Sunday, December 20, 2020

While much of yesterday was occupied by a run for supplies and a period of recovery from the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian, we still managed to address the list of potential celebrations. Oatmeal muffins were eliminated from the menu, as we didn’t have any on hand and we aren’t big enough fans to track them down. We’ve got a weird little lockdown going on right now, with only 15% of a store’s capacity allowed through the door at a time. This means our favourite bakery will be lined up around the block. That runs counter to not only the Christmas spirit, but also the general celebratory spirit we’ve embraced all year long. Still, we had all this to keep us busy:

National Hard Candy Day

You hear about hard candy, but no one ever talks about ‘soft’ candy. Why do we only differentiate when the candy moves from chewy to crunchy? This is as deep as I feel like digging into this topic.

I’m a fan of hard candy. As a loyalist to my sweet tooth, I have always enjoyed a variety of enamel-testing sweetness. My grandmother used to have a candy dish of humbugs on her coffee table. It was particularly fun when they’d all glom together into one misshapen humbug. My favourite candy as a kid was scotch mints, ideally with the insides all crumbly and English mint-ish, rather than chewy. And those little cinnamon hearts are always a treat. Don’t even get me started on the majesty of peppermints.

Were we not already shoulder-deep in baked goods (see yesterday’s article), we might have taken some time and gorged on hard candies yesterday. But we have five people’s worth of cookies to eat, and only three people here for the season. We have our work laid out before us, and sprinkling hard candy on top of it all might have been too much. But candy canes check off both boxes of hard candy’s requirements, so this one filled in quite nicely.

This has truly been a year of utter indulgence. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down in its calorie-rich insanity, even as the year starts to waddle toward the closing curtain. We’ll make it. We can endure all this delicious work.

National Emo Day

“Emo” is a subculture of mostly youths, one that most adults who do not have school-aged children may not be aware of. It’s an evolution of the mopey disenfranchised punk, or those folks in the 80s who cranked up the Cure, wore a lot of black and moped a lot. This is not meant to confuse them with goths, who also wear a lot of black (and who may or may not also be into the Cure), but who do so with a different aesthetic and purpose.

Abbey went through an emo phase, and from that time she kept as a souvenir an appreciation for bands like My Chemical Romance, who found a way to tap into that teen angst and prompt it to greater percolation. I wasn’t aware that the emo crowd was in need of their own day, but apparently they are. As far back as 2009 there’s an entry for this day in the Urban Dictionary online, and depending on which entry you subscribe to, it’s either a day for celebrating the emo folks in your life, or for hunting them down to beat them up. Needless to say, we are in the former camp, as the latter is fairly off-brand for our kind ‘n loving vibe.

I took a few moments out of the day to listen to some Emo Phillips, a standup comedian who has nothing to do with the emo lifestyle, but who is surreal and bizarre enough to no doubt launch even the most morose, bang-flipping emo mopester into cautious, confused laughter. I also listened to a track or two of the mood music, but it didn’t stick for me.

It’s an odd day to show up in December, and I can find no reason why it lands on the 19th. Maybe it’s to counter-balance the festive, colourful cheer all over the place. Whatever the reason, happy (or hopelessly dejected) National Emo Day to all.

Look For An Evergreen Day

Likely an off-shoot of the days of yore when anyone who wanted to celebrate Christmas had to do so with an actual murdered tree in their homes, this is a day to look for a suitable evergreen. As mentioned last week, I have only once had an actual butchered tree in my house. It was messy, but made our basement room smell delightful.

Like most people, we have already set up our tree this year. I saw trees lit up the day after Halloween, most likely because we’re all eager to get 2020 behind us and hope for better days ahead. Also like most people, we use an artificial tree. It saves money, it’s easy to set up and take down, and we don’t get a bunch of needles embedded in our floor. So we had no need to look for an evergreen.

But why would I include this day if we weren’t going to indulge in the celebration? This is the kind of question I tend not to ask myself, because if ‘why’ was a significant factor in anything we were doing this year, our brains might explode. We simply did. And I found one, right outside our house. We have shown this tree before, though I’m pretty sure it has grown substantially over the year. It’s an evergreen tree that seemed to magically appear in our yard one year, just popping up out of the ground, despite our not having planted it. So I took a shot of the little dude in the snow. Last year he was completely buried. This year he gets a view of the world. For now, anyway.

