karen didn't leave for work until 8:30am this morning. i'm increasingly awoken prematurely by the sounds of her going about her morning business in the kitchen. i didn't get out of bed until 9am, got myself ready for my 10:30am annual physical at MGH.
the walk from my house to the subway station was uneventful. i was surprised the city of somerville plowed the fancy new cycle track on beacon street, but falling snow from the high snow banks lining either side of the track meant there was still plenty of icy obstacles. i saw someone actually biking on the track, but also someone just biking out on the street; so much for a dedicated bike lane. i kind of hate the cycle track: i think it's an eyesore, difficult to use, and i wish things could go back to the way it was before. beacon street is just a mess right now, made worse by all the snow, something the city planners failed to take into consideration. one more thing: the cycle track is only on one side of the road (inbound), which means on the way back bikers are forced to ride in the street, with just a sliver of bike lane since the roads are much narrower courtesy of the cycle track (outbound bike lane are currently nonexistent due to all the snow).
i waited half an hour in the waiting room and another 15 minutes in the exam room before i was able to see my doctor. earlier when the nurse took my blood pressure it was surprisingly low, 117/77. that got me thinking maybe i could drop one of the three different HBP medication i'm currently taking. doctor L told me that if my blood pressure was unusually low he might considerate it, but right now it's just holding steady at normal, and he wouldn't want to change up the drugs just yet.
i also asked him about the strange pulsing sensation i feel at the bottom of my left foot sometimes when i'm in bed. he didn't know what it was but told me to take a blood pressure reading next time. i also told him about my persistent cough but he didn't seem too worried about it, didn't say anything when i told him how i normally treat it is by taking a large dosage of mucinex decongestant. finally i showed him my wart and he referred me to a dermatologist, who will contact me within the next few days so i can make an appointment to get rid of it. he signed me up for a bunch of lab works asked for an urine sample before i left. wouldn't you know it, the one time i'm asked to pee in a plastic cup, i eat a bunch of asparagus the night before. i pity the poor lab technician who has to analyze my urine.
i went downstairs to the 5th floor to give blood for the lab works. my phlebotomist was the albanian woman i've met one other time before. she saw that my birthday was just a few days ago and wished me a happy birthday. she also asked what was the secret of looking young, while she collected half a dozen test tubes of dark red blood.
i briefly thought about walking down to chinatown (wasn't so far) to get some lunch and groceries, but the sky was grey and there was a forecast of imminent rain so i decided to return home instead. besides, i didn't eat the whole day, and i had 30 tea eggs waiting for me at home. my mother called me to let me know she and my father were going to a free screening of the great wall tonight, so i'll have to make my own dinner.
i tried one of the tea eggs. even after just a single night of soaking, this tea egg was better than the ones i made back in january. the egg was easier to peel, marbling on the egg white was more pronounced, and the flavor was perfect. in fact, i think they're ready to eat now, no need for additional soaking, although i did divide up the eggs into plastic quart containers and filled them with brine. i forgot to add a tsp of sugar to the brine, but i think the flavor is fine as is.
by late afternoon my preliminary test results for my blood work were already done. i received an e-mail letting me know i could check my data online:
i'm right over the limit. even my doctor told me today - without seeing these latest results - that he might consider putting me on some cholesterol medication. i'm already taking 3 different HBP drugs, what's the big deal with adding one more? i like to think i try eating healthy, but really, i think probably only 10% of my diet is actually healthy. the rest is a mix. i've made changes, but they've been incremental at best. my cholesterol also changes depending on the season: during the summer when i'm more active it's slightly lower, and then it goes back up during the winter. but say i really hunker down and seriously eat healthy for 6 months. how much lower could i reduce my cholesterol numbers? or continue the lifestyle i have now, and just fix it through modern pharmacology?
