Friday, January 6, 2017

Crowne Plaza, Houlihan's, and Hooligans (Review and Giveaway)

I work all over the Eastern United states and that means mainly the Northern Virginia and Richmond areas. It sounds more important to add on states though, so I count that I've been to them and gloss over the rest.

I found myself near Herndon December 28th after traveling almost 9 hours. By that time, I had tired myself by standing in the cold and watching two men move a heavy cabinet for me. It's really hard being in the Jeep that long and having to sit in traffic and go over bridges with water or that still look like The Jetsons to me. So tiring.

My husband would rather drive 5 hours at night and get home at 11 PM than stay in a hotel. I would rather stay in a hotel because I don't feel guilty for neglecting to tidy up (I don't feel bad about that at home either) and I work too much to go on vacation. Working is my vacation. Vacation to me consists of eating at new places and staying in hotels. I understand some people go to the beach and think it's the best thing in the world. My aversion to heat, crowds, filthy water, and tourist traps limit my choices in that vein and I'm nowhere near Alaska or Maine (I haven't been up the ENTIRE East Coast ok?) which is where I really want to go. When I get there I'm going to embrace the cold, sit in a hotel, eat seafood, and watch bears or moose.


(puffins and I understand one another)

One time my mother and I went on a tour of the Shenandoah Valley and 4 bears crossed the road in front of us, three of which were babies, and she urged me to please get out of the car and take photos. I hope this explains the money I've invested in therapy.

Speaking of my therapist, she told me to write more often so I am. I'm not calling this a review, which it is more or less, but more of a commentary and observation of my relationship with the world around me and since I've recently married, my observation of how my husband compliments everything that is probably very wrong with me but I enjoy thoroughly and have no plans to change.

I'm am a member of both Hotels.com and Swagbucks.com so I booked through both sites to get points from both (if you're interested, I've made $175 in cash in the last 30 days from Swagbucks.com--cash in bank--and used it for 4 years but please allow me to send you a promo link) so we parked at a local McDonald's (great for free, fast WiFi) I found the first hotel that looked nice and affordable, and less than 10 minutes later we were at The Crown Plaza in Herndon, VA.

Now here's one thing you have to understand: I almost always look like white trash, I'm overweight, and I have no concept of caring about how other people perceive me based on this alone. My last job before self-employment was at a retail call center and although I started off looking fashionable and damn sexy, my mental health and overall high esteem for comfort unraveled that cocoon of image as I sauntered into work in sweat pants and baseball caps (and always on time). The people who model perfection get the raises and promotions: the people who don't give a shit either stay where they are or own the business one day. I'm sure of it.

Since I've added Chuck to my entourage, I have become more self-conscious but that is mainly due to his unruly and embarrassing behavior. I haven't really determined if it's really me that's embarrassed or that sometimes I don't want other people to be embarrassed just so I can selfishly continue to be entertained. I'll let you know when I arrive at a conclusion.

We we get there with a 5x7 Uhaul attached to our Jeep and it says "valet parking" and I'm all like,"Oh my god, will they valet a trailer?!" It's a huge pain to drive a trailer, especially when backing up or trying to understand where it's legal to park. Not that I hardly ever drive it. But still.

Then when we got into the lobby they tied a Christmas tree to a space thingy like it was levitating into a supernatural trance of heavenly hosts that resembled hoop earrings.


Everyone up here is foreign and by "up here" I mean not Lynchburg, Virginia or any of the surrounding counties who voted for Trump. 

Drat. I swore I wouldn't bring politics or controversy into a simple review/this-is-what-my-life-has-become blog, but what I'm saying is, it's so refreshing to see people of color (and by "people of color" I mean more than just black) having jobs and speaking foreign languages all without the obligatory harassment by an obese man wearing camo, spraying spittle into their faces, sputtering something about pressing one for English. 

So a lovely (I'm guessing French) young lady checked us in and offered to upgrade the room without us asking. The marker of a good hotel is always a hostess who will upgrade a room which you booked through Hotels.com without you making veiled threats and causing a huge scene. And she gave us free TOOTHBRUSHES (yea...I know), while the manager of the restaurant shamelessly flirted with the other clerk who was Iraqui (I tried to tell her she was from the Czech Republic but she insisted she was from Iraq and that perhaps I had heard of a war in the nineties).

The room was nothing to write home about, but it was clean and had a desk and that's mostly my requirements besides having a tub, but I do always notice how many toiletries they offer and this time I really enjoyed this little spa packet by Temple Spa.


This relaxation packet included Repose, an overnight moisturizing cream, Quietude, a calming mist for the air and bedding, and AAAHHH, a stress relieving massage gel for aching muscles. They are all made with essential oils, including the spray, which contained patchouli which smells like a dirty hippy but can also do an adequate job of masking cigarette smoke in a non-smoking room. 


