Romantical Weekend FAIL

Our second anniversary is on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any time off because my boss decided to go back east (I’ll rant about that in another post).  It ended up working out though, because DH is going to a conference all week, so our plans would have to have been put on hold anyway.

OK.  So I thought that I’d plan us a little romantical staycation.  I’d use one of our Groupons for a restaurant and get a hotel for the night nearby.  Then DH caught a cold.  He’s been sniffling, sneezing and has a sore throat since Thursday.  Poor DH.  But he was game to try for a romantical weekend anyway.

We dawdled our way down to the Ramada on Wildwood in Sunnyvale yesterday.  We went for a jog in the morning, visited a mall, went for lunch at a restaurant we hadn’t been to before, went to the fabric store and stopped at Santana Row.  We looked at the Telsa model they had there, I discovered Anthropologie (such a dangerous store) and bought a really cute dress with DH’s encouragement, we tried (and hated) Pinkberry, ate apple pie flavored gelato… and then drove for 20 more minutes to get to our hotel.

We arrived at a place that looked like the 70s hit the exterior (in a bad way) and never left.  It looked like the kind of place you’d see in those cop dramas where the hookers are found dead and the other residents “didn’t hear a thing.”  With trepidation, we entered the lobby filled with thumping music from the party in the attached ballroom.  The lobby was dark and felt dirty.  It was filled with kids running around and screaming.  Ugh.  Not romantic.

We went to our room.

There was a hillbilly outside his room hollering about some Texas team on the TV with his door wide open and a Styrofoam cooler on the chair nearby.  His room was next to ours.  On the other side of us was another person cleaning out a bedside commode in the landscaping.

We opened our door and immediately felt icky.  The furniture was old and decrepit.  The carpet was pulling away from the floor in many places and looked like it hadn’t been shampooed in recent history.  The walls were stained with who-knows-what. The lights weren’t bright enough to actually light the room.  The mini fridge and all of the drains were covered in rust.  The old-ass urine colored bathroom wall tiles had mold growing in the grout.  The bathroom floor had hair from the previous guest on it. The little binder that all rooms have with “helpful” things for guests inside had many things crossed out.

In short, it was gross.  It wasn’t to Ramada standards.  It wasn’t even to Motel 6 standards.  Ugh.

The restaurant was attached to the hotel and was just as bad.  We didn’t use our Groupon.  I’ll be asking for a refund.

I’ve never actually asked for a refund at a hotel before, but I did yesterday.  Actually, DH did.  I didn’t know how to put my disgust into words without being insulting.  And, you know what? The guy at the desk didn’t even bat an eye.  It was like he already knew how awful the hotel was.  He didn’t offer us an “upgraded” room or any complimentary anything.  He just said “I’m happy to cancel your reservation and ensure that you’re not charged for anything here.  You’ll need to call Expedia to get a full refund, though.”

Back to Santana Row we went.  We stopped for dinner at Hot Tamales, which was pretty good in spite of the waiter spilling my margarita on me and coughing on me.  The music was super loud… but then again we were right next to the band.

And then we came home.

So… our romantical weekend plans kinda failed, but we had fun anyway.  We decided that this was a weekend for new things and adventures.  We tried 2 restaurants we hadn’t been to before.  We played with a car that costs 3 times what I paid for mine when it was new and is meant for “driving around town.”  I found an awesome clothing store that I’m trying to figure out how to afford to shop there more often.  And best of all, I got to spend time with my husband.

This food thing is hard!

Granted I haven’t been focusing super much on food for awhile, but I don’t remember it being this hard!  Like today, I added one of those little packages of liquid creamer to my coffee when we went out to breakfast today without thinking anything of it.  During a lull in the conversation I thought “I wonder what’s in that.”  I looked at the package and saw that it listed 2% milk, heavy cream, and some weird additive.  Three ingredients, but one of them was weird.  *sigh*

Then I ordered a Denver omelet.  Sounded right: eggs, ham, bell pepper, onion and cheese.  I should have ordered it without the cheese – who knows what’s in the cheese that makes it orange?  Side of hash browns that I only ate two bites of, and a slice of wheat toast.  Notice it’s not 100% whole wheat?

OK, OK, it’s basically day 1, right?  I’m out of the habit of analyzing everything on the menu and all the pieces of a particular plate when I’m ordering.  I just need to do better.  I’ll know better for date night on Wednesday.

