A Fall Evening at The Windover Inn Bed & Breakfast

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!