Saturday, February 28, 2009

Calling All Cash-Strapped Parents

Tomorrow, I am sooo gonna score.

Little boy gear, that is. Rather than have to traverse the known world for garage sales in hopes of finding affordable, quality clothes, furniture and toys for my newly minted toddler, I can head to Central Park Hall at Expo Square for the spring Just Between Friends sale. Seven days of the bail out for which Tulsa-area mommy and daddy types have been waiting begins March 1.

I didn't get to go to the sale last year since I was rather incapacitated from having just, you know, passed a real, live human being from my poor, aching body. The year before that, however, I made it to the fall sale to stock up on maternity clothes. Total cost of about 85 percent of my entire maternity wardrobe: $93 and some change. I'm might be able to get a pair of maternity jeans for that at some place like A Pea in the Pod at Utica Square. Not that there isn't a time and a place for a Pea in the Pod purchase, because there is. It was just that, for me and 98 percent of the other moms-to-be out there hearing the R-word on the radio 532 times per day and scrounging to prepare to be nickeled and dimed for the next 18 years, that time was when someone else was buying.

A year and a half has passed, and my mommy friends and I have been anticipating for months this spring JBF sale. I fully plan to spend an entire working day's worth of time getting my shop on at Expo Square over the course of the next week. Tomorrow I'll be out to get the first pick of the toys; Friday or Saturday I'll hit up the sale for gently used boutique-quality clothes for the entire next year, since many items will be marked down by 50 percent. I'm talking 1,200 consignors'- and 42,000 square feet-worth of Baby Gap, Gymboree, Pottery Barn Threads, Ralph Lauren, Izod and other designer kids' clothes - at JBF, you can get the brands, baby, and without paying the price. And I haven't even touched on the mounds of toys, strollers, furniture, books, videos and baby gear that can be found at a JBF sale.

Excited yet? Halfway out to the car already? Better check the sale hours first:
Sunday, 1:00-7:00pm Monday-Sat., 9:00am-7:00pm MON (new merchandise) Thur-Fri. (25% off)
Saturday, 9:00-7:00pm (50% off)

Also, check the Just Between Friends blog to get some visuals on what's in store for you. Brace yourself before clicking; I squealed and scared by husband down the hallway.

If you miss this giant chunk of economic stimuli, don't wring your hands and fret. Spring is the season of the JBF sale in the Tulsa area. Check for other local sales happening soon and mark those calendars. And, don't forget the fall sale in Tulsa.

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Genre Dance Oklahoma Winner!

Guess what? There was ANOTHER little contest happening here yesterday and today. The prize: two tickets to tonight's showing of New Genre Dance Oklahoma.

Your signature dance moves sounded, well, intriguing. It's times like these I wish this blog had video commenting capability. Thanks to all who entered!

And now, I shall announce the chosen one - the one who on this night will be enlightened by some intense and beautiful dancing. First, I submitted to the total number of eligible comments on yesterday's post (click to enlarge): spit out:

The fifth comment on yesterday's post was:

Congrats, Chris! Chris heads up the very informative and much-needed Tulsa Real Estate blog. Chris, e-mail me at so we can get you your prize.

For those of you out of luck on winning free tickets to New Genre Dance Oklahoma can still head to Tulsa PAC tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. for a revolutionary show. Don't forget New Genre XVI is happening all weekend. Check the article by Holly Wall in Urban Tulsa Weekly for a complete list of what's doing.

Thanks for playing, y'all!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Genre Dance Oklahoma (Plus, a Giveaway. Yes, another!)

Remember when, in yesterday's post on what's going on in the Tulsa art scene this weekend, Holly Wall wrote about New Genre XVI and how totally awesome, amazing and vital to your existence it is?

There are more than 100 reasons why. From her article on New Genre 2009 in Urban Tulsa Weekly:
Now in its 16th year, the festival, hosted by Living ArtSpace, seeks to explore new and cutting edge contemporary media and artists. In a matter of days, New Genre will present 110 local, regional and national artists -- all of them doing something very, very different -- to Tulsa audiences.
While many of the events are free, some come with an admission fee. New Genre Dance Oklahoma, which begins tomorrow night at 8 p.m. in Williams Theatre at Tulsa Performing Arts Center and shows a second time Saturday night, is one of those events.

New Genre Dance Oklahoma will be a modern dance and performing arts blowout. Several dance companies are involved. Perpetual Motion/Modern Dance Oklahoma, The Bell House and Hartel Dance Group promise to change the way we think about dance and the boundaries of the human body.

You could be there to watch it all go down. For free.

Steve Liggett, artistic director of Living Arts of Tulsa, has given one lucky TDT reader two tickets to the Friday night (Feb. 27) performance of New Genre Dance Oklahoma.

To enter, head to the comments and describe your signature dance move.

With or without your particular brand of dance floor throw down, New Genre Dance Oklahoma promises to be a great show; after all, they don't charge $40 for a couple of tickets for nothing.

I'll randomly pick and post the new owner of those two tickets at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Feb. 27). Good luck!

Elote Contest Winner!

As most everyone who reads this blog knows, there was a little contest happening here yesterday and today. At stake: a $20 gift certificate to tonight's soft opening of Elote Cafe & Catering.

Your responses to the question, What excites/irks you most about dining downtown? were such interesting reading. Anyone who didn't get to enter the contest should still read through the comments - there were some informed, snarky, insightful and even beautiful things said there. Thanks to all who entered!

And now, the winner of some seriously delicious food. First, I submitted to the total number of eligible comments on yesterday's post (click to enlarge): spit out:

The eighth comment on yesterday's post was:

Congrats, Penni! Penni is one of Tulsa's leading healthful food proponents and educators, and her raw food recipes are to die for. Penni, e-mail me at so we can get you your prize.

Those of you not so lucky in this contest can still head to Elote until 10 p.m. tonight. Congrats, Libby and Elote staff, on your first evening open in downtown Tulsa!

Thanks for playing, all!

Educating Rita Contest Winner!

Guess who won two tickets to tonight's showing of Educating Rita in the contest held here yesterday and today?

Congrats, Michelle! E-mail me at to find out how to claim your prize.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Fresh Development

Tonight: my little baby-man's first birthday. A trip to the park. A tired husband overburdened with homework. A half-written TDT post on what's going on in the Tulsa art scene this weekend and a giveaway begging to be finished - ASAP, of course. Because the local art scene pretty much explodes with activity this weekend, I wanted to make sure you all had plenty of time to shuffle your plans and cancel anything boring so you could pack your bags and check it out.

To make a long story short, I could have used a quick, delicious, healthful dinner option for my little family tonight. Local restaurants are always a bonus when I can't cook the evening meal myself.

A run to Taco Bueno, while not particularly delicious, healthful or local, managed to save dinner tonight. But, starting tomorrow, one of my favorite lunch spots in all of Tulsa, Elote Cafe & Catering, will be open in the evenings.

Elote: Quick? Check. Healthful? Uh-huh. Local and delicious? Checkity check check-a-roo.

I would sign my next paycheck over to Elote right now, except their prices are so affordable. So, I not only get to keep the jingle in my pocket, but I also get to stuff myself with dishes like Chicken Puffy Tacos and the Smokin' Hot Quesadilla for more meals than I do already.

I don't even have to worry too much about my waistline or what I'm going to have to do to counteract the chemicals I ingest when I succumb to fast food. Elote Chef Libby Auld, who's training includes a stint with renowned chef of Mexican cuisine Rick Bayless, is all about using healthful, organically-grown food in her fresh-Mex creations. She even sources her ingredients from local vendors and farmers.

You know what? I just can't say enough bright, shiny things about Libby Auld. Believe me, I've tried. And tried. And tried. And tried.

Can I say just one more good thing about her? She's generous. Know why? She gave me a pass for the first dinner service at Elote to giveaway to one lucky TDT reader.

Up for grabs is a $20 gift certificate to the soft opening tomorrow night (Thursday, Feb. 26) at Elote. To enter to win it, leave your answer to this question in the comments: What excites/irks you most about dining downtown?

I'll randomly pick and post a winner tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 26) at 1 p.m. Good luck, and puffy tacos!

Got Art? (Plus, A Giveaway)

This post was a collaboration of Holly Wall, author of Tulsa Art Blog and arts writer for Urban Tulsa Weekly and Tasha Does Tulsa author Natasha Ball.

If a city’s artistic endeavors speak to the quality of life it offers, then the livin’ is good in Tulsa.

Holly has covered local visual and performance arts for Urban Tulsa Weekly for almost three years, and every time she sees new works by a progressive contemporary artist, or watches an actor fearlessly give himself over to character, or attends a performance by our world-renowned ballet and opera companies, she can’t help but beam with pride. There is a wealth of talent in Tulsa, and citizens of our city should consider themselves lucky that the artists working here have chosen to do so, rather than take their craft elsewhere.

It’s common for out-of-towners (and even some in-towners) to be unaware of the bountiful arts offerings available in Tulsa. And since it’s TDT’s mission to prove you folks who think there’s nothing to do in Tulsa wrong, it's time to set the record straight about the arts here.

So, whether you’re new in town, planning a day trip to Tulsa or just finally want to succumb to the realization that your city has more to offer you than you’ve ever dreamed, we’ve got a weekend chock full of arts-themed activities to keep you occupied. Choose one or two, or do ‘em all.

Just know: this is not everything. This barely scratches the surface of what’s being produced and performed here in Tulsa. But, it’s a good place to start.

New Genre Festival XVI
Living Arts of Tulsa
Feb. 26-March 1

Living Arts of Tulsa has been presenting and developing cutting-edge, contemporary art forms in Tulsa since its inception in 1969. Through exhibitions, creative workshops, performances, films/videos, demonstrations, educational activities and research, Living Arts seeks to fulfill two goals: to bring to Tulsa outside artists who are pushing the limits of their media and to encourage local artists to develop new, exploratory works not usually seen in Tulsa.

Perhaps the best way to get an idea of what Living Arts does is to visit its annual New Genre Festival, which just happens to be going on this weekend. Scattered around downtown and Midtown Tulsa are various exhibits and performances by 110 local, regional and national artists, all of varying media and all of whom are exploring the boundaries of non-traditional art forms. For a complete itinerary of the events happening this weekend, visit Tulsa Art Blog and check out “New Genre in a Nutshell,” or visit the Living Arts online.

Bonus (as if you needed one): Most of the exhibitions are free and open to the public. But, the performance works have an admission price. Check the Living Arts Web site for showtimes and ticket prices.

Hansel and Gretel
Tulsa Opera
Tulsa PAC, Chapman Music Hall
Friday, Feb. 27/March 1; 7:30 p.m./2:30 p.m.

The classic fairytale of the Brothers Grimm is combined with a lush Wagner-inspired romantic score in this evocative operatic masterpiece. Find tickets at the Tulsa Opera Web site.

Educating Rita
Theatre Tulsa
Tulsa PAC, Liddy Doenges Theatre
Feb. 26-28, 8 p.m.

A twenty six year old woman working as a hairdresser signs up for a university course because she is eager to learn and discover what the educated lifestyle has to offer. Learn more and find tickets at the Theatre Tulsa Web site. Read more at the Theatre Tulsa Web site.

Romeo and Juliet
(The new!) Playhouse Theatre
Tulsa PAC, Charles E. Norman Theatre
Feb. 25-28, 8 p.m.

Come witness one of the greatest love stories of all time like you’ve never seen it before. Read more and find tickets at the Playhouse Theatre Web site.

Hannah Schrag: “The Far East: China”
Thyme: An American Bistro
Opens Feb. 27

Not all art happens in galleries or theatres. Several local restaurants show local art, including Thyme: An American Bistro, at 31st and Harvard.

