Midwest AR Roundup - The Results Are In...
Nov. 15, 2010 9:43 am
Updated: Nov. 22, 2010 5:52 am
Where should I begin? Oh yeah, at the beginning... This adventure began when I became very interested in the Ohio meet-up and then from all of the "buzz" from the Southern Cal get together. Cat Hill mentioned on one of the SoCal blogs about interest in
a Midwest meet. That sounded great, so I put it out there asking for opinions as to when, where and perhaps someone who could host, while I would be happy to help coordinate. We had strong interest in a fall meet in the Kansas City area, soon to be known as
the Midwest AR Round-Up and Cat had graciously offered the hospitality of her home. The plans began. Blogs and emails later, the date was set for Saturday, November 13th.
Friday, November 12th... Excitement set in. My bags were packed and I was ready to go. Starting my trek from central Illinois, I caught I-80 and took it all the way to Des Moines, then turned south towards Kansas City. Right before Des Moines, the weather turned
and I had a lot of rain and some fog. A few hours later, I was driving in the dark. Oh happy day... Finally arrived at my destination and was welcomed with open arms (literally...) by Cat. It was wonderful to finally meet her and her family, particularly her
husband Jeff who was known affectionately through her emails as "husband in doghouse". I heard that phrase so often I was envisioning someone with more "mastiff-like" facial features. Not the case, by the way. Their son, Ryan, is a fine young man.
When I entered the kitchen, my senses were assaulted by the sight and smell of the smoked pork butt (whimper...) If this was any sign of tomorrow, I was going to be one happy camper. Speaking of campers, I had deluxe accommodations in their gigantic travel
trailer. Very comfy and I had a good night’s sleep.
Saturday, November 13th... Today is the day. Weather was good, no rain. When I entered the house, Cat had been up extra early and already had cinnamon rolls out of the oven and was ready to pop in the apple muffins. Yumm... As she finished prepping her meats,
marinades and other miscellaneous items, I tried to help out where needed. Oh yeah, in between everything she was decorating her windows and doorways with fresh cut greenery, grasses, berries and flowers. I can hardly arrange a flower vase.
Brenda (bhawk), the first guest to arrive, rolled up her sleeves and immediately pitched in to help, fixing the cole slaw (Cat’s recipe and adding a few of her own little touches). The meats were ready for the grill & smoker and Jeff was head grill master.
More guests arrived and we had ourselves a party.
The food was great and the company even better. Terrie and DJ, neighbors of Cat’s who appreciate good food, came with Terrie’s folks from Maine, Carol and Gordon. I had never met anyone from that part of the country and hearing their accent was delightful.
Also in attendance was Alan (mighty deer hunter friend of Jeff & Cat’s). Brenda from Leavenworth, KS area is a wonderful woman that came directly from an overnight youth group outing. Sheila from Topeka, KS (MiBeingMi) arrived with delicious slow-cooked baked
beans (that were a hit with everybody) and a cheesy potato/hash brown casserole. Lisa is from Kansas City area (caluv52) and arrived with her two boys and a truckload of desserts. She brought an entire dessert buffet, for which we were very grateful. I had
brought a dried beef dip with crackers and a chocolate applesauce cake. Cat provided smoked pork butt, barbequed ribs & chicken, and Guy Fieri’s Mean Green Turkey Machine. The flavors and the smokiness of the meats were awesome. Also featured - coleslaw, homemade
herb dip with homemade crackers, and smoked almonds. Cat also made Mike Harvey’s recipe for pickled pumpkin, which no one had ever tried, and we were very pleasantly surprised. Cat also roasted the pumpkin seeds for a crunchy treat. She also made a fantastic
hot mulled cider. What’s For Dinner Mom’s hamburger rolls had also been made, along with sourdough bread, and were the perfect accompaniment with Cat’s homemade butter.
Back to Lisa’s dessert buffet, where should I start? Pistachio Fluff, Oreo Fluff, Caramel Cake, Pistachio Bundt Cake, and Almond Grahams (also known as Crack because once you start on them, you can’t stop). We found that this is true, particularly of Terrie,
who made multiple trips to the dessert table for the "Crack".
Trust me, no one was counting calories, carbs, or fat grams.
Well, I’ve described the food, now let me describe the people. Cat is a wonder, a master gardener, specializing in organic growing, herbs, and healthy eating, and obviously a very experienced, accomplished cook. Brenda works for a health department certifying
daycare centers, and is passionate about working with teenagers. Sheila and I share a common work background. She has worked for several years with general contractors and I have worked for an engineering firm for the last 24 years. Lisa has the most beautiful
smile and has a quick, subtle wit. When you least expected it, all of a sudden out popped a quiet little zinger. She’s also a terrific Mom, because when she left everyone commented on how well-behaved her boys were. Thumbs up, Mom!
We had a great afternoon, with lots of laughter and stories. We had door prizes, and also had a game of "identify the herb." Cat has a beautiful sunroom that is scattered with pots of herbs, flowers and other plants brought in to protect from the cold. You
could tell that most of us had just the very basic, limited knowledge of herbs, as she had us stumped for most of them. Whenever someone guessed an herb, she walked over to her shelf, grabbed something from outside, or pointed to a pot and said "no, this is
...". Quite frankly, we were hopeless and she had to drop a lot of hints. I believe she said she had over 60 varieties of herbs.
A big shout out to Carla (Lady Sparkle) who very kindly sent crocheted dish cloths for everyone as well as vintage cookbooklets (not exactly a word, but I think you get the idea). Best we could tell, they were from the 50's and 60's. Who could forget Sheila
reading ironing tips from the back of one of them. The helpful hint of putting your items through the wringer of your washer? Lisa couldn’t get over the coupons in the back with no expiration date and no bar codes. Wonder if they’re still good? Big thanks
also to What’s For Dinner Mom who sent everyone absolutely beautiful handmade aprons, all in fun, funky colors and patterns. Lisa brought gift bags for everyone with scented candle items, hand creams, and nail polish. (I believe this means I need to treat
myself to a manicure.) Cat provided bags of wood pieces for smoking. I can hardly wait to try using their wood and Jeff’s smoking tips.
While Lisa and Sheila had to head for home, Brenda and I helped Cat pack everything away and then relaxed with a few adult beverages, since we were spending the night. A lot more conversation and laughs. We also toured the man cave area with the guys to see
Ryan’s truck rebuild project, Jeff’s Ford convertible kit build in progress, a restored Allis-Chalmers tractor, and Jeff’s Harley. Then we checked out the Weber and I grilled Jeff (yes, pun intended) about different grilling/smoking techniques.
November 14th... Beautiful Sunday morning. Cat had again been busy and had made fresh sourdough English muffins, along with fluffy farm fresh scrambled eggs, and bacon for something akin to a Cat McMuffin. Wonderful...
Time to head home... I had an absolutely wonderful time. Seriously... (a favorite word of Cat’s). I took a different route home and headed toward Hannibal, Missouri / Quincy, Illinois. (Sheila, I went through your boyfriend’s family area and went through Astoria.)
Nice weather, and best news, I got a call from my son from basic training. I hadn’t had a phone call in over a month. If I hadn’t been driving, I would have done a happy dance. Great 10 minute conversation, can’t wait to see him for graduation.
Arrived at home to be greeted by my boys (my 2 cats). As they rushed forward to show their affection, they stopped abruptly, and started sniffing suspiciously. ‘You’ve been fraternizing with someone of the feline persuasion’ they seemed to say. Well, yes, I
did have a good time with the 5 cats there. Soon all was forgiven and I was once again supreme ruler of the cat food bowl.
OMG, I’ve gone on and on, but I wanted everyone to know how an exciting an event like this can be and you can’t possibly go into every detail, but you sure want to share everything that happened. There was a lot of interest in this get together, but with work
or family issues/events, some were not able to come. We missed you! Hindsight is 20/20 and no one gave it a thought that we should have made sure we held the event when it was still Daylight Savings Time. I can hardly blame anyone for not wanting to travel
unfamiliar country roads at night at the height of deer season. It takes nerves of steel. Even though I did it, I think my nerves were more like strong aluminum.
Hopefully, an Iowa Round-Up in the spring can get planned. I’ve got a lot of email addresses from interested parties.
Just to be clear, I am an average cook, so I pay attention when I get around folks that have better skills or different experiences than myself. I never was made to feel inadequate, but I am certainly inspired to try some new things.
If you have the opportunity to attend a round-up or would like to plan your own, all I can say is "Just do it!" You won’t be sorry. I traveled nearly 1,000 miles round trip and it was well worth it. Thanks to everyone that attended, and particularly Cat, who
stepped up to the challenge and spent a lot of time and effort making this a successful meet. Cat and I discovered that we had an uncommon amount of parallels in our life, whether it was interests, opinions, or family structure/dynamics. (Cue the theme from
The Twilight Zone.)
I am having technical difficulties with my camera (go figure...), so I will try to add pics in later, but I want to get this blog out there. I will have to check out Cat’s blog to see if she had better luck with her photos. Now do you know why I compliment
everybody on their professional-looking photos? Because mine are not!
Special thank you to my hubby, who hardly blinked when I said I was going to drive over 8 hours one way to go spend a couple of nights at a stranger’s house, just so I could cook and have lunch with other strangers. He just said "drive carefully, and have a
good time, I trust your judgment.’
As I close, hugs to all of my new friends, it was a pleasure to meet you all.
Lora (Magnolia Blossom)