Saturday, March 24, 2012

What Happens in Vegas

 My husband and I are planning our yearly anniversary trip to Las Vegas and I am positively giddy.  I'm not much of a gambler and my drunken revelry days are long behind me, but I love Las Vegas.  They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I wouldn't mind sneaking some of it home with me.

The first thing I'd cram into my carry on would be the sunshine, of course.  While the rest of the country is experiencing an unusually warm spring, we here in the Pacific Northwest are suffering through endless rounds of snow mixed with rain mixed with sleet mixed with hail mixed with crappy weather.  Even my kids have had enough of snow days.  I've been in Las Vegas in December when it was less than warm, and I'm sure I'd melt about mid-August, but late April/early May weather is positively heavenly. 

Next on my list of souvenirs would be clean towels with just a phone call, no grocery shopping and the whole host of people there to accommodate my every wish.  Yes, I know they're just doing their job (and may well complain about me when they go home at night), but there is nothing lovelier than having a whole city (okay, hotel strip) willing to take on all those pesky chores I drudge through everyday in my real life.  To the maid who replaces the toilet paper roll, the waiter who whisks away my dirty dishes and the janitor who vacuums the casino carpets I'd just like to say:  I love you.

Another Vegas aspect I'd enjoy taking home with me is getting to spend a few precious days of not being a mom.  I love my kids, I really do, but sometimes even the Virgin Mary needed a break. ("Jesus Christ, will you just clean your room?!") The Las Vegas Tourism Board has been trying to hype their city as family friendly, but I'd sooner spend my vacation at a glue factory than bring my kids to Las Vegas with me.  There may very well be all sorts of activities for the under 21 crowd, but I like to think of Las Vegas as a Disneyland for grown ups.  No responsibilities, no one complaining they don't have any clean socks (again!) and no bickering siblings.  Las Vegas is all about me, me, me.  (Okay, maybe my husband, too, but I know they really set it all up for me.)

While I'm looking forward to our trip, I find the closer it gets the less patience I have with my everyday life.  Oh Las Vegas, how will I get through the next month without you?  Can you Fed Ex me some 8o degree weather?  (And maybe a cabana boy with a fruity drink? )

Monday, March 5, 2012

Home Cooking

Let's face it:  my husband did not marry me for my cooking.  I will freely admit that I don't like to cook, I hate going to the grocery store and will quickly skip over any and all cooking shows on TV.  When I first went away to college and had to feed myself, lack of funds and little experience were responsible for such culinary masterpieces as "Mexican Surprise" and "Asian Surprise."  (The only difference between the two was chili powder or soy sauce in my Top Ramen.)  

My husband told me when we first started dating that he knew how to cook. I thought that, and love, would see us through. Unfortunately knowing how and doing are two different things.

When our oldest was in kindergarten his class created a "cookbook" as a Mother's Day gift, a recipe compilation, as dictated by 5-year-olds, of their favorite homemade foods.  My son's contribution was "Honey Toast":  toast the bread, add honey.  This, apparently, was his mother's signature dish.

Last summer our microwave broke and my husband was afraid the kids would starve. Luckily I learned you can cook frozen chicken nuggets in the oven, too.

The other night I was making dinner for my family and congratulating myself that it didn't involve fluorescent orange cheese-flavored powder or any ingredients that would need a chemist to decipher. 
I got to thinking, as I chopped and boiled (and did not use the microwave, thank you very much), how my mother still cooks certain foods when I visit because she knows they are my favorite.  What dishes, I wondered, would my kids recall fondly from their childhood (I mean, besides honey toast)?

There are a few things that I have learned to cook successfully on a regular basis.  My son will happily eat my lasagna any day of the week, a recipe I got from my father.  I think of this as "Norwegian Lasagna", as it calls for cottage cheese instead of something as exotic as ricotta; and my father is Norwegian.  Lasagna is one of the few dishes all three kids will eat without complaint, rolling of eyeballs, or muttering "Again?" with shear disgust.

My older daughter likes my recipe for chicken and black bean enchiladas, which I found in one of those "5 Ingredients or Less", ""One Pot Suppers", "Even You Can't Screw This Up" cookbooks.  Chicken (cooked in the microwave, of course), canned black beans, a can of green chiles, cheese and sour cream rolled up in a tortilla.  They were right, I can't screw it up.

My youngest has more unique taste buds--perhaps the only child to ever utter the phrase "Yum, broccoli!"  She won't eat cereal with milk on it, doesn't like hot chocolate, and has never eaten jelly with her peanut butter.  While her favorite dinners would include salmon and cooked peas (ewww), I know the one recipe she will cherish from her childhood:  Chocolate Chip Pie.

(Right now, all my siblings are smiling and nodding--Oh yeah, Chocolate Chip Pie!)

Chocolate Chip Pie is a treat that my grandmother used to make for us when we were little.  We thought this was Grandma Mabel's secret recipe:  Cool Whip, marshmallows and chocolate chips in a graham cracker crust.  As adults we each got a copy of it written out in our grandmother's handwriting and it is something I treasure.  A few years ago, however, I found the exact same recipe on the back of a graham cracker box.  I choose to believe Nabisco stole it from Grandma Mabel.

While my lack of cooking skills may have instilled less than perfect eating habits in my children (frozen waffles can be served for dinner), I like to think where I have failed, they will choose to succeed.  My grandchildren will perhaps dine on homemade stew and Chicken Parmesan on a regular basis.  And I will happily invite myself to dinner, bringing the Chocolate Chip Pie for dessert, of course.