Interim Outdoor Off-Grid Bathroom

We are in the process of building an outdoor bathroom for our property and we are completely off-grid. In the interim, we needed some sort of shower structure/bathroom area. We decided on the kitty litter method until we get a septic system installed just because it’s the easiest and we’re not able to use a composting toilet due to the freezing temperatures. Anyhow, hope this gives you ideas on what to do for maybe your campsite or while you are in the process of building your own off-grid cabin.


Packing for Europe

Packing for Europe

Beyond preprinting bordering passes and being organized (again I am an anxious traveler), I was so THANKFUL for traveling light. I hate having to carry a ton of stuff and honestly would much rather do laundry in the sink with Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap than lug more stuff with me on my back.

Here’s a breakdown of what we packed:

  1. Day pack or larger purse – I purchased the Pacsafe Metrosafe LS 200 Shoulder Bag. We used this to cart around our lunches for the day, souvenirs, etc. and it was large enough to keep misc. things that we wanted during train/plance travel close to us while our travel packs were in the overhead compartment.
    1. If you think you may buy more souvenirs there than just have digital photos for memorabilia, bring a collapsible day pack for luggage overflow.
  2. Nalgene Water Bottle 400ml – it is small but enough to carry in my Pacsafe and not too much water to really weight me down.
  3. Rain jacket
  4. Beanie
  5. Gloves – honestly I didn’t use them much……you decide. I have Raynaud’s Disease so I brought them but I was OK.
  6. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap – a.k.a. laundry detergent and body wash
  7. Kindle – so thankful for this on the plane
  8. USB Cable – all our planes and trains had USB capable charging stations (still bring electric plug adapters as hotels and one of our trains did not have the USB port).
  9. Headphones – yup, planes no longer supply them = now for purchase 😉 And they were nice to have for audio tours = hands-free listening.
  10. Medications – We were most thankful for TUMS and Advil PM (take just 1 for jetlag to help you sleep and awake without the hangover/groggy effect). I also brought 5 coughdrops, and Tylenol. But you decide on what you want to take. REI has a lot of little individual packets you can get, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target all have good travel sections.
  11. 2 packing cubes
  12. 5 smartwool socks
  13. 5 synthetic underwear
  14. 2 (black/nude) Patagonia Barely Sports Bra – instead a regular bra and a sports bra. Super easy to wash in the sink!
  15. 2 tank tops – using one for sleeping (make sure, both can work with you bra in case want to wear that one out)
  16. 2 short sleeve shirts
  17. 2 long sleeve shirts – I took a flannel shirt and a thin lightweight sweater (I would also possible bring a cardigan next time instead of the flannel shirt to mix and match more and have something a little nicer)
  18. 1 Prana Halle pants
  19. 1 Jeggings
  20. 1 pair of Jeans – these were too thick for me and honestly they take too long to dry. I would not bring them again for travel. INSTEAD, I would have brought a pair of leggings.
  21. 1 Pair of boots – make sure you can walk MILES IN THEM!! One day in Paris, we walked 14.2 miles. I wore Baretraps insulated boots and they were too hot as the weather was all over.


Things I wish I brought:

  1. Leggings – as mentioned above
  2. I wish I brought a pair of ballet flats OR black Nikes – I know these two pairs are a vast contrast but after a while, I just wanted something different than my boots to wear and change up. (side note: packing was easier but…..)
  3. Scarf/Shall – something that you can use to accessorize and then just stuff in your purse when not in use. The weather change quickly through the days we were there in September.
  4. Granola Bars!!! – between arriving into towns as odd hours or due to jetlag, I wish I brought more individual granola bars. Especially because in Paris and the Iceland airport have expensive food options that sometimes you just want a snack but don’t want to pay, “How MUCH?!” for something tiny OR all the options are chocolate and you want something healthier.
  5. Bring a plastic bag or compressible tote – many groceries stores do not have plastic bags and some will charge for plastic bags. We purchased one while in London and kept it with us for the remainder of our trip. To go to the market/store.



  1. Osprey Farpoint 40 – this bag was so great! It switched from a backpack to a duffel/briefcase style with should strap so quickly on the go I never had to worrying about if I had time to switch. Since my pack, had an internal frame and compression straps, we used my pack to make sure our Ocktoberfest steins made it home safely.
  2. Small water bottle – Nalgene 400ml. I filled this up whenever I got a change instead of paying for water.
  3. Fenix 3 Garmin Watch – having the compass on my husband’s watch and telling us the distance, etc., made navigating in Paris possible. I got so confused with all the Etoiles in Paris (i.e. roundabouts, where some had 7 roads branching off of them).
  4. Playing cards – to pass the time
  5. Tums and Advil PM
  6. Headphones
  7. Print out of documents for when you don’t have internet access
  8. Hotels and grocery stores – it was nice having 3 out of 4 hotels close to a convenient store or a grocery store. Breakfast we either had fruit or something small with coffee and for lunch, either made a picnic or ate out at a restaurant. For Dinner, we enjoyed going to the store and getting what we wanted and bring it back to the room to enjoy and just relax from a long day out. Not to mention, eating lunch out was much cheaper than dinner.
  9. LASTLY, purchasing small souvenirs – i.e. fridge magnetics, keychains, playing cards, pens, and Christmas ornaments are my favorite as every year you can enjoy the memory again, but it doesn’t add to clutter in the household.

Preparing for European Vacation

After traveling Europe for 2.5 weeks, I DID A LOT OF RESEARCH. Honestly to the point I was hitting burn-out and we hadn’t even left the USA. BUT, I am an anxious traveler and I am don’t like flying. Long story short, I was on a plane that almost went down and ever since then, if I feel a little turbulence, my mind automatically goes to, “We are going to die.” Yup, don’t you wish you can sit next to me on a Trans-Atlantic flight 😉

Anyhow, here is where I did my research:

  1. TripAdvisor – from accommodations, tours and just things to do
  2. Airlines –, Icelandair, Aer Lingus and your normal Expedia or Travelicity
  3. Metro/Ground Transportation – Pinterest and travel blogs (by doing an internet search)
  4. “Don’t miss foods or places” – see if 36 Hours in..[whatever location]… or Delicious Destinations by Andrew Zimmerman is on the TV or youtube
    1. Also don’t forget your local library or Amazon Prime

This is the beginning of a series of what we did and to what we learned while abroad, so keep posted for future updates. My husband and I traveled train, airplane, metro, etc. from Munich for Ocktoberfest, London, Paris and Amsterdam before heading back stateside.

To kick this Travel series off, here is what we learned:

  1. Confirm the date and time with front desk upon arrival – We did not use our data plan while abroad and yes, I messed up on the dates; however, nothing detrimental like missing a flight occurred as we discovered the correct date before it became a hazard.
  2. Leave some tickets open if plans change – meaning trains normally don’t run too late; however, we did buy train tickets that we could switch times as long as there was a seat available which gave us some flexibility if we wanted to spend more time in a city.
  3. Double check each other’s work; especially dates and times before leaving – For instance, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays while the Musee d”Orsay and the Palace of Versailles are closed on Mondays. Really, with the internet now and Google Translate, it is easy to plan ahead and at least get a general idea of what to do when. I used an Excel spreadsheet to make our itinerary (Mock European Itinerary) which was easier for me to insert, and move entire events to another day after figuring out some logistics. I was able to leave the itinerary with my family so they knew where I was on which days, in case something happened.
  4. Keep a copy of everything with you – I kept a copy of our passports, to train tickets, confirmation of hotels, etc. Which made it easy upon arrival to train stations and hotels looking up my last name than trying to have people figure it out (as it doesn’t sound like it is spelled).


Stay tune for more…….

Springs Nails!

Super easy fun nails!!

Thumb & Middle finger: China Gelaze Spontaneous  (I see this color on their website but not in a lot of Sally Beauty Supply stores – JFYI)

Index & Ring finger: China gelaze Swing Baby as base with Gelish All That Glitters is Gold (make sure to apply the Gelish Glitter polish to a facial sponge to soak up the clear polish, then apply the polish to your nail before curing)

Little finger: China gelaze Sweet Hook

Valentine’s Day Nails

Pink = Orly Gel FX Kiss the Bride
White = Fingerpaints gel polish

Stamp = Bundle Monster 5pc Blogger Collaboration Nail Art Polish Stamping Plates – Set 1 

There is also a plate by Born Pretty that is similar to the Bundle Monster if you don’t want to get the collection. The Born Pretty plate is called Heart Love Kiss Nail Art Stamp Template Image Plate Pattern Qgirl-006.

