Saturday, October 10, 2020

Elm Creek Mascots

 If you’ve already been to the Manor, you have likely had a run in with Brennan and Bailey. These two little rambunctious critters are the unofficial ambassadors of Elm Creek Manor. They have been with us for years. Brennan is a Yorkie while Bailey is a Silky… they look like the same type of dog, and in fact they are close cousins, but technically a different breed. 

Both breeds of Terrier were developed for the dual purpose of family pet and rodent destroyer. Yorkies came from England, and then were later brought to Australia where they were bred with Australian Terriers to produce a bit sturdier breed of dog as Aussie rodents were in general a bit sturdier breed of pest. If you’ve ever seen pictures of the gigantic Australian spiders, you know what I mean! 

In the end the real importance of why we chose our lovable little imps is that they have a coat that is more like human hair than other dogs with a traditional fur type coat. This is important because as you obviously know, our home is an inn as well. It was important for us to choose a companion type that was both good in a country setting complete with squirrels, field mice, and other rodents that might get into the gardens, and also not be an issue for guests with dog allergies. 

Because of the difference in coat type, the hair style doesn’t produce dog dander, and therefore is considered to be safe for those with allergies to dog dander. This is good for us because Brennan and Bailey (or “Bobs” for short) are both very friendly and social animals, and often, Brennan will follow guests around the property. It’s very common that we will be looking for him and a guest will pop out of a room petting or holding him as he soaks up the attention, and they always say he came right in with us! Though, he’s quite obedient, it’s never been an issue when someone tells him to “stay” at the door. 

We’ve had Yorkies since my children were very small, and now 2 of them have their own families with their own Yorkies. The quirks of their personalities are really interesting because it’s such an intelligent breed. Brennan is obsessed with squirrels and balls, whereas Bobs couldn’t be bothered, as she is more dainty like a flower. My daughter has a son of hers, Comet, from a litter she once had, and he is as spoiled as it comes. My daughter told me that she takes him with her to Starbucks each morning and he gets a “puppachino”. He’s still not too stuck up to get dirty with her 3 kids, though. 

If you come out to the Manor, we hope you get a chance to meet these fun loving little guys as they run around and check on the rest of the animals we have. Brennan seems to think he is a shepherd and spends a large portion of his time running around watching the goats and donkeys we have here, but he’s never too busy to come say hello and get his ears scratched!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Festing in Covid Times

Once again, Oktoberfest is coming to Muenster. One nice thing about our place is that it is in itself a destination at a destination. If someone comes out here, they can visit fun kinds of places in the area. There are wineries, restaurants, and unique shopping options nearby that people really enjoy. But we are also a place that people can come to and have an entire experience without leaving the grounds. This is something we have that is unique in that it is an annual treat. 

It feels so strange these days to think about a festival in a world where interoffice exchanges are often conducted from home in your pajamas. Here at Elm Creek we have changed our already stringent health policies to make sure that everyone is comfortable and safe to a point where we feel it competes with some hospitals. It became our new normal to be so sanitary. The idea of a festival is almost so foreign that I was curious about so many things about the application of such an event. 

I looked into it, and there was a fundraiser they used over the summer to see what practices were workable with the local community. From what they learned, they said they are implementing some precautionary measures. They said that it came down to requiring the food servers to wear masks, as well as the bartenders, and the patrons. Also, everyone entering the festival will be temperature tested, and all the tables will be spaced apart in safe distances along with physical dividers around the music stages that prevent large groups of people from gathering together. Throughout the festival there will also be many hand sanitizing stations as well as volunteers to circulate and remind people to maintain social distancing. 

I was both surprised and relieved that they had put so much effort into looking at the safety of their guests. Being so long since social events were allowed, I guess they were willing to go the extra mile to make sure that the community could finally come together to celebrate the local culture. 

This is always a fun time, with the typical festival accoutrement like cotton candy, art and craft vendors, beer and turkey legs. However, Oktoberfest adds uniquely German accents to the party with sausages, polka, chicken dancing, etc, as well as free admission if you wear lederhosen! There is also a very popular bicycle race that draws a lot of attention.

If you are looking for a unique experience apart from an already unique experience, come to Muenster and join us at Elm Creek for a fun weekend you won’t forget.

Baby it's Cooler Outside

This time of year is a nice period of change. The winds are blowing cooler and the days are getting shorter. Going away are the bluebirds, here to stay are some new birds. As fall approaches, I get to start looking at new outfits and old sweaters. My Christmas decorations are dangerously close to getting unpacked and new vegetables are growing in the garden. 

I’m excited to write a new fall menu as the seasons begin to change. With new plants producing new flavors, we are canning all the fruits left from the summer harvests. I’ve got a busy week starting with 3 cases of pears to preserve! Once canning and pickling of the summer growth finishes up, it’s a fun time of creative exploration. 

I, of course, have certain staples on the menu, but these times are always a great time to move forward and release creative energy with new ideas about dishes to put together. Recently, I had to do this unseasonably as a fox quite literally got in the hen house and we had to come up with a few less egg-based breakfast ideas. I reminisced on a trip to Tuscany and came up with a few locally nontraditional options. 

