Nov 14

End of the Season Blues

Well, 2013 is almost over. Our season has been the best ever, with return visits by many guests, and new faces gracing our breakfast table. We have now shifted into a lower gear, closing down for the first week of November (after a hearty dose of 288 Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween coming up the scary front steps for our giant candy bars) to take Daughter Erin and Grand-daughter Alice (5 years old) for a week-long trip to Orlando and all things Disney. That trip took a hefty bite out of our savings, forced us to wait in long lines and do lots of walking. Alice actually was quite happy swimming in the hotel’s pool, which we’ll remember the next time we plan a family-related get-away.

Now that we’re back, we’re settling into actually being able to sleep in late. No more getting up out of bed and immediately planning when I’ll take a nap. We’re closed week-days and open only on weekends till Christmas. That gives me time to think about cooking something other than breakfast, for Dave and me, that is. And eating breakfast out for a change. We do have guests on weekends, so there’s no time for complete detachment. I still have to bake this afternoon…

Dave has attacked the task (yes, attacked) of putting Christmas lights up outside on the Star Magnolia tree. Curses have ensued, as he finds new strands of lights no longer lighting once he gets them all positioned in the tree. It will be a long week getting those all up a few at a time while the weather is relatively warm.

I just want to share that this has been an odd Autumn. Here’s why. The bright blue delphiniums and white daisies, normally blooming in June, were blooming in the garden in mid-October. To top that, yesterday there were bluebirds fighting off sparrows at one of the two bluebird houses in our yard. I counted seven bluebirds in the tree fluttering around, and concluded that they were part of a late-summer brood now being dispatched from the nest to get going somewhere southward together. Pretty amazing. The internet revealed that this is not completely bizarre, since bluebirds stick around these parts till mid-November. OK, right on schedule. I’ve just never witnessed this myself before, so it initially worried me that the bluebirds had lost their minds.

But no. And now I’m feeling a little blue myself. Time to dig into preparing for winter, big time, which I’m not thrilled about, the older I get. On the other hand, it’s time to gear up for Christmas, which I love. OK! Bring it ON!

Sep 20

Lanesboro, MN author launches new non-fiction B&B book at Lanesboro Arts Center

A Night To Remember in Lanesboro

Some of the many guests at Huisenga’s Book Launch/Capstone Event at the Lanesboro Arts Center Gallery

 

Did you Know Rose? brought tears to listeners' eyes

Nancy Huisenga reading presentation

 

Rhubarb Torte, Strawberries, Tres Leches Cake and lots of cheese & crackers!

Lovely reception food and flowers

LAUNCHED!

From start to finish, the official launch of my new non-fiction book, Behind the Door Marked “Private”: Confessions of a Small Town Bed and Breakfast Owner on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at the Lanesboro Arts Center in Lanesboro, MN was a huge success for me as a new Minnesota non-fiction author. According to Gallery Manager Robbie Brokken, such a large attendance has not been reached during the last six openings held there, and around 150 people mingling and chatting made for quite the noisy buzz. My book kept flying off the jewelry counter, where stacks were perched for me to personalize, as well-wishers asked to buy signed copies.

Brokken also noted that there were many faces she had never seen before, Lanesboro locals who had never set foot in the Arts Center before, and that made the event even more special. Even the mayor, Steve Rahn was there! He bought a copy of the book for himself and stayed around to mingle and listen to my readings. He said to me, with a smile, “I like to read! I’m going to read this book from cover to cover. I may have to shut you down after I read it…” A great sense of humor, eh? So many people graced the Arts Center, including my husband Dave, my son Ethan, his wife Molly and my baby grandchild, Kira. I was one happy lady, on what was also my birthday.

During the event, people were able to put on headphones and listen to the video that was created for this event by local actor/artist Ana Hagedorn, of the Commonweal Theatre Company. This video fills in the background of the artistic project that culminated in the publication of my book, and is also available on YouTube. Thank you to Ana for her hard work making a wonderful addition to the evening and to the project as a whole!

Unfortunately, Sarah Peterson could not attend. She is the local photographer/graphic artist/author who collaborated with me by performing all the graphic and programming-related tasks associated with the publication of my book. I cannot begin to describe how delightful Sarah is to work with, as she brings her sense of design, her attention to detail, her commitment to completing work on a set timeline, and her wonderful ability to communicate effectively. She was the wind beneath my wings during this whole artistic endeavor.

I was pleased to hug my mentor for the grant process, local artist, goldsmith, silversmith and jewelry designer, Liz Bucheit. Without her help and encouragement I would never have completed the application process for the grant last January. She is an inspiration to me, and I will work to encourage and help other literary artists in the same way she helped me.

Renee Bergstrom was also in attendance. Her exquisite photo of the Habberstad House has graced our web site since 2001. Her photo has sold over and over again at the Lanesboro Arts Center, where it is available as a postcard. She donated the use of that photo on the back cover of my book, and i am delighted every time I see it.

So many people were there to hug that night; people who have worked for us at the Habberstad House, people who have stayed with us at the Habberstad House, friends from town who have supported by work and shared in the journey my husband Dave and I have made over so many years.

I have to report, however, that there was a bit of a twist to the launch event. One town resident elbowed her way through the crowd to come face to face with me and give me a piece of her mind. Not a very happy piece, to be sure. Apparently she disagreed with my descriptions of a couple townspeople in my book, and wanted to be sure I heard about it straight away and in person. These were not relatives of hers, but apparently she felt rather strongly about her need to speak for them. Her mother had taught her, she pointedly told me, that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. I countered with a somewhat tense smile, but a smile nonetheless, that she was welcome to take that approach when she wrote and published her own book. It didn’t dawn on me until later that this woman had failed miserably at practicing what she, and her mother, had preached. By coming to my launch party and vented within inches of my face, shaking with anger, she had tried to rain on my parade; but in fact, I hope she tells everyone she knows how angry she is with me. It should help me sell a lot more books!

That lovely drama aside, many thanks to the Arts Center personnel who worked incredibly hard to staff the cash register, to keep the food we prepared fully stocked and the wine poured. This event served as the Capstone Project for the grant I received last spring to write and publish this book. Proper thanks were made during Robbie Brokken’s introduction, expressing gratitude for the Minnesota legislation that helps fund the arts in Minnesota, and for the McKnight Foundation Established Artist grant administered through the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC).

I did a couple readings from my new book, and saw smiles on faces all around me. Many copies were sold, and I went to bed that night incredibly happy.

 

Nancy Huisenga signs another copy of “Behind the Door Marked ‘Private’ “

What a great night!

Sep 10

Makeup Stains on White Washcloths and Linens Drives B&B Owners Crazy

What is it about white towels and washcloths that hotel, inn, or Bed and Breakfast  guests are drawn to like a magnet if they happen to be women who wear heavy makeup? Even when a black or dark purple or dark brown washcloth is provided, the presence of a white washcloth hanging by the sink or the shower seems irresistible. The challenge is accepted and every conceivable shade of dark mascara, red lipstick, purple eyeshadow are rubbed off onto the whitest of white washcloths and towels. Why? Who knows. I do know that women would not likely do that to their own white towels in their homes. Removing those make-up stains on white facecloths is expensive and time-consuming at a B&B such as ours.

We’ve tried providing expensive makeup remover products that have been saturated with non-irritating oil to gently remove makeup without irritating the eyes. But they’re left to dry out, unused.

Instead we spend hours and money scrubbing the stains, bleaching towels, and throwing many expensive 100% cotton hand towels and wash cloths away. Yes, we then find a use for those washcloths as kitchen washrags, but the stack is getting huge. I end up resenting such inconsiderate guests, which contributes to burnout stress over the long haul of running a B&B.

The best way to prevent dark makeup stains on white towels, in my opinion, is to not have white towels in your B&B in the first place. Crazy me. I have white towels in every guest room. But I’m crossing my fingers that my cleaning problems will decrease since I’ve put a little rolled-up high-quality, soft, attractive black washcloth on a pretty plate on each sink. I even point it out when I orient guests to the room at check-in.

Oh, by the way, add in the spray-on or wipe-on fake gold-colored tanning products and the work it takes to remove THOSE stains from our ruined expensive towels, and my head starts spinning…

 

Sep 07

The Raspberry Harvest | Raspberry Pie!
{Our Best Raspberry Pie Recipe}

photoThis afternoon I have just picked the motherlode of fresh, red, huge, ripe raspberries from what started out as 3 sticks of raspberry branches given to me 13 years ago by Stephanie, our neighbor across the street. Since then the raspberry bushes out in front of the Carriage house have grown immensely and need to be heartlessly trimmed back every year. It is a wonderful spot, where the sun shines hot and bright, allowing the berries to ripen and sweeten in the afternoon heat. While I pick them I remember my mother, who would let me help her gather them when i was a child, and would then go into her kitchen to prepare the best raspberry pie in the world.

