The Hardest Part of Flipping Houses They Don’t Tell You About on TV

Flipping houses is not an easy process. On TV shows like Flip or Flop or even Fixer-Upper, they make the process appear to be seamless. These made for TV flips are nothing what it is like to get involved in house flipping. However, the most time consuming part of house flipping surprisingly isn’t the actual renovation, it is the process of finding a real estate investment to purchase!

foreclosure home
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Now you probably are thinking how hard could it be to find a property to buy? Well it isn’t an easy process. There is a lot of time, research and effort that goes into finding a good investment property to purchase. One of the first things you need to do is look for deals. You can’t purchase a home to flip that isn’t going to have enough profit or is possibly going to be a flop on the profit end. With real estate prices continuing to rise those deals do not come along often. One of the best ways to get a potential deal is to purchase a foreclosure property, however you need to be careful when doing this. Many of these properties are sight unseen and/or are an as-is purchase. You need to do your due-diligence when purchasing one of these properties – which takes time.

In Connecticut we have a few different options for purchasing foreclosure properties. Banks list properties with a real estate agent and you can go and view the property and check for things like burst pipes, missing mechanicals, water damage, etc. All of these types of listings you can find on a website like Zillow or Realtor.com Another option is to go to a live foreclosure auction which you usually don’t get to actually see the inside of the property. This option can be risky but can also be very rewarding because many people are hesitant to bid on a property they can’t actually go into. You can find these properties in your local newspaper or usually on the court website in your state or local county. One other option for foreclosure properties is to take part in an online auction and sometimes you can view these properties prior to bidding, but most of the time they are also sight unseen.

foreclosed home
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Prior to purchasing a foreclosure you need to do your research – especially with an auction. There is a chance you could get stuck having to pay past-due real estate taxes and or past-due association dues. In order to check on this you need to go to the town hall where the property is located and check if there are past-due taxes. You also should check to make sure there are no liens on the property. If there are liens on the property it is best to contact your lawyer and have him/her look into seeing if title insurance will cover any liens.

home research

You should also check the property card to make sure everything is listed properly – you don’t want to have to deal with illegal rooms, bathrooms, decks, etc. if you don’t have to. I also suggest if there is an addition on a home to check with the town’s building department to see if there was a permit taken out for that addition. This can come back to bite you when you go to resell and the buyer gets the property appraised.

In cold weather states you also need to be aware that many older homes may have abandoned oil tanks buried on the property. If there are pipes sticking out of the ground there may be an oil tank buried on the property. When an oil tank is abandoned it needs to be removed and the soil needs to be remediated, which can cost thousands of dollars. I am not saying you should completely stay away from a property like this, but you need to take this into consideration prior to purchasing the property.

In addition to conducting all this research before you decide to purchase a foreclosure you need to create a budget for all the required updates the property will need. If you can’t get into the property to see what updates it needs, to play it safe you should assume it will need everything – kitchen, bathrooms, paint, heating/cooling system, etc. I highly recommend at least driving by the property prior to bidding on it as well to check the outside conditions – roof, windows, doors, siding, etc. These are all items that can be costly and you need to put them into your budget. Don’t forget to also include other costs like attorney fees, taxes, utilities, realtor commissions, taxes when you sell the property, title search/insurance, etc. These are all costs that take away from your bottom-line. After you figure out all these fees add in a buffer for unforeseen costs and then if you are going to make a profit of at least $20,000 then it is worth your time trying to get the property. The reason why I believe you should at least be making a profit of $20,000 on a property is that anything less and you could risk falling into a flop. What if there are unseen expenses and you only planned on a $10,000 profit? You could end up in the negative.

creating a budget
Make sure to create a realistic budget prior to purchasing a flip home. Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

As you can see, this is a long process. We have spent hours doing this on multiple properties only to have an auction be canceled, an offer not accepted or we decided not to try to get the property because there was not enough profit to be made.

In the past two months we have looked at over 100 properties. We have attended multiple auctions and have put in multiple offers on other properties and out of all this leg work we purchased two homes. So you can see a lot of work goes into flipping a home even before you start the remodeling process. Do you have what it takes?

