i woke up at 8:30am this morning to ride my bike to harvard square in the freezing cold to meet my cable modem seller. it was so cold that tears started streaming down my cheeks involuntarily, making it look like i've been crying. i was to meet my seller in front of 1 mifflin place, which used to be a penguins bookstore, but now a fedex office print shop. i felt a little awkward, didn't want anyone to think i was loitering. EJ texted me and said he was 4 minutes away, i wrote back that i was already here. a large black SUV pulled up to an empty parking spot and out came a well-dressed asian man, not chinese, rather korean. "tony?" he asked. "EJ?" i responded. he handed me the modem box, i gave him $30. he asked me to check it just to confirm everything was there. he said he bought it a year ago, but recently switched to verizon FIOS and didn't need it anymore. though he lives in medford and works in waltham, he was in cambridge for an early morning meeting. i returned home by 9:20am.

normally i make my blueberry muffins in the late morning and don't eat it until the early afternoon. since i was already up, i decided to start making the muffins now, so they'd be ready by lunchtime. around 9:45am sandy woke up. the first thing she did was to boil some water in the electric kettle. the fact that she was up i took to be a good sign, but when i cleared the countertop to make room so she could prepare her lunch, she said she didn't need it and took a mug of hot water into her bedroom. oh oh. after an hour had gone by i suspected she wasn't going to work, but i tried to be optimistic. around noontime she cooked some lunch, and when she brought her food and her laptop into the living room, i knew she'd be home the rest of the day.

so the blueberry muffins this time around i made sure i had all the right ingredients in the right portions. so that meant 4 tbsp of corn starch to 2 cups of flour. i ran out of king arthur all-purpose flour and opened up a new package of pillsbury beset all purpose flour (1-1/2 cups of king arthur, 1/2 cup of pillsbury). i didn't subtract 4 tbsp of flour and simply added the additional 4 tbsp of corn starch. the other thing that i noticed that was different was the batter seemed soupier than usual. that shouldn't be the case, since i'm adding an additional 4 tbsp of corn starch; maybe when i was measuring the flour there were air pockets and i didn't get a full cup. it didn't matter anyway once i added frozen blueberries since it quickly thickened the batter.

the muffins were done by 11am. i tried one, couldn't really say if they were better or worse compared to last time. these muffins do have a tastier crust however, not sure if it's because of the corn starch or maybe i never noticed it before. i use a mic of 1 cup regular blueberries and 1 cup wild blueberries. wild berries seem to taste better, the regular ones include some very large berries that aren't sweet at all and taste more like sour cranberries. i also don't really notice if these are fluffier, and if anything, they seem a little flatter like maybe it collapsed on itself.

for my next blueberry muffin challenge, i would like to make a dozen at a time, since it's a waste of oven space whenever i make just 6. i have two jumbo muffin tins just for this occasion.

i also have a cabbage i got on sunday, was going to turn it into sauerkraut, before i realized that the old sauerkraut i had in the fridge was still edible. true, it's been aged 2 years, and doesn't look fresh at all, but there's no mold in the jar, no funky smells, and when i tasted some, i didn't get sick afterwards. i still prefer the taste of fresh sauerkraut though, so i maybe just start a new batch as i have plenty of empty jars, no need to throw out the old sauerkraut just yet.

i called back comcast xfinity to ask them to switch my parents' soon-to-be-installed account from my name to theirs. the woman i spoke to over the phone was kind of rude, and didn't seem like she wanted to help out. she basically told me that was impossible, and the only way was to cancel the installation and get my parents to call back themselves. i also asked if there was anything special i had to do if i had my own modem, she said no. after hanging up, i called back again, hoping to get a better agent. i was rerouted through the phone tree, put on automatic hold for several minutes, then automatically lost connection. a few seconds later i got a phone call, a different agent was calling me back. though this agent was much more polite, i could tell it was coming from a call center as the person had a thick indian accent. still, he turned out to be more helpful, and didn't immediately tell me i couldn't change the name. what i did sort of find out is even though the account is in my name, once the installation is finished and activated, i have the option of creating a new account with a new username. so i guess i'll find out for sure come friday morning.

actually when sandy is home i'm more productive. not so much updating my backlog of blog entries (her presence is still distracting), but in order to pass the time, i find other projects to work on. one of them is finally creating the google sheet formulas for the cafe expense report using data pulled from the cafe bank account. i called my father to let him know i was done and that everything should be working now.

