Now empty nesters, the last several years we’ve spent Valentine’s Day at home and enjoyed cooking a nice meal together. The menu has stayed pretty much the same: a wedge salad, some kind of potato and a juicy Nebraska beef ribeye steak for Steve and a piece of fresh sea bass on the grill for me. And we love splurging on a red velvet lava cake with fresh raspberries for dessert. Here’s what we cooked last year on Valentine’s Day. 

wedge salad

ribeye steak

red velvet lava cake

A change in plans

We enjoy the time together in the kitchen and after traveling much of year, it’s always comforting to be at home. We’d planned to do the same for Valentine’s Day this year at our Nebraska house until I got a text Monday afternoon from none other than The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond herself. I’d had an infusion for a chronic illness I have earlier in the day and was feeling just exhausted, so I laid down for nap.

infusion

About 5 p.m., I was awakened by a little ding on my Apple Watch. I squinted my eyes to see what it was and a text that said, “Hi Ann! This is Ree Drummond.” Still half asleep, I closed my eyes and laid my head back on the pillow. Wait a second. Ree is texting me? I was awake now. Despite all of the time we’ve spent in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, home of Ree and her family, we’ve never actually met The Pioneer Woman, so I was wondering how and why she was texting me.

I opened my eyes, sat up, got Steve, and started reading the text out loud.

On Valentine’s Day, Kurtess and chefs are putting on a “Whole Hog” private dinner, using a hog that was fed a diet of walnuts and olive oil.

At this point, Steve interrupted me and said, “We’re in.”

Ree went on to say that she was handpicking fun folks to attend and thought of me of Steve. We were so honored to be included in such a unique dinner. Because of another commitment, Ree wasn’t sure she’d be able to be there, but nonetheless, we knew this was going to be an incredible event.

Back to Pawhuska

We scrapped postponed our plans for dinner at home in Nebraska and Tuesday morning we packed a suitcase, made a PB&J sandwich for the car, and headed back to Pawhuska, Oklahoma. It actually worked out really well. The inside of our house in Pawhuska was being painted this week and some cracks in the walls repaired. I was anxious to see the progress and make sure it looked the way I’d hoped.

We promised our painter, Gio, we’d stay our of his way, so our friend Addie let us use her Little Rain Song Loft as an office to get some work done. (It’s right down the street from the Merc and super cute. Book Little Rain Song Loft on Airbnb.) This also gave us a chance to see and catch up with friends. It was so nice to be back in town for a few days.

Meal prep

Thursday morning we stopped by The Mercantile and Chef Kurtess Mortensen gave us a sneak peek at the dinner he was preparing for that night. It got us even more exited! He took us into the walk-in fridge to see the prep work he’d done for the pig trotter rillettes, the crispy pork belly, and even explained the sous-vide method he was using to make the roasted crown rack.

Kurtess Mortensen

crispy pork belly

Everything looked just delicious and we couldn’t wait for dinner! That night, we joined the rest of the group of 24 for one of the best dinners we’ve ever had. Not only was the food incredible, we had such a fun time with our friends, John and Cyndi Kane and a few other Oklahoma social media influencers, including Molly and David from This Simply Beautiful Life, Carissa and Mike from CC+Mike Creative, and Rob and Sandi from The Spoiled Home.

Stay tuned to read all about our 7-course whole hog Valentine’s Day dinner at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile … coming soon.

PIN FOR LATER

  • We had a few windy days in the #FloridaKeys this week that stirred up the waters. It created the most gorgeous colors in the Atlantic Ocean including this area at Sombrero Beach.
  • We miss waking up on the Celebrity Edge. That's all.
  • We've been having the best time in the Florida Keys visiting Steve's mom and dad this week. Today, it was cold for Floridians, but we loved the sunshine (and were thankful for awesome neighbors who were likely shoveling the snow from our driveway back home).⁣
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We are so thankful for a flexible schedule and opportunities like this one to share time with family. Life seems to pass us by so quickly the older we get and we're fortunate to be able to travel and share experiences with the people we love most. ⁣
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Feeling especially blessed tonight, in the beautiful Florida Keys.
  • We enjoyed a delicious dinner tonight at Hideaway Cafe on Grassy Key with Steve's mom and dad. We went early at 5 p.m. for the sunset dinner menu which has smaller portions and the most beautiful views of the sunset. ⁣
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The food was fresh and made-to-order and served by gracious and professional staff who made us feel right at home. ⁣
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Hideaway is a great restaurant choice for dinner if you're in the Florida Keys. Get a reservation ahead of time, as it fills up quickly, even at 5 p.m.
  • Need some inspiration for staying healthy while traveling? Good news! We are taking over the @noom Instagram stories this afternoon and hope you’ll all follow along as we share tips on how to make healthy living choices while on a cruise ship. We’ll take you inside the beautiful @celebritycruises Edge and show you how we stayed on track with our Noom goals while still enjoying a fantastic cruise vacation. Be sure to follow @noom! Our takeover has just begun. 😁
  • The Rooftop Garden is a unique space on the top deck of the @celebrityedge. There’s no water slide on this ship, no go-carts, and the’s no rock wall for climbing. Instead the Rooftop Garden provides a “living urban playscape inspired by childhood playgrounds and designed to waken the inner child in all of us,” according to the Celebrity Cruises website. There are live plants, comfortable outdoor seating, and unique art installations that set the space apart from anything else at sea. @cruisecelebrity
  • Blu is a restaurant on the Celebrity Edge that is dedicated to guests in Aqua Class.  It serves “clean, crisp flavors and inventive cuisine” in a gorgeous blue venue. To give you an example of the types of entrees served, for dinner tonight Blu is offering seared duck breast with wilted chard, farro risotto, and black cherry jus; a cracked pepper corn-crusted tuna salad, watercress, and dijon vinaigrette; and pumpkin gnocchi with sautéed arugula, sundries tomatoes, marinated artichokes, goat cheese and basil pesto. What would you order?
  • Yes, cruise ships are huge, but if you do a little exploring, you’ll find that the designers have included many small spots perfect for intimate conversation and watching the world go by. We found this nook in Eden, on deck 5 of the Celebrity Edge, near the stern.

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