New to the collectives are: Thai Tea (!!!), Peanut Butter Stout, and a scrumptious coffee-laced choco bar from starsnpigs.
The coming of a new year has seemingly lost its meaning with each iteration. Too fatigued for subzero photography excursions amidst the masses, I've mainly taken to celebrating the national event from the comfort of my home and cable television. Last year's had been spent exporting a painfully tedious compilation captured on the East Coast, whereas this year's proved even more mundane: recovering from a potential case of food poisoning.
Maintaining their presence is orangecane's adorable sugar cookies; though the Maple Nutmeg bears didn't lack in the visual appeal category, the plain, full-body Santas were my personal fave.
New to the collectives are: Thai Tea (!!!), Peanut Butter Stout, and a scrumptious coffee-laced choco bar from starsnpigs.
2020's arrival stirred up quite a bit of noise, for it marked the landing of a new decade - a fact that raised awareness of time and space (aka AGE). Frankly, it's never been a habit to recap the happenings of the past 365 (and sometimes plus one) days. But sometimes, just sometimes, it's important to look back, just to see how far you've come, or how far you've retreated.
Lucid in my memory was a girl with a coppery-red lob plopping down beside me.
"How'd you know it was me from the back?" I had greeted her inquisitively.
"You're the only one sitting alone."
Three years (and one day) later, orangecane remains as savage as ever. More familiar, undoubtedly weirder, and perhaps a bit wiser, the free spirit within her remains consistent. She's a creator in many trades, a contemplator of daily happenings, and a producer of witty - and sometimes borderline crass - remarks. Most importantly, she's someone I'm proud to call my friend.
Our long-awaited meetup commenced with Barre, a class intended to attack the calves and cement poise. The one-hour programme supposedly meshed pilates fundamentals with ballet-inspired positions (and a hint of cardio); incorporated were three-pound free weights (for resistance), cork blocks (for elevation), and small, inflatable balls (for posture control).
Different teachers bring forth different routines, or so I was told. Our specific class engaged various components of the body for total physique toning, however fell short of difficulty expectations. We progressed speedily through the class: repetition was minimal and form was left unrectified. That said, I did appreciate the cleanliness of the Modo Yoga's Markville location overall.
Fast-forward some two-or-so hours later, we were heading south to the 14th/Kennedy plaza on foot. The Lucullus plaza was cramped, thus we had settled for leaving the car elsewhere out of parking concerns, only to catch sight of three cars departing the lot upon our arrival at Chiang Rai.
Initially penning down Jatujak with a penchant, I later revised the itinerary to include this Northern Thai cuisine newcomer. Positive recaps had led us to the otherwise dismissable Chinese-dominant strip mall.
The interior was hip, as one ought as a self-proclaimed "kitchen and bar". Small party booths featured patterned tabletops and outlets for refueling handheld devices, while larger groups had the option of communal tables (sans-hooks) and raised patio chairs. Curry, stir-fry, and pad thai formed the basis of the menu; alcoholic varieties were housed in a separate booklet.
Our eyes - or stomachs, really - unanimously voted in favour of the Khao Soi. Prompted by my two-minute delay in opinion-voicing was a snarky utterance of "copycat". Her ability to exploit these opportunities never fails to catch my off guard.
Hers was Beef, while mine was Chicken. A side of Thai Fresh Rolls was appended to my order for the sheer sake of having greens in presence.
Should my memory continue to serve me correctly, the broth/sauce was thicker than that of Khao San Road and Pai, and its hue a faded orange instead of glimmering gold. In absence was the quintessential bundle of fried noodles normally in accompaniment; supplementing this loss were strange additions of red pepper slivers, red onions, and a grotesque, fully-cooked hard-boiled egg. Droplets of chili oil swirled about the surface, even though ultimate mildness had been requested.
There are those that rarely leave their hibernation zone even at the allure of their favourite restaurant. In my case, it isn't food but rather the promise of a visit to Playdium or The Rec Room. Because games and friendly competition never fail to make for an enjoyable time.
