Category Archives: Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / Family Fun / Life Abroad / Travel

How We Travel on a Budget

September 11, 2017

As you know, we have been traveling a lot recently, trying to take advantage of our current living situation by visiting many of the countries that are within arm’s reach of the Netherlands. I wanted to take a minute to explain how we do this on a budget.

While it may look like we’re rolling in dough over here, galavanting all over Europe, we actually took a pretty big pay cut to come to the Netherlands. I gave up my job when we moved and KC’s salary was adjusted to reflect Amsterdam’s lower cost of living, so we are definitely not in a position to be throwing money around on lavish vacations.KC and I had talked extensively about traveling while we were abroad and trying to really maximize our time while overseas. Unfortunately, when we started planning out trips for this year and working out the total cost, we were running into a huge hurdle: our “holidays” were killing us financially. KC and I are by no means financially reckless, so we opted to cut down the number of trips we were going to take.

Even reducing our vacation days though, I was realizing just how expensive these trips were going to be. Not only that, but traveling with two little ones meant we couldn’t book a cheap hotel room or studio — we had to book something with at least one bedroom (and ideally two). Furthermore, packing a major city into just a few days wasn’t really an option, as the kids can realistically only be subjected to so much sightseeing in one day, so we were going to have to take longer trips — spending more time in each city.

After stressing out over this and wondering whether we should just abandon most of our travel plans, I came across the website I poked around on the site and thought it might be a good option for us, but the site only allows you to actually contact other members by becoming a member yourself. I hemmed and hawed over it and finally brought it up to KC. I reasoned that the yearly fee of €130 would be worth if even if we only managed to get one night out of the membership, so we decided to bite the bullet and join.

I set up our profile one night and went to bed (as the setup took my entire evening — it was time-consuming!) By the next day I already had multiple requests for exchanges.That €130 membership fee has been some of the very best money we’ve spent this year. Not only have we booked three trips via exchanges for this year, we are in the process of potentially booking another five before we return to the states next year.

In case you’re curious, the exchanges are all free — you just pay the membership fee up front to gain access to to the messaging system which allows you to contact the other members on the site. We set up exchanges with other people like us — usually families with young children. It’s great because they already often have a toddler bed for Prim and/or a crib for Lark, plus lots of toys to keep the girls occupied.This post isn’t sponsored or anything, I just thought I would post about our experience because Home Exchange has been such a great options for us. I also think it’s important to be somewhat candid about our life on the blog, and while we are certainly having amazing adventures traveling Europe during this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s not because we’re making Bay Area tech salaries over here and have money to burn.

The service has also been especially awesome for us as all of the exchanges we have booked have been based on requests from other people (we’ve been members for 4 months and have gotten a whopping 84 requests for exchanges so far!) We are lucky in that we get a TON of requests on the site, so we have a lot of options; and it has taken so much of the stress of deciding where to travel off our (really MY) plate.

If you have any questions about our home exchanges feel free to leave a comment or message me — I’m happy to talk more about our experience with the site and discuss more of the specifics if you’re interested!

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / Family Fun / Personal

A Day in the Bay

May 19, 2016

img_8624The Saturday before we left for the Netherlands, KC, Prim and I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with my parents and my sister’s family.

I have always loved the aquarium, but hadn’t been in almost seven years — the last time we were there was the week I got my BAR results back in 2009!

Going with Prim this time was so special, and she absolutely loved it. Watching her experience things for the first time is one of the very best things right now. She’s so fascinated by the world and you can really see her taking it all in. img_8630

Prim was especially into the wave room, where the waves crash against the glass and then drain back out to the ocean. She would yell excitedly when the wave would come in and press her hand to the glass, then when it would drain out again she would reach up towards the inlet, like, “Again! Again!” img_8631One of my favorite parts of the aquarium has always been the touch pools, but I wasn’t sure how Prim would feel about that section since it can be a little scary for tiny newcomers. Prim was totally into touching all the sea life, though (we just had to keep making sure she didn’t thrust her hand directly into her mouth afterwards!)

img_8549img_8629^^shoutout to pregnancy for providing me with that awesome postpartum hair. Nothing like having two-inch flyaways along your ENTIRE hairline^^ 

img_8552Prim and August were very into the tank where you could sit inside a little carve-out and look at the fish through a 360 degree window.

img_8626img_8627Prim takes any opportunity to steal a snuggle from Auntie Alexis.
img_8628I know this photo is out of focus and the lighting is kind of weird, but I don’t care, I love it.

^^the carrier we use is the Beco Gemini, in case you’re curious^^

Our day at the aquarium was so great and such an awesome way to close out one of our last few days in California. And in case you think I’m totally lying about the fact that Prim loved the aquarium, just check out this little California surfer girl:

img_8556Tubular, dude. (Ugh my hair… my god.)

If you’re visiting the Bay Area I can’t recommend the Monterey Bay Aquarium enough — such a great place to visit! img_8545

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / DIY

Wall Art (for cheap)

March 25, 2015

I mentioned last week that we recently moved a large framed print from our dining room into our bedroom:

cribThe print is from Pottery Barn, and I do really like it, but given that we’re about to have a child, our finances don’t really include an extra $200-$400 for “wall art” at the moment.

I don’t know if you have ever looked into large prints or art pieces, but man are they pricey.  After scouring the internet trying to find a large piece to fill the blank wall in the dining room, I determined that we would either need to bite the bullet and spend $200+ (and likely close to $500) on something, or come up with an alternate plan.

I started looking through the photos on my computer, trying to determine whether there was anything “frame-worthy” that wouldn’t look terrible if it was blown up to a larger size.  Luckily, our amazing wedding photographers had taken some photos of the foliage around the hotel where KC and I got ready on our wedding day, which ended up being a perfect blend of attractive and artsy.

wall art 5 wall art 4

I ordered prints through Apple, blowing up the images to the largest size available (20 x 30), then headed to IKEA to pick out some large frames.

Frames can be super expensive — especially large ones — so the fact that you can get a matted frame for a 20 x 30″ print for $24.99?  Amazing.

wall art 1

The framing process was kind of a pain in the ass (because, hello, it’s IKEA), but the trouble was worth the huge amount of savings.

wall art 2

And check out our dining room wall now:

wall art 3

Pretty nice, right?  And what a steal!  Here’s what it cost:

  • 20 x 30″ print: $17.99 (x 2) = $36
  • IKEA Ribba Frame: $24.99 (x 2) = $50
  • Total cost: $43 per print/$86 total

PS: The print above the crib in our room is hung on hooks and anchored to the wall, so it’s nice and securely fastened (and that crib is on wheels and will most likely be pulled over to the bed when the little lady arrives anyway).  🙂

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / DIY / weekend

Recent Projects

July 9, 2014

KC and I have been working on some projects around the house recently, trying to finish up our basement space and make it a bit more livable.  Honestly, we had just planned on painting the spare room and installing some plank flooring, but that turned into painting the basement stairs and hallway and a plan to paint the ceiling as well (we haven’t tackled that project quite yet).

I’ll start with the basement stairs, because I don’t have great pictures of the spare room yet to show you.

Here’s how the stairs started:


Hideous, super worn and covered with weird rubber mats.  And please notice the wall color — ugly avocado green.


Not pretty.


I painted the walls first — Glidden Silver Birch — then started in on the stairs.  Step one: remove the rubber mats.


Spackled the nail holes, then did a once-over with the electric sander and cleaned the stairs to ready them for paint.


One solid coat of Glidden Gripper primer.


Two coats of porch and floor paint in Valspar’s Gulf Coast.


I painted the bannister hardware gold (obviously), and painted the bannister with primer and some of my leftover white paint from this project (Behr Oyster Shell).

And voila, the finished stairs and hallway:


How to Paint Stairs (or a floor)

What you’ll need:

  • spackling paste
  • sander + medium-grit sandpaper (I used 100)
  • broom, dust pan, clean rags
  • painters tape
  • paint brushes and rollers
  • Glidden Gripper Primer
  • Enamel Porch and Floor Paint (there’s also oil-based porch and floor paint, but oil paint tends to be harder to work with and smells awful, so I opted to use the enamel-based porch and floor paint) — I got my paint at Ace Hardware where they do custom colors for porch and floor paint, but only with a satin finish, so that’s what I used.

How to do it:

  1. Fill in any holes with spackling paste and let dry.
  2. Sand all surfaces, then clean with a broom and clean rags to remove any debris.
  3. Prep the space with painters tape.
  4. Paint one solid coat of primer and let dry for at least one hour.
  5. Paint as many coats of paint as needed to get the finish you want (I did two coats + a touch-up).  Wear socks on stairs between coats, only after the paint has dried.
  6. Let stairs cure for at least 72 hours before subjecting them to normal use.


Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / DIY / weekend

DIY: The Finished Trunk

April 15, 2014

Our newly-updated trunk is fully cured and now brightening our new downstairs space.  There’s still more work to be done down there (adding artwork to the walls, painting the ugly wall pipes gold), but I think the mint and gold masterpiece is a nice little addition for now.  (Although it does make me think about swapping out some of the pillows on the couch to make the space a little lighter and more on the blue/green scale…)

room 1room 2room 3room 4

I think the gold hinges really make a difference with this piece.  But then again, I’m sort of obsessed with gold spray paint, so…

PS:  The stack of records on the trunk were my grandpa’s, and yes, the one on top is Mr. Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” 🙂