chinese new year for me has just about as much meaning as thanksgiving: basically, it's an excuse to have a really big dinner with the family. besides my immediate family members, who also invited my aunt lili and uncle matthew, as well as my 2nd aunt and her recently arrived husband from taiwan (whom i haven't seen in more than 10 years). thanksgiving means turkey, while chinese new year means hot pot.

i stopped by the cafe on my way to belmont, with another incremental network fix. the wireless network still goes down intermittently (fixed only by power cycling the router). i decided to update the firmware on the linksys and switch the channel id number.

my sister was entrusted with cleaning up the house. since the last time we decluttered the place was back in late november, it wasn't as messy and easier to clean up. while my sister picked up stuff from around the house (most of them hers), i vacuumed the floors during winter olympics commercial breaks.

my mother came home around 4:00 with my 2nd aunt and her husband. since hailey had never met him before, she wouldn't stop barking. even though it was pretty harmless (she was more scared than actually trying to bite anyone and her tail was wagging), it was still quite a show. after some time familiarizing herself with the new guests, hailey finally calmed down and went to sleep. my father came home after 5:00 and my aunt and uncle showed up before 6:00.

a bit of drama happened in the kitchen: i saw a mouse slowly crawling across the floor near the radiator. i screamed and ran to the far side of the kitchen until my father came in, grabbed the mouse with a paper bag, and put it outside. that a mouse was in the house wasn't as strange as it was seemingly out and about. it looked injured, and it looked wet. my father later said he saw hailey hanging around where the mouse was earlier. we suspect that maybe she caught the mouse and played with it in her mouth before letting it go. by then the mouse was barely alive (it was after all not the year of the mouse).

fresh green ingredients:

some more exotic ingredients:

because there was so many people (8 total), we went with 2 hot pots, each on its own electric induction cooker. i sat by the end of the table that had the traditional dual hot pot. i like my hot pot spicy and kept on adding spoonfuls of spicy chongqing hot pot paste. basically, every time the broth started to become clear, i'd add another spoonful or two, much to the chagrin of some of the guests who thought it'd be too spicy and salty (spicy, no, salty, yes, but you basically don't want to drink the leftover spicy broth anyway). at the other end, my sister - who doesn't eat spicy - had a clear broth filled with some traditional chinese medicine spices, like goji berries.

the nearest hot pot was actually too far away for me so i ate standing up the whole time (i don't think anyone noticed, since everyone was too busy eating). rarely do we have this many people over for hot pot, which can present unintended problems as people unsuspectingly compete for food. hot pot is like the darwinian natural selection of eating, where if you're too slow, then that piece of meat you had cooking might be snatched away by somebody else.

likewise with thanksgiving eating, everyone basically ate to capacity, then kept on eating some more for good measure. dinner is over not when the food runs out (there's always leftovers) but when everyone is basically too exhausted to eat anymore. for dessert, my aunt lili brought over a tiramisu cake she'd made earlier. it was pretty good, but the cake part was a bit dry because it didn't have enough time to absorb all the liquids.

my father drove my 2nd aunt and her husband back home. after he returned, we all watched a bit of couples figure skating before my aunt and uncle finally left as well. i made my way back home to cambridge sometime after 8:00. it was a surprisingly pleasant 37°F. i didn't feel as tired as i usually am; not sure whether it was because of the hot pot or the 2 cans of caffeinated soda followed by 2 slices of tiramisu for dessert that did the trick.