i finally processed the hot peppers i bought weeks ago from haymarket. i got them on a whim and didn't know what to do with them so they sat outside for a while then finally in the fridge. by now they were somewhat dried up, so it was either use them or throw them out.
i finally decided to throw them into the food processor and turn them into a hot sauce paste. i cut off the stems from the handful of red cayenne peppers and did the same with the one lone jalapeno. i also added a few cloves of garlic, a dash of chinese baijiu, and some salt and sugar. the sauce ended up being a lot of seeds with not too much pulp since the peppers were a bit dried out. there was no way to judge the flavor without testing, and no way to test the flavor without burning my mouth, but at least these weren't habanero peppers. after an initial test taste i decided to add another tsp of salt to enhance the flavor. the final result tasted like a somewhat generic but very spicy hot sauce, maybe the flavor will get better once it's had some time to ferment. i will give the jar of sauce to my mother, the ultimate connoisseur of hot sauces.
i left for a grocery run in the afternoon, trying to beat the arriving rainstorm scheduled to get here at 3pm. i went to get my trek utility bike and noticed that the back wheel was completely deflated. judging from the marks on the tire, i might've even been riding on a flat tire without realizing it. after pumping up the tube, i set the bike upside down to try and find any punctures, which would be the only explanation as to why the tire would deflate so much. however i couldn't find any damage and the tire seemed to be holding up well again, didn't go soft. i decided to ride with it and see.
i went to the community garden first to water my plants. all the vegetables seem to be doing well. i found a small immature cucumber, hopefully it can develop into a mature fruit. one of my tomatoes has unusually large flowers, which maybe means unusually large tomatoes down the line. the larkspurs were putting up more of a color show, with whites, violets, deep purples, and pinks. but the thing i was most excited about seeing was the flowering of my very malva zebrina. as i noted a few days ago, the plants themselves are not very tall - maybe 2 ft high - but there are many flower buds and hopefully it'll put on a long show. so far no insect pests, which is good, as these hollyhocks tend to attract a specific type of weevil invaders. i am the only gardener who's growing them and i wonder if other gardeners have noticed. they will look more spectacular once more flower buds open up.
the rear tire held up as i rode to market basket, no noticeable signs of deflation of any kind. i wonder if it naturally slow deflated and i just never noticed, but i still think it's a puncture and will need to check on the tire tomorrow (it might take more than a few hours for the tube to go flat). even though it was sometime after 3pm it didn't rain yet but the sky looked threatening, with all sorts of looming clouds. i was at the supermarket primarily to pick up some chicken thighs for my attempt at making general tso's chicken for dinner. there was a manager's special sale of $1.60 for nearly 2 lbs. of thighs. why the recipe asked for thighs instead of breast meat i don't know, but i wasn't complaining about the price. despite needing only one ingredient, i still left with about $20 worth of groceries after stocking up on some canned seltzer and a package of chicken sausage.
GC got home relatively late today. i was expecting to see him around 5:20pm, since that was the time he came home last week, but he didn't get back until 6:20pm. i know his boss is away at a conference in prague and wouldn't return until after the 4th of july holiday, so GC's even more unsupervised at work. soon after he got home he started making dinner. tonight it was beef noodles, which has zero stink.
|general tso's chicken|| |
1 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 lbs. chicken thighs
1 cup flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup dried hot peppers
1 tsp ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp corn starch slurry
i didn't begin my adventure with general tso's chicken until almost 7pm. hopefully i would have everything cooked by 8pm primetime television watching hour. i actually learned of the recipe from an animated gif i found on reddit. it took a while to transcribe the list of ingredients as i couldn't pause the gif. finally i ended up downloading the gif file so i could scrub the playback to collect the final few ingredients. there was nothing on that list that i didn't already have at home besides the chicken thighs.
earlier about 5:30pm i'd already prepared the chicken. perhaps thigh meat has more flavor, but it's not easy to work with, as i had to debone the 4 pieces of thigh and remove the skin. i'm guessing by the end i only had about 1 lbs. of actual chicken meat, which is actually the portion recommended in the recipe. into a bowl i added the chicken and the marinade, which was simply 1 cup of rice wine (i had a really old bottle i couldn't wait to use up) and 1/4 cup of soy sauce. into the fridge everything went.
