it was unusual that kelvin didn't wake up until 11am: i figured he was still recovering from his long weekend new york city trip. but after he came into the living room briefly, he disappeared back into the bedroom, which was unusual. maybe he needed some more sleep i thought. but that's when i realized that sandy didn't go to work this morning and was still in bed. when i finally saw them both in the kitchen making lunch (she was frying an egg), sandy told me sheepishly that she didn't hear her alarm clock. with the government shutdown and her advisor not in the office for over a month now, it's actually a testament to sandy's dedication to her research that she continues to go in everyday even when nobody's around. she could just as easily do her work at home.
sandy and kelvin then camped out in the living room for the rest of the day: kelvin binge watching episodes of dexter, sandy working on her laptop with the screen brightness turned down to minimum. i ate a yogurt then went to star market to look for ingredients to make mexican chicken soup. before i left i vacuumed the foyer because they had tracked a mess of salt crystals into the house (my upstairs neighbors were also to blame for caking the front steps in salt).
the weather was cold (in the 20's) but sunny and actually felt nice to be walking around outside. originally i wanted to go to market basket, but i didn't feel like trudging in the icy snow covered sidewalks. star market was having an unannounced clearance sale on all packaged diamond-brand nuts: originally $5.99, now just 99¢. i couldn't believe it at first but verified the price with a price check scanner. they only had one bag of hazelnuts, the rest were mixed nuts and a few bags of almonds. i grabbed 2 more bags of mixed nuts, figured i'd give them a try with these bargain prices. i also got a box of green mountain hazelnut coffee keurig cups which i thought was on sale ($3.99) but i'd later find out they weren't ($9.99). additional purchases: perdue chicken breasts ($2.97), can of black beans ($1), land o lakes hot chocolate mix packets (2/$1), celestial seasoning bengal spice tea ($2.79), and a bag of frozen corn ($1.50).
back at the house, i went out again, this time to the larger porter square star market, in the hopes of scoring more clearance hazelnuts. i was surprised by how little selection they had, just a few bags of almonds. disappointed, i was about to leave, until i saw their 12-piece bag of fried chicken on sale for just $7.99. i tried their fried chicken before and wasn't impressed, but these looked better and was a bargain at that price. since i was already in the area, i called my mother to ask if she needed anything from michael's. she sent me a $5 off coupon and asked me to find a lion's brand yarn called "shaw in a ball." after a lengthy search (with the bag of fried chicken smell wafting from my grocery tote) i finally found them. i sent my mother a photo and waited for her to tell me which ones she wanted. michael's was having a buy 2 get 1 free sale, and she was hoping she could get the sale price along with her coupon. when i went to pay however, they said i couldn't do that so i ended up just getting a single skein.
when i returned home i moved all my things to the kitchen dining table, as sandy and kelvin had taken over the living room. i told them i had fried chicken in the kitchen, and it didn't take long for kelvin to swing by and sample a few pieces. he said they weren't bad, and when i tried them they were actually pretty good. the skin had a lot of crunch, my only objection is they weren't salty enough (compared to MB fried chicken), but that's not a bad thing. i would definitely get them again.
i roasted the mixed nuts in the toaster oven. while i waited, i realized i forgot to get a 28-oz. of crushed tomatoes, so i went out again. times like this, i'm really glad i live so close to a super market. it didn't take long before i discovered i also didn't have any onions, so back i went again, this time for onion. i paid with coins both times, trying to use up my loose change. i tried the mixed nuts, an almond and a walnut, they were okay, but i still prefer hazelnuts.
approaching 6pm i returned to the living room, hoping to catch some news. i waited for kelvin to finish one more dexter episode before switching to ABC world news. the big local story was the disappearance of a 23-year old girl from boston since saturday who had just been found in charlestown, apparently the victim of a kidnapping. i watched 15 minutes worth of news before going into the kitchen to get started on the mexican chicken soup.
earlier i'd already told kelvin and sandy i was making my soup, so it might prevented them from making any dinner plans for tonight. i didn't know if they'd like it, particularly sandy, who doesn't eat spicy, and this soup was pretty hot since i add a whole 7 oz. can of goya chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. i figured if it doesn't work out, she could have some fried chicken.
