A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Architecture and Design, Canadian Women, Following your dreams, Unique Businesses

Serendipitous Old Stuff

It’s no secret: I love small towns and villages. Love their main streets, small stores and annual events.

Blog Photo - Warkworth Credit VisitTrenthills.ca

Warkworth, a charming Northumberland County village that’s famous for its many artists and cultural events, is one of my favourites. There’s always something going on in this village 90 minutes east of Toronto  — arts shows, the Lilac Festival, the Long Lunch (below), the Maple Syrup Festival, the Perfect Pie Contest, and others.

Blog Photo - Warkworth Long Table

Blog Photo - Lilac Festival in Warkworth

Our friends who live there often spoke of “Justine”, who ran a painted-furniture business. Recently, they decided it was time for us to visit Justine’s business and meet her in person. So off we went.

Blog Photo - SOS Sign

Justine Vikse’s place isn’t just a painted-furniture store. “Serendipitous Old Stuff Lounge” is an unusual business, inspired by a place Justine “wandered into” while visiting New York state.

Blog Photo - SOS Justine MCU

“I was indeed looking to purchase a building to house my already established painted furniture/design business Serendipitous Old Stuff”, she says.  “Ironically, I drove by the business’ new home everyday, but never entertained its purchase because I always thought of it as a restaurant. I came back from that trip newly- inspired, and consulted a realtor friend to begin the process.”  

And this is Justine’s place on Old Hastings Road today. Enter through the front door and to your left is a lounge and bar:

Blog Photo - SOS Lounge Wide shot

Blog Photo - SOS Bike on top of bar

Step to your right and you’ll find a gift shop and tea store:

Blog Photo - SOS Gift and Tea section

Blog Photo - SOS Tea containers on shelves.JPG

Beyond these spaces is the room where we had a delicious lunch:

Blog Photo - SOS Dining table and chairs

Justine refers to her overall business as “the Lounge”.  She calls it a comfortable gathering place with an unconventional aesthetic. “I wanted the Lounge to be like a canvas for art. Light, airy, elegant, and it had to smell good.”

Blog Photo - SOS Seating area 2

“It’s also homey.  I get to showcase my antiques, painted furniture, and gift items in an environment where patrons/friends can feel as though they’re in a living room of sorts, and get together over a pint, or a glass of wine, and perhaps a great Charcuterie platter.”

In every space, many pieces are for sale.

Blog Photo - SOS Green cabinet

Blog Photo - SOS wall lamp

Blog Photo - SOS Black cat on counter

“When I initially started out in design and refinishing, I didn’t have a lot of money to allocate towards high-end antiques.  I had to be intensely creative.

“I realized that I could pick vintage pieces that were relegated by the homeowner for the ‘ dump’ or auction and I could acquire them fairly cheaply.

Blog Photo - SOS Cigar man

“I studied and honed the art of transformation. Poured myself into art books, read up on techniques, and through trial and error, learned what was appreciated by the discerning eye, and what was not.”

That knowledge came in handy when Justine renovated the new space. Her contractor Wayne Shaw did all the plumbing, electrical and flooring.  She did the rest.

Blog Photo - SOS Justine and Wayne

“I did all the physical artistic labour involved in actualizing the space. Extraordinarily long hours of blood, sweat and tears were extended, but as exhaustive as it was, it was a labour of love.”

Her daughters help in the business.

“The blessing of this biz for me as a woman, is being fortunate enough to have my girls all within reach, and vice versa.

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“It’s wonderful to know that they can step into the back door at any point during the day, and we can converse about what’s transpired throughout their day, and that two of them actively help me out with working here as servers.”

Justine dreamed of creating a cozy and elegant place for her patrons. With the many artistic touches and personal involvement, she believes she’s achieved her dream.

Photos by Hamlin Grange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Good Home, Artist, Arts, Authors, Canadian life, Children's Books, Homes

At Home with Andrea Torrey Balsara

Two years ago, Andrea Torrey Balsara and her husband Nav bought a grand Victorian home surrounded by lawn, woods, and big old barns.

Blog Photo - Andrea Trees in Morning

“To me, the greatest wealth is to have nature around me. To now be on a property where there are old trees, squirrels, wildlife…it is such a blessing that I had given up on ever having.

“This place came out of the blue for us, as we had resigned ourselves to subdivision living. Initially, the property was what attracted me, but I have since grown to love the old house, too; there is a spirit and charm to it that really touches me. For the first time since I was a child I feel I am truly home.”

Blog Photo - Andrea view to the barns

Blog Photo - Andrea and Maisie

Andrea is a storyteller – she writes and illustrates books for children. Characters include Greenbeard the Pirate Pig and Happy the Pocket Mouse.

Blog Photo - Andrea Swashbuckling Guinea Pig

She fell in love with pictures early.

“One of my first clear memories is at 6 years-old, reading a picture book. I say ‘reading’, but really I followed the story by the exquisite art. I remember a feeling of yearning come over me to make pictures that were so beautiful. I also grew up on Donald Duck comics. I didn’t realize until many years later that I never usually read the comics, just followed the pictures. The visual sense of humour that I have in my drawings is totally influenced by the cartoonist Carl Bark’s Donald Duck comics.”

Blog Photo - Andrea Mouse Vacation

“With my picture book, Greenbeard the Pirate Pig, I was finally able to write and illustrate a book. Since then I have also illustrated the Happy the Pocket Mouse series, written by Philip Roy, through Ronsdale Press. Book 4, Mouse Vacation, came out in October 2016. Illustrating without writing the book is a whole new experience, and one which has taught me a lot about collaboration.”

Blog Photo - Andrea in Office

Andrea calls her work space her ‘art loft’.  “Really, it’s the former servants’ quarters. The stairs going up are grooved from the generations of servants going up and down the stairs. I love feeling connected to the history.”

From the window, she sees an expanse of trees, yard and old barns.

“I can’t believe I have barns!”

Blog Photo - Andrea Barns and hydrangea

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Knowing her passion for art, you may be surprised to learn that Andrea once dropped art altogether after getting a C in Grade 8.

“It was so devastating to me that I vowed never to share my art again. A drastic reaction! At that age, my sense of confidence was non-existent, so the grade felt like a defining moment to me. I avoided art classes after that, as I didn’t want to have my love of art taken from me. Odd kid-logic, I know.

“Now I feel I have so much catching up to do with people who have gone through art school; it’s made it a much longer learning curve for me to learn how to illustrate a book.”

Blog Photo - Andrea in Living Room

Writing and illustrating children’s books — here, in her beloved home — is a blessing. Andrea doesn’t only produce them — she loves reading children’s books.

“I guess because in many ways I still feel like a kid myself. I went through a traumatic experience as a small child, and a part of me is still that age. I don’t relate to many of the books meant for adults as I often find them cynical, incredibly violent, and gratuitously sexual. I love the innocence and openness of children’s books. There is a joy to it that writing for adults doesn’t have.

“In children’s books it’s not only okay to have hope, and to believe that the world is a place of beauty and love, it is essential. Even the books for adults that I love come from a place of childlike innocence and the belief in the nobility of the human spirit.”

Blog Photo - Andrea Trees in spring

As with her art, care for her home has been a labour of love. She loves the living room because it now feels homey. But the house is old and required a lot of work.

“It took me time to love the house, as initially it smelled musty and the windows were decrepit, with bugs living between them and the storm windows. It was sweltering in the summer and infested with cluster flies. I bought a vacuum I could strap on my back, with an extension wand to reach the high ceilings, and wielded it like Luke Skywalker fighting the Evil Empire. Then, in our first winter (last year), we froze. I now own several sets of long underwear (thank-you, old house!)

Blog Photo - Andrea Living room

“Thankfully this winter, with the new radiators we had installed, it has been snug. Now that we’ve sorted out some of its issues I love our old Victorian home’s uniqueness.”

Here in this unique home, Andrea is also completing a young adult novel called The Great and the Small.

It’s about a colony of rats, led by a charismatic chairman, who are waging a war to exterminate humanity using the bubonic plague. The only thing between annihilation and life is the chairman’s nephew Fin who is rescued from certain death and nursed back to health by a teenage girl. Fin grows to love the girl, and realizes that what his uncle has told him about ‘two-legs’ is wrong. Now he has to choose: follow his uncle whom he adores, or turn against him and rebel.”

Home, family, art — Andrea appears to be in a very good place. Her husband Nav and daughters are her greatest supporters. And there’s other joyful news: her older daughter will be married at the beautiful family home this fall.

A Good Home, An Honest House, Angels, Christmas Decorations, Christmas in Canada, Christmas Traditions, Christmas Tree Trimming, Family, Family Moments, Homes

Decorating With Memories

We prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas. My prayers are more reflective now, my gratitude expands. It’s the season of Advent, the weeks before Christmas.

blog-photo-christmas-ornaments-baby-angels

Photo by Hamlin Grange

Photo by Hamlin Grange

We also decorate our home with memories of those we love. Each activity, each object reminds us.

