Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To 2008


I bid you adieu, farewell, adios.


It's been a year of ups and downs like most, but it's also been probably the most difficult year of my adult life. I am not sorry to see the end of it.


Here's to a better 2009. Happy New Year, everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice


I want to wish all my readers (both of them) a happy, healthy, safe Winter Solstice and whatever other holiday you may celebrate this week. May you be warm & dry and surrounded by those you love.

Provincetown's "famous" lobster trap Christmas Tree




Sunday, December 14, 2008

Challenging

I have a guest here who appears to have an extreme case of homophobia. Wouldn't even consider going to Provincetown where, unlike Wellfleet at the moment, there are good restaurants (the topic of restaurant closings is a whole other post). If there is one thing I can't tolerate, it's intolerance - whether it be racial, sexual, social or anything else. This is going to be a long two days of tongue-biting for me in order not to get into an argument with the guest.

I'm resisting the urge to call several of my gay friends and invite them to have breakfast here on Tuesday. It would be fun, though.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Social Networking

I joined Facebook back in June. I did it because the owner of the Post Secret site started a page there and I wanted access to it. I put up a bare-bones profile, did a couple of searches and "friended" a couple of people. Then I pretty much left it alone on the theory that this was largely a site for the under-30 crowd. Until about five weeks ago. Then, all of a sudden I started getting messages and friend requests as a bunch of my old friends from high school and college - and I mean at least a dozen people, all over 45 - joined the site and started searching for people. I've reconnected with a number of them now. With some I've exchanged just a message or two, with others I feel like I've really resumed a long-dormant friendship. It couldn't have come at a better time.

As a side benefit, Facebook is now allowing people to set up pages for their businesses. I've done one for the inn. I'm not sure if I'll see a benefit from it, but at the moment it's free and it can't hurt. It may help me draw in a younger generation of B&B goers.

I also recently joined Linked In. That site is more for business networking. There is some overlap between the friends I've found there and the ones on Facebook, but I've found a number of people on Linked In who have probably never considered joining Facebook.

If you've been getting invitations to join either of these sites, take a chance and do it. You might be surprised at who you find there. Be warned, though, both can be a bit of a time-suck if you let them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter Light

The light here is different from anywhere else I've lived. It's most noticable in the winter, when the angle of the sun is so much lower, and particularly near sunset. It can make for some very dramatic scenes.

Here are two photos* that illustrate that beautifully, taken by my friend and sometime-guest, Tom Baratz.

This is Mayo Beach, on the harbor, at sunset:
And this is one of our ocean-side beaches, Newcomb Hollow, also near sunset:

*THESE PHOTOS ARE NOT TO BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION

Want to see it for yourself? We're open through the winter, come on down!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Let Me Clue You In

If you're a company wanting to do business with me, let me give you two little suggestions:

1) Hire people to make your phone calls who I can understand and who can understand me. Speaking to someone who's English is so heavily accented that I have to ask them to repeat things several times just frustrates me, and I'm sure it frustrates them as well. And it's equally unhelpful if I have to keep repeating myself to be understood.*

2) When I say I'm not interested, thank me and hang up. Do not keep talking. I do not enjoy hanging up on you, but I will.

*I have nothing against people who's first language is not English, but heavy accents are much more difficult to understand on the phone than face-to-face. All I'm suggesting is that when companies hire people to do phone sales, they should conduct a test run on the phone with the candidate to see if there's a problem with making themselves understood/understanding the other person.

End of rant. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did

My favorite photo, so far, from this election.



These two people have a long, difficult road ahead of them. This country is quite a mess.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he is as good as the speech he gave last night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wildlife

I thought I'd share two marvelous photos taken earlier this month. The first was taken at the Wellfleet Bay Audubon Sanctuary by a guest staying with us.



Isn't he pretty? The guest, who is from the UK where white tail deer are not found, was thrilled to have seen him and to have gotten this photo.

The next photo was taken by a guest who stays with us on a somewhat regular basis. Thank you, Tom*, for sharing this photo of river otters at Gull Pond.


*This photo is by Tom Baratz. Please do not use it without permission.



Friday, October 17, 2008

October Rituals

This weekend is the annual Wellfleet Oyster Festival. It started out tiny just eight years ago, now it attracts 20 - 30,000 people to town over the course of the weekend. That's ten times the size of the year-round population! There will be a shucking contest*, live music, various cooking demonstrations, a tour of the oyster flats, a 5k road race and something like 100,000 Wellfleet oysters will be consumed over the course of the two days. It's fun to see that many people in town and the organizers and volunteers do an amazing job with set-up and clean up. On Monday morning there will be no trace that anything unusual happened over the weekend.

A less fun ritual is the annual closing of the seasonal restaurants. As much as we look forward to them opening each spring, we dread them closing in the fall. We know it has to happen, the local population just can't support that many restaurants. Also, the owners and staff are exhausted and many of the buildings that house the restaurants are unheated which makes them unsuitable for year-round use. Still, we miss having the options both for ourselves and as places to refer our guests.

