Archives for the month of: August, 2015

GenieDannyJPonchoRhubarb House is just a click away, a click away, from being public on AirBnB. Oh, children, we are just a click away. I am channeling Miss Lisa Fischer doing “Gimme Shelter” with Mick Jagger, and I am having a lot of second thoughts about this whole thing.

My company-best towels and sheets have been in everyday use since I bought them when my departed husband and I hosted his cousins who came to Atlanta for a family wedding that took place about 15 years ago in a Southern Protestant cathedral. I have priced replacements online at Garnet Hill and Amazon Prime and can’t bring myself to buy more. Guests will have to overlook tiny holes, frayed hems, and a few spots of rust and teary mascara stains that won’t wash out.  After all, this is Alaska.

Leo and Rys are not just friendly indoor cats. Leo drinks from the toilets even though I keep bowls of water around the house. Rys swats at streams of liquid – any liquid—so in the bathroom . . . well, guys, watch out. And how do I, the nearly new-50 single woman, know this? My grandson told me about it. I asked if he missed; he did not. Not long ago an adult male visitor was surprised to experience the same thing. I did not ask questions.

LeoByStoveLeo and Rys also walk on the kitchen counters, and this has persisted in spite of the negative reinforcement training I tried with a spray bottle of water for a few days after each of them came from the animal shelter to his forever home. Plus, if Rhubarb House guests don’t want the company of one or both cats during the night, they have to keep the bedroom doors shut. Leo and Rys knock for a while, but eventually they stop and settle in with me.

I haven’t put any of that in the listing, because people will figure it out soon enough and just chalk it all up to being in the cosmic hamlet, but I am including a few house rules. The first three – no pets, no shoes inside, and no smoking – appear in several listings I’ve read. The first needs no explanation since Leo and Rys have already been mentioned. The second is common practice in Alaska homes, and I’ve noted that; the third is a no brainer, but Joy asked, “Don’t you think you should mention chewing tobacco?” So I am specific:

No smoking, chewing, dipping, or snuffing tobacco products inside or out. If you wish to inhale other substances, please advise the host ahead of time as she is just getting used to new laws. Exception: If you enjoy an after-dinner cigar, please take it to the deck and expect the host to step out to catch the aroma.

Rhubarb House Rules continue as follows:

  • Guests, especially those from anywhere east of Mountain Time, may experience an altered sleep cycle. Those who awaken before 6:00 a.m. (AKDT) are encouraged to be quiet until that time. Catch up on reading and work crossword puzzles. Sleep masks may be helpful June – August.
  • No cooking, but you may chill beverages and keep medications in the refrigerator. The hospital has a helipad for emergency medical transport to Anchorage.
  • No eating or drinking, except water, in guest rooms or lounge area. I may wait until guests arrive to tell them about this rule. It’s to protect the carpet from stains.
  • No cleaning of fish on the premises. Take them to a processor, or catch and release. Back home, you can get the same fish – wild-caught in Alaska – for a lot less money. I am not kidding.
  • Tidiness is expected: please make up your bed, hang up your clothes, don’t spit toothpaste on the bathroom mirror, flush the toilet, and wash your hands with soap and water. I can’t say that, can I?

When Joy was here last month, I finished the AirBnB listing, even though it was past the time when folks make summer travel plans and reservations. I wanted to get a jump on summer 2016. Then one morning she looked up from Garden and Gun magazine—the issue with the divine tomato sandwich on the cover—set her mug on the coffee table, and said, “Have you thought about having to clean the bathrooms maybe five times a week? Changing the bedclothes over and over again?”

I have been thinking about that, and a bunch of other stuff, such as just how strange a stranger I want to host, and I have decided to shut the door of Rhubarb House before it ever opened. BnB is not 2B, unless you’re family or friend. I know you, and you know me. Neither of us is any stranger than the other.

