A Good Home, Country Homes, Country Living, Couples, Doors Open, Doors Open Clarington, Family, Family Moments, Farmhouse Kitchen, Farms, Flowering shrubs, Following your dreams, Great Places, Home Decor, Homes

Home at The Grange – Part 1

Would you leave a very comfortable house in the city – a mansion, even by Toronto standards – to live in a dilapidated 1800’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere?

I, as you know, have lived in interesting places. But when former model and media manager Wendy Boothman told me what she did 31 years ago, even I was surprised. 

~~~

In 1986, the Boothman family decided to move to the country. They found a large log house in perfect move-in condition. Wendy’s husband and children loved it.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Wendy and Nick2 by Hamlin

But Wendy wasn’t sold. Without telling her family, she kept looking. She asked the realtor to show her a place in Kendal, a hamlet northeast of Toronto. They toured the property.

It was a hot August day and the poor realtor was in his suit and tie. I had no idea what 140 acres meant, so we ended up walking and walking.”

They also toured the house. Wendy said she loved the place.

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The shocked realtor replied: “Wendy, it’s so dilapidated! Look at the holes in the floors! You have 5 children and a housekeeper. You can’t live here!”

Husband Nick saw it next. An international fashion photographer and audio-visual director with a Toronto studio,  he was stunned.

“Woman!” he said. “You’ve finally flipped. I refuse to set foot in that house!”

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Barn Inside and Hay Hamlin

Wendy showed him the huge wooden barn with cathedral ceilings. Then she drove him up to the highest point of the property and showed him the view.  He was impressed… somewhat.

“We’ll renovate the house to what we want,” she reassured him. “We’ll design the garden to what we want. But most importantly, the children will be part of the designing. They’ll decide on the pool, their rooms, and so on.”

Sounded nice. In theory.

“If you think the children are going to want to leave a Toronto mansion to camp out  here while we do all the work required, you have another think coming,” Nick protested.

This was a daunting challenge.

~~~

Then Nick relented. “If you can sell the kids on this move,” he told her, “we’ll do it.”

One Sunday in August, Wendy and Nick took the kids on a long drive, turned off a country road and drove up to a hill with an impressive view of the area.

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The children asked:

“What are we doing here?”

“We’re having a picnic in the country!” Wendy replied, smiling. “We’re moving to the country, so we may as well get used to it.”

After the picnic, the seven of them trooped through the fields and peered into the forest, excited.

Walking down the other side of the hill, the children spied a house and asked if they could look inside — not knowing their mother had a key.

They saw the tiny rooms, the old kitchen, the holes in the floors… the whole catastrophe. 

But when Wendy took them into the barn, they were awestruck.  

Blog Photo - doors Open The Grange Barn Ceiling Hamlin

Wendy seized the moment.

“We can move into the log house… or we can get this place and design it together. Your friends can come on weekends. We’ll have horses – you can ride. Can you imagine if we had a pool on the side of a hill and gardens?”

