Hotel Cooking, the Grocery List and Traveling Kitchen

My menu was made to try to not have the same meal over and over again, but to use the same items over and over again so they get completely consumed.  Kind of like a capsule wardrobe, only for food. 🙂  Here’s my grocery list, in case you want to replicate this menu:

  • 1 loaf of sliced bread
  • 4 muffins
  • 1 pack pita breads
  • 1 box granola cereal
  • 1 box couscous
  • 1 quart of milk
  • 1 quart of vanilla yoghurt
  • 1 stick butter (or whatever the smallest amount you can buy)
  • Salad dressing
  • 1 pound sliced turkey
  • 4 slices muenster cheese (or whatever you think would go well with turkey)
  • 6 oz. hummus
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 single serving cup of applesauce (you only need about 2 T. per sandwich)
  • 4 bananas
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • container pre peeled and cut carrot and celery sticks (or baby carrots)
  • 1 cucumber
  • bag of mixed greens
  • 2 tomatoes

Things I packed in my “kitchen”:

  • aluminum foil
  • paper plates
  • paper bowls
  • paper towels
  • spoons, forks, knives
  • serving spoon
  • large bowl for making salad and couscous
  • knife
  • small cutting board
  • ziptop bags for leftovers
  • a couple of plastic grocery bags to use as garbage bags
  • soap for dishes

I don’t think the housekeeping staff should have to clean up after we use the room not quite as the hotel intended, so I intend to make sure everything gets cleaned up by us.  Which is why all the disposables – again, I would rather spend my time with my family than washing dishes, and I definitely DON’T want to be trying to fish couscous out of the drain because my 7 year old forgot to wipe his plate clean.  The disposables all come from my stash of old birthday party tableware and take out utensils, though, so I’m not being completely wasteful.

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Hotel Cooking, the Menu

Whether you are traveling by yourself, with your family, or with your troop – you have to eat!  And sometimes the best room for the trip is the one that doesn’t come with a kitchenette.  Or a microwave.   Or a refrigerator.  By Mercury’s winged sandals, there had better be a coffee maker!!

Ahem.  Moving on.

Cooking in your hotel is one of the best ways to save money on a trip.  Eating out 3 or more times a day, especially at a hotel restaurant, can get super expensive super fast.  And cooking can cut those costs dramatically (just like it does at home).  But you have to have some equipment.  In my experience, the hotel room without a fridge is becoming scarce, and the room without a coffeemaker almost non-existent.  But as far as actual cooking?  Well, sometimes you have a full kitchenette in your suite, sometimes you have a microwave in your room (or down in the lobby), sometimes all you have is a coffeemaker.

There are several good resources online already for showing you how to cook using what is commonly available in a hotel room (and I’ll link to some at the end of this series of posts).  This is my menu plan when faced with a lovely room that only had a fridge and a coffee maker.

Day 1

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffee maker; strawberries, yoghurt and granola
  • Lunch – turkey paninis made with the iron, salad
  • Dinner at Sea World, no point in leaving before the fireworks! 🙂

Day 2

  • Breakfast – coffee in coffee maker; rest of the granola, milk, banana slices
  • Lunch – rotisserie chicken, couscous made with the coffee maker, salad or veggies (I used the FBC method, rather than the Gizmodo method for the couscous)
  • Dinner out

Day 3

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffee maker; muffins, all the leftover fruit
  • Lunch – a DIY assortment of pita bread, hummus, leftover chicken and turkey, carrots, celery, and cucumber slices
  • Dinner with Shamu (one of the splurges we were saving for)

Day 4

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffeemaker; applesauce sandwiches grilled with the iron (to use the last of the bread)
  • Lunch – on the road!

So, if you’ll notice, I don’t really trust the coffeemaker to do my cooking.  Also, it takes soooooooo loooooong to cook things using a coffeemaker, even using techniques that make me trust the idea a bit more (like double heating the water by running it through twice and insulating the carafe with foil to raise the temperature.  I would rather be enjoying time with my family than babysitting a coffeepot.  Also, I will now be thoroughly cleaning every hotel room coffee maker and running an empty cycle through as soon as I get there based on what I now know people are doing in there.  I think it might be worth it to go buy a small bottle of white vinegar, just to be sure.

But when we got to the hotel room, I was struck kind of dumbfounded when I saw this:

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Yeah, kinda like a Keurig machine, only not.  I didn’t feel the need to immediately scrub the thing to get hot dog germs out of it, but I also was glad I didn’t plan anything that NEEDED to use a carafe to cook in.  I still could have done the couscous, though.  I just would have had to make it in individual servings, freezer bag cooking style instead of in one big batch.

