The time has arrived for trick-or-treating. Despite health and safety concerns surrounding the event, the act of making neighbourhood door-to-doors was not banned by public officials; it was merely a matter of operating safely within COVID guidelines.
Older generations such as myself have not partaken in this particular act for well over a decade, though circumstances may differ depending on the spectrum of ages housed within one residence. Less inclined to the fearful aspects of the holiday, my Halloween festivities normally revolve around last-minute costumes and the occasional themed treat.
Mississauga's alternative approach to celebration involved a self-led scavenger hunt at the City Centre's go-to outdoor event space. Celebration Square, which now features social distancing circles, was decorated, minimally - if I may add - with a Monster Fitness Course and trivia questions referring to various parts of the city. Installations such as the Queen of Halloween and Monstrous Mum Living Mural were striking displays of colour fit for photo-taking.
We spent just under twenty minutes parading the perimeter of the square, after which chilly conditions prompted our return indoors.
One of my fondest childhood memories involves Pokémon - the original 150(+1) to be exact. I owned not a single handheld gaming console, though was an avid enthusiast of the N64 system renowned amongst 90s youngsters. Further positive flashbacks can be derived from the Mario Kart mini-games, where shell-throwing and ramp-racing constituted perfectly normal acts in the quest for balloon accumulation.
This affection for games later led to fascination with RPG games in my tween years and frequent arcade visits post days of license acquisition. Impromptu Playdium visits were not uncommon practice in my regular hangouts, but at-home gaming was no longer a pastime I found myself investing in. It seems the opposite effect has affected the masses amidst the coronavirus pandemic; yet, in-person face-offs remain the most appealing for me. Human interaction is scarce these days, and I shall eagerly latch onto the opportunities that chance me by.
In response to Peel Region'sreversal into a modified Stage 2 and Halton's maintenance of Stage 3, my extremely belated birthday plans were shifted towards the west end of the GTA, where Dave & Buster's replaced The Rec Room for our dose of friendly arcade competition.
The Oakville location appeared larger than the Vaughan outpost, or appeared in such a manner given the spacious arrangement of the games floor. Much like The Rec Room, attendees were required to complete a sign-in sheet with name and phone number details, though were not subject to symptom screening. Labelled glasses were used to distinguish between "used" and "clean" pens for peace of mind; disposable gloves and sanitizer were also situated at various stations throughout.
We strode past relatively densely-populated dining booths before finding ourselves amongst the flashing displays of simulation and redemption games. Noteworthy was the sheer variety of available attractions: beyond the inclusion of both DDR (malfunctioning at our time of visit) and Pump It Up platforms, D&B was also home to several games I had yet to witness in other establishments. Among these was a single-player module employing a VR headset, which we opted against trying for obvious health reasons.
Bathrooms were pristine and wait times were essentially nonexistent. Admittedly, the price per ticket is atrociously steep. This, presumably, bears a direct correlation to the quality of goods within the prize cabinet. Two visits' worth of points would have been adequate in earning oneself an avocado-shaped wireless charger at D&B, yet the equivalent of a dusty pack of Nerds at Playdium.
As it neared the 8:30 PM mark, we declared that dinner could wait no longer.
Prior to the incarnation of the space, I had visited Song Cook's on a handful of occasions. The most prominent in my memory are the dim ambience and partitioned dining floor. Returning to the tiny storefront nearly six years later, it dawned upon me that the restaurant had undergone extremely few modifications. The interior was precisely have I had remembered, as was the layout. Perhaps the only departure from the original Song Cook's was dual title of "Chi-Mac", which consequently broadened the menu with several saucy Korean fried chicken options. Naturally, the change summoned an advantage over nearby eateries such as The Fry and Sikgaek, which also offers indulgent, modern Korean cuisine.
With cooler weather upon us, it is only natural to drift in the direction of warm, cozy lattes and steaming mugs of cider. Naturally, cold brew production has also lessened, either being substituted with pourovers hot espresso-based beverages or acting to supplement mid-day cookie cravings.
The opportunity has, in turn, enabled me to try my hand at microfoam art, yet again witnessed with minimal success.
Remnants of the previous week's Oatmeal Bread and Pigs in a Blanket were devoured promptly. A Coconut Cream Einspänner reared its head in response to leftover AROY-D, much to the approval of orangecane.
CoCo was acquired from the location nearest me. New masks were tested by Larry.
Halloween fast approaching, I took upon the mission of obtaining black cocoa powder for undecided creative endeavours. Any previous attempts to locate Dutch press cocoa powder at the local grocer had been in vain; seeing that Amazon seemed even less economically-prudent for the ingredient, I sought out a local wholesaler in the east end of the city.
McCall's was further from any POI than I could have anticipated. Firmly nestled in a series of brick-and-mortar commercial buildings, which were, interestingly enough, not that far from the paintball destination of nearly two years prior, was their extremely modest side entrance and "parking lot".
Growing up, my favourite season was summer - as probably every kid's was. The balmy months were often tied to keywords such as "summer break", "no school(!)", and "vacation". With the coming of age though, there is an undeniable shift in favour of cooler temperatures. Autumn's breezy conditions and saturated shrubbery offer a sense of serenity - an emotion disparate from the sweaty bustle of summer. There's just something extremely satisfying about traversing across crunchy leaves post-abscission.
Creations of the week included:
1) Apple Cider
...or rather, Mulled Apple Cider. With majority of our stash allocated towards Apple Pie, the remaining 802 grams of fruit thereupon constituted the base of an apple cider attempt. Alas, I was far too generous with the spice blend; the brew was stripped of its luscious, juicy tartness and made spicier than need be. Serving it cold in a 3:1 ratio with water was the resulting solution.
2) Oatmeal Bread
For me, it would be an understatement to declare that craggy, fibrous - and oftentimes healthy - items are joyful to consume. Thus, one can imagine my enthusiasm upon perception of the words "I need to eat healthier."
I first began scouring the World Wide Web for a gluten-free loaf utilizing oats, partially for the sake of experimentation and partially to eliminate white bread flour altogether. After landing on several formulae that listed pre-soaking of steel-cut oats as the first step, I reverted to the Queen of Breadmaking for a hassle-free endeavour.
Bake for Happy Kids has done it yet again! Not only was the dough was extremely easy to handle, but the kneading process was comparatively much shorter as well.
Admittedly, the loaf doesn't resist moisture dissipation as efficiently as the standard sugar-laden loaves. It also failed to the same height. Fluffiness was gradually lost over the course of twelve hours. Thankfully, this aspect mattered minimally, for slices were toasted till crisp and smothered with Knotty Coppertop's fabulously floral unpasteurized honey.
3) Pigs in a Blanket - the puffed edition
Success seen with SK's revolutionary pie crust, we began to contemplate a savoury edition. The conception eventually materialized in the form of wiener sausages coiled within thin, flat strands of buttery pie dough, then finished with a dash of dried parsley.
The first one, a highly unfortunate, dust-covered prototype, was topped with flaky sea salt and a pinch of turbinado sugar. Additional sodium was omitted from the latter batch upon the discovery of the sausages' existing salty profile.
In Ontario, fall is the shortest season of the year - COVID times or not.
Hiking is the ideal activity to make the most of the forgiving temperatures, though road trips to cottage country are a swell alternative for the less mobile members of society. Not to mention: both of these engagements comply completely with public health guidelines.
orangecane and I started the day at McDonald's. What was to follow constituted our ̶f̶i̶r̶s̶t̶ third meeting of the year (excluding the brief exchanges of In the Kitchen happenings), as well as our second hike in orangeaesthetics history - a now-hijacked hashtag.
A Signature Wrap and Junior Chicken later, we were on our way to Elora Gorge, a destination I became acquainted with while compiling a Kitchener itinerary in the summer.
Several other spots had been shortlisted in the week leading up to Thanksgiving long weekend, but Guelph seemed most reasonable for a day trip in terms of travel time and fall foliage potential.
Our collective first impression was utter disdain towards the provided trail map. The single-sided sheet lacked clarity. Besides the relative positioning of on-site campgrounds, parking lots, trail entrances, and routes were vaguely presented.
Admission fees relinquished and parking spot secured, we were about to embark on the journey as orangecane gestured to the printout on the dashboard.
"Did you want to take the map?"
"I'm not going to look at it." I shrugged. "It's also essentially useless."
She nodded in agreement, side-eyeing the folded rectangle before summoning her trusty hiking gear.
Pies are more challenging than they appear to be.
I know, I know - doesn't that contradict the previous post on pecan pie? Why yes, yes it does.
Alas, practice makes perfect, as experience is an enabler.
Besides dabbling in pie-making - an act of which further details shall shortly materialize - I also made the discovery that Apple Cider and Cold Brew are wonderful when combined in a 1:1 ratio. Not shown is the knockoff Tiger Spritzer, formula inherited from Smile Tiger.
Creations of the week include:
1) Bread - Eggless, Butter-less, and Machine-less!
Beyond the fact that I had adhered to one of Bake for Happy Kids' rare vegan recipes, I intrepidly accepted the challenge of hand-kneading. The decision hadn't been intentional, yet stemmed out of sheer consideration for time and butter inventory. (Unfortunately, the bread machine does take longer.)
With the exception one large gaping air pocket consistently spotted in the upper third of each loaf, results were conclusively satisfactory for a first attempt. My personal preference lies with the sweeter, eggier varieties containing condensed milk and milk powder, though a noticeable benefit was the dryness of the loaf and its enhanced resistance to moulding.
Consumed on its own, it was a fine, carby specimen, though its potential was truly unlocked with the power of toasting. Two to three minutes in a toaster oven yielded crisp edges and a wispy, delicately golden body. We later deemed them ideal for dipping in semi-viscous soups or paired with a light spreading of butter - cultured, if available, for a refreshing dose of tartness.
We ultimately could not forego the annual Apple Factory visit. Despite the worries surrounding staggering case counts in the northern parts of Peel, we proceeded with the tradition, vowing to dash in then dash out.
On an early Monday afternoon, both the roads and store interior proved relatively peaceful. We pulled into an asphalt lot that was, without a doubt, the least festive it's ever been in the past four plus years. From the entrance had the haystack and scarecrow display vanished. Even the Apple Jamboree had taken a "Social Distancing" break for the time being.
Only a handful of customers were spotted within the store, primarily stationed in the checkout line and separated by the length of shopping cart. Social distancing stickers were placed along the pie counter, though arrows had not been deployed to promote one-way movement.
Ticking off the items on the list, we maneuvered first to the produce section. Evaluating the apple varieties on display, a couple proceeded to enter our zone of safety and remain within it, oblivious to raised, furrowed eyebrows. Their constant presence persisted throughout our visit, seemingly pausing to poke at various items for the sake of dallying. Beyond backtracking their steps, the duo had navigated uncomfortably close to us at several instances. This lack of awareness and commonplace pandemic etiquette came across as shocking, especially as residents from a comparatively safer district of the region.
We secured a 3L jug of Apple Cider, as per the norm. The Apple Factory's produce is atrociously pricey, however I insisted on some Cortland apples to take home. At $9.99 per bag, it was a reasonable fee to compensate the proposed social distancing apple-picking trip that never happened. And, as suspected, pie-making is the ultimate rationale for this splurge.
Fall hath befallen in the GTA with decidedly toasty temperatures last week, discouraging lunchtime walks altogether. As we inch towards Thanksgiving weekend, temperatures have plummeted, and with it came dull, grey skies and dreary rainfall.
Much to my pleasure, skies remained clear during my in-office days. Gentle breezes also yielded conditions suitable for speed walking.
From a distance, I gazed at the huddle of red-orange-tan nestled between the unkept shrugs and azure, You Are-esque skies, anticipating the arrival of upcoming hikes.
Combatting a global pandemic is no simple task, as it has been displayed clearly over the past twenty-eight weeks. Those that abide the law as respectful citizens carry on with their everyday business, simultaneously searching for alternatives in the face of obstacles. Unsurprising is the fact that many have engaged more frequently in indoor activities - be it cooking, cleaning, or home renovations. With the sudden increase in usage, I found my household appliances to grow weary at an unpredictable pace. The abrupt breakdown of my ice maker prompted temporary reversion to silicon trays, while kettle issues led to immediate investment of a replacement. Thankfully, online shopping exists in the age of technology and information.
One of my first purchases of the week was the Jumbo Taro Milk Shaved Ice from Meet Fresh. The fifteen-dollar dessert had consistently occupied a spot in my mind since its introduction, thus I set out for procurement of the exclusive item, along with their coveted Herbal Tea.
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.