Saturday, February 27, 2010


According to Webster a sister is "a female offspring having two common parents." So, in the strictness of that definition my sister and I fall somewhat short in that we share only our Mother in common.

In my family, I am the eldest child; my sister the baby. Eleven years separates us and also, due to our differing fraternal parentage, the commonalities of our backgrounds are not completely similar.

My sister came into my life when I was 11. She was a small, vulnerable, non verbal and her newborn self was frequently in need of attention. I fell in love with the idea of her long before I appreciated any speck of her personality. She was my constant. We were always together. Due to circumstances in which we found ourselves, I was charged with much of her care. My twelve year old self learned the skill set of motherhood in practice with my sister. I could change her, feed her, bathe her and in later years pack her lunch, readying her for school with the greatest of ease. The gifts of self confidence, autonomy, self reliance and problem solving were mine at an early age largely as a result of this alliance. I am less clear what this alliance delivered to my sister save my dedicated love of her.

Fast forward as both our life journeys continued. I married my childhood sweetheart,had a child of my own, went back to college studying nursing and got my R.N. Jane left home to join the U.S. Navy where she served our country as she was posted in duty stations all over the world.

Largely, save leave time, when she always came home, she was away a lot of the ensuing years but that early bond continued to be the tie that binds.

In the later part of 2002, it became painfully clear that our Mother was not herself. Thus began my journey though my Mother's illness. Dr.s visits, care providers, medications administration and tweaking, endless paperwork and the like. The nature of my Mom's problems worsened daily and soon the management of these problems largely became the substance of my life. In tandem with the management of our newly founded business, At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn and the learning curve necessary for its success, the solitary care of our Mom began to be more than I felt capable of managing solo. My sister had 3 years left to complete the 20 year military career to which she had dedicated her life.

When those three years were nearly completed I was exhausted, disheartened and dealing with the despair only known by those caring for someone they desperately love and is never going to get better. During all of this time Jane had come to Asheville to visit with Mom and help me every month for a few days. It helped but I confided in her that her big sister needed her help desperately and so did our Mother.

Transitioning out of the military which had largely been her life was a big step but she did not falter. Again, my baby sister, as she had many times in the past, put her hand in mine in total faith and solidarity. Together we soldiered on stronger in a pair than as individuals making our journey with our Mother.

This blog is a thank you to my sister, Jane Armstrong.

Patti and Gary Wiles

Garden Artistry in Topiary

Garden Artistry in Topiary
In just a few days March will finally be here. Now, for those living in Asheville, clearly the temperature will still be cold but alas, our hearts are once again turning to our garden as the floodgates of catalogs are delivered to our inn bringing the joy of gardening with them.

Here, At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn, we begin placement ideas, new plant selections, container ideas and other sources of garden color fun long before our first foray into the garden to sweep out the last signs of winter.
I was checking out some gardening magazines while dreaming about what my space would like through Spring-Summer and into Fall when my eyes were drawn to an article about Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden .

For those of you not familiar with topiary, it is basically the use of a living plant as a canvas for the design of nearly any shape you can think of. They exist both as small plant specimens and very, very large plant specimens. They can make words and every shape imaginable. In Pearl Fryar's garden, topiary shapes of all kinds and sizes exist in perfect harmony in tandem with water features created with his use of unusual metal pieces perfected to their task and placed into action as fountains. Whimsy rules and love is visible at every corner's turn.

If winter has been too long and gray has colored too many of your days, make a visit to Pearl's garden and become inspired again.
The gardeners of this Asheville Bed and Breakfast did and while we are not quite ready to crank up the saws and start carving out our boxwoods, we could not help but revel in the beauty, artistry, creativity and love that surrounded us as we meandered through the garden magic created by Mr. Fryar. All around us on that cold, cold day I observed the faces of people as they walked through the garden and what I saw was "happy."

Patti and Gary Wiles
Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls

Friday, February 12, 2010

Asheville Bed and Breakfast Winter Garden Jobs

Most garden enthusiasts, including this one are much more excited about spring than winter. The weather is milder and the sense of anticipation more acute. With a good imagination you can see those seeds you have carefully planted spring forth into the beautiful flowers you had in mind when you planted them.

There is nearly always something to do in a garden and our garden and waterfall retreat here in our Asheville Bed and Breakfast is no exception.

There is a palette to work with in the winter nearly impossible to see in the summer. All the perennial plants that will later become lush, large and beautiful are more easily identified and hence easier to plan around. Considerations of size, color & distribution are easier to formulate when things are not as dense.

Here is a list from this innkeeper in love with her garden to help in your own:

Watch out for snow piling on evergreens. It can weigh them down, break the branches and create permanent damage. Knock the snow off starting at the bottom branches working your way up. Avoid doing this if the branches are iced over. Patience and melting will provide a far better result.

If your trees really get weighted down and they are simply splayed out, there are some things to try. Dust off the snow and use wood supports for large branches or pantyhose for smaller jobs. We actually saved a Cherry tree that would have been a goner with the wood supports. Simply restore the large branches upward to their natural position and use the wood as a brace.

