Falling in Love with Telluride

You know how there are times in our lives where we look back and think, “wow. That was quite some time.” Telluride will be one of those for me.

When we first ventured out into what we’ve been calling our “LifeVenture” over a year ½ ago, we had planned to pack up our belongings, put them in a storage unit, live on vacation rentals in Austin for 3 months, and then travel for 1 month to Costa Rica and work remotely. The idea was to get a combination of the local feel and a tourist feel. We still haven’t made it there.

It turns out, being away for that timeframe required some changes in our businesses and in life.

So, while the mountains aren’t exactly Costa Rica, we found a sweet town to live in for a month this January. I also didn’t have to attempt my terrible Spanish here, so that’s something. We rented a home with a few additional bedrooms. With some prep and invitations to friends a few months out, we set up our “hotel.” Friends would come and go the entire month to meet us in a winter wonderland.

Location: Telluride, Colorado. (with the closest stoplight being about 1 hour away, it’s far out)
Duration: one month (with 1 short 48 hr visit back to Austin for a meeting)

There were so many amazing moments. Of course, just like life everywhere, not everything was rainbows and butterflies the entire time… (also known as what you see on a Facebook stream).  I spent 2 weeks with a sinus infection. I turned into a bit of a brat because of this. I worked insanely too much leading up to the launch of Reset Retreat. Above all, this was the month that my Man found out his dad had leukemia.

But this is a “Lifeventure” not a vacation, and with that, life wasn’t put on hold. We kept on moving, but did so with our eyes wide open.


Highlights: 

Telluride is the perfect small town. It has everything you need, but it’s a little dot on the map. Instead of the small town mentality, tourism brings unique people from all over the world. It’s a place that is difficult to travel to and not cheap to live in, thus attracting people who really want to be there. It creates this little bubble of happiness.

 Friendly: These people are happy
I’ve never met so many friendly people in one place before. Because the gondola is like the city bus – it’s filled not just with skiers, but people coming and going from work between the Mountain Village to the Town – you get cozy with people very quickly. It’s a 15 min. ride, so it’s enough time to learn about someone … and a bit awkward if you don’t. I loved chatting with people and learning their stories.

Fat tire biking expedition in some deep snow!

Walking everywhere:
We had a car, but there was never a need to drive anywhere. I think I drove in the car a total of 6 times and that was to go sightseeing further away and then taking a shuttle bus to the airport. Our home was centered in town, so the Post Office, grocery store, liquor store, gondola, and bars/restaurants were only 1 to 5 blocks away – what else do you need? We even had amazing hikes that started 2 blocks from our house. I took quite a few hikes after closing my computer for the day!

My girls came to visit!

Friends! Friends! And more friends!
Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 3.15.02 PMThroughout the month, we had more than 10 friends visit us! Some of them are people I very rarely get to see! Honestly, some of them I didn’t even know all that well, but they were down for an adventure. It was amazing having a mix of new friends and old friends collide in such a fun, adventurous place. I played “hotelier” by turning over the rooms every day or so. By the last week, one of the shuttle drivers noted, “I’ve come to this house a lot this month!”

And I learned that my “Mermaid Sister” (Mans’ sister) loves Legos as much as me. I really love Legos. Like a lot. 

Our house. Good God, our house!

We rented a real house. Not a 500 sq. ft. studio like we’ve been living in during this LifeVenture, but a real house with 3 floors, a dining room, multiple bedrooms, an entry way, and multiple fireplaces.

 The views from every part of the house were breathtaking. I had an office with a fireplace and a bedroom with a fireplace. (this was quite exciting for this fireplace-loving-girl). It was perfect, and I want it. Now I just have to make a couple million $ come out of my piggy bank.

 Living in a vacation:
I went to school in Tampa, and I will never forget going to the Don Cesar Hotel on the beach, enjoying a Pina Colada with tourists. Then realizing how luckily I was … living where people vacationed. My studies and work would go on, but I could venture to the Don Cesar Hotel and find that little piece of heaven any weekend I wanted.

Being around tourists is one of my happy places because they remind me to enjoy the moments: they fill each day. There wasn’t a day that passed in Telluride where I didn’t meet someone who said with a long face, “we have to leave tomorrow.” I had to contain myself every time by childishly wanting to announce, “NOT ME! Na na na na boo boo.” 