Some of the restaurants closed last weekend, most of the rest that close will do so this Sunday. One or two others will hang on for another week or two, but by the beginning of November we will be down to three or four restaurants in town and that will not improve until April. On the positive side, there is the chance to socialize with some of our friends who own those restaurants and who we don't see during the busy season unless we go out to eat.

I enjoy the rhythm of life here, it is as inevitable and predictable as the tides.

*Congratulations to Wellfleet's own William "Chopper" Young, winner of the World Oyster Shucking Championship.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Green Travel

There has been a lot of talk lately about "going green". We are all being encouraged to think about our environmental footprint, change our light bulbs, reduce waste, drive less and so forth. There is also a "green" trend in the travel and hospitality industry, and while I think anything that can be done to reduce energy consumption and waste is good, I wonder how many travelers actually choose a lodging establishment based on how "green" it is.

We have been pretty green from the very beginning but I've never advertised it because it's just what I do. To me it isn't a marketing ploy, it's how I want to live my life. And we aren't totally green, there are no solar panels on the house and the property isn't large enough for a windmill so we are forced to use oil and propane for heat, hot water and drying laundry. Only rarely do I hang anything to dry outside. Our electricity use could probably be reduced by putting in power strips for things like televisions and video decks. I haven't yet changed over to a water saving front loading washing machine, although I probably will very soon; our current washer is showing definite signs of advancing age. Still, I think I do more than the average homeowner. For anyone interested, here is a list of our green practices:

- Soap/shampoo/lotion dispensers in the bathrooms save on all those little plastic bottles;
- Navy blue towels and colored bed linens so we don't have to use bleach in the wash;
- Compost almost all fruit/vegetable waste from the kitchen (except in winter);
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs in all lights that burn many hours a day and I'm in the process of changing the bulbs in more places;
- Timers for outdoor lighting;
- Recycling, including bottles, cans, newspapers & cardboard;
- Freecycle(TM) for items we no longer use but that aren't ready for the trash, like blankets & towels that we change out every couple of years. Pillows and linens that are too stained or worn for human use go to an animal shelter;
- Air conditioners are installed in frames that allow us to open the window above the unit. This permits a cross-breeze in all our guest rooms and minimizes the use of air conditioning;
- Ceiling fans in all guest rooms, living room, dining room, kitchen and our personal space to cool without a/c;
- Minimal use of chemical cleaning agents;
- Purchasing larger refill sizes and/or concentrates rather than small bottles where possible;
- Programmable thermostat for the heat which allows us to keep the house warmer during peak guest usage (mornings and evenings) and cooler mid-day and at night without having to remember to set it ourselves;
- Purchasing recycled office supplies as much as possible, including copy paper, our letterhead & envelopes, file folders and clasp envelopes;
- Switched from sending snail-mail confirmation letters to email;
- Switched to paperless billing for as many of my business & personal bills as possible;
- In order to save water on longer stays, sheets and towels are changed after the third night. Requests for more frequent changes are, of course, honored;
- When planting my garden each spring, I specifically look for drought-hardy annuals that don't have to be watered every day.

Wow. Pretty exciting, right? I'm sure everyone who reads this is going to want to book rooms here now.

Let's face it, most "green" practices are pretty mundane. I do these things because they make sense to ME. In some cases they actually make my life easier (less watering, fewer light bulb changes, two or three loads of laundry saved in a busy week), in other cases they increase my workload (rinsing & sorting recyclables, bundling newspaper & cardboard, resetting timers, mixing cleaning agents and filling spray bottles).

Okay, now I'd like to hear from my readers. I have a stat. counter, I know you're out there. Do "green" practices weigh into your decisions about lodging when going on vacation? Do you think there is more I should be doing? And what do you do at home?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Change of Season, Season of Change

It's hard to believe it's Labor Day already. Another summer, gone. Not that I expect business to slow down much, but the pace of life usually does after this weekend.

This summer has both flown and dragged by. The inn, and I, are going through some transitions. My husband and partner, Adam, and I are getting divorced. He will be moving out some time in October. That means I will need to find help to do some of the things Adam has done here over the years and to that end I have hired and am training an assistant innkeeper. She will take over the two breakfast shifts per week that Adam has been doing and cover check ins some afternoons so I can get out and do the shopping, another of Adam's jobs, and take care of any personal appointments. So that's one piece of the puzzle. There are many others I'm still figuring out.

Although I am sad and sometimes terrified, I do see the possibilities for positive change in all this. For one thing, I have someone to whom I can delegate certain things. Adam was a partner and would not have been a good choice to delegate some of my projects to, since he considered them my projects. Already Nancy has helped me with two small things that I have been wanting to get done but have been unable to motivate myself to do, even though I had everything I needed to do them. And over the winter I'll have her work with me to improve organization in my kitchen and office.

