Cranial Purge

We are so proud of the way our niece, Emily, is learning to navigate her new normal. We will help spread the word in any way we can!

Tales From Swimmin Hill

I’ve been wondering these last couple days, is this ever going to slow down? Less than a year ago, I’d never even heard of Schwannomatosis, and now it greatly impacts every day of my life. Even aside from the surgeries and their recoveries, I’m in intense, chronic pain most of my waking hours.

It’s limiting how much I can play, or work, or plan. And if you know me at all, you know that I can’t stand to not be working. Ever. I don’t even vacation well because I have this need to always be productive. And here I am, after about thirty minutes of book work for Simply Gorgeous, laying down because I can’t sit up another minute. Bet you can guess that the pain really limits how many games of tag I can get into.

Tough pill to swallow. I know I have tumors all through my…

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The BIG swim!!

Last week, I was lucky enough to have three of my dearest friends together for a sleepover at our place. We talked and laughed and drank wine. We even went to a nearby restaurant’s patio for a bite to eat – how civilized! Karen, Angie, Theresa & I all got to know each other while living together in residence at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) many years ago. (Actually, Theresa & I first met at Piano camp at Acadia University when we were in elementary school, but reconnected at “The Mount”.) Theresa was taking Public Relations, Angie was taking Business Administration, and Karen & I were taking Tourism & Hospitality Management. The four of us have been together through a LOT over the years: jobs, loves beginnings and endings, marriages, long distances (Karen married a pilot and has spent many years based in the Maldives and Sri Lanka), career changes, babies (Theresa & I were in the same hospital together when our Sarah and her triplet boys were born six days apart!), milestone birthdays, awards, the death & illnesses of parents, holidays, new houses, etc. We have the kind of friendship that always picks up right where it left off, and we know that we have each other’s backs – no judgments! Twenty years of friendship has seen a lot of water under the bridge! (Foreshadowing metaphor…)

Getting ready for a charity ball at MSVU; winter 1993.

Getting ready for a charity ball at MSVU; winter 1993.

Twenty years later - older and (hopefully much) wiser.

Twenty years later – older and (hopefully much) wiser.

As much as I love all three of these women, my “Vital Friends“, who each bring something different into my life, this post is about Angie. Three years ago, Angie left her high profile job with a major insurance company, sold her house and belongings, packed everything else she owned into her little car, and drove home to Nova Scotia. She applied to Dalhousie University to study to become an occupational therapist, and was recently valedictorian of her graduating class!! A number of years ago, she became involved with Camp Brigadoon, a summer camp here in Nova Scotia for kids with chronic illnesses, while it was still in the planning stages. In their own words, “Brigadoon is a non-profit recreational facility on Aylesford Lake in the Annapolis Valley. With our partners, we deliver camp programming to children, youth and families living with a chronic illness, chronic condition, or special need across Atlantic Canada. Brigadoon is a place where campers come to experience new things, meet friends who are facing similar challenges, and to just be themselves…not a patient, a chart full of symptoms, or a good little soldier.”

On August 4th of this year, Angie is swimming with 35 other people, across the Northumberland Straight – 14 kilometres – from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island to raise money for this deserving cause.

For the record, this woman does nothing half-way.

Angie’s friend Amanda, who will be her surface support, traveling alongside her in a kayak during the swim, created the following video, which is three minutes long, in anticipation:

For the record, Angie figures it will take her about six hours to complete her swim. Yikes.

Angie’s fundraising goal is $5,000 before she gets in the water, and as of our evening together, she was at just over $3,000. This is a camp that our daughter Olivia, would qualify to attend some day. Every $1,000 raised sends one more child to camp!

To donate, please click on the following link: Angie’s Big Swim for Brigadoon Camp.

Thank you!

Brigadoon Children’s Camp

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast

“Who We Are”

who we are

Our son Alex has been rehearsing with Spotlight Theatre, a local community youth theatre group, for the upcoming production of “Who We Are”. This musical was written and is being directed by local talent, Margot Begin-Gillis (also director of the Truro Dance Academy where our girls dance). It features songs from a number of different musicals as the characters explore many challenging life issues. The show will be performed on July 19th at 7:00 pm, and July 20th at 2:00pm. and 7:00 pm. Tickets ($17) are available at the Marigold Cultural Centre Box Office. We hope to see you there!

Who We Are Promo Video (Did you spot our son, Alex?!)

 

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast

 

Locks of Love -especially poignant today

Today our daughters, Sarah & Olivia, donated their ponytails when they had their hair cut to use to make wigs for kids with Cancer. We currently have some extremely special people in our lives battling this terrible disease, including the two-year-old child of friends and colleagues. We also have some close family members fighting the disease. Today, one of our dearest friends was put into palliative care. And then there is our niece (in law) Emily who does not know what the future holds with her new diagnosis http://swimminhill.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/. We wanted to do something that felt like we were helping and donating their ponytails was something that was age appropriate for the girls and made them feel like they were doing something – even if not for our own family or friends, then for someone who is special to someone else…

Before:

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Olivia after. These are her natural curls…

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Olivia after she had her hair straightened:

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Sarah after. She has very thick, straight hair, so had (some of) her hair curled.

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Beautiful sisters’ new haircuts!

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Two new gluten-free breakfast recipes (Egg & dairy-free too!)

This morning around the breakfast table, we were dealing with gluten-free and egg-free diets, as well as no cheese for another guest. We tried two new recipes, both which were successful. Since I posted the photo on our Facebook page, I’ve had requests for the recipes, and also from the guests, so thought we’d post them here for easy access.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free banana muffins

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free banana muffins

Gluten, egg, and dairy-free banana muffins

Mix the following together with beaters until smooth:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil (we use canola)
  • 2 tsp. egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup water OR 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the following dry ingredients, then add to the wet mixture and stir until moist. Do not over-mix.

  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (We used Bob’s Redmill)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Line muffin tins with papers, divide batter between 12 muffin cups, and bake in 350*F oven for 20 – 22 minutes.

Egg, dairy, and gluten-free crepes

Egg, dairy, and gluten-free crepes

CREPES:

  • 3 Eggs worth of prepared egg replacer
  • 3/4cup rice milk
  • 3/4cup Water
  • 3 TBSP oil (we use canola)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (We used Bob’s Redmill)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 TBSP potato starch
  • 1/2t Salt

Combine together all ingredients in bowl and whisk until combined. Batter will appear deceivingly thin. Cook crepe in hot, oiled frying pan and top with desired filling. This morning we served our egg-free guests crepes filled with asparagus, tomato, basil, chives and boursin cheese; and our cheese-free guest, the same herbs & veggies in scrambled eggs. (Pictured above.)

As you can see from above, these recipes are also soy-free. However, the flour we used (Bob’s Redmill) is processed in a factory that uses soy and tree-nuts, so we consider these recipes both “unsafe” for our daughter.  If we used a different flour, they would be safe.

Please let us know how they turn out for you! We will definitely serve both of these recipes again!

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast

One more course complete

Today is my final morning in New York. Yesterday’s case study group presentation went well and yesterday afternoon I received a certificate stating I completed the course in Strategic Financial Management for Hotels. Near the end of yesterday’s class, our professor stated, “If every guest leaves your property feeling extremely satisfied, the you are over-providing, and not providing maximum value to your owner.” That may be the case with hotels, but as a bed & breakfast, there is a certain pride that goes along with having each of our guests leave our property feeling extremely satisfied, and that goes well beyond monetary value. As a B&B, we are providing a different experience for our guests than a hotel does anyway.

I get a lot out of these courses and am looking forward to sharing some of the tips I learned in this course with my other B&B colleagues, and also with my tourism students at NSCC. Next year, I plan (hope) to come back to Cornell one more time to take the final course to earn my Certification in Strategic Hospitality Management: “Leadership in Turbulent Times”. I’m looking forward to that one already. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but coming here to study has been a “bucket list” item for me, ever since I was earning my Tourism degree in university and used to pour over the Cornell Academic Journals. When I’m here, I soak up as much of the atmosphere and learning as I can!

Presenting our case study in class:

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Receiving my certificate of completion from my professor. This photo cracks me up. Professor Carvell had a great sense of humour. That’s my new friend, Heather, in the back ground laughing too!

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Yay!! Another course (The one I was the most afraid of) completed!!

