Instant Karma

When Instant Karma opened its doors a decade ago, it was branded as a restaurant that served gourmet hot dogs. But the restaurant’s chef and owner, Jason Miller – who is constantly inventing new dishes that we never knew we could live without – has expanded the menu over time, offering something for virtually every palate.

 instant karma interior

The vibe that Miller has created at Instant Karma can be described as quirky with a conscience, like a world sprung forth from the imagination of Dr. Seuss, where Miller plays the roles of both Sam-I-Am (persistently trying to get the protagonist to eat something new and unusual like green eggs and ham) and The Lorax (diligently advocating for the environment, which Miller does in several ways, such as sourcing food from local farms, and using cloth napkins and biodegradable straws). 

 

instant karma salt and pepper

 

The Menu

 

There’s a nice variety of menu items to choose from at Instant Karma. Of course, you can still order a gourmet hot dog here; choose the locally sourced pork option, or the vegan dog. Top it with whatever you like, or try one of Miller’s eclectic creations, like The Turning Japanese: a bacon-wrapped dog topped with sautéed pineapple, scallions, and teriyaki sauce.

 

A popular vegetarian option is The Volkswagen Bus: a vegan dog topped with vegan chili and either ranch slaw or bleu cheese slaw. Even if you don’t pick this as your meal, be sure to order a side dish of the bleu cheese slaw because this stuff is heavenly! I usually order my dog topped with the slaw and a drizzle of sriracha.

 instant karma bio

If you have a hankering for a burger, you can choose from several types here, too, from a ⅓-pound ground beef burger (top it with delicious Karma sauce for a favor explosion), to the whimsical Doughnut Burger

 

instant karma donut burger

…to the Salmon BLT Burger, to The Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger topped with vegan cheese, which is what I ordered when I recently dined here for lunch with my friend Carrie.

 

instant karma impossible burger

It tasted and looked (see the red center?) so much like a traditional beef burger that I convinced my meat-loving husband Travis to try it for dinner a few days later, and he loved it as much as I did.

 

 

In addition to hot dogs and burgers, Instant Karma’s menu (see bottom of post) includes sandwiches, salads, and hearty entrees like Chicken & Waffles, and Impossible Meatloaf & Mash, a vegan option which Carrie ordered (she told me she’d been craving it all week). This generous portion of vegan meatloaf was served with red-skinned mashed potatoes and oven-roasted broccoli.

 

instant karma impossible meatloaf

Carrie offered me a bite of her meatloaf to try. I admit I was hesitant to do so, having experienced a traumatic meatloaf experience in my childhood. My sister, who is 12 years older than me, was babysitting and served meatloaf for dinner. But she failed to cook it all the way through. Eating undercooked meatloaf is not something that one easily forgets, but Instant Karma’s vegan version was so delicious that I’ve reconsidered my opinion of meatloaf – at least the plant-based kind. 

 

The Brews

 

Not only is Instant Karma a great place to eat, it’s also a prime spot for sampling local craft beer.

 

instant karma beer on tap

The daily beer menu is featured on a monitor located next to the bar.

 

instant karma untapped

I spent several minutes squinting and focusing on the monitor from across the room before I realized that I could download the Untappd app on my phone and see the beer menu up close. Just now, I opened up the app and saw that there are 21 draft beers offered at Instant Karma today. That’s quite a variety!

 instant karma bar

From local beer to unexpected food pairings, there’s always something new to try at Instant Karma. Would you be open to trying one of Miller’s wildly imaginative Texas Chainsaw Massa-Curd Burgers, topped with melted cheese curds and brown gravy? 

 

You do not like them.

So you say.

Try them! Try them!

And you may.

Try them and you may I say.

 

 

Instant Karma is located at 527 South Main Street in Joplin. Delivery is available through Bite Squad. Click here to visit Instant Karma’s Facebook page.

 

Here are photos of the menu:

instant karma menu 1

instant karma menu 2

 

 

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

 

This post was updated on 6/27/19.

Geocaching in Joplin

My husband Travis and I both work at home.

 

Somehow, our marriage has survived 7 years of this arrangement.

 

Maybe it’s because every day I sequester myself in my daughter’s bedroom with my laptop to write while she’s at school, and her room is on the opposite side of the house from where my husband is talking on the phone with his clients.

 

And that’s how my husband and I are able to both work at home together and still enjoy wedded bliss.

 

Each of us also makes sure to take sanity breaks during the day. Travis and I love to be outdoors, so we make sure to leave our house/office at least once during the workday and take a walk, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

 

We generally take our sanity breaks in solitude because, hey, that’s the point. But sometimes we take our breaks together.

 

Gasp!

 

Like we need more togetherness, right?

 

geo-couple

 

But there’s a lot of value in disconnecting from work and home responsibilities in order to reconnect with your partner. Sometimes, Travis and I will pack a picnic lunch and dine al fresco at a local park. Sometimes we’ll grab our hiking boots and hit some nearby trails.

 

Sometimes we’ll play games.

 

Specifically, I’m talking about a game that can be played outdoors – anywhere, anytime.

 

It’s called geocaching.

 

Geocaching is basically an outdoor scavenger hunt that combines adventure with technology. It involves searching for an object that is hidden outside by using GPS coordinates which are posted online.

 

You’d be surprised at how many caches are hidden all over the Joplin area – or anywhere, for that matter, as geocaching is a game that’s played all over the world.

 

On a recent lunch break, Travis and I decided to combine a short hike at Wildcat Park with a game of geocaching.

 

Before we left our house, I checked for local caches on my smartphone’s geocaching app. Cachebot offers a free app which allows you to view nearby caches on a map, as well as detailed descriptions of, and coordinates for, up to three caches per day; if you want to research more, then you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.

 

Travis has the classic version of the Groundspeak Navigation app on his phone, which he downloaded several years ago. When I recently signed up for the free version of the app, I found it to be very limited; I could see nearby caches, but had to upgrade to a monthly or yearly membership in order to retrieve the details and coordinates of the caches.

 

Regardless of which app you choose, you’ll need to create an account on a cache listing site (geocaching.com) and link it to your app. This sounds like a complicated process, but it’s a one-time deal that will allow you to track your finds forever. And it’s free!

 

If you want to go old-school, you can use a handheld GPS navigator, such as those made by Garmin. But since most people have smartphones on them these days, it’s more convenient to use a phone app.

 

After looking for nearby caches on my app, I selected one located on Bluff Trail at Wildcat Park. The cache is called Love Hollow at Mother Nature’s Crack, which sounds both romantic and crass at the same time.

 

But knowing that Mother Nature’s Crack refers to a fissure in a particular rock outcropping on the trail rather than a part of the human anatomy, I focused on the enticing “Love Hollow” part of the cache name instead. The person who hid the cache did so as a gift for his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day to mark the spot where they and their friends had gathered for years and created happy memories.

 

I thought that sounded sweet when I first read it, but then I thought how disappointed I would be if my guy got me a Valentine’s Day gift and then immediately hid it.

 

Forever.

 

It’s a romantic gesture, nonetheless, and it made for a nice backstory for my geocaching lunch date adventure with Travis.

 

When Travis and I reached Mother Nature’s Crack on the hiking trail, he pulled out his phone and read the hint that was given about where to find the cache: Look for the dead trees.

 

Hmm. There were several dead trees lying on the forest floor on the hill above us, but my attention was drawn to a group of them several feet up from the cliff. As I circled around them, I saw what I thought was a piece of trash tucked between the tree and a pile of leaves.

 

Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was writing on this “trash” which indicated that it was, indeed, the Love Hollow cache.

 

geo-bag

I felt giddy that I found the treasure on our scavenger hunt, but also a bit disappointed at the state of the cache itself. This weathered plastic Ziploc bag with a hole in one end was not was I was expecting.

 

Typically, caches are protected in metal boxes which can withstand the elements, like these that my kids have found on previous geocaching outings:

 

geo-shoal

 

geo-big-boxBut there was nothing inside of the partially disintegrated baggie at Love Hollow.

 

Usually, there’s a log to sign when you find a cache. I like to glance through these logs to see who else has found them, and when they found them. Granted, I can read cache logs online (plus add our own find to the log), but it’s more personal to see different people’s writing on a piece of paper.

 

Also, there weren’t any trackables in the bag. Trackables are items that move from one cache to another, and you can follow their movements online, which is another fun part of the geocaching experience.

 

Although there were no trackables or log entries for me to read about, I was still satisfied because I had found the cache (as you can tell from my smug posture).

 

geo-lounge

 

What did Travis find?

 

geo-glove

Well, he found a glove on the ground. It was totally unrelated to our mission, but he seemed pleased with himself. Considering the glove blended in with the rocks on the ground like an object in an I Spy book, finding it was definitely an accomplishment.

 

The best part of hunting for the Love Hollow cache was its location. I know you have been curious about this since the beginning of the post, so here you go: This is Mother Nature’s Crack.

 

geo-crack-view

Even when the trees are bare, this is a beautiful view.

 

geo-standing-on-crack

 

Travis and I decided to take a selfie to commemorate our Love Hollow lunch date. As I was struggling to position my smartphone to take the photo, Travis showed me how to use the photo timer for the selfie.

 

The what?

 

This was a game-changer for me.

 

Up to this point, the few selfies that I’ve taken have been blurry, a result of me trying to look into the lens while simultaneously looking for the camera button.

