Thursday, October 20, 2016

About Our 50th Anniversary & Trip

A part of the April 2016 trip was obviously our 50th anniversary.

From a business perspective, we needed to do some market research and discover accommodations, amenities, services and facilities that  truly first class establishments provide: those things that make them first class versus the also ran upscale establishments.  During our three week research visit in Europe there were several places, things and services that clearly were heads above the also ran upscale establishments that we encountered. Some were provided us during our visit to their establishment and a few we just witnessed while walking the sites.

The dominate feature of the truly first class places was their quality. Quality of their products, services and amenities. Bed linen was the most obvious and foremost on our research list. 1,200 thread count sheets were nowhere to be found, even at the JW Marriott in Venice, Italy (where we spent our anniversary night). Their linen was nowhere comparable in comfort to the Micro-fiber sheets we use on all our beds. Micro-fiber fabric is used everywhere in Europe as part of there cleaning chores. That fabric is soft for using to cleaning precious surfaces and itself is easily cleaned for reuse. That is why we use the micro-fiber in all our towels and robes. It is soft for those precious surfaces known as our guests and yes it is also Eco-friendly as it is easy to clean and dries twice as fast as Turkish towels or Terry robes. On that point we are first class and have been for many, many years.

The king-size bed in our junior suite at the JW Marriott in Venice, Italy

While on the Emerald Star cruising up the Rhine River from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland, we enjoyed top notch, first class service from all levels of the crew responsible for pampering us. Of course we paid through the proverbial nose for those services.  They provided every request we had: another beverage, something different than what is being served at meal time, please come back later to clean our suite and what is in the villages along the river.  The little things like name plates for dishes being served that are not obvious as to what they are made the cruise more comfortable.  We picked up lots of tips and ideas from the cruise from recipes (received an autographed copy of the Emerald Waterways cookbook), and learned many ways to fold napkins, and numerous other ideas.

Name placards for dishes on-board the Emerald Star.

Here at Lucinda's we have prided ourselves on doing the extra little things that make your stay more comfortable for you. Not everyone wants coffee only at 9:00 at the breakfast table. We have the Kreuig coffeemakers in the suites if you want coffee at 5:30, as our guests want as I write this. We don't have staff like the Emerald Star or JW Marriott, but Daryl and I have been doing a first class job of giving you the best service.

In the far corner at the doorway is the coffeemaker where coffee can be made anytime.

I mentioned earlier that we discovered new ways to fold napkins. The way we have been placing the napkins on the tables is one of those styles, but neither I nor Daryl knew those folded napkins we have done for 12 years was a special fold for first class dining. Daryl has mastered several different styles that he now uses for the first class breakfast table and the occasional dinners.

Daryl has named this style of the folded napkin "The Flower".

On a personal note: 50 years ago we stopped at a jewelry store in Reno on our way to Twin Falls, Idaho to buy our wedding bands. After we were home about two months after our wedding vows Daryl and my brother, Roy, were playing basketball at my parent's house. Daryl made a left handed hook shot and the ring flew off his finger, never to be found. Last March, on one of our visits to our rental property in Reno, I made a secret visit to that same jewelry store to buy another band. I knew it wouldn't fit, but I wanted it to give Daryl on our 50th anniversary. We returned to the store after we got home and had the ring resized.
 The wedding band I gave Daryl at the JW Marriott in Venice, Italy.

'Til Next Time .....

Lucinda

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lots of Exciting Things Going On

Water is still a major concern, but we had a good rainy season this year so the biggest problems of low water have subsided.

The exciting thing is there are several things I need to bring you up to speed on.

Last spring we traveled to Europe to celebrate our 50th anniversary. It was really a great trip of a lifetime. During that trip Lucinda's was selected to be part of the BedandBreakfast.com Diamond Collection. We are fortunate because there are only about 400 places selected by BedandBreakfast.com out of their 10,000 members. They are the world's largest internet directory for finding B&B's for travelers. There was an extensive inspection and evaluation of our facilities, operation and our reviews. So I really appreciate all the fantastic reviews you folks have written about us.

During the inspection, right before our trip, we invited two couples to be here at the Inn. The inspector was impressed we did that. The two couples are our most frequent guests. One couple has stayed with us the most times, 35, and the other more nights (I haven't counted the nights because they stay two or three nights at a time, but they've stayed 32 times). The inspector pointed out we have two # 1's. Both couples have become family.

LUX Magazine & Travel Guides is the world's premier luxury publication for the upscale traveler. They just named us their Most Relaxing Country Inn, in their category Hotels & Spas and in their Hospitality category we were named Best Upscale Bed & Breakfast and LUX Recommended Wine Country Getaway. WOW! Being awarded one thing is a big deal for a worldwide travel guide, but three is unbelievable. Again, I really appreciate all the great people who stay with us; you're the ones who make Lucinda's the place it has become. Thank you are too small words but says it all.

August 27th we hosted our first Fair Play Fair2Fork Dinner & Stay. Farm2Fork meals use ingredients from farm & ranches within 100 miles. We used seven farms, two local stores and a farm in Amador County, just 20 minutes away. 10 wonderful people enjoyed spring lamb from Deaver farms, fresh produce from several local farms and music by Tamra Godey, our local musical star.  People started singing with Tamra. Everyone had a great time.  Two more are scheduled, September 24th and October 29th. Keep your eyes on your inbox.

I've decided it's time to offer Sean's Custom Catering Recipe dinners on a limited basis. They won't be available all the time, but we'll do them for four people or couples when the time is right. We'll send you an email after you make your reservations to stay to let you know about the dinners. So many of you enjoyed Sean's Custom Catering dinners we just had to bring back dinners featuring his recipes.

We're working on another Murder in Fair Play - Fair Play Gold. You guessed it--it has something to do with the Gold Country and history of our magnificent slice of the Sierra Foothills. Just remember to get your group of 6 to 10 people and have us set a date for your fun filled two days here at Lucinda's. There are the French Connection and the Mob Connection to select from if you just can't wait for Fair Play Gold.

Be Back Soon ...

Lucinda

PS: We shall NEVER FORGET Flight 93, the Pentagon, and the Twin Towers.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Water in our Country Landscping

With all the talk about water during our current drought, I thought about how important water is when you live in the country and your only source of water is your well.

We have always been concerned about how much water we use. We have been lucky with our well. It is not particularly deep and gives us an average of 12 gallons a minute production. Many residences in the are have only 3-5 gallons/minutes production. One of the first things we did was purchase a 5,000 gallon holding tank. The tank has a float which signals the well pump to send more water when the tank gets to a predetermined level. We have two pressure tanks at the holding tank to send water to the house. At the time we built Lucinda's we were not required to have a holding tank: we just thought it was a good idea for our water supply. Now, all new construction must have holding tanks. All the wineries are required to have multiple holding tanks;  the size of the winery determines how many tanks.


The majestic oak tree across the drive from the house is our visual focal point, but the real thing to look at is the open area in front of the tree,and its natural look.  The horseshoe pit is in the right middle of the photo
We have minimal landscaping at Lucinda's. We are a country inn and should look that way. The surrounding natural vegetation should be the focus of the landscaping. Those of you who have visited the Inn have probably noticed the large open area in front of the majestic oak tree. At one time we thought about making a terraced lawn in that area for croquet and badminton. But the amount of water needed to maintain a lush green lawn of that size made us decide not to have the lawn, natural is a great look. Instead we have a horseshoe pit and a pentanque court  which do not require water.

Planning landscaping in the country is challenging. In addition to water issues, we have our native population who eat everything that is nice and green. Our deer have not read the list of "deer resistant" plants. And if you think the deer are bad, they are nothing compared to the time one of our neighbor's cows escaped and decided to check out our property. I had not realized how large the mouth of a cow is. A cow can devour several day lilies in a single chomp. Over time we have found the plants that work best on our property. In general, our deer don't bother the day lilies other than the occasional nibble. The pyracantha is holding its own and slowly growing. Our butterfly bushes attract hummingbirds and butterflies. In the spring and summer we do have baskets of "color". Most of it is out of reach of the critters. All our planted vegetation is on a drip system.