  Free gondola until Midnight:
Taking that daily gondola ride up to the Mountain Village above Telluride showcased some of the most magnificent views of mountains I’ve ever seen. And I grew up in Washington state.

The gondola is FREE and you can ride it until midnight! As far as I’ve heard, it’s the only free gondola of its kind in the U.S. So many days I just wanted to get away for :30, so I would ride the gondi up and down. Strangely enough, I wasn’t the only one doing this.

View from the bar on top of the mountain, a quick gondi ride up.

Best views around:
Because I was working remotely, a view from home made all the difference. There was an awe-inspiring view from literally anywhere you looked. I could sit in front of the fire, type away on my computer, and look up occasionally to remember, holy crap, I’m in Telluride!

Discovered on a hike about :15 min. from downtown. Amazingly pretty!

No traffic:
We were up at a look-out for happy hour one day and were watching the town from above. We started laughing when we noticed the one roundabout in town had 4 cars back-to-back. This was rush hour.

US Postal Office made me smile:
(Insert shocked face). Have you ever walked out of a USPS happy? Me neither. Until Telluride. Because the USPS doesn’t deliver to houses in Telluride (only to the Post Office), we had to ship to General Pickup. Picture this: hundreds of Christmas cards from residents were displayed all over the wall. The man working there knew everyone by name. Each kid got candy if they said hello to him. One employee actually gave me her phone # and said, “just call me if you have any questions at all about your packages.” What? I know! Crazy.

A hike behind our house one day.

I practiced my “professional hot tubbing” skills:
Let’s get real here: I don’t ski. Maybe someday I’ll enjoy the idea of putting something unnatural on my feet that make me fly down a mountain (or tumble), but right now, I think I’ll enjoy watching with a Rum Butter drink from the hot tub. Our house had a great hot tub that I got some good use out of.

Happy hour sledding after work. Never too old to play.

‘Happy Hour’ sledding:
Going alongside my “professional” hot tubbing skills is my semi-pro sledding skills. I’m tiny, ya’ll. This makes me go zoom zoom. We spent many “happy hours” sledding with friends. Nothing like pretending your 5 years old for an hour or so.

Anasazi ruins about 2 hrs away from Telluride. We climbed in some.

Adventures:
I love me some adventures.  Between exploring a completely frozen waterfall to elk spotting to Mesa Verde Indian ruins, I had a great dose of exploring every couple days.

Fire Festival in Telluride

The fire monster we met during a free fire festival one weekend. Must watch the video below!

One of the most random things we’ve stumbled upon (which says a lot):

A free fire festival was happening one of the weekends. No words are needed, just watch this … mechanical fire dancing alien video.   

When I returned to Austin, it was a massive shock to my system. Everything felt so spread out, traffic-filled, and fast paced. Just going to the grocery store was exhausting. Or getting from one side of town to the other was frustrating.

The view out one of our windows.

“So do you live here in Austin?” My initial reaction was, “No,” Then I realized what I said. “I mean, yes. I live here, but it’s confusing.”  A Freudian slip? It was the 1st time I didn’t stamp Austin as my own with magnificent pride.

I think a little part of my heart was left in Telluride. I love that town so much. Hopefully I’ll get to experience it one summer, because let’s be honest, this gal could do without 20′ weather. Either that or I need to grow some fat to keep myself warm.

View more pictures of the LifeVentures from Telluride on Instagram. Check out the road trip from Austin to Telluride here.

If you’re interested in renting the home we stayed in or traveling to Telluride, be sure to visit Latitude 38, vacation rentals. They were wonderful to work with and we highly recommend their services! 

Temporary Stint: Home # 16

I made a big oops. I thought we had to be out of our Barton Springs house on Thursday to move into our 3-day temporary home back downtown on 6th street – we couldn’t get into our new rental quite yet. We all packed up everything (remember we had roomies at this point, so it was quite a lot of stuff in 2 cars), and in the process of driving to the new rental, I realized I was off by one day. We weren’t moving out until Friday. Pretty much everything had to be unpacked and repacked in 24 hours again. Yeah, big oops. That sucked.

