Room: This was our second stay ever at a Drury Inn. On the whole, I would say it is comparable with the average Hampton Inn. Everything about the room was pretty average; the room size was maybe a little larger than average. Internet access was included in the cost of the room. We checked in at an early evening hour and were given a handicap-accessible room; it seems like the hotel would want to keep those available for late in the evening so that if someone really needed that type of room, it would be available. ((I didn't include a pic of the bathroom here since it probably isn't indicative of what the other rooms have, with the special shower, etc.)).
Lobby: Average; area for breakfast to be served.
Food: They served afternoon drinks and a small breakfast, but we didn't partake in either.
Extra: A computer was set up in the lobby so that any of the guests who hadn't brought along a laptop could check emails, etc. Drury Inn also had a promotion so that the first hour of long distance was free of charge (I haven't seen that elsewhere). The mini-fridge included two free soft drinks (Pepsi, ick.) and a bag of popcorn for the microwave. I think this is how (maybe only this particular Drury, I'm not sure) these hotels distinguish themselves from other chain hotels at this price point (low-$80s for the night we reserved).
Our experience is this: We had a good experience, but we would also check rates among the other hotels in town and think about staying somewhere else next time.
I like Frankenmuth, Michigan.
It's the 'little bavaria' of Michigan (like Helen, Georgia) - but in all its kitschy-ness, it really appeals to me! Most all of the buildings have an alpine-style architecture, even including the chain hotels.
Frankenmuth is famous for two other things: Bronner's, the world's largest Christmas store, and fried chicken - from competing Zehnder's and Bavarian Inn.
Bronner's is a *fabulous* place to pick up ornaments for friends for their Christmas trees....and they have a HUGE selection of Department 56 -- in fact, they had a non-sectarian Krispy Kreme building that Av got. Yay!
As for the fried chicken, we've had Zehnder's before, so this time we tried Bavarian Inn. Bavarian Inn's chicken dinner was good, but not quite as good as Zehnder's.
Av and I love to go to Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario and sit beside the water, eat our chips (french fries) from "Albert's Rolling Lunch", and give the birds a snack. Av gets his chips plain, I love them with vinegar and salt...yum! It's really comfortable with the cool breeze off the water, and I get a real kick out of feeding the birds.
Room: Every room at this hotel is a suite: there's a living area with loveseat, chair, eating area, and workdesk with office chair plus a very nice bathroom, a nice bedroom area - and the bed was *so* comfortable, and a separate dressing area. Internet access was free.
Lobby: Very nice lobby with atrium.
Service: Great service - from room service snack to housekeeping.
Food: There isn't an abundance of choice when it comes to room service, but one option is from the Chinese restaurant there on site. Our meal from there was very good.
Spa: Av had a massage, and said it was good - as was the general spa area.
Extra: The hotel - outside and inside - was lovely. The beds were incredibly comfortable.
Our experience is this: We would 100% stay here again. The better hotels in Toronto proper are quite expensive, and we got much, much more value by staying just a bit outside of town.
Let me count the ways.
Until Av and I decided to include Montreal on our trip, I had *no idea* what on earth poutine was, let alone that it existed.
Poutine is a street food. There are three main ingredients:
Well, it is delicious! You take hot french fries, put fresh cheese curds on top (not melted), and hot gravy over that. I know it doesn't necessarily sound good, but.....it is.
It is so good that Av and I walked through the worst part of Montreal - past a couple of prostitutes, some people that were obviously high, some beggars, and too many people to count that needed to spend some quality time with deodorant. It was hot that day, but ohmygoodness...
Anyway, we were in that part of town because we had heard one could procure the most delicious poutine (poutine is pronounced 'poo-teen') there - at the Montreal Pool Hall. This place is also supposed to have some amazing hot dogs too...but we were on a singular search for amazing poutine. We found it. Delicious!!
There's more on the web about poutine here here and here.
The pictures in this post are of the poutine from the Montreal Pool Hall.
Room: This was our first time in Montreal - and this hotel made our stay even better. The room was very nice - not fabulous, but nice. I think it's probably been a few years since the rooms underwent renovation, but everything was in good shape. One of the best parts about the room was the window - we had a lovely view of Montreal. The room never really got cool, but we spent most of our time in the city, anyway....it was never hot, just never got cool enough. Wireless internet is included - no extra cost.
