Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Our Pioneer Weekend

Well, I am just beside myself! I still can't believe that it happened!!! We just returned from an amazing weekend visiting The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) at her ranch in Oklahoma.  I have been such a big fan of Ree's for many years, so it felt surreal to actually meet her in person.  The word "stalker" came up a few times when it became apparent that I knew more about her than she even knew about herself, but she was such a good sport with my star-struck self and tolerated my constant talking and staring like she didn't even notice.  Honestly, she was every bit as kind and down to earth as she appears on her blog and Food Network show.  

As soon as we landed on Friday afternoon, we were greeted by the film crew and other winners who had already arrived.  I am not even kidding when I tell you that they started strapping a microphone on me in the middle of the airport.  Maybe it wouldn't have been a big deal had I not been wearing a dress.  And this cute little sound guy, Sterling, insisted it had to go all the way up my dress and be attached in very interesting locations.  It required several sets of hands and some creative stretching on my part, but Mission Accomplished!  The next time I fly out to Ree's ranch, I will not wear a dress.  And yes, there will be a next time.  I refuse to believe otherwise.  

We began the two hour journey from the airport to the ranch being filmed and interviewed the whole way.  It was fun getting to know the other winners and their guests, as well as, the director, cameramen, sound technician, and various other important people who have all worked with some major movie stars on television shows and movies.  So obviously, we fit right in since I was on a local news commercial one time when I was around 12.  I was clearly kind of a big deal in their eyes.  I don't think they even thought it was weird when I took pictures of the local Pizza Hut and a stray cow here and there.  I'm sure all of their usual movie stars do that kind of thing.

I was a big, ridiculous mess when we pulled up to the entrance to the ranch and saw "The Sign".  It just all seemed so official at that point.  We had arrived.  

Here we are at the entrance to the Drummond Ranch
(Note: no microphones were visible in this picture...the magic of movies)
We hopped back in the car after one or ninety pictures of that sign and continued to drive approximately 100 more miles through the ranch to arrive at the lodge.  Did I mention that this ranch is humongous?  I'm pretty sure it's so big that they don't even know where it begins and ends (at least we couldn't ever get them to commit to a number of acres). Staying at the beautiful lodge where The Pioneer Woman's Food Network show is filmed was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  The views are breathtaking!  Ree's house is about a mile away, and I could kind of see it if I squinted really hard and turned my head a certain way.  From what I could tell, it was also quite lovely.

The winners and their guests
(I miss them already)
Brian meeting Ree
We were soon introduced to Ree and welcomed into the lodge.  The dinner that was prepared for us was delicious!  All of the recipes that we ate for dinner that night were from Ree's cookbooks.  It was all so good, but my favorite of the night was the Rosemary Rolls.  I would have stuck a few extras in my pocket for later if it hadn't been for that difficult pocketless dress and pesky microphone pack taking up all my spare areas.
Let's just pause here for a moment of silence
So basically we just ate and visited with Ree and the other guests that evening.  And that is the story of how Ree became my new BFF (in my mind at least).
You can imagine my excitement when Ladd and the boys moseyed in wearing real cowboy boots and hats (like with real cow manure on them and stuff). It was so interesting to talk to Ladd about their life on the ranch.  All four children were absolutely precious.  I couldn't believe how tall her beautiful, sweet daughters were and her boys were so cute and fun.  And none of them showed any concern when I took continual pictures of them either.   

