Sunday, April 15, 2018

Eurpoe Has Settled in at Lucinda's

There are many, many things we have incorporated in Lucinda's that we discovered during our trips to Europe over the years. Today I want to give you a few samples of those.

When you have your morning coffee we ask you to pick a coffee mug off the wall. They are located on either side of the blackboard,with the morning's breakfast fare listed, and in the corner above the plant. All the mug places we have visited, except the one from Hawaii. That was given to us by a couple who live in Hawaii and visit us frequently. They gave it to us on their last visit because they never saw a Hawaii mug on our wall. That is because we haven't been there yet.

Notice the plant stand in the left with the mugs above it.

 I mentioned Daryl's new talent of folding napkins before. I have not explained that his new talent is used daily at breakfast with a new fold every morning. On the Emerald Star, our river cruise ship, they did not duplicate the folds of their napkins either. Before we left the ship the Dining Room Captain gave Daryl their sheets on how to fold napkins. Daryl can now make endless varieties by following those directions.

A dinner table set for six, with Daryl's new found napkin fold.

We use lots of tablecloths and other linens at Lucinda's. The vast majority of them we got in Europe.  On our Rhine River cruise we got some special linens in Rudesheim at the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas store. Not only does the store have Christmas every day, but they have some of the finest linens. We have also purchased linens in Prague, Czech Republic; Milan, Italy; Bath, England; and Dublin, Ireland.

One special thing I did while on the Rhine River cruise vacation was a cooking class at the Marriott in Venice, Italy.  At the cooking class the students were taught an easy substitute for Tiramisu, using Amaretti Cookies. The recipe is very easy and it is so yummy!!  I've used it for some of the dinners we do.

We used the MS Emerald Star "Culinary Cruising - Delicious Dishes from the Capetian's Table" for several recipes. One I really like and we used for one of our Farm2Fork Dinners for a group was their "Lamb Stew with Roja and Peppers on Saffron Rice"; with a couple small modifications. We used baked peppers as a cup for the stew served with a potato stack ("Potatoes Au Gratin" - we called it a stack because it is presented that way.) instead of Saffron Rice. We used their "Molten Chocolate Cake with Balsamic Cherries and Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream" as the idea for our Chocolate Cake with Ganache and Balsamic Cherries..

The August 2016 Farm2Fork Dinner on Lucinda's Country Inn patio.

Speaking of Europe and Germany specifically, Daryl and I treated our daughter, Shanin, her hubby, Johnny, and our granddaughter, Hailey, to a Christmas trip to Germany to visit our German family. Our grandson and his mother live an hour north of Frankfurt, in a speck of a town named Ballersbach. It's not even on the map of Germany we used for planning our trip.

From L to R: Shanin, Hailey Johnny, Me, Justin (Beate's grandson), Daryl and Kai-uwe.
Back row: Steven and Beate, at the Hotel Gutshof Restaurant. 

We spent several days in the Ballersbach area, and visited several spots our daughter visited 30 years ago on her two trips. Our son, Sean, lived in Germany for many years before his son, Steven, was born in 1994. Beate, Sean's ex-wife and the namesake for our Beate Suite, and her side of the family have become very good friends.  We "had to" visit Beate's nephew's auto shop, where he transforms old cars into Hot Rods. Mario has been here many times over the years buying car parts and cars.
 Roadside Hot Rods shop where Mario does his magic to vehicles.
From there we went to Heidelberg for New Year's Eve and eight hours of fireworks around the city. From Heidelberg, we went to the town of Bamburg with the old town hall built in the middle of the river. Then it was on to Wurzburg where we toured the Residence with its opulent ceiling painting and private rooms' decor.  Rothenberg, a walled city, is where I bought the latest Kathe Wohlfahrt linens. From Rothenberg, our kids went to Paris as a surprise for Hailey. She has wanted to go to Paris from the time she was about 5; now she's almost 13. Shanin and Johnny managed to keep their destination a secret: Hailey only realized they were in the Paris when they arrived at the train station. As most of you probably know, trains in Europe show the final destination of the trip in each car.  Hailey saw that and thought they were on  the wrong train, but her Mom & Dad assured here the sign was wrong.  A great surprise. We couldn't have given them better Christmas presents. Time with us and Germany, finished with Paris. WOW !!

Daryl took this from the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Main River in Frankfurt.

