Sunday, June 14, 2020

Deep in the throes of a Saturday that COVID tried to slash to bits, we found ourselves scrambling for ways to squeak celebrations out of a day that required us to do more than was allowed. There was a celebration for doing something nice for people with cancer, but we couldn’t go volunteer anywhere. There was a celebration for sewing machines but we didn’t have access to one to play with (though for this we found a work-around). There was another celebration all about axe throwing, and the one establishment in town that features this pastime was not letting folks in to do it. Yesterday was a day of compromise. Luckily, we found a way to cover all of this:

National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day

The initial plan for this day was to fake a kitchen accident while cooking. Spill some flour, slip on it, hit my head on the glass kitchen table, shatter the table and land on the floor whilst being pelted by broken glass shards, get a concussion. You know, something hilarious like that. But that isn’t really what this day is about.

I honestly don’t know what this day is about. One celebration suggestion involves reminiscing about kitchen screw-ups we’ve made. Jodie has already brought up earlier this week that her track record for baking includes some recent blunders, including flat, lifeless cookies and the chocolate macaroons that didn’t seem to harden. She’s been breaking a lot of yolks in her egg-making lately. But as far as I’m concerned she redeemed herself with those magic ginger snaps last week. That was 61 cookies all baked to a state of utter perfection.

My recent attempt at hollandaise sauce would classify as a klutz move. I poured the butter in too quickly and the sauce never stood a chance of holding together. The sauced came out tasting like melted butter and had to be scrapped, leaving us with eggs benedict minus the sauce. That wasn’t my worst fuck-up though – I’d give that to my attempt at making a large batch of Caesar salad dressing back when I worked at local Cajun restaurant Café Orleans in 1994. I was supposed to add a liter or two of chicken stock, but no one had told me that meant mixing the powdery chicken stock with water first. So I dumped all the powder stock into the batch, creating a massive stash of yellow, over-salty, grotesque dressing you wouldn’t serve on the salad of your enemies.

Anyone who has any kitchen skill has at least a couple of klutz stories like this. Thankfully neither of us have cut anything off of ourselves (though knife wounds were pretty much an expected part of professional kitchen work), nor have we smashed a glass kitchen table with our skulls. Not yet. Maybe next year.

National Weed Your Garden Day

Another day to focus upon our garden, which we technically do not have. The shot above is of a little patch of… well, pretty much weeds in our front yard. There was a tree there once, and over the past year we’ve seen a new tree begin to rise toward the stars in the very same spot. We like this little tree dude. The weeds around him are, for the most part, rather pleasing to the eye as well. They present as little white and purple flowers, though they offer no nectar to the bees. Or at least, so I think. Jodie believes they are proper flowers, and I really don’t care – I like ‘em. I trim the grass and the uglier weeds from time to time, but yesterday was the day to actually pull them.

Jodie took care of this one. Because I have taken on the task of all other outdoor home maintenance, from shoveling snow to mowing grass to laying out peanuts for our tenant/squatter squirrel, Elton, Jodie took hold of this one. And she did a fine job. The after photo is not as impressive as seeing the change up close, but I was snapping pics whilst writing. Sometimes multi-tasking is crucial.

Me, I did my part by enjoying some weed near our garden later in the evening. The rain was falling by then so I didn’t spend a lot of time out there, but hey – a celebration just needs to be done to be done, right? Is that an expression I can coin and eventually become famous from? I suppose that’s up to you, the reader. Squeeze that saying into your daily parlance, and weed your lexicographical garden of less catchy phrases. We can do this.

National Sewing Machine Day

The invention of the sewing machine is long and detailed, and most likely the subject of a volume of books, or perhaps a multi-part documentary series by Ken Burns. Sure, there’s Elias Howe, the guy we’ve all heard of, and his legal battles with Isaac Singer and Hugo J. Pfaff and Horatio Q. Brother. But a host of other folks also developed technologies before and after Mr. Howe’s 1845 brainstorm, and to delve into each of them here might put us all to sleep.

So instead I’d like to comment on my personal experience with sewing machines. My mom used to sew in our basement. She sewed together a couple of Halloween costumes for me, including a believable burlap cloak for my Yoda costume, which I used two years in a row because the latex full-head mask was just that awesome. Sewing skill is, however, not a genetic trait. I looked it up. I also lived it.

In the eighth grade we used to bus across the west end of town to Westminster school on Monday afternoons, where we spent half the year taking shop and the other half taking home economics. The home ec component was split into sewing, then cooking. The last sewing task involved crafting a complete apron, with a loop for the head and ties for behind the back and everything. Even a pocket. Unfortunately, I was so utterly hapless with the sewing machine that I completed my apron just in time for the final cooking class, where I made a pizza of little remarkable quality. The one thing I learned in that class: I hate sewing.

So yesterday we did not commemorate this day by using a sewing machine, because Jodie is no more effective on one of those things than I am. We don’t own one. My mom sent over a picture of her mother’s “treadle” machine, which does something sew-like, but I don’t know what. I did learn that ‘treadle’ rhymes with ‘peddle’ and not with ‘Don Cheadle’, so that’s something. Anyway, happy sewing machine day if you’re into that sort of thing.

National Knit In Public Day

Some celebrations we can fling our arms around and dance with until the unholy crack of dawn. Others… well, if you were to put Jodie and I in front of a sewing machine and a pair of knitting needles, we’d be able to hack our way much further with the sewing machine. I have never once in my life held knitting needles in my hand, other than perhaps to move them out of my way so I could sit down whilst visiting my grandmother. It just hasn’t come up.

