Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Granola with Dried Fruit - The best ever

We serve Granola every day along with our breakfast main entree and fresh fruit courses.  Guests love the dried fruit we put in the Granola and are constantly asking for the recipe.

Artists' Inn Granola      

Yield:  Approx. 14 cups     Oven Temp: 350 degrees

8 cups of Old Fashioned Quaker Oats
1 cup shredded  Coconut
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 1/2 cups Raisins
1 1/2 cups Cranraisins
3/4 cup Canola oil
1 cup Honey
1 tablespoon Vanilla
2 cups chopped Dried Fruit  (Sams Club has the perfect mix)
8 ounces Dried Banana Chips

1.  In an extra large mixing bowl combine Oats, Coconut, Brown Sugar, Raisins, and Cranraisins mixing together thoroughly

2.  In a small sauce pan combine Canola Oil, Honey, and Vanilla.  Heat a few minutes until honey has become a thin liquid. DO NOT BOIL.

3.  Pour liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix together until dry mixture is coated well.

4.  Spread mixture out on two large jelly roll pans and place in 350 degree oven for no more than 15 minutes.

5.  Remove from oven and place mixture in a large plastic container.   Add dried fruits at this time.  Mix occasionally until cool.  Break up any large lumps.

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS:   If this mixture is for your family's personal use, you may want to add 1 cup of nuts (chopped walnuts or sliced almonds) at the same time as you add the dried fruits. 

ENJOY ! ! ! 

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New at the Huntington Library -

It has been at least 40 years since we have visited The Huntington in San Marino, CA   It is just a hop, skip, and a jump from South Pasadena and the inn we are currently interim innkeepers at the Artists' Inn.   We had a quiet day and so set out to explore the impressive Library, Art Collections, and Gardens.   As the resident innkeepers, we pride ourselves on being able to give our guests extra tips to help make their visit to area attractions special.  

One thing I will now remember to tell guests is to wear comfortable shoes.  The buildings are grouped fairly close together, but the gardens definitely take you farther afield.   The other tip is that it is less expensive to visit The Huntington during the week than on weekends.  Or, if you can plan your visit to the first Thursday of each month, your visit is free (tickets are required and can be reserved online). 

We had previously been in the European building where the famous paintings of Pinkie & Blue Boy are housed.   This time, we viewed the new Scott Galleries of American Art.   Not only do they have some wonderful pictures, but also silver, glass, and wood pieces by famous American artisans.  Howard would have loved to take home the modern Frank Lloyd Wright dining room table.  The one thing most guests don't realize is that when you view the galleries there are free audio tapes available at the buildings main entrance to enhance the viewers gallery experience.   It is much nicer to listen about the various paintings etc. and be provided with more information than you can possibly read under the various captions. 

If you love the outdoors and gardens, then the grounds of the Huntington are special. The Botanical Gardens are an ever-changing exhibition of color and are a constant delight.  More than a dozen gardens cover 120 acres.   There is a fairly new Chinese Garden which was completed about 2 years ago.   This garden is inspired by the centuries-old Chinese tradition of private gardens designed for scholarly pursuits.  It is serene, and peaceful with water ponds and streams, rocks, plants, bridges, and small structures.  Docents are available to give you history and background of why and how the gardens were created.   

Two of my favorite flowers in the gardens are the Camellia bushes and the Rose bushes.  The Camellias are just starting to bloom and will be in their full glory in February - May.  The roses will be cut back in January but should be starting to bloom once again by March.  On the second Thursday of each month, garden enthusiasts can enjoy a free garden talk and plant sale.

I'll save further discussion about The Huntington for another time.  Hope you get to visit this wonderful area attraction if you are in the Los Angeles area.    

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wine Tasting & Jazz in Southern California - South Pasadena

As an owner innkeeper or interim innkeeper - our current occupation,  there are moments when all the guests are checked in for the night and you say to yourself,  "let's go out for an hour or so".  Of course, before you go, you forward the phones to your cell phone - which you put on vibrate, leave notes (both inside and outside) letting guests know how to get hold of you, and take a copy of your reservation calender and keys with you.  Even though you are away from the inn, you never really leave the inn behind.

We wanted to stay in the neighborhood so we walked just a  few blocks from the Artists Inn  to a lovely Wine Shop - Wine Styles that has Jazz and Wine Tasting on Friday Evenings.  What a delightful time we had.  The wine tasting was very reasonable ( 3 wines for $5).  To top it off, you can get small appetizers or a yummy triple chocolate brownie topped with a caramel and raspberry sauce.  It all depends on the type of wine you are drinking.  The jazz was mellow as were the wines.  The Brownie was to die for.

