Thursday, December 11, 2008

$50 for Breakfast? Sheraton Hotels you should be ashamed!

On December 9th I stayed for one night in the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center that is attached to Frankfurt's Airport in Germany. I knew it was expensive, but I weighed the pros and cons of my need to be close to the airport for my flight the next morning and I consciously made the decision to pay the price. I also was aware that breakfast was not included in my quoted rate and that it would probably be expensive.

By expensive I mean that I expected to have to pay about $15 for breakfast. In the morning I went down to the breakfast restaurant. There was a woman at a counter who inquired whether I wanted the cost added to my room bill or if I wanted to pay separately. I opted for having it added to my room tab.

The buffet was large but in no way spectacular. In fact, although it covered a large area, the food was all spread out quite a bit to make it look like it was larger than it really was. I had cereal, yogurt, something oatmeal like that wasn't oatmeal and one small roll with Jam. To drink I had a small glass of orange juice, one coffee and a small glass of water. I thought about eating more to get my money's worth, but elected not to because I really wasn't hungry.

So imagine my utter shock when I checked out a bit later and saw that the actual cost of my breakfast was not the expected $15 but 32 Euros which translates to approximately $5o! I was so incredulous I was dumbstruck. I mean, even if I had gorged myself on piles of cheese, a dozen rolls, a half pound of parma ham, and filled my pockets with snacks for later I could not have possibly come close to consuming $50 worth of breakfast. I was in the restaurant for exactly 15 minutes and had one server pour me a cup of coffee and I am sure the server didn't see much of my $50.

I know that the Sheraton gets away with this airport robbery because the majority of their customers are business people on expense accounts, but why should this make it OK? Why not just charge what the food is worth with a normal profit margin? It is not like the rooms are cheap. I paid 194 Euros for one night. In my opinion, this price should have included a continental breakfast.

And Sheraton Hotels, in these current economic times, you should be trying to win over customers not alienating them. At the very least, if I stay with you again, I will eat at the airport next time and if I have the choice, I will stay with another hotel that doesn't view its customers as pick-pocket opportunities.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Elf Yourself is Back with more options

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Elf Yourself is Back as you can see from the video above. Last year my family and friends had loads of fun sending each other videos of dancing elves with our faces and I am delighted to report that it is back for 2008 with even more options. It is a cool application offered by OfficeMax and JibJab. All you have to do is upload a photo of you and your family and friends, isolate the faces, pick the dance you like best and email the results to all your friends and family.

JibJab also has many new videos for other holidays and just for fun. The catch is that most of them require membership fee. The cost isn't too much ($15.99 for a full year) which I would be inclined to pay except for the fact that they also insist on automatic renewal. I have had problems in the past getting recurring payments cancelled and I am not sure I would need JibJab for more than one year. I wish they would change this policy.

In the meantime, my family will continue to Elf Ourselves this Christmas and play around some of the few "Free" JibJabs for now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Become a Spy in Washington DC

My work team took a "field trip" on Friday to the International Spy Museum in Washington. I had been before and already thought it was a great museum, but this time we paid extra to do "Operation Spy."

Operation Spy is an hour-long event where you are transported to a fictional country in the middle east called Khandar. A maximum of 15 people are allowed to participate at one time and together the group experiences what it is like to be a real spy in a themed environment with live-action challenges using spy equipment.

The heart pounding event is based on real spy experiences and the outcome is dependent on the actions and decisions of the group which means it might end differently if come back another time.

You and your group have to use spying tools and techniques to track down who stole a valuable and dangerous item while navigating through the cobbled streets of Khandar. You don't know who you can trust, you are working with a time deadline and you have to avoid being discovered all at same time. In no other museum in Washington (possibly the world) will you be instructed to run!

Some of the adrenaline pumping tasks include using surveillance cameras to spy on an agent and listen in on her conversation with a contact, searching an official's office without leaving any trace that you were there, disabling security cameras while not being seen, picking several locks, and making two quick get-aways in a truck and in a helicopter. Unbelievably, you do all of this and more in the museum and it feels real!

If you know when you will be at the museum you can book and pay for your timed tickets on-line to be sure that you can participate. Since only 15 can go at a time, I would recommend this. In our case, our work team made up the entire group, but usually you will be participating with other tourists visiting the museum.

Want to know more or book your tickets, click here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Which is better Slanket or Snuggie?

(Picture of the Slanket)

Can anyone out there help me? I saw an add for a blanket with sleeves that you can wear while reading or watching TV to stay warm while still having the use of your arms. Sounds great and I want to give one as a Christmas gift.

The problem is I have discovered two products. The Snuggie and The Slanket. The Slanket is much more expensive but I can't tell if it is just overpriced or if it is really that much better. To be honest, if it was for me, I'd try the Snuggie first, but since it is a gift, I want to be more careful.

They both come in red (the color I need), but the Slanket is about $44 and the shipping ranges from $10 to $11 which seems steep. The Snuggie is $20 with $8 shipping. Plus their site is offering two for the price of one and something else thrown in. This seems a bit scam-like to me. I can't buy it from my trusty Amazon either.

If I could see them in person and buy them in a store without shipping I would be happier. So please post a comment if you have any experience with either product. Thanks

Friday, October 31, 2008

Add Pasta back into the mix

Here is another new product I want to share. This one I had to order through the mail, and you can't buy just one bag, so I was worried I'd end up with $20 of pasta that I couldn't eat. I shouldn't have worried!

