Archive for August, 2011

Rental season over!


After a long summer I’m back at my happy place.

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Summer isn’t over yet. If you want to squeeze every last moment out of the season, plan what Bridget Jones would call a ‘mini-break.’ 

The Cottager and I were on the road for the Tsawwassen ferry terminal at 5:30 Sunday morning. We parked just before the causeway and rode our bikes in the early morning sun to catch the first ferry to Vancouver Island, followed by a quick connection to Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island. It was a gorgeous day. 

We rode to Ruckle Provincial park, then into Ganges where we found a cold beer.  After a bit of shopping, a quiet spot on the harbour was an attractive place to relax and read for a while.  Mexican food, followed by gelato, and then a charming concert at the Tree House Cafe featuring local musicians playing their favourite Neil Young songs rounded out the evening. 

We rode out to the Long Harbour ferry terminal in the twilight and had a magical crossing in the dark back across the Straight, finally arriving home just before midnight.

Three ferries, 45 km on our bikes, 1 yummy margarita and a very pleasant memory.  As the fortune cookie saying I keep in my wallet advises . . .”Now go to it. It is ready to be pick!”

An early start for a full day's adventure.

A nice meal out is the reward for pedalling up all those hills.

A happy chance brought us to the Tree House Cafe for an evening of Neil Young tunes

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What to take – or leave – as a gift of thanks when invited out to a friend’s cottage? I’ve been asked this question a few times recently.  It depends, in part, on how long you stay, and how well you know your host. At the risk of appearing grasping to our own dear friends – who know that a bottle of red and a heat-and-serve appie thrill us to the core, here are a few ideas for when the terrain is less certain: 

For a day or overnight visit –

One – or even two – nice bottles of wine.  You don’t have to be extravagant, but this isn’t the time to bargain shop either. A nice rosé or chardonnay in the $15-$20 range should hit the mark.  Just to be clear, this is a gift for the host and should be separate from whatever you bring to contribute for the day’s or evening’s festivities.  They may choose to open it while you are there, but don’t be surprised if they don’t. 

Even if your hosts aren’t known to be big drinkers, a bottle of wine will be appreciated by nearly everyone, and can be easily passed along where it is not.  Consumable items are always the best, since a big part of the joy of a recreational property is keeping it simple (ie, uncluttered.)

A Weekend Visit

The wine, as noted above, plus a small gift.  If you have time to bake something a bit decadent and wrap it up attractively, do so.  If not, think luxury consumable – like a deluxe coffee or box of teas. If you want to give something more enduring, best to keep it small in size. Consider a small token that mirrors one of your host’s enthusiasms.  I once received this lovely mug, with a detail from a print which hangs in my cottage, and I am touched by the thoughtfulness of the giver each time I use it. 

 Lee Valley also makes garden mugs resembling terra cotta flower pots. I received a pair of these and they see lots of use. They say ‘country house’ without being the least over-the-top or kitschy. 

A few days to a week’s stay-

Another great gift for anyone with rural property to maintain is this Lee Valley Folding Kneeler Stool.  While bigger than a mug, it folds neatly for storage and is endlessly useful for both the occasional putterer or the hard-core gardener.

It flips over to offer a dry kneeling pad and the legs become uprights to help get you back on your feet again with ease. I love mine. This retails for around $40.00 and has an optional tool holder for another $21.  In early spring or fall, when all the outdoor furniture is in storage, it doubles as a quick drinks table at the end of a day of yardwork.

The Really Grand Gesture –

Suppose an acquaintance hands you the keys to his waterfront, hot-tub equipped, 8-room chalet, and says “take the whole family and have fun for a week – we’re just sorry we won’t be there to host you”  – then wine and a mug will not suffice.  First, leave the place cleaner than it has ever been.  If possible, engage a local cleaner to come in at your expense and leave it in pristine condition.  Second, a case of wine would be a great gift for a wine-loving cottage owner.  If you are not feeling confident, ask for some assistance at the liquor store in choosing a thoughtful, themed selection rather than a dozen identical bottles – even if you feel pretty sure you know your host’s favourite label.  A gift card for a nice restaurant back in the city is another option.  Or if your benefactor is fond of reading, and not already equipped with the latest technology, a e-reader makes a wonderful gift – choose a 3-G equipped model so books can be downloaded at a moment’s notice even in a remote or rural locale.

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