A guest post from Ann’s brother about his unplanned stop Sequoia National Park

A guest post from Ann’s brother about his unplanned stop Sequoia National Park

[well]This is a guest post, written by Ann’s younger brother, Robert Shrewsbury. Robb and his family live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[/well]

By Robert Shrewsbury

On a recent business trip to Fresno, California, I had a meeting canceled and found myself with some extra time. I discovered that Sequoia National Park was about an hour away so I took the rest of the day off and headed out to explore. I didn’t know it yet but my final destination was the General Sherman Sequoia tree. I read that it was the largest living tree on the planet and figured it was worth a look. And it was.

The park is beautiful, filled with vistas of snow covered mountains, enormous boulders and rushing rivers. Take it slowly.  The road back to the Giant Forest, home of many awe-inspiring sequoias, is slow and filled with switchbacks and steep drop offs. Don’t fret, you can’t help but go slowly, rarely going faster than 25 mile per hour in your car. There are plenty of pull-off areas if someone is in a hurry and following a little too close.

About 40 minutes from the gates you come into the Giant Forest and shortly after the parking area for the Sherman Tree. Take it even slower. The half-mile hike down to the tree on a paved wide path does not seem nearly as steep as the trek back up.  There are plenty of benches to rest on the way, so use them.  No sense killing yourself when there are so many nice views to take in.

When I got my first glimpse of the giant from a bench about half way down, it didn’t seem that impressive. It looked big, but I’d seen big trees before, mainly in the Costa Rican jungle. Once down to the bottom, you encounter a variety of other massive trees, larger than you have ever seen most likely. As you head towards Sherman Tree, you get the sense of its enormity.  Standing 275 feet tall (statue of liberty is 300 feet) and as wide as a school bus is long, you can’t help but be awestruck.

Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park

Ann’s brother, Robb, at the Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park in California.

This tree is 2,200 years old.  It began it’s life  from a seed sprouted in the time when Socrates and Plato were walking the earth. It has survived to reach it’s current magnificence through drought, cold, flood, and fire. A truly amazing set of circumstances helped this tree become the largest on planet earth.

As I walked back (slowly) I was struck by the fact that someone had to have found this tree. This tree in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Someone explored by foot, mule or horse this range. What were they looking for?  It is truly amazing the amount of exploration humans have undertaken. What’s next?  What magnificent thing have we yet to find?

As you drive back, if you can switch places with the passenger, as the road takes the driver’s full attention. I can’t imagine what I didn’t see driving on this perfect April day trip.

Unfortunately, I forgot to stop into any of the visitor centers to get a postcard for my sister.


Daytrip to Sequoia National Park.

Day trip to Sequoia National Park.

Remembering my dad

Remembering my dad

Seventeen years ago today, my dad, Robert Forrest Shrewsbury, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 51.

This day is a tough day every year. While my dad had a fulfilling life, it makes me sad to think that he never got to see or do so many of the things we all cherish.

He never experienced the satisfaction of retirement after working hard for so many years in the milling business. He never felt the pride of seeing his children own their first homes and he wasn’t here to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day or meet Steve. He didn’t have the honor of growing old with his wife, or the joy of seeing his grandchildren graduate high school and head off to college.

My dad and step-mom, Janna, and my siblings Christy, Robb, Laura, and Brendi.

My dad and step-mom, Janna, and my siblings Christy, Robb, Laura, and Brendi.

I wish he could have lived longer and experienced those things, but I’m also very grateful for memories I do have with my dad. Memories of family road trips to the Black Hills or the Ozarks where we’d go boating on Table Rock Lake.

My dad loved going boating on Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks.

My dad loved going boating on Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks.

Memories of eating Fritos with bean dip while watching Husker football games or cheering on Kevin Johnson the Phoenix Suns. Memories of him teaching me how to play golf, sitting on curbsides watching parades as a family, and singing karaoke. 

My dad was always willing to try something new, including karaoke.

My dad was always willing to try something new, including karaoke with his kids.

