Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And So It Goes....

Dear Blog Friends near and far:

I truly hope that everyone's holiday season was filled with great moments with family and friends. And....I certainly hope that recipes (as well as lots of hugs) were exchanged during your gatherings.

Firstly, I would like to express my sincere sympathy to the family and loved ones of Richard Cirillo. Richard and his partner, Debbie, were guests at the inn back in 2005 (when Buddy Marcum owned the inn; I was the Inn Chef at the time prior to ownership.) Richard appeared on my TV series "Cooking Inn Style" and working with him was such a delight. A former law enforcement officer & detective, Richard loved his Italian heritage and our episode together focused around a simple, yet amazing, lasagna "the way his Italian mother taught him."

The filming took almost 2-1/2 hours (it is true that Italians love food and we all know that love takes time!).  The show was edited by producer Bill Felts Jr. (also my very laid back director and friend). The finished product was amazing and it was one of the heaviest lasagnas I had ever felt.  In contrast the flavor was astounding---so simple but laden with the wonderful heritage and love found in Italian households across our great country.

Besides his love for his Italian heritage, Richard loved to laugh. He had survived prostate cancer long before we became acquainted and managed the aftermath with dignity and humor. His partner, Debbie, is (and was) a great sidekick.  They loved making each other laugh and it carried them through the last days of Richard's life. Debbie and Richard came to the Lake Region/Western Maine area to build the home of their dreams. They did and Richard was able to enjoy it until his illness.

We lost a great soul last week but I can assure you that God is delighted at having Richard back home. Richard, you are missed and loved. We will remember you the way you wanted us to---with a warm memory and a smile. Those things you gave to us.

In loving memory of Richard Cirillo, Bridgton, Maine & Long Island, New York.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Not Just in New England, but Everywhere....

Hello, Blog Friends.

It seems to me that I take quite a bit of photography about Nature. Out here in Western Maine there is an abundance of interesting sites to see in even the most common of days. In truth, wherever you are I am certain the same notion applies.

In my last blog entry I revealed my visit to the hospital after a collapse brought on  by exhaustion a while back. I attribute most of my appreciation for "moments" as a result of that experience. Technology via cellular phones has enabled us all to capture "at the ready" all of the amazing gifts that we are given and can appreciate. The technology part is a thing of the times in which we live. The "can appreciate" part, however, is the domain of our hearts.

Sure, economic slowdown, dubious politicians, pollution, bad music on the radio, etc. can be the scapegoat for our complaining and unrest. Truth be told, blaming can suck your spirit dry. Pulling a blanket over your head is another option--we'll leave treating "denial" for your next counseling session. Fact is life is fraught with challenges and triumphs. We don't have to win every game. We only need to know that we have done the best we could possibly do.

These moments I snap in my cellular phone are in my own strange way a gift given to me. In the past my "recognition" of these was something akin to "yeah, that's a sunrise, duh--happens every day." When your heart is open to the miracle of life, though,  these moments come frequently and wonderfully. I make it a point to explore nature when I can. It calms me from the challenging innkeeping lifestyle that I lead. It is not time to "detach" or "hide." For me, nature facilitates this space of gratitude but removing me from the stimulus that inspires me and is a mission of my life's work. Yes, a sadness is felt when you depart from your soul's happiness to walk an undiscovered trail in someplace outside of your "normal everyday routine." The rewards that can happen, though, are meaningful and felt in the heart.

Maybe it's the New Englander in me that keeps me strangely in my routine. Being comfortable is a large part of the pay-off in the "usual same old, same old." Chosing to shake things up, unlike those who are more adventurous, is not a personality trait that I hold dear. I have to make a tough, and conscious, choice to venture outside of that mindset for even a simple activity as walking in the woods.

I share this image and these thoughts with you for a reason to strike a balance in your own lives. A very wise woman once told me this: "In life we are not looking for perfection. In life we are seeking balance. To that end, I say: FIND YOURS.

From Western Maine.
Innkeeper-Chef Keith A. Neubert

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nature has a Course All Is Own......

Greetings, Blog Friends.

One early Autumn day I was driving back and encountered probably one of the cutest raccoons by the side of the road. After a photo opportunity, I realized something was amiss. This creature was snarling and spitting foam like a B-movie horror star. He was mostly rabid as after many tears that evening feeling sorry for the creature, I had to the understanding that Nature has its problems, just like the rest of us.

