Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More on the Ice Cream Tour ...

My next stop after One Flight Up was at the The Village Coffee Pot -- Serving more than just hot coffee, you can get almost any caffeinated beverage chilled and blended AND their ice cream is "udderly" delicious. Scooping up the Working Cow brand of gourmet ice cream, a local Florida company that has a passion for an old fashioned homemade way of doing things. Because it's fresh and local, it's also guilt-free for the eco-friendliness of being local and fresh. Sticking with my "green" theme, I had a cup of an old and hard to find favorite ... Pistachio. Mmm.

Recently the Village Coffee Pot added Gelato to their menu. So yesterday I had to go back for another taste test. I know, I know, it's a tough job ... but somebody's got to do it! I fell in love with Gelato during a trip to Italy and was just amazed that it's not more popular here in the states. It's a little creamier, a little softer, and the flavor is much more intense.

We tried triple chocolate (which is just as wicked as it sounds) and also banana caramel that tastes a lot like Banana's Foster. The Village Coffee Pot participates in's VIP Card program ... so download yourself a card and use that 10% in savings to buy more flavors for your own taste testing!

I've got to head to the gym now and work off some of these indulgences ...

Green Tea Ice Cream

I found some delicious ice cream in the most unusual place, with an unusual taste at Mount Dora Sushi. Put away the origami and chop sticks and bring out your adventurous taste buds for this one ... green tea and plum wine flavored ice cream. I had to try them both!

I'm an avid tea drinker, and I have to say the ice cream version tasted like a glass of cold sweet tea. Refreshing, slightly sweet ... and green. The texture is a little bit more like a sorbet which makes you feel like it's healthy. Full of those green tea anti-oxidants, right? Our friend's son that was with us thought I was receiving a giant bowl of wasabi. I should have triple-dog dared him to taste it and then delighted in the surprise look on his face! But I doubt he would have believed me anyway ... I'm known for only liking spice in my life, not in my food.

The plum wine flavored ice cream looked and tasted a lot more like cherry to me. Much sweeter than the green tea version. It was good, but the green tea was my favorite.

If you're feeling a little bit more bold, they have a sundae available with a red bean topping. I haven't tried this one yet. I may need a shot of Saki before being bold enough to legumes to my dessert mix. However, if you've tried it ... tell me about it!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lemon Window Cleaner Recipe

There are about a 1000 uses for vinegar, and this happens to be one of my favorites when it comes to cleaning. The "blue stuff" just doesn't cut it when it comes to windows, and this is a great non-toxic, environmentally friendly alternative. Plus it's easy and fun to make.

Lemon Window Cleaner Recipe
Large Plastic Spray Bottle
2 Cups Distilled White Vinegar
2 Cups Filtered Water
40 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
(You could use lemon extract, but
the Essential Oil is a much higher concentrate)

Shake. Spray. Swipe.

I also use this same solution for cleaning bathroom fixtures (showerheads, faucets, anything chrome) as it really dissolves soap and that white hard water build up.

Using a microfiber cloth will keep you from leaving bits of lint behind. Voila. No streaks. Vinegar evaporates. Fresh lemon scent lingers. Now that's clean!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Housekeeping 101

The grit, the grime, the goopedy goo ... Innkeepers probably know best all the tricks that Martha Stewart wont dare tell you about keeping a house clean and in order. We're going to venture to share all of our tips, tricks and unusual uses for regular household items in our Housekeeping 101 Series including recipes to make your own homemade cleaners, how to green things up with eco-friendly tips and timeless solutions you may have forgotten about.

Some examples include ...

... a million different uses for the handiest household ingredient: vinegar

... unusual ways to remove wine from a table cloth (I know one person that in a pinch at a party will use white out. Yes, I said white out.)

