i woke up this morning and immediately started making half a dozen blueberry muffins, trying to use up all the fresh blueberries i bought from haymarket. i left out a stick of butter overnight so it'd be soft enough to use. the last time i made this muffin recipe it was still winter. now that it's unofficially summer, the warmer weather definitely made a different on my muffins. for one thing, the batter was a lot soupy and not as thick. the result were muffins that didn't have a good rise and looked a little flat even though they were still very soft on the inside.
maybe using fresh berries instead of frozen ones also made a different; frozen berries can thicken the batter. next time i'll try with frozen berries, which i still have two bags in the freezer. something else i tried was mashing a quarter of the blueberries and mixing it in the batter to add more blueberry flavor. i'd forgotten that blueberries are not uniformly blue; only the skin is blue, while it's actually translucent on the inside, much like a grape. mashing the berries by hand into the batter instead of using the mixer didn't create enough of a mix, but this step is entirely unnecessary. the trick is for thicker batter.
i didn't put the muffins in the oven until 10:30am, taking 50 minutes total to finish baking. i ate one for breakfast, the fresh blueberries had melted like chocolate chips, there was a very nice side crust but not so much a good muffin top, the muffin was moist and sweet but tasted a little bland. did i mention it was pouring rain outside this morning? maybe the moisture also affected the batter. my parents swung by after noontime and i went with them on a supply run first to medford OSJL followed by the super 88 asian supermarket in malden. the downpours had mostly stopped by early afternoon, just the occasional sprinkle, though the sun never came out. we stopped at naveo beforehand, so they could file paperwork to pay off a portion of their solar loan principal and reduce the monthly payment. my mother was thankful for the quick visit because of the free coffee.
my mother wanted to buy a new dehumidifier she saw on sale at OSJL. i recommended getting a name brand, but the model that they carried with a pump ($250) was from TCL, a chinese brand i've heard before (they make a lot of cheap HDTV's). my mother was also eager to get a new replacement dehumidifier for the basement after i told her about the $30 masssave rebate on energystar-complaint appliances. my parents also bought a window fan for my 2nd aunt. when they went to pay, the cashier was telling them about some kind of savings. i thought she was trying to get them to sign up for some rewards program, but she was actually telling them that this week was their annual silver salute promotion where seniors over age 62 get a 25% discount on almost everything (the dehumidifier unfortunately was not eligible). they ended up saving a chunk of change, making my mother think we should come back again before the promotion ends on wednesday.
at the super 88 my parents picked up various ingredients for making zongzi for the duanwu festival (AKA dragon boat festival) happening mid-june. half a dozen limebikes were parked outside, i couldn't resist taking some photos. i think gps-enabled bike shares are interesting but i wouldn't be happy if somebody just dumped one of these bikes in front of my house. it almost feels like a strange social experiment.
there were actually a lot of cars in the parking lot; my mother surmised that a lot of restaurant owners were probably grocery shopping today (like us) as many chinese restaurants are closed on mondays. there was also an influx of people since the duanwu festival was happening in 2 weeks. inside we saw a young gay couple; at first i thought they were korean because they seemed much too stylish for chinese; recent government crackdown in china have banned expressions of LGBT relationships in the media. we ended up buying so much we almost couldn't fit everything in the shopping cart and checking out took forever.
after dropping off the supplies at the cafe, we returned to belmont. by then it was close to 4pm. since it wasn't raining, i took a stroll in the backyard to check on the plants. the honeysuckles have started to flower. after we discovered that spiderwort flowers only last for a single day, but my father didn't believe it so he made a test by tying threads around flowers that bloomed yesterday; all of those flower buds remain closed today.
the lone columbine in the northwestern area of the backyard seems to be doing very well, its large flowers white with light violet sepals. there are 3 more columbines at the southwestern corner of the house, but for some reason they're still very small (overcrowding? not enough sunlight?); i may decide to relocate them at the end of the season. i bought a packet of blue morning glory seeds which i planted along the southern fence with the red cypress vines and the white moonflowers; if everything flowers according to schedule, it will be a very patriotic colored display.
a perk of any successful supply run are the snacks we bring back. we tried the xi'an biang biang noodles (wide flat noodles), it tasted pretty good (spicy), but the amount of noodles in the package was so small my father had to supplement it with some additional ramen noodles. we got some sichuan tofu which we thought came in a whole piece but inside the bag was smaller bags of individually packed tofu squares of different flavors. that would explain why there was a list of several different flavors on the bag. the tofu was okay, but the different flavors are false advertising because they all taste the same, spicy and oily. we also tried some coconut cookies, expensive at $4.50 a bag, but actually pretty good, though about the same quality as the mrs. thinsters toasted coconut cookie thins we get at costco.
we tried out the new TCL dehumidifier (model DEA70EP). design-wise it's very minimalistic but still stylish. the controls are easy to understand, unlike our previous delonghi dehumidifiers that had buttons and displays that were hard to decipher. the cord was a little short (3-4 feet) and we didn't have an extension cable, so we moved the unit next to the outlet close to the washing machine. we also added a smart plug, so we could see how much electricity it was using, which was 550W when active (not sure how much when idle). we were kind of surprised by the number, but a dehumidifier is kind of like an indoor air conditioner, and often times it uses more than twice the amount of electricity than a refrigerator. it wasn't loud but it wasn't quiet either, would definitely annoy me if it was in a bedroom.
we also tested its ability to perform following a restart. we're happy to report that the memory IC will remember the previous settings after the power has been turned off, like after a power outage, or specifically in our case, when we turn off/on the dehumidifier remotely through the smart plug. one strange thing though is if you turn off the unit from the control panel itself (the normal way), it doesn't remember the previous settings.
there was a brief moment of panic when it seems like maybe the dehumidifier pump could only push the water downwards and not up. there was no mention of this feature on the box (other than saying it had a pump) and the thin instruction manual had diagrams of potential hose configuration, all of them pointing downwards. only after careful reading did i see in very fine print that the pump can push water vertically up a height of 16ft, which is more than enough in our case, with the hose going to the basement sink. the confusing diagram was for the special case of continuous dehumidifying, when you attach a larger garden hose to the machine. (later i went online and found a different more detailed instruction manual, which explains better how the pump works)
my father was fixing the plug of our homelite electric pole saw, the mini chainsaw on a stick. because we always set it down on its far end when we store it in the garage, the plug has finally detached. after taking apart the handle housing, he was trying to figure out how to solder the wires back together. i suggested instead of using the original wires, to add new wires on the inside.
a good soaking after a rainstorm makes the backyard appear greener. but the best kind of rain is one that falls late at night, while everyone is sleeping, and then come morning there's nothing but sunshine. today was not that case. it was cold and wet and grey. outside on the lawn i saw few ugly birds which i thought were maybe possible robin fledglings, as we've been seeing a lot of robins in the backyard recently. turns out they were young birds, but grackles instead of robins. i know this because i saw an adult grackle descend to feed them. young grackles are fat with a matte brownish black coat and black eyes instead of yellow. they look nothing like the sleeker shinier adults with yellow eyes, they really do resemble robins more. i also saw a baby rabbit. it couldn't have been the ones we uncovered weeks ago, so these must be a new brood. that reminds me: i need to attach wire fencing to the eastern yard entrance as that's how rabbits are getting into the backyard.
even though it'd stopped raining, my father gave me a ride back home to cambridge. there was yet another package on the doorstep for upstairs. i brought it inside and put it out on the upstairs backyard deck and sent e-mail to david. he wrote me back, said they were away for a few days and would be back wednesday.