Here comes February

It’s blowing my mind that it’s already February. Anyone else feel like time has picked up it’s pace for 2015? I know I do.

I was in the local Dollar Tree (I have to admit, it’s one of my guilty pleasures) yesterday and noticed that in addition to their Valentine’s Day offerings, Spring is, well, springing, in the stores here.

I picked up a bag of potting soil and was so tempted by all the seed packets they had. I really want to grow a few edibles this year, but as tempted as I am by all the veggies, what I really want to grow is herbs.

For those who don’t know, herbs have been a passion of mine for a long time. I love to cook and the idea of snipping off my own live plants appeals to me.

Of course, I blame this obsession on my sister-of-the-heart, TimberLeaves, and her mom.

Growing up, TL’s mom was probably the closest thing I had to a positive female influence and I always thought she was beautiful and cool and interesting. She played the guitar, there was always a glass jar of sun-tea brewing on the back steps, she had an herb garden and there were always delicious smells coming from her kitchen. She was a powerful influence to an unloved child, although I’m not sure if she actually realized that. (Now I think I should write her and tell her).

I remember visiting her, probably 10 years ago now, and we got to talking about her herb garden. She has a chocolate mint plant that tastes like a peppermint pattie. She would walk around and pinch a leaf here and there letting me smell and taste the fruits of her labor. It was a magical experience, especially hearing not only what foods they were good in, but some of their medicinal properties as well. It fanned the flames for me and I vowed to one day have my own herb garden and use what I grew for cooking and making medicine.

I’ve studied herbology off and on over the years and even though most of my studies were of a more religious nature, I did pick up a lot of information on medicinal uses as well.

This is the year I actually want to start growing herbs. I’m sure I’ll end up with some peppers, green onions, a tomato plant or two, etc, but herbs is where I’d really like to focus since fresh herbs at a reasonable price are hard to come by around here.

Are you itching for green and growing things yet? I know I am!


Radio Silence and Super Bowl Dip

So, I caught the flu bug from Kid #3, who obviously caught it at school. I was down with it most of last week.

Unlike before, I didn’t have a back-stock of posts sitting around, so you could hear the crickets chirp around here last week.

Friday, I spent my day running Mini-Me all over town and towards the end of the day, the starter went out on my car. Paul spent all morning, and up until time for him to be at work, fixing it.

Now, in the past, I’ve considered giving up the car. Friday when I was stressing where I was going to come up with the money to replace a starter, I considered it again.

After being without a car just 24 hours, I came to the sudden conclusion that going without a car just isn’t an option. I hated not having the ability to just jump in my car and go do whatever I needed to.

Last week, we also added a new family member. His name is Duke and he is a Chiweenie. He’s three months old.


Duke and Duchess

Anyone who cannot see the similarities between being a parent and being a fur-parent have obviously not been exposed to a child and puppy at the same time.

Duke requires a lot of time from me right now. There’s so much to teach him. Where to potty (meaning stop pottying on my bed, even if I do snicker a little at the fact that it’s always Paul’s side), not to chew on things that aren’t his (sorry about your phone charger, honey).

He’s also very energetic right now (meaning he acts like someone is slipping him drugs when I’m not looking) and quite a handful to keep up with.

He’s cute as a button though and absolutely has that pitiful-puppy face down pat.

Because of sickness, new puppies and broke cars, the Super Bowl will probably not be what I’d hoped this year. I’d wanted a night of bar-type foods, which included my Super Bowl Dip which I’ll share with you below. As for the rest… Well, it looks like it might just be a quiet night at home.

This recipe is for a small gathering. You can double or triple the recipe for larger crowds.

Super Bowl Dip

1 lb ground hamburger or turkey
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 jar salsa, heat level is by preference
1 block Velveeta soft cheese

1. Brown hamburger or turkey and follow directions on taco seasoning packet.
2. Cube cheese to make melting easier.
3. Add taco meat and all other ingredients to crock pot set on kite. Heat until cheese is melted and serve with tortilla chips.

I got the original recipe, which was a little different, from Paul’s aunt about 18 years ago and it’s become a favorite, especially for the Super Bowl!

Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and enjoy the game!

Wash Clothes During An Emergency

Who hasn’t found themselves with a clothes washing emergency? I know I have!

What I love about this idea is that for someone in our particular living situation who doesn’t have a built-in washing machine and dryer, it’s a perfect idea even for everyday washing!

I know I’ve spent my share of time either bent over the bathtub, kitchen sink or “walking clothes” in the tub which can actually be very dangerous. I’ve fallen more than once walking clothes because of the slippery laundry detergent.

Also, have you ever tried getting the soap out by hand? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is quite difficult and time-consuming!

I plan on talking to Paul about making this set-up for us as our everyday washer for when CB and Crew are doing their own laundry and the washer isn’t available.

Blessings on your journey,
Dawn ~ TTH

Battling Clutter

One of the biggest battles we face living in a small space, is clutter. When we moved in last March and when we moved back in, in December, it seemed like we were covered in boxes and bags.

One drawback to small space living is lack of storage. You really have to think about what you have and what you need verses the available space you have.

Now, campers do have storage boxes, some that you can access from either inside or outside access panels, some that are only accessible from outside, but the size and shape of what you’re storing matters since it has to fit in them.

When we moved into the camper, I was very thankful for the years I’d spent following the Flylady system. Because of her, I had already released a lot of clutter. Had I not already been used to, and involved in, the process of doing this, it would have been much harder. I can say with complete honesty that if you’re planning to move into a small space, it’s always best to start going through things, and getting rid of things, as early as possible. The truth is, no matter how much you get rid of in advance, you’re going to find yourself with more than is going to fit in a small space anyway. You’ll go through the process again as you’re moving in.

Our weakness with clutter has always been sentimental decorative pieces. We love dragons and had quite the collection when we moved into the camper, counting them among some of the things we “just couldn’t part with”. I envisioned some small shelves in the living room for them or something along those lines.

When we moved in, the living room was so small that there really wasn’t any floor space for shelves and the walls are all windows, so no space there either. They ended up nearly piled on top of each other in the little space we did have and didn’t look attractive at all.

We ended up going through them again and got rid of most of the collection. It was hard, but it was necessary.

Another concession I had to make was with our altar. Before, I’d had a rather large, working altar. There’s no room here for something like that, so the altar pieces are now scattered around the house and if I need to do something, I gather up what I need at the table or do simple workings, which works just fine as well.

Neither of these things were concessions I originally wanted to make, but to make this lifestyle work, it had to be done or we’d have spent every day tripping over things and you do that enough in a small space as it is.

Now that the original clutter has been handled (mostly – no body is perfect), what we have to be careful of is bringing new things in. We’re pretty “wall-to-wall”, so I’m constantly asking “where are we going to put that”.

A perfect example was the purchase of the much-needed propane heater. During the winter, it’s already a little in the way, but we deal with it because we’re using it. In the summer, it’ll need to be put away, out of the way. We had to decide how and where it will be stored when it’s not in use. So, every item we bring home has to go through this, even if it’s something we need.

Multi-use and multi-purpose items work best. Like the camp shower. When not in the bathroom being used for it’s intended purpose, it hangs in the kitchen to be used for rinsing dishes and washing hands. It gets used all day, every day, and we love things that work like that. When we fix the plumbing and no longer need it, it can either be folded small for storage or given to our son-in-law who loves to camp out. This was something we discussed in the store before we bought it.

The truth is, clutter can easily take over your life and home no matter the size space you live in. “If you don’t love it, or use it, let it go”-Flylady website. Those are words we live by!

Crystal ~TTH

Communal Living ~ Us and Them

Although CB and her family live in a double-wide, not a camper or tiny house, the way we live together here tends to take on a very communal aspect.

While I don’t recommend trying to live like we do with just anyone, with the right family/families, I do believe it can work.

Last year CB’s husband planted a vegetable garden. I intended to get out there and do some work in it myself, but I had a lot going on. He was out of work due to some health issues and seemed to enjoy it, so I let him have at it.

This year, however, I think the garden will be left more to me since he’s now back to work.

Either way, I intend to plant an herb garden to help out and do my part like I wanted to last year.

The garden isn’t the only place our families come together to help. CB’s husband has a truck and he’s usually willing to help out if you need something hauled.

Paul is a fixer and can often be found fixing not just our stuff, but theirs as well.

I baked bread for both families the other day and will do so again today. I also help them get Kid #3 back and forth to school since she can’t be dropped off this year until 30 mins after CB has to be at work.

If one house runs short on something the other has, we loan and trade back and forth. That’s how the baking bread happened. I was short on flour, CB loaned me some, so I made her a loaf of bread, too.

Basically, whatever resources we have between our houses is gladly shared back and forth.

In this way, our lifestyle here seems very communal. Of course, there are more hard-core definitions of communal living, but this light version seems to work for all of us and it helps lighten the load and stress on us all knowing that we have others who are there for us when we need it.

Because of the system we have in place here, we continue to feel very blessed every day to have another family that cares so deeply for us. CB and her family are a blessing we’ll always be thankful for, and we strive to be a blessing to them in return.

This brand of communal living isn’t for everyone, but for our families, it works beautifully!

Cleaning with vinegar and baking soda

Cleaning. A necessary evil. We all have to do it, but with the chemicals they put in store-bought cleaners these days, who knows what you’re replacing those germs with? Cleaning in itself is enough of a chore without having to worry about if you’re leaving a toxic film everywhere.

I have a grandbaby and a furbaby. Neither of them seem to realize how gross it is to lick things, so I have to keep things clean around here, but I worry about the residue those harsh cleaners leave behind.

I started researching homemade cleaners a few years ago but until a few months ago, I’d all but forgotten about them. One that stuck out in my mind when I thought about it was vinegar and baking soda.

Now, I tried several methods with this since I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d read and I’ll clue you in to what I tried as well as what worked best for me.

To begin with, I tried putting the vinegar on a cleaning rag and adding the baking soda to it. This method worked, sort of, but it took a lot of vinegar to get enough on the rag. If you’re going to try this method, I recommend using it when you want to use the mixture more like a scrub (works similar this way to using Comet or Ajax).

Next, I tried pouring the vinegar on the surface I wanted to clean and sprinkling it with the baking soda. This worked pretty well if you’re cleaning, say a small counter, but to me, it still seemed to use an awful lot of vinegar.

I also tried putting the vinegar in a spray bottle. This used less vinegar, but I doubt it would be practical for cleaning anything small.

Next, I got a small bowl and poured some vinegar in, then added baking soda. I’d have to say that this method is probably my favorite and the one I use most often. I can make as little or as much as I think I’ll need and I can even control the consistency depending on what I’m cleaning.

Like with using any other abrasive cleaner, I’d recommend sticking to surfaces that don’t scratch easily but I like it for the fact that both ingredients are something we consume regularly, so I know it won’t hurt us, the grandbaby or the furbaby.

Since moving back to the camper, I attacked our gas stove with baking soda and vinegar. I wish I’d thought to take “before” pictures because we left so suddenly last summer and were gone for six months. I didn’t get a chance to clean it before we left and six months of sitting…well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

Until recently, it had my toaster oven sitting on it. Out of sight, out of mind. I’d also tried using some tin eye covers last summer that were still on it. I couldn’t believe how bad it really looked when I took the toaster oven and eye covers off. It was disgusting!

I immediately got my spray bottle full of vinegar out and my box of baking soda.

I sprayed the stove top liberally and then sprinkled on the baking soda and let it sit until it stopped foaming then I went at it with some elbow grease.

Although I think it still needs a little work, Paul says that in comparison, it looks like a new stove. I have to admit, it does look a lot better.

Although my stove was bad enough to require some pretty serious elbow grease in some places (like under those eye covers that I’ll never use again), over-all, the scrubbing was minimal. I did leave the mixture thick enough that it was usable for scrubbing.

Make sure when you’re done, that you wipe everything down with a clean (or rinsed) rag to remove the excess baking soda so you don’t leave grit on everything.

Have some home cleaning remedies of your own? Leave them, or a link to your post about it, in the comments! I love hearing from you!

CB and Crew

I realize that I’ve suddenly been talking a lot about the woman I call CB, but I’ve never really explained who she is. I think it’s time to rectify that.

CB stands for Crazy Bitch. That’s how I refer to one of the best friends I could ask for on this blog. CB is a term of endearment because it takes one to put up with one and she’s got me full-time.

I’ve known CB and her family for quite a while now. About 6 years, I guess. While we’ve always been “friendly”, we really didn’t know each other well until the last year.

She began, simply, as the best friend of the girl I consider one of my kids. This particular kid calls me “Aunt”, but the relationship has been very much like a parent/child relationship even though we’re not technically related at all.

CB and I flitted in and out of each others lives with this kid at the center (I say kid, but just like my biological daughter, she’s actually grown) for a long time, constantly crossing paths, but rarely spending more than a half hour together, and always with Chicklet (my adopted niece/daughter), in the mix.

I dropped Chicklet off at CB’s house a few times in 2013 and noticed they had an old camper sitting in their yard.

At the time we were roommates with a girl and we could tell it was headed south due to her involvement with a guy who was on drugs (she was in denial about his drug use back then-they’ve since split up). I was about to welcome my new granddaughter into the world. I didn’t want her around him, so it was causing a lot of problems. We were at an impasse in our friendship and we both knew it.

Tracking Spending Habits ~ Budgeting 101

If you’re anything like us, it seems like you bleed money from week to week. You leave home with $100, and before you know it, the money is gone and you don’t have hardly anything to show for it.

One thing that I’ve found helpful in living on a very small budget is tracking spending habits.

Ever so often, I remind myself to save all of my receipts for a couple weeks, then I’ll sit down with those receipts and look at our spending habits.

It helps to make notes on your receipts if they don’t clearly state what you bought in a way you’ll remember in a few weeks.

There are apps you can download that will tap into your debit card and itemize what you spend money on for you but since that information is so sensitive, I only recommend using them at your own discretion.

With that said, pen and paper may take a little longer, but it’s certainly safer and it’s the method I currently use myself.

Doing this helps you to understand where your money is going.

It also helps when you do this to make a few columns for things you already know you spend money on. Say, if you like to stop at Starbucks on your way to work sometimes, go ahead and make a column for that. Add up what you spent and what kind of expense it was.

Don’t forget purchases you might not have a receipt for, like that soda and bag of chips from the vending machine at work.

For example Paul and I have weak spots for energy drinks (I know, they’re full of chemicals, but it’s a weakness none the less). When I track our spending, I go ahead and make a column for those and write down how much we spent each time, then add them all up.

This allows me to see not just what I spent on energy drinks during that time, but what I spent on those random “quick stops” we make and sometimes forget about.

The last time I went through this process, I was surprised at just how much we had spent on things like energy drinks, snacks and eating out, so I was able to identify some spending habits that were being completely overlooked.

In doing this, I was able to see that we were spending way too much on these purchases and I was able to get a handle on it by making myself more aware of the fact that there was a problem.

Now I’m not saying we never spend money on them at all anymore, but now we buy sodas occasionally instead, which are cheaper anyway. I not only saw this, but it also helped me see where I stop that our drinks are cheaper. $5 combos for one person became $1 menu purchases when we do eat fast food (which isn’t often anymore). We also started using coupons and taking advantage of in-store specials when we could.

Tracking your spending can help you see exactly where your money goes and help you curb spending in areas where you might not even be aware you’re spending so much.

If you see that you’re consistently spending money on a non-necessary item(s) you might want to consider adding it to your budget and giving yourself an allowance for those types of spending. This can help take some of the sting out of it and it certainly helps us.

Tracking you’re spending sounds like such a small step, but it can make a huge difference in how much money is left in your pocket when you get home.

Discovering Camp Showers

I mentioned in another post that one of the things purchased with Paul’s last check was a camp shower and that it would get it it’s own post. Let me say now, I am not being compensated in any way for this post. It was one of those spontaneous purchases that just happened.

I went camping a lot as a kid. We were a family of five with a lot tighter budget than I realized back then. Honestly, I just always thought my parents liked to go camping. I had no idea how hard or expensive a hotel would have been with three kids in tow.

Even though we spent some portion of every summer in a tent, my parents always got a camp site that had a water and power hookup and was close to the bathhouse. We showered every night while camping.

It wasn’t until I was older that I heard about “roughing it” out in the woods with no amenities at all, so my knowledge of the kinds of things you need for that was very limited.

Luckily, my daughter and my best friend would be happy to let us shower at their houses, and we have, but not being able to shower at home was something that really bothered me.

While searching for an appropriate heater, we ended up in camping supplies at the local big-box store. Paul was very carefully comparing the heater already in the buggy with one we found in camping supplies, so I found myself with time to look around. My eyes landed on a box that said “camp shower” and it got me curious.

Apparently, the idea of a camp shower is to be camping out in the wilderness with temps above seventy degrees, with enough privacy to be naked in nature. You fill the bag with water and lay it in the sun for a few hours to heat.

Once heated, I’m assuming you hang it from a tree or something to shower.

That’s great, but it’s winter here (or supposed to be anyway) and the temperature, although warm for December, isn’t hitting 70. In the summer, it seems an easy enough system, but I needed something now.

After some thought, I decided we needed it. It was only $10, so I decided if I couldn’t make it work in winter, at least we’d have it this summer.

What I’ve ended up doing is heating the water myself, which I’d have been doing anyway for the tub if nothing else.

We use a funnel to put the heated water into the bag and once hot and full, we hang it in our shower.

Height was a bit of an issue. The hose on the one we got is a little more bendable than I’d like and it’s obviously intended to be hung up over your head. It hangs considerably lower in our shower and we ended up putting a stool in it so we could sit down to get lower.

Although not a perfect system, it was still great to have a hot shower in my own house and not have to bother anyone to use theirs.

It was such a good investment that I actually want a second one. The one we have currently pulls double duty at the kitchen sink as well as rinse water for dishes.

Even though I have to heat the water myself in winter, it was still very much worth the $10 we spent on it and I would recommend one for any situation where running hot water isn’t available including off-grid and semi-off-grid living.

Again, this is not a paid post. All purchases and opinions are my own.