We Survived 2020

It has been a long time since I’ve written my last blog.  I am happy to report that this story has a nice ending.  But what a wild ride this last Spring and Summer were.  The year 2020 has been and may always be the year we remember as the craziest time in our lives.   

We had been closed around mid-March through June 1st by the state of Montana, like so many other businesses across the world, due to Covid-19.  Then with only two weeks’ notice, we were to re-open for what would normally be our busiest time of year. As brand-new owners of Good Medicine Lodge Bed and Breakfast and this being our very first Summer, we were not able to prepare the way we had hoped.  We wanted to use our slow Spring season to prepare for an amazingly busy Summer, but Coronavirus changed all of our plans.  Instead, we spent those months cooped up wondering about our family’s future and the future of our new business.  Without knowing too many details about Coronavirus, we were uncertain about how we would ever open again.   We put off our projects because our staff was on unemployment, our two young kids were home with us and well, there was a pandemic taking place.  It was scary.

  One of our dogs, Charley (age 11) had also just started suffering from strokes and each morning we woke up to a lot of mess.  She couldn’t keep food down; she couldn’t control her bladder and bowels and she was aimlessly wandering in circles around the house.  It was so hard to watch.  Eventually we had to put her down and it was just the worst timing.  We were also spread very thin financially and with all this looming just before our Summer was to take off, we weren’t sure that spending any time or money on projects was a smart move.  So we just sat and waited until May 16th, when the announcement was made that all lodging was able to open in just a short fourteen days.   

We had so much to do to prepare.  Stress set in big time.  We were faced with not only all of our typical off-season projects that we reluctantly started because we had no idea if we were going to be re-opening at all.  But there was a lot to do as new owners as well.  We needed to stain all the wood decks, weed the gardens, deep clean the rooms, put our Summer breakfast menu together, train our new staff with our processes and introduce the new Coronavirus protocols.  We had to find PPE when there was none to be found.  We had to decide if, how and when we were going to pay all those refunds back to customers who had cancelled.  And there were so many of them.  It felt like climbing a never-ending mountain.  And we were presented with the challenge of whether we should hire more staff considering that we didn’t even know if there would be any guests.  Or could we pull this off with our small team.  

One of our biggest challenges was now one of us would need to stay with our two small children all day.  There was no easy option for daycare, preschool or summer camps.  It was up to the two of us.  Partly because of our financial situation we decided to go with a leaner team for the season.  Our staff also cut back on what hours they needed or wanted for a variety of reasons.  So the skeleton crew would have to do.  We were prepared to work our butts off.   

On the morning before we were to open, a :mountain tornado” blew through our town bringing with it one of the worst days of my life.  We were having a garage sale to clear out old dusty items from our move out to Montana.  Several boxes with filed the kid’s old toys, clothing etc. were in the way of our work.   Nothing had gone as planned and timing was not on our side, so the only thing to do was to try to pull off a garage sale last minute.  Not only did all our stuff get wet and blown all over the driveway from this tremendous storm, but we lost power for almost a whole day.  Then part of our tree fell as I stood outside crying and soaking wet from the torrential downpour. No damages thankfully except for a broken pop-up tent and my broken spirit.  I felt so defeated.  And just when things couldn’t get any worse, an unfortunate situation took place in our driveway of which I cannot disclose in this published writing.  I will say this, it was an incredibly upsetting and disappointing moment for me and my family.  One that was totally unnecessary and uncalled for.  By the end of the day, I was over it.  We hardly sold many items, and I was just ready to move on.  So we loaded our two cars to the brim and donated everything.   

Among staffing and scheduling concerns I was working through to re-open, there were Covid-19 financial aid programs to understand and pursue, new policies to implement, new marketing campaigns to think up, and extremely careful and thoughtful language for our marketing to our guests.  You can’t just come out and scream, “Hey!!!  Come to Montana to stay with us during a pandemic!!!”  

The Summer started off slow, which was probably good in a way.  It allowed us some time to work out some kinks. June was a pretty mellow month in terms of guests.  Especially at the beginning because Glacier National Park had not yet decided if they were going to open.  We waited on pins and needles for the news to get out.  If they didn’t open, we knew that we were goners.  When we heard they were opening to outside tourism, we felt a huge sigh of relief although we had no idea what kind of business it would attract knowing that there would be some restrictions. 

 We ended up finishing many of the projects we needed to get our B&B polished and ready just in case.  We had our face masks, infrared thermometer, temperature logs for the staff, tables spaced 6’ apart, new chemicals labeled and properly stored.  We removed all our decorative shower curtains, extra pillows and throws from in the rooms.  We wanted everything to be easy to wash and yet still cozy feeling.  We also had an exciting new menu that was filled with new entrees and even included our newly featured Sourdough Bread homemade by my husband, Ryan. There was a lot to be proud of and we hoped our excitement and hopefulness for the future wasn’t all for nothing.   

Most everything was tied together nicely and looking back I think it’s pretty amazing what we were able to accomplish.  By July 4th, the new restaurant had opened across the street Jalisco Cantina.   Bonsai Brewery was now our only town’s brewery and it was hopping right next door.  Their guests began showing up one by one to enjoy the abundant outdoor seating.  As much as it was nice to see both of places packed with people, it was hard to look around our empty parking lot without feeling a little tinge of jealousy.  We wanted to believe our day would come but we had no idea if it would.   

I can’t say exactly when, but as we were still receiving cancellations, we also started to receive new reservations.  Not a tremendous amount at first but when the phone rang, at least now I didn’t have to flinch with worry about how to handle yet another cancelled guest. I remember the very first calls to come through with new bookings.  I remember so many questions about what was open, if it was safe, what our new policies were with masks, the hot tub and were we still serving breakfast.  I remember feeling skeptical like it was just going to be a few here and there and I didn’t let myself get too excited.  But I also remember feeling a little more at ease.  The reservations just kept coming more and more.  The rings and notifications came so often, that we couldn’t stay on top of all the emails, phone calls and new bookings coming through.  It was quite a time.   Some guests were coming to vacation because they needed to get away from their current situation, cooped up in their small apartments in the big cities that had recently become ghost towns.  Some were medical professionals burnt out and needing a relaxing place to recharge.   We saw several newlyweds or fiancés whose weddings and honeymoons had been put on hold or perhaps we were their plan b.  Having never worked the B&B before, we really didn’t have any idea what to expect as far as the typical Summer guest.  But with Glacier National Park being the major destination and now this thing, Coronavirus pushing people into new adventures, it was refreshing to know that practically everyone could bring with them their good nature.   Most everyone was in search of peace and solitude during this very stressful time in their life.  Each of them had a unique story all relatable and trying.   

I met a spiritualist who provided incredible insights on how to channel good energy.  I met an interesting couple who lived like survivalists in Alaska.  The husband was a priest (or preacher – sorry I am not very religious to know the difference) but in the most calming fashion he asked if he could pray for me.  They bowed their heads right then and there while I served them breakfast and he said the kindest words of love and hope for me, my family and business.  It was a little strange for me because I was so out of my comfort zone but in that moment, it just meant the world to me.  I still choke up thinking about it.   

We had guests tell us so many crazy things that they were going through.  Some had recovered from Covid, some were living in NYC with plague-like stories.  There were first responders who were so beat down and exhausted but coping better than I ever could.   We had high risk guests who were taking their chances to see Glacier National Park because they weren’t sure they would live long enough to wait through what could be years of pandemic.  So many humbling stories.   

We tried giving our guests the very best service we could possibly offer.  We listened, we talked, we fed them homemade food made with love and we assured a safe and relaxing place to stay.  Our formula was precise and consistent and luckily our guests feedback made our work very simple once we had it dialed in.  We worked long hours, consisting of fifteen hours or more.  There were many late hours I spent folding endless amounts of laundry.  But it was all a labor of love.  I didn’t feel like it was work.  To me, it felt more like a mission.  A way to contribute my services during a time when it was necessary, and it felt great to give it.  Smiles came easy and lucky for us; our guests provided an abundance of gratitude.  When I look back at these last few months, I can recognize how lucky we are.  It could have gone so many ways.  By the end of this crazy year 2020, we are doing exactly what we love even during the very most difficult time period anyone has seen in this lifetime.  And that is more than we can ask for.

Now that Summer is over, we are cautiously looking ahead to another long slow season.  There is a chance we could be busier than last year with La Nina rumored to take place.  The predictions say we could potentially get 100’ more snow than what is typical.  Which means some incredible skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Last winter was very mild, so I literally have no idea what to expect.  If we are busy, then great.  We know how to juggle it alongside Coronavirus.  If we are slow, then we do exactly what we did last year and take it month by month.  Inching our way towards what we hope is a fruitful Summer.  And we spend each day watching our boys closely as they grow, holding onto those beautiful moments.  Like when Dylan is telling one of his silly jokes to three-year-old Caleb who is giggling out his best sound like only a toddler can do and Ryan is baking up one of his artisan loaves of bread that will warm our bodies with nourishment and love.  We appreciate what we have for as long as we have it because there are only unknowns from here.   

For the Love of Sourdough

By, Ryan Grenier

When we purchased the Good Medicine Lodge back in late October of 2019, good friends Pat and Katie Miller, whom I respect immensely, gifted me a book called Tartine along with a dehydrated sourdough starter. I genuinely thought that this was a such a thoughtful gift and was so touched that they thought I had it in me to pull this sort of stuff off.

I hate to admit this… when we took over the B&B I did not do much cooking for the business. We had a staff that needed to be consistent with the dishes, Sara and I alternated days working and when I did work I was busy chatting it up with guests, and doing a bunch of random things around the inn. What free time I did have I was busy exploring the area. Biking, Nordic skiing, Snowboarding and adventuring with kids. Whitefish is such a magical place. To be able to share my passion for adventure with my two little guys has been such a gift!

Once the “stay at home” orders were set into motion and the lodge closed I had more time around the house. Keep in mind this time around the house was not really ideal for tackling projects and yard work. With a two year old and a seven year old, it was a matter of managing the non-stop screaming, pillow fights, throwing things, tears, and just getting into things they should not be getting into. For the most part I was able to get the kids outside but Spring in north west Montana can be a bit unforgiving with cooler temperatures and rain.

While one of us is working (mostly Sara, she is amazing at managing projects and her vision of Good Medicine is something everyone should experience) the other is managing the kiddos. With so much time around the house, I finally decide to tackle baking bread. I found a bread maker in the garage that came with the inn. I pulled it out and figured I would give it a try. It was pretty easy, and I was loving the idea of having fresh bread for the family with no preservatives. Then I wanted to see if I could use my dehydrated starter I had been storing in the fridge. I added water and flour to the starter and let the bread machine do the work. That worked pretty well and the bread was pretty good.  I was on a roll!

At this point I was ready to tackle the “no kneed sourdough”. As I was mentally preparing/ digesting the steps of the baking process, I joined a Facebook group called “Perfect Sourdough”. I have to say that this was EXTREMELY helpful. Other beginners were posting questions and videos were posted from professionals giving me the confidence to tackle my first loaf.  Ok, I’m ready to rock! But my starter is not… It took 14 days of feedings twice a day to get my starters up to speed.

As I was waiting for my starter to come to life I was experimenting with pancakes, crumpets and pouring over all the fun things you can do with sourdough.

The cookbook I’m using is named “Tartine”. Its from a famous eatery in San Francisco. There are so many great resources out there and finding your own path and recipe is part of the fun. Not only is the process of baking fun, the health benefits of this bread are pretty amazing. Just a quick google search will have you diving down the rabbit hole of this amazing ancient bread. The finished product is so rewarding! Once I cut into the loaf and I took my first taste, I was flooded with memories of my time in the bay. Zuni Café, market street, foggy summer afternoons in SF and friendships formed around the dinner table. It is like I could almost smell the woodburning pizza oven (most likely just a campfire that was close by). The process of making this was more than just putting food on the table. It was a step back to a time where we had no children. Sara and I were living in the bay area experiencing all the culinary offerings northern California was known for. I was there…

Being able to share this with my family has brought so much joy as well. Knowing that my two kids are forming their own memories waking up to the smell of fresh baked sourdough. Watching them devour it is comforting knowing that I am actively playing a part in their health and teaching them what quality food is.

Now that Spring has sprung and the first phase of the pandemic is coming to an end, Sara and I are developing our new Summer breakfast menu for Good Medicine Lodge. We are so excited to share the experience and new found love of sourdough with our guests, helping all who visit us to form their own experiences and memories.

The Sound of Silence

It is incredibly eerie to walk into an empty Bed and Breakfast that once bustled with out of town guests, rolling suitcases and crackling fires. It is a strange feeling to have this huge place all to ourselves. Luckily it is April and typically we would be spending this down time entertaining friends and a small portion of guests. But we can’t see anyone because of social distancing. We also can’t afford to keep this whole lodge heated and buzzing with the warm glow of western-inspired light fixtures. Only so often do we have our kitchen ovens roaring with fresh pastries or cookies. Since we are closed for business until we know when travel will begin again, it is hard to know when our ship will hoist the anchor and start sailing again.

We have had a few special nights spent as a family cooking and dining in the lodge, pretending that life as we knew it isn’t being over shadowed by Covid-19. One chilly afternoon my seven year old Dylan and I enjoyed a delicious mug of hot cocoa covered in huge marshmallows while relaxing in the hot tub. Another evening we built a small outdoor fire pit where we cozied up next to and shared spooky ghost stories with the kids. The kids have built bike jumps and held nerf gun wars. We have kept ourselves busy with fun because we have two young boys and there is no other option. During these incredibly special moments, we feel so very lucky. It has been such a striking contrast to the days of booking reservations, prepping for breakfast the next day and managing staff.

Times like these are teaching us to adapt, to go with the flow. Each day looks a little different from the life we had before Coronavirus. There is more opportunity to spend time with each other as a family. And there is little time left to spend alone or with anyone outside our little group. We have to work much harder as a team to not argue or to get the space we need to feel respected. We have to be nicer and more loving towards each other, remembering not to let the bad moments get the best of us. We have realized that our health is beyond the most important thing. Because without our health there really is nothing left.

We have also learned that we must live with purpose each day even when we don’t have to. It doesn’t have to be tightly scheduled, but with two young boys, it is essential to have some consistency and routine. As parents, Ryan and I need to maintain a tremendous amount energy both physically and mentally to keep balance within the family dynamic. We have to exercise regularly. Something prior to that I have been neglecting to do for myself since Caleb my three year old was born.

How lucky am I to spend meaningful hours with my personal trainer husband who is by all accounts the most genius human on this planet. I guess what I mean by that is when it comes to your body he really knows his stuff. Something I always knew but wasn’t able to be reminded of regularly. Life is so cluttered with to-do’s, the needs from others and endless work. There is hardly any time left for me to see Ryan in action, doing what he loves and knows so well.

(If you are interested in learning more about Ryan Grenier’s Mobility, Flexibility and Strength Program, please check out his videos on our YouTube channel: Info Good Medicine Lodge)

We have to get good sleep, which is really hard when depression gets the best of me and my mind just starts stewing in all the possible scenarios we could find ourselves in. Thankfully Ryan lets me sleep in in the morning and I am able to rest enough to play and wrestle with the kids endlessly. Throwing a fifty pound three year old through the air all hours of the day takes some serious stamina. And right after Caleb’s turn, it’s Dylan’s turn who at age seven still wants the same maneuvers because it “just isn’t fair” if I don’t deliver the same enthusiasm for the both of them. I am learning how to store every little bit of energy to get me through because a typical day during Coronavirus just seems like three times longer than the one I had before. Social distancing is the modern marathon for parents. It just keeps on going with no rest in sight.