Adam and I have made every effort to keep this all behind the scenes. We're much more sad than angry about the whole thing and we want our guests to have the relaxing vacation they came here for. So far, from the comments in our guest book, we seem to have been successful. I hope arriving guests who read this don't get weirded out by it. The plan is to continue to provide the hospitality we've become known for.

I'm more concerned about the guests who have been here before, some of whom come every year. It will be difficult telling them, but I suppose it'll get easier with practice. Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Should Have Done it Long Ago

I know it's been a while since my last post. We've been insanely busy and somehow August seems to have nearly slipped by already. It's been a good year for business but I'll admit to being tired. Although we remain busy into the middle of October, the pace of life slows down somewhat after Labor Day and I look forward to that.

One of the difficult parts about summer is that although the ringing phone means business, it also means frustration. The majority of the phone calls in July, August and September are for dates that are already booked. In particular as each weekend approaches there are numerous phone calls from people seeking rooms for Friday and Saturday night. It's no fun for them and no fun for us to have to tell them we're booked. And frequently the caller wants to know if we can suggest another place. We usually can't. As summer wears on and I get more tired, the impulse to be less than my usual polite, helpful self with the callers gets stronger. No good can come of that!

This past week I added an on-line availability calendar to my website. I had my website designer make the link into nice, big buttons that are easy to find. They very wisely put the link on both the rooms and the reservations pages. The result was almost instantaneous. The phone has almost stopped ringing. When it does ring, it's much more often someone looking at nights we do have or it's someone who's already in town who wants a room for tonight. I can't help the latter, but at least I've got a fair shot at helping the former. What a relief.

I think I'll now be able to survive the next two months with my sanity intact.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

And Then There Were Two

I know there's a downturn in the economy, but people are (thankfully) still coming for their beach vacations. Our bookings have been very strong.

The title refers to the number of room-nights we still have available in August. Yes, that's right, two. One room, two nights, August 13 & 14. That's a Wednesday & Thursday.

Anyone want 'em?

Friday, August 1, 2008

I'm Surrounded...

by pregnant women. Three of our five female guests this weekend are between five and six months pregnant. That has NEVER happened before. We've had lots of pregnant guests over the years, but only one at a time (that we knew of).

I hope it's not contagious.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Puzzling

A car pulled into my driveway and all the way around to the back of the property today around 1:30. It turned out to be a couple who will be staying with us starting in two days. They wanted to see where they were staying. The room was occupied and I was in a bit of a hurry, so I hope I wasn't too abrupt when I excused myself.

They caught me off-guard and at a bad moment, but it was a bit strange. I've had lots of people stop by wanting to see the place for future reference, but never before someone who is already booked here and due to arrive in just a couple of days. I got the impression they had a bunch of questions, I wish I'd had the time to find out if they had any concerns or if they were really just looking around.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Please Plan Ahead - a cautionary tale

Dusk, June 29, 2008

A kitchen, anywhere in the Northeast United States. Dinner is on the table, two adults are eating and conversing.

Adult #1: "Honey, don't we both have Friday, July 4th, off?"

Adult #2: "Why yes, we do! Why don't we go away for the long weekend?"

Adult #1: "What a great idea! We should probably make a reservation somewhere. Where would you like to go?"

Adult #2: "I'd like to go to the beach. What about Cape Cod?"

Adult #1: "Great idea. Why don't you get online after dinner and find us someplace nice to stay?"

Adult #2: "I'll do that."

****** Two Hours Later ******

Adult #2: "I found this great little B&B in Wellfleet, I checked it out on Trip Advisor and it's the #1 rated place there. It's got great reviews! Would you call them in the morning and make us a reservation?"

Adult #1: "That sounds great, I'll do it!"

****** Curtain ******

I swear, that little scenario must have played out in hundreds of kitchens in the past couple of weeks because I've gotten literally dozens of phone calls for the weekend of July 4th. A holiday virtually everyone in America gets off. What makes people think they can call a week or less in advance for a holiday weekend and get a room? Especially in a B&B, which has only a few rooms to start with!

I try really hard not to laugh when these folks call, but the closer it gets to the 4th, the more difficult that is. I do try to suggest they book for next year, but so far nobody has wanted to do so. Not that I'm surprised. Clearly, these are not plan-ahead people and they may still harbor the illusion that they'll find a room somewhere so they want to get on to the next phone call as quickly as possible. They'll probably play out the same scenario for Labor Day weekend.

If you can't plan to go away on the big holiday weekends well in advance, you should probably learn to enjoy spending them quietly at home. There are plenty of weekends between late October and the middle of June where you absolutely can get a room with only a couple of days notice. Come see us then.

So to answer your questions in advance:

No, we don't have a room for the 4th & 5th. In fact, that weekend typically books up before Memorial Day.

No, I don't know anyone who has a room available. Since you're about the 25th person to call me about it this week, my guess is that you're going to be out of luck, but I'll direct you to the Chamber of Commerce anyway. If anyone has a room, they'll know about it.

No, I don't think there's much of a chance anyone will cancel. If someone does, it'll be the day before they're scheduled to arrive and you'll already have made other plans, so I'm not going to put your name on a waiting list.

Yes, if someone DOES cancel, one of these last minute callers is going to get very, very lucky. But don't count on it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Missing Wellfleet Lighthouse Found



This lovely article graced the front page of the Cape Cod Times yesterday (June 5). Surprisingly, today, it was picked up by the AP. My little town has made national news. Yay!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Geographically Challenged

This was a real phone call earlier this week.

Caller: I saw your inn featured on the Fine Living Network's "Top 10 Vacation Spots"* and thought it was really nice. Do you think you can help me find an inn as nice as yours on Martha's Vineyard?

Me: Let me see if I understand this: You think my inn is really nice but you want to stay somewhere else?

Caller: Well, I only have one day, I'll be in Stamford (CT) on business and it looks like Martha's Vineyard is closer.

Me: It may be closer as the crow flies, but you have to take a ferry to get there.

Caller: I do?

Me: Um, it's an island. It's a 45 minute ferry ride, you have to find the schedule and make a reservation.

Caller: Well, I only have the one day and I didn't want to drive more than about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Me: Where are you calling from?

Caller: Cincinnati, Ohio.

To make a long conversation short, the caller had no idea of the distances involved. Stamford, CT is near the New York border, about an hour from NYC. It's about a 5 hour drive from there to Wellfleet. The closest place she could have picked up a ferry to the Vineyard is New Bedford, about a 4 hour drive. I'm not sure how long the ferry ride is from there, the 45 minute time is from Hyannis. At any rate, the caller finally decided, with a little prodding from me, that her best bet for a quick getaway would be to drive to New London, CT, and take the ferry from there to Montauk, Long Island. It's also a beach resort area, but not as nice as Wellfleet, at least in my opinion :)

*The show on which the caller saw my inn was filmed about six years ago. It still airs at least once a year and has been picked up by local stations in some markets now and then in between. It was one of the best pieces of publicity I ever got, and it was totally free!

Friday, May 23, 2008

How To Get Rid of Fruit Flies

From an email exchange between two innkeeper friends:

Innkeeper #1
"Anybody have a way to get rid of the buggers?"

Innkeeper #2
"Our standard is to drink almost all the wine from a bottle, then set the bottle with a little wine in it on the counter near where the fruit flies congregate. They'll go for the wine (smart little buggers) and then can't find the way out of the bottle (dumb little buggers)--but at least they die happy."

Innkeeper #1 (late the next day)
i hav dlunk the wyine, and cnnott see any moorre floot fries. It wroks!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bed Linens: Proof of an Alternate Universe

For those of you who go about your lives buying the occasional set of sheets, a blanket or quilt here or there, perhaps a bed skirt or duvet cover once or twice in your lives, you've probably never really pondered some of the oddities of bed linens. For those of us who buy linens in quantities and make multiple beds each day, there are far more opportunities to discover/question/curse the bizarre inconsistencies and randomness of the bed linen industry.

Here are some of the things I cannot explain:
- 100% cotton sheets. Okay, they feel nice but even if you pull them out of the dryer before it finishes spinning and put them right on the bed, they're still wrinkled. Okay for home, not so much for a B&B. Life is too short to iron sheets.

- Blanket sizing. A queen size mattress is 60" x 80". A queen size blanket is 90" x 90". How, exactly, does one tuck in the blanket at the bottom? I'm on my third batch of blankets, the current ones are "King" size. I can't even imagine using anything smaller.

- Duvets & Duvet Covers. Same issue. My queen size duvet covers have a lot more fabric than a queen size duvet will fill. Last year, as an experiment, I replaced the queen size down comforter on my personal bed with a king size one. Wouldn't you know, it filled the queen size duvet cover perfectly. When I replace the comforters for the inn bedrooms, the new ones will be king size.

It's as if mattresses, sheets and duvet covers come from one planet with one set of standards and blankets & duvets/comforters come from a different planet with a different set of standards.

When we were getting ready to open the inn I made the decision that all our beds would be the same size (queen) and that all of the linens would be the same. I just don't have the patience to match sets of sheets to decor and I wanted to not have to take an entire set of sheets out of service if one piece got stained or torn. I found a sheet that I liked and bought in case quantities. A year or two later, realizing that linens go out of fashion and these would not always be available, I called the manufacturer and purchased most of the rest of the existing stock. They were already discontinued by then, I was lucky to have gotten what I did.

Coming into our 9th year of operation, we really need new sheets. I don't have enough still in service to do a full-house changeover, which is a problem. I've been on the hunt for new sheets for two years and still haven't found one that meets all my requirements. I actually thought I had found sheets I could live with and ordered them but when they arrived they were a totally different color from the swatch I'd been sent and they looked simply awful in the rooms. I sent them back. This week I requested samples of another sheet that I thought might work; the samples arrived and the fabric is SHINY. Not only that, despite being labeled as having a 55% cotton / 45% polyester content, they feel as if they're 100% poly. Ew.

I am in sheet hell.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Psychology of Muffins

I make really good muffins. I'm not bragging, it's just fact. And it's my job, or part of it. Granted I still haven't figured out how to get them to reliably dome on top, but they taste really, really good. They're made from scratch with real butter from recipes I've adapted or developed.

About a year ago I tried an experiment with my banana coconut muffins. The recipe calls for two cups of all-purpose flour, I replaced one cup with a cup of whole-wheat flour to add some fiber/nutrition to the mix. There was no change in taste or texture, so I deemed the experiment a success and have continued to make them that way. It wasn't something I mentioned to guests, I just did it.

One morning last fall, after watching several guests look at the muffins on the buffet and pass them by, I spoke up. "These muffins are made with whole-wheat flour" I said. Immediately two or three of my guests got up and got muffins, which they proceeded to inhale enjoy. Interesting. I had thought a lot of my guests pretty much left their diets at home and ate what they wanted on vacation, but clearly the desire to eat healthy will stop some from enjoying a treat unless they think there might be some nutritional value to it. Since I was making them with the whole wheat flour anyway, I've started letting guests know. Muffin consumption has definitely increased. This morning, seven guests ate ten peach muffins.



For anyone wanting to make this substitution, whole wheat flour is darker than all-purpose so if there's already something in the batter that makes it dark, like bananas or mashed peaches, it works fine. I wouldn't add it into my blueberry muffins, which are white except for the berries (and I like them that way), but if you don't care about the color then go right ahead.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Few Random Things

I know I've been a bit lax about posting lately, my attention has been pulled in too many directions to compose a coherent post. We've been very busy for this time of year, which is good, and I still have some winter projects to complete and some supplies to order before the busy season really rolls around. None of this is terribly interesting, however, so I'll invite you to read a couple of things I've found recently on some of the blogs I read when I have the time.

A while back I posted a bit of a rant about weddings. They have a way of getting seriously out of control that I just don't understand. My own wedding was a backyard clambake, very casual and a lot of fun. But then, I just didn't have the "big wedding" dream. Big or small, the details can be mind boggling. I found this post at a blog on organizing. It should be required reading for anyone planning a wedding.

I now take you to a completely unrelated topic: Jacuzzi tubs. We don't have any, primarily because there was a) no way to fit them into our bathrooms and b) the way this house is constructed, there would be no way to isolate the vibrations, meaning that everyone in the house would know when someone was using a jetted tub. Many of my innkeeper friends, however, do have them. Guests seem to enjoy them. Here's a story of a guest enjoying one in a way none of my innkeeper friends ever envisioned (perhaps that's for the best).

And finally, I leave you with this. It is an utterly useless site, but I'll bet it'll make you smile.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Customer Service

I actually received good customer service this week. Kudos to the tech support folks at HP who helped me out.

Back in December I discovered that my HP OfficeJet All-in-One printer wasn't working. Not only wouldn't it print, it appeared to be dead. As in a giant paperweight sitting on my desk, performing no function whatsoever aside from collecting dust. Things at the inn were slow that month, so the printer might have been dead for a day or two (or three) before I even noticed.

I popped over to HP's tech support page and selected live chat, since that is free. I'm pretty sure the guy at the other end of the line is in a country on the other side of the world and has a pretty specific script from which he has difficulty deviating, because the first thing he suggested I do made it clear that he hadn't really been paying attention when I said the printer had no power. Once I repeated that for him, he suggested I check to see if the power supply (external on this printer, thankfully) was warm to the touch. Bingo! It was not, and a properly functioning power supply should be. I thanked him, ended the chat session and popped over to parts & supplies where I ordered a new power supply. It was around $40 plus shipping, but that's a lot cheaper than a new printer. Since the printer was 2 years old, I figured it was a good investment - I'm not ready to replace it. The power supply arrived about three days later, I plugged it in and the problem was resolved. Because things were so slow that month, I really didn't suffer from having no printer for nearly a week and I was pleased that the solution had turned out to be a simple one.

All was well in printer-land until this past Tuesday night. It was late and I was about to head up to bed when I noticed that the power light on my printer was off. "Uh-oh" was my first thought, as I hopefully pressed the "on" button and waited, in vain, for it to light up. Damn. Checked the power supply immediately. Room temperature. Double-damn. Looked in my credit card bills to confirm December order date. It's too late at night for me to be able to do much else, but I know I've got to get a new power supply ASAP because I have guests checking in the next day, the day after and then a full house checking in on Friday. I use the printer to print out my check-in sheets, invoices if necessary, notes for late-arriving guests, etc. This is NOT the same situation as December, when I didn't really need the printer.

