DIY is Fun (in a laugh at yourself sort of way)

I’m getting tired of watching diy videos with smiling, happy people in them. I need a more honest depiction complete with f-bombs and threatening to jump off a bridge,etc.. That would make me feel better.. I guess me and Bryon could start our own line of “lessons learned”, “don’t try this at home”, “hire it out”, or “just buy it at the store and here’s why” videos with an office space style tantrum at the end…

It would go something like this: you just put this right here like so.. Oh wait, that doesn’t work- I’m going to have to redo the whole thing. Hold on a sec while I get the baseball bat..

Or this: We should leave a half inch gap at the top of the cabinets so they can open and close them. Ya, definitely. Or should we because we will be shrinking the counter space? Ya, definitely not. Or maybe we should because they’ll want to be able to open the cabinets. Ya, definitely. But, then again, the counter space. Will they be able to chop stuff? Ya, definitely not. This conversation continues into the next day.

Or this: Let’s just feel in this duct opening to see how thick the flooring is. Ow – what the!!! Blood gushing everywhere.. Only band-aid we can find is a Frozen themed band-aid.

Or this: Bryon patiently teaching me how to install flooring. Video pans to my face which is bug-eyed because I’m scared I’ll chop off my finger in the table saw. Hence, video is not shareable. :-p

Or this: Filming how to install a door when one of the girls walks in and says, “Mommy, we finished all the Pringles – what else can we have to eat?”. “Just open another can of Pringles.” Bad parenting moment captured – delete recording.

Seriously, we’ve tried to do a few videos and it always seems to end with, “Are you recording? Turn off the camera.”. Mysterious hand comes up to cover the camera lens. :-p Much respect to those people who can make videos with a smile.

Well, I guess we can say it’s a good thing we don’t make DIY videos or no one would be wanting to DIY. :-p Don’t worry, we hire out all the plumbing and electrical – we don’t try to do that ourselves. :-p But flooring, new doors, kitchen cabinets, painting, patching holes, upgrading closets, deep cleaning – that’s all fair game. Maybe one day we’ll get it together and be smiling, happy, diy video people.:-p #MarriageGoals

P.S. The same goes for exercise videos.. If they could just be more honest maybe I could finish the video.. Just throw me a few- “wow- my legs feel like they are about to fall off – but let’s keep going”.. Or “I really feel like having a donut right now but let’s focus”.. Anything so that I know they aren’t oversmiling autobots hellbent on exercising til we drop- that’s intimidating.. :-p And when I start to feel like they are trying to kill me-I have to push the stop button- it’s just self preservation on my end..

But whatever the case, we are having fun learning new things.  And we feel so grateful to be able to work together and do the things we do.  We learn more about each other and life everyday.  It’s an adventure and we love a good adventure.  With the downs, come some really great ups that we wouldn’t have gotten if we didn’t try out new things and experiences.  Isn’t that the great thing about life?  Say yes to the adventures!

Patching holes

When we had ceiling fans installed in one of our units, the electrician had to make holes all over the place in order to run the electrical to the center of the room from an outlet that was on the wall since the units didn’t already have lights in the ceiling.  It left a lot of holes!  And some pretty big ones at that.

For the smaller holes, we just patched them with some joint compound and joint tape.  We used a sticky joint tape since it was on the ceiling and we wanted the tape to stick well and not sag down.

You’ll need these things:

-Joint Compound (get the stuff that dries slow – 90 minute works well)
-Cup of water
-Mixing Trough
-Putty knife
-Joint Tape (sticky if you like)

Ignore any other stuff in the picture.

Make the mud by mixing joint compound and water to a pancake batter consistency:

There were these size holes which were about 2 inches long and an inch wide.  For these, we first filled them with mud and let that dry.  Then we put another thin layer of mud and put the joint tape on there.  You’ll want to make sure the joint tape extends past the hole about an inch on each side.  Then, we mudded again a few times – letting dry each time between layers.  Finally, sand it smooth, prime, and paint.

These were the other holes we had which have the drywall that was cut out and secured to a stud.  We just have to tape and mud around the circle.

This next hole was in the closet and there was nothing to secure the drywall circle to.  So, my husband took a piece of baseboard that was slightly larger than the hole by about 2 inches and placed that in the hole cross-wise (using a temporary screw that was drilled partly into the baseboard for grip reasons) then he screwed through the drywall on either side of the hole until the screw caught on the baseboard and pulled it tight.  Then, he drilled the cut drywall to the secured baseboard with a screw.  Now, we just had to patch the circle around the cut drywall.  I wish I had pictures of this process but the pictures didn’t turn out.  Here’s the pictures with the joint tape and then the mud.  It’s not the finished pictures.  I’ll have to post those later.


