on the road

Sweets, Swag, and Swayze (and a little duck!)

{cue music} I had the time of my life….

This time last week I headed out for my long drive to Pembroke, Va. Knowing it was an insane drive (why didn’t I fly??) I thought I should get an early start. My plan was to drive as far as Pittsburgh, stop for the night, and continue on in the morning. The first part of my drive was relatively uneventful! The U.S./Canada Border crossing was quiet and I zoomed through – after explaining to the U.S. Customs agent where I was going and why. He was intrigued. I think he was a closet foodie! First stop – Lackawana. I always loved those town names in the Western New York area… Lackawana, Tonawanda, Gowanda. I can’t tell you how happy I was that there was a Tim Horton’s in Lackawana. I got my coffee/bagel fix!! Back in the car… and back on the I90. Quick tolls (ugh) and then the turn on to I79 as the trip headed a bit south… in more ways than one! I drove past Grove City outlet mall and made a mental note to stop there on my way home! Dusk was closing in and the lights were all sooooo pretty! I79 was busy with lots of transport trucks and cars. and I was out in front! 🙂 I wish I hadn’t been!

About 1/2 hour north of Pittsburgh I saw in the glow of my headlights two ducks waddling across the highway! Mr. Duck and his Mrs. were out for a quick stroll across the road. Everything happened in the blink of an eye! Checked my rear view mirror… trucks behind me. Checked my side mirror… cars all around me. I had no option – keep going! I braced myself and was hoping that the ducks would miss my tires! Maybe they would go under the car and be safe! Maybe I was dreaming! Well, like a moment out of a slow motion cartoon movie… Mr. Duck looked at me and decided he needed to fly away, and he took to flight… but not soon enough! I hit him! Big time. I knew I had killed him! Mrs. is no doubt very pissed off with me right about now! It wasn’t until I stopped at a motel for the night, in Pittsburgh, that I saw the full impact of what happened! I hit the duck at 120 km/h mid air… he was imbedded in my bumper! I had a hole and a duck! Donning some plastic bags on my hands, I pulled him out. He was in a few pieces. Duck Dynasty has nothing on me!

The Duck!
The Duck!

The next day, I decided to be a bit more leisurely in my drive… stopping several times to stretch and eat, and browse! Of course browsing meant shopping, and shopping meant I only stopped at one or two places. 1. WalMart (I forgot to pack shampoo/conditioner) and 2. Cracker Barrell. Post Black Friday sales – scored some sweet new Christmas decorations!

Back on the road… It seemed once I left Pennsylvania I had zero cell service! All through West Virginia – nada, nothing, zero, zilch! Not happy! I paid to have a U.S. roaming package put on my phone for the trip ($50) only to find out it was worthless to me! Thank you Bell Canada! I had hoped that once I hit Virginia and maybe the mountain that I would again have service – nope! Nothing! One word – argh!

The trip on Friday was pretty much uneventful – the sun shone, and the road was beautiful. I could only imagine what it must have looked like mid-summer in its lushness or even early fall! Now, it was all brown! Nothing green! But, still, beautiful!! After a few more road changes I finally turned off the highway and onto the road leading up (way up) to Mountain Lake Hotel. This was a steep, twisty-turny narrow road that led up the mountain. I certainly wouldn’t want to do that road in the dark! Ever. Period. One final turn and one final umph up the hill and there in front of me was THE hotel! Kellerman’s (Mountain Lake) – home to the movie set of Dirty Dancing. I fully expected to see Baby and the rest of the Houseman’s running out to greet me! After all, I had just driven over 12 hours to be there!! Hmmm, no Baby! In fact no cute Bell Boy came running out like he did in the movie! Oh well, I was still at KELLERMAN’S!!!!

Beautiful Mountain Lake (AKA Kellerman's!)
Beautiful Mountain Lake (AKA Kellerman’s!)

Check in. Up to my room (no elevator so I dragged my suitcase up the stairs complete with my laptop bag, etc.). Opened the door. And a squeal of delight met me! My bestie, Lynne, jumped off her bed and gave me a huge welcome hug! We were both there attending Mixed. And THAT’S when the fun began! Lynne and I have been friends for over 30 years…. I’m sure most other bloggers there thought we were snobs, not so! We just had some catching up to do! Lynne is a brilliant cook! For those who have read my post Amigos, it’s breakfast again! you will recognize Lynne’s name from that! She’s the inspiration and creator of that amazing and spicy breakfast strata.

The beds were both covered in chocolate from Hershey, healthy snacks from Way Better Snacks, and… after dumping out our first bag of ‘stuff’ we had presents from KitchenAid, Duff Goldman, OXO, Herhsey, (yes I said it again!!!! – Swweeet!) and Dreamfields Pasta, just to name a few! For a foodie and a blogger… SWEET SWAG is so very extra SWEET!!!