To pass the day, we play games, draw, watch movies and get outside. We are filling those precious minutes that we would normally spend “just finishing that last part of the project”, or for a “quick stop at the store for the missing ingredient”, or “ooh, there are still a few minutes before pick-up, so maybe I can bang out this one last task.” We have no where to hide from the tremendous job of parenting and must spend every minute with our kids giving them everything they need. They do not understand the immense pressure we are under. We are their world right now and it’s up to us to be as strong as possible to show them what living in panic and fear looks like. It’s a complete roller coaster of emotions and processing it in some way that comes out like any other normal moment is not easy.

Our seven year old treated us to a special dinner one evening. He created a special menu where we could order from custom ingredients for a salad, pasta with fresh made pesto and dessert. Tonight’s option for dessert was between a Good Medicine Lodge cookie or a gooey chocolaty S’more. Typically I would go for the cookie, but tonight the S’mores were especially tasty. A perfect blend of melted Ghiradelli peppermint chocolate and marshmallow with the love and smiles of a seven year old boy who dreams of spending a day like this with his parents.

It felt like date night, something my husband and I can admit we haven’t done in at least nine months. Ever since we committed to making the move across country to Montana from busy San Francisco.

We have been too busy running our small business and raising kids. We miss our days of rocking out at one of the many incredible Bay Area music venues. There are no more fancy meals for us at amazing restaurants with menus filled with words like little gem, escarole, bisque, tartare, endive and radicchio. But on this particular night, dressed cozy in slippers with a fire crackling, our beautifully prepared dinner inspired by our son is absolutely perfect. We have a fancy bottle of white wine open that is no doubt from some incredibly obscure French winemaker from a region that I cannot pronounce. The gold liquid I don’t deserve came from a childhood friend of Ryan’s. Justin Rutherford, of The Wine Club in downtown San Francisco, has sent us a few bottles recently and it the best gift someone in our situation can imagine. (Thank you Justin!)

We suck down every drop. And through our dwindling soberness, we know this is literally what life is all about. A beautiful evening with good food, great wine, our best playlist humming in the background while our busy and happy children take each other out Sumo-style. (Just please don’t break a bone, we cannot afford to go to the hospital in more ways than one.)

But there is this thing, this sound of silence we cannot escape. The looming thought of not knowing what lies ahead of us. It pulls at us while we sip from our wine glasses and watch our two young boys play like wild animals. What will our business look like in the coming months? What about our community? Our region? The nation? The world?

We are going on week five of social isolation. It is ironic that just a few weeks ago, we were learning the insider techniques to finding alone time outside of our B&B business. With all our interactions with the guests, our staff and our own family life, there aren’t many minutes left in a typical Innkeeper’s day to breathe and to spend time with just ourselves.

We struggled to find meaningful moments with our kids with just an hour here or there free to spend with them. To provide them with that undeniable attention they were so desperate for. These past few weeks have forced us to provide it and the rewards have paid us back in dividends. Caleb is talking in full sentences and says the most hilarious and insightful things. Dylan is receiving one on one attention from us with his homework and I am able to see first hand just how smart he is and where he might need some extra help. These are the moments I would be missing while my kids were at school. And the sad part, is that I would’ve justified missing those moments before Coronavirus, because I was just too busy to be able to allow them.

This is an insane time, one that will go down in history as such a huge moment. We don’t exactly know how this story will end, which is the frightening part.

Ryan and I have so many choices to make that can completely change the mood of the day or the perspective. We might not always have the strength to choose wisely every day but most days we choose love over fear, fun over harsh news and happiness over stress. And we are so lucky to have two amazing little boys who help force us to make those decisions. After all, it is for them that we must press on.

Coronavirus: A Small Business Nightmare

After running our newly acquired Bed and Breakfast for only four months, we have made the uncomfortable decision to close for business for at least two weeks. We don’t know when we will be back open for business. It is too soon to make that call. Our first reason is due to the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak that is sure to hit northwestern Montana. Just a few days ago, it was reported that our first two cases of Coronavirus were found right here in the Flathead Valley. The second reason is because anyone who had reservations for end of March and into April has cancelled them. And in a strange way we feel a little safer for it. Things are starting to feel very real.

Whitefish Mountain Resort closed early for the ski season, so there would be no spring skiing. (Something I was very much looking forward to.) Many of the restaurants and small businesses are closing or opting for take-out services only. The Governor has declared a state of emergency. Bars and gyms are forced to close.

The town of Whitefish, Montana is shutting down. A sobering yet familiar sentiment that many towns across America are experiencing, if not all.

It’s hard to believe that the Coronavirus wasn’t even in our vocabulary just months ago. And now it is literally the only topic of conversation and is on our minds constantly. We have had to completely change course here with our small business. To think that April was going to be our month to rest, to train our staff and to spend time getting prepared for our busy summer ahead. Instead we have laid off all of our employees and are busy chipping away on our deep spring cleaning all by ourselves and most importantly waiting on pins and needles to see where this ship is heading.

If we are lucky, the storm will pass through quickly and we can jump back on course and have an incredibly successful summer. Worst case, we hit the ice berg head on and possibly lose everything (for a second time).

For the readers who have followed this blog from the start, you will remember that getting to the point of taking ownership of Good Medicine Lodge was a very difficult road for us. We almost didn’t close on the business and would’ve had to figure out our plan B quickly. But things did work out and we were able to begin our new life as Inn Keepers on October 29th, 2019. We thought the hardest part was over at that point…..we were wrong!

We knew that running a B&B was not going to be easy. We had done extensive research. B&B’s are not known to be the most profitable, so financially this was risky to begin with. Being an inn keeper is also extremely challenging because you have to juggle so many day to day tasks like serving your guests, running a small restaurant, meal planning and paying close attention to particular dietary needs, maintaining cleanliness not just in the many rooms we have but in the common areas, fireplaces, front, back and side yards. You also have to be an expert in finance, marketing, retail, food safety, staff management and list goes on and on. But we came into this well prepared and thought that if anyone could run a successful B&B, it would be us. Who knew that in only a few short months, barely anytime to settle into routine, we would need to fight the greatest battle that we have ever experienced in our lifetime.

The Coronavirus. A pandemic that has literally spread worldwide and at this very moment has killed 11,307 people and infected 274,606 in just three months time.

These days I often feel overwhelmed with panic and stress over this virus and then with time, I am relaxed and calm knowing that we are doing everything in our power to help our situation. I have never worked harder and I have never wanted to succeed more. The thought of my two beautiful boys keep me going.

We have our health (thankfully) and we live in one of the most beautiful and safe places in the world. We chose to move here to Whitefish, Montana for a variety of reasons. Considering the current climate, it was a good move and safety is literally the reason why we left Oakland, CA. My thoughts often wander back to my friends back in Oakland wondering how they are coping behind confined in their homes and how they must stress over being so close in proximity to so many other people.

I often wonder what my day to day would look like if I had stayed back in California commuting to the different hospitals I worked in. I have read so many stories about the tents being set up in parking lots to be used as overflow and testing sites. Stories of exhausted staff and lack of medical supplies. I don’t know if I would have been expected to report to work at the hospitals or not. It sounds like the hospitals are over run and I can only imagine they would need all hands on deck. Even though I could’ve only helped in non-medical ways, I would be there in the “war zones” so to speak offering what help I could. My thoughts are with them and hope they are all safe and away from the terrors this illness seems to bring with it.

