Twenty-five years ago, Denisa's family started a tradition of going on girl trips. Those early years it was hard for three young mothers to get away together, so we didn't make it every year at first. But now that we have more flexible schedules and less responsibility, we look forward to going somewhere together every year. We've been all over the country during these 25 years, but for the summer of 2017 we planned an Oklahoma trip.
The "girls" consist of the group in the photo above. Our cast of characters for this adventure are from left to right--Denisa's sister Connie, Denisa, our Mother, and Denisa's sister Debra. Mother always tries to get people to guess our birth order, but thankfully no one this year wanted to play that game. We won't play that game on the blog either, because it's a no-win situation for Denisa--the youngest.
We started the trip in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Fans of the Food Network and the wildly-popular blog might recognize this as the home of Ree Drummond--aka "The Pioneer Woman." She lives and blogs from a ranch just outside of town. Last fall Ree opened a very popular restaurant and mercantile in this tiny town, and thousands of people make the pilgrimage to eat and shop here every day. We had gotten all the advice and heard about 2-3 hour waits to get a table. So we arrived at 9:40, and were first in line for the lunch seating that started at 11:00. Debra held our spot in line, while the rest of us did some shopping at the mercantile.
The breakfast crowd was still finishing their meal, when we were seated right at 11:00. We were satisfied with our strategy that got us a table with less than a 1.5 hour wait.
The Pioneer Woman is not known for her low calorie cooking. When she left for college in California Ree planned to be a city girl. But she accidentally fell in love with a rancher back home in Oklahoma. She has made herself famous with her tales from the ranch and her hearty home cooking. We ordered three entrees and split them four ways. Denisa and her Mother liked the choice on the left best--fried pork chops with fried potatoes. Denisa's sisters preferred the tasty lasagna in the middle. No one voted for the dish on the right--the rather disappointing enchiladas.
As if we hadn't consumed enough calories, we also cued up for the bakery line. Most items were $4 to $6 dollars, and worth their cost in calories.
We tried 4 desserts, but one of our favorites was the "knock you naked brownies."
With the opening of the Mercantile, the tiny town of Pawhuska has turned into a tourist destination overnight. The little Catholic church in town has always had these beautiful windows, but they are just now being discovered by new people every day.
These beautiful windows were made in Germany in the early 1900's when the church was built. There was an abundance of oil money in this little community at that time, and money was no object for this building where no expense was spared. So the finest artisans in Germany were hired to hand-paint these stained glass windows with incredible detail.
The artists were interrupted by World War I, and the windows were hidden in Germany and covered with sand until the war was over. In the meantime, the parishioners back in Pawhuska were having services in their new church with no windows. It was common for the birds to fly in and out through these large openings during church and any day of the week.
The windows were finally finished and shipped across the ocean, then installed in those gaping holes. The fine workmanship is still evident 100 years later, and the colors are stunning. We were particularly fond of the bright blue colors. Our tour guide explained that you'll never see that vivid color in current windows because it was painted with cobalt--now a known carcinogen.
The last interesting story centers on this window that depicts the beloved Catholic priest that brought religion to these Native Americans. The church had to get special permission from the Vatican to include this window that used likenesses of church members that were still living at the time.
The last Pawhuska tourist stop is the swinging bridge that was built in 1926 to cross over Bird Creek.
At around 50 yards in length, there is quite a bit of swing on this swinging bridge. The sign at the entry of the bridge park proclaims this "venerable landmark has thrilled and terrified every creek crosser since the early days of Pawhuska." You might notice that Denisa's Mother didn't show up in any of these bridge pictures because she didn't want to be thrilled and terrified on this moving bridge.
Our next stop was a candle factory in a residential area in the out-skirts of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The Keepsake Candle company was started as a fund-raiser for a church, and years later it is still a thriving family business. They have an entire store of lovely hand-made candles. But we only took pictures of their wax blanks that can be dipped in different colored wax to make individual creations.
This little creative experience is available for $1 here at Keepsake Candles. This company makes these same wax blanks for the Yankee Candle Company. But if you choose to have this experience at the Yankee store, it will cost you four times the price.
Who knew that so much could be seen around the tiny town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma? What was once a sleepy town of less than 4,000 people has suddenly become a tourist destination all because an Oklahoma woman with a passion for good cooking and good blogging skills moved back to the area. It's funny to see the traffic jams in a town that now suddenly has parking problems too. This stop was our reason to choose an Oklahoma-based girl trip this year. But we also found other interesting stops that none of these Oklahoma-born residents had ever experienced. But that's part of the next blog.