Location: East 6th street. The same condo building, but not the same unit as this.

Duration: 3 days

A short walk from the home.

A short walk from the home.

Top Trip Rental was nice enough to let us stay in one of their new rentals downtown during this 3-day window, so back to East 6th and Brazos we went. The property hadn’t been stayed in yet, so it was fun to be the first to test it out.

Chereen, the founder of Top Trip Rental left such a thoughtful welcome gift for me. It was a pic of me and my good friend when we attended an event they put on at the mansion property we stayed in. Personal touches go a long way for me.

Near the house.

Near the house.

There’s not a lot to say here, simply because we were only there for 3 days and we had just lived in this area. I really loved the interior upgrades, though! One really fun night was taking our New Zealand friends to the Capital at night. Did you know it’s open at night to walk INTO? I like exploring places we’d been to a million times at an unconventional times of the day.

We didn’t even really unpack at this casa, so the next move 3 days later was no biggie at all. We were headed to an area of town we hadn’t yet stayed in: South 1st street.

More on house # 17 soon!

1 Year Anniversary: Barton Springs – Our Home # 15

Over a year ago, Cary and I decided to live on vacation rentals for 3 months (see why). A fun and adventurous idea turned into a way of living that was monumentally changing the way I saw life and how we lived each day: What was important to us. What was not important to us. When 3 months came and went, it became harder and harder to imagine going back to that life before because of the endless opportunities we were creating.

Austin Barton Springs House

Here’s our experience at home # 15.

Location:
Barton Hills (2 blocks from Barton Springs)
Duration:
1 month

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It started off terribly. After a very long travel day from our Croatia/Germany trip, we ended up at our new house as it neared midnight, only to find the lock box not working to let us in. I hadn’t been that tired in a really long time. Exhausted to the bone, and it was going to be an early morning back at work. We ended up booking a hotel room that night. It was either that or sleeping in our car. It was August. That was certainty not going to happen. Actually, let’s be honest, it wasn’t going to happen anyways. The management company reimbursed us for the trouble and all was well  by about 10 in the morning. There could be worse things than waking up in a hotel room.

Top Trip Rental

HIGHLIGHTS

Roomies! We had roommates for the first time in 4 years. They were friends from New Zealand who had just moved to Austin. They were also on the boat with us in Croatia, so we already knew we could get along well. It was actually really fun having people around. It didn’t hurt they were amazing cooks. ☺ We were also getting to see Austin through the eyes of newbies, and it reminded me of how special our “little” town is.

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Barton Springs – night swims: If you’ve never done a night swim at Barton Springs before, you’re missing a truly Austin-like experience. Let’s just put this out here: I am a HUGE weeny when it comes to cold water. Actually water in general. I much prefer sitting above the water and not being in it. But, getting in that 68’ degree water after the August heat was nothing short of awakening. It became our every-other-night routine. Cary and I have never really had a routine together, and that time was so special to me. Minus when I learned there actually are snakes in Barton Spring.

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Unexpected routines I liked: Normally routines are not something that I love (in case you didn’t get that from my previous posts – ha), but I found another routine I really loved: being kind to my body in the morning. Typically, my mornings consist of rush, rush rush. Partially because I can’t make myself get up earlier enough to not be rushed. Because we were going to bed so early during this time, I was not very tired when I woke up super early. I did yoga on the patio, ate a healthy breakfast and watched people going to work in traffic from afar, and then brought out my computer and was still ahead by 9 am. As I write this, I realize it’s a routine I should try again. 

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Another treehouse: We tend to keep finding houses that feel like treehouses. I absolutely love it. This one was nestled by a big fat tree that provided glorious shade on the porch.

The house, overall, was not my most favorite, but perfect for the time: It was a bit older than than most others and a few things went wrong while we were there, but the location and the “treehouse balcony” totally made it a great place for a month! The rental company really stepped up to make it a great experience as well. It was not by accident that we ended up so close to the coolest spring in Austin during the hottest time of the year. It made August bearable!

barton springs

When people ask why we are doing this, one word now comes to mind: Opportunity. For this summer, it was the opportunity to get the hell out of Austin’s 100 degree weather as much as possible. I made it 21 days being gone. I’ll take it! I always hear people say, “I would be totally fine skipping Austin in the summer.” Having the opportunity to actually do that – or some of that – is really special to me.

