Going For It!

I have this great friend, Katie, who when she sees an opportunity that might be useful to you, will send it your way. She is one of those wonderful people who truly wants the absolute best for her friends. And she wants to help make that possible when she can. A few months ago she came across a casting notice for GoRVing. Since Katie knows we live the lifestyle and are avid campers she sent it along to us.

The idea was simple, take photos of your family enjoying camping and the outdoors and send them to the casting director, whom Katie put me in touch with. At first we were reluctant to try since we are a childfree family and figured that it was more the “nuclear family” that they were looking for. We decided to go for it anyway. We set up our own photo shoot and had fun with it. We are DIY types, and enjoy a bit of spontaneity (I think these are some characteristics of RVrs in general), so this was a perfect little project for us!

The casting director was really nice, thanked me for the photos and told me he would send them along to the client, GoRVing. Ultimately, we were right, they were looking for photos with children. A couple and their cat is not the most obvious RVing demographic. I suppose the target market is usually families with children and/or retirees. But, I feel like that is changing and expanding. We have been meeting more people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s without kids who find the open road and tiny living appealing; and they are doing it!

The photo shoot was not entirely a waste of time. A couple of weeks ago I saw another casting notice for a TV show for “An outdoorsy couple in their 30’s who enjoy camping” and I sent one of our photos from our impromptu GoRVing shoot, and we booked the job! Not only did we book that job, but it also led to Rob and I both getting our first SAG vouchers. I can’t tell you what the show was yet, but I will when it airs… Also, now I have a bunch of new photos for my website and social media. Yay!

The moral of the story is, always “go for it” because even if you don’t get what you set out to get, it might lead to something else wonderful. Also, Katie is a great friend with an amazing podcast, she is truly an Enthusiasm Enthusiast, and incidentally, that is what her podcast is called, so go check it out. Listen to it on your next RV trip! There is nothing better on a long road trip than a great Podcast!

Here is a sampling of the photos we took! And since I love RVing and talking about it and generally geeking out about RVs, I am going to give GoRVing a bunch of free advertising even though they didn’t pick us for their ad campaign! editedcamper-2 editedcamper-3 editedcamper-0027 editedcamper-0030 editedcamper-9893 editedcamper-0124 editedcamper-9966

 

Massive Tiny Recordings

Our newest EP, “Paradoxes”, has been sent off for duplication. I will be able to hold it in my hands in about a week or so. I can’t wait. This is the first recording we have made since living in our RV, having a drummer in our band and living in Los Angeles! It is the first recording we have made as the band, JagLyonz!

When we first moved into our RV, Rob and I stopped making music together. We had recorded three albums and played countless shows and tours as the alt/indie/electro duo, Before Dawn. And then we just stopped. In fact, we took an almost two year break. Of course, Rob played and wrote things on his own, because he can’t stop. He mostly focused on scoring some indie films and honing those particular skills. But we quit playing rock music together. We were burned out on touring and we just couldn’t quite figure it out, the tiny living plus the rock and roll.

There is a lot to figure out when you move into an RV. Stuff like, “where am I going to put this thing that I absolutely need?” When your needs are guitars, amplifiers, microphones and recording gear it can get a bit overwhelming. Our amps stayed in a storage unit for many months after moving in. Also, I barely noticed. At the time I had no room in my life both literally and figuratively to focus on music. I wrote some lyrics, but that was the extent of it for the time being.

The first song we ever wrote and recorded together in our RV was our single, Light the Way. We recorded it in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in the summer of 2014. We were in a decidedly acoustic phase for the moment and doing some touring around the woods playing gigs at local bars and open mic nights. We spent that summer parked in my parents driveway/yard. We had access to their house and our amps lived in their basement for the summer. It was a pretty neat time. We would practice in the camper all summer and that became the norm. We even got radio play with our song, Light the Way on WXPR.


At the end of that summer we drove from Wisconsin to California and moved to Los Angeles, in our RV. Rob wanted to continue composing music for film and television, and this is where the work is. It is a good thing that we love it here and that so many of our friends are here, because we have to be here.

After getting over the shock of the move and getting a bit settled, we mutually decided that we missed making the rock and roll together and we wanted to do it again and that we wanted a drummer this time around. Not too long after making this decision, JagLyonz was formed.