i went to the dollar store in the afternoon to pick up some snacks. not to eat for today, but to store up in my larder for when i have a craving for the sweet and salty (so much for healthy eating). they already removed most of the valentine display, and put up the easter and st.patrick's day items. is st.patrick's day a big deal elsewhere in the united states? or is just in places like boston, where there's a large irish population?
i remember i had some small errands to take care of. first, pay my motor vehicle excise tax ($15). next, pay my credit card balance (i don't use autopay, i do it manually every month). finally, i packaged up the defective samsung microSDHC memory card, sending it free via UPS so i can hopefully get a replacement card.
for dinner i cooked up the other half of my asparagus bundle. i roasted them this time in the toaster oven, drizzled with olive oil, garlic powder, and sea salt. they weren't as good compared to when i sautÃ©ed them in the frying pan, but at least this way they didn't smoke and smell up the whole house. i also cooked up a cup of small penne pasta with a simple tomato sauce plus frozen chopped spinach and some parmesan cheese.
karen came home around 7:30pm. i was afraid she walked home from longwoods again, but she took the T today, and stopped by the supermarket before coming home. there was nothing good on television until 10pm, where i streamed the latest episode of legion on FX in my browser (there was an option for chromecasting but every time i selected it, it wouldn't play back on my tv).
with my biannual physical tomorrow morning, i wanted to eat something healthy tonight. as if somehow that would make up for 6 months of giving zero care regarding proper nutrition. i went to the backyard to retrieve my bicycle but paused momentarily as i noticed all the large melting icicles hanging from gutter up above. i could hear them all day, crashing down to the ground, and the alleyway was littered with broken icicle pieces. i quickly made my way down the narrow path, didn't want to be standing there if another chunk of icicle came falling down.
this was my first time biking since our 3 snowstorms. road conditions were not ideal, but i've seen some diehard bikers riding around, so i knew at least it was doable. the sun was out and temperature in the upper 30's. i wasn't going far anyway, just to market basket, and it was all back roads, hardly any traffic. there was a sale on asparagus ($1.99/lbs.) so i got two bundles, as well as a package of spinach & cheese ravioli. i felt healthier already! but i also bought 2 packages of pretzel crisps, so that offset everything.
back at home i put the bike in the basement because i heard it might rain tomorrow. i did some more shoveling, clearing a bit of the snow from the empty parking spot in front of my house. the snow was all hard and compacted, and i ended up having to use a metal spade to chisel out the snow. if we do get some rain tomorrow, it might soften the snow enough that i could try clearing some more of it. otherwise it will all refreeze in the evening making it even harder to clean. while i was shoveling, my next door neighbor walked by and wished me a happy valentine. i wished her the same as well. this is my neighbor which i'v yet to introduce myself even though she and her roommate moved in back in september.
whenever there's a sale on eggs at the supermarket is a good time to make tea eggs. i bought these eggs 2 weekends ago so they've been sitting in the fridge for 10 days. old eggs are better because they're easier to peel. something else i wanted to try this time around was leaving the eggs outside so they reach room temperature before i boil them. this is in the hope that they'll reach the boiling point faster.
because there was so much residual cooking oil on the burner (thanks to karen), it actually made the house smell all oily. not so much in the kitchen, but the smell permeated into the living room. after a while it eventually dissipated.
in all the times i've made tea eggs, i've always used store-bought flavor packet kits (èŒ¶è‘‰è›‹æ»·åŒ…) (when my parents make it they mix their own spices). they don't cost too much ($1.55 for 2 flavor packets and 2 tea packets), and if i were to assemble the ingredients separately (cumin, cinnamon, licorice, anise, bay leaves), it would end up costing me more (but maybe one day i might like to try making my own flavor). i had a tea egg kit in the cupboard, but when i looked inside the box, there was only a flavor packet, no tea package. fortunately the flavor packet is the more important item, since i have plenty of teabags. i ended up using 10 black teabags tied together.
