Sunday, September 26, 2010

Big Cedar -- Roughing It Royally

Oh, yes, I could definitely get used to this! There aren't enough superlatives to describe Big Cedar. Everything about this place is artful and outdoorsy from the cedar tree logo worked into the ironwork fences to the lines on the parking lot -- not just straight lines but painted stringers of fish. The stone and wood buildings blend into the towering trees and beautiful English cottage-style flower beds snuggle up to each building.

Our room (Jack was with me on this trip) was in the Springview Lodge (that's Falls Lodge at the top of the blog). It overlooked the swimming pool, which, with the beautiful, warm weather, was a welcoming spot.

Our room had a fireplace -- no, we didn't need it -- and a balcony where we enjoyed breakfast. The bed was perfect and I slept like a baby each night.

Big Cedar Lodge is south of Branson, Missouri -- close enough to enjoy the shows but a world away from the traffic and crowds. There are plenty of activities -- fishing, boating, jet skis, horseback riding, tennis, miniature golf, and a lovely spa -- but I could have been happy just sitting on my balcony or by the pool enjoying the fresh Ozark air.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Lumber Baron's Daughter

Stillwater, Minnesota is a charming little town that's experiencing a resurrection as a tourist destination. It was a lumber boomtown in the late 1800s and early 1900s -- until all the trees were cut down. The town slipped into an economic slumber leaving charming buildings which, now house bed and breakfasts and boutiques, and, along with a beautiful riverfront and historic downtown, are attracting visitors to the area.

I wasn't in town long before becoming aware of the name "Staples." Not the office supply store, but one of the city's first movers and shakers -- and Minnesota's first millionaire. Isaac Staples, first and foremost a lumberman, had his fingers in many pies -- farms, a saw mill, timberland, a bank and other businesses. His name was so prominent that the house where his daughter Aurora and her husband Adolphus Hospes lived is still known as the Aurora Staples house -- now a bed and breakfast inn.

The gingerbread trim is elaborate; the woodwork in the home befitting a lumberman's daughter. The house is furnished in the style of the period (late 1800s). One of the few original items in the house is the beautiful bedroom set in the St. Croix Suite -- my home away from home. All the rooms have double whirlpool tubs, fireplaces and private baths. And oh-so-comfy beds!

The present owners are Cathy and Jerry Helmberger. They're live-in owners and always available to meet any need -- but they think most of their guests want privacy. I think I was a new experience for them -- chasing them around with my notebook in hand and photographing my food!

Every breakfast was a three-course delight. This one started with a warm apple/cranberry medley topped with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Next course was peach French toast with a brown sugar/maple glaze and sausage. It smelled so good I got excited and bit into it before I remembered to photograph it!

What's a meal without dessert? We finished with a peach and raspberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

Aurora may have lived in the lap of luxury but I'm sure she couldn't have been more pampered than I was.