Sunday, June 29, 2008

Best of Feeling Like a Kid

Gah, I love summer. Tonight I've done several things that make me feel like I'm 9 years old in Kingfisher, Oklahoma.

1) In the house, Grant and I hear loud noises. We go into the backyard and can't see the fireworks. When we decide to jump on the trampoline for awhile, we climb on, and SEE THEM exploding in the sky. This feels like the time Jennifer Stuteville, who lived a few houses down, and I figured out that we could see each other from our respective backyards if we jumped high enough on our "tramps."

2) On the trampoline, Grant jumps me so high I pee a little in my pants. I tell him with the condition that he MUST NOT LAUGH or make fun of me. He doesn't.

3) I get out of breath from doing back handsprings.

4) It's dark. We lay, bodies going opposite directions, with only our heads next to each other and look at the stars and think we could sleep outside. We talk about sleeping on trampolines, and how it is great, until you wake up at dawn slightly wet. During sleepovers, we used to get on the trampoline (or once, memorably, on a blanket on my front lawn) and sleep until we got dewy.

5) My feet are covered in black smudges, and I will crawl in bed with them still there.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Best of Finds

This name really gives some creativity to design and function. And it reminded me of two of my favorite things: 1) hating Rachael Ray and 2)...

This dedication goes out to Indiana and Norman, Oklahoma.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Best of What I Forgot to Do Today

1) Brush my teeth. That's a bad one. (You wanna hang out later, and I'll talk real close to your face?)

2) Put on deodorant. Ewww, also bad. (When we hang out, I'll give you a BIG hug.)

3) Put on perfume. This is not so bad, but it sure would have helped with number 2.

I'm obviously distracted, but YOU WOULD BE TOO if your best friend were moving across the country. Good news: Whitters got a job working for Obama in Indiana. Bad news: she leaves TODAY. We're about to go have Indian food for lunch, maaaaaaybe get a pedicure, and probably cry a little bit.

We had a goodbye party last night at the 632, and it involved a two year old's birthday, homemade pizza, the trampoline, HENRY, lots of family, baked cheese, cupcakes, beer pre-party and wine after. I'm pretty sure we did it up right.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Best of Quizzes

Okay, here's a chance for some audience participation.

I found a math quiz online from The Morning News headlines, and you can try it, too. We talk a lot about math in our house these days, and a few nights ago Whitters and I sat at the kitchen table doing it all night. Grant hates math so he just hung out in the living room with his headphones on, so the evil math terms couldn't even make their way to his brain. Whitters also hates it (LOATHES IT & DESPISES IT), but I'm a fun tutor (most of the time), and she found herself having a tiny, tiny bit of fun doing truth tables. I cannot wait for proofs. Transitive property, here we come!

But back to this test. I'm a little ashamed to say that I only got 3 out of 4 right, but that's okay. How did you do?

Another fun quiz is the 50 states one. You get 10 minutes to type in the names of all the states. The first time I did it, I only got 48. Don't cheat! I gave the test to a coworker (and spelling is not his strong suit), so when he said he got all 50, I was a little surprised. And a lot suspicious. Even if he remembered all the states (doubtful), I knew he wouldn't be able to spell Connecticut. I asked if he cheated, and he said no, so I checked his history. Suuuuuure, he didn't. He just happened to google "50 states" during the test. He still says he didn't cheat. Right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Best of Dinners

On Sunday afternoon, I was feeling down. It could have been (probably was) hormonal, because I was in a depressing mood even after the Brunch Committee had finally found a worthy, good-service, not-too-expensive brunch in Tulsa at Lava Noshery on Brookside. That's enough to be happy about, but I wasn't feeling it. In going to the restaurant, which really was fabulous (Grant had the biggest french toast I've ever seen with bourbon peaches), we even braved the intimidating white buildings to go eat there. And now that I figured out that the modern places wouldn't turn us away (think the first shopping scene in Pretty Woman), I'm going to be unstoppable on that side of the street. But enough about that. Because I was still in a bad mood.

I turned down a trip to the bookstore with Whitters, which really had her worried, and for good reason. I never turn down a trip to the bookstore. I got some alone time, though, that I needed, and even though I was not looking forward to the act of getting there, I climbed in my car and drove to Vinita for a Father's Day dinner.

And I'm so glad I did.

Because my air conditioner is broken (AGAIN), I drove the entire way with the top down, just absorbing the sunshine. And maybe sweating a little bit. I sang along to my radio, narrowly avoided a rainstorm, and got there a little windswept and a little bit more content than when I left my house. Dad got me a beer, liked his presents, and Mary Ma came over bearing a TON of food.

They both kept saying, "I thought you were bringing Grant," and while the amount of food she brought over was a lot for just the three of us, it also would have been a lot for the four of us. We dug in and did our best, eating steak (medium rare - YUM), pork chops, a bean salad, green beans, and a really tasty squash casserole.

Dad asked for the squash casserole as his only request for "his" meal, and Mary Ma said she'd make cheese grits, and he could grill zucchini outside. I think that gave him pause, and then he countered saying, "But that's not squash casserole." Mary Ma responded with saying that grits and a squash casserole would be two heavy dishes, so... I'm guessing Dad won.

At the end of dinner, with no dessert necessary, the three of us sat in Dad's living room. My great-grandparents built the house, and he is renovating it after it was in the hands of people outside our family for some years. I have a few scattered memories of the place, and one of the most vibrant is eating lunch with my Grampsie, because the after-lunch activities were a little frustrating to this little girl. He wanted to take a nap. I wanted to play. In the dining room, he'd put his feet up on his dining room chair while lying on the floor and cover his face with his handkerchief. And then go to sleep, or at least try to, with me right next to him. I'm not patient as an adult, and I sure wasn't then, so I'd keep asking if we could wrestle or read yet. I'm sure it was a satisfying siesta.

But after the big dinner we had Sunday, I can see the appeal. Instead of lying down in the dining room, I chose the couch, and Dad made me coffee for my drive back. We all talked and watched the storm out his big windows. I love getting to spend that kind of time with my family.

Dad went into the kitchen, and my Mary Ma asked me if I had a tattoo. I said yes, and she asked me where, and I told her it was on my hip. She said that wasn't so bad, and she told me that her grandmother used to think the same things about ear piercings and ankle bracelets that she does about tattoos. I explained that the three stars had meaning to me and represented Orion's belt, one of the first constellations my Dad taught me about in the car rides we took together across the state. That constellation has always been a constant in my not-always-stable life and comforts me whenever I see it. Orion is a hunter, and his belt is a symbol of strength, and I'm glad I have it permanently represented on my body. Not to mention, Seth has three stars tattooed on his back, so it really reminds me of family. My family.

I told all this to Mary Ma, and told her my mother's reaction to the same explanation. When I talked to Mom about it, Grant and I were talking to her in the living room in Kingfisher. She said she might as well go get the same tattoo since it represented family. I told her she should, and she said, "COURTNEY." as only a mother can. I'm guessing that meant she was joking. Grant told her that nothing would make Seth regret his tattoo more than finding out his mother had the same one. Probably true. When I related this story to my Mary Ma, she said that the only way SHE'D ever get a tattoo was if she went with me. Isn't that the best compliment?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Best of Dads

This is mine. He's the best. I call him Dird, which he doesn't like so much, so it stuck. At my 26th birthday party, also known as Court-a-palooza, he came and after much encouragement from Whitters and other friends, built a bonfire in my backyard. I was more worried about it than he was, which kind of describes our relationship. He taught me to cook tortilla soup and gooseberry pie, taught me to fish (though I hate it), taught me to tend bar, and is still trying to teach me how to drive the boat and effectively manage money.

I used to spend my summers with him in Tulsa, and I love being back near the places we frequented. He'd take me to Steve's Sundry in Tulsa, where I would beg for more and more books, and we'd share a float. He finally began to make me put back books that weren't at least 300 pages (so they'd last more than a day and maybe help his pocketbook). He'd always let me buy a Sweet Valley High or Babysitter's Club super edition book, because they stayed partially read for a longer period of time.

We also went to Woodward Park where I would climb in the waterfalls and splash him. I'm sure he loved it, because one time I wanted to go to the pool, and he said he'd take me, but then he just took me to one of those big fountains in front of a huge office building and got in it. I sat in the car and fumed (I'm not much of a rule-breaker with those types of things), but then he looked like he was having so much fun, and I was so hot, so I got in. It was awesome for all of five minutes before the security guard kicked us out.

