Pop-Up Trip to Folsom, CA

Our Maiden Voyage

After a few weeks of cleaning and patching up our camper, we decided it was time for a trip! We thought it would be best to stay close to home, just in case anything went awry. We ended up visiting Folsom Lake and stayed at Beals Point. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Sacramento/Norcal area, Folsom Lake is the 9th biggest lake in California and is really beautiful.

This turned out to be the perfect location for our first trip with our pop-up. The amenities were great, bathrooms and showers, and we had no issues while we were there. Our dogs also enjoyed the hiking and beach access that was within walking distance of our site. Oh, and we enjoyed that too :-).

Folsom Lake

In addition to an awesome place to camp, Folsom is also a great place to visit. There is a totally restored old town and a large outdoor mall called the Palladio close to the campsite. You can enjoy the best of camping, with miles of hiking/biking trails, boating and loads of beach surrounded by calm, predator free water. Or you can head into town and have a delicious meal at a great restaurant or see a movie

However, the best part about Folsom and the Sacramento area in general is the proximity to all of the best sites in Norcal. You can visit Tahoe, Napa, Sonoma, Amador County (amazing wine), the redwood forest, the Sierra Nevada foothills, Mendocino/Fort Bragg and Yosemite all in less than 3 hours. Most of these are only 1.5-2.5 hours away, but Yosemite is closer to 3 hours. So, if you decide you want to see more of our beautiful state, your day trip options really are endless.

How to Repair Canvas for Your Pop-Up Camper

As you may have read, we recently acquired a 1991 Starcraft Starbust pop-up camper. Surprise! It’s a fixer! Below are some pictures of the camper the day we bought it, just to give you an idea of what we are working with here. She may not be pretty, but she’s ours and we have big plans for her.

Ripped Canvas You Say?

For those of you looking to buy a pop-up camper, a full canvas replacement is extremely expensive. We priced ours out and the best value we could find was $975. But that’s only because it was on sale at the time. The standard canvas replacement price for our camper was $1,025 no matter where we looked and shipping takes about 12 weeks.

But we had to do something with the canvas looking like it did below. There was NO WAY it would hold up for long. It had been patched with gorilla tape, points for ingenuity! But we both knew that that was definitely not a solid long term solution.

The Perfect Patch Kit

Neither Nick nor I can sew, so we needed to find a patch kit that was stitch free. We did a little research and found a super helpful glamping website, The Southern Glamper, that recommended a great sew-free patch kit. We ended up buying two full kits on Amazon to make all of our repairs, which was plenty of fabric and glue.

Required Patch Supplies

Patching Steps

  1. Remove the ripped sections of canvas from the camper
    • Unzip all of the canvas pieces
    • You will probably need a drill with a fitted bit since each section is anchored with a screw
      • Tip: Don’t forget to keep the screws in a safe place and take pictures so that you remember how everything was installed
    • From there, it should easily slide off the top and bottom tracks
    • If you have any electrical wired into the sections of the canvas, make note of that and keep that section in place while you patch rather than removing it
  2. Pick an easy patch to start with and spread that canvas out on your work space
  3. Measure your rip and add 1-2 inches all the way around it
    • This will ensure that you have enough good fabric to grip onto
    • Note: You may need to patch on both sides of the rip if your fabric has disintegrated like ours had. You’ll just want to make sure you give the glue time to dry on side 1 before starting side 2. Otherwise, this works very well.
  4.  Follow the instructions on the package
    • Cut the patches out and place them over the rips to make sure they fit properly
    • Add glue around the outer edges of the patch
    • Place the glue coated fabric over the rips in the canvas and smooth onto place
    • Let dry for 4 hours before you re-install the canvas into the camper or 1 hour before flipping and working on the other side of a particularly bad rip
      • Note: We waited 24 hours to reinstall ours just to be safe
  5. Finish the rest of the patches and let them dry
  6. Reinstall the fully patched canvas into your camper using your saved photos and screws

To Sew or Not to Sew

If you find that sewing is required on some of your patches, as it ended up being for ours, fear not! This fabric holds up very well to sewing. We actually enlisted my mom, Joy, to help us with this part. I am HOPELESS when it comes to sewing and she actually rebuilt an entire edge for us using the patch fabric, heavy duty thread, a sewing machine and a leather needle.

If you don’t have someone to turn to for help, JoAnn’s Fabrics offers sewing classes a pretty reasonable price. I will definitely be taking the introductory class, along with a no-sew curtain making class in the next month. Lastly, I totally recommend signing up for their app. Their coupons are out of control and save you a ton of money!

Patches Complete!

We now have a fully patched canvas that’s ready to rock and roll! The glue is VERY sticky and once you have your patch in place, it’s very difficult/mildly impossible to change. Just something to keep in mind as you continue through this process.

Pop-Up Camper Remodel

Leaving our beach house and moving into a rental property was not easy. We began asking all kinds of pesky questions. Like, what do you mean there are no projects? Or, what are we going to do with all of our project-free time? And, I’m sorry, but did you say no projects?

At first, we turned our focus on getting a small garden together in our petite yard. But we finished that in about a day and a half. Then we focused on the baby’s room, and then that was done within a couple of weeks. We decided that we needed something bigger, but not so big or expensive as a house with the baby coming so soon. Enter the beater pop-up camper!

