Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It all started with one kiss . . .

Fifty odd years ago, a man and a woman fell in love. One thing lead to another, and along came a son. This past holiday weekend, we celebrated this series of events at Ste. Anne's as brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, nieces and nephews came from far and wide to be a family. The mere existence of human life in this universe is a miracle enough, but the circumstances of it's continuance is a testament to the power of love. From all of the Corcorans to all of you who have shared in the evolution of Ste. Anne's with us over the past 25 years - happy holidays, and best wishes for the year ahead.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Anniversary to David & Janet

Pray tell, what is the greatest perk of owning a spa? Alas, it is not the treatments, or the fine dining, but the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, to get to know them, and in many cases to count them as friends. Last night, David and I sat by the fire and had a visit with a delightful couple, David and Janet, celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary at Ste. Anne's. David is a poet, and he shared this poem with me, and now I am sharing it with you. Enjoy!

An Ode To Ste. Anne’s

The reason we love Ste. Anne’s
‘Tis because it fits into our plans,
For a healthy retreat, where we rest and we EAT
And be welcomed by the Ste. Anne’s clans.

You are greeted with a very big smile
And handed your info on a file.
If everything’s fine, you sign on the line
Then be shown to your room (in a while).

The staff is the nicest you’ll find,
They are all just one of a kind.
They’re there just to show, to where you must go
When later it’s time to be dined.

In the room there’s no need to groan,
Since there is no TV or phone.
This concept is best, since you’re there for a rest.
But you’ll never be anywhere alone.

There’s one thing we must not forget,
The white robe that you will all get.
You can wear it all day, In the spa or at play.
Or when dining, before and after you’ve ate!

To the spa for some treatment you must go,
No matter whether there’s rain, sun or snow.
There’s great meditation, which is real medication.
You’ll come out really feeling aglow.

There is fitness, a steam room and pool
A hot tub or cold tub where you’ll
Perspire or will freeze, with relaxing ease.
But emerge from them feeling real cool!

The name of the game is – Relax
No cell phone, no ipod, no fax.
You will enjoy, the rest with no toy,
In the garden, in white robe or slacks.

The worst time is, will you believe,
When you have to get clothed to leave.
But memories stay, for very many a day,
So go back – then you won’t have to grieve!

ADB 29-June-2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The other Moses

Years ago, a man named Moses brought a message to the masses. Last week, David and I had the pleasure of meeting another Moses with a message - the new owner of CFMX Classical 96.3 FM, Moses Znaimer. If you are my age, you are probably more likely to associate Znaimer with CITY-TV, CP-24, and rock & roll than with classical music, but then we're all getting a little older, aren't we. Moses and the gang at CFMX threw a lovely holiday party at their studio at Queen and River Streets in Toronto last Wednesday night. Moses' message for the new millennium: "Classical music has always been cool - stay tuned for exciting new developments at CFMX as we take it from cool to hip."

We were entertained by Canada's own Primadonna, Mary Lou Fallis, who lead us through a live to air, fun selection of holiday songs, including a lively rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Ste. Anne's has been a supporter of CFMX since it's humble beginnings in a small studio right here in Cobourg. Back then, there were quite a few sceptics who weren't sure an all classical radio station would survive for very long. Well, if you put any stock in what Moses thinks, this classical music fad isn't going anywhere soon. Tune in to relax, and listen for our current ads taken from our 2006 Testimonial Contest; Real People Talking About Ste. Anne's Spa. By the way, if you happen to be in the CFMX neighbourhood at Queen and River, you have to stop and enjoy a meal at one of my all time favourite little Italian restaurants - Fusilli, on the south east corner - tell Josepi that Jim sent you.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Two men - same message

This morning on CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta preached about the power of happiness as it effects our health. Recent studies have shown that people with an optimistic outlook outlive pessimists. He profiled a monk who meditates for 12 hours each day who had recently subjected himself to an MRI. They found that he was able to generate brain activity in the part of his brain associated with good, happy thoughts that lasted beyond the time spent meditating about happiness.
Two thousand years ago, a man commonly known as John the Baptist preached from the banks of a river about the benefits of living a joyful life full of hope and anticipation. He baptized people as part of a renewal ritual. In a homily given on December 17th, 2000 on the Jubilee of the Entertainment World, Pope John Paul II put John the Baptist's message in context; "However, this joy that flows from divine grace is not a superficial or fleeting happiness. It is a deep joy, rooted in the heart, which can imbue the believer's entire life. A joy that can coexist with difficulties, trials, even - however paradoxical this may seem - with pain and death."
When my sister Cindy and her friend Nella offered spa treatments to our Ste. Anne's B&B guests back in the early 90s, we immediately noticed that the people who had spa treatments generally became happier, nicer people over the course of a weekend. It was this realization that lead us down the path that brought us to where we are today.
So regardless of your your faith, regardless of your views on meditation, religion or divine intervention, I would encourage you to find a source of joy in your life and nurture it, and to be a source of joy in the lives of others. I would like to wish you joy and happiness during this festive season. Spread joy, live a long, healthy and happy life.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The gift of selling

As I was driving along the 401 last night, I passed an SUV. It had one of those license plate frames with the words "Benton Fry" in the border. It was a Ford. It reminded me of an experience I had about 7 years ago. I don't remember what kind of vehicle I was driving at the time, probably because I really didn't much care. On this particular day, I walked into the Cobourg Mall to do a little shopping and came across a black Ford truck. Well, I was smitten. There was something about this truck that spoke to me, that I could identify with. I can't tell you what it was about this truck that I liked, but I knew that I wanted to buy one. I made my way across the street to the local Ford dealership. I don't think the salesperson bothered to get up from her desk, so I ended up walking out. From there I went to a Ford dealership in Brighton, then to one in Trenton, and finally to Benton Fry in Belleville. The salesman at Benton Fry greeted me outside the dealership. He immediately connected with me, and understood his role was to help me complete the process that had started in the mall. An hour later, I was the owner of my first Ford truck. I became a brand ambassador for Ford trucks. When it came time to trade my truck in, I traded it in on another Ford truck. This time around, I took advantage of Ford's zero money down, zero interest incentive to get myself into an even nicer model of truck for lower monthly payments. I was a satisfied, loyal Ford customer. When trade-in time came around again, I went back to the local Ford dealer where I had been a service customer for the past six years. I asked the sales rep a few questions about current promotions, and left without making a deal. I got a feeling that the sales rep really didn't want my business. Just to be sure, I went back to Benton Fry, only to find that my sales rep had retired. Again, I walked out without making a deal. I was still a big Ford fan, but it seemed as though Ford really didn't care. I was despondent. The truck I had was OK, I really didn't need to trade, but it was a pattern I had become comfortable with. One day, something drew me into the GMC lot in town. I wondered through the trucks on the lot, and spotted a white truck with the word "hybrid" on the side. Just as I circled it for a second time, a salesman approached me. Well, today I'm driving a GMC Sierra Hybrid. I love it. The engine shuts off whenever the truck stops, to save fuel. It also has a generator built in so I can plug power tools in to the bed of my truck when I'm away from a source of power. Now, I'm a raving fan for the GMC Sierra, partly because of a great product, partly because of GMC's marketing incentives that drew me onto their lot, and partly because a salesman sensed what I wanted, and helped me acquire it.
We have a team of seven sales professionals at Ste. Anne's. Some of them don't like thinking of themselves as sales people, they prefer the title "reservationist" or "customer service". They think that being in sales means being pushy and somehow underhanded. My experience is just the opposite. A good sales professional is a dream maker; someone who helps you realize what you want and helps you get it. This can sometimes be a material thing, like a truck or a new outfit, other times it can be less tangible, like good health, a change in lifestyle, a new beginning. Either way, people who have truly mastered the skill of selling are rare but gifted people, and sometimes hard to find. When we do find one we ought to celebrate, show them some respect, and tell our friends about them.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My lovely little sister

I don't imagine it's easy being the last in a line of seven children. By the same token, it's probably not easy being the first either. Some think the middle child has a rough ride. My youngest sister has recently published a book. Marijo is an incredibly creative, deeply spiritual mother of 2 beautiful girls. Her girls are at a certain age; an age where I remember having regular conflicts with my parents. An age where I remember knowing more and knowing better than just about anyone. Looking back, I realize that I really didn't know as much as I thought I did, but no one could have told me that at the time, least of all, my parents. While Marijo's book is just a little book, it has a big message about a little girl growing up and finding herself through her relationship with God. I encourage you to read it. To purchase a copy of Lovely, email Marijo at
I love my little sister and her girls. I hope that the struggles they are enduring will give them strength and deepen their love and appreciation for each other.
It isn't uncommon for us to see mothers and daughters visiting Ste. Anne's together. Sometimes there is a bonding mission behind the visit. Other times, mother is passing on the art of finding balance in life by introducing daughter to the restorative benefits of visiting the spa, of taking care of one's body and soul (we call these spa-divas in training). Sometimes I can sense tension between the generations, as a daughter will roll her eyes at her mother's quirky ways, or as a mother will scold her daughter for not eating her vegetables, or drinking too much wine. My views on the dynamics of parent/child relationships is a topic that I could devote an entire volume to, but not today. I suppose parenting is just one more of the human skills that isn't covered in the "Getting Started as a Human Being" manual. What kind of struggles are you having in your relationships with your parents, or with your children? What lessons has life taught you?

Friday, December 8, 2006

A sneak peak into the back of the house

For those who have any experience in the hotel business, you'll know "the back of the house" to be the part of a hotel that works behind the scenes to make the front of the house work. Behind every grand reception hall, every magnificent dining room, every shining bathroom, every lovingly made bed and freshly pressed sheet are the people that make up the back of the house team. Since joining our team 4 years ago, Ste. Anne's summer gardener/winter decorator and all around good buddy Debbie T. has brought her special brand of "git-er-done" sensibility to the back of the house. Debbie is a survivor. She is also a self confessed red-neck, but she is the most lovable, hard working big hearted red neck I've ever known, and all of her friends and family are cut from the same cloth. Every year, around Christmas time, Debbie invites the team from the back of the house over to her house for a little cheer. The main event is a pot luck supper, followed by a Secret Santa gift exchange. Debbie's husband drives a big rig, so he's seldom home for this event, but he's there in spirit, along with their two friendly dogs and a cat who's looking like she's had a few too many trips to the cream bowl. We all stand around the kitchen tasting various contributions to the pot luck supper, including a bucket of what we all know we shouldn't be eating, but it's so yummy! Not everyone from the back of the house shows up at these get togethers. I suspect some are a little shy, others have families that they have to get home to, while others are working. Regardless, those who do come take this rare opportunity to let their hair down and relax, laugh and swap stories about some of the more comical things that happen on a daily basis in the back of the house. We all know that it's not glamorous work, but in its own way it it is meaningful and rewarding. So, my message is simple - over the next few weeks as we put on our Sunday best to attend holiday parties, as we waltz into the grand lobbies and banquet halls, join me in saluting the countless thousands of friends and colleagues who tirelessly work in the back of the house to make the front of the house look and feel so effortlessly wonderful. Pictured above, Richard, a skilled carpenter and all around handy man, and Darlene a talented gardener in the summer months, an alternative therapist in the winter. Other attendees at this gala event were Carrie and Penny from Housekeeping, Mike, one of our night custodians, Dave from maintenance, Phil, our laundry transporter, and Shauna from the spa team (she loves a party). These people are as real as it gets, fun, down to earth and some of the nicest people you'll ever know. Usually they don't stand out in the places they work - they're too busy working. But if you do have the good fortune to meet one of them in passing, stop and talk to them - you'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 4, 2006

The amazing human being

Years ago, I made a trek to Montreal to hear Deepak Chopra speak. Looking back, I think this was probably a turning point in my life. He allowed me to believe that the human being had incredible, but mostly untapped potential within. Since then I have read a few of his books and postulated on some of his theories. In my mind, I've come to the conclusion that within the human being exists the software to create, to heal, (the very building blocks of life!) to do just about anything. Problem is, this incredible machine didn't come with a manual, and sometimes experiments on this very complex technology don't work out so well.
As I was flipping through the channels last night I spent a few minutes watching a show on human intelligence. One of the people being profiled pulled a human brain out of a hat box. She talked at length about the human brain and it's ability to learn - she made the point that this little 3 pound mass is responsible for such things as sending a man to the moon, inventing, solving, building. Other people were interviewed on the effect music has on a child both in the womb, and as part of early education. Children in Quebec who learn to play chess consistently score better in mathematics.
Later in the day, I was browsing through a flea market and came across a set of Hardy Boys books - I opened one up and read a few paragraphs. All sorts of memories, smells, thoughts started to flood into my mind - things that happened 40 years ago. It was overwhelming. It seems like such a crime that our civilized society spends so much on destruction (read: war), and relatively so little, (relatively) on expanding our knowledge of human potential, on disease prevention, on feeding each other. What can I do at Ste. Anne's Spa to make things right? What do you think?

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Loyalty unplugged - What is Massie thinking?

Man's best friend. Who is the genius who thought of this concept? The comfort of hearing his footsteps pitter pattering a few steps behind me, not sometimes, but always; not to mention the adoration oozing from those adoring eyes. The excitement in his wagging tail at the sheer mention of a ride in the truck or his favourite ball, or a treat. Always faithful, usually patient, loyal to a fault - who could want a better friend than this? On the other hand, he may be consumed not with me and our great friendship, but alas, with thoughts of his next meal!

Friday, December 1, 2006

Rain, rain, rain

As I left for work this morning the driving rain hit my face with a little more force than what one might think of as refreshing. Much less desirable than a spritz from a bottle of Aveda Toning Mist! None-the-less, there is something nice about a good fall rain; mother nature making one final effort to clean up the place as she drives the last few leaves from the trees preparing to lay down the first blanket of white, fluffy snow. I'm not really a winter person, but several years ago I decided to try to make the best of my situation by indulging in a few winter sports that some would not necessarily associate with the spa lifestyle. The old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" seemed to resonate. Yes, I admit it, I am a snowmobiler. There, I said it. I love it - the people are great; there's a real sense of camaraderie out on the trails, everyone has fun and looks out for each other. And of course the scenery is spectacular and the speeds can sometimes be exhilarating. All that being said, I guess I'm now one of those who says, "if it's going to be winter, we might as well have snow. So let's hope we skip the freezing rain and go right into a foot of nice powder. In the meantime, we can make the best of a crackling fire, a comfy couch and a good book. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My world is full of incredible women!

Donna tries to co-ordinate her visit to Ste. Anne's with her best friend's trip to the groomer. Donna is a non-stop whirling dirvy - she makes the energizer bunny look like a slow poke. A member of the Winnipeg National Ballet from 1962 to 1970, she still works out with a group of friends for 2 hours every morning. She fills her days running Donna's Country Garden out of her beautiful home overlooking the Trent River in Frankford. If you think the afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel is something special, you haven't been to Donna's place for tea and a tour of her gardens!

Last night Donna had about 100 of her best non-canine friends, customers, and supporters to her house to celebrate the addition of a new sun room to her home, a place where she can serve tea to her guests on rainy days. You see, Donna celebrates every moment in life. The picture shows Donna glowingly surrounded by some of her fans from her Ste. Anne's extended family: starting on the right, my 78 year old mother, who still comes to work at the spa everyday touching up the floral arrangements, checking on the rooms, adding those little touches that make it a home away from home for our guests, Donna, David, a very popular part of our family and friend to many, many guests, (regular long term spa guests rarely leave without asking for him), Rebecca Ryan who ran the spa for 10 years and now operates one of the most creative, warm and loving day spas you will ever experience (just north of Trenton) called Lolly Lodge, and her loving husband Dan. Peeking in from the back between Becky and Dan is my sister-in-law Nancy, our effervescent innkeeper and wife to my youngest brother John. Nancy spreads sunshine through out the spa, and has become a tireless champion of the book "Breaking the Vicious Cycle", offering hope to people suffering from maladies like colitis, I.B.S., and autism, written by another amazing woman, the late Elaine Gottschall.

These are but a few of the men, and mostly women who have in some way become associated with the Ste. Anne's story over the past 16 years. I could name others, politicians, movie stars, musicians, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, literally thousands of people. I salute all of them for their enduring energy and enthusiasm, zest for life and stamina. No matter what life throws at them they all stand tall and like Donna keep reaching out to those around them with genuine love and affection. Thank you God for yanking that rib out of Adam, and thank you Adam for the rib!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

It's all in the hands . . .

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say "my husband refuses to have a massage with a man", or in some cases "What do you mean my treatment is with a man!", I'd be a very rich man. I must tell you, having been in the spa business for 16 years, I see this issue a little differently than some. The very first massage I ever had was with a man working at a hotel in Vancouver. He told me that he had been Bob Hope's personal "masseuse", and that Mr. Hope had a massage every day. It came as no surprise when Bob outlived all of his friends! I also have fond memories of the ritual at the centuries old "baths" in Budapest - no room for modesty here. You were given a little 6" X 6" apron to cover up your privates, as a big burly man slapped you around on the massage table. So, my advice to those people who are concerned about the gender of the person giving you your massage (or other spa treatment):

1. Look at their hands - they will be doing most of the work;

2. Consider their qualifications;

3. Relax and enjoy the good intentions of your therapist; spa practitioners in Ontario are the most regulated, trained and professional in the world.

At Ste. Anne's Spa we employ both male and female therapists from a variety of racial and religious backgrounds.

For answers to more questions about spas, visit Spa

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What a spectacular day it was today, and to top it all off, we had an incredible sunset, and a crescent moon. Life/nature is such a wonderful thing on days like today. Best wishes to our American friends as they celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Since leaving Toronto 16 years ago to make the move back to Grafton and Ste. Anne's, I find myself spending less and less time in the city. However, when I do need to be in "the big smoke", I find I am drawn to parts of the city that remind me of my home in the country. More often than not, I treat myself to a night at The Old Mill Inn& Spa. Not only have they perfected the fine art of hospitality, I just love the architecture, the comfortable rooms, and the old world charm that brings this place together. Walking into the dining room is like stepping back in time - huge wooden beams and stone walls connect soaring ceilings in a series of rooms that echo the sounds of the musicians who play here nightly. And, as you would expect, the food is wonderfully presented and delicious. I salute the Kalmar family who have done a fantastic job of keeping a Toronto landmark alive. My only disappointment is with my lack of planning, which usually means that spa appointments are not available for me to book at the last minute, a sign that this out of the way place continues to be a popular destination for Torontonians looking for a unique and exquisitely comfortable escape within the city limits.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Got a text message from a friend asking me if I'd like to take his wife and kids to the Santa Claus Parade in Toronto so that he could get some work done on the house. I had planned to spend the day in my office reading a business book in preparation for a Monday morning management meeting. What the heck, I thought - it'll be fun, and I can always do my reading in bed. I can't remember the last time I was at the Santa Claus Parade - I do remember when it used to be the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade, and I remember when Eaton's pulled out, and it continued without them, and now, where is Eaton's? Thinking I'd be a smart public transit user, we parked at Yorkdale, got all the kids zipped up and made our way to the station. I couldn't believe my eyes - the line-up extended all the way back to the mall - there must have been 500 people lining up to get into the subway station. We packed the kids back in the car, and drove right downtown, to Queen and Church. After a quick pit stop at the smallest MacDonalds in the world, we joined the hordes of people pushing and shoving to get the best view of the parade. One of the kids was old enough to make her way to close to the front of the crowd, but kept finding herself in front of taller adults pushing their way in front of her. I ended up with one 40 pound child on my shoulders for the full 2 hours of floats, bands, and of course, old St. Nick himself. All in all, a great day, nothing a nice hot bubble bath couldn't fix. Next year, I'm going to bring a step ladder for the kids to perch on so the adults can all take their rightful place at the front of the pack!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Saturday morning, 5:45 I got a call from the night auditor - a CO2 detector at one of the spa cottages has gone off. Pulled on some track pants and a hoodie and set off to work. Very dark, but very peaceful at this time of day, a chubby rabbit crosses my path, and some other night dweller is in the ditch. I switched detectors and checked all the gas appliances - everything seemed to be in order, so I went back to bed. I should get up early more often - we miss so much when we sleep! The cool fall weather, combined with lots of spa treatments makes for a good night's sleep! Come to Ste. Anne's Spa for your next escape!