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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Now serving guest 1000 !

It’s hard to believe it but we’ve about surpassed 1000 guests since May 29th.  The bags under our eyes and the way the seats of our pants seems to drag on the road though lead me to believe it’s true. It’s been an amazing summer, we’ve met some truly amazing people from all over the world. Sirvoy_Hotel_Booking_SystemMany of our guests were virtually drop-ins. Some had no intention of staying at a B&B, thinking we were actually a Hotel/Inn, but all seemed to leave pleasantly surprise. We’ve had many people that we hope will return and some we intend to visit. We can hardly wait to travel to Ottawa to visit a lovely couple that have taken a sizeable slab of Elm and turned it into two bowls; one for us and one for them. We’ve had artists, authors, and romantics. We’ve had couple renewing vows and making vows. We’ve had evenings where we (guests, neighbours and family) have sat around chatting into the wee hours laughing so hard tears were flowing down our cheeks. We’ve seen our son off to college for the first time. Gathered in a lovely young lady (Tommie-Anne) to help us and to help her off to college for the first time. If you’ve wondered where we went; we’re still here you should truly come visit and make it 1001.

 

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That little voice in your head…

It’s always funny to me how intuition kicks in sometimes.  No rhyme or reason, nothing in particular, just a feeling you get once in a while.

Two days ago we received a call from someone looking for two rooms; all we had left were our two rooms that share a bathroom, one with a double and one with a set of twin beds. They opted for the room with the double for the next night and wondered about a cancellation fee as their friend was also looking for two rooms in our area, and after all, their friends may find something better.  Our cancellation policy allows 72 hours with no penalty prior to check-in…otherwise, if you do not show up or cancel within that 72 hour time frame we charge for the room.  It is pretty common practice in not only B&B’s but in hotels/motels as well.  And the reality is, most days I am turning away customers as I am fully booked.

After gathering all of the info for the check-in, I said to Roger – they are going to be a no-show.

Yesterday morning, starting at about 7:30am we started getting calls from them; they couldn’t find us, we weren’t on any map, our address didn’t exist on Old Hwy 2, they drove up and down the highway and couldn’t find us… After the first of many calls, I said to Roger – and so it begins.

Last night at about 6:30pm we received a phone call from a woman wondering if we had a room, and we did.  The one across the hall from the people that had booked the double bed – they did not specify a private bath, nor did they pay for it.  The lady wanted to know if anyone here spoke French; luckily my Uncle Tatish was visiting from Ottawa and he speaks fluent French.  So I put him on the phone.

A man, from Quebec, who was bicycling in from Toronto, got caught in the storm and wanted to spend the night. My uncle gave him our address and we waited for him to arrive.  And he did…ironically at the same time our other guests were pulling up to the drive way.

Surprised, I spoke with the registered guests.  They wondered if it was a problem that they were late.  I said no, their room is reserved.  Hmmm…he wondered if it was a problem that they brought their small pet… I said, that as indicated on our web-site, we are a pet free environment.  It’s only a small dog he said… No, I said small dog or big dog we are a pet free environment.  He ceremoniously went to have a chat with his wife about the situation and said, thank you but no, they will not be taking the room after all.  Given that I turned them away, the 72 hour cancellation fee had to be waived.  I wonder where they found that dog so late on a Sunday afternoon?

Regardless, on my porch stood a gentleman (who spoke virtually no english), from Sherbrooke, Quebec, who was soaked to the bones with all of his biking gear and bike wanting to stay the night.  He was brought here by a kind Samaritan who picked him up at a truck stop, and who, with the help of another kind soul, found him our home.  My uncle greeted him, and showed him his room for the night (a nice double bed) and asked him to join us for a family supper.

We dined and shared stories (as interpreted by my wonderful uncle) over a bottle of red wine and some delicious pasta, followed by ice cream and peach & blueberry cobbler.  Everyone went off to bed happy and satiated.

This morning, afteIMG_5228r a full breakfast, our friend mounted his metal steed, fully loaded, and off he went down Old Hwy 2 heading towards Kingston on the next leg of his journey home.

Roger and I have had many chats about being on the right path, and how sometimes things happen for a reason.  It can be said that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away…in this case the Lord taketh away, and the Lord giveth a much better fit for the Innkeepers and their family 🙂

 

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Welcome Home Friends!

Over the years I have described many of my friends as my family.  Family to me has never really been about blood line, it’s been more about a feeling of belonging.  Some how people in your life are always meant to be there for a reason; one more piece to add to the puzzle. In coming from a blended family, and now having a blended family of my own, I see great value in loving my Moms and my Dads for exactly who they are and not my perception of who they should be.  In the past, I felt guilty about including or not including “family” in important events in my life – some of which I regret and some, well, not so much.  Roger has often accused me, in a good way of course, of collecting not only things but people as well.

There have been blog entries about lots of exciting people and things that have come and gone in our lives since we started this whole adventure.  From people knocking on our door two days after we moved in to introduce themselves as neighbours to members of the Graham family, people making reservations via word of mouth, past visits or via the internet.  Some guests come and go quite quickly, while others take a special place in your heart as not only guests but friends & family.  The longer they stay, the harder it is to see them pack up the things and leave.  We miss them at breakfast time the most.

IMG_5074We bought our house with the intention of using as an Inn and of course our business, but it has very quickly become our home.  Not only have welcomed so many new family members into our home, we have now been blessed with welcoming home some long lost friends.  Jill brought us the carpet from the living room, and when we had the opportunity of an empty drawing room we rolled it out…it is HUGE (only inches on any side to a wall or a doorway)  It’s funny how, unwittingly, Roger unrolled the carpet in the exact orientation as it was put originally.  Those spots you see on the left are fade marks that fit exactly at the verandah doors.

Additionally, Jill kindly gifted us a photo of her mother, Grace Frances Graham (b – January 29, 1931), on her wedding day; she IMG_5163is absolutely glowing in this portrait.  May 14, 1955, Grace married John Hickey and this is an original photo of her at our fireplace in the drawing room.  As you can see, below her lovely lace gown is the carpet.  We were told that what looks like traditional wallpaper on the walls was actually silk (yes, fabric!). This photo of a photo does it no justice.  We will be having her framed and I think the best place for her is in the drawing room near the mantle.

Last, but certainly not least, our matching antique 4 poster twin beds made it home too.  Bumped and bruised, sad and a bit broken, they are finally home too.  Although, this is a new home for them, they have taken a very long and damaging journey, where they will be cleaned and lovingly repaired and be used again for a little boy to enjoy.  If they can survive what they went through to get here, hopefully they will survive Wren for the next 16 years!  If inanimate objects have feelings…these beds may wish they were left on the dock in Buffalo…or maybe they will end up being thankful for having a young boy jump and bump, hide under and sleep upon and then be passed on to his children…IMG_5161

 

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Special Things at the Inn

Slowly but surely we are shaping the Inn to our image. We initially arrived hoping we could offer a great experience for our guests. We worried that we didn’t know how to run an Inn (yet), and we worried whether or not what we had to offer would be deemed valuable. You wonder what’s an Innkeeper really suppose to be like? We know we’re just a little country Inn, only a handful of rooms. We’ve decided to should stop worrying about whether or not we know what we should be doing and, maybe not so consciously, that we should just treat our guests like we’re best friends and it’s been so long we can’t remember when we last saw each other; so we’ll catch up over a lovely experience. There is no doubt it’s a lot of work, but it’s turning out to be very rewarding work. This past Saturday we stood on the porch and watch a lovely couple take pictures before their wedding. We watch the groom see his bride for the first time in her wedding dress as she walked up our steps (pictures before the wedding, what a novel idea).  A grandfather clock built by my dad was a focal point of a series of pictures. It brought tears to both our eye’s.

Yes, we’re bystanders in someone else’s day, but it’s nice to know and see how it makes a difference. For years I’ve worked anonymously on systems and architectures that affect many people’s lives and even though I know it’s has made a difference it’s undeniable that it’s fleeting at best and I never actually see the joy on their faces. We spend time trying to find ways to make a day at our Inn special and something remembered. There never seems time to share all that’s gone on so I thought I’d share a few pictures of the little things we’ve come up with so far; by far only a tiny sample, as we’re so excited to share with our guests (new friends) that we forget to take pictures.

InnBreakfast-PloughmansWhen we have guests for a few days we try and make each day a new breakfast experience. Our repertoire is expending every week. This week’s guests enjoyed a take on the ploughman’s lunch with a ploughman’s breakfast. Prosciutto wrapped mellon, seasonal fruit, three cheeses, tomato slices topped with pesto and garden fresh herbs, a trio of toast, and a perfect soft boiled egg.

