Updated: Jul 5
As the weather forecasts predicted Hurricane Ian was on a path of destruction and would hit us in Winter Haven, Florida, we prepared for the worst. Off we went with shovel in hand to our local sandbag station, filled the allowed number of bags and battened the hatches.
In the photo below you can see how our backyard looked before the hurricane, we call it the Hula Lounge, complete with a tiki bar we are proud to say we built ourselves. We had to remove anything that could be caught up by the strong winds, soon on their way, and we wrapped our beloved tiki bar with an extra large tarpaulin. Because we live in Florida, and know the likelihood of hurricanes, we had already attached boat cleats to the wall of our house and secured the tarp to the cleats having packed behind the bar with as much as we could.
Now with all our preparations in place, and having checked in on our neighbors all we could do was brace ourselves for our first Floridian hurricane. To say we were nervous was an understatement. We watched back to back weather reports watching Ian barreling towards us with a ferocity, we stayed up all Wednesday night when it was at its peak over us. There was no way we would’ve been able to sleep as hurricane force winds and lashing rain were beating at our home. Hour upon hour it blasted us and, as we expected, our electricity went off, we had charged our devices and were able to keep updated with the local weather news until they to lost electric and went off air.
Hurricane Ian Hits the Hula Lounge
Watching from the window we saw our trees and plants taking a severe bashing but our tiki bar was holding up, and the sandbags were keeping the water from entering our house, so far anyway.
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Eventually, the wind and rain grew less fierce but it was far from over and still no electricity. We donned our waterproofs and went out to investigate, we were lucky, we didn’t suffer any structural damage, sadly other neighbors were not so lucky and they had lost their roof. Trees had fallen and our beautiful lakefront looked a mess, the lake birds had all lost their homes and were trying to make new ones on the boat dock.
Now it was time for the big clear up but we were very grateful, even as swept and pile upon pile of broken branches, leaves and random debris, it could’ve been so much worse. As we took down the tarp that had protected our tiki bar we tentatively check it out and it had held firm. It may seem inconsequential but to us our tiki bar had been an enormous undertaking and had helped us through the covid pandemic, it had also been a haven to friends during difficult times, bringing a little bit of brightness and fun to life when much needed.
After much work our Hula Lounge was looking pretty good, we had to screw some bamboo back in place and strengthen 2 of the boat cleats that had worked loose by the punishing wind.
Although our banana trees and some other shrubs had to be cut back we know they will grow back. That’s the amazing thing about Florida, with all the sun and rain everything grows so quickly.
Despite our aching backs and limbs we were ready to welcome our friends back to the Hula Lounge, our piece of paradise.
We restocked the bar, created some favorite cocktails and toasted to surviving our first hurricane with our friends and neighbors.
It has to be said that we also had a few Slippery Nipple shots that went down a real treat and caused a few much needed laughs.
Obviously we appreciate that we were extremely lucky, unlike many, many other people and our hearts go out to the entire state of Florida and all those impacted by Hurricane Ian.
We have made a donation to support victims of Hurricane Ian and you can too by visiting The American Red Cross
How We Bought The Aloha Vibe To Our Own Backyard
Want to know how to build your own tiki bar? Well we've got all the details and before you know it, you'll be serving your favorite cocktails with a real Aloha Vibe.
Ever since our first trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, where we fell in love with the whole Aloha vibe, we dreamed of having our very own tiki bar and this year we turned that dream into reality. On an extremely limited budget and only a handful of basic tools, we set our minds on the goal of creating our perfect tiki bar.
The whole concept came about because we had honeymooned on the Big Island, celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on Maui and this year we had wanted to visit O’ahu for our 15th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, for various reasons, we can’t go. So, we decided on the next best thing, we would bring Hawaii to us. Luckily, because we live in the sunshine state of Florida, we had already started turning our courtyard into a tropical paradise, now we wanted to take it to whole new level and The Hula Lounge was born.
Why the Hula Lounge I hear you ask, well that’s because Laurie was a professional hula dancer in her younger years and toured all over New England performing with a Polynesian dance group.
Before we even began the construction Laurie wanted a logo, after lots of idea’s we were inspired by a hula girl and some cool cocktail glasses. I did the initial painting and Laurie put the finishing touches by distressing and shellacking (Laurie’s favorite word on the moment!) the wood. We made a sign for our breezeway, a tabletop, and even pieces of art to adorn the bar, now all we needed was the bar itself!
