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August Update

Well, well, well – it’s been really sunny AND really hot!  But sunny days make awesome work days on the tiny house front.  We’ve made A LOT of progress, (for us) in the last month!  As in, you can see where the walls go, and that there’s going to be a roof!

Tiny House foundation 07-06-2017Here’s where we were a month ago… see that dark sky – that was one of the not so sunny days, where we were spending more time carrying the tools in and out than we were actually building anything, but hey, a day building in nature is a good day.

We were so proud – we had squared a not-so-square foundation and we had leveled a not-so-level foundation.  So we were “good to go!”


The most recent “lumber package” as hubby so fondly calls them, came this week.  I think he only orders lumber in “packages” so the cost is at a level he can swallow, and the visual is a level I can fathom.

We built the walls in sections of approximately 9 feet high by 10-12 feet wide.  We used 2 x 6 studs and we placed them 16 inches on center, for all of you building techies.  2017-07-29 framing week 1-3Additionally, each wall section that fell in a corner had a diagonal (literally) inlaid support 1 x 4 mounted to maintain structural support and “square-ness.”  By the way – in the words of Huey Lewis, it is TOTALLY “hip to be square!”  (That’s my Huey doing the hard work.)2017-07-21 wall building.jpg

2017-07-24 framing 1

As of today – we have all of the walls in place, interior and exterior.  We have the temporary supports in place (and level, of course) for the ridge beam (roof).  The stone columns in front are for a covered porch that wraps around to the front door (where the step ladder is on the right).  There is an equally cool set of even taller stone piers on the back side for a similar covered porch and awesome view.

2017-08-09 Roof Images 3

In the meantime, I made PICKLES!  First time growing the cukes & actually canning ANYTHING! 2017 pickles


Life is good in Santa Fe (TN) and I couldn’t be a luckier girl than to have this awesome builder/boss for a husband!

May update and Q&A with the Architect

We are making progress!  The foundation has been poured, and the concrete block foundation is in place.  The stone mason (David Travis out of Hampshire TN) began his magic this week.  What an amazing craftsman!  What started as a big pile of LOCAL cut stone like this:  2017-05-08 foundation wall 4

has turned into this piece of intricate stacked stone facade for the foundation of our tiny house, (back porch piers in the front, house business in the back):

05-15-2017 stone foundation.jpg

I thought it might be interesting to share a Q&A I had with the architect, who wears many hats.  The hardest, perhaps is being my husband, but he is also the foreman, the contractor, the heavy lifter of all things “heavy,” (decisions and physical), and the mind behind all things creative.

Q:  When designing a house, what are the “ideal” dimensions?

A: increments from small to large – 8″ – 16″ – 2′ – 4′ – 8′ for room and exterior dimensions.

Q:  When buying boards what are the actual vs. standard (aka “nominal”) measurements of the product?

A:  A 2″ x 4″ board is actually 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ … any inch measurement on boards up to 8 inches is one-half inch short.  Over 8 inches is three quarters inch short, i.e. a 2″ x 10″ board will be 1 1/2″ (the 1/2″ off) by 9 1/4″ (the 3/4″ off).  The original cut boards are the actual size; the reduction comes from planing and dressing the boards.  This works well withing finishing because they typical drywall thickness is 1/2″.

Q:  OK, so what about other materials, like the concrete block we used for the foundation?

A:  Concrete block is usually a 3/8″ nominal difference because the typical mortar bed is 3/8″.  (A 8″ x 8″ x 16″ concrete block is actually 7 5/8″ x 7 5/8″ x 15 5/8″)

Q:  What do you prefer for a framing material?

A:  Southern yellow pine is preferred for structural framing, including rafters and floor joists.  Spruce fir is common for studs.  (FYI:  Southern yellow pine is either loblolly pine, short leaf pine, long leaf pine or slash pine.)

Q:  What can you tell me about roof pitch?

