Thursday, August 20, 2009

What I learned in Southern Virginia

I have made an effort over the last few months to try and enjoy the local culture and tourist attractions of the places that I am sent on business. I mean an all-expenses paid trip to places like Kearney, NE, Vernon, TX and Colby, KS isn’t just something everyone gets…but I am fortunate enough to be able to see a lot of rural American and I must say I would take a day of driving through the country side over a day of bumper-to-bumper traffic, lines and people any day. This past week I was in Southern Virginia for events at a couple of dealerships that sell our products. I must say that once you are away from DC and Richmond, Virginia is a very nice area that has a lot of similarities, NWMO...good, hardworking people that appreciate the country lifestyle. There however are some very distinct differences, which would include fields full of tobacco vs. our beloved corn and soybeans that I wanted to share everyone. Kind of like an essay all the kids are excited to do as they get back to school...What I Learned in Southern Virginia. 1. Roads are not straight and don’t expect your GPS to assist you. It took me more than 20 minutes to find a Target that was truly less than a 5 minute drive. In the course of 3 days we covered a lot of territory, none of which I could get back to (this is where my friends insert that I have no sense of direction, and I am getting better…but true I never knew which direction was north in CoMo the 4 years I lived there) without a lot of trial and error. 2. Deer stand on the edge of people’s yards at 11:30 p.m. on 2-land county roads like a dog protecting their master’s domain. Thankfully none of them decided to become the ornament on the hood of my Stellar Granny Sable, but they sure liked to give me a good scare every 3-4 miles. 3. In Missouri we have garage sales because usually they are on your driveway and extend into your garage or a yard sale because it is in our own yard…in Virginia they have side of the road sales. They pack up all their goods and set up anywhere there is a grassy area where they can put out tables and people can kind of pull of the road they are trying to sell something. Strollers, clothes, antiques, watermelon, car parts, exercise equipment, puppies…you name it, it is out there. 4. The tooth brush has its place. This is not the norm, but as I was told it takes all types to make up this great nation and well I had the pleasure of meeting the people who made the inventor of the name tooth brush grammatically correct for once. 5. You can assess where someone is from or where they have spent the majority of their life by their accent. I know this is common in a lot of areas, but it was truly evident when comparing the residents from Danville (or Danvuhl to the locals) to the residents from South Boston. I kind of picked up on this change in dialect and accent but it was confirmed by my local tour guide so my southern filter wasn’t just in need of cleaning. 6. They do have unsweetened iced tea, but for fear of being lynched I didn’t dare ask for it but once at a Mexican restaurant, I figured it was safest there. I have to say I have always been a big fan of tea minus the syrup, but after the large amount of time I’ve spent in the Southeast over the past 3 years, I’m almost kind of admitting that I’m kind of sort of starting to enjoy good, true sweet tea. 7. If you like racing you have come to the right place, every time you turn a corner there is a track where you can catch local actions for a cheap fare (I went to two tracks, but never saw a race but I was told you can catch a race on a Saturday night for $5, great cheap entertainment) 8. And last but certainly not least, much to my surprise I am not a Yankee to them…nope I’m from the west and I have to say that I enjoy that much more than the thought of being a ‘northern’. So overall my assessment for rural Virginia a big thumbs up…there is a lot of wonderful history that is ripe for the picking and for the most part, nice people. Traveling Cowgirl Code: Have a local show you around, it is truly the best way to learn about the culture, people and history of an area. If I wouldn’t have had a chauffeur/tour guide I might be wandering around the hills of Virginia trying to find my way out still instead of on a plane back home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Airport Etiquette, Part 4 - Baggage Claim

As you are praying to the baggage gods (well not that baggage god, god knows we all have enough baggage on our own without asking for more) to ensure your luggage actually made it to your destination, do us all a favor take 6-10 steps back from the turntable, this allows everyone to be able to see the bags as they come through instead of just the 20 people standing directly on top of the turntable blocking everyone else’s view and then get disgusted as people have to reach around you to get their bag and then bash you in the knee with it when they ‘accidentally’ hit you as they get their 72 pound bag off before it is whisked away in the sea of people. Also if you see someone struggling with a giant bag, first of all shame on them for packing a bag that they can’t handle (yes I had a 72 pound bag, but I could handle it), but secondly before they are being drug around in circles please help them out. If you have a piece of luggage that is very similar to many of the other bags (aka black suitcase) putting an identifying tag or handle wrap will prevent you from checking every single black suitcase that comes by. 

