Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quiche, Anyone?

Sometimes even great cooks neglect a recipe, which they make from scratch. If enough time has passed, the dish becomes one that is not attempted, out of fear that the proportions may not be just right. Yesterday I decided it was time for me to step up to the plate and make a quiche, a frequent dinner special during my years in France and one I know our guests would appreciate for breakfast. I located the old recipe in The French Chef cookbook, my Bible in the seventies as a young bride in Paris. I got out local eggs, organic pastry flour, butter, and milk. Then I fried, in olive oil, onions, leeks, and bits of bacon from Trader Joe's, called "lardons" in France. The dough quickly formed in my mixer, then was rolled into a circle which I deposited gingerly in my quiche plate. I spread a cup of gruyere shavings, added the onion mixture and the milk/eggs. Then the quiche was ready for the oven. Look how beautiful it was! (It tasted good, too.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Zinnias Brighten Wellfleet Gardens in Fall

One of my favorite flowers is the zinnia. They produce such brilliant colors. Zinnias make the garden sparkle. I planted large ones this year, from seed. Only now are they coming into their own. Scarlet, bright orange, purple, pink, and yellow. Every morning I venture into the vegetable garden, where the zinnias are safe from rabbits, to pick a bouquet for the breakfast table. What I like about zinnias is that each one is distinct in its beauty. The centers are all different. Each individual is unique. Our guests are the same way. We have had so many lovely people visit over the summer. Getting to know guests is one of the treats of innkeeping, a benefit Sven and I did not expect. And, when one runs a green establishment, the individuals tend to shine even more brightly ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wellfleet's Beautiful Polluted Ponds ...

Dyer Pond. Beautiful, quiet, serene, polluted. Polluted? Yup. This morning NPR brought the news that pharmaceuticals have been detected in the ponds of Cape Cod. Also, this morning, the Seventh Generation newsletter informed its readers about the Devra Lee Davis Charitable Foundation, the only such organization to actively raise public awareness about the environmental causes of cancer and work for change on this issue. I went to the site and on the first page found questions about cell phone usage, a subject I have covered often in this blog. The incidence of cancer has increased 48% from 1950 to 1990. Remember Tom Lehrer? "Don't drink the water, and don't breathe the air. Pollution, pollution, wear a gas mask and a veil. You'll be all right, as long as you don't inhale." Sometimes we do not remember lyrics correctly. My mind retained YOU'LL BE ALL RIGHT. In fact, the correct verse is THEN YOU CAN BREATHE. (Read full song here.) We were warned back then, but people did not pay attention. We wanted to be all right, so we believed in government. Corporations got richer and richer. Their lobbyists managed to crush opposition to environmental reform. The world became more and more polluted. Now, at last, people are beginning to pay attention. If we band together, there is hope for the future. Considering a charitable donation this fall? How about the Debra Lee Davis Charitable Foundation?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Twittering Away the Time at Chez Sven

My son installed a new gadget/service on my computer. When I notice blinking on the Twitter-screen, I write in a response to its question, "What are you doing?" There is a link from the first page of the Web site, which takes fellow twitterers to a list of all the things I have reported. After twittering for over a month, it has occurred to me that there is one activity which I seem to do the most often: wait for guests to arrive. Indeed, a lot of waiting does go into innkeeping. Guests come and go, but innkeepers often need to be home in order to receive new folks. Although I request an approximate arrival time, I always leave a wide window, since some people arrive early and others arrive late. Therefore, Sven and I do not get to the beach as often as we might like during the summer season. We must make do with guest reports, like this one: "There were a lot of surfers at LeCount Hollow, with the surf up."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Problem with Late August