the vivosun 10 gallon grow bags arrived today. they're a lot larger than i'd imagined, i'm glad i didn't try getting something even larger. at that size, it'd take 2 bags of garden soil to fill. i'm going to use at least one in my community garden for delicate crops, those that are most susceptible to critter damage. back in belmont i could use even more grow bags to extend the already existing raised beds.

a muffin in the late morning simply wasn't enough and i got hungry again in the afternoon. normally if i was home alone i'd be pigging out on junk food, but since sandy was around, i was on my best behavior and finished a bowl of carrots. i also drink several tall glasses of loose chinese tea. i've discovered since last night that having tea in a tall glass is better than an insulated mug because the tea cools down faster, making it more drinkable, compared to the insulated mug which stays hot for longer. i can also see the tea in the glass, which makes it easier to know how much tea i have left and whether or not i need a refill. i ended up having several long bathroom breaks because i drank so much tea. i just hope it won't keep me up at night.

i started making dinner at 6pm as i was getting hungry again. i still have leftover corned beef in the fridge, but i decided to eat the honey garlic chicken leftover from 2 weeks ago, mixed with a pot of korean install noodles. it was a weird combination, as the chicken tasted awful, but it was still food, and i didn't have to throw away any leftovers.

later in the evening i tossed out the trash. just like last week, the trash smelled awful, as sandy throws away meat byproducts directly into the trash. i've since learned to keep my "meat trash" frozen or sealed tightly in a separate bag, to be tossed out on trash night. it's not a discussion worth having since she leaves in just 18 more days.

sandy went to bed at 12:30am, taking a shower before going to sleep. who knows what she's going to be doing tomorrow. i may bike down to the arnold arboretum to check up on the wintersweet and to see any early blooming flowers.

at nights i wait for sandy to go to sleep; in the mornings i wait for her to wake up. continuing from last night's late bed time and how that means she wasn't plan on going to work the next day, this morning i'm waiting to see when she'll get up. normally it's around 10am, but any later than that means for sure she'll be working from home. another bad sign: normally she makes lunch for herself the next day but i didn't see food on the kitchen counter. what is it about mondays and skipping work? maybe that's her routine back at home, since she told me she only goes into the office a few times a week because it takes her 4 hours roundtrip just to commute from her town into london and back. the worst part is since i'm waiting for her to leave, i'm afraid to use the bathroom because i don't know when she'll wake up and need to use it.

i called the belmont highway department this morning to put in a request to have the tree warden come take a look at the maple tree outside my parents' place. the woman just took my name and address, adding that the tree warden works part time so it could take a few weeks before they get back to me. i didn't offer her any details so i decided to send the highway department an e-mail explaining the situation, that the tree had been pruned 2 years ago, but that we still feel the large overhanging branch above the driveway poses a threat.

next i called verizon to see if i could score a better deal on my parents' cable/internet service. they currently pay $125/month: $40 for 50/50 fiber optic internet, $40 for HD cable, $26 for equipment rental (each cable box is $10/each and $6 for the gateway router), and $19 in fees (MA state sales tax, PEG grant fee, regulatory recovery fee, license fee, franchise costs, regional sports network fee, broadcast fee). my father said nobody in the house really watches cable anymore, with my mother always on netflix and my father on youtube. he did ask about youtube tv last night, wonder if it'd be better to get that instead of cable for just $40/month with far less equipment rentals and fees. since we also use verizon for our phone service, it automatically redirected me to their phone division when it recognized my number. i had to navigate the phone tree before finally getting to speak to a live operator.

fitzgerald was my agent's name. earlier i'd written down a bunch of numbers and data on a notepad, so i was ready with whatever pitch she'd try to sell me. i knew we couldn't just simply remove the cable, since only in tandem would we get the discount; with internet alone, the 50/50 internet price would jump from $40 to $80/month. but i let fitzgerald "find" me the best bargain. she came with back this: $78/month for 100/100, which includes the gateway router rental, but doesn't include the $149 service fee for having a technician come to the house to switch the fiber optic from coaxial to ethernet. though cheaper than what my parents pay now, it wasn't bargain. especially since i already knew that verizon currently had a promotional deal of $40/month for 100/100 internet plus a $50 visa card and $99 service charge waived. the only caveat is that it's for new customers only. my agent knew about the deal, but said it didn't include the gateway router rental which is $12/month, and after fees, the real price is more like $56/month. regardless, my parents wouldn't qualify since they're not new customers. i kept pushing though, told her about the $35/month comcast xfinity deal for 60/5 internet, that i was thinking about switching to them, and whether or not verizon FIOS has any retention service for keeping old customers. she wouldn't budge, and said they don't have any retention services. that's when i basically decided we would switch to xfinity comcast, and got the details of how exactly to cancel our verizon FIOS service.

