And another Christmas photo….

July 27, 2010

“…The stocking was hung by the doorknob with care, while the boy’s basketball was still waiting there…”

Christmas in July week

July 27, 2010

A Tea, not that kind, a CHRISTMAS tea party!

Too Much!

July 25, 2010

Snickerdoodles: YIKES! Too big!

The home-y aroma of warm cinnamon mixed with real butter should’ve been what was permeating the air downstairs in our house. And it did. At first. Until the too-close and too-many balls of Snickerdoodle dough began to spill over the cookie sheet and attach themselves as blobs onto the floor and walls of my oven. When that happened, the sweet smell of home, mom and apple pie went out the window. And the boiling, burning bumps of charred dough said, “Got ‘cha,” instead. And so another chapter in my Cheryl-cookbook was created.

I’m afraid this is a recurring theme in my life–this theme of being too big at the wrong times. Now it can be a good thing…if you’re on the stage, or if you’re faced with the challenge of doing something you’ve never done before, or if in front of a dozen 2’s and 3’s at Story Time, or if you’re lost in downtown D.C. with nary a clue about where you are or what to do next. But it can have it’s down side… with Doodles (as in Snickerdoodles) or Daughters….

My cereal bowl has always needed to be filled up to the tippy top; the first batches of cupcake batter that I have always spooned into the cupcake pans have always needed to be level with the top edge of each cup, and I have always thought that there’d be room for just one more row of cookie dough balls or blops on the cookie sheet.

BUT you see the picture of the Snickerdoodles. Oh, they’ll still be quite yummy; it won’t change the rich, delightful Snickerdoodle essence that is synonymous with the identity of the cookie. And nobody will mind as soon as he bites into the mishapen quadrilaterals that they turned out as. With cookies, this is a truism that one can count on. However, with daughters, well…. I think the truth gets a little smeary, let’s say. Doodles are not the same as daughters. Both are wonderful and warm and just right, no matter if their edges do get a little squared off instead of being perfectly rounded. Let’s just say that it’s all simpler with cookies.

When I asked our older daughter a few months ago this question, “If you could change one thing about me, what would it be?” she showed great courage and candor in giving me her response. She said, “If you could better control your emotions.” You see, that’s the too-big, recurring theme thing.

I was the crusader-mom. The savior-mom. The marching mom–you know the one. The one who would march into the school, or the whatever, whenever there was a problem related to our girls feeling safe. Or you name it. So there I’d go. And then there I was. Ironically, what happened next was that the very ones I’d wanted to protect were the ones who, at that point, then felt doubly unsafe. (You’ve heard of Shakespeare’s “twice-blest”? This was the opposite.) They never knew what I might do next–I was a loose cannon–especially when I knew so WELL that I was RIGHT and that my cause was just. Ouch. Like I said, it’s less tricky with cookies.

However, even with all this said, I STILL haven’t mastered the too much, too big principle of baking. What is that all about??? I would stop baking IF I thought the last Cheryl-chapter of baking had been written. But I really don’t think it is. At least, that’s what I’m counting on.

Christmas in July banner!

July 22, 2010

This afternoon, using an old tablecloth, some scraps of fabric, 3 lengths of satin ribbon from Grandma’s house and my trusty Singer sewing machine,……voila!

Christmas in July begins soon!

July 20, 2010

Cheristmas tree-shaped cookies

The preparations begin today for Simply Bed & Bread’s Christmas in July! Can you help me along with this by telling me: what is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie?

It is still hot in Chestertown, but we have had some rain in town–plenty enough, actually, to fill our rain barrels again! This is very hopeful news in that the brown is indeed leaving and the greeen is coming back. Yippee! Last night we had a fierce storm–loud explosions of thunder following huge Harry Potter scar streaks of jagged lightning! The weather is still not ideal, though, and we can’t promise you snow or even cool temperatures, but we can make you FEEL cooler this weekend! So…..why don’t you see how you’re feeling this Friday, and then consider hopping into your car and driving to Chestertown to see what Christmas surprises might be waiting for you at Simply Bed & Bread?

Banana Bread and Cupcakes

July 19, 2010

The display is complete, along with Mexican Wedding Cakes, tiny cupcakes and heart-shaped sugar cookeis!

The buttered, fresh-from-the-oven piece of banana bread was in Joanna’s* hand, ready to be tasted again and savored yesterday, as she stopped to remember the time in her life when she enjoyed regular meals of the warm banana bread that was her favorite.

