the kombucha scoby is a little too big for the glass jar so it's sorted of wrinkled. in addition, there are actually 2 scoby's stacked on top of each other, and parts of the scoby is sticking out of the tea, which makes me worried that it might get moldy. also the new baby scoby that will form on the surface will have holes in it. having a pretty scoby shouldn't be my primary concern however, as long as the fermentation goes off without any problems, and it seems to be doing well, with plenty of carbon dioxide gas bubbles. i switched out the paper towel cover with a piece of cotton rag.
i had an overwhelming desire to eat something healthy for dinner. after doing some research online, i came across an asparagus and smoked salmon salad recipe that i thought was worth trying out. i bought asparagus and red leaf lettuce, 2 items i'd never purchased before. i don't know what the difference is between red leaf and regular lettuce, except it's more expensive ($1.49/head, romaine was 99¢/head) and has a different color. i also don't know the going price for asparagus, but apparently they're not cheap, selling at $3.49/lb. i ended up getting about a pound worth. the recipe also calls for pecan nuts but i got walnuts instead because they were 2x cheaper ($3.99/bag). on top of that i also got a quart of yogurt ($1.89) and a box of granola ($3). the only thing that was out of place in my healthy mix was a package of bacon ($3.29).
i had yogurt and granola for lunch. the market basket brand plain whole milk yogurt contains the following live cultures: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which is pretty much standard for all yogurts; an unspecified variety of Bifidobacterium, L.acidophilus and L.casei (the culture in yakult drink).
i went to my community garden in the afternoon to plant some seeds: one mound of zucchini, one mound of cucumbers, and 2 mounds of acorn squash. i also did some weeding, pulling up a bunch of wild morning glory and asiatic dayflower seedlings. my garlic patch is so overgrown that the leaves are falling over each other. while trying to straighten them out, i saw the small garlic bulbs emerging from the ground. i still waiting to harvest the garlic scapes, but afterwards i may dig out some plants to eat.
not a single snapdragon from last year survived into this season. i had so many flowers though, i should at least have some seedlings, given how prolific snapdragon seeds will germinate. there are these tiny seedlings in my plot which may be snapdragons, i won't know until they get bigger. but i should really start to consider whether i want to put up some cover for my plants before the mulberries start falling, because the rotting berries will definitely bury any seedlings.
when evening came i went about making my asparagus and smoked salmon salad. instead of peppered salmon steaks ($4.99), next time i may just use canned salmon chunks instead. i only picked enough asparagus to eat, saving the rest for the rest of the week. i might've overcooked them because they tasted kind of soggy in the salad. or maybe i should've rinsed them with color water afterwards. they sort of remind me of avocados in that they don't really have a strong taste. i'm sort of impartial to asparagus, but i do know they're pretty nutritious (as are most vegetables and greens that i seem to avoid in my usual diet). the best part of the salad were the roasted walnuts. i'm tempted to begin putting roasted nuts into everything i eat because it dramatically improves everything.
i watched game 3 between the bruins and rangers (in madison square garden). the more hockey i watch, the more i'm getting into it, swear shouting at the HDTV whenever boston failed to score. bruins ended up winning, now they're up 3-0 in the series. is it time to start thinking about the finals?
when the hell is my 3D camera supposed to arrive? the original estimate was today, but the seller took so long to send it out (not until monday) that the new expected delivery date is tomorrow. i keep on checking the track number on the USPS website every few hours, waiting for the status to update, but the package is still in philadelphia.
i'm sensitive to caffeine so i was afraid i'd have trouble falling asleep after drinking a container of black tea. but i went to sleep like normal, although i didn't go to bed until almost 3:00 (blog writing takes time, especially after an evening of television). i like the flavor of regular black tea, there's a simplicity about it, and it makes me think this is how people hundreds of years ago drank their tea. also when i drank some leftover black tea from last night, it was still pretty mellow, which is good, because i like to steep my tea for a long time, and i don't like teas that get bitter with oversteeping.
monthly street cleaning was happening on the opposite side of the street this morning. i almost didn't think it was going to take place because i didn't hear them announcing it on the bullhorn earlier and there were still plenty of cars parked across the street. all those car owners are going to have a bad day when they return home and discover their vehicle had been towed. street cleaning is a municipal scam, pure and simple. actually cleaning the street is secondary; their primary goal is to ticket cars (money for the cops), tow cars (money for the tow companies), and store cars (money for the storage lot). the racket continues tomorrow when they clean my side of the street. why can't they just ticket only like somerville? but there they clean the streets twice a month, so i don't know which is the lesser evil. more the reason to just own a bicycle.
my father dropped by this morning to deliver the kombucha scoby and a jar of kombucha juice undergoing a 2nd fermentation. after washing and drying my hands, i removed the scoby from the jar and dropped it into the jar of sweet tea. the scoby is actually a mother and baby, but because they were both stuck together, i didn't bother separating them. also they're a little bigger than the diameter of the jar, but they're soft so they fold up. the new scoby baby that will be created will be jar diameter.
i then poured the leftover juices (about 2 cups) into the sweet tea jar. it was a little full, so we scooped out more than a cup's worth with a clean plastic ladle, a drank the leftover. it was sweet with a little tartiness from the added kombucha juice. my father seems to really love kombucha, telling me how he could feel the bacteria working in his gut but in a good way. he felt a little gassy, but not bloated, but that's how he knows the probiotics is working its magic. and over time, the more his body gets used to it, the less gassy he becomes. i told him about the continuous brew method to making kombucha, he seemed intrigued, but that requires a large glass fermentation jar with a spigot.
maybe it has something to do with being in a smaller container compared to the larger container, or maybe a byproduct of the fermentation process (whether through the initial fermentation or second fermentation), but the jar of finished kombucha is much lighter in color than the sweet tea i brewed last night. also the finished sealed kombucha was hissing from the escaping carbon dioxide. that may be due to the shaking from the transport, because an hour later it stopped hissing.
my father also brought over 2 large stock pot from the cafe: one of them is the 20qt aluminum pot with heavy stains on the inside, the other a 16qt stainless steel (but too small for what i want to do with it). after seeing the one i bought last week, he said it was better to keep it because i can do other things with a large stainless steel stockpot, like making my korean kimchee.