We enjoyed our small time away, but after an hour or so, headed back to the bed and breakfast.   There were still reports to run and credit card charges to batch out, lights to be turned down, and dirty dishes from the guests who had eaten some of our Raspberry Chocolate Bars to be gathered.

Sleep will come quickly.  It seems that we no sooner put our heads down that the alarm clock is ringing and it starts all over again. 

Why do we do this ------   Because we love taking care of B&B's, love the guests - both returning and new, love cooking (Howard is the chef) and love being the ultimate concierge.

Come see us, we have lots of stories to tell.  If you think this is the lifestyle for you, look at our Bed & Breakfast training classes on our website.

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring - (Currently on Assignment at the Artists Inn in South Pasadena, CA)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Bit of Sweet to Enjoy

Nothing is better than a nice cup of tea in the afternoon and a bit of sweet to go with it.   After a day of sightseeing it feels wonderful to sit down in comfortable surroundings and just relax.  

The guests at the Artists Inn in South Pasadena, where we are currently on assignment, love our Raspberry Chocolate Streusel Bars.   It seems we put them out and they disappear very quickly, even if there are only a few people in the house.  I guess it is time to make more again. 

This is a wonderful recipe to make over the holidays.  It can even be made ahead of time and frozen until you need to use them.   One note, do not make this late in the day.  It does take time to set up and cool before you try to cut into bars. 

Enjoy and let me know how you like them.  I know our guests have been scooping them up.   


1 package yellow cake mix
2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup melted butter
12 ounces raspberry jam
1 teaspoon water
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Combine cake mix and oats in a bowl.
2. Stir in the melted butter until the mixture is crumbly.
3. Put three cups of the mixture into a prepared 9 x 13 inch glass pan, which
    has been lightly sprayed with Pam, and press firmly.
4. Combine jam and water and spoon over crumb mixture - spread evenly. 
5. Spread chocolate chips evenly over jam.
6. Spread the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the jam/chocolate chips.
    Pat the top gently.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
8. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fire Safety

Fire safety is something that each and every one of us needs to be aware of.  I recently saw an article about an 225 year old inn that had just burned down.  Fortunately, no one was in the building at the time.  However, what if there had been guests? 

Do you have emergency lighting in all of your rooms, hallways and stairways?   This can be easily accomplished by using reverse polarity plug in emergency lights.  They will only turn on if they are removed or if the power goes off, as it may in the case of a fire.   Someone leaving their room in the middle of the night could grab the light and use it as an additional light source as they were making their way out of the building. 

The one problem that owners need to be aware of is that some housekeepers will turn off the emergency lights when they are cleaning a room.  They need the outlet where the lights are plugged in.   That part is fine, they just need to remember to turn the switch back on when they plug the light back in and leave the room.  This problem can be avoided if you get one of the emergency lights that also has a plug outlet space available on the front (Intermatic PR3C Three-in-One Emergency Power Failure Light)

Some inns may have flashlights by the bedside table.  These are handly if you have to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  There is nothing worse than trying to find your way in a strange room when you are half asleep.   The flashlights again can aid the guests as they leave their room during an emergency evacuation.  Just be sure to check the batteries regularily as they will degrade over time. 

What about fire extinguishers?  There should be at a minimun, one on each floor of your B&B plus one in the kitchen.  If you have numerous wood burning fireplaces, you may want a fire extinguisher located in each room with a fireplace.   Most fire departments recommend a 5 pound bottle.  These should be recharged yearly by a professional service.    Check with your local fire department for your specific regulations and requirements.

How about smoke detectors for each guest room and for other main areas of your bed and breakfast.  Most of these are operated by battery.  It is a good practice to get into the habit of changing the batteries in your smoke detectors at the same time that you change your clocks for daylight savings time.

Do your guest rooms have an emergency exit plan posted?  This can be posted on the back of the guest room door.   What about how to call emergency personnel in case of a medical problem?   On the information sheet, be sure to list the cross streets, address, and telephone number for the B&B.  In an emergency, you don't want the guest to have to fumble around for this information. 