Late August is a time of year which I do not especially like. A cool breeze comes up around four o'clock, whispering, as it meanders through the garden, "Goodbye, goodbye, say goodbye to summer." The flowers, powerhouses of growth through July and most of August, suddenly stall, as if their engines needed lubricant. The light is different, too. It slants in through the windows for a briefer period each afternoon. At night, the cotton blanket no longer provides enough warmth. Oh, yes, there is no denying it. Fall is on the way. Even the tourists at Gull Pond seemed a bit wistful yesterday when I accompanied Sven over for a swim. (That is his head in the water, beside the sunfish.) Children, soon heading back to school, wielded their shovels more purposely or used no shovel at all, determined to get as much play out of the last day at the beach as possible. Some of the older locals, down for a swim, seemed relieved at the imminent end to high season. The craziness of not finding a parking space behind town hall would soon be over. It will be possible to go out on Route 6 again without fearing traffic. This morning one of my friends rubbed his hands as he told me with obvious glee, "Just one more week of rentals and I can move back into my house." How strange is that, a town where everyone hands their precious homes over to strangers for eight weeks each summer, year after year? In late August, we all know Wellfleet will soon become normal again. Summer ends after Labor Day for many locals because they get to reclaim their homes. Time to enjoy the beauty of fall and look forward to Oysterfest, the street party that unites residents and non-residents in a celebration of the lowly oyster. The joyous atmosphere that washes over our beloved town the weekend after Columbus Day is, in fact, due to the end of a long tourist season ...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How Chemicals May Be Killing Off Lobsters

Lobsters are big business here on Cape Cod. Every fish store and fish restaurant sells lobster. The lobsters from Long Island Sound to Southern New England have been dying due to a problem affecting their shells, which apparently look as if they have been eroded by acid. Now scientists think they have solved the mystery. It seems the culprit is alkylphenols, which do not break down in the low-oxygen water at the depths of the ocean, that murky kingdom, which lobsters call home. These alkylphenols come from wastewater. They get into wastewater when people use and dispose of cosmetics, plastics, and detergents. Regular blog readers know many chemicals are not good for people, anymore than they are good for lobsters. I have harped on the dangers of cosmetics quite often here and always cringe when the occasional guest shows up with an artillery array of spray bottles, creams, and other so-called beauty products. Check the safety of yours at this Web site. Don’t you think we should take note of yet another canary in the coalmine? Overuse of man-made chemicals is NOT GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH. For further information on this discovery by Woods Hole scientists, read Doug Fraser’s Cape Cod Times article “Man-made chemicals tied to sick lobsters”.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Need to Relax? Get a Wellfleet Massage

Pain in my neck, the result of too much computer last month, made me decide it was time for a professional massage. Wellfleet offers many great massage options. I chose to call Tracy Plaut, based on the recommendation of a summer guest who is a chiropractor and went more than once during his three-night stay at Chez Sven. I was not disappointed. The séance began with Tracy requesting my medical history. I then mounted the steps into a unique space, perfect for its purpose: complete relaxation. We chatted during the massage, making me realize we had common friends. I appreciated the fact that she had fit me in despite other evening plans. Tracy explained with a gentle smile that her lunch hour, too, had been turned over to a client with pain. She does her best to receive anyone in pain as soon as she can. I asked about the competition from Quiet Minds down Commercial Street, and learned there is enough business in town to create a non-competitive referral system, based on a patient's needs. Tracy has a background as a nurse and also does reflexology. She has been in Wellfleet two years but already has quite a clientele, and no wonder. The massage was wonderful.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When Is Wellfleet's Off-Season?

Yesterday I had a telephone call from someone who wanted to know whether the off-season begins after Labor Day. “It doesn’t,” I responded, deadpan, doing my best not to laugh. (Most professional innkeepers need to make a living at the occupation, and lowering prices does not make much sense unless there is zero demand.) Our cottage has no off season at all. It is unique and so demand remains strong, even in winter. Last year we had guests in the main house through November when we were obliged to turn people away due to renovation. Although gas prices are now higher, there is no reason why reservations will not continue through the fall. Many of the Cape’s bed & breakfasts, and, indeed, the Wellfleet Chamber of Commerce booth, close in September. Now our trendy little town has Oysterfest in late October, which encourages businesses to remain open. Some of our better restaurants welcome diners year-round now, too. There are events in Provincetown during the shoulder seasons. Wellfleet is a great place to stay if one wants to get away from the bustle of P-town for a while. In summer, I often receive requests for referrals. If I had stayed at the other local establishments, I would feel able to offer referrals. Usually I send folks to the ladies at the Chamber of Commerce, who should have an availability list handy. I do not think anyone in Wellfleet provides the same intimate experience, which has become one of the hallmarks of Chez Sven, what I like to call "kid-glove care." Where else do you have access to an in-house historian able to converse about Thomas Friedman’s latest column over breakfast and a library which contains copies of The Green Guide? Our beds are super comfortable. Our linens are eco-friendly. Our organic products and foods also keep people coming back for more. Yesterday we had a return guest whose first words were, “I do hope we are having that wonderful homemade granola?” We provide more than just a bed and a box of sugarcoated cereal with coffee for breakfast. Serving organic foods raises the cost of innkeeping, as does the quality of the amenities, 100% natural, chosen for our guestrooms. With the passing years, Chez Sven has happier and happier guests, which leads me to believe we must be doing something right!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Problems an Innkeeper Sometimes Faces ...

