i went with my parents in the afternoon (2pm) for a 4 stops supply run. first we went to the everett home depot where my father picked up a few circuit breakers while i went to the garden department and bought a potted hydrangea ($30). next was nearby costco, where besides the usual supplies, my parents also picked up a new 1200watts panasonic microwave to replace a broken one at the cafe and a brand new set of garden spray nozzles. then we drove a bit to restaurant depot, picked up a box of mangoes ($5.99) amongst other supplies. finally we went to the chelsea market basket and managed to fill a shopping cart with additional groceries, including some fried chicken for dinner. we finally left by 4:40pm, braving a bit of rush hour traffic to get back to the cafe (5:15pm) to unload the supplies.
the circuit breaker he thought was broken turned out to be okay; he just didn't did put it into the switchboard panel the right way (it has to clip inside a hook). he decided to keep the 2 new breakers he bought, in a case one of the breakers should ever fail again.
it was a crazy day for pogo'ing. through no planning, i reached level 25 naturally on my own last night. i'm starting to think you see more advanced critters the higher level you get. i caught a bunch of mons i'd never encountered in the wild before, including 2 rhyhorns, a snorlax (i always see them in gyms, never thought i'd get one of my own), and a sneasel. later in the evening i activated a lucky egg and went on a 30 minute evolution binge, adding 4 new mons to my collection: wartortle, crobat, bellossom, and dragonair.
we actually made a detour back at my house before going to the cafe. it was to allow me to drop off my hydrangea plant and to grab the 4 lbs. brick of sugar i had in my kitchen (my parents thought about buying sugar at market basket but we simply had no more room in the car). that detour allowed me to bike back home after a fried chicken dinner. i had my fuji bike stashed in the garage, and today was a good day to get it back home. i even left my bern helmet and gloves there. the ride felt great, all these months i've been peddling on my trek utility and that thing is heavy with 26" wheels. the fuji is light with bigger wheels (27") and it rides so smoothly despite being an old bike. i can cruise faster, go up hill faster - i don't know why i don't just ride the fuji all the time.
my father turned off the furnace in the basement for the season. they use hot water radiator heating, so even though the thermostat was set to off a few days ago, the boiler was still heating the water in anticipation for an eventual reheat. in order to stop burning oil completely, the furnace has to be completely turned off. but by doing that, it cut off the power supply to the nest thermostat so that it went into debug mode and wouldn't display anything else besides an error message saying there was no electricity. without electricity, the built-in battery eventually drains and the thermostat will go completely dead. that's not a big problem, but my father has grown used to seeing the outdoor temperature display whenever he passes by the thermostat in the hallway. the only way to reactivate the thermostat is to provide it with its own power, bypassing the furnace. to do that we need to wire a 24v transformer from the basement to the thermostat wires.
karen was home but confined to her room the whole time where i heard her talking for almost the entire evening, to whom i don't know. i only saw her briefly, when she finally opened her bedroom door while i was moving some plants back inside after i set them out earlier to get some sun. later she went to sleep and said good bye from the other room.
they finally put up the solar panels on that house. it doesn't seem like a lot of work, so i don't know why getting solar panels cost so much.
i contacted sunmeng tonight, wished her a happy birthday (even though she didn't remember mine back in february). i know she doesn't have a lot of friends, and figured at least somebody ought to recognize her special day. but turns out a lot of people were wishing her a happy birthday (who are all these people? are they really her friends?). she also send me a photo of the lemonade she made.
karen left for work this morning at 9:20am, earlier than yesterday, but still later than her usual time. i woke up at 9am partly because of the smell of her frying a pork chop for breakfast. google calendar reminded me of a 12:30pm harvard lecture on corruption in china. since i had the time, after a late breakfast of yogurt-granola-blueberries, i made my way down there (CGIS south S020, belfer case study room) via the shortcut to francis avenue. it was the second day of rain but the precipitation had stopped momentarily, the landscape enveloped in a thick fog. i brought my umbrella just in case, as well as a mug of hazelnut-vanilla tea on this damp and cold day. i took my dSLR, hoping to get a few snapshots in this misty weather.
belfer case study room is a pit-style lecture room. it seemed to be a popular lecture as nearly every seat was filled and the stream of late-comers had to sit in the back on rolling chairs. the speaker was new york times journalist michael forsythe. it was a very interesting talk, but he threw out a bunch of chinese names assuming everyone knew who they were when in fact i knew none of them. it would've been nice if he could've briefly introduced some of the characters (he did do it a bit with the princelings of he guoqiang and zhou yongkang). the first name he brought up was guo wengui, the whistleblowing chinese playboy businessman who's currently exiled in a $60 million manhattan condo.
forsythe's slide game could also use some work, which is entirely text based. the bulk of the talk was the various tools he used to gather his information for his investigative journalism articles, everything from administration for industry and commerce (AIC) records, overseas corporate records, property records, marriage certificates, occasional wikileak sources (like the panama papers), and even tombstones. the talk wasn't so much about the details of the corruptions, but rather on how to gather evidence of said corruption. like i said, very interesting topic, but could've been better presented.
