Tuesday, September 30, 2014


When we opened our B&B, we signed with a few online sites to do the websites and all the advertising.  We also set up our own website.  So far we have had a few guests from our website and a few from Vacation Rentals By Owner, or VRBO.  The majority leader of our guests have found us on Airbnb.

Airbnb is a fun site to search.  In fact, I told a friend about it and she called me and complained, because she had been on the site for hours, having way too much fun.  Anyone with a room or a trailer out back or even an air mattress on the floor can list what they offer and what they want to charge for guests.  If you think it is a good deal, a connection is made.

In our case, we are one of the many commercial sites that use Airbnb to drive business to our B&B or vacation rental.

We recently got an email that congratulated us on achieving Superhost status.  This means Airbnb places this symbol at the bottom of our page.

It shows that we have a minimum of 10 guests a year, we have fast responses to inquiries and get good reviews from our guests.  So far we have had only great reviews.  On the otherhand, we have had only great guests!

So if you are looking for a place to stay, from a REAL bed and breakfast to an apartment that is used just for short term rentals or just a spare room in a house, check out Airbnb.  And look for the Superhost designation.  It is your assurance of a fine experience.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Falmouth Packet Captains

During our stay in Cornwall we took a trip to Falmouth.  This was a shipping port and still has many boats and docks and a Maritime Museum.  And seafood restaurants, of course.  A relative of our son-in-law became a packet captain in 1787 at the age of 22 which was considered quite young for such an honor.  His name was Edward Bayntun Yescombe and his ship was the King George.

Packets were boats used to carry the mail and dispatches from England to many parts of the world.  Remember there was a time when the sun never set on the British Empire, or so they say.  The captains were appointed by one of the Postmasters General and it was a very prestigious and lucrative post.  In addition to carrying the mail, they were able to take a few passengers and carry cargo.  The income from these ventures were paid to the captain and he covered all the expenses for the ship from this money and the money he made from delivering the "packet" of mail to various ports.   They were lightly armed in order to make quick runs and usually they tried to outrun any boarders rather than stand and fight.

The exploits of packet captains were read about in the newspapers and quick runs or exploits with pirates, privateers and the French Navy were big news.  They were wealthy and well known back in the day.  Similar, I guess, to the fictional Rhett Butler who used his ships to run the blockade of the Union during the Civil War.

During Captain Yescombe's time on a packet boat he was captured by the French, where he was given parole to lodge outside of the prison.  He maintained that he handed back his parole and then escaped.  I believe the French disputed this and he knew if recaptured he would not be well treated and gave up sailing for awhile.  Eventually, he returned to captain another packet boat and was indeed attacked by the French and later died of his wounds.

Coincidentally his home in Flushing is currently up for sale. 

St. Peter's Hill, Flushing, Cornwall, TR11 5TP
Guide Price £650,000

Ordinary, everyday people don't get a great marble plaque in a place of honor in a church!  Even if his middle named is misspelled in his own plaque!  So we will consider them extraordinary.

Trista's father-in-law had read about a few items bequeathed to the Ann Yescombe, daughter of Captain Yescombe,  from the wife of one of the owners of Pencarrow.  So we travelled to that home and took a tour.  It is still owned by the original family, the Molesworth-St Aubyns and used for their home, in addition to allowing tours and even the occasional movie or television show to be filmed there.  In one of the bedrooms on the tour we saw the portrait of the woman who Ann Yescombe cared for during her illness and subsequent death. And so one more link in the chain of history was added.

I think this means I know more about the Yescombe family history than my own.  But I do know that the Yescombe line goes back to the Earl of Rochester.  And my mother's line goes back to the Earl of Montague.  At one point a daughter of the Earl of Rochester married a son of the Earl of Montague making us related somehow. 

Is this proof of the six degree of separation thing? I don't know, but it was a fun part of our Cornwall adventure and I'm glad we went.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Personal by Lee Child


I just finished the book, Personal by Lee Child.  It is his 19th Jack Reacher novel.  I liked it because it did not follow the usual Jack Reacher formula.  This is where he hitches rides or takes a bus from town to town in the US.  On his travels he finds injustice and by stealth, cunning and brute force he solves the problem and moves on. 

Sort like a modern day Lone Ranger.  Who was that not-masked man?  Or maybe like the old Equalizer TV show starring Edward Woodward.   Only you can't contact him and ask for help.  Reacher is a former Army MP and can't just walk past problems he feels compelled to solve.  At times he tries to walk away and the bad guys drag him in to the middle.  Boy, I bet they wish they hadn't done that.

The nice thing about Lee Child is that he changes things up from time to time, so you don't have the same book, just with different problems.

In Personal, Jack Reacher is contacted via an ad in the Stars and Stripes.  He finds it on a bus seat and there is an ad for him to contact a former Army associate that he owes a favor.  This turns into some international intrigue with an attempted assassination of the French president and the possibility of carnage during an upcoming G8 meeting in England. 

It is fast paced and although there is a high level of violence, there is also a lot of thought used in the intricate plot lines and it kept me guessing.  I like that in a novel.  Don't want to know who did it and why until the author tells me.  As far as the violence, he TRIES to do it the easy way, but they won't LET him.

Two things I really liked.  One, there are two women he encounters on this journey.  One is age appropriate and one 20 years younger. At no time does he make the attempt to be James Bond and have intimate knowledge of these women.  Not that he is a saint.  He meets plenty of women in the course of his travels.  But in this book there was no point in the plot where it made sense, so he didn't. 

The second one is kind of fun.  Are you aware that a  lot of the future technology we saw in Star Trek is now coming to be a reality?  People are making a Phaser like device that can send lethal and non-lethal laser pulses.  There are hands free, voice activated communicators available.  There is even a small tri-corder type device that you can wave over food to detect harmful bacteria.  I'm impatient for the medical tri-corder.

Do you remember the Star Trek IV movie?  It is the one directed by Leonard Nimoy (Spock!) and the best of that generation of the Star Trek movies.    That is the one where they go back in time to get some whales to take back to the future.  In it they have to get a manufacturer to build tanks for transporting them and Scotty gets a local company to make transparent aluminum because it is so strong and lightweight.

In Personal they are using Aluminum Oxynitride as see-through armor for when political figures are speaking in public to protect them.  I looked it up.  It's real!!  There really IS transparent aluminum!  Did the writers know of the research or did they make it up and then someone tried to replicate it???  I don't know, but I would love to.

(The Air Force's transparent armor
Air Force Research Laboratory Engineers are testing a new kind of transparent armor - stronger and lighter than traditional materials - that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows. The group is testing aluminum oxynitride - ALON a ceramic compound with a high compressive strength and durability. When polished, it is the premier transparent armor for use in armored vehicles. )

Even those who don't love Star Trek ( I'm sure there are a FEW people) will like this book.  I generally stay away from political intrigue, except for the early Tom Clancy books with Jack Ryan.  This would make a great movie thriller and in fact all of Lee Child's Reacher novels would work great on the big screen.  Child is a former TV director and has a good eye for what will work on camera.  But until they cast someone other than Tom Cruise as the six foot four inch tall Reacher, I will be sitting them out.

Monday, September 22, 2014

More Cornwall


During our stay in Cornwall, we spent several days travelling to local sites of interest. 


One day was spent driving to and exploring Tintagel, the legendary home of King Arthur. 


The hills were dotted with the remains of castles and other fortified ruins. 


You could see the erosion of the stones especially around this window, which I assume was meant to rain arrows or boiling oil on invaders.   I guess even castles aren't meant to stand forever.


The cliffs near the water had many large and small caves.  It was fun to think of how they were used back in the day.  Now they are used for tourists to explore.  An altogether fine use.


I climbed about


and explored


and then sat in the tea house and had a delightful scone with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam, while the others kept at it. 


That way everyone was happy.  I have had clotted cream in many a fine tea shop, but the Cornish variety is spectacular and worth the trip alone. 


It is creamy and as thick as a soft butter, but more gooey.  It is meant to be slathered on in a huge mountainous pile.  Or at least that is how much they serve you.  So you must use it up or offend the proprietors.  Don't want to perpetuate the ugly American tourist myth.  OK.  It's not ALWAYS a myth.  But not me!  So I ate it all.  All of it.  By myself.

