Why do I have any tree’s left ?

brushpileI’m starting to think that twigs, and tree limbs actually grow under snow. The snow is completely melted again and just like last time the snow melted there is a whole new crop of twigs and limbs that apparently grew under the blanket of snow. I use to think rocks grew under snow but as it turns out it’s rocks, twigs, and tree limbs do. I swear they can’t be coming from the trees as surely there would be no trees left if that many limbs fell off them. Now lets put this into perspective, I have a burn pit. It’s not your usual burn pit. It’s a big burn pit, think of a foundation for a moderately large green house. Technically you’re only allowed to have a 9×9 burn pit; i think of it as a front 9×9 and a back 9×9 where I only burn one at a time, well that’s always my intention. In any event,we recently had a burn day for the twigs and limbs and there were three piles; one in the burn pit and enough to fill it twice over 6ft high… So all those twigs, sticks, and limbs surely can’t be coming off my trees or I’d have no trees at all. So if anyone knows what I can spray on the lawn before the next snow to prevent the growth of twigs, branches, limbs, and rocks. Please let me know. For now,  I’ll be out gathering enough sticks to fill the burn pit(s) again.

If you see a huge glow in the sunset, maybe it’s not a sunset at all; it’s burn day at the Montrose Inn.

 

 

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It’s Winter…

It is officially winter at the Inn. If only I had been ready. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past year is you’re never ready because the list of to-do items exceeds, by a large factor, the time to do them. Having spent my last Sunday digging out my garage/temporary wood shop from wheelbarrow loads of sawdust, more on that later, I just ran out of energy to prepare my snow beast. I figured, I’ll dig it out and get it ready on Monday. Well it seems snow was on the list for early morning Monday. Turns out snowblowers really dislike wads of leaves. Where in the heck did all the leaves come from? Ah.. the list, that’s right blow and mulch last of leaves before leaving for Germany. We have a few days without night guests which is an odd state of affairs. The Inn seems oddly quiet. We needed the break leading into Christmas. It’s been a fast a furious year.

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Welcome to my HOME

11800249_547394758751345_5423107838618916772_nWe’re doing great! Actually it’s been an amazing year here at the Montrose Inn. We’re constantly rank #1; of course that has an unusual side-effect. We’re gleefully meeting wide eye couples that have never stayed at a B&B before. I suspect that has more to do with on-line booking than an adventurous spirit, fortunately most folks simply embrace and venture forth with no expectations, though sometimes with trepidation. The most common question; you, umm… well live here ? That’s probably the coolest part actually. Yes we live here and yup inviting total strangers to share part of our house and inevitably a snippet of our lives. No, we don’t live in a secluded part of the house away from prying eyes. Yes, we have some (really cool secret places) we can hide in if it really gets to be too much but it rarely does so that explains why those really-cool-secret-places seem to collect dust and boxes. No that’s not a wild mascot, that’s actually our (soon to be) four year old pretending to be a zombie of some other apocalyptic creature (thanks older brother). We’re not 100% sure, but I think we probably live more in the open than most B&B’s. It’s a really great house and we love it so we live in it and we’re super happy to share, because, well that’s who we are.

If, wherever you live and grow up is normal, then for Wren (part time apocalyptic creature / mascot ) having new friends(strangers) every day in your house is ‘normal’. His favorite thing; greeting new friends at the door. He actually gets quite upset if you don’t realize that you’re suppose to ring the door-bell and WAIT. He will make you go back outside and do it properly; learn the game / rules new friends. We’re going to be spending some time together so we may as well get off on the right foot. We just entering the nerf gun stage, thankfully legos underfoot seem to have lost favor, at least for a while.

You really can’t explain being and InnKeeper. You can imagine what it might be like (wine helps) but you’d be wrong. We’re up before our guests and we’re usually the last to call it a night. There is no concept of “going to work” or being done. There is no concept of being caught-up, maybe we’re just too new at? There is definitely being behind; time is such a bear some times always chasing us. I think we’re just starting to understand what it is to be an InnKeeper, a truly rewarding lifestyle.

Welcome to our home; a whole lot of crazy going on here, but it’s a really great home!

 

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One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today, we landed in Belleville (not unlike the Beverly Hillbillies with Granny strapped to the roof of the car) and started our journey as Innkeepers, gardeners, chambermaids, chefs and tea sandwich makers.  We knew nothing of the business and also knew he had about 14 days to prepare for the arrival of our first guests.

One year later, we have served over 2200 guests either breakfast, lunch, supper or for Afternoon Tea.  I know personally, I have baked over 1000 bran muffins for breakfasts, as I have depleted a sleeve of 1000 muffin liners.  Roger has probably poached over 1000 eggs for our awesome Eggs Benedict served every Sunday morning – this has become one of our traditions at the Inn.  We have worn out frying pans, poaching pans, towels and sheets, from frequent use/laundering.

The Inn has received the best care we could possibly provide her; most of her interior has received a fresh coat of paint, walls have been repaired and wood has been polished.  We have replaced her awnings and have extended our living space on the verandah, so that in inclement weather our guests can still enjoy the view of the Bay of Quinte. We will be furnishing the space with vintage style bistro tables and vintage bistro chairs.  Hopefully, we will expand our Afternoon Tea to include these three bistro tables and increase our seatings on Fridays and Sundays.

We have added a back verandah with only 3 stairs so that our guests who have mobility issues have an easier time getting into the Inn.  In doing this, we are also expanding our garden space so that the pathway to the back of the house is just as lovely as the front.  Our front gardens are having a huge overhaul this year as well – new shrubs and bushes are sitting on the spots in the gardens just waiting for the rain to stop so we can plant them!

We have hired staff this year to keep up with the day to day business of running an Inn; I cannot seem to spread myself thin enough to be the full time baker and keep on top of the paper work.  Sabine has joined us and has honestly been such a blessing already! Although, I do miss being praised for the awesome blueberry bran muffins fresh from the oven every morning… oh well, can’t do everything myself!

In taking on this adventure, I have been so blessed with everyone who has contributed to the growth of the business, the referbishing of the Inn, her gardens, and all of our property.  Mostly though, I am blessed to have my crazy partner in crime, Roger, who still laughs when we chat about our “big discussion” to buy the Inn – we seem to have great ideas that come to fruition over a bottle of wine.

The reservations keep pouring in for 2016, our summer is nearly full already, and we have a few weddings booked.  Of course, our 100 year anniversary gala garden party will be in September…guess I had better make the invitee list and send out some invitations.

Wish us luck for the 2016 season; before we know it I will be writing a 2nd year anniversary blog in 2017! 🙂

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Countess of Grantham or Mrs. Hughes…

As we are coming to the end of our “down time”, we have been spending each night watching something on Netflix (we have cable…like 300 stations, but nothing has caught our eye of value to watch…30 stations containing a certain family and their parents does not equal quality tv in our minds).  We originally started with episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot – such a great series honestly, but for fear of leaving me behind while I put our little man to bed each night, Roger started watching Downton Abbey.  If I had a nickel for every time someone compared our home, lifestyle, and perceived life to those of the cast of Downton Abbey my mortgage would be paid off by now!

Quickly, we have shifted from David Suchet’s catch phrase of listening to his “little grey cells” to hating the nasty down stairs staff and rooting for the underdogs, whether down stairs residents or upstairs ones.  I wonder, honestly, what life would have been like here 100 years ago, when the house started being constructed and then once occupied.  I wonder what the cook was like – red-headed and bossy perhaps – to what the maids did to occupy their time all day, and night.  I wonder where the chauffeur took the Masters of the house, and the Ladies of the house.  I wonder what an average meal was like, what was prepared for afternoon tea.  I wonder, what the Lady of the house did to occupy her day…did she plan a garden party, or perhaps a meeting of the local Ladies’ Auxillary or Church Group.  I wonder if there was conflict, and scandal and secrecy in the back staircase…

So then I turn to our house and here it is….

The Lord and Lady…(lol, honestly…Laugh Out Loud)…we spend our day cooking and cleaning and waiting on our guests…hmmmm I think I see a problem here; so glad we aren’t being judged by the Dowager Countess (OR maybe we are…my mother, after all, has SO much to say about our lives here)

The hand maid…we made it absolutely clear to her that her employ here was not a gateway to becoming a professional chamber maid and insisted she go to college…ironically to be a nurse…go figure.  Yay Anna…or is it Sybil!?!

The cook, god bless the cook, or should I say, god bless the Pastry Chef – she starts officially in May, but has been a god send of support for many years to us… Thankfully she still pretty much has her eyesight, right Mrs. Patmore???

And of course we do have our own chauffeur…although he is much to old to be involved with our dear Sybil – he is more like the grand older bachelor cousin, twice removed….we haven’t actually met him on Downton as of yet, but he certainly plays a big part in the daily  squirrel report here at Montrose!

We have our heir, who is off to learn a trade and thankfully, will NOT, be taking a trip on the Titanic any time soon…we could refer to him as “what’s-his-name” I suppose…LOL – you know who you are… we also have our littlest heir, who knows, perhaps his part will be written into season 3 of the Abbey 🙂

So, my point of this is, we are coming in to our time here.  The reservations for Tea, and dinners and parties and overnight stays continue to pour in, either by phone or the internet; we are ramping up to have the gardens shaped up, the barn revamped, the verandah equipped with bistro tables and lovely new awnings.  Each day I wake up to either the task of baking, or working on books, or doing bank deposits and shopping for groceries for special events.  It is going to be a super-duper, exciting/scary busy season starting sooner, rather than later, and I cannot help but think that I am much more like Mrs. Hughes than the Countess…although, some days, I wish someone would brush my hair, and dress me in a lovely gown and I could ask the question “what is a week-end” (said in a very condescending english accent…LOL – God bless Maggie Smith)

Yup…Pretty much Mrs. Hughes, I best get my key chain and lock up the stock room and silver closet!

Oh…cannot wait to watch a new episode of the Abbey in about two hours! I think I am hooked 🙂 I mean how else am I to make my decisions about how to run the Inn?? LOL 😉

 

 

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marketing-300x132Putting a shingle up was never so complicated I suspect when this house was built. Find a nice piece of lumber, a bit of paint, heck get a fancy wood carver and make a lovely sign. There you go, everyone knows who you are and what you are about; next task. The digital age, the wonder of information at your finger tips. It would be a whole lot easier if I knew where you’re fingertips might be….

There is one thing that never fails to amaze me; how many different “business listing” services there are and how ridiculously important it is that you are listed on each. Tourism Canada, Tourism Ontario, Tourism Quinte West, Trip Advisor, the list is endless. Each with their own flavour of how you need to list your particular business. I never thought about it, ok I did… i.e. why in the heck can’t I find this place… Well now I know, because it takes a ridiculous amount of time to find all these listing services, fill out the requisite forms and moderations and then ensure that they all the say the same thing.

Now when I search for something I find myself being a whole lot more patient. I’m sure it’s out here somewhere, poor sot, is probably up in the wee hours filling out forms and trying to convince moderators that truly a B&B is a business…

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Happy Anniversary to Us!!!!

How time flies! Honestly, it seems like just yesterday, but it was exactly one year ago today that Roger and I, with two of our children, Spencer & Sarah, showed up at the Inn on our way to Quebec City for Carnival.

It was early evening, it was dark and there was snow up to Roger’s butt – I remember, because I thought I am not walking around the property in all of that snow! We walked thru the house in absolute awe…its size, its beauty, its charm – it was just like walking into a dream house.  We were here for more than an hour going into every room, measuring in our minds how our family would fit into this new environment.

The drive up to Quebec City was filled with discussions on how we were going to remodel our bathroom in our ensuite at the house on Sanderling.  Discussions on expanding the floor space in the upstairs hall to make a library/seating area.  Finish the basement for Spencer as a make-shift apartment while he attended college/university.  But after seeing the Inn, the conversation quickly changed to how are we going to make this work, how hard could it be to run a B&B, how easy will it be to work remote for Roger, how with the children adjust.  And then, one night, over a bottle of wine and a lovely supper in a quaint restaurant in Old Quebec City, the decision was made to buy the Inn!

Crazy two that we are, we jumped in feet first – or head first as some might think – and made an offer to purchase within about a week of visiting here.

BEST DECISION EVER!! NO LIE!

I sit here in my office today, looking out my window into our yard…it is sunny, there is virtually no snow, the grass is almost green, the squirrels are frolicking in the yard…best decision ever!

Our season is already ramping up, lots of reservations coming in for lunches, Teas, and over-night stays.  We have seen so many guests already in 2016, I think it is going to be a great year! Weddings booked, bridal brunches, bridge clubs, so many people in the community calling to see about having their events here at the Inn.  We are making plans to expand, in so many ways.

Here’s looking to 2016…let’s see what this year has to offer… I am excited for this year’s adventures!

 

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Where’s the Snow?

Deluxe28SHOThere is a point where you realize that you’re not going to clear your driveway using a snow shovel. I think it occurred to me when I was just walking up my driveway(s) and realized that my pedometer indicated that I had walked the better part of a kilometer. Guess that means MORE POWER….

So now that I have MORE POWER, where is the snow that was up to my backside when we toured this property a year ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we first toured the property. At that time walking around the property would have been more appropriately done using snowshoes. I was honestly looking forward to letting my new Snow Beast feed on copious quantities of snow. So far I’ve had to be satisfied with wisps of snow, but that has not taken away from the fun. This thing has a tonne of power; there I was being dragged down the driveway with my coat sleeve stuck on the handlebar conveniently holding tight the deadman switch. Ok, I wasn’t dead yet, but I was heading for the highway. If you happened to be driving by, no I was not practicing to join the river dance group, I was trying to get back on my feet!

Maybe the snow will come soon, maybe it will just be a wispy kind of winter; no matter I’m ready Mr Frost bring it on.

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Slowing Down for the Season

Here it is the end of October, and, in our minds, our “slow” season should have already started about 29 days ago…but we were so wrong.  October has been a very busy month, and as per my last blog, we are very thankful for that, especially since it was so unexpected.  October was filling up fast & furious in September, but November is not following suit and it is almost upon us.  To date we are up to 1300 guests…that happened pretty fast, but with no help from November!

We are getting ready for Premium & Christmas Teas; so we know we have to give up on our fresh tomato, herbs and cucumbers for the sandwiches, and have to spend some time developing something more unique for the winter.  Something a little more hearty, and with ingredients that are available without too much difficulty.  Not that buying strawberries is hard in the winter months, but they sure aren’t as tasty as the ones picked fresh from the local farms during the early summer.

We are hosting bridge groups and lady’s groups on a regular basis and have more steady business during the days that are booked in advance, but our tourists seem to have put their luggage away for another year.  In a way I am looking forward to the break, and in another way I wonder how I will fill my days.

I think our time now will be spent primarily unpacking all that is still packed away, accessing its usefulness and determining whether it is an “oh WOW! I wondered where that was!” or a “hmmm, that can go to the garage sale pile”.  Oh, and date to be announced, there will be a  garage sale at the Montrose Inn Spring 2016!  Save up your loonies friends, ‘cuz it’s gonna be a doozie! LOL

Tomorrow is Hallowe’en; our little guy wants to go out for a bit of trick or treating, which is great, except we live in the country!  So we will visit our few neighbours and pad his bag with treats.  We will be taking down the fall decor sooner that we know and get ready for Christmas.  In my last home, I spent November 1 dragging out all of the Christmas boxes, but now that our home is also our business, out of respect for all of our Veterans, both young and old, I will not be bringing out one bow of holly until November 12th.

I will be spending those 12 days, digging out fall clothes, finding my winter boots(!!!) and hats and coats, sorting out some spaces in the Inn with things I actually use vs things I thought I would use and don’t.  I will hopefully find all kinds of things I thought I had lost forever, like hopefully my favourite grey cashmere sweater and Roger’s tie pin.  I am in desperate need of a haircut! It has been since March that I have seen Geoffrey and my locks are now tickling my waste.  There are so many other things that I need to do, but alas, I am sure there will be a few days, here and there, that we will be snowed in this winter so I will have plenty of time to finish my sorting and unpacking.

And with that, knowing that I will have only a few short months to get all things sorted before our “busy” season starts up again, I think maybe I should spend my time more productively and do some research on hibernation techniques because before I know it, I’ll be posting ads for full-time summer help and the ride will start all over again.

Secretly, I may already be missing it 🙂

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Being Thankful

It’s been so long since I have had the time to sit down and write a blog that I have forgotten my password…so first and foremost…I am thankful for password resets!  LOL

This is the time of year where we all typically sit and reflect on what we are thankful for; but for me, it has been many years that I have thought on almost a daily basis for what I am thankful.  Yesterday, and today, I thought why not write about it.  We have had a very busy holiday weekend at the Inn, and were not able to join our family for Thanksgiving, but we were able to contribute to so many others’ happiness and that is fundamentally why we chose to buy a B&B in the first place.

I am certain that everyone’s list is long, and mine is no less long, but here it is…

1 – I am thankful for my very best friend, true love, sole-mate and best partner a girl could ask for…Roger McIlmoyle. I love you with all of my heart, and that love just grows every day; you make me a better person.

2 – I am thankful for our 3 wonderful children, their health, their successes and their happiness…Spencer, Sarah & Warren. Both of our children have been wonderful and accepting of their little brother, and he loves them so much, and misses them terribly when they aren’t home.

3 – I am thankful my mother, Alcina, is alive and well today. She suffered a brain tumour and has gone thru much with her health, but has been given a clean bill and although she drives me crazy sometimes, I would most certainly miss that if she were gone.

4 – I am thankful my big brother, Frankie, is alive and well today.  He suffered a massive heart attack and required triple-bypass surgery, and has come thru like the trooper he is.  Even though we don’t get a huge opportunity to see each other, I know that he is still there to protect me and help me at my beck & call.

5 – I am thankful for my whole family, all the Pastoors & all the McIlmoyles, and all the cousins out there, and my friends, who are my family, Harold & Sabine; without them in our lives our home would be a little empty I have realized. Given they are both currently in Europe (Ireland & Germany respectively), missing them shows me they are a huge part of our family nucleus.

6 – I am thankful for our newest girl, Miss Tommi, who, from the first day we met, has been eager to help us by working at the Inn, becoming part of our family and pursuing a positive path in life by embracing an opportunity that would not have been given to her had she not worked hard, embraced forgiveness and grown into her own skin.

7 – I am thankful for Robert, who shows up with a smile on his face (and the occasional bag of freshly picked apples) willing to do whatever we ask of him, from mowing the lawn, to helping us park cars. He has become a dear friend, and it brings us joy when we see his car pull into the laneway.

8 – I am thankful for all of the new friends that we have made since we have moved here; from our next door neighbours, Mike and June, who have shared their circle of friends with us (Karey-Ann & Todd) to guests who have shown up at our doorsteps and touched our hearts so quickly that we become instant “old” friends.

9 – I am thankful for the opportunity to live in this great home, meet great people and walk around every day like I learned something new, helped some body in need or just filled someone’s tummy with some great food.

10 – I am thankful to all of the gifts that we have received since we have made the Montrose Inn our home – ladies, who we have only just met, have gifted us some wonderful heirlooms from their family, homes and hearts, because they felt the Inn would be a perfect new home.  We have received beautiful antiques, that are priceless to us in more ways than their previous owners could ever know, as being entrusted with their treasures makes us realize how generous people in our lives are.

I could probably babble on and on and on, but honestly, every day I wake up and think how blessed I am, how blessed our life is and how important it is to tell people how much they mean to you, and how thankful you are for them.

So, a big, giant THANK YOU to everyone out there who is a part of my life, in any and every small or large way! Thank you, thank you… THANK YOU!

 

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