Working girls.

Dear friends,

warhol

Dolly Parton by Andy Warhol
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Six hundred miles and 36 hours later, I’m home from the third annual Ozarks Rendezvous.

The gathering of five former colleagues — who at one time all toiled under the same roof in Tulsa, Oklahoma — was more fun than I imagined. Filled with award-winning food, fun, art, wine, laughter and a night in an incredibly hipster hotel, the weekend was a tonic for my favorite crew of working girls.

The central activity of the gathering was a visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR (the town that Wal-Mart built). Before I tell you what I think about the museum, which opened not quite two years ago, I will offer a disclaimer that our band of five professional, solidly middle-class women understood that our free museum admission was only marginally “compliments of Wal-Mart” (as the greeter informed me). I was acutely aware that it is the legions of uninsured, low-wage workers subject to Wal-Mart’s ignoble labor practices that generated the vast fortune represented by Crystal Bridges.

With that sober acknowledgement (and my longstanding disdain for Wal-Mart) as preface, I can’t help but tell you that the museum is a stunning achievement in architecture, art collecting, and the art and science of making art accessible. Practically every important name in the pantheon of American art is represented at Crystal Bridges, from Norman Rockwell to Mark Rothko, from Frederick Remington to Andy Warhol, from Thomas Moran to Jackson Pollock, from Winslow Homer to Joseph Albers. I alternated between marveling at the art right in front of my nose and marveling at how Alice Walton managed to collect it all and make a tiny town in Northwest Arkansas an art destination. If you ever have an opportunity to drop by Crystal Bridges (or, heck, to travel far out of your way), you should add the museum to your must-visit list.

By the way, don’t let the museum’s odd name discourage you from taking it seriously. After I mused — perhaps a little too loudly — that it sounded like a new-age retreat center, and my friend remarked that it reminded her of a cheesy Country and Western singer, a museum docent quietly and kindly informed us that the museum is built over a body of water known as Crystal Springs.  I felt a little guilty, then, for disparaging the museum’s name, but we still joked that it surely must be a marketing impediment to all those who would lump it in the same class of tourist attractions represented by the Precious Moments Park and Chapel just down the road in Carthage, MO.

After a long and satisfying afternoon at the museum, we spent an even longer and more satiating evening at The Hive, our hipster hotel’s even hipper restaurant. Over cocktails and three courses, we discussed everything from politics, to the state of our respective careers, to religion, to family and children, to feminism, to easy gossip about personalities of mutual interest.  During a particularly amusing conversational diversion regarding technology in the workplace, we laughed so hard I lost my breath and nearly popped my trouser button. It was the perfect ending to a splendid day with friends far and farther, who’ve worked hard to nurture the bonds of friendship stretched by geography but reinforced by abiding affection.

With gratitude {for the restorative power of time spent with girlfriends},

Joan, who met the first of her former colleagues in 1988 when both had Working Girl hair, wardrobes, and career challenges, but nothing close to Harrison-Ford romantic prospects

Because why not get a head start?

Dear friends,

summercu

I know spring just sprung and all, but I spent Saturday feeling all summery.

It was sunny and 70 degrees. Mr. Mom and I went for a long drive near the Big Piney with our sunroof open and our windows down. We stopped after an hour and ate two big platefuls of pan fried chicken at a truck-stop diner, then found an antiques store where we whiled away another hour. It was the best Saturday afternoon I’ve had in a very long time (and I’ve got two gorgeous, pink china plates to prove it). Lordy, lordy my soul needed the sunshine and the quiet time with my favorite companion.

You know what other summery thing I did? Before we hit the road, I made an adorable red-white-and-blue pennant banner. It will be Memorial Day before you know it and I’ll be itching to remake my Easter-decked buffet.

Here’s what my newest banner looks like in full.

summerfull

It was super-simple, thanks to this tutorial from my new favorite fabric source. I modified the instructions a bit, opting for a rod pocket instead of muslin ties on my flags,  and I machine stitched everything rather than hand stitching. The pennants were easy enough to figure out on my own. I simply cut out hand-drawn triangles, stitched around the edges (so I could fringe them), stitched ric-rac across the tops (leaving room for a fold-over pocket to hang them by), stitched the pockets, then glued on fabric letters that I traced and cut out. (Before cutting out the letters, I ironed fusible interfacing on the backs to give them a little more stiffness.) From start to finish, I made the entire banner in about three hours.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a day, a pretend-summer day in April.

With gratitude {for adventures on the road and at the sewing machine},

Joan, who’s insistent on getting her money’s worth out of her new sewing machine

Take me back to Tulsa.

Dear friends,

Source: Wikipedia

I’m spending 24 hours in the land of my birth.  (In the words of Leon Russell, I’m in home sweet Oklahoma). I’ve made a whirlwind trip to Tulsa to help a friend celebrate a new job.

I’m making the most of my 24 hours: first I made a stop to see one of my dearest friends. She was the Matron of Honor in my wedding and I wouldn’t think of coming to Tulsa without popping in to see A.  It was a short stop, but we had time for a long hug, a glass of wine, and an hour of conversation.

Then I spent a long dinner with a group of former colleagues celebrating the transition of a member of our group. Ten of us got to together to toast C’s new job (and new pregnancy) and tell our favorite war stories from our memorable years together as a team.

Next, I stayed up late talking to another friend, catching up on all that has happened in J’s universe since I left town.

Saturday morning, I’m having two breakfasts with more friends, one early and one late, then I’m off to lunch with another dear friend that I’ve known since 5th grade.

Are you catching a theme here? It may only be 24 hours, but I’m luxuriating in friendship with women I’ve known forever it seems. It’s a much-needed dose of hearty laughter, warm hugs, and shared memories with a cadre of women who mean the world to me.  I can’t think of a better way to kick off February.

With gratitude {for dear friends who welcomed me home with open arms},

Joan, who, no matter where she lives, will always think the Tulsa skyline is the prettiest