Double Duty – Shower Caddy to Camp Kitchen Organizer

One of the things I try to stress to people when we talk about making camping more comfortable and attractive is that you don’t have to spend a ton of money. Just look around your home and you’ll find beautiful, well made camping gear. One example I’d like to show show is this shower caddy. Most of the year it can hang in my shower holding my shampoo and conditioner at the ready. But it lives an adventurous, secret life as a camping kitchen organizer with the help of a handy tree and a hammer and nail.  This is just one of the tips I’m including in my book Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Camping, coming out next month.



#Yaris Micro Camper Build: Step 2 #camping #DIY

There have been some starts and stops in the build, mostly as I try to figure out ways around my errors and choices, yet the build is going strong. I have the basic sleeping platform and table built and it works well. This is step two in the micro camper build and when it is finished, I’ll compile all the steps and posts into one long tutorial. Step 1 can be found here.



In step one, I cut 2 pieces of chip board* – a 32 inch by 48 inch piece in the back of the car and a 24 inch by 30 inch piece to fold out of the car so I can extend my legs when I sleep. There’s a raised lip on the hatch opening of the Yaris, so I’ll glue a third strip of wood to the bottom of of the larger main piece of the platform so the platform lays level and is supported. Otherwise, when I fold the leg platform out, the hinges will rip off.

Step Two (which is a few smaller steps)
I used wood putty to patch up any rough edges or chips or holes in the top of the wood, then painted all the wood with 3 coats of outdoor rated white paint. I could have sealed it with poly, and may still do so for the table top, but it didn’t appear to require it.

Next, using door hinges I bolted the two pieces of the sleeping platform together.  The door hinges and bolts cost $14.22




After that, I attached the telescoping, folding leg. It’s important to have a telescoping leg so your table/leg portion of the sleeping platform is supported even when you are on uneven ground. I went with one leg in the middle, you could go with two legs in the corners, that’s up to you. The leg cost about $22 through Amazon.



When the table/bed are not in use and it’s time to hit the road, it all folds flat into the back of my car. You’ll notice in the photo below that there are small holes dug into the small board under the two main platform pieces. This is so the bolts can sink down into the board when the platform is folded out. I’ll putty, smooth, and paint those so they are sealed up. Chip board needs to be 100% sealed or it will swell in damp or wet conditions.




Step three involves putting a headboard onto the front of the sleeping platform. That’s not something I had originally designed as part of this build, but after laying on the platform I realized how convenient it would be. And it’ll keep my pillows from sliding off the end.

* I used chip board because it was 1/3 the cost of solid wood and 1/2 the cost of plywood. There are pros and cons to using chip board. The pros are mainly cost. The cons are: not as smooth, you need to use nuts & bolts rather than screws because screws don’t hold well in chip board, swells more in damp/wet conditions.  

Sleeping warm when it’s cold #glamping #camping

A cashmere quilt tops this camp bed

A cashmere quilt tops this camp bed

My favorite time of year to camp is Fall. The changing leaf colors, crisp air and crackling camp fires, and smaller crowds are all part of the attraction. But Fall camping, especially in the upper Midwest, does have a serious challenge – staying warm at night.

While the day time temps can be a warm 65 degrees, at night it can drop down to the low 40’s. Or lower. If you camp in late Fall, as I will be doing this weekend, the night time temps dip below freezing. So what’s a glamper to do? Stay home?  No way!  Just follow these tips and you’ll stay warm all night long and get one of the best night’s sleep of the year.


  • Go to the bathroom right before bed. Don’t make your body expend energy trying to warm the pee in your kidneys and bladder.
  • Eat an energy bar before you go to bed. This provides extra energy to your body to produce more heat.
  • Wear silk long johns and wool or silk mittens, hat, and socks to bed. Or some type of synthetic like fleece. You’ll hear me say this a few time but DO NOT WEAR OR USE COTTON. Cotton soaks up moisture and then sucks the heat from your body.
  • Completely change all of your clothes from what you wore during the day. They may not seem damp to you, but they are. I know it’s cold in your tent and getting naked and putting on cold bed clothes doesn’t sound attractive, but this is important to do. Dampness is your enemy.
  • Use a smaller, lower ceiling tent. You want to be able to trap heat and create a micro-climate. If your tent is too big or the ceiling too high, that won’t happen.
  • Get your bed up off the ground. Use a cot or an airbed but do not put your sleeping bag or blankets on the floor of your tent. The cold ground will seep through your bedding and steal body heat.
  • Layer under and over. Put a wool blanket on top of your bed. Then layer insulating layers such as your sleeping bag or a synthetic comforter or thick fleece. Then your body. Then repeat the layers on top of you with the wool layer on top. If you know you chill easily, use more layers. If you get hot and start to sweat, remove layers but keep the wool on top. Wool keeps you warm even when damp, which often happens to your top layer of blankets. It’s condensation from your breath during the night. DO NOT USE COTTON BLANKETS, SHEETS, OR COMFORTERS!
  • Do not cover your face with your blankets. If you put your blankets over your face your interior blankets (and you) will get damp and cold from your breath. Once that happens, you’re miserable for the rest of the night.
  • Use a bed warmer. This could be a willing partner, two people snuggling together are much warmer than sleeping alone. Or it could be a rock or brick heated at the edge of a fire. Just be sure to carefully wrap it up in wool so it never touches your flesh and tuck it down at the foot of your bed. It’ll radiate heat all night long. Some people use those chemical heater packs, but I’d caution against that as they can burn you when you roll on top of them. I have the same caution against electrical or gas tent heaters – that’s just asking for a fiery death or severe burns.

If you follow these tips you’ll be toasty warm all night. And the layers make such a warm nest that it encourages sleeping in. Or having some lazy morning nooky and then taking a nap. The leaves and hiking that trail can wait a few hours.


New rain fly, new look

Hey tent glampers! Looking for that next step to make your campsite look spectacular?  Keep your tent, but change the rain fly. You can make your own (as I did here) or have someone make one for you. I won’t lie, making a rain fly isn’t the easiest project.  You either have to make your pattern first, for a fitted fly, or drape and tack, for a rain fly that is closer to a tarp.

However, the style advantages may be worth it to you. You can pick your own fabric or even paint your rain fly. Just be sure to choose a material such as canvas, silk, or tent grade nylon and seal it well. Really, really well. I’ve included the tutorial for a fitted DIY rain fly in my book, Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping.

Standard VS Custom

Standard VS Custom

Above you can see the standard rain fly for my tent vs the new one I made. The old rain fly isn’t not bad, just kind of blah. I love my new rain fly. So much more cheerful. I love waking up and seeing those colorful squares making beautiful patterns on my white comforter. It was a bit of a pain to make and I’ve had to make some adjustments to it (and spray it with another layer of sealer) but it makes me happy just thinking about it. Plus, everyone knows which tent is yours.

If you want an easier rain fly to make, consider making one that is more like a tarp. Really lovely ones have been made from shabby chic style sheets and held in place by using alligator clips and rope. Similar to the photo below, but with something far more attractive than a plastic tarp.


Below is an example of what you can do to a tent with paint. These are fairytale/SCA style tents, but I’ve seen rain flys painted to look like the Death Star or a garden.


Example of painted tents

Example of painted tents

So what do you think? Would you paint your tent or rain fly? Or make a custom rain fly? Let know if you have already done this or are planning to do so for your next camping trip. Oh, and I’d love to see photos!

Mighty Yaris micro camper build

I’m turning my Yaris, which is a subcompact hatchback, into a camper. No, I’m not towing a camper behind it. The Mighty Yaris will be  my camper. I’ll reveal why I’m doing something so crazy later. Suffice it to say turning such a small vehicle into a camper presents some challenges. Such as – even if you flip the back seats down, the back of the car is only 4 ft long. I’m short, but I’m not that  short.

First thing to do is measure the interior back of the car. 50 inches long and 48 inches wide – or thereabouts. Things like the wheels bump into the interior in places. The opening of the Yaris hatch isn’t that wide, it narrows down to just over 32 inches in the center but closer to 28 inches towards the floor.