by the time i left at 2pm, it was raining heavily again. thankfully i had my umbrella. i saw a few pedestrians who weren't as lucky, using random objects to ineffectively keep dry.
i heated up some pulled chicken for dinner, placed on a toasted onion roll with a chunk of oaxaca cheese on top. just one sandwich was enough to fill me up.
unlike yesterday, karen didn't come home until well after 8pm. she said she went to "basket market" and came home with a container of orange juice. soon afterwards i heard her sizzling another pork chop in the kitchen, filling up the house with the smell of grease. just one more month!
making slow-cooked pulled chicken is not hard, but i've never done it before. however, i've made pulled pork a bunch of times in the past, and i imagine the process is pretty much the same. i began my preparations a bit before noontime.
|slow-cooked pulled chicken sandwich|
3.3 lbs. chicken breast
1 vidalia onion, chopped
1 can of chicken stock
1 cup of water
2 tsp liquid smoke
18 oz. stubb's spicy bbq sauce
there aren't too much ingredients: chicken breast, onion, chicken stock. i had some liquid smoke (purchased back in 2010 for my beef jerky recipe) and various unopened bottles of barbecue sauce in the cupboard. i researched recipes but none of were to my exact liking so i combined a few. one recipe slow-cooked the chicken in the barbecue sauce, but i found in my experience that juices from the cooked meat will dilute the sauce and make it bland; better to add the sauce at the very end. another recipe used chicken stock instead of water for a tastier chicken; i didn't have enough stock to cover everything so i added a cup of water to make up the difference. a third recipe suggested the chopped onions addition. i wonder if i should add some salt, but hopefully the bbq sauce will provide the flavor. i will let everything slow cook (on the low setting) for the next 6 hours.
karen didn't leave for work until almost 10am this morning. after hearing about the news of her friend paula's layoff, i think she has a very low opinion of her clinic. i expect to see more of her in the coming mornings.
next month (may) is the 4th month karen has been living here. it can't come too soon, i look forward to living alone again. i can get sick of even the best roommate given enough time. there's only been a select few candidates in the past whom i could imagine rooming with for an extended duration. as far as roommates are concerned, karen's okay, but she managed to invite 2 guests to my house since she's been here, and i still have concerns about her cooking. this morning she made pork chop (!), which infused the house with a lovely oily scent (sarcasm). and when she finally left, she couldn't lock the door, and blamed her key. in the 15 years i've lived here i never had a problem with my door, but after a cavalcade of roommates who repeatedly can't figure out how to work the lock, the door has been acting a little weird lately. i may have to change the lock, it's been so worn down from abuse.
the solar installation company were back again today, this time with a convoy of 4 parked vans along the street. i didn't check their progress last night but saw this morning that they seemed to have finished mounting the frames but no panel work yet. it was supposed to rain something fierce today so not sure why there were even more people today than yesterday, since they couldn't do any outdoor work. the frames are a little weird, they sort of stick out beyond the edge of the roof; maybe they're get trimmed, or maybe it's a way to extend the number of installed panels.
as the day wore on, the slow-cooking chicken became more fragrant, courtesy of the onions and liquid smoke; i doubt chicken by itself (or in chicken broth) can smell that good.
i watered all the plants in my grow closet. next week seems to be a stretch of 70's weather so i may begin planting some of them, or at least move them outside so they can harden to the local weather. in the late afternoon i went to star market to pick up a few things, despite the pouring rain. i wore my rubber boots and carried an umbrella. it was really just an excuse to tag a pokestop so i could continue my streak. like market basket, star market has recently rearranged its aisles, so now i can't find anything. i ended up leaving with 2 bags of chips on sale (limited edition cape cod black garlic chips and terra exotic potato chips).
my webhost contacted me with a warning that i was in violation of their hosting agreement. apparently i had 845GB worth of data stored on the server, in a directory called snapshot. inside were these dated files that appeared to be a backup of some kind, with mkv file extensions. had i been hacked, and the hacker using my webhost as a storage depository? it was confusing. but i went ahead and erased the files. that's when it dawned on me: these are internet webcam video backups! hence the mkv extensions, hence the dates! i downloaded a file to check, and sure enough, it was a video of the cafe. i must've set it up at some point and simply forgot about it. it's been uploading backup videos for the past few months. i went into the admin page of the camera and turned off the backup. hopefully this should also speed up the cafe internet speed now that there isn't a constant stream of video uploading to an ftp site.
karen returned home super early, at 5:20pm. she must've left work at 4:30pm. seems like she's given her work place the middle finger now. she must've been in the office a total of 5 hours. so not only can i look forward to seeing her in the mornings, but likewise in the late afternoons. so glad she's leaving in another month!
i shared some pull chicken sandwich with karen in the evening, after she already had a can of progresso clam chowder (she said it was good, i told her there are better canned chowders out there). we chatted about paula, which seems to be weighing heavily on karen's mind. she told me paula has an enemy at work, who might've been behind her dismissal.
