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Summer 2014

Summer makes a splash in area pools



Green Country Living


contents 9

The Cousins Home Part one of a four-part series on local backyard retreats.

The Roberts Home


Part two of a four-part series on local backyard retreats.

The Alexander Home


Part three of a four-part series on local backyard retreats.

The Tedesco Home Part four of a four-part series on local backyard retreats.

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Light appetizers pair wonderfully with summer wines.

The Cook’s Pantry

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Wonderful Wine

Create these cool summer dishes with ingredients from your graden


Historic Homes of Muskogee The Elliott house

Cover photo by Jerry Willis

on the cover

Summer 2014



editor ADVERTISING SALES Layout & Design

Issue 37

Jerry Willis Angela Jackson Amanda M. Burleson-Guthrie

Green Country Living is published quarterly by the Muskogee Phoenix. Contents of the magazine are by the Muskogee Phoenix. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior consent of the Muskogee Phoenix. Green Country Living, P.O. Box 1968, Muskogee OK 74402. email - Editorial: (918) 684-2932 email - Advertising and distribution: (918) 684-2813

Summer makes a splash in area pools

With a slide, hammock and plenty of trees, Dr. John Tedesco’s pool offers ample opportunities for fun and relaxation.

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Fun in the Sun A look at how area residents cool off in their backyard retreats Story by Cathy Spaulding


ountless people have splashed around Perry and Kathy Hewitt’s pool over the past

36 years.   “Easily hundreds,” Kathy Hewitt said. “The pool has witnessed quite a few parties — Exchange Club, church events, children’s parties. It’s a happy pool.”   It also can be a calming refuge, she said. The Hewitts’ house surrounds the pool on three sides, allowing people to enjoy it throughout the seasons.



Photos by Jerry Willis   “It’s a quiet spot, a nice place we get to enjoy all year long,” she said. “Even in winter, it’s pretty.”   Keeping a pool “happy” and pretty takes work and regular maintenance, pool owners and contractors agree. Different types of pools require different types of maintenance.   Wayne Furrh, sales associate at Three Rivers Pools, said three common types of in-ground pools are Gunite, a type of concrete mixture; vinyl-lined and pre-molded fiberglass. He said fiberglass is quick to install.

  “Gunite is not as prominent here,” Furrh said. “Vinyl seems more prominent.”   Kathy Hewitt said their Gunite pool was built before her family moved into the house and still “wears very well.”   “In 36 years, we drained it and painted it twice,” she said. “My husband does the maintenance. He cleans the skimming pot every morning. He says he’s going out on frog patrol.”   Holly Rosser-Miller said the pool and landscaping sold her and her husband, Mike Miller,

on buying their new house a year ago.   “It’s a saltwater pool with an open-air kitchen,” Rosser-Miller said. “We spend a lot of time out there most of the year.”   She said she kept the pool open until just before freezing weather hit last November.   Rosser-Miller said their saltwater pool is easier to maintain than chlorine pools she used to have.

“Saltwater is easier on the kids’ eyes,” she said.   Furrh said people wanting to install a pool should first consider why they want one.   “Some people just want to get in and get wet,” he said. “Some want more elaborate pools with water features, such as fountains. People want to go out and drink coffee and see their pools.”  2

Left to right both pages: Holly Rosser-Miller cools down in a her backyard swimming pool. Homeowners have all sorts of pools in their backyards, including some with saltwater. The Hewitts have entertained hundreds of people in their backyard over the 36 years. Holly Rosser-Miller’s backyard swimming pool features a variety of places to relax and swim.

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The Cousins Home Story by Cathy Spaulding Photos by Jerry Willis


ot much has changed in the 27 years Joel Cousins has had his backyard

retreat.   The bean-shaped swimming pool and its diving board already were there, he said. The gardens surrounding the pool are arranged the same way as always.   “This house was lived in for a long time by Bill and Florence Kennedy, who owned S&Q

Clothiers,” he said. “Their daughters were good friends. So, I grew up knowing this house.”   The house was built in 1928 and had its own servant’s quarters, Cousins said.   “All the houses on the west side of Muskogee had servant’s quarters,” he said. “Of course, they haven’t been used in 50 or 60 years.”   Cousins said many of the trees also are original, including a magnolia and “a huge holly

tree.”   With all the major elements in place, Cousins added touches to make the yard his own.   He converted the old servant’s quarters into a cabana, where people can change clothes or grab a cold drink. He said he knocked out the ceiling to make the place much cooler. The changing area is lined with beadboard pine.   “My friends Barry and Patricia Drew put in the

paneling and Sheetrock,” he said.   The cabana also stores towels and toys, including a pair of clear plastic Tommy guns that shoot foam bullets.   “The toys are for my grandkids,” Cousins said.   A neon sign flashes a cursive red “Cousins” against deep green ivy on an outdoor wall.   “The sign was from the front of my parents’ store, which was put up in the 1940s and taken

Braided hibiscus trees flank a diving board at Joel Cousins’ pool. Each tree actually is three plants with braided trunks, Cousins said.

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Clockwise both pages: Joel Cousins’ cabana features pegboard pine paneling and a screen door. The cabana used to be servants’ quarters for the homeowner back in the late 1920s. A shaded patio overlooks Joel Cousins’ backyard. The white PVC awning provides shelter while also allowing plenty of light. A red neon sign on Joel Cousins’ cabana leaves no doubt who owns this scenic yard. The sign came from the store Cousins’ parents used to own in downtown Muskogee. Thin airplane plants provide the mane for this topiary lion, standing guard over red, white and green caladiums. The lion was a gift for Joel Cousins’ granddaughter. Joel Cousins’ back porch displays part of his collection of Azalea Festival banners.

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down in the 1980s,” he said, adding that he kept one sign and gave the other to his sister.   The Cousins store — which stood at 306 W. Broadway from 1940 to 1982 — started as shoe repair, then became a western store, then sold orthopedic, children’s and athletic shoes, he said.   Cousins also has kept the gardens up-to date. One of his latest additions is a red coil sculpture he bought at a live auction benefiting Friends of Honor Heights Park. The fixture stood in one of the Papilion’s garden plots in 2013.   Across the yard, a topiary lion, with a green mane of airplane plants, stands guard over a circle of caladiums.   “Frank Medearis bought the lion for my granddaughter eight or nine years ago,” Cousins said.   The lion is flanked by a pair of kneeling figures holding flower pots on their backs. Cousins said he got them at the Papilion auction and figured they might represent Incans or Mayans.   “I’ve done a lot of the planting,” he said. “I had a landscaper put in several trees around here — oak, a red pistache, red-tipped photinia, pine, cherry laurels, crape myrtles.”   The gardens also feature caladiums Cousins plants each year. This year’s version features red veins against a white leaf surrounded in green.   Braided hibiscus trees with red blooms stand on each side of the diving board. They grow out of copper pots with intricate Chinese patterns.   “Many years ago, the pots were used by the Chinese to put 1,000-year-old eggs in and ship them over here,” he said.   Lounges with striped cushions line the pool. The back porch features a pair of cozy brown chairs and ottoman.



  Cousins said he got many of the furnishings at Jack Wills Outdoor Living in Tulsa.   However, the brown table and green chairs on the back porch belonged to his former motherin-law.   “This table was made in New York for my former mother-inlaw for their house in Houston,” he said. “They didn’t like it and gave it to my ex-wife.”   An empty black safe on the porch once stood in the Cousins shoe store.   “That’s from the 1920s,” he said. “It was there when my parents bought the store. It was in the store from the ’20s to the mid-60s, and on Christmas Day, 1965, it was stolen. It was found in a ditch with the bottom blown out of it a few years later, and we just used it as a side table.”   A white PVC awning provides the porch with both shelter and light. Cousins said it was replaced after spring hail storms.   “The house would be a lot darker if it were a solid roof up there,” he said. “It lets light in and it doesn’t leak.”   A pair of banners from past Azalea Festivals hang in the porch. Cousins said he has about seven Festival banners in his collection.   Cousins said he uses his garden often to entertain family and friends, as well as host charity events benefiting Rotary or Kids’ Space.   “We’ve been auctioned off for charity,” he said, adding that the yard is ideal for entertaining.   “It gets them out of the house for one thing,” he said. “When the weather is nice, people like to be outside. Most of my friends aren’t afraid of getting into a bathing suit. Most of these are impromptu. I had eight or nine people here Sunday afternoon. Most people bring stuff.”  2

Clockwise both pages: Joel Cousins pauses by the swimming pool to pet his German shepherd. Cousins has lived in his house for 27 years and did little to change the backyard.

An iron warrior guards a gate leading into Joel Cousins’ backyard.

Joel Cousins backyard features ample opportunities to sit and lounge.