 

I’m sure this timer thing is common knowledge to the majority of smartphone wielding population, but I’ve arrived a bit late to the selfie culture.

 

geo-selfie

Here I am just after processing this new knowledge. Travis is looking at me like I’m a crazy person, but that’s okay. I learned something new!

 

We left Mother Nature’s Crack behind us and hiked back to the car. I had seen another cache that I wanted to stop at before our lunch break was over. This cache is called Winged Cross, and it marks the edge of the area where an EF5 tornado touched down on May 22, 2011.

 

Unlike traditional caches, which are hidden, this cache is in the open, and is considered a landmark cache. Located on a corner in a residential area, the Winged Cross stands over 5 feet tall and was carved from a tree that was several hundred years old.

 

geo-cross

 

I thought I’d seen all of the commemorative works that have popped up in Joplin after the tornado, but I had never seen this – nor had I heard about it until Travis and I decided to go geocaching.

 

So here you have it, the secret to being able to work at home with your spouse: Be sure to take sanity breaks during the day, and make sure you add a little adventure together every now and then.

 

 

To learn more about geocaching, click here.

 

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

Create N Sip Studios’ Date Night

My husband Travis and I love our occasional, and much-needed, date nights. Once the kids are shipped off to grandma’s house, here’s what we typically do:

 

Date Night Option #1: Stay in and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Date Night Option #2: Go out for a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

 

Date Night Option #3: Go out for nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, then come home and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Aren’t we exciting?

 

Sometimes even we bore ourselves. That’s when we know that it’s time to look for some new activities to shake things up on date night.

 

Recently, I signed us up for the Date Night session at Create N Sip Studios (formerly RSVPaint), a paint-and-sip art studio in downtown Joplin. Since neither one of us is really good at painting, I knew there would be no danger of intra-couple competition (unlike the time we played laser tag; I beat him at that, by the way).

 

So if neither of us is a painter, why did I sign us up for Create N Sip Studios’ Date Night? First, so we could learn something new together. Second, so we could encourage one another in the process (just kidding – I did it so we could laugh at each other).

 

rsvpaint-date-group-sitting

The studio was packed when we got there, and I was glad that I signed up ahead of time online, although walk-ins are always welcome, if there are still easels available.

 

We started sipping some wine – to get our creative juices going, of course. There’s a bar in the back of the studio where you can purchase beer, wine, mixed drinks, soda, water, and snacks. You can also bring your own beverages; we brought a bottle of our favorite Merlot which the bartender uncorked for a small fee.

 

Then we got settled in front of our easels. Our supplies included four paintbrushes, a palate of five paint colors, and an apron to protect our clothes.

 

The theme for our Date Night session was “Under My Umbrella,” and we were going to create a diptych. A diptych consists of two paintings that, when placed side by side, make one scene.

 

rsvpaint-date-example-painting

I chose to paint the male figure and Travis painted the female, although some of the other couples did the opposite.

 

rsvpaint-date-instructor

Jordan was our instructor that night, leading us through the process stroke by stroke, and color by color. She was laid-back in her teaching style and supportive of everyone’s creative expression. She made me feel like Picasso.

 

Or maybe that was the vino…

 

rsvpaint-date-white-trees

We started painting our backgrounds, then added our trees. I do admit that Travis’ trees were better than mine.

 

rsvpaint-date-colored-trees

Then it came time to paint our male and female figures. If Travis were a wise man, he would have painted a dainty feminine figure like everyone else in the class did.

 

rsvpaint-date-group-standing

But, no.

 

My renegade husband chose that particular moment to “express his individuality.” While everyone else’s figure was black, his female was bright yellow.

 

rsvpaint-date-our-painting

That, combined with its, um, interesting shape resulted in something of a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.

 

rsvpaint-date-curious

Thanks, honey.

 

Did you notice how slim I made my male figure?

 

Did you?

 

rsvpaint-date-couple

I guess I’ll forgive him because spending a few hours creating a one-of-a-kind diptych at Create N Sip Studios was a welcome break from our usual date night routine.

 

Plus, it gives us something to chuckle about for the rest of our lives.

 

 

*This post was updated on 1/13/20 to reflect the studio’s name change.

 

Group photo courtesy of Create N Sip Studios’ Facebook page. Create N Sip Studios is located at 223 Third Street. Click here to visit its website. 

 

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

Siblings Improv

The pounding of my heart grew louder, faster. My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls. I took a sip of water. When I did, the paper napkin under the glass stuck to my sweaty palms.

 

I had no reason to be nervous. I was a mere audience member seated in the shadows, waiting for someone else to step into the spotlight on stage. Yet, I felt anxious for the performers that night. After all, the audience expected them to come up with entertaining material on the spot.

 

siblings-guys

I couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept. I’m the type of person who needs to write down my thoughts in order to process them, so the idea of having to immediately construct a story while acting it out gives my stomach butterflies. That’s way too much pressure – even to witness!

 

But moments into the performance of the improvisational group Siblings Improv, I began to relax. These actors were sharp, going through scenes like they’d rehearsed them several times before. In reality, they were making up the material based on suggestions from audience members. And in the process, they remained as cool as cucumbers.

 

siblings-group-front

Their spontaneous creativity was off the charts and reminded me of watching the Drew Carey TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which introduced improv comedy to the masses. That night, Siblings Improv was introducing improv to Joplin.

 

This group of actors – none of whom are actually siblings – was formed in 2013 by Drew Crisp and Eric Epperson. They had taken classes at The Second City in Chicago and wanted to bring that style of theatre to Joplin. And they have.

 

Siblings Improv performs at various venues in the city, and it was at one of these venues that I, along with a couple of my girlfriends and a house full of people hungry for inventive entertainment, watched the Siblings’ show.

 

siblings-ladies

It was my first time watching live improv theatre and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Before each game or sketch, the group collected written suggestions from the audience then quickly began acting out their interpretation. It would have taken me a good five minutes to process, plan, and execute the suggestions (so never choose me to be on your team for charades), but these actors were right on it, never missing a beat. Honestly, I was a little intimidated by their MENSA-worthy response time in their games and sketches.

 

The sketch “Homeschool 2072” involved a teacher from the future presenting history lessons from the year 2016 to her students. The audience was asked to supply topics pertaining to current events, and then various performers would act them out. With it being a month before a controversial presidential election, you can guess which topic came up repeatedly!

 

“Swipe Right” was a game where each actor sat in a chair and pretended to create a dating video. During the videos, the actors would extol their best – or quirkiest – qualities, depending on what was written on the slips of paper provided by the audience. Below is what one of the troop members said when she introduced herself in her “video”:

 

I’m Susan.

Not “B. Anthony.”

“B. Tony.”

 

siblings-susan

Susan B. Tony

 

Quick wit – I love it!

 

In addition to performances, the Siblings Improv also offers creativity workshops, teaching everyday people (like me) the art of improvisation. Maybe I should go to one of these workshops to overcome my anxiety about performing in public. 

 

Siblings Improv’s performances are both intellectual and entertaining, and provide a unique, big-city type addition to the nightlife offerings in Joplin.

 

For more information about Siblings Improv, click here.

 

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

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation

“I’ve been wanting to go inside this house since I was a little kid.”

 

The man in line in front of me articulated a general sentiment among many of the people huddled underneath the tent that protected us from the steady drizzle on that appropriately eerie Halloween Eve.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-north

We were waiting to enter the magnificent historic home of Charles Schifferdecker, one of the founding fathers of Joplin. With its three-story battlement-topped tower and raised foundation made from rough-faced stone, the home resembles a castle. I’d driven by countless times and was always curious to see what the interior looked like, and after listening to the people in line with me that night, I realized that I wasn’t the only one.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-front

Thanks to Historic Murphysburg Preservation, we were getting the chance to glimpse inside this stately home as part of a special two-day celebration which commemorated the 100-year anniversary of Charles Schifferdecker’s death and which celebrated the many contributions that he made to the city of Joplin during his life.

 

Named after the first residential neighborhood in Joplin, Historic Murphysburg Preservation is a non-profit group dedicated to historic preservation through education and community involvement. The group organizes events which invite people inside some of Joplin’s oldest structures so that they can better understand – and appreciate – the roots of our modern city.

 

Held on the last weekend of October 2015, the “Mr. Charles Schifferdecker…Remembered and Revisited” event spanned two days and three locations, kicking off with a Friday night tour of the Schifferdecker home on 422 Sergeant, which was built in 1890.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mannequins

Halloween decorations filled the grounds, and the rainy night created patches of fog that swirled mysteriously around the entrance to the home, creating a spooky vibe. I thought for sure I would be greeted by the ghost of Charles Schifferdecker himself when I stepped inside the home, but instead I found the interior to be warm and welcoming – and not the least bit haunted.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-dining

A man and woman dressed as Charles Schifferdecker and his wife Wilhelmina greeted those of us on the tour and told us about the history of the home and its architectural details. The arched windows, elegant stained glass, and rich wood trim work were carefully crafted by workers that Schifferdecker brought over from his native Germany, and represent the success that Schifferdecker enjoyed during his life in Joplin.

 

murphysburg-schiff-photo

After touring the first floor of the home, we stopped at the refreshment table to get some goodies to snack on, then sat down under a tent on the outside patio to watch a performance from the American Opera Studio, performed in period costumes, of course.

