Monthly Archives: August 2014

Food Talk: Guernsey Park

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I was excited to hear that Slice magazine was going to feature a profile of Guernsey Park’s delicious food. (You can read Steve Gill’s wonderful review here.A truly good food writer, Mr. Gill says everything necessary about the atmosphere and production value at this establishment, and the only reason I’m going to throw my two cents in as well is because I ate different things, and want to tell you how wonderful THEY are, too, just so you’ll get the message that this is a place you should eat.)

I love to see talented folks opening up unique eateries, and I love sharing when the experience is fantastic. (You’ll note that I don’t post bad reviews. That’s not because I’ve never met a taco I didn’t like–although I know some of you wonder–but because I prefer to publicize those who are doing great, and not punish someone for sucking. Or just having a bad day. Which is possible in the chef/restaurant world, sometimes. Those who suck will eventually go out of business, and those who have an occasional misstep deserve to be able to redeem themselves later on. So if I can’t say something good, I usually keep quiet.)

No need to keep quiet about Guernsey Park, though.

I ate there with my sister, who also loves a good meal–and never meets a stranger–and by the time I arrived (and found it; it’s tucked behind Cuppies and Joe, off of 23rd), she already had the chef and manager lined up to meet me, and was sampling drinks they were concocting for the dinner hour.

We chatted with (classically trained) Chef Nguyen about the Asian fusion menu, and I decided then and there to try the Korean Cowboy; a 12 oz ribeye steak served with bulgogi ketchup and crispy kimchi slaw. We made our way to the table, and chose appetizers. You’ll hear raves about the Chicken Lollipops, and I’m sure they’re fantastic, but I cannot recommend the Oxtail Ravioli (served with a pho salad garnish) heartily enough. (I know, you’re saying, “Jill, you’re getting a beef entree…AND ordering an appetizer with beef?” and my answer is yes, yes, a thousand times…yes.)

After formalizing my order with the waiter, Chef Nguyen caught me (on my way to the bathroom) and wheedled me out of my “medium well” choice for cooking the steak. “This is Oklahoma!” he exclaimed good-naturedly, referring, I assume, to our state’s phenomenal track record with regards to beef safety. (Never been a recall of Oklahoma beef examined in a USDA-inspected facility).

In an exercise of taste trust (that could also double as a means of OCD therapy), I agreed to put my steak’s doneness in Chef Nguyen’s capable hands, and my reward was a buttery, beefy dream. Bulgogi Ketchup might sound suspicious to you, but the tangy, tart complement is a superlative addition to an incredible piece of meat. The fries were a little salty for me, and the kimchi slaw a little spicy…but any minor complaint at all was overshadowed by the sheer tastiness of it all.

And…that steak.

My sister got the Shrimp and Cake–seared shrimp with bacon green beans and sriracha butter–and while I eschew shellfish (yes, food writers CAN SO be picky), the bite of potato cake that I took from her plate was delicious.

I hesitate to even mention the Almond/Chocolate Symphony dessert, because I didn’t see it on their online menu–it might not be available–but I have to.

A delightful combination of flavors and textures–chocolate and almond ice cream, toffee, chocolate sauce, almond cake, chocolate mousse and chocolate and almond “tuille”, whatever that is, it’s wonderful–come together in a harmonious marriage of taste that is truly music for your mouth. Wonderful. (It’s still listed on their PDF menu, just not the website.)

The place is just lovely, the people are friendly, the atmosphere is low-key but refined, and most importantly of all, the food is fantastic.

Give them a try!

 

Car Conversations with Children

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Modern life has afforded us many conveniences, but it’s also taken some things away.

Calm discussion, carried out in front of the fire or while sitting next to each other in the quiet of a salon or den, knitting or reading the evening paper…not many of us do that any more.

We try to have dinner together often, at our house (and with two parents who are mostly based at home, and kids who are homeschooled, it’s pretty feasible), but still, with all of the hectic schedules, activities, etc., we spend more time than I’d like in the car.

