Zerkapalooza

Zerkapalooza has made Joplin cool.

 

Or should I say lit? After all, that’s what the youngsters are saying these days. And there were a lot of youngsters, as well as upper-youngsters (as I like to think of myself and my friends), at last year’s event.

 

Zerkapalooza is a laid-back, talent-packed musical bonanza that highlights the area’s homegrown artists. Similar to the well-known Chicago festival Lollapalooza, which has been attracting huge crowds for over a quarter of a century, Zerkapalooza celebrates creativity and fun.

 

Zerka is like Lolla’s little offspring living in southwest Missouri, infusing the Ozarks with its cosmopolitan genes. I’m thrilled that Zerka is here because now we can experience what Lolla is like without traveling 600 miles or having to fight monstrous crowds and traffic.

 

I’d say that’s a pretty nice deal.

 

And Zerkapalooza is an annual event that is open to people of all ages, which means that I get to hang with my teenager, listen to great music, and feel like a younger-youngster for a couple of days each year.  

 

Last year, my friend and I took our daughters to Zerkapalooza for a girls’ night out, and my daughter still talks about how much fun she had. That’s right, she had fun with her mother. I’m pretty proud of myself for scoring a victory on this one.

 

I had a blast with her, too. We walked through the heart of downtown Joplin, visiting several venues to listen to different bands. One of my favorite musicians was performing; her name is Olivia Wu, and she’s a singer, songwriter, and guitar player.

 

And a teenager.

 

zerka olivia

 

So not only did I want to hear Olivia’s beautiful voice, I wanted my daughter to witness the magic that happens when a person – a teenager – follows his or her passion. Heck, Olivia inspires me every time I listen to her.

 

Olivia won’t be gracing this year’s Zerkapalooza because of a scheduling conflict, but she’s not the only source of inspiration you’ll find at the festival. There’s a huge lineup of many other talented area bands, which you can find here.

 

New to Zerkapalooza this year is the food truck component, which will be set up right in front of Memorial Hall. Adding food trucks to a music fest is like adding jelly to a peanut butter sandwich; it just makes a good thing even better.

 

But wait – there’s more! In addition to food trucks, there’ll also be non-musical entertainment, again for people of all ages, like a petting zoo, dunk tank, rock wall, bungee run, and – I’m a bit out of my mind about this one – a Wipeout Challenge on inflatables!

 

My family used to watch the show Wipeout together religiously. Have you seen this show? Google it. It’s hilarious to watch people making their way through larger-than-life obstacle courses, and even more hilarious watching them wipe out (don’t worry, they’re not harmed in any way – I don’t laugh at people getting hurt, I assure you).

 

Now I’ll have the chance to be one of those lucky participants and my family can get a good laugh watching me wipe out.

 

With all of the options for experiencing fun at this festival, I think the theme for Zerkapalooza should be “carpe diem.”

 

Or as today’s youngsters say: YOLO!

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Joplin History and Mineral Museum

Woolly mammoth fossils.

 

Arrowheads.

 

Glowing rocks.

 

Where in Joplin can you see these cool items?  At the Joplin History & Mineral Museum in Schifferdecker Park.

 

The museum complex is located just west of the aquatic center. Outside of the entrance, visitors are greeted by a dinosaur sculpture which stands about six feet tall and is made from scrap metal and other items such as license plates. Kids will get a kick out of it.

 

joplin-museum-dinosaur

The complex houses a variety of collections. The exhibit displays are informative and offer some unique items to view. In the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum, huge slabs of rocks and minerals are displayed in an area that resembles the inside of a mine shaft.

 

joplin-museum-rocks

On the way up to the second floor, there’s a case containing fossil remains of a woolly mammoth and some Native American arrowheads – all discovered in the four-state area.

 

joplin-museum-mammoth

The exhibit continues upstairs, where it traces the lead and zinc mining history of the area. There are maps of the mining areas and I was curious to see if my house was built over a mine shaft. It wasn’t.

 

I was fascinated by the exhibit showing which minerals are found in everyday household products.

 

joplin-museum-products

“Galena: Lead ore used in batteries and detergents. The production of lead leaves bismuth which is used in Pepto-Bismol.”

 
Meanwhile, my kids were fixated on the display of fluorescent minerals. Here’s what they look light with a standard light on them.

 

joplin-museum-rocks-light

Here’s what happens after they are exposed to a long-wave light.

 

joplin-museum-rocks-glow

No wonder my kids kept pressing the long-wave light button; it was so mesmerizing to see those seemingly ordinary rocks transform into glowing, alien-like formations.

 

On the other side of the museum complex, the Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum houses a variety of collections that focus on the history and culture of the Joplin area. Highlights of this section include artifacts from the House of Lords, a famous saloon from Joplin’s mining days.

 

joplin-museum-lords

This roulette wheel from the 1890s was in the second floor of the House of Lords.

 
And jewelry that was recovered from Bonnie and Clyde’s Joplin hideout in 1933.

 

joplin-museum-necklace-1

 
Other exhibits at the complex include the Joplin Sports Authority Sports Hall of Fame, the National Historical Cookie Cutter Museum, and the Merle Evans Circus Tent #27 Miniature Circus (my daughter spent about twenty minutes staring wide-eyed at this miniature circus that fills an entire room).

 

joplin-museum-circus-2

Every citizen in Joplin should make at least one visit to the Joplin History & Mineral Museum to gain a sense Joplin’s rich history.

 

Oh, and to see the cool glowing rocks, too.

 

 

 The Joplin History & Mineral Museum is located at 504 S. Schifferdecker Avenue. While you’re there, say hi to Percy, the museum’s official furry greeter.

 

joplin-museum-percy

Don’t let his death stare fool you – Percy is quite friendly.

I just don’t think he wanted me to  take his photo at that moment.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Carthage Civil War Museum

Did you know that the first full-scale land battle of the Civil War was fought near Carthage, Missouri?

