was shocked to learn that none of this was true. I was also shocked to learn that I liked the flavour of spinach, even in that precious period of childhood in which the only green foods I enjoyed were lime and/or sour apple flavoured candies. Spinach has a wonderful taste, and it’s still the only food I know that can get ‘wilted’ for a recipe.

Ancient Persia, the birthplace of so much of our civilization, is believed to be the origin point for spinach. When it made its way to India and China in the 7th century it was called the Persian Vegetable. It ventured boldly into European cuisine because it showed up in early spring, when fresh veggies were in short supply. And just like that it worked its way into regional cuisines all over the known world.

Spinach is incredibly healthy, which should surprise no one. During World War I wounded French soldiers were given wine mixed with spinach juice in order to curb their bleeding. This should surprise everyone if it actually worked. The thing about raw spinach though, is that it contains oxalates, which prevent absorption of calcium and iron in your innards. It’s best to consume spinach “cooked in several changes of water” to get all the nutrients and no oxalates.

Several changes of water? What the hell does that even mean? Not wanting to find out, we simply enjoyed some spinach with dinner. We felt marginally stronger for it, and fortunately felt no desire to punch anyone named Bluto.

National Nougat Day

Nougat: that stuff in some candy bars that isn’t as tasty as caramel. But alas, it’s so much more. Made from sugar or honey plus roasted nuts, there are three varieties of nougat out there. Viennese or German nougat is a chocolate-and-hazelnut praline concoction. Brown nougat is made without eggs and is usually crunchy. And white nougat is what you’ll find clinging to peanuts in a Snickers bar, holding up the caramel in a Mars / Milky Way, or whipped into a fluffy frenzy inside a Three Musketeers.

We head back to Central Asia once again for the origins of this treat, specifically to around Baghdad in the 10th century. It made its way up through southern Europe, where it remains mainly a Christmas-time snack.

We considered just picking up some nougat-ful candy bars and calling it a party, but given that Carol’s Sweets was still open as of last weekend (and may still be today), we took advantage of their quality goods and got some true nougat chews. They were extremely chewy, and while Jodie remains less-than-thrilled about the stuff, I found it to be charming and really tasty. And we have plenty left over, so National Nougat Day will ring out through the weekend, at least.

Make Up Your Own Holiday Day

Finally, our chance to contribute our own spin on what sort of celebrations we should be honouring this year. Thomas & Ruth Roy, those kooky Pennsylvanians who have created some of our most wonderfully weird celebrations this year, popped this day into the world so we could all join in. They submitted more than 80 celebrations to Chase’s Calendar of Events, and on this day we are encouraged to submit our own. And we totally did.

Jodie proposed Halfway Through Day, which would land on July 2nd this year, July 1st on non-leap years – the halfway point of the calendar. To celebrate, she suggests taking a mid-year do-over on New Year’s Resolutions. Re-evaluate where you’re at, and zero in on some new achievable goals for the rest of the year. A great idea.

My contribution lands around the same time. I am proposing National Create Your Final Playlist Day to land on June 28. On this day, we take a moment to create (or edit, if you’ve already done this) a playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, or even a mix tape / CD if you’d rather. Your aim is to include the songs you’d like played at your funeral, wake, or even your autopsy if you feel it’s important to plan for that. What songs would you like people to associate with you? Keep the mix to an hour or two at the most, and maybe leave out songs that will annoy your loved ones. Unless you want them to suffer through two hours of Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Ha”. That’s up to you.

Purple Day

There appears to be a day for every colour throughout the year, usually promoting a cause like cancer, AIDS, bullying, etc. Purple Day is for epilepsy awareness, a cause no less important. The aim is to encourage as many people to wear purple as possible, so that those who are not can ask someone why, and maybe learn a little something.

The first thing we learn about epilepsy is that it’s estimated that 1 in 100 people have it. The next thing – and this is the really scary thing – is that the cause of the disease is usually unknown. You can get it from a stroke or a brain injury, but often it just shows up unannounced. Of course the big symptom is the seizure, and it would benefit all of us to take a first aid course to learn how to handle a seizure. It’s a scary thing to watch, but if someone with a calm head is around to take care of the situation, that’s a good thing.

There isn’t much we can do to prevent epilepsy, apart from not getting a brain injury, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Fortunately there are a number of medications out there (including cannabis) that can take the edge off these seizures or even curtail them completely. If you know someone with epilepsy (or if you are someone with epilepsy), I hope you threw some purple on and showed the world yesterday. By which I mean, posted a pic or stood in your window. Gotta stay distanced!

Solitude Day

I can think of no better time of year for this day to show up. As we all learn to master the art of keeping the hell away from other people, we find this lovely little day, reminding us that sometimes we’ll only do this once per year. On this day we are meant to reflect quietly, perhaps create some art or enjoy some art, but to do it alone. In peace. Just like every other day for those of us in quarantine.

Parents with small children probably look at the title of this day and chuckle in that sad, lost sort of way that only a prisoner can relate to. But for the rest of us, this was an easy feat. Jodie worked on some school work for a while, had a nap, walked a dog, played on her phone, and read her book – all far away from human accompaniment. I was “at work”, meaning telecommuting from my office, where I also wrote this article and played some games. We were both solitary for a good chunk of the morning and afternoon.

As long as you don’t count the dogs. And you shouldn’t – when alone with dogs you are just that – alone with dogs. Dogs are there to enhance the solitude and to beautify it. If you didn’t get around to toasting this yesterday, I hope you can grab a few moments today to appreciate the beauty in solitude. Given that we are all banned from wild parties and people-heavy events, we’ll get plenty of time to appreciate it. Then we can spend the rest of our time yearning to get back out into the world.

Someday. When it’s safe for everyone.