Hope that helps someone else out there that has to patch up several holes like we did.




Red Beans and Rice with Sausage

Red Beans and Rice with Sausage

1/8 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 tsp Tabasco
Couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
2.5 tsp salt (little more)
1 Bag of red beans
1 onion
1 green bell pepper
4 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic, minced (or more)
Smoked Sausage (use turkey for healthier version)
White rice

1.) Soak red beans according to directions on package (I usually use the quick soak method).
2.) In large pot, add water to the beans until just covered then add an extra inch of water. Boil red beans for 90 minutes with lid on tilted.
3.) Use the immersion blender for a minute or two to blend some of the beans so it’s creamier. This is optional. 4.) Fry onion, bell pepper, and celery in separate pan using butter or bacon grease, add garlic and all seasonings for the last minute to bring out flavor. Add to the beans.
5.) Fry the sausage in the same pan. Add to the beans.
6.) Continue to cook over medium heat for 30 more minutes. Add ¼ stick of butter at the end to make it creamier (optional).
7.) Serve over rice. Add cheddar cheese on top – not optional ;-).

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

3 lb Chicken breasts, split in – Half and boned (or about 1 lb regular chicken breasts) or use chicken thighs if you like dark meat
Salt to season chicken
Pepper to season chicken
Garlic powder to season chicken
1 lb Smoked sausage or kielbasa (use turkey sausage for healthier version) sliced bite-size
1/2 c Canola oil
1/2 c All-purpose flour
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 c Chopped celery (4 ribs)
7 c Water divided
4 cloves Chopped garlic (or more if desired)
1/8 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
White rice

1.) Season chicken breasts lightly with salt, black pepper and garlic powder. If possible, do this the day before you cook the gumbo. I usually do this at the last minute.
2.) Chop up the onions, green bell pepper, & celery.
3.) Make roux, using a huge pot. Place oil in skillet over medium heat – oil should be at stage where it just begins to smoke – and gradually stir in flour, using a long-handled spoon. Roux will take about 3 to 4 minutes to cook and must be stirred constantly so that it does not burn. If you see black specks in the roux, it has burned and you must start over again. As you make the roux, it will change in color from cream to tan to brown and then to dark red-brown. Remove from heat.
4.) Stir in onions, green peppers and celery, stirring constantly until roux stops getting darker. Bring to stove once more, and cook over low heat about five to seven minutes, stirring constantly.
5.) Pour in 6 c of water & add chicken & bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the roux. Immediately after starts to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Use plate to weight the chicken so that it is not above the water. Remove chicken, and set aside to cool. De bone chicken, and cut into bite-size pieces.
6.) Add sausage, 1 c water, and all the seasonings to the pot, and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently. Taste, and add salt, if necessary.
7.) Stir in the chicken, and remove the gumbo from the heat. Skim surface to remove fat that sausage gives off during cooking (won’t need to do this if using turkey sausage). Serve over rice.

Note: You could add okra to this, but I find that it sometimes gets slimy.  I read that you are supposed to cook the slime off the okra before putting it in.  I just leave it out though because I like it either way.  

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Dos – Cabinet Assembly

If you are interested in reading part 1, it is here: IKEA Kitchen Install Part Uno – Planning Design

Next, we assemble the cabinets.  This takes time.  I do recommend using a drill with it set to low torque.  You will need a drill, rubber mallet, Phillips head screw driver, hammer.

One place where we messed up is we never compared our final purchase receipt with the online planning tool item list.  The guy that was helping us purchase accidentally deleted our order and had to manually enter it and there were many errors, which meant we ended up returning a few cabinets after we’d already assembled them.  :-/  IKEA was great though – they took them back no questions asked and gave us new ones which was a relief.  So make sure you double check everything before you start – this set us back a bit.

You’ll need a large clear space for assembly.  And you will want to assemble everything on a drop cloth or the cardboard boxes that they came in so that you don’t scratch up the finish of the cabinets during assembly.  The instructions are mostly picture instructions with no words.  So, just follow along with the pictures and lay everything out as shown.  I highly recommend following along with the instruction manual – if you don’t and try on your own you might regret it and have to redo because things need to be done in a certain progression.  Here’s some pictures of the assembly.  It was so easy we even had our daughters helping us.  But it does take time.

