Happy November! Easy trail mix recipe and blog turns 2 months!

Hi friends!

I cannot believe I’m saying this, but happy November 1st! WHERE is the time going? My blog turned 2 months old yesterday – how crazy is that?

Just like my first month of blogging, my second month was quite the whirlwind. I learned so much more than I thought was possible. It’s crazy how the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know! haha! I know I still have a ways to go, but I feel pretty good about the progress that has been made.

Anyone who has stopped by the blog in the past couple weeks has probably seen something new… One of the major things I did recently was build a newsletter, aka a mailer. I did some research on different methods for building mailers, and decided that mailchimp was the way to go.

Honestly, I was not familiar with mailchimp prior to starting my own blog. However, I have been a loyal subscriber to a ton of other blogs over the years. So I immediately recognized the mailchimp logo as soon as I saw it.

I’m fairly new to the technical side of blogging, so I had to teach myself how to navigate through the mailchimp site, html coding, etc when setting up the mailer. I played around in their site for a couple hours and eventually managed to grasp the nuts and bolts of building a mailer. Side note, mailers/newsletters are also called campaigns in mailchimp – who knew.

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Visitors to my blog now have the opportunity to subscribe to my newsletter and receive new posts by email. :) As an avid reader of many blogs, I LOVE getting posts by email.  It doesn’t necessarily replace going to the actual blog site. I still visit real sites for commenting purposes. But having posts delivered to my email means that I don’t miss a single thing. It is one of my favorite ways to keep up with all the blogs that I follow.

Anyway, if you choose to subscribe to the newsletter (do it, you’ll love it! haha), please let me know if there are any issues with how the post, photos, etc show up in the email :)

Oh, another thing I have learned a ton about over the past month is CODING! I never took a course on coding, so I am learning everything from scratch. Fortunately for me, I have some experience with programming language in general.

My field of work is data-heavy and writing code comes with the territory of statistical analyses. Although html coding is very different from statistical programming, there are similarities in principles. I still have a loooong way to go, but I am happy to at least be scratching the surface!

As far as my writing schedule, I thoroughly believe that the BEST thing I ever did was create a writing structure for myself. I’m enjoying posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I’ve stuck to this schedule like glue! It has worked out great writing-wise. Getting to flex those writing muscles has been a lot of fun.

All right, let’s switch gears a little and talk about one of my go to snacks right now… TRAIL MIX! What brought this on? Well, one of the things I love to do is to keep a delicious snack and drink on hand when I’m working. For the entire month of October, the two things that have stayed within arms reach at all times are citrus-flavored seltzer and a bag of homemade trail mix. I’ve been on the seltzer wagon for years now and don’t see myself getting off any time soon!

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I made a huge batch of this trail mix back in October, and it is going strong! I love the mix of sweet and salty kick in every bite.

Side note: Every time I eat trail mix, it reminds me of hiking! –> i guess that’s why “trail” is in the name… :) When I climbed Kilimanjaro back in high school, my friends and I brought tons of trail mix with us. Joel and I did a lot of hiking in college (we hiked a portion of the Appalachian trail), and we always brought trail mix with us.

It is easily portable in little bags, doesn’t get smooshed or broken if it’s tightly packed in backpacks, of course it is delicious, and the nice part is it gives a great boost of energy to keep you going.

To make my trail mix, all I did was buy 2 kinds of peanuts: honey roasted, and regular salted. We also got chopped dates, craisins, raisins, and of course M&M’s!

I’m not sure I can call this a REAL recipe because it’s so ridiculously simple, but here you go:

  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup regular salted peanuts
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup raisins

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I mixed everything up in a big bowl, then separated it all into sandwich-size baggies. The recipe makes a LOT of trail mix, so we are all stocked up for the long haul!

There are plenty of other recipes that call for all kinds of cool ingredients. There are a ridiculous number of cool things you could add to your trail mix.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Nuts
    • Different types of nuts (cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, etc)
    • Honey roasted, salted, or cajun seasoned nuts
  • Fruit
    • Dried mango, pineapple, apple, blueberry
    • Banana chips
    • Coconut flakes
  • Crunchy or salty bits
    • Granola
    • Cheerios
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Mini pretzels
    • Chocolate covered pretzels
    • Oyster crackers
    • Crunchy chickpeas
  • Sweet bits
    • Chocolate chips
    • Butterscotch chips
    • Mini marshmallows
  • Random bits
    • Popcorn
    • Graham cracker bits
    • chex cereal
    • Wasabi peas
    • Bits of jerky
    • Chia seeds

Next time I’d love to try a savory-ish mix (jerky, oyster crackers, chex or cheerios cereal, coconut flakes, and sunflower seeds sounds like it would be a cool combination).

