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.

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!

Deadly Beauty

Our very first trip in our new camper was to Fredericksburg, TX, the cutest little German town in the Texas Hill Country.  We decided to do an overnight at a KOA, just to feel out the camper and get aquatinted with our new travel trailer.  We even baked cookies in the propane oven, just to see how it worked.

Our second trip was an overnight in preparation for a future work trip to make a music video.  We invited our friends and collaborators, filmmakersChristine Carstairs and Robert Haynes, a married couple who also work together, to stay the night in the camper with us at McKinney Falls State Park right here in Austin.  We wanted to test the camper and the situation of actually having four people in it; do a day of hiking and picture taking to prepare for our upcoming journey to Big Bend National Park to film the music video for our song, Deadly Beauty.

Big Bend National Park is an amazing and brilliant park in the extraordinary desert and mountains of West Texas, along the Rio Grande!  Having heard about this pilgrimage of sorts, Rob and I took a traditional tent camping trip there, the spring previous to buying our travel trailer.  We fell in love with the place so deeply that we wrote a song about it called Deadly Beauty.

There were Bear and Mountain Lion warnings everywhere in this park, complete with bear proof storage boxes at every campsite, as well as warnings about “curious” Javalina, breaking into your tent.  Also there was some wild weather that came with this wild terrain.  It came and went very fast and included a lot of lightning, a downpour, hail, not to mention temperatures reaching 116 degrees during the day and then dropping into the 50s in the evening!  We did not end up setting up our tent, we slept in our car for four nights.  To tell you the truth, there was one night that it was so gusty that I thought it might blow the car over… It didn’t, obviously.

Interesting fact: Big Bend is the least visited of all of the National Parks because it is so remote.

Suggestion: Read, Big Bend, A Homesteaders Story, by J.O. Langford before going to Big Bend, it will give you a much deeper appreciation for the land and the journey.  I can honestly say that this is in my top 10 favorite books.

Also: Visit Terlingua, it is the weirdest, coolest little desert, formerly ghost town, right next to the park.  Also, don’t tell anyone about it.  I want it to stay cool.

In any case this trip was inspiring.  As an artist and as a human being you can’t help but be changed by this journey.

  

Less than a year after visiting Big Bend for the first time we released our album,Brush With Greatness, with the song, Deadly Beauty, an homage to that unapologetic, raw, and wild place.  We truly felt that being in the presence of and having the opportunity to explore this desert, mountains and river was a quite literal brush with greatness. The song Deadly Beauty without a doubt is filled with visual and aesthetic imagery, how could it not be?  Making a video for this song was mandatory.

We asked Robert and Christine, our filmmaker friends who were our collaborators on the photos and album art for Brush with Greatness as well as script advisors cum directors and cinematographers on the music video for the song, Proof if they would want to go to Big Bend for four nights over Thanksgiving and shoot the video for Deadly Beauty.  It was on!  Four people, twenty hours in the car, four days in the desert, and sleeping in The Apex!  It was actually quite magical!

RV Lesson #1:  Plan your trip accordingly… It takes at least two hours longer than you think it will when traveling with a travel trailer.  Just go ahead and tack on two hours to your  journey when you are estimating how long it will be.  Also you will go through gas about twice as fast.  I can’t emphasize this enough!  Fill up when you are at half a tank!!!  Especially when you are in the desert, or anywhere remote.  We coasted into a gas station on fumes and in a state of panic.  Lesson learned!

We stayed at Big Bend Resort and Adventures Park, about 6 miles from the Western entrance to the park. Our thanksgiving dinner was Turkey Chili.  We didn’t get in each others way once.  Somehow we all maneuvered around the camper like an intricate ballet.  Christine, despite being six feet tall and having insomnia, was sleeping on the dinette converted to a bed next to her husband Robert, and reported that she has never slept better in her entire life!  These are minor miracles here!

RV Lesson #2:  It is very possible for the RV break controller to become unplugged from your vehicle.  In fact this happened to us in rather steep and mountainous terrain.  This can be VERY BAD.  At about hour 10, the vibration of the vehicle jiggled the plug right out of the socket.  We have since created a little harness for the plug with zip ties to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore.  ALWAYS continue to check the status of your break controller, throughout your journey, to make sure it has not become disconnected. 

It rained and was overcast on what was supposed to be our first day of shooting, so we ended up scouting some locations and just taking stills while exploring a bit… The next two days of shooting were intense.  We were following our video treatment, sometimes linearly and sometimes not.  There were a lot of scenes and locations to get in a short amount of time, before we lost daylight.  Not to mention, a horse and horse wrangler that had to be involved on the second day of shooting. Oh, yeah and the detailed and outrageous costume I had designed for myself… I was literally hiking up the side of mountains in a vintage evening gown with a feathered mask and headdress while onlookers and tourists gawked and tried to figure out what the hell we were doing.

Our main goal was to capture the beauty, diversity and wild spirit of this untamed land and share it.  I think we accomplished that.

Here is the final product:

I love setting out to do something, and then actually doing it!  It is immensely satisfying.  Because of the camper, we were able to make our dream of a video for the song, Deadly Beauty a reality.  Viva La Apex!  Honestly, without it, our artistic vision could not have been realized.  Also, we had a ton of fun!

By the way… If you are interested in seeing what team Carstairs/Haynes has been up to lately, check out the trailer for their festival bound horror/comedy short, The Spell Book.   In another collaborative effort, Rob Houle, my wickedly talented husband and front man of our bandBefore Dawn composed the original score for the film and I designed and built the main character, the spell book.

Happy camping and happy working y’all!