The answer was fresh air in the form of Light Up the Square.
Complimentary gifts from sponsors and children's games are common constituents of the event as well. Obtained from one year were touchscreen gloves and hot chocolate!
Between editing content from the previous week's happenings and mentally preparing for the Holiday Cookie Box (858) production line, little energy remained for further events. Ultimately, I deemed myself physically unfit for undertaking more test batches and in dire need of escaping the sporadic bursts of nonsense that would occasionally drift towards my ears.
The answer was fresh air in the form of Light Up the Square.
Past years evoke hazy experiences at Celebration Square, normally comprising of lights, hot beverages, and the occasional marketplace.
Complimentary gifts from sponsors and children's games are common constituents of the event as well. Obtained from one year were touchscreen gloves and hot chocolate!
We parked in the north garage underneath Celebration Square, and miraculously found the entrance to the elevators unlocked. Beyond the doors to P1 was tri-toned carpet bearing a pearly white City of Mississauga logo. Immediately beside the elevators were conveniently placed bathroom facilities, which we visited before heading to ground level.
The skating rink greeted us at City Hall's south entrance. Lights, music, and more had been set up for the season's opening evening. Differing from the previous year was the overall layout: the series of benches normally finding themselves at the north end of the rink were now sectioned off with glass panels to improve flow. A food truck vendor equipped with crêpes, coffee, waffles, and ice cream had now found itself at the northeast corner. The heated patio remained, but space was exceptionally limited.
Local artwork adorned the pillars on the northeast end of the rink, as well as on the northwest side by The Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Garden, named in honour of the late British monarch. Info boards had been erected in the proximity of each of these LED-equipped installations to shed additional information.
View the full album HERE!
Beyond surreal crystal-like formations and a display case of faux cakes, we found lanterns in the form of picnic-style offerings: watermelon slices, coolers, cookie tins, and even extending to include Krispy Kreme and Mr. Puffs boxes (Heartland sugar staples).
The annual hangout with my active July baby was delayed this year. Between my post-vacay exhaustion, unpredictable work transitions, conflicting work schedules, and general life matters, the event was eventually postponed well after the conclusion of summer and fall.
With temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, there were few outdoor activities of interest to us. And no, I wasn't about to pursue snowboarding - followed by three consecutive days of pain - on a whim again.
I stole the idea of Activate from friends of the sleepy polar bear, then later realized that each booking required a minimum of three people. (Alternatively, groups of two could book as three, but the games would prove more challenging and the three-person admission rate would still apply.) Naturally, we sought the schedule availability of the sleepy polar bear and friends.
Our booking had initially been made for the Burlington location, then modified to the Brampton outpost given the array of events taking place on the weekend. As the neighbourhood lacked restaurants of interest though, I proposed a mid-day meal at Yum's Kitchen before venturing northeast.
My first order of business was to rectify the incorrect number of points awarded to me. The lady behind the counter deferred my concerns to one of the co-owners, urging me to reach out via phone. I received a response of acknowledgement in record time, and my points were added to my account six days later.
Since my last dine-in visit, the eatery has invested in an order number calling system by the food preparation area. Ideal for periods of high visitor volume, order numbers are announced audibly throughout the dining floor and visibly by a digital display.
Our duo of Grilled Pork Steamed Baos were delivered first. Loaded generously into an unthinkably plush casing were marinaded, grilled meat, carrot slaw, and a few vibrant sprigs of cilantro. Tearing into the bao wrappers, I couldn't suppress my enthusiasm at its lush, satisfying texture.
Readiness of the Grilled Chicken Fresh Rolls was announced a few moments later, adopting a presentation akin to I Love Pho, but bearing a profile distinctly inferior. While I was appreciative of the sauce being less invasive than my go-to pho place of the year, its constituents were largely bland and the wrapper tough instead of tender.
Neither of us were satisfied with the portions, but my fellow July baby had another suggestion beyond Yum's small snack plates.
In the T&T plaza, where ShareTea and BlackBall had once occupied, a new contender for bubble tea had appeared. From Hero Tea's online platform, a White Peach Oolong Milk Tea w/ tapioca and cream-topped Mountainous White Peach Tea were ordered. Both drinks were ready for pickup at the time of arrival, but I paused to peer at the new interior.
And thankfully I did, for my White Peach Oolong Milk Tea was horrendously astringent at 0% sugar, resulting in an unpleasant aftertaste on the tongue. The beverage was gladly reconstructed with boost in sugar level. Even at 30% sugar though, the tea was still on the mild end, but tapioca compensated for sweetness.
Joined by the sleepy polar bear, we then headed towards Brampton City Hall. Much like in Mississauga, parking in the City Hall garage was free on weekends. The lot enabled easy access to the seasonal light fixtures just before the municipal building, as well as Gage Park, which had yet to be transformed into a rink.
Braving the gusty breezes, we began our trek towards the Alderlea building, which was only visible after rounding the residential corner of Wellington and Elizabeth. Within the building was an artist market, complete with free postcards and a button-making station in the foyer.
Vendor tables had been arranged in the adjacent rooms, each featuring a local Brampton artist. The various works spanned illustrations, paintings, accessories, and even quilted creations.
When a self-proclaimed "casual climber" proposed the idea of Pursuit OCR, I leaped at the idea. Technically, it could have been a mention of great nonchalance, but I took it to heart and immediately began planning. Prior to their relocation from Etobicoke, I had already been interested in the entertainment facility, but not invested enough to make the trip.
The date was confirmed about two weeks in advance, with a group booking for seven at 5PM arranged after two rounds of consultation.
I spent the morning revisiting a writeup with supposedly insufficient details, then enlisted the services of the sleepy polar bear to complete some errands.
Most of the stops proved speedier than expected, enabling a walk through Sandford Farm Park. Despite having driven by on a number of occasions, I hadn't exactly trekked through on foot.
With temperatures hovering about the comfortable double digits, we explored the last of fall foliage amongst lean and lofty barren trees, fenced off from the playground and paved pathway. An asphalt basketball court and spacious soccer field were found towards its west limits, in close proximity to the narrow - yet sizable - parking lot.
We set out around the 4:15 PM mark and arrived just before our check-in time of 5PM. Having pestered other members of the group to not only arrive early in athletic gear and sign the waiver in advance, it was admittedly a tad annoying to have some reveal themselves in tardiness, for our allocated 90-minute slot would be enforced.
I proceeded to inquire of the location of washrooms and lockers in the meantime. Beyond the neon lights and colourful wallpaper were arcade games (boasting a handwritten "Out of Order" sign) and two "gender-neutral" stalls. Several girls had entered beyond the orange-lined, prompting me to use the next one, lined in black. Within this space was a single stall, two urinals, and sink. Despite being the only user of the space at the time, I couldn't shake the feeling of anxiety that other participants would enter. The introduction of gender-neutral facilities had not been executed in a manner that offered comfort; should there have been insufficient space for gender-separated facilities, standalone unisex stalls ought have been considered.
Guidance through Pursuit's confusing, saturated corridors was not provided. Our group, along with other groups, were left to discover these routes on our own. At a three-way fork, we bypassed a flight of stairs and finally found the lockers. They were situated just before the obstacle course section along both sides of the wall. I proceeded to place my belongings in one of the numerous half lockers, slide into my cycling gloves for protection, and join the safety orientation.
Zealously having picked three (or four?) times more than the rest of Chudleigh's other patrons, we took home about forty-ish apples. Amongst this assortment were:
Naturally, these apples were subject to participation in the second round of Apple Mania.
1) Apple Cake with Oat Crunch Crumble
After peeling, coring, and slicing upwards of nine apples the morning after, I proceeded to construct the Apple Crumble Cake I had visited just over one month ago. The base of Sunday Baking's Blueberry Crumble Cake was utilized (doubled); just as before, the formula was thick and difficult to spread throughout the base of the pan. However, I remained confident that the cake would steadily acquire volume in the oven, resisting the weight of the apple slices arranged on top.
Instead of meticulously arranging wispy thin slices on the surface, I took to alternating layers of cake and apple. This time, the slices measured 1/3 to 1/2 inch in thickness. Distributed in clumps about the surface was a crunchy oat topping, modified from SK's formula with the addition of an measured quantity of porridge oats.
Long ago did I request my 48-hour mid-week leave. Emails were monitored occasionally during this period, with Thursday evening revealing a 9:30 AM meeting for discussions that would likely bleed into lunchtime.
I slept fitfully the night prior, following a relatively early return from Junny's marvelous performance. An early awakening enabled construction of Marbled Banana Bread.
For once, I had executed the recipe perfectly, inclusive of the confusing and particular flour-folding procedure! Immediate worries were extended to the repetitive mixing process, for gluten formation was the last element I would hope for.
The loaf emerged delicious, sturdier than the six (or seven) banana edition with distinctive, cozy spices and irrefutable chocolatey-ness.
Quarrels over banana consumption and storage delayed final inputs into a work writeup, therefore also impacting my scheduled departure. The sleepy polar bear was advised to acquire a Vietnamese Ice Coffee (V2) from Yum's Kitchen in the interim. At 2:20 PM, we made our way downtown, energized by the potency of the drink.
The last trip to the ROM, beyond school field trips, had been undertaken in 2016 while maximizing a student discount.
Having verified the museum's operating hours in advance, we made a quick round through the gift shop first, as it would be the first attraction, if I may denote it as such, to shutter at 4 PM.
My two-year concert hiatus has finally terminated, graced with the present of a very special Korean-Canadian solo artist.
Over the years, I've observed my affection to reside less with idols and their overdone concepts and broken melodies. Instead, I've turned to calmer tracks, placing emphasis on sound, delivery, and lyric over merely performance. Moreover, the idols that I fell in love with - and still love to this day - have respectively evolved into musicians and artists in their own right, taking an active approach to the creative process.
I first discovered Junny through ØFFSHORE, a production crew that Jay B has pursued for musical interests outside of GOT7. His soothing yet stunning vocals captivated me almost instantaneously, and I began to follow his releases bit by bit, growing progressively fond of the tracks. His earlier albums are less familiar to me, for the nostalgia EP was the deciding duo for me. (Beyond the title track, my favourite is actually solo with Lullaboy.)
Slipping into comfy attire (complete with hi-vis jacket for visibility!) and not-so-comfy platforms in preparation for the GA crowd, I proceeded to assemble my standard roster of concert items. At quarter past one, I would begin navigating to Clarkson station; the GO Train whisked me to Union in just under forty minutes.
The venture marked my first solo trip since June. Within this period, several updates had been made to Union Station:
Exiting on street level, I found blue skies, off-duty labourers, and homelessness awaiting me.
Trodding up the concrete stairs, I proceeded northbound to King and Bay, where I would board the King streetcar towards the venue.
But, of course, the 504 was a short turn that concluded at Church Street. Alighting the next one while catching upon Woo Young Woo led me to missing my stop, then trekking back to Queen from Dundas and Broadview.
At 3:42 PM, I joined the lineup at 10th place. Shortly afterwards, a fellow ahgase spotted from her fifth place position and approached me to catch up on recent happenings. We griped about career and financial difficulties - topics that the barely-legal Gen Z species surrounding us could hardly identify with.
If my work schedule is tumultuous and unceasing, then my internal state of mind can only be more chaotic.
For seemingly every challenging task, there is an even more grueling hurdle.
I've come to realize a distinct weight loss over the past few months. While originally thought to be temporary and ensuing as a result of poor eating habits, fluctuations in the scale have been minimal. The combined effects of fatigue, restlessness, stress, and anxiety are evident. Physical strain - cramped hamstrings and chest pain, to name a few - and emotional pressures have surged from extenuating circumstances, none of which could have fallen within my realm of control even if I tried. 120% of efforts were exerted in vain, for one cannot reason with the world. Society is discovered to live on rotating about the axis of each individual's selfishness and lack of consideration for unity. One could say that I've lost faith in humanity, yet, as third-party spectators never fail to point out, "I care too much to stop trying".
The mindset is both a blessing and a curse: a drive to constantly find new ways to perform better, all while succumbing to the thoughts and beliefs of others and losing yourself in the midst of it, unconsciously.
This short-term fieldwork assignment has taught me plenty. It was more than mere education by ways of municipal priorities and sidewalk remediation. Throughout this project, I've had the opportunity to witness unyielding stubbornness, a typical element of small town culture, as well as the interconnecting implications of certain actions. Certified within the company was the boundless gluttony of those who have tasted profit, and the drastic actions taken to ensure consistent flow of such profit for personal gain. And while I tried my very best in handling a daily routine occupied by work, timely conflict resolution, and weariness, my actions were responded to with laziness, lack of consideration, and further pressures to "do more", to do "better".
It would be a lie to say that feelings of inadequacy weren't experienced thoroughly.
Highly anticipated was our CNE excursion.
The sleepy polar bear was, for the most part, excited for the wacky (but not too wacky) food items, while I was most keen on the Sky Ride.
The entire party comprised of four, and we had agreed to assemble on the fair grounds in the early afternoon.
Admittedly, I was rather anxious: my digestive system had not been faring well, and I was less than excited to stimulate any unpleasant repercussions in the presence of hot, sweaty masses and lineups for dingy public bathrooms. A proper lunch was proposed in the west side of the GTA prior to departing.
Yum's Kitchen, which my birthday buddy and I had been eyeing for quite some time, finally opened its doors in the Deer Run plaza to many excited patrons.
The interior was unlike any other banh mi establishment, with modern looking décor, an open kitchen area, and even seating! A quick scan revealed sea urchin-like light fixtures hung from the ceiling, marble tabletops and emerald couches on the dining floor, and even neon lights positioned before a couch (a photo zone, clearly). Its layout was atypical of eateries serving casual Vietnamese cuisine, for normally are they grab-and-go establishments with little to no space for dining in. Adopting this format enabled Yum's Kitchen to operate as both a takeout spot and catch-up space for small gatherings.
Having perused the menu beforehand, we immediately took to the order counter - one of us inquisitive and the other decisive.
The restaurant appeared to be led by an operational manager, passionate to deliver quality food inspired by a Vietnamese upbringing, and a commercial manager with entrepreneurial drive and honed business tactics. My budding inquiries would be answered by the former, who not only elaborated on the slightly spicy properties of the satay-slathered Yum's Special (No. 13) but also reassured that all banh mis were served without spice, and heat was only added where requested (thank goodness!!).
I pointed in favour of the Vietnamese Classic Banh Mi (No. 12), while the sleepy polar bear opted for the Beef Stew Banh Mi (No. 03). At the time of order placement, it was declared that all banh mi ingredients were prepared in-house, from the baguettes to the cold cuts, and that nearly all sandwich varieties included pâté, an element that is often included in exceptionally stingy amounts.
There was a swap in cashier personnel midway, and the commercial manager took to handling the payment/administrative portion of the transaction. She posed the question of "for here or to go?", to which we exchanged glances and agreed on dining within. Out of concern for portion sizes, I quickly followed up to clarify whether takeout containers would be provided, and was informed that, due to limited staff for washing dishes, all orders would be served in to-go boxes with plastic bags provided upon request. Drinks were sealed to render them portable and kid-safe. I also learned of their loyalty program, where each dollar would equate to one point.
Our orders arrived in under ten minutes.
The Vietnamese Classic consisted of cold cuts (with ridiculously tough edges), an abundance of pâté, cilantro, thinly sliced cucumber, and julienned carrots. Personally, I could have used more pickling and more cucumbers. The cilantro was not as fresh as Nguyet Minh either. That said, the baguette was uniformly browned and not crackly/crumbly (read: could be consumed with dignity) like the longstanding establishments within Mississauga Chinese Centre. Its edges were on the dry side, albeit crunchy. Despite plentiful, the pâté was not very flavourful.
The sleepy polar bear's Beef Stew Banh Mi embraced a standalone soup format with two baguette rolls. Within the cilantro-topped, tomato base stew were chunks of extremely tender brisket. A mild kick lingered on my tongue, but not enough to halt me from dipping the likes of my toasted banh mi into the stew to curb dryness.
The meal was surprisingly economic given the efforts invested into furnishing the interior. Moreover, it filled the void for banh mi on the west side of the city.