... 10 different uses for lint roller, other than lint

And a myriad of other helpful ways to save you time cleaning so that you can spend more time sipping wine with friends.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Backyard Tourist: SeaWorld 08

One of the perks of living in Mount Dora is that we're only 25 miles away from the top tourism destination in the world! Orlando has much to offer ... theme parks, attractions, adventure & fun. And the fairly new road 429 makes it a quick and easy drive. I feel like we've practically got our own private back entrance to Disney from the 429.

We often have friends, family and guests at the Inns come for a visit and take a day trip to the parks. My cousin and his wife came down this week from North Carolina and SeaWorld was on there to-do list. I haven't been there in awhile so I was as excited as a little kid about going.

SeaWorld has some thrill rides, but it is mostly about the animals, shows and FREE beer! We rode Kraken, which I've heard rumors that it's the tallest & fastest roller coaster in Orlando. After cranking to the top of the first drop, getting a view of all of Orlando, and then zooming through more hair-pin turns than I can count ... I would fully believe that rumor. A little quick research helped me find that it is indeed 15 stories high and travels up to 65 miles an hour ... with nothing but but your feet dangling beneath you. That's enough trill for me for a day!

My favorite show for the day had to be the Dolphin show which incorporated circus-style acrobatics with the animal stunts. Very entertaining. Of course ... I'm a sucker for animals.

Did you know on average, people walk anywhere from 8 to 12 miles when visiting a theme park? No WONDER I'm so tired and achy. I earned that big dessert at the end of the day. Be sure to check the Top 10 Theme Park Survival Essentials for your next day trip to the parks. And after being all good and tired from trekking through SeaWorld all day I was elated to come home to the peace and quiet of Mount Dora! Some R & R is in store ...


Inn The Kitchen

Okay, so I'm not one of those weird geeks that spends 8 hours a day on the internet. Eh hum. However, I did get sucked into a blog the other day and after a small back ache and red & white spiraled-bulls-eye-glazed-over eyes, I realized I had been reading on for over an hour! I LOVED it! It's the Pioneer Woman. She cooks, she writes, she rides. She has punks and a marlboro man. Bree also has an interesting way of bringing recipes to life by showing you how through pictures. That is SO much better for me since I'm a visual person and usually skip reading the directions on things anyway. My oven and smoke alarm will thank her.

Anyhow, The Innkeepers of Mount Dora have an event coming up this fall, Inn Good Taste that is a combination murder mystery event and cooking class. I'm going to attempt to bring you "Inn The Kitchen" with the Innkeepers, Pioneer-Woman style, by making it more visual instead of wordy. Don't know if my little point and shoot camera will do it justice ... but, hey, if Ashton Kutcher can get good photos than so can I gosh darnit! Maybe I can talk some of my hobby photographer friends into helping by promising lots of fun and the possibility of a food fight. And, of course, copious amounts of red wine.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Guest Comments: Mount Dora Historic Inn

Florida has a rainy season, and usually it’s June through August each year. So you just plan on having rain every day at almost the same time for 3 months and get on with your life. If nothing else, it gives you a great looking lawn, and a reason to leave the theme parks.

On this particular day my husband and I were ready to relax. We could care less about the rain, it would only add to the relaxing experience.

We pulled up to the Historic Inn in the early evening, and as we were getting out of the car we noticed something pink coming towards us. It was the inn keeper, Jim, coming to meet us with pink umbrellas and a glass of wine. What a welcome! He helped us with our bags, made sure we didn’t lose our footing on the wet pavement and showed us inside to our rooms.

The Mt Dora Historic Inn looks like a dollhouse, both inside and out. Very quaint and charming and so comfortable and relaxing. Jim and his wife Anna had wine, cheese and vegetables ready for us, so we easily slipped into vacation mode while getting to know them better.

The tour was fantastic… every room was wonderfully decorated with antiques, lace and flowers. The beds were fluffed and welcoming and when I happened to glance out of the window I realized that we were just steps away from all the shops and restaurants that Mt Dora is known for.