Showing starting this weekend is Wichita, Kans.-born freelance photographer Hannah Schrag. Schrag became interested in photography after working on a humanitarian project in India. Her greatest enjoyment comes from international assignments, capturing the lives of people and the cultural beauty of Asia and South America. In 2007, Schrag journeyed to China to explore her mother's native culture. During her time there, she backpacked through four different provinces, into the heart of China. It was during this time that the China photos were taken and it is why each one has a special story.

Gilcrease Museum
1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Road

In addition to the extensive permanent collections at Gilcrease Museum, now showing is an exhibition of American impressionist work from 1870 to 1940, original Cheyenne and Arapaho ledger art and more than 40 works by wood sculptor Willard Stone.

Gilcrease Museum is one of the country’s best resources for American history and art. Founded by Thomas Gilcrease, the 460-acre museum houses the world's largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. The museum also offers an unparalleled collection of Native American art and artifacts, as well as historical manuscripts, documents and maps. The museum also offers wonderful educational programs for children and adults. Twenty-three of the museum’s acres are cultivated, lush gardens.

Philbrook Museum of Art
2727 S. Rockford Road

In addition to the Philbrook collection of Native American art, African art, American painting and sculpture, Japanese painting, European painting and sculpture, Baroque painting and sculpture, modern and contemporary art, outdoor sculpture and works on paper (WHEW!), the museum also has on display selected works from its recently-acquired Eugene B. Adkins collection, a collection of Native American works on paper and an exhibition of masterpieces of American photography from the George Eastman House Collection.

Philbrook Museum exists because oilman Waite Phillips and his wife Genevieve understood and appreciated the possibility of Tulsa’s future as an arts and culture hub. In 1938, the couple donated their 72-room mansion and the surrounding 23 acres of grounds, originally constructed as a place for their two children to entertain guests, for an arts endeavor. Today, the museum is astonishing in not only its permanent collection of great art, but also its immense and beautiful gardens and its commitment to arts education in Tulsa.


Would love to go out and see a show this weekend, but you checked all your pockets and alas, you have no tickets? Fear not. Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Theatre Tulsa, one lucky Tasha Does Tulsa reader will win two tickets to the Thursday night, 8 p.m. showing of Educating Rita.

To enter the drawing for the tickets, leave in the comments your answer this question: What do you love/hate most about the Tulsa art scene?

I'll randomly choose and post a winner at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday). Good luck, and happy art crawling!

If the art event you're headed to this weekend doesn't appear in this post, please e-mail me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tulsa Places: RiverWalk Crossing

The weather in Green Country promises to be lovely this week, if not a little cloudy and prone to tornados. But, when has that ever stopped us Okies from having a little fun?

A trip to RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks, just 12 miles from downtown Tulsa, would be an upbeat-yet-relaxing way to spend one of the balmy afternoons coming our away.

It may not seem like it from the sprawling parking lot, but RiverWalk Crossing is a lot of place to explore in one afternoon. Leave it to me to distill it all to five points of interest. These activities are sure to please the kids, the wife, the snotty friends and even the in-laws you suspect might head up the fun police.

Your job is just to get to RiverWalk - that is, after you get done reading this. Get ready to let it all go, man.

1. Live Entertainment

One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to head to RiverWalk Crossing, pick up some ice cream at Marble Slab Creamery or some gelato at Kaffe Bona, and mellow out to some tunes by local bands playing on the RiverWalk Ampitheater, the centerpiece of the "lifestyle center." The river lazily flowing past is a great backdrop to the entire experience.

The crowd is a mixed bag at these concerts, which are, from my experience, free to all. I've seen couples, large families, tons of little kids and groups of high school- and college-age buddies. I've even known a church group or two to meet up at RiverWalk for a concert.

A current event schedule isn't readily available by phone or Internet, but check back at the RiverWalk Crossing site to see what's up. Or, check with Urban Tulsa Weekly, the know-it-alls when it comes to what's doin' in Tulsa.

2. Shopping

When I wrote "lifestyle center" up there, what I really meant was a strip shopping center on steroids that happened to score really well on

The shops at RiverWalk are definitely on the upscale side - no mix of price levels here. Even so, my favorite browsing spots are Azur Couture (men and women's designer clothing), Stonehouse Gallery (furniture, jewelry and art) and West Southwest Territory (lots of locally made stuff).

Phase Two of RiverWalk Crossing (whenever that's gonna happen) promises to bring even more spots where river-bound shop-a-holics can dump the contents of their wallets.

3. Strolling

A (free!!!) walking path runs between RiverWalk Crossing and the river, and it's perfect for baby strolling.

Veering off the path to play is fun, too, as long as you promise not to take your hands off your children for even one second. NOT ONE.

The banks of the Arkansas River look so...Oklahoma. RiverWalk Crossing visitors definitely get their fill of the riverscape.

They can also get a great view of one of Tulsa's weird and ugly buildings.

Oh, my. Thar she blows in all her...eccentricity?

4. Eating

Though RiverWalk Crossing doesn't have the best collection of restaurants in the Tulsa area (that would be a toss-up between Brookside, Cherry Street and Utica Square), dining - which is on my top-three list of things I most love to do - can definitely be done there.

Unlike the shopping, the eats at RiverWalk fit a range of price levels, from fine dining at The Melting Pot to casual eat-and-run places like Sub Station. And, of course, Marble Slab Creamery, which happens to be the home of the $6 ice cream concoction.

Not that my regular-sized Cookies & Cake creation (birthday cake-flavored ice cream with Oreos and chocolate chip cookie dough mixed in) wasn't delicious, because it really, really was. But $6? I could buy an entire 1/2 gallon tub of ice cream at Braum's for less than that.

But I digress. And besides, I don't think Braum's has any ice cream that actually, really does taste like birthday cake.

Pricey ice cream purchase justification: my new hobby, as we all can see.

I love how kids and their families gather around the huge salt water fish tank at the new TK's 2, RiverWalk's asian fusion restaurant with its original location at Utica and Cherry Street. The hostess must be used to it. Her first question wasn't the standard, "How many?" but rather, "Would you folks like to be seated, or are you just enjoying the fish tank?" She had us pegged.

Why, of course I had to be one of the nerds taking photos of the fish tank with my point-and-shoot. I wonder if anyone ever sees me snapping shots and gawking and thinks I'm a tourist. The joke would be on them, right? Say yes.

5. Drinking

There's little else I'd rather do at the end of a Friday or Saturday night out than to sit out on the patio and have a nice cigar, and maybe a little something to drink to go with it.

The Cigar Box, then, is after my own heart. Not only is it my favorite place in town to peruse cigars, but it's also a hip little bar. Have a drink inside or have it brought out to the patio, where you can lounge and puff a cigar.

In a word: Ahhhh.

And don't forget Dirty's Sports Bar & Grill, which put one of its four locations in RiverWalk Crossing. It's the place to be for drinks, sports spectating, live entertainment and better-than-bar food. Don't be afraid to bring the fam - Dirty's even has a kids' menu.

Don't let anyone tell you that RiverWalk Crossing isn't budget friendly in these times when everyone is interested in cutting back. Say you need to come up with a low-cost date for you and your better half. Hit Los Cabos for an appetizer and a shared entree and catch a breeze and some live entertainment on your way down for some gelato (buy the smallest size - it'll be more than enough to satisfy, I promise).

That particular night out would hit your wallet for $30-$35, not counting whatever it costs for you to get to RiverWalk. I implore you to come up with a date night for the same price and get everything you're looking for - dinner, a romantic walk by the river, dessert and live music - in just one stop.

What's your favorite thing to do at RiverWalk? Have any ideas for a RiverWalk date? Leave it in the comments.

Monday, February 23, 2009


This is where I wish I was right now.

Wait...where is that?

