What happens when things go wrong?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that “life happens”. Depending on the situation, it can make things really complicated when you have a house full of paying guests. The charm of choosing a bed & breakfast means that you are staying in our home. All B&B’s in Nova Scotia by regulation are owner occupied. When we say you will receive an authentic experience, we mean it! In the ten years we’ve had our bed & breakfast, luckily there have only been a handful (or two) of times when things have gone “wrong”.

We brought an early newborn Sarah home from the hospital on Hallowe’en night 2004 to an almost full house. Those guests I’m sure will never forget the excitement of the two little boys welcoming their sister, carving pumpkins, and going trick-or-treating! (Although, as I tell my tourism students, that’s not an experiential tourism activity I’m willing to repeat!) 😉

Rooms after Hurricane Juan when we had no power for five days? Our German guests proclaimed that they “take cold showers anyway”. Breakfast on the barbeque and evenings by candlelight were a novelty – and dare I say, fun?!

Six months of strict bedrest while pregnant? The rest of the family stepped in.

A phone call that a motorcycle accident claimed the life of a cousin as we had breakfast plates in hand, ready to serve? We put on our “stage faces” and grieved when our guests had departed.

Scarlet fever in the house? We called our guests and found alternate arrangements before they arrived.

Anaphylaxis while a party is happening? One of us stays to “host” while the other sneaks out the back door to the hospital.

One of our favourite (maybe not the proper choice of words?!) stories is the time I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic when we had a full house. I lost all feeling in my arms and legs. D’Arcy called 911 and the paramedics carried me through the hallway and downstairs to the ambulance in the middle of the night while I shushed them the entire time. One of them asked, “What’s the problem? Is this a boarding house or something?” Our guests had no idea!

Last night, we had a new experience. Our youngest daughter was sick. She was running a fever and her breathing was labored. It didn’t take long to realize she had moved from “bug” to “sick”; she was really struggling to breathe. Our previously booked guests (from Australia) were already checked-in and were on their way to go Tidal Bore Rafting. I told D’Arcy that I thought we needed to get her checked, so he drove us to the hospital (holiday Monday), leaving our boys in charge.

We had just been admitted to triage when my phone buzzed. It was Evan (our 14 year old) and his text read, “We have drop-ins”. D’Arcy left us and ran home quickly, to find that Evan had already taken the new guests on a tour, and signed them in! He said he “wasn’t comfortable” but did his best! 🙂

It turned out that Olivia was admitted to hospital immediately with bacterial pneumonia and the rest of us went into overdrive, making and changing plans. My dad came to our house to chat with guests  while D’Arcy looked after supper, bedtimes, and getting ready for a substitute at school today. The plan was made that I was going to take the night shift at the hospital and he was going to relieve me in the morning.  Our guests may have found it odd that a 14-year-old let them in, but I don’t think they realized the busyness or stress behind the scenes until D’Arcy admitted to them this morning that he was on his way to the hospital to be with his daughter.

We recognize that you go on vacation to leave the world behind and we do our best to ensure that happens when you stay with us. It’s just that sometimes are easier than others! 😉

Olivia is home now. Although not perky yet, the IV antibiotics helped. She’s a real trooper and didn’t cry or complain at all while we were there. (Other than telling me she wanted to go home.) That being said, our own beds feel really good tonight!

Olivia in the Truro hospital, on IV antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia. Yes, she wore her Bluenose Marathon Youth Run shirt each day from Saturday to Tuesday!

Olivia in the Truro hospital, on IV antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia. She’s worn her Bluenose Marathon Youth Run shirt each day from Saturday to Tuesday!

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Taste of Nova Scotia Porridge Bread (Recipe Included)

Breakfast by request this morning? French toast with fruit and “Acadian Maple” pure maple syrup, made on D’Arcy’s porridge bread. This is a recipe we discovered years ago in our “Taste of Nova Scotia” cookbook and D’Arcy makes it at least once each week, usually twice. Described as, “a wonderfully fragrant, soft brown bread”, it gets rave reviews by all. We often make this bread for the kids’ teachers as thank-you gifts, and one teacher in particular has come to the house offering to pay D’Arcy to make it for him! For the record, I like it best when it’s still warm from the oven and slathered with butter and molasses!

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Recipe by Taste of Nova Scotia:

Porridge:

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats

Bread:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 cups porridge
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 7 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

In a saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil; add rolled oats and bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set porridge aside. In a small mixing bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water; add yeast and let rise until foamy. In a large mixing bowl, blend together porridge, brown sugar, oil and molasses. To porridge mixture, add yeast mixture, stirring to combine. Add flour 1 cup at a time, stirring to blend well, and continue to add flour until dough starts to come clean from the sides of the bowl but is not dry. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and somewhat elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. (60 – 90 minutes).

Punch dough down and divide into six equal pieces. Shape into loaves and place two loves each into three greased 10 – x 6-inch double bread pans. Cover and set aside to rise in a warm draft-free place until double in size, approximately one hour. Bake in a preheated 325*F  oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until loaves are golden brown. Makes three double loaves.

** If you are so inclined, we’ve been nominated as Best Bed & Breakfast in the Truro & Colchester Chamber’s 2013 “Best of Colchester” awards. Voting takes place until May 15th. We’d be so grateful if you’d click on the website and vote for “Belgravia” as “Best B&B” up to five times per IP address. You do not need to register, nor do you need to vote in every category. Thank you in advance!

Best of Colchester Award voting

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

The more things stay the same, the more they change?

D’Arcy & I are both teachers. He teaches in the public school system and I am faculty in the School of Business at the Nova Scotia Community College. When we began our B&B ten years ago (I can’t believe we’re at the beginning of our 11th season!!) D’Arcy commuted to Halifax during the school year as a permanent teacher with the Halifax School Board. I was a “work-at-home” mom, and running the B&B was my full time job. Back in 2003, my dad had just retired from his career with Lafarge, and my mother was still teaching primary. My dad has been involved with our B&B from the very beginning, as has Lori, who helps out on Mondays and Thursdays.

D’Arcy made the leap in 2006 and started working at a school in our local school board that was half the distance of his commute to Halifax. (One hour drive from Truro – Halifax.) He worked at that same school for five years, and earned a permanent position in the local school board. Wanting to be rid of the daily commute all together, two years ago he was able to secure a position at a school just a five minute drive from home. At the time, I was working at the Truro campus of the college, which is located just 1km from our home; an easy walk.

Last year at this time, my term position at Truro Campus ended and he got caught up in the cuts that the local school board were forced to make. Because he has a permanent contract, he is guaranteed a job, we just weren’t sure where in the Board which runs from Amherst to Pictou, and as far South as Elmsdale. As it turned out, he was placed in a position at a school in Pictou County, about a 45 minute drive from our home. Shortly after, a continuing full-time position came available that I was qualified for at Pictou campus, and since I knew D’Arcy was driving that way anyway, I applied for it and won the competition.

So, long story short, we have both been teaching in Pictou County this year and have loved it. We hired our neighbour, Ruthanne, this Fall to help out with breakfasts and cleaning on school days, and my dad still loves to come and welcome guests at arrival and chat over breakfast, helping to plan itineraries. D’Arcy & I enjoy making the 45-minute commute together daily; (“Best carpool ever!”) having the time in the car together to talk without any other distractions, and we are both really happy at our respective schools.

We weren’t sure what this year’s round of hiring in the public school system would bring, but on Friday we received the wonderful news that D’Arcy has been hired for next year in a position at his same school and will now be attached to that school. For the first time in ten years, we know where we’ll both be for the foreseeable future. The school where he works is actually a school that is growing in numbers (many of our rural schools have declining populations) so his position should be secure even if there are future cuts.

Stability – a new concept in the McDonah household!

People have been asking if we will sell our home & business and relocate to Pictou County. The answer is no. We love our home and our business and love the community we have in Truro. I grew up here. My parents still live here. Our children are settled in great schools, involved in so many activities, and have wonderful friends. D’Arcy’s brother and his family live on the other corner of our street. Although it is expensive to drive, at least we are commuting together and can remain a one-vehicle family for now.

Will we still operate our B&B? Absolutely! A reason our bed & breakfast has been so successful is because we love what we do. We really love welcoming guests from around the world into our home and getting to know them. We love to show-off our beautiful province to people, whether it is the first or tenth time they’ve been here. We love discovering connections and making relationships with people. Most of all, we’re proud to be a local business that supports the local economy in our community.

We will have to look at how things might change. We have already stopped hosting events such as weddings and parties, and no longer cater private lunches and dinners. Perhaps we’ll eventually turn into a more seasonal operation… These changes remain to be seen after we have some discussion this summer.

What we do know for now is that we are open for business and in full swing for the 2013 tourist season already. Our weekends in May are  filling up and summer reservations are coming in steadily. It’s shaping up to be a great year and our whole team – myself, D’Arcy, Dave, Deanna, Lori, Ruthanne, and the kids –  looks forward to welcoming many familiar faces, and meeting new friends this summer!

Belgravia Bed and Breakfast website.

Oh, the stories!

What do you get when you fill a church hall with a group of B&B owners? Stories! Lots & lots of stories!

Yesterday, D’Arcy & I attended the annual general meeting of the  Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association. Each year, the meeting is held in a different part of the province, and this year, we gathered in beautiful Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Because we’re both teaching in Pictou this year, we did not make it to Lunenburg yesterday for the B&B tours and social time, which is one of my favourite activities. Instead, we got up early in the morning and drove to the South Shore.

It was a beautiful autumn day. We took the newspaper with us and did the crossword as we drove. It takes less than two hours to drive from Truro to Lunenburg and it was a smooth drive.

 
When we arrived at the AGM, we had lots of time to get caught up with other B&B owners from around the province.  It was great! As a rule, B&B operators love to visit, chat, and laugh- you can just imagine the volume when we all get together… The meeting ran smoothly and I enjoyed the opening presentation by Pat Sullivan, Chair of the new Nova Scotia Tourism Agency. I am looking forward to new ideas for tourism unfolding with his leadership. I appreciated the fact that he was realistic, down-to-earth, and approachable.

Pat Sullivan of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency addresses members of the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association in Lunenburg.

The food, provided by John & Tatiana, caterers in Lunenburg was homemade and so full of flavour. John even serenaded us over lunch with his version of “The Water is Wide”, promoting an upcoming concert on December 15th to aid the Lunenburg & Mahone Bay food banks.

He cooks AND he sings! Just wonderful!

Our meeting was led by out-going NSBBA president (and friend) Gerry Mailloux. He received two standing ovations in recognition for all the work he has done for the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association over the years. He & his wife, Ruth, have been running  B&B’s and mentoring perspective innkeepers in the province since 1986. Gerry has been struggling with some health issues this year, so there were some moist eyes in the room as he read his President’s report.

We laughed and carried on as people told funny (and not-as funny) stories about guests and experiences they’d had during the season. It was generally reported that numbers were up and more tourists were on the move again this summer. We swapped recipes and ideas and rejoiced in the announcement of “Baby No-Name (girl) Falkenham”, born to our TIANS Liason, Jennifer, just the day before. We made promises to one another to get together soon.

Before we left Lunenburg to head back to Truro, we stopped to see the newly re-built and re-launched Bluenose II.

The newly re-built Bluenose II with Lunenburg Academy in the background.

It was a wonderful day.

82 Pounds of Food

Earlier this week, D’Arcy and Evan took the food we collected from the McDonah and Clark families during our Thanksgiving Dinner to the Colchester Food Bank, to help those who are not as fortunate as we are. When they had it all accounted for, the donations came in at 82lbs! Thank you again to our families for their generosity!

Evan delivers donations to the Colchester Food Bank.

Thankful to be able to help those in need.

Surf’s Up in Nova Scotia!

Last  March, when our son Evan went on a school exchange to Brazil, one of his favourite, most memorable activities, was the surfing lessons he took. Proclaimed “a natural”, he was anxious to continue surfing in Nova Scotia. We warned him that surfing in Nova Scotia would probably be much different than surfing in Brazil, but he was keen to try.

His 14th birthday coincided with back-to-school for D’Arcy and me, so we promised him that we would treat both him & his brother, Alex, to surfing lessons before the end of the season. Last weekend, with Hurricane Leslie approaching up the Atlantic Seaboard, the waves had been churned up and conditions would have been too wild for our beginners.

This weekend, Saturday dawned bright and beautiful and calm. I made a call to Nico at the East Coast Surf School to see if there might be a possibility of lessons for the boys at the last minute. We had a full-house on Friday, so arranged the lessons for 2 p.m. which would give us enough time to get the rooms changed over. We called my parents and they were happy to come over to welcome guests until we returned. D’Arcy, who is very comfortable in the water, growing up sailing and being a certified scuba diver, was slightly disappointed I hadn’t booked him into lessons as well!

The weather was beautiful and the tide was coming in.As it turns out, the water on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia is warmer now than it is in the summer – we’re spoiled by spending most of our summer water time in the warm waters of the Northumberland Straight on Nova Scotia’s northern coast. The boys were provided with wet suits and Sam took them out for their lessons while we played with the girls on the beach. Sam also declared that the boys were both “naturals” but Evan was frustrated that it was not as easy to surf in Nova Scotia than it was in Brazil – the waves were more powerful…

They had a great afternoon, trying to master the art of “hanging ten”. The best part was that when their lesson was over, they had the use of the boards & wetsuits for the rest of the afternoon. D’Arcy even tried to surf a couple of times while Evan was taking a breather…  I can see that we’ll definitely be trying this again next year!

It’s only a 1 hour and 22 minute drive from Truro to Lawrencetown Beach where there is year-round surfing – an easy day trip from the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast.

Heading into the water at Lawrencetown Beach

The girls kept themselves occupied while their brothers were at their lessons by playing in the surf.

Almost…

So much fun to watch – even more fun to do (from what I’ve been told)!

Regrouping…

Alex is trying to get up…

Wipe out!

Sam shows Evan and Alex how it’s done…

The girls have fun burying Dad in the sand.

‘Return to the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Flooding in Truro

Many people who follow the news have heard that yesterday in Truro, we had the “perfect storm” which created massive flooding in our town. Hurricane Leslie, which hit Newfoundland today, was feeding a low pressure system which stalled over our area. The heavy rain (145 mm+) combined with high tide in an already swollen Salmon River, caused the dykes to be breached and the water to flow into town.

Luckily, at the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast, our guests were warm, cozy & dry and our home was not affected – which seemed amazing because streets very close to us, and the golf course in our neighbourhood were closed. We’ve heard stories about one friend who was rescued from her home by a canoe, other friends who were rescued from their homes in the bucket of a front end loader, and another friend’s son, who was wakeboarding in the flood water in their backyard!

I am happy to report that although this amount of water was a huge inconvenience to many, I have not heard of any injuries or worse – fatalities as a result.

Thank you to past guests, friends & family from away who have contacted us to inquire about our safety – I’m happy to report we’re all just fine!

The Joe Howe Falls in Victoria Park, Truro. Photo Credit: Truro Parks & Recreation

Fletcher’s Restaurant, located just down the street from us. Photo credit: Robb Scott

A lake at the Truro Golf Club – located on the other end of our block. Photo credit: Truro Golf Club

The first time I’ve ever seen so much flooding at the Truro Golf Club – located at the opposite end of our block. Photo credit: Truro Golf Club

Lorne Street looking South. Stanfield’s Factory on the left, the Stadium and High School on the right. Needless to say, all were evacuated! Photo credit: Tim Roland

The parking lot of the mall on Robie Street last night; this is the main artery in and out of Truro. Photo credit: Bobby Harroun

A friend’s son, wakeboarding in their backyard. Notice the water is as deep as the trampoline is high. Photo credit: Susan MacQuarrie