Tiny Salutations

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Friday, December 26, 2014

A Roof Over Our Heads

To my loyal readers, I am sorry about the long absence!  Hope you all had a splendid Christmas holiday!
We have been hard at work.  We have what now looks like a house.  The framing is completed, and the roof is finished.  The design is my own.  We didn’t buy any plans or have any made for us.  We made it custom to the salvaged materials that were available- the windows, door, and trailer specs.
We built one long wall first- the one with all the windows.  The windows are all on one side of the house for passive solar heating.  We can point that side of the house toward the south to get the most sun exposure.  The north facing side doesn’t have any windows, except in the door.  Another great part about being on wheels is that we can take passive solar heating a step further and put our house in the shade in the summer and in the open in the winter.
Then we built the two short walls.  Then we stood them all up.  I have to say- for anyone attempting to build a micro home- get more help with this.  It was really hard for us to do by ourselves.  There was the just the two of us and I am not the best person for this job considering my disabilities.  And our house is fairly small- just 90 sqft- for a tiny house.  I think we should have had AT LEAST three people, but really four  would have been best.
Then we built the last wall.  It was finally taking shape.
Then we framed the roof.
Last, we built the roof.  We made a makeshift ladder by building a treehouse style ladder into the wall framing (which will come out when the walls are getting finished).  Hey, ladders are expensive, and it worked well.  We first laid down the plywood.  Then, we laid down roofing felt on top of the plywood.  Lastly, we put on the corrugated metal roof.  We were unable to find any salvaged lumber that we trusted to the house framing, but the metal roof was salvaged.  And the nice fellow at the salvage yard gave me a discount for having red hair!  The salvage yards are great though.  I highly recommend them to anyone doing any kind of construction- be it tiny house, remodel, treehouse, or just building your kids a kid-sized table.  You never know what you’ll find, and it is a great way to save money and save good stuff from being dumped into the landfill.
Lastly, I have to leave you with pictures of holiday fun (over the last MONTH- jeez).  L learned to walk up and down stairs by himself- no more crawling up and down!  I am over the moon about this.  He even attempted a ladder and rock climbing.  He can speak in complete sentences sometimes, can know how many things are in a group without counting, has memorized a bunch of Dr. Seuss books (he really loves Dr. Seuss), and knows the names of practically every car.  He has been getting sick again- asthma, fevers- but no emergencies, which is great.  We did have to take him back out of church though.  Being around a group of kids just always makes him sick.  He was super into the holiday stuff.  He loved Christmas songs (when he was in the mood- singing can overwhelm him easily sometimes), told everyone “Merry Christmas”, petted Santa (yes, I said petted), understood presents, and could not resist the Christmas tree.  Unfortunately, Christmas was a little too over stimulating for his sensory abilities, and he went crazy a few times.  He had to be put in a calm down place a few times.  But we are working on it, and that’s all you can do, right?  He particularly got upset when people started leaving my dad’s house.  Goodbyes are hard.  In good news, my kidneys are doing much better!  Yay!  Ok really now though, pictures.
Visiting a reindeer
Pioneer Park Christmas
Pioneer Park- a cash register (?) on display
Pioneer Park Jail
Petting Santa
Writing a letter to Santa- who wrote him back
Horse drawn wagon
Horse drawn wagon
Father and son fixing the truck
Making dough ornaments as gifts- he had fun!
Our super Charlie Brown Christmas tree that we literally cut down from our back yard
We used newspaper wrapping- recycle!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Micro Subfloor

We have a floor!  It is starting to look house-ish.  It has been super hard to get out there to work on it though, because it has been pouring rain.  Like overflowed the wheelbarrow with rainwater raining.  The days we could work were below freezing. 



First, we laid new aluminum flashing.  These rolls want to spring back into a roll shape, which makes for a frustrating, albeit very cartoon humor, task.  We tried to seal these down with construction adhesive.  That didn’t work all that well though, because it was only about 25F when we applied it so it was too cold for it to really work.  We ended up using aluminum tape to hold the pieces together. 

Then, we built the floor frame.  This part was fairly easy. 


Then, we filled the floor frame with insulation.  We are using recycled denim insulation.  I really like this stuff so far.  It is not dangerous, which makes handling easy, and is a plus for us considering respiratory issues.  Also, it is made from recycled blue jeans- how cool is that?  I pretty much love anything recycled.  The installation was pretty easy too.


We then attached the tongue and groove plywood.  Given the weather, the plywood was warped by the time we got to it.  This made getting the tongue into the groove very frustrating.  Lesson learned:  get plywood at the last minute or keep inside the house. 

Last, we attached the subfloor to the trailer frame.  We used metal strapping and lag bolts.  Pretty straight forward.

We drew out our floor plan on the subfloor in sharpie.  For those of you building, I highly recommend this.  Since we ended up building the frame narrower than my original plan, we had to change the orientation of our son’s bedroom.  This is not ideal, but I want the house to be with us as we grow, which means we need room for a twin size mattress.  By drawing out the plan, we found the bathroom was a little too small and the kitchen counter was a little too big.  We could make these adjustments before building, thank goodness!

We have started on the walls, but just barely.

Poor L has been sick.  105F fever again, but it did not last as long as before.  I really, really hope that this is not the start of a bad sick season again. 

And I will leave you with a great picture of the dog caught in action stealing the (vegan) pizza L threw on the floor.  Priceless.



Vegan Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving generally centers around the turkey.  All of the other dishes tend to be dairy heavy.  So how can you still enjoy Thanksgiving while staying vegan?  There are several dishes I like to make for Thanksgiving.  They are all vegan and all quite festive.

Here was the meal plan I made this year:
Colonial apples & yams (this year I used potatoes instead of yams)
Roasted potatoes
Mashed turnips
Cherry pie
Pumpkin pie

When my husband said the prayer for Thanksgiving dinner, my son clasped his hands and said “Dear God, thank you, *some gibberish*, yummy, yummy, yummy, Amen”.  Pretty adorable.

Colonial apples & yams
I make this entree every year.  This year, my yams went bad before I got to them (quite quickly for some reason this time), so I used potatoes instead.  Either is tasty.

2-3 apples
2 yams
½ cup maple syrup
1-2 tbsp vegan butter
Preheat oven at 350F.  Slice the apples and yams fairly thin.  Oil or butter the pan.  Layer the apple and yam slices in the pan.  Melt the butter and mix it with the maple syrup.  Pour over the apples and yams.  Bake until tender (about 30 minutes).


Roasted potatoes
This is the one dish that I could keep eating until I am sickly full.  Feel free to add any other vegetables you like to roast. 

About 25 tiny potatoes*
3-4 carrots
1 onion
About ½ cup Italian dressing**
* This year I used purple potatoes, but I also suggest fingerling potatoes.  If you can’t find either of those, you can probably find baby red or Yukon potatoes.
** You can make this yourself, or buy a vegan variety
Preheat oven at 350F.  Chop the tiny potatoes into about fourths, smaller if necessary.  Chop the carrots into similarly sized pieces.  Dice the onion.  Place them all in a baking pan.  Pour Italian dressing on top, then mix dressing throughout until everything is covered.  Bake until tender (about 30 minutes).

Mashed turnips
I know what you’re thinking.  Turnips?  Um, I’ll pass.  Have you tried them?  If not, you should.  If so, you should try them this way.  I was hesitant at first given their reputation, but this was pretty good.  I didn’t measure what I put into it, so this is an approximation.  In fact, I almost never measure ingredients.  It’s just one of those things you learn to eyeball.

3-4 turnips
 ¼ cup soy milk
 ¼ cup vegan butter
2-3 tbsp sugar*
2 tbsp cinnamon
*  Regular white processed sugar is made using animal bone char.  This blew my mind when I, unsuspecting, discovered this.  So if you want to avoid this, there are sugars that do not use bone char.  I use Sugar in the Raw, but there are others you can find with a Google search.
Chop the turnips into about eighths.  Boil them.  Once soft, drain well.  Mash.  Add milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon.

Cherry pie and pumpkin pie
The cherry pie was a hit this year, but the pumpkin pie was not quite solid enough.  Still a good taste, but just not firm.  So I will not share the pumpkin pie recipe here.

Cherry pie
Can of cherry pie filling

Graham cracker pie crust
Graham crackers
Preheat oven to 350F.  Pour cherry filling into pie crust.  Smash graham crackers into crumbs (fun for the kids!).  Cover the pie with crumbs.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes.





Monday, November 10, 2014

Yellow House and Adorable Pumpkins

First, tiny house news.  We have been working on the trailer.  Still.  I know it seems like we have not gotten anywhere, but this stage is a lot of work for what feels like little visual difference.  We also have a lot of days taken up with doctors appointments and bad days, so we don't get to work on it everyday.  The next step should look like an improvement.  And should start looking like a house! 
We have ground and sanded the trailer and painted it yellow.  When we first brought home the trailer, my son called it "a house". Then after demolition, he called it "a broken house".  And now he calls it "a yellow house".  Yellow house sounds like progress over broken house.



Now, health news.  L is doing awesome.  *Knock on wood*  He has been in Sunday school several times now and has not gotten really sick.  Some sniffles, but no fevers, no infections, nothing severe.  Thank God!  He has been making improvements in development too.  He is still quite sensitive to sensory input and has weak, uncoordinated muscles, but it is to the point where I can breathe and relax a little. 






My health has not been so lucky as L's.  I have added a few more specialists and have had lots of testing and will have lots more.  My kidneys are being very closely followed, as it seems I have begun lupus nephritis.  I am in the very beginning stages of it, and it is not that bad yet.  I need to try to get off of prednisone (a steroid- the only medication that has made me feel better, but has nasty harmful side effects), but in decreasing the dosage I have come back to being in so much pain.  I can't sleep I am in so much pain.  I wake up in the night several times feeling like all of my joints in my body are about to burst.  My hands are even more disabled.  I can't brush L's teeth often times, because my hand will cramp up in pain and will simply not respond to me anymore.  And teeth brushing is not a vigorous activity.  The same type of pain happens in my hips, knees, ribs, elbows, neck- you name it, it hurts.  I am going to exchange or add a more aggressive chemotherapy.  I hope that will settle things better and give me some of my life back.  Although while there are benefits, there are also big risks.
I have tried to stay positive, but sometimes, in crippling pain, it is hard to see past the moment of pain you are in and to remember that this moment of pain is worth it to experience a moment of happiness with my family.  There is one thing I have been doing for quite a while now, since I've been really sick, that helps.  I try to capture a beautiful moment in time every day.  What I mean is- do you ever find yourself feeling like you wish you could remember a moment forever, exactly the way you see it, or that you could stop time in a moment?  I try to find one moment each day that is so beautiful or so filled with love that I try to commit every minute detail to memory.  It might be a perfect smile or hug from L, or horses running through the fog on the road to our house early in the morning, or a perfect leaf, or a really clear sentence L made.  It is generally something very small that would usually go unnoticed, but I try to hold on to that moment so that the next time I am in terrible pain I will have lots of moments I can go back to to remind myself why this is worth it.

As some good news though- I got some hearing aids.  They say it will help and that I am not even aware of how bad my hearing is since I have had trouble so long that I have adapted to live with it.  Still working out the kinks, but I'm hopeful!

Last but not least- Pumpkins!!!  The pumpkin patch and the county fair are my two most favorite days of the year.  It is just a sweet family tradition that we all get excited for and always treasure.  This year we went to the pumpkin patch twice.  The first time, we went with my Dad, my siblings, and my niece.  It was near Seattle and had a sweet petting farm, but a small pumpkin patch and Seattle prices.  Still it was a lot of fun to get to bring L with his cousin. 







Those Seattle pumpkins were rotting by the time we were carving them (only about a week later).  So we went to our usual spot- Schuh Farms.  I love this pumpkin patch.  They have a nice big patch and lots of interesting pumpkins for sale too.  They have some farm animals, but I don't think you can pet them.  They also have a neat farm playground and another patch and corn maze across the street.  And we got nearly the same amount of pumpkins for a tenth of the Seattle price.  So I suggest if you want to go to a pumpkin patch next year, go look out in farm country and I think you will be pleased. 












L was an adorable pumpkin for Halloween this year.  He had an appointment at Seattle Children's that morning, so we went trick-or-treating with my Dad on the way home.  He loved it so much.  Unfortunately, out of his entire haul, he could only eat 3 pieces of candy due to his dairy allergy.  Being strict with his diet has made a huge impact on his health though.  We hid the candy, and he didn't care at all since he hardly eats candy anyways. 





Stay tuned for the next step on our house- the floor!