i went to the cafe this morning bringing with me two packages of frozen porterhouse steaks and a holiday ham i'd purchased back in may but never got around to eating. the mistake i made was not putting the ham in the freezer. so for the past two weeks there was this weird smell in my fridge (like overripen strawberries) that i couldn't figure out where it was coming from until i discovered it was the ham in the crisper drawer. it was leaking and the fluid was sticky. i wasn't sure if i could still eat it (it didn't smell after i rinsed the package) so i brought it to my parents to pass judgement. i think i already knew the answer, and both of them told me to throw the ham away immediately. i didn't pay a lot for it anyway - just $6 - consider it one of those late adulthood life lessons.
so i was at the cafe today - wednesday - to help out my parents. when i got there, the stainless steel 30x60" work table we ordered from wayfair over the weekend had already arrived, two tall boxes waiting by the back entrance. we'd have to wait until later in the day - when it wasn't busy - to assemble the table. we did open it though, and saw it had some dents - one on the table surface, another along the edge. it wasn't too big a deal - but when you pay $400 for something, you expect it to arrive undamaged at least. so i contacted wayfair and it seems like this is a pretty common problem because they already had contingency plans for just such a event. i could either: 1) get a 20% discount (in this case $85), 2) exchange the product for a new one for free (although i may have to drop it off somewhere to ship back), or 3) return the item and get a full refund. we opted for the 20% discount, figured the tabletop would get scratched anyway just from everyday use.
it didn't feel busy today but we still made a good amount with just 23 transactions. that can't compare to yesterday, where there was 31 transactions. my sister still hadn't updated the print menus on the plexiglass (we have our hanging chalk menus but it's harder to see given that the cafe interior is still arranged for social distancing) so i had to call her up and push her to make the changes. wasn't like i was asking her to retype everything, just update the prices. when she finally gave me the updates, some of the prices were wrong, so i told her to change them. when she returned with the revisions, the new version was now 6 pages instead of 4. i taped them onto the plexiglass anyway, just because we didn't have another menu, but this was very shoddy work. hours later she returned with yet another print version of the menus, this time in 4 pages and with color highlights.
in the afternoon we started prepping for the new work table assembly. did you know that stainless steel work tables are the work horses of the restaurant industry? we first had to clear the area of the old work table, removing all the pots and pans on the floor underneath the table. then when it looked like it wasn't going to get busy, we moved all the equipment off of the old work table - oven, microwave, air fryer, rice cooker. finally, we disabled the old work table, moved it into the parking lot for the time being. the old work table has a stainless steel top with a backsplash, but the legs corroded a long time ago and there's no undershelf to give it stability. my father rigged up some DIY legs using wooden 2x4 blocks and a pair of iron restaurant table pedestals. the new table has 2 undershelves which will let us store the equipment 6" off the ground, which is in accordance to food safety guidelines.
before we assembled the new table, we cleaned the floor and wall area where the table will be moved to. figured this was our best change to do it, because once the new table goes in, we'll never get access to the floor and area again. we put down a large piece of styrofoam that came with the table and put the table top on top of that, upside down so we could secure the legs and the undershelves. it wasn't difficult, but definitely easier when you have two people. originally we decided to secure the lower shelf first before adjusting the middle shelf, but we discovered that once the lower shelf is secured, it sort of locks the table in place and the middle shelf can't move anymore. so we had to loosen everything and assemble the table with the shelves all at the same time. we did it by working on the table with it on its side instead of upside down.
after securing all the screws, we righted the table. the last step was ripping off the protective sticker on the table surfaces (to keep the stainless steel from getting scratched, but not protect it from getting dented). once that was done, we put the equipments back onto the table. the table surface isn't as sturdy as the old work table surface (it's a lighter 18 gauge apparently); it has a tendency to buckle. but it's still very strong, and supposedly the tabletop can hold 690 lbs. while the shelf each can hold 480 lbs. while moving the equipments, i noticed my father already scratched the surface by dragging the oven and microwave instead of lifting them into place. that's why we can't have nice things!
the thing i was most looking forward to were the two undershelves. this gave us enough space to store all our pots and pans in one place, instead of all over the kitchen and in the stairwell. it also gives the kitchen a less cluttered looked, compared to the way we had it before, where things were just stacked underneath the table, sometimes for years without anyone realizing it.
one downside is now there's no place to store our knives. before - with the DIY work table legs - there was a space created by the wooden 2x4 that allowed horizontal knife storage. now we have to think of something else.
by the time we were finished putting everything back onto the new work table, it was already 5pm. my parents said i could leave, but a few more orders came in, and i helped put them together, so when it was all over, it was already 6:30pm closing time. my mother made me a bento box for dinner, i honestly can't say i've ever had the cafe bento even though i make it all the time. bentos are for customers!
by the time i biked back home, it was almost 7pm. i took a quick shower to wash off the work grime then had my bento for dinner. it was pretty good - i got the charsiu pork - no wonder we've been getting some good business!
i haven't been able to sleep late for the past few days, waking up early every morning because i had something to do. today - the day after the 4th of july - was no different. i got up at 8am so i could get to the cafe by 8:30am so i could update the chalkboard menus before my parents open at 9:30am.
i thought my parents would be surprised to find the cafe back door was unlocked, but they seemed unfazed to see me. most items were increasing by 50¢ to $1. bento boxes went from $10.50 to $12, simply because of the number of ingredients it takes to make one bento box. i also made so edits, like adding a "peanut" tag menu items that include peanuts, and i changed "soup & salad" to just "soup" since we no longer carry salads. i was done by an hour later, but instead of going home, i went to the fresh pond whole foods to get some bean sprouts for the cafe. after dropping off the sprouts, i returned home by 10:45am.
being that it was a tuesday, it was my run day, so after using the bathroom, i changed into my running clothes and left by 11:15am. my music selection this time around was dan carlin's hardcore history podcast, "kings of kings" episode about the achaemenid persian empire. it's just as good as music to keep my mind off of running, and no boring songs to skip. i was out for about an hour, and didn't get back until 12:20pm.