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After class was finished and we said our goodbyes to those who were leaving, I made a quick trip to the Cornell store to pick up a few little gifts to take home to the kids. I met up with Loretta, my travel partner from Nova Scotia (whom I had hardly seen all week), and Yann from Australia who had been in our class two years ago and whom I sat beside all week this week. We had a drink together with their professor from last year (the new Dean at UNLV) and then our professor joined us. We had some interesting conversation about United Airways and their flights into Ithaca from Newark. Apparently our situation flying in was not unusual…

Loretta and I ended up going upstairs to Taverna Banfi in the Statler Hotel for supper. It was wonderful! The meal and service were fantastic. Loretta & I had a great time chatting and getting caught up. We had two servers looking after us – Kevin and Kari – and they were outstanding. Kevin is in the hospitality class of 2015 and aspires to eventually become the General Manager of a large, full-service property such as the Four Seasons. When it came time for dessert, they brought us a bottle of sparkling wine and some chocolate covered strawberries, on the house. Kari was teasing Kevin that he had a crush on Loretta… 🙂

I’ve eaten at that restaurant each of the three years I’ve been here and it has never disappointed. I recommend it highly and will submit a Trip Advisor review when I get home.

Loretta, Yann, myself, and Professor Carvell:

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My appetizer at Taverna Banfi: lamb meatballs with beets and quinoa. Oh my goodness these were delicious!!

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Loretta and Kevin with dessert:

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Loretta and me at dinner:

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We got back to our rooms at about 10:30 and I got my things organized before heading to bed. D’Arcy has had a couple of late nights and early mornings with guests this week while I’ve been away, so I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy that I’ll be home shortly!

Since my classes at NSCC finished at the end of April, I have completed five courses in my own learning. (I am currently working on my diploma in adult education as well as this certification in Strategic hospitality management.) I have one more paper to complete for one more course which I plan to work on while traveling home today and then I am taking a break from formal learning for the rest of the summer! 🙂

Traveling and Learning

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” ~ St. Augustine

I had the luxury of “sleeping” in until 6am today. As I was waking in my beautiful king-sized bed at the Statler Hotel, here at Cornell University, at home it was 7:00am, and D’Arcy had already served breakfast to a couple who are going Tidal Bore Rafting this morning, and drove our son, Evan (14), to his first “real” job. Today is his first day picking strawberries for Riverbreeze Farm. Evan is saving his money to go to Colombia on an exchange next year with one of our regular guests. I expect that he will find it tough work, but how many other summer jobs finish for the day in enough time to fit in a round of golf with your buddies in the afternoon?!

I have been having a wonderful learning experience here at Cornell this week and can’t believe how fast the time is flying. The setting is idyllic. This is the view from my hotel room window:

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The Statler Hotel is a full-service teaching hotel here on campus, associated with Cornell’s world-renowned hotel school. If only we had a similar facility for our tourism and hospitality management students in Nova Scotia… However, our students at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) have a mandatory six month paid co-op placement which is a requirement for graduation. Our students are employed all across Nova Scotia and Canada.

The course I’ve been taking this week has been enlightening. Our professor, Dr. Steve Carvell, is the Associate Dean of the School of Hospitality here at Cornell and oversees an $80 Million budget. The students here pay $50,000 per year – just tuition for their undergrad degrees in Hospitality Management! I was nervous going in to the course; any of my friends who have known me since my university days know that accounting was never my favourite subject! However, on the first day, Professor Carvell made it very clear that accounting and finance are two very different things – there is never a right or wrong answer in Finance – and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’ll admit that I’m enjoying the course more than I thought I would and everything I’m learning really makes sense, despite being out of my comfort zone. My class is made up of hotel executives from some of the largest hotels around the world and it was important to me to hold my own.

One of the things I love the most at each of the courses I’ve taken here is the diversity of experience in the classroom. This year is no exception, and upon reflection, I think the group dynamic in this classroom is the best I’ve experienced so far. We’ve been broken up into different groups many times, and always different groups which I’ve enjoyed. My group members have been from Dubai, Ghana, Libya, Australia, Utah, China, Peru, Germany, and Austria. Other places represented in the classroom include Japan, Montreal, Morocco, Sweden, Norway, France, Mexico, and Holland. I learn as much from my classmates as I do from the course itself! The networking opportunities are amazing, and in the three summers I’ve been taking these courses, I’ve made not just working relationships, but also friendships that remain.

Time to head to class for another day of learning. I am so grateful to TIANS and ACOA for this opportunity!

First group presentations:

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Celebrating my new friend, Heather’s, birthday on the first night:

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Working on a case study in a hotel lobby in the evening after class. My group members are from Australia, Dubai, Austria (Hospitality faculty at a private university!) and Ghana/Libya:

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