And while I've proven loyal to these words, my endurance is withering. Exhaustion perpetuates as I tirelessly sort through the expanse, simultaneously balancing matters demanding attention in the present.
"I'll be hermiting within for a month." I had declared upon returning from Calgary. "A month, if not more - whatever it takes to finish."
And while I've proven loyal to these words, my endurance is withering. Exhaustion perpetuates as I tirelessly sort through the expanse, simultaneously balancing matters demanding attention in the present.
In the days following Valentine's, I munched on the remnants of my chocolate creations and smiley fries to assuage me till Friday.
These crisp rounds with ketchup-gushing eyes were paired with kale (of course) and a bottle of Heineken into which I mixed a few glugs of Yuzu Choya, then immediately regretted.
Out & About #875 | Jinyoung - Chapter 0: WITH, Bluberry Crumble Cake + Torta Caprese
No other work week feels as short as one before a trip, especially with a rush of month-end wrap-up tasks, unexpected spectacle complications, and unfavourable commuting conditions.
When my carpooling partner warned of an earlier departure time, I grimaced. Joint trips often commence early, but terminate far later than desired. To peel myself away from an area of respite even sooner than 6 AM did not align with personal productivity-promoting protocols. I resolved to undertake the grueling drive downtown by myself.
Monday morning traffic was surprisingly light, but any prospect of arriving early (and leaving early) would be eradicated upon coming face to face with an unexpected TTC delay. Thankfully, the "broken train" issue spanned just a total of twelve minutes. I succeeded in making my arrival at 7:55 AM; the office, much to my relief, was relatively vacant with the exception of two large meetings, one in each boardroom.
Originally, I had planned to visit the optometrist's office first thing. Delaying the trip to the following day eventually emerged as the better decision, for the lens of one pair popped out while in the office. The remainder of the day was spent working without the assistance of screen spectacles. But, in the very least, I'd be able to service all three pairs in one trip.
Lunchtime proved surprisingly warm. My westbound trek was accompanied by a picturesque scene of slow-falling snowflakes. Though, "picturesque" may be a debatable term, for construction and precipitation often make for muddy ground conditions and splatters on pants.
On the bright side, many of the construction fences had been removed with the completion of cycle track paving and interlock work. This enabled smoother flow of foot traffic, in spite of snow piled about the curb.
At spotting "Mont Blanc" adorning the online menu of Isle of Coffee, I opted to venture out for a second visit. The cafe's madeleines had been disappointing overall, but the Fig and Caramel Scone had left its mark.
Obtained in addition to the scone were a small Houjicha Latte and Mont Blanc. While the drink was being prepared, I treaded down a flight of narrow, rickety wooden stairs to the basement. Amidst the dim ambiance were a handful of tables, two incredibly focused ladies seated at those tables, working away on their laptops, and an old movie - complete with subtitles - being projected on an empty wall. Left of the stairwell was a door that read "Employees only", but beyond the limited seating was a second door - the washroom!
The single stall was fairly clean, equipped with a swing top garbage bin, one backup toilet paper roll under the sink, and a toilet with competent flushing capabilities.
Awaiting my return to ground level were my treats were perched on the counter, neatly placed in a brown paper bag. The Mont Blanc resided in a paper box at the bottom, while the Fig and Caramel Scone rested on top in a white paper bag.
The cashier-barista added the finishing touches on my Houjicha Latte and handed the cup to me with grace. The beverage was toasty and positively nutty: warm enough to unleash distinctly houjicha aromas, but not scalding to the point of tongue-incinerating (Looking at you, Starbucks).
I took a few sips of the latte before reaching over to the condiment station for an emerald green lid. Impeccably luscious and downright flavourful, Isle of Coffee had succeeded in satisfying the void that The Social Blend had failed to in their absence of houjicha.
Unveiled later that evening was the Mont Blanc.
As those with distinct preferences shall inform: Cravings are unique and exceedingly specific.
On days where I yearn for chocolate, the desired format may be liquid (hot chocolate), toothsome (truffles), crunchy (clusters or chocolate bars with nuts), fudgy (brownies), or beyond these profiles entirely.
For at least one week, I had contemplated the possibility of swirling three flavours into Sunday Baking's Mochi Brownie. Success had been seen with both the original in a loaf pan and swirled with matcha in a standard square baking pan. I continue to experiment with my stash of Paragon tea powders, as eager to unlock new flavour profiles as to deplete them before expiry.
Commencing with the mochi layer, I exercised caution to prevent scorching of the mochi mixture. Ever since replacing our microwave, I've noticed the need to reduce reheating times by at least 20%. This mochi was no expectation, for ten seconds on full wattage had rendered it lumpy and rigid. Water was gradually mixed into the dough in an attempt to reinstate its chewy qualities.
The result was acceptable, albeit thinner and retaining less structural integrity than desired.
For any future mochi-crafting endeavours, it is recommended to grease the bowl beforehand. The spoon spatula pictured in Sunday's video was a great alternative to the flat scraper spatula, providing more control and kneading power.
Next came formation of the batters. The original recipe called for two eggs. Despite having contemplated doubling the recipe and making two loaves (chocolate-matcha swirled and chocolate-oolong swirled), I ultimately opted to utilize three eggs instead of four. Adhering the roughly the same formula as my reduced sugar Oat Fudge Bar layer, I painstakingly prepared three batters.
This was a truly tedious process. While the original chocolate layer was a breeze to prepare, Matcha and Oolong required first melting white chocolate callets and butter together, then portioning them out as evenly as possible before whisking in the respective tea powders.
A total of four bowls piled in the sink, including the one for mochi. Then came the spoon spatula and three whisks. Instead of the "one-bowl, hand-mixed" format that SK often advertises, I had - accidentally, mind you - embarked on the path of more dishes.
Even with each layer comprising of only 46 g of granulated sugar, the result was still too sugary for my liking. I allude this finding to the existing sugar content in the white chocolate couverture, for I had not experienced this issue with semisweet Surfin.
In spite of this, the crackly surface and fragrant, chewy cross-sections were phenomenal. Fearing that the brownie would result cakey as opposed to fudgy, I removed the pan at the 48-minute mark. The underside of the centre was a bit damp at this point, though I had tested other sections of the slab sufficiently with a toothpick and deemed it done.
Its crackly surface, contrasting textures, and splendid aromas were absolutely captivating. That said, peak gustatory performance lasted just one day. Witnessed on the subsequent day was an overall dampness, followed by rigid, unyielding mochi. Heating individual pieces led to disintegration of the brownie, making it an unviable option to reinstating chewiness. I quickly resolved to undertaking future trials in the warmer months, hoping for the assistance of increased humidity levels.
The middle of the week saw Jinyoung's long awaited solo EP release. In the office, I could hardly reveal my excited demeanour, especially with a new member of staff seated directly before me the entire duration of the day.
"Cotton Candy", as well as the other four tracks on the album were played on loop that day - both in the office and the commute home.
When lunchtime arrived, I decided to venture a bit further than normal.
A whopping 1211 days have passed since the last Ahgabong-equipped public excursion. Naturally, I have taken to waving the bird within my humble abode during comeback times, member solo MV releases, and the HOMECOMING Fancon. Though, these instances hardly accumulate to the same degree of excitement as a live performance with the company of other lightstick-waving attendees.
I geared up in mismatching feather earrings - my "ahgase" jewellery - and laced up a newly acquired pair of Vans high tops. They were a dazzling white, untainted from the scuffles of concerts. The platform sole was considerably thinner than my go-to pair of concert shoes. But, wary of the weariness sustained from extended periods of wear, I opted for a footwear swap should the day prove longer than anticipated (Spoiler: It did).
GO train service commencing from Clarkson had coincidentally halted as of the morning, shifting dependence towards local services such as miway and TTC. I would embark on a trip to Kipling station and connect to Line 2 to reach The Phoenix.
Somehow, in spite of my entire lifetime of concert participation, I had forgotten my camera. Charged, fitted in its case, and situated adjacent to my waistpouch, I had managed to omit it during the packing phase. Having only realized it 75% of the way there, we looped back, then embarked on the trip once again.
At Kipling, I would endure a painstaking delay of thirty minutes: 20 minutes owed to an emergency at Spadina station, then another 10 when the train suddenly announced termination at Jane station. What a mess.
