A Good Home, Family Moments, Mishaps

The Ungodly Godmother

Maybe — now that I’m going to become a children’s book author — my blog should become more respectable?  I hope not. But just in case, I’m sharing this post before Myrtle is published!

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The “Ungodly Godmother” of one of our children drove hours on her first day off work to visit me after my recent mishap.

Time spent with her is a gift. She’s caring, smart, and makes us laugh. Updates about her life, her town, mutual friends — are all told in witty, ironic and ‘salty’ language.

It’s partly why our children have always loved her. The laughter. And because she was that rare adult who didn’t clean up her language when they entered a room. Thus the name she gave herself: “The Ungodly Godmother”.

Blog Photo - Cast with messages by Hamlin Grange

Before she left our home this time, she autographed my cast.

Not that I could see it clearly.  Too far down the cast, near my heel.

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We hadn’t been to church since I fell and injured myself.  I’ve missed the quiet Sunday morning rituals, the readings from the old Book of Common Prayer, in our tiny historic chapel.

Blog Photo - St Thomas Church Altar

So my husband and I were grateful when the priest called, offering to bring us communion.  

Father Tim spread a handkerchief-size white tablecloth on our coffee table, then placed two tiny gold jars on it, his prayer book to one side. He read a prayer for the sick, and Hamlin and I followed along as he read. He opened one gold jar and gave us the wafer (the bread), then opened the other and anointed our foreheads with consecrated oil.

The sacred ceremony complete, we got to talking about light and pleasant topics. You know:  politics, journalism, original sin.

Before he left, I asked him to sign my cast.

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“There’s room next to Liona’s.” My husband pointed to the space next to Liona Boyd’s signature and drawing of her guitar. 

Blog photo - Cast with Liona Guitar

She’s a famous classical guitarist and Father Tim, a fan of her music, happily placed his signature near hers, complete with the sign of the cross.

Blog Photo - Cast message from Fr. Tim

Days later, I saw my husband’s photos of the cast and made a surprising discovery.

To the right of Father Tim’s signature was Liona’s — yes. But to the near-left was the message from our dear friend, The Ungodly Godmother.

Blog Photo - Cast message from the UG

It said, simply: “Get this effing thing off!”

“Do you think he noticed?” I anxiously asked my husband.

“Don’t worry”, he said. “He’s a priest. He’s seen a lot worse.”

The Ungodly Godmother had struck again.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Good Home, Architectural Conservancy, Author Cynthia Reyes, Barns, Canadian Families, Country Homes, Doors Open, Family Moments, Farms, Home Decor

Home at The Grange – Part 4

The house that the Elliott family built back in the late 1850’s fell into the right hands nearly 130 years later.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Apples and Wendy

It’s a good thing it did.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early photo of family and chickens

In 1986, the place was so dilapidated that another buyer might have either demolished the house and barn, or renovated the character out of them.

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Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early photo of Verandah etc

But the Boothmans had the vision, patience — and resources needed — to bring the property to new life, without destroying its character.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange House CU Hamlin

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Allow me to digress a little at this point, please…

Remember that the Boothman kids refused at first to to move with their parents into the family’s farmhouse? It was Hallowe’en 1986, and with a cemetery for a neighbour, the children were afraid the ghosts would come next door to their home. (See Part 2)

Blog Photo - Doors Open Clarington Photo Cemetery

That historic cemetery is also on the Doors Open tour this year.  

It was the Elliott family who donated the land for this cemetery and the church that once stood there  — Kendal’s first church, New Connexion Methodist.  It was later named for the Elliotts and their neighbours, the McLeans.  

Of the two neighbouring families, the McLeans achieved greater fame.

A McLean grandson, (James Stanley McLean), became founder and president of the well-known Canada Packers company.  Wealthy and influential, James and his wife built a stately Georgian-style house on 50 acres in Toronto.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Estates of Sunnybrook photo of McLean House front

They called it “Bay View” — which later inspired the name of one of Canada’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Bayview Avenue.

Today their former home belongs to world-famous Sunnybrook Hospital.  Renamed “McLean House” in their honour, the house is used for events — a fundraiser for Sunnybrook’s medical research.

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But let’s return to the main story of how the Boothmans saved the Elliott house and created a beloved home for their own family.  

In restoring and renovating the property as they did, Nick and Wendy preserved its history, and went far beyond.

They gave it a new life, deserving of a new name: “The Grange”.  The Boothmans have therefore created a legacy of their own.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick Panorama of House

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Three generations of the Boothman family — and their friends — have enjoyed The Grange.

Wendy remembers that “one of the children’s friends called and asked if he could get married here, saying: ‘The Grange is top of our list because of the memories and the setting. Is it doable?’ “

“Yes”, she replied.

In all, five weddings have been held here. Son Thomas, and 4 of the children’s friends, all held their weddings at The Grange.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of wedding

Much has changed in 31 years.

