Friday, January 26, 2018

January 2018 - Busy Month

After recovering from the real flu and taking time to get my strength back over the holiday season, on Jan 15 I challenged myself and went out in 28 degree weather to give a hiking tour of the Three Springs area at Roman Nose State Park to two visitors from Norman, OK.  Even in the winter, the scenery in the park is beautiful and peaceful. I couldn't help but give a little history on the Park, talk about the Native American culture and the Civilian Conservation Corp.  Our faces were frozen by the time we finished the hike from the Shelter to the swimming pool bath house and back up to the parking lot.  We drove to the Lodge and walked down the hallway to look at the current and historical photographs. This part of Oklahoma really is special.

On Sunday, Jan 14, the first Oklahoma House Concert of the year was held at the Chaparral Retreat.  A young, sweet, and very talented musician, Abbigale Dawn, from Norman, OK put us all under her spell with her lovely lyrics and vocals.   She was referred to our place by Oklahoma singer/songerwriter Dylan Stewart.  Phoenix Circle Foundation organizes these house concerts not only to support musicians, but in the hopes that we will also be able to raise a few dollars to go toward the Foundation's mission of bringing arts opportunities and experiences to an underserved part of rural Oklahoma.  It is a win-win proposition for everyone - musicians, the Foundation, the audience, and of course Andy and I.  We win by getting exposure for the BandB and by not having to drive an hour for entertainment and fun.  We so much appreciate the musicians who are willing to come out here, and the people who come out for the concert.   We already have several concerts lined up for the first half of this year!

We've been busy with the Friends of Roman Nose State Park Assoc. and the new management at the park in organizing the annual Trout Derby, scheduled for the first weekend in March.  The FORN group will be working with the Chamber of Commerce and we hope to have a good turn-out.  The FORN group is also working on getting a reprint of the book by Dr. M.C. Weber, "Roman Nose State Park--A History" that the group sells as a fundraiser.  The book is the essential guide to the history, geology, and culture of the Park.

We are also excited to hear that the Chamber of Commerce has hired a new admin director!  That should  mean some good things happening in Watonga in the coming year.  I know that Andy and I and Phoenix Circle Foundation personally  have some plans for new and fun activities once we get the Arts Center open .... and on that front, we are thankful and happy that the Phoenix Circle Foundation has been awarded  a grant from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful to put towards the redo of the building on Main Street that Andy has been working on all year.  The money will allow us to finish the front of the building with new windows and an awning, and that will complete the block on the northeast end of Main Street (i.e., all of the storefronts are attractive and have businesses in them).   Once that is completed, Andy can then turn his attention to finishing the inside of the building. specifically to a heating and air conditioning system before the summer.  I'll be looking for and requesting donations and grant money for that equipment and installation.  I'll also be sending in a Press Release to our local newspaper in the next week or so to let the public know where the money is coming from -- a great organization called KEEP OKLAHOMA BEAUTIFUL that has lots of conversation, litter cleanup and recycling programs, and even art projects that repurpose, recycle, and reuse things that might otherwise be thrown away.  I hope to work with the Chamber of Commerce and the local schools on a couple of thesenKOB  projeects to keep Watonga and the State Park  looking good.   

The road we live on, Hwy 8A, is only a couple of miles long and leads right into Roman Nose State Park.  It is amazing to me how much trash and litter is thrown out of cars that use that road, both coming and going from the Park.  When Dr. Max and Marjorie Barrett lived here, they walked along the easement every day and picked up trash from the roadsides for years.  It was great exercise for them, and kept the highway free of litter that would otherwise be blown by the wind onto the properties of those who live along the highway.  I think that would be a great project for a 4-H group or Boy Scout group, or even an after-school project for elementary and middle school youth. 

This week our new puppy Sadie (named after the Beatles song Sexy Sadie) went in for her spay operation.  She is young--eight months old-- and will heal quickly.  The first day after surgery she was lethargic, ate but then threw up her food, drank little water, and pretty much just rested though her puppy instinct was to jump and play. We kept her subdued for the next couple of days and she is getting more frisky and active every day. She loves to run and jump through the woods like a gazelle.