Fortunately, the talents of our friends and readers far outshines ours in a much wider field of skills. Our friend Brenda did some crochet work on her front step, while our friend Heather took her knitting under the sun. Over in the National Capital District in Ontario, my longtime friend Alana enjoyed some quality knit-time on a park bench. Meanwhile in Calgary, my beloved auntie Kerry drove all over the city, pausing to knit at a variety of public locales. This is what happens when you surround yourself with good people – they come through in ways you’d never expect.

This day was launched by a lady named Danielle Landes back in 2005. Her plan was to shatter the solitude of knitting for just one day, and to lure knitters out into the world to practice their talents among the people. Local events are organized all around the globe – even this year with the pandemic. The only Alberta event listed on the site took place in Chester, Alberta, and it involved people socially distanced on their porches and lawns, sharing in what I hope was a beautiful day.

A huge thanks to those of you who pitched in and gifted us with your outdoor crafting exploits. You rock.

National Rosé Day

A French winery called Bodvàr came up with this day back in 2014 to celebrate this refreshing summery style of wine. Given that neither of us are wine experts, we couldn’t tell you offhand what specifically makes rosé wine different from other wines, apart from its colour and probably coming from a different type of grape.

While I’m certain there are specific grapes that lend themselves to making a perfect rosé, the real difference is in technique. Rosé is well-known for using the skin contact method, which sadly does not mean people stomp on the grapes with bare feet, Lucille-Ball-style. It means the black-skinned grapes are crushed, and the skins remain in contact with the juice for between two and twenty hours. Then the grape-guts are crushed and the skins tossed out. If you’re making red wine, you leave the skins in the mix throughout fermentation, which brings in more tannin and colour.

Rosé wines have been made for as long as people have been making wines, but they didn’t get their fancy French moniker until much later. After WWII, Mateus and Lancer wines, which were sparkling rosés, became huge sellers in Europe and America. Mateus alone accounted for around 40% of Portuguese wine sales in the 80s. Rosé – or at least the Quail’s Gate rosé from Kelowna that we tried last night – is delicious. This one was not sparkling (though some rosés are) and was not at all sweet (which, unfortunately, some are as well). It was a tasty little drink.

More so for me than for Jodie, who refuses to allow the flavour of wine into her heart. That’s okay – as long as someone around here will finish off the bottle.

World Gin Day

Well hello, World Gin Day. So glad you decided to pop by. As those of you who have been hanging on our every word since at least May 22 may remember, we had to miss out on National Craft Distillery Day. We’d hoped to tour Hansen Distillery in west Edmonton, a highly-revered establishment that we’d heard of but hadn’t tried. To be honest, this was also more my thing than Jodie’s – her taste for gin ranks somewhere around her taste for wine. But of course, tours of any facility were put on hold throughout the spring, and we found ourselves celebrating in absentia.

Yesterday we finally made it to Hansen’s, though not for a tour. We enjoyed a tasting of their two gins, and grabbed a bottle of one to take home.

Look, I’ve already written about the history and content of gin, as we had celebrated Gin & Tonic Day with a fine bottle earlier this year. In fact, that day reopened my taste buds to the potential of gin, and yesterday further cemented my belief that my next wave of alcohol enjoyment will be a gin-soaked wave. The flavours are so powerful and varied, each sip is an adventure novel written in hieroglyphics on the head of a sterling silver pin. I have grown to love the stuff.

Hansen makes two kinds of gin – well, one kind, but they also take that gin and age it in oak barrels for a deeper, more textured taste. That’s what we picked up, and while I was advised that the stuff blends perfectly with soda water and a splash of lemon, I found it more enjoyable as a sipping drink. It might just become my official drink of summer 2020. I mean, we have other things the calendar will insist we drink as well, but this is the one I’ll be coming back to. This was a damn great day.

World Softball Day

Have you ever been hit in the head by a softball and wondered why in the everloving fuck they call it a ‘softball’? I have. And the answer is almost insultingly simple: the ball used to be soft.

Softball started as an indoor sport back in 1887. I’m told the game moves at a faster pace than baseball because the distance to run between bases is shorter. That seems fishy to me. The game exploded in popularity after a demonstration at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. I tried to find what else debuted at that World’s Fair, since the ones in the 1890s were chock-full of modern creations, like the Ferris Wheel or Cracker Jack. This one doesn’t have a similar roster of success, apart from the first MLB All-Star Game occurring at the same time. There was also a demonstration of incubators, a “Midget City”, and a cigarette-smoking robot. Oh, the future.

But back to softball. Softball uses a larger ball than baseball, and larger bats to match. The pitching has to take place underhand, and as I mentioned before the field is smaller. Otherwise, the only other difference between the two sports is that you’re not likely to make more than $5-6000 at the highest level in softball.

We have a good friend who plays softball recreationally, and she is heartbroken that there will likely be no season of any kind this year. But softball will return in 2021, and the game will also show up at the Tokyo Olympics once we finally get to them. Hopefully no one gets smoked in the head by one of those balls. Even watching that on TV would probably hurt.

Does the party ever stop? December 31 and not a moment beforehand. Here’s what’s up today:

  • International Bath Day. One or both of us will have a bath. International style.
  • National Strawberry Shortcake Day. Another dessert plan, which is – let’s face it – 95% of why we’re doing this project, along with the booze.
  • National Pop Goes The Weasel Day. I guess we just sing this song all day?
  • National Bourbon Day. I sense another black cow in my future this evening.
  • National New Mexico Day. Our cross-America food tour heads to the Heisenberg State (is that what they call it now?) for some quality Mexican cuisine.
  • World Blood Donor Day. We will be scheduling another trip to give blood. We are due anyway.
  • Family History Day. We’ll come up with some interesting tales from our respective families’ histories to share.
  • Race Unity Day. Wouldn’t that be something?
  • Write To Your Father Day. I guess we write to our fathers.

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