I have a site which will have slightly different layout elements displayed throughout its lifecycle. The lifecycle is implemented using simple drupal variable (variable_get/variable_set). Administrator basically changes this variable's value when time comes for the website to pass on from one stage to another. Every stage lasts for few weeks or few months. Based on the value of this variable, I would basically like to show/hide some blocks, using panels and mini panels visibility rules. There are also Rules rules being fired on stage change, but that's whole other story and also taken care of.
Here's the problem - I cannot wrap my head around making Drupal variable available to panels as context and/or visiblity rule. I searched everywhere and didn't find anything, clicked around panels and some additional modules like crazy, nothing - maybe I'm using wrong keywords. Did I get stuck in some single line of thining?
Maybe I shouldn't try to stay with variable and there is better, more obvious way to achieve what I need?
Any help/suggestions/hints most appreciated!