(scraping the lettering off a smoke because I wasn't paying enough attention to him)

I did have a hard time trying to figure out how to turn on the lights. I unplugged the heating unit and it still kept working, and then I kind of figured it out, and then I woke up the next morning at it was -7 degrees in the room which isn't actually a huge problem because I stay hot all the time due too being fat and probably some terminal illness that I have yet to discover.

They had phone charger outlets and that made me more happy than I should be, then I realized I'm poor and simple so it all made sense.


So let's talk about dinner.

Houlihan's is a Leawood, Kansas-based American casual restaurant & bar with locations operating throughout the country, 60% of which are franchised (I totally ripped that from Wikipedia). I was hungry and wanted a martini which was, by the way, not good, and the bartender appeared to have an attitude but this is because I am fiercely judgmental about my martinis because only 15% of restaurants ever get them right. 

Our waiter was Ken Jeoung and by that I mean he looked and acted like him and I thought I was in "The Hangover 4" for about 2.5 seconds and started looking for a tiger. 



I ordered the mushroom appetizer since it seemed to be famous (it was pretty impressive) and then split a fish and chips meal with Chuck. Not too bad for the cost. 



(shrooms have never done me wrong)

Houlihan's is also part of the Recork Project




The next day, after Chuck made sure everything was nailed down, we took a little tour of the hotel. Since it was before New Year's Eve, we took pictures of the regular AND Christmas decor and Chuck said and did embarrassing things within earshot of strangers. 



At breakfast they offered a buffet, but I hate buffets, so I ordered a turkey sausage sandwich with Gouda and fruit and I'm pretty sure our waiter was also French but Chuck very loudly called him Iranian within earshot and then when he left our check, Chuck yelled something to him in French which, when translated, meant,"Are you going to the mountain?" The elderly couple behind us were appalled by more than several things he did, including but not limited to bringing in his portable coffee cup and refilling it 10 times, loudly asking if the buffet were free, and farting.

Then I had to do a little work so Chuck disappeared for about half an hour (never a good sign) and apparently found things that were not nailed down.


I won't need shampoo until spring. 

In summary, some of the good things about The Crowne Plaza are:

  • Guests enjoy complimentary 24-hr access to Life Fitness lifecycles, elliptical machine, treadmills, dual cable cross machine, free weight equipment, and medicine & stability balls. While exercising, watch your favorite show on the Flat Screen TV.
  • Restaurant and bar attached (obviously, the most important besides free WiFi)
  • Valet parking
  • Airport Shuttle
  • Languages I've never heard of are spoken here
  • Business services like copiers and printers (we learned that when we got the corporate rate)
  • There's an IHG club (the brand of hotel) that has pretty high ratings if you travel


There is a giveaway involved and I know you didn't read that blog that I spent 3 hours writing just so you could get to it. So here it is:

You will win a $25 gift card (by mail or email) and a sample of Temple Spa's products (by mail). 

1. You must go to www.screwlucy.com (which is not pornographic and I'm sick of having to say that) and join my brokering site on Facebook to qualify.

2. An added entry is commenting on one of the items for sale.

I don't require you to tweet or like anyone else on Facebook because these companies give me nothing and I review them completely for free without any compensation. You'd realize that if you read my reviews on Yelp.com because a lot of them are deservedly mean and totally hilarious. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Celebrating Hispanics with Unstable Emotions and Eating

In celebration of Hispanic History Month I couldnt dream of a better way to celebrate than to eat, watch movies, eat while watching movies, and possibly wear boarderline racists outfits while eating at restaurants, underscoring my ignorance of Hispanic history, yet also making me look endearingly enthusiastic and eager to celebrate.

Now, I'm going to be very transparent with you here, I have only technically seen three of these films, but I am still impressed by that fact simply because I used to have far less time on my hands to watch Netflix so if I was willing to watch a foreign film during that down time, then that, by default, makes me a smarter and more interesting person. It does.

1. Biutiful

This movie was nominated for two Oscars. I actually did watch 10 minutes of it. The scary guy in "No Country for Old Men" is in it and it's probably good. And also sad. 

2. Entre Nos.

This film was inspired by a true story and is basically about how hard life is for illegal immigrants, single moms, minorities, and basically everyone else who isn't a white male. I essentially cried sporadically throughout the entire film and then especially at the end because of the whole children, poor people, minorities being shat upon thing. But techincally, it does have a happy ending and that's also why I cried.

3. Pan's Labrinth 

This is a scary film that, I think isn't exactly horror but...ok. It takes place five years after the Spanish Civil War and centers around the main character, a child, who doesn't exactly have the best home life and continues to enter through a portal into a fantasy reality of challenges and creatures.

It's frightening and visually stunning (I would caution that it was also violent--too much so for me but I was already too far in). I also sporadically cried through this film. 



4. Nostalgia for the Light

If you've every heard Sting's "They Dance Alone" and wept openly and you didn't even know why, don't even attempt to watch this film, which also made me cry through the entire thing.

This is a documentary about searching for life in the Cosmos and the lingering effects of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile. 



Who even considers making that? Genius.

5. The Sea Inside

Ok I did actually watching this, but it was over probably a 3 day span. It's a true story and even though it was kind of super depressing I didn't cry. It's about euthenasia and I probably ended up not crying because he may have reminded me of an ex boyfriend. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What's for Dinner: Stewed Tomatoes and Eggs

Whenever I hear "stewed" I think about Southern cooking. I'm not sure why, since stewing didn't originate in the South, but I guess I suspect that all the blue-haired women I know who attend little country churches have stewed tomatoes in their pantry that they canned from their garden.

I hated tomatoes as a child. It's strange what you remember. When I was six I had a Cabbage Patch doll and a baby book that went along with it. I recorded on her "likes and dislikes" page that she didn't like tomatoes. Then I considered that I just marked out all the things I didn't like and reconsidered that maybe I should make her a separate entity. So I decided she liked tomatoes after all.

Never underestimate a child's cognitive skills. They are thinking so much that would amaze and astound you.




Tonight's meal was the best because the leftovers make an easy breakfast.


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise, then sliced crosswise
  • 1 orange bell pepper, quartered lengthwise, then sliced crosswise
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes
  • 8 large eggs
  • Chopped cilantro, for serving
  • 4 slices toasted bread

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook, covered, for 4 minutes. Add the peppers, season with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the skillet along with their juices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the mixture has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Make 8 small wells in the sauce and carefully crack an egg into each one. Cover and gently simmer for 6 minutes. Uncover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are cooked to desired doneness, 6 to 7 minutes for slightly runny yolks. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if desired, and serve with toast.

 I turned it into a bruschetta (pronounced "bru-sketta")  with olive oil, cilantro, and garlic garnish. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Harvest Time

"They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest." --Isaiah 9:3

The gospel brings joy with it. Those who would have joy, must expect to go through hard work.

Do you ever think about the reasons why we aren't where we want to be in life--why we aren't getting what we want? We've gone through 3 quarters of the year--have you met the goals you set at the beginning of the year?  

Did you want to be thinner? More successful? Were you prepared to find true love? 

Did you fail? Do you think you're alone? You're not.

Often we become discouraged from the goal because we have neglected to realize the connection between toiling and joy.  It is easier to eat a doughnut than prepare a healthy breakfast. Working extra hours is tiring. And at the end of the day, you feel too fat and tired to go out and find Price Charming...or Prince Good-Enough.

Preparation demands focus and time. Distractions are immediate and familiar. A portion of the hardship that arrives with preparedness is uncertain expectations: we know there is peace and joy and comfort in a calling or even something as simple as a completed task but at times, we're uncertain of the results. The terms of the journey may be unclear and the goal itself may be ambiguous.

 You've worked so hard, often without recognition or an expression of gratitude. The odds are against you, yet you've been faithful and kept going. You don't know why your efforts aren't working. You're weary of the labor, the drudgery. You're guilty and ashamed of failure and loss.





 "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."  --1 Corinthians 10:10-11

Today I drove a friend to a doctor's appointment out of town. On the way back home, she recalled working at nursing homes in the city. There are so many patients who don't have family to come visit. They can't speak or walk or understand what's going on around them. Yeah, it's depressing and sad.

There is joy in the toil. Often the hardest part of the toil is the waiting, the changing, and the hurting. 

But God does the work. 

So many Scriptures about joy are related to fruit and harvest. As you keep working towards your goals this last quarter be mindful that the harvest is a community effort, but so is growing the fruit.

We are a society of individualism. Whether your community is a church, a club, or another source, regroup this last quarter and find joy in the harvest.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What's For Dinner: Corn and Clam Chowder

September is here! And I'm having clam chowder for dinner while listening to Ween's 1997 album, The Mollusks (it just fits). You have to have a certain kind of taste for Ween because they are no other and you'll also require an appetite for seafood; it's the kind of dish that solicits a strong reaction from consumers. People are either devoted to their aquatic affinities or they make retching noises and run away screaming.