But you can have good conversation that bonds you to one another while driving.

Or you can have the kind of chats that I have with my kids.

Which I’ll share with you here, from time to time, for your enjoyment.

Car Conversation Joined in Progress…

Me: “I don’t know, guys.” (This is in response to my 14 yo and my 9yo wanting me to join their judo club.) “Jiu jitsu’s one thing (I practice Brazilian jiu jitsu at least twice a week, when I can), but I think I’m too old for judo.”

9yo: “You’re not too old! Karen does it!”

The 14yo and I puzzle for a moment, trying to think of who he’s talking about.

Me: “Do you mean…Kerry?” (The 41yo dad of three of their teammates).

The 14yo and 12yo girls dissolve into laughter. I shush them.
Me: “His name is Kerry.”

12yo: “Karen is a woman’s name!”

9yo: “So is Kerry!”

Me: “No, Kerry can be a man’s name…”

9yo: “It’s a woman’s name. It’s spelled C-A-R—”

Me (getting a tad impatient): “Yes,  but the man’s version can be spelled K-E-R-R-Y. Sometimes there are names that can be either male or female.” (I brighten, thinking of a beloved comedian who can illustrate this.) “Like Dana Carvey! Dana can be a man or woman’s name.”

9yo: “Anyway. He does it.”

(My apologies to my friend Kerry, who probably thought that his days of grief about having a girl’s name were done when he left elementary school.)

14yo: “Oh my gosh, my favorite episode of The Office (yes, my middle schoolers are allowed to watch a select few episodes of The Office–don’t judge, I have older kids who wore me out; I expended most of my good parenting on them) is the one where they’re taking Dwight to the hospital in Meredith’s car, and they find that bottle of maple syrup on the floor and he’s drinking it!”

I furrow my brow, trying to figure out what’s wrong with this retelling.

Me: “That’s actually supposed to be liquor, in that bottle.”

14yo: “Oh. It looks just like the bottles our maple syrup comes in.”

Me: “Yeah…” (trying to think of a different subject for discussion)…”Hey, who would be interested in seeing a ballet?”

Momentary silence.

9yo: “Not me.”

Me: “Okay, how about y–”

9yo: “That’s disgusting.”

Me: “Alright, I get it. I’m talking to someone else about it now, all I needed from you was a yes or no.”

12yo: “Instead of saying, “That’s disgusting”, you could say, “That doesn’t speak to me”.” (I realize this sounds incredibly mature and you might be tempted to be impressed with my parenting at this point, but I have to confess that she was simply co-opting a New Yorker cartoon I saw on the Internet.)

9yo rolls his eyes.

Me (to the 12yo): “So, Sissy, how about you? Would you like to go see a ballet?” She seems skeptical until I say, “I’m talking about The Nutcracker. At Christmas.” She immediately brightens.

12yo: “Oh, yeah! I’d like to see that!”

I turn to the 14yo, who is conspicuously quiet.

Me: “How about you? Would you like to go see The Nutcracker this year?”

Momentary silence.

14yo: “That doesn’t speak to me.”

There was also the time when we were rocketing down the highway, and I was attempting to give instructions about securing my cell phone to the son who was sitting next to me, while another driver almost killed us. That went something like this…

Me: “Okay, just put it there…” I gesture to the console when he starts toward my purse. “No, there—” At this precise moment, the motorist next to us SWERVES our direction, before correcting back into his lane. My primal motherly protectiveness–and wet-pants level fear–induces me to shout…“YOU STUPID *&^%$##)*!!”

I turn to see small faces looking at me with something akin to stunned amazement on them. It takes me a moment to process that they’re reacting to my profanity, which is confusing, since the sight of me swearing at fellow motorists is–unfortunately–one they’re well acquainted with. I gesture at the guy in the neighboring car.

“Did you SEE that guy almost hit us?!”

They seem to relax, and start laughing. I’m puzzled, until the 12 year old explains.

