Before & After

Buying and restoring a 100-year old cottage takes courage. Here’s what we did after buying a cottage in 2012:

Improved the Views

Looking out of the windows, it’s obvious that landscaping would make immediate impact. Who doesn’t love trees? But this old Cedar on the lakefront lawn obstructed views so it had to go.


After: Removing the the tree opened this view from the King bed.

An umbrella (rolled up) now provides shade

Our neighbor even thanked us for removing the tree because it gave him a better view down the lake.

Painted the Kitchen Cabinets:

Before: The natural wood color cabinets looked heavy, distracting from the beauty of the vintage pine floor. Mint green walls didn’t help.


Painting the cabinets in Sherwin Williams’ Sage Green lightens them, allowing the floors to take center stage. Painting over the old mint green walls with Sherwin Williams’ Creamy further brightens the kitchen.

While at it, we installed a new glass-top stove, microwave and Bosch dishwasher.

We removed the bulky kitchen table, replacing it with a Keurig coffee station.

Re-decorated the Living Room:

Before: The vertical blinds in the living and dining rooms obscured the huge in-swing French windows, preventing them from opening.

Vertical blinds obscured the French windows

Also, the Living Room is rectangular, and the placement of the furniture made it look like a bowling alley.

Previous furniture placement felt awkward

After: By replacing the vertical blinds with cotton drapes from Pottery Barn, the vintage French windows now open and welcome lake breezes. The cottage can breath again – that’s how it was cooled 100 years ago.

Mounting the TV above the antique dresser (made in Rochester, NY), and centering the furniture makes the room feel cozier.

The furniture creates a cozy conversation pit

Renovated the Upstairs Bathroom

3 months after we bought the cottage, our then-teenage son took a long shower and water soon leaked to the room below it. That’s when we knew we had to replace the bathroom immediately.


The awkward old bathroom

Shower tiles poorly installed on plain drywall become loose, causing the leak after the drywall turned to mush. It meant a total gut job. But it also presented new possibilities.

The old bathroom felt cramped. Two design flaws increased this feeling.

First, the baseboard radiator projected only a few inches from the wall but this prevented a better layout.

Second, concealed behind the shutters, an old concrete shower base was re-purposed as a “storage closet”. This storage area was too deep, and worse, the pedestal sink made much of the closet inaccessible, like the blind corner of a kitchen cabinet base.

To compound the problem, the radiator pipes passed through the old concrete shower base. Like excavating a dinosaur fossil, I spent countless hours patiently chipping at it, being careful not to puncture the pipes.


New coastal bathroom

Sparing no expense, we installed a Schluter waterproof membrane beneath the tiles of the floor and shower. Other upgrades include shiplap walls and all new fixtures.

Observations about the Bathroom renovation:

First, replacing the baseboard radiator with a wall-mounted Runtal unit creates more floor space and makes for a luxurious towel warmer during our Western New York heating season. Expensive but worth it.

Soapstone counter with wall-mounted faucet

Second, the large vanity placed in the space of the old shower base added much-needed floor space. The counter is soapstone, a rock native to New York State. Not only is soapstone historically appropriate for our region, it is also impervious to stains.

Third, the wall-mounted Moen faucet and under-mount Kohler sink increase the counter space, which emphasizes the subtle veining in the soapstone.

Fourth, the bathroom mirror was repurposed from the former Canandaigua Sheraton Inn. The tall mirror is perfect – its reflection adds even more light to the bathroom and makes it feel larger.

I built a thin pine frame around the mirror and hot-glued jute rope to the frame. Finally, I screwed the mirror and frame to the wall. One beauty of shiplap walls is that you can anchor mirrors and artwork anywhere, without the hassles of finding a support stud.

We installed side lights and a ceiling light – separately switched, to give variable lighting when using the mirror. That’s more functional than the twin bank of hot lights around the old mirror.

Fifth, bathroom storage is always crucial, so I began with building a 5-inch wide shelf beneath the window, very convenient to the shower.

Built-in storage

Sixth, borrowing 6 inches from an adjacent closet yielded just enough area to construct built-in storage between the studs to the right of the tub/shower unit. Three doors hide plenty of shelving – perfect for everything you need in a bathroom.

Last, we installed subway tile in the shower surround, all the way to the ceiling. The combination of gleaming tile and white shiplap creates a crisp, clean look. The black floor tiles and soapstone counter provide visual contrast, and helps me navigate when I don’t have my glasses on.

Bedroom Updates

White carpet covered the floors in all the bedrooms and cleaning it created a constant hassle. We knew that the old carpet concealed painted pine floors we hoped could be sanded and varnished.


After we removed the old carpet, padding and thousands of staples, we had the brown paint sanded off, revealing beautiful yellow pine floors throughout all 4 bedrooms.

Pine floors anchor the bedrooms

Twin Bedroom before:

The old Twin bedroom looked drab and dreary.

Twin Bedroom after: Notice how the darker pine floor creates a contrast with the light yellow walls. Wood floors are the easiest to clean.

Twin bedroom looks fresh, clean & classic
Shiplap accent wall in the Twin bedroom

This has been a fun post for me because it shows the progress we made since we bought the old cottage in 2012.

Wonderful walkability & why it matters

5 lakefront parks within 30 minutes

“Location, Location, Location.”  Okay, now add, “Walkability.”

With travelers more health conscious, they increasingly inquire, “Can I get there on foot?”

WalkScore defined

You may have heard about a Seattle-based company called WalksScore. A helpful aid to valuing real estate, they focus on walkability.

Walkscore has developed a large-scale, public access walkability index that assigns a numerical walkability score to any address in America.

With a big-city bias towards urban living, New York City tops their list, with a WalkScore of 89, or very walkable, where Most errands can be accomplished on foot.

Small city walkability

In the City of Canandaigua, a neighborhood just one block from downtown earns our highest WalkScore of 80 – and like NYC, very walkable, where again, Most errands can be accomplished on foot.

Our principal residence on North Main Street, located a half-mile from downtown Canandaigua, gets a WalkScore of 54Somewhat walkable, where Some errands can be accomplished by foot.  When we’re not at the lake – especially during the weeks the cottage is available for rent – I love walking to work.

Walkability on Canandaigua Lake

Walkability is a positive feature of urban living, but what about lake living?

Can you reconcile away from it all with walkability?

By way of background, I grew up in Woodville, a tiny hamlet on the scenic – but distant – south end of Canandaigua Lake. With a 30-minute drive to get there from Canandaigua, it certainly qualifies as away from it all.

But Woodville’s homes and cottages sit at the base of a huge shale cliff, sharing the very narrow lakefront with NYS Route 21.

Because cars always park on the lakeside of this busy road, if you want to stretch your legs, you’re forced to walk on the pavement. With traffic (including 18-wheel trucks) that often exceed the 30 mph speed limit, pedestrians feel very unsafe.

Though beautiful, Woodville has a WalkScore of 8 – Car Dependent, where Almost all errands require a car. Likely, the only reason it scores that high is because it has a seasonal bar/restaurant on the south end of the lake. I worked there as a teenager.

Years after I left Woodville, we began searching for a cottage of our own. When we discovered a cottage for sale on the northeast shore of Canandaigua Lake, just 400 steps away from the city line, we were elated.

Even in the winter that it was listed for sale, it was easy to reach. We stopped by to see it every time we grocery shopped at Wegmans. After weeks of thinking and debate, we finally decided to buy it.

With the lake right in front, a private golf course in back, on a 10-mph cul-de-sac, it still checks the box for away from it all. Best of all, it’s walkable.

Our cottage location earns a WalkScore of 33, or “car dependent,” where “Most errands require a car.”

“33” sounds low, and it should be higher, because the WalkScore folks way off in Seattle failed to include in their calculation the 7 lakefront parks within a mile of the cottage.

I e-mailed to WalkScore to fix that glitch in their index.

Where can you walk to?

Our WalkScore of 33 is highest of all vacation rental properties on Canandaigua Lake.

And unlike anyplace else on Canandaigua Lake, you don’t need a car at our cottage. One of the things we enjoy here is that we drive less and relax more.

Competing properties on West Lake Road earn a WalkScore of no higher than 3Almost all errands require a car.

While there’s no bad place to stay on the lake, walkability shows the difference between the east or west side:

Within a 30 minute walk from our east side cottage you’ll reach NY Kitchen, 5 lakefront parks, 4 places for wine & beer tastings, shops, CMAC concerts, restaurants, Wegmans and more.

But on the west side, walk 30 minutes and you barely reach NY Kitchen. Worse, your walk there offers no shade trees or lake air to cool you.

Mapping reveals the difference

WalkScore lets you calculate distances and maps for time and travel modes.

From the west side, here’s what your 30-minute walk accomplishes:

30 minute walking range from West Lake Road

Here’s where you can walk in 30 minutes from our cottage:

30 minute walking range from Fallbrook Cove – it’s all nearby!

Here’s what’s in walking distance of our location:

Save time, gas & money at this convenient location

Walkable Canandaigua lakefront

Canandaigua Lake is 16 miles long, with 7 parks concentrated on the north end, within the City of Canandaigua.

Kershaw Park on Canandaigua Lake
Kerhaw Park is a popular walking destination

The chain of lakefront parks, lakeside attractions and the adjacent resorts make the City of Canandaigua the “Chosen Place.”

And at this cottage, it’s all nearby!

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Twisted Rail Brewing Company

Twisted Rail Brewing Company in Kershaw Park on Canandaigua Lake

If you have only enough time to visit one microbrewery, then you should choose Twisted Rail Brewing Company.

It’s located in the historic Muar House i Kershaw Park. It has three decks that overlook Kershaw Park and two adjoining parks.

Twisted Rail is in the historic Muar House, overlooking Canandaigua Lake

The staff is friendly and they serve a variety of beer, wine and kombucha. On weekends, you can hear live music. Twisted Rail even has occasional fireworks displays.

The small sign advertises “Yoga & Beer” at the Twisted Rail Brewing Company

Twisted Rail is a favorite spot for locals, many of whom bring their dogs after a walk along the lakefront. How cool is that?

Here’s a map to Twisted Rail Brewing Company:

Twisted Rail is just over a mile from Fallbrook Cove

You can visit Twisted Rail and even take home a growler of your favorite beverage. So be sure to check it out.

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CMAC Concert Calendar

CMAC concert venue is 1 mile away – you can walk there

Here is this summer’s lineup for the CMAC Performing Arts Center:

June 7, 2019The Avett Brothers
June 9, 2019Brooks and Dunn
June 14, 2019Bush and Live
June 18, 2019Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
June 20, 2019Father John Misty and Jason Isbell
June 22, 2019Michael McDonald and Chaka Khan
June 29, 2019Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
July 5, 2019Third Eye Blind & Jimmy Eat World
July 6, 2019Little Big Town
July 12, 2019Luke Bryan
July 13, 2019Lynyrd Skynyrd
July 16, 2019Tedeschi Trucks Band
July 21, 2019Rob Thomas
July 23, 2019Lionel Richie
July 27, 2019Chris Stapleton
August 2, 2019Goo Goo Dolls and Train
August 6, 2019Sarah McLachlan
August 7, 2019Alice Cooper
August 9, 2019Hootie and the Blow Fish
August 10, 2019Jason Aldean and Kane Brown
August 2715, 2019Hall and Oates
August 22, 2019The Beach boys
August 27, 2019Patatonix

We studied all walking routes from Fallbrook Cove to CMAC and here’s the shortest, safest, and best-lighted path along Lakeshore Drive to the CMAC venue:

Sidewalk path to CMAC Performing Arts Center

CMAC serves food and drinks during events.

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Finger Lakes Resort hotel

Finger Lakes Resort hotel

The long-delayed construction at the Finger Lakes Resort on Canandaigua Lake is finally picking up again. The developers’ original financing collapsed several years ago, and construction stopped. But recently, the developers obtained new financing.

Construction is under way again at the Finger Lakes Resort

Workers are running wires and temporary lights for the next work crews to construct the walls. All signs point to the completion of the steel skeleton that locals had labeled at the “Bird Cage Hotel.”

Public docks in front of the Finger Lakes Resort

The developers donated the public docks to the City many years ago, and completion of the structure will improve what for too long was an eyesore on Canandaigua Lake.

The Canandaigua Lady won’t look so lonely in front of Lakeshore Park once the Resort is completed:

The Canandaigua Lady docks near the Finger Lakes Resort

Construction update:

Over the past few weeks, workers poured concrete on the second and third floors and have begun erecting metal stud walls throughout the structure. It’s good to see this project headed to completion.

Finger Lakes Resort from Lakeshore Drive in May, 2019
Finger Lakes Resort under construction, May of 2019

By next year, the Canandaigua Inn will be completed as well, adding much more hotel space to this beautiful resort community.

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What lives on Squaw Island?

What lives on Squaw Island?

Squaw Island is the smallest state park in New York State. Here’s a photo taken on a cold afternoon in April:

Seagulls gather and nest on Squaw Island in Canandaigua Lake

If you look closely you can see the seagulls gathered on and in front of the island. I took the photo from the City Pier, several hundred yards away.

When the babies hatch in a few weeks, the ruckus of all those hungry birds reminds us why our kids call it “Squawk Island”.

I’ll get closer when I get the boat in the water. In the summer, cormorants occupy the upper branches of the trees, and I haven’t found their nesting site yet. And when the water gets warm, I’ll try to locate a “lake biscuit” from the waters around the island.

Update: A few days later, I took some photos after sunset. This one shows the black Cormorants roosting in the tree tops:

Each Spring, Cormorants roost in the trees on Squaw Island in Canandaigua Lake

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What’s Biting on Canandaigua Lake in April?

What’s Biting on Canandaigua Lake in April?
A beautiful early spring day for fishing on Canandaigua Lake

I was driving along Lakeshore Drive to the cottage one afternoon when I noticed all these boats tightly gathered about a quarter-mile out on Canandaigua Lake.

It was a beautiful Spring day, so I came back with my camera and took these photos. I’ve never seen the boats so concentrated:

Fishing boats catching Yellow Perch on Canandaigua Lake

I’ve caught a lot of Perch on the south end of Canandaigua Lake when my parents used to live there, but it’s good to know that we have good fishing spots nearby on the north end too.

When I got back to the cottage, I opened the bedroom window, climbed out onto the porch roof, and took the photo below:

Perch fishing boats concentrated just offshore from Fallbrook Cove on Canandaigua Lake

Facing west, the photo provides a second angle. By picking out prominent landmarks on shore like the gap between Squaw Island on the left and the City Pier on the right and the public docks and Finger Lakes Resort in Lakeshore Park, you can line up on this hot spot. In surveying terms, it’s called “triangulation,” and that’s how anglers did it before cell phones and GPS.

To provide another dimension, I found the next image on the internet. It’s a satellite image showing the outline of the weed beds in dark green. The lighter green is the sandy bottom. Yellow Perch like to hide in the weeds so that’s why the anglers anchored on the weed edge.

“X” marks the Yellow Perch fishing hot spot on Canandaigua Lake

In the decades since the invasive species of Zebra Mussels made Canandaigua Lake clearer by filtering out plankton, sunshine penetrates deeper now, thereby encouraging weed growth at greater depths. Arguably, this has increased the Yellow Perch habitat. It certainly has increased the Perch fishing opportunities because anglers easily see where to anchor by the weed beds.

This would be a boring post if I didn’t include a photo of a Yellow Perch, so here’s one:

Not the big Jack Perch I was hoping for but I didn’t get “skunked.”

Now that I know about this fishing spot closer to home, I can’t wait to try it.

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Young Lion Brewing Company

Young Lion Brewing Company

We recently attended a retirement party at Young Lion Brewing Company, located at 24 Lakeshore Drive. While we had previously visited the downstairs tap room and patio, this time the event was on the second floor.

Young Lion Brewing Company is less than a mile from Fallbrook Cove

The second floor was originally built for a restaurant but when that restaurant owner backed out, Young Lion owners decided to fill the void.

The food was good, the service great, but I’m older now, and found the music too loud for conversation. It was raining the night we were there – otherwise we would have relaxed on the second-floor deck, which was available but still wet.

I tried some local unoaked Chardonnay, which I found delicious. The view from the second story room is amazing – the huge windows really capture the lake.

Located in the Pinnacle North mixed-use building overlooking Kershaw Park, Young Lion has an industrial-style vibe, a second-story large events room that has a gorgeous view down Canandaigua Lake, a tap room and an outdoor patio.

Young Lion has an outdoor patio and game area that draws a young crowd

With apartments upstairs, Young Lion draws a young crowd, something I confirmed when I took the next photo – a limo bus with a party of twenty-somethings enjoying the Young Lion selections.

This is a critical demographic for any successful neighborhood, and Young Lion has figured out how to attract the right crowd.

Young Lion is based in the Pinnacle North, a mixed use complex in Canandaigua

You can walk to Young Lion from Fallbrook Cove. Here’s a map:

Young Lion Brewing Company is one mile from Fallbrook Cove

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Lakefront Park

Lakefront Park
The public docks at Lakefront Park on Canandaigua Lake

Lakefront Park is the eastern-most park on Canandaigua Lake’s north shore. Visitors might assume that Lakefront Park is part of Kershaw Park but it’s actually a separate park

Lakefront Park has a public dock donated to the City of Canandaigua. To the east of the public dock you’ll find the Canandaigua Lady, an authentic paddle wheeler.

Here’s how Lakefront Park looks today:

Today, the Canandaigua Lady docks at Lakefront Park on Canandaigua Lake

For several decades, Roseland Park amusement rides operated on the north shore of Canandaigua Lake. Here’s one that I used to ride over the lake:

Former Roseland Park’s Starlighter ride that once ran over Canandaigua Lake

Visit the park and see if you find those two red bases today. I miss the double row of huge willow trees that used to line the path. Those trees are visible on the left side of the photo.

When Roseland closed, developers purchased the land to build a hotel complex. That complex, called Finger Lakes Resort, is now under construction, and will consist of a hotel, restaurant, condominiums and conference center. Here’s how it looked in April, 2019:

Finger Lakes Resort under construction on Canandaigua Lake

The City of Canandaigua bought two surplus parcels from the developer resulting in the creation of Lakefront Park and Lagoon Park.

Here’s a map to Lakefront Park:

Lakefront Park is a half-mile away from Fallbrook Cove

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Avoid vacation rental scams

Avoid vacation rental scams
You’ll never find us renting on Craigslist

The sharing economy brings opportunity

Have you ever searched Craigslist for vacation rentals?

Everyone loves a bargain, of course. But no one likes getting scammed.

Scams have become more common within the vacation rental industry.

As part of the sharing economy, the vacation rental industry attracts owners and customers, and, unfortunately, criminals as well.

The reason? Typically, vacation rentals involve a lot of money transferred between strangers.

Criminals don’t use large listing sites like AirBnB, VRBO and (its parent company Homeaway) because those companies have safeguards to prevent fraud.

Also, criminals are good economists – those listing sites often charge subscription fees and high commissions.

So what site draws the most criminals for scamming vacation renters? Craigslist.


Craigslist doesn’t verify the property owners’ identity. It doesn’t verify who owns the property. And it’s free to advertise on Craigslist.

On Craigslist, anyone can post a classified advertisement, whether genuine or criminal.

So we cannot stress this enough: Never rent a vacation rental through Craigslist!

Anatomy of a Craigslist scam

Here’s how the criminal’s scam works:

  1. The scammer copies the property photographs and description from VRBO.
  2. The fake ad gets posted on Craigslist.
  3. The scammer creates a fake identity and email (in the Finger Lakes, these scammers post from NYC)
  4. The scammer advertises a price too good to believe, often advertising “pet-friendly” on Craigslist when the real owners actually prohibit pets on the genuine VRBO website
  5. The potential rental guests take the bait and contacts the scammer
  6. The scammer instructs the guests how to send the first payment and agrees to collect the balance upon arrival, but never appears.
  7. The guests arrive at the destination, only to learn they’ve been scammed when the scammer doesn’t appear – content to have the large first payment.

After the crime occurs, local police will take a report, but because the scammers operate in a different jurisdiction, this accomplishes nothing. Again, scammers are good economists and calculate that they have a low chance of getting caught.

Do your due diligence

With so many scammers out there, how do you know whether you’re dealing with an honest owner over the Internet? You should ask the following questions:

First, is the vacation property listed on sites like VRBO/Homeway (we’re VRBO #423409). We no longer list on AirBnB because we found that AirBnB’s business model applied more to very short-term weekend rentals (especially in urban settings) instead of the weekly rental focus of VRBO.

Second, do the property owners have a private website for their listing (like this one)?

Third, can the property owners answer your questions about the Finger Lakes, and Canandaigua in specific? Can they even pronounce “Canandaigua?”

Fourth, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to a scam just by choosing to avoid Craigslist when booking your vacation rental.


When it comes to vacation rentals, you should always apply the old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, then it is.”

So if we make just one point in this post, it’s this: “Don’t use Craigslist for vacation rentals – ever.

The owners of Fallbrook Cove

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