Adventure Day: Pawhuska Trip #2

Weather in Oklahoma these days is no joke. We’ve had over a week’s worth of warnings, terrible storms, tornadoes, the works. In short, it’s been the pits and I’m hoping Mother Nature decides to take a break here real soon.

I planned a trip to Pawhuska to go back to Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile store the day after my birthday. We went through a downpour on the way up but ended up having a gorgeous day after all the rain passed. I made Pyro Man take me last year for the first time ever and I think I’m going to make this a yearly trip. It’s the perfect combination of things for me, things for him and we get to enjoy four hours of just us on a round trip drive together. Not to brag, but we travel pretty well together and I’m super grateful for that.

Food at the Mercantile is still amazing. No photos this time as we were both famished and ready to chow down, but I highly recommend the Chicken Fried Steak and their Ranch Hand Sandwich. I’ve got to try making this one at home, it was delicious! Pyro Man also requested we try PW’s Ranch Dressing at home, that stuff is not your everyday ranch at all! He also kept talking about their $0.25 sweet tea and must have had a gallon while we were there.

Definitely fueled up on caffeine and good food, we (read: I) shopped for some goodies before we headed over to try Charlie’s Sweet Shop. The Maple Pancake ice cream really does taste like pancakes, but I highly recommend the Huckleberry flavor. Superb and perfect for for summer.

We finally got to go on a tour of the Lodge which I have been wanting to do forever and ever amen! It’s not open all the time so I was thrilled we were able to plan a trip on one of those lucky days. The whole place is wide open for all to walk through and see. Open a drawer, any drawer and see all the props, tools, labels and whatnot. The pantry is a dream come true and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I found her back room full of all sorts of gorgeous plates, bowls, dishes and more. In short, I was kid in a candy shop.

So that part of the trip is fun for Pyro Man, but not as fun as the second half of our day, snagging for spoonbill. If you’re not familiar, I definitely wasn’t until a couple years ago, spoonbill or paddlefish are these massive fish, part of the catfish family, with giant bills that can get to be about 100 pounds. They don’t take bait so you have to snag them, there’s a whole technique to getting the hook to snag on. Yes, you can keep them through a tagging process and eat them. No, we haven’t done that, just catch and release for us. Not being much of a fisherwoman myself, Pryo Man filled me in on all the details, the rules, the tagging process as well as the release rules. Let me tell you, there’s so many things to know so if you think you want to just run out there and try this or that your husband might want to, read up on your states website to find out all the regulations first.

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We headed out to Kaw Lake, Pyro Man’s preferred spot to snag and changed into some fishing clothes. I forgot my tennis shoes and had to wear his. With my hat, his camo jacket and shoes, I looked like a bad doppleganger of my husband but better that than getting my good outfit all fishy. It turned out to be a perfect day to be on the water. All the rain had made the lake rise and the fish super active. Since then I’m sure the lake is overflowing.

We caught several and yes, I partook for a bit learning how to snag and reel. Pyro Man would help cast and when he got a hold of one he let me reel in to know what it felt like. I got a little 10 pounder and that sucker was pretty hard for me so I can only imagine how much more difficult a larger one would be. The last fish Pyro Man snagged is a crazy story. He got caught on some line and when he tried to reel it in he felt a giant tug and knew there was a fish on there. Get this, he reeled in an 80 pounder by snagging on a line that was still attached to the fish! How crazy is that?!

Had to end on that one because I just don’t think it gets better than that. Another two hours back home, crime podcasts playing and we were home. Days like that are always a joy because we’re both able to partake in things that interest us. I feel really lucky that my adventure loving husband wants to explore things that light me up and that he enjoys teaching me about the things that make him happy. Is there a better win-win out there? I don’t think.

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6 Years Strong

Dear Pyro Man, 

Happy anniversary, Handsome! I could write so many things about the last six years, how wonderful they've been, the challenges we've already hurdled, and all the dreams we have for tomorrow. Instead I'll keep it short and sweet, tell you how much I love you, how happy I am you're my partner in life, and how I can't wait to see what else is in store for us. 

Love you like crazy, Janson. 

Apryl Ann Photography

Apryl Ann Photography

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Adventure Day: Pawhuska, OK

I feel so dadgum lucky that Pyro Man and I have had a few weeks off together! He's embarking on his own adventure in pursuing a second degree and wouldn't you know, our breaks don't actually align together very often. BUT, summertime is a different story! 

With these weeks free we've been spending our time together doing fun things! It's like a light bulb went off in my head: Hey! We don't have to work all the time. We can just do things that bring us some joy. Who'd a thunk it, right? It's been so lovely and I'm soaking in every minute I have with him. I don't think there could have a been a better way to spend my time, really. 

So far we've done matinee movies, ice cream trips in the afternoon, walks with the pup, fishing excursions to Lake Arcadia with a stop off at Pop's and of course, our garden work. Last week I had a wild hair to take an adventure day to a place I've been dying to go ever since it opened: Pioneer Woman's Mercantile Store

Who's had coffee and who hasn't? 

Who's had coffee and who hasn't? 

Ever since I found her website, thanks to a casual mention from a friend, I've been obsessed. That woman pretty much got me through grad school and I'm not joking. I read her blog religiously, I'm talking every day. When I ate breakfast in the morning, I practically studied her first cookbook and then I tried out her recipes on my friends. In short, I became a fan girl, big time. 

I was fascinated with her life, as was half the world, and I loved her wit, humor, and down-to-earth personality. All the colors in her kitchen, all the delicious recipes with butter and flavor, it was everything I wanted to have in my own some day. I'm still fascinated with her today, almost ten years later, and I still love her recipes, products, blogs, pictures and whatnot. So, going to visit the mecca of her world, the Mercantile Store, was bound to happen. 

I made a deal with Pyro Man that if he took me to the Pawhuska we could go snagging for spoonbills afterwards and in no time flat, my trip was planned! It's about a two hour drive from the city and it's beautiful right now. We popped in a podcast and coasted out early in the morning to beat the crowds. 

First stop, the deli! I know lines can get long and the wait can be bad, but I was hoping a Wednesday in the middle of May might hold in our favor, and it did! We were able to get seated right away and have a nice long lunch in her gorgeous dining area. Here's where I would show you gorgeous photos of her wood cutout flower wall and the coffee bar and even the dining area...but I was too interested in this: 

Come on! This is heaven on earth! Pyro Man had the chicken fried steak half order with fancy mac 'n cheese while I had Ladd's Favorite sandwich (it's undergoing a name change) with her classic mac 'n cheese. Deciding between her nachos, the chicken fried sandwich, her lasagna or anything else was tough! We each enjoyed her sweet ice tea in those giant glass jars which Pyro Man thinks we need around the house. I'm all in. 

We skipped dessert but checked out her bakery upstairs. The room up there is gorgeous with tables and chairs, sofas and wingback chairs to sit in. There's a beautiful view of the area around town through giant windows and it smells like a heaven, sugar and vanilla and coffee. We each treated ourselves to something, me the new chocolate cupcake with the marshmallow filling and Pyro Man the traditional snickerdoodle. And they were divine! 

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Downstairs in the actual Mercantile store, there is so much to see! I must have circled the whole room about twelve times before I actually picked up a basket. She carries quite a few of her own items and a ton of different nicknacks for men, women, children, and they're all cute and fun. Her walls are lined with shelving that has all sorts of beautiful plates, dishes, glasses and what have you. She also carries a number of salt & pepper shakers that are really unique. My favorite was the BBQ salt & pepper shaker

As I'm going back through, I'm wishing I had snapped a few more pictures of what I liked! There's so much and I just kept talking it in, going back through the counters and humming along to classic country tunes. Even Pyro Man found a few things he really enjoyed! 

I had some restraint and only walked away with a couple of ceramic strawberry baskets, a Mercantile hat, magnet and a special wrapped gift for Mom. I think she would love this place so another trip is definitely in order! Plus, the tours for the Lodge weren't happening and that's something I'm dying to go check out! 

Super happy with my loot and the whole visit! 

