The End of the Season Blues

Last Sunday we closed the inn for the season. Every year it is such a bitter sweet moment for us. Although we are tired and we need a break from innkeeping, we miss the inn and we miss our guests. And as the next 6 months go on, the feeling only gets stronger. Which is a good thing. Because by May I forget all about the reasons why this business tires me so and just can't wait to reopen.

Closing down the inn is a time consuming event. There are over 2 dozen plants that need to come home with me. And some of these plants are huge. If someone didn't know me, and saw me going from the inn to our house, they would think I was a florist making deliveries. You can barely see me in the car as I drive down the road with my mobile rainforest. And then there are the frogs. Who decided that was a good idea?? Taking apart their terrarium and bringing them home is such a job. Why do I do this to myself? They seemed so pretty at the Butterfly Pavilion when I saw them. "Let's get frogs." "They look easy to take care of." "How hard could it be to raise fruitflies for them to eat." Pretty. Yes. Easy to take care of. Yes. Raising fruitflies for the next 15 years. What the hell was I thinking. (Oh yeah, the lifespan of a frog - 15 years!) And moving them back and forth twice a year. Not fun. And then there's the 4 story 6' tall chinchilla cage. How I love moving our animals back and forth. Thank god I put the brakes on the whole chicken coop talk. A few years ago Aidan and George wanted to raise chickens. "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to have fresh eggs every morning?" No!! I will buy them in the supermarket like every other normal person! Most people with chicken coops don't live in two places. Don't bring them back and forth to their houses. What were they thinking? Oh, thank god we don't have chickens too!

The next step in closing down the inn is cleaning and packing. 10 rooms have to be stripped. Ugh! The 1,478 things we have outside all around the property have to be rounded up and put away. Ugh! The sign needs to be wrapped to protect it from the upcoming many snowstorms. Ugh, upcoming snowstorms! The lobby needs to be cleaned. The apartment needs to be packed. The refridgerators, freezers, cabinets all need to be stripped of food. I'm tired of just writing this, you can imagine how good I slept by Monday night. I still have a few more times to go back to finish up some odds and ends, but for the most part, it's done.

I get to live in one place for 6 months! Yay! Well, it doesn't really feel like I get to live in one place. With the upcoming holidays and the fact that all our families live in different areas, we will be packing our overnight bags many times in the next two months. Even this weekend, our first weekend home, we have to go to a wedding in NJ. It's been 6 months since I've spent a weekend home. And it will have to wait a little longer. Next weekend! Yup! I'm sleeping in my own bed and I'm sleeping late! God help the dog, kid, husband or freakin chinchilla exercise wheel that decides it's a good idea to make noise and wake me. I'm sleeping in .... November 20th. It's a date!

You Can't Please Everyone!

Ok, so I'm doing it again. I'm taking it personally! But it's so hard not to. We had a couple of women here last week, I will call them Elphaba and Nessarose. Elphaba was bringing her sister, Nessarose, up for a one night trip for her birthday. Elphaba called me and wanted a bouquet of flowers put in her room for Nessarose's birthday. I made sure everything was perfect for them. The flowers were delivered and I made them a reservation for a wonderful restaurant about 5 miles away. They arrived and seemed to like to our place. They came in and sat down in the lobby, relaxing. We were having wine with some friends and offered Elphaba and Nessarose some. Elphaba replied, "Whadya got??" Okay....should have been my first clue! Well, she didn't like red, so we opened up a bottle of white for her. Being probably too accommodating, but wanting things to be nice for them. After hanging out with them for almost an hour, they decided to take a couple of DVD's back to their room and head out for dinner. A little while later they returned. They couldn't find the restaurant. It was just one block up, make that right, but they couldn't find it and didn't want to try again. They said that they had cheese and crackers and that was enough and they were just going to watch their movies. I said, "No, you need more than that. We are having Brooks barbeque chicken and we have more than enough. Let me make you a couple of plates." No, they said their cheese and crackers and snacks were enough. And they went back to their room. The next morning they came in and it seemed as if everything was ok. They had waffles for breakfast. They sat and talked to us and the other guests for a while. And then they checked out.

Then they posted their review on TripAdvisor! Ok, they gave us a positive review saying it was "clean, spacious, cozy, beautiful and that we were nice and that they enjoyed talking to us". BUT, she entitled the review "Different" and gave us 3 out of 5 stars because she was "disappointed because she thought she was staying at a B&B and this was more like staying at a motel". Ugh! We couldn't have made these women feel any more welcomed! We actually invited them for dinner and opened up a bottle of wine for them. Not something a B&B usually does (and certainly not a motel!). The average price of a B&B is $65 - $100 more than what these women paid here. They saw our website and all our photos and anyone can tell that we aren't an old house B&B. We don't claim to be a B&B but it is our fault that this woman thought we were a B&B and punished us by giving us 3 out of 5 stars and called us "Different".

The ironic thing about all this is that another guest posted a review that very same day (but just BEFORE this woman did) and entitled it "All the Comforts of a B&B, But Less Costly!" Ha! How funny! This just goes to prove how different everyone is AND you can't please everyone. That will be my motto for next season! "You can't please everyone, you can't please everyone!" And when that unpleaseable person checks in to the inn, I also need to remember, "Don't take it personally!"

Where Do I Live This Week???