after a shower, i heated two leftover ribs from yesterday for lunch. i spent the rest of the day trying to organize my photos, clearing up folders i'd already backed up (and more importantly, already used in blog postings). i processed a bunch of photos for retroactive blog inclusions, but i still have many weeks worth of photos to go through. for dinner i heated the remaining 3 leftover ribs. there was nothing good on television (even the talk shows were repeats) so i continued watching season 2 of evil, up to episode 6.
i woke up early and rode the motorcycle around 9am to the medford harbor freight to pick up a new garden sprayer. i actually didn't think they'd be opened today, but never underestimate the power of retail to make their employees work on holidays in order to make more money for the company. traffic was light that early on a holiday morning, and i made it there in record time, just 12 minutes. i had a 20% off coupon and just paid $12 for the 2-gallon sprayer. harbor freight also makes a 1-1/4 gallon sprayer - which would be better suited since i've never sprayed more than a gallon - but i didn't see any on sale. i also got a pair of long nose pliers ($1.99, i gave mine to my mother for her crochet flower projects) and a stubby claw hammer ($2.99, for some reason i can't seem to find my regular hammer).
the trip back was just as quick, even with the school street bridge detour (that bridge should've been finished last spring, they're already more than a year beyond their scheduled closure, and i can't seem to find any updates online and when they plan on finally reopening that bridge). instead of going home, i made a stop at market basket. there was hardly anybody there and plenty of parking. i wasn't sure what to do with the sprayer, but i decided to just leave it tied up to the bike, figured nobody would steal it.
i grabbed a bunch of cafe supplies: linguine noodles, charsiu powder, and a gallon of milk. i was also told to pick up some bean sprouts, but the ones they had were old packages and the sprouts looked rotten.
i got back home before 10am. i hadn't been to the community garden all this weekend, and figured i was due for a visit. while walking there i bunched into victor, and we started chatting about politics - ukraine-russia, taiwan-china. he went with me to the garden. he told me he recently bought 6 acres of land in maine, and was just up there recently for a week. the police paid him a visit on a welfare check when he hadn't contacted his daughter or mother because his cell phone rain out of juice.
coming home, i found a 32 oz. brita insulated water bottle. it has a cylindrical carbon filter and a silicone pop-up straw. the bottle itself looks well-made - stainless steel and heavy - but the lid assembly doesn't look like it can be taken apart and when i searched online for replacement parts, i couldn't find anything (other than replacement filters).
i went across the street to star market to pick up some more porterhouse steaks (today was the last day for $5.97/lbs. sale). i bumped into victor again, getting some flowers to the hostess of a 4th of july barbecue he was going to. he told me about a sale on lamb steaks but when we went to go check it out, the price had already gone up.
i came home, used the bathroom, then took a shower. i finally left by noontime. i stopped at the cafe to drop off the food supplies. i watered the potted plants outside then continued to belmont.
for lunch i had some pork floss on white toast bread. there was also some rose berries and yellow dragon fruits. these were over-ripen fruits, but still very sweet. dragon fruits are delicious but they have no natural flavor of their own, just a nondescript sweetness and crispy texture.
my mother got me to update the cafe prices. due to the rise in ingredient and material prices, my parents are forced to raise the price on most of their items. the last time there was a price increase was a few years back, the first year of the pandemic and people were starting to venture out again but with social distancing and mask wearing. that time they also trimmed down their menus, got rid of stuff that rarely sold, put a focus on bento boxes. anyway, i updated both the website and the square up database (for the register and online order). i still need to change the prices on the menus at the cafe and my sister needs to update the grubhub prices.
i flew my drone briefly, just so i can get an aerial view of our gardens: the raised beds, the rudbeckia patch, and the circle of plant stands with various potted plants (jasmines, ground cherries, peppers). the rudbeckia looks most impressive, seeing it from the ground doesn't do it justice.
there wasn't too much gardening to do. i was waiting until the end of the day so i could spray the grapes with the newly purchased sprayer. in the meantime my father and i pruned the quince, as it was growing a bit unruly. we pruned last season as well - as soon as it stopped flowering - but this year we hardly got any flowers. despite not having a lot of flowers, i still saw some fruits near the crown of the bush. quince pruning is a dangerous activity, as their branches can have inch-long spikes (though not as bad as hawthorns, which have even more spikes).
while surveying the garden, i noticed the doors on our live-animal trap had sprung. there didn't seem to be anything inside but when i took a closer look, there was a very large rabbit. at first i thought it was dead, but i could see it was still breathing. must've been trapped overnight or just today, as i remember looking at the trap yesterday and the doors were still open. the rabbit was so big it didn't even look like it could turn around inside the cage, about the size of a housecat minus the tail. lifting up the cage, that's when the rabbit started to move around, and it was very much alive, as it squirmed inside the cage. the thing was heavy too, several pounds at least. my father and i released it out in the front yard; i was going to use a stick to open the trap door, but my father opened it with his hands and the rabbit shot out then ran underneath the bushes in front of the house. chances are it'll be back in the backyard by tonight. next time if we watch a rabbit, we should release it somewhere farther, like in the park.
around 4:30pm i started preparing the sprayer for the grapevines. i added 0.75 tbsp of captan powder with 1.2 tbsp of immunox (myclobutanil) then filled the bottle with 1/2 gallon of rain water. this was the 5th and final spray of the season, any additional spraying after this won't have anymore effects on the fungus anyway. besides the grapes, i also sprayed the peonies, which have started to get powdery mildew from lack of sunshine. the one peony directly below the grapevine hasn't gotten any mildew so far because 1) it gets more sun, and 2) fungicide spray drips onto it whenever i spray the grapes. i noticed it yesterday, but a few grape leaves already have the tell-tale spots of black rot. also a few grapes are starting to show the beginning stages of black rot, slowly turning into mummy grapes. so cutting back all the new vines so we hardly have any grapes might actually be a good thing, it will curtail the spread of fungus diseases.
