hospitality

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Our family houseguests arrived late yesterday afternoon.

Before their arrival, there were the usual preparations: the tidying, of course, and the laundering of linens.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about how to make our guests most comfortable, and that trail of thought led me to Vermont and the inns we’ve been fortunate enough to guest in.  Hospitality experts, all … and great role models for helping people feel at home away from home.

How do they do it?

I think it’s all about the breakfast.

Every single innkeeper welcomes you to their breakfast table with pretty table linens, fresh flowers – probably plucked from the gardens on the grounds – and hefty mugs of coffee.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but at home – it’s the meal we make the least amount of time for.  I don’t know about you, but for us, breakfast feels catch as catch can … a little random, almost always hurried, and grab and go – if eaten at all.  We never eat at a table, on plates, with conversation, and a tall glass of orange juice.

So here’s a sampler of where we’ve stayed and our breakfast inns-piration:

The Inn at Manchester 

A regular point of conversation between my husband and I – weeks now after our last visit: What do you think Frank is making for breakfast today? It’s fun to speculate on the innkeeper’s specialties. Cottage cakes? Scrambled eggs with Vermont cheddar? Waffles?

Hill Farm Inn

We visited Hill Farm Inn years ago, but I still remember the basket of mini muffins we’d wake to every morning.

Crisanver House 

We were first-time visitors to this Yankee Magazine recognized inn last month. Every morning’s breakfast began with colorful, fresh fruit piled high and luscious.

So our guests will wake this morning to these peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chip mini-muffins. This amazing granola. Some yogurt. And piles of fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries we picked ourselves. There’s coneflowers on the table and the prettiest summer tablecloth.

What’s on tomorrow’s menu?

Frank’s cottage cakes – of course

classic summertime play

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Just about the time the daisies burst open and the tomato plants have grown nearly to my chin, I get a hankering to play croquet.  You can read about the rules and history of the game here, but more than likely you have your own family history of alliances, revenge, and personal croquet vendettas played out on the green grass of your youth.

The lawn’s just mowed.  Can you smell it?

Who’s ready for a little friendly competition?

I call yellow ball!

My sister and I traveled north for two weeks every summer to stay with family. Croquet was a late afternoon event informally scheduled somewhere between the lighting of the charcoal briquettes for dinner and the chasing of fireflies at dusk.  Family, friends, roots, and rocks – all is fair in love and croquet. Playing barefoot is best, and nothing says summer like the wooden thwack of a croquet mallet on someone else’s ball.

A quick search outlined croquet sets available everywhere and high cost to low from L.L. Bean to Crate and Barrel, and of course, Amazon.

Other old-timey fun I’m nostalgic about every summer:

  • Parcheesi   : best played (inside) during a thunderstorm with a big bowl of popcorn
  • kite-flying  : on a beach, in the park or pasture, high-flying fun for everyone (except maybe Charlie Brown)
  • jigsaw puzzles  : our family goes for 1000 piece puzzles – leave it out on a table with plenty of elbow-room, and eventually everyone’s looking for and placing pieces – our recent favorites:  Candy Wrappers and The Games We Played
  • gimp : it’s been awhile, but how about weaving one of those gimp keychains? Here’s a video to show how to weave a square stitch and Michaels has gimp aka “plastic lacing”
  • potholder loom : any look back to how to pass the time in summers of yesteryear needs to include the annual weaving of – many – colored, cotton potholders. Vermont Country Store still has the looms and loops! Caution: this project may come with some crying, however, removing the potholder from the loom is a rite of childhood passage, tears or no, and will one day be remembered fondly.

Of course, there’s always Monopoly, cribbage, checkers, and umpteen card games to rediscover. Don’t forget backyard badminton, a swing on the playground, and a good old-fashioned game of catch!

 

postcard: billings farm

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Step into the 1890 farmhouse and make yourself right at home.

Can you smell the biscuits in the oven?  Feel the curve of the pump handle in your hand?

Don’t get too comfortable though, there’s work to be done.

Maybe the cows are ready for milking.

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Or it’s time for butter-making in the creamery.

