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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Stay Focused

That's my handsome husband and being with him is my main focus.

Whenever we are transitioning, or just living, it's important to check-in from time-to-time and ask two questions:

  1. What is important to me? 
  2. Am I living to create the life I really want?
These questions are closely related. To live on purpose, #1 informs #2.

"The unexamined life is not worth living." ~ Socrates

After the first month of neither of us having a job, it became vital to reflect on these two questions every single day. 

What's important to you?
By brainstorming, paying attention, journaling, and plenty of time in the woods, I arrived at a conclusion. 

While I wanted financial freedom, fantastic health, friends, a nice house, a reliable car, to eat at restaurants, and to take vacations, these were not at the very top of my list. They impacted decisions and some of these wants are already shifting and changing--like what I'd call a "nice house"--but these values didn't set our course 100%.

More important than anything else, as my husband and I agreed, was to get through this financial situation together, as a team. The rest was gravy.

Set your course.
A sailor mans the wheel to stay on course regardless of the winds and waves life tosses at him. We too man the wheel with frequent talks about where we are and where we're going, always remembering the prime directive: to remain a strong team.

Without a focus, 
the changing winds will drive you off course.

As we navigate these challenging waters, knowing we have an agreed upon focus--not just a destination, but something we enjoy every day--keeps up moving in a direction that aligns with our desires and values. 

It would do us no good to fight over job ideas, paying bills, or where and if to move. If our prime directive is to remain a strong team, then we need to tackle any and all ideas with that in mind. And what  world of difference that makes!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Paradigm Shift

Financial Change

Do you ever have one of those Holy Shit moments? You know the one where you wish you were sitting down before the news hits you.

Well, that happened to us just over a month ago. Mike called from the office. I skidded across the hardwood floors to snatch the phone up and breathlessly said hello followed by some lovey-dovey goofiness that keeps our relationship young.

But something was wrong. He didn't sound right. Even his breathing was all off.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

He was driving home and was no longer employed.

When we moved here two years ago, we had agreed Asheville was a huge job risk. If this one didn't work out, we'd have to move again . . . at least that's what we agreed to two years ago before falling a bit in love with the area and a lot in love with the people here.

Two years later, we've bought a house, spent 4 months and thousands of dollars to fix it up, almost got divorced, dealt with adult depression the first time ever, built a chicken house for almost $1000, and now neither of us have a paying job. Scary. Not as scary as cancer or some other major illness, but scary none-the-less.

Initially we began a job hunt for Mike, because he has a higher earning potential than I do. Then I began looking at ways to keep more money in our home without changing our lifestyle.

When I googled how to save more money, the first article I came across suggested getting rid of electricity as its #1 idea. No thanks! I like my refrigerator and internet far too much to even entertain such an idea. The key was save money without majorly changing our lifestyle.

Next came lots of ideas on ways to spend less: don't buy the fanciest newest gadgets or make your own shampoo. This didn't help at all: my cell phone is so old it has no idea what a "data plan" even is, we don't text, and I haven't bought shampoo in over 5 years.

Then at dinner with our dearest friends, Mr. Money Mustache came up in conversation. I'd read some of his blog posts but hadn't checked him out in the past few years.

Returning to Mr. Money Mustache and reading dozens of posts and comments from readers led me to other sites and other ideas of thinking outside the box. To hell with the box? Why have a box at all?

Paradigm Shift

Thanks to MMM I'm experiencing a paradigm shift. Instead of just asking where can we find another similar job, we're asking if can we retire, can we spend less, would living in another country be an option, could a variety of small jobs provide the same income as the traditional one had?

While changing the question, we change our approach, which has led to several minor shifts:

We are planning on moving our nest egg into Index Funds instead of Target Retirement Funds.

We lowered all of our insurance bills by increasing deductibles and only using insurance for major catastrophes.

I drive slower and coast when I can. Surprisingly, showing up two minutes later has not altered my life.

We changed from US Cellular to Republic Wireless for our phones. This is cutting our monthly cell bill by almost 75%!

Most of all we've told everyone, I mean everyone, what kind of skills we have. This has resulted in all kinds of ideas, from cleaning bed pans to making decent money working remotely on CAD drafting work. While we're passing on the bed pans, the CAD work came in pretty handy.


Never underestimate the power of friends. Not only do they help us emotionally to pull through Holy Shit moments, they have some damn good ideas.

Think outside the box, or just forget the box completely and connect with those who also believe in taking the path less traveled. It might be scary. Then again it might just be what you're looking for.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fixing up rusted iron candle holder

Instead of taking this completely rusted iron candle holder to the metal recycle shop, it now sits on our deck looking quite spiffy.

Just scrub old iron down with a wire brush or steel wool, then wash with warm soaping water. Let dry thoroughly. Finally spray with a rust-resistant paint.

Wah-lah! A beautiful new piece.

Love to hear any quick and easy ideas you have for recycling old material.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DIY Less-Waste Chicken Feeder

Since we got our first batch of baby chicks yesterday, I have chickens on the brain. There's snow on the ground anyway, so gardening is right out.