InnSpecialNightSuzette, helped a guest assemble(she’s such a romantic) a surprise anniversary weekend (20th). The weekend started with a special in-room surprise followed the next evening with a limo driver and special steak dinner at favourite local establishment.

InnTea-Childs

Hosting a tea for wedding shower we were asked if we would be able to do some simple peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Suzette wanted our young guests to feel special too so we put a “little girl” spin on tea. Peanut butter and honey bunnies, carrot stuffed cucumbers, fruit & vegetable juice in pretty china (yes it could be broken, but we’d rather see the smile on the girl’s face than worry about a little tea cup that can be replaced), followed by a strawberry-sunday.

What’s my favourite moment of the weekend, you might wonder….. a fleeting moment Smallest Guestwhen a mom has a huge smile on her face and you know all the hustle was worth while as a picture is worth a thousand words, but I can’t think of just the right ones.

 

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A Painting We Shall Go…

The colour choice for the living room was easier than I thought.  Roger not only liked my original colour choices, the idea of painting the ceiling a darker colour than the walls was also accepted easily.

With colour chips in hand, we went to the fabric store to see if we could find some fabric to make new drapery for the room as well.  I mean, if you are going to freshen it up, you might as well go the whole 9 yards.  Of course the fabric I found happened to be on clearance, which always makes finding enough for your project difficult.  I needed enough for 6 panels, at 120 inches each, for a grand total of 18.5 metres.  I did find two bolts of the fabric I liked.  After we measured it out there was only 14 metres 🙁 I was disappointed, but the lovely lady who was helping me took the extra time to walk around the store looking for other options, and we settled on another fabric, of which there was not enough either, but it could be ordered as it was newer stock.

Roger’s parents came over the next day, with a ton of berries, and I was telling Ann all about the fabric that I really wanted. Her and I chatted out it, and figured out a way to squeeze out an extra two panels from what was available.

ROAD TRIP!!!

We get to the store and I find the two bolts in the clearance aisle.  Ann agrees that it is the perfect fabric and as her & I were chatting I looked down.  At about knee level I spotted another bolt of the fabric! We had gone thru that store the night before with a fine tooth comb and did not see it – the lady who helped me the day before was there and she was amazed that I had found another bolt.  She even told me that she had sent a fax out to the two other stores in the area to see if they had more and no one replied.

I bought it all! We are still a few metres short, and will still have to “McIver” a 6th panel, but it will never be noticed.

When I went to bed last night, our living room was tidied up and looking lovely.  When I got up this morning, it was void of decor and furniture.  What remains in the room is covered with white drop sheets.  The hole in our ceiling has its final coating and is now drying.  Seems we have some construction fairies who work tirelessly while I sleep in… now to put it into perspective I only slept in until 6:15am today.  LOL

Soon Roger will have paint and paint chips in hand and will be off to have them tinted the colours of the room.  Our wonderful painter will be here today to start on the walls…

EEEEEEEE! I cannot wait to see the finished product!!!

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Water takes the path of least resistance…

Two weeks ago we had some of our family visiting and we had them sleeping in one of our guest rooms.  Two days after they left, Roger got up, at his usual 5am, and went into the living room to sit in his new favourite chair, have his morning coffee and plan out his day.  Funnily enough, his plan did not include the giant puddle that seemed to have formed on our beautiful wood floor over night.

After doing some of our own investigation (Roger and I are part-time plumbers don’t cha know), we thought it was a chip in the tub that may have just had enough pelting with water and decided to leak.  We ran the water, shower and tub, and the water seemed to keep dripping at its seemingly usual pace, and I gave the toilet a flush for good measure…the water just kept on coming…drip drip drip.  Roger drilled a hole into the ceiling and used a fiberoptic camera to have a look into the ceiling and saw no evidence of an obvious leak.  We went to Canadian Tire and bought a repair kit and fixed the chip.  Done and done.

We had guests checking in, whose three daughters would be using our suspect shower/tub, and we asked them to please be careful with it as we were hoping the problem was fixed, but just in case please be careful.  They were very gracious and did a great job minimizing their tub/shower use during their stay.

But the day after they checked out, at 5am; drip drip drip…low and behold a new and bigger puddle (with a matching reverse puddle expanding on the ceiling).  Time to call in the big guns…we called a fellow who was here for Afternoon Tea the previous Sunday and who is a plumber, Brad.

