Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Camper Renos: Before-and-After

This summer, we bought our very first camper and as soon as we brought it home, I started measuring every nook and cranny to plan how best to organize our new mini home for camping trips.

Campers are small homes (and ours is small even for a camper) so I knew we would need to maximize existing space as much as possible while still not making it look like we were cramming everything in.

The first thing I did was replace the dark, black-out curtains in our dining room: 


Here's what they looked like before. I am sure they were great for keeping light out in the morning but for the rest of day, they kept this living space unnecessarily dreary.


Here's what they looked like after. I love these curtains. They add a nice vertical texture to the room and their weaved appearance means they're not completely transparent yet still let in a lot of light during the day. Best of all, they don't wrinkle.


This was an easy $20 upgrade that immediately brightened up the space so I decided to replace the curtains in the bathroom, kitchen and living area as well. (Those windows were a little shorter but I found these cute scalloped curtains on Amazon for a mere $12!) 



Note: I've left the outdated valances in place (for now!) since they match the couch cushions. But I have hopes of finding a nice piece of weathered wood while camping to replace them some day.

After updating the curtains, we also updated our kitchen and bathroom walls using these easy-stick backsplash tiles


Here is what the wall looked like before the tiles. 


Here is what it looked like after. 


We also replaced that plastic gold soap dish and toothbrush holder (which was flimsy and too small to hold any of our electric toothbrushes) with these cute Fintorp utensil buckets from Ikea. The buckets are large enough to hold all of our toothbrushes, a soap bottle and even a plant!


Since these peel and stick tiles came in a package of four square foot tiles, there was enough to do both our kitchen backsplash as well.

We chose this checkered pattern for the bathroom but I later came across these pure white tiles that I think would look gorgeous in the kitchen, alongside some nice contrasting oil-rubbed bronzed fixtures.


This stovetop cover from Camco completed the look, adding valuable counter space while protecting burners. The non-skid bottom also keeps the cover in place and helps reduce rattling when on the move.


Note: In case you're wondering, the cute little daisy vase was just a $2 purchase from Dollarama that we hold in place while travelling using Quakehold Museum Puddy.

We also added a bit of decor to the living area.

I admit, this was not really a space-saving purchase but I justified spending the money as it makes our camper seems a bit more home-y and thus more liveable.




We bought the plant and pot from Ikea and snagged the framed decorative map of Canada from Winners. 

My son found the below coordinating piece for the entry, too.

This artwork is visible right when you walk in and is located on the exterior wall of the bathroom. It complements this pretty, gold magazine rack (also from Winners) that we added to the wall on opposite side of the bathroom door. It's conveniently located next to the kids area so we use it to store their books and craft supplies.

Next to the kids' bed is this bank of drawers. The drawers are perfect for storing clothes on-the-go but the cupboard at the bottom is awkward to get into. 


To fix this, I set out to find a bin with handles for easier storage. Initially, I bought a wooden crate from Marshalls that was the right width but it was still a bit awkward to get in and out. Then I came across these nice canvas storage bins on Amazon. The canvas material is much more flexible (so it's easier to get in and out) and the bin is taller, too (so we can store more stuff inside). Plus, it comes as a set of 3, so it was a better deal.



The other two bins also came in handy as they fit perpendicularly in the overhead cabinets above our dining table. I haven't yet decided what we will be storing there but I know whatever gets put up there will now be easy to take down!  

Underneath these cabinets, we added ceiling hooks to hold these cute, tin camping mugs that were custom-designed by Ashley, over at Mellowcrafts

When you're on the road, you want to keep supplies to a bare minimum and these personalized tin mugs help ensure every family member just sticks to re-using their own cup. I absolutely adore how these turned out and the bear theme is so camping-esque! 

Keeping with this idea of under-cabinet storage, we also added this useful magnetic knife bar that I bought from IKEA years ago below our kitchen cabinet and to attach these cute little spice tins.


The best deal I found for tins was this 6-piece set on Amazon. But really, you can attach anything that's metal. In fact, the bigger tin at the end was from my daughter's figit spinner!  

Inside our cabinets, we added an extra shelf to maximize wasted vertical space to store dishes and command hooks for larger utensils. 

Then, to maximize space even more, we purchased collapsible cookware like this awesome stainless steel pot,  this handy popcorn popper, and these super colourful nesting bowls from Joseph Joseph.
The cool space-saving nesting design allows individual pieces to be stacked neatly together and the set includes a 4.8 qt large mixing bowl, a 9-inch colander, a 7.5-inch steel sieve strainer, a 6-inch small mixing bowl with measurements, plus measuring cups and spoons.

We also added this handy over-the-cabinet plastic bag holder to store grocery bags from shopping trips and we reuse them inside our garbage can.


We found this one on clearance at Winners but you can also find this on Amazon


And speaking of garbage, we realized we could use this awkward angled space:

...to store this awesome in-cabinet trash can from Simple Human:


It fits the space perfectly so it provides easy access while we are busy at the kitchen counter yet tucks away out of sight when not needed. We bought this from Bed Bath and Beyond but you can also find this one on Amazon with free shipping for the same price.

Another super useful addition was this Extend-A-Shower by Stromberg Carlson. According to the package description, this bendable rod adds 30% more room to our shower.  


We also love it because it because it folds inwards when not in use so we can use it to drip dry our towels and bathing suits, too! My plan is to attach hanger hooks to the rod down the road so we can hang shampoo and body wash as well.

My favourite addition to date this season; however, has been this maple table by Cassidy over at Backroads Woodworks. The table was custom made to fit our dining nook (so it can still fold down into a bed) but also includes two fold away leafs to extend the table and extra 1.5 to 3 feet for when we have guests or simply need extra space.

Standard Size *with folded drop leafs 

39 inches
One drop leaf 

53.25 inches

Two drop leafs 

67.5 inches
We love that it extends all the way to our couch so a 7th person can actually sit at the very end if needed.

Note: Some affiliate links have been provided for your convenience so you can easily find the items we purchased. If an item is old or no longer sold, there may be a close match linked instead. Just click on the links to be taken to the product.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Hellmann’s® with Olive Oil Review

Hellmann's is my go-to brand for mayonnaise. I've tried other brands but my kids are very particular when it is comes to mayo so I wasn't really sure how a new variation would go over. 

Hellmann’s® with Olive Oil, however, passed my sandwich test and even the more difficult french fry test (where it was eaten au naturel as a dip for fries!)

This mayo is rich and creamy just like the original but instead uses a healthy olive oil, which I love. According to the packaging, it’s also made with real ingredients like 100% free run eggs and is a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. It contains no trans fat, and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Both tasty and healthy, we will definitely be purchasing this mayo again. I'm looking forward to trying on juicy burgers tonight!

I received this product for free from Hellmann's in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Secret Horizon Tips

With a new ship, comes new tips! And the Horizon has plenty...

Tip 1: Anyone sailing on the Horizon in its inaugural year (April 2018-March 2019) can request a commemorative Horizon book to take home for free. If there isn't one in your room, you can request one from your cabin steward or grab one from Guest Services where they have some sitting on a shelf!

Tip 2: The Horizon has an IMAX theatre with current movies but shows sell out quickly. Book your IMAX tickets on the first day by heading to the theatre desk on the 6th floor to choose the date and time that you want to go. If the desk isn't open, use the  self-service kiosks in front to buy tickets any time of the day!


Tip 3: The Havana area on Deck 5 is gorgeous! Even though this space is exclusive to Havana guests during the day, guests not staying in that area can check it out in the evening from 7 p.m. to midnight when it is open to everyone (including kids). Have a late dinner? This is a great place to grab a cocktail and take in the view before your meal. If the ship is sailing in the right direction, it's also an amazing spot to get perfect sunset pics.

Tip 4: On Sea Days at 3:00 p.m., you can go for Afternoon Tea in the back dining room (Meridian) on deck 4. They also bring around desserts and finger sandwiches!

Tip 5: There is a secret deck on this ship with comfy chairs on Spa - Deck 14. Take odd hallway and head towards the front of the ship. You will need to go through three doors and then you will reach a cute little private deck with 4 patio cushioned chairs and a table (see above)!

Tip 6: Carnival Cruise Line has started offering an MDR breakfast menu on port days as well as sea days. Unlike Lido buffet, these free breakfasts are made to order. The menu comes with the usual faves – buttermilk waffles, vanilla French toast and eggs benefit) but also offers new items like avocado toast!

Tip 7: Carnival Cruise Line is piloting a new program on the Horizon that will allow guests to order pizza anywhere on the ship using the Hub app. The cost is $5 per pizza and is automatically charged to guests’ Sail & Sign shipboard accounts.

Tip 8: Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse is a new specialty restaurant being offered on a select Carnival ships. It costs $$ but guests can check out a free menu (and live music and lively atmosphere) on embarkation day (and sea days) between 12-2:30 p.m. Their lunch buffet offers pulled pork, smoked beef, blue ribbon chicken, greens, beans, mac & cheese, plus an assortment of sauces. Consider avoiding the rush by arriving later. Chances are good that at 2 p.m. you'll be able to walk right up as opposed to waiting in a line stretching half way around the promenade. 

Pssst - Jiji's Asian Kitchen and Cucina, both $15pp at night, also offer free stirfry and pasta during the day! Head here for a late lunch to avoid the crowds.

Tip 9: Blue Iguana Cantina has build-your-own tacos (chicken, pork, fish) and burritos (chicken, beef, shrimp). But if you're a sucker for shrimp tacos like me, you can go to the taco station and ask them to grab shrimp from the burrito station. Then, just pile on your fave toppings from the salsa bar for a tasty, fresh taco!

Tip 10: There is a secret salad bar on the Serenity (21+ deck).  It's not like the salad bar on Lido; it’s a hidden gem with many extras, such as shrimp. It’s free and no passes are needed eat here. Watch the video.

Tip 11: Learn how to use the smart elevators Early. The new elevator system is your friend and actually saves you time (no matter how many people tell you differently). The only guests who hate it are the ones who don’t pay attention. They’ll jump into the first elevator that opens and then wonder how the heck they’re supposed to get to where they want to go, given that there aren’t any buttons inside the actual elevator car. It’s worth noting that just like with regular elevators, yes, there will be times when a whole lot of people are trying to go somewhere, and an elevator may be full. That’s okay. Go back to the panel and order another.

Tip 12: Download the Hub App. The new Hub App lets you book dining reservations, order pizza, check your account balance, view your photos and set notifications. It's incredibly useful and will help you get the most out of your vacation.

Tip 13: The SkyBox Sports Bar is quiet but fun. Not sure if it's the location of the sports bar on deck 4 midship or just because there are so many things to do but it's pretty quiet in there during the daytime (although I doubt it will be that way when we depart on Super Bowl Sunday!)

Tip 14: Use deck 1 to navigate around crowds in ports. In most of the ports, the gangway will be located on deck 0 (just above the water line). If you're using the midship gangway then walk up deck 1 and walk to the part of the ship that you want to go to avoid elevator congestion.

Tip 15: Find secret sail away spots. If you head to the very front of decks 5,6,7, 10 or 11, you'dd find these area are pretty much always empty. Being at the front of the ship makes them the perfect place for a peaceful sail away, not to mention incredible pictures!

Tip 15: The gym on the Horizon seems a bit small for ship that carries over 4000 guests so if you want to get in a good work out, avoid going during peak times. Your best bet is early in the morning or late in the day. Another option? Head up to deck 12 where seven laps equals a mile.

Tip 16: Buy a 64-oz growler from the Pig & Anchor. It's approximately $32 to fill and it's the perfect to-go cup to take along to Dive-In movies.

Tip 17: Enjoy one last goodbye meal. The main dining room, Lido Marketplace and Blue Iguana are all open on disembarkation morning.

Tip 18: Get off the ship quick! Opt for self-assist if you can. Get up early, head to a forward desk to watch sail-in, grabd breakfast as soon as the dining room opens at 6:30 then pick up your luggage and troll off the ship.