A Good Home, Architecture, Barns, Canadian life, Christmas, Christmas Decorations, Christmas in a Village, Heritage Home for Sale, Heritage Homes, Heritage nieghborhoods, Home, Interior Design, Ontario

One Last Christmas in a Beloved Home

I’m repeating this story from last Christmas because the house and village are both charming examples of ‘Canadiana’ at Christmastime.

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Christmas is a special time in Unionville, a village just north of Toronto.

Blog Photo - Unionville Main Stree at Christmas -  Lorne Chapman Photo

The main street sparkles with decorations and, starting this Friday, Christmas activities.

Main Street photos by Lorne Chapman
Main Street pictures by Lorne Chapman

Locals and visitors alike will enjoy the Olde Tyme Candlelight Christmas Parade, skating on Toogood Pond, shopping in the stores and farmers’ market.

Karyn Boehmer photo
Karyn Boehmer photo

Christmas is also a special time in local homes, and perhaps none more so than at this home, below. The family who has lived here for 23 years is selling and moving on; this will be their last Christmas in this home. 

Karyn Boehmer photo
Karyn Boehmer photo

Interested buyers may visit the “open house” on Sunday Dec 14 from 2  to 4 p.m. 

Homeowners Lorrie and Mark created the large addition that connects the original brick house, above left, to the old barn, extreme right and below.

Karyn Boehmer Photo
Karyn Boehmer Photo

Blog Photo - Stiver House L and Charlie

Blog Photo - Stiver Staircase

Blog Photo - Stiver Christmas Decor CU

The original house was built in the 1870’s by Charles Stiver, a carpenter whose family ran the local mill (now the site of the local farmers’ market). Its history is recorded in documents and paintings, such as this one above the fireplace.

Blog Photo - Stiver House Family Room Fireplace, Painting and Chair

Every Christmas here has been special, says Lorrie. 

“Our most memorable Christmas was undoubtedly last year with the ice storm! We were without power for five days and hosted Christmas dinner for 21 by candlelight! The three fireplaces kept us toasty and the food was heated by stove-top and a nearby neighbour’s oven.” 

Photo by Karyn Boehmer
Karyn Boehmer Photo

Three children have grown to adulthood here. 

Blog Photo - Stiver House Christmas Mat

Lorrie’s fond memories include baking with the children and “the kids banging pots in the kitchen”. There have been many meals and discussions; homework; celebrations; laughter, tears, arguments and hugs.

Blog Photo - Stiver House Kitchen Area 1

She remembers extended family visits, especially her mother’s. Everyone — adults, kids and dogs — loved walking the nearby trails, stopping at the ponds.

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Mark and Lorrie honoured their home’s heritage in the addition. 

Blog Photo - Stiver House Chair in Conservatory

Blog Photo - Stiver House Conservatory Wideshot

Karyn Boehmer Photo
This photo and the two below are by Karyn Boehmer

Karyn Boehmer Photo

Blog Photo - Stiver Staircase

The results earned the couple a heritage award. Their work has been “a pride and joy” for Mark:

“The 12-inch baseboards in the addition were milled to match the ones in the old house. The antique barn beams in the addition mimic a post & beam structure. The pine floors are milled from 100+ year old pine barn beams. The stairs, railings and fireplace surround were milk painted and distressed on site.”

There are whimsical touches in several rooms, including the mural in the master bathroom, painted by an acclaimed artist.

Blog Photo - Stiver House Mural Poppies and Iris

Blog Photo - Stiver Hosue Mural2

Blog Photo - Stiver House Unionville Mural1

After 23 years here, the family is moving on with mixed emotions.

They can never forget this place. They hope that the new owners will love it.

Blog Photo - Stiver House Entry and Courtyard

blog photo - stiver house christmas urn

blog photo - stiver house window box

**

Christmas decorations by Jan Corbett.

Thanks to Karyn Boehmer, Lorne Chapman and the Unionville BIA for their images.

