Standing Tallgrass Short Film

Here’s the film that inspired our visit to Flying W Ranch.

Standing Tallgrass | Imagine Kansas Short Film Series 01 from Westar Energy on Vimeo.

http://ImagineKansas.com From early on, Jim Hoy was involved with the Symphony in the Flint Hills that helps bring attention to preserving the tallgrass prairie near Clements, Kansas. He and countless other Kansans are working to protect this picturesque part of our landscape so that the next generation will be able to enjoy its beauty. Westar Energy shares Jim’s passion to push Kansas forward and is working right alongside him and our fellow Kansans to make it happen.

This film is part of the #ImagineKansas Short Film Series presented by Westar Energy. Watch all the films at http://ImagineKansas.com.

Filmmaker: The Hadley Group, Stilwell – http://RussHadleyFilms.com
Original music: Sam Billen, Lawrence – http://PrimaryColorMusic.com
Narrator: Jason Aldrich, Bonner Springs
Still photography: Mark Feiden, Mission
Still photography: Harland J. Schuster, Morrill
Still photography: Austin Colbert, Hays

You can learn more about the ranch in the next video.

Harry Caray’s at Midway

This blog is so behind. I’m having trouble keeping up.

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These are picture from the Harry Caray’s at Chicago Midway International Airport, where Darcy and I were delayed on our way back from New Jersey. I believe storms were the reason for the delays that day.

Always one to find the silver lining in everything, I felt like it turned out okay. We got to have a nice leisurely dinner at a place I’d never tried before.

It seemed to be a popular place to eat. Either that or there were several delays that day and everyone had the same idea: eat at Harry Caray’s. LOL.

Midway has more food options than the Wichita airport but it’s still an airport. There may be several options but there’s not that many good options. Harry Caray’s I guess just happens to be one and therefore it’s popular. I think we had a 30 minute wait. Not that we were in a hurry because our flight was delayed anyway. We had time to kill. Apparently, others were in the same boat because there were quite a few people ahead of us and they were willing to to way at as well.

I missed taking a photo of our actual meal. However, I did get a photo of the homemade potato chips topped with bleu cheese crumbles. It’s rare that you run into homemade anything inside an airport. If you ever get stuck at Midway, I highly recommend Harry Caray’s. Either that, or you could do yoga. There happens to be a little yoga studio just around the corner.

Originally we were going to arrive at 10 PM so I had planned on going to work the next day to complete mid-year reviews with my team members. Due to the delay, we didn’t arrive back in Wichita until well after midnight and I didn’t get home until after 1 AM. Despite my good intentions, there was no way I could make it to work by 7 AM the next day so I ended up taking the day off.

It worked out okay because I was still able to complete my mid-year reviews the following week, right before the holiday. Yeah. This blog is really behind. I still have to share with you guys 4th of July photos and everything else that happened. I may just have to write one long, catch up blog.

Have a fantastic weekend!

The Cheesecake Factory Two Nights in a Row

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When we were in Edison a couple of weeks ago we ended up eating at the Cheesecake Factory two nights in row. Why? Because there’s nothing else in Edison. LOL. I didn’t mind actually because I like the Cheesecake Factory.

The nice thing about the Cheesecake Factory is they have a huge menu that has dishes from almost every cuisine imaginable. There’s bound to be something on the menu that strikes your fancy. I’ve yet to try a dish that I didn’t like. And, they’re very consistent. The same dish tastes exactly the same no matter which Cheesecake Factory you visit.

On our first trip to the Cheesecake Factory in Edison, we started with crab cake bites. They were yummy.

I can’t remember what this is called but it’s what Darcy had and she said it was really good. I had the bang bang chicken and shrimp (below), which is my favorite dish they make. I always tell myself I’m going to order something different but some always end up with the same dish.

The next night we’re dining with people from other utilities and we end up at the Cheesecake Factory again, for lack of better options in Edison. Long wait this time because there were some graduations going on that night. We were told 30 minutes but our pager never buzzed. About 40 minutes into the wait, Darcy finally went back inside to check. They told her that they’d been paging us. Not sure why they didn’t try calling because they had one of our phone numbers also.

Anyway, we should have known service wasn’t going to be great from then on. Darcy any I didn’t have any problems the previous night though, so we didn’t think anything of it.

After we were seated it took a while for our server to come back and take our orders. I think he was a little put out by the fact that we were all on separate checks. The people at the other end said that they heard him mutter, “So I’m going to get stiffed.”

The service we received reflected that attitude also. The food took forever. After we got our food, no one ever came back to check how it was. Drink refills didn’t come. We had to specifically ask. And when we did ask, he would forget and had to be reminded.

It was so bad that, even though several of us talked about wanting to order some cheesecake for dessert, he just brought us our checks without offering dessert. My thought was, he would have gotten a much bigger tip if he would have let us order dessert and rack up a bigger tab. Some people are just not very good at their job and not very smart. Either that or he was having a really bad day.

But hey, at least I got a couple more food pictures of it. I didn’t take pictures of mine and Darcy’s dinner because I got the bang bang chicken and shrimp again (surprise, surprise) and that’s what Darcy had too.

A couple of people had shrimp and chicken gumbo, which they said wasn’t very good. That’s kind of bummer because that was the only redeeming quality of the restaurant, I thought. The service was terrible but at least my food tasted good.

Anyway, the disaster didn’t end at the table. I went to the restroom before we left and two of the stalls were completely out of toilet paper. The trash was overflowing and they were out of paper towels. I’m not sure what shape the men’s restroom was in but the ladies’ room looked like it hadn’t been serviced since that morning. They must have been really busy that night.

I normally like Cheesecake Factory restaurants. They’re a safe bet because the food is consistently good and, from my previous experience, the service has been pretty good too. The one in Edison is terrible though. Must be an Edison thing because the Hilton Garden Inn there was terrible too. So relieved I don’t ever have to go back!

NY Munchies with Darcy

Darcy and I stopped at several places while walking around New York. First stop was Brasserie Cognac at around 11 AM. This was the place with the snobby waiter who said we couldn’t stay for just coffee because of their non-existent lunch rush. I’m not an alcoholic but I did end up ordering a peach bellini. Darcy had a glass of sangria. We finished our drink and continued our NY adventure.

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Next stop: Ivy in Hell’s Kitchen. This place had huge accordion windows that open completely so you feel like you’re outside inside. It was awesome. It was like we were out on the patio but we had the comfort of AC. We stay by the window which made for some great people watching.

At one point one of the NY bus tours was stopped in front of the restaurant. That’s NY traffic for you. I waved at the people on the bus but none of them waved back. They all had this uniform look of disdain. Not sure if it was the heat or what, but not one person was smiling. We had walked by several people peddling bus tours. It’s great for if you can’t walk long distances or don’t want to, but Darcy and I agreed it didn’t look like much fun. Seeing those people’s faces just proved us right.

Darcy and I ate a substantial breakfast at the hotel before we left so neither of us were really hungry for lunch. We decided to just get the artisanal cheese board and a pitcher of sangria. We were already drinking so might as well keep going.

Darcy knows more about cheese than I do so I let her do the picking. She chose Brie Fermier Jouvence (cow), Westfield Farm Capri (goat), and Pyrenees Brebis (sheep) so all the animals were represented. They were all really tasty with the grilled baguette but the honeycomb stole the show. I’d never had honeycomb before. It tasted amazing. Darcy recommended spreading both honey and cheese on the grilled baguette. I’d never had cheese that way before either. It was so good. The honey really highlighted the cheese flavors. My favorite combo was the honeycomb and capri on a baguette.

Love, love, love! Now I’m craving honeycomb. I don’t know where to buy it here, though.

We walked around some more then when we were ready to stop again, we stopped at Hudson Station. They mostly had bar food which didn’t really appeal to us so we just had drinks and left. Darcy found a place with good reviews called Marseille so we walked over there. Except our timing was a bit off. The kitchen was closed at the time and didn’t open again until 5 PM. We ended up going to Nizza down the street instead. The host at Marseille recommended it.

The best part about being in Hell’s Kitchen is all of the great restaurants. There’s so many of them. Although, out of all of the stops we made that day, Ivy was my favorite of all. I’m totally taking Brian there when we return this fall.

Miscellaneous New York Photos

Darcy and I took the train to New York when we were in New Jersey last week. It’s about a 40 minute train ride from the Metuchen train station.

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This is a picture of Newark Penn Station. Not to be confused with New York Penn Station. You do not want to get off at this stop. Apparently, Newark is really bad. When we were trying to make arrangements for our lodging, we were told to stay as far away as possible from Newark.

I have no idea whose idea it was to name this train station very similar to New York Penn Station. With their accent, it sounds the same so it would be very easy to confuse the two. Darcy and I decided it’s probably a trick to trap tourists.

I took a bunch of random photos while we were walking around New York. You might recognize some of these landmarks.

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We waked over to Times Square and Central Park.

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This Thai place close to Central Park seems to be popular with the mounted police.

We also walked to Hell’s Kitchen.

We walked along the river for a while.

We got close to the Intrepid but didn’t go inside because it’s not really Darcy’s thing.

After seeing this photo Brian, who has never had any interest in visiting New York, decided that he wants to go. I guess it’s an aircraft carrier that’s been converted into a really cool museum. Brian seemed to know all about it.

There’s also a restaurant area long the pier and a small dog park.

There’s also various companies offering river cruises.

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All in all there was plenty to see. What was really hard to come by though, are restrooms. Just like in Washington DC, the restrooms in fast food restaurants had keypads to keep the riffraff out. The restaurants, whether fast food or fine dining, only allowed paying customers to use their restrooms.

At one place, Brasserie Cognac, they wouldn’t even let us stay unless they were sure we were spending money. We really just wanted to rest our feet and use the restroom but we realized that we’d need to buy something so we told the server that we were just having drinks as soon as we walked in. He was like, “Are you having drinks or are you having coffee? Because if you’re only having coffee, I would suggest a bakery across the street.” We told him that we were having alcoholic beverages and he let us stay. His reason for discouraging us from staying? Supposedly they get really busy at lunch and they didn’t want to run out of tables.

After drinking a couple of their $15 drinks, using the restroom, and resting our feet for about an hour, it was finally lunch time. This is what the restaurant looked like at noon. The original guy who greeted us was nowhere to be found and a different server tabbed us out. We figured the other guy was probably hiding because he was full of shit. So much for being busy.

This explains why there’s always lots of people loitering or just leaning against the wall outside various establishments. If you go inside to rest your tush, even for just a moment, it’s going to cost you.

During our day of walking around New York we stopped to rest at several places. I’ll post pictures and blog about them next time. For now, I’ll just say that the people who say that New York is dirty are absolutely right. The city is literally dirty and smells really bad. I don’t even know how to describe it. Most of the time it smells of rotten sewage. Other times it smelled of air pollution from road vehicles. And at various points during our walk it felt like it was raining but it really wasn’t. I was getting droplets of condensation from the window AC units.

Darcy told me that when she took a shower that night, she had a dirt ring around her on the tub floor. I guess, since she was wearing a dress, the wind had blown all the dirt and it caked on her skin. I didn’t have the same problem because I was wearing pants. I figured we were going to be doing a lot of walking so I wore one of my unlined Lululemon studio pants and Nike running shoes. Actually, I even wore a sports bra instead of my regular bra. I was prepared in case we needed to make a run for it.

Thankfully, nothing bad happened. We were able to find our way back to the train station and even managed to find our way through Penn Station (which is super confusing for noobs like us). At least now I know what to expect for when I return with Brian.

Efes Restaurant

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Darcy and I ended up at Efes on our first night in New Jersey because we didn’t want to be too far from the train station. We walked up and down the street and didn’t really find anything that appealed to us. Efes looked quaint and promising.