After dropping the kids at the train station, Daryl and I went to Frankfurt for our last two days in Germany. We have been there several times beyond the airport, but never really visited the city. We did a city bus tour that took us around parts of the city we have never seen.  We've been to the Alstadt before, but we had never ventured to the river. A great way to wind up our trip.

It was a great Christmas.

....'Til Next Time


Monday, October 30, 2017

Water in Perry Creek Long Past Usual

The last time I wrote (And once again, way too long ago.) we were in the middle of the wettest year our property has seen in the 20 years we've owned it. The 1997-1998 El Nino year we got right at 68" of rain. That is almost twice the normal 35". This year we finished with right at 80" of rain. That's good for several reasons.

Our mountain fissures and aquifers have replenished from the drought. The creeks and rivers were well above their usual flow. That helped make for some outstanding photo opportunities. Here's one place we've never seen like this before.

This is on Ostrum Rd. between Shenandoah Valley Rd. (at Sobon Vineyards) and Fiddletown. Usually in the winter this might have a babbling brook look, not this river. It wasn't here for long, but what a pretty sight while it lasted.

The water table is once again normal and the forecast is for a normal rain this season. Living in the Fair Play Appellation (AVA) we know the grape growers and wineries are quite satisfied with the water and overall weather the past few months. The harvest for some wineries is still going on with great yield and the quality seems excellent. That's one thing we have to wait on for almost a year for white wines and years for the robust reds.

At the bottom of the hill from the B&B is Perry Creek: what a show it put on for months and months. The sound was incredible, the roar of water 24 hours a day for months on end. We've never heard it like that. Here's some photos that give just a little hint of what it was like in Perry Creek.

Perry Creek divides our property almost in half. The right side of this photo is "the other side", where we haven't been for many years. The Miner's Dam creates this pretty waterfall.

This crevasse is about 20' deep and 3' wide with it running the width of our property.

You can get to these granite outcroppings from a couple ways once you get to the creek area. No matter which way you go, its pretty and an enjoyable little hike.

....'Til Next Time.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Water, Water Everywhere

When last I wrote (which has been too long, by the way) we were in a drought.  At that time, we had received about 30 inches  of rain on our property.  Our average is 35 inches, so that really wasn't too bad.  We weren't having any issues with our well and our vegetation was fine.

What a difference a year makes.   We have now received slightly over 71 inches of  rain on our property since the season began (7/1/16).  Before we built Lucinda's we put a lot of thought and effort into ways to control and direct the water on our property.  We have French drains, and culverts on each side of  the property that direct the water to Perry Creek.  Although the weather is warmer and the frequency of rain has decreased (it's not raining every day), the season is not over yet.  We normally get a fair amount of rain during April and into May.  A favorite saying in the Foothills is, "It is not Spring until it snows on the Dogwood blossoms."  In fact, it is not unusual for it to rain ( or even snow) during one of the El Dorado Winery Association's Passport Weekends.  Or, it could be sunny and warm.  This year, Passport weekends are April 22 and 23 and 29 and 30.

While we are all very happy that our creeks and rivers are swollen, and our wells have been replenished, the wet weather has brought some problems.  Most of the roads in El Dorado County have been impacted.  The least damage is a few potholes.  More seriously, there have been several sinkholes and culvert failures.  Mt. Aukum Road (E16) between Bucks Bar and Pleasant Valley is closed because of a culvert failure and resulting sinkhole.  The County has received a bid to repair the road and  hopefully it will be open in the next month or so.  Once that is fixed, there is another culvert failure on Bucks Bar, which may cause some delays when being repaired. 

This is taken from the dining room window.  In the lower right, just off the edge of the picture, is the opening to the culvert on the east side of the property.

Our trees and bushes are starting to bloom and we are looking forward to a good wildflower year.  The grass is growing and the trees are starting to get their leaves.  As I write this, Jose, our yard guy, is trimming the dead wood, cleaning up downed branches (future firewood), and looking for poison oak.

If you plan to visit the Foothills this Spring and Summer, particularly Fair Play, I think you will find our area particularly beautiful as a result of our rainy winer and spring.  Enjoy the drive to  our little village and enjoy your stay.

Hope to see you soon.


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 .....


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 Diamond Collection. We are fortunate because there are only about 400 places selected by 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 ...


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....


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.


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