Ice cube trays are working wonderfully as feeders for the babies, but they'll grow fast and so must their feeder.

RobBob has a wonderful YouTube Video on how to make a feeder.

He lives in Australia, and perhaps plumbing parts are slightly different, but I couldn't find the exact same items at my local Home Depot or Lowes.

While lamenting this fact, a friend asked, "Why don't you just buy a feeder?" Innocent question. Do I really just make life hard as my mother keeps telling me?

Hard . . . I like to think of it as better ;-)

This feeder design, which I can take zero credit for and have to thank RobBob for sharing (and he got it from another guy), limits waste, provides some protection from rain, looks easy to clean, stores lots of food, and well, it's just fun to know you made it!

So here's a version that works with common parts found at local home supply stores with the addition of a tight gasket from L.O.T.U.S.. (If you can't find the gasket, caulk will suffice.)

We used an old 5 gallon bucket to store plenty of feed to allow a weekend away without having to have someone stop over to fill feeders.

Step 1: Drill a hole at the side of the bucket close to the bottom. If using a gasket, push that through now--we used 3" piping and a gasket that worked with that size. You usually can rent a circular bit or in a pinch you could drill pilot holes and saw the opening.

Step 2: Get some 90 degree PVC elbows. We got 3 because we wanted 3 openings for the 1 bucket, which you'll see later. Cut part of one end at an angle--this will create an awning to prevent rain from getting into the feed. Cut the other end (we cut off at least an inch, but it depends on how long of a pipe you can find) so it looks similar to the picture above.

Step 3: The tough part, which I admit Mike, my husband, did, is to push/twist the pipe into the gasket. If I had done it, I would have used coconut oil to make it easier, but perhaps he's more stubborn than me or just wanted the challenge.

Notice how the inside of the pipe is about 1/2" off the bottom of the bucket. You can play with measurements when drilling the hole and cutting the pipe to make sure there's some space for the food to drop into.

Cool thing of this gasket is that the pipe won't twist around. While you could use caulk, it won't last anywhere near as long. RobBob has some suggestions if you don't use a gasket that would be worth checking out.

Step 4: Not sure if we'll need it, but on one of the three pipes we cut a 3" pipe end (for about 30 cents at Lowes) to create a lip. RobBob found this tactic useful in keeping the food from spilling out if you have a particularly messy eater.

Here's the final project:

Will be exciting to see it in action. Now to build a chicken shelter!

Immersion Blender to the Rescue

I love my new immersion blender. Snow may be outside, but inside toasty creamy soup awaits thanks to this handy devise.

A bunch of chopped bell peppers--orange, yellow, and red--along with onion heated until soft in some broth (I used chicken bone broth).

Add in chopped basil that for some reason wilted the moment I brought it home from Trader Joe's and any other seasoning you're in the mood for.

A few quick minutes with an immersion blender and wah-lah! Soup's on.

Top it off with some sour cream and chives for a super yummy warm treat.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Woman vs. Hardened Pot Soil

This Purple Heart's soil was so dried out and compacted that I figured the only way to save the plant was to give her some fresh dirt to spread her roots in.

The idea was to remove her from the left pot and create a new home with fresh potting soil in the green one (with drain holes) that would be placed inside the ceramic red one (without holes).

After at least 20 minutes of chiseling with a knife and spoon, some of the dirt--if you can even call this rock-hard substance dirt--was hammered away.

Some leaves and bits of roots ended up in the "go to the compost" bowl.

Others looked like they might make it for re-potting.

The rest ended up being cut off from their roots and placed into a glass of water. One great characteristic of the Purple Heart is she grows marvelously from a cutting. A matter-of-fact, the one in all of these pictures started as a cutting 30 years ago from a co-worker!

Since then, this plant has provided several snippets here-and-there, which were re-rooted in glasses of water and given away to fellow plant lovers.

The survivors now sit in the sunshine showing off their new shiny pot, which my husband loves.

Considering the challenge of rock-dirt vs womanly strength, I think the Purple Heart will flourish in her new home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Weed or Delicacy?

These strong green bunches are popping up all over the place: in my garden, in the yard, and in the woods. They taste like chives and my 88 year old friend calls them wild onions.

To the pristine lawn grower, they are a weed. To the gardener with a plan, they are a nuisance. To my dog, they're something to sniff and occasionally pee on.

While pulling these to make room for garden paths, I paused and tasted one to discover that lovely onion flavor of chives: light and distinctive.

That's when I began saving these bunches and even took a hike along a trail at Warren Wilson to collect a large bag of them.

A quick washing followed by an overnight in the dehydrator (see below, close up for my friend Penelope that asked what kind I had) led to several jars of dried chives or wild onions.

This dash of flavor is marvelous on pizza, in soups, on eggs or salads, and just about anything you can think of. Since they are dehydrated they'll last in these jars for a year or so.

Collecting this gift from nature was great fun. Instead of tossing something into the compost heap or just hiking past it, I paused and really appreciated this "weed".

Countless edible plants surround us. If you find any near you, I'd love to hear about them.