 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Bernice Photo The Grange2

Wendy has launched a variety of ground-breaking projects. She’s assisted on some long-distance projects too. Born in S. Africa, she’s proud of helping her brother-in-law Mike with a project, led by Nelson Mandela, to develop effective volunteerism in S. Africa.

Blog Photo - Doors open MikeandMandela

More recently, she won, on behalf of Durham Region, the Guinness world record for the longest picnic table in the world.

Nick, meanwhile, has become a well-known author of several books.

Blog Photo - Nicholas Boothman Book 2

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The Boothman children have grown up. Wendy and Nick now have 5 grandchildren.

It’s the grandchildren’s time to explore and enjoy The Grange — this home settled by the Elliotts and transformed by the Boothmans, more than a hundred years apart.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Grandkids and kites.JPG

It doesn’t snow as heavily as it used to, and Wendy misses the snow. But she and Nick cherish their home, with its “peace and quiet, the gardens and the views”.

On June 10th, 2017, as part of Doors Open Clarington, The Grange hosts its biggest audience: hundreds of people from the area and far beyond will explore this storied home. 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Grandkids at mailbox

Wendy and Nick will warmly welcome everyone, happy that they took the risk, 31 years ago, of restoring a property that many would have rejected.

What an achievement.

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Photo Credits:

McLean House photo from The Estates of Sunnybrook

Photo 5 by Hamlin Grange

3rd, 6th & 11th  photos by Bernice Norton

9th, 10th and 12th photos by C. McSorley

14th photo by Marilyn Morawecz

Other photos provided by Nicholas Boothman

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To contact Doors Open Clarington:

Co- Chairperson Bernice Norton

905-623-9982

bernice_norton@hotmail.com

~~

Thanks to Doors Open Clarington and the Boothmans for research assistance.

A Good Home, Architecture and Design, Canadian life, Clarington, Country Living, Doors Open, Doors Open Clarington, Family Moments, Farms, Gardens, Heritage Homes, Home Decor

Home at The Grange – Part 3

 

Kendal, northeast of Toronto, has many heritage properties, some dating back to the mid-1800’s. That’s why it’s the focus of Clarington’s Doors Open architectural conservancy tour on June 10th 2017. 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Clarington Photo Kendal2

The Grange — Wendy and Nicholas Boothman’s farm property — will be a highlight of the tour. 

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange seen from Hill Hamlin

So will “Southwinds”, below.  Visitors will be be able to see these houses, barns and properties up-close and learn about their architectural and family histories.

Also known as “The Marr House”, Southwinds was built of cut-stone in 1845 for Scottish immigrant Alexander Marr and his family. 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Southwinds 2 CU of House
Above photos: credit Doors Open Clarington 

Marilyn Morawetz, leader of Doors Open Clarington, says The Grange and Southwinds are excellent examples of their era. 

“Both represent typical architecture at the time by or for families with much to contribute to the early development of the Kendal and Orono areas.  Even the barns on both properties are wonderful examples of architecture and life at that time.” 

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But let’s return to the Boothmans’ grand adventure in country-living and renovating.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Sign and driveway Hamlin

The renovation would take 4 long years. 

But the family loved their home, even before it was completed. So did friends, who visited on weekends during and after the renovation. 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick Early Photo Ping Pong

Finally, all the major work was done. The barn foundations were repaired; the house was made comfortable; the pool and garden put in; the planned extension and verandah added.

The results were beautiful.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange House CU Hamlin

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Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Wendy and Nick in front of painting in DRoom photo by Hamlin

With a comfortable house, a sturdy barn and farm animals, 140 acres and spectacular views, the farm was also a gorgeous setting. Nick says:

“After we were well settled at The Grange, the outdoor Shakespearean group Driftwood Theatre Group were looking for an outdoor venue for their first dress rehearsal and they found the beautiful settings at The Grange, perfect.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Barn Overlooking trees and Raod Hamlin

“So for 6 years in a row, we would have great fun inviting friends and their families from the area and Toronto to join us for an outdoor performance of Shakespeare.  Their first season was Romeo and Juliet. 

“It was fun and we like to think it gave Driftwood Theatre Group a good start on what has become a very successful annual attraction in Durham Region and beyond.”

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Nick looks at property Hamlin

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Life, of course, has its ups and downs.

In 1998, Nick became ill. 

The children told Wendy: “Mummy, we’ll be okay. You focus on getting Daddy better.”

Wendy set a rule: there’d be no sadness and feeling sorry around Nick. At 5 p.m. every day, they held ‘happy hour’ in the bedroom and opened a bottle of red wine. She told visitors only funny stories and positive talk were allowed.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Magnolia CU by Hamlin

But one day, Wendy “needed to explode”. She drove up the hill to the spot where the whole family had gathered that first day for the picnic, got out of the car, dropped to her knees and banged on the ground with her fists, and screamed.