To find more information about this home, visit this link with Top Trip Rental.  You couldn’t get much closer to Austin City Limits Festival. 

-Cierra

Home Sweet Whole Foods: Home # 14

I’ve found our favorite location: As you may have read before, Clarksville is my absolute favorite part of Austin. This condo was on the edge of Clarksville (2 blocks away from home # 9), but closer to more restaurants, bars, the park and Whole Foods. I didn’t even have to ask neighbors when I needed butter, I just walked 2 blocks. Okay, I’ve never actually asked neighbors for butter, but…being that close to Whole Foods’ Flagship (and Snap Kitchen) during this timeframe when I didn’t have a lot of extra time, was fantastic!

What I think all neighborhoods should look like.

Outside our home. What I think all neighborhoods should look like.

Location: West 6th street (on the edge of Clarksville and between Z Tejas and Whole Foods.)
Duration: 3 weeks

Last night was our last night – and for the first time, I’m kind of wishing I was coming back. Gasp! I’ve had similar feelings weasel their way into my consciousness at other homes, but probably not as strongly. Three weeks simply wasn’t enough.

It’s no secret that I love tree houses. I mean I really like them. It’s not like this feeling when a kid is deprived of some childhood experience and she always wants it even as an adult. My dad built me awesome tree houses… and I’m still trying to find ways to live in places that feel like tree houses. Actually, I’m determined to stay in a tree house at least one night during this LifeVenture. This home had that feeling: lots of different levels of the apartment. Our upstairs felt like we were in the trees.

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There were many levels to the condo complex, making it feel like a treehouse to me.

We absolutely loved the light in the upstairs bedroom, and the 2 balconies. It was a little too hot to really enjoy them much, but one rainy morning, I had a work date with my girlfriend Katherine of Austin-Tatious – it was nice to get some outside time during work.  The kitchen was great and had everything I could need. This is only the 2nd time that we’ve had a kitchen so completely decked out since we moved. I SO NEEDED THAT REAL kitchen! Surprisingly, this house was extremely quiet for where it was located. I give it 5 stars.

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Everything was brand- spankin’ new.

There was a one day gap between us leaving this home and us boarding a plane for a vacation, so we are staying in a hotel for one night.  This is the part I hate about our lifestyle right now: having to think super hard about what you need, where you need it, how long you need it for, and where the other stuff is that you don’t need right then. There’s a lot of “WHERE IS THAT SHIRT THAT I NEED WITH THIS OUTFIT!” Thanks for your patience, Cary.

Trips are especially confusing because we plan to end our leases on the day we travel: we pack up, stop by the office and leave our extra stuff there (sorry office!) and hit the airport. It’s a lot of moving parts. Not that I’m actually complaining, because this 1-2 days of peaked frustration will totally be wiped away when I land in Croatia for a vacation!

To be true to living life differently and continuing on my research and diligence of boutique hotels, we are checking out the new LoneStar Court hotel in the Domain in Austin.

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LoneStar Court Hotel – incredibly well done.

I’m sitting at the pool, typing away. I may have pushed myself to “bad Cierra stress” mode the past couple of days, and especially today, but this is a pretty darn cool way to remember to enjoy the moment.

Bon voyage!

~Cierra

Heart of the Life Music Capital of the World: Home # 13

When I first moved to Austin after living in Washington state, I was 13 years old and would ask my mom every once in a while to drive down historic 6th street at night just so that I could feel the pulse of the city. Coming from a small farming community, it was somehow comforting to know that there was always excitement happening nearby. To this day, I still drive down East 6th street to get the dose of comfort: Knowing that as life’s routine happens, I’m still only a quick drive away from people living life in the moment. It’s a good reminder for me to appreciate where I am.

Naturally, when a vacation rental became available on East 6th street, one of the few residential buildings on this strip, we had to take advantage of the unique opportunity. Let’s be honest, East 6th street wasn’t a place we were ever going to want to permanently live. Why not make a fun experience out of the place that gives this city its pulse?

