Thursday, May 26, 2011

DIY Centerpiece- Bringing the Outdoors In

Get in touch with nature- indoors.  Take some inspiration from your garden, cottage, or favourite outdoor space.  This centerpiece is a simple and affordable way to incorporate some outdoor elements you love into your home.  Use any kind of nut, sea shell, sand, or natural element (picture above is acorns from our island property).  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Boats In the Water

After a slow start to spring, the forecast finally predicted sun and above zero temperatures, which meant that Friday's long weekend plans of productivity had to be immediately scrapped and postponed for a trip to the island property.  Priorities prevail.  This was our first opportunity since the ice was out to venture up on the open water.... and how fitting that it was Earth Day!  We were so excited to put the pontoon boat in the water.  What a relief to have a reliable mode of transportation to and from the island.  The pontoon is much easier to board with a baby in hand and to load and is a much smoother ride on a wavy day.  

We took it easy today.  We puttered around the island in our boat, said hi to our neighbours, and made our way back home.  We didn't get a chance to stake out our property lines, cut any brush, or start the dock, but that's ok.  It's a step in the right direction and we're both stoked- our baby went on her 1st boat ride today!  

As I think back to pre-baby warnings "you'll never get to do that again once the baby arrives" I'm reminded and re-assured on days like today that you can do more than you think post-newborn.  Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't think it's going to be that difficult to add the newest little islander to the mix.  With a little creativity and planning to accommodate our babe, now 9 months old, I am looking forward to the adventures ahead!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

David Ferrer- Please do not fire warning shots at babies!

I will prefice this post by first saying that this has nothing to do with cottage construction/planning or the outdoors for that matter.  Sorry to all the true cattagers that may be disappointed with this post.  I've decided to create a new label to this blog entitled "on my mind" for posts that are unrelated to cottage planning and the outdoors.

Being a new mum, I feel compelled to blog about David Ferrer firing a warning shot towards a crying baby!  Are you kidding me David?  While I can sympathize with the frustration of having a crying baby at a tennis match, firing a warning shot into the audience is ridiculous!  Although the ball did not come close to the baby, lobbing a ball in the direction of the crying baby was immature and unsportsmanlike.  With that said, I am not suggesting that babies be brought to quarter final tennis matches, where silence is an expectation.  There are some places that babies do not belong.  All things considered, I'm glad he lost the match and hopefully for future matches, the dad will get a babysitter. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Art of Stone Balancing

While on a walk today I stumbled upon the most amazing sculptures.  Truly amazing artwork and incredible talent.  So glad I had my camera on me!  Hope to get back there tonight for sunset!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Show and Tell: Letters From Side Lake by Peter Leschak

In this book, Peter Leschak chronicles his adventure of building a log cabin with his wife in the North Woods of Minnesota.  He writes about his everyday experiences: watching the Northern Lights, clearing stumps, skating on the lake in the dead of winter, a wild canoe ride, meeting some locals at a nearby tavern, winter temperatures dipping to -50F, and a late night fire with the local volunteer fire department.  His writing captures beautifully the simplicities of small town life and the isolation of life in the North Woods.  A great cottage read!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Show and Tell: Levon Helm Live in Concert

My husband and brother saw Levon Helm, longtime drummer for the Band, live in concert at Massey Hall this past weekend.  His daughter, Amy Helm, and others accompanied him on stage.  While Helm's voice was a little rough and he appeared to be fighting a cold, Helm lived up to his legendary status.  What impressed them most about the concert was that everyone seemed to truly enjoy what they were doing.  He captivated the audience, young and old.  If you get the opportunity, see this master storyteller in concert.

