Sunday, March 13, 2011

On convertibles and car washes

Some things seem like a really good idea.  Things that are supposed to simplify our lives, give us more time in the day for what matters, can sound very appealing to us.  The emphasis in this case is on things that we think are a good idea, until we are fully immersed in them.

Take, for example, the drive through car wash.  What could be easier?  We stop at the gas station, fill up the car, and for a few dollars and only a few minutes more, we can have our car washed, waxed and dried before we are back on the road.  Now that is a real time saver, right?  It always has been for me.  Here's the thing: remember that convertible bug I so coveted and now lovingly drive with the top down each day?  I never asked about its tolerance for the automatic wash.  I did ask my sweetheart, after we looked at it for the first time, "What about car washes?  Can it go into a car wash?"  This question brought laughter because, of course, the top is waterproof.  The car can be out in a rainstorm, so why should a car wash be any different?  Right?  That's what I thought, too.

Right now in Florida we are knee-deep into allergy season.  Everything is dusted in pollen.  Sprite has been blanketed in a fine yellow dust for weeks, so the other day I had a few extra minutes when I stopped to get gas and decided to run Sprite through the car wash for her first bath.  Silly, silly girl!  I closed the roof, rolled up the windows, and pulled into the bay.  As soon as the water began to shoot at the car, it came pouring through the front corner of the driver's side window, showering me in aromatic, recycled car wash water!  It was also coming in the front of the passenger window, but I was passenger-free, so only the door was drenched.  As luck would have it, the only drying option I had with me was a left-over napkin from the bagel store.  Most days I travel with a giant Magic Cloth for just such emergencies, but not on this day.  I began frantically trying to sop up the water with the pathetic, disintegrating towel and tried to decided whether to drive out while the machine was still running or suck it up and let the wash run its course.  I also checked to make sure the windows were all the way up...Apparently they needed to be more tightly sealed.  That's called operator error.  D'oh!  I tightened the windows the best I could, continued to try to dam the deluge, and waited out the storm. 

As I finally exited through the high intensity blow dryer I decided that it would be best in the future to save my quarters and wash the car myself in one of the do-it-yourself washing bays.  That way only Sprite will get a shower.  It may have saved me a few minutes, but the blood pressure spike I experienced when the water started pouring in the window may have shaved a few weeks off my life!  Lesson learned: sometimes looking easy isn't enough. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On the restorative power of cooking

Some days, some weeks, are harder than others.  Some days we all would rather stay snuggled under the covers and sleep the day away than get up, shower, dress, and behave like responsible adults.  I know I would.  The last couple of weeks have been like that for me. Work has been crazy.  Life has been crazy.  The hours have been long.  The deadlines have been short.  By the time I get home, I am ready for bed.  Fortunately, although it didn't seem that way at first, one day last week I didn't  have the option of going straight to bed.  One does require some sort of nourishment in order to prepare to do it all over again the next day, after all.  Enter my kitchen. 

I will admit to being frustrated at first that it fell to me to figure out what to do about dinner as soon as I walked in at 6:00 after working all damn day, but I felt like it did, so I started digging in the fridge and the cabinets.  The outlook appeared daunting, but I am nothing if not creative and able to improvise.  As I began to chop red onion and garlic, my shoulders started to relax.  I was inspired to toss sun-dried tomatoes with some of their oil, green olives, and pitted kalamata olives into the food processor to make a tapenade of sorts.  I used olive oil and the tapenade to saute' the onions and garlic in my new Dutch oven.  Then I tossed in sliced turkey Kielbasa and browned it up a bit with everything else.  My breathing began to slow.  To this beautiful mixture,  I added a carton of Roma tomatoes, Vodka, and some finely chopped Greek pepperocini with the juice from the jar.  The aroma was amazing and I was feeling better by the moment.  I added a bunch of spices - red pepper flakes, garlic pepper, black pepper, rosemary garlic...I have no idea what else...I just started tossing stuff in as the muse struck me.  Then I boiled some whole wheat penne until it was almost done, and tossed it into the Dutch oven to finish cooking and soak up some of the sauce.  By now my sweetheart had joined me in the kitchen and mixed up a Prosecco, Pomegranate, and ginger ale sangria for us.  I served the pasta creation in bowls with freshly grated Parmesan and Asiago cheese over the top - everything is better with cheese.  We toasted it with the sangria. 

I could no longer remember anything that had challenged me during the day.  I had cooked it away, and life was good once again.  After my sweetheart cleaned up the kitchen we adjourned to the living room whence I promptly fell asleep in my favorite chair.