So, welcome to LiveVenture home # 13:

Location: Littlefield Building on Brazos and East 6th street – across from the historic Driskel Hotel.
Length: 3 weeks

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The upstairs 2nd bedroom looking out of historic 6th street.

I knew we were living in the heart of downtown when… I was at a new friend’s house and wasn’t sure how to get back to the freeway, so instead of driving around aimlessly, I put ‘Austin’ into the GPS so it would take me towards downtown. Once I found the freeway, I would just turn the GPS off. By the time I hit the downtown area, I had my music turned up and my convertible top down; I didn’t actually hear the GPS until I was 1/2 block away from our house. The GPS lady says, “you have arrived in Austin.” My home was literally where the GPS considered Austin. 

It’s been interesting to see the pattern of the city: what the daytime workforce looks like, what the afternoon happy hour group looks like, what the young party crowd looks like, and the after 2 am group who just wants to party a little more…(those complimentary ear plugs from the management company were a blessing. ) I realize 4 things while living here:

  1. Our city really does party seven days a week, and live music is really played almost all day on each of those days.
  2. There is quite the homeless community. And I do mean community… There are clear “cool places to be” and “popular” people.
  3. Between 2 & 3 AM really truly are dangerous times to be on the road. It was terrifying watching how many drunk people walked out of the bars at 2 AM and most likely hopped in a car.
  4. Austin really is still way cool. In a 21 day span, with no planning of calendar of events, we ended up downtown in the heart of two massive events: the X games and the Rot Rally.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

X Games invading downtown.

X Games invading downtown: Check out the guy in the air.

X Games invades…unexpectedly: We took a night stroll to the Capital to find the X Games set up with only the event organizers and the skate pros practicing for the kick-off of the festival the next day. We had no idea there was this even happening downtown less than 24 hrs away. It was the calm before the storm and we got to see their intimate practice. It was pretty awesome to actually see the event packed with people the next day.

Top Trip Rental, who manages the condo we were staying in, extended an offer for us to stay in another property for one night for a fun experience. This was just a wee bit different: 4,000 sq feet, 2 car parking garage, and an indoor pool for starters – literally on East 6th street and hidden among the bars. One would never expect it there. We were able to bring a few friends and toast to unique experiences, complimentary of my new favorite rental company (hats off to them!). I also went back for a party and met mermaid friends in the pool a week later. Check out the blog about that here. 

A night out on the town: college-style. Who says 30 is a drag? Ok, a lot of people, but I’m determined to still have fun. While I like to have fun, I would not put me in the “partier” category. But you put me living on 6th street and with a friend (new to Austin) who hasn’t experienced it much, it’s a recipe that had to be mixed up. We started with the Rot Rally and closed down Maggie Mae’s with a dance party on the roof. I haven’t done that since college, and most certainty wouldn’t be able to do it often, but it was one night to remember. And one that I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t live a couple blocks away.

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View from the patio of the storm.

Sometimes all you need is a bottle of wine.
People watching is amusing. People watching on your balcony with a bottle of wine on 6th street with your favorite person in the world? Well, that’s down right delightful.

An incredible thunderstorm rolled in one night. Sure, Austin has big storms all the time. I am known to become wide eyed and stick my head to the window, being mesmerized by the lightening. With historic 6th street in the forefront of one of the larger storms I’ve seen in months, my storm watching was taken to the next level. Amazeballs!

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Right: Stephen F. Austin Hotel with the best view in town.

Being a tourist in our own city. There were too many great bars to name all, but a stand-out night was enjoying one of the best views in Austin: The Stephen F Austin Intercontinental outside patio. It also just happens to be where I had my first internship in high school. Easily walking to the Capital and the Congress Bridge to watch the bats was also great fun. I had so many places I had planned to visit, but time simply ran out. Another LifeVenture stay down there might be in our future. Perhaps not during the Rot Rally, though. 🙂

Going from our Creek Cottage (home # 12)a complete serene home, to East 6th Street was a big change. But as dramatic as the change was, we eased into it quickly and started enjoying the new home right away.

This location and home truly exemplified the reason we are living this LiveVenture: to live life differently and to notice and appreciate our surroundings.