For now, I’m thoroughly enjoying my simple trail mix! I only made ONE change to the proportions for my bag that is by my desk… I added extra M&M’s! :)

Something random: When I eat trail mix, I must have one of each ingredient in every single bite. Am I weird? haha! I never really thought about it until Joel pointed out that I always combine ONE honey-roasted peanut, ONE salted peanut, ONE M&M, ONE raisin, etc in each bite! I don’t have a specific reason for this, it just kinda feels right. Joel just kinda gets a handful and tosses it back. haha.

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Did you see my one month blogiversary check in? What about my last catch-up on life?

What are your favorite types of blogs or blog posts to read? Do you eat your trail mix with one of each “thing” in every bite? What’s your fave thing to add to your trail mix? 

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3 easy DIY Halloween costumes for frugal procrastinators

Hi friends!

Before we jump into things, can I just ask – where is the time going? 50 points to anyone who can give me September and October back. I had some pretty big plans to get on the fall decorating bandwagon this year. Huge plans. As soon as I saw the very first pumpkin in my instagram feed this year, I knew I wanted some white gourds for the mantle. But alas, time has managed to wiggle away from me. Now here we are in the middle of October and I have set out exactly zero amounts of fall decor.

But nevermind about that… I will *clenches fists* WILL decorate for the holidays.

Anyway, we’re right around the corner from Halloween! It turns out that this is the perfect time to share a couple of spoOOoooOOoky memories. :)

Ok, so maybe not spooky exactly. Let’s talk costumes!

Joel and I have always specialized in inexpensive DIY costumes. I don’t know about you guys, but we’re usually pulling our costumes together the day before the party. We also like to stick to the easy end of the spectrum — a costume that requires less than 30 minutes to put together? Yes please!

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Snorkelers who can’t swim

One year we went as snorkelers. We wore all our own swim gear tat we already owned. Like wetsuits, flippers on our feet, and snorkeling masks. The only items we bought were from the dollar store — we got some pool floaties for our arms, and donut floaties for around our waists. Why did we get floaties, you ask? Because we decided we wanted to go specifically as snorkelers WHO COULDN’T SWIM. Don’t ask me why, we just thought it was funny. :)

The costumes scored high points in terms of cost and DIY-factor, but maaan, anyone who has tried to walk while wearing flippers knows it is next to impossible to walk lol! There are two ways to walk while wearing flippers… you can either shuffle without lifting your feet off the ground, or you can pick your feet up comically high off the ground with every step. The flippers definitely didn’t last long on our feet — they came off within 5 minutes of arriving at the party lol!

Also, I still remember sweating like the dickens into my wetsuit all night long… wetsuits are meant to keep you warm, something you don’t exactly need on a muggy Houston night! But overall the costumes were pretty awesome and I would definitely wear them again.

What you’ll need: wetsuit or swimsuit (if you’re brave), flippers, snorkel masks

For that extra touch, you’ll need: floaties

A pair of dice

Another year, we went as a pair of dice. We had cardboard boxes sitting in our attic from when we moved, and decided to put them to good use.

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upcycle old boxes into halloween costumes!

I’m telling you, dice are the easiest costumes to make! And super inexpensive! All we did was glue white paper all over the boxes. Then we glued big black dots strategically to achieve that “dice” look. After that, we cut holes in the top and sides so we could get our heads/arms through, and that was it!

Dice costumes are awesome because you get a huge amount of bang for buck. Since we were upcycling the boxes and already owned regular white paper, the only item we bought was black construction paper (for the “dots”).

Another thing, dice are easily recognizable! They are probably the most obvious costume ever — everyone knew immediately what we were. :)

The only downside to wearing huge a huge box is it was impossible to sit down lol… but they looked awesome in photos and were a perfect couple costume. We ended up leaving the dice costumes at our friend’s house so that her kids could play with them. She said that they were a mega-hit, and the kids played with them for daaays.

What you’ll need: large cardboard box, white and black paper, glue, scissors

Ping pong players

Another year we went as ping pong players. We wore matching knee-high socks from when we played in a co-ed soccer league. Joel decided to borrow a pair of my shorts, so he was showing a lot of leg! :) We also bought some inexpensive ping pong paddles (they came with ping pong balls in the package). We owned sweat bands from when we played tennis, so we threw those on too.

Joel decided to glue a ping pong ball onto his paddle. At first I wasn’t sure about this idea… but it turned out to be absolutely brilliant! In all our photos, it looked like he was right in the middle of an intense game of ping pong! It was hilarious. Check out one of his “action shots” below… makes me crack up every time! When my dad saw this photo on my instagram, he was all impressed that Joel had “contact” haha! :)

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Probably the only downside that I remember with this costume was that we were FREEZING when we were walking back to our car. It was definitely a cold night in Connecticut, and Halloween in New England feels very different compared to Halloween in Texas hah! Maybe I should have worn the ping pong costume in Texas and the snorkeling costume in Connecticut. :) That wetsuit would have kept me toasty warm, that’s for sure!

What you’ll need: ping pong paddles and ball, athletic clothing (shirt/shorts)

For that extra touch, you’ll need: sweat-bands

There you have it! Three ideas for easy and cheap DIY costumes for Halloween! So simple :) Out of the above ideas, I think my favorite costume was the ping pong one. Since we were wearing regular clothing and shoes, we were super comfortable (until we were out in the cold hah!).

Have an amazing Halloween everyone!

Check out other memories! Like the time I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the time we went to the Saltaire Restaurant and Oyster Bar, and the time I moved to New York City!

What is your Halloween costume this year? What is your all-time favorite Halloween costume that you’ve ever worn?

How we moved house and survived

 

Hi friends!

I’ve been thinking about all the times in my life that I have moved house. I have mentioned before that I have moved a few times over the years. I have lived in Kenya, Singapore, Pennsylvania, New York City, Houston, and Boston. For the past 4 years Joel and I have lived in Connecticut.

I moved from Kenya to Pennsylvania when I was 18 to start college, and then afterwards moved to New York City to start my first job. When I got accepted to graduate school, I moved to Houston to start my graduate program. Joel and I lived there for 8 years, during which time I earned 2 masters and a phd. When I was offered a postdoctoral position in Boston, we moved back to the northeast. And we relocated again when for “real jobs” (haha) in Connecticut.

Relocating definitely has its advantages. For one, being available to relocate for jobs can open up the possibility of amazing career opportunities. And of course, it’s exciting to start a new chapter and get to know new places. We have had so many interesting experiences from all our adventures.

However, anyone who has ever moved knows that it is never easy to pick up and start a new life.

Our most recent move was into our house here in Connecticut. We went to a lot of effort to make the process as smooth as possible.

In the months before our move date, I shopped around local moving companies to find the best deal. We have moved on our own without the help of moving companies in the past… it’s totally do-able, but it’s really tough! We have acquired some heavy furniture, and rather than have to figure out how to manhandle it between the 2 of us, we decided to go with a moving company.

After acquiring quote estimates from a few places, I finally settled on a local company called Up & Down Movers. They offered the best rate for a 3 man crew and a 26 foot truck.

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I started packing 7 days before our move date. We still had all our boxes and moving blankets from our previous move –> this is one of the plus sides to having relocated previously, haha! We didn’t have to buy new ones. We did buy some new packing tape so that we could secure the boxes and ensure that they don’t fall apart.

The first room I packed up was the kitchen. I knew it would be the room that took the longest. Carefully packing up each glass, bowl, pot, and plate took a while! We bought some cushiony thingies (for lack of better term) to put between stacked plates and between glasses so that they didn’t rattle against each other and break.

Throughout the packing process, Joel and I were surprised by how much STUFF we have. We have always tried to avoid accumulating useless things, and like to make regular trips to donation centers. However, despite all of our Goodwill donations, we still could not believe how much stuff we have.

It is a pretty weird feeling to look at all your material possessions when they are piled up in boxes. We kept joking about how we had the “Mary Poppins” apartment because things kept piling up from nowhere!

