A Good Home, Cake, Dessert, Food, Poetry

The Hungry Philosopher

At dinner that evening, I asked a man

Who had taken three pieces of cake

One after the other

Though he paused before the last

Photo by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Tea
Photo by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Tea

And looked straight at me across the table

As if seeking a stranger’s approval

Then dug right in

With an almost-grunt of satisfaction

**

“What happened?” I asked him, curious,

“At that very last moment

Just before

You gave in to temptation?”

Photo Courtesy of The No Grainer Baker
Photo Courtesy of The No Grainer Baker

He smiled at the crumbs on his plate

Then looked at me and said:

“You tell yourself

That it won’t be that bad, not really

**

That’s what you tell yourself.

It is, after all, such a little thing

A small piece of nothing

That you’ll make up for later.”

Jamaican Christmas Cake - Google Images
Jamaican Christmas Cake – Google Images

The hungry philosopher smiled again

But sadly now, at his plate

Regretful, yes

And something else, perhaps

 **

A bit of shame caused by a stranger

Who spoke

When she should have stayed quiet

And let the man enjoy his cake.

**

Dedicated to everyone who knows when to keep their mouth shut.

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EVERYDAY GLORY – Part 2

*PHOTOS BY HAMLIN GRANGE*

Before the car accident, I was busy leading the big projects, travelling here and there.  Running 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!

Blog Photo - Verandah Path

To  see one’s surroundings with new and grateful eyes.  

To take joy in the small moments.

To be open to small patches of everyday glory. 

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

Snow on evergreens. The first snow 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

My husband’s truant socks. He has tons of single socks and we spend time searching for their matches.I used to get irritated by this.  Or by newspapers strewn across the breakfast table. (Or his overlooking my small attempts to ‘cheer up’ our house.)

Now, I call them “signs of life”.  And 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.)

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.

Canadian Wool Blanket

The old wool blanket. “Canadiana”, for sure, it would be worth something, unstained. Do I care about the stain? No.  I love this blanket for its brilliant stripes – and for having survived decades of use.

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

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

Blog Photo - Kitchen Pies on Table

My daughter’s dogs.  Sometimes, just the sight of them gladdens my heart. One brownish-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.

And keeping both eyes open for the 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.

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A Man in Love With a House – Pt. 2 in the Ebor House Series

The moment Ron Coffin saw Ebor House,  he was smitten.

Blog Photo - Ebor House

“It was for sale for a couple of years and a friend said I should see it. I saw it and said, ‘My God!’ I fell absolutely in love with it.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance

Never mind the weed-choked acreage surrounding the grand old house and barn.

Blog Photo - Ebor House overgrown lawn

And the nearly derelict rooms inside.

Blog Photo - Ebor House derelict Room 1

The cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and spaces crammed with old contents.

The stuffy, old-house smell.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Derelict Room 3

Ron was a man in love.

**

That was 8 years ago.

Today it’s a remarkably beautiful place.

I first saw Ebor House recently, and was so impressed, I asked Ron to share his house’s story. Days later, we sat in his refurbished kitchen, sipping our coffee as Ron reflected on his decision to restore the property.

“What possessed you — to take on such a daunting task?” I asked.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Kitchen and side door

“In life there are things you have to do. Some people have to climb Everest. I had to do this.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Ron Smiling

Ron, a single parent, has four children and a dog. He also ran his own business. But he had “a huge interest in Canada’s architectural heritage and how it fits into its time” and he loved both the house and its location in historic Bond Head in Newcastle, Ontario.

“It’s like being in another world here. You even have to go through a series of entrances to get to this home. The first entrance is a bridge that you have to go under when you leave the highway. Then there are the gates to the property. Then there are 2 entry doors before you can come into the house.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Gates

Ron had a vision of the house at its best.

He decided to do some of the restoration work by himself.

“I made the common mistake of plastering the walls and painting, then realized the roof was leaking”, he said. “The house also needed all new plumbing, heating and wiring. So I had to rip out some of that work and start again.”

Luckily, the seller still had the architectural drawings from 1867,  the year Canada became a nation. (Construction started in 1868 and Ebor House was completed in 18 months.)  Those drawings convinced Ron that he was on the right track.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Dining Room full

Some chandeliers and furniture  – such as this Jacques & Hay sideboard on the right – were in the house in 1869. Ron bought other furnishings – including lighting, paintings, mirrors, and other furniture — after meticulous research.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Green Room with portait and walls and furniture

Sometimes he felt like a detective trying to solve a mystery.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living Room

The house and grounds provided clues.

