My Vintage Airstream Project

My Vintage 1972 Airstream Land Yacht Safari

Living small in a vintage Airstream

As many of you know, I’m into sustainable housing and the tiny house movement. I don’t feel the need to live in a huge McMansion. We have a 2 story 2400 sq. ft. house in San Antonio that we only use half of. The other rooms just gather dust.

For a while now I’ve known that I eventually want to build an Earthship. I also like Eco-Domes and had though of building one down at our ranch. If we ever built the Earthship, the Eco-Dome would become a guest house.

I’ve also looked at a lot of the tiny house movement and sustainable living designs. I love many of them, but Matt doesn’t. He wants to be earth friendly, but doesn’t want to live in 100 sq. ft. I guess that’s why we both like the Earthship. It’s bigger like he wants, but totally off grid like I want.

A lot of people in the tiny house movement have bought old Airstreams and fixed them up and live in them full time. The Airstream is a classic piece of Americana. They’re built to last and are instantly recognizable. They’re trendy with the Hollywood set too.

Celebrities and their Airstreams Here’s an Morning Show video about Airstreams

Matt and I spent several years traveling around in a Class C Motorhome when he was contracting. We liked it much better than hotels, but I didn’t like feeling like we were living in a bus. I always wanted a Travel Trailer. It’s just a little more homey.

So last year I joined the Guard. Then someone told me about one of the deployments that’s essentially a full time active duty position. There’s six locations, none of them in San Antonio. I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to work full time in the Guard. It would probably be my only chance to ever wear a uniform full time. It had always been my dream to serve in the regular full time military, so this was an awesome opportunity. Even better, the job was actually something I was skilled at. Sitting behind a computer all day! So I applied. My Commanding Officer sent in a letter of recommendation. I got an interview call. A half hour later they called back and offered me the position. I was so excited. Even better, the location I got was only 3 hours from home. So I could still go home easily on my days off. It was also in a town we had traveled to many times and actually like. Although apparently I’m one of the few people who had a positive image of the town before coming here…

We have to supply our own accommodation down here. Some of the guys share a house together, one of the other guys rents a room from someone. I knew I wanted my own space, and I was going to get an RV. I was looking at cheap ones, and they were all so blah. I knew I wanted an Airstream. So I started searching. Eventually, I drove out to Houston to look at one, and with a week to go before I deployed, I picked her. She seemed pretty good. Matt was pissed caused she weighed way, way more than what I was supposed to buy. But hey, she was $3500. Plus, she was nice and spacious inside, and I though she just needed a cosmetic make-over. That would give me something to do while I was down here by myself.

So I took her into our local RV repair place. They said it was a good thing I hadn’t just taken her with me. She was ready to explode… So $2000 later, she had new gas lines, new electrical, patched up some leaks and a new kitchen faucet. So, now I’m $5500 into her. Still not bad. The tiny 1979 Argosy I had looked at for $6000 wasn’t as nice and was half the size, so I still felt I was ahead. Of course, by this time I was staying in a hotel because I’m a procrastinator and had waited so long. After 2 weeks though, I finally got her down to an RV park and started full timing.

I was in heaven. Then, the Heavens opened, and I was in Hell. The roof leaked. The Airstream had been in an accident years before. They hit something and crashed the front. The windows were buggered up. The front corner is dented.

What I didn’t know was that there used to be an antenna up top. I guess it got ripped off. They had kinda patched it, but not that well. So there’s water pouring in. Awesome. It’s not easy fixing a roof on an Airstream. Eventually, I took off the vents from the inside and stood inside the vent and patched the roof that way.

Of course, the other problem with leaks and a known issue with Airtreams is floor rot. Mine doesn’t appear too bad, except in the bathroom. It seems like the plastic is just sitting on the trusses. The whole sub floor is rotted out. My big project is to rip out the bathroom, replace the sub-floor and then put the bathroom back in.

Some of the easier projects have been cosmetic on the inside. I pulled all the broken perspex off the front window, then cleaned the old bubbling tint on there. It was amazing the difference that small window made.

I got rid of the old broken rolling window shade in the kitchen. I painted the hideous yellowing plastic in silver, and installed mini blinds. I had found these cool plastic metallic backsplashes which worked like a champ with the curve of the Airstream. So for $20, I had a pretty new backsplash. The blinds were $8 each. Paint was $14 for the metallic and the primer I had to use first. So for under $50, I had a total kitchen make-over.

Painted Window and New Blinds.

I thought the Aistream was pretty dark and wondered why there wasn’t more lighting. Turns out the roof vents also had lights under there. I didn’t find this out till I pulled down the ugly vents when I was fixing the roof. It was pretty gross up there. About 30 years worth of mold… I had to completely sanitize everything. I had been watching a series on American Restoration and they replaced the vents.

I wanted to do the same. Matt suggested I paint them, which at first thought was silly. Then one day I grabbed the paint and tried it, and they ended up looking pretty good. Well, in the day time at least. At night when the lights are on they look a little funny.

Ugly yellow vent.

While out shopping I saw the most awesome bedroom sets. They had sheets, comforters and and matching curtains in my favourite shades of Fuschia and Cyan. I also found a shower curtain with matching colours, a floor mat and even a broom in the same shades. I figured if I couldn’t do the floor yet, I could at least make the interior bright and happy to live in. I also installed the mini blinds behind the curtains. Some weeks I work nights, and I like it dark to sleep in.

I started painting over the other ugly yellow plastic parts too. The biggest part is at the front. The end dome was this awful shade of orange yellow. I painted it silver too.