There are really cute luggage handle wraps at specialty stores that can help you identify your bag quickly...if you are an advertiser one of the best items I've ever received was a branded luggage handle wrap or people are now giving away luggage tags that have their brand on it as well. This is a site for luggage handle wraps:

Traveling Cowgirl Code: Be nice, step back and no one will get hurt at baggage claim.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thank You Phildelphia

Well that is probably a sarcastic title to top off a fairly sarcastic morning....and I'll get to that in a minute but I do honestly want to talk about Airports for a second and airport bathrooms in particular. I want to thank the Philly Airport for having bathroom stalls (in the women's side at least, the guy I asked to check out and report about the men's side looked at me like I was crazy so to say the least I didn't get a report back...hopefully you have huge urinals!) that could house a small family, it was nice to be able to put your stuff on the nice hanging racks that they have provided a go to the bathroom without trying to hold you stuff off the floor or prevent it from falling off the hook they provide that is only a 1/2 in long. Another airport bathroom that I think has come a long way in design is Kansas City. You all know I LOVE the Kansas City airport and for those of you who do not your haters and jealous of the ease and convenience that those of us who live there have with our airport. But back to the bathroom stalls, the doors open out, not in so it allows you to get completely inside with all your junk (trunk junk included) and are still able to close the door without dropping all your belongings in the toilet bowl. Most airports aren't designed like this and you may think I am crazy for critiquing airport bathrooms but someone has got to do it and in all honesty it keeps me sane. So back to sarcasm...thank you Philly Airport for being right on the water and having fog problems that creates a ground stop so my inbound plane from Rochester is 5 minutes too late from me catching my connection to Kansas City...thank you Philly for your nice roomy bathrooms and all the interesting shops to peruse through it will keep me entertained for the next 3 hours as I wait for my next flight into Kansas City...thank you Philly for the guy walking around the gate area with a Shakespeare's t-shirt on, great now I want Pizza (shout out to all the CoMo Alumni)...thank you Philly for having seats that could be a bench so very tired travelers can lay down and snore as they sleep off last night waiting on their flight and annoying people who are sleep deprived, who have missed a flight and are bitching about it on their blog....thank you to the girlfriend or wife that just called snoring man to wake him from his bear like slumber...thank you Philly for giving the lady who drives the handicapped cart a bike bell, that has just made everything better...and (back to seriousness) thank you Philly for FREE wireless Internet, a really nice gate agent who took pitty on me and gave me his last available seat to KC at 1:30 and for having a massage parlor inside your terminal, chair massage here I come. Traveling Cowgirl Code: Look pathetic when trying to rebook a flight with a male gate agent, even pull out the tears if every time (well most the time).

Friday, August 7, 2009

I LOVE OREOS - Recipe #1

Yes it is true, one of my very favorite cookies is Oreos...because I see Oreos as the way for me to get my calcium intake. I'm not a big fan of milk (sorry to all my dairy farming friends and those that support and produce goods for the dairy industry, I LOVE cheese so I make up for it there!!!) to drink but I have to have me good cold milk when I'm eating my Oreos.
But I see Oreos as a very versatile food because they can be made into a variety of sweet treats. One of my favorite Oreo treats is of course a cup cake. Hard to believe I know...and I can't take full credit for this recipe, but I have taken a unique twist on the recipe...again hard to believe...but I did...I'm such a rebel.
The original recipe which was extremely good was to take a white cake mix and mix as directed on the back of the box, then stir in large chunks of Oreo into the cake batter and bake. They also mixed in chunked Oreo into a can of white frosting and frosted the cupcakes with the crunchy mixture. Honestly it was hard to frost the cupcakes with chunks of Oreo in the frosting and the Oreos in the frosting were soggy when you ate them a few hours later...some people like that and some don't. I personally do not...and I wanted a little more Oreo flavor to my cupcake. This also creates a really light and airy batter so make sure you use paper liners.
So take these for a spin if you like the black and white discs of joy.
Outstanding Oreolicious Cupcakes
1 white cake mix and all the stuff to make the cake
1 row of Oreos crushed up (varying sized pieces and crumbs)
1 can of frosting (I used whipped white)
In a large mixing bowl put the white cake mix, oil/water, eggs and Oreo pieces. Mix as directed. (key is to get the Oreo in the mix at the beginning so the cookies get all through the mix) Bake as directed. Once the cupcakes are completely cool frost with the frosting of your choice and then top with half an Oreo.
I'll have many more recipes with Oreos in them in the future.
Traveling Cowgirl Cooking Tip:
Use a freezer zip lock baggie when crushing cookies, they are thicker than the regular storage baggies and won't bust open as easily...also make sure the air is completely out of the bag or you will have a major mess on your hands!