Like everyone else, I am learning how to find some sort of normal routine with all this crazy change. Without guests currently staying with us, I can sleep in past 6am in the morning, which is incredible. I can eat breakfast and enjoy my coffee with my family. I can take Frankie, our Siberian husky out for a jog in the Spring-like weather and sunshine while Ryan takes the kids on a long bike ride to the beach at Whitefish Lake. After a refreshing morning and putting my head in the right mindset, I head over to the B&B side of the property to dive into the tasks of the day. Most of which revolves around checking the news for the latest updates about the virus and then diving into financial options and creative ways to keep us afloat. Every time the phone rings, my heart sinks. Half the time it is some poor marketer who obviously has their head in the sand about the happenings of the world. I do not feel like arguing so instead of giving them a piece of my mind I hang up. And the other half the time it is another cancellation. I see our future disappearing with every swipe we make over the refund button.

The last few days feel so weird. It is nothing like the days before the Coronavirus. Currently the kids are both out of school. Dylan is asking me all of the time when he is going back and when does he get to see his friends. It feels like a hostage situation. Caleb is just getting over Hand, Foot and Mouth (yet another virus that has circulated through our community.) He couldn’t be happier because he gets to spend every waking minute snuggling and being cozy with us.

We cannot see our friends or do any of the normal things we typically would do. We cannot be within 6 feet of another person. We are asked to isolate ourselves in our homes and only head out for emergency supplies. Which seems like the hardest decision to ponder because we have no idea for how long we should plan to isolate. The questions we ask ourselves, “how many vegetables should we buy? There isn’t any meat left, should we be stocking up on other proteins? Why are we stocking up so soon? Is this too soon? Or is this virus about to hit our area and for how long?” The thoughts and decisions are endless.

If you asked me my current status I would say that it is constantly shifting. One moment my head weighs fifty pounds, my body is floating and there is a heart string with a direct line to my eyes that seem to never run out of tears. There is a steady stream made up of fear, love and desperation. And the next, I am cheery and hopeful. I am totally erratic.

Because there is this other side to all of this, which in a sense offers a slight restoration or maybe even some balance back on this Earth. Before the Coronavirus, I was constantly stressed out about the state of the environment. This past winter was extremely warm and the lack of snow really had me worried. How much longer will this planet sustain?

I knew something big was on the horizon. It would have to be HUGE to be able to shake us all into submission. How could so many humans be forced to live differently to make the changes necessary for a more sustainable planet? I don’t want to make light of what is to come because quite honestly, it could get really bad. I mean economically speaking this is a catastrophe. And there is a good chance we personally, don’t come out of this okay. We could potentially lose our home, business and with that all of our savings that we have worked so hard for. But if we are to choose to see the positive sides of this (because there are always positives if you look hard enough), then here are just a few:

We are spending much more (and needed) time with our children. Reading to them, playing with them, helping them with their homework. I am seeing more people outside, whether that be the Spring bringing them out or their defiance against a potential lock down. There are so many more people going on bike rides and on walks outside in the fresh air. People are learning how to cook their meals again and maybe even showing their kids while they do it. People are reconnecting through social media. Families are connecting on a deeper level than before. I am seeing people use their strengths to entertain, educate and help others during this incredible time. People are showing their resilience like I’ve never seen before. Obviously we are in the early stages but it’s refreshing nonetheless.

There are reports that China is seeing cleaner air and Italy is seeing clearer water through their canals. Carbon emissions have dramatically reduced. I am aware that environmentally speaking it might not be enough, but it is something and I will take it!

People are talking about and remembering nature on social media. There is this enlightenment taking place because it is being forced upon us. In a very twisted way, it’s almost like this is the only way for us to step outside of what we find comfortable to actually make a change. Nature is forcing it on us and on the one hand it is completely terrifying but on the other it is also a necessary evil. We have to endure until the winds shift.

Building a Perfect Breakfast Menu

As the new Innkeepers at Good Medicine Lodge Bed & Breakfast in Whitefish, Montana we are finding ourselves learning a whole lot in the ways of food service.  With that comes the art of building the perfect breakfast menu.  It is not as easy as it looks. 

For one thing, you need to consider what ingredients who have to work with.  We took over this Bed and Breakfast in November, so the fresh fruits and vegetables we were used to back in California were a little more difficult to find at the local grocers.  Northern Montana surprisingly has a lot of choice when it comes to local and organic selections, but the ripeness and quality of the product might be a little more difficult to sort through especially when not in Summer or Fall.  At Good Medicine Lodge, we always serve a fruit side dish with our entrée.  As the Winter season cruised along, we noticed organic strawberries were sometimes super juicy and other times pretty blah.  We found that fresh mint was hard to find and inconsistent. And that fruit is not always ready to eat. So planning for food to sit for a few days or planning to use substitutions is key to successful menu planning.

Along those lines, we are having to shop at several stores for the week, which is pretty time consuming.  The large box stores are great for their bulk prices but you won’t find things like fresh herbs in small batches.  The smaller stores are great for finding odd items like coconut sugar and crème fraiche, but are not easy on the wallet.  The food delivery companies that come to you typically have a quite a large price minimum and don’t have exactly the prefect quality you want.  The goal is to build a menu that helps you optimize your time by choosing items that you can find at one or two locations, because you just don’t have a lot of free time to spend shopping when you are an Innkeeper. 

Then there are your guest diets and allergies you have to consider when planning the meals.  Each day we try to include a healthy option and a richer option for breakfasts.  They are asked to sign up with their selection and time they would like to eat on the night before. We always bake fresh made pastries so we only offer some sweet entrée choices.  The goal is to provide as much balance to every meal as possible. We know that every guest will come with their own taste. Some people want to splurge while on vacation, while others want the chance to order something healthy. It’s a tough call to make on which of the recipes to choose for the week. 

The previous owners of Good Medicine Lodge left us their incredible cookbooks and there is so much good stuff to choose from in them.  We are also wanting to include a few more modern options into the menu to put our own spin on things. 

In the off season, we offer two menu options.  We have one option that is gluten-free (sometimes also vegetarian and dairy free) and the other is not.  That way if someone is coming to stay with us and they didn’t mention their food restrictions ahead of time, we can usually make that one meal option work in their favor.  The last thing we would want is for one of our guests to not be fed one of our many impressive entrees. 

During our very busy Summer season, we add a third menu option.  For Summer 2020, we are thinking about introducing as one of our third options, pancakes with huckleberry syrup (locally made of course), served with bison sausage and fruit on the side.  We really want to provide our guests with something that says “Montana!” 

Some of our other menu choices are: Dutch Babies served with Fresh Lemon Syrup, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tostada with a Over Easy Egg and Avocado Crema, Classic Eggs Benedict (but we serve ours with spinach), French Toast Strata, Quinoa Sweet Potato Bowl, Grits and Greens, Sauteed Mushrooms on Toast with Hardboiled Eggs and Truffle Salt and the list goes on. 

We will be changing the menu up for Summer as the produce options change and grow more abundant. We really love trying new things so we are excited to work on our new menu.   Our wonderful staff have been having fun learning all the fabulous ways of cooking eggs and baking the yummy pastries.  They have really impressed me with in their short time working with us.

Good Medicine Lodge is also pretty famous for it’s homemade cookies, which are the size of softballs, no joke.  Everyone that comes in who has tried them loves them and can’t get enough. We even do appetizers to go with our wine/beer service in the evening.   We have such incredible opportunities to learn and grow through the making of all of our food.   Currently, we are enrolled at the local city college learning how to decorate cakes.  When we have completed the course, myself and two of our employees will have received an official Wilton Cake Decorating Certificate.  It’s been so much fun so far. 

With all our new skills, I can’t wait to see where we will be a year or five years or even ten from now. 

When I imagined being an Innkeeper, I didn’t really put too much emphasis on the cooking and baking part of the job.  (That may sound crazy but I was just thinking we would learn as we go.) But this place and all the amazing recipes left here by Betsy and Woody Cox, the previous owners, has really inspired our whole team.  I cannot wait to share our creations with you all!

