Friday, July 16, 2010

The Reason We Put Up With the Idiosyncrasies of the Cottage.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.


Aside from the trip to the dump, there are always a lot of things to do at the cottage. There are the traditional outdoor activities like:

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Camp fires
  • BBQing

For indoor activities we often turn to a deck of cards to keep us busy. We have a giant hand crafted Cribbage board given to us that seems to attract lots of attention from guests. Feel free to take it off the wall and use. There are also lots of board games and puzzles on the shelf.

We come to the cottage to get away from it all. One spring week-end many years ago during NHL play-offs, I broke down and bought Terry a new TV to watch the game. It was the the first brand new thing we ever bought for the cottage. Unfortunately I did not realize we do not get any channels up here without satellite. We have hooked up a VCR and DVD player to it. The 25 year old VCR works fine. The 2 year old DVD player is rather sketchy. We did get satellite hooked up one summer but it never worked properly. I thought it was a sign from God telling us we shouldn’t be watching TV at the cottage, so we canceled it. We still have the useless satellite dish at the end of the drive way.

The ancient portable TV in the bed room does get two channels with the help of the antenna. It gets very fuzzy CBC and it clearly gets CTV from North Bay. I love the CTV station news as we get all of the kitchy news from the northern station. News stories about bear attacks and community events. I have yet to hear of a gang related shooting happening in the north.

Climate Control

We have a propane fire place. It heats the place up great in the winter, spring and fall. In summer we use the electric fan on top. Very high tech.

When we first bought our cottage we had a wood burning stove. It was fabulous. In no time at all it would heat up the place. Unfortunately our insurance company thought in no time at all it would burn down the place. We no longer have a wood burning stove. The remnant is a hole in the ceiling. Like all good Canadians we have covered the hole with duct tape.

Sleeping Arrangements

We have a double bed that originally belonged to my brother when he was a kid. He is now 51. The mattress is old. It is uncomfortable. But sleeping at the cottage is still better than in the city. Aside from the Bunkie, we have additional sleeping spaces inside the cottage.

The blue love seat opens up and sleeps one comfortably, or it works for two if they REALLY like each other. When we first bought the cottage we had five kids in a tiny two bedroom cottage. There was no Bunkie and no room for anyone. Our old neighbour mentioned she had seen a “perfectly good” couch up the street put out for the garbage. Her son and Terry ran up and grabbed it and now it is the focal point of the cottage. Everything at the cottage has a story.

Terry has two speeds. Fast and stop. This is where Terry stops.

This flip chair came with the cottage. It flips open to be a very long single bed. To my knowledge, no one has every slept on it. It is perfect for holding our clothes which we are too lazy to put away in drawers.

The Pantry

The purpose of the pantry is of course to store food. Last summer I went out and bought some plastic bins. Prior to the bin purchase, on a quiet evening you could hear rustling in the cupboard. I was always unsure of what the sound was but upon further inspection, I found nibble marks on the chip bag, gnawing marks on the potatoes and little round black things on the shelf. My diagnosis was MICE!! We have installed mouse traps and/or mice poison through out the place but just in case I now keep food in the mouse-proof bins.

Our Recycling Centre

Underneath the counter are several bins. They are hidden by wicker blinds. Terry and I fight about these blinds all the time. Bicker is probably a better word. I think they are perfect to hide the mess of garbage etc. Terry just thinks they are a pain in the ass because they don’t work properly. I make them work to suit me. Each bin has its own unique purpose. There is a bin for plastic and cans. There is a bin for burnables, and of course there is a garbage can for the rest of the stuff. We need to take our garbage to the dump. There are a couple of dumps around with the closest being the Little Hawk Lake Land Fill. The hours and locations are posted on the inside of one of the cupboard doors. When you arrive at the dump you have to show a special card which indicates you have paid your taxes for the privilege of using the dump. You are also mandated to recycle. The garbage must be in clear plastic bags so you can’t sneak any recyclable stuff into the land fill. One of the events of the cottage is to take guests to the dump. First stop is the “cottage mall.” There is a shed you can put things you no longer want but are in good working order. The old adage, one mans junk is another man’s treasure is proven at the dump. You never know what treasure you will find and like the best things in life, it is free! The other dump attraction is the bears. Last year electric fences were installed but the baby bears still manage to find a way in. They are very adorable but remember where there is a baby bear, not too far away is a Mama bear!! Just saying………..