Trellis with the hanging pots at the Tower Entrance

You may have noticed that the winery tasting rooms in Fair Play also have minimal formal landscaping. Any need for water is focused on the crop -- grapes. Except for irrigating the vines in the early years, grapes in the area are dry farmed. They get moisture they need during the winter and do not need to be watered as much in the summer. In fact, they like to get stressed a little. Most of the soil in Fair Play is decomposed granite and very loamy; great for drainage but not for holding moisture and therefore watering the deep roots.

We are always concerned about our water situation, but particularly this year. Our rainfall was about 2/3 of an average year, but we are dependent on the water table. Let's hope for more rain this year. Let's hope the El Nino, the weather people have talked about, happens.

'Til Next Time....

Lucinda 


Monday, June 15, 2015

Mid-Afternoon -- A Day in the Life of an Innkepper

I'm back to tell you about the rest of my day.

Mid-afternoon, I again start the prep work for the next day's breakfast and begin preparation for evening wine and snacks.

On Friday & Saturday we host wine and snacks in the Great Room from 5:30 to 6:30. This is an opportunity for us to get know our guests and for our guests to get to met each other. (Another blog will tell some stories of our guests during wine & snacks.) We offer a white and a red wine for tasting, each from a different winery, and often one from Amador and one from Fair Play. We talk about the wine and winery mentioning some of their other wines. We inquire about dinner plans and make their reservations when needed. By 6:30ish folks are ready for their dinner adventure, in their room or at one of the great nearby restaurants. They usually have selected their DVD from the library.

This is wine and snacks at one of our Murder in Fair Play weekends. We never know what our guests will do, but it is guaranteed to be fun.

We clean up the plates and glasses, put away the wine and snacks, that were not devoured, so the kitchen is ready for the next morning. Then we start thinking about our own dinner and what we need for the next day.

I keep an on-going shopping list in the kitchen, adding depleted supply items and adding new things for future breakfasts and snacks. Since we are mainly a weekend business, I concentrate planning menus for those meals and fill in for weekdays. To plan for next week's meals I refer to our Webervations guest management system. I find who is new and returning guests, then I look into our meals log section for each returning guest to find what they were served that last few times they were here, so i don't repeat their menus. I look for anyone with food restrictions or allergies or special diet requests. Is someone gluten free, veegan, peanut allergic? I need to accommodate those needs to know what to serve so I know I have the correct ingredients.

If we have the opportunity, on Sunday afternoon we try to visit a couple area wineries, to stay in touch and know what they have and what is currently the "good stuff". We must also keep up on the local gossip. Monday and Tuesday are usually focused on cleaning and laundry. Then there is always website review and refreshing, marketing activities, rack cards to be distributed and minors repairs around the Inn that needs done. (Light bulbs! If you haven't noticed we have about a 1/2 million of them.) Our shopping for the weekend is usually Thursday. By that time we normally have an good idea of how many guests, and what their needs are, for the following weekend. There is a bouquet of flowers in the dinning room most of the time and flowers bought on Thursday will last the weekend.

We try to go to the movies once a week. It is our opportunity to relax and most important, eat popcorn. After our movie we enjoy going to the Wine Smith in downtown Placerville. There is usually someone we know there and it is a quiet place to enjoy a glass of wine (or beer).

Whew. That makes me want to take in a movie then a glass of wine.

That's all for now.

Lucinda

PS: I'm still learning the blog process. Some day I might learn it, maybe.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Day in the Life of an Innkepper

Our guests are here for a short time. They enjoy weekend evening wine and snacks. They go out to dinner, come back and watch a movie (at least they start to watch a movie before falling asleep), relax and get a good night sleep. They get up, have some coffee or tea, eat breakfast and away they go for their day's adventure or return home.

I thought some of you might be interested in what goes on the rest of the day.

Breakfast is served from 9:00 to 10:00am. I am up 6:30ish, shower and dress, and am usually in the kitchen by 7:00.

I am emptying the dishwasher, like I do mornings & afternoons. I am also wearing an apron one of our guests gave me. I really like it and I appreciate the gift.