Lay the stuff out as pictured in the instructions:


We used a drill to put these in or it would take for-ever.  Set it to low torque so that you don’t do any damage.blog_ikeacabs2

Little tip on this one – don’t twist these cams too hard – they break easily.  I broke one and then we got an extra one luckily in a different package.  I took this as God’s intervention because I did pray for help after that.  And the next box had an extra (exactly what we needed – there were no extras in any of the other boxes – so awesome).

Hammer in the little teeny tiny nails in the back to keep the back of the cabinet in place.  Do make sure you have the white side facing the right way (inside the cabinet) because I imagine it would be impossible to get these nails out.  blog_ikeacabskids blog_ikeacabskids2

Now, we had the cabinets assembled and we started getting stressed about actually installing them because life got busy and we’d been working on renovating this unit for longer than I care to admit.

So, I went back to IKEA to see about paying for installation and they don’t do the installation if you’ve already assembled the cabinets because they charge for assembly and installation per cabinet. It’s one price and they don’t reduce the price if you’ve already assembled the cabinets.

We thought it wouldn’t be worth it then to pay the huge price for installation when we’d already done so much of the work. We also figured it would be hard to find a contractor that is familiar with installing an IKEA kitchen since they are so new to the area so we realized we are completely on our own. Duh duh duh. No, literally we said, “Duh!” because we had no idea what we were doing (I should edit that to say I have no idea what I’m doing – Bryon is pretty handy). Time to google some stuff.

And there’s not much information on Google either. I’m not sure why – IKEA has been around for a while. Maybe we don’t even know how to Google right. :-p Saw some stuff in a different language but that wasn’t going to help.  So, our next post will be the Installation post. It’ll feel like a miracle when that is done. Praying heavily at this point.  We have to have it mostly done by December 12th because that’s when the flooring guys are coming to measure. We are making good progress.  Stay tuned. :-/

Read on for the rest of the install:

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Uno – Planning Design

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Dos – Assembly

IKEA Kitchen Install Part Tres- Cabinet Install

IKEA Kitchen Install Parto Quatro – Finishing Touches

8 things I might’ve said to my kids this summer

8 Things I Might’ve Said to My Kids This Summer:

1.) If you don’t want to eat what I make, then you can go outside and forage for crickets – maybe make yourself a cricket taco or something. Or you can take your sling shot and kill yourself a rabbit for dinner.. Lots of rabbits in the backyard..

2.) Singing, “Do you want to be evil like me? Do you want to be cruel?”.

3.) We are leaving in 5 minutes, naked or not!

4.) The house was just clean 2 days ago! What happened?!?!

5.) Stop doing that! You are going to end up on that show, “Top 10 dumbest ways to die”!

6.) Why does the car smell like a dead animal? Forget it – I don’t want to know. Only to find that my kids were shoving actual food in the cubbies! And I had gnats circling my head while driving for weeks before I gave in and investigated.

7.) Shut the door – on repeat – until my voice got hoarse. Only to find out to my astonishment that they actually know how to shut doors – in Minecraft! I guess it’s easier to remember to shut the door when a monster is chasing you. Note to self: buy a monster mask. :-p

8.) This one is more of a thought: waking up in the middle of the night thinking oh dear Lord please tell me they shut off the water!

Ya, I do have some redeeming qualities, I hope. Luckily, my kids have a good sense of humor.. Anyone else have a favorite thing they said?



Painter’s Tools All In One: 14 in 1 paint tool

My husband got me this 14 in 1 Paint tool which I, at first, thought was a big waste of money. I’m not a big gadget person. I just don’t like to have to make a place for them b/c I’m not the best organizer. Sometimes they are useful though and this one is.

I use it to open paint cans. It’s amazing for spreading spackle – better than the putty knife I had been using. I’ve used it for cleaning things as well – like scraping off mucked on grease. I used to use my thumb nail for everything – poor thumb nail – quite the opposite of a manicure, but I don’t get those anyway.  I’m really not patient enough to get a manicure and I kind of don’t care what my nails look like anyway – is that bad?

I read that it pulls nails out too (not the finger nails – that would be bad – I’m not THAT anti-fingernail!).  You can use it to pull out the nails in the wall.  Though, I haven’t tried that with it yet.  It also can clean off paint rollers.

