it was snowing again this morning. i knew it was coming but i was still surprised when i looked out the living room window and saw everything covered in white. apparently this snow is supposed to dump 8-12" in the boston area. unfortunately we have another family dinner scheduled for tonight (a birthday dinner actually, celebrating the shared birthday between my aunt and my father). i thought maybe it might get postponed to another day, but my mother seemed insistent that it happen tonight, snow be damned.

even more of a surprise? a rare occasion when my upstairs neighbor steve (must've took the day off) came downstairs to shovel the sidewalk! perhaps there's hope for him after all, it's the neighborly thing to do after i shoveled all of last winter and most of this winter (the limited snow we've gotten).

the leaking toilet input valve seemed to be fixed for the time being, as i didn't notice anymore wet spots on the floor. it always gives me a special feeling when i can fix something in the house and not have to call in a professional. there really isn't too many things that can go wrong with a house that you can't do yourself. over time, things have a tendency to break around the house, and as a good homeowner, you have to be able to fix them. but there are always room for improvement, and sometimes the best way to learn is when something actually breaks and you're forced to deal with it.

my parents came to pick me up around 2:30pm. they were going to restaurant depot in everett to pick up some cafe supplies (mostly coffee beans) then go straight to bin bin's apartment (in revere). dinner wouldn't be until 6:30pm so there's be plenty of time for chatting beforehand. i was unaware how cold it was outside (later i found out it was 20°F, 14°F wind chill). typically during a snowstorm the temperature hovers around the freezing mark. the cold temperature could explain the consistency of the snow, which was a dry powder. there wasn't all that much snow on the ground either especially blown away by the winds. so much for the prediction of a foot of snow! a lot of people still heeded the forecast because there doesn't seem to be too many people out. passing by the assembly square shopping plaza, the parking lot was virtually empty even though the stores were still opened. and when we finally arrived at restaurant depot, it was empty too. so empty in fact that the place was pleasantly calm (normally it's a flurry of u-boat carts and forklifts) and most of the cargo handlers were just lounging around.

at binbin's place my parents chatted with zhangyu and his wife. their whole family had just woken up from their afternoon nap/jetlag sleep. zhang zilang was still at work. we ate snacks (roasted peanuts, watermelons, chinese new year candy) and drank good chinese tea. at 6pm we left for the restaurant. lili and matthew were already there, and my sister had just arrived at the restaurant as well. it was just a few miles away, but with the snow still falling, everyone drove carefully.

the restaurant was the flaming grill & buffet in revere (across from suffolk downs), which binbin and zhangzilang had only recently discovered. actually, the day her parents arrived in boston, they brought them here, but they didn't eat much because they were still groggy from the long plane ride.

buffet restaurants seem to be doing big business these days, i see them more and more. it makes sense, in times of economic hardship, that people value a good bargain. but when you place more importance on quantity, quality can suffer, and typically buffet food isn't that good (and sometimes it can be downright terrible). on the one spectrum you have places like tin tin (brighton) and old country buffet (watertown); these places are okay but i always feel sad and slightly sick after a visit. on the other end, there's maki maki (brighton) and minado (natick); my favorite is maki maki, but it's more expensive at $30/person for dinner. flaming grill by comparison is much cheaper, only $13/dinner (slightly more on weekends).

the place is actually not too bad for a $13 buffet. there was a lot of selection, a fusion of western, asian, and latin american, catering to the diverse revere demographics. granted, the ingredients aren't as fresh as a place like maki maki, but also bear in mind you're only paying 1/3rd the price. there were lots of tables, and even a function room big enough for probably 100 people, which was where we ate, along with a hispanic family celebrating a child's birthday. the tables were long, and we ended up sitting awkwardly where people were far apart from one another, which made it hard to chat.

my mother ate with an air of dissatisfaction, complaining about the ingredients, until i told her how inexpensive the place was, and then she quickly changed her tune. for $13/person/dinner, you can't get a better buffet than this, which says a lot.

as this wasn't my first buffet, i paced myself accordingly. actually, i hardly ate anything today, just a pickle and some tabouli salad with melba toast. my first plate was a lot of meats, all sorts of chicken and barbecue and some seafood. next plate was all the things i missed the first time around (fried shrimps, coconut shrimp, plantain, breaded fish fillet, calamari, raw oyster, octopus, cream puff) plus a bowl of sweat & sour soup. third plate i had to change it up, give my stomach time to rest, so i went with salad, some sushi, and a piece of chinese wing. by then i was winding down, and went for a plate of fruit, followed by some ice cream.

all and all, a pretty good dinner. zhangzilang joined us for dinner after 7pm when he got off from work. we finally finished eating by 8:30pm, 2 hours after we arrived. my sister and lili and matthew went home afterwards, but i went with my mother to the dollar tree next door to do some shopping. i was looking for some more slinkies, but didn't find any. as my father wasn't familiar with the area, zhangzilang drove back to their apartment and we followed him (binbin and her parents behind us).

my evening wasn't over yet, as we went to the cafe so my father could take care of my grand uncle while i cleaned the snow off the sidewalk. i didn't want to use the blower because it seemed like a hassle, and there wasn't a lot of accumulation anyway, around 2" at most. so i used the shovel instead. it took longer than i expected, around 40 minutes, and by the end i was pretty sweaty and exhausted. next time, i'll definitely use the blower, regardless of the snow amount. i could've cleared the sidewalk with the snowblower in 10 minutes what took more nearly an hour by hand.

afterwards my parents dropped me off back at home. it was around 9:40pm. after i settled in for the evening, mary came out of her bedroom, seemingly concerned. she asked if her staying here next month presented any problems for me. i told her no. she told me not to hesitate if i had any concerns. i said okay. weird.