Our annual Tatamagouche canoe ride 2016

Later this month, D’Arcy & I will celebrate 20 (!) years since our first date. We had been friends for more than a year before we started a relationship and, during that time, he had been building a 16 foot cedar-strip chestnut prospector canoe. A couple of years before, he had spent a summer in Northern Ontario in an Outward Bound program and loved canoeing every day. I’m sure when he started building the canoe he had visions of spending his summers on the various rivers we are fortunate to have in Nova Scotia, and in Canada.

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(Un)fortunately for him, it didn’t work out that way. One of our early dates took place in Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia (near Peggy’s Cove) in a shed on a clear early-September evening, varnishing the canoe, which was launched on September 21, 1996. (I always joke that he snagged me with the fumes!) By the following summer, we were getting married, and I was pregnant with our oldest son, Evan, the summer after that, so the canoe didn’t get anywhere near the mileage D’Arcy had dreamed about in those early years.

We have property in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, which is bordered by the tidal French River. Once our kids became old enough to trust in the canoe, we have made a point to take the canoe to Tatamagouche at least once per summer for a family paddle. Because of the current ban on campfires across the province, we did not stay overnight this year. (No fires to heat water or use for light at night – phew?!)

My father had volunteered to come greet our guests so that we could stay as long as we wanted, and we had a beautiful afternoon together. Although the canoe sits lower and lower in the water each year, it is one of our favourite traditions. We paddled, we swam, we drank some local beer (and Kool-aid – it was a “vacation” day!); we laughed, we talked, and our soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old drove us up and down the lane.

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The annual canoe photo – 2016 version!

 

 

 

 

 

Canoeing on the French River (video)

We acquired a second-hand Go-Pro camera from my brother this year, and the kids have been having a lot of fun with it. When we went camping in Tatamagouche last week, we mounted it on the front of our canoe as we explored the tidal French River in Tatamagouche. At around 2:20, you will see footage of our bald eagle, “Joe”. Thank you to our son, Alex, for editing all the footage to make this five minute clip. Swansburgs, this one is for you!

A night away

Historically, bookings during the first week of July have always been slow. Earlier this week, we had a night without any reservations, so we closed out our online booking calendar, and packed up the van to spend the night at our property in Tatamagouche, on the Northumberland Strait.

What a wonderful getaway we had, spending time together as a family without distractions. Our property has a bunkhouse and an outhouse, with no power nor running water – unless you count the river! We chatted, played cards, went exploring the riverbed while the tide was out, had a bonfire, made s’mores, stargazed, canoed, swam, set off bottle-rockets, had a washer toss tournament, drove the van up & down the lane (a 14 year-old-boy’s rite-of-passage), skipped rocks, and laughed. We ate well – everything tastes better outside! We had risotto with asparagus, sausage, and cheese cooked on the campstove for supper. (Along with some local wine & beer for the parents.) Breakfast was bacon, fruit, yogurt, and homemade brown-bread toast made over the campfire with homemade jelly.

We have eagles – now named Joe & Josie – who were quite interested in what we were doing and circled around often. When we were canoeing, “Joe” was swooping down close to us and then perched on the treetops, watching the kids swim. I was hoping that he didn’t think Olivia was a fish!

We don’t have any more nights without bookings in the coming weeks, so we won’t get another overnight for awhile. However, we’ll try to get back for a few hours during the day again soon.

Summer fun, hanging out together

Summer fun, hanging out together

Playing cards and laughing together while catching some shade in the tent

Playing cards and laughing together while catching some shade in the tent

Exploring the river while the tide was out.

Exploring the river while the tide was out.

Relaxed

Relaxed

Sibling fun around the campfire at dusk

Sibling fun around the campfire at dusk

Alex's charred marshmallow

Alex’s charred marshmallow

Early morning washer toss tournament

Early morning washer toss tournament

Making toast on the fire

Making toast on the fire

All food tastes better outside!

All food tastes better outside!

Canoeing on the French River

Canoeing the French River

The 2015 McDonah Family canoe photo

The 2015 McDonah Family canoe photo – we’ll soon all be too big to travel together

A happy & relaxed dad, paddling in his handmade canoe

A happy & relaxed dad, paddling in his handmade cedar-strip canoe

Happy New Year!

First day of School 2014: Evan Grade 10, Alexander Grade 8, Sarah Grade 4 Immersion, Olivia Grade 2 Immersion, D'Arcy Grade 7/8 Teacher, Anne NSCC School of Business Faculty

First day of School 2014: Evan Grade 10, Alexander Grade 8, Sarah Grade 4 Immersion, Olivia Grade 2 Immersion, D’Arcy Grade 7/8 Teacher, Anne NSCC School of Business Faculty

I always find the new school year to be more of a fresh start than January 1st. Since D’Arcy & I both teach, the first week of school is always a big transition; the B&B is still running at full capacity, and we are juggling the responsibilities and stresses of getting ready for our students. This year, for whatever reason, it seemed to go more smoothly than normal. For the next six or seven weeks while it is still our busiest time, we will get everything ready for breakfast before we leave for school, and my parents, Dave and Deanna, along with our helpers Lori and Amanda, will be here to serve breakfast and entertain. We are a great team, and D’Arcy & I certainly appreciate their help.

While I’m not really ready to say good-bye to summer (we had a busy and fun one), I have enjoyed meeting my new students and first impressions tell me we’re going to have a great year. I do still intend to blog about some of our summer adventures when we took day trips or overnights around the province, to give our guests ideas about things they can do while here. As the leaves change, the days get shorter, and the nights get cooler, it will be fun to reminisce about this summer, and plan for next…

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With our cousins from Florida, Oregon, and Alabama at the end of the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton. We saw a black bear eating a moose carcass along the way!

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With the Florida cousins on a chilly July day at Peggy’s Cove – the weather certainly didn’t dampen our fun!

Lobster in the backyard with our American cousins

Lobster in the backyard with our American cousins

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The crew after Tidal Bore rafting and mud sliding on the Shubenacadie River in an extreme tide the day before a “super moon”.

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A wonderful visit with a school friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. Raina and her husband, Matt,  were here from Virginia for a family reunion.

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Our family took some time to go canoeing on the French River in Tatamagouche.

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We took a night off to camp in Tatamagouche. D’Arcy enjoyed doing the dishes in a more serene setting than normal.

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My cousin Chad, and his bride Koren, got married at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax after a ten year courtship. It was a wonderful celebration!

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I graduated with my Education Diploma from NSCC in August!

Gigantic lobsters fresh of the boat from Pictou with university friend Karen, visiting from Yellowknife, NT

Gigantic lobsters fresh off the boat from Pictou with university friend Karen, visiting from Yellowknife, NT

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At Basin Head Beach in PEI

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We ate lots of seafood – bacon wrapped scallops for Olivia at Alex’s 14th birthday dinner at the Gahan Pub in PEI

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Three session of swimming lessons at Victoria Park Pool had our girls completing Red Cross swimming levels 6 & 7. Sarah also participated in summer swim team.

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Our boys spent a week at Whitecap Curling Camp, living in residence at UPEI

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An “all about me” quilt for Alex’s 14th birthday, made with love by his grandmother.

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2014 was a great summer!

 

Turning the Page to August

Here we are in August and I am way behind in chronicling our summer adventures! Since my cousins left, we’ve been sticking close to home for the most part. Our school year is so packed with activities, that it’s nice to enjoy our home during the summer.  We’ve also been getting the little projects that get put off accomplished. In July, we painted our girls’ room; got a new washer and dryer (finally!) which necessitated trimming the shelves in our laundry room and getting it cleaned out, painted and organized; and got the garden growing.

The girls have been at swimming lessons and Sarah joined summer swim team at Victoria Park; she also dances once each week. She had a successful Highland Dance Competition in New Glasgow at the Festival of the Tartans, winning a 1st, a 2nd, and two 3rd place medals. Her baseball team came in 2nd place in regular season and will start play-off games this week. Alex has been house-sitting for people and worked stage crew for the local Spotlight Theatre. Evan has been a typical teenager going into high school and has been hanging out with his friends – we haven’t seen him since Wednesday! (He’s at a friend’s cottage on the Northumberland Strait, playing golf and board games.)

Yesterday, D’Arcy & the girls spent the afternoon at nearby Shortt’s Lake. D’Arcy’s brother & his wife were hosting the sailboat races, so D’Arcy went racing with Kevin while the girls swam and played with their cousins and helped their Auntie Kay prepare for the after-sail.

The weather in July was glorious (after the Tropical Storm) and while today is calling for rain, our lawns and gardens really need it! Hopefully, by not being torn to be outside, I’ll get some blogging caught up! 🙂

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Our little slugger!

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A “Happy School is Over” barbeque!

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The girls’ first night in their newly decorated room! They switch between top and bottom bunk on the first night of each month.

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The garden is coming along and I finally figured out that if you put water bottles in the fold of the sheets while they are drying, they won’t wrap around the line in the wind!

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Sarah and my dad, Dave – one of her biggest fans – at the Festival of the Tartans where she was Highland Dancing.

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Me & my dad in front of the Clark Tartan

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Sarah with her medals – 1st in Sword, 3rd in Highland Fling, 3rd Seann Truibhas, 2nd in Lilt

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Evan learns to use power tools with his father

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The beautiful new washer & dryer. Come do your laundry with us!

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Our new great nephew, Thomas John, just moments old. He was born July 31st and belongs to our niece Megan and her husband, Rob. Photo credit: “Dad” Robert Perry

Summertime in Nova Scotia

We had a bit of a whirlwind start to our summer vacation here at the Belgravia. The last day of school occurred on June 28, while I was still at Cornell. I arrived home late (2 am) on the night of June 30 and my cousins arrived from Portland, Oregon, a few hours later. Phil & Susan are the same cousins whom we spent this past Christmas with. His younger brother, Richard, arrived with his wife, Aletha, from Mobile, Alabama, the following day. They stayed with my parents, and on July 5, Phil’s daughter Lori, her husband Adam, and their four children arrived from Florida for a week. The next few blog posts I make will attempt to chronicle our travels around the province while they were here. Because we are usually working full-out at the B&B, we don’t often get the chance to explore our backyard at this time of year.

We started off on Canada Day with a trip to Pugwash, to the Festival of the Gathering of the Clans where our daughter, Sarah was competing in the highland dance competition. This is an interesting competition which takes place in a beautiful setting, on a wooden stage with the water in the background. There are street vendors, a midway, and a parade throughout the day. It was fun for me to run into a number of my childhood friends who were also visiting. Sarah danced well, winning a 1st place ribbon for her Highland Fling, and 2nd place for her sword dance.  Afterwards, they rode two rides on the midway and got some cotton candy before we left to drive along the Sunrise Trail to Tatamagouche.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

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Sarah, #201, awaits the music for the Sword Dance

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Proud of her two medals and second stamp

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Scrambler!

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Scrambler!

My maiden name is Clark and the Clark family homestead is located in Tatamagouche, which is a beautiful little town on the Northumberland Strait, along the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Between the cousins, we still have somewhere close to 100 acres of farm and wooded property along the French River, which is the perfect place to picnic. One thing you should know while traveling in Nova Scotia is that certain parts can be buggy on certain days. If the wind is breezy, they usually aren’t too bad. On Canada Day, however, there was little breeze and we all had to use bug spray and put up a mosquito tent to avoid being bitten while we picnicked.

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Playing in the French River

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How many people does it take to set up a mosquito tent?

 

After we had a late lunch, we stopped in at the newly opened Tatamagouche Brewing Company and picked up a couple of growlers of their Hippy Dippy Pale Ale and Butcher Block Red to take back home. Phil and Susan had to be at the airport to pick up Richard & Aletha at suppertime, so we drove straight home.

We ordered pizzas for dinner, I got in the pool for the first time this year and everyone came back to join us around the fire for the evening. We climbed out onto the roof to watch the Canada Day fireworks – even my mom!

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The Canadian “wannabe” from Oregon. 😉

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Happy Canada Day!!

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Roasting marshmallows while waiting for the fireworks

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My parents, Dave & Deanna, enjoy their family

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Our American cousins – Phil & Susan from Oregon and Richard & Aletha from Alabama

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We were lucky to have our family in town for almost two weeks, and took the opportunity to travel around the province a bit with them while they were here. I will chronicle these travels in my next few posts.

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Recognition of Excellence 2014

My invitation to the 19th annual Recognition of Excellence Dinner

My invitation to the 19th annual Recognition of Excellence Dinner

On Wednesday of this week, tourism professionals from around the province gathered to celebrate at the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council’s (NSTHRC) 19th Annual Recognition of Excellence Certification Dinner at Casino Nova Scotia. As I’ve blogged before, this event is my favourite of the year. This is the event where front line staff from tourism businesses around the province get dressed up, mingle with industry leaders, and are recognized for their experience and dedication to tourism in Nova Scotia.

With Jennifer Falkenham, TIANS Membership Co-ordinator and newly certified Tourism Trainer

With Jennifer Falkenham, TIANS Membership Co-ordinator and newly certified Tourism Trainer

Some of my favourite Tourism People - Danny Bartlett, past TIANS Chair and VP Finance of Bay Ferries, Belgravia B&B, Pat Sullivan, CEO of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, Ruth Mailloux, Suncatcher B&B, Ann & Larry MacCormack, Tulips & Thistle B&B and president of the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association

Some of my favourite Tourism People – Danny Bartlett, past TIANS Chair and VP Finance and Administration of Bay Ferries; D’Arcy & Anne McDonah from Belgravia B&B; Pat Sullivan, CEO of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency; Ruth Mailloux from Suncatcher B&B; Ann & Larry MacCormack from Tulips & Thistle B&B and also President of the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association

The Casino is a lovely setting for this dinner, and it was fun to get caught up with friends at the opening reception, overlooking Halifax Harbour. We enjoyed an opening performance by John and Samantha Gracie before dining on a beautiful meal. The menu included a salad of baby leaf lettuce, flat leaf parsley, shaved carrot, garlic & shaved parmesan cheese, drizzled with a lime-corriander vinaigrette. This was followed by an entree of roasted chicken breast on soft polenta with green olive & sherry tapenade and seasonal vegetables. For dessert, we enjoyed triple chocolate mousse with fresh fruit.

John & Samantha Gracie perform at the beginning of the evening

John & Samantha Gracie perform at the beginning of the evening

The evening was especially special for me as I formally received my certificate as a Certified Hotel General Manager. This credential is recognized across the country, and it was announced last week that it will also be recognized by the American Hotel and Lodging Association. At the dinner, Wendy Swedlove, President of the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC) announced that soon, they will have a partnership signed which will mean this credential will be recognized internationally.

Wendy Swedlove, CTHRC

Wendy Swedlove, President of the CTHRC

Recieving my pin from Joachim Stronik, representing the Nova Scotia Government.

Recieving my pin from Joachim Stronik, representing the Nova Scotia Government.

Hugs from Glenn Squires, CEO of Pacrim Hospitality and Chair of the NSTHRC

Hugs from Glenn Squires, CEO of Pacrim Hospitality and Chair of the NSTHRC

There are currently only ten of us who have earned this credential in Canada, with five of us being from Nova Scotia. My other colleagues who received this credential on Wednesday were Jamie Bolduc from the Radisson Suite Hotel in Halifax, Phyllis Stephenson from the Best Western PLUS Chocolate Lake Hotel, Wes Surrett from Pictou Lodge Beach Resort, and Bernice Theriault from Drumlin Hills. Congratulations to each of you – I’m proud to be in such company!

I would like to thank Emerit, the CTHRC, and most of all the NSTHRC for your continued support and encouragement of all tourism professionals, but especially for the support you have shown to me.

My biggest supporter

My biggest supporter

 

With Scott Travis, General Manager of the Prince George Hotel in Halifax. Thank you Scott for your encouragement and mentorship!

With Scott Travis, General Manager of the Prince George Hotel in Halifax. Thank you Scott for your encouragement and mentorship!

With Lisa Dahr, Manager of the NSTHRC

With Lisa Dahr, Manager of the NSTHRC

The Truro B&B girls - Ruth Mailloux from Suncatcher B&B, and Ann MacCormack from Tulips & Thistle B&B

The Truro B&B girls – Ruth Mailloux from Suncatcher B&B, and Ann MacCormack from Tulips & Thistle B&B

With Danny Bartlett, VP Finance of Bay Ferries and past-chair of TIANS. This was his last event as part of the TIANS Board and he will be missed!

With Danny Bartlett, VP Finance of Bay Ferries and past-chair of TIANS. This was his last event as part of the TIANS Board and he will be missed!

The beautiful flowers I was given to take home at the end of the evening

The beautiful flowers I was given to take home at the end of the evening

 Belgravia Bed & Breakfast