Thursday, June 25, 2020

As the dustcloud of 2020 continues its circular flesh-whipping we must take a pause for that most coveted of reasons: vacation. I have relieved myself of government office-drone duties until after next week, as both of our long lost (well, long absent) children return for a visit. Abbey arrives today, Colton tomorrow, and our celebrations around these events will far outshine our regularly scheduled celebrations program. The entries over the next week and a half should be briefer, depending on just how entertaining our children prove to be. There is only so much we can cram in. Eventually even we need a cram break. Here’s what yesterday dealt us:

National Pralines Day

What, specifically, a praline is will depend on where in the world you’re asking. Pralines are a sort of candy treat, but from there you can use your imagination. There will be nuts involved, but there aren’t a lot more guidelines than that.

They started out in France, as almonds coated in caramelized sugar. There was no chocolate involved. Grind those up and you’ve got something called pralin, which is a powder used in baking cakes and whipping up pastries. Mix it with cocoa and you’ve got what the French call praliné. And if that isn’t confusing enough, pretty much anything coated in chocolate – what you and I call “chocolates” – is called a praliné in France and Switzerland.

In New Orleans, pecans were substituted for almonds, and cream often entered the recipe. This style involves mixing pecans with brown sugar, butter and cream, then cooking it until you’ve got a thick glob of sugary wonder stuck to the pecan bits. This is what you’ll find in pralines ‘n cream ice cream, which is what we enjoyed last night as a tribute to this magnificent category of yumminess.

I suppose a journey through all the world’s praline varieties would make for an interesting exploration – perhaps in 2021 if we feel tempted to do another large, manic project such as this.

I wouldn’t bet on it, though. I suspect we achieved maximum praline awesomeness yesterday anyway. That may have been the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

Celebration of the Senses Day

This is literally the day to celebrate our five primary senses. It seems pretty straightforward, and no need to delve into the kinesthetic sense or proprioception. Simply experience the senses in their purest form. We gave it a shot.

We piqued our visual sense yesterday by taking a few minutes to admire the elegance of the wind. Specifically, the way that leaves are billowed and buoyed by a breeze, sometimes in unison, sometimes in subtle defiance of one another. The texture of a tree is ever-shifting, ever responding to its environment. It’s a subtle beauty, but a perfect beauty nonetheless.

Our sense of touch was harnessed also through nature. Rocks, trees, even the prickles of our grass blades felt vibrant against our skin. One suggestion on a site I used for research offered the notion of walking around our house, using only our sense of touch to guide us. We have a four-level split with lots of stairs and a bar shelf that is stacked high with numerous bottles. There are dozens of dog toys littering every room It wasn’t worth the risk. Besides, you don’t need deprivation of one sense to appreciate the others.

For sound we focused on music. Through noise-cancelling headphones the music takes up the entire stage. We listened with no other distractions, no phone to flip through and no dogs to command our efforts.

My sense of smell and taste has been in a weird place for the past couple of days, something I suspect may be due to allergies but I’m not sure. I dug my nose deep into our stash of coffee to awaken my sense of smell, and the pralines ‘n cream ice cream last night did wonders for taste.

Celebrating the senses is a part of just about every celebration in which we have indulged this year. It was odd to focus on each one like this, but I suppose odd is becoming somewhat standard fare this year.

National Energy Shopping Day

Hey, this is fun. Let’s “celebrate” by shopping around for a better rate for our utilities. Nothing says “wild, unmitigated and brash partying” like checking out prices on natural gas and electricity. Pour me another tall glass of pralines, because I might ride this one right through until sun-up.

Our government handily contains a division called the Utilities Consumer Advocate, or UCA for short. The UCA features a comparison tool that will allow you to check plans between providers in order to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your utility buck. You want a good bang. There’s nothing worse than a buck that delivers no bang whatsoever.

The UCA rate comparison tool featured 204 individual plan opportunities for our area, delivered by a multitude of different companies. The difference between them was minimal, but there was a difference. For the most part our monthly bills should be somewhere between about $80 and $90 for electricity, but they could be as much as $185. The expensive plans appear to be with companies I haven’t heard of, and appear to be linked somehow to solar energy. We have no panels on our roof (yet), so I opted to not even look into those.

This was a bit of a downer, as it was essentially a review of bills we pay and how we could decrease them by a tiny amount. From the looks of things, we’re about as low as we can go for what we need. So after all that “celebrating”, we’re back where we started.

And, as you can scroll up and see, that involved ice cream. So that’s pretty damn fine.

National Parchment Day

I had been hoping this was a day to commemorate the great history of sacred parchment texts that are preserved in museums, like the paper the Magna Carta was written upon, or even the Declaration of Independence. I don’t know all that much about the ancient history of paper, so this might have been interesting.

Except for the fact that it totally isn’t. This is a day for celebrating parchment paper. The day was first created by PaperChef, a company that manufactures parchment paper, back in 2016. Okay. I mean, I’m a fan of parchment paper – we use it all the time to roast potatoes or to bake Jodie’s magic cannabis cookies. My mom (hi, Team Baker!) uses parchment paper frequently when crafting her delicious dessert treats for our enjoyment. Parchment paper locks in moisture, and provides a non-stick surface without flavour-heavy sprays. It’s great stuff. Maybe not party-worthy, but great stuff.