Our Baby

We haunted Facebook Marketplace for months looking for a pop-up in decent condition for under $1K. We didn’t care about much, except that we didn’t want it to smell terrible and we wanted the structure to be in decent condition. Finally, we found one with some significant tears in the canvas, but otherwise, in great condition.

We are now the proud owners of a 1991 Starcraft Starburst pop-up camper. We managed to stay under our budget, with the full cost of the camper coming in at $850. The interior was in great condition, especially considering the age with no work required immediately. It’s not cute, but it’s clean and functional. The bigger issue with this pop-up is that the canvas needs work…bad. Which means, that is the first order of business!

Before Pictures

As of right now, we haven’t done much aside from clean the exterior and wash the upholstery on the couches/beds. We’ve also replaced the wheel on the front of the trailer as the one it came with didn’t fit properly. We learned that the hard way when Nick had to dead-lift half the camper off the ground after it gave out on us :-D.  We’re also installing some leveling jacks onto the trailer later this week, before we take it on our maiden voyage.

No After Pictures Yet

We’ll be sure to post as we remodel and travel, so you can join us on our journey. We hope that you enjoy seeing the progress and maybe even use some of our experience to make your camper remodel easier. The first order of business will be to patch the canvas because we do not want any uninvited guests hanging around inside with us :-).

 

 

 

 

Moving Home

Our Decision

Nick and I recently made a huge decision that will change our lives forever. We moved back home to California! While we both LOVED our beach house, our lifestyle at Jax Beach and the cost of living, we realized that the distance posed a challenge with our families. There were a lot of different reasons that weighed into our ultimate decision, but the biggest one is that we’re pregnant!

This news changed how we looked at our lives and our priorities. We both realized that we didn’t want our children to grow up away from our families. We wanted his (yes HIS :-D) grandparents and extended family to be a part of his life as much as possible.

Our Beach House

This was so bittersweet. Once we decided that we were going home, we went on a renovation push that lasted for about 3 months. We ended up completely finishing the interior before we listed the house. In the end, everything turned out beautiful! Since I was pregnant at the time and sick as a dog, poor Nick was stuck with a lot of the legwork. Though I did help out where I could. Pregnancy is so restricting :-)! But it all worked out for the best in the end. We sold our house in less than a week at nearly list price and closed within 30 days. This allowed us to move back home quicker than we’d ever expected.

We both miss our home so much. We poured our souls into making it our dream house and really hope the new owners love it as much as we did. Below are some pictures of how it turned out. We hope you guys enjoy it!

The Move

Cross country moves are tough, especially when you DIY like Nick and I did. Our goal was to keep our move under $5K, which is a pretty big ask when you’re moving from Florida to Northern California. We’ve done it twice now and we learned a lot the first time around. For anyone looking for a cost effective way to move with animals, we’ve included a few tips.

Moving Tips & Tricks
  1. Animals Stay Free at All La Quinta Inns
  2. PODS are a GREAT and stress free way to move
  3. Roof Bags are an amazing way to save space in a smaller vehicle
  4. Don’t overdo the driving too soon
La Quinta Inn

No matter how many animals you have, you can stay at a La Quinta Inn at no additional charge. We booked solely at this chain along our entire trip and never had to claim our animals or sign a waiver. A lot of hotels have restrictions on animals or nightly fees in excess of $100/night. Thanks to La Quinta, we never had to worry about this extra cost or stress out about whether we’d be turned away due to our animals.

PODS

I truly cannot say enough good things about PODS. As long as you pack your POD effectively and tie off the sections as they recommend, your stuff will arrive just as you sent it. The best part is that the cost to transport cross country is $3,400 and you get 30 days to complete your move. It’s an incredible deal, especially when compared to what else is out there.

The only downside is that the biggest POD they have is for a 3-4 bedroom house. But that’s even a stretch, so you want to make sure you pack everything in tight. We sold a lot of our furniture before we left and really prioritized what was critical VS what we could repurchase or live without once we got to CA.

Roof Bags

We bought a waterproof roof bag that could be used without a rack and put it on top of our Hyundai Sonata. We put everything that we needed to travel in that bag. Two dog crates, two small suitcases, a backpack, the dog and cat food, I mean EVERYTHING we didn’t need while we were driving. They are a lot bigger than you’d expect, which really helped us maximize the space inside our car.

We needed all of the space we could get for a very good reason: 2 Dogs, 2 Cats and 2 Humans. Yikes, right?! While a bigger car would be have been great, we made due with a lot of Febreeze and a good attitude :-). We are also lucky enough that our animals love each other and could be confined in such close quarters without any major tiffs or issues.

Pace Your Drive

The first time we did our cross-country trip, we drove 16 hours on the first day and burnt out so badly that we had to rearrange all of our travel plans just to take a break. This time, we spaced everything out to make sure we never drove more than 9 hours in one single day. In general, we tried to keep our daily drives between 7.5 and 8.5 hours. It worked out beautifully and we really enjoyed our road trip as a result.

Final Thoughts

Our move was a long time in the works and we are both really happy to be back. However, when we left three years ago, coming back to California was definitely not part of the plan.

