Cabin life seems like a lot of fun (and it is!), but the logistics of running two households takes effort. Our babysitter and I were discussing this point a while back when she politely mentioned how much she disliked all the packing and shuffling she did when she owned a second property on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Ultimately, that's the reason she sold it -- it proved to be too much of a hassle for her. She was baffled how Andi and I manage to do it every single weekend with two little kids to boot. I suppose owning two homes can mean double the work, but with planning and organization it can also be a regular retreat to paradise.
This summer will be Andi and I's fifth year of renting / owning a lake cabin and by now, we have most of the weekly preparations down to a science. That isn't to say Fridays aren't stressful as I simultaneously entertain the kids and pack supplies for the weekend. Andi mentioned recently how much he appreciates when I've got the car packed and the kids strapped into their respective car seats as he pulls into the drive-way on Friday afternoons. No problem! I'll just wave my magic mommy wand and make that happen! All joking aside, I get what he's saying -- it works best if we can get ahead of Friday afternoon rush-hour departing the Twin Cities, so that's our goal each week.
Car packed; kids loaded. Chloe photo-bomb - can you spot her?
For my part, I take care of all family, household and entertainment preparations at the lake cabin. I usually meal plan and grocery shop on Thursdays, taking weekend plans into consideration like if we'll be hosting guests or if we'll be attending a cabin neighbor's BBQ. Planning ahead means I can relax and enjoy our time at the lake on the weekends instead of wasting half a day running errands in town. One of the trickiest parts I've found is planning meals for Friday and Sunday evenings as we're usually pulling into the cabin or back into our drive-way at home around dinnertime. We often get take-out on those nights because it's easier, or I'll marinate chicken breasts ahead of time so we can throw it on the grill as soon as we arrive. So, there's basically two breakfasts, two lunches and one dinner to plan for on the weekends. Some cabin guests volunteer to prepare a meal or two during a weekend, and other times I'll take care of all the food preparations myself.
We bring groceries with us to the cabin on Friday, and depart with a close-to-empty refrigerator on Sunday afternoons. Leftover food and perishable items like fruits and vegetables won't keep throughout the week, so I bring those things home with us and work leftovers into weekday meals. There are exceptions to this rule of course, like condiments, spices and shelf-stable pantry items. I have the hardest time remembering the roster of canned goods and spices in the cabin's cupboards, so it's not uncommon to end up with seven cans of black beans or three containers of chili powder there. Throw in other ingredients guests bring up for their meals and we've usually got quite the smorgasbord of ingredients! I've tried various methods to keep track of things, like taking pictures of the interior of the refrigerator before I leave for the week or making "cupboard lists" on my iPhone but no method seems to be fool-proof. It's the nature of having a vacation home, I suppose.
Two beloved bags I travel with every weekend -- a Land's End Boat & Tote and a Trader's Joe's cooler bag.
One fantastic aspect of owning a cabin vs. "going on vacation" are the many comforts of home we have available there. We've outfitted the cabin with bibs, sippy cups and a high chair so we never have to bring those things with us on the weekends. The entire cabin is baby-proofed inside and out, which is convenient for us and for our friends with little kids. We have soap in the showers and a set of toothbrushes there. The kitchen is stocked with all my favorite utensils. In many ways, the cabin feels both like home and offers a break from real-life, if that makes sense.
Andi keeps clothes at the cabin, so he never has to pack a suitcase. Though, sometimes his method backfires and clothing items migrate home, leaving him without pajama pants or socks to wear over a weekend. I keep a few things there (sweatshirts, t-shirts, pajama pants), but I also travel back and forth with some items (like a favorite pair of jeans, swim suits or make-up). I pack a suitcase with the kid's clothes every weekend that includes several outfits, pajamas, socks, shoes and swimming suits. I usually bring "play clothes" for them that I don't mind getting dirty or ruined. The cabin is outfitted with a stackable washer and dryer, but I rarely do laundry there. When I'm at the cabin on the weekends, I want to relax and enjoy our family's time together. Andi and I both wash sheets and towels there as needed, but I prefer to save the other laundry for Mondays at home.
Andi owns responsibility for everything related to the physical cabin and the outdoors. He takes care of maintenance on the pontoon boat, Ranger ATV, ice house, snowmobiles and the riding lawn mower. He mows the lawn and rakes weeds on the beach, and chops down trees that fall into the yard during a storm. In the wintertime, Andi's the one climbing on top of the roof to install heat cables to prevent ice dams -- not me, that's for sure! He calls in orders for propane refills and septic pumps. And, Andi's the social butterfly -- he's the one saying hello to neighbors, lending tools as needed and helping friends pull their docks in and out of the lake.
For us, owning a lake cabin doesn't feel like any more work than what we'd already be doing at home. In my mind, the week is always compartmentalized into "weekdays at home" and "weekends at the lake," thus I plan accordingly. Andi and I love the togetherness our family shares at the cabin on the weekends, we cherish our network of friends there and we relish in the ease of planing our weekends -- the answer is always the cabin, our favorite Wisconsin getaway.