Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How to train a Jack Russell

 Several readers have pointed out that my “So You Want to be an Innkeeper” blog has little or nothing to do with innkeeping.  Hang on.  I hear murmuring. Did you think you were the only reader?  I have quite a few, as it happens, and not all of them relatives. 
But to the point:  well, look,  it’s not as if I entitled it “How to Fit Your Own Pacemaker in 4 Easy Steps” and then didn’t deliver the goods.    Innkeeping isn’t specific.  Innkeeping is loose.  Once you figure out how to live a life under a pile of laundry bigger than a Wall Street bonus it’s pretty easy, really.  People come.  People go.  You stay.    If this sounds appealing, why then, innkeeping is for you.  Early on in your new career you will learn how to deter those guests who will louse up the karma of your particular establishment.  Here at Blue Skye we don’t sing folk songs with our guests, we don’t have mystery weekends and chocolate tastings, and there is no television.  By not offering those things we manage to avoid hundreds of boring, needy and unimaginative guests.  It has been pointed out to me by more successful innkeepers that this translates into a lot of money I haven’t earned.  And truthfully, around the middle of February when the thought of paying for the heating oil just delivered brings me out in hives, I do sometimes wonder if perhaps I put off rather more people than necessary. But these thoughts are fleeting. I like to think that those few oddballs who find Blue Skye and enjoy it are grateful it exists in all its plainness. (I admit to an element of British understatement here.  Blue Skye is in fact wonderful if it’s the sort of wonderful you like.) And I in turn enjoy the conversation and opinions my guests bring to my breakfast table.  There.  Innkeeping 101. 
What's this got to do with Jack Russells, you may ask.  Absolutely nothing.  But I'm told that if you mention your dog in your blog that lots of people read it.  I'll let you know how that works out. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Maine wildlife

We’ve been skunked.  More specifically, Jack, our young Jack Russell terrier has been skunked.  Peter and Jack set out for their nightly bedtime walk and Jack was mooching around the edge of a copse when a little skunk darted out and grabbed him. That’s Jack's story and he's sticking to it.    Peter tried to disentangle them but ended up having to kick the skunk to shake his hold on Jack’s face.  Jack and Peter returned home, reeking and cursing.  I grabbed the puppy and got into the shower with him while my husband stripped off in the mud room.  I ascertained that Jack, smelly and shaken though he was, was not injured. After much scrubbing he emerged from the bath slightly perfumed and outraged and, it must be said, still smelling of skunk.    My husband’s clothing, including wellington boots and coat were thrown into the washing machine in the cellar.  We figured that they hadn’t had a direct hit since the spraying end of the skunk was pointed away from them.   After a vigorous wash they were put in the dryer and in less than 10 minutes, there arose through the house a truly terrible  skunkified skunkness. Many washes later, we thought we’d cracked it.  What we didn’t take into account is that hours spent with the smell of skunk permeating the atmosphere rather dulls one’s sensitivity to it.  Next morning, in pristine work clothes, Peter cleared the top floor of the ferry within minutes of boarding.  At the boatyard where he works, his coat was deemed too offensive to be allowed in the boat shed and hung in a tree all day to the disgruntlement of the yard dog.   Weeks later, Jack still has a certain whiff of the wild about him.  I’m told that bathing him in ketchup would do the trick but it seems even more undignified than perfume and frankly, he’s such a proud and feisty little chap that pouring tomato sauce on him just doesn’t seem right.  Peter’s work jacket has been retired. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Preparing for a Maine Winter

Dan Dan the Chimney Man (this is what he calls himself) is here this morning sweeping my five chimneys.  This involves much laying down of white rolls of paper which he and his elderly helper skid and trip on, the painted floors here being a bit slippy. Dan is wearing Bermuda shorts. No, I don't know why. I like calling Dan Dan to hear his anwer machine.  The current message,delivered in his thick accent says, " If the line is busy, don't get in a tizzy.  Never feeah, Dan is heeah, 365 days a yeeah.  Toodles!"
Last week the electrician was here replacing all of the smoke alarms.  All of this in preparation for the steady stream of city folk who come here and light the fires and set off the alarms with noisesome regularity.  We had a chimney fire in England once.  It was after a 12th night party when all Christmas decorations are supposed to come down.  My husband was directing guests down our icy little lane and I was waving merrily from the front door when I noticed that the holly wreath was still in place.  I took it into the sitting room and  tossed it onto the embers in the fireplace.   Moments later, from the kitchen,  I heard a deep, other worldly roar emanating from the sitting room.  I entered the room and saw nothing amiss.  Gingerly I approached the fireplace where the embers continued to flicker innocently while the roar grew louder.  I bent and looked up the chimney and saw the fire.  Peter appeared, saw me, heard the roar and disappeared into the January night, reappearing with garden hose which he aimed up the chimney.  The Faversham fire department's little truck could be seen  for miles wending its way toward us through the country lanes and our neighbours all appeared in the snowy night - many in bathrobes and all clutching bottles of wine.  It was, afterall Christmas, and it was England and a chimney fire is as good excuse as any for a party.   Only my husband was missing, engaged as he was with the hose, saving our hamlet from burning to the ground.  To appreciate the severity of the fire, one only had to notice that while the hose was on full force for many minutes, not one drop of water was in the fireplace.  When it was over,we all stood in the lane and toasted the firemen, wished each other a happy twelfth night and went to bed happy that all was well and safe and good. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Portuguese Style Roasted Turkey served at Blue Skye on Thanksgiving

Portuguese Turkey

Boil a couple of pounds of your favorite potatoes.  Mash with just enough flavorful olive oil to make them smooth.  Saute two or three onions and a finely chopped chorizo in olive oil.  When onions are golden and just about to brown, mix into potatoes.  Meantime take the pits out of 2 or 3 handfuls of black olives.  DO NOT use those flabby wet disgusting pitted tinned olives.  This recipe is easy enough that you can spare the time to pit your own olives.  Buy the oil cured ones.  They have the closest taste to Portuguese olives in Portugal.  Chop and add to mashed potatoes. Salt and pepper of course and a lot of chopped parsley (Italian flat-leaved.  That curly stuff is for sticking in your hat, not eating, as someone not me said.)Stuff bird with this mixture.  Halfway through roasting,  pour a bottle of dry white wine over turkey.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving dinner at an Inn in Maine

A year or so ago, my cousin attended a wedding in India. Upon arrival, he went to a tailor and was kitted out with a costume suitable for an important wedding guest which he had become by virtue of travelling so far to attend. He was attired in loose cream coloured trousers, tapering to a series of baggy wrinkles around the ankles and ending in pointy soft leather booties. A splendid ankle length coat, a rich aubergine affair with gold trim, was adorned with a 12 foot long scarf  arranged over one shoulder and reaching the bottom of the coat front and back. This ensemble was topped by an enormous gold and burgundy turban. I am told he rode an elephant.  Having spent a considerable sum on this outfit and doubting that an invitation to a Bombay wedding would ever come his way again, it was decided that he would bring it to Maine and wear it for Thanksgiving.  In my family, this is considered rational behaviour. The female family members decided to join in by adorning their faces with bindi marks and wearing sparkly scarves and jangly jewels, making basting the turkey somewhat tricky.  A friend with a fondness for tiaras was advised that our Thanksgiving dinner party would be an appropriate occasion to indulge herself and she arrived looking like a member of the Iowa royal family if Iowa had one.  Her partner had festooned her German frau hat with the very long tail feathers of their recently slaughtered rooster.  All in all, very festive. 
My mother, a very elderly lady, not having too firm a grasp on life’s details,arrived and thought she had mistaken Halloween with Thanksgiving.  While dinner was being prepared, my brother decided to organise the outdoor Christmas lights in advance of the coming season. 
We gathered at the table, our jeweled foreheads and crowns and turbans glittering in the candlelight, and raised our glasses to absent friends, one of whom was my brother, still struggling with testing the lights.  Suddenly, the tree outside the dining room window flickered on.   My mother raised her glass.  “Merry Christmas!” she said .

Monday, November 21, 2011

Free Range Turkeys

 Out on route 1, there's a free range turkey farm.  Free range in this case means a large chicken wired enclosure, covered by a ramshackle tarp, and trapped therein are what look to be hundreds of white birds, just about able to move, with the ones pressed to the fence seeming to mouth "help me, help me" to passing motorists.  I am not buying my turkey there.  I'm buying my free range turkey from a free range farm I cannot see ,except in my imagination, where colourful birds with their tails fanned out are playing with pilgrim children while pilgrim mothers and fathers look on contentedly.  A Penobscot Nation chief smokes a peacepipe and all the corn in the field waves and waves to me as I drive by.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do Innkeepers ever get away themselves?

Last night I had a dream about our public radio classical music host , a woman who sounds spookily like Diane from Friends.  This, after a series of dreams in which Barack and I, newly appointed Citizen Advisor to the President, were thwarted in our innocent friendship by an enormous and I daresay rather threatening Michelle. In last night’s dream, Diane, the radio host, had an on-air meltdown.  CDs stuck and repeated; instead of Dame Janet Baker singing Elgar’s Sea Pictures, we got Groucho Marx singing, “Hello, I must be going”; things could be heard falling over in the studio; and ultimately, after more and more mishaps and many flustered apologies, we were left with the quiet snuffling and blubbing of Diane as she wept bitterly into a hissing and, one imagined, smoking microphone.  My unsympathetic snortling woke my husband who complained that he had been in the middle of an extremely interesting trip to India.  “It’s a fascinating place, you ought to go one night” he said.
“Perhaps I will” I said.  "I think my days in Washington are numbered."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Life in a small town in Maine

Overheard at Bear Hill (the hardware store):  "Best way to clear congestion is to rub Vicks Vaporub on your feet before you go to bed. "