It’s funny the curve balls that life throws your way. We are now in the process of adjusting to life in a completely different place. A lot has changed since we left and we miss our old hometown at Jax Beach. But we are looking forward to re-making our home here and to creating new memories with it. As soon as we get our next fixer, potentially one with a bit of property, you guys will be the first to know! For right now, we are have decided to scale back and take on a much smaller project. A 1991 pop-up camper :-D.

Virginia City, NV

My husband and I recently went home to visit our families for the holidays. Home for us is Northern California, in the foothills just outside of Sacramento. It had been a very long time since we’d been home and we were excited to get back to our old stomping grounds. While we were home visiting, Nick’s parents wanted to take a day trip to Virginia City, NV.

Virginia City History

Neither of us had ever even heard of Virginia City prior to our trip that day. Weird, considering that it’s only a couple of hours from Sacramento just over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. For those who are like us and have no idea what this place is all about, Virginia City is boom town that sprang up in 1859, when the Comstock Lode was discovered by Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin. The Comstock Lode was the first major silver deposit discovered in the United States.

Current Day

The town is built into the eastern side of Mount Davidson and sits at 6,200 feet above sea level. It has an incredibly rustic beauty that reminded me of the quintessential wild west. The main drag is quaint and very well preserved to maintain the 19th century rustic construction. There are pubs and shops that are there to cater to the tourists that this town attracts, which is the basis of the town’s economy in the 21st century.

Popular Attractions

The Bucket of Blood Saloon is one of the more famous saloons in the city. While we did not eat there or buy a drink, we did take a look around. There is a huge window at the back of the building that overlooks the valley below Mount Davidson. It’s a really nice view to enjoy over a pint.

The Silver Queen Hotel & Wedding Chapel is another of the more popular attractions, featuring a picture of a woman whose dress is made entirely of silver dollars.

The Silver Terrace Cemetery is another and has been featured on Ghost Hunters as one of the most haunted places in America. As with any proper old town, there are definitely ghost tours that you can take in the evening.

Since Virginia City was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961, there is a pretty large list of Museums that you can visit there. There too many to go over in detail, so I’ve provided a link here for your convenience.

Final Thoughts

We found Virginia City totally enchanting and will definitely take another trip up there when we return home. It was a throwback to the way things used to be in the 1800’s and is as close as we’ve gotten to the wild west. Which is saying something, considering that I’ve lived in Arizona and been to Tombstone :-).

Easy Plants for New Gardeners

Growing an epic fruit and veggie garden takes a lot of work and dedication. But there are a few plants that make the task MUCH easier. Knowing what these plants are can help you grow a beautiful garden quickly, especially if you are new to gardening. The plants we will highlight today produce like crazy with minimal effort for you.

There may be some variation in plants, depending on where you live. We are in North Florida, just to give you a good idea of our climate and location. Just make sure you are planting something that is friendly to your climate and at the right time before you get started.

Peppers

Everyone loves a good hot pepper…or at least we do! There are a few plants that are just easy to grow and that produce tons of peppers for months on end.

Tabasco Pepper

The Tabasco pepper plant is our #1 pick for the easiest pepper plant. We planted a tiny seedling in March and have not regretted it since. From May moving forward, we have had non-stop Tabasco peppers (it’s almost November and it is still producing like crazy). So many of them in fact, that it is hard to keep up with eating them. They are tiny orange-red peppers that actually grow up, which is pretty cool. Not only is it easy to care for and a great producer, but it is also a very pretty plant. The peppers start green and change from yellow to orange and finally to red. The plant is like a rainbow of colors at any point in time.

A picture of our Tabasco pepper plant is on the right. We had already clipped off all of the ripe peppers before we snapped this photo, but you can still see that there are a ton of peppers on the plant.

When cooking with Tabasco peppers, just be aware that they are tiny and mighty. In other words, one pepper usually provides enough spice for a dish that will feed 4 people. If you like a lot of heat, then 2-3 peppers would probably get you to that next level. Just remember that a little bit goes a long way with these teeny-tiny peppers.

Dragon Cayenne Pepper

Coming in at a close #2 is the Dragon Cayenne Pepper. The only reason that this is ranked slightly below the Tabasco pepper is because it has slowed production down substantially since summer, though we still get a few peppers per week. This might be because we had to bring it indoors during hurricane Irma to keep it safe, but it’s really hard to tell. During the heat of summer, this plant produced at least 5 peppers that were ready to snip per day. It was an easy plant to care for and started putting out peppers very quickly after we planted the seedling.

It is also VERY good eating. From a flavor standpoint, this is my absolute favorite pepper. It’s very hot upfront on your tongue, but it doesn’t stick around and burn like the dickens. Can you say perfect pepper? Well, at least for us it is. I chop up one of these peppers and put them into everything from egg scrambles in the morning to red meat sauce for pasta. Versatile, delicious and easy to eat. But most of all, it is EASY to grow :-).