Super happy with my loot and the whole visit! 

When you drive two hours to someplace, I think it's a shame to just hit one particular highlight and go. We were curious what else was in Pawhuska so we pulled up Trip Advisor to see. We attempted the Swinging Bridge and yes, it does swing. Essentially it's a hanging bring strung across a large creek. When you step out on the planks, you can immediately feel the bounce and sway of the bridge. I feel like I was in an Indian Jones movie and clung to the chainlink fencing on either side. I made it halfway across with sweaty palms and feet, heights are just not my thing, but it was fun to try! Pyro Man made it all the way across and back, even he got a wee bit nervous. 

We checked out the local Pawhuska museum which was charming. It's a one story building full of memorabilia, stories, pictures, and information on local town heroes. Pyro Man enjoyed the encased guns and military information while I tend to gravitate towards dishes, stories, and of course, the clothing. Learning a little history of where you are, I think, gives a little more heft to your visit and allows you to appreciate the place you are a bit more. Occasionally there's not time for that, but why wouldn't you find out more about a spot if you have the time? 

We had fun tootling around the town and yes, we did go snagging and by "we," I mean Pyro Man. I sat out with him for a bit, getting my vitamin D intake and then went to read in the car for the last twenty minutes. The sun was out and not a stitch of shade anywhere! I have a nice watch tan line now! 

If you've been thinking of going to the Mercantile, do it! The food is ridiculously good and if you're a fan of her cookbooks, you already knew that! There's something for everyone, it's fresh, and the prices are just right, not too expensive, totally affordable. There's even a coffee bar if you want to stop in for a treat and a cup of joe! The items in the shop range from kitchen doodads to clothing to soaps to kids toys. There's a lot but it all fits together beautifully! Eclectically chic and totally Pioneer Woman The employees are lovely and helpful with everything, including other sites to see in the area--we're eager to come back and try the newest Pioneer Woman store, her pizza shop! 

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If you couldn't tell, I had a ball and geeked out the whole time! Plus, I got to spend a day with my man--truly, couldn't get any better! 

Yeah, you can totally tell I'm still cheesin' from the day and Pyro Man is just hanging in there like a champ! 

Yeah, you can totally tell I'm still cheesin' from the day and Pyro Man is just hanging in there like a champ! 

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Happy Fifth Anniversary!

Has it already been five years? Just like that, time is passing faster than I can imagine and I know we missed out on some memories these last two years, but we're making up for it now. Crazy as it sounds, I'm actually grateful for our long distance challenge. We learned a lot about what marriage is and what it takes to make it not just work, but to make it great. We took the challenge head on and saw it through to this, finally being home together again. So yeah, in some ways I am glad we had to climb that mountain together. 

But really, we're not doing this long distance junk again. That chapter is closed. For reals. I mean it. Done. 

Handsome, you're a peach, a darling, a Dr.-Pepper-Lovin'-man that drives me crazy but I love you. There's no one else in the world who can love me like you do. Many times you say or do the right thing and it makes me realize how much you know my heart. I count my lucky stars to have you in my life. Then you also do something wacky that makes me want to throat-chop you. Really, that's just balance though, right? 

My sweet, I hope we always laugh and keep communicating. I hope we continue to grow together and lean on each other through all our future challenges. I hope we celebrate big for all the successes and excitements that come our way. I hope I keep you on your toes and I hope you do the same for me. I hope you continue to take me on adventures and I hope I continue to be your home.  Mostly, I hope we continue to love, honor, and cherish one another. Always. 

Happy fifth anniversary, Pyro Man! 

I love you like crazy. 

Three cheers for celebrating our anniversary ON our actual anniversary TOGETHER in the SAME. PLACE!  Miracles do happen! 

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Little Moments

Last week of classes! Holla!!!!

We are coming up on the end of this spring semester, "we" being my husband and I. It's hard to believe that we are already through this time, it's blown by so fast! His first semester is done and we've managed to be back under the same roof for four straight months. And we still like each other. It's just nuts, man. 

