As Monday loomed into view, the symptoms associated with stomach flu became undeniable. A queasy and pained stomach, bloating, chills, headache, lack of appetite, nausea, and irregular bowel movements all alluded to the condition. The exact cause was uncertain, though I looked towards the previous week's Toro Toro and immediately halted mindless consumption of rock-solid Haribo gummies.
A soft snack was requested to fill my mid-day munching woes. It was met with a box of four black-sesame-filled mochi, sourced from the prepared food section rather than the import aisle on the account of being "preservative-free". At $1.62 apiece before tax though, my expectations were quite high.
The three-bite parcels were as light as feather, dusted ever so gently with a coating of subtly sweet rice flour. They emerged as distinctly Chinese-style creations, comprising of a rice flour-glutinous rice flour blend for both structure and elasticity. In contrast to Japanese mochi, this variation contained more filling (and a barely sweet one at that), were drier to the touch, and did not exhibit intensely chewy qualities.
Meals of the week revolved about a scrumptious Salted Pork Congee (with ginger threads to combat nausea), blanched veggies, homemade Cha Siu, Steamed Pork and Tofu, and Stir Fried Daikon and Lap Cheong - a diverse assortment of feel good fare.
As the final four of SK's delightful ginger molasses cookies were slid from freezer to toaster oven, I began to contemplate the next batch.
The recipe is straightforward, yet yields impressive results, regardless of the whether the ginger is caramelized. Utilizing a single egg yolk is but the only downside.
Weekends for the average adult are catch-up days. Those tasked with raising young children may beg to differ, though this statement will likely hold true for the vast majority of societal contributors. (Adult-aged children need not apply.)
Rising earlier than I do on the standard work-from-home day, I prepared myself for a 9 AM arrival at Costco on Saturday morning. The entirety of the grocery list was obtained in under ten minutes, though not without intense frustrations with the sleepy polar bear, who offered to assist in the morning warehouse run for the first time ever and delayed it with the purchase of a single Hash Brown (Oh, the never-ending Hash Brown woes!).
Returning from Costco (and a fully-charged lecture about attaining base goals before adding innovation into the equation), I transitioned into chores and the heavily unanticipated, annual tax return process. Lunch was consumed swiftly, then supplemented with snacks of homemade Cha Siu (not executed by yours truly) and a fizzy orange juice-mango passion jam medley.
From the glossy sheen to magnificent marbling to crispy, charred edges, the homemade rendition was not only far more delectable than Magic BBQ, but economic as well.
The evening hours were scheduled to spent at an escape room with friends. Leading up to the appointment, I began to suffer queasiness in the stomach. Just as I had readied myself, the sleepy polar bear informed of having departed solo, without prior confirmation of my intents. With less than twenty minutes left to the booking slot, I raged with incredulity and hurried hopped into my own vehicle to make up for lost time.
Thankfully (or not so thankfully), my extreme speed guided me to the facility in sixteen minutes. Much to my relief, our commencement time was not strictly enforced.
Browsing the archives, I realized that my last escape room experience had taken place in December 2016. Pricey admission, paired with a tiresome commute into downtown Toronto, had unfolded into a relatively dismal turnout with minimal excitement. Given this record, I had turned down escape rooms for good, much like pho. Alas, one positive experience was all that was needed to turn the tables.
In reviewing room choices and prices for HintHunt and Trapped, I learned of the current market prices for a sixty-minute experience: $30 to $40 before tax. These were extravagant rates to me, for the event is brief and level of enjoyment is entirely dependent on the facility's "Game Master(s)".
When go karting was eliminated as an alternative, I took matters into my own hands, eventually securing a stellar deal on Groupon for Escape The House. It was, by far, the most budget option possible: $64 after taxes for a group of four, or $16 per person.
Upon arrival, we signed our names on the waiver and were instructed to place our belongings in a locker. Any device capable of capturing media were prohibited to preserve the integrity of the game room, and reasonably so. The key would remain with us until after the game session.
Adjacent to the lockers was a single stall bathroom. It was surprisingly clean, despite being a unisex stall, though I grew progressively wary of the toilet's restrictive flushing capabilities.
There were three rooms on offer at Escape The House: Turbulence, Trapped, and Last Stop Motel. When my first choice of Last Stop Motel was fully booked, I entered onto the waitlist but booked Trapped in the meantime. The waitlist notification was never received, thus we merely continued with Trapped.
A briefing was provided by one of the staff members prior to entry. Beyond walkie-talkies, unlimited hints, and cautionary warnings about ceiling panels and biohazard signage, we would be given a rundown of our room format.
"Why don't you - ?"
"Why can't you - ?"
"Why not try?"
Prevailing clear as day over the last three weeks, I can testify that doing your personal best doesn't necessarily yield the desired outcome. The feelings of inadequacy have returned, jointly with a flood of neck-tensing, headache-inducing tensions.
In a society comprising of countless personalities, strenghts, and weaknesses, diversity is common, as are decision-making mechanisms. If opting for an alternate route was as equally easy to all, then our thought process would default to the same path, thus generating identical results.
Instead of forcibly coercing the actions of another, I struggle to see why most don't seek to understand and change their own strategy(ies) for interpersonal interactions. Whether we are result- or process-oriented, or have entirely dissimilar objectives, there are ways of meeting such goals with extreme compromise of the other. For once that compromise exceeds a given threshold, it is no longer a compromise, but an endless sacrifice for superficial harmony.
Majority of my week is spent indoors, mostly tending to the chaos of others. Be it in the workplace or day-to-day life, my resourcefulness, organization aptitudes, and problem-solving skills are constantly being tested.
Beer provides some degree of solace from the seemingly endless challenges of life, as do freshly brewed coffee (for the AM periods), ice cream (for the PM), and Sulley socks (for all times of the day). Waterloo Brewing's latest Juicy Hazy IPA and Guava Lime Radler are zesty and easy on the palate - ideal drinks for the spring-summer transition - which, realistically, may not come till mid-May.
Functional additions also bring about joy. A sturdy 16 oz. beer glass with neatly rimmed edges served me well in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic pursuits. Thai tea is great on its own, but even better in a crossover with coffee. (That said, the canned rendition from Taiwan was too milky and sugary on its own.)
Sunday Baking's Condensed Milk Pound Cake was constructed again, for there is comfort in reliability. Due to concerns over non-uniform consistency, I attempted this iteration using a hand mixer. Though I would have preferred the depth of the stand mixer to prevent flying flour particles, I appreciated that the batter was a one-bowl undertaking, thus reducing the number of dishes.
Scraping the bowl is not an optional step, I learned, regardless of mixer choice. Throughout the creaming process, I passed a flat spatula along the inside of the bowl to incorporate any unlatched specks of butter, then again when blending the flour. Surely enough, this dedication presented itself in the final product: a tender, golden yellow crumb with a homogenous cross-section.
The recipe calls for a baking time of forty minutes, but this is purely a minimum. The previous two attempts had seen baking times of 45-50 minutes for a clean toothpick, thus I set the timer for forty, and checked back between the forty-two to forty-five range.
The trip to Waterloo had stemmed from a desire to go out, for, contrary to popular belief, I'll easily choose the hermit life when funds and energy levels are low. Following a month-long recharge period, it was time to experience the external world once more.
While there had been initial contemplation about a trip eastward - either to North York or Markham to fulfill munching needs - there were, truthfully, very few geographical POIs beyond food. Waterloo served as a pleasant getaway from heavily hyped eateries and crowds, which, in turn, made for agreeable drives and parking situations.
I had visited the Waterloo Brewing Beer Store previously, yet never set foot in their taphouse - or any taphouse, for that matter! This was about to change.
