A visit to my sister's cottage prompted us to reminisce about cottage traditions. All those things you do, the glue that holds a place together and keeps you coming back year after year. It all started with the tradition of visiting her place, something I have been doing for 50 years.
At my own cottage there's a veritable banquet of family traditions.
The first is not so much a tradition but a statement that cottage life is different from being in town. There is no cable TV. Horrors you think, how do we survive without some connection to the outside world? We survive quite nicely with CBC radio. Canada Lives Here as the used to say.
For years Saturday night has been Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap. His musical wisdom spans rock history all the way back to the emerging rock and roll in the 1950s. The whole rock and roll world came to Winnipeg in the 1950s and Randy was there. He is our Saturday night "date night" at the cottage.
Full disclosure, there is a TV for watching movies. But it is out of sight in the bedroom. No big black screen winking and blinking at you in the living room. When all other activities have been exhausted, the occasional video does get played.
My old CD player and a stack of CDs from Frank Sinatra to Janis Joplin add to the entertainment options.
Dishwasher? You are looking at her. Just like my push mower that gets used now and then. Starts up every time.
Breakfasts on the weekend include at least one artery threatening big fry up. And with that fry up goes fried green tomatoes. My son and I have been known to go through a grocery bag of green tomatoes over a week at the lake. Tart and salty, nothing goes better with bacon than those succulent, glistening green disks.
Water activities include a variety of paddles, kayaking or launching the big old flat bottomed row boat. The inflatables come out for a toss around the bay. This year I added an electric air pump. The foot pump, although effective, is the Model T of plastic inflation.
In the afternoon my grandchildren ask for their bowls of peanuts in the shell. They sit on the deck, just like their fathers did so many years ago, and feed themselves and the local chipmunk population. Not sure who gets more peanuts.
Happy hour on the deck has a special name "The Fixins Hour." My grandchildren pull up their chairs to their own little table and work their way through a selection of goodies. Smoked oysters with crackers and cheese being a very old family standard. My grandchildren usually pass on the oysters.
For the adults of the crowd assembled, manhattans or a good local craft beer with names like "Naughty Otter" are the order of the day to wash down those oysters.
At some point over the holiday we have a huge lobster dinner. Many lobsters have given their lives over the years to provide us with an evening of shell cracking fun. Along with that lobster dinner goes a very huge bowl of very garlicky Caesar Salad. My brother's famous homemade salad dressing recipe is dusted off along with several cloves of pressed garlic.
A family cottage is so much more than a place to holiday in the summer.
A late night run in the paddle boat is also a very long standing tradition. On a clear night, sitting in the middle of the lake under the stars of the Milky Way can be just about the best show you will ever see. There is no urban light pollution to dim that show. Nothing but the peace and quiet of the lake and twinkling stars.
And just as you are completely relaxed and taken with the spectacle, a beaver might decide he's had enough of your invasion of his territory. When you least suspect it, he gives a mighty whack right beside the paddle boat.
For those of us who don't make it to the paddle boat, there is the taste of a good single malt beside the fireplace as we solve the problems of the day. My sons and I have never run out of conversation. Not sure if it is being fueled by scotch but our chats have been known to go on for hours.
Fireworks never need a holiday. Letting off fireworks at the point into the night sky is part of the cottage tradition along with sparklers for the kids of all ages to twirl and spin.
The night ends with an ear tuned to the swamp and the local bullfrog population. Those big granddaddy bullfrogs spend their evenings with cheeks puffed out calling for a mate. That sound drifts in the bedroom window as we drift off.
A family cottage is so much more than a place to holiday in the summer. Traditions are the ties that bind a family together.
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If you’re renting a cabin, be sure to bring print-outs of rental information and the owner’s contact information. If you have traveller’s insurance, bring those papers along as well.
While you may want to spend most of your time relaxing, it’s a good idea to have some rough plans in mind. Remember to print out directions to the cabin, and nearby emergency spots like hospitals and clinics. Also bring a list of outdoor activities and restaurants in case you feel like getting out into civilization.
This is probably one of the most important things you’ll need to bring with you. Adjust it based on your specific needs, but carry these essentials (among others). Key Items To Remember: Health cards, painkillers, bandages, gauze, antiseptic cream, sunscreen, insect repellent, Polysporin, Band-Aids
Make sure you have everything they’ll need to be comfortable away from home, and also have a great time. It's also a good idea to know the number of a local vet and/or emergency animal hospital. Key Items To Remember: Food, water, bowls, brush, towel, lint rollers, gloves and bags, shampoo, toys, anti-itching cream, tweezers, tick remover, wound cream/cleaner, Polysporin
What you pack for your children will depend on their age, interests and specific needs. Key Items To Consider: Diapers, colouring books, toys, special medication, baby food/milk
Remember, traffic can get heavy on a long weekend, and there are some essentials you'll buy beforehand that need to be stored in a cooler. Key Items To Remember: meat products, ice, eggs, juice, milk, cheese, drinks
Keeping things simple is the way to go here too. There will be exceptions, but try to bring food that requires limited assembly and won’t go bad without a fridge (just in case). Key Items To Remember: Spices, cooking oil, tea/coffee, canned food (beans, tuna, soups), snacks, bread, jam/Nutella
There's an endless list of things you could lug to the cottage for the kitchen, but even if you need to bring everything, it’s better to opt for minimal items. Key Items To Remember: utensils, dish towels/paper towels, paper plates, napkins, dish detergent, garbage bags
What you'll want to remember when it comes to tech is to bring the extra things like SD cards, chargers and batteries. Key Items To Remember: Camera, phone, docking stations, iPod, laptop, flashlight
Cottage country at the beginning and end of the season can be a little chilly, so plan for indoor and outdoor activities. Key Items To Remember: Board games, fishing supplies, cards, Frisbee, movies, books
While you may not end up needing it, it’s a good idea to have a stationery items on hand just in case. Key Items To Remember: Notepads, pens, post cards
Cottage country is more for relaxing than dressing up, so keep things casual. Keep the length of your trip in mind when considering quantity, but remember some clothes can be repeated. Key Items To Remember: Shirts, pants, shorts, underwear, multiple swimsuits, sweaters, pajamas, shoes
These are some of the most commonsense items to bring along, but are often the ones we forget. You might want to bring along things like makeup, contact solution and face wash. Key Items to Remember: Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, tissue paper, shaving supplies
Keep things casual, but you may want to throw in a dress or accessories if you’re attending a barbeque, or dining out. Key Items to Remember: Casual shirts, pants, shorts, bras and underwear, multiple swimsuits, sweater, pajamas, shoes
If you're planning on firing up the BBQ, you want to make sure you have everything you need to make those fantastic burgers. It's also a good idea to know what kind of BBQ it is. Key Items to Remember: charcoal, lighter fluid, mitts, tongs, cleaning tools, BBQ brush, spatula, gas
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