Look, they updated the site!

Since registration opened last week, GSUSA updated the convention.girlscouts.org website with some actual information. 🙂  And since I know eventually this site will disappear (or at least be replaced with 2017 information), here’s what I’m seeing as new:

Schedule

They have a true schedule up, including lots of invitation only dinners and luncheons, most of which I won’t have an invitation to.  But this is what I think my schedule is going to look like, based on what I can glean from friends and what I would like to do:

Oct. 15 – arrive early, check in, relax a bit, start soaking up the lotion and drinking lots of water to deal with the desert.  My gills will not be happy, but with family in Arizona, I know how to deal with it.

  • 3-4:30pm – GSU session (Letting Girls Lead)

Oct. 16 – hit the ground running!

  • 8:30-10am – GSU session (GSLE Outdoors)
  • 10:30am-12pm – GSU session (The Highest Awards)
  • 1:30pm Hall of Experiences Ribbon Cutting (and then to the Hall of Experiences, probably my only chance!)
  • 5:30-6:30pm – Delegate Reception
  • 7-9:30pm Opening Ceremony (missed this in Houston, not missing it this time!)

Oct. 17 – time to get to work

  • 8:30am-12pm – National Council Session
  • 2-3:30pm Conversation of Consequence

Oct. 18 – rinse, repeat

  • 8:30am-??? – National Council Session
  • 2-3:30pm – Conversation of Consequence (maybe)
  • 6-8:30pm – Theme Dinners (I still don’t know if I want to do the “Outdoor Extravaganza!” or “Celebrating Cultural Arts!” They both seem very emphatic. 😉
  • 9-11pm – Adult Party (if I have any oomph left)

Oct. 19 – last day

  • 8:30-???am – National Council Session
  • 12:30pm – Closing Ceremony
  • pack up, fly home

But of course, I have no idea what my Council’s plans are for me.  Are they planning on letting us arrive a day early?  Will they pay for my hotel room Wednesday night?  So many questions still.

GSUSA has also opened up the Delegate only section of the website.  But I don’t have a password yet.  Maybe I’ll get one this week.  And no, I won’t be disclosing that information here.  Whatever it is. 🙂

So, this weekend is Easter, and my family has decided that we are going to drive to San Antonio for the 3-day weekend. It’s a shortish (3-4 hour) drive, and will be quite lovely with the highways all blanketed in wildflowers (BTW, April is the BEST month for road tripping in the Eastern half of Texas – I’ll try to get some good pics).

We don’t have family there, so we will be staying in a hotel. We’re actually going to go to Sea World.  We’re not especially religious, but the Easter Bunny does make an annual appearance, and probably will until my son is in middle school.

My question is, does anyone have any fun ideas for Easter in a hotel room?  My mother will be joining us, so we will actually have two rooms, and the Easter Bunny frequently gets confused and hides my kids’ eggs at Grandma’s house, so that is not new.  I was hoping that Sea World would have something going on, but apparently not.  And if we decide to have our usual Eggs Benedict breakfast, it will have to come from Room Service, which might be fun, but will definitely be pricey.

The good thing is that my son already begged that this would be the year we used plastic eggs filled with treats instead of real eggs that the kids decorated.  Wish granted.  But does anyone have any ideas for a little something extra to do?  Something funny, something snarky, something sweet?  Something that can be done with a kitchen or a lot of mess? 😀

Getting Intel . . .

One of the things I have been doing over the past few weeks is reaching out to some of my fellow delegates, the “dinosaurs” (her words, not mine!) who have been there, done that.  Still just trying to figure things out.  My Council’s Annual Meeting, at which we will either be elected or not is about two months away, and I’m still not sure what is going on.

But I do have more information.  Council sent me a packet of information, and it was addressed to “National Delegate”, and all of my contacts assure me that the election is really a formality.  The great thing was that they had a list of the National Delegates listed (which I think is exactly as long as our Council is allowed to have) – and there were several names on the list I recognized as other Trainers.  The confusing thing was that none of it related to being a National Delegate – it was all information related to being a Council Delegate.  Even though I am a CLT (Community Leadership Team member, or Manager, if you will), I was not sure I could be one of the delegates from my Community.  It seems like a conflict of interest, and one of our staff partners said that this was true – it was a conflict of interest.  But apparently, that is not the case, according to someone who, as a Council Delegate, has voted for herself to be a National Delegate. She said the explanation she was given is that the Governor is allowed to vote for himself.