Tonight should be easier for dinner.  My brother is coming over to make us some dinner.  He’s making his “California Salad” with tilapia on top and we’re pairing it with an amber ale.  He’s a chef and the author of http://goesgreatwithbeer.com.  It only has one entry so far because he caught a nasty cold right after the first meal.  He’s back tonight.  I’ve had the California Salad before, but this time it will be a little different.  We couldn’t find the strawberries that he’d normally use so he’ll be substituting with raspberries.  And normally there isn’t any meat added in, but since it will be a main dish salad there needs to be something to go with it.  I’m totally looking forward to it.  Since we moved out a few years ago, I haven’t been able to spend a whole lot of time with him and I kinda miss him.

OK…  now onto the exercise portion of things.  I’m pretty limited in what I can do since I fell and cracked a rib a couple weeks ago.  I’m moving better now, but I can’t run or lift anything heavier than 5 pounds right now.  And even lifting 2 pounds repeatedly makes me cry.  So as soon as I finish with this entry, I’m planning on trying some lower body stuff just to get moving.  Squats, calf raises, going up and down the stairs, that kind of thing.  Nothing that requires twisting or using my abs too much – I don’t want to hurt myself worse!

And I weighed myself last night with my trusty Wii balance board…  I’m at 159.4 pounds.  Ugh.  I need to be around 145 to be at a healthy BMI.  So that means I have 14.4 pounds to lose.  I know BMI isn’t the be-all of health and fitness, but it’s a gauge to use.

Time to do some light exercise to get things moving.

Dancing Monkey Syndrome

I eat out a lot.  As in at least once a week.  And I’ve noticed a phenomenon I like to call “Dancing Monkey Syndrome.”  My husband warned me that this particular term might be offensive, so please believe me when I say that I mean no offense by using the term

Dancing Monkey Syndrome (DMS) occurs when you force your employees to dance or do other embarrassing things when their job in any other establishment would not require doing such tasks.

I first saw DMS at Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Union City.  First I saw that all of the employees (but not managers) were forced to wear shirts that said “I love my job.”  I come from the school of thought that says that if people truly loved their jobs, they would not have to wear something that proclaims it to the world.  I also notice a high turnover rate at this particular establishment.  Love their jobs?  I think not.

Then I also noticed that about once an hour, Texas Roadhouse servers, bussers and hostesses, had to line dance for the amusement of their customers.  I have to admit that some of the customers seemed happy/entertained by their Dancing Monkeys, but me?  Not so much.  I watched the employees’ faces and body language.  Some definitely said “I love to dance”.  Others said something along the lines of “Kill me now.”  Still others looked frazzled as they were trying to remember the dance steps AND what table 12 needed AND that the food for table 6 was coming up soon, etc.  Incidentally, I have to wonder if forcing your employees to dance instead of take care of customers is one of the reasons for the high turnover rate.

At first, I thought DMS was limited to Texas Roadhouse.  Then DH and I went to Vegas a couple of weekends ago.  We’d planned on going to Johnny Rockets at Fashion Show Mall and grabbing a milkshake.  When we walked towards the restaurant, we saw the employees dancing.  Yup, DMS strikes again.  I really wanted a shake, so we walked up to the podium to wait for a seat.  The host stopped dancing to ask us to wait until the dancing stopped.  We said OK, and then walked away.

So here’s the thing.  DMS has been around for awhile – remember having all the servers sing you happy birthday at your favorite family restaurant?  But at what point does it become ridiculous?  When does it get in the way of giving decent service?  And when does it become embarrassing for the staff?  I think there’s a difference between singing happy birthday every few hours and dancing once an hour.  Although I understand that some employees may see enforced dancing as a quick break/recharge session, the majority of them see it as onerous and embarrassing.  And, as a customer, I think I’d much rather have my food and drink brought quickly rather than be forced to watch people transform themselves into dancing monkeys.

My Offensive (?) Obesity Post

I’ve been thinking about a few things for awhile now.  Most of my conclusions are probably pretty controversial on these topics, but they make the most sense to me.  They do not reflect the views of my employer and may not necessarily reflect the views of my family/friends.  I apologize if the following post offends anyone.

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As a fat woman, I’ve heard/read many things by self-help and self-esteem gurus.  They usually say something along the lines of “Love yourself – embrace that beautiful (overweight) body.  There’s nothing wrong with obesity.”