i then called comcast xfinity. i also had to dig around in their automated phone tree, as it also recognized my number and though i was calling about my own internet service. i finally got an agent, danielle. i told her i was a new customer and wanted to get just internet service. she asked about my parents' internet habits, and recommended the 100/25 for $65/month guaranteed for 1 year before increasing to $102/month with a $60 service fee for a technician to come out and inspect the cable since we haven't had comcast for over 5 years. i told her about the 60/5 internet only plan i saw online for $35/month for 1 year. she said with streaming, i might encounter issues, but i told her i had the exact same plan, and i've never explained any problems with streaming before. that seemed to quiet her up. i also asked about the service fee. at first she said there was no discount, but i told her about the $30 charge waiver, and she gave me that as well. it doesn't include the $13/month for cable modem rental, but she did ask if i had my own, and i told her i would get one this week, so i don't expect to pay for the comcast modem. she did try to sell me on the value of going with comcast equipment, with upgrades and repairs and replacements whatnot, and that their modem comes with wifi, but i told her i had my own router so i didn't need any of that.

so in the end i scheduled a friday morning installation, between 10am-12pm. they have a guarantee that if the technician is late by even just a minute, i get a $20 discount. as soon as the comcast xfinity internet goes live, i'll call up verizon fios and cancel that account immediately. they're actually pretty good about equipment returns, they'll send me a postage paid box for me to put everything in and drop it off.

sandy actually woke up when i was making those calls to the various cable/internet companies, and left around 11:30am. that came as a shock to me as i was sure she was working from home today and even turned up the heat. after she left, after i finished with the calls, i told my mother about the friday appointment, then went to go use the bathroom finally, before taking a shower. i went to star market to get some canned sauerkraut and left for belmont via bike, arriving by 1pm.

my mother made some mian-ge-da for me for lunch. while i was waiting, my father and i set up the HDTV antenna i brought over so we could see how many OTA channels we could receive. about the same number of channels at my place, though NBC 15 and WGBX 44 were both a little spotty. but the other channels came in loud and clear, and if i didn't tell you it was coming over the airwaves, you would've sworn they were cable broadcasts.

i know rabbits are still getting into the backyard and have been eating the crocuses. but how come they haven't eaten the columbines yet? that's when i learned that rabbits don't like the taste of columbines, and they learn to avoid it.

since it's comcast xfinity internet, i'll need to get a cable modem. it's been a while since i bought anything on craig's list, but it felt like riding a bike. actually i'd already did some light searching last night, and knew a seller on medford trying to get rid of a motorola surfboard SB6141 docsis 3.0 cable modem. i contacted the person who wrote me back an hour later. i said i'd be available most of the day tomorrow, but he told me he had to work. fortunately, he was heading into porter square tomorrow morning, and we could meet there to do the exchange.

i am very familiar with the SB6141. in fact, i've purchased 3 in the past, replacing the aging cable modem at my sister's place ($50 used), the cafe ($40 used), and my own place ($23 factory refurbished). this will be my fourth SB6141. i had an option to purchase a brand new netgear DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem for $45, but i've found these motorola surfboards to be very dependable, so i decided to stick with what i know.

by the end of daylight hours something remarkable happened: we broke another production record for the year (42.12 kWh), even though there were some dips in the graphic line in the late morning due to clouds. had it been a crystal clear sky, we should've been able to make 44.69 kWh, which was what we made exactly a year ago on this date.

my parents decided to finish the last of the corned beef for dinner, making 4 reuben sandwiches. my father had cut the brisket into thick slices to be gently reheated on the stove with some brine liquids. since there was only enough slices for 3 sandwiches, we decided to break apart the corned beef so it'd be easier to distribute to the 4 sandwiches. while my father grilled the rye bread slices in a buttered pan, i was in charge with assembling the sandwiches: a layer of swiss cheese, a slather of russian dressing, a layer of shredded corned beef, a thick layer of sauerkraut, then sliced everything in half.

