Archive for category unofficial holidays

Have a Bad Day Day

And you thought holidays were about joy, didn’t you.

I decided not to plan for this one and just let fate run its course. I’d hoped to avoid major negative  ju-ju issues by skipping Occult Day yesterday. I mean, come on, you’re just asking for it by dabbling with things you have no business dabbling with right before Have a Bad Day Day.

But wait. Maybe I blew it by not using Occult Day to make peace with the forces of the supernatural. Maybe there was an offering, a sacrifice, I missed, which would be bad since the universe has the perfect opportunity to avenge my insult on Have a Bad Day Day.


And sure enough, by noon a little badness had started to creep into my otherwise normal day. I pulled out a bowl of Vichyssoise from the work fridge for lunch, and in keeping with how the soup is supposed to be eaten, I began to eat it cold. It was terrible. Clumpy, with bits of poorly food-processed leeks and onion hitting my tongue like an assault of eels covered in pungent seaweed. I had to heat it, which made it tolerable but still not great. What were we thinking last night? How did G and I believe this was appealing?

To get through it, I dunked some of my leftover Chebe bread in. The Chebe bread has gotten stale. As I learned on Look For Circles Day, spheres are the strongest shape, so the balls are rock-hard. I had to crack them on my office desk to be able to tear off pieces to dip in the god-awful soup.

By the way, the recipe I used last night makes eleven servings of Vichyssoise, so I will be doing this for days. I must learn to read directions all the way through before I start cooking. Absolutely must.

The rest of the afternoon passed peacefully except for my angry, rumbling stomach. I was able to cope with the hunger pains, though, because I had a good dinner to look forward to. A childhood friend of mine who also lives in Madison was having a birthday get-together at the local Great Dane, a brew pub and restaurant. I’m a big fan of the Dane–original microbrews and a ginormous, diverse menu are always a good combination for a relaxing, casual night on the town.

So after work I happily wrapped up in a warm coat and grabbed an umbrella to face the chilly, wet evening. I even went to the bus stop seven minutes early–in my excitement, I was impervious to the elements. I got on the bus and sat near a woman who spontaneously clapped her hands many, many times, but it was of no consequence. I was going to the Dane.

The bus carried me downtown and I disembarked near the Capitol. One block and twelve puddles later, I arrived triumphant at the entrance, a gate of glory blazing in all its neon brilliance. I stepped inside, confident I would hear the sound of familiar laughter and chatter.

And then the universe struck again.

After scouring the restaurant and having the host check the reservation list, it became apparent that my friend and her crew were not present. It dawned on me that her apartment is located much closer to the other Great Dane west of campus. A quick text message exchange confirmed this was where they had gone. The other restaurant is beyond my comfortable walking range, and getting there would involve buses I’m not very familiar with. So my evening of good cheer and a little beer was thwarted, and I trudged several blocks to a bus stop that would get me home.

Another holiday complete.


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Button Day


State Street is the center of Madison’s college scene. With several bookstores, coffee shops and ethnic restaurants, this mile-long strip stretches from the edge of campus to the capitol building and encompasses some of the best of the city’s culture in between.

I lived in an apartment above a vintage clothing store on State Street last year. Despite the late-night saxophone player and the guy who slept on our stoop, the experience was a great finale to my college years. I live a couple miles from State Street now, and I miss the easy access to all of its entertainment options.

One of my neighbors during my time on State Street was an eclectic art and craft shop called Anthology. Run by a pair of sisters, the store offers various, ever-changing craft kits, handmade goods, specialty papers and much more. In the back of the shop is a table where you can drop in and do some craft, like make holiday tags or stamp something. The staple activity at the back table is to make a one inch button for a buck. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can cover a picture frame in buttons or turn a chain of buttons into a bracelet.

So on Button Day, there was no question where I was headed. I stopped in and perused the early holiday projects before settling in at the button table with a couple of girls who looked to be around seven or eight. The girls were there with their very patient months, who watched as the girls sifted through numerous tins to find the perfect circles of paper to use for their button bracelets. One of the tins was full of words cut from magazines and newspapers, and the girls read almost all of them, asking their mothers to explain what they meant. One finally opted for “nostalgia” written in a sophisticated-looking script. Her mother just shrugged at the other mother.

I watched one of the store owners help the girls as I waited at the craft table with another woman who was cutting printed photos of babies into 1.3 inch circles. The woman found a rhythm and was pounding the cutter regularly, pausing only to separate the photos into piles to turn into multiple bracelets for her female relatives. She had an accent I think was British.

The girls finally finished their bracelets, and I stood up to approach the button maker. The owner walked me through the process, putting a one inch metal ring in the impression in the bottom of the maker, then my selected circle of paper, then a piece of clear plastic over that. I pulled down a level to press the plastic and paper around the ring, then turned the maker 180 degrees to do it again. I thought the whole thing was so slick I made two buttons, one with a butterfly wing and a letter S beside it, and another with a typewriter overlaid with the words “Type A.”

I paid for my buttons and left the shop, walking past my old apartment. I  looked up at the window that used to be my bedroom. I know one of the people who lives there, but I don’t really want to stop by. I’d rather not see how inside of the place looks now.

I thought I’d drop one of my buttons into the saxophone case if the late-night musician was in her usual spot, but she wasn’t, so I simply pocketed the pair and hopped on a bus to go home.

S butterfly button

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National Indian Pudding Day

If you asked me yesterday what Indian Pudding was, I would tell you I didn’t know and that I didn’t believe such a thing existed.

Today, I know what Indian Pudding is. And it currently exists in my oven.

Indian Pudding is a misnamed (in my opinion) New England dessert. When those poor English colonists set foot on American soil, they dreamed of their wheat-based custards from back home. Sadly, they knew not how to obtain the proper ingredients for the Old World dish, so they substituted cornmeal (thank you, Abenaki and Patuxet tribal members) for wheat and hence created Indian Pudding. (see MyPunchBowl)

I selected an version of Old Fashioned Indian Pudding to try tonight while visiting my parents and brother. Cook a quart of scalded milk (learned what that is today: hot milk just before the boiling point) and a third of a cup of corn meal for 20 minutes in a double boiler (thank god for myMolasses and corn meal for Indian Pudding mother’s kitchen). Add a half cup of molasses and a teaspoon of ginger, then pour into a buttered two-quart baking dish. Bake in the oven for two hours at 300 degrees. My mom and I adapted the recipe a bit and went with a half teaspoon of ginger, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and about a half teaspoon of nutmeg. (Also be sure to include a dash of salt.)

My mom had never heard of Indian Pudding either, which scared me a bit. If my mom doesn’t know a food and how to make it, you’re likely in trouble. So we don’t know how this will come out. I just hope it’s edible.

We started this project a bit late, but I was insistent–we had to have it in the oven and I had to have a post online before midnight. Because otherwise, we would have missed National Indian Pudding Day, and then there was no point in making it at all. My parents kindly, very kindly, permitted me to dirty the kitchen and bang pots around at 11:00 p.m. (Fortunately, it’s World Kindness Day. They subconsciously celebrated it.) I have a good excuse for this late start: We had to attend P’s going away party!

The pudding will come out of the oven a little after 1:00 a.m. And considering the heavy molasses content, sampling my Indian Pudding may not be the most auspicious start to World Diabetes Day. But I’m not about to let this holiday slip past me, so for better or worse, I am saluting those early colonists and recreating one of the truly first Euro-American dishes.

Again, I just hope it’s edible.

(I’ll post results and photos tomorrow, since I’m borrowing P’s computer and he may not appreciate me tapping away in his bedroom at 2:00 a.m. Just a guess.)


Indian Pudding

The results were, well, not spectacular. My Indian Pudding was semi-sweet and looked like an unappetizing glob of brown goo. My family stayed up with me to try it, and though we all only had a few spoonfuls, I was the only one who ate all of my portion. Ah well, I’m just grateful they were game enough to try it. As my dad said, “S, you’re always bringing new things into this house.”

