it was thursday already, the day eliza jones was coming over for dinner, and i still didn't know what i was making. but first i couldn't do anything about that as i went across the street for my last day of painting for this week. i painted three windows (kitchen, then the two upstairs, final coat) and a closet shelf and hanger pole, then called it a day. after a shower, my sister came by briefly to bring over some chili she had made last night, which meant i didn't have to eat chicken pot pie pockets for lunch again, thereby breaking the streak. she also brought a paper towel holder and a pair of wooden bread tongs. after she left, i was feverishly going through my recipe books, trying to find something to make. here's the thing when you're unemployed: little things, like making dinner, can become a big thing, can transform into a day long project, which was exactly what was happening. i ended up pulling a lot of stuff from a thai cookbook:

mango salad:
i thought this would be a better choice compared to the usual run-of-the-mill salads. the recipe in the book didn't even use mango (it was more a seafood salad), but i was able to modify it (salads are one of those things that's almost impossible to get wrong).

creamy corn soup with egg:
a pretty easy recipe that calls for crab meat, which seems a little strange, but i was willing to abide by the instructions.

thai red curry (with chicken):
this is my 5th or 6th time making red curry? i don't know, i've lost count i've made this so many times. most people i know, at one time or another, if they come to my place for dinner, who have sampled my red curry, which is one of my recipes that i've had some moderate success in making. i was willing to make it again because eliza had never my version before (and as a matter of fact, this was her first time over at my place for diner) and the mango salad and creamy corn soup were new recipes, so i didn't feel too bad about making an old recipe.

blueberry muffins:
the only non-thai dish, i wanted to make them not really to eat, but because they make the house smell really nice (fresh baked goods!) and having the oven on for an hour also heats up the house.

this by far was my most ambitious dinner itinerary to date, i wanted to take my cooking to the next level, create an entire course, not just a single dish. i made up a list of the things i needed to buy. before i left to go grocery shopping though, i went out into the backyard for another inspection. the lilies of the valley have finally blossomed. there isn't enough of them to be fragrant, or maybe the wind just wasn't blowing in the right direction. two new flowers were out in the backyard. one was this bouquet of little white flowers (four petals each), which immediately i thought was mustard green, but the leaves are completely different. there was also blue greek valerians, which reminded me of bellflowers except these were genuinely blue, not violet. i had never seen these valerians before, but it's good to know they're also growing in my backyard.

i went to porter square to cash some checks them took the subway into chinatown. there really wasn't any need for me to go downtown, all the ingredients i needed could've been purchased from local supermarkets, but i had some time to kill, and i thought maybe i'd see something in chinatown worth buying. i came out of south station, and immediately i felt vulnerable, scared. am i becoming an agoraphobic? tall buildings scare me now. for me, they don't represent stability, more like liability. i quickly made my way to mei tung supermarket. i only purchased $10 worth of groceries, but it was a lot of vegetables at cheap chinese market prices. i did something which i immediately regretted after doing it: i licked my fingers in order to get a plastic produce bag open. oh my god i'm going to get SARS. i left mei tung without wandering further into the heart of chinatown. is it really true? are a lot of chinese wearing masks down there? i guess i'll never know, because i made a beeline straight to the subway station, going back home.

at porter square i paid $6 for a bouquet of pink tulips to go along with the pink walls of my kitchen. i stopped by the porter square star market to finish off the rest of my grocery list. you'd think i learned my lesson in chinatown, but once again, i licked my fingers in order to open a produce bag. after another close brush with germs, i came home, checked the fridge, realized i was missing a few more crucial ingredients, so i went across the street to the beacon street star market. it's kind of cool, but i recognize all the cashiers at that supermarket now because i go there so often. there's one woman who looks like that the woman from y tu mama tambien, and a wall-eyed hispanic (mexican?) woman, or the skinny teenage girl with the dark eye makeup, or the gifted cashier guy who sometimes wears a cap and hums while he rings you up, or the tall girl with the glasses, or that asian cashier lady who let me use her shaws card one time when i forgot mine...i know them all!

back at home, i cleaned up the house a bit, vacuumed some rooms and scrubbed the bathroom, feeling very domestic. when did i become my own maid? and my own cook?

i didn't start cooking until 6pm, where i started the mango salad. cucumbers and carrots chopped into matchsticks, i spent almost an hour cutting, i kid you not (well, actually, part of that hour was spent making the complicated dressing for the salad). a few times i came dangerously close to snipping my own fingers, i could feel the knife notching into my fingernails. i could only strip off half of the meat from the mango, eating the rest of it from the mango rind before tossing it into the trash. with just 30 more minutes before eliza's arrival, i still had two more things to make, not to mention cooking the rice, and there was no way i could bake muffins at the same time, so i nixed the muffin idea. i started making the soup, dumping ingredients into a pot, opening up cans, chopping up vegetables, spooning various sauces and spices and flavoring, at the same time remembering to stir. concurrently, i started making the red curry. it was quite a juggling act as i was furiously tending to one stovetop to the next, preparing the ingredients, reading the recipe for the next step.

around 7:30pm eliza showed up, just when the soup was finished, the curry was simmering, and the rice nearly ready. drinks came in the form of fruit juice with little slivers of lime suspended in the ice cubes. right when we were able to eat though, andrew came back from vermont, wearing the exact same blue shirt he wore when he left monday night. introductions were made, and andrew helped take a photo of eliza and i about to dig into our dinner. he left for the gym shortly afterwards. as for the food itself, here's my thoughts: the salad was okay, but the fact that i left some of it on my plate meant that i didn't like it too much. the soup, by the time we ate, was already lukewarm; i like my soup hot. the crab meat also gave the soup that seafood taste which i didn't like. the soup consistency was good though, maybe next time i'll try some shredded chicken instead of crab meat. the red curry was perfect though, the sauce was just right, not too salty, not too sweet, and the eggplants absorbed the flavor beautifully. unfortunately, i reached that point where making the food itself took a lot out of me, and i lost my appetite. at that point, i much more enjoyed making the food than actually eating it.

by 9pm, eliza was ready to throw in the towel, sending out mad sleepy vibes when started to make me drowsy as well. there always seem to be a time limit when hanging out with eliza, of course weekday nights are naturally limited for working people like her. before she left, she shared a cookie from the au bon pain pastry box she brought with her. she also showed me her commuting sketch pad, which i'd asked her to bring. eliza was also finally able to take her clothes and makeup she had left here from last month, but she forgot the chuck palahnuik book.

after she left, i did the dishes (which she volunteered to help do prior to her departure, but i told her no), then andrew came back from the gym, only to go back out again to visit his girlfriend. once again, i have the empty house all to myself.