the eggs didn't come to a boil any faster using room-temperature eggs, still approximately 20 minutes before the water came to a boil. i also wasn't sure how long to boil it, my notes said just a few minutes, but to thoroughly cook an egg until it became hard-boiled requires about 10 minutes. i ended up estimating about 4 minutes of boil time before i took the eggs out. i won't find out if the eggs are cooked or not until i try one of the eggs. since the eggs will need to simmer in the brine for another hour, i figured that's more than enough time to cook the eggs.
i've seen some tea egg recipes that call for soy sauce, which is added for both its salt flavoring and coloring. but the tea eggs i make (and the ones my parents make) use just tea for the coloring. i feel it makes for a more natural tea egg.
i wasn't sure about the amount of salt. the last time i made tea eggs (last month) it ended up being too salty. that was with 3 tbsp of salt. so i figured i needed to use less this time around, but the last time i made 30 tea eggs, i used 4 tbsp as well. i think the amount of salt has less to do with the amount of eggs (20 eggs 3 tbsp, 30 eggs 4 tbsp) and more to do with how much water i use for the brine solution. when i made 20 eggs, it was with less water (maybe about 1/2 less), so adding 3 tbsp of salt to the mix would definitely make it saltier. when i tasted the brine this time around, it was salty but not crazy salty.
after an hour of simmering, i turned off the stove and let the tea eggs soak in the brine overnight.
for dinner i boiled my spinach ravioli, heated up some tomato sauce with some additional frozen chopped spinach (double spinach), and sautÃ©ed the asparagus (half a bundle). i've only recently come to the realization that i really like asparagus. i love the taste, and i love how my pee smells afterwards. i rarely cook it myself however. the last time was back in 2013, when i made a super healthy smoked salmon & walnut & asparagus salad. and before that, i remember one time i made an asparagus recipe that involved a tangy mustard sauce (don't remember the date). and a long time ago (2008) julie came over and made an asparagus chicken wrap recipe. but i think i will start working more asparagus into my diet. and really, i should be eating healthier to begin with. it all depends on what my test results say when i get my physical tomorrow.
i sautÃ©ed the asparagus in a large flat pan, cooking it dry without any oil or seasoning. once the stalks began to soften and look cooked, i added some salt and drizzled some olive oil. that turned out to be a mistake, as mixing oil and some residual oil caused a little bit of splattering and a whole lot of smoke, stinking up the house immediately. i also added some chopped garlic.
dinner was pretty good, i would eat asparagus every day if i could. i could still see the smoke hovering in the kitchen so i ended up putting a fan in the window and another fan trying to blow out the smoke.
karen didn't get home until 8:30pm. she told me she walked back from longwoods, which took her an hour and a half. she said she did it because she hasn't been exercising in a while. during the winter, it's hard to exercise. i thought she was late getting home because maybe she went out to dinner with coworkers. she made something quick to eat in the kitchen (i didn't see what, maybe some soup, maybe a sandwich), then retired to her room. she went to bed relatively early, around 10:30pm.
ever since karen scorched the kitchen saturday night, i've been afraid of waking up to the thick smell of cooking smoke. but what woke me up early this morning wasn't smell but sound: karen was chatting with her boyfriend from the dining table right next to my room. she wasn't working today because her clinic called another snow emergency. i've had similar roommates in the past seemingly oblivious that we live in a small house and sounds easily go through walls. i've never had a roommate wake me up from talking though. the few times i have been woken prematurely was because roommates decided to do some early morning laundry, with the washer dryer right next to my room as well.
i've been shoveling snow since last thursday, and never once has karen volunteered to help. not that i needed it, but it says something about her, how she sees manual labor. i imagine her life in mexico to be one of affluence (at least by mexican standard) where she simply hires somebody if she needs work done. maybe in a country where cheap labor is readily available, it makes sense to get somebody else to do your physical jobs. but i've had past roommates from china - where there's plenty of cheap labor - stay here when it's snowing and most have asked if they could help shovel. i've lived with so many roommates over the years, i feel like it's taught me to be a good reader of people.
i was expecting to see plenty of snow this morning since it was supposed to snow overnight, but we only managed to get an inch or two of additional snow at best. to my surprise once again, steve actually shoveled the sidewalk as well as dig out one of his two cars. paul didn't seem to be home this week, as typically he's the one that's doing the shoveling, if at all. i watched steve walking to to work, taking public transportation instead of driving. even though he shoveled, he didn't do a good job, and there was still a layer of ice on the sidewalk. so i went out to clean up, from the front of the house to the back. i also for the nth time dug two trenches out to the street. it wasn't just that the snowplows keep packing snow into my exits, but also the folks who park their cars can't resist taking up that additional 2ft of space.
karen left at 10:20am to meet up with paula to discuss a business proposition. like an energy miser, i immediately turned down the heat. typically when karen is home i turn the heat up to 68°F, but if i'm at home by myself, if it's not a particularly cold day, i can lower the heat to as much as 60°F (good insulation keeps the inside of the house relatively warm). i used the bathroom, showered, then made myself one last italian sandwich. it was so large, i only ate half, saving the other half for the early afternoon.
i left the house around 1:20pm to take the bus to belmont. i had my dSLR camera out, keeping my eyes open for photo opportunities. this particular snowstorm, with its combination of rain and snow, coated the trees in such a way that the snow still stuck on instead of just falling off, making for some pretty pictures. i caught bruce outside his house, servicing his ice penguins, which were in the process of melting on this mid-30's day. in fact, a lot of melting was going on. when i went by a snow-covered storm drain, i could hear the melting snow running down like a babbling brook, even though i couldn't see it.
i arrived at my parents' place the exact same time they got home as well. the walk from the bus stop to their place was treacherous, as many neighbors didn't bother carving out a pathway from the feet of snow piled onto the corners courtesy of inconsiderate snowplow drivers. this happened last night but it least the mounds were small enough that i could simply trample across them. the mounds this morning were mountains, and i kind of understand why neighbors said "nope" but that meant walking in the streets, where the roads are already narrow from the snow piles. i shoveled out a shortcut from the sidewalk out onto the street. i managed to log into their norwegian cruise account and saw that the vouchers they'd bought onboard the ship were already in their account. they weren't sure, because up to now they hadn't heard anything from NCL.
after dinner my father gave me a ride back to belmont. we also picked up my 2nd aunt along the way, gave her a ride home as well. karen was home in the living room, but she had the tv volume turned down so much i was almost surprised to see her there. the good thing was she didn't do any crazy cooking tonight, or least none that involved smoke and frying. i taught her how to use the chromecast so she could watch netflix on the HDTV. she retired to her room soon afterwards to do some work. tomorrow she goes back to work after two snow days and the weekend.
today i turn 43 years old on the 43rd day of the year. there is such a thing called the golden birthday, when you turn the age of your birth day (in my case when i was 12 years old back in february 12th 1986). but i don't think there's such a thing when you turn the age of the day of the year, or only people born at the beginning of the year can celebrate it.
it snowed a little bit overnight. just a few inches, but enough to freak some people out, including my mother. she said my father was coming out to pick me up so i could help him shovel the small amount of snow around the cafe. she told me at 10:15am, so i got out of bed to get ready. i found karen video chatting with her boyfriend miguel in the living room. outside, neighbors were clearing out their cars, including an unexpected cameo by my upstairs neighbor steve. he also cleared the sidewalk.
i waited by the window, waiting for the car to arrive, while karen when through her videochat rolodex of mexican friends, holding up her laptop to show them the snow outside. i ended up hovering by the window for more than 40 minutes, because my mother didn't let me know my father was going to clean the sidewalk at their place first, then get some gasoline, before finally arriving at my place.
