Off to Wyoming!

I found out that I was scheduled to work in Wyoming for two weeks in December and two weeks in January, and I was really excited because I had never been there before. As the time drew closer, I found myself thinking (and worrying) about the weather–Wyoming in December sounds a bit ominous, especially since I knew I would be flying into Denver, and then driving three hours north to the training location.

I arrived at my hotel in Denver at around 9:30 p.m last night., and my plan was to hit the road first thing in the morning. After breakfast I checked out, and the man behind the counter asked how long I was planning to stay in the Denver area. After I explained that I was going to be training in Wyoming for two weeks, he asked where I was heading.

His facial expression changed immediately when I told him that I would be about an hour northeast of Cheyenne. “People around here usually say that’s the ugly part of Wyoming,” he explained.

I frowned, and he quickly added, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin your time there.”

I replied with smile, “I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

He laughed and continued, “Let me tell you something that will make you feel a bit better.” He paused to make sure I was listening. “Did you know that there are more people living in the Denver area than the entire state of Wyoming?”

I’m not sure why he thought that would make me “feel better,” so I replied, “Feel better? Now I know that I’m about to drive through the ugly part of the state, and I have to worry about what will happen if I break down…since it’s so isolated, I won’t be able to count on someone stopping to help me!”

A funny look crossed his face, and then he replied, “I’m sorry! I’m definitely ruining your stay! Aren’t I?”

His comment made me laugh and he immediately joined in–it was a funny moment! Beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder. I thought the scenery was incredible along the way, but he was right about one thing—Wyoming doesn’t have many people! Few houses, few buildings, and few people…and wide open land as far as you can see!

Welcome to Wyoming—If you squint, you can see bison in the distance!

Rockland Bakery—Nanuet, NY

Okay, let’s first talk about the smell—-as I was nearing the bakery, I could smell the scent of bread from the inside of my car! Seriously—the smell alone must be their secret weapon! I’m training in Nanuet, NY this week, and I stopped by Rockland Bakery this afternoon, because I was told that it was something that I just had to see, experience, and taste.

It was a good tip!

The bakery has a sweets shop, a deli, and the customer is allowed to go straight into the production area of the bakery to hand-select the bread that they want to purchase. My head felt like it was on swivel-mode as I looked around at the Willy Wonkaesque scene that unfolded around me. Conveyer belts moved breads and bagels across the room, on twisted tracks, some running overhead. It was fascinating to watch the workers, and equally as interesting to watch the customers walking around with gloved hands plucking what they wanted from trays stacked high with huge varieties of rolls, breads, and bagels.

As I waited in line to have a sandwich made at the deli, I began to chat with a woman who was standing next. She was there with her young daughter who was clutching two long loaves of Italian bread. The woman told me that she stops at Rockland twice a week to get fresh bread, and that coming to the bakery has been a biweekly family tradition since she was a young girl.

She said that she remembered coming in and being allowed to pick a roll, and being able to eat it before she even got back out to the car. As she told her story, I glanced down at her daughter who was nibbling at the end of one of the baguettes that she was holding. I laughed and unfortunately tipped off her mother, who abruptly halted her daughter’s mid-afternoon snack.

I guess it was a case of, ‘do what I say, not what I do!’ LOL!

Fresh bagel, anyone?

If you find yourself in the neighborhood—stop in! They’re open until 10:00 p.m. every day of the week!

Escaping the Cold in Florida!

This week, I trained at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida. The temperature was great, fluctuating between the high 70’s and the mid-80’s. I was able to experience a few beautiful sunny days toward the beginning of the week, but it rained heavily for the remainder of the time that I was there. I’m not complaining, however, because the temperature at home was damp and cold, hovering near the freezing mark. I’ll take warm summer-like rain over that—yes, please!

Lunchtime view at Saint Andrew’s
Just lovely!

One night, I ate at a place called, ‘818 Heat: Hot Pot & BBQ.’ It was really good. I’ve had hot pot before, but this was an all-you-can eat place, so it was fun to be able to try small amounts of different things. The first thing that you’re asked to do is pick a soup base, and then you need to pick your protein. The vegetables were set out in portions on refrigerated shelves, so I was able to help myself to whatever I wanted to try. The soup base is served in a pot and placed on a warmer built into the table. After the soup base warms up, you add the ingredients as you want, and then eat them when they were cooked. I had fun, but it probably would have been even more enjoyable with a group of friends.