"Why the Hula Lounge", I hear you ask, well that’s because Laurie was a professional hula
On an extremely limited budget, only a handful of basic tools, no workbench and really no experience of construction work, except for watching back-to-back episodes of Hometown, we set our minds on the goal of creating our dream tiki bar. First thing was to contrive a design and work out what material’s we needed, I sketched out a rough idea, then together we worked out what wood we needed to frame up the bar. After measuring up the area we wanted the bar to fit in, we decided on a maximum size of 8’ by 4’.
Armed with our plan and list, we headed to our local DIY store, because we only have a small hatchback, we had to make many, many trips. We loaded up the cart with 8’ and 10’ lengths of 2” x 4” timber and made use of the free cutting facilities, this way could fit the pieces in our car, along with screws, hinges, wood glue, tape, rope, rolls of reed and roofing materials.
Using step stools and odd garden chairs to make up for a bench, we were able to cut additional pieces of wood to the right size as we need them. We were so pleased with ourselves when we stood the frame up and it actually looked like the beginning of a bar, we could almost taste the cocktails already. It felt rock solid too, which was particularly important knowing the extreme weather it will have to endure in the months and years to come.
Having moved the bar into position it was the exciting moment for us to put the bar top on. One thing we both knew we wanted was a nice piece of wood to make the shinning bar top, we chose pine. Now what we had to do was work out how to cut out pieces to fit the bar top around the upright posts without the right saw. I came up with the idea of using a large drill piece to make multiple holes and it worked, we slipped the bar top over the posts and it fit perfectly! Now Laurie was in her element as this meant LOTS of shellacking.
We were extremely fortunate that one of our neighbors had given us an abundance of bamboo which gave the tiki bar the perfect authentic finish. After wrapping the bar with a roll of reed we edged it with the thick bamboo, as well as looking great, it provided additional strength.
The hardest part of making the bar was the roof. We had shored two pieces of roofing board together, wrapped them with rolls of waterproof sheeting and reeds. While Laurie sweated over attaching more than 70 pieces of bamboo, I attached hinges to the other side of the roof. This was a big moment; the tiki bar roof was ready to attach. The plan was to secure the roof to the 2” x 4” x 8’ we had already screwed to the house, along the line of our house soffit. The idea was to hinge the bar roof so we could make it align perfectly, it was a great idea if only we could lift the damn thing!
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Laurie Takes The Roof To A Whole New Level
THE ROOF! Let’s just say, I was determined to get the f***ing thing up! After basking in the hot sun for the past 6 hours, my “garden” bra had been ripped off at this point and a large blister formed in the palm of my hand from screwing most of the day. No-one knows me better than Caroline, and by the look I must have had on my face, she knew we were not going to bed until the tiki bar had a roof. The things we thought of AFTER we decided to lift a roof over our heads, how the hell are we going to drill it in place with all hands occupied? Me and my bright ideas! I have had a few doozies over the years, but this was a brilliant plan (SO I THOUGHT) would help. I suggested to Caroline that she could use my shoulder bag, and drape it crossways, it would be ideal to hold the drill until needed. With the plan set in motion, we both climbed up the step stool on opposite ends and once again tried to lift the roof. STILL too heavy! At this point aggravation was winning. We were tired, thirsty and combating mosquitoes, as it was nearing 10pm. With me bearing most of the weight of the roof, Caroline was balancing the roof on her head, she decided to make a quick maneuver and pulled the drill our of the bag. I wish I had a camera, because at that very moment, she reminded me of “Where’s Waldo”, her glasses bridged lower on her nose, hair in a ponytail, and bag draped cross like a DIY superhero. I found this extremely hysterical and could not stop laughing. I explained my vision and we both started laughing. Somehow our laughter and determination gave us the strength and the roof was up!
With the roof finally on we stood back and admired our handiwork, it was looking fantastic, now all it needed was the finishing touches and some alcohol. While Laurie wrapped the upright posts with more reeds and rope, I painted a long plank of wood to bridge between gap between the house and bar roofs. One last thing we added was a hinged bar flap, it really completed the look of the bar and it gave Laurie the chance of more shellacking.
It took us a full week of work, going late into the night and getting bitten by mosquitoes and jumped on by over friendly tree frogs, to finish the tiki bar. Now to complete the Hula Lounge, Laurie’s favorite part, reorganizing the furniture for the perfect look, add colorful cushions, decorate behind the bar, add pretty lights and of course BOOZE.
With drinks finally in hand we felt very accomplished, it was hard work, but we enjoyed being so absorbed by it, and it made us realize we can be creative in an entirely different way than we had previously ever thought of. We also saved a heap of money doing it all ourselves, just two women with a Hawaiian dream and a ton determination.
Now it's time for Laurie to get her poi balls out and put on the much anticipated Hula Lounge Show of the night!
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