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We were going grocery shopping a lot, but it still felt like we never had anything to eat. So Brad had an idea to convert our tiny fridge into a freezer (it’s designed to go either way). Now we are fully stocked with food that lasts a lot longer. Even in a tiny freezer we can fit frozen meats, tamales, veggies, fruit and grated cheese. We’ve started using frozen garlic and ginger that come in little ice cube trays. And we keep herbs like cilantro that don’t keep long fresh in there too. We have so many more options now than we did before. It can all go from frozen to fully cooked and delicious in a short time with the Instant Pot, which has turned into one of the most useful appliances for bus life! Sure, I miss fresh food a lot, but at least now we don’t have to go grocery shopping every day. Keeping ourselves safe and well fed under quarantine.

The Forever Project

How glad am I to be *almost* done with these cabinet doors? You have no idea. This has been a patience game. Cutting and gluing the frames, front and back, waiting for glue to dry, fixing warping issues with moisture and pressure, then more drying. Staining and waiting for stain to dry, then reapplying. Each cabinet door takes days to manufacture, sometimes longer if it’s humid. However, I built them all by hand, and while they are imperfect (for sure), they give our home a bit of a rustic, cabin-like feel that we love. Here I am applying more stain in place because we decided we wanted a richer color. It’s messy, but the new color looks great with the countertops!

Inline Water Filter

I’m really not a fan of the taste of hose water. Depending on the source, it may have a medley of flavors ranging from metallic to stale. But water is precious, and when we are out adventuring we get it where we can. So today I installed an inline water filter that removes bad tastes, odors, and contaminants! Cold water runs through the filter, and hot doesn’t, so filtering isn’t wasted on showers and such.

We fill our fresh water tank through a flexible cloth hose. After spending a week in the desert we realized that our hose wouldn’t fit onto all of the potable water faucets we encountered. Many of them had non-standard adapters or didn’t have threads. Combined with our new “Camco Water Bandit” and a turn key hose clamp, our options for finding usable water just opened up. The Water Bandit has a silicone end that can be stretched onto any water spigot, even ones without threads.

I’ve also started taking photographs of water faucets we find with my photo geotagging turned on. This creates an instant map / directory on my phone of places where we can fill up in the Pacific Northwest, wherever we may go!

Ikea Elastic Cords

We needed something to keep our bowls and pots on the shelf where they belong. We’ve been driving some pretty rough washboard roads lately, and it rattles and shakes everything with mad furiosity! Yes, I made that word up. So we came up with a simple solution using IKEA elastic cords from their Skadis pegboard series. Just enough to keep things on the shelf, but you can still reach in and pull things out. Sometimes simple is best.

Nice Perch

The weather in Seattle is a cool 68 degrees and overcast. So lovely after the crazy high temps this week. It has me in the mood for split pea soup, so that’s what’s on the menu for tonight. I’m grateful for our new fold out table. It basically doubles our cooking space. Not surprisingly, a cat will always jump up on a nice perch, and that’s the first thing he did.

Sparkling Water on Demand

Something awesome about being in the Seattle area – ordering from Amazon Prime in the morning and having your items delivered that afternoon. For free, of course. I could get used to this.

So we spied a SodaStream inside the Lucky Bus at the Bus Fair and found out we are not the only sparkly water addicts living in a bus. The addiction is real. Living full time in a bus does not make it easy to maintain the addiction when you have to deal with can storage and recycling. So we pulled the trigger and got one (an Aarke instead of SodaStream). This thing is amazing, and ain’t she pretty too? Also, just learned that raspberry cucumber is an amazing flavor combination.

Hot Summer

What’s to be done with the hot summer sun? We are roasting in the bus already, and in its current location that can’t be helped. After this weekend we’ll park under some lovely shade trees, which will cut some of the heat. But we’ve had endless energy in our battery bank, more than we ever imagined, and are using hardly any of it.

