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Sep 25, 2014

Blue Mountain/Collingwood in the Fall


This past weekend we took off for Blue Mountain Resort.  Last summer we went there to celebrate our anniversary and had such a good time that we decided to make it an annual thing.

Blue Mountain Village

We decided to stay at the Grand Georgian since it's our favourite hotel there, but we still want to give the Weston Trillium House a try sometime since they are pet friendly. (And boy, are they! I think there must have been a golden lab convention going on.) We were given this cute little 1 bedroom suite with a dormer window in the bedroom.

Blue Mountain Village

We got there late on Friday night and had a walk around the village, stopping in at Rusty's at Blue for some drinks and appetizers. Our order must have seemed a bit bizarre - Malibu rum and cokes, deep-fried pickles, and spicy cornbread fritters.

Rusty's at Blue - Blue Mountain

The fritters came with parmesan butter and were the best thing I've had in a long, long time. (We ended up going back for lunch on Sunday - catfish tacos and more fritters!)

The main reason we were there was to do the High Ropes Challenge again, so I was watching the weather very carefully. Timber Challenge High Ropes are multiple rope courses with suspension bridges, cargo nets, zip lines, as well as other aerial elements. The highest level is 50 feet above the ground. On Saturday morning it was overcast, but still dry. We bought our tickets for later in the afternoon and headed off to the Collingwood Farmers Market. It's a small market, but the vendors are wonderfully varied in what they sell.

There was an alpaca farmer selling sweaters, hats, socks - even stuffed animals made of alpaca fleece. They brought two alpacas along with them for the kids (and for those of us that act like kids). They were terribly cute, even with their wacky haircuts. I bought alpaca socks once a long time ago, but they shrunk in the wash so I've been leery of buying them again.

Collingwood Farmers Market

There was a fruit vendor with the most beautiful displays. Actually, most of the vendors had great displays, but I didn't want to take pictures and then not buy anything. But I couldn't resist with these fruit baskets. Don't they just make you want to buy one (or two)?

Collingwood Farmers Market

We ended up buying some butter tarts, perogies, and peameal sandwiches, then heading on our way. We had hoped to buy a wooden rocking horse as a gift for our neighbours' new baby, but the woodworking vendor didn't have any in stock. He's planning on making more over the winter, so we'll have to stop back in the spring.

When we got back to Blue Mountain it was starting to drizzle, and by the time we had changed into workout clothes it was pouring. We walked around the village between storm bursts and kept checking with the activities centre. There are no refunds - you can just use the tickets another time - but we probably won't be back up there this year. I was getting more agitated as it got later and later. The course closes at 6pm and you want at least 3 hours to make it worth your while. Finally, at around 2pm it stopped raining, and by 2:30 the decks had dried up enough to be safe.

Blue Mountain Village

We hurried over to the rental shack to get our equipment and to go through a safety refresher. For some reason I was just as nervous as I was last year when I didn't know what it would be like. But once I got up on the beams and ropes I started to have a great time. I even crossed some of the "elements" that I was too afraid of last year. Yay, me! (When I say "afraid", I wasn't afraid of falling, I mean that I was afraid of getting stuck and having to be rescued.)

Blue Mountain Timber Challenge High Ropes

I called it quits at 5:30 so that Tom would have time to do the black diamond level of the course. That level is 3-4 stories up and the elements require a huge amount of upper-body strength and balance. Maybe next year I'll try it? Gotta get started on those push ups. The black diamond level ends with a jump from the last platform down to the ground. You're attached to a rope that slows your progress, but for the first 10-15 feet it's a freefall. Unfortunately, Tom jumped before I hit the record button, so all I have is video of him being lowered to the ground. Womp, womp. Check out last year's post for some better pictures.

