Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Stress-free Thanksgiving Vacation and Dinner…Almost

My first attempt at going solo cooking a Thanksgiving feast was nothing less than a total disaster in every sense of the word.  Who knew that frozen turkeys required days to thaw?  Who knew that there was a bag of innards that needed to be removed before cooking?  Who knew that my parents didn’t wake up to begin cooking a lavish feast soon after midnight just because it seemed like a fun thing to do?

Well, apparently, the whole world knew except me.  Draw your own conclusions as to how my first Thanksgiving attempt really went down; it’s too nightmarish for me to recount.

Fast forward almost 15 years to Thanksgiving 2010.  Two words: Boston Market.  Yes, they have become my festive meal savior.  The new tradition in my household is to log onto BM’s site, order a holiday meal complete with two pies, and choose a pick-up date and time.  That’s exactly what I’ve done each Thanksgiving and Christmas since last year.  So this year, pairing a vacation with the promise of having a stress-free, Thanksgiving feast seemed like the right thing to do.   Those plans hit a snag and were in serious jeopardy just days before the big road trip.

You see, for the entire week leading up to Thanksgiving, I’d been terribly sick and was praying for a sign as to whether we should cancel our vacation plans, or stay at home while I nursed myself back to good health.  The answer to that prayer?  I awakened on Wednesday morning feeling much better than I had in a week.

I spent the morning taking care of a few chores, we left home just 10 minutes past our self-imposed deadline, and after running a few essential errands (including a stop at Boston Market), finally hit the road a mere 1.5 hours behind schedule.  Success!  This was going to be a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation.

Although the drive out of town was harrowing at times, we arrived at our destination unscathed, but you wouldn’t have known it if you’d seen the horror on my face as we drove up to the hotel.  How could it be?  I’d booked rooms at a townhouse-style hotel without knowing it!  What’s the big deal?  Well, the two rooms were in different buildings…a no-no as we were traveling with four children.  Not to mention, breakfast was in a separate building and the only pool on location was an outdoor pool – a no-go in 50-60-degree weather.

Sigh!  So I walked inside, inquired about a penthouse suite, learned that they were all booked, and ultimately handed over my form of payment – for two rooms – in separate buildings.  Not one to be defeated, I headed out to the van to call the hotel company’s reservations center and found an alternative hotel that suited our needs.  Just as I was giving the agent a credit card number, the call was disconnected.

Had I misinterpreted “the sign” about whether or not we should stay home?  If so, how many more roadblocks would be in our way over the next few days?

Still not discouraged, I called the reservations center again, gave the agent very specific information about where we wanted to stay and skipped ahead to the good part where I heard the magic words, “Your reservation number is…” Yes!  “Kids, buckle your seat belts!  We have a new destination!”  :-)

There we were, back on the road again, but this time, we needed only cover about 15 miles to reach our destination.  As we sighted the new hotel, the word “Hallelujah” came to mind.

As we checked in, we found that although the new hotel had interior room entrances (not separate townhouse-style buildings), no adjoining rooms were to be had.  Not a big deal, because the desk clerk said she’d give us rooms next to each other.  Well, it turned out that the rooms weren’t next to each other as the room numbers would imply, they were across the hall and diagonal.  Good enough!

After settling into our rooms, we headed out to pick up a few last-minute items from the grocery store and set out to find dinner as well.  Panera was nearby according to our navigation system, so we headed over for dinner!  The parking was metered, but payment wasn’t required this time of night.  Another good sign.

My husband and I strolled hand-in-hand down the walkway toward a much-anticipated bowl of broccoli and cheese soup.  It sure seemed dark inside, but Panera does tend to have tinted windows.  We tugged at the door handles, but the doors were locked.  Now what?  It was getting late on Thanksgiving Eve and our dining options were dwindling by the minute.

Back to the car we went – no merry stroll this time.  After using the GPS to search for other restaurants, we managed to find food.  Finally, went back to the hotel to eat, my husband and kids swam, and I enjoyed the hot tub.  A great night was had by all!  Things were going our way.

As I looked through our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchen, I realized that there wasn’t a pot big enough for something that I needed to make the next day.  So we spent a portion of Thanksgiving morning hunting for a large pot in which to boil the pasta that was needed for the homemade mac & cheese.  Sorry, but the mac & cheese and cornbread stuffing are dishes that I don’t think Boston Market does well.  After just two stores, we found a suitable pot.

Let’s get this minimal cooking underway!  Gosh!  What was that horrid smell?  The pasta!  No!  The pot was cheap, therefore, the pasta burned after just a few minutes – and it was still undercooked.  After that part of this slowly-unfolding disaster was taken care of, I had to deal with the fact that neither or our rooms had ovens.

The hotel company decided that the extended-stay rooms no longer needed ovens, so all of the newly-built and newly-renovated locations that had granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and flat-screen televisions have…no…ovens.

What happened to “all the comforts of home?”  Utensils…check!  Full-sized refrigerator and freezer…check!  Cloth dinner napkins…check!  Dishes…check!  Dishwasher…check!  Mixing bowls, pitchers, pots and pans…check, check, check!

Oven…Houston, we have a problem.  My home, as do most others, surely has an oven!  But no ovens were located in our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchens.  Luckily, the front desk clerk offered to let us use the ovens in the main kitchen that the hotel’s chef uses.

Final crisis averted.

We enjoyed our almost-stress-free feast and relaxed before heading back to the pool and hot tub.

Our Black Friday plans didn’t involve going to stores that would be the scenes of pushing and shoving, so we slept in late (7 AM), enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and headed out at 9:30 AM to pick up a new blazer for my husband and camera lens for me.  We conquered Black Friday sales in under an hour and ended up having the rest of the day to do whatever our hearts desired.

Speaking of which, we haven’t decided what to do for the rest of the day.  The kids are enjoying a low-tech game of Monopoly, my husband has awakened from a nap, and I’m bidding farewell for now to you.

I hope that a Happy Thanksgiving was had by all!

Feeling truly blessed,

CC

Activity Burnout

Our family of six is busy like most modern families.  Work, school, dance, scouts, church, friends, etc. all compete for the very limited resource of time.  We do most of our activities, because they are fun and bring us joy, but others things like work and school are simply necessary.

I don’t know if it’s just my family, or if others out there are going through the same thing, but we’re in desperate need of a break!  The cold, snowy (and lately) rainy winter doesn’t do much to help adjust our attitudes.

Thank goodness spring break is just around the corner.  Otherwise, we just might go stir crazy.  We’re looking forward to being unplugged from the usual rat race.  No office or home phones ringing.  Cell phones will be off or on silent.  Computer usage will be limited to getting ideas on where to go and what to do at our vacation destination.  Facebook is forbidden.  We plan to just relax and enjoy each other’s company.  Old school entertainment like board games will become the new norm for our vacation this year.  The low-tech board games, not the new ones. :-)