in the early afternoon i returned to the liquor store to redeem my power ball ticket. "cash?" the clerk asked me, after feeding the ticket into some machine. "yeah," i said as he handed me $4. "i'll try again next time." being in the house all day, i was blissfully unaware how humid it was outside. this is the first time this year where i've felt this kind of summer-like humidity, where for a split second i thought about installing the air conditioner (this is a lie, even in the dog days of summer i rarely think about the AC). this is one of the times where i'm glad it's so cool and dry inside my house (for the time being).
after watering the plants in belmont, i planted some more seedlings: 4 mixed hot peppers into RB2, and 2 of each sweet basil in RB4 and RB2, in between the tomatoes. i'm getting impatient to see the peonies bloom. the newly-transplanted peony behind the garage produced a single flower bud but being a first-year transplant it's not going to flower and i can already see the bud shriveling up. better luck next year. the peonies on the western side of the yard are producing a lot of flower buds. buds also show up laterally, but those shrivel up naturally so the terminal buds become even bigger.
when my parents came back from the cafe, i went with my father to my aunt/uncle's place in arlington to plant some more of our surplus seedlings: 4 roma tomatoes, 2 cherry tomatoes, 3 sweet basil, and 1 kung-pao pepper. the garden bed seems to have a lot of peat moss, some compost or manure will need to be added soon to give the plants something to feed on. so counting arlington, we now have 5 different gardens: my own community garden, my parents' backyard, my grand uncle's backyard, and the belmont victory garden plot. none of these gardens are perfect, sunlight is always at a premium. for once i'd like to have a garden that gets sun all day long, instead of only certain hours of the day due to blockage from nearby trees/houses.
when we left for arlington we saw the breaking news about an impending tornado due to touch down near oklahoma city. when we got back we saw the aftermath. i haven't seen destruction like that since the japanese tsunami, with cars stacked on top of each other and whole neighborhoods just flattened.
temperature was in the 80's with high humidity. nothing was on the radar but suddenly a cluster formed over the city and there was a sudden burst of hard rain. after dinner i hurried home during a lull in the showers.
there was a letter from the massachusetts IRS department waiting for me when i got home. at first i thought it was my refund check, but the envelope felt thick so i had a feeling it was something else. most of the time when you get a letter from the IRS it's not a good thing. turns out i must've left out a 1099-MISC form, and they won't process my returns until they receive a copy. they didn't say which one, just that some pertinent documents were missing. it's funny, when i pay taxes they never say anything, but when it comes time for them to pay me, they drag their feet. i scanned my 1099-MISC's from last year and will send it out tomorrow morning.
arlington was having its own bike ride event this morning, one that i planned to go, even though it was a 5 miles ride just to get to the starting point between upper and lower mystic lakes. however, i got the schedule mixed up and thought the ride started at 11:00 when it fact it began at 9:30, too early for my blood on a sunday morning. so instead i slept in and woke right around the time the ride was starting.
after covering up my motorcycle (i heard it might rain in the early evening), i rode my trek cargo bike to the cafe. maybe it's not as fast as my trek allant, i figured i might meet my grandmother there, but my mother had already picked her up and taken her to belmont. i ate some wood ear mushrooms with dates and some steamed eggs before continuing to my parents' place.
with her bad feet, my grandmother can't really go anywhere these days. my mother was in the sunroom chatting with her, showing her all the things she's knitted/crocheted, and then putting on some korean soap opera on the ipad for her to watch. later they watched a dvd on the laptop of my grandmother's 80th birthday spent in taiwan 6 years ago.
i spent a few hours in the backyard, first with the weeding, followed by the watering. it was a warm 70's day, and i just had on my t-shirt. i planted some zucchinis in the southwestern corner of the yard, in 2 manure mounds. while stirring the compost, i managed to snap the very old wooden handle in half. i was also going to trim some of the hedges eclipsing the front of the house, but i was already too tired by that point, and the temperature got cold after the sky went overcast.
and i'm still not quite sure what that tree is that seemed to have sprouted next to the pussy willow. based on the flowers, i said it was a black cherry, but we have a black cherry in our belmont community garden plot, and the leaves don't look the same. plus, i'd never seen berries of any kind on this backyard tree, but it could just be because animals eat them all.
i discovered my pair of russian-made (sehfeld brand) binoculars that i bought more than a decade ago at a bazaar in urumqi. i don't remember how much i paid, but it was fairly inexpensive (i want to say US$20). they always seemed like a toy, with its kitschy soviet motifs like the hammer & sickle and AK-47 rounds. the lenses are also coated red, and it even comes with a handy compass and eyepiece-embedded measurement marks. however, surprisingly, they're actually pretty good binoculars. the red-tint coating does give images an unnatural bluish-green hue, but the large optics - 8x50 i believe - offer amazing clarity and eye relief. it's not the sort of binoculars i'd be caught using in public though.
i watched game 2 between the bruins and rangers in the late afternoon. it's definitely piqued my interest in ice hockey, although i'm still pretty much a fair-weather fan and i still think it's wrong that the finals occur so close to summertime. the last time i watched hockey was during the winter olympics. i still don't know all the rules. when is it off sides? and i thought icing happened when they needed to resurface the rink. i like that hockey is kind of like soccer on speed. i don't like the inherent blind spot in the foreground of the rink do to safety barriers; maybe the broadcast can be improved with some sort of overhead flying camera that can televise from different sides of the rink. anyway, bruins won, 5-2, against a rangers goalie that i heard was the best in the game, but didn't seem very effective against boston. i also like all the strange names, an amalgamate of french canadian, russian, yugoslavian, and other exotic ethnicity. zdeno (slovak). marchand (halifax). lucic (serbian). tuukka rask (finnish). wasn't he a star wars character? my favorite though: veteran jaromir jágr (czechoslovakia). that name is just fun to say, "ya-MEER ya-GER."
the owners of the chinese restaurant next to my parents' cafe heard that my grandmother was in town visiting and treated everyone to a free takeout dinner, which my father brought home after work along with my 2nd aunt. when you reach a certain age, you pretty much do away with formalities, and that was the case with my grandmother, who started eating right away, even though it was still early (5:00). we stood around briefly to watch but then everyone decided to join her, figured might as well eat while everything was still hot.
after dinner my father and i bottled one of the 2 jars of kombucha we've been fermenting for a week (3 jars if you count the small container of oolong kombucha). we managed to fill 5 empty 24 oz. atlas mason jars (from classico pasta sauces) with enough kombucha left over to cover the scoby's. the mother and baby were too stuck together that we decided not to break them apart.
all 5 jars we capped for a 2nd fermentation to create more carbonation, and 2 jars we added some candied ginger and dried apricots (respectively), for some flavored kombucha. like when i tried it yesterday, our batch of kombucha tasted very mellow, not like the kombucha juice i got from jimmy, which was super tarty. but having tried the sour kombucha first, everything else pales in comparison, and our batch seemed too watered down. maybe it'll pick up a bit more tartiness from the 2nd fermentation. we also have another 1 gallon worth of kombucha (in a 2 gallon jar) that we're going to let ferment for maybe another week.
my father tried to get my mother and grandmother to try some kombucha, even adding a little bit of sugar to offset the sourness. neither of them seemed to be interested, only my father and i seemed to be full probiotics converts. he said it'd be nice to be able to test the pH; i told him i ordered some pH test paper (1-14 range) a week ago, soon to arrive.
i returned home during a lull in the drizzle that started happening as early as late afternoon. my father told me he'd stop by with the jar of scoby after he dropped off my grandmother and 2nd aunt a little bit later.
i decided to brew a batch of sweet tea for the eventual kombucha fermentation. unfortunately i only had green and oolong tea, no black tea. so i went across the street to buy some from the supermarket. i've always been a herbal tea drinker, so i've never purchased black tea before. i wasn't even sure how much it'd cost, but i figured about the same. i wouldn't need much, just enough to make a batch, and then maybe later in the week i'd go down to chinatown to buy more since i assumed they'd be cheaper in an asian supermarket.
first thing i learned is black tea isn't even called black tea. black tea is so generic, it'd sold more according to brand (if a tea doesn't specify, chances are it's probably black). they also didn't come in small boxes of 14-18 teabags like i'm used to; black tea comes in bigger boxes of 80-100 bags. black tea is also cheaper for said amount, costing anywhere from $2.50 to $4.00 (a box of herbal tea goes for $2.50 but for much less teabags). one thing that confused me was many packages mentioned something about orange pekoe. certainly i don't want orange flavor in my tea! but i figured it was just a variety of tea, and hopefully no citrus were involved.
finally it came down to picking the brand. for some reason i wanted a british brand, because i figured the best would come from england since they're known tea drinkers. i ruled out lipton, thinking they were an american company, when in fact they're actually british. there was tetley, which did advertise itself as a british brand, but the packaging made it look like i was buying soap and not food, so i passed on that (it was also one of the cheapest at $2.50 for a box of 100 teabags, but i figured it was so inexpensive because it wasn't very good). there was salada, which i've seen before, but i could tell where they were from and just assumed it was another american company (half correct: american by way of montreal).1 in the end i picked red rose, which seemed to have an english ring to it. it was actually one of the more expensive brands ($3.99), but not by too much. turns out red rose is actually canadian as well, originally from new brunswick.
i bumped into paul, who was behind me in line. we were both lost in our own worlds that we didn't even notice each other until i finally recognized him. he was buying some claritin tablets and asked me if they were anything like sudafed. after so many seasons of breaking bad, i immediately knew the answer, and told him he was looking for something that had pseudoephedrine, which requires the showing of id to purchase. he said his doctor told him to find some sudafed, but he also told me it was for something other than allergies, but didn't elaborate. i told him to check out rite aid, which carry what he was looking for. walking back home, i saw a girl wearing a red chipao going to dinner at zoe's (must be some sort of graduation dinner thing).
so here's something cool about red rose tea: they're like crackerjacks, each box comes with a little toy in the form of a miniature glazed ceramic figurine. over the years the trinkets change; the current series is nautical wonderland. i got a porcelain seagull (i would've preferred the diver's helmet or the seahorse or the mermaid).
i grabbed a stock pot, poured in the supposedly 1 gallon of water that i had in my large glass jar, and fired up the stove. i devised a way to steep the teabags (8) by tying them to a long bamboo skewer and suspending them in the boiling water. i also added a cup of sugar.
my father called me soon afterwards, said he dropped off my grandmother but forgot to bring the jar of scoby, and would bring it tomorrow morning.
after several hours with the sweet tea cooled down, i poured it all back into the glass jar. now all that's needed is the scoby and i should have my own batch of kombucha juice in about a week.
i finished the evening with episodes of game of thrones and mad men. there are only 2 more episodes left of GoT! regardless, the season will end unsatisfactorily, and i may have to reread book 3 in the series to regain my fix. it was a weird episode of mad men. don gets injected with speed and becomes completely ineffective in his manic state, while still trying to get back together with his mistress. i guess no-drug policy is a good thing to have in an office? and then the burglar tricks the draper kids into helping her rob them? that was creepy. wonder if it's based on a true story? they said they caught the thief, and needed them down at the station to reclaim their stolen valuables.
the turnout for the cambridge sweet ride was more than for the somerville industrial ride last weekend. there must've been 160 riders compared to the 50-60 from last week. maybe it has something to do with the fact that somerville asks for a donation while the cambridge one is completely free. not only that, but one can score all sorts of goodies, including free bike bells, reflector strips, t-shirts, bottled water, and candy. cambridge, you have some deep pockets.
the rendezvous site was 10:00 at the cambridge public library. i should've gotten there earlier because by the time i arrived, all the free t-shirts and reflectors were gone. i did manage to pick up a spare bike bell and a bottled water. i didn't recognize anyone there until renee showed up with her developmentally-challenged son dani. he must've been complaining earlier, because she used me as an example when she told him, "look, tony's here too, and he doesn't like crowds either." i love crowds.
riding in a large group, it's easy to just turn off my brain and simply follow, give myself up in the joy of just biking. here and there i'd recognize where we were, but there were also plenty of time when i was completely lost. it was one of those times, on franklin street, where i heard somebody call my name from the sidewalk. i saw a couple pushing a stroller but i still couldn't recognize who it was. turns out it was rob and anna and their baby leo. i stopped to chat with them briefly, but then somebody else stopped as well that i recognized as rob's friend dave! he was on the ride as well and said he saw me earlier but wanted to see how long it'd take before i noticed him. we could only chat for less than a minute since we had to follow the group. i told rob i'd see him next saturday for anna's phd graduation party.
dave and i ended up riding together and chatting. i told him about my kombucha and distillation projects. he told me he was looking to buy a place this year, preferably in cambridge, most likely in more affordable somerville. he didn't even know about the sweet ride, and only tagged along when some of his friends told him about it. his bike was in the shop so he ended up with a loaner bike (which actually used to be his bike before he gave it away).
we made it back to the cambridge, which was only the eastern half of a double loop. next up was the western loop. dave sat out the second half to hang out with friends. i took out my ZS20 camera and attached it to my handlebar mount. a few other bikers saw it and admired the setup. i then shot 2 long movies while biking, which ended up being an ass cam. i learned a few things: filming from a bike only really works on wide angle. when i tried to shoot using a slight zoom, the increased zoom combined with the vibration from the bike causes the video to be super-shaky despite the image stabilizing.
instead of continuing onwards back to the cambridge library for refreshments, i veered off and went home when we passed by my street after riding through porter square. i grabbed my things and rode to the cafe to meet up with my mother. my father wasn't there, having left to plant some vegetables at my aunt/uncle's place in arlington while they're on vacation. my mother and i biked back to belmont.
my sister was waiting for us to come home, on standby to leave for winchester fells the moment we arrived. the main objective was to do some birdwatching with the new binoculars, but also to look for some white ladyslippers.
birdwatching requires a lot of patience. they're hard enough to see in early spring when the leaves aren't out yet, they're pretty much impossible to see in late spring when the leaves are all out. most the birds i've spotted over the years have just been through sheer luck, and not because i was searching for them. in my experience, i see more birds when i'm not looking. so there we were, each one of us armed with a pair of binoculars (in my father's case he had my old kenko 8x32 monocular), and the only birds we saw were robins and grackles, birds we see everyday in the suburbs. when it comes to birdwatching, you might have the right equipment, but if you don't know where to find the birds (the when and where), you're not going to see very much.
what the fells lacked in bird sightings, it made up for in ladyslippers (thank goodness flowers can't fly). it's still not peak bloom yet (from the numerous empty petals we saw), but still enough to be impressive. we tried looking for the spot where we saw the white ladyslipper last spring but couldn't remember where it was. as far as other wildflowers, pretty much all the ones i saw last spring i saw this year, so there was nothing new. i noticed the mosquitoes were out too, but they seemed sort of lazy, and i didn't get bit even though a few circled me when i stopped to take photos (i didn't wear any bug repellent).
back in belmont i did some gardening:
may's backyard flower show has already begun, but more is yet to come. lilacs, buttercups, dianthus, lunaria, irises (bulb), wisteria, strawberries, lilies-of-the-valley, and black cherry (maybe) are all flowering at the moment. but in a few weeks, these will emerge as well: peonies, lilies, snapdragons, geraniums, sage, delphiniums, daisies, and irises (rhizome).
here on 6 day of the kombucha fermentation, we finally tried some, drawn from the smaller 1 gallon jar with a porcelain soup spoon, about a cup's worth. definitely lighter than jimmy's kombucha, tasted more watered down but also slightly sweeter. i hadn't seen the kombucha since monday, and since that time (today being saturday), the baby scoby's floating on top having grown to about 2-3mm thick. rising carbon dioxide bubbles have lifted the scoby in certain parts. underneath, strands of yeast byproduct drape from the scoby's. my parents left the mason jars at the cafe so we can't bottle the kombucha until tomorrow.
there wasn't much to eat in the house and nobody wanted to cook, so dinner came in the form of simple noodles mixed with some spicy flavor packets. i returned home on my trek allant, wondering to myself why i don't ride this sweet bike more often (the reason is because i don't have to worry about my junky everyday bike; knowing what i know about my neighborhood, leaving a decent bike locked outside is a good way to lose it).
a neighbor few houses down was throwing out a pull-up bar. i grabbed it, making it the second one i own. the door frame and the molding on my 100+ year old house is just too thick to clip on the pull-up bar unfortunately. what i need to do is to drill 2 additional holes in the metal tubing so i can move up the rubber brace by a centimeter, giving me enough clearance to finally clip the bar onto my old door frame. now that i have 2 there's no excuse not to give it a try. unfortunately with my still healing collarbone, i don't know if i'm allowed to do any pull-up exercises without reaggravating the injury.
tonight was the drawing for the $590 powerball lottery and i couldn't resist going down to the local liquor store and buying a single ticket ($2). if i won that sort of money, i'd give every friend and family a million dollars each. i won't move to a bigger house, but would buy a piece of land with good sun so i can grow a nice garden. i have inexpensive tastes. anyway, while i was there, i also bought a 6-pack of pear-flavored woodchuck hard cider. it's one of their flavors i haven't tried; they also had a special summer blend but the only difference was it had blueberries, and i'm not too big on blueberries. the best woodchuck i ever had is their special limited edition autumn brew. hopefully i can score some come fall. since i love hard cider so much, i should thick about making my own when apple season gets here.
walking back home, i looked inside zoe's (weekend nights they're super busy) and saw a familiar face: david fitzgerald! i haven't seen him since andrew invited us to his old newton home for pizza lunch. i think about him all the time, especially since my motorcycle route coming back from the assembly square mall passes by his house. he told me to knock on his door next time, he might be home. he said he's going to hong kong come june, followed by thailand.
when 11:00 came around, they televised the powerball drawing live on television. when the first number didn't match, i knew i wasn't going to win the jackpot, so i wasn't paying attention. but when they got to the final ball - the eponymous powerball - i got a match. i won! yes, only $4, but it's still something. a lucky night indeed.
so much for the mattress cover: after sleeping on it for less than a minute, i ended up taking everything off the bed just so i could remove the cover.
for the third straight day i went back to the christmas tree shop, this time to replace the defective 20qt stock pot. i left the old one on the service counter and went to the kitchen department to get a new box. the clerk let me open it up to check and make sure this one wasn't defective as well.
i planned on going to haymarket after eating some lunch, but my mother called me to let me know my grandmother might be taking another afternoon nap, so i should go down to the cafe as soon as possible if i wanted to catch her. after i finished my oatmeal, i went down to see my grandmother. she looked exactly the same as when i last saw her, except her hair was in patches of black, brown, and white.
i also dropped off one of my gallon glass jars (which my father said could be used for fermenting rice wine, most just to hold kombucha) plus half a dozen empty 24 oz. classico pasta jars. in the cafe basement, i found a large thick-walled stockpot which looked like it might be 5 gallons, but i think it might be aluminum, which may or may not be safe for distillation depending on who you ask. i tried to carry it back with me on the bicycle but i didn't have the right bungie cords so i left it behind.
on my way home i stopped by the community garden to water the plants.
i noticed my bike brakes weren't stopping as well as it used to, particularly the front brakes. i was just going to replace the pads but after some readjustments i had full stopping power again. while i was at it i wiped down the chain and oiled it again. the bike seems to ride better with a clean chain but that could all be just my imagination.
i went to market basket to deposit some cans and pick up a few more grocery items. after taking a shower back at home, i fell asleep on the couch for half an hour while watching the news. it was sort of cold inside the house so i used my laptop to warm me up.
today was another big transplant day, where i was planting my 2nd wave of homegrown seedlings. i started by moving most of my young plants outside to let them get used to the sun first. this also allowed me to shut down half of my grow closet. now the only things left growing inside are the korean melons, cucamelons, and a few early thai basils.
in the late morning i went back to the assembly mall. temperature reached into the 80's today and i was dressed in a short-sleeved red polyester shirt i found. i returned the bottle of performix rerack when i realized my dishwasher wasn't as rusty as i'd thought. then it was off to the christmas tree shop, where i picked up 2 additional fido glass jars. i also got a 20qt (5 gallon, $20) stock pot which i will use to cook my mash. with my jars and stock pot purchases, i felt pretty suspicious. carrying everything back with me presented a challenge: i put the jars in the saddlebags and tied down the stock pot (in a box) to the back of my motorcycle.
a 5 gallon stock pot is a lot shorter than i'd imagine, and doesn't seem all that different in size compared to a 4 gallon stock pot. filled to capacity, a 5 gallon stock pot weighs over 40 lbs. any larger and it wouldn't be able to fit on a conventional stovetop. this one came with a steamer/colander basket that fits on the inside, used for steam-cooking lobsters.
after some oatmeal for lunch, i grabbed my tray of seedlings and went down to the community garden. there was nobody there except for half a dozen cambridge city workers doing something to the sidewalk directly outside the garden. they were a rowdy crowd, seemed like they were there more to joke around and hang out instead of actually working.
i ended up planting: 3 sweet basil, 3 thai basil, 5 delphiniums, 2 butterfly weeds, 2 mixed hot peppers, and 1 rosemary. now the only thing i have left to plant are some squashes (from directly sown seeds) and my cucamelons (when they get bigger enough to transplant). i also reattached my chicken wire trellis with a staple gun.
the garden looks so empty at the moment. it's always a shock to compare the start of the garden to what it looks like towards the end of the summer, when everything is growing. it looks so clean too, but that's because i weeded recently. without some sort of mulching, the weeds will come back in a matter of weeks (if not days). and once the mulberries start falling? it's going to be a real mess. i'm still trying to figure out whether or not i should set up some sort of tenting to protect my plants.
i went to the supermarket to pick up a few items and quickly raced back home. i'd been watching an auction for a used (but in mint condition) fuji 3D W3 camera and wanted to wait until the last second to make my final bid. it was important enough that i set an alarm for it on my cellphone and made a reminder on my computer calendar just so i wouldn't forget this event. i ended up winning it for $130 plus an additional $7 for shipping (out of a total of 14 bids). i've been eyeballing the camera ever since i discovered 3D photography. the cheapest i've seen it new is $190. there was another used one (boxed) on ebay last week for $150 but i missed the auction deadline. this fuji is one of the few 3D cameras on the market, but it has numerous drawbacks. it can't really do macro and the wide angle isn't very wide. but it can do something my panasonic ZS20 can't do, which is to capture 3D action (since it doesn't require pan-and-scan because it has 2 lenses). it can also display 3D images with its lenticular display (which is its own sort of magic - 3D without glasses!). it's a total toy but i'm going to have some fun with it once it arrives.
i inspected my new 5 gallon stock pot more carefully and discovered a small gash near the top of the container. i don't think i'd ever fill it up that high, but a small hole would mean the alcohol vapors would escape which can mean less alcohol production but could also be fire hazard. so looks like i'm going back to the christmas tree shop once more tomorrow to exchange it for a new pot.
i didn't get a chance to see my grandmother today. i was going to ride down to the cafe in the late afternoon but my mother told me my grandmother was sleeping off her west coast jet lag. i'll try to see her tomorrow.
washing my bedsheets gave me a chance to try out my new mattress cover. it took a long time to slip on because i did it with the mattress still on the bed frame (would've been easier if i just stood up the mattress). turns out i don't like it very much, it's very crinkly, like sleeping on a paper bag. maybe it'll get better over time, but if not i'll take it off the next time i change my sheets. i've never used a mattress cover before, no reason to start now. my fear of stains shouldn't outweigh my need for sleep comfort.
i finally got around to washing my aquarium. i did a thorough cleaning, taking out the one lone tetra first, then removed the driftwood with the java ferns growing on it, then hand picked the globs of algae growing on the gravel, scrubbed off the algae growing on the glass, before finally siphoning off 2 gallons worth of dirty aquarium water. what happened to my java ferns? there was a time when they were growing so well, i almost didn't have enough room. but now the tank has been taken over by algae. i wonder if it has something to do with the light, that it's not strong enough, or maybe the wrong spectrum? or maybe the water is just too dirty which makes an ideal breeding ground for algae? if i can do a daily water change for a week, maybe that will stop the algae from coming back.
i had a bottle of yakult today. i know they're popular in asia, but was always curious why market basket would carry them as well, but apparently they're pretty big in brazil (something to do with the large japanese immigrant population). i knew it was a yogurt drink, but i didn't realize there were real live culture inside (Lactobacillus casei). it must've helped my digestion, because after i had the last of my pulled pork sandwiches for dinner tonight, i wasn't as gassy as i was yesterday. i ate while watching game 1 between the NY rangers and the boston bruins. boston ended up winning in overtime (which i did see, because i was watching hannibal instead).
finally, with our kombucha almost finished fermenting, we have to figure out how to bottle it. in the meantime, i've hoarded several dozen assortment of glass jars which we can use as temporary containers. i ran them through the dishwasher to sanitize them.
last night i put in an ebay bid for some kefir sutherland grains. the lowest price i've seen online is $5 (including free shipping) for just a single teaspoon of grains. a teaspoon is enough to make a cup of kefir, and as time goes on, the grains grow bigger (and split apart) and bigger batches can be made. however, there's one seller from reno who was selling 2 tablespoons for just $6 (including shipping). i waited until there was just an hour left in the auction before putting in my bed and going to bed.
when i woke up this morning, i discovered i lost the bid. not only that, what there was a small bidding war, and 2 additional bidders got in on the action within the last 10 minutes of the auction (they didn't push up the price too much, only by 50¢). i'm actually glad i lost, because i don't know if i want to commit to taking care of kefir grains. it's the sort of live culture where you get friends and family to "babysit" for you when you're away, like a real pet (but one where you can eat). that seems like a lot of hassle for a supposedly healthy beverage i knew nothing about up until a few days ago and i've never even tried before. plus, in a few more days i'll have more kombucha that i'll know what to do with. one fermentation project at a time please! however, if i still want to score a lot of grains, the same reno seller has additional auctions for the same amount that will expire later tonight.
i went to the assembly square mall in the late morning in search of glass jars to ferment my kombucha. i knew best bath & beyond carried the 1 gallon anchor hocking glass jar ($9.99) which is the perfect fermentation container, but i was hoping some of the other stores might have them in different styles or perhaps cheaper.
the christmas tree shop had some promising candidates. they had various sizes of italian-made bormioli rocco fido glass jars with locking lids, including one that looked to be around a gallon. unfortunately none of them were marked with sizes, but the large jars were selling for only $5.99 each, so they were a real bargain if they were indeed gallon-size (or 4 liters, since they use european metric measurements).
i went to best bath & beyond to look for those anchor hocking jars. what i failed to realize was the ones i thought they carried were only available online, and would require shipping cost. i visited a few other stores. tj maxx home goods had glass jars, but they were more ornamental, at best plastic cookie jars with metal lids. k-mart didn't have anything either.
that's when i decided to get at least one fido glass jar from the christmas tree shop. at that price, even if it was the wrong size, i could still use it for other things. earlier, i'd already gone to home depot where i picked up a packet of lavender seeds ($1.19) and a rosemary plant ($3.48). i also checked out prices for copper tubing: 10ft length with 1/2" diameter is around $10-13 depending on wall thickness (thicker is better for bending).
back at home, i used one of the quart-sized empty yogurt containers to fill up the fido glass jars. i knew from the first quart of water that it was at least a gallon. even when filled to a gallon, there's still enough room on top for another quart (although it'd probably be too full). so i'm assuming this is a 4-liter glass jar, which is perfect. the locking lid is also good if i want to do some anaerobic fermentation (e.g. carbonation), but just as easy to remove (the wire hinges can all be removed). i noticed a fork and wine glass symbol, which is an international mark for food safe containers.
with some rain clouds passing through in the late afternoon, i covered up the motorcycle and wheeled the bike into the basement. since it wasn't raining just yet, i decided to give my chain a thorough cleaning by removing it from the bike and soaking it in some degreasing solution. i cleaned it in the kitchen sink with an old toothbrush, and managed to get some grease splatters on my t-shirt (it was an old t-shirt anyway). i also fixed the bent wire on one of my rear baskets. i tried banging it back into place with a hammer but that didn't seem to work. finally i realized i could just bend it back with my bare hands.
i continued with the leftover pulled pork sandwiches for dinner. for the rest of the evening i was a bit flatulated. maybe the pork's gone bad. i also did some late night cleaning, with my grandmother coming to town in the late evening, she'll probably want to stop by my place the next few days and i wanted to tidy up.
i was eager to go down to the community garden and check up on the status of my tomato plants after last night's mid-may frost warning. so after lunch, after planting my surplus hosta (in the back, near the sheep laurel bush) and irises (in the front), i went down to the garden with my spare tomato cage.
why was i even worried? my tomatoes were fine. a check of the other gardens revealed i'm not the only one with tomato plants now, at least 3 other gardeners have planted tomatoes as well, but they all seem store-bought. i pride myself in raising my vegetables and flowers from seeds.
i chatted with sharon who built a miniature brick stonehedge in her plot. she's thinking about growing some corn this season, as well as some morning glories to climb the wire fence behind her garden. she told me as a rule, here in new england, tender plants (like tomatoes) aren't planted until after memorial day.
after watering my plants, i went around to the other gardens, taking both 3D and dSLR photos of the pretty flowers. walking back, i picked up a copy of the motorcycle diary dennis had left for me on his doorstep.
originally i was going to meet up with my parents in the afternoon after work and together we'd bike down to the mt.auburn cemetery to do some birdwatching. but they drove to the cafe this morning, so we decided to postpone the trip.
i spent some time photography the 2 for-sale road bikes again. i haven't written up the postings yet, trying to figure out what angle i should advertise them as and how much to ask. at this point i just want to get rid of them, i'm willing to take any reasonable offer.
the $13 bushnell 8x21 binoculars arrived today. they feel well-made, with a rubberized metal body to give it some heft. alas, with it's paltry 21mm optics, images aren't as clear or as bright as with my 8x42 binoculars. the image quality is also a bit hazy even in bright light. they're good if you're in a pinch, or just want something small to carry. they're inexpensive, so if they break or get stolen, it's not a big deal. they make good presents for children. the neckstrap is just a thick cord that's actually embedded into the frame of the binoculars so not sure if you can replace them. i have a kenko 8x32 monocular that i sometimes bring with me when i'm naturing, and that thing is a lot clearer when compared to the 8x21.
