Tuesday, August 11, 2020

And here we go… today is the day I awaken with the realization that a weekend of immense relaxation and inattention to the world beyond the tones and rhythms blasting through our speakers has put me behind. Well, not ‘behind’. Our goal for the year was initially 1,000 celebrations, and we are well beyond that. And I am happy to allow many of last weekend’s scheduled festivities to be bumped to make room for the new ones pouring onto our desks this week. But alas, I feel I must glom onto a share of what we’d skipped, as some of them seem too fun to miss. I offer no apologies if some of these entries are truncated – yesterday was all about the celebrations, and there were plenty. For starters:

National Raspberries & Cream Day

There wasn’t a lot of fanfare for this one. Or really a lot of excitement in our house. We’ve just finished four days of peace & music happening in our back yard, and we’ve got root beer floats to enjoy, among a gazillion other things. We’re supposed to be jazzed about some fruit floating in cream? I mean, it was tasty, but it wasn’t life-changing.

I can’t really say more about this one. It was raspberries, cream, and some drizzled icing sugar. It was fine, and exactly what we’d expected.

Spoiler: no one invented this dessert. Someone dropped some raspberries in a bowl with some cream and powdered sugar, ate it, found it to be fairly decent but not worth publishing in a recipe book or anything. Then they went on with their lives, most likely of serfdom or something else unglamorous. Then someone else wrote down that this passable mixing of ingredients deserved to be honoured every August 7. And here we are.

National Root Beer Float Day

Remember National Ice Cream Soda day? That was on June 20, and for that event we made root beer floats, one of the finest ice cream sodas ever concocted. A month and a half later and here we are again, dunking scoops of vanilla ice cream into a mug o’ root beer and swimming in the indulgence of it all. Last time we used generic store-brand root beer, but we stepped it up for this event with some A&W. We have to keep things fresh around here, or else every celebration will start feeling like a rerun.

Also known as the ‘black cow’ or ‘brown cow’, the first root beer float may have been created by Frank J. Wisner, owner of Colorado’s Cripple Creek Brewing. This is not a beer brewery – I would love to have linked this with our I.P.A. day via the same brewery, but alas Cripple Creek is only brewing up sodas. Or they were – their website is down right now so I can’t confirm they still exist. But they did on August 19, 1893, when Mr. Wisner allegedly procured the first root beer float.

If you want to get funky with your floats (and you should always be in a state of wanting to get funky with your floats), you can make a true black cow by mixing root beer with chocolate ice cream. Note that this is different than the alcoholic black cow I made a couple months ago. Damn, we try a lot of beverages with this project.

Root beer float day was a great day. I’m glad we finally got around to it.

National CBD Day

CBD, for those who are somehow still unaware, is an abbreviation for Cannabidiol, a substance that accounts for as much as 40% of the cannabis plant’s extract. This begs the question, how did they make an acronym out of a single word? We don’t call acetaminophen ACMP or Viagra VGA. Who came up with this? They should be punished.

Back to the point – CBD is the stuff that gets squeezed out of pot plants that won’t make you high, but will offer up some medical benefits. It is used to treat epilepsy, anxiety, pain management, and a heap of other things that THC (also known as the cannabis plant’s fun extract) can also treat. Unfortunately, because cannabis is still illegal in most countries on the planet (including the USA, at least on a federal level), research into just what CBD can do has been limited.

I plan on experimenting more with CBD to help with my anxiety, in particular if I’m called back to toil in the virus-mines of a downtown skyscraper. We don’t have any lying about, but we do have some CBD dog treats we’d purchased to help Trixie stay calm during a lengthy road trip. They didn’t work for that, but they did work as treats, and dogs are always happy to indulge in treats (see the entry below). That said, I’ve been advised that because of the lack of research, puppy CBD treats are to be used very cautiously, as no one is certain what the long-term effects may be. This is why we’ve still got this bag laying about, a year after we’d purchased it.

It seems like if governments would just smarten up and leave cannabis prohibition back in the 20th century, we could all be doing a lot better. Let’s hope it happens soon.

National Spoil Your Dog Day

I feel I can confidently claim this as a successfully celebrated event, given that we spend the bulk of our days ensuring our dogs remain sufficiently privileged among their canine peers. They get treats, they get walks, they get to sleep in our damn bed. Pictured above is the triangle we had to contend with Sunday night in our queen-size bed. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for two people to find comfort around the points of a puppy triangle?

This is why we have upgraded to a king size bed, which will take shape hopefully within the next week or two.

Our dogs exist in a state of glorious comfort and well-fed ease. And in return we simply ask for their natural dogness, which they provide to us in excess. It’s a big ask, but it’s worth every second of lost sleep. Sort of.

National Happiness Happens Day

Yes, there is such a thing as the Secret Society of Happy People. And as much as I’d like to believe it’s a front for some global conspiracy, headed up by an affable and charismatic super-villain, it’s actually just a group of people who aim to promote the way of life we know as ‘happiness.’

The society was founded 22 years ago, with its first membership landing on August 8, hence the commemoration last weekend. These folks gather together (probably virtually this year) to express their happiness without fear of someone playing devil’s advocate or some other silly role to bring them down. Well, despite the fact that we have become worn down by so many days promoting ‘grooviness’ or some form of this expression, we will not be the rain that douses the parade of the Secret Society of Happy People.

We spent August 8 basking in maximum happiness, as pictured above. We spent the entire day either on our patio or in our garage, socially distancing with friends and family and dogs, and listening to incredible music. Our happiness happened, and despite the scattered showers, our parade remained dry and upbeat. As it should be.

National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbour’s Porch Night

Thank you to Thomas and Ruth Roy, those embracers of the eternal goof who created a number of the most unusual celebrations in which we have indulged this year. The idea behind this one can be clearing out garden clutter, spreading healthy food to others, or just playing a tremendously unusual prank.

The garden clutter makes sense – we were coincidentally gifted with several zucchinis from my aunt’s garden this weekend, and my adamant loathing of this particular vegetable will result in exactly zero of these being consumed by me. People seem to have an abundance of green beans and zucchini right now. As far as spreading food to others, I suppose that works, however I’m not entirely sure anyone is devouring food they have found randomly deposited on their front porch. If they are, healthiness is likely not something they strive for in their lives.

So it remains a curious prank. But one we did, as evidenced above. Thanks, Roys – you have made this year somehow even stranger than it already was.

National Fried Chicken & Waffles Day

Pictured above is the incredible-looking chicken and waffles that Linda, my sister-in-law, produced for brunch over the weekend. She was not observing this day in particular, but it seems she is sufficiently tapped into the energy of the mirthosphere to have had the inspiration strike at just the right time.

Jodie actually enjoyed fried chicken and waffles for brunch on August 1, so we also observed this party. It’s a surprisingly great combination of the sweet and savoury. The best I’ve ever sampled also included some energizing spice in the breading and blended into the maple syrup.

This is a purely American dish, one which we may or may not hit in our weekly sojourn around Yankee culinary traditions. The Pennsylvania Dutch version includes a plain waffle topped with pulled chicken on top, smothered in gravy. The more common version comes from the south and features breaded and fried chicken, topped usually with syrup and butter.

Don’t knock this one until you’ve tried it, and tried it made properly. It’s a genuine treat.

Odie Day

There is nothing deep about this one; it is literally a day to celebrate Odie, the tongue-wielding canine foil to the titular cat in the Garfield universe. Odie exists to aggravate Garfield. He exists for the same reason white people exist in early Spike Lee films: to create conflict and tension, whilst exhibiting the mental faculties of your average buffoon. For the most part, he’s a doofus, and that fits with the general theme of the comic strip.

Creator Jim Davis made a car commercial early in his career, which featured a character he called Odie the Village Idiot. When it came time to create Garfield and his family, the dog was initially called Spot, but Jim felt he wanted to use that name again.