They returned home to Toronto, and started drawing up plans together.

~~~

They moved into the house on Halloween that October.  Wendy, who knew nothing about school buses, sent the 2 younger kids to the wrong school the first day.

That winter was full of challenges. For one thing, the house was freezing cold. 

Both parents still worked nearly 2 hours away in downtown Toronto — Nick at his studio, Wendy at her media management and design office.  Every morning, he drove the 3 older children to school in Toronto. Wendy picked them up every afternoon.

A year later, she decided to move her business to her home, creating one of the first “virtual teams” in Canada.

That eased a few challenges on the home-front. But renovating the house and landscaping the grounds would become a huge, 4-year project.

Photos by Hamlin Grange

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A Good Home, Flowers, Gardening, Life in canada, Poem, Poetry, Seasons Change, Winter's End

A Winter’s Tail

The birds are back with songs of Spring

Their tunes incite imagining

That Winter’s end will soon arrive

And living things shall haste to thrive

~~

Via vitalxrecognition.wordpress.com/
Image Thanks to: vitalxrecognition.wordpress.com/

A Winter’s Tail, how bittersweet!

Today it’s sun, tomorrow sleet

And wind to stop us in our tracks

And cold to freeze Spring-hungry backs

~~

One day we feel a wave of hope

Warmed by our thoughts that we can cope

And then come gales of Winter still

And blizzards coat the windowsill

~~

Blog Photo - Icy Winter evening

Ho, Winter! Do your level best

Your time is near to take a rest

For Lady Spring prepares to rule

She’ll thaw your ice and warm your cool

~~

She’ll rout you, kick your icy tail

She’ll make you wish you’d stopped at hail

Who’s mighty now, oh Freezer Guy

Who rules the roost? Oh my, oh my!

Blog Photo - Rainy Garden with Flowering shrubs

Spring wakes the earth; the gardens flower

She turns grass green and makes you cower

She strips away your winter clothes

And sprinkles sunshine up your nose

Blog Photo - Mama's Garden2

She brings new life to garden trail

She gives new strength to plants so frail

To stand up ‘gainst your mighty storm

And so defy your freezing form

 ~~

Ho! Winter’s Tail, I kid you not

Pick up your snow and off you trot

Break down your ice and melt away

See you around, when skies are grey

 ~~Blog Photo - Lilacs and forget Me Nots

See you next time, oh Frigid One

But not too soon, for Spring’s begun

And three great seasons I shall see

Before you’re back to torment me.

 ~~

Thanks to Hamlin Grange for all original photos.

Dedicated to my friends Lisa E. and Marion W: Spring is near.

A Good Home, Animals, Birds, Country Living, Ducks, Gardens, Gardens and Wildlife, Garlic

Wonders Never Cease

Every so often, I wish I had a well-behaved garden.

The kind where everything does what I want, when I want.

Where flowers don’t stray into lawns and lawns don’t stray into flowerbeds, and the strong wind didn’t break one of the arches on the arbour my dear husband so carefully built.

Blog Photo - Garden Circle

But this I know:

Real gardens offer up surprises each week, each day and sometimes, each hour.

Blog Photo - Hollyhock Mutant

Like flowers blooming in unexpected colours.

Blog Photo - Peony Rust

And interesting visitors.

Like this large bird in the apple tree.

Blog Photo - Bird in tree

And wild rabbits.

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Cleaning themselves without a care in the world.

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Like this mother duck, with her ducklings.

Blog Photo - Duck Family

She must have squeezed herself under the fence.

Blog Photo - Ant and Moth

This ant, dragging a dead moth many times its size. It took the moth way across the verandah.

Blog Photo - Farmhouse Doorway

This beet, expected to be dark red, is somehow orange.

Blog Photo - Orange Beets

A single squash. It’s from a vine that strayed from our neighbours’ squash plantation.

Blog Photo - Squash on our side of fence

“It’s yours”, he says. The thing will grow to almost half my height. No kidding.

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These onions, because they delight and surprise me each late summer.

Blog Photo - Onions

And the garlic, just because the sight of them when newly harvested always surprises me.

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The sight of our daughter’s little doggie, coming around the corner at full speed. Well, sort of.

Blog Photo - Doggie Runs

And this shadow “selfie”, which I didn’t know was there till I downloaded it and nearly jumped in surprise.

Blog Photo - Shadow takes photo

Gardens: places of surprise and discovery.

**

Dedicated to all gardeners, everywhere.

A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Authors, Book lovers, Books, Canadian Gardens, Canadian life, Canadians, Country Living, Gardens, Verandahs, Victorian Teas

A Cup of Comeuppance

I grew up in the tea-drinking capital of Jamaica.

Mandeville.

Mandeville was a mountain resort town. The air was cool, the sweaters were thick and some of the oldest homes were built with multiple fireplaces.

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This and the  next 3 pictures are via google images

It was a snobbish society back then, and more British than the British. The denizens of Mandeville included the titled, the somewhat aristocratic, and those who wished they were.

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Blog Photo - Mandeville view

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Bloomfield Great House, Mandeville

Afternoon Tea meant dressing up; cucumber sandwiches prepared by a servant; tea served from heirloom teapots into dainty cups.

I looked down my nose at these customs.

**

Fast forward a few decades, and I’m at home near Toronto, when a friend serves me my comeuppance. A cup of comeuppance, you could call it.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Garden

Marilyn Mirabelli, owner of Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas, catered an afternoon tea for my visitors. As you can imagine, Marilyn is passionate and knowledgeable about tea.

Guests included Shelagh Rogers, the celebrated and beloved host of the CBC’s author-interview program, The Next Chapter. Shelagh had read about our old house and garden in my book, A Good Home, and I was pleased to invite her and her colleagues Jacquie and Erin to visit.

Marilyn and Shelagh
Marilyn and Shelagh

We sat around the verandah table, drinking tea from colourful cups.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea pink cup and saucer

We enjoyed delicious freshly-baked scones, fruit preserves, Devon clotted cream, and smoked salmon.

The tea was called Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Teapot

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea in Pot

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Ladies

Marilyn regaled us with tea-tales.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Cup and Saucer 2

Contrary to popular belief, Marilyn said, it was Anna, Duchess of Bedford – a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria – who started the afternoon tea tradition.

Anna had dizzy spells in the afternoon, so the doctor prescribed tea with buttered bread. Soon, the other ladies-in-waiting joined Anna in her chamber for tea and toast. Queen Victoria liked the  ritual so much, she joined the tea party too.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea and Cup Ear

We also learned that a teacup handle is called an “ear”. Guess why?

Marilyn explained the markings on the bottom-side of our saucers, which give clues to the origins of each set. We eagerly held out our saucers to learn more.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Saucer markings

My husband dropped in to say hello. He said we were all grinning like girls at a tea party. Which I guess we were. Kinda.

Fact is, for one afternoon, I’d become a lady who does afternoon tea. 

Blog Photo - Afternoon Teacups

I imagined that my teenage self would have been horrified.

“But we’re not snobs!” I told her.  “And we don’t wear hats! And the teacups don’t match! And there are holes in the old chenille spread – – er, tablecloth!”

But she was not amused.

So I didn’t dare tell her that I could get to really like afternoon tea.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Shelagh and Cynthia in Garden

Just as long as the cups don’t match, the tablecloth has holes, no-one has a fancy title, and everyone knows how to giggle.