Before even having coffee the next morning (Wednesday) I called HP tech support. We went over the problem and the history. The tech looked up my order and sent me over to the parts department. The person in the parts department who took my call quoted me a price on the part. I remained calm and told him that since I was replacing a power supply that was 3 months old, I expected them to send me a new one for free. I also made it clear I expected nothing less than free shipping, next day if possible. It took a little time, but I eventually got approval for a free replacement and shipping, although I was given a Monday delivery date - best he could do, he said. Okay, I figured that was as good as I was going to get and I'd figure something out for the weekend's printing needs. My phone time invested: 48 minutes (by the timer on my handset).

Later that day, after an unsuccessful attempt to hook up a fairly old printer and an equally unsuccessful attempt to access my husband's printer off our home network, I got a shipping notification email from HP. When I looked at it I discovered that the part had, in fact, been shipped FedEx next-day. It arrived and it solved the problem. I was pleased enough to email HP and thank them for the help.

Now let's keep our fingers crossed that this power supply doesn't quit on me after another three months, because that will put me smack in the middle of my busy season.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back and Busy

I had a great vacation, an unprecedented almost two weeks away from the inn. Adam, unfortunately, had to head back after less than a week to finish some projects he had to deliver. He has a custom furniture business in addition to being my partner in the B&B and he's got quite a few projects in his shop at the moment. We also had guests coming in for the weekend, so he was going to be taking care of them as well.

While in New York we were able to see some good friends, eat great food and see a show. Our plans for dinner at Gramercy Tavern didn't work out, it turns out that we couldn't get a reservation for any time between 6:00 and 9:30 on a Tuesday evening! Adam even spoke to them that afternoon and they'd had no cancellations. Hard to believe. Instead we took a chance and wound up at Tabla instead. It was lovely. We spent the day on Tuesday going to museums. We started at the Transit Museum, which I'd always wanted to see, then headed uptown to the Guggenheim to see this exhibit. If you're in New York between now and the end of May, go see it. Afterward we headed across the park to the American Museum of Natural History. Adam has done a lot of work there over the years and he knows most of the exhibit department staff. I know a few of them, in particular a guy I worked with at my first job in NYC who now works as the project manager there. Adam & I went to the Water exhibit and the Butterfly Conservatory, then we met Dean at a bar on Columbus Ave. for drinks and to catch up. Did I mention that Adam built the Butterfly exhibit ten years ago? Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday 2/28 was the final concert in a series of three at Madison Square Garden that I really, really wanted to see: Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton. I didn't have tickets but figured what the heck, I'd go down to the Garden and see if anyone had a couple of extras they were willing to sell. I've done this before with Broadway shows and it works just fine. I was a bit surprised at the number and general sleaziness of the scalpers outside MSG, but New York's Finest were doing a decent job of keeping them a good distance from the entrances. Since I don't look anything like a scalper, I positioned myself near one entrance and quietly asked people as they went by if they had extra tickets. After about 15 minutes a gentleman turned at my question and asked "Are they for you?" I assured him they were and he handed me two tickets (a friend was meeting me there). I asked him how much and he said "I just want to give them to someone who will enjoy the concert." I looked at the tickets, they had a $250 face value. Holy sh*t. And they were legit (yes, people sell counterfeit tickets) - my friend and I got in no problem. These seats were on the floor. Right next to the mixing board. Aside from 10th row center, this is the best place to be. The concert was just incredible. I felt like the luckiest person in the world that night.

The last few days of my vacation were spent in Maryland at The Brampton Inn, hanging out with some innkeeper friends. We ate & drank well, traded horror stories of renovations and furnace melt-downs, shopped and had a lot of laughs. Danielle and Michael, our hosts, gave us a tour of their gorgeous property, including the two new luxury rental cottages they're building. It was wonderful and affirming to be with other people living this crazy life.

I got back on 3/6 to a busy weekend and two old friends visiting. There are still winter projects to do and paperwork to organize. I'm back to it in full force but I'll try to post again soon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

In Which the Innkeeper Takes a Vacation

I returned on Sunday, 2/10, from a lovely relaxing week in Vieques and Puerto Rico with three friends. We stayed here, which I heartily recommend, had some wonderful meals, swam at some incredible beaches and in a bioluminescent bay, which was pretty amazing. The last day we flew to Fajardo and hiked in the El Yunque rain forest. Adam stayed in Wellfleet to work on some furniture projects he needed to finish and take care of the inn on the days there were guests here.

As soon as I got home I dove into tax paperwork. Nothing more fun than that! Once that was completed I did some more work on the winter projects list and we had guests to take care of for several nights.

Today we're off to New York City for a week. We have tickets to a show on Sunday and reservations at Gramercy Tavern for my birthday. Adam returns on 2/28 but I will be staying for a couple of extra days then heading down to Maryland for a few days to meet up with some innkeeper friends. We'll share ideas, kick back, drink a lot of wine and have some laughs. I return on 3/6. That will be the longest stretch of time I will have been away from the inn since we opened.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Water, water all around

There has been a lot of ink lately devoted to the issue of why Americans, who have some of the best and safest drinking water in the world, consume so much bottled water. Indeed, all those bottles create a series of issues including resources used to make those bottles (plastic is made from petrochemicals and requires additional energy - from fossil fuels - in the manufacturing process), fuel for transporting the bottles and the disposal problem of all those bottles once empty. The vast majority of states do not include bottles from still water in their deposit programs, so they are thrown away after a single use.

Although we don't advertise it, we try very hard here to reduce waste and recycle wherever possible. We would probably fall into the category of a "Green" lodging establishment. We compost all vegetable matter from the kitchen in the months where the compost isn't likely to freeze, we make extremely limited use of chemical cleaners preferring natural products as much as possible, and we sort and recycle as much material as we are able.

Our town does not make recycling easy. We are required to sort glass from plastic and metal, returnables from everything else, remove caps and rinse everything so it does not attract critters. We then bag them and take them to the transfer station, where they must be removed from the bags and placed in the appropriate bins. Newspapers must be bundled and cardboard flattened. We do it because I feel it is my duty as a responsible citizen to recycle and reuse to conserve energy and resources. I pull bottles and cans from guest room trash baskets (unless they are truly icky), rinse when necessary and sort them.

It does not bother me at all when guests bring beer, wine or soda to drink during their stay. Even a couple of bottles of water aren't a big issue. It does, however, distress me when guests bring cases of 1-liter or smaller bottles of water with them. Do people really think we don't have good water here? Or is it just a habit?

Our water comes from a private well. There are no additives; no chlorine or fluoride. There is no mineral or sulfur smell to our water. We test it monthly in the busy season as required by the town and the test results are consistently fine. The only thing we test slightly high for is sodium, which is not surprising considering our proximity to salt water. And even that is not something that would bother anyone unless they are on an extremely low sodium regime for some reason.

A couple of years ago we installed a water cooler with a hot water spigot in our dining room. We did it for our own convenience so that we don't have to put out a pitcher of water in the mornings (a pitcher that would have to be washed) and so that guests desiring a hot beverage in the evening could make one without us having to put out either an electric kettle or an insulated pitcher of hot water. Several guests have asked me if the cooler is there because our tap water is not good to drink and my guess is that quite a few more just make that assumption. Truly, that is not the reason. And if you want your water cold, all you have to do is let it run for a minute and it'll come out cold from the tap - another advantage of a well.

So I put the issue in your hands, folks. Leave the water bottles at the store. Bring ONE you can re-use and fill it from the tap. If you absolutely must, you can even refill it from the cooler. But help me out here. Those small plastic water bottles make up about 70% of my recyclables in the busy season. I shudder to think of what happens to the ones people bring to establishments that are less conscientious about recycling.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Two by Two

Winter business is so very different from summer business here. It makes sense when you think about it... this is, after all, a summer vacation area. People come for sun, surf and fried seafood. The fact that any come in the winter at all is somewhat amazing, really.

When they learn that we are open all year, the next question guests ask is almost always "Do you have any guests?" Followed by "Why do they come?" Here are the answers:

Yes, we do have guests. We are rarely full in the winter, but there are few weekends that we have nobody here. They come for very specific reasons:
1) Visiting family (but want their own space);
2) Looking for property - either to rent over the summer or to buy;
3) They own a 2nd home here and it is being renovated so they can't stay there;
4) A quiet getaway.

Nearly all our winter guests are last-minute reservations. Sometimes they call a day or two in advance, sometimes they call in the morning on the day they wish to arrive. Many are coming just for one night, although the ones visiting family usually stay two or three nights if they've traveled any real distance to get here and especially if there are grandchildren. Why so last-minute, you ask? Weather. They are waiting for the weather forecast to make sure they're not going to be driving in snow or ice. It took a couple of winters for us to figure this out, but it makes perfect sense.

This past week we had guests Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, one couple each night. In all honesty I would much prefer to make breakfast for a full house than just two people, but it is what it is and we adapt.

I'm handling breakfast a little differently this winter when we have only two guests. Normally, our breakfast is set up as a buffet with fresh fruit salad, yogurt, bread for the toaster, scones or muffins and a main dish. For a number of years we've used a simple form to help us plan a scaled-down breakfast when we've had just one couple in the house, which has helped, but I'm making further improvements on the system. For one thing, I've started to do some more interesting things with fruit that become individual servings rather than a buffet item. This allows me to take better advantage of the best of the winter produce and it cuts down on waste. Two of my new offerings are broiled grapefruit with brown sugar and coconut, and poached pears with creme fraische. Both have been hits. I've also been making more egg dishes in individual ramekins. I still set scones, bread, butter, jam and yogurt on the buffet if any of these items are requested. So our winter guests are getting some things that our summer guests will never see and a little extra personalized attention as well. Not bad for the time of year when our rates are lowest as well!

Are you thinking about a winter visit? Call us! The weather out here is typically 5 - 10 degrees warmer than in Boston, the beaches are deserted and lovely for walking, a few good restaurants are open and Mother Nature saves her most spectacular sunsets for the colder months.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Omissions

Two things I forgot to mention:

One, I will spare you the customary list of resolutions. Nobody, including me, ever follows through with them anyway. I simply hope each year is better than the last, not just for me but for everyone.

Two, a friend of mine left town this holiday after living here for nearly a year. I feel oddly bereft despite the fact that we weren't terribly close nor did we manage to see very much of each other due to our extremely bizarre and conflicting schedules. His departure is not so much going to leave a hole in my social life as it leaves me missing just knowing he is here in town. The connection we shared was through college which was a difficult time and one that isn't easily understood by anyone who didn't go through that particular department at that school during that period in time. He was two years ahead of me in school and we weren't even particularly friendly with each other back then (twenty years ago - ouch), but we had this shared experience that gave us a bond of sorts. I don't know if he thinks of it that way, but I do. Until he came back into my life last year I hadn't realized how deeply I felt bonded to a few people I knew so briefly and so long ago. I wish him luck in his next venture and hope we will stay in touch.

And so it begins...

New year, new post. This one is a little unfocused, please bear with me. Think of it as a buffet.

Before I get rolling, happy new year to anyone who actually reads my ramblings. Post a comment now and then so I know you're there, okay?

We had a lovely New Year's eve. We hosted a party at Adam's mom's house so as not to disturb our inn guests. It was a nice mix of local and out-of-town friends, good wine and way too much food. Oddly, the party really coalesced around a game brought by one of our guests. It was a lot of fun and it didn't seem to matter to anyone that we simply left off where we were at midnight to ring in the new year and we never got back to it.

The sky last night was gorgeous. The quarter-moon was low in the sky and the stars stood out in such clear relief against the inky blue-black of the night it looked like you could prick your finger on their sharp points.

Driving home at an hour that was far too late for someone who had to get up and make breakfast this morning, I saw a coyote trotting down the middle of our street. I've seen them a number of times before on side streets or along the state highway, but this is the closest I've ever seen one to the house. It got out of the road when I switched on my high beams about 30' behind it, but didn't seem particularly concerned about me until I stopped my car to get a good look at it. At that point it bounded off behind a house and I continued home. Adam followed about an hour later. I'm not sure how he got up at his usual hour of 6 a.m., but he did.

Inn guests and out-of-town friends had all left by about 12:30 this afternoon, leaving us free to attend a New Year's day brunch hosted by some friends. Late in the afternoon I indulged in a much-needed nap. Room cleaning will wait until tomorrow since we aren't expecting anyone for a few days.

Today marks a bleak two-week period in which NOT ONE restaurant in Wellfleet is open. I find this distressing both for myself and for any potential guests. In order to hold a year-round liquor license in this town, restaurants must stay open all year (sounds logical, right?). They are permitted to close for up to four weeks for "renovations". I put the term inside quotation marks because it is interpreted pretty loosely by the local population and the Selectboard that governs the town. Everyone understands that restaurants are barely breaking even in the winter and nobody begrudges them a period of downtime, but in the past few years it seems that several of the restaurant owners have begun to take advantage of local goodwill in this matter.

One year-round restaurant closed for a major kitchen overhaul a few years ago that lasted about three months. That was completely understandable as the project was large and delays do happen, but something changed after that. Up until then they had adhered pretty carefully to the 4-week rule but in years subsequent to the kitchen renovation they have closed after New Year's eve and not reopened until Valentine's day; far more than four weeks by my calendar. Another restaurant with a year-round license closed for a full winter for the first time three years ago because the owners decided they were tired and they wanted to sell. I'm not quite sure why they felt they had to close other than burn-out - which I do understand - but the restaurant did not sell that year or the year after or this year, yet they have closed each of these years in October and not reopened until April. This really seems like flaunting the rules to the detrimient of the locals. If it were up to me, I'd yank their year-round liquor license and make them reapply for a seasonal one. A third restaurant, one of our favorites, kind of arbitrarily decided to take six weeks off this winter. A fourth is taking the permitted four weeks and no more and doing it at exactly the same time he always has, it just happens to coincide with all the other closings.

It used to be that the year-round restaurants would coordinate with each other so that at least one restaurant would be open at all times - possibly not seven days a week, but at least Thursday through Sunday. This is the first time in eight years I've seen all the restaurants in town closed at the same time. We've had discussions with several friends about having pot-luck dinners and that could be a lovely way to pass some of these evenings; I hope one or more come to pass. Unfortunately that won't help anyone from out of town. If anyone calls us for a reservation during this time we will have to explain that they will need to plan their dinners in Orleans or Provincetown unless they're here visiting friends or family who will cook. That's liable to loose us a couple of reservations, but we'll see what happens. I'm not too happy about it in any case.

I've rambled on enough for one post. Tomorrow is back to work on winter projects; more about that another time.