while inspecting the squash vines for borer eggs, i can across a few spots that might be borer holes. i got my Btk solution and 1ml syringe and injected a few vines. i was going to use the solution in its concentrate form (since i have so much and if i don't use it up it'll just expire anyway) but decided to dilute it, figuring maybe diluting the concentrate activities the worm-willing bacterias.
at 4:30pm my father started grilling the ribs we bought from costco yesterday, to bring to my sister's godmother's apartment, where we were going to visit at 6pm so we could watch the boston fireworks at 10:30pm. the ribs were probably going to take at least 45-60 minutes to cook properly, but after grilling each sides 15 minutes on high heat (600-700 degrees), my father tried a piece and said the ribs were already good to eat, so it only took about half an hour (not counting the preheat time).
i was in the backyard until 5:40pm, all the way until it was time to go. my sister would meet us there around 7pm, after she fed her dog. we stopped at the cafe briefly to grab some additional foods we were going to bring: cocktail shrimps, caesar salad, tiramisu.
since it was a holiday, all resident permit parking spots were free today. we found a spot about a block away from my sister's godmother's apartment. she'd already prepared more than enough food, not counting all the stuff my parents brought. she made two variety of soup - one with winter melon, one a spicy hot pot style - i ended up having two bowls of the hot soup. she also made chinese oil rice, which i also had some. when my sister arrived, she helped her godmother cook up some trader joe banana fritters in the air fryer. they were okay - crispy, sweet - but also had that banana sour aftertaste (or were they plantains)?
when we came last year, it was not only raining, but the fireworks was being launched from boston common, which was farther away and a smaller venue. the fireworks seemed smaller, obscured by both the foggy weather and the buildings obstructing a clear view. today's weather was different: blue sky with a few clouds that disappeared after the sun went down. the hardest part was just the waiting (4+ hours). we watched the live broadcast of WHDH channel 7, which happened to be the only clear channel my sister's godmother could get with her HDTV antenna. when it got dark, we turned off the lights and occasionally the tv so there wouldn't be a glare on the window when we took photos.
leading up to the spectacle, there were some local fireworks. a bunch were coming from the roosevelt towers housing project, a few in cambridgeport, some in the north in places like chelsea and revere, and a bunch in the some on the horizon, my guess dorchester and roxbury.
when we approached 10:30pm, i livestreamed the radio broadcast of the boston pop orchestra (turned off the tv so there wouldn't be any glare) as we waited for the show to begin. earlier we moved the dining table so there were just seats in front of the windows facing boston. not knowing what to expect, my sister's godmother though the slew of local nearby fireworks was the official show. but when they finally started the fireworks on the charles, it was unmistakable, and we collectively let out a "whoa" of amazement. these fireworks were huge, looked like they could bridge the distance between the hancock and prudential towers from where we were looking. each explosion we could feel the percussion thumping on the glass windows. my mother didn't take any photos with her camera (she couldn't share them with her sisters anyway, she didn't tell my 2nd aunt that we were coming here tonight) and my father forgot his phone in the car. i had my phone camera, my dSLR camera, and my gopro suctioned to the window shooting a slow shutter time lapse for the past few hours.
the fireworks last for about 25 minutes. we knew it'd ended when they fired off a burst of fireworks all at once for the finale. once it was over, we opened the lights and started packing up, as it was almost 11pm.
returning to belmont, we got onto western ave to take us to memorial drive (avoiding central square at all cost, since there'd be a crowd of people leaving the fireworks). along the river on the left and the sidewalk on the right were people biking home after seeing the show, which is probably the quickest way. we got back to my parents' house by 11:22pm. i quickly gathered up my things - my mother gave me a package of leftover ribs - and rode the motorcycle back to cambridge. i got home by 11:40pm.
i used the bathroom and showered, didn't even bother doing a blog write-up as i was pretty tired from waking up early this morning to run errands. i figured this was a good occasion to skip blogging for a night and get a good night's sleep.
i left for belmont early - before 10am - since my parents were planning on a costco supply run. that early on a sunday morning, there was hardly any cars (or people for that matter) on the roads, so it was a quick trip. my mother made some crispy pancakes stuffed with pork floss for lunch.
i went out into the backyard to inspect the garden, but there wasn't too much to do since we mostly did them all yesterday. my father says so far there are 6 squashes of various sizes growing in the raised beds. the weather was kind of grey in the morning so i managed to see a few squash blossoms before they close up for the day.
my sister came by with hailey - i think maybe she planned on dropping her off - but when she heard we were going out to costco, she ended up returning home.
we finally left for the waltham costco by 11:30am, getting there 20 minutes later. costco was crowded - which is typical for the weekend - but it wasn't crazy. i was hoping there might be some fans on sale but apparently they're only available online, none in the store. i noticed there some more asian foods i'd never seen before: 2 types of instant taiwanese boba drinks, taiwanese sticky rice, frozen durian pulp, sichuan mapo tofu, and instant sapporo-style miso ramen. my mother bought a large potted lavender ($18, not english, looks like spanish, though i'm not well-versed in my lavenders).
we finished shopping by 12:30pm, then drove to the cafe to drop off the supplies. my parents marinated some charsiu pork before we left.
back at the house, i had a danish and some dried alasak pollock, washed down with some leftover store-bought suanmeitang drink.
i remounted the sun room webcam that looks into the backyard. the way i had it before was it was just sitting on the windowsill. that used to work, but now with our plants starting to fill out the trellises, the view will be obstructed, so the camera should be mounted higher. i used nano double-sided tape to secure the mounting plate to the window. it works well, but because now the camera is in front of the khaki-colored sun shade, the bright glare from the shades washes out the image. i'll try experimenting with the 37mm circular polarizing filter that came a few days ago, maybe that will help.
