Monthly Archives: August 2013

Up cycling at its best


Both for renovating our small, cute cottage (aka: Green Acres), as well as for our new house build, the Habitat for Humanity Restores have been our first stop, both for sourcing out items that we need as well as for recycling items we no longer need. Many communities have these wonderful stores, and if you haven’t been to one yet you’re definitely missing out. Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 as a way to give people a hand up in providing them with affordable housing, not a hand-out. To this day they have facilitated housing for thousands of families all over the world. I and my family have been very blessed indeed to be able to take basic needs such as a roof over our heads for granted, but this is not the reality for many, so I love supporting this charity in any way I can.
The Restores obtain items from homeowners, renovators, liquidators, manufacturers, as well as big box stores such as Home Depot. You can often find brand new or nearly new items there for a fraction of the cost. Another bonus is that you pay no tax at all on any of the items, even the brand new ones.
One of my favourite Restores is in Bracebridge. It is giganormous, plus it’s right next to Muskoka Brewery, a tiny craft brewery where you can sample before you buy. Yum!
For our next project at Green Acres we desperately needed to renovate the bathroom, which had previously been renovated, but in such a shoddy fashion that (believe it or not), they had sort of plumbed in a marine toilet instead of a proper one, and had plumbed in the vanity without a P-trap. Needless to say, the smell was horrible, which is likely why the place was on the market so long. We purchased a Hennessy and Hinchcliffe ultra high efficiency toilet, (which I would highly recommend if you need a new toilet as it only uses 3 litres per flush), and we found a cute vanity at ReStore, as well as a slightly used faucet.
Tune in next week for the “Before and Afters”!


Whether you’re looking for a light fixture,



furniture to refinish with milk paint,



a brand new window or door for a cottage or shed,



a lavatory basin to replace a cracked one,



a “new” kitchen that you could re-paint after it’s installed,



or even a brand new vanity. Look at that price! And no tax!



Cottage Bathroom

So…’s the new and improved cottage bathroom along with the before shots (except for the marine toilet – no need for horror in my blogposts!)
As mentioned last week, we decided to go with an ultra high efficiency toilet. In my opinion this one by Hennessy & Hinchcliffe is fabulous. I find it truly astonishing that old school toilets can use up to 3 gallons of water per flush, when this one does a great job using just .8 gallons or 3 litres per flush. In these days of water consumption awareness you might want to think about switching out your old ones. Many municipalities offer financial incentives to do so.
We purchased a new vanity from the Habitat for Humanity ReStoreĀ for an astonishing $89 and a brand new faucet for $5 – no tax! A carrera marble-look quartz vanity top from Home Depot at $139 complete the new vanity. The main reason for switching out the vanities was that the existing one was very short at 28.5″, whereas the new one is 34.5″ high, making it a lot more comfortable to use. An added benefit is that we gained extra space in the bathroom because the new vanity is much narrower – enough to have a full-size drying rack – very important in a cottage because with all the guests you get inundated with towels, and this is a great way to keep them all dry.
I made extremely simple window coverings to allow privacy by just hemming and making a top pocket and hemming all around in a horizontally striped sheer fabric which I found at Fabricland. Total cost: $4.00 for both curtains (the curtain rods were already in the cottage – on different windows)
The position of the vanity (i.e. the plumbing) meant that it was mounted directly below the window, making the mounting of a mirror problematic. I solved this by mounting the mirror securely on screws which went into the window sill. The mirror was completely plain so I dressed it up a bit by hot-gluing a row of metallic birds to the bottom of it.
A good scrubbing and re-caulking of the shower as well as a new shower curtain and water efficient shower head make this once horrible bathroom a pleasure to use!
(Yes! That is an ironing board reflected in the mirror. Can’t sew without ironing!)


Bathroom vanity “before”. Yes, we have exposed plumbing. It is a cottage after all.




And the “After” I will never take a flushing toilet for granted again!


Room for an extendable drying rack – essential in a cottage with many guests, many towels!



A new shower curtain and window curtain completes the look



Make sure you check out Habitat for Humanity Restore when sourcing new items for your home or cottage!


Peach upside-down cake


yummy peach upside down cake with caramelized honey


Don’t you just love Ontario peaches? Fragrant, bursting with juicy flavour, and available right now!
If you have overbought (like I sometimes do) and are looking for something to make with fresh peaches, why not try a peach upside-down cake? This version uses only honey as a sweetener, not sugar. There’s something about the combination of caramelised honey and peaches that I find irresistible. This particular cake is made with spelt flour, which means it’s best eaten right away as it will really toughen up if left for a few days. You can just as easily use all purpose flour if you like.


Ontario peaches just bursting with flavour



pour 1/3 cup of melted butter over bottom of parchment lined 8″ cake pan



add 1/2 cup of liquid honey



mix and spread evenly over bottom of pan



lay the sliced peaches over the honey/butter combination



pour 1/2 cup of honey into a mixing bowl



add 2 eggs



add 1/3 cup of oil



add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix everything very well



in a small bowl measure out 1 1/2 cups of flour (spelt or all purpose)



add 1/2 teaspoon salt



add 1 teaspoon of baking soda



and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder



add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon



mix dry ingredients well and measure out 1/3 cup sour cream



add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with the sour cream



pour batter over prepared peaches in pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes



until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean


Strawberry Picking in August? Yes!

Well I bet you’ve never seen this before? I know I haven’t. Farmer Larry Pegg of Homestead Orchards in Georgina saw this type of hydroponic strawberry set-up in England and decided to try it 3 years ago. This year is his first viable crop and it’s a bumper one. As with anything brand new there are bound to be hiccups and this year it was an earwig infestation. Farmer Larry devised a very creative pesticide-free method of dealing with the pesky bugs – tuna tins with a little of the tuna left in the bottom and covered with a half inch of oil. The earwigs fall in and can’t get out!
The type of strawberry planted in these greenhouses is an everbearing strawberry, which means we’ll be able to pick strawberries right through to November. They are very easy to pick as they hang at waist level. You just have to be very careful and use a pair of snippers (provided). The taste is astonishing. Probably the most flavourful strawberry I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten quite a few!
If you’re in Georgina you must give them a try, as well as their u-pick apples which start in September. (note to Islanders – Homestead Orchards is off Woodbine just 5 km East on Old Homestead – worth the detour!)




you have to snip the strawberries carefully from the stem



and in no time flat you have 2 quarts of super delicious berries



Before and After

In the last week I have had so many requests for before and after pictures of my cottage bedroom and dresser that I thought I should comply.
These photos were joined together using an iPhone app called Pic Jointer which is super easy to use. The Before and After text was added using an app called Overgram, which has, as you can see, a watermark. There’s another app called Over which doesn’t leave a watermark.

This first set of pictures are of my potted tomato plant that I planted on May 22, and the After picture was taken on July 30, so about two months later. The After picture does not really show how enormous this tomato plant is. It is well over 5′ tall and has roughly 50 tomatoes on it!
My secret, you ask? Well, if I told this to my parent’s or grandparent’s generation no doubt they would chuckle at my ignorance in terms of reducing, re-using and recycling. You see, for the past couple of months, since living in our little cottage, by necessity I have been watering my outdoor plants using my kitchen sink “slops” – the rinse water from i.e. my blender after making my morning smoothie, rinsing fruit and vegetables and from hand washing dishes. This is because I have no outdoor spigot or hose so rather than use watering can after watering can of tap water, I thought I would just recycle some waste water that would just be going down the drain. The plants absolutely LOVE it. I have never had such a good crop. This can partly be explained by the fact that tomatoes, more than other plants, really require a steady moisture level in the soil. They don’t like to dry out completely, nor be flooded all the time, so a daily “slops” regimen at approximately the same times every day is just the sort of routine that allows for their optimal growth. I have not used any other fertilizer at all, just the kitchen waste water. Amazing! I will definitely be doing this again next summer and I recommend you to try it too. It’s just one of those old-fashioned practices that have fallen out of favour but which makes a whole lot of sense in terms of recycling.
And, of course, here also are the much requested before and after pictures of my cottage bedroom and dresser: