Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Just Some Helpful Hints...

(A seldom-seen backside view of The Inn at Long Lake. "Hey, great job at Jenny Craig, Inn!")

Last evening New England braced itself for another blast of Winter snow. Having seen the movie "Misery" only once, I tend to stay off the roads when reports of this type of weather surface. After one season on television in 2005-06, I am not missing any chances for "Dancing with the Stars" in Season 53! (Tom Bergeron used to live in Haverhill, Massachusetts--the town next door to where I lived in New Hampshire, by the by.)

I rarely watch television and it seems like in New England 90% off the news on days like that are the same "watch out for the weather coming to your door" over and over (intermingling struggling senior citizen in a snow bank, happy children building an army of snowmen to conquer the Mylie Cyrus empire, commentary from happy and unhappy citizens on the street wet up to their shins from slush-complicated walking).  Let's cut to the chase. No one summed things up better than Megan Mullahy as Karen Walker on Will & Grace: "Grab a bottle, hunker down, and pray for daylight." Even the gin-filled inspire me to adhere to my "at-the-ready" New England roots.

One notice of dust on my stove burner controls ended up being a cleaning session that I actually enjoyed. Those of us who take pride in our homes and kitchens have a certain fondness for keeping things "tidy." Sanitation is important. Reputation is clearly "king."
My O.C.D. (obsessive compulsive disorder) does not include such strangeness as alphabetizing my spices or stocking my pantry according to geographic area of origin, but I have this thing about dust. It's not the dust---it's knowing its there and a wipe stands between it existing and creating havoc on my reputation---and its disappearing for, at least, the time being. (Note: A long finger-streak down a dust-covered surface will send me back to the therapist--unless, of course, the host/ess you are visiting takes a bathroom break, and then a hankerchief and some saliva will eradicate all potential for an awful visit.)

Scouring pads are amazing. How are these made and why do lasers exist for cosmetic surgery? The only downside to them is remembering endless nights when I first started in restaurants, scrubbing fish-scaled casserole dishes (gotta love us New Englanders and our Ye Olde Haddock Delights!) until my hands looked like I co-starred in The Little Mermaid. Scouring pads (and you can be a fan of S.O.S. or Brillo, doesn't matter---it's good to be a "liberal foodie"....) get almost everything up, especially grease. To see that shine in my kitchen re-materialize returns the bravado of "I rule this kitchen" once again. That bravado, incidentally, is how Charo's hair extensions stay in place, I can surmise.

I noticed in my laundry room (yes, I tend to travel inside on these snow-forecasted evenings) a clothes iron that had "gunk" on its underside---probably from ironing my T-shirt with the "Keep on Truckin'" decal, or a grilled cheese sandwich experiment go awry.
*FLASH OF INSPIRATION* Would my scouring pad return my clothes iron to its usefulness? A quick dash (with maybe a happy skip from the inspiration) to the kitchen later and a 30-second scrubbing proved to be "Eureka!" (Mr. Iron is proudly back on his shelf dissing the Spray n' Wash and beaming with lustrous ego again.) Long story short: Watch what you iron and scouring pads can clean (most) metal surfaces effectively.

Microwave ovens (now smaller than console television sets these days) can get so "blech." Those of you with children, or men in the house, know that butter exploding in this appliance is one of those "go ahead to Christmas dinner without me" moments. Well, I am not one who appreciate a parent (Dad or Mom) missing turkey and stuffing, so....Fill a glass measuring cup with  water and a heavy splash of white vinegar. Heat it in the microwave for 4 minutes and the sauna steam will loosen all your stuck-on memories of "Why did you do this to me?!" away. Carefully remove the mixing cup and pour down the vinegar water down your sink's disposal. The loosened food will come off with a quick wipe!

So, Winter nights are really not that bad after all. It may be entertaining a group of lovely friends, or enjoying a nail-biting episode of RuPaul's Drag Race, but it is rewarding to as Escoffier himself once beseeched us to remember when he said "Mise en place!" ("Everything in its place") And, that refers to everything in the kitchen, don't you think? ;-)

And...16 hours later, the fluffy snow from the Winter sky cascades softly on the inn and Long Lake outside my office window. I think an afternoon nap after all that cleaning is my "foodie reward" this afternoon.

Have a wonderful day to you all!


Friday, February 22, 2013

The Promise that Lies within Peace & Now....

"Welcome back!"

I say this as much to myself as I do to you out in cyberspace who bless me with your time and attention to my writing about life as an Innkeeper in Western Maine. My last posting was a surprisingly over 7 months ago. To the lovely people who have supported me with their show of support of this blog since that time, writing "Thank You" would never be adequate.

It is now 2013 and the old calendar and days of last year are put away and gone. Their lessons, if we have allowed, have made us better people. Those days---those stories of each happiness, each challenge, and our triumphs and losses, have made (or are still making) us each more complete in ourselves. Did I do everything as perfect as a detailed hotelier might? Heck, NO! Did I try my best? Bet your Banana Bread, I did!

When I look ahead at the year to come, a blotter on my desk indicates many fresh, clean white spaces of dates. All squares waiting for notes, comments, and appointments to adorn them. Perhaps some creative idea will come to mind when chatting on the phone, or sparked by a newspaper article (I haven't watched TV in over a year so life is nice and quiet these days.) This  calendar that seems newly-born at this time will be a scrapbook of the year when the year has reached its end. I will refer back to it as  I prepare for next year. New annivesaries or responsibilities may become routine in the future. Nonetheless, time runs on. We can lose its potential, or use its potential, granted in every moment.

And, so....7 months pf choices have transpired since this "Flour Bin Philosopher" wrote any other than a grocery list. I think about why I write this blog in the first place. You see,.....for me, a place of peace exists in the very place of baking. While being the steward of this massive home can sometimes be a little more than "challenging" for me with its myriad of details, baking and cooking become the place where I retreat to a state of nirvana. Surrounded by the absolute beauty of Western Maine's Lakes & Mountains, putting myself in that state becomes like a habit of meditation. It is a place of challenge for me. And...the results? Well, they came be spiritually relaxing and deliciously yummy! When you are in a state of peace, clarity & creativity dance together.Chaos becomes the foreign presence...and not the daily norm played to a din in your fast-paced existence.

I love the simple line in the movie "Nanny McPhee" when she says to the Bride-to-be two words to calm her: "Deep breathes." Really, what she is saying is find that place that brings peace to the fore. It may be a song, a hobby, a physical movement. Go there and you will find more than peace---if cooking is your place, recipes will be coming to you in the coolest ways---a friend might need you to assist in planning a splashy party in the near future---you might even be asked to teach someone one of your specialities. When you speak up for change in yourself, you have the power and privelege of being able to transform the lives around you in such amazing ways. If this is new to you, start simple. A kind, warm hello to YOURSELF in the mirror is an excellent place to come alive!

For the year ahead, I will share my story with you as 2013 leaves its days into the past. Some hold glory and magic. Some days, it will be about the stubbling toe-hurting lessons of " another guy trying to get through life." I retain the right to flavor with bit of "strangely-Keith humor" and to sift liberally with truth borne from new experiences. And...without fail, I promise as few calories as possible along the way.

I, again, thank you for walking beside me during this journey. See you soon.

Keith A. Neubert