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Home for the Summer: 'Cabin Kitsch' is great for the summer

Google describes "kitsch" in many ways, one being "pleasingly distasteful." And that's what we've got up here in our little house — Cabin Kitsch.

Our suburban home is pretty standard — some art on the walls, some glass objects on shelves, etc. but up here, anything goes.

When you walk in the kitchen door what's immediately seen is the wall behind the cook stove. On it is a hame, a large metal piece that is part of the harness of draft animals. From it we have hung an old water dipper, a copper ladle, an old cherry-pitter, several pieces of old chain, and more. Next to it is a decorated wrought iron holder for strike-anywhere kitchen matches which you can't buy anymore. Also there is an exotic bronze head of a man with his tongue sticking out 4 inches or so. That's great for hanging the handles for removing the covers of the cook stove. There's a large old gear, a star cookie cutter that I bought at a flea market in France, an old rug beater, two bottle openers — one a fish and one a moose. And that's only the beginning. Some of the things hanging there we can identify; some are a mystery to everyone.

And we're not out of the kitchen yet. There's a plastic owl cookie cutter hanging on the wall, and (because of my weakness for smiley faces), two yellow pancake turners smiling and yellow. Also there is a yellow mold that will turn out smiling ice cubes. Each kitchen window has a bird hanging in it — one is a blue glass bird and the other is a chubby ceramic cardinal. A stained glass carrot — the result of a running joke with a friend — also hangs there. We have an old, old ceramic tile — clearly left by the first owners of the cabin — that's from Tlalmanalco in southeastern Mexico.

Our living room has some very nice art — two paintings of birches in winter at Wolf Ridge, and a copy of a watercolor that won a prize at the fishing museum a number of years ago. We also have an old six-pane window with lots of photos of grandchildren displayed on the panes.

Speaking of grandchildren, at the end of a stay with our first grandchild (now 25) and her parents, her mom threw away a worn-out pair of little shoes. I couldn't bear it, so I saved one to hang on the wall. The result is a string of seven little shoes — one from each grandchild. They hang from a driftwood board with pegs to hold the many wooden walking sticks my dad created during the years he fished for trout up here. And I can't forget the large, ceramic, grinning green frog made by one of my daughters a long time ago.

The bedrooms barely have room for beds, so they are basically kitsch-free. The porch, however, has yet another smiley face — a round, fuzzy one about the size of a softball. And in a chair I bought at a garage sale up here, which was clearly a word-working project for someone in school, sits a little stuffed moose. He, at least, has a job; he holds back the drapes on the patio door during the day.

All this calls for a lot of dusting which I do in a haphazardly way. When we leave we're happy to go back to a less cluttered house, but we always greet with pleasure all the Cabin Kitsch when we come back to the North Shore.

Jan Kent spends her summers in a log cabin on Lake Superior and her winters in a suburb northwest of Chicago. Her column, Home for the Summer, first appeared in the News-Chronicle in 1993.