 Sadie is trying to make friends with KikiDee, who I have been allowing to come into my bedroom in spite of my allergies.  She doesn't stay long but when she is inside my bedroom she room she explores a little, tolerates the puppy's playful advances, and then ends up curled up at my feet.  Sadie tries to engage with her, and Kiki Dee responds with little love bites on Sadie's feet and neck.

Andy and I are planning to take a vacation and Drew and Jenna will take care of the house and animals while we are gone.  We haven't had a vacation in 3 years other than a weekend visit here and there, so we are going to "sell the stock and spend all the money" [ from Sting's "Brand New Day"]  and celebrate Andy's birthday with long-time loved friends--I don't know all of the details but I've heard rumors that there will be a limosine involved.  Hopefully in a warm climate! 

I think our next House Concert is in February, maybe around Valentine's Day. Right now it is happy hour and I'm settled in (google the Finnish term "kalsarikannit") so I won't be able to give any more information until the morning.  We have some very sweet guests staying with us this evening and I have a special breakfast planned for them in the morning, so I'm shutting down the computer for this evening.  WISHING ALL A HAPPY FRIDAY AND HAPPY WEEKEND!!

Looking forward to comments on this post!!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Upcoming House Concerts

Jan 6, 2018 -- Today is Epiphany, commonly known as Three Kings’ Day in the United States, signifying the end of the Christian Christmas season.  It celebrates the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus and also remembers his baptism, according to the Christian Bible’s events.

After a week (or more) of VERY cold weather, the past couple of days have been slightly warmer (40 degrees is my benchmark for "too cold") and Andy has been busy cutting down dead trees and chopping wood for the house fireplaces.  I've been focusing on scheduling House Concerts and my writing.  On Thursday evening, a friend and I drove to Enid to attend the Enid Writer's Group meeting and it was very interesting.  Got to meet some new people, interested in house concerts and poetry readings in addition to being supportive of poetry, prose, and song writing.  It was a fun evening. 

The Red Carpet Country annual Visitors' Guide is going to press.  Watonga has two pages of promotion in the guide, which will be good for tourism and increased number of visitors to our area throughout the year.

Friends of Roman Nose State Park Association will meet at the RNSP Lodge on Monday, Jan. 8, at 6:00 PM.  Plans for the annual Trout Derby at the lake will be discussed.  This event has been a collaboration between the Watonga Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of Roman Nose State Park Assoc. nonprofit group for many years and it requires community volunteers to make it a successful event.  Everyone on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors are invited to attend and give input, as well as all members of the Chamber and all residents and business owners in Watonga.  It is an event that brings lots of visitors to our area.  Come out to the meeting and meet the new Park Manager, Kyle Bernis.  

The 2018 Oklahoma House Concert series at the Chaparral Retreat is off to a good start, with bookings already scheduled for the first three months of the year and new inquiries coming in daily from touring musicians.  As a director of the program, we are excited about the exposure we are getting and the interest of musicians in coming to Watonga.  The next House Concert will be on Sunday, January 14, featuring ABBIGALE DAWN, a young singer/songwriter from Norman, Oklahoma.  In 2017, a few shows were held at our local Whirlwind Winery, bringing people to downtown Main Street.   I invite anyone who wants to get facebook notifications of upcoming events and concerts to join the OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERTS Group page I've set up.  We are looking forward to the opening of the building next door to the winery at 111 E. Main St. in town where we will be able to host all kinds of arts events in 2018. 

Speaking of which, significant progress has been made on the renovation of the old building at 111 E. Main St.  The inside has been gutted and prepared for installation of plumbing and electric, and the outside front of the building has a complete new look.  SADLY, several of the new windows  have been vandalized and broken, and several panels will already have to be replaced.  The incidents have been reported to the police, and we are hopeful that neighboring business owners and other residents will report suspicious behavior around the building to the police (keeping fingers crossed, as that's all we can do until we get a security system installed).   We each regularly drive to the building and around the block several times a day, but the vandalism seems to be occurring overnight under cover of darkness. Now that the police department and neighboring business have been made aware of the vandalism, maybe the problem will stop as more people are watching.

