Monday, December 13, 2010

Stylish Cottage Accessories

With winter solidly upon us and warm summer days many months away, we’ve been slowly accumulating items that we’d like to bring up to the cottage on opening weekend. We are lucky that our cottage came with pretty much everything, but we still want to make the cottage our own, so here are some of the items we’ve picked up for the cottage so far.

Cottage Radio
This staple of summer time cottage relaxing has endured for decades. Mostly resisting the advancements that we see in all other home entertainment products, the cottage radio remains decidedly low-fi. A really good cottage radio doesn’t need surround sound, subwoofers, tweeters, crossovers or equalizers. All it needs to do is pick up the few stations available in the area clearly, and fade into the background both aesthetically and sonically.

The previous owners left us with a great cottage radio, which is probably as old as the cottage itself. This radio would be perfect, except for a single technological advancement that I wish it did have - the ability to play mp3’s.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Moose FM “Putting the Wattage in Your Cottage”, but sometimes you just want to listen to some dinner music. And so my wife bought me a worthy replacement for my birthday – The Tivoli Model One. The Model One is everything a cottage radio should be, it has great reception through it’s internal antennae, and even better reception if you use an external antennae, it looks like a relic, it’s analog, has one speaker and a tuning dial. But in addition to all that it sounds amazing and has an auxiliary jack for an mp3 player.

Vintage Luggage Rack
We got the idea for this from our friend Lorie, who has one in the guest room of her beautiful cottage in Muskoka. When you have guests to a cottage for a weekend, they rarely unpack all their belongings and place them into drawers, instead they usually just live out of their bags. That’s why the luggage rack makes so much sense; it allows your guest to unpack some of the items, while still making it easy to access their bag and contents.

Ours isn’t actually a luggage rack at all, in fact it started life in 1923 as a “tub bench”. In the olden days, they would wash clothing in large wooden staved buckets that sat elevated on the rack, using something that resembled a big toilet plunger. The tub would then be at the right height to pull the laundry out and dry it through a wringer. Here’s a picture of what the whole get up would have looked like. I wonder where the fabric softener and dryer sheets go?

We bought ours from Arcadia Antiques on Queen Street West in Toronto. It was a bit weathered and the wood was a bit dry, so i put a few of coats of Minwax satin urethane on it to protect the wood from drying out further in our unheated cottage during the winter. Here it is after a bit of cleaning and finishing:

Wool Hudson’s Bay Company Point Blanket
Nothing says Northern Ontario quite like the classic multi stripe HBC Point Blanket. These iconic blankets were first introduced in 1780, and have found their way around the world. The point system (short black lines on the side of the blanket) denotes the size and weight of the blanket. They are renowned for the warmth and durability. While I have yet to find one of these beauties, I do have my eyes peeled for a nice condition vintage one.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's a Small World

We've given our names and contact details to our cottage neighbours. There are a total of 12 cottages that share our little lane. We all chip-in to maintain and clear the lane of snow, as well we keep an eye out for each others' cottages. We've already corrresponded with the neighbours on the left and right of us. The couple on our left actually collect the lane fees from the cottagers and organize the maintenance. An important job, and one that i'm glad is in good hands. We discovered that our neighbours on the right also happen to be our neighbours in the city. They live just a block away from us. They also offered to answer any questions we might have and being cottage noobs, we will certainly have many, like where do you pick up the mail, drop off the garbage and how do you get to the marina? They also shared this winter photo of our shoreline taken from their dock.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shutting Her Down

My brother and I headed up to pick up the keys and to have a look at the cottage before closing it down for the winter. I took some photos and measurements of the place, so that over the winter my wife and I could think about what we’d eventually like to do to the place. Fortunately nothing really needs to be done right away, the cottage came with contents, so we could start enjoying it “as is” starting in spring. But anyone who has read my other blog will know that I have a bit of a reno-addiction, so more than likely there will be some changes to the cottage over time.

Being our first cottage, I’m sure there will be plenty of things we’ll need to learn along the way. One of the first and most important is learning how to winterize it. I checked the internet for various lists and have come up with the following.

Winterizing Checklist:
- Empty all the cupboards and fridge of food, thoroughly clean it out. Unplug the fridge and leave door open with baking soda inside.
- Shut off the water pump and drain water from pipes.
- Turn off and drain hot water tank.
- Empty the toilet tank and dry it out with a rag. You can either empty the bowl and stuff the hole with a sock full of rags to keep septic odours out or you can pour RV/Plumbing antifreeze in the bowl.
- Pour RV/Plumbing Antifreeze into the drains.
- Pull any boats and water toys out of the water. Winterize and stow them.
- We’re in a quiet bay, so I don’t plan to take the dock out of the water, instead I will release the floating dock from its moorings leaving the anchors in place and tie it to a large tree.
- Clean and put away the BBQ.
- Winterize and store any motorized lawn and yard equipment
- Close all the blinds/curtains.
- Inspect and repair any loose shingles, overhanging branches and clogged eaves.
- Inspect around the base of your cottage, you don’t want debris or leaves accumulating and you don't want low areas around your footings where melting water can accumulate.
- Close and lock all the windows.
- Turn off electricity (see note at bottom)
- Lock up the crawl space.
- Lock up any out buildings.
- Lock and close the door behind you.

Here are some informative links:
CAA Quebec
The Cottage Chronicles

Note: Some people leave the electricity on, and leave the heat set to very low. Do not think that doing this means your pipes will be safe from freezing and bursting. As power often goes out in cottage country.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Love Lost and Found in Parry Sound

The past month has been a real whirlwind. We started the month by celebrating our wedding anniversary and ended the month by welcoming our new born daughter into the world and by picking up the keys to our new cottage. Unfortunately we won’t get to enjoy the cottage this year as it'll be closed down for the winter, but next year we plan on spending a lot of family time on the lake.

For the last couple of years we had been following various cottage markets within a 3 hours drive from our home in Toronto. We tracked listings on the MLS system, familiarized ourselves with lakes, highways, and towns. Gradually we narrowed down what we were looking for. We set out a budget and our “needs” vs “wants”. And then when we finally felt like we knew exactly what we wanted, we talked to an agent only to realize that there was still much about buying a cottage we had no clue about. Fortunately one of the agents we talked to was really good. Al Boucher was knowledgeable, patient and after a few email exchanges and phone calls he was able to tune into exactly what we were looking for. He wasn’t the first agent we contacted, but he was the first one to really take us seriously. The selling season is pretty short for a cottage Real Estate Agent, with limited weekends for them to show prospective buyers around. The first agent we talked to sent us an initial batch of listings to consider, but none of the cottages matched our search criteria, and though we asked to be notified of new listings, we never heard from him again. The second agent we contacted worked in a different region than Al, and he emailed us the occasional listing to peruse, however the few listings he sent us, didn’t match our search criteria, and when we asked if he would show us listings that we had found on MLS, he would tell us that those cottages didn’t suit us for some reason or another or that the cottages where out of his area. I suspect our budget may not have made us prime candidates for either agent #1 or #2 to spend a few hours of their weekend with. Al on the other hand was happy to meet with us and show us around.

Our wish list was long. We wanted lots of privacy, good waterfront for swimming, a rustic cottage on a medium to large lake that we could improve over time. We wanted rock shoreline, instead of huge expanses of grass. We wanted a drive to cottage that wasn’t miles from the highway, and that didn’t have a scary rutted cottage road to have to negotiate.

On our first trip to Parry Sound, Al showed us three different cottages, and for the most part all of them matched the search criteria we had given him. While the first two we saw didn’t quite have as much privacy as we were looking for, the third was a home run. It was a cedar clad cottage with a walkout basement on 147 feet of beautiful rock and pine shoreline. It also had a large garage with sleeping-quarters, a shed for my tools and a log sauna at the water’s edge; all on a large private lot with beautiful granite and pine shoreline. Our only reservation was that the lake was smaller than we would have liked, but since we’re more interested in peace and quiet than water sports, we were ok with that. Ready to make an offer, we found out that there were complicated legal issues with the title on the cottage which the seller needed to resolve before the cottage could be sold. Heart-broken, we resigned ourselves to waiting to see if the legal issues would work themselves out. A few weeks went by and we got a call from Al, he had a new listing that he thought we should have a look at. We went back up to Parry Sound that weekend. This time Al had hit a grand Slam…

The cottage was an incredibly well maintained cottage from the 80’s. It was cedar clad inside and out and had 305 feet of shoreline on Lake Manitouwabing. It had been occupied by the same couple who had bought the cottage as a shell in the 80’s. They finished the inside and added the decks and docks. The cottage itself was immaculate and charming. But the lot was the real draw. It was very private with granite and pine shoreline, a natural beach (where our kid could one day learn to swim), a boat launch, a dock and a naturalized area. There was also a nice shed and a super-cute bunky. This time we didn’t even wait to get back to Toronto to make an offer. After a home inspection and some discussions with mortgage lenders and insurers, a few days later we had ourselves a deal.