Have fun!

Review: Helio Shower

The Helio Shower retails for about $99 at REI and my husband and I were able to pick one up at a REI garage sale for about $13. SCORE! 

For $13, I was was willing to take the gamble on whether this shower worked or not as all sales are final at these garage sales. Anyhow, here is my review on the shower based on the item we got at the sale:


  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Holds a lot of water
  • Foot pump is nice for continuous water pressure
  • Can place the shower anywhere = no gravity feed


  • Water pressure is not great (could be just our item as it was a return)
  • Not able to use hot water in this shower BUT I you could put warm water in it and it would be OK.
  • I feel like I am going to rip the handle on the shower after it is full

With that all being said, we have a cheap $15 or $20 solar camp shower (gravity fed) purchased off of amazon and it works great!! Unless you REALLY need a shower that is not gravity fed, the Helio is compact and lightweight but….I think a modified weed sprayer bottle would be cheaper. 

UPDATE 7/5/2017:

I have used the Helio at night in our little off-grid cabin to take a facecloth/sponge bath to clean up before bed when it is too cold outside to use my gravity fed solar shower and so far it has worked better than I anticipated. Turns out, i needed to close one of the valves on the foot pumo to get better pressure inside and love that when we leave the cabin, I can collapse the shower a d put it away or bring it outside for an outdoor sink to wash dishes. I still feel like the handle is flimsy (BUT it has not broke yet with 3 gallons of water in it…). 

New Year’s Nails 

For Christmas I received some new nail stamps and a new clear XL Jelly Stamper from Uber Chic which made stamping my nails so much easier, placement wise. It took me a number of times to get the hang of it but in the end, I am so happy with the results. 


  • Champagne color – China Gelaze Swing Baby
  • Black – Fingerpaints gel polish
  • Bundle Monster nail lacquer in black and gold

Nail Stamps:

  • I used Bundle Monster nail stamp BM-XL201 for the falling stars
  • Cheeky nail stamp CH19 for the champagne bottle motif. 

Biolite Stove Review – 2 years post purchase

We have been using our BioLite stove with the grill attachment along with the cattle for about 1 to 2 years now and here are some of the things that I like and don’t like since using it:


  1. It’s very compact as the battery fits into the stove compartment and then they both slide into the kettle. So tailgating is made easy for someone who doesn’t have the space or lives in a compact area like San Francisco. For us, it makes it easy to pack up or just store out of wa when not in use.
  2. It is an all-in-one: a grill, battery recharger, and stove top.
  3. The battery and fan are self charging/propelling via kinetic energy from the fire, unlike the latest blue version out there.
  4. Small electronic devices like headlamps, and watches recharge quickly.
  5. Wood is free fuel. I have purchased the little Biolite wood pellets for when I just want to start a fire right away (yes i have been that lazy…I mean exhausted) or keep a fire going for a long time. I find the heat from the wood pellets is long lasting and more controlled, not mention I don’t have to keep throwing in twigs every 2 mins. I want to try BBQ wood chips to see if there is a big difference in flavors…..and I have seen them for cheap at stores.


  1. IF it rains…..say goodbye to breakfast, lunch and dinner. You need twigs/dry wood to start your fire and if you didn’t collect it before the downpour then you will be eating whatever doesn’t need to be cooked.
  2. Unable to sufficiently recharge larger devices like phones. My older Motorola smartphone recharged quite well with our Biolite; however, since I have upgraded to a Galaxy S5, a get a small burst of recharge (a whopping 1%) about every 5mins. I was reading that the newer phones will need more amps to recharge than older models. Just FYI.
  3. It is heavy for backpacking (33oz. = 2.06lbs) so I don’t recommend it for this activity. We use a Jetboil for backpacking and love it too but for different reasons.

In the end, I would recommend the Biolite for tailgating, car/base camping, or is you need something really compact that does it all. But if you are focused on backpacking, not feeding a fire, instantaneous ON and just reheating water for your dehydrated meals, I really enjoy my Jetboil.