Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Valliant as ever, we forge onward into another rainy day, packed to its gills with a slew of celebrations each more bizarre than the last. Depending on which order we choose, I suppose. But isn’t the audacity of perpetuating this project an increasingly more bizarre endeavour? We are tucked into isolation, cut off from the world of shops, restaurants and fun-filled trips on public transit. And yet we are hyper-focused on piling up the parties. Is this a bastion against madness or madness itself? And more importantly, do I really want the answer to that question? Or should we simply steer our attention over to this:

National Macaroni Day

Could this have been our easiest celebration meal ever? Pop a couple of boxes of KD (that’s good ol’ Kraft Mac & Cheese for my American readers) onto the stove and be done with it? That’s a happy thought, except that I can’t stand the stuff. I get the childhood appeal of powdered cheese-substance slathered all over dried pasta, but it doesn’t clock in as one of my favourites.

Macaroni doesn’t quite look the same in Italy. Maccheroni in Italy will still have its tube-shape, but the pasta doesn’t need to be cut quite so short. The name may have one of several origins, including ‘blessed dead’, ‘barley broth’, ‘crush’ or maybe ‘blessed happy’. What’s weirder is its use in Russia and Iran, where the term ‘macaroni’ is a generic term used to refer to any pasta. Over in England they serve a sweet macaroni pudding, which sounds goddamn awful.

The most common cohort of macaroni here, in the US and in Britain is cheese. I don’t know why macaroni gets shunned from marinara and clam sauces and propelled into cheese country; it might be due to the shape that cradles the cheese nicely and tucks a little sploosh of it into its innards. Maybe it’s because the Kraft corporation marketed it so well.

Some consider Kraft Dinner to be the national dish of our country. I shudder at the thought of our national dish being a chemical-rich compound you can purchase for under a buck. Not only that, but KD was not invented here. We do consume 55% more of the stuff per capita than America, but still… it’s not the peak potential of this food. Yesterday I whipped up a Food Network recipe for a baked macaroni and cheese with chorizo sausage. I think it gave us a lot more reason to celebrate than had we simply mixed some orange chemical powder into some noodles. But then I’m just picky.

World Chocolate Day

Chocolate. We have so many celebrations related to chocolate you may have wondered when we’d finally hit upon National Chocolate Day. Ah, but wait… that doesn’t show up until November 11. This is the day the entire world embraces its love for chocolate. And it’s a deep, personal love.

It’s well known that chocolate has its origins in Mexico, nearly 2000 years before year 0. It’s also fairly well known that the Mexicans used to use it as a beverage. But what’s interesting is that they likely used the sugar in the cacao beans to create a fermented drink. So like most great inspirations throughout history, intoxication was at the heart of it.

Chris Columbus first encountered the stuff on his fourth voyage to the New World, so he gets credit for bringing the bean back to Europe to launch a few million addictions there. But chocolate is at its heart a pre-Mexican treat. We have the opportunity to celebrate it dozens, or possibly hundreds of times this year. I kept it simple and enjoyed some delicious, pure fudge after lunch. Abbey got a little weird with it, and sprinkled Chocolate Frosted Flakes overtop her ice cream.

Chocolate is life. We should all be celebrating this day.

National Father Daughter Take A Walk Day

No idea who came up with this one, but it happened to land on an ideal day for it. Abbey is presently visiting us, so this saves us from having to do a ‘virtual walk’ via Skype or Facetime. We have, in fact, been walking together every day, since our three canine research assistants insist they require this daily chore in order for them to perform their duties at peak capacity. Yesterday was, unfortunately, thick with rain. One of our dogs had spent the day at daycare, another was too wounded to walk, and Trixie just wanted to sleep. So Abbey and I went for a quick stroll around the house and garage, one of us nearly falling over when I snapped this pic.

There’s really nothing more to this celebration. It’s a celebration of father-daughter relationships and a celebration of physical activity. The physical activity part is obvious; Abbey and I have a terrific relationship to begin with, so there was no healing or growing during this walk. We simply conversed as we always do, about music, movies, and how closely Liberty’s poops resemble that of a full-grown human male.

It’s always a fine day for a stroll.

Tell The Truth Day

Okay, this one is pretty straightforward. It’s a day to consider the value of honesty and being truthful in all of our endeavours. Ugh… not sure it counts as a celebration, but SURE! We can celebrate honesty. It’s an election year down south, so honesty will be at a premium for the next four months. We have a corrupt government running the show in this province (and that’s not politics, that’s just fact), so truth is obviously subject to interpretation by some.

Honesty is usually the best policy. Sometimes we lie to be kind, and sometimes we lie to avoid the negative fallout if the truth were to rain down. Sometimes we lie just for the hell of it. Sometimes we lie without even knowing why we do it, like when someone calls you and wakes you out of a slumber but for some reason you insist that no, no… you were already awake. Why do we do this?

We did our best to remain honest all day, and given that we didn’t talk to anyone but each other (and I to a few of my work colleagues) there wasn’t much opportunity to fib. And to be perfectly honest (ha!) all this day really did was put that Derek & The Dominoes song (“Tell the Truth”) in my head for the duration of writing this part of the article. So… mission accomplished, I guess?

Global Forgiveness Day

Putting aside for the moment that this is a celebration launched by the Christian Embassy of Christ’s Ambassadors (it strikes me that the word ‘Christian’ in that title is not really necessary), and that we don’t do religious holidays here, I like the idea behind this day. We are often burdened by resentment, and that serves no purpose but… well, to burden us. If you’re holding onto a rage over which you won’t forgive somebody, chances are that person either has no idea or it isn’t affecting their life one bit.

So why not forgive? I saw some very touching video last week in which the brother of Botham Jean, the man who was shot to death when a cop who came “home” to the wrong apartment reacted too quickly, forgave his brother’s killer in court. That hit me like a brick. I can’t imagine losing someone I love to gun violence, and to believe I’d have the strength of character to forgive them is depressingly far-fetched. I don’t know if I’ve got it in me, and I hope I never have to find out.

But we’ve all got resentments toward someone. Sometimes that simply gets directed inward – for me I took on the challenge of attempting to forgive myself for some of the stupid choices I’ve made. And there are many. Forgiveness is essential, and much like the resentment and rage it will likely not affect the original trespasser one bit. But it can heal the forgiver, and in the end that’s what matters.

So we’ll embrace this day, even if its originating source is a religious organization, and even though that organization actually states on its Global Forgiveness Day page the phrase “Webster’s Dictionary defines forgiveness as…”. We forgive you, CECA. We forgive your double-Christian reference in your name, as well as your hackneyed writing skills. And with any luck, we’ll forgive ourselves too.

National Dive Bar Day

Leave it to Seagram’s to create a holiday to honour the dive bar. I mean, it’s a good promotional idea. Get the dive bars who sell your hooch on board, and they’ll run some drink specials. Everybody wins. Except for this year, of course, since going to a dive bar during a pandemic is not only ill-advised, it’s kind of a little bit sad.

I have a long, proud tradition with dive bars. When I was of hearty drinking age (17-20) I often started evenings in the tavern at the Strathcona Hotel, where beer cost 70 cents a glass and tasted like swill. Some may consider Blues on Whyte to be a dive bar, given its occasionally seedy clientele, but to us it was simply one of the premium live music venues in the city. I never felt endangered in either of those places. I did, however, stop short of spending much time in those dreaded downtown bars like the York Hotel or the Milla Pub. You can visit a dive bar without it having a ‘No Knives’ sign out front.

The dive bar that warmed my heart in recent years is a place called Rudy’s on 9th Avenue in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of New York. It was around the corner from our Air B&B a couple summers back, and we popped in often to enjoy the pint, shot and hot dog for $5. In fact, our last night of that trip featured just me and my kids, pounding back drinks and laughing into the night at that place.

So here’s to the dive bars out there: may they survive this hideous virus and return to kick around the livers of those with taste and a sense of adventure when all of this is over. I’ll be lining up to join in.

Bonza Bottler Day

For the seventh time this year the day of the month lines up snugly with the month’s number, giving us an excuse to celebrate… well, that. Just that. That’s all it is. Traditionally we crack open a bottle of something new or something we enjoy but in which we rarely indulge.

Jodie was surprised to see that Snapple is now producing alcoholic drinks. She picked up the above watermelon ice tea, and found it to be decent enough, but not something she’d want to commit to for an entire evening. It was too sweet. And yes, we’re aware that this was sold in a can and not a bottle, but there were not bottle versions available, and if Jodie were to rely on a bottle from the store we visited she’d either be drinking beer (which she hates) or cider (which she also hates). So let’s just give her a thumbs-up for trying something new, even if most of it wound up dumped down the sink.

I ventured back to Unibroue, the Quebec-based brewery that delivered the aptly titled Fin Du Monde I tried a couple months back. I didn’t want a repeat (though it was one hell of a fine beer) so instead I opted for Trois Pistoles, which at 9% was a delightfully potent Belgian ale that tasted somewhat like a port. This beer has won 35 awards in beverage competitions all around the world, and has no doubt bolstered our nation’s reputation for being able to put together a thoroughly tasty and deeply ass-kicking beer.

Can’t wait to see what Bonza bonanza we uncork on August 8.

Today we begin a slight downshift to fewer celebrations before the weekend blitz. But knowing me, I’ll keep adding to the list anyway. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Chocolate With Almonds Day. More chocolate. Woohoo! We’ve got some M&Ms with Almonds for this one.
  • National Video Game Day. I’m sure I can manage to squeeze this celebration in.
  • SCUD Day. Savour the Comic, Unplug the Drama. So it’s another “let’s appreciate the power of laughter” thing.
  • Be A Kid Again Day. Given that we’ll be laughing, eating M&Ms and playing video games, this is on point.
  • Math 2.0 Day. Nope. We’re all about being a kid again, but minus the math homework.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A big ol’ happy 80th birthday to Ringo, and a just-as-big ol’ happy (smaller number) birthday to my buddy Steve. I know one of you will be drinking heartily to celebrate. As for us, we will crack open our seventh Bonza Bottles and spiral into a miasma of glorious revelry as always. But first, we must ponder yesterday. ‘Twas my return to work and our return to semi-normal, albeit with a 23-year-old offspring still bopping around the house, keeping our dogs amused. The morning was still fretfully early and the day stunningly long. And, almost as if it knew I was back at work, the sun opted to stick its toasty face into the sky throughout the day, daring me to ditch work and lie in my hammock. Alas, I had to focus on this instead:

National Fried Chicken Day

In 2018 KFC ran a contest in Australia, offering free fried chicken for a year – a prize that would be well worth coveting if it were better quality chicken than KFC – to the citizen who expressed most eloquently why they deserved to win. The 19-year-old winner (and really, any older person would potentially have died from this victory) won by getting the KFC logo tattooed on her foot. That’s the kind of commitment that makes for a winner.

We did no such madness yesterday. There was no need; no one was offering us a year’s worth of high-fat poultry, and even if they were we’d have to decline. We have too many other entrees on the menu over the next six months.

The American version of fried chicken is actually a blend of Scottish and West African styles. The Scots fried their unseasoned chicken in fat. The Africans knew it would taste a lot better with a few herbs and spices, but they were frying in palm oil. Southern Americans realized that, by taking the flavour component of the African tradition and blending it with the absurdly high cholesterol and fat notions of the European tradition they could craft something purely American: tasty, very African influenced, yet much worse for you than any other global equivalent.

We celebrated this one with a trip to Seoul Fried Chicken on the south side yesterday for dinner. The fad of Korean-style fried chicken – which appears to be regular fried chicken but with more interesting seasoning and sauce potential – has produced some fine dining in this city. SFC is about the best you can get in the city, and it made for a magnificent celebration last night. Almost made me forget it had been a work day. Almost.

International Kissing Day

Hopefully you all had as much fun celebrating this as I did. Kissing is great, but have you ever tried kissing while the late, great Ennio Morricone’s score for The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is playing? It’s intense and weird. It’s always good to change things up with a taste of the intense and weird.

This day started in England and spread throughout the world from there. I don’t know how much it has spread; on the one hand, the day has its own (brief) Wikipedia page. On the other… well, have you heard of it before now? Not likely.

We kissed, but we fell short of honouring the notion that we should be kissing more than our significant others. There were no European-style cheek-kisses from us to old friends or colleagues. In fact, we didn’t see any old friends or colleagues because nobody leaves the house anymore. But we had each other, and isn’t that really the joy in kissing? Making out with the person you’re locked inside with?

Take Your Webmaster To Lunch Day

Well this was easy. The total number of people involved behind the scenes of this project is zero. Jodie joins in on a chunk of the celebrations, and of course I will always send out love to my cat-owning posse, who supplies me with oodles of great pics whenever a feline celebration crosses our calendar. But otherwise this is a one-man-show. I take the pictures, I select the pictures for the article, I write the articles, I make them look all semi-pretty on WordPress, and I answer any correspondence that comes in. I also take care of social media posts.

So I took myself for lunch. I didn’t go out; that would have been an unpleasant interference in an otherwise relaxing day. But I’d picked up some delightful pasta from Chianti on the south side a few days ago so I heated that up and treated myself to a tasty meal. Above is an approximation of what I ate. I was so hungry by the time I sat down, I forgot to take a pic.

This is a good day for showing appreciation for your webmaster, if you happen to have one on your team (assuming you have a team to begin with). Handling all the pain-in-the-ass tech components to a webpage is a lot of work. My only desire with this project was to create, and indeed if I had someone taking care of all the web posting and social media side I could pour a lot more passion into these celebrations. So if you’ve got a person fulfilling this role so that you can sit back and focus on creating content, be grateful and spring for a meal. It’s never too late to celebrate this one.

