Monday, December 29, 2008

Dancing Feet in Lancaster

Come and meet those dancing feet! Photo by Craig Leaper.

I always like to give an experience as part of a Christmas gift. Tickets to a play, dinner out, a getaway - some memory to be made and shared at this special time of year. And so this year I gave both my mom and husband tickets to 42nd Street at the Fulton Opera House in downtown Lancaster. Of course that meant that I got to go along! Yeah.

This performance was every bit as wonderful as when I saw it on Broadway in New York City. Great music from the 30's, lots and lots of tap dancing and spectacular voices make your feet wish they were up there on the stage. The talent never stops for a second and you can't help but notice a possible similarity between the times - the Great Depression and what we may now be facing - a very real recession. But all that is forgotten by the upbeat music that gets stuck in your head for days as you try to remember the words.

You need only to look around at the little girls (that are no doubt trying to learn tap) to see the thrill of the theatre in their faces. This is the place where dreams are made.

And then there is the magic of the Fulton itself. Restored in 1995 to its original splendor of 1852, what would it have been like to see Mark Twain, W. C. Fields, Marcel Marceau or Sarah Bernhardt? They all played here. The gold is real, the lights look like the first light bulbs, and the rich burgundy of the roping and velvet drapes make you glad you dressed for the event. Of course, there are those stories - most will say that the Fulton is haunted. There are certainly plenty of reasons to think so. But more on that some other time - to find out, join us for our Paranormal weekend on October 30 & 31.

If you'd like to catch 42nd Street you'll have to hurry - the last performance is January 4, 2009. Or plan your visit around future shows. Les Mis is coming in June. Now I just need to come up with a reason to give another gift of tickets...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in Lancaster County

It's the most wonderful time of the year to be in Lancaster County, especially in Terre Hill! The church bells across the street from the inn play Christmas carols, our neighbor's wood stove gives off great smells and carolers just paid a visit. Bruce and I are putting the finishing touches on the last batch of Christmas cookies and fresh greens adorn all of the windowboxes and indoor windowsills.

Last weekend we went on the Churchtown Historical Society's Christmas Tour. Two of the homes were known for famous guests - George Washington slept at an inn, and Thomas Jefferson danced on the floor of a nearby home. Good company indeed!

There are so many holiday home tours (all benefiting worthwhile causes) that it's hard to fit them all in! It's a wonderful way to get a peek inside historic Lancaster homes that are usually not open to the public.

Landis Valley is also a very special place to visit - be sure to keep a lookout for the Belsnickel - the German Santa Claus. You can learn about the Cloister's early religious community on a candlelight tour - they are only held this time of year. And no trip would be complete without a visit to the magic of the National Christmas Center. It brings out the kid in all of us and has a nice gift shop too.

Did someone say shopping? Between the antique shops, the craft and specialty stores, and of course the outlet centers in both Reading and Lancaster, there's no end to the gifts you can find. But the best gift will be the time you spend together - making memories - in Lancaster County.

Don't forget to treat yourself and that special someone to a show - whether at the American Music Theatre or Sight and Sound for their Christmas Shows, the Fulton (42nd Street), Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre (A Christmas Carol) or Rainbow Dinner Theatre (Deck the Halls and Clean the Kitchen), you're sure to find one you like. We really enjoyed "She Loves Me" at the Ephrata Playhouse.

Now all we need is snow! That's when our Amish and old-order Mennonite neighbors bring out their sleighs instead of buggies. Here's a picture from a few years ago of our friend Lloyd's one-horse open sleigh on Main Street. Think snow! And give us a call at 888-999-4479 or reserve your room online now.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Feeling Quite Secure....

Sooooooooo Bruce's credit card company calls him and threatens to revoke his merchant account because all of a sudden our computer is not "secure". Seems we keep failing Security Metric's little online test. This becomes my project as I spent countless hours on the phone with our internet provider, wireless router company, Security Metrics, and some tech support guy named "Bub" from India. Most of them say the same thing, "Ah, port xxx? that's not us, you must speak to your (whatever company they don't like that day)". Actually Security Metrics had the line of the day: Well, you failed but we can't tell you why or how to fix it? Huh? No question about job security there!

