Welcome to The Belgravia B&B!

 

Please stop in often to find out what is new at the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast, in downtown Truro, the Central Nova Scotia Area, and around the Province of Nova Scotia! Please click here to find out all about us or here to read guest comments and reviews.

Photo credit: Portraits by Johanna

20 years later…

Twenty years ago tomorrow (Monday), D’Arcy & I worked the lunch shift together in the downstairs bar at the Granite Brewery in the Henry House in Halifax. We were friends who had been working together for over a year. After our shift finished, we were counting our cash and D’Arcy offered to buy me a Keith’s (beer) for the first time. It still seems strange to me that it was a Keith’s; at that time, we normally would drink Ten Penny or one of the craft beers that were made on the premises.

We had our beer and were standing side-by-side playing the loonies from our tips in the video lottery machines, which was a common practice for waitstaff at that time. As we were playing, I casually mentioned, “I called of my wedding last night”. He was the first person I’d told, other than my parents. His head turned toward me and I’m sure he had a slight smile as he told me he was sorry…

We still refer to that as our first date, although we didn’t actually start dating until a short time later.

Since I go back to school tomorrow, we celebrated our 20 years together this weekend.

By the time school finished in June this year, we were both exhausted. For numerous reasons, last year was difficult and draining for both of us. As we began our vacation, D’Arcy mentioned to me that he needed to get out of his “funk” and that he wanted to use the summer to get back into shape. I constantly am preaching to my college students the importance of good nutrition and exercise on mental health, so readily agreed to support him.

He chose the Cobequid Trail 10km run this weekend as his motivation to get fit, and I volunteered that I would join him. (Misery loves company? I do not love running, but I do love him.)

D’Arcy has spent the summer moving his body – getting up at 5am to go running before we serve breakfast, painting and doing physical work around the house, and going on 16-24km bike rides with me when time allows us to get away. We’ve been eating our main meal mid-afternoon as much as possible with colourful veggies and a fair bit of fish. He’s stopped snacking and stopped finishing the leftovers on the kids’ plates.

I’m proud to say that my husband has lost over 20 pounds this summer and is down to the weight he was when we were married! He would still like to lose another five pounds, but is looking and feeling so much healthier, both mentally and physically.

Last night, we took the night off so that we could leave for the run first thing this morning and not worry about serving breakfast. It was also nice to have a night as a family before I return to school. We walked to one of our favourite restaurants, Bistro 22, for dinner and it was AMAZING!

Although you will never find our meal in any pre-run training manuals, we did not regret it one bit! D’Arcy had a local beer and I had a martini to start, followed by the most delicious mussels we’ve had in years, and spicy lobster cakes, which were the appetizer special. We devoured them so quickly I forgot to take a photo. We ordered a bottle of Blomidon Winery’s “Tidal Bay” white with dinner. I had ordered the halibut which was served on a medley of fresh veggies and potatoes, and D’Arcy had the pork tenderloin special, served with blueberry and hot pepper jelly, potatoes and local veggies. It was all so delicious! Although we refrained from licking our plates, we did clean them as well as we could! We don’t normally order dessert, and we debated whether or not we should… but ended up ordering butterscotch pie and blueberry shortcake – thank goodness we had the (short) walk home to walk some of it off.

The food & service were fabulous, and we had a chance to chat with Chef Dennis when we finished our meal and the restaurant was clearing out. This restaurant in Truro continues to be one of our favourites, where we know the food and service is consistently exceptional.

IMG_3472

Our children were waiting for us when we arrived home (They’d had pizza for supper which they were happy with!) to have a campfire. We lit the fire and sat around, talking, laughing, and star-gazing. It was a beautiful, clear night.

 

We were up early this morning to go out and run the Cobequid Trail run. We all had goals, and I told D’Arcy I was sure we could finish the 10km in under 1:10, despite the fact I hadn’t specifically trained and we had eaten all that food the night before. I knew I was fit enough to run it since we rarely sit down, have been biking up to 24km at a time, and bend and stretch all the time while cleaning rooms.

The boys were running together and Sarah decided last week that she also wanted to run the 5km since she was unable to run the Bluenose 5km with us when she had mono last year. Olivia did not want to run the 5km so she was able to volunteer at the finish, handing runners water and congratulating them as they crossed the line.