Tell us what recipes are your favorite or let us know if there is a recipe you just totally love.  We are always looking for new ideas and our guests provide us with some of the best feedback. 

Thank you for reading!!

B&B vs. Hotel

Now that my husband and I have been official Inn Keepers for over two months here at Good Medicine Lodge in Whitefish, Montana, we have noticed many differences between what a typical hotel can offer you compared to a Bed and Breakfast.

For starters, a Bed and Breakfast is also a home to an Inn Keeper. He or she or in our case the couple takes care of the premises like it is their home (because it is) instead of just a business.

A hotel lobby might have a warm lit fire to welcome you, but everything from the stale hallways to the bland room you end up in is a far cry from a B&B. Instead, a B&B will provide you with very personal touches you will feel throughout your stay. You are greeted by a welcoming smile and perhaps someone who is also offering to help you with your bags (with no expectation of a tip at the door.) Then you are given a brief tour of the facility, how to work certain things and what is available for you to use. In many cases, it feels a lot like staying at a close friend or family member’s home. Maybe a little awkward at first but once you get the hang of where things are and that you are most very welcome, you start to feel like being in your home away from home.

I should warn you here that of course, not all B&B’s are created equally. Some might generally fit my description in this write up and some are pretty different than the one we run. But hopefully by reading this you are open to trying a B&B out the next time you decide to travel, because I would be very confident in saying that most B&B’s will offer you the majority of what I describe.

Some Bed and Breakfasts are your stereotypical 5 bedroom home that perhaps offer shared bathrooms and maybe a shared dining table at breakfast. This type might deter some guests from booking because maybe there is some pressure to “fit in” with the owners or they might feel like they couldn’t relax being so close in proximity to other strangers. But I would say that if you are up for a new experience you might find that you meet some very interesting people who provide you with a sense of community and you could end up with long lasting friends.

Many modern B&B’s these days offer private bathrooms to go along with the larger sized bedrooms. This is a really great option for people who want the privacy that a hotel can offer but also gives you the many offerings that comes with a B&B and not with a hotel. This would be the case for our B&B. We have ten rooms all with private bathrooms and a couple of them are suites, which are really great if you can afford to splurge a little. Two of our rooms have fireplaces in them and there is a large 22 person dining room with a fireplace. But you can check those details out here: https://goodmedicinelodge.com.

Some B&B’s have a lot of history to share. For example, they might be set in an old Victorian home with antiques and historical references for guests to enjoy. Perhaps maybe an ex-President had stayed there once before or maybe the home belonged to someone of historical importance.

Many B&B’s these days offer a pool or hot tub, cable television, WIFI, laundry facilities and shuttle services. Many of them outdo their hotel competitors by offering luxury linens and toiletries, gym memberships, in room fireplaces and many “hang out spots” with a cozy chair by the fire with complimentary hot chocolate.

Best of all, B&B’s all offer amazing breakfast! This is by far my most favorite thing about a Bed and Breakfast. The breakfast can be anything from a continental-style breakfast with some bonus items all the way up to a decadent “best meal of your life” made by an in-house chef. Our particular B&B offers a two to three meal option where you sign up the day before with your selection. We typically offer something savory or sweet and something healthy or rich but filling in either case. Some guests stay for longer periods of time, which is what gave us the idea to offer something a little less heavy. We also serve fresh baked pastries every morning that pairs nicely with our local and organic coffee by Black Coffee Roasting Co.

Bed and Breakfasts are typically very good at doing both the bed and the breakfast. I mean, it is their namesake. And when you are in search for a place to sleep you should be very careful not to just look for the cheapest room. After all, you are most likely spending quite a lot of money already on your trip as well as using your very precious vacation time to splurge on what might possibly be your one and only vacation that year. So why not opt to spend just a little more money and effort finding that perfect place? (And if it is during a slow season, you might find it is even cheaper than a hotel.) Not to mention, once you add in the cost of breakfast, in most cases you have ended up breaking even.

Still not convinced? Here is where B&B’s can really outshine their competitors when it comes to special requests. Most B&B’s offer prearranged romance packages and other exciting specials and deals that can help your stay more relaxing than you can imagine. Items like champagne and chocolates can be set up in your room or bikes and ski equipment can be prearranged for drop off before you arrive. B&B’s are also much more accommodating when it comes to celebrating a loved ones birthday or anniversary because most times when guests are visiting they are celebrating something like that. So it is expected and well executed. Most hotels do not go out of their way to help make your room special in this way. And if they do, they are probably charging you an arm and a leg to handle it for you. This is not to say that B&B’s do not charge extra. They sometimes do and really need to to help cover their bottom line, but it just comes so much easier to them than to a large hotel.

Have you forgotten an item at home? No problem. A B&B has you covered. And in some cases, so do hotels (possibly for a fee) but chances are the B&B will have quite the supply hidden in their back room full of toothpaste, razors, SPF, and just about anything you can imagine. At our Inn, we have a bin full of miscellaneous items like sewing kits, reading glasses, bathing suits and even bear spray. Yes, we actually lend out bear spray for our guests to take with them when they head out on the trails. This is Northwestern Montana after all.

Many B&B’s go way above and beyond what any hotel would do for their guests. For example, at our Bed and Breakfast we offer fresh baked cookies every single day. We even do a Gluten Free variety, which has become some of our most favored by everyone including our non-Gluten Free guests. We also have French Press, a self serve Nespresso machine, microwaves, mini fridges, an ice machine, ironing board and iron, loose tea, a full library, games and several other novelties available to you 24/7.

Inn Keepers have a genuine sense of wanting to please and in doing so can provide you with local concierge services. Since owning this B&B in Whitefish Montana, we have had several other local businesses reach out to ask us to promote their business. Small businesses all depend on each other and when they reach out like this, we all know who is going to be able to provide you with what you need and what you want. A larger hotel will never be able to outshine us in this way. The front desk is likely ran by someone who is just there to collect a paycheck and does not care where you rent your kayak or which tour guide is going to provide you with the best service. And if the front desk clerk happens to be a caring local who wants to help you they are likely not going to have the time to spend with you as a small Inn Keeper would because Inn Keepers know that it is crucial to the success of their business that they take care of their guest to the very best of their ability.

If you need a blanket because you are feeling chilly – done! If you prefer a down pillow because the synthetic one gives you neck pain – done! Oh, the hot tub is just a few degrees too hot for your liking – done! If you ask you are so much more likely to receive at a B&B than a hotel.

Now that I have provided you with all this new insight on the Bed and Breakfast world vs. hotels. I would encourage you to visit a B&B or two during your next vacation. And if the first one you visit isn’t your cup of tea, please try it again. I promise you will find one that just blows your mind. And please always book direct with the B&B’s official website or call them directly. You are going to get a better rate than with an Online Travel Agency (OTA). If you don’t, try calling them for a better rate. They will accommodate you because the OTA’s (booking.com, hotels.com, travelocity.com, etc..) are all charging them a huge commission to book through them.

My New Life as an Innkeeper

Before we moved into our newly purchased Bed and Breakfast, I was worried because I knew that the first few weeks would be beyond hectic. We had two young kids in school, two crazy dogs, a ridiculous amount of things needing to be moved into our new place. There were plenty of things needing to be cleaned out and organized, not to mention the millions of other tasks tied to starting a new business. I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep and that my body would be put through the ringer. But like most things in life, you let the adrenaline and excitement help guide your way item by item, step by step.

We scheduled a team of movers to help us unload our furniture and boxes. When they were finished bringing them up stairs to our owner’s unit, I was in total overwhelm as I scanned our huge space that now felt so small packed with towering boxes. How did all of this fit in our tiny little house back in Oakland?

