Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When it Rains it Pours

A few weeks back, I wrote about my unrealistic expectations when it comes to our finances and the fact that I am striving to let go of all of my unrealistic expectations. I wrote about finances, but it really applies to everything in our life: The RV, garden, our jobs, my new business venture, and repairs to our vehicles and home!
A few days after posting the blog, Todd received word that his usual 12 hour shift has been cut to 8 hours. This means an even larger cut in pay than what we have taken over the past year due to my hours being cut and Todd changing jobs. On top of that, we have learned that Todd will need surgery for his debilitating carpal tunnel in both of his hands which will result in a total of 6 weeks of recovery.
Do you ever feel that you are being led a certain direction in life whether you like it or not? I am being taught that I am not the one in control, and I am learning to TRUST in the one that does.

I have faith that we will get through the next several months and come out stronger than ever before: we always do. We are blessed to have the family and friends that we do and each other to lean upon in these times. I am prepared to welcome whatever God gives us and embrace the changes that are coming. If there is one thing I know for certain is that the only constant thing in life is change...whether I like it or not!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Stick With it Marriage Day

Friday, June 27th was “Stick With it Marriage Day.”  There were articles on MSN and Yahoo about famous couples (Tori & Dean) who chose to stick with their marriage after conflict.  It is ironic because Todd and I were having a horrible argument pretty much that entire week!  After seeing that Friday was Stick with it Marriage Day, I thought about how fitting it was.

People often say that they married their best friend.  Admittedly, I am a bit jealous when I hear this being stated because I did not marry my best friend.  Not at all.  If Todd and I were not married, I don’t feel I would associate with him.  I am not saying this because I am being mean or because we are in the middle of some rough times: I am saying it because it’s the truth.

Over the past several months I have learned of several people that I know through work and through friends or family that are getting divorced.  Their reason?  “I just don’t love him like that anymore.”  Are you kidding me?!?  That is not grounds for divorce in my opinion.

Todd and I are going through a really rough time right now.  I am COMMITTED to making this marriage work as I have for the past 7 ½ years.  It would be so easy to walk away (and I believe that there are grounds in our marriage for divorce), but I CHOOSE to stick it out.  Just like I CHOSE to marry this man: for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. 

I have been working hard on taming my biting tongue while in conflict and trying to be more subservient in our marriage.  This has pretty much gone unnoticed but I know deep down that I am being the best wife to Todd that I can by serving him...whether or not he notices.  It is difficult because I am so selfish and I will not say that I succeed in doing this all.the.time, but I try.  And really, what more can I do?

I am not looking for praise or approval, I just wanted people to see that not every marriage is a happy one, not all times are bliss.  What may be portrayed online with smiling photos of fun outings with the hubby is not how our marriage is 100% of the time.  Marriage is a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of pain.  But in the good times, it can be so rewarding as well: Even if he’s not my best friend.  I choose to stick with our marriage not just on Friday, but every day.

And just as a side note, I highly recommend reading this article about sticking it out even when marriage is difficult.   

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 Garden: June

This year, I decided to keep the garden simple.  I have been overwhelmed over the years with too many plants, too many weeds, and not enough motivation to spend time out in the garden giving it the care and attention it needs to thrive.  My goal this year was to spend less than $50 on the garden, and to attempt to grow my garden in pallets we had picked up for free.

I will tell you that so far, I am really enjoying the pallet garden.  We had to get four times the amount of soil we needed because the nursery did not have the type of soil we wanted - we had to make our own.  Instead of getting just a ½ cu ft of soil, we ended up having to get 2 cu ft!  The price for that alone was $31.03!  I ended up using much less soil than expected in the pallets so we decided to use the rest of the soil to fill in low spots in our yard.  Waste not – want not.

This is what the pallet garden looks like (after 3 straight days of rain and no time to mow the lawn!) 

The zucchini and summer squash were planted by seed and took off almost instantly after I planted them mid-May.  I have 4 pallets of zucchini and summer squash planted.

I also planted yard-long green beans and cucumbers.  They have taken off as well! (the are the ones closest to us in this picture.)

I have 1 ½ pallets full of cucumbers planted – I am going to have to add a pallet tee-pee for the cucumbers to start climbing soon.

 I gave a friend several packs of Roma tomato seeds last year that I wasn’t going to use and this spring, she gave me several seedlings!  Unfortunately, the cats decided to use the pallets as a litter box and killed many of the seedlings before they could get established, but I have at least 4 Roma tomato plants that are difficult to see in this picture but believe me, they are there.

If I were to do the pallet garden again, I would put all the pallets together.  I did not space them to give enough room for the lawn mower to go through, so every month I have to take hedge clippers and cut in between the pallets when the weeds get too tall!  Also, if I decide to do a pallet garden again next year, I will be putting cardboard or weedblock under the pallets.  I still get weeds though they nothing compared to our garden last year.

Total cost of the vegetable garden in 2014: $38.88.  
This includes the price of soil and the cost of the seeds.

Now onto the fruits around our property.

I have no idea how to take care of concord grape vines, but I trimmed them back pretty far this spring.  Other people leave their vines as they are and new growth comes in each year.  I can see where the grapes will start to produce on the vines, and the vines have taken off like crazy since mid-May!  I joke with Todd that I can sit on the front porch and watch them grow.  I am hoping to propagate several of the vines to take over to the house next door to get established before we hit the road full time in the RV.  Plus, I don’t believe you can ever have too many concord grapes– they are probably my favorite fruit!

For the first time since we purchased the pear trees (5 years ago, I think it’s been), we finally have pears growing!  There are 5 of them!  I am beyond thrilled about this!


We purchased a blackberry plant last year at a flea market and it has just taken off!  We have a lot of these beautiful white flowers and I look forward to those plump, juicy sweet berries in the next few months!

I neglect our red raspberries every single year, but without fail, they always produce for me.  I didn’t even trim the red raspberry plants from last year and they are taking off!  It looks like we will have a bumper crop this year from the canes I transplanted two years ago. 

These are our cherry trees – we bought one along with the blackberry bush last year and we’ve had the other in the ground for a couple of years now.  It does not appear we will be getting cherries this year, but hopefully next year!  These are rainier cherries which are yellow and red in color and so sweet! 

There you have it.
This is what our vegetation looks like so far this year, and we’re just getting started!  It amazes me how things grow from seed and how quickly!

How is your garden doing this year?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Unrealistic Expectations

I have said it before, and I will say it again: I am a dreamer.  I dream big.  The only problem is that what I dream and what actually happens are two different things.  

Take, for example, our budget.
I like numbers.  I like planning.  I have always taken on the budget in our marriage.  By doing this, I have taken on quite a bit of stress because I am married to a spender. 

We bought an RV, and though I do not regret the purchase, I hate that we have a loan on it.  I had all of these great plans on how to pay it off and pretty much live like paupers until October to do it.  Well guess what?  It’s not working.  Again, because I am married to a spender.

Now, when I say that Todd is a spender, please realize that I’m not talking big ticket items.  He buys things that we need around the house and a couple of frivolous items once in a while (or what I think are frivolous such as an extra set of pots and pans for the RV when I was OK with trekking the pots and pans for the house back and forth).  I call him the spender because he spends more than I do.  If it were up to me, I would not buy anything but gasoline, groceries and dog food!  I am good with “making it do.”    

After a week of stressing out about finances, having a car break down, a garage door spring pop, and a couple of medical bills to be paid, I threw my hands up and said I was done with scrutinizing each penny that comes into our home.  I am done worry and stressing about how we are going to pay off the RV by October.  It will not be the end of the world if we don’t get the RV paid off until December!! My marriage may actually benefit from putting off the payoff date by a couple of months!  We have had over a $12,000/year decrease in our income this year – I cannot have the mindset that we can still put away the SAME AMOUNT as we had in previous years based on our previous income.