We'd go to Utica Square, to have dinner at Olive Garden (my-then VERY FAVORITE RESTAURANT), where I'd have minestrone soup and manicotti every single time. I'm not proud of my past love for chain restaurants and menu-adherence, but my taste buds and palette hadn't evolved yet, OKAY?

Anyway, my dad has always encouraged me and believed in me, from letting me read in the car when he'd drive 6 hours across the state to pick me up (and I read for the entire 6 hours back) to changing his registration to be a Democrat when I worked on my first presidential campaign (even though I had to, in return, shoot a gun). He's funny as all hell, with a very dry sense of humor, and he makes me giggle in church and get in trouble from Mary Ma. He's lucky to have found a very wonderful companion, V.V., who is also hilarious, and it makes for fun family meals. He's currently remodeling his house, and loves to hear suggestions from the entire fam-damn-ily about exactly what and how he should do next. I'm sure he'd love to hear your advice, too.

During the weekends I spent with him at the lake in college and after, he loved to try to wake me up for Meet The Press around this time every Sunday. I love MTP, and I love my Dad, but in the OKC area it comes on at 10AM, which is more doable. I'm not a very easy person to get out of bed, so I slept in more than I should have. I wish I were watching Tim Russert grill politicians with him right at this moment.

I wrote this post a few days early, and honestly wrote the above paragraph about two hours before I found out Tim Russert had died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. I am extremely saddened by the news, and I know my dad is heartbroken, because our country lost an objective and REAL political analyst who challenged all politicians (no matter the party), and my family's living rooms lost our Sunday morning friend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Best of Saturday Afternoons

Gavin and Brisket, his bulldog, came over for lunch today. I made roast beef sandwiches and asparagus, and they were delish. ous.

Currently, I'm reading Real Simple and enjoying an afternoon beer. We're having a lazy afternoon because we got up EARLY to go to the farmer's market on Cherry Street again. We got bread for our lunch sandwiches and tons of fresh produce. And cheese, because we love cheese.

Grant is taking a nap next to me on the couch. Every once and awhile he grins and lets out a little giggle. Someone is having some good dreams.

Whitters is getting ready to participate in a wedding this evening (Grant and I will be in attendance), and MAN IS SHE EXCITED TO BE IN IT. That's a yoke.

Best of Things in My Backyard

One of these things I like more than the other
Originally uploaded by cruark

I decided I wanted to start posting more pictures on my blog, so when I went in the backyard this morning with Grant, I noticed just how beautiful my hibiscus was getting. After Grant left, I took my camera outside to try to get a shot of it, and HENRY WOULDN'T HAVE IT.

He's been in trouble the past few days, because during the day he stays outside in the backyard and is trying to turn it into a trash heaven. He chews up paper, drags out the hose (which Grant thought Whit and I were doing everyday), makes piles of trash, and has recently begun to eat our plants. Grant and I are plant people, so this hasn't gone over well. Henry attacked some sweet potato vine and our elephant ears we got last week at the farmer's market. Then he moved on to Grant's cacti, so now he has the shits. That's called justice.

The Henry vs. plants battle in the backyard is also causing tension in the house. I won't name names or parties, but someone is mad that plants bought are getting eaten (and suggested we might as well give him $5 bills to chew on), and someone else is mad that people in the house are mad at a puppy for being a puppy. Both sides are justified-ish, and both sides are a tad-ish angry. Any solutions? I didn't think so.

But back to this morning. I kept trying to take a picture of this flower, and then a dog nose would show up in it. Or a puppy would jump on me while I tried to take the shot. Finally, I just pushed him out of the way, and he crawled over and laid down as close as he could get to the flower. I think he's trying to say he's sorry. This is the very cute result.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Best of Appropriate

After the soundtrack from the ride into work, I cannot get one line from the Bodysnatchers song out of my head.

"...I have no idea what I'm talllllllking about..."

Hmmm. How apt is that?

I feel overwhelmed this week. Like WAY TOO OVERWHELMED, just-give-me-a-break-okay-universe? type of feelings. Just ask my roommates. And anyone who talks to me on IM. Or has happened to call during the past few days.

I'm freaking worried about money. Does anyone else think we are going to end up in a Depression (with a capital D, not just the kind that I experience occasionally?) if our entire country is not careful? Not to sound all gloom and doom, but it freaks me out that I have personal experience with the crises on the news. It wasn't like this 6 months ago. The housing crisis sucked, but no one I know is getting foreclosed.

