Pet Sittin’

What does “home” mean to you?

Over Christmas, Rob and I did some last minute pet sitting for some friends in the Studio City area when their regular person fell through. These friends are longtime friends that go all the way back to our college days. They live in a rad house and have three very special kitties that they trusted in our charge. Everything about them, their love for each other, their cats and the beautiful house they have made their home is nothing short of lovely, inspiring and comfortable in all the best of ways.

Christmas did not feel like Christmas. Everything felt weird. It was difficult to get adjusted and feel comfortable for a few reasons. In no particular order:

1.) We were not in our own house. We were surrounded by someone elses things, and Christmas Tree. These were not our pets and not our presents under the tree. It is absolutely possible to be really good friends with someone, love their house and pets, but then as soon as they aren’t there with you, feel like you are in a strange place. It is a quiet neighborhood and much of Los Angeles becomes somewhat empty around the holidays. We felt kind of marooned on some kind of luxury L.A. island, cut off from the world.

2.) Christmas is always kind of emotional and weird anyway. I am pretty sure that most average humans come out of the Holiday season feeling emotionally drained and psychologically exhausted. We are in a new state and city on the other side of the country far from where we grew up in FL and where we have lived the past ten years in TX. We have only been in California for a few months. Everything is still very new to us.  We were both really “homesick” for our family back in Florida. Even though we were grateful to have each other, we really missed our parents and siblings.

3.) As RV dwellers and tiny space enthusiasts of more than two years, it was strange to be staying in a three bedroom home. The kitchen and living room combination in particular felt massive to us. It isn’t even like the house is abnormally large, it is just that the space we live in full time is about the size of this kitchen. Tiny is what “home” looks and feels like to us at this point…

Rob and I decided to fully embrace our situation, which wasn’t actually bad. In fact, it was actually pretty awesome. We were just kind of bored and lonely. This was the perfect time to focus our energy into a creative project. When we are bored and feel lonely, we make things. We cooked up a project that we had been joking about and then made it a reality. It gave us something productive to focus on to chase away our Christmas blues.

Perhaps you remember our Christmas in the Camper video from last year? We decided to make another music video project over this holiday in honor of and for our awesome friends for whom we were pet sitting… This particular video was born out of the question, “What if someone asked you to pet sit for them and then you made a rap video in their house?” We decided that there was no other course of action. We must make this video! With the help of some friends, we made this fun and goofy rap video all about Pet Sittin’!


As it turns out, writing music and doing projects together is what “home” feels like to us.

The Corner Pieces – Part IV: Full Circle

I can’t believe that it has taken me almost two years to sit down and write this post.  It feels right and appropriate now, the idea of finishing it feels as if I am on the precipice of completing something major.  I am closing one book and opening another.  This post completes a major life journey that started out with a single road trip to California for a friends wedding in the summer of 2012. It is the how and the why of where we are right now at this exact moment.

Those of you keeping up with my blog know that my husband and I in addition to being musicians are full-timers (we live in our RV full-time).  “The Corner Pieces” are four posts about the very journey that resulted in our decision to pursue this lifestyle.  Here we are, the final installation.  What made us finally seal the deal?  And as always, where are we now?

If you need to get caught up, here are the other 3 Corner Pieces:

The Corner Pieces – Part I : “I had no idea!” (Austin – Clovis – Sedona)

The Corner Pieces – Part II: “Quit Hogging the Vortex!” (Sedona)

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

Driving West, is always inspirational but also usually somewhat harrowing and fraught with challenges.  We do it anyway and you should too!  It makes you pause and remember the Gold Rush and that people used to do this with horses and wagons and no actual roads…

After our Summer of 2012 Journey to Malibu two week Odyssey, we had the task of returning back to Texas.  If you remember my blog post, “No Idea”, you will have a clear picture of exactly why we had to choose a different route home from the West Coast.  Oh, we learned so much on that trip!  The original plan was to take I-40 home and stop at the Grand Canyon on the way.  We now know better than to attempt those mountainous and changing elevations with our vehicle/travel trailer combination (our rig).  I was sad to change our plans but I wanted to, you know, live.

Since I had spent many hours over many weeks painstakingly planning our trip, Rob said that he would re-plan the drive home for us to assuage my disappointment of missing out on the Grand Canyon.  His plan was for us to have a leisurely drive home without spending more than seven hours driving per day.  We would take I-10 this time as it is much flatter and more direct.  His method was to find the most interesting RV parks along the way with the best pool and hot tub situations.

People love the idea of going on vacation but tend to loathe the journey home.  For some reason this journey home was different. We loved it!  And There was magic in it… We relaxed, we fell even more in love with RVing, our super awesome, traveling fur child, Sunny the cat and most definitely each other. J1936x1936-03978This journey home marked an internal shift that would manifest itself into a much larger external shift and culminate in the definitive action of moving out of the house we were renting and into our RV.  We would become full-timers! We would be able to travel more frequently, spend more time in California and not be sad about leaving places. It would be our new way of life and we were both on board!

Something about what we had learned on the road, how we had dealt with adversity, and the unbounded joy we were experiencing made us realize that what we wanted was possible and that we were going to actually do it!  Where there was once fear, there was now excitement. Looking back, I know now that what we had discovered was our true selves and a way to live in the present moment. 

Los Angeles to Austin: The Drive “home”. 

Stop #1: July 3rd, Tempe, AZ – Apache Palms RV Resort – After leaving California, our first stop was near Mesa, AZ.  We parked our RV at a strange little RV park that Rob found using the Good Sam RV app. It had a great pool and hot tub and was walking distance from a very bizarre liquor store/head shop with some interesting, if not shady characters.  I’m not entirely sure that liquor was the only thing being sold there.