The rules about pets, shoes, and tobacco still apply, and these:

  • If you can’t sleep, make popcorn and watch DVD or online videos until it gets dark outside, though by then it will be morning. If you’re here in the winter, the light won’t be a problem.
  • If you wake up before I do, please turn on the coffee and feed Leo and Rys. That would be so nice. Eat some yogurt, and if you want a big breakfast, I have three great restaurants in mind. One opens at 5:00 a.m. Let’s try them all while you’re here.
  • Please do cook.
  • Eat and drink whatever you want, wherever and whenever you want. Stain remover is stashed in both bathrooms and the laundry room.
  • I honestly don’t care if you make up your bed and hang up your clothes the whole time you’re here. And since I know you it’s OK if you spit toothpaste on the mirror. Most likely you would wipe it off.
  • I will take you to the Spit to watch people clean fish. The muscly guys at Butt Whackers have been a big hit with a few of my guests. Then we’ll mosey around to The Auction Block to buy halibut. A friend from Georgia gave me a great recipe for halibut casserole.ButtWhackers Just let me know when you’re coming and ask about what you need to bring. It’s not what you think. This may be the end of the road, but it is not the end of civilization. I have plenty of everything, and did I tell you that Save-U-More has a whole aisle of Trader Joe’s stuff?

Copyright 2015. Genie Hambrick  

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I registered Rhubarb House with AirBnB in the dark of January, raring to go after a holiday vacation Outside. I was fully recovered from the flu that bit me two days after I arrived in Atlanta. A dose of Tamiflu had zapped the bug nearly over night, and my ankle was mending after I sprained it in the collosal parking deck of a ritzy physicians’ building.

Genie&SilverWinter2015I was there as my sister’s designated driver to and from a routine senior procedure, and thank God she didn’t get the flu and have to postpone the thing. She did have to wait for a while in a wheelchair at the entrance of the building, because I was recovering from a swoon brought on by the pain of the injury. And then I still had to find the car. I appreciated the kind woman who brought a damp paper towel for my forehead and said she liked my coat. I had dressed up, sort of, being in the city, you know. If I had been wearing my hiking boots instead of prissy city shoes it wouldn’t have happened.

LivingDining2Anyway, back home in Homer, I started filling in the required information for AirBnB. “Two bedrooms, private bath , and lounge area in an owner-occupied, in-town residence in Homer, AK, halibut fishing capital of the world, cosmic hamlet by the sea, drinking village with a fishing problem, at the end of the road (U.S. Highway 1).” I’m still deciding which superlative to use.

Moose at Cups 3The convenient in-town location is definitely a plus: “Within walking distance of the Pratt Museum, Bishop’s/Bishops/Bishops’ Beach [however it’s spelled], art galleries and shops, restaurants, bars that have live music nearly every night, and coffee shops, including Starbucks.” Homer may be the end of the road, but it’s not the end of civilization, and for some reason I feel that saying there’s a Starbucks in town proves that, even if it’s inside of Safeway and not my favorite place to enjoy coffee in Homer.

AirportMooseI note that there’s “a view of Kachemak Bay, a hiking trail at the end of the street, and that mosquitoes are not a problem” [here]. Before I make the listing visible to the public, I may add that the walk to reach the in-town fun is downhill, which means uphill coming back, with South Peninsula Hospital just two blocks beyond. I might mention bear activity in the trail area.

I describe the interior of Rhubarb House. That you “enter through the front door”; in other words, no private entrance for whatever purpose a guest might want that, though things seem to have changed enough that this probably isn’t much of an issue. I note that “guest quarters are on the lower level,” which could be a deal breaker if climbing stairs are a problem; that there’s “wi-fi, but no network cable television,” which implies that Rhubarb House is a place for folks who aren’t into Fox News.

HostPerson_Aug2015The YOUR HOST information block is still empty, because I can’t figure out how to make myself as interesting as the other hosts of Homer. I am a cheechako who knows barely pea-diddly about Alaska and Homer. I can provide little more than basic directional information about the town and nearby points of interest, recommend restaurants, advise on moose safety, and identify with certainty two volcanos, one glacier, and Poot’s Peak. I don’t know jack about kayaking, fishing, and hunting.

HostCatsAug2015I’ve described Leo and Rys as “two friendly indoor cats, ” and they’ll be at the door with me as I welcome Rhubarb House guests with a cheery “Hello! No! Welcome! Stop! Get back in here! Sorry. Come in. Hurry.”  (To be continued)

Copyright 2015. Genie Hambrick

HouseFrontEven before I moved into my Alaska house, I toyed with the idea of having a BnB. I knew I would have extra space, what feels like too much after my condo in Atlanta, and I love having company. Plus it’s the sort of enterprising thing that a lot of Homer people do. In this town, people–I’m talking individuals–make pottery, paint, write music and sing and play guitar, have a big garden, maybe a high tunnel, freeze and can boatloads of vegetables and fruits, make jam, catch fish and smoke and freeze them, develop web sites or write books, have a day job–or just retired from one–as a scientist or something like that, and they have a BnB. They also kayak and paddle board out in Kachemak Bay with the whales and sea otters. And have a pilot’s license.

I don’t do any of those things, but maybe because I want to fit in, to seem less cheechako and more enterprising and real Alaska, I’ve been thinking, “Well, hey. I’ll have a BnB. I can do that.” Hosting tourists would be fun and profitable, which surely is a motivator, even for Homer polymaths.

I wanted a catchy name for my BnB knowing that I couldn’t rightfully christen the place with anything nautical or suggestive of Alaska wildlife. So I came up with Rhubarb House, because a year after I moved in the only thing growing in the yard was a big clump of rhubarb that survived the dirt work that preceded construction of the house. I do harvest the rhubarb and freeze most of it because one person can’t eat all that much of it at one time.

Whenever out-of-town company comes, that’s just family and close friends so far, I use them as a captive focus group to test my BnB idea, and because they’re genial guests, they’ve all agreed to participate. Maybe they’re just being nice and don’t want to hurt my feelings, but not one has discouraged me—not even my sister Joy, who would be the first to burst the bubble if she thought it was a ridiculous idea. Her name may be Joy, but she minces no words. Just one “That’s crazy” from her, and I get sane real quick.

My guests have given me lots of great ideas and suggestions. One long-time friend suggested that I get a fire extinguisher and first-aid kit. Another who has really great hair that’s still not gray suggested a better hair dryer for the guest bath, and the one I had in there was pretty feeble. I bought it at a CVS in Lansing, MI, because I forgot to pack one when I went to visit Zach several years ago.

Joy has come up with a lot of ways to distinguish Rhubarb House from other BnBs in Homer. I really love her idea of serving complimentary wine and crudités in late afternoon. No cheese because of weight and cholesterol concerns. This service would be offered instead of breakfast, because I have said all along I don’t want to prepare a biggie size morning meal. I can’t stand frying bacon. It gives me cold chills.

Eventually we decided that breakfast would be cheaper. I would let folks know up front that they could expect a piece of fruit, homemade muffins made with rhubarb from the side yard, and great coffee. That comes from Panama and is shipped to me by the same friend who advised the fire extinguisher and first-aid kit.

Maybe I would have non-fat yogurt available too, for people who are gluten intolerant. I think that could be a Scots-Irish genetic thing, but I may be wrong, because I don’t have it. I will purchase the fruit and yogurt at Safeway on senior discount day and make the muffins myself to keep a good profit margin so it’s worth the trouble of registering Rhubarb House BnB with the Kenai Peninsula Borough and collecting sales tax. By the way, I have a great muffin recipe that earned a seal of approval from my former husband who otherwise had no confidence in my cooking, and that wasn’t the only thing.

When Joy visited last month, her second trip to Homer, she suggested that I not give up on the happy hour idea, but make it BYOB, and provide live autoharp music. She came up with that idea during an in-home wine tasting, and if we had been drinking Coca-Cola, we would have snorted it out our noses.

As the tasting continued, the idea evolved into an autoharp singalong including old favorites such as “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” and “Over the River and Through the Woods,” which doesn’t seem appropriate for high season summer months. (To be continued)

Copyright 2015. Genie Hambrick