When Phil and I purchased the Inn in July of 1987, we “inherited” an employee who is still with us, 21 years later! Ruth VanHouten has worked in almost all of the jobs that need to be done here at the Inn, from front desk to housekeeping to breakfast chef. A summer resident turned permanent resident, Ruth and her husband moved to Chesterfield in 1973 and raised their 3 children here, opting for the rural lifestyle over life in suburban New Jersey. Ruth has been active in the community and the schools, and has a keen memory for facts and details. She is the quintessential volunteer, and her latest volunteer job as Emergency Management Director for the town is practically full time.
When Phil and I were new innkeepers, Ruth was working as head housekeeper and filling in at whatever job needed doing. Ruth and I were always rearranging the furniture in the guest rooms, carrying things up and down the stairs until we got it “just right”. Ruth is very good with draperies and has a flair for decorating, so we spent hours fine tuning the look of each room.
When Ruth is welcoming guests at the front desk, we tease her about “interviewing” them. She has a knack with people, getting even the most reticent person to open up and share details of their life with her. Her problem solving skills are excellent, finely honed after years of working on “Destination Imagination” in the schools. She goes to great lengths to meet the needs of our guests, even to the point of lending her car to a gentleman who was stranded at the inn without a vehicle. Ruth knows everyone in town, and a common phrase at the front desk at the inn is: “let me ask Ruth, she’ll know the answer to that question! ”
When our first child was born in August of 1990, Phil gave me the gift of two months of maternity leave and Phil and Ruth worked together cleaning rooms, cooking breakfast, and running the inn. With the birth of our two children, Ruth became an honorary grandmother, staying with the kids when we were away, and occasionally picking the kids up or feeding them dinner when we were working. Even now, as high school students, the kids look forward to having Ruth stay at our home with them.
Ruth is an excellent cook, and her sour cream coffee cake is always a hit when we serve it for breakfast. Here’s the recipe:
Ruth’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Butter and flour a tube pan, Bundt or otherwise. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1/4 pound butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Combine dry ingredients, add to above with sour cream. The batter will be quite thick.
Filling: 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Put half of the batter in the pan, sprinkle filling over the batter. Put remaining batter onto the filling. Bake
40 -50 minutes at 350. Let cool in pan, then remove to serve.