Top 10 Cottage Tunes

10- Up on Cripple Creek- The Band
9- Sitting on the Dock of the Bay- Otis Redding
8- Stay or Leave- Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
7- Down by The River- Neil Young
6- Jolene- Ray LaMontagne
5- Oh, The Boss is Coming- Arkells
4- Have You Ever Seen the Rain- Creedence Clearwater Revival
3- Grace, Too- The Tragically Hip
2- Loretta- Steve Earle
1- The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down- The Band

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Cottage Season

10- I don't need to worry about laundry.  Everyone is wearing their cleanest dirty shirt!
9- Campfire is the new eau de toilette... long lasting and everyone's wearing it!
8- I get to blame any new found blemish on a bug bite.
7- My biggest concern is how to position my muskoka chair to optimize sun.
6- It's the only time of year I'll eat a hotdog.
5- We get to listen to "The Wolf" radio station all day long.
4- I swap my workout with a paddleboat ride.
3- A great excuse to buy new sunglasses.
2- S'mores..... need I say more.
1- Singing around the camfire with family, friends, and other cottagers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

DIY- Atti Cat Blown In Insulation

We're sleeping warmer upstairs and anticipate being $650 richer after this DIY project (not taking into consideration any energy savings!).   We added 14 inches blown insulation to our attic, bringing it from an R12 to an R50.  Highly recommend you take advantage of these rebates!!!

- AttiCat Insulation (10 bags required for free rental of blowing machine at Home Depot)
- AttiCat Insulation Blowing Machine (a free rental with 10 bags, even if bags are returned)
- Rigid Polystyrene Attic Rafter Vents (for soffits)
- N95 Mask
- Safety Glasses
- An extra set of hands (this is a two person job- 1 person loading blower, 1 person blowing)
- Walkie Talkie (Helpful for communication.  We left the blower outside on the deck as it makes a bit of a mess and ran the hose through the upstairs window.  We used a one way baby monitor to communicate when to "start" and "stop" the machine... worked great).

Prep time: we set aside a full morning to clear the attic and add the rafter vents
2 hours blowing time

Total Cost (Cost -$300 + $950 Rebates = $650 in your pocket!)
AttiCat Expanding Blown Insulation (7 bags x $31.74) = $251
AttiCat Insulation Blowing Machine (free with purchase of 10 bags, we returned 3 unused)
Extra labour (a few beers)

Total Rebate ($950)
Ontario Home Energy Savings Rebate: $750
HEAT (Home Energy Assistance Toronto) Rebate: $200

Helpful links

Atti Cat

Ontario Home Energy Rebate

Toronto HEAT Rebate

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Show and Tell: Birch Tree Mural

Birch Forest wallpaper mural
During my inspiring walk through the home show today, I stumbled upon a company ( for prepasted mural wallpaper.  The murals are designed from original art work/photography of Canadian artists.  I fell in love with the birch forest mural above!  I plan on adding the mural to a small accent/feature wall in the man cave (also referred to by myself but never my husband as the "mom cave").  At the top of our property on Rice Lake, there is a small birch forest.  This project will bring a little bit of our island property into our home.  A nice merger of the two worlds!  Love to bring the outdoors in!

I will update this post once the project is complete.  This will most likely by a Fall project as cottage season is just around the corner and property projects will prevail!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Show and Tell- A short film on the most Canadian of places, an outdoor skate rink

The ice rink I stumbled upon on Rice Lake, on the way up to the property
Last night, I watched a screening of Jeff Bird's documentary RINK (  performed with live music to accompany.  The documentary, filmed in Guelph, ON, captures the life and death of the most Canadian of places, an outdoor neighbourhood skating rink, made and cared for by a man named Udo.  Beautiful images and a wonderful depiction of a gathering place and how communities and people of all ages can come together, even on the coldest of days!  I had to share this short film!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

DIY Projects for 2011- The Master Plan

With careful planning, by the age of 35, my husband and I are hoping to own a waterfront cottage.  Our goal is to build a 800-900 square foot, open concept cabin for $50 000 and have this complete in the next 5 years.  The building bylaw for the municipality states the minimum square footage for a new build is 800 sq feet, which is more than enough space after having lived in a 600 sq ft condo in downtown Toronto for 6 years.  We're approaching this with the perspective that bigger is not necessarily better.  We want a low maintenance cabin close to home.  From doorstep to dock, the total drive to our property is an hour and a half. We want to waste as little time on the road, with the other thousands of cottagers migrating from the hustle and bustle of the city, as possible.