Things ramp up today, though we can’t quite get to everything we’d like to. Maybe you can:

  • National Scribble Day. A day to express our feeble non-talents in scribbling.
  • National Joe Day. I was going to make a plan to take my buddy Joe out today. Instead we’ll just chat. Joe is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met, so I’m looking forward to it.
  • International Whiskey Day. Oh, thank you for this. This is a great thing to celebrate.
  • World Theatre Day. And here’s something we have to mourn a little. No opportunity to head out and see theatre today, so we’ll have to wing this.
  • Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day. Of course – how could we not celebrate this one?
  • National Spanish Paella Day. We had planned to go out for paella. We’ll see if we can order some in, though I suspect we’ll come up empty. But we will try!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

In the days prior to the horizon’s defeat, folks gathered and raised idols, donned face paint and engaged in pagan ritual. They celebrated the sun, the moon, the planet and whichever gods ascribed to them by geography and circumstance. This was their connection to community, their expression of basic humanity. This was the clanging of harmonious collective uplift, drawing life from the petals of potential. We honour those rites, those sacred touchstones in our own way, in part by committing ourselves to savouring the divine celebrations of our own time and culture. Such sacrosanct tradition as:

Manatee Appreciation Day

Ah, the beloved sea-cow. It floats along, a big ol’ lump of aquatic wonder, chowing down on plants and not bothering anyone. They seem to defy the laws of nature, appearing as slow-moving buffets for predators, yet somehow existing in abundance. What can we learn from these magnificent ocean-dwelling flesh-blobs?

First of all, they aren’t dumb. They are ranked up near dolphins on associative learning, task learning, and long-term memory. They spend half their day sleeping, and most of the other half grazing just below the surface. So you’ve got a brilliant beast who has dedicated their lives to eating their vegetables and taking it easy. Yeah, we can learn a lot from the manatee. Oh, and they can live up to 60 years. Keeping the stress down is a healthy thing. The oldest living manatee in captivity was a dude named Snooty (pictured above), who made it all the way to 69. Nice.

Manatees stick to where the weather suits their Lebowski-esque lifestyle choices. They mosey around the Caribbean, and can be found in the freshwater Amazon and in the rivers and estuaries of Northern Africa.

They have to watch out for crocs, and of course for humans who do terrible things to wild creatures. But one of their biggest threats is ships. When a ship hits a herring, no one but the herring is aware. When a ship crashes into a manatee, it can devastate both. Perhaps if we outfitted every wild manatee with some bright clothing that might help. I recommend the gaudy floral prints from Tommy Bahama in order to maintain their tropical, laid-back groove. Happy day, manatees!

National Tolkein Reading Day

I have confessed before – on January 3, National Tolkein Day, in fact – that I have never read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, only The Hobbit. I have also only seen the first LotR film. It’s not really my groove – Jodie grew up enjoying fantasy literature, but it was never my favourite genre. The first thing I learned about this day is that March 25 was selected because it honours the fall of Sauron (spoiler!) in the third book. This surprised me, as I was not aware that Middle Earth made use of our calendar system.

This day was suggested by a columnist named Sean Kirst, and launched by the Tolkein Society back in 2003. This is a group of super-fans who have devoted themselves to studying and promoting Tolkein’s works. They are also a registered educational charity, because with great literature comes great responsibility, and it only makes sense for someone as grand as Tolkein to have his legacy attached to some do-goodery in the world.

We grabbed our copy of The Hobbit and enjoyed a couple of chapters. It really is a well-told tale, and the fact that he created such an elaborate (and profoundly influential) universe is truly astounding. Tolkein’s immersive world goes beyond the lore of Lucas or the personalities of the Marvel Universe. He created what we now call the fantasy genre, compiling mythical beasts and a perfectly-crafted hero’s journey. Or two.

Maryland Day

Once again we see a state receive two days in our little perpetual party. National Maryland Day, in which we will be sampling some Maryland cuisine and learning all about the history of the great Old Line State, shows up on August 24. This is the actual Maryland Day, the one when Marylandians celebrate the day in 1633 (or possibly ’34) when newcomers first put up a cross and claimed the land on behalf of the King of England.

The celebrations in the state looked interesting: walking tours of parks and cemeteries, events at the local museums and open spaces, and so on. Of course, everything has been cancelled this year because it seems that *everything* is being cancelled this year. That’s okay, Maryland will live to party in ’21.

The irony of this project is beginning to spread its morning light on my brain. We have committed to a 366-day party this year, while most actual parties and celebrations around the world are getting canceled. Does that make us the best party in town? Probably, and that’s a little sad. So we’ll simply fire off a sympathetic salute to Maryland, and trust that they’re partying in their own ways.

National Waffle Day

Dinner last night was supposed to be a glorious sounding dish called Lobster Newberg. I had a recipe bookmarked and everything. Alas, our ability to obtain lobster was cut off last weekend, either because panicked COVID-fearing hoarders felt they need to abscond with all the lobster meat from Sobey’s and Costco, or because the shipping lines have been messed with. Lobster is not always easy to come upon in local grocery stores at the best of times, but right now I guess it’s impossible.

So, we enjoyed some waffles. Last Wednesday we honoured National Oatmeal Nut Waffle Day and yesterday we got to dig into our regular waffle recipe, accompanied by some berries and some bacon (not pictured). Another breakfast-for-dinner situation, and another big win for the Celebrate366 team.

The humble waffle’s origin goes back to ancient Greece, when they’d cook flat cakes between two hot plates. Move forward to the 9th century, and you’ll find oublies, more similar in their construct to communion wafers, but pressed between plates with ornate carvings on them, often leaving biblical images on the resulting food. The early versions of the waffle irons we know now dropped sometime in the 13-1400s. Over time they became more sweetened and more popular.

The waffle, which Mitch Hedberg astutely pointed out were pancakes with syrup-traps, is one of the greatest breakfast foods on the planet. They can be adorned with sweet and/or savoury accompaniment – a local restaurant serves an amazing waffle with smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce. We enjoy the opportunity to truly celebrate and savour that which we already love. ‘Twas a great little day for a waffle.

