Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 5 Year Plan - Frugal Transportation AK Style

By far our biggest expense is fuel.  Alaska fuel prices are typically one of the highest in the nation.  Unleaded gas at the pump almost reached $5/gallon this summer and is sitting at $4.67 right now.  Heating fuel is cheaper but still very considerable when the cold winter sets in.  Our goal is to cut those expenses by at least 80% in the next 5 years and this is how we are going to do it.

Meet Micky and MInnie.  


The look pretty rough 'huh?  No worries, my husband it a brilliant mechanic and isn't afraid of body work.  Micky is an extended Ford Econoline Van.  We so named it Micky because it reminds me of an activity van I used to drive for my son's hockey team.  That van had two spot lights on it that looked like mouse ears so hence it was dubbed Micky Mouse.  Micky will be converted into a 4WD camper.  We will replace the engine to run off diesel and veggie fuel making our mpg pretty much free.  It will be the vehicle we use not only for camping trips but supply runs.  Because of the freezing weather we will not be plumbing in a water tank.  That's just asking for future problems and continued maintenance.  Instead we will come up with some alternate facilities.  We like the way our current camper is designed and will steal some ideas from it. 

current camper Dodge Xplorer

picture of our last trip,inside view
Although we like the Dodge, gas mileage is horrible and it does not have 4 wheel drive.

Minnie is a Datsun Z car.  (Sorry, I am a girl and don't remember the specs on either of these cars).  We are still debating about having a gas or diesel engine for her.  Diesel,of course, would yield the best mpg but has its challenges starting in the cold temperatures.  It will become our main commuter car and it would be nice knowing it will dependably start.  Even if we kept it as a gas engine, with some modifications, we think it could still get over 30 mpg.  As a diesel, maybe even close to 40 mpg.  

We will still have other cars that we will use with a more traditional set up.  The plow truck is a gas hog, but pays for itself.  Nick, the husband, has various work trucks but again they pay for themselves or give us a tax write off.  Still the bottom line is a huge savings that will fall into our retirement budget.

Lovin' life...even at the gas pump! 

Don't forget that if you want some road trip music or a camera for your next vacation, shop in our store for the best prices!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The 5 year Plan - Railroad Car Home

Ever since Stormy was born I have been scheming on how to retire or at the very least work part-time.  This is the first time that I am putting the plan on paper and I'm hoping that by doing so, it will become more tangible.  Let me warn you that I am totally winging this, as I do most of my personal life.  I probably-should-have made an outline first but here goes.

 The first two things we are working on now are beefing up our home business and building a very energy efficient living space.  You will probably think we are nuts as I explain this to you, as most do, but we are totally jazzed about it.  My husband is a borderline hoarder (he prefers the term "collector") and he just happens to own two Alaska Railroad cars.  The plan is to build him a very spacious shop in between the two cars and remodel one of the cars as our new home.

The shop will be large with at least 3 bays and we we will do our best to keep it efficient.  We've gathered most of the materials needed to  build the roof this year and have not spent a dollar yet.  My husband is amazing when it comes to work trade.  Our ridge pole was traded for a brake job and a couple of cameras.  The lumber was traded for an old excavator that had been stuck in the creek for 5 years.  He is now currently negotiating getting some heavy duty tin for the roof from a cannery in Valdez.  We will heat it with a waste oil heater that he has and we are also planning on installing a wind turbine and solar panels to help out in the shop and the attached living quarters.  

The railroad car we remodel for the living quarters is already amazing.  It is already decked out floor to ceiling in beautiful wood.  A little sanding and staining and it is ready.  It is well insulated but we will plumb one wet wall and put in electricity.  It's pretty tight in there so we do plan on popping out a sun room.  Here's a link to some of my ideas.  The ceilings are high so we know that Stormy's room will include a sleeping loft.  To keep it efficient we will primarily heat with wood and use a tempering tank for the hot water.

Right now, we sell most of our music and electronics online.  This new area will allow us to have a storefront for the locals to shop.  Hopefully as people drop off or pick up their car from the shop or wait while it is being repaired they will shop in the store.  

So that's the dream.  It may be nuts but it's totally us.  This is only the broad outline and I will add details later and keep you posted on the progress.  Now here's a few selections from the store.  
The Commitments

Ipod Nano

Kodak CD1013


Friday, August 10, 2012

Nothing Important Happened Today

"Nothing Important Happened Today" was the title of the X-Files episode I watched last night.  It refers to the king of England's diary entry on July 4,1776.  For some reason the phrase has stuck with me and caused me to do quite a bit of meditation.

I live a small but purposeful life.  I admit to being boring and like to stay home. Fair to say, I am not a social butterfly but I blame my job on that because I work with the public all day.  I have a 5 year plan, but that's another blog post.  Most days I can say nothing important happened but I know all around me, really important things are happening.  Babies are born, people fall in love, get into fights and car accidents.  They marry and we lose others in death.  And that is just what is on my facebook feed, but none of that happened to me. 

But what did happen to me was full of smiles and hugs, tickles and tugs.  I connected with old friends and met some interesting people.  I woke up in the arms of the man I love.  I laughed and frowned and missed my mom.  My heart melted as I watched my daughter play and I crossed my fingers when my son had his job interview.  I ignored the dirty dishes and the phone and played barbie instead. 

Nothing important happened today.  It was nothing but everything and it was a perfect.

PS- Because this blog is suppose to be about my store here are a few important musical influences in my life.

Bon Jovi

My first high school rock star crush.  I'm still carrying the torch for him and the band.  Other high school influences would be Bryan Adams, Chicago, AC/DC, Ozzy and all the other hair bands, but none could touch Bon Jovi.

Dr. Hook
Sounds of my childhood.  I grew up in a lodge in Alaska.  My mom worked as the waitress, bartender and cook.  During the slow times I would beg her for quarters from her tip jar to play in the jukebox.  I loved watching the vinyl records come down and spin.  Dr Hook was always my first choice followed by the Little River Band, Willie and Waylon and Elvis to make my mom smile.

Brand New

Brand New is my favorite band today.  Most of their music goes straight to my soul.  This album, Daisy, is probably my least listened to but the only one I have for sale.  Other top plays on my list today would include Death Cab for Cutie, Tonic, dEUS, REM, and a lot of indie bands.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Superiority of the VCR

After spending the day outside in the rare Alaskan sunshine, I am getting ready to snuggle down with Stormy and watch her favorite movie.  After gathering some snacks and drinks, I slip the tape into our VCR.  Yep, I did say it - VCR.  Remember those?  Now, we own a couple of DVD players, a Blu-ray player and stream Netflix on a Roku but above all I love the VCR.  

I will admit that there is something lacking in the video quality and sound, but frankly Stormy doesn't care and unless I'm watching something epic like Avatar, Star Wars or the such, I don't mind either.  Why do I think it's superior?  The simplicity of the stop and play button.  When you want to watch a movie, push play.  Need to go away, push stop.  Come back, push play.  No confusing menus or trying to figure out what chapter you were on.  No impatient 2 year old chanting go, go, go. 

Also, VHS tapes are dirt cheap!  Some of our favorite classics can be found at yard sales or thrift store for a quarter.  Recently I bought 2 huge bagfuls of VHS movies for $3.00 with many titles that I have been cruising around eBay hoping to find cheap, including Dune, E.T., Stargate, Toy Story 1&2, and so many more.  So if you are in my area and want to get rid of some tapes just drop them on by!

Lovin' Life with a VCR. 

Stormy enjoying the rare Alaskan sunshine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mission Impossible

Lately I have been completing my own Mission Impossible (cue theme music).  My dear mother in law went outside about 9 months ago.  When an Alaskan says the phrase "went outside" it is our way of saying that we are going to visit the "lower 48" or to keep it simple, she went to visit her sister in New Mexico.  Due to a family emergency, her 3 month vacation has turned into 9 months.  Our mission, during her absence, whether or not we choose it, is to eat  all the food she stored up.  Imagine 2 large freezers full of unmarked tupperware.  Everyday we crack a lid and take turns identifying the contents.  We are now on an accelerated schedule because we believe she will be back up here in a few weeks and there is a lot of tupperware cubes still to investigate.  Yesterday we had squash-taste-like-pumpkin-pie for dinner.  What else can you do with 2 quarts of frozen squash puree I ask you?  Tonight - I really have no idea what it was, but we pretended it was some sort of spicy soup, but it could have been enchilada sauce.  This all equates to a lot of time in the kitchen and that equals a lot of music time.  Here's some of the CDs I checked out, and are offered to you from our store.

Mission Impossible 2

Couldn't resist posting this one.  It really has a great track list if you like rock/metal.  Limp Bizkit, Rob Zombie, Godsmack, Metallica are just a few that you will find on the CD.
Billy Boy on Poison
Another hard rock - metal choice.  This EP is pretty hard to find, so if you are a fan, might want to snatch it up.  I liked it but don't know a lot about the band.
The Prince of Egypt
My daughter is fan of this movie and I have to admit the music is very good.  It's fun to listen to and carries a message.  It will spin me into a spiritual journey while it is playing.

I'm not sure what culinary experiences that tomorrow holds but I am sure it will be tasty and there will be music playing and I will take the time to dance with a cute little girl in a tutu.  

Lovin' life in Alaska!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jazzing It Up!

Sales have improved lately at AK Music Storm so I decided to jazz it up a bit the only way I know how...How about a  new Harry-do

Harry Connick, Jr
If that won't do, how about some Voodoo? eh Big Daddy?

Big Bad Voodoo daddy
Ok - How about the Grand Tour?

Aaron Neville - The Grand Tour

Jazz, Swing or R&B - music  at it's best at AK Music Storm!