I love this photo! What’s most notable is not the colorful donkey piñata (whom we named Kevin), but that all seven of our OKMH (One Kitchen Many Hearts) crew are in the same place at the same time for the first time ever. That’s right. We all gathered here in Houston so that we could gaze upon each other’s faces live & in person for the first time ever. Granted, some of us have met over the past 3 1/2 years since we met via The Pioneer Woman‘s website, but never have we all been in the same place at once. Until now. But let’s start at the very beginning. In a galaxy far, far away…. no, wait. That’s another saga.
Once upon a time, about 3 1/2 years ago, several of us started reading The Pioneer Woman‘s website. And during that time, we began to reply to one another’s comments, or comment on the recipes each of us would upload to the Tasty Kitchen page. Over time, we began to write our own blogs and continued to comment and subscribe to each other’s blogs. That gradually morphed into closer friendships via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Eventually, we all joined Group Me (an instant messaging app) where we began to share even more personal aspects of our lives. Things we wouldn’t share on the Internet for everyone to see. Personal things. Things you share with your closest girlfriends. And eventually, we became more like sisters.
Before the girls arrived, I made two keepsake crafts for them – handmade monogrammed pillowcases and toast-themed coasters (aka Toasters). Pinterest – it’s where the magic begins.
Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic was the first to arrive. This was actually her second visit; she came last May for a long weekend. We joke that we are Sisters From Other Misters. She came in from Michigan around noon. When she left that morning, her journey involved black ice on the highway and a night spent with family in another city to ensure she could get a plane out. Once here, it was sunny and 70F and we were dining on burgers on the patio at Good Company Taqueria. The Polar Vortex can bite it.
After lunch, we drove home to prep a Mexican fiesta banquet for the others because nothing says “Thanks for flying all day” like a fiesta and a pitcher of Mexican Martinis. This is where things got dicey. The remaining five of our group (Madelyn from La Petite Pancake, Megan from Country Cleaver, Beka from Kvetchin’ Kitchen, Allison from Decadent Philistines and Kat from Tenaciously Yours) were subjected to all kinds of drama. First, three of them were delayed in Denver due to high winds. It all worked out, though barely in Allison’s case, and they all 3 boarded the same plane from Denver to Houston. Kat came from the tundra of Minnesota where the roads were treacherous, but the airport was up and running. Let it be noted that Minnesota knows how to winter. Ice and 8′ of snow? They barely flinch. Madelyn, from the LA area, flew straight in. No sweat. Californians make everything look easy.
But wait – there’s more! After being blown away that they had scheduled all their flights to arrive within 30 minutes of each other, they gathered at baggage claim and made their way to the car rental shuttle. Our group had made a reservation for a 7-passenger Dodge Caravan minivan for the weekend. As soon as Madelyn stepped up to the counter to get the car, the entire building lost power. I’ll let the others explain what occurred since they were there in person, but let’s just say the rental company failed us. There was no car rented and the cab called by the rental company charged them $115 to drive them one-way to my house that night (which they were told would be reimbursed but still haven’t been). If ever a group of ladies deserved a pitcher of margaritas, this was it.
The next morning, Madelyn & Kat spent at least 2 hours on the phone with Customer Care only to be shifted from number to number, each time getting yet another disinterested service rep. After two hours, the bottom line was no rental van, a strong probability they would be forced to eat the cab fare, and no car to use for our planned day trip to Brenham. Finally, we resolved it by canceling the reservation from hell and calling another rental company near my home. It cost twice as much and ended up being a 10 passenger panel van, but hey… it was wheels and they were great to deal with. Thank you Walter at Avis! Of course, we took Kevin the Piñata Donkey with us everywhere.
For our first full day together, we were off to the Hill Country and Brenham, Texas where we met up with Katie from The Hill Country Cook. We had so much fun! We hit a few antique shops and bought a few blog props, then hit Must Be Heaven for lunch. It’s a family owned sandwich shop that also has an old-fashioned ice cream counter and a case full of pies. What is not to love about that? I chose the daily special consisting of a slice of quiche (I chose the bacon, cheese & mushroom) and a bowl of soup (broccoli cheese).
Then we dove into the pie case. Together, we tried the Dutch apple pie, the cherry, a lemon meringue and a slice of chess pie. Madelyn opted for an ice cream cone and although I don’t remember what it was called (something something Mexican cheesecake maybe?) I’ll never forget her face while she was eating it. When asked if it was vanilla, Mads said something like “It looks like vanilla, but it tastes like heaven in my mouth.” Ringing endorsement indeed. A cookie made it in there, too, but my focus was on the pie. I love pie.
After lunch, we had no choice but to walk it off with more shopping. Here in Texas, we love our state. Not just “Oh, it’s great here” but in a more rabid “Our state is the best. Long live the Republic!” way. As such, we hang lone stars and things shaped like Texas in the same way others hang family photos. Case in point – this wall hanging made from vintage Texas license plates. Because the only thing better than Texas stuff is Texas stuff layered on more Texas stuff.
It wasn’t all antiques and rusty metal, though. There were hats, vintage clothing, baubles & beads, sandals & flip-flops and crocheted vests galore. Also food blog props, vintage literature and a handful of Christmas ornaments were involved. We stayed so busy shop-hopping that when we finally slowed down enough for a few of the ladies to try on clothes, the rest of us hit the sofas and took advantage of a Twitter & Instagram break. As we like to say, “Snaps or it didn’t happen!”
When we eventually noticed that the shops were closing and the streets were rolling up, we said a sad farewell to our buddy Katie. So happy she joined us! Top Row: Kirsten, Allison, Me & Beka. Bottom Row: Megan, Kat, Katie & Mads.
We waved goodbye and crawled back into the panel van to head home. On the way, we impulse stopped at Buc-ee’s – the greatest convenience store on earth. Why? 1) ladies’ restrooms with 30+ stalls featuring full wood doors, complete privacy, individual hand sanitizer dispensers and a full-time cleaning crew. 2) clothing department with beaver emblazoned t-shirts, cammo everything and beer koozies to match. 3) full-size BBQ grills, Lodge cast iron cookware and a cooking/cookbook area. 4) an entire aisle devoted to jerky. 5) Beaver Nuggets – both caramel corn & the nugget equivalent of Flaming Hot Cheetos. They’re seriously addictive. What’s truly hilarious is while we were in Buc-ee’s near Hempstead, Katie was simultaneously hitting Buc-ee’s on Highway 71.
One kitchen, many hearts. Many kitchens, one mind. It’s spooky, really.
Back at the ranch, we feasted on TCP’s brisket, sausage, beans, slaw, and all the sauces & relish tray items you can imagine. If it could be pickled, it was probably there. We also cracked open the Shiner and assorted beers on ice. When we were filled to the brim and crying for mercy, The Complete Package broke out the homemade peach cobbler and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. Lord, I love that man.
Sunday, we slept late and were treated to French toast waffles. The recipe isn’t on the blog yet, but it’s coming soon. After snarfing up waffles and enough bacon to make your eyes roll back in your head, we hit the road for Alvin, Texas. On the way, we stopped at Rustic Metal Works where we checked out the cute lawn art, wall hangings and assorted hardware. And since there was a taco truck right next door, we decided to stop for a snack that included one 5-piece taco plate with salsas, one lingua taco (tongue) and a chicharrón (pork rind) taco. Following the Blogger’s Rule, first we photographed and then we dug in.
After passing the wet-wipes and blowing out a flip-flop, we made a quick pit stop at Walmart for replacement footwear and to take in the local color (read: topless woman in a pickup truck). From there, we hit the antique mall to shop for more blog props and household items we couldn’t live without. I found this vintage locker basket and fell in love. For $20, I couldn’t resist and now it’s on my sewing table holding fabric and ribbons. Love it!
Since Kirsten’s visit last May, we have cooed over the miniature donkeys near my house more times than I can count, so of course we had to take the others to visit. Luckily, when we arrived they were in the meadow close to the road and we even got an up-close encounter with two of them. They are beyond adorable. Keep in mind when you view the photos – these donkeys are full-grown adults. The baby we saw last May was the size of a cocker spaniel. That’s right, people – the babies are practically pocket donkeys and I adore them.
Two out of two tiny donkeys agree: ear scratches are the best.
Monday was another late start. Over many coffees and a few chai teas, we pulled together the breakfast we’d dreamed of while planning our weekend – The Biscuit Bar. We made a big tray of buttermilk biscuits, a pan of sausage gravy, and pulled all the jams & jellies out of the fridge. Oh, and there was more bacon. Of course.
After breakfast, we broke out the packing supplies and the flat-rate boxes, and packed up everything that couldn’t or wouldn’t fit in suitcases. It was frantic. And hilarious. And Mads & I both scored a bag of Beaver Nuggets that wouldn’t pack. Hooray for Bonus Nugs!
The only thing left was a return trip to Rustic Metal Works to rescue a flying pig. You see, Beka fell in love but talked herself out of it. Then we were distracted by street tacos, and it was decided that if she still woke up the next morning thinking of her new spirit animal, we would go back for him. Arriving to find the place locked up (closed Mondays) was like listening to air slowly released from a balloon. Luckily, if it fits it ships, so I agreed to go back later in the week and rescue a pig. Meet Al Porccino.
He’s adorable. And speaking of Beka, she had my name for our last OKMH box exchange. Check out my package. (Stop giggling.)
That’s an assortment of hot sauces from her recent trip to Mexico, a bag of Australian Jungle Jellies, assorted bars of chocolates (not sharing), a bottle of Mexican vanilla, and a squirrel ornament from our day in Brenham. Perfect.
And so, after four days of endless chatter, late nights, very little sleep, way too much food and a few bottles of wine, beer and bubbles, our first live & in person One Kitchen Many Hearts weekend came to a close. It was fun. It was heartfelt. And it was way too short. Anyone who says friendships formed on the internet aren’t real are doing it wrong. These ladies are my friends, and I couldn’t love them more. We may be different shapes, ages and personalities, but that’s what makes us work as a group. We fill each others gaps. We support each other, both on our blogs and in our personal lives. It may have started with random comments on a website, but it has grown into so much more. I treasure these ladies, and it was really hard to watch that huge panel van drive away. If you don’t believe me, just ask Kevin.
I seriously can’t wait to do it again next year! I’ll bring Kevin.
To see what the other ladies posted from our weekend, visit:
Megan at Country Cleaver
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic
Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen
Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World
Mads at La Petite Pancake
Kat at Tenaciously Yours