Lobby: Very nice lobby.
Service: All of the service was excellent, except for one time when the valet failed to retrieve our car after we called beforehand - so we were downstairs for thirty minutes and had to request it again. Everyone was very friendly.
Food: I don't really recommend the room service. We had a late-night snack and it was 'just okay'.
Extra: The nicest elevators I have ever seen are here! The inside of each elevator is lovely - and there is a digital display of an analog clock showing the current time inside, and a voice (in French) that speaks whenever the elevator stops. Also: there is access from right beneath the hotel to a Metro stop - VERY convenient.
Our experience is this: We would stay here again, provided that we got a good rate, as we did this time (they were having a special, with second night of a two-night stay at 1/2 rate).
Well, we started out to climb Mt. Washington. We paid the entrance fee, read the warnings and vehicle restrictions, put the van in 1st gear - for the whole trip up and back - and with smiles on our faces, started out.
Until we got to about 2/3 of the way up. The van started running a little hot (the instruction sheet said that was normal and to just put the heater on). The road went from paved to dirt/gravel. And I started thinking, "okay, we are thousands of miles from home. There is no Enterprise Rent-A-Car close to here. And what the heck are we doing to our car?". Being out in the boones without a way to the rest of my beautiful vacation got me a little freaked out.
So we turned around.
It was still fun! And the views - 2/3rds up, anyway - were beautiful!
More about Mt. Washington...and it really is an interesting place....can be found here.
We had the absolute best lobster roll at Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine - isn't that a great-looking lobster roll? Ohmygoodness, it was so good! We also snacked on a couple of crab cakes, and Av had the haddock and clams (the clams were from further north, in Canada, because the coast here is experiencing 'red tide'). Everything was delish....so delish that Av got a t-shirt, a true sign that he appreciates their cooking efforts.
Room: This Hampton Inn seemed to be nicer than most. It didn't have the usual Hampton look - the outside was a yellow clapboard that fit in very well with the other buildings in Freeport. The room itself was perhaps a little larger than average size, but the tall ceilings made it appear even larger. Overall it was nice and comfortable.
Lobby: Perhaps a little nicer than average.
Service: Check-in was friendly.
Food: They serve a breakfast, with the cost included in the room cost. Av had a biscuit and said it was fine.
Extra: Freemont is a nice town that is probably best known as being the home of L.L. Bean. We went to the store, and it really is open 24 hours/day, 365 days/year! There are tons of other outlet shops here.
Our experience is this: We would stay here again.
Beaches up North aren't anything like beaches I back home.
For one thing, a lot of them, the area is called a 'shore' rather than a 'beach'.
A lot of places, you have to pay parking with a meter.
In New Hampshire, sand is yellow - darker than my tan sandbox sand when I was a little thing, and further North, it's actually gray! Southern Maine beaches are rocky in several places, so people have to wear shoes and bring a chair.
Hampton Beach in New Hampshire is super-popular, but it's so crowded and choked with tacky beach places that it makes Panama City Beach look like the Riviera. I know, you're thinking, "yeah - Redneck Riviera" - but I'm serious. Hampton Beach makes Panama City look gooooooooood.
There are so many things on this trip that I have learned to appreciate about New England, but on beaches, we have sure got them beat.
We ate **so good** in Boston!
While we had a bad hotel experience, the location of the hotel was really good - there were so many good restaurants within easy walking distance!
For lunch one day, we went to Legal Seafood. Legal is usually one of the first places most people think of when it comes to seafood in Boston. We started out with sharing a bowl of their famous clam chowder. It was excellent - and they give the recipe out on their website here! I had a lobster roll, which was lobster (in just a bit too much mayonnaise) on Texas toast. Av had the tuna and shrimp plate, woodgrilled. One of the best parts of our meal were the drinks - Av had a (very fresh) Sam Adams on tap, and I had a Red Tide Bloody Mary. It was wonderful!