And so I brought Indian Pudding. And promised never to do so again.

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National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day

Glass Nickel Lotta Enchilada PizzaPizza. The lifeblood of college students and other early twenty-somethings. If any food is worthy of a holiday that commemorates its existence, it is pizza.

I took the easy route today and ordered a pizza rather than make my own. G and I sometimes do, and my favorite creation is our venison sausage with potatoes, onions and peppers. But the beautiful thing about pizza is not just the cheese and the meats and the vegetables. A pizza is also magnificent because it is cheap and easy. Convenient. Hassle-free in a chaotic, hassled world. You call the pizza person, who dispatches the pizza delivery guy (and yes, he is usually a guy), who brings food to your door. Sure, you have to wait anywhere from a half hour to a full hour, but you are rewarded with chewy bread and warm, melty cheese. It’s comforting, like pulling an electric blanket over your tongue. All seems right with the world when that pizza meets your gastrointestinal juices, and it’s especially perfect when your stomach gurgles while it digests that prize, as if giggling in glee along with you.

Anyway, before I get carried away here, I opted for a Lotta Enchilada pizza from Glass Nickel, a relatively high-end pizza place in town. Yes, it’s among the more expensive local pizza options. But it also has the most creative menu combined with better quality ingredients. Don’t get me wrong–I love late-night post-bar pizza from the downtown joint as much as the next gal, but I feel like I’ve moved up in the world now that I can afford to order pizza that doesn’t have toppings sliding off of flimsy crust into a pile of thick yellow grease.

Lotta Enchilada spoke to me tonight, calling out to me from the website menu. It promised me a cream cheese and green enchilada sauce, with diced chicken, mild green chilies and cilantro. And it delivered. I even got a 16 incher for the price of a 14 incher because the pizza person clued me in to some sort of secret special deal of the day.

G worked late today, so I gnoshed on the first three slices alone. But my communion with the pizza was hardly lonely, as Koda kept jumping on the table and attempting to lick my food. I really need to work on the pet discipline thing. However, I refused to let frustration creep into my National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day, and I reminded myself that food is always more satisfying when you pluck it from the jaws of a kitten, and that hey, I have a pet with decent taste. Point for me.

Part of me wanted to hide the remaining slices from G, so I could enjoy my Lotta Enchilada for multiple days to come. But my holiday spirit got the better of me, so I did share. And he enjoyed it as dearly as I did. Really, though, who wouldn’t?

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Forget Me Not Day

On the eve of Veteran’s Day is another holiday about remembering others. Today you’re supposed to call or write or otherwise make contact with those you haven’t heard from in awhile. Sounds easy enough, but think about it: how do you call someone who you haven’t talked to in months or even years and make idle chit-chat? Where do you even begin?

I started with family. Aunt D lives in Virginia (703–it’s Area Code day too). It took a heartbeat for her to realize who I was, but once I explained why I was calling (not to tell her of tragedy or anything like that), we got down to catching up. Her kids are well, her grandkids are well, her fetal grandkid is almost born. It was a good, happy call. Check.

I then called a former roommate (262 is her original area code, but I totally thought I’d find her in 406). This call made me just plain envious–C took a summer job out west that involved working in four states, and she’s been traveling across the country since then with her new guy. And I do mean across the country. They worked their way from California through the Southwest and over to the Smoky Mountains before she dropped him off in Maryland and swung back up to Wisconsin. It took a month. This is exactly what I think you should be doing in your early twenties. Sigh.

CellphoneAfter these two successful calls, I thought I was good to go. A short and sweet post, then off to bed to dream of tomorrow’s holidays. But something was missing. I felt like I made today too easy. After all, an aunt is of course going to be glad to hear from you, and I’ve kept in erratic touch over the months with C. I needed to make one more call.