One of the popular items came in the form of some home grown fruit preserves and house made chevre, toasted on bread we bake fresh each morning to make a more breakfast styled bruschetta. 

This time of year, however, it’s anticipated and proactive instead of a reactive bout of creativity. I’m looking forward to kicking into “hearty” gear and adding much more squash based dishes and new desserts. My son says that it never feels like summer is over until he smells rosemary in the kitchen.


Aside from the foods that we are switching up for the seasonal changes, we are also looking at the activities that we will be looking forward to. Summers end means that the pool won’t be quite the “hot commodity” it once was! Instead of lounging in the relaxing shade and lazily cooling off in the water, it’s time for warming up. S’mores by a fire and long walks around just watching the leaves change color oare the order of the day.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Spring Is Springing!!

Image result for photo of spring with bird

Well, now that winter's chilly veil is wearing thin, and the robins are showing their red breasts for the first time this year, can finally feel spring coming. This is a time of year that really makes me feel alive. The trees are still bare, but new life is seeping into nature.

Muenster is a great place to be in the spring. The Germans have a rich tradition of festivals. Most people are familiar with fall's Oktoberfest celebrations, being almost as culturally ubiquitous as St. Patrick's Day is with the Irish! The spring, however, is rich with its own set of activities.

In the coming months we look forward to Spring's crown jewel, Germanfest in April, but the last few years have added some very nice stones to the setting with two large crawfish boils, that bring the surrounding communities and the metroplex together with amazing bands and festivities. Alongside with the heavily catholic population here, meatless Fridays mean that I get to look forward to weekly fish fries held by the volunteer fire departments surrounding us and the Knights of Columbus. It is such a fun time to get together with friends I have not seen in too long, and make new ones I didn't know I'd missed in the first place!

I mentioned the crawfish boils before, and I don't want them to be understated. The last few years have seen these fledgling operations grow from local fundraisers into big time festivals! The first, the Sacred Heart School fundraiser opens the season and they are bringing a band I recently fell in love with, Prophets and Outlaws. Im not personally a huge fan of the Texas country music, as my boys call it, having grown up more with a taste for Billy Joel and Naked Eyes (not to date myself), but this one caught my ear. My oldest son played them nonstop one afternoon while he was working on his old truck with Brad, and got hooked. When they announced the lineup included them, I immediately bought us some tickets.

The other big Crawfish boil, the Muenster Volunteer Fire Department Annual Mudbug Bash is a little more raucous an occasion. This one is a bit bigger an event that I may not personally attend, but all my kids and apparently a couple of cousins are coming to town for this year. The announced headliner is the Toadies, who I remember from the blaring stereos of my kids in high school, but never really personally was too attached to. There are a few other bands playing that are 80's hair rock style from what I can tell. Im sure it will be fun, but I think I will just look forward to seeing the kids enjoy this one!


So since Punxsutawney Phil saw no shadow this year, let spring be sprung and as they say in New Orleans, Les bon temps rouler!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Fall or Christmas Outdoor Decorating with Nature

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Some would say I go "a little crazy".

Having lived all over the world as a youngster, I have seen Christmas decorating in all cultures and all walks of life.

People mistakenly believe they need to go out and spend a great deal of money to achieve amazing eye popping decor.

Actually, nature provides some of the best decor for you!

Some hints on how to get fresh greenery...  If you do not live in an area that has a variety of greenery, where you may go out and fresh cut, then stop by your local tree lot.  When the tree lots cut off the bottom of the Christmas tree for customers, they are happy for you to collect the branches.  You would be surprised how many branches and varieties of greenery you are able to collect.  They just throw that away.

We put all delicate plants away before the first freeze. We then fill our pots with a variety of cuttings, and evergreen branches such as Holly, Nandina, Pyracantha, Fir, Pine, Cedar, Rosemary, etc, be creative (you may need to replace them after a month -but hey- they are free).

As the months grow cooler, many bushes produce beautiful and vibrant berries. Look around your yard or neighborhood and gather many of these.
Take your empty pot or urn and make sure you have some soil in them (helps prevent them from blowing over and holds water). These cuttings are still alive and will absorb the water in the soil and stay fresh longer (feel free to water it if you live in a dry climate).

In the fall, we place a variety of our leftover veggies from the garden, such as corn, pumpkin, squash, okra (we let okra and squash get large and tough to use as decor), in and around the pots. 

When the Christmas Season is upon us, we take away the fall veggies and add Winter flair.

Make a garland of cheap plastic Christmas balls.  Collect, fun shaped sticks, and branches that have lost their leaves.  I often spray them gold, red, silver or leave natural to create a beautiful tall accent in pots.

Our flowers do not go back out into nature until March, so we see our Christmas decor morph into "Winter Decor".  We remove the balls and other obvious Christmas decor, refresh the greenery in the pots so they look fresh, and we continue to have a Winter theme.
I have found that after you have used nature for your decor, and you have made your first pot, you will begin to notice and spot beautiful things to decorate your outdoors with!  

I have been known to stop the car and jump out and cut a unique evergreen from the side of the road (be careful to respect private property).

Be sure and use some of your fresh greenery indoors to bring in that wonderful winter scent and creative beautiful garlands or swags.

Have fun and do not limit your imagination!