family playing in fresh snow

Make Amazing Memories at Christmas!

By | Cabin Life, Family, General, Nostalgia | No Comments

Make it a Memorable Christmas

No holiday tugs at the heartstrings like Christmas does. This time of year our hearts are a little softer, a little more open to what those around us are feeling and experiencing.

Sadly, it’s also a time of year when we’re tempted to compare ourselves to others. There’s a ton of pressure to make sure everything measures up. That our kids and grandkids have a Christmas time that is as perfect as possible.

We buy stuff our kids don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like. And we stress about whether it will be enough.

This Christmas the team here at Riverwood Cabins and I invite you to unplug from all of the stress and striving. Let’s do it differently this year.

The only things that will remain in the hearts of our loved ones after the tree has been taken down are the memories we’ve made and the relationships we’ve built.

Whether you’re already enjoying the cabin life, or plan to do so in the coming years, here are some suggestions for creating a Christmas time that everyone will remember fondly forever.

Adventurous Memories

It’s been said that there is no bad weather, only bad gear. If you’re in an area where you get a white Christmas, you may want to consider giving a gift that can be enjoyed immediately.

Young man snowshoeing in winter

Snow Shoe Hike

Post-holing your way through fresh powder up to your knees is no fun for you, the kids, or the dog. But floating along on top of the snow with some snowshoes? That’s the kind of hike you’ll remember for years, and can become a tradition!

REI has a great blog post about how to choose the best snowshoes for the whole family. Check it out and be inspired to start a new tradition!

Fire In The Winter Forest

Winter Bonfire w/ S’mores

Whether or not you have a white Christmas, you can change things up a bit by having an outdoor winter bonfire and make some s’mores with the family. I can speak from experience and tell you that sitting around a big old fire when it’s below 10 degrees is exhilarating and memorable. It changes the whole dynamic of a campfire somehow, with the fire crackling and cutting into the icy air. It’s beautiful.

Another benefit of having an outdoor winter bonfire? Everyone is probably wearing gloves, so they won’t be poking away at their smartphones, and will actually enjoy spending time together!

feet of animals in snow

Animal Tracking

Start at the edge of the woods, and find animal tracks in the snow. Follow them, and try to figure out what kind of animal left the tracks. See if you can spot the animal, or it’s habitat.

Professional tracker Tim Smith runs the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School  in Maine. He says “You’re not always able to figure out what the animal you are tracking is, but you can usually figure out what it isn’t,”

Here are some tips Tim gives for tracking with kids:

  • Prints: Look for size, claw marks, and depth. Look for the number of toes or toe pads. Then use a field guide to identify them.
  • Feather Marks: One of the most dazzling clues you can find—feather prints in a snowy field. This might be the track of some turkeys, or the full wing imprint of an owl or hawk that swooped down to grab a mouse or mole it heard through the snow.
  • Gait patterns: Often the easiest way to identify an animal, the track will show parallel, diagonal, bounding, or galloping foot patterns. Field guides are also helpful here.
  • Scat: Kids will get a kick out of breaking scat open to find what the creature has been eating. Just grab a stick and start breaking it apart.
  • Browsing marks: Deer, moose, rabbits and others are forest browsers, constantly nibbling on twigs and branches as they walk. Deer only bite from the bottom and their dull teeth leave the ends of the twigs torn and rough. Rabbits make clean 45 degree cuts with their sharper teeth. In the springtime, look for rabbit chew 3 to 5 feet high. No, the rabbits don’t get that big in New England—but it will show you where the snow came up to in the wintertime.

Cozy Indoor Memories

Maybe braving the elements isn’t your idea of a good time and you’d rather make memories indoors. Here are some suggestions to keep everyone off of their smartphones and unglued from the television:

dutch blitz

Fast Paced Card Games

I have a short attention span, so a long, drawn out game loses my attention really fast. One of the best card games for short attention spans is Dutch Blitz. It can be played by 2 to 8 people, and each round lasts only minutes. You can play to 100, 500 or 1000 points, and keep things moving fast.

It’s a game all my kids can beat me at, and have fun playing, from my 7 year old to my 14 year old. I like that it tests my skills and my hand-eye coordination, and provides a fun competitive environment right in the comfort of our living room.

Another game that’s easy for older kids and the adults to get into is Rook. You can play a game of Rook in 30 minutes or less, but you’ll probably have so much fun you’ll keep playing.

Bonus point: Set up a folding table in front of the fireplace so that you can enjoy the fire while playing card games.

Christmas Dinner

Sit and Talk After Dinner

Pfff… I know what you’re thinking. My grandkids don’t want to sit around the table and talk after dinner. I disagree – you just need the right prompts to get the conversation going. First rule? No smartphones at the table!

Here some conversation prompts sure to get things rolling as you sit around sipping coffee or tea.