Joanna would take off on foot from her house each morning before middle school began; she’d pick up Barb* around the corner from our house, then pick up our Em last of all. It was her last stop before school, at our house, when she would often have breakfast-to-go. She reminded us of this yesterday when she and Jim* were at our Simply Bed & Bread breakfast table. She had looked around, and then said how good it was to be back at our house — that it looked “so different, [since we’d opened the B&B], and yet it was the same.” It was good for us, too.

Later in the day yesterday, she and Jim would become husband and wife, and so they had come home for that to happen. The wedding would be in Mimi’s front yard.

The catering had all been done by her mom, Mimi, friends and other family members. Well, all except for the cake. My Em had called me to ask if I could make “a couple of layer cakes,” and I jumped at the chance! What fun! Now… making a “wedding cake” could sound stressful, especially for someone who has never made one (and that would be me), but I knew that they’d be happy with whatever I came up with, so I started hunting for ideas.

I hadn’t known that cupcake weddings were all the rage now, but I learned that as soon as I went online and typed in “wedding cakes.” Wedding cupcakes sounded much easier than a couple of wedding layer cakes, so off I went on a search for wedding cupcake papers. I found those in Dover at Michael’s. Lovely. I’d had no idea there were such things. I ordered a cupcake display stand, then got an e-mail saying that the stand might not be sent right away, so I then borrowed one from church, along with a white tablecloth that was just right for our round card table, and then even found a piece of white eyelet here in my fabric stash that only needed a hem to become the perfect tablecloth topper. I yanked a string of pearls off of my Christmas tree (that is stored in the basement) and wound that around the stand, and then was able to thread some silk flowers and one silk butterfly through that. Perfect.

…And the cupcakes were perfect, too,….for savoring by the guests, and smushing by the bride and groom at about 8:30, the time of the traditional “cake cutting” ceremony. So from banana bread to cupcakes, it was a pretty good day.

* (Names changed)

What the B&B owners are not telling you: Yahoo feature 7/7/10

July 7, 2010

Yikes, I hadn’t thought about the scary parts of the online advertising associated with this industry.

I was aware of the whole photography thing, where one could misrepresent space, since my daughter told me about an online room that had looked lovely and large online, but when she got there, it was terrible and tiny. And both daughters and I had a similar experience when we booked a room a few years ago. When we arrived, the main door was a bar, (a not very attractive one), and the whole place smelled like stale smoke. Not good. We tried to make a go of it, but after a look around, we found it impossible to stay there. When we asked for our money back, (since our daughter was pregnant at the time and the odor was making her even more nauseous, they refused. The pictures and the descriptions had been perfect, but it was anything but! I didn’t know about Tripadvisor then. I wish I had, since I could’ve helped to prevent bad experiences for other guests.)

So….I think you have to go to a place and see for yourself. Nothing beats that, and it doesn’t cost one cent to go through a front door and check things out. Does it smell good? Is it clean? Does it fit you? What appeals to one will not be the next person’s cup of tea, and that’s OK, but some things are standard (the cleanliness, etc). I always try to give our prospective guests choices during our chats on the phone, by asking what they are looking for, then I point them in another direction if our 2 guest rooms don’t fill their bill. If the guest wants waterfront, for instance, he wouldn’t be happy here, and that’s what we tell them.

I recently told one guest that our Tripadvisor reviews act as our quality assurance ratings, since they act as “inspections.” (I never thought about having “fake” ones written by family members. That was a little naive, huh?) We do offer a 10% discount for a subsequent stay for guests who write a Tripadvisor review, so that is an incentive for them to do that, and we’d love it if each guest did! But I only mention this to guests as an option, since I don’t want them feeling like they have to do “homework” after they leave. We have received many accolades from our guests during their stays, but let’s face it, they’re here for a break and a rest, which is the point, so we don’t want them burdened down with another item on their To Do lists after they leave! And similarly, as mentioned in the article featured on Yahoo, as a new B&B, with only 2 rooms, we didn’t want to add the high fees associated with paid inspections either.

The local Health Dept. representative inspects periodically with unannounced visits being part of our licensing requirements, which also underscores the importance of daily top-notch readiness. (Local licenses must be “prominently displayed, and our’s is in our Butler Pantry…..OK, which might not be exactly in a prominent place, but it works.)

Bottom line: come any time! We’d love to have you!


July 7, 2010

Kent County Community Center Pool in Worton, MD

A new special is now available at Simply Bed & Bread!

During the month of August, we’re offering a FAMILY VACATION PACKAGE to families with one or two children:

5 nights* (2 rooms) for $ 799!