I won’t go into too many details of the run, which would probably be boring for anyone who wasn’t there.  We ran it non-stop (except for when grabbing water at the water stops), we ran it together, and my husband – a true gentleman – allowed me to cross the finish line first. Our 5km racing children were finished long before we were, so were close to the finish line to cheer us along. I loved it, but it also impacted me emotionally (I was already pushing myself) and I found I couldn’t look at them or I was going to start to cry, which made me start to wheeze.

When it was tough for me along the route and I wanted to slow down and walk, I channeled my friend, Kirby Coolen, who is currently hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, on a pilgrimage as he transitions from teaching to retirement. I will miss him so much at school, and figured if he can hike almost 800km, I could dig deep and run 10km!

It was fun to cross the finish line and have Olivia hand me a glass of water and give me a kiss. Our chip times ended up being 1:05:35 and 1:05:36. The boys were disappointed with their times as neither had a personal best. Sarah, on the other hand, was thrilled with her time and her experience running her first 5km.

Alex left us shortly after the finish to go zip lining with his friends, and we capped off our 20 years together celebration weekend by renewing our life-insurance policies for another term. So romantic!

Here’s hoping that at 20 years together, we’re not even half-way!

 

 

 

 

Check-in and Check-out times

Today was my final weekday of summer vacation; I am back at school full-time on Monday. I spent the afternoon with my B&B ladies, having a wonderful lunch at Lokal Resto & Market. We get together as often as we can (about once a month at this time of year) to take a quick break, get caught up, problem-solve, and support one another.

A disconcerting trend we have all noticed in past weeks is the number of early check-ins this season. If you book over the phone with us, we normally ask whether you are planning to arrive in the afternoon or evening, and will tell you that check-in time is anytime after 3pm. If you book online, the confirmation you receive via email clearly states that check-in time is after 3pm on the day you have booked.

A bed & breakfast in Nova Scotia is defined as being four rooms or fewer, must be owner-occupied (it’s our home), and breakfast is included in the price of the room. 

Because it is our home, the time between check-out and check-in is our window of time to get things accomplished – room cleaning, laundry, ironing, shopping, appointments, maintenance… It’s during that time we allow our kids to have friends over, or practice their music or dance, or for us to get out – together – for a run or bike ride… if there is time. The five B&B’s in the Truro area are one or two person operations, so it becomes difficult when we lose that small window of time. In a one-person operation, especially, they need that time to get groceries for breakfast.

We recently had a day when all three of our rooms (travelling separately) had arrived and settled in “to rest” between 1-2pm, without making prior arrangements. That meant the scraping of the house for painting stopped, as did the hammering and sawing of shelf-building. One day this week, we had a couple show up to check-in shortly after 11 am. Our check-out time is 11 am, so the prior guests had just departed! One operator in this area had a call earlier this summer from booked guests at 8:05 am looking to check-in at that time – some of their guests were still in bed at that point!

Earlier this summer, we went to the afternoon funeral of a neighbour and left as soon as the service was finished, skipping the reception, so we would be home in time to greet guests at check-in. When we arrived home at 2:40, the house was full and guests were resting, having arrived at 2:00. Our kids welcomed them and got them settled, so they were looked after, but not necessarily to the standard we try to uphold.

I honestly think that the issue of early check-in stems from the perception we are the same as a hotel and have unfilled rooms we can slide people into, or staff on-call 24-hours per day. In essence, we do; it’s just always us. Many people are surprised to learn that we live here.

We want to be clear: if you have an event, an early flight, or an appointment, we are happy to make arrangements ahead of time to be here to welcome you, so you are not sitting in our driveway wondering if we are ever going to show up.

As I mentioned earlier, I return to school on Monday (August 29), and D’Arcy returns to school the following week (September 6) which means my dad, Dave, comes to the house on weekdays to welcome guests and get everyone settled in until we arrive home at suppertime. If our guests show up early, he is not necessarily going to be here yet, which doesn’t make for a great first impression – which is important to us to avoid.

September is one of our busiest months, and historically we run at close to 100% occupancy. While chatting with the other B&B operators at lunch today, I decided that perhaps the best thing to do is to send each confirmed guest a welcome email the day before their scheduled arrival to explain our policy and tell them we look forward to meeting them the following day, any time after our 3pm check-in.

We’ll see how that goes.

One of our many issues, solved!🙂

We’d like to say “thank you” to our attentive, knowledgeable, and friendly server, Courtney (and super-talented chef, Brad), for the outstanding experience at Lokal Resto and Food Market today. Your chowder is now being marketed to guests at the five Truro B&B’s as one of “the best in the province”!

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

 

A new driver in the house

Gone are the days of worrying whether our toddlers were getting enough to eat, or whether they would trip and scrape their knees, or fall off their bikes, or miss us when they went to school. With teenagers come a whole new set of worries!

Alexander turned 16 last week. He took the classroom portion of the Young Drivers program in July so was ready to write the test for his beginner’s license as soon as possible. D’Arcy took him to the Registry of Motor Vehicles on Monday where he had a vision and written test.

We were all apprehensive about his vision test since he only sees out of one eye, despite wearing a patch for almost six years and having eye surgery when he was seven years old. As it turns out, the rule about getting your license in Nova Scotia with a visual impairment is that you must be able to see 20/60 in your good eye with correction. His good eye sees perfectly with his glasses on, so he passed! As for the written test, he got only one question wrong – about when to report an accident. He said all accidents needed to be reported when, in Nova Scotia, it’s any accident causing injury or damage over $2,000.

Because he has the Young Driver’s course, he’ll be eligible to test for his “full” license in nine months… just as he finishes his first year of high school…

Yikes.

I have no doubt that he will be a cautious, responsible driver – like his older brother is.

IMG_0033

Lemon zucchini muffin recipe

It’s zucchini time in the garden and wild blueberry time in Nova Scotia, and what a fabulous combination!

IMG_0032

We had a request for D’Arcy’s lemon zucchini muffin recipe this morning. The original recipe came from Anne Lindsey’s “New Light Cooking” cookbook (which is one of our favourites – our focaccia with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon comes from the same cookbook), but we tweak it to accommodate for food allergies. All of the muffins we serve are egg-free so our daughter can take the leftovers – if there are any – to school in her lunch.

 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded (unpeeled zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Coarsely grated rind from 1 large lemon
  • 1 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • egg replacer to replace one egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (we often sour rice or coconut milk for dairy issues)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup wild blueberries
  1. Lightly spray nonstick muffin pans or line with muffin liners.
  2. In a large bowl, stick together flour, zucchini, sugar, lemon rind, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine egg replacer (or lightly-beaten egg), soured-milk, oil, and lemon juice. Pour over flour mixture and stir just enough to moisten, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Add blueberries and combine.
  5. Spoon into prepared pans. Bake in 190*C oven (375*F) for 18-20 minutes or until tops are golden and firm to touch. (May take longer if using real egg.) Makes 12 muffins.

Enjoy!

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

 

 

 

If your friends jumped off a bridge, does that mean you would you jump too?

What about if it were your friends AND your family?

It turns out at our house, the answer is “yes” for five out of six of us.

I go back to school one week from today, so we’re trying to fit in some final summer memories before we go back to routine. My best friend of 39 years is home from Newfoundland this week, so we went to their cottage in Amherst Shore (on the Northumberland Strait) for the afternoon. We had texted the night before while making arrangements, and Sandy mentioned that they would be jumping off the Northport Bridge around 2pm.

Because we had a full-house leaving and a new full-house coming in, by the time we had the cleanup finished, it was 1pm before we were on the road, and closer to 2:30 before we arrived in Northport, not sure if we’d find them still there or not.

They were.

The six of us have a bit of thrill-seeking running through our DNA. We love roller-coasters and various rides, while D’Arcy is a certified scuba diver and has gone skydiving before children. Funnily enough, I don’t think any of us are particularly fond of heights though.

When we arrived at the bridge, Mike, Beth, Clara, and Quinn were already jumping from the dock and swimming, while Dave and Nate were trying to catch some fish. There were other families and groups of kids already jumping off the bridge.

We had a quick discussion about who was going to try it, and Sarah & Alex immediately scampered up the hill to the railing with Mike and Quinn following. I announced that I was going to consider it, and Beth looked at me and said, “Well, if you’ll do it, I’ll do it.”