Life is a whirlwind and each person is only bestowed a fixed quantity of anchors to keep things from going haywire.
Between a ridiculously rapid transition from in-office and screen-bound to on-site and ultraviolet radiation-prone, I had little time to complete the remaining task at hand, and even less opportunity to process the happenings to come.
My new fieldwork assignment would commence on Wednesday, leaving just two days to secure the loose ends on CAD and prepare for sweltering, sunny days ahead.
Daily habits weren't amended, for I could construct whatever my heart desired, whenever my heart desired. Orange juice, Perrier, and strawberry lychee jam was an interesting combination, as was M Cha's Peach Oolong Milk Tea turned milk tea granita.
Rushed mornings were anticipated. Thus, Marbled Banana Bread was assembled in advance.
Without cocoa powder readily available, I undertook a similar substitution as my marbled loaf in Vancouver (link later): Tim Horton's Hot Chocolate Mix. A small amount of black cocoa was added as well.
Errors resulting from barely reading the recipe - which one ought to have memorized by now - resulted in a last-minute addition of half & half cream to prevent the chocolate batter from becoming too dry. The result was a damp loaf - still chocolatey, but nowhere near as decadent and crunchy as regular iterations.
The drive to Stoney Creek at 7 AM approximated forty minutes. The skies were azure with feather patches of clouds. Across from the Public Works department was a splendid view of the mountains, a road trip-like sight.
Following a brief set of instructions and, weaving uphill over railways and about roads I never knew could appear in the GTHA. I navigated about the Devil's Punchbowl site, further and further away from the civilization at the foot of the "Mountain".
Next would come an introduction to construction inspection: It was a small-scale task with few contract items, but with countless provincial specifications and municipal specifications/guidelines for reference. My disembark on site grounds would also mark the start of no immediate access to indoor plumbing - a nightmare to say in the least.
Throughout the first few days, I would make frequent visits to Tim Hortons and McDonald's. These trips would often entail a purchase of some sort: a Peach Real Fruit Quencher and Chocolate Chip Muffin from Timmies, and a less-than-stellar Peach Passionfruit Smoothie from McD's.
My two-month on-site project has been suffering continuous delays: from locate issues to a supposedly industry-wide cement powder shortage, I've been waiting anxiously for the commencement of a potentially calescent challenge. I had shifted some appointments to prepare for this assignment, only to heave a sigh of relief as my on-site presence got delayed. Albeit exciting, the very act of being away from home is restricting in its ability to maximize and re-purpose time accordingly, whether it be completing chores, running errands, or taking calls. Without access to a computer, controlled setting, or A/C, the flexibility of my working environment diminishes drastically.
Another aspect I've yet to re-adjust towards would be the need for packed lunches. Soupy, boney components are difficult to compress into a thermo, and even more difficult to consume while on the go. It is unlikely that frozen kale (and ready-to-toast snacks) would be as accessible as they are currently in my work-from-home state.
This is not to say that I don't have days of low sustenance. However, such situations can easily mitigated by the retrieval of a Cape Seed slice and mozzarella chunks, both preserved in the freezer for days demanding instant solutions.
I'm learning that purple strands are not so easy to maintain, even with the assistance of pricey purple shampoo. Sectioning the hair is crucial, as is dampening prior to application. Gloves provide a more thorough application, for ungloved digits reveal signs of staining even after washing. As evident in recent outings, the original intensity is impossible to sustain; furthermore, tinting the hair evenly is tragic without third-party help.
Rapidly disappearing leftovers had prompted another purchase from thairoomgrand. This time, a different struggle was encountered with the online ordering system. As I fell outside of the 5-kilometre delivery radius, there was no way to take advantage of the 18% off promo using the most convenient address.
Instead, my Mango Chicken, Calamari, and Panang Curry were sent to the sleepy polar bear's. In hindsight, I ought to have pushed the delivery boundaries a tad more, for my $2 points redemption became the equivalent of my roundtrip gas spendings.
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.
WHAT DOES "QUIRKY AESTHETICS" MEAN?
Quirky = a term that commonly refers to something/someone distinctly different and unique
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