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!

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