We All Make History – Tommy’s Beach

I’m so excited to finally start sharing this passion project I’ve been working on for the past year. I’m taking a decade of family history research and recording the life stories of my ancestors. The writing was really easy but the recording was the real challenge. My elocution is a bit awkward and I’m still fumbling my way through the editing process but I hope my skills will improve over time, as I have so many of these stories to share.

This is the story of my great-great Grandfather from Grimsby Beach, Ontario.

Clarabelle Wilcox (Tommy’s wife) with granddaughter Eva, taken in the mid-1920s. In the background, you can see one of the original Methodist camp cottages.

Our Ontario offers a lot of free newspaper archives.

Check out Summers by the Lake for pictures and postcards from Grimsby Beach Park.

This audio recording was written and edited entirely by me. 

The intro music os Stay Quiet by Monplaisir and the outro is Pine Apple Rag by Scott Joplin. 

Thanks for listening and check back in a few weeks for my next story!

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Cedar Gnomes!

Last year I introduced our new holiday friends: Nils and Thom. This year I had grand plans to spend a balmy autumn afternoon in the backyard with my craft supplies and camera to give you a detailed and artfully photographed tutorial to show you how I made my gnomes. Unfortunately, winter came to the greater Toronto area early and with guns blazing. I was running out of time so I had to work on this project within the tight confines of our small kitchen on a grey snowy day.

If you want to make some of your own, here’s what you need to get started:

Basic Wire Tomato Cages

I used a 30 inch and a 42-inch cage but if you can’t find multiple sizes you can always prop one up on a stool or crate to give the look of varied heights.

Evergreen Boughs

I used cedar because I have a backyard full of overgrown cedar trees but garden centers have other options that I’m sure would work just as well. As far as quantity, it would depend on the size of your tomato cages and the fullness of the greenery. I had about 40 boughs but my cedars are a bit spindly this year. The branches at the garden center were much more robust and uniform so you’d probably need less if you’re going that route.

1 yard of red felt (or colour of your choice for the hats) 

½ yard of grey felt (or colour of your choice for the mittens)


Child-Sized Mittens

I made mine from felt because I had a lot of it in my fabric stash but a much easier solution would be to get a few pairs of small mittens from a thrift store. 

Knee-high Hose (for the nose)

Last year I made noses made from unbleached cotton but the fabric was too heavy and I wasn’t happy with the shape so this year I tried something a little different.

Cotton or Polyester Stuffing

Floral wire

I think the kind I’m using is about 20 gauge but it really doesn’t matter. P

Needle-Nose Pliers


Needle and thread or sewing machine

To make the hat, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here and instead, I’m going to direct you here to this tutorial. Just make sure to measure the circumference of your cages at the first rung and then the length from the rung to the top point of the cage and add an inch. The seam of my large lat was 21 inches and my small hat it 18 inches high.

For the mittens, I traced one of my own mittens and adjusted the size a little so they were slightly smaller. I cut 2 pieces of felt for each mitten and then added a little loop on one side of each for the wire. Then, I sewed around the edges, leaving a small gap for the stuffing, added a small handful of polyester stuffing to each and then sewed them shut. I have happen to have a huge stash of felt and in the interest of not buying more stuff, this worked best for me. However, if I wasn’t a fabric hoarder I would have popped by the dollar store or maybe thrift store and picked up a few pairs of kid-sized mittens.

To make your bodies, turn your tomato cage upside down so that the pokey parts are at the top and tie them together with floral wire.

Attach your boughs to the top ring with floral wire, working your way around the cage and fill in any gaps.

Next, you need a nose.

Cut your knee-high nylon sock in half. Knot one end and fill with a handful of stuffing. Knot the other end and then tie the two knotted ends together.

Slide a piece of wire through the loop behind the nose and attach it to the top ring of your cage.

When you slip the hat on it should cover the nose by about an inch.

At this point, you could call them done but I added a few little embellishments to mine. I’d had these vintage ice skates in my craft cupboard for years waiting for the right project. I didn’t want to leave Thom empty-handed, so I made him a little sign out of a little chalkboard from Dollarama.

Voila! Let me know if you have any questions. Happy crafting!

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Our Playhouse Makeover

I spent quite a bit of time last summer trawling the various buy and sell platforms, trying to find the perfect pre-loved playhouse for Little B.

There were plenty of houses to choose from, but there was always a catch – the buyer was responsible for picking it up and getting it home. Fair enough, but for us that wasn’t really an option. We didn’t have access to a vehicle that could move a 4×6 foot structure, nor did we have the time or energy to do so. I was beginning to think we were out of luck until one morning a local family listed a house AND they offered to deliver!

I called dibs, followed by a few emails and an e-transfer and then this landed in our driveway!

It looked a bit haunted.

It stayed there for a few weeks. It was quite a conversation piece among neighbours and visitors. We had to wait until we could move our travel trailer that we keep tucked between the house and a fence before we could relocate it to the backyard.

Eventually, we moved it to the back corner of the yard, but by this time I was getting really busy with work projects. The days were also getting shorter and colder, so I didn’t get a chance to start any of the repairs or painting I’d planned before winter.

In the spring, my dad removed the front door and replaced a missing board on the bottom panel. I unscrewed the rest of the windows and shutters, transforming it from haunted to just derelict.

Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly plugging away at it, as time and weather have permitted (it’s been exceptionally rainy this summer). The exterior is done, for the most part.

We choose the colours to match the house – Benjamin Moore’s Yorkshire Tan, with Newburyport Blue for the door and shutters.

I’m embarrassed to admit, those are artificial flowers in the planters. I tried to grow some annuals but the boxes didn’t drain as well as they should. With all the rain we had this year, the real plants just didn’t do well.

We still need to paint and decorate inside, but between the rain and humidity, it’s been hard to find ideal days for working inside a tiny unairconditioned structure. I’m not in a big hurry though. In typical toddler fashion, despite our hard work, Little B has been indifferent to the house. She’s only two though, so I hope over the next few years she will discover and get some enjoyment out of it. In the meantime, it’s a great little shed to store her other backyard toys.

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