INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL

Dear friends: today is International Day of the Girl, and as such, I have a very important announcement:
Today, I’m celebrating my womanhood by celebrating all the girl bosses in my life.
They never quit on themselves, or me. Most importantly, they remind me to stay focused on being the best woman I can be, and help me keep my eyes on that prize.

These women are JUST A FEW of the many along the way who have shown me what sisterhood is all about. LISTEN to how amazing they are:

Charlotte Long is a forever friend. She’s a light in the storm and a belly-laugh at all hours. She is kind, level-headed, logical, and astute. She is a remarkable communicator, is incredibly patient, is so intelligent, and is going to be an amazing mom. She is a gift, she is my ridiculous twin, and I am forever better for having known her.

Lauren Henrickson is the silly wife I’ll never have, but will always fawn over. She is caring, empathetic, thoughtful, and committed. She is a safe place for me.

Whitney Beth Harris is the pal and confidante and second opinion that keeps my feet on the ground. She uses art to break down boundaries of judgement. She puts others’ needs before her own, and holds them with unwavering dedication. She reminds me to be gentle with my feelings, and let myself off easy sometimes. She will also drink wine with me whenever. I appreciate this.

Kaitlin Ann Logan and Abby McCollom are two mighty powerhouses. They are fearlessly pursuing their dreams of creating a more just, equitable environment for higher education and secondary students—specifically those who are often overlooked by the system. These women are change agents, and it’s exciting to watch them trail-blaze.

Zack Reeves (not a woman, but still wonderful) give me hope that a feminist absolutely doesn’t have to be a female, and that with a little determination, I can change the world if I want to. He’s taught me about sisterhood through his brotherhood. Wow.

Becky Brandhorst is a girl boss at work, at home, in love, and in life. She shares tough love when you need it, and a shoulder when you don’t. She has set milestone goals for herself and, at only 26, has managed to stay right on track. She juggles adversity with grace and makes me want to do better. Her passion is an inspiration.


Angela Davis
reminds me weekly (through actions and words) that God is good—a reminder I often forget I how badly I need—and that my spiritual practice should come first. She offers a family model that is empowering and inspirational to me through her love for her church, friends, family, and husband. She helps me love unconditionally.

Amanda Zurita is a far-away contact whose adventures and travels inspire me to add more to my own list. It is thrilling to see a woman traveling the world with abandon, pursuing the life she loves without apology.


Laura Beth Woods
, Ashely Haggard, Jennifer Burris, and Sarah Brewer have long-since been leaders, role models, and dear friends to me. They’ve stood by me on the journey, and have stepped in when I (and they, probably) didn’t know I needed it. How lucky can a girl get?

Kristina Krug
is a bright, beautiful, multi-talented dreamboat who’s been making the world her oyster and checking out every corner of it ever since I’ve known her. She’s the perfect person to spend an afternoon daydreaming or scheming with.

Rachel Faylene Miller reminds me of my queendom every damn day, and that it’s worth putting first. She works hard for herself, which is the most inspirational truth of all.


Chelsea Anne
shows me the power of self-care, of saying no, and of making time for quiet rejuvenation. She answers the late night calls. She reassures that all is well—even if it isn’t quite at that moment.

Georgia Lynn Henry Gates
introduced me to the most sacred place of my as an 8-year-old girl. 18 years later, it’s still given me the most formative years and lessons of my life. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to St. Crispin’s so that other girls could learn how to shine.

Valarie Grant
is so stinking talented. She captures people in their purest and happiest moments, and leaves them with a snapshot of some of their brightest, finest selves. And she’s only 23?! Bow down.

Leilani Romo
reminds me that, at the end of the day, love is all you need. Period. And after 18 years of friendship, it’s safe to say that she was one of the first people in my life to show me the pull of Girl Power.

Katie Koljack
puts disgusting, lecherous, abusive humans behind bars to create a safer Tulsa for all women and men. #GirlBoss

Katie Wallace
Kaitlin Rempe and Abbie Peraza make me feel beautiful and proud of my body every day (physically and mentally), and show me what great things can happen when women take charge charge in business.

Avery Schoenwald
is the sister I never knew I wanted. Adventuresome, ridiculous, kind, loyal, and full of life. You are nuts, and I love every single thing about you.

Brenda Ashbaugh
and Allison Guimond are the devil and angel on my shoulder… The yin to my yang, the zig to my zag, and all the serious stuff, too. Their support has grown and changed over the years, and forces me to calm down, relax, and try to be a little better. Real sisters, right here.

Calee Rigdon
is a vision, and is always quick with an ironic meme, or a change in perspective.
The women of the Tulsa Ultimate Federation make push myself harder than I think I can–not for the approval of someone else, but for myself. Playing with you makes me happier, prouder, and better. Plus, we have all the fun!
Victoria McArtor makes me want to be a better writer. More than that, she makes me want to build a life around writing, and live into the dreams I set for myself long ago. Perhaps most importantly, she’s not afraid to build something from the ground up.

Shagah Zakerion
has been so astonishingly honest during her battle with cancer this past year—generous with her mind and worries and bravery—and has still managed to lend her tired voice to the causes of others in the meantime. Aside from this, the work she’s already done to push Tulsa forward is astounding. Spend five minutes around her, and you’ll leave ready to DO. This is the type of gal I want to be.

Laura Beth Woods
, Char Rose Ham Long, Rachel Mosely, Lauren Brown, Kate Hoffland, and others make me excited for the challenge of motherhood, should it ever happen for me.

Libby Bender
shows me that the backroads pay off, and that big, crazy ideas are worth chasing.
And the best for last: Suzanne Shepherd shows me how to be a great woman, pal, partner, sister, daughter, worker, and friend through her service and relationships daily with the own girls in her life, specifically Amy Judin Best, who has provided lessons of her own as long as I’ve been alive. I was gifted the best momma around, and now she’s my forever gal-pal and always-on girlfriend, always sending me love. HELL YES.
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Every day is a day to celebrate the great women in your life, but today, take a moment to pay special attention. Seems like we don’t do it enough.
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A Night with Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy

[originally published in The Tulsa Voice, July A 2016]

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Heirloom Tomatoes from Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy. [PC: The Tulsa Voice, Hans Kleinschmidt]

 

Rocks fly from beneath the wheels of the car as it rumbles up the gravel drive. 

We bounce through a clearing and can just barely make out signs of farm life in the distance: fencing, ponds, leafy trees with their branches stretched wide. The smell of the grass and dirt comingles with the hot summer air—eau de sunshine. A goat bleats somewhere in the distance, and a white, fur-matted farm dog trots over and pants expectantly at my car door, waiting to welcome me to the homestead. The farm is alive and well. 

We make our way over to a pen full of Nubian goats and meet the crowd snapping Instagram shots around them. Even I am powerless to the mug of a baby animal, and we pose for glamour shots as we await the tour.

Linda Ford welcomes us with the warmth of family and gives us the run-down on Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy, a farm in Depew, OK helmed by Ford and Chef Lisa Becklund, now in its tenth year. The monumental anniversary will be celebrated all summer long, but special attention has been given to this dinner in particular, titled “Pecking, Rooting, and Grazing.” Combining elements from all facets of the operation—chickens, vegetables, pigs, goats, fruits and nuts—it’s as much a showcase of the farm’s finest bounty as it is homage to the animals and plants living on it.

Tonight’s menu offers nods to all of this: Pickles and Pork, made with pork belly, fermented cabbage, and pickled root vegetables, has a salty bite and brilliant color; Rooting, a dish of tri-colored carrots and a deep, cumin-y hit of masala; Pecking, a garlic and onion-heavy chicken-scratch medley of marinated eggplant, fire-roasted cauliflower florets, and life-giving corn; Grazing, a simple but explosive kale salad accented with toasted pecans, milky pillows of handmade goat cheese, and juicy heirloom tomatoes we ourselves harvested from the garden rows hours earlier; and The Pig that Went to Market, a sweet, smoky carrot mash, a bed of tart slaw and tempura-fried kale served alongside a quintessential, classic Okie favorite: pork loin. As Lisa tells it, the menu’s theme is really about that sweet spot where everything comes together—“a celebration of our existence,” as she puts it.

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The Hennebago. (PC: The Tulsa Voice, Hans Kleinschmidt)

There’s a growing trend in our culture to put distance between the things we eat and the hands that prepare them; we see it in the standoffish unattainability that shrouds master chefs and five star restaurants, in the bulky, commoditized products that line grocery store shelves, in the way that we truck specialized fruits from one side of the country all the way to the other, in the impersonal grossness of fast food dollar menus, and in buying product from faceless wholesale suppliers to cut back on costs. We have become so conditioned to expect the bare minimum from our food that our minds are blown away when we get the crème de la crème—in this case, a freshly-picked summer squash still flecked with dirt, or a piece of cheese made from the milk of a happy goat.

Living Kitchen’s farm table dinners put this practice onto plate through a commitment to only prepare produce, dairy, and meats harvested onsite or nearby—often GMO free and certified organic. By capitalizing on this reality, they’re letting food in its purest form be the star of the show: no gimmicks, no preservatives, no crap on top—just beautiful, vibrant, artfully prepared, Oklahoma-grown bounty.

Upholding a steadfast commitment to the “grow your own” movement lets Lisa and Linda live out another aspect of their food philosophy—a Buddhist approach to eating that aims to create “the perfect meal.”

“You’ve got a certain amount of happiness and passion and love and karma and suffering, and it’s all equally part of the perfect meal,” Lisa explains. “And you know, that perfect meal is actually just the privilege of living on this planet, so that’s sort of my journey, and I think our journey together is trying to create that perfect meal in everyday life, where work is also our practice.”

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Guests on the Living Kitchen cabin porch. (PC: The Tulsa Voice, Hans Kleinschmidt).

Picture the happiest dinner you’ve ever attended, dotted with strangers gathered together for the same joyful cause: a celebratory meal on the balmy, firefly-lit porch of the Living Kitchen cabin.

The guests sit side by side, huddled around a table set for temporary royalty, sipping wine and politely chatting the evening away in anticipation of dinner.

Eventually, the courses begin to arrive: inventive dishes styled according to necessity and flair, vibrant in both color and presentation. 

They are small but delicious, and the wine flows, and all of a sudden, the conversation isn’t so much polite as it is easy: new friends chatting over dinner, trying each other’s drinks, having the world’s best communal first date, gathered together for one shared purpose: to connect through food—with the chefs, with the land, and with each other.

“There’s no question for me that it is a spiritual thing,” Linda insists. “It’s not overt, and I think many people may not necessarily be able to put words to it, but … it opens them up. It’s slowing down.

“I mean, breaking bread, you know, in that language, that in itself is such a privilege…” Lisa offers. As she trails off, you can see the wheels turning in her eyes, as if imagining the dinner coming together, and that sense of sharing getting transferred from one guest to another.

“So, yeah, it’s hard not to think about that in every step of what we do.”

Lisa and Linda are careful to create an environment where that sort of authentic sharing can unfold, without being too heavy-handed. It pops up in the delicately-scrawled placards that await guests at their seats, the summery candles, mason jars, tea lights and fireflies that set the ethereal ambiance of the back porch, in the fortuitous scent of the trees and the dirt and the fragrant air, in the small, focused staff, and in the contemplative nature of the cabin itself.

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The Living Kitchen Cabin. (PC: The Tulsa Voice, Hans Kleinschmidt).

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Lisa culled her skills in some of Seattle’s finest slow-food, farm-to-table establishments.

Armed with a dream of launching her own, she headed to Oklahoma to get deeper into the weeds of the farming component of cooking, growing everything herself and selling it at local farmers markets. And although Living Kitchen has since built a rabid and loyal following, the road to that success was riddled with potholes—so much so that Lisa almost called it quits on the dream altogether.

“Some years ago, I really had to do a bit of soul searching. Farming was really hard, and it was a lot of failure. I couldn’t see the results, and I started getting really depressed thinking, oh my god I just need to go to a restaurant where it’s easy. But I needed to find a greater purpose in what I was doing.”

With sales at the farmers market not panning out, Lisa decided to create a more intimate alternative. She called on her network and invited them out to the farm for a dinner on her porch.

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Lisa Becklund and Linda Ford. (PC: The Tulsa Voice, Hans Kleinschmidt).

The work was tough, but the community followed instantly. Ten years later, Living Kitchen’s community still rallies behind the organization to sell out nearly 50 farm table dinners between the months of April and October, each placed for a group of 36, designed to preserve that same intimacy that sparked Living Kitchen’s initial success. 

“Sometimes I don’t even know what the menu’s going to be until four that afternoon,” Lisa admits. “Or we might have a terrible thunderstorm, or it might be a little chillier than normal … nobody knows the drill.”

This type of on-the-fly innovation takes specific planning: leafing through seed catalogs to find the perfect mix of new and heirloom varieties, selecting and sowing them months in advance, timing their sprouting to match the menus of a still-undecided themed dinner schedule, and when that schedule arrives, using them in a way that helps diners see them in a new light. 

But guests have to ante up with a certain bit of flexibility, too. Reservations are made months in advance, often on a sight-unseen basis with little idea of what to expect. When the date finally rolls around, guests flock to the farm with astonishingly open minds. For many, the visit marks their first ever to a working farm, and they arrive bright-eyed and curious, almost childlike in their excitement. That excitement translates to willingness—to try something new, to be shuffled around in the seating chart, and to be open to whatever improvised idea or whim Lisa decides to chase. It’s a deep indulgence of curiosity, and Linda suspects it might be this very unknown that people find so appealing.

Tonight, the “Pecking, Rooting, and Grazing” menu marries focus with flavor, skipping back and forth between ultra-rich courses such as a buttery potato gnocchi and light, surprising palette cleansers like the hibiscus and rose-infused ice. Everything is fresh, everything tastes incredible, and everything is made with purpose.

It’s hard to imagine a better evening out in Oklahoma, and when you’re sitting on that breezy porch in the heat of summer, it’s hard to imagine winter overtaking the farm. Still, when the first freeze creeps in, Living Kitchen will close up shop for the season and Linda and Lisa will begin planning the next year of culinary creations. And while there’s only so much a one-chef operation can support, Lisa and Linda have toyed with the idea of adding more casual, five-course Sunday dinners to their schedule to accommodate new guests. It might be a ways away, but like the dinners have proved time and time again, anticipating the payoff is half the fun.

All regularly scheduled 2016 dinners are currently sold out, but interested diners can get on the wait list for certain seatings, or subscribe to the mailing list for last-minute openings. 

Someplace Happy: Living Room

This year, I’ve made a conscious effort to swap stress for cheer. I’ve scaled back on projects (hence the absolute abandonment of Someplace. No more! The buck stops here–I swear!), been more intentional with how I spend quality time, have made self care a top priority, and have elected to choose happiness whenever possible. This year, I’ve made ‘choose joy’ my mantra.

One of the greatest benefits of this practice has been the sheer gratitude it’s produced. I’ve been able (actually, required) to take a step back and re-evaluate my fortune on more occasions than I’d like to admit. It’s not always easy or convenient, but it’s always helpful. Choosing joy means choosing when and what to celebrate. Hint: everything and all the time.

In an attempt to stay on top of my practice, I’ve decided to launch a new blog series: Someplace Happy. Someplace Happy is a way for me to pay homage to all the happy hideouts, moments of grace, exciting happenings, and unexpected thrills I find day in and day out. Some days, it’s a new city. Sometimes it’s a book I’d forgotten about. Other times, it’s in the freely-given patience of someone who doesn’t have to offer it to me. Wherever it lives, this type of joy deserves recognition; there’s something unbeatable about a happy place, and something really great about finding it someplace unexpected.