Umbrella Cover Day

I thought this would be akin to National Umbrella Day, which we weirdly celebrated on February 10. But no, this is specifically a day to celebrate umbrella covers. From what I can tell, this is the sleeve into which a portable umbrella can be inserted, or else the much larger (but similarly-shaped) sleeve which gets lowered overtop an outdoor umbrella. Either way… huh?

I mean, I get it. These things have a purpose, either for keeping a wet umbrella from dripping all over your stuff, or for protecting your patio umbrella from rain and tree debris. Also, bird poop. But I found at least two websites that claim this is the most underappreciated part of the umbrella. Are there people out there appreciating different parts of an umbrella? And is the cover a “part of” the umbrella, or simply an accessory that most of us can do without with no loss to our quality of life?

We have no patio umbrella set up this year, so no cover for a patio umbrella to praise and admire. We have several regular umbrellas, most of which came with a sheath that we never use. Perhaps we have been taking this magnificent creation for granted all this time. Do our umbrellas secretly loathe us because we leave them to flop solo in the closet? Do they long for the comfy and snug fit of a custom-tapered cover?

Just who is this celebration for? Are we really out of office supplies to commemorate? Can we not simply have another feel-good, believe-in-yourself day? What’s next after umbrella covers? Should we have a day to celebrate the bolts that keep our toilets affixed to the floor? Maybe a day for the little rods that hold aloft the tungsten filament in a light bulb? How about a day to celebrate the little knobby things we pull when we want to remove our window screens? Where does it stop?

It stops on December 31, whatever the madness that leads us there. Happy Umbrella Cover Day to all.

Virtually Hug A Virtual Assistant Day

Apparently this is more in line with taking your webmaster to lunch than it is with telling Siri or Alexa how much you love them. There are people who work as virtual assistants in the same way there are people who work as personal assistants; they simply do their work remotely. So if you’ve got someone who works as your personal assistant but does so in a not-in-person sense (which is quite possibly the case this year), this is the day to send them some love.

Naturally this does not apply to us. Teachers don’t get virtual assistants, and neither do generic government office drones. Siri is my virtual assistant, in that I will ask her a question once or twice a week so I can save myself the hassle of punching the same question into a search engine.

So, I told Siri I’d like to give her a hug. “I’m not sure I understand.” That was her response. Does she not understand love? “Hmm. I don’t have an answer for that.” What if I simply ask, “What is love?” She gave me a dictionary definition. So I simply tried, “Siri, I appreciate you.” “I don’t get it,” she replied. “But I can check the web for ‘Siri, I appreciate you’.”

Sometimes these celebrations don’t work as intended.

National Family Reunion Month

This seems like an opportune time to talk about family reunions.

The short version: please don’t. The somewhat longer rant: this is a bad year for family reunions. Several of them have been the early sparks of COVID outbreaks. With America currently in a melt-down of new cases every day, gathering together a bunch of relatives who have not been quarantining together – and indeed who may not have been quarantining at all – is just a bad idea. Even here in Canada, where the numbers have not been nearly as dire, we can use the excuse of the United States to avoid those relatives we’d rather not see until the winter holidays deem it a necessity. Who knows? We might even get out of it then.

This month we had a family reunion of sorts. Our two kids (and the significant other of one) came home for a visit. We’d all been cautious to the point of paranoid so there was no fear of infection, even when my mom stopped in for a meal here and there. This sort of reunion is safe. We stopped short of bringing more relatives over because no one wants to take the chance right now.

So host a virtual family reunion if you’d like. This will give you the benefit of having a mute button so you can mutter whatever you want and no one’s feelings will be hurt. You can also slap a post-it over your monitor to cover up any relative you’d rather not look at. Really, this should be the future of family reunions.

Be careful out there. It’s not worth risking infection just so your racist uncle can pinch your cheeks and tell embarrassing stories about your parents in their youth.

Today we have what might be our busiest Tuesday of the summer, with all of this fun stuff to do:

  • Bonza Bottler Day. Time to crack into the stuff we bought for Independent Beer Run last weekend.
  • National Dive Bar Day. We aren’t going to any bars right now, especially dive bars. But we will celebrate them.
  • National Father Daughter Take A Walk Day. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to do this virtually, and we don’t!
  • National Strawberry Sundae Day. An easy win for dessert.
  • National Macaroni Day. We have an intriguing recipe for this one.
  • World Chocolate Day. For those of you who were waiting for it… here it is.
  • Tabanata. A Japanese celebration of wishes.
  • Tell The Truth Day. If we must.
  • Global Forgiveness Day. I’m not sure who we have to forgive, but I suppose there must be someone.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Today I open with a confession: as jam-packed and wall-to-wall as this day appears to be, our hearts weren’t 100% in it yesterday. This has been a week of worldwide upheaval, and while we have lent our voices to the side that will obviously be viewed as right by history’s pen, we have also had to maintain our outbound positivity. Hooray, cognac. Yippee, cheese. Woohoo, doughnuts. But yesterday (and really, today too) we need to take our foot off the gas, both from reading and joining in the conversation on race and violence and disease, and from writing 3,500 words a day about moonshine and veggie burgers. I offer this as an upfront apology, as I don’t know how many topics I’ll get to today (note: I still wrote on plenty. I may be addicted to this). Still, there’s this:

National Eyewear Day

An eyewear company called Zyloware started this celebration four years ago in order “celebrate the benefits of improved vision” – which is code for move some product. I was first forced to wear glasses around the age of 13, and I fought it. I didn’t want to be reliant on this thing sitting on my face. Could I ever ride a roller coaster again? It didn’t help that my father (who didn’t wear glasses) was convinced that anything smaller than massive Discs of Exceptional Nerdiness would take away my peripheral vision and leave me vulnerable to wayward frisbees and such. At the beginning of the age of violently awful self-image, I looked horrible.

Today I sport the tiny round glasses I’d always wanted – Lennon-style, but these ones are a bit funkier. I love these glasses. That said, if I ever scrounge up the change to get the laser treatment done, I’ll do it. Even though it would also mean giving up my dream sunglasses, which resemble the Blues Brothers’ shades, but match my present prescription.

Jodie’s journey through the joys and perils of eyewear started in her 40s, when reading led her to becoming a pro-level squinter. But she doesn’t need to wear them during her day-to-day life, and she looks damn cute in any pair. She’s got it easy. She took the reins on the actual celebration of this day, by making her first post-COVID eye doctor visit.

So for those of you who are slaves to your eyewear, just wear it proudly. And wear the pair you want to wear. And for god’s sake, don’t force your kids to look like schmucks if they need glasses.

National Higher Education Day

University of Alberta – Edmonton, AB

The purpose of this day, according to its official website, is to promote how awesome higher education can be, and to get students ready for the experience with scholarships and strategies. As strong supporters of education (that happens when one half of a couple is a teacher), we give this one a big thumbs-up. Did you know Shaq has a doctorate in education? We just learned that yesterday and it applies, so I’m cramming it in right here.

Jodie went to university right out of high school. She fell short of completing her degree, but then returned a decade later to blast through an Education degree whilst raising two kids. I mean, not alone – I was there. But still, it wasn’t easy. I managed to flake out on getting any education until I turned about 25 and realized I really should get around to it. It took a while to get my four-year degree, as I had to keep working and keep raising those same (clearly needy) kids. I graduated six years ago this week, at the geriatric age of 39.

Jodie is working on her Masters degree now, and to celebrate this day she worked on it a little bit yesterday. It’s mostly a correspondence degree, which leaves her able to continue working, and to continue celebrating weird arbitrary shit with me.

Post-secondary school isn’t for everyone. Some will be happier with in a trade, others will find their joy working jobs that don’t need any extra education. I only finished my degree because I had risen to the highest level of government drone possible without one. Sure enough, I changed over to a more brain-oriented (and rewarding) job within four months of graduating. Plus, learning in college is far more interesting than in high school. The subjects are richer, the ability to think and be creative is stretched to new lengths, and the teachers are, for the most part, more engaged and greater experts in their field. If you’re on the fence, look into getting some more education. If you’re already done, find your degree and give it a hug.

Bonza Bottler Day

Every month, when the number of the day lines up with the number of the month, we down a bottle of something special and interesting. Something we don’t usually consume. Jodie has enjoyed some Stewart’s Root Beer, while I found it in me to sample Maple Coca-Cola. This month we both opted to try something completely new.

Jodie opted for a Jarritos Mexican soda. Founded by Don Francisco “El Guero” Hill in 1950, this soda company offers a rainbow of fruit flavours. I strongly recommend clicking through their flavour selections with the sound on. With each new flavour a voice says the name out loud in a way that somehow made me inexplicably thirsty, especially the way he says, “Lime.” It was really tasty; she was happy with her choice.

I sampled a stout from the Tofino Brewing Company, located on scenic far side of Vancouver Island. I was a little surprised to learn that the Kelp Stout is actually brewed with local, sustainably-harvested kelp. I don’t know what I expected, maybe that it was just a name. It was a remarkably smooth and rich little brew, just bursting with flavour. I’ve always been a fan of the aftertaste of a good stout (and appalled by the aftertaste of a bad one), and this one did not disappoint. I would absolutely try this again, maybe even on July 7 when Bonza comes a-callin’ again.

National Drive-In Movie Day

Edmonton lost its last drive-in movie theatre about twenty years ago. It was a fixture of many people’s youths. I think I may have seen one movie with my parents at a drive-in, but my friends and I used to go in high school. I remember sitting through Navy Seals, an astoundingly mediocre film, while we just giggled like idiots, making up stories about the people in the vehicles around us. At a drive-in you can talk as much as you want and make a complete ass of yourself, so long as you stay inside your vehicle and don’t allow the noise to bleed over to the next stall. You want to make out instead? Go for it.

The first drive-in opened in New Mexico in 1915 as an experiment. Silent films were shown on outdoor screens throughout the 20s, but it took until 1932 before a guy named Richard M. Hollingshead got a patent on the drive-in concept. The biggest hurdle to getting a drive-in to work was the sound. At first they hung speakers up near the screen, but folks near the back had to deal with low volume sound, as well as a syncing concern as the sound travelled slower than the images on the screen. It was in 1941 when RCA came up with the volume-adjustable in-car speakers.

The era of the drive-in peaked before I was born. It hung on through the 80s and 90s but it was destined to fail. What brought people to the movies were giant, immersive screens and astounding sound systems. None of that was guaranteed at a drive-in. There has been a recent resurgence due to COVID, and maybe that’s what will spark a full-on rebirth of the drive-in theatre. Nothing up here in Edmonton though, at least not this year. A local organization was putting on some (mostly kids’ movies) presentations last summer, but it seems to have stalled in 2020.

Maybe we’ll get another chance to try this nostalgic relic out. Time will tell.

National Applesauce Cake Day

Prior to learning about this celebration, I had never heard of applesauce cake. I’ve heard of applesauce, heard of cake, but I’d never thought of combining the two. Neither had our team baker (hi, Mom!), but damn she did a fine job with this one.

This one dates back to colonial times, and apparently the stuff was all over cookbooks in the early half of the 20th century. I guess one rule of thumb is that the chunkier the applesauce, the less moist the cake will be. My mom must have used applesauce so smooth it could ooze through a sieve because this cake was as fluffy and perfect as a cake can be. And the icing – the icing was nothing short of breathtaking.

I’m not sure where she got the recipe from, but there are a bevy of options out there to choose from. You can’t really taste the applesauce – it ended up tasting a bit like a spice cake. It’s a great option for dessert lovers.

National Bubbly Day / National Moscato Day

National Bubbly Day was indeed yesterday, but we let National Moscato Day slip right past us last month. We’d picked some up, but completely forgot to drink it or celebrate the day. How fortuitous that we were afforded another opportunity.

Moscato – or more specifically, Moscato d’Asti, which is made from the Moscato grape – is a dessert wine. So it’s sweet and relatively low in alcohol, neither of which is going to get me to reach eagerly for my wallet. It’s an Italian creation, mostly produced in the chilly northwest area of Italy. This was known as the winemaker’s wine, because they could down a bunch of it at lunch and still work through the afternoon.

We had ours last night after dinner, when we were working on our 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I was in need of something with a bit more kick, and as it turns out, a different flavour. It was horrible. Jodie and I each managed a good sip (I actually tried two), but it was so sweet we could literally smell the hangover that awaited us if we finished the bottle. Or even the headache that awaited us if we finished a glass. In short, it got dumped. And we’re the people who stomached an entire serving of haggis. We’d had some prosecco last week for National Mimosa Day, and honestly that was a lot tastier. That’s just us – I guess we prefer to keep our wines and our desserts as separate things.

National Prairie Day

If anyone is keeping track, this is the point of the article where I begin to lose steam. I mean, I’m happy to live where I do, deep in the bowels of the Canadian prairies, and I admire the landscape every time we venture out on a road trip. It’s a shame that the next-nearest city is a three hour trek through the prairies, which gets a bit tedious after a while, but it’s still quite spectacular.

The soil of the prairies was made for agriculture. The plants that grow here are resilient to drought and excessive rains. Most of the prairie has been tamed and humanized now, either razed for our cities or put to work as farms. Those who seek to preserve the prairie are concerned about this, whereas I see the farming as simply the prairie at its best, offering its bounty to humankind.

Of course, what do I know? I haven’t looked into conservation efforts, and I have no idea just how bad the situation is. Can’t there be one facet of geological science that isn’t depressingly being crushed beneath the boot-heels of humans? No, apparently not. We have driven out numerous species, from microbes to buffalo, in the interests of satisfying our digestive and economic will. The prairie needs to be saved just like everywhere else.

To celebrate this day, we simply learned why. There are a number of organizations who are working on this, and they’ve got a lot to teach us prairie-dwelling city-folk about what’s going on around us.

National Black Bear Day

The American Black Bear is actually the smallest bear roaming around our continent. That aside, I still wouldn’t advise picking a fight with one. Let’s just say they’ve got a lot of friends; there are more black bears in North America than double the amount of all other bears combined. There is no conservation effort in place to keep these bears alive, as they are doing just fine by themselves.