"You busy today?"
"One is never 'too busy' for Rec Room" I cocked an eyebrow while submitting my response.
Prior to arcade games was dinner at Onnuri, complete with my chauffeur of the evening urging makgeolli intake.
It was apparent that few diners ordered the rice wine, for it separated several times over the course of the meal. Moreoever, neither the traditional Stainless steel tea pot nor drinking bowls were provided to us. Ceramic tea cups were utilized instead.
We took to Ttedokmandu-guk and Unagi Dolsot Bibimbap, otherwise known as Man Doo Hyang and Hub's respective specialties. The latter was oddly delightful, even in the face of the uptown contender's more superior rendition. Despite being egg-less, sesame oil-less, and tobiko-less, it fared far better than expected of the Korean comfort food joint.
My chauffeur had been more than generous in bringing along a pair of old skates for me to use, while also lacing me up and steadying the numerous rounds along civic centre grounds.
Amusing was the very fact that I, as a local resident, hadn't ever completed a lap here in my two-point-five decades of existence, whereas the out-of-towner had glided across on more occasions than able to be recalled. I was thankful for the experience, for my last time donning skates was likely five years prior at Nathan Philips.
At 7:15 AM, Morning Flower sprawled itself out within the compact crate that was my room. Catching a groggy glimpse of the undisturbed darkness outside, I began to prepare for a day filled with activity. Odd to think that I'd be rising sooner than the sun on a statutory sleep-in day.
starsnpigs followed up on her end of the deal, revealing herself on my doorstep just after 8 AM, pan and eggs in tow. A rushed baking operation then commenced.
The stovetop portion of the recipe concluded just as the next item on the itinerary begged our attention. Swiftly, and, admittedly, a little aggressively, we zipped along the 403 towards HUF.
Upon arrival, we were handed waivers. Mid-signing, I informed one of the staff members that we had called in advance to secure an orientation ("beginners class") with one of the trainers with the intention of joining the 12 pm class. The man began to deny my thrice-confirmed appointment with utmost certainty.
"We don't have any classes for today. We tried to tell you, but you hung up and we didn't have your number."
His voice boomed, overbearing with the intention of instilling fear, but the contents escaping his mouth couldn't have been further from the truth. This was especially so considering that the girl who had answered my call had noted down our names in addition to providing the name of the personal trainer who would be assisting us for the beginner session.
As I was about to argue the inconsistency in information, a man walked through the doors and was immediately greeted by the counter staff. Undeterred, I began to press further, but was then immediately interrupted. The pompous one retracted his statement and then, towards the new occupant of the space, expressed relief towards his appearance. "We are short-staffed, but Dan is here now."
"Dan" was delegated with the task of familiarizing us with the gym. Had he not appeared though, our trip would have likely been in vain, forcing us to return in absence of perspiration. The programme materialized as planned afterwards, though I can't help but be extremely bothered by the arrogant actions of the other member of staff. Shifting the blame of a business towards the customer is not an unseen tactic to remove liability, however the twisting of truth is unforgivable and further displays a lack of credibility.
Changerooms were clean and colourful: individual washrooms and shower stalls occupied one portion, while lockers were positioned by the entrance. Weight-lifting apparatus were observed throughout the facility; past the counter in a separate room were boxing rings, a more expansive selection of exercise equipment, free weights, and sport-specific training tools.
The trainer began the session by inquiring about our existing activity levels, and whether weightlifting and/or other athletic pasttimes played a part. We were slowly eased into footwork fundamentals - otherwise known as our "box" - then the names of various punches. Maintaining one's centre of gravity was of utmost significance, as was protecting the "crown jewel" of our "house". As with any combat sport, defeating one's opponent is the ultimately end goal, and, supposedly, the chin was the body part capable of causing instant collapse upon impact. Consequently, chins were tucked and hands were raised into fists by the jawbone.
