How to Live Off Grid in Reality


You know the saying. "Your back-up power is only as good as your heat-aged batteries." Or, wait, probably you have never heard that tidbit of wisdom. It only applies to people living in the tropics. Prior to owning a home in Caribbean, my understanding of electricity is that it looks really cool during a storm and precedes booming thunder. Oh! And the story with Benjamin Franklin and the kite. Since buying the casa, I have had a crash course in electrical systems. I understand so much more, but it is also very clear that I know practically nothing that would assist someone in putting together a solar fed back-up battery system. But, I know things like:

We have a 24-volt system which means we can only add 4 x 6-volt or 2 x 12-volt batteries. But, they can't get added at different times because of the rule of thumb I started this post with. Batteries age in the heat and humidity faster than I would ever have believed.  Each 6-volt 200 amp hour battery in …

A Kitchen for the Hostess with the Mostest...Island Style!

We just installed a new kitchen in our home in the Dominican Republic, courtesy of IKEA. We had to decide if we were going to upgrade our kitchen in Michigan or the one in the casa.  Our Michigan kitchen had been 'upgraded' to a usable modern space after buying the house from my grandparents whose 1957 choices reflected a different world. Grandma was a full-time homemaker and appliances were completely different sizes. Our kitchen in the casa when we bought it consisted of a corner cabinet under a counter top with a shallow double sink molded into the material, weirdly off center of the window AND where a human can actually stand who would then also be blocking the area where a stove/oven would sit.  And there was also the other medium sized cabinet that also had no shelves built into it. So when you open the cabinet it is essentially a wooden box where you pile all your cooking ingredients and snacks, etc. Needless to say, the decision was to upgrade the casa kitchen because…

Living a Dual Life: Is it for me?

Every time I am in the Dominican Republic I feel 'at home'. And then when we return 'home' to our house in Michigan, I feel relieved and happy to be there long as I avoid looking at the cold gray sky...still, cats greet us at the door happy to have their humans back and the comfy couch awaits some uninterrupted Netflix binge watching and most importantly, my husband's slows down at that contrast to the house repair machine he becomes in our casa. This probably due to his 9-5 job working for the 'man'.  (We wish it was only 9 to 5...sadly, my better half spends too much time fixing the leaks in a sinking ship.)  That's the other benefit of life in the Dominican Republic. The daily grind is simpler and focused on the necessities of a simple life.  NOT the multi-tasking, split-personality work haze that leaves me on auto-pilot for the part of my life that is actually important. My family.

I know that it has become cliche that we northe…

Freedom del Caribe

I cannot count the number of times people have compared living on a tropical island, at least in the Caribbean, to the 50’s in the US. Neighbors know you and your business, watch your kids when they run around the block, wave from their front porch, and there’s a lot less government regulation. That’s all true. It is free-er. For example, drunk driving is illegal, but every gas station is also a bar. And how about the fact that the cops aren’t paid enough to do much other than drive around with their lights flashing? Though that also means burglars feel pretty free too.
Ah freedom… it’s a double-edged sword. I’ll focus on our particular learning curve…
Over and over again, our Up-North-Sensibilities have clashed with Island-Realities. It all began with the misunderstanding that our water connection was our water connection. Apparently, if you have the only house built in a certain area and someone wants to build a house nearby, they feel perfectly free to cut your water lines and use…

Why Bars Are My Favorite Feature of Our Casa

Back in 2013 and 2014, Thomas and I started looking for a right-now vacation home that could be used as a future retirement home.  Our budget was literally zero to whatever was cheapest. Knowing that properties in the Caribbean are generally  cash based, we earmarked an investment property we owned to pay for a home in paradise. We were very naive...but our adventures in investment property taxes are for a later post. There aren't many comprehensive real estate websites for properties on the North Coast of Dominican Republic. (Real estate is the wild west here. There are no buyers or sellers agents. Every real estate salesperson essentially acts as a dual agent. So, as many of the online forums about the DR correctly suggest, boots on the ground works best. Reach out to many people at various sites and don't hesitate to ask all possible questions.) I was pouring over all of the sites I could find, clicking through endless listings with no idea what area was what and there see…

Caribbean Home Decor

Man, I am having fun decorating our casa.  I don't have this much fun decorating State-Side because we all like rather subdued color palettes to match with our subdued life-styles?  I would never choose orange and teal as my main decorating colors in Michigan!  Check out this bright orange couch! Thomas was reluctant, but gave way to my vision! I haven't as of yet decided what colors to paint select walls, but I'm thinking maybe more muted teal...and paint can always be changed.  I had a pinterest inspiration and actually pulled out my sewing machine and sewed together with minor space-relations mishaps hanging pillow case headboards. One long one for the queen bed and two separate ones for the eventual twin frames that will replace the bunk bed...but that can be put together including pillow headboards to create a king in the second bedroom. Our gardner cut down some fresh bamboo and with a couple of brackets voila! A cool DIY headboard adding a pop of color! I (So, look…

Christmas In Paradise

This was my third Christmas season in the DR and I can't speak f or all parts of the island, nor for all expat rock-dwelling transplants, but I LOVE that it's still about family and not about presents! (Don't get me wrong. I would not shop in Santo Domingo or other big cities during the week between Christmas and Three Kings Day for a million pesos...a million dollars maybe...a million pesos is only like $20,000 US $ mind you.) There is still a lot of frenzied shopping going on, but I feel it might be the holiday import tax break for bringing items from the States combined with some really awesome Black Friday like deals.  And in the countryside where we live on the North Coast far from the big shopping centers it is easy to completely ignore that side of the holiday.  We were invited to a Dominican family dinner on Christmas Eve where they served us al fresco in the large palapa they had for family dinners and evening hang outs. There were three generations present and …