in the late afternoon i did some houseplant maintenance. i moved out all the remaining houseplants - orchids, pileas, prayer plants, jade plants - so i could water them. the 3 orchids i water using a submersion technique doused with some special orchid fertilizer. i left each pot to soak for a while before soaking another pot. as for the other plants, i water them with mosquito-bit-infused water, to kill the fungus gnats. i may need to divide my prayer plants and repot them, the soil looks a bit dry. i did however divide the pileas though: there were 3 plants that were crowded with babies. i removed them for their pots then pruned off the buds so i could replant them. from 3 pilea plants i ended up with 20 babies. not sure what i'm going to do with them all, either give them away or sell them, provided they can survive the transplant.
finally it came time for the 5th and final fungicide treatment on the grapevines. my father made a terrible mistake a few weeks ago when he decided to prune the grapes without asking me first, thereby cutting off all the new vines that would produce the grape fruits. this time last year we already had tons of green grapes on the vine; this year only maybe 4-5 clusters. the one good thing that might come out of this is it could break the disease cycle, since black rot needs to incubate in the grape fruits (grape mummies) so it can reinfect next season. anyway, i started spraying, everything was going fine, but i suddenly felt this cool breeze on my bare legs. i thought nothing of it at first, i heard this hissing sound, and when i went to pump the sprayer, i saw a fine spray of fungicide water leaking out from the bottom of the spray container. the pressure quickly pushed out the 1/2 gallon of solution. the cool breeze was fungicide spraying onto my legs.
around 6:15pm my father took out the new york strip steaks and grilled them on the barbecue. they'd been out for an hour and my mother seasoned them with montreal steak seasoning while my father brushed some melted butter on the steaks. we cleaned the grill beforehand, scooping out all the ash from the bottom of the barbecue, so it doesn't ignite when beef fat drips onto them. my father also grilled some long-horn peppers. we went with 3-minutes per side on the steaks, to keep them medium-rare. there didn't seem to be enough of a crust though, so we added another minute to each side. there were hardly any flare-ups because of the cleaning we did beforehand; it was weird grilling foods that was scorched by non-stop flames.
the steaks turned out to be perfectly cooked at medium-rare. unlike the porterhouse steaks we had yesterday (which were just a delicious) that were on the dry side (being medium-well done), these medium-rare new york strip steaks were super juicy. the only thing i'd change is maybe more seasoning on both sides. since we only had two pieces of steaks, my mother said she didn't want any and let my father and i have them, though we gave her some sample pieces to try.
i returned home by 7:50pm. i was playing around this time, i turned on the AC as soon as i got back, as well as my air purifier, to circulate the air. i then went to go take a shower and when i came out, the living room was nice and cold.
my father picked me up this morning around 10:30am, since it'd rain later today so i couldn't ride my bike. i also had a box of plant pots i'd collected that i wanted to bring to my parents' place. finally, there was two canvas grocery bags of produce i bought from haymarket yesterday. normally on a saturday i'd be at the cafe helping out, but my sister decided she wasn't going to work today (so she could have the 4th of july long weekend) so the cafe was closed today.
it rained earlier this morning, while everyone was still asleep. i had my bedroom open last night despite the AC noises, simply because it was so much cooler outside. the sound of thundering woke me up, and soon afterwards i heard the soft patter of rainfall. i dreamed of filled rain barrels as i went back to bed. when i woke up, the sky was clear and the only hint that it'd rained was some puddles in the streets, otherwise everything looked dry.
i went to inspect the backyard as soon as i arrived. my parents have a neighbor across the street that's moving out and they've been tossing out a bunch of stuff. my father collected about 8 wire plant stands. these are great because we can put them with our medium-sized potted plants and have them scattered about the backyard without being worried that the feet will kill the grass. a plant that's isolated from other plants get the maximum amount of sunlight, have excellent air circulation, don't have to worry about contracting some plant disease or pest (like mealybugs), and are easier to inspect. the only downside i can think of is if there's a strong wind, it might blow over the wire plant stand.
for lunch my mother made thin noodles with slow-cooked pork. she also cut up the 2 guavas i bought. she said they tasted terrible compared to fresh taiwanese guava. they tasted bland and a bit mushy in the center.
after i finished eating, i joined my mother for a walk. we went to the new glacken field, now completely opened to the public. the park itself has a terrible design, a jumble of cement pillars that's just begging for a lawsuit when a child injures himself hopping from one to the other, and an artificial hill that follows a windy spiral route to summit. instead of bleachers (to watch the baseball game on the two new diamonds that were converted from a previous soccer field), they build this wooden structure that looked like a ship, but with half the seating facing the field, and half facing the street.
from there we went down holworthy street. we were hoping to see some interesting flowers, but either they weren't in season, or the neighbors there simply didn't plant very many. we came out at sofra bakery, then walked belmont street back home.
i put back the webcam that faces the street from the living room window. we had to take it down when my father used that window for the floor AC exhaust. i bought some double-sided nano tape to stuff the mounting plate onto the top of the window, but when i tested the footage, there was too much blocking from nearby shrubbery. so we put it back where it used to be. there's a lot of visible window sash, but it's a more workable angle, one that can see the driveway, sidewalk, and the street.
it was supposed to rain today, but the sky said otherwise. despite a mix of clouds, the day was mostly sunny. i spent the rest of the day in the backyard. while my father was busy tying the squash vines to the bamboo trellises, i was inspecting the stems for vine borer eggs. we even saw a vine borer moth but it was too quick and we didn't manage to kill it. i ended up collecting about 40 eggs - stuck onto a piece of sticky duct tape.
my mother told me friday that the two gardenia flower buds have finally blossomed. she snipped one for the cafe, and was saving the other one so i could see, but that i have, she ended up cutting that one off as well. it's for the best, now it'll allow us to prune the gardenia into a small plant, and allow next season's flower buds to form.
we did prune the home depot osmanthus. we cut it back down to half its original size. my father originally thought about propagating some more plants with the cuttings, but this is not the osmanthus we want - that one - the fudingzhu osmanthus - seems to be thoroughly dead at this point. we'll need to buy another one at some point.
i started some eggplant and pepper seeds last weekend using the wet napkin technique. my father completely forgot about them. when i found the ziploc bag containing the seeds, the 4 pepper plants had sprouted, but only one of the eggplants. i ended up planting them all, it's sort of late in the season, but if we can get an eggplant or a few peppers, it'll be worth it. we still have 2 more months left in the summer.
