Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Chaparral Retreat on DISCOVER OKLAHOMA TV

December 20.   It's been a hectic week getting ready for Christmas.  Drew and Jenna did a lot of baking before they left for the road trip to Maryland, to spend the holidays with Jenna's family.  Andy has been busy shelling pecans -- we had a bumper crop this year, probably over 60 pounds so far. I've been roasting them with sugar and cinnamon.  I've also made some spicy sweet nuts that came out pretty good. 

Last week our story segment was aired both in OKC and in Tulsa on the Discover Oklahoma TV show.  The film crew were here in October and the weather was still nice.  They did a great job in putting together the segment.... it is on youtube.  If you can't click here and see it, go straight to youtube and type "chaparral retreat" in the search bar. 

We've already had a day of ice and after that melted, a day of light snow.  The temperatures now are in the 30's overnight but in the 50's (barely) during the day when the sun is out.  I can't complain! 

I know I need to keep up better on this blog and have already made that my new year's resolution.  I spend more time on facebook than anything else, promoting things going on around here.  No one else here does anything to promote Watonga as a tourism destination. They will post information on their own fb page for their own singular benefit.  There was recently a fundraiser for the school, but many who don't have children in school didn't know about it. There were no posters around town, nothing on facebook.  Excuse me, there was an ad in the local newspaper.  The local town government, the chamber of commerce, and the in-name-only Main Street organization don't seem to care about tourism and bringing people here.  If they care, they don't know what to do about it and there is no leadership, nor does anyone want to be given ideas.  It's just sad for the entire community.  So I've kind of taken it upon myself to publicize and promote the things we do have going on here -- music shows, fundraisers, whatever people will send me to post on facebook.

So, that's enough of my "negativity" for the day.   What would life be without ups and downs??  We love our place out here, the peace and quiet, and having friends over to share it with.   Skeeter is hanging in there but moving a little slower every day, except at meal time -- then he jumps around like a pup!  Kiki Dee has now been with us for over two years and earns her keep patrolling the garage and the outside when she gets to go out (she doesn't like to be outdoors when the male cats are out there).  This evening I think I'm going to work on the script for my children's play -- I am determined to get it to a friend who has written her own book, by the end of the year!!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Beginning of Fall

Fall is starting a little later this year than in years past. Probably because of the rain we've had off and on.  The summer wasn't as hot as past years--I don't think we got up to a hundred degrees more than a few days.  We haven't had a freeze yet, but we have gotten down to low 40's overnight a few times.  I'm still in the process of bringing plants into the house.  This coming weekend will be a busy weekend, cleaning house and working in the yard. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Update - October 2015

Oct. 7, 2015
Yesterday I spent the day in Woodward OK at the RED CARPET COUNTRY TOURISM CONFERENCE, and came home reignited and inspired.  I made a lot of contacts there.  And every one of the speakers reinforced and confirmed that we have the bones for what can be a fabulous tourist destination -- the state park, the winery, live music, two different bed & breakfasts, and historical spaces; the town leaders need to all work together to make good things happen.  Andy and I have tried to work with the Chamber of Commerce and have gotten nowhere, so all we can do is continue to push forward by ourselves.  We have lots of supporters but it is sad that the civic group that is charged with working to promote our town is not doing its job. The Chambers of Okeene, Canton, Geary, Seiling and Fairview all recognize the importance of promoting our area to bring in visitors and I am working with them also. 
The Cheese Festival is coming up this weekend and there are lots of frustrated people in town over the lack of communication and information and promotion of the event.  One thing that struck me at the tourism conference yesterday was the statement that our audience, the group that we, as a town, an event, a business, should be targeting are NOT the local population, but people from out of town, out of state.   Yet this year the Watonga Chamber didn't advertise with Travel OK, Red Carpet Country Tourism, Oklahoma Tourism, or any other statewide event guide.  I tried to get them to let me post the event on the tourism facebook page and Red Carpet Country website, but they weren't interested. They sent last year's rack cards for the Cheese Festival for us to distribute at the tourism conference, but no poster or up-to-date information on what's being featured at the Festival this year.  I can only tell people verbally what I know:  that there is going to be a Cheese Festival this year on Oct. 9-10. 

On the upside, the Rat Race seems to be well organized, and the cheese tasting and food contest are on track.  The Kiwanis is lined up to sell cheese on both days, at the Armory and in a building on Main Street.  But the Chamber lost their partnership with Race the Rail, which is a unique and well-attended event and a huge money-maker from the festival--that was $5 a head for over 200 registrants that the Chamber lost.  We will meet with the organizers of the Race to try and keep the bicycle event here in future years and hope for the best. 

