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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Trains in the snow... and other signs of spring...

It's been a Very busy train day at the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre...

Lots and lots and Lots of trains coming and going past the Inn thru the powdery snow... Dan,
with his militarily-honed hearing, can hear a train Long before I do, & yelled "get the camera!" early enough that for once I actually got out there in time! (I actually stood out there in the snow w/my camera muttering ''why?" for a good, cold several minutes until I heard it coming...)
I've gotten so used to ol' Pokey that I don't even hear her most of the time- I grew up in Queens, NY, smack under the plane-path 'tween JFK & Idlewild airports, & my father had an apt. right under the El in Woodside, so I have a long-standing & well-developed ability to tune out Really Loud Noise- I think it's called the "oblivious gene". (In July of 1976 I slept thru the planes flying low over our Kibbutz on their way to Entebbe... no one else did!) But today was truly a Railfan Day if ever there was one- and it continues thru the night as I write this. Tres picturesque, & I finally managed to get some decent pix with our 'toy' camera, at least in daylight... It's now dark, and when the trains go by in the darkness in the snow, the headlights making the wind-swept snowflakes sparkle in the blackness, it is Incredibly cool looking, but our little camera won't take any decent night shots :-( It is still snowing fit to beat the band, as they say, as it did all day; truly beautiful, esp. if you don't have to go anywhere! We have Inn guests arriving tonight, & hope they're okay out there in this picturesque snowstorm...
Segueing from holiday to holiday as we do, Dan deflated Valentine's I Love You Bear, & inflated Mr. Leprechaun, getting him all lit up & on display just in time for the snowstorm... I changed the Inn's tabletop decor from V-Day to St. Pat's, storing away the Valentine's teddy & red-&-white heart napkins, & festooning the green floppy-eared bunnies with rings of shamrock tinsel surrounding a pot o' gold (candies)... Disappointment of the day: WalMart had no green taper candles! ;-) (Believe me, I know- this should be the worst dis of my life!)
The finches have been flocking to our feeders all winter, but they are terribly camera-shy, & so I have yet to get a photo; Dan filled the big feeder w/thistle seed for the finches, as the fat, greedy doves kick the tiny finches out of the way to get to the sunflower seeds... Read a blog about the possibility of poisoning birds w/tainted peanut butter (shades of Tom Lehrer's "Poisoning
Pigeons In The Park???!) & so opted out of proffering suet-peanut butter cakes this year... The spring bulbs have sprouted (yay!), & we pruned back the butterfly bushes & Dan repaired the fence... This morning Dan discovered- just in the nick of time- that a fuse had quietly blown & shut down one of our freezers, & so we managed to save everything in it... but as a few things had defrosted, we had chili for lunch, and tonight I'm making Chicken Mole, Dan is doing a 10 lb. corned beef (& he makes THE best corned beef in the known universe- & I say that as a devout & drooling fan of the 2nd Ave. Deli), and we're both doing something TBD ( here I come...) needing several quarts of peach puree- the bounty of last summer's harvest... We've got a Truly roaring fire going in the fireplace AND one going in the potbelly railroad stove in the back of the building, and so periodically I hear the happy sound of Dan mitre-sawing giant hunks o' tree into manageable logs...
The new thing I do when it's too cold to do almost anything else, is to sit on Facebook... & it is fun, esp. when you set it to "Live Feed'' & all the things your friends are doing (or not doing- because they're sitting on Facebook, too...) pop up... We now have a 'fan page' for the Elkhorn Inn on Facebook and we invite you to join it, and share it with your friends; there's a coupon on the page that's good for lodging at the Inn or our on-line gift shop, & I've downloaded railfan photos and lots of other links and cool things... & when we get to 100 fans we'll have a sweepstakes for a nice gift from the Inn's Gift Shop!
Another sign that it's been a Really cold winter is that the dogs have taken to Totally Refusing to go outside when they deem it too cold; after enduring one particularly foul snarl from Tiger when I 'invited' him to go outside, Dan & I simply decided to let them lay in their beds until They decide it's time... And they do let us know, thank goodness... For two foundling strays, trolling the garbage cans for scraps in the cold, they've become awful soft, much preferring now to loll all day in their cozy, blanket-covered bed (preferably on their backs w/their tummies in the air)
in front of a heater... lucky dogs! It is fun to have these two dogs around us all the time, full of cuddles & puppy kisses, & to know that we've given them the Life of Riley... This giant building Truly had an empty, dog-shaped space in it after my old lab, Trapper, died, & one at a time, these two magically appeared on our doorstep & more than filled it :-) Tiger is sitting behind me in my chair as I write this, attempting to slather me w/puppy-spit- the 'Tiger Dog-Spit Facial" as I fondly call it... Nothing fixes depression or the winter doldrums better that puppy kisses!
Well & truly fed up w/winter, last week I jumped the gardening gun & planted the first of our spring veggie seeds in their little peat-pot, table top greenhouse, full of hope that come early April we'll be able to set them out in their Cozy Coats & so harvest veggies 1 1/2 months early! I started watermelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins, squash, herbs, & the Tabasco pepper seeds I brought back from Avery Island, LA in Nov.; we'll buy tomato & other plants as soon as they appear @the garden store... How you get thru the cold of winter w/out going totally ga-ga is by dreaming of spring!

Friday, February 20, 2009

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Preparing for spring: seeds & Jiffy Pots & Cozy-Coats- & coupons on Facebook!

Today Dan & I officially started preparing for spring @the Elkhorn Inn; we went to Lowe's and bought seeds! I've been shooting pix of the Pocahotas train sailing past the Inn in the snow, and reading myself to sleep with dog-eared Burpee & Park Seed Catalogs (and my wonderful sis-in-law Martha's gift pack of photocopied NY Times X-word puzzles), but today, when the balmy 61-degree weather finally enabled us to go out & prune back the bushes, we discovered with joy that the spring bulbs have sprouted, but also, to our horror, that the side fence needs drastic & immediate repair work. So we hopped in the Jeep & trekked to Lowe's to buy fence slats (that Dan has to cut down & re-shape- hence another *&%#$!! Project...), & I got side-tracked into the Gardening Dept., and so bought our first batch of seeds for Spring 2009: corn & beans & melons & herbs & radishes & squash & sunflowers & velvety, red celosia, & a seed-starter tray of the cool, water-expanding peat-pellets I've used since I was a High School FFA Aggie!
After my 'retail therapy' @ Lowe's (and who, seriously, ever thought this Louboutin-kinda-gal would get her shopaholic jollies in Lowe's????!), we stopped for a really good hamburger, steak sandwich, & fries at the Redwood Inn, a newly reopened restaurant in Bluewell, WV, & then came home to the Inn so I could go on-line to & then to Gardener's Supply Company (for whom I did a cover watercolor illustration back in the '90's) & buy us red plastic tomato mulch & 'Cozy-Coats', which they call ''Red Tomato Teepees', which enable us to plant tomatoes & other veggies over a month before our May 15th 'planting date'. We've had 4'' of snow here in early May, so we take 'official planting date' stuff really seriously! A Cozy-Coat is a flexible, red, plastic-tube 'wall o' water' that you put around each seedling when you plant it; you fill the tubes with water which warms in the sun, and it holds in the heat, so you can plant tomatoes, peppers, etc. over a month early & harvest veggies all that much sooner. We've used them for over 3 years and they really work & they are Way cool! This year, in addition to my 'companion gardening', I'm also going to try the red plastic 'tomato much' I've been reading about for years- Anything to cut down weeding & make a less labor-intensive & more productive garden! Dan & I are planning "Elisse's Big 5-0 Party'' at the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre for July 4th, and I want tons of flowers & lots of veggies for us (and our party-hearty guests) to be able to pick! (I still have dreams of a giant sunflower meadow, if anyone wants to come & help till & sow on May 15th...)
I've got my Tabasco pepper seeds from Louisiana, bags of onion & garlic bulbs from Tractor Supply, & now my bag 'o seeds from Lowe's- spring must be just around the corner! :-D
I just set up a Facebook page for the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre on with a coupon for a discount on lodging at the Inn and for our on-line Gift Shop Please join us on Facebook and get the coupon- and share it with all your Facebook friends!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ski WV! Glade Springs & Winterplace ROCK!

Newsflash! Elisse, at the ripe old age of 49 7/8, is still an Intermediate Skier! And she's apparently in far better shape than she thought she was!!!!

Elisse, a.k.a. The Michelin Tire Woman, in 6 layers of clothing...