Every once and a while things break down. That happened today with our washing machine. It has run perfectly, cycle after cycle, for five years. Now, in the middle of high season, it decided enough was enough. The thing no longer spins. I had to remove the contents, call the repairman, wash the linens by hand, hang them up wet to dry, wringing both my sheets and my hands during the experience. The repairman will not be able to come until Tuesday, so then I had to order some new sheets, earlier than planned, in order to be sure we had enough for the guests to come later this week. As if losing the washing machine was not bad enough, the bathtub in Liberty Coin Suite decided to back up while I was rinsing the sheets! Fortunately, Sven was able to solve that problem.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life's a Beach!

This photo would tend to give credence to the often used phrase, "Life's a Beach." Kids make use of whatever they have at hand. There may be no water, but here our young guest is, rowing away in the front garden. We also saw children amuse themselves in the branches of our cedars, and my grand-daughter planted a marvelous forest of sticks in the flower bed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An August Day in the Life

The alarm clock rang at 7:15 this morning. I got up, had coffee, showered, and prepared breakfast for our guests who were able to eat outside on this, their last day of vacation. After their departure, I did laundry. Sven helped me clean both Liberty Coin Suite and the Green Room. I did sneak out for a bit of shopping downtown. Wellfleet Marketplace was crowded with shoppers. I bought organic milk and the new organic sunflower seed bread, which we have never tried before. After a quick stop at Hatch’s fruit and veggie stand, I returned home and hung laundry. Then it was time to make organic granola. I chatted briefly with our young Seagull Cottage tenant who said he was planning to look for buoys on the beach to decorate his room. I told him that sometimes you can find all kinds of flotsam, like the great collection above, but finding buoys in summer is not an easy task. I felt envious to not be off to the beach myself on what had turned into a gorgeous day, the first of a string of what the weatherman called "probably the best days of the summer" with bright blue sky and soft breezes. But, unfortunately, an innkeeper is not on vacation and cannot always go enjoy the beach simply because the weather is perfect. During the afternoon, I waited for guests to arrive, checked them in, and made sure everyone was happy. Then it was time for dinner ...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weird Weather!

This morning I received a nice note from a guest who was here last month: "We really enjoyed our time at Chez Sven and will try to get back again soon. Meanwhile, I now feel comfortable recommending a place to stay in one of my favorite places on earth."... All our current guests scurried home when they saw the huge storm cloud forming on the horizon. Gradually the sky got darker and darker. Then the wind began, whipping the maple tree out front around and scattering green leaves all over the lawn. Finally, we had hail, quite unusual here on Cape Cod in summer, before heavy rain with thunder booming overhead. Once the storm was over, our guests went to Newcomb Hollow Beach for one last quick swim. They reported back that the beach was covered with hailstones, and access to the ocean felt "like walking on ice cubes."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lavender Wands: A Great Activity for Cloudy Days

