Something Salinas This Way Comes...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mooseberries and Gemstones

Aside from running my kids' daily bus route, on which she passes out cookies on Fridays and wishes her young passengers a good morning and afternoon each and every day, Margit Brooks (that's "Maggie" in American Speak) acts as a partner in ownership in addition to the duties of chef, maid, and accountant for A Mooseberry Inn, one of Tok's handful of bed and breakfast establishments; the other owner being her husband, also knows as Damon, also known as construction worker, electrician, plumber, and maintenance guy.

Being the diligent advertising agent that she is, Margit approached me about writing a descriptive piece for her beloved inn's home page.  I wanted to get a feel for the topic of my one-man discussion, so yesterday morning around 10 a.m., Joshua and I ventured down the Alaska Highway to Scoby Road; I in my Ugg knock-offs and he in his cowboy boots, paired stylishly with his favorite grey oatmeal sweat pants.  (Disclaimer:  I was completely unprepared for taking photos, so please excuse these grainy iphone photographs.)  We knocked on Margit's door, were greeted by their chocolate lab, and introduced to the "family living quarters".  Within seconds of entering the home, I was sipping strong, fresh coffee with vanilla flavoring, sitting at Margit's small, quaint kitchen table, and taking in her world. 

Three things about Margit that I noticed straight away:  Her kitchen table is intimate in its location to the kitchen.  It felt right, poised in front of her brown-and-orange flowered doily, listening to Josh talk Mr. Brooks' ear off about toy guns, relating with Margit about her toddler-aged granddaughter.  It seemed like this was the setting for many a great meal and an emotional array of conversation.  The second thing I took in was her knick-knack collection.  Not really an intentional collection of specific items; more like an eclectic happen-chance collection of beer steins, liquor tins, vases, and various beginner plants.  Her German liquor collection was very impressive, as well.  The third thing I noticed had nothing particularly in common with the environment; more specifically with Margit.  When she talks about her inn, her labor of love, she lights up.  The first thing she revealed in discolosing her intentions behind the establishment of Mooseberry Inn was simple:  It is fun!  Meeting new people from all over the world and cooking for her guests were the very first facts presented to me when I inquired about the most fulfilling parts of being a bed and breakfast owner.  Judging from this response, and from the rest of my sensory experience at Mooseberry Inn, I would say that Margit and Damon Brooks are in the right business.

So it was with great anticipation that I left my son in the company of Mr. Brooks, who gracefully received all of Joshua's notions on everything from evil reindeer to fantasies of toy gun ownership, and ventured with Margit into the other half of the Brooks residence, otherwise known as A Mooseberry Inn.

Margit is a first generation German-American.  She was born and raised in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, which literally translates to "Gem City".  For many years, Idar-Oberstein was the home of vast and numerous gem mines, including agates, amethysts, and jasper.  The prevalence of her culture and heritage are present in everything contained inside the walls of Mooseberry Inn--from her authentic belgian waffle breakfasts, to the antique sewing machine and hand- made dolls, to her
impeccable cleaning standards, all the way down to Margit's thick German accent--less rigid than a northern German accent, softer consonants with a bit more emphasis on vowel sounds than the accents I'm used to hearing.  When she speaks to someone like me--a seasoned American with a strong "American" accent--I feel like I am sitting across from Diane Kruger's character in the movie, "Inglourious Basterds".  I found myself asking the question in my head, "Is this the older-world version of the German accent?  Is it the more Hungarian-style dialect?"  As I am completely undecuated in this realm, I will make sure to ask Margit next time I speak with her. 

Mooseberry Inn contains four guest rooms.  All walls adorn different paint and decorum themes, all bathrooms are designed just a bit differently; but the running theme, and the target theme for Margit's idealogy, are warm, Earth-toned, and organic.  Instead the common animal hides and hunted heads adorning the walls of this inn, one will encounter handmade curtains in rich metallic fabrics or embroidered floral sheers, original artwork from an eclectic array of artists the world over, and plenty of remnants of Margit's German upbringing; all of this is coupled with comfort:  mattresses that can only be described as cloud-like, rested in sleigh-style bed frames made from rich oaks and maples.  Modern amenities like wi-fi internet, jetted tubs, terry cloth robes, flat screen televisions and an array of movies act to further enhance the comfort level of this bed and breakfast.  Mooseberry Inn is original in that it provides a framing of the world outside its walls.  Margit's choice in warm, non-obtrusive lighting techniques offer an inhabitant enough comfort to enjoy the view from the warmth, comfort, and cleanliness of the inside, but are inspiring enough to bring inhabitant outside for a winter day's walk--or, even better, a swim in the outdoor hot tub. 

My favorite room is what Margit refers to as "The Tuscan room".  Its walls are a deep sunset gold.  The lampshade, made ornamental by embedded stained glass, casts a warm glow that makes even shadows seem somehow fancified.  The textures used throughout the room are so marvelously, haphazardly perfect; as if Margit cast an idea casually onto a palette, and it effortlessly became a masterpiece.  My favorite piece is the grey-green quilted bench at the foot of the king-sized bed.  This room is so unassuming in my photos, but the aura is of comfort, ease, rest, and relaxation--all things that I believe a bed and breakfast inn should project.

The place where all the magic happens is the kitchen, and Margit's breakfasts are anything but continental, or even ordinary. I could tell by the way her expression changed when I asked her about her decision to cook breakfast versus supplying continental breakfast, this is something Margit takes very seriously. Having seen photographs of her meals on Facebook in the past, I must say, it was the food that piqued my interest in this inn, some months ago. Who serves meals like homemade Belgian waffles topped with fresh fruit?  And if you can somehow resist the urge to follow your nose to the modern kitchen, it can be brought up to you by your gracious hostess on an ornate victorian breakfast tray.  Margit's establishment kitchen, although enhanced with more modern appliances than that of her home, displays a theme much like that of her house: A central locale, to which guests flock for resources vital for human thriving: good food, good drink, and good conversation.

Whether you are a local resident of Tok or a tourist from abroad, Mooseberry Inn will undoubtedly provide for you an experience of luxury, framed by the rugged terrain of central Alaska.  If you are the indoor type, this setting will provide you with utmost comfort and service, so as to frame your surroundings beautifully.  If you are the outdoor type, you will very much look forward to coming back to Mooseberry for the indoor comforts--hot food, warm bed, and consistently superb service--that will prepare you for another day in the Great Alaskan wilderness.  And at only $149/night, maximum peak season price, I promise you that upon completion of your stay at Mooseberry Inn, you will *almost* feel guilty.  Margit and Damon's little inn is a lesson in "quaint"; a masterpiece in comfort and cleanliness, and, much like the treasures that come from the mines of Idar-Oberstein, Mooseberry Inn is a true gem. 

This is not intended as an advertising effort.  I believe strongly in people following their passions.  I would have to say, after meeting and knowing the owners of several of Tok's bed and breakfast establishments, that the efforts put forth in the fruition of a lodging facility are easily the most evident of perseverance in order to materialize a dream.  It is hard and admirable work.  Bed and breakfasts are unique in that the owners of these businesses are not only supplying lodging for guests, but the vast majority are sharing pieces of themselves--their lives, their history, and their interests--with their guests.  Mooseberry Inn is no exception to this, and it is evident through this couple's attention to detail, their motivating factors of achieving dreams and meeting travelers, that they are following their passions and doing so successfully.  Now that is something I can definitely support.


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