At the Inns, sometimes it seems like we are all on stage, trying to ensure that we do our best for the many guests who visit us in Friday Harbor. More than not, unbeknownst to guests, there is a lot of thought, discussion, trial and error that goes into each little facet of our service. Here is a rare peek behind the curtain for you:
We like starched sheets, but it seems we’re in a minority. Responding to feedback from guests, we decided to forgo the starch, but that created a new problem: how to get the sheets perfectly smooth. Head housekeeper Elsa Lopez, who’s been with us for nine years, came up with the brilliant solution of pulling the sheets from the dryers when they are still just slightly damp. That gives the fabric enough moisture to lay flat and crisp up a bit when going through the mangle.
Ah, the mangle! Now that’s a canterkerous piece of equipment, though I suppose anyone would be at that age. Parts are hard to come by, and belts snap more than we’d like, but we can’t seem to part with this venerable machine. After ironing the pillowcases by hand for two years, a used mangle seemed like a good purchase in 2006 when the neighborhood dry cleaner wanted to replace it with a larger model.
At about eight feet long, it takes two people to run it, one on each side carefully feeding the cloth over the belts. The cloth rolls back over the upper belts and comes through to the front on the lower belt. The process takes about a full minute per item, but the item may have to be run through several times, depending on how wrinkled it is. With full Inn capacity at 65 beds (top sheets, fitted sheets, pillowcases), plus tablecloths and napkins for both the Garden Room Cafe and Coho Restaurant, the housekeepers make ironing a twice-daily priority in summer and once-per-day in winter. The mangle gets turned on when they first arrive in the morning, allowing it time to heat up; then they can do the ironing while guests are having breakfast, so that fresh sheets are available when housekeeping staff tends to the rooms.
This behemoth mangle requires propane to operate, and it heats up the room rapidly; after two hours of ironing, the room gets too hot and housekeepers need to move on to other projects. They have become adept at repairing the ancient belts, weaving a pin through the clasps at the ends of the belts to ensure a tight fit, and they know its quirks and sounds like some long-married couples.
The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be, but we’ll keep her, just the same. We are grateful to our housekeeping staff for keeping the old girl going, and our quest to reduce, reuse, recycle as much as possible continues in every phase of the business, seen and unseen.
Other than in commercial use, mangles are rarely seen these days. Have you used a mangle? Do you remember your mother or grandmother using a mange?
Housekeepers, Innkeepers, Office staff – we all read those feedback forms that you, our guests, kindly take time to complete. It is from these forms that we learn what we’re doing right, where we need to tweak, and occasionally some great ideas to implement.
During the busy summer months, Friday Harbor is awash with visitors and it’s all we can do to keep up with the daily comings and goings of houses full of visitors. So winter is our time to focus on your suggestions and improvements that we want to make.
On this years line-up for Harrison House Suites:
- Full length mirrors have been added to all rooms and suites
- Frosted glass has been installed in several rooms of the San Juan Suite
- Lopez Suite will also get a new shower/tub combination
- Roche Harbor Suite is getting a new fireplace next week
You may be aware, Friday Harbor is full of old houses, and some of our buildings are well past the centenarian mark. As in all old houses, one seemingly minor change typically leads to deeper corrections such as old pipes, electrical wires, walls, and even foundation sometimes need to be fixed as well. So these are just a few of the things we’ll be working on this winter.
But we wanted to thank you for bringing these items up on the feedback forms, and for your continued referrals and positive reviews. We’ll keep working for you!
Since the Town of Friday Harbor installed a new carbon filter system in the town water reservoir, the quality of the water has improved dramatically. They no longer need to douse the supply with high amounts of chlorine and chemicals. As a result, the water seems “softer” than before, and certainly tastes much better.
At the Inns, all the drinking water is run through reverse osmosis systems, and the building in which the Garden Room Cafe is located is served by a water softener system. So hard water stains are never a problem.
Not so for those on wells in the surrounding countryside of San Juan Island. Unless they have a water softening system in their home, the minerals in the water can create stains within just a couple of weeks, requiring diligent scrubbing.
Beth, our Guest Services Coordinator, is the Queen of Clean, so I sought her advice to tackle the hard water stains in our toilet bowls. Beth says she uses a pumice stone, the same type you’d use on your feet, knees, elbows, or other dry body parts. There are other stones that are labeled as scrubbing sticks, but they are more coarse and harsh, and they disintegrate rapidly.
First, soak the pumice stone in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes; this will soften the pumice, making it work in a few minutes. Concentrate your scrubbing on the stain itself; this should not scratch the porcelain bowl. You can use baking soda, or lemon juice if there is still a stain from well water. Using reduced vinegar may work also. To sanitize the stone after cleaning, Let the stone sit in a bowl of boiling water for five minutes.
The vinegar is a good way to rinse every couple of months, to keep it looking clean, and you may like to use an old toothbrush under the toilet rim around the holes.
Voila! No more ugly stains!
The hard-working trinity of baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar have become standard staples in many San Juan Island homes, as more and more people become attuned to the effects of harsh chemicals on our environment. But we’re curious, are there other non-chemical solutions that you’ve tried? If so, our comments are open; we welcome your input.
Our innkeepers make these scones every week, and pack them as one of the components in our To-Go breakfasts for guests with early departures. Here’s your warning: they’re deliciously ADDICTIVE!!
Makes 24 scones
1 lb 12 oz Bread flour
3 oz Granulated sugar, plus extra for coating tops
3 Tbsp Baking powder
1 tsp Finely ground sea salt
1 tsp Finely ground dry lavender buds
3 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/3 Cup Honey
1 Cup Toasted sliced almonds
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lavender in a large bowl. Mix to evenly distribute.