The Grosso lavender in our garden has just bloomed. One of our guests noticed and asked if she might pick some stalks for lavender wands, destined to be waved by the members of her Girl Scout troop back home. I was delighted to say yes, since I need to prune the lavender back anyway. Her daughter presented me with one of the wands her mom had already woven. Our guest then proceeded to show me how to make lavender wands myself. It takes patience, obviously. And, time. Both of which are sorely lacking around here in mid-summer. Anyway, I watched as she skillfully made her first wand of the day. First, 13 stalks are trimmed of all but the lavender buds. Ribbon is tied around the 13 stalks, which must be green, not brown. They are then turned back upon themselves, as shown in the photo. Finally, the ribbon is interwoven with care and tied in a neat bow. What a great activity, especially on cloudy summer days! I cannot wait to teach my granddaughter! Thanks Susie & Rebekah!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Documentary on Lyme Disease & Great Pond

Yesterday our Liberty Coin Suite guests did more in one day than most tourists manage in a week. There is so much to see and do in Wellfleet! Their favorite pond seems to be Great Pond. They actually walked around Great Pond yesterday. When Sven and I did the same thing a number of years ago, I remember walking in the water at times. The woods around Great Pond are amazingly beautiful in September. Here is a photo taken last year once the leaves had begun to turn. What you see is beautiful red leaves. What you don't see are all the ticks in the tall grass. Yes, the woods of Wellfleet have deer ticks. I always warn my guests to wear bug spray and to be vigilant, checking their bodies before sleep. Getting Lyme can be traumatic. Getting doctors to provide correct treatment early on is critical if one is to avoid chronic Lyme. Here, at last, is a documentary on Lyme Disease: "Under Our Skin". Please help spread the word about this new film. I have written five letters to Oprah to try and interest her in educating the world about Lyme, but not one response have I received thus far. I am convinced that consulting an infectious diseases doctor, who was a friend, saved me from chronic Lyme. His warning ("Since there was a delay in the diagnosis, I recommend six to eight weeks of antibiotics") made me insist local doctors prescribe more than the usual two to three weeks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Reviews Controversy

There has been some controversy recently about bed & breakfast reviews. I received an email from ILOVEINNS.COM, requesting that we advise our guests NOT to send reviews to Trip Adviser. It seems this site belongs to, which promotes large hotels and also takes a sizable chunk out of every check a member receives from a referral, even if the bed & breakfast only has three rooms and is seasonal. Therefore, we quickly decided was not for us if we were to make a living in this industry and stopped our membership. Think corporation, monopoly, squeeze the small guy. All of the large bed & breakfast associations are trying to get innkeepers to request that their guests send in reviews, an imposition in my humble opinion. Guests, who have enjoyed their stay here, can sign the guestbook. We have four years of favorable comments on the Bookings page of our Web site, for anyone who may be interested in reading them. Some people write about the gardens, some favor the seclusion and birdsong in the morning. Our latest guests wrote such an unusual note, that I feel compelled to share it here: From Tim: “This is what you dream of when you think Cape Cod. This was quaint, well-kept and, most importantly, very friendly. Know that we plan on coming up again, if at all possible. From Caroline: “What a delight! What wonderful people at Chez Sven! I believe Sven said something like ‘nice to see you,’ and instead of thinking about how he meant ‘meet,’ I thought, Ah, yes, nice to see you (again) since really we are only brothers and sisters whose sons knew each other before and are seeing each other once again.” And the couple signed their notes with hearts. Happy guests mean we must be doing something right ….

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Old Houses, Anyone?

Here at Chez Sven, we love old houses, so it is with enthusiasm that we recommend the Wellfleet Historical Society’s Annual House Tour, which will take place next Sunday, August 17th, from 11 to 4. For more information go here. The tour will feature six homes, some old, some new. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the museum on Main Street, as well as at the Left Bank Gallery, Jules Besch, Abiyoyo, and the information booth out on Route 6. The tour requires driving and walking this year. I have often thought of having our old house be on the tour, but have been too busy organizing other things to make it a priority. We always called the above house on Holbrook the Gingerbread House. I believe it is on the 2008 tour. The house to the right is not. You can see the outside by walking along the shore from Mayo Beach. But to view the interior of Wellfleet's most spectacular old house of all …. yes, book a room at Chez Sven!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Innkeeping