Then we explored the town full of tourist shops selling things like plastic armor and swords for kids and the obligatory fudge shops for the adults.  No on the swords.  Yes on the fudge.

Here is where you need to notice that all the pictures show beautiful, sunny, but not hot, days.  In England!   This is not the norm for England, but if it is the norm for Cornwall, then I guess that partly explains the crowds of tourists midweek when there is no holiday.  Simply gorgeous.

Friday, September 19, 2014


We like to watch House Hunters International.  It shows people trying to buy or rent houses all over the world.  It makes us wonder what it would be like to move overseas and live a different life.  But it doesn't make sense to sell everything and go when you have never lived in that place to see if you would even like it.  This was the impetus to rent a cottage in England for a week.

We have a daughter who lives in England and it would be a twofer.  Try out a different locale and spend time with Trista.

A library friend introduced us to the TV series Doc Martin.  Although the series was completed in 2013, it can still be seen in the US on PBS.  The title character is a London surgeon who develops a fear of blood, gives up his surgical practice and moves to a tiny town in Cornwall.  His interpersonal skills are lacking and the town is chock-o-block with interesting characters. 


The scenery was beautiful and we decided to rent in a town in Cornwall.  Trista found a cottage for us all in Port Isaac.  Port Isaac is where they film the fictional town of Port Wenn for the show.  Doc Martin has become so popular, that they have even started filming new episodes for a final season.  Much of the town is given over to tours of the buildings used in the series and mugs and T-shirts featuring the star of the show, Martin Clunes.


Port Isaac is a very old fishing town.  The pier was built in the time of Henry VII and the city center...er, centre dates from the 18th and 19 centuries.  It is old.  Old houses and towns in America are in no way comparable to old towns in Europe.

I am not too proud to admit that we went on the Doc Martin tour.  OK.  I lied.  I am a LITTLE too proud to admit it.  In order to salve my sensibilities I can tell you that the fishing history portion of the tour was the main draw.

The tide goes way in and then way out, stranding the boats for another 12 hours.

There is a life boat in a building opposite the bay, but it was not always so.  In the early 1900s the life boat was kept up the hill and had to be hauled up and down by the locals.  The hills surrounding the area are steep and so the houses are terraced up very narrow streets.  There are still scars on the walls of buildings from ropes used to haul the boat up and down the hill.  In places the road is only 6 feet wide.  These are two way streets. 


I mean it. The roads in and around Cornwall are all one car wide and are two way streets.  With lots of twists and turns and with rock walls on either side.  And 40 mile an hour speed limits.  In any of these places if you come up against another car, and you haven't hit them in a head on collision, one of you has to back up to the random "wide" spots (three feet, maybe)  placed there for this purpose.  Then the other car squeezes past you.  You may have to pull in the side mirrors.  And then you must wave a thank you.  Different areas have different finger numbers waved.  Port Isaac seems to be four fingers on the hand that is clutching the steering wheel.  I know a single digit is used in some areas, but it is the pointer finger.  Not the other one that you are thinking.

All of this is done with great good will and smiles. 

A classic telephone booth updates for emails and texts!

We drove through the village once.  There are areas where you can reach out and touch the buildings on either side of the car.  A small car.  People have to stand in doorways to let you past.  We only did this once.  The rest of the time you park at one end or the other of the town and hike in to your house.  Nothing is very far, but it is very steep.

Even the stairs in the house we rented were steep.  The bathrooms and kitchen were an afterthought, although adequate.   As long as you can shower without bending over and don't wave your hands around when washing your hair.

And I would show you the pictures, except I took them on my iPad and I can't get them resized without losing picture quality.  I'll work on that and get back to you.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jet Lag

I haven't written a word for two weeks!  Normally when we go on vacation I stockpile a few recipes to post when we are away.  This time I was so busy with guests that I barely had to time to write about current projects, let alone writing a few extra.  But now we are back.

Last time this week we were in Cornwall.  Two days ago we were in London.  Yesterday was spent doing laundry and trying to stay awake.  You have to try to force yourself to stay in the current time zone.  That shortens the jet lag.

NAH!  You didn't buy that hogwash, did you? It does help to get you acclimated, but nothing shortens the torture.  Its like the old saying that if you don't treat a cold, it last about seven days.  If you do treat the cold you can get over it in a week.

I'm going to take a nap and then write about our great vacay in Cornwall.  Not today.  Can't think.  Kind of fuzzy. A wee bit nauseous. 

I love to travel.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Refreshing Drink

Lee and I made the huge jaunt into town.   Roanoke is about 30 minutes away and we tend to save up errands and do them in a big gulp.  If we do this around a meal time, we frequently stop in a restaurant and indulge ourselves.  I refuse to admit to PLANNING these trips around meal times.  It is coincidental when this happens.

We stopped in to Red Robin.  They had a new menu.  One of their new drinks is a Can-Crafted Cocktail.  I went to their menu to get a picture for you, but it is so new there is no picture on the online menu.  They sell the cans the drinks are served in and were sold out of them when we were there.  So I can't show you a picture that I took.

Suffice it to say, the drink was a combination of Coors Light beer and lemonade, that makes it a shandy, plus the delightful addition of ginger liqueur.  Red Robin just called it a Coors Light.


I recently made some candied ginger.  Sometimes it is called crystalized ginger.  When you make it you are left with some ginger syrup.  I saved it for an unspecified (ginger ale?) future use.  Now I have a use!

I placed a Tablespoon of the ginger syrup in a glass of ice. 


Then I filled it half way with some light beer and finished it off with Diet Sprite.  I have no idea how much sugar is in the syrup, but it IS called syrup.  Nonetheless, I will call this a light cocktail.  Perhaps a skinny girl ginger shandy.  Or Skinny Shenandoah Ginger Shandy (SSGS).  Yeah!  That's it.


Can you guess that I once wanted to write commercials and win a Clio?

My SSGS was refreshing and delightful.  And I left the rest for another time...or person. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September 2, 2014

September 2, 2014

It is still summer. 


And quite warm and humid.  Even at 11:00 in the morning.


So what's up with this tree?  It is losing its' leaves. 


A few of them are yellow, but most have just fallen off.


The trees in the woods behind our house agree with me.  It is still summer.


So what does this tree know that we don't.

Mind you, I wouldn't mind an early Autumn...as long as that doesn't mean an early...and very cold...Winter.

Are any of your trees prescient prognosticators?   

Monday, September 1, 2014

Laundry and Emergencies

We are still booked solid.  We have guests leaving after a leisurely breakfast and then we have to clean the whole apartment, two beds, two bathrooms a kitchen and 2500 square feet of tile and carpet.  The only saving grace is that our most recent guests have been so fabulous.

Of course, even though they leave the apartment spotless, we still have to clean between guests.  But it doesn't LOOK as though we have to clean.

We recently had some guests that stayed for the longest consecutive time.  They stayed four nights, so I had to think up four different breakfasts.  Then I had to make a grocery list and keep track of all those meals and the following meals, with just a quick trip to the market to get fresh fruit and juice.  And some more eggs, just in case.


Their last breakfast was a California omelette.  California because we added avocado.  Or that is what all the restaurants seem to do.  Yes, it needed sour cream and salsa, but we served that on the side.

These guests were clean, friendly and very thoughtful.  They even left us a gift!


You can't go wrong with wine and chocolate!

It's guests like these that make it fun to have a B&B.  Even with the shopping and cleaning.  And, if you are regular visitors, you know I like to cook.

Yesterday we had a minor emergency.  Lee was doing some work and stood up under a clamp.  The metal corner caught his forehead.  We were worried we would have to go get some stitches and we had guests arriving in an hour.  It looks horrible, but we decided, with the aid of our Physician Assistant-in-training daughter and a cell phone picture, that it wasn't deep enough to warrant stitches.


I made him come in and put ice on it, but an hour later he went out and finished the project.  What is with men?

Anyway, it made me realize I have to have contingency plans for if we DO have an emergency and have to dash out.  What do we do with our guests?  Our current plan is to leave the apartment unlocked with instructions for finding it sent via email or text.  I should probably look for a back-up innkeeper.  That will be my next executive decision.  As soon as the traffic dies down and I have time to think.