- Add the cream and honey, mixing by hand until it comes together, but do so gently.
- Divide the dough into thirds, cover with a towel and let rest on a floured surface for ten minutes.
- Shape each portion of dough with floured hands into flat discs about 8” around and 1” high; cut into 8ths radially.
- Dip the tops in cream then sugar to get a nice crystallized top. Place on parchment or silicone lined bake sheets.
- Bake at 425° for 7 minutes or until risen and lightly brown, then lower heat to 350° and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes.
- Allow to cool on bake sheets for 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
To make ahead: Shape the dough into discs and cut to desired size. Wrap each section individually and freeze. Can be baked direct from the freezer, does not need to be thawed first. Allow approximately 4 additional minutes for baking.
Over the years, we’ve found that guests coming to our Friday Harbor Inns or to San Juan Island in general have a much different “agenda” than our summer visitors. Summer visitors rush to pack everything in to their limited time on the island, whereas the off-season visitors adopt a much more relaxed pace. Some come regularly, and some have “seen and done” all there is to do here on San Juan Island.
To off season visitors – and locals: I now challenge you to take an even deeper look at the island, and truly connect with the beauty of nature’s spectacular regalia and soothing arms. To help you, I’ve enlisted the assistance of Nicholas Corrin, owner of Friday Harbor Holistic Health and author of The Power of Letting Go: transforming fear in to love. Nicholas writes:
“Are you by chance planning a visit to San Juan Island? You may have already read up on its charms and beauty spots, its marina, eateries, lighthouses and, of course, its whale pods. But where on this island can you find a portal into nature’s inner secrets, a place of mystery and power? One option would be Lime Kiln state park, but if you go there, please make your approach as slow and contemplative as possible, and begin by parking your car at Dead Man’s Bay.
From here, you will descend a narrow trail that loops towards the ominously named bay with its swath of grey pebbles and blanket of silvery driftwood before rising then falling again, wending its way through patches of spruce, fir, wild rose and blackberry bramble, twisting now this way then that. This pathway, you will discover, is rather like a marine current replicated on dry land, an arterial flow through the coastal landscape that your feet will soon persuade you to become one with: the pure pleasure of no longer having to walk in straight lines! You will accept, as you walk, deep gulps of breath and brief snatches of sea-sounds, licks and splashings on rocks and then intermittent glimpses of glittering water. If you are lucky enough, perhaps a sea otter or an inquisitive seal may meet your passing glance with theirs. Walking along this serpentine path, you will soon feel your body become more fluid, your limbs remembering how good it is to reconnect with the solid presence of rock underfoot; your skin will be refreshed by the cool marine breezes and most importantly, your mind will unwind until suddenly, and with complete amazement, you become aware of water.
As though for the very first time, water will reveal itself to your senses not as an inert fact of life but as a great, living being. You stand now before the straits of Haro with Vancouver Island ahead of you while to your left, the straits of San Juan De Fuca sparkle southward and beyond their rapid currents the Olympics tower upward in a haze of cloud and speckled light. Water, another world to ours: the living force of this blue planet, where the orcas, the minke whales and other marine mammals are far more privy to its inner secrets than paltry, dry-limbed and land bound man. You suddenly apprehend a vast, kaleidoscopic universe of the liquid element; a labyrinth of swirling currents you can barely imagine leading to fearsome depths in this crevice between islands on the very edge of the Americas. Somewhere within these deeps, the orca pods lead their discreet yet communal lives and occasionally, if we are so fortunate, breach the surface to reveal glistening, formally clad flanks of pristine white and black.
Contemplating these swirling waters is to be carried away into a limitless expanse before us as we inwardly bow to that ancient power of waves and wind, and also the remoteness to which these deepest currents move in their unerring yet primal chaos.
A Suggestion for You
Instead of gathering together with the typical tourists by the Lime Kiln outlook wall and peering expectantly at the sea for any sign of a dorsal fin, it is far better to attune yourself to this meeting of patterned waves, currents and straits which fan out before you like the wings of a great invisible bird taking flight. If you can only still your busy mind, you will be allowed into this realm where words, cameras and even thoughts are no longer necessary. Very soon you will experience an opening at the gates of your heart and you will recall what it is to feel unencumbered, unlimited and free.
There is more: if you continue walking past the lookout perch towards the Lime Kiln lighthouse, you will come across, to your right, a wooden bench containing a square insert made of brass. On this plaque, there is an inscription in embossed lettering that reads, “I love to wander through the woodland in unmarked spaces as if I am discovering the world”. And below this, “Martin Blackman: 1952-2008″.
Surrounding these trails, benches and lighthouse, and hugging the coastal rocks from which space and water launch forth into the spell of distance, stands the spirit guardian of the place, the Pacific Madrone trees. Take some time to connect with them and these mysterious beings will guide you further into this liquid, dreaming world. Their outer bark is like a cross between prehistoric feathers and grey alligator skin. Their inner bark has the color of crushed pomegranates mixed with tobacco juice and the texture of flaking manuscripts. But their unmistakable presence will surely impress you with its power, mystery and gentle authority.
Please also take some time to observe how the madrone branches often reach out towards the Western horizon, beyond Vancouver Island and on into the very heart of the Pacific Ocean where, at the end of each day, the old sun will sink forever and the new sun will arise. Lime Kiln Preserve, if you enter it mindfully, will never fail to enrich you, whether or not fins appear above the scudding expanse of waters.”
What to Do
We suggest you print this blog post out and take it with you to re-read before you head down the trail, as a reminder of what to focus on. Then use this same technique to visit other “Power Spots” on San Juan Island or places of beauty in your home region. Practice this technique regularly, and you’ll find nature will grant you calm and peace amid a world of screaming chaos.