last season we seemed to have a lot of male squash flowers and hardly any female flowers. this year seems to be the opposite: the female flowers came out first, but all of them withered on the vine when there wasn't any male flowers to pollinate them. but now that both types of flowers are blooming, a few of the female flowers seemed to have pollinated successfully, based on the swollen fruits. all the action seems to be in RB1 for the time being, while the squashes we've planted elsewhere is like 2-3 weeks behind. it could be a good year for squash, as we ended up planting more than planned to compensate for all the long bean plants that were eaten by rabbits.
my favorite part of the backyard this season is the rudbeckia field in RB3. the yellow flowers with dark centers are very striking, and it was just a happy accident that rabbits tend to avoid them for other plants. last year we didn't get any flowers because the plants were all growing too close together. this season - back in the spring - we divided the plants, and now they're growing very well. being perennials, we hope to see them every year.
for dinner we grilled some porterhouse steaks. this was also the time when we were finally going to get some rain, as the sky darkened. my mother didn't believe me when i said it'd rain, but told us to go outside and grill the steaks just in case. it doesn't take long to prepare steaks on the barbecue - a few minutes on each side - and we managed to grill them all before the storm. we ended up doing 5 minutes per side. we took out the steaks 30 minutes before grilling, and my mother seasoned them with montreal steak seasoning that i bought from home. before putting on the grill, my father brushed the steaks with some melted butter on both sides. there was of course fire flare ups - both from the accumulation of grease on the burners and rendered beef fat. so we ended up having to move the steaks around to avoid charring, but probably contributed to a lackluster crust.
5 minutes on each side turned out to be not a good idea, as the steaks came out medium to medium well done. last time we just grilled 2-3 minutes each side, but i figured with these thicker cuts, we needed more time, but i was wrong. next time we'll go for fewer minutes. regardless, the steaks were good. we can't eat steaks every weekend, but it's a good occasional treat, especially when there's a sale at the super markets.
while we were eating it finally started to rain. it seemed like a few sprinkles at best, but it developed into a medium-size rain, one that was on course to fill up our rain barrels, which were down to 2/3 capacity. if we can get one big rainstorm every week, we'll never have to worry about the barrels going empty again.
for dessert, my father cut up one of the pineapples i bought yesterday. it's always a crapshoot with pineapples, they can either be sour (which seems like most of the time) or the occasional very sweet pineapple. i lucked out, the one that got was very sweet, even my mother agreed, and she's normally very picky about her fruits.
my father gave me a ride home at 7:50pm. the storm had finished and the clouds were receding to the east, out to the ocean. with the sun slowly setting in the west, this was the same exact scenario last monday, when there was that double rainbow over boston followed by an amazing sunset. it was my father we first spotted the rainbow, out on the eastern horizon. the weather conditions wasn't optimal, and it was just a partial rainbow. there was also no brilliant sunset afterwards, even though i went out and checked.
because of the rain i was able to check our gutters. that handyman we hired is either a crook or incompetent, as both gutters are leaking. the one facing renee's alley isn't too bad - just drips - but the one facing our alley is a steady stream of water. however, the gutter above the front porch seems to be okay, because i was able to caulk it myself with silicone a few months ago.
it was warm inside the house - 81 degrees - while it was 74 degrees and dropping outside. because i had the AC in the window, i couldn't just open the window to get in some cool breeze. instead i ran my air purifier, which managed to circulate the air inside the house which made it feel better. in hindsight i should've turned on the AC, but it feels wrong to turn on the AC when it's already so cool outside. i just need a better system to get that cool air into the house.
it's already july! the second of the three summer months. in the late morning i started my day by riding down to the porter square star market to pick up some steaks on sale ($5.97/lbs). i got a package of porterhouse and a package of new york strip steaks. i then went to the cafe to drop them off. it got busy and i ended up sticking around until 1:30pm despite having other errands to run. one good thing that came out of it was i ate some leftover pad thai and charsiu pork for lunch.
returning home, i stopped by the community garden to water my plot for the 4th of july long weekend. it was supposed to be a quick in-and-out visit, but ann was there and i got snagged into helping her pound some wooden stakes into her plot with a mallet, and we were also chatting about squash bees and i was pointing out some new flowering plants in my garden. she showed me gretchen's tiger flowers which i'd never seen before, a type of tender perennial bulb related to irises and gladiolas. ann also told me she's into cupping for her digestive problems, and she lances her skin before cupping, drawing out some blood. that's when i saw all the track marks on various parts of her limbs.
as for my own garden plot, at least one of the female squashes have been pollinated successfully and now starting to swell. i'll need to figure out a way to support the growing squash so it doesn't pull down the rest of the trellis. that's one reason to go with a wire mesh trellis, sturdier and no danger of toppling from the weight of vining plants. i think because my garden is so lush (more of a happy accident than by design, also a bit of a hoarding issue, not willing to pull up otherwise healthy plants), it's less prone to drying and the soil stays moist longer. on the flip side, the moist soil provides home for a lot of garden pests, like slugs and snails.
i ended up being in the garden for nearly 45 minutes before riding back home. i stashed the motorcycle and switched to my bicycle, as i finally left for boston by 2:50pm.
did i mention the temperature today reached the 90's? the hot weather doesn't bother me too much, but i feel the blood pulsing in my veins and my body baking under the sun. the heat left me feeling more exhausted than usual, although i tried to make sure i wasn't exerting myself too much.
i made it to ming's market by 3:15pm. what i really want to go is c-mart, but i just go to ming's out of habit. one thing they don't have at ming's (or no longer carries) is indomie mi goreng, and i need to stock up. i got some licorice water-melon seeds and a few other snacks. i also got a small package ($2) of MSG. i needed some (but didn't have) when i was making "flavored" salt for korean blood sausages. i left ming's after 15 minutes of shopping and headed towards haymarket.
nothing too exciting to report from haymarket. a lot of tourists in town this weekend to catch the 4th of july fireworks on monday, but there are always tourists in boston, regardless of occasion. my haul: box of cherries ($4), 2 yellow dragonfruits ($4), 3lbs. of baby cucumbers ($2), 2 boxes of figs ($4), 3 boxes of rose berries ($3), 2 guavas ($3), 2 pineapples ($3).
i left haymarket by 4pm and made the treacherous ride back home. i really should find an easier alternate to get home, that stretch of road - from congress to new chardon to cambridge street to the longfellow bridge is super dangerous. lack of bike lanes and the need to cross lanes of traffic several times plus overall poor road conditions (when they paved cambridge street they did a poor job and the pavement buckles at certain spots) makes for a very harrowing ride. it is however the most direct route. but i'd be willing to add a few extra minutes to my outbound ride if it means less stress. google map has one recommendation that cuts through the west end and crosses over into cambridge by the science museum/galleria mall. i might try it next time.
i got back home by 4:25pm. using my last bit of energy, i shed off my sweat-soaked clothes and hopped into the shower to cool and clean off. oh, i also fast drank two tall glasses of ice tea and could've easily finished the whole carton, i was that thirsty. i weighed myself, i'd shed 3-1/2 lbs. from my weight this morning. weight loss through heat exhaustion!
being that today was 91 degrees felt deserving of some AC action, which i turned on briefly. i love AC but it's so easy to get addicted, and once you turn it on, it's hard to turn off. but i'm trying to have a more comfortable summer, instead of the high temperature endurance challenge that i typically experience at home.
i downloaded the last few episodes of season 1 of evil and finally finished watching it. seems like the big reveal is that this shadowy cabal is creating evil children through in vitro fertilization. i'm now currently downloading season 2 (13 episodes).
for dinner i made another peppered ham sandwich. i have enough ham and bread for one more sandwich, leftovers because i dabbled in some fried chicken midweek. i wonder how long that ham can keep, can i have it for next week?
i went on my thursday morning run. temperature was already in the mid-70's by the time i left the house around 10:20am. i chewed a piece of dentyne pure gum this time: for a little piece of gum, it sure maintains its flavor for a long time. this time i ran across the eliot bridge, before slowing to a walk to the fountain. after a quick drink, i ran the rest of the way around the river. i initiated run tracking from my phone, which didn't really improve the gps signal, and i didn't get that course loop graphic on my fitness tracker. the songs on my alternative 80's spotify stream wasn't very good either, i kept skipping, and then it started playing 80's pop songs (i have a suspicion it jumped me to a different stream).
coming back from my run, i stopped by the community garden. there's been some online talk about only watering before 9am or after 5pm because of the drought, so me being in the garden around 11:40am felt like i was doing something wrong. fortunately there was nobody there, except for one woman (diane) who used to garden here a long time ago and came to see her old plot. she's since moved to falmouth and has her own backyard garden. i asked if she was getting a lot of rabbits, she said no, but the chimpunks were eating everything.
ever since i elevated my eggplant grow bags, i haven't had anymore leaf damages, not from slugs, not from snails, and even flea beetles have avoided my eggplants, allowing some new healthy leaves to grow. unfortunately the damage has already been done, and my eggplants don't seen to be growing taller anymore (despite producing some new leaves, even some flowers). there's a few spent female squash flowers, and one of them even looks to be pollinated, given the slightly swollen fruit. i'll try coming by tomorrow and checking again, if it's bigger than today, it's definitely a healthy fruit. my peppers are super healthy, 2 purple serranos and 1 thai hot. tomato fruits are also getting bigger, clementine-sized now. hyacinth beans have already produced immature pods, dark purple and flat.
i took a quick rinse in the shower when i got home then had some some leftover fried chicken for lunch while watching another episode of evil.
after i finished the episode, i started my errands. i folded all the clothes that i hung dry on tuesday that laid in a pile on my bed with the plastic hangers still on them. i installed my AC in the living room window even though i don't have any immediate plans to use it (pre-emptive install). i then started my big project of the day: treat my deck with australian timber oil. there was a quarter left of oil left in the can, i wasn't sure if i'd have enough. i started from one end and worked my way to the other side, making sure i didn't paint myself into a corner. at first i was doing it silently, but i decided to grab my wireless earbuds and listen to some podcasts. i started with the wired 20th anniversary podcast, listening to all the episodes, before moving onto one about the history of byzantium. i started at 1:30pm and finally finished by 4:30pm, a total of 3 hours. i had enough timber oil left to do some vertical services - which i skipped - because i wasn't sure if i'd have enough for all the horizontal surfaces (which are more important in keeping waterproof).
i sent jeff a text telling him not to use the back porch for the next 24 hours and apologizing for any smells. i wasn't sure when they'd be back from the cape, and by sheer coincidence they were actually on their way back via lyft after taking the ferry across the harbor. soon after they got home (they were traveling with another couple friends), jeff texted me again, saying sorry for watering the plants on his upstairs porch and dripping water all onto my deck. i had to go outside and dry up the water with some paper towels before they ruined the finish.
6pm was the monthly cambridge board of zoning meeting. this was part 2 of the first zoning board meeting back in mid-may, when the business across the street from my sister was trying to get her business zoned for a night club but didn't have the proper amount of parking. they reworked their proposal and this was their second pitch. gone was any mention of night club, now it was an event space for corporate events and private/public functions. unlike last time, we didn't have to wait until 9pm, the case was brought up around 7:15pm.
the hearing for just this one case lasted 1-1/2 hours. the business had a slick powerpoint presentation, and both the lawyer and owner spoke. the chairman had to cut them off as they already used up 30 minutes (and there was still plenty of other cases on the agenda). they brought in a young licensed traffic expert who said there was plenty of parking, even he was only there not behalf of any impartial assessment but as a personal favor to the business. they then opened up the hearing for public comments. everyone opposed were abutters, everyone for the rezoning were people who had a personal/business relation with the owner. when the committee finally voted (8:45pm) all were against it. the only recourse was to file again but with a radically trimmed down proposal (even the chairman said it most likely wouldn't pass, given how much neighbors were against it), or wait 2 years and they could file again.
i was waiting for the hearing to end so i could ride up to trum field and watch the somerville fireworks. i tried going last year but it was a rainy night and i figured they'd postpone it; instead they shot all the fireworks all at once an hour early, so most people (those crazy enough to still go despite the rain) probably missed it. i left by 8:55pm, with an estimate that they'd probably shoot the fireworks around 9:15pm. i got there in about 10 minutes via bicycle, despite riding partially up a hill before i had to push the bike on foot. i had perfect timing because no sooner did i get into position (they were already singing the national anthem), they started lighting the fireworks. there were people there, but not as much as in past years. i figured people are still a bit wary about being in crowds, with the pandemic not completely over yet. but i didn't bother with a mask, and most everyone i saw there weren't masking either.
somerville fireworks might not be the biggest or loudest, but what it lacks in quantity and quality, it makes up for in proximity, as the fireworks were practically overhead. i switched to my wide angle lens and took some photos, adjusting the priority (aperture/shutter) or manual setting. i'm still on the fence about seeing the 4th of july fireworks on the charles. i kind of want to catch it from a distance, using the drone to see if i can film the fireworks (and add the audio from the tv broadcast).
the fireworks was over by 9:30pm. everyone moseyed out of the area. i found my bike and rode home, reclimbing a hill to get across to cambridge.
when i got back home i made myself a peppered ham sandwich and drank some half & half lemonade. i continued watching episodes of evil, i don't know if i can finish the first season tonight before amazon prime yanks it from their service. it's not a big deal, i can just download the ones i didn't get to see yet, but it'd be a hassle. update: amazon ain't playing! as soon as the clock hit midnight, i no longer had access to evil, unless i paid $8/month to join paramount+. torrent here i come! i had less than 3 episodes left!
i left the house via motorcycle around 10:30am, my backpack full of cafe supplies. my parents needed baby cucumbers, whole wheat bread, cilantro, and linguine noodles. in the sky were dramatic clouds, to the west and south nothing but clear blue sky, but to the east and north, a swirl of low and high clouds quickly blowing away to the ocean.
there was an instant pot mini lux when i got to the cafe. at first i thought it was the one from the basement, but turns out one of my parents' neighbors through it out (looks like they're moving, cleaning their house, rented a dumpster). practically brand new, the mini lux looks like one of the earliest versions of the instant pots, missing some of the setting in later versions (like my 6-quart instant pot duo plus), like cake, yogurt, sterilize, or sous vide. the mini lux is also incredibly small at 3-quarts, like a baby instant pot, enough to make something for only 1-2 people. not sure what we'd use the mini lux for, since my parents already have a much larger 8-quart instant pot that they rarely use.
for lunch i ate what i could forage: some leftover fried rice that i mixed with some sambal oelek hot sauce, a few pieces of a frozen pizza my father cooked in the sur la table air fryer.
around 2pm i was sent on a supply run to the porter square star market, to pick up a bunch of meats (chicken leg quarters, pork loins, petite beef sirloin steaks) and some gatorade. i drove the car as there was simply too much to bring back via bike. i also grabbed some fried chicken that were on sale. i spent over $100 (all charged onto the cafe debit card) before coming back.
when i came back to the cafe i realized a few things i thought were on sale actually weren't. i swear, star market purposely makes getting a discount as difficult as possible. for example, those fried chickens i thought were on sale? for some reason i didn't get the sale price. and those pork loins? i was supposed to pay around $12, but i ended up spending more than $30 because the variety i selected wasn't on sale. the chicken wasn't worth returning, but i'd return the pork loins.
i finally went home by 4:30pm. first thing i did was go across the street to star market to return the pork loins. nobody was at the customer service desk, but a cashier saw me and flagged down a manager to help process my return. when she heard i bought it from the porter square store, she said i could only return it there. the reason: because meat product returns count as a loss (they can't resell it again), only the original store was legally obligated to absorb the return cost.
so i returned home, hopped on my bicycle, then rode to the porter square store. i forgot to bring my keys so i couldn't lock my bike, so i pretended to lock it, draping my lock over the bike frame. the girl at the customer service desk was the girl i saw earlier when originally bought the pork loins, but she didn't seem to recognize me. she processed the returns without any problems.
back at home, i got hungry enough to eat a fried chicken thigh and breast. it was good going down, but afterwards i felt kind of gross, which is usually what happens after finishing some greasy fried chicken.
i continued watching evil, i just have today and tomorrow to finish the first season before it disappears off of amazon prime. i managed to get up to episode 7, hopefully i can binge a few more later tonight and then finish the rest by tomorrow.
i didn't think i'd be hungry, but around 9:30pm i had another piece of fried chicken.
i went running today, leaving a bit after 10am, coming back about an hour around 11am. i ran around the river, stopping to walk only across the two bridges, as well as taking a drink of water from the public fountain (they seemed to have fixed the loq pressure issue). i was having an issue synching my fitness tracker to my phone, so it kept disconnecting intermittently, losing gps signal, and drew a weirdly inaccurate route map when i finally finished running. i noticed the eruv lines running along the memorial drive side of the charles river.
i came home and immediately did a load of laundry, as i was out of running shorts (i only have 3 pairs). i took a shower while that was going on. when my clothes were done washing, i hung them out to dry since it was a sunny and warm day (underwears and socks i dried them indoors).
i opened as many windows as possible, since it was too warm and stuffy in the house (78 indoors, 70 outdoors). better to let in all that cool air while i still can, before the hot and humid weather arrives by the end of the week. that reminds me: i still need to install my AC at some point. also i'm beginning to notice a sewer pipe smell in my bathroom. i never noticed during before, but all that the weather is getting warmer, all that raw sewage is starting to cook and i'm getting tiny whiffs of it through the exposed plumbing in my bathroom. a good reason to finally wall up the pipes after nearly a whole year.
