Linnaeus Teaching Gardens Inspire Passion for Nature

The Linnaeus Teaching Gardens in Tulsa are completely free, and a great way to explore nature and relax!

This weekend, the Mr. and I were searching for a quiet spot to talk and unwind. Often, we head to the lovely Woodward Park for relaxing walks. On this particular visit, we were delighted that the Linnaeus Teaching Gardens were open for our perusal. Located behind the rose gardens at 2435 S. Peoria Ave., the Linnaeus Teaching Gardens are a gift to Northeastern Oklahoma — literally.

The gardens opened in 2006 as a result of donor contributions, the hard work of volunteers, and the donations of plants and landscaping features from industry sponsors. Over the last six years, the gardens have operated as a free, teaching center for the public. Much of the vision behind the gardens sprung from Tulsa Garden Center horticulturist, Barry Fugatt, who also writes the garden column for The Tulsa World.

The gardens were named in honor of Carl Linnaeus, Swedish naturalist and the father of botany. Tulsa sculptor Rosalind Cook created a six-foot tall bronze statue of Linnaeus, which stands in the entrance of the gardens.

The gardens are filled with educational exhibits, and volunteers are happy to help visitors learn. Parts of the garden actually demonstrate various techniques for growing vegetables, annuals, perennials and more. The gardens also host a compost/recycling station where visitors can learn environmentally friendly methods for dealing with garden waste.

Children are welcomed in the gardens, and a free story time is held every Thursday at 10 a.m.

I’m neither a gardener nor a child, but I love this place. It’s an incredibly relaxing place to go for a walk, write in your journal, or read a book. Devon and I enjoyed a earth-shattering, thought-provoking conversation on the veranda overlooking the Water Garden and imagined for about 30 minutes that we owned the whole place. There’s nothing wrong with letting your imagination run wild while you’re being inspired by nature.

If you’re the flower-tending type, you will flourish here (pun intended!). But even if your thumb is far from being green…like mine…you’ll still enjoy walking around, enjoying the trickling brooks and splashing fountains, colorful fish and tranquil lily pads, and the aroma of roses and the like.

There were a few plants that really surprised me. In the “Heirloom Veggie Garden,” we saw gourds that were bigger than my head. I’m serious. And I have a pretty big head. They looked like maybe they were aspiring to be watermelons but couldn’t really get the oval shape thing down. A gardener informed us that these are not just any old gourds, but they are African gourds. See, I learned something! Fun!

The Linnaeus Teaching Gardens are almost entirely run by volunteers. Volunteers go through a 12-week, 50 hour training program that teaches them how to maintain the gardens and share their skills and knowledge with the public. Pretty impressive! And what a beautiful place to invest your time! There are literally hundreds of volunteers who tend to the weekly upkeep of the garden and teach the public about the plants, so be sure to tap them for some horticultural wisdom.

If you haven’t visited the Linnaeus Teaching Gardens yet, you are missing out. It’s a completely free way to explore nature and relax! The gardens are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you’ve visited the gardens, what is your favorite area?

Tea Time in Tulsa: Dragonmoon Tea Co.

I always leave Dragonmoon Tea Room in Tulsa feeling soothed by the herbal powers of tea, enchanted by the transient atmosphere, and fulfilled by the good conversation with a friend.

Dragonmoon Tea Co. is one of those Tulsa gems that makes me feel like I’m either in an enchanted fairy land or some remote English village. Regardless, it’s neither “Wonderland” nor a British shire of any kind. It’s a tea room tucked away in a 1920s-style home in Midtown. And if you like tea and foods dainty and delicious, you will love Dragonmoon!

Now, before you go, you need to note that Dragonmoon, located near Expo Square at 1927 S. Harvard, is only opened from 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. So don’t try going there on a Sunday or Monday. Or for dinner. Unless you like eating dinner at 4 p.m.

When you first arrive at Dragonmoon, you are escorted into an endearing little room with anywhere from one to three tables with lovely white, granite tabletops. It’s a very quaint feeling – like you’re visiting an old friend for tea time. Their hot tea menu, which is extensive, is always the first thing I look at. On this particular visit, I chose a white rose tea, which was perfect and dainty.

At Dragonmoon, the staff serves you the tea in such a way that you feel like you’re the Queen of England – on a candle-lit flower petal warmer, in a glass pot. It’s quite exquisite and really sets the ambiance for a perfect tea-sipping experience.

For lunch, I tried the Turkey Pita Pockets (right below), which were filled with basically an entire garden – cucumbers, lettuce, avocado, red onion and green pepper, and topped with a creamy yogurt dressing. For the side, I got my usual – the chilled rice salad. I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve never actually tried any of the other sides at Dragonmoon, because I have been in love with the chilled rice salad ever since first bite. It’s wild rice adorned with dried cranberries, green onion, orange thyme dressing and pecans. It does not disappoint. But I’m sure the other sides are all equally fulfilling.

My friend Beth, who was my tea room date on this occasion, tried the Spinach Salad, which was filled with apples, raisins, red onions and peanuts, and topped with a curry dressing. Being the healthy eater type, Beth was quite pleased with the healthy options available at Dragonmoon and really enjoyed her salad.

On this particular occasion, we were both feeling pretty stuffed by the end of our meal, so we didn’t spring for dessert. But in the past, I’ve tried a number of their sweet treats and have always wanted to give the chef a standing ovation after having devoured every last crumb. The Chocolate Chip Croissant Bread Pudding is one of my favorites. If you just want a tiny little treat after your meal, I’d recommend a Raspberry Almond Cookie or Mexican Wedding Cookie. Here’s a link to the entire menu if you’d like to see their other offerings.

On your way out, be sure to check out their store, where you can purchase desserts to go, a variety of teas, seasonal decorations, and more. I love their decorative teapots, which would be a great gift idea for any tea lover (hint, hint, friends and family reading this!).

I always leave Dragonmoon feeling soothed by the herbal powers of tea, enchanted by the transient atmosphere, and fulfilled by the good conversation with a friend.

If you’ve been there, tell us about it. What do you love about this enchanted tea room?

Dragonmoon Tea Co. on Urbanspoon

Weekend Getaway to Eureka! – What To Do

Eureka Springs is exploding with tons of things to do. I’ll share with you a few of the fun attractions we visited, as well as a couple scrumptious places we ate.

Eureka Springs is exploding with tons of things to do. I’ll share with you a few of the fun attractions we visited, as well as a couple scrumptious places we ate.

I’ll start with some of my favorite restaurants, because who doesn’t like salivating over photos of food?!

Casa Colina

This place is a delightful Mexican joint on the hillside leading into downtown historic Eureka Springs. They have lots of outdoor seating. The actual restaurant is in what appears to be an old house, because we walked up two flights of stairs to get to our table, which had a fantastic view of the mountains.

They had a really nice selection of adult beverages, and we enjoyed a strawberry daiquiri and topshelp margarita. We also tried their jalapeno poppers, which were stuffed with chorizo meet! Delish! Hotter-than-George Foreman’s grill-spicy, but delicious nonetheless!

For my meal, I tried the stuffed avocado. It’s essentially an avocado filled with everything good on this earth. (meaning, shrimp, various spices, peppers, onions, etc.) Impressive. Devon tried a lobster crepe, which he said was a-mAH-zing.

Casa Colina Mexican Grill & Cantina on Urbanspoon

Simply Scrumptious Tea Room

I’m one of those very lucky girls who has a husband willing to take her to tea rooms! Real mean drink tea! And my real man took me to the delightful Simply Scrumptious Tea Room for a Friday lunch.

We of course enjoyed the wide selection of hot teas, served in dainty china teacups. And I appreciated the fact that our table had a huge doily underneath the glass tabletop. It really isn’t a tearoom unless you have a doily on your table.

For the meal, Devon tried a turkey sandwich, and I had the Quiche Sampler, which included a bacon and chicken quiche, your choice of soup (I went with tomato), and salad. It was loveliness on a plate.

And of course we couldn’t bypass dessert. After what seemed like a more difficult decision than writing an answer during Final Jeopardy, we went with the Andes’ Mint Cake. The picture really says it all.

Simply Scrumptious also has an adorable gift shop, featuring a cookbook with some of the recipes of delicacies served in the restaurant!

Simply Scrumptious Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Crystal Ballroom – 1886 Crescent Hotel

I briefly mentioned the Crystal Ballroom in my previous post about the historic Crescent Hotel. When you walk into this gorgeous ballroom, you will feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1920s! Wooden floors, a charming pianist tinkling away, crystal chandeliers adorning the ceiling — it’s exquisite! I only wish I had been donning my flapper outfit … and that I owned a flapper outfit!

We went for dinner, but they are also opened for breakfast and lunch. One of my favorite parts about our meal was the bread platter. Instead of just bringing out a plain-ol’ bread basket, the Crystal Ballroom serves an impressive platter, complete with pesto sauce, tomato sauce, cheeses, and meats with which to top your carb concoction!

I had the pecan-encrusted salmon, which was by far the best salmon I’ve ever had in my life! The sweet sauce which affixes the pecans to the fish made the entree taste a bit like a dessert! Parfait! Devon had a steak and said nothing but good things about it.

Also, if you get dessert, be sure to try the coffee! It is now on the list of one of my all-time favorite javas anywhere.

As you would expect for fine dining, the Crystal Ballroom costs a pretty penny, but it has a beautiful ambiance, the service was incredible, and the food was artistically presented and tasted delicious.

Crystal Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Adventures to be had in Eureka!

Call me crazy, but I love caves! And the Eureka Springs area is home to several caves. We visited Cosmic Cavern, which is about 40 minutes away from Eureka Springs in Berryville. The tour lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the various types of formations: stalagmites, stalactites, “soda straws,” “bacon,” and more. (You’ll just have to go on the tour to be able to understand what “cave bacon” is!)

My favorite part of the cave is the two bottomless lakes. The owner and geologists have been able to measure down to 800 feet in one of the lakes, but cannot get measurement tools any deeper than that! Pretty impressive! You can see in my photo a canoe they still use to traverse the lake!

Overall, the cave was a great experience. You will learn a ton of history and feel like a real adventurer by the end of your tour. And you will get a couple cool “cave shots” like ours, which are always fun additions to your photo albums.

Back in Eureka Springs, we of course enjoyed some shopping at the many stores downtown. We visited one fun shop called East by West that is famous for its “working bunnies.” I was impressed to watch a well-trained rascally rabbit pick up money in its mouth, hop along the counter, and deposit it in the cashier’s hand! Apparently there is another store in Eureka Springs with “working bunnies” called Caroline’s Collectibles. It’s definitely worth your time to stop in at one of these stores and see the bunnies in action!

We also enjoyed a couple of spiritual adventures. We love visiting places where we can feel God nearby. One great spiritual setting in the area is St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church. The church is actually just below the Crescent Hotel, so it was quite convenient for us to get to. The church has been there since the early 1900s and is just lovely.

We also enjoyed a visit to the architectural masterpiece that is Thorncrown Chapel. This place will make your jaw drop! Standing 48 feet tall with 425 windows and over 6,000 square feet of glass, the chapel was chosen as 4th as the American Institute of Architecture’s design of the 20th century. It’s also entrenched deep in the woods, giving it a peaceful, hidden feeling.

I’d love to hear about your favorite things to do and favorite places to eat in Eureka Springs, so I can add them to the list next time we visit! Do share!

insidethorncrown

Weekend Getaway to Eureka Springs!: Where to Stay

This is the story of two places to rest your head in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The first, the original Treehouse Cottages; the second, the 1886 Crescent Hotel.

This is the story of two places to rest your head in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. One, a peaceful, heavenly, magical place. The other, a terrifying, spooky, creepy place. The first, the original Treehouse Cottages; the second, the 1886 Crescent Hotel.

Treehouse Cottages        

My husband and I recently enjoyed a nice long weekend getaway to the old timey charming little mountain town of Eureka Springs. Our first night there, we stayed at a Treehouse Cottage. Now, mind you, I grew up with treehouses in my backyard and I adore trees. I love the sounds of birds chirping and seeing squirrels scurry up trees. So staying at a treehouse cottage was actually on my bucket list! (One thing checked off; about 500 to go!)

Typically when you prepare to stay somewhere, you wonder if the pictures you see on their web site will live up to your expectations. Well, believe it or not, the Treehouse Cottages actually surpassed our expectations!

First, the owners are awesome. They started this business 35 years ago, and they have got it down pat. There are nine different cottages on their property, and each one is totally secluded from the other. Meaning, you can’t see anybody through the trees, so you can do the macarena on your balcony in your pajamas and no one will know! The cottages are equipped with so many wonderful amenities — a jacuzzi tub that faces the woods, a fireplace, pottery handmade by the owner!, a grill on the porch, a fridge, microwave, board games, and much more. I was especially impressed when I opened the fridge to find a loaf of fresh baked pumpkin nut bread and other goodies! Who does that?! It’s little touches like that that really make a place extraordinary.

Another fun amenity is the DVD rental system. When you check in, you can rent as many movies (including new releases!) from their collection. I forced Devon into watching “The Vow,” and then we were both a little weirded out watching “Super 8.” Good ol’ Spielberg.

Our stay at the Treehouse Cottages was absolutely peaceful, romantic, and relaxing. I kept asking Devon, “Can we live here?” The worst part was having to leave. We will DEFINITELY stay there again, and in the future, we’ll know to buy some burgers and fixin’s since you can grill out on your porch.

1886 Crescent Hotel

All right, unfortunately, I can’t give the Crescent as glowing of a review as the Treehouse Cottages. This was the craziest hotel stay I’ve ever stayed in. When you go to the Crescent, you need to know going into it that you will be stayed at an old, creepy hotel. Do not go there for luxury. Go there because you’re a ghost hunter. (This post was written in August 2012. I had a more positive stay there in May 2013).

During our 2-night stay there, my husband and I were placed in 4 different rooms. We actually requested to not stay in the original room they put us in because it was the highest trafficked area in the hotel and was very noisy. Unfortunately, the first room they moved us to, 426, was incredibly hot. Actually, anywhere on the 4th floor during the summer is crazy hot. Even if you have the A/C cranked full blast, the ceilings are so high in the rooms that it takes about 10 hours to cool down to a bearable level. So it seems that no one had stayed in 426 in quite some time, because there was a wasp nest in the ceiling. We saw 3 wasps, there was a spider on the bed, and the toilet didn’t work. So naturally, we asked to be moved.

The next room they moved us to was actually really great. It was in the Annex. If you’re going to stay at the Crescent and you’re looking for some comfort, this is the only way to go. The Annex was built in 2002ish, so it doesn’t feel creepy. The bed was Temperpedic and felt great.

However, we couldn’t stay in the Annex room our second night because it was already booked. So they moved us yet again, this time to Room 419, which is supposedly one of the most haunted rooms in the hotel. We actually had kids knocking on our door trying to see if the ghost would respond. (We of course scared them!) 419 was definitely creepy, with a picture of the supposed ghost, Theodora hanging on the wall. The room smelled awful because I’m pretty sure all of the furniture and carpet is from the turn of the 20th century. I’m not exaggerating.

Also, there was a BAT in our “haunted” room. Yes, A BAT! A bell boy was nice enough to come catch it, and he acted like bats are normal in the hotel rooms there.

Overall, people should understand that the Crescent is not a charming, renovated historic hotel. It’s JUST an old hotel. Yes, it has a ton of interesting history. Yes, the ghost stories are intriguing. But it smells bad, it’s creepy, and I’m not sure the management is too concerned about the hotel’s upkeep. Aside from the wasp and bat incidents, we also learned that the only elevator in the hotel has been out of service for seven months! What?!

However, there were a couple of good experiences we had at the hotel. I’m a cat person, so I loved that there are actually cats living in the hotel! (Notice my picture of the pretty grey kitty I discovered in the gardens). We got a couples’ massage at the New Moon Spa inside the hotel, and they were both superb. The restaurant inside the hotel, the Crystal Ballroom, was also nice. It’s pretty expensive, but it has a beautiful ambiance, the service was incredible, and the food was exquisite. Also, the coffee served at the Crystal Ballroom was outta this world good!

Well, those are my reviews of the places we stayed in Eureka! There are a ton of other places — mostly charming bed and breakfasts — to stay in Eureka, so if you’re planning a visit there, you will have a lot of choices to make!

I’ll have another post coming soon about places to eat and things to do on your weekend getaway to Eureka Springs!

Tulsa’s ONEOK Stadium = Must-Do Summer Stop

ONEOK field is everything a minor league baseball team and its fans could ask for, featuring fabulous views of the downtown Tulsa skyline and a ton of activities for the whole family.

It’s late July in Tulsa. Which means not just heat, but sweltering heat. Fry an egg on the sidewalk heat. Melt a stick o’butter on the mailbox heat. Hide inside and pray the A/C never, ever, ever breaks down. You get the point.

But let not the heat sway you from getting outdoors, Tulsans! Especially when that means taking in the great American past time that is baseball in Tulsa’s gorgeous, 2-year-old ONEOK field, home to the Tulsa Drillers!

If you grew up in Tulsa, you may remember making trips to the old Drillers stadium at 15th and Yale. Creaky, old, blue seats, miniature plastic baseball caps filled with ice cream — all wonderful memories from my childhood. While the old Drillers stadium held a certain nostalgic charm, the new ONEOK field is everything a minor league baseball team and its fans could ask for. The field, located in north downtown at 201 N. Elgin Ave., opened in 2010 and features not only fabulous views of the downtown skyline, but a ton of activities for the whole family.

On my most recent visit, I was delighted to see lots of well-behaved furry friends scurrying throughout the stadium with their owners. Wednesday nights are “Bark in the Park” nights, which means you can bring your dog with you as long as he/she has up-to-date vaccination records! Next time we go on a Wednesday, our pooch Bella will definitely be coming along!

The Drillers have some sort of promotion going on during every home game — from luchadore wrestling to fireworks on Fridays. Click on the promotion tab by each game here to figure out what’s happening during upcoming games.

As we walked around the stadium, I was amazed at all of the fun activities to keep kiddos entertained. From a slip’n’slide contraption to a water playground, kids can stay cool and happy. And of course there’s plenty of stuff for the adults, too. Really, most people who attend baseball games are content with just the game, good company, a beer and a hotdog, but if you want something a little fancier, there are plenty of opportunties for group outings which include catering and the works.
The Drillers have home games through the end of August, so don’t miss your chance to get in on the fun this summer!

8 Things To Do at Philbrook Museum of Art

Philbrook has a vast array of ongoing events and opportunities for everyone, beyond the typical “looking at art and walking through the gardens.”

 

philbrook1Philbrook. Its name is as rooted in Tulsa’s history as the oil and gas industry of the Roaring ’20s. The museum and gardens are an art-lover’s delight, but there is so much more to Philbrook than what many Tulsans realize. Yes, meandering the halls of the former-mansion-now-museum and beholding paintings like William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “The Sherperdess” is surreal. And strolling through the lush gardens is the closest thing to Versailles you can find in Oklahoma.

But Philbrook has a vast array of ongoing events and opportunities for everyone, beyond the typical “looking at art and walking through the gardens.” So I’ve come up with a few ideas and event suggestions that may spark your interest. Enjoy!

8 Things To Do at Philbrook:

8) Study. OK, maybe I’m weird, but Philbrook was my favorite study spot in college! And Philbrook offers not just a student yogadiscount, but free admission for most university students from local colleges. Find your favorite painting or a bench under a tree in the gardens, and you can be flexing your cranium for hours in one of the loveliest atmospheres in Tulsa!

7) Exercise. Yoga, pilates, walking, Tai Chi. What more beautiful, relaxing place to get in touch with your “inner self” than the Philbrook Gardens? Some of the events are members only, so be sure to check out the calendar for details.

6) See a movie. My VERY favorite thing to do in Tulsa all summer long is to see a Movie on the Lawn at Philbrook.  Last summer, my husband and I saw “Paris When It Sizzles” starring Audrey Hepburn in the  middle of July. The movie was not the only thing sizzling in the middle of July…so was the audience in the 90+ degree heat, even though the movie didn’t start until after 9 p.m.! But it was well worth it. Plus, guests are welcomed to bring coolers, blankets, and lawn chairs. Philbrook also offers wine for purchase. For the rest of the 2012 summer season, Philbrook has 2 more movies remaining: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on July 20 and “Shakespeare in Love” on July 27.

5) Get Shakespearean. The only thing potentially better than seeing a movie in the atmosphere of the lush Philbrook gardens is seeing a play. And not just any play; mind you — Shakespeare! Philbrook features a few “Shakespeare on the Lawn” nights each summer. The 2012 season will feature “A Comedy of Errors” on August 3-4 and 10-11.

4) Make a family day of it. For free. The second Saturday of every month, Philbrook offers free admission to everyone. Yes, everyone. Astronauts, animal trainers, air balloonists, and even Average Joes. The museum even offers free family-friendly art activities, tours and scavenger hunts for kids of all ages.

 

3) Eat. La Villa Restaurant, located inside the museum, offers fine dining withan elegant ambiance. An organic herb garden located in the Secret Garden supplies herbs for the preparation of entrees. La Villa’s $22 Sunday brunch buffet is a steal, featuring a carving station, salads, cheeses, fruits, deserts and seafood.

2) Be an artist. The museum offers classes for both adults and children, everything from life drawing to homeschool art classes for Philbrook members.

From Philbrook.org
From Philbrook.org

1) Volunteer. If you love the culture and art Philbrook offers Tulsa, why not give back by volunteering your time. A number of volunteer opportunities are available year-round. Plus, it’s pretty cool to be able to say you’re a museum docent in your free time.

Philbrook is a real treasure to Tulsa, and hopefully you will find some time in the near future to explore the museum and gardens in a new and fun fashion!