12 yo: “Oh. I thought you were talking to him.” Gestures to the brother that was trying to put away my phone.

They were oblivious to the goings on around us (as usual) and heard my instructions and exclamation as one sentence. (“Okay, just put it there–no, THERE, YOU STUPID %$#@@^&^&!!!”)

After we had a moment of uproarious laughter, the 12 yo added, with a tone of warning, “I was about to say…Gosh, Mommy!”

So sandwiched in between the near brush with death and the amazement that my children would think that it’s possible for me to suddenly begin to call them horrible names–which I would NEVER do, by the way–was a tender moment, in which the 12 yo girl would have defended her brother–the same one that she engages in almost continual battle with–against my profane verbal abuse.

Heartwarming, isn’t it?

(For a truly hilarious tale involving children and profanity, go read this post at Momastry. One of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. I can totally relate, as someone who lives in my head–or in a retelling of one of my favorite bad TV shows–a good part of the time.)

Living Small and Dreaming Bright

Click here if you’d like to see a design magazine marvel; an article about how material things don’t really matter.

Design Oklahoma contains all of the traditional musings about decor elements, as well as information about sources for home styling in the Oklahoma City metro area, but it was a true treat to be asked to profile the McCullock family (you can check out their blog at themccullocks.com), for the current issue, and share their inspiring story of downsizing (yes, you read that correctly), and simplifying their life. (Hey, simplifying doesn’t need to equal throwing style out the window.)

This edition (Fall 2014) also contains an article I did about the Shingleton family, and their unique holiday decorating scheme. (If you like the style you see, pop over to pencilshavingsstudio.com and check out Rachel Shingleton’s designs and color visions, as well as her line of tech accessories and home/office decor).

Have fun browsing the digital editions of DOK, or subscribe for the print edition, but either way…check them out!

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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I’ve been a Planet of the Apes enthusiast since childhood.

I’m not sure what twisted event in my youth (of the many that existed) made me susceptible to fascination with a world controlled by apes, but I know that it was fostered in part by the rampant replaying of the movies and the follow up television series (I include Television among the grandparents, parents and stepparents named on my list of childhood caregivers), and fueled by the availability of tie-in toys and record albums (look them up children–I’m sure Wikipedia has an entry explaining what those are) in the 70s.

Whatever the cause…I’m a fan. (Roddy McDowell’s Cornelius was probably my first movie star fascination. We’ll refrain from reading anything into how that might have influenced my later taste in men.)

I watched the 2001 reboot, with Mark Wahlberg (two good reasons to watch–resurrection of a beloved childhood memory and Marky Mark), and I’ve seen the prequel to the subject of this review (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and enjoyed them both.

But this, this was different.

Andy Serkis is amazing, as he always is when playing a non-human (he’s the actor who gave life to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit’s Gollum, among other things, and is also the co-founder of The Imaginarium Studios, a digital studio dedicated to furthering the technology of performance capture filming). The other actors who voice and animate the apes do a fantastic job, as well, and one of the biggest selling points for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is how the gap from apes moving from non-speaking animals to ones developing their power of speech is broached. It’s actually made believable (as much as anything in a fantasy movie is, anyway) by the writing and how the process is portrayed by the actors.

The other draw, for those who don’t simply NEED to see it, for nostalgic reasons, is that the apes’ evolution as a society is also introduced fairly gradually; tribal painting and order of rule precedes the use of weapons and horses, and again, as much as you can be convinced that what you’re watching could happen, it’s made palatable. This deftness requires time, of course, but the movie’s two hours and ten minutes doesn’t drag.

For the human cast, the choices are good; Gary Oldman brings his usual vigor and depth to the role of the bad-guy-that-you-sort-of-sympathize with, and Keri Russell and Jason Clarke are strong but believable. The simian flu storyline isn’t just a throw-in, either; characters’ struggles with the aftermath of tragedy are as much a part of the plot as their fight to defend themselves against what becomes a threat in their present.

