A Fall Evening at The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Early Memories of Windover, A Boarding House at the Gateway to the Smokies

Holidays are a great time for memories.  Memories of the joys of our childhood, bittersweet memories of  those no longer with us, and a time of renewal and the excitement of memories to come.

We often thought of what memories our home, The Windover Inn Bed and Breakfast, must hold of those that came before us . . .  especially the original owners, the Howells.  What was it like in our neighborhood in 1910 when they first built the home and there was nothing else here?  Who were the tourists that found lodging at Windover when they came to visit the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway and what would it be like to operate a tourist home in 1911? 

When the grandchildren of the Howells visited us in October, some of those memories came alive for us.  Carey and Harden were kind enough to share old family pictures, letters, newclippings and precious memories with us. From these and other sources, we put together (actually our granddaughter, Emily did most of the work!) a short 'movie' which we think gives a feeling of what it was like here at "Windover" in those times. 

If you have 4 minutes to spare, we'd like to share those memories with you. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did putting it together. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from our Table to Yours

Today was a typical day at the inn. Earlier we served breakfast for 2 couples, then turned over their rooms after check-out. This afternoon we welcomed three new couples. Actually "new" is a misnomer, since all of today's guests have been here many times before. That's nice since we can share today's holiday spirit with these friends we've made here over the years.

This is a time when we think about how fortunate we've been over the past year. We have a business and lifestyle we enjoy, we make new friends each time our doorbell rings with new guests, or - like today - renew acquaintenances with old friends who are returning to visit us and our inn. Part of our Windover extended family.

Needless to say, we do not celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving here at the inn. Between working and Glenn not eating meat, there's not much that's traditional at all. But Glenn did prepare a vegetarian feast that made some turkey happy, somewhere. Pictured are 'before' and 'after' views of our dinner which we devoured in the early afternoon. The recipes are from the November/December issue of Vegetarian Times. The article is entitled, 'The Ultimate Thanksgiving Menu.' (And it was delicious, and executed perfectly by Chef Boy 'o Boy!)

One part of the tradition is still very evident though, and that is how thankful we are for all of our blessings, but a holiday doesn't have to come to make us feel that way. We count our blessings every day, and feel very fortunate for the life we have, even if it's got some downsides (maybe someday we'll be able to talk our family into moving here).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Day on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Last week in between our innkeeping duties, we took a ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We needed to run some errands in Asheville, so we decided to travel part way there via the Blue Ridge Parkway. It didn't appear to be a great day for vista viewing, or so we thought, as the day started with a steady drizzle. But short periods of the sun peeking through the grey haze gave us some hope! Only a 10 minute drive from the inn, the Blue Ridge Parkway is easily accessible for us and our guests. Quite a perk for living in a lovely little town ringed by 6,000 foot mountains! As expected, grey clouds and drizzle greeted us as we entered the Parkway, but as we ascended toward the "Highest Point" just a few miles from our entrance point at Big Balsam, the clouds lifted like a giant veil revealing a vista of teeming colors and textures below. And what views!! Even though some of the 'best' color had passed, there was still plenty for our eyes to behold.

The beautiful colors of fall were especially dramatic this year, and even today there is still significant color to be viewed in and around Waynesvlle. Come and see for yourselves!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Special Visitors

Recently, we had the great pleasure of hosting two people who are very familiar with the Windover Inn! We're talking about the grandchildren of Pearl and James Harden Howell, Carey and Harden, who grew up next door and spent much of their time here with their grandparents who built Windover and began operating it as a tourist home in 1911. They brought old photos, newsclippings, and most importantly great stories of their years growing up with such interesting grandparents next door! The visit brought back many happy memories for them, and we were the beneficiaries. We learned more about the people who lived here and those who visited Windover in the summer and fall months when Pearl ran it as a tourist home. In addition to the regular guests who came here to the mountains to escape the southern heat, this place came alive with family gatherings, garden parties, soires, and club meetings. In our research to have Windover approved by the town as a Local Historic Landmark, we had read much about the Howell family. But listening to Carey and Harden we experienced a direct connection to the family who built this house and spent over 60 years here. We learned more about the help staff, the arrangement of furnishings in many of the rooms, including the original screened-in porch, the front porch and dining room. Old pictures gave us more insight into how the home was decorated. A group picture on the staircase from the 1950's was a great testament to the fact that Windover was a special place for the extended family to meet and relax in the mountains! We can feel the good spirits in this house every day!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever at Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Labor Day weekend, a good friend visited us for a few days. After a busy weekend at The Windover Inn, we "labored" hard all day Labor Day Monday to get our 7 other rooms ready for guests. This gave us an opportunity on Tuesday to show off more of our beautiful Western North Carolina area to our friend!

