Yearend Newsletter 2014
Holiday Recipes, Winter Getaways, and
THE INNKEEPER'S DIARY, THIRTY YEARS LATER
As this is written the week after Thanksgiving, it’s actually raining, a heavenly break from the relentless drought. Maybe by next summer we’ll have full rivers again. The world is turning green, and the birds and creatures are so happy!
We hope all of you returning guests got your little Christmas Owl postcard, and if so, please bring it when you visit for an extra 10% off your room—it’s good all year. Check out all the specials below as well as on our “On Sale" Holiday Ideas and Calendar pages--there are some awesome bargains listed.
This being our 30th anniversary newsletter, by popular request here is one of the old-style newsletters we used to do….diaries and information in addition to pictures. People have always said they love our innkeeping stories. And there are plenty of them, because there are few occupations quite as diverse as innkeeping. These have been 30 wild and wonderful, beautiful and exasperating, highly adventurous years. So please enjoy some of our favorite memories, and thanks for helping create them. Here we go back in time.......
At least the bathroom worked....One morning I realized that a traveling businessman didn't have a fork to eat his sausage with; I'd neglected to include it with the silverware on the table. But when I offered it to him he declined, mumbling that he was "used to being deprived". It seemed like an odd remark until I went into his room after checkout, to be confronted with the ultimate housekeeping screwup: a totally bare bed. No sheets, no pillowcases, not even a mattress pad. He had slept all night long on bare ticking, and politely never said a thing.
Girlie guys also welcome….manly men in a foofy bed and breakfast can be entertaining. Remember the country custom of drinking coffee that has first been cooled by pouring it in a saucer, and then blowing on it? (In East Texas they call this "saucered and blowed".) The first time we ever served gazpacho, which is a chilled, sour-cream topped summer soup, one old fellow loudly offered his compliments "to whoever blew the soup". We were still giggling over that one when one of his 80-year old friends described his first encounter with a featherbed and 300-thread count (very satiny) sheets. "So I walked into the bedroom, and I never saw this before: a bed with a large mound, sort of a hump, in the middle of the bed. And it was SLICK. When I went to bed, I first had to beat it up, and then I tried to burrow into it like a dog. I thought I had succeeded, but in the middle of the night, POW, there I was on the floor.”
We've had hundreds of honeymooners, and most are a bit quiet and shy, but one young couple was surely the happiest ever. They spent all three days laughing, giggling, singing, and dancing on the veranda. Their joy was absolutely catching. Another pair was catching, too, as in CATCHING FIRE; they lit a fire in their fireplace, pulled a sofa right in front of it, and then fell asleep. So at 3 in the morning, we had a fullblown-call 911- raging fire. The inn survived with only $10,000 worth of damage, but the ultimate indignity was that the kids' check bounced…...And while we're talking indignity, we'll never forget the groom who opened the door so our girls could hand in some breakfast trays. When he reached for them with both hands, he dropped the towel.
Falling but not quite from heaven…..Speaking of dropped, who can forget the starry-eyed bride wandering around the wedding tent as we were setting up her reception, blissfully smelling the fragrant lilies and roses in her flower arrangements. It was such a sweet scene, until it was interrupted by a brick which had been anchoring something on the tent roof, but got catapulted off by a gust of wind and fell straight down from about 10 feet up. Onto her HEAD! Fortunately there were gigantic rollers in her hair, which saved the day and probably a lot more than that. Like, my heart.
Strange encounters of the romantic kind.....Two Dallas couples on pleasant weekend getaways once encountered each other in our garden. They knew each other, and so it might have been a fun surprise except that the woman of one couple was married to the man of the other. Whoops…..Then there was the guy who showed up for his wedding night with a bride who was not the same woman he brought when he came originally to check out the place. When novice innkeeper Cathy (that would be me) couldn’t hide her confusion, and blurted out “but that’s not who was with you last time”—the new bride glared, and I slunk away sure that I had ruined their new marriage. So maybe the first girl had just been a secretary, or a sister or something? And they'd only stayed 30 minutes. But nope. Turns out the angry look had been aimed not at me but at the groom, who was indeed engaged to the girl he brought to that first visit. But then Wedding Night Woman reentered the picture, because she was actually his first wife and not about to let a younger woman have her man. So he ditched the young one to remarry her. But in a burst of efficiency, they kept the same honeymoon plans.