Like the year I proudly set the table — and my husband decided it was blah. Out came red and green candles and Christmas glasses instead. Now it’s tradition.

blog-photo-christmas-table

By early December each year, the memories start nudging: it’s time to decorate. 

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Older daughter and son-in-law couldn’t make it from the US, but memories of the whole family together always return on the day we decorate the tree.

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Husband, younger daughter and son-in-law haul in the fresh Fraser fir, haul out the boxes of decorations, string up the lights and we all sip hot cider. The family room’s a happy mess.

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We laughingly remember previous Christmas trees: too small, too thin, or lopsided. But this year, we got it right.

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The ornaments also bring back memories.

My mother’s gratitude and wishes for the following year are written on a scroll in this cylinder. How we all miss her!

blog-photo-christmas-ornaments-keepsake-cylinder

My times working in S. Africa, where these Ndebele dolls were made.

blog-photo-christmas-2016-ndebele-dolls

Some ornaments are just for fun. Like “the disco ball”, that always makes us grin, with memories of the disco days.

blog-photo-christmas-2016-ornaments

Memories upon memories.

blog-photo-christmas-2016-hands-and-ornaments

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Tiny Mr. J.C. finally gets tired of all the activity and lies down to sleep, paws up. *Can you see him on the sofa below?* It’s our first Christmas without his best friend Dawson, who would have been asleep at this point too. 

blog-photo-christmas-2016-jc-asleep

Blog Photo - Julius and Dawson Sleeping

Do dogs miss their companions? We do. 

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All is calm now. Extra-special thanks are given.

And, as the fire glows in the hearth…

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Santa and the angels look on approvingly, I think. They, too, have kept us company through many a Christmas.

blog-photo-christmas-2016-santa-cu

Blog Photo - Christmas ornaments Peace Angel

From our home to yours, wishing you peace this Advent, good memories, and joyful times at Christmas.

blog-photo-christmas-2016-family-room

A Good Home, Art, Artists, Arts, Canadian life, Creative Writing, Poetry

Home Is Where The Art Is

 

So — you think your dwelling is too small? Try living on a boat.

Margaret Mair and husband Richard live on their boat “Into The Blue”.  Margaret also paints and writes her poetry there. And produces her blog.

Margaret's Boat

“The space is very compact, and set up for both living and sailing”, she says. “That means having to think about everything we bring on board: it must be something we need (that includes art supplies, for me) and can store securely.”

Some people have a room to create their art. Margaret has “a corner”.

Margaret's Corner on her boat

There are advantages. She and Richard have traveled widely, from Canada to the US, the Caribbean, and elsewhere.

“We can cast off our boat and move, go exploring or visiting and know that we have our own comfortable place to stay.  Anyone who lives on a boat lives very close to nature. We have an intimate relationship with the weather: when the wind blows hard the boat rocks and creaks and the ropes groan; when the sun shines the water sparkles; ripples on the water gurgle against the hull of the boat.”

Margaret's Painting of Boat on Beach

Margaret’s poems and pictures  often reflect her close relationship with the sea:

It calls, the sea,
To the restless boat
Uncomfortably cotched
On a sandy shore,
Longing for
Rocking waves
And cooling current
And the feel
Of wake moving
Singingly along
Her planked hull….

Acrylic on canvasboard; 20 x 16

Margaret started writing poetry as a teenager. She started painting in her forties, first learning to draw and work with colour – chalk pastels. 

“I worked my way through chalk pastels to experimenting with other media until I arrived at the medium I most frequently use, acrylics.”

Margaret Mair's painting - We are Islands

“It took a friend’s introduction to SPARK  in 2011 to make me think most deeply about how paintings and poetry could work together. I did not really start creating my own melding of the two until quite recently – January 2014.”

Many poems and pictures followed, as you can see on her blog.

Her pieces often evoke powerful responses.

“Everyone responds in their own way, and finds the thing or things that speak to them and their experience.

“I gave my mother a piece that hung on her wall until she died, a first iteration of my Tree of Life, much larger and more delicate. One day while I was visiting I watched a young girl stand silently in front of it for a long time, just looking. That was one of my favorite responses.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a few final words about home:

“I have learned that what you bring to a place is as important as the place itself. Keep it reasonably clean and relatively tidy, as cool on the hot days and as warm on the cold ones as you can (we’ve lived in some drafty places), put your favorite pictures on the wall and fill the bookshelves with your books and magazines and pieces of art, let music fill the rooms, make space to do the things that are important to you, and love the people who share it with you.”

Brava, Margaret.

All photos by Margaret Mair. Artworks copyrighted.