Telephone at the Cottage

This telephone pictured on the top was the original in the cottage. It does not work. The telephone pictured on the bottom is my Blackberry. It does not work.

There is no cell phone reception at the cottage unless you stand on one foot in the middle of the highway pointing north with your tongue sticking out. We do now have a regular telephone hooked up. Just last year we also got 911service. The number on a sign at the end of our driveway indicates our location for 911 purposes. Again….just saying……hopefully you won’t need to use this number.


This four-slice toaster also came with the cottage although I cannot attest to its age. It also works perfectly fine if you call toasting one side at a time fine. My only advice, don’t put a knife into it when it is plugged in!! If you have to ask why, you shouldn’t be renting our cottage!

This is our fourth “new” refrigerator at the cottage. We have very generous friends and family. As a fridge is being replaced for reasons of aesthetics, they donate their “perfectly fine” refrigerator to us. It is very much appreciated as we often have lots of company at the cottage and we need as much fridge space as possible. Unfortunately, it seems as soon as a fridge arrives at the cottage it decides to not be “perfectly fine.” One actually broke within one week of ownership. One week-end we had a new to us fridge we were excited about and the next week-end we arrived to a stench that was shouting …..the fridge is broken!!! The fridge we have now works perfectly fine except for the horrible sound it makes.

The beer fridge dedicated to liquid refreshments does work perfectly fine. It is the fridge that came with the cottage and is approximately 60 years old………………really. We have to defrost it about once every week or so but that can be a fun thing, if you call throwing snowballs at people in July fun.

Drinking Water

As mentioned, our water comes from the lake. We have been told it is safe to drink and we do use it directly for cooking and washing dishes as it is boiled in the process. Just to be on the safe side we have a water cooler for our drinking water. It has two tabs, the white one is room temperature and the blue one is for refrigerated water. There are extra water jugs in the pantry. When they are empty we go to Halls Lake- 2.2 kilometres up the road. A natural spring is there beside the road-side Fish and Chip stand. A tap beside the picnic tables will fill up the jugs. The water gets tested regularly and all that is asked is to make a donation of a loonie or toonie in the little wooden box.

The Shower

The cottage shower works great. It is however meant for one at a time. It is small. Make sure you adjust the temperature before you enter the shower as I mentioned before, the water is HOT. Also, we have not one, but two hot water tanks. They are both small. If you intend to take a shower lasting more than 5 minutes, the one tank will empty and the other tank will kick in. You will be notified because the water will become suddenly VERY COLD and then just when you adjust to the sudden change in temperature it becomes VERY HOT. Just saying. A message for the city folk: If you think you are having a shower apres swimming to get rid of the “lake water”…….the water in the shower is lake water!! That is where all of the water comes from. A pump underneath the cottage brings the water from the lake, through the hot water tanks, up to the sinks/tub in the cottage. As the water level drops throughout the year we do have to keep on eye on our water intake hose to make sure it remains in the water and not in the sandy bottom of the lake. Just another one of those cottage details.

The Sink

The bathroom sink works perfectly fine. Warning, the water is HOT. We have a hot water tank underneath the cottage. For the first five years of cottage ownership we did not have hot water assuming the water tank was broken and after actually purchasing the cottage did not have money to do any repairs/renovations. As time went on we saved a bit of money and discovered hot water tanks weren’t that expensive after all. We headed to the Home Hardware Store in Minden to price them out. We met a very helpful man there who informed us the problem with hot water tanks is usually the element. Sure enough, after paying $5.99 for a new element we have HOT water. Five years with having to boil water to wash dishes and bathe kids and for a mere six bucks we had scalding hot water. Which is the point to my story, the water is VERY HOT. Use with caution.

We have a wide arrange of toothbrushes because guests seem to leave them behind and I am afraid to throw them out in case they come back looking for them. I would advise the renters to bring their own toothbrush……or not……your choice.

The Outhouse

Our outhouse underwent a minor renovation a few years ago. I actually wrote a piece in Cottage Life Magazine about the experience. In one week-end a bunch of girls changed it from a run down ugly outhouse to a run down sunflower themed outhouse. My husband still prefers the outhouse to the inside bathroom. By keeping the door open while you are doing your business your eyes are drawn to the beautiful view of the lake instead of the cobwebbed corners of the outhouse, which to be honest does not get cleaned frequently. It is a great place to go when you want some privacy away from the madding crowd.

Plumbing at the Cottage

The Toilet
The first rule of any cottage is the toilet. While we do have indoor plumbing, our toilet is very particular. To keep our septic tank running as long as possible we have invoked the old cottage adage “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” You can’t just push the handle and walk away like in the city. With our cottage toilet you have to hold the handle down until it is finished flushing. Sometimes that is not enough. When we have a crowd at the cottage the toilet gets used many times in a day. The toilet does not like this and sometimes gets tired. We keep an old bucket in our bathtub for such occasions. Fill the bucket and empty it in the toilet bowl quickly…………and it will all disappear.

Cottage Life

Well we did it. We rented out our cottage. Terry’s work schedule has changed and we wouldn’t be able to come up as often as we would like and the place was just sitting here empty. As we still have to pay extraordinarily large hydro bills (Why? Why?) as well as property taxes, we thought we would let the place work for us. I placed an ad on Kijiji which linked to my facebook page and before I knew it I was inundated with emails. We were finally able to make arrangements with a group from the Sarnia area.

We have never done this before and to be honest we don’t know what to expect. We want the renters to love the place as much as we do. As every real cottager knows, a cottage has its own character and there are special rules to be followed. I thought I would put together some notes for our renters so they can enjoy the place to its full potential, as well as prevent any surprises.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Baby Ryder

I am a grandmother.

On Friday morning at 5:34 a.m. I became Grandma Sue. I can’t believe it. I picture grandmothers as grey haired women who like to bake cookies. I don’t fit that description at all.

Terry’s daughter Ashley became mother to gorgeous baby Ryder. While he was a hefty 8 pounds, 12 ounces, he is a tiny wee baby that looks like an ideal combination of his mother and father. I believe it was Dad Warren who picked out the name. Ryder is a perfect name for a baby boy who will most likely grow up riding dirt bikes and snow boarding, just like his Dad.

When Terry and I arrived at the hospital to greet the new-born, we arrived at the same time as Bev, Ashley’s mother. Immediately we congratulated each other and Bev asked me what I wanted to be called. I was very pleased with that, because as a step-mother/grandmother, I feel I am always treading water as to what my role really is. It was very generous of Bev to let me know immediately she was taking on the role of “Nana” but any other name was mine for the taking. Terry and I have decided on Grandma Sue….I hope that works for Ryder.

To be honest, I am not really a baby person. Even my own three children, when they were new-borns, I never felt this instant “bond”. Not until they start to display a real personality did I feel a real connection. I imagine it is the same with Ryder. When I held him, I knew I had in my arms the most adorable baby ever born, but I knew it would still be some time until I could really enjoy his company.

I just hope Ashley will be OK. As a new mother, everything changes. Gone are the days of hopping in the car to go wherever. I hope Ashley and Warren will take advantage of all offers of help they get. As our cottage is within an hour’s drive of Ryder and his family, it is my hope we will be able to spend lots of time with him as he grows up. Our cottage has been missing something these last few years……the joy of children laughing and screaming. We are ready for Ryder to learn to swim in the lake and to hang on to Terry as he bombs around the lake.

Thank you Ashley and Warren!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


We held our annual Fun Fair at my school the other night. It is so much work on the part of so few volunteers but the entire community really enjoys it.

There is one part of it I enjoy as well…..I think.

We have our community “Fortune Tellers”. While I know the identity of these women, I am sworn to secrecy to tell. They dress themselves up in scarves etc and really look the part. They tell all of the children exciting things about their future. They are going to be the mother of twins and be an astronaut and other exciting things. It is made very clear it is only for fun. However….maybe not.

The first time I met these ladies I was in the middle of trying to sell our house and I was getting frustrated by the length of time it was taking. I desperately wanted them to tell me it was going to sell soon. But no, they said it was not going to sell until September and then we would move in October. I was disappointed in what they had to say but at least it relieved stress because I knew our house would sell eventually. Yes, as you can probably guess, they were exactly right!

Last year they told me I had better set some money aside because we were going to have some major household expenses. Wouldn’t you know it that summer we ended up having to spend twice as much as planned on our little reno project.

This year I asked specifically about Kaitlin. Is she going back to school? They said yes but not until second term. I asked where and they said University of Toronto. While I am pretty sure they got the second term part right (much to my disappointment…I was hoping for September but Kaitlin wants to wait until February), it is the location I am sure they got totally wrong. Kaitlin is hoping to go to law school in Australia. University of Toronto law school (Osgoode Hall) is out of her academic reach. So, these so called psychics really don’t know anything.

