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Cottage #15 Makeover

We are always working on a project, planning the next project, finishing a project and at times working on more than one at once. We never cease to amaze ourselves by what we can accomplish with our limited resources of time, money and people. The latest project is no exception.

Cottage 15, our two bedroom, has been in need of some attention, especially the kitchen.  In one week it underwent an amazing makeover.

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While we were in #15 working on the kitchen we also bought new furniture for the living room as well as some new curtains and a 42″ flat screen TV above the fireplace.

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We have Cottage #15 scheduled off the calendar a couple more times over the winter to paint bedrooms, living room and refinish floors.

We often daydream about what we could do with a crew like on one of those reality tv shows.

Herb Gardens, Dirt and Faith

I do not think I have ever explained the importance of my herb garden. Why I am always taking pictures of it or referring to it.

I first started clearing out the “herb garden” 3 years ago in the couple of weeks before Allen and I left to spend the summer in Durham while he received treatment for his cancer at Duke.

The garden, which sits at the edge of the old shuffle board court, was completely taken over with English ivy, except for the one large, straggly, but resilient lavender plant.

I love to garden, it is so satisfying and I always feel better, more grounded and calm after having my feet in the dirt (yes, I often garden in bare feet). I am not a clean gardener, not like my Irish Aunt who, as a child, I remember her coming home and putting on her gardening skirt and gardening shoes, which were still heels, and heading out to the garden. Now, her gardens were and are magnificent, some of the best in Ireland and often open for tours, so one can be a successful gardener and be elegantly old-fashioned whilst pulling weeds. But again, that is not me. I am usually covered in dirt from head to toe when finished, that is how I do everything, jump into the middle and go for it. I am not advocating that this is the only or best way, but simply what my personality compels me to do.

On April 21st 2013, we received Allen’s cancer diagnosis. In the coming weeks we would learn that he had stage IV tongue cancer. I was barely able to function and yet trying to function the best I could because as much as I could not function he could function even less. He describes it now as hearing nothing but white noise. My father had just had major open chest lung surgery, as a matter of fact I was in Florida at the Mayo clinic with him when Allen’s diagnosis came through. I was also trying to finish up the spring semester in my MBA program. Did I mention barely functioning?

So, I started to rip apart the herb garden. I was not conscious of why I was doing it when I started, but then, after an emotional break-down when I though I would not get it planted before we left, it dawned on me, actually I think it dawned on Allen; in a moment of clarity amidst the white noise. I needed something to come home to. I needed to believe that we would come home and there would be a day in the future when the garden was growing and blooming and I was picking leaves for fresh tea and harvesting some vegetables. It gave me some inexplicable hope. It was almost as if I believed that the existence of the garden would mean Allen’s survival.

We came home to a garden that was mostly dead because those we had left in charge had not bothered to water it.  Allen was close to death as well, 45lbs lighter, on a feeding tube and grey. I wasn’t doing so well myself, I had un-diagnosed Addison’s disease at the time and was down to 100lbs and very sick myself. But we kept going.  Allen laid in the bed for a couple of months and the kids came home and went back to school. I would continue to wander down to my garden as a place to escape, to furiously dig hope into the soil.

My garden is still not all that I want it to be, a work in progress for sure.   But still where I go to re-boot, ground myself and reconnect with myself and my faith. I say faith, not hope, because that garden reminds me that God will do for me what I cannot do for myself and never, never give up 5 minutes before the miracle.

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Ants, Jammies and Office Arguments

So the success is here, we have worked hard, fretted, spent long hours fretting and doing some more. And of course with this increased success comes a certain amount of stress. Allen and I are always “on”. We have four kids between us, run a business and I battle a chronic and sometime debilitating illness.  So, we make mistakes. We forget to return calls, screw-up a reservation, fail to replace a light bulb, the remote goes bad or the ants come marching in.

A few days ago we had one of our worst moments. A customer came in to return a key and caught us in the middle of a heated argument. Ooops. One of my more embarrassing moments. I could just imagine the commentary we would get from Anthony Melchiorri (Hotel Impossible – a great reality show on the Travel Channel that we watch like training videos) if the whole situation had played out on candid camera.

I suppose the real point here is that we are human. We live here as well as work here so our real lives spill out into all areas of the business. I believe that is what many of our customers like about The Pines. You are not going to get a clerk behind a counter who is waiting for his or her shift to end at some big box hotel. No, here you may catch me in my jammies on a Sunday morning when you come to return your key. But you will also get our genuine passion and love for The Pines. You will see our hard work, personal touches and attention. We will talk to you, pet your dog and give you great dining recommendations.

