CABIN SEASON, DAY 1: a story in pictures.

Opening day comes just once a year — usually a cold, rainy day in May. It’s a holiday for people like us; not just the beginning of summer but also like visiting a friend you haven’t seen for a really long time. You can’t wait to see her. And you wonder what she looks like. Does she look the same? Did she change her hair over the winter? You just don’t know because The North is deserted in winter and there’s no one to tell you what she’s been doing.

This is both surreal and stressful. This cabin exists on its own in the eight months between September and May. Animal families, squatters or fugitives could’ve found an open door and moved in, living there comfortably and playing gin with the cards they found in the drawer. Storms could’ve felled trees or damaged windows. Nature could’ve rearranged the landscape in that way that she does. All of this could’ve been happening while we obliviously went to work and drove the kid  and made dinner and watched Netflix just four hours to the south. How would we know? We might as well be on another planet.

As we drive north, we go backwards in time through temperatures you thought you had left behind in March. Sometimes it’s the fishing opener. Sometimes it’s Mother’s Day. But never is it warm. I dig out sweatshirts and sweaters that are too ugly to wear in civilization  — and I wear them all at once, layered one on top of the other, because the mindset of May made me forget to pack a jacket.

When we arrive, it is both surprising and comforting. She is still here. She did not burn down. There is just one small tree fallen across the driveway, easily cleared by hand. And there are things growing and blooming that I swear I have never seen before. It’s like she continued to live even though no one was here to witness it.

Here is the very mundane story, in pictures, of getting acquainted with the cabin we last saw in September of 2016:

As we drive up the long-ass driveway for the first time, I look in the woods and I see this little house. “What’s that?” I ask Mike.

“It’s an outhouse,” he says.

“Are you serious?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says.

“Is it ours?!” I ask.

“No,” he says.

And I’m kind of bummed. Not that I want an outhouse — I’m more of an inside toilet girl — but it would be kind of fun to discover an abandoned outhouse that was once used by the ghosts of your cabin. How is it that it took me three years to notice the ghost outhouse? All I can figure out is that the leaves of the trees have rendered it invisible in the past; but this year, I caught them unawares.

 

 

Further up the driveway, I also see a colony of yellow flowers, a whole carpet of them, winding in and around the birch trees. This is sort of like when your kindergartner comes home and uses a new, impressive word. It’s exciting but also unsettling. “Where did you hear that? I never taught you that!” But you forget that there are things happening even when you’re not around. How can these flowers exist in this space without my knowledge? I didn’t plant them — how did they get here? How does the world revolve without me?

 

 

We find Liam’s rowboat in place against the cabin, undisturbed by winter. Last year, we found it tipped over and full of a winter’s worth of melted snow. We (and by “we,” I mean “Mike”) take the canoe out of the crawl space and put it back in its summer spot.

When Mike goes to open the crawl space, he finds it open. Not just unlocked — but open. The padlock is taken off and the door is ajar. For how long, we have no idea. Could it have stood open all winter? If Mike left it open by accident, then the answer is yes. Or is it the fugitives, looking for buried treasure and life jackets? These are both very real possibilities. Either way, nothing is missing. So — you know what happens when your crawl space is open all winter? Nothing.

 

 

Inside the cabin, there is no bat poop. I repeat: THERE IS NO BAT POOP. This means we won. The bats have moved out permanently and found a more hospitable neighborhood. After checking for bat poop, I light a citrus-scented candle and spray copious amounts of Juniper Ridge Cabin Spray. Cabin spray — this is a real thing. Apparently, I am not the only one who can’t sit down when it smells like funk. Juniper Ridge Cabin Spray still smells like cabin but more like clean cabin. I love it. Liam holds his nose but that just makes me spray more.

 

 

I check on the groundcovers I planted last summer and they all came back, bright and limey and ready to choke out the weeds. I find what I think is deer poop down by the fire pit but Mike informs me that it’s actually moose poop. When a moose poops by your fire pit, you know you are in the real North. I almost feel privileged that he chose our fire pit to desecrate.

 

 

I go for a walk to see if anything has changed. I find this cabin that I don’t think I’ve seen before. I must have walked by it dozens of times. But it doesn’t speak very loudly; it looks like it could’ve been sitting there, unused, unvisited, for decades. This happens sometimes. Families grow and move away but no one wants to sell. So they just keep it and not go. And it just waits, patiently, while its paint slowly peels.

