Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Yesterday the real test began. If the aim of this mirth-overdose is to counter the negativity in our lives, to incite joy through directed inspiration, then there could be no better test than the beginning of our actual lives in 2020. We woke with our alarm at 6. We crawled, gasping and stretching our bloodied fingers for that first cup of medicinal coffee. We hauled our weary meat-vessels to our jobs and put in a full day. A month from now we will either be more flattened, more lifeless than usual, given the extra work our days will include, or we’ll be giggling, aloft upon a perpetually-fed steam-cloud of revelry and bemusement. We are deeply hoping for the latter.

National Thank God It’s Monday Day

The idea here, according to National Day Calendar, is to celebrate the potential within Mondays. Each Monday has a sunrise, it has opportunity, it’s a new beginning. Rattling about within Monday’s rib cage lies the beating pulse of untapped potential.

Okay, we’re aiming to be positive here, not wide-eyed and naive. We know what Mondays are – we made our peace with Mondays a long time ago. Mondays are waking up early, usually with the prospect of four reruns in the four days ahead. Mondays are a departure from the relative freedom of weekendery, and a shackle to responsibility. But maybe Mondays can be something great. Maybe there is some untapped potential awaiting us this year.

National Bubblewrap Appreciation Day is on a Monday. Dr. Seuss Day shows up on the first Monday of March. National Tap Dance Day drops on a May Monday. How about Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day? National New York Day? Batman Day? Go To an Art Museum Day? All Mondays. If our inspiration for 2020 will be squeezed from the utters of this project, then Mondays will give us some damn fine milk this year. Learning this certainly made this particular Monday a lot easier to swallow.

National Shortbread Day

Shortbread is a staple of Christmastime snackery in this house, and that tends to continue well into January, as we’re often sick of sweet cookies by the time New Years shows up. This year was no exception, and we still had some delicious brown-sugar shortbread (thanks, mom!) for a lunchtime dessert yesterday.

The first printed recipe for shortbread came from a Scotswoman named Mrs. McLintock, printed way back in 1736. It’s easy to make, and almost impossible not to enjoy. You know what? We are going to take a stand here: shortbread is the ultimate cookie. Sure, it crumbles easily, but if you aren’t committed to a mess then you aren’t committed to a damn cookie. Shortbread’s simplicity can be swizzled with caramel or nuts or jelly or whatever the hell is in a sandy, and each of those varieties are magnificent. But you can also go pure and you’ll still find yourself addictively snarfing the plate clean. We are going to sample many, many other cookie varieties over the upcoming 360 days, but will we find a cookie more perfect than the shortbread? Not likely.

National Bean Day

Okay, we tried. Jodie just can’t fall in love with the bean, be it in burritos, in soup, or as we had them tonight: mixed into a tangy and tasty barbecue sauce. It’s the texture. I (Marty), however, love ‘em. We picked up some beans from Barb & Ernie’s restaurant, known for serving arguably the best diner-style breakfast in the city. I found these beans to be sweet but with an accomplished bite, a perfect pair for a pan-seared steak. Heinz canned beans are a little syrupy-sweet for my tastes; these were perfection.

We followed those up with some Jelly Bellys for dessert, because shouldn’t we take these days as far as we can? Shouldn’t every meal feature dessert? Shouldn’t every dessert feature the possibility of biting into something that tastes like buttered popcorn in the same bite as something that tastes like a green apple? Hell yes to all.

Raw beans are, it should be noted, potentially toxic. Red kidney beans in particular – bite into a handful of raw ones and you’ll be downing a tasteless poison known as the lectin phytohaemagglutinin. Five raw beans, that’s all you need to have yourself a lousy night of stomach madness – worse even than what I put myself through to achieve National Hangover Day. So cook those beans and cook ‘em right. Be safe. Or just stick to the jelly beans.

National Technology Day

It’s almost unfathomable how much we have come to rely on technology. My phone is my camera, my Walkman, my wristwatch, my Gameboy, my newspaper, my video camera, my recipe book, my wallet, and perhaps most importantly (this year) my calendar. My headphones no longer receive Peter Frampton songs through a clumsy cable, but rather the signal gets beamed from my coat pocket to my head. We work on computers, we play on computers, and technology is the skeletal structure of this project.

We are living in the future. But there’s more humankind needs to do. In yesterday’s video, Jodie picked the Star Trek food replicator as the technology she’d most like to see in the world. Not necessarily to save the starving children, but more so she could put her own meals together without waiting for me to cook them. Fair… I opted to push for nanotechnology to somehow be turned against the flu and the common cold. I mean come on… I can get why we don’t have the flying car yet – the logistics of coordinating privately-owned flying vehicles in the city are staggering – but why is a week of the sniffles still acceptable? Someone needs to get on this.

National Cuddle Up Day

We absolutely celebrated this one yesterday, but I won’t get into specific details, because (a) some things should remain private, (b) neither of us like to kiss and tell, and (c) we pretty much sat in bed, fully clothed in our pajamas while our dogs planted themselves between us, ensuring they were the focus of any potential cuddlage.

This is our life.