Duff Goldman and Moi
Duff Goldman and Moi

We were treated to a wonderful wine & cheese party, courtesy of Way Better Snacks and Wisconsin Cheese! Oh my goodness! I am completely in love with Wisconsin Cheese!!! Dinner followed….

Later that evening, after dinner, we headed to the barn (yes THE barn where Baby and Johnny, aka Patrick Swayze) did their famous scenes! Imagine a group of (mostly women) bloggers and sponsors all quoting lines from Dirty Dancing! True say! Following the Mixer at the barn, there was a midnight Mac & Cheese party. Unfortunately, after driving forever and being traumatized by a duck, I was pretty tired. I called it a night! I did however take home some fantastic Dreamfields pasta and tried out the winning recipe, among others,  at home….very yummy!

Saturday was full day! Cake decorating with Duff Goldman. Cookie decorating and tutorial with Marion from Sweetopia, seminars/workshops in photography, video editing, food styling, and ebook publishing – it was a very full but exciting day!

Cookie decorating Tutorial with @sweetopia
Cookie decorating Tutorial with @sweetopia

Another dinner… and another party! This time it was the closing party. So many prizes to be given away! SO many! SO SO SO many. I didn’t win a thing. Sadly! My big “wish” was to win the 7 QT KitchenAid Stand Mixer! Sigh. It was not to be! My other super big wish was to win one of the ranges also from KitchenAid. My dream is to one day own an induction cook top! Sigh. Can I say that again? Sigh!!! I did get to spend some time with lots of fabulous people though, and of course that made it all worthwhile! What an amazing group of talent and expertise in that small resort!!! Lynne and I got to spend some one-on-one time with two of Duff’s Decorating Staff from Charm City Bakery – Elena Fox and Mary Smith – two very delightful and fun ladies. After the closing party, there was another mid-night screening of a movie – this time the iconic “Dirty Dancing”. Seriously, you can’t go to Kellerman’s Mountain Lake and not have a screening! As much as I really wanted to stay awake for that, it had been a long day and I knew I had to drive straight through the next day. I bid my fellow bloggers good night and headed to bed. I think I was asleep in minutes!

Elena Fox and Mary Smith from Charm City Cakes
Elena Fox and Mary Smith from Charm City Cakes

The next morning I was up and out very early. Car packed up by 6:30. A quick cup of coffee, some goodbyes to the (very) few who were up and about, and I hit the road before 7 a.m. Bye Lynne… it was worth the drive just to spend the time with you! SO much fun catching up!!!!

Sunrise on my way down the mountain
Sunrise on my way down the mountain

Final thoughts: This was the first ever conference organized by Susan and Paula. Not being conference planners, they did a good job organizing amazing sponsorship, sessions, training, and fun. It was a long drive for, essentially, one day. A session on the Friday – some type of keynote perhaps would have been good. There was a sense from other bloggers we spoke to about a lack of communication (i.e. the Kitchen Aid Mixer was just a ‘party’ as the advertised ‘lots of prizes’ was moved to the Saturday night, but nobody knew that.) However all those wonderful KirchenAid prizes were won by some fantastic ladies and one gentleman! But fun – yes!!  But with each ticket number called, my heart sank a little deeper!  Maybe next year I can will a 7qt mixer or an induction range! I allowed to do a little dreaming!!!!  I mean, it seems logical, right?  Dreaming of a new KitchenAid Range?  I can use it to cook DREAMfields pasta… see what I did there?  lol.  If the event is repeated next year, and is at the same location, I will go prepared and most likely fly down! I won’t buy the ‘U.S. roaming package’ from Bell Canada – waste of money – and I will know going in that the WiFi service was pathetic! Now, having said that, it’s probably fine under normal circumstances, but a conference of 100 bloggers all wanting to get online at the same time… well, you get it – the internet service was terrible!

Overall, it was a fun event with very few glitches. For the first time out of the “conference” gate it was well done. Congratulations ladies! I really did have the time of my life… even if I never carried a watermelon, or put baby in a corner!

6 thoughts on “Sweets, Swag, and Swayze (and a little duck!)”

  1. Great recap! I sat behind you an Lynn during the Duff cake decorating. I wish we had had more time to talk. Your drive sounds terrible! Did you come down 81 or stay more in WV? Looking forward to getting know about you through the blog! Thanks!

    1. You should have poked me! The drive wasn’t too bad. Stayed more in the WVa side of things. Faster to go down I79/I77. Looking forward to getting to know you better as well! It was a fabulous time!

  2. I am happy to hear that there were not any other ducks on the drive home! Still cannot believe that happened to you. It was really nice to meet you, and I am happy to hear that you had a great time. In addition you were able to catch up with a dear friend.

    1. It was so good to meet so many wonderful bloggers and to learn from some of the best… like you! Yep, no ducks on the way home! Only a few random feathers remained when I pulled in my driveway! 🙂

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