 

I didn’t.

 

Sure, I’m not a Civil War expert, but I’m familiar with what I’d previously thought was the first major land battle of that war: Bull Run.

 

Yet, the Battle of Carthage (also called the Battle of Dry Fork) was fought on July 5, 1861.

 

That was 16 days prior to Bull Run.

 

I learned about this important Missouri battle when I visited the Civil War Museum, located just off the downtown square in Carthage.

 

civil war museum outside

Located in an old fire station, the museum faces another historic building: the handsome limestone Carthage post office, which was built in 1896.

 

civil war museum po close

The moment I walked inside the Civil War Museum, I was wowed by this stunning mural by local artist Andy Thomas, which depicts the burning of the Carthage square during the war.

 

civil war museum thomas mural

The museum itself is small, yet informative. By reading through the exhibits, watching the short video, and studying the diorama of the battle itself, I learned quite a bit.

 

The battle itself involved 1,100 German-American Union soldiers from St. Louis, led by Colonel Franz Sigel. Confederate Governor Claiborne F. Jackson led the Missouri State Guard, commanding about 6,000 men. This was the only time in history that a sitting governor has led troops in the field.

 

The battle was a victory for the Confederacy.

 

Here are some other things I discovered at the museum:

 

“Petticoat Flag” 

Here’s the story behind this painting by Andy Thomas: Union supporter Norris C. Hood lived on the Carthage square with his family. Secretly, his daughters had made a U.S. flag and placed it among daughter Lucy’s petticoats in order to keep it hidden from the many local Confederate supporters.

 

But on July 4, 1861, when Colonel Sigel’s troops entered Carthage before the battle, Lucy removed the flag and proudly waved it overhead as a welcome to the Union soldiers.

 

civil war museum petticoat

Weapons and Ammunition

It’s always fascinating to see artifacts from the fields.

 

civil war museum ammo

Belle Starr

Called the “Bandit Queen,” Belle Starr led quite a colorful life. She was described as an attractive teenager with a bold personality.

 

civil war museum belle

Yep, that’s bold.

 

Born as Myra Maebelle Shirley in 1848 just north of Carthage, Starr was the daughter of a hotel-tavern owner who supported the Confederacy. Take a walk on the north side of the Carthage square and look for this building.

 

civil war museum starr hotel

In front of the building, you’ll find this marker.

 

civil war museum starr hotel site

Starr would often entertain the hotel guests here with her skills on the piano.

 

But then the Civil War came to Carthage; in 1864, her brother Bud was killed by a Union soldier in nearby Sarcoxie. Enraged by the loss of her brother, Starr began living her life brazenly, going on to marry a series of outlaws, and ultimately suffering fatal gunshot wounds in 1889.

 

She did give birth to one daughter, Pearl, and one of the museum’s exhibits shows a portion of a letter that Starr wrote to her daughter while in prison.

 

civil war museum belle letter

 

civil war museum letter typed

The Burning of Carthage

The Civil War brought fires to the town in 1863 and 1864, destroying most of its buildings, including the courthouse. The current courthouse, which was built in 1894-95 on the same site, is one of the most photographed buildings in Missouri.

 

One structure that did survive the war was the Kendrick House. The oldest home in Jasper County, the Kendrick House was used as a command center for both sides during the war. It’s a short drive from the square and is located at 131 North Garrison Street.

 

civil war museum kendrick

It wasn’t long after my initial visit to the Civil War Museum that I returned, this time bringing my parents who were visiting from Chicago. My dad loves Civil War anything. He majored in history in college, so our summer family vacations always included stops at historical locations like Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

 

Because of that, you’d think I’d have a strong knowledge of the major Civil War battles, but I don’t. I simply have memories of staring at battlefields through glassy eyes and offering pained teenaged sighs to anyone within earshot.

 

But I’m happy to say that my war museum etiquette has improved dramatically as I’ve matured, and I welcomed the opportunity to prove this to my parents by bringing them to the Civil War Museum in Carthage.

 

I’m glad I did, because my second visit to the museum was enriched by the added information that my history-loving father provided as we walked through the displays.

 

And this time, I listened without sighing.

 

The Carthage Civil War Museum is located at 205 South Grant Street in Carthage, Missouri. Click here for more information. 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Keltoi Winery

You wouldn’t think you’d find it here, right in the middle of farmland in southwest Missouri.

 

But here it is.

 

Its bright yellow building acts like a beacon for visitors, letting them know that their quest has come to a fruitful end on this quiet country road.

 

Like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, Keltoi Winery offers visitors a treasure of sorts: the rare and precious chance to while away an afternoon, sipping wine and spending time with friends and family.

 

keltoi arbor

Carrie in front of her pot of gold.

 

The leprechaun guarding this particular pot of gold is Erv Langan, the gregarious owner of Keltoi Winery. Erv refers to himself as a “chubby leprechaun,” and even if you don’t like wine, it’s worth the drive to Keltoi just to meet this man whose personality is larger than life.

 

keltoi erv 2

Erv

My husband joined me on my first visit to Keltoi. We lounged inside by the cozy fire, since it was wintertime. On my most recent visit, he served as chauffeur. He kindly dropped off me and my friend Carrie at the winery so that we could imbibe freely. But you don’t need my husband to drive you to Keltoi; just pace yourself and enjoy responsibly – and always have a designated driver.

 

keltoi barrel front

 

To figure out which Keltoi wine best suited our palates, Carrie and I ordered a wine tasting, which allowed us to sample around 10 varieties of Keltoi wines for just $6 each. We began the wine tasting inside the bright yellow building, where there are several tables to sit at, as well as a comfy seating arrangement by the fireplace.

 

keltoi guests

 

We sat on the sofa with a plate of crackers nearby so that we could clear our palate between each trying wine. Then, the wine fest began.

 

I’ll just highlight a few of the wines here so I don’t spoil the experience for you when you go to Keltoi (because you’ll want to go to find your own pot of gold, right?).

