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Aug 25, 2017

Spanish Tile-Style Steel Roof

This post probably doesn't need a whole lot of explanation. Our roof was in REALLY bad shape - we've had quite a few wind storms this last year and we were starting to lose shingles every time the wind blew. Tom was pushing pretty hard for a steel roof. I was against it, until I saw the different styles available. It's not all flat barn roofs anymore (thank goodness).

This picture is from about a year ago - it had gotten much worse recently:
steel roof replacement - before

The roofing company we hired was Green Metal Roofing. I can't say enough good things about this company. The sales rep we met with is one of the owners - and a former roofer - so he knew a lot about the product and the process, and there was no hard push to sign. He sent us so many links to roofs they had done, as well as roofs that were done badly by other companies that they had been called in to fix.

The installers were really great, too - they stayed late the first day, working in the rain, so that they could get it all done in two days. And they loved our dogs (always a plus with us!)

The style we went with is called "Venice" and it's made to look like rows of Spanish tile instead of just one big sheet of steel. The colour we chose was charcoal.


steel roof - greenmetal.ca - venice tile - charcoal

They started by removing all of the old shingles, replacing any damaged plywood, and then building a framework for the steel tiles to lay on. This allows airflow between the steel and the house, to prevent ice forming in winter and to help cool the roof in the summer. It also gives a flat, straight surface for them to "build on". We drove around to see some roofs in person, and the companies that don't use a framework had obvious "ripples" in the roof.

steel roof - greenmetal.ca - venice tile - charcoal

steel roof - greenmetal.ca - venice tile - charcoal

Even though a steel roof is very expensive, and we probably won't get full use of the "lifetime warranty" (a silly selling point since people rarely stay in the same house for 50 years), it's comforting to know that we don't have to worry about it ever again, and that it will add to the overall value of the house if/when we do decide to sell.

steel roof - greenmetal.ca - venice tile - charcoal - before & after

steel roof - greenmetal.ca - venice tile - charcoal

steel roof - greenmetal.ca - venice tile - charcoal

Aug 15, 2017

Tree Planting


Exciting title, isn't it? But that's what we did this past weekend - we planted trees along the southern property line. There are already a few trees there - older maples and apple trees - but we wanted to fill it in a bit, both to define the property and to liven up the mostly bare landscape.

tree planting Ontario
tree planting Ontario

Driving home - and unloading them - were the best parts. :-)

tree planting Ontario
tree planting Ontario

And yes, I certainly did drive the skid-steer!



We chose Princeton Gold Norway maple, Jacquemontii birch, and two types of pear trees.

I'm the most excited about the maple trees. The employee at the garden centre told me that he has the same trees and the first year you hardly noticed them, but by the second year they were so striking that people were stopping their cars to take pictures. The leaves will be light green around the outside of the tree and bright chartreuse in the middle.

Princeton Gold Norway Maple

Tom pushed for the pear trees. They won't be edible pears, but the blossoms are so very pretty, and the leaves turn to purple in the fall. You can see a few are already changing.

Bradford Pear
Chanticleer Pear

Birch trees are my absolute favourite. We have quite a bit of old growth birch at the back of our property and I just love walking through it in the winter. We chose a variation that has very white bark right from the start. I can't wait to see how they look in a few years.

White Birch (Jacquemontii)

We also bought a white hydrangea for the front yard. We're going to relocate the beech tree near the road to add some white to the abundance of burgundy (cherry trees, another beech tree, and the smoke bush) we already have.

White Hydrangea
Tree Planting Ontario
Tree Planting Ontario





Jul 25, 2017

Shoofly Cake

Many, many years ago (15 maybe?) Tom and I took a trip from Ontario to Nova Scotia, dipping down through the northern US on our way. One night we stayed at a bed and breakfast in southern Vermont that was owned by a couple who had Pennsylvania Dutch relations in their family. The lady of the house served shoofly pie at breakfast, and Tom immediately fell in love (with the pie...he was already in love with me. 😊)

Neither one of us had even heard of it before so we had no idea that this shoofly pie was different than most. When we got home Tom asked his mom to make one for him and it was definitely not the same. The standard shoofly pie is like a sugar pie or pecan pie, dense and sweet, but made with molasses instead of corn or maple syrup. The one we were served at the B&B was more like a cake - high and fluffy with a crumble on top.

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake

Ever since then I've been trying to replicate that elusive formula without much to go on. And this past weekend, I think I did it. I combined the standard elements of the pie - molasses, baking soda, and boiling water - with that of a yellow cake batter.

I didn't tell Tom what I was making as I wanted to see if I'd even come close. He took a bite, I asked him what it was, and he immediately knew it was shoofly pie. Winner, Winner!

Since it turned out so well, I'm feeling confident enough to share it with you, too.

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake


Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake


Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake

What I really liked about this, besides how moist it was, was that the molasses flavour wasn't overpowering - and the cake wasn't too sweet. Next time I might add just a little bit more sugar and some butter to the topping so that it gets crispy in the oven.

Last night we had some more with vanilla bean ice cream on the side. Perfect!

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake




Jul 19, 2017

Windows! Windows!

There are more renovation goings-on at the Turtles and Tails compound this week. This time we're all about windows.

picture window replacement before after Lifestyle Oasis

Most of our windows are original to the house (1988-ish) and are in bad need of replacement. The main picture window in the living room is a double-paned thermal, but over time the seal has deteriorated and there were always condensation or streaks visible. No matter how much you cleaned it, it still looked dirty. I don't have a closeup photo of the before, but our windows at my office have the same problem:

double paned thermal window broken seal

When we were at the Newmarket Home Show this spring we spoke with a local company - Lifestyle Oasis - that had some window styles we liked. We requested a quote and it was only slightly more expensive than having the window replaced by the big box store, and we were able to customize it a bit.

Because our picture window opening is so large, having a single pane with no sliders at the bottom would have been considered a commercial window and would have cost much, much more. One pane had been our original choice, but we wisely went the economical route and chose the same style as before. The only difference is that there are only three panes at the bottom instead of four, with no (unnecessary) split in the middle.

I was at work when the windows were installed so Tom documented the installation for me, like the good blogger husband that he is.

picture window replacement

picture window replacement

The work went really quickly - I think they were finished both windows by mid-afternoon. The picture window included full framing - you may remember my complaints about the window framing and trim work when we reframed the master bedroom window. All of the upstairs windows have the same style stool - angled, uneven, and badly painted.


The picture window stool is now flat, all one level, and factory finished.

picture window replacement Lifestyle Oasis

They even installed new casing on the inside and caulked all of the seams. (Love these guys!)

picture window replacement

picture window replacement

We also had them install the basement window that is directly below the main one. Tom was going to do it himself, but after installing the rain grate and re-doing the brickwork on the front walkway, he determined that he probably didn't have the time or energy and to just leave it to the professionals. He did rebuild the frame though.

basement window replacement

The basement window jamb/stool is unfinished on the inside as we are still framing the walls at that end, but it is now completely sealed - no more leaks when it rains! The window has three panes with two sliders - that lift and pivot inwards when you need to clean them (the upstairs sliders pivot as well).

basement window replacement

picture window replacement sliders pivot Lifestyle Oasis

Last summer Tom installed the other two front basement windows as they were smaller and an easy fix. These ones also hadn't been insulated/sealed properly (you could see through to the outside between the frame and the wall!) so again we had leaks when it rained.

Before installing the new windows he built plywood "boxes" around them that are equal in depth to the thickness of the wall plus the framing. That way, once the room is drywalled and painted, the window openings will be all ready to trim out.

basement window replacement

basement window replacement framing

Having these beautiful new windows has really made a difference in our attitude towards the house. When we bought it we were excited about tackling a fixer-upper, but after a while you start to get bogged down mentally with the amount of work that still needs to be done. Especially when it's something (like the foggy windows) that you feel like everyone notices. It's uplifting to take a big step forward in having a house you are proud to show off.

picture window replacement Lifestyle Oasis


Jun 30, 2017

June Progress Report

I hang my head in shame that June is now gone and we don't have any new projects completed. We have friends getting married this summer, and we've been busy with wedding events 3 out of 4 weekends this month.That isn't to say we haven't been working on things, there just isn't much to show. It's definitely not looking pretty around here.

How about a progress report instead?

The front yard and the front of our house is pretty bare - I liken it to a face without eyebrows. So we took a trip to our local garden center to see what we could see. We decided on two cherry trees, a dark purple lilac, and a smoke bush.

We planted the cherry trees along the front edge of the property where we will also eventually have a low fence. Here is a rough drawing of our plans:


The lilac went over on the property line at the edge of the driveway, and the smoke bush was planted in the garden by the corner of the house. It will eventually disguise the downspout that's in that corner.

Purple Smoke Bush
Purple Smoke Bush

I adore smoke bushes. We had a huge one at our first house - planted by the previous owners - and it would grow to over 10 feet tall each year. You cut it down each winter and it all just comes right back the following year. Then in the fall all of the flowers go to seed and turn into soft purple cotton candy-like fluff. That's the only way to describe it - fluff.



We now have an abundance of purple trees (these, along with another cherry tree and a beech tree), so we're thinking about adding in some white to break it up. Sounds like another trip to the garden center is in the cards - though that's not a hardship at all.


Cherry Trees

The front yard slopes down towards the house and the basement windows. We're always worried when it rains that water is going to leak into the house. A couple of weekends ago, Tom rented a mini excavator and dug a trench across the front of the house and down the far side of the driveway.


He ran corrugated perforated pipe along the driveway and in front of the parking pad, and connected it to a 12 foot "rain drain" that runs along the front of the house in front of the basement window.

Drainage Grate

The front downspout connects to the drain at one end so that the water from the roof runs through the drain and out the pipe. As well, any water that lands on the sidewalk and runs towards the house runs directly into the grate, through the drain, and to the runoff pipe. All of the bricks are back in place, we just need to cut some odd-shaped ones to fit around the downspout.

Drainage Grate

We're also doing some more work in the basement getting the drywall up. Tom's helper had to cancel a couple of times, but they did manage to get two of the outer walls done in one night.


And that's where we are right now. Hopping around here and there, hopefully moving forward all the time.