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Betsy Block

Make Mama Look Good

Mostly Fun

Mostly Fun
In New England, we're allotted about 8 weekends of warm, sunny weather a year. That's 16 weekend days (give or take) when we can go outside and play with our kids. Last Saturday morning, it was clear that the next 48 hours weren't going to be among them.

Feeling desperate after a fall and early summer of seemingly endless rain, I whispered to BD that we should consider booking a room at a local suites hotel for the night. "We can swim, and there's cable TV and cookies." The old BD would have shot it down - "What about Roxy?" he would have said, and indeed the new BD did still ask about the dog, but this time he added, "I guess we could come home to let her out." It seems that something (middle age? bad weather? something he ate?) has made my formerly resistant husband susceptible to my outlandish plans.

Which is how we found ourselves, hours later, checking into a nearby hotel for the night.

It was so spontaneous and outside our usual routine that I swam. The kids were flabbergasted; I'm not sure how many years it's been since I got in a pool, never mind getting my head wet; I even swam a few laps, just to see if I still could. They treated me like a rock star: "Mom's in the water! Mom, play with me!"

That all ended once it was time for bed and Stern Mom had to make her appearance. I had warned the kids that this would be a test run to see if we could ever take vacations as a family because they'd have to sleep in the same room; amazingly, they rose to the occasion, quieting down and falling asleep in record time. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only problem child, because once we turned out the lights I tossed and turned for hours. (Typical hotel beds make me itchy. I take this as a sign that I am only suited to five-star resorts, which might mean we never go away again after all. Ironic.)

Still, we finally all drifted off, only to be awakened a few hours later by - a baby's cries? Who brings a baby to a hotel, and why in God's name did they have to have the room next to ours? This hotel thing wasn't working out as well as I'd hoped.

Apparently E felt the same way, because the next night, as I tucked him into bed at home (sweet home), he said, "That was pretty much fun. I mean, except for the fighting."

"You're tough to please, buddy," I said with a slightly passive-aggressive smile (which luckily he couldn't see in the dark), at which point he said, "It was fun -- mostly."

Garlic shrimp

"What time do you open?" BD had asked the man on the other end of the phone at Dali, a local tapas joint. After all, we were on vacation and the kids had never eaten Spanish food.

"5:30," the man replied, then added meaningfully: "It's when life begins."

After trying the restaurant's gambas al ajillo, I realized: He just might be right.

Olive oil (half-cup-ish)
Lots of slivered garlic (I used six cloves for about a cup of oil which wasn't enough. Go heavy on the garlic)
Dried chile peppers, 3-4
Salt (and plenty of it)
Squeeze of lemon
A dozen shrimp (if they're jumbos, which is what we used because we had some in the freezer, although E points out that "you don't want jumbos, you want tiny ones" because that's what they serve at Dali)

Heat the first five ingredients over medium heat on the stove for about five minutes, or until the garlic is nutty and just turning slightly brown. Add in the shrimp and cook until just done, a minute or two depending on their size. Squeeze in some lemon and serve sizzling hot accompanied by good bread.