Technically we could have celebrated this anywhere, even in our bathroom. It’s not Find an Evergreen Day; you could look anywhere you want to for an evergreen. Check your pantry. Pop into your freezer. Go nuts!

So close to the end of the year we can smell it, here’s what awaits us on the penultimate Sunday of 2020:

  • National Sangria Day. This one is tricky… we just picked up lots of booze yesterday, and we really aren’t feeling sangria. We’ll see.
  • Games Day. On a Sunday? Packed with football games? Sounds great!
  • Dot Your I’s Day. I wonder if Cross Your T’s day shows up tomorrow. Or maybe on Christmas. That might be more appropriate.
  • Cathode-Ray Tube Day. Hooray for antiquated tech!
  • Mudd Day. Not about the Star Trek guy, but about the guy who helped John Wilkes Booth hide out.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

It was our final day of balancing work and whatever this is, and honestly it went down pretty much like I’d expected. We had an impressive slate (for December) to celebrate, and we also kept our priorities straight: it’s been along, agonizing year, and we just want to rest. We don’t want to bog ourselves down with another 5,000-word article, or prepare some weird food we don’t want to eat. We simply want to be. The calendar, as happens so often, had other plans for us. Here’s what we managed to cram into the day:

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

The idea for this day is to wear the ugly sweater you either bought as an ironic holiday novelty, or (if you’ve been playing along with this project on a level greater than we have been) sporting the sweater you started planning out on Leon Day, June 25. I had plans for a Die Hard-themed garment, but by the time summer rolled around we had lost our oomph from the start of the project, mostly because everything we celebrated had to happen within the confines of our own property.

It has been a weird year. We did not craft Christmas sweaters as we’d hoped. Life simply got in the way, as it tends to. And we’d hoped that Abbey would have brought home her delightful “Get Lit For Hanukkah” sweater, but given that the extent of our family Christmas partying was going to be limited this year, she did not. So we were lacking.

Jodie wore her Christmas sweatshirt though. It’s not particularly ugly, unless you find Groot to be aesthetically displeasing to you, but it’s as close as we can get. I have nothing holiday-related except for a  couple pairs of boxer shorts, but I’ll spare you all having to see a photo of me in my boxer shorts. Consider it my gift to you.

Answer The Phone Like Buddy The Elf Day

“Hi, this is Marty the elf. What’s your favourite colour?”

That’s all. That’s literally the entire celebration. No one knows who created the day, but here it is. I waited to see if “Service Canada” would call me to say I was going to jail unless I gave them money (the most common phone scam running these days), but when it didn’t look like it was going to happen I just had Jodie call me from the next room. I answered the phone as instructed. It spread joy and good vibes.

We are looking forward to watching Elf this year. While I’m tired of most holiday movies (even Die Hard, somehow), I haven’t seen this one in a few years so it’s due. That and It’s a Wonderful Life, which I’m sure Jodie will want to watch before the season is done. And now I can feel like I’ve actually lived a small part of this movie. It’s the magic of the holidays, and it saves me from having to smother a plate of spaghetti in maple syrup.

Bake Cookies Day

While we fell short of completing any cookies on this auspicious day, we did get the process started. Our team baker (yo, Ma!) has been working overtime to ensure we are sufficiently plumped-up with sweets over the holiday season, so there was no need to add ‘baking’ to Jodie’s list of December chores this year. And that’s great – she deserves the rest, and the quality of our counter-stashed sweets has been consistently awesome.

But rather than bug our baker for more hot-kitchen toiling, we observed that we were running short on medicinal cookies (cannabis – no need to be all discreet about it, it’s fucking legal now). So yesterday we began the process of cooking a pound of butter along with an ounce of Mendo Breath, a strain known for being supremely relaxing and delightfully euphoric. After 24 hours in the slow cooker (which will elapse this evening), we will strain the contents through cheesecloth and let the butter set in the fridge. Jodie will concoct some of her brilliant ginger snaps with the butter it produces.

It only seems appropriate for 2020 to celebrate Bake Cookies Day with a recipe that will effectively disconnect us from the reality of the world. I think we could all benefit from these cookies. That said, I may or may not be sharing.

Flake Appreciation Day

I wasn’t sure about this one. It’s not about Corn Flakes or dandruff flakes or that British chocolate bar, nor is it about former senator from Arizona Jeff Flake. It’s literally about snowflakes, and since we’ve had those present in our city for nearly two months now, with the initial wow effect having long since worn off, I wasn’t sure I’d want to take the time to appreciate them. But I refuse to surrender the spirit of this project. Dammit, if the calendar wants us to learn about snowflakes, then that’s what we’ll do.

The calendar also suggested that we should be enjoying either ham salad or a roast suckling pig yesterday, but that wasn’t going to happen. So flakes it is.

In 150BC, Han Ying discussed the pentagonal symmetry of flowers vs. the hexagonal symmetry of snowflakes. In 1675 Friedrich Martens cataloged 24 types of snowflake. In 1796 the first microscope experiments were done on snowflakes. In 1832 a Japanese writer named Doi Toshitsura expanded the categorization of flakes to 86 types. He then updated that to 97 eight years later. The first photographed microscope flakes appeared in 1894, though I’m sure the public was too distracted by moving pictures at the time to care.

By 2008 we had Japanese scientists studying how snowflakes form in outer space, so we have come a long way. They say that no two snowflakes are alike, and that’s primarily because each flake will take its own weird journey from the sky to the earth, thus forming its own unique shape. But a Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht found that by growing the snowflakes under strict scientific conditions in a lab, he could create identical snowflake twins. So that adage is not true, now that science has mucked it up.

Hooray for flakes, even if they combine to lay 6-8 months of unpleasant cold upon our city. Yesterday I gave them a pass.

Underdog Day

There were a few ways of celebrating this one, and I opted for all three. First off, I watched the intro to the classic Underdog cartoon. I used to watch this from time to time when I was young, though I was never an obsessive fan.

Next, I checked out an obsessive fan of that cartoon. Underdog Lady, as she’s known to fans of the Howard Stern Show, is an acutely serious woman who always brings a lot of inadvertent laughter to the show. I won’t get into why, as it’s far too convoluted a tale to convey here, and I have no need to increase my word count. Anyway, it made me laugh.

After that it was time to take a moment to reflect upon the Cleveland Browns. I make a lot of jokes about the Browns (who have been in the playoffs only once since the mid-90s, and lost that game), but I am always rooting for them. Not only have they been strangers to the playoffs, they have regularly sucked every year. Even if they start strong, they always find a way to Browns it. This year they seem destined for the playoffs though, and they might even win a game. I remain an ardent fan, and will cheer them on this week against… oh thank god, it’s only the New York Giants.

The only other way to celebrate this would be with an actual dog, and we did that too. Liberty is our underdog in our one puppy feud: Trixie still leaps at her with rage from time to time, whenever she feels Liberty is being liked too much by us, or is standing too close to the toy she wants to chew. And every time, Liberty fights back and pins her, but never bites her. She is the bullied child who could kick the bully’s ass, but instead simply reminds the bully that it *could* happen. The best kind of underdog.

National Wear A Plunger On Your Head Day

First off, hell no.

We own exactly one toilet plunger, and while we haven’t had to use it in quite some time, it has still only ever been used to plunge toilets filled with fecal travesties. There was no way I was going to slap the thing on my head, even if the poo germs had long since died of old age. I must escape this project with at least some dignity.

So we did the next best thing, and took the photo above. It will have to count. I’m not closing out 2020 with E. Coli.

Today we begin our two-week workless journey, which ends with Abbey returning to her final semester of her undergrad degree, which will happen shortly after the termination of this weird project. Here’s what we’ve got for today:

  • National Hard Candy Day. Hard candies are great candies. I hope we can track some down today.
  • National Oatmeal Muffin Day. Nope. Our team baker has done enough this year, we’re not going to toss this on her proverbial plate.
  • National Emo Day. Looks like we’ll be taking some of the day to mope. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good mope.
  • Look For An Evergreen Day. I bet I find one. Like, in our front yard.
  • National Wreaths Across America Day. We won’t be in America today, but we do have a beautiful wreath.
  • Super Saturday. Also known as ‘Panic Saturday’, this is the last Saturday to get your Christmas shopping done, so rush to those crowded stores and breathe all over everybody!