i made lunch - an english muffin sandwich with egg, kielbasa, and some everything bagel seasoning. my egg for some reason had a frozen piece of ice on the inside, must be a really cold spot inside of my fridge. i ate while watching episodes of evil, a new show i'm getting into. i've known about for a while, but never got around to watching any episodes. the first season is available on amazon prime until the end of the month, so i watched an episode last night and liked it, so now i'm trying to watching all 13 episodes of the first season before downloading season 2. season 3 is currently airing on paramount+ (it was originally a CBS show).
i watched the latest installment of the january 6 hearing happening in the afternoon. trump white house aide cassidy hutchinson was giving sworn testimony over what she witness in the days before and leading to the january insurrection. it was pretty riveting, to have someone so close to the inner circle willing to speak on the record. there was a lot of new info, never before revealed. like trump wanting to march to the capitol with the mob but the secret service wouldn't let him, so he lurched at the steering wheel and tried to choke a secret service agent. or that trump had a tendency to throw food and smash plates and pull the tablecloth whenever he had a temper tantrum. trump also wanted them to get rid of the metal detectors during his january 6th rally, because there wasn't enough people in the crowd, and he wanted the sidelined protestors with guns (some with AR-15 assault rifles) regardless of the dangers that may pose.
after the hearing was over, i biked to market basket to get some groceries. i didn't bother with a mask, most of the people there weren't wearing masks either, masks are definitely in the minority now. there's a sale on peppered ham so i decided got a pound's worth and make sandwiches the rest of the week. i also picked up a few things for the cafe (which i'll deliver tomorrow morning).
when i got back home, i repotted my thanksgiving cactus. about 90% of it has dried up, i salvaged what i could and made a new batch of cactus soil: 3:2 combination of potting soil (which doesn't contain actual soil but a combination of peat moss, compost, and coconut coir) mixed with perlite. the original soil was actually pretty fluffy, just compacted from abuse. i also repotted by two pileas and some aloes, which haven't really grown much indoors, i might try putting them outdoors for better growth.
i moved all my potted houseplants off of the deck (onto the backyard table) and then cleaned the deck, in preparation for oiling on thursday. with my upstairs neighbors away at the cape indefinitely, this week is the best time to treat the deck with austrialian timber oil. i basically swept it of dust and debris, then scrubbed some remnant algae (that i didn't remove with the pressure washer) with a oxi-clean solution, followed by one final rinse from the garden hose.
around 8pm i brought in my clothes that'd been hanging from my backyard deck. they were all dry, but hung-dry clothes have a stiff starchy feel that soft dryer dried clothes don't have.
i wasn't hungry until 9:30pm, made a simple peppered ham sandwich with whole wheat bread, along with a slice of american cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and some kewpie mayo. i ate dinner while continuing watching evil.
the last time it rained was 8 days ago, happened overnight, enough to fill half our rain barrels. but given how hot and dry it'd been since then, it took us just a few days to use up all that water. what we needed was a serious soaking rain, one that hasn't happened in quite a while. in fact, most of eastern massachusetts is currently under a moderate drought warning. however, that deluge we'd been waiting for finally happened today.
the day was grey but dry. my mother - who never checks the weather - even said it wouldn't rain today. but i knew otherwise, with my sources telling me the best rain for rain would be between noontime to 5pm. earlier this morning my father mowed the lawn in anticipation of the rain that would then water the grass. he also disassembled the tent stove. i spent an hour weeding the southwestern corner of the yard, in the neglected garlic chive and daylily patches. i pulled up celandines, yellow wood sorrels, creeping bellflowers, grass, nightshade, smartweeds, lamb's quarters, and most importantly swallow-worts. i also turned the compost with a pitch fork, mixing the fresh grass clippings with the dried dead leaves from last fall.
about 11am it began to rain. a slight drizzle at first that started to build up into a heavier rain. i stayed outside as long as i could, armed with an umbrella, checking that the rain barrels were all collecting.
i went inside to eat some wonton soup my mother had made and to wait out the rain. i'd go outside intermittently to take photos. the rain didn't come in a large mass but rather in bands, so it's rain for a bit, stop, then rain again. after the first band we filled maybe 1/5 of the rain barrels and was worried it'd stopped raining, but by the end of the day we had so many bands of rain we more than enough filled all 12 of our barrels. this should last us for a while but the good news is we're due for some more rain saturday, an all day affair, so the plants are going to be happy.
my father wired up a 2.1mm power jack to one of his lithium battery box yesterday and today he made some LED lights to take advantage of the new power port. we also watched a youtube video to learn how to wire a 3-pole led rocker switch.
the weather condition was such - wet, hot, humid - that it made the musty old carpets begin to smell. the rain was along the edge of a cold front, so unlike yesterday when the temperature reached 90 degrees, today it was a much cooler 70's. we didn't need to use the AC's, just opened a few windows to allow the cool breeze to come in.
around 5pm my father barbecued the drumstick meat on the grill despite the rain. this was easier said than done, since some of the cuts were small and were in danger of falling through the grill. the chicken also stuck to the grill as well. finally, my father didn't cook it long enough, and when we brought it inside to eat, i ate into a raw chicken piece that immediately sapped my appetite. i took the remaining chicken and went back outside to grill them again. even though i managed to cook the chicken, i couldn't get that barbecued taste, and some of the pieces were over-cooked. when it comes to drumsticks, it's easier just to leave them as-is instead of trying to do too much. our, if you're going to render drumstick meat, the best option is double-fried.
i couldn't go home after dinner, as i waited for the last band of rain to pass over the area. i didn't leave until almost 8pm. the thought did cross my mind that i might see a dramatic sunset, but riding back i didn't see any signs of that. however, my sister sent me photos later of double rainbows and amazing sky colors, and likewise i found similar photos online, so i missed a great opportunity to see something special.
i finished watching crimes of the future, david cronenberg's latest film. he's one of the last remaining weird cinema directors, his specialty being body horror. i don't know if i'd recommend crimes of the future, unless you're a fan of cronenberg and his brand of bizarre. the only other director i can think of who also relishes in weirdness is david lynch, his last project being the twin peaks revival in 2017.