I’ve got some pretty new curtains that go with my retro theme for the front.  I haven’t put them up yet though. As I work on stuff, I’ll post it up here. It has been a pretty fun project. I finally broke down and installed a flat screen TV a couple weeks ago. Put up the swivel mount, installed the TV, then realized there wasn’t a jack on the outside to hook up to the cable… The jack on the inside went to the old antenna. Which, surprisingly, picked up two Mexican channels. So then I ran new coax and installed a jack on the outside.
I’ve always been handy, and sometimes I’m surprised at the amount of stuff I can work on myself. I’m looking forward to re-doing the bathroom and then I’ll lay new flooring throughout. The lino in here is pretty fugly.
At the end of my deployment, hopefully I’ll have her all shiny and new and I can sell her and get my money back. The vintage Airstreams are pretty trendy right now. I’ve seen some that have been restored or refurbished go for almost $20k. I know mine’s not going to sell for that kind of cash, but if I can break even on my accommodation costs I’ll be happy. In the meantime, I’m still coming out ahead. I only pay $215 a month rent on my RV space, which includes cable TV and free WiFi. My electricity is about $20 a month. (I’m constantly unplugging things if I’m not using them) Even if I shared a house I’d have to pay more than that. I take my laundry home on my days off. Best of all, I have my own space. I like the people I work with, but I probably wouldn’t if I had to live with them as well…

I see articles in the paper in Oz about the housing crisis in Sydney. Maybe if more people could downsize, or if councils weren’t so anal retentive about micro managing every aspect of building, people could have more affordable housing. Maybe younger people could look at living in RV’s and save up their money for a house. Or look at buying land and building an Eco-Dome. It’s not just the building itself, but these things cost much less in electricity and water too. People could make caravan parks where they have US style RV’s that are completely self contained. I remember staying at Kate’s caravan as a kid and we had to walk 10 minutes to pee or shower. That sucked. I can’t imagine staying in a camper now and not having a toilet and shower.

Instead of buying into the dream of owning a big home, think outside the box. Look at alternative housing. It might surprise you how comfortable it is.


COPE training

Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience

This weekend, Matt and I went through the COPE facilitator course. Some of you may be wondering what COPE is. It stands for Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience. It’s one of the many programs run by the BSA, (Boy Scouts of America) and it’s a lot of fun.

Here’s the official explanation.

What is A C.O.P.E. Course?
C.O.P.E. is an acronym for “Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience.” a COPE Course is a custom built challenge course or ropes course designed to meet the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)Project C.O.P.E. installation and operation procedures. COPE Programs are based on attaining seven goals outlined by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

The seven C.O.P.E. goals are summarized as

Teamwork Teamwork is the key that allows a group to navigate a C.O.P.E. challenge course successfully. The C.O.P.E. challenge ropes course experience makes it clear that each individual can accomplish more as a member of a team than by  going it alone.
Communication A C.O.P.E. challenge course encourage in the moment active learning of critical listening and discussion skills important for any group, troop or individual attempting to accomplish a difficult task.
Trust Participants completing difficult tasks on a C.O.P.E. challenge course develop trust in the C.O.P.E. staff members, their fellow troop members and themselves.
Leadership Team members attempting to solve problems on a cope course have abundant opportunities to develop and exercise leadership skills in small and large groups.
Decision Making Project C.O.P.E. requires groups and troops to make decisions by developing one or more solutions to a  the specific obstacle, problem, or initiative. Teams must consider all the available resources and alternatives, and evaluate the probable results before moving forward.
Problem Solving Project C.O.P.E. challenges groups and individual to develop solutions to interesting problems. Participants must step outside of the box and frequently use creative ideas. Participants can then test their solutions and evaluate the results.
Self-Esteem Meeting the challenges of a C.O.P.E. challenge course allows individuals and groups to develop self-esteem  and encourages them to set challenging yet attainable goals.

If you’ve ever seen some of those high adventure courses that companies like to send their executives on for team building, it’s the same kind of thing.

sarah on belay
Here's me on belay. We're showing even the smallest in the group can belay a bigger person, by using an anchor.

On Friday night we started off with some trust exercises. These vary from the one on one where you have to fall backwards and trust the other person to catch you, standing in the middle with your eyes closed while you get pushed around the circle, having everyone join hands and pass through a hula hoop plus several other mind games. Most of these are designed to create communication and trust in the group.

Saturday we started off on some of the low courses. These are mentally challenging and really focus on problem solving and teamwork. Then, in the afternoon, we got to my favourite, and Matt’s dreaded, the High course.

I have no fear of heights. None. Never have. I have more issues with the low trust exercises than I do with the high course. Which comes in handy when you’re also the smallest person in the group. I have no problem with being used to show rescue techniques. I was a little more nervous when they asked me to be on belay a much bigger person, but that was just because I didn’t want to screw up and get them hurt.

Climbing the pole at the start of the high course

Turns out a smaller person can belay a bigger one, you just need another person behind you to hold on to make sure you don’t go flying up in the air. I got about a foot in the air, but it was all good. I got him down on the ground safe and sound.

When it was my turn to go through the high course, they used me to demonstrate a rescue technique. On the first wire, which has ropes hanging down that are each spaced further apart they had me let go and fall so they could show that if a person wanted to stay on the wire and complete the course, you could hoist them back up onto it. It just takes a few people puling really hard.

