Monday, September 29, 2014

Fall Season = Pear Season in Oregon’s Hood River Valley 

One of our favorite things to do in the fall is to take a drive to the east side of Mt Hood along the Fruit Loop to buy locally grown pears in Oregon’s Hood River Valley.  The pear is Oregon’s state fruit and Hood River Valley is the nation's largest grower of pears with 12,000 acres producing over 150,000 ton of 7 varieties of pears (Green and Red d'Anjou, Bartlett, Comice, Bosc, Forelle and Seckel) each year. 

You will pass pear, apple and cherry orchards as well as 24 fruit stands, 9 wineries, 2 lavender farms and an alpaca farm as you drive through the Fruit Loop.  The 45-minute drive from the Villages of Mt Hood to the Fruit Loop is a spectacular fall color route with the red, gold, yellow and orange hues bursting out on the vine maple, big leaf maple, cottonwood, birch and tamarack trees with Mt Hood as your back drop.

All Mt Hood Vacation Rentals include fully-equipped kitchens, so you can prepare delicious dishes with your pears and other fall harvest items that you find at the produce stands along the Fruit Loop.  Here is an easy to make pear dessert courtesy of Sunset Magazine. 
Photo courtesy of Sunset Magazine
Caramelized Pears with Toasted Hazelnuts* and Chocolate Sorbet 

1 c hazelnuts
3 tbsp superfine sugar
8-10 firm-ripe Bosc pears with stems
¼ c unsalted butter
1 c granulated sugar
1 c brandy
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 pts chocolate sorbet 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Spread hazelnuts in another (unlined) baking pan and bake just until beginning to turn golden under skins, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour into a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove as many skins as possible.
  2. In a large ovenproof frying pan, mix hazelnuts with superfine sugar. Bake until sugar is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir immediately. Place over medium-high heat on the stove and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until sugar is melted and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Pour immediately into the lined pan and separate hazelnuts gently with spoon. Let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, peel pears, leaving them whole and with stems intact. With the large end of a melon baller, scoop bottoms of cores from pears; then with the smaller end, dig deeper and scoop out seeds. Cut a thin slice off bottoms so pears stand flat.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°. Melt butter in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat. When it starts to brown, add pears and cook, gently turning occasionally with 2 wooden spoons, until golden brown all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle pears with granulated sugar and continue cooking and turning pears until sugar is caramelized and thick, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from heat and add the brandy. Return to heat and boil until liquid is reduced to a thick, bubbly syrup, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup very hot water and stand pears upright in pan. Bring liquid to a boil; transfer pan to oven.
  6. Bake, basting every 15 minutes, until pears are tender when pierced and liquid has thickened again and is dark gold, 25 to 30 minutes. If liquid reduces too quickly, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time. Let pears cool slightly in liquid, basting often.
  7. Transfer pears to shallow bowls. Stir lemon juice into syrup, then spoon over pears. Add a scoop of chocolate sorbet to each bowl and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts.
  8. Make ahead: You can toast the hazelnuts up to 3 days ahead; store airtight at room temperature. You can also bake the pears (through step 6) up to 4 hours ahead; let stand at room temperature. Rewarm over medium heat, basting pears with syrup, about 3 minutes.
Another Fun Oregon FoodFact:  Nearly 100% of all the hazelnuts grown in the United States are grown in the Willamette Valley.  Hazelnuts also known as filberts, became Oregon’s state nut in 1989.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Top Five Reasons to Stay in a Vacation Rental

1.  Live Like a Local - When you stay in a vacation rental home you get to see more of the community, meet the neighbors, hang out at local restaurants and bars and shop where the locals shop.  You have more opportunities to learn from the local village where to go and what to do. 

2.  More Privacy than a Hotel - You will have an entire home to yourself, often with a yard or deck, private swimming pool or hot tub, game rooms and theatre rooms and so on.  Depending on how many people you are traveling with, you can rent a home with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, so everyone gets privacy and space. 

3.  You will have Your Own Fully Equipped Kitchen - You can eat what you like to eat when you want to eat.  You and your friends and family will have fun cooking up fabulous feasts together.  If someone wants a midnight snack, it is right there.  You do not need to call room service and order a super expensive meal that takes 30 minutes to arrive.  Plus you can drink and not worry about driving. 

4.  Vacation Rentals are often in Spectacular Settings with Awesome Views, something you rarely get in a hotel - You may never want to leave the vacation rental when you can look out the window or sit on the back deck and view the ocean or snow-topped mountains, rivers, lakes, the desert and other gorgeous scenery.  Of course, when you do leave, there are always lots of fun things to do in the area.

5.  Vacation Rentals Will Save you Money over Staying in a Hotel - When you take the nightly rate divided by the number of guests, it will be less than staying in a hotel, then factor in eating less meals in restaurants and other costs like hotel parking (sometimes $20+ a day) and you have a memorable vacation at a great value in a vacation rental. 

For more information or reservations, go to Mt Hood Vacation Rentals or call 866-761-8029

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The 5 Best Reasons Vacation Rental Owners should use a Property Manager

Owners of second homes have a financial and often an emotional investment in their vacation getaway.  This is why it is important to insure the home receives the best care, maintenance and oversight possible when deciding to rent the home to other families for their vacations.  There are many reasons for a homeowner to use a vacation rental manager; the following are the top 5 reasons why partnering with a property manager makes sense for a vacation rental homeowner.
Marketing: Who knows better how to market your vacation home than a professional manager? Property managers live in and participate in the community where your vacation home is located; they are involved in tourism efforts to promote the region and the vacation rental industry.  Property managers maintain and market to an established customer base of thousands of guests who often return year after year as repeat customers as well as referring their friends and family.  They are specialists in Internet marketing including Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Management. Their websites are attractive, easy to navigate and up-to-date using real-time web-based technology on reservation availability and booking calendars. Property managers know how to help guests find your vacation home online easily when they are planning a vacation in the area. Property managers manage email marketing to past guests and potential new guests, utilize social media marketing and multiple listing sites, and in a much more cost-effective fashion than a private owner can do.
Guest Services: From reservation inquiries to secure, online booking; from check-in to repair calls; from concierge services to housekeeping, home and grounds maintenance and inspections; professional property managers take care of guests and vacation homes 24 hours a day.  Additional housekeeping services, discounted lift tickets, activity reservations, equipment rentals, crib and highchair rentals and much more…property managers offer guests everything they need for a great vacation. Property managers are a available 24/7/365 to assist guests in case of lock-outs, problems with heating, water or other utilities or any other concerns that arise.
Reservations Made Easy: In person, over the phone, via email or online – whether paying by check or credit card – property managers make it easy for guests to book a vacation rental in a secure, professional environment. Rental and refund policies are clear and professional. Guests receive detailed confirmation emails upon booking the vacation rental. Travel insurance and damage insurance along with other additional services are easily offered by property managers.
Local Connections:   Professional property managers maintain relationships with local officials and agencies – from tourism boards to the Chamber of Commerce, from lodging and hospitality trade associations and advocacy groups and the state’s tourism department. It is important to local property managers to ensure they are constantly ensuring that vacation rental homeowners and guests are top of mind in the community. Property managers keep homeowners’ best interests in mind at all times.  They advocate for clean, attractive rivers, lakes and trails to insure the best possible visitor experiences.  They sponsor and volunteer for local events and initiatives that have a positive impact on tourism.  Vacation rental managers also advocate on your behalf for the vacation rental industry to insure guests, tourism partners and the general public understand and respect the vacation rental lodging category.
24/7:   Vacation rental managers are available 24/7/365 – they respond quickly and professionally to guest inquiries, vacationing guests and homeowners. And they respond to emergencies 24 hours a day via after-hours emergency phone numbers and the posting of relevant information in the vacation home.   These proactive steps save homeowners time and money. Vacation rental homeowners who do not use a property manager spend on average 8.6 hours a week managing their property! Property managers do it all so you will not have to worry when you are not at your vacation home and so you can enjoy your vacation home when you do visit!
There are many more reasons why a vacation rental homeowner should use a professional property manager.  If you would like to know more, contact Mt Hood Vacation Rentals:
Betsy LaBarge

Monday, January 6, 2014


Incandescent (INC) VS. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) VS.  Light Emitting Diodelamps (LED)

At Mt Hood Vacation Rentals, as property managers, we purchase and replace dozens of light bulbs every year on behalf of our homeowners (just a few years ago, that number was in the 100's). The average 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home uses around 30 60-watt INC light bulbs in various fixtures throughout the interior of the home. We needed a base point to do our comparisons, so we are not including the multitude of less conventional light bulbs in the homes, the floods and spots which will all be converted to halogen or the exterior bulbs which are mostly floods, but could be path lights or other unusual styles. We have seen them all; our largest inventory supply list for our vacation rentals is for light bulbs with about 100 varieties, types, sizes, etc.

As most of you are likely aware by now, the federal government has banned the manufacture, import and sale of incandescent light bulbs beginning in January 2012 with 100-watt & 75-watt bulbs and in 2014, for 40-watt & 60-watt bulbs. Retailers can sell off incandescent inventory that is still on the shelves, but will not be replacing them. Many other South American and European countries banned incandescents several years ago. Of course, there are politics swirling around this move, but we won't get into that. Do a Google search and you will learn more than you want to know of the good, bad and ugly of the light bulb regulations.

The reality is that we will need to get used to CFL, LED and halogen light bulbs in our homes and businesses. For the past several years, Mt Hood Vacation Rentals has been using CFLs as replacement bulbs in our vacation rentals, so most of our homes likely have very few if any INCs left in use. We have been installing all CFLs and LEDs in our office building here in Welches, Oregon. We anticipate transitioning to LEDs in most vacation rentals over the next few years.

We researched several sources to create the graph below to compare the differences between INC, CFL & LED. Our base bulb is the most popular 60 watt INC. We sourced most of our information from Popular Mechanics (read this article if you are science nut) and Consumer Reports. We also added to the comparison the best LED (price, life, lumens, Kelvins & CRI) we have found. The most interesting criteria are the subjective opinions of the Popular Mechanics testers regarding the light emitted by INCs, CFLs and LEDs; they are all over the place from very positive to very negative and with a variety of color perceptions for each type of bulb.

$.32 - $2.09
$.87 - $9.99
$17.97 - $49.53
Life span (hrs) 
1,000 - 2,000
6,000 -12,000
10,000 - 50,000
Brightness (lumens*) 
 630 - 860
635 - 900
360 - 900
Color of light (Kelvins*)
2700 - 2800
2700 - 5500
2700 - 3000
CRI* (1-100) 
79.7 - 99.7
83.9 - 88.8
Energy cost (1000 hrs) 
Cost to use bulb 1460 hrs (365x4)
$.32 - $3.05
$.21 - $1.22
$1.45 - $2.62
Energy cost to use bulb 1460 hrs 
Total cost to use bulb 1460 hrs 
$9.96 - $12.69
$2.30 - $3.31
$2.82 - $3.99
Annual cost for 30 light bulbs 
$298.80 - $380.70
$69.00 - $99.30
$84.60 - $119.70
Years to replace one bulb 
.67 - 1.33
4.1 - 8.2
6.8 - 34.2
Comments rich color, warm, soft, dull, yellow, greenish skin hue, white, pleasing, good intensity, clean, rich, good for reading, slightly dirty, slightly orange, pinkish yellowish, harsh, warms nicely, cold, perfect white, awesome color, a bit dim, natural color, soft shadows, colors pop, purple, not great on skin, soft green, accurate colors, pleasing intensitynice color, too dim, dingy, pinkish, queasy, good brightness, bad skin tone, familiar, warm, harsh shadows, relaxing hue, pleasant, true blues, balanced, good diffusion, good on skinNA

Lumens - The measurement of the total amount of light emitted by a source, usually around 800 for a standard 60-watt INC light bulb.

Kelvins - A unit of measurement for temperature. For lighting, it defines the color of the light with 2700 being the most standard and often defined as "warm white"; 5000+ is bright white or similar to natural daylight - often too harsh for most people.

CRI - Color Rendering Index is the measurement of the ability of a light source to reproduce the color of objects in comparison to "ideal" natural light. A minimum of 80 is suggested for indoor light bulbs.

If you do an Internet search you will find lots to read on this topic. The two main sources we used were Popular Mechanics and Consumer Reports (you need to be a member to sign in).

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Avoid Vacation Rental Scams

Staying in a vacation rental is becoming increasing popular for families, couples taking romantic getaways and adult groups traveling together.  Some of the benefits of staying in a vacation rental include a fully-equipped kitchen, privacy and space not found in a hotel, gorgeous settings and unique character and ambiance.

However, with the increased popularity of vacation rentals there are a few unscrupulous individuals who have devised schemes to rip off customers.

Here are some tips to keep you safe from vacation rental scammers:
  • Avoid using websites like Craig’s List or other distribution sites that do not have clear and easy navigation or name recognition.  There have been a number of scams reported specifically from users of Craig’s List.  The most common fraud is the scammer will poach photos and vacation rental descriptions from a legitimate website and post them on Craig’s List with their own temporary email address and a “throw-away” cell phone number.  They will ask you to wire the money or a cashier’s check for the rent.  Once they receive the money, they close out the email address and the cell phone number and you do not have a place to stay.
  • You should be able to track the vacation rental information in multiple locations on the Internet.  Someone running a reputable business will have a good, easy-to-navigate website and list the vacation rental and/or their business in multiple locations.
  • Get complete contact information for the person or company you are doing business with and verify their existence using an Internet search engine.  You should not expect an employee of a company to give you their personal contact info including last name, but they should be able to give you enough identifying info about the company to let you know it is for real.
  • Use caution if the home is listed for sale.  Another common scam is for someone to fraudulently list a home that is for sale, stealing photos and descriptions from the MLS listing.  Again, after collecting cash from the customer, the “rental agent” disappears and there is no place to stay.
  • Never wire money or use your debit card to pay for a rental. Use a credit card first or PayPal if the renter doesn’t accept credit cards. If they don’t accept either, find a different vacation rental. Also, do not pay via check, certified checks, as the money is gone once it is cashed.  Your personal credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express) provide the best protection against fraud.
  • Speak with someone prior to paying for the vacation rental. Many scams are run from other countries using prepaid cell phones with local area codes to look legitimate. Ask specific questions about the area and questions about the property. Be wary if no one picks up the phone and you always have to leave a message. When they call you back ask if you can call them back in a minute.  A toll free number is also a stronger indication that you are working with a professional business.
  • If the person you are renting from is not charging you for local and state transient occupancy taxes, they are likely operating under the radar.  They are breaking the law and may also choose to not follow other rules and regulations including safety and building code requirements, parking, garbage and noise ordinances and rental regulations for the area.  You could be rousted out of your vacation home by local authorities for one or more of these violations before your trip is over.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.  You should expect to pay a fair price for the value and quality of the home you will be staying in based on the size, number of bedrooms, location, amenities and features, time of year, comparable vacation rentals nearby and other important considerations.
  • Rent from a reputable, professional vacation rental manager who is a member of the VRMA (Vacation Rental Managers Association).  A VRMA member has taken the time to develop professionally within the industry and will demonstrate a professional demeanor regarding your vacation.  You can find VRMA members at their sister website, Discover Vacation Homes.
  • Every aspect of the transaction should feel professional from how the ad or website appears online, to how the owner or manager of the vacation rental answers the phone and interacts during the entire conversation, to email correspondence before during and after the financial transactions, at check-in, during your visit and upon departure, as well as after you get home.
Remember, if it's too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

If you would like to visit Mt Hood, please visit Mt Hood Vacation Rentals at