  • What made you laugh today?
  • If you could have a conversation with anyone in history, who would it be?
  • If we could go anywhere on vacation, where would you want to go? Why?
  • Would you rather live in a castle, or on a boat? Why?
  • Do you think there’s a difference between being smart and being wise? Why?
  • Tell me about the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.
  • If you could trade places with anyone in the world, who would it be, and why?
  • What’s the best song ever written?

settlers of catan

Board Games That Aren’t Bored Games

Let’s be honest:when you say board games, I think bored games. My attention span just isn’t that long, and I suspect there are others out there like me. However, when I do get over my initial resistance to the idea, I always seem to make a ton of memories and have fun times with my kids and friends.

Here are some board games that get good reviews from fans of all ages:

Ticket To Ride

Some have described this newer game as a combination of Monopoly and Risk. I’ve not played it myself, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but it’s garnered an eye-popping 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com with over 3,200 reviews so it must be amazing. If you’re a fan of TTR, drop a comment below and tell me what you love about it.

Settlers of Catan

Here I can speak from personal experience. This gameplay typically lasts about an hour, which is long enough that if you’re losing badly early on it can seem an eternity. However it does get 4.7 out of 5 stars that indicate that the strategy and thrill make it a fun game for a broad array of players.

Hasbro Pie Face Game

Decidedly more base fun than the strategy games above, you either get a point added to your score, or you get pie in the face. As a bearded man, I can imagine that repeated pie in the face could get a little messy, but I bet it’s fun!

More than 2,500 folks have left glowing reviews for this game with a 4.4 out of 5 star average, which makes me want to try it this winter!

 

Merry Cabin Christmas!

There’s no question that having a cabin gives you opportunity to make great memories any time of year. If you’re already happily enjoying your cabin – maybe these suggestions will spark new discussions and adventures. On the other hand, if a cabin is still in your future, perhaps these suggestions can whet your appetite for the kinds of memories you’ll create in your Riverwood Cabin!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Riverwood Cabins!

Prayers for Gatlinburg

By | Cabin Life, General, Nostalgia | No Comments

Fourteen souls perished and more than 145 people were wounded in the terrible fires that swept through Great Smoky Mountains National Park last week. More than 1,700 structures were burned as well. 

Our hearts go out to those who have lost so much. We’re lifting you up in prayer. The timing – so close to Christmas – makes the loss particularly painful.

In addition to all those who live and work in Eastern Tennessee, every year more than 11 Million Americans visit Gatlinburg with those they love. They come to vacation in charming cabins in the breathtakingly gorgeous Smokey Mountains. For many, seeing these beautiful cabins go up in smoke feels like a personal affront. A horrifying fire has consumed the place that you have visited many times, and have built lasting memories in and around. Our hearts go out to you too.

 

we-love-u-gatlinburg

Amidst the ashes, smoke, and dust, shine a few beams of winter sun. The dreadful fire may have reduced your cabin to ashes, but it cannot, and will not, take away the precious memories you’ve created with your loved ones over the years.

The cabin life lives on in your heart and mind through the memories you’ve made. This can’t be taken away by fire, or by anything else. Nurture these memories, enjoy them, gain strength and encouragement from them. When the time is right, they will burst forth in a new way. Perhaps in a way that you can’t envision now.

At Riverwood Cabins, we’ve said from the start that the most important part of what we do is to build cabins so that you can make memories, but we may never have truly appreciated just how important these memories are. For hundreds of people in the Gatlinburg area, memories are all that they have left.

As we continue to mourn the lives lost and figure what it’s going to take to rebuild, let’s join together and celebrate with each other by recounting and sharing some of #OurCabinMemories.

Share your favorite cabin memory with us on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #OurCabinMemories so everyone can follow along.

Make Memories That Last A Lifetime

By | Cabin Life, General, Nostalgia | No Comments

The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short

It seems my family is right in that ‘in-between’ stage. You know the one. When you’re kids are all old enough to bathe, eat, and dress with minimal input, but they’re still young enough that they think their Mom and I are pretty cool. It’s not going to last forever, I know.

Let’s call it the sweet spot.

Our sleep is no longer interrupted by babies crying, and we aren’t yet waiting up late at night waiting until they get in safely.

It’s not always been this way. Some of you are in the early days. Days and nights that string together full of oatmeal, baby food, strollers and baby carriers, and largely devoid of sleep. You’re probably wondering if I know what I’m talking about, as some days seem really, really long. Others may be in the later days – even empty nesters or grandparents and you’re probably thinking I don’t know much about this feeling of nostalgia, as I still have four kids under my roof.

From this vantage point – just barely past the ‘early years’ of parenting I’m already aware of how breathtakingly quickly the years fly by. If you’re still knee deep in toddler toys and diapers you may not fully appreciate this, but when I look into the eyes of the young woman my daughter has become, I’m so proud of her and yet feel a pang of regret. Did I do enough for her? What happened to the last 14 years? Did I take enough time away from the daily grind and make memories she’ll cherish forever?

