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


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

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.


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

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