Brian and Ladd
(Just two cowboys shootin' the bull)
I even got to meet Cowboy Josh.  He lives and works full time on the ranch, and he seemed happy to oblige me and my picture taking.  He doesn't know this, but I also took a picture of his house on the ranch.  Let's just keep that between us if you don't mind.
Everybody in Oklahoma was very tall!
On Saturday, the winners got to prepare their recipes on camera with Ree.  Of course, we all reattached our mic packs for the day, but I had learned a lesson from the unfortunate "airport dress incident" and wore something that was much more cooperative.  Brian and I were overwhelmed by the huge production involved.  We knew the cooking segments would be filmed, but we had no idea just how detailed the process would be.  We were expecting a little local guy with a camcorder to video Brian and Ree cooking for a few minutes.  Boy howdy, we were wrong! (Some of that cowboy talk may have rubbed off on me.)  Just to give you an idea, I present this to you:
Brian getting his hair and makeup done
(He pretended he didn't like it)

Brian and Ree had to cook his recipe together two times.  The first time they had to talk and explain everything they were doing as they cooked.  The second time was for close up shots of their hands and the food.  It was fun to watch the three cameramen move around to get certain "shots" and hear the director saying "Action" over and over.  They even had one of those fancy little things that you click and say "Take 1"! 
Fancy little "Take 1" thing

Those were some serious lights
Brian loved cooking with Ree in her amazing kitchen.  (I may have posed in several locations throughout the kitchen when no one was looking and forced Brian to take my picture as I pretended to be the star of my own show.  Maybe I did or maybe I didn't.)
Pioneer Woman and The Next Food Network Star
While Brian was busy cooking, I hung out with Charlie.  He's my other new BFF.  Seriously, you don't lay like that with someone who you don't consider a close friend in my opinion.  He's a Basset Hound and could hardly contain his excitement about all of the hoopla in the kitchen.

BFF, Brian, & Me
Now, I'd like to introduce you to a fine gentleman I met during my visit.  His name is Ol' Yeller.  

I rode him on a tour of the ranch.  He was such a good sport.  Bless his little horse heart.  I'm sure he rolled his horse eyes when he heard me announce I'd never been on a horse before.  I was constantly pulling his reigns the wrong way and accidentally making him stop when I really wanted him to go.  I was definitely a thorn in his hoof that day.  

Two of Ree's kids, Paige and Brice, took us on our little horse riding adventure.  They showed us all around and really stretched my horse riding lack o' skills when they took us down steep hills and through ponds.  The views from all over the ranch were worth it though! Unfortunately, I had to pull out my teacher/mama voice when Brice did this:

"Does your Mama let you do that? I don't want her mad at me if you fall!"

Brian and Ree also had to do the "grilling segment" outside where they actually cooked the chicken and discussed various meat/grilling topics only pausing for the cameramen to get a "sizzle shot" of the meat cooking.
After all of the cooking and grilling segments were finished, the food stylist (yes, I said food stylist) did a fabulous job of placing the food, beans, and other side dishes on the plates to display the four winning recipes.  Then many pictures were taken of the beautiful plates of food.
Brian's chicken posing for a picture
Finally, the time came for everyone to eat! We all served our plates (while being filmed of course) and sat down at this lovely table to eat.

We stuffed ourselves and enjoyed the beautiful Oklahoma evening.  Just a bunch of new friends enjoying each other's company while chowing down on some fabulous grub.  That was more of my cowboy talk...chowing and grub.

Was Brian licking his lips at the tasty food?
We feel so blessed to have had this experience. Everyone we met made the trip even more enjoyable.  Thank you so much to Bush's Grillin' Beans, BlogHer, and The Pioneer Woman, Ree (BFF).  If you want to see more pictures, and trust me I have many more, go here.  I'll be posting them over the next couple of days.

One last thing, Brian never did wear those chaps, boots, and cowboy hat that I had hoped for...but there's always next time!

"I attended the retreat at the Pioneer Woman's ranch as part of a contest I won, sponsored by Bush's Grillin' Beans.  As a winner, I received complimentary travel and accommodations at the Ranch, along with a welcome gift from Bush's Grillin' Beans.  All opinions are entirely my own."


Christi said...

Wow! You all are too lucky! I am so glad that you all had a great time! Love the pictures!

Beki - TheRustedChain said...

I absolutely loved reading this!!
She is such a sweetheart.

Winnie said...

I found your post today, and wanted to thank you for sharing your adventure! I have met her at book signings and at a blogging convention and thought she was so lovely and sweet. This sounds like a dream trip! Congratulations!