The beauty of being aware of this is that I can start now. There are small steps I can take right now to slow down. Unplug. Take a hard look at my priorities, and make some adjustments about how we spend our time together.

One thing I don’t regret at all? Time spent at the cabin. Our time spent at the cabin has produced some of the best memories our family has ever made, and I know that spending more time there is a smart way to make sure my kids grow up with the kinds of memories I cherish from my childhood.

A father and his two young boy children make memories around a campfire, playing guitar and roasting marshmallows on a fall evening.

Make Memories in A Cabin

My son will never forget the day he learned how to shoot a .22 rifle at the cabin. I put a five dollar bill under a box of bullets and told him if he hits the bullseye before the box is empty, he can keep the five bucks. With one bullet remaining he drilled it. Right in the center of the target. The smile on his face as he pocketed the money and we walked back to the cabin was priceless. As he becomes a man, that lesson in marksmanship will serve him well. Steadiness, discipline, responsibility, accuracy. Bullseye.

My daughter will remember waking up in a chilly cabin and helping me make buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy for the whole clan. The values she learned in those moments guide her as she navigates the tricky business of being 14 going on 21.

Thinking about these precious memories steels my resolve to make sure we keep living more and more of this life. As our kids grow up and eventually bring home grandkids, I want them to have the same opportunities for creating these moments.

S’mores over a campfire. Cousins sleeping on the floor in front of a campfire after a long day playing in the woods. Naps in a hammock. Four-wheeler rides around the property. Plinking and fishing, hiking and swimming.

So much revolves around the cabin. Unplugging from the endless stream of notifications that compete for our attention each day, we can focus on each other. On making memories that will last a lifetime. These shared experiences are a rich part of the fabric of our lives.

One thing I love about being a part of the Riverwood Cabins team is that I get to help create these opportunities for you. We build cabins so that you can make memories.

Here’s a little collage of some of the memories our family has made this year at the cabin.

make memories in a cabin

When you’re ready to take the next step and create a place where you can make memories, email us at make.memories@riverwoodcabins.com and we’ll guide you through the process. The cabin process isn’t difficult with Riverwood. We’ve helped many others on their cabin journey, and look forward to helping you as well. Don’t forget to sign up below for our email newsletter, to find out about special offers, such as our special Christmas offer!

 

woman in a hammock by a cabin

Live the Cabin Life!

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What’s the cabin life? 
It feels like the world has a way of keeping us grinding. Must have this, gotta buy that. Endless, mindless consumption designed to keep our nose to the grindstone.

Beeping, flashing, buzzing, and ringing, the world demands our attention in a million different ways.

Here at Riverwood Cabins, we invite you out of the mad rush. Let’s slow down and learn more about this cabin life, together.

The cabin life is not just a place. It’s a state of mind. A lifestyle. A set of values.

Our customers are the best examples of this. They inspire us. As I reflect on the way our customer’s lifestyles shift to a quieter more peaceful place, I’m humbled to get to be a part of that story.

Recently, a happy customer named Jim emailed me, and told me a bit about his own journey to a more peaceful place.

“When we first bought our cabin, we were living in CA, so it was to be a summer home for 6 months of the year. And we enjoyed coming back to NY for the summer. We are both retired, and have moved back to NY this year, and now live permanently in our cabin. We have 80 acres and a great view overlooking the valley, it is peaceful and we can’t see our closest neighbors. We have a covered porch that we enjoy at coffee time in the morning and dinner time in the evenings. Buying a Woodtex cabin is one of the best decisions we have ever made.”

That’s one of the beautiful things about the cabin life. You may not be able to go all in right away. You might only be able to live the cabin life for one weekend a month, or one week every few months. But it seeps into every part of your life. Rather than having eyes glazed over by constantly staring at a screen, your eyes become opened to the natural wonder all around. Your senses become more finely tuned to the smells of honeysuckle and campfires, and less tuned to the smell of exhaust fumes and fast food.

Living the cabin life - sitting by the bonfire, enjoying wine

Adopting the Cabin Life Mindset

Whether you intend to build a cabin this year, or are just in the dreaming and planning stages, I’d like to ask you to join us as we explore this cabin lifestyle. Subscribe to our email newsletter, and connect with us on Facebook and we’ll do our best to share with you what we’re learning.

Another way you can be a part of this journey is to email us back, and let us know what part of the cabin life is most appealing to you. We would all love to hear from you, and promise to read every email.

A vinyl wrapped house in the suburbs is a fine place to raise a family. But I’ve tasted enough of the cabin life to know there is more out there.

Come along as we all learn more about what it means to live the cabin life.