On about the third go-round of this game, I finally wised up and started asking the really hard questions - I had learned enough by now to throw around some phrases - phrases that I didn't have the slightest clue as to what they meant. That's when they started saying things like "Oh, you need our senior technical support department" - by the wait on the phone I figured that department consisted of one guy who showed up at the office every other day. People were left on hold until he returned.

Of course, our equipment was out of warranty and would we like to purchase a one-time support plan? Or, for another $10, we could have the 6-month extension, thereby allowing us to call in as many times as we needed. While this almost made me run from the room, the thought had crossed my mind that we might be cut off and I would have to call again - thus prompting another "one-time" charge....But at least this senior tech support guy, also named Bub, didn't start with the annoying question of "is your computer plugged in"?

Well, at the end of the day, I'm happy to report that we have finally passed the dreaded security test.....though I have my suspicions as to why we ended up in this predicament in the first place. Come to think of it, our all-in-one printer is not scanning or making copies anymore either...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank You, Thank You Very Much

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are reminded how much we have to be thankful for. So many of our guests visit us while they are celebrating - birthdays, anniversaries, time together, raises, promotions, successful surgeries, retirement, end of treatments. We also have had several that have shared that the trip to Lancaster County might be their last trip together. Each year at this time, it's easy to remember to be grateful for the big things in life - the love of the people around us, our health, our communities, fulfilling work; but sometimes the little things go unnoticed.
We recently had two different guests, both from California, that reminded me of some of the things that we take for granted. While we may long for southern California weather at times, these guests came to Lancaster County to visit the beauty here. Mimi asked me for some wax paper so that she could collect the different kinds of brilliant colored leaves that were covering most of the grass in our yard. While I do love the fall for the show that the trees put on all around us, I haven't collected leaves since it was a gradeschool project.
Last week, Laura marveled at seeing her first snowflake - she always wondered if they were really different. Our rare first snowfall just before Thanksgiving provided her a close-up look at these little miracles. Such gifts of nature are all around us, we don't have to work for them, seek them out at some shopping mall or stand in line to purchase them.
On this Thanksgiving, as we are bombarded by the onslaught of the Christmas rush, I'm grateful to these guests for pointing out the little the words of Elvis, "Thank you, Thank you very much".

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Wonderful Way To Start Each Day

My favorite way to begin each day in Lancaster County is with a 2-3 mile walk through the countryside, just after dawn. I can step outside of Terre Hill in any direction and find myself surrounded by farmland (and cows).

Having Old Amish and Mennonites as neighbors is truly a blessing. The quiet, uncluttered lifestyle their communities practice keeps them in constant touch with the natural world, in tune with the deeper, spiritual rhythms of life. You can't help but be transformed by their example, because they're daily reminders of what's most important in life: God first, community second, self third.

You even see this in action on the school playground. We have five one-room schoolhouses in our neighborhood. Whenever I see the children at recess (and they seem to be always at recess), the older kids are usually looking after the younger ones. The teaching of compassion and caring starts young.

Cows have lessons to teach us as well. As I approach them along the roadside during my walks, they lock their gaze on me, full of curiosity, and continue to stare as I walk past. But once I've moved beyond them, they immediately go about their grazing and grooming--as if I'd never been there.

Cows keep me humble.

Posted by Bruce

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dancing in the Streets

Fall in Lancaster County is perhaps the most beautiful time of the year. There's frost on the pumpkins, a chill in the air and the leaves are putting on a show of their own. Our grand old lady behind the inn (a Norway Maple about 150 years old) provides plenty of leaves for our back yard and most of our neighbors....and, as you can see from this picture from a few years ago, we are a bit more laid back than our neat neighbors - whose yard appears to the right in the photo below.

Like Martha and the Vandellas, we prefer to see those leaves Dancing in the they are in the back lane behind the inn.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Secret Life of a Published Artist

Several weeks late, several false delivery times, and after mistakenly beign trucked to Long Island, Bruce's Garrabrandt's coffee table book, Cattle Drive (And 153 Other Random Acts of Artistic Nonsense) has finally arrived at the inn. Of course, it was another "drop ship" arrangement. That means that the semi slows down just enough for you to jump on and unload your shipment. We learned that lesson pretty well with the mattresses for the Cottage, so this time Bruce was prepared...

and borrowed a cart from neighbors, Carl and Glorine. It came in handy when piling boxes on the porch...

All 72 of them.

Then it came time to haul them inside - where they have taken over the attic, family room and what precious little space is left in the basement. Bruce pulls a near all-nighter trying to get them labeled and some shipped before leaving for a three-day show in DC.

Next, it's off to the post office.

This didn't seem quite efficient enough, so my car got drafted for the job.

Almost done....

Thanks to our buddy, Postmaster Bob...

the bulk of the pre-ordered books are on their way. If you'd like a copy of your own, give us a call at 888-999-4479. Soon you'll be able to order it on the website as well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

And Then There Were Four

8:45 a.m., September 24, at the breakfast table of The Artist's Inn - there's six guests eating and talking and a mournful cry comes from the windowbox outside....first one window and then the other. We investigate and find a kitten - about 4 months old who looks amazingly like our neighbor's cat Mittens. He demands that we feed him - we do. He works his way into our arms, hearts, and the house and has now "upped" the kitty count to four. Introducing Jack, showing off the family jewels:

Jack soon charmed Chardonnay

and was even so bold as to sleep with her

They've become inseperable and have run, chased, eaten, and played their way through the private side of our house. Callie is quite patient; Sweetie will take some time to adjust as they walk through her water bowl....

Jack is teaching me to play fetch with him - the other night I threw the mouse at least 25 times (I kept count!). Bruce came downstairs and I asked Jack to show him how he retrieved the mouse, and, in typical cat fashion, Jack took the mouse into another room. But kitty games are important and that is why dinner, confirmations and cleaning will just have to wait. At the end of the day I think I sleep as well as these two....

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Lancaster County has the richest non-irrigated soil in the country, so we grow a lot of food. But I suspect the farmers here have some fun when they plant pumpkins - I have never seen so many different varieties. So, if you think they have to be orange, come with me today as I visit with Luke Martin, owner of Red Barn Produce, just north of Terre Hill on Route 625. He was happy to share his knowledge. The Jarrahdale are the pale green striped, the Buckskin are taller and butterscotch colored, Fairytale are the squat ribbed ones that look like they are bursting with pride and are almost brownish-green, Cinderella are low and wide and so orange they are nearly red, One Too Many are the red and white striped, Red Warty Thing and the Peanut Pumpkins look like they've been attacked by warts and peanuts.. several of the Iron Man weighed in over 100 lbs. Of course you probably know the Hubbards, Turkish Turbins, the Mystic, New Moon and Full Moon, and Jack-be-Littles. There were also Gladiators, Wolfs and World of Color, but to be honest, I can't remember what they are! See how many you can pick out in these pictures... But you better hurry - as you can see people are pretty serious about their selections. And that's just the pumpkins....we haven't even started talking about the gourds...Be sure and tell Luke we sent you!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In Search of Grapes

The time has come to work on our new website and for that we need pictures of the two tour coordinators, Carl and me. Did we think of this two weeks prior when we were at wine camp and there would be plenty of people who could have easily taken a quick picture? Noooooo. So we set out to Twin Brook, a local winery and Elaine was good enough to oblige. She even provided the "props". The only problem is that most of the cabernet sauvignon grapes were already picked....except for one vineyard way in the back, up a hill. And it looked like rain. So, off we drove.

Well, the grass was a little bumpy, the hill a little steeper than it looked, and it's a good thing she was with us because we probably wouldn't have ventured that far by ourselves. Needless to say, my car enjoyed a tasting as well.
But we finally arrived and got the picture we were after...

Oh, the lengths we go to - all in the name of research. Remember, though, we are professionals - do not try this at home!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stress Relief

We recently had guests from Istanbul, Turkey. Each morning that they were here, Charles was up and out before I had the table set for breakfast, catching the great morning light. He was trying out a new camera that he had purchased in New York City and I could tell it was going to take some dynamite pictures. I simply suggested several places to photograph, and, with his keen eye he caught some terrific pictures, which he has sent to us. Sometimes it takes the eyes of a visitor to remind us of the beauty all around. So take a little vacation from stress and enjoy this glimpse into our corner of the world. Or, better yet, come for a visit and capture your own memories.

Thank you, Dr. Charles Carroll, for providing such beautiful pictures.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Lancaster County Wine Camp is now history - from September 14 through the 16th, a good time was had by all. It all started on the porch of The Artist's Inn with plenty to eat and a chocolate/wine pairing by our friend, Selina Man. She took one look at our new kitten and said she was the color of chardonnay. Well, maybe it was the wine, or the full moon, or the festive atmosphere, or the way the kitten likes to play with corks, but the name stuck. Here she is sleeping with one of her "toys".
On Monday we tasted our way through four different wineries; lunch was combined with a tour through a winery, and we learned a different component of wine-making all along the way.

Dinner was at Cafe Chocolate in Lititz. Of course, it was closed to anyone but us....
If you look closely, you can see our group at the back table.
On Tuesday, we set out for three more wineries, a gourmet cheese shop and an over-the-top wine-paired dinner complete with our "camp" awards.
As you can see, competition was keen....and these two are married!
Our next wine and cheese tour is scheduled for November 15. Call us or book online to be sure that we save you a seat. We'll visit two Lancaster County cheese farmers - including one who works with the milk from his goats, two wineries and top off the day with a multi-course dinner at Lily's on Main in Ephrata. The grapes are waiting....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My New Office Assistant

Seems I always end up writing on Saturday nights. Bruce is usually away at a show, guests have arrived and are out to dinner, I set my menus and then try to prep for breakfast and checkouts. It's one of my favorite times - when I try to unwind and settle things before turning in for the night.

This past Wednesday night, we took in a little kitten that we found outside. A bundle of energy, we managed to keep it away from Callie and Sweetie until we could get it to the Vet to have it checked - no small feat. Bruce took it yesterday, and it got distemper and rabbies shots and de-worming meds. The good news was no fleas, no ear mites, no feline leukemia. We found out it's a female, so we've named her Jackie, in honor of one of Bruce's favorite profs at college who loved red cats.

Today, Jackie seemed to have had a reaction to the meds - she was very lethargic and hadn't eaten or had any water since we brought her home from the Vet, had developed an upper respratory infection and both her eyes were runny and she seemed very sick. After going through this same thing with Pongo, Bruce won the toss to rush her to the kitty hospital downtown. After some antibiotics and other meds, she seems to have come around. She did drop some weight - from 3.3 lbs yesterday to 2.9 today. That is quite a bit for a tiny little thing. We think she may be between 2 and 4 months old.

Tonight I'm happy to report that she is back to running around underfoot and loves to help me at work. We need to work a bit on her manners as she thinks nothing of stepping right into Callies food bowl if it is in her way. So far Callie is not impressed with Jackie, and Sweetie is terrified. I took these pictures of her earlier - she's now fast asleep dreaming of mice or birds or whatever kittens dream of.....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Getting Ready for Wine Camp

Last week, we set out to do some final research for our first-ever Wine Camp - to be held Sunday, September 14 through Tuesday, September 16. We'll be exploring two regions - Lehigh Valley and Brandywine, as well as enjoying hors d'oeurves on the porch Sunday evening to kick off the event. Selena Man, from Cafe Chocolate will be on hand for a wine and chocolate pairing presentation. It all sounds great, but takes a bit of coordination and planning. So we set out for the two wineries that we had not yet visited, ate some cheese, and enjoyed the beautiful Lancaster County scenery. Here's my partner, Carl Kosko, from Harvest Moon B&B (we work together on our tours) enjoying a tasting at Manatawny Creek Winery. I think he either had a lot more than I did or suddenly decided it was time for a nap. So, I ask you, is this a great job or what? If you need an excuse to get out of work Monday or Tuesday, give us a call and we'll try to convince you that you should be with us drinking wine. There's still room on the bus!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Tribute to Pongo

Most of you don't know, but we lost our beloved cat, Pongo, last month. He had some tests done and made it through with flying colors. The tests had shown great results and then, suddenly the next day, he must have had a delayed reaction to the anesthesia --and although I rushed him to the vet and they started aggressive treatment on IV -- we lost him that evening. At least that's all the vet can figure out.
We all miss him so much - Sweetie is on my desk as I type this, pawing at the mouse, pushing pens and papers off my desk and, if I'm not quick enough, she sticks her paw in my glass of water to get a drink. This might explain why there are usually about 3 glasses of water on my desk....
But Sweetie has been crying for a month now, Callie hides in the closet and Bruce and I keep waiting for Pongo to appear in his usual favorite spots.
If you've ever stayed in the Garden Suite, you know that Pongo felt that was his room. When he was outside (before we adopted him), I would often sit on the very top balcony with a glass of wine at sunset - Pongo would climb up the fire escape and join me and we would survey the Weaverland Valley. He was a great conversationalist without ever saying a word. If guests were sitting out on their balcony he would also visit them - and they, thinking he was our cat, would often let him inside. So he got used to having access to the Garden Suite. Which is why he learned to open the door knob I suppose.
So I should be learning Dreamweaver and trying to add pictures to the website and as I was looking through pictures, I came across this one. And I just knew I had to write my Tribute to Pongo. You'll probably have to click on it to enlarge it to find his little face - he had climbed onto the Garden Suite bed, and squished himself in between the pillows - I remember looking and looking for him that day and when I finally found him he was sound asleep and I was able to run for the camera and get this shot. Then I had to wash the pillow cases before guests arrived!

I am sure that we'll soon be acquiring another cat - they usually find us (it seems the word is out in the cat community that we are a bunch of softies) and hopefully Sweetie will have a new playmate. But there is no replacing Pongo and his antics.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Some guests come and go and need their time alone. Other guests we'll get to know a little more....Abbee and Kevin have been visiting since 2001 every year for Labor Day and we were thrilled that this year they celebrated their honeymoon with us! Congratulations and we wish you many years of happiness together.

Celebrations always seem to take place on the porch and it has become quite the gathering place for guests....look what happened during our 12th Annual Open House - too bad Bruce was inside working!

Our inn turned 160 this year - and only it knows how many celebrations have taken place over the years...

Incidentally, this picture was taken by our good friend, Richard Ball, who was taking room pictures that day for our website....but the call of the porch was just too much to resist.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Way Too Many Tomatoes!

It's late August...the farmers are busy harvesting the last of the corn, tobacco and peaches....but those tomatoes are still going strong. I bought a 25-lb. box of plum tomatoes at a local farm on Friday for $3.00. That is not a typo. So far I've made a huge batch of sauce, served tomatoes two mornings in a row to guests, ate at least 3 sprinkled with salt and oozing juice over the sink, made a nice tomato jam and still I have half a box. I'm beginning to think that they multiply when I leave the room. They look innocent enough sitting there, but clearly they can't be trusted. I just may have to give them as parting gifts to guests!
At any rate, here's my favorite recipe for sauce. I've been making this recipe since I worked at Forest City - Pat, if you are out there anywhere, I still use your recipe!

Sauce: Put all of this in a big pot: at least 15 tomatoes - preferably plum - cleaned and seeds and juice removed, 2 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons each of marjoram, and oregano, 1 tablespoon honey, salt and pepper to taste, a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for several hours. Use an immersion blender to incorporate all ingredients - including tomato skins - it will grind them up. (I used to take the time to peel but it's so much easier this way). Taste and adjust seasoning as you like. This sauce will freeze if poured into freezer bags and is a breath of summer in February....if it lasts that long! Enjoy.

Welcome to Our World!

Bruce and I have long talked about putting up a blog. So, here it is Saturday night of Labor Day weekend. He sits at a show in Pittsburgh and I'm at the inn thinking that this is as good a time as any to start down this unknown road.

We own a three-room bed and breakfast in northeastern Lancaster County called The Artist's Inn. We also own two vacation rentals - The Olde Stone Cottage and The Carriage House - homes that are also located in our little town of Terre Hill.

Through this blog, we hope to share a behind-the-scenes look at life as an innkeeper, life from an artist's perspective, and what it's like to live in one of the most beautiful places we know and love....Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.