 

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I pass my favorite outhouse, sitting at the top of handmade stone stairs.

 

 

The floating sauna is pulled out of the lake, waiting for repairs. Someday, I will make friends with these people so I can use their floating sauna.

 

 

Walking further, I see an unsightly septic tank and it reminds me of the difficulty of living so far from town. We have no city sewer system. We are responsible for the disposal of our own excrement. Some people have outhouses and some people have septic tanks. With a septic tank, there’s more talk about poop and toilet paper in your daily conversation than there would be at home. Bat poop, moose poop, people poop — these are all acceptable conversations at the cabin.

 

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I cut through the fishing resort; some boats are in the water. Some look like they, too, are waiting for someone to arrive and give them a purpose again.

 

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I take a photo of this boat because of the paddle; a paddle makes everything more picturesque.

 

 

I find the remains of a crawfish down by the water.

 

 

We play cards and Monopoly. And in the Monopoly game, I find this handwritten replacement for Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s not my writing. It’s not Mike’s writing. It’s not grandma’s writing. We go through the list of everyone who has ever played that game of Monopoly. Not one of them matches the writing of the handmade deed. Where did this come from? What happened to the deed for Pennsylvania Avenue? And all I can figure out is that fugitives really did live in our cabin over the winter, and they played Monopoly, and they accidentally misplaced Pennsylvania Avenue. But they were good fugitives because they were conscientious enough to make us a new one.

 

 

Before I go, I take a video of the waves lapping at the rocks on the beach. I must have a hundred videos like this from shores all over the world. But it never it gets old.

And I’m always trying to take it home with me.

Things I Bought For My Cabin Because I Miss It: 2016 Edition

January is over and that’s a good thing. I had a little meltdown recently because my post-holiday slump was dragging me down the rabbit hole and it lasted a whole freakin’ month. My urge to leave and go somewhere, anywhere, was so strong but I was held hostage by my nemesis — the calendar (shakes fist in air). My life is not so complicated but when I added the plans and activities of two other people, there just wasn’t a single opening that was big enough to allow for a relaxing getaway; if you have to smash it in, it just feels like another obligation on the calendar. Gah!

I settled for an overnight at a hotel three miles from my house on what was to be the coldest cold snap of the year — the kind that makes your forehead sting. The kind that makes young women in tiny dresses and open toed shoes feel actual pain, especially when I walk by in my Sorel boots and dog-walking coat (she says from experience). And on this coldest of cold nights, we had tickets to (dot dot dot) a hockey game. And after the hockey game, we came back to find that the heat in our very nice, upscale hotel room couldn’t keep up, so we slept under layers of bathroom towels strategically placed over the standard, and normally adequate, bedding. There was a lot of survival cuddling that night but not even a skilled archeologist could have excavated my actual body from the many layers of clothing I wore that night.

It was a getaway . . . but not quite far enough away.

This is when I start missing the cabin. It’s a guaranteed change of scenery that never ever asks anything of me except to enjoy my surroundings. Even a cold cabin can be a respite — cold can be beautiful — it’s the GET part and the AWAY part that are important.

But my cabin is seasonal. There is no heat source. And it’s location up the long-ass driveway would mean I’d have to call the National Guard for a ride to my door. It’s a completely uninhabited locale; what few neighbors there are abandon that stretch of road long before the snow flies, leaving our cabin to weather the winter alone, with only the trees and the foxes for companionship. I don’t even know what it looks like right now; how deep is the snow? Up to her windows? Higher? Is there anyone living under her eaves? Have there been any visitors, wild or otherwise? There’s no way for us to know. Mike is probably experiencing small bouts of angina as he reads this, an unmonitored cabin being one of his greatest anxieties. So many things to go wrong without his supervision. Maybe a collapsed roof or a frozen pipe. Or a destructive band of hibernating bears denning in our kitchen cabinets (sorry, Mike. Those things AREN’T happening. I PROMISE!).

It’s a good thing that I miss my cabin. This forced separation keeps the romance alive. And I keep her in my heart by buying her gifts. Not as many as last year, our first year apart, but just a few baubles to show how much I care.

 

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Vintage Orange Carafe: When you put a pitcher of water on the table, everyone drinks more water. And if that means that I can have this vintage orange carafe, then I will drink lots and lots of water. Lots.

 

 

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Paint by Numbers Tray: At the cabin, you often find yourself bringing food outside. But when you have your drink in one hand and your snack in the other, how do you carry your  People magazine? That’s why this small Paint by Numbers Tray is a necessity (yes, Mike, I said necessity), just big enough for a tall glass of Mr. Pibb and a small bowl of Cheetos. Because you can have junk food at the cabin. The close-up on the right shows that this paint-by-number is left strategically undone for your enjoyment. If you’d like one of your own, you can find it online or in-store at Fishs Eddy.

 

 

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Linen Alphabet Wall Hanging: Most vintage-esque cabin finds are clutter-y and rough around the edges. If you have too many of them, your eye gets overstimulated and your mind manufactures a smell like wet basement. This linen alphabet is spare and minimalist but still has a whiff of happy days gone by. And textiles are perfect for the bathroom; it’s basically like hanging a towel on the wall.

 

So the missing has begun. And so has the dreaming and the planning and the continual nesting. Are you wondering about the little gnome in the top photo? Sorry, you’ll have to wait until next time. . .

 

How to Stay Happy in the Dark of Winter

As we edge closer to December 22, each day gets darker and darker. I begin my day in the dark — and my day isn’t even close to ending when darkness falls again; I often have a compulsion to put my jammies on before I’ve even figured out what we’re having for dinner.

In some parts of the world, they get only a few hours of precious daylight this time of year. And some get none at all.  Despite the darkness, Denmark and the Scandinavian countries routinely top the surveys of the world’s happiest people. Last year, Denmark was #1 followed by Norway at #2, Sweden at #5 and Finland at #7.

Not coincidentally, these countries also lead the world in the strength of their collective cabin culture. In Sweden alone there are nearly 600,000 summer/winter houses and more than 50% of the population has access to one through family or friends. Scandinavian cabins aren’t symbols of privilege;  the dwellings are simple and cozy,  helping people connect with nature, connect with people, and shed the clutter and noise of the city.

Sometimes the cabin is known as smultronställer , meaning “wild strawberry spot,” a Swedish expression for a place special to your heart.

 

I don’t think anyone would deny that being at the cabin makes people happy. And the feelings of happiness generally come from a cozy comfort shared with people you love; it’s like we feel swaddled in physical, emotional and ambient warmth.

The Danes call this feeling “hygge” (sounds like hyoo-gah). And some theorize that hygge is the reason that Danes are among the happiest people in the world, even in the dark of winter. Because they don’t just save hygge for the cabin . . . they bring it home and live it every day. For them, hygge is a way of life.

This funny word has no direct English translation but NPR’s Claire O’Neill describes it like this:  “fireplace warmth with candles and family and friends and food and tucked under blankets on a snowy day, cup-of-coffee conversation, scarf-snuggle, squiggly, baby love.” Doesn’t that make you happy?

As the days get darker and the stress of the holiday season looms, grab some hygge and cabin it up at home. Don’t shortchange yourself! You deserve this! And here’s a place for you to start:

 

 “Hygge-at-Home” Tips from Cabin Crush:

 

 Candles  At breakfast, at dinner, at coffee time, at reading time, at TV time. Candles aren’t just for ambience; they become a ritual of slowing down and savoring the moment. Benita Larsson of Swedish blog Chez Larsson (instagram @benitalarsson) says Swedes use candles not just on special occasions but on most days during the darker months of the year: “Sitting at the breakfast table at candlelight is the best thing. Swedish households are known to use up bags of votives and boxes of tapers in no time at all.”

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Winter Home Scent Collection from Restoration Hardware

 

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I just bought these yesterday at CB2


Blankets Not just one, but many. Layer them. Share them. We have three people in our house and two of us fight over the three blankets in the room. And not just for the family room couch, either, but on just about every sitting place in your house; when you go to an outdoor cafe in Sweden, each chair will have a lap throw draped over the back and you routinely see coffee drinkers wrapped in blankets as they sip. When people in America get cold, they either put  on a jacket or go inside. In Sweden, they wrap up in a blanket. Have a basket nearby so you don’t have to scream at  people to fold their blankets at the end of the night. Here are some faves:

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Faribault Woolens for Target       Faribault Woolens Recycled Wool Throw     Pendleton Yakima Camp Throw

 


 

A Seasonal House Drink  

Many people would die without their coffee in the morning. For some, it’s a reason to get out of bed. And much of that is due to the warm, comforting ritual it provides. Why don’t we have an evening drink ritual? A hot chocolate or a decaf macchiato to enjoy together by the fire (or, if you’re at my house, by The Simpsons)? My son loves the privilege of sipping a decaf sugared-up creamy cream “coffee” with the adults. It  feels special. Here’s a drink I relish. I’m totally serious, I relish it:

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Freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays. Pour cream (yes, just do it) or almond milk (if you must) over the top. Sip slowly while the coffee cubes melt and mix with the cream. It’s like forced relaxation.

Photo credit: stylecraze.com

 

Lower Your Dining Room Light Fixture  I once got a comment from a Danish woman that Americans hang their dining room fixtures to high: “It’s not hyggeligt,” she said, hyggeligt being the way we describe things that encourage hygge.

A lower-hanging fixture casts a more delineated glow around the people at the table; it’s cozier, glowy-er, it makes people lean in and feel a part of the circle while everything else fades into the background.

Plus, it just looks better. Don’t think of your dining room light as a ceiling fixture; it’s really more of a table decoration. Try hanging your light 24- 30 inches above the surface of the table. Trust me on this.

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Too high!!!

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     So much better.


 

Games or Puzzles on the Coffee Table

After owning the cabin for more than a year, Liam opened a never-before-opened drawer and found a collection of playing cards that spoke volumes to me. It was like an anthropological relic — this is what these unknown people who came before us did together! If you want more cozy family time, you have to have a reason to occupy the same space while interfacing with each other. Having a game or a jigsaw puzzle at the ready, calling out to you as you pass by, will do the trick. Click here to read a piece that I wrote for Momfilter.com about playing cards with my son in restaurants.

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And there are plenty of beautifully packaged games available today that would be worthy of space on your coffee table (hmmm…not a bad holiday gift).
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Ridley’s Games Room Dominoes 

 

Good luck with your hygge . . .

. . . may this season of darkness be the brightest ever.


Sources:  visitdenmark.co.uk, sweden.se, thelocal.se, npr.org

The Social Media Introvert’s Guide to Instagram (plus Cabin Crush’s Top 9 Instagrammers)

Of all the social media outlets, Instagram is my favorite. Despite carving out my own little corner of the inter webs, I’m sort of a social media dum dum when it comes to the rest. On Instagram, I can walk around by myself and look at all the pretty pictures but I’m not required to go the after party and discuss each piece with people I barely know. Nor do I feel the need to consider how the artists would feel if I failed to give them a marker of approval.

In truth, I’m a social  media introvert. I don’t enjoy surface-level exchanges with large groups of people. But I also don’t deal well with lengthy personal blogifestos — I’m much too lazy for that. But I do like pretty pictures that I can observe in secret from my own corner of the party.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like to call attention to myself; I love a good post that makes people go “It’s Kristin! She came out of the corner! Let’s listen!”

That is the way of the rare and recently discovered gregarious introvert. It is the equivalent of finding my spot at the party and making everyone come to my corner if they want to talk to me — which is what I totally do in real life. No mingling for me. This is my spot and I’m having my own little party right here and you are all invited but I’m not moving.

Unless, of course, you have Guitar Hero in which case I will totally come out of the corner but you will have to whisper in my ear when it’s someone else’s turn to play the drums. And if someone else has the microphone then I’ll just grab a hair brush and stand next to them.

So Instagram is my jam. And cabin lovers abound there; visual stimuli goes in, drool comes out. It’s awesome. If you are an introverted outdoorsy nature loving cabin dreamer, you should join us.

If you’d like to follow me and my cabin-leaning feed, you can find me here. Here are some of my latest:

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And here are 9 of my favorites to follow. I’d love to tell you that there’s some secret internet algorithm that makes 9 the most attractive number to use in your listicles — but the truth is that my threshold for technical frustration is exceedingly low so I decided that 9 is the new 10 and then I quit. Explore and enjoy…


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Stuganiskogen, stuganiskogen

“Trying to create a cosy house in the Swedish woods.”

I don’t know what’s happening here because I don’t read Swedish. But I do know that I would definitely sleep better under a reindeer hide.


 

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Lotta Jansdotter, lottajansdotter

Textile designer Lotta Jansdotter posts pix of her fresh, crisp, Scandinavian designs. But in July, she hosts the Lotta Jansdotter Aland Workshop and Nature Retreat at her childhood summer home on an island in the middle of the Baltic Sea, between Sweden and Finland. This is where the magic happens.


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Pines and Cones, pinesandcones

“Off grid cabin life on Äleby Gård, Selaön in Sweden.”

Again with the Sweden. These people just know how to cabin. And how to light candles at the breakfast table.


 

 

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Cabin Love, cabinlove

“Cabin candy for somewhere far, far away. Let’s be cabineers together!”

I really, really want to be a cabineer.


 

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Cabin Porn, cabinporn

“Inspiration for your quiet place somewhere.”

The elicit name that started the beardie-hipster-off-th-grid cabin movement. The Cabin Porn book is now available at cabinporn.com/book.


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Camp Brand Goods, campbrandgoods

This outdoor adventure apparel from the Canadian Rockies features photos of beautiful outdoorsy people in beautiful outdoorsy settings.


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 Askov Finlayson, askovfinlayson

“Inspired by our region’s history of adventure and culture of creativity. Products of lasting quality and timeless design. Welcome to the North.”

Minneapolis’ own Askov Finlayson is named after a road sign on the highway heading north. Their feed features not just their north-loving products but also images of the north-loving lifestyle that inspires their brand.


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Our Camp Life, ourcamplife

More beautiful people in beautiful settings who are constantly on vacation.

 


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#1 Camp Wandawega, campwandawega,

“A little Wisconsin getaway with a big history. This feed is co-created by the growing creative community who share this place with us.”

And by creative community, we mean people like Land of Nod and other makers of give-it-to-me-I-really-need-that-thing-now design. Plus, Camp Wandawega is an actual camp — restored and operated by aesthetes who are also lovers of all things campy and camp-y. In addition to their cute as a button cabins, you can also stay in a restored airstream trailer known as the Canned Ham.

That makes Camp Wandawega my number one Instagrammer by a landslide.

Early Winter Comes to Cabin Country

 

Winter has come early to Minnesota.  Which is kind of unfair because, if I recall correctly, winter LEFT LATE last season.  When we first looked at our cabin, it looked like the one above.  We tromped (seriously tromped) up the long-ass driveway in hip deep snow…….in the middle of April.  So by my calculation, that’s only 5 months without snow.  That’s messed up, y’all.

Ludlow’s Resort, in Cook, Minnesota, posted this video yesterday with the caption:  Commute to work:    The ice is setting up on Lake Vermilion. Travel to the job site is getting fun! In a few days we will be walking over.”

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(Click here to watch video…… )

Watching the wake of ice shards floating behind his boat as his bow shoves them aside is both freaky and freaky peaceful;  like an icy meditation or miniature glaciers parting the waters at boat speed.  This man’s boat ride is both beautiful and a dreadful sign of what’s to come. Continue reading →

One Room Done…for Mike

After The Awakening, I decide that I will make just one room presentable, livable, hopefully without bats or raccoon babies.  If the room is clean and appointed with fresh Ikea sheets, I’m hoping that the bats and the raccoons will see that they don’t belong here and find another place to poop and have their babies.  The herpes carpet is barely visible (indoor-outdoor style that it is) but you can see that I strategically place a runner right where my feet go so I can reduce my risk of infection.

 The splurge:  a memory foam mattress for Liam who has been begging for one since he was 6 years old and wanted to have a Tempurpedic-themed birthday party.  I think he envisioned a backyard filled with Tempurpedic mattresses, one per guest, and they would all bounce together and see that the glass of wine never once toppled over.

I have one purpose in making this room right and taking this pic;  I need to send it to Mike in Abu Dabi or Timbuktu or wherever he is and say,

“See?  It’s gonna be great.”