We decided to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in particular, to make Clingman's Dome our destination. Clingman's is a world unto itself, both geographically and spiritually. The approach road to Clingman's reveals stunning vistas, but the best is yet to come! The parking area is about a half mile from the observation tower, but the scenes from here are already stunning enough for those who can't or don't care to hike up the short, but somewhat steep paved road to the tower. The observation tower is, itself, a wonder of architecture. Not a tower in the traditional sense, it arcs upward in a circular pattern giving visitors a true panorama of the scenery as they climb to the rotunda that marks the promontory. The vistas from the top are breathtaking! Depending on the weather, views into five states are possible. Less than an hour away, this destination is one the reasons we chose western North Carolina as our home!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Our 4th Anniversary

These 2 pictures probably don't seem very interesting by themselves, but they are reminders to us of the first time we set foot in Waynesville almost 8 years ago on our quest to locate, purchase and operate a B&B. We were then in the early stages of our "5 year plan". As native Pennsylvanians, we had gone as far north as Bar Harbor, Maine and now we were looking southward toward Virginia and North Carolina. We stayed in Asheville during the last leg of our trip south that year. On the second day, we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Cherokee. Around luchtime, our stomachs beckoned and we decided to turn off at the Balsam Exit just south of Waynesville for some lunch. We stopped at the Balsam Visitor Center and looked over the brochures that promoted Waynesville as an attractive destination. So we headed to downtown Waynesville and picked up a 'picnic lunch' at The Patio (still there) on Church St. As we walked down Main St. they were just starting the lay the brick sidewalk that is now a hallmark of downtown Waynesville. We were impressed to say the least! We did a little auto tour of the rest of the town and then continued on our way to Cherokee. But that little lunch stop changed our lives. We now knew the "where", we just didn't know the "when" until a few years later.

On August 2nd 2006, we returned to Waynesville to purchase The Windover Inn and start our lives as innkeepers. We have never looked back, and we couldn't be happier! The wonderful people we have met as guests, colleagues, and local townspeople have enriched our lives beyond measure. Wayesville is a quaint southern town in the best meaning of that term. As 'Northeners' we were met at every turn by local folks who stopped to say 'hello', asked if we needed any help, and generally made us feel welcome in the community. That was something special we did not experience up north. There really is 'Southern Hospitality', and it is alive and well in Waynesville! Celebrate with us as we look forward to continuing our journey as innkeepers of the Windover Inn B&B.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Windover Inn Is Now A "Historic" North Carolina Bed and Breakfast

Two weeks ago the Town of Waynesville aldermen passed an ordinance designating "Windover - The James Harden and Pearl Howell House" as a local historic landmark. Jen and I attended the meeting to witness the process and to celebrate our property's place in the history of Waynesville. A picture of The Windover Inn appeared on a large TV monitor at the front of the meeting room as the town planner described our property to the aldermen and they discussed the ordinance. Each alderman and the mayor had the same picture of Windover on their respective monitors. When they passed the ordinance without a dissenting vote, we were thrilled!! This was the culmination of over a year of researching our home and the family who built it, writing and re-writing the proposal, meeting with the Historic Preservation Commission on several occasions, and reviewing our information with the Town Planner and the Preservation Specialist from the State Historic Preservation Office in Asheville. As an added bonus, the Historic Preservation Commission included our residence in their pamphlet entitled "Historic Waynesville, A Self-Guided Tour" released just a week after Windover was approved as a local landmark. The picture above is the one they used in the pamphlet.

Researching our home turned into a gift from the past we gave to ourselves. The Howells and thier contemporaries came to life as we learned more and more about James Harden Howell's family who came here from Virginia in the early 1800's, and Pearl Marshall, the daughter of a northern Viriginia planation owner whom James met at Eastern College in Front Royal, Va. at the turn of the 20th century and married in 1908. Our research included online books, maps, and newspapers, as well as visits to the local library's archives. But the most interesting and rewarding research were the personal interviews with the grandchildren of James Harden and Pearl, as well as with Waynesville locals who knew the Howell family. It was exciting to view our home and B&B from a new perspective; visualizing Pearl's garden parties and soires held in the grand hallway and dining room, Pearl and James sitting at opposite ends of a long trestle table in the dining room along with their summer guests being served by the wait staff, of the families arriving from the coastal Carolinas and Georgia for the summer during the Roaring 20's, and of Pearl addressing her husband as 'Colonel'. There were many such stories about Pearl and James that didn't make the official report, but that added so much character and texture to our knowledge of the family who built this house! For instance, Pearl had the house built as a "tourist home" and opened it as such in 1911. She told her granddaughter this was one of the only ways for a "respectable woman to earn a living in those days".

Several years after the Howells passed away, Judy and Reimar Steffen purchased this residence from the Howell estate in 1981 when it was in a state of disrepair and saved it from the wrecking ball. They modernized the house and enclosed the side porch over the 22 years they resided here and raised their family. They are well know to this area as a family actively involved in their community. At the turn of the 21st century they opened and operated a B&B and aptly named it "Windover". Pam and Jeff Ferree purchased the residence in the spring of 2004 and further modernized the house with HVAC systems on each floor, whirlpool tubs in the suites, and period painting of the interior and re-opened it as a modern B&B by the same name in the fall of 2004.

As the fourth owners of "Windover" in the 100 years of its existence, we are honored to continue a tradition of hospitality and welcoming at our B&B that reaches back a century. Like those who came before us, we feel we are stewards of this wonderful house and pledge to care for it lovingly and treat our guests now and in the future in the manner expected of those who came before them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Windover Inn's "Baby Boy"

OK. I know this blog title sounds hokey, but don't we all turn to mush when it comes to our pets? No different with Jen and me! This month we celebrate the joy our pets bring to us by contributing a dollar for every room we rent to Sarge's, a local animal welfare group who finds homes for homeless animals from the local animal shelter as well as other sources. As is the case with many of our guests, our cat, Oatmeal, really adopted us. He was one of the fortunate few who didn't need Sarge's help to find a home. He started appearing around our inn abount two years ago as a hungry six month old kitten. Our granddaughter named him because his yellow/orange coat made him look like a bowl of Mother's Oats (with a little bit of white cream under his chin). He was so cute and loving! All he wanted, it seemed, was a little food, love and companionship. How could we resist?! Over the next few months, we made a place for Oatmeal to stay in the cabana behind the inn. We left the door open and put food inside so Oatmeal could expect a regular meal and a place to stay. This arrangement worked... sort of, but sometimes Oatmeal wouldn't come home for a few days at a time. We had him neutered and were taking him to the vet for his shots and check-up's, but were we really taking care of him properly? The answer was 'NO'!

It is so easy to 'leave the cat out for the day', but do we really know where they go or what they do when they're 'out'? If they're not spayed or neutered, they're surely contributing to the problem many towns, including ours, have with ferral kittens and cats all over the place. This is cruel for the cat and a potential health problem for the community. Even if the cat is neutered, it is still leaving its 'calling card' all over the place, not to mention terrorizing birds and other prey. We had to face the fact that this is not a responsible way to be a pet owner. Enter, the Invisible Fence and a collar for Oatmeal. He will surely have a different point of view here, but suffice it to say that Oatmeal DID learn his safe area with the Invisible Fence. Now, over a year later, and even without the collar, he rarely strays beyond the fence line. Sometimes we need to remind him of his safe area, but not very often. Oatmeal now has an area he can call his own that wraps just about all the way around our inn. He also has a 'bachelor pad' that is his nightly home. He isn't allowed inside the inn, and he doesn't usually hang around the porch with our guests although some of our regular guests do ask for a special visit from him when they're here. We always try to accomodate them! Let us know if you want him to visit you while you're here at the inn. Otherwise, Oatmeal will probably be in his bachelor pad or hanging out around the rear of the inn in his safe area inside the lattice fence. He does answer to 'Baby Boy'.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's A Happy Father's Day

With Father's Day approaching, it made me realize how often I think lovingly about my father and the happy memories of him. He passed away years ago, and during the time he was battling cancer, and then when he died, even though I had a certain peace that he was going to a better place, at that time, the sheer thought of his suffering and someday no longer having him in my life was devastating. I know it was selfish. I always felt comfort in his hugs of unconditional love, I was reassured by his convictions of walking the talk and strengthened by his example of staying true to his convictions in business and his personal life. I enjoyed sharing deep discussions with him on family, religion, business and politics and just life in general.

Now, years later, I still miss him, and there are still sad moments, (like right now), but more often there are moments of joy. I can honestly say there is hardly a day that doesn't go by when I have a reason to think of him and feel joy in that moment of memories. Glenn and I talk often of how he would like it here at The Windover Inn. He loved to be with people! It makes me happy to think of him, and of everything we shared, and yes, I still share with him. I'm not sure I can agree with the expression, "time heals all wounds," because the intensity of his loss is still there, the wound remains, but my treatment of it is what has changed. It took time, but now when I think of him, it is all about the living he did, and not his dying. And those hugs, well, you had to experience them to understand this, but they were strong enough to feel even now!

Happy Father's Day Dad! I love you! Jen

(Click on article to enlarge.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Pictures from Max Patch Bald in Spring

Now that Rt. 40 is open again, it opens additonal opportunities for our us (and our guests!) to revisit some of our favorite haunts that were difficult if not impossible to access during the road closure. One in particular is Max Patch Bald. If you've read our previous blog or have visited Max Patch, yourself, you will understand the excitement of a return trip there after a too long absence. As our car climbed up along the 6 mile winding gravel road toward our destination, our anticipation grew. We arrived at the parking area from which two trails reach out to the bald. One provides a short direct hike straight up to the bald, the other is about a mile rim trail that meanders up. We took the direct route! This time the panorama of trees was full of spring greenery, rather than the colors of fall, or the teeming bare branches of winter. Each season has its special splendor and I'd be hard pressed to name my favorite. They're all grand, especially after a long absence!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Technology Versus Nature At A Waynesville, North Carolina Bed & Breakfast

There are so many ways to get information these days, and so much information to be absorbed! It seems as if there is new technology being offered every day to help us be more efficient and more connected to the world and its news events. Although I can understand its value, I also understand at times, I, personally, need to disconnect.

Even when my children were young, when the only input of news I would get would be from the newspaper and television, there were times I had to shut my receiver off. I discovered fairly early in my young adult life that I do not take the worries of the world lightly. If there are problems, they need to be solved; if someone needs help, they need to be rescued; and diseases, well, you get the idea. I had to learn very quickly, that I couldn't save the world, or even one or two people.

But, I didn't want to lose that part of me that feels deeply about things. I like that about myself, and it's what motivates me to be a better person and to hopefully always try to leave whatever I touch in this world a little better than it was before.

Through the years I've discovered if I minimize my intake of daily news, I maximize my daily productive output. I found that I'm the type of person that needs to be connected, less to technology, and more to living things. Nothing soothes my soul more than hugs from family and friends, or something as simple as spending the early parts of the morning with the sounds of nature in our gardens.

Don't get me wrong, I can embrace all of the technology and its benefits, and I still stay in touch with the headline news. But as I recharged my battery in the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of our Waynesville garden sanctuary one early morning, I found myself using my Blackberry for recording the joy of the moment before checking email and the headline news. It's a lot more impressive when you're here, but just in case you can't get here - Enjoy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thank You Anthony For Sharing Your Gift With Waynesville

We had another wonderful group of guests this weekend. Very nice couples on Mommie and Daddie getaways and getaways just to relax. Girlfriends reconnecting and reminiscing about their college days, and a Pianist, Anthony Molinaro, who was just as nice as he is talented!

Good music always evokes emotions for me - it's something to feel, not just hear. Although we were unable to get to his concert sponsored by our Haywood County Arts Council, Anthony generously gave us his latest CD and it is amazing! After all of our guests checked out, we had it on as background music as we were getting things done around here, and we both had to pause and give it its due. It's not background music, it's the kind of music you absorb, the kind that transports you to another place. It's passionate, moody and uplifting!

We've gotten used to being in the background of a lot of our local events due to our role as Innkeepers, and love to share in our guests' joy when they experience what our area has to offer. But this time we had regrets. We obviously missed a master of his craft, and an experience that doesn't happen often. You better believe if there is ever a chance for us to see Anthony in concert, we are going to try our best to do it! Who knows, we may have a trip to Chicago in our future, or if we're fortunate enough, maybe Anthony will come back to Waynesville!

You can get info on Anthony and his new CD at http://www.anthonymolinaro.com/. ) It will definitely be featured on the Playlist at The Windover Inn!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's Time for Tomatoes at This Western North Carolina Bed & Breakfast

It was a dirty job (literally) but someone had to do it. That job was planting our organic vegetable garden at The Windover Inn. This actually began about 6 weeks ago when I seeded my indoor seed starter pods and placed them in my indoor Grow Garden which is a 3 tiered grow light arrangement that holds about 300 seed starter pods at a time. I seeded most of the pods with herbs, tomatoes and annual flowers. Fresh herbs are important ingredients in my savory breakfasts here at The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast, such as stratas, frittatas, and quiches. We use tomatoes as a garnish, but I always try to serve tomatoes that I'd like to eat, too. Not the 'tennis ball' variety. I love it when plates come back with EVERYTHING eaten!