The naan and the sauces were good. Service was super slow, though. I was really thirsty and I think she only refilled my water once. I had to ask for a water refill and had to wait a really long time.

The hummus and falafel were good but neither Darcy nor I liked our entree, which was a bummer because it was one of the house specialties and came highly recommend by our server. We should have known she was clueless.

The description made it sound yummy and the server’s recommendation sold us. We both got the chicken dish, which Darcy describes sweet and sour chicken without the sweetness. It had a very pronounced sourness to it. Maybe we just don’t know our Turkish foods.

I wish that I would have ordered the salmon dish instead. It was that or the chicken dish. However, the chicken dish was a house specialty and our server told us it was her favorite and very popular. Usually, the house specialties are a good bet. Oh, well.

Maybe we just ordered the wrong thing because the restaurant is rated pretty well on Zagat. So disappointing.

The poor service didn’t help matters any. Our server never came unless we tried to get her attention. And, I really, really needed some water to tone down the sour flavor of the sauce. Darcy recommended just having more bread. I wanted my water, darn it!

The best part was the upside down “wash your hands” flyer in the restroom. The person who posted it couldn’t be bothered to make sure it was right side up. Seriously. You had one job! I had to take a picture.

Maybe this restaurant was good at one point but I’m guessing it’s been a long time since anyone who works there really cared.

Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport

I had to travel for work last week. It was my first time flying out of the Wichita airport since they started operating out of the new terminal. Grandma wanted to see some pictures of the new airport. Here you go, grandma!

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There’s more food options now. There’s even a Dunkin’ Donuts. Don’t get too excited, though. It’s not as good as a real Dunkin’.

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Here’s a short video clip of the new airport.

The new airport is awesome. Brian and I were impressed. We even like the new, four-level parking garage because it has neat feature that tells you how many spaces are left on each level. Although, I couldn’t help but wonder how soon our community will outgrow it. When we were there last week, the first three levels were completely full. Only the rooftop level had spaces available.

Inside it’s very modern. Brian always wants to be early for our flights. Now that we have a nice, shiny, new airport, I won’t mind getting there early and having to wait at the gate. Maybe. LOL. I’ll probably still mind but won’t mind it as much.

Red Ginger

Red Ginger on Urbanspoon

I missed posting photos of our lunch at Red Ginger. It was our final meal in Charlotte before heading home. Alex and Sunni were on different flights than me and David but our flights all left around the same time so the four of us were able to have one final lunch together and we were able to travel to the airport together.

I’m just glad that I ended up on the same flight as David even though I booked my flight much later and just picked the cheapest roundtrip fare I could find. LOL. It’s so much nicer to travel with someone. Layovers are so boring when you’re alone.

But I digress, here are the food pictures…

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The food was good but all of these benihana type places tend to be very similar. I liked Red Ginger but it’s not really that cool since we have places just like these in Wichita. Several in fact. Would have liked to have tried another restaurant that’s different that what we have in Wichita but we just got tired of walking around and looking for a place to eat. Red Ginger seemed like a safe bet.

NASCAR Hall of Fame

No trip to North Carolina is complete without checking out the NASCAR Hall of Fame. As luck would have it, the NASCAR Hall of Fame just happened to be right next to the my hotel and the convention center. It was super convenient. And, the conference organizers rented out the whole facility for the evening for our “special event” during CS Week.

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The highlight of the event for me was definitely getting this photo with NASCAR legend Junior Johnson, who was there promoting Midnight Moon and signing autographs.

They were doing free tastings of Midnight Moon, handmade moonshine based on Junior Johnson’s family recipe. Despite all of the delicious varieties, I skipped the moonshine tasting in favor of getting a picture with Junior. I’m sure it’s delicious but Brian told me that it’s really strong and warned me to stay the away from it.

Here are a few more pictures from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

I’m really glad I had the opportunity to attend this conference because I don’t know if I would have ever seen the NASCAR Hall of Fame otherwise (it wasn’t on the bucket list) and also it was a super duper fantastic conference. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned it several times already but one of my favorite TED speakers, Shawn Achor, was our keynote speaker on the second day.)