I chose A. She and I were great friends in high school, but we drifted apart during the college years. She’s still in my hometown, which isn’t all that far from Madison. Both cities are 608, in fact. Anyway, it’s been well over a year since I last saw her, and it can be a strange thing to reconnect with high school friends. It’s like you revert back to the awkward, angsty dweeb you once were. Remember those days when nothing was more important than covering up a zit or making eye contact with a boy, then looking away hastily, pretending it never happened? Yeah, it was terrible. I like to think I’ve gotten a little cooler since then, but it’s hard to preserve my grown-up self image when talking to someone who was there for all the bad haircuts, unflattering glasses frames, etc.

I initially got A’s voicemail, and I thought, okay, great, I’m off the hook. After completing a very polite, mature-sounding message, I hung up and prepared to settle back on the couch. Then she called back. And she was happy to hear from me. And we swapped a bit of vestigial local gossip and personal news. Her son is doing well, and her guy is deployed to Afghanistan. She’s in nursing school, and it’s rough. My news? I have a cat. (Maybe I am still a dweeb. Dang it.)

We exchanged vows to get in touch again soon, maybe face to face. I hope we do. I know it can be hard to keep in touch with current friends, much less old ones, but it’s a comfortable and valuable feeling to know there are those you can call, anytime, out of the blue, and slip into conversation like you saw each other last week. No matter how many months go by, no matter how many things change, sometimes you just have to pick up the phone to realize there are some things that are timeless, unchanging in their own way.

Ultimately, by the end of that third call, I realized this holiday has probably been one of the most valuable I’ve celebrated so far. Really, what can be more important than relationships and doing things to preserve them?

Gotta work on the dweeb thing, though.

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Chaos Never Dies Day

Today is all about recognizing the constant state of chaos that is modern life. According to Holiday Insights,

Chaos Never Dies Day recognizes the turmoil in modern, everyday life. Are things a little crazy at home? Is school a little on the wild side? Is your work place hectic and disorderly? We thought so.

Just when things seem to calm down at work and home, along comes something to disrupt your life. Yes, disorder is everywhere. Hectic schedules, changes to plans, unexpected tasks and chores, the list goes on and on and on…….

Today is designed for you. It’s a day to recognize the chaos in your life. You can best celebrate this day, by recognizing that chaos never dies. Rather, its a way of life. You can partake in this special day, by putting just a little order back into your life. You can start, by picking one thing that is really disrupting your life, and change it…for the good.

What one thing to pick? My bedroom is pretty cluttered right now with a bunch of unfolded laundry, and my office is an absolute war zone. But I think there is something even more fundamental that needs a little clearing right now: my brain. My poor mind has been frazzled lately, between work and the family reunion and trying to figure out how to celebrate a holiday every single day. It’s all turning my synapses into soup, and I think I need to do some triage sorting-out up there.

My solution is a yoga DVD I picked up at Best Buy a couple of months ago on a whim. Called Am and PM Yoga for Beginners, the DVD offers two sequences. The AM sequence “enhances basic poses with gentle repetitions to invigorate, tone, and streamline your body.” The PM sequence aims “to dissolve stress as it lengthens and opens your muscles.”

AM & PM Yoga
I”m telling you right now, there ain’t nothing “gentle” about the AM sequence. The first time I tried the sequence, I discovered my deep hatred for Downward Facing Dog–a basic, common yoga pose that involves keeping your rear end in the air and your legs straight while your hands are on the ground. I am a cat person. The only dog I like is my parents’ Border terrier. Friendly, cute and small. Downward Facing Dog is not a Border terrier. It is an unfed, untrained Rottweiler capable of pain and misery.

So today in an attempt to find calm among the chaos, I opted for the PM sequence. The honestly “gentle” stretching and long period spent lying on the back with hands over the belly seemed right up my alley tonight.

I rolled out G’s yellow yoga mat and swatted Koda away. I popped in the DVD and even found the two remotes necessary. However, I spent almost 20 minutes trying to find the buttons to switch the TV to the DVD player, since our TV is almost older than I am and doesn’t have one of those handy “video” buttons on the front. This whole production forced me to pull out the DVD player manual in order to interpret the mysteriously labelled remote buttons. Honestly, what does “input select” mean? You could put that in French and it would have the same effect on me. Entrée choisie.

After some random button pushing and decidedly un-calm thoughts of violence toward my TV, the screen miraculously switched to the serene smile of Elena Brower, certified Anusara Yoga teacher. I sighed, happily, and pulled my feet in toward my groin, beginning to inhale and round my back, when the phone rang.

I found pause and answered, telling G that technology was thwarting my efforts to achieve inner peace. He told me he’d be home soon.

I returned to my practice, shuffling through one Downward Dog and happily dropping into Plank and Pigeon. Koda jumped on me, but I refused to release my momentary inner calm.

Momentary it most certainly was. G came home, opened the mail (why haven’t silent envelopes been invented yet? why?) and sat on the couch to read. There is a reason I haven’t joined a yoga class. That reason is I’m too self conscious to attempt this stuff in front of people. Any people. Including G. So much for focus.

He got up to get some food just as Elena mercifully slid into the lying on the back pose I mentioned earlier. As I laid on the floor, focusing my eyes on the water damage cracks in our ceiling, I flashed back to middle school and my brief attempt at cross country. Our coach, Mr. P., would lead us through warm-up and cool-down exercises that closely resembled yoga poses. The team favorite was Blue Sky, where we laid on our backs, staring at the sky, silent. More than once Mr. P. would fall asleep, leaving us to our own devices, which usually meant giving up and wandering home. I guess there were reasons none of us won any races.

Anyway, Blue Sky is just as effective on a yellow mat as hard, matted school-yard grass, and I did find myself feeling much more relaxed after the sequence. If I can beat back my mental chaos for one evening, perhaps I can do it for a whole week. After all, it’s currently the International Society of Friendship and Good Will Pursuit of Happiness Week. So I am going to attempt not only the PM sequence every day this week. I’m also going to attempt to get up and get through the AM sequence every day, because I know that achieving the whole practice will ultimately, somewhere down the road, bring me some sort of happiness. At least I hope so.


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Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day

There are few things that I truly fear. Bring on roller coasters and horror movies. Though not my favorite things, spiders and snakes are tolerable. What does strike fear into my heart is spicy, spicy food. And of course, G passionately loves spice. His whole family does. Once, at a Thai restaurant, I ordered a sweet and sour dish that had me literally in tears. I couldn’t help it–it was purely a physical reaction. G’s mom leaned over to try my dish and politely smiled at my weakness.

G and I have come to an understanding when it comes to spice. We make food, then he adds hot sauce to his plate and I keep mine edible. Now in defense, I do like flavors and spices. It’s more of a how-much issue. I like to be able to taste something, rather than burn off my tongue and taste nothing but the fires of hell for hours.

So today’s holiday required some courage on my part. G called his parents for the recipe for a family specialty: spicy tofu. They ran through the list of spices to include–turmeric, paprika, tamari, cumin. The holiday gods had a little mercy on me, as our spice rack was conveniently lacking three of the four of these. We decided to improvise.

G sliced a 12-ounce block of tofu into cubes and heated it in a pan with olive oil to get the tofu to “flash” and crisp up. We added an onion, about two cups of green beans, four garlic cloves and a few scoops of Edwards Orchard sweetcorn salsa. We added two splashes of balsamic vinegar for the hell of it, and then we violently shook paprika, chili flakes, onion flakes and garlic powder over the whole thing. We also added rosemary. Why not.

We served it over rice and black beans, and the result was actually not that spicy! G, of course, smothered his plate in hot sauce, but I ate mine comfortably. I feel like this is one of the few holidays I not only celebrated–I conquered. Take that, Bold and Pungent Day. I made something decidedly bold and yes, it was pungent, but no, I didn’t cry. I ate it. Victory.

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