Open for Business!

This year marks our 10th season welcoming guests to the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast. Over the years, we’ve done an upgrade or two each year; things like new steps, building a back deck & pergola, refinishing the hardwood floors, etc. This year, however, it was time to do some major work.

We closed our B&B for ten days this month while our roof was being shingled. Our roof is quite large, and Gordon & Chris worked from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. in various weather conditions to get it finished for us in just nine days! We highly recommend Apple B Construction! These two men were pleasant and accommodating. They understood that we had a tight schedule and did every thing they could to work with us, with our insulation installers, and with our solar panel installers, to make sure everything went smoothly!

In those nine days, while the work was being completed outside,  we worked away inside the house to get things ready for the season. We were spring cleaning like crazy! We cleaned all guest rooms from top to bottom, replaced cracked windows, took advantage of the scaffolding and cleaned the upstairs windows inside & out. We cleaned curtains, carpets, and furniture, painted trim, re-organized the kitchen & dining room, and donated a lot of things we never use to the Canadian Diabetes Association. We got gardening done, painted the fence and outside of the house, and got rid of a lot of junk from the basement that had accumulated. We installed new blinds and iPod docking stations in each of our guest rooms. What a whirlwind!

We’d like to thank Jason Giddens and his team at  MJM Energy, who, in three days blew 800 cubic feet of insulation into our upstairs walls and installed foam insulation into our basement walls and headers.

Thank you to Mark MacCormack and his partner Adam, of Advanced Heating  Solutions, who installed our solar hot water panels. The first day they were set up, we had a leak in a joint. We called Mark, and he drove from Springhill to Truro late in the evening (on the Victoria Day holiday) to come and fix it for us! That’s service!

We’d like to thank Kevin and Lauren at Efficiency Nova Scotia for speeding through our solar panel pre-approval so that we can apply for a rebate now that they are installed.

Thank you to Matthew of  Sustainable Housing who spent over four hours here before the work started. He worked around our guests to perform an energy audit, again, so we will qualify for rebates under the newly rolled-out energy rebate program.

Thank you to Keith, of G&G Computers for actually hanging up the telephone and coming over to set up our new wireless internet booster when only certain computers could hook-in. We now have excellent wireless internet, no matter where you are on our property. (In the past, our thick plaster walls, while great for keeping noise out, was also interfering with our wireless signal – all fixed!)

Thank you to Lori, and to my parents Dave & Deanna, for helping with things like laundry, painting, cleaning, gardening, organizing, and keeping the kids occupied while we got finished. It was definitely a team effort!

We especially would like to thank our guests for their patience while we were closed. We hated to turn people away – especially our regulars – but we feel that our guests deserve a quality experience while staying with us, and you wouldn’t have had that during the period the work was being done! (We didn’t even wash the floors for a week because of all the people tracking in and out…)

Now that all the work is completed, we are again open for business and look forward to welcoming you to the refreshed Belgravia Bed & Breakfast!

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Lobster vs. Starfish

One website that we find particularly amusing and informative is the Nova Scotia Webcams site. By clicking on the webcams, you can get a live view of what is going on all around the province – from the 12th hole of the Highland Links Golf Course in Ingonish, to Cape Forchu Light station in Yarmouth.  We’ve been able to watch the waves in the effect of hurricanes at Peggy’s Cove and the reconstruction of the Bluenose II.

This week, however, our we were captivated by altercations between a lobster and some starfish in the “Lobster cam” located in Halifax Harbour.

Who knew that lobster, in addition to being so much fun to eat, are also fun to watch!

 

The end of an era…

Wow, the past two days were emotional! As of today, my two terms on the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) Board are over. I have spent the past four years working with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met – people who also live & breathe tourism every day. I have tried to write this post many times this evening, but between exhaustion & emotion, am finding it difficult to find the words… Instead, I will post one photo and try to put it all into words tomorrow…

Thank YOU TIANS!! I’ve learned so much in the past four years!!

Bluenose Marathon 2012

What a weekend! This was our fourth year participating in the ScotiaBank Bluenose Marathon (fifth for Evan) which takes place in Halifax each year on the long weekend in May. By all accounts, this was the best weather we’ve ever had! Last year was freezing, and 2010 was sunny, but cooler.  In 2009, we had drizzle along the whole course.

This year, because we are bogged down in renovations, we made a flying trip down-and-back from Truro to run in the Bluenose. The boys chose not to participate in the youth run this year and just ran the timed 5k. We had made arrangements to have a sleepover with D’Arcy’s parents at their condo. We had stayed there last year, but they were away on a cruise, so this was the first time our kids had a sleepover with their McDonah grandparents.

We left the house mid-afternoon, and picked up our race kits at the Halifax Metro Centre. We LOVED this year’s purple “I RUN THIS TOWN” race shirts! We explored the expo a bit, then went to Woozles Book Store to pick up the 2013 set of “Battle of the Books” books for the Elementary School.  We stopped at the grocery store so we could pick up some safe snacks to send to the race in the morning with Olivia. (She has peanut/treenut/egg/soy allergies.) As I was walking down one of the aisles, I did a double take as I recognized one of my best friends from high-school, whom I had not seen in about 12 years! We had a great time catching up!

We arrived at D’Arcy’s parents’ place at suppertime and got settled in. Grandma had made a wonderful, safe, roast-pork dinner, and two of D’Arcy’s sisters & a niece joined us for awhile. After supper, we chatted and got ready for the race, making pom-poms for the girls, signing up for race alerts, and filling out the medical information on our bibs – just in case.

We had an early night, and I should have taken some photos of the unconventional sleeping arrangements – Olivia in a sleeping bag under the dining room table, Alex on an easy chair in the den, and Sarah & Evan in the living room. He was sleeping on the couch, and she was in a sleeping bag on the floor beside him. When I went in to check on them, I found Sarah asleep, with her leg up on the couch and her foot touching Evan’s – just to make sure he was there! 🙂

We were registered for the 5k this year, as none of us has been training seriously. D’Arcy had hopes of running the half marathon this year, but injured a muscle in his leg back in March and has been having trouble running. We had breakfast and walked up to the start of the race. Sarah & Olivia stayed with D’Arcy’s parents while they waited for Aunt Erin to pick them up to take them to their “Cheer station”.

We walked up to the start and warmed up with the marathon runners, who started their race ten minutes before we did. Evan grabbed a clapper to run with. We made sure that we knew where to meet after it was over and we were off! Evan shot away from us right away while Alex ran with us for over a kilometre. We told him he could run ahead if he wanted to, so he did. I was pleased with how good the run felt, especially considering the little bit of training I’d done. (To be clear, although I haven’t been consistently “running”, I do walk, and am usually on the move. We don’t spend much time sitting around so it isn’t that I’m totally out of shape…) D’Arcy & I ran together until we got to Citadel Hill. I knew I couldn’t run up that hill, so walked it quickly. I have asthma, and could feel my breathing getting quite tight. D’Arcy waited for me at the top, and stayed with me until my wheezing subsided and I was running again.

One of my favourite things about the new course was running Citadel Hill. Although it was a daunting task to run up, the views were beautiful, and seeing the route lined with Highlanders in full costume, high-fiving runners as they passed by,  had this tourism junkie a bit emotional! Nice touch!!

I joked with a man who had stopped to walk, asking if he thought we’d be disqualified if we rolled down the hill instead of running it? He giggled and I smiled. Once the Citadel was conquered, the race was almost over.  As we ran down the hill past Centennial Pool to the finish, I spotted the 21km sign for the half-marathoners. I quipped to the girl running beside me, “21k, so that’s why I feel like this! We’re not doing so bad!” She laughed. The feeling of camaraderie along the route is something really special. I really appreciated the people lining the streets, cheering the runners on! Two of my favourite signs were, “Run like you stole something!” and “Way to Go Random Stranger!”

I was fading by the time I got to that slight incline that leads to the finish, but pushed through. I heard D’Arcy & Evan cheering for me and spotted them at the line. We found Alex waiting by the medals for us, and we went into the Metro Centre. Evan was nowhere to be found, but we weren’t too concerned. We got some chocolate milk and a cookie, and chatted with some other runners. We looked up our finish times, and although none of us had a personal best, we were all pleased with our times:

Evan MCDONAH, Truro, 391/2002, Time 0:28:38.8, Pace 5:44, Category M 15 and Under 58/100, Gender 221/574

Alexander MCDONAH, Truro, 604/2002, Time 0:31:05.2, Pace 6:14, Category M 15 and Under 68/100, Gender 290/574

D’Arcy MCDONAH, Truro, 696/2002, Time 0:31:55.7, Pace 6:24, Category M 40 – 49 61/119, Gender 318/574

Anne MCDONAH,  Truro, 759/2002, Time 0:32:42.8, Pace 6:33, Category F 30 – 39 108/406, Gender 423/1417

After a half an hour with no sign of Evan, we started to get slightly worried. After 45 minutes, we started looking for him. Surprisingly, D’Arcy was more worried than I was. I knew that Evan knew where we were supposed to meet, and reminded myself that he had gone to Brazil without us! It turned out that he hadn’t realized that Alex had crossed the finish earlier, so he was still outside, waiting to cheer his brother on at the end! When it became apparent that the 5k runners were winding down, he came in and found us!

