So you'd think I'd learn my lesson, right?
Sure enough, a week ago I blogged that I had nothing to share. Kids are fine, school is routine, Blaine seems to be recovering, I am boring ........... and whadda ya know, just like always, something happened. But this time .... it wasn't terrible. It wasn't terrible at all. It was kind of cool. Actually, it was one of the coolest things to ever happen to me .........
I got invited to Pioneer Woman's ranch.
(collective gasp of jealousy around the internet ---- I KNOW!)
I don't even remember who turned me on to her blog initially, but I've been following along for several years. Or, to be one of those obnoxious people, "I've been reading PW since before it was cool". We've exchanged e-mails a few times throughout the years, me totally exploiting my Oklahoma connection. But mainly, I've admired her from afar, like the zillion other people who read her each day. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I pretty much wet myself when I got invited to take part in this weekend's ranch gathering and cooking demo with Smitten Kitchen.
(OK, this is the part where I shamefully confess that I didn't know who Smitten Kitchen was, and how I don't follow
After reading the e-mail from PW inviting me and a friend, I knew immediately who to call. Well, once I stopped giggling like a schoolgirl and hyperventilating, that is. My new friend Alisa, who is one of the biggest Pioneer Woman fans I know. Alisa and I have been passing acquaintances since we moved here because her oldest daughter and Brayden have been in choir together both years. We started becoming friends a few months ago when we discovered a mutual love for scrapbooking, then started cropping together, then found out we each had a blog, THEN found out through casual conversation that we each followed Pioneer Woman. Alisa takes it a step farther and has her own weekly cooking feature on her blog, and I hoped she would jump at the chance to meet PW in person ......... and I was right.
It was perfect, because Alisa was every bit as excited and schoolgirl-ish and squeal-y as me. What followed for the next few days were a flurry of e-mail activity between us as we talked about how thrilled we were, and what are you going to wear and how should I fix my hair and do I have time for a manicure and OMG I AM SO FREAKING EXCITED R U SERIOUSLY WHAT R U GOING TO WEAR?!?!?!?!?!
Really, it was pathetic. You would think we were meeting the Pope.
The drive to the ranch on Saturday morning was non-stop talking, punctuated with giggling and confessions of butterflies in both our stomachs. I don't know why we were so nervous ..... Pioneer Woman's a normal person, after all .... and if she was half as cool in person as she comes across on her blog, how could we NOT have a great time, right?
We were a few minutes late because naturally, I missed the turnoff. (How embarrassing.) But we arrived, goggle-eyed and pointing at the scenery, were greeted warmly, and started introducing ourselves to the other readers who were selected to attend. At first I found myself sort of gazing from afar, watching Ree like she was a celebrity among us (which, hello, she pretty much is.) But she was so warm and gracious and funny and down to earth and friendly that it didn't take long for the nerves to be replaced with a genuine feeling of comfortableness. Personally, I think that's the mark of a true hostess --- someone who has the knack to make the guests feel no longer like "guests" -- and that's exactly what she did.
Lunch was ready shortly after we arrived. A wonderful beef dish, with sides of pasta and asparagus. I'm embarrassed to admit I don't put that much work into Sunday dinner for my own family, and there I was eating it for Saturday lunch.
Then, what followed was pretty much the greatest berries and cream dessert I've ever had in my life.
Alisa's nerves had calmed down at that point, also, and she was relaxed and having fun as we got to know our fellow guests better, and were entertained by our hostess.
At this point I could have pretty much gone home and been satisfied with the day. But, things were just getting started.
Smitten Kitchen had arrived with her husband from NYC to do a cooking demo of three amazing recipes for us lucky folk. She was cute and funny and worked like a dog, standing for hours making the most delicious bread and crumb cake and pretzels, despite being eighteen weeks pregnant.
And not only did PW help her in the kitchen, and take pictures for her own blog, and continue to offer herself up as a gracious hostess to the rest of us, she managed to find time to blog and tweet the entire experience. Truly, the woman's picture should be in the dictionary under "multi-tasking".
Smitten Kitchen (aka Deb) brought her husband Alex, who took tons of photos for her food blog, as well. Although I consider myself a slightly-better-than-amatuer-photographer, between him and PW, I felt like such a beginner. Like I was only one step up from bringing a disposable, one-time-use camera from Walgreens. So if you want to look at my photos, that's great. But if you want to see really WONDERFUL photos of the day, wander on over to Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen's sites and watch how the pros do it.
This is PW's best friend Hyacinth, helping with one of the recipes.
When she arrived, everyone who knew her shouted, "Hyacinth is here!" and she sat next to me for lunch. I turned to her and said, "I'm such a dork. I thought 'Hyacinth' was a fake name, for privacy purposes, and had no idea that was your real name!" and she said, "It's not."
So clearly I'm even a bigger dork than I thought.
It's actually a funny story how she got the nickname, but this blog post is going to be too long as it is, so I'll just leave it. But trust me when I tell you she is every bit as warm and funny and friendly as Ree, and I'm seriously considering forcing Blaine to retire from the Air Force and move to the country and raise chickens or goats or something so I can be best friends with both of them. Although, really, they might not be too crazy about that idea, so lets keep it a secret for now.
Alisa and I both actually learned quite a bit from the baking demo. We learned that 17 ingredients is actually not that much when the final product is So worth it, and how to fold a loaf of bread under to make a nice smooth mound ......
We learned how to make pretzel dough .....
We learned how to roll that dough into pretzel shapes .....
We learned you can't go wrong with too much salt .....
I learned that even the best cooks make a mess in the kitchen .....
And most of all, I learned that my love affair with carbs is true and real and worthy and runs deep, deep in my soul.
It was genuinely, truly, an amazing time. Almost surreal, in a "holy cow are we actually HERE and not on a movie set?" sort of way. And while I would like nothing better than to sit here and type paragraph after paragraph, waxing poetic about how beautiful the lodge is (seriously --- SO beautiful!) and how pleasant the other people were and how much I enjoyed myself and most of all, how freaking NICE Ree is, here's the one thing I came away with yesterday ---- she's not a grand-stander. She's not inviting people to her lodge to showboat her beautiful home or her interesting life. She was genuinely ...... kind. And interested in the rest of us. And I think the fawning makes her a little embarrassed and self-conscious.
(although I still totally did it, I just tried to be cool about it.)
(Oh, egads. Looking at this photo, I also learned that I need to either lose some weight or stop standing so sway-backed. No wonder people ask me if I'm pregnant all the time ....)
Maybe I'll get to go back some day ... who knows? I know she's got plenty of other readers who would love the chance to go as well .... but I can guarantee you if I ever get another opportunity, I'll jump on it.
Too soon, the day came to an end and it was time to leave. I hope she knows how sincere my thanks were, and how much I enjoyed myself.
On the way out, we saw some horses.
Then some cows moo'd at us.
Then I took yet another wrong turn coming off the interstate and wound up driving an hour out of our way, and that's how I knew that Alisa was the right person to have asked to go with me because she didn't even complain.
PS. Kim, you could NEVER be demoted! Only two more months until we're sitting in the Caribbean, drinking our umbrella drinks and having well oiled muscle men waving us with palm fronds!! Oh, wait. We're taking our kids and husbands, aren't we??? Shoot. That's ok, I'll smuggle this crumb cake onboard and it will make up for it!