What a day!

Today did not turn out at all as I thought it would. As I type this, I’m actually on a bus traveling from New York City to Ithaca. (Yay for wi-fi on busses in the US!) we had a full house this morning at the bed & breakfast and even tried a new egg-free crepe recipe, filled with tomatoes, chives, basil, arugula and baby spinach, and herb & garlic cream cheese. The guests who chose it declared it a winner.

After breakfast was finished, D’Arcy and the kids loaded into the car to take me to the Halifax Stanfield International airport, 45 minutes from home, so that I could go to Cornell University to take the third course in my certification in Strategic Hospitality Management. The course I’m taking during the next week is called, “Strategic Financial Management for Hotels”.

The drive to the airport was uneventful, and we got there in enough time that we could check in and then watch planes take off from the observation deck. It was raining fairly heavily. I had a asked Our 14 year old to re-explain the Bernoulli Effect to me again last night, as I was a bit worried about the weather. I told him i was nervous about flying in lightening and he advised me to choose an aisle seat. My family walked me to security when it was time and we said our goodbyes with many hugs and kisses.

I had packed very carefully to ensure I would not have to Check my luggage. As I went through the scanner, it beeped and I was told I had been selected for a random check. I was given a choice of having a pat-down or going into the full body scanner. I chose the scanner. It turned out I had my glasses on my head and they were what set it off, luckily, the security agents decided I looked harmless enough and sent me through without any further questions.

When I got through security, I met up with Loretta, who took the same course as I did two summers ago, and who was on my same flight. We chatted a bit about our quick connection time in Newark (we had a half hour scheduled to land and change terminals) but hoped all would go smoothly. In no time at all we were boarding the flight.

The plane was a small one. I’m not sure how many rows, but I was in a seat by myself and there were two people in the aisle across from me. I had a glass of wine (free!!)!and it tasted good! I did my homework readings and then shut my eyes for a bit. The pilot had anticipated a smooth ride and once we were above the level of the clouds, the sunshine was beautiful! He even thought we would arrive in Newark ahead of schedule! I was pleased with how well things were going.

About half an hour before we were scheduled to land, the pilot announced that he had been told to reduce speed and anticipated some bumps as we descended. He wasn’t kidding! We had one drop that caused most people to let out a gasp and I was happy I had kept my seatbelt on! It was really beautiful, however, as we flew by the New York City and I was able to spot the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty.

Loretta and I rushed from one terminal to the other, happy that we were going to make it in time. When we got to the gate, it read “to Albany”. I asked the lady at the ticket counter if the gate for our flight had been changed, and she replied, “Your flight has been cancelled due to lightening!” Ugh. She directed us to customer service where we waited in a liane for an hour-and-a-half. There were other people who were in the same predicament as we were. We spoke with a grad student who was in line ahead of us and he had been able to get his flight changed fly to Syracuse at 9:00 pm, and then planned to rent a car for the hour from Syracuse to Ithaca. We tried to do the same when we got to the counter, but were told he had booked the last available seat. We were rebooked on a flight to Ithaca that was not due to depart Newark until 2:15 tomorrow AND to rub salt in the wound, United Air was not willing to refund any part of our ticket price, nor were they contributing to food or hotel for the unexpected layover, not to mention the hotel room we had booked and would not be sleeping in. Humph.

A couple who had been behind us in line (going to visit his mother and sister in Ithaca) ended up at the agent next to ours. I happened to look over and ask if they’d had any luck with an alternate arrangement and they said that their agent had just booked them on the evening flight to Syracuse. My “Amazing Race Adventure” turned sour in that moment. I took down our agent’s name and will mention the incident when I contact their customer service department. Perhaps I should have dropped Dave Carroll’s name…

We talked to some others who were in the same boat and heard about the “Cornell Bus” that runs between Cornell campuses. It was $82.50 each, but left Manhatten at 7 pm and would drop us off at our hotel on campus just before midnight. I went outside to call (no wireless or cell service in Newark) and we got the last two seats! Phew! We took another bus into the city which was about a 45 minute ride and cost $16 each. I couldn’t help but think how our guests would love the opportunity to take a bus from the airport to Truro for only $16!!

We checked in at the Cornell Club, located at 44th Street and Madison Avenue, and left our bags while we went to a pub close by to grab a glass of wine and a quick bite to eat. We were right next to Grand Central Station. We got back to the bus in good time and boarded to make sure we didn’t lose our seats. I have to admit it was fun to drive through Times Square as well as the theatre district, and see all the hustle and bustle that we normally only see on television.

