Happy Holidays!

We wanted to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and a wonderful healthy New Year!!
We hope to see you all next season!!

George, Tina & Aidan

A Thanksgiving to Remember!

When George suggested we host Thanksgiving for his family this year, I thought, "Really? No, we can't do it. It's so many people, for so many days." I was nervous, I'll admit. Living 4 hours away from family, hosting a dinner party is a little different than hosting it 20 minutes away from family. Everyone stays. For days.

I broke down and said, "Ok, I can do this." Arrival started Wednesday afternoon. There was Mom and Dad, and Aunt and Friends. Next day, Cousins, and Brothers and their families. All totaled, 21 people arrived. Luckily, we have a guest house, so we were able to house everyone. It was gonna be great. Or so I thought...

Owning the inn, I thought, "How hard can this be? We're used to serving breakfast to many people everyday. We can do this". And it went off without a hitch. Everything turned out perfect. The kids played. The adults bonded. It was better than I ever thought it could be. I was relaxed and had a wonderful time with everyone!!

It was a picturesque several days. Friday evening Santa arrived by horse drawn wagon in Cooperstown. It was beautiful. The kids loved it. It couldn't have been better.

Until.... It hit. One of the kids had arrived with a tiny...... lingering...... STOMACH VIRUS!!! Noooooooooooo!

Late Friday evening, the first round of vomiting. My two sister-in-laws at the same time sharing the same top floor apartment with only one bathroom in the guest house. Picture a slapstick version of The Exorcist. Where a vomiting Linda Blair falls into (literally) a second vomiting Linda Blair right around the kitchen corner. Let's just say... It wasn't pretty. Next, my mother-in-law. As I write this, she is still at the hospital with George. Dr. says she's going to be fine. But, at one point, I actually heard the words, "I think I'm dying." Then I got the phone call that George's cousin was hit with it after he got home.

Wait, it was all so beautiful only 24 hours ago! With everyone gone now, I've started the sterilization process. Masked, gloved and praying. Hopefully there won't be any more victims. We'll know in 48 hours if everyone else is safe. Although with all the sickness, it was still almost perfect. Even my sister-in-law, Glynis, shaking and feverish when she left, texted us to say how wonderful the holiday was. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for our family and friends! And I am thankful that no one died on my first-ever hosting of Thanksgiving. It will definitely be.. a holiday to remember.

Closing Time!

As another season comes to an end, I can't decide if I am relieved or disappointed. After 6 months of innkeeping, it is nice to be able to sleep a little later and talk a little less. Last weekend, we had a couple of rooms of guests (now friends) that come every year for our last weekend. It was wonderful to see and spend time with them again. On Halloween Eve, we all went to the Farmers Museum for their "Things That Go Bump In The Night" Evening. A walking ghost tour, but scary - well, not so much. My son kept hoping/praying for something to jump out (and wake him up). More of a historical walk with a couple of (sort of) scary stories. Still it was a wonderful way to end our last weekend.

As George made his last waffle of the year (for himself I might add), we debated on whether or not to bring home the waffle maker for our own home use while we are closed. "No, I'm sick of waffles!" "But we can use them on Thanksgiving when the family comes up to visit." "Ok, as long as I don't have to eat another one of them until next May." Not that they're not good. They're delicious. If you haven't already had about 173 of them in the past 6 months.

So after everyone left, it was time to start the packing/cleaning and loading of the car. Along with bringing in all the outdoor furniture, George and Aidan tackled putting away the 697 cute things that I have bought over the years to put around the gardens/meadows/decks. It's sort of like an Easter egg hunt. Looking around for all the things that we so carefully placed in April.

At least the snow has held out. Nothing worse than looking for a little ceramic rabbit under a blanket of snow. Well the snow sort of held out. All of a sudden it started to come down 1/2 way through our packing phase. Pretty hard too. Aidan yelled for me to look outside. It looked like a storm and then 2 minutes later the sun came out as bright as, well, as bright as the sun. Beautiful.

Saturday was our first weekend home in 6 months. I slept until 10. It felt amazing. And Sunday, like a gift from God was Daylight Savings Time. An extra hour of sleep. I slept even later. I have to stock up. Springtime will be back before you know it. But for now, I'll be sleeping late on weekends and staying up late (just because I can!). And already missing our guests! But May, although 6 months away, will feel as if it is here in no time. Just as the past 6 months flew by (and the past 6 years of owning our inn)! Time does fly by when you're having fun :)!

Yes, We CAN All Just Get Along!

October/November is a time for debates and differences. Whether it is which baseball team you want to win the World Series or which side of the political fence you sit on, there is always someone to debate your views with. At the inn this weekend it seemed as if there was every side of the fence to debate your views with.

First off, this weekend determined which teams would go into battle with each other in the World Series. Being in NY there seemed to be many Yankee fans. All of which would come into breakfast Saturday morning without their pennants waving in the air. But I was surprised at the tone of some of these people. "It is nice for Texas. They've never won a post season series." Huh?? And then the other fans at the inn, the Phillies fans, solemnly entered the breakfast room on Sunday morning; but they too had a similar thought of sharing the World Series love. One couple was even wearing opposing sweatshirts - (wife) Phillies/(husband) Yankees.

The other major debate this time of year is the mid-term elections. Getting closer to November 2nd, it seems as if every commercial on TV is a negative campaign ad. So it was not surprising when politics came up at breakfast. But surprisingly, a liberal, a republican, a democrat and two conservatives can sit at one table and have a very serious, very calm discussion for 1 1/2 hours and not one voice is raised. With every mention of Bill O'Reilly or Christine O'Donnell, I was just sure that something would get heated. But no! To my shock everyone seemed to enjoy the conversation. The conservative couple even commented when they left, "We want to find out when that other group is coming back. We really enjoyed talking with them." What? Really? Phew! I let out the breath I was holding all morning!

How could this be? Did George put something "funny" in the coffee? We've had more heated discussions in the past about who's going to win Dancing With The Stars. With our last weekend of the season rapidly approaching, it was nice to see so many guests enjoying one another. Now if I could just figure out that perfect harmonious concoction of breakfast items, I could send a basket of them to Washington.


For those of you who read my last blog, this is Part II of that story...

That 90 year old woman and her family had stayed with us two years in a row. Yep, there were two years worth of guests that she inflicted her pain on! Last year they arrived having just bought a 4-family home that they were going to fix up. This year when they checked in they informed me that they were still working on it and that they were making it a big one-family home. Ok.....

Fast forward to Day Two of their stay... That morning they walked in asking me what do my cleaning girls use in the rooms? "It was sooo clean.... It smelled sooo fresh...." Ok.... They acted so sweet and complimentary.... A good act!...

Fast forward to the Morning Of Checkout... After they left breakfast (after being oh so friendly to me and George), they went directly over to our cleaning girls. "Do you have any business cards? We are opening up an inn next summer..." Wait, wait, WHAT???? The HOUSE that they are renovating is going to be an inn in the area?? AND they tried to STEAL my cleaning staff. I love my cleaning girls! Do Not mess with them!!

The last words this family said to me when they checked out - "See you next year." I think not! Between grandma and the attempted stealing of my cleaning staff, I can pretty much guarantee you that I will not be seeing them next year. Turns out they don't plan to live at their inn. While living in NYC, they will hire someone to run their inn and there won't be enough room for them to actually stay there when they come up. So they'll need someplace to stay. Not here! Not again! Not ever! At least 2011 Columbus Day Weekend guests can now be assured of a Eunice-free weekend!

A nasty guest I can deal with. A backstabbing lying guest.... that's a whole different story!

Be Kind To Your Elders!

DISCLAIMER: I have never done this before! So for all those who may not see me in the lobby, I am not hiding. Really! I am just doing other things. Really!!

Normally, I love to talk to all of my guests. You meet so many different types of people from all over the place. It is a very interesting life. But on this particular weekend. Well, not so much. She checked in and having been here once before I remembered her immediately! The conversation started like this, "Where's George? I want to see George. You, I don't remember your name!" Oh, it was going to be a long weekend!

I was sitting at the front desk with a mound of paperwork, and in walks Eunice, wanting to know how my year has been. Actually not really wanting to hear anything from me, but just wanting to talk and talk and talk. After 10 minutes of her talking/me listening, she picked up our guest comment book and decided to read me the comments, out loud, for the next 10 minutes. I've read them all before. All of them. If my attention swayed, at all, she asked if I was listening. I felt my body starting to shake. She stopped for a second, put down the book and said she was just going to get a drink and be right back. She walked around the corner to the water cooler and I did it...

I grabbed my stuff,
Opened the cellar door and ran down the stairs,
and then out the basement door to the outside.
Ahh!! The fresh air, the blue sky... the ocean.
Well, there's not really an ocean there, but that's what it felt like anyhow!
I then went in the back door and
up to my apartment where I finished my paperwork.

Almost 90 years old and very opinionated. That would have been ok, if every other one of our guests didn't think she was my mother and that she lived here. She was the first one in for breakfast and the last to leave. She greeted every one of our guests and then stood at their table talking to them. Not your average, "Where are you from, what are you doing today" talk, but ..... abortion, religion, politics... all the taboo subjects that we normally don't bring up with our guests at breakfast!

When things were rearranged in our lobby, I knew exactly how they got there. We were told if plants needed to be watered and when tt (toilet tissue) was running low. (These two things were both told to George in the middle of waffle making. Fully expecting him to stop everything and attend to what she felt was important. And stop he did! To show her how much water WAS in the vase with the plant. "Oh, I thought it needed more!.") When I didn't water a plant quick enough, it ended up front and center on the lobby desk. This morning I woke up and found one of my outside plants sitting on the front desk. For 1/10 of a second I actually said, "How did this get here?" How the hell did I think it got here!!!!!! When the coffee cups got low, she told our guests (unbeknownst to me) that she was going to have me fired for letting things run low.

She asked a family with a 1 year old if she could hold their baby (1 minute after they entered the lobby). She called a 12 year old a "bum" for wearing his baseball cap into breakfast. She listened to other people's conversations and then proceeded to give her opinions on each and every subject. This after she told me she was forced to come with her family and that she didn't even want to be here. First, who would ever force her to come with them anywhere? Second, this gave her a chance to spew her judgements on many people in the course of three days. By the way, has anyone ever seen that movie Throw Mamma From The Train? That was random. Don't know why that came to mind.

Her favorite subject. Jesus. She loved to tell religious jokes. Thought they were the funniest things ever. She was a devout stand-up comedian. I'll bet she really knocked their socks off in church, but in our lobby, not so much. And you better laugh! If you didn't, you heard, "What don't you understand? (long drawn out explanation of joke), you have no sense of humor! What is wrong with you." Yep, that's exactly what she said. To me. And hopefully no one else!

I can only assume that her family knows exactly what she does. Her son asked a teenager, "Is she bothering you?" And the kid said, unabashedly, "Yes, she sort of is." Kids and old people. They say what they want without hesitation.

DISCLAIMER #2: All statements in this blog are true. Any normal human being would have had the same "fight or flight" response. And given that fight was definitely not an option....

Hollywood Comes to Cooperstown

Not a whole lot of exciting stuff happens in these parts, but this weekend was the annual Baseball Film Festival at the Hall of Fame. Now normally this isn't something that I would rush out and get tickets to, but Billy Crystal was kicking it off with a reception and the viewing of his film 61*. This sounded fun, so we quickly got our tickets. First, there was a reception with food, drinks and Billy. Everyone stood in line for photos with him, but we were told - no autographs. Crap! Aidan brought a photo that he wanted signed. Oh well, I told him, just ask him if you could show him the photo and maybe he'll offer to sign it. He didn't. But he went one step further.

This particular photo is of George and Billy. Back in the day, when we were first married, George was pursuing an acting career. And he was damn good at it too! Just wasn't in the right place at the right time! Well, back to the photo. It is a still shot from the movie City Slickers. Billy is walking down a NYC street and you can see George in the background. (Maybe not one of George's more earth shattering performances, but still exciting, nonetheless!) Aidan shows it to Billy, he looks at it and then looks up at George and says "Wait a minute, let's reinact this photo." So he stops everything and positions George in the background and has us take a photo to simulate the first one. It was so funny but the other people in line must have thought we were all crazy. Very cool. But still no autograph on it. Oh well.

After the reception we all moved to the Grandstand, where they show movies, for a discussion of the film. Billy is so funny and so was the star, Thomas Jane, who played Mickey Mantle. Then after that, Billy, Thomas, the screenwriter and the producer came and sat in the audience with us and we all watched the movie together. Great movie. If you haven't seen it, rent it.

Then on Sunday keeping with the "Hollywood" Theme of the weekend, we went to the Woodstock Film Festival. After we had cleaned up breakfast and everyone had checked out, we closed the inn and set out for Woodstock. It is a very cool little town that's claim to fame is having lent it's name to the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. "Woodstock Ventures" originally wanted to hold the festival in Wallkill, NY (actually almost an hour away from Woodstock) and then settled on Bethel for the 3 day concert. But after 5 minutes of arriving in this quaint little town, you would swear that the concert had been held here. There are old hippies and "Woodstock" memorabilia everywhere you turn. Two such hippies were Grandfather & Mrs. Woodstock. Looking to be around 100 years old (with matching grey beards, wtf?) and doing no more than the occasional peace sign, these 2 fixtures drive along on their bike/home with their dog taking photos with people.

Well, back to the reason that we actually came to this town - film. We had tickets to the 4:45 movie, "Norman." So we decided to have some lunch, walk and browse around. Around 4:00 we asked a man who owned one of the stores where the Bearsville Theatre was. "A couple blocks up on the left." Ok, so off we went. We walked for about 1/2 hour and still no theater. WTF! A couple blocks up! We should have realized! This man owned a store with organic coffee and tea and incense and other enlightenment items. As George was paying for his coffee, this guy started complaining about the bullshit of organic products and recycling and other crap he seemed to deem as fact. George told him maybe he was in the wrong business and thanks for making us feel depressingly enlightened! So back to our walk. After about 1/2 hour and still no Theater in sight, I was beginning to think we would actually miss the movie! We got to town 3 hours early and now we can't even find the $%&#ing theater! This is so typical of us!

George starts to walk backwards and puts out his thumb pretending to hitch. I start complaining, telling him to put his hand down. All of a sudden a small bus stops, the door opens and the driver says, "Want a ride to the Theater?" WHAT??? REALLY??? I felt as if I was in a dream as I floated onto that bus. Did someone put some Woodstock Kool-Aid in our coffee?? It was a free shuttle straight from heaven that takes you back and forth from town to all the Theaters! We weren't going to have to walk back to the car later!!!! YAY! (This was pretty much all I could think about on the walk down there - the walk back!) After boarding the bus we drove for another mile or so. Yep! I've already emailed that depressing storeowner to tell him to STOP giving people directions and to en-lighten up a little! He lives in Woodstock for god's sake! The home of peace and love and harmony, with a touch of craziness added in just for fun!

"What a Drag It Is Getting Old!"

Even though this weekend was another festival filled weekend, we decided to pass on the annual Cooperstown Pumpkinfest and stick around the inn. We had lots to do and almost procrastinated by asking each other on an hourly basis, "Want to take a ride over and see what's going on?" I think the time it turned into, "We're not going to make it this year, are we?" was about 2 pm on Sunday. That's ok, there is always next year to see the 1500 lb. pumpkins.

Later in the day on Sunday, George left for his sister's, where he is doing some work for her all week. Hmmm, but that means he will miss an important holiday in our household. The annual, "I can't believe I'm not 18 anymore! How did I get this old! Day!" Tomorrow I turn "One Year Away From 50." That is how I will look at my age for the next year. It was about 8 months ago when the AARP started sending me their unsolicited junkmail. Wait, wait, what, no, I'm too young for this! So far, I have two of their cards in the landfill in Cooperstown. I refuse to accept that I am anywhere old enough to be retired. I also refuse to accept that I have a child in high school, but he keeps reminding me of that on a daily basis! He also took great pleasure in telling me what he learned in school last week. As I was helping Aidan study for his Career and Financial Mgmt. class, I learned that the ages 25-45 are the "Establishment Stage." I am in what is called the "Maintenance Stage." Just shoot me!!

So what to do for this wonderous day tomorrow?? When George is out of town, Aidan and I like to go to the movies and have dinner at the Japanese Restaurant in the big city.....Oneonta! Yep, the home of the Southside Hall, I mean Mall. Living in upstate NY, you get used to shopping at Walmart, BJ's..... or online! Yesterday, one of our guests asked if we had a Borders Bookstore nearby. Really??? Did you not drive around the area and see mostly cows and trees and barns? If you are in the market for a variety of baseball t-shirts, you're in luck! So tomorrow, off we go to the movies at the Southside Mall, where the two anchor stores on each side of the Hall/Mall are JC Penney's (annex/not even a full size store) and the other side - nothing! Yep, the second big anchor store has been empty ever since we moved up here. (Ahhh, how I miss NJ and the land of shopping.) And to put salt on the wounds of my big day, Aidan wants to see a movie called Buried! Really? There has got to be a happy movie that doesn't remind me of the fact that I am 4 years into my "Maintenance Stage"!

Well, Happy Denial Day to me... and to everyone else, have a wonderful week!

Fall Festivals - So Much To Do, So Little Time

It was beautiful and sunny and 70 degrees this weekend here in upstate NY. It was one of the busiest weekends in the area with soooo much going on. It was a Festival Bonanza - two Harvest Fests, an Applefest, a Garlic Festival, and a Kite Festival. We were booked with 1/2 our guests coming up for the Kite Festival and 1/2 our guests up for the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival. I really enjoyed my morning talks with all of my guests this weekend. And I learned a lot about kiting (and not just your average kid's kites, we're talking kites you should have insurance to fly, kites that might kill someone if they fall out of the sky!).

Well, we woke up Saturday morning with so many plans. After we cleaned up breakfast, our first stop was to go to Sharon Springs, then later to the Kite Festival and if there was time, on to the Garlic Festival. This years Sharon Springs Festival was expected to be huge. It is the home of the new reality series on the Planet Green Discovery Channel called The Fabulous Beekman Boys. It is the story of a New York City couple, Josh and Brent who buy a farm in upstate NY and become organic farmers. Josh, a writer, still lives part time in NYC and Brent, a doctor and a one time consultant on The Martha Stewart Show has moved up here full time. They buy the Beekman 1802 Farm and raise goats, make cheese and market goat's milk soap. It is a hilarious look at city boys/gone country boys. Along with Josh and Brent (and the ups and downs of their relationship), is Farmer John and his 100 goats who move onto the farm.

Well, if anyone has ever been up to this area and visited Sharon Springs, it is a sleepy little town, about 15 minutes from our inn. A one time bustling spa and resort town, it is now home to several huge abandoned hotels and an abandoned sulpher spring spa. In the past years, several businesses have popped up to begin its rejuvenation. Josh and Brent bought the Beekman Farm about 3 years ago, but this past summer was the premiere of their reality show. Last years Festival drew 300 people. This year - 3,000 to 5,000 people came and the majority came for one reason - The Beekmans. Yep, and that's why I went. I am a closet reality show watcher and the Beekman is one of my favorites. Josh and Brent (my new best friends in this area) well, actually, I haven't really met them yet, but when I do, I just know they are going to be my new best friends, have breathed a new life into that town. When we got there, there were about 100 people in line with about a 1 & 1/2 hr. wait to meet and greet them. What!  Damn! Well, I'll come back next week, when there is only the usual 3 or 4 people in town and try and meet them then.

