That Time I Lived In a Tree & Tried to Relax.

Dear Karen. This is going to be the last time you go anywhere for a long time because there’s a dark, disturbing, demented cloud about to descend upon the earth. It’ll last a few years and then The Ick will come.  The good news is, in 2021 your vacation expectations will be so low that an excursion to the grocery store for curbside pickup will send you to TripAdvisor to write a glowing review. ~ Sincerely, the Universe. 

Had I actually received that note my eyes would have widened, my stomach done flips and then I’d have decided no, I didn’t want to watch that movie. As I write this it’s been almost 2 weeks since we’ve come out of a 3 month lockdown. It’s been a year and a half since my last big family dinner. It’s been 2 years since I’ve been to a Costco. And 4 years since I went on my last vacation.

I remember it fondly.

I tried to relax. I was going to go on a vacation and I was going to relax. I would do nothing but relax and I was going to be very excellent at it.

Here’s how it went …

July 2017, somewhere in the Canadian wilderness, but with running water, maid service and a pool.

And then I pulled back the curtain and punched that asshead Gypsy Moth/Cat right in the head!

Maybe I should back up a bit. This story starts wayyyyy back, 24 hours ago.  Prior to 24 hours ago I was a normal woman, blogger by day, blogger by night.  Any remaining minutes in the day were given to cleaning up cat barf and proclaiming “It’s a good thing I’ve had my tetanus shot” more times than anyone should say in a lifetime.  Now I’m a moth killer and a maybe even … a relaxer.  Uch.

It all began one day ago when I broke from my normal routine, packed my suitcase, got in my car and drove through a blinding rainstorm to the other side of the world.  It turns out the other side of the world is only 2.1 hours away by car.

2 hours NorthWest of me is the small town of Durham and just outside of that, down a crunching gravel driveway is the 100 year old farmhouse belonging to my friends Lynne and Michael Knowlton. Lynne is the blogger at Lynne Knowlton.  Michael is her husband whom I affectionately refer to as my boyfriend.  Because he’s my boyfriend.

Lynne and Michael decided one day to build a treehouse on their 100 acre property.  Kind of a big treehouse.  More like a cottage in the sky with a bedroom loft, woodstove and leather clubchairs on the porch.  Yeah.  The treehouse has a porch.  Then they thought they should add a bathroom.  And a dining area below, and another cabin and before they knew it they’d created a retreat that could rival anything you’ve seen in magazines, television or your daydreams.

(Now that I think of it, if you’re reading this in July or August of 2017, her retreat is actually in a magazine!  Style at Home, August issue.)

I have to admit I was a bit worried when Lynne invited me to stay in her treehouse for a few days.  I’m kind of hyper.  Not what you’d call a relaxer.  Relaxation does not relax me. It makes me edgy.  But this is the 4th year in a row that she’s invited me to come to the treehouse to relax, so I relented and agreed to come as soon as I could acquire enough cough syrup to knock me down a few degrees of hyperness.  Besides, this time she didn’t invite me.  This time she sent me an email saying she’d booked me in and I was coming.  And that was that.

Here is how it went.

3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Drive through blinding, sideways rain towards the unknown.  Sing along to Macklemore.  Also think a lot about peeing which I blame on the rain and not on the 14 cups of coffee I drank to calm my nerves during the drive.

lynne knowlton treehouse retreat

5:00 p.m.  Arrive at treehouse property (Lynne’s house).

lynne knowlton treehouse retreat

5:02 p.m.  Remain in car.  Scribble down 5 different excuses explaining why I have to leave immediately and try to pick the best one.  What’s everyone’s deal with relaxing?  Why is society forcing me to relax?

5:03 p.m.  Lynne texts me from her front window asking why I’m not getting out of the car. I panic and tell her I have gas.


5:05 p.m. I take a deep breath and exit my car to meet Lynne on the path to the treehouse.

5:06 p.m.  Lynne starts my tour of the retreat beginning with the simple white cabin constructed with antique barn beams and white shiplap.

5:07 p.m.  Not listening to Lynne at all.  Get distracted by the beauty of the interior of the cabin and ask one of the barn beams on a date.


barn beams with white walls


5:15 p.m. Continue a tour of the premises which includes the bathroom, the pool area and the whole reason for the visit … the treehouse.  Mostly I’m feeling very uncomfortable because there doesn’t seem like there’s going to be any work for me to do.  Nothing needs fixing or freshening.  I’m starting to sweat.  I didn’t know fingernails could sweat.