i left early, a bit after 6:30pm, partly because i forgot to recharge my front bike light and i wanted to get home while there was still daylight, but also i wanted to get back before sandy did so she wouldn't know i left the house today. unfortunately i wasn't quick enough, and i saw the light in the bathroom and i knew she was taking a shower. i got back inside right when she finished, before she went into the kitchen to make dinner and chat with kelvin. she continued chatting after 8pm, when she was already done with dinner, retreating back into her room. i didn't see her the rest of the night. she came out around 12am to use the bathroom before going to bed for good.

it was already 10pm and my cable modem seller never got back in touch with me so i e-mailed him. he texted me, said i was at dinner, and asked if i wouldn't mind meeting him tomorrow morning at harvard square instead. though a bit farther than porter square, it was still a lot closer than medford. we ironed out the details. i wasn't surprised to discover that the seller is actually chinese. for some reason, about half the time i buy anything off of craig's list, it's been a chinese seller. maybe chinese people are just better at making a profit off of their junk instead of simply throwing it out onto the curb like the rest of us.

i arrived in belmont sometime after 11am with all the ingredients necessary to make some reuben sandwiches, minus the corned beef that'd been cooking in my parents' slow cooker from yesterday. the brisket was still in the crock pot, with a layer of fat floating on the surface even after my father already scooped off the fat earlier. after removing this new fat layer, we took the corned beef out of the slow cooker. my father split it in half, then cut one half into slices for the sandwiches. i found out from my own experience that a reuben sandwich is best with warm corned beef, so i heated up the brisket in a small pot with some brining liquids while toasting the rye bread in a pan with butter. my father helped me toast the bread while i assembled the sandwiches.

the reuben sandwiches turned out pretty good, each one with a thick layer of warm corned beef. eating a single sandwich was like eating a large hamburger with the amount of beef used.

i always know when sandy isn't planning on going to work tomorrow, when she stays up late. such was the case tonight. she usually prepares for bed before midnight, but heading into the after hours she was still punching away on her keyboard. i even took my nightly pills, which she recognizes as my signal that i'm about to go to sleep. finally, thankfully, she turned off her macbook, folded up the fleece blanket, and went to bed. still, her normal routine is to skip work on mondays. the only monday i can remember that she didn't skip work was actually the one day that she should've, our last big snowstorm. i'm not sweating over it too much. she only has 20 more days left in cambridge, with just 3 more mondays left to skip.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed et aliquam ipsum. Aenean hendrerit faucibus feugiat. Cras ac purus facilisis, mollis turpis sed, congue ipsum. Fusce eleifend arcu lorem. Morbi lacinia aliquet sapien, a tempus felis porttitor quis. Phasellus non neque facilisis, venenatis neque vehicula, blandit nibh. Suspendisse eu malesuada mauris, nec ullamcorper magna. Fusce a auctor lectus. Vivamus accumsan est nec nunc interdum tincidunt. Nulla pellentesque massa ex, nec faucibus nibh ornare eget. Sed sit amet quam eu odio tempor consectetur id a justo. Vivamus vel tellus ut erat varius venenatis. Curabitur arcu lectus, maximus vitae odio ut, vehicula fermentum arcu. Morbi eget metus sollicitudin, tincidunt magna ut, finibus libero.

i went to a harvard lunch lecture titled, "animal transition and subsistence strategy on an ancient chinese island: a zooarchaeological study of the xiaozhushan site." even though i got there 15 minutes before the lecture started, i was still the very first person to arrive. the woman who gave the talk about chinese dialects last week was there, we nodded to each other politely. the chinese speaker had a thick accent that was hard to understand at times, but his slides were good enough to follow. interestingly, he was using a pointer technology i've under seen before, where the screen goes dim except for a circular highlight.

he discussed the archaeological excavation on guanglu island off the eastern coast of dalian, liaoning province. the island was apparently a stone age camp, where ancient people hunted several species of deers as well as subsisting on area seafood (as evidenced by the large midden site excavation). the dig comprised of several phases, each representing a specific time period. what's interesting is as the wildlife game decreased due to human pressure, domesticated animals started to be introduced, primarily pigs, followed by dogs and cows. isotope and mitochondrial DNA analysis as well as migration maps of domesticated animals showed that pigs came from the south across the water while the cattle arrived over land from the north.

afterwards the audience asked some interesting questions, especially those from the supervising chair, but the speaker had a hard time understanding english and many inquiries were left unanswered. i sat next to an annoying young man who arrived late armed with a paper plate of sandwiches. during the Q&A, he kept waving his arm truculently to ask a question while the chair was talking. i almost whispered to him to ask the question afterwards instead of causing a scene. some people who saw him were giggling, chances are he's probably on the autistic spectrum.