Around 5PM, I found the Thai ahgase in line. Thankfully, the VVIP and VIP entry had been delayed. The original estimate of 5:15 - 5:45 PM passed us by. We moved lines in the process, but hadn't made any progress towards the door.
I dashed to the nearest eatery for sustenance and washrooms. My tardy return the night before meant that breakfast had been pushed to lunchtime, and lunchtime had been eliminated altogether. A Chicken Wrap was requested from the sole worker of the restaurant. Then, I made my way down to the basement level to use the lavatory - a revolting stall with a splattered toilet cover, rickety doors, and staggeringly low positioning of the sink and mirror.
As the Thai ahgase's frantic messages filled my phone, I continued to observe the girl behind the cashier prepare my order in an unhurried manner. Requesting her to skip the onions, my order emerged in the next five minutes. The wrap set me back $9.99 plus tax, but comprised of no more than a few sparse pieces of chicken, an obscene amount of fishy-smelling shredded lettuce, and a thorough squeeze of ranch dressing.
By this point, the constituents of the wrap mattered less to me than the allocated timeframe for its consumption. I wolfed down the creation, anxious that we would be summoned for entry on short notice.
Eventually, we inched our way towards the doors, where a surprisingly thorough bag search would ensue. Water bottles were confiscated and left outside by the door for collection afterwards. My neck fan, which had supplied me with breathable conditions during the Junny show, had been confiscated on the grounds that it could be utilized "as a weapon". The case was tagged for retrieval from security after conclusion of the show.
Those that had purchased the priciest tier, known as $500+ VVIP tickets, had the benefit of a Meet & Greet session and an individual photo with Mark himself. VIP ticketholders, who had paid approximately $250 less, would not partake in the direct engagement portion but enjoyed all the same benefits of early entry, soundcheck access, crowd-free merch shopping, complimentary signed poster, and pop socket. The Thai ahgase and I had justified the price of the VIP tier, and filed into the venue vaguely around 6 PM.
We continued to hover about our spots until Mark suddenly revealed himself around the 6:19 PM mark. The hall dimmed, and Mark proceeded to introduce himself to the crowd while singing snippets of song requests as part of the soundcheck (and lighting check).
There hadn't been any introduction leading up to his unexpected appearance, yet we responded nonetheless enthusiastically. The soundcheck portion would comprise of:
At 6:39 PM, Mark would disappear backstage. During this time, we continued to chat with two other fans in the proximity. Both revealed themselves nearly a decade younger than the Thai ahgase and I. They had just commenced post-secondary education and spoke with a greater degree of familiarity to new generation artists than in-depth knowledge of the Ahga-world. One had travelled from New Brunswick, while the other from Montréal. Neither held Ahgabongs in their hands.
We waited and waited, until way past the 7 PM Doors Open estimate. GA ticket holders slowly began to fill the venue, with a constant stream entering even beyond the 8 PM mark.
At 8:12 PM, the opening artist, named weswes, would introduce himself to us in an all-white ensemble. His voice was rung throughout the hall, but his face was barely visible underneath his white bucket hat.
His set comprised of a few melodical tracks, with his last two radiating R&B vibes à la pH-1. He disappeared around 8:39 PM, but not before FaceTime calling a friend in a rut (using the audience for emotional support) and urging us to chant Mark's name with him, affectionately referring to him as "Markie".
"Markie" Tuan entered the stage shortly afterwards at 8:46 PM.
View the full album HERE !
It was only natural that, given the amount of new material acquisitions, I would spend the following days nonstop unpacking. Luggage was emptied, souvenirs were sorted, purchases were organized, and laundry was completed.
During this procedure, I also unveiled a delightful assemblage of artwork from orderlyblue.
Beyond being a friend of mine since the Before We Begin Vancouver stop, she is a flourishing artist, teacher, and entrepreneur in her own right. To declare my pride in her is an understatement; she is young but intrepid, and contemplative but resolute.
Prior to the Lynn Canyon trip, I had expressed interest in supporting her craft, to which she responded enthusiastically.
Her stunning creations, meticulously sealed in individual sleeves and bubble-wrapped for extra protection, were finally revealed upon reaching home. Delicate, precise linework, harmonious colours, impressive innovation, and astounding attention to detail were witnessed in each and every piece.