The Asian black bears, which thrives mostly in the southeast corner of that continent, are more closely related to our black bears than our local brown or polar bears. They’re omnivores, which means you might be able to talk one out of eating you if you offer it a quality salad. But keep in mind, they can see better than you can. They can hear better than you can. And their sense of smell is going to be about seven times more acute than that of your dog. They can swim, they can climb trees, and if Russian circuses have taught us anything, they can even ride a tricycle.

The average lifespan of a bear in the wild is 18 years, though one made it to 44 years in captivity. Their real biological benefit is hibernation, the ability to skip right past all the crappy winter months by hunkering in place. That’s sort of how we’ve spent much of our 2020 – hibernating at home, and only emerging to gather supplies and chicken wings.

Black bears have been a part of indigenous lore for millennia. But of course modern humans have cheapened the species for their own benefit (as we do). Apart from those cruel circus performers, Terrible Ted was a toothless, declawed black bear who wrestled in the ring with humans from the 1950s through the 70s. On the happier side, it was a black bear cub named Winnipeg who became the inspiration for the golden-coloured Winnie the Pooh, and a black bear cub who survived a forest fire in 1950 who would go on to be the real-life representation of Smokey the Bear.

The key to surviving bear attacks – and I am passing on 45 years worth of wisdom and experience here – is to stay home, far away from the woods. Respect the black bear; their numbers and their power speak to a species that has figured out how to thrive on this planet. Let’s hope it stays that way.

And from Saturday we head back into the mixed-soup of Sunday, including a delicious (hopefully) dinner plan.

  • National Oklahoma Day. The cuisine of Oklahoma apparently includes chicken-fried steak, which will be interesting to make.
  • National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Now we’re talking. Dessert (apart from the cookies and cakes we still have around here) is planned.
  • Canadian Home Brew Day. We don’t have access to anyone with any home brew, but we do have a terrific beer brewed in our hometown (well, my hometown).
  • National VCR Day. Who still uses a VCR?
  • National Cancer Survivors Day. We know a few of those. We also know a few who didn’t make it to the other side. Some love to those who have conquered and lived to tell the tale.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

This calendar maintains its motion and by the poke of its greasy, stubby index finger so do we. No great conclusions have been reached, no epiphany of magnificence has revealed itself to us… we grab our list and we celebrate. Where there’s nothing to actually celebrate (meaning to eat or drink), we learn. Sometimes we simply fire off a salute for the hell of it. Whatever the plan, we remain engaged and connected to the eternal jitterbug of the vast springtime starscape. And we dive in with eager claws to get at fun like this:

National Moonshine Day

Moonshine is sold at most local liquor stores, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. Traditionally, moonshine is an illicit alcoholic beverage, crafted in stills in barns, shacks, and various hidey-holes around the world. The word, which very viscerally suggests the act of brewing beneath the cloak of darkness, originated in the British Isles in the 1800s. When the US outlawed any unregistered stills during the Civil War, the term came to America.

Of course the heyday of illicit hooch came while Prohibition was swinging its ugly phallus in the face of American common sense. Appalachia was a prime spot for crafting the stuff. There weren’t a lot of roads, which made it tough for police to patrol. Farmers also knew they could earn ten times the money if they turned their corn into booze before hauling into town for sale. Bootleggers would then scoot the stuff around the country.

I get the appeal, and I’d certainly have sought out some moonshine had I lived during that dark and dry era of American history. But today it seems unnecessary. People still make it, but the stuff I’ve sampled in my life carried all the gustatory satisfaction of drinking turpentine. I haven’t tried the stuff they’re marketing in stores right now, nor do I want to. I get that they’re cashing in on the supposed naughtiness of the name, which suggests it’s made illegally, but really it’s just going to be strong alcohol that tastes like strong alcohol. I can spend the same amount on something that actually tastes good.

So we celebrate moonshine in its past incarnations, and for getting people through times when legal booze was simply not an option. But it should remain a relic of the past. We’ve got the good stuff now.

National Veggie Burger Day

Every veggie interpretation of meat I had tried prior to about ten years ago left me disappointed and hungry for flesh. Sweet, juicy, bloody flesh. Of an animal of course – I haven’t yet encountered the tofu concoction that would push me over the line to cannibalism. But things have changed in the vegetarian world, and indeed the population of vegetarians and vegans has skyrocketed, or at least so my instinct tells me. I could look it up, but it’s more fun to sound like I just know it. Even though I’ve now dispelled that notion through over-explanation. Sometimes pulling back the curtain on the process can be a mistake. Moving on.

A top quality veggie burger should taste just as delectable as an actual meat burger. Not quite as delectable as a truly magnificent meat burger (such as the ones I regularly concoct for our barbecue), but at least a passable one. The origins of the veggie burger trace back to the beginning of the 1980s, either to the Gardenhouse in Gresham, Oregon or to a natural foods restaurant in Paddington, London. At least that’s only two claims; as we learned last week on Hamburger Day there are about a dozen places clamouring for credit on that one.

Oh, but there is one weird outlier. Apparently on a 1948 episode of the American radio drama show Let George Do It, a character refers to a ‘vegeburger’ made of nuts and legumes. I can’t imagine such a thing actually existed, and given what I’ve witnessed from mid-century American cookbooks (quite often featuring things like ham, eggs and asparagus floating in tomato-based Jell-O), I wouldn’t want to try it.

So how to celebrate? We were on a budget so we couldn’t get any fancier than A&W. But A&W’s veggie burger, the Beyond Meat burger, I’ve tried before and it blew me away. They already have some of the best food in the fast food game, but this burger is outstanding. Jodie, who has avoided sampling it up to this point, gave in and tried it last night. Even she was impressed, and she tends to approach veggie-fied meat concepts with more disdain and trepidation than I do. This was a delight.

National Doughnut Day

And here I was all excited about National Cheese Day yesterday, when the greatest of all possible days was lurking around the corner, ready to spring out and yell SURPRISE to my gushingly clueless taste buds. The doughnut, as those who know us would attest, is sacred to this household. Every Saturday, apart from a couple when we were out of town, Jodie and I have visited Destination Doughnuts on 124 street in Edmonton, and picked up some treats. They even provide us with doughnuts for our dogs – just dough, no extra. They are wonderful, warm people, and their product is legendary. We’ve been doing this since they opened in December, 2017.

The earliest known doughnuts would be the olykoek (oily cake) that was brought with Dutch settlers over to New Amsterdam, which would later become New York. So our favourite dessert substance has its roots in the same place and time in history as our favourite city. Sometimes the gears of the universe simply click together with a cascade of perfect magic. Washington Irving’s 1809 History of New York is the first recorded mention of the doughnut, though it referred to a fried ball of sweetened dough. It’s possible that a man named Hanson Gregory, disgusted at how doughnuts seemed to be perpetually undercooked in the middle, was the first guy to punch a hole in the dough and turn it into a ring.

Doughnuts are, of course, a Canadian staple food. It has been common knowledge in this country that if you’re travelling overseas and you want to make sure you are identified as a Canadian and not one of those rude self-entitled American tourists you should bring a Tim Hortons cup or some other paraphernalia with you. Tim Hortons was our national pride. Great coffee, great doughnuts, and truly Canadian. Unfortunately, Tim Hortons is now in Times Square, they changed their coffee recipe into something undrinkable, and I think they’re owned by a Brazilian conglomerate. And their doughnuts, once baked fresh at each store, now show up pre-made. They’re smaller than they used to be, and truly terrible blobs of unpleasant sugary breadstuff.

Fortunately we have hit a wave of boutique doughnutteries. There are a number in town, some specializing in vegan doughnuts, others in cake doughnuts. But Destination makes a brioche-based dough that has such a wonderful fresh flavour they can be enjoyed completely plain. Or, as pictured above, as a S’mores or Triple Play treat (with hickory sticks, potato chips, chocolate glaze and a caramel drizzle – oh, and toffee bits).

Doughnuts are the pinnacle of human dessert creation. We are deeply grateful we could truly enjoy this day as it was meant to be enjoyed.

Apple II Day

The first Apple II hit store shelves on June 10, 1977. Why do we celebrate this day on June 5 then? I don’t know. I’m guessing we’re not supposed to, but the internet told me to so here we are.

The Apple II was the computer that changed everything. Sure, the Apple I was a hit, and really opened up the home market, but when I was growing up the Apple II was the standard. It was in every school and a lot of homes. As kids (to clarify, as geeky kids) we learned how to program in BASIC. We’d copy lengthy programming instructional text from magazines, only to have it result in a tiny blip bouncing around the screen. But dammit, we made it bounce with the power of what we’d typed and that was fucking cool. We’d write up little quizzes for each other. Some of us would teach our teachers how to use it, which felt pretty bad-ass as an eight-year-old.

Then there were the games. We all had an Atari, Intellivision or Colecovision sitting around the house for full-colour fun, but Apple games were next-level green-screen awesomeness. You had Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, which shipped with a thousand-page World Almanac you’d have to refer to in order to solve the clues. You had Oregon Trail, which taught us all what dysentery was. I remember playing a long-haul cross-Canada trucking game in which you had to manage resources, like fuel, food, and your need to sleep. There was a presidential election simulator game. And of course our favourite, Ultima – an RPG with such depth and nuance it would almost be fun to play today.

(I say ‘almost’ because I actually did replay Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar a couple years back and it was mostly tedious.)

I begged my parents for an Apple II. I hoped they’d see me excelling on the thing at my friends’ houses and at school, and maybe help me toward my dream of working on computers for a living. Money must have been tight, because instead I got the Intellivision add-on computer module, which anyone who owned one will remember was a piece of utter crap. Then on my 13th birthday I got an MS-DOS machine, which wasn’t nearly as cool. The dream was dead. At that point I just wanted to grow up and be a guy who celebrates lots of stuff. Some dreams do come true.

In tribute to the greatest PC of my childhood, I flipped through some of the machine’s history but stopped short of seeking out a BASIC emulator. My patience for coding is long gone now, so I’ll leave that to the pros. But damn that toy was fun.

Hot Air Balloon Day

June 6, 1988 was the day Per Lindstrand set the world record for the highest ever manned balloon flight, at 19,811 meters (three feet shy of 65,000). Whether or not that is the reason Hot Air Balloon Day lands on this day, I can’t honestly say. Vijaypat Singhania broke that record by nearly 4000 feet in 2005, so Per’s big moment has been reduced to a footnote. But here we are.

And we are in the heart of balloon-flying season. Or we would be, were it possible for folks to gather in a basket and remain at least six feet apart from one another. Covid is murdering the recreational ballooning industry right now, which may not have registered on anyone’s radar, but I assure you – folks are struggling. If you’ve never ventured into a balloon and sailed upward, I can’t recommend it enough. The view is extraordinary, and the surreal feeling of floating above your city is like nothing else.

Jodie bought me a balloon ride for my 30th birthday. We gathered at Gallagher Park, which is known for being the best spot in the city to view the downtown skyline. We stood for 15-20 minutes and held the balloon as it filled with heated air, then clambered into the basket and floated upward.

Then we stalled. There was absolutely no wind. We just hung there, suspended about 150 feet above the Cloverdale neighbourhood, with nowhere to go. The pilot lowered us gently back to earth, and we scratched the flight and tried again a few weeks later. That day we floated gracefully across the river, up to the north end of the city. To call it ‘relaxing’ would be inaccurate; the device that blasts the flame into the balloon is astonishingly loud. Also, every dog in every yard beneath us was going crazy at the unnatural sight of airborne wicker. But it was pure magic.

Hot air balloons can only be admired in our imaginations for the time being, but I strongly urge everyone to try it just once. With a seasoned pro it’s quite safe, and you really can’t get another experience like it.

But bring earplugs.

Festival of Popular Delusions Day

It turns out we actually missed this day by one. But it’s so delightfully kooky we simply had to acknowledge it. This is a day to pay tribute to some of those oft-believe untruths that keep us going. It began in Germany on June 5, 1945. That was the day before the one year anniversary of D-Day, and the last day that the Nazis were able to delude themselves that they’d rule over our planet for the ensuing thousand years.

So what delusions do we cling to as a society? A cynic who has been paying attention to the news lately would claim “All men are created equal” to be a delusion, and I can see that. But we’re trying to keep marching onward with a smile in this little corner of the web, so let’s lighten things up a bit.

We can start with the five-second rule. When we pick food up from the floor and eat it because it did not break the five-second mark, we are truly deluding ourselves into thinking some mystical germ barrier remained in place. We adhere to superstitions, as though wishing someone to shatter their femur before a performance is somehow better than saying ‘good luck’. We delude ourselves into believing if we click on a Facebook test we’ll learn something about ourselves, like which character on Kate & Allie we truly are (I was always an Emma), and that we won’t simply be passing personal info onto some evil bot.

“50 is the new 30” I’ve been told. I was 30 once, and I’ll be 50 in five years. There’s no way I’ll feel like 30 in five years. We look at celebrity endorsements and think, “Hey, if Susan St. James loves this waffle iron, it must be one hell of a great waffle iron.” (sorry to pick on the Kate & Allie cast today) We believe that we can accomplish anything, when in fact we almost certainly cannot. Some folks believe vaccines are dangerous and will cause autism. That is even more of a delusion than the five-second rule. Others believe climate change is a hoax. That’s a dangerous delusion. Then there’s the Elvis-is-still-alive crowd. Are any of you left? I sure hope so.

Today – well, yesterday – we can all embrace our popular delusions and even pretend they’re real. Just don’t eat dirty food. And vaccinate your kids. And Jane Curtin, if you’re reading this, you’re awesome and I’m a huge fan.

