FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2006

Island sketches

While “island sketches” sounds like I’m going to wax rhapsodic about a recent trip to a tropical destination, the reality is it’s been three years since my last vacation, and it’s probably going to be two years until the next one. Boy, that’s depressing. No, these island sketches were prepared by Don Geiselman, our contractor’s father, for the kitchen island. Remember that this 8′ x 4′ monster is really our kitchen, because all of the wall space is taken by windows or existing cabinets. He also drew a sketch for a custom refrigerator cabinet, but we had to put that on hold because we couldn’t find a refrigerator to fit. (Seriously, we wanted a true “cabinet” fridge but the only one we could find was a Sub Zero and, in addition to the expense, Consumer Reports indicates their repair rate is three times higher than other manufacturers, and for a B&B that’s unacceptable.) So initially we’ll just have our old refrigerator there, and we’ll work on the cabinet next year.
Here's the cabinet we're trying to match:

Here’s the cabinet we’re trying to match:

FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2006

Chief cook and bottle washer

Dawn went on a ‘spending spree’ this week, buying a table at auction for $110, a porch light on sale for $50, and a dishwasher for $2,800.

In her defense, I was the one that wanted a commercial dishwasher. And I’m not talking about a fancy “pro line” model from a high-end home store; this is a workhorse from a restaurant supply place. The kind with the gray racks that busboys carry. It cleans a load in 2 minutes, instead of an hour and forty-five minutes for the “pro lines.” The way I see it, if I use it every day for the next ten years, it only costs 70 cents/day more, and I will save 37 weeks of my life. (Of course, that assumes I would spend an hour and forty-five minutes each day standing idly by the dishwasher.)

I spent some money, too: $1,500 to painters to spruce up the LA house, and $1,500 to gardeners to overhaul the yard. Dawn always took care of the outside, but since she’s been gone for a year, it was looking pretty sad. Now it’s prettier than ever, and with the new paint and clean house, I’m wondering why I’m moving.

Then Dawn calls to tell me how much the granite countertop costs, and I remember why I’m moving: We need to sell this house.

Dawn found her own gardener, since she’s tired of the ‘mudpit’ look. She was trying to find someone who did hydroseeding — shooting seed, fertilizer, and glue out of a water hose — but the folks that do that were all booked until June, and we really want some grass for our grand opening. She finally found someone who can just reseed the yard in two weeks. This puts us in a bind, though: we have to hope for rain because of the grass, and hope it doesn’t rain because of the exterior painter. I guess we can hope it only rains at night.

radiant heat

Mike skewered the radiant heat in the bathroom, so he has to destroy the new ceiling to fix the pipes.

On a completely different note, when I was in Pennsylvania two weeks ago, we found some old Cream of Wheat posters at an antique mall. Normally I would not get excited about Cream of Wheat, but it happened that many years ago, our neighbor in LA had taken a similar Cream of Wheat poster and put it in a beautiful custom wood frame. When we moved in, he “loaned” this to us, with the understanding that we had to return it if we ever sold the house. So on top of everything else, we were going to lose this wonderful piece of artwork.

Instead, we bought two Cream of Wheat posters, and my neighbor is framing them right now! (He even told us we could keep the original.) Even cooler, they’re all “bed and breakfast” related — one says “Breakfast’s ready, little missy”, another says “Cream of Wheat Inne,” and the third says “The order of the day,” with a little girl sitting in bed talking on an old-styled phone. I already know where these are going to go, on the stairwell in the kitchen.

Look at me: we just spent our life’s savings on the house, and I’m excited about some $10 posters. It must be the paint fumes…


Dawn’s third (and final) to do list

Within the next ten weeks, we should have the mansion ready and (hopefully) the Summer Kitchen as well. Unfortunately, the Paymaster’s Office will take a little longer. Notice I didn’t say “finished,” just “ready.” The stuff that is absolutely required in order for us to get our occupancy permit and open the B&B is highlighted in bold.


