A week ago, it was my birthday. For some reason, I didn’t want any big celebration this year. No party, no crazy trip, no presents of any kind. Instead, I was in need of a retreat, something simple, far from the bustling world.
So together with my better half David, we booked a little cabin by the Mississippi River, brought our own groceries and drove all the way from Chicago to spend the weekend there. The more isolated it would be the better.
We arrived late at night on Friday after a long drive on icy and very slippery winding roads. It was all dark (never mind the photo above, taken the following morning), and it was extremely cold outside, around -4 °F / -20 °C. Luckily, it was warm enough and cozy inside with a fireplace to cuddle up to.
The cabin, very rustic, was exactly as I imagined it, made of lumber and stones. It was built in 1837 (yes, it’s old for the US) and belonged to several families before being used as a simple cabin for guests. To me, it looked like the little house in the prairie!
I’m not so sure about the grandpa thing though, except that there was a large photograph of the owner’s grandfather at the entrance of the cabin, but he never lived there. Anyhow, it looked like any grandpa’s cabin anyway and I kind of liked the idea.
As I said, we brought some food, and the intent was to spend the weekend eating our little treats and cooking simple wholesome meals from scratch. With the remaining time, we would read by the fireplace, practice yoga, and walk outside the cabin to explore the surroundings.
Fun fact, you might have noticed already, there was a Christmas tree in the cabin! First time ever in my life I spend my birthday on February 10th with a Christmas tree!
We woke up the following morning with snow everywhere all around the cabin. It was already there the day before but we couldn’t really see at night. To me, it was the dream come true, as I secretly always hoped there would be snow at the cabin, and I felt blessed.
As for these cinnamon rolls and cardamom rolls you see above, they were not homemade this time. But David had just flown back from Stockholm, Sweden the day before and brought some from my favorite bakery there, Fabrique.
It’s like a little ritual between us: every time he travels back to our beloved Sweden, he brings me some of its lovely treats. Funny enough, I never feel the need to bring back any croissants or chocolate croissants from France. But when it comes to something buttery using cinnamon and cardamom, I simply can’t resist.
So we did take the time to do nothing during the weekend, something that might seem natural to many but really isn’t to me, especially because I’m always connected in some way through the blog, social media and so on.
I didn’t turn my phone off completely (I know, I know) and it turned out we had some wifi in the cabin. However, I tried to stay away from my phone most of the time, grab a book and forget about it. The effect is almost immediate: you feel instantly so relaxed, especially when it’s so calm around you.
We did go for a walk around the cabin, as I really can’t stay inside all day long, I always need some fresh air at some point. We walked very slowly as the snow turned out to be ice in most parts. Beautiful, but not so safe…
We strolled by the Mississippi River and found it mostly frozen, which was beautiful. If you are wondering, we see it behind me in the photo above. It somehow felt like we could cross by foot, although we would of course not risk it.
We returned to the cabin and cooked one of my very favorite easy meals for breakfast or brunch (actually even for dinner): a shakshuka, served with my favorite no-knead bread that I had prepared ahead of time.
The kitchen was really basic with a stove-top, so we could still use it for some simple cooking, which we happily partook in. It’s when everything is very simple that you appreciate it the most, and cooking is no exception.
Then of course, it was my birthday! There was no oven there but I came prepared and baked my own birthday cake (eh, why not? A birthday is a birthday!) the day before we went to the cabin.
I didn’t go for anything fancy, just a simple French chocolate cake (to me, the best you can possibly make). I got the recipe years ago through my so-called birthday sister Marie who was born on the same day, so it was kind of appropriate to bake it on this special day for both of us, her being in France and me in the United States. Expect the recipe on the blog soon!
Oh, and we were lucky to find a candle! I have always loved my birthday anyway, and every year I feel the same way, no matter how many candles I add.
Telling you I’m happy with aging is not very true though. I don’t really care about numbers, but every year I can’t help thinking about how far I have come in life to this date, reflecting on my personal expectations. And somehow, I always find myself struggling to feel completely content and happy. It takes some good effort to embrace yourself fully and as far as I’m concerned I still have a long journey in this regard. Does anyone relate?
But for now I feel grateful for having such a wonderful and peaceful weekend in Grandpa’s cabin together with David.
Everything was exactly as I expected and even better, and among all the travels I have made around the world, those tiny little trips nearby are always among my favorite ones.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my little birthday retreat. I hope you liked it and found some inspiration for your next holidays. Remember, nothing fancy needed, just the basics and love, this is all you need in life.