National Attitude Day

Keep a positive attitude. Behold the power of positive thinking. Keep your chin up, your brow raised, your nostrils flared and tackle each day with a smile.

Yeah, this is one of those holidays. I was ready to flush this into the bin of who-the-fuck-cares, but then I realized that by doing so I would not only be ignoring this celebration but specifically defying it. That didn’t seem right. Besides, there is a particular angle that can be seen as tremendously relevant, given the weird situation we’ve been going through this year.

We have faced two significant crises this year: a deadly virus and an explosion of race rage in America. Everyone has approached these issues with their own chosen attitudes. Some have been suspicious of authority, defying distancing rules and protesting that they want a haircut. They have opted for an attitude of Me-First, which is a big jump downward from the Me-Too trend that had emerged a couple years ago. We have seen judgmental attitudes, scornful attitudes, and utterly defeated attitudes in response to everything in the news. Looking through social media comments can be like walking through a minefield, with little blips of sheer misery and meanness lurking randomly about the landscape.

Jodie and I have remained optimistic; this is the attitude we have shoved outward toward the world. We are in an astounding position of privilege this year and we know that: we both have jobs that saw no hiccup in providing us with paycheques. We both have had the ability to stay home and isolate, and generally hide from the world. We are in Canada, which is plagued with racial issues, but no level racial violence like we’re seeing in the US. We are also white, middle-class hetero-cis grownups, so we possess nearly every type of societal privilege on the block, minus the trust fund. We acknowledge, therefore, that our attitude is a result of this privilege.

But even folks as fortunate as us are taking a more jaded approach to their outward attitudes, heaping scorn on those who disagree with them, and just generally spreading misery around a world already mired in it. Don’t be that person. Make people laugh, make people smile, just use your attitude to make this world a more tolerable hell-hole for everyone. It’s all how you look at it.

Hug An Atheist Day

There’s no great history to this day, no great mystery to this day, just a very simple notion. Hug an atheist. Do you know one? Of course you do – they’re everywhere. Should you actually hug one if you’re not living in the same house as him or her? No, we’re still supposed to be keeping a distance from other people right now, so you may need to settle for a virtual hug.

The most interesting relevant piece of research I found was a list of some famous people who are actually atheists. This includes Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, Billy Joel, Seth McFarlane (okay, that one isn’t a surprise), Rob Reiner, Joss Whedon, and Jodie Foster. Okay, well now there’s that information.

I have previously determined that I am a form of atheist, which does not specifically mean that one believes with full faith that there is no God. I’m in that curious realm between atheist and agnostic, wherein I simply don’t care. I don’t think there’s a God, but if I’m wrong so be it. I don’t suspect I’ll obtain any evidence that I’m wrong in my lifetime, and given that I am always hungering for knowledge and solving puzzles, I’ll direct my time and resources toward puzzles with a solution, or answers I’ll actually stand a chance of finding.

So Jodie hugged me. Mission accomplished.

Saturdays are always a wild ride through a huge batch of merriment-related obligations. Here’s what we have for today:

  • Bonza Bottler Day. We have special bottles of something to celebrate this one for the sixth time in 2020.
  • National Eyewear Day. A good time to celebrate the eyewear we own, and the stuff we’d like to own.
  • National Higher Education Day. Jodie will work on her Masters today. I’m not working toward any degree, so I might just get high.
  • National Gardening Exercise Day. Enough with the gardening. We don’t have a garden. What is this, for squat-watering?
  • National Yo-Yo Day. I’m kind of up and down about this one.
  • National Drive-In Movie Day. These are making a comeback during Covid times – not sure if we’ve got one playing in Edmonton at the moment.
  • National Applesauce Cake Day. What the hell is an applesauce cake? We’ll find out! (thanks, Mom!)
  • National Bubbly Day. We will link this with National Moscato Day, which we somehow completely forgot about last month.
  • National Prairie Day. We have a medium-size house on the prairie, so we’ll discuss that I suppose.
  • National Trails Day. Hopefully they’re happy trails. It’s supposed to be rainy and cold all day, so no hiking the trails.
  • Drawing Day. I guess we’ll draw something.
  • National Black Bear Day. We’ll learn a little something about these kick-ass creatures that can totally kick all of our asses.
  • National Pineapple Day. Does pineapple go with applesauce cake?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

While lifting our foot off the proverbial gas pedal that propels this project forward recklessly into a weird fuzzy abyss is out of the question, there exists the issue of our health. It’s no surprise that there are a number of eating celebrations this year; our research had revealed the non-shocker that folks give hearty praise to the food they love. But the mountains of sweets threaten to fall in upon us and bury us in an inescapable pit of obesity and high blood pressure. Some delicious treats will have to be shelved. For example, instead of praising Coconut Cream Pie this Friday, I’ll probably write a piece of epic prose or perhaps a sonnet in tribute instead. I need to live to 2021, if only to see what the world is like post-party. That said, we still tackled all this:

Cinco de Mayo

158 years ago the Battle of Puebla came to a dramatic close with the Mexican army under General Ignacio “Nacho” Zaragoza declaring victory over the French Empire. You had about 4,500 Mexicans battling about 6,500 French soldiers, so the odds weren’t in their favour even a little. This was a huge moral victory, and it vaulted the momentum of the Mexican troops to incredible heights, and caused the French to re-evaluate their approach to this intervention on Mexican soil. Unfortunately, they re-evaluated well. More troops were sent over, and the French took the capital about a year later.

But this moment of triumph meant the world to the Mexican people, even if their celebration was short-lived. President Juarez declared it a national holiday on May 9, 1862. In Mexico they hold ceremonial parades and battle re-enactments on this day, but the real party happens in the US. A lot of people confuse this with Mexico’s Independence Day (which is in September), and that’s fine – it’s an excuse to celebrate Mexican culture, which I’m sure is welcomed by the massive immigrant population in the US.

One interesting side-note to the Battle of Puebla: one noted historian believes if the French had not been thwarted on that day, they would have likely lent their support to the Confederate States of America. This might have shifted the Civil War in a very different direction. Fortunately we’ll never know.

We celebrated this one yesterday with a nice mix of Mexican music to accompany our work day. Found a lot of great stuff we’d never heard. ‘Twas a happy little Cinco.

National Astronaut Day

So, I could have been an astronaut. But rather than list all the reasons that little dream-of-8-year-old-Marty never came true (and there are many reasons) I’ll put a bit more of a positive spin on today. This day was created in 2016 by the Uniphi Space Agency to celebrate everything astronauts have done for the betterment of human knowledge. Who are the Uniphi Space Agency, you ask? They’re the other kind of agency – they will help you book astronauts for speaking engagements and such. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to book an astronaut to come have a talk with us, so we’ll have to make up our own way to celebrate.

I thought it would be interesting to see who is up there right now, spinning around our little rock from a can above the sky. The ISS is currently home to Expedition 63, a three-man team sent to see how extended periods in space affect human physiology, among other things. We’ve got three up there right now: Chris Cassidy from Salem, Massachusetts, Anatoli Ivanishin from Irkutsk, Russia (which we all remember from the Risk game board), and Ivan Vagner from Severoonezhsk, Russia, a town whose name I hope never to have to spell again.

Chris Cassidy, who looks like an older version of Ted from Schitt’s Creek, was a Navy SEAL, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, a Master of Science in Ocean Engineering from MIT, and this is his third trip up beyond the atmosphere. Like most astronauts, he’s an overachiever. Anatoli Ivanishin has not only been in space three times, this is his third visit to the ISS. Ivan Vagner is the engineer of the bunch.

These three guys are by themselves for now, but on May 28 they’ll be welcoming the crew of the Dragon Demo-2, the first US-launched space mission since the end of the space shuttle era in 2011. This will be a combined effort between NASA and Space-X, so a lot of astronaut history to be made this month. At this point neither Jodie nor myself will likely ever see the inside of a spacecraft so we’ll have to be satisfied firing off a big salute to those brave folks who blast themselves off this planet. It’s a pretty kick-ass job.

National Teacher Appreciation Day / Teacher Appreciation Week

This is the American celebration – the Canadian equivalent shows up in October. But let’s throw a little love toward all teachers right now, as they’re engaged in what will probably be the strangest year of their careers. School was cut off with very little warning, and teachers have had to scramble with how to deliver the curriculum points they have to impart to their kids, but in this new messed-up paradigm. Lesson plans, unit plans, year plans have had to be rewritten. Teachers who struggle with technology suddenly needed to know how to teleconference, and somehow maintain a classroom feel with only a screen in front of them.

Teachers are still putting in five days a week. They are still planning, marking, and responding to students. What they are lacking is in many cases the stuff they love the most about their job: coaches are hanging up their clipboards with no more athletics this year. Option teachers, phys. ed teachers, they’ve all seen their work cut short for the year. Jodie had a massive musical production of Matilda that was supposed to hit the stage this week. A lot of work had to be abandoned, and some of her most talented kids will scootch into high school next year, having missed out on the experience of a lifetime.

Then you have the human element. As baffling as it is to us non-teachers, most teachers actually like these children. They care about them, they worry about them, and their lives are intertwined with theirs. Now they have to sit at home knowing some of their kids are stuck with abusive parents, or not enough food to eat. And they can’t do much of anything about it.

Teachers deserve our love and respect for most of the usual reasons, and if this were a normal May 5th I’d be listing off those. But the way they have had to adapt, sacrifice and re-imagine their approach to their work in the last couple months is phenomenal. American and otherwise, thanks to all teachers out there for doing what you do.

National Cartoonists Day

Declared 30 years ago by the National Cartoonists Society, May 5 has been designated as the day to celebrate those writer/illustrator types who make us giggle, and hopefully make us think. We spent a chunk of yesterday looking through works of some of the greatest cartoonists: Bill Waterston, Berkeley Breathed, Gary Larson and even some old Don Martin Mad Magazine entries.

The first cartoons were political in nature of course. William Hogarth, English painter and satirist of the 18th century, gets credit for blazing the trail in this industry. He made little sequential illustrations known as ‘modern moral subjects’, which poked fun at the politics and the culture of the day. From there cartoonists were spewing stuff all over newspapers in Europe. The first American political cartoon was created by Ben Franklin, who was just padding his extensive resume at that point.

We have two weekly comic strip inserts in this town – or at least we used to when I was a kid. I haven’t seen an Edmonton Sun comics section in decades, or an Edmonton Journal one in probably five years. The Sun used to give us Garfield, Family Circus, and various other mediocre strips. The Journal had the good stuff: Far Side, Bloom County, Calvin & Hobbes. Bloom County still lives online, and their current focus on political satire still hits it out of the park – perhaps more now than it ever did.

I’m glad these folks get their own day, and that we had an excuse to get some chuckles yesterday.

Bonza Bottler Day

Our fifth Bonza day, a day to grab a bottle of something we don’t normally consume and celebrate it. For something different today we both enjoyed a bottle of A&W Root Beer.

The first place one could buy this root beer was opened up by Roy W. Allen in 1919. It was nothing more than a root beer stand – his family of burgers had yet to be born. He had purchased a root beer formula from a pharmacist whose name is lost to the ages. Back then pharmacists dispensed frothy or fizzy liquids as tonics – I don’t know that this particular root beer was supposed to have any medicinal properties, but I’m guessing not since the pharmacist sold it off to some guy to make his fortune.

Roy partnered with Frank Wright, and Mr. A and Mr. W. fused their names to either side of an ampersand and began to open franchises all over California. They had 170 running by 1933, but the only thing they all had in common was the root beer. Some opted to sell food, some didn’t. There were no common uniforms, no architecture to blend all the locations into a single brand, and no consistency.

A&W Root Beer is a true classic. They don’t serve their drinks with ice, which some find off-putting because it means they aren’t particularly cold. But the company doesn’t want to dilute their product, which makes sense. That’s also why the frosted vessel is the best possible way to consume the stuff. We wish we’d had proper root beer mugs but the budget for props and accessories for this project is pretty much the spare change we can shake free of our couch. That’s okay – we savoured the beverage and that was the point.

Hug a Shed & Take a Selfie Day

Take some time to appreciate the stuff in your shed: the gardening stuff, the lawn care stuff, the summer outdoor chores stuff… that’s just weird. I mean, I get loving to garden and fixing up your home’s perimeter as a hobby, but then just do it already. There are gardening days – even a naked one last weekend – and this is just another goofy way of translating the same sentiment.

So we took it literally. No time to garden yesterday (thanks to work stuff), but plenty of time for a weird shed-hug and a selfie.

Poem On Your Pillow Day

Print out a poem and leave it on the pillow of someone you care about to give them a sweet little surprise. That’s a touching sentiment. Unfortunately it’s one we can only carry so far. We have no working printer, so we’d be writing it out by hand. Also, there’s no element of surprise to be had, as Jodie is well aware of what’s happening in every day’s calendar.

To celebrate this one we settled for the William Carlos Williams poem I’d written out for Poem In Your Pocket Day last week. I plopped it on a pillow. Again, a literal interpretation is sometimes the best interpretation.

Nail Day

This is right on par with Hairstylists Appreciation Day popping up a couple days back. Jodie laments her beautiful nails, which stood ten strong and mighty just a couple months ago, and which have now been reduced to a ten-pack of normal-size, normal-colour nails like the rest of us schlubs. Her ability to get her nails done is, of course, restricted by the virus.

For me, I could actually devote yesterday – or a 45-60 second portion of it – to honouring this day. I trimmed my nails. Do you prefer the clippers or the scissors? We have both in our house, though I prefer the scissors. I don’t know why one is considered greater than the other, I only know I’ve used one for my entire life and see no reason to switch it up.

Here are some interesting facts about fingernails that you didn’t know you needed. They grow roughly 0.1 millimeters every day, but that speeds up in the summer. This is likely due to more vitamin-D-rich sunlight hitting them during the warmer months. They do not, however, keep growing after we die. That’s a myth, a confusion of witness testimony. It seems the skin around the base of the fingernail actually recedes after death so it gives the illusion of longer nails. You can also check out your nails for indicators of lung, heart and liver diseases. So they’re handy for more than prying open a stubborn pistachio shell.

