Before I officially bid farewell to our full 2014, I've been waiting for just the right time to write about one last Christmas memory that stood out above the rest this year. Without a home to call our own over the holidays, I knew Christmas would feel different this year. But as I'm learning, different isn't bad, but an opportunity to shake things up a bit and discover new experiences that breathe a little life into traditions that can sometimes grow a little stagnant. Because much of our normal was in flux this year, and because we were all feeling a bit more on top of one another with the amount of new stuff that always accumulates around the holidays, a part of me felt like getting out of town. I wanted a retreat, a cozy cabin in the woods somewhere where we could play Christmas music, curl up in flannel blankets around a fire, sip eggnog, and feel the excitement of loading the car with presents and escaping somewhere remote for the holidays. But because many other obligations took priority in our race to the 2014 finish, this escape to a cabin Christmas seemed only in my dreams. I did check on cabins in Colorado a few times, but scoffed at the price and the idea of packing for any extended amount of time. I am so over packing!
Then, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, I was sitting around with Beau and my parents when I saw a friend, who I had discovered through this very blog, had posted a link on her Facebook page to a cozy cabin in Fort Atkinson, Iowa. Stacy, the owner of Knotty Pine Guest House, had just featured her cabin in their area's holiday tour of homes and the pictures looked like something out of a magazine. I showed my parents, called my brother, and it was booked for our family Christmas the next day. I like to think of it as God's little whisper to me that night, go have the cabin Christmas of your dreams. It all just seemed to be exactly what we needed this year.
Ironically enough, I discovered that Stacy and I have been blog friends for some time, too, and that we had mutual friends here in Cedar Falls. I knew we had similar attention to detail and I knew we were going to a place that was very special to not only her, but her entire family. It may not have been Colorado, but it was less than two hours from home, the perfect amount of time to feel as though you were escaping without having to spend an entire day on the road. We made lots of munchies and sweets, brought the fixings for gourmet hot chocolates and Rumchata eggnogs, loaded Mom and Dad's car with presents and stockings and sleeping bags, and hit the road the day after Christmas. With my family all so close in proximity, we get together often, but never have the reason to spend all night under the same roof. Because of this, the anticipation was high, the kids were so excited, and I felt a little like The Family Stone, ready to hunker down and spend a lot of time with one another!
We could see the Christmas tree lights on the wraparound porch from afar as we pulled up to Knotty Pine, and its charm greeted us from the moment we stepped out of the car. Situated on a dead end road with its back up to one of Northeast Iowa's signature bluff areas, it felt remote and so relaxing to be there. But when we stepped inside, our jaws dropped. It was beautiful. The living room included a vaulted ceiling and a floor-to-ceiling limestone fireplace with a basket of firewood ready to be used. Next to the fireplace was a massive tree just waiting for our presents to be placed underneath. A large master loft overlooked the living room, and included a gorgeous king-sized bed and pull-out couch. There were two bedrooms on the main floor, a full kitchen, and another bathroom. And there were Christmas trees in every single room.
Aside from the well-kept and near spotless accommodations, the details are what caught my attention the most. From the cookies, sparkling cider, and sweet note she had left on the table, to the Christmas dishes stacked on the open shelves, to the basket of red flannel blankets and Christmas music on the iPod dock ready to be played, it seemed Stacy had thought of everything. She has an eye for design and all of her colors and careful touches made it feel like the perfect retreat to get lost in for a few days. It became the absolute perfect backdrop for our Christmas this year and we all felt very thankful to be there.
At first, I was a little bummed that we wouldn't have a white Christmas at the cabin, but we were instead blessed with gorgeous above average temperatures on Friday. We even got to spend a little time on the deck, just enough to consider booking a family getaway there this summer. Hot dogs and s'mores around the fire pit sounds just about as nice as opening presents around the fireplace!
Thanks to Stacy and family for opening up this cabin for others to enjoy all it has to offer. It was our perfect "home" for the holidays this year and my family will be talking about it for years to come!
More from our Christmas at Knotty Pine to come, with a few of my favorite pictures to start!