Those memories sustain me and remind me to be grateful for every day I have on this earth. My dad never seemed to take much of anything for granted. He lived his life with few regrets.

My aunt, Kristy Douglas, painted this picture of my dad walking home from the Fourth of July parade with his granddaughters.

My aunt, Kristy Douglas, painted this picture of my dad walking home from the Fourth of July parade with his granddaughters.

He took chances and vacations and he was quick to give away his money, time and talents to others. He rarely put things off and he said what he wanted to say. 

On this 17th anniversary of his death, my dad’s example reminds me that life is short and not all of us are given the privilege of old age.

His legacy is a reminder to do the things that matter most. Try something new. Travel. Help those in need. Laugh. Be still. Pray. Listen. Make the time to be with your family and friends. And most of all, never miss an opportunity to say, “I love you.”

I love you, dad.

Our moms loved The Pioneer Woman Mercantile but we couldn’t get them on that swinging bridge

Our moms loved The Pioneer Woman Mercantile but we couldn’t get them on that swinging bridge

Both my mom and my mother-in-law are big fans of Ree Drummond and The Pioneer Woman cooking show on Food Network. We’d been to Ree’s new Mercantile store and restaurant in Pawhuska twice this year, and when we returned home from our last trip, we could tell that both our moms were itching to see The Mercantile for themselves.

So, we planned a third trip to Pawhuska to show our moms the town and introduce them to the only chicken fried steak we’d admit was better than theirs.

Pawhuska, Oklahoma bench

Our moms relax for a minute on a Pawhuska bench.

Our first stop, after a getting a cold fountain pop at Handy’s, was the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce. We introduced our moms to Joni and Reba and got some ideas for things to see and do while we were in town for a few days. We checked into our Airbnb house called Redbud Cottage and got settled in this wonderful three bedroom, two and a half bath house. It had a huge kitchen with complimentary coffee and more space than we really needed.

Redbud Cottage kitchen, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Redbud Cottage has a large modern kitchen available to people staying there.

After unpacking our bags, we headed downtown to The Mercantile where our moms had a great time shopping and buying Ree Drummond’s newest cookbook, “Come and Get It,” which was released for sale that day.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, "Come and Get It" cookbook.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, “Come and Get It” cookbook.

My mom is a Weight Watchers leader and just loved this tiny plate that should help with portion control. Gayle bought several gifts for friends and we all left with one of the greatest plastic wrap dispensers we’ve ever found.

Pioneer Woman Mercantile portion control plate, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Carol found a plate at the PW Mercantile that’s perfect for those wanting to control portion size.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner (with no wait) at The Mercantile, including queso dip, chicken fried steak, pork chops, and a salad.

Pioneer Woman Mercantile Deli, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Steve and his mom anticipate dinner at the PW Mercantile Deli.

With Ree in New York City promoting her new cookbook, Ladd was at the restaurant for dinner that night and was gracious to take pictures with people as he waited for his meal.

Ladd Drummond and our moms

Ladd Drummond and our moms

The next morning, we headed back to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile for breakfast, our favorite meal of the day. We sipped coffee and enjoyed a relaxing meal, including cooked-to-order eggs, three types of pork (ham, bacon, and house made sausage), homemade biscuits with jam, and a side of buttermilk pancakes with four types of syrup.

Pioneer Woman Mercantile Deli farmer's breakfast, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Farmer’s Breakfast offers a sampling of many favorites.

Pioneer Woman Mercantile biscuits, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Buttery, light, and flaky don’t begin to do these biscuits justice.

Pioneer Woman Mercantile pancakes, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

With three different kinds of butter and four kinds of syrup, Edna Mae’s Pancakes at the Merc taste even better than they look.

Needless to say, we were not going to need lunch that day. After breakfast, we headed out to the Drummond Lodge where Ree and Ladd had generously opened up their guest house to visitors. We were able to take a self-guided tour around the lodge, stopping to play kitchen where Ree often films here Food Network show.

Pioneer Woman Drummond Lodge kitchen, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Gayle had fun being in the place she’s always enjoyed seeing on TV.

Having watched The Pioneer Woman TV show for years, it was so much fun to see our moms in that space, reminiscing about seeing this or that on the show.

Pioneer Woman Lodge kitchen, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Carol has seen this stove in action on TV many times, and enjoyed checking it out for herself.

We walked around the lodge together, admiring the cozy living room, the boot-lined mantle, and the enormous pantry.

Pioneer Woman Lodge, boots on the mantle, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

This boot-lined mantle was picture perfect.

Pioneer Woman Lodge pantry, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The pantry at the Lodge is well stocked with anything Ree might need for a recipe. This is one of several sets of shelves there.

Pioneer Woman Lodge back pantry, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Carol couldn’t believe how many pots and pans there are in the back pantry at the Lodge.

Pioneer Woman Lodge dishes, Pawhuska Oklahoma

Stacks of dishes line the shelves of the pantry in the Lodge.

Before leaving, we enjoyed the view from the deck at the lodge and checked out the outdoor grill on which we’d seen Ladd and Ree cook the perfect beef steak.

Pioneer Woman Lodge grill, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Gayle and Carol have seen many episodes featuring this grill that sits outside the Lodge.

Our next stop was at one of our favorite places in Pawhuska — the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. This local church houses some of the most beautiful stained glass windows we’ve ever seen.

Osage Window, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Osage Window in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is simply spectacular.

The most famous window shows Father Shoenmaker bringing Catholicism to the Osage people. To even be created, the window required special dispensation from the Pope because it depicts people who were alive at the time it was made.

Next stop was the Osage Nation Museum. I’d been there a few weeks ago, so Steve took our moms inside and I was planning to go visit someone who lived close by. I never made it across the street because just as I got out of the car, a woman in a truck drove by rolled down her window to say, “Are you that blogger lady?” It was Margie Williams, one of the contestants (and winners) from the National Indian Taco Championship we’d judged a few weeks earlier.

Ann with Margie Williams, Pawhuska Oklahoma

Ann had a great time catching up with Margie Williams while we were in Pawhuska.

We had such a nice visit and she gave us a few more ideas of things to see and do in Pawhuska. Before we knew it, Steve and the moms were back from the museum and it was time to head back downtown.

We dropped my mom and Gayle off at Roaming the Osage Historic/Scenic Tours, where they spent the next 90 minutes touring Pawhuska and seeing the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, The Grandview Inn B&B, and learning about the history of Osage County.

Roaming the Osage Historic/Scenic Tour van, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

All settled in and ready for the tour!

The next morning, we took one of Margie’s suggestions and went up to Lookout Mountain where we had an incredible view of Pawhuska and visited the gravesite of Chief Fred Lookout and his wife Julia.

Lookout Mountain, Fred and Julia Lookout grave marker, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The grave marker of Chief Fred Lookout and his wife Julia sits atop Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain view toward Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The view from Lookout Mountain is incredible. In this photo, you can see Pawhuska in the distance.

We spent time in some of our favorite shops, including Buckin’ Flamingo, Mudpies, Salt Creek Gallery and Marketplace, LOREC Ranch, and Osage Outfitters.

Buckin' Flamingo merchandise, Pawhuska Oklahoma

Some of the fun merchandise available at the Buckin’ Flamingo.

Mudpies jewelry, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Jewelry at Mudpies.

Salt Creek Gallery and Marketplace bags, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Both Ree Drummond and JoAnna Gaines carry one of these bags.

LOREC Ranch furniture and accessories, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A great selection of western furniture and accessories is available at the LOREC Ranch.

Osage Outfitters boots, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Some of the unique boots available at Osage Outfitters.

Both of our moms loved Tallgrass Art Gallery, and my mom decided to splurge on a fetish necklace that she wore out of the store.

Tallgrass Art Gallery, fetish necklace, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Carol bought a unique necklace for herself at the Tallgrass Art Gallery.

Before calling it a day, we had a chance to have a private tour of the Bronze Horse Foundry, which was absolutely amazing. Cindy Free showed us the extensive processes used to create bronze sculptures. It was so interesting and we were so grateful for the time she spent showing us around.

Bronze Horse Foundry sculpture, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A statue begins to take shape at the Bronze Horse Foundry.

Bronze Horse Foundry ceramic shells, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

These ceramic shells are almost ready for molten bronze.

Bronze Horse Foundry detail work, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

All of the fine details the artist puts into the clay will appear in the bronze when it is complete.

Bronze Horse Foundry finish work, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Workers at the foundry work to finish this bronze casting.

Bronze Horse Foundry figurine, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

This clay figurine is ready for the next step in casting it as a bronze.

Our last stop of the day was at the legendary Swinging Bridge, just a few blocks away from The Mercantile. We’d braved a walk across the suspension bridge on a past visit and were sure we’d convince our moms to do the same. We sensed their hesitancy and pleaded with them to walk across, but they just weren’t having it.

Swinging Bridge, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

We could get our moms onto the end of the swinging bridge, but no further.

Like we did when we were kids, we kept asking and asking and finally said, “Why not?”

The looks they gave us said it all. “Because I said so.”  We love our moms very much, and we know not to argue with that.

Have you taken a mother/daughter or mother/son trip? Where did you go and what did you enjoy most about it? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you. 

We brought our moms to Pawhuska!

We brought our moms to Pawhuska!

That’s right. It’s only been a few weeks since we were in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to judge the National Indian Taco Championships, but we’re back in town, this time with our moms, Carol Johnstone and Gayle Teget.

Having been to Pawhuska twice already this year, we got the sense that they were also anxious to see The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s hometown and visit her Mercantile.

So, we loaded up the car yesterday and drove from our home in Nebraska back to our new favorite small town. We arrived yesterday afternoon, made a quick stop at Handy’s for a fountain pop, shopped at the Mercantile and had dinner there, as well.

Mom and Gayle even got to meet Ladd Drummond at the restaurant.

We’re going back to the Mercantile for their awesome coffee (and breakfast) this morning before touring the Drummond Lodge where they shoot Ree’s Pioneer Woman show for Food Network.

Then, mom and Gayle are going on the Roaming the Osage tours and we’re going to see more of the shops and sites in and around Pawhuska. So excited to this mother/daughter, mother/son adventure.

We hope you’ll follow along.

A perfect fall day with family

A perfect fall day with family

Today was one of those cool, cloudy days when it starts to really feel like fall in Nebraska. The trees are starting to change colors and the corn fields are almost ready for harvest this time of year.

I love this time of year when the corn is just about ready to harvest.

I love this time of year in Nebraska when the corn is just about ready to harvest.

Now that Steve has a more flexible schedule, we thought it might be nice to go for drive today and see some of our family. My Grandma Shrewsbury is celebrating her 95th birthday tomorrow, so we headed out this morning for Nebraska City where she lives in a nursing home.

Meghan and Grandma Shrewsbury also enjoy looking through her scrapbook together and reminiscing about Meghan's childhood.

Meghan and Grandma Shrewsbury also enjoy looking through her scrapbook together and reminiscing about Meghan’s childhood.

Grandma Shrewsbury (my dad’s mother) is our only living grandparent and she is so special to me. When I was a kid, we’d visit my grandparents and I loved cooking and baking with my grandma. She’d show me how to make Beverly’s Brownies from her Kitchen Klatter cookbook or we’d spend the day peeling and coring apples for homemade apple butter.

Me and my Grandma Shrewsbury at a wedding many years ago.

Me and my Grandma Shrewsbury at a wedding many years ago.

She spent hours teaching me how to thread the eye of the needle in the sewing machine and let me pick out my favorite fabrics which she’d make into nightgowns and dresses for me to wear.

This is one of my grandma's favorite photographs of her and Meghan.

This is one of my grandma’s favorite photographs.

After Meghan was born, the two of us would go see my grandma often and sometimes, she’d stay with Meghan when I had to travel for business. Those two have a special relationship and I’m so thankful Meghan had been able to know her great-grandmother so well.

Meghan and Grandma Shrewsbury both enjoy cheering for the Nebraska Cornhusker football team.

Meghan and Grandma Shrewsbury both enjoy cheering for the Nebraska Cornhusker football team.

After our visit with Grandma, we met Steve’s mom and dad for lunch. They recently returned from their 50th anniversary trip to the Canada and the Northeast and we were so excited to see pictures from their trip and hear all about it.

Steve's mom and dad, Gayle and John Teget, drove over from their home in Shenandoah, Iowa, to meet us for lunch.

Steve’s mom and dad, Gayle and John Teget, drove over from their home in Shenandoah, Iowa, to meet us for lunch.

We are happy they’ve had opportunities like these to travel and enjoy their lives together. On a side note, we ate someplace new today in Nebraska City and we just loved it! Originally, we’d planned to meet at The Lied Lodge for lunch but they were not able to accommodate us because of a special event. Instead, we drove downtown to a place called The Keeping Room. None of us had ever been there, but we will be back!

Apple walnut salad at The Keeping Room in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Apple walnut salad at The Keeping Room in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

The service was great and the food was just delicious! I had the apple walnut salad with grilled chicken and the tangy balsamic vinegar dressing was so yummy. Gayle and Meghan also had salad entrees that were quite tasty, Steve had what he called the best French dip he’s had in a while, and John also enjoyed his chicken salad croissant.  We didn’t have time for dessert because Meghan needed to get to work, so we’ll have to go back sometime soon to taste the pie. We heard it was also delicious.

In any case, it was great to see Steve’s mom and dad, wish my grandma a happy 95th birthday, and enjoy a crisp fall day with family. It was a nice reminder of how thankful we are for the changing seasons in Nebraska and the changing seasons in life.

Happy 50th anniversary, Mom and Dad

Happy 50th anniversary, Mom and Dad

Fifty years ago today, something pretty special happened — my mom and dad got married.

I feel pretty lucky to have had them both as my parents and we are so excited for them to celebrate 50 years together. Over the years they have been a great example of what it means to be dedicated to family. To this day, they are there for us if we need them, and we know we are blessed because of that.

Mom and Dad have always liked travel; they spent their honeymoon in Estes Park, Colo.

John and Gayle on a vacation to Colorado.

John and Gayle on a vacation to Colorado.

Twenty years later they returned to Estes, only that time with 14-year-old me in tow. I had a great time on that trip, my first time seeing mountains. We didn’t travel far every year. Some years, we only went as far as Minnesota or South Dakota to see grandparents, but I always knew my parents enjoyed exploring new places.

Over time, they’ve taken vacations to Hawaii, Jamaica, and Ecuador. They have visited many countries in Europe, and have been to Alaska. In fact, they just got back from a trip through the St. Lawrence Seaway and along the northeast coast of the United States to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Recently, they surprised us when they told us of some exciting plans they have to travel through the Panama Canal this winter.

We’ve loved traveling with my parents over the six years since we’ve been married to places like Las Vegas, Mason City, Iowa, and Key West. This summer, we had a great time exploring the Nebraska Sandhills as we took a road trip together around our home state.

We had a wonderful trip around Nebraska with Steve's mom and dad, including stops at Smith Falls near Valentine.

We had a wonderful trip around Nebraska with Steve’s mom and dad, including stops at Smith Falls near Valentine.

I think much of my love for travel came from my mom and dad. They always made sure that we had opportunities to learn about the world. They worked closely with a foreign exchange program for high school students, hosting several students in our home and working with even more across the midwest region. Each student brought something into our lives that we wouldn’t have had. Each one of those experiences opened an enormous world to me yet made it feel a bit smaller at the same time.

John and Gayle a charity fundraiser in the Florida Keys earlier this year.

John and Gayle at the Sweetheart Ball in 2017

As they celebrate 50 years together today, Ann and I just wanted to say congratulations, Mom and Dad. We couldn’t be happier for you, and we look forward to seeing where life’s adventures take you next.