A Good Home, Author's Homes, Personality Profile

At Home With Sally Cronin

 

Sally Cronin  makes me want to stand up and salute.

An icon among independent authors and bloggers, Sally is host to more than 32-thousand blog followers, supporter of hundreds of authors around the world, author of eleven books,  gardener and wife.

Blog Photo - Sally CroninMCU

She and her husband David live in Ireland.

But let’s start at their beginning.

“I was assistant manager of a hotel and took David’s booking for 10 days starting on September 16th.  I commented to one of the receptionists that I loved his accent and that I thought I would marry him… joking!

Blog Photo - david and sally

“He arrived and I organised some business meetings for him. He was due to leave on the 26th but booked in for another two nights. He invited me for a drink after work and we chatted for about an hour.

“He asked if I would have lunch with him the next day.  We had lunch and walked along a windswept beach in the rain. That evening, he met me after work with a Chinese takeaway and the next day he came to say goodbye. He confessed that he had booked the two extra nights so he could ask me out, because he had fallen for me right away.

“We married six weeks later on November 15th, 1980.”

~~

Blog Photo - Sally flowers

Since that remarkable beginning, Sally and David have lived in 17 houses — some rented, some bought and restored — in countries as varied as Sri Lanka, South Africa and Spain.

Each one has had a different location or character but all were home because we were living there. For me, home is where the heart is and that means David and me.” 

They recently returned to Ireland after several years in Spain. The two share a large home office.

Blog Photo - Sally Workspace

“I also love the kitchen-diner where I create meals and we entertain our family and friends. However, I have to say that I love our little library. Every time I walk through, I can see my collection of books from Wilbur Smith and other favourite authors.”

Blog Photo - Sally Library

Sally’s own books range from novels to non-fiction, sometimes inspired by her own life.

“My first book, Size Matters, was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70 kilo. I have written another ten books since then. I am an Indie author and proud to be one.” 

Blog Photo - Sally Book-covers-10x

Sally took a break from writing books when her mother became ill and died in 2012. A qualified nutritional therapist, she started her blog (Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life) “as a place to write about health, humour and any other subject that interested me.”

Her blog also provides a platform for other authors — a place where they’re introduced and their books promoted.

“After twenty years as an Indie author, I understand how difficult it can be to keep your latest book in the spotlight… Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing an author that I have promoted receiving a comment stating that ‘I have bought your book’. Job done.”

~~

Blog Photo - Sally garden

At home, Sally and David always seem to have something on the go. They’ve been working on the garden. And Sally’s new book, inspired by the couple’s return to Ireland, launches this spring. It’s the sequel to Tales from the Garden. 

Blog Photo - Sally Tales From the Garden - Cover

“Tales from the Irish Garden continues the story of Queen Filigree and her court as they seek exile in Ireland in the garden of the Storyteller. The stories are linked and fall into the four seasons, peopled by new characters, resulting in some tears and I hope quite a bit of laughter.”

Her own life has included personal disasters, triumphs and suprises. 

“Around every corner there has been the unexpected. I have pushed open some fascinating doors which led to where I am today.

“Although we are now well into our 60s, we still believe there are a few more doors to push open and a few more places to visit. For example, we love our current house, but in a few years it will be time to move on. As long as we are together, wherever we end up will be home.”

~~

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A Good Home, Art, Artists, Beautiful Neighborhoods, Bond Head, Butterflies, Canadian life, Canadians, Children, Country Homes, Country Living, Couples, Homes, Inspiration, Joyful Moments, San Miguel de Allende, Teaching Children Art

At Home with Sandra Walton-Ball

David Walton-Ball opens the door of his summer home, east of Toronto, and is greeted by a child looking up at him:

“Can Sandra come out to play?”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David in Orchard

Sandra — you may be surprised to hear —  is not a child.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Studio Wall

She’s David’s wife, a talented artist whose work hangs in galleries in Canada and Mexico.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Painting of Island

Blog Photo - Artist Sanda Painting side viewNeighborhood children gravitate towards her and she loves them. So she teaches children to create their own artwork.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Student

She and the children have developed a system at her small studio at the summer house.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra stands at work table

If this sign is up, Sandra can’t come out to play.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Sign

In Mexico where she and David spend the winter, Sandra teaches art to children whose parents can’t afford to pay for lessons.

“We put on Andrea Bocelli and the children sing along.”

San Miguel de Allende is home to many artists from Canada and the U.S.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Leonard's painting

Years ago, Sandra met Leonard Brooks, an esteemed artist who started the Canadian and American migration to San Miguel. They became friends. That’s one of his paintings behind her, above.

Music playing, the children in her studio sing and paint. This is her gift to them and their families: encouraging the children’s creativity. She introduces them to the styles of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Gesticulates

You wouldn’t know that, nearly 20 years ago, Sandra was so ill, she was on life support for months. It took her 15 years to start painting confidently again.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Reaches for brush

Once recovered, she decided to take more risks with her art. And so wherever she is – in Owen Sound, the family’s main base, or in San Miguel de Allende, or here at the summer home near Toronto, she’s painting – doing “gutsier and more experimental work”.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Yellow Flower painting

“When something happens to disrupt your life, you recognize that things can happen and you may not get a chance again – so you start taking risks.”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Framed painting Abstract

David hired someone to turn half of the garage into a studio with skylights, and there’s been no looking back.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Studio Outside

Generations of the Walton-Ball family have lived in Historic Bond Head for about 150 years.

During World War 2, the family planted and supplied potatoes to all their neighbours.

(Another historical tidbit: David’s first ancestor in Canada is the “Walton” for whom Port Hope’s main street is named. Port Hope, a famous heritage community, is near Bond Head.)

Blog Photo - Artist Sadnra window garden

Through 50 years of marriage, Sandra has seen how special the place is to David. It’s grown on her.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra in Sunroom wicker chair

“I fall in love with it each summer. Each year my garden grows. And now, like Virginia Wolfe, I have a room of my own, so it’s easier to find my heart.” 

They love this place for the history, the house, the studio, the family times, the garden and the orchard. Some of the apple trees are more than a hundred years old.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David Picking apples

One summer, Monarch butterflies visited Sandra and David here. (Monarchs fly from Mexico all the way to Canada each summer and back.)

“You couldn’t see a leaf,” Sandra says. “The trees were covered with Monarchs.”

That magical event led to this painting….

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Butterflies CU

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Butterfly painting

… and a gift: a butterfly chair from David.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Chair

“Perhaps the Monarchs were saying thanks for all your good works with the children in Mexico?” I ask.

“Perhaps,” Sandra replies.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Wheelbarrow with flowers

To learn more about Sandra’s work, or to acquire her paintings, email: swaltonball@gmail.com

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“If you are reading this, it means….”

Our friend Jacqui phoned.

“Are you going to be there in a few minutes? I’m coming for a visit.”

I smiled. It was almost exactly what Paddy used to say. Minutes later, he and his wife Jacqui would be at our door.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Married for decades, they were always together, these two.

Blog Photo - Jacqui and Paddy on holidaysOur family loved their visits.

But Paddy died from cancer earlier this year.

We wondered if Jacqui would continue the impromptu visits. I was very pleased with her call.

As usual, I let her in through the kitchen door, and we hugged.

We sat at the harvest table.

Blog Photo - Garden harvest Basket tomatoes pumpkin

It was the same table that just last October was laden with produce from the garden — including the lone Jamaican pumpkin that grew from a seedling that Paddy and Jacqui had given us that spring.

Blog Photo - Garden harvest baskets with toamtoes peppers eggplants on table

“Come for your share of the pumpkin harvest,” we’d phoned them, laughing.

When they came, we handed them a bag filled with herbs, garlic, tomatoes and half of the Jamaican pumpkin.

Now, 8 months later, Jacqui and I sat together at the table for the first time without Paddy.

We sipped our tea.

She’d been going through Paddy’s belongings, she said. Deciding what to give away,  and identifying matters that needed her immediate attention.

She opened Paddy’s briefcase.

She saw an envelope addressed “To My Wife”.