One night for supper, we went to Smith & Wollensky. There are Smith & Wollenskys in other cities, but neither of us had ever been to one. It was after 10pm, and thankfully they were open until 11pm, so we were in luck. I had the most delicious Caesar salad ever, and Av had the best lobster bisque he has ever had. For our entrees, I chose a Filet Oscar, which was a 10 oz. filet over asparagus topped with bernaise sauce and crabmeat (it was Amazing). Av had a larger filet. Everything about the meal was wonderful - the service, the food, the atmosphere.
For dessert, we went to Finale Desserterie. I've seen this place mentioned several times, including FoodTV. We picked up things to eat that night and again later, including a slice of carrot cake (average), a triple-chocolate chip cookie (very good), and a couple of cupcakes (the icing was unbelievably good). YUM!!
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is by far the best fine art museum I've ever been to. One of the things that makes this museum so wonderful is that they allow visitors to use their cameras as long as they don't use the camera's flash.
More pictures of the artwork can be found here at my Flickr set for the museum.
Room: This was our first stay at the Boston Park Plaza. Unfortunately, we didn't like our room at all; of all the hotels we stay in every year, I can honestly say that over the last five or six years, I can only think of three other hotels that we have truly hated. This is a new one. The room had holey and threadbare towels, holey sheets, a window shade that was tattered, a hair in the shower that didn't belong to us, an air conditioner that didn't work sufficiently, gnats, etc. The commode was one of those industrial-type, the kind that were in use at rest areas years ago - obviously not replaced during renovation, which flushed at about 140 db. There was no daily newspaper service, internet was $10/day, and parking was $36/day. A convention we were attending was based here so we decided to try to make the best of our stay. Sadly, several others in our group expressed that their rooms were no better than ours - even before we relayed our experience. This is a historic hotel - so there are some things, like small closets, that you might expect. The general uncleanliness of this hotel, however, is not something that one might expect.
Lobby:The lobby here is overall nice, as is the ballroom. The floral arrangements are silk, but overall the hotel common areas are what one might expect from what was once an upper-end hotel.
Service: Valet service was slow. Overall, the valet and bell service seemed not to be motivated.
Food: We did not dine at the hotel; however others on our hallway ordered room service, and their trays were left out for hours and hours.
Extra: The best thing about this hotel is the location. It's only a block from a T (subway) station and either in the building or on adjacent blocks are: Bonfire (a Todd English restaurant), Finale, Smith & Wollensky, Legal Seafood, and other restaurants.
Our experience is this: never again. This was my first time to Boston, and I really like the city, but this hotel was (I hate to say this, but....) the worst.
This was my and Av's first time to the Hershey Amusement Park in Hershey, PA. We didn't originally intend to go, but it was just twelve miles off the highway on our way to Boston, so we couldn't resist!
One of the really nice things is that they had a kosher restaurant there, right at the entrance to the park!
The weather was really nice, and there was really hardly any waiting at all on the rides we went on. The park was very clean, but a little smaller than I expected. The tickets were also $40/ea which I thought was really high, but Av said that's pretty average now.
After the park, we went to 'Chocolate World' and took a tour about how Hershey's chocolate is made. Yum!
Av had the fried chicken plate, and even the fried chicken was different! It looked and tasted as though the chicken had been battered like tempura rather than how we do it back home - soaked in a bath of buttermilk, then dredged in White Lily flour. This tempura-style chicken was good, though.
Oh - and sad to say, but apparently New Market, VA is past the sweet tea line. When I asked for sweet tea, they only had unsweet. And as for cokes, they only served Pepsi. Shame!
Av went to UVA for his degree, and this was my first time to visit. I was *so surprised* at how amazingly pretty it is. There are lots of pictures below of the campus.
The picture to the right is of Edgar Allan Poe's dorm room there. A good summary about his time there is here.
Room: This was our first time to stay at this particular Hampton Inn in Charlottesville (VA). There are two Hamptons in Charlottesville - one that is right downtown, very close to the school, and one that is a little closer to the highway. The difference in price was about $30, so we chose this one (the one closer to the highway). The room was one of the smallest among the Hamptons we've stayed at. So was the bathroom.
Lobby: Regulation Hampton.
Service: Front desk staff was friendly.
Our experience is this: We would stay here again, especially with the difference in cost between the two in town. Even though this one is a little further out, we were still just three or four minutes from UVA.
People waiting outside, ready to sit down in Peggy's living room and have some fried chicken
When in Philadelphia, Mississippi, you must drive to the home of someone you don't know and sit down to lunch. Peggy's Restaurant, at Byrd Street & Bay Street, just a couple of blocks from the courthouse, serves lunch every day (I think she was doing supper for a while too). She doesn't have a sign in the front yard, but everybody knows that Peggy's is the way to go.
Av and I have eaten lunch here before. You walk in and help yourself to whatever's been cooked up that day - fried chicken, speckled butter beans, greens, cornbread, 'nana puddin, the works - and find a seat in either of the couple of rooms that are opened up as dining areas. When you're ready to leave, there's no check - you just leave your tip on the table and your $7/ea in the basket. Love it!
Nowadays, Peggy has a new house and one of her sons owns the business. It is still a great place for lunch anytime.
Objects on Kelly Mitchell's stone today
As I've blogged about before, the royal Roma family Mitchell is buried in Meridian. When I was there this week, I took this pic of what was on Kelly's stone. The objects change on a very frequent basis. Take a look at what was there on my last visit & you'll see.
Our room at the Baymont Inn, Meridian
Room: This was our second time at this Baymont Inn. We stayed at this hotel for one night in April, and although it isn't a great hotel - and the rooms are pretty small - it is certainly good/clean/comfortable enough for one night. We had to be in this area for just a few hours, and while the Hampton was going for over $100, we got a room at this Baymont through Travelocity at under $60 (we've stayed at the Hampton, the Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express in Meridian and none of those were all that great, either).
Lobby: No frills/pretty bare.
Service: Front desk staff was friendly.
Our experience is this: We would stay here again as the other current options in Meridian, while much more expensive, aren't any/much better.
Peanut Butter Pie
Shavuot begins tonight, so for the *something dairy*, I made this great peanut butter pie. It's very similar to other peanut butter pies I've made in the past, but the crust is different and better. This isn't a completely 'from-scratch' recipe like I usually like to do, but it was yummy and quick.
I based this recipe from one called "Nutter Butter Frozen Peanut Butter Pie".
For the crust:
Take 24 Nutter Butter cookies and place them in a freezer bag. Hit the freezer bag with a rolling pin (or whatever) to make the cookies into crumbles. I wanted the crust to still be recognizable as Nutter Butters - so we left a number of good-size pieces. Pour the crumbled NB's into a good-size bowl and add 5-6 tbsp of melted butter. Mix well. Place this mixture into either a pie dish or other suitable-size dish. I had a pyrex square dish that worked great. Once filled and even on the bottom, place in the refrigerator.
For the filling:
Cream together one 8-oz package cream cheese, one cup of peanut butter, 3/4 cup of sugar. The original recipe called for a splash of vanilla, but I didn't think that was necessary. Once that's all incorporated, stir in 8-oz Cool Whip.
Take the crust back out of the refrigerator, and spoon the filling over. Level it out on top. Cover with Saran and place in the freezer for a few hours or overnight.
About two years ago, Av and I drove to Hamilton (AL) and stopped at Jerry Brown's pottery shop. Jerry Brown is a well-known Alabama potter who uses a mule-powered mill to help him pull clay up out of the ground, and he was also the recipient in 1992 of a National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship Award. There is a film about his pottery here.
At the shop, we bought a pot to cook chicken with. As you can see in the picture above, the pot has a cylinder shape in the middle. The idea is that you fill the cylinder shape up with orange juice or beer, or whatever you think might flavor the meat right for the dish you're going to be serving.
What's pictured above is my Jerry Brown chicken pot, a chicken that I've prepared with a coating of olive oil (to make the skin crisp) and a variety of herbs (I have one of those wonderful filled spice racks from Dean and Deluca that looks like a test tube rack, and for this dish I used the tube labeled 'herbs for meat' since it really does have a nice combination of herbs that flavor chicken and beef well), and a bottle of Turbodog to fill the cylinder about 3/4 full with.
Once the chicken is prepared for cooking, you just set him in the chicken pot with the cylinder up inside where you would otherwise put a stuffing.
