Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast

1109 West State Street, Jacksonville, Illinois 62650
Innkeeper(s): Gwenn Eyer
 

This is NOT Your Great Grandmother's House! 29 Sep 2013, 8:44 am

Sometimes I sit and ponder "my favorite things," and I think that if I lived alone in a home furnished entirely to my taste, I might be living in an "Old Lady's House!" My home would be surrounded by cottage-y gardens, overflowing with blooms, with seating areas here and there for reading, breakfasting, or just sitting in the sun enjoying a glass of sweet tea. If left to my own devices, living alone, perhaps I'd spend my days sitting on a big overstuffed chintz sofa, feet up, working from a computer on my lap, drinking hot tea out of an china cup and saucer, with a King Charles Spaniel tucked in around my feet. That's not the way I live, but it's certainly something that I could envision myself doing!

Now, keep in mind, that although I am not eligible for Social Security, I do (just barely!) qualify for Senior Discounts in many business. So, to young eyes I might sort of, a little bit, kind of seem to be an old lady, but those who know me know that I'm not! In my heart I do tend toward a more traditional lifestyle and my home is a reflection of that. I live in a 120-year-old mansion in the heart of the Jacksonville historic district, so it's not a problem that I enjoy antiques and vintage style furnishings - but... maybe it could be!

As an innkeeper, I recognize that to be successful in this business I need to appeal to guests of all ages and interests. My home needs to be welcoming and inviting to people with varied tastes. There's no age limit to enjoying carved mantels and sparkling chandeliers, and believe me, I see a fair amount of iPads come in with of our guests of all ages. Our vintage home style is a large part of our appeal, and it would be easy to focus only on days gone by, but we offer digital satellite television and wireless internet from the front porch to backyard gazebo. I enjoy antiques, but even I am uncomfortable when surrounded by what I perceive as stiff Victorian furnishings or pieces that I'm afraid to touch. I love vignettes that tell stories, but I would never decorate every surface in my home in so many layers. I work hard to demonstrate a respect for the past while decorating in a French Country style that engenders a casual elegance... an invitation to set aside the cares of the world, put your feet up and relax. And yes, there's space to put your book and glasses on the bedside table.

I do try hard to reflect the heritage of this home by using furnishings reminiscent of days gone by. However, you won't find any horsehair here. I'm using reproductions rather than antiques. I seek out style and comfort. Which should be more important? In this case, I'm going with comfort. I love big floral prints and would certainly love the look of a dozen pillows across each bed - some might even have ruffles and lace! However, since I'm decorating for guests, I'm very conservative in colors - avoiding the frilly and the feminine. I don't stack a pile of pillows on each bed because I don't know where my guests would put them when it was time to go to sleep. Who wants to move a bunch of pillows just to go to bed? After all, this is a Bed & Breakfast! Each bed needs to be inviting and welcoming - not a 10-minute project to uncover! Now, if it was just me...?!

Though I admit that perhaps I could lean in that direction, given the opportunity, this is not your fluffy floral country cottage, nor it is a stiff and stuffy "don't touch" Victorian Great Grandmother's house. Our furnishings are warm and casually elegant, inviting you to come in, relax, and get comfortable. We have a carved Victorian staircase and beautiful pocket doors along with lap desks and power strips and a Keurig coffeemaker on the cherry wood buffet for our guests to enjoy. Come visit us and take a step back into the past while we keep you in touch with the present.

"Neighboring" 25 Jul 2013, 7:54 pm

Do you "neighbor"? "Neighboring" is what we called it as I was growing it in the big city of Newton, Illinois. Neighboring involved the use of only the back door, never the front; it meant that you could sneak over even when no one was home to borrow a cup of sugar; catching fireflies and dark tag had no boundaries; we played at each others homes, both indoors and outdoors, and a baseball crack in the family room window wasn't a huge deal; gardens were fair game, especially when the corn came on; funerals meant enough food to feed 100 of your closest relatives; and, if you needed someone to quickly come hold your hand - or your child - for any reason, you called your neighbor.

I'm so happy to report that the neighboring tradition continues at Blessings on State! One of my favorite "neighbors" lives down my street about two miles, but she's still my neighbor! My neighbors are loving, caring, and giving. They know how to reach me in this big old house when there's no way for me to hear a doorbell or a knock at the door. They know they can stop in to borrow "a cup of", or to pick up a stack of new magazines to read, or to put their feet up for a little while and enjoy a sweet of some kind. Front porch, or back, porch sitting is a popular activity. Stopping to chat while taking a walk or walking your dogs is a regular event. They know that if there's any reason at all - a parade, a car show or a holiday - there will be a party on my front porch and/or a cookout or homemade ice cream social in the back yard. If they need a listening ear, a ride, impromptu child care, a shoulder to cry on, or some other kind of support, we are here.

What are the neighboring benefits I receive? They are too many to list! Before we were even approved to open the Bed and Breakfast, our next door neighbor went to the city to speak on our behalf. When Valerie moved in with us she was immediately accepted by the family on one side and the older couple on the other. Val's had more Rhoda hugs and kisses than she can count. She spends almost equal time playing on one family's playground and visiting with the neighbor and his dog on the other. The first month I lived here I got stuck in a snowbank trying to get into my driveway. (Glenn was on the phone telling me to just "commit and go for it" while I was insisting that we had ten inches of snow and it would never work! I was right.) A neighbor I'd never met promptly stopped and, along with others who stopped to assist, worked hard to free my car from the snow drift.  I've had school placement questions answered by the elementary principal across the street. I've been given zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers, and now we're receiving gifts of freshly prepared gourmet foods. When there's a campfire next door, we're invited. (I can be counted on to provide S'mores!) When I overbooked the inn (ONE time!) I learned that rather than booking into a local hotel we can temporarily camp out in a home next door. We've heard stories of tours of foreign countries, viewed fine art, and eaten fine meals with our neighbors. We've shared Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner. Our neighbors have helped us promote our Bed and Breakfast, have assisted with our open houses, and have served as Christmas Elves during our decorating weekends. Most of all, we've had a lot of laughs, shared some tears, have received advice and counsel, and have had strong shoulders to lean on.

How about you? Do you know your neighbors? Do you spend time being neighborly? Take time for porch sitting. (Or if you're a Southern Lady, porch "settin!") Wave as people pass by.  Share a glass of sweet tea, the "house wine" of the South. Share something you've prepared or picked. Who knows? You, too, may be part of the revival of neighboring!

"Sweethearts" Month at Blessings on State 23 Feb 2013, 6:57 am



Forget Valentine's Day - it's Valentine's Month at Blessings on Sate! As an innkeeper, I enjoy decorating and celebrating each holiday and each season. For me, it's always an opportunity be creative and artistic in both food preparation and home decor. Valentine's Day is a big holiday for us at the B&B, so we've decided to extend the celebration. We're calling it "Sweethearts Month." Our guests have ranged from young newly married couples to those closer to our age who have been married for many years.

This year I determined to find red and white china for my "Sweethearts" place settings. Mixing and matching items (and sellers) on EBay paid off with a beautiful set of red and white china! Loving reminders are prominently displayed throughout our home, including vintage red heart garlands strung on the fireplace mantels in each suite. The mantel is the front parlor is graced with a collection of wooden hearts. We've served heart shaped cookies at bedtime, and chocolate covered strawberries with breakfast. We're playing romantic music on our baby grand as guests arrive and in the background as they have breakfast. Though not all of our guests are couples, it's been fun to think of ways to enhance the romance, and I'm thinking Sweethearts Month has a chance of becoming Sweethearts Year at Blessings on State!

Dorothy's Little House on the Illinois Prairie 6 Dec 2012, 7:37 am


I know I've been quiet, but I finally have something to say...
A dear friend's sweet mama left her earthly home early this week, relocating to her new home in Heaven. The angels are rejoicing, but it's sure causing mixed feelings for those of us left behind. Sadness that she's gone from our lives for this moment, but renewed anticipation of Heaven's glory when we'll be reunited with those who have gone before.

Dorothy was the mother of one of my closest friends and colleagues. (My Facebook friends have heard of Terry - she is one of my dedicated Christmas Elves and a big supporter of B&B's for Vets.) Her mama's home was my safe landing place when I lived in Alton and needed to stay overnight to work in the Springfield office. It was so much better than staying in a cookie-cutter hotel - there was just no comparison! Dorothy's home was my own personal Bed & Breakfast (and sometimes lunch and dinner!) Even after moving from Alton to Jacksonville I visited Dorothy, both in her home and in her new (nursing) homes.

Ya'll probably know that our current home is a vintage mansion in a grand neighborhood of many large, beautiful homes in the flourishing town of Jacksonville. I can't tell you the number of square feet - I can't even remember the number of rooms without counting - but, it's big! Dorothy lived in a very small house in a very small town. My house is huge and her house size was tiny, by comparison. However, her house was tiny only in size. The warmth and feelings of love and belonging were immeasurable. It was a beautifully decorated little house and was always so warm and welcoming. I never felt like a stranger at Dorothy's. She always welcomed me with open arms, a sweet smile and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. (More about that twinkle in a bit!)

The second that I walked in Dorothy's front door all the cares of the world, all the work concerns, all the things that tugged and pulled my mind and heart a hundred different directions, drifted away. (It might have helped that Terry had often planned ahead and there was a pot of soup on the stove or dinner on the table!) I remember that it was an amazing transformation to total relaxation. It was like coming home.

We visited a lot when I stayed with Dorothy. We chatted and watched Little House on the Prairie and Hallmark movies. We went for fruit and waffles at Ruby's. We carried in fried chicken from Cherry's. She talked with me about my Bed & Breakfast while it was still a big idea full of hope. She knew that it was a long-time dream, and she wholeheartedly supported me as it came to fruition. She loved my family and welcomed them to come with me to visit. When Valerie became an even bigger part of our lives Dorothy loved having her visit, even without me, often sending her home with a stuffed kitty cat. Dorothy's home welcomed many visitors - she had many, many friends - and I hope that my B&B guests feel even a portion of the love, warmth and welcome that was "Dorothy's house".

When I was there we talked a lot and laughed a lot. Dorothy was so much fun to spend time with, although she did have an ornery streak, and I got caught more than once! The funniest illustration I can remember - funny NOW - is the time that Dorothy and Terry were in the kitchen early one morning while I was still sleeping soundly. Dorothy wore a call button around her neck, and I'd often wondered what I'd do if she fell and had to push the button while I was there. (I'd spent some time reviewing in my mind what steps I'd take.) The story goes that as I was sleeping away, Dorothy asked Terry what she thought would happen if she pushed the button, buzzing the alarm box that was set about six inches from my pillow. Terry insists to this day that she discouraged it, but... Dorothy thought it might be funny, and.... she pushed it! I flew from the bedroom to the kitchen, feet barely touching the floor! As sleepy as I was, I could quickly see that there was no crisis, only a slightly sheepish Dorothy, with an impish grin, watching my panicked flight. After catching my breath and getting my heart rate back under control, even I could see that it was a little bit funny. However, as time passed it became funnier and funnier and Dorothy reveled in revisiting that buzzer-induced early morning wake up call!

I have many, many fond memories of Dorothy, and like others who knew and loved her, will miss her greatly. It's a blessing to know that she's enjoying her new home in the warmth and wonder of Heaven, and we'll be visiting again before too long.


How Does YOUR Garden Grow? 16 Aug 2012, 8:52 am

This summer's been a HOT one with many days over 100 degrees, almost no rain, and city-wide watering restrictions. I'm still holding onto hope that the heirloom seeds and plants that we've planted over the past two years will somehow survive and thrive. Are those root systems strong enough to hold on during these hot thirsty days? We'll see! My dream is to have a fenced cottage garden in the back corner, with heirloom perennials set off by annuals for color. We're well underway with the hardscaping and I've planned and plotted. Now we wait. I can see in my mind's eye the roses climbing the arbor at the entrance, with columbines of every color in one corner, bleeding hearts, foxgloves, coneflowers... I can see them! Can you?

There's No Place Like Home 27 Jul 2012, 3:22 pm

I've had the opportunity to do a little traveling during the past several months. Here are a few things I've learned:
1) There's no place like Charleston and Savannah in the springtime. However, even in the loveliest cities I missed my porch and gardens in Jacksonville.
2) Hotel housekeeping is a wonderful thing. However, the added expense of room service... not so wonderful.
3) You can hardly beat the mountain view from the second floor balcony at Hyatt Regency Tamaya. However, when one locks herself out on the balcony with two children when the temperature is 95 degrees, it loses some of its appeal.
4) I really miss the young one when she goes to camp in another state. However, road tripping in Kentucky with my husband to fill time while she's away is a lot of fun!
5) One can learn about Native Americans baking bread, weaving, and baking bricks at Tamaya. However, I can stay home and learn about the Civil War and the Underground Railroad practically in my own back yard.
6) Hotel suites can be luxurious and well appointed. However, there's nothing better than sleeping with my head on my own pillow in my very own bed.

Step One: New Towels - Mission Accomplished! 5 Feb 2012, 1:25 pm

Blessings on State officially opened in the May, 2008. We've crossed the three-year threshold, and I'm doing some upgrading! We started with nice towels - luxurious, soft - and had a maximum of two sets of each kind. When I found something I liked, I bought it, in pairs. Now we're upgrading. I recently purchased dozens of thick beautiful towels from the Turkish Towel Company. These luxury towels are made from 100% Turkish cotton and are super absorbant. I chose classic white towels for a spa look and feel. They're unpacked and pre-washed and I'm very pleased with them! Come try them out!

Step one on the Upgrade Trail: Mission Accomplished!

Refreshed, Renewed, Revitalized! 28 Jan 2012, 12:50 pm


I just returned home from my first ever national Innkeeping Conference. As an educator and conference planner, I’m a big believer in educational conferences and this one was a winner! The opening keynote impressed us with The Magic of S.I.L.K. I loved P. Allen Smith’s slide show presentation and would love to visit his Moss Mountain Farm. I’m kind of going kicking and screaming into the whole social networking thing, but appreciate the tips and techniques shared by Buuteeq. The Trade Show was eye-opening and really gave me great resources for moving ahead as a lodging leader in our region. Plus, the whole time I was there learning from the educational sessions and the trade show, I was also gathering tips and information from other innkeepers from all across the country. What an exciting, innovative and professional group! I left Little Rock refreshed, renewed and revitalized! You may count on some upgrades and changes in coming weeks at Blessings on State and in the next few blog entries I’ll detail some of the coming transitions, including linen lines, décor, gardens and web site.

Please stay tuned….

I Have Followers! 19 Jan 2012, 10:43 am


I have followers! Does that scare you as much as it scares me?? I'm working hard to establish this blog and I've just started in with Twitter. I have to tell you it was kind of exciting when I got my first followers! My first follower here is Deanna from Home Haven, and the oldest continuously published newspaper in Illinois is following me on Twitter - no pressure there! Following me... following my words. Viewing the photographs I post. Wow. What a responsibility! What shall I say? Shall I be funny? Inspiring? Heartwarming? Motivational?

Today I'll tell you that I am also a follower. I am following the Journal Courier, Home Haven, and several others. I'm reading what they write and paying attention to their words, and their words may have an impact on my life, positive or negative. Even more than this, though, I am a follower of Christ. I can have confidence that my path is straight when I follow Christ as my leader in life. I wonder... am I reading what He's written? Do I spend as much time reading my Bible and communing with the Lord as I do studying the photos on the blogs and reading others' words? I think not.

Like the children in Peter Pan, we're "Following the leader, the leader, the leader... We're following the leader, wherever he may go."

Are you a follower? Best be sure whom you are following and how closely you follow.

And... We Have Snow! 12 Jan 2012, 2:16 pm

Finally, happily, I can report that we've had a measurable snowfall this season! If you look closely, you may see some actual snowflakes in this picture! I love the way our home looks as it's robed in white. It will be pretty tonight, too, with the lights on the flocked pine roping adorning the front porch. Our guests last night were a retired couple driving separate vehicles as they move from their long-time home in Michigan to their new home in Kansas. They'd watched the forecast and were confident that they'd drive out of the snow fairly soon.

Roxie has been here five times during the past couple of years, stopping to rest as she transports cherished items to their new home. She's a funny, wise, and independent woman. I've loved getting to know her and hearing about the beloved town and restored older home she's leaving behind. It's been fun to keep up with her and interesting to follow the progress on their move. The snow didn't cause any major problems for me, as I went out early to sweep the front porch and back deck, then went out with them to sweep off their car and truck. Yes, sweep. It's a very light fluffy snow - the kind that blows and drifts, rather than the let's-go-build-a-snowman kind. It’s been snowing and blowing all day, and I say, “Let it snow!”