Welcome back, Valentines!
The snow may have shuttered our schools and offices, but Rhapsody in Cool is open and so is the butterscotch schnapps, so come right in and warm those frigid feet and hands. While I pour the Ghiradelli, I’ll let you in on an Actionable Insight I’ve been working on with my husband and one-man editorial board, Mr. Roboto.
What’s an Actionable Insight? Nothing to be scared of, friends: just take an ordinary notion, give it two double espressos and a pay raise, and viola! You have an Actionable Insight. Here’s how ours came about:
As we loaded the dishwasher together on a recent evening (Mrs. Patmore’s night off) Mr. Roboto wondered if Rhapsody might “lighten up some.” Perhaps, he offered with the care of someone petting a venomous snake, my querulous tone was giving readers a bit of acid reflux. Would I be open to trying—here he ducked and covered his genitals—a more positive outlook?
I considered my reply, while Mr. Roboto took shelter under the kitchen table.
Never let it be said that Rhapsody doesn’t listen. Even when I yell things like “I am not listening!” truthfully, in a tiny, remote corner of myself, I am listening. To prove it, and to get Mr. Roboto to come out of hiding, I pledged to devote an entire post to people and things I actually like. A post full of genuine, un-fanged praise.
This is not that post.
First I have to test this “lighter tone” and see how it handles. And who better to apply the jumper cables of good cheer than Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, one of the cheeriest and most successful bloggers on the Western range? Now that Pioneer Woman has been featured in The New Yorker (go ahead and read it—we’ll wait right here), she is a legitimate topic of conversation in my town.
I’m sure if anyone can teach me what it is to be blindly, pointlessly, and quite profitably happy, it is she.
Pioneer Woman, or “P-Dub” as she likes us to call her, is a self-described “desperate housewife” and Christian homeschooler/cook/craftress who started a blog in 2006, out of sheer boredom and now has something on the order of 88 kajillion hits a day (also driven by excessive boredom, one suspects) plus a television and publishing empire, and a movie in the works based on her best-selling memoir, “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels,” starring Reece Witherspoon as the plucky L.A. working girl who falls in love and becomes a Ranch Wife Super Mom.
Reece, I have more to say to you later, but for now, let’s pull on our Pioneer Woman boots and start walking!
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“Now that you have learned 20 Interesting Facts about Groundhog Day, it is time to gather some supplies and get ready to celebrate with a few crafts and recipes. Not surprisingly, Pinterest is teeming with Groundhog Day ideas…”
Clearly I am in a foreign land, because I do find this surprising. First: there are 20 facts about Groundhog Day. Twenty! Second, Pinterest teems with ideas for celebrating it. I could hardly believe that, but our fact checkers confirm that celebratory groundhogs are popping out of cupcakes over there like mad. How did I not know of this before? Clearly, I thought, Pioneer Woman was going to expand my horizons.
But Groundhog Day delight turned to disappointment as I realized that Ree Drummond did not write this; one of her many (many) contributing writers did. Same for most of the other material on the home page. It actually took me some time to scrape off the top layer of advertising and outsourced work to find a post that was written—not just lazily introduced–by Ree herself.
Then I found the mother lode. The central archives of her posts, going all the way back to 2006. And this catalogue makes the Library of Congress look slim. This woman is writing at such a market-saturating pace she seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once. It’s as if The New York Times has been taken over by a ranching, homeschooling housewife and now, here’s the entire world as it would look if edited by Pioneer Woman, aka, P-Dub, aka, P-Widdy, aka Stop That, Please, It’s Irritating.
Regular columns of Pioneer Woman—and this is not even a complete list– include:
Confessions: Allegedly transgressive posts about the most conventional, unthreatening, cozy-world-view-preserving life being lived on Planet Earth.
Cooking: Pioneer Woman is cooking 14 meals a day just to work in all the product placements. It must be like a Roman orgy over there. I mean, a really wholesome one, of course…
Homeschooling: An activity that apparently leads many otherwise sound-minded people to celebrate Groundhog Day.
Home and Garden: If you leave the kitchen for five minutes, you’ll find that Pioneer Woman is undertaking a lot of renovations on her humble ranch abode. You should go look because every time you view an ad on her site (28 in the first four seconds at least), your eyeballs are helping to pay for them!
Entertainment: Pioneer Woman has the ability to stretch the fabric of time. I know this because in addition to cooking, expanding her house, feeding the cattle, hosting a T.V. show, and homeschooling the kids through college, she is also watching The Real Housewives of NYC and posting at extraordinary length about it.
Plus Tasty Kitchen, where we have to share recipes and do yet more cooking, and a book about her dog, Walter, and a blog-within-the-blog by her husband, Marlboro Man…
And the Quizzes and Polls and don’t forget the Give Aways! This is a popular bloggers trick, I know, but I find the whole idea bizarre. By the looks of it, P-Dub has a warehouse devoted just to the products she’s moving.
We’re going to do something a little more in keeping with our own tastes here at Rhapsody; it’s called “You Just Keep Your Things and I Will Keep Mine. Good Day.”
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The World of Pioneer Woman is exhaustively chronicled enough to make this reader simply want to lie down and put a cool cloth over her eyes, but our review would be incomplete if we didn’t sample a bit of Ree’s own writing. Here, selected pretty much at random like the writing itself, is her recent recipe post for Cinnamon French Toast. It took her no fewer than 23 photographs to describe the making of this dish, including tricky steps you really can only demonstrate visually, such as dropping a butter pat on it. I’ll let Ree do the rest:
“Yesterday before church, because I knew I would be spending all that afternoon frying chicken wings, I wanted to make something lovely for breakfast…. I had a package of croissants in my fridge—I’d picked them up at Le Walmarte, otherwise known as The Wal Marts, also known as Walmart the other day—and had originally planned to use them to make breakfast sandwiches with eggs, shaved ham, and cheese. But since I was in the mood for something a little sweet before I headed to church, I decided to make French toast instead.”
Nice product placement. The way she twists the words all around and speaks in funny accents I almost didn’t notice the Walmart pastry that snuck into her pan to be photographed 23 times.
And did you notice the church of the churchy church churchness tucked in there? Blink and you might miss it, but I think Pioneer Woman might be religious and knows it’s part of her appeal.
I think this must be why her posts are voluminous—her audience just wants to be with her, all day long. They don’t really care which of her 19 favorite activities she’s caught up in– feeding the cows, feeding the children, feeding the enormous gobbling blog-machine with more text– they just want to be right next to her, while she’s doing it. How else could you be patient with posts like this one, from April 2013, in which she gives us a full run down of everything she put in her children’s Easter Baskets, brand-name by brand-name, and then ends up with this?
“It was a Walmart kinda Easter!
Then we went to church and it was beautiful.
There’s so much I love about Easter.”
Oh, me too, Ree. Mostly I love WALMART about Easter, but I never had to courage to say so before today. Then she tells us all about how they have steak for Easter dinner instead of ham, which I suppose we are meant to be shocked by because she admonishes us, as she so often does: “Don’t ask.”
Fine by me. I really don’t care wh—
But no! The post goes on! There is more– much more– that we need to know about Easter Brunch steaks. Because, you see, “Don’t ask,” means, “I know you are going to ask, so please just ask already. I’m telling you anyway, so you asking is only the polite and normal thing for you to do. Do you know that song that goes “Ask me, Ask me, Ask me” by The Smiths? Well, that’s what I want you to do now.”
* * * *
I nearly forgot to mention in my catalogue of Pioneer Woman topics that she has an advice column, too—the “Please Ask” section, if you will. And hundreds of people ask her all sorts of things, with a trust so sweeping I am extremely concerned for them. Her Thanksgiving Day advice round-up had no fewer than 25 letters answered, on topics from pie crust to dealing with- I’m quite serious– grief over the death of a twin sister.
Readers, I want you to feel safe in the salon so I think it is important that I tell you what happens should one of you come to me seeking counsel on a serious topic that I am utterly unqualified to address. I will put my arm ‘round your shoulder and offer my support but I will not hazard a guess as to whether you need heart surgery, a new tractor, or a divorce because that is not my place. I will refer you to the professional you need, be it clergy, psychotherapist or auto mechanic because that’s what a responsible friend does.
Not P-Widdy. She’s going to just take a wild stab at it with a pitchfork, no matter what it is.
Pioneer Woman’s myriad meddlings have left me too scattered to talk anymore today. I’m heading over to the blog-inside-the-blog kept by her husband, Marlboro Man—a strong and silent type, in as much as you can be a silent blogger.
There’s a refreshingl almost-quiet to Marlboro Man’s posts. They are mostly photographs, and plain descriptions of what is happening to the cows in those photographs. And the rhetorical questions posed in his posts are ones I feel less annoyed by, and happier to answer, like this one: “Ever wondered about the inner workings of a cow-calf operation?”
No. I haven’t. But thank you for asking. Love the chaps.
* * * *
On more little bit of business, before we go: I’m passing around a card for Reece Witherspoon, who is probably right now filming the soon-to-be-famous scene where Pioneer Woman, fresh off a plane from L.A., discovers that her virile new friend, Marlboro Man, has left a heart-shaped cow plop in her Versace bag.
Feel free to sign, and add your own warnings…or, ah, messages… for Reece.
All right, we are the ones who put the cow patty in your purse, but we had a really good reason. We needed to grab your attention and urge you, in the very strongest terms, to get out of this movie contract while there’s still time. Rhapsody is no Roger Ebert—God rest—but if you star in this piece of cinematic dung, it’ll make your recent back talk to law enforcement look like a great career move.
No charge for the advice. Happy Valentine’s Day!
All your friends at Rhapsody in Cool”
P.S. I may not have nailed this lighter tone just yet, but I think we can all agree that my hot-linking to Flickr is seamless. It came right from Ree’s Flickr stream, so if there are any legal problems at all, you should contact HER and not me. Thank you.