Today I took the chance that our last frost has passed here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. This is a big chance since it is only the beginning of May. But The Weather Channel's extended forcast assures me, fool that I am, that the next 10 days will be warmer than average. So... that brings us just about to the traditional 'last frost date' of May 15th. My other problem is that my tomato seedlings have grown into such big plants, they no longer fit under the grow light! So, while our cat Oatmeal watched, I planted 14 tomatoes in our raised garden, today. This is a 100% organic garden since I don't use any pesticides and I know exactly where these plants came from! The herb plantings have already gone into our whiskey keg herb gardens since they are a bit heartier than the tomatoes. We'll see how everything turns out! Hopefully, by mid July, Jen and I will be plating our guests' savory dishes with homegrown tomatoes!

Friday, April 23, 2010

I-40 to Reopen April 27th - The Wildflowers of the North Carolina Smoky Mountains Await You!

This is the first Spring we were able to get out to explore our mountain wildflowers, and as you can see from Glenn's pictures they made themselves available to us!

The Kephart Prong Trail was on the list of trails for the Great Smoky Mountains State Park Wildflower Pilgrimage, so we thought it would be a good place to start. The trail was listed as moderate, but it was a pretty easy 2 mile climb, with the narrow foot bridges over the Oconaluftee River the roughest part of the trip for all of us. They had railings on one side, but they were one foot in front of the other balance beam narrow, so we took our time. Since the trail crosses over the river 6 times, by the 12th time on the 2 miles down we were as graceful as Nadia Com─âneci!

It was fun spotting and identifying the flowers, and there were obvious hints of new varieties waiting to blossom. We saw fields of Trillium, blue phlox just beginning to open up, lots of common violet (we have these all over our property too), what looked to be Partridge Berry, and wild geranium. The trail was lined with rhododendron bushes full of buds for future viewing.
The winter snow storms were frustrating and damaging when they were occuring, but now that Spring has sprung, I'm starting to see how they may have provided just the right amount of moisture for a drought ridden landscape at home and in our beautiful mountains.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Passion for Life Matters, Whether It's Biltmore Size or Windover Inn Size

There are so many reasons to love Spring!

Daffodils pop up everywhere giving landscapes a cheery disposition. Brown turns to green, polka dots of pink and white appear on trees, and the birds celebrate the warmth of the season with their beautiful songs. I'll admit it, I'm intoxicated with the thought of it!

For me, this time of year also brings with it a new energy. I've never really subscribed to New Year's Resolutions, at least not just in January. I believe in continuous, quality improvement, whether it's Glenn and I managing our bed and breakfast here in Waynesville, North Carolina, or me managing myself. But I have to admit, my energy and enthusiasm for some kind of change is always strongest in Spring, and this year is no different, or is it?

Our lifestyle as innkeepers keeps us busy 7 days a week. We always have all 8 rooms ready to go for guests and have a regular routine to keep our 5,565 sq. feet of house ready to greet any traveler. We also like to consider our acre of outside property to be a continuation of our indoor space and do our best to make inviting outdoor living spaces for our guests. There's never really a time when we look at each other and say, "there's nothing to do!" And it seems that not a day goes by without an idea of how to improve some task, how to make rooms more comfortable, our outside more inviting, and ourselves more fit to take on any challenge that presents itself in our business and personal lives.

What I realized this year though, is, as the lifestyle of innkeepers becomes more a part of us, or us a part of it, our embracing the spontaneity of this profession has created a natural, daily, continuous, quality improvement model for living! Our work is just as hard, but it doesn't seem like hard work. Is this a natural result of the passion we have for our beautiful, historic home, loving the business we have, and the lifestyle it affords us? Can it last?

This made me think of the Vanderbilt family and the history of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, only 30 minutes from us. The first time I saw it, as much as I could appreciate it's beauty, it seemed too large, too extravagant, and I wondered why someone would spend so much time and money on such a project. Who can use 250 rooms?! But when I took the time to learn the history of this amazing Estate, I found it was just a grand example of someone's passion. And now when I think of the Estate, the work that's gone into it's renovations, and the beautiful, well tended property (the Biltmore Estate Festival of Flowers is going on now until May 16th), I see it more as a realization of someone's dream and vision being kept alive, and appreciate so much more the detail and design in every part of it. How fortunate the rest of us are that it still exists and we have the opportunity to share it's history! Even now, more than a century later, there is continuous, quality improvement by the family, and new additions like Antler Hill Village. And if you read George Vanderbilt's great grandson's explanation of the Biltmore's current business model, you realize the passion is still there!

Yes, this Spring's renewed energy and enthusiasm for change is different for me. There is a renewed energy and enthusiasm, but now it's for continuing to work hard on our daily, continuous, quality improvement to keep our life just the way it is! Passions come in all sizes, ours has 8 rooms.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Receipt of High School Reunion Info From Classmates.com . . . Uneventful; Reconnections With Old Friends . . . Priceless!