Until the next adventure,
Cierra

Mansion on 6th Street – A Unique 1 Night Stay

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You would never guess a mansion hides behind these doors, stuck between bar after bar on 6th street.

Put yourself in those “college day shoes” and on East 6th street (if you’re from Austin, you’ll get it). Now imagine a mansion hidden among the bars: two stories high, an indoor pool and a two story atrium. Doesn’t compute? Yeah, that was my thought when the rental company from our last house invited us for a complimentary stay at their “mansion on East 6th street.” Who could say no to that?

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Atrium and pool – against the original historic building.

Full disclosure: Top Trip Rental offered a complimentary night at their property so we could share a unique story with others. Owning a niche marketing firm, I totally respect unique and authentic ways to spread the word about something cool. I was in: Let’s be honest, they had me at “mansion on 6th”.

We invited a few people to enjoy a night of fun with us, and toasted to an adventure with good friends. It was an adventure within an adventure! Upon opening the beautiful gate at the entrance to let friends in, I noticed the many intrigued glances – like how could this be a house? I just smiled like it was no big deal. No biggie, I’m just hopping into my casa. Don’t mind me.

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Sitting in the foyer, my favorite room in the house, was so strange: there is a huge window, the light was on, it was dark outside, yet no one turned their head to notice this strange living room in the middle of bars. It made me wonder what I walk by and don’t take notice of! See more photos. 

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Finding nooks, crannies, and the pool with friends.

I returned the next week after an invitation to a “party with mermaids” that Top Trip Rental was hosting. It was an event to help bring awareness to Colin’s Hope, the organization that shares information about water safety for babies. It was impressive how they transformed a home into this colorful, underwater scene with diving mermaids. Here are some cool photos from the event. Watch the mermaids swim in the pool – cool!

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Olga and me with our new mermaid friend at the party.

After a ridiculously good night of sleep – you wouldn’t guess with 6th street right outside the window that a good night sleep would be possible – we packed up our overnight bag, hopped in the garage – yes, there was even a 2 car garage in the alley – and headed a few blocks away to our condo.

Not bad for a night out on the town!

If you’re interested in learning more about this property – it’s a great space to ‘wow’ people for private events – reach out to Chereen Fisher at Top Trip Rental. Super nice people who we highly recommend!

Creek Cottage: Home # 12

This is the first house that we’ve returned back to during this LifeVenture, and with good reason: it’s our creek cottage getaway. And while it had no washer and dryer and no full kitchen (gasp!), it is completely serene.

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One morning when the light was hitting just right: looking outside my window. This photo didn’t even need a filter.

At night, all you hear is the buzz of crickets and croaking of frogs. We timed it just right: this was during the month of crazy-storms, which filled up the almost-dry creek bed to a lovely constant trickle. One entire wall had windows, so the weather was just right and we could open the windows and hear nature all night. It felt pretty darn good on my soul.

Location: Cuernavaca – about 20 minutes from downtown
Length: 1 month 

 

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On the left side, the creek down below. On the right side, the kitchen area, bathroom, office, closet, and extra bedroom.

Highlights:

I’m a big animal fan. BIG animal fan. I see an animal and I revert back to a 6 year old kid. “A BUNNY!!!!” So, this place is a match made in heaven for me. There was not a single day that I didn’t see deer either on the way home, on a walk or outside our front door. On a typical day, we would see about 15-20. Usually a new born baby was in that bunch. Nursing baby deer are way cute. We had a turtle friend in the creek, lots of bunnies, and even saw a three rare owl sightings.

 

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Checking out a different ‘hood: It was nice to visit restaurants that we wouldn’t normally drive to because they were far from downtown, like Lola Savannah and The Grove (on 620) with an expansive view and  Baguette et Chocolat with the best crepes in town.

Kitty loved making animal friends! She’s adorable. Enough said.

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Owl and kitty cuteness.

Like a bucket-list: thousands upon thousands of lightening bugs.  I recently visited Puerto Rico and experienced the bioluminescent bay, where the water reacts to movement by glowing. (If you ever get a chance, it’s absolutely incredible). This experience was like that: completely magical – like there was no way what I was seeing was actually nature-made. For about 1 week, perhaps when the weather was the right temperature and there was just the right amount of moisture in the air, lightening bugs came out of the forest bed and lit it up. They would start at dusk and the magic would get stronger for about 15 min. and then die down. The less you moved, the more bright they became and their lights would start pulsating together (apparently a mating ritual). Who knew bugs could be so mesmerizing.  It was so amazing to have an experience like that at home! Side note, I’m a very good lightening bug catcher now.