Having these ever-bearing raspberry bushes placed in the right spot on our property has been a blessing, and should be a requirement for every B&B owner located on even the smallest lots of land. They require care, but the yield is worth it.

Wearing a plastic bucket tied with string around my waist, handfuls of berries yielded to gentle coaxing off their stems. With the sunshine beaming down on me, and sweat beads forming on my forehead, the moving meditation worked its wonders on me. My breathing slowed. I listened to the hum of the bees and the wingstrokes of the birds in the air around me. My heartbeat calmed. I was at peace in the world.

As a B&B owner, we have many favorites, but here is our secret recipe for my mother’s Best Raspberry Pie, which is a real treasure being served for breakfast tomorrow.

“Best Raspberry Pie Recipe”

PIE CRUST FOR 9-INCH DOUBLE CRUST PIE:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup chilled shortening
  • ¼ cup chilled sour cream with ½ tsp baking soda mixed into it

Directions:

  • Sift the flour and salt
  • Cut in chilled shortening with pastry cutter or electric mixer until the shortening breaks up into pea-size particles
  • Add in a little of the chilled sour cream/baking soda mixture at a time, mixing lightly with a fork, so that the pastry pulls easily away from the bowl, and form into two pastry balls rolled gently in the palms of your hands
  • Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about ½ hour
  • When chilled, unwrap and roll out on a lightly floured surface, placing one of the rolled crusts into the bottom of the pie plate

RASPBERRY PIE FILLING:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and move oven rack to center position

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups of ripe fresh raspberries (do not wash your freshly-picked raspberries: instead, shake them all out onto a clean surface, and carefully inspect them to ensure they are free of any extraneous debris)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 Tbs butter, cut up into little pieces

Directions:

  • Mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt
  • Spread ¼ of that mixture over the prepared bottom pie crust in the pie plate
  • Fill the pie with the raspberries
  • Spread the remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt mixture over the berries
  • Dot with little pieces of the butter
  • Cover with the upper crust, cut and flute the edges
  • Make cuts in the top crust to vent
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes
  • Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned
  • Serve with a scoop of home-made salted vanilla ice cream for a special treat

Sep 04

Accounting for the Habberstad House Bed & Breakfast; It’s Time and Money

On this lovely, sunny, spectacularly gorgeous day, I picked raspberries to make a pie for breakfast tomorrow. But not before I spent most of the 70-something degree weather indoors attempting to catch up on my bookkeeping and general accounting between interruptions. Every item must be accounted for, and that takes time. If I don’t do it, that costs money because we can’t deduct it from our taxes.

Then in the evening, I was going to get back to the accounting,after having been distracted by things like checking in guests, when friends from the Commonweal Theatre stopped by. With their little dog. So suddenly we were drinking lovely wine and laughing and I completely forgot about catching up on the accounting.That doesn’t happen very often. In fact, the raspberry pie that I had prepped sat on the 450 degree oven’s stove-top until we had downed a bottle or two of wine among us. Now it is 9:20 PM and I put the pie in the oven, start making the walleye dinner we had planned, and we laugh together in the kitchen, Dave and I. We had our day all planned, accounting and baking and dinner, and YES! We had a wonderful shift of the equation.

The accounting will wait. As it usually does. And we will pay catch-up later. Friendship comes before accounting. It’s a part of the equation when running a B&B.

Nancy

Sep 02

Running a B&B while raising a family; how is it possible?

Today is Monday, Labor Day. Yesterday was Sunday. But yesterday I thought that it was Thursday, not Sunday. The Thursday before, not the next Thursday. But it wasn’t Thursday. It was Sunday. I’ve been confused like that before, since my days run like a fast blur, one into another, gathering speed the farther I get into the season. it is now Labor Day, and the season has been under way for quite some time. The blur is all around me by now.

