Nov 27, 2014

A Boater's Bikini-Ready Workout

   Dominicans are all about saying it how it is. Since returning to the boat I don't even know how many have told me that I look "strong" and "gordita" (chubby). For them this is a compliment, and sign of health, and they see no reason in holding back a comment like that. I, on the other hand, who after living 6 months in an all-inclusive, have seen my body at a better weight, and don't see my current state as quite "complimentary". So I will start working out, easing myself into it, and am hoping to see some good results soon. But living on a boat in itself is a workout.

   It only took me about three days back on the boat to start feeling my muscles ache. And I giggled when I thought up the "boater's workout". (Yes I laugh at my own jokes, Eben says I always find my own to be the funniest!) 

   So here it is, if you have no desire to run laps, do sit-ups, squats and lunges, just move on to a "workaboard" boat.

Legs and Glutes
-Pump up your dinghy. 50 pumps per leg. 3 x a day (if your dinghy is a deflatable like ours).

-Drive your dinghy "cowboy style". This is a great feat in balance.

This is cowboy-style.

Back, Abs, and Legs
-Manually transfer water into your tanks. 10 x 5gallon jugs per session.

-Hand wash all your clothes and feel the burn in your arms as your spin out the water and ring out the garments. 3 sessions per week. 
-Carry your groceries back to your boat.

-Assist in sending someone up the mast. (Or better yet, go up the mast).

-Jump in and scrub the bottom of your boat.
-Walk, everywhere, to get everything.

Captain Krill after scrubbing a boat bottom

For Bonus Points
-Carry a toddler around while you do all of this.

I'm spent!

Nov 22, 2014

Shopping For A Cause: Invisible Children

   If you want to look through an amazing website for a good cause, check out Invisible Children's site. It is extensive. The site is beautifully made, the pictures are amazing, the information is endless, and the videos are extremely well done. I could spend hours on this site, learning about what this organization does and the cause they are fighting for.

   Invisible Children's single objective is to permanently end the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) conflict. This conflict has existed in East and Central Africa for nearly 30 years. This army has kidnapped over 30,000 children over the years, to strengthen their army, forcing the young boys to become soldiers and the girls to become sex slaves. The thought that that many children have been torn from their parents and forced into doing these kinds of things is sickening. They are just children. But this organization has been created to help. To bring them home, one at a time, and have the needed programs set up to help with their reintegration into their homes and society after the nightmares they have witnessed and taken part in.

   I can't even begin to cover the work that this organization does to help. They create innovating programs that protect the communities of central Africa, and lay the ground for lasting peace in post-conflict regions. How, you may ask? Well without going into too much detail (because if you check out their website you will see how extensive it really is) they have rehabilitation programs, psychosocial rehabilitation for the returnees of conflict, water programs for safe drinking water and better sanitation, Legacy scholarship which are merit-based scholarships for youth in affected areas, Schools for Schools program which builds and renovates schools, the Mend program providing vocational training in tailoring, finance, and personal development, a Savings and Loans program, Teachers Exchange, Mobile Cinema creating awareness in Africa, International awareness Events, Summits, Tours, Flyers, an Early Warning Network and a Come Home broadcast. And those are only very broad strokes and doesn't even cover all of their projects. I know I have not done them justice in simply listing off some of their programs, but if I were to go more in depth in to everything that they do, well this blog post would never end. And I would have to hire some web designers to make my blog look as good as their website, and I am too cheap to do that! I just wanted to peak your interest and have you click on the links that tempt you. This organization has its hands in a little bit of everything and every little bit helps. 

   They also have a shop, to help fund their programs. Let me tell you, the stuff they make and sell is amazing. It is all beautiful and well made. The shirt I have of theirs I find myself always reaching for. Eben has even asked me, "are you wearing that again!?" It is probably one of my most worn shirts, and I may have to get a few different styles if I don't want Eben getting sick of my wardrobe. Check them out, if not for shopping, then just stop in to their website and check out all the info they have to offer, it's impressive. And if you want to see where your money will be spent, well they have that posted as well, here. You can see it all. This is another great cause backed by great style.

A little extra motivation in every tee

Nov 18, 2014

Yurt Life Revisited. By Request.

   It seems there has been some great interest in how our other Stolz family lives, yurt style. It is true that against our better judgement, when we come across something new and strange, what do we do? We gawk at it. So let me allow you to gawk at the yurt in the privacy of your living room.

   In my original post on Yurt Life I gave a brief glimpse at how my brother-in-love Jair, his wife Mel, and their two kids, Nova and Asher, are living. They have chosen to live as off-the-grid as possible, and found the yurt to be an ideal home as they save money up to upgrade to building their Earthship. To live in a yurt you don't have to love yak fat or be a hipster-woodsman, although Jair's beard did get slightly out of hand at one point. They chose it because it was a cheap alternative, an eco-friendly way of living, and it is cool as heck.

   Like everything else in life, having good contacts is a huge bonus. With the help of friends that own a lumber yard, and many friends for manual labour, they managed to save a fair bit of money in the building process. They built it from scratch. 

    I’m sure that many people would consider a yurt a “tiny home” but with the main floor being around 800 square feet with an additional 100 sq feet of loft space this place isn’t actually that small. And its about 24ft tall from the ground to the tip, which gives you that vaulted ceiling airiness. 

   One of the things that struck me when seeing this place was the amount of cross pieces required to make the wall portion. Here I thought they had bought them pre-made and just had to bolt them together, but I was totally wrong. They have 125 cross pieces making up the inner wall, each with 9 holes drilled in to them. That means Mel and her friend Dee had to stand at the drill press for hours perfectly aligning ever one of these holes. That’s insane!

The women, hard at work at the drill press

   It took them about 3 months from start to “move in”, and then follow up, of course, the smaller random jobs that they can accomplish while living in the yurt. Jair equated the time to: building the base = 1.5 months of lazy work, the walls = 2 weeks of lazy work, the roof = 1 afternoon with 6 friends helping, and the insulation and cover = 4 long @#* days. And for a little extra motivation to get er' done, while they were building their yurt, they squeezed their family into a 30ft trailer as a temp home.

The temp trailer settlement while the yurt was underway

   Since they were willing to put in the hard work to build this place themselves, and to take the time to look for good deals, they built their home for about 13K. That was for everything from the gravel underneath, to the solar power, to the yurt cover (which is actually a slightly modified vinyl cone-shaped grain bin cover). And don’t assume that you couldn’t do it because you don’t have the know how, neither did Jair, but the Stolz men are industrious. They will learn what they don’t know and make it happen. They are amazing like that.

   If this scenario seems dreamy to you, and you are keen on doing the same, there are a few things to keep in mind before you jump in head first. Yes, it is dreamy, they are living up in the woods, with no one around, living off the earth and sun, and doing what they find important for their family. But like boating and many other “odd” lifestyles, living off the grid comes with some harder duties, that may not be for everyone. Such as hauling a bucket of your poop out of the house to the compost area, lugging jugs of water in and trying to conserve it (meaning shorter showers, and efficient dish washing), or using a smaller solar power system, restricting you in your energy usage, and totally denying you the use of anything with a heating element (goodbye toast) or plugging in your diesel truck on freezing Canadian mornings. It is hard work but satisfying in a wholesome kind of way.

The temp bathroom, until it could be relocated to inside the yurt

   What did they not expect about the yurt life. The beautiful snowy wonderland that surrounded them last winter, in the mountains near Golden, had them walking a lot more than foreseen. The entire driveway up to their place is about 1.5km long, but with the snow, the last 500 meters of that was completely impassable for about a 2 months period. They had to park their cars at that 500 meter mark and use a snow machine, quad, and their legs to get to and from their yurt. Even their 4x4 was useless. There was just too much of the white fluffy stuff. 

   It was a neat experience getting to stay in their yurt, and seeing all the similarities that yurt life has to boat life, just swap out snow for ocean. And it is nice to know that if ever we get real sick of what we are doing there is always the “winter getaway” option.

   If you have more specific questions about what and how they did all this, feel free to ask and I will try and get the answers for you.

  *All picture courtesy of Jair

the base being built, after the gravel was put in

choosing the view for the kitchen window

Nov 14, 2014

10 Things I Could've Expected Returning To Our Boat


  8 months ago we stepped off the boat and I wasn’t quite sure when I would see it next.  We were taking off on another “unexpected turn of events” which moved us off the ocean and onto dry Dominican land. We didn’t know how long our boat sabbatical would be, but we packed with the idea/hope that we would be back “soon”. Well those 8 months just flew by as we hosted groups of Live Different volunteers, got sweaty building homes in Puerto Plata, created this temporary “land based” lifestyle, and took a quick hop over to Canada for a visit.

   But now we are back, on our floating home, and I wonder why I didn’t mentally prep myself a little better. For the good and the bad. Because there are obvious things that will happen upon return to a boat, that was left behind, in the DR. And certain things that one forgets about the boaters lifestyle. That I should have given my memory a quick jog for what was to come. 