A Jaglion is a hybrid cat, not unlike a “Liger”. It is the offspring of a female lion and a male Jaguar. We changed the spelling for Internet search purposes. There is a road near us called, Lyons and we liked that spelling. And lets face it; the letter Z is just cool. The name spoke to us because it is exciting sounding, it is rare, wild and a cat. We love cats! Also, have you seen one? They are gorgeous, fascinating and healthy creatures!

The choosing of the new name definitely inspired us to finally start playing again regularly. The name has also very much informed our sound, which is a bit heavier than Before Dawn, but still rock and roll and super fun with a dash of L.A. glam cheese sauce. If you don’t love us immediately, it is our hope that we will become your guiltiest pleasure.

In August, we were offered a gig as Before Dawn, but we took it as JagLyonz and approached a kid, I say kid because he is only 23, who lives and works in our RV park that we knew played drums. Brett was just super excited to play! It was an incredibly serendipitous mash up. Brett learned our songs and we played our first gig four weeks later. We wrote some new songs, played a few more gigs and started making our first recording.

The five song EP, “Paradoxes” is the first JagLyonz recording. We recorded it entirely in the RV Park in Northern Los Angeles County that we all live in.  The guitars and bass were tracked in our 21ft. travel trailer with the majority of the vocals being recorded there as well. For the song “Tonight We Ride Again,” we used the cab of our GMC Sierra as a vocal booth.  The drums were all recorded in a community space on the premises of the RV Park.

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Recording is never easy, though it is often fun. You definitely have a different set of obstacles when you are recording 1. In a non-studio environment and 2. In small spaces. One’s obstacles tend to inform one’s philosophy and in our case, our recording philosophy.

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Ironically, one particular obstacle is our cat, Sunny. She loses her little cat mind when people sing. I don’t know if she thinks we are in pain or what, but she wants it to stop, especially Rob. She paces and tries to walk on the computer and paws at you… So while producing each other’s vocals we have the added job of trying to keep Sunny calm and away from the recording equipment. Fun Fact: In the recording of the song “Up in Smoke” you can audibly hear Rob scream, “Nooooooo!!!!!” at the beginning of the song. Sunny had decided to walk on the computer keyboard and started pushing buttons. Rob chose to keep this organic exclamation in the final mix.

JamminGIFDrums were recorded in the room we often rehearse in, it is about 8’x 8′ and sort of a room within a room down a dark hallway. We had to sneak around a little bit to get the tracks done on the down low, which isn’t always easy to do with drums. Drums are so loud, it is kind of hard to keep them a secret.

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Why be so damn DIY you might ask? This goes back to our obstacles, which as I mentioned above informs our philosophy. Most of our obstacles revolve around time, space and money, but the short answer really is, because we can. We want full control and we take pride in our resourcefulness. The recording environment is both important and absolutely unimportant. Recording technology today is such that with some skill, it is possible to make your recording sound like it is anywhere you want to be and the real magic happens in the mixing and mastering.

Speaking of mixing, mastering and resourcefulness check out this device Rob made to facilitate the process, it is quite innovative and helped him be more fluid and efficient with his mixes.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post all about our newest Massive Tiny Recording, “Paradoxes”, by our band, JagLyonz as well as and our adventures in DIY, RV Park recording.  If you want to see more recording photos or to know when we play live shows or make more recordings you can follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

If you want to support a hardworking, independent band, PLEASE BUY OUR MUSIC and tell other people to buy it too!  You can purchase our newest recording through this link, http://www.jaglyonz.com/

 

A Tiny House for Ren and Lacey!

Life has this way of throwing curve balls. You can expect that the unexpected will happen sooner or later. We are all such strong and delicate creatures. When life becomes challenging we all deal with it in different ways. Where life, death and serious illness is concerned we often get a glimpse of our true values, what is important to us at the core and sometimes it completely changes how we live.

I have said previously that our decision to scale down, move into our RV and live tiny was something of a visceral response, a gut reaction to extreme consumerism, gross capitalism and mass commercialism. That thing where we are conditioned to believe that stuff will make us happy. It doesn’t.