for dinner i had some leftover pulled pork from last week. i was toasting the onion rolls and heating up the pulled pork in the microwave when i lost electricity. i played around with the GFCI outlet but couldn't get the power back. so i went downstairs to check the circuit breakers but nothing had popped. turns out the power strip i connected everything to might've burned out.
i had another early start, hopefully the last one for the rest of the week. i went down to MGH this morning to see the orthopedist. i basically spent 3+ hours waiting around just so i can see the doctor for about a minute so he can tell me i was fine. i had more words with the resident, who told me my clavicle wasn't totally healed yet, but that it was quite normal. anyway, since i got up rather early, i'm just really tired at the moment and want nothing more to crawl into bed and go to sleep. i'll write more tomorrow, including kombucha updates, yard work, kefir, frost advisory, credit card refund, bruins miracle finish against the toronto maple leaf, and grow closet progress.
i left early so i could get some x-rays done before my 10:45 orthopedic appointment at the MGH yawkey building. for some reason i decided to dress up a bit, putting on pants that weren't jeans and wearing a shirt that i had time to iron. i arrived at 10:30 and was promptly sent for x-rays. in the waiting room i talked with an old lady who broke her arm (humerus) 2 weeks ago. she must've been really old because attendant behind the desk involuntarily gasped when she heard her birthdate. the lady came with an even older-looking man whom i thought was her husband, but turned out it was her son. he obviously didn't inherit her youthful genes.
after putting my things away in a locker (taking off my shirt my leaving on my undershirt), i was taken into one of the many x-ray rooms. this wasn't the one i was in the last (with the cool blue LED lights) but similar. i was in so much pain the last time i was here, the nurse had to help me off the gurney. this time i could position myself painlessly.
i was out in the waiting room by 10:45, the time of my appointment. little did i realize i'd be waiting there for more than an hour. fortunately i had the foresight to bring my kindle, and passed away the time learning about alcohol distillation while watching a little girl play catch with a piece of tissue paper and his baby sister shrieking every so often. at the one hour mark i finally had enough of waiting and went to ask them if they forgot about me. "no, you're next," one of the secretaries told me.
a friendly woman came out and brought me into one of the exam rooms. i was already in a foul mood so made no effort to reciprocate her hospitality. after some more waiting, an attending physician came in to talk with me. he showed me my x-rays. he said ideally he'd look to see more healing, which hasn't happened yet, and that i might have to come back in another 6 weeks just to make sure everything was okay. regardless of what you can and can't see from the x-rays, i feel fine myself. i have full articulation of my shoulder and arm now with just a little soreness, and if i had to put a number on it, i'd say i'm probably 85% healed. i also asked about the bump. he said that was normal, that it'd go down over time, but there'd always be a small bump there. he also told me my clavicle would be about a centimeter shorter than before, which gave me some concerned, but said my body would naturally adjust and i wouldn't know the difference.
the attending left and told me doctor vrahas would come by to say hi. i ended up waiting some more, and by that point i'd lost count. i did have time to browse a town & country magazine, the one with gretchen mol on the cover and an article about rich society ladies falling in love with their trainers (including swedish crown princess victoria marrying daniel westling her personal trainer). when doctor vrahas finally did show up, he had on hospital scrubs like he just got out of surgery. he pressed down on the bump on my clavicle then braced my collarbone as he pulled on my shoulder. i didn't feel anything. he said i was fine, and didn't have to come back, and wished me luck followed by a firm handshake as he hurried off to his next patient.
by that point it was already 1:00. i biked home along the charles river bike path then across the MIT bridge into cambridge. back at home i made myself a bagel egg prosciutto sandwich for lunch. i also had time to call focus camera to ask about the double billing. ken apologized and said he'd issue a refund right away.
tired from all that biking, i rode my motorcycle instead to belmont. i saw a chevy spark for the first time. it's a cool looking car, but i don't like the 2-doors. i wanted to compliment the driver on the car, but anytime a guy on a motorcycle says about your car, it comes off sounding sarcastic. i stopped briefly to admire the clouds and take some photos.
i was out in the backyard watering the raised beds when my parents returned home. my father beated me to the punch and began to mow the lawn, starting from back to front. he dumped the grass clippings in the compost bin and later i added a barrel of dead leaves (saved up from the fall) and mixed everything. i planted the geranium behind the garage, while my father planted some ground cover (not sure what they're called, they have small pink flowers but aren't dianthus) near that same area. in the patch of backyard where some of the bamboos were cut, i discovered a few new shoots emerging from the ground. in a matter of weeks we may have a new bamboo screen again! inspecting the peonies, i noticed something had chewed eaten some of the flowerbuds. fortunately there are a lot of buds this year, so not a great loss. normally there are ants crawling all over the plants, i figured they'd defend the peonies against invaders. some of the buds were release small droplets; i tried one of them, it tastes like sugar water (no wonder ants love peonies).
i also did some bike work, added a quick-release seat post clamp to my father's schwinn 7-speed. my mother prefers the yellow ross 7-speed over her smaller ross 10-speed. she doesn't mind that she can't put her feet down when she's sitting on the seat, as long as she can pedal without any problems. compared to the schwinn though, the yellow ross is still smaller, with its reportedly 26" tires compared to the 28" tires of the schwinn.
another day of kombucha fermentation. a layer of semi-transparent jelly has formed on the surface of both jars of tea. the smell is a little stronger too, like being in a brewery (from the yeast) but also at the same time the strong odor of vinegar (acetic acid made by the bacterias). my father was going to mix the bottled leftover kombucha juice to drink with some sugared jasmine tea, but when i checked the bottle, he noticed there was a new baby scoby already forming on the surface! so instead he brewed a small batch of sweetened oolong tea cooled down with some cold spring water and combined with the small scoby and leftover kombucha juices into a small glass jar (1/3 gallon).
with a frost advisory for eastern MA, my father and i covered up the tomatoes (6) and peppers (2) planted in the raised beds with large plastic pots. i wore my wind-blocking biking jacket so the motorcycle ride home was comfortably warm. my father asked me to stop by my grand uncle's place and bring in the tomatoes but i forgot and only remembered when i was almost home. i u-turned back for the tomatoes before finally going home.
2 more korean melons germinated, bringing the total to 10. the remaining 4 pots might sprout as well. that one mysterious seedling that i thought was a cucamelon? that was a cucamelon after all. and then this weekend a few more sprouted, bringing the total to 8 seedlings (out of 17 planted). more might germinate this coming week. my new batch of thai basils have also sprouted, as well as the snapdragons. these seedlings are so, i'm not sure how to separate them, but they have a pretty high germination rate and it seems like all the little tiny seeds sprouted.
i don't normally watch ice hockey, but with the bruins facing a game 7 elimination against the toronto maple leaf, it was worth watching for curiosity alone. when i tuned in to the game the score was already 2-1, toronto leading. then in a matter of minutes, the score became 4-1 in the third and last period. even i knew that was the death knell. i switched channels. later, while browsing boston.com to see sad headline, i was greeted instead by a scorebox that said the game was tied and heading into overtime. i quickly turned back to hockey. i'd forgotten that in hockey overtime it's sudden death and the first to score wins, so when boston scored a goal, i didn't realize what i meant until a few moments later.
in doing my research for kombucha, the name "kefir" comes up all the time as well. i learned that kefir is actually a lot like kombucha, but instead of a reusable scoby mushroom, kefir culture is created through kefir "grains." and instead of sugared tea, kefir is created using milk, so it's more nutritious, and more similar to yogurt. i know we haven't brewed a single batch of kombucha yet, but already i'm thinking about creating some kefir as well. i know i can probably buy a bottle from a health food store, so maybe i should do that first, see if i like it or not before investing in some kefir grains (which is just $5-6 online).
the morning rain seemed like it'd threaten the somerville historical bike ride happening later this afternoon but i had it on good meteorological authority that soon the sun would be out. had it been dryer i would've tried to make it to belmont, where my sister was taking my mother out for brunch on mother's day. my mother really wanted pancakes but decided to go to the watertown country buffet instead of IHOP (she's a big fan of buffets). later she told me they got there right during the breakfast to lunch transition, so they ended up eating from a wide selection.
sure enough, by the afternoon it was sunny and warm, enough so that i wore a pair of shorts. i rode my trek allant bike, figured this would be a good occasion to take it out. the bike ride starts from somerville city hall, and the theme this year was industrial somerville. i've known about these annual historical society rides for a while, but i never had the change to go on one. unlike the cambridge ride (happening next weekend) which is free, the somerville ride has a suggested donation of $3 (which i paid).
people began congregating outside somerville city hall. i'd never been there before, which is also next to the somerville public library (built in 1914, designed by edward lippincott tilton, architect for several buildings on ellis island) and the somerville high school.
we left sometime after 2:00 with a police escort (both bicycled and vehicled cops), taking a large figure-8 route that spanned 10 miles. one of the problems with these thematic rides is the intention is often times loftier than the actual practice. although there were numerous interesting historical sites, we could only stop for a few, and quickly rode past the rest. it's worth coming back at some later date to further investigate.
we stopped at the taza chocolate factory, where they were having a special mother's day promotion but were probably surprised when 50-60 cyclists came into their store to eat and drink their samples. next we stopped at the assembly square mall, where in a former life was the site of a ford motors plant. then it was shore drive parkland (blessing of the bay) next to the mystic river, where people could also use the public bathrooms.
i met dave, a young man who was visiting the somerville library to get a free pass to the JFK museum but decided to join the bike ride instead. he and i ended up talking motorcycles. he recently got a $400 100cc honda, but it required too many repairs so he's going to sell it. he told me the best ride he ever took was in marin country, on a borrowed carbon-fiber bike, through canopies of red wood forests. i also met sophan, a cambodia fellow from lowell, who mistook me for his chinese friend, whom i also met (sho, from taiwan no less, with his girlfriend who didn't seem to be speak any english).
dave went home before our next stop through davis square, on the cambridge/somerville line of the minuteman bike trail. finally we went to brooklyn boulders, formerly the ames envelope company, now a rock climbing gym. they're still in the midst of construction, but there was a guy there who took us around. it was interesting to see the inside, but kind of boring since it became an informercial for the gym.
afterwards, instead of continuing with the group to the somerville museum for refreshments, i took a detour and went home. shortly afterwards i motorcycled to belmont.
my mother wanted to eat out for dinner, using mother's day as an excuse. we ended up going to allston village to buk kyung, a korean restaurant (actually buk kyung 2, apparently there's another restaurant in union square somerville). for some reason all the waitresses wore black short shorts. most of the customers were korean, but there were a few non-asians, one table even getting some special service from the manager, a young woman who came out to personally chat with them. the food was okay, but not that good to endure the hassle of coming out to allston. i ordered this beef broth which i thought would be a noodle soup deal but turns out it was mostly soup with a trace of cellophane noodles, and i couldn't figure out how to eat it.
had i known we'd be going out for dinner, i would've asked for my parents to come pick me up instead, since on the way back we were just a few minutes away from my house. instead, we returned to belmont.
my father seems to be really embracing kombucha. he's more excited about it than i am. as a child, he remembered making kombucha, but never drank it before until now. suddenly he's remembering all sorts of anecdotes from back when, and is eager to get onboard the probiotic lifestyle. it's day 1 of our kombucha fermentation and it already smells very vinegary.
sunday night: the battle between bear and maiden in game of thrones wasn't as exciting as i'd imagined from reading the book. maybe because they used a real bear who didn't seem to be all that scary. i could really care less about the weekly theon torture scenes, or bran and the gang trekking through the forest to reach the wall. on mad men, this was the first episode showing the effects of the agency merger. we got creepy don, playing some sort of power sex game with his neighbor's wife, but only to revealed as a fraud when she finally has enough and decides to go home. best scene of the night: ted chaough flying his own plane to a meeting with a petrified don in the passenger seat. when ted puts on his aviator glasses, that was classic.