Despite being able to appreciate the extensive effort that is contributed to the creative process and its incarnation for consumption, rarely am I to spend hours viewing art. But orderlyblue's work were those I wished to continue gazing upon, those that I found joy within.
Friends and family were quick to express similar thoughts as I. Follow-up purchases are intended to be made.
I was also in awe at the souvenirs that she had obtained for me from her recent trip to Hawaii. The first was an adorable fridge magnet, in which the magnet was embedded inside of the wooden design itself, rather than affixed to the outside with oozing adhesive. The second was a lucky cat pin slurping ramen, and on the bowl showed the islands of Hawaii.
Amongst the largest voids emerging throughout the trip were: a distinct lack of Larry and the convenience of a personal vehicle, for door-to-door trips that could take whenever my heart desired.
I proceeded to satisfy the first of these longings immediately after being relieved of the aircraft grime. Larry, along with both sizes of Sulleys, had undergone deep cleansing rituals in my absence. Radiating from them were fragrant clouds of cleanliness, along with noticeable boosts in fluffiness.
With luggage cases zipped up for storage, I moved onto the next item on my list: packages.
Three copies of GOT7's revolutionary comeback EP - and one unfathomably thick copy of W Korea - had arrived within the first week of my West Coast excursion. One copy was none other than my travel buddy's, the Thai ahgase.
News of the heavenly heptet's return as seven had already been a blessing for us all. For them to expand beyond digital releases and attend group schedules was another degree of elation altogether, whether we be observing the process in person or not.
At long last, my fingers would glide over a physical album, over lyrics that each member had thoughtfully assembled with the sole intention of "repaying" ahgases. Truthfully, our patience needed no compensation, for once an ahgase is always an ahgase.
GOT7 is home, after all.
I was particularly impressed by the lyric translations included for each song: English, (Simplified) Chinese, and Thai - the primary languages spoken by the fandom.
Extended periods of time off alleviates the pressures sustained from boundaries mandating the completion of certain tasks. For once, I need not plan so thoroughly. I need not allocate specific days for specific appointments. I need not concern myself over the consequences of schedule delays or underestimated time-to-complete.
Lunch comprised of a soft-boiled egg and kimchi fried rice from DooBoo, while cookies (with rugged knife depressions) served as a light mid-day snack.
For dinner came asparagus spears from T&T and Baked Fried Rice with Seafood and Pork Chop leftovers from Cattle Café.
With the days leading up to the trip being exhaustive for the both of us, majority of our plans had stemmed from last-minute proposals (her) and quick Googling (me). The Thai ahgase and I had briefly discussed tourist destinations of interest. Her proposal of Lynn Canyon had originated from persuasion from friends, yet ultimately denied by yours truly, for I would going exactly one week later with a member of 2020's Van Nam Nation. She was disappointed, repeatedly expressing a desire for the Sea to Sky gondola, which was honestly too far to be enjoyable for two tourists without a car.
Costliness was another factor for consideration: the ticket and shuttle package for Sea to Sky was about a hundred before tax.
She accepted Capilano as the ultimate decision, and we called an Uber for her last full day in the province.
Given that we had received a five dollar voucher from spokes the previous day, we were keen to redeem it towards our park tickets. A quick call to the park confirmed that the voucher could only be used in-person. Without pre-paid arrangements made online, we were illegible for the complimentary shuttle service operating from the downtown district, though it hadn't mattered as we had planned to Uber anyways.
As she munched away at her long-awaited Starbucks breakfast sandwich and Chocolate Cream Cold Brew, I assembled the trio of cameras - excluding my smartphone in this instance - for the day's use.
Our ride request was answered around 10 AM, a navy Tesla that would take us 20 km north, into North Van.
Riding in a Tesla was a first for us both. The vehicle featured wireless charging accessible from the driver and passenger seat, and charging ports facing the back. The roof, while covered, providing a breathtaking view of the skies above by being transparent and tinted for UV ray filtration. It was an unexpectedly wonderful addition to our ride, especially when traversing over Lions Gate Bridge. Never before had I experienced a 360-degree view of the crossing! Further contributing to the excitement factor was the additional perspective since our two-wheeled adventure underneath the very bridge the previous day.