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Could be there’s ripe tomatoes ready to pick in the heirloom garden. Or supper to cook on the kitchen’s grand black stove.

There’s always work to be done, but be sure to make time for a quiet moment to graze awhile and simply smell the sunsoaked grass.

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Are you ready to receive visitors in the front parlor?

Or is it time for bed after a long day’s work?

Early to bed, early to rise is a way of life on the farm.

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There’s so much to explore at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, VT where blue skies and green pastures meet at the horizon and the rural history of Vermont is a  just short walk back in time.

An interactive museum, the Billings Farm features films and exhibits on farming history, maple sugaring, ice cutting, and life in the farm community.

The farm animals befriend visitors right there at the pasture fence or back in the barns: draft horses, dairy cows, chickens, and sheep.

The 1890 Billings farm house offers you a home and hospitality from the past: the business end of farming and function in the farm office with its majestic standing desk,  family living quarters, and the glorious pastoral views from every window.

Billings Farm is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., a charitable nonprofit. An interactive museum and working dairy farm, be sure to try some of the Billings Farm cheddar cheese!

Open daily, May 1 through October 31, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

www.billingsfarm.org

802-457-2355

 

 

when summer comes

 

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It’s summer in New England, and all outdoors awaits.

All the best verbs of summer wait just beyond the front door and down the porch steps: explore, discover, daydream, hike, climb, paddle, swim, bike, wade …  and stroll.

In New England, we count the days until summer comes. And when it does, we don’t want to miss a minute.

There’s so much to be done before the cold air returns, the flakes fly, and we all head back indoors: I’ve got bubbles to blow, sidewalks to chalk, fireflies to count in the backyard, and kites to set sail down the beach.

I’ll rise early and tumble to bed late. I’ll take long walks after dinner. I’ll play whiffle ball, bocce, and croquet in the backyard. I’ll be a picker of wild daisies, and buttercups, Queen Anne’s lace, and black-eyed Susans.

 

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I’ll picnic and sip lemonade from a waxy, paper cup. I’ll suck on orange popsicles and juice will drip down my chin.

It’s time to pitch the tent and climb a mountain. Cool lake water awaits a dive at the count of one … two … three … Go! The college kids at the ice cream place down the road stand at the window, ready to scoop my order.

There’s places to go, people to see, and things to do – the very essence of childhood to remember. And live again.

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This weekend alone, there’s sparklers to twirl, marshmallows to brown at the end of a stick, and independence to be thankful for.

It’s summer in New England, and I’m going to be busy.

Don’t you worry.

I’ll send you a postcard.

 

peace. love. vermont.

DSC_0456Nothing unfurrows my brow like a few days in Vermont.

DSC_0469 (2)We visit as often as we can.

Breathing feels easier.

DSC_0515 (3)Right about now the meadows fill to overflowing with daisies, black-eyed Susans, buttercups, and Indian paintbrush.

Vermont feels wide, wide open and all that green, green space makes me feel like whatever’s all tight and taunt inside me is unfurling – and free.

DSC_0513 (2)There’s a farm ’round every bend in the road and pastures full of horses, cows, and sheep.

In Vermont, it’s cool talk to all the animals, because … well, why not?

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DSC_0368 (6)Maybe there’s some sort of simplicity to be found here, a respite from other, more common complications and worries.

Or maybe it’s not the place, but me. Maybe it’s me who’s different here.

Could be. Might be. May be.

Maybe I change.

DSC_0333 (7)When I’m in Vermont I feel like my most true self. And something I can’t quite explain happens to me every single time I cross the border.

DSC_0526 (2)Vermont, I love you and I know you love me right back.

DSC_0518 (2)Peace. Love. Vermont.

 

go gently

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Go gently into Monday.

Smile first.

Be the better start to someone’s week than they anticipated.

Look for soft spots to land.

Live this moment – and only this moment – one by one by one.

Aware. Grateful. Calm.

First things first and save the rest.

Find a moment in your day to lift your face to the sun,

Or close your eyes and breathe.

Or both.

Savor life.

Step lightly.

Be the peace you wish to see in the world.