Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Little Stint In Livin' Large

Avoiding one another at the big house...
This past week, Dan and I did some house-sitting for his parents while they enjoyed a vacation on the West coast.

Lucky ducks! They picked quite a great week to get the heck outta here! We got more snow dumped on us and some of the coldest temps and strongest wind chills I've seen since living in RI. While we were happy to help and allow Dan's rents to go off on vacation worry free, I was surprised at how much I would rather have been home!

It's hard to explain- I just felt kind of drained staying in such a large space. I'm big about energy; each of us and every space we inhabit carries energy. I almost felt like my energy was diluted by the space. There were rooms we never visited, except to clean. It might sound silly to some, but I think others living in tiny houses would understand. There's a certain loveliness about being in a space that is efficient, multi-functional, and specifically suited to my interests and needs. I truly have embraced this way of living, and after this week at a large traditional house, I wonder how I will adjust when we inevitably move on to a larger (not by much!) traditional space. 

Despite the unlimited electricity and internet, the running water and fully equipped bathrooms, the appliances like the microwave and dishwasher...none of it swayed me. I still, unequivocally prefer The Pod. No doubt, other challenges of the week helped this along. Due to our current pickle with our propane tank, we are still rotating 20 pounders that last typically 3 days. WELL- with this ridiculous weather- the cold and the wind- those tanks went a lot faster, resulting in me having to visit our house nearly every other day while managing a larger house too. Twice that week, I returned to the Pod to find that the tank had run dry and house was quickly approaching outdoor temps. One day it was 32, the next time it was 36. I was not a happy camper. Half of my plants died, and thanks to the winds, the small, yet long, path leading up to our house was nearly non-existent. 

Wading through snow up to your hips in the whipping wind, only to find your house is barely warmer than the outdoors can be quite trying. Those who know me, know how much I love my plants, so that was particularly upsetting. On top of this juggling act, we adopted a second bunny named Walter the week before. We got him from this great little rabbit rescue place called Sweet Binks. But the bonding process met a few hitches.

One of Deek's tiny structures at the RI Flower and Garden Show
Bonding bunnies can be a tricky task, and it's not always a quick or consistent process either. Hauling our basic clothing/bathing/food needs over to the big house for the week was cumbersome enough, then add on the crates, the food, the litter boxes, etc for two rabbits. Sheesh! Had me feeling like we need to downsize our crap yet again! The switch in environments also caused some havoc for the bunnies. The progress they made towards being friends seemed to back track in the new unknown environment. We had some scuffles and I worried for a moment that maybe this bonding wouldn't work. 

Annnnd one more thing to add on to the week of challenges- I arrived at the difficult, yet exhilarating decision to leave my current job. It is a very demanding travel job, that was quite a ways from where I live. I've come to face the fact that this job was not going to take me in the direction I ultimately want my life to go. It doesn't align with my passions, nor leaves me much time or energy to pursue my passions. Thanks to the tiny house and the financial changes we have made in day to day habits, I have the breathing room to make a decision towards improving my chances at career happiness. Although I don't have any particular leads as of yet, I find myself excited and rejuvenated in ways I didn't think possible, simply by choosing to leave behind something that did not make me happy. I know I want to eventually end up owning my own business, but I'm realistic and know it will start as a part time venture.
Best buds back at home... :)

Another of Deek's "relax shacks"

So, all in all, it's been quite a week! But it concluded in the best way possible! We returned home, settled back in, and it was like the bunnies flipped a switch and are back to being calm snuggle buddies once again. PHEW. Then we decided to head on over to the RI Flower and Garden Show, and as luck would have it, we showed up just early enough to catch Deek's presentation. Meeting Deek (of Relax Shacks) was awesome, and I am so pumped to make one more connection in the tiny house world. He even asked if we would like to come hang out at his next workshop in May! Conveniently, it's just 15 minutes from where we live. What! We might even speak a little about our experience as full on off-grid tiny house dwellers. AWESOMENESS

It's Deek! EEE!

I also checked my email to find a sneak peak at the Rhode Island Monthly Magazine feature of us and the photos are so great. I cannot wait to officially share with you all! WEE!

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Green house out of recycled soda bottles! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Keepin' It Tight - Even In A Tight Space

Our tiny house gym can fit most anywhere.
Everyone, meet our tiny house gym.