general tso's chicken involved a little bit of frying, which i didn't like to do when my roommate is around because i didn't want to give him any ideas that frying is an acceptable form of cooking. i did some gentle frying however, with enough vegetable oil to only fill up 1/3 of the medium-sized pot to minimize splattering (it was leftover oil from karen anyway, and that was all that i had). i coated the chicken in batter, which was also a simple combination of 1 cup flour with 1 tbsp of salt. the batter didn't seem to coat very well but still acceptable. into the hot frying oil went the chicken, in small batches of thirds. i'm always afraid of frying, from the mess it can make, to the smells, to the danger of cooking with hot oils. this time around it wasn't mess, just a little smattering of splatter which i easily wiped with a paper towel, and there wasn't any smell because i never got the oil hot enough that it was smoking.
the fried pieces of chicken looked like nuggets of fried clams. i tasted a small piece, it was delicious, good enough that i would eat these fried chickens on their own. however they were a little salty, probably from the tbsp of salt in the batter and the soy sauce marinade. also while all this was going on, i was cooking up 1 cup of jasmine rice in the rice cooker.
next came the general tso's sauce. frying the marinated chicken already takes it up a level, but add the sweet and tangy and spicy sauce and we're off the charts. GC - who was watching me cook the whole time - let me have some of his dried hot peppers. i was going to use some frozen thai chili peppers from the freezer, but the dried peppers were more authentic. i could've used a lot more, but only used 7-8 peppers because i didn't want to exhaust GC's supply, which he told me he brought from china 6 months ago. i sauteed the chopped garlic and ginger and hot peppers first, before adding the rest of the ingredients. the sauce seemed too liquidy, even after i added the sugar. it was only when i poured in the corn starch slurry did the sauce suddenly thicken up. at that point i dumped in the fried chicken and mixed everything together. viola! general tso's chicken!
of course GC had never heard of general tso's chicken before, but he did search the name online and recognized who the general was in chinese history. general tso's chicken is entirely an american chinese food tradition. since GC already had noodles for dinner he wasn't in the mood to eat more, but tried some of the chicken. he said it tasted pretty good. i tried a piece myself. very tender, crispy, well-cooked, but the sauce was less sweet and more salty and vinegary. also no spiciness, as i feared the hot peppers weren't nearly enough. still, not bad for my first attempt at general tso's chicken. it's actually pretty easy, the only hard part is the frying and even that wasn't too bad (though seemed like a waste of good oil, even though i did save it after it cooled, maybe for a future fry). i paired the chicken with rice and nothing else (not even scallions or sesame seeds to garnish).
we ate in the living while watching a PBS documentary on the history of the chinese dynasties, starting with the song and finishing with the ming. GC brought out his cherries, told me we should eat them before they go bad, i brought out my green grapes. afterwards we watched a general tso's chicken documentary on netflix, which was the perfect way to end a meal of general tso's chicken. GC didn't believe me when i told him how pervasive the dish was in american chinese restaurants, until i showed up a bunch of chinese takeout menus and every one of them had general tso's chicken.
GC also told me something tonight that i didn't know: he doesn't use soap when he takes a shower, unless it's a day where he's been exercising and sweating a lot. he also told me he prefers staying in the house than going outside.
the documentary didn't end until close to midnight. GC said he was going to take a shower (without soap) which means i didn't see him the rest of the night as he always goes straight to bed afterwards without saying good night. only then did i finally have some time to myself to work on the weblog and even then it was just to post a few photos.
GC went to work later than usual, finally leaving the house at 10:15am. i was on the phone with jon from direct energy solar (DES) at the time for our scheduled 10am call. the fact that he made such a big deal out of scheduling a phone call made me think there would be no face-to-face consultation, and he was essentially doing his pitch over the phone, which was what ended up happening. right away he said it'd be a short phone call, only 15-20 minuts, but we ended up talking for almost an hour. he sent me a couple of proposals: one with 16 315 W LG panels, one with 16 275W QCELL panels (slightly cheaper since they produce less energy), one with 33 LG panels (maximum), and finally one with just 20 LG panels.
my father and i spent some time in the backyard digging up some more bamboo rhizomes. there was a long patch of what looked to be miniature bonsai bamboos that grow between a border of bricks and dead logs. they were easy to pull up (basically follow the trail of bamboos) but once we started digging, we discovered a large mass of underground bamboo roots. my father managed to break the head of his wooden grub hoe pole; he fixed it by cutting a new opening to insert the wedge pin.
we finally cut down the two dead plum trees in the backyard. one of them we already trimmed a few months ago, but the one covered in wisteria vines needed more work. we didn't trim it down back in the spring because my father was hoping for the wisteria to flower but all seems to be doing this year is producing leaves. some of the larger branches involved tying it with a rope and while i pull the branch downwards my father would be up on a ladder cutting into the tree with a chainsaw. the trick is to cut it about halfway so it's on the verge of breaking and then we simply pull it down where it's much easier to work with once on the ground.
now that the two trees are completely gone, there's nothing to screen the house from the backyard neighbors, so it's a bit disconcerting. it will take at least a few years of growth to have trees big enough to block our view of the neighbors. that's why the bamboos were such a great screen, in a single year you could have stalks tall enough for a screen, but they're just too much of a hassle to keep.
i showed my father the proposals for direct energy solar. the gross system cost for a solar panel system is about the same across all the companies we talked to, but DES had the most savings, from a $500 premium panel promotion to a $1260 promotional discount (16 panels, more savings with more expensive systems) which jon said was a cut from his commission fee. so not only is DES cheaper, but it's also a bigger more reputable company so the risk of the company going under is less. my father immediately decided that DES was the best option. he gave me some questions to ask jonathan, and asked if he could spec out a 23-panel system.
the last time i was in the garden was on thursday; it rained a little bit on friday and rained some more saturday morning. there was nobody in the garden today so i took my time surveying my plants.
i noticed they installed new raised beds at the back of the community garden. unfortunately, just as many have feared, the back part of the community garden doesn't get much sunlight, so whatever grows will there have to learn to survive in the shade.
my handful of annual gazanias are growing but so far no flower buds yet. one of the plants has some slug damage, but the others seem fine so far. the leaves are thick with hairs, almost like succulent leaves, so i'm kind of surprised anything would eat them. maybe the damage was caused by rabbits, but now that they're so many better things to eat in the garden, hopefully they'll leave my gazanias alone.
the mysterious plant in my plot that i suspected was a musk mallow is in fact a musk mallow, the pink flowers prove it. they're supposed to have a musky scent but the flowers barely have any fragrance to them. most of my larkspurs have flowered. this being their first year in their new location they're not especially exciting. once they seed and i have more of a carpet of larkspurs next season they'll look better. my larkspurs are also blossoming in other plots. they're sort of delicate and have a tendency to fall over. that's why they need to be grown en mass so they can support each other.
my 4 eggplants are growing like crazy, i've never seen them so big, with leaves bigger than my hand. something with the soil? something with the fertilizer? something with the plant? to think, early on, i didn't think they'd survive give how snails chewed up most of the leaves. but the new leaves seem to be free of snail damage and now every day they get bigger and bigger. i've seen these similar japanese variety eggplants growing in another plot, but they're nowhere as big as mine.
i removed the plastic collar on my plants last week. i originally put the collars to prevent slug/snail damage, even though it was quite easy for them to climb over the collars. but i noticed that plants in collars didn't grow as well; maybe the enhanced sheltering stymied them from getting any larger.
my thai basils are okay, i pinched off the flowers to keep them from bolting. i grow them every year but i never really use them for anything. elsewhere, cucumbers are flowering, not sure how well they'll do because i haven't really set up any trellis for them besides the nearby tomato cages. the zucchini seeds have germinated, currently protected by a plastic dome to prevent slugs/snails/rabbits from eating them. those allium shoots growing in the corner? not onions but garlic, i noticed the few scapes growing from each stalk. one of my tomato plants already has some small green tomatoes (i think it's an heirloom tomato). malva zebrina has started to produce flower buds. the plants themselves aren't very tall, unlike the hollyhock at my parents' place. i'm hoping they'll grow taller even after it begins to flower. it's my first year successfully growing zebrinas so all of this is new to me.
around 1pm GC was about to make something to eat. he was going to make beef noodles for lunch and asked if i wanted some. i suggested an alternative, that we ride bikes down to central square to check out the very first central flea. i told him there'd be food, but if nothing was good, we'd still be back in about half an hour. he was game so i pulled the bikes out from the basement and we left.
i'd imagined that they'd shut down a stretch of mass ave to hold the outdoor flea market, but actually it was just held in a municipal parking lot off of prospect street. we found it from the sound of live music and a steady stream of people all going in that direction. it was mildly interesting at best. we took a quick tour of all the stalls and saw the selection of food trucks. in china handicrafts are the cheapest things you can buy; here in america, they're one of the most expensive. we left soon afterwards, taking a circuitous route back home. i left for belmont soon afterwards, leaving GC to make lunch. he was going to a coworker friend's house for dinner at 4pm, so at the very least i didn't have to worry about strange smells when i got back later.
unlike in my community garden plot, my parents have two squash mounds in their backyard that have very large zucchini plants growing without any problems. in fact, zucchinis seem to be best the performing vegetables in the backyard this season. their tomatoes and eggplants are nowhere as big as mine. their hot peppers are doing well, but mostly because they escaped damage from pests. the golden raspberries are the best i've ever seen in any season, i expect a large haul of berries this year (twice actually, as they also produce in the fall). i finally planted all the leftover seedlings that've been sitting in a large milk crate outside. a few tomatoes, a few more eggplants, some habaneros. however i didn't plant any of the balloon flower seedlings, they're still in pots.
my 128GB thumb drive got corrupted tonight. it had a bunch of movies and shows, none of which were backed up. i can remember some of the files but most of them i forgot, which says something as to whether they were really that important. i shouldn't feel too bad, i can always download them again (if i remember what they were that is). the weird thing was it said i had 136GB worth of storage space, and continued to say that even after i formatted the drive. makes me suspicious that it might corrupt again, i'll try not to save anything important on it. i had a bunch of 1970's cult movies which i still remembered and managed to download (don't torture a duckling the 1972 italian giallo directed by lucio fulci and blood from the mummy's tomb the 1971 hammer horror starring valerie leon). there were also whole seasons of certain shows, like outlander, american gods, Deutschland 83, young pope, and emerald city. those probably took up the most space, i'm least bothered by their disappearance.
as is tradition when i have a roommate, i take them on a tour of boston on their very first weekend. like karen, GC had been to boston before, 2 years ago for 2 days, despite having studied at umass amherst for 2 years working on his PhD. still, i like to think that any boston touring he did with his chinese astrophysicist friends can't compare to my tours, being that i am a life-long boston resident.
being this was his first saturday, i figured GC would sleep late, but he was up around his usual 9am wake up time. we had some passing rainstorms this morning and i suggested we wait until 10:30am, when the weather clears up a bit, before heading out to boston.
we walked to harvard square, where i took him to newbury comics, to see a genuine american comic book store. i'd forgotten that despite the name, comics are just a small portion of their merchandise, which also includes toys, music, books, and t-shirts. i don't think GC was too disappointed, browsing newbury comics is like taking a crash course on currently trending pop culture. there was a lot of local sports, pokemon, star wars, game of thrones, and marvel action heroes.
we grabbed a no.1 bus heading into the city. earlier we were at harvard station putting some money on GC's MBTA charlie card. a vendor promoting some granola bars handed us some free samples. "nice shirt!" he shouted, referring to GC's manchester's united t-shirt. we rode the bus into boston and got off at newbury street.
we walked down newbury street to copley square, then i took him inside the boston public library. chinese roommates are more impressed with the architecture here than european roommates, where this sort of beaux-arts style is quite common with their eurohistory that spans centuries. i noticed GC wasn't a big snapshot guy, but he did take a few photos. as for me, i brought my panasonic lumix but ended up just shooting with my iphone instead, which was more convenient and less conspicuous. from copley we walked through the boston public garden and boston common, on our way to chinatown for a late lunch. i was pretty hungry by that point, only because i didn't have breakfast; GC at least ate some bread and drank a glass of milk before leaving the house.
originally i thought about getting some dim sum, but being that it was a hot and humid day, i didn't want to eat an oily lunch, so i decided vietnamese instead. GC told me he prefers chinese food, but the one other ethnic food he has the most experience with is vietnamese. back in his amherst days, he went out for pho a few times. instead of noodles however, i recommended the bun. i figured he'd choose between chicken or beef, but didn't realize they also had shrimp as well (wasn't surprised he picked that). bun ended up being a better choice, as i was sweating eating my hot pho noodle soup. GC ended up treating, i told him i'd treat next time.
GC got a kick seeing all the taiwan flags hanging in chinatown (there was no mainland china flag to be seen anywhere). when he was last in boston, his friends took him to a hot pot buffet place which he still recognized. i never been and asked him if it was good; he said it was, but they were also starving that day after a day of sightseeing.
we visited c-mart on lincoln street where GC got some shank beef, which we didn't find at market basket. we cut through the empty (on a weekend) financial district towards the direction of quincy market. we saw the place where benjamin franklin was born (hidden on milk street) as well as the old state house.
at haymarket we bought grapes and cherries. GC got some oranges (8 for a $1), i bought some figs (2 for $3) and some rainier cherries ($3 a bag). we grabbed the orange train from haymarket station and then the red line from downtown crossing to take us back to porter square. we finally got back home by 4pm.
i was covered in a film of sweat from walking around all day in the sticky heat. i wanted to take a shower but i just grabbed a change of clothes and took the motorcycle to belmont instead. i never did take that shower, since by the time i arrived i was already dry.
i brought home a bag of cherries, black grapes, and a package of black mission figs. the figs were fresh and unblemished, but weren't as sweet as fresh figs i've had in the past. earlier i gave GC one to try, as he'd never had them before. he said the flavor reminded him of pomegranates (minus the tartness).
when i returned home after dinner, i was blasted yet again with smells: this time a combination of beef and shrimp. i have to give GC some credit: other than the food odor, not a single evidence remains of his dinner. not plates in the drying rack, not utensils next to the sink, he's meticulous with his cleanup. if it wasn't for the stink, i would've sworn he didn't eat yet. later in the evening i threw out the trash for the second this week, filled with the nauseating smell of rotting shrimp shells.
i introduced GC to old-school wonder woman (linda carter). later we watched the very first episode of dexter after we saw a special news reporter on serial killers.
i woke up at 8:40am this morning. i learned GC's alarm clock repeatedly but he didn't wake up. i hope he was just being lazy instead of being dead. GC finally woke up at 9:30am and left for work a bit before 10am.
i was already up when GC woke up sometime after 9am and promptly left for work by 9:30am, wearing the same red t-shirt from yesterday. figuring out a new roommate's schedule is key to adjusting my own schedule.
my mother had called earlier, said my father was getting ready to visit rosev, and would come and pick me up at 10am. he needed me to go to act as navigator, since he'd never been to the newly-relocated building in chelsea yet.
but first we stopped at the 88 supermarket, to pick up a box of frozen chinese dumplings. any chinese family with an ounce of cooking know-how knows how to make dumplings, but using frozen store-bought is more convenient and customers seem to prefer the taste. my parents are particular about the brand, and when i suggested we could try the new 99 supermarket instead, but mother insisted on 88 because it was one of the few places that carried that particular brand of dumplings. it was weird being in 88 and only buying one thing; usually when we go we fill up a shopping cart; but having already made an asian supermarket supply run last saturday in quincy, there wasn't much we needed.
next we went to the chelsea market basket, which we already visited yesterday. my father was confused at first, because my mother didn't tell him we needed to stop here, only me. we were in search of pork skins, which my mother heard was on sale but forgot to pick up yesterday afternoon. unfortunately they didn't have it (wouldn't be in stock until later in the day) so we left empty-handed. i also checked to see if they had the special sugar-free jones soda one of the customers like to drink, but they didn't.
final stop was rosev dairy, which involved getting onto william street and following the perimeter of chelsea from marginal to eastern. it wasn't hard to get to once we found the place. we told the woman working behind the service desk that we were looking for ice cream. she said we could either wait for somebody to get it or we could go get it ourselves. so we went inside the freezer warehouse. it was of course freezing on the inside. a man who worked there wearing a large parka told us where to find the ice creams we wanted. they had everything except for french vanilla. we picked up a mint chocolate chip and a container of rainbow sherbet. my father fast walked out of the freezer which i took my time. in the car we had coolers waiting for the ice cream, to prevent them from melting on the trip back. the way back was much easier now that we knew where we were going.
we stopped at the somerville market basket before my father dropped me off. here they had pork skins, and my father also picked up two small containers of golden vanilla until rosev can resupply their ice cream stock.
i got home before noontime. i made myself an italian sub and watched the news. in the afternoon i packed up my things and went to the garden first to water my plot. joel was there, i chatted with him briefly, before leaving as my motorcycle was blocking the exit of an excavator truck doing work on the garden fence. i went to belmont where i had grand plans to do some bamboo weeding or tree pruning, but ended up just watering the garden. i ate some leftover fried chicken and sweet potato fries.
my mother asked me to dogsit in late august, as both my sister and parents won't be in town that week. that's also when GC is scheduled to go back to alabama.
i took a benadryl on my mother's advice, to see if it'd help with the itchy blisters on my hands. not sure if it was the drug, but i felt sleepy and took an hour long nap in my parents' bedroom at 5pm. i woke up with a thin film of sweat and feeling still very tired that it was a struggle to get up. i was fine after dinner though, although it took me a while to finish my noodles.
i was afraid to go home for fear of finding some awful smell. as soon as i came into the house i smelled it again, the stink of shellfish. at least this time GC turned on the box fan, but it'd take a while for the stench to leave the house. unlike the previous days however, he was in his bedroom this evening. only later, around 10pm, did he venture out to the living room to chat. i showed him all the shows he can find on netflix using the roku. around 11:30pm he finally decided to take a shower and go to bed. i stayed awake for as long as i could, but also finally retired after 2 hours.
GC woke up at 8:55am, spent 25 minutes in the bathroom, no shower, made some breakfast in the kitchen (or was he just preparing his lunch), then finally left at 9:30am. i couldn't wait for him to leave so i could finally use the bathroom without having to worry that he'd need to use it before work. the fact that he wakes up at 9am is going to be a problem because that's also the time i wake up too. i can either wake up earlier or wake up later if i don't want to run into him.
in the early afternoon i went to rite aid to pick up my 3 high blood pressure medication. coming back, i stopped by the community garden.
i think i finally figured out what that mysterious plant in my garden plot is, the one that i thought might be citronella from the wrinkly leaves. while walking through the garden after watering my own plot, i saw a plant that looked remarkably similar, but with pink flowers. i thought it was some sort of primrose, but primroses have a very distinctive stamens that didn't look like these flowers. i don't know what they are yet, but at least i have an idea what kind of flowers will bloom.
in the afternoon i went with my parents on a supply run, first to restaurant depot, then the chelsea market basket. my mother also wanted to visit the newly-relocated rosev ice cream distributor, but there simply wasn't anymore storage space in the toyota. besides, it was a hot day, and they already had some frozen food that needed to get back to the cafe. rosev would have to wait another day.
coming back though cambridge it was already a few minutes past 5pm. knowing my roommate's schedule, i thought, wouldn't it be funny if we saw him walking home? sure enough, we saw him leisurely strolling down linnaean street, wearing the red t-shirt i saw him in this morning.
in belmont i feasted on some market basket fried chicken, wings, and sweet potato fries. i took the bus home. as often the case, the bus appeared right as i as approaching the end of the street and left without me. fortunately it was still considered "rush hour" and there were many buses running, even though i was going against traffic. i only had to wait a few minutes (with the blinding western setting sun in my eyes) before another bus showed up. there was only a handful of people onboard, as expected. the AC was cranked up to high and it was actually pretty cold on the bus, but a welcomed relief from the heat outside. i got off at harvard square where a tibetan freedom protest was happening in the pit. i wanted to take photos but was afraid they would suspect me of ulterior motives, a chinese person documenting people at a tibetan independence event.
when i came home the house smelled of shrimps. GC was watching tv in the living room. i went to the kitchen, opened some windows, lit candles, and set the box fan running, trying to get rid of some of the smell. GC is a fan of game of thrones and we watched the last episode of last season on HBO. he went to go take a shower at 11pm and disappeared off to bed without saying another word.
there was quite the commotion this morning. road crew armed with a wood chipper were finally clearing the pile of dead branches taking up two parking spots. then due to street cleaning, a few cars got ticketed then towed. in the past i would've been sympathetic, but felt indifferent now. i didn't recognize the cars as belonging to my neighbors. maybe it belonged to the people who work around the corner, who always take up our spots in the mornings, it'd serve them right. i was however still disgusted with this cambridge racket of ticketing and towing cars. how much does the city make every year? and i never met a tow truck that wasn't beneath taking a bribe to look the other way when it comes to towing. the whole lot of them - from the police to the tow companies - are all criminals in this matter as far as i'm concerned.
GC woke up at 9am and left for work by 9:30am. i went to the gardens to check on the refuse bins but somebody had already brought them in. i planted 4 zucchinis (park seeds 'northern states' variety), the last of my squash seeds. i'd already tried twice before, and both times the seedlings were eaten by possibly slugs. this time i bought a large clear container with the bottom cut off to use as a shield. once the seedlings are large enough they should be safe from predation. zucchinis grow fast anyway, if i get lucky i can expect to have some squash by the end of july, definitely by august.
today was the last of the humid days before a stretch of warm but dry weather the rest of the week. there was a strong breeze however so it didn't feel very humid. i opened some windows to allow the cooler air to circulate through the house. only by the afternoon did i finally shut the windows as it was starting to get hotter outside than my indoor room temperature.
i had a pastry cake for breakfast then later made another italian sub for lunch. i forgot to add the cider vinegar, that's why the sandwich tasted a little off.
i contacted direct energy solar, this time going with a referral agent instead. jon wrote me back that he was in a meeting and asked if he could call me an hour later. about 3 hours went by before he called me back. i explained the situation, he said he'd have his engineer draft up a report, which would take 1-2 days. the weird thing was he didn't ask for a recent electricity bill, that was something i bought up myself. later he wrote me an e-mail, said from his records it looked like i already have an agent named wayne. that name didn't sound familiar to me, but i could've spoken to a wayne on the phone at some point, i just didn't remember. what i do know the last communique i had with direct energy solar was back in 5/15, when i sent them an energy bill, and in more than a month's time i never heard back from them, neither e-mail nor phone call. jon told me it was nothing to worry about.