International visitors are way cool.....You should have seen the entourage brought along by one robed Arab fellow, who had reserved "our three best rooms for himself and his wives". And then there was the Angolan national basketball team, which spent the Christmas holidays with us one year, in the U.S. partly for coaching and partly to (their words) "be fattened up". They were all at least 6'6", rail-thin, athletic, and seriously hungry. The best part was watching them tackle, shall we say, standard dining room behavior. Several years ago a troupe of equally civilization-challenged Russian circus performers shared a weekend here with a herd of Harley Davidson riders from the valley....which was almost as amusing as the Indian tribal chiefs in for a pow-wow while we were also hosting some Japanese diplomats. The Indians were quiet and conservative, but the Japanese were party animals! They were up every night drinking until the wee hours. They cooked for us, told great jokes, and gallantly accepted friendship bracelets from our 10-year-old daughter which they were still wearing when they left. In return they gave us some 100-year-old pickled plums that we plan to keep unopened for about 100 more years.
Speaking of overseas and strange encounters.... during the SAME morning, two fellows in the dining room suddenly recognized each other as having been crewmates on a bomber stationed in England during WWII. Simultaneously, visiting in the living room, two women discovered that they were cousins from the same village in France. They all lived in Houston, but had never met.
Imagine that (AKA the Big Ouch)....Should we confess that we've discovered Viagra (people do leave a lot of stuff behind!) makes a great additive to the water in flower bouquets? Or that our breakfast menu often features tiny cocktail sausages, dubbed "bobbits" many years ago by a mischievous guest? (That name sure stuck. We can't call them anything else.) Or that, if you try to take a bath too soon in a tub that has just been resurfaced, you run the risk of adhering your backside to the epoxy?
The Christmas Deer….. Several years ago we found a tiny abandoned deer on our lawn. Mama never returned so we bottle-fed it and raised it like a puppy. Little Bambette was adorable, with tiny legs no bigger than your finger. We never quite got her potty trained (deer are not real smart), but she knew who loved her, and trotted around after us like a dog. We just timed her trips outdoors, and when inside kept her on the hard floors so the potty thing was no biggie. You could walk her on a leash, and put her in the car and take her anywhere. She’d stick her head out the window and let her gums be blown back. At the inn, the guests loved on her, especially when she sprawled next to the Christmas tree for photo ops. Eventually she grew up and wandered away but she stayed in the neighborhood, and would come when called. A neighbor fed her for years, and says that once, Bambette showed up for dinner with a huge gash in her neck and then actually stood still to let it to be sewn shut with a needle! Everybody ought to have a deer instead of a dog. They don't bark, or bite, or shed, and pellets beat piles any day.
Dreaming sweet dreams, no doubt....People tell us our inn is beautiful, and we take huge pride in keeping it that way. We've hosted many magazine shoots, travel writers, home tours, and gorgeous weddings through the years. But behind the facade this is, after all, a 120-year-old house, and it has its share of warts. Also pigeons, possums, lizards, raccoons, and all manner of other creatures which claim territory from time to time. One determined raccoon for months arrived every night at 7pm, to bump his way up the inside of the kitchen wall and dance on the ceiling above the hanging pot rack in the kitchen. I think he liked the jangles. We finally nabbed him when he found a way into the kitchen itself, ate an entire canister of Hershey's kisses, and left chocolate paw prints all the way up the stairs where we found him sacked out on a bed.
And there you have the Crystal River Zoo....never dull, usually pretty darned fun. We've always said that running an inn is not for the faint-hearted. But guests have put it differently. "This is like being a flight attendant on a plane that never lands", said one. And from another, "this job is like being a swan. You're gliding across the surface, but paddling like crazy underneath".
We love you all, and hope you'll check out the Calendar page on our website to pick a time to come see us. Have a very Merry Christmas! Meanwhile, don't forget the Old House Rules of Life. You only need two tools, WD40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use the WD40. If it moves and it shouldn't, use the tape.
Cathy and Mike Dillon (and our inn family Paula Oxford, Cat Tracey, Teri Higgins, Regina Avila, John Chagolla, Christina Cardenas, Virginia Worley, Carley Hayden, Robert Hodges, and Ellie Mae the inn cat.)
Special Getaway Packages make excellent gifts. Or, purchase any dollar amount, and let the recipient choose how to use it. Everything is packaged in a pretty gold-foil envelope, and the certificate is good for one year. Call as late as 12/23, and we'll get it to you by 12/24.
This year, we are offering $100 increments for just $75!
