Featured Blogger - Miss Northerner
The unofficial ambassador of Wisconsin’s Northwoods, Kristen (or Miss Northerner as you probably know her best) is a graciously gifted writer and photographer who tirelessly puts her talents together sharing the boundless beauty she finds basically in her own backyard. From wildlife to cabin life, her blog is filled with local adventures that bring her readers in and tell tantalizing tales of time spent amongst the tall trees and lovely lakes; celebrating every season the great Up North has to offer with serenity and splendor. She finds elegance in the everyday, delights in the details and cherishes the charms of the natural world with candid curiosity... and today it is our great pleasure to welcome her to the UNTC blog.
To begin with, for those who have not had the pleasure of following your account or visiting the Miss Northerner site, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is the story of Kristen?
First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m 28 years old, living in northern Wisconsin with my boyfriend and our fluffy white cat named Luna. I was born and raised in the central Wisconsin countryside where my family did a lot of camping, canoeing, and traveling growing up. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with plans to stay in the Twin Cities. However, after graduation, I just couldn’t bring myself to jump right into the corporate world so instead, I started traveling and moving around (more details on that below).
I love to canoe, kayak, fish, hike, go to supper clubs and fish fries, travel, and spend time with family and friends.
What made you decide to start a blog in the first place? How did you land on the moniker of “Miss Northerner” and the subject matter for your site, which has since become synonymous with your pseudonym?
I had moved back to Wisconsin and my mom and I decided to go on a month-long trip to Europe. After the trip, I wanted a place to write and share my photos which prompted me to create a simple lifestyle blog. I was enjoying it and after awhile, I wanted to try building it into something bigger.
However, I quickly realized that I was in an overly saturated market and probably would never stand out as just another “lifestyle” blogger. And I definitely couldn’t keep up with other international travel bloggers - I just didn’t have the money to do so. I needed a new, more specific niche; one that I could afford and would set me apart from everyone else.
That’s when I got the idea to focus solely on Wisconsin travel and lifestyle. I was already living here and going on little adventures around the state… Why not blog about it? A quick Google search showed me that no one seemed to be doing anything like this at the time. I couldn’t find a personal blog that focused strictly on Wisconsin experiences, especially outdoor ones. I knew right away that I had stumbled upon something unique.
The name ‘Miss Northerner’ came to me at my parent’s kitchen table. I was brainstorming new names with different varieties of the word ‘Wisconsin’ in it. But thinking long term, I didn’t want to limit myself by location so I turned to the word ‘Northerner’. I figured this would give me the opportunity to easily expand into other similar states like Minnesota and Michigan, even international content again too. I added ‘Miss’ for a feminine touch.
What were you before becoming Miss Northerner?
My last job before Miss Northerner was an optometrist assistant/scribe.
Not only is your Instagram feed ridiculously well done, but your blog is a beautifully designed specimen as well. Have you had any formal training in design? How long did it take you to get the site just the way you envisioned?
Thank you! I don’t have any formal training, just a lot of testing things out and learning as I go. It took me a really long time to get it to where it is now.
What is one thing you have learned in general since embarking on the Miss Northerner journey and one thing you have learned about yourself?
One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to have a schedule and to be able to separate work and life (aka turn off social media in the mornings and at the end of the day). One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m an ambivert. I always thought I was an introvert and that the work-from-home environment would be a cakewalk. Turns out, even though I enjoy spending time alone and going on solo photography adventures, I also crave social time. Whether that’s going out with friends or spending the afternoon in a coffee shop among people. I’ve learned that I need an almost even balance in order to be happy.
I know I’ve read before that you’ve moved around a fair amount throughout your life, could you tell us a little bit about the places you have lived and how it is you ended up in Northern Wisconsin?
The first place is Minneapolis which is where I went to college. I enjoyed it while I was there but I’m just not a city person. I like to visit every now and then but that’s about it.
After graduating, I moved to Emigrant, Montana to work at a luxury dude ranch for two seasons (April to October). My job was an “all-around” which meant I worked in the dining room, served five-course meals, washed dishes, did the housekeeping for the cabins, worked the kids program, split firewood, led hikes, and did a million other random things with the 50 or so fellow employees around my age. Between shifts we’d go two-stepping at the saloon, drive through Yellowstone or the Tetons, go horseback riding through the mountains, throw staff parties. Basically, we worked really hard and had the time of our lives.
Between those two seasons was when I drove down to Sarasota, Florida. I had an old car that was still running and a few thousand dollars - in my head, that was all I needed. I packed up my car and headed down without housing or a job lined up. Sometimes I still can’t believe I did that. I crashed on a friend’s couch and within a week, I had found a job and a cute little bungalow to rent. I lived there for four months and then headed back to Montana for my second season.
After all of that, I moved back to Wisconsin because I missed the landscape and my family. My mom and I went on that Europe trip together, I started my blog, and then met my boyfriend who already had a house up north. After about 2 years of long distance dating, we moved in together. And here we are!
In addition to being a wonderful writer you also happen to be a phenomenally gifted photographer. How is it that you happened to get into photography?