When I dreamt about him coming home, I knew I didn't want to take little moments for granted. I really wanted to savor all the times I had with him without making them heavy. It's just, I missed so much of the little things while we were a part that I didn't want to miss out on them when he came home.

The semester has been busy for both of us, no surprise there, honestly, and yet we've been able to make time for one another. Breakfast together on Sunday's, yard work for a Saturday afternoon, and date nights on Friday's even if it's home watching whatever series we're binging. Lately it's just been neighborhood walks. Sometimes it's a lot of conversation, something it's just about walking side by side. Well, side by Penny by side--you know, the dog's got to be right there between her people so, there ya go. In any case, we've made sure that there's a time for each other no matter how busy life gets. 

Just thinking in calendar time, we're a third of the way through 2017 now. A third! Four months can go by hurriedly and if we're not careful we can find a lot of wasted time or missed opportunities. I think we've been consciously making choices to slow down and take in those little moments and I think it's made this year pretty stellar so far. 

Here's to all those little moments and how big of an impact they actually make!

Oh, and here's to the start of summer because, duh, it's summer! Cheers! 

What's a little important moment for you?

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Happy Birthday, Janson!

Happy Birthday to you, Pyro Man! 

You are one heck of a fella and I'm so happy to celebrate another of you!

I love all the things that make you YOU like your adventurous spirit, your love of the outdoors, and your brilliant brain. You're confident in who you are and you stand for what you believe. Your goofy side and easy nature pulls people in and your desire to help and give warms the heart. 

It figures my favorite pictures of you are outdoors--it's what lights you up!

It figures my favorite pictures of you are outdoors--it's what lights you up!

I couldn't be more proud of the things you've done and the path you've started blazing for yourself. You're a peach, my dear, and I'm so happy to be spending a birthday with you for the first time in a while! 

I love you like crazy, Handsome! 

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Settling In

Tennis shoes in the living room, a pair of jeans on the back of a chair, a Dr. Pepper can by the sink, and a hat on the kitchen table. Normally these little droppings might bother me, but these days I'm just happy to see evidence that I've got my man back in the house. I don't think there's anything right now that could make me happier than seeing him settling back into our home.

He's all unpacked and taken over the "man cave" with books and papers and things. He's getting his own rhythm set for the semester and we've found a nice routine together, too. Every night we have dinner together with just enough time to watch one episode of "Narcos". After that, an early bedtime before we rise to do it all again.

I've said "together" more times than I really want to count, but let's be real for a second, being in the same place at the same time within inches of each other is something I've been waiting to happen for way too long. Indulge me a little here. I'm happy our long distance is so freaking over!

Sure, it sounds pretty simple and far less exciting than most. Right now, though, this is my little piece of heaven on earth.  I'll enjoy those little annoyances and our simple married routine for as long as possible because every time I missed him, I wished I had reminders around the house and simple dinners on couch with him.  

What says "home" to you? What makes it feel like your home is complete and your heart full and happy? 

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A Hunting We Will Go

It's the last free weekend Pyro Man and I have together before the holidays kick into high gear. He thought it might be fun to go on a hunting excursion together before we get busy with end of the year stuff. I've got a show, he's got shows, and then there's the holidays so a hunting we will go! 

I'm super excited to sit in the cold. Can't you tell? 

Actually, sitting in the stand with my man has it's perks. I get to spend time with him, share in his interests and occasionally annoy him by being too loud. Hunting is still a new world to me. I may have gone on my first hunt seven years ago, but I've only seen the tip of the ice berg. There's just so much more to learn, but I'm interested.

There's a lot more to hunting than just grabbing your gun and sitting in a stand. What's really cool is that Pyro Man wants to include me in it, too. 

I'm sure I'll get the hang of it all in time. I'm definitely much more comfortable in camo these days, a statement I never thought I'd ever say in my entire life. 

Thankful Thought #19

19. I'm thankful for long underwear on cold, cold mornings in the stand.  I'm not above flannel lined jeans either. Seriously, ain't no reason to sit and shiver if there are layers to be worn, stylish or not! 

What are you guys up to this weekend? 

