20 years later…

Twenty years ago tomorrow (Monday), D’Arcy & I worked the lunch shift together in the downstairs bar at the Granite Brewery in the Henry House in Halifax. We were friends who had been working together for over a year. After our shift finished, we were counting our cash and D’Arcy offered to buy me a Keith’s (beer) for the first time. It still seems strange to me that it was a Keith’s; at that time, we normally would drink Ten Penny or one of the craft beers that were made on the premises.

We had our beer and were standing side-by-side playing the loonies from our tips in the video lottery machines, which was a common practice for waitstaff at that time. As we were playing, I casually mentioned, “I called of my wedding last night”. He was the first person I’d told, other than my parents. His head turned toward me and I’m sure he had a slight smile as he told me he was sorry…

We still refer to that as our first date, although we didn’t actually start dating until a short time later.

Since I go back to school tomorrow, we celebrated our 20 years together this weekend.

By the time school finished in June this year, we were both exhausted. For numerous reasons, last year was difficult and draining for both of us. As we began our vacation, D’Arcy mentioned to me that he needed to get out of his “funk” and that he wanted to use the summer to get back into shape. I constantly am preaching to my college students the importance of good nutrition and exercise on mental health, so readily agreed to support him.

He chose the Cobequid Trail 10km run this weekend as his motivation to get fit, and I volunteered that I would join him. (Misery loves company? I do not love running, but I do love him.)

D’Arcy has spent the summer moving his body – getting up at 5am to go running before we serve breakfast, painting and doing physical work around the house, and going on 16-24km bike rides with me when time allows us to get away. We’ve been eating our main meal mid-afternoon as much as possible with colourful veggies and a fair bit of fish. He’s stopped snacking and stopped finishing the leftovers on the kids’ plates.

I’m proud to say that my husband has lost over 20 pounds this summer and is down to the weight he was when we were married! He would still like to lose another five pounds, but is looking and feeling so much healthier, both mentally and physically.

Last night, we took the night off so that we could leave for the run first thing this morning and not worry about serving breakfast. It was also nice to have a night as a family before I return to school. We walked to one of our favourite restaurants, Bistro 22, for dinner and it was AMAZING!

Although you will never find our meal in any pre-run training manuals, we did not regret it one bit! D’Arcy had a local beer and I had a martini to start, followed by the most delicious mussels we’ve had in years, and spicy lobster cakes, which were the appetizer special. We devoured them so quickly I forgot to take a photo. We ordered a bottle of Blomidon Winery’s “Tidal Bay” white with dinner. I had ordered the halibut which was served on a medley of fresh veggies and potatoes, and D’Arcy had the pork tenderloin special, served with blueberry and hot pepper jelly, potatoes and local veggies. It was all so delicious! Although we refrained from licking our plates, we did clean them as well as we could! We don’t normally order dessert, and we debated whether or not we should… but ended up ordering butterscotch pie and blueberry shortcake – thank goodness we had the (short) walk home to walk some of it off.

The food & service were fabulous, and we had a chance to chat with Chef Dennis when we finished our meal and the restaurant was clearing out. This restaurant in Truro continues to be one of our favourites, where we know the food and service is consistently exceptional.

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Our children were waiting for us when we arrived home (They’d had pizza for supper which they were happy with!) to have a campfire. We lit the fire and sat around, talking, laughing, and star-gazing. It was a beautiful, clear night.

 

We were up early this morning to go out and run the Cobequid Trail run. We all had goals, and I told D’Arcy I was sure we could finish the 10km in under 1:10, despite the fact I hadn’t specifically trained and we had eaten all that food the night before. I knew I was fit enough to run it since we rarely sit down, have been biking up to 24km at a time, and bend and stretch all the time while cleaning rooms.

The boys were running together and Sarah decided last week that she also wanted to run the 5km since she was unable to run the Bluenose 5km with us when she had mono last year. Olivia did not want to run the 5km so she was able to volunteer at the finish, handing runners water and congratulating them as they crossed the line.

I won’t go into too many details of the run, which would probably be boring for anyone who wasn’t there.  We ran it non-stop (except for when grabbing water at the water stops), we ran it together, and my husband – a true gentleman – allowed me to cross the finish line first. Our 5km racing children were finished long before we were, so were close to the finish line to cheer us along. I loved it, but it also impacted me emotionally (I was already pushing myself) and I found I couldn’t look at them or I was going to start to cry, which made me start to wheeze.

When it was tough for me along the route and I wanted to slow down and walk, I channeled my friend, Kirby Coolen, who is currently hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, on a pilgrimage as he transitions from teaching to retirement. I will miss him so much at school, and figured if he can hike almost 800km, I could dig deep and run 10km!

