Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nick's Notes 10.2.2015--I Love My New Greenhouse!

I Love My New Greenhouse!

I was spoiled all summer long with my herb garden on the Kitchen Porch.  I love using fresh herbs in our breakfasts, as you've most likely seen in the many pictures we post of them on our Facebook page. My favorite post from this summer was the one about the "4 Herbs." 

With Fall fast approaching I wanted to make sure I would be able to continue to grow fresh herbs all winter long.  

Some of you may remember David, from the porch restorations we did recently here at Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn. I showed David the old greenhouse and asked him to work his magic--to build a real greenhouse with temperature control and something I could actually stand up inside. These are the greenhouse before pictures:

I always thought that at one time this was the cellar door to the basement, like the one in the Wizard of Oz, and someone just built a greenhouse glass cover over it. 

It was time for a much needed update and David did an amazing job. Here are a few pictures from during the construction:

The new greenhouse is much larger, and it vents in fresh air from outside with a temperature controlled fan that can also blow out the air if it gets too warm inside. In addition, we've installed a heater to keep it warm inside on cold nights, to protect the tender plants.

We still have another month or so here in the Southeast where I can enjoy our herb garden outdoors, but we will be ready when winter comes to move it inside. What is great about having the Greenhouse is that we can just bring the herbs in, right in their pots, without disturbing them. Here are some pictures of the finished greenhouse:

And, I can stand up in it!
It's important to me that we provide our guests with as much local and organic North Carolina food as possible during breakfast, and having our own herb garden is a huge part of achieving that goal, giving us the ability to season our breakfasts just right...during any season, right from our greenhouse garden!

All the Best, Nick

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Nick's Notes 9.4.2015--Dreams Come True

Dreams Come True

I've shared with you that I had a wonderful retail career with three great companies, but owning a Bed and Breakfast was a 15 year dream of mine. I remember my parents always teaching us the importance of living our dreams in our lives, and to live life to the fullest. They encouraged us to travel and see as much of the United States, Canada and Europe as we could. I've been to 49 States and so many countries. We took family car trips every year and we saw different states, learning about each state along the way.

Our trips were educational and my mom quizzed us on the capitals, the presidents and our spelling. I can hear my dad saying, "You can do anything you set your mind to, so do all you can and live your dreams. Don't over extend yourself financially,  but work hard so you can enjoy your life, and do what you want and love." My dad worked hard to support us and made sure we had fun as we grew up.

A favorite picture of my Dad and me
After University, I worked for a few small retail chains as a Store Manager in Raleigh and Charlotte, NC, and then a District Manager for the same company, before joining the Gap in NY. I was a District Manager in Queens and after three years I advanced my career forward by moving to Canada for Gap to help open all the stores and train new District Managers. It was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed living in Toronto and Montreal for five years and I still have great friends there. 

The Toronto Flag

The Montreal Flag
That's where I was promoted to a Regional Manager and my career took off from then on. When I moved back to the states I stayed with Gap Inc. but switched brands to Banana Republic. I was based in Chicago and covered the entire Midwest before continuing my career in the Southeast based in Florida. A big part of my job was working with the Merchant Team to create a Hot Store Program for the right clothing styles and materials for warm weather. Eventually Texas was added on to my region and I had 11 District Managers I supervised.

Everything was great, but I wanted to expand my career with Department store experience so after 18 years with Gap Inc. I accepted a Regional Vice President Job with Kohl's Department Stores. The main priority was to help Kohl’s expand and open stores in Florida. I was there 18 months, but missed specialty retail and customer service. That's what made me successful in passion for the customer and exceeding their expectations.

So, that's where Williams-Sonoma comes in. I accepted a position as Regional Vice President for the Southeast covering New Jersey through Florida, and was still based in Florida. Eventually all 10 Outlets were added to my Region and it was a wonderful 8 years where my passion for cooking continued to grow and I was able to purchase products I now use daily to prepare great breakfasts for our guests at Abbington Green.

 All my supervisors always knew my dream was to open a Bed and Breakfast one day. I continue to stay in touch with most of my supervisors and coworkers and some have already come to visit us at the Inn. They also follow us on the Abbington Green Facebook Page and read our reviews on  TripAdvisor.

Now for the dream part. The original idea for a Bed and Breakfast/Spa was to open it in Greece on the Island of Santorini. 

Santorini, Greece

As my 15 year time frame approached, Greece was a much harder venture for several reasons, so Abbington Green Bed and Breakfast Inn in Asheville, NC was the perfect spot. I am so lucky to have had a wonderful retail career, that prepared me to understand the importance and the priority of the customer. My staff here learned this expectation and we strive daily to make our guests feel as welcomed in our home as they would with their own families. It was frightening to walk away from a great retail career where everything was going well...............not to mention the steady salary, bonus structure and stock options. But the good news retail career funded my dream and allowed me to live and do what I want to do. I've always had the support of my partner Steve, who still works for the Post Office here delivering mail and then helps at the Inn on his days off. (Remember in an earlier post I showed you Steve's wonderful gardens.)

In the lower garden, facing the Inn

Steve's handiwork on display at Abbington Green B&B Inn
So,  I leave you with two quotes I love:

"Nothing Happens Unless We First Dream" -Carl Sandburg (You can tour
his home in Flat Rock, NC which is 45 minutes from here  ) 

"All Our Dreams Can Come True, If We Have the Courage to Pursue Them." 
-Walt Disney

All the Best, Nick

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Steve's Mom's Pickles

Steve's Mom's Pickles

One of the great things about owning Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn is getting to grow herbs and vegetables in our garden.  We planted cucumbers this summer and they did really well. So well, that we found ourselves with a bumper crop of cucumbers.
We had so many cucumbers! So, we decided to invite our friend Ivy over one evening to make Bread and Butter Pickles. You might remember Ivy--she's the one that makes our delicious jam that we serve at breakfast.

We used a family recipe of Steve's, we like to call it Steve's Mom's Pickles. 

Steve's mom always had a huge garden so the family would have fresh vegetables all summer long.  There were always so many cucumbers, so his mom started to make bread and butter pickles to have for the remainder of the year.  

They were always one of Steve's favorites and he was so happy that we had a lot of cucumbers too, so he was able to do the same with them that his mom did when they were growing up in Ogelsby, Il.

Steve and his mom, Shirley Donahue

From garden to jar, we had a terrific time canning the pickles. We'll be serving them throughout the year at our cook-outs and at our 5pm Social Hour, remembering our first summer's harvest here at Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn. 

Steve's Mom's Pickles

Yield:  about 12 jars of pickles

12 Large Cucumbers, sliced not too thin    
6 Large Onions, sliced
1/4 cup of Salt

Combine the above ingredients and let them set overnight in the refrigerator, covered.  

Next day...drain well, do not rinse.

Mix together:
1 Quart Cider Vinegar
2 cups Sugar
1 tsp. Turmeric
1 tsp. Dry Mustard
2 tsp. Celery Salt
1 tsp. Black Pepper

Bring to a rolling boil, add in the refrigerated mixture (pickles). 
In the meantime, boil empty jars in a large pot of water. Remove and turn upside down to drain the water from them. When the pickles are good and hot (and start to boil), fill the hot jars--about 1/4 from the top with the pickle and onion mixture. Screw the lids on tightly and store upside down until ready to use. Refrigerate once opened.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nick's Notes 7.24.2015-Restoring the Porches at Abbington Green

Restoring the Porches at Abbington Green

I still marvel at how beautiful our home is and can only imagine how grand it looked when it was first built in 1909. What comes with purchasing a century old home, is the commitment to keep it as beautiful as it was originally. That's why restoring the porches was so important to us as owners.

Guests enjoy spending time on the porches and they are part of the character of Abbington Green. In the 1900's, porches were known as "Breathing Porches." It was believed that breathing fresh mountain air would help you live a longer healthier life. People used to die earlier than they do today. Another belief was that breathing mountain air could help cure Tuberculosis. They believed this so much that there were numerous institutions in Asheville for Tuberculosis patients. An interesting fact: George Vanderbilt built Biltmore Estate in 1895 in Asheville because his mother had Tuberculosis and was in an institution in Asheville.  

It took us time to find the right carpenter to restore our porches.  Below are the 'before' pictures showing some of the issues:

I have to commend David, our Carpenter, who worked on the porches for 3 weeks to bring them back to their grand glory. Take a look at David’s work: 

Pretty spectacular, and they look the way they originally did-down to the detail of the light blue ceiling. Do you know why in the south you paint the porch ceiling light blue? Blue ceilings are popular and have been popular in the south for centuries. It is said that a blue porch ceiling protects the house and the occupants of the house from evil.  Some people also believe the blue paint repels insects, leaving the porch bug-free and pleasant during those long summer evenings and afternoons. A theory is that insects prefer not to nest on the blue ceiling because they are "fooled" into thinking the blue paint is actually the sky.
The porches at Abbington Green are an integral part of the experience of staying at the Inn. Whether taking a moment to sit and read a book or when the group gathers during Social Hour, the porches come alive with laughter and good times. In their new beautiful state the Southern Tradition of spending time on the porch will continue for years to come at Abbington Green. See you on the porch!

All the Best, Nick

Friday, July 3, 2015

Nick's Notes 7.3.2015-It's 5 o'clock at Abbington Green!

It's 5 o'clock at Abbington Green!

Years ago I purchased this beautiful antique marble top table that I loved. It's moved around with me to several states........Illinois, Florida and now North Carolina. Movers never enjoyed moving it based on the weight and the fragile marble. Our beautiful table now has a purpose and prominent location in the living room. This is now where we set up our 5 o'clock Social Hour each day.
As Steve and I planned out purchasing an Inn, we knew we would have a social hour daily for guests to mingle together and for them to get to know us too. The tradition started Day 1 when we moved in on September 30th, 2014. We closed on the property at 9 AM and when 5 o'clock rolled around there was wine and cheese for our guests...............and the moving truck still in the driveway unloading.

Our social hour consist of local NC Cheeses from the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail, Hot Appetizers, and Wines. 
For more information about the Cheese Trail visit

Our themes change daily from Southern Foods, Italian favorites, and yes, Greek Mezedes. On Greek night, it brings back memories of when my parents entertained at our house. Fresh baked Spanakopita (Spinach Pies), Hummus and Pita Bread, and Dolmades (stuffed Grape Leaves).
Guests continue to comment on Trip Advisor how much they love our 5 o'clock Social Hour. It gives them the opportunity to share with others what they did for the day in Asheville, where they are going for dinner, and to get to know each other and us. Lady "Amber" Abbington occasionally makes a guest appearance when guests want to meet her too. She always appreciates the extra attention! One of the reason people come to a Bed and Breakfast versus a Hotel is exactly what takes place at social hour........having that interaction with other guests and the owners.

We are so fortunate to have a very large living room with two sofas and chairs for guests, with a large fireplace for the winter months. During the spring, summer and fall the porches get a lot of use during social hour. Guests love taking in the mountain view and feel the cool breezes. 

I love this part of my day and enjoy spending time with guests! They continue to enrich the wonderful memories I treasure so much!

All the best, Nick