the pulled chicken was okay. the sauce was a bit tangy, and the chicken was a little soupy. maybe if it had more time to slow-cook it could get drier, but i also added half a cup of broth earlier which wasn't necessary. if i make this recipe again, i'll try a different barbecue sauce next time (or even make my own, with a stronger flavor).
i noticed the sign a few days ago but today the vans arrived: 3 from solarflair (a solar energy company) and 1 electrician parked elsewhere. the house that they're working on is actually facing southwest, and their view of the sky is slightly blocked by an equally tall 3-story house as well as a very tall pine tree on the southeast. i'm surprised that house is getting solar because i always thought it was a rental; maybe the landlord wants to get some tax savings for going green.
i had some yogurt-granola-blueberries for lunch, before heading out to market basket to pick up a few things. i forgot to mention this, but the last time i was there they were undergoing renovations, rearranging the aisles. they still haven't finished, and the place was busy with workers restocking the shelves. besides the rearrangement, they also seemed to have made the aisles wider somehow (maybe by getting rid of one aisle, but i don't see how they could've done that). but now everything is not where it normally is and takes a while to get used to the new order.
i bumped into paul in the backyard while i was checking on the status of my stratifying seedlings (the balloon flowers seemed to have germinated finally). he said he wanted to add some new plants and wondered if i had anything in mind or any objections. i told him any sort of shady perennials would be best, like hostas or ferns. he confessed he didn't know much about plants (so why did he think he knew what to do in the backyard?). as if punctuate that point, he was referring to a backyard evergreen as a hawthorn. paul, i know hawthorns, and that is definitely not a hawthorn!
the fermenting kimchi have been stinking up the house something fierce. i warned karen but maybe she didn't realize how bad it'd get. for me it's an acquired taste so i don't find it too bad but it's definitely a strong odor. not surprised that karen closed the door to her bedroom when she went to work today, normally she leaves it open. i packed up the 4 jars of kimchi (saving the half jar for myself) in a box stuffed with newspaper, strapped it to the back of my bike, then rode off to belmont.
i helped my father prune the backyard pussy willow tree. a good portion of it was overgrowing into the neighbor's yard. as the tree itself is diseased and the trunk mainly hollow, we were afraid that the tree would one day topple over, causing not only damage to the fence but the neighbor's detached garage. the pussy willow is one of the remaining original trees from when we first moved to this house back in 1984. every spring i look forward to seeing the fuzzy catkins. getting rid of this tree doesn't mean we can't get a new healthy pussy willow in the future. in fact, all the trees all on the southern edge of the yard can be removed (other than the hawthorn which we planted last season), and new trees planted. cutting the trees down is the easy part; taking them apart into pieces for yard waste disposal is the tedious hard part.
anyway, due to the awkward positioning of the overhanging willow branches, we couldn't just simply cut them without the branches landing in the neighbor's yard. so we ended up tie a rope to a part of the branch we want to cut; while i pull in the direct we wanted the branch to collapse, my father was up on a ladder with an electric extensible pruning saw. we managed to cut all the overhanging branches, although there were a few near misses when the branches came crashing back into our yard. we picked up whatever we could to put into refuse bins (trash pickup tomorrow), leaving the rest to clean up another time, but not putting them on the ground so the rain tomorrow and wednesday can properly soak up the lawn.
yesterday my mother found fresh mouse droppings in the empty kitchen drawer. so we placed two sticky traps inside, hoping to catch the mouse. when she checked the drawer this morning, she found new droppings but no mouse. apparently the mouse had outsmarted the sticky trap, or maybe they weren't well positioned. so we ended up putting 4 more traps inside, to the point where if the mouse returned to the drawer, there was no way it wouldn't get caught.
i returned home after dinner. earlier i noticed a neighbor had thrown out a trio of old english bikes. i went to check if they were still there, and sure enough they were. i was tempted to take one or two, but they're in rough shape, a lot of rust, broken fenders, and all missing saddles. if i took all three i could scavenge the best parts and build an okay bike. but i don't have time to do a bike rebuilding project, so reluctantly i didn't take any bikes. there would've been a time when i swooped up on all three bikes in a heartbeat. i still love bikes but i'm not as obsessed about it as i used to be. besides, i still have 2-3 bikes in the basement i want to get rid of! for me now, it's more about quality than quantity.
karen came home around 8pm and immediately told me that her friend paula got fired. "fired" is too strong a word, more like laid off because the clinic is getting rid of her position, whether due to lack of funding or something else we don't know. the layoff isn't immediate, until the end of may, but they're giving her time to look for a new job within the next month. the problem is made more complicated do to work visa issues, and if her friend doesn't find work within the next 2 months, she'll have to return to mexico (or she can remain in the US, she just can't work legally).