(In a semi-related aside, you might want to steel yourself before watching if you’re a borderline paranoid conspiracy theorist; when my intellectual friend David and I tried to have a rational conversation about the recent Ebola outbreak, he referenced scholarly articles and the assumption that everyone involved was doing the best they knew to do, and strictly observing protocols. I simply said, “I’ve seen Planet of the Apes, David. I know how stuff like this goes.”)

So, my overall reaction and review is this; go see it in the theaters while you still can. It will be watchable on DVD, but this is one that you might want to enjoy on a big screen. I’ll wrap up with a Not So Bad Spoiler, which you can avoid by not scrolling down, if you want, but if you’ve read other reviews, it might not come as a surprise. (I never ruin endings, don’t worry.)

SMALL SPOILER ALERT………………………………………………..

I WARNED YOU…………………………………………………………..

DON’T LOOK IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY SURPRISES RUINED……………………………….

I was heartbroken by Koba’s betrayal. He was one of my favorite characters from the 2011 movie. So imagine me grabbing his hairy face, Michael Corleone style, and saying, “You broke my heart. You broke my heart.”

I really did not want to talk about suicide, here…

…but the Internet and people are forcing my hand.

Since Robin Williams’ death, a few days ago, there’s been a social media/blogosphere explosion of opinion about suicide and related issues, and it’s been a topic of conversation in homes and public places around the globe.

Williams was a beloved comedian and actor, appreciated by a wide variety of ages and types of people, and it’s understandable that people would want to explore their grief, and it’s also not unusual that it would put suicide in the spotlight, and provoke thought and discussion about what to do about it.

But.

(As The Artist Formerly Known As Pee Wee once said, “There’s always a big but…”)

I would like to take this chance to remind everyone that when you begin to expound on your beliefs, about suicide, about what prompts it, about what could be done, and about what you think about those who are lost to it (“It’s just so SELFISH!”)…please consider the fact that you may be talking to, sitting beside, or in the general vicinity of someone who has lost a loved one to this type of death.

And it sucks to hear your family member/friend spoken of in such a way.

I know that many probably believe they’re speaking in a helpful way (it might be helpful for some, I guess), and in particular, there’s one blog post out right now, that’s addressing some aspects of the issue that concern depression, and its role. (I’m not linking it because I don’t want to generate traffic for it. That’s how strongly I feel.)

This writer speaks of suicide always being a choice (which, it technically is) and tries to dispel the idea of a suicide victim being a victim. I’ve also seen it hinted at (in the post I’m referencing and in other places) that because a speaker or writer has experience with depression, themselves, and has overcome/not committed suicide, that it’s possible for anyone.

I take issue with this. In a big way. For very personal reasons.

I’ve been chronically depressed and thought about death, wondering if it would be a release, even though I love life and would be terrified to kill myself (and I’ve always understood that it would crush my family to lose me). I’ve also had a depressive crash–ADHD medication withdrawal-induced–that dropped a veil of panic over me and made me think to myself that if the rest of life was going to be like this, I could not deal with it, and that my kids would get over it, if I was gone. There was a huge, HUGE difference, and it opened my eyes to the fact that there is a wide divergence of experience among people who are depressed and/or desperate. You can’t speak for everyone who has ever been depressed, and expect them to be able to do what you’ve done, because you’ve been able to do it. Depression is not a one-size fits all thing, and there are not one-size-fits-all answers. It has multiple causes, and there are a variety of ways to treat it, and I don’t always think that depression alone is to blame for suicide, anyway.

The urge to live is one of the most primal ones we have; when someone can act beyond that, something incredibly intense is happening, and I don’t know that it’s always preventable or even understandable. I was very blessed to have two people with me at the time my crash happened, that could get me through, and I was fortunate enough to have the knowledge that what was happening to me was temporary. If I had not had those things–particularly the assurance that it was medication-induced and would wear off–I don’t know what I would have done. And I had that knowledge because of my stepmother’s suicide, which was most likely due to a medication reaction.

