Friday, November 27, 2015

Nick's Notes 11.27.2015--It's Beginning to look like the Holidays at Abbington Green!

It's Beginning to Look Like the Holidays again at Abbington Green!

There is so much for Steve and me to be thankful for each Thanksgiving.  To name a few: it starts with our health, Steve's recent transfer to the Asheville Post Office, friends and family, each other, Amber (aka Lady Amber Abbington), and living our dream of owning Abbington Green.

Christmas still holds the most special memories in my heart.  I guess that is why I like to decorate in such a big way.  It brings back such happy memories of my childhood with decorating the house as a family and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.  Traditions are important to me....a toy train under the tree, family ornaments, a manger scene, lights outside shining bright, a tree with an angel on top, homemade cookies, and lots of entertaining.
Over the years my collection of Christmas Decorations has grown.  Yes, the electric bill does increase in December at our home.  This year the employees of Abbington Green and a great friend, Carey, transitioned Abbington Green in two weeks to a Magical Christmas Vision.   We have over 20 lighted Christmas Trees, 140 Nutcrackers, extra large Gingerbread House, and Dickens Village with 21 houses (even a Bed and Breakfast!).  It always represented to me that one day my dream of owning a Bed and Breakfast would come true.  The decorations continue with my original Lionel Toy Train from when I was 5 years old, a lighted Mercury Glass Collection, antique Manger Scene, lighted Garlands and Stockings hung by the fireplace. 

The outside is even more beautiful this year with 5 feet tall Angels lining the driveway, 4 life-size Reindeer and Sleigh on the front porch with 4 lit trees.  A new addition this year is a 4 ft tall Menorah in the center of the porch.  There is a Glowing Christmas Tree and Huge Wreath on the third floor porch that complete the front yard display.  

The backyard this year starts with the characters from one of my favorites.......Rudolph.  Steve's back garden is filled with large lit Snowflakes and Snowmen.  (I hope it doesn't snow)  

Guest rooms each have a small amount of Holiday Decorations. Just enough to celebrate the season and not take away from the historic beauty of each room.  The rest of the home makes up for it!

One more thing.....our Thanksgiving Dinner with our guests was so successful so we will be having Christmas Day Dinner as well for guests that are interested.  

We have a few big days coming up at Abbington Green.  On Tuesday December 1st we will have a luncheon and Holiday tour of the house with the Ladies Garden Club.  Then on Saturday December 12th we will once again be a part of the Montford Historic District Tour of Homes.  Guest staying at Abbington Green will receive free tickets to see all the homes participating in the Tour of Homes.  Last year we made  over 500 cookies and had over 500 people tour our home from 1 to 5 PM.  The piano was playing holiday tunes and the beauty of Abbington Green, our Historic Home, was being shared.  

Remember the sign outside our front door......"What I love most about my home is who I share it with."  We are looking forward to sharing an Abbington Green Holiday with everyone who attends.

Friday, October 16, 2015

From the Recipe File--Warm Pear & Apple Compote

From the Recipe File--Warm Pear & Apple Compote

We haven't shared a recipe with you in a little while and thought that this one was perfect, as it really captures the essence of picking, warm spices baking in the kitchen, crisp Fall air...our Warm Pear & Apple Compote has long been a Fall favorite of our guests.

At Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn, we serve it with a slice of warm cinnamon bread on the side, but you could substitute a croissant or a muffin.

Get ready to have a kitchen full of the aromas that will usher in the Fall season in a most delicious way.  Enjoy!

ps: this recipe will be included in our upcoming cookbook... A Taste of Abbington Green.  Details to follow!

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.