Thank you! Photography for me started during that Florida move. I had gotten a job waitressing at a fancy seafood restaurant where I started work every day at 4pm - so I had a lot of free time on my hands. I decided that I needed a hobby and photography was at the top of my list. I balked at it because of the cost but finally, I decided it was worth the investment and found a Canon 5D Mark iii on Craigslist. I saved up my tip money and bought it! It’s still the same camera body I use today. Before work, I’d bike down to the nearby wharf and practice on the pelicans and sailboats. I fell in love with it instantly!
What equipment do you typically bring with when you go out to capture quality content?
My camera bag is always packed and ready to go with my Mark iii, my 24-105mm, my 50mm, my 150-600mm, my drone, a self-timer, a selfie stick (lol), a tripod, and extra batteries/memory cards.
How great is life in the Northwoods? I ask because from your wonderfully cultivated feed it looks incredibly idyllic. What would you say are some of the advantages and disadvantages of living where you do now?
It’s awesome. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I truly love it up here.
The advantages are easy access to outdoor adventures, less traffic/people, and just being surrounded by such beautiful landscape all the time. Some of the disadvantages are limited internet access, fewer young people, and not as many restaurants/shops/things to do. But honestly, that last one... I kind of love that now. I was down in Madison with my mom the other week and we were trying to decide where to have lunch. After looking for a while, I half-joked that there were too many options. Apparently, I don’t mind having just a few go-to spots up here. Makes life simpler.
What to you is “Up North”?
I think everybody has a different version on where “up north” is. For me, if I say I’m going “up north”, I’m referring to northern Minnesota. But if we’re talking about Wisconsin, I’d say Oneida County or Vilas County. Basically anything north of Tomahawk, WI would be “up north” in my opinion.
I happen to know that in addition to being a huge fan of the north you are also a ginormous fan of the show Friends... just so you don’t get “bamboozled” I’ve included a brief “lightning round” here with just a few “wicked wango cards”... so without further ado why don’t you “spin the Wheel of Mayhem to go up the Ladder of Chance.”
Here’s an easy one to begin with... Unagi - eel or mental state of awareness?
Haha, I love this episode. Ross is my favorite character so definitely a total state of awareness.
The obvious one - Did Ross cheat on Rachel or were they on a break?
The ultimate question!! Again, I side with Ross on this one… they were technically on a break… BUT if I were Rachel, I probably wouldn’t be too happy either.
The judgement call - Is it ok to take the decorative pinecones from a hotel lobby?
With that horrible customer service?! For sure ;)
And finally - Which Friends character are you most like?
Oh gosh, this is a hard one! I’m not sure! I feel like my actual friends should answer this for me. Maybe mostly Rachel with a bit of Chandler’s sarcasm mixed in.
Thank you so much for playing along… unfortunately I do not happen have a Geller Cup for your efforts, but is it true that at one time you actually had it in your possession?
Ha! Yes I did. I hosted a Friends trivia night back in high school and built a replica.
Sorry to out you like this, but you are one of those unfortunate souls who, like us, is not afraid to drop a proper paternal pun as a cringeworthy caption from time to time (in fact I think it’s lead to you getting mixed up in a battle of half-wits between us and @wisc_me_nord a time or two... my sincerest apologies… mostly for him )... wondering how you developed such a remarkable resourcefulness for repartee and do you consider your awesome abilities to be a blessing or a curse?
I think you misspelled cringeworthy. It should be w-i-t-t-y ;)
What’s your favorite thing about winter in the Northwoods?
I love those heavy, wet snowfalls where there’s a thick blanket of snow on everything and the tree branches are all bending from the weight. The forests look incredible! I also love having a fire constantly going in our wood stove - that’s how we prefer to heat our house in the winter.
How about Summer?
The heat and humidity! I feel like a lot of people don’t like when it’s humid but I love it. It’s so satisfying after a long, cold winter. I also love swimming in the lakes when they turn lukewarm in July.
Which season is your favorite?
Summer! But fall is a close second. I just wish it lasted longer!
How long have you been making your own maple syrup and how difficult was the process to learn?
Two years! It’s pretty intense and very time consuming but it’s also really cool. There’s definitely a learning curve involved. The first year, our syrup tasted smokey because we didn’t vent the fire properly but this year, it was delicious! We made sooo much though, there’s syrup coming out of our ears.
You’ve done a fair amount of traveling to cozy cabins and rustic retreats in your time as Miss Northerner. Do you have 1 or 2 that you would recommend as your favorite? Maybe one in MN, WI and MI depending on where our readers are excited to explore?
I actually haven’t been to many in Minnesota and Michigan… But for Wisconsin, I liked Wildcat Cabins in Boulder Junction. It was a cozy place with a private dock and a three-season porch. The Foxglove Inn is also a favorite of mine. It isn't a cabin or rustic by any means but it’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever stayed and I always rave about it. That one is in Door County.
Lately you have been playing around with the layout of your grid on Instagram by sticking to a single color theme for nine posts at a time... how are you liking this new format? Do you find it to be at all challenging or is the focus somewhat freeing?