Shishito Sweet Pepper

If you’re not into spicy, but want a good sweet pepper to add to your dishes then the Shishito Sweet Pepper is by far the easiest sweet pepper we’ve grown. It is also still producing peppers and we get about 1 a day from it. Though, during the heat of the summer we had numerous peppers every day and could barely keep up with them. They are small peppers with a wonderful flavor and a thinner flesh. Now that we’ve grown them, I like them much better than bell peppers. They grow faster, ripen faster and are much less finicky than a regular bell pepper. We’ve found that anything that ripens for a long time on the vine (especially in Florida) is subject to bug destruction. That’s part of what makes this pepper such a great option.

Fruit

We love growing fruit, though as you expand into more adventurous fruit plants you will find that cross-pollination is a requirement for many plants. As a result, our suggestions are plants that you just stick in the ground and water instead because today is all about keeping it simple.

Watermelon

Watermelon is by far the easiest plant we’ve ever grown, probably because it’s pretty much a weed :-). The bigger challenge will actually be getting rid of this plant, rather than growing it. Because of this, I feel compelled to warn you about it before you plant it: THIS WILL TAKE OVER YOUR GARDEN. Just plant it far away from anything else and give it plenty of space. It’s a vine, so it will grow like crazy until you decide it’s time to pull it out. It will also put out watermelon like it’s its job, which is fantastic.

The best part about this plant is that it actually needs less water in order to produce flavorful fruit. You do still need to water it, but definitely not every day and you do not want to over-soak it when you do. You also only need one plant in order to get a good yield of fruit. So, just plant it in the ground and watch it grow :-). Also, we did notice that the vines can be tender, so please handle with care and don’t dead-head.

In order to tell if it’s ready, the belly (the downside of the fruit) of the plant will actually turn a creamy yellow and it will sound hollow when you knock on it. I had to look at a watermelon from the store to really compare. That will give you a good gauge to tell when it’s ready.

Blackberries

In the right climate, blackberries are another plant that is crazy easy to grow. You just need to plant, water and watch it grow. Much like watermelon, they will be more difficult to get rid of than to grow in the first place. They can be invasive, so we’d recommend planting them a little further away from your garden or in a pot with a trellis (depending on the type of blackberry you have). The trailing thorn-less blackberries like to climb and the trellis helps encourage them to do that.

As far as fruit production, you will pick blackberries about every other day during the production season. I can’t say that we had an abundance of blackberries in Florida, but we definitely did when we grew them in Northern California. However, they were still easy to grow and we did have a decent harvest of fruit.

A Note About Fruit

Most fruits are not the easiest to grow, which is why our selection is pretty narrow. However, we have had some luck with strawberries and know others who have done well with raspberries.  Raspberries should be more plug and play than strawberries as they don’t need to be cut back for a full year like strawberries do. But both of these are decent options if you are looking for a little more variety.

Roots

Sweet Potato

Roots in general have a tendency to be easier to grow as they are not exposed to the elements. But we’ve found that Sweet Potato is the easiest to grow, especially in our tropical climate. Just a few plants will produce enough sweet potatoes for your family for months. They are also a vining plant (are you seeing a theme here?), so you will want to give them plenty of space to sprawl. Otherwise, they will take over your garden, much like watermelon.

The most difficult part about growing sweet potato is figuring out to when to pull them up. We actually dug one up too early and replanted it and it didn’t die. So, that just gives you an idea of how hardy they really are.

After the first harvest attempt, we were a little gun shy and decided to wait another month. So, after about  2-3 months of growing and vining, we pulled them up to make room for more plants. It turned out that we had a huge harvest that we didn’t even know about right under the soil. It was a very pleasant surprise!

Greens

Romaine

Romaine is a super easy green to grow during the fall in full sun. We planted a lot of them from seed and bought some from seedlings as well. They have grown like CRAZY and you can start snipping baby romaine pretty much right away. They don’t require a lot of space and just need water, sun and decent soil to produce a healthy crop. We have about 10 plants and this supplies us with salad every night for dinner.

Arugula

We LOVE homegrown arugula! It’s pretty easy to grow and you can just snip the leaves off and add them to your salad. There is no real “rule” for pruning, which makes them very easy to handle. We actually cut these 100% back during hurricane Irma and they SURVIVED. Hardy? You bet!

The best part about growing your own arugula is that the flavor is a million times better than what you get in the store. It’s almost like trying a completely different green in your salad. If you like a peppery flavor, then this will add a little spice to any salad.

The only thing to worry about for lettuces in general is a bacterial infection. We had this occur and we simply cut back the infected leaves and sprayed neem oil on it and haven’t had a problem since. It’s an easy issue to resolve, but it’s better to try and control the quantity of water your are putting on the leaves of your plants. We can’t really control that here because it rains so frequently.

Herbs

Who doesn’t love a fresh herb garden for their kitchen? I know we do and we have had a lot of success with many different types of herbs. Luckily, some of the popular ones are the easiest to grow!

Rosemary

Rosemary is our top pick for the easiest herb to grow. The reason we chose rosemary first is because it is actually a challenge to kill it, during the right season. It is best to grow it in a pot separately or plant it away from other plants, as it has a tendency to take over. It’s rather like a weed in this respect.

Mint

Mint is like rosemary, in that it is a vigorous and easy-to-grow plant. You will want to keep it in a pot or tucked away from other plants as it likes to sprawl. It sends out runners and can take over other plants if you let it. We use it to flavor adult beverages like mojitos and anything with watermelon or cucumber in it. It is also wonderful when mixed with basil to make pesto. It adds a nice, refreshing flavor that isn’t too overwhelming.

Basil

While basil is not as easy to grow as the two mentioned above, it is definitely not difficult. It does best in warmer weather and needs its blossoms pinched off regularly to encourage healthy growth. It also has a tendency to get woodsy, so keeping it well snipped discourages that.

Thyme

Thyme is definitely easy to grow, as long the soil has great drainage and you keep it snipped. It has a wonderful aroma and is hearty enough to survive all summer and into the fall. Like most herbs, it is frost sensitive and needs to be moved inside during the winter.

Oregano

Oregano is another easy herb to grow. It likes to be in containers where it can spill over the edge. It’s a very pretty plant that has a great scent. It is relatively hardy and likes a good amount of sun. This is another plant that likes to be cut back, but there is not really a science to it. You just want to keep it trimmed to make sure it stays full and bushy.

Final Thoughts

All of the plants that we’ve highlighted today are low-to-medium maintenance and produce a lot of edible fruits, veggies and greens. This means that there is a lot of bang for your buck, if you plant these crops in your garden. They are also plants that we’ve grown and have had a lot of success with in the past or currently. We hope this helps narrow down what to put in your garden and as always, let us know if you have any questions! We’ll do our best to answer what we can.

5 Must Sees in Maui

Maui is an absolutely beautiful place! Forested mountains and rich green plains meet the crystal blue ocean. I’ve been a few times over the last 15 years and it’s one of my favorite places on earth. There is a lot to do while you visit this stunning island and I have a few recommendations to help you plan an awesome trip based on my travels there.

1. Snorkeling in Molokini

Though there are a ton of tourists that frequent this partially submerged volcanic crater, it is an absolutely beautiful experience. The boat ride out there is relatively short and there is a lot of sea life waiting to be explored. The coral is vivid and beautiful and so are the fish. We got VERY lucky on our trip and a school of dolphin swam by while we were snorkeling. It was a totally unforgettable experience.

If you decide to book this day trip, there are some cruises that include a stop at Turtle Town on your way back from Molokini. This is a trip that I think is totally worth tacking onto your snorkel experience in Molokini. While I probably wouldn’t just got there, I would absolutely do both in the same day. I’ve been on this trip a few times and I have always seen sea turtles, which is pretty awesome. They are graceful and beautiful creatures and it’s everything you can do to keep from pestering them while you’re out there :-).

2. The Road to Hana

This trip is not for the faint of heart, but absolutely worth taking. It will be a long day of driving through about 65 miles of winding highway loaded with switchbacks. But the sights you will get to see while you make this long treck will stay with you forever. This is where you will see the Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach and the Pools of ‘OHe’o (The Seven Sacred Pools), along with numerous hikes to other incredible locations. Bring your suit and be ready to swim in both locations, as long as your comfortable with a little rip tide at the beach. The pools, however, are fresh water and a nice, easy swim for anyone.

Outside of the specific stopping points, the scenery as you drive through the forest is stunning. When you actually arrive in Hana, it’s like taking a step into the past. The village is remote enough that it remains relatively untouched by the outside world. If you make this trip, it’s wise to break it up by choosing great stopping points along the way.

3. Snorkel in Kapalua Bay Beach

If you’re looking for a great way to spend an inexpensive day, then this is your ticket! One morning, we asked our resort concierge where we could snorkel locally without taking a day trip and they recommended Kapalua Bay Beach. So, we rented some snorkels and fins for $15 and then drove over there from Ka’anapoli Shores Resort. It’s only two towns over and the ride was about 10-15 minutes total. The beach was beautiful, easy to swim and had pretty awesome snorkeling very close to shore. We whiled away the day between sunning ourselves on the sand and heading back to snorkel different spots around bay.

4. Shore Dive in Ka’anapali

Admittedly, I haven’t done a ton of diving in Hawaii since I wasn’t certified when I last took the trip. But, this is the first place I ever dove and it was an awesome experience. If you have any interest in Scuba, this is a very easy dive that is conducted right off of the shore and is only about 30 feet deep. We took a discover scuba course at Ka’anapali Shores Resort at the time, though other dive shops offered similar dives nearby. There is a small reef right off the shoreline that you get to explore and there is also a good amount of sea life.

The coolest thing I’ve ever experienced was holding the octopus, which is pictured in the album above. Our instructor spotted it and caught it for us during the dive. This particular octopus actually suctioned onto your skin and then changed colors to match whoever was holding it. It felt like the softest velvet you could possibly imagine and every time I dive, I pray that I get to replicate the experience. It hasn’t happened yet, but a girl can dream!

5. Hyatt Drums of the Pacific Luau

For some reason, I can’t seem to bring myself to go to Hawaii without attending a Luau! The Hyatt Drums of the Pacific Luau is the best one I’ve been to by far, from both a performance and food standpoint (and I’ve attended a few). The fire dancing is pretty incredible to watch and the show covers cultures from all over the pacific islands. So, if you’re looking for that true Hawaii tourist experience, this will complete your trip!