D’Arcy & Alex had massages, and then we walked to the Cheer Station for the marathoners to meet up with Erin, Sarah & Olivia. We stayed there until lunch time, cheering the runners on, passing out jelly beans, oranges, and wet sponges. It was a lot of fun!!

We went back to Grandma & Grandpa’s for lunch, then packed up and came home. I was exhausted and had a hard time keeping my eyes open, but went to sleep with a smile on my face.

It was a great weekend and a family “tradition” we plan to continue!

Grandpa, smiling at 7am, despite being invaded for the weekend!

Bluenose 2012 – runners & cheerleaders at 7am!

Just before the 5k start

Waiting for the race to begin!

Sarah, passing out jelly-beans to the half-marathon runners

D’Arcy & Olivia cheer on the marathon runners

The Halifax Running Club Cheer Station – handing out oranges, jelly beans, and wet sponges

Fun at the Cheer Station, D’Arcy’s cousin, Lynn on the right

Alex & Olivia hand out sponges to runners

The Halifax Running Club Cheer Station

D’Arcy’s sister, Erin, cheering on the marathon runners

Chatting with D’Arcy’s brother, Brian, a course marshall.

Evan & Olivia refreshing & encouraging runners.

To see our full gallery of photos, please click here.

To see all Bluenose Marathon Finish Results, please click here.

We’re Reducing our Ecological Footprint!

First of all – great news!! We’ve made it to the Top 3 Bed & Breakfasts in the Truro & District Chamber of Commerce’s  “Best of Colchester” awards. Congratulations to Eagle’s Landing B&B and Mrs. O’Leary’s B&B who join us – we’ll find out the winner at dinner on June 7th. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for us – we are so grateful!!

Renovations are going well. We are slightly behind schedule, but I’m still holding out hope that we will be finished by Wednesday at the latest, as planned. We received the written report of our energy audit in the mail this week. A lot of it is somewhat difficult to understand (for me – D’Arcy the Science teacher understands the abbreviations and measurements) but I do get the gist of the important information:

  • The blower door test produces a standardized measure of the air tightness of a home, and provides a number which represents the number of times all of the air inside your home would be replaced with outside air in a one-hour period if the wind were blowing at about 56kph (35mph).  Ideally, the air in your home should be replaced with outside air once every three hours. Our home replaces our inside air with outside air 9.11 times PER HOUR!!  No wonder we rarely get colds or flus!! Lots of fresh air here!
  • The Equivalent Leakage Area (sq.in) is a theoretical measurement of all the air-leakage areas in a home. The report says to “Think of it as a single hole through a wall equivalent to the area of all the gaps and air leakage places in your home. (For reference, an 8” diameter hole would have an area of 50 square inches.) Our home’s ELA? 801.9 square inches!! That’s the equivalent of a 5.5 square foot hole in the side of our home. Or, if you’re visual like I am, it would be the same as having no glass in our den window:

Thank you for the visual D’Arcy – you’re a great teacher!

So, as you can see, we really did have our work cut out for us. Last Thursday & Friday, MJM Energy came and blew 800 cubic feet of cellulose insulation into the sloped walls of our upper floor where there had been none.  The guys were fantastic – flexible, accommodating, and understanding of working around our guests.  The insulation was blown in from the exterior of our home as we are getting our roof re-done as well, so it was easier all around.

We had a very small window of opportunity without bookings to get this work completed. The workers have all been teasing me because I have everybody lined up just so, with little room for error and no time for rain! We officially closed our B&B to guests on Sunday night, and first thing Monday morning, phase 2 began.