After a rejuvenating night of sleep, it was the moment we had been waiting for. The breakfast at the Mt Dora Historic Inn is famous in this town for being THE BEST. And….OH MY GOODNESS…it was! I don’t even recall how many servings we had because I was so deliriously happy with what I was eating. And the descriptions of each serving were just as yummy! Just hearing all the passion and care that went into each item made my mouth water. There was citrus infused with French vanilla, Polynesian soup (similar to a smoothie but SO much better) an egg souffl├ęs with kielbasa, cinnamon potato pancakes and stuffed French toast. I was overwhelmed by the amazing breakfastie-goodness!

This was definitely a wonderful experience from start to finish. Jim and Anna were gracious hosts and wonderful people to get to know. Make sure you are ready for the ultimate in relaxation when you book a stay at this B&B and make sure you go there hungry!

Orlando, FL

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Featured Inn: The Grandview B&B

“It is not just opening a door,
or standing when someone is being seated.
Being a true gentleman, truly chivalrous,
is more than any one act or deed.
It is a way of life based on consideration.”

In continuing my quest to be a backyard tourist, I packed my overnight bag and makeup case and rode down to a meandering driveway only four blocks away from my home ... but a world away. With a large wrap around porch enveloping the main house, swaying palm trees and a windmill cottage the Grandview Bed & Breakfast is a classic small Southern estate.

We immediately felt at home when Mel & Andy, the Innkeepers, greeted us with a warm smile and guided us to our rooms, saying in the most delectable southern accent, "we're not fussy here, just go right on up through the kitchen hon" ... the heart of a home. And what a beautiful home it is! We walked through the house to find our rooms and take a tour along the way. The colors and decor are traditional, warm and elegant. The guest rooms and baths are unbelievably spacious. Accented by antiques, Persian rugs gracing the original hardwood floors and all the personal touches of the new owners. I really enjoy the way there was a certain thoughtfulness in the construction of home years ago. As you walk by the built in china cabinets and storage spaces you can tell they were built for living and entertaining.

After putting down our bags we came back downstairs to spend some time with our new friends at the Grandview. We sat by the fireplace, sipping red wine and nibbling on crackers and cheese while listening to their many fascinating stories of growing up in the Carolina's on a tobacco farm, renovating historic homes and the experience of opening their first B&B on Ocracoke Island, called The Cove.

It seems anyone that has ever stayed with Mel & Andy become like family. Mel brought out some photos and stories of previous guests. One photo showed a group of women that call themselves the "Harley Girls" and rode out on their motorcycles for a girlfriend's getaway. Another photo told the story of a family of sisters in their 80's & 90's that gathered at the Grandview for a reunion after not seeing each other for over 30 years. And one guest was even an infamous aristocrat that they found one night by the poolside donning a long string of pearls and a mink coat.

Even the home has its own stories to tell. As the 3rd owners, Mel & Andy inherited more than just the deed when they purchased the property. There are original volumes by Charles Dickens and Mark Twain sitting in the built-in bookshelves. Even more telling are the photos on the wall in the dining room showing the estate in its young glory, surrounded by citrus groves with a Ford Model T in the driveway. Originally the William Watt home, it was built in 1906 for the citrus grower and his family. It is said that he was the inventor of corrugated cardboard as a better method for packing his oranges. There are also family photos of the Watts and their travels and also a historic photo of small sidewalk surrounded by flower gardens and a gazing ball ... which are still in the front yard today.

After dinner, we settled on the front porch with a hot cup of tea, swaying in the rocking chairs, looking up at the stars and listening to the frogs cackle and the crickets hum. I imagined for a moment what it would be like growing up in this home as a child of the Watts. The pioneering days of this little town. All sorts of interesting places to hide and play in the citrus groves. Swimming in the lake and climbing an old oak tree then cooling off on this very front porch and drinking a glass of cold sweet tea. At that moment, I fell in love with Mount Dora all over again.