Speaking of tourism, we received a call from the local Oklahoma tourism show, Discover Oklahoma, saying they would like to come out to the Chaparral Retreat and shoot some film for one of their episodes.  We are so excited -- this is what we've been working towards for a couple of years!!!  We have a full house this weekend, and next weekend we are hosting the 2014 Oklahoma poet laureate, Nathan Brown, for an Oklahoma House Concert.  The grounds of our place are lush right now and need to be thinned out just a little, but numerous things are still blooming.  Did I mention in an earlier post the Monarch butterfly migration?  I'll post photos..... in the meantime, here is what our building on Main Street looks like for the festival.  I was scraping off the old paint, but gave up on that since Andy is eventually going to tear out the entire front of the building and replace it in a different style.  It still looks trashy, but at least it doesn't look abandoned as it did before!!  Andy has been so busy with other projects that he hasn't had time to work on the outside of the building, but the inside has been gutted and he will start back to work on the inside after this weekend.  ENJOY THE TEXAS/OU GAME!!! 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Sept. 30, 2015
The summer has passed and it's already September.  We had a busy month in July, and a few visitors in August and September.  The weather has been up and down - really hot, in the upper 90's, on some days and then cooler spells when we could work outside.  The gardens and grounds look beautiful, I must say.  It takes a lot of time to tend to the grounds but it is worth the effort. I've posted photos on my facebook page.

Drew and Jenna are making good progress on their earth-bag house. Their chickens are full grown and we expect fresh eggs at any moment.  They eat well - all of our scraps from the kitchen (except onion and meat) and their diet is now supplemented by some chicken feed that will induce them to lay. We went to Tulsa for a friend's wedding a couple of weekends ago and we were all of us thinking that we might miss the first egg (like missing your baby's first step)! We didn't miss the event... four of the hens are now laying. 

I am now a member of the board of directors of the Red Carpet Country Tourism association and I am excited about it.  I attended board orientation and the first meeting of the board in Enid. It was so nice to meet new people who understand tourism marketing and are willing to work at it together for the benefit of all of the communities involved, not just the county each of them come from. RCC covers 16 counties in northwest and north central Oklahoma.  I have already run up against roadblocks at the local Chamber of Commerce in promoting Watonga, but I'm not going to stress about it.  Andy and I are still pushing forward with promoting the businesses and events that do want publicity for Watonga and understand the importance of tourism as a tool for economic development.  We have a gem right here in our midst, the Roman Nose State Park, and I intend to promote the area by working with the local park management and State tourism office.  Blaine County also covers the towns of Okeene, Geary, and Canton.  I am excited about the potential. 

The Roman Nose Hills Trail Ride was last weekend and we had a quiet weekend at the Retreat.  We always give a gift certificate for a night at the Retreat for them to auction off, and also help by working one or two of the meals they serve. This year Andy was in Portland Oregon to visit Blake and take Itzel back to her; and I pulled a muscle in my lower back and was pretty much in bed most of the weekend so we were not able to help serve food during this ride.  The ride was a success, with almost 100 registered, and the profits will go to Kiwanis for their summer school programs.

We've opened The Oven and have had several dinners, and held several House Concerts as fundraisers for Phoenix Circle Foundation.  We've served up to thirty people without any problems.  When the weather is pleasant, it is a wonderful experience to sit out on the patio and eat and visit with our guests.  On October 17 we have the former Oklahoma poet laureate (2013-2014) Nathan Brown coming out to play guitar and read poetry.  We've heard from lots of our friends that they would like to come.  It will be a good experience for anyone who shows up, I am certain.  Fundraising is a continuous job.  I applied for a large grant through Chase Bank, which would have given us the funds to finish redoing the building on Main Street, but we didn't get it. I am always on the lookout for grants and I know the right one will come along.

The annual Watonga Cheese Festival is slowly coming together, and Andy and I are both SO glad not to be involved with it this year.  There have been questions raised as to whether or not it will happen at all, but I do see occasional posts on facebook and on the Chamber's website about the Rat Race and the parade and I've spoken to a couple of the Chamber board members who assured me that there will be a Cheese Festival, though different from past years.  I will be helping with a Red Carpet Country Tourism booth on both days, but will have time to explore and enjoy whatever entertainment there is, and sample wines!!  It will also be an opportunity for me to hand out flyers and rack cards to promote our projects. 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

PAZ in the country

July 25, 2015
It's been 7 years since we moved here to rural Oklahoma.  Andy and I have worked hard over these years to make his family home a peaceful retreat out in the country, near the Roman Nose State Park. We are finally at the point where we are getting regular visitors and we've expanded our services to include an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven dinner and Oklahoma House Concerts.  This is the first year for both activities and we are drawing people in.  We love visiting with people and we get lots of complimentary reviews on TripAdvisor. 

Over the past five years we've gotten involved with the local town and community of Watonga. Population is around 2600, made up of landowners and farmers and cattlemen and the businesses that support that way of life.  Andy and I have both been on the board of directors of the historic Liberty Theatre and helped with live productions. Originally I worked at one of the local banks and got to meet a lot of people.  Dr. Max and Marjorie Barrett had a stellar reputation in town, having been the town dentist for fifty years during which time he brought in younger dentists who worked with him and set up their own practice.  They were involved with the Kiwanis Club, Board of Education, and the Methodist Church, among other community volunteer organizations.  They set an example that Andy and I hoped to emulate.

Lots of change has happened in Watonga over the years..... 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Birthday Party at the Retreat

May  31
Last night we celebrated Jenna’s 25th birthday.  She and Drew planned everything, invited friends, prepared the food.  The weather was chilly in the early morning, but the sun came out and the temperature warmed up.  By early evening it was perfect. The Larsons, Espy’s, Adam & Alison and four children; Sandy R., Lana and Julio, the Brickmans, and Teri and John from Tulsa came over.  Who did I forget?  We played a “guess the celebrity” game that got everyone talking to each other.  The kids went up to the geodesic dome and the henhouse and ran through the woods on trails Andy has cut.  They also played a game Becky brought -- it was nice to see these youngsters enjoying themselves in the outdoors.

Drew grilled chicken satay and vegetables on a skewer; Jenna made a big salad with a variety of greens, beets, herbs and nuts. They also made a tarte and a chocolate torte for dessert. We were entertained by Vernon on guitar.  
We had a couple from OKC stay with us last night.  They were golfing at Roman Nose State Park and were referred to us by the Lodge staff. It turned out that we have mutual friends! 


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ladies Tea

May 28, 2015
Several years ago, a couple of ladies from Omega dropped by to see what we were doing at the house they knew as "Dr. Barrett's house."  They had come from Roman Nose Lodge after having lunch and saw the big rock with the roadrunner logo by the lane that leads to the house.  Andy had completed most of the work inside by then and we gave them a tour.  They were pleased that the house was staying in the family, and I think pleasantly surprised at the updates Andy had made while still staying true to the original character of the home.

Recently, we were called by one of those ladies and she wanted to know if we could host a Tea Party for her and a small group of her friends.  I was delighted!  Her daughter, who now lives in California, was going to be in town after Memorial Day weekend, and she wanted to include her so we set a date.

It was a lovely day -- not too hot, not rainy, and everything in the yard was in bloom.  I cut flowers from the gardens and made several floral arrangements for the tables in the dining room.  I put in some coreopsis, coral honeysuckle, indian blanket, purple salvia, and a few stalks of wild sage, for color and fragrance.  I made a chicken salad with craisins, pineapple and sunflower seeds; cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese sprinkled with dill; tomato sandwiches with a parsley/spinach pesto spread, goat cheese drizzled with fresh strawberry sauce, some lemon cookies, and I put out some chocolate covered almonds.  They had a selection of teas to choose from -- peach, red zinger, chamomile. They invited me to sit and chat with them.  I listened to stories from each of them. Some knew Dr. Barrett and Marjorie, one lady had been a patient of Dr. Barrett, and the younger women spoke of their families lovingly.  We talked about gardens and trading plants and what kind of plants grow in specific places.  They were genuinely interested in the history of the property.  I gave them a tour of the house and they enjoyed that.  Each of them commented on which was their favorite bedroom. 

We think of ourselves as stewards of this property and we love sharing the beauty and peace of it. We're always happy when someone wants to stop in and just visit! 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015


We've had a busy month of May!  The weather has been off and on with rain, storms, then a few hot dry days.  We're having the most wet spring weather I think we've had since we moved here.  Fortunately, our property is very sandy and the water soaks in pretty quickly.  The rain has been wonderful for the gardens! 

We have fish in the pond and lots of tadpoles.

Early this month we hosted a young singer/songwriter for an OKLAHOMA HOUSE CONCERT--Merry Ellen Kirk.  The weather was iffy that Saturday so she set up her keyboard in the family room and played for us.  It was wonderful.  If you get a chance, check her out on the internet, facebook, youtube, etc.  She and her brother were on a road trip, heading to California.  We hope they will come back through here on their way home. There are a couple of great things we like about House Concerts -- the musicians are usually on a "circuit" or on their way to another venue, so we can show them hospitality and get to enjoy their music in our unique setting.  The other thing I like is that we get to meet new people, usually make a new friend. 

Drew led a paint party fundraiser for a Relay for Life team, and one for the Watonga High School After-Prom party. We haven't had a Liquid ART evening at the Winery in a while but have been focusing on fundraising for other groups this month.  I really need to post some photos here!

For Mother's Day I pretty much relaxed.  The rest of the week was busy with graduation activities.

We had a "soft opening" for The Oven at Chaparral Retreat and had a great time with friends who came out for dinner.  We will be open generally on Friday evenings anytime we have reservations for at least 10 people.  I'm working on a press release to get out to some tourism media. 

Andy was mentioned as Chairperson of the Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival in a nice article in last month's issue of Oklahoma Today - tourism edition.  He really worked hard last year to get some publicity for the event, and it worked!  Neither of us are involved with the Cheese Festival this year, as we are focusing on our own efforts to develop the Retreat as a tourist destination in conjunction with Roman Nose State Park.  Most people come to this area for the park, and since there is really very little to do in the town of Watonga, we are going to take advantage of the traffic coming out our way. 

FUN TO DRINK WINE!  This past weekend we hosted the third annual OGIC Oklahoma Wine Competition, organized by our friend Brad Stinson from Whirlwind Winery.  Although the Watonga Chamber of Commerce and the Cheese Festival committee have nothing to do with the wine competition, it has been the tradition to feature the winners of the competition in the various categories at the Festival in October.  I have the list of winners but will hold off publishing them just yet.  They have been notified, I'm sure.  We had seventy (70) entries this year and five judges. Tanya, Drew, Jenna, Andy, Brad, and I were all busy all day but everything went smoothly. We invited anyone who wanted to come out and taste the wines afterward but no one showed up.  Andy lit a fire in the fireplace and we sat out on the patio. It was a lovely evening, nice temperature, no rain.  Good times with good friends!

We're having a Tea Party for a group of women today at the house...... I'll write more later!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spring 2015

May 14, 2015
I just realized that it has been almost a year since I posted an update here.  I've been focusing on Facebook and promoting the town of Watonga more than concentrating on our own place!  We have been following the premise that what's good for Watonga is good for us as a business. In the meantime, we've also been working on developing our property for activities that we hope will bring people from Oklahoma City and suburbs to our little piece of paradise. 

Andy has put in a pond!  The Oklahoma room and the New Mexico room both have a nice view of it, with a thick green backdrop of trees.  He has also built a wood-fired brick oven off of the back patio.  We have been holding fundraisers for the art center we are working on in Watonga on Main Street, with paint and wine parties we call "Liquid ART".  We are fortunate to partner with an excellent wine-maker, Brad, who grows his grapes in Fay, OK and makes his wine right on Main St. Watonga.  Several of the paintings we  and friends did last year at Liquid ART were entered into the Blaine County Free Fair last August and came home with winning ribbons in several categories.

Through our work with the Phoenix Circle Foundation and the support of many, many wonderful people here, we've been able to help the local Elementary School with their music program, helped with the VBS at the Methodist church, the 4-H kids, and the Live at the Liberty in Watonga.  I was excited to see some of the children's art from these efforts were entered in last summer's County Fair! 
 Our friend John Diamond has been bringing music acts to the Liberty Theatre over the past year and the program has grown significantly.  They are generally blue-grass, but the variety of musicians is ashtonishing - from a celtic group to a band named MilkDrive from Austin that plays covers with a touch of jazz as well as original music.  As an alternative to the Liberty shows, we've started having "house concerts" at the Retreat.  These are shows put on by musicians that are part of a circuit, some of whom will play for donations or just for the pleasure of getting to play somewhere unique.  We aren't competing with Live at the Liberty, but rather complementing it by offering an alternative venue in a unique setting. We have several local musicians scheduled for the summer months -- watch our facebook page for updates. 

[got to go for now, I'll be back tomorrow to write more -- There is so much to catch up on!]  /Linda