Whee! I'm ready to be cooked!
I preheated the oven to 450* and cooked him about 1-1/2 hours. I put the rack on the lowest part of the oven to make room for the dish since it's pretty tall.
I have to say, this is the best whole chicken I've made! The beer makes the breast meat especially juicy and delicious. No part of the chicken was dry - at all. Yum!
Cooling off a bit from the oven. Yummy!
I should also mention that you can cook chicken this way on the grill. Just take a can of beer, put it up inside the chicken, and let it cook that way (another recipe for it here). I'll post pics of doing it that way later this summer.
Plastic Milk Glass!
A recent issue of Elle Decor had a story about a team at K-Mart that was branding their products as "Essential Home" or "Home Essential" (on Kmart's website, it goes by both names), with a fresher style than most of the older stock stand-bys that they carry.
One of the products that the article featured was plastic cups for outdoor use that mimiced the look of milk glass. I'm not really a huge milk glass fan, but I thought that was such a fun idea!
I haven't been to a KMart in a few years....I've tried to avoid big-box stores (not always successfully, but I do try) - not for any huge political or other really interesting reasons - I'm just not wild about them, and as someone who is married to a small-business owner, I can totally understand doing business with people who are more like me (is that corny?). Anyway.
KMart had the exact glasses I saw in Elle Decor. I bought four large glasses - perfect for tea or water, and four more glasses that would be perfect for ice cream. Neat!
For a couple of years now, I have been planning for the day when Av and I build a coop for the chickens we plan to get (I think probably three or four bantam hens).
We've been going over designs, some we've seen on other websites....there's the Coop DeVille......the Poulet Chalet......so many great ideas!
Today I was reading 'Pop Life Magazine' and on page 12 of the Spring 2005 issue, they feature the 'uptown henhouse' - the Omlet (it's not spelled like the egg dish, just sounds like it) from England. Their website is really great and I'm wondering...hmmmm.....I bet they could just throw that on a FedEx shipment and it would be here in two or three days....hmmmmm......
Our room at the Sheraton Hotel Casino
Room: This was our first time to stay at the Sheraton Hotel/Casino in Tunica - it's owned by Caesars Entertainment (Caesars, Paris, etc). The rooms seem to be, on the weekends at least, around $200 or so, but since we stayed on a weekday, we reserved this room under $100. The room was a nice size, and like all the rooms at the Sheraton, included a jacuzzi tub (see pic below). The bathroom was much larger than average (not quite Las Vegas size, though) and included a seating area to do makeup at.
Lobby: To sign in, you sit in front of a large desk where the papers are all signed, etc. Different and nice.
Service: Everyone seemed very nice, but the valet service was slow.
Food: We didn't eat at the Sheraton - we had lunch at the Horseshoe Casino buffet (even though it is a buffet, it is really good) and supper at the Chicago Steakhouse at the Gold Strike Casino.
Extra: Location. It's within walking distance to the Horseshoe and Gold Strike.
Our experience is this: We would definitely stay here again, especially on weekdays when the rate is more reasonable.
Our room at the Fairfield Inn, Greenville
Room: This was our second stay at the Fairfield Inn in Greenville, MS. The first time we stayed here was about three years ago, I think. The room was a little on the small side, and there was no battery cover on the remote control, but overall the room was clean and comfortable. We got this room rate in the low $50's.
Lobby: Average, pretty typical...
Service: Front desk was friendly, they gave us a welcome bag when Av checked in with cookies, chips, water, and a couple of other snacks.
Food: I *think* there was some sort of breakfast included, but we didn't try it.
Extra: The welcome bag was a nice touch. For people who gamble, there is a casino that is *very* close to this hotel (I think it is the Lighthouse Point Casino, not sure). Also: water in Greenville is brown. It's such a color that you really wouldn't want to drink it, but that's the way it's been forever, and it is clean. I found an article about it here.
Our experience is this: Greenville really doesn't have a nice hotel. In town, there is: Ramada (ick), Comfort Inn (ick), Best Western (usually ick), Greenville Inn & Suites (which is actually in a historic building - we've stayed there before and it was okay), and this Fairfield. I believe that there is a Holiday Inn Express that will be built, but it's not open yet.