Hint: Check out the (very) useful new mobile site here. You know, on your mobile.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview: Sindy Does Tulsa

I love the I Am Tulsa profiles in one of our local magazines, Tulsa People.

The feature, a partnership between the magazine and Tulsa's Young Professionals (TYPros), highlights those Tulsans who have worked to make Tulsa a more exciting place to live. Mary Beth Babcock, owner of Dwelling Spaces, as been featured, along with Mike Villafuerte of events planning agency Notable Events, Corine Fiagome with Tulsa's YWCA and Cory Hoffart, founder of Green Collar Energy.

I'd like to add to the conversation by featuring interviews with Tasha Does Tulsa readers here every couple of weeks or so. Some fascinating people read this blog, and just because they're not risking opening a business during a bum economy or putting in 40 hours a week on 27 nonprofit boards around town doesn't mean their stories don't deserve the spotlight.

To kick things off is Sindy of the blog Sindy in Tulsa. A quick visit to Sindy's blog makes it pretty obvious that she ain't from 'round these parts. She was born in Schneeberg (it means Snow Mountain) in the eastern part of Germany. The town is southwest of Berlin, close to the Czech border.

Sindy has traveled extensively, having lived 10 years in Dresden and globetrotting from Italy, France and Austria to the Czech Republic and parts of eastern Europe. She moved to Tulsa in June 2006, after just three short visits here.

Sindy's blog is a way for her to keep her friends and family in Germany up to date about her life in America. She writes about her and her husband's two dogs, her hobbies, food and our crazy Oklahoma weather.

What was your first impression of Tulsa?

On the first drive from the airport I noticed how sprawling the city is. Coming from Europe where everything is a lot closer together that really struck me. Tulsa has about the same number of inhabitants as Dresden but takes up a lot more space. I also was very glad to see all the parks and how green Tulsa is. The signs and billboards were pretty overwhelming, and the very straight streets only confused me. I was used to navigating winding and often narrow streets that spread out from a central square. So it took me awhile to get used to the grid and all the numbers. I also was surprised to find hardly any sidewalks or public transportation. There were some other things but most important to me was how friendly and open the people here are.

What are some ways Tulsa is different from where you grew up?

Actually there are not that many once you get over the language and culture differences. The greater part of my childhood was spent in the GDR, which was a lot like the 50s here. And in some ways the neighborhood we live in now reminds me of that. Tulsa to me feels more like a small town, where everybody knows each other. I quite like that; it makes me feel so much more at home.

If you could, what would you change about Tulsa?

Whenever I talk to other Europeans about what we miss here, two things usually come up: bread and IKEA. I know it sounds shallow but as every American who ever went to Europe knows, the bread there is different. Thankfully there are a now some places in Tulsa that bake very yummy bread.

The other thing is the lack of an IKEA store. I am highly addicted to their cool and affordable designs, and it would be great to have a store closer by.

Since I moved here a lot of people have become more environmentally conscious and I hope this trend will continue. There are great ways out there to live a healthy and happy life, be it the local farmers markets or your own vegetable garden. I’m really glad I made the move to Tulsa. It is turning out to be one of my best decisions so far.

What are you favorite things to do for fun in Tulsa?
We like to go hiking with our two dogs up on Turkey Mountain. Whenever I say that, the locals give me a funny look; but, as I understand, the area has changed quite a bit. Then there are the festivals; I especially like the Mayfest and the Blue Dome Arts Festival. The Philbrook and Gilcrease museums are great too. The Christmas Market at the German American Society is a must for us because I always get a bit homesick around the holidays. I also like Woodward Park and the Rose Garden, and any other park near our place. Then there is window shopping in Brookside and on Cherry Street, and browsing in any bookstore I can find.

Thanks for letting us peer into your life, Sindy! Not only are you one hip chick, but you also have the coolest accent ever.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tasha Does Kansas City, Baby Barf Edition

Weekend before last, I loaded up my little family, drove to our best friends', and made them drive us to Kansas City, MO, for the weekend.

After settling in at the hotel in the bustling little community of Westport Saturday morning, we walked (walked!!!) to here for lunch:

Look! A brew pub! They exist!

Sorry. Not getting out of Oklahoma and away from its crazy beer and liquor laws much, I sometimes forget there are brew pubs out there in the badlands.

While you wait for your food at McCoys - which I thought was very good, by the way - you can elbow other diners in the backs of their heads as you gawk at this:

The guts of a microbrewery! Well, part of them.

Speaking of guts:
My little one's ended up all over the floor, thanks to some fancy-tasting cheese in his mac.

Note to self: In the event you affect yourself and those around you by giving another child its birth, do not travel with it and expect to have time to "relax."

Schooled by motherhood once again.

The rest of us managed to keep our lunches down, thank you very much.

That's Aubrey, Amanda's husband. He likes fish and chips. Apparently.

And who wouldn't?

Even if the fish and chips at McNellie's in downtown Tulsa is better.

I'm pretty sure my little one would agree.

That's him after a few sweet potato fries at McNellie's the Friday afternoon before we skipped town.

Compared to his state of being Saturday afternoon after a bit of the fare at an out-of-town pub:

Homesickness: He's doing it right.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Contest Winner!

I was lucky enough not only to host an up-and-coming Tulsa blogger on this blog yesterday, but to also gather your tales of retail woe as entries for a Jeff Martin book giveaway.

After skimming parts of this book and reading your comments, I'm going to a meanie-head and say: My experiences in customer service were quite pleasant, actually. I was one of the lucky ones. From the time I was 16 until my senior year of high school, I occupied a not-exactly-ergonomic but still cushy chair at the Mazzio's call center here in Tulsa. After that I worked at the Cherry Street location of Panera Bread. Who could complain about talking on the phone, bagging cookies and mopping out a giant oven all day? I'm sure there were days when I could have, but looking back on those years, Call Center Chick and Bakery Girl were definitely O.K. jobs.

Does that mean I've never had one of those jobs that required me to fetch coffee, pick up dry cleaning, reshelve a wayward book of government maps five times in a day, label serials by hand in a hot, dark, musty, forgotten part of one of Oklahoma's largest libraries, refill the paper of every single printer in said library three times a day, or make copies on an ancient copy machine until my ears rang? No. But those jobs couldn't exactly be categorized under such a pretty term as customer service. They were more like adventures in indentured servitude.

Not that I'm bitter.

And now, the winner of a pristine, undefiled copy of Jeff Martin's "The Customer is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles!"

Congrats, Amanda! Not only are you my best friend and my son's fairy godmother, but you are the winner of this book! I told you putting up with me would pay off. Now, never enter a contest on this blog again, because when you win, I look like I'm playing favorites, and my readers might retaliate by staging a mutiny.

Yeah. A grizzly mutiny by the other three of my readers besides you who read books. I bet they'd even dress up as pirates. Me timbers, they shiver.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Local Encounters (Plus, a Giveaway)

And now a word from Holly Wall, local journalist (also, but definitely not limited to, here) and blogger behind the newly-launched and much-needed Tulsa Art Blog:

I’ve always been semi-ashamed of my sordid past in customer service. I probably shouldn’t be; I put myself through college and the painstaking months of career-related job searching that followed by providing service with a smile – usually to people who didn’t really deserve it.

Still, before I landed what I would call my first “real” job, whenever someone would ask what I do for a living, I’d find myself hanging my head, mumbling something about “waitress” and then go on to inform him of what I wished I were doing, the more ambitious plans that lay ahead of me.

At the same time, the many years I spent in customer service definitely shaped who I am now, affected my work ethic and the amount of respect I bestow on those clearing my plates at my favorite restaurant. I feel about customer service the way some people feel about the military – that everyone should be required to serve for at least a year.

I have a point, I promise.

I wander into Dwelling Spaces as often as I can, and every time I do, I find myself standing in front of owner Mary Beth Babcock’s collection of local literature. Without fail, I find myself drawn to this little blue book: “The Customer is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles,” edited by local writer and retail veteran Jeff Martin.