 

10 Flowers to Plant for Spring Blooms

Spring is so close I can smell it! Spring is the season when life is renewed. Soon we will  see some colors and green, the birds will be chirping and animals and people will be coming out of hibernation from the long winter.

If you are anything like me you are anxious to get your garden started again. As warmer days will slowly come, so will spring flowers. Below are 10 flowers that bloom in the spring months that you can plant while we still have cool days/nights. What other spring flowers do you plant in your gardens during the months of March, April and May?

Lily of the Valley

lily of the valley
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This perennial thrives in damp and shady areas. The plant stays green throughout the summer. When the flowers bloom they have a strong perfume scent.

Crocus

Crocus
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These perennial bulbs are the earliest flowers to come up in the spring. Sometimes they will pop up as early as late February. Many people plant these in rock gardens or lawns. At my house they have somehow appeared in the lawn without us planting them there and they do grow wild.

Pansy

Pansy flowers
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Pansy flowers are an annual plant that prefers the cool weather, however if you continue to deadhead these flowers they will bloom for the entire summer and will continue to bloom into the fall. Make sure to plant them in a spot that doesn’t have constant sun. These are really good for containers gardens too.  Last summer mine lasted from April till the end of October.

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox
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This perennial plant will create a carpet of color on the bed of your garden in the spring. The small flowers can range in a variety of pinks, purples, blues and whites. After the flowers bloom the plant stays green throughout the rest of the summer. If you are looking to cover a large space this flower is great for that as it will spread.

Oriental Poppy

Oriental Poppy
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Poppy flowers bloom in late spring. They are beautiful when they bloom, however they do not last long, so make sure to plant other plants near them to fill in the area after they go dormant the rest of the year.

Iris

Iris flowers
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Iris come in a variety of different colors, however the one that most people have is the purple shades. They are perennial plants and they usually bloom towards the end of spring. In my home state (Connecticut) they bloom usually mid-May. They are taller and will spread. They like full sun.


Daffodils

daffodil flowers
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You know it is spring when the daffodils start blooming. These flowers are perennial bulbs. They come in colors of yellow or white. They enjoy full sun.

Tulips

tulip flowers
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Tulips are another flower that screams spring. Tulips come in a variety of colors. They are perennial bulbs that like the Daffodil enjoy full sun.

Gypsophila- Baby’s Breath

Baby Breath
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This perennial flower blooms in late spring. It is known as a filler plant that is used as a border flower. These flowers are great to cut dry out.

Forsythia

Forsythia
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These are shrubs that stay green all summer, however in the spring they have bright yellow flowers that remind me of spring and Easter. These shrubs can grow in your garden, yard and they also grow in the wild.


Chip and Joanna Purchase Castle Fixer-Upper

Chip and Joanna Gaines have been busy—on Friday, Feb. 22 the couple’s company Magnolia closed on a historic castle in Waco, Texas.

According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, on Friday Chip was seen on top of the 6,700 square-foot building and there also appeared to be a film crew on site. (See photo below).

Waco Tribune Hearald
Photo courtesy of the Waco Tribune-Herald – Reader Submitted Photo.

The historic home, which is called the Cottonland Castle, was built in 1890. The home was started by stone contractor John Tennant. In 1900 when Waco, Texas’ cotton-based economy was flourishing he sold the building to a cotton broker named Ripley Hanrick. The building was not finished until 1913 and was then the residence of businessman Alfred Abeel. The home contains limestone detailing, a sandstone edifice, and other materials such as marble and mahogany grace the interior of the house.  Based on the property field card from the McLennan County website, the property is located on .81 acres and contains 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, a swimming pool, pool house and finished basement.

If you look at the photos from the Realtor.com listing posted above, you will see this is a diamond in the rough. However, I can only imagine what Chip and Joanna can do to bring life back into this beautiful historic treasure.

I can’t wait to see what they have in store for this project! What do you think they will end up doing with the building? Maybe a new bed and breakfast?


Could you live in a tiny house?

Over the past 15 years it seems as if the tiny house movement has taken the world by storm. Homeowners have moved into everything from tiny house trailers, buses converted into tiny homes, container homes and just plain old tiny houses.

Some people just want less to worry about and maintain, some want to downsize, some want to decrease their carbon footprint, others can’t afford all the expenses of a big home and then there are just some people who want to live the minimalist lifestyle.

The tiny house movement really took off though during the 2007-2008 financial crisis as thousands of people lost their homes because of unemployment or foreclosure. Tiny homes at the time seemed like the perfect, affordable alternative to traditional housing options.

Not only has this movement taken TV by storm with shows on most of the home TV networks there are even tiny house expos taking place each year around the country for those who live in tiny homes to get together and even for those who are just interested in the movement or are maybe thinking about downsizing into their own tiny house.

What is a tiny house?

Could you live in a tiny house? I personally think if I lived alone I wouldn’t mind too much, but if my husband and I lived in some of these tiny houses I think we would probably be divorced! Our current house is 1,000 square feet and many consider that to be tiny. Our house is a mansion compared to some of these small homes couples are moving into. According to Realtor.com, tiny homes range from 100 to 400 square feet and they generally do not exceed 500 square feet – now that is really tiny!

If you look at some of the numbers however, you may be changing your mind about downgrading to a smaller home. Tiny home owners are saving much more versus their larger home counterparts. The Tiny Life conduced some research and put together this great infographic below on everything you need to know about the people living in tiny houses. People who are deciding to downsize are saving tremendously compared to regular home owners. According to Tiny Life, “55% of tiny house people have move savings than the average American, with a median of $10,972 in the bank.” Tiny Life also found that 68% of the people who do own a tiny home do not have a mortgage.

tiny house infographic
Image courtesy of https://thetinylife.com

Although you will save money with a tiny home there are so many things to also think about when downsizing. If you are getting a tiny house on wheels you need to figure out where you are going to park it. Will you rent or buy land? Will your city allow for you to do this? Some towns have zoning laws that prevent you from plopping a tiny home on a plot of land. You also need to figure out utilities – most importantly sewage, water and electricity.

 

Give a tiny house a test run

If you are thinking about going the tiny home route but aren’t sure you can handle downsizing try a week renting a tiny home at a vacation destination. There are tons of tiny homes listed for rent on websites like Airbnb. Some of the rentals are really unique too like the 180 square foot glass house in New York’s Hudson Valley that averages $152 per night.  or maybe you want to try a treehouse in Thailand for $35 per night.

Glass House Hudson Valley
Photo courtesy of https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17865668?guests=1&adults=1

 

tree house tiny house
Photo courtesy of https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/788235?guests=1&adults=1

 

Tiny House Festivals

Tiny houses really have taken the world by storm. There are tiny house fairs and festivals that take place every year worldwide. These festivals serve as a place for tiny house dwellers to come together as well as those who are interested in the tiny house lifestyle. If you are on the fence about going the tiny house route I would highly recommend checking out one or more of these festivals this year. At each festival you will have the opportunity to interact with tiny home owners and really get the opportunity to see what it is like to go tiny.

Here are some of the festivals taking place in 2019:

 

Georgia Tiny House Festival
When: March 1-3, 2019
Where: Macon, GA
What: The festival will include a large assortment of tiny houses and micro homes, workshops, presentations, vendors, entertainment and more.
More Information

Tiny house festival Georgia
Photo courtesy of Georgia Tiny House Festival.

Denver Great American Tiny House Show
When: March 23-24, 2019
Where: Denver, CO
What: Attendees will see the latest trends in tiny living and learn from builders, project experts and lifestyle authors at the educational conferences and panel discussions.
More Information

St. Pete Tiny Home Festival
When: March 23-24, 2019
Where: St. Pete Florida
What: More than 20 tiny homes, skoolies and converted vans will be at this event. There will also be more than a dozen expert speakers, 50 plus artists, crafters and small businesses, food and more.
More Information

http://www.tinyhomestpete.com/
Photo courtesy of http://www.tinyhomestpete.com/

Portland Great American Tiny House Show
When: April 27-28, 2019
Where: Portland, Oregon
What: Attendees will see the latest trends in tiny living and learn from builders, project experts and lifestyle authors at the educational conferences and panel discussions.
More Information