 

The entire experience of that evening provided us with a living history lesson, and gave us a greater appreciation for one of Joplin’s founding fathers.

 

Activities planned for the following day – Halloween – included a tour of the elaborate Schifferdecker Family Mausoleum (with two sphinxes standing guard at the entrance), and then a tour of the Schifferdecker Beer and Picnic Gardens, which was established around 1876, and is now a private residence. Although I didn’t make it to the mausoleum tour, I did visit the beer gardens.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-front

Charles Schifferdecker arrived in Joplin with the goal of opening up a brewery which would serve the hardworking miners in the area. He established “Turkey Creek Brewery” on the banks of – you guessed it – Turkey Creek, located in what is now the north part of Joplin on a dead-end road. Because of its hidden location, I never knew that this oasis existed just moments from the bustling commercial Range Line Road until Historic Murphysburg Preservation invited the public to come explore the house and grounds.

 

In addition to serving beer at this brewery, Schifferdecker also provided entertainment in the gardens. There was a raised platform for dancing, plus an expansive grassy area with lawn bowling lanes. Historic Murphysburg Preservation recreated the essence of what it was like back in the brewery days.

 

There was a performance by the American Opera Studio (in period attire).

 

murphysburg-shiff-house-opera

There was lawn bowling for visitors to enjoy. My daughter really got into it!

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-lawn

And there was a beer tent where people could sample and purchase beer and other beverages.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-beer

We were also able to tour Schifferdecker’s historic home, which was built against a bluff and had a beer cave next to it that always stays below 50 degrees – a perfect place to chill beer and to seek some sweet relief on sweltering Ozark summer days.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-side

After touring the home, we took a leisurely stroll along picturesque Turkey Creek, which borders the gardens. The image that we saw of the trees’ changing leaves reflecting on the clear water was probably identical to the image that Charles Schifferdecker saw on Halloween in 1876.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-creek

Over a century has passed, but not much has changed in the gardens, and it kind of boggles the mind to think about that.

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation holds various events throughout the year, opening up historic locations for the public to view and to experience firsthand. These events offer an immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect to Joplin’s history and community in a uniquely captivating way.

 

For more information on Historic Murphysburg Preservation’s events, click here.

 

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

Schifferdecker Golf Course

I always welcome any chance to be outside, enjoying a beautiful day in the Ozarks. And if I can do so while spending some kid-free quality time with my husband – even better.

 

Such an opportunity came my way a few weeks ago on a picture-perfect late summer day, complete with azure skies and balmy temperatures. While the kids were at school, my husband and I seized the moment, dusted off our golf clubs and zipped across town to Schifferdecker Golf Course.

 

Situated on historic Route 66 (Seventh Street) and Schifferdecker Avenue, Schifferdecker is Joplin’s only public 18-hole course. Designed by Jim “Slat” Larimere, it opened on June 29, 1922, and each year it hosts the Ozark Amateur, one of the oldest medal-play tournaments in the U.S.

 

Schiff golf clubhouse

While I wasn’t expecting to win a trophy on the day we went (I hadn’t played since before having kids), I did hope to learn a tip or two from my, ahem, ever-patient husband who is much more experienced than I am at playing golf.

 

We checked in at the historic clubhouse, and took a moment to look around the inside which is filled with photos of past golf champs like Leonard Ott, a local pro who won the 1929 Ozark Amateur.

 

Schiff golf ott

There’s also a map hanging on the wall, dated April 4, 1965. It gave me an overview of what I could expect on the course that day.

 

Schiff golf map

In order to cover that distance efficiently (like, before the kids got home from school), my husband and I picked up the keys to these fancy wheels.

 

Schiff golf carts

At the first hole, I was excited to reacquaint myself with my favorite golf club, the driver, and to hear the thwacking sound it makes when it contacts the ball. I couldn’t wait to see my ball sail over hundreds of yards of Schifferdecker’s Bermuda fairways.

 

schiff golf fairway

Did I say yards? I meant feet. And not hundreds of them. But, hey, a girl can dream.

 

While the course is relatively flat, there are some small rolling hills. Growing up in Illinois, I was used to flat golf courses, so when we came across this periscope at the second hole, my husband had to explain its purpose to me.

 

Schiff golf peri

He instructed me to look through the periscope to see if the golfers in front of us had finished playing the second hole and had cleared the valley. Luckily I checked; otherwise my super fierce drive might have knocked one of them out cold.

 

I’m glad I didn’t hit anyone that day, and I’m relieved that I never had to fish my ball out of any water, either. Fortunately, Schifferdecker’s course only has two areas of water, and my ball somehow managed to avoid them.

 

Schiff golf water

While my favorite part of the game was driving the ball down the fairway, my best strokes that day proved to be on the green. After all, I’ve honed my putting skills after years of mini-golf with the kids.

 

Schiff golf green

What are the best things about playing golf at Schifferdecker Golf Course? It’s open year-round, it’s accessible to golfers of all skill levels, and the fees are very reasonable.

 

schiff golf swing

When I asked my husband what he thought about Schifferdecker’s course, he said that he liked its openness because it makes for a much more forgiving course.

 

Hmm, I wonder if he’s forgiven the tree that his ball ricocheted off of and then sent flying over to the neighboring fairway…

 

 

Schifferdecker Golf Course is located at 506 South Schifferdecker Avenue. Click here to visit its website.

 

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

Joplin Arts Fest

Ah, September in southwest Missouri.

 

It’s a time when the weighty summer air dissipates, revealing a clear sky the color of a robin’s egg. After spending the sizzling days of summer indoors in the air-conditioning, people emerge from their homes to breathe in the cooler air and to reconnect – with the outdoors, and with each other.

 

When summer hibernation ends, the community festival season begins. One of the first festivals of the season is Joplin Arts Fest.  While art is the star of the festival, you can also listen to live music, grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks, cool down with a drink from the beer/wine tent, and watch the kids get creative doing artistic activities (and get their faces painted, too).

 

joplin arts fest overall

The tranquil setting of Joplin’s Mercy Park serves as a backdrop for this festival which features over 40 local and regional artists displaying a variety of work. There’s pottery, glass art, sculptures, drawings, photography, woodworking, and jewelry. Here are some of the highlights of art I saw, along with links to the artists’ websites so you can see for yourself how gifted they are.

 

Steve Doerr of The Wooden Doerr turns pieces of wood into works of art.

 

joplin arts-fest-wooden-doerr

To me, it’s a miracle how he does it. Check out the brilliant turquoise running through this piece of maple. It’s absolutely stunning!

 

arts-fest-wooden-doerr-turquoise

The work of Andrew Batcheller, a Kansas City native living in Joplin, has an otherworldly feeling to it.

 

joplin arts fest batcheller

Batcheller frequently uses birds as subjects to represent the human condition. His work is powerful and deep, and I find myself seeking the artist’s description of his work in order to fully understand the meaning behind each piece.

 

Sometimes photographs can look like paintings, and the work of Ron Mellott of Bloomington, Indiana, is an example of that. Here is a photo he took of some aspens in autumn in Colorado.

 

joplin arts fest mellott

Now for Natalie Wiseman, a previous Joplin Arts Fest Best in Show winner.

 

arts-fest-natalie-wiseman

I was introduced to Natalie’s work at Spiva Center for the Arts a few years ago and became an instant fan. Her bright, surreal still life paintings are whimsical and fun, like this one called Sink or Swim.

 

arts-fest-wiseman-sink-or-swim

 

Live music has its place at Joplin Arts Fest, as well.  There’s a pavilion next to the water where local musicians perform throughout the day. Past performers include JOMO JazzJoshin the Giants (bluegrass and country), Kufara (a marimba ensemble), and Ozark Bards (folk songs of the Ozarks).

 

joplin arts fest music

Cool off with an adult beverage from the beer/wine tent, and be sure to sample from the variety of food trucks at the festival, including Blondies Woodfired Wheelhouse PizzaEl Taco Loco (street tacos), Fried Fancies (gourmet funnel cakes), and Pineapple Bliss (low-calorie, soft-serve frozen treats).

 

joplin arts fest-pineapple-bliss

Turn off the A/C, open those windows, and let that cool September air flow through your house. Meanwhile, you can join your friends and neighbors in beautiful Mercy Park to celebrate the beauty of the season at Joplin Arts Fest.

 


Joplin Arts Fest is held at Mercy Park, 3002 St. John’s Boulevard. For details about this year’s event, visit JoplinArtsFest.com.

 

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

 

(Updated 9/17/19)

Girls’ Weekend in Joplin

Back in 1982, the bubbly all-girl rock band, the Go-Go’s, released a song that I immediately adopted as my holiday anthem.

 

Vacation, all I ever wanted

Vacation, had to get away

 

The Go-Go’s showed me that spending time with my girlfriends could be a blast; in the video for their songVacation,” I watched all five of these band members and friends water ski in formation while wearing tutus and tiaras.

 

It was ridiculous and fun, and after seeing their video, I vowed to be as carefree as the Go-Go’s and to continue to make time to play with my friends – even as a grown-up.

 

So, did I keep that vow?

 

Although it can be challenging these days to round up my friends, find tiaras and tutus, and rent waterskis, I do try to fit in some girl time whenever possible. Recently, I was able to get my friends to agree to an entire weekend of play. I thought long and hard about where we could go and what we could do, and finally came up with an itinerary that would maximize our fun time.

 

I suggested doing a staycation right here in Joplin.

 

By booking a room at a local hotel, we’d still be able to get away from our everyday responsibilities, plus we’d have more time for doing fun things because we wouldn’t have to spend time in the car traveling to another city.

 

My friends agreed. We packed our bags, said goodbye to our families, and transformed ourselves into tourists in our hometown for one blissful weekend.

 

Friday

We kicked off our staycation on a Friday afternoon by heading to downtown Joplin to do some serious shopping. I felt giddy about being able to take my time perusing the hip boutiques and markets. I could linger at these stores because there were no time limitations on this staycation, either. That is, we could stay and shop until the stores closed their doors. And, I was prepared to do just that.

 

blue moon canopy
Hours later, we suddenly realized that we were ravenous. We wanted a nearby place where we could rest our feet and enjoy a good meal. We chose to eat at the Red Onion Cafe, a casual urban restaurant that’s been one of the top restaurants in Joplin since it opened in 1995.

 

Saturday

It’s an unwritten rule that any girls’ weekend must include some form of pampering. This is one rule that I have no intention of ever breaking. So, after a light breakfast at the hotel, my friends and I spent the rest of the morning letting others take care of us at Oasis Salon and Day Spa, a full-service spa and salon, where the magical staff is always able to melt away the stress in my life and leave me feeling blissful.

 

oasis fountain

 

Why is it that time at the spa seems to go so quickly? Before I knew it, it was lunchtime. We decided to eat at Ichiban, a sushi restaurant close to Oasis. Light and healthy, sushi was the perfect post-spa meal.

 

Still, we were exhausted from being catered to all morning, so we went back to the hotel to nap. Such problems, right?

 

When we woke up, we wanted to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, so we decided to take a walk through Joplin’s original residential district, Murphysburg. The grand homes here still stand proud, more than a century after they were built. Seeing the different architectural styles and learning the history of the homes made this a unique and memorable walk.

 

Tour Schifferdecker

 

Since Murphysburg is just a few blocks from bustling Main Street, we chose to finish off our evening enjoying cocktails and dinner at the popular Club 609. There’s a daily happy hour here, which made us very, very happy. The food here ranges from light appetizers to casual gourmet entrees, and is consistently delicious.

 

Sunday

The last day of our staycation. Sniff Sniff. We checked out of the hotel and headed straight to our favorite breakfast place, The Bruncheonette. It might not look like much on the outside, but this farm-to-table establishment creates breakfast, brunch, and lunch items that make your mouth sing.

 

brunch micro greens

 

After stuffing ourselves at The Bruncheonette, we desperately fought off the urge to nap. My friend suggested another walk downtown. Because it was Sunday, I didn’t think we’d be able to see much, but she reminded me that there are things that we can see and appreciate in Joplin any day of the year: our town’s murals. Appreciating public art on a beautiful day? Count me in.

 

keltoi teardrops 2

 

The mural tour took about an hour, leaving us plenty of time for the last stop on our staycation: Keltoi Winery. Located just north of Joplin in Oronogo, Missouri, Keltoi is an Irish winery that offers wine tastings and the perfect location to chill with your friends for an afternoon. And we did just that, chatting on the patio and sipping our wine right up until Keltoi closed for the day.

 

Staycation, all I ever wanted

 

 

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

 

Emancipation Park Days

The soulful sound of gospel music emanates from the tent, the smoky scent of barbecue hangs in the muggy summer air, and children giggle as they play tag on the lush green lawn.

 

These familiar sights and sounds represent a homecoming of sorts.

 

Each year, people mark their calendars for this one weekend in August when the expansive lawn of Joplin’s Ewert Park is covered with tents, food trucks, booths, and people – people who come to reunite with old friends, celebrate their heritage, and welcome newcomers (like me) to share in some old-fashioned summertime fun.

 

This three-day August event is called Emancipation Park Days, and it falls on the weekend closest to August 4, which is the day designated to honor the emancipation of the American slave in Joplin, as well as in neighboring towns.

 

Since the 1920s, this gathering has been held annually at Ewert Park. This year, the event’s schedule was jam-packed, from Friday evening through Sunday evening, with family-friendly events, including gospel and funk music, a basketball tournament, a fun run/walk, a variety of kids’ activities (including free swimming at Ewert Pool), a car show, a Sunday church service, and – like any great festival – plenty of food and drinks (even a beer tent).

 

eman-days-tent

There was no room for boredom at this cultural affair.

 

Which is exactly why my friend Julie and I brought our youngest kids here. With a couple weeks left until the beginning of school, we wanted to make some unique and fun memories with them before summer ended.

