Category Archives: Reduce, Re-Use, Re-Cycle

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!


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:




Finishing Touches

Well, here is the finished cottage bedroom. I was going for a look that says ” come and lay your weary head down here”. The colours I chose were turquoise and citrus green, colours which are on trend, and therefore readily available, and are also peaceful and soothing.
Since my milk painted dresser resisted chipping (which apparently happens sometimes), I didn’t bother with a sealer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that milk paint, all by itself, is a very durable finish and won’t come off. All I did was give it a light sanding to smooth out the raised grain.
I purchased some inexpensive bedding and accessories at Homesense as well as a pair of linen drapery side panels. I really wanted to make it easy on myself and these side panels certainly did, given that they were the right width for both a window curtain as well as a curtain to cover the closet (which has no door). All I had to do was shorten the window curtain, as with a window of this size, pretending that the window is larger than it is by hanging the curtains up to the ceiling seems a bit silly (see the prior post here), so I decided on just one short curtain hung slightly off centre to allow the curtain to be pulled back completely off the window, given the way the window opens to the inside.
As an added bonus, there was enough fabric left for a couple of neck pillows, which just add to the comfortable feeling of the bedroom. I made a few practical additions, such as a basket to hold mystery novels (required summer reading!), and a crackle jar with a jaunty bird on top to hold jewellery, watches, etc. at the end of the day. A stripy rag rug in the exact colours of the bedding provides a soft and warm place for your feet when you get out of bed in the morning. A dreamy cottage bedroom – bliss!


Peaceful and pretty cottage bedroom



New (shorter) linen curtain on the window is out of the way most of the time



The cut-off end of the curtain was enough to make two neck pillows. Just cut in half, and sew along 3 sides, leaving an opening



iron the seam allowance towards the inside of the cushion. This will make it easier to sew it closed



For the stuffing I (literally) cut an old, lumpy but clean pillow in half



then I sewed each half shut. It doesn’t matter what this seam looks like as it will be inside the pillow



Hmmmm……….these pillows need a little something something.




Using a leftover strip of fabric, you can make a bow by sewing 3 sides, just like you did with the pillow



The easiest way to turn a ribbon right way out is to push a yardstick into the narrow sewn edge




and keep pushing through until it’s the right way round.



iron the finished ribbon and tie a simple bow around the finished neck pillows




a jaunty bird sits atop a practical crackle pottery container



The other linen side panel went on a tension rod to cover…………



This mess!!


Green Acres!!

Oh Boy!
What have we got ourselves into now?
Our new house build is going amazingly quickly – roof goes on this week !!! – however we will not be able to move into it until late September. Since our closing date on the old house was June 27, we had to find alternate living arrangements. Camping on the building site was not really an option (and I’m SO glad since we’ve had the wettest summer so far) and any short term rentals were cottage rentals, at cottage rental rates.
Since my husband and I are both a bit impetuous crazy, we decided to invest in the purchase of a rental cottage ourselves. It needs A LOT of work, however, both to get it liveable, and rentable for next summer.
Luckily for us, my hubby is very handy and I love to paint, so it will be the kind of challenge that we love to take on.
The cottage is a real, old Ontario cottage with a great sunroom and lovely wood floors (under all those layers of Lino) and original wooden slider windows, on a large lot with humongous old maple trees providing natural air conditioning so the place has potential, that’s for sure.
Can we do it? Stay tuned to this blog over the summer as we try.


Green Acres is the place to be!!



We were welcomed by a lovely Sunflower



Huge maple trees on the property dwarf the little cottage



Doesn’t this one look like it’s just made for climbing?


Mulligatawny Soup

I don’t normally buy convenience foods with one exception – prepared rotisserie chickens. They’re just so good and when you’re pressed for time, especially at this time of the year, they’re just the ticket. They’re also the meal that just keeps on giving: first you get to enjoy the delicious, tender chicken, then the carcass and any leftover chicken can be used to make this delicious soup. Mulligatawny soup, or “pepper water” from the original Tamil, is a very “British” soup, but originated in India during colonial times. It was made famous during the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode. Here is my version, and although the ingredient list is long, it’s very simple and pretty much makes itself in the slow cooker. If you have a leftover chicken or turkey carcass you must try this soup. It is extremely delicious. For vegetarians, just use the two boullion cubes (but no additional salt) and add some short grain brown rice or pearl barley for a complete protein.
one chicken or half a turkey carcass
cheesecloth for wrapping the carcass
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 package creamed coconut, (coconut oil reserved for another use) chopped finely to help dissolve it
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped coarsely
1/2 cup of short grain brown rice or pearl barley (optional)
2 Tablespoons good quality curry powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 bouillon cubes (2 if the soup is vegetarian)
1 1/2 litres of boiling water
1 Tablespoon honey
salt to taste
1 wedge of lime
1/2 bunch of cilantro, washed well and chopped
leftover chicken or turkey meat, chopped into 1″ cubes