Blue Mountain Timber Challenge High Ropes

Blue Mountain Timber Challenge High Ropes

Blue Mountain Timber Challenge High Ropes

After dropping off our equipment we got back to the village plaza in time to see some relay racers come in. The Relay to End Kids Cancer went from Caledon (north of Toronto) to Blue Mountain (100 km) and is usually run in teams, where you switch off at exchange points. The guy in the picture below ran the entire thing on his own - nearly 12 hours - and was still smiling at the end. How amazing is that?

Blue Mountain Village Relay to End Kids Cancer

The whole crowd was cheering, clapping, and making noise as he came in to the finish. You can't help but feel pride, just being there.

Blue Mountain Village Relay to End Kids Cancer

We headed back to our room to change for dinner. Our chiropractor is from the area and had suggested several restaurants in Collingwood we should try instead of eating at the resort. We were far too tired to sit through a fancy dinner though, so we headed to The Iron Skillet - a family-style restaurant that serves anything you could imagine - pasta, Mexican, Cajun, even Yorkshire pudding.

They were out of the Yorkshire pudding that I wanted, so I had the Cajun chicken and cheese tortellini and Tom had schnitzel and penne. The tortellini was kind of blah (I'm not a pasta fan), but the chicken was amazing. I wish I'd left room for some strawberry pie. They taped an episode of "You Gotta Eat Here" recently - I'm looking forward to seeing it.

The next morning, after waiting out another rainstorm (and having leftovers for breakfast), we checked out of the hotel and decided to hike up the mountain. It was still a little slippery, but the workout felt good after eating so much rich food all weekend (I didn't mention the pulled pork poutine or the chocolate-covered cranberries).

Blue Mountain Village

Blue Mountain Village

At the top of the mountain is a grilled cheese truck - Yeti Cheese - do you get the feeling my vacations revolve around food? I was so looking forward to a gourmet grilled cheese, but they were closed. So we rode the gondola back down the mountain and just enjoyed the fall air.

Blue Mountain Village Yeti Cheese

Blue Mountain Village

Blue Mountain Village

Once back on the ground we stopped at Rusty's at Blue for lunch as mentioned, and then headed for home. It was a pretty great weekend, even with all the rain. We're hoping Tom's employer picks Blue Mountain to host the company Christmas party (it's on the short list), otherwise we'll definitely be back to do it all again next year.




Sep 6, 2014

Upgrade Your Bedroom With Board and Batten-Style Wainscoting


Way back when, before the tilers came in to do the bathroom, I painted the lower half of our bedroom wall in anticipation of installing board and batten-style wainscoting. Once the workers had cleared out, I took a week off from work and finished it.

I don't think I've ever been so proud of a project. I did the whole thing myself. The whole thing. I will give Tom credit for planing all of the boards for me, but other than that, this was my baby, start to finish.

board and batten bedroom wainscoting

board and batten bedroom wainscoting 

This isn't really a step-by-step tutorial - unfortunately I didn't take enough pictures for that. I'll describe what I did as much as I can as well as directing you to the experts here.

The first thing I did was remove the existing chair rail and baseboards. The battens were going to be planed down to the thickness of the door trim, but the baseboards were too thin from the start. If we'd left it as is, the bottom edges of the battens would have ended up hanging over the trim.

board and batten wainscoting

After smoothing down any rough edges on the wall, I installed the top rail. We used 4" furring strips planed down to about 3" for the top rail and battens. After sanding and puttying the holes, I gave all of the top boards 2 coats of white primer. I was going to paint them all as well, but decided it would be easier to paint them once they were on the wall without them moving around on me.

The new top rail went on the wall just slightly higher than the old chair rail. Since these boards were wider I wanted to make sure they cleared the bathroom light switch without having to do a cutout. This also covered up any marks I made in the wall when removing the old rail. If you don't have a previous line to follow, you'll want to use a level to keep your boards, well, level.

board and batten wainscoting

Since all of the old chair rail came off the wall without breaking, I had ready-made templates for the new boards. I just cut each board to approximately the same length and then made any necessary adjustments once I'd held them up in place. The new boards are thin so they had some give; to put them in place I was able to set each end in, and then press the middle flat to the wall, nailing them in place with the air nailer. The boards aren't glued to the wall just in case someone wants to remove them in the future.

Only one wall was longer than the 8 foot boards - all of the rest were interrupted by doors or windows - so on that one I did a simple scarf joint between two boards to get a stronger hold and less-visible join line. For a scarf joint you cut your two boards at an angle so that the ends will overlap each other when put in position.


The baseboards were the same furring strips planed down, but we kept them as wide as possible, just trimming off a little bit to get a sharper edge. They were installed in the same manner as the chair rail.

Once the top and bottom rails were in, I had to decide how far apart I wanted each batten. Normally you would use the wall studs to help you determine the spacing, but as we found out when we demo'ed the bathroom, half the time the studs weren't even touching the drywall. The other consideration was the wall outlets and light switches. I didn't want to have to do any cutouts in the battens - not because it's difficult, I just don't like that look.

I took some 4-foot pieces of board and moved them around until I got a spacing that I liked. They ended up being about 20" apart, depending on the width of that section of wall. I would measure the width, divide by 23 (space + board width), and then make small adjustments so that the space between each board in a section was the same. So there might be slight variations between sections, but it's so small that it isn't noticeable.

I wanted the walls to look completely balanced, so for any section that ended at a corner I added a batten there. That way each section is bookended with either two doorways or door trim on one side and a batten on the other.

board and batten wainscoting

It's best to measure the length of each batten individually as the space between the baseboard and the chair rail isn't necessarily the same all around. Even though the boards were planed, there is always the chance of a bit of warp. Make sure you have your level handy so that you can keep the battens perpendicular to the rail.

board and batten wainscoting

At this point I thought I was finished with the installation, but looking at it I realized, with just a plain top rail, it didn't look "finished".  I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, but it still needed a little something. I headed back to the lumber store and picked out some outside corner moulding. It happened to be the exact same depth as the planed boards, so it slid right into place over the chair rail.

Once it was all installed, I puttied the nail holes and the seams between boards. Then I caulked the seams between each of the boards and the wall. My usual method is to apply a bead of caulk along the seam and then wipe a wet finger along the line to press it into the corner and remove the excess. I then wipe a damp cloth along the seam to remove more caulk, then one final swipe with my finger to smooth the line. That way you have a nice, even line without too much caulk being visible and detracting from the finished look.

board and batten wainscoting

I waited for that to dry and then gave all of the boards two coats of primer (except the top and bottom rails that were already done) and two coats of white paint. Whew! I was exhausted! I spent so many hours crawling on the floor, crouching down, sitting cross-legged - my knees were killing me. But it was worth it.

I cleaned everything up and moved the furniture back in on the Thursday. We had family staying over and I had to get the guest room back in order. We'd been sleeping on our own bed in the guest room, letting the tilers use our room to lay out all of their supplies. I'm glad no one was around to see me shoving a king-sized mattress up and out of the guest room, around a corner, and then into our room. Then I had to move the guest bed from where it had been against the wall in the office into its room. I think the dogs were hiding by then.

board and batten wainscoting

Instead of re-hanging the floating bedside shelves that we'd used before, we bought some swing-arm lights from Lowe's (Allen & Roth). They mount directly to the wall, but still plug into an outlet. These lights are a better fit with the style of the wainscoting then the old grey shelves were. The lights are brushed nickel with a white double shade that mimics the ceiling light above them.

board and batten wainscoting

We hung a large mirror on the wall across from the bed - after spending a year trying to figure out what art we wanted there and coming up with nothing. The mirror reflects the light from the window and brightens up the (north-facing) room a lot. We've had that mirror stuck in a closet for years. I never realized how well the frame coordinated with the dresser and the bed frame.

board and batten wainscoting

And there you have it - board and batten wainscoting. It gives the room a more upscale look, yet only cost about $200 in materials. My body is complaining, but my heart is singing!

board and batten wainscoting

board and batten wainscoting

board and batten wainscoting

board and batten wainscoting

board and batten wainscoting



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