The Car Washed Over Me

The new thing: washing my car by hand.

Here’s how it happened: My Honda Accord got covered with a sappy substance while parked near a landscaping truck on a windy day. I didn’t feel like driving to the car wash 20 minutes away, the weather was warm, and I was game to try washing it myself.

I bought some special soap, found some old cotton tee-shirts and a kitchen sponge, and got to work.

And then a funny thing happened.

As I was soaping up the car—which we bought 15 years ago and I call the Clampett Car for the many nicks and dents we’ve never gotten fixed—the last decade and a half of my life flashed before my eyes. I sponged the sunroof and remembered how my son, as a toddler, loved to look up through the open roof as we drove on bridges, his little face captivated by the massive steel structures overhead. I washed the front headlight that’s held in place by duct tape (classy!) and thought of how touched I was when my husband, not the world’s biggest animal lover, got upset after a deer ran into the road and into our moving car; he was so worried about the deer that he called the cops. (The deer survived.) I soaped up the dent (unknown origin) on the right side, which has been like a beacon over the years, its distinctive look signaling to me in crowded parking lots when I have only a vague idea of where I parked. And the trunk! It’s held our luggage and treasures for trips to the Berkshires, Tennessee, New England, and countless other places.

I may never go to a drive-through car wash again.

The Ice Cream Queen

The new thing: Instead of buying an ice cream cake from Carvel, I made one.

Here’s how it happened: Every year as I’m forking over $27 at my local Carvel for my son’s birthday cake, I vow that the next year I will make one myself. How hard could it be? It’s not like I would have to make the actual ice cream! My cake would be just as good and cheaper than Carvel’s.

This year, I had the time and motivation (hello, blog!). and I finally kept my vow.

I bought two gallons of Blue Bunny on sale– chocolate-chip mint and cookie dough, my son’s favorite flavors–a package of Oreos, and a tub of Cool-Whip. The bill came to $11.

I found a “conversational” recipe online where the writer sounded like she was standing in my kitchen giving me directions. (“The easiest crust is to crush the cookies you plan to use.”) Basically, all I did was spread some crushed Oreos at the bottom of a springform pan, added a gallon of softened ice cream, sprinkled on some more Oreos, and froze it for 30 minutes. Then I added another gallon of softened ice cream, topped the whole thing with more Oreos, and put it back in the freezer until my boy’s birthday party the next day.

You know that Carvel whipped-cream frosting that tastes so good? There’s nothing “whipped” or “cream” about it. A former store employee divulged a company secret: The frosting is actually made from a powder. So the Cool Whip I frosted the cake with, right before serving, wasn’t too far off the mark! Plenty of chemicals to go around, just in a different form.

My son and his friends gobbled up the cake.

Fudgie the whale, watch out.

I ate at a “$2” restaurant

 The new thing: I ate at a restaurant because I had a coupon.

Here’s how it happened: I got an email from about a special deal: Buy a $2 coupon and get $25 off a meal. Scrolling through the list of participating restaurants, I laughed when I saw a local Italian place that I diss every time I drive by it. It’s housed in a nondescript brick building with an entrance that’s below street level. “Who would ever eat there?” I’d say to my husband. “The restaurant’s in the basement!”

Its website featured a few glossy close-ups of old-school dishes with captions like  “giant homemade stuffed meatball” and “chicken with broccoli rabe—I like it with hot cherry peppers too.” (Wait, who’s saying that??)  There was also a panoramic shot of the glittering Manhattan skyline at night—an odd graphic since the restaurant is in Union, New Jersey!

The place’s tagline, “Where friends become family and family become friends,” made me think Tony and Carmela Soprano would enjoy eating there.

Ultimately, my love of a good discount superseded my irrational dislike of a restaurant I’d never eaten at, so I bought a coupon and took my family there Friday night.

It turned out the Sopranos were right.

The food was delicious and comforting, nicely cooked and flavorful. While there was nothing particularly innovative about the menu—they stuck to Italian standards—they did them well. My husband (chicken with Portobello mushrooms),  son (linguini with mussels), and I (salmon Florentine) were well-fed and happy. The staff was welcoming. They poured generous glasses of the house wine. There was live entertainment! And the place was packed.

It was the best $2 I ever spent.

Mom or the movies?

This is my first blog here, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. Each post will describe something new I’ve tried recently–an activity, behavior, food, music, anything that will enrich or entertain me (hopefully, you too). I promise it will be fun, interesting and, most importantly, short (300 words or less).  Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

The new thing: I didn’t follow the rules.

Here’s how it happened: I had to make a choice–go to the movies with my husband and son or visit my mother in her assisted-living home, as I’d promised her.

If I was an unselfish person or starring in a Lifetime movie, I wouldn’t have had the following thoughts:

• I had a busy week and deserve to go to the movies

• I just visited Mom two days ago

• It’s unfair that my husband and son get to have fun without me

• I really want to eat popcorn.

I thought it over for a while. But instead of doing what my 12 years of Catholic schooling were telling me to do, I chose the movies. I called my mother. I said, “I can’t visit you today after all. But I’ll come over on Monday and we’ll go have coffee together.” I held my breath, waiting to hear the disappointment in her voice. But instead, Mom sounded chipper. “That’s okay, Nan. Monday’s good. I wanted to go play bingo this afternoon anyway.”

The popcorn was fabulous.