Kaitlin and I are heading off today to an information session about law schools in Australia. It is being held in Toronto - University of Toronto to be exact! Hmmmmmmmmmm…………………….

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Here we go again………

On the first of June Kaitlin’s roommate moved out and Kaitlin couldn’t afford the rent for their house alone. She doesn’t know for sure what her plans are for September, so she couldn’t commit to a lease somewhere else on her own. So once again, Kaitlin has moved back in with us. We are no longer empty nesters.

Kaitlin is a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration. She has applied to law school and we are patiently waiting for an acceptance letter. The realization she panicked and bombed the LSAT exam thus limiting her chances of acceptance is causing me stress. Kaitlin not so much. She is young and to her the future is so bright she’s gotta wear shades. On the other hand, I am very impatient. I want to know where she is going to school next, where she will be working, what her life will become. OK…..I want to know when she is going to move out!

Since Kaitlin has been living here, a total of 48 hours, I have been harassing her about her plans. Terry calls me “the badger”, my friend Diane says I am a dog with a bone. Kaitlin has been very vague about her plans, outwardly displaying her annoyance with my interest in her future. Today, on June 2nd, her second day of living back with us, I gave her an ultimatum. She had one week to come up with a plan for her life.

Within five minutes Kaitlin revealed to me her love life is going in a totally different direction , she is changing summer jobs and she is heading to Australia in February. How is that for a plan?????

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Flyers vs. Blackhawks

The first game of the Stanley Cup finals is about to begin. I have no idea which team to cheer for. On one hand I want Chicago to win because it has been since 1961 since they have last hoisted the cup. 1961 is the year of my birth but it also means it has been longer than my beloved Leafs since they have won the Cup.

I also have a sentimental thing for the Philadelphia Flyers. I remember clearly the first time they won the Stanley Cup in 1974. It was the May long week-end and we couldn’t believe NHL hockey was still playing. I remember my Dad taking us all out to Sauble Beach for a tour of the beach before heading back to watch the hockey. It was very exciting the Flyers were in the finals as they were the first “expansion” team to make it that far. Until then only the original six had ever won the Stanley Cup.

In 1975 the Flyers won the cup again, beating the Buffalo Sabres. That was the first time it was an all expansion team final. It was also the last time the Stanley Cup championship team was comprised solely of Canadian-born players.

So, I still haven’t decided which team to support. It is almost June. It really should be time for me to be thinking of the cottage, not hockey………..but I can’t take my eyes off of the TV waiting for the game.

Well which team is it going to be?????????????

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bonding Week-end

Today I woke up and the first thing I did was check my Facebook page. I would like to say this was an unusual occurrence, but pathetically this has become my normal routine. One of my facebook friends, although actually she is more of a facebook acquaintance has the same astrological sign as me. I am afraid to sign up for certain “apps” as I have enough spam sent to me as it is, so I was very excited to discover a few weeks ago that through Pamela, my Cancer sign horoscope gets posted each day. Today stated:

Family is what is really important today. Some of your family members are feeling a little neglected. If you've been a bit too busy to give your family the time they deserve, take today to give them the attention they deserve. Catch up on what's happening in their lives. Let them know what you're up to. Do something together. An outing to the beach or park picnic or nice family dinner would be enjoyable for all.

I immediately thought of my daughter Jennifer as I have been feeling guilty lately that I have not communicated with her enough. As she is living three hours away and is busy with her life, and I am busy with mine, it has been hard to connect. However, today who should appear at my door, my middle child Kaitlin and we spent a glorious day together.

It was fabulous weather, being the May long week-end and Kaitlin and I spent the whole day inside on opposite couches……….. on the internet. It did not take long upon her arrival for Kaitlin to admit the reason for her visit was because I have internet while her internet was cut off when her roommate moved out last week. The nerve of Bianca to move out just prior to the week of all the season finales!! So while Kaitlin caught up on Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill, I watched a few episodes of “Nurse Jackie”. Can you feel the emotions of the mother-daughter bonding????

