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.

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

 

Blueberry Sauce Recipe

This week we have had new testimonials added to both the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast’s  Trip Advisor and  BBCanada.com listings.

One read:

“We have now completed our 3rd stay here and it’s like visiting family. Situated on the outskirts of Truro, within easy walking distance of the town, a beautifully appointed house with lovely, well equipped rooms. Breakfast was delicious as usual and we shall return again, if only to hope we get the blueberry waffles next time!”

We have guests staying with us this week for five nights while they do some genealogical research and explore Central Nova Scotia. We serve something different for breakfast each day, and so far this week they have had omlets and Eggs Florentine. Helen’s comment inspired me to serve our waffles with blueberry sauce today. There was not a bite left on anyone’s plate when I cleared them, so I thought I would share our blueberry sauce recipe:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine:

  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • dash of salt

Bring to a boil and add:

  • 1 TBSP corn starch mixed with 1 TBSP water

Stir until thickened.

Top waffles with blueberry sauce, vanilla yogurt and wheat germ, and serve with maple bacon.

Image

SO YUMMY – and this also works well for blueberry shortcake when put on a scone with whipped cream!

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…