We try not to let the customers see the jammy wearing, exhausted, forgetful and stressed-out-arguing side of The Pines but every once in a while it creeps into the light.  So, from our real selves, we apologize and if you let us know we will do whatever we can to fix what we may have forgotten, overlooked or just plain screwed-up that day.

Groupons, clogged sewer lines and cottage remodels…

We launched a Groupon Deal last week. We sold 100 reservations in the first day! We are one booking shy of being sold out , which will be a total of 189 bookings. I had no idea what to expect and the first couple of days the phone did not seem to stop ringing at all – I was hoarse by the second afternoon. We did not offer all of our cottages but anywhere from 3-6 depending on the night.

Although we take a huge hit on our nightly rate plus the extra 32.5% that Groupon takes, it has been a wonderful marketing experience. We reached people that otherwise would not have not known about us at all. We have a great place, we just don’t have the marketing budget to reach the people who are looking for us. We are so excited about all the people who called and said they come to Asheville all the time and did not know we were here. Now they do, and we hope they will become happy returning customers.

This Memorial day weekend was fully booked and we were hopping to get ready. Allen had to start the weekend by getting a sewer line un-clogged (this is the real truth about running The Pines). We also managed to get 8 finished and back online, almost in time for the first guests. :-) Luckily they were so sweet and kind they did not mind at all that I came in to hang the last of the curtains that I had just finished hemming.

I have finished entering all of the June Groupon reservations and the rest of the calendar is looking great already. We have big hopes about July also being great.

I will take pictures of 8 tomorrow and get them up. It does look wonderful and has some special touches, including my own art work hanging. You can see some of my work here at Tuttare Studio Art.

A Whimsical Garden Plant Exchange: A Really Good Idea


Plant Exchange

Originally posted on whimseytopia:

I WANT this garden!

I WANT this garden!

What drives my every move these days is “the cost.”  I’m rehabbing this house and running out of cash fast, but I see the wisdom of getting a garden in sooner rather than later.  So I’ve bought a lot of plants like azaleas, butterfly bushes, lilacs, and blueberries; plants that take time to settle in before they are large enough to really enjoy.  But I’ve hit a brick wall in my budget, and when I was recently offered some bushes from a neighbor who is thinning and changing her garden, it dawned on me that there might be a better way.  Hence:  A Whimsical Garden Plant Exchange.

Here’s how this will work:

* Each member will speak to their needs for plants, gardening help, or information at the group meeting (probably held once a month).   A particular plant you might be looking for…

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Enter Spring – Write & Release


I only wish I had said it first.

Originally posted on Gifts Of The Journey:

Blackbird Egg - Elizabeth Harper

If you were to peek behind the curtain at GOTJ, you would see more than a few potential posts that read, <no title> Draft.

Some have photos, some don’t, a few are complete and ready to publish needing only a last read-through first. But given what has been happening in the world over the last month or so, my posts seemed like an uninteresting waste of your time and mine. So I let them sit.

It is not the first time I’ve done this … taken an impromptu sabbatical where I have withdrawn into reading while neglecting my writing.

Unfinished potential some might call it.

A friend asked me yesterday how my book was coming along and I while I wanted to say which one, I just said simply, ‘ It’s not. ‘

‘ Oh,’  he said, as he shook his head slowly, ‘ I thought you would be one of the ones to…

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Hunger Games – District 12


I hadn’t even thought of going to visit this little ghost town – what fun – I can’t wait to take the kids. Living in Asheville there is so much focus on the Pisgah Forest where much of the movie was filmed.

Originally posted on whimseytopia:

The General Store

The General Store

Henry River is a small abandoned town very close to mine, and because I hadn’t seen the movie Hunger Games, and there’s a reason for that, I paid no attention to what has clearly diminished in hype about this film location.  I pass it every day on my errands into Hickory, so I decided to check it out, then watch the movie to see if I might recognize anything.  And recognize things I did.

Prominent in the opening scene and then in several flashbacks, this is District 12, the home of Katness Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Surprisingly, everything is still exactly as it was depicted in the film.

Looking out from the village.

Looking out from the village.

The ride to the village is a long curvy, two-lane, azalea-lined drive, and missing the place is not an option because you must turn off toward the river to avoid it. Like many other…

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