 

Red Wines
The Norton is the most popular red wine at Keltoi, and it’s made from the Norton grape, which is the state grape of Missouri. I didn’t even know we had a state grape.

 

Biddy Early is named after an Irish woman who was thought to have possessed mystical powers. This name suits the wine because it’s a bit magical: it has a smoky aroma but, thanks to the flavors of cinnamon and clove, “tastes like Christmas,” according to Carrie. This would be a great wine to enjoy during the winter holidays.

 

Red Shamrock is my favorite red wine at Keltoi because it tastes very similar to a merlot, which I love to drink. A medium-bodied wine, it presents a mix of fruit, earth, and spice. It’s made from the Chambourcin grape, which is a French-American hybrid.

 

keltoi teardrops 2

 

White Wines and Fruit Wines
Irish Raindrops, a semi-sweet wine, is the most popular white wine at Keltoi, and the one most requested for weddings.

 

I’m usually not a sweet wine drinker, but I really enjoyed Irish Moondrops, which tasted like butterscotch to me. I love butterscotch.

 

As for fruit wines, we sampled pear, apple, and peach. All were delicious, and each one’s flavor was true to its fruit. The apple and pear wines reminded me of fall, and the peach wine reminded me of summer.

 

A wine tasting at Keltoi can take as long as you want it to, and for Carrie and I, it lasted a few hours. But that’s the beauty of this. Unlike happy hour at Sonic, where drinks are guzzled down to quench thirst, a wine tasting at Keltoi is an experience to be enjoyed mindfully, and to savor.

 

Keltoi was bustling with activity on the Sunday afternoon that we visited. Tables were filled with couples playing cards while they shared a bottle of wine (my husband and I will have to try that soon), as well as groups of girlfriends chatting away, just like Carrie and me.

 

Canine friends graced our presence that day, as well. There was Kayga, Erv’s quiet old pal.

 

keltoi kayga

 

And this sweet guy, too.

 

 

keltoi sneakers

 

This is Sneakers, who recently chose Erv to be his person. Erv named him Sneakers because he likes to sneak food when no one is looking.

 

keltoi sneakers crackers

Must. Sneak. Cracker.

 

If you’re not a dog person, don’t worry. The dogs here will leave you alone unless you specifically show them attention. Since I was with Carrie, the pied piper of the canine world, we enjoyed our share of puppy time.

 

Halfway through our wine tasting, Carrie and I moved outside to the patio so that we could enjoy the beautiful spring day. My plan was to finish our tasting and then walk the grounds of the winery, since the last time I’d been there it was winter and too cold for a stroll.

 

keltoi patio 2

 

Keltoi has a mile-long walking trail, and an area called Maynooth, which I was curious to explore. Named after an ancient site in Ireland, Maynooth contains a Fairy Circle encircling a Tree of Life, as well as a replica of the megalithic site Nine Ladies.
 

But my plans were halted when I saw my husband driving our mini-van into the parking lot. I swear it was morphing into a pumpkin with each rotation of its wheels.

 
Ladies’ afternoon at the winery had come to an end.
 
Still, the magical feeling that we’d experienced that day stayed with us as we drove away. Like a generous leprechaun, Erv had shared a piece of his gold with us, and we felt a bit richer because of it.

 

 

Keltoi Winery is located at 17705 County Road 260 in Oronogo, Missouri.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum

The current population of Baxter Springs, Kansas, hovers around 4,000, so it’s mind-boggling to imagine that 50,000 people once congregated here.

But they did just that at one of the Civil War soldier’s reunions back in 1911, and that’s just one of many cool things that I learned while exploring the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum.

 
First of all, the museum itself is something to behold. For a town of 4,000, I was expecting a fairly small building whose exhibits I could walk through in less than an hour. From outward appearances, that seemed to be the case.
 
baxter-museum-cvb1

 

But what I didn’t see from the parking lot is that the building extends quite a bit toward the back, plus there is a basement area, with the entire museum offering 23,000 square feet of historical information on Baxter Springs and the surrounding area. I had grossly underestimated how much time I would need there; this place requires a few hours to get through.

 

That’s because there are so many decades of history packed into the 3 square miles of Baxter Springs and it requires a large facility to tell the tale of this town. Luckily for me, a friendly volunteer greeted me when I walked into the museum, handing me detailed brochures about area historical sites and attractions, then guiding me where to start exploring the museum.

 

For the most part, the exhibits are laid out chronologically, beginning with the Civil War era, a time when Baxter Springs was put on the map, but not for the most peaceful reason. I’ll give you a brief pre-Civil War summary first.

 

In the Beginning…

The land in and around Baxter Springs was originally inhabited by the Osage Indians. The first white settler was John Baxter, after whom the town was named. Baxter settled here in 1849.

 

The Battle of Baxter Springs

Things started getting volatile in the area in the decade that followed. Baxter Springs was sandwiched between the anti-slavery forces of the North and the pro-slavery forces in the South; Kansas was a Union state. On October 6, 1863, Baxter Springs was the site of a massacre, when William Quantrill and 400 guerillas attacked Fort Blair as they were making their way southward (read more about the massacre here).

 

I think it would have been fascinating to have a psychologist analyze Quantrill. According to the museum exhibit, Quantrill was a former school teacher from Ohio who came to the area in 1857 and “quickly honed his violent nature by living with thieves and murderers, committing several brutal murders during this time.”

 

That gives me the heebie-jeebies! How could he be a schoolteacher and then a repeat murderer?

 

baxter quantrill

Photo of Quantrill courtesy of Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum

 
The following mural of “Quantrill’s Raid on Baxter Springs” by artist Edmund Victor Ness is also displayed in the museum. Ness’ style is similar to another area artist Thomas Hart Benton, whose murals are displayed in Joplin’s City Hall building just 20 minutes away.

 

 

baxter museum mural

One artifact from the Civil War period that really stood out to me was this bookmark that a mother made for her soldier son, which she created by braiding strands of her hair and gluing them to a paper heart.

 

baxter museum hair heart

She placed the bookmark inside a bible and included this inscription: Your mother’s love and blessing go with you. May the Lord protect you on the day of battle. 

 

If you’d like to visit the actual sites of the Battle of Baxter Springs, the museum has put together a self-guided auto tour with twelve stops on it. You can pick up a copy in the lobby of the museum.

 

The Wild West

From 1867 to 1872, Baxter Springs boasted the title of first cattle town in the Midwest, as the route through here was the shortest distance from the Texas ranches to the markets in the North and the East.

 

baxter museum bank counterThis counter is from another bank that was robbed.

 
The cow town days were wild, with gambling, crime, and prostitution running rampant (over 30 “ladies of the night” were walking the streets in the 1870s). In 1876, Jesse James and an accomplice robbed Crowell Bank and ran off with $2900. 

 

baxter museum baxter bank

In the basement of the museum, there’s a representation of what the town’s boardwalk looked like in the 1870s, complete with a jail. Both kids and adults will get a kick out of walking on the wooden boards and peering inside the various shop windows to get a glimpse of what life was like back then. On the right, there’s a replica of a 1910 farm house.

 

baxter museum 1870s boardwalk

From Lawless to Luxury

When the lawless days of the cow town era ended in the 1880s, the town did a complete 180-degree turn when it began promoting itself as a health resort destination. A park was built on Military Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets, and people came from all over the country to drink the local spring water, which many claimed cured their ailments.

 

baxter museum hotel photo

The luxurious Springs Hotel was built at 9th and Military Avenue to accommodate visitors, but it burned to the ground in 1914. Whatever happened to those springs? I’d always wondered why the town was called Baxter Springs since I’d never heard anyone mention actual springs, and I finally learned the answer to this puzzle during my visit to the museum.

 

In the early part of the 20th century, the flow of the springs gradually decreased, then disappeared entirely in the late 1920s. It’s generally believed that it was due to area mining activities – which I’ll get to in a minute.

 

Officer Reunions

Baxter Springs hosted annual Civil War soldiers’ reunions, with the first one being held in 1883, 20 years after the massacre at Fort Blair.

 

baxter museum war reunion

The reunions were great celebrations, and one of the rides featured there was a precursor to today’s coasters; “Shoot the Chute” plunged from the top of a hill into the Spring River.

 

baxter museum shoot the chute

Peak attendance for the reunions reached 50,000 in 1911, but the annual events ended in 1914.

 

The Mining Era

With the discovery of minerals in the surrounding area, the mining boom hit Baxter Springs from 1916 through the 1920s.

 

baxter museum 4 man can photoOne man exiting the four-man can

 

baxter museum 4 man canClaustrophobia, anyone?

 
To me, one of the most fascinating artifacts at the museum is the portable aluminum therapy machine, which is the only known one in existence.

 

baxter museum lung machine

Donated by the Picher Mining Museum, this machine was used to treat silicosis, a lung disease that was prevalent among miners.

 

Two miners at a time were given treatments of aluminum powder dust, gradually increasing treatment time and frequency until 200 treatments were completed. After all of that, there’s still no evidence that the treatments stopped the further development of silicosis in the patients.

 

The Mother Road and Beyond

In 1926, Baxter’s Military Avenue was designated as Route 66, and another new era began. The highway brought many visitors to Baxter Springs – as well as more outlaws. On two consecutive Saturdays in 1933, the infamous duo Bonnie and Clyde robbed the Kirkendoll grocery store in Baxter Springs.

 

baxter museum route 66

On the main floor of the museum, there’s an exhibit dedicated to Route 66, highlighting area attractions on the Mother Road, including the Marsh Arch Bridge (also called the Rainbow Bridge), located just north of Baxter Springs, which you can still walk and drive on.

 

Baxter Springs Today

When I left the museum, I wandered through the town of Baxter Springs and witnessed a town coming to life – yet again. With such exciting things happening, I wonder what exhibits will be added to the museum over the next decade.

 

Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum is located at 740 East Avenue in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

The Bruncheonette

A visit to The Bruncheonette brings to mind the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

 

Let’s break down this expression in relationship to The Bruncheonette, shall we?

 

brunch front

 

First, The Bruncheonette’s “cover,” its small brick facade, is rather nondescript. But don’t judge it just yet.

 

Second, The Bruncheonette’s “pages,” or its interior, is plain and tiny. But hold off a few more minutes before you form an opinion.

 

Trust me.

 

Because there’s one more component of a book to consider: its words. The arrangement of the words used to tell a story is what makes a book truly unique. And the “words” at The Bruncheonette are the delicious and inventive dishes that are served without fanfare.

 

Here, the “words” speak for themselves.

 

Sometimes these “words” appear in tantalizing photos on Facebook, which is how I was first introduced to the creations of The Bruncheonette. My curiosity was piqued after seeing several daily specials on my Facebook feed, like The Devil Wears Strata, filled with tart cranberries, white chocolate, cream cheese, cinnamon and topped with a drizzle of Lambrusco reduction; and the Anyung Crepe, which consisted of peanut butter, sriracha, and coconut milk crepes with cream cheese, bacon, cilantro, and green onion, topped with a spicy coconut sauce.

 

I knew I had to give this place a chance.

 

Owned by Sean and Chas Flanagan, The Bruncheonette serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch items, and closes its doors in the early afternoon (hours of operation are listed on its website).

 

brunch counter

Chas Flanagan taking orders at the counter

 

The menu is written on dry erase boards behind the front counter, which is where you go to place your order. Then you can find yourself a seat inside or outside in the patio, and then salivate while you wait for your meal.

 

At least that’s what I do.

 

I recently met my friends here for an early lunch, or in my case, brunch. Being a huge fan of Eggs Benedict, I ordered the Garden Benny, which is made with an English muffin topped with fresh asparagus, tomatoes, avocadoes, local micro greens (from the Webb City Farmers Market), poached eggs, and beet – yes, beet – Hollandaise. Holy yum!

 

brunch micro greens

Look at those super greens!

 

The Garden Benny is just one of several variations of Eggs Benedict on the menu at The Bruncheonette. In the past, I’ve ordered the Benny Harper, which comes with bacon, avocado, and tomato, and tastes like a BLT; the other two Bennies are Steak and Salmon.

 

My friends, Carrie and Donna, were both interested in lunch, so they each ordered the Farmhouse sandwich, which is made with asparagus, roasted red pepper, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Gruyere on toasted Redings Mill bread (a local baker).

 

brunch farmhouse

The Farmhouse with cheese and a side of French fries.

 

All sandwiches come with a side of fries or carrot fries. Carrie, who is vegan, ordered the Farmhouse without cheese and with a side of carrot fries.

 

brunch carrot

Back off, Bugs Bunny! These are Carrie’s fries.

 

In addition to focusing on high-quality food, The Bruncheonette is passionate about utilizing local food sources as often as possible, like the micro greens in my dish and the bread in my friends’ sandwiches. There’s even a page on The Bruncheonette’s website labeled “Our Farmers,” which is dedicated to the local vendors that supply the restaurant with their farm-raised, home-grown, and homemade products.

 

So while the cover of this book may appear to be “Just Another Diner,” the words inside tell a different story: a humble farm-to-table restaurant where the chefs play with flavors and ingredients, creating memorable dishes that dance on your taste buds.

 

And that’s a book worth reading.

 

The Bruncheonette is located at 424 N. Main St.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Oasis Salon and Day Spa

The waves toss my worn body in relentless succession. My strength has diminished along with the sun’s fading rays.

 

I can’t go on much longer.

 

Then I see it in the distance.

 

Land.

 

It’s not big, but the sight of it is enough to spark renewed energy in me, and I swim towards it with new resolve. As I approach, I see shadowy outlines of people. Are they just figments of my imagination?

 

I forge ahead.

 

Just a few yards from shore, the remaining sunlight illuminates the faces of the shadowy figures. My friends! They wave their hands and shout my name when they see me approaching the island.

 

I stumble onto the coarse sand, then my wet and bedraggled body collapses in sweet relief. I look up to see that I’m surrounded by my equally-exhausted friends. We made it! Finally we could rest at our island oasis.

 

I know what you’re thinking: This story is a too dramatic to be true. You’re partially correct; my friends and I did not wash ashore on some remote Pacific island. But we were rescued – mentally. We found relief from being battered by wave after wave of the daily stress and challenges in the vast sea of life.

 

And we found it close to home at Oasis Salon and Day Spa.

 

oasis front

 

I remember how excited I was when Oasis opened its doors in 2001. It was the first large-scale, full-service spa and salon in Joplin. Darlene Shepherd and her two granddaughters, Aubree Templeman and Adrian Petticrew, started Oasis with just 12 employees. Today, this family-run business has over 50 employees and services more than 3,000 clients per month.

 

Whenever I pull into the parking lot at Oasis, I immediately relax. The sight of the sprawling red-tiled stucco building with its ornate fountain and manicured topiaries is reminiscent of a Tuscan villa.

 

oasis fountain

 

Okay, so I’m not in the Italian countryside, but my mind perceives that this place is something out of the ordinary, something special. And that’s what counts.

 

Recently, I met three of my friends there for an afternoon of relaxation. When I arrived, Carrie and Erin had already been brought back to their treatment rooms for massages while Donna and I unwound in the tranquil spa’s lounge area, waiting for our facial appointments.

 

Then I heard the sweet sound of my name being called. This was it. This marked the beginning of my time – my time to forget responsibilities, my time to release all of my worries, my time to have somebody else take care of me for a while.

 

oasis lounge

 

When the esthetician began my facial, my skin was confused as to what was happening. It’s used to me giving it a whopping 20-second wash at the end of the day (and that’s on a good day) so I think it felt embarrassed by all of the sudden focused attention.

 

There was cleansing and toning, followed by a rest period during which a hot towel was placed on my face. While my skin relaxed under the warmth, the esthetician massaged my arms, hands, and neck. I felt as melty as butter – or maybe it was more like Parkay?

 

When the facial was over, I reluctantly left the treatment room and followed my esthetician to the spa’s lounge area where Donna was flipping through a magazine on the sofa. She told me that our other friends had finished their massages, changed into their swimsuits, and were now enjoying the jacuzzi and sauna area which was available for all spa clients to use during their visits.

 

I quickly changed and joined them. I didn’t want to miss one moment of indulgence that afternoon. This was bona fide “me” time.

 

I found Carrie and Erin in the sauna as the steam was just beginning to fill the tiny room. Once the steam reached full force, I could barely see my hand in front of my face. This cleansing steam, I imagined, was removing all toxins and impurities from my body through my skin. I was going to leave this place shiny and new! Well, shiny, at least.

 

When we could no longer take the heat in the sauna, we took a short break before soaking in the therapeutic jacuzzi. We had the entire area to ourselves, and it felt like we had traveled out of town to a resort rather than just down the road to Oasis. Convenient pampering – you’ve got to love it.

 

After getting dressed, all four of us were led to the other side of the building to our pedicure thrones (I’m not joking; that’s what they’re called).

 

oasis thrones

 

These thrones had a massaging feature built into them, which we immediately activated with our individual controllers. I think I got a bit overzealous with mine; sometimes when I talked, my voice would vibrate because I had my massaging throne on the highest strength setting.

 

The pedicure at Oasis includes a sugar scrub exfoliation, plus a leg and foot massage. After an hour, our feet were buffed, polished, and prepared for flip-flop season.

 

oasis toes

 

I enjoyed each moment of my spa afternoon at Oasis, escaping from my daily routine and allowing myself time to be pampered while I spent time with my friends.

 

I felt refreshed, revived, and ready to ride the next wave of life.

 

Oasis Salon and Day Spa is located at 2915 E. 29th St.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Shopping in Downtown Joplin

I’m overwhelmed by the choices presented before me in seemingly endless rows: waffle cutout sandals with a sculpted heel, sassy fringed booties, dainty ballet slippers, plus sleek and sophisticated heels, all representing stylish footwear brands like Naughty Monkey, Chinese Laundry, Volatile, and Jessica Simpson.

 

sophie shoes

wish I were an octopus.

 

To my right, there’s a flurry of fringe and rivets, interspersed with bright patterns and sparkles from the selection of handbags made by hip companies like Big Buddha, Steve Madden, and Urban Expressions.

 

sophie handbags

 

My desire to possess multiple appendages continues. How else could I possibly wear all of the shoes and handbags I see here?

 

This is my typical experience each time I visit Sophie (531 South Main Street). Originally known as the “candy store for shoe addicts,” Sophie has added handbags, accessories, and even clothing to its offerings, including dresses, outerwear, and quality denim, making it a candy store for overall fashionistas.

 

sophie clothing

 

While Sophie offers big-city style, you won’t find big-city price tags here. At Sophie, fashion is affordable. Between reasonable everyday prices and hard-to-pass-up seasonal sales, this boutique has become my go-to place when I need to update my closet.

 

Expect to spend some time here, especially if you come with friends. Chances are, each of you will be trying on something at some point, making a visit to Sophie turn into a mini fashion show. This is exactly what happened when my friends and I recently spent the afternoon shopping downtown.

 

Were we exhausted after our trip to Sophie?

 

Yes!

 

Were we finished with our shopping trip?

 

Heck, no! We were just getting started.

 

We walked a block south on Main Street to Blue Moon Boutique (613 South Main Street), a “modern boutique with a vintage soul.” I actually consider this store more of a market, because in addition to apparel and accessories, there’s also furniture and home decor.

 

blue moon moon star

 

Blue Moon’s clothing section is located in the rear of the store, meaning that we had to first walk through the store’s home decor/gift section. Thanks to this brilliant store layout, I found something that reminded me of my mother and mentioned this to my friends.

 

blue moon pig

 

“How does this remind you of your mother?” asked my appalled friend Carrie.

 

“Because my mother collects pigs,” I explained, much to her relief.

 

And isn’t that pig painting cute? I’d found the perfect gift for my mom, and before our trip to Blue Moon, I’d never even known it existed!

 

blue moon jewelry

 

I got sidetracked a couple more times as I meandered my way back to the apparel section. First I looked at the jewelry from the international company Lokai (my daughter collects these beaded bracelets), and then the handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry from local Dalissa Designs.

 

 

blue moon paint

 

Then I saw the rows of Junk Gypsy paints cleverly displayed on brightly-colored repurposed furniture (which is also for sale). I’m currently repainting anything that doesn’t move in my house, so knowing that Junk Gypsy paints are available at Blue Moon may be a bit dangerous for me.

 

blue moon canopy

 

We finally made it to the back of the store and browsed through clothing from brands like Black Swan and Z-Supply. We even tried on more shoes, which is hard to believe after our trip to Sophie. But Blue Moon carries Yellow Box flip flops and, come on, who doesn’t love a pretty, jazzed-up flip flop?

 

Our next stop was Urban Art Gallery (511 South Main Street), which features pieces made by local artists. If you are shopping for a unique gift, this is another great place to look. When I see something here that I like, I usually send a photo of it to my family so that they have an idea of what to get me when my birthday rolls around.

 

I’m helpful like that.

 

Despite my efforts, I still keep waiting to open the package that contains this cute “Fairy Dog Mother” by artist Kim Guthrie that I thought, for sure, my family would present to me on Mother’s Day:

 

first-thursday-kim-guthrie

 

Oh, well. My half-birthday is coming up.

 

Another artist that sells her work at Urban Art Gallery is Kristin Girard, the jewelry artist/scientist behind Kristin’s Laboratory, and one of my favorite local artisans.  Nearly every time I walk into the gallery, I’m wearing a piece that she has made.

 

kristins-lab-compass

One of my favorite works of hers is a necklace with this pendant, an antique compass that she found locally.

 

Urban Art Gallery changes its displays often, so there’s always something new, fresh, and local to be found here.

 

The next stop on our shopping trip was Newton’s Jewelers (428 South Main Street) where we had a fun time looking at and trying on glimmering vintage and estate jewelry pieces.

 

Since 1914, this family-owned and operated Joplin institution has been providing its customers with fine jewelry and watches. Don’t think you have to have three months of paychecks saved up before you visit Newton’s; we saw several affordable pieces, and Carrie came so very close to bringing home some vintage bling.

 

When we finished our shopping adventure, we stopped at downtown’s Spiva Park (Main and Fourth Streets) to take advantage of the warm, sunny day and to chat a while longer while we let our feet rest.

 

spiva park
This was a well-spent afternoon.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Murphysburg

There are several distinct districts in Joplin and, like pieces of fabric sewn together to make a quilt, these districts mesh together to form our unique city.

 

Just off of I-44, Joplin’s Range Line Road District whirs with activity as vehicles travel from hotels, gas stations, and a myriad of retailers. Cutting through the center of town, the post-tornado district glistens, as sunlight reflects off of the shiny, new construction that’s modernizing our city.

 

The Downtown District bustles with pedestrians walking to offices, shopping at boutiques, and eating at restaurants. And just a few blocks away, Joplin’s original district stands proud and elegant, its structures having been rooted in the soil for over a century.

 

This is the area where Joplin’s founding fathers built their residences, proclaiming to the world that this small city in southwest Missouri is overflowing with rich natural resources – and worthy of being the place they called home.

 

Tour statue

Fountain at the Austin Allen House, 112 South Sergeant

 

This is the Murphysburg Historic District, and it was named after Patrick Murphy who, in 1871, purchased 41 acres of land near what is now downtown Joplin. In 1873, the Murphysburg area merged with nearby Joplin City to form Joplin.

 

Today, the buildings in the Murphysburg Historic District wear the history of the city on their facades, from Charles Schifferdecker’s dense German “castle” to Albert Winchester’s sunny Queen Anne home. Whether you are a lifelong resident of Joplin (like me), or a first-time visitor, walking through Murphysburg is a gratifying experience, providing insight into the lives of the people who molded the character of this city.
 
Thanks to Historic Murphysburg Preservation, Inc., there is an actual walking tour brochure that you can follow to learn more about the architecture of the homes in this district. The tour includes 37 structures and takes about an hour to complete if you walk it, but you can also tour the district by car.
 
The tour includes structures in the area between Jackson Avenue and Byers Avenue, and between 1st Street and 7th Street (the portion of 7th Street that borders Murphysburg is on historic Route 66, so this walking tour makes for a nice activity for cruisers on the Route). An interactive Google map of the tour is also available by clicking here.
 
Put on some comfy walking shoes and come along with me as I share some of my favorite bits of history that I learned in Murphysburg.

 

Tour-sign

 

Note: The numbers next to each building correspond to the numbers on the walking tour brochure. Information about the construction date and architectural style of each building is listed next to its respective address.

 

 

THE TOUR

Tour Olivia

Olivia Apartments

2. Olivia Apartments – 320 South Moffet (c. 1906): Built to house 34 luxury apartments, this building cost $150,000 to construct and was designed by local architect Austin Allen, who named it after his mother Olivia. The fifth floor of the building once housed a grill room where residents could eat. Click here to see historic photos of the building.

 

Tour Snapp

Fletcher Snapp House

5. Fletcher Snapp House – 501 South Sergeant (c. 1905, Colonial Revival): Designed by architect T.R. Bellas, this brick home features a unique rounded bay window on the upper right side, plus a welcoming porch.

 

The home was built for Fletcher Snapp, who was a member of Joplin High School’s first graduating class of 1887. Snapp went on to found Citizen’s National Bank in 1901, and also served as Joplin’s mayor. During the Depression, Snapp lost his money, so he then divided his home into apartments for income. In 1950, he and a handyman were repairing an oil furnace in the basement when it exploded and killed them both.

 

Tour Winchester

Albert Winchester House

6. Albert Winchester House – 507 South Sergeant (c. 1905, Free Classic Queen Anne): This home was built for Dr. Albert Winchester, a graduate of Vanderbilt University who delivered over 2,500 babies in the area.

 

tour kleinkauf

Gustave A. Kleinkauf House

7. Gustave A. Kleinkauf House – 523 South Sergeant (c. 1905, Arts and Crafts): Do you want to experience what it’s like to be a resident of Murphysburg? This bungalow offers you the chance to do just that. You can spend the night in the Creative Cottage, a quaint bed-and-breakfast located on the second floor of this home.

 

Tour Spiva

Mathews/Spiva House

8. Elisha Mathews/George N. Spiva House – 611 S. Sergeant (c. 1902, Colonial Revival): The home was built for Elisha Mathews, the president of the Foust Automatic Concentrating Company. In 1917, George N. Spiva moved into the home. His son, George A. Spiva, became an avid supporter of the arts in Joplin, and today there is an arts center named after him.

 

Tour Schifferdecker

Charles Schifferdecker House

13. Charles Schifferdecker House – 422 South Sergeant (c. 1890, Romanesque): This man’s home was certainly his castle. Built by Charles Schifferdecker to resemble a castle from the Rhine region of Germany, the home features a tower and several terra cotta friezes (featuring hops vines), which were crafted by workers brought to Joplin from Germany.

 

At age 18, Schifferdecker came to Joplin from Germany to open a brewery with his partner Edward Zelleken, who built the house next door (#14). The two men eventually gave up the brewery and entered the more lucrative mining industry, where they were very successful.

Schifferdecker was a generous philanthropist; many Joplin attractions bear his name, including Schifferdecker Park.

 

Tour Zelleken

Edward Zelleken House

14. Edward Zelleken House – 406 South Sergeant (c. 1893, Queen Anne): Built by Schifferdecker’s business partner, Edward Zelleken, this 4,000 square-foot home has several parapets and decorative details.

While Zelleken was successful professionally, he endured much personal tragedy. Three of his children died; his 19-year-old daughter Tillie passed away right before her wedding and was buried in her wedding dress.

The Zelleken home housed the Spiva Art Center from 1958 to 1967, and is currently a private residence.

 

Tour Frye

Charles Frye House

15. Charles Frye House – 318 South Sergeant (c. 1891, Second Empire): This home was built for Charles Frye, who came to Joplin from New York to invest in mining. It cost $5000 to build, and originally had a square tower with a pyramid-like roof on the third floor, which has since been removed.

 

tour geddes

James Geddes House

19. James Geddes House – 301 South Sergeant (c. Late 1890s, Queen Anne): This home was built for attorney and newspaper publisher James Geddes. In 1900, Howard Hughes, Sr., came to Joplin to capitalize on the mining boom. Thirty-one-year-old Hughes tried to elope with Geddes’ 16-year-old daughter Francis, but Geddes intervened and prevented the union.

 

Tour McNeal

Charles McNeal House

 

20. Charles McNeal House – 220 South Moffet (c. 1908, Prairie Box/American Foursquare): An avid horseman, Charles McNeal was involved in the mining industry. He owned a stone riding stable at 1st and Adams Streets which is currently the home of Joplin Little Theatre.

 

Tour Sharp

Frank Sharp House

21. Frank Sharp House – 212 South Moffet (c. 1909, Spanish Mission): Built by Frank Sharp (McNeal’s business partner) this home was originally constructed in the American Foursquare style like McNeal’s house next door. But when Sharp’s wife Nellie wanted to remodel the house years later, she strived to make it look like Spanish Mission architecture, which was popular at that time, so a pair of towers was added to the third story and the exterior brick was covered with gray stucco.
 
In the 1960s, the gray stucco was covered with a pink marble material which was outlined to appear like bricks.

 

Tour Allen

Austin Allen House

33. Austin Allen House – 112 South Sergeant (c. 1906, Arts and Crafts): This home was built by Austin Allen, the architect who designed many elegant structures around Joplin, including the Olivia Apartments, St. Peter’s Church, the Newman Building (which now houses City Hall), and several homes in the Murphysburg district.
 
A departure from the classical architecture that Allen was commissioned to build, Allen’s home was built in the simple Arts and Crafts style, and was a wedding gift for his bride.

 

Tour Picher

Oliver S. Picher House

35. Oliver S. Picher House – 210 South Sergeant (c. 1904, Colonial Revival): Allen also built this elegant home for Oliver S. Picher, the son of the founder of the Picher Lead and Zinc Company (known as Eagle-Picher today). Picher’s luxurious home, (which cost $25,000 to build) included crystal chandeliers, stained glass windows, stunning woodwork (the exterior of the home is made from cypress), and three double-sided fireplaces.

 

Tour Houk

William Houk House

36. William Houk House – 218 South Sergeant (c. 1903, American Foursquare: Classical Elements): This home, which is still surrounded by its original iron gate, was built by William Houk, an attorney, mine operator, and banker. Houk’s wife Edna was a prohibitionist and feminist, and she wrote a book called Women Wealth Winners: How Women Can Earn Money.

 

Thank you for taking a virtual walk with me through Joplin’s Murphysburg Historic District and learning the history of the homes in this neighborhood. I’m sure the city’s founding fathers would be proud that their stories are being told more than a century later.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Cupcakes by Liz

(Update 10/30/17: Liz has retired, and Cupcakes by Liz is now closed.)

 

Cupcakes by Liz reminds me of Candy Land.

 

Whenever I’m there, walking past the tiered displays and dessert cases filled with larger-than-life confectionery creations, I feel like I’m a gingerbread girl game piece meandering my way past the Peanut Brittle House, through the Gumdrop Mountains, and to the Candy Castle.

 

With its cupcakes, cookies, and cakes, this dessert boutique is more like Cupcake Land than Candy Land, but the whimsical and indulgent feeling is still the same. Plus, Cupcake Land’s owner and master baker, Liz Easton, is strikingly similar to Candy Land’s Queen Frostine; wherever Queen Frostine goes, her snowflake scepter spins a trail of sparkling sugar snowflakes.

 

cupcakes by liz queens choice

Queen Frostine’s sugary creations

 

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Cupcakes by Liz expand over the years; it used to be a weekends-only shop that served gourmet cupcakes, and now it’s open every day except Sunday and its menu has expanded to include other desserts, like Great Gran’s Bread Pudding, cookies, and a variety of sundaes.

 

cupcakes by liz cookies

 

Savory breakfast items are now also offered, such as quiche made with bacon, asparagus, and prosciutto, and Twisted Oinkers (bacon wrapped in puff pastry).

 

If you’ve already written off this place because you avoid gluten, don’t. Cupcakes by Liz offers some gluten-free cupcake flavors so you can indulge along with the rest of us.

 

Come, join us.

 

The unique and fanciful nature of this dessert boutique makes it a fun place to socialize and catch up with friends, which is something I did recently.

 

After exchanging hellos, we took our places in front of the counter in respectful silence as we searched for the perfect treat.
cupcakes by liz strawberry

Tip: Always allow at least ten minutes to let yourself decide what you want. I’m not exaggerating. It’s customary for people to stand in front of the display case, brows furrowed, lost in thought. This is a major decision.

 

Will it be the Banoffi, a moist banana cupcake filled with caramel and toffee, then topped with cream cheese frosting and toasted walnuts? How about the The Dirt Bomb, a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting, then rolled in dark chocolate cookie crumbs, and then topped with a chocolate candy rock?

 

The cupcake flavors rotate each week, which keeps the options fresh and new. Even so, I found that I had already tried most of the flavors that were in the case that day.

 

Don’t judge.

 

After all, I do have several kids and a husband so that means multiple cupcakes per visit, and if you do the math, it really doesn’t take too many visits with my crew to go through most of the flavors, even if they do rotate.

 

How’s that for rationalizing a sugar addiction?
So being a Cupcake’s by Liz expert already, I decided to taste something new. I tried the individual key lime pie, which was filled with a thick and tangy lime curd (I love me some curd) and topped with fluffy whipped cream.

 

 

cupcakes by liz trioKey Lime Pie, Pink Lady, and Butter Bomb

 

My friends chose a Pink Lady, a strawberry cupcake topped with pink raspberry buttercream frosting, and a Butter Bomb, which is a cupcake that tastes like a snickerdoodle but, instead of being frosted, is bathed in butter. It’s incredible.

 

What saved me from falling into an immediate sugar coma was my Cafe Breve, an espresso topped with steamed half-and-half (which tasted so creamy, I asked if the barista had used heavy whipping cream by accident, but was told that the process makes the half-and-half tastes as rich as cream).

 

cupcakes by liz coffee pour

 

I especially enjoyed the artwork on my drink. Even the drinks are masterpieces here.

 

cupcakes by liz coffee

 

The espresso bar serves coffee supplied by Onyx Coffee Lab. People from Joplin used to have to drive to northwest Arkansas to enjoy the coffee from this small batch roaster, but now we have it right here.

 

Great. Like I need another reason to come to Cupcakes by Liz.

 

Oh, Queen Frostine, you are very cunning.

 

Cupcakes by Liz is located at 2310 South Main Street.

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.