After I got back up onto the wire and got to the first crows nest, it was onto the Burma wire. We had to hook onto the second line and let the first line go. Since we were the facilitators, we were doing all our own hooking and unhooking. The Burma wire has a central highwire, with two other wires that you hold onto to make it across to the second crowsnest.

reaching for the first vine

From there, it’s on to most people’s favourite, the zip line.

On Sunday, they had a team of athletes come out from the local university and we had out first day as official facilitators. We put them through some of the team building exercises. Then, they went to the high course. I stayed up on the crowsnest between Burma and the zip line. My job was to get them across Burma and re-hook them onto zip and talk them over the edge. I was surprised how comfortable most of the girls were. Only one of them was terrified. We’re not supposed to push people off the edge, as tempting as it is, because it’s challenge by choice. But I did ask her if she wanted to be pushed, and she said no. One of her team mates made it over to the nest, and we kept talking her through her fear. After about 10 minutes, I asked her again if she wanted a push. As soon as she started to say yes, I pushed before she could change her mind. Everyone heard her scream and they all looked at me. Her teammate yelled down it was ok, she heard her say yes to the push. She was still shaking when she got off the line, but after a few minutes she came back to encourage her teammates and let them know she was really glad she had done it. Sometimes in life the fear can be too great to do something, even though you rationally you know it’s safe. Sometimes you need a push, and there’s no shame is asking for it.

hanging on the wire waiting to be "rescued"
Hanging on the belay rope, getting "rescued"

After the team left, we went and did one last exercise, which unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of. It’s called the Leap of Faith. Basically, there’s 3 poles set up in a triangle. You have to climb one of them, and then basically jump off and try to tap a hanging rope between the other two poles. It’s called the Leap of Faith because you have to have faith that the person down below will hold the rope and not let you fall. I was good climbing up the pole, but trying to get both feet on top so I could stand to take the leap was hard. The pole wobbles, and trying to hoist yourself up with nothing to hold onto is hard. Its a telegraph pole, so the top isn’t that big. Just enough room for two small feet. It was the first high challenge that really pushed my boundaries and got my heart pounding. I finally got up there. Stood for a few seconds, eyeballed the rope to tap, and leaped out to hit it before plummeting to the ground. Obviously, since I’m writing this, I didn’t really plummet.

Almost to the end on the Burma wire

It was pretty awesome. My group had the rope and I swung back and forth a bit. The only real danger was swinging back and hitting the pole. They lowered me to the ground. Then, I got to belay for the others going up there.

We had a great weekend. Poor Matt is terrified of heights and he couldn’t bring himself to get up on the wire while a bunch of newbies were holding his belay. So he was in charge of the camera. 😉

Next I’d like to go do the COPE Director course. It’s a week long course out at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

Flying down the zip line. The Leap of Faith poles are to the left of me. You jump off one towards the middle of the other two.

If you ever get a chance to try a COPE course, go do it. It’s an awesome personal challenge.

You’ll find that you’re much stronger and braver than you think you are.


Beauty Pageants

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Pageants

Elissa Doherty from The Herald Sun had asked my thoughts on the new Kid Pageants coming to Australia. She was asking my opinion since the new company is based in my home of Texas, and as someone who grew up on TV and is now an Ambassador for Bravehearts. Here’s my thoughts on it. Be sure you check our her articles on the matter too.

When I was a kid back in Australia, and I was doing modeling, Mum had friends that had their kids in pageants.

Back then, pageants weren’t just about glitz and glamour. The pageants were a way for kids to learn grace and poise, like taking a deportment class. They were also about raising money for charities and teaching kids about philanthropy and giving back to their community. Beauty pageants were about being beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Back then, it wasn’t always the prettiest kid who won. It was usually the one who had raised the most money for charity. Sure, this may have pissed of the parent who thought their kid should have won because she was the prettiest, but it was about the whole package.

As I got older, I forget about pageants. I see Queens and Princess all the time over here. San Antonio has a huge Fiesta celebration every year. It’s when all the rich people in town have a big party, someone get’s crowned King Antonio and there’s also a King Antonio. One year, one of the my friends who was the official photographer for the King asked me to be his second camera. I spent all week in this ridiculous cavalcade. Everyone was dressed up, and we had a police escort everywhere we went. We went to one party and function after the other, where money was presented to different charities. They said it costs about $1 million dollars to be king for the year. You also have to be a member of the Cavaliers, which is a club here in San Antonio. Rey Feo is pretty much the same deal. Last year, our next door neighbour had their daughter come home from Cornell so she could be a Princess for Fiesta. That honor cost them almost $100k in dresses and events. But, she did get to spend a week hobnobbing with all the right people…. To those outside the “inner circle” it’s just a big party, like Carnival or Mardi Gras.

Apart from Fiesta, each little town around here has a Queen and Princess. In Stockdale, where we have our ranch, we get to see the Royal court when we go to the rodeo. They aren’t wearing flash dresses, they’re normally in wranglers and cowboy boots.I’m not sure on their process to get there, but being the local Queen means you can then compete in each bigger competition, until you become Miss Texas and then Miss USA. Of course, there’s so many different competitions these days, I can’t keep up. There’s Miss Texas, Miss Texas International (WTF?) Miss Rodeo Texas, Rodeo Queen and about a dozen others.

Somewhere along the way, people worked out there was big money in pageants. Especially now that you’ve got things like Toddlers and Tiaras making a show about it.

The people behind the Toddlers and Tiaras pageant have gone a different route. They don’t raise money for charity. They don’t pick one winner who takes all. Instead, they pander to parents who think their kid should never understand losing. Every kid gets a prize. I know that seems like a nice thing, but honestly, what are you teaching your kid? That as long as you turn up, that’s enough. You’ll get a prize anyway…

Tiny girls in bikinis. So not appropriate!

Kids no longer wear a party dress. They have these ridiculously elaborate gowns that costs thousands of dollars. They wear a tonne of make-up. They are even wearing false teeth and fake tans. Essentially, they have gotten rid of everything that had to do with kids pageants, and turned it into an adult pageants for toddlers.

I’m sure that the TV show Toddlers and Tiaras has filmed and edited it to make it as dramatic as possible. They show the most outlandish parents and the biggest tantrums. They show all that is wrong with pageants, because controversy creates ratings.

However, when you take away all that’s good about pageants, like teaching kids confidence, public speaking, grooming, philanthropy and most importantly, inner beauty and replace that with creepy looking kids who are being over-sexualized and taught to win at any cost, it just becomes sad.

I know kids are pushed into many things they don’t like to do. I had friends as kids who were ball room dancers and figure skaters. Both had to practice long hard hours and wore skimpy outfits when they competed. They didn’t always want to be there. If they’d had a reality show following them around, I’m sure they couldn’t caught parents having a fit and kids throwing a tantrum too. Shit, if we’d had cameras following me around as a kid, I’m sure they would have seen me have plenty of tantrums.

I’m not defending the pageants. I don’t like where they’ve gone. I don’t like the idea of small kids thinking that the only thing that

matters in life is being fake beautiful. I say fake, because everything about them is fake. Teeth, nails, hair, tan and even personalities. Then, even after all that primping, they’re airbrushing the photos. Seriously, does a 3 year old need to be airbrushed? A kid should look like a kid, not some doll or mini adult.

They’re not competing for a good cause. It’s just for the company to raise money for itself. What is that teaching kids? Pay $300 and we’ll give you a trophy telling you your pretty? How about we just tell kids they’re beautiful. I wish I had been told I was beautiful when I was a kid.

Is she 4 or 24?

Kids should be allowed to be kids. They should be allowed to feel beautiful as they are. They’ve got their whole life to grow up

and wear make-up. Childhood is sacred. Lets celebrate our kids, but as kids. Childhood goes by so fast, and you can never get it back again. Lets not force our kids to grow up before they’re ready.

As someone who has been working since the age of 3, as someone who was forced to grow up before my friends, and as someone who ended up as a Bravehearts Ambassador, I ask parents to really think before they put their kids into a pageant.

Ask your kids if it’s what they want to do. It has to be what they want. Just because you think they’re pretty, or because you want

to live vicariously through them, is NOT a reason to put them in a pageant. Ask them why they want to be in a pageant. If they have dreams of one day being Miss Australia, fine. If they tell you it’s because they want to feel pretty, then you need to tell them they are pretty.You need to make sure your kids know you love them and think they’re beautiful. You also need to tell them beauty is on the inside. It’s not just make-up and clothes.

Also, find a pageant that’s doing more than just making money for themselves. Do it to raise money for charity. Teach your kids there’s nothing more beautiful than helping others.

Pageant or Playboy?

Do not enter your kids into a pageant that makes them look like mini Playboy Bunnies. It’s just creepy looking at little girls with big blonde hair, fake teeth and posing like they’re in a centerfold. It’s just glorified kiddie-porn. Don’t do that to your kids. We don’t need to sexualize our kids. We don’t need to desensitize society to that either. We don’t need to tempt pedophiles by offering them little girls dressed up as big girls.

Whether you decide if pageants are right for you and your kids or not, make sure you know your kids are beautiful.What you tell them as children will stay with them forever, or at least take a lot of counseling to get over.

Back in the Hey Dad days, I asked my Mum once if I was beautiful. I needed her to tell me I was. She told me no. She said I was pretty, but only grown ups could be beautiful. As those of us who are grown up know, we never feel like we’ve become an adult, so I never felt like I grew into being beautiful. No matter if anyone else told me I was beautiful, I never believed them because the most important person, my mother, told me I wasn’t.

Your kids don’t need a pageant, they just need you to tell them they’re beautiful.

Here’s a link to a new article.

Commissioner to vet child beauty pageant


Alicia’s Law

Making progress for victims of abuse in Texas

I just wanted to share with y’all the email I got yesterday from

Alicia Kozakiewicz in Austin at the launch of Alicia's Law, with Ed Smart of the Surviving Parents Coaltion and her mother, Mary.

Victory in Texas!

They said it couldn’t be done—not in Texas, not this year—but we did it!

In the middle of one of the worst budget crises in the U.S., PROTECT has secured passage of Alicia’s Law, a major expansion of funding for the men and women struggling to rescue Texas children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

What the Law Does

In Dallas, Houston and Austin, three law enforcement task forces (covering the entire state) will get $3 million in state funding over the next two years. Alicia’s Law also makes Texas the first state in the nation to give its Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) officers special subpoena power to get suspect information from ISP’s fast.

What it Means to Children

Survivors of child sexual abuse know that if they were being abused today chances are their tormentor would have child abuse images on his computer. Hundreds of thousands of these “child pornography collectors” have been located by authorities in the U.S., but they remain at large due to lack of resources to go get them. Alicia’s Law funds will enable investigators to follow that trail of child pornography traffic “back through the Internet,” right to the door of children in need of protection, often in their own homes. That makes the $3 million in Alicia’s Law funding the most effective money Texas ever spent to prevent child sexual abuse.

Who Made it Happen

Alicia’s Law was sponsored by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock) and Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). Behind the scenes at every stage was Texas’ powerful Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who made it clear that funding Alicia’s Law when popular programs were being slashed was his personal priority.

Thanks also to our partners: the Surviving Parents Coalition, National Sheriff’s Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT). And we’re proud of our PROTECT warriors on the ground, David Keith and Camille Cooper.

Credit goes first and foremost to our members and supporters. Behind the scenes this time, you were joined by a very generous and powerful group of Dallas women and men. Their quiet phone calls and emails to Austin made all the difference.

It’s great that places in America are trying so hard to protect their children from predators. States like California and Nevada have a ONE strike and you’re out policy, Texans are trying their best to protect kids here, as well as stop child sex trafficking from across the border. I’ll have to take a photo of some of the billboards up around town about that.

My best friend just moved and we went over to her place for dinner the other night, and it was nice being able to pull out my phone and do a neighbourhood check to make sure there were no registered sex offenders close by. She felt better knowing there was none on her block.

Alicia’s Law shows that if enough concerned citizens stand up and say what they think, that laws can be changed. We can help to protect our kids.

It’s a great day to live in Texas!


Miners v’s Military

Seriously Miners?

Do you ever see an article in the paper and just feel absolutely no sympathy at all? Maybe I just woke up grumpy, or maybe it’s because my new comat boots have arrived and Matt laughed at me for walking around the house in them and nothing else, but when I read the story on the poor sex lives on West Australia’s miners, I just thought, Wow, Suck it up. Are these people serious?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand what it’s like to be in a long distance relationship. My first husband, (yes, I was married before) was in the US Air Force. He was in a unit that was always deployed. BEFORE the war. I spent most of my time in Australia, and flew back and forth to visit him. We had been friends since we were teenagers, so we decided to go back to being friends. We both met our new partners while we were still married, and when he comes to San Antonio for training, we all go out for a beer together.

Matt was on the road for the first 8 years we were together. We met because he was working in Brisbane. He has also worked in China, Canada and in almost every state in the US. Back during the tech boom, he used to fly up to Canada and back every week. Eventually, he asked his boss to just let me come up there and overlook the extra expenses instead of flying him home every week. It worked out cheaper for them, so they did. Then, Matt took a different contract. He was all over the place, most places for one or two weeks at a time. Eventually, we bought a motorhome and could travel together. We didn’t like being apart and we missed each other. Of course, me traveling with him meant that I couldn’t really work. We never knew how long we were going to be in each place. Finally, while were were up in Iowa, where I actually did get a part time job teaching acting, Matt got a full time permanent stay at home daytime job back in San Antonio.

The thing about San Antonio, it’s a military town. It has 3 major bases. Lackland AFB, where they train every new airman in the USAF. Randolph AFB trains some very advanced pilots. Fort Sam Houston in a HUGE Army facility, BAMC is attached, which is Brooke Army Medical Center and is one of the leading trauma and burns hospitals in the US. There’s also Brooks AFB, Camp Stanley and Camp Bullis. You’ve also got a bunch of smaller national guard armories. Basically, you can’t get from point A to point B in this city without seeing someone wearing a uniform or displaying Purple Heart or Disabled Vet license plates.

Sure, all of the people in the military today have chosen to be in the military. We no longer have a draft. However, many people join for the benefits. The military has great health care, housing and they’ll pay for your college. Of course, there’s also long deployments and the chance you’ll be killed in a desert in the Middle East somewhere. Or any of the other 100+ countries the US currently has troops stationed in. At some point in your military career, you’re supposed to do a long deployment. Lots of Airmen end up on a year tour in Korea or Japan. If you elect to take your family, you have to do 2 years. If however your spouse or kids are attached to their home, you get to go alone. You don’t get to fly home every 2 weeks to see them. They don’t get to come see you. If you’re getting shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan, you might be gone 6 months without a trip home. If you make it home. Some people have already made 3 or 4 tours of the ME.

While the military folks do get good benefits, it’s not the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year miners are making. Miners aren’t getting shot at, don’t have to go for weeks without a shower while down range, don’t have to worry about ending up on a video on CNN with a gun to their head. Sure, there’s mining accidents, but that’s a risk of the job too.

Every job has it’s good points and bad points. Everyone has to make sacrifices. Life is not always rosy.

But surely, while we’ve still got boots on the ground and have good men and women coming home in body bags, do we have to see money spent on a study of miners making sure they’re getting laid?


new project – Earthbag building

Sustainable housing.

Those of you that know me or follow me on twitter know that I’m a pretty handy type of person.  I like to get my hands dirty. I’m also pretty granola and like to be earth friendly.

While we live in the city in San Antonio, Matt and I love to get away to our ranch, which is about 40 mins outside SA in a place called Stockdale. It’s got red dirt, lots of acacias and it looks like it could be the Australian outback or somewhere in Africa. It’s beautiful.

Right now, we have a trailer out there. We had sold our motorhome last year, but we had a 24ft car hauler that we’ve put up shelving and a toilet, as well as a futon bunk bed. We recently had electricity hooked up and there’s  also a well on the ranch. We fill up a mobile water trailer and hook that up to the trailer and have an outdoor shower and kitchen sink as well.

We both love it down there so much, we’ve been thinking of something more permanent. Matt started looking into nicer RV’s. We even looked at a couple of FEMA trailers. (ugh)


I however, would much prefer something that creates less impact and is much more permanent. That’s when I started looking into sustainable housing. So far, my two favourite types of home are the Eco-Domes designed by Nader Khalili and Earthships designed by Michael Reynolds.  


I have also been researching other sites, some with great info like EarthBag Building. 

I much prefer the earthbags over the tire pounding, and an earthship could be built using sandbags or used fruit bags or burlap. I like the roundness of the dome, and now I’m just wondering how to take certain aspects of the earthip, like the water harvesting and reclycling and incorporate it into the eco-dome. For a weekender, we probably don’t want growbeds like the earthship. They wouldn’t get enough water, but I’m thinking if I start out with an eco-dome with water catchment that then uses the grey water for outdoor gardens, that’ll make a good place till we decide if we ever want to move to the ranch full time. At that point, the dome would become a guest house and we’d build a full on earthship. I like the idea of being completely off the grid and self-sufficient.

Everyone says it’s important to practice on smaller projects first, so I have just ordered 1000 sandbags. My first project is going to be an outdoor kitchen next to our trailer. We already have a metal cover down there that Matt’s parents pulled down from the old camp site. So this week we’ll go down there and set that up. Then, I’ll use the empty sandbags and the local earth to build 2 walls, facing north and west. I’m going to try to incorporate some of the beauty of the earthships by using old bottles for windows and decoration. Last week we went to the Habitat for Humanity store by our house. I picked up 2 great looking bars. One for the ranch, one for the house. Turns out they’re from movie sets from a local telenovela they filmed here. I got the counters for $149 each! So add in $250 for sandbags, and since we already have the roof, all I need now is a sink, a 50 gallon drum and some guttering for rainwater harvesting and I’ve got an outdoor kitchen for less than $500.

Meanwhile, as I write this, the guy just turned up to give me a quote for new insulation in the attic in our house. The old insulation, which we found out after after the lightning and subsequent fire, was highly flammable stuff which was also really gross and disgusting after 15 years of animals living in it. (There was squirrel poop and hummingbird eggs!) I have since removed 90% of it, and we are getting new green stuff up there. He’s measuring now and is going to give us prices for recylced cellulose as well as Bio-Foam, a soy based spray in expanding foam insulation.

I’m super excited about building the outdoor kitchen at the ranch. I’ll take lots of pictures and put them up here. If that goes well, I’m then going to make a dome shaped bathroom. Then we’ll have a nice dunny and shower while we’re out there. If we ever build an earthship, the dome bathroom will be nice for visitors who come out camping.

Yesterday I finished putting up the texture on the upstairs wall at our house that we lost after the fire. We had been looking at the studs and new insulation for a year! Tomorrow I’ll paint it, then I’m going to make a nice trim with decorative tile. It’s so nice to have a week off work and get some real stuff done!


My 34th Birthday

I had the most incredibly fabulous birthday ever.

Since San Antonio is 16rs behind Sydney, I get a really long birthday! It started with a text from my brother on Monday afternoon. I was pretty excited he remembered, and even better, he said my beautiful nephew sent me kisses! I started gets tweets and FB messages from all my friends in Oz.

Tuesday I woke up and Matt had to go to work. I got to spend the day just relaxing. I pottered around, watered the garden, pulled some weeds, did some laundry. Matt came home for lunch and headed back to work. When he got home again, he told me I looked hot from working, and I should go take a shower and just relax. He said he thinks his Mom was going to come over and surprise me… I hit the MIL jackpot with Matt’s mom. She’s the nicest lady ever. She loves me like I’m her own.

Then I get a text from one of my best friends Vicki who’s another Aussie expat who had since moved from San Antonio to the coast. She was in town, and wanted to know if she could pop over to say hi.

Matt’s Mom shows up, and then our best friend Will came over. Will was my first friend in America. We actually chose where we live so we could be close to him. He was the only invited guest at our wedding, where he shared duties of best man and maid of honor. He even went dress shopping with me!

 So now I’m thinking we’re going to dinner with them. Then Vicki shows up. Then, my BFF Cassandra turns up. I love Cassandra. When everything was going down last year, she was the one who held my hand through the whole thing. When Matt had to go to San Diego, he sent me to stay with her, knowing she would take care of me. I got her a job at my work, but they’ve never put us on a shift together. Probably smart…

 Then, I hear my chihuahua bark, and Lindsay and Stacey are here! Lindsay’s another Aussie, and his wife Stacey is the sweetest thing on earth. I was there when their boy Casey was born and they mean the world to me. Casey is actually the only kid that Matt likes.  Then, another bark, and Eric and Melissa are walking in the door. Eric is a huge giant redhead and Melissa is this beautiful petite woman. Eric and I did Boy Scouts together and we traveled all over the US and even went on a trip to Mexico together. Eric also works at Immigration and he’s been with me through my entire immigration journey. Now, we’re all going to be in the same military unit together.

So, we’re sitting around drinking Bundy Rum, having a great time, when Matt says, “Lets Go”. I’m like, what do you mean? I’m not dressed pretty, my eye was all swollen up from allergies and I had no make-up on. But I was so happy to be surrounded by my favourite people, I walked out the door.

Then I saw it. Matt had rented a big white stretched limo. It’s Fiesta in San Antonio, which is a huge week long party. So instead of trying to find parking downtown, Matt just got the limo. Then we could all drink, ride in style and not worry about parking. We all laughed when we noticed the footprint on one of the windows…

So we rolled downtown, and Cassandra had picked this really nice Italian restaurant. We got there, and they thought our reservation was for the 13th… No worries, they got a room sorted and we were all seated.

We got a bunch of wine, ate great food and I looked around the table and thought about how lucky I was to have such great friends in my life. Then, my phone rang, and it was Ray, one of my bestest friends in Australia. My night was made.

I am so lucky to have such great people in my life. This last year has been tough, but it also taught me a lot about who my real friends are.

I love all you guys. Thanks for being my friend.


Snow in San Antonio!

Freak snow event in San Antonio, TXsnowman in san antonio texas

So while Australia is cleaning up after  Category 5 Cyclone Yasi and volcano’s are erupting in Asia, the US is in the middle of “Arctic Blast 2011”. The local news people are loving it!

We’ve had snow is San Antonio about 4 times in the last 16 years. The last great snow was the year we had gone back to Australia for Xmas. The year on the Boxing Day Tsunami. Seems like all the big things happen the same years…

The local weather people had been predicting the possibility of snow for almost a week. Most locals were skeptical. Usually, if they say snow, we might get lucky to have a real light flurry that lasts less than 5 minutes and doesn’t stick. I was at work on the other side of town. We close at 9pm and then clean up and get out about 10pm. We were watching the weather. Originally they had said snow starting at 11pm, but then an update said 10pm. So we hauled ass and started packing up. We were out to our cars at 9:30pm. It had started to sleet. The cars were getting an ice coating. Thankfully, Michelle and I both had our ice scrapers. We both laughed cause for weeks we’d had people ask us why we sold ice scrapers at work. People kept saying, we don’t get snow in San Antonio. We’d have to bite our tongue to keep from saying, “good thing they’re not snow scrapers then…” So, we did our cars, then helped scrape windshields from the girls leaving next door. I hit the road, driving as carefully as I could. The roads were icing over. Thankfully, we had spent a winter in Iowa, and I knew to just take my time, leave plenty of space, don’t slam brakes, etc. Closer I got to the house, the more people I saw sliding. Made it home safe, but I could hear sirens as I walked inside.

Matt was watching the news. I made it home with about 10 minutes to spare. They were shutting down all the highways. The city isn’t prepared for freak events like this. There was over 200 accidents in the first hour! There had been a 9 car pileup right behind me. (No, I didn’t cause it!)

They local news people stayed on TV all night, keeping the city updated. Matt tried to stay up to see the actual snow falling, but he ended up going to bed. About 1pm, it started to really fall. I ran outside to take pictures for Matt, in case it melted by the time he got up. It sounded really cool. It was soft snowflakes yet. It was freezing rain to start with. Tiny pellets of ice, so as it hit the ground and the house, there was a constant chink chink sound.

Thankfully since it had been freezing the last few nights, all the plants and pool filters were covered. The backyard and side yard were quickly covered in white. I watched the neighbours roof slowly turn white. Our gutters were filled with snow. I let the dog out to go potty. It seemed like she remembered the cold white stuff from Iowa. She ran around in it a little bit, just like a small kid would.

The whole street out the front was turning white. It was so quiet outside. No noise of cars since everything was shut down. Just the click click of ice falling. I was pretty impressed by the local news people who were up all night, following the snow. They made me laugh when they said that one reporter “Had drwn the short straw” and was stuck on remote locations. The same people were still on air 12 hours later….

About 11am, the snow was finally starting to melt. The highways were still shut down. There ws still ice on the roads, but it was slowly melting. The sun was doing a good job, but anywhere there was shade, it was still icy. The roads finally opened up again at Noon. Of course, it was like morning peak hour traffic. Thankfully, my work had already cancelled me for the day, so I didn’t have to go driving in it. Matt finally headed in to work about 12:30.

It seems funny that such a little bit of ice is such a big deal. We had snow everyday in Iowa for 5 months. Sometimes a couple feet at a time. Here, we had some freezing rain and a light dust of snow, and the whole city just shut down! But, up north, they are set up to deal with it. Here, there’s no ice scrapers, no snow ploughs. No trucks to lay down salt. Well, I take that back. Apparently, there was city trucks, but the TXDot people were waiting for it to get above freezing before they went out to try to de-ice the roads… It seems that the people in were terrified of the ice and were scared to go out in it. The TXDot spokeswoman said they weren’t prepared for ice, which made Matt laugh and yell at the TV. We don’t get snow here often, but we do get ice a fair bit in winter. Just not usually that much.

So now the sun had come out and it’s a beautiful day here. Everyone who got the day off is probably pretty happy. It’s supposed to get way down below freezing again tonight, but no precipitation is expected.

Hope everyone in Australia is doing ok. Between Sydney getting record heat and North Queensland getting all those storms and bushfires in other parts of Oz, it makes my little snow storm story seem pretty insignificant…


Camping in Autumn

The Ranch in Stockdale, Texas

red dirt in stockdale texasIt’s finally cooling off here in Texas. Today I actually needed a sweater when I got up. I love this time of year. It’s cool enough to go outdoors and actually do stuff. Most people like Spring, because of the same reason, but I have such wicked allergies in Springtime in Texas, that all I want to do is leave, so I guess Autumn is my favourite season here.

Matt’s parents bought a ranch in Stockdale, Texas when he was a kid as an investment for his college fund. He didn’t use it, so they still have the ranch. It’s just over 100 acres, about 40 minutes away from our house. I love it out there because it’s all red dirt and reminds me of the Australian outback. The only difference is all the cactus and oil wells.

We’ve spent the last couple of months cleaning up the ranch so we can actually go camping out there. It’s primitive camping. No water or electricity. However, Matt had them run a meter a couple of weeks ago, so we’ve now got  electricity. We also rigged up a water tank. Matt had one of his old jet ski trailers laying around, so he put a 120 gallon water tank on it to take with us. We went to the RV store, got a small pump, attached a shower hose, and now we’ve got an outdoor shower!

Last weekend was the first time we actually went and camped down there. We had a 24ft enclosed trailer with AC which we put all our stuff in; food, chairs, the 4 wheeler and then we took tents to sleep in. Matt invited the folks from the Jeep Club to come on down too. A few people turned up the second day we were down there.

The first night I set up the tent, Matt assured me we didn’t need the fly. It was going to be cool, and we weren’t expecting rain. The tent had just mesh on top, so you could lay there and look at the stars. Towards the morning, he kept poking me because he thought I was farting. (I do that in my sleep) But, it wasn’t me. It was the condensation and the dew on the inside of the tent plopping on the tent floor. The second night he let me put up the fly. The first night he was also worried because we rent the ranch out to a guy with cattle, and thoughout the night we kept hearing the cows mooing getting louder and louder. At one point, Matt got up and moved the jeep closer to the tent so it was blocking the path between the tress, the trailer and us. When I got up in the morning to go find a tree,  I was surrounded by cows getting closer as the were curious while I popped a squat. Better than rattlesnakes I guess….

Maya loves going down to the ranch with us. She gets so excited when she sees us packing to go anywhere, and anytime while down there we go 4 wheeling, she runs up to the jeep wanting to go with. You’d think she’d hate it because she gets bounced all over the place, but she loves it. She also loves the ranch because we let her run free. Everywhere else we keep her on a leash and she loves all the news smells out there. At night we keep her close though since we’re worried about her getting taking by a coyote. Hawks are always a danger during the day, so if we see any circling, we keep her in sight. The first few times we took her down there I was worried about her running off, but now she just seems to follow us around and really doesn’t wander off too far. It’s funny watching her try to get into the tent during the day. She likes to sleep in comfy places, so we have a bed for her in the trailer too, but she prefers the air mattress… She’s such a little snob. At night I bring her bed into the tent, but then daddy lets her crawl in under the covers with us. He likes her keeping his feet warm as much as she likes to be close to us.

So the whole weekend turned out pretty nice. It was Columbus Day weekend, and Matt had taken Friday off, so we got in 3 days down there. We though about spending Sunday night too, but we both had to be to work early, so we came home Sunday afternoon to get everything cleaned up. Now that it’s all set up, I think we’ll be spending a lot more time down there. We’ve already organised a big trip for Matt’s birthday weekend in December. By then, most of the insects should be gone, it will be nice and cool out and watching the stars by the fire will be awesome. Living in the city, we don’t see many stars, but out at the ranch, you can see the entire milky way and so many shooting stars and meteors. One of the other jeepers brought his kids down just to see the stars. It was pretty awesome.

So, now I’m looking forward to the next couple months. We’re heading on a train trip with Matt’s parents up north of Austin next weekend. The Hill Country in Fall in supposed to be beautiful. Then, back down to the ranch.

The best thing about heading out to the wilderness is getting back to nature. No TV, no internet, no noisy neighbours and seeing a million stars. It also makes you appreciate the little things in life when you get back home again. Like indoor plumbing.



Celeb for a Day – WTF???

Are you kidding me?

After yesterday’s post on Mary Kate talking about her childhood and seeing all the comments from people dissing celebs who don’t always appreciate the attention, I was amazed to find how many photographers are now latching on to the fake paparazzi thing. Take for example, Celeb 4 a Day. This is an entire agency devoted to making ordinary people feel like celebrities for a day, by stalking them with paparazzi for an hour. Seriously. For $250, they’ll stalk you for 30 minutes, snapping pics and asking you about yourself. If you want to feel like a mega star, you can spend $1500 and have your own bodyguard and publicist and 6 paparazzi who’ll follow you for 2 hours.

For $1500, Matt and I could spend a week in Mexico in a beautiful resort. Airfare included. Seriously, what kind of attention starved individual would pay $1500 for 2 hours to feel like a celeb? What’s worse, is that for 2 hours, it might be a lot of fun. Then said individual will try to work out how to be in the spotlight more. (Yes, I’m talking about you Kim Kardashian) Then, years later, when they are an actual celeb, they’ll start to hate the same paparazzi, the ones who they no longer have pay for, but who continue to stalk them.

A quick Google search shows that even regular photo studios are offering paparazzi packages. You just give them your regular schedule, and they’ll be hiding behind tress, waiting to take real life shots of you. Now, I’m a fan of candid shots, I like real life action shots much better than posed photos. However, calling it a paparazzi package and catering to people’s need to be famous just seems kinda sick.

I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. Those who live as ordinary citizens wish for the perceived glamour and lifestyle that stars get. Celebs wish they could just blend in and go get some Starbucks without being stalked. I guess since I grew up on TV, cameras were just part of growing up. I always longed to be an ordinary person. I’d hate to be a celebrity these days. Maybe the 2 hour package is long enough for people to realize it’s not that great. My Woman’s Day photo shoot was fun at first. It had been a while since I got to play dress up, and it’s always nice to have someone else do your hair and make-up. Matt didn’t realize just how long a photo shoot lasts and holding a smile for more than an hour is tiring! We both went home exhausted. I was very happy to go back to being a nobody again after that day. Well, until I had to fly to Oz and then hide out while there… After that, Matt said he had never seen me so happy to get back to San Antonio.

It’s a pity the Celeb 4 a day people aren’t in San Antonio. I’m a good photographer and it could be fun to be on the other side of the camera for a change….