Friday, September 15, 2017

What to Pack for a Vacation Rental

Packing for a trip out of town can be such a headache. You don't want to forget anything and then have to pay those increased prices found in tourist areas or be in so remote or foreign a place that you'll have to go without them. Making lists upon lists is my (almost) no-fail method to prevent forgetting anything, but I have another trick up my sleeve. Enter, the Vacation Rental Box!

As I mentioned in my last post, we just returned from a vacation in Florida. While the trip had been planned for many months, the prepping and packing seemed to only come in the last few days before we left. However, there were some things that I knew I didn't have to think about. Basically, our vacation rental box was just about ready to go. We tend to call it "The Condo Box" because we used to rent condos at the beach fairly frequently. However, those intimate rentals have filtered off over the years. Instead, we've been renting houses or taking the pop-up camper on vacation trips with friends. This box works perfectly for any of those getaways.

Rentals are a special breed of vacationing. In a hotel, you don't have some of the responsibilities or amenities that a rental provides. I'm speaking most specifically of cleaning and cooking. Of course, if you're not planning on using the kitchen, this list may not be for you. We personally have found that cooking while on these trips is a great way to save a few bucks. While most of the rentals are stocked with basic supplies (pots, pans, plates, silverware, cups, coffee maker, etc.), they may not have all the components you're accustomed to commonly having on hand. After a few condo rentals and a few disappointments in my lack of planning, I put together the box. I've actually mentioned the condo box before, but it's grown over the years as my wants and needs have matured.

Now, this list doesn't include the normal things you would pack for a trip: clothes, shoes, toiletries, toys, books & magazine, etc. It's specific to making sure you have the supplies for the amenities you'd find in most rental houses and condos.

I've got a complete list for you at the bottom of the page, but let me go over why I think each of these items are needed in your packing for a rental vacation.

Let's start with the most basic of basics: Paper Products.
The amount you pack of any of these depends on your length of stay and number of people housing with you.

Paper Towels: While not the most environmentally friendly, these are a necessity for drying hands, wiping up spills, soaking up grease, and any of the other things you would normally use them for at home.
Toilet Paper (hidden in the back of the picture): Most rentals will have at least a roll in each bathroom. However, after that, you could out of luck. NO ONE wants to be without some extra toilet tissue.
Zip-Top Bags: These have multiple uses. They're great for putting away leftovers, soaking meats in marinades, packing a picnic lunch, collecting shells on the beach, making baggie omelets, and numerous other uses. I tend to pack a variety of sizes (gallon, quart, and sandwich) for overkill.
Aluminum Foil: I've found it's nice to have foil on hand to cover icky grills, covering food for baking, or containing any leftover food.
Plastic Wrap: This is one of those things that's just nice to have on hand for leftovers.

Next, Cleaning Products.
This will vary depending on how you clean, how long you stay, and what appliances are available in your rental.

Sponges: If you plan to use dishes at all, these will come in handy especially if there's no dishwasher. Some condos I've stayed in have included disposable sponges, but that hasn't always been the case.
Scrub Brush: I'm quite partial to a scrub brush for removing stubborn foods. They tend to last longer than sponges with scrub sides. This is definitely a personal preference.
Dish Soap: It's unfortunate to find yourself with a pile of dishes, no dishwasher, and no dish soap. I plan ahead just in case there's none available at the property, which is usually what happens.
Dishwasher Soap: The little pods of dishwasher soap are perfect for travel. If you've got some of your own, you can throw them in a baggie. However, I found this small pack at the dollar store. Often, if there's a dishwasher, they'll provide a few of the pods for you to use. Sometimes it's not enough though.
Hand Soap: It's likely that there may be a small bar of soap next to one of the sinks where you rent, but to be sure you have cleanly hands, it's a good idea to go ahead and pack some of your own favorite soap.
Multi-purpose Wipes: Cleaning wipes are just about the perfect thing to include in the box. It makes clean-up fast and easy so you can get back to enjoying your stay.
Laundry Supplies: If you're lucky enough to get a rental with a washer and dryer, I highly recommend including something to take advantage of them. You may just want clean towels or there could be an unforeseen accident with your clothes. Or, you could just no pack as much and plan on cleaning the few clothing items you do take. You may want to go the full route of laundry soap, fabric softener, and softener sheets (or whatever it is you usually use). However, I found these 3-in-1 sheets that include all of that. It makes traveling much easier without additional liquids to tote to your destination.

Coffee/Beverage Supplies
There is nothing worse than getting to your rental late at night, crashing, and realizing that there's no coffee the next morning. I only made that mistake once. Now I pack the following to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

Coffee/K-cups: Check your rental closely to see what type of coffee maker they have so you can pack accordingly.
Coffee Filters: If there's a coffee pot, make sure you also pack some filters.
Creamer and/or Sweetener: Throw in whatever it is that you and those staying with you like in their java to make sure everyone's happy.
Drink Mix: It's nice to go ahead and have something else to drink, so I always pack some kind of drink mix that includes the sweetener (like lemonade) and just needs water to make it.

Pantry Items
You never quite know what will be included in the pantry at a rental property. Sometimes they are fully stocked, sometimes the cupboard is bare. I try to take a small assortment of the items I most commonly use. If you plan ahead and know what meals you'll be eating, it's even easier to pack this section.

Salt and Pepper: The most basic of food seasonings, but I've encountered a few places that didn't even have these. It's harder than you think to cook without them.
Olive Oil: Having a fat on hand also makes it easier to throw a meal together, especially when you're as big a fan of roasting vegetables as I am.
Spices/Seasonings/Herbs: This is completely up to you and your tastes. I use granulated garlic in my food like it's going out of style. I also try to pack onion powder and parsley flakes. Think about what flavors you turn to most often (curry, thyme, basil, taco seasoning, seasoning salt, cajun seasoning, BBQ rubs, etc.) and make sure to include them in your box.
Non-Stick Spray: It's handy to have some spray on hand, especially if you plan on baking. This got added to the box after an unfortunate sticking disaster. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Miscellaneous Other Supplies
These final items are the random things that I found I needed on different occasions and just didn't have.

Drinking Straws: As bad as they are for the environment, I always have to have a straw because of my sensitive teeth. I'm on the edge of buying some reusable ones, but for now, I still pack the plastic disposable ones. I think we used all of five of them on this past retreat.
Chip Clips/Clothespins: Potato chips are an inevitable snack on vacation, but we almost never eat a whole bag in one sitting. Chip clips are a luxury I've found we don't really need as clothespins work just as well. And, if you do need to hang something on a line, you've got the clothespins with you!
Can huggers: There often tends to be a bit of beer-drinking when we vacation (shhh, don't tell), so I like to have a few koozies with us.
Scotch tape: When you need some tape and there's none around, you kinda lose your mind a little. Go ahead and pack it. You may not need it, but if you do and don't have it, you'll kick yourself for it.
Scissors: I'm one of those people that have a pair of scissors in EVERY room of my house. Seriously. (I am CraftyHope after all). Like tape, it's nice to know you have them if you need them.
Tongs: These are a fairly new addition to the box. They're really more for camping but do come in handy for grilling or fishing crabs out of a crab net.
Skewers: Like the tongs, there are more for grilling purposes. Grilled veggies on skewers are so yummy. Just saying!
Twine: Like many of the other items in this list, these are a "just in case". I think they got added when we were planning on going crabbing and wanted to make sure we had twine for the nets. However, it can be used for any number of other tasks.
Bug Spray: I keep this in the rental box because I always remember to pack sunscreen, but tend to forget about the bugs. So, I keep a bottle or two in the box to make sure we're covered.
Lighter: Whether you're grilling out or having a campfire, a lighter or matches is good to have on hand.

Of course, this list pertains mostly to those vacations within driving distance. If you have to fly to your destination, this list could be hand for your grocery trip.

I promised a printable version of this Vacation Rental Packing List and the link should open a PDF that looks something like this:

You definitely want to want to check with the rental agency or owner to see what they provide because I've heard that some don't have some basics like sheets and towels, but we haven't encountered any of those issues in our travels yet. Read through the listing well so you're good and prepared for what's to come. That way, you'll spend more time enjoying the vacation and less time running out for supplies.

When my list was shorter, I was able to fit it all into a smaller plastic box.

But, for longer trips (like our most recent one), I've had to pack the paper products separately. In this case, a reusable shopping bag was just the right size.

There may be other foodstuffs that you want to go ahead and take with you, depending on what you plan on cooking. We tend to buy groceries on the way to the rental or during our stay, once we have a plan. Of course, if there are any specialty items you want that will keep on the voyage, I recommend adding them to your box.

I'm sure that there may be other items that you find necessary for a rental property. Please let me know in the comments if there's something you feel I left out. You can never be too prepared. Happy Travels!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Our Florida Vacation

The timing of this post may be considered a little off. But, I feel that it's important to share what a gem Florida is even as the residents there begin to pick up their lives and try to put it back together.

Last week we took the first away-from-home vacation since we moved to Silverlox. We've been planning it with friends for about a year, and talking about doing it for even longer.

Our vacation began with a night in "Oyster City", better known as Apalachicola. We checked into the quaint Gibson Inn, met the lobby cat (Salem), dropped off the luggage, and meandered over to the Owl Cafe Tap Room to watch the Alabama vs. Florida State game. (Roll Tide!) Don't worry about the picture of the twin beds, they do have larger beds/rooms. We just reserved our room a tad late. I wanted to show how cute the decorations are. The next morning, a few of us explored downtown Apalachicola before heading over to Indian Pass to the rental house.

From there, the real vacation began as we set up the bar. The liquor pictured wasn't all of it, and there was a mini fridge overflowing with beers. Yeah, we had a big time. The gulf front view was spectacular, and getting to have a fire on the beach was so awesome.

Exploring the area was a real treat. After dinner at one of the local restaurants, we hit up the Scallop RePUBlic, a local bar that prides itself on environmental responsibility. From the construction and decoration of the place to the beer and wine selection, it was focused on recycling and upcycling. And, the beer selection was fantastic. It was my kind of place! The fish picture on the wall behind Pat and me was made out of beer bottle tops. So cool! Oh, and it was an awesome sunset spot to boot.

The vacation had been planned to coincide with scallop season in Port St. Joe. As such, we rented a pontoon boat for one day to partake in the scalloping. However, due to algae bloom in St. Joseph Bay, scallop season had been suspended. We still took the opportunity to take the boat out for the day.
It started out overcast and rainy. In fact, it was downright scary as storm clouds were off in the distance, we could see lightning, and some of us had hair standing up from static electricity in the air. While I was in panic-mode, everyone else kept their cool and the storms blew right by us. We threw out the anchor on a sandbar and enjoyed the rest of the day snorkeling, playing frisbee, having drinks, eating our picnic lunch, and just floating in the water. We saw loads of fish, dolphins, hermit crabs, and even a shark.

I spent much of the rest of the week walking up and down the shoreline collecting shells and driftwood.

Pat fished.

We had another fire.

And the sunsets were breathtaking.

While the house we rented was fat with amenities including a fabulous outdoor kitchen, we did eat out a few times too. The food at Triple Tails was awesome. I highly recommend the cheese grits! Indian Pass Raw Bar was a real pleasure from the food to the atmosphere to the quirky honor system. We absolutely enjoyed it! In downtown Port St. Joe is Pepper's Mexican Grill. It's apparently a chain, but the food was great and the service excellent. We ate very well the whole trip. I should have spent more time walking the beach!

It was an amazing vacation on the Florida Gulf Coast. Of course, as our vacation progressed, we began to recognize the real threat that Hurricane Irma was posing to Florida. We left as scheduled on Friday morning, well before Irma began to batter the state. Two of our friends were heading back to Jacksonville, FL and bought supplies before heading home. We even made sure to fill up our own gas tank and buy a case of water before leaving...just in case. We've all ended up very lucky.

As the storm is now subsiding and homes and lives are left in disarray, I wanted to share these images of the beauty of just one area of Florida and ask you to keep all those affected by Irma in your thoughts and prayers. If you have the means, please try to help out the victims of Harvey or Irma in some way. There are loads of lists of charitable organizations looking for donations and volunteers.

We were fortunate to get that time on the coast. Our world is changing constantly, and we must always remember to take some time to soak in the joy of what exists in the moment as it may not be there the next.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trailblazing in Silverlox

I can't even believe it's been over two years since Pat and I moved out here to our hidden oasis of Silverlox (what we've named the place). We've worked and worked on it, and there will always be more work to do, but we love it out here. Not much has been done to the inside of the house since the winter, but we're constantly working on the yard. CONSTANTLY!

As of late, we've been tackling the woods. It's been a dream of ours to have trails throughout the wooded area in the back of the property. It's about 2 1/2 acres or half the property, plenty of room for several connected trails. Not long ago, I discovered Pat out there hacking away at the undergrowth and making trails. I can't complain.

I've even helped clear out some of it. But, he really gets most of the credit for this latest project.
Above, you can see less undergrowth right in front of the golf cart as opposed to at the bottom of the picture. That's the area he had just cleared. The process is simple but tiring: trim any thick-ish saplings, move large branches and sticks out of the way, swing a sling blade across remaining plants to level them, and drive or trample over the area to mash it all down. We may eventually mow the area to smooth it down even more. But, for's awesome just as it is!

We're really trying to use what looks like old trails to our advantage.

For now, there's one main trail that cuts from one side of the property to the other but has several entrances.
Eventually, there will be trails winding all through our Silverlox woods.

Here's one that's yet to be cleared, but you can clearly see that it used to be a trail. This makes it much easier to work on making these paths. However, not all the areas we want to have blazed are as clear cut as this one. We'll likely have to wait for the fall or winter when some of the growth dies back to clear those (and when it's not so stinkin' hot).

I know many of these pictures probably all look the same to you, so I did a pretty quick video tour of some of the cut trail to give you a clearer picture of how long it is and some of the sights.

I'm looking forward to using these wooded paths for walks, biking, and eventually disc golf!
They're fun to ride around in the golf cart too!

Our oasis is becoming more and more of what we had envisioned for ourselves and echoes more of who we are too.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jewelry-Making for Beginners Part 4: Bead Basics

When it comes to learning to make jewelry, it doesn't get more basic than the bead.

A bead is defined as "a small piece of glass, stone, or similar material, typically round and perforated for threading with others as a necklace or rosary or for sewing onto fabric." I personally tend to think of them as any material with one or more holes running through it.

I've been working my way through this basic jewelry-making series. Before getting into some of the skills needed to make jewelry, I feel that it's important to learn the tools and materials that are key to the skill. In previous posts (with corresponding videos) I've covered Jewelry Tools, Materials, and Findings. As well, there was a guest post from Divya that went over Cords, Ribbons, and Laces. Now, it's time to learn a little about beads.

I'm only covering the most basic of the basics as beads come in a vast array of materials, shapes, and sizes. I've also created a video with much of this bead basic information for your convenience.

As mentioned, beads, in general, come in a wide variety of materials: glass, stone, clay, resin, plastic, bone, wood, fabric, paper, metal, shell, and just about anything else you can find with or put a hole in it. In addition, the shapes are even more varied than the materials. Below is a review of the most basic of shapes because many times different bead suppliers use different terms for the shapes of their beads. I encourage you to explore different online bead shops and take a look at the shapes to see what appeals to you.
Seed Beads: Made of glass and tiny in size, these are most often used by artists who enjoy working on bead weaving, loom work, bead embroidery, and other techniques with much detail. Seed beads come in many shapes and sizes as well as a rainbow of colors.

E-beads: Belonging to the seed bead family, but slightly larger in size are e-beads. Like the smaller ones, they can be found in plenty of colors and finishes. Their holes do tend to be slightly larger than seed beads.

The beads along the bottom of the above picture are more specific in their shapes.
Round - simply a sphere, ball-like shape
Rondelle or Roundelle - I tend to think of these as smooshed/slightly flattened balls
Cube - much like a die, it's six sides of even squares
Tube - These might also be called cylinders or any other variety of names depending on the outer shape.
Bicone - what it would look like if you joined two cones together by their large circular bottoms (the opposite of an hourglass shape).
Briolette - These are often teardrop-shaped with a hole that extends across the thinner portion of the shape so that it hangs from its top.

Spacer Beads and Bead Caps tend to be metal elements that are used to accent and separate beads. However, I've seen them made of plastic and glass also.

Spacer Beads: Made of a flattened material with a hole through the middle that makes a space between one bead and the next. They can also be called spacers.

Bead Caps: These are concave (like a bowl or cup) with a hole in the middle and are intended to cradle one side of a bead.

The above elements are not necessarily considered beads but can fall in that general category. 

Charms: An accent piece that has a loop at the top so that they may hang. (Beads can be made into charms by forming a loop on them with wire. We'll cover that later.)

Focals: These are the centerpiece of your jewelry design and what draws your eye. They are the focal-piece of your design. They tend to be larger pieces. While all the ones pictured above are simply large charms, focals can be any kind of element.

Cabochons (Cabs): Materials with a flat-back that can be added to a design via gluing, wire-wrapping,  or some other method. The key to recognizing these are that they don't have holes like beads or charms and are flat on at least one side. In looking for a more exact definition, I found that cabs made of gemstones are the ones with smooth/domed top surfaces rather than faceted (cut) faces. However, that's not the way I use the term nor the way I've found other artists to use it.

That about sums up some of the most key info I can give you about beads. As always, if you have anything to add, any questions, or any corrections; please don't hesitate to let me know! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jewelry for sale and in progress

Coming off vacation and trying to get back into a routine has been harder than I thought. I just can't seem to catch up enough to actually be creative. Instead, there's been a lot of cleaning, shopping, and taking family members to doctor appointments. But, there is finally new jewelry at the booth, in the Etsy shop, and being made. Here's a peek at it all!

At my booth in Southern Antiques and Accents in Fairhope (Greeno Road location), you'll find these beauties.

That's the view of the shelves top to bottom. I definitely need to work on displaying the earrings a little better. I'm overloaded with them after #The100DayProject. And, I want to change the sign that's at the top of the booth (not pictured). Plus, I'm thinking of making that bottom shelf a "Discounted" or "Sale" section. In any case, I need to eke out time to focus on those projects.

As for the CraftyHope Etsy shop, there are a few new pieces there as well.
Altered Daisy Necklace

Humblebeads Fairy Earrings

Dragonfly Earrings
I'm trying to add at least one listing to the shop each day. Though, I can't promise that that will happen. It's something.

Making jewelry seems to be the biggest hurdle for some reason. However, I did pull out some elements that have been lingering the craft room since OCTOBER(!!) and made progress with them.
These are the backs from watches I dissected for their parts and fronts. I couldn't bear to toss out the backs, especially since they resembled little bezels. Back in October, I had Pat drill holes into them for me. Once he returned them to me, I bagged them up and set them aside. Big mistake! In the picture above, I used jump rings to join them together so I could get a feel for how it looks as one piece.

From there, I pulled out my little drawer of flat back elements (cabochons, cabs) and came up with a pleasing design. I removed the jump rings before altering the insides with Iced Enamels. In the picture, I haven't adhered the cabs yet and was still deciding whether I liked the layout.

I've since made a little progress with this project and hope to finish it up today. I also hope that it inspires me to get my butt in gear and knock out some more jewelry. Ha!

So, that's what's going on in my jewelry world. What's new in yours?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer Vacation and Giveaway Winners

I had fully intended to write a few blog posts while Pat and I enjoyed our two-week vacation. Somehow, though, that just didn't happen.

Instead, I spent many hours in and around the pool.

I crafted with my nieces.
One niece was seriously stuck on making slime. So, we made several versions. This was version #2 as she was mixing the ingredients (school glue and laundry detergent) together.
The other niece that stayed with us just wanted to make art. We each grabbed a canvas board and set to work. This was how mine turned out. She went in another direction altogether with acrylic paint, abstract bubbles, and splatters. I won't share without her permission, which I haven't asked for yet.

Pat and I spent lots of time outside doing yard work, working on the garden, and picking the wild grapes growing on the property.
I'm still giddy that those annoying grape vines are actually producing grapes.

Pat bought an old golf cart and got it working. He'll use any excuse to drive around the property on it. Boys!

The majority of the last week of our vacation was spent on one project in particular: QUILTING! I discovered the #BrooklynKnitFolkQAL video playlist when Lorelei Eurto showed off her completed quilt on Facebook. I was smitten! The videos are done by Jaclyn who goes through the steps simply and thoroughly. She made it look so easy! Learning to quilt has been on my bucket list for ages, and I've got loads of fabrics saved for when I learn to quilt. So, I took the break from most everything else to learn and do this. You can watch the videos for all the steps and supplies, but here are a few shots of some of the steps as I went through them.
Drying my fabrics after washing them. I used about three packs of fat quarters for the quilt top.

Cutting the fabric into 6x6 inch squares. This step was by far the longest and most tedious.
Sew the rows. I just loved this glimpse of all my rows stacked one on top of the other.
Pressing (ironing) the backs and attaching the rows to each other.
There were a few more steps in there before the final quilt came together. It's smaller than it looks here and is really just a lap quilt. But, it gave me a good idea of the process, materials, time, and cost it takes to make a quilt. It's much more than I had imagined.

And, while I had the sewing machine out, I made replacement bean bags (rice bags really) for our cornhole game.

Of course, I'm pretty sure I did other things than craft, swim, and garden...but I can't recall any of them at the moment. HA!

I also forgot to do the giveaway for Earrings 81-100. Oops! Before I get to that, I never heard back from the winner of the Earrings 61-80 giveaway. So, I've drawn again and the winner for that one is Kathy L!!! Kathy, I'll be contacting you about getting your prize to you shortly. Congratulations!!

Now for the 81-100 giveaway.
The names were collected
And a random number generated.
The winner is phinner!! Congratulations!! I'll also be emailing you about getting your prize to you.

Thanks to everyone who played along with these giveaways and offered up so much support during The 100 Day Project. I enjoyed stretching my creative muscles, and your encouragement really helped to make it fun as well. Thank You!

Now, here's hoping I can get back into a routine! How's your summer going? Do anything fun on your vacation?