So what to do? My camper will have to have the hatch open and the sleeping platform will need to extend out the hatch and beyond the back bumper. I’ll make a car cover/tent to put over the car with mesh air vents where the car windows are and a zipper opening to exit out the hatch. This may not make much sense now, but will as the build progresses.

Two pieces of sleeping platform, with support strip glued on.

Two pieces of sleeping platform, with support strip glued on.

The sleeping platform is in 2 pieces. A 32 inch by 48 inch piece in the back of the car and a 24 inch by 30 inch piece to fold out of the car so I can extend my legs when I sleep. It can also serve as a table during the day while I’m camping. I bought the sheet of chip board at Home Depot because I know I can ask them to cut the wood pieces for me since our electric tools are still in storage.  I have a hand saw and that’s ll work for the rest of what I need to do on the build. The sheet cost $20 and the wood glue cost $3.50. I have the scrap pieces in the garage and I’ll use them later.

There’s a raised lip on the hatch opening of the Yaris, so I’ll glue a third strip of wood to the bottom of of the larger main piece of the platform so the platform lays level and is supported. Otherwise, when I fold the leg platform out, the hinges will rip off.  I’ll need to find telescoping legs for additional support for the leg platform so if anyone knows a great place to find those, let me know.

Tomorrow I’ll paint the two pieces and put the hinges on. Eventually there will be built in shelves, the tent/car cover to sew, and some style touches like a foam headboard and a window box that hangs off the leg support/table. I want something functional and adorable.

Once the entire build is done, I’ll compile all the posts into one and then I can start documenting the adventures of the Mighty Yaris Micro-Camper.

Step Two

If at first you don’t succeed, have another picnic

This weekend I did a quick re-shoot of a few photos for the Martinis & Marshmallows book. You can write about something all you want, but most people are visual learners and they need to see what you’re talking about. For example, take floral and greens. I usually bring plants, especially herbs, in pots when I camp. Not only is it a great way to have fresh herbs for cooking and for cocktails, it looks great! A vase of flowers can also turn your campsite or picnic from OK to stunning. Yet when I mention this or write about it, people just can’t see how that’s possible or practical. How can you bring a vase? Wouldn’t it break or take up too much space? Don’t pots of herbs tip over in the car and get dirt all over?

fold flat vase 4


Picnics aren’t just for picnics – they are a great (and space saving) way to take your meals while camping. No need to bring along a table and chairs, just bring a basket and a ground cloth. This picnic lunch looks many times for inviting with the addition of floral. From the edible pansies in the cocktails to the vase of flowers and fall greens behind them. Yet it all fits in the basket. The vase is a fold flat plastic bag specially designed to stand up when filled with water. When it’s not filled with water, it’s completely flat. So tuck one of these vases and a bottle of water in your basket and pick up (or pick, if you are allowed to do so in the area you’re at) a single flower or a bouquet to achieve this look.  You can find these vases in many different colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns.  You can find a variety of them on Amazon.




If you want to take a pot of herbs camping with you, look for a wider, lower profile pot. The one I use, pictured above, can easily hold three different kinds of herbs and is almost impossible to tip over. I place it on the floor of my car and I’ve never had a problem.  Fresh herbs make simple food and cocktails sublime with almost zero effort. Taking a pot of herbs on a camping trip is easier than taking fresh cut herbs in your cooler, especially for trips that last longer than 3 days. Once you cut fresh herbs and stick them in your cooler, the clock is ticking and they turn to green slime. When I’m not using the pot of herbs on a camping trip, it sits on a table on my patio, looking spectacular.

Do these photos change your mind about bring herbs and floral with you on your next camping trip? And as always – if you like these tips, share them with your friends.

Meet the designer for the Martinis & Marshmallows book

erickaThe search is over and our new designer is hard at work. Ericka Darst is a talented designer with years of experience in magazine and print design. She hails from Northern Minnesota and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Duluth.

So what does this mean for Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping? It means design is finally underway and we have a tentative publish date of December 2nd! Only Kickstarter Backers will receive their print or ebook in December. The book will officially launch in late winter/early spring of 2014. I’ll give you sneak peeks at the design as they come in.

Progress on the book (and a gift for Backers)

I’ve started an update several times on the progress of my book on luxury tent camping, all announcing the awesome news that I had a new graphic designer and introducing you to him or her. And then something would happen and the designer would have to bow out. Loss of daycare, new job offer and a move, death of a spouse, or just wanting more money than was budgeted. I was beginning to think I was snakebit and was eyeing over goats to sacrifice to get some good juju back. *insert nervous laughter here* But now I DO have an update to share, and a gift for everyone who backed my Kickstarter campaign.

First the update. I didn’t sit on my thumbs while searching for a designer, I started correcting the photos myself to prep them for the designer. This takes some of the work load off the designer and keeps the project moving forward. I’m slow, but my old skills in PhotoShop are coming back.

Next, I decided that going off recommendations for a new designer wasn’t working so I’ll do what I should have done a few months ago and advertise on CraigsList. Holy cow did I get a HUGE response. I outlined the project clearly and noted what the budget was – and I received over 72 portfolios in 24 hours. I’ll have someone to introduce to you soon as the new the designer, just don’t want to jinx myself yet. YAY!

Most exciting, and this leads into the gift, I broke off the cover design work from the interior design and I now have a cover artist picked! Kit Foster is an extremely experienced cover designer based in the UK. You can see some of her book covers here. Very excited to work with her in late September. People really do judge a book by its cover and she knows how to design for both the print book on a shelf and the small thumbnail you see on Amazon.

And now the gift. Kit has agreed to come up with three concepts for the cover so all my Kickstarter Backers can choose which one will be the cover for my book! I’ll post the three concepts here, but voting will take place on a post locked to Backers. Still, even if you aren’t a Backer, you’ll get to see all three concepts and tell me what you think. I wanted to find an additional way to thank the people who financially made this book possible – because self-publishing isn’t free by any means!

I also wanted to thank those of you who subscribe to my posts, have liked me on Facebook, or retweet me on Twitter.  I’ll leave you with the Muppets song, Moving Right Along. Not only is it a great song, it expresses how I feel about all of you and this crazy, wonderful project.

Fun & Games (and a cocktail) for Friday

Looking for a new game to play while camping or enjoying a summer evening at home? Try Kubb, better known as Viking Chess. I was introduced to this yard game by my friend Heather Biedermann while on a a recent camping trip and it was a blast! Viking Chess is much different than the board game. Yes, there’s strategy, but you’re throwing stuff and trying to knock stuff over – which makes sense in a Viking game.The game is played over a modest expanse of grass and the object is to knock over the kubbs on the opposing side, and then knock the “king” over, before the opponent does. It’s a bit more complicated than that and the rules can get hazy as you drink more alcohol.

Basic set up of a Kubb game

Basic set up of a Kubb game



There’s my husband, teamed with a friend of ours, throwing a baton at my son’s and his girlfriend’s kubbs. They went on to win, but I suspect they cheated. I can’t throw for crap, so I lost badly when I played, yet I still had a great time. I can’t wait to play again. Kubb is absolutely a good addition to more well known games such as bocce, lawn darts, and croquet.


Heather didn’t just win at the awesome game she brought, she also made a cocktail that was insanely tasty and refreshing.  It has watermelon and rum as its base. You need to juice the watermelon, but it’s easy to do and well worth a bit of work ahead of time to take camping with you. Here’s her recipe:

I used my juicer at home to juice an entire seedless watermelon along with one large lime. Reserve all the juice in an airtight pitcher/jug and chill in fridge.

Next make a pan of simple syrup. I used water and sugar in the raw. I put the syrup in two canning jars with lids and also cooled them in fridge. You could infuse the syrup with mint to make it extra tasty.
When you are ready to serve, put 2-3 parts watermelon, 1 part light rum (or light tequila or good vodka- whatever you like more), and 1  part simple syrup (adjust to taste-it may only need a little as the melon is sweet in a pitcher or a glass. Top with tonic water to make bubbly or more to adjust flavor. Be sure to taste and adjust if making a pitcher as it’s a very delicate drink. Serve over ice and garnish with lime slice.