But now.

I feel the pressure from rising gas prices, from rising food prices, and from unemployment. Which just makes me all that much more worried about the fact that I have debt, not savings. It's a difficult time to have a job in politics or in the non-profit world (and I work for an organization that combines the two), because when the economy gets rough, the first thing people give up is donating to causes. I understand, but I'd also still like to work for something I believe in and also, you know, get a paycheck. Especially to help payoff that debt.

It's summer. Isn't everything supposed to be all sunshine and light?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Best of Advice

Somehow the universe knew I needed to read some of this today. Do you need it too?

Relationship advice from Sarah Brown (a Tulsa native living in NYC) via Dooce (the coolest blogger ever).

Money advice from NYT. We spend too much. But I'm trying to be better! And save! It is taking me awhile to learn this lesson in all aspects of my life, but I really am trying to focus on the long-term.

Life advice from J.K. Rowling to Harvard graduates, some of whom did not realize how lucky they were to be in the audience. If only I had gone to Harvard. And stayed in school there for 9 years.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Best of Weekends

Why couldn't mine have just one more day?

I'm at work, looking at the rain fall on downtown Tulsa, and right now all I ever wanted was to be in my own bed, under the covers, reading a book, and drinking hot mint tea. I feel like I should have called in sick. I can't lie, but I'm in desperate need of a personal day, and I have cramps. Those are two reasons enough to escape the working world for a day.

One of the reasons I wanted my weekend to continue today is that I had such a good one! Friday night, Grant and I went on a date at Local Table in Brookside. The concept is cool - only serve what is in season and use local ingredients, but it kind of sucked, especially for the amount of the bill. The company was great, though, as per usual. It was Grant's idea to make sure we go on a real date every week, even though we live together, and I must say it has been a fabulous idea.

We got up early on Saturday morning to go to the Farmer's Market in Tulsa on Cherry Street, and it was worth not sleeping in. We found tons of fresh produce, and it's now a date for every Saturday morning. We had green beans with lemon and shallots for lunch, and felt like we had the entire day to conquer. I'm glad I found a way to make the weekend last just a little bit longer.

On Sunday, the brunch committee had planned an outing, but after a surprise 10 am phone call from AUDREY, those plans got changed. The Stillwater Ruarks showed up at our house about 10 minutes later, and Grant finally got to meet them. Audrey and Andrew met Henry, she jumped on the trampoline, Marla (with the help of Why Bother) discovered the true lyrics to Smack That, and we went to eat lunch at the riverwalk. And Audrey, Whitters and I were brave enough to run through the fountain. And then hug everyone else. After they left to go to Andrew's baseball game in Glenpool, I fell asleep with Henry in the hammock reading David Sedaris. Perfect.

And then raindrops hit me, so I headed inside.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Best of Deliciousness

For once, I'm not talking completely about food. Yes, the pie turned out well and tasted pretty darn good, but it sure was confusing to the Thompson boys. Even though Grant picked up the rhubarb, it disturbed him to see me prepare it (take off the leaves - they are poisonous and look like a webbed duck foot) since it resembled red celery. Raw, it also tastes like a too-tart lemon that is not fun to chew. Cooked, he couldn't get over the fact that it looked like cooked hot dog pieces were in his pie. Garet also dared to try a piece after really questioning me about JUST WHAT IS RHUBARB?, and I couldn't really answer that, except to say it TASTES GOOD. I promise. After just eating the strawberries, he ventured out and tried a piece of rhubarb. And then he announced, "I like rhubarb." Cooper, his yellow lab, however does not. So it goes.

I guess I am talking a lot about food.

We had a really great dinner with grilled pork chops (I LOVE THE GRILL!!) and potatoes and green beans and this really great beer bread that I will be attempting to make.

The best part of the night, though, was not food. After dinner, we all went to the living room, where Grant convinced everyone to watch the NBA finals, and I sat next to him on the couch. Then I laid down a little bit, and then a little bit more, and when I got a blanket and an Abby curled up next to me... I was out. I remember thinking right before I dozed off, "This feels delicious." I think I chose that word because my subconscious was about to take over, but it still feels right today. I was with Grant, who I adore. I ate a healthy dinner, cooked a good pie, drank some wine, and left my cell phone in the car. I didn't have work to do, didn't have to check my email - I could just lay there and lazily fall asleep to the TV with a full stomach and one of my favorite dogs in the whole world. And I felt comfortable and relaxed enough at his parent's house to take a little nap. Just delicious.