i went to market basket to pick up another corned beef for this weekend. i bought the largest point cut i could find, at nearly 5 lbs., since the brisket will shrink after cooking. i came back and parked the bike in the basement (raining tomorrow), also discovering that steve had left one of the lights on overnight.

i answered an e-mail from victory installers regarding the nest thermostat, apparently they never got my replies, so i sent them again using my gmail account (sometimes my personal e-mail gets filtered as spam). i ended up contacting two more installers for quotes, homewiz and saper systems, both ironically enough based in belmont (homewiz has an office next to the very first belmont apartment we lived in when we first came to the US).

i did a load of laundry and returned to my overdue project of updating the cafe website to a wordpress page. i uninstalled the existing site based on the delizus theme and went with a fresh install. i went back to the sevill theme primarily because it had a menu system that allowed me to customize the price data for different items. a lot of the other cafe themes had menu designed for online ordering, so the price always had to be just a single number, and can't account for different size portions. i did want to try a theme that used something other than bakery page builder, but i'll play with a different builder in the future for another site.

my replacement pair of neewer 35W 5500K tri-phosphor CFL photo studio lights arrived yesterday but i was only now checking them out. it took a minute before i realized one of the bulbs seemed to be defective, dimmer than the other. i ended up taking out all my photo bulbs and sure enough, one of the new ones seemed broken. after a while though, it seemed to get brighter, so maybe it just needs some time to warm enough. having made the switch to LED bulbs, i'd forgotten that CFL can get pretty warm, though not as hot as incandescent bulbs. i've still yet to take a single photo using these photo bulbs. maybe i'll put them to use for some food photos. i need a way to mount these lights and some diffusers as well.

the day was overcast but bright, leaving us with 21.93 kWh of electricity. it didn't turn dark until well after 7pm, around the time sandy came home. i had a repeat of last night's dinner: first a large bowl of salad + sweet pepper rings + thousand island dressing, followed by a corned beef sandwich. i tried to recreate a reuben tonight, toasting the rye bread in butter first before adding a slice of swiss cheese, some thousand island dressing (i finished the bottle), and some canned sauerkraut. the corned beef was cold so no matter what it wasn't as delicious as a warm sandwich. maybe tomorrow i'll boiled the beef before adding it to the sandwich, and maybe leave it covered in the pan to warm everything back up after assembly.

sandy was already in the bathroom when i woke up this morning at 9:30am. i fed my fish and waited in the living room for her to finish. after she left for work i took care of the leftover corned beef water. it'd congealed overnight and i skimmed off the thick layer of fat floating on the surface. the remaining liquids i poured back onto the corned beef, removing a section to give to my parents to sample. i put the container of fat in the fridge, to be tossed out with the trash next week.

at 11am i began making a new batch of blueberry muffins. i was still going with homemade cake flour but this time i wouldn't forget about the baking powder. i would also add the frozen blueberries directly into the batter without leaving them out to accidentally defrost and leak their staining juices.

cake flour
blueberry muffins
(6 servings)

1 stick salted butter
3/4 cups sugar

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups flour*
4 2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 cup half and half
2 cups frozen blueberries
cooking spray

* cake flour: subtract equal tbsp amount of corn starch from flour. ‡ should be 4 tbsp of corn starch; cake flour is 2 tbsp of corn starch for every 1 cup of regular flour. cream butter & sugar; add eggs, vanilla, juice; mix dry ingredients into batter 1/3 at a time, adding some half and half in between. bake at 425°F 10 min. 375°F 30 mins. + additional 10 minutes

i used a 1 quart plastic yogurt container to mix the dry ingredients. i ended up switching to a bigger container because i wasn't sure if everything was getting properly mixed, as there wasn't very much space left after i filled it with everything. i creamed the sugar and butter by hand with a spoon again. i still wouldn't call it a cream but at least i managed to mix the two ingredients together so i ended up with a soft lump of sugared butter.

by adding frozen blueberries directly into the batter, i still couldn't stop the blueberry juice from staining everything, but it wasn't as bad as last time when i set the blueberries out first while i worked, resulting in them defrosting a bit and leaking even more juices into the batter, turning it almost completely purple. after the 10 minute mark i checked on their baking progress: i don't know if there was any good rise, but at least the batter had settled and everything looked normal. i'm still using an old can of baking powder; i'm curious to know if i'll get a better rise once i start using my new can. i'm also still using old flour but that wouldn't have any effect on the muffin size.

in the end i still made a mistake: instead of 4 tbsp of corn starch (cake flour = 1 cup flour: 2 tbsp of corn starch), i added just 2 tbsp. the muffins came out okay, better than last time because i added the baking powder into the dry ingredients, but maybe it would be even fluffier had i had 2 tbsp more of corn starch. also next time i'm not going to subtract equal amounts of flour, i'm just going to simply add the corn starch in addition to everything else. 4 tbsp of extra flour ingredient isn't going to make much of a difference, and the extra volume might even make for taller muffins.

the muffins turned out okay. contrary to what i saw when i opened the oven, they had a good rise with decent muffin tops. at the time i didn't know i'd accidentally skimped on the corn starch; if i didn't find out, i would've thought these were the best muffins i've made yet.

the muffin i tried was moist and fluffy, with a flavorful crust. despite blueberry juice stains mixing in the batter, the interior remained pale for the most part. some of the larger blueberries melted and tasted more like bitter cranberries. i made some aeropress decaffeinated french vanilla coffee to go along with my muffin lunch.

i ordered the snow joe 18-inch snow broom sunday night during an amazon lightning deal sale for $9.99 (it typically sells for $12.49) and it finally arrived today. from the description it looked awfully similar to the snow pro roof rake we use to clean our solar panels (inaugural solar panel snowing cleaning). the snow pro cost us at least $25 (plus an additional $6.50 for shipping) and after two winters, it's starting to look a little battered so it was time to look for a replacement, or at least a backup. the snow joe snow broom is designed for removing snow from cars. it took features a foam brush head so as not to scratch delicate car paint. i was afraid it might be made from a hard foam but i was happy to discover the foam was quite soft, similar to the snow pro. the thing that i like is the snow broom can be screwed on to any standard handle, so it's completely compatible with our long extensible roof rake handles. the snow broom comes with it's own extending handle but we don't have any use for it since it's far too short. i also like that the snow broom is much larger than the snow pro, better at removing more snow. too bad i personally believe the snow season is over, we'll just have to wait until next winter to use the snow broom.

i went to the cafe after i finished baking the muffins to deliver some for my parents. it also gave me a chance to bring some corned beef for them to try. my mother was just about to leave for ac moore with my sister's godmother. my 2nd aunt had also dropped by, hoping to get some more knitting help from my mother. as the corned beef was cold, it was easier to slice compared to last night. cutting across the grain, i got a chance to see the nice marbling on the inside. everyone tried a piece of beef, although i think it'd taste better if heated slightly. biking home, i saw a turkey at the intersection of huron avenue, first time in many months. if the turkeys are back, spring must not be far behind.

* lecture at the harvard art museum: jenny so – rare and beautiful objects, new and unexpected findings: revisiting harvard’s early chinese jades

i woke up at 8am to use the bathroom and didn't fall back to sleep afterwards. instead, i surfed the web from bed, eventually waking up for good at 9:30am. every morning i play the waiting game to see when sandy will wake up and if she'll go to work. today she got up at 10am. i heard the electric kettle running and also the sound of backpack zippers closing, a good sign. after she finished using the bathroom, i heard her fussing around in the kitchen, which made me worried that maybe she wasn't leaving after all. but then she finally appeared in the living room all dressed and left by 10:10am. 90 hours later she was finally going back to work.

i contacted nest to get a professional installer to take a look at the cafe thermostat. they have a list of authorized local installers. instead of calling them, i had the option of choosing 3 and getting quotes from them online. i picked two of their top electricians (elite grade) and one based in watertown (victory installers) because it was nearby. victory contacted me first, asked for more details and photos. power IOT got in touch with me later in the afternoon, but it was an automated message to visit their website to get a quote and make a service call. i took a look but they seem expensive, so i'm hoping victory will get in touch with me again tomorrow to arrange an appointment.

at 11am i biked to market basket to pick up a package of corned beef. temperature had risen to the lower 40's but there was still a chill in the air as i put on my hat and gloves. the sun was out but a lot of puffy white clouds dotted the sky meant an okay but not great solar production day. i've never seen briskets for sale before but now they were everywhere, though of the vacuum-sealed corned variety. there were pricier cuts but i picked the cheapest one, a 4.81 lbs. freirich point cut selling for $1.69/lbs. ($8.13). i also grabbed a can of sauerkraut (75¢) and some rye bread ($2.50), figured i could make a rueben sandwich later tonight.

back at home, i removed the corned beef from the packaging and put it in the slow cooker. i have a rival SCV401 crock pot, which i found on the street a few years ago. it's only 4-quarts and the brisket took up so much space i wouldn't have be able to cook any additional vegetables (like traditional corned beef potatoes and cabbage). i filled up the rest of the dish with hot water until it just about covered the beef then i added the content of the spice packet. the portion was so small and weak (hardly any smells) i ended up adding a tablespoon of pickling spice to give it more flavor. i then set it on high and left it to slow cook the rest of the day.

i had more yogurt-granola-blueberry for lunch. in the late afternoon i got hungry again and had some pita bread with tzatziki along with a glass of homemade banana milk (one ripe banana + 1 cup of whole milk). the house smelled of fragrant corned beef.

at 3pm the slab of corned beef had shrunken into a floating ball of meat that was poking the slow cooker lid. i decided to flip it to cook the exposed side and added some more hot water. at 5pm the liquid was bubbling so much i turned the heat down to low. the beef also seemed to have softened up a bit as well, though it was still floating. out of curiosity i tasted a bit of the broth - i was expecting it to be salty, but it was actually kind of mild, a bit oily, but very spicy (hot spicy).

i continued turning the corned beef a few times during the course of the slow cook, to make sure all sides had time to submerge in the liquids. i also added some water whenever it looked like there wasn't enough. by 6:30pm the corned beef had started to sink once more, which i took as a sign that it had finally finished cooking. i finally stopped the slow cooker by 7pm, shortly after sandy came home.

i carefully lifted the corned beef into a serving dish with two large spoons. i tried a small piece that'd broken off. i was worried it'd be bland because i added so much water during the course of the slow cook, but the tender corned beef tasted plenty salty. i couldn't really taste any of the spices though, but the overall flavor was a savory saltiness, reminded me of some of the slow-cooked salted pork my parents sometimes make. there was also a noticeable oiliness to the beef, which came from all that reduced fat melted in the liquids. maybe a leaner flat cut would reduce the oiliness. i also wondered how much better the flavor would be if i corned a slab of raw brisket myself over a period of weeks then slow cooked it.

i tried cutting it across the grains but the fresh-cooked corned beef was so tender it basically broke apart. i decided to wait until it cooled before trying to cut it into individual slices. i did take a portion, broke it up into pieces, and put it on some rye bread for a sandwich. i had some sauerkraut but didn't use any because i wanted to taste the corned beef as is. while sandy was making dinner in the kitchen, i gave her some corned beef to try, and later gave her a larger piece for lunch tomorrow.

the leftover liquids smelled delicious, but there was a thick layer of oil floating on top, so i didn't dare taste it again. i left the liquids in the slow cooker bowl overnight, allowing the fat to congeal so i could remove it and save the remaining liquids.

even though it was cloudy today and the sky milky on occasions, we still managed to make 36.42kWh. 5kWh shy of the current record, but not bad. we've already made 353kWh this month, and we're not even 2 weeks into march yet.

i was up by 9am but surfed the web from bed for 30 minutes before finally getting up. i had a bowl of yogurt for breakfast mixed with granola and fresh blueberries. my upstairs neighbors were especially noisy this morning; later i saw they'd hired a cleaning service. maybe they're thinking about renting out their place again, which is fine by me, anybody would be less noisy than them. i'd heard sandy's alarm go off at 9am but she didn't actually wake up until 11am. the electric kettle was running but 20 minutes later she was still at home. a peek in the kitchen revealed she was working off her laptop from the island. it appears she would not be going to work today.

not that it mattered too much since i left the house at 12:30pm, didn't even bother letting sandy know as she was back in her bedroom. i biked to the cafe where i was meeting up with my parents for a restaurant depot errand run. i was hoping we'd also hit the chelsea market basket nearby, so i could pick up some corned beef, but i decided i'd simply get it from the somerville market basket instead. at restaurant depot my mother found my father's lost credit card, which was in her vest pocket; i almost called the bank today to get a replacement card.

afterwards we stopped off at the fellsway plaza to visit ac moore, aldi, harbor freight, and ocean state job lot. my father was looking for battery cable lugs: harbor freight carried either the tiny ring connectors (too small) or beefy thick lugs (too large and too expensive), so we left empty-handed. when we went inside OSJL, my mother was already checking out. i wanted to take a look at their seed selection, but i already have enough to start.