Odie doesn’t speak. Well, he has – and I think they have expanded his ability to express himself in some of the new movies, but I refuse to do that particular research. His relationship with Garfield is comedically antagonistic because Odie appears to hold no malice or disdain for his feline companion, whilst simultaneously doing enough to irk Garfield into a perpetual grumpiness. There’s no reading any deeper here – Odie is clearly a cat-lover’s view of a dorkish puppy. And Odie’s first appearance in print happens to have been on August 8, 1978, which prompts this particular day. We learned a little about Odie, but that’s as much as we had time for. This manic train isn’t even close to pulling into the station; we’ve still got this:

Celebrate Your Lakes Day

My source material for this one is an official transcript from the New Hampshire state Senate, designating every second Saturday of August (beginning on August 12, 1995) to be a day to appreciate one’s lakes and ponds. I trust that New Hampshirians (or whatever they call themselves) were out in droves over the weekend, doing just that.

We, of course, were not. But I’ll try to learn some interesting factoids about the lakes I’ve known around here. And if those factoids turn out to be less than interesting, blame the lakes themselves.

Pigeon Lake is the most popular lake in these parts, featuring ten summer villages, over 2,300 private cottages along its shore, and a bunch of beaches that are, during non-pandemic times, packed with humans enjoying the sunshine. Yet the lake itself is not more than 30 feet deep. It used to be called Woodpecker Lake, which was taken from the Cree word for woodpecker: hmi-hmoo, or Ma-Me-O. The name was changed in 1858, but Ma-Me-O is still the name for the most popular beach on the lake.

Wabuman Lake, whose name comes from the Cree word for ‘mirror’, is six feet deeper, used to be the hub for whitefish and northern pike fishing in the area, before a massive oil spill in 2005 piled on to the other ecological damage that was hurting the area. Wabuman is still a great place to hang, but the lake itself has seen better days.

We haven’t visited a lake in 2020, and we almost certainly won’t, but we can still celebrate them from a distance. And dammit, now we have. Side-note: the above photo was taken by me one morning on a pier jutting onto Pigeon Lake. This province surprises me sometimes with its beauty.

The Date To Create

The website for this particular holiday looks impressive. It promises this day to be all about retreats, local events, team connecting, corporate coaching, and plenty of other good stuff. Unfortunately, every link on the page leads to the same image, explaining that they are trying to figure out how to navigate Covid and still deliver this day. It would appear they were not successful.

If the idea for this day is to spawn us to create, that is a terrific thing. Too many people have let their artistic leanings dry up and dissolve, as life tends to elbow aside so many of our most personal ambitions. That this day (technically another Saturday celebration) fell on a day in which I did not create anything for the first time since December 31, 2019, I’m going to call it a poignant ironic celebration, which effectively draws attention to how much we have in fact created this year.

We are not all in a lockdown anymore, so we can all show a little remorse for not having finally learned how to play guitar or sculpt lifelike busts of famous historic union leaders out of large blocks of cheddar cheese. But that remorse should be channeled into a fresh resolve. You don’t need heaps of down-time to create, and in fact heaps of down-time may stifle creativity. If you want to make something, prepare to do battle with your schedule to discover the time to do it, and be prepared to win. Every day is a date to create. Don’t let yours slip past you.

National Rice Pudding Day

This day landed snugly on Jodie’s birthday (see yesterday’s entry), which is perfect since she comprises 100% of the humans in this house who have any desire to consume rice pudding. I find the stuff to be lumpy and weird, but she loves it.

Rice pudding is hugely popular around the world, with so many regional variations it’s almost mind-curdling. In Lebanon you might find anise and caraway in the mix. The Arabic take often includes rosewater. In Iran you may enjoy it with cardamom and butter. The Iraqi spin features date syrup. Over in Thailand you’ll find bananas, while the folks in the Philippines have the good sense to make theirs with chocolate. India includes a number of varieties, some with nuts, others with saffron. Raisins often pop into European rice puddings, as does cinnamon, vanilla and fruit juice.

