Lee Rotbart

Archive for the ‘Preparations in London’ Category

To pastures new

In Preparations in London on January 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

I realise that I was instructed quite clearly to not say anything about our new website for a week – just to be sure it doesn’t fall over; but as most of you will now know asking me to keep quiet about something as exciting as this is like asking the Pope to consider not going to Midnight Mass.

So… I am taking the bull by the horns, willing to accept the consequences of my actions, and announcing that the Little Leaf Guest House website is now live. I will no longer be blogging from Porthminster View – the fateful name of the first B&B we fell in love with – but all blogs can now be viewed and read from the main site: Little Leaf Guest House BLOG.

Do have a browse around the site – tell us what you think, sign up to the blog updates… more importantly share it among your friends, tell people about what we’re doing and maybe come and stay.

Oh… and before you say anything, we know that you’d love to see photos of the rooms but they’re just not ready yet so you’ll have to wait!

Thank you for all your support so far. Welcome to the next leg.

Omlettes and other eggsperiments

In Preparations in London on January 5, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Last night Danny and I had an omlette competition. Assuming it was quicker to make our own the way we wanted to, rather than arguing about the way we should make a joint one, we grabbed our separate pans and set about creating the perfect breakfast omlette (for dinner).

This would have been a great plan, unfortunately I was starving hungry and, unlike Danny who can sometimes ‘forget to eat’ and not really suffer, I absolutely cannot function without food. I get grumpy, I get snappy, and I lose every ounce of patience I had (which, let’s face it, isn’t that much). Consequently my omlette became about shoving eggs and other ingredients in a saucepan as quickly as humanly possible, while nibbling cheese from the huge block of Stilton that had been left out from Christmas.

While Danny was sauteing mushrooms I was trying to whisk un-melted butter in with cold eggs, all thoughts of herbs forgotten in a bid to get the food in the pan in under 2 minutes or less. Maybe it would have helped if we’d have been making our omlettes for each other, maybe I would have taken more care if I’d have known I was responsible for Danny’s dinner?

As it was, all that effort only got mine on its plate 2 minutes before Danny, who sat down next to me and proceeded to eat an omlette that looked like it could have been served at an organic gastropub. My omlette looked like a big pile of mashed potato hiding the odd mushroom / bacon bit / piece of pepper, complemented by, slightly too big, bits of Stilton.

Stubborn and competitive to the end I spent a lot of the meal sulking that I actually had to eat my omlette, blaming the fact that it looked pretty disgusting on the size of the pan, the number of eggs I’d used, and the way I’d sliced the mushrooms. I eventually had to concede that Danny had indeed won the competition, and while his response to winning was to suggest that I practice, mine was to suggest that he should be the designated ‘omlette cooker’ when relevant.

Not being a huge egg fan the last few days have been testing to say the least. After a relatively successful breakfast for 8 people last Sunday (marred only by the fact that my parents have an open plan kitchen and all our guests saw me throwing a tantrum when the egg poachers didn’t work the way I’d expected) I was forced to spend the afternoon experimenting with a variety of different egg poachers we’d procured (I suspect as a result of my blog on egg poaching) over Christmas.

Armed with a notepad, a pen, and a stopwatch Danny stood over me while we tested timings, levels of water, and boiling points for both silicone and plastic poachers. As each egg was upended onto a plate tasting became less and less enthusiastic.

Arriving home last night to be greeted by a grinning Danny armed with yet more eggs I groaned as I contemplated what impact eating all these eggs would have on my insides. Why couldn’t it be sausages we needed to practice, or even grilled mushrooms.

The staple ingredient for any cooked breakfast eggs are both flexible, cost-effective and tasty however, at this stage in the proceedings, the only thing preventing me from jumping on the non-dairy bandwagon is the promise of practicing American Pancakes, after all there are some forms of eggs that you can never get enough of.


In Preparations in London on December 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm

My job at the moment is to project manage the design and development of the Little Leaf website. Fresh from the social media success of Twitter, Facebook and this blog (success measured by the fact that someone, other than friends and family, has read this blog, and 200 followers on Twitter) I felt much more confident going into this project than I do now.

I was pretty impressed with the fact that I was able to choose the administration system myself, have a comprehensive discussion with our designer and developer as to what I wanted. I threw fancy words around like information architecture, online functionality, usability and search engine optimisation. I gave Danny tutorials on Facebook and, bar the one mistake I made on Twitter which has rendered our perfect username invalid until 23rd December, I have been pretty pleased with how things have gone.

Last night however, it all went a bit squiffy as Danny and I sat down to look at the prototype of our site which is now online (for our eyes only). We had a list of questions from our ever-patient developer about what phrases meant and where they should link to, and it was at this point that the holes in my knowledge became swiftly apparent.

Where do I expect the user to go when they click on the ‘Stay in Touch’ link? What does the ‘Availability Checker’ look like and how does it work? How many ways do I want people to be able to contact us? Where is the space for Special Offers? And how did I forget to mention Facebook? It’s funny how some things look so simple on paper yet the reality of how they work is a totally different thing. This becomes a tad problematic when others assume (possibly corroborated by myself) that I knew how they were going to work before I put them on paper; I have a confession to make – I didn’t always know what I was talking about.

In an odd way this process is a bit like the fantasy and reality of the guest house business. The fantasy being all about how it was going to look, what great ‘added value’ things we were going to offer, the toiletries in the room, the colour of the curtains and the deliciousness of the breakfast. Whereas in fact the reality is how it’s going to work – the mortgages, the business plans, the logistics, the contacts, and the health and safety requirements. Just like a website everyone wants to focus on what it looks like, not the more labour intensive questions about how it will work – myself included.

After 3 years of working in digital communications for a company that, among other things, designs and builds websites, I finally have some sympathy for our clients who look up at us blankly when we ask how they expected something to work, or are surprised when we say that it’s just not that easy to change the background colour from green to blue once the site has been built. After all, even with all that experience under my belt, I still don’t really understand how servers work (I just know that you need them); I get confused by Google Mail, and hosting is like some kind of black art.

It takes me 20 minutes to do something that I suspect someone else would do in about 30 seconds, and will rarely admit to anyone that it wasn’t “pretty easy becuase I understand this stuff”.

The reality is that I’m not a digital native. I’m not a PC, nor am I a MAC, or even a Canon Starwriter. Email was something I abandoned at University because I couldn’t figure out how it worked, and things haven’t changed that much. I stare in amazement at my friends’ children who seem to intuitively know how an iPhone works whereas I was just amazed it didn’t come with an instruction manual, and maybe,  just maybe, I have to put my hand up and say that this website development stuff is not any easier for me than it would be for my technical dinosaur of a boyfriend.

I’m 34, I’m a digital immigrant, and I’m just doing my best. Tweets of sympathy can be directed to Tim Reader, Website Developer extraordinaire. http://twitter.com/timboreader.

Mates rates

In Preparations in London on December 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

What constitutes a mate?

A question that never really needed answering until now. Having never had a job which rains down perks upon my grateful little head I have never really had that ‘Who shall I take as my plus one to this fantastic event?’ problem. Obviously I have needed plus ones, but rarely for anything very interesting. Once I had to find someone to take to the opening of an exhibition but that was more of a case of who I could get to come with me, I was hardly beating offers off with a stick. Now however, I am in the enviable position of having more mates than I know what to do with.

Before I continue I should make the point that I am delighted to have so many people excited for Danny and I, so many people who are really supportive of what we’re doing, the announcement of the name last week has given both of us renewed excitement about this venture.

All that aside I am still faced with the ‘mates rates’ question.

Now we knew it was going to come up and it’s something we’ve discussed a lot – what kind of ‘mates rates’ do we offer, and who do we offer it to? Between Danny and I we have a fair amount of friends, family, friends of family, and work colleagues that could be considered ‘mates’; not to mention the amount of people on Facebook that we are ‘friends’ with.

Yes, there are lots of ‘mates’ but there’s also one other key thing beginning with ‘m’ that should be considered – our MORTGAGE, which is huge; not to mention our MONEY which is ever-decreasing. I’m not going to bore you with the plethora of things that we haven’t budgeted for as they are all so minor that you would laugh, yet it all adds up and if I think about them for too long it usually results in me having a very small panic attack about bankruptcy.

So, here we are, the possibility of us opening at the beginning of April is now no longer a pipe dream, it’s a very necessary reality and guests are what’s needed. Like Churchill in WWII we need you to sign up and be counted – and what better way to entice you in than with a nonchalant “Of course we’ll do mates rates” answer to your question.

Yes, of course we WANT to give discounts to everyone, we want you to come and stay not only to see us, but to also experience everything St Ives and Cornwall has to offer. We want people to fall in love with the place as we did, and we want them to have a fantastic time at Little Leaf, but we just can’t go round promising crazy rates to anyone that once knew us, or once knew members of our family, or once worked with us on a project in 2004.

Nor do we want to feel resentful towards guests by devaluing the service we hope to be providing. Delivering 100% service yet only getting paid for 75% – I know myself well enough to know that that’s not going to go down well. As a chronic people-pleaser desperate for your love and approval I want to give you a giant discount and make you make you smile. As the owner of a guesthouse with a burgeoning overdraft I fear that I will have to do the opposite.

This musing leads me back to the original question “Who is a mate?”, and “What kind of rates should they get?”.

What about a means test? Ask people questions about Danny and I to see who really does know us. Where did we meet? How long have we been together? When did I first start writing this blog? – no cheating now! That should separate the wheat from the chaff, even if it’s somewhat unconventional. Or, how about we ask for something in return… what do they do and what discounts could they offer us? After all, accountants must get asked for free advice all the time, not to mention lawyers and doctors; and I’d be lying if I hadn’t taken advantage of that in the past.

It’s a minefield and you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Having worked in sales for nearly 14 years I’m a stickler for standing by prices and not devaluing the product. It’s short term gain vs. long term strategy and as we’re in it for the long haul I know in my heart of hearts that we’ll have to do the right thing, and whatever that might end up being I don’t think much of your chances of getting a huge discount… but do come and stay anyway, you never know you might just think it’s worth it!

Introducing Little Leaf Guest House

In Preparations in London on December 8, 2010 at 11:40 am

8 weeks ago I got home from work to find Danny hunched over the computer browsing Google. I should mention that this is not an uncommon sight. Danny absorbs information like sponges absorb water. If he had lived before the internet he would have been the kind of person who read dictionaries.

Unpacking the shopping and going about the usual faffing that comes with arriving home after a day at work I wasn’t really listening when Danny shouted something at me: ‘What was that?’ I yelled back, to be greeted with an even louder yell of ‘How about Little Leaf?’….

I loved it. I didn’t even have to ask what the context was. I knew immediately that he was referring the name of our guest house. We’d been talking about it for a while, going over all sorts of Cornish combinations and looking up words in the thesaurus; but as soon as he said ‘Little Leaf’ I just fell in love. It sounds cute, homely, unique – perfect for the kind of establishment we plan to be running.

The Legend of St Ives (courtesy of the St Ives Guest House Association)

The legend tells how St. Ia, a Virgin Saint of noble birth went to the seashore to depart for Cornwall from her native Ireland along with other Saints. Finding that they had gone without her, fearing that she was too young for such a hazardous journey, she was grief stricken and began to pray.

As she prayed she noticed a little leaf floating on the water and touched it with a rod to see if it would sink. Lo, as she looked it grew bigger and bigger. She saw that God sent it to her and, trusting to Him, she embarked upon the leaf and was straightaway wafted across the Channel, reaching her destination before the others.

Little Leaf Guest House

This is our little leaf; our hopes that this will turn into a boat and sail into the horizon, and not sink! A boat that will weather the storms, that will take us on an exciting journey to a new land and new experiences.

Massive amount of thanks go to Tristan Peters who, with the utmost patience, put together our logo which we are very excited about and very happy with.

Little Leaf Guest House Logo

You can now find us on Facebook, and online http://www.littleleafguesthouse.co.uk (temporary page courtesy of Tim Reader), and from 23rd December (because I am a numpty and managed to scupper myself on Twitter) you’ll be able to find us under a relevant name there too.

A new start indeed. We do hope you like it.