Thursday, May 19, 2016

Steve's Say --5.18.2016--At Work in The Gardens

At Work in the Gardens

When we purchased Abbington Green in the fall of 2014, it became clear that Nick was planning on having me be in charge of taking care of the gardens.  So I set aside 2 weeks of vacation in May last year to work on them.

Although we did a lot of gardening in Florida, it was more just maintaining and weeding our grounds since everything grows so fast there.  Here in North Carolina, when things started to come up I had to decide what to add, keep or move.  

The previous owner, Valerie had done an amazing job laying out the gardens by design and what plants she used.  I didn't want to take away from the English style gardens that she created, but I wanted to add some of my own personal choices to the grounds.   

My mother always had a large vegetable garden along with many varieties of flowers on her large property. When I was young, I helped her with her vegetable gardens growing up, mostly by just picking them when they were ripe. 

At the Inn, we had to decide where to put the vegetables and which ones we wanted to grow here at Abbington Green.  Our friends, Ken and Ivy helped with picking out what annuals we should plant along with some perennials that would come up every year. They suggested growing a variety of berries that we could use for jams for our breakfasts. 

We decided to plant blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and black raspberries. For vegetables we planted, lettuce, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus, tomatoes, radishes, and green peppers.

During those 2 weeks last May, I spent most of the day outside working in the gardens.  Our guests would compliment me on how good everything looked-even going as far as to compare our gardens to the amazing gardens of the Biltmore Estate....but a smaller version. 
A few guests even gave me pointers and tips on how to do a few things.  My biggest fear was what and when to prune and when and what to fertilize.  It was a trial and error learning experience for sure.  Some plants did better than others and I kept that in mind when choosing what to plant again this year.

It is a large property, and having a full time job doesn't give me a lot of free time for the gardens. I took off another 2 weeks to work in the garden this May. I was feeling much more confident this year in what I wanted and needed to do. 

I like to kid with Nick and our guests that gardening could almost be a full time position here. 

Having just finished the majority of things to do this year, I can honestly say, I enjoy working in the gardens while on vacation and on my days off.  I love that we support the local wildlife in the area with our gardens, and am proud that we are a designated Certified Wildlife Habitat. We have many varieties of birds, butterflies, rabbits and hummingbirds that live in and visit our gardens. 

We are a TripAdvisor GreenLeader, and we don't use pesticides and make it a point to garden our property organically.

It's really not work when you enjoy what you are doing.  I wish I could spend more time in the gardens of Abbington Green. Retirement is approaching, though, and then you can be sure to catch me outside most of the time.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Nick's Notes 4.29.2016--Mom's Rose Garden

Mom's Rose Garden

One of my sweetest memories of my Mom is her love for roses. When I was 4, we moved into our new house and Mom had a bigger yard to grow her roses. The rose gardens started as a side garden along our property line, but when the new patio went in, this provided her another great location to add a large rose garden. Each year they were well tended and properly trimmed, with new white stones put down to cover the ground around them. We even got creative and lined the edges of the garden and around the base of each rose with clam shells. (Yes, we ate a lot of clams as a family)
So, Steve and I decided to dedicate to one of our rose gardens here at Abbington Green to my Mom.  
We recently purchased 4 Cherub Statues playing musical instruments that are now a part of this special garden. 
New roses have been added and they are just starting to bloom.
The garden lines the driveway as guests drive to the lower parking lot. My Mom loved both music and roses, so I know the partnership of the roses with the cherubs and their musical instruments would have made her very happy.

This is perfect timing to dedicate this garden to her with Mother's Day on May 9th and her Birthday would have been on May 12th. I miss you,  Mom, and want you to know I will think of you every time I see our new Rose Garden.

Love, Nick

Friday, April 8, 2016

Nick's Notes 4.8.2016 - All Are Welcome at Abbington Green

All Are Welcome at Abbington Green

I've always been proud of the values I was raised with. Two of the most important being: a strong work ethic and to treat others with kindness and respect.

After University, I moved to Raleigh, NC and I learned a lot about diversity from my first Store Manager at Jeans West in CrabtreeValley Mall, Pat Banks. Years later, in my career at Gap, Inc., I was a part of the Diversity Council.

When it comes to my personal values and opinions, my parents, Pat, and my career in retail helped to shape me into the person that I am today.

I never thought that I would be writing a blog on this topic, but I have to state my opinion on some of the legislature decisions currently going on in the State of North Carolina.

As I walked in Downtown Asheville yesterday, I saw this sign posted in many shop windows...

I know that I recently posted on Facebook that all are welcome at Abbington Green: "...In light of the recent legislation that has been passed in the State of North Carolina, we'd like to reiterate that everyone is welcome at Abbington Green".

Every day since this decision was passed, major corporations and sponsors have begun to boycott North Carolina. For example, some furniture buyers are boycotting the NC Furniture Expo at the Furniture Mart this year. The Expo is like the "Fashion Week" in New York City for the furniture world. It attracts over 70,000 visitors and buyers, and brings in over $5 billion to the region. Dozens have cancelled their buying trips this year to the Furniture Mart in High Point, NC.

Two weeks ago, PayPal announced plans to build a global facility in North Carolina. PayPal has now withdrawn these plans after NC enacted the anti-LGBT Law, HB2. Braeburn Pharmaceuticals has also decided not to build their research facility here. Lionsgate Films and A&E Television have announced that they will no longer film anything in North Carolina, and Fox Television is now stating the same. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has signed an executive order banning all non-essential state travel to North Carolina, and just today Bruce Springsteen cancelled his concert in Greensboro that was to have taken place on Sunday. The list goes on and will undoubtedly get longer.

As a result, this law has the potential to be the force that loses North Carolina billions of dollars of Federal funding for roads and schools in the state.

The heads of more than 100 companies, including Charlotte-based Bank of America and Raleigh-based software maker Red Hat, are asking the Governor to repeal the law.

Asheville is known for being a liberal, welcoming, and inclusive place for everyone. That's one of the wonderful things about Asheville, and an important reason that made Steve and I want to move here and purchase Abbington Green.

It must be said that HB2 does not represent all of the people of North Carolina. In a press release from this week's Asheville Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon, Chamber President Kit Cramer is quoted as saying:

"...Discrimination, in any form, is not acceptable, and it’s bad for business. It’s not acceptable in Asheville. It’s not acceptable in Western North Carolina and it’s not acceptable in our state. Any hint of discrimination should be scrubbed from the law. The very fabric of who we are as a community is tolerant..."

I'm disappointed in this decision made by the Governor, and personally find the discriminatory nature of it unacceptable. 

As the sign says, Y'all Means All! We want you to know that all are welcome in Asheville, and ALL are always welcome at Abbington Green! 

All the best,

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Nick's Notes 2.19.2016--A Renewed Commitment to an Abbington Green Clean

New Allergies can start at any time!

I would never have believed that at the age of 54 you can start having a new allergy. My new one started this past November when I started getting a rash around my eyes and on my face and neck. It got to the point my eye lids would swell at times and I had to stop wearing my contacts and instead had to wear my glasses. At least the glasses hid the redness around my eyes. 

I finally went to the Minute Clinic, and when I removed my glasses, the Nurse Practitioner made a gasping sound.....I guess I scared her (it really wasn't that bad!).  She determined that I had had an allergic reaction to something and must have touched that something and then rubbed my face and eyes. She said that five days of steroids should take care of it. It did go away after day one, but when the steroids were gone the rash came back.

Next, I go to a Dermatologist. She says the same's an allergic reaction to something, and I just needed a longer period of steroids. So I get a steroid shot (...I hate that!) and an additional 20 days of steroid medication. It went away immediately, but the minute I was off the steroids, it came back...but just only on my face. The Dermatologist ended up giving me another shot of steroids, to help get me through the Holidays.

In January, I made an appointment with an Allergist to have the "patch test" completed to determine what exactly it is that I am allergic to. Have any of you ever had this done? 

I guess the modern version of the needle testing is to tape 10 swatches of sticky potential allergy substances to your back and then cover all of that with tape...then they tell you that you can't shower or get wet for 3 days. Now, I'm one of those people that can't stand being constrained in any way. Putting tape all over my back, felt so constraining...comfort was not going to happen for a few days...especially as a few of the substances start to cause my back to itch. 

Meanwhile, work at the Inn continues.......

Well, it was determined that I am allergic to Methylchloroisothiazinoline. 

Methylchloroisothiazinoline is a preservative used in hygiene products such as shampoos, lotions, sun screens and so on. It is also used in common household cleaners, soaps, paints, pet care, and yard care products. So basically, almost everything...

When I got home, I looked at the list of products that contain Methylchloroisothiszinoline, and it was overwhelming. So many of the things we were using at the Inn listed it as an was truly all around me and  I guess my body finally reacted to the amount of contact I had had with it. I thought by using green based products, like we do at Abbington Green, I would not have had an issue with our cleaning regiment...but we have now found out that many of these products do contain this ingredient. So, changes had to happen immediately. 

We have always been committed to green practices at the Inn. Cooking with organic, locally sourced products is important to us for our guests, and we are excited to now make changes to our cleaning procedures. Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn is proud to be recognized as a TripAdvisor Bronze Level GreenLeader..."the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders Program showcases a variety of eco-friendly hotels and B&Bs, from budget to luxury – and they’re all committed to green practices like recycling, local and organic food, and electric car charging stations."

Leave it to my great staff to do some research and come up with some great natural cleaners based mostly on vinegar that we can use in the kitchen around me as well as throughout the Inn. 

While we were away, the team deep cleaned the Inn, and paid special attention to the kitchen, which is where I spend the most time during the day. I thought I would share some of them with you since they work so well and do not contain Methylchloroisothiazinoline. I've posted some recipes at the bottom of this post.

So, some good things came from the discovery of my allergy issues. I hope our
guests will notice the extra efforts we put into cleaning each and every detail in our rooms, common areas, and kitchen to be as Green Friendly as possible but also minimize use of products that contain Methylchloroisothiazinoline. Even Lady Amber Abbington is being bathed in a new shampoo so she can still keep giving me the hugs and kisses I love.

All the best, Nick

Here are some of the recipes for the cleaners that we've begun to use at Abbington Green. We did some research online, found some great recipes and adapted them to make them our own. We are now feeling the Green and you can too!

Abbington Green Clean--All-Purpose Cleaner
3 cups distilled or filtered water (we are lucky to have filtered water at the Inn) 
1 cup white vinegar 
1-2 tsp lemon juice 
5-7 drops essential oil (lemon or mint or a clean scented one you prefer)
Pour into a spray bottle and fill the remaining space in the bottle with hot water.

Abbington Green Clean--Disinfecting Kitchen Floor Cleaner
In a bucket combine:
1 gallon of warm water 
2 Tbsp white vinegar 
1 tsp fresh lemon juice 
4 drops of tea tree oil
one tiny squeeze of liquid Castile Soap (we used Dr. Bronner's)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Nick's Notes 2.12.2016--My Journal

My Journal

Some people call it a Journal...others may call it a Diary...I like to call it a Journal. It's full of my thoughts and ideas, and as I get older, writing them down helps me to remember them.

I typically try to journal whenever we are on a vacation, but decided to journal as often as possible when we purchased the Inn the end of September 2014.

My first entry is on 10/4/2014, and is called "Living a Dream." I wrote in it again on 10/9 and then 10/11...then nothing!!! I guess it slipped away from me, or maybe it's because I go to bed between 9 and 10 PM each night. We are up early to get the day started, walk Amber, and then into the kitchen to get Breakfast going. The staff starts coming in at 7 or 8 AM and the day is in full swing.

We recently closed the Inn for a week and went on vacation. The staff continued to work on projects such as deep cleaning rooms, painting, and a few updates I know guests will love. Traveling gave me the perfect opportunity to start to journal again...and even share some of my thoughts with you.

"As you can see by the date, it's been a long time since I wrote in here. It's been a long time for a lot of first time off since we bought the Inn, my first flight since we bought the Inn, and my first time away from Amber since we bought the Inn." (Keep in mind I traveled almost every week in my past career and was away from Amber a lot).

I love my new career but I know myself well. I'm a workaholic and living at work can become a full time...all the time thing. There is always something to do. I'm so proud of what we accomplished in a year. There are so many more ideas I have........."

(I can't share this part because I am working on some big things for the future. Hopefully they will happen...)

"I had good intentions to write in here often this past year, but I'm usually very tired at night. Time goes by so fast....the day flies by and the year has flown by too. Guests ask me all the time is it what I thought it would be? It's more fulfilling than I thought it would be.  I've met some amazing people from all over the world. I feel that I have more friends out there. I really hate seeing some people leave.  The biggest compliment is the amount of return guests we are getting. I love when they come back and I get to see them again and welcome them home.

People also ask would I do things differently. That's an easy answer: NO.  I had planned for this for so long....I knew what I wanted. Abbington Green just fit right into the plan so well for me. I always want to make sure the guests have an amazing time here with exceptional service and hospitality. I know I will never stop doing that and that will always be the highest priority. I just need to figure out some ME time so I can relax once in awhile and have something to look forward to.

That's where this cruise comes in....time to relax and receive excellent service. I do have a higher expectation of service now from being in the hospitality industry. There are similarities in hospitality and retail, but also differences. In retail it is more instant service, and in hospitality it is more personalized to guests for a longer period of time. Each interaction with them needs to be at a high service least that is my standard."

I always tell the staff "this is the guests' vacation or time away and we want to help make it the best it can be". The biggest compliment that also touched my life was from a guest who called to book a room. He mentioned to me that they were having issues in their marriage and they needed a weekend together to get back on track. I worked with him on selecting the right room, scheduling breakfast in bed one morning, arranging massages, and so on. Recently, before the Holidays, he called to thank me and let me know that they are expecting a baby and their marriage is back on track. I was so happy to hear the great news.

I feel like this is where I am supposed to be in my life now. I do feel an impact I'm making by helping make special memories in guest's lives for special events they are celebrating....Anniversaries, Babymoons, Weddings, Birthdays, and just being happy in life.

It's so easy for me to talk about work, but this journal now is supposed to be about us enjoying our vacation. Steve took special care in planning our trip to make it special for me.....that's so sweet of him.

I'm looking forward to a wonderful vacation!"

That's a little bit of what I wrote the first day we left. We did have a wonderful time as you can see from the pictures below. Great food, horseback riding, swimming with the turtles, riding in a bobsled, and walk up a waterfall. All of us need vacation time away to clear our thoughts. I love to travel, but I always like coming home too. Home to our new home......Abbington Green!

All the best, Nick

Amber waiting patiently for our return.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Nick's Notes 1.29.2016--Great things in the works for 2016 at Abbington Green!

I am so happy and proud of our accomplishments at Abbington Green in 2015. The team has done a wonderful job focusing on offering our guests an exceptional level of customer service. We were awarded our second AAA Four Diamond Award, named us one of the Top 10 Inns in the U.S., and named us the 2015 Independent Hotel of the Year. Huge thanks go to our team and our guests for their continued support!

In 2016, my personal focus for the Inn is to to reach out to more local partners to bring the best to our guests at Abbington Green. We will continue to offer local North Carolina cheeses during our 5pm Social Hour, and to prepare our breakfasts using locally sourced, organic ingredients whenever possible. Our second floor gallery of the Main House will continue to showcase local artists.

This year, we look to add more package deals for our guests to enjoy more of the best things that Asheville has to offer, like personal waterfall and brewery tours.

Just this week, we attended our first Asheville Industry Networking Event where I met some amazing people doing wonderful things in our city. It was held at the Catawba Brewing Company.

At the meet up, besides getting to sample some terrific local beer, I had the opportunity to meet wedding officiants, photographers, restaurant managers, event planners, videographers, and even a bride and groom having their wedding here in town. I was so excited by all of these new contacts and the new adventures that I can help to bring to our guests at Abbington Green in 2016.

Stay tuned for more...there are some great things in the works for this year.

All the best,

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Giving the Gift of Abbington Green

Looking for that perfect gift for everyone on your list? Look no further! We have great gift options from your favorite Asheville B&B. 

Let us help you with your holiday shopping! Here are a few of the gifts that can be purchased as a souvenir or for a loved one....we ship via the USPS to you or right to your loved one! Call us at Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn to place your order! (828)251-2454

Would you prefer for your gift recipient be able to choose? Remember, our Abbington Green Gift Certificates can be ordered via our homepage for any amount!

Abbington Green Bath Luxuries

Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn Bath Luxuries, made in NC exclusively for us.
Boxed Set of 3 Lemon Verbena Soaps (3 oz each): $10
Wildflower Shampoo, Conditioner or Hand Lotion (16oz each): $10 each or 3 for $26
Boxed Set of 4 Herbal Bath Grains: $10
Abbington Green Lip Balm: $4
Gift Basket with the whole collection, one of each item: $50
All items +tax and shipping.

Abbington Green Stoneware Mug

Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn Stoneware Mug, made in the US by Deneen Pottery.  $18 each or 2 for $32 + tax and shipping
The Abbington Green Glass Ornament

Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn Glass Ornament.
$15 + tax and shipping
Abbington Green Gift Certificate

Available in any amount! Order online on our website
A Taste of Abbington Green, Volume 1 Cookbook

"A Taste of Abbington Green, Volume 1" Cookbook: $20 + tax and $5.75 shipping fee. Cover art by Mike Ryon.

Happy holidays from all of us at Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn,
Nick, Steve, Lady Amber Abbington, and the entire team