How did I slow down the blur so that I could focus on the world in front of my eyes? By having Daughter Erin drop off Grand-baby Lindsey, trusting us to take care of her for four nights, on top of our busy days at the B&B. She had dropped off Grand-daughter Alice, Lindsey’s big sister, at the other wonderful Grandma and Grandpa’s house, while Daughter Erin and her husband Dane took a car-trip, sans children, to Texas and back again, jiggity-jig. During these past four days I truly did slow down, enough to actually sit with little Lindsey in the warm, sunny afternoons, enjoying the breeze on our skin, listening to birds chirp, watching the dragonflies settle on the flowers, hearing the fountain splash and gurgle. I had not done that all summer long! I felt Lindsey’s fingers curl around mine as she contentedly drank down her bottle. What a simple joy it was, one that squeezed my heart, tightened my throat, and brought tears of joy to my eyes. Seeing her broad smile, wiping drool from her lip, changing her wonderfully poopy diapers, drying her off after a bath and wrapping her snuggly in a fluffy towel, picking her up after her nap and hugging her tight to me, all those moments brought my days into focus and stopped the rush of time whooshing by. I didn’t feel like I was drowning in the wake behind a speedboat during these past four days. Instead, I felt centered, captivated, at peace. I am very thankful for it, even though the 3:30 AM cries for a bottle in the night interrupted my sleep. I felt that love that grandparents describe to each other. I wish that I could do it longer, but the reality is that i can’t. It’s tiring and I don’t have the stamina for prolonged visits from grand-babies. And there is so much catching up to do now.

I have never understood how people could own and operate a B&B successfully while raising babies. I’d LOVE to hear from you B&B owners out there. How do you do it? How do you do justice to your children and your Bed and Breakfast guests? What is your secret? Tell me, tell me please.

Oh, yes, today is Labor Day. Not a day off for me. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, the book-keeping…eeeek! I’m so behind!

Nancy Huisenga

Aug 30

Scotch Eggs Recipe Ingredients Correction to Make 12 eggs

Many thanks to Renee Bergstrom who read my Behind the Door Marked “Private” right after publication and found a recipe error. Eek! Unfortunately, I had used double the ingredients for the published book version, since I had originally served 2 eggs per person. I found that 1 egg, sliced in half, was plenty to serve to hungry guests as part of our entree at breakfast. The book is now shipped or sold in shops with the correction sheet slid between pages 66-67, but some people got the book sent to them before this error was detected. The kindle version, which is now available, has the correction in place. Here is the correction as inserted into the printed version of the book:

Baked Scotch Eggs

Serves 12 (2 halves per person)

CORRECTION OF INGREDIENT QUANTITIES FOUND IN THE BOOK RECIPE ON PAGES 66-67

(I used ingredient quantities for 24 eggs in the book version of this recipe, but listed that it serves 12 with 2 halves per person. I’ve revised the quantities of ingredients below to suffice for only 12 eggs. Thanks to my friend Renee Bergstrom, who tried the recipe right after she bought the book, and identified the problem! The recipe has been corrected in our digital version, and will be corrected when we reprint the hard copies. Nancy

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground pork sausage (we use Jimmy Dean® sage pork    sausage)
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 12 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and cooled (I always make a couple extra, just in case they’re needed)
  • 2 large eggs for wash (these are not hard-boiled)
  • 2 cups fine dry breadcrumbs
  • Boston lettuce or other smaller lettuce

And by the way, you don’t need to turn them in the oven every 5 minutes. Every 15 minutes will do.

 

Jul 19

Author Nancy Huisenga starts new journey

Habberstad-006Nancy Carruthers Huisenga began her career as a Theatre Arts major at the University of Minnesota back in the 1960’s and eventually became a registered nurse, working as a coronary care nurse and clinical educator at what is now Regions Hospital in St. Paul, as well as CPR and Advanced Coronary Life Support trainer, and pharmaceutical sales representative for Abbott Labs before moving into medical device research for many years. Moving from St. Paul to Lanesboro, Minnesota in 2000, she owns and operates the Habberstad House Bed and Breakfast with her husband, Dave (www.habberstadhouse.com).

Whenever possible, she acts with the well-known professional Commonweal Theatre Company as well as some of the community theaters in the area. She has written poetry, children’s stories and newspaper articles for years. Her mother’s frequent admonition, “You should write a book!” came to fruition in 2012 with the publication of her children’s picture book “Does a Zebra Know It’s Striped?” (Agape Studios). By forming her own company, Books by Nancy H in 2013, Nancy has now taken her publishing to the next level, and is pleased to introduce “Behind the Door Marked Private” to adult non- fiction readers.

An experienced lecturer, Nancy is available for speaking engagements and discussion groups on the many aspects of running a bed and breakfast. She is also determined to work with other authors in the Lanesboro area to create a series of workshops for new authors.

She is thrilled to be starting a new chapter in life! Her blog on her website (www.nancyhuisenga.com) and on Facebook will gather momentum for the next book endeavor, whatever that may be.

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