It should actually be a whole ‘nother post, about how it feels to have lost a loved one to suicide, and hear some of the things that are said about them. My stepmother was literally one of the most spiritually astute people I’ve ever known. (The spiritual aspect of depression is another thing referenced in the aforementioned blog post, so I mention my stepmother’s inspirational and incredibly deep Christianity as a response to anyone who thinks that alone is a safeguard against pain so deep it can take you to the edge). Selfless, giving, a loving grandmother who would have never, NEVER hurt her grandchildren or other family members, purposefully, in even the tiniest of superficial ways. She was in the grip of something we may never understand, and even though her loss is something I will never get over, I would also never harshly judge a choice someone made in a moment of panic and utter desolation. I knew her–that’s how I know that it was unfathomable, what was happening to her in that moment.

Human beings have a fear of the unknown, and feel a deep grief over death. It’s natural, and it keeps us out of a lot of trouble, but the antidote for it is not making answers where there might not be any, truly. We want to point to a specific algorithm that will keep us and our loved ones safe, and we want to enact legislation that will keep bad things from happening, and we want someone to blame so that everything fits into its neat little box at the end of the day, and all of the questions are answered.

There’s great pain in the world, and minimizing what would get a person to the point of no return doesn’t, in my mind, serve anyone. If your answers fix things, that’s great. If they perpetuate hurt, I’ve got to wonder about them. Blaming the victim poses a fix, in a sense; they can’t correct you if you’re wrong about details, and then the matter is all tied up and we can assume that it would never happen again, if everyone from this point on would only be stronger, try harder, or utilize this or that natural remedy or prescription medication.

Murmuring about Robin Williams’ support system may make sense to you–discussing why he was left alone, wondering out loud if someone shouldn’t have KNOWN or been WATCHING him–and it may just be looking for answers, for you, but for the widow who’s been left alone with a gaggle of young children, or the man who has lost more than one friend to suicide, and is crippled by the thought that he could be responsible, it’s gut-wrenching. And there’s likely nothing that they could have done.

My experience–and that of many others–was that the suicide victim didn’t give any clues. DIdn’t alert family members to new medications that would possibly cause psychological changes, didn’t give away possessions, didn’t seem unhappier than usual, wasn’t behaving recklessly, consuming more alcohol or drugs, or exhibiting any of the other “warning behaviors” that suicide prevention sites often list as red flags.

Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t see signs before losing someone to suicide.

Don’t let anyone make you feel weak or unspiritual/like a bad Christian for feeling desperate–just find someone who can help you. Keep looking/calling until you find someone.

DO let someone who will check on you know if you start a new medication with side effects that could cause suicidal thoughts (read labels and literature CAREFULLY–this is more common than you know, and is not just limited to antidepressants).

And for pity’s sake, don’t trash talk suicide victims. Yes, I’m using the word victim, because that’s exactly what they are…they’re victims of something that has pulled them out of the land of the living, and calling them “selfish” or making quips about the permanence of their decision doesn’t make anyone that I know who has been left behind feel any better.

We can look for methods to help people who are suicidal and still be thoughtful. I can’t imagine that peace and loving words could do anything but help, so…how about some more of those?

 

Receiving Gifts: An Art Story

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For those of you who don’t know, I love art.

It’s more than that…I need it.

My kids know that some family trips will be built around certain city’s art museums, and my friends understand that my love of movies and books isn’t just entertainment, it’s a part of life.

So when I tell you this story, keep that in mind.

A very dear friend of mine is an artist. (Actually, more than a few of my loved ones are artists of various sorts. I love creative people and seem to gravitate towards them. Although I am also drawn towards the cranky, stoic, UNartistic types, so…maybe that’s extraneous information. I have a wide variety in my circle, let’s say.)