For some contrast, my great aunt and uncle who are in their 80’s and lived nearby came over and took us out to dinner at the local Applebee’s.  They definitely do not drink.  In fact, we all held hands and prayed before we ate, right there in the middle of the restaurant, in front of God and everyone!  To make things even more interesting, another uncle and his wife happened to be visiting at the same time.  This particular uncle is the sort with dirty jokes and uncanny inappropriate timing.  Rob and I had to do our best to steer this particular uncle away from telling everyone about his family trip to Thailand where he took the wife and kids to see a “ping-pong” show. It was genuinely nice to have some family time and we were very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, but we were also kind of eager to get back to that pool at the RV park.

At the pool, with our now much needed cocktails in hand, we met a father and his tweenaged daughter who had just moved to the area and were in the process of moving the whole family from Colorado for work… They were temporary “full timers”, living in their RV until they found a house while still commuting back and forth to CO.  We enjoyed getting to know them. RV Parks are fun, because people interact, socialize and like to talk about traveling. We turned in early so that we could get an early start the next day.  We were New Mexico bound.J1936x1936-03917Stop # 2: July 4th, Deming, NM – Little Vinyard RV Park. – For the rest of our journey, we would be on our own, not knowing any friends, family or familiarity.  This is where it all really started to sink in. This part of the trip was really fun for me because I had let go of the planning and got to be surprised.  Rob had found a real hidden gem of an RV park in Deming too! It was vintage for sure, but immaculately clean and mostly empty, even though it was the 4th of July holiday.  Something tells me that Deming isn’t a booming travel destination. J1936x1936-03920 J1936x1936-03922 J1936x1936-03923The RV park had a really unique indoor pool and hot tub that we spent hours in.  That night we stood outside and watched fireworks in the distance from in front of our camper.  We didn’t know if we were going to be able to see any or not, so that was a nice surprise. It was chilly out too. We were, after all, in the desert at night.

After getting ready for bed we watched perhaps the greatest RVing movie of all time, The Long Long Trailer, staring Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz.  I should write a whole post just to review this classic movie.  Right now what you need to know is that the world of RVing has not changed much in the last 60 years.  If you tow a trailer, you will relate to this movie.  We laughed until we cried and had to rewind parts just to watch them again.

Stop #3: July 5th: Balmorhea, TX ? (Definitely No Website) – Between Deming and the Texas border there is a lot to see.  People will try to tell you that there isn’t. People complain about this drive. Geologically it is fascinating. You cross the Continental Divide. Also, you get to a point where you are right on the border of Mexico.  Sociologically it is fascinating.  To your left it looks like the suburbs, to the right it looks like a ramshackle border town. And when I have the chance to do it again, I would love to visit Las Cruces.  It looks like a pretty neat destination when you drive through…

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J1920x1920-03940This particular overnight was unplanned. It was weird, wild and wonderful. And it was really cheap, but just a little scary.  I had a spot booked at Balmorhea State Park, which is known to be a great state park in West Texas.  It boasts the worlds largest spring-fed swimming pool, right in the middle of the desert! Unfortunately when we changed our route, it changed the the date we would arrive. They were completely booked up on our new arrival date.

We kind of started to panic because we were indeed in the middle of nowhere at this point.  It was starting to get late and we were both tired and hungry.  There was no wireless service to look for a place to stay either.  All we had seen for miles was desert and there was no end in sight.  Eventually we came across a gas station, the kind that you don’t go to unless you have absolutely no other choice. I noticed a bunch of RVs parked behind it.  In spite of our reluctance, it would have to do.

The clerk inside seemed shocked or amused that we asked to stay there.  But she gave us a spot, $19 per night.  This was no Good Sams rated park,  there certainly was not a hot tub, no pool, and no showers. Rob had to dig the water hookup out with a spoon because it had been so long since anyone had used it. But it had an untamed beauty and we were just grateful to be somewhere, anywhere.  We bought some beer at the gas station and hiked around the area. We took in our surroundings and took some pictures. J1936x2592-03951

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J2592x1936-03957We were mostly out of food at this point and had not seen a grocery store in several days.  We combined the remaining staples we had and tried to make some kind of edible food patty.  They fell apart.  We ate food debris and were nourished.J1936x1936-03963J1936x1936-03964
A frightening storm rolled in while we were there and shook the whole camper.  I might have prayed a bit. It was a fast and windy storm with a lot of thunder and lightning. It rolled out just as fast as it had whipped in.  The storm left behind the kind of sky that artists dream of and a scent that perfumers fail to replicate.  Desert rain is a real fragrance and the laundry detergent doesn’t even come close. J1936x1936-03955

J1936x1936-03962This is why we do this!  This place is now very special to us. This was not planned around any kind of luxury and we absolutely had to just go with it. This rush of forced spontaneity led to us not wanting to land back on our home planet just yet.  We watched the sunset and we decided to take an extra day.  Instead of going straight back to Austin the next day, we would stop in the adorable German town of Fredericksburg, about two hours outside of Austin. One more night of freedom, of living this new dream we were curating.J1936x1936-03966J2592x1936-03972Stop #4: July 6th, Fredericksburg, TX – Oakwood RV Resort – For us, trips through the desert seem to do something to us spiritually or emotionally… Having time to gently return to “civilization” after being in the modern day Wild West really helped.  It softened the blow of the post vacation blues too.  Our first order of business upon arriving in Fredericksburg was to go to the grocery store for “treats” and snacks, otherwise known as wine and chocolate.  We took a dip in the pool and walked to dinner at a restaurant called The Cabernet Grill.  That night we pulled out the Atlas and excitedly talked and dreamed of all of the places we would go… And our next trip West.  I took this picture on that night. J1936x1936-03983

Full Circle:  On July 3rd, 2012 I did not want to leave Los Angeles.  I wanted to stay forever with all of our old friends, go surfing and hiking and explore the coast. What kept me from getting too bummed out about leaving was that we could go home and start planning. We would make preparations for a bigger,  much more extended return.  I was happy that Rob and I were on the same page.  I was happy that we were finally making this decision together.  I was happy that he wanted to come back to L.A. too. He wanted it as much as I did this time!

