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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Comparing Kayaks

A fair warning - today's post is all about kayaks. It's a subject that's been on both of our brains a lot lately, and Trent and I have found it to be a fun hobby, even though we haven't been able to go much yet. We hope to change that soon, though. We've been on the hunt for new kayaks for a while and seem to be close to finding the perfect ones for us.

In this post I've put together some thoughts and tips as we look for our perfect kayak, and maybe it will help others on their hunts as as well. So if you're on the hunt for a new kayak, or a soon to be first-time kayak owner, or maybe you're just interested in our kayak-search story - read on!

A little backstory - last year we sold our Pelicans and have been searching for the perfect new kayaks to replace them. The Pelicans just didn't fit us as well as we would have liked. The first time we went, it was fun but not as relaxing as we wanted it to be. I think that not being able to test them before we bought them, and being a little naive to the world of kayaks, we just ended up buying the wrong kind for our needs.

We found the Pelicans to be a little more "rocky" and less stable. We want something that we can just hang out in, have fun, and be comfortable. And not worry about possibly tipping over in the process! So we sold them and planned to get something else.

We've done our research since then and have looked at a lot of places and several different kinds of kayaks. We even had fun testing some out. Here's what we learned so far, and why we're thiissss close to getting our new kayaks!
  • Pelicans - the first brand of kayaks we bought - tend to be on the cheaper end, and so far, it's shown. Our first round with the kayaks wasn't horrible, but when you compare the Pelicans with the pricier brands, it's easy to see you get what you pay for. We can even tell the difference in the plastic material that the kayaks are made of. Pelicans are super light, so they seem to be carried and tossed around by the water easier.
  • The frontrunner for me is the Perception Conduit 9.5. With the Perception kayaks, the material is seemingly more durable and less "cheap-feeling." And I immediately felt comfortable when I sat in this one. When I took it out on the water, I knew this would be my next one.
    The seat was comfy, there are knee pads on the sides, and it felt so much more stable. So I'm 99% sure that this will be my next kayak. My next step is finding one in a store locally.
  • The stability is all in the Hull! We learned this, unfortunately too late. This is the secret to whether or not your kayak is going to be stable, or if you'll be worrying you're going to tip over the entire time. Trying and sitting in different kayaks, we learned that the flatter the hull (bottom of the kayak), the less likely it's probably going to tip. But if the hull is at a steep "V" shape, it's built more for speed than stability and is probably going to rock back and forth more in the water. The Emotion kayaks we rented at Loud Thunder were the most stable we've sat in yet. These are on the shorter and wider side, so they are built for easygoing paddling and stability.
  • There are so many different brands and types of kayaks. There are sit-on-top kayaks, sit-in kayaks, and tandem kayaks. They range in size - I would say on average from about 8 feet long to 13 feet. There are kayaks built for beginners, some built for sea and some for calm waters, some for going fast, and some for fishing. Brands include Pelican, Emotion, Perception, Ascend, Sun Dolphin...the list goes on. It can be difficult to choose which one is right for you. That's why we're still looking almost a year later!

I think the best thing you can do is just follow your gut. If you sit in one or get to try it out, and it feels right, then go for it. Once I find that Perception kayak locally, it will be mine! :) Then Trent is going to try it out and see how he likes it. I think Trent is getting a little closer to finding his perfect one, too. 

So if you're like us and are searching for that perfect kayak, good luck! Just remember, don't make the same mistake as us and get the first ones you set your eyes on. It takes time to find the perfect one. Happy hunting!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Garden Update

Hello again! And Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there! I went out with my family to celebrate on Friday night, at Pizza Ranch. We closed the place down! It was a good time.

But it's time for a garden update today. It's been a couple of weeks since we got the plants in the garden, and well, they haven't grown too much. We've had a rabbit problem, as in - they keep eating our plants! 

We even had to replace a couple of tomato plants (thank goodness we have some extras!) And, this has also been an unusually hot and dry June. Usually by now the weather is decently warm and we get several inches of rain. This year, the weather has been really hot - 90's almost everyday, and we have barely gotten any rain this month.

Today we spent the day in the yard, taking care of some weeds around the walkway area, and watering the garden. We finally picked up some more tomato cages for the rest of the tomato plants, too.

But although the tomatoes have been slow going, the corn has popped up, along with the potatoes. Overall I'd say the garden is doing decent, but a little slow due to the lack of rain. And let's not even compare it with the neighbor's! :)

Well, at least we're trying! Hopefully we get a good crop of veggies this summer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Favorite Bloggers, Now in Podcast Form

Hey guys! If you haven't heard by now: Young House Love has a Podcast. And that's literally what said podcast is called.

My favorite home bloggers, John and Sherry, are at it again. And you know I endorse every new endeavor and product they come out with. They are partly what inspired me to start a home blog of my own! So when I found out about their new Podcast yesterday, I was immediately listening and subscribing. These two are the most fun and entertaining people.

Screenshot from here
I listened to the first episodes, and they are awesome! I laughed out loud, and learned some pretty interesting home-related facts, at that. I invite you all to check it out here. (It's free, and you can also find it and listen on the Podcast app if you have an iPhone - it comes pre-installed on most. Don't worry, I didn't know that app existed until now either.)

I'm now a first-time Podcast listener. :) Looking forward to hearing more of John and Sherry's entertaining banter and mad interviewing skillz in the future. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Kayaking Fun at Lake George

Well, we haven't bought new kayaks yet, but we did get a chance to rent some for a couple of hours this past weekend at Lake George. The last time we went kayaking on this lake was in 2014, almost 2 years ago. It was what really got us interested in getting our own kayaks and going more often.

I think one reason is because of the kind of kayaks they are. They're smaller, 8 foot Emotion kayaks, and they are super stable. There is such a different between these and the Pelican ones that we had. These are much more stable and a little easier to maneuver in my opinion.

It was so nice to be out on the lake again! I forgot how calm and serene this lake is. It's in the middle of Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, so there's so much wilderness all around you.

It's also not too busy, so at times you feel like you have the whole lake to yourself. It's nice that they still rent out kayaks and boats. Not much has changed since the last time we were out there - it's still just $8/ hour per boat. The boats do look a little more worn from a lot of use, but they still work just as well. And they no longer rent the boats out down by the dock - there's now an office at the top of the hill where you sign the boats in, then go down and take them out, and pay for them afterward.

We did a couple of hours again - we got there a little late, after we planted the garden, so we just went from about 4:00 to 6:00. We definitely got a little bit of sun though! It was pretty warm, but a nice day that got a little breezy after a while.

Even though I felt really comfortable in these kayaks, I still am almost 100% sure of the next kayak I want to purchase - the Perception Conduit 9.5. It fit me like a glove! You can read more about that here. I can't wait to get our own again, so we can go whenever and wherever we want. We should have more time to go now, since all of the wedding planning is over. :)

We were representing Ohio and the East Coast, drinking a little Yuengling that we brought back from Columbus! I wish we had it here in Illinois.

It was such a nice day, and a great way to kick off another beautiful weekend.

If the weather stays this nice all summer long, I have a feeling I may be spending way too much time outside! It's only the beginning of June, and I have plenty of color on my arms - my shoulders might be a tad burnt. ;)

Either way, it really doesn't get any better than this. You really feel like you're alone with nature when you're on the water out here.

I wish we could have gotten a little closer to some Canadian geese that were out here on one of the sandbars. I don't think I got a picture of them, but it was pretty cool to see. It was a little too shallow to get close, though.

All in all, another fun day of kayaking! We're hoping to get some new boats soon, so we'll be able to go out more often. There are many more memories to be made out on the water!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Flowers and More Pots

So, last month I got a bunch of pots on the front porch planted with flowers. I still had a few more pots leftover that I didn't get filled, so I decided to save those for the backyard. Sunday, Trent had to work, so I stayed home, enjoyed the nice weather, and planted more flowers.

I had two big planters by the garage and about 6-7 smaller pots to fill.  We had gotten some more annuals at the grocery store on Saturday, so I had plenty to use. I got some pink and purple Petunias and a few more Dusty Miller.

It got a little warm out, but I finally got all of my smaller pots done, along with the larger ones by the garage.

These are two of the planters leftover from the wedding. I filled them with a few petunias each, and four Dusty Miller plants in the back. They should spread pretty nicely. Of all of the flowers I've gotten for pots through the years, petunias always seem to do really well.

And voila! I'm now DONE planting flowers, hopefully for the year! 

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing laundry and 2 loads of dishes, and then putting down new mulch in the front and side yards. By the end of the day, I was totally exhausted!

This was the mood that Saleen and I had going on Sunday afternoon....

Tired, and covered in mulch and dirt from head to toe! A nice shower was sounding pretty good by the end of the day!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Getting the Garden Planted

Well hello all! It's been a few days since I blogged, but that doesn't mean I haven't been getting things done! The last couple of weekends we've had amazing weather, and we've definitely been outside enjoying it. Of course, a lot of it was spent doing yard work, but it was still nice to be outside in the beautiful weather.

I'm happy to report that we finally got our vegetable garden planted this year! A little late start, but we got the garden all cleaned up, and the tomato seeds I planted were growing taller and were ready to finally plant.

The vegetables Trent planted were even ready, for the most part. Some of the jalapeƱos hadn't sprouted yet, but the others were growing like weeds.

Trent went over the garden area one more time with the tiller before we planted, just to make sure all of the dirt was nice and loose.

It's a pretty big space, and we took up the entire area this year. We definitely have a lot of plants!

Trent did the planting, so I handed him the plants, and snapped the photos (and supervised, as always). :) He did a pretty good job, though.

Our plants are still pretty puny, but hopefully they'll get a little bigger and get more substantial, so they can hold their own against the weeds that seem to always take over. We're determined to keep them in better check this year. I guarantee we'll be out there often checking on them and keeping them well-watered!

We only planted maybe 1/3 of the tomato plants. We'll have to figure out what to do with the others. We had way too many! We do need to buy a few new tomato cages, though. The cages we do have, have seen better days...

Besides a few different varieties of tomatoes, we also planted cucumbers, butternut squash, peppers, corn, potatoes, and watermelon.

And now, we play the waiting game and get ready for some yummy veggies! Even if our garden does look the usual completely sad next to our neighbors'. :)

Hey, it's not a contest, right?!  More yard work adventures to come...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Burlington Day Trip

A couple of weeks ago, before our Columbus, Ohio trip, we made a little day trip down to the Burlington, Iowa area. Our reason for the trip was the Kayak demo day at Gladstone Lake. Gladstone is a little town on the Illinois side, just across the river from Burlington. Every year, there's a boat shop there that does a "You can paddle" day, where you can try out different kayaks and canoes and find the best one for you. We were excited to try out different kayaks, and it was a great opportunity to find our next boats.

We got kayaks last year around Trent's birthday, but ended up selling them in favor of more stable ones. Instead of jumping into getting them this time, we've been looking around and researching different models, and this time we were set on trying them first before buying.

I tried out a few different kayaks, and ended up finding the perfect one! As soon as I sat it in, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. It's the Perception Conduit 9.5. I loved this one, and am pretty sure it will be my next kayak!

I didn't buy it that day, but we've looked around a little since, and it looks like I'm probably going to have to special order it. It's not sold in a lot of stores around here, but I think I can just order it at the store, and they'll get it in for me. Trent didn't find his perfect one yet, but we're still looking. I'm hoping we can both find our new kayaks this summer. Then we can do a little boating before the summer is over.

While we were in the Burlington area, we made a few stops before heading back home. We stopped at Snake Alley in Burlington. It's a very crooked street that was built as a shortcut to get downtown several years ago!

This place brought back a few memories. We visited Snake Alley back on one of the first trips Trent and I took together, when we were first dating. That was 8 years ago! I had to do a side-by-side. :)

It's a pretty cool place, and such a unique, wind-y road to drive down if you are ever in the area!

Burlington is a river city, and there are some great sights to see in the area. The bridge is also pretty cool-looking. We stopped down by the river to take in the view.

On the drive back, we ended our trip by stopping at the Warren County Memorial Park in Monmouth, Illinois, to visit a couple of gravesites of Trent's family.

Trent's grandma on his dad's side is buried here, along with her parents. Since we've started looking further into our ancestry, we've learned more about our relatives and their stories. Even though Trent's grandma died when he was only 4 and he didn't really know her, it's nice that we're still able to visit her grave and the graves of his other family members. Trent even remembers visiting this place with his dad when he was a kid and putting flowers on their graves.

We decorated their grave markers with pink flowers. Trent's grandma was Norma June Keever. Her parents were Elva and Geraldine Coleman.

It was a perfect spring day, and a nice ending to a fun day trip.

A day full of kayaks, rivers, and making new memories! :)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cleaning up the Backyard

Happy Memorial Day! What is everyone up to today? Barbecues, swimming, spending time with friends or family? We've had a pretty laid-back holiday weekend. The weather has been amazing, and it's been the first full weekend for us I think that it's actually felt like summertime.

We've spent most of this weekend cleaning up the yard. We've gotten the yard mowed and the garden almost ready to plant. Trent pressure-washed the back side of the house and patio, and I pulled weeds in my flower beds.

A couple of weeks ago, Trent poured cement by the garage for a little path to the door. He's working on a little drainage system there so the water doesn't build up by the garage foundation. We have a new door we still have to put in to replace the old one, too. 

As you can see, the board on the bottom of that old door was used for a little spray-painting project.  It's been repurposed. :)

The cement pathway turned out pretty good once it dried, and now we just need to tear out the old door and replace it with the new one, then put down new rock around the side of the garage. Another little step in making the yard better. (Though there's still a long way to go!)

We added a fifth panel to the back patio fence, and are going to add a gate to the end of it. The tops also still need to be cut off of the posts, but we're loving the privacy so far.

What we did most of the day on Saturday was clean up the garden. We still had tons of leaves back there and the remainders of the flowers we planted for the wedding last summer. There was also still tons of mulch, some weeds, and weed fabric.

I raked up most of the leaves, and we pulled up the weed fabric.  There were a couple more piles back there of branches and sticks from part of a pine tree that had fallen during a winter snowstorm we had. Trent cut up the branches with his new chainsaw, and I carried the logs over to the log pile. We then started burning the piles of leaves and wood. 

It took a full afternoon to get everything that was back there completely burnt down and cleaned up.

It was a pretty windy day, so we had to do a little at a time. It all burnt down pretty fast, though for the most part!

By Saturday evening we had the whole garden cleared. Now all that is left to do back there is till up the dirt and plant our veggies.

I'd say our log pile is ready for a few fires this summer, too. Thanks to that tree that fell!

The patio is almost ready for hanging out again, though I'd still like some new patio furniture. We'd eventually like to redo the entire patio and maybe build a deck out here, too, but that will probably have to wait until another year!

The fence is a nice addition, though. I love that there are no neighbors' windows right there in plain sight anymore!

Sunday I spent the afternoon pulling weeds and watching Trent pressure-wash the back side of the house. It needed it pretty badly. All of the dirt and grime-y stuff had built up on there again.

It can make for a pretty bad eye sore. The pressure-washer does wonders, though. It's pretty cool to watch all of that dirty stuff just wash away.

I know he probably wished I was helping, but hey, I did get some color while I was sitting out there. It was a gorgeous day, and I was comfortable!

And here is the back of the house, all cleaned. Another huge project that we have left to do is make this side of the house even with the other side - raising the ceiling and roof to be level with the bathroom and bedroom side of the house.. a huge project that's going to take a lot of work, but we're getting ready to take it on. After ripping out the back room ceiling, we'll have to start on it soon. I'm not sure if I'm quite ready for that big of a job!

The good news is that after we get that done, we'll be able to re-roof the house, get new siding, and a new door back here. All in time, though! Oh, the joys of renovating a house...

In other news, the peonies out front have been in bloom for about a week now. I love peonies. I picked a few and put them in a little blue mason jar on the front porch.

A nice little touch, don't you think? 

Well, until next time...I'm sure we'll be working on more projects in the near future!
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