Take an 18″ long piece of cheesecloth and add all the bones to the middle of it, reserving the meat for later.
Take a 4″ piece of cheesecloth and add 1 Tablespoon of mixed peppercorns to the middle of it, then tie it into a little bundle with a bit of string. Add this and the bay leaf to the bones, then tie it all into a tight little bundle.
Place into the slow cooker.
Add all the rest of the ingredients except the coconut cream, honey, salt and lime.
Cook on high for 4-8 hours, depending on your slow cooker. My small one takes 4 hours, my large one takes 8.
When there is one hour of cooking time left, remove the cheesecloth bag into a bowl. (When it is cool, put the whole thing into the compost) then add the chopped up coconut cream, the honey, and the meat, if using. Allow to cook for another hour or so. Taste for salt and sour and add the salt and lime if desired. At the end of the cooking time, add all the chopped cilantro. Serve with love and watch the smiles.
If you don’t have a slow cooker just use a pot on the stove. The whole soup can be made in an hour after it comes to the boil. It takes about 45 minutes simmering with the bones, then remove them, add the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and simmer for a further 15 minutes, then add the cilantro. It’s absolutely just as tasty – guaranteed!




Image of chicken carcass in cheesecloth

Make a packet of the chicken carcass, the bay leaf and peppercorns



Image of cheesecloth bundle in slow cooker

Place the bundle into the slow cooker


Image of the ingredients for Mulligatawny soup

Ingredients for Mulligatawny Soup


Image of Mulligatawny soup ingredients in the slow cooker

Just pile everything into the slow cooker except the coconut cream, honey, salt, chicken meat and lime


image of Mulligatawny soup in slow cooker

Add boiling water to just cover


Image of coconut cream and honey

An hour before it’s done, add the coconut cream, honey and chopped up chicken or turkey meat


image of carcass bundle

BUT remove the carcass bundle first!


Image of a package of coconut cream

Reserve the coconut oil (white substance at the far left of the coconut cream package) and use for sauteeing, etc.


Image of chopped coconut cream

chop the coconut cream finely


Image of cilantro and lime


image of chopped leftover chicken
Image of Mulligatawny Soup

Unbelievably delicious Mulligatawny Soup

Holiday Floral Arrangement

Image of seasonal floral arrangement

Make this Seasonal floral using some old ornaments and a some fresh florals


Well, I still had a whole bunch of leftover Christmas ornaments so I decided I was going to upcycle them into a couple of floral arrangements. I had the picks left over from last week’s wreath, so I decided to use them as picks for my large pine cones. I cut out the centre wire, making a sort of cup which I hot-glued to the end of each of the 9 pine cones. Then I spray painted all the pine cones plus some old holly berry picks in a metallic chrome colour and let them dry overnight. I had a couple of metal containers leftover from last Christmas. One of them had a plastic liner but the smaller one did not, so I made a waterproof flower holder by putting a soaked floral wet foam into a plastic zipper bag, taping it down into the container with electrical tape and making a few slashes through the plastic at the top to allow for the flowers and pine to be poked through. The large square container had just the soaked floral foam held down with electrical tape. I then raided my backyard for white pine and juniper. In case you think I have denuded my white pine tree, rest assured I have 3 large ones in my backyard, so all I did was a light pruning. The reason I love using white pine for my floral arrangements is that the needles are so soft, even the tiniest fingers won’t get prickled. Anyway, I harvested a large bunch of the white pine and just a few juniper branches, which were arranged in the containers using the tallest and largest in the middle and the smallest ones towards the outer edges. Then I added the juniper in the middle. I purchased a dozen small red roses and a bunch of green fuji chrysanthemums. These I arranged rather haphazardly throughout both containers, 9 roses and 5 fujis in the larger container, 3 roses and 3 fujis in the smaller container. The chrysanthemums came with a couple of stems of Salal, so I incorporated these into the larger arrangement. What I was trying to do was fill out the container, but without it looking too stiff and formal. Lastly I added the silver painted pine cones and holly berries throughout. Since I had intended from the beginning that the larger container would be a table centrepiece, I made sure to add all the elements right around the container, by walking around the table whilst putting them in. The smaller one will go onto a hall console table, so is more one-sided.
Finally, to make a nice gift presentation, I wrapped them with cellophane and tied them with festive bows. Total cost: $20 for the fresh florals for two floral arrangements, $5 for the silver spray paint. I hope you are inspired to make some floral arrangements yourself. It’s really very easy.

image of wet floral foam soaking

soak the floral foam before using. Make sure it’s “wet” foam!


image of leftovers of floral pick

Leftovers from last week’s wreath project


image of secateurs cutting the floral pick

Use secateurs to snip off the main “stem”


image of pinecone stuck onto leftover pick

Hot glue a pinecone onto the leftover pick



image of leftover ornaments in a box ready for spray painting

Leftover ornaments ready for spray painting


image of leftover ornaments after spray painting

After spray painting with Krylon “chrome”


image of containers packed with floral foam and taped

Use electrical tape to secure the soaked floral foam into the containers


Image of adding greenery and fllowers

Just keep adding greenery and flowers from the inside to the outer edges


image of floral in progress

Keep going! There are no real rules – just do what looks best.


image of finished floral

Add the silver pinecones


Image of almost finished floral

And the hollyberry picks at the corners


Image of finished floral

Eh Voila!




Image of wrapped floral

Add some cellophane and a bow and it’s ready for giving!