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!

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Confessions Of An Aging Tattooer on National Tattoo Day

When it comes to National Tattoo Day, there’s many topics I could write about: Tattoos as therapy, being a female tattooer, what tattooing has done for me- which is a lot. I could write about the changing trends and acceptance of tattooing. Who knew what previously labeled you as a criminal, or unsavoury character in the not so distance past is now what opens doors for you today! It’s hard to choose a single topic when they are all related and so important to me. 

Photo by Jared Reid

I remember the concern on my parents’ face after I told them I was going to become a tattoo apprentice. I had finished my degree just two years prior. This wasn’t a lucrative or socially acceptable career to their generation. I couldn’t explain it to them because I honestly couldn’t even see what that apprenticeship would do for me in the future. They eventually accepted this was what I wanted to do. They watched me blossom from a fledgling apprentice to an award-winning tattooer and shop owner with a steady clientele.

As I close in on 16 years of tattooing, it’s interesting to me to look at the evolution tattooing has had since I started. Most people begin tattooing right after high school. I didn’t begin my apprenticeship until the mid 2000’s when I was 26. We were coming out of the era of tribal sleeve & Chinese characters. I don’t think I’ve ever done a Looney Toon (my apologies if I did and don’t remember…!). Maybe one or two barbwire armbands. I cut my teeth during the time of ‘Live Love Laugh’, and the rise of what tattooers came to refer to as ‘Bird Pox’: the little black silhouette birds breaking out of every object you can imagine. Again – no disrespect if this is a tattoo you have. It was just something done in excess at that time.

Getting tattooed by Dave Munro during my apprenticeship

I never thought I would take on an apprentice myself because I didn’t have the time or space. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how good a teacher I would be. I had such a great apprenticeship in an amazing shop (Trouble Bound Studio under Dave Munro) with four to five tattooers who were all gracious to me and helped me learn. One point I try to drive home is that it took me two years to get my apprenticeship. Two years of showing up, of bringing drawings, of listening to Dave’s critiques and advice to better my skills. That surprises a lot of people, but I knew it was what I wanted to do, and I knew Dave was the guy I wanted to learn it from.

I did take an apprentice two years ago (Jen Power) and I’m kind of sad she didn’t get the same type of family style apprenticeship I got all those years ago. When I was an apprentice, we made our own needles and hand-scrubbed our tubes. I’m sure some tattooers still do both, but  I’m not sad to see those practices go! It took years for me to build a clientele or develop a style of work. Jen has already done both in her two years of tattooing. Of course I’m happy for her, but there might be a small bone of contention that she got to skip those steps. Yes, I tell her that regularly 😇.

My first international client at the Manchester Tattoo Expo 2010, England.

I post often on social media about learning to accept and love the bodies we have instead of lusting after the bodies we wish we had. What I love the most about tattooing is when it helps people love their bodies more. Many of us struggle with body issues and self-love. When someone sees their tattoo complete for the first time and tells me how they always hated their (insert body part or issue here- scars/ veins included) and now they love looking at this area, my heart radiates. When I can cover up a painful experience or help someone heal through a tattoo – there’s no greater feeling (see this blog I wrote about tattoos as therapy here).

On top of all of this, my mind is continually blown that through my other business, Truro Buzz, companies have hired me to be the face of a campaign or advertisement. Turns out, in some cases, my heavily tattooed skin also makes me relatable.

All the years of being told I was ruining my life, my prospects and mutilating my body – here’s where I stand tall and proudly proclaim, “LOOK AT ME NOW!” Law offices, government agencies, agricultural organizations, high end retailers -all clients of mine that have had me represent their businesses.

I live in an incredibly supportive town where I’ve never had to hide my tattoos at a meeting for fear of not getting the job or project. I don’t even know if they realize how big a deal it is. How I have other tattooed people write me on social when I post about choosing outfits for formal functions about putting on a cardigan or blazer to cover my arms. That’s what they have to do to be accepted in their places of work…it’s sad. There’s been a major shift in acceptance as we all know, but there’s still a ways to go. 

Tattooing my friend Tim with a cancer ribbon as a cancer survivor.

Tattooing continues to give me so much out of life and every time I can tell a kid in high school they can make a living with art or see adoration on a client’s face looking at their new tattoo, I’m reminded of all the good it brings the world. I’m incredibly grateful to be even a small part of that.

Thanks for reading these confessions of an aging tattooer on National Tattoo Day. Thank you for the support over the years, or if you’re new here, thanks for being here. Go get tattooed!

Winning an award for Medium Black and Grey in Moncton, 2016