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

  • The Pioneer Woman's Boarding House in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is a special hotel. There are eight rooms, each beautifully decorated, and no two rooms are alike. With large bathrooms, a mini-bar, evening reception, room service, valet parking, high-speed internet, and friendly service, a night here is a real treat. Ann snapped this picture of the arrangement of fresh flowers in the Butterfly Room. The bed in the background? That's a Tempurpedic mattress with some of the softest bedding around. We can't think of a better place to spend a cozy night when you @visittheosage and Pawhuska.⁣
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@pwboardinghouse
  • While in Italy, we took a cooking class in the home of a the owner of a small vineyard. During the class, we learned to make several dishes including pasta (which we rolled and cut by hand) as well as Tiramisu. Looking at this picture, we can still taste the freshness of the pasta, the tomatoes picked that morning from vines in the yard for the sauce, and the herbs clipped from a pot on the porch. It was a magical meal, paired with wines they had produced using grapes they'd grown on their own land. Talk about a farm to table meal.
  • The Enchanted Highway near @visit_dickinson, North Dakota, is a 30 mile stretch of road that runs from I-94 to Regent. Along the way you'll find a number of huge metal sculptures that have to be seen to be believed. The size and scale of these creations is such that you'll be filled with a sense of wonder, and a desire to drive on to the next one. This particular creation is called, appropriately enough, "Grasshoppers in the Field." This road is just one more reason for you to hop on up to North Dakota. @NorthDakotaLegendary
  • One of our favorite restaurants whether on land or at sea is @celebritycruises Luminae restaurant. Every morsel of every dish has been thoughtfully considered, prepared, and presented. Take this Chocolate Palet dessert for instance. It's so rich that more than a few bites would be almost overwhelming. But that's okay, as the serving size is perfect. Paired with the scoop of gelato on a bed of chocolate crumbles? Well, it makes a perfect end to a scrumptious meal. A true masterpiece.
  • One of the things we love most about traveling is discovering new things. New destinations, new foods, new cocktails, and new people. What do you like to discover?
  • Our imaginations run wild when we find ourselves in a place so chock-full of history like Deadwood, South Dakota. As we took in the town, we closed our eyes and listened for echoes from the past when Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok lived here. If only the streets could talk. @tripscout @midwestliving⁣
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#southdakota #blackhills #mwtravel #midwestliving #midwestlivingmag #mymidwest #midwestmoment #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #deadwood #dakota #wildbill #calamityjane #historic #mainstreet #historytour #familyvacation #summervacation #tourists #mainstreetusa #
  • Standing on a hill in present-day Rome, you can look down on the Roman Forum, the center of activity in ancient Rome. We've all heard of Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Marcus Agrippa, and the Apostle Paul, and we know them as ancient historical figures who almost don't seem real. And then you see this space, the very streets where they walked and the buildings they knew. This is why Rome is the eternal city. You can still walk streets and cross bridges built thousands of years ago. Being there makes it's real, and suddenly history comes alive.
  • Is there anything more relaxing than the thought of a beautiful sandy beach? How about one with pink sand, like at Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda? We made a stop here during our visit to the island nation and loved seeing all the folks there enjoying their time splashing in the warm summer sun. ⁣
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Would you like to visit this beach?

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