The longest fingernails in the history of the world were grown by beautician Lee Redmond of Utah. It took her close to 30 years, but her thumbnail was two feet, eleven inches long. All ten nails combined stretched a total of 28 feet, 4 inches. I’m really wishing I hadn’t ended on such a gross mental image.

Today continues to rock along with plenty to keep us busy:

  • National Nurses Day. Some raves for all the awesome nurses out there.
  • National Totally Chipotle Day. Bumped from yesterday because I foolishly forgot it’s supposed to marinate for 6 hours.
  • National Beverage Day. We will endeavour to drink a large variety of beverages today.
  • National Crepe Suzette Day. We’d love to make this one, but it may not be in the cards today.
  • National Bike To School Day. This will also be tough, with no bike on hand and nowhere to bike to.
  • International No Diet Day. This will be easy. We’ll hop off our strict diets and actually eat some junk food today!
  • National Tourist Appreciation Day. There aren’t many tourists right now doing tourist things, but we’ll appreciate what we can.
  • No Homework Day. Jodie will assign no homework today. Of course, she met all her kids yesterday and assigned them their work for the week, so it’s not a big stretch, but hey – literal interpretation.
  • Great American Grump Out. Being grumpy for a purpose, instead of our usual being grumpy just because.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A cleansing rain spent much of the day lingering in the air outside our windows yesterday, which normally would have been a sad redirection to remain indoors. But indoors is where we have shined for the last six weeks, and we had to change almost zero plans. The earth spun us from one bevy of celebrations into the next with predictable aplomb, and we were as ready as we could possibly be.

National Star Wars Day

I always felt Star Wars should be celebrated on May 25, the anniversary of the day the first film opened, and not the pun-infused May the Fourth. That sacred day also occurred twenty years and one day before my daughter was born, so it means more to me. But clearly society outvoted me on this one, so who am I to argue? Star Wars is absolutely something worth celebrating.

My parents had the Beatles. They both tuned in (separately) to see them on Ed Sullivan, both bought every release as it came out, and they waited in line for the movies. They got to witness the greatest music-instigated cultural revolution of all time. When Star Wars dropped in 1977 it fused cinema with pop culture in a new way: geared to kids, but also to sci-fi lovers and anyone who was into being thrilled and wowed at the movies. Jaws had kicked off the tradition of the summer blockbuster just two years before. It was a cinematic revolution.

And it was ours. We collected the toys. We begged our parents for the video games. We wore the Halloween costumes (I was Death-Star outfit Luke once, Yoda twice). We ate the C3PO’s cereal. It was a connection between all of us, and the kids who didn’t care – there may have been a few – just didn’t get it. As we aged out of childhood, the trilogy came with us on home video, never losing its lustre even after dozens or hundreds of viewings. Then George changed a bunch of it, partly for the better, partly by cramming Jabba into an unnecessary scene and messing up the Gredo bit (Maclunkey!). But it was still great. Then came the prequels, which we got to enjoy with our kids: this ranged from the Duel of the Fates down to Anakin whining about sand like a little bitch. Then the sale to Disney and another, possibly endless surge of new content.

I have love for every single piece of Star Wars cinema – even the damn holiday special. I approached the last three films (the Skywalker films) with the hope of being entertained and thrilled for two hours and each one delivered. No need to pick nits, no need to kvetch about it not living up to my expectations. I had no expectations, except to enjoy myself. And I did – I don’t need the full-on, life-consuming culture of it anymore. I had that, and it helped to shape me. JJ did a great job, the new cast of heroes and villains are superb, and I’m grateful just to have closure on the trilogy that formed my childhood perception on cinema, on the hero’s journey, and even on religion.

We watched some Star Wars yesterday, specifically the documentary about the original trilogy. It was great. We love the fact that Mark Hamill, one of my childhood heroes, is still a great man with a huge heart and a warm humour – he’s still my hero. We love that new content is still being churned out, from the exceptional Mandalorian to the announcement yesterday that Taika Waititi will be helming the next film. It’s Star Wars. It’s life, love, and pure joy. Thanks George!

National Weather Observers Day

At this point in our project we were to have met up with a meteorologist on two separate occasions. One was cancelled due to illness, the other due to COVID. So we were left to be our own weather observers yesterday.

We learned a few ways to predict the weather without tuning in to Josh Classen on channel 2. First, the direction of the wind. Since wind is often the result of moving from high-pressure system to a low-pressure one, you can check the direction and see where you’re at. If it’s blowing westerly, it means the crappy weather is to the east of you – most weather moves west-to-east with the Jetstream. If it’s blowing easterly, then the crap is on its way. Easy enough.

If smoke from a fire blows straight upward, you’re in a high pressure system and you’re okay. If it spirals back down and swooshes around the ground, the low pressure system has moved in and lousy weather is on the way. Pinecones will stay closed up when it’s humid, which is often right before a storm hits. If they are open, it’s dry out and probably storm-free. Then there are the clouds. The white wispy ones mean the weather will be clear. Puffy ones mean it’s unstable, while flat ones indicate a more stable weather pattern. As bad weather approaches, the clouds tend to get lower. Also, if the clouds are leaking fluid, it’s probably raining.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Why? Because if the sky is red in the east as the sun is rising, it probably means the weather is good in the east, but bad weather is moving in from the west. Likewise, if it’s red at night, the bad weather has passed to the east. Rainbows are also an indicator: see them in the west, the bad weather is moving toward you. In the east, it has passed.

None of these are 100% gauges of the weather of course, as unpredictable things happen all the time. Also, I got these off the internet, so they might all be wrong. Yesterday we observed a consistent slab of grey clouds with plenty of steady rain. Which in this part of the world means it’s cold as fuck. That one we predicted accurately.

National Renewal Day

We didn’t make a lot of New Year’s Resolutions this year, apart from resolving to celebrate every day. This is a day to renew those resolutions, or to make new ones to carry forward for the next eight months. No need for us to do that – we are still committed to this same madness, and in some ways even more so.

There’s no question that COVID has changed our approach to these celebrations, mostly for the better. We have had to abandon our more interesting outings, which stinks because they would have made for more interesting experiences. But we have also had more time to devote to researching, learning, and appreciating the stuff we can take care of from home. As an example, I looked at my January 2 entry, which contained eight things we’d done the day before. I wrote one paragraph for each. Even the busy days were barely topping 1000 words – now I’m up to 3000 or more. Why? I have time. I also feel it’s good to research these things a bit more, to further our understanding of them.

And so we simply pointed our collective craft toward the future with a renewed optimism that we’ll get through the next 241 days. And perhaps I’ll refine my approach to brevity, if only to have more time to build puzzles, binge TV shows and play the expansion to Civilization VI that I just bought. Always forward!

National Orange Juice Day

How could we possibly celebrate this sacred day? It’s pretty self-explanatory. We drank some OJ. Celebration achieved.

But, in the spirit of the previous entry, what can we learn about Orange Juice? We know it comes from oranges, that Florida apparently makes a lot of it, and that it was a pivotal point in the final act of the film Trading Places. But surely there’s more to learn out there, right?

This day connects smoothly with Scurvy Awareness Day a couple days back. During WWII, American soldiers needed some citrus to ward off scurvy and get their Vitamin C. Their rations included crystalized lemonade, which they hated. The government worked with the Florida Department of Citrus and a team of scientists to produce frozen concentrated OJ, which unfortunately didn’t hit the market until 1948. It became the juice of choice across the nation until the 90s when not-from-concentrate reminded us that there is a tasty middle ground between the frozen canned stuff and freshly-squeezed. Still just about as much sugar as a soda, but hey, it felt healthier. And it gave us the vitamin we needed.

Let’s look a little deeper at the not-from-concentrate stuff, as that’s the only stuff we buy. From concentrate means they sucked out all the water after pasteurization, then froze it. Not from concentrate means they skipped that step, but they still store the juice (minus any oxygen) for up to a year, which strips the stuff of most of its flavour. Then a “flavour pack” gets added before the product is shipped off. The contents of those flavour packs do not need to be mentioned on the packaging. This is not comforting.

It’s best to look at OJ not as a health food (unless you’re squeezing it yourself), but as a sugary beverage that will keep away the scurvy. We’ll take it.

National Candied Orange Peel Day

We made these little things on Saturday, as they required a day to sit on the counter and dry. We followed this recipe, which means they are simply orange and lemon peels that have been boiled thrice to soften them and remove the bitterness, then a fourth time in sugary water before getting rolled around in sugar. The final photo on the website looks like delicious gummy worms. Ours look more like pus-covered regret worms.

Eating orange peels is not a new concept. The bergamot orange from Italy was bred mainly for its peel, which gets used in fragrances and also to flavour Earl Grey tea. Sweet orange oil, which is made by pressing the peel and extracting the liquid, is great for creating an orange flavoring, or for adding to cleaning products. Marmalade has bits of orange peel in it, and you can use the stuff as a slug repellant. Cool.

These things were sweet and tasty snacks, ideal for ice cream. This was a relief given how much of my Saturday night they stole for their creation.

Anti-Bullying Day

It’s hard to fathom what bullying is these days. It used to involve wedgies, swirlies, nurples of the purple variety, and assholes being assholes to people they felt would never hit back. But now physical bullying has been edged aside to make way for social media bullying, which is impacting school life in ways we older folks could never have anticipated. It’s hard for parents and teachers – most of whom are equally out of this loop – to keep up and keep a handle on.

Jodie took part in pink shirt day on the last Wednesday in February – that has become the anti-bullying day in Canada ever since 2008 when BC premier Gordon Campbell declared it so. Four years later the UN stepped in with their attempt to spread the anti-bullying sentiment around the globe, and they plunked this day on May 4. But we can trace the anti-bullying efforts back one year prior to Mr. Campbell’s declaration. A kid named Chuck was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to the first day of school in Nova Scotia, so the next day David Shepherd and Travis Price, two teachers (I assume), bought and handed out 50 pink shirts for kids to wear. That linked the pink shirt to the anti-bullying movement, and started this day’s trend.

Given that bullying has reached into a new realm, we probably won’t figure out the best way to deal with it until the kids who grew up around online bullying become of age to make the decisions about how to address it. I was somewhat surprised to learn that 1 in 4 kids in the US will be bullied as teenagers – I actually thought that number would be higher. But lest we get too optimistic, that same study showed that 71% of those bullied kids will see the bullying continue day after day. That’s a lot of struggling kids. If you’re a parent, we encourage you to learn all you can about how this cyberbullying takes place, and try to watch for the signs. Your kid might be struggling beneath their own bully, or they might be the assholes bullying others. Never underestimate the asshole potential of your own kid.

Dave Brubeck Day

Dave Brubeck, the great pianist and jazz-mathematician, was born on December 6 and died on December 5, so why is his official day celebrate in May? Simple: his most famous musical creation, the 1959 instrumental “Take Five”, was written in a 5/4 time signature. 5/4 = May 4. Very cute.

Just as the Beatles explored other musical genres and fused them with rock music, Dave and his band were eager to infuse some elements of Eurasian folk music into jazz, which led to the creation of the Time Out album and their experimentation with kooky time signatures. For those of us without the inner meter honed to these rhythms, it means a lot of counting to keep track of the groove. But Brubeck and his band made it all seem so natural and easy.

That album hit #2 on the Billboard charts, and became the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies. “Take Five” hit #25 on the Hot 100 chart, which is unlikely to ever happen again for a jazz record. In fact, the only jazz records that topped its performance on the charts were Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” in 1964 and the Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto single “The Girl From Ipanema” the same year. Instrumental jazz though? It simply didn’t have a presence on the mainstream charts, except for Dave’s tune.

We were fortunate to have seen Dave Brubeck when he played here several years ago. It was a pleasure to indulge in listening to an assortment of his works yesterday, even if we had to count along for some of them. He’ll have turned 100 this December, so we’ll celebrate him again then. Great music never gets old.

International Respect for Chickens Day

No, this is not a day to respect the deliciousness of chickens, be they Kentucky-fried, chow meined, or pot pied. This day is a product of the United Poultry Concerns, a non-profit that seeks to bring awareness to just how shittily these creatures – turkeys and ducks included – get treated around the world. Remember when PETA-friendly celebrities were up in arms over the way KFC housed their chickens in tiny boxes or beefed them up (pun highly regretted) to offer more tasty meat? That stuff didn’t go away just because we all got distracted by pogs or that Pizza Rat or whatever. A lot of chickens still face a crappy life.

So how can we help these birds? There are videos and leaflets we can read and distribute to our friends and family, but that won’t have much of an effect on most people, apart from perhaps encouraging them to distance themselves from our friendship. We can learn how our chicken suppliers treat their fowl, and avoid the bad ones. That’s not an easy investigation though, and odds are if your poultry suppliers treat their chickens in a rotten way, they won’t tell you about it.

Unfortunately, apart from those ideas the best thing we can do is not eat KFC, or even better, don’t eat chicken. Go vegan. We shan’t be doing that, but we will do our part to call awareness to this cause. Respect them birds, and treat ‘em with love.

Cinco de Cuatro

Fans of Arrested Development will no doubt be happy with the inclusion of this day. If you followed the show into its controversial Season 4 on Netflix, you’ll recall this was a day in which George and Lucille Bluth, miffed at their housekeeper booking Cinco de Mayo off, decided to create a holiday to thwart it. A big festival is held in Newport Beach in which people buy up all the sombreros, pinatas, and other merchandise and toss them into the bay, thus eliminating any ability for “the help” to celebrate the next day.