"Crabby" encircles the complex attributes shared between myself and my birthday buddy, for we are both loud and stubborn citizens of the west GTA, forever living our preposterously overloaded lives.
It was with great displeasure that our previously arranged plans (603) were infinitely postponed. That said, a last-minute incarnation of brunch plans made up for the lost catch-up time. On a chilly Christmas Eve, we headed to Halo for some much-needed chitchat. I had actually been meaning to pop into the cafe for an eternity, but an appropriate opportunity never seemed to arise.
< Pictured above and below: Latte, Bagel w/ Cream Cheese, Turkey Croissant Sandwich, Pour Over - Single Origin, Columbia >
Seating was ample, just as Google search results had professed. Dispersed throughout were two- and four-seaters, while two communal tables assumed space at the north end of the interior, by the Christmas tree and opposing bathroom stalls. At each table was a short stack of books, mainly coffee-themed, to tie into the vibe of the espresso bar. A swivelled mound of magazines adorned one of the communal tables. One of these was picked up and transported to a lounge-style two-seater to commence our coffee date.
We - or really, just me - requested recommendations from the menu. The beverage listing were quite diverse, and some items even featured tiny pink hearts. Given the spot's total operation time of one year and three months, I was informed that some of the fan favourites had changed. For example, Iced Coffee had been a popular pick during the warmer periods, when the café had first opened. Nutella Latte remained a top-seller; espresso-based drinks were also well-loved.
I inquired about the Pour Over, to which was met with a confident nod of approval. Beans were, in fact, roasted in-house, therefore allowing quality control. Options of the day included: Single-Origin Guatemala (light) and Single-Origin Columbia (medium). As I had previously ingested two cups of cold brew, the latter was the less-ideal-but-nonetheless-safer bet.
When Kinka first reared its head by the waterfront, most had assumed Kinton would be operating in unison.
"December" we had been told. "The wallpaper is going up now."
A fruitless first foray into the chain's eleventh location later, our team agreed to arrive early to beat the rush. And, as proposed, the group assembled at the ramen joint's storefront at exactly 11:27 AM. Coatless, and supposedly pitiful-looking, we were ushered inside by the staff after less than ten seconds of shivering.
The wooden tables were a familiar sight, as was the textured wall finishing. Light fixtures reminiscent of Kinka's bamboo sake were an unforeseen finish. Backless stools with bag compartments were neatly arranged at each table; a two-level coat rack stood by the entrance.
The menu was consistent with the other locations, aside from the December special of the Yamitsuki Curry-men.
Two pitchers of Sapporo were the team's original intentions, but upon being informed of their establishment's lack of a liquor license, soft drinks and ice water were requested instead.
Shortly after orders were placed, a basket of lightly salted edamame was circulated about the table. This straw basket didn't succeed in making a second round, however, as a member at the far end opted to devour its contents in place of the Chicken ramen he inadequately chose.
Our party was mighty fond of their picks - be it the Original or Spicy Garlic. My own Karaage Pork was undeniably rich, resulting in feelings of satiation well beyond the seven-hour mark. A composition devoid of eggs, chashu, and veggies of any sort, the there was little substance beyond the thin noodles and crispy fried chicken morsels.
Individual washroom stalls were found towards the back of the eatery, past the fume-filled open kitchen. Such spaces were stocked with sufficient toiletries and satisfactorily maintained.
I had forgotten all about the convention until two days prior, when my favourite fangirl forwarded the program schedule to me in image form.
The first of its kind, KPOP NORTH was introduced as a convention aiming to bring more K-Pop artists north of the border, hopefully one day achieving the same degree of recognition as KCON in the States. And with its organizers fluent in the Korean language, the promise was far greater than Pop! Goes The World and their shady empty promises.
