When What You Need Turns into Exactly What You Want

victorian       OR    cape

We have an accepted offer on a house. But that’s not the story here.

After months of scouring our area for just the right property, we were faced with a dwindling supply in our must-have location. And you know what they say – it’s all about location, location, location.

In our case, the location had to be close to campus (where I work), close to the Hudson River, close to amenities you could walk to, not in a scary neighborhood (although many of those lovely turn of the century homes are in those neighborhoods), and closer to the train Chip takes to Manhattan every day for work. Oh, and it had to be affordable.

What we found was not my first choice. We were outbid on my dream home. We were outbid on my second choice dream home. We couldn’t afford the taxes on my third choice dream home.

Did we settle? It appears we have. But when you shoot for the stars and miss, at least you’ve landed on the moon.

This house is big enough. This house is low maintenance (well, after we do some remodeling). This house is affordable (although I am still floored about how high taxes are here). This house is in the perfect location. And what did I just say about location?

We still have a variety of hoops to jump through before this is truly our home. Next week’s home inspection may make us want to call the whole thing off. I hope not because I’ve realized that this house is exactly what we need. I realize now that it also exactly what we want.

We’ll be ready to share pictures and progress after we officially close. But until then I will keep posting pictures to my private Pinterest page for this dream.




twin beds

We are still in the process of finding a home that can also serve as a B&B. We are closer to making a decision than ever before, but as dear friend, Cristina, suggested, we need to define ourselves and the kind of B&B we want to offer even before we make a final decision on a home purchase.

“It’s all about the vibe,” she explained. Cristina is a designer and branding consultant at SIGNAL.csk Brand Partners whose creative insights make this journey we are on so much more powerful.

“I want people to feel cared for, yet given the space they need to either heal, connect, or create,” the words fell effortlessly from my mouth.

Since my hope is that parents of college students from Mount Saint Mary College will come to stay, I want them to feel the same welcoming and inclusive community we offer their children at The Mount.

Because I was healed emotionally and spiritually at a B&B, I want to offer the same type of space to others who just need to escape for a while.

And as a writer, I hope to offer a retreat atmosphere for other writers who are in search of a pull-away for their work in progress.

The vibe we want to promote dictates the decor, the organization of space, and even the food served for breakfast. I’m learning so much about how to create a space and experience that can make a difference in the lives of others. I will share with you more about what we’re learning as we move forward.


A Hunting We Will Go

house bannerI have more than a dozen properties on my “list” of possible homes to buy that may serve as a B&B. They all have something unique to offer, but deciding on those “must have’s” is crucial to this buying experience. Is it big enough? Old enough? Have enough acreage? Enough bathrooms? Charm? Can we afford it?

While touring these homes, I can tell if it has “good bones,” but there’s more to it than good bones.

Location truly matters, more than if we were only buying for our own primary residence. Is the neighborhood B&B friendly? What does that mean anyway? We’re talking more than zoning regulations. What is in the vicinity that attracts B&B’ers to the area in the first place? Is the surrounding area walkable? Can guests go explore on their own safely? Are there eateries nearby that are quaint in their own right (since we only serve breakfast)? Are the grounds an oasis of their own?

How much work is needed to restore or renovate the home is a close second in this decision making process, but location is probably even more important than that in my opinion.

So today we looked at a huge 5 bedroom, 3 bath 1860’s home in the downtown area. It had great “bones.” It is big enough, but it has no yard to speak of. It has character. It’s affordable. And even though the area is “up and coming,” it isn’t coming up fast enough to make this location a good choice.

So we keep looking. Fortunately, there’s lots to choose from here.


What’s in a Name?


As we look at properties that might fit our goals for a B&B and our primary residence, I know that once we decide, we are also going to have to decide on a name for the place. We don’t want potential guests to refer to us as “that B&B down near the college.” A couple of the houses we’re looking at are already on the historic register and have “names” – one was an original homestead here, which is saying something, so we wouldn’t want to mess with that. But most of our choices don’t have a name – yet.

How does one decide what to name their B&B??

In order to research this problem, I do what I always do – I google it.

Here are some suggestions from an article called “How to Name Your Bed & Breakfast” – it was the first hit on google.

  1. Make a fairly long list of potential names before settling on one.
  2. Ask some friends whose opinions you trust to give honest input.
  3. Consider using your inn’s location in the name. But be careful — names like Inn by the Sea are overused.
  4. If your inn has a special history, consider working that into the name.
  5. Think about alternative meanings. For example, “Harry” sounds like “hairy” and might not always be particularly inviting.
  6. Say the name out loud several times, and have people who aren’t familiar with it do the same. Names that are hard to pronounce aren’t the most useful
  7. Make sure it’s fresh. Search for the name on the Internet — if dozens of hits come up in any context, or if even a small handful of other bed and breakfasts are already using the name, throw it away.
  8. Think about how it will look in a logo. Long names can be hard to use on brochures and business cards.
  9. Look up potential URLs. If you want to be Smith’s Bed and Breakfast, look up URLs like smiths.com and smithsbb.com to make sure a good one is available for you. And, since domain registration is relatively inexpensive, you may as well go ahead and reserve any domain name you might want in the future.
  10. Don’t forget that someday you’ll want to sell the inn. Personal names (e.g. Smith’s Bed and Breakfast) generally don’t pass on as well as names like Golden Eagle Bed and Breakfast.
  11. Think alphabetically. Some B&B directories list inns in alphabetical order. Apple House Bed and Breakfast scores better here than Yellow Frog Inn.
  12. Remember that naming your inn should balance all of these suggestions. AAA Bed and Breakfast might get you good placement in some inn directories, but it sounds stale and institutional.

These are all great ideas, and it appears I have some significant work ahead of me on this topic of naming our B&B. There’s a lot of pressure in getting this right. As an author, I know that there’s a lot of work that goes into titling a book. I suspect the process is similar. We may need help from some of our friends. I want to communicate a sense of history, of place, but most importantly of hospitality and peace. Feel free to contribute to our “long list of potential names”!

Tea Time

china in sugarloaf

I love vintage china, and when I think about serving breakfast to guests in our B&B as well Sunday afternoon tea, I want it to be special. I do have my own china, but it’s only service for 4, so that just won’t do. Last weekend during our meandering through the Sugarloaf Fall Festival, there was an estate sale. A familiar rose pattern caught my eye in an overfilled box in the corner. For $20 I bought this vintage 8-piece, 10 place settings of Royal China in Beverly Rose from 1936.

Now I love roses. In fact, I plant a new rose bush every year in honor of my mother, who loved yellow roses. My grandmother had a wonderful side yard rose garden and she loved roses too. In fact, her name was Rose. When I came home I couldn’t shake the peace-filled familiarity of this china pattern. When I looked into my china cabinet, I realized why. It’s the same pattern of my grandmother’s china, from whom I only have 2 pieces.

Home, hearth, and hospitality – that’s what this china pattern conveys. One more part of the B&B preparation. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

china in sugarloaf pattern
Royal China Beverly Rose from estate sale
grandma's pattern
Keystone Cannonsburgh pottery LaJean pattern-grandma’s china pattern

B&B Prep: Flea Market Finds

book finds

I love going to festivals, art/craft shows, and flea markets. Now when I go I have a different goal in mind; what can I find to add to our B&B experience for guests? I know we will have a library in our B&B – well, because I want a library whether or not we have a B&B. Even though years ago we sold all of our books (we had hundreds) in favor of using digital books instead, there’s still something about perusing the shelves of someone else’s collection, carefully retrieving a book you either always wanted to read or need to read, and settling into a comfy chair in a well lit room to read.

I already have my collection of antique school books and classic novels, and I’m more than happy to share them with our guests, but we need more to offer than Jane Eyre and An Introduction to Basic Spanish from 1935. My husband, Chip, snagged a Carl Hiaasen book today at the Sugarloaf Fall Festival for 25 cents – one of his favorite authors. I have to make sure I’m not the only choosing the books or the collection will be a little biased toward women.

One of the functions of our B&B will be to host mini writers’ retreats or get-aways. I will always have available books on writing and inspiration for them. If a published author comes to stay or comes to lead a writers’ retreat, I will also ensure that their books are available.

I believe that it’s important that your B&B reflects who you are and what you love. After all, it is your home and should be an authentic representation of you! I love books and writing, so both will be a part of our B&B.

Any ideas of books for me to keep on our shelves are welcome – donations even better! 😉

Now, let’s see what else I found at the festival today. . .

B&B Practice: Be Our Guest!


For six years we lived in a five bedroom home in the historic bay side city of Safety Harbor, Florida. Built in 1925 this was once a boarding house during the boom time of this town’s history. While living there I envisioned what it would be like when it was a boarding house.

We had more bedrooms than we could fill. Our two children, both boys, shared a room, and that left 3 bedrooms empty. We turned one into an office and that left 2 unaccounted for. We believed that we were blessed with these rooms for a reason – to provide shelter to others on a needed basis. We never advertised these rooms as available to rent, but soon they became occupied.

A local college student from our church needed a place off campus to live. We welcomed her into our home at a ridiculously low rate so that she could get on her feet. She stayed with us for more than a year.

One of my sisters, in between jobs and major life decisions, stayed with us more than once.

A colleague from work lived with us for a while – she later became my sister-in-law!

When we had more room than we needed, Chip and I knew we were being called to share it. And we did. The gift of hospitality is just that – but it is one meant to be shared with others.

I began to wonder when the next opportunity to open our home would come. I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

B&B Memories: Tudor Hall B&B on Keuka Lake, NY


A journey is made up of various “stops” along the way. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing hospitality and offering hospitality in a variety of ways that influence our vision of living in and running a Bed & Breakfast.

A number of years ago I was invited to speak to a graduating class of Education majors at Keuka College in New York. They graciously hosted me at the Tudor Hall B&B on Keuka Lake – one of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY.

It was the tail end of winter in March and although there was no snow on the ground, the still frigid air bit through my wool coat with a vengeance as I found my way to the water’s edge that first day. I hadn’t dressed warm enough for this brief excursion! Back in my suite – The Royal Suite – I was quickly enveloped by hissing warmth of a radiator and a small decanter of port on the coffee table in the quaint sitting area.

I climbed into the quilt covered king sized bed listening to the constant serenade of the wind coming off of the lake. Sleep comes easily for me in a B&B, and this night was no exception.

In the morning I was welcomed in the dining room by the owner Priscilla – she served me bacon and egg cups (which I still make to this day), fresh melon, and muffins with a variety of jams and jellies. As I was the only guest at the time, Priscilla visited with me during breakfast. I was grateful for the company. Bacon-Egg-Breakfast-Bites-5-A-Pretty-Life

I only spent one night at Tudor Hall, but the memory is still fresh and so very pleasant. I plan to serve bacon and egg cups in our bed & breakfast too!

Our Story Begins


We are on the hunt for a place we can call home here in the Hudson Valley of New York, but we are also looking for a place that others can call their home away from home. I was asked recently why we want to live in and run a Bed & Breakfast. When my reasons tumbled out of me that day, my friend and realtor said, “That’s your story. Every B&B has a story. That’s yours.” So here goes – our story.

In 1988 I was pregnant with our first child. I was thrilled beyond words; this life inside me was the reason for my existence. What happens when your reason for existence is lost? Our daughter died in utero at 20 weeks. I went through labor and delivery, my milk came in, and life as I knew it seemed to end. Emily died on my mother’s birthday, December 31. To this day I can’t face that day without at least one tear. The memorial of that day is strong especially now that my mother has passed as well.

My husband, Chip, decided we needed a little time away from the painfully normal life that swirled around us. He booked us into the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, Florida two months after losing Emily. I admit to my reluctance of going away. It took too much energy to leave the house as it was. The thought of just a 2 hour drive to an inn threatened to undo me. But away we went.

We spent the whole first day in our room – lovingly furnished, a cocoon of sorts, unfamiliar yet as comfortable as an embrace. I think I slept most of the day.

Day two we ventured out into the quaint antique shop-filled town of Mount Dora – walking distance from the inn. We lingered in each shop our senses filling with lives lived long ago. I love old books, especially old school books and classic literature. I bought three titles that day which are displayed proudly next to my grandmother’s set of dictionaries and encyclopedias from the 1930’s. I fell into a dreamless sleep that night and woke the next morning feeling lighter in my soul.

Day three we went on a boat ride on Lake Dora. This is when I discovered the healing power of water for me. Sitting on the lake’s shore later I felt a shift in my very being. I smiled. I’m healing, and it was a welcome feeling instead of the betrayal I thought it would feel like.

Afraid to break the spell, I didn’t want to leave. Going back to “real life” was not at all enticing. Could we stay? I remember standing on the porch and saying “Let’s live here!” (Just like at the end of the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day”)

Chip and I went into town on our last day to see if there was a way we could stay. Could we find jobs? Me as a teacher; him working for the city. We went to the local Lake County school board and the Mount Dora city hall. It was possible – we could live here.

Just knowing we could live there if we wanted was enough – it offered enough hope for me to go back home and pick up the life and work I already had.

We were cared for and cherished as guests at the Lakeside Inn, but at the same time given our space. We knew then that we would love to offer that same combination of care to others. So 27 years later we are ready to do just that.

Through this blog I will share our journey to finding and running a B&B in the Hudson Valley of New York. We’re learning so much and hope to share it with you.

The ornaments of your home are the people who smile upon entering time and time again.

Maralee McKee