In the past few week I have been blessed to have reconnected with some old chums from my growing up days. Just like so many of us, I had lost touch with most of my friends from these times of (pretty) long ago. At my age we're talking decades, not years! For many of us, the formative years were not always pretty, and mine were probably as messy as most. I came of age during the late 60's and early 70's. Anyone who grew up then knows how different our society was, not to mention the fact that we were still pre-... well, almost everything technological that we all take for granted today! But the interesting thing is, just like kids today, we all still had to find our way in the world and, for better or worse, after we became more independent of our parent's authority, our friends not only helped us in this process, but by our selection of friends we began to define who we were and what kind of path we would travel to adulthood. Our two oldest grand children are just now forming these relationships that will help them in this process. We can guide them and help them make good decisions about friends, but the truth is, they are now on the same 'trial and error' mission to find quality friends that we all were on. I must say that sometimes we won't know who those 'quality' friends are until much, much later in life. At least this has been true for me.

I reconnected with two old friends via e-mail. One was my best friend for a year in 6th grade who remained a friend throughout high school. We were both Beatlemaniacs and carried on like John and Paul while listening to Meet the Beatles! and The Beatle's Second Album. He's now an artist who lives in Zurich, Switzerland. He found me through "Classmates.com" where we have posted little bios about ourselves in the hopes old classmates will see them. This website has been invaluable to me since many of my important friendships were formed before or during high school. My artist friend agreed that his posting on this website was already worth it by finding me, his old 'Beatle Buddy'.

The other was someone with whom I had been friends from high school through college. He revealed that I had been his 'role model' when we were college roommates. (Trust me when I say I never saw myself as anyone's role model in college!) But when he explained how he came to see me this way it was very flattering, because the truth of the matter is I looked up to him, too. (He was an excellent actor, and had/has a heart of gold). He is now a well respected high school English teacher of over 25 years, and he said he's used the story of how I would 'kick his butt to class' as an example for his own students who obviously never thought their hero and mentor ever needed such 'motivation'! I can't think of a better feeling than to know that my example has been used, "Play it Forward" style, to help a youngster in need of some direction.

The third connection was via a phone call. About 35 years ago I shared an apartment for a few bachelor years with a good friend I grew up with who was (and is) an accomplished musician. He played the keyboards in a rock band then, but was also just as comfortable playing Bach or Khachaturian on the piano. After he married, we drifted apart and rarely saw each other. Well, just the other night the phone rang and it was him! I almost fell over when my wife told me who was on the phone, and even more surprised to hear he and his wife will be in Black Mountain, near Asheville for business in a couple of months and will have time to spend an evening with us here at The Windover Inn! He interrupted our chat several times to say, "It's really good to hear your voice." I felt the same way. It turns out we have both been able to follow our dreams and we could detect that contentment in each other's voices. I told him that's a pretty good legacy for both of us. No regrets. Can't wait to reconnect with my old friend in person.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast Looks Forward To The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wildflower Pilgrimage

It's the first day of Spring, and there are signs sprouting up everywhere! With the unusually cold winter we had here, Spring couldn't come soon enough for me. This is our 4th year here, and we were out in our gardens working every winter until this past one. I missed it!

Every chance I get, I'll go out and work in the garden. I don't care if it's just pulling weeds, being outside connecting to nature in any way rejuvenates me. I can still remember as a child spending hours outside trying to get as close as I could to a rabbit or bird in the yard, reassuring it that I meant it no harm. And how much I loved discovering the smallest flower among the cool, green grass under my feet. I would love to climb trees and then examine the texture of its bark and notice how different it was from the tree I was in the day before. We had a hill in our backyard and I would just lay there and watch the clouds take on personalities as they floated by. I think part of it was enjoying the solitude of the moment, although nothing gives me more pleasure than sharing some of these same things with my grandchildren now!

With our property here at The Windover Inn we have been fortunate enough to have the space to put in gardens to encourage butterflies and birds, plus have a small organic garden for Glenn's cooking. I think the fact that it's secluded and quiet helps to encourage the birds too. We have plenty to keep us busy, but that's fine with me. I feel like I have an oasis that keeps me grounded - literally and figuratively!

And it only gets better! The town we live in, Waynesville, is surrounded by mountains. No matter where you look as you go through town you can turn and see the majesty of the mountains. It still takes my breath away after 4 years!

But nothing compares to the natural beauty beyond our town's borders. No matter what area we explore - the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Smokies, Pisgah National Forest or beyond, they don't disappoint in providing us with constant reminders of the beauty this world of ours has to offer. It starts with trails providing beautiful wildflowers at your feet in early Spring, and then continues with colorful and fragrant canopies brushing up against you as you make your way through the surrounding lush greenery in Summer, turning later to bright yellows, golds and reds in the Fall, finally offering fairytale surroundings of glistening ice and snow in the winter. These mountains will transport you to a calmer place any time of the year, whether you like it or not!

A great way to experience the renewal of this cycle is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Association's Wildflower Pilgrimage in April. The dates are April 21 to 25 this year, and several of the activities are on our North Carolina side of the Smokies. I don't know if we'll have an opportunity to take advantage of the program this year, but if we don't, I feel blessed to know they'll be there for us another time!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"The Melange Of The Mountains" Is A Culinary Event in Waynesville on March 25, and A Lifestyle For All of The Senses Everyday

We had to look up the word "Melange" the first year here at The Windover Inn. Defined as an "assortment" or "mixture", it is the perfect word to describe the culinary experience offered by the "Melange of the Mountains" presented by our local Chamber of Commerce. It's on Thursday, March 25th from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM this year at The Gateway Club here in Waynesville, NC. Talk about an annual event for the senses! Add to the regal atmosphere of this grand, historic building, talented chef's from Western North Carolina's restaurants preparing an "assortment" of delectable dishes, and one might say, it's hardly fair to contain such an offering in just one night . . . and they would be right! Luckily for us, our fine restaurants present these culinary delights on a daily basis, so the experience never has to end.

We always enjoy the dining "experience" whether eating out or at home. Even before we had The Windover Inn Bed and Breakfast, I always tried to make that extra effort to make what we ate look as good as it tasted. I've always been the cook in our house, or Chef Boy O' Boy, as Jen affectionally calls me. I have always loved to cook and am a constant student of the Cooking Channel! I credit my sister, Alice with 'whetting my appetite' for preparing and enjoying gourmet foods.

Recently Alice shared with me an old cheese cracker recipe she had saved from our mother's recipe box. My mother would make these crackers for the 'girls' when she hosted her Bridge Club or YWCA service club group at our home. I always looked forward to these events because I knew she'd make an extra platefull for me and my sister. They were delicious! Well, now I have that recipe, and cheese crackers have been added to our "melange" of goodies here at The Windover Inn. I can't think of a yummier comfort food than these crackers (of course, I'm biased!). As usual, I have tweaked the ingrediets a bit to make them even better for our guests.

I love to experiment with dishes, and I think I have been successful in making our breakfasts more interesting by taking standard recipes and adding an ingredient or two, or by using fresh herbs which I grow outside in our herb garden in the warm weather, and inside in our sunlite garden (great find at Gardener's Supply Company) in the cooler weather. I use fresh herbs in my veggie herb frittatas and stratas that are regular 'savory' dishes on our menu. I wouldn't think of using dried herbs in these dishes because the flavors are just not as fresh and subtle.

But enough about food! The melange of these mountains includes more than just culinary delights! Our historic downtown has a "melange" of unique shops and galleries that can't be found elsewhere, is surrounded by mountain ranges rich with a "melange" of hiking trails and scenery and our "melange" of rooms and suites are just the place to stay to enjoy it all!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast in Search of the Waterfalls of Western North Carolina

Alright, the title is a little hokey, but that's exactly what we were trying to do. We love hiking where there are waterfalls, and so do our guests. We have books and information on waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Smoky Mountains, but like to "experience" the areas for ourselves so we can share those experiences with our bed and breakfast guests. You could literally spend weeks exploring the scenic areas around us! We think of our property as a little slice of heaven in the middle of some of the best Western North Carolina attractions! But because some of our guests may only be in Waynesville for a couple of days, we try to do some up front exploring to be sure they get the most out of their stay.

This latest mountain adventure was especially productive. We found amazing waterfalls along North Carolina's Mountain Waters Scenic Byway which also led us right into the town of Highlands, North Carolina, with shops, galleries and antique shops similar to our downtown Waynesville shops and galleries. The picture is of Dry Falls. The drama of the waterfall was magnified by the ice and snow surrounding it. After three years, it still amazes me how much beauty surrounds us, even in the winter!

As we traveled further, we found one of North Carolina's beautiful State Park's, Gorges State Park, with a variety of hiking trails, scenic vistas, and you guessed it - more waterfalls! Because we didn't know about the park, we hadn't allowed enough time for hiking, but you better believe we'll be getting back there as soon as we can to do the trails and will keep you posted.