It felt so ludicrous unpacking that first inconsequential box. I had to start somewhere but pulling out random items like a candle or a decorative pillow gave me so much anxiety. Do I put them on the floor and possibly trip over them for the next several weeks? Do I leave them on the kitchen counter leaving us no space to create a meal? Should I just put it back in the box and save it for another day?

Each box that I opened was filled with items like this. Looking around my house now, these items finally did make their way to carefully arranged shelves which I love and are what give our place that cozy feeling. But when you first start climbing that mountain, it can be so very daunting.

Lucky for me, on the other side of the wall inside the B&B, everything was already organized. It was a completely different world where all items had a rightful place, a label and was just so utterly wonderful to see. We even had guest rooms to choose from where beds were already made up with fresh linens, soap and shampoo in the bathrooms, clean towels hung and we didn’t need to do a thing. We didn’t even need to worry about locating the cutlery or dinnerware from our boxes upstairs. Those items and so much more was already in place in our beautiful commercial kitchen so that we could whip up a meal with total ease. Having all of that made our lives so much easier.

All I needed to do was find the balance between spending part of the day for new business development while also slowly chipping away at the tedious chore of unpacking. Then, when the kids were back from school, we could prepare dinner and sleep in a guest room and actually get some good rest. The luxury linens and comfortable mattresses helped out a lot. Having all of that was really the only way we could’ve worked through those first few crazy weeks so easily. It didn’t really feel like work. I guess that was what I had hoped for. My wish was to find work in something that didn’t feel like work. And for me, it was all very fun and exciting.

During the second week, I decided that we needed to start gearing up for first guests. I wanted everything to be perfect so I spent more hours in the day working on having new systems in place, building a menu of breakfast options and making sure we had all the ingredients necessary. When our first guests arrived I was so excited. It was a young couple from Canada who drove down just for a couple of nights. I served them appetizers and a couple of drinks. We chatted for a bit and then they were off to dinner.

I couldn’t wait to serve them breakfast and see what they thought of the place. But we never got the chance to ask them because the husband ended up getting food poisoning from the restaurant they ate at that night. They ended up leaving to head back to Canada that next morning and had to cut their stay short. I felt bad for them and was disappointed. That wasn’t really what I had imagined for my first guest experience in my very first B&B.

Another couple came to stay just one day later and I anxiously awaited for their check in. Upon arrival I greeted them, gave them a quick tour and then served appetizers and drinks. We had a nice twenty minute chat and they said they needed to head out to check on a house they were building in town.

They came down for breakfast the next day and ate every bite. They seemed like the best guests an innkeeper could ask for. They were pleasant and gracious. They seemed to love everything. I had trouble with one of our tricky fireplaces getting it started and it took me like an hour and still I couldn’t get it lit. The guests tried to help me out and acted like it was no big deal. They spent a few days at our B&B and it was just really great! We thought that if this is inn keeping then we were in heaven! It really is that much fun cooking and getting to know people. When the guests are really nice, you just get the warm and fuzzies throughout your body.

By the next week, I decided we needed to spend the next couple of slow weeks on some of the rooms that desperately needed some help. We were about to rent out the entire nine room Inn to a family who would be staying for eight nights. I knew they had children and I thought if they ended up in some of the rooms that hadn’t been given much attention in a while, that they might be a little disappointed. So the staff and I worked really hard for several days changing out shower curtains, swapping furniture, adding artwork, throw blankets and pillows. One room was missing a bed so we splurged and bought a beautiful rustic wood bed along with a dresser and some other items. The room instantly looked upscale. Ryan, my husband, even took on the job of handyman and installed seven bathrooms with new towel bars, robe hooks, toilet paper holders and bathroom shelving. We repainted walls that needed patching which was a little unexpected and extended our timelines to longer than I would’ve liked. But in the end, the rooms looked warm, inviting and just a little more up to date than they had looked. I was thrilled!

When the family came to stay they each had a decent room to sleep in and I felt so amazing knowing that we could not only provide a warm comfortable lodge to serve them amazing breakfast in but that such care and detail went into their unique experience. Being on vacation is such a special time in one’s life. Its usually some of our best memories. I want our B&B to be one of the most magical places a person can stay. Good Medicine Lodge was already an amazing place before we arrived, but with our little touches here and there we hope to exceed all expectations.

Our B&B is a big rustic canvas with so much potential and I have been given an amazing opportunity to create. I am the luckiest person in the world! I often feel like I need to pinch myself and wake up.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Have you ever had that feeling that you are about to lose everything? One minute you are elated. You’re walking on water. You are floating and untouchable and just before you are about to clink your champagne glasses to celebrate the last hurdle, BOOM! It all falls apart.

It was nearly October and just when we thought our SBA loan was nearly to a close, we had a peculiar incident take place. The seller’s of the Bed and Breakfast we were trying to purchase asked for a last minute meeting with us. They didn’t give us a reason and our realtor didn’t know anything about it. At this phase in the deal, I would be lying if I said that I thought nothing of it. I was worried. There were a million thoughts running through my mind. My worst thought was that they were backing out.

We were three months into the process of closing on a Bed and Breakfast. At the moment we had nowhere yet to call home. Our lease was running out in just two weeks. My two young children were feeling a bit nervous about starting at their new schools. All of our belongings were still in storage and it was starting to snow. All we had to lean on was our summer camping gear. We were pretty desperate to start moving into our new B&B and start living our lives. We couldn’t afford to hear any news except for major progress at this point. I kept my fingers crossed.

Ryan reluctantly attended the meeting. I had to pick up our kids from school, so I anxiously waited for his call at home to hear the details. Ryan sounded pretty happy when he finally called to share the news. The seller’s wanted to offer us 100% owner financing. At the surface, it sounded like a great opportunity.

They offered a low fixed rate for twenty years with an affordable down payment. We didn’t know all of the details but it had the five major bullet points in writing. We would have to wait a few days to receive more information back from their lawyer to read through the terms. When our lawyer received the amendments, he gave us a call and warned us against this arrangement. The reason being was that it was a Contract for Deed. This means that we wouldn’t hold the title, the seller’s would. We spent a week trying to dig into this detail because without the title that meant we wouldn’t be able to get another loan down the road if we needed one for capital improvements. We wouldn’t even be able to get a small line of credit. If for any reason we couldn’t make a mortgage payment, we could be kicked out and the sellers could take the B&B back with very short notice. We could potentially lose everything. And by everything, I mean all of our 401K investment, all of our Roth IRA contributions and all of our savings. Everything.

We hesitated against the offer. We tried to explain why to the sellers and we asked for different terms. We thought that we were stuck and it was this or nothing. We were able to negotiate the ability to refinance after three years, in hopes of getting out of the arrangement and extended another month onto the default period. We would just have to pray that we could refinance down the road if we needed some additional cash. So we decided against our better judgement and shook on the deal.

Just when we thought things were rolling again, two more hiccups hit us unexpectedly. One was that our SBA adviser was beyond upset that we were not going with the SBA financing. So much had gone into this effort. Our adviser was the one after all who helped us with our complicated business plan and very detailed projections. She navigated us through whether or not we could actually pull this off. Because of her, we knew we could. I felt terrible! We were in a situation we could not get out of. She seemed to realize this and took some pity on us, but I still didn’t feel good about it. We did end up with a pretty hefty and unexpected bill for services.

The other terrible thing that took place was about a week into this new plan, we realized that the seller’s were unaware of $100K in cash that we needed from them to help carry us through the slow months. This is a pretty complex part of the story and I am not sure I can really explain it well without completely losing you, so I will just simplify it by saying that originally in the SBA loan, the seller’s (maybe unknowingly) were going to be providing us with $100K in seller financing. However, this new deal did not include this part. Without it we couldn’t make this new offer work and we spent the next three weeks renegotiating terms with them. It was painful and very stressful.