Our guest from London this week dubbed me, “The Queen of Information.” It is a title I embrace wholeheartedly. That is what a bed & breakfast owner should be: a person knowledgeable about his/her town and area, able to describe local restaurants and beaches, kayaking opportunities, bike rides, etc. and provide helpful hints on how an ordinary vacation can turn into a memorable experience. Each summer season I learn new details on Outer Cape activities, which I pass on to future guests. One of the advantages of being an innkeeper is, in fact, the knowledge required to do the job right. Sven and I know what is going on in Wellfleet. He loves to chat with the guests and share his knowledge of history and world events. In the photo above, Chez Sven guests enjoy stimulating conversation over breakfast at the table outside. I am just now beginning to realize one of the disadvantages to innkeeping. When you have lovely people coming and going, and some stay up to a week, you get attached to these folks and feel sad when they leave ….

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Blackfish and The Juice, Cont.

Tourists who come to Wellfleet need a nice place to stay – hopefully a bed & breakfast – for their morning meal, some sandwiches for lunch, and a good restaurant for dinner where they can enjoy an evening meal after a full day at the beach. Yesterday I reported on my visit to Blackfish in Truro. Sven has returned from Europe, so I decided to take him to The Juice, here in Wellfleet last night, to clarify my impressions of the two very different restaurants. Here are my conclusions. The ambiance at The Juice is more low-key. On weekends, there’s a live local band playing. Sven remarked on the building being “all angles.” Those angles have been put to good use. We sat in a corner and could actually have a conversation. Also located in a funky building, Blackfish is more upscale in terms of decoration. At The Juice, Sven had fish tacos and pronounced the dish “very good vegetarian food,” then added, “There was a nice balance between the hot, spicy sauce and the beans/rice.” (We had a vegetarian guest last June who raved about these same fish tacos.) Both The Juice and Blackfish serve organic greens. I guess I maintain my conclusions. You will probably spend more money at Blackfish. What’s more, if you are staying in Wellfleet, you must pay for gas back and forth to Truro. However, the presentation will be spectacular. The dining room will be noisy. Not so at The Juice. There are even tables outside. You need reservations at Blackfish. Not so at The Juice, although you may have to wait in line for dinner. The chefs at both restaurants know how to cook. At Blackfish, the chef simply has higher aspirations. Both are excellent places to dine while on vacation.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dining out in Wellfleet (Truro): The Blackfish

For almost a year I have been wanting to go to the Blackfish restaurant located in the old Blacksmith Shop, just outside Truro center. This week I had my chance and was not disappointed. The décor is pleasing and unusual. (Note the cut-out fish on the door!) Blackfish is an excellent place to dine. Our appetizers of heirloom tomatoes were yummy. The presentation was so extraordinary that we all kept craning our necks to see what other guests were being served. I had one of the specials – grilled bass with fingerling potatoes, served on a bed of leeks. The sauce was light, the fish cooked to perfection. (How did it compare with the grilled bass special at The Juice last month? Sophistication? Combination of flavors? Price? Probably all three.) My hostess had the sole, which was also good. For dessert, chocolate cake with homemade coffee ice cream. The dessert was so tasty that the waitress took a clean plate back to the kitchen. I was especially struck by the efficiency of the waitresses, totally with it, calm and collected in a hectic environment. The room was full, and the only caveat that needs mentioning was the noise. As is the case with many of the local restaurants, owners do not seem to think of soundproofing dining areas during renovation. Reservations are a must here. The Blackfish belongs to Eric Jansen, of Wicked Oyster fame. He definitely knows how to create meals that are an experience to remember. Bravo!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Granola Challenge