Staying fit and active has always been a big part of each of our lives, and moving into a small space certainly wasn't going to make that change. I once had an excess of exercise equipment, and honestly, I think I had so much because I had a "spare" room. Don't we all imagine it will be a home gym one day? HAAA. "Part time use and full time debris" is a phrase that comes to mind. I think I tripped over the stuff more often than I used it. The equipment included a full size exercise ball, several free weight sets, resistance bands, stepping blocks, stationary bike conversion kit, ab cruncher, etc. I got rid of a good chunk of it as a "set" on Craigslist. I was several items lighter and $20 richer, and this cute, little petite lady- who spoke barely a word of English- looked so happy she could die. :)

I digress. After working a traveling job for several years, and researching all things portable and compact, I've come up with a very effective trio of tools that take up minimal space. I actually got two of the three items for Dan for Christmas. It's pretty remarkable the results we have seen since then. 

Our Tiny House Gym

4. Outdoor Cardio! -Running, biking, roller blading, hiking, snow-shoeing, SHOVELING

This combination of tools, plus basic floor exercises, like lunges and push ups, allows us to hit pretty much every major group of muscles- AND- with functional movements which are several times more effective than the typical isolated movements seen with machines. Through working at a physical therapy office, I learned that any movement with an added layer of instability, became incredibly difficult and effective. Results were also swift and unparalleled. Ever since, I have searched for tools that add the element of instability.  I really hope to get a Bosu ball at some point, but I have more downsizing to do if that's the case! 

Dan and I typically do a floor routine 3 times per week. Dan has his own regimen of various push up positions using the Push X Pros that activate all areas of his arms, chest, and back. I do some push ups, planks, and windmills with them, but my strength isn't quite there yet. We both do a few sets of ab rolls, lunges, squats, and various resistance moves with the bands. I focus on my shoulders when using the bands. 

On occasion, Dan will even use our water bricks as weights. They are an excellent way to add a challenge for squats and add some instability (due to the sloshing water)! For cardio, we enjoy doing a great deal of different activities, lately it's just been shoveling. I'm ready for spring. I can't wait to do yoga at sunrise on our deck! Glorious!!

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Simplification: A Continuous Practice

My jewelry box was a thrift store find,
jazzed up with some paint I had around.
Even in a tiny house- there can be excess.

Dan and I have lived in the Pod for 15 months now. We can both easily say we have fully adjusted to living in a tiny house, but old habits and old notions can take time to fade. At times, we still find ourselves with chaos, disarray and a feeling of having too much crap. Life comes with a certain level of messiness which the OCD child within me has painfully begun to accept, but the day to day hustle and bustle of not putting away the pajamas as we run out the door to work, is not the same as having too many dang pajamas-- which I consider a different kind of messiness...usually goes by the name of clutter.

Maybe it's the new year; maybe it's just my typical pattern as I eagerly await spring, but I find myself wanting to weed out even more of the dwindling unnecessary. It's pretty remarkable that we have downsized our belongings by about 70% or more, and here I am still inspired to have less. Human beings have an astounding capacity to adapt. I've come to really enjoy the thrill and weight-lifting sensation that comes over me as I get rid of stuff.

Wow! I can actually reach in a pull out one piece
vs a knotted wad of chains and dangles!

I spent a lot of time toward the beginning of this journey getting rid of stuff. And at first, it was tough for me. But the more I examined the situation and asked myself what value the stuff honestly had, I found that it rarely amounted to anything that could deter my desire to be financially free and living a  simple sustainable life. It has been several months since I have taken stock of my belongings and asked those questions. In that time we have had holidays and other gift giving celebrations, and so surprise! Life just has a way of quietly tacking things on if you're not vigilant. 

I've realized that to live minimally, for me anyway, must be a constant practice and series of questions. How many purposes does this item serve? How often is this item used? How often is this item in the way? What sentimental value does it hold? A new rule I have taken on for clothing and accessories is "One in, one out". If I get a new top, I have to pick a top from my closet and donate it. If I get a new pair of boots, I donate an older pair of boots. This has been one of the most successful rules I've put into place. It allows me to gradually, perpetually update my wardrobe without it increasing in size. Recently I had an urge for a purge, and combed through my closet with far less emotion than I used to- quickly removing five items. These, I don't plan to replace, so I will be slowly downsizing my overall wardrobe as well! 

See ya later!

This weekend, I set my sights on my jewelry. I realize that I barely wear any these days, so there was no need to have a jam packed jewelry box- which is out in the open by the way. I moved through that quickly too, getting rid of about 60%. I set aside pieces that might be worth something at the pawn shop, and put the rest in a baggie to be donated with the clothes. 

Part of this was also inspired by a series of TED Talks I have watched, mainly about living simply and getting out of debt. Check them out! 

A Rich Life With Less Stuff -A story I can relate to..

Sell Your Crap. Pay Your Debt. Do What You Love.  -Really love this guy's message!

The Less You Own, The More You Have

The Ten Item Wardrobe

Checkout Project 333 as well! Very cool concept. I hope to get to that point soon!

Good luck to each of you making your way to a tiny life, whatever your inspiration or motivation may be! Start getting rid of your stuff and be mindful of gaining new stuff! You will be that much closer to your dream!

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Cozy Through The Storms

Just checking in real quick!

We've been keeping pretty busy just keeping a path cleared to the tiny house! We made it through the first storm no problem, and I sit here nice and cozy as we ride out the second. I think all the snow around the base of the Pod is helping keeping us a bit warmer too. 

We are certainly loving our deck from a whole new perspective! I can't imagine thrashing around in snow up to my hips and then walking directly inside! I'd take a pile of snow right in with me! I think one piece I do miss about larger homes is the entry way or mud room. You don't realize how useful they can be until the first mud season or good Nor'easter. But we make do! We hand our snow dripping clothes in the bathroom and place a towel on the ground. 

Not much else has been going on here! Dan is in full swing with work and school, and I'm trying to adjust to having so many free nights. I am determined to get back to guitar and painting on a regular interval, so I'm making the most of it. Who knows- I may even start a quilt for our bed. I have decided on a pattern- simple, but still pretty and bright.

We were eager to see if the power would go out in either storm, but alas, it did not. I don't know why we are so tickled by it, but we are just so happy about being totally solar power based. I've also started noticing solar panels left and right, in all sorts of uses. HOORAY!

In other news- we are giving Wendy "free range" times and working towards letting her be a free range bun all day long. We are also very excited to meet tentative bonding partners for Wendy this Saturday! We've read a lot about the benefits of rabbits being in pairs, and they are less likely to get bored and be naughty. I've really learned a lot about rabbits and gained a much deeper appreciation and respect for the little fluffy creatures. :) We are going to visit a great little specialty shelter dedicated just to rabbits. It's called Sweet Binks and they are great people. I was astounded by how many rabbits are dropped off at a shelter or just abandoned each year. The biggest culprit is Easter. So many parents buy their children a cute little baby bunny with no regard for the 10 year commitment a rabbit can be. I read about an Easter present bunny that a couple girls "set free" in the heat of July. The poor guy was found collapsed in the beating sun, and nearly died of dehydration and heat.

I'll be the first to say I love dogs above all other types of pets. No question. They have qualities and a level of connection that no other animal can match, but Wendy has opened my eyes to respecting, loving and connecting with any little fuzzy creature. What's the point here? I didn't have one really, when I started, but I guess it would be: If you are thinking of getting a little chick or bunny for your kid for Easter, remember that's a life you are taking responsibility of! Make sure your child is ready for that level of responsibility or just get them some candy*!
 (*In this instance I condone candy.)

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Where does she immediately go? To investigate the blockade for weaknesses.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Whirl Wind Weekend

We never thought we would be this happy to start the work week.

Dan and I both had a hell of a weekend thanks to separate, but equally stressful and extensive emergency situations at work. The short story is Dan didn't go 20 minutes from Friday night to Sunday night without answering or making a phone call- and more often than not to field one disaster after another. (He had the "emergency phone" for work for the first time and experienced the worst case scenario apparently.) My company had this listed as a 3 day weekend, but I worked Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. We both felt quite robbed and definitely drained. So I'm keeping it short and sweet once again- focusing on the awesome things that happened this weekend.

#1 - The Cushion Cover Miracle
I cut the material the weekend before, knowing that we would have a photographer in our midst. That was the best move ever. I feel sewing is equal parts cutting and stitching. When all the pieces are cut, I feel halfway there. Friday night I got home and, with the deadline of 12pm the next day lighting a fire under my arse like nothing else, I started churning out the good stuff. I started by making the pillows and gauging my energy after that. The work week had been stressful, long days, and go go go from punch in to punch out. 

Well, let's just say the cushions were like fuel injections. I saw that first, $4 thrift store pillow come out looking like something brand new and on main display at the {insert specialty Home Decor store}. I was like, "Oh heck yes! I'm going till I drop now!"

I ran out of juice at about 1030pm. I had managed to complete both pillows, hem the overlap panels for each cushion, and stitch together the 4 side panels for each cushion.  That left pinning and stitching together the top and bottom panels to the side panels. 

I woke up at 630 Saturday morning and immediately got to work. I only stopped briefly to take a few photos with something handy- sorry it ended up being the cell phone- I was in turbo sewing mode. Forget my pictures! A pro was coming soon enough! I finished the covers just one hour before, Nat Rea, the photographer for RI Monthly Magazine, arrived. WHEEW.

I stood back and marveled at what I had just managed to accomplish. I hammered out about 9 solid hours of sewing work over the course of 19 hours. At my normal rate of sewing projects, it would have taken till Summer! Some of the cushions could use a little more stuffing and fluffing, but I'll get there and for now it still looks pretty dang fabulous. The colors look great, the patterns are so eye popping, and it completely transformed that wall of the house. Instead of a frumpy bland eye sore, we now have a captivating centerpiece for an entire wall! 

I would also like to add that my math was pretty dang close for this project. By the time I was done cutting what I needed, I could clutch inside my hands what was left over. I even had to make a last minute improvisation. I ran out of the coral/red material, but still needed the short side panels. I happened to "by out" the remaining material on the roll for the pillow material and decided to use that to make the ends. I feel like it gives a whole new layer of interest to the eye- and completely unplanned! 


Awesome Thing #2 - Photo Shoot.
We had a great time meeting and working with Nat. He brought a lot of equipment which I drooled over and probably took way too many pictures of--is that weird? taking pictures of camera equipment?
Ha! Oh well. Nat brought a great lense that no one else has used so far. He showed us a few of the shots and we were amazed at how wide an angle was caught and held in view.  Needless to say, we cannot wait to see the finished images and the spot in the March issue of RI Monthly Magazine! 

Awesome Thing #3 - Interview 
On Sunday, we had our interview with Jamie. It was a good thing that Nat came Saturday, as Sunday proved to be over cast and dreary. We both had a great conversation with Jamie and thought it was interesting to speak on the topics and the perspective she was going for with this piece. We spoke about space, money, and earth saving habits that everyone can apply to their lives- you don't have to live in a tiny house to make a difference! 

Awesome Thing #4 - I have skates once again!
I grew up on a lake, and some of my fondest memories of the winter are skating and listening to music until well after dark. The flicker of the porch light was my signal to come in for the night. More than once this past week, I've looked out at the frozen pond, right in front of The Pod, and wished I could get in some time on blades. I know it would do wonders to unwind me. We had a warm couple days, so I've got to wait for the surface to harden up again, but I'll be out there soon! Yahoo!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Turning To The Itty Bitty Details

We finally mounted the eco-heater
in a new location.
We had a great new years! And then January slapped me in the face.

I've been in and out of feeling under the weather the last few weeks, and to top it all off, things at work have all but exploded. I've come home with a headache and thoughts swimming almost every night. When work sucks up all my energy and initiative, things quickly slack in other areas. Two weeks without a post! 

Well you haven't missed much. As I mentioned, we had fun on New Years. We celebrated with some friends at a house one of them recently purchased. Conveniently for us, it's about 15 minutes away! It seems like we always end up driving at least 35 minutes to do something social- so it's nice to have friends in our neck of the woods!

There she be! We have heating sources
at both ends of the house now.
We will rarely need it though. And look at
cabinet doors..."before". 

The best part about New Years was when we headed home- and to my surprise- we stayed up and continued dancing to music  for hours and having a grand ol' time, just the two of us in The Pod. :) 

Aside from that, progress has come in a series of minute detail projects. What put foot to ass, you say? Well, a call from Rhode Island Monthly magazine! We are going to be interviewed for their March issue this upcoming weekend. 