National Little Red Wagon Day

The famous little red wagon we can all picture on our brain-screens is mass-produced by Radio Flyer. Uncoincidentally, Radio Flyer also came up with this celebration to honour their creation, first launched on the 100th anniversary of their wagon in 2016. Now on the last Wednesday of every March, we are meant to pay tribute to these toys of our youth. Well, not *our* youth per se – neither Jodie nor myself owned one of these – but we all knew someone who did.

Their Wikipedia page indicates that Antonio Pasin, founder of the company, started building his wagons in 1917, so either Wikipedia is off, or the company was racing to celebrate their 100th a little early. Whatever, we won’t judge.

Pasin’s gig was selling phonograph cabinets, and he started building wagons to transport his goods from client to client. Soon clients were more interested in the wagons themselves, and Pasin, a smart dude, switched his focus. In 1930 he named his most popular steel wagons after two topical celebrities: Marconi and Lindberg. “Radio Flyer” was about as hip a name in 1930 as if he’d called it the TikTok Influencer today.

The Radio Flyer managed to become the standard for little red wagons, and as recognizable a part of youth culture as Barbie or GI Joe. There’s a 12-foot high Radio Flyer that doubles as a playground slide in Spokane, and a 15,000-pound sculpture of one commissioned by the Radio Flyer company for their 80th anniversary. Or possibly their 79th, I don’t know. So to anyone who has owned one of these things, congrats – you owned a piece of genuine 20th century history.

Today is another manageable day, which is good because we’ll be busy again on the weekend. Busy and house-bound – always a good combo.

  • National Spinach Day. We’ll pop some Popeye steroids and enjoy a good salad.
  • National Nougat Day. Once again, Carol’s Sweets comes through with some tasty nougat chews.
  • Make Up Your Own Holiday Day. We’ve been looking forward to this one. New holidays will be crafted and submitted to Chase’s Calendar of Events. Next time someone does a silly project like this, they will celebrate our days.
  • Live Long And Prosper Day. Good advice to follow. Also, a great day for the season finale of Picard to drop.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Another strange sun-stretch from horizon to horizon in our little world. I sense dread and unease, but also a lifeboat-esque coming-together from the citizenry out there. And by ‘coming together’, I mean ‘staying at least six feet apart, but helping one another’. Once we crawl past this period of weirdness our world will be changed, hopefully for the better in some ways. But for now we can turn to more serious and pressing issues:

National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

I have tasted golden California raisins fresh from a farmer’s market. Those raisins were juicy and flavourful, and were all raisins imbued with such magnificence I’d have been anticipating this day with appetite and glee. Alas, most raisins are dried lumps of muted grapiness, palatable at best to the taste buds and leaving an unpleasant mouthfeel. Glosette chocolate-covered raisins, a Canadian staple of 80s youth, are alright. But do they deserve an entire day?

I’m going to declare that yes, they absolutely do. We hit up Carol’s Sweets (still open during our state of lock-down; just sanitize when you walk in and keep your distance) and grabbed some of their chocolate-covered raisins. The chocolate was exquisite, and the raisins plump and actually quite tasty. We were unexpectedly delighted by this little celebration.

Raisins are a great source of sugar, if that’s what your diet is lacking. They have antioxidants, but if you’re after vitamin content, eat grapes – the drying content soaks up some of the Vitamin C. Just don’t feed them to your dog – raisins or grapes. They can cause kidney failure. And if they are enrobed in chocolate, well that’s just basic common sense. One interesting note I found is that snacking on raisins three times a day (which is a weird idea in itself) can significantly lower blood pressure. Given that mine has been coasting along the high end of normal for the last few months, maybe I should try to track down some of those delightful California goldens. It’s a long way from Edmonton to the Santa Monica farmer’s market (which is likely not operating anyway right now), but I’ll do my best.

Chocolate, I assume, is optional.

National Cheesesteak Day

Of all the regional American foods I have yet to sample, a genuine Philadelphia cheesesteak ranks below only a New England lobster roll and a New Orleans beignet on the list of stuff my taste buds crave. We’ve had this sandwich delicacy before: sliced steak (technically ‘frizzled’, meaning fried until it’s crispy), cheese, onions, mushrooms, maybe some peppers. But we’ve also heard Philly residents or former residents reminiscing with palpable drool about the finest establishments in the city: Tony Luke’s, Dalessandro’s, Pat’s, Geno’s, and so on. I’m sure they’ll put anything we can get up here to shame.

Even if we make them from scratch. We tried a recipe with last night’s dinner, and it was exceptional. But I know it can be better. Just as I knew with the greatest pizza I’d tried prior to my first New York trip. The greatest form of this beast is still out there, waiting for us to taste it.

Cheesesteak, like every other great food, has conflicting stories surrounding its origin. The most accepted tale is that of Pat and Harry Olivieri, who started serving the sandwiches in the 1930s. Allegedly they simply changed things up at their hot dog stand, and the new sandwiches were a hit. They opened a restaurant (the aforementioned Pat’s, which still operates today… well, probably not “today”, except for take-out), and a guy named “Cocky Joe” Lorenza first added the provolone cheese to elevate the food into perfection. Some people use Cheez Whiz instead. I wonder about those people.

But of course I’d try it. I’d also like to sample The Heater, which is served at Phillies games and features jalapenos, buffalo sauce and jalapeno cheddar. Like a pizza, a cheesesteak is open to interpretation and embellishment. It is sandwich royalty, and it became the highlight of our otherwise quiet Tuesday.

World Tuberculosis Day

Let’s talk for a moment about another lung-related illness that has killed a lot of people. If one’s latent tuberculosis evolves into the full-blown deal, the mortality rate is 50% if left untreated. It’s estimated that as of 2018 25% of the world’s population was infected with TB. That is a very scary number. And it’s particularly disturbing when you consider that 25% is primarily located in impoverished countries that don’t have access to the vaccine. Records indicate the number is as high as 80% in some countries.