Several of our guests came from out of state to see the Beekmans. Two couples came from Massachusetts. The odd thing was that I don't think these guys even knew each other and it wasn't until after they all checked out that I noticed that they lived 2 minutes away from each other - in the same town. Weird! Another guest came with her daughter (they watched the show together). The last guest that came for the Beekmans drove 5 hours and had talked her cousin (who had never heard of them) into coming with her. She was soooo excited to be here and I told her she seemed a little stalkeresque! I told her not to do anything that would involve the cops and our inn being on the news. Well, maybe that could be a good thing. Any publicity is good publicity. Maybe. All throughout the day there were film crews filming next season's show. I think we may have strategically placed ourselves into some (ok, many) of the shots. I'm sure we will be cut out, but maybe one shot will end up on the show. Damn! Why didn't I order those Meadowlark Inn t-shirts we had talked about. We could have been like "Where's Waldo". "Oh I see them again. There's those weird Meadowlark Inn people, right there, in the background!"

So there we were, stalking, I mean enjoying the Harvest Festival, and boy did the time fly. Next thing we knew, it was 4:30 and we missed all the other Festivals. But that's ok. We had a great time. The weather was beautiful. The food was great. We met some really wonderful people. It was a perfect day. And it was nice to see new life breathed into a town that hasn't seen that much action in years. Hopefully, for Sharon Springs sake, they'll stick around for a while. And in the meantime, maybe we can do lunch!!!!!

George and Tina, We Aim to Please, and Please, and Please Some More!!

I debated on even writing about this one. I worried that at some point in all of this, maybe I would end up sounding like a complainer. But I see it not as complaining, more like storytelling! So, a few days ago this lovely couple arrives at the inn. Checking in for a few days, they seemed to like it here immediately. And I liked them immediately too. They brought their things to their room and were back in the lobby licketey split. "Oh they loved it here! It's just lovely!" "Did I have any ideas for them for dinner for their two nights?" After discussing all the possibilities, we decided on two places that I would make them reservations at. A few minutes later, they came back in and wanted to see menus so that they could decide on what they wanted before they arrived at the restaurants. Ok, check. Dinner reservations and menus, done.

Then a couple minutes later they came back in and needed a luggage rack. All the rooms have luggage racks in them, but what happened to the one in their room? Gone. Ok, don't know what happened to it and we're not exactly in an area where I can run out and buy a new one. "Well, what are we going to do?? We can't possibly put our luggage on the floor?" I'll find something, a chair, something for you to use. When I arrived at their room, they already had their luggage on one of the 5 chairs that were in their room. Luggage, check, all taken care of.

A few minutes later, they were calling me from the lobby, "Tina, Tina", they couldn't get their remote control to work. Battery check, they're fine, reprogramming needed, maybe. I told them I would take care of it while they were at dinner. "Do you have any ice?" Of course! A little while later they came in, "We're off to dinner." Great, have fun! The next morning at breakfast they came in to find all the tables taken. "Where are we supposed to sit?? Can you get an extra table and chairs?" Why, of course, and can you wait a couple of minutes while I build an addition to put them in too? Another lovely couple overheard them and asked them to join them at their table where there where two extra chairs. "Oh that would be lovely!" A couple of minutes go by. "Do you have any plain oatmeal? There only seems to be oatmeal with fruit." I am sorry but we only have what is out. How did I know that of all the 58 things we have to choose from at breakfast, she would want the one thing that we didn't have! A few minutes later, "Can you check the times for the art museum for us?" Why of course. I would love to.

After breakfast they left the inn for a while. Now, this evening, I have already made reservations at a restaurant for them. All taken care of. But they passed by a different restaurant and looked at the menu (a restaurant that I told them not to go to because it was wayyyyy to pricey for what you get). They came into the lobby and wanted to discuss this restaurant and why I thought they could charge those prices and could they see the menu for the restaurant that I am sending them to tonight to make sure it wasn't the same as this expensive one. I told them that they had already looked at the menu last night and had already decided on what they were going to order last night and that they thought it was fine. No, they wanted to see it again. Sure, of course. After a few more questions and requests that day, they were off to their dinner and opera.

This morning at check out they told my husband that they had a small problem with their room that they wanted him to be aware of. George said, why didn't you tell us about this during the weekend, we could have fixed it for you immediately. "Well, we would have, but no one was around all weekend." Wait, wait, what!!! You mean during the 147 times you came in and asked for things, we weren't around! Really! That's ok, maybe we can do a better job serving them next time. They'll be back. They've already made reservations for next year and will possibly be back in the fall. Because.... "our inn is so lovely!" At least this will give us a chance to redeem ourselves and be "more around" for them. Perhaps they came in while we were in the bathroom, or sleeping, and needed something. We will be sure to do a better job next time! Because.... we aim to please!!!

You Learn Something New Every Day!

When we decided to start making belgian waffles for our guests, we also decided to offer a gluten-free option for those who have wheat allergies. Usually, the people with these allergies either call ahead to let us know or put a note in their reservation when they reserve online. Yesterday, we got a phone call from one of these guests. It kind of went like this:

Me: Hello, Meadowlark Inn.
Guest: Hi, I saw on your website that you serve a gluten free breakfast.
Me: Well, we do serve gluten-free waffles.
Guest: How do you prepare them?
Me: (long explanation of exactly what goes in them)
Guest: Where do you prepare them?
Me: In our kitchen.
Guest: Is it the same kitchen that prepares the non gluten-free foods?
Me: Yes.
Guest: Then you really aren't gluten-free and shouldn't be saying that you serve a gluten-free waffle.
Me: But I don't cross contaminate. I have a separate bowl, spoon, separate waffle iron. I thought I was doing everything right.
Guest: When you prepare foods, the gluten is airborne and contaminates the other foods.
Me: So what you are saying is that when people prepare gluten-free foods you would need a separate kitchen to say you are actually gluten free??
Guest: Yes.
Me: Well, I have a hard time believing that all gluten-free preparations are done in a separate kitchen. How long is the gluten airborne?
Guest: 48 hours.
(a lot more back and forth of me being told how to properly prepare a gluten-free meal!)
Me: We actually do have two kitchens, one in our apartment and one outside our inn dining room. So, if I do all the preparation of non gluten-free foods for 48 hours before you come in in only our apartment kitchen, then the inn kitchen would be pure enough to make the gluten free waffles when you come. Right?
Guest: Yes. But would you mind if I called you in a couple days before I come to remind you of all of this?
Me: Of course. Now, do you already have a reservation with us so that I can put it in your notes?
Guest: Oh no, we aren't staying with you. We are staying somewhere else and just want to come eat at your place because our place doesn't serve gluten free!

WHAT????????? Omg, I just can't make this stuff up. I then went on to tell her that we are not a cafe or restaurant and we only serve a complimentary breakfast to the people that are actually staying here. She seemed disappointed and then asked if we had any openings for the night that she wanted in case she could cancel her other reservation (we didn't).

The more we add or the different things that we do here, there always seems that there is always something more to learn. At first, when I got this phone call, the caller seemed very argumentative, so I almost thought I was being "punked". I quickly realized that she was serious and I thought, "Ok, there is always more to learn, and I do want to do everything right so...". But when I heard she was staying somewhere else, it took everything for me to keep my "WTF!!!" bottled up! And although I learned more about how to keep from cross contaminating gluten foods, this is what I learn every day.... Be nice, be kind, be considerate to all of our guests, even the ones that aren't staying here!

The Dreaded Double Booking! Just when I thought we were safe!

It's the one thing that all innkeepers fear the most.... the dreaded double booking! Accidentally booking two guests in the same room! When we bought the inn six years ago, the previous owners handed us their reservation system for the following season. A shoebox with reservations written on index cards in it. Really?? When they went over the business with us, one of the lines they used was, "And when you double book and you will..." I never remember the rest of the line, but I always remember thinking - NO, I won't double book! I signed up with one of the best online reservation systems, making it impossible to ever double book! Many lodging facilities that we know have done it at least once in the past, but this is something that we have prided ourselves on in the past six years of never doing! Well... at least until this week anyway.

On Sunday, one of our guests still hadn't shown by the time we were going to bed. We left the usual envelope with their name and key outside on a hook in case they showed up later that night. But no. There it was - still hanging when we woke. It was one of those moments when you realize something has gone terribly wrong. Things start flashing in your mind. Maybe they cancelled and I forgot. And I left their reservation in place (for four nights!) when we could have rerented the room. No, I know it wasn't that. But I was going to check my past emails and see if I found anything. And there it was..... Not a cancellation, but the original email from months ago. The email where they stated they would like to reserve a room for four nights starting Monday...NOT Sunday. Now this could have been an easy fix. Just shifting their reservation one night over. But we were fully booked on that last night. We only had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday for them. We now have 11 guests on Thursday with only ten rooms. I sat at my computer just staring at the reservation calendar for hours. As if something would just pop out and tell me what to do.

The choices you have when this happens are never ones that you want to approach a guest with. You can find another hotel for them for all four nights, you can find another hotel for them for their fourth night, or you can let them have your apartment for that fourth night and you and your family and your dogs and your pride can sleep in your car. I stared at that computer and saw that one of our other guests arriving on that Thursday have come several times before and they come just to enjoy the area and the lake. Maybe just maybe they wouldn't mind coming next week. George said he would call them and ask if their trip dates were set in stone and maybe they wouldn't mind coming a few days later, when we had openings.

With my tail between his legs, he explained that we have never done this before and how sorry we were and would they mind changing their dates. Just then, the clouds parted, the stars aligned themselves directly over our inn, and the guest told George that she actually wanted to postpone her trip and was hoping that we would let them out of their reservation this week without a penalty. What! What did she just say! No, this can't be true. From the smile on George's face, I can tell that all was well in the world. The four hours sleep mixed in with the four hours of worrying was all for nothing.

I am sure this is something that I will never live down. "Remember that time that you......blah, blah, blah." Yeah, I did it. But I will never do it again. I will be more careful. And I will take an extra dose of ginko biloba "Natural Mental Sharpness" Formula. And all my future guests can feel confident that yes, that room that they booked for that romantic weekend away will not be shared with complete strangers. And Dear Higher Power in the Sky, thank you, thank you, thank you for watching over me this time and fixing what could have been the ultimate in bad tripadvisor reviews.

Local Businesses Helping One Another - Well sort of!

Yesterday a local businessman came into the inn with some promotional flyers. "Would we be willing to put them in our lobby?" They said they were a cafe that served breakfast and lunch. My husband, George, said sure and asked if he would like some of our brochures as well. "Well no, we couldn't do that." Oh, ok, well, um, why not? Turns out this local business was an inn that serves breakfast to not only their own guests, but the general public. After closer examination of the flyers, George realized that this was a competing business not far from us. Are they kidding?? George was quick to point out to the guy that "didn't he think that this was a bit of a conflict of interest??" He had the nerve to say that "no he didn't. They charge $30-$60 more a night for their rooms, so they serve a different clientelle." Ugh! Is it just me, or is this just plain rude. Oh yeah, he also said that maybe some of our guests would like a "real good breakfast." Wait, wait, what did he just say???? Are you kidding me! Obviously he hasn't heard about George's famous waffles! From the sound of it, George gave him a good WTF talking to!! I am glad I wasn't there when he showed up. Looks like we won't be going out to dinner with our new found local business friends anytime soon.

Oh, and an update on our backyard baseball field - It's finished!!!!! And from the moment we finished it last night, there were kids playing on it. Kids and their fathers! Yesterday afternoon George was placing the bases and I was painting the backstop. George spent soooo much time putting the bases in the exact spot that they needed to be. Out there with measurements and his tape measure, I kept telling him no one was going to be going out there measuring that we had it right, but he had to have it perfect. While I was painting the backstop, one of the kids that had checked in yesterday came over to ask if he could help. I didn't know if he was bored while he was waiting for his other teammates to check-in or just wanted me to hurry up and finish so they could play on it. Well about 7 pm last night our first game was played. And they were out there again this morning before they left for the day! They called it awesome! And I think it's pretty awesome too. George did an amazing job. Now all we need are some bleachers and an electronic scoreboard. That would be sweet. But I think it's done, we're good. Until our next project. Oh and by the way, that other business, the one that thinks they are in a different league than us.... no backyard baseball field!

Oh and another thing.... my 14 year old son (who will someday be the next Martin Scorsese) posted his movie on YouTube. It is going to be in the Oneonta Film Festival. It's in 2 parts - Carnage of the Minds.

And one last thing... We had an absolutely wonderful photographer that stayed with us a couple of weeks ago as a guest. She was shooting a local wedding. She wrote about us and took some really cute pictures of Sammy (our pup) - North Photography. If anyone is looking for a fantastic photographer, contact Kathleen!

Happy Father's Day to all you dads!!!

Wake me up in September!

Some days you just can't shake the blahs. Today started off badly. When you wake at 1:30 in the morning and can't go back to sleep until the sun comes up - you just know it's gonna be a bad day. Waking with a total of 3 1/2 hours sleep this morning, I just kept telling myself - you'll take a nap later and catch up. Well, there really is no such thing as catching up on sleep when you are an innkeeper. I laid down around 3 this afternoon, to be woken up by my son 45 minutes later, who said I was needed by a guest in the lobby. Nooooooo...... Just a couple of hours really. That's all I needed. So off I go to see what I was needed for. Directions. To a place that was already closed for the day. Oh well. There is always something to do, someone to help.... I'll sleep in September.

Now I can't go back to sleep. I keep thinking... well I am going to have to wake soon to cook dinner anyway. And who feels like eating. I just ate that leftover donut that was staring me in the face (that I didn't need, wasn't hungry, and now I feel even worse than I did before). And to top it off, I sit down at the computer just now and see that there is a tornado warning in our area until late tonight. What is this? Kansas? And it's going to be almost 20 degrees cooler tomorrow with heavy rain and a thunderstorm. Maybe I can just go back to sleep and wake up in a few days. On Friday, when summer comes back.

It's amazing how the weather can sometimes affect our moods. Yesterday was a warm and sunny day. We went out on the boat with friends from NJ (who happened to bring Italian bread, garlic peppers and fresh mozzerella fresh from Hoboken, NJ). Top that with some beer and life was good for a few hours. We barbequed last night and hung out talking with our friends and our guests. A good night. When I woke at 1:30 last night it was to one of the worst thunderstorms I have ever seen. It was as if a switch was flipped. I got up to make sure all the windows were closed and that's when all hell broke loose with my internal clock. Well, I will try to go to bed early tonight... possibly... probably not. A couple Tylenol PMs/some earplugs. Yep. That's what I need. So I can wake up refreshed and chipper. Ready to meet the day... and guests. We just have to get through tonight... and that upcoming tornado. Maybe I dreamed that part. During that 45 minute nap. No, just checked again, it's still there. That warning. With big red letters. And with the way my day is going I can only hope I sleep right through it.

Getting in Shape - Innkeeper Style

It was a quiet weekend here with some really sweet guests. George and Aidan went away for a few days to Delaware for NASCAR. They met some friends down there and camped out in what appears to be a mall parking lot. Well, Aidan camped (in a tent). George was in a luxury RV, so not really the equivalent of camping. And the added bonus of being in a mall parking lot - Aidan got to go shopping for dvds and video games. Yep, they were living the good life, the American dream. Camping/malls/car racing, all at the same time! While I held down the fort, George had sent some videos from his phone. A real guy weekend. Aidan was standing next to a fence with cars racing by. I was carsick just looking at it on my 2 x 2 phone screen. Yep, I'd rather be here all cozy with my 2 puppies. Just me, Maggie and Sam and half a dozen strangers, I mean guests.

Only a few guests this weekend, but fine by me. I need a breaking-in phase when we start up the season. Can't throw 10 rooms of guests at me. I go into a panic. Especially when I am by myself. One room of guests were men from the UK. They were traveling by bike from Boston to Chicago! Did I mention - by bike - bicycle. Did I mention they were around 65 years old. Yeah, if that didn't make me feel out of shape! I don't even like to ride my bike to the store. Even with that cute basket that I have on there to carry the groceries. It's just so much easier to get in the car. A couple of months ago George saw an infomercial for P90X. This extreme workout DVD set. He convinced me to do it with him. You work out for 90 days/7days a week. By the end of that time period (if I was still alive), I was to have the body of a 20 year old. Well, I gave it a good 34 days. I was then officially a P90X drop out. First, I gained 6 lbs. If I am going to suffer for an hour every day, I'll be damned if I am going to gain weight. Yeah, yeah, George said, "But it's muscle!" I Don't Care!!

Well, after meeting those incredibly in-shape older men, I am going to start working out again. Tomorrow. Well, maybe Monday. Not today. Too much to do with the inn this weekend. Remember, I am holding down the inn all by myself. When it's slow like this I can't justify hiring my cleaning girls yet, so isn't - checking in guests/making breakfast/cleaning rooms/washing linens a workout in itself? I am definitely going to start working out again, though. Starting Monday! Not P90X working out, but - maybe I'll go for a bike ride. To the store. With my cute basket. And maybe this 48 year old body can look - 42 1/2 again!

If You Build It, Will They Come?

This past weekend we opened the inn for the season. We had some really nice guests, some we knew from previous visits and some were new. It was a great start to hopefully a wonderful season. Every year we try and do something a little different as we open the inn. Sometimes it's as subtle as buying new comforters, one year we added a volleyball court, another we brought in a dvd library for the guests. This year it's a baseball field! People love to play ball in the backyard of the inn. We thought, "Hey, they'll love having their very own ballfield to play on when they stay here." I don't know what we were thinking!

A couple of weeks ago, we had someone bulldozing a couple of old flower beds away. George wanted to plant grass and remove some old rotted railroad ties. Well, when that was finished and the day was still young, and the bulldozer was right there on the property already anyway, why not just start that ballfield we always wanted to build. Why is it that whenever we do anything, we always hash it out for a good 4 or 5 minutes. We never sleep on it. Like when we bought the inn. We had originally planned on buying an investment property. Maybe a small house that we could rent out seasonally and use occasionally on the off season. Then we saw the inn. We had always thought that eventually, maybe when we were older we would own one. But why wait until then, we decided to buy it that day. Yeah, we don't like to dwell on things.

So back to the ball field. We have that big back right corner of property that we never use. "Wouldn't a field be perfect there?" Sure, George. So within the hour, there was no turning back! For a couple of days we seemed to be the talk of the neighborhood. Hmmm. Heavy equipment, lots of digging, The Meadowlark must be adding more rooms. The man that owns the land next to us was over in a flash. He'd heard we were building rooms on his land! People slowed down to see what we were doing, what we were building. Some even stopped by to ask, "So what are you building back there anyway?" Ha!

You wouldn't believe me if I told you how many hours a bulldozer has to push dirt around to level land. Day after day I would look outside and the dirt was still being pushed around. And then raked and then pushed and then raked. Damn you incredibly unlevel land! Do you not know how much a bulldozer costs per hour? Then came the base lines. That stuff's expensive too! Yep. Didn't think this out! We are a little over a week into the build and it is finished. This past weekend we spent wayyyy too many hours putting hay on the seed so that the grass will grow faster. George has worked soooo hard on this field! But in a couple of weeks it is going to be beautiful. And green. And people will play on it. George promises me that!