D’Arcy had spent Mother’s Day weekend preparing the basement to be insulated. This meant that everything had to be moved 4ft away from the walls, some walls had to be opened up and some ceiling had to come down. D’Arcy called me from school on Friday at lunch and said, “As long as we’re going to be moving everything anyway, why not have a yard sale – tomorrow?” So we did. As an aside, our girls had their first lemonade/iced tea/coffee stand at the yard sale and raised over $50 for the new Truro Hospital!

The entire content of our basement, pushed into one pile. (Please don’t mind the mess!)

The stone walls of our basement foundation before.

Chad, from MJM Energy arrived first thing Monday morning and blew on a closed-cell polyurethane foam directly to the entire foundation and up into the headers, then covered it with a fire-retardant coating. It looks kind of space age down there now, but luckily I don’t have to go down into the basement too often! 😉

An example of what the foam looks like now.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Gordon & Chris from Apple B Contracting had started shingle-ing the South side of the roof (our backyard). What a job they had cut out for them due to the slopes & height of our roof. We chose slate gray shingles, not to be confused with gray slate shingles! I had wanted to put on a slate roof, but due to its size, was told “NO”… These shingles, however, offer a lifetime warranty, so I’m glad that we like them! It took from Monday until Wednesday to get the South side of the roof done, but they had to cut around two windows, work in the L-shaped corner, and deal with the staging. We figured that section probably amounted to 1/3 of the roof. They moved around to the front of the house on Thursday & Friday, and I think the neighbours were happy to finally be able to see what, exactly, was happening.

They have been doing a fantastic job and we are really pleased! They are accommodating and pleasant to work with. They understand that we are on a tight timeline and work from 8am – dark each day. We had a small glitch in the front, when they discovered that some of the roof’s boards were rotten, so they replaced those.

On Friday, Mark & Kevin from Advanced Solutions arrived to install our solar hot-water panels! So exciting. We’ve been told that these panels will provide up to 75% of our domestic hot water (showers, laundry, dishwasher) during the course of a year. And you can just imagine – we use a LOT of hot water between our family and the B&B!!

It was great fun to watch them lift the panels onto the roof.

The boom truck gets ready to lift the panels up to the roof. Each panel weighs approximately 100lbs.

Ready to go…

On the way up…

Grab it! Good view of what the old roof looked like!

Maneuvering the solar panel safely onto the roof.

The solar panels in their final resting place on the South roof, over our Minuet room. (And isn’t that new roof pretty?!)

They have run most of the piping through the house (D’Arcy knocked out the closet wall in the Serenade room to make it a bit easier for them.) They’ll be back on Monday to get it all hooked into the hot water system. D’Arcy spent last night putting the gyproc  back up in the closet and I have the rest of the room torn apart to get it house cleaned. The Serenade room also had developed a cracked bedroom and bathroom window over the years, so we’ve taken the opportunity of replacing the glass in those windows while the staging is up!  D’Arcy is outside doing that as I type.

Especially lots of fresh air in here at the moment! 😉

Inside, I’ve been getting lots of housecleaning and organizing accomplished, while my dad has been helping me out doing some painting. The boys have been put in charge of yard work, so it’s a real family affair. I’m happy to report that things have been generally going as smoothly as possible and we are happy to know that through these renovations we are reducing our Ecological Footprint in a BIG way!! They can’t help but make a difference!

We’re been disappointed to have to turn away a number of rooms this week, but look forward to re-opening on Wednesday with a refreshed look!

Have a great long weekend – I’d better get back to work!

17th Annual Recognition of Excellence Certification Dinner (Photos)

I joined the Board of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) four years ago. Each year, my favorite event to attend has been the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council’s (NSTHRC) Annual Recognition of Excellence Certification Dinner. This year was extra special, as I received National Certification as a Tourism Trainer.

One of the reasons I love this evening so much is because many of the front-line tourism ambassadors in the province are able to attend. This year, 195 individuals were recognized for achieving certification in the following occupations: Food & Beverage Manager, Front Desk Agent, Guest Service Attendant, Heritage Interpreter, Housekeeping Room Attendant, Reservation Sales Agent, Sales Manager, Supervisor, Taxicab Limousine Driver, Tourism Visitor Information Counselor, and Tourism Trainer.

A few fun facts:

  • Nova Scotia has more Nationally Certified Tourism Professionals than any other province in the Canada
  • Nova Scotia has over 1,000 Nationally Certified Taxicab Limousine Driver
  • Nova Scotia is the only province which invests to ensure 100% of their Tourism Visitor Information Counselors in the provincial Visitor Information Centres are nationally certified!
  • Twelve Nova Scotian employers were recognized this year as having over 60% staff with national certifications!