Wonderful as "Dan & Elisse's Great Big House" is, I finally got SO fed up at being cooped up, that I put my tiny foot down & booked us a one-night Ski Getaway @Glade Springs & Winterplace Ski Resort, & it was WONDERFUL!
The last time I'd been skiing was @Winterplace some 5 years ago, & it wasn't much fun, as I'd felt Incredibly Guilty because Dan doesn't ski. Winterplace is only 1 1/2 hours from the Elkhorn Inn, & so we'd made a day trip of it, which wasn't a good idea either, as the driving made it a long & stressful day for Dan, & so I felt even More guilty. As I have no one else to go skiing with, I hadn't been back for 5 years! This made me Nuts, because one of the things that pleased me so much about moving to southern WV was that we were only 1 1/2 hours from a ski resort! In the last 5 years my feet got larger (!) and my ski boots didn't fit anymore- the Rossignol skis I bought at the AFRC PX in Garmish, Germany in 1989 when I first learned to ski at the age of 30... Last week we got some Serious Snow here in Landgraff, & I knew the skiing @Winterplace would be Great, & after 2 weeks of stewing & fretting & getting over the guilt, (& Totally ready to slam my head into a wall from from Acute Stir-Craziness), I finally said Wot The Hell, a la Mehitabel, & booked us a mini-ski trip. We stocked the puppies up on food & water, & drove to Glade Springs early in the morning, thru white-out snow conditions, which were truly very beautiful: the frozen waterfall icicles on the mountains alongside Route 52 glistening in the sunlight, the snow-frosted tree-covered mountains, the little houses covered in pristine whiteness... McDowell County in snow is truly a Currier & Ives illustration... The snow was coming down even heavier in the Beckley area, & we drove it R-e-a-l-l-y S-l-o-w-l-y... They checked us in to our "Executive Suite" @Glade Springs early :-) & I actually got on the slopes by 1p.m. I said "Wot The Hell!" again, & plunked down $50 for a one-hour private ski lesson with Toby to start off my one day of skiing- THE smartest thing! This was truly the dif between what would have been an "okay" day of skiing and a GREAT day! His one hour lesson (and we wound up spending about 1/3 of it on the lifts...) basically gave me 2 new, key things that enabled me to make speedy, parallel turns, and Really Ski those blue Intermediate runs for the rest of the day- until 9p.m. at night! (The "trick" for me is what I now call "C-down"- essentially shifting my weight onto the outside ski & carving my turn).
I almost did the Group Lesson as it's a lot cheaper, but I'm SO glad I didn't. As I hadn't been on a pair of skis for 5 years & had No Idea if I was still anything even Close to the Intermediate Skier I was back in Germany, I didn't want to risk either the embarrassment of being told I should be in a "beginner" class, or the waste of time a true "beginner" class with people who'd never skied before would be. A private lesson is tailored to where you are as a skier, & if I can ever get Dan out there on the slopes- something he even suggested might be possible- the First thing I'd do is get him a Really Good private lesson to start off the day. I rented equipment (and they have a "military discount" that is available to retirees and their families, which is GREAT), and got to use the new, shorter skis with rounded, uplifted tips; I was Really pleased with the control they gave me, & if I do decide to replace my ski equipment, those are the type of skis I'd get...
It was Evil Cold, & at times the wind was pretty rough, whipping the tiny ice-needles from the snowmakers into your face... I was wearing 5 layers of clothing & was Still cold! I never did take the lifts to the top of the mountain, simply because I didn't want to spend 30+ minutes on a lift in that icy wind! My hope is to get back in March before the season's end, and do their many other blue runs...
Dan had a nice day at the Glade Springs Resort, (they have a lot of stuff to do there, including a movie theatre & a bowling alley, and in the summer horseback riding, golf, & the lake...), and they have a shuttle bus that runs to & from Winterplace, as well as around the resort, so you don't have to worry about the road conditions or parking, AND you can have a drink at the bar! :-) Dan met me back at the Winterplace bar @6:30pm, I skied until 9p.m., & we took the shuttle bus back to the Glade Springs Golf Club Bar (Laphroaig! Yay!), & had a Great evening. In the morning we had breakfast & then an Excellent "Couples Massage" at Glade Springs' "Spa Orange" before driving home- & found that all the pretty snow had melted in the morning sunshine!
We were both Really impressed by Glade Springs; we'd had a lovely dinner there back in 2002 when we first came to WV & were living in Beaver, but we'd never stayed there, & it's truly Great. What made it great wasn't just the accommodations & services offered, or their reasonable "ski package" deal that includes lift tickets- it was the staff; everyone we encountered at Glade Springs had Great customer service skills! I don't write this lightly; we've been in the hospitality business, creating and running the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre, for the last 7 years, & prior to that we'd both lived in hotels for years on business; we know the diff between good & bad customer service, & how bad service can totally ruin even the nicest accommodations. (Who cares if the room is pretty, if the service is terrible or the staff insulting or cold or unhelpful?) Glade Springs truly exceeded our expectations.
We both slept great, & I woke up feeling Fine- no aches or pains at all! This pleased me the most, as I was expecting to feel like True Crap in the morning, given that I've basically sat in a chair in front of a computer since we got back from Vietnam last April. But I felt so great that if we could have stayed an extra night I would have happily spent the day back on the slopes!

Glade Springs at night: deer!

Our Executive Suite "Frat House" photo...

The skiing @Winterplace was very good- Much better than I remember it being in 2003- and so I had a Great day, but there is SO much that could be done there that would make it a REALLY great ski resort... Neither their outdoor cafe area nor their bar have fireplaces or firepits, so there's no place to warm up... there's no "real" dining available, only cafeteria hamburgers & pizza :-P There's no places to stop for even a warm drink anywhere on the mountain, so you have to keep coming back to the main lodge... there's no outdoor hot tub like I fondly recall from Germany... and the feel of the place is high school or college hang-out, rather than real ski resort... If Winterplace offered more "grown up" amenities it would Truly be a great ski resort... But that being said, it's still a 'bargain', & I do feel lucky we live only 1 1/2 hours from it, and I HOPE to get back out there (& back to Glade Springs...) before the ski season ends in March! My New Year's Resolution is to ski as often as I can- as often as we can afford to!- as long as I am able!