the blisters on my right hand itched something fierce last night. i scratched at it in the dark, didn't care if i was turning my palm into a bloody mess. when i finally woke up this morning i was expecting to see a crime scene but instead my hand was fine. the blister however seemed to have spread. the weird thing about these blisters is they first appear underneath the skin. after a while they erupt, break the skin, and slough off. i can reduce the itching if i put my hands underneath cold running water. i also have that super strong topical cream my dermatologist prescribed to me, because i'm afraid to put it on. but who knows, maybe i'll try it tonight. i still don't know what i touched. it has to be gardening tool related, or perhaps bike handle related, because i haven't touched anything else. i've been careful when handling gardening tools, ever since the first blisters appeared on my left hand, putting on gloves every time, so i don't know how i managed to get the itch on my right hand.
when i finally got out of bed a bit after 10am on this sunday morning, i saw that karen was getting ready to go out. she said she was going with her friend paula on a walk on the minuteman bike trail out from alewife. i thought she meant the minuteman historical trail. before she left, she told me the doorknob of her bedroom was broken. i went to go check and the doorknob slipped right off, dropping onto the floor. one of the screws keeping the doorknob attached to the spindle must've fallen off.
after karen left, i went into her bedroom on my hands and knees trying to look for the missing screw. that's when i realized what a mess her room was. floors covered in hairs and dust, food crumbs, toenails, balls of used tissue, overflowing garbage, and the worst part was she spilled some coffee all over her desk and it dribbled onto the floor. so i spent the next hour cleaning up her room, wiping with the duster, vacuuming with my shark, and cleaning up her coffee disaster. i even had to cut the strands of hair clogging up my vacuum head (the pains of living with someone with long hair). after all that i still didn't find the screw. i wrote her a note for when she came back, asking if she'd seen the screw someplace.
i managed to make a temporary fix using a short piece of wooden skewer and some electric tape to keep the doorknob attached to the spindle. i didn't have a spare set screw, but figured i could buy a few online.
only then - 11:30am - did i finally have some time to use the bathroom and take a shower. the tub was slow to drain again, even though i unclogged it just a few days ago with liquid drain-o gel. it seems like i'm unplugging it every 2 weeks or so. as a temporary fix, i heated up a kettle of boiling water afterwards and poured it down the drain, hoping it'd melt some soap scum.
temperature today was in the lower 60's when i left the house around noontime. i thought it'd be warm enough to just wear a long-sleeved pullover, but there was still a bit of a chill in the air that i took my jacket. on huron avenue i met a birder with a scope set up pointing to some trees. i stopped to ask what he was seeing and he saw a pair of baby owls and their parents. i looked in the scope and sure enough there they were. the babies looked a little full-grown already, none of the fuzzy puffiness of young owls. i didn't get a good look at the adults, just the back.
when i arrived in belmont i had some pan-fried wontons for lunch. my sister was there, trying to get my mother and/or me to join her in walking her dog; neither of us wanted to go.
another weekend day, another day too lazy to do anything constructive. i was hoping to plow through some overdue blog entries, but i only managed to write a few paragraphs at best. it's hard to retroactively update posts. either i write everything right away, or the memories just sit there until they fade, with just the photos to remind me.
i decided my mother should get the new 2017 ipad. i did the research last night and it was a choice between the asus zenpad 3S 10 or the new ipad. if it was just for me, i would pick the android tablet because of its flexibility. but the deal breaker came down to software updates. i read a lot of discussions where people were desperately waiting for asus to update the OS from 6 to 7. and with the mediatek chipset, i doubt there'd be a lot of third party ROM development going forward. should android 8 ever come out, i'm not optimistic i'd see it on the asus tablet. on the other hand, apple is very good with software updates for their products, supporting them for many years afterwards. then i discovered the possibility of installing showbox onto an ipad. it's a little involved, but if it works, then there's no need to go android (that was one of the perks of the android system, side loading apps you can't find in the google store).
i tried installing showbox (called moviebox in iOS) with my mother's soon-to-be-replaced ipad 2 using the mojo app but i wasn't successful. maybe the ipad 2 is just too old, maybe mojo was outdated. i'll try again when she gets her new ipad.
my father came home an hour earlier than usual. we were in the backyard doing some more pruning, including parts of the pussy willow, which has an entire central trunk that's rotted and hollow, and a few healthy branches leaning into the neighbor's yard and onto their detached garage, in danger of smashing it one day should the tree decide to split apart. we're trying to collect as much garden refuse as possible since this tuesday they're collecting again.
i brought home a can of downeast hard cider and a bottle of my usual woodchuck hard cider for my parents to taste test. i now realize the reason why downeast is cloudy is because the cider is unfiltered. i personally prefer the crystal clarity of filtered cider, it just tastes cleaner.
after dinner i went back to cambridge. earlier in the afternoon karen wrote to tell me that she in fact discovered that missing screw yesterday, and sent me a photo as proof. that's good, because i looked for these spindle screws online and they're hard to come buy. nobody sells them individually, so i'd need to buy in bulk, and after shipping, it'd set me back at least $15-20 just for a tiny screw. my better option would be to a set of used doorknobs and spindle that comes with matching screws. but now that karen has found the missing screw, i don't have to worry about it and just need to put the screw back in place to properly fix the doorknob.
