Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Kiddos" Concert at the Library

The public library wrapped up their summer reading program in a big way today with a fabulous concert by Siloam Springs' own Randy and Debbie Mays, better known as "The Kiddos." The show was full of fun, silliness and great tunes, with an enormous audience that seemed to enjoy every minute. The duo performed well known favorites such as "Chicka Chicka Boom," "This Little Light of Mine," and "Let's Twist Again." They also played some original music, like "New Shoes" and "Stop Bugging Me." Randy and Debbie operate a private preschool in town, and they also stay busy touring and performing. They are upbeat, fun-loving kids-at-heart. If you have the opportunity to take your "kiddo" to see them in concert, I highly recommend it.

After the concert, the large crowd filtered outdoors to enjoy hotdogs and crafts. The library staff clearly went to a lot of trouble to make the event fun and welcoming for all. I really appreciate all of their efforts.

If you missed out, don't fret- Miss Laura continues to host an enjoyable and educational story time for pre-schoolers each Thursday morning at 11:00.
(CORRECTION: Miss Laura is enjoying a well-deserved break for the month of August, and story time at the library will resume September 3rd.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The English Tea Room's Grand Opening

Rob and Dawn Cork being toasted by friends.

Merely a week after my first visit, the English Tea Room hosted their grand opening celebration and is now officially open for business. It was a congenial gathering, with many downtown business owners there to show support. Live music was performed by Ron Jeffries, Tim Stone of Lightning Bolt Advertising, and Tim's son, Nathaniel. There was a rousing sherry toast to the Queen Mum, followed by a chorus of "God Save the Queen" (the United Kingdom's national anthem), followed by our own national anthem.

Shelley Simmons of Main Street and Christina Drake of Local Flair Art Gallery
enjoying the music

The English Tea Room then served a complete and savory meal, consisting of shepherd's pie, roast beef, salmon tea sandwiches, quiche, and bread. There was also horseradish and English mustard served on the side. Rob Cork offered a word of caution regarding the English mustard. He said it was not be used liberally like American mustard, for if one did so, it would "bring you to your knees." Having tried a mere dot of it on my roast beef, I'm inclined to believe he wasn't exaggerating. The meal was topped off with coffee and a lovely cake, depicting an image of the Vintage Square building.

The English Tea Room has added a Three Course English Sunday Lunch to their menu, with starters of prawn cocktail, egg mayonnaise, and soup and a main course of roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, peas and carrots. Dessert choices include strawberries and cream, fruit flan with ice cream, and apple pie a la mode. Patrons can enjoy all of this for just $19.95.

Hope Johnstone of DRC and Harmony Johnstone-Reeser of the Cafe on Broadway
take in the view from the Vintage Square veranda.

I had the pleasure of dining with Carolyn Robinson, owner of the Cafe on Broadway and Harmony Johnstone-Reeser, the cafe's manager. They thoroughly enjoyed the English meal, and are thrilled to have the English Tea Room join them in feeding the downtown's many visitors.

During the open house, I also chatted with Scott and Tasha Jones, owners of the Jolly Rogers Sweet Shoppe (along with Tom Leadabrand). Their latest news is that the shoppe will soon be called Fratelli's Wood Fired Pizzaria, although they'll still serve candy and gelato. Speaking of gelato (and I certainly love to do so), Facebook members are invited to become fans of Fratelli's in order to get flavor updates and breaking news. In case you are curious, this month's featured gelato flavor is Apple Pie.

Cynthia Lee of the Siloam Springs Museum chatting with Carolyn Robinson and
Hamony Johnstone-Reeser of the Cafe on Broadway.

I talked with Cynthia Lee from the Siloam Springs Museum and her husband, John. They mentioned that Pearl Starr, daughter of the notorious outlaw Belle Starr, is rumored to have given birth to one of her children in either the current Vintage Square building (home of The English Tea Room and Picture Me Studio) or the nearby Crown Motel. Just imagine, a building that once birthed an outlaw's grandchild is now giving new life to downtown with international cuisine. (Perhaps I took that analogy too far.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Joni's on Broadway

Recently I've been discussing some of the newer spots on Broadway, and now it's time to mention a classic. I've been a client at Joni's on Broadway for several years, and each time I visit, I leave feeling relaxed and renewed. It's such a combination of things- the atmosphere in the salon is classy and gorgeous, the music is always the right combination of soothing and upbeat, but really, Joni herself is such a nurturing, warm person, and you can't help but feel refreshed after spending time with her. She truly cares about each of her clients, and takes the time to make sure they are happy with their look. Joni says that the goal of her salon is for people to feel the presence of God and to be able to relax and unwind. It really is a special place.

Once, I read this article in Marie Claire about a salon that offers a $1000 haircut, and really, I thought, a $24 haircut from Joni's isn't all that different. Like the $1000 haircut, clients usually have Joni and the salon all to themselves, making for a rather peaceful experience. Also, Joni is always willing to talk at length about what the client wants from their cut, problem areas and solutions. She often serves a beverage, like a cup of her favorite tea, and she is able to provide deep conditioning treatments when needed. My favorite perk at Joni's, however, which I've never experienced at any other salon, is the amazing scalp massage Joni provides during the shampoo. She was a licensed massage therapist in Minnesota, and she utilizes that training to help her clients feel extra-relaxed. It's a real gift!

Joni offers a wide variety of services- haircuts, color, highlights, manicures, pedicures, facial waxing, facials and more. To schedule an appointment, call 524-9211.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome to The English Tea Room!

After great anticipation, The English Tea Room at Vintage Square officially opened its doors today. The owners, Rob and Dawn Cork, have been working diligently to restore the lovely turn-of-the-century building. According to the menu, The English Tea Room is " a happy place, specializing in healthy lunches, afternoon teas and devilish desserts." I certainly agree.

My sister and I spent a delightful afternoon sampling some of the authentic English fare. We tried the "egg and mayonnaise" sandwich (a delicious, classic egg salad) on whole grain bread, and thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate cake for dessert. We also really loved the Lady Grey tea with cream and sugar.

There are two menus- one with soup, sandwiches, salads and quiche, and a "special menu" with more traditional tea options, including scones and crumpets. There is even an exclusive room designed especially for guests who partake of the "proper" English tea.

I'm greatly intrigued by the special menu options, which include "Simply Tea" ($3.50 for a pot) and "Buckingham Tea" ($12.95): "A proper pot of tea of your choice served with a slice of one of our homemade quiches, along with two fresh baked English scones served with cream, and your choice of preserves." There is also an amazingly fabulous-sounding option, "The Windsor Tea" ($19.95) which requires a 24 hour advanced reservation. It includes "a proper pot of tea of your choice served with a delicious selection of finger sandwiches, quiche lorraine, four assorted mini pastries and two fresh baked English scones served with a choice of preserves." Wow!

The atmosphere was quite charming and relaxing, and the staff was very helpful and courteous. While they are currently in the midst of a soft opening, there are plans for a more official grand opening in a few weeks.

Because Rob and Dawn are actually from England, there is a sense of authenticity about the place. From Queen Elizabeth's smiling portrait in the lobby, to the use of the word "prawn" in the menu (as opposed to "shrimp"), guests get the impression that they are experiencing tea as it should be. Tea room hours are Monday-Saturday 10-10, and Sunday 12-8. Credit cards are accepted.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Second Saturday Recap

Photo by Kirk Demarais

Also, I received an e-mail from Beacon Hill Farms with a list of what they will be bringing to the Farmer's Market this week: potatoes, squash, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatillos, peppers, green beans, onions, garlic, lettuce mix, beets, basil, sage, chamomile, dill, kale, leeks, fennel and spinach. The Farmer's Market takes place every Tuesday and Thursday from 8-1.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Baby Habit's Grand Opening

Wow, what a store! If you have not yet visited The Baby Habit in their new location, you are in for a real treat. I had left my house in a fog of post-nap crankiness, but literally started smiling upon entering the shop. It's just so joyful and happy! There are bright colors everywhere, adorable baby-ness on every rack, and the best collection of wooden, whimsical kids' toys around. John Lein, the store owner, is responsible for the recent remodel, along with his wife Miriam. It's just perfect.

I had a great time picking out some super soft, super cute, tiny shirts to be embroidered as gifts. The store boasts their own embroidery machine, and items can be ready in as little as ten minutes. There is a full range of color and style choices.

The selection of baby clothing and shoes at The Baby Habit is really amazing. Better yet, most of their brands seem to be eco-friendly. They carry babysoy clothing, a line that uses 50% recycled soybean fiber. Bamboo Baby brand (made from bamboo fiber) comes from England, and their line of ShooShoos are made in South Africa. Customers can custom order Kids Collection Furniture, a line of amish-made products from Ohio that can be made with organic finishes. The Baby Habit also carries see kai run shoes, Moby Wraps, and cloth diapers.

Miriam and John care about supporting local businesses as well. In addition to their own Baby Habit line of burp cloths and diaper bags, they sell Heather Hill dresses (an adorable line made by a Siloam resident) and amazing paintings by local artist Rebekah Mathis. While suitable for kids' rooms and play spaces, the paintings are vibrant, fun and stylish, and would be perfect in any environment.

With all of that said, I haven't even gotten to the really fun part yet- the toys! The Baby Habit carries a full line of Plan Toys- "Green Toy-Green Company." Everything is wooden and incredibly unique. Modern, yet timeless. Real hands-on and interactive. Young visitors to the store are invited to play and explore- there is a giant train table, and lots of stuff to push and pull. My favorite is an adorable "Sit N Walk" puppy, and I received a miniature version on a key chain as a free gift with my purchase, along with my very own Baby Habit cloth shopping bag. Fun!

Store hours are 11-6 Tuesday-Thursday, and 11-9 Friday-Saturday.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Downtown Mystery

Several years ago, I worked in an office at the corner of Maxwell and Main. I loved it- my desk was in the front corner, surrounded by windows, and I enjoyed gazing at the beauty of Twin Springs park and also watching the town go by on Main Street.

Next door to that office, tucked away in a small alcove, is something that I've always been curious about. It's a dusty door, labeled "The Downtown School." It seems to have seen little action in recent years. I thought I'd see if anyone out there can shed some light on this for me. What was this place?

I'd like to picture this so-called "school" as a place that was operational in the late fifties, perhaps, providing progressive enlightenment to all. Maybe people would sit around on a summer's evening, with a breeze blowing into the second floor windows, discussing philosophy. Perhaps transient beat poets and artists would stop in on their way through town and give lectures on the changing world at large. It's possible, right?

Although the truth may not be quite so romantic, I would like to solve this little mystery. So, the first person to comment with details about "The Downtown School" will receive their very own "Siloam's Got It!" bumper sticker from the 1980's.
I hope to hear from you soon!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Farmer's Market Spotlight

This morning at the Farmer's Market, I had a nice chat with Mr. & Mrs. Dohle of Beacon Hill Farms. They own a Siloam Springs farm that uses all natural growing methods. No pesticides! They have an e-mail list, and they will notify members when they have new items. Be sure to check out their website for additional information about their fresh, local farm: www.beaconhillfarms.com.

I also spoke with Marie Davis, who always brings lovely handmade crocheted items to the market. This morning, I noticed a super cute bee she had made, available for $3:

Marie said that she sells the bees as fast as she can make them. They wold make a great baby gift, or just a sweet surprise for that special "honey" in your life.

The Farmer's Market takes place every Tuesday and Thursday from 8-1 on the corner of University and Mt. Olive.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Plein Air Painters of the Ozarks

Artist Eileen Dineley Baatz

Siloam Springs and its vibrant downtown provided inspiration for a variety of artists today. The Plein Air Painters of the Ozarks, a group dedicated to painting the outdoor beauty of Northwest Arkansas, spent several hours painting in Twin Springs Park. According to Wikipedia, "En plein air is a French expression which means 'in the open air', and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors."

Artist Kay Picket

Artist John Dillingham

The group, consisting of about sixty members, meets every Wednesday from Spring to Fall in a different Northwest Arkansas location. The members range in skill from amateur to professional. Most of them work with oils, some use watercolors, and some sketch. Several prominent Siloam Springs artists are members, such as Eileen Dineley-Baatz, Todd Williams, Jim Lewis, and John Lasater. Helen, the group's treasurer, enjoys sketching the artists at work rather than the scenery.

After spending time painting in the park, the group convened at the Cafe on Broadway for lunch, and then visited Local Flair Art Gallery. Some of the paintings created this morning, featuring the beauty and bustle of Twin Springs park and Broadway, may now be available for purchase at the gallery.

Kay Picket's charcoal sketch of the Main and Broadway intersection.

Eilieen Dineley Baatz's oil painting of the Twin Springs Park gazebo.

Main Street Arkansas visits Siloam Springs

Photos by Hope Johnstone

This week, Siloam Springs received a visit from members of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program's Main Street Arkansas division. According to their website, the organization provides "technical assistance, design services and small business consultations that help create economic development in the state's downtown areas."
Susan Shaddox, Mark Miller and Greg Phillips from Little Rock were in town to meet with local downtown business owners and the Main Street Siloam Springs board to provide advice and strategic planning in order to help our historic downtown achieve its full potential.

Main Street Siloam Springs board members met on Tuesday evening, and afterwards a dinner was hosted by Todd and Shelley Simmons at their home. Thirty to forty board members and downtown business owners attended. The event was catered by Emelia's Kitchen, a Fayetteville restaurant that will be opening a new location this fall in Siloam Springs at the corner of Mount Olive and University.

Greg Phillips from Main Street Arkansas talks with Don Wardon, director of the Siloam Springs Museum.

Lovely lemon chicken from Emelia's Kitchen.

Bob Landsaw, a Main Street Siloam Springs board member, with Christina Drake, a realtor and owner of Local Flair Art Gallery.