Atlantic Station Tiny House Festival
When: May 11-12, 2019
Where: Atlanta, Georgia
What: More than 20 tiny houses and shipping container homes will be available to tour at this tiny house festival. Tiny House Atlanta will also display the first movable Tiny House Village. There will also be expert speakers and food truck vendors.
More Information

Tiny house festival
Photo courtesy of https://tinyhousefestival.com/


TinyFest MidWest

When: June 8-9, 2019
Where: Louisburg, Kansas
What: The festival will include a display of tiny houses from homeowners and builders, speakers and workshops, a marketplace and food.
More Information

Outerbanks Tiny Home Festival
When: June 8-9, 2019
Where: Nags Head, North Carolina
What: This two-day festival will feature a tiny home showcase with tiny home builders and manufactures and tiny home owners/DIYers.
More Information

Colorado Tiny House Festival
When: June 21-23, 2019
Where: Brighton, Colorado
What: More than 40 tiny homes, including skoolies, yurts, van & RV conversions and container homes will be on display. There will also be expert speaker presentations, hands on workshops, a product and service marketplace, food, drink, and more.
More Information

colorado tiny house festival
Photo courtesy of https://coloradotinyhousefestival.com

 

People’s Tiny House Festival
When: August 2-4, 2019
Where: Colorado Springs, CO
What: A two-day event with builders and DIYers, speakers and more.
More Information

tiny house bus
Photo courtesy of https://www.peoplestinyhousefestival.com


TinyFest NorthWest 2019

When: August 17 & 18, 2019
Where: Salem, Oregon
What: This event will have everything you can want to know about tiny houses – from builders, exhibitors, speakers, workshops, MeetUps, live music and a Simple Living Marketplace.
More Information

2019 California Tiny House Festival
When: September 6-8, 2019
Where: San Francisco Bay Area, California
What: This event is currently in the planning stages.
More Information

 

So what is the verdict? Can you live in a tiny house? Let us know why or why not in the comments below!


10 Tips to Clean Your Dog After a Skunk Spraying

The little guys in the photo above look cute, don’t they? They won’t look so cute when they spray your dog or cat though.

My dog got sprayed by Pepe Le Pew a few days ago. I have never had a pet get sprayed by a skunk, and I hope you never have to either. It wasn’t something I was prepared for or ever even thought about. I would have never thought it would be something that would happen this time of year either—it is February in Connecticut and it is cold. However, my 10-year-old dog Sierra managed to get sprayed.

dog sprayed by skunk
Sierra was pretty sad after I had tried several different remedies and products on her to try to get the skunk smell out.

It was after 9 p.m. at night and I was already in bed when my husband had let Sierra outside on her runner. She ended up seeing the skunk and broke her collar to go chase it. She was back at the house pretty quickly because the skunk sprayed her right in the face really bad. She ended up getting sprayed on her butt and tail too.

My husband threw her in the house and told me to get her in the bathroom and start washing her and to look something up to do real quick. In the rush of things I didn’t have enough time to properly Google what would be the best thing to do. However, now after having this experience I can share with you what you should and should not do when you pet gets sprayed by a skunk. Hopefully you will remember these tips for when/if you ever have to deal with a skunk spray.

1. Do not wash the pet. The water makes the oils from the skunk spray spread. I made this mistake. I also got skunk spray on me and smelled for a couple of days pretty bad— despite taking more than four showers.

2. Put on gloves—the skunk oil can spread to you. (I wish I knew that before I touched the dog).

3. If your pet gets sprayed in the face make sure to wash out his/her eyes right away. An animal can temporarily go blind from skunk spray. I washed Sierra’s out with warm water and a wash cloth.

4. Check to make sure your pet doesn’t have any cuts from the skunk. Sierra luckily ran away before she could get scratched, however I read online many animals will get scratched by the skunk when it sprays if they are close enough and the cuts will bleed.

5. Keep a de-skunk shampoo in the house just in case. You will want it on hand for when your pet gets sprayed and the stores are already closed. There are a few different products out there. The one I ended up buying the following morning is called DeSkunk. It did help and I think it would have helped a lot more if I had it when the spraying actually happened. Order it and keep it in a safe place in case you ever need it.

6. I also found a spray online that I bought after the fact. I couldn’t find one in any of the pet stores. Luckily Amazon got this to me in less than 24 hours. I read a lot of reviews about this particular product and I wish I had it on hand when she was sprayed. Surprisingly it did help with the musk smell she still had two days later. I am pretty sure it would have done wonders if I had it that night. It’s called No Scent Anal Gland Express & Skunk. It is a little pricey, but well worth it. Buy it and put it away. This was good to use for Sierra’s face because I was able to spray it onto a cloth and then rub it into her face.

7.  I read online to use Apple Cider Vinegar. This did not help at all. I don’t recommend it.

8. Another treatment I read online that helped a little bit was a combination of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and Dawn dish soap. I had to use this one because I didn’t have anything else to use. For this you should mix together one quart of three percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda and one teaspoon of dawn dish soap (or whatever dish soap you have). This combination will bubble a little. Lather this remedy on your pet and then wash him/her thoroughly. Make sure not to put near your pet’s eyes. After you can wash your dog with pet shampoo—make sure to rinse well. I read you shouldn’t make this mixture and store it because it will explode if left in a bottle.

9.  Some people say to use tomato juice. We didn’t have any in the house so I didn’t try it. I read in a lot of places online that the tomato juice remedy does not work, however if you are desperate I would give it a try.

10. Our house smelled pretty bad after the incident. We couldn’t open all the windows because more skunk smell came in. We did use a window fan to blow out some of the bad air. I also read that placing bowls of white vinegar around the house helps. It did a little bit. One thing that did help the smell was buying Febreze. I bought the air spray and the spray for furniture and carpet.

If you are looking for more ways to mask or get rid of the smell, check out some great tips on DogProductPicker.com. They have some great tips for the “5 Best Stain and Order Remover.”

It has now been a few days since the spraying. We still have a slight scent to us—my husband calls it old man musk smell. I think it would help if it was warmer outside and we could really air out the house.

So I would highly recommend buying the deskunking products and keeping them in case you ever need them. I actually would recommend making a skunk kit with withe products, gloves and a spare collar in case you need it. Sierra’s collar smelled horrible after and I couldn’t get it clean.

If you have any tips that you have used in the past post in the comments below.

Winter Getaway to Southwest Florida

Being from New England, in the winter months all I can think about is warm breezes, beach sand, sun and ocean water—all things you can’t get up north. To get away from our seasonal depression, my husband and I went for a five-day trip to Naples in Southwest Florida.

Naples is a gorgeous town. It is actually pretty large, however the posh area is located in the downtown region.

We went on this trip to warm up and also start to look for a condo to purchase so we can start to live half the year in Florida and half the year in Connecticut.

We took Southwest Airlines to get to the Fort Myers, Florida airport. We rented a car (this is a must if you are flying into the region, because there isn’t an easy way to get around). It took us about 45 minutes to get from the airport to our hotel in Naples.

We first stopped for lunch at a chain I had never heard of before called Jason’s Deli. The food was amazing. They don’t allow food that has dyes or msg or artificial colors and flavors.  I had the Zucchini Grillini sandwich on toasted herb focaccia with roasted zucchini, Muenster cheese, organic spinach, red onions, Roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, and roasted red pepper hummus with a side of fresh fruit. Everything was fresh. The best part is after you have your sandwich you get free soft serve ice cream. If you ever get a chance to go to Jason’s Deli I highly recommend going. They have a variety sandwiches that are healthy, fresh and delicious.

By the time we got to the hotel and got settled in it was 4 p.m. so we decided to check out the downtown region and we drove down Fifth Avenue. This area is very upscale. It felt like we were in Beverly Hills with several high-end stores and financial institutions lining the street.

naplespiersign

Because it was nearing sunset we decided to go to the Naples Pier, which I had read was one of the best places to see the sunset. It did not disappoint. Besides being able to view the Gulf of Mexico and the sunset from the Pier you can also go fishing here and there is a public beach. The pier stretches out very far into the water. It was very windy the day we went so we didn’t get to see any wildlife in the water, however others have said this is a good spot to see dolphins. Below are two videos I took at the pier.