At this time of year I, an Innkeeper of the Inn, must assess from both a business and personal perspective, whether or not it my "flow" to stay or go (in other words, remain as Innkeeper or move into the proverbial void that I speak about often in this blog). The arguments presented are comprised of both pros and cons. You see, I love this inn. It has been in my life for 10 years. My ex-partner and I (actually better friends now than then, perhaps) share a life here for 5 of those years. Our pets lived here with us and there was a sense of "family here (Libby the Beagle died a few years ago.) Also on a positive side,  the guests that have stayed here year after year have become more like family than "customers."  The transition in ownerships was seamless and it was those guests that cheered us both on in our new endeavors---mine being, of course, the new owner of The Inn at Long Lake.

I happened to buy the inn, though, before the economy ditched out in 2008. Try as I may, I managed to keep the business afloat until the current time. At what price, however, became apparent in June 2012 when I was driven to the local hospital for collapsing in one of the guest rooms (on a busy Friday afternoon before check-ins, no doubt). Caught alone in a room, making sure everything was in place and excited about seeing the arriving guests, my eyesight started to falter and I felt as if I was going faint. I got to the floor before a piece of furniture "got to my head" (and trust, antique furniture has no "give" like the cheap home furnishings so common today). The Doctor saw me and after running blood work (I feared diabetes, or something as scary), she assured me that I was pretty much fine but I was fatigued, so much so that my systems were starting to shut down.

I remember crying to myself in the hospital that day. It had the first time I had been in a hospital as a patient since my tonsils had been removed. Imagine, dodging the bullet for over 40 years, and doing what I loved had put me there in this state. Maybe it was not eating correctly, or overlooking the need to take time for myself....at any rate, that was the first sign that it was time to re-prioritize some things in my life. Sure, I asked my family and friends for help as gently as I could. Sadly, few came to assist and these relationships were removed from my life with remorse reinforced by the integrity I demand in true friendships.

On the story went for another year and a half, which brings me to this blog post. I write on this blog about things I have learned. Here, too, is the honest truth of what I don't know. Moments like this when you don't know where your next step should fall. Times when you can't place your foot forward for fear that the road is quicksand. The answers always come. I must remind myself to breathe and to be thankful for even the times I am scared and lost. It is not easy. I guess growth never is.

And, so like Nature that so brilliantly surrounds me here in Western Maine, I remember that everything has its season. I welcome your feedback and will continue to share my journey as "Innkeeper."

Keith A. Neubert
Naples, Maine

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Honoring A Legacy of Tradition

Greetings, Blog Friends near and far! Well, another summer is "in the can" and this Innkeeper-Chef is gearing up for the exciting colors of Autumn to arrive at his Maine door (this is where I will switch into talking in the first person). There are not many days at the Inn at Long Lake where there are no guests on the reservation books. I was, however, able to get away for a few nights of camping over in my home state of New Hampshire. By the by, for those of you who are well aware of geography, Maine abutts New Hampshire but the small Southeastern part of the state I grew up in (Atkinson, New Hampshire) is referred to as "down there." Parts higher up and to the west are referred to as "OVER there." Mind you, the entire State of New Hampshire is gorgeous and always does my heart good to "go home." I digress.....) The destination for my quick getaway was the small town of Washington, New Hampshire. In that town a small campground that allowed my faithful companion, Sebastian the Dog, passage to spending time with his dutiful bone supplier (me). Sebastian is over 16 years old now. I adopted him during my days of living in New Orleans. Every day I spend with him is truly a treasure. But enough about getting there....I am here to talk about a glorious find in an unexpected place. After checking in to the campground (and once Sebastian had his share of sniffing around), I drove to nearby Hillsboro, a lovely town 10 minutes from Washington (which is about 20 minutes from Keene State College). I was hungry from the 2-hour car drive and I spied a pizzaria called "Yanni's" on the main drag. I had purchased a couple of his CD's (only because his girlfriend was on Dynasty) and found them pretty good so I gave it a whirl. Not being a local, I nervously entered and read the menu. Strangely, no pianos were playing and there were no signs of luxurious-haired Greek men. What I did find was a lovely raven-haired owner ready to take my order. She had stepped from the kitchen, a little worn by the usual heat of a 450 degree pizza oven, but willing to "get her game on." "What is good on the menu?" I asked. "Our pizzas are good and they are big," she smiled. Her Greek accent was as beautiful as her Mediterrean features. Now, I know from experience that BIGGER does not always mean BETTER. I queried her more: "Are your meatballs homemade?" Looking like she might beat me with a sauce spoon, she replied with conviction and pride: "Of course they are!" Too often I have found the old frozen meatballs, devoid of soul and steamed to flavorless death, dotting the pizzas of most "pizza joints" outside the realm of true Italian or Greek tradition. This promised to be more than a vacation for my head. My stomach happily jumped a quick beat. I could only hope....but was the brochure as "good as the scenery??!" The proprietor stepped to her podium back in the kitchen and put my slip up with those of the other patrons waiting to eat in the immaculately cleaned diningroom. A large box was presented 15 minutes later and she opened the box to reveal A REAL GREEK PIZZA, handcrafted with the heritage of her family (many of whom were smiling down from Heaven with love). "Thank you....Thank you for keeping your tradition alive" I said. "You're felcome," she replied Greek accent and a proud smile ("f" intentionally placed). With Sebastian smiling and sniffing beyond the cardboard from the back seat of my caR("r" intentionally added for reader understanding), we drove, pressing all speed limits, back to the campground. It was worth the drive no doubt! "Luscious, delicious, perfect" was the review I uttered under my chewing as I shared my treasure with the other campers, all smiling over my take-out gift to them. So, moral of the story, if you are in the Western New Hampshire area, please visit Yanni's Pizza on 260 West Main Street in Hillsboro. You'll feel transported, understand what home cooking is made of, experience a bit of Greece without the expensive travel bill, and your tummy will definitely be happy, happy, happy! Until next time, Keith A. Neubert Innkeeper-Chef www.innatlonglake.com

