Thursday, January 23, 2020

The waters of this party river are gushing by at a rate we’d never anticipated. We are at least ankle-deep in the throes of this manic mission and we’re finding ourselves feeling every little strain it had threatened to throw at us. Time strain? Sure, I’m working until 10 or 11 every night on these articles and our goofy videos. Energy strain? Yep – sleep can’t come soon enough. Priority strain? Busy days make for busy jugglers, and the notion of boredom is on a year-long hiatus, as expected. Financial strain? Absolutely. Grocery bills have been higher, and the post-holiday January crunch is hitting us right between the fiscal gonads. But still… we’re having fun. So we ain’t stopping now.

National Polka Dots Day

Call this one a demonstration of the slippery harmony of a celestially-tuned universe. Having found a new resource chock full (and you know it’s full if it’s at chock-levels) of new National Days no one has heard of, I started out this day not knowing polka dots were on the menu. As luck would serve it up, I’d already selected the one pair of dotted socks from my drawer. Like the guiding hand of cosmic woohoo, steering me deftly into the next festivity.

So what the hell is a polka dot then?

We all know polka dots, of course. Apparently the pattern can be traced back to Medieval Europe, back when no machinery meant dotted clothing looked uneven and a bit wonky. These clothes were also frowned upon, as the dots made people think of other common dots… like the bubonic plague or smallpox. Over in Africa dotted patterns were all the rage – it should be noted that the bubonic plague was not.

The dots pattern, unsurprisingly, became associated with the polka dance craze of the 19th century, right when the clothing came into style. That’s it – there is no cozier connection between dancing the polka and the polka dot; they just happened to hit the zeitgeist in tandem, and so they’ll be forever linked.

Library Shelfie Day

It’s a “shelfie”… ha ha. Thank you, New York Public Library for coming up with a pun in the title of today’s celebration.

There are many ways to commemorate the Library Shelfie – organize your books by author, by size, by chronological date of release – whatever works for you! I suggested we sort our books by colour, but Jodie didn’t see the point. Instead we have our books clumped together into vague genre groupings, which means we’d probably be searching our shelves just as much for a specific title as we would if they were sorted by hue.

Yesterday was about poking our attention into our book collections, to remind us of what we owned, to encourage us to pick a few to donate, and maybe to inspire a re-read or two. Most of our books are electronic these days, and many of the actual paper beasts we flip through wind up given away so someone else can experience the joy. But it’s always a fun travel through the literary countryside of our adult lives.

Come In From The Cold Day

This was another surprise from that new site I’d found. Come In From The Cold? What could that mean? I investigated.

And… I found nothing. I found at least two websites who will confirm that this is indeed Come In From the Cold Day, but no history, no origin story, no reference to a Joni Mitchell song, no link to a 1963 novel by John le Carré. Nothing. So… I came home from work, went out to shovel for 90 minutes, and subsequently Came In From The Cold. If I can’t speak to the source with authority, I can simply take the name literally.

National Blonde Brownie Day

Lastly yesterday gave us another opportunity to enjoy some delicious baked treats, courtesy of my mother. She volunteered to be this project’s official baker, and so far she has hit every treat out of the park, past the parking lot, and right smack-dab through a picture window into a dimension of pure delicious bliss. We’d never tried out the blonde brownie before, and they were all kinds of magnificent.

Blonde brownies are just like regular brownies, except they use vanilla instead of cocoa, and they also use brown sugar. So you lose some of the chocolatey gooeyness (though the chocolate chips in these babies filled that void), and you get a wholly different flavour experience. Blondies have quickly become one of my favourite treats we’ve tried this year, and this is certainly one of the better holidays of the 110+ we’ve sampled so far. So what could top it?

Today poses a few challenges. With precious little free time, a scant amount of usable daylight and no pie in the house, we’ve got a few hurdles to leap.

  • National Pie Day. Will we have time to pick up some pie? It’s not looking good. We may postpone this one and tie it in with a celebration we’ve got this weekend. We’ll see.
  • World Spay Day. Originally I’d planned for us to visit a vet and witness a spaying, just like those theater-style operating rooms we’ve seen on TV and in the movies (Junior Mints sold separately). But that seemed silly upon reflection, so we may simply discuss the joys of having two spayed pups instead.
  • National Handwriting Day. A good day to get some cursive practice in.
  • National Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day. This is just like it sounds: hockey played with a mailbox puck while driving a snow plow. We don’t have access to a snow plow, and even doing this with our vehicles will seem silly, given that we get home after the sun has gone down and we couldn’t even capture this on film. Another solid maybe. This will be a tricky day – let’s just work on keeping the strains at bay.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Yesterday felt… empty. The universal stitching I have come to lean on, that reliable seam between what was and what is – it was shattered yesterday, allowing each hour to morph into the next with a vulgar swell. The day lacked definition, it lacked a comfortable certitude. Why? Well…

International Sweatpants Day

That fine line between recreation and vocation lies in the pants. Sweatpants are bed pants. They are couch-flopping pants. They are the pants of leisure and disconnect. Wearing them to work today, while it honoured the spirit of the day, it removed that separation and left me feeling listless and confused. I slouched down further in my office chair. I couldn’t carry my phone around, lest the waistband sag. And though I lint-rolled the dog hair off, more seemed to grow in its place. I celebrated International Sweatpants Day, but I think this one beat me from a psychological angle.