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The Roberts Story by Cathy Spaulding Photos by Jerry Willis


ny time of day — any time of year — is a great time for Carlisle and Linda Roberts to enjoy their shady backyard.   “We bring coffee out here every morning,” Linda Roberts said. “First thing in the morning, we take the Muskogee Phoenix, Tulsa World, USA Today and sit. We enjoy the end of the day the same way. It’s all lit up at night.”   The Roberts have plenty of

spaces around their pool to sit in padded seats and enjoy the views. Fat pillows, mostly from Pottery Barn, accent the beige seats with a variety of colors and patterns.   Bailey’s Pools of Hulbert installed the in-ground, lined pool about 15 years ago, Linda said. A slate deck surrounds the kidney-shaped pool.   “It’s a sports pool,” Linda said. “It’s 6 feet deep on either end and 6 feet in the middle. You can swim laps, but you cannot

dive in it.”   The Roberts’ 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, may well be the pool’s biggest fan. She can be seen playing with an inflatable orange and white clownfish, an inflatable shark and a beach ball that’s almost as big as she is.   “It’s very big,” Chloe said.   Linda, a former teacher, said they built their country Frenchstyle house 37 years ago with bricks from an old Muskogee school.

  Ivy gently climbs two trellises beside the chimney.   “This was entirely engulfed in ivy,” Linda said. “I had to take it down to seal the bricks.”   She pointed to a row of trees towering over the yard and said “my father planted all those pin oaks.”   Muskogee Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson designed the raised garden that lines nearly three sides of the yard, Linda said. Tan hackett stone blocks support the

The slate deck and sports pool at Carlisle and Linda Roberts’ home is framed by planted beds and a variety of seating.

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Clockwise both pages: Chloe Roberts is sitting pretty in front of the waterfall designed by her grandfather Carlisle Roberts. A large statue of a boy with his kite runs through the ferns surrounding the water feature. The Roberts’ brick home was built from bricks salvaged from a former Muskogee school. A number of colorful potted plants and a variety of statuary provide visual interest. The Roberts’ backyard is paved in slate and offers visitors a lot of different spots to relax.

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Clockwise: Large potted plants include vines that clamber up the sides of the brick home.

Roger Davis painted the cottage door in the cabana.

A huge stone that came from China offers a conversation piece in the Roberts’ backyard.



garden.   Over the years, the Roberts have added to the garden. Linda calls it “a work in progress.”   The garden’s most unique feature might be a chunk of granite Carlisle found during a business trip to China with their son, Jeffrey, who has an import business.   Linda said they’ve had the granite for about eight or 10 years, “and it weighs a ton.”   She recalled that when her husband first bought it, he called her and said “I’m bringing back a stone chicken.’”   “And I said ‘no, no, no, not in my backyard,” she recalled.   It found a prominent place in the garden and has become a conversation piece.   “When people come over, it’s like a Rorschach (inkblot) test,” she said. “We ask them ‘what do you think it is?’ It’s interesting what people think it is.”   “I think it looks like a turtle,” Chloe said.   Sure enough, the chunk features a humped back, two “legs” and a lump on one end that seems to have an eye.   Another stone turtle peeks through plants beside a stone waterfall in a corner.   “My husband designed the fountain,” Linda said. “Some of the stones are hackett stones. Some are natural stones from around Tenkiller Lake.”   The garden provides color throughout the year.   Azaleas blossom in spring. Heat-loving crape myrtle blooms pink in summer. Hydrangeas keep the color through fall.   “The cherry laurel and yew trees stay green all year around,” Linda said.   A professional tends to the garden, she said.   “I do all the pots,” Linda said. “I’ve given up doing the garden. I plant caladiums, geraniums, mandevilla.”

  Another favorite feature is a tiered fountain at one end of the yard.   The Roberts’ eye for decor even extends to their gutters. They hooked chains of metal pineapples underneath four gutter openings.   “My husband found these,” Linda said. “It looks really neat watching the water come down. It just makes a pretty little cascade.”   Two of the pineapple chains let water flow into French drains.   A favorite backyard spot is a cabana they built in 1996 with the same color bricks as the house. It features a kitchen bar with a sink and refrigerator on one side and a bathroom with shower on the other.   Linda Roberts proudly shows a cottage door painted to look like a stone wall with a lion sculpture and potted plants.   “Roger Davis painted the door,” Linda said, referring to a noted Muskogee artist, who passed away in 2013. “I just treasure everything Roger Davis paints.”   Linda said she and her husband had just returned from Italy and wanted the door to look like a garden wall.   “And Roger just ran with it,” she said.   A fireplace in the cabana enables the Roberts to enjoy their retreat throughout the year.   “In the fall, we come out here when it’s cooler and utilize it a lot,” Linda said. “We just turn all the furniture around to face the fireplace.”   The Roberts even enjoy the outdoors in the winter. Heavy canvas curtains can surround the cabana’s porch and protect them from the elements.   “We have a great fireplace,” she said. “We get pinion wood which smells like you’re in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”  2 Green Country Living




The Alexanders Story by Cathy Spaulding Photos by Jerry Willis


sign on a wooden fence sums up Stacy and Kevin Alexanders’ rustic backyard retreat.   “I know I’m in my own little world, but they know me here,” it says.   “When I get through with work, I’m in my backyard,” said Stacy Alexander, a real estate agent. “I come out here to keep weeds at bay. I can read out

here. When my husband comes home — it doesn’t matter what time of day it is — he swims in the pool.”   Kevin Alexander owns a Charlie’s Chicken restaurant in Stigler.   With two children grown, the Alexanders spend lots of time sitting by the pool together. Stacy said it’s a wonderful way to spend an evening.   “We just love coming out

here, sitting by the pool in the evening and watching the bats dive and dip down to the water,” she said. “Bats just love swimming pools. They come and dip and duck into the water. In Oklahoma, you can enjoy your backyard nine months out of the year.”   Wooden decks and shady sitting areas surround the inground pool. One deck has a picnic table, another has Kevin’s

barbecue cooker.   “We are blessed and humbled to have a yard in the shade,” Stacy said. “We enjoy looking around. It’s peaceful out here.”   Three Rivers Pools installed the Alexander’s pool 16 years ago. Since then, the Alexanders have surrounded it with concrete decks, wooden decks, shady redbuds, sitting areas, shutters and all types of plants.   “We started with nothing

The diving board for the Alexanders’ pool is flanked by planters filled with sweet potato vines, petunias and other colorful plants.

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Clockwise both pages: Stacy Alexander has a cool drink at an enamel table in her backyard.

A helpful pooch holds a basket planter in the Alexanders’ backyard.

A vase full of summer blooms matches the brilliant colors of the furnishings around the pool.

Wooden decks flow smoothly into concrete areas in the backyard.

Flags representing a variety of teams accompany a mermaid at the top of the poolside bar in the Alexanders’ backyard.

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Clockwise both pages: Stacy Alexander and a friend made these colorful Adirondack chairs.

A sign by the gate sums up Stacy Alexander’s philosophy.

The serving bar and cabana offer a poolside spot to have drinks and watch sports.

Seating is available everywhere in the Alexanders’ poolside paradise.

Umbrellas offer a shady spot poolside.



out here but the pool and rats,” she said. “Since then, it’s been a labor of love.”   Much of the work has been the couple’s labor. Stacy said she and her husband framed the concrete around the pool and expanded it.   “We probably have 10,000 tons of pea gravel back here around the edge of the pool that I hauled and shoveled,” she said.   Stacy and a friend even built the wood decks and colorful wooden chairs.   “I have a really good friend, Susan Dickman. I can call her and say ‘okay, I’m going to learn how to build a deck’. She’d come over and we build a deck,” Stacy said. “When I said, ‘ooh, let’s learn to build Adirondack chairs,’ she said, ‘ooh, I want to do it.’ So she came over and we built our chairs. Any project I’ve had back here, I can call Susan. She just loves doing it.”   Stacy said the decks were built in stages.   “My husband would love for me to put a deck in the back corner, but I am tired of building decks,” she said.   Stacy also screened in the patio, built shades for the flowers and found a person with a bunch of old shutters. She used the shutters to accent flower arrangements around the yard, including a cluster of

cannas with foot-wide striped leaves and a blaze-orange blossom. Stacy said the cannas thrive under Oklahoma’s heat.   “I don’t have anything in my backyard that hurts,” she said. “I don’t believe in anything that has thorns. I like to have cut flowers, so I mostly have nothing but zinnias and hydrangeas.”   Stacy said she especially is fond of the billowy hydrangeas, which she said remind her of her mother and growing up in southern Arkansas.   “My mother had tons of hydrangeas as a kid, that’s why I bought my first hydrangea plant,” Stacy said.   The backyard has all sorts of places to sit and relax, including a swinging love seat, a pair of rocking recliners, clusters of Adirondacks, tables, even a hammock tucked away in a shady nook.   “I tried to create different sitting areas,” Stacy said. “That way, I can enjoy my yard — all aspects of it. The hammock is in the shade. I love to read back there.”   Another corner features a cozy fire pit circled with brick. That’s where the Alexanders sit when the weather cools, Stacy said. Every once in a while, they even roast marshmallows for s’mores, she said.   The Alexanders’ flat-coated