We had purchased GA+ tickets just after the fifty percent price slash, then later learned of the complementary Hi-Touch pass. Unlike the infamous Mnet-run KCON though, the passes were not distributed randomly, but rather online via Google Forms registration on a first come, first serve basis. Both of us selected The Rose without hesitation, though it wasn't until later that I discovered she had also purchased additional benefits such as Photo Op and Hi-Touch passes for other artists.
Taking place in the North building where ProFusion had occupied five weeks prior, the convention grounds were as simplistic (read: barren) as could be. There wasn't much of a dealer's alley, and even smaller a selection of instant nourishment. At the west end of the upper floor was the concert stage, uncarpeted, with overhead spotlights and an LCD screen acting as the sole production enhancement tools. (Might I add that this screen was repeatedly disconnected, revealing the VLC Player logo and cognate inadequacies of the stage team.)
Coat check incurred a four-dollar drop-off fee and an unnecessary amount of hassle. Consequently, I took to leaving my winter gear (and pre-packed dinner) elsewhere. The trek wasn't particularly lengthy via The PATH, however the frequent trips soon fatigued my calves, which were already engaged throughout the standing shows.
The Rose was the first act of the afternoon. It was an unexpected choice by the organizers, for rookie groups such as VERIVERY generally assume the roles of show-starters.
Needless to say, I wasn't particularly punctual, and my actions served to place me outside the GA+ crowd, nestled behind those sporting pink GA wristbands.
With the band being my primary reason for ticket purchase, I shall admit disappointment towards being unable to capture the quadret clearly. On the less regrettable flip side, I will also profess that I took to experiencing their voices and instrumentals on a more human level, free from the distractions of technology. The Rose's energy was as spectacular as their studio releases.
I had never been too familiar with the members prior to this day, though one thing is certain: trench coat-shedding Jaehyeong definitely made my heart skip a beat.
The fangirl and her posse opted to plaster themselves by the barricade even after The Rose had concluded their performance, in spite of VERIVERY's pending segment. During this forty-minute break, I took to visiting the handful of merchandise vendors, bumping into a few familiar faces along the way.
The Kpop Random Dance was likely the most interesting panel event.
Commonly heard throughout my undergrad were the following three pillars: Sleep, Studies, and Social Life, and how maintaining equilibrium between them was an unattainable task.
Post-graduation, the S-trio has undergone metamorphosis, yielding Health, Interpersonal Relations, and Financial Stability as its final form.
- Health encompasses both physical and mental well-being, be it concerns over insomnia or the simple act of
engaging in everyday joys (such as fangirling).
- Interpersonal Relations takes into account family matters, friends, and the general presence of a social circle. These intangible ties are often neglected when the latter grows dire.
- The most self-explanatory of them all, Financial Stability is a gauge of survival capability - the distinction between struggling for fundamental means and cruising comfortably through 401 congestion.
Without elaborating into an otherwise arguably philosophical approach to human existence, I shall plainly state that these pedestals of continuance are impossible to acquire in harmony. The inevitable has finally befallen, and it seems that circumstances are likely to persist for a while longer.
Weekend work and errands were succeeded by a Big Mac and a terribly tedious wait at Pearson.
Reluctantly inching into Monday, I saw blue skies, a Matcha Latte, and the slow-but-steady advancement of CIBC Square.
Oh, and The Krys. The Golden Thai Milk Tea - at Light sugar and no ice - may be the sole item of delectability at the waterfront bubble tea shop. Whitewater Brewing's Peanut Butter Shake was nothing short of tremendous either. Good on you, Ottawa Valley!
Behold: Triple Threat Sulley.
Fancy socks are commonly incorporated into my closet to offset my otherwise monochromatic (and allegedly monotonous) ensembles.
Since mid-October, my weekly KDC sessions have repeatedly been supplying me with new perspectives. As much as dance is a form of exercise, it is also a medium of expression, surpassingly so.
Despite being an amateur at "feeling the groove" while memorizing a sequence of movements, the classes were always a blast, and always a portal to absorb new information. Contrary to my initial belief, the choreography introduced did not have to be reproduced identically. Rather, it seemed that both participants and instructors preferred slight modifications, such that the moves aligned with one's original style.
