go to work early, leave work early. unfortunately that means i have to get up early too (there's always a catch), and that's easier said than done, but if i want to maximize the number of hours hanging out with renata after work (bearing in mind that she will absolutely fall asleep at the stroke of 10pm), it's just something i have to do. commuting during that hour is not very pleasant when you're used to commuting at a later time: the trains are crowded, there's no seats available, and each stop takes longer as more people get on and off. the only good thing is the people watching though, i'm like an anthropologist studying the social interactives amongst the commuters of boston. when i got to work at 8:40am, both james and kristine were already in the office, kristine opening up the box that came for her yesterday, the box that contained her new digital elph camera.

for lunch, i had the last portion of the thai red curry i made tuesday night. even in its leftover phase, it was pretty spicy, and i could feel it burning inside my guts. after waiting for my food to properly digest, i got changed and went outside for a run, despite the unhealthy hot and hazy weather. after passing the gauntlet of sunbathers, i went topless for the rest of my run, working up a nice tan during the 1+ hour i was out of the office.

end of my work day, i pulled out the large booklet of cd-roms, looking for an OS 9 install disc for katrinka, who was having problems with her powerbook. while flipping through the pages, i smelled a whiff of something awful. i put my nose closer to the cd's and didn't smell it anymore. i figured it could've been some trapped stench from this morning, when the kitchen trash can in front of the office started to go bad. i thought nothing of it. it was only when i came back to return the disc did i see it. it was something furry on the ground, it was something dead, and it was something rotten. apparently a mouse had died on top of the cd-rom booklet, and when i pulled out the volume out came the dead mouse as well, and it must've fallen to the floor before i could see it, although i could certainly smell it. i was grossed out. not over seeing the dead mouse, but over the fact that i might've accidently touched it or (worse) stepped on it without knowing. katrinka and i disposed of the body (she held the plastic bag, i used the dustpan and brush to scoop up the dead mouse), and both of us thoroughly washed our hands immediately afterwards.

i made a run to cmart before i went home, to buy all the ingredients i'd need for tonight's dinner, vietnamese fresh spring rolls, from a recipe i found online. one weird thing about cmart is that it has a virtually nonexistent asian beverage aisle. i guess they had to make some sacrifices in order to expand the produce and meat department, as well as the refrigerated food aisle. here and there you might see a box of canned mr.coffee or a chinese herbal juice box, but there's definitely no drink aisle. another reason why i think super 88 in the south end is slightly better than cmart.

i told renata i'd be home by 4:30pm but i didn't actually get home until 6pm. on my front door was a note: "i was here for about half an hour - from 5:30ish. don't have your number with me! call me when you get in." oh no! i immediately called her at home but there was nobody home. when i called again minutes later (to let her know i'd be taking a shower, and the door wouldn't be locked so she could just come in), i heard the telltale beep of call waiting, and got a call from renata, who was across the street at star market, dialing from a pay phone. i told her to come on over.

when she got here i took a quick shower to wash off the stink i acquired from my run along the charles river earlier today. refreshed, i went out into the backyard to inspect the squirrel damage: at least 6 moonflowers plants have been killed (downright evil, the squirrel didn't even bother to dig in the dirt, settling for just biting the seedlings) and that unfortunately pepper plant that was attacked earlier this week was attacked again, this time even more serious than the last (not sure if i can bring it back to life). fox urine has no effect on these squirrels. i hate them so much that at this point i will resort to anything to get rid of them, even lethal means. it's bad enough that my backyard is too shady for a lush vegetable garden, but to have to deal with these city squirrels as well is just cruel and unusual in my opinion.

renata and i chatted in the living room for a little bit over a bowl of cherries. she became very excited and happy when she saw the mess in my closet (for some reason she thinks i'm a neat person, which i am not). around 8pm we got our cooking on. i was hoping she'd come a little later, giving me some valuable time to properly memorize the recipe so it'd appear i was an old pro at making spring rolls, but the jig was up, i told her straight out it was my first time doing it, as i brought out the printouts of the recipe. i personally think cooking with the recipe in front of you spoils the magic of cooking, and that it's more impressive and natural looking to just be able to create fabulous meals on the spot. there's been more than a few times where i've cooked for someone when not wanting to rely on a cookbook yet at the same time having very little memory to recall all the steps of the recipe, i secretly write little cheat sheets and post them on the side of the fridge near the sink so i can check and make sure i'm doing everything right.

although i've never made vietnamese spring rolls myself, i have seen julie make them one time a while back. the ingredient calls for shrimp, and not only have i never worked with shrimp before, i'm also not a big fan of them, so i opted for tofu instead.

while i was busy boiling the water to make vermicelli and clearing out enough counter space to put everything, renata was entrusted with the dangerous job of cutting the vegetables, the cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce. i was reluctant to give her any sort of kitchen job, happy to have her just supervise and make sure i don't set myself on fire, but she insisted (guests aren't supposed to be cooking! that from hosting 101, a rule that i often break). i also made the special sauce with the hoisin base and scoops of thai curry paste, and we tried to fry the tofu (didn't fry), i even changed out of my t-shirt in case i splattered oil everywhere. when renata wasn't chopping or stirring, she'd be performing an interpretive dance with a pair of rice paper skins. once all the ingredients were prepared, it was time to soak the rice paper to make the spring rolls. although they're like flat brittle pancakes at first, once they touch warm water, they softens right away and have a jellyfish like consistency and opacity. the first few that we made were pretty ugly, thick and long, bumpy and opening at the seams. we quickly got better though, got to the point where our spring rolls were short and compact, the semi-transparent rice paper skin allowing us to see the densely packed center of the aforementioned vegetables as well as small tofu cubes and basil leaves and shreds of fresh mint picked from the backyard. renata was quick to mention, "is that with coyote pee or without?" the last few that renata made were perfect (has she done this before? i never got a definitive answer).

we ate in the living room, alternating between nature programming and the red sox yankees game (renata has no interest in baseball, she only watched it to humor me). once done, i went back into the kitchen to make tangyuan, these soft flavorless doughballs in a sugar water broth. i put in enough sugar to make you diabetic, next time i'll turn it down a notch. i also had green tea mochi, but when i took it out of the box, it was all gross looking, having melted and refroze when i was transporting it home from chinatown a few days ago.

sometime around 10pm i looked over at the other side of the couch and saw that renata was asleep. if it didn't happen every time renata visits, i'd probably be concerned, but nowadays i'd be worried if she doesn't become unconscious 2 hours before midnight. when she woke up half an hour later, looking a bit groggy, she gathered up her things and went home. i finished watching the rest of the baseball game. up to the last out of the last extra inning in the yankees order, i was sure we'd win, but the yankees ended up coming back and taking the game. say what you will about the man, but jeter made an amazing catch, diving at top speed into the seats after catching the ball, got up with his face all bloody, still clutching the ball. you think nomar would ever do something like that? so the yankees swept us in this series. at this point i'm so devastated over how the team is disintergrating before my eyes, that i'm willing to accept ANY deal right now that would stop the bleeding and make the team like it was last year (trade nomar? go ahead). at this point, the red sox definitely do not look like a team that could get into the playoffs. it's been a painful few days baseball-wise.

at least i'm cooking again.