 

eman-days-red-car

We came to Emancipation Park Days on Saturday, the second day of the event. While the August sky was heavy with clouds, the rain stayed away while we were there, allowing us to linger in the comfortably shaded park.

 

The first thing our kids did was the children’s drum craft; they wrapped masking tape around empty plastic coffee containers, then then personalized their drums with their own drawings.

 

eman-days-drum-decor-2

Then they scored some cute balloon dogs from Crazy Dave’s Balloon Animals.

 

eman-days-balloon

Our kids were having a blast with their loot, but I have to admit, we mamas were running out of arms to carry said loot – and we’d only visited two booths by that point.

 

We lingered awhile at the Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A) booth, where our kids got their faces painted (and got to sit on a bike), and Julie and I stood, mouths agape, as we learned about this amazing organization. Its mission is to empower abused children to feel safe, and its members – the bikers – do this by going to a child’s house to provide reassurance, or by accompanying a child to court and parole hearings.

 

eman-days-motorcycle

It melted our hearts to hear tough-looking motorcycle bikers talking tenderly about protecting and empowering children who, without the bikers, might continue to feel powerless and voiceless. I was so impressed by B.A.C.A.’s work that I could go on and on about them, but instead I’ll just include a link about them here if you’re interested in learning more.

 

Now back to Emancipation Park Days.

 

We were all starting to get hungry at this point, so the kids snacked on hot dogs while Julie and I treated ourselves to some tender pulled pork sandwiches from A.C.’s BBQ. Naturally, the kids begged for ice cream afterward, so we got them treats from the wildly popular Pineapple Bliss. We didn’t tell them that they weren’t eating actual ice cream but a dairy-free, healthful substitute instead. They didn’t notice.

 

We then made our way back to the children’s pavilion so the kids could participate in the drum circle and dance that was led by members of the African Student Association from Pittsburg State University.

 

eman-days-drum-circle-seated

The kids enthusiastically tested out their coffee-tub drums that they made earlier, trying earnestly to keep up with the drum leader’s rhythm. At one point, the drum leader asked the kids to stand up and follow him in a circle while he drummed, and the kids let their bodies move to the beat as they danced.

 

eman-days-drum-circle

Sweaty after all of that activity, the kids were eager to join in the water balloon toss.

 

eman-days-water-balloon

 

After a few good tosses, their balloon burst on the ground in front of them, spraying them with a teeny bit of water – but not enough to cool them down.

 

eman-days-watermelon

Instead, a couple of slices of sweet, refreshing watermelon did the trick, quenching their thirst and providing relief from the heat.

 

While they snacked on the watermelon, Julie and I had the chance to read the display walls featuring a timeline of black history in the area.

 

eman-days-1946

Among many other things, we learned about Carver Nursery School, which was named after George Washington Carver, an area inventor, educator and humanitarian – and one of my idols (you can read more about Carver and the national park dedicated to him here).

 

eman-days-history

Carver Nursery School was founded in 1951 as a preschool and elementary school for African American children in Joplin. Area African American teenagers attended Lincoln High School until the late 1950s when they joined the other students at Joplin Senior High School.

 

As someone who moved to Joplin in the ‘90s, I had no idea about this part of Joplin’s history. The African American culture is so integrated now in this town that it’s hard to imagine life otherwise. But it’s important to learn about how things were in the not-so-distant past, and I’m glad that this education is a part of the Emancipation Park Days event.

 

We were lingering by the history boards when we saw a crowd begin to form around the tennis courts. “The Cobras must be here,” Julie said.

 

eman-days-cobras1

And they were. We could hear the shrill sound of a whistle and the feel the beats coming from the percussion as The Kansas City Marching Cobras made a spectacular entrance at Ewert Park.

 

This well-known drill team, which has performed for multiple U.S. presidents, combines dance moves from African dance, jazz, and hip hop into its choreography.

 

eman-days-cobras2

The tennis courts at Ewert Park provided a stage for the Cobras, allowing people to watch the team from multiple sides. I watched as our kids leaned on the tennis court fence, transfixed by the energy and movement of the drill team.

 

No video games had been played today. No iPads had been turned on. The kids had been thoroughly entertained at a decades-old cultural festival.

 

And our summer ended with the creation of new memories.

 

For more information on Emancipation Park Days, click here.

 

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

 

Joplin Museum Complex

Woolly mammoth fossils.

 

Arrowheads.

 

Glowing rocks.

 

Where in Joplin can you see these cool items?  At the Joplin Museum Complex 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, otherworldly 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

The Joplin Museum Complex is the perfect place for both visitors and residents to gain an understanding of Joplin’s rich history.

 

Oh, and to see cool glowing rocks, too.

 

 

 The Joplin Museum Complex is located at 504 S. Schifferdecker Avenue.

 

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