Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our favorite summer meal.

Ya'll already know about the mad love I have for Serena and her fantastic website, The Farm Chicks, oh, and her fantastic little cookbook as well (I've got myself a fancy schmancy autographed copy!), so it won't come as any surprise to you that she is the source for my family's newest and absolute favoritest summer meal --

Fish Fajitas.

And yes, I'm old enough and smart enough (by golly) to know that favoritest is not really a word.

Although it should be. It's so much funner (I mean, more fun) to say than "most favorite". I'm sure the folks at Webster's couldn't argue with that logic.

Anyway, you must make these.

You must.

Even if you don't like fish.

Remember, this is coming from the gal who lives in landlocked Oklahoma, a true meat-and-potatoes type of gal. In fact, before these life-changing fish fajitas, I'm gonna admit to you that I had never before purchased fish to cook.

Nope, not a fish lover. So why would I want to buy it?

But as I said, I'm a big Serena fan and trust her judgment completely, so I forged on to the grocery store to buy my first fish. Of course, they didn't have halibut at The Wal-Mart (my fancy-schmancy grocery store of choice), so I settled for some frozen tilapia fillets instead. They were white, so I figured they would pass for a substitute.

Hello, delicious-ness.

Tilapia works mighty fine as a substitute, and these fajitas are TO DIE FOR. For a non-fish eating gal like myself, you can hardly taste any fishiness (again, is that a word?). And I suggest using yellow bell peppers. They are always my bell pepper of choice. And vidalia onions (pronounced "VIE-DAYL-YUH" like good proper Okies say it) as they are the sweetest and bestest. Leave me alone, Webster's. I'm on a roll. Whatever you do, DO NOT leave out the guacamole or the cilantro. They are a must.

Anyway, go make these. You can thank me later. Or invite me over for dinner.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A little bit country

Anybody else hear about this?

Gwyneth Paltrow has a country song out. No joke.

Apparently she is set to star in an upcoming movie as a country singer, so she did her own singing for the film. You can go here to listen her single. Get this -- the back-up vocals are done by none other than Vince Gill and Patty Griffin.

Can you imagine -- even though she's definitely not a nobody, she's a nobody in the country music world, and here she debuts with two country music greats as her back-up singers?

Way to go, Gwyneth! I've always enjoyed her movie roles, and she's a pretty cool mom from what I've read. And I am always impressed when an actor is more than just one-sided. If they've got other talents as well, they're a lot more legit in my book.

I have to admit, I listened to the song and kinda' like it. What do you think?

Bag Lady

Just call me the "Bag Lady".

Last week, I decided to try and tackle a few things around the house while my husband was gone, you know, to surprise him when he came home. I cannot tell you how many projects are on my to-do list that have gone unfinished for years, and when I finally tackle them and they take a surprisingly small amount of time to actually finish, I am so ashamed. So very ashamed for putting these projects off for so long. This is one of those projects.

In our kitchen, we hang a plastic bag from Walmart, Target, etc. on one of the upper cabinet knobs and fill it with garbage every day before throwing it out the side door to the trashbins. Oh yes, we are classy that way. Super classy with our garbage bags hanging from the knobs. It drives my mother crazy.

But you know what? We live that way. And it works for us. And if you think about it, we are oh-so-green for repurposing the bags, right?

So, this means I have a plethora of plastic bags waiting in the wings to be used. Once upon a time, we had one of those fabric tube things that you can stuff them all into. It was super ugly, something I think we picked up from the grocery store when we lived up in Minne-SOH-ta. It did the job though, until it got so many holes in it that we had to throw it away. Since then, we've been stuffing them behind our pet food containers in the closet under the stairs.

I told you we were classy.

I figured it was high time to do something about that. So I dug through my fabric stash, picked out a larger cut of fabric (it was probably about a yard, I'm guessing), found enough elastic and ribbon, and got to work. Using this tutorial, I was able to sew up two grocery bag holders with materials I already had in my stash. Costing me NOTHING. And yes, we had more than enough bags to stuff both of them with. So now I have one hanging in the basement (for kitty-poo-scooping-from-the-litterbox purposes, sorry if that is TMI) and one hanging at the top of the basement stairs where I can easily access it from the kitchen every time I need a new garbage bag.