Traffic had been light heading into Waterloo, so, despite a slight setback due to shovelling, we arrived in under one hour. The taphouse was quieter than I expected, with an ample amount of tables and low noise levels overall. Had our visit been slated for a gastropub in downtown Toronto, the scene would have been utterly more chaotic - not to mention time-consuming.
We had the option of choosing our seats, naturally prompting me to graviate towards the table with the greatest natural illumination. A few crumbs resided on the tall stool, but the bartender was more than willing to assist in brushing them off. Given that the chairs had been tucked into the table legs, it was evident that we were its first users of the day.
Menus adopted the form of narrow wooden clipboards, with page breaks for cocktails, food, and featured items. As I flipped through the pages - barely reading, mind you - the sleepy polar bear pointed out the different Feature Menu selections tacked to our clipboards: Borscht and Pumpernickel Turkey Club on one, and Broccoli Cheddar Soup and Sourdough BLT on the other. While appealing in their descriptions, the soup and sandwich variations weren't conventional taphouse fare, and could likely be procured elsewhere.
I continued to scan for articles of interest. In the meantime, two IKEA drinking glasses and a chilled bottle of water were delivered to our table. Noteworthy was its presentation, for it utilized a tinted, airtight brewing bottle. At first glance, it would appear no different from a corked wine bottle, yet the cap was a screwtop inclusive of a rubber seal, similar to the amber bottle I had obtained for DIY vanilla extract. Though not immediately obvious, the water was deemed slightly alkaline (salty) after a few sips.
"What would you like?" asked the sleepy polar bear from across the table.
"Hmmmm I'm not sure." I mumbled without lifting my head. The statement could be interpreted as indecisiveness to an undiscerning eye, though it was, in fact, a careful calculation to maximize enjoyment through sustenance.
"Are you going to get beer?" came the follow-up inquiry, which was quickly interrupted by "Of course you are! Who am I kidding?"
As if on cue, our gaze fell upon the flights on nearby tables, inciting curiosity and uncertainty. Our server, a friendly, bearded man in a black Waterloo Brewing t-shirt, sauntered by at this very moment, and immediately appeased my burning inquiries with a gesture towards the list by the bar. While those named on the Cans and Bottles section could only be requested individually, any of the names on tap could be chosen to constitute a flight.
View the full album HERE !
After some internal debate, I confirmed the following picks:
1) Waterloo Brewing Signature Series Apple Crumble Porter
5) A Good Time Saison
10) Enida Kellerbier
11) Landshark Island Style Lager
We also took to The Full Boar Sandwich, Fest Pretzel, and Brussel Sprout & Chorizo Salad for sharing.
Adulting encompasses a series of tedious tasks, ranging from acquiring survival skills to battling unexpected financial burden. Being trained (and, wired naturally, to some extent) to operate as efficiently as possible from an early age helps in adapting to this evolutionary process.
Quickly identifying a comprehensive solution is no easy feat. When one despises wasted efforts on trial and error as much I do though, Google serves as your best tool, outlining the past successes (and failures) of others for your own reference and learning.
Instances of setting foot in the kitchen past mid-2021 for non-baking purposes are rare. As of recently, I regained the temporary responsibility of meal-making. The duty comes hand in hand with grocery runs, for one is unable to cook without ingredients. Early in the week, a Chinese-style stylee nabe was constructed.
I've termed it "Our Household Nabe", for the broth utilizes dried scallops and shiitake mushrooms instead of a dashi composed of bonito flakes, soy, and mirin/sake. I omitted ginger out of sheer forgetfulness, though later realized its significance in combatting the cooling properties of Napa cabbage.
Marinating 1.3 lbs of pork shabu shabu strips enabled tenderness without overbearing potency. The mixture of salt, dark soy, sugar, and Shaoxing wine helped to draw out excess moisture from the frozen segments while facilitating thawing. These strips were then stir-fried slightly with four stalks of roughly chopped scallions for aroma-acquiring purposes. Slowly but surely, the chopped napa cabbage was then placed into the pot and showered with four cans of chicken broth. Filling the pot to the top with water, the entire array was brought to a boil.
In order to ensure a clear broth, the mixture was simmered over medium to medium-high heat, skimming the foam with a fine mesh ladle as it appeared. Due to the fattiness of the pork shabu strips, the meat remained tender throughout the process.
The dish was served with udon and a side of Smile(y) fries.
Parallel parking skills, problem-solving capabilities, and results-oriented decision-making were aptitudes I had always thought of as natural processes to navigate physical reality, and life as a whole. It's recently dawned on me that a portion of the population has managed to carry themselves throughout majority of their time on Earth without adopting or acquiring any of the above. It baffled me, honestly; but even more shocking was the abstract concept of chasing pleasure through a process as opposed to its result.
"You do things because you know the result in the end." I was told. "Both the cause and effect are known."
"What's wrong with that?" I inquired back. "Would it make more sense to invest time into getting a variable result? That's just a waste of energy and effort."
"Sometimes you do things for the process. 'Just because.'"
Naturally, I struggled to understand how certain actions could be undertaken on a "just because" basis. One of this society's biggest mysteries are those that live to escape hardship, brazenly flaunting the grand privilege of living according to their own schedule, their own funds, and their own energy reserve without making tangible contributions.
The issue with chasing a process is that it eliminates the end goal. The outcome becomes variable, and all efforts are concentrated towards a potentially fruitless result.
Ruthlessly served a dose of reality in my own endeavours this week, I learned of the need to realign my process with the desired goal in mind. Drowning immediate woes in hot chocolate and the comfort of furry friends, I began to devise the next order of action.
Feedback is seldom easy on the ears, yet always contributes to positive character development, should one allow constructive criticism to serve as motivation rather than a challenge of ego and pride.
Meals of the week comprised of Steamed Chicken and Lap Cheong (not pictured), Pork and Pickled Veggies (also not pictured), and Small Deluxe and Italian Gourmet Pizzas from Pizzaville. Their Cheddar/Mozzarella Stix, while tasty on their own, reached new heights with a light drizzle of Worcestershire sauce for acidity. I also took the liberty of emptying the freezer of leftover ruby ganache with strawberry jam and concocting my first daiquiri with 1.5 oz Gold Rum, 1 oz of lemon juice, and 0.5 oz of Purdy's Ginger Syrup. The result was scrumptious, if I dare say so myself.
CoCo's Passionfruit Slush with Honey Jelly was delivered by the sleepy polar bear upon my request. The beverage was, thankfully, not icy enough to induce brain freeze and also delightfully reminiscent of fruit gummy candies, albeit on the stingy side of passionfruit seed inclusion.
After the successful turnout of last week's Chiffon Pound Cake, I was leaning towards Sunday's Soft Vanilla Pound Cake. However, the gluten-free creation utilized heavy cream - an ingredient I had depleted just before its expiry date. She came to the rescue with yet another Pound Cake recipe, this time utilizing a combination of sweetened condensed milk and granulated sugar for structure and moistness.
Known to release no-fail recipes, Sunday Baking's Condensed Milk Pound Cake was no exception. Due to the repetitive periods of mixing involved, I turned to the stand mixer to facilitate the process. Many times had my right wrist cramped as a result of holding the hand mixer for extended periods; this time, I would actively work to avoid accumulation of strain.
The recipe started with the flour-batter method, in which butter was first creamed with sugars, then evenly mixed with flour. From this point, three eggs would be added in, one by one to prevent the batter from splitting.
Who Am I?
Formerly an avid owner of several interest-based portals, Random Thoughts of a Quirky Blogger presents precisely the elements expected. From experiments in the kitchen to miscellaneous musings, from IGOT7 reflections to developments in transportation infrastructure, it's all consolidated here. Welcome to the raw, unfiltered side of Quirky Aesthetics.