Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The quietest day of our first week landed yesterday, with very little deviation from our normal lives into the world of celebration. Turns out we enjoy celebrating a lot more than our normal lives – alas, we have yet to find a gregarious benefactor with a few million to throw our way, so the daily grind must grind on.

National Tempura Day

We both arrived home around 6:00, a day’s worth of toil dragging down our spirits and an evening filled with homework (for Jodie) and video editing / writing work (for me, Marty) ahead. We were missing a couple of key ingredients to make our own tempura from scratch (also, given that we’d never tried it before, there was a possibility it would have been a disaster anyhow). So off we went to T&T Supermarket – a fantastic store – to buy what we needed. Then we noticed they had tempura-battered fish and chicken in their little buffet area, so we opted for simplicity: we let them do the work.

Tempura comes to us from Japan, but it’s really an adaptation of a European technique. The Japanese were all about breading and frying foods, but in the late 1500s some Portuguese missionaries in Nagasaki introduced an egg-flour batter that changed the game. This method was meant to keep the missionaries true to the fasting and abstinence rules for Catholics during the Ember Days, which happens four times per year. These are known as quatuor anni tempora in Latin – “four seasons of the year”. Tempora, of course, is where the term Tempura came from. After its introduction, the Japanese took hold of the recipe and mastered it.

The beautiful thing about tempura is that it works on meat and veggies, either on its own or with a dipping sauce. It’s a versatile batter that doesn’t mask the flavour of the food within, but enhances it. We were happy to celebrate this one yesterday, and even happier that there was no cleanup necessary.

Shop For Travel Day

We took this day literally, as Jodie scanned prices for flights to Vancouver to visit our daughter. Does this count as a celebration? I’d say yes.

How did we shop for travel before the age of travel apps and online bookings? Did everyone use a travel agent? Did people have to phone each airline one at a time to get the best deal? Would people go to the airport and go from desk to desk like some massive food court with ultra-long lines? No matter – this is a glorious age for travel bookings. It’s easy, it’s quick, and while it’s not always a guarantee that a deal will be found, it’s a lot more user-friendly.

So yes, this is a celebration, and it ties in neatly with National Technology Day yesterday, since technology is the key to making travel shopping almost fun.

We’ve got a full menu today, and none of it dictates what we eat. Today is all about celebrating sensation: peace, joy, and rock ‘n roll.

  • National JoyGerm Day. Since 1981 a former advertising / PR lady named Joan White has been celebrating JoyGerm Day, which consists of simply spreading joy. We will dig a bit deeper into her story today, and spread as much joy as we can.
  • National Argyle Day. I have an argyle sweater. I will wear that sweater and point out to everyone with whom I make eye contact that I’m wearing it for National Argyle Day. That should go over joyfully.
  • National English Toffee Day. This is a happy little celebration itself. Who doesn’t love English Toffee? We picked up some of the real stuff this past weekend and we’ll be smashing and savouring it later on.
  • National Bubblebath Day. A bubblebath is an easy celebration to embrace. We have a soaker tub, we have a variety of bubble options, and if we can’t find any good bath toys, it’s likely the dogs will lend us some of theirs. Actually, scratch that. That’s disgusting.
  • Babinden. This is a traditional Bulgarian feast – which we won’t be preparing – which celebrates the midwife. This is quite a party, dating back to pagan traditions, and we will be delving into its beautiful history.
  • Midwife’s Day. This is about honouring what women do around the house, or having men do the “woman’s work” for a day. Since we split the cleaning and I do all the cooking, that won’t really work. But this fits in well with Babinden, so they will be celebrated together.
  • Winter Skin Relief Day. If we can talk about Babinden and Midwives in the bath, we’ll be blending three celebrations into one. Add to that a bit of moisturizing (which is crucial in this chalky, dry winter climate), and we’ve got a four-in-one happening tonight.
  • Elvis’s Birthday. The King would turn 85 today, so we’ll be listening to a lot of his music throughout the day. Hey, we could listen to some in the bath, which would be a five-in-one celebration. I doubt we’ll hit another one of those all year.
  • Show and Tell Day At Work. Jodie’s kids were eager to take part in a show and tell, which isn’t surprising because it beats doing actual schoolwork. My coworkers are also interested in showing and telling for a break today, again because it beats real life. This is the theme of this project so far: celebrating is better than the drudgery of every day life. If that holds true, then 2020 is truly going to be the greatest of years.

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.