Sunday, November 29, 2009

The 2009 Tree has Arrived

We like Christmas trees and for our 34 years together have always had some version in our home. Once we had the inn we felt obligated to get a tree that touched the ceiling, almost 10 feet worth of tree that is. Fortunately for us the nearby Highland Farm has a huge selection of trees, natural decorations, roping and such. We walk past the carefully pruned high end trees, smile at the pretty mid-priced options and head straight for the bargain trees - $24.99 this year - and always find a tall, straight beauty within moments.

This year Seely actually spotted the tree from Route 1 as we were driving up to the place. Most of the time we are looking for something tall and skinny with three nice sides as we stand it in the corner of the living room. This year we have tall and fat with four nice sides. We'll be decorating it next weekend if anyone wants to come by to help. And the Farm will have plenty of trees if you want to pick up your own bargain.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Kitchen

The stove is dead. The floor isn't getting any prettier. The new stove is in the wings. Everyone who thinks this is the time to put in a new floor raise your hand. Everyone who thinks that putting in a new floor found on Craig's List at half the price of retail is a better idea raise your hand. The rest of you, go read some other blog.

Now don't get overly excited. We aren't shooting for a show place kitchen here. Most of our guests and readers have nicer kitchens than we want or need. Karma often presents itself on Craig's List. This time it was in the form of a high end thick vinyl flooring in a flagstone pattern that was remarkably similar to the flooring we had selected for our kitchen in Houston. The price was right. The size was right. Seely's drive almost to New Hampshire to pick it up on a sunny Sunday afternoon was quite pleasant.

The first day we removed everything from the kitchen floor: knee wall, cabinets, appliances, and plumbing.

The second day the old flooring and subfloor were removed and the new subfloor was put down.

On the third day of fun the vinyl was rolled out and allowed to rest (as were the workers.)

The fourth day we brought the cabinets and appliances back in and waited for the plumber to move the sink lines. The plumber didn't actually arrive until the fifth day which was a very good thing since we had guests that evening and were beginning to worry about how we were going to cook breakfast without a sink.

And that's how you get a new kitchen floor in five days. After the stove arrives the cabinets will be placed in their final positions and we'll have some new photos.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Where do you get your recipes?

Because I am strictly a self-taught cook, most of my breakfasts are borrowed or appropriated from various sources. Magazines like Cooking Light, Gourmet and Southern Living have all made contributions. The innkeepers on our web group are also very generous about revealing their creations.

Like most cooks, I do have a tendency to make small modifications geared either towards my own taste or based on what I hear from guests. Because of my own insecurities about my culinary skills, once I fine-tune a recipe to the point that I'm getting regular good response, I tend to stick with it. I have 6-8 recipes that are reliable standbys -- easy to prepare, can be cooked within a half hour and will hold for 20 minutes if the diners show up late.

For guests with special needs like diabetics, vegans and those with allergies, there are a number of good websites that offer suggestions on substitutes for existing recipes or specific entrees for those who can't tolerate our regular dishes. Seely often gives me a hard time because she wants to offer guests more variety, so we fine tune a new recipe or two every winter.

Here's one of recipes that we did create on our own:

Irish Jack Eggs

8 large eggs
1/2 cup of half and half
4 oz grated pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded hash browns

Beat eggs and half & half in a mixing bowl, then pour into 4-6 oz. greased ramekins, filling each about 2/3 of the way. Sprinkle in the hash brown and pepper jack to taste. Depending on the size of the eggs, it usually makes about 8 servings.

I do the prep the night before and refrigerate it. In the morning pop as many as needed for a sitting into the oven at 350 for about 25 minutes. The mixture will rise like a souffle and, if served immediately, will have a fluffy texture with a spicy kick.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Kitchen

We've done a lot to this building over the years. Our focus has always been on the guest areas and the basic infrastructure (roof, boiler, the basics.) Our kitchen is another matter. There are limits to what you can do with a 14 x 14 ft. space that is broken up by four doors and four appliances while respecting food safety guidelines and the balance in the bank account.

Beth, our beloved sister and Marketing Director, will have us committed if we publish any photos with this post. Words alone could give you nightmares.

The first two years we invested in a stove and dishwasher but used the existing counter. We had an old metal desk on top of a small rolling platform that we used as an island. I added a larger top made from clearance Formica and scraps of wood from the garage. It was ugly but functional. (Over time it also moved about until we found the most practical placement.) Counter space and storage were extremely limited.

We had a very small, stainless, standard double sink. Within a year we found a used sink that was bigger and deeper but also stainless steel. That lasted for several years until Seely saw the sink of her dreams on Craig's List. On Long Island, NY. Since she was going to visit Beth in Baltimore anyway it was just a little side trip. The treasure is an old porcelain double laundry sink with deep wells. It has amazing character and utility for $50.

Over the years we have gone through four dishwashers. Household dishwashers just aren't meant to run six to ten loads a day. Seely found a bargain commercial dishwasher on Craig's List that should last pretty much forever.

We have had two full sized fridges, several under the counter fridges, and under the counter freezers. Some died, some were sold, some went to the basement. Over the years the appliances migrated around the kitchen but we finally have a layout that works. We now have an undercounter fridge, a full size fridge (no freezer) and a full size freezer in the kitchen. Since they are all commercial (even though we got them at auctions or Craig's List) we hope they last a long time too.

Our Amana stove died recently. It was an OK stove, the oven was too small but the burners were nice. Our next stove is a commercial Garland but it won't be picked up until November 30. It is gorgeous. I will show you its photo after it is installed (just don't tell Beth.)

The one thing that we have avoided is dealing with the floor. The yucky, commercial vinyl tile floor that didn't look clean even after you got on your hands and knees with a steel wool soap pad. The floor that is one of the big reasons no one is allowed to see the kitchen. Should I tell you how I really feel about this floor?

To be continued.....

Monday, November 9, 2009

Corvette Club Caravan

A few years ago a New York Corvette Club stayed with us. Very nice people to say the least. And the cars sure made our parking lot look nice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In mourning

Narragansett, RI. Today we mourn the passing of our late Amana range. After 11 years of adequate service she will be entering the gates of the recycling yards of China to be reborn as some kind of inferior product. She is survived by her close colleagues in the trade, Commercial Convection Oven, Convection Oven, Jr. , Conveyor Toaster, the Waffle Iron Twins, and her special friend, Rice Cooker. This leaves a huge gap in our Breakfast Team.

Actually it has been five nights of guests since the carcass was hauled away. The other appliances have produced perfectly nice breakfasts but it is time to get a new stove. Dave is out of town which, with guests in residence, is limiting the time I have to shop. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Center Pieces

Fall chores include cleaning up the pond and pulling plants out to overwinter inside. As I was working I found myself regretting that the days of sitting beside the waterfall relaxing and watching the fish were pretty much over for the year. "AHA," I said, "Let's bring the pond inside!"

I had plenty of vases tucked away for our Romantic Roses Package. The nickle feeder fish I put in the pond last year had spawned at least 30 babies that seem to be thriving. The water lettuce and water hyacinth had to come inside. For $0.00 I have unusual and amusing center pieces.

I love seeing the fish play tag in the trailing roots.

That's what Works for me on Wednesday.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shoehorn Architecture

One of the first priorities for remodeling was to have one bathroom for each guest room. The Age of the Shared Bath was pretty much over for Americans who were exploring B&Bs. The challenge was how to make the plan work out.

Now the easy way out would have been to call an architect to figure this out. Yes, a real professional with experience and knowledge of all the building codes known to mankind. And a fee schedule to match. So much for that idea.

Instead Seely cleared areas and used Dollar Store sidewalk chalk to outline the new walls. Then the fixtures that were purchased at a going out of business sale in Houston were placed in the new "rooms." The plumbers explained code and adjustments were made. One sink swapped with another to make the best fit for the spaces. Once Seely and the plumbers were satisfied with the layout, walls went up and plumbing began in earnest. In the end, even the Building Inspector was happy.

For the most part the "fly by the seat of our pants" design plan worked out well. Some of the baths are on the small side, some have whirlpools, all have showers and none of them look alike. Although three of our rooms have baths down the hall no one shares with anyone. Some guests are nervous about the "down the halls" until they actually stay here and realize that it isn't a big deal.