retriever, Kadie, has her own retreat, with plenty of grass to run around on. They let Kadie join them in the pool area almost every day. However, the dog has her own plastic pool.   “She has toenails, and our pool is a lined pool,” Stacy said.   About the only major fixture the Alexanders didn’t build is their serving bar and cabana, a woody, open-air building that looks straight out of Key West or Margaritaville. A flat screen TV looks down from a corner. Signs picked up from roadside travels and souvenirs from trips to St. Thomas line the cabana’s walls.   “Every spring, we have a crawfish boil,” she said. “We

don’t have people over very often. We love to watch sports out here.”   The pool itself features a diving board and a pair of “buddy seats” with spa-type blowers. Stacy said the inground pool is lined. A hole was dug for the desired shape and lined with vinyl.   “We only had to repair it once,” she said.   The Alexanders plan to continue with this labor of love. Stacy said her next project could be a wooden swing.   “We hope to eventually build an outdoor kitchen” she said. “That’s down the road…a little at a time.”  2

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The Tedesco Home Story by Cathy Spaulding Photos by Jerry Willis


uskogee cosmetic surgeon Dr. John Tedesco considers himself lucky to have found a home with such a spacious and elegant backyard.   It’s a lot of fun, too.   “When I purchased the house a year ago, everything was there,” Tedesco said. “Everything was put in by its previous owner, Dr. David Reifsteck, and his wife. Reifsteck designed it



and built it. I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. I was lucky they have similar tastes to mine. And I’m extremely lucky to have gotten the house when I did. I couldn’t be happier.”   Tedesco’s northeast Muskogee home is country French-style with four bedrooms.   The backyard welcomes visitors with natural surroundings, shady spots for dining and visiting, even a few opportunities for fun.

  How many pools can boast a tubular yellow slide plunging from a wooden deck?   “I’ve had quite a few people going down it at the parties,” Tedesco said.   At one end of the pool is a spring diving board with chrome railings.   An in-ground trampoline is nestled at one side of the yard.   The slide, diving board and trampoline came with the house, Tedesco said. So did a cabana with a covered patio and ceiling

fan.   Canvas umbrellas shade dining areas around the pool.   A pair of triangle awnings wave high above the pool, providing even more shade.   “That’s my one idea I did for the pool,” Tedesco said. “While I was doing my residency in Florida, they were popular at outdoor bars. While I was looking for a way to shade my yard, I found them online.”   Getting them across the pool wasn’t easy.

Left: Dr. John Tedesco’s backyard includes an expansive pool with a slide and a diving board. Above: Steps lead down into a pool that is shaded by large triangular awnings floating above.

  “It was a huge challenge to design where to put them and actually get them up,” he said. “Each one is 18 or 16 feet, and each one is an isosceles triangle, not an equilateral triangle. You have to have them just so, or they are not even.”   Isosceles triangles have two sides of the same size. Equilateral triangles have all three sides the same.   He also added a hammock beside the pool.   “I even get to lay in it

occasionally, maybe once a year,” he said. “But that once a year makes it worth the while.”   Tedesco said he doesn’t spend as much time in the pool as he would like because of his practice.   Often it pays to just sit and enjoy the view.   Wind rustles through the variety of trees surrounding the pool. Sometimes, one can catch the soft scent of magnolia.   “My favorite is the Asian cherry tree,” he said. “The leaves

