Archive for January, 2013

Arghhhh – Cars

It is the last day of my pet sit for Julie and Tom. I am up at 5:30 to do the final cleaning and washing the bedding and towels. Looks like it is going to be a nice day. First thing I do is run out to make sure the van will start. Whew! it started right up. I was so afraid I would be all the way up here and not be able to start it and not only not be able to leave, but to be stuck behind Julie’s car so she can’t leave either. I have AAA to tow me 100 miles, so that is my last resort, but with only 4 service calls a year and a cross country trip ahead of me I am reluctant to use any of them if I don’t have to.

I did not find out that I couldn’t get the minivan I wanted until Thursday so it was too late to get the coil replaced before leaving. I was lucky enough that it started on Friday to get there on time.

Julie and Tom come home …the animals are beside themselves with joy…and we have a nice chat…what a great couple! Then Tom goes off to work, Julie and I visit a bit more and I go out to leave and the van won’t start. There is some condensation dripping now, and I guess that is the problem. I had been thinking that if I could run my hairdryer on the coil that would maybe dry it out enough to start.

Well after a couple hours of trying that, I gave up and was ready to call the tow truck. Fortunately Julie said Tom was on his way home for lunch so he would give it a try. Well Gypsy Jezabel you have shown your true colors again and started up when a man is turning the key. Faithless girl! Actually he removed a cap in that area and wiped condensation off it and it started. Probably would have been okay with 70 degrees and sunshine after awhile.

So instead of stopping to see the Lorton Workhouse which is a wonderful art community on the way home that actually started out as a poor house, I did not pass go or turn it off until I got back home to my own mechanic. She is there now and hopefully will be all better soon. Whether my bank account will be all better is doubtful.


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Some Van Improvements

Shoe Bag T-shirt Holder

Shoe Bag T-shirt Holder


Well it’s freezing here and dreary. Woke up to freezing rain and very glad I have a nice warm house to stay in. Even the dogs don’t want to go out in this cold.

This is my last day here and I spent yesterday with all my junk pulled out of the van trying to get organized. I filled half a garbage bag with junk and created a big batch of goodwill stuff, so I’m making some progress. Here are some of the things I added today,

First is a shoe bag like you hang on a door, This idea was from Judie Ashford  of the blog Adventures of Dorrie Anne  – check her out, she has some great stuff on there.

I didn’t have enough height to put mine up full length, so I cut off the top two rows of pockets and attached them going the opposite way so I can hang it over the front passenger seat…2 rows hang in front with lots of essentials that used to live on the floor between the seats, kleenex, paper towels, umbrella, wet wipes, etc. The 4 rows in the back hold t-shirts and tanks etc. I have to improve the re-connection of the 2 parts though.  First I tried super glue, that didn’t work, then iron on hem tape…no luck…then staples. which seems to be the best, but probably gorilla glue would be best. Have to get some.


The next is just a hanger for necklaces or whatever. I don’t want to modify things too much so I just unscrewed one of the trim screws and put it through the hanger. I can’t hang anything too heavy since I only put in one screw instead of 2.

I saw a post on facebook once that called this kind of hanger “Drunken Octopus wants to fight you” and thought it was hilarious. Now I can’t see these hangers without thinking of that, so of course I had to have some in my van just to make me grin. It hangs just above and to the left of my bed so maybe I’ll hang my phone from it like Carolyn does to watch tv in bed. Her blog is Am I Going Someplace – another favorite of mine. What would I do without you great women to teach me all the cool stuff for this lifestyle?


Finally I added 2 nifty little gadgets I got at the Container Store called the Auto Clip. These little clips are made to hold clothes hangers and are meant to either slide over the thing in the back of your car that looks like a grab bar or slip over a window. Well I have neither of those options in the van so I loosened the screws for the trim over the side door and slipped the clip behind the trim, then screwed it back tight. Voila, I can now hang my clothes. Unfortunately I do have to dress up occasionally to call on stores, so this solved a big problem for me. The hanging rod in the van is right where I need to put my shelving unit for my products, so I needed another solution.

Container Store Auto Clip Hangers

Container Store Auto Clip Hangers

All in all a very productive day for tripling my storage.

I do have a lot left to do before I leave in a week. I will be taking all my stuff to make my angels and such, so that has to be accommodated. Then I need to make space for all my painting stuff as well. Space planning for living in a van is a lot easier when you don’t have to make a living along the way. I need something less cumbersome than my cast products, but unfortunately that’s what sells, so I can’t really give it up at this point if I want to have the money to travel. ‘Tis a conundrum indeed. However since I made my former living as a space planner it seems I should be able to solve a problem like this. (Probably taking less stuff is the answer;) I think my new career should be space planning for vandwellers. Yeah that’s it!





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It’s Aliiiive!

Oh joy oh joy! The bird is still alive…with no tail feathers. That’s apparently what I found all over the bathroom. He was hopping around the living room mantel when I came down this morning and the cat was in hot pursuit. I shooed Kitty away and opened the sliding glass doors but the bird flew away, finally flying up to the second floor and into a guest room…not mine thankfully. I went in and shut the door so the animals couldn’t get in and, glory be, the window had inside screens that were easily removed, so I was able to open it enough so the poor little thing can escape. He seems to be able to fly ok without his tailfeathers, so hopefully he will be on his way and out of the clutches of Stupid Kitty.

Well I need to start getting the van ready for the long trip. Pulled all my stuff out and into the garage to start sorting it out and organizing it. Over the last few months of staying in other people’s houses, I have had a tendency to just throw everything in a tote bag that didn’t have a specific place in mind and it is just horribly scrambled. I have decided to fall back on all my years as a kitchen designer and identify each storage space with a number and keep only those things there.  There’s a lot more to it than that of course…point of use, etc…but this is where I’m starting. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

Lots of work ahead of me. Fortunately my friend and fellow vandweller, Jesse, is coming for a visit and I plan to pick his brain for getting things set up. (And possibly get a little muscle power help from him…shhhh, don’t tell)  He had a similar van and did a really good job with modifying it for the road. Even had a shower in it. With that said, I guess I’d better get to work.

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Maya and Sam curled up and cozy

Maya and Sam curled up and cozy

Camouflage Kitty

Camouflage Kitty

Gotta love pets. As I said yesterday I am housesitting for a wonderful couple in Reston VA and taking care of their 2 dogs and a cat named Stupid Kitty. I awoke at 5:53 am to a lot of clatter wondering where I was. Once I was fully awake I stumbled downstairs to feed the animals and found that Kitty had left me a gift. A dead mouse next to the Living Room chair. Well okay we need to sweep the evidence out the door – sorry Kitty to be so rude – but in this beautiful clean lined contemporary minimalist home I could not find a broom anywhere. Finally after much searching, I found one tucked away in the garage. I still haven’t found the vacuum cleaner but at least I know where the shop vac is.

That little task squared away, I proceeded to the master bath to feed the fish – don’t have a name for this fish sadly – and all of a sudden a sparrow comes flying out of nowhere and lands on top of the shower. Scared the beejeebers out of me! I have no idea where this bird came from or how I will get it back outside. My only guess is that it came down the chimney of the little woodstove in the sitting area. Jeesh!

Otherwise it has been a wonderful visit here, sitting by the fire on a cold and snowy evening watching a huge tv, petting the dogs, enjoying unlimited wifi. The cat tried to eat my snack last night when I walked away from it, thinking if it was on the kitchen counter it would be safe from the dogs. Things you begin to get used to again when you haven’t had your own pets in quite awhile. PUT THE FOOD AWAY!

My grandson Zachary is hopefully going into the Navy soon and plans to marry his long-time girlfriend Brittany before he goes, so I have been working on a portrait of them for their wedding gift. (Did I mention I have gone back to my first love of painting portraits?) I made a little more progress on that this morning. I have been lacking in motivation to get back to it after the holidays. That is one problem with moving from house to house. It is hard to get out something as messy as that when you are staying with someone else. My friends and family have been very tolerant with me I must admit.

I had intended to take advantage of the fact that I can park right next to an almost empty garage (can you imagine?!? they even park their cars in it!) and pull everything out of the van to start organizing for the trip. Guess I procrastinated too long, as usual, and here comes the snow again. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow.

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I’m Baaaack!

Okay, okay I’m a bad blogger. I have not posted since last summer, so let me catch you up a bit on what’s been happening since I left you.

The beautiful house I lived in was sold in August, so we had garage sales and packed up what was left and moved out.

There was a dear, dear man in Florida from the Van Dwellers group who was willing to sell me his conversion van on payments of as much as I could whenever I could. How could I turn that down? As it happens, when I flew to Florida, his van was in much worse shape than even he knew. We couldn’t even get it started. He was very ill and hadn’t seen the van in quite awhile since it was at a friend’s house. We parted on good terms and sadly he passed away in October. I feel so blessed that I was able to get to know him.

Unfortunately just before I left for Florida my minivan that I’d had for 15 years and that I loved dearly and had been traveling in, was starting to cost more in repairs every month than a new BMW would have cost me and developed a mysterious electrical problem, so I sold her to the junk man. Sad, sad, sad….

I have a few friends and family in Florida so I rented a car and traveled around and saw them and a lot of beautiful places. Stayed for a month and the family stuff is for another blog. I will be going back down in a couple weeks so I will have more to add. 

But here I was with no van and no money. Fortunately I have a loving daughter Jena who gave up her plans to go vandwelling around the country in order to start a thriving house/pet sitting business so she let me use her van. Check out her blog at http://thebestpetever.wordpress.com and her house/pet sitting business at www.ISitYouGo.com

For a lot of the time I have been houseless I have stayed with my dear friend Juanita. She loves to cook and bake and spoils me rotten. I help a lot around the house and since she has a problem with her foot it works out well for both of us. Her wifi hasn’t worked so well for me so that is part of the reason I have not been keeping up a lot with all of you. Melanie’s wasn’t great for me either. Once I’m on the road, I actually think I’ll do better…we’ll see.

I decided I didn’t want to be clear across the country at the holidays so I postponed my cross country trip until January. I spent the time from Thanksgiving until New Years with my other darling daughter Melanie in St. Michael’s MD. We had to have Christmas dinner at the new casino where my son Allen is the Director of Promotions and Events. He couldn’t get any time off for the holidays so we went to him.

I have done quite a bit of house/pet sitting myself over the last few months. I stayed with Juanita’s cat for 2 weeks while she went home for a reunion, stayed with my best friend’s 2 cats and a dog for a week, watched 3 Newfoundland dogs and a poodle for a week , and sat with a ferret for a week all for Jena’s biz. And now I’m in Reston VA watching 2 dogs, a cat and a fish for Jena’s biz. I’m sitting in front of the fire on a cold snowy night. Lovely home…life is good.

I really had hoped I could go back to a minivan to start my travels. Jena’s van is nice but too big for me to be comfortable driving and too much of a gas hog. Unfortunately that wasn’t in the cards for me, so Jena has decided to sell me her van, Gypsy Jezabel. (is that how it’s spelled?)

There was a problem that kept happening that the van wouldn’t start when  I was in St. Michaels. Tried everything for 3 days, then Melanie got a guy friend over and it started right away. I was sooooo mad. How could Gypsy turn on me that way! What about female solidarity!?! She ran fine for several weeks and then 2 weeks ago she did it again…wouldn’t start for a week! It dawned on me that every day it wouldn’t start was a raining drizzly day. Friday the sun finally came out and she started right up. Drove to the mechanic and he said there was a crack in the coil casing so moisture got in and it wouldn’t fire…so it wasn’t just because a man was there, she just didn’t like the rain…so relieved.

So next week I take her in to get that fixed and get new rotors. She needs a major tuneup and something to do with oxygen mix while they are at it to help my gas mileage. Money, money money money. Hoping now to leave in February.

Well that is a lengthy synopsis of some of what has transpired since we last talked, so I’m off to bed. It’s a 3 dog night here, but I think 2 dogs and a cat will have to keep me warm. Nitey nite!

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