It was fun to cross the finish line and have Olivia hand me a glass of water and give me a kiss. Our chip times ended up being 1:05:35 and 1:05:36. The boys were disappointed with their times as neither had a personal best. Sarah, on the other hand, was thrilled with her time and her experience running her first 5km.

Alex left us shortly after the finish to go zip lining with his friends, and we capped off our 20 years together celebration weekend by renewing our life-insurance policies for another term. So romantic!

Here’s hoping that at 20 years together, we’re not even half-way!

 

 

 

 

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Traveling with Food Allergies

Did you know that Belgravia Bed & Breakfast is the only accommodation in Nova Scotia that advertises as “Peanut & Tree nut Free”?

This came about after our youngest daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies when she was just ten months old. Initially her list of allergies was long: peanuts,  tree nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, cinnamon, banana, avocado, kiwi, strawberries, celery, citrus, pineapple, blueberries, grapes, melon… The only fruits she could have were canned peaches, pears and applesauce. It was overwhelming at first and we had to learn a whole new way of cooking and baking. Luckily, our baking was mostly homemade due to the quality of breakfast we provide at our bed & breakfast anyway, so we just had to modify some recipes, not learn how to bake from scratch…

Traveling still makes us nervous, but we know she can’t live in a bubble either. We are fortunate that she has outgrown most of her allergies and is left with *only* peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and soy – all of which result in anaphylaxis and, as per her most recent blood work, appear to be life-long. At home, accommodating these allergies has become second nature. She can be around eggs as long as they don’t touch her and she doesn’t ingest them, so we use a separate spatula for cooking eggs for our guests than we do when flipping egg-free pancakes for her. She has her own separate washcloths so that we don’t accidentally wipe her hands or face with a cloth that has wiped up egg. (Learned that one the hard way!) We also ask our guests to refrain from bringing peanut or nut products into our home. (Learned that one the hard way too!)

Showing off her 16 pokes after her allergy tests – 14 skin pricks, blood work and her MMR immunization (grown on egg, so her allergist administers that one and watches her afterwards for reaction)..

When we travel, we tend to take a lot of our own food with us, so that we know there will be something safe for her to eat. We tend to dine at restaurants where we know they take allergies seriously. Did you know that Boston Pizza and The Keg keep allergy binders with all ingredients for the recipes included? Each will wipe down all surfaces and change all cutting boards & utensils when they know they are preparing a meal for a guest with allergies? For our daughter’s particular mix of allergens, McDonald’s french fries and a burger without the bun are “safe”! Regardless, she does not leave our house without carrying her two epipens – just in case! All six of us are trained to use it in an emergency.

Here at the Belgravia, we “get” food allergies and do our best to accommodate any type we can, with notice. We’ll make room in our fridge and freezer for your own special food/ice packs. We will also tailor the  breakfast we serve to accommodate your needs.  One dietary restriction that affects more and more people is the need to be gluten-free and we can accommodate that too!

One of our favourite gluten-free recipes is for Buttermilk Apple Cake, passed along to us by former guests, the owners of Valley Flax Flour.

  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 2 cups Buttermilk (we’ve also soured rice milk successfully)
  • 1 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 cup Flax Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 medium Apples, cored & chopped
  1. Lightly grease and flour (gluten-free, of course!) a 2L baking or Bundt pan
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and buttermilk.
  3. Combine rice flour, flax flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add apples to wet ingredients; mix until combined.
  4. Spread batter evenly in the pan.
  5. Bake in an oven preheated to 350*F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan before removing and cutting into 12 servings.

Traveling is stressful enough, without worrying that you are going to end up sick or having to spend time hospital – or heaven forbid – worse, because of something you ate. Here, we will do our best to keep you safe!

If only it would be this easy when she becomes a teenager…

The Impact of Heritage on Local Economies

Last week was a very busy week here at the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast. School activities are wrapping up while tourist season is in full swing. We’ve been attending recitals, concerts, and parties. Thrown into the mix was the Nova Scotia Provincial Heritage Conference, in Sydney, of which I was asked to be a panelist. Our topic? “The Impact of Heritage on Local Economies.”

The Conference ran from June 12th – 15th, but NSCC Graduation was on the 13th and I chose to be on stage to hug my eleven Tourism Management graduates on their big day. After the graduation was over, I hopped in the car and left for Sydney, Cape Breton, which is about a 3.5-4 hour drive from Truro, depending on which road you take. I was booked into the beautiful Colby House B&B, my third stay there.

Colby House B&B, Sydney

I was exhausted after a long day, and the beautiful bed was calling my name. I chatted with Bev for a few minutes, then set to work tweaking the slideshow for my presentation the following morning. There are many things I enjoy about staying at Colby House B&B – it’s a beautiful property for starters, immaculately kept! Bev & Gordon are wonderful hosts, and their attention to detail is superb. The first night I was there, they had a full house, with couples from Germany, Saskatchewan, and Vancouver. We had a great chat during breakfast.

The beautiful bed, calling my name in the MacLellan Room at Colby House B&B.

I could see the home that D’Arcy’s father grew up in from my window. Gordon mentioned the connection to the other guests at breakfast and we had a great chat about D’Arcy’s great-grandfather, a Sea Captain.

The conference was very interesting and I was disappointed I had missed the previous two days – especially dinner at Fortress of Louisbourg, and the Sydney Ghost Walk! The panel I was on included Dan Coffin from Destination Cape Breton, Cheryl Chambers of Chambers  Guest House B&B, and Stan Munroe of Port Morien Rectory B&B. Dan led the session, discussing market research which shows that most people traveling to Nova Scotia are looking for authentic cultural experiences and will visit at least one heritage site while here. We know from experience that there are many people who stay in Bed & Breakfasts for the duration of their entire trip for just that reason. You don’t get a much more authentic Nova Scotian experience than staying in a Nova Scotian home! (B&B’s in Nova Scotia MUST be owner-occupied.)

By preserving our heritage home and welcoming people into it from all around the world during the past ten years, we have had a huge positive impact on our local economy. In addition to the obvious taxes we pay at all three government levels, we are certain to send our guests to locally run restaurants rather than chains, we shop at the local Farmers’ Market during the season, we use and recommend local companies for gas, we recommend gift shops run by locals rather than encouraging guests to shop at the malls. Even when doing our renovations last month, we used companies with a connection to our area, and chose to install the solar panels that were built in Dartmouth, rather than in the US. By having local knowledge, we are able to tell our guests about events going on in our area, hopefully keeping them in our area longer. We have such a long and rich history here in Nova Scotia, and we sometimes forget that the western half of the country is much younger than we are – one of the points which had been made at the breakfast table by the couples from Saskatchewan and Vancouver at Colby House!

That evening, we had dinner and “A Taste of Celtic Colours” at the Sydney Cruise Ship Pavillion. What talented artists performed. We enjoyed guitar performances, Gaelic storytelling, singing & fiddling. It was a toe tapping great time! Back at the B&B, I chatted with Bev & Gordon until much too late! Bev was one of our “regulars” for many years here at Belgravia in her former career, so we always have lots to chat about!

After another delicious breakfast, I said my goodbyes and headed for home via Guysborough. It was a road I hadn’t driven in a long, long time and I wanted to check out the DesBarres Manor Inn and Rare Bird Pub which I have heard so much about. It was a beautiful drive, and I landed at the pub in time for lunch on opening day. They didn’t have their craft beer on tap yet, but I was driving, so wouldn’t have been able to enjoy one anyway. I sat by the window,overlooking beautiful Chedabucto Bay and had a delicious lunch with attentive service. I would love to go back and take D’Arcy sometime.

The Rare Bird Pub

I arrived home mid-afternoon, just in time to get the girls ready for their Highland Dance Recital and welcome favourite guests from the UK, staying with us for the third time. I do love exploring our beautiful province and am grateful for our rich heritage! I am happy that we chose this home to raise our children and build our lives. One of the nicest comments we had when we started this adventure ten years ago was from former owner, Mary Shephard. She had come to visit when we had our initial renovations complete and wrote in our guest book: “I’m so happy that this house is full of life again!”

A day on the Bay of Fundy

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get to take a day trip to Joggins to represent the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia at a presentation given by the Cumberland Wilderness Society as they unveiled their plan for a new Protected Wilderness area around and including the Chignecto Game Sanctuary.  An article about the presentation can be found here:  http://www.amherstdaily.com/index.cfm?sid=303455&sc=58

Because the trip along the Bay of Fundy is an easy and beautiful drive from Truro, we often recommend it to guests who are interested in a day trip.  There are many interesting spots to stop and see and the scenery is spectacular.

Because I had a time line in which to get to the presentation, I drove the Trans Canada Highway to get there.  The day wasn’t too promising as I started out, with thick fog making it hard to see.  I took the old road through the Wentworth Valley rather than the Toll Highway.  The drive is much more scenic and only adds about five minutes to your time.  Not to mention you don’t have to pay the $4.50 toll!  As I passed Ski Wentworth, the fog lifted and the sun started to shine.

I got to Joggins in about an hour-and-a-half.

The Joggins Fossil Center and Fossil Cliffs were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and the Centre opened on Earth Day that year.  This was my first chance to get there to see the new building and it is beautiful!!  I would highly recommend this attraction to any guests who are visiting Northern Nova Scotia!  I just wish I’d had more time to explore.  Alas, business called…

When the presentation was over, I took the shore road along the Bay of Fundy to go home.  The half-hour it takes to get from Joggins to Advocate is mostly trees, but the wild blueberry fields were glorious!  I wish I’d been able to get a photo that did them justice.  Although the colour of the trees is over now that the leaves have fallen, the blueberry fields are still in their splendor!  As I turned a corner in Advocate, there was a cemetery on a hill which is covered in blueberry bushes and the sun was illuminating them.  I wish I had stopped for a photo.

I did take the 5km side trip to go to Cape d’Or.  It is one of my absolute favourite places in Nova Scotia!  To get there, you travel on a very twisty and hilly dirt road, but the views when you get to the end are spectacular!  The following photos were all taken from the top of the road.  In the summer, from May – October, there is a restaurant that we highly recommend located in the lighthouse!  The food and the service are wonderful and you just can’t beat the view!!

I traveled back to Truro, passing some favorites:  Shaw’s Country Store in Port Greville, Ship’s Company Theater & The Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro, Mo’s at Five Islands, The Joy Laking Gallery in Portipique, the antique shop in Great Village, and of course Bass River Chairs in Bass River!  I drove 355 km in total during the day and was home in time to make supper!

 

 

 

 

The 2009 Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association Annual General Meeting

This weekend the Annual General Meeting of the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association was held here in Truro.  What a fun weekend!!

 

We woke up Friday morning to snow & slush, so unfortunately some of the Board of Directors weren’t able to make it to our meeting & potluck lunch.  However, we still had enough in attendance that we had a quorum so our meeting took place regardless.  After that was over, the B&B’s in town held house tours for anyone who was here from outside the area.  So often, we are asked to recommend B&B’s in other parts of the province, so it is helpful to know what different areas have to offer. In the evening, we all went over to Tulips & Thistle B&B for a wine & cheese party.  It was such a great opportunity to network with other operators from around the province and share some really funny stories!

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Maarten & Nelly from Baker's Chest with hosts Ann & Larry at Tulips & Thistle

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Gerry (Suncatcher B&B) and myself

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Shelly from Stuart House by the Bay with Jennifer from TIANS

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Some of the Truro B&B owners - D'Arcy & myself along with Janice, Ann & Gerry

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Bill & Ann Marie Monk of A Seafaring Maiden B&B in Granville Ferry, outside of Annapolis Royal

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A fun chance to network together

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Donnie & Janice from Eagle's Landing B&B always have a hilarious story or two!!

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Jill from bbcanada.com, Jennifer from TIANS, Anne from Belgravia B&B & Ruth from Suncatcher B&B!

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Ruth from Suncatcher, Dora from Jonah By the Sea, Connie from A Paradise Found and Mary Pat from Azalea Farmhouse B&B's

The AGM itself took place at First United Church Hall on Saturday and the UCW had prepared lunch for 75 people.  Unfortunately, we did have a few members send regrets at the last-minute due to weather conditions and/or illness.  Regardless, we were pleased with the turnout.  The morning program started off with information sessions by Tom Wilson who spoke about online & social marketing and its importance these days.  Next, Jill MacIntosh from www.bbcanada.com spoke to us about maximizing our web presence and taking full advantage of offers made to us through the bbcanada website.  Just before lunch, Kieu Lam from TIANS along with Doug Matthews from the Department of Tourism, Culture & Heritage came to speak with us about the new Nova Scotia Approved Program for accommodation operators.

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch provided by the UCW and then got down to the business of our AGM.  Our Board of Directors is undergoing a tremendous change with eight new directors this year, including a new President & Vice President.  We’re hoping to take the Association in a positive new direction and I’m really looking forward to working with this new group of people.

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Tom Wilson, presenting information on Social Media and Marketing

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Jill MacIntosh from http://www.bbcanada.com

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Kieu Lam from TIANS, presenting the new "Nova Scotia Approved" program to members

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Door prizes of bags filled with "Items a B&B owner might use" (soap, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, hand sanitizer, etc.) generously donated by MacQuarries Pharmasave in Truro

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Jill, presenting a free year's membership to bbcanada.com to Bruce Fulton's B&B

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D'Arcy, making sure all the presentations would show up on the screen

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Ruth, presenting outgoing NSBBA President John Meehan with a plaque of appreciation

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Gerry Mailloux new NSBBA President, drawing raffle prize winners

Jill had suggested that we, along with Ruth & Gerry, Ann & Larry & Jennifer all go out to dinner Saturday night to celebrate the successful weekend. We toasted our successes with some Prost, a sparkling wine made by Jost Vineyards, a local winery. We then all went out for supper at a restaurant close by called “The Lovin Spoonful“. Not only was the company so much fun, but the meal and the service were amazing!! We will all be recommending that restaurant to our guests from now on!!  After three hours at the restaurant, laughing & telling stories, we came back here to Belgravia for coffee and ended the weekend on a high note!

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TTM, ready to celebrate a successful weekend!

DRUM!

We had a chance to get to Halifax on Saturday for a performance of DRUM! I am having a hard time putting into words just how much we enjoyed it! The show is explained in the program by the following:

“Before the Tall Ships came, there were the drums of the Mi’Kmaq, the rhythm of the rugged, beautiful lands of Nova Scotia.  For thousands of years, their songs and those of the other ancient native peoples were the only music accompanying Nova Scotia’s crashing waves.

Then came the others, displaced people all, carrying their faith and their music as precious reminders of the homes they had left behind.

First the French, who settled and farmed, transforming the ways of the old country into a new culture – the Acadian culture – as vital and rich as the new land they ploughed.

Then the Celts, the Scots and the Irish, who coloured the landscape, so like that of their homeland, with swirling tartan and the airs of the pipes, the harp and fiddle.

And north from the Thirteen Colonies and the Caribbean, the black settlers, twice dispossessed, the weavers of rhythms rooted in their African heritage and fired by hard times.

Each nation born of a timeless culture, dancing to their own rhythm, their own unique beat.

DRUM! is a gathering of all these rhythms.  It is the musical heartbeat of Nova Scotia.  A spectacle of sounds, styles and traditions, ultimately coming together in a world beat grand finale.

DRUM! communicates a message to the world:  we can hold on to who we are and still share a song, a stage, a country, a world.”

The show especially captured the imaginations of our own drummer, performer, and highland dancer.

The show is over for this year, but we highly recommend for anyone planning a trip to Nova Scotia at this time next year that you try to get tickets!!  We’ll definitely go again!

Afterwards, we went to the Henry House for dinner.  The Henry House was formerly the home of the Granite Brewery, where D’Arcy & I first met while working there together.  The menu and the beer remain mainly the same, and we were happy to see Mel, who is still working there on Saturday nights after all these years!

It was a fun night out, as Halifax is such an easy trip from here for the day.  We will definitely put up a reminder for guests when DRUM! comes to town next year!

Culina Dea

D’Arcy and I had a chance to get out on a date Saturday night.  His sister-in-law is the lead singer in a band and they were playing at the Curling Club in Halifax.  Friday was my birthday, so we had organized with my parents to come and house-sit so we could go out to dinner and take in a couple of sets at the dance to celebrate.

We decided that instead of eating in Halifax, we would go to a local restaurant, located about a fifteen minute walk down Prince Street from our B&B.  It’s called Culina Dea and it was great.  We highly recommend it!

We arrived there fairly early, at about 5:30, since we still had to drive an hour to get to Halifax, and were the only people there.  The atmosphere is very fresh & welcoming with beautiful artwork on the walls.  We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Hannah, one of our neighbours who has looked after the house for us on occasion, is home from university and was our server.

We had a hard time choosing what to have from the menu because it all sounded so good, but we settled on Lobster Risotto and a Mixed Green Salad with Julienned Apples to start.  (I could have eaten a whole bowl of the lobster risotto as a meal!)  I chose the Parmesan & Herb Pan-fried Haddock with Sweet Potato Risotto and Sugar-snap Peas, while D’Arcy chose their Indian Special, a Tandoori Chicken.  It was all good, but I could have licked D’Arcy’s plate clean if that sort of thing wasn’t frowned upon!  For dessert, we shared a piece of homemade Coconut Cheesecake with a Guava Puree.  Delicious!

Two other tables came in while we were there, and one of them turned out to be a couple that was staying at The Belgravia with us!  We chatted with them for a few minutes and they told us they always eat at Culina Dea when they are in Truro because it is always good.

We will definitely keep a copy of their menu on hand to recommend to our guests and I can’t wait until we get a chance to go again!!

http://www.culinadea.com/aboutus.html

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