The icing on the cake of this sentimental visit was when Kaitlin asked me what song I wanted to be my ring tone when I called her on her iphone. Of course I immediately said…….a “Backstreet Boy song!!” We listened to a medley of BSB songs while we reminisced about the concerts we saw together when Kaitlin was in grade 7 and 8. Good times remembering Howie, AJ, Kevin, Brian and Nick at Darien Lake and Copp’s Coliseum………..when she still thought I was kind of cool………..times have changed!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I was on my way to work the other day when the guy on the radio said the man who invented the ATM had passed away. Apparently back in 1965 or so, John Shepherd-Barron devised his ATM machine while lying in his bath. The grandfather-of-six had arrived at his bank too late to cash a cheque, and wondered why banks couldn’t operate a system more like chocolate vending machines. The first ATM was installed at Barclays’ Enfield branch in north London on June 27, 1967.

I remember clearly back in the late 60’s and early 70’s when banks were open from ten in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. A short day was referred to as “Banker’s hours.” Money was something you planned. If the week-end was coming up you had to get to the bank by three. Once you were out of cash, you were done. Things were much simpler then. There were no debit cards, no PIN numbers and the only credit card I ever heard of was “CHARGEX”. Credit was used by “those kind of people”.

In my first year university I opened up a bank account at the Royal Bank because it was the only bank close to campus. It was actually right across the street so I am sure all of Wilfrid Laurier were their clients. I remember having to have your pass book with you or you could not deposit or take out any money without it. Let’s face it, I only remember taking out, I have no recollection of depositing. Then near the end of the school year I distinctly remember a bit of construction going on at the front of the bank. Within a few days this machine has appeared. It was a cash dispenser! I can’t remember what we really called it; I know the letters ATM didn’t come along for awhile later. I just remember the thrill of being able to take out $5.00 to go to the pub at the last minute even if it was late at night. The fact five dollars was more than enough for a night out is a topic for another blog.

I also distinctly remember the pressure of choosing a suitable PIN number. It had to be four numbers but not your birthday and you weren’t allowed to write it down anywhere. I remember thinking it had taken me all year to remember my new telephone number and now I had to put another number in my head to memory? That’s when I decided to just use my telephone number as my PIN. So even to this day the last four digits of my telephone while living in first year university is still my PIN number on my personal banking account. I can remember details of so many things, birthdays of people I knew in Kindergarten (Gail Whitendorf – June 6th) but I can’t remember my cell phone number. Now my new credit card has a PIN number assigned with it. I went to use it the other day and it was declined because I couldn’t remember the number. The sales clerk over-rode the system so I was still able to make my purchase – I hope she didn’t get fired for that one!

So while we marvel at all of this technology and the convenience, maybe my mind would be less cluttered and my bank account much fuller if Mr. Shepherd-Barron hadn’t had a bath that night!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Say It Ain't So

The NHL play-offs are in full force. My beloved Leafs did not even make the play-offs this year…..again. With the Maple Leafs out of contention I had to pick a new team to cheer on. I chose the Washington Capitals because in a six degrees of separation sort of way I kind of know the coach. (Although he wouldn’t have a clue who I am any longer)

So along comes the Montreal Canadiens. This is a team that only made the play-offs because they managed to tie the Leafs in the final game and then relied on New York losing their final game! When you only make the play-offs because another team is even worse than you, you don't really deserve to be there.

Everyone assumed it would be a short series with the Capitals having an easy time of it. But as any kind of sports fan now knows, the underdog Canadiens came through and some how beat the powerful Capitals.

All through the series as it became apparent Montreal might some how win, you could hear the thumps of everyone jumping on the band wagon……..including my dear Jen living in Kingston. Because of her proximity to Montreal I can almost forgive her for becoming a Habs fan, but not quite. As much as I always like to cheer for the underdog, I just cannot bring myself to cheer for the Habs.

The next round brought on Pittsburgh. As last year’s defending champs, everyone was saying, the Habs somehow beat Washington but there was no way they could beat the Penguins. Well you guessed it………that is exactly what they did. It took a game seven win in the Penguins arena but they did it! There was literally a riot in Montreal that night in celebration of the victory.

That band wagon is getting very crowded right now. But I still can’t do it. No way, no how, can I cheer for the Habs. Now they are playing the Philadelphia Flyers. They are down in the series two games to none. They are definitely the underdogs. They are the only Canadian team left in the play-offs. But they do have GTA boy Mike Cammelleri who is really cute. Can I do it? Can I actually start cheering for Montreal?

Me….a Habs fan? Say it ain’t so.