Mystery on the River
Our original mystery weekends, are still as popular as ever--especially as Christmas gifts. We're up to 6 separate stories now because so many people keep coming back! If you're up for something REALLY different that will make you feel refreshed and reenergized after the weekend, mysteries are hard to beat. They are both fascinating and just plain fun. Most people come as individuals, but mysteries are great for groups. The package includes two nights' accommodations; brunch both mornings; dessert buffet Friday night; a hayride, boat cruise, or tubing trip; a clue hunt; and a gourmet dinner Saturday night. Base cost is double occupancy and depends on which room you pick.
--January mysteries are always discounted to $75 per person plus room. Other mysteries are $100 per person plus room. Call now and join us for Jan. 23-24; it will brighten your winter!
Leave kids, husbands, and worries behind, and come reconnect with your girlfriends, sisters, or college roommates. Shop nonstop at San Marcos' incredible outlet mall (which in 2014 became the #2 tourist attraction in the state!), explore nearby festivals and our historic downtown area. Includes breakfast both mornings, dinner Saturday night, and all the pampering touches we can think of (such as bubble bath, chocolates, and discount coupon books for the mall). Facials, pedicures and makeover sessions are popular package additions. Base cost is $40.00 per person, in addition to room rate.
Winter Romance Packages
If a special occasion is approaching, bring your love to the Crystal River Inn. Our custom-designed romance packages might include champagne, chocolates, flowers, bath baskets, breakfast in bed, fireside picnics, horse-drawn carriages, limousine rides, massages, candles, or hot-air ballooning. Within any budget, we can devise something unforgettable - we've even buried a room in rose petals! Prices start at $50 plus room.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
We are doing something new this year--Christmas dinner! If you are celebrating with just a small group this year, what about doing something totally new? How about a holiday gathering in a beautiful old Victorian house with fireplaces, towering tree, and thousands of twinkle lights? Let us do the cooking and decorating, just bring your loved ones and enjoy a holiday without the hassle. We have two wonderful nearby options for Christmas Eve dinner; not one but 3 nearby Trails of Lights to explore; and at 4pm on Christmas afternoon, we are serving a festive multicourse Christmas dinner with plenty of trimmings. Reservations are very limited, so call well in advance. Price is $60 per person, and although we will provide champagne and horsd'oevres, your own wines are welcome.
Saturday Night Specials (No, you can't shoot someone with these)
Normally we have a two-night minimum on the weekends, but because of unusual party and holiday schedules this year, we're going to relax it for all of December and January. If a quick one-night getaway is all you have time for, that's fine with us. Call first for reservations (but FYI, in the winter we're often open at the last minute, so if the mood hits on Saturday afternoon, we're probably available.) Ask for the 10%-off Saturday special.
--On January 2-3, Friday and Saturday nights, we're doing a two-night package for $125 per person double occupancy, which includes accommodations, dinner, libations, (optional and extra) massages, and discount coupons for yearend sales at the outlet mall.
Recipes from the Cooking Elves….
Asparagus Brunch Rolls serves 6-8
8 slices of good deli ham, sliced by the deli to #3 or #4 thickness; if you’ve got a honey- baked spiral ham to use slices of, it’s even better.
24 fresh asparagus spears
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ pint whipping cream
Wash and trim the asparagus, discarding the fibrous white ends. On each slice of ham, place 3 bright green asparagus stems, with the tips protruding substantially beyond the borders of the ham. Roll up each bundle, and secure with a toothpick.
Place side by side in a small baking dish, cover with the grated cheese, and pour the whipping cream over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus is still bright, but can be easily pricked with a fork.
Serve with a great egg frittata, quiche, or herbed scrambled eggs, and a broiled tomato. It’s especially good for holiday mornings.
Rinse and sort a bag of fresh cranberries, then gently pat them dry. Let them air dry thoroughly before coating them.
Separate out the white of 1 egg, being careful to discard not only the yolk but the thick gelatinous clear blob that is usually next to the yolk. (If you’re leery of the uncooked egg here, note that salmonella is associated with the yolk, not the white, of the egg. We’ve never had trouble in all the years we’ve served these.)
Put the dry berries into a bag with the whites, and gently agitate the bag until the berries are coated. Pour them onto a tray covered with wax paper.
Cover liberally with white sugar, rolling them around until they are thoroughly encrusted. At this point, you can also dust them lightly with cinnamon. Hint: it takes a LOT of sugar, most of which will stay on the parchment when you're through.
Set them out to dry, periodically shaking the tray so that the berries can turn and dry on all sides. At room temperature, they keep about 3 days. If put in the refrigerator, they lose their crispness and crunch.
Serve with salted nuts as a party snack, or use them to garnish breakfast dishes. Our inn guests will cruise through the kitchen and take whole handfuls. They are very refreshing. Dare you to eat just one!