Last, but not least, is the burning of candles or other open flame devices.  This can be potentially deadly.  It is easy to accidently catch a piece of fabric or paper in the open flame and have the fire spread to either furnishings or guests.  The candles can accidently tip over and catch furnishings on fire or burn guests.    Then there is the mess of dripping wax to deal with either on tablecloths, furnishings, or floor coverings. 

For those who wish to keep the ambiance of candles there are many flameless candles that are operated by battery.  Check out The Flameless Candle Shop   You get the flavor without the danger. 

Stay safe this holiday season. 

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pasadena Arts & Crafts Movement Tours and More

We are enjoying our new bed and breakfast innkeeping assignment at the Artists' Inn  in So. Pasadena, CA.  The weather is wonderful.  This weekend, the Pasadena Heritage will present its annual Craftsman Weekend on October 16-18, 2009. The Weekend’s offerings will include a tour of significant Craftsman-era houses, exhibits by antique dealers specializing in the Arts & Crafts Movement and modern craftsmen specializing in the period style, special bus and walking tours, and exclusive evening receptions at historic sites. So if you love old houses and the Craftsman movement this is a must see.  

This is a new venture for us as Interim Innkeepers.  We will be sharing the innkeeping duties at the Artists Inn with another couple.  Generally, we will be working for a month then off for a month.  In between, we will visit our own bed in Colorado as well as visiting family and friends.  

How does that Willie Nelson song go?   --- On the Road Again ---    looks like that is going to be us in the coming months.

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How can you get rid of some Garden and Household Pests?

Whether we are innkeepers or just homeowners, we all have pests that either invade our gardens or house.  Here are some suggestions to help you rid yourself of the following unwanted guests.

Stop Deer From Eating Your Plants
The best sprays to discourage deer are made from homemade egg solutions.  Here is one recipe:  in a blender place 1 egg (with shell) in 1 quart warm water, plus 1 tablespoon cayenne (or 1 teaspoon hot pepper oil), 1/4 cup milk, and 1 teaspoon cooking oil.  Blend then strained the solution, and sprayed on plants.  Repeat spraying when new growth appears or when rain washes the solution off.  To buy a commercial product try Deer-Away.

Squirrels Away
To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper.
The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.
Goodbye To Fruit Flies
To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar
and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the
cup and gone forever!
Getting Rid Of Ants
Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't
digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works
and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

No More Mosquitoes
Place a dryer sheet in your pocket.   It will keep the mosquitoes away.

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Sunday, October 4, 2009

As an innkeeper, magazines can be a wealth of knowledge - if you have time to read them!

I have always collected things from magazines.  Articles on places to visit, handy hints around the house, recipes, garden advice, etc.,  etc, etc.   I put these precious bits of wisdom in a folder which has been sitting in my desk drawer. 

Over the years that I have been an innkeeper, I kept telling myself that I would get them organized, just like Martha Stewart.  It has never happened.   However, I am tired of waiting.  I need to pass on some of these pearls of wisdom.  Here are ten bits of kitchen wisdom I have collected. 

Peeling Eggs:   To make hard-boiled eggs super easy to shell, add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to a 4 quart pot of water before you bring it to a boil.

Feed Your Plants:  After you have boiled eggs, take the left over water and let it cool.  Then you can use it to feed your indoor or outdoor plants.  The calcuim from the shells leaches out into the water making it a perfect tonic for your leafy garden greens. 

Slicing Mozzarella:  Use an egg slicer to cut out the mess that goes with trying to make neat slices of this slippery cheese.  The wires divide the soft cheese into equal segments without squashing it.

Chopped Fresh Garlic:  Let the chopped garlic sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cooking it.  According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the extra time allows the garlic's cancer-fighting compounds to fortify themselves against heat, which would otherwise deactivate them.

Storage Secret:  Onions and potatoes should be stored in cool, dry spots, but never together.  Onions emit a gas that causes potatoes to spoil more rapidly.  Place the vegetables in separate bins - never use plastic bags - and keep them in a well ventilated area.

Baking Chocolate Cakes:  When you have to grease and flour a cake pan for a chocolate cake, use cocoa instead of flour.  No white specks are left on the finished product.  

To Avoid A Sticky Mess:  Spray measuring cups lightly with a non-stick spray when measuring sticky ingredients such as honey or molasses. 

Cake Decorating Idea:  Write your message, in icing, on a piece of parchment paper and chill in the freezer.  Then, just lift the letters or words off with a paring knife or small spatula to put on your cake.  

Keeping Things In Place:  Put a damp kitchen towel underneath your mixing bowl or cutting board to keep them from moving across the counter while you work. 

It Doesn't Spoil:   Honey is the only food we have that doesn't spoil.  It may start to crystallize, but a bit of low heat brings it back into liquid form once again.

Stay tuned for more bits of wisdom which I have gathered from many different sources.

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Think your are protected from a Computer Virus - THINK AGAIN !

For those of you who think I'll never get a computer virus - THINK AGAIN !! !   We have a firewall on our modem and additional anti virus software on each of our computers.  Well, Lynda's computer became infected with a Trojan Horse Rootkit-Pakes.0 virus.

We have both spent the entire weekend as well as these past two days trying to get rid of it.  You think it's gone and back it comes again.  It is creating a mess.  Fortunately, all of our files are on the other computer so we are not dead in the water.  However, having been a two computer family for so long, it is trying for both of us.    Keep your fingers crossed that we don't have to wipe the drive clean and start over installing all our programs.  At least we have a good back up we can pull from. 

We're finished venting for now.  Will post more tomorrow. 

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Friday, September 4, 2009

Food Safety for everyone

As a bed and breakfast innkeeper, if a guest asked me how long let's say a bottle of ketchup can stay in the fridge before it goes bad?  I'm thinking one year.  However, if you want an expert opinion, go to 

This site lists all kind of foods and how to keep them fresh longer as well as when to get rid of them. If you have a question click on the particular picture, and a whole list of stuff appears.............   What a great resource for everyone who cooks  or handles food! ! ! 

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Banana Bread - What to do when you don't want to make an entire loaf.

What do you do when you have over ripe bananas - of course, you make banana bread.

We did this when we owned our bed and breakfast, and continue to do so on our inn sitting assignments.   However, there are times when you just need one or two slices.  You don't want to have left over banana bread sitting around, tempting you to eat the leftovers.  However, there is an easy solution.

Prepare your favorite Banana Bread batter recipe (or any other quick bread recipe for that matter).  Instead of baking an entire loaf, put the batter into muffin cups lined with foil liners.   A one loaf recipe should give you 12 muffins.   Place the entire pan in the freezer and freeze the uncooked batter overnight.  The next day, take the frozen uncooked muffins out of the pan and place them into a freezer storage bag.  You can leave them in the freezer until you need them.

This morning, Howard - who is our chef even when we are home -  took out two frozen muffins and placed them back into a muffin pan.  He cooked them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (You may need a little more time depending on your oven).   When they were finished, we had fresh cooked banana muffins to eat with our breakfast.

Here is the moist banana bread recipe we use.  Hope you enjoy it!

Sour Cream Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 ripe / medium bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

1. Grease and flour the bottom of a 9" x  5" loaf pan. You may also use Baker's Joy or other similar pan release sprays.  
2. Beat sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl. 
3. Add eggs, banans, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Beat well.  
4. Sift flour with baking soda and salt.  
5. Add dry ingredients to liquid mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.  
6. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.  
7. Cool for 5 minutes in pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What can you do with a Melon Baller?

The obvious answer is make melon balls.  However, there are other uses for this kitchen tool.  The following are suggestions I came across in a Good Housekeeping magazine this summer.
  • If you are using apples or pears - cut the fruit in half, then rotate the melon ball tool around the centers to evenly dig out only the core
  • For hors d'oeuvres - make mini meat balls using your favorite ground meat mixture.  In a saute pan, brown the mini meat balls.  You can serve the meat balls by themselves or in a sauce mixture.  
  • To make bite size cookies - instead of using the typical one inch cookie scoop, use the melon ball tool to make perfectly round mini cookies with your favorite cookie dough.  Reduce your usual baking time by 1 to 2 minutes.  The bite size cookies are great for snacks in the afternoon or evening when guests need a quick bite.  They don't have to feel guilty about eating a whole large cookie.
  • To serve sorbet in style - you can use scoops of different flavors and colors.  Arrange them in small groups on a pan covered with parchment.  Freeze until serving time.
Have fun in the kitchen and enjoy!  

Lynda & Howard Lerner
Inn Caring

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Inn Caring creats new Blog

With the help of the Acorn Internet Services Blog Webinar, I have successfully created this new blog site for our company Inn Caring. This will be a new adventure for me as I find things of interest to those who are in the bed and breakfast community or thinking of becoming involved in the bed and breakfast community. Please view our Inn Caring website to learn more about our Interim Innkeeping, consulting, and training seminars.

Lynda & Howard Lerner