The bus is extremely comfortable, complete with Keurig, free snacks, and cold drinks. It’s also got free wi-fi, charging stations at each seat, and beautiful views of the New York State scenery. Other than the fact that the day has been much longer than anticipated, it may have turned out better in the long run than I thought it would.

I keep reminding myself that I’m lucky I didn’t have to fly in lightening after all! 🙂

By the way, I have been in contact with home and D’Arcy is enjoying a full house tonight. Please excuse the mistakes. This is my first blog post via ipad and it’s been written on a comfy, but bumpy bus. 🙂









The most wonderful (and busiest) time of the year…

Things at the Belgravia are busy these days. We have had an exceptionally busy June, welcoming guests from-  literally – all over the world. At the same time, as a family of two teachers and four school-aged kids, we’re wrapping up the end of the school year. (Friday, June 28th is the last day of school, but who’s counting?!) We’ve been attending band concerts, piano recitals, dance recitals (highland, jazz, and ballet), cast parties, and awards ceremonies. Graduation at the college took place on Friday, and Alex sang at the Convocation ceremony. In the midst of all this, Olivia ended up back in the hospital with double pneumonia, Sarah had to have dental work done (including an extraction) and I completed two more courses for my Adult Education diploma. (I got a 95 in one, but haven’t received the mark for the other yet!) Oh yes, we also celebrated my birthday and Father’s Day.

Next week, the boys have their school awards and final band concert. Evan applied for his first job yesterday, so is anxious to hear about that and hoping to start soon. I’ll be attending a course all week this week, but at least it’s taking place here in Truro, so I won’t be commuting to Pictou daily. I’d like to say I’m looking forward to the lazy days of summer, but that doesn’t seem to be our style…

A few photos from the past month:

Sarah & Olivia before their dance recital. Olivia (ballet) Sarah (Jazz).

Sarah & Olivia before their dance recital. Olivia (ballet) Sarah (Jazz).

Olivia ended up back in the hospital for a couple of nights with double pneumonia after her dance recital, hence the breathing mask and full makeup!

Olivia ended up back in the hospital for a couple of nights with double pneumonia after her dance recital, hence the breathing mask and full makeup!

A 5km family run/bike ride along the Bay of Fundy on Father's Day

A 5km family run/bike ride along the Bay of Fundy on Father’s Day

We spent an afternoon swimming and fishing at our property in Tatamagouche.

After the sun finally came out in June, we spent an afternoon swimming and fishing at our property in Tatamagouche.

We were named Best Bed & Breakfast at the Best of Colchester Awards, sponsored by the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce.

We were named Best Bed & Breakfast at the Best of Colchester Awards, sponsored by the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce.

Not to be outdone on the day Sarah had a tooth pulled, Olivia lost her first tooth. The tooth fairy was busy at the Belgravia that night!

Not to be outdone on the day Sarah had a tooth pulled, Olivia lost her first tooth. The tooth fairy was busy at the Belgravia that night!

Alex sang O Canada at the NSCC Pictou Campus convocation ceremony in English, French, Mi'kmaq and ASL on National Aboriginal Day.

Alex sang O Canada at the NSCC Pictou Campus convocation ceremony in English, French, Mi’kmaq and ASL on National Aboriginal Day. Photo taken in my office before the ceremony began.

NSCC Pictou Campus' School of Business Faculty. Photo taken before the start of the 2013 Convocation.

NSCC Pictou Campus’ School of Business Faculty. Photo taken before the start of the 2013 Convocation.

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast Website

Higher Education

Staff & faculty at NSCC Pictou Campus are buzzing with excitement today as we prepare for Convocation tomorrow (June 21st). We’ll have close to 275 graduates crossing the stage beginning at 11:00 AST. Our son Alex has the honour of singing O Canada at the beginning of the ceremony, in English, French, and Mi’Kmaq, and he will sign it with American Sign Language at the same time. The ceremony will be live-streamed via webcast. If you are interested in watching,  you can click on the following link:

NSCC Pictou Campus Graduation

In other exciting news, I just received word that I’ll be attending my third course at Cornell University (Strategic Financial Management for Hotels) during the first week of July, moving me one step closer to completing my certification in Strategic Hospitality Management. I am so thankful to the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Canada Opportunites Agency for this opportunity!

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence,
regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

~Vince Lombardi


Best B&B in Colchester for the fourth time!