Avoiding tuberculosis can be achieved in the same way as avoiding Coronavirus. Fortunately, since we have a vaccine we don’t have to hide out from this one. That said, it is still wandering around the shadows in North America, and the vaccine’s effectiveness wears off as time goes by. And anyone who is compromised by COVID or anything else is more vulnerable.

We haven’t destroyed TB yet, but we have whittled it down to a near non-concern for this chunk of the planet. Surely we can do the same for that other pesky respiratory demon, right?

Another day in paradise, or at least in self-imposed isolation party town. What joys await us?:

  • National Tolkein Reading Day. I guess we’ll peruse some Hobbit-related literature..
  • International Waffle Day. Waffles for lunch or dinner, whichever strikes our fancy. Nice.
  • Maryland Day. Not one of our “official” weekly sojourns, but the actual day Maryland celebrates itself. Our plan was to get crab cakes, but our crab cake conduit is shut down. Not sure what we’ll do.
  • Manatee Appreciation Day. We will appreciate these majestic and graceful behemoths.
  • National Little Red Wagon Day. We don’t own one, nor can we source one. But we’ll celebrate them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

From the gentle, thunderous hiss of slumber, across the hall and clocking into work, all in under three minutes yesterday. Working from home is already testing the patience of some of my coworkers, but I found myself immersed in the celebratory whoosh of grey-beige cubicle liberation, expansive sunlight and numerous canine companions. I could see doing this far beyond our prescribed isolation. Working from home is a thorough joy, especially when it coincides with this:

National Puppy Day

Founded in 2006 by Colleen Paige, who also founded National Cat Day and National Dog Day, and who calls herself a “pet lifestyle expert”, this is a glorious thing to celebrate while one is cooped up indoors. As our regular readers (both of you) will recall, we obtained a fresh-from-the-dog-factory beast earlier this year, a golden retriever by the name of Liberty. Liberty is a curious creature. She has twice now brought me one of our baseboards as a gift. She plays in the mud, and when I try to wipe her feet she tries to devour the towel. Her excited bounding when food is about to be served can only be described as Tigger-esque.

A puppy is a toilsome undertaking, at least at first. It means constantly looping through one’s home, checking for unwanted digestive refuse in puddle or turd form. It means hiding headphones out of reach, and securing anything that should not be tooth-fodder. It means committing, not simply to feeding, checking water, and exercising the thing, but to a lifetime of giving and receiving care from this creature. It pains me to read articles of people dropping dogs off at shelters because the cute has worn off.

Liberty has proven herself to be quite exceptional. She has been with us for less than two months (and has yet to reach the four-month-mark in her little life), and she has already learned to sit, to lie down, to come, to hop off when told to, to shake a paw, to roll over, to wait patiently for food to slowly descend to her mouth, and most impressively to ring a bell at the back door when her back-end is ready to make a deposit. She graduated from her first training class last night, and has learned more in her few short weeks on this planet than all of our bulldogs have learned collectively – and this is going back to 2003 when we got our first one.

I spent yesterday at work, yet surrounded by puppies. It was a celebration of extreme joy. Thanks, Libby.

National Chia Day

The fact that we did not spend this day styling the chia-hair of a Chia-Pet in the shape of Sophia from the Golden Girls or Mr. T. means that we have spend this day poorly. I have wanted a Chia-Pet from the first time I saw the commercials, even despite understanding that they are pointless and silly, and would provide my life with absolutely no substance or noteworthy event. Screw it, maybe we made the right call.

For breakfast yesterday morning we had smoothies featuring chia as a key ingredient. Well, for me it was my Hobbit-like second breakfast, as I’d already been “at work” for two hours by the time Jodie crawled out of bed. It tasted earthy and vaguely sweet. It didn’t convert me to a chia fanatic, but it was actually pretty good.

Chia seeds come from the salvia hispanica plant, which makes me wonder if they are related to salvia, the drug. No matter. Chia seeds were cultivated by the Aztecs, and they pop up all over the place in Central American cuisine. They’re a decent source of protein, carbs (the good kind), and B vitamins. And they’re quite tasty too, which I believe makes them worthy of getting their own day. Not quite as exciting as the Bavarian crepes from Sunday, but moderately interesting, which is about the same thing I’d say about our next big party platform:

National Melba Toast Day

Ah, melba toast. Hard and crunchy like stale toast, but with the flavour of… an unsalted cracker. I suppose they are more cracker than toast, especially since you don’t have to cook them to get them crunchy, but… what’s the point? You can get much more flavourful crackers, and if you’re just looking to use them as a conduit for whatever topping meets your fancy, you can get better crackers for that too. So why melba?

Yesterday Jodie and I sampled some melba toast with dinner. It’s not bad, and with the right spread or topping it would be a fine snack. Not exactly a celebration – I mean, Stoned Wheat Thins and Premium Plus crackers don’t get their own day.

For the history of this crunch-food, we turn once again to the great French chef Auguste Escoffier, who named the stuff after Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer. This is the same guy who named the delicious Peach Melba for the same Dame, and who also created the fantastic Pears Helene dessert we enjoyed on March 15. Escoffier – as I wrote about on March 15 – was a huge influence in French cuisine. This somehow includes melba toast.

The Mayo Brothers (the guys who built the clinic) prescribed an 18-day reducing diet to actress Ethel Barrymore back in 1925, and it became one of the first diet fads to sweep through popular culture. That diet happened to include melba toast as a key component, which led to it becoming so common on grocery shelves in this part of the world. Thanks, Mayo boys and Mr. Escoffier, for giving us an excuse to eat crumbly crackerstuffs yesterday. It was wild.

National Near Miss Day

31 years ago, on March 23, 1989 (yeah, that was 31 years ago – sorry everyone), an asteroid flew within 500,000 miles from the earth, nearly reducing our civilization to dust and debris. It would have been the equivalent of a 600 megaton atomic bomb. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was about 15 kilotons, so we’re talking the difference between a sneeze and the Death Star cannon here. The largest nuclear weapon ever tested was the Tsar Bomba, detonated by the USSR in 1961 at about 58 megatons. So ten of those. This was truly a near-miss.

I can see the value in celebrating a day in which we almost perished. Perhaps if the asteroid had shaved things a little closer we’d be celebrating this on a grander scale. I’m willing to bet none of my readers (or, ‘neither’, I guess) were aware this day existed before now. The proper way to celebrate it, according to one source, is to learn more about asteroids and such. I think the best way to celebrate it is to appreciate the fragility of life, and how great it is that we’ve been able to live through the last 31 years and experience the internet, The Wire, and the advent of all-day breakfast at McDonald’s. It’s good to be alive.

Jodie and I got literal with this day, and threw stuff at one another, just barely missing. As expected, Jodie hit me with her first two throws, which is why we used a plush animal and not, say, a rock to represent a mini-asteroid.

National Chip And Dip Day

So many food related items today. Fortunately this one comes quite naturally. We had a bag of Lay’s ripple chips and a container of French onion Helluva Good Dip, so that was our snack. There’s not much more to say about this celebration, as we simply ate it and enjoyed it.

Chip dip emerged as a fad of the 50’s, alongside basement tiki bars, hula hoops and not having polio. Lipton launched it all with a marketing campaign to sell French onion soup mix, along with the recipe to mix it with sour cream or cream cheese for a dunk-pool for potato chips. At first they called it California Dip, probably because it was weird and different, and that’s what people associated with California at the time. Salsa, bean dip and melted cheese all predate the Lipton campaign, but we’re here to celebrate what we all know as potato chip dip.

We hope you had some chips and dip yesterday, or that you grab some today for a snack. If you’re out, don’t head to the store to pick some up. Be smart. Stay home. Celebrate through our enjoyment if you need to.

Today is a light day, which will leave me more time to work from home through the clunky and slow connection to my office. We’ll be doing this:

  • National Cheesesteak Day. Who doesn’t love a Philly cheesesteak? We do, and we’ll be having it for dinner.
  • National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day. Raisins, on the other hands, are little dried turds for the most part. We picked up some (hopefully) quality chocolate covered raisins for the day, so we’ll see how much we enjoy dessert.

Monday, March 23, 2020

After two consecutive days of writing 3000+ words, I finally get to ease up and keep things a little more swift and succinct today. Which will leave me more time for celebrating, and wow do I feel like celebrating. Mostly because of this:

National Goof Off Day

This one stems from Chase’s Calendar of Events, the book I invested in to research this project. The daughter of the book’s founder, a 10-year-old named Monica Moeller (now Dufour), came up with the idea for this day while her grandpa was conducting a radio interview. The idea was a hit, and it has been celebrated on March 22 ever since 1976. So here’s an example of a weird celebration with a bit of history behind it.

Like any sensible humans in this weird chapter of contemporary history, Jodie and I are self-isolated, which allows for an inordinate amount of goofing off. Sure, I’ve spent hours of the previous few days pounding at this keyboard for my astoundingly meagre audience, but yesterday I wrapped up my writing early to allow for more goof-offery. We played with the dogs. We watched TV. I even got to launch my first (and very possibly not last) game of Civilization VI during quarantine.

Were this a regular day… well, it would have been Sunday anyway, and I can’t say for certain we’d have done much differently. But next year, when March 22 lands on a Monday and we most likely won’t be in our individual exiles, the day dictates we take time off of work and get silly. Try a new food. Have a snowball fight. Dance to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)” until you pass out. If you’ve got a talent for celebrating this day, then you’re probably very capable of getting through quarantine with a big-ass smile. Congrats to all of us.

Bavarian Crepes Day

With all that goofing off on our plate, it seemed unlikely that we’d want to spend a heap of our Sunday in the kitchen. Alas, we had two food-related celebrations to attend to, so the goofing had to be reduced a bit. Bavarian crepes though? That was totally worth it. It’s not a brunch we’ve ever made, but it was shockingly simple and unsurprisingly delicious.

We followed this easy recipe to make the crepes. It was no more work than making pancakes or waffles. For the inside we took some of our Californian (or actually Mexican) strawberries from yesterday, diced them up and mixed them with some of our leftover chocolate sauce – I can’t stress this enough, that Pears Helene recipe from last week made a lot more chocolate than we needed, and that’s just awesome. Add a few berries and some whipped cream on top, and we essentially had dessert and called it brunch. A good way to start a goofy day.

A Bavarian crepe is similar to the French variety, though you have to let the French crepe batter set for a few hours before cooking it. The Bavarian crepe (also known as Palatschinken) can be rolled up with confectioner’s sugar, stuffed with fruit or cheese, or even with savoury foods for a main course. Some people eat them on their own, which sounds anticlimactic to me. I mean, if you have strawberries and chocolate laying around, why wouldn’t you stuff them into your crepes?

This was a profoundly tasty celebration.

Alas, our plans for National West Virginia Day had to be bumped – not cancelled, but bumped. We had planned to make pepperoni rolls, but neglected to purchase the necessary ingredients yesterday. Normally I’d make a run to grab some Pilsbury crescent dough to finish the job, but making a grocery run for one ingredient is bad quarantine etiquette. The rolls will go on next week’s shopping list, and this day will live on.

As Young As You Feel Day

How young did we feel yesterday? For a day of goofing off, I’d say we did pretty well. Sure, the act of cooking crepes wasn’t exactly kid’s stuff, but we ordered in burritos for dinner, which is pretty simple.

As previously mentioned, I played Civilization VI, which made me feel like I was 22 again, playing Civilization II on my roommate’s computer, barely noticing as the hours dripped away. The new version is considerably more in-depth and complex, and it only served to make the hours flow away even faster. I even upped the sensation with some alcohol and cannabis, because why wouldn’t I want to feel that age again, minus the uncertainty and lack of wisdom?

Jodie read, she watched TV with me, and now that her non-COVID pneumonia has faded into the ether, she felt pretty damn good. This was another concoction of Thomas & Ruth Roy, those affable goofs (or is it ‘gooves’?) who created 80+ holidays for Chase’s Calendar of Events just because they could. I like this one – very positive, and a great cure for the nagging fear and uncertainty prodding us from the headlines.

National Buzzard Day

There are dozens of birds who fall into the ‘buzzard’ category, but for the simple reason of needing one species to focus upon, I’ll go with the cathartes aura, also known as the turkey vulture. That’s the one we all call ‘buzzards’ in this part of the world.

The turkey vulture, which is also known as a carrion crow, is a scavenger that feeds primarily off the flesh of deceased animals. Imagine the life of a buzzard, swooping around the land, seeking out the scent of decaying flesh. At least they don’t have to put in much work. Instead of flapping constantly, these birds fly using the occasional flap, with thermal convection in the earth’s atmosphere picking up the slack. They make hardly any noise, only some grunts and hisses. There aren’t a lot of predators going after these birds, but US, Canadian and Mexican law protects them.

You’re not going to see a lot of buzzards in the city. They tend to keep to wide open spaces, of which there are still many in lower Canada and in the US. Sometimes they’ll even migrate as far as South America. I guess if you’re a buzzard, you go where the dead are, borders be damned. They’re social creatures, hanging out in large buzzard communities and only taking off to forage during the day. They don’t use nests, usually laying their eggs in crevices, hollow trees and in thickets.

If you’re wandering through the plains (and you shouldn’t – just stay at home and wash your damn hands for now) and you see some buzzards swooping about, you probably don’t have to worry. By the time you become an appetizing feast for them, you’ve succumbed to whatever you should be worrying about more. Just don’t try to take one home for a pet – owning one could cost you a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Just give them a wave and remind them that March 22 is their day to shine. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

Dolphin Awareness Month

Can we take a moment and honour the beloved dolphin? Dolphins are beloved for numerous reasons: they are revered as the next-most intelligent species, they make delightful clicky chirps to communicate, and they look like they’re always smiling. We had dolphins living at our local mall for nearly 20 years. Yes, at our mall. That mall is fucking weird. Anyway, watching those four creatures (Mavis, Howard, Maria and Gary) always filled me with a tinge of sadness. These were beautiful creatures who deserved more water in which to roam.

Dolphins have used tools. They have created unique cultures in their various regions. They care for one another and mourn their dead. They have also murdered porpoises – no one knows exactly why. They have protected humans in the water when sharks were about, and helped injured humans stay afloat until help arrived. Maybe we love dolphins because they have exhibited acts of love toward us.

Dolphins also only sleep with one hemisphere of their brain in sleep mode at a time. This allows them to stay alert for predators, and to keep swimming to avoid debris and counteract any currents. Some of the larger shark species are considered a threat for dolphins, but it should surprise no one that their biggest threat has been humans. It’s always the damn humans. As a kid I recall an unofficial boycott of tuna because some companies were allowing dolphins to get caught in their nets. I was on board, mostly because I always felt tuna smelled a little like a fish’s asshole.

In honour of Dolphin Awareness Month, I hope we all take a moment and send a little love to our seabound friends. After all, they’d do it for us.

Some stuff to do, even though Pakistan Day has been cancelled due to our inability to hang out with the local Pakistani community, as has National Tamale Day, which would have been a delightful dinner out. That’s okay, we’ve still got this:

  • National Puppy Day. Probably the easiest thing we’ll celebrate all year.
  • National Chip and Dip Day. We have both. We will eat both. It won’t be much harder than National Puppy Day.
  • National Chia Day. We have no Chiapet to grow, but we do have some food with chia in it. So there’s breakfast.
  • National Near Miss Day. Maybe we’ll throw some stuff at one another and just barely miss one another. This worries me – Jodie will end up nailing me in the face.
  • National Melba Toast Day. Woo…. hoo?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Today’s trip to get supplies – hopefully the last such trip for a while – was less successful. The landscape of the Sobey’s in the west end of town is littered with empty shelves and depleted resources. Tragically, we have had to cancel our plans to celebrate National Lobster Newberg Day on Wednesday. Yes, this is the true catastrophe of these dark times. No Lobster Newberg. At least today we can count down the top 11 things to celebrate on March 21:

#11 – Walk In The Sand Day

Obviously at the bottom of the list because it should only be done if you live on private beachfront property. We do not. In fact, the only way we could walk in the sand was if we obtained a bunch of sand and poured it out on our floor. Or on the excessive amount of snow outside. This date falls on the first Saturday after the spring equinox, but it’s about three months early by my count.

Beach preservationist Patti Jewel founded this day to encourage us to get out and enjoy our beaches, to indulge in the extra exercise achieved by sand-walking, and to share the experience with those who are tragically land-locked. Given the news stories of moronic bros and bro-ettes cavorting around Florida beaches this week because spring break is more important than shutting down a pandemic, I’m thinking this day is a complete wash. At least for 2020.

Not that we will be any closer to sand next year at this time. Well… there are a couple days this year in which we will be buying a lottery ticket, so who knows?

#10 – Memory Day

I rated this one quite low because I can’t find a thing about it online. It’s Memory Day, that much I can pinpoint, but who started it and why? There’s nothing. One site suggests doing one of those memory testing games online, which seems kind of weak. Instead, as someone who regularly engages in battle with their short term memory through regular bombardment of cannabinoids, I’m going to present a few nuggets of knowledge about our memory:

  • Genes that play a pivotal role in memory and learning reduce with age. After 40, that’s when things start going downhill. So much for me ever becoming fluent in Esperanto.
  • Stressful life experiences might speed that memory loss along, so the key is to live as chill and stress-free as possible. One way to do that is to not have to remember too much, which brings it all full-circle.
  • Healthy eating and physical fitness can improve one’s memory, so there’s another reason to feel guilty about storing all those old clothes on the treadmill in the basement.
  • Plants have a special organ devoted to retaining memories. So that time you screamed racial epithets at your ficus? Yeah, it remembers that.
  • There are numerous mnemonics (or mnumerous mnemonics) and memory enhancement strategies you could take if you really wanted to sharpen your hippocampus into a stabby weapon. Check out the Five x Five System, the Method of Ioci, or even the mnemonic major system if you have to memorize a bunch of numbers.