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One of the things that we liked about Up & Down Movers was that the guys helped us dissemble our furniture and wrap it nicely in blankets. This is a really important step because it prevents the furniture from getting chipped or dented during the move. Dissembling furniture, especially the heavy stuff, can be tricky. It helped to have extra helping hands for that. You can tell that the movers are total professionals and do this every day! They expertly handled all of our heavy furniture. Nothing was damaged in the move! And side note, we kept all our moving blankets from our previous move, so it was nice that we could re-use them and not buy new ones.

 

 

The guys also helped us reassemble everything when we got to our house. This was super helpful too. Joel could have done the reassembly on his own, but having extra hands helped the process go much quicker.

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Something that really helped me to stay organized was to put labels on boxes that were very descriptive. I used sticky notes and tape to quickly label boxes so that I would know what was inside them. Instead of simply writing “kitchen” on the label, I tried to be more descriptive, for example “plates, bowls” or “wine glasses”.

This helped to speed up the process of unloading boxes when we arrived at our house. All I had to do was look at the label and know which room the box should go to. When you’ve got 4 guys (counting Joel) unloading a truck, grunting under the weight of heavy boxes, and asking you where to put them, you don’t have time to open up each box to see what’s inside.

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The extra descriptive labels were also extremely helpful when it came to unpacking the boxes. Instead of having to rifle through 15 boxes all labeled “kitchen,” I knew exactly where to find the plates. It was much easier to figure out what to unpack first, like plates and utensils. And I could leave the less urgent things to be dealt with later, like the blender and slow cooker.

 

 

Just like after our previous move, we decided to hang onto all the boxes and blankets. you never know when they might come in handy. We flattened the boxes and folded up the blankets, and tucked them all away in our basement. –> We have already put a couple of the blankets to good use when we bought some antique furniture (read more on that here!).

Have you seen my other posts about life and our home? Here’s one about hosting a party, another about hosting airbnb guests, and another about furnishing and decorating our house!

When was the last time you moved? Do you save things like boxes and moving blankets?

How to download Spotify playlists for easy offline listening

 

Welcome back!

Today’s “Tip Tuesday” comprises a step-by-step guide for downloading songs and playlists from spotify, straight to your device!

I have talked about my love of running, but have I mentioned that I like to listen to music when I run? I find that music helps to motivate me even on days when my legs don’t want to get it done. I like to match the beat to my cadence (i.e., 170 beats per min on easy runs, and 180+ for speed workouts!).

Back in college, I had all my songs loaded onto my iPod (does anyone still use these?), and that was how I brought music with me on the run. My iPod couldn’t hold that many songs, and since I was a broke college student, I couldn’t afford to buy new tunes all the time. This meant that I would get pretty tired of hearing the same songs over and over while running.

Years later, with the advent of smartphones came streaming of music.  Spotify quickly became my very favorite app. I love having access to so many songs (and now podcasts and other stuff too!), and how easy it is to customize my own playlists. For free!

When I was training for my first marathon, I found a giant playlist on Spotify with thousands of songs that were each 180 bpm. Sweet! I copied a LOT of these into my own running playlist and enjoyed the heck out of them on my runs.

But then, I realized that when ads would come on every so often, it would totally interrupt my running zen. Also, I found that I would frequently max out my ‘skips’ and end up stuck listening to something I wasn’t “feelin” –> ok, so not the absolute worst thing in the world, but not great for running mojo either.

I knew that Spotify Premium would mean unlimited skips and no ads, but I hesitated. Was it worth the price?

The final thing that tipped the scale for me was when I was out on my first 20 mile run of the training season. I was deep into the run, clicking along and grooving to the music, when the music suddenly went silent. I had randomly lost phone reception. Gah! Dead zones kill me. It sucked to listen to silence. The distraction threw me off my groove and I struggled mentally to get through those remaining miles.

After this same thing happened a few times, I got nervous about the possibility of dead zones along the marathon course. There is enough to worry about on race day without the added frustration of your music dying.

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Then I remembered that Spotify Premium allows downloading of music so that it is available offline. And that was that.

Yup, I immediately signed up for Spotify Premium. (There is a free 30 day trial, then it’s $9.99/month). Not a bad price to pay for unlimited ad-free music and unlimited skips.

And the biggest bonus of all is being able to download my entire marathon playlist to my phone! This alleviated the stress about spotty reception along the race course. AW YISSS.

Thank you Spotify for saving my marathon. And big ups to my Jaybird bluetooth earbuds for being wireless… seriously, Spotify + Jaybirds = winning combination!

So here is a step-by-step guide showing what I did to build and download my marathon playlist. Also, note that I use a PC computer and Android phone.

  1. Click on the playlist you’d like to access (I used this one). 
  2. Click the “Follow” button. 
    • The playlist will be added to your list of playlists in your spotify account.
    • You will not be able to modify the original playlist.
  3. Open the spotify app.
    • The playlist you have just followed should show up in your list of playlists.
    • You can stream or copy from the playlist, but you cannot modify it.
  4. Create your own playlist.
    • Click on “file” and select “new playlist”.
    • Name your playlist.
  5. Customize your playlist.
    • Add songs to your new playlist by drag/dropping or right-clicking & selecting “add to playlist”
    • I copied my favorites from the “90/180 BPM” playlist.
  6. Download playlist for offline listening.
    • Open the new playlist you created.
    • There should be a line above the first song labeled “available offline.” Click the button to the right of this.
    • I recommend doing this while connected to wifi, as downloading can take a while, particularly for bigger playlists.
    • You can download up to 3000 songs.

Another note: In the years since I trained for my first marathon, Spotify has added a nifty little running feature that allows you to stream music based on your preferred BPM. You can access this feature from the app by clicking on “Browse” then scrolling until you see the “running” icon/image. You can pick from a number of pre-sorted playlists, including latin, pop, and country. When you select a playlist, you can also choose your specific bpm.

Bear in mind that while this feature is pretty awesome and I use it all the time, I’d still recommend following the above steps and having at least one playlist downloaded. After all, you just never know when ya may hit a dead zone.

And there you have it!

I feel I should also note that I have been downloading playlists for other non-running parts of my life too. For example, I rarely pay for wifi while flying, so having music available offline is perfect for those times. When Joel and I went to Kenya to visit family, music helped those 8 hour plane rides go much faster. Other places where offline music have come in handy for me are in the basement of my office building and in the subway! :) Yesss.

If you’d like to check out other tips or how-to’s, here are a few you might find interesting:

  1. How to furnish and decorate your house without breaking the bank.
  2. 13 tips on how to be a 5 star SuperHost on Airbnb.
  3. Ideas for blog themes and structure for writing.
  4. How to host a killer lobster bake! 

Do you use spotify? What was the last song you listened to? 

13 tips: How to be a 5 star SuperHost on Airbnb!

 

Joel and I have hosted over 100 airbnb “trips” in our home. We reached “superhost” status within just a couple months of starting. To date, we have a 97% 5-star track record. Not bad, right?

Sure, we had our share of hiccups and made our share of mistakes along the way. But we have learned to adjust and course-correct. We want the experience to be a good one for anyone who enters our home.

For anyone thinking about hosting on airbnb, here are some tips we picked up along the way… I hope this helps to make your experience as a host as awesome as ours!