spicy mexican chicken soup
1 onion, diced
1 can 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 cans chicken broth
7 oz. chipotle peppers
2 chicken breasts, cooked, shredded
1 can 15 oz. black beans
1 cup israeli couscous
1 cup frozen corn
with the outdoor temperature as cold as 5°F, i stayed indoors the entire day, savoring my final hours of solo living before my roommates return later tonight from new york city. i spent the day cleaning, from scrubbing the toilet, vacuuming the floors, and doing two loads of laundry (including bedsheets from the guest bedroom). for lunch i heated up a pair of meat buns in the microwave along with a smoothie. unlike yesterday, there was some solar production today: 149Wh, a mere pittance. i felt a little better knowing my neighbor from across the street had all his panels covered in snow as well. for dinner i ate two more meat buns.
where's the pain?: left shoulder * left tricep * left pectoral * left shoulder blade * left ankle * back of left thigh * right bicep * right tricep * right thigh * left calf * right wrist * right forearm * right palm * right lower back to right glute * right abdomen * right hand
sandy and kelvin returned a bit after midnight. right on schedule, even though i was sure they'd be significantly delayed due to the snow. they looked traumatized, like two walking human popsicles, i could feel the subzero temperature wafting off of their bodies. their greyhound bus stopped in hartford to unload and load passengers. they had zero accumulation in new york city, just some flurries at best that turned into rain. only when their bus made its way to boston did they see that much of the northeast was blanketed in white. when they finally arrived, they tried touching the snow but was surprised it was so hard. trying to break an icy puddle, they realized it was completely frozen solid.
as they sat on the couch acclimatizing to the warm indoors, i asked them about what they did in new york. on saturday they went to hometown barbecue in red hook, which required taking the subway and a bus. it was mid-afternoon when they got there, and they still had to wait in line. they got the combo which they said was good, but it wasn't amazing. they ate so much that they didn't feel like eating the rest of the day, instead having some hong kong pastries for dinner. they also went to the empire state building that night. they planned on catching the sunset, but took the subway in the wrong direction and had to take it all the way back. it had started to flurry by the time they ascended the skyscraper; sandy showed me a video she took where the snow was actually falling skywards due to all the winds.
sunday they went to peter luger steak house ($$$$) for lunch, which they had a reservation. the steak here was amazing. they sat between two tables both having a birthday party. they also watched two korean girls order hot water (which seemed to annoy the waiter) and finish all the free bread (rookie mistake, leave room for the main course!). apparently there seemed to be a lot of asians customers. after walking across the brooklyn bridge, they went to the taiwan pork chop house in the manhattan chinatown for dinner. though they don't offer stinky tofu, the food was still delicious, taiwanese home-cooked style.
on monday they went to david's brisket house. it was good, but nowhere as good as katz's, which they didn't have time to return to for an encore. they also went to korea town to try the pelicano fried chicken, which they loved (even though it was a mess to eat). finally they got some five guys burgers takeout for the 7pm bus ride back to boston. apparently they didn't go to flushing (should've done it on that first night), i didn't ask them about it anyway.
i woke up at 7:30am to clean up the snow outside my house before catching an 8:55am bus out of harvard square to belmont to help my parents. it was actually raining, and raining hard as i watched the ripples in the sidewalk puddles. the snow was heavy and sticky as i cleared the sidewalk before leaving around 8:30am.
there was only a limited amount of hours to clear the snow before everything would flash freeze later today as the temperature dropped below freezing. i had an umbrella but it wasn't necessary, as the transition was already taking place and ice pellets were falling instead of rain. many sidewalks hadn't been shoveled yet so i walked in the streets where conditions were better (fortunately there weren't many cars out). i ended up grabbing the 75.
i arrived in belmont a little bit after 9am. i found my parents outside: my father clearing the driveway with the snowblower, my mother beating the frozen clumps of snow off of the bushes. my father was having a hard time with the blower as the heavy wet snow kept clogging the shoot and auger. the engine also seemed to be a little suspect, never fully coming up to speed.