my 2nd aunt had already cleared much of the sidewalk around the cafe by the time we arrived. we retrieved the snowblower from the toolshed and cleared the sidewalk from my grand uncle's place all the way to the parking lot. it was good to keep the sidewalk clean in anticipation of the 3rd snowstorm arriving on sunday-monday (freezing rain for much of sunday followed by a night of snow in the evening into monday morning). what's really scary was how excited karen was this morning when she thought she might have a 2nd snow day for monday. i really hope that doesn't happen.
after a bowl of sauerkraut cellophane soup for lunch, i got a chance to use the bathroom and take a shower, clearing out my congested sinuses in the process. i went outside and refilled the suet feeder and shook the globe feeder so there was more sunflower seeds. i streamed the NFL turning point edition of the patriots super bowl comeback for my parents to watch, followed by some taiwanese food travelogues (particularly korean barbecue).
after dinner i got a ride back to my place, but first we stopped by the cafe to give my 2nd aunt a ride as well (saving her from having to walk home in the snow and cold). when i got back home i noticed 2 things: karen didn't lock the door and she was frying something for dinner because the whole house reeked. maybe she doesn't understand that during the winter, i can't just easily open the door or the windows to air out the house, and any cooking smell she produces gets trapped and recirculated. she also didn't close my bedroom door so i'm sure all my things smell like they've been in a fryer. when she does this, i can't wait for her to leave. i ended up burning some candles to mask the smell. hopefully it'll dissipate after a few days.
i went outside to do some night time shoveling. steve did an okay job, but if everything was going to freeze solid after the rain tomorrow, i wanted to do a better clean up. i also shoveled out two paths onto the street. there are now 2 unused parking spots in front of my house. one of them was empty during thursday's blizzard so it's just covered in snow. i also dumped some sidewalk snow onto it (had nowhere else to put it) so that spot will remain buried for the foreseeable future. next to it is another spot. it's only partially buried, but with a little bit of work it can be cleared out. i thought about clearing it out, but i'm not feeling all that altruistic. i don't even have a car, so i have zero incentive to help clear out a spot.
karen went to work this morning, but left something behind for me: the thick stench of cooking oil. she must've been frying an egg for breakfast, and that combined with my forced air heating which circulated the air throughout the house, stirred me awake at 7:30am. i went back to sleep, too tired to get up and see what it was. as far as i was concerned, the damage was already done.
today was the day after the blizzard of yesterday. a few cars had vacated, but for the most part people left their vehicles behind, since there's no guarantee a spot would be waiting for them when they returned. i turned the heat up to 65° because it was a little bit cold in the house. outside, the temperature never got above freezing, but it was sunny at least. i had a yogurt and a fruit smoothie for lunch. i did a load of laundry and vacuumed the floors before going outside in the afternoon to shovel a path from the sidewalk out onto the street. i also worked to clean up a parking spot that was only partially cleaned out; once the snow hardens, it'll be impossible for a car to park in that spot without getting impaled on a snow mound. afterwards i removed the snow from my backyard deck and parts of the staircase.
for dinner i heated up a can of gumbo soup spiked with frozen kale and a dash of my habanero hot sauce. karen changed her pattern today, didn't come home until 9:40pm, had dinner with paula at her place. i chromecasted a few episodes of bizarre foods delicious destinations before tuning to emerald city at 9pm.
the news is calling this the blizzard of 2017. that's kind of presumptuous, since that's like saying they're not expecting another blizzard this winter. or how about the start of the next winter later this year? what if there's a blizzard, say, in december 2017, and they call that the blizzard of 2017, but then there'll will be two 2017 blizzards and everyone will get confused. i rather call this the early february blizzard of 2017. that leaves room for other blizzards, should we get them. and then by the end of 2017, when there are no more blizzards, we can retroactively anoint one of the large past blizzards as the official blizzard of 2017.
so it snowed pretty much the whole day. it was so cold that the snow we got was the powdery kind that doesn't really stick to anything and get get blown away by wind drifts. the more substantial nuisance was the powerful winds, creating white out conditions and shaking the house in the process.