-Mildew. The interior of the boat had a pretty good layer of it. We had left a couple of the back hatches open for some fresh air to circulate through it, but lets not forget how insanely humid and warm it is here. It should have been expected that our boat was going to be speckled to the nines. So on day one I had at ‘er, stripped down to my undies (remember, hot and humid here) with a bottle of Simple Green in one hand and a scrubby brush in the other. In a sweaty mess I managed to clean almost every surface of the boat, since I didn’t even want image our girls getting some of that stuff on their hands and then into their mouths.

dirt and mildew on the underside of the bimini

-The heat. I know we have been living here for over a year, but our hometel was beautifully air conditioned, which we totally abused of. So being back in Luperon, where the only breeze is one forced on to us by one of our 4 fans, I can say that I am finding it a bit warm. So I have decided that “clothes are for chumps” and now spend all of my days in undies or a bathing suit. And our girls, our poor sweaty-head girls, have developed heat rashes along their hair lines due to it. They now look even whiter than before as I am smearing Corn Starch on them every half hour. And I think I am going to get Eben to sew a dew rag for Ellia, or I will have to buzz her head.

corn starch baby

But still happy 

-The bugs. Both on and off the boat. We returned to find a huge and mysterious pile of bug droppings on our hallway floor. If anyone can identify these PLEASE DO, because I have no idea what kind of critter leaves behind poppy-seed-like droppings, in a pile. Whatever bug it is, at least it is kind and keeps its potty in one area. And then there are the ants. We have ants, on our boat, I don’t even know how they got here. The groceries most likely. But they took our time away as a time to hit the steroids and bulk up, they are HUGE ants! If I didn’t know any better I would say fire ants, big and red, but again, I am at a loss. Luckily none of us have been bit by them yet, but they make my skin crawl when I think about them walking all over my boat, and probably on me while I sleep. And lastly there are the mosquitos and black flies. It seems Speckled is the new thing in the DR, first our boat and now us. The girls and I are covered in bites. Eben seems immune, or protected by his body hair. But we aren’t. Every night we are applying big spray, lighting citronella candles, and mosquito coils, in the hopes of eradicating them from our boat, while we have every hatch open trying to get any sort of a breeze. Today I pulled out the trusty mosquito net, that Eben absolutely hates, and created a princess fort for the girls. At least they will be protected in there, until we get around to making more mosquito nets for all our hatches.

Can anyone identify what bugs these would come from? The droppings look like poppy seeds or coffee grounds, and they are pretty much contained to this one area.

My princess bed bug net

-The work. There were a few odd jobs and repairs that are newly popped up since we last lived here. Like how the railing on the shelf in our room just decided to pop itself off, thank you humidity and wood warping. Or replacing the fan that rusted itself dead. Or the fact that our inflatable dinghy is now definitely a "deflatable". But Eben has been amazing at tackling them one by one. He even made a list of jobs, organized/prioritized them, and got right to work. Again, I am so thankful to have such a handy husband.

-The lost stuff. Here I thought that we were awesome at keeping things where they belong, or putting them somewhere we will remember. It seems 8 months was long enough to forget all those awesome hiding spots. Because since our return we have found ourselves looking for things that we were sure we knew where we left them. It took me two days to find our cornstarch (the box was too big to fit in the baking cupboard so I had chosen to shove it elsewhere) and a roll of drawer lining material. The ziplock with the essential oils is still nowhere to be found and on my search list.

-The pain. This one doesn't take long, one painful moment is usually enough to remind your forehead that the headliner is lower in the hallway, your shins that the ladder is not fully bolted on, or your bum that the stepping stool is not solid. But each one of us, minus Eben I think, has had one painful encounter, that has served us all a good laugh.

Now for some of the awesome things.

-My skin. It is getting better. I found, with our last visit to Canada, that my skin does not do so well in the cold, dry, Canadian climate. All at once I had a rash on my face, eczema in my hands, an itchy scalp, and my tan was replaced by pimples from having to cover up and wear layers. Lets say that I didn’t feel so awesome about the way I looked. But with the sun, and the lack of clothing that I am (not) wearing, my skin is clearing up, and the humidity is having its way with my scalp and hair, giving it a happier wavy style.

-Our home. How nice is it that we finally get to unpack our things and be living in our own home again. It was daunting coming back to the boat with 5 duffle bags, 1 tupperware bin, and three backpacks, and wondering where all that stuff was supposed to go. But as I attacked every bag, one by one, I felt some stress melt away. Being back in our own place we are settling in to our own routines, eating what we feel like, and just having "freedom" (to stay in my undies all day long if I want to). It also brings back a sense of closeness. Yes, of course we are stuck being close because we live on a 41ft boat, but it is nice to have our family back to being in each others way, and loving it. The girls are running around playing with all their newfound toys (the ones we had left here), while Eben and I tackle boat stuff and bump into our sweaty selves around every bend.

They are happy to be home

-The heat. Yes this was on my “cons” list too, but even though my girls are dripping sweat while they sleep, and I am down to wearing barely anything, I much prefer this to freezing my ass off in the snow. I relish it and can’t wait till all of our bodies adapt to it once again, and our girls faces heal back to normal. The sun is slowly blasting my skin blemishes and giving me a healthy glow and I am thankful.

-The pride. I have to gloat, but seeing Eben at work is impressive. I have always believed that he can build/fix/create anything that he puts his mind and energy in to. But with all the minor jobs that have arisen with our return, it fills me with happiness watching him busy at work making bug screens and fixing shelves so that we can better enjoy our home.

My man and his sewing machine, attacking our mosquito problem

   So these are some of the things that jumped out and smacked me in the face our first few days back. Things that, had I really thought about it, I would have remembered or expected. But all in all, the reintegration to boat life has been marvellous, the lifestyle suits us and we were happy to see that our boat was fully intact when we got back to her with all the “essentials” still functioning. We are so happy to be back in our home. Now we just have to choose where we are going on this thing!

Food, and our many bags of luggage to return to the boat

Some drinking water

Nov 9, 2014

Our Halloween Extravaganza

   I am a huge Halloweener. It’s not as much about the candy as it is about the dressing up with your family and friends and going out and just being goofy. Most of the time half of the fun comes in making your own costume. We are all about the DIY. It has been twice as fun since having kids because we get to impose our costume ideas on them too. Two years ago we dressed the girls up as Umpa Lumpas, and they were a huge hit. All night long houses were telling us that Arias’ won the “best costume” award in their minds. Last year our whole family dressed up as Garden Gnomes and did our trick or treating from boat to boat, and that year we officially won the “best costume” award, winning a bottle of Baileys (for me!).

An Umpa Lumpa in Miami

Garden Gnomes in the DR

   This year, being that we were in Canada, I wanted to make halloween extra special. So we did it in two parts. For the first part we took the girls to the Telus Spark centre, in Calgary, for their Monster Mash-Ups event. It was crazy fun. Of course it was super busy, being that the event was on a weekend, and that they had transformed the museum into a halloween fun land for kids. They had bouncy houses, pumpkin decorating, cookie making, frankenstein teddy bear making, “thriller” dance classes, and more. But the three best parts, for our family were: 1) the face painting. Here we are, showing up “late” according to our schedule at the Spark centre and all the kids are pilling out of cars in full costume. Of course the first question we get from Arias is, “Mama, how come they all get to dress up and I don’t?” I felt like I failed as a parent. But luckily for us, inside, the museum had arranged to have 3 professional painters on hand to decorate the kids as whatever their little imaginations wanted. Our girls chose to be “Pink Skulls with glitter on them”. So Sugar Skulls they were, and it was totally awesome. I almost wanted to get mine done like theirs, but I think I had a row of frustrated parents and impatient kids standing behind me. 2) The parasite exhibit. They set this up especially for this event. And our girls being as inquisitive as they are, were super enamoured with learning about all the bugs they could get in their tummies if they drank the Dominican water. They spent at least half an hour looking through microscopes and sample jars of creepy critters. Lastly 3) the kids’ zone. This place is there year round, not just for this event, but it an amazing place to let your kids roam freely, dispensing energy and playing with sciency things at the same time. It’s inconspicuous learning at its best.  And to top the day off they gave the girls goody bags on their way out, so we could hit a sugar high with chocolate before passing out for a late nap on the car ride home.

Papa loves science too

Goodie Bags!!!

   The second part of our Canadian Halloween extravaganza happened in Rosebud, with the family. Originally we were going to follow family tradition and make our own costumes, but when cousin Nova mentioned that she was going as Elsa (princess from Frozen for all you non-parent folk out there), then our girls begged to be princesses too. Being that we are not often in Canada, and that we can’t often cater to their desires, this time we decided to cave and I went to the closest Walmart to pick up two princess dresses. So for the girls, they went door to door dressed as a very plump (due to winter jackets) Ariel (little mermaid) and Rapunzel (Tangled). They were deliriously happy with their costumes and did amazing trick or treating in the cold. But I couldn’t just let our costume tradition get tossed aside this year. So although Eben isn’t the biggest fan of halloween, I insisted that him and I dress up. I spent the rest of the day scouring this small town for the supplies that I needed to make our costume a hit. Once I had everything, I spent a couple of hours, cutting, painting, and putting together the corniest costume ever. We went as a Double Stuffed Oreo. Each equating to one half of the cookie, until we hugged, making the cheeseball costume of my dreams!

A little cardboard, a little paint, et voila!

One very happy Double Stuffed Oreo!

The princesses, ninja, and monkey

   Halloween was success again this year. And now I have two bags full of kids’ candy to “help” eat, so that our daughters don’t have to consume too much sugar. It’s for their benefit. Really.