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

A Cabinista is Born

To say that this is self-proclaimed would be a huge understatement. But I do have an article published in the June issue of Edina Magazine about how to start your cabin search — which I am recognizing as my official coronation into the royal court of cabin experts. And that sort of proves that  “fake it til you make it” can no longer be dismissed as an unscientific method for success. She who speaks the loudest and with the most conviction shall conquer the earth, yo.

If you have dreams of becoming a cabin owner, you have to start somewhere. Click on the link below for your step-by-step guide, along with a little bit of our cabin search story, featuring cabins and cabin people from Edina, Minnesota.


 

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Cabin Quest: Shopping for a Family Getaway


The backstory to our cabin search began nearly twenty years ago. Bill Clinton was in the white house and Alanis Morisette was in the cd player and I thought my overalls passed for business casual. I was still quasi-grunge from the neck down and Friends from the neck up.

Mike and I were newlyweds and we were shopping for cabins.

We were shopping for cabins long before we ever considered buying a house. We were too young for a house. Houses were for grown ups. We were just a boyfriend and a girlfriend with a marriage license and we had no designs on anything practical or permanent that might force us to abandon our “we do anything we want whenever want because we can” mentality; we worked and we played and we road tripped and we were loathe to leave our old roommates behind. Roommates are valuable and we couldn’t let them go just because they had been replaced by spouses.

But, even so, we shopped for cabins.

We lived in a 600 square foot apartment with a hand-me-down futon and a kitchen so small that I don’t recall a single meal ever emerging from its loins; “We’ll cook more when we have a basement,” Mike famously said. I still don’t know exactly what that means — but we have a basement now and we definitely prepare meals in our kitchen. So there you go.

On weekends, we drove from Eau Claire or Naperville or Glen Ellyn or Wheaton, wherever we were living at the time, and travelled the back roads of northern Wisconsin looking for lake property that a young boyfriend and girlfriend with a marriage license could afford.

We never discussed our future. We never dreamed of the house with a picket fence. We never talked about babies —  until we actually got one. But we did fantasize about a lake with a little cottage on its shore that would be our getaway no matter where our jobs or our address du jour took us.

I don’t even know if our visions were the same; all I know is that we agreed that buying a cabin before reaching virtually any of our adult milestones was a completely rational thing to do.

But little by little, life got bigger. Jobs intensified and babies cried and we eventually did buy a house; a little pink hacienda on a street with other mommies and daddies who were real grown ups. Not like us. We were just a boyfriend and a girlfriend with a marriage license and a house and a baby. The cabin discussion didn’t come up anymore.

And then that thing happened called STRESS. And we didn’t want any more of it. The cabin discussion came up again, after years in the closet, and this time it went like this:

“I have enough responsibility as it is.”

“I can barely handle what’s in front of me….I can’t put another single thing in my brain.”

“What if you HAD to go to the cabin? Because the lawn needed mowing or the dock needed work? That would be a total buzzkill.”

“I don’t ever want two lawns to mow. Or two houses to clean. Kill me now.”

“What if we wanted to go someplace else? Like Europe? Or Dollywood?”

“Why would we go to Dollywood?”

“Because Dolly Parton is awesome…..but we couldn’t go to Dollywood because we would feel guilty about not going to the cabin.”

“I’m not going to Dollywood.”

“That’s my whole point.”

Instead, we make a resolution to seek out the most awesome lake resorts in Minnesota, places with cleaning services and snack bars and kid’s clubs. Jesus loves the little children….and he loves their babysitters even more…..all corralled far, far away from cocktail hour. We will make one of these places our cabin. All the fun with none of the stress. And we will go back every summer so that Liam will remember it fondly and think of it as his.

So we do that a few times. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. None of them make me say, “I love this place so much that I will come back every year for the rest of my life!” The modified dream is not materializing as planned.

And then…..something happens to force our hand; our son becomes a fisherman. Not just a kid who likes to fish but a kid who likes to fish all day, every day if possible.  He likes it so much that he chooses to hang out with homeless vets and new immigrants at the city fishing dock instead of hanging out with his friends. Or, if I must be totally honest, his gaming system. And we see fishing as our chance to rescue him from a life spent in our basement fondling the game controllers.

“I want to buy a boat,” Mike says.

“Okay,” is my reply after picturing my son as a grown man in my dark basement with the aforementioned game controllers.

But then the boat comes home and I wonder where we will put it, hoping the answer isn’t “in the front yard.”

So we research marinas, resorts, timeshares, cabin rentals and lakeshore association homes.

 

But nothing – NOTHING –  gives us what we are looking for.

It turns out that what we are looking for is a family cabin.

 

There are times when we all feel mismatched from our chosen partners. There are times when “opposites attract” seems to be the glue that holds us together. Don’t deny it, we’ve all been there. But then there are times that bring us full circle, back to the people we were when we decided to be life partners. There are things that illustrate, in full detail, that we are meant to be together. So we grab our overalls, slip Alanis Morissette into the cd player, and head north.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Stuff I Bought For My Cabin Because I Miss it.

So now I’m totally outed because my husband hasn’t seen any of this stuff and he’s probably opening this post and going “What the @*&!?” I’ve been squirreling away my stash in a special cabin hiding spot all winter so I wouldn’t scare him or invite any sort of scolding about things we don’t NEED. Which would inevitably lead to a huge argument because everyone knows that every cabin needs a yellow gnome but he’s going to claim that he’s never heard that and then I’ll be like “What? Were you born in a BARN?” Here’s a rundown of the winter booty:

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   817JywcPyiL._SL1500_  Heath Ceramics Dish Towels, Charley Harper Front Facing Fish Tea TowelNow Designs Fishies Towel

Why so many dishtowels? Well…..that I don’t know. I wasn’t even aware that I’d purchased so many dishtowels until I pulled them out of the secret cabin stash today. And I don’t even use dishtowels on a regular basis because that would involve drying dishes, something I find happens naturally if I just leave stuff on top of the stove and walk away. I think drying dishes is for people who can’t sit still…which is not a problem for me. So the dishtowels are a mystery. Except that they’re pretty and I want to look at them. Okay, mystery solved. Thank you for the minute-therapy.

 

 

          

Arrow Wall Hooks from CB2

Are you lacking in storage? HOOKS! I will use hooks for jackets, jammies, towels, dishtowels (just for looking at, of course), cabin clothes, book bags, fly swatters, art (use clip-on curtain rings!) and…drum roll, please…this brilliant idea: 5f8d1bfcad00a067c1fcfd4bd5adb875

Extra seating for our dining table can be folded and stored on the wall just like art. Every cabin needs a splash of red.

 

 

  

Woven Arrow Stripe Pillow Covers from West Elm

For me, a room isn’t finished without pillows. I see a couch with no pillows and I have to look away, like it’s reminding of that time I spent in prison. Mike doesn’t understand pillows and he takes them off so he can sit comfortably. Then I sit down after he leaves and scream “WHERE’S MY PILLOW!” I need more cush (koosh?) in my life. More cush, more color and more pattern; I only have so much wall space and there’s so much beauty in the world – I want all of it! –  so pillows become another artspace. These pillow covers from West Elm have a Scandirondack feel – I’m totally trademarking that. They are part Scandinavian, part Adirondack and they are oh so cabin.

    

      Elka Bowls from Anthropologie

Because the Anthro ladies were getting tired of me fondling them on my weekly visits. We go through bowls quickly at the cabin because of something called “cabin dip,” a special recipe that Liam makes all by himself involving a delicate mixture of salsa and Hellman’s Real Mayonaise. I’m just glad he’s finally eating vegetables.

 

  Foxgloves Gauntlet

For weeding! Duh! Because, once again, I am a Badass Weeder. I was traveling with two friends in San Francisco recently and they saw these gardening gloves while shopping at the Ferry Building. Together they grabbed the gloves and started shouting in unison, “KRISTIN! YOU NEED THESE FOR YOUR WEIRD OBSESSION WITH WEEDING!!” And though they are not natural born shoppers and can live without almost all the things, they wouldn’t let me leave the store without them. See the extra long thorn guards?! It’s just that important.

  Resplendent Flatware from Anthropologie

I had visions of collecting mismatched sets of vintage utensils but I couldn’t get over the thought that they’d been in a dead person’s mouth. So I got this brand new set from Anthropologie instead. Then I found out that Anthro has their own set of vintage mismatched collected utensils!

 

And I’m sure Anthro has a killer sanitizing machine (please help me with the name of that thing) or they wouldn’t be able to sell them in US markets so I’m considering an exchange. Although even the best sanitizing machine can’t wash away bad karma. 

Gnomes (from Home Goods. Who knew?) Who can resist a yellow gnome!? He will hide in the forest somewhere, nestled behind a silvery birch tree. Woody will welcome us at the front door.

 

 

Vintage Canoe Paddle from Grace & co.

The beauty of this canoe paddle is its unusual size (shorty) and its roughed-up condition. A shiny new canoe paddle may look too intentional, like “I bought this cabin-themed artifact to display as a completely un-ironic nod to cabin decor.”  Instead, the patina makes this a found object with a soul (and unlike utensils, it probably hasn’t been in someone’s mouth) and the funny shape makes it unique and, therefore, more fun to look at. I’m considering using it as a door handle on the screen door.

 

 

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Kikkerland Log Microbead Pillow

Liam has been begging me for this log pillow all winter; he finally figured out that I’ll cave if he adds the words “for the cabin” at the end of all of his requests. These are squishy and oddly smooth and just soft enough to be like a lovey but weird enough to be like a lovey for teenagers.

 

 

 

 

il_570xN.736813652_j8b3 il_570xN.736377628_n46p Drink the Wild Air Art Print by WillowAndOlive “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”                                            ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I will be waiting by my front door today until this arrives from Etsy.

 

As the weather warms, and we approach “opening day,” it feels good to pull these things out and prepare them for their new home. The countdown is on…

Gifts for the Cabin Lover (that’s CABIN Lover not Cabin LOVER).

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It’s not too late!  The cabin lovers or cabin wannabes on your list love gifts that remind them of their happy place.  The Tivoli Audio Model One Radio from Forage Modern Workshop in Minneapolis is said to be “the best sounding table radio ever made” (MSNBC) and won’t muddy up your cabin vibe with a lot of slick-looking electronics. We listen to a steady stream of up north radio while at the cabin – a playlist of classic rock, north woods NPR and, I kid you not, a very special polka hour.

Here’s more from Forage Modern and some of my other cabin-friendly sources:

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Nature Print,  Dining Stool, Minnesota Bottle Opener, Lumberjackin’ Minnesota Print Continue reading →

I Was Wrong About Antlers

 

Here are some words that came out of my mouth recently:

“This is not an antler kind of cabin.  We are not antler people.”

And I say this despite my weird jubilation surrounding the waning trend of hanging faux deer heads on every empty wall.  It’s a totally overdone design fad that I just can’t give up.  AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!

But cabin antlers are different.  Cabin antlers are not ironic or tongue-in-cheek or made of surprising materials like fuchsia velvet (just saw that one yesterday – circled the store 3 times before I finally put it back because I couldn’t think of an empty, un-deer-headed wall in my house on which to hang it).  Cabin antlers are literal.  And that makes them not all that exciting to me.

When people buy cabins, they get super excited about going to the cabin store and getting some cabin stuff.  And the cabin stuff comes in various themes including Pinecone, Moose, Canoe/Paddle, Things From My Grandma’s Pantry, and Antler.  The choices can be really cute – or really predictable.  Like maybe you didn’t even go to the cabin store but you just ordered the Box-o-Cabin from Cabins R Us and set up shop without any thought at all.  It’s not very personal.  My cabin is far too personal to look like everybody else’s. Continue reading →

The Most Stressful Day of My Husband’s Life: Cabin Edition

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It’s the Hemnes queen sized bed, matching mattress, and Friheten sectional sofa/pullout bed with hidden storage!  This is our black market Ikea booty that we essentially stole by sweet-talking a sympathetic warehouse manager and convincing him that the unmarked/unclaimed pallet of goods that had been sitting in his warehouse for three weeks rightfully belonged to me, Random Caller.  And because there is goodness in the world, I talked him out of returning the unclaimed goods to Ikea and fully supported him when he offered to forge some documents and give it to me instead.  Huge smiley face.

As we drove away with our booty and headed for the north woods, this is what was happening at the cabin:

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The saddest thing about this photo is that no one would sit on the toilet for me while I took the photo.  I was happy to sit there but then no one would take the photo of me sitting on the toilet.  And that is not the first time I’ve written those words, by the way.  I’ve seen lots of toilets on the curb or along the side of the road and no one will ever take my picture on them.  It’s one of my greatest disappointments in life.

The happiest thing about this photo is that the old kitchen/wildlife preserve is gone. The Finnish Carpenter and his band of SuperFinns have torn out the island that housed an unknown living thing, the leaning counter of Pisa and all of the Nixon-era herpes carpeting.  After “The Awakening”, in which I made a list of all the things that kept me awake at the cabin, I identified the herpes carpeting as Enemy #1.  If you can’t walk on it barefoot without catching a disease, it has to go.  How expensive could it be? Continue reading →