I’ve had so much to say in the past week, but it’s been so busy here, I haven’t had a moment to write it down. I’ll try not to be too long winded. Maybe I’ll just send out the biggest piece of news for now:

WE WON BEST BED & BREAKFAST IN COLCHESTER for the fourth year in a row last night! Yippee!

Really? It never gets old. We are so grateful for the support we have from our new guests, returning guests, friends, family, and colleagues. We honestly feel so fortunate that we have so many great quality B&B’s in Colchester County and we all work so well together. When you are surrounded by great quality, it sets the bar high. Since this week has been Tourism Week in Canada, I put in a plug when we accepted our award and reminded the 250+ people in attendance that “Tourism is everybody’s business.” We support local businesses as much as possible and we send our guests to local businesses. Our guests visit  local attractions and restaurants, but also fill up with gas at our gas stations, buy medications at our pharmacies, and pack their coolers at our grocery stores. Each and every interaction they have at these businesses forms their opinion of what Nova Scotians are really like.

We were thrilled to receive this award for the 4th year in a row and would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for us. It means so much!! You can see the complete list of winners by clicking on this sentence.

All of the other news will have to wait until tomorrow – we have to get breakfast organized for a full house…

Proof! Thank you to all who voted!! We think it's beautiful!

Proof! Thank you to all who voted!! We think it’s beautiful!


The Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Learning Empathy

The following article appeared in the Truro Daily News on June 4th, 2013. It’s all about our son Alex’s Grade 6 class, and how almost every student in the class spent a full day in a wheelchair this term to learn empathy for a classmate who experiences life in a wheelchair. On the day Alex spent in the chair a couple of weeks ago, the class traveled by (accessible) bus to a nearby field for the day. Each child wrote a reflection piece after the experience, and Alex stated that he didn’t realize how frustrating it would be, and how much respect he has for Joe. This was a wonderful project and I think the school administration, but especially Ms. Roberts and Joe, need to be commended for offering the students the opportunity to have this valuable learning experience!

“TRURO – Tristan Rollins pushed himself along in a wheelchair and quickly discovered just how difficult it can be.

“It was tough,” he said. “It’s definitely not a walk in the park.”

Rollins spent a day in the chair as part of a project headed by his teacher, Irma Roberts, and one of his classmates, Joe Wood, who has been in a wheelchair since he was seven-years old.

Roberts’ Grade 6 class spent the month of May taking turns spending an entire day in a wheelchair as part of Sensitivity Awareness Month at the school.

Woods, who moved to Truro from Debert this year, came up with the idea and shared it with an educational assistant who works with him, Bernie Mullen.

“I thought it would be a good experience for the other students to see what it’s like to be in a wheelchair,” said Wood.

Mullen thought it was a good idea and passed it along to Roberts. Roberts was able to procure an extra wheelchair through the school and, as it turned out, the students were keen to try it.

They did everything in a wheelchair for the day, including using the bathroom and getting from floor to floor in the school with the help of an educational assistant.

Wood’s classmate, Oliva Neesh, thought spending a day in the chair would be easy because all she would have to do all day is sit. However, she found out there were challenges she wasn’t aware of.

“Sitting in the chair all day was exhausting,” she said. “All I could do was sit down, and I wanted to stretch my legs.”

Dean Sangster is also in Wood’s class. Sangster’s mother who works with people with developmental disabilities and his sister was in a wheelchair for six months due to leg surgery. He thought the experience was “fun” but got frustrated when break-time came around.

“I was in the chair on a real nice day and everybody was running around and doing cartwheels,” said Sangster.

Roberts said all of the students took part in the project except one, and of all the students who tried it, only two didn’t make it through the day in the chair.

“One girl didn’t make it because she wanted to use the steel bars in gym class,” said Sangster.

Wood said he finds other students at the junior high are aware of him and take the time to hold doors open, but outside the school the climate it a bit different.

“People will slam the door on me,” said Woods. “Sometimes that hurts because it hits the end of my toes.”

Wood said he was happy his classmates were interested to see the world from his perspective. He said he wants to help people in wheelchairs later in life through coaching wheelchair sports when he grows up.

“You can play just about any sport in a wheelchair,” he said.

“Except maybe volleyball. I play basketball now, and I’d really like to play floorball.”

“It’s really fun to watch,” added Sangster.

People with disabilities

– About ten per cent of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. They are the world’s largest minority.

– In countries with life expectancies over 70 years, individuals spend on average eight years, or 11.5 per cent of their life span, living with disabilities.

– Only 45 countries have anti-discrimination and other disability-specific laws.

– The World Bank estimates 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people are disabled, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged.

– An estimated 386 million of the world’s working-age people are disabled, says the International Labour Organization. Unemployment among the disabled is as high as 80 per cent in some countries.

Source: United Nations International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

A Special Celebration

Inviting strangers into our home each day, we have to be aware to remain neutral on some topics. Have you ever heard the adage, “don’t discuss politics, religion, or sex” with strangers? We try to live by that. We’re usually pretty good at avoiding these topics, although honestly? One of the most interesting breakfast conversations that’s ever taken place in our ten years of business was at breakfast in the summer of 2008 during the US election before Barak Obama was first elected. We had three couples staying with us and they all had breakfast at the same time. One couple were democrats from the East Coast of the US, one couple were republicans from the Southern US, and the third couple included a  Canadian doctor who had worked in both Canada and the US. Luckily, they were all very respectful of one another, and had some rich discussion.

Although this post’s reason for being has to do with religion, it is really about celebrating family, life, and traditions. I was at a teaching conference last week and the theme was “unity”.  In two days, the line  which resonated with me the most came from keynote speaker, Barry Lewis Greene. “To find unity, we need to celebrate our diversity.” (Paraphrased)

We are bringing our children up in two different churches with very different beliefs. Catholic vs. United Church of Canada. Confusing? Maybe. The “rules” of the two can’t get much further apart. However, we believe the church is the community we build around us; not a particular building, and not the particular “rules” which come from belonging to a certain faith. Both churches teach people to be kind to one another, and do what you can for others. That is how we try to live our lives everyday.

We celebrate diversity – even within our own family.

Yesterday, our daughter Sarah and her cousin Neil celebrated their First Communion at the Catholic Church. It was a special day for them – especially because they got to participate in the process together – and we were pleased to host all three sets of grandparents and both sets of godparents here for lunch afterward. When our boys had their first communion, it took place on a Saturday night and they were able to choose what they wanted us to serve for dinner. Alex chose ribs for his, and Evan (at the age of eight) chose bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin stuffed with scallops! 🙂

Sarah chose make-your-own sandwiches with salads for lunch, so we had ham and chicken, rolls and D’Arcy’s brown bread, and all the fixings: lettuce, cucumber, sweet bell peppers, tomato, black olives, banana peppers, dill pickles, cheese, etc. D’Arcy’s sister Erin brought grilled veggies, and we had a Greek couscous salad, Caprese salad, four bean salad, mango salad with shrimp & chicken (brought by Auntie K & Uncle Hug) and my mother’s famous orange jello salad which the kids request for every family meal! It was a feast!

It was a perfect afternoon. You’d never have known there were eleven kids in the house and outside, they all played nicely together with hardly a peep. The weather cooperated and temperature was just perfect. We had guests drop-in before we had finished the clean-up, but they didn’t seem to mind. After everyone left, we took advantage of the summery weather to run through the sprinkler, and enjoy the boys’ year-end band concert.

It’s all about diversity.

Some photos from our special family day:

Homemade egg, soy, and peanut/nut free cake.

Homemade egg, soy, and peanut/nut free cake.

Our beautiful Sarah, wearing a dress handed down from her cousin Erin, and the headpiece I wore at our wedding dance.

Our beautiful Sarah, wearing a dress handed down from her cousin Erin, and the headpiece I wore at our wedding dance.

Sarah with her godparents, Martha & Stephane. Trivia - Martha grew up in this home. We bought the house from her mother in 2002 and created our B&B.

Sarah with her godparents, Martha & Stephane. Trivia – Martha grew up in this home. We bought the house from her mother in 2002 and created our B&B.

Sarah & Neil, cousins and best friends.

Sarah & Neil, cousins and best friends.

Sarah with her proud parents.

Sarah with her proud parents.

Evan, Alex and Aunt Erin

Evan, Alex and Aunt Erin

The McDonahs

The McDonahs

Sarah and her godmother, Martha. (A much better photo of Martha!)

Sarah and her godmother, Martha. (A much better photo of Martha!)

Sarah and Neil with Grandma and Grandpa McDonah

Sarah and Neil with Grandma and Grandpa McDonah

Sarah with both sets of her grandparents.

Sarah with both sets of her grandparents – how lucky is she?!