A Good Home, Christmas Dinner

White-Out

Thank goodness for Christmas plates. 

They’re not all to my taste, but they seem to be the most colourful thing anyone uses at the dinner table these days. 

Blog Photo - China coloured patterned Christmas 2

It’s a white-out, I tell you. 

Even here in my own household, we tend to use plain white cups, saucers and plates, saving “the good stuff” for when the governor-general comes for dinner. But she still hasn’t visited, so you get the picture….

Whatever happened to dishes with patterns?

Blog Photo - Anne's dishes2

This gorgeous dish set – service for 8, along with completer items — was valued at nearly two thousand dollars (Canadian) in earlier years. Anne, an acquaintance of mine here in Ontario, is the owner and she is now downsizing.

For this beautiful Old Staffordshire Ningpo set, she is asking only $325. Will someone buy it? 

Blog Photo - Anne's dish set completer items 1

Many North Americans considered themselves lucky if they inherited such prestigious dishes or got them as a wedding gift; some spent years scrimping and saving to complete the set. 

Blog Photo - Anne's dish set cup and saucer

So when did we lose our taste for the patterned Royal Doultons, the Limoges, the Royal Graftons and Alberts, the Villeroy and Bochs? 

Blog Photo - China patterned white and blue 800 Vieux Luxembourg

The floral patterns, the pastel colours, the much-valued blue-and whites?

Blog Photo - china coloured patterned 1a

When did white plates become de rigueur? When did we become such boring young and old farts? 

One big problem now, it seems — as older generations downsize their homes — is that fewer people seem to want their treasures.

Blog Photo - China patterned vintage limoge for 8

Tastes have changed. Become bland. Not only do most young adults I know want only plain white dish sets, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything with a pattern on their wedding registries.

Mind you, I do wonder why the earlier generations were so stuck on patterned plates. Was it for the art? Or was it because the meals they cooked were so boring, they needed a bit of cheering up? Did they find the roast chicken and the over-boiled vegetables, simply too depressing?

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If you want to buck the tide, visit Facebook Marketplace, ebay, Etsy or other online sites. You will find an abundance of beautiful patterned china, many at great prices.  The pictures above came from Facebook Marketplace.

And if you’re interested in Anne’s gorgeous dinner set, contact me, please, and I’ll connect you with her.

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A Good Home, Canadian Homes, Home, Keeping House

Housekeeping Wisdom and Foolishness

Lately, I’ve been going through my journals. As you can imagine, it’s not all pleasant reading. But some of it is funny, and even wise. Sharing:

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I’m known for my cooking. How I wish that were not so. My cooking skills are legendary for all the wrong reasons. 

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Of course I believe in miracles! I say that every time something I bake turns out well.

Blog Photo - Cake 2

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If I could, I’d have all-white furniture in my living room, and admire it from afar. I’d have to. There’d be no real living going on in that room, I tell you.

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How do they do it, those people in the magazines?  Their sofas and chairs are spotless, their kitchens – their entire homes and gardens — are immaculate. There are no books or magazines left behind on a comfy chair, no cushions fallen from the sofa to the floor, no threadbare old carpets, no signs of daily catastrophes in any of their rooms.

How do they do it?

“They don’t,” says my friend. “It’s just for the photos.”

“Then I wish they’d stop,” I replied. “They’ve given me an inferiority complex.”

Blog Photo - Verandah - dogs on old rug

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A house can be a showplace, I suppose. But my home – now that’s something else. Though I am all for making a comfortable nest for my family and self, mine is a dwelling that shows the marks of living. By that I mean that items are often out of place, forgotten in one room on the way to another, left there till they become fixtures in their new location.

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Blog Photo - Kitchen Pies on Table

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I’ve assigned a virtue to my brand of housekeeping. I call it the “lived in” look.  Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. My home looks and feels lived in, with books, blankets and cushions comfortably misplaced and eyeglasses and notebooks in any room but the one where I most need them.

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An interior decorator told me there’s a big difference between “storage” and “display”. My dining room cupboard was meant for display purposes, he said.

Oh dear.

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Blog Photo - Journals

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One thing the catastrophes of recent years have done for me: I have shed most of my false pride and pretense. And I’m trying to stamp out the rest.

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I don’t worry about impressing anyone. As long as the house is clean, as long as there are fresh sheets and flowers from my garden in the guest room, and people have enough to eat, I’m content. But this attitude of mine didn’t happen overnight. It took years. 

Blog Photo - flowers white daisies in vase

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The wisdom that age brings is knowing that we don’t always have to accept what others think, or what they do…especially when we have experience of our own and some commonsense too.

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I hope your new year is off to a  good start!

 

 

A Good Home, Doors Open, Serendipity

Serendipity: A Post-Script to The Grange Series

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Life is strange, isn’t it?

There my husband and I  were, a year ago, in a pub in Newcastle, Ontario.

We were meeting with our younger daughter’s future in-laws to plan the wedding. 

We were all nervous. The kids were totally in love and getting married.  But what if their parents disagreed — about everything?

Then my husband started telling jokes and everyone dissolved into laughter.  Loud, boisterous laughter. It broke the ice and everything went well.

There was a couple at the next table. Daughter and I went over to apologize for our loudness. 

The couple introduced themselves. The husband also gave me a book and introduced himself as the book’s author.

My daughter said: “That’s funny. My mom’s an author too!”

We all ended up talking. About books. And weddings. And marriages.

blog-photo-ebor-house-gates

Meanwhile, my blog series on Ebor House was a big hit at last year’s Doors Open Clarington tour.  The printed version was a fundraiser for Doors Open.

Blog Photo - Doors Open 2016 CR at Ebor House

This year,  I told co-chairs Marilyn Morawetz and Bernice Norton that I’d volunteer again for Doors Open Clarington: I’d write about another house. 

I had no idea it would be the home of someone I’d already met. 

Then life went nuts.  Over 3 months, Marilyn gently nudged me — repeatedly.

Finally, Hamlin decided to take a break from his busy schedule to help me out: he kindly agreed to drive us there and take the photos.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Sign and driveway Hamlin

When we arrived at The Grange, hosts and visitors warmly embraced and laughed together at the coincidence.

Nick and Wendy Boothman were the couple we met in the Newcastle pub!

It was a lovely visit.

Wendy drove us to see Screaming Hill.

Then Nick took Hamlin to photograph the barn and the grounds, while Wendy and I stayed in the house and talked.

It reminds me that one must leave room for the unexpected. And that the thing called serendipity is sometimes, strangely, within our gift.

Thanks to Hamlin Grange, Nick and Wendy Boothman, and Marilyn, Bernice and the Doors Open Clarington team. 

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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