i was in belmont early with the hopes of clearing the snow off of our solar panels, but i decided it was better to go to the cafe first and clean the sidewalks before returning to belmont again to tackle the panels. my father and i left before 10am.
the snowblower at the cafe uses a paddle, which is actually better for slushy sticky snow. unfortunately the snow was too heavy for the paddle to drive over it automatically so my father had to push the blower manually. while he was using the machine to clear the sidewalk, i was cleaning the snow from the steps and little crevasses where the blower can't get to. my sister was home but she didn't come out to help until almost 11am.
we ended up staying at the cafe close to 12pm. the icy pellets had picked up as the temperature continued to drop. we gave my sister a ride to alewife so she could get her car while we took hailey back to belmont.
we didn't start clearing the snow off of the solar panels until after 12pm. by that point it was too late, too many hours had already passed with below freezing temperature (at the time it was 22°F), the rain that fell early this morning had flash frozen into a hard icy shell. the snow below the shell was still soft, but cracking the shell was difficult, and the bottom most layer was still an icy mix. even if we climbed the roof, there was no way to clear off the snow, now under these frigid conditions. we did the best we could, removing the bottom layer of ice and snow from the panels, in the hopes that it might induce some melting should the sun come out, and have some space for the sliding melting snow. it goes without saying that the solar production for the day was zero.
after waking up this morning at 7:30am to 5 hours of snow clean-up, i finally had lunch around 1pm. i was so hungry by then, anything would've tasted delicious.
i introduced my mother to roma on netflix but before she could finish the movie the rams-saints game was starting at 3pm. it was of course just a prelude to the more important patriots-chiefs game later in the evening. i was rooting for new orleans as drew brees seemed deserved of another super bowl win. but a missed blatant pass interference call late in the game doomed the saints. in what should've been a penalty that would've given the saints a new set of downs to run out the clock to victory ended up with the rams tying the game to send it into overtime and winning it undeservedly.
we had dinner early, so i could get a ride back to cambridge to catch the patriots-chiefs game at 6:40pm. my father cooked up a liver-shaped fish egg sack imported from taiwan. after soaking it in some chinese white wine, he baked it. the egg sack was a few years old, not sure what it's supposed to taste like, but it was crispy with a savory fish flavor, reminded me of salmon jerky. my father had already gone outside to start the car before i finished eating my stir-fried noodles. i also left with some meat buns for lunch and dinner tomorrow. we scraped off the coating of ice on the car before leaving. when i got back, i noticed that steve and paul didn't reshovel the sidewalk but did sprinkle some salt on the steps. the game was already in progress. i wanted to use the bathroom but didn't want to miss any second of the game so i held it until halftime.
the patriots played the first half with a strategy they've been using recently, a running game with a lot of short passes, nothing flashy, but gets the job done, and allows the pats to hold the ball for long stretches of time, using up the clock. new england looked sharp in the first 2 quarters. the offense had less drops and more catches (so many successful 3rd down conversions), and finally gronkowski and hogan were getting involved, when they've been fairly quiet during the regular season. the dominant defense pressured mahomes and left kansas city scoreless, with the game at 14-0 going into halftime. the patriots would've had even more points (28-0!) where it weren't for a red zone interception by the chiefs and a chiefs' fumble in the final seconds that was recovered by mahomes.
the chiefs made their adjustments in the 2nd half and started to finally put points on the board. they scored a touchdown, new england answered with a field goal kick. things got interesting in the 4th quarter. not only did the chiefs mount a comeback, they also took lead, with a touchdown, a 4th down new england stop, and another touchdown. patriots answered minutes later with a touchdown of their own. in all, there would be a total of 4 lead changes in the 4th quarter. chiefs regained the lead after a touchdown, but made the mistake of leaving 2 minutes on the clock for tom brady, who took the team down the field for another touchdown. with 32 seconds left in the game, mahomes mounted yet another comeback to almost win the game but ended the quarter with a field goal to tie the game and go into overtime. new england's fate seemed to rest on the coin toss, which luckily the patriots won (heads). mahomes never did get a chance to get back onto the field: tom brady and the gang took 5 minutes to reach the end zone to win the game.
i screamed so hard and loud in celebration, i honestly almost passed out. my adrenalin was so high after the game, my hands were still shaking and i wanted to take a blood pressure measurement to see how scary my numbers were (i didn't). i called my mother to ask if she saw the end of the game; she told me she did, but she lied, it was actually too much for her and she went to go wash the dishes during the crucial final minutes.
after the game i went outside to look for the super blood wolf moon. it wasn't hard to find, a red orb in the sky with a white crescent. it wasn't at totality yet, but blood moons don't look as cool when they're completely eclipsed (it just looks like a dim moon, like maybe it's behind some clouds). i tried to take some photos from my backyard but the branches of the large oak tree got in the way.
i noticed sandy had forgotten to take her container of lunch pasta with her to work this morning. i briefly thought about contacting her and asking if she wanted me to drop it off at the office. when kelvin finally woke up, i was surprised to see sandy following behind him. feeling under the weather, she'd decided to stay home. besides, she'd already been up since 5am, answering e-mails from coworkers back home in england.
around 12:30pm we walked to market basket to pick up some barbecue ingredients. i already had steaks (2.4 lbs. $14) and italian sausages in the fridge. i got some ground beef (2 lbs. $7) and gorgonzola blue cheese ($1.50) to make burgers while kelvin got a 5.25 lbs. slab of st.louis ribs ($15.70) and 2 lbs. of pork bellies ($8).
after we returned, sandy actually went to the office after all. she said she'd come back with LSH. kelvin watched the devil wears prada, having never seen it before. i went to star market to get more drinks (IBC root beer $3.49 4-pak) and a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil ($3) for kelvin's ribs. i also prepared the burger meat, mixing the 2 lbs. worth of 80% lean ground beef with blue cheese, chopped garlic, mustard, hot sauce, worcestershire sauce, and ground pepper, leaving in the refrigerator to cool.
around 4pm i brought out the steaks so they could warm up to room temperature. i bought these boneless sirloin rump tips on saturday, and they had already gone a little dark, no longer the bright red of fresh beef. seeing that we might not have enough hardwood lump charcoal for two burns, i rode the bike to the ace hardware store in porter square to look for charcoal. i didn't see any upstairs until i asked someone who told me they had more supplies in the basement. i found 8.8 lbs. bags of cowboy brand 100% all natural hardwood lump charcoal (what i had before). after a price check, i found out it was $9.99. i also learned that charcoal is not taxed as i went to pay.
my used copy of my journey to lhasa finally arrived today after ordering it back on december 30th from discoverbooks.com. listed as in good condition, i bought it for $4.09 with free shipping (though 26¢ for tax even though they're based in ohio). the cover is different from the edition i borrowed from the lexington library, though the content seems to be the same. the pages are yellowed due to age, definitely a used edition, but in okay shape.
at 5pm i began lighting the first batch of charcoal for cooking the ribs. kelvin read that the best way to cook the ribs is to wrap them in 2 layers of aluminum foil and throw them directly onto the charcoal. i told him that was fine, but the ribs would block the heat so we wouldn't be able to cook. so the idea was to do two batches: a first batch just to cook the ribs, a second batch for the other meats. he prepared his ribs, first trimming off any excess skin, then covering it with a spice rub he created that was a combination of salt, italian herbs, paprika, and peppers.
sandy and LSH actually arrived at the house around 5:30pm right when we just put the ribs onto the grill. we weren't expecting them until around 6:30pm, but they came early since they had nothing to do at the office. this barbecue was partly in honor of LSH, who would be returning to china for good at the end of the month. amongst kelvin, sandy, and LSH they could speak in cantonese which i didn't understand. amongst sandy, LSH, and myself we could speak mandarin which kelvin said he could understand just can't speak. and we could all converse in english, though for LSH that was the weakest of the 4 languages he spoke (4th being hakka). so throughout the evening the languages kept shifting, at any one time there could be a conversation in 3 different languages with varying degrees of understanding.
we ended up putting the ribs (3 layers of heavy duty aluminum) on the grill grate instead of directly onto the charcoal. at 6pm we flipped the ribs, at 6:30pm we took them out to cool while i began the second batch of charcoal. in hindsight, cooking the ribs in this fashion was a waste of charcoal, since the ribs could've just as easily been cooked in tin-foil in the oven. the only crucial part was the eventual grilling with barbecue sauce which comes later.
the first batch had already cooled enough by then it wasn't giving off much heat even though charcoal bits were still glowing. i think the first batch didn't burn as long because it was mostly small pieces of charcoal from the bottom of the old bag. the second batch charcoals were from the new bag and came out in large lumps that retained more heat. while we were waiting for the coals to reach grilling temperature, i also prepared the burger patties.
we were finally ready to cook the rest of the meats by 7pm, everyone coming out to stand around the barbecue. i had on a thick throwaway hooded sweatshirt so i don't get grease and ember stains on my clothes. we started with the 4 steaks rubbed with kosher salt and pepper before grilling. because these were leaner cuts compared to last time, there wasn't as much flare ups. the heat didn't seem very hot at first (i could hold my hands above the grill for 5-8 seconds easily) but as we cooked it gradually became hotter to the point where i could only hold my hands above the grill for 1-2 seconds.
once the steaks were done, we transitioned to the 8 burgers. as these were only 80% lean, there was a lot of fat which created massive flare-ups. we moved the burgers around the grill like a game to prevent them from scorching. after the burgers came the italian sausages and pork bellies. they were cooked as is, without any seasoning. the pork bellies had a lot of drippings which created flare-ups, so like the burgers, they had to be repeatedly moved around the grill to prevent them from being charred. next came the ribs: stubb's sticky sweet barbecue sauce was applied on both sides before putting on the grill. there was still some residual flare-ups from the liquid fat deposited on the charcoals, but not too bad. after both sides were grilled, we took them off the barbecue. finally it was time for the corn. kelvin grilled the corn as-is without barbecue sauce, i didn't object as he paid for them. the heat was already dying down by then (45 minutes had gone by), so we left the corn to slow cook in the low heat with the cover on.
with all the meats cooked and everyone back inside, it was time to eat. by that point it was already 8pm. we ate on the dining table with just enough seats for 4 people. the steaks were cooked to medium which i like, but a little too tough for sandy and kelvin who prefer medium-rare. the burgers on the other hand weren't cooked long enough and there was still a bit of rawness in the center like a medium-rare.
sandy had sliced up the pork bellies into nuggets; they were good as-is with a crispiness. she made a sauce using soy sauce and sugar but i didn't like it, and we didn't have any salt-pepper dipping sauce like they do in korean restaurants. the italian sausages were okay but could've used some additional time on the grill as they were still a little soft in the center. finally, there were the ribs, which kelvin was raving about (as he was also the ribmaster). they tasted good on their own - i didn't think much of the dry rub but it left a good flavor - but the sticky sweet sauce elevated the ribs even more.
we drank IBC root beers and cream sodas, as well as italian sparkling sodas. we were nearly finished eating when we finally remembered that the corns were still cooking outside. i also let them try some half sour pickles; sandy couldn't handle the taste at all, kelvin and LSH were okay with it but found it too sour.
full disclosure: having kelvin with me all day have dampens my ability to properly work on my blog. there's plenty of other places in the house i can move to but the living room is my unofficial main office. while kelvin fixed himself a double decker egg & ham sandwich, i made myself some scrambled eggs, kielbasa, jellied english muffin, and french vanilla coffee. we streamed the two episodes of season 3 of true detective in the afternoon. when sandy came back in the evening, they went to rf o'sullivans for burgers. i took the 1-1/2 hours of solitude to use the bathroom, take a shower, and make myself some tuna fish sandwich for dinner. when they came back they said the burgers were okay, but couldn't quite taste the beef flavor. they spent the evening crushing the couch as we watched the first episode of the passage followed by the return of the good doctor. they were busy making plans to go to new york again this long weekend, finding transportation and lodging. after sandy went to bed, kelvin parked himself back in the living room, prepared to be the last person to go to sleep. i retreated to my bedroom, to watch an episode or two of future man before going to bed.