Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Home and Garden Happenings

September has always seemed a "pause" month to me in both home and garden happenings. It has been that way since we have owned our Asheville NC Bed and Breakfast.
It doesn't have the necessary action that Spring calls up within us. Air the house from the dank, oppressive winter, window wash, cobweb depart & get the winter blankets washed, dried and shrunk into some containable Space bag that can be stuffed in a closet. Commence the fertilization of the grass, the re-seed if necessary and weed control so that as the bright, green sprigs tenderly rise again it is the grass you hoped for, not the dreaded sedge & begin the much needed preparations for successful spring flowers,seed planting and bed preparation for the summer annuals.

It also doesn't have the somewhat frenetic pace that Summer commands. As owners of At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn in Asheville I assure you the term, lazy days of summer have long since been forgotten. Summer is huge in the Western North Carolina Mountains with folks coming from much hotter regions to enjoy White Water Rafting, hiking and the much loved activities summer brings to mind without suffering a heat stroke in the process. Summer climate brings opportunities for repair/restoration projects which is a state of constant need in a home circa 1902 necessary to keep it in top notch condition and the garden...Well, between the tomatoes and the strawberries we use for our three course gourmet breakfasts to the edible and ornamental annuals we plant... keeping them fertilized, watered, weeded and looking artful is more than a full time job, albeit a well loved job.

Fall! Well, that season is in a category all it's own. Asheville is one of the most sought after destinations on the east coast.
The variety and access of natural beauty in tandem with the complete glory of the colors in the Asheville gardens and nearly every where there is a tree...Which in Asheville is everywhere, lends itself to kaleidoscope beauty rarely displayed more majestically anywhere in this world.
Again, the new planting begins. It is a great time to do that in our area. Summer sometimes stresses new plants due to heat and inability to keep enough moisture to newly growing roots. Fall is when the best success can be had for new perennial plantings, trees, and bushes. Mulching is renewed to be available for covering up more tender vegetation in preparation for winter now only around the corner. This is to say nothing of the bulbs to be planted and that is a job in and of itself. That having been said, it is such a joy to see all of your work burst forth in all its finery after a long, bleak winter. Early fall is a fantastic time to paint (inside or out), and get work projects done that would be more tedious done in hotter weather.

Now, lest you think that though September is kind of pre-fall pause and there there is absolutely nothing to do....Well, there is. The later part of this month is a great time to divide Hostas.

Other than that, have a fine cup of coffee, sit on your porch, plan your Fall tasks and take this one moment to enjoy all you have accomplished inside and outside your home be it large, formal and stately or simply a cozy, fun, snuggly and relaxing haven to give your soul comfort.

Patti and Gary Wiles,  Innkeepers 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Apple Fest Over so now on to the Kerry Apple Cake Recipe

Our Asheville Bed and Breakfast guests pretty much all attended the Apple Festival most of them in search of great take home gifts that folks wouldn't have access to where they live. Now, the apple fest is over so on to the Kerry Apple Cake Recipe recently published in our Montford News for our historic neighborhood to try on for size. That could have scary implications but onward and upward. It looks simply stellar and think this cake, coupled with a great cup of coffee, a fireplace and family gathered around could make one of the best evenings of the fall season.
I have made a few alterations and please feel free to do the same.

Kerry Apple Cake: 9" Square Pan or 8" Round Heat oven to 375 for 30 mins. Check a bit earlier as pan size will affect cooking time.

1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Just a bit of finely ground pepper. A bit less than 1/8 tsp.
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 medium apples peeled and thinly sliced ( I used my absolute favorite NC apple-Honey Crisp. If no access to this fine specimen, use any suitable cooking apple you like.
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and all spices. Blend the butter with pastry mixer or fork. Stir in the apple slices Add the egg and milk, blend well.
This batter will not be soft. No worries. Apples have high water content and will release fluids in the baking of this cake.
Sprinke generously with brown sugar.
Can be served plain or with fresh whipped cream while warm is best but will be devoured either way.

We have made this here At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn putting to good use some of the home grown apples purchased at the Apple Fest.


Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Asheville Bed and Breakfast Owners Crab Cake Extraordinaire

Recently a new fish market, Blue Water Seafood, came to Asheville and opened its doors providing a bit of a new slant. It doubles as a restaurant availing the locals of spectacularly beautifuly fresh North Carolina items as well as a full compliment of seafood including this Asheville Bed and Breakfast owners Crab Cake Extraordinaire. One day, after we finished preparing our three course gourmet breakfast here At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn we were in the mood for crabcakes, had heard of this new opening and sought out our quarry.

The crab cake was good. It was a good size. It was not bread laden. I would have browned it up a bit but all in all, it was a very nice lunch though I would say, as most cooks would, I prefer my own. So, in homage to the crab cake, I submit for your experimentation and evaluation our At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast idea of Crab Cake Extraordinaire in the form of Patti's Crab Cake. Dabble if you dare to enhance it for your personal taste!

Patti's Crab Cake

2 lbs. fresh lumpmeat crabmeat (Fresh is always best). If not able to procure fresh, drain can well.
1 cup soft bread crumbs.
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup mayonanaise
2 T. course-ground good quality mustard
1 T. prepared horseradish
3/4 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 T. of fresh lemon juice
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. of baking power
1/4 tsp. of ground red pepper (more if you like hot)

Combine all ingredients. Shape patties. Dredge both sides in a bit seasoned bread crumbs. Rest them. Fry in large skillet with hot oil over medium high heat until nicely browned on the first side. Flip and repeat. Leave them until they are brown enough you don't have to do this repeatedly.
Drain on paper towel.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Asheville's New Animal Care Campus

Asheville's Humane Society is on the move as Asheville's New Animal Care Campus opens.

Though we are a non pet property here At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn, this business decision was made in honoring the desires of many of our clients. Some have serious dog allergies. Some of our guests have pet loves of their own at home but just want a non-pet time on vacation. Gary and I have other considerations that led us to this business decision.

Though there are many responsible, loving pet owners there are also many that do not vaccinate, bathe, treat for parasites and heartworms and of course that would not even take into account the small but most irritating of creatures, the flea.

Now, for those of you having pets you know what I am saying! There are occasions, despite your very best efforts, that fleas take more than a passing interest in your canine friend even with aggressive chemical management to disuade them. They multiply like, well, like fleas so even one flea can soon give way to a stream that becomes a full time job to manage.

The Inn, circa 1902, has lovely, largely original wood floors. Now, one might think that this would ease flea management but alas, NOT. The little spaces allowing said floors to wax and wane in varying temperatures also create a lovely, coveted and sought after new apartment for flea populations. Should there become a problem, I defy you to get that chemical down in those small crevices to address the problem. Some folks are responsible regarding flea treatment of their animals and unfortunately, some are NOT.

In older blog posts some of you might have read about my valiant, humorous, beyond intelligent and insightful dog best friend, Molly. Molly came to me as a patient gift. A young girl I was caring for in my previous job thought me lonely due to the "empty nest" syndrome all Mom's experience when their offspring seek out distant shores. Molly was to be my new child. She was that and more. She died this past October and she is irreplaceable.

Having been a pet owner for much of my life the doing of this job effectively is not an inexpensive proposition. There are vet visits inclusive of innoculations, worming, pest control, spaying/neutering and whatever physical maladies present in your canine companion at any given visit. Physicals take place now just as they are recommended for their humans counterparts. Frankly, at this point in veterinary medicine human vs. vet bills are more alike in all things.....Cost being primary among them which is why when I read about Asheville Humane Society waiving adoption fees I shuttered. The stated reason was not to have to relocate so many animals to another location. While I more than understand this concern, it rang hollow. I understand the rationale but I think someone failed to think this concept through. I wholeheartedly support adoptions of dogs/cats rather than supporting the need for specialized breeding programs when it is estimated that 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized yearly for want of a home. Most of these animals are perfectly healthy creatures and their only crime is being born.