On her way back, a huge stag stood in one of the fields, staring at her. It didn’t flinch as she passed.  Wendy felt the stag was saying: “It’s all going to be okay”.

“And it was,” says Wendy.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Wendy on Screaming Hill

From that day, whenever anyone needed to scream about something happy or sad, they’d go to that spot. Today, friends still call to ask if they can go up there and “have a scream”.

That’s how the spot got its name: “Wendy’s Screaming Hill”.

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Photos 1 and 3 by Doors Open Clarington

Photo 5 by Nicholas Boothman.

All other photos by Hamlin Grange

See More Photos of the renovated Grange in Part 4!

A Good Home, Country Living, Doors Open, Family Moments, Farm house, Farms

Home at The Grange – Part 2

Wendy and Nick aren’t afraid of challenges.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Hamlin Photo beware of falling coconuts

Nick, a fashion photographer, left his home in the UK and moved to Portugal. 

As a teenager, Wendy modeled in Europe for Yves St. Laurent and Valentino. She started her own modelling agency in Portugal at only 18. She and Nick met there, married, and started working together.

Next, they moved to Canada and built successful careers. They and their family had a comfortable life in Toronto. 

Then came the big move to the country, 5 kids in tow.  

Wendy remembers neighbour after neighbour saying: “I give you 3 years.” 

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The big move fell on Hallowe’en, and that was the first problem.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Clarington Photo Cemetery

There’s a tiny pioneer cemetery next door to the farm and the children were convinced there’d be ghosts on Hallowe’en. They refused to come along.

Nick remembers: “We had to farm them out to friends in Toronto for the weekend while Wendy and I dealt with the movers and sorted out to arrange everything in this dilapidated space……  In the end it was a good thing they were not around so we could get everything sorted before they came out.”

Next problem?

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Barn Overlooking trees and Raod Hamlin

The barn’s foundation needed urgent repairs. Those repairs had to come first. 

That winter was brutal. 

“We literally camped in the house from fall to spring.  In a cold house a quarter the size of our previous home.”

Months later, Nick and Wendy knocked down some internal walls, turning three tiny rooms into a kitchen-breakfast room. They also built the pool.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick Photo of Kids in Pool

They sent out a change of address card to their friends, titled “The Boothmans are outstanding in their field”.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick Early Photo of Family at The Grange

But first came the episode with “Farmer Nick”.

“So now I was living on a farm, I needed a tractor.  Of course a big John Deere is most young boys’ dream, so I found myself a great second-hand deal. 

There was some tweaking that had to be done to it so a week or so later, I got home from Toronto with Wendy and the children and there it was – perfectly parked in front of the driveshed by the house, facing down the drive and the key in the ignition.  Wendy and the children went inside to get organized for dinner and I jumped on my tractor.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early Photo of Top of Driveway

“About 30 minutes later Wendy came running out of the house frantically waving her arms in the air.  I was across the courtyard at the top of the drive, by the barn.  I turned off the tractor to ask what was wrong, when she pointed behind me.  I had ploughed up the courtyard – 2 foot furrows… including the telephone lines!  It took 2 days before we could get a car out.  Of course the children were thrilled to miss school.”

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As they renovated and settled in, they also learned about the history of their new home. The Boothmans were only the third family to own the house.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick Early Photo of Kids in Front of House

Back in 1837, brothers Tom and William Elliott walked nine miles into the Kendal bush from Newtonville and chose this land for their farm. Their parents and three sisters came from Ireland the following year and the family built their first house.

The permanent dwelling – the farmhouse — was built in the late 1850’s. Several generations of Elliotts lived here.

One Elliott was a master carpenter. He added the part of the house that’s now the Boothmans’ kitchen-breakfast room.

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Soon after the Boothmans moved in, a 75  year-old man showed up unannounced, walked to a corner of the kitchen and said: “I’m standing in the spot where I was born.”

It became an annual visit by Reg Elliott, whose ancestors had built the house.

Reg also checked on the renovations. Once, after Nick had installed a brand-new corn-burning stove, Reg glimpsed the corn in the stove and remarked: “That’s a helluva place for a bird-feeder!”

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That first winter, the nearby ski-club was a god-send. The children spent Saturdays and Sundays there.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Brimacombe Ski Hill

That summer, the family “lived” in the newly-built pool and garden – swimming, barbecuing, and playing guitars. 

The children loved the farm.

“They found it a safe place for them and their friends. It was friendly, quiet and calm, surrounded by nature. They hiked, swam, hung out, camped on the grounds. And they rode their horses. We all rode.”

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early photo of child on horse

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Top 3 Photos by Hamlin Grange, the rest by Nicholas Boothman

Part 3 comes next!