Our mini-Aussie Sadie puppy is getting big -- that is, as big as she's going to get.  She is so full of energy and loves to run and play outside when it isn't too cold.  Jenna made a stuffed toy out of old socks and sweater for Sadie for Christmas and she loves throwing it around.  Sometime soon I need to learn how to video and transfer moving pics to facebook.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of Year 2017

2017 has been a good year--productive, sometimes stressful, but overall I feel like I've accomplished a lot both in my business ventures, in my writing, and in stress and my health management. Though I got hit with the flu at the end of this year, my health has generally been good all year. I haven't been as consistent as I would have liked to have been this past year in several areas, but think I am getting the hang of managing my time among all of the things I want to do and, if I wanted to call it a new year's resolution, it would be to put some of the ideas I've read and learned this past year into practice in the coming year. Today I'm going to try and catch up on this blog!  Most of this end of year update has been posted at some time during the year on facebook.

Andy and I and our family want to wish everyone a safe and happy new year celebration and success in 2018 in all of your endeavors!

We are still working on building our clientele for the Bed & Breakfast but pretty much stay as busy as we want to. It is such a treat for us to meet new people, make new friends, and catch up with returning guests. All of our "advertising" is on social media or word-of-mouth, with, TripAdvisor, and Google searches bringing us guests looking for a special experience. We have a great relationship with the Park Lodge staff and management and we each refer potential guests back and forth. There is a new Park manager and a new Park Ranger at Roman Nose State Park and we look forward to working with them, both in promoting their programs and attracting more people to this tucked-away treasure in rural Blaine County. 

Our "Oklahoma House Concert series" has attracted many talented musicians to come out to the Chaparral Retreat to perform, and our audience is growing.  We've been working with the owners of the Whirlwind Winery in downtown Watonga to "cross-promote" our businesses.  They bring in lots of people from the OKC metro area through their wine & cheese pairing Groupons, and Brad and Don (owners) allow us to promote our B&B and the House Concerts at their storefront on Main St.  We have even held a couple of house concerts at the winery, trying to get more visitors to the Watonga downtown area.  

Brian Pounds and Grace Pettis 


We haven't done any Liquid ART classes this year but did provide supplies and art instruction for two local fundraisers -- one for a woman's medical expenses and one for a Relay for Life team. Mainly, we have been focusing on the music series and renovating the building next to the Winery on Main St. Watonga in order to open an Art Gallery/Creative Space. Andy has made lots of progress this year with the help of Drew and several volunteers. Phoenix Circle Foundation received a small grant from Walmart and I've submitted several other grant applications that we hope to hear from in January. The space is coming together slowly but surely, and we want to have it ready for some children's art projects and to use as a live music venue by Mid-March. In order to do that, I do a lot of "begging"/fundraising, and praying for that special "angel" -- a local business person or corporation who can see our vision for Main Street to become a year-around tourist destination and is willing to invest in the community with a significant philanthropic gift to Phoenix Circle Foundation.

We are thankful for the individuals who support our efforts and support the arts with their donations and attendance at activities and events we have held over the year, including the house concerts. This past year we had at least one house concert a month, held a sidewalk chalk art activity for children in town, and gave away free school supplies to local children/families. PIONEER TELEPHONE and Geary resident Kaye Base donated to our effort to encourage youth to pursue art experiences with a $250 scholarship to a high school student in May. I've worked with the high school counselors and art teachers in the schools in Blaine County that have some kind of arts program -- music or visual arts -- to raise awareness about Phoenix Circle Foundation's mission.
This summer we held an art auction and house concert as a fundraiser, featuring Brian Pounds and Grace Pettis from Austin providing some awesome music, and works of art donated by several Oklahoma artists for us to sell. Both the Whirlwind Winery and K&R Liquor provided some adult beverages, and we had Bedre' chocolate for our guests. We cannot say "thank you" enough to everyone who helped make this small event a success. I've posted our thanks on all of our facebook pages, but we can never thank these awesome and generous people enough!