Fiber Gourmet's claim that they make delicious high fibre, low calorie pasta that tastes as good as ordinary pasta is completely true. I ordered two flavors and so far we have only tried the Whole Wheat Fettuchini. At only 130 calories for a normal serving size and with 18g of fibre, it is exactly what I was looking for to be able to eat pasta more often. The key element was would it really taste just like normal pasta or would it be tough and chewy as many whole wheat pastas are. I have eaten it twice and both times I felt that it needed a couple of minutes more cooking time that stated on the package, but the taste was exactly the same and my husband who isn't watching calories, said he had no idea it was "special" pasta.

For those of you on Weight Watchers, this is a welcome new product. Now you can have pasta that is only 2 points instead of 4 for a normal serving size. Add some low fat sauce and a tablespoon of shredded parmesan sprinkled on top and you have a delicious, filling main dish for only 4 points!

If you are interested in learning more, check out their website.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I hope this catches on

A few weeks ago I read about a diet soft drink that doesn't use artificial sweeteners. Instead it uses a leaf called Stevia, from South America that sweetens with no calories. I looked it up on the internet and learned that the only store near us that sells the drink, called Zevia, is Wegmans. I love Wegmans, but it isn't all that close and on weekends it is very crowded, but I went anyway, braved the crowds to do my full weekly shop and bought myself a six-pack of Zevia Ginger Root Beer. They had a few other flavors, but I was most attracted to this one.

The verdict: Fabulous. I just wish they had were sold everywhere and were a bit cheaper. The taste was great and I loved the idea that it was all natural. If you get the chance, try one. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Turning leaves

I caught sight of my first trees that were turning for Fall today. It was a bit strange because we were wearing shorts and short sleeves and were still very hot (it was about 80 degrees) so it didn't feel like Fall, but the proof is in the picture. Fall is knocking on the door and trying to get in.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Start shooting your shoes

(Model: nephew Jacob in 1999)
About.Com: Photography has a nice site and they have been having a sort of mini course and contest. I just discovered it and they are already on assignment 34, but it looks like fun. This month's assignment is to take photographs of shoes and submit your best photos (no more than 5) to the contest.

Sounds like fun and I think it will be fun to participate in a new contest each month. If you are interested, here is the link:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pumpkin Season

The pumpkin season in Leesburg has officially begun with the opening of "Pumpkinville" this weekend. We went to check it out, but not to buy. These pumpkins are for carving not eating and I don't want to carve too soon or it will go moldy before Halloween - afterall it isn't even October yet!

However, with pumpkins everywhere and cooler nights, I have started thinking about pumpkin recipes. I've already made pumpkin mousse, but I think next I will make pumpkin bread. Here is the recipe:

Lightened Up Pumpkin Bread
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 c. shredded carrots
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

Blend applesauce, pumpkin, brown sugar and eggs. In a separate bown mix together the remaining dry ingredients. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients. Put in greased loaf pan Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Allow to cool and remove from the pan. Makes 10 servings.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Google Searching hints

At work yesterday there was a Brown Bag on Google searching. I didn't attend, because I thought I was already very good at this. My co-worker did attend however, and she brought me a copy of the handout. To my surprise, even I learned a few new Google tricks. Here they are:

Calculations and Conversions
You can type in the calculation you want directly into the google search box.
  • 5 million euros in dollars,
  • 14% of 2362,
  • half a cup in teaspoons
Flight Status
You can type in the airline followed by the flight number and hit enter to go directly to a link that will show you the flight status for that flight.
Example: United 918

Specific Site Types
When searching for a subject, you can specify that you only get a certain type of website in the results or you can exclude a specific type.
  • To exclude educational sites while searching for "cat illnesses" type: "cat illnesses"
  • To only see German websites while searching for "Frankfurt Hotels" type: "Frankfurt Hotels"
To see only recent information
To restrict your search results to postings from the last 3, 6 or 12 month periods while searching for something, precede your search string with date: and a 3, 6 or 12
  • date:3 "Dog Shows"
  • date:12 "Football"
  • date:6 "Graham crackers"

How to photograph sunsets

I am often frustrated when trying to take photographs of sunsets. They are never even close to what I was seeing in real life. Today I read a hint that I hope to try someday soon.

The simple trick is to start by aiming above the sun. Aim high enough so that you can't see the sun through the viewfinder and then hold the shutter button down halfway to set the focus. Now you can lower the viewfinder and compose your picture exactly how you want it. Don't let up on the shutter button though. When you have the shot you want, push the shutter button the rest of the way to take the shot.

As you can see in this photo, we didn't know this trick yet. We were actually trying another trick to make it look like I was holding the sun. Perhaps this new trick will help with that trick also.

Visit a "real" bookstore online

Are you like me and you love browsing books in a bookstore? I love visiting bookstores, but I usually prefer the prices at Well now you can have both. Amazon has a new website called in which you browse books on shelves just like you would in a real store.

You can search by category, or browse the shelves as they look in a bookstore. You can select a book and get a closeup with information about the book.

When you are ready to buy, your "shopping cart" is directed to Amazon where you pay via Amazon's normal procedures. Currently it is available only in the USA and Canada, but will soon be coming to the other countries where Amazon has a presence. Until then, you can browse here and go to your local Amazon to buy.