Guest Comments: The Grandview Bed & Breakfast

Southern hospitality at its finest. That’s what I thought of upon meeting Mel and Andy, our gracious hosts for a fantastic night at this historic bed and breakfast.

It started the moment my husband and I parked the car. Andy and Mel met us in the parking lot and helped us with our bags. We were shown to our room and told to come down when we were ready. Eager to have a look around, we headed down the solid wood staircase and into the spacious, perfectly decorated living room. Already they had laid out some crackers and some caviar cream dip for us. They opened a bottle of wine and we settled in for what would be a fantastic evening.

What struck me the most was how much Mel and Andy love what they do. They showed us a box filled with pictures of past guests and told several stories of their regulars who come each year to visit. You could tell that it’s all about getting to know people and making you feel comfortable in their home. And what a home it is! They had old pictures of the original owner, William Watt and his family, and pictures of the home back in 1906 when it was a citrus grove. Mel said that the pictures came with the house and will remain in the house forever…along with other assorted items that they found when they took ownership of the property.

By the end of the evening we had our fill of a wonderful dinner prepared by Mel; a rice dish loaded with shrimp, scallops, chicken and andoullie sausage and a side of fresh veggies and warm rolls… and plenty of wine. But there was more…chocolate cake and homemade ice cream served with coffee and liquors. Amazing. It was that warm and comfy feeling that you get from good company and conversation, and when you are fat and happy and ready to relax after a good homemade meal.

After dinner we sat by the pool and had some tea. The sun had gone down and the soft glow from the lights surrounding the pool made for a relaxing atmosphere. We sat, rocking in our rocking chairs and sipping our tea…happy in the moment, but kind of sad that the evening was coming to a close. And as I sat looking at the stars (and realized how many more stars you can see in Mt. Dora vs Downtown Orlando) I started to drift off to sleep. Comfy, happy and somehow not being eaten alive by mosquitoes (must have been all the wine I drank).

After a good night’s sleep, we got up early and headed down to the dining room for some breakfast. And surprise, surprise…Mel had outdone himself again! French toast, crisp bacon, fresh fruit, coffee and juice. It was quite a feat, and a perfect close to a fantastic stay at the Grandview Bed and Breakfast.

Orlando, FL

Monday, July 14, 2008

How do you beat the summer heat ...

By touring all the ice cream shops in town! I feel like I've melted off enough calories in this summer heat to deserve an ice cold treat. Our little town of Mount Dora has quite a few eateries offering an array of textures and flavors of probably one of the oldest desserts in the World.

It is said the ancient Greeks used to sell snow cones mixed with fruit and honey as a sweet way to cool down and take a break. (I'd like to have that recipe!) Well, we now have more flavors than any one person can name or taste on their own. I've spent this past month doing my own little "tasting tour" of this popular chilled dessert and have picked my favorites to share with you.

For late night treats, there is only one place to go, and that is One Flight Up. After walking the Downtown Mount Dora Art Stroll on a hot and balmy summer night, we needed a place to chill out and regain our energy. I can't think of a better way to do both of those things than to have some espresso chip ice cream. A little caffeine ... a little chocolate ... a little ice ... just what the doctor ordered. All of my favorite things in one little dish.

Here's a little shot of Ana (Innkeeper, Mount Dora Historic Inn) and I indulging a little at One Flight Up.

Stayed tuned for more Ice Cream commentary ...


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Guest Comments: Farnsworth House B&B

You referred me to the Farnsworth House in June when you were unable to accommodate my family for July 4th. I just want to thank you because we would never have met Vivian and Bob. They were very attentive to our needs and to the other guests. I would have been overwhelmed entertaining so many people but they managed to take care of everyone with style and grace. On my first day, I felt like I was visiting a family member. Breakfast was delicious and the barbecue was a wonderful treat. I have never felt more at home away from home. Thank you again for the referral.

West Palm Beach, FL