To receive my certification, I was required to have completed a certain number of hours training people to be tourism professionals. These were attained through my Tourism Management Faculty position at the Nova Scotia Community College during the past two years. Then, in late March I had a classroom evaluation. This involved Lisa, manager of the NSTHRC,  actually coming into my classroom and observing me “in action” while I taught a class.  I then wrote a two hour exam, and completed a case study.

The dinner was held this year at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax. Since Halifax is only a one hour drive from the Belgravia, D’Arcy & I hopped in the car after school and made our way there. There was a reception for the first hour, where we mingled with other recipients and tourism professionals, and then we were treated to a wonderful dinner. Yum! The food and service at Casino Nova Scotia were fantastic! The menu was as follows:

Appetizer – Spinach Salad – baby spinach served with mandarin orange segments, topped with toasted almonds and dressed with ponzu vinaigrette.

Entree – Stuffed Chicken with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato and a peach coulis – served with Chef’s Potatoes and Vegetable

Dessert – Peach Cobbler – baked in brown sugar and ginger

Wine – Jost Vineyards Seyval Blanc & Prima Rosa

There was a musical performance to signal the beginning of the evening with photos of Nova Scotia flashing in the background. No matter how many times I watch a presentation like that, I get chills! There were speeches before the dinner by the Glenn Squires, chair of the NSTHRC, and the Hon. Percy Paris, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. Bhreagh MacDonald, Cabot Links Resort (receiving certification as a Tourism Supervisor), spoke of what receiving certification means to her. Garrett Gloade, from the Glooscap Heritage Centre (receiving his certification as a Heritage Interpreter) performed a blessing.

After dinner, the certifications were handed out by Minister Paris, Wendy Swedlove of the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council, and Glenn Squires. There was much cheering and clapping! I was the last of the individuals to receive my certification, as I was the only person receiving Tourism Trainer recognition this year. Lisa (NSTHRC) gave me a touching introduction. It was a fabulous evening and I was extremely proud to be part of it.

The following are some photos that D’Arcy was able to take for me. There was a professional photographer there as well, so hopefully I will receive some of those at some point too.

With Garrett Gloade, Certified Heritage Interpreter

A little bit embarrassed by all the nice things Lisa was saying about me as I was called up to receive my certification.

Joking with the Minister as the presentation was made.

Hon. Percy Paris, Anne McDonah, Wendy Swedlove, Glenn Squires

Joyce Mingo, receiving Property Recognition on behalf of the Glooscap Heritage Centre.

With my generous MLA, Lenore Zann, who came to support both Garrett & myself. She brought me a certificate of congratulations – thank you Lenore!

With Danny Bartlett, Chair of TIANS

With my biggest supporter!

Dannty Bartlett, Chair of TIANS, Anne McDonah, Belgravia Bed & Breakfast, Darlene Grant Fiander, President of TIANS/NSTHRC

With Lisa Dahr, Manager NSTHRC

Some of the TIANS/NSTHRC team – Lisa Dahr, Kieu Lam, Anne McDonah, Lyndsay Leedham, Darlene Grant Fiander. How lucky the Tourism Industry is to have these women among its champions!!

I cannot thank the TIANS/NSTHRC team enough for their support and encouragement through this process! I look forward to using my certification to encourage and support the amazing people who work the front lines of the Tourism Industry, impressing our visitors and building our beloved Nova Scotia brand.

“Belgravia Even Better the Second Time”

We’re always happy to receive positive reviews on various social media sites, especially sites like Trip Advisor. More and more, travelers are using the internet as a tool to find out how others’ experiences were at a property before they book. We were delighted to receive notification of a new review this morning:

“We had an opportunity to visit Anne & D’arcy and their lovely family for a second time, two years after our first enchanting visit in 2010. It only gets better at this beautiful accommodation. We were greeted like old friends, got to enjoy a different view from another of their pretty suites, and as mentioned by several others, enjoyed their amazing breakfast and company in a stunning dining room. East coast hospitality at its finest! The Belgravia will definitely be our accommodation of choice when we’re next in Nova Scotia.”

Thank you Raina! We do feel like old friends now and look forward to seeing you again the next time you’re in Nova Scotia! Hopefully it will be warm enough to sit on the deck instead of in front of the fireplace! 🙂