I get bored with Instagram on a regular basis. That’s why I did the “color-coordinated” feed for a while which definitely sparked some creativity for me. For example, when I was about to switch into my green theme, I didn’t have a “green” photo that I was super jazzed about so I went out and created one. It ended up being that drone photo where I’m kayaking through the lily pads, which is now one of my favorites. I’m back to posting normally but I’m sure I’ll switch something up again soon.
You do a great deal of “boots on the ground” landscape photography as well as wildlife, drone and the occasional self portrait in your feed... which would you consider to be your favorite and why? Which would you say challenges you the most?
Wildlife is super fun and probably the most challenging because you’re at the mercy of something so unpredictable. I love shooting landscapes the most though. One of my favorite things is when I’m driving the backroads, stumble across a scene, and know it’s going to be a great shot before I even pick up my camera. Seeing it come to life behind the lens is always very exciting and rewarding.
What is your secret to getting the perfect selfie?
Oh jeez I’ve definitely never taken the perfect selfie, let’s get that on the record lol. I just use a selfie stick, take a bunch, and hope one looks halfway decent.
We recently heard a reputable rumor that there may or may not be a Miss Northerner Etsy shop in the works… is this true? What kind of wonderful wares might one expect find on the Miss Northerner shop?
Yes! I do some watercolor painting. I was going to open up my shop sooner but I decided it might be a better winter project instead. It’s still in the works, we’ll see!
There are a few things I am woefully ashamed to confide in you at this moment 🤫 ... 1) you are the first Wisconsinite we have had the pleasure of featuring here on our blog 🤦♂️ and 2) I’ve never actually made it to any of the big Wisconsin festivals. ... can you give us just a little quick sell on what I have been missing and why visitors should come check out Cranberry Festival, Beef-a-rama and the Tomahawk Fall Ride?
Well how bout that! I’m honored!
I enjoy festivals but for a limited amount of time. I’m happy to spend a few hours among the crowds of people but after that, I’m ready to get out in nature where it’s quieter. As far as the Wisconsin festivals, I’ve actually never been to Beef-a-rama but I’ve heard good things about it! I went to the Tomahawk Fall Ride for the first time last year. I dressed the part - black top, leather jacket, black boots - and then rolled up to the bar in my 2007 Corolla 😂 had a blast. The Eagle River Cranberry Festival and/or the Bayfield Apple Festival are good if you’re looking to get into the fall spirit!
As you know we asked our Instagram followers what they might be interested in asking you and here were their replies - straight from their own fingertips:
Which do you prefer kayaking or canoeing?
Ahh this is hard… probably canoeing because you always have a buddy.
What’s your favorite s’mores recipe?
Classic! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth though so one s’more is enough for me :)
How is Luna?
She’s good! She’s literally the chillest, most gentle cat. We really lucked out with her.
Is there a Mr. Northerner?
Haha yes, my boyfriend and I have been together for over three and a half years!
Eagle or loon?
Loon, hands down.
What is your favorite lake besides Superior?
I have a couple but I don’t actually share them... There are a few things I keep secret and my favorite lakes are one of them!
Is your last name really Northerner?
Nope! That’s just my blog name :)
Alright now back for the big finale… just a few questions we generally like to close out this show with:
What resources do you use for improving your skills? What have been some of the biggest lessons you have learned since you first picked up a camera?
I’ll watch YouTube videos every now and then if there’s something in particular I want to learn. Otherwise just going out and shooting is the main way I improve. I’ve learned so much over the last six years, it’s crazy. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
• Expensive camera gear doesn’t make a good photo; knowledge of the camera, light, and composition does
• Just keep shooting and go even when I don’t feel like it
• Be confident as a photographer and never sell myself short
Do you happen to have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
Last winter, I took one where the morning light was streaming through the trees on fresh snow. That was a pretty one. And that lily pad/drone/kayak photo I mentioned earlier.
Who are your heroes? (photography, literary or otherwise)
My parents. They’re the original “Northerners” in my mind. They instilled in me my love for the outdoors and have always supported my ideas. I wouldn’t be Miss Northerner without them!
Any bucket shots/trips on your list?
As far as the Midwest, there are quite a few places in Michigan I’d like to explore! Specifically Copper Harbor and the Grand Sable Dunes. And basically anywhere outside of the U.S. I can’t wait to travel internationally again.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer someone who is just starting out as a blogger?
Quality over quantity when it comes to blog posts!
This one comes from our previous featured artist Matt Birkholz who would like to know... you dream trip? All expenses paid for a week, where would you go?
Such a hard question! There are so many options! Okay, the first thing that comes to mind is going back to Italy. Traveling down the coast, staying in colorful, Mediterranean villages, and eating fresh seafood by the water. Wine, gelato, sunsets on a sailboat… Doesn’t that sound lovely?
What one question would you ask our next featured person? (Anything you like.)
What would be your dream company to work with as a photographer?
Time to pay it forward... who else would you like to see featured on this blog?
Either of these two Wisconsin photographers would be cool: @grantplace who shares beautiful landscape shots or @james.overesch who takes some awesome wildlife ones!
Thank you so much for your time.
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