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come out in the spring, and it’s just packed with pale pink blossoms. That juxtaposed with the dogwoods is really, really pretty.”   A pair of Italian cypress trees — each more than a story tall — stand by a walkway to the pool.   “Italian cypress is a challenge to keep alive because of the moisture and the wind,” he said. “They were at a 45-degree angle after the hail storm.   Tedesco said he does a lot of the hedge trimming, weeding and mulching. A relative of the Reifstecks’ does most of the landscaping, he said.   A broad porch with strong, square beams overlooks the backyard panorama. Tedesco said he spends a lot of time out there.   “I put a TV on the back porch, and I can catch a football game,” the Pennsylvania native said, adding that he’s a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan.   The yard is an ideal spot for visitors and parties, Tedesco said.   “I have a lot of company,” he said. “I entertain friends. The purpose of my parties is partly to generate awareness that I am here, to get folks in town talking about my specialty. I invited folks from town and neighbors over for a celebration of my practice — and to enjoy themselves.”   However, when the parties are over and backyard is empty, Tedesco is able to retreat in what he considers his favorite spot.   Midway between the house and pool is a hot tub.   “I use it through the year,” he said. “Even in the dead of winter, I use it. You can imagine my job being very stressful, being on call for general surgery. I totally enjoy the surroundings. Those are moments I am most grateful to be here.”  2



Clockwise: The cabana includes curtains in the openings between wooden beams and lanterns hung from the rafters.

A magnolia blooms at one end of the pool area.

Midway between the house and pool is a hot tub that provides an ideal spot to relax.

The tube slide descends from a wooden platform that provides a great view of Dr. John Tedesco’s country French-style home.

Brilliant hibiscus offers a splash of warm color by the cool pool.

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Clockwise: The beams of the back porch of Tedesco’s home frame the walk leading to the pool.

Triangular shadows float on the pool while a hammock and an in-ground trampoline wait in the background.

The landscape offers glimpses of the pool area between verdant plantings.

Poolside seating offers a view of the floating awnings and the elegant home.



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Scene and Be Seen Party in the Park Muskogee’s Rotary Club turns wine into water April 19 through Party in the Park at Honor Heights Park. The event helps the Rotary Club provide clean drinking water to developing countries.

Photos by Mandy Lundy



Scene and Be Seen Derby Day Elaborate hats are the order of the day May 3 as Larry and Barbara Garrison throw a Kentucky Derby party. Photos by John Hasler

Pool Party Dr. John Tedesco entertains a variety of guests at a summer pool party at his home. Photos by John Hasler

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Scene and Be Seen OMHOF Rising Star Muskogee luminaries gather at Frisco Depot to celebrate John Fullbright, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame’s Rising Star Award recipient.

Photos by Mandy Lundy



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food & drink

Top it off with Tapas Special photo by Valarie Carter

Wonderful Wine By Valarie Carter


  our mailbox may be brimming with fall catalogs this time of year. They brag of chilly days filled with cashmere and cable knits but any permanent Green Country resident can tell you that we still have plenty of days of swimsuits and sunscreen. It may be fall in Eddie Bauer and J.Crew land, but here it’s summer.   Whether you’re enjoying the last days of summer poolside, lakeside, porchside, or hiding from it indoors under the A/C, don’t let the screaming hot weather get you down. Embrace it and have a tapas party.   OK, so tapas simply means appetizer but the word tapas is so much more festive. And it makes me think I might

Left: Sangria offers festive refreshment for summer parties.



food & drink get offered refreshing sangria. Traditional Spanish tapas are usually eaten as a snack before the midday and evening meals. A meal solely of tapas seems especially appropriate when the weather is warm and appetites are subdued.   For the food, think savory small bites that whet the appetite and fuel conversation rather than fill the belly. • Olives, pickles, marinated and cured vegetables. • A selection of cheeses — especially Manchego. • Any manner of shrimp, mussels, clams, anchovies, tuna and squid. • Cured ham, chorizo and other sausages. • Tiny meat pies — empanadillas (like empanadas but smaller) filled with any number of meats and vegetables. • Small sandwiches. • Croquettes and fried puffs of this and that. • Spreads and dips. • Just about anything served on a crostini.   As for the wine, don’t be overly concerned with buying

specifically Spanish wines. Many wines will fit the bill as long as they are food and weather friendly. I like these: The Royal Chenin Blanc, Western Cape South Africa - $12

orange, lemon and lime One each apple and pear cut into thin wedges 8 ounces sparkling water Ice for serving

  Combine all ingredients except water in a large pitcher. Cover with film wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours. Just before serving, stir in sparkling water and serve over ice.  2

Geyser Peak Savignon Blanc, California - $15 Martin Codax Albariño, Spain - $17 Domaine Talmard MâconChardonnay, France - $16 Prestige Rose´, France - $21 Vieille Ferme Rose´, France - $10   For a twist on traditional red sangria, serve cool, white sangria to your guests upon arrival.

White sangria 1 750 ml bottle dry white wine such as sauvignon blanc 2 tablespoons sugar 3 tablespoons Gran Marnier or other orange liqueur One each thinly sliced

Wine List The Royal Chenin Blanc, Western Cape South Africa - $12 Geyser Peak Savignon Blanc, California - $15 Martin Codax Albariño, Spain - $17 Domaine Talmard Mâcon-Chardonnay, France - $16 Minuty Prestige Rose’, France - $21 Vieille Ferme Rose’, France - $10

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food & drink

Welcome to Our Garden The Cook’s Pantry

Founders’ Place Community Garden in the Heart of Historic Muskogee Photos by Mandy Lundy

By Melony Carey


ounders’ Place Community Garden is a tranquil respite in the heart of historic Muskogee where neighbors can meet to share a bite and catch up on the news.   Built on land donated to the district from the condemnation of two properties, the garden represents the various elements that make up the legacy of the neighborhood. The land originally came from the allotment of Pleasant Porter, principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation from 1899 to 1907. The rocks used for the

front retaining wall came from the foundation of one of the turn-of-the-century houses previously located there.   The garden walls and patios represent mid-century additions to the properties. Residents painstakingly cleared the land of debris from the demolished houses, established the lawn and gardens, and provide for the water bill and upkeep to the property. Signage in the garden commemorates long-standing neighborhood residents, the late U.S. Rep. Mike Synar and Marion Lynch Weber, in whose memory the garden is dedicated.

  A garden party is a fun way to connect with neighbors and friends. Why not open your garden when the weather permits and serve up the following seasonal menu as the watermelons and tomatoes continue to ripen.

Smoked Pork Loin with Blackberry Chutney Blackberry Chutney 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped 1 teaspoon garlic, minced 2 jalapeños, finely diced (seeds removed for a milder chutney) 1 pound fresh blackberries ⅓ cup sugar 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar   Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the jalapeños

Penne pasta with green beans and tomatoes uses fresh ingredients from the garden.

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food & drink and blackberries and cook for 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week and reheated for serving. Pork Loin 1 (3- to 4-pound) boneless pork loin 3 tablespoons grill seasoning (see below) 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard   Prepare a smoker to cook at 250° F with cherry wood. Rinse the pork loin and trim off the silverskin and excess fat. Sprinkle with the grill seasoning, slather with the mustard and massage it into the loin.   Place the loin in the smoker and cook for 2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 150° F on a meat thermometer. Remove from the smoker, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, slice into 1-inch chops and top each with a tablespoon of hot chutney.

  Source: Reprinted in Taste of the South Magazine, June 2014 from Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room by Melissa Cookston.   Grill Seasoning — combine in clean coffee or spice grinder ½ cup cracked black pepper; 1 tablespoon each dried minced onion, coriander seeds, dill seeds, crushed red pepper, and pulse until reduced but not pulverized. In a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon each kosher salt, chili powder, ground cumin, and 2 tablespoons granulated garlic; add ground spices and stir well. Store in airtight container up to 1 month.

Penne Pasta with Green Beans and Tomatoes 1 (16-ounce) package whole wheat penne pasta 1 (8-ounce) package haricots verts (thin green beans), cut into 1 ½-inch pieces 1 pint grape tomatoes, both yellow and red, halved ¾ cup Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette ¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Banana Pudding Cake is a sweet ending to a fabulous meal.

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food & drink   Cook pasta according to package directions, adding green beans to boiling water during last 2 minutes of cooking time; drain. Rinse pasta mixture under cold running water until cool; drain. Toss together pasta mixture, tomatoes, and vinaigrette. Cover and chill up to 24 hours, if desired. Just before serving, stir in dill, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Blackberry chutney served over smoked pork loin evokes the flavors of summer’s bounty.

Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette ½ cup fresh lemon juice 1 minced shallot 1 cup olive oil ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

Salt and pepper to taste

  Stir together lemon juice and minced shallot; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil, parsley, honey, and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.   Source: Southern Living, July 2014.

Marty’s Watermelon with Goat Cheese and Mint 1 small seedless watermelon 1 container crumbled French-type goat cheese, such as Capricorn 10 mint leaves, chiffonade cut, or to taste   Cut watermelon into bitesized pieces or use melon baller and place into a clear glass bowl. Top with crumbled goat cheese and garnish with shredded mint leaves. Serve immediately or refrigerate shortly until serving.