The little screwdriver attachment on the end is great.  I always need a screwdriver for something or another – it comes with a flathead (or slotted) and phillips head.  I’m sure I’m going to find infinitely more uses for this as time goes on. Great purchase!  And I’m not even getting paid to advertise – what a shame!  :-p

The only thing they need to add to this is a cork screw.  :-p

It’s $5 at Home Depot.  Isn’t it funny how we will have $400 worth of stuff in our cart at Home Depot and then can’t stand to add another $5 to our cart.  I do that all the time!  I’m like – let me just save $2 and get the cheap painter’s tape that’s going to make my life a living Hell.  Never mind that I have $400 worth of stuff already in my cart.  :-p

BTW, just a funny side note.  My husband used the word, chamfered, the other day and I cracked up laughing (too many paint fumes).  I had no idea this was a word.  I told him, we should call ourselves Chamfered & Sons, LLC.  Only, we don’t have sons and I still have no idea what chamfered means.  :-p

Here’s a pic of my new gadget:


Northern California With Kids

We took a two week vacation to northern California with the kids this summer! I know some of you may be getting jealous, but let me put your mind at ease. :-p If I had to give it a name it would be the Great California Restroom Adventure Tour. :-p We visited many of the restrooms on the Pacific coast. In the process, we did see some sea lions, sea otters, nice views, etc while running towards the restroom, of course. And we did get to meet many of the locals while running up to them and frantically asking if they know where the nearest restroom is then sprinting off.. :-p And got to know a few more intimately while they watched my little one pee herself while waiting in line for the restroom. Turns out there’s not a lot of potties in nature. Oh, but it was still fun (in a sleep-deprived/slap happy sort of way – you take what you can get as a parent) – luckily, we usually had a change of clothes or a swim suit – Bryon packed the whole house on his back and then hiked with it too – what a man. :-p

For the first part of the vacation – the first week – we visited family in Sacramento. We stayed at my sister’s house. She has two daughters that are around my daughter’s age and a swimming pool so they had an amazing time together! My mom came up and also my brother lives there so we were able to visit with everybody. And we all really enjoyed each other’s company so it was great. They threw my girls a surprise birthday party b/c they aren’t able to be there for their birthdays which the girls loved. This part of the trip was nice and relaxing. Then, we ventured out on our own for a tour of northern California. They say that the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude, right? Well, let’s just say when we were all in the right frame of mind, it was an adventure and when anyone’s attitude was off, it was an ordeal. Well, with 5 people in the family, someone’s attitude was usually off. :-p I joke but it was fun and it’s fun to joke.

The first spot we hit was Yosemite National Park. It was only a few hours from Sacramento. We did the Yosemite Valley Floor Tour. We thought this would be a great way to see all the main sites because we only had a day to spend there – 5 hours to be exact before we headed out to our next destination. It was nice and relaxing- I highly recommend this. We felt like we got to see the main attractions of Yosemite. It was an open air tram so you kind of felt like you were in it. Case in point, I even got hit by a VERY large bug in the head while riding. Of course, I did a crazy dance in my seat and tried not to jump and roll out of the tram. Looked around for it – it seemed to be gone. Then, a few minutes later, I look down at my daughter Cara and the giant bug is on her neck wiggling it’s ginormous antennae. My eyes got huge but I tried not to clue her in to what was going on. I took my jacket sleeve and swatted that thing on to the floor of the tram and then I smooshed it. I know bug enthusiasts everywhere are probably going to jump down my throat about that but as long as it’s not the bug jumping down my throat I’m good.

With kids, this tour was great b/c our kids aren’t that athletic and so hiking usually doesn’t end well – Bryon ends up hiking with the kids on his shoulders. :-/ Which is kind of a shame because we do love to hike and love nature, but oh well, you learn to improvise with kids, right? We do alot of trails that allow strollers, etc b/c even my 7 and 9 year old take turns in the stroller. :-p Yes, I know, we have bred a new form of lazy. j/k Maybe it will be better as they get older.  

Now, we did happen to get the worst seat on the tram because we barely made it there in time – do not sit in the seat where your back is up against someone else’s back – it was awkward and my hair bun kept rubbing against people’s backs – I had to sit hunched over.  The reason we were running late even though we gave ourselves an hour to get to this place was because of the parking – there is no parking – you will have to wait forever for someone to leave their spot or park really far away and hike there.  It’s bad – so that’s the one downfall – give yourself plenty of time to get to the lodge.  I don’t like this picture of me but I want you guys to see the tram so I have to sacrifice.  :-p

FamilyTram YosemiteScenery5 YosemiteScenery6 Yosemite_BryonAndgirls2

After that, we ate dinner at the Yosemite Valley lodge and headed out for our next destination – San Luis Obispo – this was as far South as we were going to go in California. I’m glad we left while the sun was still out b/c the roads were kind of windy. We arrived at our hotel in San Luis Obispo kind of late. When we got to our room, we found that the bed was not made and there was beer in the trash can and towels on the floor in the bathroom – almost as if someone had just left so we could have the room. It was weird and a little disconcerting. The hotel manager gave us a key to another room, but the other room didn’t have a bathroom and I was not willing to stay in a room with no bathroom – hello! the name I gave this vacation was the The California Restroom Adventure Tour! – I was not about to have an overnight restroom adventure too. So, we just took the clean bedding from the second room and remade the beds in our first room. We were on a budget so the hotel was not the most sought after. You get what you pay for, I guess. The hotel was Morro Shores Inn & Suites. At the same time, this hotel was not as bad as it could have been so I’m still thankful. Otherwise, it was pretty updated and relatively clean (like the carpet didn’t turn your feet black, etc). And it had working A/C which is apparently not always guaranteed at the less expensive hotels. Although it took us a bit of sweating it out to realize that the thermostat was working backwards..

We got to sleep VERY late because we all slept in the same room (2 queen beds). The girls slept in one bed and me and Bryon in the other. They had a hard time getting to sleep, of course, which is usually the case when they sleep together. So, lots of coffee was in order in the morning. We headed out to Montana de Oro State Park and boy was it beautiful! I highly recommend going there. Here’s some pictures:


MontanaDeOroScenery12 MontanaDeOroScenery8 MontanaDeOroScenery6 MontanaDeOroScenery10

We took the Bluff Trail because it was stroller friendly and we definitely used that stroller for all three kids! They were fighting over it. Eventually, we had one in the stroller and one on Bryon’s shoulders and the other one had to suck it up which of course “wasn’t fair”. I was kind of wishing we had at least a double stroller. I had been reading from my phone to Bryon on the way to this park and one of the sites mentioned to beware of rattle snakes. Well, when we were walking the trail, a huge lizard crossed our path and Bryon screamed like a muppet. It seriously sounded like a muppet screaming. We laughed so hard! I had never heard him scream before – now I know why – he keeps that under wraps. I guess telling snake stories on the way to the trail is a good way to freak people out. :-p

MontanaDeOro_Coco MontanaDeOro_Family

The views were so beautiful! We saw lots of birds and you can go down and explore the tide pools in places. We didn’t see much in the tide pools, but it was cool, nonetheless. I like to explore to see if I can see some sea life. Colette didn’t like that part because she was scared I was going to get swept away by the waves! So, she screamed mercilessly when I was near the water. I might have told them once or twice to be careful near the water because of the waves and might have freaked them out a bit. Learned my lesson there. We ended up on a beach where the girls played in the sand. We ate our Subway sandwiches that we had brought along. It was a nice day. We also saw alot of squirrels or chipmunks along the way.


After that, we began our drive up the coastline to Monterrey. We began that drive around 4pm which was perfect because we got to see the sunset and the roads are really windy so we had enough light to not drive that in the dark which is good. I realized that I couldn’t live anywhere along that drive because it’s too hilly. I like to be able to see for long distances (being from TX). We arrived in Salinas about 8 or 9pm. We passed by Big Sur – the views were incredible.  This was the only time on the trip that we got to see the sunset.  We kept chasing it everyday but it never panned out.  This was beautiful though – it happened so fast – the sun just disappeared into the ocean.


We were pretty excited about our hotel in Salinas, CA. We decided to stay in Salinas because it was significantly less expensive and we were able to score a 1 bedroom hotel room! Woohoo! We had a bedroom with a door on it and the girls slept in the living room on a sofa bed. Privacy, at last! This is the way to go people. I will try to find this from here on out on our vacations. It was Residence Inn by Marriott Salinas Monterrey and I LOVED this hotel. It had a full breakfast buffet included in the price which had EGGS! – I love it when they have Eggs. It had eggs, fried potatoes, salsa, sour cream, waffles, pancakes, sausage, the works! I love breakfast buffets..

After stuffing our faces, we headed to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This was my second favorite place we visited on the trip. I highly recommend going here. The views the most beautiful and the hike is kind of cool – along the rocky coastline. You also get to see sea lions and otters! Bring your binoculars, but they also have a guy with a telescope that you can zoom in on the animals and animal-watch. There are also tide pools along the trails to explore with crabs and other creatures in there. So fun! My daughter did scream at the top of her lungs again (b/c I was too close to the waves) but I was getting used to it.

Here’s some pictures:

PointLobos_SeaLions3 PointLobos_DadAndGirls4 PointLobosScenery2 PointLobosScenery

Next, we headed over to Carmel beach which was beautiful – the white sand was gorgeous. And the bathrooms here were the best! :-p The girls made a sand castle – I called it the meatball castle because that’s what it looked like. The water is, of course, cold but they enjoyed just getting in up to their knees and watching the water pull away from them – they said it felt like they were moving. If you want to get in any further, you have to have a wet suit – too cold. We didn’t get wet suits, etc because our kids don’t really know how to swim that well and it would make me nervous anyway. They were happy just to play in it like that and build their sand castle.  We also saw some dolphins playing which was neat.

CarmelBeach CarmelBeach_SandCastleC CarmelBeach_SandAllGirls2 CarmelBeach_Kids CarmelBeach_All3Kids

Then, we headed out and did the 17 mile drive which was gorgeous. But I was kind of done by that point. It was alot in one day. And we were ready to eat. We headed to Cannery Row and tried to find food there, but we just walked around and headed back to the hotel – figured we’d save some money and get fast food to eat at the hotel. Everything is just so expensive when you try to eat out with kids. We ended up getting Hardee’s to go. The kids like the huge nachos and we got our burgers that were significantly less expensive than those at the burger joint on Cannery Row. But significantly more expensive than burgers in St Louis – $10 for the combo vs $7 in St Louis. The girls did spend a ton of time at the candy store picking out candy that we missed the hotel pool, but oh well, they had fun deciding on candy.

Next up, our Sea Otter adventure. This was my favorite activity of the trip. We went to Kayak Connection at Elkhorn Slough and did their Family Adventure Tour which was a two-hour kayak tour. I rode in the triple kayak with Colette and Cara and Bryon rode in the double kayak with Sydney. Turns out the triple kayak is a little harder to maneuver because it’s longer but I did ok with it – definitely got my exercise in for the day. They had to wait on me a little bit because we were paddling in circles at times. :-p

Our tour guide was great! We were the only ones on this tour so we got a one on one experience. We first paddled out next to the sea lions which were on the beach right next to us. Then, we headed out into the slough and there were sea otters everywhere – they would just pop up next to us while we were paddling. We even got to witness one eating a shellfish up close – cracking it open and sucking it out. So cool! I will never forget that experience and I hope the girls won’t either. It’s especially unique because the sea otters are endangered and they have just started to flourish in this area so we were witnessing an incredible thing and teaching the girls about endangered animals and the importance of protecting them. So awesome! I highly recommend this. We also got to see and touch a sea hare (it inked itself with purple ink and the girls thought that was so neat) that our tour guide found hidden in the sea lettuce as well as touch the sea lettuce. The girls loved this hands-on type of experience.

Slough_GirlsPaddles Slough_Kayaks2

Slough_SeaLions Slough_MomGirls8 Slough_Otter Slough_Otters Slough_Sydney2 Slough_MomGirls5 Slough_Family2

After this, we headed up to Santa Cruz which we were planning to hang out there but it was so crowded and we couldn’t find parking so we just moved along to San Francisco, which I’m glad we did because we were able to make it to our hotel before dark which was good. We had to get to the airport to drop off our car and then catch a cab to our hotel. It would not have been fun to do all that while being tired because it was a lot of work to clean out the car and we had so much stuff to lug around too. It was perfect timing. We got to our hotel (Kimpton Buchanan) around 6pm – a little bit after the happy hour social, but they gave us coupons for 2 free wines each at the restaurant. Then, we explored a little bit the area we were staying in – Japan Town.
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I loved staying in Japan Town. It was so neat and they happened to have a Japanese Festival going on that same weekend we were there. There was also a Pride Festival going on in the rest of the city which we weren’t interested in attending with the kids so we attended this Japanese Festival and it was sooo cool! We also ate some Japanese food at a noodle place and the kids really liked it. We went to Golden Gate Park and let the kids play on the playground there.

Then, we headed to Baker Beach and wished we had brought a bottle of wine! We ate our peanut butter and honey sandwiches (trying to stick to the budget which was hard – I don’t really like peanut butter sandwiches) and lots of chips (because this was the splurge item). The kids enjoyed playing in the surf (up to their knees) and we enjoyed the view of the Golden Gate Bridge wishing we had wine. :-p We took the bus everywhere because we didn’t have a car. It was fine. Better than driving but it was a lot of walking for the kids. They held up though – jumping in and out of that stroller. We did see two naked old men walking around the city while waiting for the bus, but luckily the girls didn’t see them and I only caught the back side not the front. Whew! :-p
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We did have a unique bus experience with one guy saying rather loudly, “The angels are on my side! Are they on yours? I don’t think so!”. He kept saying this over and over and over. Then, I heard a boom and thought (or hoped) he fell down when the bus stopped. I was thinking – the angels might not be on your side right now.  I actually don’t think he fell, but it was still funny to think about that possibly happening. Then, when he got off the bus, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and looked gratefully at each other but then he pops his head back on the bus and says, “I heard that! The angels are on my side! Are they on yours? I don’t think so!”. Geez, guy, just get off the bus and quit trying to tell us that the angels aren’t on our side. How’s that for a Have a good day! :-p It would’ve been kind of comical to watch him walk into a street sign or something, but that didn’t happen..  Sorry, but he was annoying.

Next day, we explored the main tourist places of San Francisco in the city. We took the bus down to the Ferry building. We were planning to eat lunch there but by the time we arrived it was sooo crowded with the lunch crowd that we ended up just eating our dessert on a bench (blueberry cake – cake by the ocean, baby). See a theme here?  If any place was too crowded, we made a beeline for a different place – we aren’t big fans of crowds.  :-p  Then, we took a water taxi to the Fisherman’s Wharf because the walk would have been too long for the kids and we just happened to run into a lady selling water taxi rides.

We had lunch at a seafood place on the wharf and then headed to Coit Tower which we decided not to go inside because the kids would’ve never made it up all those stairs. Then, we headed to China Town and explored a little there and had some Chinese food. The kids get a kick out of it now b/c there is a China Town in minecraft and there all like – we’ve been there!  :-p  And back to the hotel in Japan Town for dessert. We really liked this place across from the hotel called Moyo’s for frozen yogurt – we went there a couple of the nights.  It was in a little mall place that had a bunch of stuff (KinoKuniya Mall).

The hotel was in a great location. We had no problem finding food and snacks – the hotel was called the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in San Francisco, CA and I highly recommend it. It’s a good price for the city, great location, recently renovated so everything is very clean and nice. They don’t offer breakfast which was the only downside, but we were able to go to the nearby market and get things for breakfast so it was no problem. Love that place!

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View From Coit Tower


China Town Entrance
Back in Japan Town for dessert

We called my littlest daughter Elf on this trip because she actually almost did the splits while getting on an escalator, she really wanted to push all the buttons when we got on the elevator and she thought a wild animal really looked like it needed a hug (though we told her not to).

By this time, we were so ready to get home – at least, I was. Maybe I’m a bit of a homebody I’m realizing. It’s a lot of work taking the kids on vacation and it can get stressful at times with the lack of sleep and the stress of keeping track of everyone and bleeding money but it’s so worth it! I don’t think we’ll be taking that long of a vacation again – one week might be our max but I’m so glad that the kids got to spend time with their cousins and make those memories/have that bonding time because they were at the perfect age for it and that’s something they’ll never forget and that’s the reason for so long of a trip. Next time, though it will have to be a one week max.. I highly recommend seeing Northern California with kids and this was a great, safe, itinerary for anyone looking to go there as a family. Have fun!

Opening a Doorway

We decided to get rid of a doorway to make the space more open between the kitchen and the dining room.  There used to be swinging cowboy doors here and we obviously removed those.  Then, we were left with an unnecessary door frame which we decided to remove and make the space more open.  You gain a couple of inches in each direction – I love it!!!!  See how the old frame was so yellow?  Yuck!  This saved me from having to paint it but now we actually have some work with drywalling but it’s so worth it!  Well, we’ll see after we drywall it if I’m still saying that!  :-p  We are planning to redo all the flooring here so it’s ok that there’s a gap there in the floor.


This is the mud we bought – save yourself some pain and buy the 90 minute dry stuff (not 45 minute) – it takes some time and you don’t want to have to throw a bunch away because it thickens or hardens while you work.

Step 1: Pry off the doorway trim. You’ll want to score the sides so that the paint doesn’t get pulled off with it.
Step 2: Measure the distance of each section of the doorway to cut the dry wall out. You’ll want the drywall to reach the end on each side so that you can put the corners on properly. Screw these pieces of drywall in place.
Step 3: Trim off the edges of the drywall with a box cutter where they are sticking out too far – this is so the corners will fit properly.
This is what it should look like with the drywall properly secured.
Step 4: Put on the corners. We chose metal straight edged corners with dry wall tape on them. We thought about rounded corners but I like the sharp lined look. You’ll want to thin out the mud more than we did here. We bought 45 minute dry mud but we should’ve bought the 90 minute dry mud so it wouldn’t get so thick so fast. You put a thin layer of mud on the wall first and then attach the corner to the mud, then put more mud over the corner. You can staple the corner into place at the top so that it doesn’t slide down.


I didn’t take a picture of it, but at the top corners, you put a piece of drywall tape and fold it into the corner and mud it into place to cover the crack there. Then, after that you’ll have to do several layers of mud all over to make sure all the areas are flat and not concave and smooth (that’s the hard part). Then, comes the sanding to ensure it’s extra smooth because there’s really no way to get it extra smooth without sanding unless you are a professional which we are not. :-p I kept joking with Bryon that this was actually my sculpting project because I am not so good at mudding. I’m not a perfectionist.  Several times, I made a stegasaurus on the wall that had to be sanded off. This requires lots of patience.  Final product below:



Best Flooring For Rental Houses (Our Experience)

Isn’t it hard to choose flooring for houses, let alone rental houses?  All you can imagine is how they are going to take a key to it, let their dog pee on it, or burn a cigarette into it (no, they aren’t supposed to smoke). Sometimes, after seeing a house upon tenant move out, I like to try to reconstruct how certain things happened like in a crime scene. How on Earth does something like this happen is all I can think sometimes?

Though most tenants are good – you tend to keep the worst-case scenarios at the forefront of your mind when updating a unit. And it makes you wish they made everything out of stainless steel or concrete though nothing is truly indestructible for some people.

On one hand, you don’t want to spend too much because you will not get it back for years to come.  On the other hand, you don’t want to have to keep replacing the flooring every couple of years or even every year.  What to do?!

We’ve been experimenting with different flooring for some time and we’ve had some luck with vinyl plank flooring, wood laminate flooring, and even carpeting (on stairs).  Our favorite pick: Allure Ultra. We got the tip to try Allure Ultra from Bryon’s dad.  Although, he says the generic Home Depot click-lock vinyl plank flooring is easier to install – haven’t tried it yet.

Stairs are tricky b/c it’s expensive to put laminate on stairs and even Allure on stairs is expensive so we feel like carpet is the best bet b/c it’s cheap and if you need to you can replace it pretty easily and inexpensively. We’ve also had luck with sheet vinyl plus rubber treads for stairs – it’s a nice look and easy to clean.

Allure peel and stick (the planks stick to each other not the floor so it’s still a floating floor):
We are not great fans of this though it’s less expensive. We used this in a living room and in a basement area. The cracks between the planks can tend to separate and get dirt stuck in there in places and it’s not truly waterproof due to this (they don’t advertise that it’s waterproof though). Maybe it was just because it was my husband’s first time installing it or maybe that’s just the way it is. I’m not sure – but I’m not a fan. It held up through one tenant with no scratches or anything, but I just get annoyed about the cracks between the planks in some places are more visible than they should be in my opinion.

Vinyl plank click-lock flooring – Allure Ultra brand (winner):
The interlocking Allure Ultra is truly waterproof and we haven’t seen any separating after years of use in a high traffic hallway. The only downside to it is that it’s tricky to install and quite the learning curve b/c it’s flexible vinyl planks that interlock which as you can imagine can be tricky vs rigid planks that interlock. The plus side is that you can cut it easily with a box cutter so you don’t have to have any special equipment or make a whole lot of extra noise. We are planning to use this next in a kitchen and see how it goes.

Wood laminate (comes in second and looks nicer):
Another thing we tried in bedrooms is wood laminate floating floor. We used some relatively cheap laminate we got off the shelves at Home Depot for some bedrooms and that held up really well through one tenant’s use – no scratches, stains, or separating between the planks or anything wrong. Next, we are going to try a more upgraded laminate for a different unit – Pergo XP – and see how that goes.

As you can see, carpet isn’t listed – well, except for stairs.  We haven’t had the best luck with carpet – it always seems to need to be replaced and even if we keep it, we have to spend so much time cleaning it that I’m not sure it’s worth it.  Anybody else want to share their experiences on what has worked for them?  I’m always looking out for cheaper alternatives that are still durable.