Honorable Mentions

The most memorable meal we had the entire time we were in Maui was at Mama’s Fish House. The food there is absolutely incredible, as is the ambiance. We stopped on our way back to Lahaina from the road to Hana and that worked out perfectly. This restaurant is a little pricey, so it was our one big splurge while we were there. But, it was definitely worth it! My general rule in Maui is to eat as much seafood as possible while I am there and this is definitely the place to do it!

We hope that this helps you plan out your vacation and gives you a good idea of some of the prime locations to spend your time. There are also some pretty awesome volcanic drives/hikes, specifically Haleakala National Park, which is on my personal to-do list for my next trip. As you can probably tell from any research you may have already done, there is a ton to do in Hawaii. Maui is an incredible place and no matter what you choose to do while you’re there, the energy and the island will make it a wonderful experience!

How to Save Money on Your DIY Renovation

This post will walk you through how to budget for a renovation and some helpful tips to save money on your journey. All of our suggestions are gained from personal experience and we hope that you can use them to benefit your future projects.

The Budgeting

Categorize a List of Projects & Prioritize Them

DIY Renovation, Saving Money DIY Renovation, Save Money

The first step is to make a list of all the tasks that you want to complete in your remodel. We find it helpful to look at your project through the lens of “in a perfect world.” Then you can imagine everything that you would do to update your house, bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, etc. Once you have completed that list, then you should rank the tasks based on their importance to you. Let’s face it, most of us have limited resources we can afford to spend at any given time. Prioritizing the list breaks down your project into what really matters to you. Now that you have a prioritized list, you an start to break your remodel into phases that make sense for your budget.

During this process, it helps to think about what tasks must be done together. If you are an avid DIYer, then you know what we mean when we say that some projects are linked. This is a frequent occurrence in home renovation, so just ensure that you account for that in your plans.

Budget All Components

Save Money DIYNow that you have a list of each project broken into phases, it’s time to start budgeting. My favorite way to do this is to set a max budget and then give yourself allowances based on the average cost of each project component. Our Phase 1 Project Budget is pasted below for your reference. We had a max budget of $15,000 to start. We had many (oh so many! :-D) other to-dos on the list that were pushed to a later phase in order to ensure that we stayed under budget. We also gave ourselves a cushion for any unexpected issues that came up. This is always a good idea because no renovation goes perfectly. There are always unexpected hiccups along the way.

Phase 1
Project Components  Allowance 
Demo Floors, baseboards, Walls  Free
Remove Walls Engineer  $          300
Install Floors Flooring  $      2,000
Underlayment  $             –
Stair Noses  $            75
Moisture Barrier  $          250
Base Boards Baseboard  $      1,000
Toe kick  $          500
Caulk  $            15
Drywall Work Repair Drywall  $          500
Re-texture Ceilings  $          500
Appliances Refrigerator  $      1,700
Microwave  $          350
Range  $          750
Dishwasher  $          750
Paint Brushes  $            35
Pans  $              5
Paint  $          100
Plastic  $            35
Doors Interior Doors  $      1,000
Fire Door  $          300
Exterior Door  $          300
Front Door  $          300
Knobs & Hardware  $          250
Paint  $            35
Electrical Fans  $          500
Light Fixtures  $          300
Chandelier  $            95
Canned Lighting  $      1,000
Labor  $          500
Total Expenses    $    13,145

Determine What to Keep

Just because it’s ugly doesn’t mean it’s not salvageable. Look around your existing rooms for good quality workmanship. Then make notes of what could be fixed rather than trashed. There is bound to be something that you can keep. We kept our kitchen cabinetry and our stone fireplace. We simply refinished them to give them a more modern look. This saved us thousands of dollars in remodeling costs and they both look great.

If you’re unable to keep anything cosmetically, then think about what you are able to sell online. If your cabinets are in basically good condition, then you may be able to sell them on Facebook Market Place, Let Go or Craig’s List. The same goes for your ceiling fans, vanities or chandeliers. This can help you recoup some of the cost of the renovation.

Do not trash any good quality wood, if you can avoid it. We kept all of the studs from within our walls and used them for a boat load of mini-projects. One of my favorites is the floor to ceiling shelving unit in our garage that cost us next to nothing thanks to those studs. We also used them to build a stand for our chicken coop, my husband’s saw tables/work bench and a wall rack to hold all of the wood. It’s been over a year and we are still using the wood from our first phase.

Buy Materials Slowly

This suggestion is a great way to create a forced savings account for your next project. All this tip does is simplify your savings by taking the money that you would otherwise save for your project and buying the necessary tools for the job instead. This ensures that your money goes to the project, rather than to something else.

My husband and I slowly accrued a lot of the materials we needed for our kitchen remodel. When Nick “accidentally” (are we sure that was an accident? I wonder :-D) broke our kitchen counters, we had a lot of the components already purchased and waiting at our house. This made it much easier for us to start the renovation the day of the breakage.

Remodel in Sections

If you can’t complete the remodel due to budget restrictions, then go slowly. Section out the broader project into small, digestible tasks. For example, you can replace your light fixtures or repaint before you start gutting a room for a heftier remodel. This is an easy way to make noticeable improvements quickly without breaking the bank.

Demo Day!

Much like Chip Gaines, we LOVE demo day! Demolition is a no-brainer task that contractors can charge you north of $1,000 to do. For most demolitions, it’s just about effort and has very little to do with skill. If you’re comfortable with a few basic tools, then this is a great way to save money on your project. So, get your hands dirty and have a little fun while you’re at it. Also, please don’t forget to wear the proper protective gear. Insulation in your lungs is never fun…neither is concrete. Trust me…I know these things :-D.

Take Advantage of Tool Rental

Rather than buy all of the tools you need upfront, it’s worth checking out the cost to rent them from the tool desk at Home Depot. We do this a lot, especially when the tool is not something we do not expect to need again for a while. They have a lot of different options out there, which can help immensely with your upfront costs. They also offer truck rental, which has been a life saver for us since we don’t own one of our own. $19.99 for the first 75 minutes…Yes please!

Final Thoughts

We hope that you found our money saving tips helpful and that you are able to use them successfully in your remodel! If you’re interested in our other DIY Posts, please read the following posts: Beach House Renovation Story, How to Remodel Your Kitchen for $1,000, White-Wash a Stone or Brick Fireplace and 6 Tips for DIY Renovators.

5 Chicken Boredom Busters

There are a few good reasons to keep your chickens happy and entertained. But the primary one is that chickens are naturally cannibalistic. As if it weren’t enough that every other carnivore wants to eat them, they now want to eat each other?! This is a question I’ve contemplated many times. The sad truth is that chickens also need to worry about their own flock, along with all of the other predators out there. The good news is that keeping your chickens well entertained greatly reduces the likelihood that you will run into this behavior in your flock.

Everything we’ll suggest in this post is inexpensive, easy to implement and totally healthy for your chickens. We hope you enjoy our methods and that you try them out!

Community Dust Bath

Dust baths are a great way for your chickens to socialize and stay entertained. They are super easy to make and also have a variety of advantages associated with them. In addition to the social benefits, dust baths also keep your chickens clean and reduce bothersome bugs. The dust removes the excess oil from their feathers and the ingredients in a traditional dust bath help your chickens stay mite, lice and flea free. Any plastic storage bin will work for this purpose, as long as your chickens can get in and spread their wings a bit.

An easy recipe for a dust bath is as follows:
  • 2 Parts dry dirt – Peat moss is a great ingredient to use for this as it’s so light and fluffy. But you can also just dig up dirt from your yard or use top soil.
  • 1 Part play sand
  • 1 part diatomaceous earth (this is what keeps the bugs away)
  • 1 part wood ash (healthy for them to peck at and adds a nice texture to the bath)

Strategic Fruit & Veggies

There is a lot of different produce that can keep your flock interested for hours out of a day. A few examples of these are pumpkins, squash, and watermelon. Depending on the season, we cut one of these in half and put it in our chicken’s run. They will peck at it all day and eat every last bit of flesh away from the rind. It’s amazing how clean they can get a watermelon!

The other method we’ve tried is to tie a string around the stem of a cabbage and hang it from the roof of their run. This gives them the added enjoyment of watching it swing back and forth when they peck at it. The purpose of this tip is to find fruit that will take them longer to eat and keep them interested while they are doing it. You can also use apples or other fruit and dangle them from strings in the same manner as a cabbage. Be creative and be sure that anything you feed your flock is safe for their digestion.

Roosting Bars

Chickens love to roost high off the ground. It makes them feel safe and secure. It also entertains them to hop from branch to branch in their run. We currently have three roosts set up for them at varying heights. We have a lot of trees around our house and just cut a few branches and put them right into their coop. Free and effective!

If you want to get more creative, you can also add a swing to their run. It can be something as simple as a 2×4 with rope tied to either side and secured to the roof.

Mirrors

Birds love mirrors! It’s just how they’re programmed and chickens are no exception to that rule. We were able to find a mirror on clearance at Target for $4.95, which we added to their run. They totally enjoy it and interact with it frequently. It’s really cute to watch them turn their heads and look at themselves in the mirror. Adorable! 🙂

Free Range

This is our favorite way to keep our chickens entertained! It’s free, easy and there are also some substantial health benefits to allowing them out of their run and into your yard to explore. But for us, the most important benefit is that it makes them happy. It also provides them with an opportunity to interact and bond with us. They are very curious and often come over to watch what we are doing, craning their heads comically to see better.

They are not interested in flying over the fence or getting too far away from their coop, which is good because their wings are not clipped. They mostly scratch around the grass and forage for grit and bugs. They are a little bratty when it comes to our garden. They LOVE to get in there and nibble on our greens. But they will take direction and leave when we shoe them away.

As for the health advantages, chickens digest their food in their crop and this requires grit. If you free range them often enough, then they scratch and forage for their own grit. Otherwise, they need it in their feed on a regular basis. Free ranging saves us the hassle of worrying about grit and also ensures their overall health.

Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips to keep your chickens happy and entertained. If you have any you’d like to share, please feel free to comment below. We are always looking for way to improve out hens’ quality of life. If you’re interested in reading more about raising backyard chickens, please check out our other posts: Baby Chick Care Guide,  Chickens are Cheap, Coops are Not & Chicken Breed Matters.

5 Tips for New Gardeners

New to gardening? We have some simple tips that will help you succeed in your first garden adventure!