After a repair to the leaky TOILET, not shower at all (grrrr), all seemed like it was going to be fine. Fine, except for the hole in the ceiling that now seemed to be the focus of our lovely living room.  Roger and I both agreed, after having to potentially cancel several reservations due to plumbing issues, perhaps a maintenance plan with Brad was in order.

We knew we wanted to replace the toilet in our shared family bathroom as well.  So with Brad and his assistant coming for the day today, we thought it the perfect time.  Guess what??!! McIver installed that toilet in our bathroom; I saw it with my own eyes.  Too bad there wasn’t a top secret disc hidden somewhere in the pipe to make it all worth while.

So now,  they need to cut a hole in the ceiling of our basement stairwell to fix it before installing our new one! Good thing is that preventative maintenance costs far less that repairing after the fact; my 25 years experience in the insurance industry taught me that much.  With all this ceiling work being done, I now have a valid reason to repaint; YEAH!  I love to redecorate!!!

I think, along with the water, perhaps I should keep the rye flowing into a glass for Roger when he gets home from the office tonight, it’s easier to choose colours for paint that way. LOL! 😉

Oh, I had better make a call to the painter, Les.

 

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Down Under Guests

We have had a lot of guests, mostly from Ontario but some from Quebec and Alberta, since opening our B&B just over a month ago.

We were fortunate enough to have one lovely lady who treated her mother to an Afternoon Tea and overnight stay for Mother’s Day, which included her two Aunts visiting from Scotland.  We had a wonderful chat about the history of the Inn the connection between it and Montrose, Scotland.

Our current guests, a lovely family of 5, are currently residing in British Columbia, and have been there for about 1 year BUT they are originally from Australia! Here on business, but from Sydney, they are trying to travel as much of Canada as they can before they decide to return to their home-land.  It is so interesting to hear about people and their lives and how they end up at our Inn.

The conversation turned to discuss local businesses and history, and we came to discuss Trenton.  Steve’s uncle was a pilot for the Royal Air Force and was stationed/trained in Trenton during World War II; he would have stayed on the base or been billeted locally,maybe even in the Inn (as we heard on good authority that pilots were billeted in our attic).  So here is a man & his uncle who have travelled half way around the world, 60+ years apart, and for very different reasons, but has now visited the same place, and maybe even slept in the same home.

Such a small, small world; isn’t it wonderful?!

 

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Give Credit where Credit is Due

So many times in the last few months people have asked both Roger & I “what ever possessed you to buy a B&B Inn??” and we always give the exact same story, which is the truth.

I can honestly take full blame/responsibility/credit for finding the Inn on line – that is the truth.  I can honestly say that I love a great decorating magazine and will flip through one endlessly, page after page (not reading the words) looking at beautiful photos of decor and rooms and grounds and gardens.  I keep them and read them in the car on long drives.  I have weeded them out to my all time fav’s that make road trip after road trip with sticky notes hanging out the sides with notes or ideas or just a little star to show that there is something I love on that page.

There were even days that, frustrated, I complained to Roger that in all the magazines and books that I loved to look at over and over, there were never, ever homes that were comparable to the one we lived in in Mississauga.  It was either articles to decorate within a small space or an enormous space…you know like those ones you see in movies (or in magazines).  I quote myself here…” No ONE owns a house like this – look at that kitchen…who HAS a kitchen that big??!!”

I joined a decorating group on Facebook – love them – and made a few “friends” with ladies from the states.  Now, I say “friends” because I don’t really know them, but they have common likes, decor ideas, and are fabulous at what they do & post on line and it’s nice to belong to a community of like-minded people who appreciate fine things. It’s fun.

One day, one of my friends, Kathleen Davin Irolla (you know it’s you) posted a photo of a lovely estate that she found while driving in the country-side in New York – and of course my immediate response to her dreams of owing it were “I want a cool mansion too!” and that was the day I searched, on-line – Inns for Sale Ontario.  Low and behold…Montrose Inn, second on the list but first in my heart!

So, after a few months of taking blame/responsibility/credit for our incredible home, new adventure, and roller coaster ride of a life time, all while Roger was out of town, I realized today that the actual blame/responsibility/credit belongs to Miss Kathleen…AWESOME-SAUCE 🙂

When are you coming up for a visit??!! We cook a mean 1000 calorie breakfast…heheee!

 

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