The “Latreen” and everything else is built with recycled materials. 


lynne knowlton treehouse retreat rustic chic bathroom cabin

What am I supposed to do in here?  She KNEW I was coming. She booked me in herself. You’d think Lynne, would have been generous enough to leave me a few things to fix or tinker with.

lynne knowlton treehouse retreat


5:16 p.m.  Lynne leaves me to get settled and as soon as she turns the corner towards her home I do the only thing I know that will calm me down.  It’s a type of self soothing I taught myself as a child.  I eat an entire Party sized bag of Ruffles and a Party sized container of Helluva Good dip.




heluva good dip


5:30 – 9:30 p.m. I don’t have much recollection of this time.  After eating the chips the next thing I remember is waking up on the treehouse sofa with my phone ringing beside me.  I HAVE GAS I screamed into it.  It was my sister calling to see how the treehouse was.



9:31 p.m. I gave my sister a quick Facetime tour of the place but somewhere near the end of the call a cat with wings flew into the treehouse and chased me.  The next 3 minutes of video my sister was subjected to was probably similar to watching The Blair Witch Project as shot by a drunk 5 year old.  I ran and dodged and hid from this mythical creature never giving up my grasp on my phone.  I finally found a tea towel that I was able to smother the cat with. I felt really bad about killing a flying cat because my guess is, they’re pretty rare.  




Lifting the tea towel slowly to check on how dead it was I was surprised to find out it wasn’t dead at all. I knew this because it flew straight at my nostril.  Bouncing off of that, the flying cat went straight for the curtains and hid in the folds.  By now I started to suspect this was no cat.  It was a cat sized moth. Sneaking up to the window I pulled back the curtain and punched that Gypsy Moth/cat right in the head.  I’m sorry to say it died and in actuality was only about the size of a kitten.




9:34 p.m.  Ended the Facetime with my sister as she was apparently feeling nauseated.

9:35 – 11:35 p.m. For the next 2 hours I read. A book.  Not Instagram captions.  I relaxed and read a book.  This felt very unnatural but not necessarily bad.  Which worried me.  Who am I if not a doer of stuff?


lynne knowlton treehouse retreat

11:45 p.m.  It’s time for bed which I’m looking forward to because the bed is in the highest point of the treehouse. I make my way to the outdoor bathroom which is nicer than any room in my house.  Realize I forgot to pack my toothbrush.  

lynne knowlton treehouse retreat bathroom


Brush teeth with cottonball.  Feel impressed with self and gloat to no one.



12:00 a.m.  I climb the library ladder to the bedroom loft in the treehouse.  I had decided to alternate between staying in the treehouse and staying in the cabin, which housed my new boyfriend; the barn beam.  I slept straight through the night.  I could see this trip was going to be filled with all kinds of unnatural but not necessarily bad things.




lynne knowlton treehouse retreat library ladder





8 a.m.  Wake up and stumble to the stove to make a coffee.  I carried my steaming cup out onto the treehouse porch where I wrapped myself in the white linen duvet from my bed.  Now what?  It was me, a cup of coffee and another 24 hours to fill.







lynne knowlton treehouse retreat porch brown leather club chairs

8:15 a.m. I was starting to stress about all this relaxation again so I texted a friend with my dilemma.   He suggests I find something productive to do like digging a big hole in Lynne’s front lawn.


8:16 a.m.  Make the mistake of first asking Lynne if I can dig a hole in her lawn.  I’m met with resistance.




7:00 p.m.  Suddenly it’s 7 p.m.  and I have no idea how I got here.  I can remember falling asleep in a chair, on a couch and in another chair.  I also wrote 2 articles for Lee Valley and I know they were good but I don’t really remember writing them.  They just sort of burst out of my fingers.


lynne knowlton treehouse retreat porch relaxing

7:05 p.m. Now it’s time to stack rocks with Lynne who has been completely absent during my stay.  Meet Dan who has helped build the incredible cabin, bathroom and treehouse.   Stacking rocks is like the perfect relaxation technique for someone who isn’t sure how to relax.  You aren’t really doing anything productive but at the same time it takes a lot of concentration and you do end up with something at the end.  Either a stack or a pile of rocks.  I highly recommend stacking rocks anytime, anywhere, if you want to relax.  I think it would be especially helpful at the workplace or while waiting in line to get your driver’s license.







7:30 p.m. Make simple dinner of pesto and linguine, retire to the cabin this time where my boyfriend the barn beam and I just stare at each other.



8:30 p.m. Curl up on the daybed with my book and read. I’m not positive because I’m still in a bit of a fog from this forced relaxation but I think that knot in the back of my neck is becoming less baseball-like, more golf-ball like.  Looking around I start considering changes I could make to my own house.  I definitely need more white.  Lynne has committed to white like a lion commits to a kill.




10:30 p.m.  Found my toothbrush!  Tell the cottonballs to take a hike.  Realize I haven’t checked the news in more than 24 hours.  Panic momentarily that the world has come to an end without me knowing about it.




11:00 p.m.  Get ready for bed by brushing teeth with genuine store bought tooth brushing implement and wonder if i should bathe. 


Laugh myself silly, turn the shower on and off to make it look like I had a shower in case someone is keeping track of this and go to bed.





11:35 p.m.  Head into the cabin loft which is so peaceful and beautiful I want to cry.  I’m having a hard time describing this place to people when they call or text me.  It isn’t that it’s decorated nicely (although it is), it isn’t that the buildings are stunning (which they are), it’s that this whole place has a feeling.  Being here feels like a hug from a pure white Buddha.  I fall asleep with my book folded across my chest and a single moth fluttering around the night light.  I have no desire to smash him.  We coexist peacefully in this Buddha hug of a loft bedroom.






8:30 a.m.  Wake up and realize it’s my last day. Shower.  For real this time.  At the beginning of this trip I had planned to leave at around 7:00 a.m. so I could be home by  9 a.m. and have a full work day ahead of me.  By 11:00 I was jumping into my car to head to a local flea market with Dan whom I’d met for all of 5 minutes the day before.  By 3:30 I was back at the retreat talking to Lynne about nothing in particular but also definitely not jumping into my car to get home.




4:00 p.m.  Reluctantly pack my things into my car. Say good bye.

The story in photos.

lynne knowlton treehouse retreat karen bertelsen lynne knowlton treehouse retreat balinese dining table old fishing boats Satya super hit incense

This incense is in both the cabin and the treehouse and if you like incense, it is THIS best smelling incense I’ve ever experienced.  I stole this box.  Seriously.  Stole it like a thief. You can buy it here. It’s similar to Nag Champa but somehow sweeter and softer.

I came home and ordered myself a case of it.

lynne knowlton treehouse retreat swimming pool oasis


lynne knowlton treehouse retreat


lynne knowlton treehouse retreat stacking rocks

These are the lights on either side of the bed in the cabin. They’re also on the other side of the room in a little bench nook.  I loved them so much.  They’re only $29 Canadian or $19 US.  You can get them here. 

4:02 p.m. Scribble down 5 different excuses explaining why I have to stay immediately and try to pick the best one.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a review to write on my recent trip to the pharmacy. Sanitizer is back in stock!

*Interested in renting the treehouse and cabin?  Click here to see MORE pictures and learn about it.


  1. Mary Kay Wilburn says:

    You could of wasted a little bit of time going down the slide…

  2. Linda in Illinois says:

    My only words… I am sooooooooooo jealous !!

  3. Paula says:

    It’s posts like these that I wished I lived in Ontario… I’m an excellent hanger-outer!

  4. Mary W says:

    I took a deep breath and said ahhhhh while looking. Your bed picture is unbelievably comfy. Yes, I need more white as it is like floating on a cloud. Thanks Lynne for relaxing Karen for us. Her welcoming glass blocks at the front door is really welcoming with the light glow. The chairs at the dining table so cool. I don’t see spiders anywhere! The kitchen looks inspiring. The corner beams left natural in the corners of the white kitchen/living area seem like trees enveloping you in a hug. The bathroom sink is made of what? The rock piles are a must have in my garden – if I could find rocks somewhere here in Florida. Why are the three strings of sticks hanging at the porch? Are they just pretty, do they keep bugs away? Do they make a sound when the wind blows? Or are they just to remind you to relax and do nothing? The pool is inviting, photography perfect! Love the rows of white chairs, empty to remind you to relax, enjoy your own company for awhile. Best part? No knick knacks to distract, collect dust for cleaning, and bring up tons of memories that you still have without them. I should just take a nice picture of each one and stick all the pictures in a scrapbook and get rid of all the stuff my grandkids don’t even remember making for me. Oh boy, I’m starting to get some great ideas just looking at this truly amazing retreat! GREAT JOB, Lynne!

    • Tina says:

      Yes, I love the strung sticks! I’d like to know the purpose.

    • Nancy W says:

      Decor…strung driftwood is popular here on the SF Bay Area Coast…I am going to put that on my list to make! I have a small one but those are fantastic.
      Great post Karen, now I’m going to paint my house white on the inside.

  5. Laura Nazimiec says:

    You really need to get your hands on some Lawson’s Chip Dip. Best in the world.

  6. AND A SLIDE EXIT!?!?!?! How did you fail to mention the SLIDE?!?!?! That is beyond gorgeous!

  7. Debra Milam says:

    It is so hard to do nothing. You never know when you are finished.
    Beautiful retreat!

  8. Ev Wilcox says:

    Where to start. Nirvana? Wonderful beautiful place. Place to soak up the beauty and the quiet and just be. Glad you spent some time there-you should go again, maybe bi-yearly or at least yearly. Thanks for the great photos. Sigh….

  9. Ann says:

    All I can get out of my mouth is OMG. Times about a gazillion

  10. Karen !!! Woot woot !!!! It was so great to see you here relaxing. I just love ya. There. I said it out loud. I don’t know what your boyfriend is going to say about that.

