Traveling and visiting new places in on the top of my list of favorite things to do. I’d jump on a plane to just about any place in the world if given the chance. Crossing oceans and even state lines is not always possible, so I take advantage of exploring my home state too! My friend Ruth (of Gracelaced) was visiting from New Mexico and we decided to make a spur of the moment trip to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

The Merc opened at the end of October. Though I wanted to visit sooner, Facebook posts from friends with pictures of long lines and 2 hour waits to eat caused me to hold off a bit.

The Merc is bringing new life to the little town of Pawhuska. The building was built in 1903 and has been the home to a mercantile company, a realty company, a telephone company and even one of the nation’s largest department stores. Over the last few years it was renovated and restored by Ladd & Ree Drummond.

Ruth and I spent a couple hours wandering the store, chatting in the bakery and, of course, grabbing lunch. We also snagged a photo with Marlboro Man.







The second story of The Merc is the bakery…and candy bar. You can also walk around a corner and watch all the baked goods being made. The area is really spacious and inviting. I took advantage of a pre-lunch cookie and latte.
For those not familiar with The Pioneer Womanwriting that seems funny to me, she is like Oklahoma royalty – her husband is known on her blog, books and show as “Marlboro Man.” I was not expecting to see him. It was lunch time and he was strolling around the restaurant, grabbed a seat right in the middle and sat down for lunch. Ruth and I agreed there was something so humble and charming about him. Watching him with customers and employees was one of the highlights of our visit.

Things to consider if you are planning a visit to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile:

  • Pawhuska is about an hour from Tulsa, 30 minutes from Bartlesville, and 2 hours from Wichita. Those are the 3 largest towns/cities nearby.
  • The busiest hours are 11am-2pm. We arrived right around 11am on a Wednesday and there was about an hour wait to eat in the restaurant. We walked around the shop, enjoyed the bakery and then got back in a much shorter line to eat lunch.
  • If you are going during the busy hours on a cold day, pack a jacket in case you have to wait in line. I did not do this. An incredibly sweet woman working the outside line brought me a pair of gloves – I think they were hers!
  • They serve tea and lemonade. Go for an Arnold Palmer, you won’t be disappointed.
  • I would recommend planning a few hours – take your time around the store, sit in the bakery, enjoy a meal.
  • All the employees (that I met) were warm and gracious – great examples of Okie hospitality.
  • Go with a friend – everything is better with a friend.
  • The drive to Pawhuska is beautiful in the spring, summer and fall. Don’t race to get there, take advantage of less traveled roads and a slower pace.

CLICKHEREtravel

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  • Amy M - I would love to do that trip someday! I love Pioneer Woman and y’all had an extra special visit seeing MM! Glad to hear he was as humble and unassuming in person as they seem on the show.

  • Alice H - I love PW and MM! I am a tiny bit obsessed with her. When I went I got to take a pic with Ladd also. And I met her daughter Paige. She was working upstairs. The food was delicious and I loved the store. I cannot wait to go back. And I really want to see Ree when I do. Glad you and your friend had a good time.

  • Tammy - I’ve been trying to come up with an excuse to make the 8-ish hour drive…is there anything for husbands to do nearby also, to make a weekend out of?

    I also need to see how close it is to Independence KS, so I can check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder site maybe.

  • Christine - How fun!! Glad to see how far she’s come. i started following her blog right before she really took off. A bit jealous I must add. Looks like a beautiful place. Have a great day!

  • Joanna - While researching sites for my husband and I to take a cross-country bucket list road trip I came up with the idea of visiting the Merc (me being an avid PW fan) on our way back to Arizona. I so enjoyed reading your post on your visit to the Merc and so many other places you’ve traveled to. We plan to visit eight or so of the National Parks in UT, CA, MT and WY as Far East as Niagara Falls before heading home. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures, info, and tips!

There were 4 extra boys in our living room, bringing the total to 7 boys, 2 girls and me. Our living room isn’t exactly spacious. I was sitting on the couch deleting pictures off my camera and kept thinking, “It is SO LOUD in here!” Seriously, so loud. 7 boys can make an incredible amount of noise (and smells). I was not exactly soaking it in. I was probably dreaming of a beach somewhere. A quiet, serene beach.

Then I looked over at her.ChoosingtoSee-01

Totally soaking it all in with a slight smile.

When I slow down enough, I realize there is so much I have to learn from my kids. This girl has a captivating way of noticing the beauty in just about everything. Her eyes are always wide open in wonder to the world around her, even when that world is the tornado of 7 stinky, loud boys in a small space.

Today I’m going to try to be more like her.

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  • Kate - I get so easily stressed by the loudness & the noise of two littles tearing around the house… today I woke up determined to stay more focused throughout my day, & to make time to enjoy small moments. THIS POST. ?? I want to be more like her too. ?

  • Anne Eicher - I love it! (I always love your blog posts!) I have 4 boys (no girls ?) so I know all about how loud & stinky (and sweet & fun) they can be! ?

  • Tammy - I think she really adores her brothers, too!

  • Romy MacGibbon - Oh Ash, this one brought tears to my eyes. I used to be the only girl in my noisy home, my brothers were (and still are!) SOOOO loud, so messy, so smelly. I am their opposite, nevertheless I loved everything they did. I was just different, and even one of those boys is my twin brother, and even today my mum always says she can’t believe we are twins. Our freckles is the only thing we might have in common! 🙂

  • Angie - The world needs more Firecrackers in it! 🙂

  • Emily Bartnikowski - I love this so much. Thank you!

  • Byron - You know a woman wrote this! “7 stinky boys”–there were 3 girls there too, ya know! LoL! 😉

  • nakcus - Stunning photo! And I want to be more like her too!

Well…I’ve thought all weekend about what I would post here today. Goodness it has been a rollercoaster, powerful weekend, but I feel heavy…soul weary heavy. So many voices of hope, fear, bravery, hurt, anger and kindness have filled my listening ears the last few days. It is overwhelming and I am trying to process it all – process it for myself, so I can come alongside my kids and help them do the same.

The past few weeks the kids and I have been focusing on three things at home: Be slow to anger, Be slow to speak, Be quick to listen. With those three things in mind – I’m going to sit quietly for a bit here. I’m not ignoring or avoiding the significance or importance of current events, I’m just dialoguing in person, in my community and in my family instead of taking those discussions online, at least for now.

This Saturday is Chinese New Year. We will be celebrating in our very non-traditional, Okie way. The first year we celebrated CNY, I tried to keep it as traditional as I could. I’ve since come to grips that I really need my Chinese friends to live closer to me to help me pull off a more traditional CNY Eve dinner!

We may not do things in a traditional way, but we sure have fun celebrating just the same. This year we will be eating Hot Pot together. In June of 2015, my friend Ruth visited with her family. She taught me the ropes of serving Hot Pot and I wrote a post to help others like me. I thought some of you might want to celebrate Chinese New Year in a non-traditional way too…so here you go!

Originally posted 07.03.2015

7.15hotpot

My friend Ruth and her family stopped by earlier this week as they returned home from a few weeks on the road. Ruth inspires me and challenges me in so many things. Besides being a phenomenal artist and cook, she gently pushes me with her words and actions to be all God has created me to be as a woman, wife, mom and friend. We laugh at how opposite our personalities are. She is everything I am not and she smiles at all my quirks. I like her a lot.

I like her so much that when she said they would be able to spend a couple nights at our house, I asked her to cook us all dinner (that is my family of 7 and her family of 8). Really – there needs to be a hospitality book about the graciousness of a host that invites people over and then makes them cook for everyone. I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook Chinese Hot Pot and I knew Ruth would be the perfect one to teach me.

My plan is to do this meal for Chinese New Year – so I needed Ruth to show me how to do it in a simple and practical way. I am not Chinese. Shocker, I know. My goal is not to cook a meal that is authentic in every possible way. My hope was to learn the basics of Hot Pot, so I could share it with friends and family. Ruth taught me a version that tastes amazing, but doesn’t involve so many details and steps that I would give up before trying to do it on my own.

Since there are a lot of ingredients that I would not recognize by name and I am guessing some of you are like me – I took photos of all the ingredients. Yay for visual aids!

We made two Hot Pots (not sure if that is the right way to say that!). This served 4 adults and 11 kids with just a few leftovers.

So, first I am going to walk through what you need:

This is for the soup bases: Soup Base for Satay Hot Pot, 2 Cans Beef Broth, Soup Base for Seafood Hot Pot

7.15hotpot-01

Enoki Mushrooms, Bean thread noodles, dried shitake mushrooms7.15hotpot-04Dumplings (we did pre-cooked frozen for ease), napa cabbage, medium firm tofu7.15hotpot-071 lb. Shrimp with shell off, frozen fried fish balls, frozen fried shrimp balls7.15hotpot-101 lb beef sliced super thin (we sliced this thinner than pictured. You can also freeze steak or roast and then slice super thin.), I have no idea what these are called!, Chili sauce, Soy sauce, sriracha sauce7.15hotpot-13Guilin style chili sauce, black vinegar, sa cha sauce7.15hotpot-16Now onto the steps involved:

First, put the dried shitake mushrooms in warm water. Let them soak until soft (about an hour). At the same time, put the bean thread noodles in slightly warm water. Let those soak until soft (not crunchy, not mushy, about 20 min). While those are soaking you can go onto the other stuff.7.15hotpot-21Rinse the enoki mushrooms and chop off the ends.7.15hotpot-23Slice the napa cabbage into chunks.7.15hotpot-25Cut the tofu in half and then into squares.7.15hotpot-26Arrange your ingredients on plates. You can use a different plate for each thing if you have enough plates and table room. We put the frozen fish balls with the tofu. The cabbage, shitake mushrooms and enoki mushrooms on another plate.7.15hotpot-28If your beef wasn’t pre-sliced super thin, you will want to slice it up. Your noodles should be soft by now. Using kitchen scissors, cut the noodles. Do what Ruth is doing about 4 times.7.15hotpot-30Fill one stock pot with water and add the two soup base packets. In another stock pot, add water and the two cans of beef broth. We had a lot of kids, so the beef broth version was less spicey…just something to keep in mind regarding why we did the two different pots. Once the pots get boiling, remove them and put them on your hot pot stoves. We boiled on the stove first simply to save the gas on the portable stoves.7.15hotpot-32Place everything on your table: Beef & Shrimp, tofu, fish balls, shrimp balls, mushrooms (enoki & shitake), frozen dumplings, bean thread noodles, cabbage. (there are other things you could add too…this is just what we did)

Place all the different sauces together on a sauce tray.7.15hotpot-34Before we began eating, Ruth took a few minutes to share with us the heart of hot pot. I’m sure I will recount some of this incorrectly, but I think I have the basics. Hot Pot brings everyone together around the table. It is not meant to be a meal that you rush through. Instead, you slowly cook items for others and yourself. If you are seated far from the dumplings – the person closest to the dumplings and the hot pot cooks a couple for you. Take your time and enjoy the process. It is a beautiful communal meal – a slowing down and coming together.7.15hotpot-35Once you are ready to start eating, the first step is to prepare your sauce. In your bowl, you add whatever sauces (those pictured) you want to create a customized flavor. I added a little of everything. Typically, you also mix in a raw egg. Our chickens gave us some eggs about an hour before dinner….and I eat a lot of cookie dough….so yeah, the adults added raw egg. Do as you wish on that part.7.15hotpot-41Most of the kids just used soy sauce as their sauce.7.15hotpot-42

Now it is time to just drop stuff in the pot, let it cook. Everything cooks super fast.7.15hotpot-37The Simons have 6 amazing boys. Add my 3 boys to that mix. It was awesome. They hit it off right away. Dart guns. Matches. Pocket knifes. Boy ‘crafts’. My guys are already asking when they will get to see their new friends again!7.15hotpot-397.15hotpot-407.15hotpot-447.15hotpot-46The meal was delicious. My 9 year old was so surprised to discover he likes fish and shrimp balls. My oldest daughter devoured the dumplings. It was so, so good. I can’t thank Ruth enough for sharing her tips with me, but more importantly sharing her family with mine. Our hot pot may not look like everyone else’s, it may not even end up looking like Ruth’s…but it will taste good and we will relish the heart of the meal.

I see hot pot becoming a Campbell staple…7.15hotpot-48

Chris and I want to have a couples night soon with hot pot. My idea is to print off pictures of the ingredients to give those invited. I love the idea of sending my friends to a market they rarely shop at to buy fried shrimp balls and sauces they have trouble pronouncing. I think they’ll enjoy the adventure of it and the coming together to share the meal.

For those in the Tulsa area, I purchased everything (including the stoves) at Nam Hai.

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  • laura piersall - Ashley, how special it is to see Ruth show up on your blog. We just moved to some acreage in more rural Oklahoma, in part, because both of you and Ruth! My husband has always been interested in living out, but it took some prodding by God to convince me… seeing your photos in fields and hearing Ruth’s words to focus my ministry first on my family helped show me this move was right for us. So thank you Ashley and Ruth, for “showing up” online and sharing your hearts!

  • Tammy - Oh, this is sooooo helpful, thank you!

  • Alie - I have a silly question! Do you spoon the broth into your bowl and eat it like a soup? Or eat the items dipped in your sauce individually?
    Also! What is in the bowl with the ice, nearest to your older 2 boys?
    I’m excited to bring a warm family celebration to the fold winter!
    ~~Alie

  • AshleyAnn - Alie – Yes, spoon some broth into your bowl. I don’t remember what Ruth put in that bowl…it was a dessert, I think.