Thursday, December 18, 2014

Maxi vs Mini

Over the past month, there have been huge changes in my life. One of the biggest changes is the fact that I am now single.
I wish I could attach photos, but the monitor on my laptop was broken by an irate husband and until I can get it fixed or find a work around to upload my pictures, my posts will be without photos.

Previous House:
1890 sq. ft. with 1 acre of land
Current Home:
Approx. 500 sq. ft. with a stamp-sized yard

I was always overwhelmed with the large house. It was never clean. It was never tidy. It was too much for two people to keep up with. It drove my bonkers.

Todd and I had discussed moving into our 33 ft. RV and I looked forward for the day that we were to downsize! I was done with the “stuff” in our lives! We have also looked into tiny homes for after our RV adventures took place. Though these dreams will not come to fruition for the two of us, I have been implementing them for myself!

I am currently living in a 50’ trailer with the two dogs (Lana is 76 lbs and Buddy is 98 lbs!), and though I don’t know the exact size, I estimate that it is approximately 500 sq. ft. Let me tell you, this is the perfect size for me and the dogs. Actually, if it wasn’t for my jewelry business, I could probably have done without the second bedroom.

When I moved, my mom kept asking, “Do you want to take this?” and “Do you need that?” My answer was always, “There isn’t enough room, mom.” We were able to fit all of my belongings in a 10 ft. U-Haul tow-behind trailer. To be honest, I was worried if it would all fit into my new place, but it did! The ONLY items that did not fit were two of my dining room table chairs (my dad is storing them for me because I do not have space anywhere for them in the house!). Everyone who has come to see my house immediately says, “This is cozy!” And that is exactly what it is for me too.

At the big house, we had duplicates and sometimes triplicates of things like sets of dishes, dining room furniture, living room furniture, etc. I love having just ONE of everything. I have 6 plates, saucers, bowls and cups and even that seems excessive. It’s just me! I like the fact that when company comes over, it takes me less than an hour to clean up.

Though there are some comforts that I would prefer to have in a home (a little bit of land, quietness of the country and a garage!) but I really do like this trailer. I find that because I cant just let the dogs out to roam the neighborhood (darn leash laws,) I am getting out more than I ever have before. I walk the dogs at LEAST 5 times a day with 3 of those walks being “around the block” so they can get their exercise and let their sniffers do some exploring. If it weren't for the dogs, I would probably never leave the house and meet some of the people from the neighborhood. Since moving, I have lost 10 lbs without changing my eating habits! Hmmm…maybe there is something to be said about daily exercise.

I also love the fact that I am close to everything. I work just 6 miles away from where I live which enables me to come home during lunch to let the dogs out to go potty, get a walk in, eat a quick lunch, and get back to work with time to spare! I may never hit 250,000 miles on Bianca, but the daily commute went from 2 hours a day – 90 miles total, to just 40 minutes a day – 25 miles total.

I am really enjoying my downsized (mini) life.
Life is good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Two Sides to Every Story

It has been a while since I’ve posted on this site. Life has thrown more challenges this year than I’ve ever experienced, but I am here to tell you that I am confident that everything has happened for a reason and in my best interest. This post is to set a few things straight about what has been going on in my life, my marriage, and is my side of the story. Please keep in mind there are always (at least) two sides to every story.

First things first, Todd and I have separated after 7 ½ years of marriage (nearly 9 years of being together). I have written posts every year on our anniversary about how we made it yet another year. Most years it was surprising even to me that we made it, but I was not about to give up and would try whatever I could to make things work between us. There were many issues within our marriage, some easier to move past, others not so much.

There was a post I wanted to publish on the blog for years but never got the nerve to click “publish.” The post was about my struggle living with an alcoholic to let women who also deal with this issue that they are not alone and that I am here if they want to talk about it. I have learned over the years that alcoholism in a marriage is never really discussed: it is an up and down roller-coaster that many women deal with internally (as I had) until it gets to be too much to handle on their own. I learned of many women that I knew (for years!) that struggle(d) with the same issues but never ever mentioned anything about it until I opened up about my struggles with the disease. There is nothing I could have done to help Todd’s alcoholism. Until the addict realizes they have a problem (or hit rock bottom), things would never change.

Todd has complained about pain through our entire relationship. He took dozens of pills each and every day for all of his ailments: caffeine pills to wake up, pain pills for his hands, stomach pills for his acid reflux, magnesium pills to help who knows what, pills for his depression, more pills for the pain, allergy pills, sleeping pills and alcohol because after all the pills, that was the only thing that “truly helped with the pain.” I never agreed with all of the pills and I became extremely unsympathetic when it came to all of his (supposed) ailments. To me, I felt like he was the boy who cried wolf.

I felt in our marriage that Todd always played the victim role and was never able to get past any grudges he had against others. Nothing was ever because of his choices but because of who did what to him. Though he was very close to his mother and father, he had no real relationships with any of the rest of his family (including 4 half-sisters and many nieces and nephews.) To this day, Todd is taking no responsibility to the demise of our marriage.

In no way am I stating that I was the perfect wife in this marriage and that I had nothing to do with the destruction of our marriage. There was a statement I made during counseling many years back that I wish I could take back and I know Todd never forgave me for because it was still being thrown back in my face with each disagreement we had up until the very end. In conflict, I tend to shut down and am unable to talk things through until I calm down. I have a hard time admitting fault in a disagreement but I have no problem apologizing and making amends in the end. But if nothing else, I tried to make this marriage work for many many years.

In the end, it was Todd’s decision to separate. There were many things that were texted to me while at work on a Friday: some of which would have been very difficult to forgive. I took the dogs and went to my parent’s houses that weekend until Todd calmed down. I decided to start looking for places to stay. Three days later, something really stupid set Todd off and there was rage, flying objects being thrown across the room, more verbal abuse, screaming at the top of his lungs, destruction around the house, blame that I made him do all of these things and at the very end, him stating in a round about way that he wished I were no longer alive. That was my sign from God that there was no turning this marriage around. Luckily, that morning, I had looked at a place very close to work and had a deposit down until I decided what I wanted to do. I called the very next day asking how quickly I could sign on the place and move in. Two days later, my brother and my mom came with a 10 ft. U-Haul trailer to pack my things and help me move. And when I say “help me move,” I really mean they did the moving because I was useless. I was mentally, emotionally and physically drained.

Today, nearly a month after all of this took place, I can look back and see how extremely toxic our marriage was to one another from the very beginning. The first week in my new place was extremely difficult not only emotionally, but it seemed like something happened every single day.  By the second week, things started to turn around for the better.

Frankly, I am glad that Todd made the decision to end our marriage. If it wasn’t for his decision, I probably would have tried to work things out yet again for the umpteenth time. In the past, when I wanted to leave, I always wondered if there was anything else I could have done to make things better for us. Now, I know there was nothing more I could have done to save our marriage. It takes two people working together to make a marriage through the good, bad and ugly. That being said, there are more (big) changes ahead for me whether I am ready for them or not.

And I repeat, please keep in mind that this is just my side of the story. I am sure Todd would paint a very different picture of our issues.

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!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Lucky Number 7

It is hard to believe that as of tomorrow, Todd and I will have been married 7 years.  I wish I knew where the photos from our wedding day are (we got a disc only – no prints), but I don’t.  It is very possible that I may have thrown the disc away. Oops.

They say the first year of marriage is the hardest.  This was not the case in our marriage.  The first 6 ½ years were difficult!  There has been yelling, tears, anger, frustration, and nights slept in separate bedrooms.  There were (many many) meetings with a counselor, slammed doors, denial, blame games, flying objects, appointments to view other living arrangements, threats and ultimatums.  Our marriage has not been a picture perfect marriage by a long shot. 

But we stuck it out.  It has not been ALL bad.  There were really great times thrown into those bad times.  I think it took us 6 ½ years to figure out each other’s (odd) personality traits.  We have learned that when we start to lead separate lives (he does his thing, I do my thing – only coming together to kiss each other good night and fall asleep), explosions in our marriage start to take place.  When we spend time doing things such as taking a walk with the dogs, watching a movie together, doing yard-work and planning for the future – things are a lot smoother in our marriage. 

We have the dream of full time RVing in the next year and a half, but I will admit, I am afraid that Todd will drive me absolutely bonkers!  We both have a tendency to be goofy at times.  Sometimes he is the corn-ball, and sometimes, I am beyond punny (funny puns)!  But we are committed to making this work.  Sometimes I don’t want to work any more on our marriage, but we do it anyways.  We forgive even though we don’t necessarily forget.   We have had too many good times to throw it all away over the bad ones.

As is tradition, we are going away for our anniversary this year.  This year will be our first camping trip in the RV – boondocking!  We are trying to determine if we are really cut out for a life on the road without electricity and running water.  It can barely be called “roughing it” because the RV is just gorgeous on the inside with a kitchen, bathroom, lights and two television sets!  Heck, it’s nicer than our home!

In years past, we have done the following for our anniversary trips:

Honeymoon: Alaskan Cruise (in-credible!) & Seattle, WA
1st Anniversary: GatlinburgTN
2nd Anniversary: Lancaster, PA 
3rd Anniversary:  WashingtonDC  and Chesapeake BeachMD
4th Anniversary: BeverlyWV 
5th Anniversary: Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon
6th Anniversary: Columbus, OH

I have fond memories of each of these trips as I'm sure I will have fond memories of this one.  As a counselor once told us: "Plan for tomorrow, you havent screwed that up yet!"  I love this quote, because that is all we can do.  No matter what today may  bring - we always have tomorrow to look forward to.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The WHY behind Our Decision to Sell it All and Hit the Road

I have been talking for months about a huge lifestyle change Todd and I are planning to adopt by selling all of our possessions (including our home),purchasing a Class A and traveling all over the United States.  Since coming out with our future goals, we have been met with several different reactions (and many questions!). 

I decided to write a post about why we decided on this lifestyle change and what keeps us motivated to continue to work toward our goal.

I would say the number one reason for this change is freedom.   We are tired of being tied down to the house and the maintenance it requires as well as keeping jobs we don’t necessarily enjoy to help pay for said home and upkeep.  We want the freedom to do as we please, where, when and how we please.

We have really been focusing on trying to simplify our life as much as possible and a move into an RV would be the epitome of simplicity.  You cannot fit much into a 330 sq. ft. space and are forced to live with only what is truly needed.  The amount of stuff that we’ve accumulated over the years has taken a toll on us physically and mentally.  Having the realization that within a few years, we will be living in an RV has really helped us to consume less.  When I go out shopping with my mom (she is a browser), I find items that I like and would tend to buy.  Now, I know that what we are taking in the RV will be minimal, and there is no room (or purpose) for such tchatzkies.  We have definitely been more mindful of our purchases to ensure that the item will fit into our lifestyle.  We are looking at quality and usability over quantity for the items we are purchasing.

Todd and I enjoy adventure.  We like to see new places, experience new things, and what could be more adventurous than traveling the United States and Canada.  We honeymooned in Alaska back in 2007 and we look forward to driving across Canada to stay in Alaska for a couple of months before coming back to the contiguous US!  We have a long list of places we would like to visit, and by making this commitment, we are hoping to witness all of these landmarks before we get too old to truly enjoy them! 

Even though I am always trying to stretch a penny, this is not the main reason we decided to live in an RV.  Moving from a 1,890 sq. ft. home to living in a 330 sq. ft. camper will require far fewer resources and therefore {theoretically} cost less than owning a home.  I have always had a dream of living a self-sufficient life and though this is not 100% possible in an RV (can you say gas guzzler?), it is one step closer to being self-sufficient.  We have plans on installing a 250W solar panel on the RV and supporting local farmers with fresh {in season} produce while on the road.  The goal is to sell our primary residence and make a “home base” for a few months every summer on the ½ acre property we own next door.  This will allow us to grow and preserve our own vegetables and to harvest all the fruits we have been attempting to establish since moving into the house 7 years ago!

I am sure there will be many challenging times between now and when we hit the road (as well as when we are on the road!)  Todd and I have never spent more than a week and a half underfoot, in tight living quarters and with two 75+ lb dogs in tow!  Even though we have been met with some doubts, we are still as excited about our adventure today as we were over six months ago when we originally talked about the possibility of selling it all and moving into an RV.  If all else fails, we will have a paid for home and RV and we can continue doing what we’ve been doing.

What are your thoughts on this adventure? 
Do you think we will actually go through with it?

Have you ever considered living in an RV?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shameless Plug

Late last month, I decided to become an Independent Consultant for a company called Paparazzi Accessories.  I found them by mistake online, and when I learned more about the company, I was extremely excited to jump on board with them!

Paparazzi Accessories is a jewelry and accessories company that was started in 2008 by two sisters who loved jewelry and sold it at parties.  In 2011, they decided to take on consultants, and that is where I am today.  Paparazzi Accessories are fun, fashionable and most importantly of all...AFFORDABLE!  All jewelry is $5/each for necklace/earring sets, earrings, bracelets and headbands.  They offer a children's line called Starlet Shimmer and those pieces sell for $1.00/each!

I decided to join the Paparazzi Accessories team because I thought this would be a great opportunity for something to do while we are on the road, not to mention to help make up for the recent decrease in my income.  I like jewelry but I rarely ever buy myself anything because I am infamous for losing it!

When I received my starter kit from Paparazzi that included 100 pieces of jewelry, I was amazed at the quality of the product.  Paparazzi is able to sell their product at $5/piece because there is no overhead!  Similar pieces sell at Kohl's for quadruple what Paparazzi charges.  I will admit, some of the jewelry is a bit big and blingy for me, but it looks great on others.

I am writing this post to inform those of you who have never heard about Paparazzi Accessories about the product, and if you are interested, please feel free to contact me about the inventory that I have available!  Right now, I have over 200 pieces of jewelry and over 50 pieces of children's accessories in stock.

If you are interested in keeping up with the new product I have available, please feel free to "like" my FaceBook page, All Occasions Jewelry.  To view photos of the jewelry that came in my starter kit, please click on my photo albums.

Also, this Saturday, April 5th at 7:00PM EST, I am hosting my first FaceBook Party!  To join the party, please click here and select "join."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Downside of Debt

In January, we took a loan out for the RV we purchased.  I justified the purchase at the time (we always do when we really want something, don’t we?) but when the first payment of over $1,000 was due in February, I was reminded of how much I hate debt

The day we signed the loan papers on the RV was the day that my husband was let go from his job of over 8 years and therefore we went without a paycheck for nearly 3 weeks until he was on payroll with his new position.  The very next week after his first paycheck I was informed that my hours (and therefore pay) would be cut by25%!  

It has been over a month, and we are still juggling our income and expenses to get on some sort of regularity, but the budget has really been kattywampus.  Part of the reason is that extra $1000 payment that is being sent out each and every month on top of a decrease in income.

I mentioned in the post about our RV that we will be paying off the house by October.  I have changed my mind about that.  I want the RV to be paid off – AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! I do not like the uncertainty that this $1000+ payment brings to our lives.     

To me, debt feels like I am trapped, suffocating and out of control with uncertainty peaking its head around every corner.  Debt has made our 6 month emergency fund a 3 month emergency fund and this is unsettling.

My new goal for this year is to have the RV paid off by October and I never want to be in debt every again (except for a (very small) mortgage if we choose to settle down in one spot again in the future).  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Bartlett Soap Company

This time last year, I decided to try to take on a “No ‘Poo” challenge.  After a couple of months shampooing my hair with the baking soda and water paste solely, I decided to go back to using shampoo.  Late last year, I started using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (Lavender Hemp) and though I enjoyed the scent, it left my hair feeling greasy even though my hair was styling just fine. I thought maybe it was because of our well water.  I decided to stick it out because after all, I had a lot more to use until the bottle was empty!  I was perfectly content in keeping up with using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap until afriend of mine told me about a local woman who makes her own soap, lotion and shampoo. 

I looked at the Bartlett Soap Company’s website and loved the scents listed.  At the time, we were trying to save some money so I didn’t place the order right away.  It wasn’t until several weeks later that I emailed Jennifer to ask her some questions and placed my first order.

Jennifer, the owner of Bartlett Soap Company, is the nicest person you will ever meet: helpful, accommodating and an inspiration.  Jennifer started Bartlett Soap Company in her home October 2013 and was so successful she opened up a storefront in January because she spent most of her days delivering soaps locally!  As soon as I received my order, I found out exactly why her soaps, lotions and shampoo bars were doing so well in Tennessee.  The product is amazing!

About the product:
 Each bar is organically made using plant based oils like coconut, palm, avocado, olive, caster and shea giving the bars the rich soothing and cleansing properties needed to give your skin the pleasurable experience of fluffy lather, moisturizing, and the smoothing qualities that it deserves.

