By a longshot, these are the absolute fluffiest pancakes I've ever made! The perfect easy weekday breakfast that the whole family will enjoy:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 banana


DIRECTIONS:

  1. Whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.

  2. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.

  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

  4. Melt butter over medium heat, ladle batter onto the skillet and place a few banana slices on top. Cook until golden, about 3 minutes per side.




2021 was a crazy year to do it, but I bought a beach house on a family friendly North Carolina island! It's a popular vacation destination, particularly in the summer. This is my only house- I travelled frequently for work this year and didn't want to leave it sitting empty. If you're considering investing in a vacation rental, here's my experience and recommendations:


My House: It's on the middle row (between the main road and the ocean) and is a 2 minute walk to the public beach access. It's 1650 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms have queen beds and one has a queen and twin bunk beds, so it sleeps 8. It has wonderful views of the beach from the porch. Purchase price (in an insane real estate market) was $560,000 and I closed on it early March.


Management: I rented it through a vacation rental property management group. I had a generally positive experience with them, and would definitely recommend a manager at least for your first year. They cost me a lot in fees, but they handled all the work requests, booking, billing, and cleaning. It was nice to sit back and collect a check!


Vacancy: My house was available for vacationers to rent from mid-March until mid-December. It booked 14 weeks: the weeks before and after Easter and late May until mid-August. It was unfortunately vacant the remaining weeks, including over Labor Day. I think my vacancy rate could have been better if I managed through Airbnb- my property manager only rents weekly and I would like to offer a nightly option during the off-season.


Income: It rents for $1050/week in the off-season and $2400/week during peak season. Gross revenue for the 14 weeks it rented in 2021 was $29,913.


Expenses: Owning a beach house is expensive!

  • Mortgage & Escrow: $18731 ($8248 towards principle)

  • Insurance: $2322 (Basic homeowner's is paid through escrow. This expense was for a rider for rental liability and windstorm coverage)

  • Utilities (power and water): $1258

  • Internet, TV: $760 (I cancelled cable TV and only offer Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video)

  • Cleaning Fees: $2173

  • Linens: $1820

  • Property Management: $2980 commission, $1750 in "Hospitality Service Fees" billed to me, $806 credit card fees

  • Work Orders: $254 (The majority of this was $40/month trash hauling. I also had a coffee maker break and require replacement)

  • Miscellaneous: $376 (There were a few Lowe's runs to grab salt for the water softener, air filters, a grill that my renters absolutely destroyed after one season, new locks and a ring camera to look at the driveway)

Cashflow: Negative $3317. Not bad- as this is my primary residence, I would have spent $20k+ this year on the mortgage, insurance, utilities, and internet.


Damages: There were a few minor damages that my management company refused to fix- drywall dings behind the recliner, someone yanked on a coax cable so hard the plate came out of the drywall, one of my couch cushions appeared to have suffered some stab wounds. When I returned, my HVAC return was missing a filter. This was frustrating, as they require the "Hospitality Service Fee" which is supposed to cover incidental damages.


Will I do it again: Yes! For 2022, I'll be travelling less for work, but will intentionally be gone from Memorial to Labor Day. It's a bit of a hassle to move all my personal items into storage, but I think it's well worth it. If I wasn't living here full-time in the winter, spring, and fall, I'm not sure the income would justify purchasing a vacation rental solely as an investment.

I'm a sucker for subscription boxes filled with self-care items! I love getting surprises in the mail and I love all the luxurious products I wouldn't normally have purchased for myself. When I got pregnant, I did not hesitate to order 2 of the most popular pregnancy subscription boxes: Bump Box and Belly Box. Here's an overview of each:



BUMP BOXES


Price: $44.99 for a one-time order, $39.99/month for a 6 month subscription (the first month is half off with this link!)


What my box included:

  • "mom hair don't care" towel wrap for wet hair

  • Ever Eden soothing belly mask

  • Face It reusable makeup remover cloth

  • Hair ties

  • "Hello, I'm new here" onesie

  • White Chip Strawberry Swirl granola

I loved every product I received! The granola was delicious on top of some vanilla yogurt. The onesie is adorable and I can't wait to put her in it. The makeup remover cloth works like a dream with just water- I'm excited to save the planet and some cash by ditching disposable makeup wipes! The hair ties don't leave a dent in my hair & the towel wrap is perfect for spa nights. The belly mask was very luxurious- I'm in week 28 and my skin was getting a little dry and itchy. This definitely did the trick :)

BELLY BOXES


Price: $39.99 for a one-time order, $36.50/month for a 6 month subscription

What my box included:

  • "New Year, New Baby" maternity tshirt with little baby feet on the belly

  • "BABY" onesie

  • "The best gifts don't come under a tree" Christmas ornament

  • Pants extender

  • Capture these moments- week by week photo cards for your bump

  • "The adventures of baby bump" photo album

  • Bump Temporary tattoos

  • Appointment book

The maternity tshirt was very cute but unfortunately didn't fit- I emailed customer service and while they were quick to reply, they were out of stock and couldn't exchange it for me. I'm somewhere between a small and a medium and I should definitely have ordered a small! The pants extender, photo album, and appointment book felt a little cheap and of poor quality. I'm not sure if I'm into tattooing my bump for photo ops, but I'm willing to try. The Christmas ornament was so sweet and it made me cry :) The onesie was a little weird, of course it's a baby- no need to label her.


OVERALL WINNER: If you're only going to get one, I'd go with the Bump Box. Its products were much higher quality, more geared towards mom's self-care and I found them all useful. The onesie was a lot cuter and the box was a better value for the money.