The common ingredients are always rice (though the variety of rice may vary), milk, eggs (though not always), and sweeteners and flavourings to appease the palette. Jodie forgot about this one on Sunday, mostly because we were intently focused on doing next to nothing all day. But she enjoyed some yesterday, and I enjoyed her enjoyment. Which is great, as I didn’t have to eat any myself.

National Book Lovers Day

I’ll be brief: we don’t know who originated National Book Lovers Day, but we fully support their efforts. We love books, even if only one of us could be called an avid reader. And no, that is not the writer in the family. Jodie is a voracious consumer of literature, though most of her current books tend to be non-fiction assistants in her quest to fully and completely solve racism. I should read more, especially as an active writer, but I simply don’t. I read articles a-plenty, and I have loved soaking into exquisite prose, but I find after appeasing my love of film and music, there simply isn’t a lot of time left for novels.

We both did some reading yesterday, and above is a small excerpt of Jodie’s reading material for this long summer (which, in a matter of speaking, kind of began back in March). This day is all about loving books, and we absolutely do.

Happy book day to lovers everywhere.

National Spirit of ’45 Day

This is not a day to pay tribute to our favourite two-song records, nor is it a day to raise a glass to the petulant-child-in-chief inhabiting the White House at present. The Spirit of ’45 refers to the so-called ‘Greatest Generation’ whose perseverance through WWII and the Depression that preceded it is the stuff of legend. I understand the title ‘Greatest Generation’ and to what it refers, though I will stop short of a full buy-in. They kicked some Nazi ass, but they also treated minorities and LGBT+ folks in an astoundingly shameful way. But that aside, they made their own opportunities and conquered them.

We still have a few of this generation still around; they are at the top of the chain, age-wise. They grew up in a time when much of our civilized world was still without power or running water. They witnessed the cultural thud of talking movies, of radio, and of our curious descent into media overload. Some adapted and embraced modern music and culture, celebrated developments in tech and have even pushed forward with active Twitter accounts. Others scoffed at all this, and maintained their 1900s grip on a simpler life.

This is a generation that helped to shape our modern world, for better and for worse, and they are also the folks who are most at risk in the current pandemic. National Spirit of ’45 Day saw a full-on commitment by some leaders to reopen schools next month and restore the economy, Greatest Generation be damned. To celebrate this day I recommend everyone wear a mask in public, and if you are in a position of leadership try to do whatever you can to keep those virus numbers down. We don’t want to lose our spirit of ’45.

National Lazy Day / Family Fun Month

What can we say about this one? It actually dropped yesterday and was not bumped from this weekend. As you can see by the ludicrous investment of words spewed all over this post, I was not lazy yesterday. I mean, I wasn’t particularly active, but I did get us caught up in our celebrating, and that was no small task.

Pictured above are Trixie and Rosa, embodying National Lazy Day the way did over the entire weekend preceding this one. They chilled and listened to some brilliant performances, appreciating the sun, the shade when the rain came, and the company. Most of all, we all appreciated doing as little as humanly possible for a few days. Did I feel obligated to make up for it? No, because we were simply doing our job: celebrating National Lazy Day.

I also counted this as a celebration of Family Fun Month, since it was delightfully attended by two of my three beloved aunties (Kathy – you missed a party with this one) and their accompanying uncles, as well as our team baker (hi, Mom!), who made a point of stopping in each day to take part. Plenty o’ fun, and plenty o’ family.

I think this one might warrant a repeat. Not until I’m done with all this catch-up though…

National Hand-Holding Day

We have no great origin to this one either. Perhaps my great triumph once this project has completed would be to gather up all the sources for these bizarre days through an extensive period of deep research and investigation. But to what end? To compile a definitive resource that somehow outpaces the wonder of Chase’s Calendar of Events, which gets updated annually? Nah, that’s someone else’s triumph and it has been done sufficiently enough for me to have created all this weirdness.

