Out & About #883 | Stomach Flu, Costco Gingerbread Cookies + LA Fitness First Impressions
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.
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.
Out & About #878 | Condensed Milk Pound Cake, GOA Eglinton + Post-Blizzard Errands
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.
"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.
Returning from vacation brings about a new slew of stresses. While having all laundry completed, items re-arranged in their original position, and luggage stashed back into the storage room constitutes the "end goal" of a successful trip, the incredulous quantity of raw footage rests upon my shoulders, demanding attention.
But, in the very least, access to my trusted array of tools is reinstated. Coffee - be it in espresso or filter format - can be crafted at will. Should Hot Cross Buns be desired, I have the option of venturing out, in my own car without the pains of connecting to the decidedly dreadful Android Auto.
The days after my return consisted not only of laundry and unpacking, but also the slow evaluation of my purchases.
Both the gargantuan bag of Choco Churro Turtle Chips and Mango Passion Fruit Tea mix from H Mart were deemed worthy despite the troublesome transport back. The former was far more economic than any sale in the GTA, especially given Alberta's province-wide 5% tax. As for the jam mix, it boasts a loose consistency ideal for incorporating into chilled beverages. That said, a little does not go a long way. In the meantime though, it should suffice in place of CoCo's Bubble Gaga.
Without any particular desires to leave the house, I spent them housed in my room, attempting to regain whatever energy was drained over the five-day duration out west.
Homemade meals were my soul food, in particular a Tomato, Potato, and Pork Soup that simultaneously soothed and nourished the iron-deficient soul.
The readily available status of fresh produce and juicy oranges was another welcoming aspect.
Highly anticipated was the reveal of my Cococo haul. The sustainable chocolate shop had intrigued me in its assortment, leading to the purchase of a 12-piece "Best in Show" gift set, a 250 g pouch of Ruby Couverture, and an affordable box of Dark Chocolate and Almond Biscuits.
Having awoke minimally throughout the night, it was with glee that I declared having slept significantly better than the previous two nights.
That said, sleeping in still did not come easily. Averaging on about seven hours of intermittent slumber, I resolved to peel myself from the bed and introduce consciousness into the day.
Sunrise took place between 8 AM - 9 AM, approximately half an hour later than back home. From our grimy southward-facing windows, I gazed into the distance at cascading layers of blue-violet, orange, and pink hovering about the airport terminals.
For our second full day in Calgary, I had proposed brunch before the main event of the day.
The drive estimated twenty-five to thirty minutes, with clear skies and (surprisingly) light weekend traffic. Remarkably saturated was our outlook, as if painted on, CS6-style, by a baby blue paintbrush gradient.
Heading to the southwest edge of the city, we passed by distinctly Alberta-sounding names (Deerfoot Trail, Crowchild Trail) and a CF-owned retail building.
We also passed a segment along Glenmore Trail that vividly reminded me of the Dufferin Street overpass I had encountered on numerous occasions travelling eastbound on the Gardiner.
Slowly but surely, we were making our way in the direction of mountains - the very mountains we'd have the luxury to explore on the following day!
Sunlight had receded to an overall greyness with our arrival in Signal Hill. Cloud cover had amassed, casting a bleak, Raincouver-like aura on the commercial district.
It was with slight bewilderment that I regarded the intersection: Despite appearing very much like a tourist stopover spot, the neighbouring establishments were primarily residential in nature. The image could be linked to the calm but critical Stoney Creek, where the Red Hill Valley and Mud Street exit boasted similar sightings of Cineplex, Tim Hortons, and other typically North American franchises. There were, might I add, familiar West Coast names of Save-On-Foods and London Drugs observed en route as well.
Parking was secured in the unploughed asphalt lot before the entrance of The Bro'Kin Yolk just short of 10:20 AM.
Read Part 2 HERE !
Rosso 17th Ave did not carry the twenty-four dollar Essentials kit I had been eyeing on their website. The barista had informed me only select locations carried the product, namely the Tuxedo and Inglewood locations. On the map, they appeared quite far. Investigating further though, both were, in fact, under twenty minutes away.
This information was relayed to the sleepy polar bear, who agreed on venturing east to find the product of interest. "Did you still want to walk around Chinatown?"
I pondered the prospect, then suggested reviewing the possibility after the detour.
Crossing over Elbow River into Inglewood, I really wasn't sure what to expect on the other side. The district appeared fairly developed, their colourful murals intriguing and wide concrete sidewalks inviting for a stroll. With two lanes in each direction and the curb lane partially occupied by ice and snow debris, the path grew narrow.
The sleepy polar bear demonstrated some degree of difficulty slipping into the closest street parking spot, though we managed in the end, with one wheel on the ice, like every other vehicle in the lane.
Outside Rosso, we spotted yet another lime green fire hydrant. Darting about it was a solo adventurer: a black-bodied bird with a white tummy and long, black tail streaked with blue. The same species had been spotted earlier in the day while traversing along the highway; those, on the other hand, fluttered in a group.
To my dismay, the Inglewood Rosso did not carry the Essential Collection Box either. The staff had been kind enough to make correspondence with the other location for confirmation, despite the heavy customer volume. We learned that the item was apparently an online exclusive only until five days ago, and neither Tuxedo nor Inglewood locations had received their allotted inventory as yet.
Rather than drifting out emptyhanded, I resorted to individual bags of beans for experimentation. The bearded cashier had advertised Lover Boy, the coffee shop's bourbon-tinged roast of the month for February, prompting purchase of the 200 g limited time offer. While browsing the shelf for a second option, another staff member came to our assistance, offering recommendations to suit my preferred brewing method(s). The standard-sized (340 g) Kilimbi was also chosen on the basis of being suitable for both filter and espresso, and adopting a light yet sweet profile.
This five-day trip to Calgary was definitely not planned early enough for my liking. Travelling within the first quarter of the year is rare, for beyond a hefty number of annual renewals and the all-too-taxing tax season, Q1 trips deplete vacation days that could be reserved for later use in the year.
Shortly after the arrival of January, and my widespread declaration of making "me time" a more conscious decision, I was informed of a last-minute wedding ceremony taking place just one month later. Details were few, but contemplation around schedule arrangements began. Ultimately, the decision lay between a short, domestic trip to Alberta or a larger future ceremony in Guangzhou. Alas, China was not a destination on my bucket list - not now, not ever.
The sleepy polar bear would tag along on the availability of a plus one invite. I selected one of the few reasonable westbound flights, then commenced logistics planning.
Bidding farewell to Larry, Mini Sulley, and Mr. Buttons, I set out with my incredulous bag count around the 11:18 AM mark, arriving just before 11:40 AM. There were, thankfully, no issues with the luggage belt this time around.
The timing worked out well, enabling a swift commute under off-peak traffic conditions and a virtually vacant array of check-in kiosks. Even the lineup for the check-in cashiers didn't span more than five parties. Staggering was the difference from the early AM rush (presumably business meetings) and red-eye budget flights.
Also unthinkably quick was the security screening process: A trial lane was opened for select flyers, in which passengers did not need to remove electronics from their bag for a screening. What a blessing it was! There were significantly fewer people in this lane, meaning that there was no rush to assemble all of one's belongings to keep the queue moving.
Of course, in spite of this, I ended up dropping a handful of chargers on grimy floor when attempting to rearrange belongings between backpack and carry-on.
Unlike my usual airport course, I actually completed all baggage drop-off and screening procedures early enough to procure Starbucks. Once again, the lineup was notably shorter than the AM flights. A water refill was requested, then a Turkey, Provolone, and Pesto Sandwich. The toasted sandwich was cheesy and gratifying, succeeding to appease lunchtime hunger before boarding.
The sleepy polar bear found me gazing out at the sunny, subzero scene outside with serenity.
"You are actually easy to find." I was informed. "You are the most purple person here." Admittedly, the hair and jacket speak louder than I often anticipate.
Boarding commenced around the 1:30 PM mark, at which point I filed into the Zone 2 lineup as part of Premium Economy benefits. Despite finding myself at the end of the line, Zones 1 and 2 alighted the aircraft quickly.
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.