They’ll be short and sweet, just like this one.

So without further ado…

Someplace Happy: 
Living Room 

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After much haphazard collecting and sloppy curation, I’m starting to love the time I spend alone in my living room. I look around at the pieces and appointments that dot the shelf space, and i’m instantly reminded of where I was when I found them.

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Most are impulse purchases, gifts, or mementos from trips: rocks from around the world, growlers from breweries in cities I used to call home, favorite books, whale everything, art.

WanderRoam

My aesthetic style tends to dart and weave on and off topic (not unlike my brain), but everything in this room is symbolic of who I am and what I love.

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It is a place that feels like home. It is full of happy things. It is, undoubtedly, a happy place.

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Until next time–
megan_sig

 

 

Hope’s Comeback

[Originally published in The Tulsa Voice]

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Hope Egan is a charming interview. Funny and affable, with frizzled red curls, she carries conversation with the effortless wit of a bartender. It makes sense, considering her long, storied past and many posts in the Tulsa restaurant landscape. Her inventive tastes, sharp cocktails, and cunning service know-how have been a beloved fixture in the Tulsa food scene for more than 28 years.  

In years past, you might’ve caught her at such Tulsa favorites as Camarelli’s, Lucky’s and Ciao. In 2005, she started cooking professionally and selling her creations at the Cherry Street Farmers Market under the name “Hope’s Table.” In 2013, she conceptualized and was a founding partner of Tallgrass Prairie Table, downtown’s popular farm-to-table restaurant. In 2015, after designing and executing Tallgrass’s sister concept, The Bramble, Hope left daily operations of the company.

Now she’s introducing Tulsa to her newest creation, Red Thistle Catering Co.

“I feel like I’ve come full circle back to where I need to be,” she says.

As a boutique catering outfit specializing in from-scratch dishes made from locally and sustainably sourced ingredients, Red Thistle plates what Hope describes as “delicious food, simply prepared and elegantly plated.” Red Thistle is the product of the same slow-food fandom that primed Tallgrass and The Bramble, served in a more intimate setting.  

Red Thistle’s offerings marry the sophistication of culinary-minded cuisine with the sensibilities of fresh, carefully prepared ingredients. Food from purveyors like Blakely Family Farms, Tria Yang, Middle Mountain Dairy, and Yer Vang Moua’s Farm are made into fanciful creations like farm beet tare tare, grilled pork belly with pickled porter peach, local heirloom salad with mint vinaigrette, and blackberry shortcake with vanilla mascarpone. Most dishes fall somewhere between modern American and Mediterranean, with seasonality driving the menus.

Beginning in April, Hope will post up alongside the other Saturday morning Cherry Street Farmers Market vendors to sell Red Thistle specialties—prepared and packaged seasonal meals, soups and spreads, baked goods, and even a few specialty cocktail mixers.

Perhaps most exciting about Hope’s new endeavor is her Saturday Night Supper Club. Once a month, Hope will cater intimate dinners in the home of a private host or hostess, with seats available to the general public. The BYOB dinners will serve between 15 and 30 mixed guests, with the themes and menus developed according to host and chef’s whim.

Throughout our interview, the question on my mind—and probably everyone else’s who heard about her departure from Tallgrass last year—wasn’t just, what happened? But, how are you? I followed Hope’s lead during our time together, thinking it uncouth to bring it up, and was surprised when she herself mentioned the unfavorable publicity that rained down on her last year. But Hope describes her 2015 with a reassuring sense of optimism.

“This last year has really been a gift. It’s been a year of transition, of personal growth.”

As she tells it, 2014 brought a personal unraveling. With the mounting stress of work, family, and deteriorating health, it wasn’t long before the bottom fell out; she was booked on a DUI arrest on December 29th, 2014.

She swirls her iced tea around, calmly composes herself, and describes a particularly painful, humiliating, stress-soaked blip in an otherwise full, flourishing life: major screw ups (that became majorly public), the shelving of family life, and the pain of untreated mental illness. 

“I didn’t cook my family dinner once in a year,” she recalls. “I fell apart.”

Witnessing her candor is both moving and uncomfortable. As I listen to her talk, I’m struck by a few things: one, the bravery with which she speaks of what transpired over the past year, and two, the humility it takes to share it with a journalist.

In light of what’s happened, I wonder whether or not Hope feels like a victim. But listening to her describe growing edges, and balancing her mistakes with all that’s happened since, she seems more comfortable with the term “advocate.”

“I think there’s a double standard with women in the business,” she explains, recalling the swiftness with which the media took up her story and describing the tendency for women’s mistakes to receive harsher criticism in the public eye than their male counterparts. Hope says she knows plenty of male restaurant owners who’ve made similar mistakes, but who have not-so-narrowly avoided criticism for them. Rather, the mistakes were often swept under the rug, or hmmm’d at without so much as a wayward glance.

Hope remains optimistic about what’s ahead, and says that one day, she might like to use her story to help advocate for women dealing with mental illness.

“I’ve been learning how to take care of myself, how to make my family a priority. I’ve been able to cook everyday. It’s been very liberating. Self-care, transformation, work… last year was about finding out how I could do all three and achieve some balance.”

And Red Thistle, it seems, is the center of that balance.

“I’m really excited to feed people again.”

Fun, Cheap, Heartfelt

Originally published in The Tulsa Voice

Ah, the scent of commercialized love is wafting through the air, and the red and pink-adorned aisles at CVS can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day is upon us. If the idea of dropping a wad of cash on flowers, prix-fixe dinners, chocolate, and spa treatments makes you want to jump off a bridge, consider these ideas instead. They’re fun, cheap, heartfelt, and way more interesting than a stuffed bear proclaiming everlasting love. Continue reading

Where the Buffalo Roam

As much as I love them, vacations can be hard to come by this time of year; the cold weather alone is enough to turn you off to the thought of venturing outside. But out here in Oklahoma, the winter weather is… unpredictable, to say in the least. You really never know when  a perfectly bright, clear, cold-but-sunny day might pop up. And when one does sneak through, you better take advantage of it.

We had one of these rare occurrences blow through Oklahoma this past Saturday, so I did what any self-respecting prairie dweller should: loaded up the cooler, grabbed some jerky (the irony is not lost on me…) corralled a few adventure-seeking buddies, and headed out to the land for an afternoon of exploring. Continue reading

Sensory Overload

[originally published in The Tulsa Voice]

Millicent Brasserie a bizarre curiosity. The new multi-sensory restaurant, hidden behind the humble façade of a non-descript Broken Arrow strip mall, treads dangerously close to an acid trip, with just enough over-the-top class to keep it grounded in high dining.

Chef Vincent DePaul Tran’s concept is essentially a Michelin Star-inspired discotheque with a 9-course dinner, where fog machines and strobe lights set the stage for carefully plated tasters packed with curious combinations. The name of the game here is stimulation of all five senses, and Tran and his team make good on that promise, with A/V light shows, video reels and a loud soundtrack. Continue reading

15 everyday parties to throw this year

[originally published on HelloGiggles.com]

 


I love a good party. Birthday parties, Halloween parties, Christmas parties—I’m a big fan. But it’s always around this time of year—when the holiday season is behind us and the celebrating dwindles—that I start to get a little bummed. Getting amped up in January can be tough, so why not find cause to celebrate!?
Here are 15 everyday parties you should throw this year, because life is too short to celebrate according to someone else’s schedule. Continue reading

Recipe: popcorn balls

Ahhhhh, October. It’s finally here! At the start of October, I set out to do one new Octivity every single day of the month. That plan quickly fell apart. Life’s been getting in the way. Regardless, we’re one week from my absolute FAVORITE day of the year– HALLOWEEN! Hocus Pocus has been on repeat for days, I’ve already got my plans for mischief night in the works, and I’ll be revealing all the gory details of my costume in the days to come. Until then, I’ll be sharing some festive recipes to get us all in the mood for some spooky (and scrumptious) fun. Continue reading