This cottage season we are focusing on the following:

Building a 10 x 16 Cedar floating dock: We'll need a place to dock our new (used) pontoon boat and a place to unload our building supplies in the future!

Landscaping: Clearing the brush for the cottage will make a huge visual change in the interim.  Most of the work can be done with a chainsaw with the help of a back hoe to excavate the trunks and smooth out the land.  Every year, we are also trying to plant a few seedings.  I love evergreens and these are a good choice for our property as they are less appealing to the beavers who seem to thrive on birch and other softwoods!  I loved beavers until we purchased the property and than I soon realized, they can quickly chew their way through a forest!

The Beaver Dam
The Beaver Tree

Running water- We are currently researching which Jet pump with tank to choose.  We are also considering an outdoor shower (what a luxury!)

Photo wall for outhouse- This is my project! The photo wall will display all our progress to date!

This is enough to keep us busy for the entire season.  It's been go go go to get to this point and we also want to build in some time to relax and enjoy the property and lake.  I hope this post will give you an idea of what to expect for future blog posts and hopefully a reason to check back in on our progress!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Camping with a baby: A whole new adventure!

Before having a baby, we weren't sure how portable a baby would be and how easily we could incorporate our little one into our lives and ambitious dream of one day building a cabin on our boat access only waterfront lot.  We know how to navigate the waves to our property, build a fire with damp wood, and cook a meal on the bbq but we know nothing about doing it with a baby!

As we plan for this year's summer season, I wonder how our newest member of the family is going to adapt and how we will adapt as outdoor parents!  Will this early exposure to the outdoors help her to grow and love nature?  Will she grow to make a connection with the natural environment like her parents?  I wonder what impact it has on a baby to spend so much time outdoors, close to the elements, looking at the trees and open water.  Although we're only a 1 1/2 hour drive from home, this isn't going to be the urban city that she's used to.

As I start to think about her first steps with nature, I get overwhelmed with excitement and anxiousness!  It's much different for those that are bringing their baby to an existing cottage (vs a cottage dream)!  We are still roughing it!  How do you babyproof the outdoors?  It's arguably impossible but I am inspired and calmed by my memories of camping at national parks and seeing other young couples tent camp and backcountry hike with their new additions..... proof that it's possible, that it can be done, and that we are going to do it!

Keep checking back for more stories, perspectives, and reflections of our new adventure at our waterfront lot with our baby and for DIY ideas and pre-construction planning updates!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Hike Up To Our Our Winter Wonderland

The recent blog posts inspired an impromptu drive to Rice Lake and hike across the lake to our island property.  While I always get excited to go up to the lot, this trip was different.  It was our first long awaited trip up with our newest little cottager, now 6 months old.  We hiked across the lake, carrying her in hand.  The snow was packed, thanks to the many snowmobilers, ice fishers, and winter cottagers that have been enjoying the lake over the winter season.  The walk was beautiful.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the snow glistened like sparkling diamonds from the sun's reflection.

We arrived at our lot roughly 30 minutes after departure.  I love a winter visit to the property.  With all the leaves off the trees/bushes, we're able to get a good glimpse at our land and a better idea of our property lines and grading.  Let the cottage planning begin!  As we stand in the bay, we imagine the view from our future cottage.  We discuss very preliminary plans..... maybe a small A-frame or a bigger version of our bunkie.

DIY Ice Rink at the Boat Launch
It was a lot colder on the open lake than we had anticipated and with having the baby with us, we couldn't stay too long.  We decide to head back.  At the boat launch, we stumble upon a make shift ice rink.  It's days like these that I'm proud to be Canadian!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"A dream can't come true if you don't dream it."

It's cottage planning season and time to reflect on a lot of hard work to date.

It's hard to believe, that just 2 1/2 years ago, my husband and I purchased a waterfront island property on Rice Lake.  How we would get to our boat access only lot would be our first obstacle.  Problem solved..... acquired with our property was an old fiberglass boat, abandoned in the bay directly in front of our lot.  We pulled it ashore, bailed it out, and took a sigh of relief when it floated.  Phew.

The old shed
The first summer we spent clearing brush.  The bon fires were amazing!  We spent nights sleeping in an abandoned shed.  Although I love camping and was grateful to have a roof over my head, sleeping with insects and the odd creature put the wheels in motion for building a bunkie.  With no running water, hydro, or outhouse, and the discovery of poison ivy,  we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us.

By the end of the first cottage season, we built our 8 x 12 bunkie and outhouse.  What a relief!  We also had enough PC points to purchase a bbq.  At this point, fire roasted hot dogs were losing their appeal!  In Fall of 2009, we we're on the grid with Hydro.  Ahhhh...... refrigeration!  My husband surely appreciated the cold certified (blue mountain) beer after a hard days work.  This is cottage life!

Summer of 2010- The new bunkie!
2010 started off with a bang.  We added a small wrap around deck to the bunkie and heavily seeded the lot with hopes of keeping the poison ivy at bay but the season was short lived as we awaited the birth of our first baby.  On July 28, 2010, the world became more beautiful with the arrival of our daughter.  With no running water, a completely unreliable boat, and a new baby, we knew we had our work cut out for us.  2010 was pretty much a write off.  At the end of the season, we purchased a used pontoon boat from another islander.  We're rarin to go for Spring of 2011!

Our daughter is now 6 months old, and we're getting the cottage (bunkie) itch again!  We are so excited to start the season.  We cannot wait to take our baby to the property.  She seems as though she is going to crawl anyday now which is very exciting but it will pose more challenges having a baby on the move!  Although there will be obstacles ahead, these challenges keep us focused and inspired to create a family getaway.

This blog is a chronicle of our adventures on Rice Lake with our newest little cottager.  We hope you enjoy it and are inspired to follow your cottage dreams!  You can follow my blog by clicking on the Follower widget on my top right sidebar! 

"There's only so many affordable waterfront properties."

Growing up spending summers at our family trailer, I came to love life by the lake.  The childhood memories that I have catching frogs, sitting around camp fires, swimming in the lake, tubing, getting up at the crack of dawn to go fishing, and catching minnows are so vivid.  
2 1/2 years ago, I found myself standing on my brother's boat access only lot on an island on Rice Lake, ON.  My husband and I were looking across the bay at a bushed property for sale, thoughts racing of a quest to build our own cabin!

"There's only so many affordable waterfront properties," my brother said.  At the time, purchasing a waterfront property was out of reach financially but buying on an island made it a possibility.  We couldn't pass it up.  We knew if we did, one day we would look back and regret it.  Like many people, we dreamed of one day owning a cabin.  Living in a 600 sq foot condo in downtown Toronto, we craved the balance of owning a piece of land away from the bussel of downtown.  A place to one day bring our family and teach our kids to appreciate and love the simple things in life.

Our "cottage" retreat!
And so we did it!  We purchased the property before we even owned a home!  We owned a boat access only property without even owning a boat!  But owning a lot on an island accessible only by boat raises a lot of challenges.  I had a lot of questions:  How did the other cottagers on the island get their building materials over here?  Where did the materials get dropped off?  How do we get running water?  While I didn't understand all the logistics, I knew with careful planning, we could make it happen..... and what a story it will be to tell!  I've always said I want to live everyday like a new adventure..... and I knew this project would keep us occupied!

Entering our 3rd year, I decided to start a blog to document our pre-construction planning, design ideas, and adventures with our newest little cottager, our 6 month old daughter.