We arrived at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park just before 11 AM. Tickets were procured the desk at that point without issues. Then, we joined the lineup for touristy photos and commenced our adventure.
View the full album HERE !
Pre-vacation periods are never easy. In the working world ensues a mad rush to hand over one's duties - or provide a crash course for them to the unlucky delegate. Behind the scenes are last-minute situations that arise for attention, for they too must also be resolved a long hiatus.
"Nonstop chaos" is how I would depict the my post long-weekend, pre-Pearson phase. Worries were partially drowned in Chocolate Churro and Injeolmi Turtle Chips, which entailed a feeling of guilt so great that cardio became a no-brainer for calorie compensation.
With a newly activated UberEats pass, I proposed either Greek or Thai for our household's mid-day meal. Greek was the safer alternative, and Lazros was chosen. The assortment comprised of: Mixed Beef and Lamb Gyro w/ Greek Fries and Lemon Potatoes, Chicken Souvlaki w/ Lemon Potatoes and Rice, Spanakopitta, and a tiny conainer of Hummus (to meet the promo requirement).
About 1.5 years since my last purchase. Since then, the pita quantity has diminished, the tzatziki blander, feta noticeably saltier, and the portion size less extravagant than I recalled. The Chicken Souvlaki bits were dry and tough, while the Beef and Lamb Gyro slices chalky and salty. Frankly speaking, the meal, on an overall note, was far more sodium-laden than our palates could handle. The yearning for garlicy, crunchy tzatziki also failed to be satisfied.
Other meals spanned a Tomato & Egg Soft Scramble (not pictured), Stewed Eggplant and Meat (not pictured either, but capable of being visualized as a soft, savoury pairing to steamed rice), and tidbits of Lazros, with frozen veggies mixed in to neutralize obscene saltiness.
Creations of the week included:
1) Apple Ginger Juice
Inspired by my local ahgase, I took to peeling and coring a weighty bag of golden delicious apples with the intent of preparing a juice concoction of sorts. Unlike her though, I had no juicing apparatus readily available. To the blender I went with roughly seven teensy apples, some unmeasured quantity of ginger root (peeled, for once!), a squeeze of lemon, water, and honey. The formula was too thick for homogenization at first, thus water was incorporated gradually to assist. Pulpy like oversaturated applesauce, I took to straining the mixture once to obtain a partially filtered juice (15% solids).
The combination was revisited a second time in the latter parts of the week, with more water and lemon juice from concentrate, as seeds had accidentally made their way into the mix previously. Blending was made simpler with more water, yet the lowered viscosity made filtration of solids more difficult. Now finer, the solids streamed into the final product, escaping the sieve. The second batch was cloudier, at roughly 20% solids.
In hindsight, the Golden Delicious variety is likely best reserved for pie-making due to its relatively moisture content. The flavour is barely present in the juice, and the yield is quite minimal.
2) Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
Having been made aware of this recent addition via the weekly smitten kitchen digest, I hesitated not at seeing the mention of "yogurt" and "chocolate". Really, the reasoning was simple: I had yogurt in need of using before my vacay and the sleepy polar bear's talks of chocolate had echoed in my subconscious.
"The chocolate chips, however, are not optional.", but as I only had the (off-)white variety, in they went. To achieve the same gooeyness factor though, a few Callebaut callets topped them off before baking. True to her words, the muffins were overflowing. Given the lighter cake-like consistency, the muffins were quite delicate, causing even the gentlest of lifts to dent its sides during removal. Consequently, I'd recommend portioning one third of the batter for mini muffin tins.
3) Ultimate Banana Bread
At the end of a week-long wait were five spotty bananas residing in the warmest part of our dining room. I took to another iteration of banana bread, but this time The Ultimate. The decision may or may not have been made during the time of banana acquisition, after being reminded by orangecane of the most extravagant rendition of banana bread to grace SK territory.
With the knowledge that each of my bananas would weigh in at roughly 130 g each (less if bruised patches removed), I meticulously assembled the peeled specimens over my scale, watching anxiously as the number neared the specified 510 g. My first attempt at The Ultimate had not entailed such a weighing process, proving far too moist as a result. SK's bananas are likely at the smaller end of the spectrum, for 4.5 bananas had been sufficient in attaining the required weight. The last was stashed into the fridge for later use, probably consumption.
"A concert!!!...AT 3AM?!?!"
Following a brief moment of dismay towards the announcement of a domestic in-person concert came the realization of a livestream opportunity for global fans. Ahgases have waited patiently for the members to regroup again, and the comeback announcement had brought nothing short of delirious excitement.
The term "homecoming" was especially fitting, for it implied a grand return: GOT7's return to a scene where they rightfully belonged. Whether it be performing on stage in front of screaming ahgases or broadcast channels via YouTube content, they would, after this long, grueling period, be seen together - seven as one unit - once more.
For the boys, "HOMECOMING" meant a lot more. Their home was the warm embrace of ahgases, a place where their work was appreciated, efforts were supported, and love was given, unconditionally. Despite being renowned worldwide, they remain the humblest of artists: While BamBam worried over whether the fandom would remain after their group hiatus, Jinyoung claimed himself to be a "nobody" who could only shine as much as ahgases allowed him to. These comments summoned an aching heart - Do they not know how awesome they are?! Of course we'd stay!
True ahgases will remain for certain and, what's more, support the members' individual pursuits to foster a stronger sense of awareness in the global music market.
A self-proclaimed regular observer of Twitter happenings and collector of data, BamBam was quick to ask the crowd of their ahgase seniority status. Majority had participated in their last world tour of 2019 - myself included - with a handful seeing the group in person for the first time. Interestingly, he also noted the possibility of those joining the fandom after JYPE era. He noted that a number of articles had circulated upon news of GOT7 going separate ways from their parent company, and that he wouldn't eliminate the possibility of those articles stirring up interest in the group and their past endeavours.
I had purchased my ticket a few days after the release date, reassuring myself that my Saturday plans would not interfere with the decision. In reality, I was terrified.
Feedback tends to generate a wide array of responses. Constructive criticism isn't always met with a positive, contemplative reaction. Yet, the same can be said about praise.
When chancing across new species of humans, I was dumbfounded to find them fishing for praise, that mindless commentary from those irrelevant to their lives held so much power over them. I also grew wary of those seemingly allergic to feedback, any negativity or disagreement from their preferred practice or habits, and, conclusively, change.
On the contrary, rarely do I respond positively to praise, instead seeking out areas of improvement that can be addressed constructively. While a firm non-believer of perfection (beyond GOT7 and Park Jinyoung, of course), I've strived to achieve objectively good results by taking into consideration the perspective of a variety of users. Further constructive remarks are also welcome, with each iteration enabling growth and progress.
Many, many attempts at Soy Braised Eggs have honed a time-consuming, but worthwhile procedure. The eggs ought be cooked to a soft-boiled state, where the whites have solidified but the yolks remain runny. The soy-based formula is brought to a simmer, reduced, and let cool to at least room temperature. Too many times have I submerged cooled eggs into piping hot braise, leading residual heat to remove the translucent, gooey properties of the yolk. One cannot rush the steeping process: forty-eight hours is the minimum chill time required to obtain umami goodness.
A replacement microwave reinstated the ability to quickly reheat food and beverages, eliminating the 30-minute heat-up period and reducing the chance of steam burns.
Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate and Coffee Frappés were enjoyed as mid-day pick-me-ups, while a soju float combining Green Apple Soju and Hazelnut Gelato from Nani's Gelato sealed off a relaxing post-stretch session.
A gentle buzz set off my phone around lunch hour on a sunny Tuesday - it was McDonald's announcing their new McNugget dipping sauce. Without a moment's hesitation, I was persuaded to embark on the trip.
Temperatures had dropped since the previous day, casting a chilly veil on the park I had ventured towards. The skies were vividly blue, yet cloud cover was unmistakable. Occasional gusts had me questioning my choice of attire: nylon Adidas track pants and the white short-sleeved tee from Jay B's first Represent collaboration.
The spread consisted of a Big Mac ($3.49 on Mobile Offer!), Peach Passionfruit Smoothie, and 10-piece McNuggets. Alongside the chain's newest Honey BBQ sauce was the classic choice of Barbeque.
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.