The day’s name, which fits in with the cluelessness of the in-show creators, actually harkens back to something spoken by Barrack Obama on May 4, 2009. He chuckled about making a Cinco de Mayo announcement a day early, saying “Welcome to Cinco de Cuatro”. He misspoke of course – the name literally translates to the “fifth of four”.

So to celebrate this day, we watched some Arrested Development. I wish we could celebrate more things this way. Then again, we’ve already had four laughter-based days and I anticipate we’ll get a few more, so I suppose we can. Happy 5th of 4, everyone.

A slightly lighter day? Maybe. Depends how deeply we want to dive into all this:

  • Bonza Bottler Day. For the fifth time this year we enjoy a special bottle of something.
  • National Astronaut Day. Let’s see who’s currently astronauting right now up on the ISS.
  • National Chipotle Day. We don’t have that particular fast food establishment up here, but we can cook up some chipotle chicken!
  • National Hoagie Day. Ideally we’ll celebrate this the same way we celebrated Submarine Day last month, with a sandwich from the Italian Centre.
  • Cinco de Mayo. Since our food is already spoken for, and we can’t attend any cultural events right now, this may be a day of great Mexican music.
  • National Teacher Appreciation Day. I’ll write a few paragraphs about how much I appreciate my wife. She loves it when I do that.
  • Cartoonists Day. A fun day to pay tribute to the greatest cartoonists of our time.
  • Hug A Shed And Take A Selfie Day. The fuck? Yes, this is a thing. We’ll do as the title insists.
  • Nail Day. A fine day to trim our nails. What a party!
  • National Concert Day. Maybe we’ll watch and/or listen to a concert. We certainly can’t attend one.
  • Poem On Your Pillow Day. I still have the poem I wrote out for Poem In Your Pocket Day last week. I guess I’ll drop it on my pillow?
  • Revenge of the Fifth. Another Star Wars pun, this day so we can pay tribute to the Sith and the good ol’ dark side.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Every day we chase a purpose which eludes us like vapour, we target our goals upon treacherous pathways, and we lob a hunch or several toward what might let a little more sunshine into this new normal of weirdness. Friday we raged against the white noise of modern life by whipping up chocolate mousse. It worked, albeit temporarily (which is the pinnacle of success these days). Here’s how we fought the demons of stir-craziness yesterday:

National Walk Around Things Day

At this point I was not expecting to glean any deeper meaning from this celebration. As we learned yesterday from National Find A Rainbow Day, sometimes these things are not meant to be interpretational. Sometimes these weird celebrations are meant to be exactly what they are. I couldn’t find any definitive source for this day, and the sites I visited simply suggested walking around things to celebrate the day.

So we walked around things.

Rather than knock over the kitchen table when I was done lunch, I walked around it. Instead of kicking our sleeping Trixie on the kitchen floor, I walked around her. And where the option presented itself to step deep into the pile of turd that Liberty, our youngest canine research assistant, opted to leave in the middle of the driveway, I walked around it. This may have been the silliest, least-vivacious celebration of 2020 so far. And we had a day last week where we celebrated the pencil.

I don’t know what to say – this celebration will not live on as one of our finest. But we did what we had to. Sometimes that’s all we can ask.

National Hug A Newsperson Day

As expected, we were unable to complete the true aim of this day. We hugged one another, and often we learn significant news stories from each other when a headline appears to one of us first. But that’s a flimsy hook upon which to hang this celebration, so I’m going to say that doesn’t count.

This era is seeing the pool of valued newspeople drying up – or more accurately getting shuffled out of the spotlight. Our local newspapers are both owned by the same company – which also owns the two major newspapers in Calgary. That’s one corporate voice for two cities. They have trimmed their local newsroom to the size of a generous closet, and run mostly stories and features put out by the national company to all their media outlets. Our TV newspeople are still thriving, but their ratings have taken a hit.

Sure, we still have Gord Steinke delivering the 6:00 news on Global (I assume – we’re both among those who have fled TV news for the internet). I can’t hug the guy today, but I do appreciate his decades of service informing our town. We read a lot of New York Times articles, but it’s not like I can call up Charles Blow and invite him over for a warm embrace.

Instead I opted to reach out to one of the greatest newspeople of the last century, Mr. Dan Rather. Dan was the face of CBS News for 24 years. Since retiring, he has written books, made numerous TV appearances, and has become an outspoken voice against the corruption and division of the current state of federal American politics. A fresh news brand, News & Guts, which is admittedly biased to the left, but has not posted any inaccurate information from what I’ve seen, has been created by Dan’s hand – his 88-year-old hand – and he continues to lead with positivity and optimism, tempered with a realistic grasp on the events of the current age. I sent him a note and thanked him – that will have to do for a hug today. You can bet if we ever met him in person, we’d both slap a couple of hearty hugs on him.

National School Librarian Day

Every year on April 4, the world celebrates National School Librarian Day. The first and most obvious question is: why the fuck? This day should land on the first Friday of April, or better still (because that might be Good Friday sometimes), the first Wednesday. Celebrate it on a day when these hard working souls can be showered with gifts, praise, and the adulation they so definitely deserve.

The school librarian is not just the keeper and the cataloguer of novels and reference materials. They teach students how to study. How to read. How to understand the Dewey Decimal System, which is still absolutely a thing. For this coveted celebration – and in the wake of the devastating cuts our provincial government just delivered to our education system – I feel I should pay tribute to a school librarian that meant a lot to me. (I know, no politics, but the aforementioned cuts were simply fact, and they suck)

Mr. Gibson, about whom I have written before, was our school librarian, and in his final year before retirement he was my eighth grade Language Arts teacher. The man offered us little in the way of creativity or fun all year – it was almost completely about spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Yet he somehow delivered the most drab and dreary part of junior high English lessons in a way that made me fall in love with the language. He showed us how to find the poetry in regular prose, and how a properly-tweaked sentence can elevate a clump of words into a thing of beauty.

Also, he taught me the Dewey Decimal System, so thanks for that, Mr. Gibson. To all school librarians out there, whether or not you still have employment you are most likely sitting around home, wishing you could be back among the spines of literature and the clattering of curious minds inside young skulls. We thank you for what you do, and look forward to next year when you get to do it again. We hope.

Maybe not in Alberta.

National Vitamin C Day

As a kid, I downed 500mg of Vitamin C every day, along with my Flintstones chewable vitamin, which is no doubt why I am the picture of perfect health today, extensive dessert celebrations notwithstanding. Vitamin C, I was told by my father, was the greatest natural supplement on the planet. When the first inklings of a cold would hit, my dad would tell me to triple or quadruple my Vitamin C intake, as that would push the cold from my system in record time. Then he would insist I self-isolate for 14 days, and socially distance from him as much as possible. My dad was either ahead of his time, or kind of a dick to sick people.

Vitamin C is indeed tied to the immune system, and it’s a great antioxidant. It will not keep a cold at bay, but there may actually be some scientific grounds for claiming it will make a cold dissipate faster. Vitamin C is also the OG Vitamin. It was discovered in 1912 and was the first vitamin to be chemically produced for intake on its own, in 1933.

Without Vitamin C you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to scurvy, which is kind of bad-ass in a pirate sort of way, but ranks only slightly above having a peg-leg in terms of pirate awfulness. You’ll get spots on your skin, spongy gums, your hair will be all twisted and weird, your wounds won’t heal, you’ll be depressed, your teeth will fall out, and you’ll eventually die. Screw that – have an orange.

The Kakadu plum has the highest concentration of Vitamin C, a whopping 5,300 mg per 100g of fruit. By comparison, a guava only has 228mg, a serving of kale only 120mg, and an orange only 53mg. Unfortunately you won’t stumble across any Kakadu plums unless you’re wandering through the wilds of western Australia. Your best bet among fruits and vegetables in this part of the world is the guava I’m afraid. But Health Canada states we only need 90mg per day, so a couple of oranges will do the trick. I had a glass of delicious orange juice yesterday, and celebrated my health. Now if only they’d make Flintstones vitamins for grownups.

Bonza Bottler Day

Every month when the day number lines up with the month number, we enjoy a special bottle of something. Why? Because why not? It gives us the opportunity to try out numerous beverages throughout the year, and to tack on a repeating celebration that will last throughout the entire year.

Jodie was not particularly adventurous yesterday, opting for a bottle of Stewart’s Root Beer, which is precisely the same thing she drank last month. She knows what she likes and she sticks with it. I guess this is the secret to our long marriage, so I best not complain.

I went for a Longboat Chocolate Porter from Phillips Brewery out of Victoria, BC. I’ve had one of these before, years ago at the Next Act – back when venturing to a local bar for delicious burgers and unforgettable beers was a thing we humans could do. I was thrilled to sample it again – the chocolate really stands out and transforms this beer into a dessert all its own. It was dark and flavourful, and instantly transported me from my quarantined seclusion onto Willy Wonka’s river of delicious chocolate – only without all the dead and dying children and indentured slaves.

Looking forward to May 5, when we may perhaps savour our Bonza Bottles outside with other humans. If not – oh well. We’re getting pretty good at this.

National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day

This was the recipe we bastardized in order to come up with our own little version of chicken cordon bleu last night. It was fantastic, and incredibly easy to make. Jodie was dead set against using Swiss cheese however, and I am not a fan enough to have mounted any firm defense. Instead we used Havarti, known for being creamier than pretty much any other cheese, and with a delicate and less intrusive taste than Swiss. Maybe it’s not true cordon bleu. Maybe we don’t care – we wanted to celebrate the spirit of the dish, and this worked.

“Cordon bleu” translates from the French as “blue ribbon.” This is a highly-esteemed ribbon, even outside of the dog show circuit. According to the Larousse Gastronomique, which is an encyclopedia of French cuisine which no doubt every aspiring chef has to purchase and probably memorize at some point in their training, the blue ribbon reflects the ones worn by the highest order of French knights back in the day. This is champion chicken.

Chicken cordon bleu is not a dish that can be traced back to ancient roots in Brittany, or back to Gaul before the Roman Empire moved in and shook up the local address book. Brig, Switzerland is believed to be where a similar schnitzel dish was popular in the 1940s, and the first reference to “chicken cordon bleu” by the New York Times wasn’t until 1967. This is a dish of the atomic era, and it holds up well.

Pound some chicken flat, stuff it with ham and cheese, roll it up and top it with a tasty, creamy sauce. Simple as that. It was a great little dinner celebration.

International Pillow Fight Day

On March 22, 2008, the largest pillow fight in the world broke out. This is not something that was reported on widely, but you can be certain it will be studied in history books decades in the future. Over 25 cities around the globe took part, with more than 5,000 people swatting each other with cushions in a single battle in New York City. This was a pillow fight of truly Churchillian proportions.

Every year since, organizers have tried to duplicate the coordinated madness of this day, having moved the annual celebration to the first Saturday in April, because a massive pillow fight on a weekday would be silly. Naturally, like everything else fun in the world, the nation-spanning fight was cancelled this year. This left us to pick up the slack with a little in-house battle.

Just a helpful tip for those of you who want to dip into some crazy cushion warfare: if you have dogs, they will want to join in. Trixie, our eldest canine research assistant, stayed back and watched the quick battle unfold with trepidation. Trixie is scared of most things – including human sneezes – so this was not her scene. Rosa and Liberty did everything they could to join in, and in turn we did everything we could not to allow either of them to get caught in the crossfire. It was a fun way to spend a chunk of our isolation, and really the closest we’ve come to actually battling one another in the entire 3 weeks of our quarantine so far. Not bad.

International Carrot Day

Ah, the wonderful daucus carota. It shows up in purple, black, red, white and yellow, but it’s our orange friends we love best. We all know that eating carrots will improve your night vision and fill your gullet with vitamins K and B6, but did you know that the single ancestor of all the world’s domestic carrots can be traced back to Persia?

Over the centuries carrots have been bred to reduce bitterness and improve the taste. The first bounty that carrots provided were its leaves and seeds, which were devoured through Asia and up into Europe some 5,000 years ago. This still persists with a number of the carrot’s close relatives, like parsley, fennel, dill and cilantro. It wasn’t until the 1st century AD when the Romans recorded a fondness for a root vegetable, which was either the carrot or the parsnip. Having sampled both, I’m leaning toward the carrot.

The orange carrot we know and love today was actually crafted by the Dutch in the 1600s as a way to honour William of Orange and the Dutch flag. Before then, most of the carrots people ate were purple. Carrots have found their way into all sorts of modern culture, most notably as Bugs Bunny’s favourite oral fixation while he asks the local Doc what is up. Also, carrots have found their way into a number of urban legends. Like that thing about the Dutch creating orange ones for their flag? Yeah, that’s probably bullshit. They won’t help you see at night either – the British put out that little nugget of false propaganda during WWII in order to confuse their enemies into thinking they had superpowers.

What a weird little tangent this carrot research took me through. Whatever – it’s a great vegetable, a very modest source of Vitamin C (double celebration?), and we were happy to devour some carrots with dinner last night. Even if they didn’t help us see in the dark.

404 Day

Celebration not found.

Carry on.

Tell A Lie Day

Only three days after the day we are supposed to promote dishonesty for the purpose of ensnaring a friend or loved one in a prank, we find a day in which we are purportedly supposed to tell a falsehood. Why? Just for the sake of doing it.

No one knows who started this day. I’m thinking no one would be able to piece together specifically why. A day for lying? How does this benefit humankind, to have a day devoted to dishonesty? Celebrations that drag down our collective humanity are not the type we should be indulging in, however we are so presently mesmerized by how many celebrations we have packed into this pandemic-laced year so far, we simply couldn’t drop it.

So, we lied. I told that bit about carrots granting night vision. Jodie lied and told me I still look acceptable to leave the house despite my refusal to wear pants that aren’t sweatpants. We lied, then moved on to more positive, rewarding celebrations.