Hopefully I have done some prep work the day before (mixed dry ingredients for baked goods, chopped veggies and fruit, etc.). I finish the prepping for baking muffins, scones or whatever, then I move on to the egg dish. Although we have some casseroles that can and are prepared the day before and refrigerated, in general I prefer to assemble and bake these in the morning. If we are having Country Eggs Benedict (Daryl's dish he concocted and his to cook) I need to time the baking of muffins with the time to bake the pastry shells -- they usually are not baked at the same temperature. Daryl sets the tables while I continue the kitchen work of cooking, baking and putting the food in serving dishes. Although we try to have the food out for our guests promptly at 9:00 am, sometimes casseroles take a few minutes longer than anticipated. After our guests arrive for breakfast, I pour coffee and explain what is being served on our buffet bars while Daryl goes to the computer to prepare guest checkouts. During breakfast one of us answers questions and helps guests with their plans for the day. (Being a personal concierge is a big part of what makes our place so special.) Most people are here for wine tasting; we talk with them about our area wineries and their individual wines. Some people prefer to do some shopping in nearby towns or go to Apple Hill for fresh apples and other produce. 

Here I'm slicing fruit for a fruit medley, a prep job.

After our guests have finished breakfast I begin the clean-up process. This can be quick and easy or very time consuming, depending on the number of guests and what is being served, We like to have Daryl cook omelets to order, but there is a lot of prep time and about a million dishes and utensils to be cleaned up! We clean off the tables, putting the salt & pepper and the other condiments into their storage places. Then all the placemats and tables get sanitized.  Once the hand-washing is done the dishwasher gets started. I'm ready to start laundry. Napkins with food stains need sprayed and soaked before going into the washing machine. We have two sets of washers and dryers. The sheets and table linens are washed upstairs. The towels are washed downstairs. When we have a full house both set are going non-stop for a couple days.

Once the kitchen is cleaned up and laundry started, we move on. If guests are staying more then one night we "fluff" their room -- empty wastebaskets, replenish snack items, etc. Rooms that have been vacated need to be cleaned and santized. Silva, one of our wonderful neighbors, takes charge of cleaning rooms. When we opened the Inn, Daryl & I did all the cleaning. Now, I don't know what we would do without Silva. Some of you may have met her and enjoyed her great personality. Depending on what time of year, plants need trimmed or watered, patio and deck cleaned -- the outdoor chores get completed.

Daryl does the check-out and check-in duties. Once he has processed the credit cards for the last night's guests he does the check-ins for our new arriving guests. Daryl stays on top of our website needs and changes, Webervations (our online booking and reservation system), writes his blog and helps me publish mine (I'm still learning the process). He also does the business accounting and annual taxes. After all he worked for the California Franchise Tax board and he cheats by using Turbo Tax.

Mid-afternoon -- whoa. This is getting way long. I'll stop her for now and give you the rest of my day in another post. As soon as I learn the process.

'Til next time...

Lucinda

Monday, March 16, 2015

Innkeeping as a Retirement Pastime





 

We often have guests ask us if we enjoy what we do and if being an innkeeper is what we thought it would be.  Others ask if this is our retirement (ha!).

First of all, yes I enjoy being an innkeeper and it is what I thought it would be.  Our primary goal in building and operating a bed and breakfast inn was to have the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds, geographical locales, professions and avocations.  In that respect, innkeeping has exceeded my expectations.  Our guests are interesting and friendly folks.  They come to our area to enjoy themselves, be it wine tasting, hiking, exploring the Gold Country, or just relaxing at the inn. My job is to help them in any way I can.

Retirement?  I don’t think so.  This endeavor was more to redirect our lives from a “9 to 5” job to another career, and to live in a beautiful environment. Innkeeping is not glamorous; it is a lot of hard work.  But it is infinitely interesting and ultimately extremely enjoyable.  We live in a beautiful part of the Sierra Foothills.  Daryl and I have been visiting this area since we were teenagers—long before there were any wineries.  We thought Fair Play was beautiful and fantasized about living here.  But what would we do for a living?  The area was cattle ranching and walnut orchards.  We knew nothing about farming or livestock.  We thought Sacramento was too far to commute (although we later found out that a high school classmate of ours had been commuting from Fair Play to the Valley, about 60 miles one way, for 35 years).  So, oh well, Fair Play was a nice place to visit but we probably needed to live closer to civilization (i.e., Sacramento).