I hate to break it to them, but there is something wrong with obesity.  We all know that obesity is a fully preventable and treatable problem (in most cases) that can be linked to major conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  These are all things that can lead to disabilities and early death.  Obesity costs this country and its citizens a lot of money in rising health care costs.  It also costs us in emotional damage when we can no longer fit on amusement park rides, when we become the butt of jokes, and when we feel as though we’re facing our personal demons all alone.

Please don’t tell me to embrace and love my fat.  Don’t tell my overweight neice and nephew to love theirs.  Don’t tell my brother that it’s OK for his dog to be overweight. Don’t tell me that my obesity is not my fault even as I make the choice to eat poorly and lead a sedentary lifestyle.  Stop offering the “magic pill” of gastric bypass and/or lapbanding when you know that patients see it as a magic pill.

I’m not condoning bullying by any means.  I do think, though, that there should be a stigma attached to obesity, just as there’s a stigma attached to alcoholism, drug use, and tobacco use.  If there were a way to tax obesity I’d probably support that too, so that at least we could recoup some of the money it costs this country to medicate these people. 

I know I sound harsh, but I’m coming from the position that our children learn what they see.  If mom and dad buy fast food every night and sit in front of the TV for hours on end, the kids will think that this is OK.  If mom and dad are obese, the kids will think obesity is OK.  Trust me, I know from experience!  My mom was obese.  Most of the food choices in our house were unhealthy.  We sat and watched TV.  And before I said “enough is enough” I was almost 200 pounds with joints that ached and problems sleeping because of my weight.  I learned how to be obese as a child and I accepted it as normal.  I didn’t learn how to be healthier until I was an adult and looked at my lifestyle objectively to see that it wasn’t (and should never be) normal.

I’m reading the book “Switch” by the Heath brothers.  One of the vignettes in the book talks about being specific when seeking change.  We can tell people over and over to “eat healthy” but most people only have a vague understanding of what healthy eating entails.  So instead, you need to be specific.  Community leaders in one city focused on getting people to switch from whole milk to 2% milk.  They showed the community how much fat and saturated fat is in whole milk, and told the community what ingesting all that extra fat could do to them.  They illustrated the problem, and then told the community they should switch to buying 2% milk to avoid these problems.  It worked. 

I know that the answer isn’t for someone to tell me (or anyone else) to love their fat.  And the answer may not be taxing obesity.  And telling people to make healthy choices is too ambiguous.  So maybe, instead, we should focus on one food choice and one activity choice each year.  This year we’ll focus on replacing sweets with fruit, and walking around the block as a family after dinner instead of turning on the TV.  Those goals are specific and doable first steps for most people. 

I’m not sure what’s bringing out this tirade.  Maybe I’m just tired of the campaign to make obesity acceptable.  Maybe I’m tired of hearing people make excuses  for their obesity.  Maybe I’m tired of going out to eat on a date with my husband and trying to make a healthy choice only to find that the healthiest thing on a menu is onion rings.  Seriously – ONION RINGS!  It’s just so disheartening to believe with every fiber of my being that it is within my power to be healthier only to find that the media, my family, and even date night restaurants are against me making the best decisions for my health.

Restaurant Review: The First Street Alehouse in Livermore, CA

My sister-in-law celebrated her birthday over the weekend.  The in-laws all went to The First Street Alehouse in Livermore because of previous positive experiences there…  and because they had big screen televisions to watch the Super Bowl on.

For those who enjoy drinking beer, this place is pretty awesome.  There are a bunch of microbrews on tap – I think 20 or so.  I was driving, so DH ordered a pilsner that was pretty good.  If we were to go again it would be my turn and I’d order a porter (my favorite type of beer).

Don’t expect fancy fare from the First Street Alehouse.  It’s all burgers, sandwiches, fried foods and a few salads.  The burgers are half-pounders, so bring your appetite.  I ordered the California Chicken Sandwich, which was basically a grilled chicken sandwich topped with guacamole, bacon, tomato, onion and lettuce.  The flavors were basic and good.  I ate most of it, even though I probably should have limited myself to half.  My only complaint is that the sandwich was super messy to eat.  The people who ordered the burgers had the same problem.

In spite of the yumminess of the food, there was one problem: my sister-in-law found a hair in her burger.  They were quick to replace the burger, gave us extra fries and comped her meal.  Other than that hiccup, all was good.

Date Night: iSushi in Castro Valley

Every Thursday is date night, and this past Thursday was no exception.  Because we’re always looking for new restaurants with great food, and we hadn’t yet tried this one, we chose to eat at iSushi for date night.

