And the wall came tumbling down…

We know this makes a lot of people sad.

During the past two days, D’Arcy and the boys have been tackling a job that we’ve put off since 2009 – our stone wall. On Easter Sunday of 2009, when he turned the corner to go to church, D’Arcy discovered that part of the small section of our stone wall had washed away in heavy rain and part of it had fallen. (Story and photos here.)  At the time, he cleaned it up as best and as safely as he could, saving all the stones – in our garden – with the plan to rebuild.

Belgravia B&B was named such after we had learned that the original name of Broad Street was Belgravia Avenue. Two months after we opened, I ran into a man who had grown up in the house from the 1920’s – 1960’s who informed me that the house had been known as “Stoneycroft” from the time it was built, due to the stone wall. (Wish we had known.)

The wall is part of the house’s history.

It soon became apparent that rebuilding wouldn’t be as simple as we had hoped. The wall, 105 years old at that time (111 now), was not built on a foundation and the mortar has turned to sand over the years.

The long part of the wall has shifted as well, and half of it is leaning sharply towards the sidewalk. Last summer, we had hoped to get the entire wall fixed, so had professionals come and give us quotes.

We’re looking at a price range of $20,000. 

For a wall. A wall that’s beautiful and sentimental but, sadly, not a necessity.

We have four children to put through university.

D’Arcy & the boys spent the past two days taking down the short section of the wall that originally started to fall six years ago. They were able to save the posts, and D’Arcy graded the lawn to the sidewalk. We have planted raspberry bushes in between the posts, with the intention that they will become a hedge that gives back. We have a picture of the house from 1916 and there was originally a hedge behind the wall, so putting this one in is like returning a different piece of history of the property.

As for the long section? D’Arcy is marking provincial exams for the next two weeks, so there won’t be any work done on it until later in the month. He has an idea to try to stabilize it, but if it doesn’t work, that section will have to come down for safety reasons as well – we hate the thought of having someone sit on it, or a child climb on it, and get hurt.

Not an easy decision; one six years in the making…

We understand.

We’re sad too.

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Deconstruction begans

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What was left of the short section of wall when they started to take it down.

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Work in progress…

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Raspberry bushes are planted; sod arrives tonight. Happy to have been able to save the pillars at least.

Stoneycroft, 1916. Note the driveway used to come in off Prince Street (the address was 416 Prince Street at that time) and the hedge behind the wall. Thank you Colchester Historical Society for the photo.

Stoneycroft, now Belgravia, 1916. Note the driveway used to come in off Prince Street (the address was 416 Prince Street at that time) and the hedge behind the wall. Thank you Colchester Historical Society for the photo.

An Unexpected Accolade

This year, the Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce brought back their Best of Colchester Awards. We had won as “Best B&B” in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. With the return of the awards came new categories which – at first glance – we didn’t see ourselves fitting into until someone mentioned to me in passing, “I voted for you as ‘Best Home-based Business’ in the Best of Colchester awards.” Best home-based business? Upon reflection, we realized that category couldn’t fit much more perfectly!  In Nova Scotia, a B&B must be owner-occupied; Belgravia B&B is our home.

We were surprised to learn last week that we were finalists along with new local business, Leggo my Leggings, and we attended the ceremony on Thursday night. Since we are not what I first think of as a traditional home-based business, I assumed others would be of the same perception and did not expect that we would win. I was shocked when our names were called. As a result, I had to come up with some remarks on the spot which came from my heart.

I acknowledged the entrepreneurs in the room. When we first started our B&B in 2002 (this season will be Lucky #13!) I did not think of myself as an entrepreneur; I was just a young mom who was looking for an opportunity to spend more time with her children. Starting a “home-based business” was a way for me to fill that need while remaining involved in the Tourism industry in Nova Scotia.

Over the years, I have come to a new understanding of what my definition entrepreneurship is. To me, the word “entrepreneurship” means thinking creatively, recognizing and fulfilling needs, creating new opportunities, and taking risks. Someone with a home-based businesses is an entrepreneur just as much as someone who creates a business which employs 100 people. Entrepreneurship includes intrapreneurs and social entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a verb as much as it is a noun. I am, it turns out, an entrepreneur.

This change of thinking for me has taken place over a number of years. Back in 2002, that young mom never dreamed she’d  eventually end up teaching Applied Entrepreneurship – encouraging others to follow their dreams and create their own opportunities!

One year ago, the One Nova Scotia Commission released the report, “Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians” which recognizes that it is entrepreneurs who will lead the change to rebuild our economy. How energizing it was for us on Thursday night to be in a crowd filled with entrepreneurs of all types. We are grateful that the Chamber organizes the “Best of” awards each year and were pleased to be recognized with all of the other business owners, leaders, and supporters in the room that night.

Thank you to all those who took the time to vote for us!

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Feeling Accomplished

CHGM

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.

“Who We Are”

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Our son Alex has been rehearsing with Spotlight Theatre, a local community youth theatre group, for the upcoming production of “Who We Are”. This musical was written and is being directed by local talent, Margot Begin-Gillis (also director of the Truro Dance Academy where our girls dance). It features songs from a number of different musicals as the characters explore many challenging life issues. The show will be performed on July 19th at 7:00 pm, and July 20th at 2:00pm. and 7:00 pm. Tickets ($17) are available at the Marigold Cultural Centre Box Office. We hope to see you there!

Who We Are Promo Video (Did you spot our son, Alex?!)

 

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast

 

Two new gluten-free breakfast recipes (Egg & dairy-free too!)

This morning around the breakfast table, we were dealing with gluten-free and egg-free diets, as well as no cheese for another guest. We tried two new recipes, both which were successful. Since I posted the photo on our Facebook page, I’ve had requests for the recipes, and also from the guests, so thought we’d post them here for easy access.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free banana muffins

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free banana muffins

Gluten, egg, and dairy-free banana muffins

Mix the following together with beaters until smooth:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil (we use canola)
  • 2 tsp. egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup water OR 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the following dry ingredients, then add to the wet mixture and stir until moist. Do not over-mix.

  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (We used Bob’s Redmill)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Line muffin tins with papers, divide batter between 12 muffin cups, and bake in 350*F oven for 20 – 22 minutes.

Egg, dairy, and gluten-free crepes

Egg, dairy, and gluten-free crepes

CREPES:

  • 3 Eggs worth of prepared egg replacer
  • 3/4cup rice milk
  • 3/4cup Water
  • 3 TBSP oil (we use canola)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (We used Bob’s Redmill)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 TBSP potato starch
  • 1/2t Salt

Combine together all ingredients in bowl and whisk until combined. Batter will appear deceivingly thin. Cook crepe in hot, oiled frying pan and top with desired filling. This morning we served our egg-free guests crepes filled with asparagus, tomato, basil, chives and boursin cheese; and our cheese-free guest, the same herbs & veggies in scrambled eggs. (Pictured above.)

As you can see from above, these recipes are also soy-free. However, the flour we used (Bob’s Redmill) is processed in a factory that uses soy and tree-nuts, so we consider these recipes both “unsafe” for our daughter.  If we used a different flour, they would be safe.

Please let us know how they turn out for you! We will definitely serve both of these recipes again!

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast

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

Belgravia Honored as a Top Performing Bed & Breakfast as Reviewed by Travelers on the World’s Largest Travel Site

What a nice surprise to open our email this morning and find the following notice and press release. Thank you to all of our guests who take the time to write reviews for us! We appreciate each and every one!

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Belgravia Bed & Breakfast Honored as a Top Performing Bed & Breakfast as Reviewed by Travelers on the
World’s Largest Travel Site

TRURO, NOVA SCOTIA – 22/05/2013 – Belgravia Bed & Breakfast today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Only the top-performing 10 percent of businesses listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award.

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, as reviewed by travelers on TripAdvisor, and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.

“Belgravia Bed & Breakfast is pleased to receive a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence,” said D’Arcy & Anne McDonah. “We strive to offer our customers a memorable experience, and this accolade is evidence that our hard work is translating into positive reviews on TripAdvisor.”

“TripAdvisor is delighted to celebrate the success of businesses around the globe, from Sydney to Chicago, Sao Paulo to Rome, which are consistently offering TripAdvisor travelers a great customer experience,” said Alison Copus, Vice President of Marketing for TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of Excellence award provides top performing establishments around the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback from those who matter most – their customers.”