I grasped the core meaning of "community" - a space free of judgment and brimming with absolute freedom, a collective of positive vibes and mutual encouragement.
KDC classes bridged the gap between Intermediate and Advanced levels, which was, admittedly, still too advanced for the likes of me and my lack of practice. Years of recreational badminton have honed my hand-eye coordination, yet left my sense of rhythm stagnant. The ability to move my body with grace was impaired. I was but a zealous concert-goer unaccustomed to the complex steps of urban dance.
However, the more experienced attendees did not bat even an eyelash. Many were more than willing to lend a helping hand - or arm, or leg - in assisting newbies like me learn a new move.
The term concluded with a double class: the first incorporating b-boy vibes and the second fluid attitudes à la house and ahgase's very own Hit The Stage champion.
One Beginner class and two KDCs later though, I was more than ready to call it a day. The team at the nearby McDonald's was apparently aware of this as well, for I lucked out with a triple-sized Vanilla Cone due to worker error.
This single serving was sufficient in compensating the dissatisfactory swirls of the past.
In review of the rest of the week was an incredulously lengthy baking session, which, in turn, resulted in a decent batch of gingersnap cookies and a not-so-spectacular dual-toned pound cake.
Mother Nature is an indecisive beast - a force to be reckoned with, especially in the cooler periods of Canadian climate. For one moment may witness above-seasonal rainfall, while another harsh hail (and the consequential cancellation of scheduled social pursuits).
These chilly conditions are commonly interpreted as prompts for hibernation, or at least increased susceptibility to inactivity. To combat feelings of laziness, winter walks were executed along the waterfront.
Holiday festivities have landed at Union Station. The second last day of November marked the introduction of an outdoor skating rink at Toronto's largest transit hub.
While I had my initial doubts about the project, primarily in terms of commuter safety and ease of navigation, the rink proved significantly more secure than imagined. Surrounded by wooden barriers, the raised recreational facility was distinctly separated from pedestrian traffic and monitored by authorized personnel. With only one supervised access, it ensured that commuters could continue with their routine, completely uninterrupted by the installation. It'll only be a matter of time before I embark on my own test of the addition, since the allure of free rentals and free lessons is simply too great an offer to refute.
In terms of vendors, there was, sadly, limited numbers. In consideration of the several other markets taking place in parallel in and around the downtown core, this is of little concern for the urban adventurer.
Walk-worthy points within Union included nut butter and Panettone samples from the Biscotteria Forno Cultura pop-up, whiskey sampling and custom engraving at the Johnnie Walker booth, and the upcycled Tomorrow Tree, all of which were housed within the VIA Rail Hall/West Wing, connecting Great Hall and the UP Express pedestrian bridge.
Breakfast burritos from McD's were discovered to be no larger than the size of my palm, yet, nonetheless satisfactory in delivering energy to fuel fatigued mornings.
The Office Treats series persists in the form of dainty cookies, chocolate-covered dates from Dubai, praline sweets from Ukraine, dense slabs of vanilla shortbread (Can you tell I wasn't a fan?), and brimming boxes of The Night Baker.
Taking place between Wednesday to Friday was The Buildings Show, a phenomenal construction-focused expo spanning both the North and South Buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Weekly occurences of the Artisan Market welcomed Pokéball bath bombs, essential oil aromatherapy products, chopstick holders in the form of Mt. Fuji, and sodium laureth sulphate-free handcrafted soaps. The amusing baubles served as great stocking stuffers, or simply tidbits to supplement Christmas gifts.
Who Am I?
I'm the one that talks fashion and K-Pop randoms behind Quirky Aesthetics, the one who contributes honest opinions about commercial beauty items on Review Junkie, the one that obsessively shares photos of food on Pinterest, the one that loves her DSLR more than her own being and the one that wants to work in the transportation sector for a living.