  1. Photos. You should have at least one good photo of any space the guest has access to. I like to have multiple different angles so that guests can get a sense of the space. If you have free photography through airbnb in your area, you should do that. We didn’t have that option, so all our photos were shot on my phone. It was fine. It’s also good for hosts to have at least one photo and a brief description of themselves on their profile, so that guests can get a sense of who you are. Another thing: we didn’t originally list a photo of the front of the house… but changed this after a guest mistakenly ended up at our neighbor’s house. Adding a photo of the front of the house helped guests to locate us easier, and avoided annoying the neighbors with unexpected knocks.
  2. Listing. Be honest, succinct, and direct. Describe, but do not oversell your listing. It is better to under-sell and over-deliver! This lets your guests be pleasantly surprised during their stay.
  3. Pricing. Check out other local listings to get a sense of what price range makes sense for your area. We under-priced our space at the beginning, but were able to increase the price as we got good reviews under our belts. I also sent messages to local hosts to ask for their advice on pricing, how often they host, whether they notice a dip in bookings during certain seasons, etc. We got great advice and the bonus of getting to know other hosts.
  4. Keyless lock. We love our keyless lock. We ordered this Schlage lock from Amazon, and also this Wink hub (they work together) which allows us to easily create and delete codes from our phones. They are a pricey investment, but paid for themselves in no time. Each guest has a unique code which I delete as soon as they check out. Guests like the convenience of checking themselves in, and we like that we aren’t handing out keys (which can easily get lost or copied).
  5. Cleaning and laundry. We saw a pretty big increase in the amount of cleaning and laundry we were doing. There is no way around this, especially if you plan to host frequent and/or short trips. It’s a lot of work. But after a while, you get the routine down, and it all goes much faster. We prefer white sheets and towels so that we can bleach them.
  6. Signs! Having clear signs can go a long way to avoid issues. For example, our house has a delicate and expensive septic system, and we don’t want people flushing things like tampons. This can cause plumbing issues which are no fun for anyone. I made a polite sign to this effect and put it in the bathroom to serve as a gentle reminder. I also provided small plastic bags (super cheap doggy bags from any pet store) so that guests could place sanitary items in them before disposing in the bin.
  7. Establish contact with guests. Guests appreciate when hosts are responsive and available. Before guests arrive, I send a welcome message thanking them for choosing us. I also provide them with all details for their trip (eg, our address, house rules, their passcode for the door, etc). I also check in with them frequently during their stay to make sure they have everything they need. This also gives us the opportunity to address any issues asap, rather than getting ding’d in a bad review later.
  8. Additional amenities. We don’t provide access to our kitchen, but some guests have asked to store leftovers in our fridge, heat up dinner in our microwave, or brew a pot in our coffee-maker. After a few of these requests, we decided to spring for a mini-fridge, microwave, and small coffee-maker for the room. It didn’t cost much (craigslist y’all) and guests really appreciated it.
  9. Be part of the greater airbnb community. The airbnb community center is a great place to get connected with other hosts and learn from others’ experiences and/or mistakes. This will help you on your quest to become a superhost and maintain superhost status, because you can learn what works or doesn’t work for other hosts. You can also help support other hosts by sharing your own experiences. This can also be a way to get connected with hosts near you, and potentially establish relationships with people who might become co-hosts for your listing.
  10. Always, write that review. After guests checked out, I always wrote an honest review. When you complete the review, the guest gets prompted to review you in return, and can only read your review of them after they have written one for you. Getting reviews (good ones) helps to establish you as a host and add to your credibility. Plus, superhosts have to maintain a certain proportion of reviews AND a certain proportion of actual 5 star reviews. So it’s in your best interest to not only get reviewed, but to get favorably reviewed.
  11. Going the extra mile doesn’t have to be hard. I get huge bags of chocolate kisses for like $5 and keep a bowl stocked. I also use the airbnb app to send messages to guests each day, to check in, and also to ask if they need anything. It’s better to address those requests (e.g., an extra towel/blanket, or more toilet paper, etc) rather than get dinged for them later in a bad review. Also, during the summer, we sometimes have a fire in the backyard, and usually invite guests to enjoy it with us. We’ve had some really great conversations with people from all kinds of backgrounds. Another thing that guests seem to like is a list of things to do nearby. I include recommendations of our favorite eateries, museums, and hikes. It’s easy to print this out so that guests can take it with them if they want. Simple!
  12. Hang on to receipts. This one isn’t about becoming a superhost per se, but it’s a good practice to establish for yourself. Make sure to hang on to all receipts of anything you buy for the rooms! Come tax season, you’ll be able to write it all off.
  13. Don’t sweat the little things. Know that not everything is going to be perfect 100% of the time. Guests will be late checking in on account of delayed flights or traffic. People will forget to take their shoes off. There might be a weird odor lingering in the room when someone leaves. None of this signals the end of the world. There will be a few bumps in the road, but that doesn’t mean the ride can’t still be pleasant.

For us, hosting has been a positive experience. The obvious upside is the extra income, but we have also met some pretty awesome people that we would never have crossed paths with otherwise. Granted, there have been a couple weirdos too, but overall everyone is great. Anyway, there is more I could say about the experience of hosting, but let’s leave it at that for today.

Any tips to add? Have you ever been an airbnb host, or an airbnb guest? 

How we furnished and decorated our home without spending a fortune

 

When Joel and I moved from our small apartment into our much-bigger house, we realized that unless we wanted the house to be mostly empty, we’d need to set about the daunting task of furnishing and decorating our new home. While we both work full-time, we do have other bills and responsibilities (not to mention trying to build a decent savings). So as you might imagine, we did not want to spend an absolute fortune on brand new furniture or decor.