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Promise of a New Day

(Above: Carriage House Antiques is offering super values on their inventory in its final days. Behind the discounts and the fabulous finds, a story that shows how we all can face adversity in life's most challenging moments.)

Greetings, Blog Friends.

In my travels around the beautiful Western Maine area, I was shocked to see a home boarded up last Winter. Behind the new boards that covered its windows and doors, I could see the charred activity that only fire can bring. The sight took my breathe away for a moment and my eyes started to well up with tears.

The home belonged to Myat and Steve. Their store Carriage House Antiques is, and was, a landmark in Naples for many years. I had only visited the store a couple of times, as my style of decor is more "classic" than "global." The store located a stone's throw away from their home was untouched by the fire and, thankfully, Myat & Steve, were living in Arizona (their winter retreat & gift to themselves for a year of hard work of serving the summer and fall crowds that descend on the Lakes Region).

One thing that I always admired about Myat, who is originally from the country of Burma (no folks---that is not in the central part of Alabama---like I recently informed one friend), is how diligent she kept her store and business grounds. I'd see her open on dismal rainy days when the chance visit by any tourists seemed dismally improbable. She would sweep her front stoop with pride and water her beautiful plants so that her shoppers would be delighted before even entering her store front.

I made a point to stop by a couple of months ago to "pay my respects" to them both. While I believe that insurance is a form of safeguard during times like these, I had all I could to hold back tears as I expressed to them how sorry I was for the loss of their home. My emotion came from knowing the love, sweat, and tears one puts into building a home on top of running a busy business. As an innkeeper, I offered my rooms to them gladly. It could never replace the hole in their hearts but it was one way that I could let them know they had friends nearby to give some comfort during this distress. They thanked me kindly and I went back to the inn with a re-newed gratitude for my own business.

A few weeks later, Myat was at the inn's front door. She looked a little tired but let me know that the volunteer fire department here in Naples was to burn the remains of her home down to clear the lot. She asked me  if I wanted any of the flowers around the property for the grounds here at the inn. Imagine...her home gone and yet she had the generosity to include my business and all my future guests of the inn in her thoughts as she healed from her loss. It opened my heart so to see this demonstration of kindness.

You know, many times in life we luck out. We can sense where our next step is to be. We have the luxury of tidying up the present and moving forward with a strategic plan for our "new life ahead." When you are the victim of fire, the time to consider & weigh your options is gone. The decision must be made then and there. You are forced to move forward and if you don't have a plan in place, grasping into the void of the your desired life choices is like a Yankee Swap during the holidays. Here trust and knowing your heart are two tools that are indispensable.

This is the state we exist in when life changes in the span of a minute. If you have ever experienced that type of shake-up in your own life, you must give yourself a pat on the back at every chance. You had a choice in its aftermath to "lay down and die" or "stand tall" and be valiant. If you are reading this, you have survived and no matter how many lessons you learned, and still learn, from the upheaval, you should be proud. I have no question in my mind that Myat and Steve will be greater than ever in their days ahead. With Myat's eye for merchandising such intriguing & delicious finds (I only now appreciate how amazing her store is!) and Steve's support and "laid back" West Coast approach to "just being happy no matter what," this couple will be surely missed when they leave Naples.

If you are in the Naples area in the new couple of weeks, please make it a point to stop by and see Carriage House Antiques (a few doors down from Lake Region High School). Myat has everything on sale--and in the array of merchandise, you will find many things that will bring a smile to your heart. As one customer I spoke to best said last week: "I come in here all the time. ..Not the same old stuff you'd find at WalMart, huh?" I nodded. And, like the store's owners with their resolve to move forward despite the tragedy they recently experienced, I must whole-heartedly agree.

Carriage House Antiques, Route 302, Naples, Maine Tel: 207-693-4844. Saturday & Sunday 10am-4pm. RARE FINDS FROM AFAR!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Simplicity Starts with a Single Step

(While Sebastian the Dog sniffs the shoreline in nearby Brownfield, I snap a photo of this amazing mountain in the distance. Speaking metaphorically, it represents a place where all your aspirations come to be.  Take one step closer....I dare you....)
Greetings, Blog Friends.

After an April of the usual gray days of rain, May is ushered in with the brilliant sunshine this morning. The waters of Long Lake sparkle and bask in its warmth; so, too, do the residents of this Western Maine town.

I have kept quite busy over the Winter months tending to the inn and my personal life. The Inn at Long Lake re-opens on May 6th and the year ahead is considered (even after almost 10 years of being here) a "year that dreams may come to be." The time has been fraught with challenges, for sure. At one point I had no water for almost 5 days due to a plumbing mishap. At another, I had no heat for 2 days. While these situations would never have happened when the inn had guests, it prompted a certain type of simple living that many have experienced during a power outage.

During the water situation I was resourceful enough (after moaning about the dirty dishes piling in the sink) to find water late one evening when all the local stores were closed. Spying mountains of pristine snow outside, I filled up many large pans with snow from my backyard, heated them on the gas stove) and washed my dishes as in a simpler time of yesteryear. The switch down to this survivalist perspective was an interesting exercise. It met stopping to calm down the emotional content of what was happening and to transform my thoughts into a "how to" productivity.

Back in New Orleans, I was one of the 40,000 individuals that auditioned for the wonderful show "Survivor." They were accepting their "cast" for the 2nd Season (in Australia). Beyond the fame and experience that can come with being on a reality TV show (still a concept fairly new in the year 2000), I had to pay some thought to intentionally placing myself in a scenario of "no frills" living. After all, I am a creature of habit like many of us are. It makes you really think about how priveleged we are by sheer comparison. Things like a refrigerator nearby to get snacks, or a CD player within arms reach to hear your favorite song, or not having a cell phone close to you to share a conversation with a friend only begins to touch upon that survival experience.

I never did make the cut for "Survivor: Australia" but was able to have my own television series later in my life. As if intention prompted a cosmic reaction from the Universe itself, I was able to live to see the temporary depletion of many of life's usual comforts. These were experiences that ended up being gifts in hindsight. They inspired me to travel around the Western Maine area as if to push away the conveniences on which I depend and to get down to "brass tacks and buttons" of a daily thought in my mind. Nature is a great gift and for the careful watcher and listener, many of the answers to questions in our own lives can be seen or heard in simply being with it. Nature does not make you feel "smaller." Personally, being with it, it makes me feel "part of." To access that pool of experience is, indeed, something that many overlook in the completion of the their own well-being.

Today is another day and with endless places to explore outside my door, I am excited about what today's "class" will bring. It is a choice to "be still." It is another to "listen and accept." I hope that your day, wherever you might be, you will the choice to do these a a place that inspires clarity, too.

Keith A. Neubert
Innkeeper, The Inn at Long Lake

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Lesson from Nature....

It's funny how sometimes when you are driving, you see something and your "just have to stop." In this case, I heard something the other day. It was a roar of racing water in a river in Bridgton (which is one town away from Naples and The Inn at Long Lake).

The great gift of amazing scenic views in the Western Maine area really needs to be experienced. It is interesting what your mind can contemplate when you are in such natural beauty. Your pulse slows down, you notice the simple things (like leaves or how trees grow or how a bird gets his dinner).

With the strength of this river that washes through our small towns, I offer you a lyric from Singer-Songwriter Julia Fordham. May it remind you today about "letting go."

Yes, you can just relax and let everything takes its course.

RIVER by Julia Fordham

Hey you, pushing the river
With the world there on your shoulders
Don't you remember a single thing
The good book told you?

Hey you, treading the water
WIth your dipping out of the clouds
Sinking down, down, down, down
Waving to the old crowd

An they send these things to try us
And try us they do!

Don't push the river
Don't push the river
Let it carry you......

Over the endless troubles, over the trying times
These are the words of wisdom from a reckless mind.