This is all I have strength to write today -- I may edit later, but for now, I hope everyone is able to stay healthy, warm, and safe at the start of the new year!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December 14, 2017

TODAY ANDY AND I ARE CELEBRATING OUR 37th ANNIVERSARY.   We are blessed and happy to be where we are in life.  Last night Sadie woke me up around 3:45 a.m., wanting to go outside. While I waited for her to finish her business, I was for some reason inspired to get out my journal and hand-write a poem: 

"Nobody gets out of here alive.
Good things happen in life - embrace and enjoy them.
Bad things happen - embrace them and learn from them.
Everyday is a test of how we will live our life and what we get out of it.
But nobody gets out of here alive." (c) Linda Barrett 12/2017

I thank Nathan Brown for spending time with me after his show on Monday night and inspiring me to write.  And I thank Dylan Stewart for his support and encouragement for me to pursue (and hopefully accomplish) one of the items on my bucket list, and his willingness to help make it happen.  His songwriting also inspires me to write.  All of the musicians who have come to our place to perform have left a piece of themselves here that I can think about when I get off track.  I can't list them all here, but they know who they are, from locals Katie Ballew-Lyle and Vernon Brickman  to TJ George from Columbus, Ohio and Caroline Cotter from Maine.  We've had quite a ride this past year, and it's not over yet!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

End of year House Concert

 Dec. 11, 2017
Chaparral Retreat, Whirlwind Winery, and Phoenix Circle Foundation were honored to host Nathan Brown at the Whirlwind Winery on Monday evening. We had great conversation, music, some poetry reading, and, of course Wine with a great group of people who came out on a weeknight to support an important goal: Bring more of the Arts to rural Oklahoma!   This show was the last Oklahoma House Concert for 2017, and as you can see from Nathan's post below, his next to last for the year. 
Our thanks go to Nathan for his time, wisdom, and inspiration; to Brad for the wine, and to friends who shared this special time with us and supported the arts with their presence and donations.

Nathan has published several books, available on Amazon and at Mezcalita Press LLC. Check out Nathan Brown-The Poetry Page on facebook and "Like" his page. 

Oklahoma House Concerts is "on the map" and attracting more and more musicians to come out and play in a special place, with more visitors from out of town coming to have a unique and intimate experience. 
After the show at the Winery on Monday, I spent time chatting with Nathan at the house. We stayed up way past my usual bedtime and talked about writing, inspirations, rituals, publishing, the potential we have in the small town where I live to have a fabulous place for the arts, music, writing, storytelling, workshops .... we were in a mind-meld. I want to put everything else I am involved in away in a box and just write. I have a few more things to get done this year, and then I may consider dropping everything else, staying in my cozy bedroom and just writing, try to finish one project. Winter is a good time for that, for me, because I hate cold weather and tend to spend a lot of time indoors anyway.  One thing Nathan told me he does everyday as part of his morning "ritual" is write one poem.  I'm going to incorporate that into my morning routine.   Here is what I wrote today: 

"Valerie jerks forward as she passes me, like the startled feral cats she lives with. Food and water are her only needs other than the occasional accidental brush against someone’s leg when she chooses to be near people. Though she was out on the street today, I guess she wasn't in the mood for human touch.  She isn’t seen much around town these days. I believe she’s found her place in the world, a kind of solitude among her feline friends. I wonder who puts out food and water for them all now." 

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Nov. 26, 2017 - November color 

We've had a whirlwind weekend, between Thanksgiving Day activities and visiting with guests on Friday, Saturday, and today.  We shared Thanksgiving dinner with a friend of Drew's, played a board game, cooked, ate too much, and cleaned up the kitchen.  Spent Friday a.m. cleaning rooms for incoming guests, a young couple who were having their wedding ceremony in OKC at their home church on Friday afternoon and then coming out to the Retreat for the weekend.  What a joy they were to meet and interact with.   They had made a reservation for the New Mexico room, and they had the bedroom end of the house to themselves.  Throughout the weekend we shared stories and blessings.  They were both a joy to be around. 
      On Saturday morning I made oatmeal and set out  small bowls with "fixings" -- pecan pieces, raisins, spiced apple slices, brown sugar, cinnamon,  honey, and toast.  They invited me to join them for breakfast and we shared a long leisurely meal with conversation that led into lunchtime.  They shared food that they had brought with them, left over from the wedding party--homemade hummus, pita bread, fruit salad, wedding cake.  Andy left the house to go to the OU football game, so he missed out on the lunch goodies.  After lunch, the guests were interested in seeing our kids' building project so we headed up the hill.  It was a beautiful, partly sunny and warm afternoon and we ended up hiking quite a ways around the property.   Sadie ran with us and wore herself out.  It was 3:00 pm before we got back into the house.  I relaxed and read for a while, and the couple went out to Roman Nose State Park where they spent a couple of hours. 
    On Saturday evening, we were all sitting down for dinner and more conversation-- they had brought food and used our kitchen to cook their dinner;  I hate Thanksgiving leftovers - pork loin, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.  I also set out the jalapeno/cranberry salsa I had made and shared it with our guests. 
    After we had finished our dinner and were sitting around the table visiting, there was a knock on the front door and a couple walked in.  The woman, Rita, said "Are we in the right place?"   I invited them in and walked over to them, asked how I could help them. My first thought was "Oh no, did I take a reservation from someone and not write it on the calendar?"  Before I could ask if they had a reservation with us,  Rita asked if we had a room for the evening.  They introduced themselves as Chuck and Rita, told me that they had been to the State Park Lodge, just travelling through on a whim.  The Lodge was full, but the desk clerk told them about our place "around the corner".  We always have a sign on the front porch that says "COME ON IN", and so when they saw that they did what the sign said to do -- they walked right in!  We all had a good laugh. 
     I checked our calendar (to make sure I hadn't made a reservation for someone and not written it down), saw nothing booked, and then asked Rita and Chuck if they would have a seat while I checked to see if we had a room "ready", meaning cleaned and ready for a guest.  Fortunately the Texas room was clean and ready, just needed some towels put into the bathroom.  I took Rita and Chuck down the hall to see the room, quoted them a price, and they decided to stay.  We all had another laugh when they told me they didn't have any luggage, that they had decided to get into the car that afternoon and "wing it".  They had eaten dinner at the Lodge and asked about a room. Had the desk clerk not told them about our place, they would have gotten back on the road and driven to Oklahoma City.
    I'M STOPPING HERE FOR A BREAK --- I NEED TO REST MY EYES.  There is more to the story of this weekend, so check back tomorrow to finish reading ....... /Linda

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Nov. 23, 2017
Today is supposed to be a nice day outdoors, with temperatures in the 60's.  I don't pay too much attention to the TV weather forecasts other than to get a general idea of temperature and possible rain on a day-to-day basis;  each TV weatherman has a different take from hour to hour.  We have two outside thermometers, one outside my bedroom window on the north side of the house under the patio cover, and the second outside the kitchen window on the southwest side of the house.

We are having a nice quiet Thanksgiving at home.  Andy's making a pork loin, Drew is making mashed potatoes and a butternut squash soup, Jenna is making deviled eggs and appetizer plate, I am making a jalapeno/cranberry salsa and roasted garlic broccoli.  Andy's made a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. 

I started the day with quiet reflection and thankfulness for all of our blessings. There have been some tough times to get through but we've also had lots of support for what we are doing with our business, house concerts, the proposed art center.  I am learning to let go of the negative remarks, threats, and small town gossip, and focus on doing what our family can accomplish and not on what we can't change. Our friends and supporters, both local and people who come here from out of town and out of state, far outnumber the small group of naysayers. And I can look back over the year and see that my reaction to things and outlook have made me happier and less stressed.  Yes, I still catch myself thinking "unbelievable" when I see, hear, or read some of the silliness and pettiness that goes on in the world, but I am quicker to shut out those thoughts and look toward the good in the world. 

After checking my facebook pages, emails, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, expressing thanks to all of our friends, family and supporters, I plan on spending some time playing with our puppy, Sadie.  She's a hoot - runs around like a greyhound, jumps and twirls like a whirling dervish, will take a sock with a ball in it and swing it around and then throw it, like a shotput. I'm going to try and record her and post it to facebook.

I continually have our building project on my mind.  Raising money to finish the building and open the art center is my full-time job.  In reviewing the budget for the project for a grant application, I was surprised by the numbers -- we've invested $25,000 of our own money, have raised $4,000 in donations and grants, and still need about $25,000 to make it into a classy place that our community can be proud of.  But for today, I'm putting all of that aside and enjoying the day with friends and family!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!!
/Linda  (not proofread)