The Path Of Amusement

“A mind is not completely well organized that is deficient in a sense of humor.”  ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Nothing went as planned. My flight out of Minneapolis was delayed by several hours due to de-icing (such are the hazards of leaving the homeland in December) and even the cab driver’s curt, curbside admonition set me on edge; when I opened the taxi door in front of the hotel, he advised: “Run!”

It was midnight in the Big Apple (a city I’d only read about or dreamed of visiting) and it wasn’t the glamorous entrance I’d envisioned. With a backpack slung over one shoulder, I bolted for the foyer as fast as my hiking boots could carry me, suitcase in tow. The first leg of my international journey disappeared into the darkness as quickly as the cab driver behind me.

What was a Midwest girl (and I reference that in frame-of-mind only; I was in my twenties) doing running around in the middle of December in the middle of the night in the middle of NYC?

Prior to that, my life was comparable to Cream of Wheat — warm and somewhat filling — but a part of me yearned for more than the bland serving of sitcoms and weekly tele-dramas that made up my social life. (FYI, the Internet was in its infancy.) Out of the blue, a high school friend invited me to visit her in London while she was on break from university and I knew it was an opportunity to be seized. There was no turning back.

5:00 a.m. Hi and goodbye, Big Apple. Time to go to London. Via Iceland.

Midwest girls are pretty savvy about snagging good deals. When Icelandic Air offered a two-day stay in Reykjavik on the return trip (hotel room, tours, and meals included on top of an already reasonable round-trip fare) I was on it like snow on a pine cone.

There are only two things I recall about that Transatlantic flight: 1) The meal was served on china plates with real silverware, and 2) they served Cognac.

The plane touched down at Keflavik International Airport and taxied to a stop some fifty yards from the airport entrance. Crunching over the snow-covered tarmack with a small band of debarking stragglers, an icy wind slapped me awake — an exhilarating and immediate consciousness after a bleary-eyed flight. In this heightened state of awareness, I also noticed no one spoke English.

With ticket in hand, I located the closest information kiosk, grinning from ear to ear as the lyrical sounds of the Icelandic language tickled my fancy. The clerk didn’t seem impressed by my euphoria. In fact when he glanced at my ticket, an aghast expression crossed his face and he immediately grabbed his two-way radio, speaking rapid-fire Icelandic into it. Even without a translator, I knew something was wrong.

He suddenly grabbed my backpack and said (in English), “Follow me.” It wasn’t a suggestion. We began to walk, then run through the airport hallways. At one point, he leaped over a velvet-corded barricade and I had no choice but to follow suit. Half-grinning, half-panting, I kept pace with my swift escort, wondering where he was leading me in such an all-fired hurry.

The double doors at the end of the hall slid open and I was on the snow-covered tarmack once again. Sprinting toward the plane (this time parked several hundred yards from the terminal on the runway), I watched the back door open. My able-bodied escort skidded to a stop at the bottom of the descending staircase, threw my backpack to the flight attendant at the top, and motioned for me to go. Now.

Bolting up the stairs two at a time, I plunked down in the first available seat, clicked the belt around me, and listened to the door hydraulic shut. Almost immediately, the rush of the jet engines pressed me back into my seat.

My, things certainly do come and go quickly here in Iceland…

After that little bit of hysteria was resolved, I settled in for the flight to Heathrow. Turns out it was an every-other-day flight — if I had missed it, I would have been stranded for two days.

Armed only with the knowledge of “who shot J.R.” (which proved to be quite the conversational nugget at a Boxing Day cocktail party I attended later that week — the episode hadn’t aired there yet — but I’m getting ahead of myself), I shook my head incredulously. I thought I’d organized this trip to a T, but chaos followed me.

Or led the way. ~

. . .

This is my brain when it’s organized…

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I wish I could tell you I’ve been organized my entire life, but I wasn’t.

As a child, my clothes often found their way to a pile in the middle of my bedroom floor (which Mom affectionately referred to as “The Nest”) and I’d do almost anything to get out of doing dishes — just ask my sister.

No, mine was a casual flirtation with organization. I’d try it and like it, then forget about it as soon as something more interesting came along.

The only one who wasn’t fooled was my piano teacher. There was no such thing as faking the mandatory seven hours a week of scales and arpeggios, Hanon and Heller.  You either did them or you didn’t and it showed.

Organization (or lack of it) also shows.

Since then, I’ve found life to be much more amusing when my forks are in a row (so to speak.) But, I’m getting ahead of myself again — and that was the root of my problem. I wanted to enjoy results with minimal effort… sort of like eating dessert first.

Then I noticed a trend. My “amusement” increased exponentially (in the kitchen and out) when I added a missing ingredient: organization.

While that may not sound amusing, organization is as essential a kitchen tool as a good, sharp knife when you want to have fun. (That probably wasn’t worded the best.) Let’s just say I’ve learned how to appreciate the “daily” side of things. Here’s how:

1) Make your space your own.

I operated on the premise that my kitchen was organized, when in fact, the “space” pretty much dictated how I operated. After moving from house to apartment to trailer to storage unit to no house to Oklahoma, my move-in routine was: open the cupboards, fling things in, and pick up where I left off. Although I had a general idea of where I’d like everything to be, I never stopped to consider what would work for me in my present space. (And frankly reorganizing it once it was “in there” sounded like a lot of work.)

So I floated along, ignoring the cues that my brain inevitably sent me. “Why don’t you move the crockpot to a different cupboard? You end up moving it every time you need the fill-in-the-blank appliance.” … “You’ve never liked that cutting board; why do you keep it?”… “This is the third time you’ve had to dig through that drawer!” (You know that “voice” I’m talking about…) Isn’t it funny how we can occupy space without giving it any thought — or ignore our thoughts altogether?

After the New Year (no need to add another to-do during the holidays), make a date with your kitchen. Put on your favorite music, dress up like June Cleaver (or Ward if it tickles your fancy), pour yourself some coffee or tea (or Cognac), and sit down with a pen and paper or laptop. Then, write down every idea that enters your pretty lil’/handsome head. You might be surprised at the number of thoughts vying for your attention, awaiting translation.

2)  Imagine your cupboards without anything in them.

Picture where you’d like things to go, once and for all. It helps to do this before you put them there, but better late than never. Sometimes it’s a matter of moving one or two things around or getting rid of defunct items, not a full-scale kitchen re-do. And no wishing for more cupboards. (Adding space doesn’t increase your organization if you don’t utilize the space you already have.)

3)  Clean as you go.

Simple as it sounds, this nugget of kitchen wisdom has kept me from slaving over piles of pots and pans at the end the evening more times than I can count. You either do them or you don’t and it shows. If you have a dishwasher, empty it before you start cooking so you can tuck things out of the way as they’re used. If you don’t have a dishwasher, run a sink of hot, soapy water and swish your hands through the suds. Get out a clean dish towel and put on an apron. Feign June (or Ward) Cleaver-like efficiency and get to it. Preparing to clean up increases the likelihood of following through.

Amusement is as amusement does.

Organization has become one of the most essential items in my kitchen… and my travels. How ’bout you?

Enjoying life’s just desserts,

~ Kim

(For more tales about my culinary journey, please search Forks In The Road in the sidebar.)