Today I have to learn one new recipe and Jodie has to make one lone purchase. It’s as light a day as we’re likely to see, but we’ll still wring all the joy we can from the hours we’re given. We’ve got a few “Official Month” celebrations for January though; we may tap into those as well.

  • National Tempura Day. We love tempura. We’ve eaten it many times but never have we prepared it ourselves. I found a recipe to try, but we’ll see. There’s always tempura-fried shrimp available at the restaurant around the corner if we need it.
  • Shop For Travel Day. A good day to pick up some mini-bottles of shampoo or those cute little toothbrushes the size of a mini-golf pencil. Jodie is planning a quick trip to Vancouver later this month, so she may simply buy that ticket instead.

Monday, January 6, 2020

The focus of this project is, of course, celebration. The surprising second focus appears to be discomfort. I suppose, when seeking to sever oneself from an interminable rut of eat-tv-sleep-work-repeat, one must expect some discomfort. We’re okay with that, but damn… why so much cold?

National Bird Day

For National Bird Day we wanted to venture outside our comfort zone (the borders of which uncoincidentally align with the borders of our bed, dogs and all) and try birdwatching. We’ve watched birds before – through our windows, above the reclining furniture in our yard, and I suppose back when the local shopping mall used to feature a peacock display over near the McDonalds. But we’ve never immersed ourselves in nature, viewed our little ornithological friends from within their own habitat.

I (Marty) reached out to the Edmonton Nature Club, and they hooked us up with Wayne, a retired Mountie and a man generous with knowledge and experience. We met Wayne yesterday morning and together we wandered into our river valley in search of some winged creatures.

We learned that small black oil sunflower seeds are best for feeding birds, and that most commercial mixed birdseed is mostly filler and crap. We saw non-poop-related evidence of voles and weasels, and learned that great blue herons regularly nest around our city. We saw numerous chickadees (that’s one eating from Wayne’s hand up there), as well as red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches, and even captured a nifty video of a pileated woodpecker thwacking a tree and scooping out its bug-bounty for Sunday brunch.

Amassing new hobbies and interests were one of our highly anticipated side effects of this little project, and digging into Edmonton’s ecosystem falls neatly into that category. Starting in springtime; no more of this winter shit. It was ten below zero when we headed out yesterday morning, and the cold lingered in our bones for significantly longer than it did on January 1 when we splashed around in frigid water in our backyard. Fuck it. It was worth it.

National Whipped Cream Day

For this celebration we melded our festivities with the event below. Whipped cream is great and all, but slapping some onto an ice cream sundae seems a bit too tame for this project. Comfort zone, remember? Gotta think beyond the obvious.

Whipping cream clocks in at 30-36% fat, so if you’re using it regularly for your coffee, that’s probably not a healthy choice. Whipped-up cream has been popular for at least the last 500 years or so, and it used to be known as neige de crème, or cream snow. For our celebration we made use of the spray stuff in the can, but it was real whipped cream… National Cool Whip Day and National Fake-Cream-Made-From-Petroleum Day are not actual things. We kept it authentic.

National Screenwriters Day

Want a helpful tip? Check out the nominees for screenwriting for the Oscars, Golden Globes and (though it’s just called ‘Writing’) Emmys. Those awards focus on the words that propel the story, and the nominees are almost certain to be fresh, interesting, and well worth the investment of time.

For this revelry we merged National Whipped Cream Day. It has long been a dream of mine (not so much of Jodie) to be in a pie fight – to smack someone in the face with a pie and to be similarly smacked. So we filled a few pie plates with whipped cream, took turns reciting some of our favourite screen lines, crediting the writers, then pied one another in a most satisfying manner. I opted for lines from Airplane! and The Hangover, while Jodie went more serious with lines from Casablanca and The Shawshank Redemption. We each got one pie heaved at a distance and one at point-blank range.

It was ridiculous. If our neighbours were watching, we’re sure they have questions. But it reinforced the inevitable weirdness of this project, and we are grateful. We were also sticky and gross, and still smelling whipped cream in our noses hours later.

Today marks our return to our respective workplaces (Jodie is a teacher; I am a provincial government office drone), and we will see how easily we can wind this little project around our actual lives. We suspect it won’t be easy, but we’ll probably figure it out. We hope. Here’s today’s roster o’ mirth:

  • National Bean Day. We were going to cook up a big ol’ bean stew, until we realized that neither of us are really big fans of bean stew. So we got some baked beans from local German feast-haven Barb & Ernie’s, and we’ll serve them with supper.
  • National Shortbread Day. We have not yet exhausted our supply of Christmas baking, which means we’ve still got a couple dozen homemade shortbread cookies to enjoy for dessert.
  • National Cuddle-Up Day. Well, hell. We’re going to do some cuddling. The dogs will no doubt insist on intervening.
  • National Technology Day. We will each come up with one piece of technology we feel should exist, and explain why. The “how” portion, we’ll leave to someone else.
  • National Thank God It’s Monday Day. Mondays tend to suck, but we’ve got some great festivities planned for Mondays this year. We will compile a few and share, and hopefully give ourselves a bit of optimism that Mondays in 2020 might just be fun.