Rain, Rain, Go Away!

It doesn’t happen that often. Usually the summertime is full of sunshine and balmy days. But every once in a while Mother Nature has to water the grass and we get stuck inside at the cabin. If that happens, don’t worry about it. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly rainy day activities…

Beyond the obvious lure of electronics, video games and screen time, we like to get the kids involved in a board game. One of our previous posts mentioned some of our favorites. You can check it out here. If you’re not into games, try a puzzle. This emoji one looks like it would be fun for everyone!

Pull out the arts and crafts. If you haven’t already joined the slime-making craze, you could whip up a batch of goo. There are tons of recipes on Pinterest. Get nostalgic. Remember friendship bracelets? All you need is a skein or two of embroidery floss. Or the beaded bracelets you can make on a tiny loom? How about shrink crafts? You can tuck a couple of sheets into one of your bags and create your own designs.

Gather everyone into the kitchen. Have a smoothie challenge. Write down a mix of ingredients on scrap paper. Randomly pick three or four and mix them up into a custom smoothie. The winner is the one who can drink the whole thing. Or have a cupcake decorating contest. You’ll have something ready for dessert AND you’ll entertain the family for an hour.

We’ve saved a few of our favorite rainy day activities to our Pinterest board. What are your favorite activities to do when you’re stuck inside?

What to Wear at the Cabin

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the upper Midwest has been taught from an early age one of the most important life skills… how to layer.

When I say layer I don’t mean how to make Grandma’s amazing three-layer cake or your cousin’s seven-layer dip. Here in cabin country, the only type of layering that’s important is the layering of apparel. Most of our layering happens in the winter where it can be a question of life and death. But, with cool evening temps, a bit of layering skill can come in handy even during the summer months. After scouring the internet, we came up with a few pieces we’d love to add to our own layered wardrobe.

The base layer should be a good tank. It can be worn over a swimsuit during the day when the sun is beating down on the lake or under another shirt when it starts to cool off.

The perfect cabin wardrobe should mainly consist of t-shirts, at least in our humble opinion. The funnier, the more appropriate the message, the better.

Flannel. Because whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall, flannel is always in style “up north.” Especially these from L.L. Bean.

Whatever you wear by the bonfire will soak up the smell, even after a wash or two. May as well make it official.

For those evenings by the fire or cool mornings sipping coffee on the deck – why not a quilt? It’s even better if it’s upcycled from all of those flannel shirts you wore out over the years!

To top it all off, you need a hat. In the summer we like a baseball cap. Keeps the sun out of our eyes while we’re out on the boat and keeps any fly away hair sufficiently under wraps. Mostly.

There you have it, the perfect layered cabin wardrobe. What are we missing? What would you add to the list?

From Early Birds to Night Owls

Are you up with the sun or do you just start to hit your groove when the stars come out? Either way, we've got you covered at Up North Cabin Rentals.

The Early Birds

For those of you early risers, we've got the perfect spot on the deck to sip your first cup of java.

Watch the sun's first rays streak over the sky as you listen to the birds wake up. If you're in a fishing kind of mind you can get out before dawn and take advantage of the peace and calm on the lake. Or take the kayak for a spin before anyone else even wakes up.

Dangle your feet off the dock and nibble on a pastry from Pure-n-Simple in Amery.

 

The Night Owls

If you don't get going until the sun goes down, there's plenty to do in Balsam Lake. Sit on the deck at the Thirsty Otter and enjoy a Spotted Cow brew with a giant burger.

You can take the paddleboat out for an early evening spin around the lake. Sip a glass of Dancing Dragonfly Winery's Tap Dance while you relax on the dock.

Maybe even head to Sherrard's on Big Blake Lake for a beer, live music and some great conversation. 

Then gather your s'mores fixings for marshmallows roasted over an open flame at our bonfire pit.

Whatever your pleasure, Up North Cabin Rentals are truly a little slice of Up North paradise!

Getting Around On Big Blake Lake

It seems like as we enter each new season it becomes our favorite time of year at the cabin. We love the leaves changing in the fall, the way the snow transforms the landscape in winter, and the new life of spring. But there’s something special about summer. It’s when we get the chance to get out on the water and really enjoy the lake. The dock is in, the ice is out, the water’s (ahem, relatively) warm.

With prime fishing and a straightaway that’s perfect for towing a tube or skier, Big Blake Lake is home to many different types of watercraft.

We see all kinds of smaller boats. From canoes to kayaks, they glide through the water, taking time to enjoy the scenery and get a glimpse of local wildlife. They go slow enough to be able to watch the loons bob up and down in the water, or the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks. We’ve spent many enjoyable afternoons in the kayaks or pedaling around the lake in the paddleboat. Sometimes going slow allows us to experience the most of what the lake has to offer.

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The fish bite best around dawn and dusk and that’s when we see the aluminum fishing boats and bass boats floating around on the water. Anchors dropped, lines cast, the fishermen sit as still as statues, until a tug on the line spurs them into action. From rowboats to high-end deck boats, if it floats, they’ll be fishing from it.

Pontoon boats take the party out on the water. Sometimes they putter around the edges of the lake, giving everyone a chance to wave at their neighbors. Other times they’re a floating swim platform streaming music across the open water of the lake into all hours of the night. Fast enough to get the wind blowing through your hair, they’re still slow enough to take a scenic turn or two around the lake.

The ski boats flash by, towing tubes full of bouncing kids or a talented slalom skier or two. They leave a wake that sends waves splashing against the dock or rolling onto the sandy shore.

Seeing the seaplane floating on the lake is a treat. When the engine cranks over we head for the deck so we can watch it take off. Then we keep our ears tuned for the sound of the motor waiting for it to circle the lake before it lines up, coming in for a graceful landing.

So many ways to get out on the water and enjoy the lake. We can’t say which one is our favorite because we love them all! How about you?

 

Learning Life's Lessons

The kids have been asking for a pet for a while. A cat? We go to the lake too much. A fish? They don’t last. A bird? Too messy. A dog? Oh gosh, even Joe has jumped on the dog bandwagon.

Fortunately I’ve managed to avoid the commitment to a pet… so far. But a couple of weeks ago we did take in a new Pannkuk for a brief stay… the smallest, cutest turtle we’ve ever seen. We called him Teeny. The girls came up with that one on their own. It happened kind of like this…

We were up at the cabin, taking care of some long overdue tasks like planting the flower beds and weeding the garden. We always warn the girls to be careful and watch their step around the plants. So when Autumn screamed at me to freeze, I froze. I figured I was about to crush a hosta or smush a trilium.

She ran over and picked up a turtle from right under my foot. Of course she asked if we could keep it. Then her sister wanted to find one too. My afternoon of being productive and checking things off my list turned into making sure Teeny had sufficient accommodations and looking for his twin so Afton could have the “Tiny” to go with Autumn’s “Teeny.”

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on your perspective, no Tiny emerged so the girls had to take turns with the newest member of the family, Teeny the Turtle. He made it back to Lakeville with us where he took up residence in a rubber bin.

The girls loved watching him scoot around. He entertained them for hours. But, as we know, turtles aren’t necessarily meant to live in rubber bins on kitchen counters. So when we were up at the lake again last weekend we brought Teeny along. Joe and I gently nudged the girls to the realization that Teeny would be happiest living in the lake. It was fun having him visit for a while but he needed to get back to nature, back where he belonged.

And then my girls did something that surprised me. In a moment of great maturity, Autumn took Afton aside. They sat on the grass with Teeny the turtle in between them and Autumn told her sister they should be okay with releasing him so that he can go back to be with his real family. Afton nodded her little head, eyes full of tears and responded, “I guess he will not be part of our family anymore.”

It almost broke my heart to see them share such a sweet, tender moment. Sometimes life teaches us lessons in the most unexpected ways. Like how to let go for the greater good. Even if it’s hard. Even if it hurts. Even if it’s only a turtle.

So we’ve gone from no pet to a temporary pet to no pet again and I’m counting my blessings. I’ve still managed to sidestep the pleas for a dog. Wonder how long that will last…

Lovin' the Summer Cabin!

It's almost here! Summer is breathing down our necks. The promise of lazy, sunshine-filled days lies just ahead. In a few short weeks the lake will be buzzing with the sound of pontoons and ski boats. Fish will be biting, birds will be singing, and we'll be in the middle of it all because we absolutely LOVE spending as much time as we can at the cabins during the summer.

Just for fun, we came up with a list of some of our favorite summer things:

Sitting

On the deck. On the dock. On the boat. Basically, sitting anywhere because that means we're in "relax" mode.

Up North

Being "Up North," the air smells fresher, the trees seem taller, the sky seems bluer.

Making Memories...

with our friends and family. This time we get to spend with our loved ones is precious. Carving out a weekend or a week at the lake is sacred to us.

Milky Way

Some of our guests have told us they never realized the sky held so many stars until they caught a glimpse of the night sky at the cabins!

Eagles

We have four pairs of eagles that nest on Big Blake Lake. We never get tired of watching them catch their breakfast right from the dock.

R&R

Spending time at the cabin to rest and relax recharges and restores us.

Cooking Out

Grill on the deck or patio and eat out in nature's dining room. The view is better than the one from your kitchen at home... we promise!

All the Activities

Boat, kayak, swim, fish, hike, bike... the list goes on and on. The kids can't be bored, we're not buying it, not at the lake with so many things to do.

Bonfires!

Our treat after a fun-filled day on the water.

Ice Cream

We drive into town to BLICS for a Blixer or Banana Split. Or make our own with one of those handy dandy ice cream ball contraptions. Keeps the kids busy AND we all get a treat.

Nature

Breathe in and out. Let the scent of fresh pine calm the nerves that have been frazzled by the day job. Walk barefoot through the grass. Go jump in the lake. You deserve it!

 

 

Some More S’Mores, Please!

You know that moment? The one where you’ve just grabbed a cold one out of the cooler and leaned back into an Adirondack chair next to the crackling bonfire? You’re about to pop the top on your beverage and engage in some grown-up conversation when the kids come shrieking out of the cabin with graham crackers, chocolate bars and a huge bag of marshmallows.

So what do you do? Join in the fun, of course! That’s one of our favorite things about going to the cabin…getting everyone to gather around the fire and fire up some s’mores. The grown-up conversations will wait. But biting into that heavenly combination of ooey-gooey chocolatey perfection and making a memory with the kiddos won’t!

Although history can’t seem to agree, rumor has it the Girl Scouts probably invented the tasty campfire treats back in the 1920s. Since then, variations have popped up all over. Here are some of our favorite suggestions for upping your s’mores offerings at the campfire:

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Substitute the Chocolate with:

  • Rolos
  • Nutella
  • Cookies ‘n Cream bar
  • Peanut Butter
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Peppermint Patties
  • Andes Mints
  • Ghiradelli Squares

Substitute the Marshmallow with:

  • Peeps
  • Flavored Marshmallows
  • Marshmallow Fluff

Substitute the Graham Crackers with:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Oreos
  • Chocolate Graham Crackers
  • Cinnamon Graham Crackers
  • Ritz Crackers

Mix In Options:

  • Sliced Strawberries
  • Sliced Bananas
  • Sliced Kiwi
  • Sliced Apples
  • Sliced Cherries
  • Pineapple Tidbits
  • Orange Slices
  • Raspberry, Grape or Strawberry Jelly
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Chocolate or Vanilla Frosting
  • Ice Cream
  • Coconut
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Mini M&Ms
  • Red Hots
  • Bacon

Oh, and if you get rained out at the lake or get a craving for some more s’mores over the winter months, did you know you can stack them up and pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to get your fill any time of year? Or heat them up in a cast iron skillet? ;) We kind of wish we hadn’t figured that out!

Let us know if you make any mixed-up s’mores and what your favorites are!

The "Up North" Feel

We’re always on the lookout for cabin décor. Our favorite thing to do is buy from local vendors and artists. When we were designing Cabin on Blake and Cabin on Blake Too, we worked with a local artisan to create some one-of-a-kind pieces: the bar stools and log headboards in both cabins, a vanity, the gorgeous railing in Cabin on Blake and more!

We also love to repurpose well-loved items or sentimental pieces into something new. The mason jar light fixture got its start as a tree that had to be cut down when we moved Cabin on Blake Too onto the lot. It just about killed us to have to tear down those beautiful trees so Joe saved one for me and made that stunning light fixture out of it. If you’re short on your own raw materials, with garage sale season just weeks away, there will be plenty of opportunity to find someone else’s junk to repurpose into your own treasure.

There’s no shortage of gift shops in the darling little towns spread all over northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. One of our favorite places to stop on the way to the cabin is Pure-n-Simple in Amery. They’ve got old-fashioned candy, fantastic food, and some super cute signs and other rustic items that fit in perfect with our “up north” décor.

If you can’t find something in person, Etsy is a great place to look for one-of-a-kind items and many of them can be personalized. We love looking through the Wisconsin shops like Reclaim Vintage Charm. The headboards and furniture they make out of reclaimed wood makes us want to invest in another cabin so we can buy more furnishings.

Decorating the cabin is one of our favorite past-times and we’ll probably never stop looking for fun, unique items to add that extra bit of atmosphere to our lakeside getaway!

Want Cheese Curds with That?

Many of our guests have asked for recommendations on where to eat while they're visiting Cabin On Blake or Cabin On Blake Too in the Balsam Lake area. Our first choice is to B.Y.O.F. (Bring Your Own Food!) Our time at the lake is so precious to us that by the time we've cleared our calendars enough to get a few days away, we don't want to have to leave! We'll grill, use the slow cooker or toss a pre-prepped meal in the oven... we don't want to spend extra time in the kitchen when we could be out on the water or relaxing with the gorgeous views.

But... from time to time we do like to get out for a bit. Here, in no particular order, are a few of our favorite places to dine out while we're spending time at the cabins...

The Thirsty Otter

How can you go wrong with a place called The Thirsty Otter? They've got a full menu serving daily specials that will fill you up and not let you down. With a calendar full of fun events and live entertainment, there's always something going on at The Otter. Situated on the shores of Balsam Lake, you can dine on the deck or claim a table inside. Make sure you stop in for breakfast... the Bloody Marys are like a meal all by themselves! 

The Drive-In in Taylors Falls

Ask our girls where they want to eat out and odds are they'll always ask to go to The Drive-In in Taylors Falls. It's only about twenty minutes away and the homemade root beer is more than worth the drive! You'll feel like you've time traveled back to the 1950s with car hops, poodle skirts and an ample menu of fountain drinks. You can even work off your lunch with a round of mini golf, right there on site. They're only open seasonally so make sure you check their website or Facebook page before you head over.

Indianhead Supper Club

If you're traveling without kids or have the chance to leave the children behind for the evening, treat yourselves to a night out at the Indianhead Supper Club. With much of the original decor still in place, the club is rich in history and the entrees are always delicious. They're only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and last time we checked they offered some awesome specials on Thursday nights like All-You-Can-Eat Ribs or a Walleye Dinner. The club sits on the edge of Balsam Lake, a short drive from the cabins.

Now that we've made some recommendations, hopefully you'll get a chance to try one of our favorite places to eat out. We still have lots of exploring to do around the area and are always up for trying someplace new, so let us know if you come across another great place to add to our list!

 

Our Favorite Things About the Cabins

There's so much to love about having a private getaway! But we've managed to narrow it down and wanted to share a few of our very favorite things about being at the cabins on Big Blake Lake.

  • Unplugging – Yes, we have wifi. Yes, we have electricity. Yes, we have a smartTV. But something about walking in the door of the cabin lowers our blood pressure, makes us slow down and gives us permission to take a break from the business of life.
  • Family Time – It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine… work, kid activities, networking, errands, etc. A few days at the cabin let us focus on the things that are truly important to us – family and spending unstructured time together. The kids enjoy the snuggles, and mom and dad sometimes even get to sleep in and enjoy waking up to a view of the gorgeous lake.

  • Scenery – Each season we visit the cabin becomes our favorite. Winter is peaceful and quiet and a fresh blanket of snow makes everything sparkle. In Spring the birds come back, keeping us company with their chirps and chatter. The ice melts and we’re able to witness the rebirth of flowers and foliage. Summer is time for swimming, grilling, boating, entertaining friends and family and spending as much time as we can on the water or on the deck. Then when Fall descends, we can’t wait to see Mother Nature paint the landscape in gorgeous reds, oranges and browns. We’d never be able to pick a favorite time to visit the cabin. It’s always our favorite time!

  • Making Memories – Our girls love the cabin for the outdoor fun, getting to visit with family and friends and having mom and dad to themselves for days at a time. But we’re also filling their hearts and minds with special memories of this time together. Someday, far from now, we hope they’ll bring their own families back. Back to this tiny little slice of heaven on Big Blake Lake where we’ve spent so much time together.

For the Birds

Early spring is relatively quiet season on the lake. It's too cold for swimming. The snow has already melted so it's too warm for snowmobiling or ice fishing. But if you look to the sky, it's the absolute best time of the year to catch a wide variety of feathered friends passing through or taking up temporary residence.

Yes, I'm talking about birds.

Big Blake Lake is home to a wide variety of birds year-round. But Spring is a special time when the seasonal residents migrate back to their spring and summer homes. If you keep your eyes trained on the sky or the treetops you might be lucky enough to see some of the following:

Bald Eagles mate for life, usually returning to their nest each year to breed. Their nests are usually huge and formed near the trunk of a tree. We're lucky enough to have four eagles' nests on Big Blake Lake which is pretty rare. It also means we get to see them constantly. Still, it's always a thrill to spot one of these majestic birds.

Yellow-rumped Warblers put on a show each Spring when their feathers turn a dazzling shade of yellow. With one of the most versatile diets, they can survive on berries, bugs and seeds. You might see them snatch an insect out of the air. They're small and fast so it may take a while to find one, but they're worth the wait!

 

Catching a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker in action is a real treat. They're big birds, about the size of a crow, and tend to hang out on dead trees and limbs. The unmistakable rat-a-tat-tat they make while going to work on a tree is one of our favorite sounds and we always enjoy the splash of color their bright red crowns provide since Mother Nature hasn't yet let loose her palette.

Have you ever seen a Great Blue Heron coming in for a landing on the lake? With a wingspan of five to six feet, they're hard to miss. Usually we see them strutting around the shore on their spindly long legs. If you catch them in flight, check out the way their necks curve into an "S" and how their legs trail out behind them.

Osprey are fairly common around Big Blake. But we still enjoy watching them swoop down to catch a fish and take off with it dangling from its sharp talons. They travel huge distances, wintering in warmer climates like the very southern U.S., Central or South America. Their wingspan can stretch to over five feet.

Every year since we've been at the lake we've spotted a pair of nesting loons. Seeing them swim along with their babies is one of our favorite sights of Spring.

What's your favorite feathered sign of Spring? For more info about bird watching in Polk County or around Big Blake Lake, visit The Wisconsin Society of Ornithology or The Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail.

Get Out The Games!

One of our favorite things to do at the cabin is pull out the board games. We can spend all afternoon and into the evening sitting around the table, trying to outplay each other. Depending on whether we’ve got kids, couples or families playing, we’ve got a list of favorites.

For the kids:

Sometimes it’s fun to play against each other and sometimes the kiddos do better if we’re playing as a team against the game. One of our favorite cooperative games for the little ones is Hoot Owl Hoot. It’s for two to four players ages four-and-up. The goal is to work as a team to get everyone’s owls back to the nest before the sun rises. The graphics are cute and the kids love “hooting” for the owls. Peaceable Kingdom has other cooperative games, too. We also love Race To the Treasure.

Spot-It is another family favorite and even the little ones can play. It comes in a round tin and is super easy to take on the go. There are several variations so you can change it up if the kids start to get bored. The goal is to match symbols on the cards. Usually the kids do better than the grown-ups on this one.

For the family:

If you’ve got a good sized group of six-to-eight people, it’s fun to test everyone’s artistic skills with Telestrations. It’s like playing “telephone” but with pictures. Each person has a card and has to draw a picture of what’s on their card. The next person has to write a guess and pass it on. The next person has to draw what the guess was. By the time the original tablet gets back to the person who started it, the group may have consistently guessed correctly or they may have veered completely off course.

Tapple is fast-paced fun. Someone draws a card with a category and then everyone takes turns trying to name something that starts with a different letter of the alphabet before the time runs out. The catch is, you can only use each letter once. We’ve been known to get rather creative with this one!

King Of Tokyo is a go-to family favorite. It took a few rounds for the kids to master it and they still fight over who gets to be the Meka Dragon, but we always have a good time.

I could go on and on. Can you tell we’re a big gaming family? Some of our other family favorites are Sushi Go, Headbandz, Wits & Wagers, Scrambled States, Blokus… and too many more to name!

For the more serious gamers:

We bought the game Ticket To Ride a few years ago and have really enjoyed it. The goal is to build your trains between your destination tickets before you run out or someone has the gall to block you. Bonus, the kids learn a bit about geography since they have to figure out where their destination tickets are.

Codenames is a new favorite we received as a gift. A clue giver tries to prompt his or her teammate(s) to guess their words on the board without choosing the code word. We became addicted to this one last summer and played over and over until the kids finally made the adults wrap it up and get dinner going!

Some of our other more challenging games are Seven Wonders, Settlers of Catan, & Pandemic.

We have plenty of games at the cabins if you forget to bring your own. Other ideas…

  • Pack a deck of cards and teach the kids how to play good old-fashioned solitaire with real cards.
  • Jot down a bunch of ideas on slips of paper and start an impromptu game of Charades.
  • Start up a round of Would You Rather.
  • Engage the kiddos in a few turns of 20 Questions.
  • Pick a puzzle and try to finish it up before vacation ends.

What are some of your family’s favorite games? Have you played any of the ones on our list?

We've got Spring Fever

Can you feel it? Spring is in the air! True, we had a blizzard warning last week, but signs are everywhere that old man winter is stepping aside. Hostas are sending their first shoots up out of the still frozen ground. I saw a baby cardinal on a bird feeder outside my window. The kids at the bus stop are wearing shorts. (That probably shouldn’t be a reliable indication of the season seeing as how some of them will wear shorts all year long.) But still… the promise of warmer weather is coming!

And with the change of season comes plenty of recreational opportunities at the cabin. We still have some availability and would love to host your spring getaway. Here’s what’s happening around the area:

Chateau St. Croix Winery is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Wine Tasting the weekend of March 17th & 18th.

Glenna Farms will be offering farm tours and free pancakes with plenty of maple syrup during Maple Fest the first weekend in April.

Got a craving for some smelt? Take your pick from three different smelt fry dinners at the Rod & Gun Club in Balsam Lake or the EMT Smelt Fry (both April 8th) or the American Legion Smelt Fry in Turtle Lake on April 9th.

Cushing is hosting their annual Spring Bash on April 22nd with a lasagna dinner and live auction.

Once May arrives the event calendar will be bursting with fun things to do.

St. Croix Valley’s Fall Sampler is set for May 5th. Local restaurants, breweries, bakeries and more will be offering sips and samples of food and beverages.

Fawn-Doe-Rosa opens for the spring/summer season on May 6th.

Train rides in and out of Osceola start the weekend of Mother’s Day, Saturday, May 13th. My kids still talk about riding the train back and forth, a highlight for a fun family excursion!

In addition to the fun things to do listed above, there are many local art festivals, concerts, garden sales and get-togethers going on in the area. Spring is a great time to visit the lake. The snow is melting, the flowers are budding and the fish are still biting! Let us know if we can help you enjoy a little slice of spring cabin paradise before high season sets in!

A Cabin Craving

One benefit to owning a VRBO type vacation home is that we get to take advantage of it ourselves from time to time. A couple of weeks ago we spent a long weekend as a family. I wish we could get there more often but work, kid activities, family obligations and all of the various other commitments prevent us from visiting as much as we’d like. This past weekend I was missing the cabin and figured the kind of comfort food I love to indulge in while we’re there would provide a quick fix.


So I pulled out the crockpot and whipped up some homemade ham and bean soup. It’s so easy to throw together and smells so good while it simmers all day. I don’t really use a recipe, it changes each time depending on what I’ve got on hand, but here’s a rough draft in case you want to give it a try…


I start with a leftover ham bone, preferably one with some meat still attached. Toss it in your crockpot and add as much water as you can fit. If you’re feeling extremely ambitious, go ahead and toss in some chopped up celery or onion. Or do like I did and just throw the top on. Set it to low and let it cook overnight. Your whole house will smell good while you’re sleeping, and you’ll probably dream of pork chops or bacon.


In the morning, strain the broth then add it back to the crockpot. Add a chopped onion or two, a few cups of pre-soaked beans and a handful of chopped carrots. Get creative with what you have on hand. Corn, celery, diced tomatoes… anything goes. Sometimes I sautee my onion, carrots and garlic in a little olive oil before I add it. When I’m in a hurry, I don’t.


Assuming you had a ham bone, you probably have some leftover ham. I cube a few cups and toss those in and add a twist or two of fresh ground salt and pepper. Maybe even a bay leaf or two. You can go nuts on the spices or keep it simple. Again, no rules, no pressure.


Now sit back, read a book on the couch, snuggle under the covers and watch a movie, or get out and about and do something fun with the family for the day. The beauty of slow cooking is that when you’re ready to eat, your homemade ham bone soup will be ready for you.


One last piece of advice… make sure you make a lot. This is one that freezes well and if you serve it with some warm cornbread even the kids may come back for seconds.


So there you have it… comfort food to get us through the last few weeks of winter. What’s your go-to slow cooker meal? I’d love to hear from you so I can add to my recipe book!
 

Our Most Popular Team Member... Blakey the Moose

We wanted to introduce you to the most popular member of the Up North Cabin Rentals team… Blakey the Moose!

He’s in charge of hospitality, making sure our guests feel welcome, keeping everyone warm during a cold winter stay, or giving the kids someone to snuggle while they watch a movie on one of our big TVs. He knows his way around the lake and loves to go for walks in the woods around the cabins. If you let him have a little bit of popcorn or a sip of hot cocoa he’ll be your friend forever and might even bring you breakfast in bed.

 His favorite thing to do up at the cabin is to sit on the deck and listen to the wind blow through the trees or relax on the dock and see what the catch of the day might be. He's also been known to hunker down with a good book and keep an eye on the lake from the huge window in Cabin on Blake Too.

Or take a ride on a visiting pooch. But often times that doesn't go as planned and he can end up covered in slobber. If you happen to catch a picture of him, tag us at #UpNorthCabinRentals or #BlakeyTheMoose.

Blakey hasn't always been a fixture on Big Blake Lake. In fact, there aren't very many moose in the entire state of Wisconsin. Experts estimate the population of all moose in the state to be less than 50. But every once in a while we'll find out about a moose who's probably wandered over from Michigan or Minnesota. Or maybe even all the way from Canada. We hear those northern moose like our Wisconsin summers.

As for Blakey, he's staying put, right here on Big Blake Lake. And he's hoping you'll come visit real soon!

Babymoons... one last getaway to the lake

If you haven't had a baby, been pregnant, or known someone who has in the past several years, you might not have heard of a babymoon. It's a time for expectant couples to get away, relax, and spend quality time together before their beautiful, crying, needy bundle of joy arrives. A babymoon can be as elaborate or simple as a honeymoon. Some couples go all out, fly to international locations, sunbathe on a tropical beach, or get that last stamp on their passport for the foreseeable future. Others might take time off work, silence the cell phone, pull the shades and hunker down for one last staycation at home.

But flying while pregnant can be tricky. And who wants to risk Zika virus or subject themselves to potential lost luggage, travel delays or sand in their maternity swimsuit? Some cruise lines won't even let expectant mamas on the ship, depending on how far along they are in their pregnancy. Staying home can be relaxing, but the piles of onesies still need to be washed, the crib still hasn't been assembled and a soothing bath would be nice, if only that belly wasn't in the way when mom-to-be tries to bend over and scrub out the bottom of the tub.

Here at Up North Cabin Rentals, we have the perfect space for a babymoon in either one of our cabins. Expectant couples can get away from home without having to go far from home. We've had several couples take advantage of our cabins for their last relaxing hurrah and the positive feedback we've received made us want to spread the word!

If you book a winter weekend you can sit inside and sip cocoa while you watch the snow fall, snuggle under the covers with your sweetie, and even get a little snowshoeing in on the lake. The summer months provide sunsets on the deck, gentle tours of the lake via paddleboat or a pontoon, and fishing from the end of the dock if that's your thing. Spring and fall are some of the most peaceful times on the lake. The trees are either blazing with color or budding with new growth. The wildlife is either busy preparing for winter or waking up to a new season in spring. If peace, quiet, and rest are on at the top of your babymoon must haves, you can't do better than a lakeside cabin stay.

We've had babies. We know about the joy, love and miraculous blessing that adding a new life to your family can bring. But we also know about the sleepless nights, ear-piercing screeches and blowout diapers. So if your family is about to expand, keep us in mind for one last week or weekend of relaxation. And if you're looking for something special to give that expectant couple in your life--something they'll appreciate and look back on fondly in the days, months and years to come--consider a gift certificate to one of our cabins for a babymoon stay.

Mom and Dad will thank you. And remember you when they're washing that sinkful of bottles, rocking that colicky babe or folding their fifth load of onesies.

Sweet as Syrup!

You know those gorgeous maple trees that turn yellow, orange and red in the fall? They're beautiful in spring and summer too. But they're best in the late winter because that's when they start storing up all of their sugary goodness for syrup season!

If you’re staying at Cabin on Blake or Cabin on Blake “Too” this spring you’ve got to check out the local maple syrup scene. Our area features several maple syrup operations and you can even get in on the action and learn how to tap a tree of your own. There’s nothing like the taste of pure maple syrup. Once you’ve topped your french toast with the real thing or poured some on your pancakes, you won’t settle for the fake stuff any more!

Here in Wisconsin, maple syrup is collected in the spring when it’s still below freezing at night but the temperature consistently rises above freezing during the day. Once the conditions are right, the trees need to be tapped right away. The whole season can last just a few weeks. It used to be you could see buckets hanging from the tapped trees but most big producers have gone high tech and use tubing to get the sap into the cooking pots as quickly as possible.

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It can take up to 30 or 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of pure maple syrup. So much work but such a sweet reward!


Maple syrup can be used in cooking and as a natural sweetener. We’ve heard of people using it not only on waffles, but also on ice cream, grilling meats, mixing cocktails and baking. Just search the internet and you’ll be amazed at all of the options.


If you’re not convinced to stock up on local syrup yet, be sure to visit Glenna Farms, just up the road in Amery. They’ll host MapleFest during the first weekend in April with free pancakes, a free “sap” to “syrup” farm tour and free prize drawings. More info on their website.


For other maple syrup producers in the area, try one of the Wisconsin syrup producers below:


Roth’s Maple Syrup - Cumberland, WI
Morley’s Maple Syrup - Luck, WI
Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup - Cumberland, WI
Maple Rewards - Cumberland, WI
Simpsons Rocky Ridge - Rice Lake, WI


For more information on maple syrup:
Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers
Recipes, info and more

 

What's Coming Up Around Big Blake Lake

There’s so much going on around Big Blake Lake in the next few weeks we wanted to make sure our visitors would be up to date. For anyone who will be visiting the area, check out some of these amazing events!


February 3-5, Balsam Lake Winterfest
From bingo, live music, a hot dog eating contest and a corn hole tournament to watching daredevils race across the ice, there’s something for everyone during the three day Balsam Lake Winterfest. For up to date info check out their Facebook page: Balsam Lake Winterfest


February 9-11, Luck Winter Carnival
If snowman contests, fireworks and a torchlight parade are more your thing, head to Luck, Wisconsin for their Winter Carnival. More info is available on their Facebook page: Luck Winter Carnival


There are quite a few ice fishing contests in the area over the next several months. You can keep tabs on them here or check with the local lakes.


Our favorite local vineyards are gearing up for warmer weather:
Chateau St. Croix celebrates their opening day on February 2nd. They’ve got live music on February 4th & 11th and a special port and chocolate pairing for Valentine’s Day! Chateau St. Croix


Dancing Dragonfly Winery is offering a comedy show and special buffet dinner on February 11th and a night of dancing and tango lessons on February 18th. Dancing Dragonfly Winery


And it’s not too early to be thinking about St. Patrick’s Day. Siren, Wisconsin will be holding their 7th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 11th. More info is here.


If staying in and watching the snow fall is more your speed, we still have winter weekend availability at both Cabin on Blake and Cabin on Blake “Too.” Watch our Facebook page for last minute specials! 

A Winter Weekend at the Cabin...

“Shhhh! Do you hear that?” I asked.

My three children paused their whining, squabbling and pestering for a blissful second.

“What?” one of them asked.

“The quiet. Do you hear the quiet?”

Then the teenager put her headphones back on, the youngest one made a fart joke and the middle one rolled her eyes. That’s how our weekend at Cabin On Blake Too began.

But a funny thing happened over the next forty-eight hours. The headphones got stuffed into a backpack, the eye rolls took a break and the fart jokes, well, the fart jokes didn’t change. He’s eight, come on!

As we snuggled on the couch, drank hot chocolate with marshmallows AND chocolate syrup and broke out some of the games the kids received for Christmas, we joked, laughed, and made some authentic family memories. We thought we’d get out and explore the parks and recreation opportunities around the area or at least check out some of the cute shops or restaurants or wineries.

But the kids loved walking out on the frozen lake and peering into the holes in the ice we’d watched a guy drill that morning. They enjoyed finding tracks in the snow and trying to figure out which animal had visited the night before. They invented silly games and pulled out the army men and spent hours keeping each other amused, giving hubby and me some much needed peace and relative quiet. So we stayed in and spent the weekend snug and warm in our jammies. Because, hey, we could!

Sadly, it seemed like just when we started to relax and really enjoy ourselves it was time to pack up and head home. So our family learned two major things from our time spent on Big Blake Lake this past weekend.

Number one… we need to take time out of our busy schedules, sports practices, gymnastics classes, meetings, ski club, work, etc. to reconnect. We’re worth it, our family is worth it, and we need to just carve out the time and make it happen.

Number two… next time we’ll book at least one more day!

Thanks Caarin and Joe for sharing your little slice of paradise with those of us who don’t yet have our own!