after covering up my motorcycle (i heard it might rain in the early evening), i rode my trek cargo bike to the cafe. maybe it's not as fast as my trek allant, i figured i might meet my grandmother there, but my mother had already picked her up and taken her to belmont. i ate some wood ear mushrooms with dates and some steamed eggs before continuing to my parents' place.
with her bad feet, my grandmother can't really go anywhere these days. my mother was in the sunroom chatting with her, showing her all the things she's knitted/crocheted, and then putting on some korean soap opera on the ipad for her to watch. later they watched a dvd on the laptop of my grandmother's 80th birthday spent in taiwan 6 years ago.
i spent a few hours in the backyard, first with the weeding, followed by the watering. it was a warm 70's day, and i just had on my t-shirt. i planted some zucchinis in the southwestern corner of the yard, in 2 manure mounds. while stirring the compost, i managed to snap the very old wooden handle in half. i was also going to trim some of the hedges eclipsing the front of the house, but i was already too tired by that point, and the temperature got cold after the sky went overcast.
and i'm still not quite sure what that tree is that seemed to have sprouted next to the pussy willow. based on the flowers, i said it was a black cherry, but we have a black cherry in our belmont community garden plot, and the leaves don't look the same. plus, i'd never seen berries of any kind on this backyard tree, but it could just be because animals eat them all.
i discovered my pair of russian-made (sehfeld brand) binoculars that i bought more than a decade ago at a bazaar in urumqi. i don't remember how much i paid, but it was fairly inexpensive (i want to say US$20). they always seemed like a toy, with its kitschy soviet motifs like the hammer & sickle and AK-47 rounds. the lenses are also coated red, and it even comes with a handy compass and eyepiece-embedded measurement marks. however, surprisingly, they're actually pretty good binoculars. the red-tint coating does give images an unnatural bluish-green hue, but the large optics - 8x50 i believe - offer amazing clarity and eye relief. it's not the sort of binoculars i'd be caught using in public though.
i watched game 2 between the bruins and rangers in the late afternoon. it's definitely piqued my interest in ice hockey, although i'm still pretty much a fair-weather fan and i still think it's wrong that the finals occur so close to summertime. the last time i watched hockey was during the winter olympics. i still don't know all the rules. when is it off sides? and i thought icing happened when they needed to resurface the rink. i like that hockey is kind of like soccer on speed. i don't like the inherent blind spot in the foreground of the rink do to safety barriers; maybe the broadcast can be improved with some sort of overhead flying camera that can televise from different sides of the rink. anyway, bruins won, 5-2, against a rangers goalie that i heard was the best in the game, but didn't seem very effective against boston. i also like all the strange names, an amalgamate of french canadian, russian, yugoslavian, and other exotic ethnicity. zdeno (slovak). marchand (halifax). lucic (serbian). tuukka rask (finnish). wasn't he a star wars character? my favorite though: veteran jaromir jágr (czechoslovakia). that name is just fun to say, "ya-MEER ya-GER."
the owners of the chinese restaurant next to my parents' cafe heard that my grandmother was in town visiting and treated everyone to a free takeout dinner, which my father brought home after work along with my 2nd aunt. when you reach a certain age, you pretty much do away with formalities, and that was the case with my grandmother, who started eating right away, even though it was still early (5:00). we stood around briefly to watch but then everyone decided to join her, figured might as well eat while everything was still hot.
after dinner my father and i bottled one of the 2 jars of kombucha we've been fermenting for a week (3 jars if you count the small container of oolong kombucha). we managed to fill 5 empty 24 oz. atlas mason jars (from classico pasta sauces) with enough kombucha left over to cover the scoby's. the mother and baby were too stuck together that we decided not to break them apart.
all 5 jars we capped for a 2nd fermentation to create more carbonation, and 2 jars we added some candied ginger and dried apricots (respectively), for some flavored kombucha. like when i tried it yesterday, our batch of kombucha tasted very mellow, not like the kombucha juice i got from jimmy, which was super tarty. but having tried the sour kombucha first, everything else pales in comparison, and our batch seemed too watered down. maybe it'll pick up a bit more tartiness from the 2nd fermentation. we also have another 1 gallon worth of kombucha (in a 2 gallon jar) that we're going to let ferment for maybe another week.
my father tried to get my mother and grandmother to try some kombucha, even adding a little bit of sugar to offset the sourness. neither of them seemed to be interested, only my father and i seemed to be full probiotics converts. he said it'd be nice to be able to test the pH; i told him i ordered some pH test paper (1-14 range) a week ago, soon to arrive.
i returned home during a lull in the drizzle that started happening as early as late afternoon. my father told me he'd stop by with the jar of scoby after he dropped off my grandmother and 2nd aunt a little bit later.
i decided to brew a batch of sweet tea for the eventual kombucha fermentation. unfortunately i only had green and oolong tea, no black tea. so i went across the street to buy some from the supermarket. i've always been a herbal tea drinker, so i've never purchased black tea before. i wasn't even sure how much it'd cost, but i figured about the same. i wouldn't need much, just enough to make a batch, and then maybe later in the week i'd go down to chinatown to buy more since i assumed they'd be cheaper in an asian supermarket.
first thing i learned is black tea isn't even called black tea. black tea is so generic, it'd sold more according to brand (if a tea doesn't specify, chances are it's probably black). they also didn't come in small boxes of 14-18 teabags like i'm used to; black tea comes in bigger boxes of 80-100 bags. black tea is also cheaper for said amount, costing anywhere from $2.50 to $4.00 (a box of herbal tea goes for $2.50 but for much less teabags). one thing that confused me was many packages mentioned something about orange pekoe. certainly i don't want orange flavor in my tea! but i figured it was just a variety of tea, and hopefully no citrus were involved.
finally it came down to picking the brand. for some reason i wanted a british brand, because i figured the best would come from england since they're known tea drinkers. i ruled out lipton, thinking they were an american company, when in fact they're actually british. there was tetley, which did advertise itself as a british brand, but the packaging made it look like i was buying soap and not food, so i passed on that (it was also one of the cheapest at $2.50 for a box of 100 teabags, but i figured it was so inexpensive because it wasn't very good). there was salada, which i've seen before, but i could tell where they were from and just assumed it was another american company (half correct: american by way of montreal).1 in the end i picked red rose, which seemed to have an english ring to it. it was actually one of the more expensive brands ($3.99), but not by too much. turns out red rose is actually canadian as well, originally from new brunswick.
i bumped into paul, who was behind me in line. we were both lost in our own worlds that we didn't even notice each other until i finally recognized him. he was buying some claritin tablets and asked me if they were anything like sudafed. after so many seasons of breaking bad, i immediately knew the answer, and told him he was looking for something that had pseudoephedrine, which requires the showing of id to purchase. he said his doctor told him to find some sudafed, but he also told me it was for something other than allergies, but didn't elaborate. i told him to check out rite aid, which carry what he was looking for. walking back home, i saw a girl wearing a red chipao going to dinner at zoe's (must be some sort of graduation dinner thing).
so here's something cool about red rose tea: they're like crackerjacks, each box comes with a little toy in the form of a miniature glazed ceramic figurine. over the years the trinkets change; the current series is nautical wonderland. i got a porcelain seagull (i would've preferred the diver's helmet or the seahorse or the mermaid).
i grabbed a stock pot, poured in the supposedly 1 gallon of water that i had in my large glass jar, and fired up the stove. i devised a way to steep the teabags (8) by tying them to a long bamboo skewer and suspending them in the boiling water. i also added a cup of sugar.
my father called me soon afterwards, said he dropped off my grandmother but forgot to bring the jar of scoby, and would bring it tomorrow morning.
after several hours with the sweet tea cooled down, i poured it all back into the glass jar. now all that's needed is the scoby and i should have my own batch of kombucha juice in about a week.
i finished the evening with episodes of game of thrones and mad men. there are only 2 more episodes left of GoT! regardless, the season will end unsatisfactorily, and i may have to reread book 3 in the series to regain my fix. it was a weird episode of mad men. don gets injected with speed and becomes completely ineffective in his manic state, while still trying to get back together with his mistress. i guess no-drug policy is a good thing to have in an office? and then the burglar tricks the draper kids into helping her rob them? that was creepy. wonder if it's based on a true story? they said they caught the thief, and needed them down at the station to reclaim their stolen valuables.
1 salada actually had a boston office beginning in 1917, on 330 stuart street. the packaging plant is long gone, but the building remains, and so does the entrance, which depicts the ceylonese tea trade. this is the same doorway i was admiring during the fateful boston marathon last month.