The brain can be exercised like any human muscle, and the memory is one of the best ways to enhance your think-slab to work better for you. So do it!

#9 – International Colour Day

While the day is meant to be devoted to wearing colours, checking out some colourful artwork or learning about light and design, I’m a bit more interested in the people who came up with this celebration. The Portuguese Color Association developed the day in 2008, then presented it to the International Colour Association. I had no idea such an association existed.

The International Colour Association (or AIC because their official language is French) puts out a regular journal with such topics as “Image categorization based on the spatiochromatic information” and “The social optics of a color neologism.” This isn’t so much an authority who will produce a never-before-seen shade of yellow, but they work with numerous industries to educate and inform, and to study the effects of various shades of yellow.

We tend to keep our lives filled with colour and light, even when the landscape outside remains overbearingly white. Yesterday we wore colours and appreciated them – a fine celebration, though somewhat unexciting. Let’s see if we can do better.

#8 – World Puppetry Day

Originated by Iranian puppet artist Javad Zolfaghari in 2000, this is a day to celebrate the art of puppetry around the world. He presented the concept at the XVIII Congress of the Union Internationale de la Marionette, which means there are numerous organizations out there that I’ve never heard of and am learning about as I write this piece. And people said self-isolation was going to be boring.

The first records of puppetry theatre can be traced back to the 5th century BC in Greece. It likely stretches way before that – in fact some historians argue that puppets pre-date actors on stage. You don’t see a lot of marionette shows these days, except at festivals or the occasional street performer. It’s not a dying art form, but rather one reduced in scope and impact. There will likely never be a renaissance of puppetry, at least not one that will overtake popular culture, but the art won’t die either.

Today puppetry dominates on Sesame Street, and the Muppets are still popping up here and there. Ventriloquism is another form of poetry, albeit one that should probably stay near the bottom rungs of the cultural ladder. Head over to the Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna and you’ll find a marionette theatre that will perform full operas and musicals. Puppetry has even found its way onto Broadway, with the show Warhorse, and my personal favourite musical, Avenue Q. In Australia, puppetry can be traced back thousands of years to carved masks and objects, right up to modern times, in which a group of men toured the world performing Puppetry of the Penis, a show in which they manipulated their own junk into weird shapes.

All this proves that puppetry ain’t dead. It’s just gotten weirder. To commemorate the day, I put on a quick puppet show for the dogs, using their stuffed toys. It lasted briefly, as both Liberty and Rosa felt the characters in the scene should be chewed upon.

#7 – National Common Courtesy Day

Not to harp on the headlines that are harpooning our world and dragging it into a chum-soaked frenzy, but we are in a unique period of history in which our common courtesy is going to define us. Seriously, you can look at how a person behaves in a strange situation like this and learn all about them. I spoke to a lady yesterday who told me of a cop who came into her store on Friday, talking about having arrested two men who were physically brawling over toilet paper at Walmart. One man needed some for his family. The other planned to sell it on eBay for a profit. That is truly all you need to know about that second guy – I don’t care if he has “redeeming qualities”, he is sentient excrement.

Our plan had been to drive around yesterday, to try to nudge our way into busy lanes and test the common courtesy of Edmonton drivers. My fellow Edmontonians are no doubt already chuckling at this concept – our town is known for having anti-courteous drivers at any time of day. But there wasn’t enough traffic yesterday to put this to the test.

We got cut off a few times, but everyone was firing thank-you or I’m-sorry waves. Courtesy and consideration appeared to be in abundance, as everyone seemed to be shoring up their necessities for the next couple of weeks. Well, except those folks in the nail salon. Why is a nail salon still open? I suppose that’s a question for someone else to answer.

We can’t state this strongly enough: our common courtesy will be what gets us through this weird blip in the cosmic sea. People who are hoarding, or worse yet gouging – and as an employee in the consumer protection wing of our government, I can assure you there is plenty of gouging going on – these are the people we need to call out. And those who take the extra effort to reach out and help, or even to be kind and share the abundance our stores and our society offers, those are the good ones. Thank you to all who are among the good ones. Now stay home and let this shit pass us.

#6 – National Fragrance Day

Will this shock you if I tell you this day was conceived by a bunch of perfume manufacturers? It shouldn’t. National Fragrance Day has been around since the 80s, designed for us to appreciate the fragrances we spurt all over ourselves in order to appear presentable to the outside world.

Jodie enjoys the classic scent of Chanel No. 5, and on her it totally works. When we first started dating she was more into a Givenchy perfume, and I recall her leaving me with a scented card when she went out of town one time, so that I could bask in her essence. It worked too – the sense of smell is acute and powerful, and could easily link this day with Memory Day.

I don’t wear any fragrances, possibly because my dad’s scent of choice was Brut, which I found smelled a bit like what I’d imagine a brothel smells like. But a low-end brothel, the kind that would struggle to obtain a legit licence in Nevada. Instead I wear Gillette clear gel antiperspirant, which comes in three delightful, vaguely-named fragrances: Power Rush, Cool Wave and Arctic Ice. They also made a scent called ‘Undefeated’, which I used once and nearly gagged on. I lean toward the Cool Wave, not because I like it the most, but because that’s what Costco sells and I don’t like to think about buying antiperspirant more than once every eight months.

Yesterday we observed our own delightful fragrances. It wasn’t a mighty celebration, and makes me think I should have dropped this one down a couple notches on our countdown. Oh well, on to the next.

#5 – World Poetry Day

We’ve already had Poetry at Work Day, and April boasts a day for haikus and another for poetry reading. In the celebrations racket, toasting poetry is pretty standard stuff. This one carries with it a smidgen more gravitas however – this is the United Nations’ homage to poetry.