In the left-hand corner we have Trader Joe’s Maple Pecan Granola, winner of the 2008 title Best Granola of the Year, attributed in May by Consumer Reports. In the center stands a new contender from England, Dorset Cereal’s Fruits & Nuts, purple box, which “does not scrimp on the flakes” and is one of eight varieties, not all of which are available in the USA. And, finally, to the right, bursting with organic goodness we find Sandy’s homemade granola. Which will win our impromptu competition? The judge this morning is our favorite actress, cousin Nadia, fresh from a Broadway role. “This is a fantastic way to start my day!” she declares, sitting down gracefully at the outside breakfast table. A few spoonfuls of Contender Number One are deposited into a corner of her plate. She adds yogurt and goes to it. After swirling the mixture around in her mouth with the conscientious application of a long-time granola and yogurt consumer, Nadia says, “This is yummy. Is there cinnamon? Tastes like brown sugar, with a little maple syrup perhaps.” Contender Number Two is up to the plate. “Mmm,” says Nadia after mixing in the yogurt and placing a spoonful in her mouth. “I can definitely taste the almonds and raisins. Very oats and some flour. Hmm. There’s less flavor. But I like the consistency. Feels very ….. clean.” Time for Contender Number 3. Nadia takes a dainty spoonful, adds yogurt, consumes. “You can definitely taste the cashews.” She rolls her eyes over to one side, testing the consistency. “Not too hard to crunch. This one is perfect. I like the clusters, too. What is the sweetness? Coconut? …. There’s a softness to it. You don’t have to serve it with milk.” And the winner is – da-duh! – Contender Number Three, Sandy’s homemade organic granola, recipe courtesy of Nick Grabbe. Thank you, Nick!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cape Crusader?

This morning, as I was reading through the stats, I came across an unusual reference, so I clicked through and discovered a new
online site
dedicated to sustainable living. It featured Chez Sven on June 25. The writer did not bother to contact me, however, which is a shame. I would have provided a photo of our magnificent new green room and a press release! In any case, we are glad to have the publicity. We are not really Cape Crusaders. That's a great title, but not true. I wish we were. I simply do not have enough time to spread the word to other innkeepers on the Cape except through this blog because I have a second activity outside of innkeeping. My other "profession" is writing. Sven has been away in Sweden on his vacation, and I have used the two months to revise the first part of a new manuscript. He is coming home on Thursday and can hardly wait. His home in Stromstad is beautiful, but Wellfleet remains in a class by itself...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Which Welllfeet Beach to Choose?

When it comes to great beaches, Wellfleet, has many choices in summer. One of my favorites is Duck Harbor. I have had a lot of searches for Duck Harbor recently, so people must be realizing how beautiful that bay beach is with Provincetown in the distance. The ocean beaches all have their charm. If watching surfers is your thing, LeCount Hollow has become the surfers' beach of choice this year, to the distress of families with young children. My current guests have a National Seashore pass, so they go to Marconi. My guests this past weekend went to Cahoon Hollow where they saw a band from their native Texas put on quite a show at the Beachcomber. The folks in the cottage practically camped out at Cahoon Hollow. They love it there. Often people do not realize that a sticker is required to access Wellfleet's town beaches. It is possible to buy a day pass at two of them: White Crest and Cahoon. Sometimes there is fog at the ocean and so the bay becomes more attractive. Personally, I like the ocean at low tide and the bay at high tide. Power's Landing is a nice bay beach, not too far from town. It is colorful, too, with its row of kayaks. Which beach do you prefer?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Guests Whom You Remember ...

When you are an innkeeper and guests are continuously coming and going all summer, after a while there is the risk that the faces become a blur. I do my best to remember everybody, but sometimes do not succeed. Today was the PMC race. It passed up on Long Pond Road. I was too busy with breakfast to go and take photos. My Green Room guests did walk up, however, and reported bikers whizzing past. My other guests this week were from France. When I was cleaning up the room after they had left, I found an unusual note from the ten-year-old daughter, written on a heart-shaped balloon. The note said, "Merci beaucoup." She is one guest I will remember!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Wellfleet Library Raises Money For Solar Panels

Wellfleet’s library has always been a happening-place. Now the library is looking to install solar panels, a great idea, and has already started a campaign to raise money. The goal is $30,000, to match a gift of the same amount by an anonymous donor. In the few short weeks since Elaine McIlroy, our Mother-Superior librarian, marched in the Fourth of July parade with a sign about the project, over $10,000 has been raised. The plan is for a 14-kilowatt array of solar panels on the library roof. There will be a special table Sunday, August 10, at the second annual book sale on the lawn in front of town hall. At this table, marked “Solar,” visitors will find signed items from local writers and musicians. The proceeds will benefit the solar energy project.