My family (my wife, me and three grown sons) bought our cabin, two hours north of the Twin Cities off Hwy. 169, in 2000. The lake cabin was a combination of a new three-car garage with a spacious unfinished loft above and a tumbling down 1950s, two-bedroom/one bath example of a rustic Americana lakeshore retreat.

We turned the garage loft into a very comfortable getaway for us, with the boys and their friends sharing the old cabin.

Years went by, and our family expanded with three wonderful daughters-in-law and a bunch of beautiful, bright grandchildren. The dwellings were bursting at the seams. Something had to be done. We looked for a year for a suitable existing cabin on our beloved hard-bottom, clear lake. With four families now involved, we could not all agree that any of the properties we looked at were better than what we already had.

We decided with the encouragement of the county planning and zoning department to convert the garage into a cabin by constructing two additions and removing the old cabin. Fortunately, one of our sons is a carpentry contractor. He enthusiastically agreed to take on the project, with myself and the other boys providing the labor and Mom providing the moral support.

The decision has proved an extremely rewarding and memorable experience. It took us more than 2 ½ years from start to finish but, honestly, things could not have gone better. Luckily, we could still use the whole house furnace in the garage for heat during the cold winters; we almost always had running hot and cold water; no one got hurt; and we all still talk to one another.

Almost forgotten are the days we spent jack-hammering trenches out of concrete floors for drain pipes, framing up additions in snowstorms, and the endless hours of sealing the knotty pine half-log interior walls and tongue-in-groove ceilings. Now, from very humble beginnings, we have completed a very comfortable five-bedroom, four-full-bathroom lake house that we all enjoy. Just in time, too, because now our family members number 14.

John Vojtech, Arden Hills