Why We Love to Garden

Gardening is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. There’s nothing like planting something into the ground, nurturing it and watching it grow. After all, you get to see all your hard work and dedication flourish right in front of your eyes! It’s even better when you’re able to harvest your plants and use them at your dinner table. Can you say, “YUM!?”

We’re sharing what we’ve learned with you today because want everyone to feel that sense of accomplishment you get when your plants do well. We hope that you find our tips both encouraging and helpful.

Our Tips for New Gardeners

1. You Win Some You Lose Some

This tip is definitely the most important for any new gardener. EVERYONE loses sometimes, no matter how good you are with your plants. Most backyard gardeners are not horticulturists and have learned our methods through trial and error. As with anything, you often learn more from your failures than you do from your successes. So, don’t be discouraged if something you put a lot of effort into growing dies.

We have encountered our fair share of failures in our vegetable and fruit garden. The key is not to allow those failures to define you as “Ye Old Killer of Innocent Plants.” You do not have the black thumb of death, as my husband would say :-). We’ve had plants wilt and die within the first week of planting them, no matter what we do to try and save them. Sometimes, it just happens and you have to try again. For example, we are still trying to figure out the secret to keeping dill and cilantro alive longer than 4 weeks. We’re finally getting there (please…can we be there already? :-D), but it took us 4-5 plants of each just to find the right spot in our yard for them.

2. Don’t Commit Too Soon

If you’re unsure about where to put a certain plant in your yard, leave it in its container for a few days (5 or so) in the spot you want to test. If it does well, then you have your answer. If it starts to look a little wilted or droopy, then move it to more sun. If it looks burnt, then move it to more shade. This is a method that we’ve tried to great success in our garden and when we re-landscaped our front yard.

This is especially helpful for more sensitive plants or locations that don’t have an ideal amount of sun. You’ll know it’s time to replant or re-pot your seedling once the root system starts to grow out of the drainage hole on the bottom of the pot. At that point, it’s time to give them more space to grow and flourish.

3. Sun, Soil, Water

This is your key to an awesome garden! Getting this right can take a little trial and error and we’ve found that the ideal combination is based on the climate where you are located. However, there are a few tried and true rules to follow that can help no matter where you’re located.

Sun

All plants need sun in order to grow, but this varies depending on the plant that you want to grow. Be sure to look at the instructions on the plant’s tag to determine the ideal sun/shade mix for it. Then do what you can to give it that ideal mix. It’s a simple task, but sometimes you have to move your plants around a little to find the best location for them. We pot most of our more sensitive plants, rather than plant them in our raised garden beds for this reason. It allows us to maneuver them around the yard to see where they do best.

Soil

Plants need good drainage and plenty of nutrients from their soil. If you buy a soil that doesn’t have mulch and/or sand in it, then you are going to run into draining issues which leads root rot. One of my favorite soils is Nature’s Care, which I normally get at Home Depot. It’s a good quality, rich, organic soil with plenty of drainage. However, if you have a Costco membership and it’s spring time, then I’d definitely recommend buying the Miracle Grow Organic soil instead. It comes in a bag 2xs the size of regular soil bags and is about the same price as regular soil from any garden center. HUGE money saver, especially if you’re filling garden beds or large pots for the first time.

Water

This is probably the trickiest part for most gardeners because you don’t want to either over or under-do it. How often you water will also depend upon things like heat, humidity and sun exposure. The general rule of thumb is to water every other day and to give them a good drink, but not to drown them. It also helps to make sure, if your plant is in a pot, that there are holes in the bottom for drainage. Most come this way, but some don’t and it can cause moldy soil and root rot if you don’t drill holes into the bottom.

If I’m unsure whether or not a plan needs water, I usually do the poke test. It’s super scientific and rather resembles the poke test to check the done-ness of a good steak (I kid!). All I really do is press my finger into the soil about an inch deep and if moisture comes away on my fingers, I will let it go another day. If it’s dry, then I water it. Plants typically won’t die if you go a few hours longer than you should have without watering. So, don’t worry too much over it. As long as you’re watering at least every other day, you should be in good shape.

4. Prune Baby Prune

Google or Pinterest the pruning instructions for the plants that you are starting with in your garden. We used to be really bad about pruning, but then we discovered what a HUGE difference it makes. I have not met a plant that doesn’t like to be cut back a little or dead-headed. It will help keep your plants looking healthy and bushy, instead of woody and wilted. Pruning allows more sun to get to where it needs to go in plants like tomatoes and cuts away nutrient sucking limbs that don’t produce fruit. It’s definitely worth the time investment and will keep your garden looking beautiful.

5. Get Friendly with Liquid Fertilizer

Nothing makes plants grow better than poop! Kind of gross, but also true. So, grab a liquid fertilizer with chicken poop as a primary ingredient and follow the instructions on the bottle. We apply our liquid fertilizer at the recommended interval in the instructions and it seems like our plants double in size over the span of a few days. It’s amazing to watch!

Final Thoughts

We hope that you enjoyed our tips and found them helpful! If you’re curious about any more gardening tips, please check out our other posts: Growing Plants from Seed, Easiest Garden Beds EVER!, Square Foot Gardening, and Grow Your Own Pineapple Plant.