We added some pieces of trim. Yes, we were the only
ones who noticed it, but hey! Feels great that
it's not bugging us anymore!

This being the second round of pro photos taken of our place, I wanted to make sure there were improvements. We listed out all the little detail things that have bugged us, but not enough to become a priority, and over the last two weekends (okay more so this past weekend) we set out to complete as much as we could. One of my major pet peeves are black items. Mostly because I love color. My uncle described me as a walking rainbow one day. There is something about the color black that seems to act like an anchor and suck everything into it's darkness. I'm all for being sucked in if it's my mid-section and we are talking about a little black dress...but I do NOT like furniture and the like to be black, giving the perception that an already small space is even smaller.  

And some trim behind the Berkey...

I'm running on fumes at this point, so here come lots of pictures with few words! Enjoy the photos and prepare for splashes of COLOR! 

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We cleaned up the hack job we did on our very first outlet. 
Annnd one of our rookie mistakes was to assume we would find shiplap that was 1/2 inch thick. Nope. So we didn't set the outlets out enough. The outlet plate was barely hanging  on by two of four needed screws, but two simply weren't long enough. Well- we remedied both this weekend!

Dan took apart our kitchen cabinet doors and gave them a face lift! Now they are bright and colorful and easy to clean!

Meanwhile, I was slicing and dicing the fabric for our new couch and cushion covers. The love seat will probably be the most dramatic!

It was an agonizing few hours as I roamed through
Joanne's and finally made a decision. It's going to rock!

And then there was the painting of the black things. We painted our folding table, and a little office unit we got at the thrift store. This is now our lovely cutting board holder! And, my favorite so far, we painted our fridge door. RED FRIDGE. It really pops and we love it!

Yay colors!

Look at that fridge! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Between Holidays

Just a few days after Christmas, to my complete surprise, we actually got a bit more work done!

This past weekend we finished our deck. Last we left off, we were about 6-7 boards short. By the end of that day (we had processed 22 boards), we were feeling like, "Oh screw it, let's just buy the rest we need."  I'm glad we put a pin in that instead of acting on it immediately.

With some time, and a great Christmas with friends and family, we were back to singing a more chipper tune. On Saturday morning, Dan woke abounding with ambition. We were out the door by 745am, headed back to the pile of old deck wood behind Dan's Dad's store. Usually it's me pushing us out the door! I'm enjoying this new trend. :)

After one session of working to re-claim the boards, we had a better idea of what boards were rotted and awful and which ones just look that way on the surface. I've said it before, I'll say it again- planers amaze me. We sent some pretty beat up looking stuff through that thing and out comes a lovely board that says, "And I was going to be thrown away... beauty is on the inside, don't they know?? Tsk tsk".  

Within 15 minutes we had collected enough old boards for the rest of the job and cut them down to a rough size for transport. Back at my Dads, we pulled out our tools and made quick work of the task at hand. This time around we worked like a well oiled machine- knowing exactly which steps were next and what each of us should do to move it along. I love sessions like this one. Dan and I set up our little Bose speaker, play tunes, and then sing terribly and joke around with one another as we work in perfect rhythm. 

The remaining wood we needed for the deck was ready to go in less than two hours! We headed back to the house and slapped those babies on. It felt good to get a deck- it feels even better to have a completed one! After that, we gave ourselves the rest of the day off and headed out to visit some more with family before they left town. 
And we even have two extra boards! We plan to use those for the new steps we will make.

We are registered!!
Other than that- not much other progress to report. I do have some very exciting, not-so-related news though! It's official this morning! Dan and I will be attending a strawbale workshop in July! We are seriously considering this building method for our permanent home on the ground some day.

 Since we never took a honey moon, we decided we would allow ourselves a series of GUILT FREE small adventures throughout 2015. When so much of your world is about how to save, save,'s hard to justify spending on fun versus necessity...but in a way, I argue that fun IS necessary. It's just a matter of finding the right balance as we continue our journey toward a debt free life.

Dan and I would like to thank every last one of you that has taken the time to read about our adventures, send us little notes of encouragement and support, and made us feel we are a part of a community. We hope that 2015 will be a great year for each and every one of you! 


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