Because yes, we still hang our garbage bag every day from the cabinet knobs. We just can't help how classy we are.

Some things may never change...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bee blocks

I think it's been a while since I've posted any quilting bee blocks on here. I've been busy keeping up with my two virtual bees, so let's do a little show-'n-tell, shall we?

May was the first month for the newest online bee I joined -- the Honey Bees (part of "Not Your Grandmother's Quilting Bee"), and I made these for Janet:

Also in May, I made these blocks for Michelle, part of the Pieced Together Quilting Bee (PTQB):

In June, Lael requested house blocks (Honey Bees). One of which is this one that I slaved over like a crazed person:

I'm still not sure what possessed me to even attempt that. I also made another tree block, but forgot to take a picture. Oops. Don't worry, though. It wasn't even half as fun to look at as that farmhouse block!

June was Katie's month for the PTQB, and she sent out fabric from vintage sheets. Oh, the softness! These are the blocks I sent back to her:

For July, here are Jody's blocks (PTQB) based on "Drunk Love" by Denyse Schmidt:

And Colette's block (Honey Bees):

Woohoo for me, actually getting my July blocks done and mailed out before the end of the month! I'm usually the gal that barely scrapes by in the nick of time, mailing them out the very last day of the month, but somehow I'm improving...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Roadtrippin'....again (Part Two)

(Betcha thought I was going to forget to do Part Two, huh? With a hilarious afternoon as we had, I couldn't forget to post about it. Go here to read Part One if you haven't already.)

When we last left off, we had just left The Blue Hole after a great morning and early afternoon full of fun. We drove back through the town of Pryor, Oklahoma, where we should have taken a left to go back south and head home, but after filling our tanks back up with ice cream and cherry limeades at Braum's, we turned right instead, and headed a little bit further north to Adair.

No, Adair was not our destination, as there isn't a whole lot going on there, but we did pass through, turning back west towards our intended next stop. After passing field after field, cow after cow, we saw it. There, on the left, was...



Yep, we're nothing if not a bit peculiar, I mean, unique, here in Oklahoma.

It was on our summer bucket list, and since we were so close, we just had to cross it off.

A little bit about the Totem Pole Park (taken straight from Wikipedia):

"After more than 20 years as a manual arts teacher at the Children’s Home orphanage in Sand Springs, OK, in 1937 Ed Galloway retired and moved his family to a small farm near Foyil. Shortly afterwards he embarked on an ambitious folk art project to create a three-dimensional totem pole using modern building materials. After eleven years of work, Galloway’s totem pole was completed in 1948 and topped out at approximately 90 ft (27 m) in height. The totem pole’s construction took six tons of steel, 28 tons of cement, and 100 tons of sand and rock. The base is 30 ft (9 m) wide and rests on the back of a colourfully painted turtle. It is decorated with approximately 200 bas relief images of brightly colored Native American portraits, symbols, and animal figures that cover the entire totem pole from the base to its pinnacle.

The park also features Galloway’s eleven-sided “Fiddle House” which is supported inside and out by 25 concrete totem poles. It previously housed his hand-carved fiddles, handmade furniture, and bas relief portraits of all of the US Presidents up to JFK. Unfortunately, many of the items in the Fiddle House were stolen in 1970 and never recovered. The park also contains four smaller concrete totems, two ornate concrete picnic tables with animal-form seats, a barbecue, and four sets of animal-form gateposts.

Galloway lived at and worked on the park every day up to his death in 1962 of cancer. Some say that he hoped to use his work to educate young people about Native Americans, but others claim he thought it would be a good thing for youngsters, Boy Scouts in particular, to visit."

Heck yeah, folks, we've got the world's largest concrete totem pole. What have you got???

The funniest part came when we popped our heads into the "Fiddle House" which also serves as the visitor's center and gift shop. The lady working the desk took one look at my son and asked what tribe he was from. Ha! True that -- he totally looks like a little Indian warrior, but I told her he is technically an Indian of the Central American sort instead since he's got some Mayan Indian in his heritage. The true Native American was this pasty white, red-headed, freckled-armed gal that was his mother -- ha! She didn't look convinced, and it was too hot for me to walk back to the car, get my official tribal membership card out of my wallet and show her. Oh well.

So after we ran around the grounds like a bunch of wild natives, we hopped back in the car on our way to yet another bucket list destination about half and hour further down the road, the Mother Road, in fact. Yep, we soon found ourselves heading south (west) on good ol' Route 66.

On our way to our next (and final stop), something on the side of the road caught my mom's eye, so I zipped it on back around and whipped out my camera to take a picture of this:

(You might have to click on the picture to be able to read the sign.)

Amy, Katie, you girls recognize this?! We were tickled pink to see a name we recognized up on the sign. Yay for our friend, Steve! He was just named the pastor of this church, and we just happened to drive by while his name was up on the sign. So fun.

We kept driving south and took a little short driving detour through Claremore, Oklahoma (home of Will Rogers, who never met a man he didn't like) and saw some pretty old buildings like the Belvidere Mansion

and this adorable diner that I want to go back to sometime.

Both great excuses for another roadtrip, don't you agree?

After our little detour, we continued on Route 66 towards Catoosa, where, you might have guessed by now, we arrived at our final destination, that infamous Route 66 landmark -- the Blue Whale.

According to Wikipedia:

"Hugh Davis built the Blue Whale in the early 1970s as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife Zelta, who collected whale figurines. The Blue Whale and its pond became a favorite swimming hole for both locals and travelers along Route 66 alike.
Originally, the pond surrounding the massive Blue Whale was spring fed and intended only for family use. However, as many locals began to come to enjoy its cool waters, Davis brought in tons of sand, built picnic tables, hired life guards, and opened his masterpiece to the public."

Remind me never to begin collecting animal figurines so my husband doesn't get it in his head to build me a surprise anniversary gift someday...

(Can you see me in this picture? You might have to click on it, but there I am, up on the tail.)

It was fun to see up close and personal. The boy wanted to know why we couldn't swim in the water, which, let me just tell you, was N-A-S-T-Y. I would have had a heart attack and died right on the spot if I had touched any part of my body in that water. Ha!

So there you have it.
Adventure can sometimes be practically in your own backyard, folks, if you'll only look for it.
I wonder where the wind will blow us next???

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ramona and Beezus

After a long week of single parenting (the husband gets home today, folks!), I treated myself and the boy to a movie this afternoon.

In my humble opinion, this might be the cutest kid's movie I've seen. (Or at least it's a tie with my other favorite that I have seen probably 20 times -- Charlotte's Web (with Dakota Fanning).) Seriously, I loved every single minute of it and would watch it over and over and over. You'd better believe we'll be buying the DVD when it comes out!

Based on a great kids book - CHECK
John Corbett - CHECK
Adorable kid actors - CHECK
Sandra Oh, Bridget Moynahan, and Ginnifer Goodwin (need I say more?) - CHECK
Great movie soundtrack - CHECK
Fluffy cat - CHECK
Takes place in Oregon (be still, my heart) - CHECK

All the makings of a great movie, folks. Go see it!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Reporter Frock Grosgrain Giveaway

Good grief. She's at it again.

And she never ceases to amaze...

The Reporter Frock Grosgrain Giveaway

Monday, July 19, 2010

Roadtrippin'....again (Part One)

And the little summer adventures continue. For those keeping track, we have crossed off exactly 19 items on our summer bucket list so far, with 31 still to go. Yes, I added more things to it since I first showed you the picture of the list, and I do actually think we might be able to cross most, if not all of them, off by the end of the summer. We've still got a little over one month left in our household until a certain little someone has to report for kindergarten duty. {Insert big mama crocodile tears here.} By golly, we will be making the most of the time that is left!

So this past Wednesday, we went on another roadtrip adventure. And in true Valerie fashion, it spontaneously expanded into a bigger adventure that enabled us to cross three items off our list instead of just one. Ah, multi-tasking...