And so, without any source tale to spin, we find ourselves simply fulfilling the purpose of this day: we held hands. We do this probably often enough for our daughter to roll her eyes and proclaim “Gayyyyyy” in that Señor Chang voice she uses. When we see elderly couples holding hands – you know, more for love and less for purposes of maintaining balance – we often remark that this may be us someday. Then I catch a look at myself in the mirror, with all this grey in my beard and wonder if we’re already there.

We held hands. It was touching. We are fucking sweet.

National Polka Day

For the duration of my typing out this section of this article, I listened to a number of startlingly (perhaps) similar songs. There was plenty of accordion, blasts of heaving tuba, and references to beer. So many references to beer. This may be my favourite part of polkas, that they don’t try to hide what this music is really for: white people swishing their steins back and forth whilst trying to maintain their balance.

Look, you aren’t going to see a lot of polka influence in today’s modern music. It’s a style that can’t really lend a lot to other genres, at least not without dragging them right back into the polka style completely. There are plenty of rock songs with tubas and/or accordions, but if they deploy those instruments in the same way you’d hear on a polka album, it’s a damn polka. Just ask Weird Al Yankovic – he knows what this style of music is about.

The polka did not originate in Germany, but rather in Czech culture. After its origins in 1800s Bohemia, the folk style spread to nearby cultures, so that now it is intertwined with all sorts of (alcohol-inclusive) traditions in that area. The first Grammy for Best Polka Album was awarded in 1986 to Frankie Yankovic (Al’s not-quite-as-weird dad) for his 70 Years of Hits album. Jimmy Sturr went on to win the trophy every year from 1988 through 2009, except for three wins by Wayne Ostanek and two by Brave Combo. The award was discontinued after that, possibly because Jimmy was dominating the category nearly every damn year. He wound up stacking 18 of the 24 Best Polka Album trophies ever handed out on his shelf. That is pretty goddamn impressive for a guy I’ve never heard of.

But then I’m not a big follower of the polka world. And I’m dying to get this stuff off my Spotify at the moment, so I’ll move on.

National Duran Duran Appreciation Day

This is more my speed. I’m not a big Duran-Squared follower, but I enjoyed enough of their music in the 1980s to be simply tickled to listen to a handful of their tunes throughout my Monday. Apparently on August 10, 1985, lead singer Simon Le Bon was involved in a near-fatal boating crash, which is why this day is celebrated when it is. One might say he was too much of a Wild Boy. Perhaps his hunger for adventure was wolf-like. Clearly he had saved a prayer for his survival. Okay, that’s enough.

Duran Duran was formed 42 years ago, in case you were cruising through your Tuesday without yet feeling old. They have seen 21 singles land in the Billboard Hot 100, mainly fueled as part of the so-called 2nd British Invasion, the one that was spurned by MTV. The group leant itself well to the video era, as they became fashion icons and probably hair-style icons in an age that was looking for such embodiments of the new culture.

One of their cleverest tricks was to shoot their music videos on 35mm film and with tremendous production values. This gave them a polished look that a lot of other groups couldn’t match. So for that, and for the glorious bevy of catchy tunes they gave us, I happily appreciated them yesterday.

World Lion Day

Really? We’re still adding new entries? Sweet Jeebus, this day is an undertaking. Okay, here we go.

World Lion Day was conceived back in 2013 by conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert of Big Cats Initiative (no, they were not featured in that crazy tiger documentary that was so popular earlier this year). Lions are not endangered, though they are listed as ‘Vulnerable’, which is only one step away. There is one population of wild lions in western India, the rest are all camping out in sub-Saharan Africa. At one time they roamed all over that continent, as well as in Europe and North America, but that was long before humans even waved their first hello on this planet.