Banana Pudding Cake 1 box white cake mix (plus direction ingredients) ½ cup ripe mashed banana 44


1 4 ounce box instant banana pudding 4 medium bananas, sliced 1 large can Ready Whip or prepared whipped cream ½ cup crushed vanilla wafers ½ cup toasted chopped pecans   Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick baking spray with flour. Prepare cake mix according to directions for whole egg recipe. Add mashed banana; beat at medium speed until combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then poke holes in cake with skewer or handle of a wooden spoon.   Make pudding according to directions. Pour over cooled cake. Lightly cover and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 4 hours. Uncover and top with sliced bananas and cover with whipped cream. Sprinkle with vanilla wafer crumbs and pecans. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours.  2

Historic Homes of


The Elliott Home Story and photos by Jonita Mullins


very common style of architecture found in Muskogee’s original neighborhoods is the American Craftsman. This style is very versatile and can be found in substantial two-story homes and simple one-story bungalows. It became popular in the early years of the 1900s just as Muskogee was experiencing its first building boom.

  The Craftsman style was a reaction to two other trends in architecture. It was a rejection of the excessive opulence of the Victorian era, but also a rejection of the cheap, mass production of the industrial age. It grew out of the Arts & Crafts movement which sought to give due respect to artisans working in wood, stone and glass and encourage the incorporation of these art

forms into buildings.   The exteriors of Craftsman homes abandoned the highly decorative Victorian style in favor of more weighty wooden beams and stone foundations and porch posts. The interior also moved away from providing for servants quarters and made the kitchen a central focus of the house. Craftsman architecture became the favored style of the growing

middle class of merchants and professionals.   At the corner of Eleventh and Court streets in the Market Street area of Muskogee sits the home of long-time clothing store owners T.J. (Tollie Julio) and Willie Elliott. Their clothing store, first called Elliott Bros., was located on South Second Street in the thriving black business district. T.J. ran the store with his

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brother, George.   Their large, two-story Craftsman home features the heavy, dressed stone porch walls and columns topped with the typical tapered wood posts. Clearly an early Craftsman home, the gingerbread over the porch and a bay window is a nod to Victorian detail. The Elliotts resided in this home for more than 40 years.   T.J. and Willie had first occupied a home just to the north with at least one son named Ned and a daughter named Lucy. In 1915, they purchased the larger home on the corner, testament to the success of their clothing emporium. The Elliotts offered high-end merchandise and were patronized by more than just Muskogee’s African American citizens. The store advertised clothing, men’s “furnishings” (the catch-all term for men’s clothing), shoes, coats and hats.   The Elliott family had been early settlers in the Fort Gibson area, having a farm on Manard Bayou. The Elliotts were a large family, and many of their descendants live in Muskogee today. One can imagine large gatherings at the T.J. Elliott Home on Eleventh Street, enjoying a breeze while visiting on the substantial front porch.   Two nieces of T.J. Elliott married other African American leaders in the community. Martha Elliott married Samuel Sadler, the long-time principal of Manual Training High School (MTHS). Because he was a renowned poet, Sadler’s name was chosen for Muskogee’s arts magnet school which occupies the MTHS building.   Lilla Elliott married Ted Ragsdale Sr., owner of Ragsdale Funeral Home, a long-time local business that grew out of the Creek Livery Barn. 46


The Ragsdale Funeral Center today is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Oklahoma. Lilla, a graduate of Langston University, taught English at Manual Training High School.   As leaders in Muskogee’s black community, the Elliott women — Willie, Martha and Lilla — were members of the Matrons Club. It’s quite likely that meetings of this women’s organization met in the Elliott Home on Eleventh Street, enjoying fellowship and planning events for the community.   In the early 1930s, the women were involved in a large fundraising project which surely required many meetings in their homes. They wanted a pool for black children, since state segregation laws prohibited these children from swimming at the pool in Spaulding Park. Ground was broken for this park and pool in 1935, and with WPA assistance it opened in 1936. It was named Elliott Park for the family that was so instrumental in getting it established.   No doubt the Elliott Home on Eleventh Street was a center of life for the black community, which was then concentrated in an area around Manual Training High School. Even after the death of both T.J. and George Elliott, founders of the clothing store, Willie and her son Ned continued to run the department store for many years, and it remained a solid fixture on Second Street and later South Main Street.   Willie Elliott continued to live in the classic Craftsman home for the remainder of her life. Today, the home is vacant and starting to show signs of neglect. But it is a solid member of the historically black neighborhood with a rich history to share.  2

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Green Country Living, Summer 2014