The pantry doors were found in the barn. Old pennies were found under the lawn.  The pennies, found together,  likely fell from someone’s pocket during a picnic, Ron thinks.

Blog Photo - Ebor House back lawn

Blog Photo - Ebor House Canadian penny 1858

The more Ron learned, the better he understood how people lived in the late 1800’s and early 20th century.

Blog Photo - Ebor House entrance inside

“One thing I learned was how the double front doors were used. On days when the family was receiving guests, they’d open the outer door, while the inside door was closed. That would signal that visitors were welcome.”

He also became deeply interested in the Farncombs, who built the house and lived here for more than 130 years. Theirs was a remarkable story of great success and happiness, as well as heartbreaking tragedy.

**Watch for Part 3: The Farncombs.

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At Home with Rita Deverell

For many years, Rita Shelton Deverell wanted to produce a docudrama about a remarkable woman. But other careers got in the way. Blog Photo - Rita at PodiumThe actor, playwright and docudrama-maker has also worked as a TV presenter and head of current affairs for Vision TV, the Canadian network she co-founded; news director (mentoring her successor) at APTN, the Aboriginal People’s TV Network; professor of journalism and women’s studies in  two Canadian universities;

Her achievements earned her a place in the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest honour.

At last, Rita is writing the docudrama screenplay about Florence James.  She’s writing it at her country home in the ‘Sugar Bush’, outside Toronto.Blog Photo - Back Deck and Chairs “We bought the country place 22 years ago when our son graduated from high school. Thereafter we started to rent apartments in Toronto.  There have been five Toronto apartments in 22 years (plus two in Winnipeg, and one in Halifax where I worked three-year stints). The ‘Sugar Bush’ house remains home throughout these moves and always welcomes us.” Blog Photo - Rita Living Room closer Like Rita, Florence James found a productive life and award-winning career in Canada.  Rita came to Canada from Texas as a young woman, but Florence came here past age 60, after some terrible events.

“‘McCarthy and the Old Woman’ is about a feisty, resilient real-life heroine who lost everything because of the communist witch-hunts in the USA.  Florence James was blacklisted and bankrupted.  She survived the loss of her money, reputation, life’s work, her home and the death of her husband.”

The planning, creative thinking and writing for the docudrama are taking place here. Two writers live here. Rita’s husband Rex is a well-known playwright. Each has an office on the house’s lower level.Blog Photo - Rita Dining Room “Sometimes I write and plan in longhand at the drum table. But I have to get the feeling that I’m ‘going to work’. Rex has never gone to an office, so I have to keep his joke-telling self away from my work space.” Blog Photo - Desk Rita’s homes – country and city – are beautifully designed – by her.  They are bright, comfortable, unpretentious places, where history, art, houseplants and flowers mix. Many objects were passed down from Rex and Rita’s parents. Blog Photo - Rit's Small table “Every place in the large five-area living space is for my favourite leisure time activity, reading detective fiction. Blog Photo - Rita in CountryEntrance “We have lots of family pieces by now: the drum table was my mother’s. Blog Photo - Rita Drum Table in Sun Nook “The small desk and dining room table were Rex’s mother’s. The rocking chair was Rex’s grandfather’s, though not upholstered in leopard print. Blog Photo - Living room side shot “Outside, the yellow Muskoka chair is really the place I love to sit and dream and have nothing to do.” Blog Photo - Front Deck and Chair “I’m a home addict. The trivial side is I love to look at houses, read the real estate ads all the time, adore interior decorating, and can be cheered up by having a design idea.

“The important thing though is I’m an introvert, and actually draw my energy by starting each day from home base. That’s a place where my life is ordered, feels controllable, and beautiful. Then I can go out into the world and deal better with the dis-ordered, un-controllable, and sometimes ugly.”

Recently, another of Rita’s projects was launched to positive reviews.  It’s a multimedia, educational kit called ‘Women, Contemporary Aboriginal Issues and Resistance’. Free and downloadable, it includes a DVD:

http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/research/centresandinstitutes/IWGSJ/Events/ToolKit.aspx

Photos by Rex Deverell.