This past week was our last full week open. (We still have two more weekends until we close for the season). Because of my husband's crazy construction job, he is so completely stressed out. I told him to stay home at our house with Aidan and just concentrate on getting the job done. So that left me living at the inn, by myself, with my two dogs. I made sure to go home (about 20 minutes away) every day around 3 pm to see Aidan when he came home from school, cook dinner, (clean up their bachelor mess) and then go back to the inn. We weren't crazy booked last week. With only 2 or 3 rooms each night it wasn't too stressful for me. Plus, we had some very nice guests. One couple in particular made last week a lot easier. Bonnie and Michael came from Missouri for Michael's birthday. They drove almost 1,000 miles. A very cool couple, I really enjoyed our morning and evening talks (and laughs!).

When Friday arrived, George and Aidan came over to the inn after work & school. We had a lot of guests on Friday and Saturday with most of them coming for completely different reasons. We had three more couples come for their husband's birthdays. (Obviously a very popular gift idea this year!) One came for their 5 year anniversary, one came to work on a house that he is restoring, one came to show a friend land he bought in the area, and four rooms were a group of 11 women who were traveling together. I came downstairs this morning to start setting up breakfast at 6:30. It was still completely dark outside. I heard 3 of these woman outside the front door already. When I went to go look they had walked away heading back to their rooms. Already all dressed up and ready for the day, it was just so early! They came back around 45 minutes later, with the rest of their group. I needed to hurry myself up a little. What a day to tell George to sleep in. They told me they were heading over to the Russian Orthodox Monastery about 15 minutes away. They said that on this trip they had gone on a Cayuga Lake wine tour, to a chestnut festival, the Oneida tour, Turning Stone Casino and now the Monastery and after that a large outlet mall. I asked, "So how many days have you all been traveling together?" They looked at me like I was crazy. "Since yesterday morning," they said. Yesterday Morning!! 11 women were organized enough to travel the 4 hours from Buffalo to our inn and take three different tours in 3 separate areas of NY and still have time to have dinner and play slots at the casino. Now if you have been reading my blog, you may remember that George and I drove to Skaneateles to see the wine country and weren't able to actually arrive at a wine tour until after the wineries stopped giving tours. I think we need these women to plan our next vacation!

After all the guests left this morning we closed up the inn for the week. Although we have a little break from innkeeping this week, it won't be much of a relaxing week. Aidan said to me tonight that he was glad to have me home. I told him not to get used to it. Tomorrow I have to go and visit my parents in NJ for 3 days. Yep, Aidan and George are back to being bachelors again tomorrow. Although the difference this week will be that there won't be this magical housecleaner/cook that arrives each day to sprinkle fairy dust on the mess. They are on their own. I hope they remember we have dogs/chinchilla/fish/frogs. (Did I leave anything out?) Just the thought of what the house will look like on Wednesday makes me shudder. But I will have Thursday to clean it all up, before it is back to the inn on Friday.

Seniors Gone Wild - Always Young at Heart!

For the past several years, we have had a group of friends meet at our inn for a reunion once, sometimes twice a year. This past weekend, this group, which we have lovingly dubbed "Seniors Gone Wild", arrived. These wonderful people were strangers to us four years ago. We now consider them family. Many years ago they went to camp together and sometime in the 90's they reconnected and started to come together for a reunion a few times a year. Luckily for us, Marcia, found our inn on the internet in 2006. Since then they have been coming back each year to brighten up our days. Heading up the group are my husbands three "cougars" - Angela, Marcia and Anna. Last fall, Angela invited us to her daughter, Julia's wedding, and truly made us feel as if we were part of her family. Then there's Jean and Phil. One of the sweetest couples ever! We always joke that Jean has to watch her back, because George and Phil have a serious case of "man love" going on! Ha! Next are David and Alice, "The Vikings"! A fun couple who introduced us to Lemoncello. Yum! David does a mean Joe Cocker Impression (YouTube Link). Rounding out the group this weekend were Greg and Carol, a quiet and sweet couple, who seem to sit back and really enjoy the crazy antics of this group. There are several other couples that couldn't make it this weekend and hopefully we will get to see them next year.

The weekend was a mixture of laughs - from times long ago and the present. As I have always said, "There is nothing like an old friend to make you feel young again." This group is the embodiment of that statement. Several weeks ago we decided to make a banner to welcome back the group. "The Meadowlark Inn welcomes back Seniors Gone Wild." The addition of the clip art of the geriatric patient learning to walk again seemed funny at the time..... :{

After a fun filled weekend of eating, drinking, laughing, shopping, and of course, karaoke, these friends, who love each other enough to make sure they always stay together, had to say goodbye. They'll stay in contact regularly through phone calls, emails, and visits. And George and I, being unofficial members of this group, will also stay in touch - already talking of plans to visit them in the coming months.

So thanks to Marcia and her keen sense of searching out the best inn in the Cooperstown area, (ok, so we are a little biased ;), we have the great pleasure of knowing these wonderful people. After the last of this group, Angela, left this morning, I felt sad. It was too quiet. But I know that it will not be a year until I see them again. And I realize yet again another reason why I absolutely love this business!

30 Years - It Seems Like Only Yesterday!

Last night was my 30 year high school reunion. It's been a long time since I've seen most of my classmates and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. I woke up yesterday morning with anxiety, Why didn't I lose those 10 extra pounds?, Why didn't I tone up my arms?, (Why didn't I buy a long sleeve dress?), What if my alzheimers kicks in and I don't remember anyone?, What if no one remembers me? All of these fears were quickly put to rest and replaced with feelings of joy from seeing old friends. What made this reunion even more special was the time I got to spend with my 3 best friends - Cheryl, Debbie & Darlene. The laughs that we have when we are together bring us immediately back to being 17 again.

The reunion committee did an amazing job putting this night together. Projected on the back wall on a large screen behind the DJ was a series of past photos played on a loop throughout the night. They thought of everything, including the yearbook photo/name tag sticker we were to wear all night. Today we laughed that the typeface could have been a bit larger for us. We're aging and we all need reading glasses. A quick glance down to look at a name badge was bad enough, but leaning in close to actually read it - not good.

The cool thing about reunions is that any clicks or groups that there were 30 years ago are now gone and replaced by just one big group - called "Our Graduating Class". The talking, the laughing, the singing and dancing, the evening was filled with everything you could want and left us not wanting it to end. Luckily it didn't have to. The committee had planned that everyone should get together this afternoon at the Nutley High School football game. There we would wear the T-shirts we were given the night before and at half-time everyone would go to the Elks Club for hot dogs and beer. It was fun!

After half-time I realized that I should get on the road for the 3 1/2 hour trip back upstate to the inn. On the way to my car, I walked past the high school and decided to see if the front doors were unlocked. They were. I hadn't been inside in 30 years. As I walked through the hallways it was if time had never passed. I still remember where my old locker was and across from that was the class where I took Steno. I wonder what is being taught in that class now. Not Steno I'm sure! Back then we listened to albums, we wore platform shoes, earth shoes and bell bottoms, classic rock was just plain rock, we had mood rings and pukka shells, we loved vests, we watched Charlies Angels and Happy Days, it was the birth of disco and the death of Elvis. It was a simpler time for all of us.

My life as an innkeeper is very different from my life in NJ. Although I would never trade a moment of my life now, the nostalgia that I feel when I am with my old high school friends is very strong. There were several people that came long distances to attend the reunion. With over 130 in attendance, some came from as far as California, Vermont, Florida, Oregon, Virginia, and one even as far as Hong Kong. I want to thank the committee for such a great job and I am looking forward to the next one in 5 years. Although 5 years seems like a long time, I am sure that it will fly by, considering that the last 30 went by in a blink of an eye.

Thank you to the Nutley High School Class of 79!

The Age of Innocence - Back for Just a Moment

This past weekend was kind of slow for us. On Friday night we were able to get away to take our son to a movie that he was dying to see. As a teenage boy, the movies he usually wants to see are somewhat inappropriate. So you can imagine my delight to take him to the reopening of Toy Story (1 & 2) in 3D. When he was younger these were his favorite movies of all time. He still has every Toy Story toy, packed away, ready to be handed down to his own children. Now as a double feature, this lasted a good 3 hours. So in between my (& my husband's) dozing off now and then, we were able to catch glimpses of our son, on the edge of his seat, watching this wonderful classic. Believe it or not, Aidan was one of the youngest kids in the theatre. Who would have known that there would be such a cult following of Toy Story. The theatre was packed with young adults all the way up to the age of 70.

We were also able to go out on our boat for one final hurrah. Although a hurrah wasn't exactly what I would call it. A couple of friends came up for the weekend and on Saturday we thought we would bundle up and go out during a sun filled afternoon. After buying lunch, uncovering the boat and driving out into the middle of the lake, the sun disappeared, never to be seen again! It was quickly replaced with gray clouds and yes, rain. Our friends, Joannie & Chris, couldn't be more different. Chris just wanted to get off the boat. He didn't dress for the weather and seemed as if he was in pain the whole time. Joannie, dressed in a warm coat & gloves and optimistic as ever, kept saying it was going to clear up in a couple of minutes. It seemed as if the sun was shining in other areas of the lake, but I was convinced it was just a mirage. So after about an hour we realized that summer was over, it was time to store the boat :(.

That evening, Aidan went to his first high school dance. Last year he always complained that the dances were boring. Not this year. Dancing was different in high school. He used the words - mosh pit. (From Wikipedia: aggressively pushing or slamming into each other). I hope the chaperones are paying attention! The dance hours are different too. It ends at 11 pm, and 11 pm for an innkeeper is late. I realized as I was driving back to the inn that night, as Aidan quickly fell fast asleep in the car, that I was blessed this weekend with a glimpse of the past. The Aidan that we remembered almost 10 years ago was back for a short time on Friday. But that's ok. With each new day comes a new chapter in our lives. And someday, in the future, we will cherish these wonderful times with nostalgia too.

The Weather's Getting Cooler - No! Stop! I'm Not Ready!!

As the weather turns cooler, the inn begins to slow down to a pace where we can really begin to breathe again. The leaves are turning, so the "leaf peepers" are still coming up here to see the colors on the weekends, but the weekdays are very slow. We have been able to spend a lot time at our house this week in Fly Creek and we've begun to feel like a regular family again. This week started our regular meetings of the Cooperstown Winter Carnival committee. When we moved up here full time two years ago, George joined the local gym. As he was running on the treadmill, he got to talking to a woman next to him. She was the chairperson on the committee and was looking for new members. She also happened to be the chairperson on the PTO. George had decided I needed to meet people and came home from the gym informing me that he had signed me up with the PTO as well as the Winter Carnival Committee. YOU DID WHAT?? Are you kidding? I don't sign up for things! I'm a watcher. I'm a sitter. I'm definitely not a joiner! The Winter Carnival Committee is a THREE YEAR commitment. I knew one other person on the committee and I thought, all right, I'll go to one meeting and check it out. Well, now in my third year, I am a co-chairperson on the committee. I have met so many nice people and had so much fun planning for this wonderful event.