When he woke me up at 10 (he had fallen asleep, too), we went home, and went directly to bed. We had the fan on, he turned on the game, and we fell asleep to it.

This night is such the opposite of what I was experiencing at the same time last summer. I worked too much, I worried too much, and at times I just felt desperate for the kind of life I'm now writing about. I'm glad I found a way to relax just a little bit, to not freaking worry so much, and that desperation only visits a couple of times a year (rather than living with me 24/7). Good riddance.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I have had my eye on this Strawberry Rhubarb pie recipe for over a week, and only 2 things were going to get in my way: 1) having an occasion to put in this much work for 1 pie, and 2) finding rhubarb.

We're having dinner with Grant's parents tonight (a perfect occasion for a early-summer time pie), and Grant was successful in hunting down some (really expensive) rhubarb.

I am obsessed with the website Smitten Kitchen, where I got this recipe, because the woman who writes it is funny AND SHE TELLS YOU WHEN THE RECIPE GOES HORRIBLY WRONG. I like that kind of honesty. I think we would be friends in real life. I decided to make this pie even though she recommends making the pie dough from scratch (necessitating all the dough ingredients staying ice-cold for the whole process, and I courageously attempted this in June in Oklahoma).

As she put it, "shh, the pie can hear you," and this pie totally smelled my fear. After rolling out the dough and making a mess, it was NOT coming together. I got a pep talk from Grant, talked sternly to the dough as if it were Henry misbehaving, and it rolled out perfectly.

I have no idea what it tastes like, but it at least looks good.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Best of Summer Food

I'm a foodie, and I live with foodies, and I have an herb garden, so WE GRILLED OUT LAST NIGHT! Yay for summer food! I found a recipe online at food & wine, and we ran with it. Grilled tuna (or, in Whit's case, grilled tilapia) with mint sauce. I picked mint from my garden, and I thought that the sauce might be too vinegar-y, but it was a perfect compliment to the fish that Grant grilled perfectly. Food & wine recommended a wine that would not be overpowered by the mint, but 1) I don't really like white wine (red wine makes you live longer!) and 2) I'm a fan of beer. Grant had Boulevard Wheat, I had Blue Moon, and Whitters had a Cape Cod. It all went well with the minty fish.

The star of the show, though, did not involve the grill, but it did involve my green thumb. I made bruschetta from my own recipe with basil we grew in the backyard, and Whit has declared it the best thing I've ever made. Better than my avocado and chickpea salad and better than my tortilla soup. So that's pretty cool. We gorged ourselves on it.

And then I fell asleep full and satisfied, on top of the covers, with the fan going, and I think while still talking to Grant.

You should try it out:
A pint of grape tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
6 big basil leaves
2 tsp of olive oil (or just pour a little in)
freshly grated parmesan cheese (we used about 1 Tbsp per piece of brushetta)
balsamic vinegar
1 french baguette (sliced) for smaller pieces, or 1 loaf of sourdough (sliced) for yummy big pieces
1 or 2 Tbsp. butter
salt to taste

To prepare the topping, you have to slice all of the grape tomatoes into at least 4 pieces. Yes, I realize I am OCD about this, but if you use a food processor or if the pieces aren't uniform, IT DOESN'T TASTE AS GOOD. Slice each tomato in half and then slice the halves in half. This is the time consuming part, but it's worth it. When all your tomatoes are cut, put them in a bowl. Mince the clove of garlic into the bowl. Chop up the basil and add it to the tomato mixture. Pour in a bit of olive oil, add salt, and you're done.

To prepare the bread, spread a little butter on each piece, and toast them in a skillet over the stove. (I wish we would have tried putting these on the grill, but YOU CAN, and then let me know how it turns out, okay?) When the bread is lightly browned on one side (like you are making grilled cheeses), put it on a plate and sprinkle a little of the balsamic vinegar on top. Too much is too much, so be careful. Then generously spoon the tomato mixture on top of the bread, and add a whole lot of parmesan cheese. Can you have too much cheese? NO.

I think all recipes should use all caps.