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CS Week rented the whole facility for our “special event” so we were free to explore every inch of the museum. It was awesome! I think the look on my face in this photo pretty much sums it up.

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This is a racing simulator like none other. You get into real cars and race other people. Alex and I didn’t want to stand in the long line so we skipped it.

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I heard it was really fun, though.

There was also a pit crew simulation. They had two stations set up so that you could compete with another group to see who could do it faster.

Back on the main level, there was a bluegrass band.

There was also lots and lots of food. There were food stations and bars at every level of the museum so you didn’t have to hungry.

I was in sensory overload so I missed taking pictures of the rest of the food but I had to take a picture of this one. As if bread pudding weren’t decadent enough. They made theirs with Krispy Kreme donuts!

Alex and I got some souvenir photos.

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I’m not a huge NASCAR fan but the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a really cool museum. There were so many interactive things on every level. I couldn’t take a picture of everything.

Brian was jealous about this part of the trip. I think he would have really enjoyed the NASCAR Hall of Fame. We may have to go back to he can experience it.

See you again soon, Charlotte!

Blackfinn Ameripub

On one of the nights our group walked to the EpiCentre in downtown Charlotte to find somewhere relatively inexpensive to eat. We were originally going to go to Fleming’s but it had four dollar signs next to its name on the restaurant list. We had to keep it three or under because some people ate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and already blew the dinner budget. Yup. That happened the night before I arrived. I totally missed out!

To David’s credit, he did get one of our vendors to take us out to dinner one night. They must really like David because they took us to a fancy restaurant called the Capital Grille. The food and service was fantastic. It was a wonderful dinner.

Anyway, he tried to find a different vendor to take us out the next evening. No luck. That happens when you’re just window shopping I guess. Vendors only like to wine and dine you if you’re actually in the market for their product. Our other existing vendors were busy courting new customers. We were on our own.

We ended up at Blackfinn, a two dollar sign restaurant that’s conveniently located right as you arrive at the EpiCentre. Several people in our group wanted to check out Howl at the Moon, a piano bar in the same area so it was perfect.

Here are some pictures of our food…

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I think these are the crab cakes.

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Steak!

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Meatloaf.

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Blackfinn Ameripub on Urbanspoon

I had the grilled mahi, except I subbed spinach for broccoli because I love spinach.

I didn’t get a picture of the other plates because they were either duplicates or too far for me to reach. To check out the other foods, I guess you’ll just have to go to the restaurant. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

Overall, I really liked Blackfinn. The food was good and the prices were reasonable. The menu is extensive so there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a steak or seafood person or you just want plain ol’ chicken, you’ll find something on the menu that appeals to you. It’s great for large groups with different tastes. No one will end up starving.

They also have a great selection of starters, some of which are quite filling. Blackfinn is a great choice for if you just want to have appetizers and drinks. We got to try the crab cakes and ying-yang shrimp starters. Both were very good.

They have flatbread pizzas; all sorts of salads; pork, chicken, steak, and seafood entrées; sandwiches and burgers; pasta and noodle dishes; and they even allow you to order extra sides for sharing. The dessert options looked really good too, but we didn’t have any. No one was interested after all of the cheesecake and other desserts they were feeding us at the conference. LOL.

After dinner Sunni and I walked back to our respective hotels. I registered late and ended up the Hilton Charlotte Center City, while everyone else in our group got rooms at the Westin. I found out the next day that, since Howl at the Moon wasn’t open yet, the group ended up at the Tendril after party at Whisky River, where they had an open bar all night long. They said it was a great time; even better than the piano bar.

I was bummed about missing out at first but, after finding out that some of them stayed out until 2 AM, I didn’t feel as bad. I really wanted to be at breakfast early the next day to get a good seat for Shawn Achor’s keynote so there was no way I could hang. Walking back to the hotel right after dinner was a good call.

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