My hot pot experience—I picked beef and shrimp as my proteins and a tried all sorts of different veggies. I even tried something called, seaweed knots. Is seaweed considered a vegetable?

Lots of fresh choices!

One night during my stay I had dinner at the ‘City Fish Market,’ which was located right next to my hotel. I ordered a few oysters as an appetizer and I had sea scallops as my main entree.

The oysters were a “sampling,” which meant that I could pick a number to try (I picked three), and my waiter selected several different varieties for me to sample. They were presented on a bed of ice, and served with a wedge of lemon and two sauces, one being a traditional cocktail sauce with an extra dollop of horseradish spooned over the top.

I was given two east coast varieties—James River and Bluepoint, and one west coast variety—Kumamoto. All three were delicious, but I need to rave about the Kumamoto. It was smallest of the three, but by far, the most flavorful. ‘Kumies’ originated in Japan, but are now grown in California and Washington. They are mildly briny and have a sweet, fruity flavor. I could have eaten a plateful of them—I’m going to be on the look out, so I can try them again!

You can’t say you’ve been to Florida, if you don’t snag at least one palm tree picture!

On one of the nights that I was out and about, I noticed these two businesses situated right next to each other, and yup, I did a double take! I suppose both places could be named, ‘Everything Hair’ if the owner of the ‘European Wax Center’ had a funny streak. ??? It cracked me up!

Sweet Home Alabama

When I saw that I was scheduled to work in Alabama this week, I was pretty excited. I had driven from Destin, Florida to New Orleans about 20 years ago, and we had crossed through the bottom of the state near Mobile. We were in and out of Alabama so quickly though, that I really couldn’t get a sense of it as a place.

On Sunday, I flew to Atlanta and then drove to my training location, which is located about an hour and twenty-five minutes west of the city. When I crossed over the state line into Alabama, I saw a welcome sign that read, “Sweet Home Alabama.” The image stirred up long ago memories and instantly brought a smile to my face. When I was a teenager, my boyfriend introduced me to the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their songs were different from anything that I had ever heard before, and Freebird, Gimme Three Steps, and Sweet Home Alabama (among several others) were songs that I had played over and over in my bedroom.

As I drove past the sign, I sang the song at the top of my lungs…

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

I wanted to pull over and get a picture, but I hesitated, because it seemed like such a touristy thing to do. As the sign disappeared behind me, I instantly regretted my decision. Later in the week I told my participants about seeing the sign and wishing that I had stopped. They immediately encouraged me to drive back to the sign after class to get my picture. I hesitated for a moment, before realizing that they were right…every day should be an adventure!

Alabama is beautiful, and I’m here at the perfect time. The autumn leaves are in mid-change, and the rolling hills were illuminated with the color of the setting sun as I drove back to snap my picture. Once again, I found myself singing the familiar tune…

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

Did I have to drive back and get the picture? No…but I’m glad I did. The words on the sign reminded me of being young, falling in love, and feeling free. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. I enjoyed an old memory, and it was fun creating a new one!

Who Dat’s Cajun Restaurant— Bald Knob, Arkansas

During class on Friday one of my participants told me that there was a local restaurant that I “HAD” to try before leaving the area. I wasn’t flying out until the morning, so I took his recommendation and went to ‘Who Dat’s’ in the nearby town of Bald Knob.

The restaurant was decorated with a wide variety of taxidermy (an Elk was staring down at me) and an assortment of funny signs and pictures—think southern kitsch, and you’ll probably be able to conjure up an accurate image.

To better understand the restaurant and the food it serves, a quote on the menu reads, “All of our recipes are created by a “Real” Cajun Chef. You don’t have to go to Louisiana to get the real deal.” Doug Stelly, the owner and chef, hails from Louisiana. He’s self-taught and has over fifty years of cooking experience.

The menu was huge with many offerings, but I opted for the ‘Bayou Platter’ which included a bit of a everything—gumbo, crawfish étouffée, fried catfish, fried shrimp, frog legs, boiled shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, snow crab legs, AND hush puppies. Even for a Northern girl like me—you ‘gotta’ have hush puppies!

I opted for this platter because of the frog’s legs and the crawfish étouffée. I tried frog leg’s years ago and I wanted to try them again, but I’d never had étouffée, even though I have heard of it.

When my meal was brought to the table, I looked at it in stunned silence. There was enough food on the plate for three people! The woman at the next table laughed and said, “It looks good!”

I agreed, “Yes—it does, but I don’t even know where to start!

My meal was excellent and I especially enjoyed the frog’s legs and the hush puppies.

Would I go back? Absolutely!

Surprise—surprise…I couldn’t finish!

Chicken and Dressing

As a northern girl, one of the traits that I’ve found most delightful when I’ve travel in the the south is the concept of southern hospitality

I trained in Searcy, Arkansas this week, and the participants went out of their way to make sure that I felt welcomed. Several of them gave me ideas for things to do or see after work, and many wrote down local restaurants for me to try. All-in-all, they made an effort to make sure that I was okay, and feeling comfortable while visiting their town. 

I’ve had people do similar things for me at other trainings, so I can only describe this as a different feeling. There was an overall feeling of hospitality, rather than hospitality from one or two individuals. 

About mid-week, one of my participants asked me if I knew what dressing was, and if I’d ever had it before.

“You mean stuffing?”

She gave me a ‘bless your heart look,’ and replied in a heavy southern accent, that I swear appeared out of nowhere, “Southern dressing is similar, but it’s not the same thing as stuffing.”


“A few of us are going to order take-out for lunch tomorrow, would you like to try it? You really should—it’s good.”

Never one to turn down the opportunity to try something new, I accepted her offer of chicken and dressing with a side of beans and cornbread.

The next day, four of us sat down to eat lunch together.  I looked down at my plate and I saw a big scoop of what looked like stuffing. However, I learned yesterday, that here, at least, it’s called dressing. 

I could have sworn that she has called it chicken and dressing, but I certainly didn’t see any chicken on my plate. 

“Did you say that this was called chicken and dressing?”

“Yes, that’s what we call it,” she said looking over at me with a slight grin.

“Where’s the chicken?”

The ‘bless your heart,’ look washed over her face(again) as she explained, “The chicken is IN the dressing.”


I enjoyed my meal, but I do have to say that it tasted just like stuffing with chicken in it! Shhh—don’t tell! ?

Downtown Searcy, Arkansas

I’m teaching in Searcy, Arkansas this week and one of my participants suggested that I should go to the downtown area to see ‘Art Alley’… so I did! I was told that the alley is constantly being re-painted, which in essence, creates an ever-changing art display for the public to admire. My favorite painting (pictured below) features a tired-looking woman who just happens to be rocking bright red lipstick and fingernails! The pink background screams of cotton candy and Pepto-Bismol, but yet, it somehow works!

Art Alley…
This is my favorite painting in the alley…
I love the colors…

A few more pictures from the downtown area…

After walking around downtown Searcy, and being totally captivated by its charm, I found out that the town will be featured on an upcoming reality show called, ‘Small Business Revolution.’ The show hosted by Ty Pennington and Amanda Brinkman will air this fall on Hulu. In addition to being featured on the show, the town won $500,000.00, which is earmarked toward the revitalization effort that has already been going on here (Just look at the movie theater pictured above!). Six small businesses have won a $25,000 each (from the total earnings), and they will given marketing advice to help grow their businesses. I feel proud of the town and I’ve only been here a week!

Check out: Small Business Revolution Video featuring the town of Searcy, Arkansas!

Moonstruck, Asbury Park, NJ

The lighting was perfect—
Wesley Lake

Moonstruck is located along Wesley Lake in Asbury Park. This three-story restaurant has outdoor seating on multiple wrap-around porches that overlook the water. The food and ambiance were terrific. It was expensive, for sure, but well worth it. I had seafood stew which was their special for the day, and it was SO flavorful. For dessert, I had a pear crumble with ice cream—yum! I would definitely go back!