I have a passion for seafood which includes all varieties of the afore mentioned album--especially raw oysters. And I love anchovies on my pizza. 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 slice bacon
  • 1 large onion
  • kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 can chopped clams in clam juice
  • 1 bottle clam juice
  • 3 c. whole milk
  • 1 lb. medium red bliss potatoes
  • 6 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 package frozen corn
  • cooked crumbled bacon
  • Chopped parsley



Directions

  1. Place the oil and bacon in a Dutch oven or large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onion, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Drain the canned clam juice into the pan (reserve the clams), add the bottled clam juice and stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the milk, then add the potatoes and thyme and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Add the corn and clams and cook until the potatoes are just tender and the corn and clams are heated through, about 3 minutes.
  5. Discard the thyme and serve the soup with crumbled bacon and parsley, if desired.

As you know, I'm a fan of initiating variations on the dishes I make, so I have a few suggestions for a creamier base: use cream (shocking revelation). I love oysters--I loathe oyster stew. The first time I had it, I swore the cook made a mistake. Hot milk soup? I'm retching and running away.

Half and half is a solid foundation for a bisque or in this case a chowder. Bacon and parsley become your garnish but really, you could use anything from homemade croutons (which is suggested) to olive oil, chives, or roasted walnuts.


So I was thinking...

If you wanted to get really fancy with this, you could make a Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit bowl to serve this in. 


Or if not so much, maybe a seafood-themed tureen. I'm obsessed with dishes. Especially crustacean-centered pieces, which is weird since I'm not a fan of the beach.

Giuseppe Dovis makes an affordable blue crab collection as does Emmerson Creek out of Bedford, Virginia. 




Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What is Piccata?

The WHAT:

Piccata is a dish in which the meat (typically veal or chicken) that is butterflied, tenderized, battered and incorporated into a pasta dish.

Typically shallots, capers, garlic, and lemon--and of course olive oil and butter--will also be used in the dish.

I used Ronzoni gluten-free spaghetti. Click here to get a coupon for $1 off. My preference for gluten-free pasta is rice based. Corn tends to overpower a dish.

I would recommend adding more ingredients to this dish. More capers, artichoke, and maybe olives. As you can see I also used fresh Parmesan and enjoyed it with Horton Petite Mansing.




Ingredients

  •  8 oz. multigrain spaghetti 
  • 1 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 0.50 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 0.50 c. dry white wine
Directions

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot; then toss with 1/2 cup parsley and the lemon zest and juice.
  • Meanwhile, thinly slice the chicken crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side; transfer to a bowl.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add the remaining oil and chicken and cook for 1 minute. Turn the chicken, scatter the garlic, capers, and red pepper over the top and cook 1 minute more. Return the first batch of chicken to the skillet and toss to combine.Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat, sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top, then toss with the pasta (adding some of the reserved pasta water if needed).
  • Thursday, April 2, 2015

    What IS Curry?

    A few years ago I lived next door to neighbors from the Middle East. I can't tell you how many hours I spent trying to devise a plan to incorporate myself into their daily dinner routine--their delicious, curry-spiced food delighted the neighborhood. Well...it delighted everyone except the habitually troublesome neighbors upstairs--they complained about the "suspicious smells" coming from the Middle Easter neighbors. I left a stack of McDonalds cheeseburgers at their door with a fan to remind them of the traditional flavors of 'Merica.

    Curry is prepared in a variety of ways either with or without a sauce, vegetarian or including poultry, fish, beef, or any other meet. While curry powder is largely a Western invention, the spices we find in most American Indian restaurants contain a combination of 3 staple spices: coriander, cumin, and turmeric.

    There is such a thing as a curry tree and you can include their leaves in any traditional curry. Curry leaves are a mild flavor and should be added at the end of the cooking process so as not to lose their flavor. Turmeric is a sunny yellow flavoring known for aiding rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.





    You'll recognize cumin from your chili-prep stash. It is also a spice native to the Middle East and you'll find references to it in the Bible (along with what many people feel is oregano--referred to as "hyssop"). Cumin is a powerful antioxidant. Most spices are--that's why they are encouraged in diets from the Candida Diet to the Daniel Plan.


    The third seasoning, coriander. Coriander is cilantro seed. Cilantro is a plant that usually polarizes the population. People either love it or hate it. I personally LOVE cilantro--others feel it tastes like soap!




    Total Time: 0:25
    Prep: 0:20
    Level: Easy
    Yield: 4 servings (cost per serving of $1.76)
    Serves: 4

    Ingredients

     

    • 1 c. long-grain white rice
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1.50 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1 small onion
    • 3 clove garlic
    • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
    • 1 small apple
    • 0.25 c. golden raisins
    • 1 tbsp. curry powder
    • 1 c. light coconut milk
    • 1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
    • Chopped cilantro

    Directions

      Cook the rice according to package directions.

    1. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just beginning to brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
    2. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the apple and raisins, sprinkle with the curry powder and cook, tossing, for 1 minute.
    3. Stir in the coconut milk, then the broth and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and the apples and onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Serve over the rice and top with cilantro, if desired.