the daytime temperature hovered in the 20's today but with a strong 20-30mph arctic wind it felt like the single digits. since this would probably be the last week i still had my motorcycle (more on that later), i wanted to run some long distance errands.

i decided to go to ac moore at assembly square mall to get some yarn for my mother. i was all bundled up and wearing 2 layers of gloves. at first it wasn't so bad, but by the time i arrived my fingers hurt. assuming an air temperature of 25°F, factoring in an average travel speed of 30mph, that means a wind chill of 8°F. even though it took me just 9 minutes to ride there, imagine standing outside in 8°F temperature for that long and that's how i felt on the motorcycle. i could get better gloves, but the winter riding season is normally so short that by the time i can't stand the cold anymore and decide to buy improved hand protection i'm already putting the bike away until spring.

my mother asked me to pick up a skein of fishermen's wool in brown heather. normally it's $11.99 but i had a 50%-off-one-item coupon. just when i was about to leave, i spot the holy grail of yarns: the starbella! i was so excited it took a tremendous amount of will power for me to not scream into the phone when i called my mother asking for further instructions. this was the yarn that i failed to find in half a dozen crafts store visits, and now here they were. it's probably because it's after the holidays and the frenzy of gift knitting is now over. all the colors they had were different from last time, not sure if it's by design. there was about 2 dozen skeins of canyon sunrise, a few black, a few collegiate, and half a dozen autumn. my mother told me to get her 2 starbella yarns instead of the fishermen's wool. the starbella was selling for $5.99 a skein, but with my coupon, that comes out to $9 for 2 skeins, the same price i paid when they were on sale a few weeks ago. i ended up getting a canyon sunrise and an autumn.

when i went to the cafe to drop off the yarn, my mother asked if i could go back to the store again and get her more yarn at the risk of them selling out once more. sure, i'd go if it wasn't so cold, but after enduring another painful hand freeze, i told her maybe tomorrow. my 2nd aunt came back from chinatown with my uncle. she gave me a bunch of snacks she bought while she was in taiwan.

it's day 3 of kimchee fermentation and they should be ready by now but i'm still not happy with the progress. the problem is there isn's enough juices in a lot of the jars to completely cover the kimchee, so the topmost layer remains dry and unfermented. i tried to stir things up with a spoon but the kimchee is packed so tightly the only way to do it is to dump everything out and repack them again which is too much of a hassle. so the topmost kimchee are still sweet and unfermented, like eating raw cabbage. the ones at the bottom however have better flavor, sour with a tingling aftertaste, the hallmark of proper fermentation. this being the case, i'm going to let everything ferment for a little while longer before capping the jars and putting them into the fridge (which will then drastically slow down the fermentation process).

i rode the bicycle to market basket to buy this week's groceries. i noticed it earlier, but since this is the first week after the holidays, people have started to throw out their christmas trees. seeing so many discarded evergreens out on the curb makes me both sad and angry. having never grown up with a real christmas tree (for a few years we had a plastic one though), i find this tradition pretty wasteful. i've heard all the arguments before, how a plastic tree does more damage to the environment because of all the artificial (read: polluting) processes it takes to make one, and how christmas trees are raised on farms so they're not sacrificing a new forest every holiday season. i think it's all rationalizing on the part of the people who want real christmas trees. what i see when i see a tossed out tree is a tree that will never reach maturity, cut down in its infancy still for what? to decorate a house for a few weeks before getting dumped on the curb to become so much mulch.

i bought the ingredients i needed to make mexican chicken soup:

(canned ingredients)
28 oz. crushed tomato
7 oz. chipotle peppers
16 oz. black beans
2x 15 oz. chicken broth
1.2 lbs. chicken tenderloins
8 oz. box israeli couscous
2 cups frozen corn
onion & garlic & olive oil
scallions & cilantro

some of the ingredients i already had, like the scallions and cilantro (haymarket) and the israeli couscous (trader joe's). i made it in the evening to coincide with the start of the 3 hour block of the big bang theory on TBS. basically, while i boiled the chicken (later to be shredded) i also sauteed the chopped onion and garlic. into the pot goes all the canned ingredients: crushed tomato, black beans (drained), 2 cans of chicken broth (reduced sodium), and chipotle peppers. i used to just use a few peppers but now i use the whole can including the smoky-flavored adobo sauce. i chop up the peppers a little bit on a plate before dumping them into the pot (a plate instead of a cutting board because the adobo sauce will stain anything it touches). let it all simmer for 5-10 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. i always add the scallions and cilantro during the simmering but i think it might be better to add them in the end as a garnish for maximum flavor (when they reduce in the soup they disappear and you can't really taste them anymore). simmer for 10 minutes (or until the couscous has finished cooking) and you're done!

mexican chicken soup (i'm not even sure if i can call it that, originally it was a tortilla soup recipe) is a great recipe for cold nights. spicy and super hardy, perfect for the winter, and very easy to make. the difficult part is probably finding a can of chipotle peppers and a box of israeli couscous. the original recipe used hominy, which to this day i've still never eaten before or wouldn't recognize it if i saw it. i tried using arborio rice before and that was a mistake. israeli couscous (which isn't even really a couscous, i think it's a pearlized pasta) has just the right consistency, doesn't break down like rice. also use the biggest pot you can find. all those ingredients can add up and if you use a medium-sized pot it's going to overflow.

the big news tonight was the republican iowa caucuses. i'd forgotten that's how they do things down there, not with direct voting but through caucusing. i'm still not sure who won but it looks like maybe mitt romney and rick santorum are tied. is this romney's 3rd presidential run? does he really want to be the president that badly? makes me sort of worried about his motives. if he wants to be the president because he wants to help people, there are other ways he can do that. as for rick santorum, i don't know too much about him, except he has some extremely conservative leanings. there's no way he'll win new hampshire next week; despite being the most conservative of our new england states, people there are more pragmatic and won't vote for such an ideological candidate. santorum will get his moment in the sun, but his 15 minutes are almost up. i kind of wish ron paul would win new hampshire, just to keep things interesting. don't let me down granite state!

by midnight the temperature outside was 10°F. earlier i put the rain cover over my motorcycle. i don't know why, maybe i thought it'd keep the bike warm, this cold is all consuming, i'm pretty sure it'll be ice cold when i ride it tomorrow morning. this cold will only stay with us for another day before we warm up again with temperature approaching the 50's by saturday. i decided a few days ago to put away the bike this weekend. not that i couldn't ride it, but why prolong the inevitable? it's going to snow sometime this month and when that happens the riding season will be officially over. i can take advantage of the relatively warm weather this weekend to change the oil, wash the bike, and clear out a storage space in the garage. better to do that now when it's still pretty calm instead of waiting until it's bitterly cold with an approaching snowstorm to worry about. putting the motorcycle away will also force me to ride the bicycle more often (my only other source of transportation during the winter besides walking); i've put on some unwanted weight ever since surviving these epicurious holiday weekends and could use some more exercise to get myself into fighting shape again.