I make it a point to read Jeff’s contribution to Tulsa People magazine every month, and I enjoy his quick-witted humor, enough so that I’m compelled to purchase his book, a compilation of tales of horror and hope in the customer service industry, every time I see it. I always get preoccupied, though, by whatever purchasing need I find more immediate at the time – Joe Andoe’s autobiography, Louis & Cluck’s latest t-shirt creation, an Ugly Doll for my kid – and I end up putting the little blue book back on the shelf.

A few days ago, I was at the PAC, interviewing the cast and conductor of Tulsa Opera’s Hansel and Gretel, and afterward, I stepped into Dwelling Spaces with the explicit purpose of nabbing my very own copy of that little blue book – and a Valentine’s Day gift for my baby boy.

I picked up the book and was perusing Dwelling Spaces’ other goodies when Mary Beth noticed what I was holding and said, “That’s a great book.” Then, half whispering and half laughing, she not-so-discreetly pointed her finger toward a guy standing at the register and said, “He wrote it!”

As fate would have it, Jeff Martin was standing in front of me, shaking my hand, thanking me for buying his book, which he offered to sign for me. I walked out of Dwelling Spaces that afternoon with a signed copy of “The Customer is Always Wrong,” inscribed with a personal note to a “fellow customer service refugee” and a newfound justification for my passion for shopping locally. If you don’t make it a point to patronize locally-owned businesses and purchase goods designed, made and written by fellow Tulsans, you miss out on opportunities for chance meetings and personal touches you simply can’t get at big box chains.

Experiences like that are invaluable, and that one left me more excited about my purchase than I would have been had I not met Jeff that day. I couldn’t wait to get home and delve into the book. And, so far, I haven’t been disappointed. The stories are hilarious.

Want your own copy of Jeff Martin's "The Customer is Always Wrong?" Leave your own (abridged, please) retail chronicles in the comments.

I'll do a random drawing from the comments left here stamped with a time before 8 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. I'll post the resulting winner of a bright and shiny new copy of Jeff's Martin's book, courtesy of Mary Beth at Dwelling Spaces, tomorrow afternoon.

Can't wait to wallow with you in your misery!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tasha Does Tulsa, Valentine's Day Style

I'm sitting here with a glass of sweet wine, uploading my photos from the evening of my fifth Valentine's Day as a married chick and my first as a mom.

It was a great time. I roamed T-Town not just glad to get out among the living, but also proud to know I had a diaper in the secret compartment of my purse, along with a toy starfish and a binkie. Just in case.

Romantic, eh?

Our first stop of the evening was the cozy little dining room at Biga, a restaurant at 4329 S. Peoria by one of the best chefs in town. We had lobster ravioli and these amazing, perfectly cooked scallops; then, some cannolis. After, a short nap, because that's the only way to recover from a dinner so ever-loving GOOD.

"Hey, honey, wave to the Tasha Does Tulsa readers!" Heh.

So, Skate Date. I was really looking forward to busting it on the ice, but alas:

Ack! The chaos! My agoraphobia! The port I had with those cannolis! It was pure craziness, I tell you.

Oh! Horses. A carriage. No restaurants or clubs within view of the main entrance of the BOK Center. Idyllic!

But what a main entrance it is. Wow.

There's nothing like good coffee to assuage one's sadness at not having the opportunity to embarass oneself by wiping out in front of hundreds of strangers.

Oh, cute little coffeehouse Valentine's cookies, how I loved you. Blue ones, too, even though I didn't quite get the color choice. And that's okay.

I love The Coffee House on Cherry Street.

Apparently, so does everyone else in town. That place was packed tonight.

We ended the evening with our standard rummage through the bargain bins at Borders before heading home for one last game of "chase" with our little man.

I love how that game always ends in the same way.

Valentine's Day 2009: Success! Even if we didn't stay out all night or bring the house down or whatever it is the kids are saying these days.

Have a good rest of the weekend, everyone!
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