Monday, October 28, 2013

Excerpt from 120 Ideas for Tiny Living: Fried Egg Sandwich

The following is an excerpt from my book 120 Ideas for Tiny Living. It is currently available as a paperback or for Kindle
2. Fried Egg Sandwich

Let’s start out our first Tiny House morning with a simple breakfast recipe.

Easy preparation is important for cooking in a small space with sparse resources. This fried egg sandwich couldn’t be any simpler and it is so delicious.

You need:
English muffins
Cheese (cheddar or another favorite)
Bell Peppers (I prefer green, but you can use any color)

Toast the English muffins. We do this using our cast iron skillet because we do not have a toaster. We put a little butter on the muffins and place them face down until they are golden brown and delicious. When they are removed we add a teeny bit of olive oil to the pan. You could add more butter if you prefer. We slice the bell peppers so they make rings about a quarter to a half an inch thick and place them in the pan until you they have a little char. Crack an egg in the middle of each ring. Cook the egg until the yolk is just the way you like it, flipping about halfway through. I like my yolks a little soft so we only cook them for a minute or two on each side. Place the cheese on the hot egg and pepper and cover the pan to allow it to melt before placing the whole thing on the English muffin. Enjoy.

Friday, October 25, 2013

120 Ideas for Tiny Living is Available Now!

First, I want to thank everyone for their patience! Getting this book out was a much harder process than I had initially anticipated.

But I did it!  

You can buy the paperback edition of my book on Amazon today! 

You can get to the link at the top of this page and there is also one in the side bar.

The book is also available on Kindle!

I really hope you enjoy it! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Live Deliberately: Facing the Fear of Failure

I spent a lot of my life - far too long if you ask me now - being afraid to do the things I wanted to do. I was afraid that I wouldn't succeed. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to make a living. I was afraid that I wasn't good enough.

I was afraid to fail. 

Then I learned something.

Failure is not the enemy. In fact, it can be quite the ally.

I know this sounds awfully cliche. Every motivational blog points out that you need to embrace failure to fight your way to the top. The crazy part is that it is all true.

I was worried about being inadequate. I was worried about being average. I was worried that people would laugh at me or judge me when I couldn't do what I said I wanted to do. 

In order to live the life you want you will have to take some risks. The skill lies in assessing those risks and determine what is best for you.

I can't remember a time I didn't want to be a writer. I had notebooks full of short stories, really bad vampire novels, and even worse poetry. I started college as an English major with a creative writing focus but got scared. I changed my major to something even less marketable - Anthropology.

After college I found myself following the path of least resistance. I started in retail then got a job in purchasing and finally landed in temporary staffing where I spent 15 years.

During that time I continued to write. I tried a few avenues to getting things published. I wrote for a small magazine that no longer exists for a little while. I submitted short stories to anthologies. But I was afraid to leave my job behind to do writing full time because what if I failed?

At the same time, Matt was also restless. He wanted to fulfill his dream of building a house by himself. Suddenly we both realized that a tiny house could answer all of our questions for us. If we built a home that didn't rely on conventional utilities and didn't have a mortgage I could feel safer quitting my job and writing full time.

I wouldn't trade the experience for the world, but I have since realized that the tiny house served as a crutch. It helped me gain the courage to try something that I should have done a long time ago. 

It is okay to have something to hold on to in order to feel safe, but don't hold on to the wrong things. A tiny house was a risk in and of itself. It was the right launching pad for me.

You can look at this post like a pep talk. Maybe it is. You can also look at it as a revelation. The more I think how I got to where I today the more insight I gain about how I got here. I think that my experience can be a useful example for others.

So, what are you afraid of trying? How can you face the fear of failure and get started today?

Monday, October 21, 2013

What the @&%$# am I doing?

There are a lot of definitions of adventure. Lots of other adventurers have spent time answer this question on their blogs: what makes an adventure?

Years ago I came up with one very simple definition and it has served me well.

On any adventure that was worth it to me I had a moment when I had to ask myself  "What the @&%$# am I doing!" 

Mural of Cuchulain in Ireland
If I haven't asked that question then the real adventure hasn't started yet.

I can provide some examples from my own life so you get the idea.

In 2005, Matt and I went to Ireland with our friend Carl. We arrived at the airport and rented a car, which of course drove on the opposite side of the road. Matt was elected driver and off we went. Not 10 minutes or so into our adventure, we hit a curb and - FLAT TIRE. We had to pull over on a strange city street and replace the tire with the spare. We even managed to put a pretty big scratch in the rental car with the jack. All of us sat back and said "What the @&%$# are we doing!?" We were sidelined for only a few moments all things considered and the rest of the trip was amazing. 

Pouring the cement.
In 2009, Matt and I broke ground on our tiny house. We dug holes for our post and pier foundation and we started the process of mixing cement and pouring the piers. You can read the entire sordid story here. That was our "What the @&%$# are we doing?!" moment. We knew that if we could get past that insanity we could build this tiny house. If we didn't give up at that moment, there was nothing that could stop us. 

Camping this summer.
Just a couple months ago we went camping in Minnesota with friends. On the very first night there was a torrential rain and wind storm. At 2am we were all up helping a friend keep her tent from blowing over. That was her "What the @&%$# am I doing!?" moment. Nothing will turn a ragtag group of friends into a family quicker than a housing emergency at 2am.

These "What the @&%$# am I doing?!" moments have been so profound they have really become the hallmark of any of my greatest adventures. If I don't ask myself that question once along the way I begin to worry if my challenge was way too easy or if I am not on the right path at all.

Have you experienced the "What the @&%$# am I doing?" moment in your life? How did you handle it?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Live Deliberately: Not Waiting to Live

Not long ago, Matt and I were watching television on Hulu and a commercial for a retirement planning and investment company came on. I couldn't begin to tell you what company it was for or the word for word dialog but it went a little something like this.

"Because I have made smart investment choices I can finally live the life I've always wanted to."
These words were, of course, spoken by an active baby boomer who appeared to have everything together.

And we both cringed.

This is exactly the opposite of the way we want to and have chosen to live.

It isn't about making good financial decisions that can help keep you on track you as you age. That is pretty sound advice. But that kind of message implies something more sinister.

We are expected to delay doing the things we want to do in order to do the things society expects us to do.

That feels like watching life rather than living it. Like waiting for all the cool stuff to happen at you rather than making opportunities..

I made the decision not to wait for retirement. I didn't even worry about creating some sort of early retirement scenario.

Instead, I figured out what I really want to do and did it. 

I know that there are a lot of circumstances that play into every individuals ability and desire to make these big changes happen in their lives. But I do know one universal truth.

You don't know what will happen next. 

I don't want to face death at any age and be angry or sad that I didn't do all the things I wanted to do. I don't want to know that I waited even a day too long.

You're idea of living deliberately is going to be very different from mine. In fact, I practically guarantee it. I'm not saying you shouldn't love your job or that you shouldn't work hard but what I am saying is make sure that the thing you're doing is what you want to be doing. Don't imagine a day in the future when you can "finally" do the thing you want to do. What if you never get there?

This is deliberate living to me. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tiny House Diary: October 2013

Back when I started this blog in March of 2010 it was really just a journal of our building experience. Each time we made a trip up to Asheville to work on the tiny house I would take a lot of photos and come home to recap everything that went into the weekend.

Since moving into the tiny house I have found writing a journal like that to be difficult. Everything felt the same. It felt normal - like living in any other house, just small. What would I write? "Woke up, worked on computer, had lunch, did my chores, took a shower, enjoyed the evening."

However, I had a marvelous time in the tiny house this weekend and I thought I might share a little about what we did. Along with photos, of course.

On Friday we decided to make dinner and enjoy it out on the Folk N' Ale. We built a fire - as you can see above - and enjoyed the entire evening out doors.

Our meal was very simple. We through some chicken in a pan and cooked it in an Indian simmer sauce. The sauce of choice - Tikka Masala. Yum. We also made a pot of basmati rice. Oh, and we enjoyed a pumpkin beer - which I will write about here but I haven't gotten to it yet so check back soon!

After the sun went down we made s'mores over the camp fire. We used peanut butter cups instead of plain chocolate. Also yum.

Later we watched an episode of my current favorite TV show, Supernatural, and went to bed.

Saturday was also full of fun. Well, I can say that now since it is over. There was nothing overly traumatic but I was pretty exhausted.

We drove up to Hot Springs, a town north of Asheville that isn't too far from the tiny house. On the recommendation of a friend who use to be a river guide in that area we stopped at a trail that followed the Laurel River for three and a half miles until it met up to the French Broad River. That part was fine. However, if you hike 3.5 miles, you have to hike the same 3.5 miles back to the car. This was where I had enough. I like to hike but 7 miles was a lot. In hindsight, though, I am glad I did it.

After the hike we slowly limped into the town of Hot Springs for a couple of drinks and dinner.

It was a wonderful weekend. I am really glad we have opportunities like this because of the tiny house and because of Western North Carolina. We couldn't love a place more than we love this part of the Appalachians.

And, just for fun here is a photo of Piglet enjoying her platforms in the tiny house.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Live Deliberately: Loving Where You Live

I know plenty of people who can make home anywhere. They want their friends and families around and the place is not their biggest concern.

I learned a long time ago that I was not that kind of person. I spent a lot of time in my 20s and 30s trying to find the one place on this planet that made me feel happy.

So I traveled. I went to all kinds of places here in the US. I visited Italy and Ireland.  And I took an opportunity to move to Atlanta, Georgia when it was presented to me.

I was very lucky to find what I was looking for in Asheville, North Carolina.

I could tell you about all the amazing things that I love about Asheville. I can tell you about how the mountains honestly make me more calm and at ease. I can tell you about the people in this small but not small town and how there is a real sense of community here. I can tell you all about the amazing food and beer.

But this post is not about that.

I believe that there is a place, or maybe a bunch of places, that are right for every individual. Places where you feel like you belong.

Here are a couple things that I have learned along the way.

1. Once you find a place the rest can be figured out.
2. The place can't fix things for you.
3. The place makes you a better person.

You are the only person who can know how you feel when you arrive in the place you were meant to be. Other people can tell you about how much they love where they live but they can't make you fall in love with it.

When you find the place you feel like you are meant to live the rest will fall into place. You can find a job or make a living. You can find a home. You can find a community. It may not be easy, but loving the place where you are will help with the adjustment.

If something is not right in your life the place itself can't fix it for you. In other words, you can't run away from your problems. They will catch up with you. Don't use a move as a substitute for improving your life.

You will know you're in the right place for you if it makes you want to be a better person. Do you want to become a part of the community? Do you want to get involved? Do you want to make it a better place? Once a place gets under your skin it is hard to give it up. Whenever you're away you can't help but thinking of going home. 

Do you love where you live? If not, what do you think would be ideal for you?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Live Deliberately: Using Your Skills to Help Others

Township near Durban, South Africa
In 2011, Matt and I were given an opportunity to travel to Durban, South Africa to work with an organization that helped orphans and other vulnerable children in the Zulu community. We met some amazing people there during that time: people who wanted nothing more than to use their skills to help others.

We were asked to join them because of their dream to build a shelter for the 27 children living in a small home near Adam's Mission. Since we were just about finished with our own tiny house building project they asked us for some advice. Advice quickly turned into volunteering.

A lot of things happened on that trip and we weren't able to build the shelter as planned, but the children were given another building so our efforts were not without results.

We decided at that time that it was important to us to use our skills to help others. Here are a few ways to do this yourself.

  1. Volunteer in your community. If you have built your own tiny house from the ground up (or wheels up), an organization such as Habitat for Humanity may be a good choice. No matter what your skills are you can use them to benefit others.
  2. Make connections. We ended up in South Africa because a friend asked us to help. If you make connections with others not only do you develop a friendship and bond but you can do some real good, too. 
  3. Make donations. Sometimes organizations or individuals don't need physical assistance but rather money or items donated to help out. Especially if you are in the process of downsizing you can do some real good by donating the things your eliminating from your life. 
  4. Know that you can't help everyone. None of us have unlimited time or resources to volunteer or donate to every possible cause that crosses our paths. It can feel overwhelming to wish you could help everyone, but you may have to choose.
Part of our motivation for changing our lives was to feel more connected and more engaged. Volunteering our time or making donations to the local food bank are just a few ways we can be part of our community - locally and globally.

What can you do to use your skills to help others?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cottage Creek: Official Music Video

Several months ago, Andrew Odom of Tiny r(E)volution put the call out to musicians to compose an original theme for the r(E)vo Convo podcast.

As the co-host, I shared his request with my own network and my nephew, Ryan, stepped up.

After a brief discussion about the kind of music Drew and I were looking for, Ryan submitted the song "Cottage Creek." It has been our theme music ever since.

He's just started a YouTube channel for his performances and original music. He's been writing since he was 10. Now you can see the official music video for "Cottage Creek" featuring some photos my sister took when they all came to visit our Tiny House earlier this year.

I believe that "Cottage Creek" is one of very few original songs composed about Tiny Houses. For any more you may have to check out Deek Deidricksen's "Lollypop Fort of Death" and the upcoming tiny house rap with Jay Shafer.

I hope you enjoy it!  

**The song is not called "Cabin Creek" as I originally typed several times in the post. In spite of the fact that it clearly said Cottage Creek in the video, I still managed to call it by the wrong name. I have edited it to reflect the correction.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Live Deliberately: Work/Life Integration

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” -Seth Godin
As I was preparing for this week's post, a friend shared this quote on his social media. It couldn't have come at a better time.

I would like to talk about part of my life that doesn't have the best language to describe it. But I am going to try. When I was working in the staffing industry we referred to "Work/Life Balance." But I wanted something very different.

I wanted "Work/Life Integration." 

There may be some other more elegant ways of saying it:
  • Harmony
  • Rhythm
  • Life Balance
The French have a philosophy that no one aspect of your life should overshadow or eclipse any other aspect of your life.

An issue of Life Magazine from 1968 quoted writer and counterculture personality Paul Krassner as saying:

"Some anthropologist said that one definition of happiness is to have as little gap as possible between your work and your play." 

This is the philosophy that I want to live by. 

Our current American culture suggests that we can "have it all" but then villainizes the individuals who try to do just that. Working mothers are told they are neither providing the best care for their children nor performing at peak levels in their careers. If they do one they must be lacking in the other.

It is similar to the argument that someone has "too much time on their hands." We have glorified the act of "being busy." Accomplishments no longer speak for themselves. We judge our relationships by everyone's level of busy-ness. We talk about people in terms of being workaholics or married to their jobs. This kind of work/life imbalance can destroy families. 

It doesn't have to be like that.

I am not too busy when I am doing something I love. I don't have too much time on my hands when I go out for a beer at 3pm. I am in control of my time. I write when I write and I enjoy it as much as I enjoy every other aspect of my life. And since moving into the tiny house and embracing deliberate living I enjoy everything from laundry and dishes to spending time with friends and meeting with clients.

I don't like the concept of a "Job." My job isn't writing. Rather, I am a writer. It is part of my life. It is who I am.

I believe that work/life integration is an important part of the Live Deliberately philosophy. My journey to get here led to me being self employed which works great for my lifestyle. There are countless ways to make this happen for yourself. And that is the key: "Yourself." This is a very personalized philosophy and only you can change your life.

How can you integrate your work and your life?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Happiness Jar

You will usually see this kind of story around the first of the year, but I was just adding some things to my own Happiness Jar and decided that now was a fine time to mention it to you, my readers.

A happiness jar is a simple thing. Take a glass jar and fill it with things that make you happy.

Every day or every time something wonderful happens in your life write it down on a small scrap of paper and place it in the jar. 

At the end of the year you can look back at all the blessings you've had in your life and remember that life is an amazing thing.

I wanted to share this now even though it is sort of random for the first day of October, but since I love this time of year I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and tossed it in the jar. I wanted to mention it before I forgot. It is never too late to keep track of all the things that make you happy.

What can you write down to start your own happiness jar?