  • Paint interior
  • Build kitchen island and refrigerator cabinet
  • Sand and refinish all floors
  • Strip stairs
  • Finish plumbing (install sinks and toilets)
  • Finish electrical (switches, outlets, humidistats, exit signs)
  • Finish fire and burglar alarms
  • Install thermostats
  • Buy and install light fixtures for kitchen, upstairs
  • Tile Kathyrn’s bath, our bath
  • Install marble surrounds on fireplaces
  • Buy applicances (refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, dryer)
  • Buy and install range hood, flue liner, chimney cap
  • Run propane line to kitchen
  • Install safety railing in servant’s stairwell
  • Strip and restore all doors
  • Remove and sandblast door and window hardware
  • Make interior storm windows
  • Buy and install interior blinds or drapes
  • Paint exterior
  • Paint front porch (ceiling is sky blue)
  • Hang exterior shutters
  • Install phones, cable TV, wireless Internet
  • Build mechanical room in basement
  • Build new basement stairs
  • Install laundry tub in basement
  • Replace basement door
  • Finish wine rack in basement
  • Cover spring in basement
  • Install storage cabinets in basement
  • Finish down spouts
  • Landscape in front of mansion
  • Get furniture from Mechanicsburg
  • Buy mattresses, linens, etc.
  • Glass tops for furniture

Summer Kitchen

  • Repair and install front door
  • Buy and install new flooring downstairs
  • Refinish flooring upstairs
  • Install ceiling fans
  • Finish plumbing (install sinks and toilets)
  • Finish electrical (switches, outlets)
  • Install air handler and heat pump
  • Build kitchenette
  • Strip and repair all windows
  • Finish repointing
  • Build and install storm windows
  • Install plaster
  • Paint
  • Tile whirlpool bath surround
  • Install propane fireplace

Paymaster’s Office

  • Rough plumbing
  • Rough electrical
  • Install air handler and heat pump
  • Build kitchenette
  • Drywall bathroom
  • Finish plumbing (install shower, sinks, toilet)
  • Finish electrical (switches, outlets)
  • Install light fixtures
  • Install chimney liner
  • Set up gas fireplace
  • Build kitchenette
  • Strip and repair all windows
  • Build and install storm windows
  • Patch woodwork
  • Build whirlpool surround
  • Tile whirlpool surround
  • Install tankless hot water heater
  • Install basement door
  • Refinish floor
  • Paint kitchen and bathroom
  • Pour cement floor in basement


  • Replace roof
  • Clean out
  • Buy emergency generator
  • Set up manual transfer switch
  • Finish repointing

White House

  • Replace bathroom fixtures
  • Build third bedroom
  • Paint inside and out
  • Rent

Los Angeles

  • Pack everything
  • Sell house
  • Hire movers
  • Drive to Pennsylvania


  • Reseed lawn
  • Finish drain in front of workshop
  • Pour cement floor in workshop
  • Install condensors/heat pump in workshop
  • Install louvres in windows with automatic opener
  • Install outside paths/lighting (solar?)
  • Repair floor joists in workshop (Dawn)
  • Install new stairs to workshop, or railing
  • Resurface driveway
  • Create pull-off; install retaining wall
  • Paint arrows/post signs at end of drive
  • Remove telephone pole and electric panels
  • Clear ivy from trees
  • Install barn doors
  • Move trough
  • Hang sign
  • Determine “open house” weekend
  • Throw a party!


  • Landscape
  • Rebuild back porch
  • Stabilize stallion pen
  • Rebuild chicken coop
  • Clean barn
  • Replace stairs on greenhouse
  • Restore lawn furniture

The view from the property. Pretty cool, huh?


Telephone wire

Received this email from Dawn:

While digging a trench across the driveway, Bob hit the phone line. ūüôĀ The phone company was called and today they came out to patch it; tomorrow they will come and fix it.
The story goes something like this:
– Hey Bob, I think you’re close if not over the phone line.
– No, it’s at least another foot over.
– No, I think it’s there.
– No, no, it’s over a bit.
– Ok, as long as you know.
– Anyway, I will just take one more swipe with the backhoe then start hand digging.
– Alright

I am walking away to get in my car and go pick up paint and I hear, “BRIAN, WHAT’S THAT??” I think to myself, don’t look, just keep walking, but Bob calls me and tells me he hit the wire. I say, no you did not. He says he hit the wire. I say, NO YOU DID NOT. Yes, he says, then proceeds to tell me why it happened. I cut him off and call the phone company. I am fit to be tied; I have no idea what the cost will be.

Bob hits a phone line

Bob, Bob, Bob…


Latest colors

We’re using Sherwin-Williams paint simply because they gave us a good discount, but the guys at the Lebanon store have been extremely helpful. For the rooms that aren’t yet painted, I used the “color visualizer” tool on the Sherwin-Williams website; hopefully you can tell which rooms aren’t ours!!


MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2006

This week

kathryn's room chandelier

kathryn’s room chandelier

Except for Thursday, this has been a very productive week:

  • We filed our taxes, and I was actually disappointed at how much we owed, since we’re going to be filing for a refund of all of it with the historic tax credits.
  • We visited the furniture, and I’m always amazed at how beautiful each piece is. My cousin spent two hours there, arranged all of the furniture by room, and picked out fabrics for four items, which was more than Dawn and I had accomplished in a year and a half!
  • We met with a landscape architect, sort of. Let’s just say she was on the property, and we weren’t*. In any case, it became obvious that we couldn’t do anything besides plant grass this year, and hope to work on the landscape next year.
  • We met with the contractor and started drawing up plans for the kitchen island and refrigerator cupboard. However, he needs us to choose a dishwasher and a refrigerator first. We also decided to go with a granite countertop instead of the engineered stone–even though it needs to be sealed regularly, Dawn prefers the look.
  • I also walked the house with contractor, and the opening date now looks like end of June. That was actually a relief, because there’s so much to be done besides the restoration, I wasn’t sure how I’d get it done by May. Channel 11 news also called to see if we were open yet, and I had to tell them it was going to be a while longer, but they’re definitely interested in a follow-up.
  • We bought a chandelier for Kathryn’s room at an antique shop in Adamstown (“antique capital of the USA”). This had been a problem because we’re putting a canopy bed in that room, and even though it has high ceilings, there still wasn’t room for a chandelier. But we found a flush-mount, five-layer, wedding cake crystal chandelier that looks very similar to¬†the other two chandeliers, so it’s perfect.
  • We also found an old print of Elizabeth township from 1876, which we’ll have mounted and framed. It clearly shows “Speedwell Forge” which is cool beyond words. I hope someday we can find an even older map.
  • In a bit of whimsy, Dawn bought a cast iron horse stand (for tying horses to). I’m not sure how many guests will arrive by horseback, but it’s kind of fun. We found it at Don and Ann’s Antique Roe, which is the scariest place in the universe. (They don’t have a web site, but I found some pictures¬†here¬†and¬†here.)
  • I met with the PA Dutch Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. I’m trying to get my mother-in-law to advertise the¬†wolf sanctuary¬†so she gets more visitors, which brings in more revenue, which makes it self-sufficient, which means I won’t end up supporting it, but so far she is very resistant. (And I know she’s reading this. ūüėČ
  • I gave a tour of the building, my first in three months. We even had some repeat visitors, who were impressed at how much had been accomplished. (Actually, the only major accomplishments were finishing the windows and putting up the plaster, which only took a couple of weeks.)
  • We picked up some wine from¬†Chaddsford winery. (Well, actually, we picked it up from the Springfield Mall, because we didn’t have time to drive to the winery.) I have asked my friends in California to try it, but they are such wine snobs, I’m sure they’ll turn their nose up at this just like they have the other Pennsylvanian wines.
  • I contacted the local YMCA about the labor day triathlon they sponsor, which passes right by our property. Unfortunately, they put it back on me to figure out what I wanted to do about a sponsorship, and I have no idea. Someone suggested putting our logo on hand towels or sports bottles, but that just seems too commercial.

*I had to pick up my cousin at the Philadelphia airport at 8:15am. I left late, then I got lost when trying to transition from the 76 to the 476, and I ended up on the 202. A quick glance at a map shows the 202 goes in the wrong direction, then goes into Delaware, and is a good hour out of the way. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a map, so I called Dawn, who can’t read a map to save her life. She told me I was “three inches” from the 95, so I just stayed on the 202.

Then my car died. Or more specifically, my mother-in-law’s car died. Worse, my mother-in-law was in the car at the time. We happened to be in front of a diner, so first I called Dawn, then I called a tow truck, then I had breakfast. That’s when the landscape architect called, wondering where I was.

Dawn was not happy about having to drive to the airport, so imagine her reaction when she got to the 76/476 transition and found the entire freeway was closed. (Apparently a pedestrian had been killed on the turnpike, though what a pedestrian was doing on the turnpike is beyond me.) She was forced to take the 202, and she drove right by us without ever realizing it.

Needless to say, she didn’t arrive at the airport until 1:15 pm, five hours after my cousin had landed. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law had been sitting in the diner for over three hours, so I called Enterprise rent-a-car and they came and collected us. I drove the rental back to the farm (an hour and a half away), dropped off my mother-in-law, picked up my cousin, and drove back to Delaware, to pick up my car. (I needed my cousin because the car rental was now closed, and the auto shop was four miles away.)

I actually calculated that between the four of us, we spent 36 hours driving and waiting that day. At the end of the week, my cousin’s flight home was at noon but she was ready to go at 5am, because she really thought we were five hours from the airport. (On the bright side, I got to check off “Delaware” from my list of states visited, which pushed me over the half-way mark.)


2006 PAII conference

Two years ago, when we had no idea what we were doing, we went to a PAII conference (Professional Association of Innkeepers something, pronounced “pie”) in Rhode Island. Last weekend we attended the PAII conference in Phoenix, and we realized that in two years, we still have no idea what we are doing.

I think about how far we’ve come and how much we’ve accomplished in two years, and I realize that we should have started ten years ago. My first workshop was on photography, and at the end of the class I asked, “What if you’re not open yet and don’t have any rooms you can take pictures of?” They said take pictures of the furnishings. I said, “What if all of your furniture is in a tractor trailing waiting to be restored?” They said, take pictures of the building. I said, “What if you’re still under construction and can’t take pictures yet?” They said take pictures of the property. I said, “What if your new septic system went in late last year and they couldn’t reseed the yard before the first frost and so your property is just a giant mudball?” That stumped them for a bit, but then they suggested decorating our bed and taking pictures of that. That, I could do.

Most of the other workshops I took were on marketing, and I got a lot of great ideas. For example, funeral directors are a great source of referrals (but they want you to take “grief sensitivity” training) and schools also have a lot of out-of-town guests. As I just discovered, Lancaster has seven colleges and universities plus Linden Hall, in Lititz, which is the oldest all-girl school in the country. (Their most famous graduate is Bea Arthur, star of Maude and Golden Girls, who I understand dated Dawn’s father for a short while.)

We also networked quite a bit, and met the owners of Flowers and Thyme B&B and King’s Cottage B&B. For some odd reason, I mentioned we were trying to find a range hood that we could retrofit for a fireplace, and it turns out that Don, owner of Flowers and Thyme, installs range hoods! (This led to Don and Dawn having a very technical discussion of duct sizes and flue lengths, while the rest of us looked on in a deeply disturbed sort of way.)

The best part of the conference, though, was the hotel we were at, because it reminded everyone why we like B&Bs. Personal service, unique rooms, friendliness, comfort–all of these were completely lacking at the hotel. We may not have refrigerators in the room, but we won’t charge $4 for a bottle of water, either. (And you won’t have to take a golf cart to get to your room.)