First off, I have to offer up thanks to the fabulous Jonni Baloney who tipped me off to this first destination. I'd never heard hide nor hair of this place, but it was briefly mentioned on her blog, and after a little bit of googling, I was sold. I told my cousin's wife about it and my mom and my aunt, and soon enough, we had a nice little group of almost 20 ready for some summertime fun.

But shame on you, my friends who already knew of this wondrous place, for not ever telling me about it! I can see how you'd want to keep it to yourselves as it is rather awesome, but come on...

Okay, back to the story...

Wednesday we packed it up and caravanned almost an hour and a half northeast of town. Right before we arrived, the drive got awful pretty, and I swear, you'd have thought you were in New England instead of Oklahoma. Beautiful green rolling hills, soft pastures full of cattle, brilliant blue skies -- it was quite idyllic. And when we turned into our final destination, it was even prettier. Talk about a perfect destination for a hot summer day!

We arrived at the infamous Blue Hole, paid our $5 per carload (hello, bargain), and found a good spot to park.

For those of you not in the know as I previously was, the Blue Hole is a hidden gem in Oklahoma, but it's been around a long while. It's a bonafide swimmin' hole, just like you might find in some Norman Rockwell painting. A creek runs through this patch of private property, and the owners dammed up a section of it for a large swimmin' hole. The water is clear, clear, clear like a swimming pool -- this is the most wonderful thing about the Blue Hole to me, since there is no way you will find this gal dippin' her toes in any of those brown Oklahoma lakes where who knows what could be lurking beneath. It was so clear with no murky grass or nastiness, no snakes to be seen, and the deep part of the "pool" is a gorgeous dark blue/turquoise color. It is a rock-bottomed creek, so that was all sorts of fun for the gaggles of little boys in our group. There are also several spots where the creek is flowing and super shallow, where you can walk across, where there are little natural waterfalls, etc.

I'm not lyin', ya'll. It was nothing short of a little Eden in Oklahoma.

Now, be warned. The water is ice cold year-round, which, of course, was perfect for us since Wednesday found us with the heat-index near 113 degrees. You also need to know that if you need to go to the bathroom and you are female, you might want to go ahead and take your own roll of toilet paper. There is a bathroom, but because some other nincompoops decided to be rude and flush rolls down their toilet and stop it up in the past, you have to trek up to the office to borrow some paper and then trek out to the bathroom, and then trek back to the office to return the paper. Good times. So take your own toilet paper when you go. If you're a male, you could probably just find a hidden spot in the trees and be good to go. Much easier.

There is also a concession stand which was great! My cheeseburger was delish, and my boy enjoyed his corndog and sno-cone. Plus, it's not expensive. And actually, the office/concession stand has several hummingbird feeders hanging off the end that were teeming with hummingbirds! The kids especially enjoyed that. And I forgot to actually write down the hours of operation for the Blue Hole, but I remember right, it was something like 9-6 most weekdays and 9-9 on the weekends, maybe?

(Can you see the minnow swimming in the picture above?)

I made a checklist of other things to keep in mind for future trips there --

*Take your own inner tubes or rafts or whatever. I had thought ahead enough to grab the two inner tubes we had in our pool, but they were cheapo $2 ones from Wal-mart, and they didn't last more than an hour or two with those boys and all of those rocks. So I need to invest in the thicker, more expensive ones.

*Take some camping chairs with you. It is heaven to pop one in at the edge of the water and dangle your feet. If I had taken a good book with me to read, well, I would have been set!

*If you happen to have little dollar-store nets for your kids, that would be fun, too. There are little schools of minnow swimming everywhere, and it would be so fun to try and catch them.

*Next time I go I will also take a giant safety pin and pin my car keys to my swimsuit. It'd be so much easier than constantly having to remember where I set them.

*By all means, wear your watershoes. Thankfully I found a pair for my boy, but now I'm thinking I might go back and buy myself a pair (I can wear the largest size in girls, lucky me). The rest of us were constantly losing our flipflops in the current and having to chase them downstream (ouch!).

*Most importantly, stick lifejackets on all of the kiddos. Even if your kid can swim really well. There are lots of places with little currents, and so many pockets to explore, so you'd be worrying less if everyone was wearing one.

*I also had bandaids, etc. on hand, with all of those rocks, etc., and all of those little boys meant surely someone was going to get a scratch or two, which they did.

*Oh yeah, remember what I said: don't forget the Charmin Ultra. You can thank me later.

*And if you're white as the driven snow like this Indian princess, you grab your favorite big floppy sunhat to wear with your most Ellie Mae lookin' dress, and you don't give a hoot about what you look like, especially if you look like you just walked off the set of Eclipse and especially if standing next to your gorgeous brown son might make you look even more pasty white than you already are, but you forget all that and just enjoy the day...

See? I'm such a nice gal, not only sharing this little secret gem with you, but also telling you what you should take with you to make your experience the best. If you really wanted to keep the whole thing on the thrifty side, you could pack a cooler with drinks, snacks, lunch, etc., and all you'd have to pay for would be the $5/car entry fee and the gas to drive out there.

It was a fantastic place, a place that will now be a part of our annual summer traditions for sure. We were there for a good four hours or so before we packed it up to head home...or so we thought...

(To be continued...)

Monday, July 12, 2010


(And I don't mean the car rental company.)

Over the last year or so, my husband and I have made some drastic changes to our lifestyle in order to become much, much smarter with our money.

We've done the cash envelope thing for at least a year now, a la Dave Ramsey -- I have this awesome plastic coupon organizer that holds my cash in all its categories. I cook so much more than I used to; actually I guess I can now say that I cook the majority of our meals. And you know what? McDonald's now tastes that much better when we get it every once in a while, as opposed to every couple of days like we used to. Our food budget has been drastically reduced while our health has dramatically improved due to the home-cooked meals we've been consuming. Not too shabby. We also grocery shop now like Europeans -- small amounts and more frequently. This way we've cut down on the food being wasted and thrown away. We also drink only water or milk about 95% of the time, and sometimes orange juice. No pop. I only drink pop on the rare occasion that I want some to go with either pizza or Mexican food.

The thrifty change I'm most proud of? I haven't bought a single item of clothing in at least 90 days. No joke. And remember, I am an Anthroholic -- utterly devoted to all things Anthropologie, of which my wardrobe is at least 75%. Take into consideration that I also received birthday money AND an Anthro gift card for my birthday back in May, and I am still holding out and haven't even spent it! I think one of the last items I bought was a dress from Anthropologie that I made myself salivate over for about a month before taking the plunge. No more spontaneous purchases here. That dress and a pair of jean capris and sandals from Target -- those are the last items I can even think of that I bought last and I'm pretty sure were purchased in March and April. I've been so thrifty that it's almost becoming a game to me -- I figure at this rate I can challenge myself to hold out on any more clothing purchases until the fall. But that's also where the good eating comes in to play. If I want to continue to wear my clothes without having to buy more, I can't exactly put on weight or they won't fit!

And in other areas I'm more thrifty as well: I rip my dryer sheets in half. I never use quite the recommended amount of anything anymore, at least cleaning-wise, as in laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, etc. I figure half of those recommendations are tied to marketing and making you buy more and more of it. If not, I could be wrong, but regardless, all of my clothes and dishes still seem to be getting just as clean as they used to.

Some areas I'd like to improve in are making my own cleaning supplies, sewing up enough cloth napkins so we don't use paper anymore, ditto for sewing up enough cloth rags so we don't use paper towels anymore, doing some freezer cooking (although not a lot since the only freezer I have is the bottom half of my fridge), and some more refashioning (making new clothing items out of ones in my closet or thrift shops), which I've only tried a couple of times so far. I'll never be a full-on thrifty mama like you read about in the blogs or full-on organic in my cooking, etc., but at least I've made some changes that make me feel like I'm giving it the ol' college try!

So, what about you guys? Any thrifty ideas out there that work for you and your family? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A perfect summer day.

Well, maybe "perfect" isn't actually the perfect word since things didn't go quite like I thought they would, but yesterday was one of those days that will be a favorite memory to look back on.

It all started yesterday morning, when I woke up with nothing to do. I say nothing, when in reality there is always laundry to finish, a house to clean (but when isn't there?), emails to catch up on, projects to finish, etc. Like I said, nothing to do. Ha. And I'm normally a homebody, happy to stay at home all day with nowhere in particular to be. Anyway, I guess I must've gotten antsy or something because the next thing I know, I was planning a small roadtrip.

I'm nothing if not occasionally spontaneous.

I mean, seriously, you should see how much we already have crossed off our summer bucket list.

This week the weather is supposed to be pretty wet around these parts, which is pretty unusual for an Oklahoma summer. It should be nice and hot and sticky right about now, but not really wet. Well, although this week finds us knee deep in rainfall, yesterday's forecast looked pretty darn clear for the most part. And I figured it was the perfect least-rainy-looking day (out of the other 4 weekdays) to go on a little adventure. You'd think after living pretty much 90% of my life in Oklahoma I'd know better than to assume such a thing about our always unpredictable weather, but oh well. And besides, I'll take rainy and 75 glorious degrees over a scorching hot 100 degree, 99% humidity day ANYDAY.

So around 10:30am, my mom, my mom's friend, my little man and I hopped into the car and headed north. Er, I guess more northwest actually. We were heading to the prairie!

Right off the bat in the first part of the hour and a half drive I made a directional mistake. Let me tell you something, for an experienced driver such as myself, this is a rarity. I'm known for my unbelievable navigational skills -- you could drop me in a cornfield in Nebraska and I would find my way home. This trip was only an hour and a half up there, max, and I am used to driving up to 12 hours a day on our usual roadtrips. So I am one experienced trucker, I can definitely brag on this. But this morning, while pointing out something to my mom and her friend, I forgot to turn right.

No biggie. In today's day and age, technology is my friend. I dialed up my husband working at home, had him Google the directions on his laptop, and he was able to tell me where to turn five miles ahead. Turns out my mistake was really more of just an alternate route that was equally right, so we lost no time. This is how we fell upon the little town of Hominy, Oklahoma.

That little town's been around a while, probably since the days of Indian Territory, but there's not a whole lot going on since it's a teeny little town. I did see an Indian art gallery, and there were numerous Indian murals all around the town worth seeing. I liked it right off the bat with it's old buildings made of local sandstone bricks, and especially since there was a guy riding his horse on the side of the road right there in town. Doesn't get much more Oklahoman than that! Of course, the five-year-old in the backseat piped up enough to argue with his mama about whether or not it was really a cowboy since he was wearing a baseball cap. I ended it right there -- son, a man riding his horse in town? Definitely a cowboy. I mean, how often are you gonna see that?! It's moments like this that make me proud to be an Oklahoman. Oh yeah. (Don't make me break into song for ya'...OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain....)

Oh sorry. Where was I? Oh yes,...

We saw a historical marker and followed it down two blocks to find this:

The Historic Drummond Home.

Ring any bells? Yep, this house is tied to the family history of the beloved Pioneer Woman, part of her husband's family. In fact, the whole county is, really, but who's counting? (And just so you know, it's the largest county in our state, larger than all of Rhode Island or Delaware even!)

But seriously, doesn't it totally look like it could be a stand-in for Villa Villekulla, Pippi Longstocking's home? I loved it and wished we could have gone in for a quick tour, but alas, it was closed and we had other places to be.

We hopped back on the road and headed north to our intended destination, the great metropolis of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. If you're a Pioneer Woman fan, you'll also recognize Pawhuska as a town near and dear to her heart. She lives pretty close to there. Anyway, Pawhuska happens to be the "Gateway to the Tallgrass Prairie", and that, folks, is where we were planning to end up. (Not to mention, Pawhuska is also the home of the very first Boy Scouts in America. For reals. Betcha didn't know that.)

