Updating & Reclaiming What the Cat Dragged In

‘I can do something with that…’



My whimsical 'Harry Potters', the candle chandeliers.

‘What the cat dragged in,’ is, of course, a figure of speech, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that being way out and off-grid, and with water access only sometimes what the neighbours offer you, or what floats onto your land ends up being something for you to make use of in one way or another. Naturally, anything of value should be returned and I have returned several items that have floated into our little bay, but that’s another story. The list of things I have reclaimed, updated, repurposed, or just plain spruced up here is healthy. I have mentioned an item or two here, that have just been gifted to us when other cabin neighbours have discarded them because they are redecorating of upgrading. Such is the case with my first two mentions. For many years now we have been very grateful to have been gifted two propane lights. The couple who gave them to me were no longer off grid dwellers, and got electricity wired into their lakeside home. They are near the end of the lake and their location on the lake has allowed them to have easier access to install power. I would never be able to get wired-in electricity here, although upgraded lighting is certainly possible these days with alternate energy sources like solar inversion or just a plain old generator, which I do not have. I can see a set of major power lines and towers out there in my front view but that energy will never be tapped into my cabin, although many have joked about tapping in. as for those two propane lights, well I have been very grateful for them. Wired in from the propane with copper wire one is over my dining table to illuminate for evening activities like dining, and then later for playing games, and the other one is over the sink, which is a blessing so I can see better to do dishes and such. These propane lights are work horses, not so pretty, but extremely functional. 

Before and after gifted chairs.

I have four beautiful chairs that I stripped the seat fabrics off of, prepped and repainted,and then reupholstered with new material in a bright red pattern. These chairs were gifted from the next door neighbours. They looked at me begging for an update as they sat there bumpy and bright in several coats of baby blue paint. Their seats had been recovered over and over, with a (hardly) magnificent plastic tablecloth-like fabric on top. The chairs had fabulous ‘bones’ and design and were very sturdy, so I brought them back to life with smart, glossy black paint and a red and white pattered seat fabric that makes them look fabulous and ready to paint the town red! 


The old mug that floated in, it was very handy for warming baby bottles.

Here’s a funny find. One day I found a huge plastic beer mug floating in my back bay. It was white, but had a picture of a lumberjack and a grizzly bear to his side. The mug was completely intact and usable. When my children were small here I used to fill this mug with hot water and warm my baby bottles for them after I stopped breast-feeding. As my children were a few years apart, I used this mug for one and then the other. It was a very useful find that old mug that floated in. I still have it today, as it is part of my cabin history now. It has sat behind the stove on the shelf for years.


Another float-in was a piece of wood, perfectly shaped like you might create if you were cutting out a sink form when installing a kitchen. It was a good solid piece of wood and in a rather pleasing squarish shape. I ended up hand painting a pair of loons on it (loons being my lake totem or spirit animal here), and put my married surname on it. I hung it above our door outside for all the years since I have had it. This has become a lovely piece of our lake history.

Part of my painted Lake Family sign painted on a drift-in.

On another day two tiny foam floats came in. I painted them in my indoor multicolored cabin colour scheme, threaded them on a rope through the middles and hung them from the ceiling. Today these floats still hang from the ceiling in the center of the room. They hang down right between my ‘Harry Potters’, the candle chandeliers that I hung, which was an addition I thought would be good for added light and ambiance that was clearly was not thought through, because the candles melted in the summer heat and face downwards. I just love the fact that they add ridiculous whimsy to my cabin. I started out with two plain black candle chandeliers and, of course, added coloured faux crystals…because I could. Obviously, and I do have to say this, because I have been asked if I light them, I DO NOT light the upside down melted candles! I just leave the melted candles in the chandeliers because they make me smile every time I look up.


I painted and hung these floats that drifted in.

In the back of the cupboard one day I was trying to determine what in the heck was stored back there. It is, you know, one of those cupboards that goes back into a corner and things you put in there have a real possibility of never being seen again. Such was the discoveries that day in those back impossible reaches of darkness... there they were, 3 old aluminum pots, a teapot, and two coffee pots, one a old percolator. Again, the back recesses of my childhood section of brain remember my father making coffee in the percolator. I don’t even remember the aluminum tea pot, we’ve been using the Brown Betty ceramic pot as long as I can remember. And so here they were, and I wondered what to do with them. Obviously, I was getting rid of so many old things back there, hucking them into a garbage bag, recycling things, or putting them in a bag for the local second store in town. For these pots, I decided to wash them and then paint them. I painted yellow cottage roses on the percolator pot, along with a big bee. I painted pansies on the tea pot and other flowers on the other pot. I was quite proud of myself for how they turned out, and for years, when I was in residence at my cabin, I put them on the back-deck railing where I could enjoy them. I have recently taken them to my city home and put

My little painted pot projects, reclaimed from the back of my cupboards after a zillion years of hiding.

I am sure there are more examples of my reclaiming and updating things, but I will mention and share these example for now. Cabin life can be rich in possibilities and creativity. It’s kind of a use what you have, or update-what-someone-may-pass-on-to-you kind of mentality, and it’s quite lovely to have some wonderful items to enjoy when you are finished your project and be able to appreciate as the little stories and items now part of your cabin’s history.

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