Mini summer road trips in Ontario

One of the things I look forward to each summer is mini-weekend road trips. The goal is usually a day at the beach with lots of refreshing lake swimming. It’s a welcome escape from the heat and the city. Sometimes we head north to Prince Edward County but often we find ourselves on the shores of Lake Huron with its Caribbean blue waters and soft sand.

Last week I had the opportunity to take a road trip with my family (minus our seven year-old son who was busy elsewhere) courtesy of Ford Canada. They asked us if we’d like to test drive a Ford Flex. To be honest, the timing couldn’t have been better. Our car, an old Subaru Forester, has been in for repairs and we’ve been starting to cast our eyes elsewhere for our next car.

Of course, there is no comparison between our 10 year-old car and a brand new fully-loaded one. Having air conditioning alone was a bonus not to mention that the Flex actually has air conditioned leather seats – the luxury. The biggest surprise for me though was how well the Flex drove and maneuvered. It’s a big, roomy car and yet it feels like a super darty, little hatchback. I had no problem getting around the busy streets of Toronto or parking it in tight spots especially because of the active park assist which uses ultrasonic sensors to identify a suitable parallel parking spot, calculate the trajectory and automatically steer the car into the space. On the highway, it’s a dream. It accelerates quickly and the ride is quiet and smooth.

Giving it up the next day wasn’t easy but I’m super grateful for the experience and above all that we got to spend a day at the beach with our daughter. The fact the Flex is made just down the road in Oakville, Canada is also pretty cool. For now, it’s back to our old clunker. I just hope it makes it through the summer as we’ve got at least three more road trips planned before it’s back to school.

Garage update

We've made a lot of progress on the garage. In fact, it is more or less finished but as I'm learning there are still many small touches to be made. The most significant being the landscaping around the garage. It's hard to take a pretty photo when there is nothing but dirt surrounding it. Nevertheless I have given it a try to show you the progress.

The alley side of the garage is almost completely finished minus the roof (more on that later). As I mentioned in my last post, we decided on a Garaga garage door mainly because if its aesthetics. I wanted something clean and simple that complemented the design of our garage. Now that it is installed I'm over the moon. The motor (we decided on a wall-mounted sidewinder or the Liftmaster 8500 to free up ceiling space) is super quiet and closes with an authoritative clunk. It's like comparing a Porsche motor to a Fiat - you can hear the difference. It also has an exterior access panel which my kids love as they can come and go as they please.

No, we did not decide on a two-toned roof. After much deliberation, we chose a cedar shingle roof over a standing-seam metal roof which had been our intention from the beginning. I was afraid the building would end up looking too modern and not have the textured, rustic appeal of the out buildings I favoured in Scandinavia. 

I initially dismissed the cedar shake roofs because I was dead-set on an all-black look for the garage. Since painting shingles is out of the question (you don't want that kind of maintenance) I had to really dig to see what else was out there. I finally stumbled across a building that was described as having "tarred shingles". What I discovered was a product called pine tar that is a natural preservative made my boiling down the roots of pine and other trees. It is often used on boats, bridges and wooden buildings in Scandinavia but is not very well known here.

Each shingle had to be hand-dipped in the pine tar, left to dry and then attached to the roof. Once again, I'm so thankful to our happy-to-try-anything contractor who with his team figured out a way to work with this product so that I could have a roof I was happy with. The trouble is, we used up all the pine tar in Canada before we could finish the roof. We're presently waiting for the next delivery so we can finish up the alley side.

The front is waiting on landscaping which is our next big project. The interior of the sauna also needs to be completed. The window above is the room where the sauna will be housed. Throughout, we kept a little bit of the unpainted cedar exposed to provide some relief from the black. 

In the meantime, we still haven't parked in the garage because it is proving too good a spot to workout! 

Shop your shape

That moment when you finally realize what looks good on you is a bit of a revelation. It took me about forty years but once I got there it made shopping a loteasier and way more efficient. Those shift dresses that I love (but look terrible on me) now stay on the rack while anything that tends to emphasize my waist makes it into the change room. 

There’s a store in Toronto called Shopgirls that takes a lot of the guesswork about what to wear. The owner, Michelle Germain, has based her store around buying clothes for the shape of your body rather than just passing trends. She’ll help you figure out what shape you are and then guide you to styles that emphasize your best assets. 

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(Personally, I always reach for designer Veronique Miljkovitch.)

Shopgirls has recently opened up a long-term pop-up further down Queen Street close to Ossington. In celebration, she is offering one free outfit a month for the rest of 2016 to one lucky person. All you need to do is go down to the store (982 Queen Street West) and sign-up. 

Oh and did I mention that she only carries Canadian designers. Support our local talent.

Garage Inspiration

You might remember about a year ago I wrote a post about building a new garage. After months of reviewing drawings and applying for permits our garage is finally underway. The idea of building a garage doesn’t exactly excite me. It’s right up there with putting on a new roof or buying a new furnace. So when we decided that what we really needed to do to make our house more functional was build a garage I decided I’d make it the most exciting garage I could.

We decided to build a two-car garage even though we’re only a one-car family. The extra space afforded us lots of extra storage space for the bikes, skis, lawn mowers and Christmas decorations that fill our basement and a small sauna. To be honest, I’m building the garage for the sauna and it's where I started when I went looking for inspiration for what the garage should look like.

The Scandinavians with their love for outdoor wood-burning saunas have great examples of simple, rustic outbuildings that work equally well as garages. 

With the help of Zuzanna Krykorka of Studio Z Design we settled on a basic wood structure with a peaked roof and vertical lines. In order to make the garage unique it really came down to the play of materials. This is where we started.

PH 3-2 1/2 Outdoor Wall Sconce for the outdoor light

PH 3-2 1/2 Outdoor Wall Sconce for the outdoor light

Outdoor fire pit

Outdoor fire pit

Sourcing materials hasn't been easy but we've been very lucky to work with a contractor (Reno by Gueno) who was happy to search and try new things. After getting a few quotes on pre-made shou sugi ban wood we decided to do it ourselves. Our contractor burned pieces of cedar wood and then sealed them with an tinted oil to bring out the black finish. We've used a board and batten technique on the front and tongue and groove boards on the remaining three sides.

For the garage door, we started off at big-box stores but couldn't find a design to our liking. After a bit more research, we found a company called Garaga that have a wide range of door styles in some really attractive styles. They also have an online tool where you can custom build your door and see a rendering of it. This design centre helped us build our garage door without even stepping inside one of the stores. The best news was that the quote we received for a black, clean-lined, horizontal panelled door was the same price as the ugly doors we looked into at the big-box stores. Some times it pays to do your research!

Slowly the pieces are coming together but we still have a ways to go. I'll update soon with progress photos.