As soon as I opened the mailbox, the scent of the soaps came pummeling out.  It smelled soooo goooood!  I am sure the mail lady loved delivering this package! I used the shampoo bar a few days later and was pleasantly surprised at how clean my hair felt after just one use!  The greasy feeling from Dr. Bronner’s Soap was gone instantly and the light scent the soap left on my hair was very pleasant to get a whiff of throughout the day.  My hair styled no different than ever.  I was impressed from the very first time I used the shampoo!

My first order with Bartlett Soap Company
(Left to Right) Lotion Stick, Mens All-In-One and 3 Shampoo Bars
The sliver on top is the shampoo bar I have been using since the beginning of January!
They last a long time!!

The soap is the same way.  I purchased the men’s all-in-one soap to use as shampoo, soap and shaving…for myself!  I like masculine scents and this all-in-one definitely has a pleasant aroma.  The lotion stick is really thick and lasts a long time!  I use it as chapstick as well as on a dry patch I get behind my knees in the winter and it works wonderfully.

Now to the fun part: the giveaway!
I am so impressed with Jennifer and her product that I wanted to let everyone know about my new favorite soap and shampoo as well as give away one of her shampoo bars to one lucky follower.

Please note that her shampoo bars sell FAST!  I have been waiting for several weeks for more to be available, and they are available this very moment - but only 5 are left!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner to be chosen March 23rd at 12:00AM EST and announced on FB and Twitter shortly thereafter.

Good luck!!

DISCLAIMER:  I was in no way compensated for this review or giveaway.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Planning the 2014 Garden

Each year I say I’m done with gardening but when spring rolls around, I am ready to start planning for the year’s garden.  In years past, I have gone crazy with the amount I have tried to grow and it lead to me feeling overwhelmed and eventually I give upand let the weeds take over.  This year, we are keeping it simple!

Todd despises spring because he knows I will have requests for the upcoming garden.  He stated that the best part of last year’s garden was when he got to mow it down!  So while having dinner in early February, I sprung it on him that I wanted to try pallet gardening.  He immediately rolled his eyes and sighed.  “But wait,” I told him.  “Hear me out!  I only want to grow 4 vegetables this year.”  That got his attention.  After thinking about it for a couple of minutes and my promising that he wont have to do too much work to prepare for the garden this year, he was on board.

So, what does pallet gardening look like?
You can go to one of my favorite blogs, One Hundred Dollars A Month and take a look for yourself.  Mavis is an awesome gardener!

PHOTO CREDIT: One Hundred Dollars A Month
Please check out this website to learn exactly how to pallet garden!

What we are planting this year:

We are planting only 4 varieties of vegetables this year.
  1. Squash (zucchini and yellow squash) by seed
  2. Yard Long Green Beans by seed
  3. Cucumbers by seed
  4. Tomatoes by seedling

Supplies Needed:

  • Pallets
  • Compost/Soil
  • Seeds/Seedlings
  • Trellis

The only expenses we will have this year for the garden will be a half cubic yard of  soil (approximately 1,000 lbs) and the seeds/seedlings.  I expect to pay no more than $50 for the garden this year.  We have pallets that we got for free last year from Todd's place of employment.  We have also been composting, so we have some great compost to add to the soil we will purchase.  For our climbing vegetables (green beans and cukes), we will be using pallets!


Please note: the pallet garden is great for vegetables with shallow root systems.  For tomatoes, we will be stacking 3 or 4 pallets on top of one another to create a taller raised bed for their root system.

One great thing about the four items we are growing this year is that these vegetables (yes, I know tomatoes are not considered a vegetable!) are prolific.  I have a hard time sticking with something that I cannot see results quickly.  With this produce, we will start to see results fast and a lot of them!  The first garden Todd and I ever had was a raised garden and it was the best garden we have ever had.  I am hoping that we can duplicate those results this year with the pallet garden while keeping the weeds away!

Plans for the Established Fruit
We have several fruit trees, bushes and grape vines.  My goal this year is to begin transplanting the fruit to the house next door so that when we are at our home base in the RV, we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.  This will include transplanting blueberry bushes (right now, they are just twigs!), red raspberries, blackberries, and cultivating concord grape vines from clippings off our established vines.

This year, I really want to focus on providing our fruits and vegetables with the nutrients they need to grow well and provide us with an abundance of produce!

What are your plans for the garden this year?
What vegetables are you going to grow?
Are there any fruits you will add to your garden?