Each February we have a three-day event. Hoping for snow, we plan a lot of activities outside. We bundle up and enjoy fireworks, a parade, a dog show, sleigh riding races, snow sculpting contests, 5 & 10K runs, assorted shows, several food contests and lots of good eating, drinking and dancing. It is a lot of work planning for this and between the 11 people on the committee it takes a lot to pull it off. After this third year, it was going to be nice next year to be able to sit back and enjoy it without being involved in all the planning though. Except for the fact that after seeing me having so much fun for the past two years, George decided to join this year. So that means he will be on the committee for 3 years also. So much for being in the background next year. Although we haven't updated our carnival website just yet, check back later in the month for more information as to this years events: Cooperstown Winter Carnival.

When I had first heard about the winter carnival, I thought "who in their right mind would have a carnival outside, in upstate NY - in the winter!!" Two days after we moved into our new house it had snowed 3 feet. Welcome to the neighborhood! Of course this snow lasted until April. With the cold weather - nothing melts up here. It really is pretty, though. Basically, it snows every day in the winter. Most of the time just enough to cover the ground, but it makes for a beautiful sight - a winter wonderland. There is never that - just drived on, dirty, mushy looking snow. About 4 days after that first snowfall after we moved up here, our friends from NJ came up for the weekend. I remember the look on my friend, Janice's face at 8 am in the morning when she saw the outdoor weather thermometer. "Is that thing broken?," she asked. It read -17 degrees (yes, negative 17!). No, unfortunately, it wasn't broken. But it did warm up to a balmy 28 degrees by noon. AND that was the day we went to see the annual Polar Bear Club jump into Goodyear Lake. Yet another yearly event up here that makes you scratch your head. Hundreds of people take turns jumping into an area of the lake that is carved out into the size of an backyard pool. As we watched these crazy people in their bathing suits jump into the water, every inch of our bodies, faces, hands were covered with many layers of clothing. That is one club I don't think I'll be joining any time soon!!

As I drive my son to school each morning we pass the town's municipal building. And each morning we comment on how much more salt and sand has been added to the storage shed in preparation for the winter. I realize how we should be enjoying this fall weather and taking advantage of going outside in just jeans and a sweater instead of the mandatory daily long johns. This weekend we have some friends staying at the inn and hopefully with the 65 degree weather forecast we will be able to take one last ride on our boat before it is put into storage. We have a few more weeks before it turns cold, so go outside and take a walk with a loved one, go apple picking, and just breathe in the air. Of all the seasons, fall is my favorite. Enjoy!

Facebook - The Ultimate Time Stealer/Friend Maker

A year ago if someone asked me how many "friends" I had, I would have a different answer than I do today. With the popularity of Facebook, people have more friends than they ever could have imagined. Some real friends, some new friends, some old friends, and some acquaintances, Facebook is the new time stealer for all ages. Here you can look up people you knew many lifetimes ago and reconnect. I have reconnected with people that I haven't talked to in many years. I recently became Facebook "friends" with a past classmate of mine. Wanting to take his wife somewhere for their 20th anniversary, he decided on The Meadowlark. So this past weekend, they checked in. I never really knew Scott in high school in NJ, and his wife, Valarie, was from Vermont, but when they checked in, it seemed as if we had all been friends for a long time. Thanks to Facebook, I had seen pictures of their son, their wedding, their life. For the past few days, George and I spent quite a bit of time with them. (Yes, and some of that time was wasted on going on Facebook together :). ) We enjoyed having them as our guests and we enjoyed having them as new friends, not just Facebook friends. Check out their website: Heavenly Honey Apiary. A very interesting hobby/business, these beekeepers make the best honey ever.

Along with Scott, I have over 100 other "friends". Now normally that would seem like a lot of friends, but in Facebook land, that is pretty low. Most of my "friends" have hundreds of friends and some of my "friends" have thousands of friends. Thousands. Who are all these friends?? Thousands, really? One of my "friends" has almost 3,000 friends. Who needs or wants 3,000 friends?? Maybe I'm just being unfriendly! It is just crazy. About a year ago, Facebook was reserved for the young. But now more and more older people are joining in. Even my mother-in-law and father-in-law have pages. Some people refuse to join in, I call them closet Facebookers. The ones that will not have a page, but go on someone else's to look around. My husband used to be in the closet. He'd go on my page and talk to friends. He would sign his name, but his words would be next to my photo. One day I made him his own page, put up his photos and friended people for him. 20 minutes later, he was an official Facebooker, and now 3 months later, hours of time have been robbed out of his life reconnecting with his many new "friends". Still others refuse to ever get a page. Yes, you know who you are, (Cheryl), and we know you are out there watching us.

It may be the mother of all time wasters, but talk to anyone and they will tell you the same thing. It's fun, and it gives us the chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Only through Facebook would Scott & Valarie, beekeepers from Vermont, end up at an inn outside Cooperstown that was run by an old classmate. And that is very cool!

The Innkeepers Stay at an Inn

This past weekend we closed the inn and decided to go away for our 20th anniversary. Not wanting to go too far, we decided on Skaneateles, NY, a beautiful town in the Fingerlakes area. We had never been to the Fingerlakes before and decided it was perfect since it was only 2 hours away from home. We stayed at a beautiful B&B called The Hummingbird's Home located on Route 20. Now in case you aren't aware of it, our inn is located on Route 20. So we headed west about 2 hours and stayed on the same street our inn is on. Well at least we couldn't get lost. It's funny when we go away. We spend way too much time comparing everything to what we would or wouldn't do. This particular B&B lived up to our high standards. It seemed weird in the morning to be the ones sitting at the table talking to the other guests and being served by someone else. We've decided we need to get away more. This winter for sure.

The first morning we woke up we decided to go on some wine tours. This area has over a hundred wineries. We headed out to wine country after breakfast. To get to wine country you need to pass a small mall with a Bass Pro Shop. George had heard about this store and said he wanted to stop in - just for 10 minutes. Well, 2 hours and $200 later we were on the road again. This time to be detoured by a very cool farm/pottery production studio called MacKenzie-Childs. Beautiful, but expensive, I walked away with dozens of photos for creative ideas. Back on the road we were hungry and decided to stop at one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at Pumpkin Hill Bistro. Every single thing we ordered was amazing. Feeling full, we still had to order dessert. Well, in case you haven't been keeping track of how much time we may have just used up in our day, it was now about 4:45 pm when we finally finished our lunch. Yep, we were off to wine country! Only wine country closes at 5 pm. WTF! What happened!! Where did our day go?? We were supposed to tour wine country all day! Well, we noticed a winery down the road and decided to try and see if we could still get in. We arrive at 5 pm and there were still plenty of people there drinking. Tours ended at 4:30, but they will gladly give us a tasting. It seems as if all the workers are walking around drinking wine too. Not a bad job. We taste 6 wines. We hate 6 wines. What?? Wait! We actually question whether maybe we just don't like wine anymore. Well, we leave and decide that that was the lamest wine trip anyone has ever gone on. On the way back to Skaneateles, we pass a small storefront that says "Wine Tastings" and stop. Here we taste 6 wines and like 6 wines. We didn't realize just how different wines could really be. We definitely have to come back to this area when our inn is closed and try the whole wine tour thing again.

The next morning we head back home, going east on Route 20, stopping to see several of the towns along the way. By the time we get back to our inn, we decide that the most beautiful landscape we have seen on Route 20 is in our own town and the most beautiful lake that we have seen in upstate so far is our own lake, Otsego. We are happy we chose this area to settle down in. For us, there is definitely no place like home!

A Guest Returns Home

This morning two of our guests who are staying with us for a week came in and decided to stay for an additional week. These two people just may be our longest staying guests so far. They are visiting family up here. Both born and raised right here in town, they moved many years ago to Jacksonville, FL. This very sweet couple arrived Friday night during a cool and breezy rainstorm. Peggie got out of the car to come and check in. Fred wouldn't get out of the car. He said he was cold. He said it was too windy. He said he wanted to go back to Florida where the weather was warm and balmy. George went to the room and turned on their heat, waving to coax him out of the car. After many minutes, Fred finally came in to say hi and that he wasn't happy with this weather. Fred grew up on a farm in this town and both he and Peggie went to the stone schoolhouse that stands across the street from us. Now a private home, this schoolhouse consisted of approximately 10-13 children per grade.

I can tell that they are enjoying themselves on this trip. They are visiting family in all directions, and then coming back here to their own private home away from home, not wanting to be an imposition to any of their relatives. Every morning they enjoy the conversation with the other guests. Having sat for breakfast with the couple who survived 9/11 two of the mornings was something that Fred told me touched them deeply.

I, myself, am enjoying the stories that they tell each morning. The stories about the area as it was in the 40's, 50's and 60's. When life was simple and this town was bustling. Back then there were several gas stations, hotels, restaurants. Although mostly a two lane road, Route 20 was a major roadway used heavily for traveling east and west. After the New York State Thruway was built in 1958 things began to change all along Route 20. It became a quieter country road, with many businesses closing, only to leave standing the remnants of what used to be. A beautiful road consisting of farms and meadows, I like it this way. I am guessing many of the residents here do too. Over the past several years, a few major businesses have wanted to develop right here in town. To take advantage of the beauty of the area, Madison Square Garden Music Festival, Cal Ripkin Baseball Parks and a Motocross Raceway have tried to acquire land, all plans to be eventually knocked down. Maybe someday, someone will succeed in capitalizing on the land, but for now, the pure beauty is the attraction that brings people back. Oh yeah, that, and The Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Smell of a Peach

This weekend we are lucky to have 10 rooms of amazing guests. It feels very appropriate to have one special couple here on this particular weekend. In 2001 on September 11th, they worked at Morgan Stanley in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. On that particular morning, Al, for some reason unknown to him, was waiting for his bus to NY when he didn't get on the bus. He just stood there thinking and dreaming until finally he realized he was going to be late for work, (and Al was never late for work), so he got on the next bus that arrived. This is from where he watched as the first plane crashed into Tower 1 to his horror. When the bus was inside the Battery Tunnel, he had the bus driver stop and he got off, having felt an explosion under his feet and thinking the Tunnel too was being attacked. He was able to get in a car which took him back out of the tunnel and after many emotional hours arrived safely home. His wife, Lila, was just outside Tower 2 when she smelled fresh peaches at the Farmers Market. Stopping to buy some for her breakfast, she delayed her arrival at her job. As she entered the lobby of the building she felt/heard the crash. Fortunately, she was able to get out of the building unharmed, physically. But the effects of this morning will last a lifetime. On this morning, Al & Lila were friends/coworkers. But a week later as they arrived at the Brooklyn building where Morgan Stanley had taken up shop, they entered their new office not knowing who had survived. Amongst the tears and the hugs of all the coworkers was the beginning of a beautiful new relationship. The love that they have for each other is profound, and the joy that they have for life is obvious for all to see.

When thinking of all the reasons we love this business, nothing compares to having people come into our lives and touch us in this way. Watching the 9/11 tributes on TV brought back the horror that I felt on that morning, but listening this morning to these two beautiful people recount the nightmare that they lived made me feel the horror and appreciate all the blessings and love that I have in my life.

Splitting Up Our Time

With the end of Labor Day comes yet a different kind of life for us. We split up our time between our inn and our house in Fly Creek. George stays at the inn during the school week when we have guests, while Aidan and I stay at the house. This morning I passed George on the road as he went to his construction job and I made my way to the inn to put out breakfast after dropping Aidan off at school. We waved. Weekends we all stay together at the inn. It is a back and forth life, but the commute from only 15 miles away in Fly Creek is better than when we lived in NJ. For three years we lived in NJ and ran the inn. We stayed up here for the summer and the day after Labor Day we moved home. Every Friday we came back up to open for guests for weekends. Every Monday I took Aidan to school at 5 am to get to NJ by the 8:30 bell. It was a crazy life with a lot of driving. Things are much calmer now that we live up here full time and my son gets a little more of a stable life.

Yesterday my son informed me that he won't be going back to the inn this fall. He is going to stay at home by himself on weekends. Now call me overprotective, but at 14, I just don't think that is going to happen. I said no. But then I have had this same conversation with him 2 other times and somehow he forgets what the answer always is. Well, he is one month older than the first time he asked and 2 weeks older than the second time he asked.

During this past weekend, along with our other 8 rooms of guests, we had two rooms of my in laws up. My brother in law and sister in law have 4 of the cutest girls I have ever seen. We had an awesome weekend of just relaxing and enjoying each others company. The second room was my mother in law and father in law. Divorced for almost 30 years. The only room we had left, so unless someone wanted to sleep on the couch in our place, it would have to be shared. And it did have two comfortable beds in it. I kept teasing them that this was going to be the weekend to rekindle that old flame. Didn't happen. But they didn't kill each other either.

Labor Day - A Time to Reflect

After the hustle and bustle of the summer, it is a nice change of pace when the season slows down in September. The first two weeks of September are always the slowest two weeks of the year for us. But it gives us a chance to take a minute and breathe and get our son ready for "back to school". This year he starts High School. The time is flying by. When we bought the inn, he was this cherub faced little boy, so innocent. Now there is a little man upstairs, still asleep at 9 am. Probably would still be asleep all morning if I didn't wake him. On the wall in our bedroom are marks of growth. With a mark of my height as a reference, we watched as his marks slowly creeped up on my height and now have surpassed mine. Now looking up to my son, I realize that he is not my little baby anymore, but a boy on the verge of manhood.

This weekend is Labor Day. A quieter one than usual. It is later this year, so it almost seems as if last week was Labor Day. We have several rooms of return guests, which is always nice. It's nice to see familiar faces each year. We know we are doing something right. It must be those waffles :). People have started writing about them online. Others have asked when reserving, "Are you still making those waffles?" Many have actually bought a waffle maker after they have left here. Just a couple of days ago, a guest actually Mapquested a Bed Bath & Beyond on her way home so she could get the same one we have. Funny.

We have some of our family coming up this weekend. With the beautiful weather forecast and the slower pace of the weekend, we are hoping to get away for some R&R on our boat. The weather this summer was so uncooperative that we were only able to enjoy the lake about 4 times. Coinciding a slow moment at the inn with a beautiful weather forecast is a tricky thing. And beautiful weather was not exactly how you would describe this past summer, but a lot of rain means an amazingly colorful fall. (So come up and visit and enjoy the colors!)

I hope everyone has a fantastic Labor Day! Relax, enjoy the sun and spend it with the people you love. It might be the end of the summer, but it's the beginning of a whole new season (and all new episodes of Grey's Anatomy and Dancing With the Stars!). Enjoy!

A Day Off - Really!

Sunday was my first real day off all summer. George did breakfast and I made the 3 1/2 hour trek down to my old hometown Nutley, NJ to meet up with my 3 best friends from high school - Cheryl, Debbie & Darlene. We are still friends after all these years. 34 years! How could it be that long. Are we even 34 years old?? I feel like I'm 18. Well mentally anyway. Sometimes my body feels like I'm 70. So, on a spontaneous whim we decide to go to The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ to see our old childhood crush, Peter Frampton. Could it get any better?? Best friends/Jersey Shore/Peter Frampton! Perfect!

We arrive and go to a boardwalk restaurant for dinner before the show. Beautiful weather, outdoor seating, so many laughs!! It was great seeing the girls and laughing about old times. We arrive at the show around 8:30. We manage to push our way to (almost) the front of the crowd. There's just a few heads in front of us. Annoying, bopping, swaying heads. I feel old going to the concert, but after a few glances we realize we are actually on the younger side of the spectrum of these concertgoers. Peter comes out and if you haven't seen a recent photo of him, he looks, well, a little different than you may remember. What would the opposite of "aging gracefully" be? Well, that is what he is.

He plays for about 45 minutes when he begins to get annoyed at a technical difficulty. Obviously and outwardly annoyed. Flapping his arms around, stopping the music, cursing, WTF, Peter! After one more song, he puts down his guitar storms off, and leaves the crowd wondering. Several take out their lighters. Is this the way an encore works these days?? Hmmm. Odd. Still not coming back. After about 10 minutes we see the roadies packing up. Is it over? No. He didn't say Goodbye/Goodnight/Thanks for coming! He'll be back! The crowd's getting angry. Maybe we should leave. Yeah, let's just go. We see his tour bus and decide we can't leave until we tell someone that we are upset. Cheryl asks some roadie guy "Where's Peter?" Like we are going to summon him over here and give him a talking to. He says he doesn't know, but we see a movie playing in the tour bus through the window. Hancock. Maybe he really needed to finish this movie. We tell the roadie man that we are upset and that Peter should have at least said Goodbye and Goodnight. He seems to agree. We're sure he will relay our message.

Oh well, who cares. By this time we are all tired anyway. Debbie and I agree that we didn't want to stand up anymore anyway. We're too old for this. It was our last Frampton hurrah. He is a crochety old man now. But an awesome excuse for four old friends to get together to reminisce. In another month we get the chance to be together again - our 30 year reunion. And another chance to be 18 again. For the 30th year in a row!

Don't Take It Personally

This summer my husband decided to take on a construction job, which left me running the inn M-F, 7am-7pm all by myself. Not an easy task when we are 100% booked 99.9% of the time with anywhere between 20-36 guests coming in for breakfast every morning. Now everyone has a bad day once in a while, but imagine having 10 rooms of guests in your house every single day of your summer. You are bound to have an off day, right. Well, now imagine on that bad day someone that you run into can review your personality and post it online for all the world to see. That is what happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

What seems to be the bible of travel is a website called TripAdvisor. We have been reviewed by many of our guests, all with 100% positive reviews. Even this particular woman that reviewed us (well actually me) liked our place and said that she "wouldn't hesitate to stay here again." But she wanted to point out a few things that she wasn't happy with..... well, mainly me. She stated that she was checked in with "businesslike efficiency". Now I don't know about you, but is that really so awful? Is that really worth writing about negatively? She goes on to say that she "didn't feel the love that others have raved about." Now I know I was never rude to this woman. So on my worst day, if I checked someone in "with businesslike efficiency" is that really so bad! And as far as not "feeling the love," who books a place with the expectation that the innkeeper is supposed to embrace them lovingly? Should I be hugging all my guests? Is that what everyone wants? That's what I'll do... I'll hug everyone when they come through the doors. Everyone will feel the love. No, then I will just be reviewed as being too forward, too pushy, too..... well, weird. No, I think I will stick with my usual normal personality and just try to be nice to everyone. And if I have that bad day once in a very rare while, I will try my hardest not to ever check a guest in with businesslike efficiency because now I know, that it is wrong, and you can be spanked in public for this horrific offense.

Do Not Disturb

Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband George!

Today all of our rooms are checking out. So that means that we have 10 check-ins. Probably the most exhausting day for all innkeepers. Well, all of our rooms are supposed to check out. We have one still missing in action. Breakfast is supposed to end at 10 am but we still haven't seen Room 6 and it is now 10:30. Curtains closed, room dark. Did they forget they are checking out today?? I am leaving breakfast out, I am sure they will show up at some point. I've done that before. Cleaned everything up. And then they walk in. Oops. I just figure now is a good time to write while I am waiting.

I had time to run out and pick up my Amish cleaning girl while I am waiting too. She works 3 days a week and of course, I have to pick her up. During that 3 minute drive it is amazing all the questions that I can fit in every day. I am amazed at her lifestyle. No electricity. Really! One of our other cleaning girls (not Amish) gave her a book by Jodi Piccoult this week. I was surprised to learn that she is allowed to read that. I asked her if she is finished yet. It's been 4 days. She said almost. I asked her if it was dirty. She didn't seem to understand what I was saying. But I think she is enjoying it :). She reads by kerosene lamp everynight. I guess when you don't have a computer, tv, dvd, cell phone, iTouch, and assorted other electronic devices to waste your time with, what else is there to do. Read. Remember reading. Remember reading an actual book. Yes, I still read, but most of the time it is a book that I have downloaded onto my iTouch. Freaky when you think about it. The guests are amazed when they find out that there is a large community of Amish people in this town. It is very cool to see their horse and buggies drive by. We had one guest ask if that was an "actual" Amish girl. I said, "No we just like our cleaning staff to dress like that because we thought it would look more touristy if we pretended our staff was Amish." He believed me for a minute.

Where is that couple? Remember them? Should I put the food away? Should I ring their room? It's check-out time! I have to clean up. The girls are one room away from having to clean their room. Maybe I'll have them knock. Yeah, I'll have them do it. Oh, thank god. Here they come. They are putting their stuff in their car... They are heading this way... Phew! It's not the murder/suicide that I thought it could be, because I once read about that happening, somewhere, in the midwest at some hotel, on my itouch ebook.