Pro tip:  This is my advice to myself and everyone else: if you know what you want, just go get it.  Don’t talk to any unnecessary, possible detractors about your plans. They will take it as an invitation to offer their two cents, with love, of course. Ultimately their two cents is a huge distraction and a major form of resistance because it encourages doubt. It makes you want to give up before you even start. Just do or get the thing that you know is right for you! You know more than you think you do!  Sometimes I feel like I have spent more of my life weighing the pros and cons of things instead of just doing the things.

We knew it would not be fast or easy.  We scaled down, moved into our RV, lived tiny, saved our pennies and made our dreams come true, one step at a time.  We didn’t talk about it much with other people because we didn’t want to jinx our intensions or deal with possibly negative input… Even while we were actually doing it, I didn’t blog about it out of some kind of fear of commitment. We knew what we wanted to do and we wanted to follow through without having to explain ourselves to anyone. We wanted to be doing the thing before telling people about the thing.

We have come full-circle. Here we are back in L.A., after two years.  Our arrival date was once again dictated by an epic wedding of dear friends. This time the wedding was in Paso Robles.  And this time we had the option to say, “let’s stay for a while.”  L.A. and the West Coast is our new adventure, and current journey.  There shall be many more.

Since our arrival we spent Thanksgiving with a big group of friends that we have known for well over a decade at this point; they are all of the people I am usually texting on Thanksgiving. I have been waterskiing almost weekly with the swivel ski coach I had when I was eleven years old who just happens to live 10 minutes away from us now. We have met up for happy hour with friends from my summer camp days and had dinner with one of my oldest friends, from preschool.  We know a lot of people out here and we are meeting so many more.  And this really doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. I am so grateful!  We stayed focused and made it happen, and I am so very grateful to be here.

We Are Doing it Now! That traveling thing…

My Summer Vacation. 

My New Life (so far) by Kate.

One of the many things I love about travel is how time seems to be manipulated.  On the road I feel like I am in another dimension where time stops or at least I have more ownership of my time.  Travel forces you out of old habits. I think that is a really good thing.  However, if you need to get actual work done while you are traveling, you must have some very strong work habits in place.

On June 1st, we uprooted ourselves from our cozy and comfortable RV Park in Austin TX, because we knew summer was coming… In Texas, that means EXTREME heat. We have done the heat many times before and we wanted out. In 2011 we had ninety days in a row with triple digit temperatures in Austin. That is when we first started plotting our summertime exit.

Fast forward to now. After living in our RV for a year and some change, we rationalized, our house is on wheels. This is why we live in a tiny travel trailer, so we can roll, so we can chase some good weather…

We did something that we knew how to do. We headed North.  Almost as far North as you can possibly go in the US.  We also played music.  Our band, Before Dawn, has always been a great reason to travel.

We had a great time playing shows at Steel Bridge Songfest in Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Then, we went even further North to my parents remote cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, near Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We parked our tiny house on wheels in their yard and continued to live in it.  We were in the warm embrace of family and far from the scorching Texas heat.

One of the main reasons my parents got this cabin was to have fun, relaxing, “family times” together in the summer. We were going for it damn it!  All the way!  All family – all the time!!! What could possibly go wrong?  This was Clark Griswold and Chet Ripley’s biggest fantasy come true.  National Lampoons Vacation meets The Great Outdoors!

The Northwoods has a culture and lore that is all its own. Without getting too esoteric, it is something that cannot be explained, it has to be felt.  If you have been there, you know exactly what I mean. It is magical. It is densely populated with trees and wildlife, but not people. There are more stars than you know exist, and tons of lakes, both named and unnamed.  Sometimes the silence, peace and solitude are so intense that it feels almost violent. Eventually you get used to it and realize that it is exactly what your brain, your heart and your soul needed.  Your cellphone and internet are nearly useless. You are forced to be with yourself, with nature, and with your family. Without being distracted.  Perhaps it is disconcerting at first, but it is ultimately glorious.

I have to admit it took me about two and a half weeks to quit flipping out.  “What have we done???” I missed Whole Foods and Planet Fitness something fierce. City life in Austin was comfortable and familiar.  I had not spent this much time with my parents as an adult since I moved out when I was eighteen. How would this dynamic work? We are all living in the woods together! I felt very overwhelmed by this life change and feared the loss of my autonomy.

I fully expected my mother and I to possibly have some friction, after all when I was a young adult and a teenager, we fought. I was rebellious, she was strict. She is a Taurus and I am a Scorpio. Growing up, we pushed each others buttons, played devils advocate and often accidentally insulted each other in the name of love.  Now my husband and I were spending three months living in my parents yard!?!?  What was I thinking? Who came up with this insane plan? I did!

We got along the best we have since I was four years old. We had so much fun together.  We did crafts, we played games, cruised around the lake and took day trips to cute little nearby towns.We were totally on the same team. My mom even taught me how to hook. I went to weekly hooking parties with all of her hooker friends.  Trust me, this sounds far more scandalous and scintillating than it actually is.

My father and I have never really fought much. To my surprise we actually did have several spats this summer.  The thing is, in the woods, you really tend to want to work these things out quickly because 1.)there is fun to be had and 2.)slamming a door and leaving really isn’t that easy.

Our quarrels weren’t serious, but it caught me off guard.

I feel closer to my parents now than I ever have before.  We all took a risk immersing ourselves in each others lives and it really paid off in both fun and love!  Rob and I both think that this just may have been the best summer of our lives!

Despite being in the woods, we had goals this summer.  Some of them we attacked immediately, others took longer to get rolling. The first order of business was finding ways to make money. This was the perfect opportunity to tryout and hone our ability to have location independent income.

Rob got to work immediately by turning his ten year old computer repair business into something that can be done remotely.  As I mentioned before, decent internet access is not easy to come by in the Northwoods… Rob paid a premium to have the good stuff installed at the cabin which was still far from city internet speeds; but it was good enough to support his clients.  Rob also made sure he had a few associates in Austin that he could call on should a technician need to be physically present to assist a client.  This all worked out really well!  Survival income accomplished.

I kept teaching Yoga.  Prior to going “Up North”, a friend of a friend of my mom was interested in having Semi-Private Yoga Therapy sessions with her friend and her daughter twice weekly.  We set a weekly schedule as soon as I arrived.

Sometimes multiple family members of my Yoga clients would be visiting and I would teach “Family Yoga” to three different generations! It was beautiful to develop these different Yoga practices and through word of mouth I picked up several more clients.  This was not just survival income but something that I looked forward to and enjoyed thoroughly.  Helping others toward greater health and wellbeing has become my hearts work.

Our passion project is our band, Before Dawn. We love writing, recording and performing music together.  We had a mission to do all of theses things this summer. We were in a different environment, in the woods, far from Austin. We played at tiny Northwoods bars and open mic nights, and made recordings in our little travel trailer. A change in environment is always good for creativity.

This change of scenery was a wonderful adventure that created many unexpected outcomes, opportunities and new relationships.  Every time we played in front of people we were offered more opportunities to play. We seemed to play live shows minimally once a week in the various small towns up north like Minocqua, Land O’ Lakes and Iron River.

Sticking to a regimented writing and recording schedule was difficult, especially if the sun was out and the lake was calling. We were able to record our next single, “Light The Way“. It was a crowd favorite from our most recent tour.

We even got the chance to do a radio interview on WXPR.  The DJ, Jeremy Starz, played four of our songs and debuted our new single, before its official release on September 30th.  This was a first for us. The single is now available on Itunes.

Rob also made some summertime fun videos in the Northwoods. He also composed all of the music!

Amphibious Airplane from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

Whisker Cam from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

This is what we did this summer. This is what we did “Up North” with family, in our tiny house on wheels.  It was all possible because we live tiny.

Stay tuned! More blogs, more music and more videos soon!  By the way we are in Los Angeles now.  How did we get here?  Well, that is an interesting story.  Sign up for blog updates and find out soon!

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

When Rob and I were asked to sing in our longtime friends wedding in Malibu, CA, we jumped at the chance to take our RV on a trip out West and park it in Malibu for a week.

Staying there for a full week really gave us the sense of living there and if I had the cash, I would move there in a heartbeat. You know what is expensive in Malibu?  Pretty much everything. Except, liquor.  For some reason, liquor is ridiculously cheap there.

The RV park we stayed at overlooked the Pacific and we could hear the waves crashing on the shore as we drifted off to sleep at night. You could also hear all of the action down on the PCH, it didn’t bother us though.  Looking out at the view, our morning coffee never tasted so good!  Sunny loved Malibu too.

 

We hiked at Leo Carillo State Park. We took surfing lessons and strolled along the beach in Santa Monica.  We hung out with some of the greatest people and friends a person could ever have or even hope to have and laughed until our faces were in pain.  It was glorious!  We also saw David Duchovny in the parking lot of CVS in Malibu, though I think he was probably coming from the Sushi restaurant next door.  I even got a chance to take a mixed aerial class atHollywood Aerial Arts with a dear friend,Sarah, from high school. All of this awesomeness and excitement and the wedding was still yet to come!

Rob and I even had the chance to entertain guests at our campsite twice! My filmmaker cousins April and Jordan came over one night for dinner and film project swapping entertainment.  A few nights later, we grilled fresh fish from the Pacific that we bought at the fish market that was just down the hill from the RV Park while taking in the scenery of the expansive Pacific Coast horizon with a great girlhood friend of mine from summer campSharon, and her husband, Brian.

One day I made the drive through Topanga Canyon to Burbank to have lunch with girlfriends from college, Mandi and Jen.  Jen is a very talented costume designer and stylist who took me to L.A.’s fashion district. Bolts of fabric as far as the eye can see!  

 

Rob stayed back at the camper.  He did everyday stuff like take pictures of a few items he had brought along to sell on Ebay and a load of laundry at the RV laundry facilities. He relaxed and made like The Dude, hanging out in Malibu.  That night we walked down the hill to the fish market next to our RV park. The fresh fish sandwiches were delicious and satiating!  The experience was most definitely a version of perfection.

                                                ^^^^^ Malibu Seafood^^^^^

At the end of our weeklong stay in Malibu, on our way out of town, we even met up with more friends for dinner, got a tour of Glendale and had a music related business meeting!

Now that I have actually typed out everything that we did on this trip I realize that we did a lot.  Interestingly, the one argument we had while on the trip was because I freaked out and panicked that we weren’t “doing enough” and “seeing enough people”.  It is true, I would have had to spend at least a month out there to have quality time with everyone that I wanted to see, hug and have a laugh with.  After all, they were working and we were on vacation. I did my very best to cram it all into a week.  I was saddest to miss out on invitation to go Rock Climbing atMalibu Creek State Park with my friend Sarah and her husband, Brandon.

Did I even mention the wedding???  We went to the best wedding rehearsal and dinner I have ever been to followed the next day by a beautiful wedding in Temescal Gateway Park. Rob and I sang, “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon, in the ceremony, requested by the Bride and Groom, and made everyone weep. Then we partied and danced the night away with some of our dearest college buds.  The next morning we all went out for brunch in Santa Monica.  It felt like a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from.

Getting into a daily groove while far away from “home”, this was a turning point.  We realized that we were not missing any of the comforts of the 1800 sqft house that was back in Austin. We became aware that we were spending more time outside and that we were both happy and comfortable, this really made us realize that indeed, “we can totally live in this thing!!!”  “Also, moving into it will drastically reduce our monthly bills which will give us more opportunities do amazing trips like this one!”

AND a view of the water is really good for the mind, body and soul!

One of the reasons we moved to Austin is because it has a fine mixture of art, culture, music and outdoor pursuits readily available in addition to being a vibrant yet laid-back and friendly city.  You know what?  When we made that decision, we had never been to any cities in California, ever!  They have all of that, plus beaches with great surfing, plus mountains and snow skiing and multiple National Parks!  This pretty much describes paradise to me.

I know L.A. isn’t laid-back and many people don’t consider it friendly… But Malibu, in my experience, is.  And since the time I have spent in L.A. has been with friends, it seems very friendly.  Also, I am a grounded person without distortions surrounding fame and fortune, I see no reason that I can’t find a sense of peace in any city.  Fame and wealth don’t impress me.  A generous and kind heart does.  Those who make helping others a priority, those who know who they are and “work for their luck” impress me.  All of the people I am close to in L.A. have those qualities.

 We have wanted to spend more time on the West Coast for some time now.  We have played shows out there with our band, Before Dawn, spent time with our friends and family and always had nothing short of an honest to goodness amazing time.  I can truly, honestly, and completely free from sarcasm say that, I LOVE L.A.!  A big piece of my heart is there.  No joke. Rob reminds me that I feel this way because of all of the loving, artistically supportive, fans and side splittingly hilarious people we call friends out there.  He cautions, “trust me, the city is not what you love.”

In any case our most recent trip to L.A., the one where we lived in Malibu for a week in our RV overlooking the Pacific was a significant catalyst in our realization that it would be both possible and fulfilling to transition to full-time RV living.  I mean, what if we could even figure out a way to travel and work at the same time???  Fast-forward three months and we happily, though not without tremendous trials and tribulations, moved into our travel trailer.  We are getting closer everyday to cutting this tether of single location living.  You see, L.A. is already making our dreams come true!  Viva Malibu!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The Most Exhaustive Minimalist Gift Guide Ever!

I was inspired to write this post because of the recent Black Friday madness and general holiday mania I have been witnessing.  It is that time of year where consumerism sky rockets to levels even more outrageous than normal and people feel compelled to buy gifts for each other, even if they can’t think of something meaningful, useful or in many cases can’t afford them.  I understand the frenzy.  I have been in it.

The truth is that unless a person really uses and or cherishes a gift, it was a waste of money.  I don’t have money to waste!   Most people don’t. I just had a Birthday and Rob’s is coming up shortly. Parents, in-laws, siblings etcetera often ask, “What do you want for your Birthday or Christmas.”  I typically have a hard time answering this question, but even more so now.  I compiled this list partially for that reason.

We have worked really hard to get rid of most of our “stuff”.  We still have stuff to get rid of.  Every time we take something new in, we have to get rid of something we have. That is the rule.

So, what kind of gift does one give someone who is attempting downsize or become more minimalist?

More and more people are realizing the benefits of minimalism.  Do you have someone in your life that fits this description? What does one give someone who is a full time RVr, tiny house dweller or even a van dweller?

Here is an exhaustive guide I have compiled. I think it could be helpful for for everyone on your list, not just minimalists!  I also would love to hear if you have any additional ideas! While we are happily living in an RV Park, far from “off the grid”, we are in search of a more independent, self-sufficient and simple lifestyle.

We are taking baby steps and we have downsized because we value freedom over debt, making memories over amassing material things and living consciously over mechanically.  Most people who embrace this lifestyle tend to embrace experiences over material things.  Here are some literally “outside of the box” gift giving ideas for your consideration.

Tickets to Entertainment…

  • Concerts – Find out a loved ones favorite bands or venues and then get them tickets.
  • Plays – It is always fun to go see a local or touring show!

Shows from Cirque Du SoleilRingling Brothers, a local ballet, aerial or circus troupe.

  • Comedy shows – Laughter is a really great gift and there are comedy clubs, touring comics and comedy festivals in most cities!
  • Sporting events – Do you know their favorite team or the hometown college?
  • Movie Passes – Date night!  Who doesn’t like to go to the movies? My sister gave us this as a gift one year, I thought it was the greatest!
  • Museums – There are so many museums I have been meaning to and wanting to go to, having a pass would give me just the reason to go!
  • Events and Festivals – Austin and many other cities have many annual events and festivals ranging from super cheap to outrageously expensive. From food and wine to film, to marathons or music…
  • Activities – Rock Gym, Zip Lining, Paddle Boarding, Surfing, Boat Rental, Yoga, local bowling ally, the list goes on.  Most people love the opportunity to act like a tourist in their own town and get out of their regular routine!
  • Theme Parks – In many cases this will end up being a great day trip filled with fun memories. When Rob lived in Orlando, his mom used to get him an annual pass to Disney which provided many days of fun all year long!

The internet makes it super easy to find out what types of activities, destinations and entertainment are in a reasonable proximity to your loved ones, giving them a good time and memories to be cherished will most certainly be appreciated!  Make sure you know the person well enough to select something that they would love to do or try and you can’t go wrong!

Restaurant Gift Certificates:  Who doesn’t like a dinner date?  When people start cutting their expenses, one of the first things to get cut is always dinning out.  Dinning out can be such a tremendous joy!  It is something that I know Rob and I always look forward to and most definitely bond over.  Like many people these days, we are always looking for places with fresh, farm to table ingredients.  Most people seeking minimalism are doing it as a way of living a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle and food and nutrition are most definitely core values in that picture. If finding a restaurant for people like us seems like an intimidating task, try these Google terms,  “Farm to table”, “local ingredients” or “locavore”, “seasonal menu”.

There are many such restaurants in Austin and in most major cities.  I want to give a shout out to some of the great local Austin favorites!

Hillside Farmacy

Contigo

Restaurant Jezebel

Olivia

Wink

Cipollina

Is there a place you have been wanting to try in your city?

Wine Bars:   This can be an inexpensive yet very classy gift.  A date with a wine and cheese flight (an offering of several wines to taste and discuss) is always a good time!  Most wine flights are usually in the neighborhood of $15, sometimes less, rarely more.  Google a city and “wine bar” and at least a handful will pop up.  Some locations have beer flights as well for those who prefer beer to wine.  Check out what kinds of flights an establishment offers and make your decision from there….

One of our local favorites is House Wine, and we have been wanting to try Vino Vino, we have heard great things!

Coffee Shops:   Austin is known for having really great independent coffee shops that often have offerings such as yoga, live music and great little menues as well.  I like promoting the local, independent businesses I know about, so I am going to give a shout out to:

Bouldin Creek Cafe

Bennu Coffee

Cherrywood Coffeehouse

Houndstooth Coffee

There are of course tons more.  Just do a search for Austin and Coffeehouse and you see what I mean!

Speaking of food, grocery stores are great!

Whole FoodsTrader Joe’sSprouts and even some local farmers markets all offer gift cards.  Our grocery bill is our single highest bill every month by a significant margin.  In talking to friends, I have realized that we are not alone.  I think others would agree that it would be great gift to have that offset with a grocery gift card!

Money Saving Memberships:  No, I am not talking about a “Jelly of the Month Club” membership. Or a membership that in anyway will send more “stuff” to a person.  In general it is a good rule of thumb not to send someone any kind of subscription to anything they have not specifically asked for. People are bombarded by excess mail, lets all try to avoid contributing to that. Here are some ideas that might be useful to local adventurers and travelers! Many of the suggestions are specific to Austin because that is where I am and what I know, but it should still give you a good idea of what to look for. There are similar types of foundations and associations in many towns and cities.

For Locavores and Foodies

Go Local

Texas Wine and Food Foundation

For Artsy Types

Austin Film Society

Or a

Museum Memebership

For Outdoorsy Types

State Parks – This link is for Texas, but most states have State Park passes available.

National Parks

For RV Traveling Types

These are the clubs that save campers money on RV parks and other RV related things while they are on the road.

Woodalls

Good Sams Club

Passport America

KOA

Learning and Enrichment:

I don’t know about you, but I love learning new things!  I love it I love it I love it!  What do you want to learn more about?  What hobbies do you have? I love pretty much anything dance, aerial apparatus and circus related.  In Austin there are quite a few resources for such things; from my favorite, Blue Lapis Light, to the ever popular Sky Candy to the high flying, Trapeze Austin.  For dance there is of course Ballet Austin and Tapestry Dance Company among many others.  What great classes exist in your city that you or someone you love would love to take?  This really is the gift that keeps on giving.  Maybe you and your partner want to take Salsa or Tango lessons together?  You learn new skills and create memories together instead of collecting “stuff.”

Yoga, everyone needs it!  Even yoga teachers like myself love to take more yoga classes.  Did you know that Meditation is more effective for pain management than Morphine?  Yoga soothes and improves the body, mind and soul.  Who wouldn’t need that?  Yoga can help people learn techniques for stress management that will forever change and improve their lives.  What the world needs now is more Yoga!  With all of the many styles of Yoga that exist, there is literally something for everyone! Check out my friends Aerial Yoga Studio, Four Elements!

Races – is there a running or marathon enthusiast in your life?  Races usually have an entry fee and that fee very often goes to a charity.  You can kill two birds with one stone by entering your friend or loved one in a local race that they can participate in.

My other passion and obsession is building and architecture.  This is one of those things that I have only fantasized about. I would like to actually get my hands dirty and learn to do some real building beyond what I have learned in stagecraft!  I am particularly focused on the Tiny HouseMovement, building materials and how to reclaim and repurpose materials for extreme sustainability, affordability and functionality.  One of the main reasons my husband and I decided to move into our RV is to save money so that we can buy a piece of land, loan free and build our own small house with our own hands, mortgage free.  There are workshops for this sort of thing. Here are some resources, if you are interested. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving, helping someone learn to build their home is a big deal!  Do you have anyone in your life that would appreciate a gift like this?

Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshops

Tiny Texas Houses

Yestermorrow Design Build School

House Alive

Eco Nest Building Workshops

Portland Alternative Dwellings 

Relax Shacks

Services:   Massage, Haircut, Dry Cleaning, Automotive upkeep, Firestone etc. – When you think about it, these are all luxury services, not necessities. But they are also everyday services that many Americans incorporate into their weekly or monthly routine. They are services that we enjoy or appreciate which is what makes them good gifts!  Do you have a favorite Spa, Dry Cleaner, stylist or Mechanic? Honestly all I really want for Christmas is a massage!

Goods and Supplies Gift Cards:  It is true, we still need some stuff.  Most of it is rather practical, like a ladder and a rake.

Home Depot– We are forever going to Home Depot whether for Diatematious Earth to ward off ants or for a piece of outdoor carpet or exterior illumination.  If you know of a local mom and pop hardware store where your tiny dwelling loved one resides, this might be a better choice.  However if your people travel often, you know that a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes can usually be found.

Ebay – I actually buy a lot of my medical supplies on Ebay from sellers who have surplus. The situation of their insurance companies doling out extras and me not being able to get health insurance somehow becomes a symbiotic relationship where I can get inexpensive supplies that help keep me alive. You can never go wrong with an Ebay Gift Card.  I think most people tend to price compare almost everything they buy with Ebay or…—————————————————–>

Amazon – Honestly, Amazon has everything except for probably a soul.  I know, I know it is far from “local” or good for small businesses.  It is in fact the antithesis of my general philosophy and has put many small book stores out of business.  BUT, I live in a small space and I LOVE my Kindle.   Any books, magazines or reading material I receive needs to be in this format and I suspect that many tiny dwellers feel the same way.  Though I parted ways for good with Wal-Mart more than three years ago, I just can’t give up Amazon yet.

Sears – Tools, Automotive, Outdoor Living.

“Evil Chains” that are helpful when traveling: When you are a traveler and you are on the road chains simplify life because they are abundant and close to the interstate and you know exactly what to expect. Sometimes it is a nearly necessary evil. Though we try to avoid them as much as possible, here are some of the chains we tend to frequent when on the interstate.

Starbucks – Rob and I once made a $15 gift card to Starbucks last 3.2 trips by splitting a coffee and a breakfast sandwich each time.

Pet Smart – Sunny is on file at Banfield Hospital which is located in Pet Smart.  No matter what city we are in we can get the right food and meds for her.  This is such a relief.

Dollar General – Dollar General has more retail locations than any other retailer in America!  I bet you didn’t know that.  Many of them are somewhat rural which can be hella convenient when you are far from cities and towns.  Convenient and cheap. They are not overwhelmingly monstrously enormous and you can get septic safe toilet paper, laundry soap, panty liners and all the GMO trail mix you want there.

Target – Unforeseen miscellaneous needs.  Need I say more?

Gas Cards and Truck Stops:  It is no secret that people who travel generally need gas to get to where they are going.  Some super ambitious and conscientious people have converted to bio-diesel. I wish we were that cool! These gas stations are very friendly to large rigs and are generally easy to pull in and out of.  They are most definitely our preference when traveling.Loves and Pilot/Flying J

Camping and Tripping Supplies:

Camping World – There is ALWAYS something that we need from Camping World.  Right now I want these shoe holders.

Academy – If I was only allowed to shop at one store for the rest of my life, it would probably be Academy.

CampmorL.L. BeanREI = GEAR, GEAR, GEAR!!!

La Musica: Remember when getting someone a new CD was a great gift? itunes gift cards are the new music gift. And if you know someone who actually plays music, getting them a gift card to their local music store or Guitar Center is wonderful.  String players always need more strings!

Oh So Medical Oh So Awesomely Practical:  Eye Exams and Dental Cleanings– Many people don’t have vision and dental care.  What a lovely gift an eye exam or dental cleaning would be!  My mother-in law often gives us the gift of a teeth cleaning with their family dentist.  We couldn’t be more appreciative! – That was Robs gift this year and honestly, it is all he really wanted!

WalgreensCVS or other pharmacy Gift Cards – Medicine is expensive!  Insulin is outrageous!  These are major burdens to much of the population.  This would be an awesome, jump for joy gift!

Donations:   Make a donation in the name of a loved one to a charity that is close to their heart.  Perhaps you have a person in your life that is far more generous than they are rich.  Or perhaps you have someone in your life that can have anything they want at any time… This is an incredibly special, personal and perfect gift.  What are your favorite charities? What charities are important to those you plan to buy gifts for this year? Here are a few of my favorites!

*Is the person you are shopping for an artist, film maker, musician or generally having creative projects in the works?  As a gift, find out if they need support for their next project.  Most of the creative people I know would give up “gifts” forever and be eternally grateful if they could just get their project funded.  Even small amounts are very helpful!*

Things to avoid…..

Clothes and Accessories:  Scarfs, gloves, hats, sweaters, pajamas, really clothes of any kind.  For all you know, this person may already have 18 scarfs and sets of pajamas that they already don’t wear or know what to do with.  Having said that, one of my favorite gifts ever was a jersey knit scarf that a friend gave me; it is just the perfect weight for Texas and Florida cold!

Bath stuff:   Lotion, soap, bath salts etc.  People are very particular about what kinds of body products they use.  It is never a good idea to impose your product tastes on someone else unless you are absolutely positive that it will be a hit.  This is very personal territory!

Knick Knacks and Novelty Anything:   It isn’t the “thought that counts”, it is the “function” that counts. People have their own tastes and again, it is usually pretty specific.  Don’t get someone an item that is just going to take up space in their closet.  Like I said before unless someone truly uses or cherishes an item, it was a waste of money.  If you see an item that you think would be “funny” to give someone, don’t waste your money, just take a picture of the item with your phone and send it to the person.  You can still have the LOL, no one has to waste their money and no one has to store useless “novelty” crap.

Please comment!  I want to hear your suggestions.  Is there a place you would like a gift card for that I didn’t mention?  What is your favorite independent restaurant in your hometown?  What is your go-to travel stop? Is there a class you would like to take or a new skill you would like to learn?  What is your favorite charity?  Tell me!!! I want to know.  Give shout outs to your favorites!

Here is a really lovely blog post on Becoming Minimalist about giving your children gifts they will remember.  This blog post really speaks to me.  Enjoy!!!

Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate!

By the way, HUGS make great gifts!!!

The Tiny House Movement

Along the way, I have developed a few quirks and obsessions, aka passions.  Some of these are deeply rooted and can be traced back to my childhood.

I have always had an interest in architecture, design and different materials.  As a child this manifested itself in fort building, and the observation of regionally changing architecture while on family road trips.  My parents were very lovely and let me keep my forts erected for much longer than most would allow and even let me sleep in them. They have also reported to me that one of my first sentences ever, while en-route from Florida to the Midwest was an inquiry, “where did all of the condominiums go?”  I noticed!  Where did they go???

I have a very distinct memory of being toddler aged and driving through Indiana, just before you get to Chicago and seeing these old town houses built in rows and some of them even built into the side of the hills and being amazed by it.  It is so simple and so “heart of America” yet it blew my mind. Growing up on an island in Florida, I had never seen anything like that.  At that point, I remember my mom telling me that yes, indeed architecture and the way things are built, varies widely from place to place.  I remember making a mental note of that so that I could keep my eye out and observe what might come next.  I have been making these observations for about 30 years now with the same inquisitiveness.

While investigating RV’s and the RV lifestyle, something new popped up on my radar that piqued my interest in design and architecture again, in a new way: The Tiny House Movement. My interest has been piqued somewhat intensely and obsessively.

Design that turns me on:

*Maximum efficiency and good uses of space.

*Items and spaces that can multitask, like stairs that are also drawers etc.

*Conservation of money, environment and resources through the use of things like solar panels and rainwater collection.

*Nice outdoor spaces.

*Creative use of materials, especially recycled and natural materials like reclaimed wood, shipping containers and cob.

*Ability to be off the grid if necessary or desired.

What is the “Tiny House Movement” you say???  Or maybe you have already heard about it, it is quickly gaining popularity in this country and well, globally.

My personal definition: The Tiny House Movement is a reaction to the social, economic and environmental climate of modern society. It is a movement that favors design, economy and environment over square footage, wasteful spending and excess building.  It is is about being thoughtful, as well as socially and environmentally conscious.  It is about examining ones needs and wants and realizing that we really only “want” a lot of non necessities because we are marketed to heavily –  we are living in a hyper capitalist society that thrives on a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.  Such an intense rat race has been imposed upon us that people are willing to risk their health, happiness and quality of life to acquire bigger THINGS and greater quantities of THINGS and consequently bigger houses to store all of their THINGS. To quote my late grandfather, J. Kenneth Baird, “they sure can think of a lot of shit for you to buy.”  Life as we know it has become very complicated and The Tiny House Movement is answering back with a call for some simplicty. It is about personal choice and figuring out what ones true values are.

Here’s what I value in life:

*Family

*Friends

*Travel

*Outdoor activities and nature

*Health

*Helping others

*Minimal environmental footprint

*Learning

Here is what I value in people:

*Compassion and Empathy

*Creativity

*Resourcefulness

*Adaptability

*Humor

*A desire to help others

*A desire to continue learning

As you can see the Tiny House Movement speaks to me because it is directly in-line with my values. And I am not the only one. See for yourself….

One of my favorite blogs to follow is, Tiny House Blog.  Kent Griswold is one of the pioneers in this movement. His blog is always offering new tiny houses to moon over.  Also, I have learned a lot on this site about the different types of tiny dwellings people are building, where they are building them and why.  For instance, I didn’t know what a Vardo was before reading this blog.  Also I learned about straw and hay bale construction, cob homes, container homes, and pallet houses.  Additionally I learned a bit about buying tiny house plans as well as building codes and laws.  One of my favorite sections on this particular blog is “Tiny House in a Landscape.”  The Tiny House Blog is really just the best virtual window into almost every aspect of tiny house culture.

Another really fabulous resource is The Tiny Life blog.  On this site you will find inspiration as well as great ideas about how to build multi-purposed furniture and space saving solutions to fit perfectly into your tiny house.  A couple of other informative and inspiring sites are Tiny House Talk and Tiny House Design.

Some of the pioneers and famous names in this movement who are currently offering tiny houses, building plans, workshops and books are Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings, Derek Diedricsen of Relax Shacks, LLoyd Kahn of Shelter Publications and Jim Wilkins of Tiny Green Cabins.  I find them all fascinating and massively inspirational!

One of my most favorite sites is Tiny Texas Houses!  I absolutely love what they are doing with reclaimed and recycled materials.  The tiny homes that they are building are undeniably beautiful.  When I see their homes, construction, and philosophy, I truly see my heart and soul reflected.  Also, they are in Texas!  

A few other fun sites for browsing are, Cabin Porn, Tiny House Swoon, and Tiny House Listings.  I am sure there are others out there that I am missing, let me know if you know of any cool “tiny sites.”

If you still are not convinced that Tiny Houses are the coolest thing ever, the wave of the future and becoming super dooper popular, check this out: The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg Business, Wall Street Journal, Dwell, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, PBS, NPR, NBC, CBS, CNN, even Oprah and USA Today are reporting on the movement!

If you can’t tell, I am ready to join this movement. I have Massive Tiny Dreams! I want to get my hands dirty and use power tools. Don’t worry, Rob is on board. I have been talking about this for about three years now, he is excited too. We want to buy some land and build our own Tiny House!  For the first time in our lives, the “responsible” thing to do also seems like fun.

Right now this project is just one important piece my varied number of Massive Tiny Dreams!  For now we shall practice the Tiny Lifestyle in the Apex.

Not all tiny houses are the same, they are actually really diverse.  Here is some inspiration.

House-Boat-2-Apartment-Therapy tiny1Tiny-3

Where would you build your tiny house? What materials would you use to build your tiny house?

Also check out Pinterest for some inspiration!