A Very Modest Cottage


A Very Modest Cottage ****.* by Tereasa Surratt

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera~

I loved this little book and the journey embarked on with ‘Hope and a Hammer’~

I have a love of found objects or fragments with a history that are repurposed, preserved, and elevated to a new and important status. It gives me the warm fuzzies when something is given a second life and I enjoy wondering about its former life, imagining the stories it could tell.

A Very Modest Cottage is an inspiring little book about the author’s rehab journey restoring a small 1920’s tourist cabin. Where others saw a dilapidated, broken shell of building, with rotting log siding and missing roof shingles, she saw potential. Fueled with optimism, fond memories from her childhood, and a lot of coffee, with the help of her brother & husband~ they relocated it 245 miles from its home of fifty years, where it sat next to grandmother’s house, in a small farming community in Illinois.

Believing “when you have an emotional attachment to something, it can never be too far gone”, the relocating to refurbishing process took three short months. Restored to its modest former glory, the little roadside motorlodge cabin now resides on the edge of the woods overlooking a lake in Wisconsin, where it functions as a guest cottage.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

~Thomas Edison

“The risk factor:  How many miles could one travel before a 50-mile-per-hour wind force would blow apart an eighty-five-year-old building? Needless to say, it was a long, tedious and worrisome trip.”

“Uneasiness started to set in. Would it slide off the back? Bounce off the trailer? I couldn’t shake from my mind images of chunks of roofing and siding flying onto other travelers’ windshields, wildlife running for cover.”

 “Tearing out the old walls is fast, easy, and surprisingly therapeutic. Tools needed:  a hammer, a crowbar, safety goggles, and bottle of red wine for when it’s all over.”

Tourist cabins were erected by enterprising farmers and landowners and sprung up in the early 1920’s~ rented by the night for a minimal fees, a step up from pitching a tent, with slightly more privacy. After Tereasa’s renovation, she researched the cabin’s history and found out she had not given her cabin a second life, but rather its fifth.

Summer Agenda:

“Wake up to birdsong. Make some coffee.

Days filled with swimming, boating, fishing, grilling out and being completely and unapologetically lazy.”

“When you only have 121 square feet, it’s nice to have a room with a view.”

To celebrate their rehab journey, they throw a party with all the trimmings~ carving pumpkins, enjoying bonfires, eating s’mores & caramel apples, drinking hot cider. . .


 I thought I would do the same at our cottage by the lake for Food for Thought. . .

Mums and Pansies in pots fill the fire pit for seasonal color, they can be relocated for roasting the marshmallows later :-)

My cider is un-spiked, but there is a recipe here if you’re looking for a cider to warm you from the inside out :-)

Instead of carving pumpkins, I carved cheese~

Pumpkin Cheese Ball, recipe courtesy Southern Living, here.


 Easy Caramel Apples, recipe courtesy Southern Living, here.


 S’mores~ no recipe required :-)

While our 1 & ½ story, 26 year-old-lake house is a far cry from a 12 x 12 1920’s cabin, it is modest, especially in comparison to the multi-million dollar McMansions on the lake. We spent 20 summers boating, seeking out for sale signs, dreaming & deciding the lake property the house sat on, was more important to us than the house. We did a small cosmetic renovation after being in it for five years~ the most expensive part of which was replacing our old dock, that was threatening to break apart and float away any minute. Regretfully, I did not take before & after pictures, but we managed to obliterate the former owner’s love for ALL things PINK, not the least of which was ceiling fans.

Re-siding, replacing appliances & cabinets and generally removing traces of the 80’s that we could, we were told by several contractors, that it would be simpler to raze it and start over. It is perfect for the two of us to escape to on the weekends~ we are very fortunate and thankful to have a place to ‘wake up to birdsong’ & spend a day being unapologetically lazy :-)

“I would rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.”

 ~ Thomas Jefferson

A Very Modest Cottage is part how-to guide, part scrapbook, and part lesson on how with ambition, duck tape and elbow grease all things are possible.

Be sure to visit  Food for Thought, and see what everyone is reading & eating :-)

I’m also joining Mary at Little Red House for Mosaic Monday~

  17 comments for “A Very Modest Cottage

  1. November 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Mary, I want to move to the lake. Every time I visit, I find myself longing for a spot that looks out to the water.
    Great post! Love that you carved cheese rather than pumpkins. Very clever! The beautiful fall flowers make this dockside setting perfect! Enjoy your weekend by the water. ~ Sarah

  2. November 12, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    oh i would give my eye teeth for the life you are living… with the mums and pumpkin shot i made an audible gasp of joy… then i just grit my teeth and prayed i would win the lottery to life this magnificent life you are sharing.

    the carved cheese pumpkin, how do you come up with that gorgeous idea… one after another, post after post i drink in your creative magic…

    i know i have said this every single time, but i truly relish your photos… escapism to the eenth degree~ every detail, ever nuance, is not lost on me…

    like it couldn’t get any better, then you add the darn caramel apples, a personal fav… the best part is you can jump in the lake after eating them for easy clean up~

    and s’mores, love love love them, i have a book that has them too, read it 2 months ago, i was waiting for a trip to the beach, lucky you, living on the lake you can enjoy them daily!

    again, one of your best posts ever, i always love where you take us, i so appreciate all the work and details you do every fft. its just joy. plain and simple joy… i love the last line in the video, oh what a wonderful life you lead, great book, pics and house by the lake for you… heavy sigh of contentment for you~

  3. November 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I love this post! I actually have this book on my Amazon list. Since I’m renovating a 1930’s coastal cottage, this is so relevant! I love the quotation by Thos. Jefferson.

  4. November 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    So peaceful and beautiful..The book looks charming..but your spot Idyllic..Great pics..You did a great job on the cheeseball/pumpkin…

    Lovely lovely post!

  5. November 13, 2010 at 1:46 am

    I just read something similar! What an amazing story!! Creative artistry indeed….and I will say it again…you have SUCH a gift Mary! I adore coming over here and checking out this eye candy!!! Makes me absolutely LONG for the winter to be over….I am SOOOOO looking forward to heading south in the spring…at least for awhile! Have to put up with the snow for a little while. Hope all is well in your world. I truly enjoy your gift of inspiration and thank you for sharing!!

  6. November 13, 2010 at 4:46 am

    Mary, it sounds like this book could be your autobiography! LOL What wonderful images you’ve given us to enjoy! Each of your photos makes me lean closer to the computer screen to see all the details & take in every inch. I linger over each shot, amazed at how you’ve positioned things to their best advantage.
    I kept wondering ‘how did she get those cinnamon sticks to stand up straight in the cup?” The slice of apple is pure genius & one I WILL be borrowing.

    I simply ♥ your lanterns & the way you’ve decorated them for Fall.
    Thank you for the link to the recipes. I’m going there next after I revisit each of your pictures. Such a visual treat!!!

  7. Laura Leigh
    November 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    hey there – my favorite photo? the pumpkin peeking through the chair cut-out…. :) Gotta invite myself back to the lake sometime soon – Hope yall are having a good weekend – Love, LL

  8. Pat
    November 13, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Mary I had to chuckle when you said you had to get rid of all things pink! I blog on Pink Saturdays but I’m not much of a pink person either. I bet your lake home is beautiful and probably larger than my Brooklyn house :)
    I love that pumpkin cheese ball! Southern Living has such nice recipes. I used to subscribe to it at one time.
    Lovely book review, quotes and beautiful photos as always! Happy weekend!

  9. Pondside
    November 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    What a labour of love it is to restore an old place.
    When I read your description of your cottage I felt a flicker of that lovely ‘kindred spirit’ feeling. McMansions are a dime a dozen, but a place that embraces visitors, wraps itself around them and works on a human scale – well, that’s special.

  10. A Garden of Threads
    November 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Beautiful post, I love your photography. Glad you are enjoying the cottage with all its history mostly intact. Take care.

  11. November 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Super post! Love the life by the water, and such lovely treats!

  12. November 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    I love the Food for Thought posts. What a beautiful place you have. Loved all the wonderful yummies! Thanks for the respite on this cloudy day!

  13. November 14, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    This was a wonderful post and I find myself wanting hot cider and cheese!
    That little book looks so interesting. Your photos are lovely!

  14. November 15, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Absolutely wonderful pictures and by the time I was finished looking at them I was ready for the cider and the S’mores! Wishing you well!

  15. January 28, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I sure hope your Mr. realizes what a GEM he has in you!!! Your posts are always SO inspiring and delightful. I savor every picture. I make that same cheese ball each fall, since I found the recipe in SL. I use a piece of broccoli for the stem. XO, Pinky

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