Patience! Patience!

Today is George and my 20th Anniversary. How can that be, when did all this time pass? I think we may actually get away from the inn tonight for a nice dinner out. Maybe. With only one check-in it's a little easier to get away. Everyone else is here for the week. It's nice having people here for several days at a time. We get to know them a little better. Everyone keeps coming in this morning wishing me a Happy Anniversary. It's nice.

Yesterday our most demanding guest in 5 years checked-out. She was only here for 17 hours but in those 17 hours she had over 20 requests. And of those 17 hours, she was asleep for 9 of them. Requests ranged from the normal ones that everyone asks: dinner reservations, directions, ice, wake up call, etc.; to ones that were a little odder: can you show me where the air conditioner is (it's right there), can you show me where the refrigerator is (it's right there), the 0 on my phone doesn't work (yes it does), can I use another room's phone? After using a vacant's room's phone for 20 minutes, the room actually had to be cleaned. She used the table and two chairs, the bed was laid on, the bathroom was used and the shower was turned on (WTF!).

Our guests are really loving our Poison Dart Frogs in the terrarium in our lobby (not poisonous when raised in captivity, don't worry future guests). Someone actually wrote a review on Tripadvisor and mentioned them. Every kid that comes through loves to look for them every time they are in the lobby. And it is funny to see the reactions of the parents when they realize those bright blue, orange and green frogs are real and not plastic. The question is always the same, "Where do you get frogs like that?" It is amazing the things you can buy on the internet :)!

Sunday's a day for resting?

So here it is 5 pm on Sunday, and I'm washing linens/paying bills. Always something to do. George is outside on the tractor doing manly man tractor stuff. We had some new guests check in today. They lived in the town next to my sister down the Jersey Shore. (I miss the Jersey Shore!) They said "no, we don't know anyone with the last name Kalucki down there, but we do know a family in North Jersey". Yup same family. My sister moved from North to South Jersey. Small world!

Last night people checked in our "suite." It's a separate building in the back, a beautiful room. A mere 80' behind the house. Mind you, not in the next town, just in the back a bit. A city woman looked horrified to find out her room was wayyyyyyy back there in the dark (lots of lights on) and she would have to walk on a stone path to get there (horrors!). Ten minutes later I am asked by her friends if there was any possibility she could move up to one of the "regular" rooms up front. She is scared she may get attacked by possibly a snake (never seen one here), strange animals (????), a bear (are you kidding?) or bugs (what?). I say very politely, "no I am sorry, we are booked and we can't move her anywhere." I am asked, "Is your mommy or daddy around?" WTF! Now at 48, I know I may look a couple years younger, but WTF! How funny! Well, needless to say, I was delighted to see that she survived the night when she came in for breakfast.

Finally starting my blog!

So after 5 years of innkeeping I have decided to keep an online diary. I wish I would have done this sooner, since many memorable guests have come through our doors. But as I write I will try and remember past stories to tell about also.

Five years ago when we bought the inn, we didn't realize how much work it actually was going to be. Watching Newhart on television it always seemed so romantic and fun. And that it is, but the amount of work involved, I wasn't prepared. Imagine having ten rooms of guests in your house everyday for three straight months (June, July & August. We do mostly weekends in May, Sept., Oct. & Nov., so there is that break). Then comes the closed months - Dec through April. That's when we can rest. And do we need it. It is a very demanding life with so many guests, but we love (almost) every minute of it.

When we first started, my son was eight years old. So cute and little. He loved meeting new people and was always up for breakfast with the guests. We would turn around and he would be sitting with the guests eating & telling them all his favorite places to go to and favorite restaurants to eat at. He was such a good little innkeeper. The first couple of years when the guests were out for the day, you would find him on his dirt bike riding all over the property. As the years went on, he still loves to meet and talk to the guests, but getting a teenager up early to have breakfast with the guests is a little harder.

Over the years, the amount of amazing people we have met is incredible. We have so many guests who come back year after year who are now considered true friends. One group in particular that comes to mind are our dear guests whom we have named our "Seniors Gone Wild" group. This group of friends went to camp each year when they were younger and now get together twice a year for a reunion. We love them all dearly and consider them our true friends. Although sometimes I think I have to watch my back. At first I thought I had to worry about my husband's three "Charlies Angels" Cougars, but now I think I have to worry about his man love with Phil :).

In a couple of weeks another group of our friends/guests are returning. These two couples come once or twice a year from CT and we always look forward to seeing them. We have a lot of laughs together, mostly at the expense of Susie/the klepto and Donny/the storyteller. (Pam & Steve are the normal ones :). Only kidding. Maybe I should say now that I have changed all names in my blog to protect the innocent, but I haven't really.

Our guests come for different reasons: baseball, opera or just to enjoy the beautiful area. And they are all very different. Breakfasts are very amusing when an opera couple is seated next to a die hard yankee fan. I was shocked last week when one of our serious opera guests turned around and knew sooo much about baseball, name..stats...scores.

Well, I guess I should stop for today. It's 8:13 pm and I still have plenty to do tonight (and 5:30 comes pretty quick in the morning).

More to come...

ps: Mick, Debbie and Rob, thanks for the conversation. It prompted me to start putting it in writing.

pss. I miss the Bucklers, we need to see you! I guess we are going to have to come up to Boston!