Today will find us facing the sunrise with integrity and honesty, and getting a little goofy with the following reasons to party:

  • National Caramel Day. The greatest sweet treat on the planet finally gets its due today.
  • National Deep Dish Pizza Day. While it’s unlikely we’ll be able to recreate the majesty of a true Chicago-style deep dish pizza, we will do our damnedest to try.
  • National Nebraska Day. Back on our cross-America food tour, we’ll be wetting our whistle with Nebraska’s greatest contribution to beverages: Kool-Aid.
  • National Read A Road Map Day. I love road maps. And I love reading. So today we’ll combine those two things.
  • Cold Food Festival. A lot of eating today, and not all of it will be hot food.
  • First Contact Day. In just 43 years we’ll watch as Dr. Zefram Cochrane first employs warp drive and initiates our first contact with the Vulcans. It’s a special pre-commemoration day.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Another week stumbles and fumbles its way across the finish line, and we find ourselves once again faced with a weekend of quiet quarantine and responsible celebration – at least mostly. Last night allowed us to get slightly irresponsible for the sake of our sacred calendar, and a groovy time was had by all. Things got a little fluffy and funky:

National Chocolate Mousse Day

Having endured five brutal days with no dessert celebrations, at long last we emerged into the light once more. I have never whipped together a chocolate mousse, but this recipe appeared conquerable. It was. The mousse was fluffy and perfect – or so it appeared. We had to let it refrigerate for 5 hours before digging in, and it was 10:00 at night, so we’ll be sampling the fruits of our labour today. And we still have some black forest cake and lemon chiffon pie left over. I think if there’s any question left as to how healthy this project is, we can probably answer it with a large-gutted chortle.

Aside from being a beloved character in the film Top Secret, chocolate mousse is a fluffy blend of chocolate, whipped egg whites and cream. Egg yolks are incorporated as well, mainly to enhance the mouthfeel. We here at Celebrate366 are all about enhancing the mouthfeel.

There is no definitive history of chocolate mousse – fluffy desserts have been in fashion for as long as humans have been making food fluffy. This means at least 250 years, probably more. Of course if you’re not a fan of chocolate (why???), you can opt for a lemon mousse, a strawberry mousse, or you could go full-on savoury with salmon, liver, shrimp, cheese or veggies. You can mousse up pretty much anything – I suppose that’s the disturbing take-away from this celebration. Fortunately, the day is officially designated as Chocolate Mousse Day, so we weren’t tempted to whip up some scallops just to see what happens.

If you’re looking for an easy dessert to mix things up, this mousse recipe comes highly recommended and duly celebrated. It will be a genuine treat once we get around to eating it.

National Tweed Day

We are not significant imbibers of tweed – there, I said it. I own nothing made from the stuff, and Jodie has a jacket which she wasn’t completely sure was tweed until we checked. It was not. To be perfectly honest, I’ve probably never owned anything tweed. Why is that? What is wrong with me? These are the questions that haunt me.

Tweed used to be the fabric of the upper-classes. Fancy shooting jackets were all the rage in the 19th century, back before we all started shooting in regular jackets. The middle class glommed onto the tweed fad, as it was attainable snippet of upper-class life. Mr. Toad, the character whose wild ride shows up in The Wind In The Willows, was known for driving his vehicle while wearing a Harris tweed suit. This associated the fabric with the new upper-and-eventually-middle-class pastime of driving. Tweed garments have good staying power, which is why people still have hand-me-downs made from the stuff going back nearly a century. Hipsters have now adopted the trend, which is something to consider if you’re thinking about being a tweed person. What will people think of you?

Tweed will keep you cozy, and it’s not likely it will ever appear to be unfashionable. It’s even a material in musical instrument construction, from the cloth backing on Danemann pianos to the classic Fender Tweed Deluxe guitar amp. Some folks have even made bagpipes from the stuff, but let’s not hold that against the fabric. We had considered finding a second-hand tweed jacket for me for spring (which is rumored to arrive in Edmonton sometime in the next few years), but shopping for fun is an activity we’ll have to save for later this year. Still, we have Jodie’s coat (or the memory of when we thought Jodie’s coat might be tweed), and a suitable way to say happy day, tweed.

National Find A Rainbow Day

Finding a rainbow when the weather outside is 20 degrees too cold to allow rain isn’t easy. We turned on the taps and tried to get some refraction, that didn’t work. We hoped to reflect something off the sun to (a) provide a splitting of the light and a rainbow-like effect, and (b) freak our dogs out with mysterious lights scooting about our kitchen floor. Alas, it was overcast for much of the day.

I was actually hoping I’d look this day up and find that it is a metaphor – find the rainbow of light and positivity in the midst of the dark clouds of grim reality – something like that. Nope, this day is actually intended to get us all outside, looking for rainbows. Seems a bit arbitrary – a rainbow is not an every day occurrence. And creating one artificially without actual beams of bright sunlight, that’s particularly tricky. I did have a look at my copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, but a drawn rainbow probably doesn’t count.

So in lieu of actual refracted light dancing about our home, we instead looked to celebrate the made-up metaphorical interpretation of this little holiday. A rainbow in nature is something that draws our attention and gives us pause for just a moment. In the midst of such global madness, we took a moment to find a bit of tranquility. Some natural beauty to brighten up our view. For Jodie it was dogs, of course. Pets have no clue that the natural order of the world is in disarray, and to our dogs this is just a heavenly respite from being left alone while we venture off to work. Their simple magnificence was Jodie’s rainbow yesterday. My rainbow I was able to blend with another one of yesterday’s festivities:

National Film Score Day

For those of us who find working to lyric-heavy music to be difficult and disorienting, there is nothing so fine as the film score to fill the air and drive our fingertips to thumping our message onto our keyboards. Since yesterday was the day to do it, I tracked down a great 35-hour Spotify playlist of a variety of scores. Some were epic, some were flowery, others added a majestic drama to my writing. Well, to the act of writing, not so much to the finished result, as you can tell by the words you’re reading right now.

The film score found its way into movies before the advent of talkies. Originally, silent films would be accompanied by a live pianist who would do their own thing, and try to make the music match up with the vibe on the screen. Soon scores were being specifically written – Charlie Chaplin wrote a bunch of his own for the movies he produced, wrote, directed and starred in. He was a bit of an overachiever.

When movies introduced synchronized sound, the addition of specific music became crucial. This took a leap forward with King Kong in 1931, where music reflected the strange foreign land that served as the setting for the early part of the film. Moving through the 30s and into the 50s Hollywood films were heavy on flowery scores, with lush music often seeping into almost every scene. This was the golden age of film scores. Once popular music started dropping into movie backgrounds (notably Simon & Garfunkel showing up in The Graduate in 1968), the role of the film score changed.

Some of the greatest composers of the 20th century made their marks composing film scores. Here I’m speaking of Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, Danny Elfman, Howard Shore, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Alan Sylvestri and Hans Zimmer. For the masters of the score we bid a hearty thanks – it’s still the best music to study, to read, and to work to.

World Party Day

Did you party? We partied. We partied hard. By which I mean I wrote this in-depth handful of paragraphs about World Party Day, then I proceeded to down a bunch of rum and a large joint last night. If we can’t get down and funky with a crowd of fellow partyers we can at least embrace the spirit of inebriation, right? Well, there was no one to tell me I couldn’t, so I did. Jodie wasn’t on board, but that’s not really her thing. She actually goes to parties to socialize. I don’t get it.

Author Vanna Bonta apparently came up with this day. How manically the populace has latched onto it I have no idea. I’d never heard of World Party Day before this year, and all I can find about it is that it showed up in this woman’s book, and… it exists. I can see no photo collages of past World Party Days, nor can I see any trace of an event taking place in my city for the occasion. Should we blame COVID-19? Or just chalk this up to being an obscure day, meant to be celebrated only by people crazily trying to celebrate everything all year and die-hard Vanna Bonta fans? That sounds more on the mark.

Parties are, for the time being, meant to be held in a virtual space. That said, it’s always a party with three feisty dogs, so I guess we nudged a little closer to the true spirit of the day (right, Vanna Bonta? What say you?). Just to solidify the celebration I also listened to the album Bang! by British band World Party, which was a thing in the 90s. They were a great little unit, fronted by former Waterboys keyboardist Karl Wallinger. “Is It Like Today,” the big single from that album, is a wonderful throwback to Beatle-era songwriting with a modern (for 1993) aesthetic. It added to the party.

I’d say we safely celebrated this one, and it was inevitable – every day in 2020 is a party for us, even with the world melting into terrified goop all around us. This is what we signed up for. May the party keep rocking for another 9 months.

National Walk To Work Day

From 2004 to 2012 the first Friday in April in the US was National Walk To Work Day. That went away for some reason, but was brought back in an article last year, as a suggestion for people to take advantage of the health benefits of walking. Remember National Walking Day? That was three days ago. Yesterday we were expected to do it again. I mean, what the hell? It’s not like we got two Peach Melba days.

Alas, walking to work would be unrealistic for Jodie and I most of the time. Her drive is 15-20 minutes, my bus commute is 45-60 minutes, and while we could both walk instead, we would have had to arise at an ungodly hour to do so. Also, we’d have had to face the snarl of winter, which appears to have settled in for the next few days / eternity. Fortunately, all of this has been rendered moot by current events.

We both work from home – Jodie twice a week, me every day. So walking to work meant all of 2-3 seconds as we wandered from our bedroom to the office across the hall. Sure, it’s cheating but we’re being true to the day. And yes, we did walk in a more exercise-friendly context, having headed out for supplies later in the day. But the point was to walk to work. That was the easiest celebration since eating Rolos for National Chocolate Caramel Day back on March 19. Mission accomplished.

National Don’t Go To Work Unless It’s Fun Day

Always a good rule, as long as you have a job that’s consistently fun or you don’t mind being unemployed. Actually, you should always be able to inject a bit of fun into work. Your job may not be fun – and let’s face it, it probably isn’t – but you can bring some laughs. Tell a joke, or if that isn’t your thing then set up someone else to deliver a good joke. Someone in your work community has a decent sense of humor.

Maybe you can make a game out of your work. Try to finish compiling the mail-merge in Microsoft Excel before the song you’re listening to (perhaps something by 90s Brit-pop band World Party) finishes. If you’re a long-distance trucker, take a shot (of coffee of course) every time you see a red car. If you work in a dreary office and for some reason have to actually be there right now, start up a game with some co-workers on your break – maybe some three-card monte or that thing where you stab a hunting knife between each of your fingers really quickly. Better still, find someone around you who has a better idea of fun than I do and get some suggestions from them!

We both worked from home yesterday, and it’s safe to say we had fun. I was chasing a swarm of government communications, but I also listened to some dramatic film scores at the same time. Updating a tracking spreadsheet can actually border on modestly fun while John Williams’ Imperial March is playing. Jodie also enjoyed the dogs wrestling manically while she tried to avoid being distracted.

One should always be looking to bring some fun into work, especially now.

Today another wild weekend day will keep us hopping busy:

  • Bonza Bottler Day. For the fourth time this year we each enjoy a bottle of something special today.
  • National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day. Looks like this is what’s for dinner.
  • National Hug A Newsperson Day. Hugs are something no stranger should be imparting to another, so we’ll do some virtual hugs today, and send out some big thank-yous to some of our most revered newspeople.
  • National School Librarian Day. An odd day to appear on a Saturday. Given that support staff in schools here in Alberta are fortunate if they still have jobs, we will extol the benefits of a school librarian, and think back to some of the ones we’ve known.
  • National Vitamin C Day. We will eat some foods rich in Vitamin C and watch our health explode in goodness.
  • National Walking Around Things Day. No going through, over or under. Only around. Who comes up with these days?

International Pillow Fight Day. Hell yes

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

When the echoes of this project are swept off the walls and the sweet release of daily monotony once again returns to the throne of our lives, people may ask… how did you do all this stuff? When they see that some celebrations are mere entries in our written tome and not features in our visceral presence, will they question the authenticity of those celebrations? I put it to you thusly: if I devote 15-30 minutes of my day to learning about and interpreting what I know about mulled wine, I feel that is a fair tribute to the beverage. Yes, we would have liked to have had some on hand, but we did not. We can’t imbibe ‘em all, I’m afraid.

Bonza Bottler Day

For those who are just tuning in, on every day this year when the month’s number and the day match up (it’s 3-3!) we celebrate Bonza Bottler Day by cracking open a fresh bottle of something interesting.

Jodie opted for a Stewart’s Root Beer, which originated at Stewart’s Restaurants. These were drive-in root beer and popcorn stands, first opened in Mansfield, Ohio in 1924. There are still 30 Stewart’s locations open – they’re retro 50’s diners now – and most of those are in New Jersey. But we can enjoy their greatest legacy.

I had to try the new Quebec Maple Coca-Cola. Made with actual cane sugar (it’s like they’re starting to get the idea), this isn’t horrible. I mean, it’s weird – it’s Coke with a splash of maple flavouring – but it’s not bad. I don’t see myself craving another, but April 4 is only a month and a day away, so who knows?

National Anthem Day

Look, I’d rather live in this country than any other on the planet right now, but that has nothing to do with the quality of our national anthem. The American anthem is fine, but it’s just a patriotic chest-pounder like most of the rest of them.

I found a list ranking the best anthems, compiled by Classic FM, a British classical music station. They turned the world over to critic David Mellor, and these are his favorites and my impressions of them:

  • Wales: Sounds like it’d go well with a raised stein of something boozy.
  • Italy: Peppy, upbeat number. Heavy on the snappy snare, that’s nice.
  • France: Works in a Beatles song and kicked ass in Casablanca.
  • Germany: They should ditch this old number and get Kraftwerk to create something modern.
  • USA: Fine song, but is it necessary before every sporting event?
  • Japan: Like something from an Ozu film. A bit of a downer.
  • Switzerland: Sounds like chamber music. Like… a sad pride in who they are.
  • Russia: Now this is an anthem you can kick some ass to. So far, this one is my favourite.
  • Poland: Another one with some cajones in the melody. Not bad.
  • Uruguay: Not bad, but it’s not inspiring me, at least until the last verse.

This is where nationalism leaves me at a loss. None of these songs are particularly wonderful, and none of them are even a little bit fun. Should patriotism involve some sort of joy? I’m happy about living in Canada, no need to be all solemn about it. We need something that really rocks to usurp “O Canada”. I propose “Happy Hour” by the Tragically Hip.

National I Want You To Be Happy Day

This is a vague and altogether generic little commemoration. I could find no origin for the holiday, and the suggested ways of celebrating it are to leave someone a chipper note, or draw a happy face in the snow. Really? Need we stray so far from direction as to wind up aimlessly spreading fuzzy emotions in an outward motion? Of course I want people to be happy. Numerous days in this year are set with that purpose.

But how much say do we really have in anyone else’s happiness? We each took a turn dishing out treats and meals to Liberty, our #3 canine research assistant, and she seemed happy to the point of utter goofery. In fact, that’s her up there, happy as shit after sticking her face into Jodie’s shower and biting the water. We smiled at strangers, though we aren’t certain how many were lifted up by our bouncy grins, and how many thought we were creeps.

That said, we will deviate from the cynical path. If people were to adopt the spirit of this holiday every day, imagine the karmic shift from our cosmic muck-water. If people casting ballots in yesterday’s Super-Sized Tuesday might have based their selection upon which candidate could make the most people happy, how might things have landed differently? This is the important lesson for handling the political mire of 2020: remember that most folks on the other side want the most possible happiness for the most possible people – they just see different paths on the way to that destination.

We’ll take this as a somewhat tepid call for celebration, but with a glorious life philosophy at its root. Definitely a well-directed squeeze of spirit.

National Cold Cuts Day

A day devoted to that resident of so many sandwiches, those cured sheets of prepared perfection. Cold cuts were bred for lunchtime, though the charcuterie platter welcomes them to any meal. Some cold cuts are alternate ways to dish out old favourites: roast beef, ham, turkey, etc. Others are disappointing shadows of their best selves, like the shiny thin pastrami we get up here. Others are products of a weird piece of culinary culture – crazed techno-bastards like the ham and cheese loaf, or that stuff with all the pimentos.

Cold cuts are among my least favourite main course items. A cold black forest ham sandwich on multigrain holds no room for spark or sensation. This is why I opt for leftovers for lunch – I want a main course I’ll remember an hour later. But with the right blend of sharp cheese, crispy crackers and juicy fruits, the charcuterie is a thing of beauty. That was our dinner last night – a mix of salamis, capicola, and a bit of prosciutto to complement the last of our English cave-cheese.

I suspect many of our readers will have celebrated this day without even knowing it yesterday. And that’s great – but if you’re sitting down with a sandwich of deli cuts today, take a moment and behold the mastery of the design. It’s a simple protein delivery system, always aptly cooked, smoked or prepared, and dependably consistent.

One question though… if those are cold cuts, why is it when they prepare a hot pastrami or corned beef sandwich, no one refers to those as hot cuts?

National Mulled Wine Day

We’re honestly a little surprised this day didn’t wander into the calendar a little closer to Christmas. Mulled wine is made from red wine, mixed with sugar and spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, etc. It’s often served warm, which makes it a genuinely winter beverage.

The Germans have something called Glühwein, which is similar but occasionally served with a shot of rum or something else. The Nordic glögg is right along the same lines – but the common thread here is that these are all Christmas drinks. What the hell are the mulled wine people thinking dropping this day onto March 3? We’re into spring drinks here – this just won’t cut it.

The Brazilians have their take on mulled wine called vinho quente, and it’s quite popular during Festa Junina in June, so that’s closer. In Chile, they also drink their mulled beverage (called candola or vino navega’o, depending on where in the country you happen to be) in June, but that’s when the winter solstice happens there; it just makes sense.

If mulled wine is your idea of a great March beverage, please raise a glass for us. We can appreciate the stuff, but it just complements a different wing of the calendar.

Soup It Forward Day

Full disclosure – we did not partake in Soup It Forward Day, and of all the days we have let slide by, this is the one for which we are kicking ourselves the most. Last month we made – okay, I made – a delicious and simple sausage soup for National Homemade Soup Day. It was quick and zesty, and we had leftovers that we never got to. Had my mind been operating at full capacity, I might have spotted this day on the horizon and frozen the rest of our soup.

Soup it Forward Day is all about delivering some soup to someone who could use it. This is not some weird and arbitrary concept (like Give A Pretzel to A Croatian Day, which isn’t a thing but at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if it was). The Soup Sisters, who started the event, is a not-for-profit organization that holds events where its members gather together to make heaps of soup for women’s and youth shelters. They operate in 27 cities around the continent, including here in Edmonton.

You simply need to contact them, and for a reasonable fee you can take part in a soup cooking class, with the bulk of your creation being delivered to a local shelter. This is the kind of celebration origin we can get behind – not a corporate attempt to lure us into buying more Oreos (that’s on Friday), but a charity who’s aiming to make the world a better place through delicious soups. Definitely a worthy cause.

International Ear Care Day

So much of the world’s most exquisite inspiration drifts into our spirits through our ear-holes, yet we devote so little of our attention to their upkeep. Is it enough to squonch a pinkie fingertip in there and scoop out the gunk? Should we make use of Q-Tips? What if I penetrate my eardrum and damage my brain, thus leaving me unable to perform long division? What if I already can’t do long division? Is there a chance a Q-Tip will help?

So many questions, and I’ve got no one but the internet here to give me answers. Most reputable websites (meaning the ones I looked at first) recommend against cramming a swabbed stick into your ear to clean it out. First off, don’t sweat the earwax. You need that stuff – it keeps bacteria from dancing the two-step into your bloodstream. Earwax gathers the grit, then maneuvers to the ear’s perimeter where you can just sweep it away. It’s a self-cleaning system, the magnificent ear.

Use a cotton swab in there and you’ll just be cramming more earwax into the deeper recesses of your hear-holes. That can mess with your hearing and give you a wicked headache. And what if the thing breaks? Look, just keep your ears clean and don’t worry about poking and prodding at them. And tweak down the volume on your headphones – you’ve got to take care of the entire ear, not just the goopy part.

Unique Names Day

If you want to give your kid a unique name, that’s up to you. But keep in mind, you will be subjecting your child to having to spell their name to everyone, and while the mixups at Starbucks (or whatever coffee shop will rule the future) will be hilarious, it’s still an extra chore that will grow old for them early in life.

Either that or you can just point your bat to right field and take a swing with all you’ve got. Name your kid Adolf – that may not be unique but he won’t have a lot of company at this time in history. Some of the strangest names of 2019? How about Kingmessiah – that’s not setting your kid up for a superiority complex. One family named their kid Manson, possibly because Adolf didn’t cross their minds.

Some people go for the weird spellings of names. Xxayvier made the list last year. While Khaleesi has been quite popular for the last few years (likely up until the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones), how about Chardonnay? Sure, she’ll likely be a drunk (and possibly a stripper!), but it’ll be a good story. Five girls last year were named Awesome.

Now I’m wishing I’d thought of that in 1997 when my kid was born. Chardonnay Awesome Schwartz. Sounds nice.

Today we’ve got a bit of an easier schedule:

  • National Pound Cake Day. We may not have pound cake on hand, but we have cake and I can shmush it really good.
  • Marching Music Day. Wow, after National Anthem Day I’m wondering if this is Shitty Music Week.
  • National Grammar Day. <looking two lines up> “WELL”. I can shmush it really well. Sorry.
  • Discover What Your Name Means Day. Sounds like fun.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Some days blast you with an icy gale from the inside and the out. Yesterday was one such day, with a perpetual grey flapping of arctic snarl shaking the treetops and another similar blast rocking ripples into my brain-meat. Some days the cloud finds you – this I learned long ago. And when those days roll around… well, that’s when we crank up the festivities and drown them out.

Dr. Seuss Day / National Read Across America Day

To declare that Ted Geisel changed the very texture of the world in which we live would be to give in to gross understatement. We all grew up frolicking through his rhymes and timing our heartbeats to complement his linguistic rhythms. We had our favourites: Jodie’s predilection for Christmas led her to favour the Grinch. I read, re-read, and re-re-read Green Eggs and Ham, as I could relate to the protagonist’s disdain for certain foods (sorry, mom).

Doc Seuss was so instrumental to so many early reading lists, his birthday (happy 116th, Ted!) has been adopted for National Read Across America Day, a celebration initiated by the National Education Association. So what can we learn about the man and his works?

At Dartmouth College he was forced to resign as editor-in-chief of the local humor magazine, the Jack-O-Lantern. This was because he was caught drinking gin, a big no-no under Prohibition laws. He sold his first nation-wide cartoon to The Saturday Evening Post for $25, the equivalent of about $363 today. His biggest source of income in the early 30s came from drawing for bug spray ads. He’d received so many rejections for his first book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, that he was on his way home to burn the manuscript when a chance encounter with an old classmate led to its publication. His first successful book illustration project was a 1931 book called Boners. Yes, Dr. Seuss got his big break with a book called Boners. Drop that little nugget at your next cocktail party.

It’s well-known that Dr. Seuss drew a myriad of propaganda pieces for the US in World War II, but did you know he won an Oscar? Design For Death – not a goofy, rhyming, rhythmic romp – won for Best Documentary Feature in 1947 as a grim look at Japanese life, meant for the US soldiers who were occupying the country after the war. Also, it should be noted that the pronunciation of his pen-name was originally meant to rhyme with “voice”. But since the anglicized take on his moniker could evoke a cerebral link with Mother Goose (which was good for business), he went with it.

Oh the places he took us. Happy birthday once more, Ted.

National Old Stuff Day

I found one source that suggests this day is meant for “giving notice” to our old stuff and making way for something new. But that doesn’t ring true to these (increasingly old) ears. National Old Stuff Day should be a day for toasting our older possessions, those trusty inanimate units that have joined us on our journey for these many years. Dust off that old Intellivision and play some Astrosmash. Take your mom’s old mixer out for a spin and bake something fabulous. That shabby old coat that cocoons you in comfort and the smells of campfire and memory – throw it on and wear it around.

I don’t believe in ascribing high praise and adulation to inanimate things, but for this day it makes a bit of sense. Jodie pulled out her oldest possession, a 1934 Shirley Temple doll that had once been a plaything of her grandmother’s. It’s a shockingly realistic doll, with actual human eyelashes glued to the lids. Where did they get these eyelashes? I shudder to think of the possibilities. But alas, there they are.

My old thing of choice was an original reel-to-reel copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released back before 8-tracks, back before cassettes. I know it was my dad’s and that he bought it when the album was fresh in 1967, but I can’t speak to its quality – I don’t have a machine lying around to play it. But it’s a fun novelty antique. Happy day to our old stuff – may you still be around to celebrate next year.

National Banana Cream Pie Day

We scoured the city on Saturday, searching for a banana cream pie to enjoy on this day. Alas, it seemed we would come up short and have to celebrate this one by ruminating on its wonder and sponging our chins from the drool that would no doubt accumulate. But Jodie was persistent, and the bakery at Save-on Foods finally provided us with something to enjoy.

In retrospect, I wished we’d opted for a banoffee pie, which is similar but incorporates toffee. We spotted one of those at a local diner on the weekend, and foolishly passed up bringing some home. But no matter – the universe provided us with a delicious dessert last night. Few pies can compete with the majesty of the banana cream – it is the very pinnacle of cream-piedom. Thankfully we can chalk this one off as another sweet success.

Fun Facts About Names Day

This is a continuation of Celebrate Your Name Week. Because we don’t want to miss a day, here is some jocular trivia to tickle your brain-holes:

  • James is the most popular North American boy name over the last century, though if you’re only counting people who are currently alive, the biggest hit is Michael.
  • Roughly 2% of all girls born in the last century in America have been named Mary.
  • Jennifer was the #1 girl’s name from 1970 through 1984, most likely because of Ali McGraw’s character in the popular film Love Story in 1970, then no doubt buoyed by Tina Youthers’ character on Family Ties in the early 80s.
  • You know how Madison has become a popular name in the last few decades? It wasn’t on any top list until Daryl Hannah stole her name off a street sign in Splash (1984).
  • The name of the cop on the Monopoly board is Officer Edgar Mallory, and the dude in the opposite corner is Jake the Jailbird.
  • The full names of those famous toys: Barbie Millicent Roberts and Ken Carson.
  • In June of 1996 a Danish woman won a 9-year court battle that would allow her to name her son “Christophpher.” In Denmark (like Iceland) you have to pick your kid’s names from a pre-approved list. She’d accrued $4,200 in fines because dammit, she wanted this win.

More name stuff to come tomorrow.

Today a hearty batch of madness awaits us:

  • Bonza Bottler Day. Another day to dive into a bottle of something new and awesome.
  • National Anthem Day. We’ll see if we can pick our favourite.
  • National I Want You To Be Happy Day. Because dammit, we do.
  • National Cold Cuts Day. Dinner’s plan is in the works.
  • National Mulled Wine Day. I doubt we’ll have any to consume, but I’ll learn a little something about it.
  • Soup It Forward Day. Now I wish I’d made more soup last month.
  • Hinamatsuri. This is a Japanese doll festival. I doubt we’ll be doing this today.
  • Unique Names Day. Jodie and Marty aren’t unique, but Christophpher probably is. We’ll find some more.
  • International Ear Care Day. To Q-tip or not to Q-tip?
  • Simplify Your Life Day. With all this stuff going on? Not likely.
  • National Moscow Mule Day. This is another one we probably won’t be able to get to, for timing reasons. But we can put it off a few days.