Challenge accepted.

I have no idea what the height of the bridge is, but I know it’s higher than a high diving board, but lower than some of the platforms we’ve been watching at the Olympics. Sarah took a deep breath and leapt off without hesitation, swimming to the side before scampering up to jump again. Mike & Alex followed while Beth & I stood at the railing trying to steady our racing hearts and convince ourselves/each other it was a good idea. She took a breath and went for it, reversing the peer pressure. Since she did it, I now had to, didn’t I?

I did, and it was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.

As I resurfaced, Sarah said to me, “you didn’t need to scream, Mom.” (Like I could have controlled it…)

I actually jumped twice, then Olivia and her siblings jumped together. (Evan stayed firmly dry and warm on the dock.) After I had jumped twice, D’Arcy took a turn while I was in charge of the camera. I have to give him credit, he was more patient than I, while waiting. (I almost missed his big moment.)

He, Beth & Olivia only jumped the once, while Sarah, Alex & Mike jumped multiple times, and Quinn eventually jumped twice before heading back to the cottage.

At the cottage we ate, and drank, and kayaked, and swam, and got caught up. Evan & Alex took the van before dinner to go visit a friend from curling camp who lives in Newfoundland, but has a cottage close by. Cousin, Hannah, drove over the bridge from PEI when she got off work to join us. We had hodgepodge and ribs for supper before continuing a “tradition” of slingshotting things off the bank. This year, the list included crabapples, water balloons, and a dead fish.

Before it got too dark, Evan drove us home so that we could relieve my parents from their B&B hosting duties, and catch the end of the Olympic closing ceremonies from Brazil. It was a fabulous summer day in Nova Scotia!

 

 

 

Alexander is 16

16.

Our son Alexander (I’m one of the few people, other than Grandma McDonah, who calls him by his full name) burst into the world a month early, at 3:09 p.m. on August 18, 2000, and has kept us on our toes ever since.

This sweet boy is kind, caring, smart, funny, talented, and loving. He’s athletic, musical, and a hard-worker with a keen sense of humour.

On Monday, he will get his beginner’s driver’s license, and in two-and-a-half weeks, he will start high school.

We couldn’t be more proud.

Happy sweet 16th, Alexander! We love you!

 

 

 

 

 

Our mini-staycation

We have been sticking close to home this summer, working as much as possible with the hopes of taking some time off as a family next summer before Evan heads to university. It has been a busy summer with guests from all over, but many one-nighters which means a full turnover of rooms each day.

We decided to take Friday and Saturday off, but sleep in our own beds. On Friday, we went to the city and did some back-to-school shopping for growing kids and a shrinking husband. It was fortuitous that we had closed out because at 1am, one of the 11 smoke alarms in our house started to shriek. Of course, it was at the top of our back stairwell which required some climbing to get to! We have no idea what caused it, and I was slightly disturbed that the girls, whose bedroom is right beside, slept through the whole thing!

We slept in on Saturday (until 8ish), then spent the morning puttering before going to visit D’Arcy’s brother & family at their cottage at nearby Shortt’s Lake for the afternoon.

Saturday is race day at the lake, so D’Arcy & Kevin (or “Uncle Hug” as he is known around here) sailed while the cousins swam, kayaked, paddled, and played, and Auntie Kay and I got caught up. The boys won the race, despite a false start and having to make an extra turn, and Evan & Olivia took a long paddle around the lake in D’Arcy’s canoe while Sarah learned to paddle board. It was a beautiful afternoon. Later, Alex joined Evan & Olivia in the canoe, which they ended up tipping… which is why we always wear life jackets! Too bad the ipod in Evan’s pocket didn’t have a life jacket!

After the race was over, we went to a neighbouring cottage for the “aftersail” party. That cottage had a high platform to jump off, which kept the kids – and their mothers – busy. Olivia & I were reluctant at first, but once we conquered our fears, there was no stopping us. I’m sure the wine helped boost my courage!

We barbequed sausages for supper at Karen & Kevin’s before coming home to sleep in our own beds. We are booked at 100% occupancy again this week, and school is looming on the nearby horizon, so it was nice to have the opportunity to spend time together making summer memories.

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast