With autumn closing in, time to say so long to sweet summertime

Going fishing

Looking a bit Norman Rockwell-esque, two young Queensborough people head “down’t street,” fishing poles in hand, to go fishing on a perfect summer day. That would be summer in Queensborough at its best.

Happy almost fall, readers!

Did you know that fall officially begins this coming Wednesday, Sept. 23? No? Well, neither did I – until CJBQ radio host Jim Wright dropped that fact during this past Saturday’s broadcast of ’60s and ’70s oldies, a show that (as you can imagine, knowing as you do my feelings for that era) I love.

In fact, one of the things I love about the era of the ’60s and the ’70s is that those were the days when fall started on Sept. 21 – every year. Just as summer started on June 21, winter on Dec. 21, and spring on March 21. There was a kind of reassuring certainty about those unchanging seasonal start dates, despite the fact that blizzards were known to dump several feet of snow on the first day of “spring,” and we’d often been suffering through a weeks-long heat wave by the time summer “started” on June 21. Now that science and technology and whatnot have got us all fancy about precision when it comes to the start of the seasons (as with everything else) – well, you just never know (unless Jim Wright tells you) when autumn might officially begin. And where’s the usefulness of that? Thank goodness for Jim.

Anyway. I’ve ranted about that topic before here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and I probably will again. Had to get it out of my system. But let’s go back to where we started: Happy almost fall!

Boxes of books

Some of the many, many boxes of books that had to be moved from Montreal to Queensborough.

I hope your summer has been long and languorous and happy, filled with family times, and perhaps with travel to new places, and with some seriously good gardening. I am painfully aware that one thing your summer has not been filled with is reading posts from yours truly here at Meanwhile at the Manse. Raymond and I have spent our summer truly, finally and completely getting our stuff  – primarily books – moved from our former home in Montreal to our new home in Queensborough. This has involved many, many long trips between the two places, much packing, much stress, much expense. I’ll spare you the details, but I hope you’ll be understanding and excuse my absence from your internet space.

And hey, here I am again! I don’t think my busy schedule will allow a return to daily posting, but I think once a week is highly doable. What do you think: does “Monday at the Manse” have a bit of a ring to it? I shall aim for a post for you every Monday (with perhaps some occasional extra posts when I can manage it or feel particularly inspired) for the foreseeable future. And hey, this is the first one!

And so now, as the air turns crisp and cool, the leaves on the trees turn to scarlet and gold – autumn closing in, as Bob Seger once sang – I’d like to show you lots of pictures of what summer 2015 has been like for Raymond and for me and for Queensborough. It was great! If you weren’t here, you missed a lovely quiet rural old-fashioned summertime. Sweet, sweet summertime, to quote Bob Seger once more. Here it is – or at least, was:

Welcome to Queensborough planter

Welcome to Queensborough! The beautiful flowers and plants at one of the entrances to our hamlet, courtesy of the Queensborough Beautification Committee. Note the Canadian flags in honour of Dominion Day.

Helping a turtle on Barry Road

Summer isn’t summer without turtles crossing the road – something we all should try to help them with, to save their lives. Here’s Raymond helping a tiny one cross Barry Road between Queensborough and Cooper.

Bee balm

Beautiful bee balm in the Manse garden. Good for the bees and pretty to boot!

Wild parsnip

Wild parsnip – a problematic, invasive plant that is, unfortunately, taking over the roadsides in our area. Watch for a future post specifically on the subject. And in the meantime, avoid touching the wild parsnip!

Johnston's before move

The interior of Johnston’s Drugstore in Madoc just before the old store on the main street that’s been there for so many years finally closed and moved to a new, larger location. Johnston’s is a truly great local family business of many decades’ standing.

New Johnston's

An employee cleaning the windows of the new Johnston’s location, just before the opening. It’s a nice big store! But it’s still sad to lose the old one.

Historic sign planter

Another beautiful planter in Queensborough, this one around the sign by the Black River telling a bit of the history of our hamlet.

Bob Hudson Queensborough painting

A lovely painting of the bridge over the Black River in Queensborough by Bob Hudson, a talented artist with strong ties to the Madoc area. This original painting is now in the Sedgwick-Brassard collection: it was my gift to Raymond on his birthday this past July 30.

Toad before disappearance

This is a toad that showed up in the Manse garden one summer afternoon and commenced to doing something quite amazing: it disappeared into the ground! See next photo …

Toad after disappearance

Can you find the toad? Neither can I! it parked itself in a corner of the garden, and proceeded to bury itself and just … disappear! I looked into it on the internet and discovered that this is actually a thing with toads. Amazing!

New Queensborough sign front

The Queensborough Beautification Committee undertook an excellent project this summer: erection of a new sign at the northern entrance to town on Barry Road. The sign was designed and made right here in Queensborough at the Pronk Canada Queensborough Machine Shop.

New Queensborough sign back

Here’s the back side of the new sign. Beautiful! And – thank you for visiting!

Ray's Famous lobster and crab salad

Raymond and I did actually take a holiday this summer – two weeks in Maine, where we love to go. Here is one supper from that vacation, Ray’s Famous Lobster and Crab Salad (one scoop of each, on top of a bed of greens). It was inspired by a similar dish at the wonderful Kennebunkport restaurant Mabel’s Lobster Claw, and Raymond pulled it off smashingly.

Dominion Day planters

The lovely planters throughout the village (with Dominion Day windmills as of July 1), installed and tended to by hard-working volunteers with the Queensborough Beautification Committee.

Colourful carrots

Colourful (and delicious) carrots from the garden of our friends and neighbours Jen and Ed. Pretty as a picture!

Farm equipment at Jos's

Kind of a classic photo of summer in Queensborough: farm equipment in for repairs at the Pronk Canada Queensborough Machine Shop – the former Sager’s General Store. Jos Pronk’s work is much appreciated by local farmers for his ability to repair all manner of equipment.

Camaraderie at Hazzard's service

The wonderful local music group Camaraderie performing at the annual summer service at historic Hazzard’s Corners Church

War of 1812 ceremony at Hazzard's

… and a ceremony honouring a War of 1812 veteran buried in the Hazzard’s cemetery that was part of the same summer service.

QCC yard sale

The giant fundraising yard sale held by and at the Queensborough Community Centre (the village’s historic former one-room school).

Moving Chuck's shed

An exciting late-summer afternoon: loading a heavy old shed from the property of our friends and neighbours Chuck and Ruth onto a big truck owned by Smokey’s Towing of Queensborough. We all came out to watch this interesting (and eventually successful) operation. Good Queensborough entertainment!

Queensborough rainbow

Full-bow rainbow over Queensborough after a midsummer rainstorm.

Croissants on the back deck

A breakfast that, sadly, Raymond and I can’t get in Queensborough (until that patisserie – French bakery – eventually opens up here): croissants and pain au chocolat with morning coffee and reading on our back deck in Montreal. Probably for the very last time, given our move to Queensborough.

Red truck at 780 de l'Epee

Raymond’s red truck in front of our former home in Outremont (Montreal), during one of our many trips back there to move stuff this summer. That’s our place with the green door.

Not-quite-ripe tomatoes

The heirloom tomatoes in our garden at the Manse that didn’t quite turn ripe and red in time for Raymond to live his dream of entering them in the vegetables category at the Madoc Fair. Maybe next year!

Fair teacups

Hey, and speaking of the Madoc Fair – you know it’s coming when the teacup ride shows up in the parking lot at the Madoc arena in mid-September.

Honey Bunny

The big news for Raymond and me at the end of this summer was the arrival of our two new kittens. Here is Honey Bunny…


… and here is her sister Teddy – who we initially thought was a male, and hence the name. Now Teddy is short for Theodora.

Tired kitties

And here are both Teddy and Honey Bunny, exhausted after a day of chasing each other around the Manse. They have brought much happiness to the Manse, which was a sad place after our beloved Sieste died at the start of the summer.

Unloading boxes of books

The end of the endless move! Just this past weekend, our books from Montreal were unloaded from the great big moving truck into our new acquisition: the historic Kincaid house next to the Manse.

Yes, people, the end of Summer 2015 for Raymond and me was the excitement of being able to become the new owners of the great old house next door, a funky place even older than our 1888 brick Manse. It is the new home of our many, many books. And one of these days we hope to restore its interior, along with that of the Manse – and maybe there’ll even be some sort of commercial enterprise there. Like, say… a bookstore? Bosley Road Books, Queensborough? What do you think?

Too many books, too little space: another solution

Bed of books

Fun idea, but I have to admit I hope it doesn’t come to this as Raymond and I try to find space at the Manse for all our books!

In a post a couple of days ago, I was musing about the possibility of using the Manse’s substantial hallway space as a place to put bookshelves and, by extension, books. Of course I didn’t fail to mention, for the umpteenth time, that Raymond and I have a lot of books. Finding a way to get all of those books out of boxes and into places here at the Manse where they’ll look nice and are arranged so we can find a volume when we want it (often not the case now) is one of our big challenges.

Our friend Hilary is quite aware of our books situation (note that I am avoiding using the phrase “books problem”), having visited us at the Manse a couple of times. She is also sympathetic, being a person who owns a lot of books herself. And thus she is apparently always on the lookout for possible solutions, including inventive and amusing ones.

And really, you have to like the one she found that you can see in the photo at the top of this post. Hilary found it on the Facebook page of an author called M.J. Rose, and sent it along with the message, “When you run out of hallway space…”

Yikes! I hope it doesn’t come to that. Please don’t let it come to that. I mean, I’ve already considered the chair of books in a post here, and here’s the photo:

Bibliochaise and hassock

And we already had a tree of books one Christmas at the Manse:

book tree

But a bed of books? It seems a little much. A bit uncomfortable-looking, for one thing.

However, thanks to Hilary pointing me in the direction of M.J. Rose’s page, I found another overload-of-books idea/photo that I quite like for the Manse:

Walk-in library

What do you think, people? Makes sense to me.

An idea for putting our hallways to good literary use

Disclaimer from Katherine: For the second time in recent days (the first is here), I’m using some photos that I found on the home-renovation site houzz.com. While I’m grateful for the photos (and the renovation ideas), I am kind of appalled at the quality of the captions that come embedded with the photos from Houzz. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about them, so please ignore the gibberish below the photos here and just enjoy the pictures themselves.


As regular readers and those who know us are well aware, Raymond and I have quite a lot of books. I’ve written many times (like here and here) about that, and have even reported on some creative ideas (like here) for how to store them. But really the only solution for a lot of books is a lot of bookshelves; and even though the Manse is not a small house by any means, I think we both worry that there won’t turn out to be enough wall space throughout the place to set all the needed bookshelves against. Though of course we’ll give it a heck of a try.

One very good way to go about it would probably be to use the fairly substantial space given over to hallways at the Manse. You know how some houses seem to have lots of hallways running through them, and others none at all because one room just kind of leads into another? Well, the Manse falls very assuredly into the first category. Here is the downstairs hallway at the front of the house (all photos taken about three years ago, very early in our ownership of the house, by the way; that’s why things look a little empty – oh, and yes, that orangey broadloom will most definitely go at some point):

Manse downstairs front hallway

And here is the hallway immediately above it, on the second floor (and apologies for the darkness of the photo):

Manse upstairs front hallway

And here is a third, a nice long upstairs hall leading to the south end of the house where the sunny bedroom that my sister and I shared when I was growing up here is located:

Manse upstairs back hallway

Now, these hallways are not nearly so devoid of contents now as they were when Raymond took the photos in February 2012. But one thing they still do not contain is bookshelves – and that’s probably why the photo from houzz.com that’s at the top of this post caught my eye. (Well, that and the fact that the bookshelves in it are painted bright red, my favourite colour.) What a brilliant thing to do with a hallway! How nice our hallways would look if they were lined floor to ceiling with books on both sides (as in the photo at top) or even on one side, like here:


Houzz had other suggestions for hallways, like using them for closet space –


– and lord knows we could use some of that at the Manse, as you can read here; but I think the need for book space is more pressing.

Besides, as a visitor to our house, wouldn’t you far rather peruse the titles of our books as you roamed the hallways than check out Raymond’s shirts and my shoes?

One restaurant, several design ideas – and some memories

Shelf lamps at Terroni

My photo isn’t nearly as good as I’d wish, but what I want to show you is the clever use of industrial-style work lamps to light up floor-to-ceiling shelves. In the case of this restaurant, the shelves contain bottles of wine; I’d like to try this on our bookshelves at the Manse.

So there Raymond and I were in downtown Toronto last Friday night, having dinner before attending a performance by the Canadian Opera Company. We’d chosen an Italian restaurant called Terroni, recommended by a friend and clearly, given the steady stream of people flowing into it the whole time we were there, a very popular spot. (The food was excellent, by the way. One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had: the “Don Corrado,” with mozzarella, gorgonzola, potatoes, spicy sausage and fresh rosemary.)

But what got my attention wasn’t so much the food as some elements of the decor, which gave me (in no particular order):

  • A new idea about bookshelf lighting;
  • A chance to test out some funky vintage-style stools that I’d been considering for the Manse kitchen;
  • A memory of a long-gone restaurant from our (yours and mine, I mean) collective long-gone past;
  • And a flashback to a 1970s design craze that probably never should have happened.

Here are the details:

1. The bookshelf lighting.

I’ve written many, many times before (like here and here and here) about the very large number of books that Raymond and I own, and that are going to have to find a proper home at the Manse. At the moment we have a tiny proportion of them on shelves here in Queensborough, but the vast majority are either still at our old home in Montreal, or sitting in boxes and piles in various spots in the Manse. Many bookcases lie in our future. Which might well mean owning even more of Ikea’s Billy line of bookcases than we already do.

Now, if you’ve ever looked in the Billy department at an Ikea store (you know, the place where it always ends in tears), you’ll have seen how the displays enticingly often include glass doors on the bookcases, and little track lights installed on the underside of the shelves so that there is a fetching glow on the books. Of course the doors and the lights add a considerable amount to the bare-bones cost of the Billy itself, but they do look nice – in the store at least. I love the idea of the upper shelves and reaches of our own book collection being gently lit so that people can read what’s on the spines of the many volumes.

But installing those lights – which come with cords attached – strikes both Raymond and me as a colossal pain in the neck, especially when you’re talking about many bookshelves. Why, we’d need so many outlets and extension cords and power bars that it would just be ridiculous.

(As an alternative, we once tried out some stick-on battery-operated lights that we found down in the U.S. They shed a nice glow, until the sticky got unstuck and the lights failed. Not a satisfactory experience.)

But Terroni had a clever and (I thought) attractive industrial-style lighting system for its tall shelves, which featured not books but bottles of wine. Clamped every few feet onto thin cylindrical floor-to-ceiling metal pipes were vintage-style work lamps, with their flexible necks bent so that the light shone upwards or downwards onto the bottles. My picture of them (at the top of this post) isn’t very good, but perhaps you can get the idea. I love industrial style, and I think having one or two such lights installed on each of our Billys (Billies?) would look great.

2. Those Modernica stools.

Modernica stools at Terroni

The exact Modernica stools I’d been writing about (having discovered them online) – found for real, by complete accident, just a few days later. We had to try them out!

A little less than two weeks ago I did a post (it’s here) about some great vintage-styled (and also kind of industrial-styled, actually) barstools that I’d found thanks to a blog called Dans le Lakehouse. As I wrote there, I thought they were precisely what we needed for the future counter/island that Raymond and I envision for the Manse’s kitchen, the place where the people cooking and the people watching the cooking can chat and share a glass of wine and just generally enjoy that beautifully renovated room. (Welcome to my renovation daydreams.)

What a surprise, then, to walk into Terroni and see exactly the same stools, right there in front of us! Not in the gorgeous turquoise colour that that Dans le Lakehouse author Tanya has; they were a retro orange instead. But still! What are the chances? It meant we could try them out before buying! And so we did. And found them very comfortable, just as Tanya had said – but a little bit on the loose-and-wiggly side. Which I confess worried me a bit. Can I live with loose-and-wiggly kitchen stools? Were they maybe only loose and wiggly because a steady parade of bums had sat in them every day since Terroni had opened, probably more use than ours would ever get?

I posted a comment at Dans le Lakehouse, asking Tanya if she’d experienced that problem. She was kind enough to respond quickly, saying that she and her husband found their Modernica stools a bit like that too, but not so much as to bother them. She also offered (courtesy of her husband) some advice on maybe tightening up the nuts and bolts, though perhaps at the expense of the stools’ swivelling abilities. And then she gave what I think might have been the best advice: that this quirk might bother us forever, so we should find a retail outlet for the stools and check them out before we ordered them. Thanks, Tanya – and thanks, Terroni, for giving us a chance to test-drive those beautiful stools.

3. That long-gone restaurant.

Noodles (?) mural at Terroni

That mural above the open kitchen at Terroni really reminds me of the long-gone iconic Noodles.

Do any readers remember Noodles at Bay and Bloor? It was the trendy Italian restaurant in Toronto for several years in the 1970s and ’80s. Instead of the red-and-white-checked tablecloths of old-fashioned Italian restaurants, it featured semi-industrial design with a lot of neon, and high-end nouvellish Italian fare on the menu. It’s been gone since the start of the ’90s, and I could find almost no reference to it online save for this piece from the blog Torontoist, noting that it was the first place that longtime Globe and Mail restaurant critic Joanne Kates ever reviewed.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one): While I ate at Noodles once or twice back in the dim and distant early 1980s, I very probably would never have thought of it again had it not been for our recent visit to Terroni. Our seats in that latter restaurant faced the big open kitchen; and above the space where the chefs were hard at work was a 1970s-style mural featuring shapes probably intended to be stylized pasta. I took one look at it and had a huge flashback to, yes, Noodles!

Is there the slightest chance that the mural at Terroni on Adelaide came from the old Noodles?

That would be so cool.

And finally, 4. The design craze that maybe shouldn’t have been.

Wagon-wheel chandelier

This is (obviously) not the wagon-wheel-style chandelier we saw at a Toronto restaurant the other day; the photo comes from a blog called Ugly House Photos (“Phoenix [Ariz.] Houses with Clutter, Ugly Décor and Bad Taste”). But I’m sure it’ll bring back the memories for you!

People, I am talking about wagon-wheel chandeliers. Wagon-wheel chandeliers! Do you remember them? I sure didn’t – until, in looking around the room at Terroni and admiring the various vintage-style small chandeliers around the room, I noticed one very large round one (which, sadly, I neglected to photograph). “That reminds me of wagon-wheel chandeliers!” I exclaimed to Raymond! “Wow!”

He changed the subject.

Anyway: this whole little exercise seems to have been a discovery that when you buy and move back to the house you grew up in – a house that happens to need a major renovation – you tend to look for, and often find, ideas, and sometimes even inspiration, everywhere you go.

And simply because you are looking for ideas and inspiration – which means you are looking, period – you also sometimes find memories.

And even though some of those memories may be 1970s ranch-style wagon-wheel chandeliers, well, really – where’s the harm in that?

Three years on, the Manse is a cozy, happy place

Cozy corner of the Manse

Our living room, filled with warmth and nice things, where we spend a lot of time. It’s something happy to reflect on as Raymond and I mark the third anniversary of owning this great old house. And yes, the vintage curtains – the ones that hung here in my childhood – are still there!

Well, people, here we are: three years and counting. Three years of Manse ownership, that is; it was on this very day three years ago (Jan. 30, 2012) that Raymond and I became the owners of this great old house in beautiful little Queensborough, the house that happens to be the one that I grew up in. Today is also the third anniversary of Meanwhile at the Manse; our first day of ownership was also the day of my very first post. And you can read that post – which explains how we got here, and kicks off the 940 (yikes!) and counting other posts that were to follow it – right here.

On the first anniversary of our Manse acquisition, I used my post (which is here) to speculate about whether the subsequent 12 months would see the start of our much-discussed but not-yet-started renovations of the house. (They didn’t, by the way.)

On the second anniversary (the post is here), I was busy ruminating on my non-buyer’s remorse for failing to snap up a vintage telephone table at a bargain price. That’s kind of funny, actually, because non-buyer’s remorse is a recurring theme at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and I was going on about it again just the other night, in a post about vintage cheesy but endearing paintings of big-eyed urchins that you can read here. (Also, by the way, I did eventually get a great telephone table, which I told you about here.)

As I thought about what I would write tonight, to mark the end of Year 3 and the start of Year 4, I decided there would be nothing better than to reflect on what a cozy and happy place the Manse has become, unrenovated though it may be.

Staircase carpeting

That 1970s carpeting! It’s got to go. Sometime.

Yes, it’s still a little rustic. Our bathroom is, while very clean, alarming in many other ways; pieces of the flooring are torn up in various places; sections of the walls are missing wallpaper and showing crumbling plaster underneath; there is still horrendous early-1970s wood panelling in one of the guest bedrooms; and that orange-and-yellow broadloom on the front staircase just won’t quit.

And I didn’t even mention the tiny pantry kitchen with the Harvest Gold stove and the washing machine – the washing machine! – conveniently (not) located in its far-too-constricted space. Oh, well, I guess I have mentioned it.

But despite all of these imperfections and jobs waiting to be done, the Manse is a cozy and a happy place. At the end of every day, when I return home from work as a professor of journalism at Loyalist College, and Raymond sets aside his duties as editorial consultant for the National Newspaper Awards, and we’ve cooked a nice dinner in that tiny kitchen, we make ourselves comfortable in our living room. Often we watch a television program (there’s only ever time for one before my early bedtime), but sometimes we read or do more work on our laptops. (For one thing, there’s always a Meanwhile, at the Manse post that needs writing.)

Cozy fireplace

Our electric fireplace might someday be replaced by a real wood fireplace, but its cheerful red colour and warmth make us happy on a cold winter night.

And let me tell you, that room is just the nicest, happiest place you can imagine. Warmth radiates from the cranberry-red electric fireplace in the corner; there are books, including a lot of volumes of local history, in the bookcase and all over the room; there are framed photos of Raymond’s lovely grandson Henry; there is vintage furniture, and a vintage floor lamp, and there are vintage knick-knacks, every one of which has a story behind it; there are kerosene lamps in case the power goes out; there are artworks, one old and one new, featuring the Manse; and there are the very curtains that hung in that same room in the 1960s and ’70s when I was a kid growing up here. Yes, people, the curtains are still there.

Sieste in her bed

Sieste the cat, on her bed (or should I call it her throne?) in the Manse’s living room.

And best of all, there is Sieste the cat, who loves to sit with us and watch whatever’s going on, making the occasional comment – whenever she’s not doing the hard work of catching up on her beauty sleep.

We love our cozy living room. We love our Manse. We love our cat. We love each other. And: we love those curtains.

So happy third anniversary to us!

A small-town main street, then and now


“Durham Street, Madoc, circa 1960” reads the caption below this photograph. What a lovely, nostalgic image of a bustling small town at the peak of mid-20th-century prosperity!

I’ve written many times before (like here and here, among lots of other posts) about how many books Raymond and I seem to have acquired over the years. So given that, you won’t be surprised to know that one of our favourite shops in Madocwhich is “town” for most of us in Queensborough, although sometimes Tweed is “town” too – is a bookshop. It’s a used-book shop, actually, and it’s a there for a good cause; all money raised from sales of the books goes to support the (excellent) Madoc Public Library. The store is called The Bookworm, and it’s operated by the Friends of the Madoc Library.

Both Raymond and I have found some really interesting books at the Bookworm over the course of many visits there. One thing I particularly like about it is that it has a fairly big section of classic hardcover and softcover books. (In other words, it’s not all about Danielle Steele paperbacks, though if you like those, there are lots of them too.) I’ve come across some pretty unusual and cool books in that section, and let me tell you, the prices are unbeatable. For those who might like to stop in: it’s at 80 Durham St., kitty-corner from the wonderful Hidden Goldmine Bakery.

Anyway, while I’m happy to pass on a tip on a great source of secondhand books, the real point of this post is something else. I wanted to share with you a photo that hangs on the wall at the front of the Bookworm: my photo of that photo is what’s at the top of this post. It’s a shot of Durham Street, which is more or less the main street of Madoc, taken “circa 1960,” as the caption at the bottom of the photo says:

Durham Street citation

When I spotted this photo during my most recent visit to the Bookworm, I was captivated by it, and by the feeling of nostalgia that washed over me.

Now, my time in the Madoc area didn’t begin until a few years after 1960; it was 1964, to be exact, which is when my family moved to the Manse in Queensborough. But certainly in the years we lived in the area, Madoc looked far more like that image from 1960 than it does now. Gracious – all those businesses that are no longer with us, more’s the pity. (Like Stickwood’s Dry Goods, and Ross’s Ladies’ Wear, just to name a couple.) And what’s even more a pity is the great buildings that are no longer with us, notably the one on the left housing the Café (what was that café?), with the amazing curve at the top of its facade. Sadly, there have been a number of fires on the main street of Madoc resulting in the loss of some beautiful and important old buildings – presumably including that one.

Now, don’t get me wrong: the downtown area of Madoc still has lots of well-kept historic buildings. And it’s still a bustling little place. But like so many small towns, it’s not quite as bustling as the scene you see in the photo. Here’s a (much less good) photo I took this past month of the same scene:

Durham Street, Madoc, 2014

More or less the same view of Durham Street, but 54 years later: my photo taken in December 2014. It should be noted that this was an early-morning photo, before the retail business of the day had really got started – hence the scarcity of people in the picture.

Anyway, I think it’s delightful that such a memento of the old days is on display at the Bookworm. And I also think it’s delightful that the Bookworm is part of the main street. It is one of the businesses that helps keep Madoc a lively and interesting place, all these years later.

I may have more copies of this book than anyone alive.

Donna Parker in HollywoodDo you still have the books you loved in your childhood? I think the world is probably divided into two kinds of people: those whose response to that question is “Of course I do! I’ll always keep them!” and those who’d say “Why on earth would I?”

Given my many reports (like here and here and here, for instance) on the size of the book collection that Raymond and I have amassed between us, you can probably guess what my answer is. My childhood books are among my dearest treasures.

One book in that childhood collection is a bit of a ’60s oddity. It is Donna Parker in Hollywood, the book you see in the photo at the top of this post. (Although, as I’ll explain, the Donna Parker in Hollywood in that photo is not the Donna Parker in Hollywood that has been with me since my childhood days.) It was one in a relatively short series of books about Donna Parker, a perky American teenage girl who had adventures. (In this she was entirely like all the other perky American teenage girls and young women in the many literary series that were so popular back in the 1950s and ’60s – heroines like Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames and Vicki Barr. You won’t be surprised to know that I loved all those books too.)

I acquired Donna Parker in Hollywood when I was maybe eight or nine years old, growing up in the Manse where I now live once again. And I am almost certain that it was a purchase I made from the fairly limited book selection at McMurray’s General Store in Queensborough. I expect what attracted me to it was the pink cover and the image of that perky American teenager apparently doing something exotic: you know, tropical flower in hair, swimming pool in the background, tropical fruit in the foreground and – most exotic of all – she is eating with chopsticks! (People, that is not something one did in Queensborough, Ont., when I was growing up there.) Truth be told, I still find that cover pretty appealing, although now it’s for the sheer retro-ness of it.

I forgot the plot of Donna Parker in Hollywood many decades ago, except for the general drift that Donna was lucky enough to be able to travel from her home (wherever that was; the Midwest maybe?) to exotic and exciting Hollywood. Where she of course had adventures. But though the details are long gone from my memory, the book itself remains firmly in my possession – and it is all the more precious because it came from long-closed McMurray’s General Store in Queensborough.

The first time I saw another copy of it for sale, at one of the antiques warehouses that Raymond and I love to visit, I was awfully tempted to buy it. Of course I told myself that was dumb, since I already had a copy. But something in the back of my mind kept whispering, “Backup copy!” So: did I resist the temptation?

Of course not. And besides, it was only five bucks or so.

I think my third copy came about because, at the time I found it in an antiques barn, I couldn’t quite remember whether I’d purchased the first backup copy or not. And since this latest one was only about three bucks, I figured what the heck. But I felt kind of sheepish when I got home and realized that I now had three copies in total.

And then a couple of weeks ago, at an auction, I failed to resist the temptation to buy several boxes of books (because that was how they were being sold – a whole box of 20 or so books at a time) for just a few bucks per box. And what did I discover at the bottom of one of those boxes when I’d brought them all home?

You guessed it. Donna Parker in Hollywood. Copy #4. That’s the one you see in the photo.

Hey: is Donna following me around?

I am warming to this radiators thing.

schoolhouse radiator

Radiators underneath the windows in the Manse? If this photo (not of the Manse, by the way; would that our walls looked quite that finished!) is anything to go by – and since it comes from a radiator distributor, I assume it is – then it looks like we might have a plan.

Hey people, thank you! For your encouraging and extremely helpful comments on my post from last night, about the possibility of installing radiators for heating the Manse. Since I know next to nothing about home renovations, it makes me feel quite chuffed to hear that my radiators idea is not only not dumb, but in fact could be quite a promising one for our old house. Mind you, as my cousin Bruce pointed out in his comment, installing radiators won’t solve the issue of insulation deficiency at the Manse. (What? You mean sawdust poured into the walls in 1888 won’t cut it?) But one problem at a time, I say.

Raymond has also encouraged me by pointing out that the one flaw I saw in the idea – that the radiators would take up space that we need for bookshelves to house our rather extensive book collection – isn’t actually a problem. Radiators, he informed me, are almost always installed underneath windows. And not necessarily because that’s where heat tends to escape; it’s because below-window space is space you can’t use for anything else – like hanging pictures, or (aha!) bookshelves.

space below windows

As you can see, there’s not a lot of space below the Manse’s windows. Enough for radiators? Very possibly!

But the Manse’s lovely big windows extend pretty far down the walls. Would there really be room for radiators in the space below them? Well, judging by some photos I have found on my friend the internet, I think the answer might well be yes. Have a look again at the image at the top of this post – of a traditional radiator style that seems to be called “schoolhouse.”

People, I think we are on to something!

In praise of radiators

Aestus Versailles radiator

Just try to tell me you wouldn’t want this beautiful radiator in your home! And while it looks old, it’s actually brand new; it’s made by a British company called Aestus (aestus.co.uk).

I’ve been thinking about home heating a lot lately. I suppose it’s something you do when you live in a house built in 1888 and insulated (well, sort of) with – wait for it – sawdust. And when the temperature outside is -27C when you get up in the morning (or more precisely, when your early-rising husband does). And when the accompanying wind can be felt coming in under and around the front door. And when you realize how cold the stuff that you’ve parked against an exterior wall is.

And most especially when you look at the cost of getting the tank for your oil-fired furnace filled up. All too frequently.

Now, one fairly quick fix for all this is to get a wood-burning stove to heat the most-lived-in sections of the Manse. That’s something I’ve written about in previous posts, like here, where I rambled on about whether an old-fashioned style or a sleek modern Euopean stove would be right for this house. Well over a year after I wrote that post I still haven’t decided, and it’s an academic question anyway because Raymond and I really can’t think about putting in a wood stove until we have a sense of what we want the final layout of the house to be, and hence where the wood stove should go. Given the building-code and fire-code and insurance requirements for installation of a wood-burning stove, you really want to put it in the right place the first time. Moving chimneys is no small matter.


One of the radiators in our Montreal home. I never knew how much I appreciated radiator heating until I moved to a house without it. That would be the Manse.

But in the meantime, as I sit here in my rather drafty Manse, I have come to appreciate the beauty and efficiency of radiators. Yes, I do mean those old iron things – though these days they can be in much lighter metals. Why have I become such a fan of radiators? Well, several reasons; but first among them is the fact that they give off a constant gentle heat. Our Montreal home had a natural-gas-powered furnace that heats water that in turn heats the building through a series of radiators that must be original to the building. It’s old-fashioned technology that works absolutely perfectly in 2013. And I just took it for granted – until we acquired the Manse, which gets quite toasty when the oil-fired furnace kicks in, but then gets drafty again when the furnace kicks out. That constant gentle heat from a series of radiators is looking pretty good on this particular winter night in Queensborough.

Now, I don’t know too many people who’ve included installation of radiators as part of their home renovation, but I think it would be a cool thing to do. We could go for the old-fashioned look; see the photo of the Versailles model made by a U.K. company called Aestus at the top of this post – and here’s another view of that gorgeous model:

But that company also makes very modern radiators. Take a look at this one, called the Squeeze, artist-designed in stainless steel:

And then there’s something in-between, a radiator that looks not unlike the c. 1920 ones we had in Montreal but that is brand new:

So yeah, radiators: I think they’re the berries, to use a funky old phrase that I heard (for the first time in decades) the other day. The way I see it there’s only one down side to them: any wall space taken up with radiators is wall space that can’t be used for bookshelves. And have I mentioned that Raymond and I have (ahem) quite a few books?

This I do not miss.

Montreal traffic

What an odd feeling: this evening I am back in Montreal for the first time since Raymond and I officially shifted our centre of gravity to the Manse in Queensborough. (I am avoiding using the word “moved” when I mention our change in locale. Yes, the change is pretty official, thanks to Sieste the cat now being at the Manse, and my job being in the general vicinity and all. But there is a rather enormous amount of actual moving of stuff from Montreal to Queensborough – books being a large factor – that must happen before we are officially “moved.”)

Anyway. I think I will have more to say about this whole having-homes-in-two-places thing later. Tonight, just this: while there are some things about Montreal that I’ve already started to miss (speaking French; good baguettes; lightning-fast internet at a low price), the traffic is not one of them. The photo above is the stop-and-go scene on the drive into the city at about 6:30 p.m. today.

People, I can assure you of one thing: it never looks like this in Queensborough.