The process of making parchment paper is both simple and a little scary. You simply take paper pulp and run it through a bath of sulfuric acid. That’s it. That sheet upon which you bake your cookies or drop your pralines to cool was made with sulfuric acid. Let that one sit in your brain and percolate for a little while.

And that’s it. I roasted some baby potatoes with parchment paper last night, and honestly we ultimately cared about the food, not the paper. We don’t have plate appreciation day or national frying pan day, do we?

We don’t. I checked. The only entry I could find for National Frying Pan Day was a piece of anime fan-fiction, written in 2002. According to Tokimeki, the author, “I had the idea of beating my friend with a frying pan coz she was being a loser at school today.” Such is the fragile nature of inspiration. Happy National Parchment Day, to Tokimeki and everyone else.

International Fairy Day

I would imagine those who feel like truly celebrating this day will don the traditional costume of fairies, which I believe includes wings, maybe a laurel, possibly some full-body glitter. I’m all about wearing all three of these things, but it seemed a bit too indulgent for our tastes. Sometimes a celebration is better with some subtlety.

In Old French, a faie (from which we get faerie, and subsequently fairy) is a woman who is skilled at magic – a wizardess of sorts. The term ‘fairy’ has been used throughout historic tales to refer to all sorts of magical creatures. Its modern usage began around Victorian times. This was when the old folklorish ways of the past were giving way to modern, industrial reality. The ‘fairy tale’ for children, and indeed any stories about fairies, were an attempt to reach back to that folklore.

The Celtic Revival was a period in the late 19th and early 20th century that reflected an interest in the folklore of Ireland’s past, and fairies were often interwoven into those tales. Fairies have been seen as demoted angels or demonic entities. They are often cast with a bit of a mischievous bent. We all remember Oberon, King of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s blockbuster hit, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was a trouble-maker, and a massive pain in the ass for the other characters.

Fairies could be elementals or changelings, they might help you out or lead you to destruction. If you’re lucky, they’ll take your discarded teeth and send some money your way. There is no shortage of fairy literature and fairy-inspired artwork to be enjoyed. We opted to listen to Fairytale, the magnificent album released by British folk singer Donovan in 1965. I hope you took some time out for your favourite fairy. With or without body glitter.

World UFO Day

It was on this day (well, yesterday) in 1947 that American aviator Kenneth Arnold spotted nine strange objects flying along in tandem formation near Mount Rainier in Washington state. The US Air Force called it a mirage. He didn’t buy it. He said their movement was erratic and strange, like a caught fish flipping in the sun, or a saucer skipping across water.

A saucer. A flying saucer. The press loved that term, and it became part of the public lexicon. Webster’s Dictionary started publishing their Words of the Year in 2003; had they been doing so in 1947 ‘flying saucer’ would have topped the charts. It was the beginning of what UFO enthusiasts call the UFO Era. Sightings began happening a lot more frequently after Mr. Arnold’s fateful flight.

World UFO Day is a day for believers to gather together and scan the skies for anything out of the ordinary. And it happens twice every year: once on this anniversary of the first flying saucer sighting, and again on July 2 to honour the anniversary of the Roswell UFO Incident, also from 1947.

Look, I’ve seen a UFO. One night in the summer of 1989 I was visiting a friend who lived on a gorgeous rural street outside of Sydney on Vancouver Island. We sat out in his yard, watching the vast starscape, and I saw something with red and green lights scoot across the sky far too quickly to be a satellite or a plane. That said, I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for what I saw. I simply couldn’t identify it, which makes it a verifiable UFO. I don’t believe it contained aliens or was crafted anywhere else but our world… but who’s to say?

We believe in aliens, that in the vastness of a potentially infinite universe we couldn’t possibly be the only chunk of rock to spit out a semi-intelligent species. I’d stop short of believing any other planet-dwellers have visited us though. But if they do decide to swing by, I’ll be checking the skies today and next Wednesday, just in case.

Today we see how much we’re willing to do when all we really want to do is hang out with our kids on vacation:

  • National Strawberry Parfait Day. It’ll either be today or this weekend – might want to save it for when everyone is here.
  • National Catfish Day. We either lure someone to a non-existent romantic encounter online (not likely), or we’ll save this for Saturday, when we’ll be heading for a delicious Cajun dinner.
  • National Leon Day. Not a day for folks named Leon, nor is it a day for watching 90s movies about a preteen and a hired killer. It’s Noel backwards, so time to start planning for… AUGH! Christmas???
  • National Bomb Pop Day. Also known as Rocket Pops (and various other names), these are the popsicles that are red, white and blue. And yes, we’re looking forward to this one.
  • World Handshake Day. I thought this was last week, but it’s apparently happening today. Either way, I’ll be ranting about how much I hope handshakes are a thing of the past.
  • Global Beatles Day. Why today? Who knows? We’ll try to listen to everything the Beatles released today. Not sure if we’ll make it.
  • Color TV Day. No black & white shows for us today, on this sacred anniversary of the first color broadcast.
  • Mitch Lane Day. A day to celebrate the guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under ten seconds. Fun.

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