DH and I walked in and noticed how cramped the place was.  Well, there’s not a lot you can do about that when space is at a premium, so we asked to be seated at the tall table in the far corner.  We figured it would give us extra room.  Then we opened the menu.

There are lots and lots of different rolls and appetizers and things, but it’s difficult to tell how many pieces you get with each roll and appetizer.  You can’t base it off of price either because all of the choices (except for rice and soup) were $10+.  I ordered the Jada and a miso soup, DH ordered the iSushi.  We shared a sake sampler.

I saw the different plates come out to all of the tables and had a very bad feeling.  Most of the plates only had 3-4 pieces on them instead of the normal 6-8 pieces you get with a roll anywhere else.  Then ours came out…  the Jada, while very tasty only had 2 pieces and the iSushi had 5 slices of tuna.

Even though we were both still hungry, neither one of us could stomach paying for more.

So, bottom line is: if you like feeling crowded and want to pretend to be a millionaire, eat at iSushi.  The food is really yummy, and the sake sampler was tasty.  The people were nice too.

Date Night: Massimo’s in Fremont, CA

I’ve driven past Massimo’s for years but never tried it.  Any time I suggested it as a kid, I’d be “shushed” because it was out of my family’s price range.  Then I started on this quest to try a new restaurant every week.  My husband suggested Massimo’s for this week’s dinner.

I made reservations, and we arrived about 15 minutes late.  Damn you BART for making my husband be late getting home!  They sat us quickly anyway.

The dining room was nice and quiet.  There weren’t any small children running around and screaming, and there wasn’t a bench seat in sight!  The waiter asked what we’d like to drink then brought over a wine list at my request.  I looked for something familiar, but I know nothing about wine so it all blended together in one big smooshy mess.  I finally ordered a Shirley Temple and my husband ordered an iced tea.  We ordered garlic bread too.

For dinner, I ordered the raviolis with shrimp sauce.  My husband ordered the ahi tuna special and clam chowder.

The garlic bread came out after the chowder.  It was tasty.  The chowder was “meh” but my husband finished it.

We waited quite awhile for our entrees.  It was weird.  A lot of people were waiting and looking around at one another.  Finally our food came so we started eating.

My raviolis were OK, just a bit bland and heavy.  They grew on me even though I could only eat about half of it because I filled up on bread.  I brought the rest home to have for lunch tomorrow.

My husband liked his tuna, but I thought it was a little disappointing.  The server said that it was “sashimi grade” but it didn’t look that way to me.  When I tasted it it seemed a little rubbery.  The flavor was OK though.

We didn’t have dessert because we didn’t want to wait forever for that to come too.

I can’t explain why the experience was so odd.  It just felt weird.  I doubt I’ll go back just to go, but if someone else was paying I might eat there again.

Date Night: Extreme Pita

We moved our date nights to Thursday nights because DH wanted to take Judo classes on our regular night.  So last night we went to Extreme Pita on Automall in Fremont, but we didn’t mean to initially.  When you’re driving around the Bay Area, you often see restaurants out of the corner of your eye.  As you can imagine might happen, if you can’t fully read the sign you’ll make up a name that fits what you think you’ve seen.  So we were totally stoked to go to “Extreme Pizza.”  All day DH was texting me about the various types of pizza he wanted, the beer he hoped they had and how awesome dinner would be.  I was excited to find a cheap place to go that also met my New Year’s Resolution to try a new restaurant every week.  Imagine our surprise to drive up and see that “Extreme Pizza” was really “Extreme Pita.”

We poked our heads in and saw a clean place.  A girl was mopping and the floor was wet so we were scared to go in and ruin her hard work.  She scowled when we asked if it was OK to go in.  The guy behind the counter gave us a huge smile and welcomed us into the building.

DH ordered the small Buffalo Chicken Pita and a sweetened Lipton iced tea, and I ordered the small Falafel Pita (vegetarian) and a honey Lipton iced tea.  DH liked his quite a bit and finished it quickly.  He said that it was spicy but it was a good spicy.  Mine was good, but it was a little boring.  It needed more spices or something.  I’d definitely try something different next time.

Although the food was good, we ended up leaving hungry.  The small sized pita didn’t provide enough bulk to fill us up.

Bottom line: the place was clean and the food was good.  I probably wouldn’t make a special trip to south Fremont for this restaurant, but if I’m in the area and hungry I wouldn’t turn it down.

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