karen cooked some black beans in the slow cooker this morning (3 hours on high) and invited me to try some for lunch. she made a simple soup using the leftover bean cooking water, some sauteed onions, and some chopped jalapeÃ±o peppers. it was simple but satisfying on a cold day. i also had a greek yogurt for lunch.
my living room was the storm watch command center, as i kept my eyes glued to the blizzard that was relentlessly buffeting cambridge. the snowstorm was interesting to karen (who didn't have to go to work today) not so much in the novelty of it, since she's lived in montreal before and they get way more snow and cold weather, but more like a sense of nostalgia. still, they never get blizzards like these in mexico (today's high in merida was 89°F).
there was enough accumulation that at 3pm i went outside to do the first round of shoveling. fine ice crystals were swirling everywhere as i cleared the front sidewalk. when i tried to get back in the house, i couldn't turn the lock for some reason (frozen?) and had to knock on the back door to get karen's attention so she could let me back inside. how embarrassing.
with an hour left of daylight, karen and i went outside around 4pm to do some winter weather sightseeing. i brought my dSLR but that was a mistake because it was impossible to keep the camera dry and after a few snapshots i ended up putting the camera away in my bag so it wouldn't get any wetter and short-circuit something (although the canon 60D has a bit of weatherproofing). instead i took photos with my iphone 5s.
we walked in the street since much of the sidewalks weren't plowed yet. of the few pedestrians that were out, some of them did the same thing as well. i repeatedly looked behind us to make sure there weren't any cars coming. there weren't many vehicles, most were snow plows, and of the few cars that were on the road, most of them kept to a safe and slow speed.
besides just walking to harvard square, our tentative objective was to visit the l.a. burdick chocolate cafe to get some hot chocolate. we went inside the harvard square starbucks briefly to use the free wifi so karen could check the address (brattle street).
when we finally arrived at l.a. burdick we thought it was closed but a sign outside informed us they were indeed open for business (though closing early at 7pm). it was still fully staffed, about half a dozen young employees. their boss really must not care too much about their safety on such a treacherous travel day, or the boss figured busy would be good on such a snowy and cold day. it was actually somewhat crowded, with no available tables, so we ordered our hot chocolates to go, but not before a few tables opened up, encouraging us to stay instead. karen got the dark hot chocolate, i got the milk hot chocolate. at $5 for a small it was pretty decadent but the perfect drink for the early february blizzard of 2017. i'd never been to l.a. burdick before, it's a nice little cozy place. if i ever have visitors during the winter and it snows, i'll be sure to bring them here for hot chocolate.
conditions were perfect for photography on our way home, with the periwinkle glow of twilight set against the soft pink of fresh snow in the street lights. but karen seemed to be in a rush to get back home so i just snapped a few photos with my iphone. if i was alone, i would've stayed longer to take advantage of all the photo opportunities.
turns out karen was in a rush to get home because she desperately needed to use the bathroom. afterwards she made dinner, another simple soup of chicken, multi-colored carrots, and some jalapeÃ±os. once more, she invited me to sample some. i had some of her soup plus a box of french oven pizza. as a nutritionist she didn't approve of my choice of ready-made meal, but i told her i only eat this maybe once a month when i don't have anything else to eat.
around 7:30pm i went back outside to shovel the sidewalk for the last time, since the blizzard was already dying down. not only did i clean the sidewalk, but i also cleared out two paths out to the street. i didn't know what to do with all the snow so i just piled it onto the empty parking spot directly in front of the house. that spot was sacrificed already since nobody had parked there and it just filled up with snow.
after that i cleared a path into the backyard. i could tell steve was home, but he was being especially quiet tonight, despite all his lights were on. he must've heard me toiling outside, because immediately after i came back inside, he wrote me a lame e-mail saying he was just getting ready to shovel the sidewalk when he noticed i'd already done it, and he thanks me. i can't remember the last time steve shoveled the sidewalk, so let's not even pretend that was remotely even going to happen.