I have decided that it is time to loosen up a bit when it comes to the finances.  As long as we are accelerating our RV payments, squirreling money away into savings and not “pissing away” (for lack of a better phrase) our incomes, I am content with lightening up about our finances!  We have worked hard for years to pay off our debt and pay down half of our mortgage: it is time to enjoy ourselves (within reason)!

Are you hard on yourself when it comes to finances?
Do you have unrealistic expectations as I do?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mission Accomplished

When we first purchased my cute little Bianca back in August of 2006, I made the statement that I wanted to keep her until she hit 200,000 miles.  At that time, I thought the goal was unachievable seeing as my last new car had hit 85,000 miles and was nearly falling apart! A few short years later, she hit 100,000 miles with very little maintenance required.  I then decided I wanted to see her hit 250,000 miles.  Closer to 175,000 miles, I decided she would probably last until 500,000 miles!

Front of Bianca
2007 Toyota Yaris 3D Hatchback

Back end of the cutest car ever...
As of May 28, 2014, this adorable little car hit 200,000 miles.  I have never owned a car with more than 145,000 miles on it.  She has been SO reliable and has needed next to NO maintenance.  Heck, she is still on her original clutch which is unheard of for a standard vehicle!  She survived a suicidal deer almost 2 years ago with minimal damage (considering how big the buck was!) and consistently gives me 42-45mpg!  I wish I didnt drive as much as I do, but I am glad I have the car that I've got.

Dont mind the dust... :-)  
Woot! Woot!
How many people can say they watched their car hit 200,000 miles?!?
When we hit the road full-time RVing, we would like to get a 4 door sedan so that the puppies can easily get in and out of it.  My thought is that if Bianca is still going strong at that point, we should keep her for as long as she is a reliable source of transportation!  And c' have to admit, she is so darn cute!!

Here's to another 200,000+ miles, Bianca!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Our First Experience Boondocking

For our 7th Anniversary, Todd and I decided to lay low and take our first camping trip in the RV without water or electric hookups.  We found a place southwest of where we live that was FREE and was supposed to be gorgeous.

We were supposed to leave Thursday, May 1st after Todd got off of work - but we were not even close to being ready to leave.  So we pushed it back to Friday.  After a rough start to Friday and pure exhaustion, we decided to push the trip off until Saturday.  I wasnt happy about it, but it was the best thing for both of us as we werent rushed to get everything into the RV and to get on the road.  We didnt know how the RV would drive towing a vehicle, so I took the puppies and we drove in another vehicle behind the RV the whole way.  I'm glad we did!

Not a mile down the road, I noticed one of the compartments of the RV flapping in the wind.  I honked my horn and motioned for Todd to pull over.  He secured the compartment.  Phew.  We stopped to get gas and to stretch our legs about an hour and a half into our drive.  We got into our vehicles and I noticed another compartment door was open!  So, there I go beeping my horn and motioning to Todd.  We got it secured.  After some very large hills, twists and turns, we finally made it to the first campsite we felt safe parking the RV.  It was out in the open, and it was easy to set up camp for the evening.

Home Sweet Home (for a few days) 
Kids at the next campsite loved playing with Lana and Buddy.
I love this action shot.

Just so you can see how much fridge and freezer space we've
 got in the RV - it's quite a bit!

The pups insisted on following Todd to the bathroom.
After a loud night on Saturday with the campers next to us, we decided to go looking for another campsite to stay at for the remainder of our stay.  On Sunday, we took our toad (a vehicle you tow with your RV) and drove all around the campgrounds until we found a beautiful site that would be easy to pull into.  The gentleman on the site was packing up and getting ready to head out.  He had stayed for 2 1/2 weeks.  Todd and I learned quite a bit from this gentleman.  For the past 3 weeks, it was mushroom season here in Ohio!  Many of the campers have been set up hunting for morel mushrooms which sell for up to $50/lb!  We were wondering why everyone seemed to be talking about mushrooms since we arrived!  We asked the gentleman how you know where to find them and he said to look for the sycamores.  Todd and I looked at each other and asked, "What do sycamore trees look like?"  The gentleman pointed out into the distance across the lake we were overlooking and said, "The white trees!"  We learned two new things on Sunday!!

After helping the gentleman pack his stuff up to hit the road (he was elderly and had a hard time walking), we brought over the RV to park it on our home for the next several days.  The pups just LOVED having access to water all.the.time!

The new spot we chose to camp at for several evenings.

Puppies loved having access to the lake whenever they pleased.

We decided to go into town and we could see our RV spot!
Do you see the RV in between the trees?

Adorable gingerbread house for sale in McConnellsville, OH

I cant help put enjoy these old painted barns in the country!

We stopped at the Miner's Memorial: this is big Muskie - it was used to dig
coal out of the lands we are staying on.  It was enormous!

Miner's Memorial 
Todd and I decided to go try to find some morels of our own!
(with no luck whatsoever)

Resting back at the campsite.
Monday was cold and rainy.  My mom came to visit and we wanted to do some things in town only to find out the historical sites were only open on Saturdays between 10-2!  So, we drove around and enjoyed the scenery, and then came back to the campsite to enjoy lunch before mom headed home.   Later that evening, things started to get a little weird with the RV. The generator wouldnt start no matter how hard Todd tried. Our batteries were dead all of a sudden for no apparent reason.  We had a decent charge throughout our entire stay without having to run the generator.  Then, we lost all power in the RV and the generator refused to start.  Todd stayed up most of the night reading a repair manual by flashlight trying to fix the battery issue so we could have some heat (I know, we really were "roughing it" on this trip, werent we?) and for anything to work in the camper.  He finally got it fixed at who knows what time and then the carbon monoxide detector kept going off.  Talk about scary.  Todd swears it was because the batteries were so low.  So...first thing Tuesday morning, Todd got the generator up and running somehow and we did this while the batteries charged:
Todd eating breakfast while watching The Hobbit on DVD while the generator was running.

Todd mentioned wanting to go home a day early because he wanted to get the lawn mowed (which means he had to fix the lawnmower that has been out of commission for nearly 6 months!).  I agreed, and we decided to try to make the most of Tuesday after the batteries were back up and running!

We hiked a part of the Buckeye Trail.

As the puppies enjoyed running through the creeks!

When we got back to the site, the puppies dashed out to the lake for another dip in the water!
While they were there, Todd was fixing a vent fan that broke while we were camping.
The guy never gets to have a vacation! :-)

Two wet, happy pups!

I feel like I did dishes the entire trip, but when you can only fit 2 plates and 2 bowls in the dryer,
it takes a few loads to get each meal's dishes washed!
We had a great time relaxing outside watching the pups enjoy the water and had a huge bonfire for our last night camping.

By Wednesday, we realized that we slept great while camping!  We both went to bed around 10 each night and woke up around 8 each morning.  Todd NEVER sleeps in until 8!  I made breakfast while Todd started to tear down the site.  We both got our showers (again, it's such a rough life camping) and got ready to leave.  Going home was a lot less stressful, but after we stopped to fill up again (because gas was super-cheap), we left another compartment open in the RV and had to stop to close it!  You would have thunk that we'd learn our lesson the first two times...

Buddy was pretty pooped on the drive back home!
I think he needs a vacation from his vacation!
(Me too!)

We made it home safely and were talking over lunch about if we can see ourselves doing this full time.
We both agreed that we had our doubts at times on this trip, but we both agreed that we can do this and we still WANT to do this.  The RV needs some things done to it to make it handle better on the road (brakes, possibly shocks, etc.), extra batteries added to the generator and we would like to replace the carpet with waterproof flooring, but we could so live in the RV.  We both had a great time.  As Todd mentioned, this trip was more of an adventure and learning experience than any other trip we have gone on.

I know this is long winded, but that was our 5 day trip dry camping for the first time.  We are looking for places to stay in the next couple of weeks to try it again, but hopefully in Pennsylvania this time!