A Good Home, Arabella Magazine, Architecture, Art, Canadian Art, Canadian Gardens, Canadian Homes, Canadian life, Verandahs

The Verandah

Like verandahs? (Perhaps you call them front porches?)
As a former island girl, I love them.
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See my story in Arabella’s Spring Issue. It’s accompanied by sumptuous art:
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A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Friendship, Gardens

Wisdom, Foolishness and Joy

Once in a while, I do something wise.

Such was the case when I invited some friends from church to our home.

“Come to afternoon tea”, I said.  “On the verandah and in the garden.”

Blog Photo - Garden - Red Wiegela

Of course, the plan was immediately followed by a piece of brash foolishness.

“I’m doing it all myself,” I proudly told my husband.

Silence.

By myself, I had rarely entertained more than one person at a time, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“Okay,” he finally said.

Blog Photo - Garden - Begonias and Muskoka Chairs 23 006

~~

Carefully, I made a menu, a shopping list and a detailed schedule.

Checked them a million times.

Tidied up the verandah.

And prayed for good weather.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Verandah 1

~~

Daughter and son-in-law kindly took the list and went shopping.

My good man left me alone to get everything ready.

Then he phoned: “Shall I pick up a couple quiches?”

“No,” I said. “I have enough food.”

“Hmmm…” he said.

~~

The garden looked lovely.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea garden with hosta and tree

Flowers bloomed.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Pink Poppies

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea  Clematis Burgundy

Birds sang their welcome.

Blog Photo - Afternoon tea cardinal

~~

I took a deep breath.

Our guests were arriving.

My husband smoothly took over the greetings, drinks and garden tours.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Rev Claire and HG

In the kitchen, I smelled something delicious.

Quiches warming in the oven.

~~

I started out very well.

But before long,  our friends ordered me to rest. I wisely obeyed and everyone helped everyone else.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Group on Verandah1

Everything unfolded according to plan, prayer and an abundance of good sense (not mine).

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea guest in garden

Perfect weather for garden-touring.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Poppy deep pink

Happy and helpful guests and one very thoughtful husband.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Miss G and Me

There was also this frequent visitor.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Cardinal 2

And yes:  the quiches were a hit.

~~

It’s such a great blessing: having a caring church family to call our own.

For years we’d kept telling Claire, our priest: “We’d like to invite you and others to visit.”

But I simply hadn’t felt up to the task. So Claire wisely nudged us and last week, it finally happened.

~~

Blog Photo - afternoon Tea Group shot 1

Watching their happy faces made my husband and me happy.

We ended the party by saying ‘the grace’.

As we held hands and prayed, my cup ran over with joy.

~~

Great thanks to photographer Gundy Schloen.

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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.

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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.

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Food, Friends, Verandah

Everybody was complaining about summer.

Not me.

Blog Photo - Muskoka Chairs and Flowers

After a painful several months – much of it spent in bed – I welcomed the summer by taking to the verandah.

Colourful cushions, simple wood furniture and time-worn rugs created a homey feel.

Blog Photo - Verandah chairs

A verandah is a place for serious summer reading….

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Or some serious hanging out….

Blog Photo - Verandah - dogs on old rug

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In the nearby garden, sometimes it rained and hailed and the wind was crazy.

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But flowers bloomed everywhere.

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Birds sang.

The air was fresh.

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Family and friends came to visit.

Some invited themselves, which I loved.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Bee Balm Single

“How are you coping these days?”

“I’ve taken to the verandah,” I replied.

“I’m coming to visit!”

It was the summer of the verandah. Of  kindness and affection. Laughter and quiet moments.

My editor Tim, returning home to South Africa, spent most of his last week in Canada with our family. He held court on the verandah like an eminence grise, saying wise, cryptic and funny things to everyone.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Tim Mischief

Some people wondered how he’d handle returning to a country which he left decades ago. Tim’s enigmatic reply: “Did I mention I’ll have the use of a heated swimming pool?”

“Long way to go for a heated swimming pool,” we laughed.

Blog Photo - Verandah Visitor 2K

Of course, one should always feed one’s visitors. Despite one’s lack of cooking talent.

“You are the best cook I’ve ever met,” Tim declared, straight-faced, to loud laughter.

I swatted him with my dinner napkin.  He complained  – theatrically –  of “the abuses I suffer in your home”. 

Blog Photo - Verandah Guest 1

We alternated between joking, serious talk and companionable silence.  If tears were hovering, we didn’t let them show. This man has been a stalwart friend to me through life’s challenging times and I shall miss him.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Tim says something wise

Marilyn visited next. Marilyn’s the doyenne of tea (See Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas.)  She kindly admired my floral arrangement and I wisely served a cold lunch… no cooking required.

Blog Photo - Verandah Guest 3M

“I caught that salmon, smoked it and sliced it,” I lied.

“Well done,” she praised, playing along.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Salmon and lettuce

Seriously, though: the lettuce, tomatoes and red currants came from our garden.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Red Currants

Longtime friend Dale arrived late one night, on her way back home from visiting family out west. I made breakfast, the only thing I cook consistently well, and we caught up on family news.

Blog Photo - Verandah Path

Marie, who lives way up north, took an evening break from her role in an important cross-country hearing. My husband cooked supper that day, as he did for my childhood friend, Angela and her family. Wonderful occasions.

Jacqui dropped in and lucked into one of the nicest dishes I made this summer.

Blog Photo - Jacqui on verandah

“But this is GOOD!” she declared.

“Don’t tell anyone!” I pleaded. “You’ll ruin my reputation.”

Blog Photo - Verandah - Dogs in Foregorund and Visitors in BG

Anthony Trollope once asked: “What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book and a cup of coffee?” 

My answer: “A verandah, a garden, and loved ones to share them with.”

Blog Photo - Verandah - Garden bed outside verandah

Dedicated, with a grateful heart, to my caring family and friends… and everyone who appreciates a verandah.