Friday, December 25, 2020

A happy and hopeful Christmas to everyone out there who still occasionally clicks on my links and drops in to see what the hell we’re up to. The answer for yesterday (and today) is “not much”. It’s not only that we’re deep into denouement country in this project, but the calendar is not supplying us with a big heap of potential celebrations. No one was looking down at their breakfast this late in December and thinking, “Hey, why not make today National Honey Nut Cheerios Day?”. This is a sacred time for Christian folk, but in a far more inclusive way, this is a sacred time for families. Even via Zoom. So we grabbed hold of our scraps and fashioned with them what we could:

Christmas Eve

Every family has its own version of a Christmas Eve tradition. Some households gather en masse and splatter their dining room tables with a multi-course feast on the 24th, leaving the 25th for resting and taking one last stab at watching those same predictable movies or listening to that crappy infernal music. Our family traditions mainly involved the 25th for the big festivities.

I’m going to hold off on repeating ad nauseum that this year is different. We all know this year is different. Please, people, celebrate this year differently.

Our family Christmas Eve traditions involve ordering in dinner, cracking open one present (the Christmas pajamas), and watching Die Hard and/or another holiday classic. Last year we decided to put a pin in John McClane’s Nakatomi adventures, as the 2018 screening in our home consisted of all of us on our phones, too bored to even make fun of the movie anymore. So last night it was the Frank Capra classic It’s A Wonderful Life, which also gets airplay at some point in every one of our Christmases.

And yes, we spent much of it on our phones, because there are games to play there and we’ve all seen Clarence get his wings dozens of times in our lives. See my rant from a couple days ago during Humbug Day to understand how I feel about this.

But it was still a great time, with three humans and three dogs all chilled and comfy in front of the TV. And wouldn’t you know it, Mr. McClane was on TV when we finished so we enjoyed a few minutes of that classic. Next year will hopefully involve more humans (and the same number of dogs), and maybe we’ll toast that with another full airing of Die Hard. Whatever happens, we’ll make it feel like Christmas somehow.

National Eggnog Day

Full disclosure: we did not drink any eggnog yesterday. That would have been the ideal way to celebrate this day – and indeed, I strongly considered just leaving this one off the list entirely – but there was no need. Jodie hates eggnog. Abbey doesn’t care for the stuff. I’ll enjoy one glass (two if it’s the kind with booze), then I won’t want another drop for at least a year. Buying a carton of it made no sense.

But I’m curious enough about the creation of eggnog to do a bit of research, and doing a bit of research counts as a celebration this year. I’d be intrigued to try a cup of ponche crema, a Venezuelan variant of nog. This stuff has rum (which explains my intrigue), and used to be heated up and given to children to help them fight a cold. As a devotee of the hot rum toddy whenever a cold strikes me down, I have to say I approve.

The Oxford English Dictionary claims that nog used to refer to a strong beer. The term likely originates with the wooden cup in which the stuff was served, known as a noggin. It’s believed that the term ‘eggnog’ comes from America right around the birth of the country. No doubt its recipe has morphed a lot since then. The Brits were creating a similar drink using sherry or brandy, but rum was easier to come by (and not taxed by the Brits) in the western hemisphere.

Last night I enjoyed a glass of rum, and my tongue felt perfectly satisfied that it would have to wait another year to taste carton-sourced eggnog.

National Regifting Day

Yes. We have regifted. Even this year, we took something that was brought to us earlier in the year as a gift – something for which we had no use – and regifted it to someone in hopes they would enjoy it more. I won’t get into what it was (it was wine), or to whom we regifted (don’t worry, it wasn’t you), but it was done. And we feel no shame. It’s booze we aren’t particularly fond of but many people are. Nothing wrong with that.

Or maybe there is. Maybe the fact that we didn’t head out and spend our own money on this gift was an act of selfish skinflintery. Given that the recipient could not possibly know we didn’t buy the gift last week, and given that it’s a perfectly good quality unused product, I think we should get a pass. After all, it’s not like we Kebbi’ed the thing.

I have ranted about this elsewhere before, but I’m going to explain. 23 years ago I participated in a Secret Santa exchange at my place of work, a retail computer store that no longer exists in this city. Mr. Kebbi (I won’t mention his first name for legal reasons) was the person to whom I was supposed to give gifts. I gave a smattering of small things in the days leading up to the big exchange, and for the final large gift I gave a platter of home-baked goodies, each of which was crafted by my lovely wife.

I was admittedly a bit irked that I hadn’t received any small presents in the days leading up to the big one, but I hoped that final present would redeem the season. At the end of that shift I received the exact same platter of goodies I had given to Mr. Kebbi. He had drawn my name, and not really knowing me had decided to forego actually participating in the Secret Santa experience. Fortunately I was able to advise everyone in the store what happened, thus providing him with a decidedly humiliating reputation.

Regifting sucks. Unless you do it with unopened booze, and you can justify it in a few paragraphs in an online blog the recipient will probably never read.

Read A New Book Month

Jodie has motored her way through dozens of books throughout the year. Thanks to this project, and to my preference for watching films and playing games as a pastime, I have not. Yesterday I decided to crack one that Jodie had recommended for me, and to see if I could hammer through it in the remaining days of December.

I have time now. This project is getting quieter, I’m off work until January, and there are no holiday obligations now that shopping, wrapping and baking are done, and the only other family we’ll be seeing this week is my mom, who will be coming by here to join us in a meal we were going to eat anyway. Now is the time to dive in and read, I guess. At least until I remember that three of the games on my Steam wishlist are on sale, and dammit I’m treating myself.

Happy holiday, whichever ones you are celebrating.

What day is this? Why, it’s Christmas Day, Mr. Scrooge. And what else? Well, this is all the calendar has for us:

  • Christmas. Obviously we will celebrate this one. Actually, we’ll celebrate it with a massive feast and a drive through some pretty cool lights.
  • National Pumpkin Pie Day. I already celebrated this once. I remember, because I celebrated it with a doughnut.
  • A’phabet. This is a day for avoiding the letter ‘L’. No-L. Noel. Ha!
  • Takanakuy. A Peruvian celebration in which people fight one another to settle their differences. Sounds like it fits the day perfectly.

Monday, November 23, 2020

We found ourselves with a short list of celebrations yesterday, which suited our short attention span for celebrations perfectly. I did commit to doing a count of how far we’ve come since January 1, and I’m proud (and a little weirded out) to say that we have achieved 1,983 celebrations so far this year. In a year when most folks are bemoaning the cruel pathway of fate, when a virus, racial violence and ugly politics have conspired to create an ugly stew of widespread disgruntlement, we have found a way to pack that many celebrations into our days. And are we happy and giddy as a result? Well, kind of. We’re still here, and we’re still plowing away. And while most of our yesterday was spent in the warm glow of watching football, we still managed to catch up on these:

National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

This one rolled in a few days late, but honestly we’d expected we’d end up skipping it entirely. We aren’t fudge-makers, and our team baker was hesitant to create something like this without a proper candy thermometer. Alas, this project would have sunk into the depths of futility months ago were it not for her resolve. Every project like this – and I don’t think there has ever been another project like this, but still – needs a solid team, and we couldn’t have done it without her. Thanks, Mom.

She also insisted the fudge was profoundly mediocre, and would have been much better with some crunchy peanuts to break up the texture a bit. Being a passionate fan of creamy fudge with no crunchy interruptions, I disagreed. This stuff is perfect.

There is no history here; we have rocked fudge celebrations going back to the days when I’d bring leftovers into the office because no one feared a deadly virus in the air. Unfortunately for my coworkers, the leftover peanut butter fudge will stay right here in my grasp. These are the sacrifices we must make.

Start Your Own Country Day

When glancing at our limited options for celebrating today, I did not suspect this would be one of the oldest celebrations in which we will have indulged in 2020. Start Your Own Country Day was concocted at the 1939 World’s Fair, and was meant to encourage folks to declare whatever land as their own. I don’t know if that particular pavilion envisioned a world wherein everyone would be their own autonomous nation – a ridiculous and preposterous concept – or if they were simply looking for someone to get it right.

Starting your own country is not easy. First you need land. Simply claiming your home is your land, and that you are seceding from whichever country you’re a part of now, that won’t work. Canada isn’t about to relinquish mineral rights, air rights, and the general ownership of this slab of earth underneath me. But if you can overcome this tricky step, you’re on your way to having your own country. The next step is to develop a government. I don’t know what that means beyond saying, “I am president!” and maybe making up your own stationary, but it’s necessary. You need a permanent population. Our country’s population would be five, because our dogs would be recognized as equal citizens. Lastly you need a means for interacting with other nation-states. We have phones. We have email. That’s easy.

Some folks have actually done this. I wrote about one man’s mission in my last project, an ocean-locked former floating naval base he called Sealand. It’s a bizarre and fascinating story, and it ultimately teaches us that the effort required to start your own country is probably not worth the end result.

That said, I hereby declare this land beneath my feet to be the independent republic of Rufustan, named for Rufus, our first (and still our smelliest) bulldog. All those who visit will have the option to declare themselves citizens. We use no currency, our flag is a photo of Rufus, and our government is a monarchy, with King and Queen ruling equally. Our royal subjects – our dogs – handle our international relations. They do this primarily by barking at anyone who walks by our border. It’s a happy land, and we encourage folks to come and check it out. Once the pandemic is over; for now our borders remain closed. As they should be.

National Sleep Comfort Month

November is the month for us to reflect on our sleeping habits, and if there is something we can do to refine them, to create a more comfy and effective sleeping situation. We have one change we could implement: the removal of dogs from our bed. This would likely improve our lives in multiple ways, but it will never happen. It would likely break Rosa’s heart to not be able to sleep between us, and we’re just not about doing that.

But we have contributed significantly to our sleep comfort in recent weeks. Most significantly we upgraded from a queen to a king-size mattress. When three companion dogs are part of the situation the significance of this cannot be stated enough. We now have – on most nights – enough room to stretch and contort ourselves however we need to in order to achieve an ideal level of comfort.

Next we invested in new bedding (of course) and blankets. Jodie found some $30 duvets online that fit our bed perfectly, and she bought three of them. We have two on the bed at the moment, along with various other blankets that provide a warmth so intense, I find myself waking up in a sweat every night that I don’t kick the majority of them off my body. I’m not complaining though – this has clearly only increased our comfort. And it has somehow ensured that my dreams every night are more vivid and intense, which provides a modicum of entertainment while I sleep. It’s a small contribution, but it’s great.

Along with our new pillows, we have achieved the optimum level of sleep comfort. And we’ll give full credit to the importance of National Sleep Comfort Month in our lives, even if we just learned about it today, after we’d made all those improvements. I’m sure it was sitting in our subconscious this entire time, guiding us toward nocturnal bliss. Thanks, celebrations.

National Pumpkin Pie Day

Folks, I present to you the pumpkin pie doughnut. This was sitting on display at Destination Doughnuts, calling out to us as the perfect way of celebrating this classic Thanksgiving pie. We had dined on sweet potato pie at the beginning of the month, which tasted exactly like pumpkin pie but better. We weren’t craving an actual pumpkin pie even a little, but this was the ideal solution.

And it was fantastic, filled with pumpkin magnificence. And when it was done, there were no leftovers. There was no getting weary of the flavour. We could simply move on to our peanut butter fudge for our next dessert. Life is good. Doughnuts are life.

Today as we slide into another week, poised to celebrate like insane humans (as usual), we glance at our menu. Could November really be almost over already? We hope so. We only have to do 17 more celebrations to hit our target. Will we do more? Maybe. Here’s today’s stuff:

  • National Cashew Day. The pinnacle of all nut-related days this year. We will be dining on cashews.
  • National Eat A Cranberry Day. We… we don’t have any cranberries lying around. Maybe that will change in the next few hours, who knows?
  • National Espresso Day. Damn, I wish we had one of these machines in our house. Jodie might have to tackle this one.
  • Doctor Who Day. I won’t pretend to be a fan of the show, though I’m amazed at its longevity.
  • Fibonacci Day. A day to get all up in numbers. That’s fun.
  • Wolfenoot. It’s a dog thing. I’ll explain in tomorrow’s article.