After viewing the sunset we drove to Third Street in the downtown district just to check it out. This area is very expensive so we decided not to have dinner here. There are several different upscale restaurants to pick from and they have indoor and outdoor seating. It was nice to just walk around and observe the buildings, the palm trees that were covered in sparkling white lights and fountains with sculptures scattered throughout the area.

Next we went to dinner. I had spent some time researching various places to eat prior to the trip. We generally like to eat at places that are off-the-beaten-track. These places usually have reasonable prices and great food. This night we at at a Tex-Mex eatery called Tacos and Tequila Cantina. It was amazing. They have dozens of different tacos to pick from and they are not your ordinary tacos. For examples, one of the tacos I tried was called the Idaho Taco. It was filled with smashed potatoes, cheddar jack and Cotija cheese, jalapeño cilantro slaw, quest blanco and green tomatillo sauce. If you prefer a meat taco you might like the Backyard Taco, which is filled with barbecue pork, grilled cartelized sweet onions, fried pickles and Maker’s Mark BBQ sauce. If we were visiting longer on this trip we would have gone back for another meal – that’s how good it was.

Day 2

On day two of our trip we started off the day with looking at properties. The main reason for our trip was to look at condos to purchase as a second home. Some of the properties we saw with the agent were amazing. I am still in awe of the communities they have available. One resort community we looked at had everything you could possibly need within the community from restaurants, spa, resort style pools, gym and fitness classes and two golf courses. After being in Naples for five days we realized why so many communities offer these types of amenities – it is because the traffic in the area is insane and it a lot easier if you can just stay in your community versus trekking out into the city.

After looking at potential properties for a few hours we decided to make a visit to Marco Island. We have been to the area before and we absolutely loved Marco Island. We went back during this visit as well. Marco Island is located approximately 15 minutes outside of Naples. It is a lot less busier than Naples, and is filled with waterways, marinas and large white-sanded beaches. We only went to go to the beach during this visit. I had read that Tigertail Beach on Marco Island was a great place to go shell hunting and it did not disappoint. It was a bit of a hike to the beach from the parking lot – about a mile, however it was well worth it. There were tons of amazing shells. We were there on a colder day (it was about 65 degrees out) so there were not a lot of people on the beach. We got to see some amazing wildlife, I found tons of shells (see the pics) and we even caught a very brave man who went out in the cold water to go windsurfing (see the video below).

Pelican Bend Naples FL
Pelican Bend Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Pelican Bend.

It was now dinner time, so we took a short 10 minute drive to Isles of Capri. This area is considered part of Naples, however it is off the beaten track so it isn’t overly crowded like Naples. We went to a dockside seafood restaurant called Pelican Bend. It kind of looks like a dive, however the food was great and the prices were very reasonable. We had two seafood meals, appetizers, soup and salad for under $50. The seafood was fresh and service was very quick.

Day 3

wafflehouse
No trip is complete to a southern state without a trip to Waffle House

On the third day of our trip we started off the day with a trip to Waffle House. We always visit a Waffle House when visiting the south – it is a must do. After having some waffles and hash browns it was now time to start exploring again. One of the areas we had looked at the previous day for real estate is a region called Port of the Islands. It is part of Naples, but very much outside of Naples proper. The region is quiet and relaxing. There is a large marina and hotel and the waterway at the marina goes directly to the Gulf of Mexico.

Evergladescity
Sign in display at Everglades City Museum showing damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

We then decided to drive further south to the last town before hitting the Everglades. This town is called Everglades City. It is literally in the middle of nowhere and is known as a fishing region. I felt like we were driving into a ghost mining town as we entered the “city.” There seemed to be several abandoned homes and businesses. We drove up to a museum called Everglades City Museum so we decided to check it out. While visiting the museum we learned this area was hit very hard by Hurricane Irma in 2017. There were even watermarks within the museum to show how far the water surge came up. The area was hit with 8-10 foot surges. The town is very remote and was apparently a hot spot of activity back in the early 1900s. Today people who are avid fishermen visit the region because it has direct access to the Gulf of Mexico and several small islands. Although there wasn’t much to see when we arrived in town the drive was very pretty. Because there are no other towns in the area all we saw was tropical vegetation and beautiful birds.

We went out to dinner with family that lives in the area on this day of our trip. This is when we really learned how crowded this area is during January. My husband kept saying he felt like we were driving in New York City. A drive that would normally only take 20 minutes took us well over an hour. When we got to the first restaurant we were going to eat at there was an 1 1/2 hour wait so we ended up finding a different place to eat. We went to an Italian Restaurant called Nino’s Thick and Thin in Fort Myers. There was also a wait here – about 40 minutes. The food was reasonably priced and the portions were huge. We both ordered pasta dishes that came in huge bowls. We ended up getting two meals out of it (we saved the leftovers for lunch the next day). It was good, but of course it wasn’t Connecticut Italian food good.

Day 4

On our last full day of vacation we checked out a tourist spot called Tin City in downtown Naples. It is located in Naples Bay and there are several tourist stores where you can get t-shirts and other souvenirs. There were also a few seafood restaurants and you could purchase excursions to take a cruise out through the canals or even out to one of the islands to go shelling and see dolphins.

After this we drove to go to the beach one final time. It wasn’t warm enough to go swimming – the ocean water was around 60 degrees, however the sun was warm enough to enjoy and we went shelling again. On the drive to the beach we drove on Gulf Shore Blvd. which was filled with multi-million dollar mansions. We went to Lowdermilk Beach. There was a very long stretch of white sand here. We walked quite a ways down the beach for about an hour. The water was clear, there were plenty of shells to find and several sections of the beach were empty. It felt good to get some sunshine on our last day here. Below is a video of Lowdermilk Beach in Naples.

On our last night we stayed a hotel closer to the airport in Fort Myers. I was a little hesitant about this hotel at first because I had never heard of the chain, however I have nothing but fabulous things to say about this chain now – it is called Drury Inn & Suites. They are a chain located in the southern states. The hotel was extremely clean and the staff was very friendly. Not only was it reasonably priced, they had several amenities that were included. There was a large pool and hot tub area. In the evening hours from 5:30-7 p.m. guests are given tickets to get up to three free “adult beverages” each. They also put out a large food spread that included a salad bar, two types of soup, nachos bar, hot dogs, baked potatoes, pasta and chicken tenders. We had plans already to go out to dinner so we decided to have some salad before we left.

We decided to have pizza on our last night and went to a large shopping plaza called Gulf Coast Town Center. The restaurant was called Amore Brick Oven Pizza. Based on reviews it was supposed to have New York-Style pizza. It was thin crust and it was decent for pizza that was not from Connecticut – I am a pizza snob having grown up on New Haven pizza.

Day 5

Our trip ended the following morning with a large breakfast that was included with our hotel stay. They had biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs, potatoes, waffles, donuts, bagels, yogurt, cereal and of course coffee.

After eating we checked out and headed to the airport. When we returned home it was 30 degrees, gloomy, grey and depressing. We may need to look into purchasing that condo sooner rather than later – the seasonal depression is already kicking back into high gear!

7 Simple Ways to Make Your Basement Room Lighter, Brighter and Bigger

Many people have rooms within their basement or lower-level areas. Without large windows these spaces can easily become dark and feel closed in. However, with some easy design ideas you can turn a dark basement room into a light and bright space – without breaking the bank. 

Here are some great ideas that I have used to make spaces brighter and lighter.

coastal farmhouse mirror window
Source

1. Add mirrors to the room. Mirrors will reflect light and also make spaces look larger. Adding a mirror also makes it look like there is a window in a basement or dark space. Make it even look more like a window by adding a mirror that is in the shape of a window to your room.

 

2.  Paint the walls a light color. Above I have two pictures of the same space. This is from a house we flipped last year. The basement was a finished apartment, however the previous owners decided to paint the room a very dark red color. It looked horrible (I think you will agree if you look at the photo). It was amazing how the room instantly became brighter after I finished painting one wall in the room. When the entire space was painted with a light color the space felt brighter and larger. Paint is such a simple way to make a room brighter and larger.


3. Paint stone and brick. If you have dark bricks or stone on the wall of a room paint it too. The living room in our house was a very dark granite. It was depressing and made the room dark and dingy. My husband finally decided to paint it—despite everyone telling us not to. It was amazing how the wall, room and the entire dynamic of our home changed with painting this wall white. See photos above.


4. Trim the trees and shrubs by your windows and doors. This is a big one – especially for basement rooms. Try to avoid planting bushes near the windows. If there are bushes there already move them. This is an easy way to add natural light. 
Look at the before and after photos above. By removing all the overgrown shrubs and trees more light was able to go through the entryway to this basement.

5. Layer Lighting – Don’t just have one lighting source – add recessed lighting, hanging light fixtures and lamps. The layers of light will make your space brighter.

6. Open Floor Plan – Keep your space as open as possible. If you want to divide up the space into different rooms – like a basement apartment with a kitchen/living area you can do this with furniture and accent walls. By having the space open it will look larger and brighter.

7. Continuous flooring – Avoid using carpet or hardwood flooring in a basement space. Because basements are generally damp wood floors will buckle and carpet will become damp, moldy and smelly. In the basement we remodeled we used a continuous vinyl sheet throughout the entire basement. It looked like wood and it created a moisture barrier between the cement floor. This particular flooring also had a cushion feel to it so it was comfortable to walk on. Look how the flooring continues from one room to another in the above photos.

What have you done to make a basement room or a dark room brighter? Share your ideas in the comments below.

DIY How to Make a Beach Themed Pallet Welcome Sign

Joanna Gaines has made “Welcome” signs a must have for any home. What is more inviting at the entryway to a house than a beautiful sign welcoming your guests in?

I have wanted to make a “Welcome Sign” for awhile and I finally found some time to make one. I didn’t want to have your typical sign that you could buy at any store. We live in a beach cottage so I wanted to add some beach flair to my sign. To do this I added a “fake” sand dollar to represent the “o” in the “Welcome.” It is really easy to diy to make one of these pallet welcome signs.

I started off with a leftover board I from our deck project last year. (If you didn’t see our deck project, check it out here.) You can also use pallet boards to create these signs. Pallet boards are easy to get for free. Businesses are always throwing them out in my town. You can check Craigslist under “free stuff” to find these too. It is a little tricky to take apart the pallets without breaking the boards. I highly recommend getting a pallet buster if you plan on breaking up pallets for more than just this project. (Pallet Buster Review).

I first sanded down the board. There were some rough spots on it. The next thing I did was set-up my workspace by placing down newspaper. I don’t have a lot of space to work on projects (especially now that it is winter and too cold to work in the garage) so I had to set-up shop on my counter.

I had to paint two coats of paint on each side. I decided to use chalk paint because I love the finish chalk paint has. You however can use acrylic paint if you want, which is a lot less expensive. For this project I used chalk paint I bought at Michael’s Craft Store. The sea blue color I used is called “Aqua.”

After painting two coats on each side and letting it dry it was now time to place the stencil letters on the board. I purchased these stencils at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store. I used a ruler to make sure they were placed out evenly on the board. I then used masking tape to secure them in place.

Letter Stencils

I used white chalk paint and a stencil brush to blot the paint onto the board. It took two coats of white to cover it up.

After the white dried I took off the stencils. There were a few spots that I needed to touch up that had bleed through. I used a very small acrylic paint brush to fix up any mistakes I made.

Next I added the fake sand dollar where the “o” was on the sign. I used a hot glue gun to add the sand dollar. I used a fake sand dollar because it isn’t fragile like a real one. I bought a bag of fake sand dollars at Christmas Tree Shops, however I am sure you can find these at a craft store as well.

The last thing I did was spray the board with a clear matte finish so it won’t chip. I plan on putting this outside our front door (once it warms up outside).

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