A:  Roof pitch is rise over run (y-axis to x-axis for all of you geometry nerds like me).  The range spans from flat to 12/12, which is 45 degrees.  The Southeast is good for a 4/12 (18.5%) to 8/12 (33.75%).  Our “barn” has a 8/12 roof.  For perspective, Florida would be fine with a flat roof, but the snowy regions would need a steeper roof.  An advantage of a steep pitch is a reduction in leaks.

Q:  What is our tiny house roof pitch?

A:  The pitch on the house is 8/12; the pitch on the porches is 2/12.  The change in pitch is purely aesthetic.

Now for some credentials and personal interest questions…

Q:  What and where did you study?

A:  I graduated from Auburn University in 1985 with a 5 yr Bachelor of Architecture degree and a Minor in Art History.  I am especially intrigued by the Mockbee Rural Studio that Sambo Mockbee started at Auburn after I graduated.

Q:  Who is your favorite architect?

A:  Frank Lloyd Wright

Q:  What architect has inspired you?

A:  A Nashville Architect, Robert Anderson.  I knew of him and personally knew some of his family, and have lived in one of the first houses he designed in Nashville.

House Pictures 3 2009-10-25 014

Q:  What is your favorite Architectural style?

A:  Traditionally, I would say, the craftsman style, specifically the Gamble House in California.

Alex Vertikoff -

from (c) Alex Vertikoff

Locally, I would say, the Carpenter Gothic style you see in Rugby, Tennessee.

Christ Church Episcopal

Christ Church Episcopal – Rugby TN

Q:  What is your favorite house?

A:  Like many others, Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Falling Water

Q:  What’s next for you after the Tiny House?

A:  Well, I’d love to design and build something for someone else, or build banjos, or furniture in my new shop.

More on the banjos and furniture in future posts… as wells as the 5+ house plans we’ve developed for this one site that could work on “your” site.  We love using local craftsmen and incorporating the layout of the land to the plan… leave a comment or email me at if you have specific questions or are interested in custom architectural / banjo/ furniture commission.

P.S.  Life in the country is good.


The Next Chapter…

I lost my job.  Not sure whether to follow that with a happy or sad face emoji… so I just won’t put either.

My husband, the architect/woodworker, retired about 2 years ago.  We sold the only house we’ve ever owned together and moved to “the country.”  In full disclosure, we’d been planning this move for a while, but with the loss of my job, we decided to go full tilt and start building the next house on our 10 acres of land.

A little history… about 18 months ago we started “the barn.”  It’s really hub’s woodworking shop, but it was an experiment — well, many experiments.  Can we really work together on a job site (aka can I take direction)?  Do we really like it out here?  How fluid are we on the plans?  Are two “retired” people able to co-exist after living in the corporate world for so long?  I’m happy to say, all of the answers have been a resounding “YES”!!!  Here’s “the barn” as it is today – still needs shutters, siding on the back, deck on the far wall… and more, but basically, it’s a go… AND WE DID IT ALL OURSELVES!  (except for the roof).

barn Apr 2017.jpg

As these posts evolve, I’ll include the barn raising story, but for today, the excitement is all about breaking ground on the TINY house.

breaking ground

Our 600 square foot house will be close living quarters, but I think the most challenging part will be a single bathroom!

Our inspiration… tiny house photo.jpg

What’s the goal?  Well, given our record of a pretty slow pace, it’s “this year.”  Given, we are renting, “it’s 4-5 months” until occupancy and giving up our rental.  Maybe putting that goal out into the world will give us a greater goal, and we’ll “make it,” otherwise, we’re still renting!

The great part in building a tiny house when you haven’t built a “big” house, is that it’s practice:

  • building walls (check on the barn, done that)
  • building decks (check on the barn, done that)
  • picking out cabinets
  • picking out lighting
  • picking/installing flooring
  • downsizing… do you really need 45 t-shirts when there’s only 7 days in the week?

Oh yeah, we also upgraded to a Toro 60″ deck, zero turn mower… I’ve always loved mowing (thanks dad)… but I hated my first time mowing and accidentally taking this “big” guy out… I never saw him (thank goodness), else I’d been doing a wheelie back to the barn on the mower…


Next up… I’m trying a hay bale garden



The Admiration Project – 2015 Issue # 5



Wow!  It’s September and “my” schedule said I’d be posting Issue #9 of The Admiration Project this month.  Well, better late than never, and NEVER let late keep you from doing what you said you’d do.

I’m taking a different approach to this post… I think I learned the Five W’s and one H questions sometime between 4th and 6th grade.  The answers are considered basic in information gathering.  According to Wikipedia, they constitute “a formula for getting the complete story on a subject.”  My subject this month is a friend I’ve known for 25 (really!!) years.  I’m changing up the official order of the Five W’s, and will save the “Who” for last.  All that being said…

What:  This issue is dedicated to a fantastic female I have known since 1989.  I had just decided to train and try out to become a Jazzercise Instructor.  I met her at one of the initial meetings for all of the “wanna be’s.”  Little did I know I was pregnant and would soon be fighting morning sickness before this journey got off to much of a start, but she was right there, encouraging every single newbie, even the sick, pregnant one.  She immediately got my attention as the one to watch closely if I wanted to succeed.  I had no idea that in a few short years, we would become close friends and she would be the one I could turn to during what was one of the hardest times in my life.

Why:  This lady has been a sister I never had, a mentor, a mother when mine was 200 miles away, a peer, a teacher, an employer, a confidante, a defender, a cheerleader, an example, but most of all… a friend.  While the cartoon I posted up top makes me chuckle, I liked it because it said we’d be new friends.  I think that is true of any long-term friendship.  Over time, as you remain friends, (if you do remain friends), it is because you have “new” levels to your friendship and as you each become “new” people, your friendship either deepens, or becomes distant.



And she did teach me the proper preparation and enjoyment of a good martini…

When:  1989 – current.  After the training, tryouts and birth of my daughter, I was at a meeting with all of the Nashville area Jazzercise instructors.  I again saw her as someone that had “it.”  It, being the keys to success as an instructor, little did I know that her “it” went far deeper than being a mentor.  I sent her a letter, actual snail mail – I don’t think we even had “email” back then, and asked if I could meet her for lunch.  Fast forward a few decades, and let’s just say, she is one of the few people I call “best friend.”

Where:  Right here in Nash-vegas, TN.

How:  Gosh – how do any of us become who we are?    How do any of us become best friends?  We endure; we put on our big girl panties; we laugh; we commit to helping each another; we forgive; we learn from mistakes; we trust; we lean on others when we have to; we cry; we hug; we love; we become what our innate being meant us to be… we hang on!



And we both do love our Vols!

Who:  For the sake of her private story, I will not disclose her life’s personal details.  However, she has survived more than her fair share of the worst life has to offer: the untimely death of loved ones, the low’s of being a mother, a business owner, a wife, and fighting health/weight/life issues…  She has also had life’s best offerings:  being a mother, a business owner, a wife, and winning health/weight/life issues…  I’m sure I do not know all of either of those low’s and high’s for my friend, but I’ve seen her at her best – she’s seen me at my worst – and she has always been a class act in both situations.

So for this 5th issue of The Admiration Project, I’d like to honor my friend that I admire so much, Mary Helen Yarbrough, by making a donation to the Middle Tennessee YWCA.

And by the way, if you want a killer Jazzercise class and you’re in the area,



check out her class schedule here.

To my friend – Thank you for being a friend.

Can you believe it’s almost here?



No, I’m not thinking about Christmas!  Although that is just around the corner, but I’m one of those people who like to celebrate my holidays one at a time, so no lights, decorations or stockings at my house until Thanksgiving has been thoroughly enjoyed with family and dear friends.

The “IT”  I am referring to is tax season.  That dreaded time of year when dear Uncle Sam decides it is time to “settle up.”

I have spent the last eight months working towards being ready to take on this tax season with the launch of a new business.  I am taking on clients and will work with you to make this tax season pain-free.

There is no one size fits all in the tax preparation business.  I will only work with clients for whom I can provide quality service specifically for their needs.  There are several keys to finding a perfect fit; ask these questions of any potential tax preparer.

  • Do you have a PTIN?  (A tax preparer must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number issued by the IRS.)
  • What records or documentation will you need from me?  (A qualified preparer will insist that you provide your W-2, 1098, 1099 and other verification of income and expenses.)
  • Can I file electronically?  (It is the fastest way to get your refund.)
  • Who will sign my return?  (Don’t trust a preparer who will not (or cannot) sign your return.)
  • When will I receive a copy of my return?  (You should receive a complete copy of your return within a reasonable amount of time following your submission of documents.  You should ALWAYS receive a copy for your own records.)
  • How do I find you if I have a question after tax season is over?  (My business is not confined to tax preparation; I am available all year.)

You want to end up creating a relationship with your tax professional, just as you would with your hair dresser or doctor.  Do your research and ask questions; it will be worth it.

If you are interested in tax preparation or other money management services, please submit the contact form below.




The Colorado River – Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

Image Ummm — Check

This trip for hubby’s birthday was BEYOND expectations!  I mean, really, how does a high maintenance girl like me spend 4 days and 3 nights without any electricity, running water (well I guess those rapids on the Colorado could be considered running), potty, shower, mirror, and heaven forbid cell phone or internet access???  What was I thinking when I said, “sure honey, I’d LOVE to take this trip of a lifetime with you for your birthday?”  I’ll tell you what I was thinking… I was thinking, “this martini tastes pretty good!”

So we sign up for our little adventure and off we go, just like to summer camp, “2 pair quick dry shorts, 1 long sleeve fleece top, 1 pair socks, sturdy water sandals, hat, sunscreen… you get the picture.

First up is to arrive at a small airport on the outskirts of Las Vegas.  After each person is weighed, separate from their expertly packed duffel bag, we are assigned a seat so that the weight is equally distributed on our little cigar plane… wouldn’t want this baby flying sideways.ImageWe take the 40 minute or so ride to Whitmore International Airport in Arizona, landing oh so carefully on the dry dirt runway, 80 miles from the nearest town.ImageWe arrive at the Bar 10 Ranch for lunch and a debriefing on the activities for the evening, (horseback riding, 4 wheeler tour down to the river, cowboy lasso school, hike over to the original cabin on the ranch for a history lesson, and the evening’s entertainment by the staff at the ranch).  Just a little chef note – dinner included beef from the cattle being raised on the ranch – it was quite tasty.  The evening was relaxing and we all got to mingle and meet our fellow rafters — you know scope out who you think will and won’t “rock the boat” so you can kind of make your way to the right side of the group when they are dividing you up into groups for the rafts.  For me, that’s basically people who want to get their hair wet versus people who don’t.

Our first night’s accommodations.  Image








The next morning after a hearty cowboy breakfast prepared by the fine folks at Bar 10, we were again, weighed, measured and grouped for our next transport.  I can’t begin to describe the exhilaration of getting into a helicopter that literally comes to your doorstep and then leaps off the mountaintop as you make your way down through the cabin landing on the banks of the Colorado River.  
















So we meet on the banks of the river for our next debriefing… distribution of our day dry bags, night dry bags, sleeping bags and an introduction to the guides that will be responsible for keeping us alive for the next several days, both on the water and off.  Our existence is literally in their hands… from picking a campsite, to cooking our meals, to helping locate a missing camper the first morning (SCARY), to treating those suffering from dehydration and hyponatremia (the opposite of dehydration).  Luckily, dear hubby and I were spared of any maladies.

Second night accomodations:  Image

And one of the most invigorating showers ever… 


There are just soooo many great pics, but none can show what it was really like to experience a trip like this first hand.  Here is the group we shared this wonderful adventure with on our last day ImageSo while that hot shower back at the hotel felt REALLY, REALLY good the next day, the four days spent completely enveloped by nature touched all of my senses and gave me and hub memories of a lifetime.  I am so blessed to have someone in my life that makes me push the envelope and get out of my comfort zone… and have a bucket list worth sharing. 

Just a few of those memories… ImageImageImageImageImage







C is for Change

Hugging my best buddy, Tabasco

Hugging my best buddy, Tabasco

I’m sure there’s a reason I happened upon an old posting of mine today which reminded me that I once started a blog and so I went to read it and found that I seem to have been triggered to post in “recent” years when it was a dog-day.  Well, I am sad to say that this big fella just passed last month and so we are empty-nesters in the dog world.  The good news is that now Tabasco is up in doggie-heaven playing with RocksAnne and telling her how much we still miss and love her; the bad news is that Tabasco had to go way too soon due to cancer.  When we lost RocksAnne, we already had Tabasco, so while her loss was painful, we still had someone to greet us when we came home from work, finish our dinner plates (with our without permission and sometimes before we were actually finished, or even started), take our spot on the couch the minute we got up to do something and comfort/protect us by sleeping in our bed at our feet at night… not to mention taking up more and more space in the bed during the night and kicking us when he had those all too familiar “chasing rabbits” dreams.  (I miss those bruises on my legs.)

So here we are… dog-less.  For the first time in 15 years… sad times, but I would not trade one day of this sadness for any of the days of joy these dogs brought us day after day after day… remember, dog is God spelled backwards.

Getting Back in the Swing of Things



It’s been a rough few weeks – everyone in the house is missing RocksAnne – including our other Chessie, Tabasco.  He’s our 4 year old baby, so hopefully we’ve got a long wait before having to endure this kind of heartbreak again.

I was doing ok until the following Tuesday night when I went to make dinner and RocksAnne’s rug in the kitchen was empty… she loved lying there watching and waiting — watching for me to drop something on the floor, knowing it would be “hers” as soon as I turned my back, and waiting for me to bring her a sample of whatever concoction I was cooking up.  My girl was the best mop on the market – she left not a single crumb on my floor tiles!

So the rest of the time has been filled with lots of neighborhood walks with Tabasco – in fact on the Thursday after we were about 15 minutes into the walk, he dug his heels/paws in and just said, “no, mommy – I can’t do this walk again today.”  Remember, you only “negotiate” with a Chessie, so we promptly headed back home.  I gave him a few days off before starting “occasional” walks after.

In addition to the walking, I’ve been cooking, testing recipes to add to my personal chef client menus.  I’ve had some great inspirations from my fellow chefs at the USPCA (United States Personal Chef Association) as well as looking for recipes to use up the goodies brought in this weeks basket from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Delvin Farms.

Amongst the goodies I cooked and stocked in our freezer this week is my first attempt at “raw” cooking.  Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  A raw food diet (or living foods diet) is a dietary regimen consisting of uncooked and unprocessed organic foods.  I made a “raw” Key Lime Pie.  This dessert concoction was made from a host of ingredient, some seemed common, some not so common.  The crust was a mixture of coconut, macadamia nuts, lime zest and agave nectar… the filling ingredients included lime juice and zest, cold-pressed coconut oil, more agave nectar and avocados!  At this point I’m thinking the calorie and fat content must far exceed it’s “processed” counterpart, yet reports are that eating a raw diet is healthy and often results in weight loss.  Healthy — yes, weight loss — I’m not convinced.  However — I’m basing that on this one recipe experience.

The tasting:  I thought it was a great substitute, but obviously not the real thing.  Middle daughter (who is totally interested in this kind of thing) wants no one else to eat any of it.  In fact she scooped up 3/4 of the pie and took it to her vegan friends.  A few days later we went to a gathering at her space, Little Hamilton, and at the door when I said, “I’m Laura’s mom,” three people immediately said, “OH! You’re the one that made the key lime pie!  It was amazing!”  I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to be known for my food!

In Honor of RocksAnne

RocksAnneI did the hardest thing I have ever done today.  I took my beloved 12 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, RocksAnne, to the vet to be put to sleep.  I won’t go into all of the issues she was having that zapped away her doggie joys, but let it suffice to say that my sweet baby girl is resting peacefully with all her doggie-ness restored.

This photo above is from quite a few years ago at one of the cabins in the woods we frequent.  She would hike with us, take a dip in the creeks nearby and chase critters in the woods.

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever is similar to a Labrador, but with curly thick hair.  There is a saying that you train a Labrador, you negotiate with a Chessie!  We have found that to be fact.  When I first got RocksAnne at 4 months old, I had a chain link fence put in my backyard so she would have a safe place to play – within a week she had literally unwound the chain link and escaped.  We repaired the fence and eventually “negotiated” with her to keep the peace and stay inside the fence.  The next summer I put in a flower/herb garden within the chain link fence area… she liked digging in my garden, so I installed an underground electric fence around the garden and put the collar on her.  The collar would give her a warning beep when she got within a certain proximity of the garden, if she proceeded to get closer, she would get a gentle shock… My smart girl took only days to figure out if she just stood there while the collar beeped, the battery would eventually run down and then she could dig up the electric fence wire without getting shocked!  How do you negotiate with your four legged friend when she is secretly reading the dog version of Popular Science?

We had some awesome times – sitting in the closet waiting for the storms to pass, replacing daddy’s favorite shoes that you thought tasted so good, getting the feathers out of your mouth when you caught your first duck, sizing up every stranger the other kids brought home before giving them your approval, swimming in the pond at Maury County, staying in too many cabins to count, and just sitting together in the same room.


RocksAnne Jan 2, 1997 – Jun 8, 2009

Rest in peace my sweet, sweet girl – you served us well and were a brave girl to the last moment.  We love you!

The 10 pound merry-go-round

Who starts a diet on a holiday weekend???  Well it’s time for this chef to get her game back.  I’ve probably gained and lost this same 10 pounds about 10 times now…so basically 100 pounds, ugh!  My downfall is the weekends, thus my reason to start this on the weekend instead of doing more damage over the next 3 days.

I’m a big advocate of strength training over cardio.  I’ve never been a big cardio fan, never felt that runner’s high, but I do enjoy a good bicycle ride on a warm, sunny day.  I don’t have as many diet and exercise books as I have recipe books, but I definitely have more than than any of my friends.  Two of my favorite fitness authors are Jim Karas and Harley Pasternak.  Both are advocates of strength training for creating a toned lean body and both promote a healthy eating plan with a basis of moderation, not restriction.

So where am I now?  150 pounds, 5’7″ tall and measurements of 37, 32.5, 38.5.  I feel my best at 140, it’s really amazing what a difference 10 pounds can make!  I was just there (at 140), last July – what happened?  why did I not stop the climb at 142, 145, 147???  Why do I have to get to the 10 pound mark to finally dig my heels in and say enough?  At 142, I could have been back at “my best” in a week or two; at 145 it would have been 3-4 weeks, now here I am staring at that 10 pound merry-go-round and 8-10 weeks from where I need to be!!!

Oh well, the damage has been done, it’s time to put on my big girl panties and get moving!  So, following the Jim Karas methodology, going public is key – therefore I’m putting my goals and plan out here for all to see – adding some accountability to the mix.  To make the goals easier on the brain, I’m going to apply the number 5 to my goals from Harley Pasternak’s plan called 5-Factor Fitness – meaning 5 workouts a week and 5 meals a day.  I’ll post brief entries here so you can see how I’m doing and what I’m doing.  Maybe I’ll even inspire someone to get off their 10 pound merry-go-round.

So how did I get here?  Where did these 10 pounds come from?  What wagon did I fall off of?  Well to put it briefly…

  • I stopped watching what I ate
  • I all but stopped working out

Aside from some kind of illness, aren’t those basically the only two factors in a weight change… calories in vs. calories out?

Feel free to follow along with me, even if you have more than 10 pounds to lose, breaking it into smaller chunks makes it not quite so overwhelming.  Get yourself a notebook and schedule your workouts for this week.  Make a food plan and go to the grocery store so you aren’t having the think about it all week.  Reward yourself at each mini-goal and renew your commitment.

Here we go, Week 1, Day 1…

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