A Good Home, Bowmanville, Local credit union DUCA, Small towns

Storytime in Small-Town Ontario

If anyone wants to know why Bowmanville, a historic town east of Toronto, is becoming so popular with young families, retirees and those in-between — many moving from big centres — the pictures below are one reason:

Blog Photo - Father and Children at DUCA Storytime

Would you believe we’re in a bank?

Yes, and it’s Storytime!

Author Viki McDonald (“Coach Tate and Team Triple 8”) and I were invited to read our stories at Bowmanville’s DUCA credit union.

Blog Photo - Cynthia and Vikki reading at DUCA

Blog Photo - Children and Storytime at DUCA1

Children and their parents sat comfortably on the blankets and comforters that the DUCA staff had spread on the floor.

Blog Photo - Girl listens at DUCA storytime

Blog Photo - Parents listens at DUCA storytime

Vikki and I sat in chairs made even more comfy with quilts that were made by the mother of DUCA manager Karen.

Are you feeling the small-town spirit yet?

Blog Photo - Cynthia reads book at DUCA storytime

We’d stop at times and ask the children questions about the storylines and they’d shout back answers, sometimes making everybody laugh.

Cupcakes and cookies were served.

The idea for a storytime came from staffer Meeghan, and was quickly accepted by Karen and the other staff. They approached me shortly after Myrtle the Purple Turtle was published. I was surprised, but also delighted.

Blog Photo - Cynthia and Timea at DUCA
Young Bowmanville resident Timea Williams with Cynthia Reyes

And now I’m going to embarrass myself a little.  When I first moved to this region a few years ago, I dropped into the DUCA branch. Taken aback by their kindness, I blurted out: “Are people here always THIS friendly?”

As you may know, I struggle with issues from a car accident, and one of them is that my brain doesn’t always co-operate with tasks that were once ridiculously easy. I also sometimes stutter and can’t get the words out clearly.  But the DUCA staff took it all in stride, and when my book “An Honest House” (which describes my efforts to learn to live with those issues) was published, I went in to share the news.

Their reaction was such that you would have thought I was family.

Blog Photo - Cynthia reads to children at DUCA

So as I think about it, perhaps Storytime in a bank — authors reading their stories and young families seated happily on the floor, listening — makes perfect sense.

And we all loved it. 

Thank you, DUCA staff! You’re wonderful.

Photos by Hamlin Grange.


A Good Home, Homes, Interior Design, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Photographs, Prince Edward County, Renovating, Restoration, Restoring old houses

John’s House in Prince Edward County

Some weeks ago, I asked the question: Who would buy an old house, knowing it needed a lot of renovation?

John Garside replied: “I would!”

And he’s doing exactly that.  Which led me to more questions:

Why would a big-city guy, born and raised in Toronto, sell his comfortable home and move to a small town 2 hours away in Prince Edward County?

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior

Why would he buy a rambling old house, knowing it would need years of renovation – most of it his own labour?

And why – several months into the dusty, grueling process – is John so darned happy with his decision?

John is the former editor of the horticultural newsletter that publishes some of my garden stories and poems.  When I heard about this move, I was happy for him — but very curious at the same time.

Was he, like so many other émigrés who’ve left big cities and moved to “The County”,  planning to have his own vineyard and make wine?

Image via thecountywines.com
Image via thecountywines.com

Or produce fine cheese?

Image via kingstonherald.com
Black River Cheese – Image via kingstonherald.com

Or become a landscape painter, perhaps?

Glide by C. Pachter - via Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County
“Glide” by Charles Pachter – Available at Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County

None of the above.

Turns out that John has had a love affair with the small towns and lakeside settings of  Prince Edward County since he was a teenager on a Grade 13 geography project in the area. Years later, he fell in love with Ann, who also loved the area. They visited often, and even honeymooned there.

Six years ago, they bought a condo in The County for weekends and summers.  By then, the area was already becoming a trendy place.  More and more people were ditching their big-city lifestyles and operating vineyards and wineries,   restaurants, cooking schools and  art galleries. Some were winning awards for their cheese and wine.

More and more artists had moved there, while others were buying weekend and summer homes in the small, lakeside towns.  Still others discovered that The County was a great place to visit.

Meanwhile, John and Ann toured an old house in downtown Picton one weekend a year ago.

“Walking through the home,” John says,  “I felt an immediate attraction, not only for the home but the property itself.  It needed a keeper, and I really felt that we were the ideal people to take on this project.”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

Only four families had owned the house in 100 years.  Each owner had  preserved its grandeur.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

Each bedroom has its own bathroom.

“And lastly,” John says, “the stained glass windows in every room are wonderful!”

Blog Photo - Picton Window

John sounds like a man in love – with a house.  But his eyes were wide open.  For all its good looks, the house needed a lot of work.  New electrical wiring and plastering,  for starters.   That meant floors and walls ripped open, etc., etc., etc.

John’s been doing the work for several months now.

“This project”,  he says, is “the greatest test of my skills in my life”.

For one thing, he’s doing most of the work alone. For another, he’s not a brawny guy – John weighs only 155 pounds.   And then the third thing: he promised Ann that they’d move in by the end of April.

So how’s it going?   Will John and Ann be able to move into the house as planned?

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

We’ll find out!  I’ll check in with John each week.  And I’ll share pictures and progress with you.

Good luck, John!

Original Photos by John Garside