Having a healthy, well cared for pet takes money. The charging of fees for adoption of animals in some way secures their value and also is a kind of means test, albeit insufficient and not thorough enough, to determine a potential owners financial means to support and care for a dog or cat.
Free is always interpreted as good. There is something in our human nature though that is frightening to me. While free is desired, hunted and sought after it does not always follow that it is valued. Therein lies the rub. A pet is a living thing and has requirements. Some are emotional and some are very real and physical. Love will not buy a bag of dog food, a vet visit and care. While I would be delighted for the adoption of any pet by a family with all the means required for their care should this free program, in these challenging economic times, result in these animals being placed at the hands of those with good intentions only, their suffering will be legion. The fault will not be theirs. It will be our own.

Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Asheville Hosts a Three hour Black Crowes Music Event

Asheville is eclectic, Asheville is artsy, Asheville is abuzz and around here the hills are always filled with the sound of music. Whether street musicians, Blue Grass, Jazz or Funk is your sound, Asheville has hosted it and now Asheville hosts a three hour Black Crowes Music Event at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.

Guests at our Asheville Bed and Breakfast can walk downtown, enjoy a fine meal and if they choose find one of any number of places to snag an Asheville crafted beer before the show.

Originating in Atlanta Georgia, this band has played Blue grass, rock and veered into the hard rock genre too. In celebration of their 20th Anniversary they will perform their "Say Goodnight To The Bad Guys 2010 Tour" on Sunday, September 19th 2010. Beginning with Acoustic Hors D'oeuvres and Electric Reception spend the night with the Black Crowes. Dress: Optional...Well that may be wrong...
Dress is informal but clothing necessary. It's Asheville but still!
Tickets are $42.50 in advance and $47.00 at the door. Show actually begins at 8:00 p.m.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We Evaluate the term - Service

Gary and I purchased our bed and breakfast more than 11 years ago and we evaluate the term Service nearly every day.

We are, chronologically at least, above middle age. In writing that I laughingly remember when I was 45 and my Mom and I were discussing the term, "middle age." She said, "You know, it's crazy that people call 45 middle age. That is overly optomistic for most actuarial tables." She was right of course. The median age of death is usually not 90.

I am sure if you are of this certain age and can remember clearly when things weren't like they are now you miss those times as much as we do.

There was a time in what now seems like a faraway land when the following was the norm:

When you called a business during working hours a real person answered the phone. Just that very action, answering the phone, speaks volumes.

You have made an appointment. In making this appointment it was stressed that you be on time. In respect and awareness of the time of others and their scheduling issues you arrive promptly on schedule, only to wait hours for your appointment. Clearly, in this scenario, respect for time is only important when the time is theirs.

If a service needed to be performed on your car, likely you could take the car in, explain the current problem and they fixed the car. Taking the car back repeatedly for the same problem was not the norm.

In stores, a clerk or salesperson generally sought you out. If your request was something they did not possess the knowledge to deliver, unprompted, they sought out the answer and provided it. They wanted your business and it showed. They did not act as though your presence was an intrusion on their texting or cell phone call. You were their priority because they had a clear understanding that fulfilling your need was relevant to their having a job and keeping it.

Now, I am not saying this type of service and delivery was present every day and every time but I am saying it was infinitely more consistent than it is now. A big part of this was the understanding that if one is in the service industry that entails trying to deliver whatever service one is offering. There seems to have been better accountability, pride in accuracy, genuine self appreciation for a job well done and that one's word and promise of delivery actually meant something. It meant something to the customer in branding and loyalty and perhaps more importantly it said something about us. It said we were responsible, it said we understood value, it said we had enough self pride that doing the job well was a reflection of who we are as individuals. Our own respect for ourselves would be sufficient motivation to try and render a good showing the first time making it unnecessary to "work the customer to death" to get the job done or service rendered they had paid for in good faith.

I find myself wondering as I hold the phone waiting for a very long time to see which number I am to press to be directed to my needed department only to have it answered by someone not having the answer to my query, nor any particular industry to obtain it...Is there really any wonder why unemployment is skyrocketing? Are we really so clueless that we don't understand why many of the jobs in the United States of America are being shipped to other locations? Are we going to remain so closeted in our supreme arrogance we fail to understand that we gave many of them away with poor consistently poor service, undeniable shoddiness and complete lack of caring as we texted and tweeted ourselves into obscurity?

Patti and Gary Wiles,  Innkeepers 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Asheville Bed and Breakfast Looks at Sister Cities

Having a close sibling of my own, I have always been interested in the topic of Sisters.
We moved here 11 years ago when we purchased At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn. I had never heard the term "sister city." It piqued my curiosity and so began my investigation.

The American sister cities program began in 1956 under the Eisenhower administration. Initially, under the umbrella of National League of Cities. In 1967 The American Sister cities program gained its own identity under the heading of Sister Cities International (SCI) defined as a not for profit, citizen diplomacy network designed to strengthen partnerships between U.S. and international cummunities in efforts to increase both global cooperation found at the municipal level as well as enhance cultural understanding, stimulate private business and economics. Staffed primarily by volunteerism, it paves the way for enhancing community developement by empowering private citizens to work toward long term goals of providing mutual benefits between the geographical locations

Asheville's Sister cities are:
Karpenisi, Greece
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
Saumur, France
Valladolid, Yucatan Mexico
Vladikavkaz, Russia
Osogbo, Nigeria.

Empower your area and investigate bringing your beloved hometown into the Sister City program. Making this journey will empower your city, yourself, create a better understanding of low level government and how it works and also provide an understanding in a very tangible way of the impact we can all have on our own environment, government and the lives of others. It really is a small world and your involvement in this program will allow a greater appreciation of that, yourself and the power we can all have to make a difference, even in a small way, if we will just seize it.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Continuing Saga of our Asheville Bed and Breakfasts Adventure into Beef Bourguignon

The continuing saga of our Asheville Bed and Breakfasts adventure into Beef Bourguignon will now commence.
The shopping is done and the shopping... It was fierce. You know, when we first purchased our Asheville Bed and Breakfast the thing that first awed me was the amounts of food one must purchase to feed large populations of folks.

We had a small familiy inclusive of just myself, my husband and one daughter. I was entirely unaccustomed to purchasing such massive quantities of food. Once, in the early years right after we came here my Mom called the inn in bliss that one dozen eggs were nine cents. Some special they were having that week. My response was that would be great for the first six guests but what was I going to do about the others.
Suffice to say that as I looked at the cart with all this food in it not the least of which was 10 pounds of beef chuck roast (naturally not sale this week) I knew I had a daunting task ahead.

Came back to At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn
and began the unload. Immediately set to cubing up and tidying up all the chuck roast. Started with the frying of the bacon lardons (now, lardons is high tech culinary speak for a small strip of meat used to lard the meat) Then, removing all that bacon one places small batches of this monstrous amount of meat in the pan to brown. They specify in the recipe that all this meat must be provided the room in which to brown effectively. I looked at this mile high pile of cubed meat and knew this would be a very long engagement. Oh Dear.

Ok, the legions of meat are browned. One also has had to peel, dare I repeat the words, 5 pound of carrots. Yes, that's 5 pounds. They are sliced in 2 inch pieces... on the bias, don't you know!
One must also peel and slice very thin 3 yellow onions. Long about this time your eyes are crying big buckets of tears like the kind you left at the theater when you saw The Way They Were... Dating myself I am. Moving on....

After removing the meat, these two go into the skillet where they are cooked for approximately 15 minutes.
Returning the meat to the pan after the carrots and onions have had their moment in the sun now comes the fun part....The Wine. Oh dear God.
Now is the moment that I will share with you the best part of the afternoon secondary only to the beef blitz in rendering 10 pounds of beef chuck into 1 inch cubes. I don't drink. My husband is occupied with a couch delivery taking place at the inn and while he doesn't engage in the glories of the grape either, he does know how to open the bottle.
Well, you know that little plastic part that they instill on the bottle protecting the cork. Well, I begin hacking at that while trying not to stab myself to death. My sister at this point takes pity sakes on me and takes the bottle away from me and she begins hacking at it. We vanquish said offender and move on to the cork. We emerge victorious and then I read about how much Pinot Noir I am to cover this meat with. Holy Mollie, it is the entire 750 ml bottle. Well, I have made three recipes of this food to feed my numbers. Hypothetically, this amount is to serve 18 (more on this post the meal) so this would be 3 bottles of this wine. Wow, I am beginning to understand the possible allure of this dish having immediately ruled out the cubing of the beef. I don't know if it is good but likely the cook is so blasted at the termination of this preparation that they don't even know it isn't good.

Have to stop now and finish this debacle up. The meal is tonight and I will finish the rest of this. Still have to raid the store for some last minute items and finish this bad boy up....Ah, the things one does for love.

Patti and Gary Wiles Innkeepers At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn Your Asheville Bed and Breakfast

Friday, September 3, 2010

Asheville Shopping for Beef Bourguignon

Asheville shopping for Beef Bourguignon is not as straightforward as one might initially assume. In my last blog on this topic I mentioned some of the variations employed as each person making this dish seeks their own interpretation.

In our Asheville Bed and Breakfast we always seek to strike a good balance between good food, what are the fresh seasonal offerings available and try and reduce just nuisance calories if possible. It is in that spirit that I will shop.

Most, but not all of the recipes for this dish call for bacon but many of the reviews and updates by folks in the know about this recipe state clearly that the bacon issue was to tenderize the tougher cuts of meat that used to be common in the store. Basically Beef Bourguignon, though now interpreted as haute cuisine, originated as peasant fare.
I have chosen to ditch the bacon avoiding the extra fat and nitrites and use marbled chuck roast.

I also mentioned Cognac as either a yea or a nay. This is what one of the recipes relates.
"Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol." As you might remember this is said to add "depth" to the flavor.
I weighed this carefully, truly I did. I weighed the dimension of depth with my potential kitchen fire, working the nice fellows of the Asheville Fire Department to death and also the alarm I might see on the faces of my guests here At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn and ...Well, let's just say the depth of flavor potential didn't win.

I am not going to opt for the seriously expensive wine but rather locate a good bottle in the hopes that my wine and beef will marry well living happily ever after but not break the bank for the wedding.

For the mushrooms I am definitely going to lose the white buttons variety in favor of the far more flavorful bella.

Moderation will guide me in the garlic amounts as it does here at our Asheville NC Bed and Breakfast. It will for sure be fresh and it will be dead in the middle between the largest and smallest amounts suggested.
You see, while I and my husband really enjoy garlic, this dinner is for friends hence I will seek the midline to enhance everyone's enjoyment.

Gotta go seize the day on this shopping venture. May the force be with me.

Patti and Gary Wiles,  Innkeepers 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hurricane Earl may make OBX out and Asheville Bed and Breakfast In

Travel plans to the beach are always fun and I've enjoyed more than one in my time but sure looks like this hurricane may make OBX out and bed and breakfast in.

This hurricane is a large storm and it seems there is potential for significant erosion, flooding and even loss of life. The constancy of this being lost on some of the affected populations continues to baffle this ex-Florida resident. In discussions I heard on the news today the local Ocracoke officials were trying to make a safe determination as to what would be an appropriate time to have tourists leave the island. The newscaster further stated that while leaving the island was a mandate for tourists, it was not for local residents. Residents of Ococoke are at liberty to choose to remain on the island.

I have always thought that while no one would say that either a hurricane or earthquake was a fun time... at least there is very sufficient notice for hurricanes. People know they are coming, generally there is anywhere from days to a week to make provisions enabling you to fare well and seek safety.

Preparation is important even when the potential of a normal storm is coming. At our inn we have all kinds of emergency items. Flashlights, emergency lighting in room, water and a generator. While emergency assistance may be required in dire times, it is equally necessary for each citizen to assume control of their own safety and maintenance and be an active participant by demonstrating responsible behavior. While anyone can understand wanting to save a house, lessen property loss or whatever other reason people give for staying, Mother Nature in fury cannot be thwarted, only respected. Staying can jeopardize your very life. Water weights is 8 pounds per gallon. Trying to stave off a wall of water is not a happening. Staying can only render loss of life and the property outcome will be as it would have been whether you stay or you go.

I send good thoughts to our friends on the Outer Banks with all our wishes for their positive outcomes along with my strongest hopes that when and if the officials ask them to leave the island they comply. It is my hope both for their own sakes and certainly for those first responders who will have to risk life and limb to assist them when the frightening reality of this storms potential can no longer be ignored as it is beating at their door.

Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers