The Christmas Cabin

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December seems to get busier every year!  And what a time for my computer to need repair work, like it did yesterday.  (Noooo!  I have photos to edit, blog posts to write!)  Happily, it didn't turn out to be the CPU fan or video card, like we initially thought.  The computer just needed a really good cleaning out.  My husband said it looked like an archaeological dig in there.  Happily, Staples is ovvering their basic computer service for free right now (usually $69), so my computer got fixed for free!  Yay!   And the same day, too.  Whew.  Back in service.

So here's the post that was supposed to go up yesterday, the Christmas Cabin.

A Christmas trip up to a mountain cabin was the inspiration for this spread created for Festivities Magazine's Winter 2012 issue.  While trips up to the cabin are a wintery, wonderful family adventure, most rental cabins don't decorate for Christmas, and might leave the family feeling like there's something missing from the experience.  The idea behind The Christmas Cabin was to create a celebration that would require minimal packing of extra materials, keep the kids busy and happy, and look beautiful and festive.

A Christmas tree goes a long way toward making a place feel like home at the holidays.  There's no need to pack up an artificial tree, though.  What better excuse to get a fresh Christmas tree than being in the winter woods for a week?  Christmas tree lots are common, even in small mountain towns, but if you can, find a Christmas tree farm and cut your own.  Sometimes state and national forests will allow a certain number of people to cut Christmas trees from the wild, too.  If you can score one of those permits, just imagine the memories that will be created!

But how to decorate the fresh fir?  A few strands of Christmas lights and some ball ornaments are simple to bring up with you on the trip.  But making decorations for the tree can be a wonderful, fun activity for the kids.  Have them go on a nature walk and find pinecones, then paint and glitter them as ornaments for the tree.  Pop popcorn and string chains of popcorn garland to deck the branches.  All you need is a needle, thread, and, of course, the popcorn.  

If you bring just a few more craft supplies, you can make more elaborate ornaments, too.  I created this cardinal ornament to match the beautiful printables by Frog Prince Paperie.  It doesn't take much to make a tree look absolutely magical.

Even if most of the presents are opened at home so they won't take precious car space, it's nice to have a few gifts under the tree.

I used the cardinal printables on the gifts, too.  So charming, and perfect for a rustic cabin getaway!

A little sprig of fresh greenery, a little twine, and a tag make plain paper absolutely beautiful.

Don't forget to bring stockings to hang!  

Fresh garland is surprisingly easy to make.  Have the kids gather branches and trimmings of evergreens on their nature walk, and create a gorgeous, fragrant garland to deck the mantle.  All without having to pack more than some string and some wire.

A hot chocolate bar is a fun treat on Christmas morning.  The key to packing lightly here is to use what you have on hand at the cabin.  Here, I created the cocoa station on a bookshelf that was already at the cabin.  I used a quilt from one of the beds as a festive tablecloth.  I used the mugs already at the cabin.  

The sign for the hot chocolate bar may look like a chalkboard, but I didn't want to buy and pack a chalkboard for a trip to the mountains.  Instead, I bought a piece of black posterboard and packed that and a piece of white chalk.  No matter how packed your car is, there's room to squeeze that in!  Plus, it only cost me $0.50.  That's my kind of craft!

Chocolate dipped spoons were fun and easy for my older daughter to make, and made a fun addition to our cocoa bar.

Be sure to check out my favorite recipe for hot cocoa mix, and my tutorial on how to make incredibly easy and adorable Christmas-shaped marshmallows to make the experience even more fun!

Cooking and baking at altitude can be tricky, so very simple things, or make-ahead treats were important. 

Sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and cinnamon rolls were easy to make at home and pack up with us on our trip to the cabin.

Pecan sticky buns are insanely easy to make, delicious, and get prepped the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is pop them in the oven.  It's been a Christmas favorite for decades at our house.

For a special treat, I baked up brown sugar bacon.  I love salty/sweet combinations, but not usually with bacon.  I don't even let the bacon touch my maple syrup.  But my friend Jill made this for me once, and holy cow, is it amazing.  I could eat an entire pound of it by myself.  Because it's baked in the oven, it's pretty mindless and easy to do on Christmas morning.

Extra greens leftover from making the garland were tucked under the plates of food, making a gorgeous, couldn't-be-easier tablescape.

This sour cream coffee cake from Joy of Baking is a must on Christmas morning for my husband's family.  I baked it at home and brought it with me, just to avoid any quirky baking-at-altitude issues.  But if you're heading up to the cabin a little too early to do that, a coffee cake is a great treat to make in a cabin kitchen.  Often, even "fully equipped" rental cabins have woefully inadequate kitchen tools.  But most coffee cakes are easily made with a bowl and a spoon, no mixers or fancy equipment necessary.  

Take a look at this gorgeous bow created by Pickles and Piggies!    Their work is so much more detailed than anything I've ever seen before, and the really cool thing is that the center element of the bow is its own detachable mini hair clip!  It's like getting two bows in one!

So if you're headed to a mountain retreat this Christmas, I hope you find some inspiration here for packing along some holiday spirit.  With just a little bit of planning ahead, you can turn an already amazing and fun-filled trip into memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.