my mother called me in the late morning asking me to go with my sister to ikea to help my sister pick up a kitchen island. my sister tried to order it online but because of limited stock they wouldn't ship the item. so she was going to drive down to stoughton, pick up the furniture, and have them ship it to cambridge. "why don't we just pick it up ourselves?" i asked, the most obvious solution, and save some money to boot. my sister went to go measure her car to make sure the item would fit (it came in 3 boxes, 50 lbs. each) and to clean it out to make room. she then came to pick me up around 12:45pm.

the stoughton ikea is a 40 minute drive south of boston. my sister has gone there a bunch of times but was slightly confused today as they'd recently changed all the exit numbers. she was using her car's gps but it only had the old exits. i had to navigate using google maps, which gave us the correct numbers. we got to ikea by 1:30pm.

a typical trip to ikea would start off with a meal at the cafeteria. unfortunately because of the pandemic, the cafeteria was closed for safety reasons. i was expecting ikea to be more empty but there were still a good amount of customers, but the still least crowded i've ever seen at an ikea, judging from the amount of empty parking spots available.

i figured we'd go check out the floor model of the kitchen island on the showroom floor first before making our way to the lower market floor to pick up the furniture. of course once you're in the showroom, you essentially in a labyrinth that walks you through the entire showroom floor before finally emptying out onto the market. earlier, before we left, i was trying to get my sister to consider some other kitchen islands, like those from wayfair, that not only had free shipping, but less expensive as well. but my mother said my sister had already looked at all of them and only wanted the one from ikea, which sells for $500.

i didn't think the kitchen island was anything special. there was another island, with a rack across the top of the counter, good for additional storage as well as for hanging pots and pans. unfortunately that was too wide, considering i thought the island my sister wanted to get (rimforsa) was already too big for her kitchen. she also saw another island, about half the size, but paired up with a stainless steel kitchen cart, it allowed for some versatility, making the island smaller or larger depending on the usage. unfortunately that island didn't seem to be well built, a little rickety, and the one drawer wouldn't open all the way. in the end she decided on the rimforsa.

i almost bought a few things - drinking glasses, jar with lid - but i'm pretty good at not spending money needlessly. i did get a large 18" paper lantern ($5) for photography lighting purposes (i already have the light cord and special bright photo CFL light bulbs), and a few things for my parents' place: cork trivets, chair pads, solar lanterns, and a green råskog utility cart ($30) for our grow room.

on the market floor we went to the aisle that supposedly had the rimforsa. when we got there the aisle was all roped off. an employee greeted us and said all their item locations have changed. we gave her the item number for the rimforsa and she gave us a new set of aisle and bay numbers. when we got there there were two sets of rimforsa, just as advertised online. it was large enough that it came in three separate boxes, each 50 lbs. we lifted the boxes onto the flatbed shopping cart. i waited by the carts as my sister went back upstairs to get some kitchen drawer organizers, which for some reason weren't available on the market floor.

after paying, my sister got some frozen ikea food from the small food market. they also had some hot foods - hotdogs, meatballs - but a farcry from the cafeteria selection. we took the elevator down to the parking level and i waited as my sister brought the car around before we loaded everything into the vehicle.

we were done with ikea by 3:45pm, later than i'd imagined (there are no clocks in ikea, it's easy to lose track of time there). my sister then drove us back the 40 minutes to cambridge, arriving by 4:30pm. there was a bit of traffic around quincy on interstate 93, simply because the outbound HOV lane had reduced the number of inbound lanes, but once we got close to boston, the lanes opened back up again and it was smooth sailing.

my sister parked in front of her place so we didn't need the cart to move all her furniture into her house. she brought hailey along (otherwise she would cry) as she drove me back to my place.

it was nearly 5pm when i finally returned home. i hadn't had anything to eat up until this point. i fixed myself a matcha latte while waiting for my korean cup of noodles to soak the necessary amount of minutes under boiling water. today i warmed up the milk in a tall drinking glass then added the matcha powder directly before mixing everything with the frother. there was no splash because i used more liquids, the final latte was a uniform matcha green.

i tried out the paper lantern along with the dual bulb light socket and the CFL photo light. i got these neewer 45W 5500K triphosphor spiral CFL bulbs ($20) 2 years ago but never used them because i didn't have a paper lantern to serve as a diffuser. they seemed bright enough as naked bulbs, but inside the paper lantern they didn't seem all that bright, even with their combined 70W of illumination. i also don't have a light stand with a cantilevered holding arm that can hold the paper lantern diffuser.

in local pandemic news, governor baker is opening up vaccination tomorrow to anyone 65+. registration for these new slots begin tomorrow morning 8am. that means 1 million more people will qualify for the vaccination, but there aren't enough doses. i heard it's going to take another month before everyone in this new age group will be completely vaccinated.

instant pot century egg
& pork congee
(3-6 serving)

2.3 lbs. bone-in spare ribs
1 tbsp salt

3/4 cup short-grain rice
6 1/2 cups water
ginger, julienned

1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground white pepper

2 century eggs, chopped
3.5 oz. package pickled radish
scallions, chopped

marinate pork with salt for 6 hours or leave overnight in fridge. blanch pork in boiling pot of water for 3 minutes. add rice, water, ginger, and pork to instant pot and cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. let cool (natural release) for 20 minutes before venting remaining pressure. remove pork, discard bone, shred meat. season with salt, sesame oil, and ground white pepper before returning to instant pot. medium sauté to thicken congee, add chopped century eggs, shredded pork, pickled radish, and scallions. once desired consistency reached, serve.

in the evening i made some more instant pot century egg and pork bone broth congee. i put out the frozen country style bottom pork spare ribs last night, left them to thaw in the refrigerator, but i forgot to marinate them in salt first (even though my mother told me back then it didn't make any difference, since i'd be blanching the pork anyway). the only ingredient i didn't have were scallions, but my mother gave me a bunch when my sister came to pick me up earlier. it's a pretty easy recipe, but takes a bit of time: 20 minutes for the instant pot to get to pressure, 35 minutes of pressurized cooking, 20 minutes of natural venting, followed by several minutes of sautéing, so around 1-1/2 hours, though much of that is just waiting around, still faster than the old way of slow cooking everything. i used 2 century eggs this time, and honestly, i could probably just haven't gotten away with one. i'm not a fan of the taste, but the traditional recipe calls for century egg so i'm adding it for authenticity. when i cracked them open, i was so mesmerized by the crystal pattern that i spent 15 minutes just photographing the century egg crystals, playing around with the flash and flapjack light. finally all the ingredients went into the instant pot for a few minutes of cooking before the congee was ready.

a little on the light side this time, i don't mind. i used slightly more pork this time around, and i think i should've upped the salt-sesame oil-white pepper blend for more flavoring. i could've added more afterwards, but it was fine as is, good for the blood pressure anyway. fresh congee tastes the best, then after a day or two i get sick of it. fortunately for me i have two more servings.

i ate while watching the hawks-celtics game. kemba walker wasn't playing (he can't play on consecutive days, got to rest that old knee), boston ended up losing. i wanted to change the channel but the sport masochist in me kept on watching, hoping they'd mount a come-from-behind victory, which never happened.

amazon was supposed to deliver a seat cushion to the cafe today, but they gave me an estimated arrival time between 6-10pm, the latest delivery window i've ever seen. unfortunately the cafe would be closed by then, so i wasn't sure if they'd even deliver. i kept tracking the status of the package online, and when the cafe was the next stop, i called my sister to ask her to intercept the delivery person and get the package. she managed to snag the delivery just in the nick of time.