Things I Have Learned This Summer at Highbrook

So we are well into the busy season at Highbrook. So busy, that I haven’t blogged as much as I originally planned to.  I had visions of many blog posts filled with lovely photographs and anecdotes about all of the amazing things I have done in Niagara this summer. Don’t get me wrong, there have been lots of lovely adventures. But in reality, when you start a new business, it consumes you. Even though you have routines and plans and schedules, things often go awry. You learn to handle it all with flexibility and a smile. And for me, a lovely glass of chardonnay at the end of the day.

Moving to Niagara and running a B&B has taught me a lot so far. I was chatting about this with a friend of mine, and she asked if I could sum it up in five points, what would they be? So here they are.

IMG_1103

1. Running a B&B is more work than you think.

I have worked in hospitality before. So has Ken. But hosting guests in your house is completely different from catering a dinner party. It is fun and rewarding to meet new people, help them de-stress, relax and enjoy their vacations. But that is only one part of the job (and probably the most glamorous part). There is always something to be done. Prepping, cooking, serving and clearing up after breakfast. Tidying and cleaning the rooms. Changing the sheets. Doing umpteen loads of laundry. Making sure all is tickety-boo with the hot tub. Re-stocking our snack bar. Gardening. Administrative and bookkeeping tasks. Marketing your B&B. Blogging, tweeting, instagramming. Networking. Making sure your house is spotlessly clean and in amazing condition at all times, cause you never know when an unexpected guest may arrive. Oh, and grocery shopping. I don’t think I have ever spent this much time in grocery stores.

Like any job, there is much to be done. But I have actually met people who have very romantic thoughts about running a B&B.  Isn’t it just whipping up an extra portion of breakfast and letting people sleep in your guest room? No my friends, there is actually more to it than that.

IMG_1094

2. Breakfast really can be the most important (and maybe best) meal of the day.

I have never been a big eater in the morning. I prefer to ease into the day with coffee and little else. So I stumble around and cobble together something that I make myself eat because “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.

Before we opened, we researched many breakfast recipes. We had a local chef coach us on some of our techniques. And after tasting Ken’s daily creations I think I am being won over to the world of breakfast.

We are currently in the process of testing out some more recipes and all I can say is yum.

IMG_1237

3. The garden is always full of surprises.

The previous owner of our home is a fabulous gardener. The garden she created at Highbrook was Garden of the Year in 2008. Poor garden, its caretakers are now Ken and I, who are not known for our green thumbs. My Mom loves to garden, and has helped tremendously. But plants should be very worried if I am responsible for them. I guess my Mom’s gardening gene skipped right on by me.

There is a bush in our backyard that we thought for sure was dead after the evil-winter-that-would-not-end that we had this year. But then – surprise! – out bloomed these gorgeous roses a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps there is a life lesson there too….sometimes things we think are dead will bloom back into life with proper care. However, my black thumb is not responsible for these roses. They bloomed all on their own.

IMG_1049

4. People are fascinating.

We have met some wonderful, interesting people this summer. We’ve had guests from Germany, Switzerland, Quebec, all over the United States and lots of Torontonians and Southern Ontarians. It’s been interesting to meet and chat with all of them.

The lovely thank you card pictured above came from a bride and groom who stayed with us before their wedding with some of their wedding party.  A lot of our guests are celebrating something – birthdays, engagements, reunions with friends and family. Even just a quick weekend away is a celebration in our fast-paced world. It’s an honour to be a small part of a special time for our guests.

2014-11-02 12.02.06

5. The Niagara Region is just stunning.

Enough said.