When we got to Pawhuska, we were hungry, so we asked around to find out a good spot to eat. We were quickly pointed to the most ramshackle-looking little house in town -- seriously, there was a huge gaping hole in the roof on the porch. Inside there was a little lunch counter with stools, assorted tables and chairs, and no A/C. But friends, I am here to tell you, I ate the most delicious cheeseburger I have had in a loooooong time. Maybe ever. If you're ever up in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, as I know you will be since it's surely on the Top Ten Most Fascinating Places in the World list somewhere, you need to grab a burger at Greek's. You can thank me later. Looks like they also serve a mean breakfast. Maybe we'll have to do that on our next trip up, okay?

The kind lady that had pointed us to that burger joint had also pressed a brochure in my hand all about the Osage Nation area (that's a real bonafide Indian, I mean, Native American nation, for all of you not in the know) and its attractions. Sure, out in New York they've got amazing sights to see like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, but dude, we've got our own amazing attractions here in Oklahoma. I kid you not. They're just not as well, um, yeah, not as well heard of, that's all....

On this list was some Catholic church my mom had been going on and on about in the car. (It was either that or check out yet another casino since there seems to be one on every corner nowadays. What's up with that, Oklahoma?! Someone's gotta put a stop to the stupid casino epidemic around here. Anyways, sorry, I'll get off my soapbox.) This particular Catholic church made the "attractions" list because somehow they had acquired these two large stained glass windows in it that were made in Munich, Germany specifically for this church and then flown over after World War I and installed. Not only that, but these two windows had to be approved by the Pope since they had Osage Indians depicted in them. So off we went, driving around the town (it took all of two minutes since this isn't a big city) searching for the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, also known as the Cathedral of the Osage.

We got there, and from the outside, you couldn't really tell the windows apart because it was dark inside and no light was shining through the beautifully colored panes. My mom haggled me until I finally gave in and whipped out my cell phone and dialed the number on the brochure. Sure enough, the lady at the parish office said to come on in and she'd give us the keys to let ourselves in and look around.

You know you must be in Oklahoma when people are so trusting that they hand perfect strangers the keys to a Catholic church! Especially to a couple of Baptists! Haha. My own little funny joke. But really, I bet if you go to see a cathedral in New York City and it's closed and you ask nicely, they are not going to hand over the keys to let yerself on in. Just sayin'.

But oh, my friends, those windows are gorgeous. The two windows that depict the Osage Indians are 9 ft. by 36 ft. each. The rest of the church was beautiful as well, but those windows especially were unbelievable. And the fact that we had this beautiful quiet sanctuary all to ourselves for a few minutes? So cool.

(My apologies for the slew of pictures of all the statues and icons as well. That's what happens when you let a camera-totin' Baptist in your Catholic cathedral. You won't find such relics in our churches unfortunately, so I eat it up when I get to see 'em.)

By 1:30 we knew we'd better get the show on the road if we were going to make it up to that prairie. So we handed the keys back over with a hearty thankyouverymuch and headed north.

About 15 or 20 miles north of Pawhuska is the mighty Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. It is over 38,000 acres of breathtakingly beautiful scenery. I'm tellin' you, usually I think that scenery like the Rocky Mountains or the majestic ocean or other such dramatic landscapes are the most gorgeous work God has created on our planet, but honestly, the Tallgrass Prairie has a beauty all it's own. And on this tallgrass prairie are almost 3,000 free-roaming bison. Sounds like a lot, but I guess the Tallgrass Prairie used to be a part of 14 states and over 142 million acres and at one point in history there were probably hundreds of thousands of bison roaming around. Thank goodness someone out there was smart enough to save a small sliver of it all for us to see, huh? It was really interesting reading about the tallgrass prairie and how its ecosystem was restored.

Sure enough, the clouds had begun to darken and it started to sprinkle. Just great. About ten minutes into our drive through the prairie (on gravel roads, mind you, and no fences, so those bison could always come outta nowhere and thunder across the road if they'dve had a mind to) and we had seen NO bison.

Let me just tell you, I wasn't going to be too happy if we drove all that way and saw not a one. And that little man in the backseat, clutching his two stuffed Beanie Baby bisons in each hand certainly wasn't going to be too happy if we didn't see a single one!

Thank goodness as we came 'round the next bend, we looked over and saw part of a herd of about 50. They were so far away from the road that I only got a couple of shots (and these were with my telephoto lens, keep in mind, so they were really far away), but dang it, we saw some bison. I think you can barely see a baby bison in one of those shots -- it's the lighter brown colored speck. You have to click on the pictures to see them closer.

Then we continued on around the bend to the headquarters where we got out of the car to stretch our legs just before the monsoons came and the prairie was soaked.

At the bunkhouse headquarters the docents were so friendly. By the way, the bunkhouse was built in 1940 or so and has seen the likes of John Wayne which means I might have stood yesterday where John Wayne once stood! They had a tiny little museum setup on one side of the gift shop with all sort of bones and skeletons and artifacts of animals and bugs and birds and snakes and other critters that live on the prairie. My boy was in heaven. He and I looked over so many little carcasses and oohed and ahhed. Who cares that we only saw a few bison and from far away?! Dead bug carcasses was where it is at if you are five years old. The docents also pointed out that some people drive up there and never see a single bison (boy, would that ever suck) while sometimes you can drive up there and see 500 in a herd, many times up close and personal right in the road! That's probably what Erin got to see. Check out her pictures if you want a better visual in your head. No, really, do it. They're a million times better than my sad little waterlogged several-football-fields-away-and-it's-so-obvious shots I got.

Regardless, check it off the list, because we did, in fact, see the bison. Woot! By this time, the rain (that wasn't supposed to be there all stinkin' day long) was not about to let up, so we bolted back to the car and drove back south through the prairie. Heavy rain + gravel roads + the remote but ever-present possibility that you could turn the bend and find your car doing the tango with a thousand-or-two-pound bison = no fun. Just in case you were wondering. We were soon headed back to Pawhuska, not only the "Gateway to the Tallgrass Prairie" but also our gateway to the road home. You'd have thought that our time in the thriving metropolis of Pawhuska was complete already, what with our fun little lunch and private cathedral tour, but no, there was one other quirky thing on that attraction list that we hadn't checked off. And you know how I love me some quirky!

Unfortunately for us, this "attraction" was outdoors, and at the moment, it was raining cats and dogs and bison outside. So we used our cunning Oklahoma wits and drove down the street to Sonic where we could lure the carhops into bringing us our drinks to our car without us having to step foot outside. Us Okies, we're nothing if not brilliant. If you weren't aware of that, it's only because we like to keep that to ourselves so the rest of the world doesn't get too jealous. Yeah, that's it.

Anyway, now hopped up on syrupy-sweet goodness (and for half-price since it was Happy Hour so add "resourcefulness" to your ever-growing list of Okie attributes), we headed back to the "attraction" in mind, although it was still raining quite hard. At this point, I wasn't about to give in to the stormclouds after having driven all the way up there, so I got out of the car, camera in one hand, umbrella in another, and trudged over to.......

a suspension footbridge!


You never know what yer' gonna find in Oklahoma, I tell you what.

Seriously, how hilarious is that?! There was this quirky little suspension footbridge, dangling quite high over Bird Creek just a couple of blocks south of the little downtown. Don't laugh, it was pretty high up, and with all that rain, that nasty brown creek was really raging down below.

The best part about this bridge, that we read about in our little brochure, was the fact that it is a mover and a shaker. Oh yeah, peeps, take a couple of steps on it and you're either going to love it or be terrified! It bounces and swings when you take any steps. It seemed pretty secure, especially since it had high sides of chain-link fencing so you couldn't easily fall over. I personally did not make it all the way across because I admit it, I was too chicken, but I did at least make it halfway across, which is pretty impressive since I am generally quite afraid of heights. My mom and my mom's friend and my boy scurried across, laughing and squealing all the way. In fact, my boy LOVED it. When I asked him his favorite part of the day, he didn't skip a beat when he answered, "the BWIDGE, Mama!!!" Out of the mouths of babes. If you ever find yourself in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, don't miss the bwidge.

So there you have it. We went out as adventurers; we came home drowned rats.

But happy drowned rats.

And the moral of the story is, you never know what you're missing until you get out there and find it. Even in a place like Oklahoma, there are so many adventures to be had!

Hmmm, where will our adventures take us next??? Stay tuned...