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…….

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…). 

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.

How to recharge your electronic devices in the woods

Whenever we go camping or backpacking, we have a couple of different ways that we recharge our electronic devices. Depending on how much wattage you will need in order to recharge the device, will dictate which method.

For small devices like a headlamp or Garmin GPS watch, our Biolite Stove works just fine; however, my Samsung S5 needs more amps/wattage and unfortunately does not recharge well from the stove.

I would suggest getting a solar fold-able solar charger like the below picture from Amazon. I got a Ravpower charger that I think is no longer available yet this one is very similar:

My Ravpower charger is a 15W solar charger and recharges my S5 in 60-90mins in full sun.

I was really impressed with how quickly it recharged my phone!! 

Another charger that I don’t leave at home is my Jackery lipstick battery. I like this little lipstick battery versus some others for two reasons:

  1. It has a LED bar on the battery to show me how full or depleted the battery is.
  2. It is lighter than some others. My husband has an Anker lipstick battery and that thing is like lead = heavy.

All in all, while being out in the woods and decompressing from the responsibilities of life or just being an adult, it is nice and a luxury to recharge your devices via the sun, fire or a recharged battery. I know I really like being my Kindle along for a good read in my hammock or a late night movie on our tablet (Yes, I admit it 😦 I occasionally watch a movie while in the woods).

Pinterest Inspired Log Bench = Success!!

After seeing this log bench on Pinterest (photo on left from, my husband took his chainsaw and built the same bench (see photo on right) at our property. It is a solid bench and recommend it to others who need a bench. We got the 3″x12″ wood beam from our neighbor who wanted to get rid of some scrap wood. The hubby cut openings in the wood at a slight angle, wedged the beam in and then used the back of his axe to hammer/wedge the beam into the stumps tightly. It worked!! And the bench is solid. Doesn’t wiggle, shake, etc. Also the nice part about the top of the stumps and the beam protruding from the stump, is that there is plenty of room to set down a drink. Love it! Pinterest success! 

Glamping in Santa Cruz, CA

One of our favorite spots to camp at is at New Brighton Beach in Capitola, CA. It’s very close to Santa Cruz and the campsite is right on the ocean bluffs. The sites are large and there is running water with coin operated hot showers, flushing toilets, and Capitola is about 10 minutes away by bike or less than 5 mins by car. Last year, my husband and I were lucky enough to book one of the campsites on the bluffs and we could hear the crashing of the waves at night. It sure beat any hotel you could stay at for only $35/night. This was our first time “glamping” as it was his birthday and I wanted to do something nice for us and we had so much fun!!! Sleeping on the Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed with Built-in Pillow and Electric Pump, Queen, Bed Height 16 1/2″ in our Kingdom 6 tent from REI was plenty of room and comfort for a couple of nights stay. I liked the double height of the air mattress as it felt more like a real bed since you don’t have to bend down all the way. This is what we got:

I also got an Intex Quick-Fill 12v-DC Electric Air Pump, Max. Air Flow 21.2CFM so I could blow up the air mattress from our car. It fully inflated in less than 5 minutes and it was easy to place inside out tent. (I was worried it wouldn’t get through the opening but it did.)

Some other things that I brought to make our trip fun were:

    • Sand Castle Supplies – Why not? have fun no matter your age
    • Bluetooth speaker for some music
    • French Press Coffee Maker – I got mine from REI and it’s insulated so it kept the coffee warm between cups.
    • Muffins for the morning with coffee
    • Glow in the Dark Rings – we passed these out to other campers for fun and to celebrate his birthday. You can find these cheaper at the Dollar Store or Wal-mart.
    • Playing Cards
    • Birthday Cake with candles
    • Birthday Decor – Yup, I went to the good ole Dollar Store for supplies and decorated our campsite so everyone knew it was his birthday 🙂
    • Hammock – I highly recommend bringing a hammock. It was nice to take an afternoon nap or read a book in the shade while listening to the ocean waves. I did purchase this Ultimate, Compact, Single-person Adventure Hammock by Tribe Provisions (Orange) from Amazon and IT WAS SO MUCH CHEAPER THAN AN ENO!! I my husband has an ENO and we both think this one is more comfortable. Although, I do recommend getting the Eagles Nest Outfitters Atlas Polyester Hammock Hanging Straps for setting up the hammock. Paying the extra money for these straps are work it!!! The para-cord that comes with this hammock is not the best and stretch so ya eventually are touching the ground. 😦

  • Bicycle – We found getting around town much easier with our bicycles than driving, especially because it’s a small town and parking was at a premium. Also if you go around Easter or Halloween, the community of Capitola normally does something on the beach (i.e. Easter Egg hunt on the beach for the kiddos).

Some of the fun places we like to visit Capitola are:

  1. Margaritaville – this place it right on the water with great staff and fresh ingredients. It’s a place were you can hang out all night with the view from almost every seat.photogrid_1448466080310.jpg
  2. Panache – or as we refer to it as the “Rubber Duckie Store.” This store has a TON of different rubber duckies from Einstein or Ben Franklin duckie, to Pink Flamingo duckie, Devil Duckie, and more. We couldn’t help ourselves bought this enormous rubber duckie for our bathroom, lol:Enormous Rubber Duckie
  3. Shadowbrook – is a really nice place for elegant, more fine dining. The location is romantic as it’s right on the canal and you even take a funicular down to the restaurant. Be aware that there is a dress code. Luckily they don’t enforce it too much if you are traveling and trying to make an effort of having nice clothes on. I wore a sweater dress with capris and my keen water sandals. I was worried about my sandals; however, I was unaware of the dress code before packing for this trip. Just wear some nice khakis, no rips/tears and nicer sandals and you should be fine. Luckily no one said anything to me….maybe because it was my shoes, no one really saw them under the table…..photogrid_1448465176866.jpg photogrid_1448465696739.jpg photogrid_1448465271736.jpg
  4. Exploring the town of Capitola – there are many little privately owned shops in Capitola so it was really nice to just park/lock up the bikes and walk around exploring. We even got a slice of pizza and just ate lunch on a beach bench taking our time and enjoying the breeze and scenery. But there is wine tasting and more in the area. I would go on TripAdvisor and see what activities may interest you before going as well. Also this campsite is about 30 minutes away from the Monterrey Aquarium if you wanted to do a day trip.

Here’s some other photos from our trip:

Our site all set up:


A little skunk ate our Birthday Muffins. We locked up our food but the little bugger was able to get into the wooden locker with his little paws and then let his mark on our trunks (what we haul our gear in).


Building Sand Castles after coffee (Thank you Dollar Store). We gave our bucket and shovel to a family with small children to play with afterwards. 🙂


Hope you enjoyed this post.