    PS. is this where I confess and tell everyone that you fixed my shower shampoo pump? Thanks for that :) No thanks for crashing my zen rocks. hahahahaa.

    P.S.S. I seem to be missing a barn beam in my cabin. Hmmm.

    Lynne xx

  11. monique says:

    So much talent..all 3 of daughter..her son..and cousin stayed in a tree house area..This is THE RITZ lol.

  12. Phyllis Kraemer says:

    Me too….!….The crying that is…but truly…I’m sure we could find a boat somewhere up the Bruce Peninsula….on your next “relaxo trip” I may not be a well person…those chairs took my breath away!!

  13. Phyllis Kraemer says:

    What a place!…incredible…did Dan make the dining room chairs?

    • Karen says:

      He did not, lol! Those chairs and dining table are from a trip Lynne and Michael went on to Bali. She had them shipped back. They’re made out of fishing boats! The paint on them is original paint from the boats. I almost cried when I saw the set. LOVEEEEE it. ~ karen!

  14. danni says:

    wow… that is a dream vacation.
    and rock stacking, so Zen, so relaxing, so satisfying when you got those prize boulders out of your own garden with a crowbar……

  15. Katie C. says:

    Wow! Just wow!

    Is that a SLIDE coming from the side of the treehouse?!

    Now I want to cancel our anniversary plans and stay there!

  16. leisa says:

    You’re Hilarious! Lynne should get an award, at the very least we know her retreat must be a huge success because if she can get you to relax everyone else will be a piece of cake! Gorgeous place :)

  17. Leisa says:

    You’re Hilarious! Lynne should get a reward – at the very least we know her retreat will be a huge success because if she can get you to sit still everyone else will be a piece of cake! Gorgeous place :)

  18. Jenny W says:

    Oh MY <3 Stunning! and that wooden table and those chairs – swooning right now! Glad you could relax, if only for a moment or two :)

  19. Sabina says:

    I stack rocks every time we walk down to the beach! My record is 20!

  20. MrsChrisSA says:

    I could so so so live there!!!!
    Lucky Karen!

  21. Lianne says:

    The Sinnerlig pendant hanging above the dining table – did they just spray paint the ceiling mount and cord to get it white?

    I can’t even with this place – crazy beautiful.

    • Hi Lianne!

      Good eye. I didn’t even know the pendant light was called Sinnerlig. LOL. Yes, we bought it from Ikea, and (as you know haha) it comes in a raw bamboo lattice style.

      I’m so very committed to white… I, of course, spray painted it white. I also thought it would hold up better to the outdoor elements if it was painted.

      We bought a white ceiling mount and used a new white cord lighting kit from Ikea. The one that came with the original light was black, and me-no-likey the black cord on the white light.

      Hope that helps!
      Lynne xx

      • Lianne says:

        Thanks, Lynn! I couldn’t’t tell from the picture that you had painted the whole thing white. Now you’ve got me thinking. I noticed it because I *just* bought one and don’t love the black bits, either. And I only know the name because I stalk the designer, Ilse Crawford. Love her and the whole series she designed for Ikea is called Sinnerlig – which I have typed into their search engine only a few thousand times.

      • Lauren from Winnipeg says:

        I was wondering if you could tell me how your leather chairs on the porch hold up to the elements? They look great but obviously they would get wet with rain coming in at the sides. Do you cover them when not in use? I know a cow is waterproof but apparently that doesn’t extend to leather. Or maybe that’s an urban myth?

  22. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I knew that was Lynn’s tree house when I saw the first picture! amazing…she has such great taste in decorating!….I really envy you getting to stay there!

  23. Kathleen Aberley says:

    Oh! My! Word! That looks like absolute bliss.

    And the stone-looking wash basin / sink… I love it. I want one!

    The only thing I wouldn’t enjoy, is the ladder up to the bedroom. I could get up there… getting down would be another story! Fear of heights. (Yes, even just up a ladder!)

    I am so glad you relented and went off to spend time in such a beautiful place / space Karen.

    (Now I’m off to click on Macklemore…)

  24. marli says:

    I see you went MASSIVE. Very good choice.
    Also, WOW, nice place!! I can’t seem to find any other words. Love it!
    smiles, marli

    • marli says:

      Ok, I found more words.
      WHY is there no mention of that amazing SLIDE? Please tell me you went down that slide every time you left the treehouse? I’d have to spend my first hour there running up the stairs and sliding down the slide and running up the stairs and sliding down the slide and running up the stairs and, well, you get it.
      Such a great idea!!
      Bigger smiles, marli

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I did go massive! ~ karen

  25. Paula says:

    Such a lovely place. I purchased our barn door rollers from them, the Amish make them out their way.

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