Fast forward a couple of decades.  We raised our family in Elk Grove when it was a very small town.  After our children went out on their own, I had the opportunity to relocate to Southern California to work at the South Coast Air Quality Management District in the Technology Advancement Office.  Daryl was working for Franchise Tax Board and was able to transfer to a district office in Santa Ana.  We were working and enjoying our jobs, the weather and the beaches.  But after several years we started thinking about the next phase of our lives.  We knew we wanted to return to Northern California.  We could keep working for the government.  (I already had 30+ years in state and local government.)  That really didn’t sound like much fun.  We wanted to change our lives and do something completely different.  On a wine tasting/buying trip to Amador and El Dorado Counties, we noticed quite a few “for sale” signs on some beautiful pieces of property.  When we returned home to Orange County, we started talking in earnest about plans for the future.  We both had jobs where we met a wide range of people in different professions.  We enjoyed that part of our jobs immensely.  So, what could we do that would continue to give us the opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds, professions and geographical locations?  Somehow, through hours of discussions and calculations, we decided that innkeeping was the answer.

We didn’t know anything about innkeeping and knew we needed a lot more information before making the leap.  We went to several “aspiring innkeeper” seminars and learned lot about the industry and the job of innkeeper.  We started carrying a notebook and tape measure every time we were away on vacation or business.  Every hotel, motel and B&B room was scrutinized and measured.  We measured dining rooms, sitting areas, and living rooms. We had an ongoing list of the good and bad of overnight accommodations.  And we started a list of what we thought would be important to guests in a B&B. We found that B&Bs are endlessly variable—in size, amenities, furnishings and style. 

We started looking for property in the Foothills, both Amador and El Dorado Counties.  We didn’t see any “historical” or significantly interesting existing houses or other buildings.  That led us to the decision to build our bed & breakfast.  It would be exactly the style we wanted, and we could build a contemporary, durable and energy efficient house. 

It took us four years to find a piece of property that fit our criteria—on a public road, 10+ acres, bare land, hopefully an existing well--in the Fair Play or Amador wine areas.  During that time, we searched through home building magazines, looking for a plan we could use as a basis for our bed and breakfast.  We purchased our property, and spent the next couple of years cleaning it up and establishing some amenities (a picnic area and a place to pitch a tent; a makeshift solar shower).  We came up from Southern California every opportunity we had to work on the property.  Although our property did have a well, we had no electricity and no way to use it.  We brought water with us in several gallon milk jugs.  On Saturday afternoons, after trimming trees, clearing walking paths, etc., we would take a shower and then visit area wineries.  We spent a lot of time at Granite Springs Winery, where Karen or Sheri would let us fill our water jugs.  We went to the other existing wineries (6 at the time) as well, establishing friendships that continue today.

In September 2000, we relocated to El Dorado County from Orange County and started the County approval process for building and operating a bed and breakfast.  We commuted to work in Sacramento until 2002, when we retired from our State jobs to pursue our dream full time.  Our decision to retire and pursue the project full time was a wise one.  Going through the bureaucratic building approval and Special Use Permit process was excruciating and was a full time job in itself.  We were very familiar with local government in Southern California.  Both of us had attended many City Council and Board of Supervisors meetings there, representing our employers.  But the “good ole boy” rural government is very different.  (And that’s all I am going to say about that!)  We finally broke ground in July 2003.   Construction activity at that time was very active and we could not find a local contractor to take on our project.  So, with the help of a retired contractor friend, and the willingness of our son to join us, we became owner-builders and put together a rag-tag crew.  Amazingly, we were able to complete construction of the “big house” in a little over a year, and received final approval from the County September 4, 2004.