i didn't think anyone was home but i found karen in the living room. she had the ceiling light turned on (she prefers that instead of the lamps). i asked her about her walk and realized she meant the minuteman bike trail and not the minuteman historical national park. i asked her when she was going to montreal. she will be leaving on the 12th of may (friday), and coming back on the 17th. she's trying to find a rideshare using amigo express (montreal is its hub), but if nothing pans out, she's willing to endure the bus ride. that means i have almost a week of the house to myself, which will be like a vacation for me. that's why when she asked me if she could a day later - june 1st instead of may 31st - i was immediately fine with it. there was a 7am may 31st (wednesday) united flight leaving boston, but she didn't want to take united on account of the recent bad publicity. the flight she will end up taking is a 11pm night flight leaving the next day (thursday), with a mexican carrier. the flight is a bit longer - with a short stop in mexico city - but in a familiar setting.
wangyang sent me photos of her office cafeteria. it seems so antiseptic, yet at the same time reminds me of a high school cafeteria. it was interesting to see nobody sitting alone, chinese like to congregate in groups. i noticed a lot of men and women in dark suits. wangyang told me that her office shares extra space with a bank, and those in suits are bank employees. her company gives her RMB16 per meal, but if they want additional items they'll need to pay out of pocket. the food didn't look bad, a lot of variety, but could use a little more spice.
miguel was leaving at 6am, so i set my alarm for 5:30am. as he and karen were making final preparations and getting ready, i crept into the living room and waited while watching some morning news. approaching 6am he came into the living room to say good bye. he thanked me for my hospitality and welcomed me to his house in merida should i ever visit mexico. he also gave me back my key, along with a complimentary hand-crafted beaded figurine keychain of a quetzal. a few minutes later their uber car arrived and they left. i gave them a final wave from the door.
after using the bathroom and taking a quick shower, i climbed back into bed to continue sleeping. miguel texted me from the airport, thanking me once again. at one point i heard karen coming back to the house. i couldn't quite be sure because i was already semi-conscious. i fell into a deep sleep and did wake up until 11:20am. i got up and realized karen was still sleep as the door to her bedroom was closed. i puttered around a bit, left karen a note, then headed to my parents' place via bike around noontime.
it was a grey and slightly cold day (temperature in the lower 40's), looked like it might rain at any point, but the rain clouds were confided south of boston. the average temperature this time of year is supposed to be in the upper 50's. i had some rice porridge for lunch, then snacked intermittently as i surfed aimlessly online. my mother has been thinking about updating her ipad 2 to either the new apple ipad ($329) or an android tablet. the only thing comparable is the ASUS ZenPad 3S 10 (Z500M) ($299). same screen resolution with a higher memory spec. the only thing i don't like about the zenpad 3s 10 is it uses the cheaper mediatek chip, which don't seem to be compatible with a lot of 3rd party rom's. but if we're not going to tweaking the OS anytime soon, the zenpad is a perfectly fine tablet.
my sister and her dog showed up briefly in the late afternoon before leaving. after dinner i biked back to cambridge. the house was empty, not sure where karen went, but it gave me enough time to use the bathroom and take a shower. she came back around 8:30pm, having gone with her friend paula to a mexican grocery store in lynn, where she got me a ball of authentic oaxaca ("wa-HA-ka") cheese. i've had the cheese before but this time i could really savor it. it's chewy and stringy like mozzarella, but has a distinctive mild milk or butter flavor. when torn into slices, it resembles chicken. karen said you can just eat it raw as a snack, or melted on a sandwich, and that it also goes along well with grapes.
karen went to bed very early, around 9:30pm. i kept at it until midnight, then decided to sleep early as well.
of course karen wouldn't be going to work today, with her boyfriend's last day in boston. in fact, she's been going to work late most of this week, leaving as late as 10am. it was cold in the house this morning, temperature dipping to 63°F, but i don't think my houseguests noticed because they woke up late same as me. i did turn up the heat to 68°F when i woke up. once the both of them were up by 11:30am, the house became a noisy place as they chatted animatedly and loudly in the kitchen while making breakfast/lunch. i held on to the fact that miguel would be leaving early tomorrow and that later they'd be going out to keep me from being even more annoyed.
i shared lunch with them, my sole contribution a scoop of rum raisin haagen-daz ice cream onto each warmed up piece of apple pie. they made an omelette using leftover vegetables from the fridge. i casually asked what their plans were, and was dismayed to learn they intended on staying home the whole day. the weather was a factor, as today was both rainy and cold. there was an italian food demonstration at noontime i thought they were going to, but karen said they never reserved a spot.
however, they did leave after all, around 2:30pm, for harvard square, despite the rain. miguel really wanted another shake from the shake shack, and wanted karen to try it to. he'd also take her to newbury comics so she could find presents for her sister and family.
my father stopped by shortly afterwards to drop off the ingredients i needed to make korean kimchi. my mother requested i make some, as sometimes they sell the batch i made the last time, which was back in late january. i haven't made it since because fermenting cabbage has a tendency to stink up the house. my 2nd aunt also likes to eat it, says it's better than the ones she buys in the stores because my kimchi instead as soggy (that's because i let it reduce for 4 hours then pour out the cabbage brine).
i was still missing an asian pear and i wasn't sure if i'd have enough hot pepper powder, so i asked my father to take me to the korean grocery store in union square. i also got another head of napa cabbage (99¢/lbs.) because i only had about 4 lbs. worth of cabbage, and i wanted to make a bit more. i got a package of hot pepper powder and a large korean pear. only when i went to go pay for my stuff did i receive sticker shock: the pear was $5.99. in chinatown i could score asian pears at $2 for a bag of 6. this was outrageous. i asked my father if i should return it and substitute apple instead, but my father said asian pear had better flavor and i really didn't have any other choice. but throughout the ride back i couldn't stop thinking about how expensive the pear was, and whether it was really necessary, and that the price of all these additional ingredients actually made my homemade kimchi cost more than the store bought variety.
i began making the kimchi when i returned home. from the last two times i made kimchi, i figured out the key portions for 2 essential ingredients: 0.54 tbsp of salt per lbs of vegetable (cabbage plus radish), and 1.30 tbsp of hot pepper powder per lbs.
|kimchi april 2017||(4.5x 1 qt. pickle jars)|
6.94 lbs. napa cabbage
2.54 lbs. daikon radish
5 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp salted shrimp paste
12 tbsp red pepper powder
0.21 lbs. ginger, processed
2 heads of garlic, processed
0.60 lbs. asian pear, processed
15 thai hot peppers, chopped
0.40 lbs. garlic chives, chopped
while weighing the cabbages i discovered something interesting. the korean grocery store sold me the cabbage as 2.35 lbs., but when i weighed it myself i found that it actually weighed 2.58 lbs. that means the scale at the store was underweighted, meaning i paid 0.2 lbs. less for my cabbage. of course this depends on which scale you think is accurate, but when i did the same experiment with produce i bought from a chinatown supermarket, i discovered that their scales were overweight, meaning i paid slightly more. i sort of want to go back to the korean store and tell them about their mistake, yet at the same time, the prices they charge on some of the stuff (ahem, $6 for an asian pear? c'mon) makes me hesitant.
i'd salted the chopped cabbage and radish by 4pm, and would wait 4 hours of reduction before mixing in the other ingredients. once 8pm came around, it was time to finish the kimchi. the expensive asian pear was large enough that i only used half and ate the other half. i let karen and miguel try some, and they said it tasted like a very sweet jicama. earlier i had to run across the street to star market to get another head of garlic, as i only had one and needed two. once all the additional ingredients were peeled and processed and chopped, i added everything together (minus the reduced cabbage brine, which i poured out). i managed to completely fill 4-1/2 jars.
for dinner i finished some leftovers my father left me earlier when he dropped off the kimchi ingredients. karen and miguel came home around 7:30pm. they brought back a case of downeast cider. likewise, when i went to the supermarket earlier, i brought back a 6-pack of woodchunk amber cider. miguel took karen back to the shake shack, where he got the exact same malted vanilla shake he got yesterday ("why mess with perfection?" he said). they ended up spending a good part of their day eating through the menu, with a total of 3 burger orders (he actually texted me a burger photo in the late afternoon, rating the shake shack burger 9 out of 10). karen also got a beer there, as the shake she ordered was just too sweet.
we finished the evening drinking hard cider and watching arrival on HDTV. i'd seen the movie and didn't really like it all that much, but told miguel don't let my personal feelings interfere with his enjoyment. they also sampled the flan i made on wednesday. afterwards i taught him use to use torrent to download his own movies. they went to bed around midnight, but not before miguel came out to thank me for the past 2 weeks (although i wasn't really here for the first week) just in case he didn't see me tomorrow morning.
miguel made some grilled cheese and ham sandwich for breakfast which he shared with me. it was surprisingly good for a recipe that only had 3 ingredients, i should start making some of my own one of these days. miguel had some work to do (class preparations for when he returns to teaching next week) but we tentatively agreed to go to harvard square at 2:30pm to get a shake at the shake shack
we walked down to harvard square. miguel had lost karen's charlie card yesterday and was looking to get a replacement. he thought it'd be expensive to replace, but i told him the cards were free, just had to ask for it from an MBTA station employee. when we got to the station, there was a stack of cards. i got one for him and one for myself (you never know when you might need a spare charlie card).
i took miguel to a few of my former haunts, partly so he'd get a kick out of seeing them, but also partly for myself because i haven't visited in so long. we went into the garage to the anime store first. it used to be called tokyo kid, but that store went out of business in 2011, and a new store took over its place, anime zakka (apparently they also have a store on newbury street). miguel seemed to be a closet anime fan, and knew a lot more than i did. he said karen would love this place and promised to bring her here. next we went to newbury comics. the last time i visited was back in october 2012, the one at alewife that was closing. it's been so long, i wonder if it was even still open? but newbury comics is a local staple, where else would suburban kids go with their allowance money on the weekends? miguel loved the place, and ended up getting an inigo montoya mug for himself.