Now, when you are not using them every single day, is a perfect moment to tend to your garden tools. Sharpen, clean and oil and they will be cooperative partners come spring rather than malcontents that don't work well providing a source of irritation. Don't wait until spring when all these items will be needed to realize you need another shovel or to replace the wood handles. Now is the time.

Wash all your garden gloves. If fabric, most will weather the washing machine just fine. If leather, wipe off gross amounts of dirt with a soft brush and soften with a leather emollient if stiff.

We do a lot of seed starting here At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn. Check out your seed pots, get them ready and make sure you have grow lights that work if you plan to use them. Bleach the trays with 10% bleach solution and rinse well avoiding any disease or fungal problems. Nothing is so disheartening as to realize, much time and effort has been expended and your seedlings are weak,unhealthy and will produce poor plants

Now, to the very best part. If you are a gardener- you, like me, are already receiving those glorious catalogs. Do not delay until spring to order those seeds you simply must have. Likely the seeds you have decided you cannot live without will not be there in spring because you have such good taste others thought they couldn't live without them either.

After months of cold, miserable weather I can nearly see my new spring garden. NEARLY, being the operative word. The last and most important step is: The Plan.
Write down your vision. Sometimes, it is perfect but more often, it needs some revision. It is so much easier to see that on paper than once something is ordered and planted. Give both your seeds and your plants the very best opportunity to thrive by thoughtful choice of plants, seeds and location. The best, most beautiful and most wanted plant in the world will not do well if what it requires is not provided. Don't put a plant in the sun that won't do well there. Don't put arid plants right next to plants that require more moisture.
That cute saying about people, "bloom where you're planted" is always accomplished best in the plant kingdom if some consideration is given to plant requirements.

Happy Gardening from the innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn. May your garden be everything you hoped for and more!

Patti and Gary Wiles
Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chocolate Pie for Valentine's Everywhere

If you are looking for the very, very best, most extraordinary manner in which to finish off your Valentine's evening meal....Look no further.

Our Asheville bed and Breakfast At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast has the answer and it could not be easier. No pastry chefs required for this one.

At Cumberland Falls Chocolate Pie

1 cup white sugar

3/4 cup good quality butter (no margarine)

3 squares of unsweetened chocolate (the better the chocolate, the better the pie)

1 1/2 tsp. of real vanilla extract/or to bring this pie to the next level use Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

Now, just so I have given you fair warning this is not available in those cute little bottle sizes. You will be looking at approximately $25.00 for 750 ml on a good day. I wish I could tell you that that the pie will be just as good without it... Unfortunately, that would be a falsehood. However, we are in a recession and if the $25.00 plus pie ingredients puts you over the top of "happiness budget", the vanilla will suffice and create a wonderful pie.

3 eggs

In a small mixing bowl cream sugar and butter about four minutes or until it is beautifully fluffy and light. Stir in cooled chocolate and vanilla/Godiva. Add eggs, one at a time beating for one minute after each egg addition on medium speed. Scrape down the sides often so your pie filling is together. Voila!

Now, you can place this glorious mixture in a regular pie shell, graham cracker crust or my personal favorite, a oreo cookie crust. Chill at least 5 hours and overnight is better yet. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls.

Plan for a long walk after dinner and each successive day for weeks and each step will be worth it.

Patti and Gary Wiles
Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls

Friday, February 5, 2010

Romance Rules in Asheville

Asheville, N.C. is a standout city as nearly all of its residents will attest to. Having lived here for 10; soon to be 11 years, one of the first things I noted is that to live here people will do darn near anything. We have Dr.s, lawyers and Indian chief's here engaged in business and all kinds of enterprises just to be able to reside in Asheville. For example, if manufacturing had been your previous life work and a job can't be found doing that...Well, they let that go, re-invent themselves and become a potter. What drives this madness is that living here is so pure, so beautiful, so amazing and so homey that when the right folks discover it they are powerless to escape its pull. Asheville has received many "bests" from best place to retire to happiest city. Now, we have another coveted prize. It seems we have just won 3rd place in Most Romantic City category.

Now, we were beaten out for 1st and 2nd place by a city in Hawaii and Florida, but as beauty and all other tightly held beliefs are largely in the eye of the beholder, ROMANCE RULES IN ASHEVILLE and no one understands romance better than our Asheville bed and breakfast, At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn.

To say we have been complicit in romance plans is like saying we serve one of the best three course gourmet breakfasts you've ever eaten. In other words, it is so evident it goes without saying. We've hidden (and guarded) diamond rings in gardens, we've told "small white lies" to facilitate the sometimes crooked path to romance, we've planned numerous elopement weddings and we have marveled at the joy being loved and loving can foster. It has been heartening, inspiring, creative, full of suspense and a delight. Thanks to all our guests for the years of letting us know long before Asheville got this award that Asheville is Romance.

Patti and Gary Wiles
Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls