How We AirBnB

I started listening to the podcast “How I Built This” back in June when I was taking Lincoln to and fro baby survival swimming lessons. Finally I had discovered a podcast that was interesting to me and that I could glean an unknown tidbit to share with Daniel (who seems to have already heard about everything) at mealtime. One of my favorite episodes was when the host, Guy Raz, interviewed the founder of AirBnB. We have been using lodgings from AirBnB since our first time to Europe in 2013 and the story of how Joe Gebbia and his business partner first started this slightly unusual and strange idea of renting out your own room/apartment/home was fascinating to me. Their idea was originally based around renting a bed out during conferences when hundreds of people would be flooding a town for an event. Never did they expect it to grow as it has. Remember, this was back when staying with strangers you met online was a little shady and plain…weird. But somehow, it has become common place and a growing venture all around the world.

Some of the locations we’ve stayed at are apartments attached to the owner’s home, or are completely separate apartments, or full homes as in the case here in Sweden. It was a spacious house in a quiet neighborhood and we felt right at home.


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One of the main features an AirBnB offers is the ability to cook our own meals. When doing serious site-seeing during the day, we do breakfast and supper at the apartment/house and try to keep our dining out to one meal a day which would be lunch.

However, AirBnB’s are consistently inconsistent with how well their kitchens are stocked. As an example, the apartment we stayed at in Paris had the best knives we’ve ever used. In fact, Daniel bought the exact one they had once we got back to the States to have for ourselves. We credited the fine cookware in the Paris apartment to it being…Paris! But the apartment our friends stayed in Paris just last year was quite the opposite and they had to go out and purchase a paring knife for their stay!  So over the years we’ve learned to bring a few of our personal kitchen’s favorites if possible.

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Tips for Making your AirBnB even more like home:

  • Bring your favorite kitchen utensils if possible. Daniel brought his own coffee grinder (similar one here) and I brought two of my favorite rubber spatulas. If we weren’t packing so minimally with carry-ons only, we would have brought our chef knife and a vegetable peeler. That was a plus about driving to Canada last fall: we could take otherwise hazardous and sharp objects along with us.
  • I’m not sure what it is with Europe, but in my experience, they don’t have washcloths. Take note, if that’s what you typically wash with or use in the States. There may be a larger sized towel-ish type of cloth, but nothing similar to a typical washcloth, in a reasonable size, ie: not hand towel size that slaps across your back like a beach towel. If anyone has any insight on this fact, I’d love to know about it. Let me know in the comments: What do Europeans use to wash their face with?! Why are there no hand-sized washcloths in the bathrooms?
  • Netflix is our main entertainment in the evenings if we aren’t tuckered out at the end of the day. Currently our show of choice is “Anne with an E.” We sometimes have to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or a SSH (Secure Shell) connection to make Netflix think we’re still in the States. If we want to use the larger TV screen at the AirBnB, Daniel likes to bring along an HDMI cable to connect the laptop to the TV.
  • Most grocery stores in Europe do not provide grocery bags for free. So it’s nice to have a largish bag of some sort that you can take empty to the store and fill it with your groceries after paying.
  • Speaking of groceries, enter, our go-to AirBnB dessert recipe: Decadent Flourless Brownies. We often want something sweet in the evenings, but may not have an entire cupboard full of baking ingredients. Cocoa, sugar, butter and eggs are all you need for this recipe and are typically items that don’t cost much and can be used up fairly quickly.
  • For us Americans who use Fahrenheit, remember that 176° Celsius is approximately 350° Fahrenheit.
  • Supper meals are kept pretty simple when we’re gone during the day and come back starving because we walked 6+ miles. Basically it’s a meat, a starch and a vegetable. We like to buy groceries day by day so we can keep track of how much we have and don’t overbuy. I hate wasting food and having to throw it out on our last day because we didn’t eat it all. It’s best to buy things that will for sure be used in one meal and be very realistic with how much food you and your group will eat. #noleftovers
  • Meal ideas include:
    • Ground beef with spaghetti sauce, instant rice (or pasta, if you prefer) and a frozen vegetable such as broccoli.
    • A new meal we loved with the girls in Norway and Sweden was Thai Curry. We used chicken or ground beef and made a sauce with a can of coconut milk and a couple spoonfuls of Red Thai Curry paste. We served it with sliced cucumbers, shredded cabbage (find the smallest possible!), green onions, cilantro and lime over instant rice.
    • If you have extra of those fresh items, you can use them for a taco flavored meal the next evening. Just add cheese, salsa and fresh tomatoes. Maybe even a bag of chips if you can eat them all.
    • We also like chicken thighs, cut up and served with a butter/white wine sauce and fresh sauteed mushrooms. Again, served with instant rice. (It’s fast, what can I say?)
    • Sweet potato hash with some sausage and a fried egg on top is divine. One of my favorite dishes ever.
    • Fish doesn’t require a long cooking time and is very tasty served with rice, fresh lemon juice and a side veggie. OR, try fish tacos with leftover green onions and cabbage. You can make a nice sauce with some yogurt and lime juice.
    • We use a lot of frozen vegetables since they don’t require any washing, chopping or dicing come supper time.

 

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The granola pictured here wasn’t used in the brownie recipe I mentioned. Just to clarify. It makes a simple breakfast paired with some thick, creamy, Turkish-style yogurt though.

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Check out the fridge (on the left) and the freezer (on the right) in our Swedish kitchen.

  • If we’re staying somewhere more than just a couple nights, we always try to get a house with a washing machine. A dryer isn’t as important for us since we seem to be pros at shrinking all our clothes when we get too close to one. But yes. Look for washing machines when searching for a good AirBnB.

This particular washing machine (on the bottom in the picture below) had us all stumped for a while. We searched high and low, literally, for detergent and could not find any. There were no boxes or containers in the cupboards and I couldn’t imagine our host not having any on hand to wash their own clothes. Eventually a little door near the floor on the washer was discovered and voilà! Detergent already IN the washer. Daniel then used a YouTube video from the company, explaining how to program it using the pre-loaded detergent and we started our first load.

This upright freezer looking box was a clothes dryer as well, but one where you just drape the clothes over the rods and hot air blows down from the top. Just close the door and let it heat.
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My laundry helper.

Any other tips you would include for staying at an AirBnB?

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What’s Been Going on in Our Lives

This past winter held a rather exciting event for us:

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It kind of happened quickly in the sense that we didn’t spend months and months looking for the right house, although we had been talking about it for quite some time. This one is on a couple acres of slightly rolling land with a grand yard, an attached garage (which is very handy in our northern winters), and an open kitchen-dining room-living room layout which we love.

The other thing I love is that it’s ours to paint and do with what we like. So paint I did, with help of family and friends. The master bedroom is shown here in the original color:

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And this is the dining room, mostly finished with newly painted white walls. Both rooms were the same purple color as above. It was SO nice to have both painted before we moved in.

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Natasha even helped do some touch up painting in her room with paint we found in the basement.019-001

Moving day was exactly three weeks ago and what a day indeed. It is a lot of work, lest anyone think differently. But we had help and it went very smoothly.775

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We are now settling in and making new memories in our new home. Natasha loved helping unpack easier items…mostly because she could stand on the step-stool. 033

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Along with having a new house, spring and summer make me so excited. Especially as we anticipate the arrival of our new little one in June. :)  1-011

Happy slightly late Easter everyone!

Washing Clothes

At our first apartment here in Boquete, we were happy to have a private washer and dryer. We had it all to ourselves, right in the kitchen and could do laundry whenever we felt like it, or didn’t feel like it. That is, when the water was on. For some reason it would go off occasionally for several hours at a time. Not very convenient, but we did have our own washer and dryer.

This apartment doesn’t have either. Now, I am totally accustomed to living without a dryer and hardly ever used one, even in the states when we did have one. I prefer to hang clothes up outside (or inside) to save zeros on the electricity bill. But no washer has been a little different at this apartment! Particularly since we use cloth diapers for Natasha.

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The first week, when it was time for clean diapers, I walked to town with Natasha strapped on my front and a backpack with the bag of dirty diapers on my back. Please don’t laugh…it didn’t smell and sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. So we did. Oh, and when I say we walked, that was only true for part of the journey. A kind fellow from Florida (or was it New York? All these ex-pats we meet sort of blend together after a while) offered us a ride, so we took it.

Anyway, laundromats are a little different here than in the states. It’s not self-serve, rather, you leave the laundry and they wash it, dry it and fold it for you! So I left the diapers, with their special detergent, and hoped for the best. I knew they don’t use hot water, and I was a little leery of getting diapers clean without the HOT water that cloth dipes require. Also, I wasn’t sure about leaving all the precious hard work I put into sewing those diapers, among all the plastic bags of other folks laundry. But…I did. The lady told me I could pick them up at 5 p.m. This was around 10 in the morning. Hmm… That meant that we either had to stick around town ALL day, or go home and return that evening. We chose the latter, after doing some shopping, and walked back home.

Daniel was kind enough to return that evening for the diapers. The first laundromat he stopped at said they didn’t have any diapers washed that day. Fortunately, he knew there was a second laundromat, and that’s where they were. It cost $3 to get them washed. When he got home, we did some quick numbers and realized with washing diapers twice a week, and not any of our regular laundry, that makes $6 a week. Add at least one more load for regular clothes, plus taxi money if we didn’t want to walk all the time to town with dirty laundry, and that comes to about $15 a week. Multiply that by 17 weeks or so left for our time in Panama, and that’s somewhere around $255 total. Our landlords had mentioned that you can get a decent washer for about $150 here, so at that rate, it would actually be cheaper for us to buy a little washer of our own to have in the apartment! We could sell it before we returned to the states.

But, I knew I could wash clothes by hand and even save MORE money! So, I did. And I discovered that although it’s not really that hard, it is very time consuming. And if you don’t wring them out well enough, diapers and jeans take forever to dry. The diapers were by far the hardest to wash, needing to be rinsed twice, and washed every other day, if they were to dry before we were completely out of clean ones.

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Here’s where our prayers were answered. Our landlords knew we had asked where to find a washer, and they generously offered to let us use their washer and dryer. They told us they don’t let just anyone of their renters use it, so we feel pretty honored. Margaret told me to come up on the veranda whenever I needed to do laundry, and showed me how the washer worked.

So now I only do some of the laundry by hand. :)  I am happy to let the washer do all the heavy jeans and diapers, but I still do Natasha’s clothes and shirts on the back step. I haven’t used the dryer yet, since we have a little clothesline outside the door, and seven (!) clothespins.

I’m not real sure why I still do some clothes by hand. Part of it is because I don’t want to take advantage of our landlord’s generosity. The other part is that I kind of like the satisfaction of doing some clothes by hand. It will probably wear off sometime, maybe sooner than later, but at least I know I can do it.

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Caring for the Tile

We’d been here a week or so, when I heard a knock at the door. Lo and behold, one of the amenities to living in this apartment, is having a cleaning lady! Iris has come twice now since we’ve been here, so I don’t have to mop the floors after all. (She even changes the bed sheets and washes the bathroom towels!) But every Saturday, Natasha and I do a little housekeeping, just to keep things tidier.

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Today is Mother’s Day in Panama. It is a national holiday, and the beginning of the Christmas festivities here in Panama, similar to what Thanksgiving is to Americans, from what I’ve read. December 8th is also the day of Immaculate Conception, which makes Panamanian mothers feel rather honored to be celebrating today. Yesterday, Natasha and I went grocery shopping, and at our final stop, the cashier gave me a long stemmed pink rose and a little card! What a nice surprise!  So, Happy Mother’s Day!