we finally went to the shake shack on winthrop street. i only became aware of its existence this week, even though supposedly it's been in harvard square since 2014. i'd never eaten at a shake shack before, and one of the unique things about it compared to other fast food franchise is they serve beer and wine as well. but we weren't here for that, we were here for the shakes. miguel has an obsession with shakes. the last time he had a good shake was by chance in london. he figured when he visited america, he'd be able to find true authentic shakes. we both ended up getting the vanilla shake ($5.29/each), his with a dash of malt (50¢ extra). i was tempted to get the root beer float, but i thought i'd get what they're known for first before trying anything else. we were given beepers and sat at a nearby table waiting for our order. they were still surprisingly busy for the middle of the afternoon on a rather cold day no less (50's). when the beepers finally sounded we picked up our orders. the shake was much smaller than i imagined (i was thinking of the shakes you get at mcdonalds or burger king, which are served in those tall containers). but one taste and i was blown away. for one thing, it was very thick and dense. the vanilla ice cream was true vanilla. miguel was raving too, said he was coming back.
we took our shakes and went across the street to tasty burgers to try their eponymous burgers. i'd never been to a tasty burgers either, so it was a day of new eats for me. i got the big tasty ($5.95) and a order of 50/50 fries and onion rings ($5.50). the place had a nice ambience, located on a street corner so good people watching. as for the burgers, they were not good. the bread was too thick and the burgers very greasy and had little flavor. it made us regret not trying the shake shack burgers as their milk shakes were so good. apparently they're the official burgers of the boston red sox, which should've alerted us to the fact that they were probably not the best, but these official foods are often times less about tasting good and more about corporate dollars for advertising rights. the fries were nothing exciting either, but the onion rings were thin strips and tasted caramelized, so they were better than expected. i finished my burger but could only eat half of the fries and onion rings. i took them home as leftovers.
next we went to charlie's kitchen to get some hard cider. i was surprised miguel wanted to sit outside in the beer garden despite the rather cold weather. there were table top fireplaces but i didn't think that was enough. we both had a serving of downeast hard cider, served in plastic cups ($6/each). being somewhat of a tightwad, i couldn't get over how for $10 i could get a six-pack of hard cider and drink it in the relative comfort and warmth of home. a few tables nearby were eating and it made me sick just seeing them, as i was quite full from the burger and fries/rings and the shake earlier.
miguel treated me to the hard cider. afterwards we went home, but not before passing sweet bakery and miguel going inside and buying a red velvet cupcake for karen, wrapped up nicely in a box with a bow.
miguel wasn't home for very long before he went back out, around 5:10pm. he was meeting karen in boston to see a latina diva concert. as for me, i finished the fries and onion rings for dinner. i figured miguel and karen would eat out, but they came home around 8pm having not had dinner yet. they decided to go to nearby zoe's and invited me, but i was already full. i tried recommending some dishes for them to try, but they were in a hurry (karen had to chat with a patient back in mexico at 9pm) so they were on their own. when they came back they said the food was okay, but kind of pricey.
woke up this morning to learn that aaron hernandez - former new england patriots star tight end and current serving a life sentence convicted murder - had committed suicide in his jail cell. this came as a shock because he was just acquitted of a double murder a few days ago, which would likely help his appeal for the murder sentence he was now serving. during his time with the patriots, hernandez was a great player and fan favorite. matched up with fellow tight end rob gronkowski, new england had a formidable offense. i always liked hernandez more than gronkowski, as gronkowski was a goofball, while hernandez seemed more like a business-like player. that he was ultimately arrested for murder was shocking enough, but then supposed evidence of multiple murders? here was a someone who was living a double life: football player by day, serial killer by night. and how his suicide.
miguel asked if i'd be interested in some stuffed eggplants for lunch. i said sure, and he went across the street to collect a few more ingredients. he was gone for a while and when he came back i realized why: he discovered petsi's pies and was enraptured by the shop, said this was exactly what he was looking for. he ended up buying 3 different pies, a lime 'cheesecake' and 2 vareties of apple pies. we finished the lime cheesecake and finished one apple crumble pie after lunch. as for the stuffed eggplants, a lot of effort went into the recipe, from stewing to frying to baking, but the final result was a little bland. it tasted better after i doused it with some yucatan habanero hot sauce.
while miguel made plans to meet karen at the museum of fine arts after she got out from work (wednesday evenings free admission), i biked to belmont for dinner.
i was still in shock from the hernandez suicide, when i received my second shock of the day: bill o'reilly fired from fox news over sexual harassment allegations. i spent the whole day not knowing about it until i turned on the news at my parents' place. i thought the man was untouchable, as the face of fox news. i knew there were allegations in the past, but nothing happened to him then, and i figured maybe nothing would happen to him now. but more reports were coming out, how fox paid millions to women over the years to cover up o'reilly's sexual harassments. that seemed to trigger advertisers to flee in droves, which what was ultimately that did him in. it's one thing when it's a he-said-she-said battle about the validity of these allegations, but it's another thing when advertisers lose confidence in o'reilly and the network begins to lose money. the news brings me some joy because o'reilly was a terrible human being who spent years spouting lies and becoming a media demagogue to the right. but cut off one head of the hydra and another one will grow in its place. someone else will fill that vacuum that he formerly occupied.
