le subaru est malade…

February 15, 2011 Comments Off on le subaru est malade…

Let me make clear how much I love the Subaru.  Especially as we near the possible end of serious winter here.  When we moved to Iowa, we had one car–our equally beloved VW GTI.  And the first really big snowstorm, I spun it off the interstate, sparking a passionate search for the car least likely to spin off the interstate.  The All-Wheel Drive Subaru Outback was precisely that car, and I liked that the dealer told us that, even if we did spin off the interstate, the thing was built like a tank and we’d more than likely survive even a full-bore roll down an embankment.

It has served us remarkably well, and with very little trouble…until last week.  Last week it gave a couple of serious coughs and filled the passenger compartment with the unmistakable smell of burning oil.  Hm.  Then it didn’t do it for a few days, and then it did it again.  And with a big trip to Chicago coming up this weekend, I figured I’d better take it in to Campus Garage.  They have always taken care of us, and a colleague and I designed their (awesome) shop a few years ago, so they are beyond trustworthy.  We’ve bonded.

So this afternoon, they called up and basically asked if I was sitting down.  There is no way, Eric said, that we could take the Subaru to Chicago.  He began rattling off what they’d found.  Head gasket.  Coolant leak.  And it’s due for a new timing belt.  The damage?  Exactly equal, as it turns out, to two rooms worth of Plyboo flooring…

“It’s worth it,” he said.  “I promise at least another 100,000 miles.”

So we’ll be heading to Chicago in the VW.  No black ice forecast, at least.


snow day

February 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

I know, grownups are supposed to complain about snow, and we’re supposed to lament the fact that they’ve closed the schools, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But I have been secretly hoping for a snow day for a while.  As much as I hate driving on ice, I really like driving in snow, especially now that I get to drive the Subaru.  I love snowblowing (but talk to me tomorrow morning at 5:30 when it’s -2°), and I love the anarchy that a good snow day represents.  No school!  No work!  Go grab cafeteria trays and go sledding!

OK, so the last one was unlikely in blizzard conditions.  But when they called off school at 1:00 today, and when NOAA radio said, basically, “don’t go out unless you absolutely need to,” I decided that we absolutely needed to make a cafe run.  I am genetically predisposed to head out into bad weather, just to see if I can get back home, and the kids thought this would make a decent break from routine.  The good coffee shop downtown is only a few blocks away, and even though morale didn’t exactly need a boost (see photo of C, above left), I thought an outing was called for.

O and I both got hot stuff–cocoa for her, dark roast coffee for me–while the boy got himself a nice, cold Italian soda.  And they both got muffins.  It was nice–I used to take them to this coffee shop when they were tiny, usually when K was volunteering at the preschool and I had a morning with C.  We got to know the owners, since they’d just opened, and they have always had a seriously family-friendly atmosphere.  The kids hadn’t been in a while, but they both said they remembered going for muffins with K or me.  And as you can see, they fit into cafe culture quite nicely.

Our cookie supply was running low, so I suggested we make a new batch with our afternoon–a suggestion that won unsurprising unanimous approval.  The girl had, in fact, demanded pudding, but C was less enthusiastic and I gave him the deciding vote.  We picked up some nice cane sugar at the organic place (which the kids like now because they leave a lot of stuff out to sample…wait until they get a bite of organic herring by mistake…), and on the way out of the parking lot C asks if I can fishtail the car on the way home.  “This isn’t the VW,” I say.  “The Sube has all-wheel drive.  It’s pretty tough to fishtail this thing.”

“AW, COME ON,” C says.  At this point, I should mention that fishtailing the Volkswagen for C is not something I’ve done frequently, but it’s always–always–received a warm response from him when I’ve done it.  O asked what on earth a fishtail is, and so OK, I hit the gas a bit and steer sharply coming out of the parking lot.  And it’s not pretty, or impressive, but the back end comes out just enough that we’re ballistic for a few seconds and I’m working the steering wheel like an F1 driver until the thing comes back into line.

“WOO HOO!” says C from the back seat.  “OK, Dad, that was pretty cool,” says O.  I, meanwhile, check the mirrors and see no disapproving citizens or (more importantly) Ames’ finest…

We had a fine afternoon putting the cookies together.  The recipe we’ve been using has a super-thick batter, so the end product is about 3/4 of an inch thick and ultra-chewy.  Both kids helped, but only on the condition that they got to lick the batter off the mixer, which was fine by me.  They’re getting good at measuring stuff and working together, and we’ve now got a fine batch of cooling hockey pucks of chocolate, butter, and sugar that should get us through the week, anyway.

All in all, not a bad afternoon…we’ll see what happens with school tomorrow, my money’s on a late start but no cancellation.  Any takers?


January 7, 2011 Comments Off on snow

Just an inch and a half or so, enough to get your attention but not much more.  The kids assessed it quickly and were unimpressed.  They’ve been around the block enough to know that this doesn’t come CLOSE to calling off school.  C had to be early for band practice today, and this seemed like more of an inconvenience to him.  “Now I have to pack my snow pants. Now we’re going to be late.”  Trust me, kiddo, I’ve left an extra 75 seconds for you to get your snow gear together.  Relax.  (Not something C does easily.  Or, really, at all).

K hates snowy weekdays, and I can see why.  There are enough variables in the daily routine to make it a split second time management issue in the mornings and afternoons.  A couple of inches of fluffy white stuff only adds uncertainty and minutes.  C wasn’t late this morning, but it was a slower slog even in the Subaru.

Even though I’m the designated snowplow driver when I’m home (and K will tell you that whenever the big one hits, I’m usually at a conference somewhere in Europe), I’ve always kind of liked a nice Iowa snow dump.  It’s pretty, at least in the early morning before traffic turns it to grey slush.  C walked out this morning and his mood brightened.  “Wow,” he said.  “Charlie Brown snow.”  Meaning big puffy flakes like in the Christmas special.  It hides the hideous red color of our roof, too (getting replaced, but not until at least next year).

Maybe more to the point, though, snow always means a good round of man vs. nature.  I think it might be the recessive crusty New England yankee mindset, but there is nothing quite so satisfying as facing down a bit of weather with horsepower and saying, basically, ‘bring it on.’  This wasn’t nearly enough to bring out the 8hp Snow&#*@er 3000.  It was a cardio day for me at the gym, so I figured my shoulders could use the exercise, and I just shoveled the driveway.  But knowing that machine is in the garage and hungry for snowchow is deeply comforting.

And piloting the Subaru through city streets while other, weaker cars are bouncing around is also satisfying.  And you know what’s best?  It handles just like an F1 race car. Real live oversteer and understeer.  I’ve always felt a little held back by traction control.  I miss doing fishtails in my parents’ ’76 Honda Civic (kidding, of course, Mom).  So it’s kind of nice to feel the back end come out on you as you’re going around a corner and to snap it back in line.

Leftover hamburger on ciabatta (or, as O&C now call it, “chewbacca bread).  Filthy good.  Sledding later, maybe.

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