To Build A Home in 2023: The Ending

Well folks, it’s been a journey building in 2023. From clearing the land in April to FINALLY moving in with an unfinished interior at the end of November. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t know what it took to build a home. I don’t know what I thought this process of building our garage home would be exactly. I know it wasn’t what it turned out to be. Like any project, there were good points and not good points. Here’s a wrap up of our overall experience of our mistakes while building a home in 2023. If you missed the first two blogs, you can find the first one here and the second one here.

When you see text in italic, that’s been written by Tyson.

The Final Reveal

We are calling it both the Clutter Cave and Harage interchangeably haha. We were so amused by our friend’s garage – the Garage Mahal, but nothing that clever came to us!

As I previously mentioned, this was my first foray into building. I had done renos on my previous home. It ranged from new siding, roofing and kitchen remodel, but have never gone through a design and build process. Tyson and I talked about the aesthetic of the garage that would match our eventual house. Apparently we didn’t talk about the specifics like I thought we had. I’ll call this our first mistake. 

Once our design was drafted, we took our plans to Hubcraft Timbermart. Chris and Jim came back with a full supply list of everything we would need. I loved this part because it was so easy. We called in and ordered what we needed in stages based on the list they gave us. Working with Hubcraft is definitely one thing we did right in this process. Ok – here we go!

At the end of July, Tyson began the build -2 months later then we planned. You may have seen a post I did the summer about how he does NOT care about the look of things at all. I, of course, care deeply. Unbeknownst to me, he ordered windows and doors without thinking at all about what color, style or look they had… Even though I’d mentioned on several occasions I wanted to go with black windows not white, for example. He figured it was just the garage so why not order the less expensive ones. This pretty much became the theme of our build. 

I actually just went off of a rough material list that had been put together. I was too focused on making progress. In hindsight should have had Alicia be in charge of ordering materials while I focused on moving forward. Then she would have known what I needed and could have made decisions on her aesthetic at that time. Lessons were learned.

Here’s where I need to put a special shout out for Jim at Hubcraft Timbermart. He inadvertently became the neutral party between what I wanted to order and what Tyson had already ordered! Jim was a saint for being able to help us bridge between what I wanted design wise, and what Tyson wanted to spend. He repeatedly used his expertise (and mediation skills he may not have known he had) to help us make the right choices for my aesthetic dreams and our realistic budget!

I’m quite confident we provided Jim with plenty of entertainment at the very least. It should have been obvious from early on that Alicia should have been the only person with decision-making power.

It took me awhile to pick out the colours for our steel siding and roof. There are SO many choices of colour and profile! I went to order my choice only to find out the colour I wanted wasn’t available in the profile I picked. I selected a backup color which was available in the steel profile I wanted, but in my heart I knew I didn’t love it as much as the first one. We needed to get it ordered so I went with it. This was mistake number two. What I WISH I had done, was taken the time to ask what profiles the color I chose was in. I knew we had to get it ordered so that’s not what I did. Another lesson learned.

In Alicia’s defence, it’s very difficult to pick a profile based on a cutaway section, and a colour based on a swatch. It works but it’s hard to translate to the side of a barn in your imagination.

As the build started to come together, the color scheme did not.

At least not to what my original vision was, so we had to keep pivoting. The vision was to do a sage green siding with a charcoal roof, and brown doors and accents. The colour of siding we ended up getting is called Pacific Turquoise which is a much brighter colour than the sage. For the brown garage doors, the colour swatch was only available online so I picked what I thought was the closest to my references. When it arrived, it wasn’t quite the same colour I hoped but we were (I was – let’s be real, Tyson only cares about the steel in the door) happy with it. 

At that point I was just happy whenever Alicia was happy.

Now as we looked at the doors with the siding and the trim, it didn’t feel cohesive or at all like my reference photos. We pivoted again and discussed options to bring the color of the doors up to the gable of the garage. Here is where Jim shines again! He was able to give me SO many material options and swatches. When I couldn’t match a swatch to the doors we had (Teak Mitten!), he came up with MORE options for me. We found the perfect option! We decided to go with a vinyl siding at the top that matched the color of our doors perfectly. It tied the whole design together!

So what we have is a little mismatched misfit but, it’ll come together. In the spring I’ll paint the white windows black to match the roofing and steel trim, and paint the side door brown to match the other doors. We learned a lot. Mainly that I’m not sure I can survive an actual house build. We will start that process very differently than this one. 

Things we learned: 

Sit down with your partner if you have one for your project, and make sure you have a clear vision you’re both on the same page about. Look at the same photos together. This might sound silly but I REALLY thought we had done this (Ron Howard voiceover: They did not).

Decide who is going to do the ordering… 🙄

Don’t make rash decisions. When the colour I wanted for the siding wasn’t available, I made a snap decision to go with my runner up when I SHOULD have asked what  profiles the colour I wanted WAS available in.

Timelines mean nothing. If you had a build that went on time, I want to know about it because you may be a unicorn.

Have documentation with your contractor. While we all know timelines cannot always be accurate and costs can go up as you build, try to have written communication and receipts for any payments you make.

Right now we don’t have a plan to build until maybe 2025. Tyson would like to stretch it to 2026 I’m sure but we’ll see how it goes. Our focus now is on settling in to the Clutter Cave and getting the interior finished. Our goal is to enjoy this time of being mobile and mortgage free! We’re hoping to travel in our Clutterbug and really think about out dream house design. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with our shenannigans. Maybe you learned from the our mistakes when it comes to build a home of your own. Maybe you were just entertained. Either way, thanks for being on this journey with us! May building in 2025 be a better experience than building in 2023.

This blog was sponsored by HubCraft Timbermart

5 Days In Vegas

I had hoped to go to Vegas for my 40th birthday but it didn’t pan out. In December, we decided to book a last minute trip to Las Vegas with two friends of ours, leaving on Jan. 1st. Three of us had never been there, but my husband Tyson had gone once with friends six years ago. I hear lots of mixed reviews on experiences in Las Vegas so I wanted to share our experience with you. Here’s our experience having 5 Days in Vegas and our tips for your own trip.

The Welcome to Las Vegas sign is further than you think.

We were actually super happy with the flights we got. We would leave Halifax at 6 am and arrive in Las Vegas at 12:30pm their time with one stop over in Toronto. If you’ve done any air travel since 2020, you know this is not what happened. As our boarding announcement started in Halifax, we got an email that our Toronto to Vegas flight was cancelled. Thankfully we quickly got a hold of an agent on the phone to tell us not to board that plane. We were rebooked to go to Edmonton, then Vegas. What was supposed to be a 9 hour travel day became a 22 hour travel day, but hey, we got there the same day right? We were also very glad we all packed a carry-on bag so we didn’t have to worry about our luggage on top of everything else.

Our first day we woke up early as we were on Atlantic time, but this was great. We got up and out before most people in that time zone. Let me preface this by saying none of us are ‘night’ people, so we saw the strip a lot more in the daylight than night time!

Vegas Is Not Hot In The Winter Months

Alicia is sitting at a booth putting a sweet potato fry to her mouth with a fork and is surrounded by plates of food

I’m glad we chose the time we did for our 5 days in Vegas. I had never been to Vegas or Nevada but obviously my thought process was “it’s a desert, it’s going to be warm if not hot”. It was not haha. Watching the weather the weeks before we went showed that the daytime was from high single digits to mid teens. In the mornings when we left our hotel, it would be maybe 5-6 degrees Celsius. In the afternoons 10-15 degrees Celsius.

The temperature was great for walking all day for me because I didn’t feel sweaty or overheated. It was definitely chilly first thing in the morning and in the evenings but definitely manageable. I packed a lot of layers so if it started out cold in the morning, I could take off a jacket or cardigan in the afternoon as it warmed up. Tyson had previously gone in June and said it was way too hot for his liking, around 45 degrees.

You Don’t Have To Gamble

We didn’t put a single dollar into gambling the entire time we were there. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying anything bad about choosing to gamble. I was under the misconception for a long time that that’s what you did if you went to Vegas. There are literally slot machines as soon as you walk through the gate to the airport. There’s so much else to do – sights to see, food, shows, museums, comedy shows. There are endless possibilities for entertainment at your fingertips if gambling is not your thing.

The Food Is Expensive & The Portions Are Huge

You probably know I like to eat. Food is a huge part of travelling for me so I was very excited to try the restaurants in Vegas. While I knew things would be pricier there, we were NOT prepared for how expensive food was everywhere. We chose to primarily stay on the strip. I know we could have found less expensive and excellent eating experiences off the strip, which I do wish I’d looked in to more. I had made reservations for supper every night but we ended up cancelling most because the cost was just too much. We were quickly burning through our food budget. While this was disappointing, we had to make adjustments and that was ok. I know better for next time.

Drain Your Blisters

5 drag queens on the stage of Rupaul's drag race live in vegas
Rupaul’s Drag Race Live in Vegas

We walked almost 90 kilometres in the 5 days we were in Vegas. I had great walking shoes, as did Tyson, but we still got blisters and had sore feet (except Dave. He’s a unicorn). I’m confident in saying no matter what footwear you have, you’re going to end up with sore feet when walking THAT much on concrete and asphalt. Next time, we’ll walk through the hotels more than the sidewalks as the carpeted floors really do make a difference.

Ok, not to be gross but I wish someone had told me this! I developed blisters in the first few days. I didn’t want to pop them because I knew then the skin would be raw, and I still had more walking to do. On the second last day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I used a pin to poke a small hole and just drain the fluid at night before I went to bed. I wish I had done this sooner. The next morning it felt so much better and it was far more comfortable walking the last day.

While this wasn’t the trip I envisioned (I was also sick the first two days from a bad cold I got before we left), I can’t wait to go back again. We’re more prepared this time and I feel like there’s still so much I want to see and do! For us 5 days in Vegas was enough to be honest. I can’t see us staying for a week or longer but who knows what the future holds!

Building A Home in 2023: Progress Report

In 2022, we bought land for ourselves in rural Nova Scotia. Our intention was building a home in 2023. Flash forward to April 2023 and we’re clearing that land. We’ve decided to only build a garage at this point. Currently we’re living in our 25-foot Flying Cloud Airstream trailer (which we call the “Clutterbug”). Our plan is to live in it inside the garage during the winter. I wrote a blog at the beginning of this process which you can read by clicking here. It’s now two months later and I’m coming at you with a progress report for building a home in 2023.

The Initial Plan

Our initial plan was to begin building in May. We hoped to be finishing it by mid August, or at least be close to finishing. This is when we would begin filming season two of our Eastlink show ‘Trailer Travels‘. That’s not what happened.

Why so long for a garage? For one, the garage is huge: 29′ x 48′ to be exact. It has to house the trailer and our vehicles. We also decided to add two rooms at the end instead of having a basement. The other reason is because Tyson was primarily building it himself. He very much enjoys the process and wanted to tackle this project.

Summer of Rain

In May there were historic wildfires in Nova Scotia. In June, it started raining and didn’t stop for almost 45 days straight! That meant excavators couldn’t go on to the land. It also meant concrete couldn’t be poured. Our timeline was pretty much shot to hell right out of the gate. It was July 28th by the time we were able to start framing which is obviously much later than we planned.

Well, the rains continued well into August. While we did continue building in the rain, during the many lightning storms or torrential rains we could not. Suddenly it’s the middle of August and it’s time to start filming which means we’re away for long stretches of time. As we got closer to September, which is when we expected to be moved in to the garage, we knew we were going to have to hire someone to finish this project.

Know When To Ask For Help

It broke my heart to have to hire someone because I knew how important it was to Tyson to build it himself. The weather had also pushed around our filming schedule to be gone most of September, and Tyson was also going back to school. The odds were stacking against us for completing this project before the temperatures dropped too low to comfortably live in the trailer. Maple Ridge Carpentry stepped in to pick up where Tyson’s hard work left off.

If I can segway here for a moment – I’m not handy and pretty scared of power tools. BUT my want to get this project done any bit faster was greater than that fear. I learned how to use a staple gun, nail gun and the tool de resistance, a circular saw (see proof of this here) 🙀. I’ll hold for applause. 😏

Almost There

It’s now the first week of October, and this is a big week for the garage build (yes we’ve named our garage. That reveal will be coming later…!). The doors will be going in and siding on this week! I had the hardest time choosing a siding color and profile – there are so many choices!! Did you see the post of the 9 combos we narrowed it down to? You can see that by clicking here.

So far we haven’t killed each other. We haven’t had any divorce-threatening fights. We have most definitely had frustration, but that’s to be expected. Part of the reason it’s been so easy is because of Jim and Chris at Timbermart. You see, we have very different opinions when it comes to the aesthetic of the garage which we want to match the house. Meaning Tyson does not care at all about the look of anything and only the functionality. I, on the other hand, care very much. Jim and Chris are able to show us options that make us BOTH happy!

I dare to say the worst is over for us when it comes to building a home in 2023, but we still have to survive moving into the space, and you know, actually living in it. Stay tuned!

This blog was brought to you in partnership with Hubcraft Timbermart, Bible Hill.
alicia is standing in front of a roughed in driveway on wooded land smiling and giving the thumbs up

Building A Home in 2023

I never thought I’d build a house. I’ve owned three very different style homes that I loved, but nothing like what I would design for myself if given the chance. Flash forward to 2023, and my now husband and I get to talking about building our own house. The one we were living in was too big for the two of us. We dreamed of designing the features we would like our forever home to have and we decided to go for it. Neither of us have done it before or been in the position to consider it. Of course, we want to document the experience of building a home in 2023, and share it with you! Also to have this to look back on once we’re done. 😅

Saying goodbye to our house

I’m going to be honest – I’ve NEVER heard anyone say building their home was a good experience. It’s usually ripe with a lot of stress and battles between the couple building, contractors, supply issues and so much more. When I say neither my husband or I were previously in the position to consider building a home before now, what I mean is that neither of us were in relationships that could weather the stress of that process! Who can relate? True story: my sister just earlier this year face-timed me while covered in plaster dust crying ‘Don’t do it’, regarding our upcoming plans to build.

We found ourselves some land and began the process of planning. Allow me to lay out the battlegrounds thus far.

Battle 1: What is the size of the house we want to build?

Here’s where the disagreement starts for us. You may know this about myself and Tyson already from social media, but we have different priorities when it comes to our living space. Tyson is a minimalist who is attached to nothing. At one point in his life, he lived out of the box of his truck while he worked pipelining in Alberta. I am a borderline hoarder who is attached to all her things and having space to keep said things in.

Left to his own devices, I think Tyson would build something that is probably 800 square feet. Like not quite Tiny House but just a step above. I, on the other hand, can’t imagine building less than 1500 square feet. We are still in negotiations on this subject but I feel like we’re settling close to 1500.

1300. – Tyson

Battle 2: Single floor or 1.5 story?

As I mentioned above, the plan is to build our forever home. I can understand Tyson wanting the house to be a single story so we don’t have to worry about stairs as we get older. My thought process is that we build a story and a half where that upstairs will have our primary bedroom, ensuite bath and my office area. The main floor will have the same and when it becomes necessary, we can relocate downstairs. The upstairs will then become the spare room space.

While I’m on the subject, I had to convince Tyson that we needed a spare room at all as he doesn’t believe in having unused space. He figured the spare room would be my office but I don’t want to not have my office when people come to visit as I use my office space daily. So you know, both of our families live outside of province, as do a lot of our friends. We have had many occasions to have a spare room.

-When we’re old upstairs will look like the forbidden wing in Beauty and the Beast – Tyson

alicia is standing in front of a roughed in driveway on wooded land smiling and giving the thumbs up

The Resolution

With all this in mind, we are putting the house plans aside for now and just focusing on the garage first. We’ve decided to first build our garage which will house the Airstream trailer we currently live in for the winter. After enjoying a few years living mobile and mortgage free, we’ll work on building a house.

Deciding on the design and layout for this was MUCH easier. We know we need it to be long enough to store the 25-foot long trailer. I also want to be able to park my vehicle inside once we are no longer living inside the garage. We also decided we don’t want to have a basement in our new house so we will build on two rooms at the end of our garage. One will house Tyson’s tools as a workshop, and the other will be our gym and music room. Is this better than having more space in the actual house? You’ll have to ask him. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Yes, it is better. Tools are loud and messy. Drums are loud. – Tyson

Garage Battle 1: Choosing a siding style and color.

Again, as you can imagine if you know Tyson, his priorities for choosing a siding is that is good value, long lasting and low labour to put up. He doesn’t care whatsoever what it looks like. I VERY much care what it looks like. He would like to go with metal siding, which I’m ok with. However, choosing the profile of the metal siding and colour is taking me longer than he’d like. 😬

Durability and longevity are key. I want a low-maintenance solution. Set it and forget it. – Tyson

So this is the beginning of building a house in 2023 for us. We’ll update you as we begin the garage build and how the process is going for us. Have you gone through this process? I’d love to hear about it. Click here to share your experience and advice with me!

This blog is brought to you in partnership with Hubcraft Timbermart in Bible Hill, NS.
A beautiful pastel colored sunset sky sits behind the airstream trailer with a black chevrolet silverado in front of it on a grassy field

Build The Life You Want To Live

I’m an early 80’s baby. I grew up being taught you went to school, then you went to college or university. You got a job after you graduated, hopefully a good one with a pension. Then you grind away in an office from 9-5 saving money to buy a house and take the occasional vacation. There wasn’t a lot of talk about straying from this path, or how you build the life you want to live. Now that’s a topic that’s very much on a lot of people’s minds.

We all know there was a huge shift from baby boomer work ethic to millennials having more of a living ethic. Not to say that generation isn’t hard working, but there’s definitely more of a focus on living your life instead of working for so much of it. I don’t know about you but the thought of waiting until retirement in my 50s or 60s (hopefully..!) to travel and enjoy my life does not sound appealing to me! Not enough people realize that you can build the life you want to live yourself; that you are the architect of your own future!

A beautiful pastel colored sunset sky sits behind the airstream trailer with a black chevrolet silverado in front of it on a grassy field

In my latest newsletter, I said I would share what building the life you want to live looks like for me right now. I was focused on making a 6-figure salary. That’s what I wanted, that’s what I was working towards. Spoiler alert – I haven’t achieved it. Over the last few years, I realized I didn’t need that to live the life I wanted to live. I wanted:

  • enough money to not worry about paying my bills
  • to take a vacation every now and then
  • to be able to take a day off without stressing about money.

When I worked out what the cost of those things would be, I figured out I could do that with a LOT less than 6 figures, which also meant I was working less! This is another thing I want for my dream life. I’ve been working 6 days (sometimes 7) a week for years now while I built up my businesses. I did this for a few reasons: One – I was growing two businesses, then three, so that obviously required a lot of juggling. Secondly, I was deeply unhappy in my personal life and working made me feel better about that.

After doing this for the last five years, I’m ready to wind down to a regular work week. To enjoy my evenings with my husband, family or friends, rather than catch up on work or try to get ahead of more work. While I lived the ‘hustle’ life for a few years, I do not glamorize it. There needs to be some balance, or work life integration to not burn out, or look back to realize how much of your life you spent working instead of living.

What does our dream life look like for the future?

Now that we live in the Clutterbug, our 25-foot Airstream trailer, our dream is to live in other places with it. Our current dream plan we’re working towards is to be able to tow the trailer down south for the winter. We would like to leave in October before the weather gets too cold and ideally take it to Arizona, but take our time getting there. We would fly back for Christmas and then back down south until we drive back in April.

So how do we make that work?

Step 1: Determine how much money we need to save to cover our expenses at home.
We will only have a garage on our land but we want to make sure we save enough to cover the utilities while we are away.

Step 2: Create a budget of what we think we need to make to afford gas, groceries and other necessities. That includes touring to see the sites of where we’re travelling!

Step 3: Can we work while we’re away?
I’ve been doing some freelance writing and working on a travel writing portfolio so I could potentially work while we travel. I also have the luxury of being able to work with my business while I’m away. Tyson doesn’t at this point as he has a physical job here in Nova Scotia. We need to figure out if there’s something he can do while we travel, or if we can save enough that it won’t matter if he’s not working.

Step 4: Set up a timeline that we can work towards.
This is an important one on actually achieving the goals we’re setting for ourselves. We want to do this by Oct 2024. By actually setting a date, we are giving ourselves a tangible timeline to work towards and work backwards from. I set checkpoints in my calendar like ‘Need to have X amount saved by this date’, ‘Need to create a list of potential writing opportunities by this date’, etc. If we don’t set a time, we don’t end up doing anything to actually work towards achieving it, and the dream just keeps getting pushed along.

Timelines you set for yourself are NOT set in stone so don’t let that stop you. We may be coming up on the fall of 2024 and realize this year is not going to be possible to be away for the winter. We could have an expense come up that takes away the money we saved up to carry us through those months, a sick family member that needs us in Canada – any number of things. But if you don’t set up timelines for yourself to actually build the life you want to live, it’s not going to happen. We all know time flies by (how is it August 2023 already?!?!).

Here’s your ‘build the life you want to live’ homework!

  1. Map out what you want for your dream life. The job you have, the hours you work, the money you make, the perks you want. Regular vacations, a four day work week, working for yourself – whatever it is! Write it down and be specific! You can get a great Dream Journal from Glowbug Designs Rebecca Hill here.
  2. Do up an estimated budget of what you need to live this dream life. Ballpark what you can, from your daily/ monthly expenses, to estimated travel budgets or decreasing your work week. What do you need to bring in to live your dream life?
  3. Set a date or timeline for you to move towards building the life you want to live. Remember, it can be flexible, but if you don’t set a timeline to work towards, how will it ever come to be?

Money is an intimidating topic for many of us. Budgeting is generally not something we enjoy doing because no one likes to feel restricted in what they can or can’t have, but that’s a whole other blog! If you can shift your perspective on budgeting being a tool that helps you in building the life you want to live, you can open up all kinds of possibilities.

I hope you enjoyed reading about what our dream life is, and seeing how we’re working to achieve it inspires you! Now get out there and build the life you want to live!