Having struggled with life threatening and debilitating illnesses has caused me to evaluate over and over what is truly important in my life. At the core it is love, feeling healthy and having life affirming experiences like travel and adventure with those I love! Living tiny helps me focus on those things and navigate life more mindfully.

Living intentionally “tiny” is a great way to get to the heart of what is really important regardless of health, experience or existential crisis. Of course this is just my opinion, but I don’t think I am the only person who feels this way. Living tiny whether in an RV, a micro apartment or building ones very own tiny home has many benefits from less environmental impact to less time spent on cleaning and maintenance to liberating people from stifling mortgages. More time and more money means freedom, particularly when you live daily in the knowledge that your life and resources are precious could be cut short!  The one thing people truly want when they are suffering, struggling and coping is some semblance of control and ultimately freedom, the freedom to spend time on what is really important to them.

The above is why I want to share a very special and very specific Tiny House story with you. And why I hope that you will please consider donating to a Go Fund Me campaign that is close to my heart! And to be clear, I don’t even know these people. But a friend of mine does and my heart immediately understood their plight. Their story moved me and I really want to help! Please help me help Ren and Lacey build their TINY HOUSE!

https://www.gofundme.com/hp556avs

Sisters on the Fly

Sunday afternoon I was sitting by the pool, doing some reading and writing. I looked up from what I was working on and saw a gaggle of “canned hams” and other adorable little vintage trailers pulling into the park!   “Yes!” I thought, “this looks like the cutest RV rally group ever! I can’t wait to casually walk by and leer at these rigs later when they are all set up.”

This really was my lucky day! When I went on my walk, not only did I come across this traveling band of cool travel trailers, but also members of the, famous in the RV world, Sisters on the Fly!   You might be wondering what and who this is… But as soon as I saw the logos on some of the trailers I got excited. As both an RV enthusiast and a feminist, this is a group that I have known about and that has been on my radar for a while. They have a book too. And if I didn’t live in an RV, I would buy it for my coffee table.

Sisters on the Fly is an RV and travel club for women, but it is really so much more than that. Sisters on the Fly is the largest women’s outdoor adventure group in the country with over 6,000 members. They meet, they travel together, there is camaraderie and shenanigans. Also, sometimes there is fly-fishing, dude ranching, and philanthropy, as well as woodsy and crafty outings. They are women from all walks of life who are adventurers, fisherwomen and cowgirls on the side. They have a motto, “We have more fun than anyone.” And they only have four rules,  “No Men, No Pets, No Kids and Be Nice!” 

I was a summer camp kid, a girl’s camp girl. I am passionate about the camp experience and to me this is camp for grownups combined with two of my other passions, vintage restoration and RVing! I love all of it! I want to be a Sister on the Fly with my mom, my sister, my mother-in-law, my two sister in-laws and all of my closest lady friends! I can just imagine the trailers we would refurbish in our own individual styles and the fun we would have on the road.

When I stopped to chat as I was strolling by, I inquired where they were going and how long they would be here and what they were doing? They were leaving at 8:30am for the Ventura Fairgrounds for a huge Sisters on the Fly rally. They boasted that ladies were coming from all over the country and many were caravanning up Route 66. While there were probably between 15 to 25 ladies at our park, they were meeting up with over 250 the next day in Ventura.

It was getting late and the sun was starting to set, so I asked if I could take some camper photos and then I hightailed it to get my camera before I lost anymore light!

Just look at these awesome little trailers!  And Pin away if you feel so inclined.
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Fishing and Cowgirl themes are popular among the Sisters on the Fly!Sisters-44Sisters-2Sisters-3Sisters-4
Other Sisters go with whimsical Gypsy or garden themes…Sisters-31Sisters-33Sisters-34Sisters-28
One of my favorite things about this rig was the homemade solar chandelier!Sisters-32
I love this vintage turquoise and Boho aesthetic. When I complimented her paint job, the owner of this cutie said, “Oh, thank you, I just used house paint.”Sisters-24
A little extra storage in the back, that hatch flips up….Sisters-23Sisters-22Sisters-25Sisters-26 
Some of the ladies stuck to more traditional paint jobs and classic motifs.Sisters-40Sisters-42Sisters-41Sisters-36Sisters-39Sisters-38Sisters-11Sisters-9Sisters-10Sisters-6Sisters-8Sisters-7Sisters-21Sisters-17
They are all super cute and they all had their own special personal touches. You could tell that each woman had spent time creating and crafting the trailer that appealed to them most.  How would you paint and decorate yours?Sisters-18Sisters-20Sisters-12Sisters-14
They were also all very excited about this Pendleton Blanket that Sister on the Fly, Kaarin had just scored. I was pretty excited about it too! My mom has taught me to respect the Pendleton as well as other fine wools and textiles. What a great find!Sisters-54
One of the most fun things that these “sisters” showed me was their Merit Badges. I want Big Girl Merit Badges!Sisters-57
They can get merit badges for fly fishing, going to “Cowgirl Camp”, hosting a trip, charity work and a quite a variety of other things. I think my favorite badge is for “running around in the woods naked.”  Good times!Sisters-58
If, like me, you just can’t get enough Sisters on the Fly, check out their website! It is chock full of cute vintage camper porn as well as information on how to join the group.  Of course, I am not the first person to write about these cool ladies and their rigs, The Tiny House Blog has a great piece about them as well.  If you are on Pinterest, these creative little refurbished campers make great boards, check mine out and make your own.

 

Mid Century Beauty on Wheels

I love living in an RV park for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that there is always a fresh crop of RVs coming into the park to ogle. We love to walk the park, particularly on weekends, when there are visitors traveling through because there is always a new rig to admire.

A couple of weeks ago I was going through a bit of a rough patch. I felt sad and out of sorts, not to mention I had a cold and was absolutely fraught with allergies. I decided to go for a walk to clear my head and perhaps restore a more positive outlook, also to reach my goal of 10,000 steps for the day. On this walk a chorus of angels landed upon my shoulder and began to sing. I looked to my right and this beautifully restored motor home was before me. Swoon! I had to know more!
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It is no secret that I love a vintage rig. Restoring one myself is high up on my bucket list. I love researching the subject. Upon seeing this gorgeous specimen I was determined to see the inside. I had so many questions! I promptly returned home and crafted a note to the occupants confessing my passion for their rig and inquiring about taking photos for my blog.  So, no, I wasn’t just being a creeper and taking pictures without asking…

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I left my note with my phone number on their door and later they sent me a text letting me know that they were happy to oblige. They also sent me a link to their website. I now know why that chorus of angels sang when I first laid eyes on this unique beauty. The universe was speaking to me. I had just discovered the motherlode of my menagerie of particularly heartfelt interests. I had just been introduced to the proprietors of Funky Junk Farms.  I love Los Angeles!

The next day, I met with Johnny and Yipsy.  I wanted to take pictures of them too, but I also didn’t want to be too invasive while they were on a low key long weekend.  They were very kind and very cool and allowed me full access to their camper for photos.  I know you are just waiting to see the inside! Have a gander!  For those of you wondering, it is a 1964 Ford Condor.

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That might look like a telephone.  It is actually a CB radio that Johnny got when he was a teenager.  He thought it was a good match for this 64′ Ford Condor.  It is not currently in working order, but he plans to change that.

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This looks like an amazing old board game! I want to play this game! It makes great art for the wall of this mid century motorhome. Johnny is a true collector. As the owner of Funky Junk Farms, he has access to some seriously great vintage memorabilia.

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I hope you enjoyed this gorgeous vintage beauty as much as I did.  I have plans to go check out Funky Junk Farms in the near future.  Stay tuned for an interview and more great photos of vintage rigs.  In the meantime please subscribe to my blog, Massive Tiny Dreams (on the right, just below the header).  I’ll keep you up to date on all of the really important things in life, like tiny living philosophy, road trips and cool RVs!

P.S. I use a combination of three cameras for the photos. I used the Cannon T3i, a GoPro Hero 3 and my Iphone 4.

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.

Tiny – The Movie

Tiny Houses and their construction have been an obsession of mine for several years now.  The concept of maximizing the minimum has been a theme that I have returned to throughout my life.  I love creating and seeing how others create unique storage solutions as well as simultaneously striving for minimalism.

This world of tremendous excess, with a focus on more and bigger being synonymous with better, the overt commercialization and perversion of the American Dream as well as the glorification of busy has created a bubble that is bursting at the seams.   Personally I am having a visceral reaction that rejects this paradigm.  I want less stuff in my life and more meaning.  I don’t pretend to be unique, so I imagine that others feel this way as well.  Thanks to the internet, I know at least a few do.  Many of these people make up what is quickly becoming known as The Tiny House Movement.

In general these people live in homes that are under 300 square feet and some even under 90 square feet.  They are vibrant people who live deliberately with a tremendous sense of purpose and dedication to living within their means.

A couple of years ago, Rob and I decided that when we own our first house, we truly want to own it.  No banks, no mortgage, no real estate bubble.  We can’t think of a better way to truly own our house than to build it with our own hands.  We plan to build our very own Tiny House!

To those ends we have sold or gotten rid of the majority of our stuff and moved into our travel trailer for two distinct purposes. 1. To practice living tiny and immerse ourselves in what that means before we take the plunge, buy our land and build our house.  2. To save money so that we can shed the shackles of debt, buy our land and build our house without loans.

There are quite a few blogs and books dedicated to this topic.  I have done my research and learned who is who in the Tiny House World…. But I got really excited when I learned that there was a documentary called Tiny being made on the subject.  I wanted to see it immediately!  “Can I download it? Can I stream it?  Can I buy the DVD?”  No, I had to wait. It was still being made. (I found out about the film in the time between when their Kickstarter had ended and the editing was being done.)

I have some experience with Independent Film.  I know that these projects often are forgotten about and left unfinished. People run out of steam, and money and move on to other projects et cetera. Thinking that this could happen with this particular film, Tiny, made me tremendously sad.  I had to stop myself from constantly checking on their progress and ignore its existence for some time as not to “worry” about someone else’s project.  It was kind of ridiculous.

I am happy to report that Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith finished Tiny and I had the great fortune to find out that it was premiering right here in Austin at SXSW (when I discovered this information, I was as excited and hopeful as a six year old with the prospect of going to Disney World being dangled in front of them.) Even more fortunate, I was able to meet Merete and Christopher and they graciously gave me a pair of their filmmaker tickets!

I have met my fair share of celebrities and honestly I was more excited to meet these down to earth tiny house builders than any celebrity I have encountered with the obvious exception of Patrick Stewart, of course.  Clearly, I do not think like a blogger yet, because if I did, I would have taken a picture with Merete and Christopher.  Suffice to say that in the limited time I interacted with them I found that they are really sweet, humble and kind people who were very willing to interact and answer our burning questions, like, “What do you do with your grey water?”

The film, Tiny, is even more beautiful than I had imagined, both visually and in narrative content.  It is extremely inspiring and informative too, which I think is the point.  It is a timely and relevant film that asks questions that are important not just today but questions that have been and always will be important to humanity, like, “What is home? And how do we find it?”  Once you start to think about it, the answer is not as obvious as  it may seem.

I love that they were able to interview other Tiny House dwellers from around the country and get their insight too. This particular aspect of the film contributed greatly toward educating people not just about their own building process but about Tiny House culture in America today.  It is both diverse and growing!

This film also successfully answered one of my biggest questions, “can a couple with no prior building experience successfully build a home, a livable structure with four walls and a roof?”  The answer is yes, which is exciting, particularly the electricity bit…

Throughout Tiny there were several questions and themes that drew me in as a viewer, 1. would Christopher Smith finish this huge project that he started and what would it look like if/when he did?  2. How would Merete and Christopher’s different ideas, about what and where home is, play out?  Could/would they stay together?  3. What materials would they use?  Would they use any salvaged or reclaimed materials and if so where would they get them? 4. How would their sewer and plumbing work?

The Cinematography and use of the Western light of the Colorado sky is mesmerizing like a meditation.  The musical score sets the tone for the film perfectly somehow interweaving the sound with the color palette so that these two aspects become one.  The editing is great too.  The film is subtle, subdued and informative while simultaneously containing a fascinating narrative. It truly seems to represent the personalities and aesthetic of the filmmakers, which I very much liked.

To get a taste, check out the website and trailer for Tiny http://tiny-themovie.com/

The only disappointment I had was in learning that Christopher and Merete don’t actually live in the tiny house that they built as the subject of their documentary.  When I learned this, there was a moment where I felt as though Santa’s beard had been ripped off right in front of me.  I realize that this has more to do with my fantasies of Tiny House Living than their dwelling choices.  When I asked Christopher how much continuous time they have spent in the tiny house, he said, “just a few days”, though he says he does plan to live in it at some point.

Honestly I felt a little betrayed.  I had been looking up to them from afar and jealous because not only had they successfully bought their land and built the house but they made a documentary about the process as well.  I was already in love with every aspect of their project and I had formed an attachment to the idea that they lived in it.  Though we don’t have our land and we have not built our tiny house yet, we have been living the tiny lifestyle in our camper for six months now.  Do I need new heroes?

No. This actually made me realize that every Tiny House enthusiast has their own path, their own back story and their own plans for the future.  We may have some similar goals but we are all different and our processes and sequences of action in our “tiny” evolution are all different too.  There is no one way or right way to live the “tiny life” and the way we go about getting to our “tiny” destinations will look different every time.  In the Q and A that followed the showing of their film, Merete revealed that she has moved to New York to pursue writing.  I can only imagine that she is living the tiny life in a New York apartment.

I have such a deep respect and admiration for Christopher and Merete for building their tiny house and for making their stunningly beautiful documentary as well as submitting it to film festivals.  I am keenly aware that all of these tasks require a tremendous amount of time, effort and dedication.  Also their land is remote and their tiny house is completely off grid which is pretty hardcore.

I am so glad that we were able to see Tiny premiere at SXSW!  We have more knowledge and confidence now going into the building process of our own tiny house.  They have helped demystify the process for us a little bit and very likely many others. Christopher and Merete learned so much in the process of building and I am very much looking forward to learning those things as well.

Rob and I have been wanting to make a documentary for sometime now too.  Having the opportunity to meet Christopher and Merete and watch their documentary has inspired us to finally move forward with that!  Perhaps they could write another documentary about making a documentary to demystify that process for us too.

I will let you know more about that soon.  In the meantime definitely go see Tiny at a film festival near you.  I highly recommend it!!!  Demand wide-spread distribution and order a DVD when they become available!

Changing and Evolving

When I was in high school I always thought it was so strange that there were kids my age who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life…  I have always placed the utmost importance on decision making, sometimes to the point that it paralyzes my process. I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating. I have had to continually grow and establish that which is important to me and actively bring it into my life.  I endeavor to cultivate skills, values, experiences and relationships that are meaningful. I also really like to help others.  I have found that I have a deep need to learn and try new things and eventually become bored if I don’t change things up every now and again.

This quote that I recently read from Mahatma Gandhi really speaks to me,

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe I thought it was strange that my peers already “knew” that they wanted to be a lawyer and a mom or some such things because my soul was reaching and searching for something radically different.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted and found the prospect of deciding that sort of thing with such little life experience somewhat overwhelming. The one thing I have always known is that I want to lead a fully conscious, meaningful and purpose driven life.  It just hasn’t always been easy for me to determine what that purpose is.  I have never had a lack of goals, the problem is that I tend towards having an unreasonable number goals.

It has been four months now since we have moved into our tiny space, our 21ft. travel trailer.  We have approximately 162 square feet of living space.  So far we don’t mind a bit.  We had the heat on almost every day last month and our electric bill was only $60!

In this blog I am going to talk about how our lives have changed since going from an 1800 square foot house to an 162 square foot travel trailer.  I am going to talk about what our life is like now and how and why this is working for us.

I have to say that while there was some adjusting that had to be done, and still does, the vast majority of change that has taken place is positive. We even enjoy coming up with creative solutions to new situations in our tiny abode; whether they are storage related, heating and cooling related, moisture related or ant related….  We are figuring this out one step at a time and this would probably be a good topic for a future blog post.

I do think that we were absolutely mentally prepared to do this.  It is truly what we both wanted and we can finally see the reasons for our move really coming to fruition.  This would and could not work if we were not BOTH on board. We have goals and we are actively involved with them.  It is difficult to forget about your goals and how serious you are about them when you live in a small space.  Your daily life is a constant reminder of why you are there and what you plan to accomplish.  Sometimes Rob finds himself surprised by what a big deal this isn’t.  RV living suits us well.  Our fantasies about where we will live next never include a “Mansion” or “Large Single Family Home”, it is always about our next RV or the Tiny efficient house we plan to build with our own hands.

The Goals and Values we are committed to:

  • Save Money – to have an emergency fund, be debt free, taking care of our medical issues and concerns, travel more, spend more time with friends and family, buy land in cash and build a small home without a mortgage, dance more, play more music, continue learning and education.
  • Leave a smaller footprint by wasting less, buying less and embracing minimalism.
  • Establish a deeper connection with Each Other, God, Nature, the Universe and ultimately our Health and Quality of life by focusing on that which is truly important to us, our core beliefs and values.

(Notice that none of our values and goals includes having more stuff or material goods. I am not saying this as a bragging point.  I think most people have similar goals and values, but they get distracted by status items and mistakenly begin to believe they are important. Living the tiny lifestyle helps us stay focused on that which is most deeply important to us and helps us avoid both distraction and the distortion that the meaning of life lies in material goods and status symbols.)

The Lifestyle / What it is like?

  • We are finally saving money!  It took 4 months for this to actually happen.  The cost of moving in combination with several very large unexpected expenses such as Sunny the cat being hospitalized made it hard to notice our reduced costs initially.
  • We don’t spend money on stuff we don’t need because we have absolutely no place to put it.
  • Even though we are both working, living in an RV campground environment is  relaxing and when we go on walks there is a very vacation-like atmosphere. We all wave to each other.  It is very friendly.
  • While we do have a small shower in our camper, we typically go to a shower room at the RV park.  It is nice.  There are four separate bathroom/shower rooms, each has two shower heads, hot water and good water pressure.  They have key code entry and deadbolts. Walking to the shower rooms in our bathrobes with our shower caddy in hand very much reminds me of summer camp.  We like it.  Showering is more of a ritual now instead of a daily inconvenience.
  • We have both a propane heater that is standard with most RV’s today and a small electric space heater.  Either do a fine job heating our tiny space.
  • We cook with propane as well.  We have to go on a short rural drive every once in a while to get our propane tanks filled at Direct Propane.
  • Coin Laundry, it has its advantages and disadvantages

Change Breeds More Change:

  • Short hair – I cut my hair really short.  It is more manageable and less hair for the drain  and my comb…
  • Off of Facebook – I took a 2 month break from Facebook and have recently resumed with less interaction and spaced-out, zombie-like scrolling. This could probably be an entire blog in and of itself.
  • Cutting other expenses – We have pretty much stopped going out and we have given ourselves a weekly grocery budget.  It is fine by us for now.  We love eating out, but we know how to have a good time with our grill at home for much less money.  Baking and cooking new recipes is also a cheap form of entertainment. We are willing to give up some instant gratification in order to achieve our long term goals.
  • Reading about finance – A really great book to kick your butt into gear is, How to Manage your Money when you Don’t Have Any.  I highly recommend it!
  • For entertainment we play music, sing, dance, play with our cat, go to the gym, watch movies, documentaries and TV series at home (basic cable is free at the RV park). One of our favorite activities is walking around the RV park and looking at the new coaches, trailers and rigs that roll in for the weekend.  
  • Work – our work keeps us pretty busy and stimulated as well.  We work on a variety of projects.  In the future I will write a post about what we, “do”.  I am sure some people are wondering by now….

By all accounts, we live a very fun and full life in our tiny trailer.

My sister asked, “so are you driving each other crazy being in such a close space together all of the time.”  The answer is no.  Maybe we are just lucky, but this aspect is not hard for us.  And honestly when one of us is gone for more than a couple of hours, we start to miss each other. We enjoy being together, working together, traveling together and truly these are the things that bring us the most satisfaction in life.  Like any couple we argue and get our feelings hurt every now and again, but the good most definitely outweighs the bad.

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!!!