A Frenchman named Emile Camuset gets credit for inventing sweatpants in the 1920s. They tend to be the most comfortable of all legwears, and as such it is forbidden to wear them in public, unless you want to appear to be in the most casual of states. Fine for the grocery store on a Thursday morning, but not entirely appropriate for an evening of opera.

And not ideal for work, as the parameters of the day should be kept sacred: comfort and calm at home, a modicum of slight discomfort when out in the world. The temptation of a nap was too great. Except…

Museum Selfie Day

There was no napping with so much walking to do. Crammed into my lunch hour I made my way from my beige-grey cubicle to Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum, which seems to grow in content every time I pass by. Some of these signs date back to Edmonton’s pre-oil adolescence. Some reflect institutions that were crucial to this city’s metropolitan muscle. At night it makes for a toasty, colorful history lesson.

From there it was a quick six blocks to the Royal Alberta Museum in its new location. This place is just bursting with great finds, following the long history of Alberta people, some impressive fossils and dino bones, and the creepy-ass bug room. Unfortunately I saw none of that today, as my entire lunch hour had been swallowed up with walking. But we’ll be back within these walls – well, the Royal Alberta Museum’s walls; the neon museum is strictly an outside thing – before too long.

National Squirrel Appreciation Day

Upon returning home I tossed some grub to our beloved and intrepid bulldog co-creators, Trixie and Rosa, then proceeded to dole out a big pile of peanuts for our beloved rodent tenant, Elton.

Elton – or some form of Elton… we really aren’t sure when one squirrel dies and another moves in – has lived in our little wood pile in our yard for years. Last fall he moved in to the shed attached to our house. He didn’t ask, he simply claimed squatter’s rights. And who were we to argue? The guy’s cute, he doesn’t bother us or cause any damage, and he gives us something to watch out our bedroom window. It’s either him or that shirtless old guy over the fence.

In the fall, Jodie gave Elton a few rags to use as bedding. We regularly drop him some nuts for a snack. I suppose that makes us generous landlords, right? I mean, we could be more generous. We could have invited him inside during last week’s cold blast, but we didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable or obligated. Lot of pride, those squirrels have.

And that shirtless old guy? He told us last fall that we should call pest control and eradicate little Elton. Not a chance. The little dude is family.

National Hugging Day

Some kid in the south Indian state of Kerala was booted out of school for hugging a classmate when she won a competition. This moved its way up through the system to the High Court somehow, and ultimately the principal’s decision was upheld. The kid was expelled for morality reasons, dammit. And what could be more immoral than a hug?

Bullshit. Hugging reduces blood pressure. Hugging releases oxytocin, which is a groovy little peptide hormone that gives the body a big ol’ oomph at the most life-assuring moments. Hugging is an act of sharing stardust. It’s the heat-blanket horizon folding in on itself for 2-20 beautiful seconds. Season it with a cuddle or spice it with a bro-back-slap, but a hug is a chance for two people to unplug the universe for a tiny moment.

We hugged. We each hugged some folks at work. Then we hugged again. And when we couldn’t – when Jodie was still off chaperoning three dozen kids at the theatre last night, I had another way to celebrate:

National Hug Your Puppy Day

Puppies are the most huggable of all creatures. They hug back – sometimes with their eyes, sometimes with a thin splat of drool. It’s all affection. It’s all wonderful.

National Granola Bar Day

Rather than trust the folks at Quaker or the residents of Nature Valley to concoct a prepackaged granola bar, I decided to make my own. This perpetual party features a plethora of palatable platters, but we can’t simply eat what the calendar tells us. This party necessitates some real immersion. The act of creation is the true expression of art, is it not? Yesterday, for better, worse, or somewhere in the middle, I made my own granola bars.

I went for the no-bake double-chocolate peanut butter bars using this recipe from Averie Cooks. This is a food blog like so many out there, featuring page after page of unnecessary narrative and no less than two pop-up ads before you even reach the ingredients. It was frustrating. But, I was by myself and so I chronicled the bars’ creation on film.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has attempted to buzz-kill the granola bar, calling it a cookie masquerading as health food. Really? Who thought this was a health food? I dropped brown sugar, chocolate and honey all in this mess; oats were the only healthy ingredient. The real benefit to the granola bar is convenience: it’s a complete snack in its own little wrapper, and the appearance of oats in the cast means there’s at least one semi-healthy component.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a Nature Valley peanut butter granola bar and a Kit Kat:

The granola bar has 230 calories, 11 grams of fat, 150 mg of sodium and 11 grams of sugar.

The Kit Kat has 230 calories, 12 grams of fat, 35 mg of sodium and 22 grams of sugar.

So the lesson here may be: eat an apple. Below is the riveting (and astoundingly low-budget) video of me making granola bars last night.

Another light day today, so we may sprinkle in a weekly or monthly celebration to keep ourselves busy. No days off, not for another 344 days.

  • National Blonde Brownie Day. A delicious take on the brownie – my generous and talented mother has prepared these for us.
  • Library Shelfie Day. Get it? Shelfie? Oh man, those day-inventors, they know quality humor. This is about organizing your bookshelf, so I guess that’s my chore after work today. Woohoo!