Monday, October 08, 2007

In Which I Take a Break from Talking About Sex

I know you are disappointed, but this past week was just rather normal. I've had a cold for about a week now, but Thursday I went swimming anyhow. I have no idea how far. My friend counted her laps, and said she did 64. She was really moving, so my guess is maybe I did 40. It took 40 minutes anyhow.

That was a feather in my cap, but what I am really SOOOOOO proud of myself for was getting the Spouse’s bike fixed!

Last weekend he and Baboo rode to Hainburg (which is only about 20 km). She isn't very fast, and I could tell he was itching to do more, so I told him to ride home, too. Which he did, but not too far from home (although too far to walk a bike) he hit something glass and sliced his back tire. I had to bring the car to collect him. Now his tires were the original ones that came with the bike in 2002, and, frankly, when I looked at them that morning, I thought they were bald in a scary way. So regardless of the flat tire, it was time to replace them.

After swimming, I took the bike to this shop in a village near Bratislava because I know I can park right in front. And that was true. I dragged the bike in the shop and told the first poor guy I saw, in my bad Slovak, that terribly sorry, but I don't speak Slovak, I had this bike, the tire was kaput, and could I please buy two new outside parts. He was very kind, spoke slowly and clearly, and told me, in Slovak, that he was going to call his English-speaking colleague.

So said dude arrives and totally dealt with me. Helped me pick two new tires based on the surfaces Spouse rides on, got me a new inner tube, and told me if I just hung out for 30 minutes, the service guys would deal with it right now. I had them tighten the handlebars, too, since they have always been wobbly. It cost me 1200 crowns (which is about $50). And they were all as pleasant and nice as they could be. I sort of wanted to look around the shop, but figured it would only depress me with things too rich for my blood. (I want to get us both some longer tight type things for colder weather, but suspect they will run about $100/pair.) So I went across the street to a tiny grocery store, got me a Diet Coke and a roll, and sat in the car and put photos in an album until it was time to collect the bike.

I don't know why I'm so chuffed about it, but I am.

On a funnier note, I have 25 kilos of potatoes in my foyer. About this time of year, folks come around with vans full of potatoes or onions and sell them door-to-door. When I saw the guy, I thought he might have onions, but he didn't. Don’t know why I bought the potatoes, but here they are. They remain in the foyer because, although I have biceps like Václav Havel's liver (so says my trainer), 25 kilos is heavy! The cat plays with them. The kids, at least, have discovered the joys of baked potatoes, so I see a lot of those in the future. I also learned a fabulous and oh, so simple recipe from my friend, VW, this summer. You peel and slice potatoes and put them in a buttered dish, layered with onions, salt and pepper, little dabs of butter, and shredded cheese. Pour in a small amount of cream (my preference) or milk or chicken stock (I use maybe 1/3 to ½ a cup) and then MICROWAVE it all for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. It’s really a very wonderful dish and a big hit.

My cold dragged on through the weekend, and on Saturday I really felt my worst, so much so that I decided there was not going to be any bike ride in the hills for me this weekend. Gorgeous though the weather was, I can possibly get some times in this week. But poor Spouse, who has been in Moscow, deserved a go.

Now most children will generally tell you that a Disney property qualifies as the Happiest Place on Earth, but to me it’s this place. It was the icing on the cake of my Ideal Sunday. Really. What could be better that a relaxing Sunday morning with classical music and a bacon and omelet breakfast made for you with love? A wonderful cup of coffee, with real cream? Okay, I don’t get the Sunday New York Times delivered to my door (that, my friends, is the definition of civilization), but I can read it and do the puzzle on line. Which I did. I've lost my reading glasses (grumble, grumble). I think I let them fall out of the car at the swimming pool parking lot . . . so while I can read on line just fine, words-on-real-paper is just unpleasant without them. The real newspaper would have been wasted on me this weekend anyhow. Ah, the silver lining.

I also puttered around in the kitchen and made some of my favorite things: beet salad with feta cheese and roasted endive wrapped in prosciutto ham.

But what about the Happy Place? I sent the Spouse off on his bike, and then, a few hours later, I put the kids in the car, put John Mayer in the CD player (I still maintain Continuum is the perfect CD . . . it has shoved Jose El Frances’ Somos Perfectos right off my Top Ten List), drove through the Austrian countryside on a sunny afternoon with the leaves just beginning to turn and the fields full of pheasants, and met him and a few other friends there to taste some of their lovely sparkling wines and snack on some local specialties . . . or specialities as the Brits would say.

We shared a plate of soft cheese, paper-thin slices of a local ham that was topped with a mound of freshly grated horseradish, a mushroom terrine, and a meat terrine, garnished with tomato-lavender jam. On another plate we had grilled sausage that was almost white and creamy inside, but brown and crisp on the outside next to a serving of mashed pumpkin with dill. All wonderful.

Before, during, and after, we tasted the house sparkling wines (well, I had a teeny, tiny glass because I had to drive, but the Spouse got to taste three or four). Although I have been to tastings at this producer many times now, I always learn something new. This time I learned the following:

Champagnes are categorized as Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec and Demi-sec depending on their sugar levels. Blame the French if you must, but this is rather misleading to a novice like me, because by the time you get to Dry you are actually drinking champagne that is more on the sweet side. I did not know that. Brut is always drier (less sweet) than Extra Dry. Extra Dry means, in Champagne terms, extra sweet. So there’s your lesson for the day.

We bought two boxes, one of Grüner Veltliner Brut and one of Zweigelt Extra Dry. The second is, interestingly, a sparkling red, and, although I just told you that extra dry = extra sweet, everything is still relative, and this is not at all like red pop even though I was suspicious at first. So stop by and make me pour you a glass before we drink it all ourselves. Or, better yet, come with me next time. I’ll get us a bus.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food or sex, it's nice to read your column on such a slow day. The terrines sound wonderful. I'll have to look them up in Joy of Cooking.


8:42 PM  

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