we continued to have ham for dinner, this time stir fried with some spicy peppers. i found all my glass pyrex ramekins from thanksgiving, along with a large pyrex lasagna tray. i took all of these back with me so i could make the flan when i got home.
at this point flan making for me is fairly routine. i made 16 this time around, which i simply just doubled the recipe. in past recipes i messed up the portions, thinking that the basic recipe made only 6 not 8, and ended up with more flan mixture than i needed. this time around i got everything perfect, not a drop wasted. karen and miguel came back home while i was melting the sugar to coat the bottom of the ramekins. i baked the 16 flan for about 2 hours, until the tops had that had nice burnt finish to them.
wechat began pinging me early this morning. wangyang finally gave xiaoshen the tiny statue of liberty figurine i bought her, and xiaoshen was writing to thank me. wangyang also told me later that she delivered the gift. she also added that she saw a store at a shanghai outlet mall called tony wear
and said she could send me some tailored pants if i wanted. i told her thanks but i was all set for pants.
the skin on my forehead hurts from the slight sunburn i sustained yesterday courtesy of standing out in the hot sun during the boston marathon. it looked really dark yesterday but has since faded a bit. also i'm starting to get those itchy blisters on my hands again. i'm trying to think what i touched to get them, i think it was the plastic spray nozzle. speaking garden hoses, diana contacted me today, said that she finally moved out all her perennials, and the community garden plot was free for me to do whatever i want with it now.
this was my plan for today: take miguel to market basket, get lunch at tasty burgers and shake shack (both harvard square), then climb washington tower at mt.auburn cemetery. he knew about lunch but didn't know what else i had planned, so naturally when paula boyfriend called him asking if he wanted to take a plane ride (her boyfriend is a licensed pilot), it was an offer miguel couldn't refuse. in hindsight maybe he should've, but more on that later.
of course i didn't mind. anytime i can have the house to myself is a good time. i used the bathroom, showered, then ate the plain dunkin donut donut miguel got for me when he went out for breakfast with karen this morning before she went to work. i always remember their donuts to be dry and cake-like, and my memory remains unchanged. whatever happened to krispy kreme? their donuts still remain the best donuts i've ever had. the closest store to boston seems to be located at the mohegan sun casino. and in new york (the state), the only store seems to be inside of penn station.
i went to market basket for groceries in the early afternoon. that's when i realized how cold it was at 50°F. the warm weather last week and all this weekend has put me in summer mode. i knew it would be cold today, but it still caught me by surprise. 50°F would be considered warm if i was still in winter mode, but not anymore. i think my short haircut also had something to do with it, as i'm used to a full head of hair to keep my head warm. i went back inside to put on my coat, my hat, and gloves.
i got back home right at the same time as miguel. he told me the flight was a disaster. everything was fine initially, but once they were airborne, he began to feel airsick from the turbulence. paula's boyfriend is an acrobatic pilot, so he was ready to do some aerial stunts, but miguel told him it wouldn't be a good idea so they ended up landing 30 minutes later. miguel treated the boyfriend to lunch, but he himself couldn't eat a thing, his stomach still reeling from the flight.
miguel left soon afterwards at 4:30pm to rendezvous with karen at longwood. it was actually his birthday today, and they wanted to try the daily catch restaurant they saw at the north end last friday. the restaurant itself wasn't anything special and didn't have many tables, but there was a long time of people waiting outside, and when they asked someone in line, he told them it was the best food he's ever had and the wait was worth it.
for dinner i heated up a container of three bridges grilled chicken and mozzarella ravioli and half a jar of classico italian sausage tomato sauce. i washed it all down with some polar ruby grapefruit seltzer and a bowl of strawberries.
i watered my plants last night after having not watered them this whole weekend, not since i got back from new york on thursday. i probably waited too long, because one of my mallows was all shriveled up. but never underestimate the resiliency of plants: today when i checked on my mallows, they were all fine, as if nothing happened.
wangyang sent me photos of the W head office in shanghai. when i was in shanghai prior to my arrival in chongqing, i never got a chance to visit the headquarter. not only is it interesting to see, but the thought of some of my former coworkers all in this office makes visiting a tantalizing opportunity. wangyang said she could see me around the place if i ever do visit. i told her i probably know more people in shanghai than in any part of china, although for my money, i would rather visit chongqing and sichuan. but the next time i'm in china, it'd definitely be interesting if i can work in a shanghai visit as well.
karen and miguel came back around 11pm. they said nothing about their birthday dinner, just came back inside the house complaining about how cold it was. miguel was particularly upset about the temperature drop, said it was impossible for people to live that this. somehow watching people suffering through the cold makes me feel warmer inside.