Now almost a year later, I look back on the time since we embarked on this journey. We are not “done” yet, and there will likely be changes in the future. But we are done with the big stuff. While we have a ways to go yet, I thought I would share how we managed to furnish almost an entire house in under a year without going crazy or broke.

Don’t be afraid to buy used furniture on Craigslist

We love antique furniture, but don’t love the big price tags. Guess where we found some of our most beautiful antique pieces at a fraction of the price… Craigslist! That might sound surprising, but hear me out. Yes, there is a lot of junk out there, and yes sometimes it’s a bit sketchy, but for those willing to put in a bit of time and effort, there are treasures to be found.

Whenever I use Craigslist, I always “hide duplicates”, which prevents looking at the same thing twice (sometimes people upload multiple posts of the same item). I also only look at postings that have at least one photo. If I see an interesting item, I politely ask the seller if they are negotiable on price. In my experience, most sellers can be flexible on price if you just ask.

When it’s time to go check out the item, Joel and I always go together. This is for safety reasons, and also because we like to both weigh in before making a purchase. To avoid awkwardly discussing an item while the seller hovers, we have a code. If one of us says “we need to measure our space again”, it’s our signal that we don’t want to make the purchase. It’s a system that works for us. We’ve found some pretty amazing deals on antiques using Craigslist.

Roll up them sleeves and do some refinishing

One of the very first Craigslist purchases that we made was our breakfast set. This is an antique table and 4 chairs made of gorgeous solid maple. The surface was quite badly scratched from years of use, and the finish was gone from some places. There was some fading and discoloration on one end of the table from years of sun exposure (the window was on that side of the room).

Despite the wear and tear, the quality of the set was unmistakable. Additionally, it was the exact color, size, and shape that we were wanting for our space. We decided to go for it, and refinish it ourselves.

My husband has refinished furniture before, but this was my first experience with it. It turned into a bigger project than I anticipated, especially since we did everything by hand (we don’t own an electric sander and didn’t want to buy/rent one). The sanding was what took the longest, as many of the scratches and grooves were quite deep.

It took an entire weekend and a LOT of elbow grease to sand and finally refinish (we used polyurethane), but it was well worth the effort! By the time we were done, the set looked brand new! All the scratches were gone and only a tiny bit of fading remained. The gorgeous maple shone, and we could not have been more pleased.

Know when it’s time to shell out for new stuff 

Ok, so one can always buy anything new if one has the disposable income and/or zero time or patience to hunt around for used stuff. There are very few times that you absolutely HAVE to buy brand new.

In our case, we ended up buying a new couch because we needed a specific shape, configuration, and size to go in our family room. The couch would be a centerpiece in a large space with walkways all around it, so we wanted something that looked nice from all angles, preferably in a beige color that wouldn’t seem too dark and clunky (does that make sense?).

I scoured Craigslist and all the local antique shops I could think of, but nothing I came across fit the bill. I felt like Goldilocks… everything was either too brown, too 70’s, too stained, or entirely the wrong shape/size/configuration.

After a while, we finally decided to browse our local Jordans furniture store. We found one that was the exact dimensions  and configuration that we needed. It was a big-ticket item, but worth every penny, because we were able to customize everything. We customized the dimensions , the upholstery type and color, and even the fill and density of the cushions. And another plus, it was delivered and assembled by a crew of very efficient guys!

DIY decor 

Joel is incredibly handy with woodworking. He’s making a frame for our large nautical map of Texas (where we lived for many years). The wood he’s using for it comes from a tree he cut down from our back yard. It was over our septic system and the roots were starting to invade, so sadly, our beautiful tree had to be cut down. The positive thing is that now we have an opportunity to put the wood to good use. Hence a frame, to remember our tree by. It will have so much sentimental meaning.

Another DIY project I recently completed is a large flower arrangement for the buffet in our dining room. I collected sticks and twigs from behind our house, and spray-painted them white. I also cut some grass “plumes” (I’m not sure what they’re called) from our back yard. I intermixed the sticks and plumes with faux flowers that I bought from a craft store. The end result is something beautiful as well as low-maintenance. Win win!

Patience, grasshopper

I constantly remind myself not to rush to furnish a space “just because”. We have empty spots in our house, but there is no reason to fill them up in haste. It’s less overwhelming to proceed gradually and take it one step at a time.

Have you ever bought from Craigslist before? What about refinishing? Do you like to DIY?