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THE (IM)PERFECT TREE

You think my Christmas arrangement was bad?

You should see our Christmas tree this year.

Last year,  I chose the tree myself– and suffered a thousand criticisms because it was so small. No-one would admit what I knew: this tree was tiny but perfect.

Tiny Perfect Christmas Tree

This year, my husband and younger daughter were sure they’d do better. They drove to a tree farm, hopped onto the farmer’s tractor-pulled wagon…

On the Wagon… and cut a tree. They declared it “perfect”.

Cutting the Tree

Until they brought it home. Neither could explain how their perfect tree turned into a strange creature with few branches on one side, even  fewer on the other – and a bare backside, to boot.

Truth is, our family has a really bad record when it comes to picking Christmas trees: too tall or too short, too thin or too fat, too sparse.

Lopsided Tree

The first winter we spent at my husband’s family farmhouse years ago, getting the tree was a no-brainer. We’d simply walk down the hill of the 100-acre farm to where the spruce trees grew, and cut one.

It was particularly snowy that year. We slipped and slid down the long hill, Barclay the dog beside us.  But we cut the “perfect tree” and tied a rope around it. Then came the long journey uphill. We slipped and slid again and our knees nearly buckled in the deep snow.

We eyed Barclay, now grown and strong, wondering if we could tether the rope to him and have him do the work, but abandoned that idea swiftly. He was having a lot of fun eating the snow or digging himself out of it.

“What use are you?” we teased him. “We sure could use your help right now.”

By the time we reached the top of the hill, the branches on the tree’s bottom side were battered and broken. To hide the damage, we positioned the tree’s flat side against one wall of the large dining room, but what a sad thing it was.

Photo by H. Grange

“It’s a Charlie Brown tree,” I told everyone that year. “It’s got a charm all its own.”

“A tree only our family could love,” my husband muttered, shaking his head in disappointment.

This year, despite all the ornaments,  our daughter was shaking her head in disappointment, while her father  kept claiming that the tree “has character”.

But that tree gave me a chance to feel like a domestic diva. As you know, that’s a rare thing.

Blog Photo - Christmas Tree 13

Photo by H. Grange

I fetched the branches that my husband had cut from the bottom of the tree, and some peacock feathers, and tried to fool the eye into thinking the tree wasn’t as bad as it was.

Selfie Ornament

Or maybe the only eye that got fooled was mine. Oh, well….

From the home of imperfect Christmas arrangements and trees – I wish you peace, love and joy.

Cynthia.

ALL PHOTOS BY H. GRANGE

A Good Home, Advent Traditions, Christmas, Christmas Decorations, Christmas Traditions, Christmas Tree Trimming, Nisser, Scandinavian Christmas

The Nicer Nisser

Inge had a way of always putting the best forward.  A Danish-American living in California, she always found a positive way to view a challenging situation.

She fell off a ladder once. Broke her arm and sustained multiple bruises. The fact that she fell from a ladder while decorating her house for Christmas might have made the situation extra challenging. Who wants to go through Christmas battered and bruised?  But it didn’t stop Inge from being cheerful.  Her daughter is my good friend, and it was one of the things we marveled about: both our mothers’ capacity for seeing the positives. Both women had been through tough times, but came out the other end of it with joyfulness.

Inge also collected Nisser – the tiny elf-people that visit people’s homes. Not surprisingly, she collected the kind, cheerful Nisser, the ones you may see in Scandinavian homes at Christmas.

The Nicer Nisser - 1
The Nice Nisser – 1

Inge died a few years ago, and her daughter has inherited some of the Nisser.  So they will be visiting her own home this Advent and Christmas, a fact which makes my friend very happy.

(Yes, I know the ones in these photos are dolls. The real Nisser are usually invisible.)

But my friend warns that the “drille Nisser” – like the one who made my family’s appliances break down recently — could still come out on Christmas Eve!  We are advised to leave out a bowl of sweet porridge for them the night before – preferably with lots of cinnamon.

Nicer Nisser 2
Nice Nisser 2

This post is dedicated to the memory of Inge, and to all who take joy in Christmas.

A Good Home, Architecture, Canadiana, Christmas, Furniture, Gratitude, Homes, Inspiration, Interior Design, Spiritual, Wool Blankets

Everyday Glory

One late-autumn afternoon, after being stuck in bed for several days, I looked around at our bedroom and decided it needed colour.

Christmas was several weeks away, but  that didn’t mean I couldn’t haul out the two Christmas-themed cushions I’d received as a gift a few years before. Red does wonders for a room.

I could hardly wait for my husband to see this cheerful scene.

He went to bed before me that night. The next morning, I asked eagerly: “What did you think of the way I decorated our bedroom?”

“Decorated?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

He  stared at me, puzzled.

“Didn’t you notice anything different?”

“Oh!” he said. “You mean… all those pillows and stuff?”

I nodded.

“I didn’t really look at them,” he said.

Christmas Cushions
Christmas Cushions – Photo by H. Grange

There, in a corner of the floor were the red and white cushion and the two pillows in their lace-edged shams. They looked forlorn. I groaned.

“Oops – I screwed up, didn’t I?”

“It was so pretty,” I said in a whiny voice.

But when I met his eyes, he looked contrite, like a small boy in trouble.  Next thing I knew, we were both laughing.

Laughing over this foolishness was a little thing – an unremarkable thing. Unless you’ve learned to cherish the small moments of life.

Before the car accident, I was busy leading the big projects, travelling here and there.  Rushing around, trying to change the world, can make a person miss the beauty of “ordinary” things.

Injuries and pain are indescribably worse.   You finally have time to see, but barely have the energy to look.

But – oh – it’s worth the effort to look! To take joy in the small moments, to see one’s surroundings with new and grateful eyes.  To be open to small patches of everyday glory. 

"Snow Cones" on Spruce Branch - Photo by Hamlin Grange
“Snow Cones” on Spruce Branch – Photo by H. Grange

Snow on cedars. Fresh snow on the cedar and spruce trees  makes the garden beautiful, day and night.

The late sun. Late afternoon sunlight shining on wood floors is magical. And when the late sun hits the wavy glass sidelights in the front door of our old farmhouse, it’s wondrous.

Sunshine on Hardwood
Sunshine on Hardwood – Photo by H. Grange

My husband’s truant socks. I find them in the weirdest places, including the floor. I used to get irritated by this and other things, like his leaving the newspapers strewn across the breakfast table. (Or overlooking my small attempts to ‘cheer up’ our house.) Now when I come across stray socks, I give thanks for having someone kind, funny and loving to share my everyday life with . (And I try to assemble the newspapers without muttering.)

Canadian Wool Blanket
Canadian Wool Blanket – Photo by H. Grange

The old wool blanket. “Canadiana”, for sure, it would be worth something but for the pale stain on one side. Do I care about the stain? No.  I love this blanket for its brilliant stripes – and for having survived.

Blooming Amaryllis. Bought for 6 bucks,  it re-blooms (big red blooms) on long stalks in February. ‘Nuff said.

Freshly washed sheets.  There’s luxury in the smell and feel of freshly washed cotton sheets although they’ve been used and washed many times.

Our family’s big clay mixing bowl.  Many apple pies have been mixed up in that beautiful old bowl.

My daughter’s dogs.  Sometimes, just the sight of them gladdens my heart. One black, one white, they’re both tiny dogs with personalities of their own. As I write, they’re stretched out beside me,  fast asleep.

Julius and Dawson Fast Asleep
The Pooches

Slowing down  by choice is great. Being forced to do so is awful.  But in the spirit of lighting a candle and finding my way out of darkness, I’ve been focusing on positives.

I’m keeping both eyes open for that everyday kind of glory.

This post is dedicated to the caring staff at the pain management centre of Toronto Rehabilitation Hospital. One of the techniques they teach their patients is mindfulness.