Let’s Never Say Farewell

Disclaimer: This isn’t one of my typical B&B posts.

20 years ago today, a very dear friend of mine was in a car accident and was killed in an instant; I’ll never forget receiving the phone call. Today was a crappy day, weather-wise, and I heard many people complaining about the cold temperatures and freezing rain. It’s not so unusual for April 25 in Nova Scotia.

Tara Lynne Touesnard was just 21 years old and had the world on a string. She was a well respected Nova Scotian fiddler and humanitarian, having been recognized many times. We met at Acadia University on September 4, 1990, her 18th birthday. Years later, my due date with Evan (our first child) was September 4th and I remember thinking throughout my pregnancy how happy she might have been if he had been born on her birthday.

She received the Terry Fox Youth Humanitarian Award in Toronto the year I met her and I remember watching her receive it on television from our dorm at Acadia University in Wolfville. She had already won numerous awards and made various recordings by the time I met her, and had been a cast member in the Cape Breton Summertime Revue.  She was on her way to do a segment on an early morning television show when her car hit black ice and she collided with a tractor-trailer and was killed.

After 20 years, each time I wake up on the morning of April 25, my first thought is still of Tara Lynne and her family. I have thought of her all day.

I leave you with a clip of one of her recordings, “Ashokan Farewell”, recorded in 1992, in River Bourgious, Cape Breton for her album “Bowing the Strings”. When I listen to it, through my melancholy I can still see her vividly – see her smile, hear her laugh, and remember the grace with which her hands moved. Let’s never say farewell…



Feeling Accomplished


As of today, I get to add some new letters to my signature. I’m now Anne McDonah, BTHM, CHGM, TCM

To anyone who’s not in the Tourism Industry, as you read you’re probably wondering what all the acronyms stand for?

BTHM = Bachelor of Tourism & Hospitality Management (Co-operative Education Route and I also took a few extra courses and received a Certificate of Business Administration.)

TCM = Tourism Trainer  (Tourism Certified Manager)

CHGM = Certified Hotel General Manager (Those are my newest letters.)

The TCM which I received in 2012, and the sparkly new CHGM are the “Red Seals” of the Tourism Industry.

From the Emerit website, a description:

“Leadership, budgeting and planning, human resource management, and the ability to put customer service first–do you have the skills it takes to be an effective Hotel General Manager?

Hotel General Managers need to excel at motivating and inspiring employees, while constantly monitoring, evaluating and adjusting all aspects of daily hotel operations. From developing room revenue strategies to monitoring public relations, managing capital projects to creating a guest service culture, effective Hotel General Managers ensure that everything runs smoothly–and generates profit.

The National Occupational Standards for Hotel General Manager include skills, knowledge and best practices in the following areas:

  • Operations
  • Human Resource Management
  • Guest Service
  • Business Management
  • Marketing
  • Leadership 

Professional Certification for Hotel General manager leads to the Certified Hotel General Manager (CHGM) designation, Canada’s first professional credential for the occupation.”

I was approached by the team at the Nova Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC) in March, while D’Arcy was in Brazil, to see if I’d be interested in challenging this certification. The designation is brand new and was designed so that not only managers of large properties would be able to achieve success, but managers of smaller properties as well. The process was thorough and I was on a tight timeline.  To complete the designation, I had to have over 1000 hours of experience, pass a two hour interview (last Wednesday afternoon – that was a lot of talking, even for me!) and pass a 125 question exam with a mark of 70% or more (today).

I had received a copy of the standards a few weeks ago, and when going over them to study, realized that I was either going to know it or not. I contacted a few colleagues from industry and the NSTHRC to try to calm my nerves, wondering if I was really qualified? They assured me I was.

Today was also the last day of the semester for my NSCC students so the past two weeks have been filled with papers, projects, portfolios, and presentations. I was in the classroom for presentations this morning from 8:30 – 12:30, then sat down in our Academic Support Centre at 1:00 to write the proctored test. (And did I mention we’ve had a full house at Belgravia B&B the past couple of nights?) Talk about having empathy for my students – I know exactly how overwhelmed and stressed out they’ve been feeling!

Because it was a computerized test, I received an email on my phone by the time I got back to my office with the news I had passed!!

I’m pretty excited!

I couldn’t have done this without the support of the TIANS and NSTHRC teams who encouraged me and believed in me. We’ve been discussing the Nova Scotian “It’s Now or Never” report in the Contemporary Business Issues course that I teach at NSCC, and recognizing the fact that we need to be working together and we need to be encouraging the Entrepreneurial spirit in our Province. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the investments TIANS and the NSTHRC have made in me/us since we started our B&B in 2003.

I’m also so grateful to my family for all their support and sacrifices to help me succeed. It would not be possible to do the things I manage to accomplish without them. It’s a whole team effort!

The formal recognition of my new credentials will happen at the NSTHRC’s Recognition of Excellence Dinner in Halifax in May.

