Monday, May 18, 2020

The mortal concerns intertwined with our weekly supply runs have given way to a more relaxed, yet acute awareness. The mask-donning public – who do so primarily to fortify against their own potential asymptomatic situation, to prevent spreading anything to anyone else – makes up about 15-20% of grocery store shoppers. The rest remain either deluded into believing the crisis has passed, or uninterested in protecting their fellow humans. Where a month ago we were silently bonded together by mutual respect, we now find ourselves divided between those still on alert and those for whom the alert has subsided. Hopefully the latter group is right. We aren’t yet ready to take the chance. We’ve got too much to stay healthy for, like all of this:

National Walnut Day

Behold the walnut in all its misshapen glory. Its texture is lumpy, its appearance is alien and weird, and its flavour is truly remarkable. They can also be sneaky little assassins; plant a walnut tree too close to a vegetable garden and you’ll come up short for salads all year. That’s because the walnut trees ooze chemicals into the soil in order to prevent any competitive vegetation from taking over. Walnuts write their own story, and if you don’t like it, you’d best get out of their way.

The walnuts we know and love are usually of the English Walnut variety, which originated in Iran but I guess the English want to take credit for it. The trees don’t grow leaves until halfway through spring, and eventually they spew out their seeds, the innards of which are what we eat. A single serving of walnuts contains 163% of your daily recommended intake of manganese, which is good news for your bones, brain, liver and kidneys. They’re also good for your heart – even the FDA acknowledged that a few walnuts every day can lower your risk of heart disease.

It used to be common practice in the US Army to use ground up walnut shells to blast aviation parts clean. That was discontinued after a 1982 crash of a Chinook helicopter revealed walnut gunk had clogged an oil port. That may have been the only non-allergy, non-choking death related to walnuts.

Last night we wove walnuts into our dinner, as described below. They remain one of the most beloved non-nut nuts out there, and thankfully we still have some left over to cook with again.

National Idaho Day

Our only experience with the Gem State was, unfortunately, a quick pass-through as we made our way from Oregon back up into Canada. It’s a beautiful little state though, bubbling over with stunning rural and mountain landscapes and majestic skies. I’m sure the people are great too – we didn’t even stop for gas in the state so we can only speculate. But if folks in Montana, Washington and Oregon seem to be decent, why would Idaho be any different?

Starting in 1846, once the UK and America had stopped thumb-wrestling over who gets claim to the Pacific Northwest, Idaho was part of the Oregon territory. When Oregon decided to form its own state, for some reason (known probably to historians, but not to me) they drew their borders and left what we now call Idaho out of the picture.

A quick tribute to a man named George M. Willing. He was a Philadelphia doctor who got in hot water for performing abortions, so he moved out west and joined the gold rush. He ran to become a delegate to represent the Jefferson Territory in Congress, lost the election yet somehow went to Washington anyway. When Congress was looking for a new name for the territory, George suggested ‘Idaho’, an indigenous word meaning “gem of the mountains.” They loved it, and so it was. Except there is no indigenous ‘Idaho’ word – George had met a girl named Ida earlier on, and he coined the name as a tribute to her. A weirdly touching story, and we can leave out the part where George later got involved with a huge real estate swindle and was murdered in his sleep.

And of course a tribute to some of the Idahoans who have brightened our existence: Gutzon Borglum, carver of Mount Rushmore, was born in St. Charles, the gorgeous Lana Turner was from Wallace, Mark Felt (“Deep Throat” from the Watergate scandal) from Twin Falls, Paul Revere (the 60s musician, not the midnight ride guy) hails from Boise, poet Ezra Pound from Hailey, and brilliant actor Aaron Paul comes from Emmett. Not a huge list, but impressive nonetheless.

Idaho is best known for being a producer of potatoes, so while our new barbecue provided the main course for dinner last night, a delicious side-dish of crispy smashed potatoes with a walnut dressing, made from this recipe, did the job for addressing our two food-related celebrations. This one was a game-changer for us, and quite possibly my new favourite recipe for potatoes. Thanks, Idaho!

Take Your Parents to the Playground Day

PDPlay, a company that manufactures playground equipment, naturally came up with this celebration. This is a play on “Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day” by having kids take their parents to the place where they work – the playground. It’s cute (a little too cute perhaps), but above all it’s an excuse to get kids and parents outdoors and moving around. We have driven past numerous playgrounds over the last few years and been saddened to see that even on gorgeous summer days – which are treasured and rare in these parts – there aren’t big crowds.

There are more distractions for kids at home now, and probably also more parents who would be hesitant to allow their young ones to zip over to the park unsupervised. Even though crime rates are down almost everywhere from the 70s and 80s when we were of playground age, there’s a greater perception of danger. Still, playgrounds have gotten really elaborate and interesting – it’s a shame they don’t get used more.

We have no kids in our city to take us anywhere, and only one parent. Taking my mom to a playground where none of us would actively play seems rather silly to me. What’s worse, every playground in Edmonton is currently taped off and rendered unusable due to the virus scare. So we compromised by inviting my mom over to our puppies’ playground, which is our backyard. She was happier doing that than visiting a bunch of swings, slides and climbing apparati we couldn’t use.

And the weather was just fine. Come on people, send your kids out to the playground once we’re able to do so. Your kids need to get to work.

National Pack Rat Day

While the photo above is indeed of a room in our basement, we nevertheless do not consider ourselves to be packrats. Those bins contain various holiday-themed decorations (for those boring holidays we celebrate every year) and a handful of memories from our kids, but you won’t find any unnecessary collections or stacks of years-old newspapers anywhere in our home. We have an abundance of stuff that a friend left with us when he moved away three years ago, but once that gets moved out (and that day is coming soon, by van or by bonfire), we’ll have a lot of extra room.

We are looking to down-size our living arrangements in the next few years, and one cannot do that with too much stuff. I have already purged my big bin o’ cables (and found myself needing one of those cables just a few months later), so what’s left? We have plenty of books, but we still try to give most of ours away. I still have a big stash of CDs, but until I digitize those I can’t find online, I’m not ready to give them up. Our DVD collection is large, but not hoarder-large.

Yesterday was to be used as a launchpad to some spring cleaning, but apart from some unnecessary items in our shed (which have since been claimed by our resident squirrel as part of his sprawling-estate residence), we don’t have a lot to get rid of. Still, we re-evaluated and came up with a few ideas of what gets ditched next. Even by filtering out the unneeded we still have too much to slide into the smaller home we’ll be looking for in the next few years.

In the end, who cares? It’s only stuff.

Stepmothers’ Day

A lot of stepmoms get only a modicum of love on Mother’s Day, so someone created this alternative – one week after moms get celebrated, stepmothers get their own day. That’s nice, though I’m not sure how often it gets used given that only a handful of sites even acknowledge that it exists. Growing up, our son paid tribute to his dad’s new wife on Mother’s Day, and to me on Father’s Day – given that we also included grandparents in these acknowledgements it wasn’t a big deal. But I suppose that’s not always the case.

We celebrated this one in a rather subdued fashion. Jodie has a stepmother of sorts, though no formal marriage has taken place between her and Jodie’s dad, and her age difference with Jodie is a paltry six months. But we love Lori; she’s been a part of our lives for more than a quarter-century and she’s considered as much a part of the family as anyone. Plus she is an absolute riot. Still, given her age Jodie feels a bit weird bestowing the title of ‘stepmother’ upon her. She’s just someone awesome in the family – the label doesn’t matter.

If you’ve got a stepmom though, make sure she gets some love. Stepping in to help raise a kid you have no biological link to is a choice that can be difficult to make for some, especially if the kid is a little shit. You may be, or may have been a little shit. Just make a phone call or send her some flowers, you ingrate.

A day off from work finds us with this stuff to deal with today:

  • Victoria Day. The actual reason we’re off work. Wouldn’t hurt to fire off a salute to the long-tenured monarch.
  • National Visit Your Relatives Day. We have several in town, but rampant visiting is still discouraged. Might have to do a zoom thing instead.
  • National No Dirty Dishes Day. We’re not supposed to get any dishes dirty today. Without dining out on fast food, I’m not sure how this would be possible.
  • National Cheese Souffle Day. Every good chef knows their limits. This may be mine.
  • International Museum Day. These are all closed, so that sucks.
  • Send An Electronic Greeting Card Day. Who doesn’t love to receive e-cards for Victoria Day?
  • Mother Whistler Day. A guess this is a day about a painting?
  • I Love Reese’s Day. This is every day of the year. Who doesn’t love that stuff?

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