Which makes sense.  Yay, I don’t have to twist someone’s arm to get them up to Camp for the Meeting. 🙂

She also gave me some information I was not happy about.  That Hall of Exhibits (Experiences) I mentioned in my last post?  I will not get much time to see it.  Apparently the National Council Sessions take ALL DAY.  I had read somewhere that they were in the morning, but that is not what the voice of experience says.  And there was another mention of people from the audience going up to a microphone, with a sigh.

But, my friend did give me a helpful insight.  She said that GSUSA uses the National Council Sessions as a kind of focus group, giving us a heads-up of what is coming down the pipe.  Journeys were introduced at a National Council Session way before they appeared on the website.  And she said that GSUSA actually listened to the feedback given at the Council Session, tabling some ideas based on negative reactions.

It will be an interesting process to watch and be part of.

The 52nd Girl Scouts Convention

One of the things I really want to know about is what it will actually be like at the Convention.  There is so little information available online, seriously.  There’s not even a lot of information on what happened at the LAST Convention.

Well, that’s going to change.  A little.

GSConv with uniform

The 52nd National Convention was in Houston, Texas, at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  As it happens, that is less than an hour drive from my house.  Yep, I’m in San Jacinto Council, host of the last Convention.  In 2011, I did everything I could at Convention since it was on my home turf!  I volunteered to sew one of the historic uniforms for the Opening Ceremony (see, that’s why my daughter and I took a picture with the mannequin).  I stuffed goody bags with our local Camp Rangers and Volunteers from the Utah Council who were in Houston seeing how the Convention was run before they had to do it (great policy, btw).  I also volunteered to help out at one of the Delegate luncheons (but since GSUSA brought their own volunteers for that, I ended up directing traffic to the luncheon). I think my size contributed a lot to people thinking of me as a bouncer, because I also ended up checking credentials at a GSLI luncheon and guarding hundreds of stuffed goody bags.  IMG_1195Yes.  I was set to guard bags.  And I had to chase girls away from them! 🙂

One of the perks of volunteering at Convention was that you got a free pass to the Hall of Exhibitors for each uniform you sewed or each 4 hour shift you participated in.  I used two for my daughter and I to go the first day after school.  We were going to stay for the Opening Ceremony, but we were exhausted!  The Hall of Exhibitors was maybe half the bottom floor of the Convention Hall filled with booths from anyone and everyone you can think of in relation to Girl Scouts or girls in general.  Joanns, Michaels, Little Brownie and ABC Bakers, all of the World Centers, camping gear, religious organizations, Hostels International, GEMS booths, everything! IMG_3300And they were all handing out stuff!

It was a good thing that we got the big tote bags with our entrance, because we filled them walking through the hall.  Here’s a picture of some of the stuff I got the first night.  Then I went back with my Troop on Saturday.  More swag.  I don’t have a picture, but I ended up with a stack of patches at least 2 inches thick, more food goodies, a purse from a long past Cookie Sale, a stuffed tie-dye owl, and oodles of other stuff.  If you go to Convention, be prepared to say no to a bunch of stuff, or be prepared to bring a lot home!

My girls loved going, it was definitely a hard thing to top, since it came at the beginning of our year.  They got lots of swag, lots of SWAPs, got to hang out with lots of cool Girl Scouts from around the world, and all the parents that came really appreciated it, too.  We got to listen in on a conversation with Girl Guides from Kenya.  We got to meet the first woman on the Harlem Globetrotters.  We got to see the amazing mobile Council unit that our neighbor Council (Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas) uses to get information and program materials to girls in some of the far flung less populated areas of their Council. Some of my favorite moments:

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My daughter playing with a circuitry kit.

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Some of my girls dressed in saris at the Sangam World Center booth.

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Little Brownie Bakers had a karaoke booth set up with Girl Scout songs.

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One of my girls sat with these lovely Historians at lunch, and had a great conversation.

So, as a volunteer and a visitor, this is what you can expect.  A lot of fun, a lot of great information (and some that is less useful), and a great experience for your Troop.  The Hall of Exhibitors (or Hall of Experiences, as it is being called this year) was designed for girls to come and visit.  If you are local, I would highly recommend it, but bring a lot of chaperones, and seriously consider Troop T-shirts, because there must have been a thousand Juniors running around in the uniforms, and easily double that in Older Girls.  It will easily take you a whole day with your Troop to visit the Hall and do more than a cursory glance over at all the booths.  There were crafts to make, samples to try, shopping to do, information to discuss, friends to meet, SWAPs to swap, games to play, and prizes to win!