If doing it by drink- one shot rum over ice in glass. A small shot simple syrup. Half glass watermelon juice top with tonic water. Stir. Garnish with a lime slice.

David Salisbury and Heather Biedermann enjoy a watermelon cocktail

David Salisbury and Heather Biedermann enjoy a watermelon cocktail

We may have had more than one.

We may have had more than one.

Does your tent smell like a locker room or a spa? #glamping

You roll up to your campsite, unload your gear, put up your tent and … what’s that smell? It’s like some funky blend of feet, dirty clothes, mildew, and rotten food. How can that be? Or you may have started out your trip smelling only the great outdoors but by day 5 climbing into your tent is like climbing into an 8th grade boys’ locker room. Ugh.

Here are a few ideas on how to keep your tent smelling like a relaxing spa (you did take this vacation to unwind, didn’t you?) instead of a dirty clothes hamper mixed with wet dog.

Dirty clothes – Bring a stain stick, or other fabric stain treatment, and treat any stains in your clothes as you take them off. If they’re wet, hang them up outside to dry and take them off the line only after they’ve dried completely. Put them in a plastic bag and store them in your car, if you can. If you can’t put them in your car, make sure the bag is sealed tightly (with a twist tie) and store them in your tent.

Bedding – Unless you’re camping in the desert, your bedding will get damp in the night. You’ll also be sweating in your bedding and by this time your anti-perspirant may have reached critical failure. All of this means you have smelly bacteria trying to build up in your bedding. It’s not as noticeable during mid-day, but at night when you are sliding into bed – yeah, you’ll notice it then.  Right when you get up in the morning open up your bedding and air it out. If you can hang it outside to dry in the sun, do so. If not, flip it over every few hours during the day to dry it out. After you get home and wash your bedding, pack it away with dryer sheets.

Your tent – Proper air circulation is key to keeping your tent fresh. During the day, as long as you’ll be near by and there’s no rain forecasted, take your rainfly off your tent. If your tent is too large to make this practical, open all the windows and doors (keeping the screens shut against bugs). Put your rainfly back on at night to cut down on morning dew. Here’s an important tip so don’t neglect this – when you get home make sure to unpack your tent and hang it until it is completely dry. I know, you think it was dry when you packed it away. You are wrong. The bottom of the tent may have been damp, moisture from your breath could be coating the inside roof of your tent, or a small amount of dew could still be on it. Trust me, unless you were in the desert, your tent is damp. A damp tent packed away for a year is a stinky tent. Dry it out for at least a full 24 hours. And of course, sweep your tent and sponge off any dirt or food or drink spills. That should go without saying, right? Then pack it away with dryer sheets or those odor eater balls people put in their shoes.

Haumea Botanicals

You – You may or may not be showering on your camping trip. I don’t camp places where I can’t shower. Even so, you’ll be dirty by the time you go to bed. A quick wipe down with wet wipes on your face, under your arms, your hands, feet, and your ahem private areas is needed. Not only will you smell better, you’ll feel better and get a great night’s sleep.

Lamyka, in traditional Hawaiin dress, outside her beautiful tent.

Lamyka, in traditional Hawaiin dress, outside her beautiful tent.

If you really want to get a great night’s sleep try some aromatherapy.  I was fortunate enough to camp with the owner of Haumea Botanicals, the lovely Lamyka, who came all the way from Hawaii to Minnesota and broght with her some of her amazing Butter Parfums. Rub some lavender Butter Parfum on your neck and chest before you slide into bed and you’ll drift into a peaceful slumber. It’s made from kukui nuts, beeswax, and real essential oils so it doesn’t feel greasy nor will it build up into a bad smell in your bedding. It stays fresh and light. I have 8 of the scents and I love them!

What about you? What tips do you have for keeping your tent (and self) smelling great?