There were a few “minor” things to complete—floor coverings, baseboards, the B&B kitchen sink.  We opened with one room complete—the Vineyard Suite.  We worked our way through each room over the next six months, and completed the Fair Play Cottage a year after that.  And we have continued to improve the buildings and property since then.

Innkeeping is a wonderful career.  Our commute is very short—walk through the door from our private quarters into the inn.  We enjoy living in a small, rural community.  There is never a lack of chores—cleaning, laundry, and gardening.  But the best experience is meeting and getting to know our wonderful guests.  We enjoy hearing about their families and travels and getting to know them as friends.  An important part of the B&B experience is food.  We plan our breakfast menu very carefully.  I like to cook and bake.  I am always looking for new and interesting recipes to prepare for our guests.  I am happy to share the recipes I use, and sometimes our guests give us new recipes.

Innkeeping as a retirement pastime?  No way.  But as a second or third career, it is wonderful.  If you are thinking you might want to be an innkeeper, do as much research as possible.  Hospitality 24-7 is not for everyone.  But if you enjoy meeting people and entertaining, ironing napkins (whoops, maybe that’s not part of the fun), you too might have a B&B in your future.

Think about it.

Lucinda

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Holidays



Wow!  Here it is—almost the end of 2014.  The year has gone by so fast.  So fast that I have not kept up   my blog.

Fall in Fair Play has been spectacular.   The colors in the orchards and vineyards have been absolutely brilliant.  The last storm blew off most of the leaves, but the yellows and oranges linger.  

At Lucinda’s we had a wonderful summer and fall.  We have had many “first timers” with us and hope they will return to join our Friends of Lucinda’s.  

The recipe I have chosen uses fresh cranberries so is appropriate for this time of year.  It is from the November 2011 issue of Bon Appetit.  It is excellent plain, with the lemon glaze, or with the accompanying citrus-cranberry compote,  or both.

Cranberry Spice Cake
Cake:
1-1/2 C. flour                                                                             ¾ tsp. Cinnamon
¾ tsp. kosher salt                                                                       ¾ tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. baking powder                                                                  ½ tsp. baking soda
3 C. (8 oz.) fresh cranberries                                                       2/3 C. sugar
2/3 C. (packed) dark brown sugar                                              ½ C. vegetable oil
2 large eggs                                                                                ½ C. sour cream
1 T. grated orange zest                                                                2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla                                                                                ½ C. apple cider

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat bottom and sides of 8” square cake pan with nonstick spray.  Line bottom with parchment paper, coating paper with spray.  Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.  Pulse cranberries in food processor til finely chopped  but not pureed; set aside.  Stir sugar, brown sugar and oil in another medium bowl to blend.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring to blend between additions.  Whisk in sour cream, orange and lemon zest, and vanilla.  Whisk in dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the cider in 2 additions and whisking to blend.  Fold in chopped cranberries.  Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.  Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center of cake domes out almost clean – 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack; let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Run a thin knife around inside of pan to release cake, turn out cake onto rack.  Peel off parchment paper, then flip cake and let cool for 20 minutes.  (You can let the cake set overnight if  you are not using the lemon glaze).

Lemon Glaze:

1 C.  powdered sugar                                                                     2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 T. strained lemon juice                                                                 1/8 tsp. kosher salt

Whisk powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl.  Spread glaze over warm cake, allowing it to drip down sides.  Let stand til glaze becomes crackly, about 1 hour.  Cake with glaze can be made 2 days ahead; store airtight at room temp.

Citrus Cranberry Compote

1 orange                                                                                   2 C. (8 oz) fresh cranberries
1 C. maple syrup                                                                      ¼ C. orange juice
½ tsp. vanilla

Grate zest from orange and set aside.  Cut off peel and pith from orange.  Working over a small bowl cut between membranes to release segments into bowl.  Combine zest, cranberries, syrup, juice, and vanilla in medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have burst and sauce has thickened, 5-10 minutes.  Chill until cold.  Gently stir orange segments into compote.  Can be made 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  Return to room temp before serving.

Enjoy.  Happy Holidays.  I’ll be back next year.

Lucinda