A couple of weekends ago, Mr. Wonderful and I were lucky enough to be invited out to Carlton Landing, a lake resort community that has been around and growing over the past five years on Lake Eufala, about a two and a half hour drive from East from Oklahoma City.
I think the word “community” is most certainly a must in describing Carlton Landing.
I say this because during the summers I grew up at my family cottage on Lake Otsego in Michigan. Once it’s disappeared from your life, you never stop craving the small lake community experience. It engrains itself as a part of your soul and you want to live it again no matter where you’ve moved onto in your life.
My childhood, teenager, and even young motherhood summers have memories built around our cottage vacations. My children couldn’t wait to go to the cottage and spend their days on Arbutus Beach. When my aunts decided to sell the cabin that my grandfather and uncles built all those years ago, my cousins and I went into mourning, until at last, one of my cousins purchased it and kept it for a few years before selling it.
To know that someone else is making memories in our beloved cottage is still a bittersweet pill for me to swallow, and I only hope there are cousins running up and down the streets with fishing poles and racing to swim to the buoy beyond the t-shaped dock. I hope they are trying to catch minnows with little plastic nets, and roasting marshmallows in the fire pit on the driveway at night, all the while licking all the ooey-gooey marshmallows off of their fingers awhile listening to one of their uncles tell “fish stories”.
These memories came racing back when we visited Carlton Landing. The sense of community there is just endearing to me.
When we looked out our front window Saturday morning, the neighbors waved to me from their porch that was this close.
This was a little unsettling to me as I was still in my pajamas. And a little later when I snuck out to the screened-in porch to read my morning devotions, they started to talk to me across the boardwalk. While at first this was a little odd to me, immediately it all started coming back to me.
It came back to me what it felt like to have coffee with a neighbor first thing in them morning and share life stories, and enter into relationship with people that are near you…and well, it just started to feel wonderful. Mr. Wonderful continues to tell people I turned into a different person at Carlton Landing. A newly reinvigorated and “all my senses woken up” kind of gal.
And above all, it feels like a safe place…you know…where you can leave your doors unlocked and know someone across the way is watching out for you.
Watching kids walk down the boardwalks carrying fishing poles or riding their bikes makes one feel like they’ve stepped back in time. Kids are actually OUTSIDE all the time and it made me smile to see them there instead of inside with a game controller or cell phone.
Carlton Landing is not just a vacation rental spot, people actually live here as well. The community was founded by the Humphrey’s family. Remember Kirk Humphreys, former mayor of Oklahoma City? His son Grant and his wife Jen started the vision, and if you don’t believe they love community, just go to church in their living room on Sunday mornings while visiting. It was the Humphrey’s dream to build a place where people could go who wanted to be outdoors and be active, but also interact with their neighbors and town the way life used to happen before technology, crazy schedules and the like.
We drove into Carlton Landing just in time for dinner, and I was mildly excited about this dinner because it was being cooked by Chef Josh Valentine (of Top Chef 2013 and The George Prime Steakhouse fame of late) who has moved out to the area with his kids to be a part of the going on’s of The Landing. Josh and other visiting chefs use local produce, meat and dairy to fix a picnic style meal at the town pavilion on Friday nights. As we drove in, we passed by the tables being set up at the pavilion. And incidentally, that pavilion is constantly being converted to yoga class area or ping pong table area depending on the time of day.
But first we had to make a quick pit-stop at our cottage and unload our car.
We stayed in a darling cottage that was one of the nicest we’ve stayed in at a lake in Oklahoma.
Inside was just so ..cozy.
And the screened-in porch was my dream.
I. Want. One.
If you know me at all, you know I live to be outside, and without bugs is always a beautiful thing.
We felt like a king and a queen when we saw our adorable welcome basket, themed with all made-in-Oklahoma products.
We headed over the to pavilion. The weekend we were there, the weather was a typical Oklahoma scorcher, but we endured…and the food was served in paper take-out style boxes along with options for beer and wine.
The carpaccio-style summer squash was layered with red veined sorrel and sprinkled with cherry tomatoes and cheese and lightly dressed and I seriously loved it. My mandoline and I have a date to try to make this soon. There were also grilled skewers of wild boar and chicken along with some habaneros from the farm and roasted potatoes.
And oh have MERCY. There were these.
I don’t remember what Josh called “these” but they remind me of a cronut or a croissant dough fried into a doughnut and topped with fresh whipped cream, ganache and more sprinkles of chocolate. They were still warm and good gosh were they good!
I met another fun blogger, Thuy, who sat at our table. You should totally check out her site – it’s awesome (and her boys were adorable!)!
See what community does for you? You make friends and that is just how it should be.
While we’re on the subject of food, I should point out that there is a farm to table led movement at Carlton Landing, which I am a huge fan of.
There are two “farms” to speak of – one is the community garden in the town square that is accessible to all.
Mr. Wonderful was taking notes of the galvanized sided raised beds, as we are adding more raised beds to our garden next year. We strolled through and watched town folk picking sunflowers and cucumbers along the way.
And get this…there is a chicken house.
Feel free to saunter right up to the wooden doors on the side anytime and see if there are fresh organic eggs for you to pluck out of the bins. The town kids really enjoyed playing up in the house and watching the chickens.
The second garden is the big garden for the community. Tended to by the town farmers, this will be functional by next year and will be a source of organic produce for the town restaurants once they start up. Town members can also get CSA baskets from the farm and I believe the farm will eventually provide a Farmer’s Market for the town as well.
The farm is also a source of learning for the town school – Carlton Landing Academy, which is about the cutest looking school house I’ve ever seen.
I spoke earlier of the town square. This is located on the main street of the town as you drive into Carlton Landing. There is the Meeting House (and our bikes) where you can find out lots of information about the development of The Landing.
Outside the Meeting House is a patio area with tables. On the weekends Chef Valentine sets up his airstream food truck called “Buds on the Lake”.
Josh serves up some delicious boxed lunch offerings and you can hang out on the patio and feast on them while music plays around you.
Also there is a General Store. And the General Store has a porch with a table. On the table is a giant glass urn full of dog biscuits because…well…dogs need community also!
Next door to Bud’s and behind the Meeting House we got some great Oklahoma-grown produce at the little farmer’s market that was up and running.
And there is, of course, water.
There is a lovely pool area with fountains that arch across the pool, a splash pad for the kids, and even an outdoor kitchen and grill and large table to accomodate…yes MORE community by promoting cookouts.
And there is a great dock area where you can grab a paddle board or kayak and hang out and swim with your family.
Just be aware that when you sneak down to the boat dock at night with your grown-up husband to relive a childhood memory of looking for a shooting star, make sure you have a flashlight and be cautious, because in country living, you just might see a doggone copperhead. But hey, even the snakes are friendly here and this one decided not to bite our bare flip-flopped feet which were only a few feet away.
We are most definitely going back to Carlton Landing next summer. We really enjoyed our weekend. We loved the concept and the community we experienced.
We felt it even as we were driving out…