World Poetry Day was proclaimed back in 1999. UNESCO felt poetry was ideal for capturing the creative spirit, and this day is meant to “encourage linguistic diversity through poetic expression.” So it’s a day for us to acknowledge poets all around the world, not just the big names.

We both adore poetry, and took a moment yesterday before dinner to recite a favourite poem to one another (and to the dogs, but they were more interested in the impending food situation). Live poetry readings and recitals are the standard celebration for this day, but of course that’s another art form that has taken a blow from current events. Our poetry reading had to be done privately. We encourage anyone with a favourite poem or poet to scroll through and read some out loud – it’s through hearing poetry that the magic is unleashed. The words may dance on the page, but it’s the way poetry swirls through the airwaves that brings it to life.

#4 – National French Bread Day

Okay, this one could have landed at #1. French bread is one of the finest breads. We grab a baguette whenever it might enhance dinner, and that’s rather often. Even yesterday, dinner was burgers, but we picked up some bread anyway. Well, we did it for this National Day I suppose, but still.

The most common way to find French bread is in baguette form, though you can also buy the shorter, fatter loaves. The baguette as we know it probably first showed up in the 1700s. French bakers switched over to gruau, which is a Hungarian type of high-milled flour in the 1800s, then with the advent of Viennese steam oven baking and the invention of compact yeast later that century, the baguette assumed its current standard.

And what a standard it is. The French actually have set specifics as to what constitutes French bread. It may contain up to 2% broad bean flour (which comes from fava beans), up to 0.5% soya flour, and up to 0.3% wheat malt flour. The dough is established by French law, but the shape may vary. A good French bread can be made into amazing French toast, it can deliver the finest PB&J, and it should even be wonderful on its own, no accompaniment. Last night’s bread was a treat, as expected.

#3 – National Countdown Day

I only placed this one up near the top of the list so that my readers would wonder why the hell I’m counting down the celebrations for the first time in this little experiment. This day was actually concocted by the folks at National Day Calendar, one of my primary sources for this mission. They call it #321Day, so I guess that hashtag will get attached to this article.

On July 4, 1970, DJ Casey Kasem launched American Top 40, a weekly radio countdown of the nation’s top hits, on seven radio stations. The first episode happened to land on the last week that Elvis and the Beatles would have songs in the top 10 at the same time. By the early 80s, when I started listening every week, the show had expanded from 3 hours to 4, and 520 stations in the US (plus, obviously, several in Canada).

Billboard magazine had been publishing record charts for decades when Casey went on the air, but there was something about the drama of hearing the list played counting toward the #1 song. Casey would fill the spaces between the music with fascinating narratives about the performers, the producers and the songwriters. It was must-hear radio every week, back when we followed the heights of pop music. Today the show continues, hosted by Ryan Seacrest and featuring mostly music we have no interest in.

But the countdown was a game-changer. Dave Letterman adopted it for his nightly Top Ten feature. MTV jumped on board with music videos. Now there are shows scattered all over cable, counting down the top 10 most haunted bathrooms in Wyoming, or the top 10 greatest pizza cities on the planet (Edmonton is #8 somehow!). A countdown is quick and simple linear drama, and we love it.

#2 – National Quilting Day

Quilting. The act of creating a personal piece of art that you can later sleep under. The National Quilting Association created this day back in 1991, and it’s a good time to reflect on this very vivid and lively art form. Again, our plans changed slightly: we were going to head to my aunt Kathy’s place and admire the work she has done on quilts. Instead we chatted via Facetime and admired her work from afar, on a tiny screen, with no sense of how the quilts felt. That strikes me as an important facet of quilting, but what do I know? We’re all on lockdown; this couldn’t be avoided.

The earliest quilted garment can be traced back to 3400 BC. Quilting – for those who may not know – is the act of sewing two or more layers of fabric together to produce a thicker padded material. When a group of people gather together to quilt at the same time, they call it a bee. Why a bee? I have no idea. Knitters use that term as well, as do spellers, though that’s more of a competitive thing. Whatever. Back to quilting.

My aunt showed me a number of her pieces, including some which were entered into competition. The one pictured above is part of a very personal piece, which she crafted after having survived the gauntlet of breast cancer. The common thread (ha – that’s another pun for those keeping track) with all her pieces is colour, rich and vibrant. This ties into International Colour Day, so we are truly making connections all over today’s article. My aunt creates these for art and not so much for coziness, but it’s in the art where the beauty of this activity lies. I’m proud to have so many artists in my family: musicians, stitchers, dancers, sketchers and quilters. And, I guess, celebrators, if you can call this an art. Thanks, auntie!

#1 – National California Strawberry Day

For our devout love of strawberries, this celebration clocks in at the top of yesterday’s hit parade of too many celebrations. We celebrated as one might expect, by devouring some of nature’s sweetest and most perfect fruit. Beggars, at least when it comes to grocery stores right now, cannot be choosers though, so we had to settle for Mexican strawberries. That’s fine – there are three other strawberry celebrations this year (at least), including National Strawberry Day, which we celebrated on February 27, and two consecutive days in May.

On February 27 we delved into the history of strawberry cultivation, which only goes back maybe 250 years. No need to go through all that again. Yesterday we focused simply on enjoying the berries and celebrating their flavour. We used some of our left over chocolate sauce from National Pears Helene Day last Sunday, and made some whipped cream. We even upped the stakes and enjoyed some marshmallow strawberry treats. Did they come from California? Who cares? They were delicious.

Happy day to all of you, wherever your strawberries may have come from.

Finally, we can take our feet off the gas and have an easier day.

  • National Goof Off Day. I’ve been training my entire life for this day.
  • Bavarian Crepes Day. We were hoping to go out and enjoy these… perhaps we’ll figure out how to make them.
  • National West Virginia Day. Our tour around America brings us to the state where pepperoni rolls are a big thing. Awesome!
  • As Young As You Feel Day. If we goof off the way we should, this may yield positive results.