Category Archives: Travel

Our Project Poppy

Some of my favourite summer memories involve our camping holidays as a child. I loved the tradition of packing up each year and heading to the beach but as I got older I hated the idea of pitching a tent and that’s where the urge to buy a caravan came from.

I have wanted a caravan for years! The idea of being able to afford our own beach bach just isn’t realistic at the moment but a caravan and a bit of hard work was. The hardest part was finding a caravan we wanted to renovate. I scrolled Trade Me for months, a whole year actually, before coming across Poppy in her glory. Poppy is a Liteweight Silvermist 14.6ft (4.5m). She wasn’t much on the inside but she was roadworthy, weather tight and had potential. We did use her for a week away as she was and then Project Poppy got under way.

We wanted to start with a clean slate so the first thing we did is completely gut the inside down to the frame. We did save a few things such as the original brass trimming and a couple of the wall panels. Once down to a bare frame Jase made any repairs needed to the chassis which lucky for us was only some minor welding. Then he laid a new plywood (18mm) floor.

We are all about comfort around here so we pink batted Poppy before starting on her new wall panels. We replaced the wall panels with plywood (9mm) and Jase sealed them with epoxy resin to keep them moisture proof. Poppy started to look a bit like a patchwork quilt because a couple of the panels were thicker for added strength. The new ceiling is MDF (5mm) board, also resin sealed to keep it moisture proof. We were very conscious of the weight we were putting back in to the caravan for obvious reasons.

I had a floorplan in mind right from the start which isn’t dissimilar to what we started with because after using it for that week we realised it worked so why not stick with it, but imporve it. We tweeked the dimensions a bit and then built the new framework for the bench seats, kitchen, storage and the girls bunks to our new measurements. We have such a small space we didnt want to waste any so we extended the bench over the fridge which also meant increasing the height, overall I hands down prefer the new layout. I wanted the curves of the bunks to mirror the curves in the overhead lockers and we added a ladder to help access the top bunk. Jase then fibreglassed the floor joins and any where the cabinetry or walls met the floor. He filled all the wall joins with epoxy filler and sanded to ensure a seamless finish. We also saved the original overhead lockers so he repaired all the knocks and bumps on those too.

The next step was probably he most work. Prime then sand, sand and sand some more! Jase sprayed Poppy’s interior with an Altex  epoxy paint and primer. You don’t have to use a paint like this but Jase is a boat builder by trade and used his knowledge there to chose the paint. He wanted a shiny finish, easy maintenance and long term durability. It’s definitely shiny and super easy to clean so I’m not complaining! Once painted we had Flooring Xtra come in to install our flooring. After meeting with the consultant at our local Flooring Xtra I chose LIVYN Balance Click LVT in Drift Oak Beige.

Paint and floors make a heck of a difference because Poppy was starting to look like a caravan again! We finished the ceiling by reinstalling the original brass trimming and then started on the kitchen. Poppy’s kitchen includes a laminated oak worktop that Jase resin sealed and new sink, both from Bunnings. The gold tap is a Meir Bronze Tiger tap from The Kitchen Hub and the splashback is adhesive vinyl tiles from Vinyl Home.

The last ‘big’ job was making and paint the kitchen, storage and locker fronts then putting them all in. Putting slats on the top bunk was pretty important too. Once those jobs got done I got to do some fun stuff like decorate and vinyl cover the fridge to match (Poppy came with a fridge so we just spruced it up to match). All the decorative elements have been sitting in our spare lounge for weeks now so I was dying to get them in there.

I didn’t want to compromise on bed sizes so the girls bunks are both proper singles and the bench seats convert into our full sized queen bed. I bought a queen size mattress and then cut it down to the bench sizes and Just Sew made the new upholstery covers to fit. I bought curtain fabric and made the curtains and put them up with curtain wire. I couldn’t find cushions I wanted so also made those. The kitchen handles are water resistant leather from Lewis and Lou. The overhead lockers are brass lever handles. We will eventually add a table but so far we have achieved all this in two months and now have her maiden voyage booked!

I promised a cost/price break down so I’ve also included suppliers where I can below. After discussion with Jase I wont disclose what we bought Poppy for in case we want to sell her in the future. What I can’t put a price on is the time and work we have put in, especially Jase, it has definitely been a project of love and I can’t wait to spend our summers in her.

Price Breakdown:

Timber, plywood and materials – $800 approx.

Paint and primer (interior) – $650

Pink batts – $40

Sink – $149.99 (from Bunnings)

Benchtop – $125.78 ( from Bunnings)

Flooring (installed) – $865 (from Flooring Xtra)

Upholstery Covers – $344.50 (from Just Sew)

Vinyl Tiles (splashback) – $158.00 (from Vinyl Home)

Tapware – $599.00 from The Kitchen Hub)

Leather Handles – $41.85 (from Lewis & Lou)

Queen foam mattress/bench squabs – $160 (from The Warehouse)

Single Mattresses x2 – $158 (from The Warehouse)

Hinges/window stays/hinges – $100 approx

Wall lights – $72 (from Mitre 10)

Electrical components for rewire – $500 approx (labour free thanks to an electrician brother in law)

Vinyl for Fridge – $47 (from Vinyl Home)

Curtains and curtain wires – $75 approx. (fabric from Spotlight)

APPROX COST: $4386.12

Decorative details:

Wall hanging – Wool & Thread

Our duvet, girls spotty sheets, mirror, green throw blanket – The Warehouse

Girls throw blankets – Izzy & Jean

Poppy name plaque – Love From Seventeen

Cushions – Made by me

Fiji | Twenty Seventeen

‘Good things come to those who wait’

That’s what we have been telling Miss for 5 years about going to Fiji. Her obsession started when Jase and I went to Fiji without her those 5 years ago.

We did take the girls to Australia in 2014 so it wasn’t her first ‘big’ trip but bless her patience and her Fiji dreams, she finally got there.

We stayed 7 nights at The Warwick Resort on the Coral Coast. I googled the crap out of it and took on people’s advice and recommendations before booking it after previously staying at The Sofitel on Denarau. I needed something slightly more affordable than our previous stay due to doubling our numbers and taking the girls with us. I also wanted somewhere with easy access to a fab beach as well as the resort facilities, which the Denarau resorts do lack.

We had a fantastic holiday! Weather wasn’t a complete 8 days of tropical paradise but the rain didn’t really put us off. Kids were busy getting wet swimming anyway. I do have a wee bit of feedback on our resort pick that others may want to take into consideration as follows.

The Warwick is a beautiful well presented resort. The rooms while cozy are sufficiently comfortable. Our room had a queen bed and two singles. We were an ocean view room that conveniently opened out to the family pool. The bathrooms have been well used and while clean are a little run down but that didn’t bother us at all. The restaurant options (there’s 3 plus the buffet and room service in the evening. Also a grill restaurant by the pool is available during the day) are well catered for and the standard of food was great. The breakfast buffet was amazing! The kids eat free deal includes a kids buffet lunch and while the combinations were sometimes interesting the girls always ate and did not really complain at all. Being able to feed them from the buffet at night was fantastic as the options were vast and we would usually have dinner later after dropping them at the evening kids club session. Kids Club was fantastic! Our girls did not spend every day there but liked to read the days session in the morning and chose what they’d like to attend, the kids kitchen session being a highlight. Trilly also won the disco dance off which had her floating on air for a couple of days.

Fiji is known for the friendliness of the people and unfortunately we didn’t always feel that at The Warwick. The staff were very quiet and didn’t really engage in anything extra. No offers for drinks by the pool or extra conversation while waiting for your orders. Miss cut her foot and needed it cleaned up and the lady did an amazing job but never actually spoke a word to us. I did miss the friendliness of previous trips.

Alcohol prices were taking the piss! Our friend ordered a double Baileys on the rocks and was stung $48FJD, while his wife’s single shot Barcardi was $23FJD. Even a can of coke was $8FJD! It was the talk of the pool how ludicrous the prices were but you either sucked it up or didn’t drink. Jase and I grabbed some duty free on our way in so I hit up the mocktail list at a more affordable $12FJD and went back to our room to add my poison. (Lucky our room was right by the pool! hah!).

If you walk down the beach just passed the resort you will find some local ladies running ‘shops’. They sold big bottles of coke for $7FJD so Jase headed there for his bourbon mixer. Wander another 100m or so further down and Maggie’s Grocery Shop will hook you up cans or stubbies of beer for half the resort prices. Worth the walk. The local ladies also braided the kids hair for a more affordable price. Just be aware they’ll try to sell you anything and everything.

The travel time to The Warwick is another 2hrs from the airport. The transfer bus is pretty comfortable but it does make for a long trip for younger kids. The trip did allow the kids to experience a bit of culture shock as they saw how locals live and how different it is to home. We also unfortunately never saw any of the cultural shows they offered due to the rainy weather.

The water equipment available was perfect. It was nice to be able to take the kids kayaking or have them give paddle boarding a go. The snorkel equipment was sufficient and easily available. Life jackets are well loved but there are enough to go round and do the job fine. The family pool (there’s also an adults only pool) has the addition of the swim up bar and the kids spent the days going from beach to pool and back again. I honestly wish people wouldn’t put their towels on a lounger at the ass crack of dawn and then not come back to it for hours though. We just placed their towels to the side if they hadn’t been there for more than an hour and took their seats. Sharing is caring and all that!

We did take the kids on a village culture tour and snorkelling trip to Robinson Crusoe Island (we went on the Village and Crab Catching Tour) and recommend the day out. The guides were amazing and Trilly won the crab race which was a bit of a laugh. It was a great way to spend a day and while Jase and Miss went out snorkelling near the reef Trilly and I went swimming. The fish you can see straight off the beach are amazing and Trilly loved being able to swim with them.

We flew Fiji Airways for the first time and have no complaints. We would definitely fly with them again, especially for affordability.

We had a great holiday! The girls want to go back already, of course, but if I’m being completely honest I’m not sure if I’d stay at The Warwick again. Not because it was awful (it’s definitely not) but because there are so many similar resorts that it’s nice to try new ones. We also think we would spend a bit more and venture to one of the other islands, or even back to Denerau.

Huge Thanks to Lisa from Mondo Travel Waikato for being amazing! I’ve never used a travel broker before but now I don’t think I’ll travel without Lisa’s help.

Mel x

PS. We actually think we may do Bali next! Or plan a mega trip instead.


Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. Your experiences may be different to mine and that’s fine. Just an honest reflection on our trip.