We thought the deal was never going to happen. At one point we were thinking of worst case scenarios. One being that we would lose everything that we had spent thus far getting the business rolling and we would need to reinvent ourselves in a town where we hardly knew anyone, didn’t have a house and worst of all didn’t have jobs. It was terrifying and devastating. I had worked so hard getting to this point. And there was a good chance it would be for nothing.

Towards the end of all of this we felt broken. I was crushed and Ryan had completely lost himself. We had hit rock bottom and wanted to quit the fight. Our nerves and stress took a major toll on our bodies. We weren’t eating or sleeping and I can remember an entire day where my body couldn’t even move. I was frozen in place. My brain was so overly exhausted. All I wanted to do was watch movies in my pajamas. Depression had set in.

Our positive thinking realtor told us to keep holding on but we didn’t think there was anything left to hold onto. I kept thinking about how I would have to report back to all of our friends and loved ones that we lost. Our beautiful website would never be published. I would have to undo so many tasks that had been done. The dream was over. It was the very worst feeling.

But then, just when we had nothing left, the phone rang. It was our realtor. He had incredible news that surprisingly the seller’s were agreeable to our new terms after all and we would be closing in just a few short days. All we had to do was hang tight until the papers were drawn up.

I still shake my head at the thought of all of this. It’s pretty unbelievable to follow the twists and turns of the overall process. I would say that I would probably do it all over again, but only if I knew the result was a positive one. But that’s just it. You don’t know what the ending will be and it is completely terrifying.

Next Chapter…….Our new life as Inn Keepers!

(stay tuned…..)

FALLing in love with Whitefish

Buying a Bed and Breakfast is a lot like having a baby. There is the long build up of months filled with patience, preparation and even a lot of pain and suffering, (especially towards the end). It is an emotional roller coaster for the whole family and at times it feels like you are the happiest you will ever be and at other times, you find yourself in a lonely and dark place. Everyone is thrilled for you and cannot wait to see it! You spend hours shopping and visualizing what it’s going to be like.

And like a baby, the moment you own your first B&B, you are stunned and overcome with incredible joy. Then slowly that joy turns into an overwhelming amount of work and hardship.

Maybe some B&B transactions aren’t quite like that. And maybe for some, births aren’t that way either. For me however, both of my kids came into the world like that and now my third baby, Good Medicine Lodge, is feeling the same way.

Ryan worked hard while we stayed at Whitefish Mountain Resort, finding us a long term rental. We were thinking we would only need it for one month, which is what the owner’s agreed to. We had been told that our SBA loan’s thirty day window had begun and we could now count down the days to our closing. It was the beginning of September and in thirty days we had so much to accomplish. Now that we were in the condo and our kids in school, we put our head down and got started. We were working with a CPA team to set up accounts, our lawyer on all sorts of stuff, endless SBA paperwork, certifications, licenses, permits, a new front sign, business cards, marketing consultations, 401K administration, employee packets, insurance policies, inspections, and so much more….We especially had big ideas on our new website. It had to be the best out there. We couldn’t take any shortcuts. It had to come across powerful but also well-balanced with high visuals and a quick download time.

Luckily, one of Ryan’s college friends happened to be a website designer. We interviewed him for our project and he said everything we wanted to hear. We had a few marketing teams try to talk us out of going with a friend, especially one that isn’t only specialized in hotel booking sites. But I had a good feeling about our partnership with him. There was just something that told me he could do anything we asked of him and that he was a very good listener. It didn’t hurt that he was also incredibly easy to talk to and just an all around nice guy.

Barry Costa, from Costa Designs, delivered so much more than I could imagine. When I received the first edition of the site, I was beyond thrilled. It was exactly what I was after. I had a vision and he totally nailed it! We of course had to do some tweaking on content and some of the layout but overall it had everything!! We worked endlessly getting it just perfect. I will need to capture new photos of the B&B as we move in and are able to make updates to the rooms and spaces but all in all, it totally exceeded my expectations.

With everything heading towards the right direction, we were pretty anxious to work shifts at the B&B. We really wanted to see the place but also had a lot to learn. Technically, the current owner’s would need to train us for about a week or so as that was part of our contract. We decided to work a few half day shifts to understand the day to day operations, the maintenance and cleaning schedules. It was approaching the slow season, so this arrangement seemed to work out great. It was so much fun!

I watched the employees make the famous cookies that the current owner’s have made into a staple at the Inn. I helped put some fruit plates together as the other two ladies working in the kitchen put the main courses together. They were making a strawberry and brie pressed breakfast sandwich along with a baked ham cup with egg for the guests that morning. There were also fresh muffins that were baked that morning.

The kitchen is pretty incredible. It is a commercial grade kitchen that is of pretty good size. They have a couple ovens, a huge stove, cork flooring and a beautiful view of the backyard. I could easily get used to starting my day in this warm setting with fresh baked goods and incredible coffee smells surrounding me.

Speaking of which, Ryan is a huge fan of coffee. He has like five things in this world that are everything to him. Bikes (of course), music, fitness, food and coffee. (Oh and probably his family too, so six things). Before we moved out to Montana, he was constantly out in the garage roasting his own coffee beans and pouring impressive golden creme espresso shots from his fancy little machine. One of his biggest priorities for this new venture is to find the very best coffee to serve our guests. The only catch is that it has to be local.

He has tried all sorts of companies. At one point, just before we moved we had about 9 bags of coffee from three different vendors and we were making two to three batches at a time. It was fun to try them out and compare.

He finally settled on this one company, Black Coffee Roasting Co. They are out of Missoula, about 2-3 hours from Whitefish. There are a couple of other roasters closer to us, but this one just had it all. They use organic beans, they believe in Fair Trade, they are environmentally conscience but what he loved most of all was their dedication to good roasting practices and freshness. Those are two things that surprisingly are hard to find if you can believe that. I loved their hip packaging and brilliant marketing, so it was a no brainer for me. And they are willing to let us sell to our guests who might want to take some home with them.

While chipping away at our to do lists and school activities for the kids, we were also able to squeeze in quite a lot of Whitefish Fall fun, well, for the most part.

My favorite season is Fall. It’s one of those things that I truly missed when I lived in California. Oakland gets a mini version of it, but it’s typically an Indian Summer with high temperatures, high winds and some dry leaves and foliage. There is a slight change in the air that sort of resembles Fall but just misses the mark. There is nothing like a beautiful quintessential Fall day in a place like where I grew up in Ohio, Michigan and now I can say Montana. The beginnings of that cold fresh air, the brilliant colors of the leaves changing, the gentle mix of cold and rainy one day to breezy and sunny the next. I love it all. For seventeen years, I thought about how much I missed it when pumpkins started to make their way to the markets. But to live it for the first time after so long, was just an incredibly magical moment for me. Especially living in this wild vast landscape with huge skies, enormous mountains facing us from every direction. There are rustic barns resting against the gold and green landscapes. The colorful reflections off the lakes and rivers. The hiking and biking this time of year is just so rejuvenating.

I missed wearing sweaters and hiking boots!! Not to mention, our adorable dogs rolling in the piles of crackling leaves. It really doesn’t get better than this!

Well, maybe I shouldn’t get too crazy at this point in the story because there was a little downside to this season. Our whole family did end up getting incredibly sick. First it started with Caleb, our two year old. Of course, he just started at a new preschool and brought home some kind of super bug. He was sick for a total of five weeks! We even took him to the doctor wondering if there was anything they could do. But they couldn’t. It was just this nasty never-ending cold. Ryan and I ended up with the same thing, just an adult version of it, meaning we felt like we were dying. Typically my colds last seven days but this one weeks! Both of us had it for three or four in total, yikes! Dylan had a much smaller version of it, maybe a week tops. It was a rough stretch for us all. Caleb didn’t sleep, but he usually doesn’t so I guess that’s not really worth mentioning. He was a little more cranky than his normal. We tried not to push ourselves too much but we definitely missed many incredible bike days. So there were a lot of walks and hikes, instead.

Just when we were recovering and on the mend, we ended up with a freak snow storm. About a week earlier, Canada reported record breaking weather that was on it’s way down to us. Our site appraisal had been postponed a week due to the flights being cancelled. The snow didn’t actually hit our town but it was reported that it hit Glacier National Park’s east side with a whopping 4 feet of new snow. Things calmed down for a few days. Weather started to heat back up a little. And just when I was enjoying a perfect Fall day, this crazy storm blew through and all of a sudden snow was falling. When I picked up the kids from school they were elated. They ran all around picking it up and throwing it, making snowballs and smashing them. Their hands were ice cold but they didn’t care. They were the happiest kids in the world. It was a moment I had envisioned for many years for my kids, especially Dylan who had asked for snow every single year since he could talk.

(to be continued……..)

The Long Road Ahead

After our traumatic dog fight situation at the Whitefish KOA, we were desperate to head back to Hungry Horse Reservoir, to the perfect campsite on the water where we stayed before. It was approaching mid to late August by this point, so we knew that our chances of getting our last spot was probably pretty slim. However, it was a Tuesday and typically midweek was a good time to try. When we pulled down the dirt road that now was almost unrecognizable covered in deep puddles from the recent rains, we knew we were okay. No one was there. This summer’s weather in Whitefish was thought to be pretty far off from what was normal, apparently. We didn’t know what was typical being from out of town. To us the overcast and cooler weather was a welcome change from the constant hot temperatures we were used to back in Oakland, California. We think the weather deterred tourists from moving into our spot. This was great news for us!

When we arrived, we quickly settled right back into our routine. We knew where everything needed to go and what worked best as far as our camp gear and layout. It was a quick set up and within less than an hour, there we were back in paradise and living one with nature again.

We only had a few days until camping was officially over for us. It had been over two months in total and to be honest, I was pretty excited to call it quits. Mostly because our two year old really struggled with the sleep situation. He was amazing in the daytime and his naps were probably some of the best ever. But at night, when the cold temperatures set in and we had to bundle him in several layers including his down coat, I could just tell he was not as comfortable as could be. He also was outgrowing his Pack n Play, which does not have the most comfortable padding.

So after a few days, we said goodbye to Hungry Horse and to camping all together. It was bittersweet.

We didn’t know how much longer we had to close on the Bed and Breakfast, but we knew it was at least a few weeks out. School was starting for the boys and we needed to have some place to live even if it was temporary so they could sleep in actual beds and bath tubs to bathe in. When I signed them up for school, the school gave me a special form to sign that basically called us homeless. We didn’t have an actual address, so the office administrator said we needed to fill it out. I didn’t think too much about it because we did have a home, just not one we had closed on quite yet. But I did start to wonder what our seven year old must be thinking as we move from place to place. Here he is about to start first grade in a new place where he knows no one. He is young enough to mold easily to situations but he is also an incredibly sensitive soul. He still talks about this friend he had back in preschool when he was four years old like they see each other everyday. They haven’t spoken or seen each other in three years. On the one hand, I know that this is a good experience for him but on the other, I just worry that his anxious little self will internalize everything he is going through and I won’t recognize that he is struggling. I am so afraid that I might miss the signs that he isn’t doing well. He isn’t loud or outspoken like our two year old, so it just isn’t as obvious with Dylan when things aren’t great.

We decided to rent a condo at Whitefish Mountain Resort for a couple of days so that the kid’s had a fresh start for their first days of school. It was small but very cute and so convenient right on the mountain. I loved being able to take the kids on the chair lifts up and down the mountain during the daytime.

Dylan and I rode the Alpine Slides a few times. He was just a wee bit too little to ride the sled by himself without issues. They are designed to go at a little faster speed, which requires someone a little older than Dylan, but he had fun anyways.

I think the strangest part of staying at the condo was that even though it was definitely more convenient in terms of bathing and laundry, it really didn’t feel more relaxing. Camping is a ton of work, no doubt but there is just something very rewarding about the whole process of camping. Living in a furnished condo is strange because you just don’t feel like you are at home or that you can really relax. At least I can’t. There is so much clutter and you are sacrificing things that you wouldn’t from your actual home. Like kitchen utensils or your favorite bed linens or maybe the shower pressure. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be, so I found it pretty depressing. But with young kids, you are definitely better off especially with colder weather setting in. We couldn’t push our kids to wake up in the crazy early mornings, fresh out of the tent, to snap to in like 40 degree weather. Not to mention the usual getting ready for school routine is so difficult as is, that doing it while camping just seemed so daunting.

Dylans’ first day at Muldown Elementary was perfect. He had everything he needed and his family was there by his side at drop off. We gave him long hugs until his teacher lead the class into school for the day. Funny enough, Ryan recognized one of the other parents, who’s kid just happened to be one of Dylan’s buddies that he quickly latched onto. Turned out, his friend’s mom went to school in Italy with Ryan back in 2000 or somewhere in that time frame. She didn’t recognize him at first but then she did and we all couldn’t believe the chances of this encounter years later! We have been close friends with them ever since. It’s pretty funny how life works out like that sometimes. Out of seven first grade classes, what are the chances that our two boys end up in the same class together? They too were recent transplants and their story was pretty incredible as well. Originally both from California, her and her husband moved to Nicaragua. With the country’s recent warfare, they ended up leaving everything behind after several years to move to Whitefish, Montana. A place totally foreign to them as well. I don’t think it was coincidental that our kids connected so quickly. Whatever the case, it’s nice that they did.

We needed to work on getting some long term housing in order because things were slowly moving on the B&B front. There were several vacations that took place from both the seller’s side and ours. We kept feeding the SBA and bank all the documents they had asked for but it sounded like the seller’s were reluctant or slow getting information back to them for whatever reason. All we could do is hang tight and wait for our thirty days (that the SBA needed to process and close on our loan) to begin. We knew it was close but didn’t have that confirmation quite yet.

I was spending my days trying to get things off the ground for the business. We needed to commit completely to this Bed and Breakfast because come day one, we needed to have an amazing and updated website, killer marketing and basically everything modernized and running to get our occupancy up as quickly as possible. We were projecting a move in date of around mid September or possibly end of September, so we didn’t have a lot of time. That meant spending a lot of our money to get things going, creating accounts, building a brand and logo, networking and lining up our permits, licenses and certifications. There was so much to do and with only a month or so before opening, we needed to jump on these things now. Well before we knew if this deal would even go through.

With the kids now in school, we had more free time to get on it. I completed a ridiculous amount of work each day. But I had passion behind what I was doing and I completely loved every second of it.

About two weeks into Dylan’s new school, we learned that he was locked out just after drop off. His school had a lock down policy where parents need to sign in to the office before heading out to the playground with the kids. Dylan had successfully gotten himself to the back of the school where the first graders enter the school, so I thought nothing of it when I dropped him off at the front gate and told him to find his way to class. Like all the other kids, I thought he would run to the back where they line up and enter. Apparently, the second bell had already rung and by the time he ran back to the first grade entrance, they shut and locked the doors. He is a new student and so he didn’t know what to do. He just stood there waiting for god knows how long until a police officer or guard of some sort let him in.

It was a very traumatic event for him because for several weeks after we had to calm him down before each day of school. He would usually freak out and cry worried that he would be locked out. It took us about a week to figure out that we needed to once again walk him to class each day. But we got him back on track. It didn’t help that not only did his teacher quit after two weeks, but two of his best friends also ended up being transferred out of his classroom to another. I felt so bad for Dylan.

This was not the way we wanted him to start his new school. It’s been a few months now, and he seems to be doing well. This was just another thing we really didn’t need with all the crazy going on with the B&B and the unknown timeline to closing.

(to be continued……)