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A Difference in Opinions

I like to sleep in a cold house under layers and layers of sheets and blankets. He likes it cool with minimal amount of blanket coverage, a light blanket and sheet, thank you. 

I like onions in almost every meal, the flavor mouthwatering, the smell amazingly enticing to the tastebuds. He likes as little as possible. 

I like vegetables in my meals, good wholesome nutrient rich veggies. He just doesn't. 

Music on a road trip. Talk radio or comedy. 

Pictures on the walls. Deer heads in the living room. 

There's lots of things we differ on in but there's a lot of things we agree upon, too, sometimes more important than the amount of onions in a dinner meal. Things like morals, family values, the importance of a good salsa.

What I'm trying to get out is people can disagree on all sorts of levels. It doesn't mean you aren't standing for the same thing. If you find yourself getting immensely frustrated, take a beat. Back yourself up. Ask if you're really hearing what's being said. Did you really understand what they were saying or trying to convey? Perhaps you stepped on a grenade unintentionally. Listen, don't put up defenses. Figure out what happened, let the apology out and move on. Or, for Pete's sake, agree to disagree and don't let it bother you much. 

 People are going to have their opinions and it's their right to differ. We might not always agree *cough, the down duvet is perfect, cough cough* and it's really okay. If at the end of the day you still stand for the same important things together, then we're on the same page after all. 

That's my kumbaya story for the day and I'm officially stepping off the soap bow. Now, who wants a taco with extra onions?!

A tete a tete doesn't really have to be so divisive if we remember what we're standing for together. It's good to remember that in any relationship. Sometimes we just want to be heard. 

A tete a tete doesn't really have to be so divisive if we remember what we're standing for together. It's good to remember that in any relationship. Sometimes we just want to be heard. 

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Wedding Cake Bliss

To be perfectly honest, what I was most excited about in the wedding planning process was the cake testing. Forget the dress and flowers, bring on the buttercream frosting, baby! 

Unfortunately and fortunately, the first bakery I chose was so good I didn't have to look any further in selecting a cake. Mind you, I would have been more than happy to continue the search, but I was pretty happy with my selection of The Cake Guys and continuing the search would just have been a waste of precious planning time. 

We were able to put in a tasting order where they prepared a couple of boxes filled with huge slices to try and different icings and fillings to pair up. WARNING: never take your pregnant sister with you in you want to be able to be able to try flavors more than once...

See what I mean? I literally had to put my body in between Big Sister's fork and the cake! Just kidding, we all had a really good time sampling everything and it was all SO good! 

In the end I chose a white cake with buttercream frosting, traditional and simple, yet perfectly delectable! What really made the cake pop was the filling I chose to put inside: dulce de leche. Nope, it was not carmel like at all. It was actually a buttercream frosting flavored with dulce de leche. So dadgum amazing! 

All photos from this slide show taken by Apryl Ann Photography. 

Come our first anniversary, I really wanted to serve our wedding cake as dessert. Problem was we were living in Oklahoma City and our bakery was in Texas. SO, I got creative with Mom and we set out to try and replicate the dulce de leche frosting. How hard could it be? 

Apparently not hard at all! It's really simple and you only need two ingredients. Buttercream frosting and dulce de leche. 

Now, I will say that I prefer my icing homemade--that's just me. But the dulce de leche, well, the first attempt in making it fresh didn't turn out so well so I resorted to using the bottled brand (You can find this is the Mexican food section at the grocery store. I used the Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche brand.) Now. If you really want to make that homemade, and I might try it next year, Pioneer Woman has a great recipe here

Buttercream is really easy to make up. For a hard copy, download the recipe here. A standard white box cake was used this time for simplicity since the icing was the main focus. Once the buttercream is ready, the ducle de leche part is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

To get the dulce de leche flavor, add the dulce and continue to mix until consistency is right. More powdered sugar might be necessary to keep the icing thick. A helpful hint is to refrigerate the icing for a time in order for it to set up before adding as the inner layer. 

This will forever be my wedding cake bliss and a sweet reminder of a very happy occasion! 

What if your favorite cake to eat at weddings? 

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