Do you suppose I can have new business cards printed by then? 😉

With some of the TIANS/NSTHRC team when I was certified as a Tourism Trainer - Lisa Dahr, Kieu Lam, Anne McDonah, Lyndsay Leedham, Darlene Grant Fiander.

With some of the TIANS/NSTHRC team when I was certified as a Tourism Trainer in 2012 – Lisa Dahr, Kieu Lam, Anne McDonah, Lyndsay Leedham, Darlene Grant Fiander.

Easter 2014

It’s been a wonderful mix of work and family this weekend.

This time of year is busy around this house, to say the least! It’s end-of-semester for me at school, and Music Festival for the kids. Throw in a couple of courses I’m taking, spring yard work, and the return of “guest season” and there’s never a quiet moment – we were happy for the forced slow-down that comes with the Easter holiday!

We’re lucky to have D’Arcy’s brother and his family live on our street; the cousins got together on Good Friday and spent some quality time playing outside in the Spring sunshine before we took dinner to D’Arcy’s parents in Halifax. Because all of our days seem to be scheduled with one activity or another, we don’t get there to visit as often as we’d like, so it was nice to be able to take our time and relax with them, having a really great visit. We took lasagna, salad, homemade brown bread and blueberry cobbler. Everything was a hit and we were even able to pack some leftovers in containers and store them in the freezer so that they can have a meal again another time.

The Truro McDonah cousins

The seven Truro McDonah cousins enjoy the Spring sunshine and greening grass

Saturday was a work day. Olivia had been invited to a birthday party at the movie theatre. We have to take some extra precautions at the movies because of her allergies, so we had prearranged with the birthday girl’s parents that one of us would go with her. Because I had a mountain of marking to do, D’Arcy took her and the two of them enjoyed Rio 2. (At least D’Arcy enjoyed the parts he stayed awake for!)

On Easter Sunday, the kids have to wait until all four are up and awake before they’re allowed to go hunt for eggs and that was close to 8:30 this year! Back when Olivia’s food allergy list was extensive (peanuts, treenuts, eggs, soy, dairy, and many fruits as a toddler) there wasn’t any safe candy for her, so the Easter Bunny started to hide loose change in plastic eggs; a tradition which continues. It always amazes me how close their totals end up being – this year the range was only $6.50 between the most and the least. Because we didn’t have any guests, the bunny also set the table in the dining room for brunch and left treats on each plate, as well as nine new fish in the fish tank. Unfortunately, four of them didn’t survive their journey…

About to unlock the door and begin the egg hunt!

About to unlock the door and begin the egg hunt!


Some eggs are easier to find than others


Reading the Easter Bunny’s note and learning about “new friends”


Sarah got a lucky egg – not too many have toonies!


The Easter Bunny set the table!


Some treats at each place – the first time Olivia has ever had a chocolate bunny!

After the hunt was over we had brunch of cinnamon rolls, yogurt, and casserole made from sausage, red pepper, onion, potato, cheese and egg (no egg for Olivia, of course!) before going to Easter Mass. At the church, the kids used some of their Easter money and lit candles for Uncle Dick and Mr. Mailloux, whom they are missing this year!

We spent the afternoon watching curling, playing outside, marking, etc. before going to my parents’ house for dinner. (I may have even had a short nap in a spring sunbeam…)

We had a yummy dinner of roast lamb with a mint/gin gravy (yum!), vegetable casserole, and a stewed tomato dish with lemon dessert.  My mother creates a scavenger hunt for the kids each year, and it was fun now that they can all read and are a little older that the hunt could be more involved. First they had to run all over the house and find magnets that spelled out “Happy Easter”, then they had to each complete a crossword puzzle. Next, they had to pair up into teams with an adult and we competed in a tossing game. That produced lots of laughs as we made up team handshakes. Eventually they each got a gift which they were able to trade with one another. They had little dollar store games in them and were a hit!

The boys share some laughs before dinner

The boys share some laughs before dinner


Ginna tries a new recipe for mint/gin gravy – it’s a keeper!


A beautiful table setting in the Spring sunshine


Easter 2014


Laughs before dinner with a Who Am I? game


A little massage out of the blue!


First task complete!


Reading the next clue




Alex is hard at work, completing his crossword puzzle


Finally they get to their gifts!

It was a wonderful evening and we feel fortunate that we were able to spend quality time with both sets of parents this weekend.

Happy Spring!


Real hands-on learning

One of the core values at NSCC is hands-on learning. Rather than just teaching the learners in our classrooms how to do something, we actually get them to do it. Last night was hands-on learning on a grand scale. Our tourism and culinary teams fed 292 people at a Tribute to the Honourable MP Peter MacKay, with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (or “Ben’s Dad” to some of the students) featured as keynote speaker. Tickets were $300 per plate and it was an event that many of them may never experience the likes of again.

One of the things we teach in our program is confidentiality, so I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that it was a lovely -but long – evening. The Final Touch in Stellarton did a beautiful job of transforming our campus gym into a ballroom, and the tourism class set the tables in blue & white. Attendees began the evening in the cafeteria where the volunteer fire department ran a bar and we served hors d’oeuvres with some live jazz setting the mood. Dinner was a mixed green salad with balsamic vinagrette, boneless cornish game hens stuffed with cranberry rice pilaf and a wild mushroom sauce served with tomato veggie baskets, then lemon meringue cheese cake with creme anglaise and raspberry coulis for dessert.

Some of us did get to meet the former Prime Minister (he came over to me and shook my hand!) and both Jamie Baillie and Peter MacKay were kind enough to join us upstairs in private after the celebration to chat and take photos. Each student will receive a letter from Peter MacKay to put into their Portfolios.

When people ask me what the best part of running a B&B is, my answer is always the people we host. We never know who we will have sleeping in our home, or having breakfast at our table. Over the past 11 years, we’ve had many interesting and accomplished people stay with us and we welcome each and every guest with equal enthusiasm. We had the conversation with our learners that regardless of their own political stripes, each guest needed be treated with respect and discretion. We needn’t have worried. The event went very well and the team rose to the occasion.

Hands-on learning at its best!

Nostalgia in Central Nova

Nostalgia in Central Nova


The lights are up and Kelsey adds final touches to the tables before the guests arrive.


Chef Gilles Godin oversees his learners.


While tourism was prepping the dining room; culinary was prepping the food. (I couldn’t believe how calm it was in the kitchen – what a team!)

Margaret (Office Admin), Heather (Business Admin), Samantha (Office Admin) at the coat check. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Admin

Margaret (Office Admin), Heather (Business Admin), Samantha (Office Admin) at the coat check. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Admin


Table settings before rolls, salads, dressings, menus, etc. were added. The culinary students made NSCC chocolate bars as a take-away favour for each guest.

Michaela, Tourism Management, gets ready to serve. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Administration

Michaela, Tourism Management, gets ready to serve. Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau, Business Administration

Plating 300 desserts

Plating 300 desserts (Photo credit: Deanna Belliveau)


Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, had to leave after his keynote address, but took the time to come and acknowledge us.

Part of the Tourism and Culinary team with Jamie Baillie, Leader of the Provincial Conservative Party

Part of the Tourism and Culinary team with Jamie Baillie, Leader of the Provincial Conservative Party and Senator Tom McInnis


Most of the Tourism & Culinary team (along with Business & Office Administration volunteers) with the Honourable Peter MacKay, Senator Tom McInnis and his wife, Brenda. I made it into this one!


Chef Gilles Godin and the Honourable MP Peter MacKay


Chef Gilles Godin with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney


We are a learning facility. It’s unconventional, but we manage to get the job done. Students, faculty and the Academic Chair working on getting the dishes cleared! (The automotive shop became the dish pit!)

Random Tuesday thoughts in April

In the drafts section of this site, I have a number of unfinished posts. I start to write with good intentions, but then don’t end up publishing them because I don’t have time to write them with the detail I’d like to. It occurred to me tonight that life is busy for everyone, and sometimes snippets are fine.

I’m at the end of the semester at school and we’re all feeling the stress of being down to the wire. With the weather this semester, everyone seems behind and we’re all scrambling to get outcomes finished and work-terms secured before the last day of classes. My 2nd year Business Administration students filled out their “intent to graduate” forms today. These students are special to me because they are my first class from Pictou. I’ve had them for Communications in 1st and 2nd year, Contemporary Business Issues, and some of them in Intro Sociology and Intro Psychology. I’ve gotten to know them pretty well and will miss having them on the campus next year. I’m nostalgic already, so can only imagine how I’ll be by the time graduation rolls around!

I found time in my day to meet with a 1st year BA student and be interviewed about what it’s like to own a bed & breakfast for her Management Principles course. I think the interview was good for both of us. It’s always fun to reflect back on your beginnings and where you’ve come …

We celebrated 50 Years of Learning at Pictou Campus this afternoon and the event was wonderful! We had former staff, faculty, principals, and students attend from over the years. The student council president from 1963 made a speech that was a delight to listen too – everyone was laughing and smiling. Chef & his culinary students had cooked up an amazing variety of foods and four of us who teach in the Tourism Management program provided tray service. I absolutely adore serving people and had a lot of fun!


My “work husband” Rankin, ready to serve. My only photo of the evening as I had no pockets and left my phone in my office while serving.

It was so nice to celebrate all the good things that happen at our campus!!

D’Arcy came to pick me up and we drove home through teaming rain. We’re looking forward to Spring. My mother had fed the children and we had eaten at the reception, so it was an easy supper night – love those!!

I counted my blessings as I listened to the girls reading in their beds and Olivia was spelling the words she didn’t know so Sarah could help her with them. Then, after lights were out, they told knock knock jokes and giggled. I giggled listening to them.

Life is good. Back to work…