Still, since the 1990s the population of wild African lions has declined by about 43%. They’re losing their habitats, and they’re losing their battles to keep humans in line. This is one of the most celebrated creatures in every culture that has encountered them – we really can’t let them disappear.

On average, lions spend about 2 hours every day walking, roughly 50 minutes eating, and about 20 hours resting. That leaves only about an hour and ten minutes for socializing, grooming and pooping. Maybe sexing one another up, if the time is right. Lions are social. They are nomadic. And of course, they are the fiercest cats on the planet. They are the apex predators in their realm, and not to be fucked with. We have seen a few live ones, though only at zoos or in casinos (thanks, MGM in Vegas). Much love to the lions today.

National Sandwich Month

Why on earth would I cram in another month celebration on a day that has already achieved our record for most celebrations in a single solar cycle? Because we happened to devour the above sandwiches last night for dinner, and they were insanely great. For those who reside in and around Edmonton, you probably recognize them as the sandwiches created by the Italian Market, with fresh bread, magnificent cold cuts, and that delightful red pepper sauce. Jodie enjoyed the mild one, I prefer the spicy.

We have become sandwich pros over the last few months. Not simply because of this celebration malarkey – though our pastrami sandwich for this project was extremely top-tier – but because we’ve simply been at home constantly. So PB&J has been an easy go-to, as have grilled cheese sandwiches, when we may have otherwise been dining on leftovers heated up at work.

Oh, we also finally got around to trying that chicken sandwich from Popeye’s that was driving folks wild in 2019 (remember that year? Before the craziness?). It took far too long for this thing to get up to Canada, and now it has become our favourite fast-food sandwich. But it still doesn’t top the perfection of the ones pictured above. That is a masterpiece of bread, cheese and meat right there.

We’ll be enjoying at least one more of these this month, plus at least another couple from Popeye’s. And most likely a lot of PB&J.

National S’mores Day

Pictured above is the coveted S’mores doughnut made by our beloved suppliers of all things wondrous, Destination Doughnuts. We enjoyed that one on Saturday – well, I’m not sure who specifically enjoyed it as many hungry mouths and many doughnuts connected that day.

The Graham Cracker Sandwich first appeared in a cookbook in the 1920s, where it was described as being a beloved food of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. This makes perfect sense, as it lends itself to campfire shenanigans brilliantly. In 1938 some publication aimed at summer camps included a recipe for these, but called them S’mores, a contraction of ‘some more’, since you’ll always want some more after you finish one, at least until you’re so stuffed you could puke. By the late 50s this was the accepted name, and the snack was one of the most beloved camping treats consumed by kids everywhere.

The recipe is simple: roast a marshmallow to your desired level of perfection, then shmush it between two graham crackers, ideally with a chunk of chocolate or two in between. Some choose to then wrap the entire thing in foil and roast it some more, just to get the chocolate nice and gooey. Or, simply do what we did and enjoy a simulation in doughnut form: it’s less messy, and can be enjoyed in one’s bedroom without starting a dangerous fire.

This was a delicious one, even if we skirted the subject a little bit and went with the doughnut variety. Our tree is currently hanging dangerously close to our firepit, so building them in person simply was not advisable. Maybe next year.

Holy hell, we finally made it to the end of this massive day of catch-up. And with National Connecticut Day still on today’s radar, we also have all this to deal with:

  • National Sons & Daughters Day. We have had so many celebrations this year in which we have had to be nice to our kids…
  • National Presidential Joke Day. Not sure how to celebrate this when the actual president is an actual joke. Might take some work.
  • National Raspberry Bombe Day. This is another complex dessert that we shall be skipping, as we don’t need any more desserts. Looks yummy though.
  • Annual Medical Checkup Day. It’s a little late to get this one squeezed in today, but I’ll book an appointment.
  • Ingersoll Day. This is one to commemorate a man who pushed for free thinking, and for science and reason to dominate policy and society. Nice.
  • Play In The Sand Day. We don’t have any lying about, but we’re all for some quality sand-playing.

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