So we’ve been incrementally adding some electrical devices, and the additions are so lovely. Now we have an electric kettle to boil water so we don’t have to use the propane stove top. I love it, it boils water so fast! And a cheap, tiny evaporative air cooler that works remarkably well. I’m pretty sure that it’s some “As Seen On TV” product and has horrible reviews, but in this tiny space it actually works quite well.

Today we will go buy some Reflectix to make inserts for the windows and hopefully bounce away more of the sun. This, combined with new window shades for light blocking and also air flow will help a ton.

So here’s hoping we survive another blisteringly hot southern Oregon summer, this time in a tiny bus! 

Kitchen Cabinets

Working on cabinet doors again. It’s one of the final things to finish (including window blinds, shower curtain, and trim) before moving in. We are so close we can taste it!

We are taking a long weekend up to Mt. Hood to ski one last time on our spring passes. This will probably be the last official resort skiing we do now that I’ve learned how to ski – the rest will be in the back country. It’s so amazing that we can now bring our home with us! Let the adventures begin.

Painting Cabinets

We decided that there were too many mismatched wood tones and colors in the bus, so are painting the cabinets this muted blue-grey color. It’s strange at first when you’ve gotten used to seeing something a certain way and then change it up, but I’ll confess, I love the new color! We are starting to settle into this blue, grey, brown, and yellow scheme. It pulls colors from the walls, tile, and flooring to bring it all together… 

Plumbing Test

Ok, plumbing test number one complete. It was so exciting and nerve wracking at the same time, and we have some issues to work through. First of all, the hot water heater uses batteries to ignite the propane, and since we don’t read manuals except as a last resort (!) we didn’t realize that they came capped and needed to have the caps removed. Ha. That was a simple fix. The water comes out instantaneously hot, and is so scalding it burned my hand. The pump came on and pressurized beautifully. There were some minor leaks that we fixed with a bit of tightening. But we have some major leaks in the garage where the joints are more finicky to tighten. We are worried about cracking the plastic joints that connect to the shower. So it looks like we will be working on plumbing today… And yes, we have the kitchen water run into the shower where it drains into the grey water tank. It all goes to the same place in the end. 🙂

Instant Pot Cornbread

Instant pot cornbread is real, it’s not a myth! I’ve been learning to cook with the instant pot and am amazed by its versatility. I think we will actually use it most nights instead of the propane stove. We envision setting up the instant pot on delay to cook a meal while we are out climbing, then keep it warm until we are back, because who wants to cook when you are sore, beat up, and tired?

Cabinet Doors pt. 2

I built one of my cabinet doors differently, gluing front and back together all at one time instead of in sections (I was being impatient). To my dismay, the entire thing warped and gapped dramatically. I thought I would have to scrap it and start over. But first I tried wrapping the whole thing in a wet towel and weighting it, and shockingly it straightened the door out and closed the gap! Now it’s perfectly straight, ready for a final sanding and staining. I’m super pleased that I don’t have to start over. Hooray!

Brad loves the cabinet doors so much that I’m now building them for the lower cabinets too. 😃

I used scraps of paper during gluing to keep the clamps from getting glued down. The clamps separate easily, and the paper and glue sands right off. Handy little trick learned from the internet. Thank you internet.

Cabinet Doors

While Brad is out of town I decided to surprise him by building doors for the upper kitchen cabinets. 🙂 I had an idea to use decorative metal screen so that the items in the cabinet would be a little bit visible, but mostly obscured. I made them by sandwiching the metal screen between panels of wood, held together by wood glue (no screws or nails). I think they turned out great. I hope he likes them!

The Plot (and the Color) Deepens

So we are at four coats of Waterlox on the countertops now, and the unevenness definitely went away. We still have two or more coats to go, but the dry time is increasing the more coats we add, since less is soaking into the wood. I’ll point out (and you’ll see from the photos) that original Waterlox is NOT clear, and deepens to a rich orangey tone with multiple coats. Not what I had planned, but the color is sure growing on me.

And we have functioning outlets, dimmer switch, and stereo receiver! It’s so satisfying to finally be using some power through our electrical system. The batteries have just been sitting there fully charged from solar for a while now. We got pex lines run today too. All in all, a productive day!

Waterlox Butcher Block Sealer

We put the first coat of Waterlox sealant on our butcher block, and 18 hours later it still looks splotchy. But after consulting the Waterlox website I’m assured this is ok and it will even out after more coats:

“Your surface may look uneven in appearance after the first or even the second coat of Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish. This is completely normal. Waterlox penetrates deep into the wood and will build up to an even film when applied with the suggested number of coats and coverage.”

Sealing wood is a time consuming process because you have to wait so long between coats (if you’re using oil based). If you work a day job it’s a perfect evening project, because then you’re not waiting around impatiently for it to dry… This weekend at our work we had a big go live (we work in IT), so it’s nice to feel like we are still accomplishing something on the bus without much time to work on it.

Butcher Block Sanding

Now the fun, easy part – sanding down the butcher block and adding some nice rounded edges. We didn’t go too crazy with rounding, but now there are no more bits to snag on your clothes and fingers (!), and gives a nice finished look. Brad’s brother gifted us an orbital sander which has been such an amazing thing. I don’t know how we would finish this project satisfactorily without it (or the pocket hole jig).

Butcher Block Countertop

The most nerve wracking experience of our bus build project to date? Cutting through our beautiful new butcher block countertop! We are under mounting both the sink and the stove top, so the edges need to be clean and nice. But we got it done as a team.

Our sink wasn’t meant to be under mounted, but we did it anyway. We built a frame to support the sink. The difficulty was getting it flush up to where the countertop will sit so there were no gaps. This took four hands and a lot of clamps to hold it into place before gluing and screwing it in.

The stove top was a little easier. It is mounted to a shelf that we fit below the countertop. On top will be a hinged portion of the counter that can open when we need to cook, and close when we need the extra workspace.

Cutting the hinged panel and the block that will rest over the sink was done with just a circular saw and a good old fashioned hack saw. The edges aren’t pretty yet, but once sanded I think everything will look great! To be continued.

Roughed Out Kitchen

It’s a real mess in here, but we have kitchen things happening!

Upper cabinets are roughed out and installed. Lower cabinets are walled in and waiting for the countertop. We agreed on a solution to compensate for that odd corner behind the driver’s seat, by expanding the upper cabinets out and curving the lower cabinets in. It looks kinda neat not having a totally squared off kitchen!

We ordered butcher block counter top and will have it this weekend to cut, stain, and install. Our sink and stove will be recessed below the counter, with a hinged panel over the stove so we can maximize the workspace (for cooking prep or for tuning skis, whatever is needed in the moment). The bed side table doubles as a device charging station for phones, batteries, headlamps, two-way radios… with a control panel on the side for outlets, switches, and audio receiver. It’s all very rough at the moment, but it’s starting to take the shape of a home.

It’s nice to take a step back and really take stock in everything that you’ve accomplished. Coming back home to the bus after five days away was exciting, and I’m totally motivated to get back to work.

Kitchen and Flooring

We are getting an idea of our kitchen layout, and how much room the appliances will need. Check out the small (but deep) sink that we found on Amazon! It came with a colander, dish rack, and fitted cover / cutting board. We also want to recess the countertop for the propane stove so that we can have a multi-use workspace for chopping veggies, or for working on skis.

We also dropped by Color Tile in Medford and had a chat with a flooring expert. We learned so much about vinyl vs. laminate, and porcelain vs. ceramic! Super helpful. They let us bring home some samples to view them in the space with natural lighting.

So with our tile picked, we found out that it’s actually “premium pool tile”, and would set us back like $450 just to do the fireplace and modest kitchen backsplash. Ouch! But the owner was super nice and offered us the last 80 tiles for $200. It’s plenty to do the job and a little bit more. It gives us some margin for error to screw up a few.

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