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.”


Winter Home Scent Collection from Restoration Hardware




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:


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:


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:


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.


Too high!!!


     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 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).

Ridley’s Games Room Dominoes 


Good luck with your hygge . . .

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


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…


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.



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.


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.




Cabin Love, cabinlove

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

I really, really want to be a cabineer.



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


Camp Brand Goods, campbrandgoods

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


 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.


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.

A Voice…From Inside the Cabin Shouts “GET OUT!”

Mike and I arrive at the cabin by ourselves for a much needed couples-only respite while Liam is away at camp. It feels special. Grown up. Like we are finally mature enough to have a child who can go to overnight camp for a very long time. And we are also mature enough to feel secure leaving town while he does it. I’m looking forward to forty-eight hours of real and true solitude uninterrupted by the constant begging for Pringles.

We put the Jeep in four wheel drive and drive up the long-ass driveway, bumping over boulders and ducking under branches that scrape over our roof, cresting the hill with some effort, and finally parking at the rear of the cabin. Mike goes to unlock the cabin and take a look around, as is his habit, while I open the tailgate and begin the unloading process. I leave the cooler, which I like to call the “cold chest” so I sound campy and old-fashioned, and grab something much lighter for the first trip. Like chips.

And just when I approach the large bank of windows on the side of the cabin….


…..I hear Mike shout “GET OUT!”

Followed by a door slamming.

I run to the window and look inside, my chin just reaching the bottom of the sill. Where is he?! What’s happening?!

As my eyes scan the interior of the cabin through the glass, I’m paralyzed with indecision; should I run to the car and lock myself in? Or stand here and witness the demise of my husband so I can ID the perp in court? It never occurs to me to go inside. That just seems foolish. Like opening the basement door when the spooky music is playing.

Because I’m already paralyzed, I go with standing at the window and ID’ing the perp.

That’s when Mike comes running out of the back bedroom, slamming the door again, and when he reaches the living room, I watch as he abruptly stops running and begins doing squats. Not a full set — just a few, like he’s warming up. It looks like he’s ducking from an invisible light sabre.

My nose isn’t pressed against the glass because it’s way too dirty but I really, really want to — as if that somehow helps you see better. What the H is he doing?

After a pause, Mike does one more squat —  and then runs out the front door, slamming it hard behind him. My head turns in the opposite direction, waiting for the perp to give chase. But instead, a big black bat comes swooping toward my window, close enough to make me do a couple squats — even though I am outside and he is in.

Mike opens the windows and doors on the porch and yells to me “Kristin! I’m going back in! I need you to watch for the bat!”

Because this is not our first rodeo, we know how to get a bat out of the house. I know because I googled it from the safety of my bathtub/bed while Mike was “out there” looking for a tennis raquet.

Bats like fresh air. And they will innately fly toward the fresh air which is hopefully coming from your open front door. But it’s not a perfect system so you might have to do a couple sets of squats before he finds it. Unless, of course, you’re sleeping in the tub.

So after opening windows and screen doors, Mike is going to open the front door and then make a run for the refuge of the bathroom. It’s my job to watch the bat and yell for Mike to come out and slam the front door behind Mr. Bat.

Once the plan is in motion, I start yelling at the bat: “Go! Go!” I scream, like I’m cheering on the bat from my bleacher seat at the window. “Go, Bat!” And when he finds his way to the porch, I shout “Do it! Do it!” As if the bat knows English and just needs a little encouragement.

That night, when the bats are out terrorizing y’alls neighborhood, we begin a bat eradication process that we foolishly thought had been done by the Finnish Carpenter. It involves a highly toxic expanding foam that makes superglue look like Elmer’s. Mike uses the Jeep to climb up on the roof and spray the foam into the supposed entry points.


He walks around up there all Easy Reader-like and I turn away so I don’t have to imagine my life as a widow. I calculate how long it would take an ambulance to get to this remote location and I decide that we will never have any emergencies here. We can only have emergencies at home where the fire station is actually on our street.

Sadly, there are clearly some bats who decided not to go out that night; we hear them panicking when they go to their regular door and it is no longer available. I swear, it sounds like they are actually conversing, frantically, in a language I don’t understand. I imagine someone flapping their wings and screeching “I TOLD YOU WE SHOULD’VE GONE OUT TONIGHT!” It makes me so very uncomfortable but I just keep repeating my mantra, “This is the natural order of things. This is the natural order of things. This is the natural order of things.”

The following weekend, post-bat eradication, we open the cabin only to find finely crafted pyramids of bat poop on the floor. I look up and do a warm-up squat. Mike shakes his fist and revisits the roof that night.

Each time we come back, we find the finely crafted pyramids of poop and respond by spraying more toxic foam into smaller and smaller openings, most of them no bigger than a crack. I’m starting to think that the bats are supernatural and just pass through walls.

On two separate occasions, we fight bats in the middle of the night, while our guests sleep. And on one occasion, our movie night is interrupted by a flutter and a mysterious breeze. “Ghosts!” I think. Until Liam calmly says “Oh….hello bat.”

Suffice it to say that hilarity ensued.

This particular visitor was a dive bomber — don’t let anyone tell you that bats don’t do that – my thighs are still burning from what was definitely the most rigorous set of squats I’ve ever done. Mike sets the plan in motion once again, running out to the porch with Batty hot on his heels, and deftly closes the door behind him, trapping the two of them on the porch. That’s taking one the the team, am I right?

Just as I’m straightening up from my squat, Liam lunges for the door so he can join Mike out on the porch.

“NOOOO!” I scream, throwing my weight against the door.

And Liam screams back at me, “I WANT TO BE A PART OF THIS!!!!”

I hold him back while Mike battles the bat on the porch — seriously, I actually have to physically restrain him so he won’t run out there and sabotage the whole operation because god knows he’s never shut a door in his whole gd life.

Five minutes later, we repeat this same exact scene when another bat dive-bombs our movie. Except this time, I shoo Liam out the door after Mike so he doesn’t miss out on any of the bat-dodging fun.
The next step in bat eradication is radical. And it hurts me because I am the one who’s taken great pains to make our cabin pretty. Our next step is to spray the highly toxic expanding foam on the INSIDE of our cabin. In the rafters, around doors, around windows, in places that we hang out every day — not like the roof. Do what you want to the roof, I don’t care. The only one who’s going to see what the roof looks like is the guy who goes up there to spray highly toxic expanding foam.

When you spray even the tiniest bit, it quickly grows like some sort of sea monkey, and hardens into a puss-colored mushroom cloud. It looks like the spongey material of a booth from a ’70- era fast food restaurant, the kind that always had chunks bitten out by some toddler. And if you don’t act quickly and carefully, with your hands and arms fully covered, it will either drop on you and fuse to your skin forever or it will hang in perpetuity like puss-colored cabin stalactites.

But I don’t care.

Because the next time we visit the cabin, there are no finely crafted pyramids of bat poop on the floor.

When I tell Mike that the next Cabin Crush post will be about the bats, he says proudly, “I’M BATMAN!”
And I do believe he’s earned it.

A Collection of Cabin Recipes…..even though my cooking skills are limited to those that don’t involve heat.

Because…… my mom decided to teach me to cook when I was in fifth grade and I decided that I would NOT learn to cook in fifth grade. I was all Marlo Thomas and William Wants a Doll and Parents Are People (People With Children) and it just felt like she was training me to cook for my husband. And my eleven year old self was like “Hey! That’s not okay!” and “Hey! He can cook for his own damn self whoever he is!” I just could not envision a future in which my husband didn’t have two fully functioning hands (my apologies to those who really don’t have two fully functioning hands and I will totally cook for you if you need it. Without heat, of course).

So we have a system in our house in which I do all the meal planning and grocery shopping and Mike willingly and skillfully does all the cooking with heat. I’m happy to whip up a salad or a side dish or some kind of appetizer, I just don’t know what “braise” means. Basically, I could eat dinner with Cher in the movie Mermaids every day and be perfectly happy.

When I plan food for the cabin (because I am the meal planner), I settle on a single breakfast to be repeated twice, a single lunch to be repeated twice, and two dinners to cook on the grill (with heat. Mike, you’re up).

Here’s what I’m packing for this holiday weekend, all of them winners from past cabin weekends:

First Breakfast:
Peaches, granola and Thai Kitchen coconut milk (from the can!).

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When I rise, I’m usually alone. The boys are out fishing and it’s quiet. They’ve presumably eaten something but I have no idea what and I need a little something to tide me over until they get back for…..

Second Breakfast:
Eggs and bacon are the traditional makings of “second breakfast,” which comes after fishing and before hot dog thirty.

Hot dogs. Just hot dogs. Every time hot dogs. It doesn’t even deserve a photo. Don’t get fancy with lunch because no one appreciates it. Save yourself a giant headache in the middle of the day and just stick your wiener on the grill (if you’re laughing right now, you can party at my house).


Here’s where we get creative. Dinner is nice and long because we’ve got nothing to do and nowhere to go so we might as well take the time to make it good. The following are some of our favorites so far.


Char Siu Chicken 

Adapted from the May 2015 issue of Saveur Magazine, we call this “Two Day Chicken” because it requires two days of marinating. Don’t skimp on the marinating! I’m going to go all Rachael Ray here because the only descriptive word I have is “Mm…Mmm” (pointing at food with mouth full).  You’ll be fighting over those little blackened pieces of charred chicken skin.

We use bone-in thighs for extra flavor.


14 cup brown sugar

14 cup honey

14 cup ketchup

14 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tbsp. hoisin sauce

12 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

1 (4-lb.) chicken, halved lengthwise, backbone discarded

2 tbsp. canola oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Mix sugar, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin, and Chinese five spice in a bowl. Toss marinade with chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 2 days.

2. Build a medium-heat fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. Remove chicken from marinade, and season with salt and pepper; grill skin-side down, turning once, until charred and cooked through, about 30–35 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh reads 165°. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 15 minutes before carving.


Vietnamese-Style Pork

Also adapted from the May 2015 issue of Saveur Magazine. Again with “Mm…Mmm” and the pointing at food with mouth full.


14 cup fish sauce

14 cup fresh lime juice

14 cup sugar

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 serrano pepper, stemmed and roughly chopped

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 lb. boneless pork collar or shoulder, trimmed

Sliced cucumber, lettuce, and tomato, for serving


  1. Combine fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, serrano pepper, cilantro, salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl with pork.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

2.  Build a medium-heat fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium.) Remove pork from marinade, pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper; grill, turning as needed, until slightly charred and cooked to medium, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the pork reads 140°. Let pork rest 10 minutes; slice against the grain into 12-inch-thick slices. *this is like a foreign language to me.

3. Serve with sliced cucumber, lettuce, and tomato


Banh Mi Hot Dog

There are lots of hot dogs at the cabin. And that’s okay. But sometimes I crave something a little more adventurous in the woods. Maybe a little less juvenile. Ketchup is a children’s food and we big girls prefer veggies and fancy mayo on ours. I got the idea from My Name is Yeh, a food blog by a New Yorker living on a North Dakota farm.

In addition to hot dogs and the optional bun, you’ll need the following:


hoisin sauce
sriracha mayo (1/2 c mayo + 2 tsp sriracha, or more if desired)

fresh cilantro sprigs
pickled veggies (see recipe below)


Drizzle, stack, sauce your dog and eat.


Pickled Veggies

I use the pickling recipe from Recipe Girl’s Bread and Butter Pickles but instead of using sliced cukes, I use thinly sliced carrot, onion and red pepper along with some diced cucumber. I use it like a slaw or a sauerkraut, adding a quasi-addictive tang to hot dogs, burgers or chicken.

Don’t be afraid of this. This is a lot of directions for me but it’s definitely worth it – I even had to turn on the stove but I didn’t mind because it was a simple “dump and heat” situation; don’t ask me to put something in a pan, do something with heat, and then put other things in the pan at different intervals. That is just too much.


5 1/2 cups (1 1/2 pounds) thinly sliced and diced carrots, peppers, and cukes

1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt

1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion

1 cup granulated white sugar

1 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)

1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric


1. Fill glass jars with chopped veg.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

3. Pour hot vinegar mixture into veggie jars; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

You’re welcome. Now make a list, go to the store and get your holiday weekend on.


Photo credist: luna—belle, Kristin Nilsen, Saveur Magazine, Saveur Magazine ,Molly Yeh and Kristin Nilsen.

These Are My Cabin Pants

Why would someone need cabin pants?

Maybe because you’ve contracted Lyme Disease twice and you think there might be little targets on your ankles saying “Deer ticks: bite here.”

And cabin pants wrap tight elastic around your ankles and your waist, blocking entry to biting carriers. And if there was a cabin jumpsuit that added tight elastic around your wrists and your neck, you might buy that, too.

I’m very lucky.

So many people with Lyme Disease are really, really sick. They are in a lot of pain. They can’t get out of bed. They can’t go to work.

Fortunately, I’m not like that. My pain has been annoying at most and I get a little dizzy sometimes. My hands and feet get numb. I’m a little tired.

This is what I tell myself.

And for a long time, I kept doing whatever I wanted to do; early morning parenting plus a marathon trip to Target and the grocery store followed by a stop at Home Depot, then racing home for some office time and a workout (can’t skip the workout), then after-school management including pick-ups and drop-offs and homework (with a little screaming and shouting thrown in), topped off by dinnertime, nighttime parenting and, if necessary, working on a writing project late into the night.

Was I tired? Of course. Everybody’s tired. But these things needed to be done so I just pushed until they were done. I assumed that everyone was as tired as I was and we were all taking it on the chin because that is what life requires. And if I can do all this with Lyme Disease, I thought, then I must be okay.

But I was weak. In fact, it was a gym trainer who sent me to the doctor in the first place; she had been working with me for six months with absolutely no signs of increased strength — “how is that even possible?” she asked. And the mildly annoying pain in my knees and hips didn’t present in a normal fashion.  She was concerned. Shortly thereafter, a wise doctor pushed down on my knee and, when I couldn’t push back, she said, “I think we should test you for Lyme Disease.”

The test was positive, showing I’d had it for a year or more.

I did what I was told and stopped eating everything that I loved and took lots of pills and even stopped exercising in order to heal my overburdened adrenal system. I paid attention when I was tired and turned for home even when my to-do list was undone. I listened carefully to my body so I could heed its messages; and I was a little startled by how often the message of fatigue surfaced. I wondered if I was getting more fatigued or if I had previously been seriously gifted in the art of denial.

The mildly annoying pain and the daily fatigue didn’t keep me from my weekly dance class, though. It was only once a week and it was my primary physical and creative outlet. It was, as they say, my thang, my jam, the only thing I had been doing since childhood that I never grew out of. I would just hold back a little bit and it would be fine; I still secretly thought everyone else was as tired as me so surely I could manage one carefully executed dance class. My dancing was lackluster and uninspired but it was still fun.

Until it wasn’t anymore.

Eventually I had to stop and grab the barre if I changed directions too quickly. I got a head rush going from plié to relevé; and very little dancing involves staying totally upright and facing forward all the time. I got injured easily and old injuries resurfaced for no reason, refusing to heal. And, most notably, when class time rolled around in the early evening, I only had enough energy left for the couch and the TV. So I stopped going. “I’ll be back!” I said. “Maybe by Christmas! Or after spring break! For sure by the recital in this summer! I’ll certainly be better by then!”  It was embarrassing.

I thought my excuses and promises were covering up my embarrassing weakness (they weren’t). And I feared that everyone thought I was either lying or lazy (they didn’t). And when I finally publicly admit that I will not be back, I publicly cry like it isn’t just a hobby we all do on Thursday nights. I cry like I’m a member of the Dance Theater of Harlem and my feet just got chopped off. It’s still the one and only time I’ve cried over this stupid, annoying disease.

So it’s really no big deal.

I’m really very lucky.


for the time being,

I can’t go to my dance class and I can’t ride a bike and I can’t walk with friends who go too fast and I can’t go to Target and Home Depot in the same day and sometimes I wonder if my driving is okay (I’ve never spoken that out loud). I can’t do the things that all the other people do.

And I also know that if I weren’t a stay-at-home/work-at-home parent, I wouldn’t have been able to play this charade of “I’m so lucky, it’s really not so bad.” Because if I had to be showered and dressed and sharp for a meeting with kids out the door at 8am, my denial couldn’t have survived very long.

Will I get better? Maybe. But’s it’s been a long time and I never seem to be symptom free.

I’ve followed every protocol for Lyme Disease from both Western and alternative practitioners; short course of antibiotics, long course of antibiotics, infrared sauna detox, intravenous vitamin C treatments, herbal supplements, vitamin and mineral supplements, detox protocols, epsom salt baths, anti-inflammatory diet (gluten free, dairy free, grain free, sugar free, caffeine free, alcohol free, nightshade vegetable free – there’s very little else to eat). Despite all that, I still don’t get to function like other people.

The moral of the story is that it’s tick season; many of you (and your children) have a higher susceptibility to the dreaded bite of the deer tick that delivers Lyme Disease. Some of you will be bitten, probably have been bitten, and nothing will happen. Others will get a bullseye rash and go to the doctor for a round of antibiotics and be done with it. And some of you will have mystery symptoms that go undiagnosed for years until you finally have to quit your job and lie down on the couch for a living.

Be prepared and do your homework. Seek out the rates of Lyme Disease in your area or the areas you’re visiting; if you’re near deer habitats — including urban and suburban environments — use a tick repellent and do a tick check when you come in. There are lots of designer and all-natural bug spray options but, just like sunscreen, the best insect repellent is the one you’ll use. Stay on trails and avoid areas with tall grass. Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat after being outdoors. Take a shower and scrub your body with a loofah sponge and peppermint soap (Dr. Bronner’s is good). And I hate to break this to you but tucking your pants into your socks is a good idea. I’ve gotten around this fashion faux pas by wearing cabin pants – joggers with elastic ankles and then applying tick repellent to said ankles.

It sucks that I have to be afraid. I should be able to enjoy God’s green earth without fearing it. But I guess I wouldn’t go for a swim in shark-infested waters based on the conviction that earth is a gift to be enjoyed without fear.

The ONE thing my cabin needed…

“Is your cabin done?”

This is a question I get almost daily. And I never answer it the same way twice. Some days, the answer is yes because we can eat, sleep and pee comfortably and I’m pretty sure the Finnish Carpenter is never coming back.

Some days, the answer is no because the shower water comes out as a gentle trickle and if you want to change the water temp, you have to go into the dirt basement with a flashlight and a wrench. And there’s a kitchen cabinet door that hasn’t been installed so, if we need something from under the sink, we just take the door out like a puzzle piece and set it on the floor. In the absence of kitchen drawer pulls, we peel the drawers away from the frames with our fingers. The Vintage Bare Bulb Flushmount remains our primary source of light in the kitchen. And, on the days I say no, I may have just spoken with the Finnish Carpenter who swears he’s coming back even though he’s just swamped because the weather has been pretty rough this year and every day it rains it sets him back two days but he’ll try to make it over there sometime this week (…sometime this week….sometime this week…..sometime this week….).

But he never does.

When we pack the car for each trip up north, it still feels like we’re moving in. We still worry that we won’t be able to fit everything into the back of our Jeep and I tread carefully as I put things on the driveway to be loaded, knowing that Mike is judging each item I parade out the door — because our definitions of “necessary” do not match.

When I take the deer head off the wall of my entry way at home and place it on the “to be loaded” stack, he puts his hands on his hips, clenches his jaw, and blows hard out his nose. Go ahead — try it. This is how you know you’re in trouble at my house.

In answer, I say “Why not?”

“Because,” he says. “I don’t want to take something away from here to put it up there. It makes no sense.” Mike likes things done. And if I remove the deer head from the entryway, our house will be undone.

“And then we’ll have a bare wall and you’re just going to have to buy something for here….why?”

Mike has forgotten about the closet full of art in the upstairs guest room that makes him so mad. And the canvases and framed pieces that lean against the stack of rubbermaid tubs in the basement. And for sure he’s forgotten about the two boxes I found tucked in a corner last week, unopened from our last move. And for sure FOR SURE he doesn’t know about my Pinterest board called “Art and Accessories” that’s just waiting to be tapped. Finding a replacement for the deer head won’t be difficult.

I assure him that I can make the deer head fit in the Jeep. I assure him several times. And the deer head goes to the cabin.


I spy with my little eye, a deer head.

But sometimes it’s just one single item, placed just so, that tips you over into the done category, even if you have a long punch list and a Jeep full of stuff that says otherwise. There’s something about that one single item that allows a space to officially claim its personality. And when this happens, you feel it and you relax because, finally, you are home. You are no longer striving to create something because, with this single item, “create” becomes “created.” You and your space have finally found each other, as if the house says “Oh THIS is what you wanted? That’s what I wanted, too.” And, this time, when you curl up on the couch, it’s soft and cozy and you don’t want to get up because the groove fits you perfectly.

For me and my cabin, it was a set of lighted marquee letters spelling the word LAKE, placed carefully on top of the game cupboard.

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When I got home from the cabin, people asked “Is your cabin done?” 

And I said, “Yes.” Even though I can’t take a real shower and I open kitchen doors by putting them on the floor. I tell them that, for the very first time, the cabin feels like ours, for real. because the moment I put those letters up, I stopped looking for what needed to be tweaked. Instead, I swam and I read and I went for boat rides without wondering what else we could do to make this place more comfortable and, magically, the soul of the place transferred hands for good.

In the end, the one thing my cabin needed was heart. The lake is the heart of this cabin. And just because the lake is outside doesn’t mean that we don’t need to feel it while we cozy up inside.

Before the LAKE letters, I had added a few other things that made me happy. None of them gave the cabin “done” status, but they were all rungs on the ladder to cabin perfection.




The Birches Pendant is an old discontinued item from Pottery Barn that we bought two houses ago. It goes with us to every house and I’m going to ask to be buried with it. What you can’t see is the big hole punched in the side during it’s last ride on a moving truck — but still, I refused to part with it. For three years, it’s been sitting on top of an office cabinet, homeless, just waiting for us to buy a cabin.



This is Bjorn and Gus. They sit on a table next to Mike’s side of the bed. Are they necessary? Yes, because they make me laugh. And I picture them talking about Mike while he sleeps.

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After unsuccessfully trolling Etsy for months, looking for kitchen art that I had dreamt up in my head, I finally opened a kitchen drawer and found something fast (“it’s in my hand right now”), cheap (“free – because I already own it”) and functional (always add bonus points for functional). A quick trip to Target provided the $24 shelf upon which my fast, cheap, functional items sit.

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The deer head is so happy here. It’s a cheeky nod to typical cabin design without becoming a complete cliché. And the white papier maché lightens and brightens the dark interior so I don’t feel like I’m living in a Hobbit hole.

I think it’s clear that I tend to nest pretty hard. I need my surroundings to be comfortable and beautiful and, frankly, borderline irresistible. I spend my life in these surroundings, each and every day, and I just think my eye should enjoy everything it lands on (can you say visual learner?). When I look at something, I don’t want my first thought to be “I hope that doesn’t give me cooties.”

This is why I work so hard on the insides. The outsides come next. But, for the time being, I think the outsides will take care of themselves.