She ripped it open and started to read:

Blog Photo - Jacqui letter ECU2

My dearest Jacqui.

So faithful and true!

… Without you, I would have had nothing. It was due to your sacrifices that we survived. You gave so much and demanded so little. Thank you for being so much to me over the years….”

“I want you to read it,” Jacqui said now, handing me the long white envelope.  She had torn it open at one end, but the writing on the front was clear: “To My Wife”, it said.

I reached into the envelope, pulled out the letter.

I got goosebumps.

Paddy’s letter to Jacqui ends with this paragraph:

Blog Photo - Jacqui letter final graph

“If you are reading this, it means that I’ve passed on. Don’t be sad. Our life together was good! Although I won’t be here in body, I will always be at your side in spirit.

“Good bye my love!”

Moved by his love for her and their daughter Donna — and by this considerate act – Jacqui cried.

Paddy and Daughter in earlier years
Paddy and Daughter in earlier years

But here’s what surprised her most: the letter was dated August 9, 1999.

Blog Photo - Jacqui letter date1

Paddy wrote it 14 years before – and put it in his briefcase, where he knew Jacqui would find it.

Blog Photo - Jacqui on verandah

The impact on Jacqui was so positive that on a subsequent visit, as we sat on the verandah, she agreed to let me share excerpts from the letter.

The lesson here:

There’s no need to wait. You can write that letter to someone you love right now.

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Drum Roll, Please! John’s House Pt. 6

Ladies and gentlemen!

— Drum roll, please —

The Library is now complete!

The ceiling is done….

Blog Photo - John's Library Ceiling

And the walls are painted.

Blog Photo - John's Library Walls Painted1

Even the floor has been swept.

Blog Photo - John's Library floors

And with that, all of the repairing, re-plastering and repainting of the rooms has been done.  Year One of John Garside’s incredible 3-year mission to restore his large old house, coach house and grounds in Prince Edward County, Ontario, is almost over. And this means that he and his wife Ann can finally move in.

(Gee whiz – I feel like stopping everything right now and having a celebratory drink myself – and it’s not even my house!)
Blog Photo - John's House - Front

But before we get too excited, I have to tell you there’s still a bit more to do.

Like putting in the baseboards (skirting) around the newly installed floors on the third floor.

And removing all the scaffolding and tools from inside the house.

Blog Photo - John's House Scaffolding

And paint cans from the kitchen.

Blog Photo - John's Kitchen

And then the big clean-up.

All that before Move-In Day on May 7.

But even during the push to finish it all, John’s feeling delighted with what he’s accomplished – by himself.

“For example, the quote I got to repair the plaster ceilings and crown moldings was $5,000 a room.  Instead of going down that path I invested in $50.00 worth of materials (per room) and did it myself.  The results are truly amazing!  Even the local contractors are impressed!”

Blog Photo - John Red Room Finished

He still arrives at the house a little after 7 each morning and works steadily till 4 p.m., stopping only for a light lunch.

“All is on schedule and all deadlines will be met!  Ann will be arriving on Sunday (May 4) to help with the final cleanup of the house just before the movers arrive on Wednesday.  Great happiness!”

When I told you that John was doing all this work by himself, I wasn’t joking.  His wife Ann, a partner in an accounting firm, has been in Toronto, more than two hours away. This is the busiest time of her work-year – tax season – and Ann’s been working flat-out at her job.   She hasn’t been to the house since mid- February, when she made “a flash-visit”.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

So how does this work for them? How does Ann know she’ll like what John has done?

“Lots of pictures are sent each day to provide Ann with the state of affairs at 27 Centre Street,” John explains.

“Does she trust you THAT much?” I ask John cheekily.

And he replies: “That is why I send the pictures each and every day . . . Feedback is always good!”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

On reflection,  I’m really liking the sound of this arrangement:  Husband does all the hard and dirty work, while wife stays away from all the chaos and white dust, returning when the work is done.

Hmm… Ann, you’re a girl after my own heart.

Way to go, Ann!

Ooops! I really meant:  “Way to go, John!”.

 **

 Photos by John Garside