Yummy Rhubarb Struesel Muffin Recipe

Beautiful rhubarb. Photo credit: Taste of Nova Scotia

Beautiful rhubarb. Photo credit: Taste of Nova Scotia*

As spring arrives in Nova Scotia, so does the growth of one of our local food treats – rhubarb! I LOVE rhubarb. Although technically a vegetable, in Nova Scotia we mostly treat it as a fruit. Rhubarb will be found growing in many people’s gardens and will then be found at the breakfast table for the next few weeks in various forms: warm from being stewed with maple syrup and a touch of lemon (perfect with vanilla yogurt and some granola!), and often chunked in muffins. The tartness of the rhubarb is perfectly offset by the sweetness of the struesel topping. The following is one of our favourite muffin recipes:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (We use egg replacer)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups chopped rhubarb
  • TOPPING:
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

Directions

  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, if using or add egg replacer. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and alternate with sour cream, beating well after each addition. Fold in rhubarb.
  • Fill paper-lined or greased muffin cups three-fourths full.
  • Combine brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a small bowl; then cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Serve warm. Yield: about 1-1/2 dozen.

We hope you enjoy – either at your breakfast table or at ours! 😉

*Taste of Nova Scotia

Belgravia Bed and Breakfast

Bringing the Tourism Industry Together

At the end of last week, I represented the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association (NSBBA) at the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) annual general meeting (AGM). Each year the AGM is held at different locations around the province, and last year it was held in Truro. In fact, five of the B&B’s in Truro – including Belgravia – made breakfast for the 120 participants. 🙂  This year, the AGM was held at White Point Beach Resort in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

In November of 2011, the main lodge at White Point was destroyed by fire. The owners decided to rebuild, using as many local trades, crafts people, and supplies as possible. They consulted with their long-time guests regarding design, and let the world watch the rebuild through Nova Scotia webcams. The result is spectacular! They did an excellent job of maintaining the “feel” of the old lodge, yet were able to improve on many things. And with a setting like this, how can you go wrong?

View from the front porch of the cabin.

View from the front porch of the cabin.

We met for two days of meetings and socialization, trying to determine as an industry how we can improve our product for our guests. We are working on issues such as lobbying the government for an “open skies” agreement which would make airline access more plentiful, easier to access, and most importantly –  more affordable! Another important issue we’re working on is to have a ferry link between New England and Nova Scotia restored – the sooner the better! We also are continuously working towards improved signage and roads. What makes meetings like the TIANS AGM critical, is that we have all sectors of the tourism industry from B&B’s to large hotels to festival and event coordinators to tour operators to restaurant owners to winery owners, to the Regional Tourism Industry Associations, all working together with government. The new Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Graham Steele, was present and was listening. Pat Sullivan, CEO of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency was doing the same. There is a real feeling of camaraderie as we all work together.

It wasn’t all work though – we shared some wonderful meals together courtesy of White Point. After dinner, we roasted s’mores (Graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate melted together) over the fire in the main lodge. Since the rain held off, there was also a bonfire outside on the beach after dark.

As part of the business meeting, we said welcome to three new board members: Sheri MacKillop, Dean of the School of Business at NSCC, Carl Sparkes, owner of Jost and Gaspereau Wineries, and Andrew Alkenback, general Manager of Cabot Links Resort. Unfortunately, this also meant we had to say goodbye to board members who are finished their terms. Last year, when our terms were finished, Danny Morton of White Point and I were made “Tourism Senators” (that title seemed much more illustrious at this time last year!) and were each given an article of clothing made from Dress Nova Scotia tartan. This year, Danny & I were able to do the same for our three retiring board members: Earlene Busch, Chanterelle Country Inn, Grant MacDonald, Events Nova Scotia, and Tom Ruth, Halifax International Airport Authority.

Wearing our "Tourism Senate" attire.

Wearing our “Tourism Senate” attire.

It’s always refreshing and enriching to get together with members of the Nova Scotia tourism industry as a whole, and I was especially excited to get to experience the new and improved White Point. I am looking forward to going back with the family soon on our own Nova Scotia travel adventure!

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

Recognition of Excellence 2013

As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy being  involved in the Nova Scotian tourism industry as a whole. I was on the board of the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association (NSBBA) from 2005-2011, the board of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) fom 2008-2012, and am still the NSBBA representative on the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC). Wow that’s a lot of acronyms…

Because of these affiliations, I’m often lucky enough to be invited to differet industry events. My favourite event of the year (and there are some wonderful events) is the NSTHRC Recognition of Excellence CertificationDinner each May. This year, the 18th annual, was held on Wednesday night at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax. I love it because members of the industry get together to celebrate those front-line staff and properties who have received national certification creditentials during the past year. Last year, I received professional certification as a Tourism Trainer.

The beautiful table settings.

The beautiful table settings.

Nova Scotia is unique in that as a province, we have the highest number of certified tourism professionals in Canada! In fact, our tourism department is committed to ensuring that 100% of our Provincial Visitor Information Centre employees are certified.

This year, I had the distint pleasure of cheering for three of my former NSCC Tourism Management students, Theresa, Heather and Jeff, as they received their national certifications as  a Heritage Interpreter. I’m so proud of all three of them and so happy I could be there to share in their special moment! Congratulations to all three of you!

If you’re in the Truro area, you can meet these three tourism professionals at the Glooscap Heritage Centre and perhaps one of them will give you a tour! Tell them Anne sent you… 😉

Jeff, Theresa, Anne & Heather - a tourism management reunion at the opening reception!

Jeff, Theresa, Anne & Heather – an NSCC Tourism Management reunion!

Our newest Nova Scotia tourism professionals - Jeff, Heather, and Theresa with their Heritage Interpreter certifications!

Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Happy New Year! Gosh, keeping the blog updated has taken a backseat to life recently. We had a busy and fun Christmas break, entertaining a total of 72 friends and family at different times during the twelve days we had off from school.

I’m amazed at how fast the month of January has flown – they say “time flies when you’re having fun”… This semester, I’m teaching Entrepreneurhip, Experiential Tourism Products and Services, Into Psychology, and Intro Sociology at the Pictou Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College; while D’Arcy continues to teach Grade 6 at a school not far from mine.

The boys are curling every day after school, and at least one day on the weekend. They are heading “South” to Yarmouth tomorrow for their first Canada Winter Games (2015) qualifier. The tournament is double-knockout and the top two teams will automatically move forward to next year.

The “mate” or “third” of their team is from Yarmouth, so the boys and their coach will be staying at their house, for which we are very grateful. I spent last weekend cooking and baking, to send some food along (the least we can do): lasagna, chilli, homemade macaroni & cheese, four loaves of bread, blueberry muffins, and homemade granola bars.

I posted a photo of the granola bars on my personal Facebook page and got such a response of friends looking for the recipe, that I decided to post it here for more people to enjoy! I must begin with the caveat that each time I make these, they are slightly different, depending on what ingredients I have on hand. Although they are not gluten free, they are peanut, tree nut, egg, and soy free. (Dairy free too if you omit chocolate chips, or use Enjoy Life or Divvies brand chocolate chips.)  I hope if you try them, you will enjoy!

granola

The base of each recipe is:

  • 2 cups flaked oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

To this, I added:

  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts – be sure to use the nutritious hemp hearts 😉
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • generous handful raisins
  • generous handful dried cranberries
  • handful of chocolate chips

Other suggestions would be to add flax (I was out), coconut, dates, or any other dried fruit.

Bind together with:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mixture will be crumbly. Press into a well-greased 11×13 pan. Bake in 375*F oven for 20 minutes or until edges are browned. Cut while still warm, or they become difficult to cut through.

This bars have quickly become a lunchtime or snack favourite in our household and the bonus is that they are economical, allergy-free, and litter-less!

 (I promise not to take so long until the next post…)

Return to the Belgravia B&B website

 

Curling fun

Our boys have been curling for a number of years now. They are on a team that are practicing with a goal to represent Nova Scotia in the 2015 Canada Games in Prince George, British Columbia. The girls have been dragged from club to club over the years, watching their brothers practice and compete while D’Arcy & I belong to a fun league on Mondays.

Last Monday, Evan joined our team to play as a “spare” for Jean-Claude – our normal team mate, who was away on business.

Our kids on the ice on the final day of curling last year. After the bonspeil was over, they were allowed to put on skates and have a different kind of fun!

This Friday, it was finally the girls’ turn to get on the ice and slide. I think we have some more curlers on our hands!!

Sarah & Olivia were so excited to get on to the ice!

Sarah stretches and Olivia slides…

Orca gives Whale Watchers Unusual Thrill in Bay of Fundy

 The following article was originally published in The Chronicle Herald, the Nova Scotia Provincial newspaper on Thursday, September 20th. Written by Staff Reporter, Clare Mellor, please click here to link to the original article. Special thanks to Penny, of Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours, located in Briar Island, Nova Scotia, for the fantastic photo!

Photo credit: Penny, of Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours, Briar Island, Nova Scotia

 
“Orca Gives Watchers Thrills
 
It was like hitting the whale-watching jackpot.

An orca, or killer whale, not commonly seen in Nova Scotia waters, put on an hour-long show Tuesday for a whale-watching tour boat off Brier Island.

“It was a pretty amazing sight to see,” Roy Small, who captains the Island Link for Welcome Aboard Whale Watching Tours on Brier Island, said Wednesday.

“Everybody was just ecstatic, including (the crew). It was a very, very, good day.”

The last reported orca sighting in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia was about two years ago, Small said.

“This is the very first time I’ve seen one,” he said.

Small, his crew and roughly 10 passengers had been on the water for three hours Tuesday and had already been treated to sightings of several humpbacks, a fin whale that was surface-feeding, a minke whale, dolphins and porpoises.

The boat was about 12 kilometres northwest of Brier Island watching a group of about six humpbacks when a passenger spotted an unusual fin nearby.

Crew member Tania Campbell was up on the bow when she heard Small shout.

“All I heard was, ‘Holy smokes. I think it’s an orca!’” Campbell said Wednesday.

Small said an orca’s dorsal fin is very distinctive.

“It is about three feet high,” he said. “There is no mistaking it.”

He said the male orca measured 7.5 to nine metres and was travelling alone.

Small, who has also been a lobster fisherman for 22 years, said he has not done much reading on orcas and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“He was really friendly. I was really surprised,”

he said.

“He came right to us. He made a close approach to us a couple of times. We watched him from a distance and he’d come over and check us out, go around the boat and underneath. He’d roll up on his side and look at us.”

Hal Whitehead, a biology professor at Dalhousie University who specializes in the study of whales, said orcas are not often spotted in Nova Scotia waters but are more frequently seen off Newfoundland and Labrador.

“They are pretty rare around the Maritimes in general, but they are seen from time to time,” he said.

“They come by from time to time. We don’t know quite why or what they are up to.”

Campbell said she felt a little shaky when the orca made such a close approach.

“It was a slightly different feeling, just that really tall dorsal fin,” she said. “It is just a different sort of presence — I think, I guess, maybe because it is a toothed whale.”

The orca breached, or leaped out of, the water three times, and Campbell was happy that she managed to snap a photo of the unusual sight.

Small radioed another whale-watching boat nearby so its passengers could also have a chance to see the killer whale.

“I think the other boat got a pretty good show too,” Campbell said.

Small said it seemed a shame to finally have to call it a day.

“Nobody wanted to go in. We all wanted to stay and keep watching it.

“The weather was starting to deteriorate so we had to go.””

(cmellor@herald.ca)

The Belgravia Bed & Breakfast Website