It's been a long short week - the exemplary oxymoron. ̶P̶r̶i̶m̶a̶r̶i̶l̶y̶ Wholly owed to the unexpected undertakings of the four-day pre-Easter weekend, I suffered a tremendous amount of fatigue, perhaps even greater than I thought possible. With the passing of every call, every email, and every meeting, and every assignment, my contact with sanity grew frailer, till it withered down to but a fine hair-like strand.
My sole release was an escape to obtain lunch takeout. Weather conditions welcoming and clouds minimally present, I switched my status to "Away" and bolted out the door for sustenance acquisition. But virtual barriers are flexible - movable, so to speak - and failed in obstructing incoming messages amidst the period of personal commitment.
The journey to Square One was relatively calm (read: accompanied by minimal traffic volumes). Meal components had been pre-ordered via Ritual to improve efficiency, should an urgent email prompt a reluctant immediate return. To my dismay, however, preparatory work hadn't commenced until my arrival. In addition to the specified wait time, the ordeal involved some ten minutes more of idling about the empty food court, absorbing the cooking fumes of stalls in operation.
It wasn't as if I had received a promotion either; the entire assortment was the equivalent of a Summit Garden supper set for three. Both the Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thais were obnoxiously spicy, albeit the mild rating that had been declared. Neither the Pineapple Rose Soda nor Passion Fruit Lychee Soda bore even the slightest resemblance to the Oakville location, and could easily be described as flat water - something along the lines of a two-day-old SodaStream creation. The Bangkok Meatballs served to redeem the meal, but not drastically. A microscopic portion for $5.95 plus tax, the meaty morsels sported identical toppings to the Pad Thai boxes and offered fire-exempt flavour. The Classic Peanut sauce was, thankfully, completely mild and tolerable.
To soothe our quivering tongues, I suggested popping back into the mall for ice cream. Differing preferences led me to make two stops: Super Kid at Laura Secord, then Maple Walnut and Brownie at Purdys.
Neither a workaholic nor an email enthusiast by any means, the past week - or past several weeks, actually - has/have been getting gradually more grueling. I've seen less of the sky than my study, more of my excruciatingly non-ergonomic desk setup than the kitchen. To declare a state of fatigue would be an understatement, for the excessive screen time has not only resulted in mental exhaustion but also dry eyes and a painful eye infection.
For the brief moments of sanity, I've taken to casting my gaze upwards, beyond the branches brushing my window. An azure abundance assists in temporary appeasement of anxiety, while coffee ice cream soothes the ̶s̶o̶u̶l̶ stomach.
Towards the beginning of the week, when work levels were still relatively manageable (albeit arguably so), I undertook a few brief missions.
Creations of the week included:
1) Baked Tortilla Chips
With the fear that the freezer drawer may collapse at any given moment, tortillas acquired from St. Jacobs were retrieved for transforming. Snack-ready chips were created from thawing, tossing in a seasoning mix of olive oil, sea salt, seasoned salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and black pepper, then baking until crisp. Distributed between two trays, the chips baked at 350 F for 20 mins, then 330 F for 15 mins.
Ideally, the slices should be spread evenly without overlap for uniform heat distribution. Additionally, take heed when coating, as tortillas are pliable and thus prone to breakage upon contact with moisture.
2) Coffee & Houjicha Madeleines w/ Chocolate
"But you'll never know unless you walk in my shoes.
You'll never know 엉카버린 내 끈
Cause everybody sees what they wanna see.
It's easier to judge me than to believe."
I stand by the declaration that subjective reality is non-inclusive, and only by venturing out can one begin to populate the gaps of comprehension. The girls of BLACKPINK discuss the unseen struggles behind their glamourous rise to fame - at a very vague level, if you will. But the path to a longstanding idol is paved no differently than that of you and I, striving to achieve success in our respective careers.
The world demands evolution and consideration. Failure to follow through renders one incompetent in the perspective of a dynamic society, and rightfully so.
And perhaps, while identifying the needs of others, one ought to return to square one for personal evaluation. I say "perhaps", as providing a statement in the absence of its execution is hypocritical, therefore warranting little to no respect. To be selfless is to be just selfish enough for the surrounding community to thrive as a result of one's impact.
Creations of the week included:
1) Black Sesame Taiwanese Castella
Having seen tremendous success in the previous week's Castella by Sunday Baking, I took to a second cake with the inclusion of unsweetened black sesame paste. Incorporating this homemade mixture thankfully did not weigh down the batter, albeit yielded a noticeable difference in texture in the top fifth of the finished product. It was a risky move that incorporated a greater amount of fat, and consequentially more moisture in the batter. In order to compensate this, approximately 10 g more of sugar was added to the egg whites for stability.
Within the first few months of the pandemic's arrival last year, it was brought to my attention that distancing restrictions imposed actually brought about a great deal of relief. Those that thrived on moments of self-reflection were exempt from their dreaded gatherings, while those that thrived on social interactions were exempt from FOMO repercussions. For better or for worse, there arose the freedom for selective communication. And while one could reap its benefits by escaping unfavourable situations and potentially eliminating toxic relationships, the theory cannot be applied so simply in the virtual workplace.
It is through gritted teeth and a hanging head that the existing situation remains relatively unchanged as far as Ontarians are aware. Yet, it is my personal hope that those who hadn't been particularly skillful in the department of communication have adapted accordingly in the past eight months, and that those who haven't shall summon an effort from this point on. Technology exists to ease our day-to-day activities, rather than preclude opportunities for efficiency.
Creations of the week included:
1) Steamed Tofu w/ Scallion Garlic Soy Sauce
2) Steamed Salmon Steak
3) Steamed Lap Cheong Buns / 臘腸卷
The incarnation of this classic dim sum plate stemmed from the unexpected acquisition of lap cheong (臘腸), otherwise known as preserved Chinese sausage. The description read fiery, thus the vacuum-sealed package had originally been reserved for chorizo-like usages, likely to be consumed alongside tortillas from St. Jacobs.
However, the household supply of groceries was gradually being depleted. An absence of yogurt was witnessed, followed closely by milk, bread, whipping cream (yes, this is essential), and eggs. Ingredients were minimal for the construction of the suitable breakfast item, yet flour was aplenty.
I set out to craft the buns one chilly morning, combining the yeasty foundation of one source with the method of another. The dough was, surprisingly, easy to work with, requiring little to no dusting of flour and elongating in the desired worm-like shape.
Given the fears of the supposedly spicy five-pack, I separately prepared an equal count of Honey Garlic Smokies. These were admittedly less delicious in their tough, sinewy casing and better suited for buttery milk buns bearing a glorious egg wash sheen.
I'll also admit to the exaggerated - and glaringly obvious - meat-to-bun ratio. Though, with both sausages being of relatively mild nature (it wasn't spicy after all!), this mattered less on an overall tasting note.
Particularly worthy of mention are the layers boasted by the dough itself - the sole element wholly indicative of my efforts.
On the eve of Christmas, the world welcomed a dusting of frosty precipitation. Flurries commenced in the late evening hours, continuing throughout the night, such that the next morning we would awake to a weighty cloak of white on our porch, driveway, and backyard perimeter-lining pine trees.
There are only green Christmases in memories of recent years, although perusing the archives revealed discrepancies. Regardless, the just-freezing temperatures were quite welcome, for the tone of the holiday had been established.
In fact, the comparatively mild conditions even prompted the purchase of an Irish Cream Cold Brew. Advertised countless times by the Thai ahgase, the beverage was indeed as delicious as she had vouched for. It was creamier than expected, with a dash of nutmeg and hints of Irish Cream (in the absence of alcohol). Personal preference still lies with regular cold brew though, given the inhomogeneous properties of flavoured cream cap.
Appeasing the last-minute scramble of grocery runs and pre-Christmas cooking was the timely arrival of my fangirl package. A kind soul from Korea had shipped it two weeks prior, and the delivery date happened to coincide with the season of gifting.
A gift to myself, for the skirt of our tree is relatively barren this year.
My status as a devoted MyDay was declared as of 2018's "Youth" tour. Further confirmed was my position as a Wonpil stan, and now I have a Pil to my name to prove it!
(The teensy feet are the best.)
I had also teetered on the decision for (yet) another lightstick. Adopted as symbols of commitment, I ultimately proceeded with the Robong order.
"It's a promise to myself that, one day, I will see them live in concert." I had stated.
"So a placeholder!"
How Did I Get Here?
I do wonder how many of us have pondered this question.
The end of December draws close, and with it, a smidgen of hope for the new year emerges. And while optimism is necessary, remaining realistic is equally as critical.
Throughout the week, I have been kept occupied with seemingly endless work responsibilities. The week slipped by without much thought given to my items of consumption: Greek yogurt atop last week's failed batch of granola (Hi Larry), Timmies' Hot Chocolate with mini marshmallows, Soy Braised Chicken Drumsticks, Kernels' Christmas Cheer mix, and a terribly tender Ginger Molasses Cookie from Starbucks.
A botched attempt at wielding microfoam resulted in a flashback to Little Pebbles' tragic tadpole rendering.
Takeout meals were frequent, as lengthy durations of work prevented meal prepping. Secured from Summit Garden was our four-piece supper set of:
The last month of the fiscal year had previously meant nothing more than frigid fingers and the end of another school semester for my studying acquaintances. Holiday hangouts were customary though not events typically associated with the arrival of winter. Upon boarding the bus of full-time employment, December equated to an entirely different experience - one characterized by endless evenings of physical and mental exertion.
These happenings also have a tendency to creep into one's subconscious state, where its side effects conclude a psychologically taxing state. (Have you ever dreamed of being chased down via emails?)
In the face of COVID-19 though, there are few things deemed more critical than stable income and general health and wellbeing. Working from home may not offer the most ideal circumstances, yet it allows for the isolation of issues that probably weren't granted much attention in the past. Moreover, it encouraged the development of new skills, a silver lining in the midst of widespread pandemonium.
Creations of the week included:
1) Green Tea Scones
Continuing the pursuit of the perfect scone, I progressed onto a green tea variation sourced from the ever-dependable Sunday Baking.
Egg was swapped for additional heavy cream and Mediterranean yogurt (10%) as to keep them moist and adhere to the egg-less formula of traditional tea scones. The dough was fairly easy to construct and binded together without excess dampness. I didn't re-roll the dough, but instead separated the disc into triangular segments as illustrated in the original recipe. Just as advertised, the sections exuded rich green tea flavour and was ideal paired with sticky matcha-white chocolate drizzle. Utilizing an egg wash of only whites helped to preserve the luscious colour - a 끌팁indeed!
Albeit misaligned after baking, the pieces bore only a single crack around its midsection, as scones ought to.
The scones were delicious, and best enjoyed a milk-enhanced espresso beverage. All hail the timely arrival of my Black Friday Balzac's package!
2) Homemade Rice Krispie Squares Two Ways
As like many North American children, tri-colour Rice Krispie squares were an essential element of every end-of-year school potluck. I wasn't able to locate the holiday edition of the puffed rice cereal, but instead made use of the Brown Rice variation for this nostalgic Christmas treat.
The first snowfall of the season arrived earlier than past years, wherein parched, cracking skin and green Christmases were inevitable.
It was but a fleeting scene of all white though, for the rapid surge in temperatures eradicated the snowy masses over the course of three days. I remained within my humble abode in the meantime, primarily due to workload, but also due to my reluctance to summon winter boots at this early stage.
Seemingly an eternity of a homebody state, I proceeded with consumption of leftovers, Highballer Pumpkin Ale - totally not a treat, mind you - purposing the remainder of my couvertures into a silky chocolate mousse.
In hindsight, I should have adopted a more conservative approach to the 2.5 kg bag, as the objective of inventory replenishment largely went unaccomplished on Black Friday. Prices were far from reasonable, and when they were, they were sold out.
Quite honestly, I had dreaded nothing more than the return of yet another Monday, especially after a Sunday of endless edits and a late night technical travesty that terminated in tears. The release of GOT7's Breath impressively erased that uneasiness. I breathed a slow sigh of relief, unaware I had been stifling one the entire time.
Thank you Youngjae. Thank you GOT7. At the most pivotal times, where I find myself wallowing in tremendous doubt, anxiety, and frustration, thank you for providing a safe haven for faith restoration.
Creations of the week were many and included:
1) Pickled Cucumbers Two Ways (not pictured and unsuccessful)
2) Tzatziki Cucumber Salad, in which forgotten removal of cores resulted in a watery, but nonetheless delicious, mess.
3) Tomato, Potato, and Pork Soup
The combination was a classic Chinese soup similar to the likes of the Malaysian ABC soup - not that I have ever referred to it as such.
I hadn't ever thought that twenty-degree weather and holiday decorations would ever co-exist, however this year has proven to be a year of many firsts. (We may even be nearing the first lockdown in eight months.)
Progressing into the final months of 2020 provokes a period of reflection, as with every passing year and every winter. In hindsight, I don't believe to have accomplished much besides an incredulous amount of cooking, chore doing, and virtual meeting partaking. That said, I am grateful for employment, and the sheer ability to execute my assigned duties from the comfort and safety of my own home.
With gradual improvements in wrist mobility (despite persistent inflammation), I shall commence this week's roundup with a collection of creations of the week:
1) Earl Grey Almond Latte
Making the most of my gifted Sloane Heavenly Cream, soon-to-expire unsweetened almond milk, and exceptionally floral Knotty Coppertop Honey, I commenced the week with a low-impact Earl Grey Almond Latte.
Costco's Rotisserie chicken and homemade Diana sauce ribs constituted the household's protein sources for majority of the week.
2) Sour Cream Bran Muffins
SK's comparatively more savoury rendition of the high-fibre breakfast item was found to pair best alongside fresh fruit.
3) Unsuccessful Pizza constructed from previously proofed yeast and lonely strips of SPAM (feat. a heavily advertised yet decidedly undelightful can of Harvest Ale
4) Mini Pumpkin Tarts
Opting to make the most of a discounted local pumpkin wedge and my Stainless steel OOMOMO tart shells, I undertook the 3-day project later to be recalled as the soggiest Pumpkin Tarts in history. The endeavour had purposely been separated into three days for the sake of preserving wrist wellness.
The first day involved steaming the wedge and rind removal, while the second and third involved custard-making and crust-forming. A meringue topping was whipped up - in the most literal sense - utilizing leftover egg whites, then smothered atop each tart and charred.
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.
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.