At a recent “art day” at his house (read; his wonderful wife fed us lunch and then she and I sat and watched while he brought in piece after piece of his for me to examine, basically treating me to my own personal exhibit of his work), I was thrilled by everything he showed me (the first time I’d seen a large body of his art), but the above painting just struck a chord in my heart.

I asked to see a few of them a second time, but this one, I just stared at, finally declaring it to be my favorite. I thought it was one of the most beautiful, interesting, and joyous things I’d ever seen. It’s also quite different from his other work–a few of his pieces are singular in that regard, representing departures from his usual, more realistic style, which only proves the depth of his talent, in my eyes. (I agree with Leonardo da Vinci that “…it reflects no great honor on a painter to be able to execute only one thing well”) It seemed…well, not out of character, but representative of an element of his character not often seen. Which always delights me.

So, I was dumbstruck when he said, “If you could pick one, to have, would that be it?”

I struggle with accepting things from people. A lifetime of trying not to be “too much trouble”, of feeling as if I have to keep the tally marks on each side of various relationship registers balanced…it’s always made me hesitant to take things I know I can’t repay easily.

Or at all, in a case like this.

That’s why, at first, I balked. (I actually got teary-eyed, and then I stammered something about it being too much.)

But then something happened, and after realizing that he truly wanted to give it to me, I took it.

Enthusiastically.

During the time it was being framed, during the custody exchange when he brought it to my house (where I made assurances about protecting it until it was hung on the wall–a Greek epic all its own that involved a ladder, my son, his girlfriend, a tape measure, math, and lots of swearing), I was just as amazed by my feeling of entitlement to that beautiful work of art as I was to the idea that something so fantastic was going to be in my possession.

Because I felt, inexplicably and fully, that it was meant to be mine.

This is what he told me; on the day he painted it, he was on his way TO THE TRASHCAN with the canvas, in frustration about what had transpired on it up to that point, and had a change of heart at the last minute. He went back inside and just (in his words) went for broke and emptied the paintbox onto it.

The above was the result, an hour and a half later.

I believe it was made for me.

It’s always amazed me, that a painter can pour so much of himself or herself into a work, and then let it go. As a writer, I have it easy; not only is the work I produce mine, but if and when it gets published (in a shiny magazine or book), it can be shared without being lost to me. I get the recognition and appreciation, and still get to paw through hard copies of my own articles whenever I want. (Not that…I do that…often…or anything. That’s also not the case when ghostwriting, which we can talk about another time.)

A painter is giving you a gift when creating a painting. Everyone who sees it, whether they like it–whether they appreciate it–or not, has been the recipient of something primal and spiritual, that came from another person’s mind. A representation of beauty, meant to be shared in a sacrificial way. (Unless the painter is keeping everything and just inviting you to their house, which is rare).

To succeed, he/she has to share. Has to give away.

We owe a debt to artists.

Yes, we should be grateful to those who protect us, those who guide the governments and provide us with food and other necessities. But we also should be cultivating in ourselves and our children an appreciation for those who give the world art, and remind us on a regular basis of the beauty–both great and terrible–that life can hold. You may or not believe in God, and so my usual lecture about creativity pointing to our having been made in the image of a Creator may fall short, but if that’s the case, simply think of it as a unifying thread in human experience. Even when our forebears lived in caves, they painted images to tell stories, and communicate experience. It’s a fundamental part of who we are.

There are several things I tell this story to say.

Be willing to consider yourself worthy of good gifts, because you are.

Be thankful for all of the artists throughout history who have given all of us wonderful gifts to ponder, and pore over. Consider yourself worthy of them…while still appreciating the sacrifice that art often represents, for the artist.

Be willing to take chances and “go for broke”, creatively, as my friend put it. You could be creating something for someone else.

(Also, be hesitant to toss things in the trash.)

I’m incredibly grateful for the individual who, in this particular point in time, was open to the deep whim that moved him to create a masterpiece, something that has beautified my life, and enriched the atmosphere in my home.

Thank an artist today, even if it’s just in your own mind, for what they do for the rest of us.