Road Trip Planning Tools

Two years ago we took a big trip West. We drove from Ontario, all the way to the coast. We were gone about three weeks, and drove through five provinces and six states. It took a lot of planning, but I honestly love planning trips. It is one of my favourite things to do.

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This summer we are planning another fairly big road trip. This one will be shorter, and cover much less geographic area. We are heading East, and will be gone for about two weeks. We will drive through Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, then take a ferry to Newfoundland. On the way back we might go through Maine, just to change things up.

This time around I have learned a few things and I thought I would detail my steps to planning a big trip.

The first thing is obviously to choose a destination. I don’t really have any strategies for this, since I don’t really know how we’ve chosen where to go for any of our trips. For Belize I think I searched something like ‘best places to see marine life’ and it was on the list. Random.

Anyways, once you know where you going, the next thing to do is check it out on a map (I used Google Maps). This is where I can see if there are any cool places along the way that I would like to build into the trip. I also plot all of the places I want to go to choose the smartest route.

At the same time I start researching the best things to see and do wherever I’m going. I used guide books from the library and internet searches for this. I find the TripAdvisor forums are great for this, because there are often people who provide there itineraries and what they loved or didn’t. Be sure to look off the beaten path as well. Some of the best places we’ve been to definitely weren’t common tourist attractions. We went to a National Park in Saskatchewan and I think we were the only people there, but it was stunning.

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On the same note, don’t be afraid to leave the highway (the literal beaten path). We drove up a twisty, narrow dirt road for about half and hour (and then back down) to get to this place:

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And it’s now one of our favourite places ever.

Before you get your heart set on a particular activity or location make sure to make it to make sure it isn’t too out of the way from your planned route.

Make sure to have lists of places to stay and eat, but also leave some room for flexibility.

Once you have your mapped out route, and a list (with addresses) of things to do, see and eat, the next step is budgeting.

On a road trip it is a lot harder to keep track of expenses, then if you were flying somewhere and staying in the same hotel the whole time.

I use a spreadsheet. Seriously. I have a column for accommodations, food, gas, and activities. A list would work fine too, but I like to be organized. Obviously it is just an educated guess. Having a strict budget would take some of the fun out of it, but at least this way you know the ball park cost. A really helpful website I recently found is Gasbuddy. You type in your car model and year, and then where you are going and it tells you how much it will cost for fuel. This is great if you are going somewhere where you may not know how much gas costs. Like this place, which was the only gas station in the boundaries of what is probably Canada’s most visited National Park, so they just charged whatever they wanted (which was A LOT!).

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So, that’s more or less what I do. It seems to have worked well so far. Kurt wants to drive to Alaska someday. I think that will be a true test of my trip planning abilities!

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English Muffins

I love making breads. The are fairly simple as far as ingredients go, and though they generally take a lot of time, much of it is spent waiting. Making bread is a great lazy day activity, especially since there will sandwiches at the end of it.

English muffins are no different. There are many steps, but they take place over a long period of time. People also seem really impressed when you tell them you made english muffins.

I adapted this recipe to work for me. I used a mixture of spelt and all purpose flour, and butter instead of shortening. I ended up with 8 good sized english muffins.

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You basically mix the dough, then knead for a while. Let it rise, then divide it into balls, rise again. Cook each side in a pan, then bake. So it sounds like a lot of steps, but each one is easy and quick.

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The result was great. They looked very much like english muffins (I think sprinkling them with cornmeal helps with this), and tasted great. We’ve been eating them with sandwiches, hamburgers, and eggs. Yum!

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Easy Curtain Tie Backs

Sometimes curtains drive me crazy. Actually what really drives me crazy is the tutorials online for curtain related things. This time it was curtain tie backs. Everything is so complicated. Many involve finding an antique spoon and bending it. I just wanted to sew some fabric together and be done with it. So that’s what I did.

I went through my fabric scraps until I found something that looked good with the bright yellow, light blocking curtains I bought for the guest room. It get’s an insane amount of light, which I love, but sleeping people don’t love as much. I was in luck with the fabric because I had a strip cut off a sheet that I used for a quilt backing. It was the long, skinny part from the top of the sheet that is folded over and sewn. This meant less sewing, which was good because half-way through my sewing machine decided it hated me and was hell-bent to sabotage everything I did (actually I think I may have bent my needle, but at the time I just assumed the machine was evil).

Here’s what I used:

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All I did was sew the two ends of my strip closed with a loop of ribbon in the middle.

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If you don’t have a strip cut from the top of a sheet lying around (which is most likely the case), you will just have to use a strip of fabric and sew the long end together as well.

Each tie should only take about 10 minutes (this is assuming your sewing machine doesn’t hate you).

After the sewing I just wrapped the tie back around the curtain to measure where I wanted it and screwed a hoop into the wall, then looped the ribbon around the hook. For the second one I measured to make sure they were even.

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Obviously I didn’t iron anything. That’s my least favourite part of sewing, so I usually skip it.

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I’m happy with how they turned out, and the fact that they didn’t cost a dime!

Real Homes: Guest Room

I’ve shown pictures of our guest room before, but we’ve changed it quite a bit. It’s definitely our most colourful room. It’s probably also one of our more ‘done’ rooms. The only things really left to do are add trim, replace the window and closet doors, the light fixture and get a table and lamp for beside the bed. We’ve painted (after plastering a million holes), changed out the electrical sockets, put up new curtains (twice now, the first set proved too tricky for guests to tie up), painted an old dresser, and hung stuff on the walls.

Try to ignore the plastic on the windows (it’s still regularly going below minus 15 here). Also don’t mind the Homer’s green tunnel and scratching triangle, he uses the room way more than anyone else so he get’s first priority).

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One Year as Homeowners

Today is the anniversary of the day we bought our house. This time last year we were running around like chickens sans heads to get everything done in time for our closing. It was crazy. Owning our own home has also been fairly crazy, but in a mostly good way. It often surprises me how expensive it is though. Even if you don’t consider the actual costs of buying a house (which are huge and seemingly never-ending as you get deeper into the process), just living in a house is expensive. It is so worth it though. It just makes me feel so happy that the walls surrounding me are MINE (and Kurt’s). When we are away I worry about our house (especially since we always seem to be away during crazy house killing storms), and strangely I also miss our house and the fact that we can create the lives we want here.

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I will leave you with our sad attempt at a family photo.

Kitchen Dreaming

Our kitchen drives me crazy. There are so many things that bother me about it. One of the biggest is that it could be so great, but whoever designed it originally just did a terrible job. There is so much wasted space. It is nearly impossible for both me and Kurt to work in the kitchen at the same time (at least without me getting frustrated). Another thing that really bugs me is that at this point there is almost nothing I can do about it because kitchens are expensive, and there are other priorities right now. So, all that is left to do is dream. And Pin. A lot.

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Here are the kitchens that I dream about, that will someday (hopefully not too far away) be inspiration for our new, beautiful, two-cook friendly kitchen.

We plan to tear out a wall and replace it with a peninsula, like this or this.

We plan on having pops of colour, like this or this.

We plan on having open shelving like this or this.

And we`d like to sort of build-in the fridge like this or this.

To see the rest of the things I like, here is my kitchen specific Pinterest page. It grows by the day.