The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast Waterfall Search must go on!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast Thanks Volunteers With A Discount

There are always pros and cons to every job, and working for yourself is no different. But one major difference in working for yourself versus working for someone else is you get to decide the mission and culture of your business, and it has been a liberating feeling!

When we first developed our Business Plan, we decided our bed and breakfast in Waynesville would truly be our home and our guests would be visiting our home, not our business. There's a door separating our Innkeeper Quarters from the rest of the Inn, but that's the only separation. Our entire home is decorated with our personal belongings and photos, and we love sharing them with our guests. We framed some updated photos of our grandchildren today, and as we were deciding where to put them, we talked about how wonderful it is to be able to work in our home and be surrounded by these photos of our family. It really keeps us connected, even if they live a distance away or are no longer with us.

Another part of our Business Plan was to incorporate our interest in giving back to our community into our Marketing Plan. We knew one of the challenges of having our own business would be that there would always be expenses and projects, and difficult decisions regarding where money would be spent and when. To be sure we never lost sight of our personal goals, we came up with a system that connected our giving to the number of rooms we rent out to guests in any given month, with a $1 donation per room rented going to specific charities and organizations. It's been a seamless way to connect our personal and business goals, and to stay on track.

This month we celebrate the American Red Cross, and the work of Volunteers. All of our Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast guests that volunteer for ANY organization will get a $10/night discount in March, and our $1/night donation will go to our local American Red Cross Chapter. We appreciate the work Volunteers do to help others, and what the American Red Cross does for those in need and want to say "Thank You"! It was a business decision passed by a majority - a majority of two!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Windover Inn Explores the Pink Bed Trails of Pisgah National Forest

Jen and I love to explore the wonderful outdoors around us here in western North Carolina so we can develop 'day trips' for our guests here at The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast. (It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it!). There are almost TOO many options when it comes to hiking and biking trails around Waynesville, since our county has the second most miles of trails east of the Mississippi. Our travels landed us in a Shangra La called 'The Pink Beds' in the Cradle of Forestry area of the Pisgah National Forest on one of the few balmy days following heavy snows here in the mountains. We picked The Pink Beds because the trails here are easy as they meander through a bog laced valley surrounded by rhododendrons, spruce, hemlocks and dozens of other fauna. These trails traverse an area not too far from Cold Mountain to the west, and the mountains loom on almost every horizon line along these trails. There is nothing like the silence of late winter with only the squish and crackle of the melting snow and ice below your feet. Nirvana.

Hiking is always a spiritual experience for me. This hike was no different. The air was cold, but as is typical in this area, the sun was warm and it provided us with the perfect temperature for hiking. Along the trail we found several areas with clearings that would make great places for stopping with a great book or picnic, or at this time of year, sledding down the knoll. As we walked through the Pisgah Forest, I felt connected to the mountain as my feet sank into its mud and it released them slowly, giving me time to notice the beauty of this frozen wonderland. Ice that had formed works of art reflecting the sun like prisms; plants swaying with the current of a stream like a choreographed water ballet; a fallen tree hollowed out and set in the stream like a perfectly carved canoe; and the sunlight streaming through groups of trees like a pathway to heaven. It was a time of peaceful reflection, a time of gratitude and a time of appreciation. I'm so glad Glenn likes to take pictures!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Innkeeping at The Windover Inn Bed and Breakfast - Naturally

This year has been different as an Innkeeper. I notice it most on Sundays. I think it's because most of our guests spend weekends with us and check-out on Sunday. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but when we first came to Waynesville to run The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast, I looked forward to Sundays and an empty house. An empty house was more "normal" to me then, it was what I was used to, so more "comfortable." Now it's different though. As our guests check-out on a Sunday I have a sense of sadness, like when friends visit from out of town and then leave. I always knew operating a bed and breakfast was a lifestyle, the difference now is, I feel it. It feels good!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Birthday of Our Blog From Our Bed and Breakfast in Waynesville, NC!

Ok, so today also happens to be MY birthday, but that's just a coincidence. I'm 58 and counting and helping to launch my side of our web log. February is known as the lost month between winter and spring with nothing to recommend it except its brevity. But it's my month, and I'm stuck with it! Even in February, I love to discover images of nature that inspire me to explore the mysteries that surround Jen and me here in western North Carolina, whether it's in the Smoky Mountains, along the Blue Ridge Parkway or in our own garden! I don't have to go far. From the first snow crocuses that are just now popping up outside our B&B, The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast, to the snowy heights of the mountains that surround us here in Waynesville, there is likely to be an image that captures my imagination. When I hear my Canon calling me, I try to answer it! Stay tuned. I hope the images and reflections we share inspire you!