a short time later i received a phone call from of all people this supposed wayne. he acted like he knew me, said he heard i'm interested in getting solar, asked when it'd be a good time to schedule a consultation. a good time would've been a month ago. i told him the situation, that i reached out to them back in may but nobody got back to me, and now i was going through a referral agent. wayne didn't have a lot to say after that. he said something about being on leave for a while, but that still doesn't change the fact that he never got in touch with me in the first place. he also said belmont is his territory, meaning he knew the area well, but i took it as he was trying to say i had to work with him. the only reason he was reaching out to me now was he alerted to the fact that somebody else would be taking one of his customers. in the end he murmured something to the effect of, "well, okay, we'll get you taken care of," and then we hung up.
GC came home around 5:20pm. it'd appear he's the kind of person who leaves work exactly at 5pm, not the sort of person who stays late. i ended up taking him to market basket. we walked the 15 minutes via somerville avenue. i was warning him how crazy busy it gets, but it was actually kind of subdued, which is rare for that place. apparently tuesday after 5pm is a relaxing time to go grocery shopping at market basket. he bought more than he did at star market. i was silently counting his purchase, hoping he'd only take less than 12 items so we could use the express line. he bought a bunch of seafood items, which left me worried, but it wasn't a surprise considering he said he loved seafood (which i tolerate at best, but typically abhor especially when it comes to cooking in my kitchen). some fresh packaged fish and a bag of frozen shrimps. GC ended up buying more than 12 items so we could only use a regular checkout line, but we didn't have to wait very long. i walked us back via my usual shortcut, going through numerous small side streets, which probably confused GC (i discovered that my shortcut is actually longer - 0.9 miles versus 0.7 miles going via somerville avenue; it's only a good shortcut if i bike, not if i walk).
when we got home, GC cooked his fish. he rigged up a system for steaming, which left the kitchen smelling of fish but it was within my tolerance threshold. he also used my rice cooker to cook up some rice. as for me, i was somehow not prepared for making dinner, but i had a lot of breakfast ingredients so i made myself a prosciutto egg english muffin sandwich, ate a chobani yogurt, and whipped up a yogurt fruit smoothie, part of which i shared with GC. he ate dinner in the kitchen, which wasn't necessary, but i'm sort of glad that he did on account of the fish.
yesterday i learned he has a used car back in alabama, but today i discovered he was actually just driving it around with a learner's permit. his rationalization was he knew some other people who were doing the same thing and said alabama is fairly lax when it comes to enforcing driving laws. still, it's a risky thing to do and could get him into trouble if caught. he tried getting his real license once before but failed the road test because he lurched his vehicle and bumped the car behind him before the driving even began.
by late evening i saw the news: georgia democrat jon ossoff failed to win his bid for a US house seat. this is the 4th special selection that the democrats have lost, despite high disapproval rating for donald trump. each loss gives republicans more confidence to stay the course than trying to challenge the current administration on certain things like health care or muslim ban.
GC woke up at 9:30am this morning and left for his first day at the office by 10:15am. he had no idea which direction to go as i watched him trying to orient himself with the gps on his phone. i opened the door and pointed that he should walk in the direction of mass ave.
i made an italian sub for lunch matched with a smoothie i whipped up using the last of my over-ripened bananas (purchased nearly 4 weeks ago).
i went down to the community garden around 2pm to bring in the garden refuse bins but found out that the city hadn't emptied them yet. i watered my garden while i was there. the two vegetables that seem to be doing well are my tomatoes and eggplants. i'm surprised about the eggplants because many of the early leaves were chewed up by snails. snails are still eating the plants a little bit but they're beginning to reach that point where they're growing faster than the snails can damage them. my hot peppers are alive but not partically thriving. the mixed varieties are doing better, the habaneros don't seem to want to grow taller but instead produce a lot of leaves that get tattered a bit by the snails/slugs. likewise nearby thai basils are the same way. my 4 mallow zebrinas are also doing well. while they're growing tall and thin in belmont, here in cambridge they remain short and fat, which bodes well for a thicker and stronger stalk as the weeks go by and the plants finally flower. some of the larkspurs have also begun to flower.
i helped my parents book a norwegian cruise to bermuda in late august (not a busy time of the year for the cafe). cruises are a moneymaking racket, and everything costs money and special restrictions and fees and surcharges abound. the prices they show per rooms seem cheap, but that's based on double occupancy so everything needs to be doubled for the actual price. on top of that there are government taxes, port expenses, and other fees (about $200 more per person).
one major sticking point was last year they purchased these discount coupons where for $500 they received $1000 in coupons, doubling their savings. it was a bit of a hard sell because these special coupons could only be bought onboard the cruise. it sounded good on paper, but in practice it was something else. strangely, the coupons were broken up into $250 denominations, which should've been a clue. when it came time to pay, my parents were going to use up all the coupons to maximize their savings, but discovered they could only apply 2 of the coupons at most. my father said when they bought the coupons he was told they could use the full amount. i called the norwegian cruise help line and they told me that actually the maximum number of coupons that can be used at one time is two.
when my parents went ahead and finally paid for the cruise online, they received an error message. i called the help line again, and was told that for the cabin they booked (inside), only one coupon can be used; to use a double coupon you need to book the more expensive balcony rooms or higher (at least double the price). this means they can only ever use one coupon per trip (a savings of $250). but these coupons expire in 4 years, so they essentially force you to take a cruise once per year if you want to reap the full benefits.
i returned home before 8pm, getting back before potential torrential rainstorms arrived. GC came with me to the community garden to bring in the refuse bins but i was dismayed to see the city still hadn't collected the trash yet. in the garden i ran into EJ and her family again; i seem to be running into them daily these days.
GC told me he went to the cafe today to have beef noodle soup for lunch with a coworker; i already knew this because my mother had told me. she also sold him a packet of chinese noodles. she said GC seemed like an old man even though he was born in 1986. i chatted with him some more. i learned more about the pressures of chinese college entrance examination. in china, getting into a good school depends entirely on test scores. high school students forgo things like extra curricular activities and focus entirely on learning how to take the test. the result is generations of chinese students good at taking tests but not much else.
i woke up at 9am to do some more cleaning around the house before my chinese astrophysicist roommate arrives at noon. i figured it'd take some time to get through customs and get his luggage so he probably wouldn't get here until 1:30pm. i threw out the trash which contained some spoiled chicken. i also tossed the two old carpets from the guest bedroom, with their backing that's turned to dust. finally, i removed all the summer clothes from the storage bins in the guest bedroom closet (mostly shorts) and exchanged them with my winter clothes (mostly sweaters).
the silicone caulk i added late last night seemed to be holding on much better than the acrylic-latex caulk i applied the day before. for one thing, it was truly waterproof, and the caulk didn't dissolve like the previous application, but instead the water would simply bead off. the white caulk looks good on the part of the faucet above the white porcelain basin, but it's a bit jarring on the faucet itself between two chrome finished parts. it's not worth doing anything about it now, but i will remove the white caulk at some point and apply a ring of clear silicone caulk instead. the important thing is it works and everything is waterproof again.
around 11am i went down to the community garden to water my plants. i did one last round of cleaning when i got home, took a shower, and finally ate a pastry for lunch around 12:30pm.
GC finally showed up around 1:30pm. he arrived with a tiny suitcase and a backpack. i began to suspect that maybe he wasn't flying in from china. i searched his name online about a week ago, realized he was a post-doc at a university in alabama. while i assumed he was flying in from china, could he have actually flown in from alabama instead? when i asked him about it, he confirmed that he'd been in alabama for half a year already, with the entirety of his pos-doc program to last a total of 2 years. also he paid me almost as soon as he arrived, unlike some other roommates, where i needed to remind them.
i gave him a quick tour of the house and issued him an MBTA charlie card and a map of cambridge. i also gave him a house key. we chatted until 3:30pm. the last time i had a chinese roommate was crazy mary more than a year ago in early 2016. with chinese roommates, i can wax nostalgically about my own experiences in china. afterwards i taught him how to open and lock the front door, and i took him to star market to get some groceries. i warned him not to get too much, since i'd take him some other day to market basket, where groceries are much cheaper. GC kept wanting to find some fish but fortunately there wasn't a lot of choices.
i finally left for my parents' place around 4pm. it was too hot for me but my father was outside in the backyard digging up the large clump of underground bamboo rhizomes. he managed to clear away that whole clump. now we have just some small areas of escaping bamboo to dig up and then finally chop down those two dead and diseased plum trees.
yesterday we ate taipei gourmet leftovers for dinner; tonight, we were eating some of the fresh ingredients we bought from good fortune supermarket (好运来 超级市场), including chicken gizzards, garlic scapes, chinese bacon (腊肉), and tripe.
i returned home around 8pm. GC already had dinner, made some eggs with tomatoes and cooked some rice with my rice cooker. we chatted some more in the kitchen before he retired to his room around 10pm. he didn't go to asleep until close to midnight.