after dropping off the supplies back at the cafe, i biked to my parents' place while they drove the car. i helped my father order a 36 cell 20V 100W flexible solar panel off of ebay ($108) along with a 30A solar panel controller ($10.59). the controller will come in about a week but the panel itself might take a few weeks since it's coming from china.

after dinner i biked back to cambridge. since it was daylight saving time, it felt weird to be riding home while it was still light out. when i got back home, i noticed that my upstairs neighbors had put some trash bins in front of my furnace exhausts. worst case scenario, the furnace will stop working if it can't get enough fresh air, and blocking the exhausts could also fill the basement will deadly carbon monoxide. they also finally took down their christmas tree as well as the christmas trees, which i've been wanting to remove back in january.

sandy was in her bedroom and came out to make some dinner. she came into the living room to eat, and asked if i had dinner yet since she didn't hear me cooking. did she not know i was gone most of the day? we watched the season finale of the passage followed by the good doctor. she went to bed by midnight, unlike last night when i'd already retired by 1am and she stayed up until 2am. who knows if she's going to work tomorrow.

i was hoping that the forecast of heavy rain after a bit of snow would've cleared away enough precipitation that i didn't have to shovel today. but my mother called me at 10:40am (actually 9:40am since up until yesterday we were still under standard time) saying that my father was coming to pick me up to do some shoveling. i looked out the window and sure enough the landscape was blanketed in white. i went out to clear my sidewalk in the brief amount of time that i had and i ended up cleaning everything, as there was about an inch of wet snow at most, easy to shovel.

with the change to rain and above freezing temperature for the next 36 hours, we really didn't have to shovel since the snow would turn to slush and melt away by tomorrow. but my father also wanted to replace the paddles on the toro snowblower with the crescent wrenches i brought, so that was another reason why we were up this sunday. the paddles ended up taking far longer to install, with very hard to reach screws that required additional tools we were missing (needle nose pliers, straight-on hex wrench) and a two-person job that required one person to press the rubber paddle and screw in place while another turned the nut. after we attached one paddle, i went out to do some shoveling. by then it had already transitioned to rain. i made fairly quick work of the slush, and the restaurant people had already cleared the area around their entrance, so i didn't have to do that.

back inside the cafe, i helped my father attached the other rubber paddle. one of the holes was too small and he was trying to make it bigger with a knife. in the process he'd knocked over a can of white pepper powder and was cleaning that up. he had also filed the plastic scraper underneath the snowblower (really should be replaced, but in the meantime filed down so the burrs won't scrape against the new paddles). the final screw (on the bottom right most corner of the paddle) was so difficult to get in that we both nearly gave up. the sidewalk had already been shoveled, our work was pretty much done. that's when we found a straight-on hex wrench to replace the small L-shaped wrench we'd been using but couldn't get any leverage. with that we were finally able to install that last screw.

pushing the snowblower back into the tool shed behind my sister's place, my father fired up the toro to clear a portion of sidewalk and my sister's backyard. by that point the rain was falling pretty heavily, approaching a downpour. only then did my sister finally come out. she didn't even clear her steps, which i ended up doing. we finally left by 1pm, dropping my sister off in harvard square while we took her dog back home to belmont.

our worked continued in belmont, where we first cleared the sidewalk and driveway, before moving on back to clean the snow off of the solar panels. it wasn't difficult, the rain had "greased" the panels and gentle pushes was all that was needed to brush off the snow that was already fall on its own. it took about 20 minutes. afterwards we went inside, my jacket layers completely soaked as well as my gloves.

i had some leftover beef stew with noodles for lunch. while my mother watched some bottom-of-the-barrow british crime drama on amazon prime, i was surfing the web and snacking on pretzel rods, dried prunes, dried figs, shelled hazelnuts, and pomegranate seltzer.

around 5:40pm my father left for the airport to pick up my sister's godmother returning from taiwan. my mother made dinner and we ate first. when my father finally came back by 7:30pm, he ate dinner before giving me a ride back to cambridge.

sandy was in the living room working on her laptop with the television off, kelvin on videochat on her ipad. they stayed connected to nearly 9pm, occasionally chattering noisily, other times saying nothing at all, while i watched television and surfed on my laptop after a shower. just 4 more weeks left before *they* leaves!

i really feel like this is the last snowstorm of the season. all next week the daytime temperatures will be in the 40's 50's 60's, and the official start of spring will be in 10 more days. i haven't even started with my indoor seedlings but i should get those started soon.