And you won’t believe this,
but this price is TAX INCLUDED,
which is no small matter,
since taxes are 11% — a savings of $ 88!

We have no pool onsite, but there is a new county pool 10 minutes away that is lovely, fun and very “resort-like!” The mom of a 10 year old who described it this way also says that her son has a ball, and that it reminds her of Disney(!): brightly-colored buckets that dump water, fountains that surprise and squirt, slides, and separate kid-friendly areas as well as lap lanes–features that say to children, “We’re glad you’re here! Stay and PLAY!” There is a daily fee, but it’s worth every penny, since there’s much, much more that’s available when you get there!

With the heat, a pool would be a MUST, so the county pool would solve that problem! Plus Chestertown has shopping (and some kid-welcoming stores) and canoes and kayaks and it’s a great place for family bicycling!

We might have some space during our “Christmas in July” week, or if you want to schedule your 5 days in August when the decorations are still up, then JUST ASK! I would make sure that there would be Christmas story times and Christmas cookies and more!

Even the steamy, sultry nights would offer an activity for you and the kids, since Rita’s ice-cold treats are an easy walk away from our front door!

Sound interesting? Give us a call! If this package would be a fit for your family, we’d be happy to try to specifically tailor your stay to your child / children’s ages and needs!

* Package nights: Sunday – Thursday

Blue Hydrangea and The Heroes

July 5, 2010

Locks of Love). When he saw his Vietnamese barber lying dead in his camp soon after his own haircut–slain because his real identity as the enemy had been discovered–he decided then and there that there would be no other opportunities to have his throat slit by any barber anywhere in the universe.

Andy told how he was spit on and cursed upon his return from Vietnam. He succincly described his experience this way: that he had gone over as an individual and returned as one, since there were no group hero welcomes, and that he was apparently destined to always be alone. Until his marriage 7 years ago to Nancy. With the after effects of the constant mode of high alert and extreme danger, the memories had been difficult to ovecome, but thankfully, time, med’s and Nancy have helped to relieve some of the worst of them.

Andy and I were on the front porch when he told me about the boy he had planned to adopt when in “Nam.” Andy and his unit were assigned to protect a group of people on a mountainside, and the people sort of adopted Andy and his buddy. There was a ceremony, where Andy and the other guy were given a sword and some other things, along with the highlight–a piece of bamboo that had been shaped to fit around his wrist, signifying that he was “family,” which indeed he was. Andy had become the favorite of one of the local boys, and his parents had begged Andy to take the boy back to the States with him as his own son. Since the feeling was mutual, Andy took steps to make that happen (he’d been a 19 year old kid when he’d enlisted, but you grew up pretty fast over there). He filled out paperwork, called his own parents to see if they’d keep the boy a couple of months before Andy’s tour of duty ended, (which they’d agreed to), and it looked as if all systems were “go.” But something happened in the country to bring it all to an abrupt halt, so Andy was never able to bring home his son. He pointed to the tatoo around his wrist, a black / flesh striped band, symbolic of the bamboo band he had been given, and explained that he had gotten the tatoo on his 50th birthday. (He’s 63 now.) And then he said, “I’m going back.” His plan is to return to Vietnam to try to find the boy, who would be about 40 if he has survived this long. I nodded, wiped the tears from my own eyes, and said, “Thank you. Thank you for all of it.”

Andy’s profound stories were timely, since the 4th was yesterday, but it was Nancy’s and Andy’s stories, combined, that had made such an impression on me. Other’s stories have a way of doing that.

I thought of my own husband, and how I don’t say, “Thank you,” to him enough. I thought of his role in the B&B, and how often it is behind-the-scenes–not always, but often. This is our lovely blue hydrangea at the top of this post, there because David quietly waters the plants each day. The hydrangeas would be dried up sticks if watering were my job. David is the one who picked the string beans the other day from our edible landscape on the south side of the house, and our hanging ferns on the front porch are lush because of his care and attention. Many days it is he who goes to the clothesline to either hang up or take down the sheets stripped from the B&B beds earlier in the day, a job that he has discovered that he loves! He is the one who fills out the quarterly room tax report, runs the numbers and sees that we have checks, and a working credit card machine. He is the numbers guy. I love doing this whole B&B thing, but I couldn’t do it without him…..which is one of the reasons why he, too, is my unsung hero, something I usually forget. Today, though, thanks to Andy and Nancy, I’m singing that hero song.

A Grand Old Flag

July 4, 2010

On our front porch

Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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