My favorite near-town park: I’ve mentioned it in the last post, but it’s worth another mention: Commons Ford Park. I spent a lot of time hiking, walking, and even doing a little bit of yoga on the riverside. It has one of the most beautiful wildflower fields… (and it scoots up against Michael Dell’s massive Ranch 6D, which has more land than all of Zilker Park and is right on the water. No joke. Insane, but gorgeous and protected from the massive developments near it.)

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After a month of living :20 minutes from downtown, I started to feel like we were living a bit in the boondocks, so we went and shook things up. Yeah, that’s right. “Dirty 6th” street was about to welcome it’s next tenants.

It was party time! But more on that soon…

Castle Hill: Home # 11

I’ve been struggling how to write this blog for weeks now. I’m straddling how to not complain, but at the same time stay authentic to the experience and share that it completely sucked at times.  I have been giving myself a hard time for focusing on the negative because there was actually so much positive included. I also realized I couldn’t tell the story without a little whammy of both. Because, after all, this is the house where sh*t most certainly hit the fan.

LOCATION AND LENGTH: In Clarksville / Old West Austin near Austin Java on Lamar and Enfield. 1 month and 1/2.

I had always driven by these condos and had always been intrigued.

I had always driven by these condos and had always been intrigued.

PART 1: SH*T HITS THE FAN 

I have to preface this by explaining 4 things so below makes sense: 1) This was our 11th home in about 8 months in Austin. 2) This was the high end of our monthly budget range that we’d kept, but was absolutely within the same budget as many others. 3) We’ve lived in this neighborhood multiple times before. 4) Every home has provided – at the minimum – the basic kitchen and toiletry needs (ie: toilet paper, soap, paper towels, etc.) and what a hotel would offer: everything from a welcome guide to high-end bedding. In short…we’ve extensively experienced the market based on price, location, size, and quality.

Let me set the stage: Cary arrives a day before me late at night. He’s totally exhausted and ready to crawl into bed. He cannot find where the parking spot is or which condo unit is ours because the managers didn’t provide this info properly. He had to pull out the photos online and search all of the balcony’s furniture to find a match. He enters to find no sheets on the bed, but a comforter with staines all over it – it felt like the kind you buy when you go off to college, along with those cheap flimsy pillows.  The white furniture (in the photos) were definitely white no more. After begrudgingly making the bed with the less than stellar sheets, he wanted to check his email. The internet password had been provided, but no network. At a condo in downtown, you have to go through a long list for trial and error.

The house had no soap, the recycling hadn’t been taken out, no trash bags were provided, one very disgusting, falling apart sponge was provided, towels were visibly old and ratty, the back windows had no blinds, the shower curtain had mold on it, the bathroom door wouldn’t fully close, the heater wasn’t working (it was still cold then) and a window wouldn’t lock – which was large enough for someone to very easily climb in through.

After a couple days of fuming and going and buying some of this stuff ourselves, we realized we had to say something. That same day, I come home to jump on a conference call and I find 2 random men in my house, the walls and floor covered in plastic, and the ceiling being painted. This is what it looked like.

…Only then did it hit the fan.

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It turns out that the painting was a complete misunderstanding. Earlier that day, the manager delivered some new towels and replaced the bedding with something without stains (still terrible quality, but a step up), and put a work order in. They requested that their construction team come back to repaint the ceiling, but there was miscommunication on when. I did my best to be understanding of the situation and thankful for the items and work order to fix the others things. I think I held it under control pretty well all things considered. A small comp was offered for our troubles and I figured that all the bad experiences were behind us.  I’d just deal with the low quality bedding and dirty furniture. [They actually didn’t provide that small comp refund or our safety deposit until we reminded them 2 times. Finally, more than 30 days after our stay ended, we received it.]

Unfortunately, that was the start to our problems. They seemed to keep coming. The promised washer and dryer didn’t work, causing me to spend non-peak times at the community one (now, that’s a fun Friday night).  Cockroaches enjoyed playing peek-a-boo. Ants literally started falling from the light fixture and landing on the bed next to our pillow. Most were dead, but not all – as if this makes it much better. We think they were frying inside the light. I would wake with a pile of about 5 dead bugs on me every morning. Rise and shine!  

It took 2 weeks to get the bathroom door fixed. We couldn’t fully close our bathroom door without getting stuck inside. Come on! Then the AC stopped working. Two weeks in, there were maintenance people in the house almost half of those days.

We had tried to roll with the punches, but it finally started piling on. We considered breaking the lease to move, but that could be a headache in itself and we loved the neighborhood. I didn’t want to uproot our little kitty and finding a place takes some time.

Finally, we decided to send an email recapping the experience and a request for a discount in rate to match a more fair trade. 9 days went by with no response. Crickets even after following up. Finally, a response was sent and our request was denied with the explanation that the they made efforts to fix the AC, door, washer, and eventually did. I almost threw my computer against the wall. The idea that a business owner thought them “making effort” was acceptable enough, fueled me. You don’t walk into a restaurant, find a bug in your food, have the server remove the bug and they say, “well, it’s fixed now. See, no bug!”

I was literally exhausted of focusing on the negatives in this experience. During this entire time, the incredible experiences were overshadowed by frustration and feeling like I was taken advantage of. I’ve always been someone to keep my mouth shut until it really needs to be opened. Usually I’m pretty good at picking my battles. When someone does something I consider unfair, it hits a nerve. I felt like this nerve was being pricked every day and I let it eat away at me.

Yes, this was not a fair trade in my opinion. Yes, I feel like they did me wrong. And yes, I will write a review to warn others. I don’t ever want to lose the ability to stand up for myself and be loud and proud, but I don’t want to let it cloud my happiness and the happiness of those around me. I want to be able to “fight” for what I think is right, but be able to walk away unharmed.

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Sometimes it takes things getting so bad for you to open your eyes. It took this experience with my eyes open in a completely different way in this LifeVenture for me to see this about myself.  I vowed to focus on the positives the remaining time, and more importantly, in life moving forward. I want to focus on the positive and not let the negative overtake me.

PART 2: IT WAS ACTUALLY QUITE AMAZING AFTER ALL THAT. 🙂 

I’ll start by saying that Clarksville is 100% my favorite neighborhood in Austin. This is our 3rd home in the neighborhood (a total of 2 1/2 months) and I completely adore it.

Home.jpgHere’s the professional photo from their website. It actually looks pretty amazing in these photos! Some parts of the design really were amazing, but photos hide a lot of stains and such.

Here are highlights of the month 1/2 stay: 

  1. A real community: I walked almost everyday and it felt like a real neighborhood: some white picket fences, modest (but very nice) homes, people sitting on patios with friends drinking wine in the afternoon, adorable restaurants and bars in walking distance…There is something pretty great about being able to walk out your front door and experience that community-feel without driving.

    West Lynn - looking South.

    West Lynn – looking South.

  2. Austin’ Graffiti Park (also known as Hope Outdoor Gallery): Taken from the Only in Austin blog, “It is a cluster of urban ruins consisting of broken walls and concrete foundations that are completely covered in graffiti art. The park is a public space that is open to any and all graffiti artists who want to make their mark on Austin, and it is a safe haven for them to create without the threat of the law.” It’s very Austin, and strangely enough, I had never been. I knew it was a big deal, but I didn’t know how popular it truly was. There were always about 10-30 people there at any given time. I’m not a huge fan of graffiti, but I love the idea and it is always changing everyday.
    Hope Gallery Austin

    Lose yourself to dance. Don’t mind if I do.

    Because why shouldn't a castle be mixed with graffiti?

    Because why shouldn’t a castle be mixed with graffiti?

  3. View of the Capital and a great patio: I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I can see the Capital from the bed!” I know it was just a partial view, but I thought that was so cool. Plus, the patio was quite nice, sans the dirty furniture and loads of pollen. Combine the patio with Sangria from Zocala and I’m a happy girl.
  4. Kept a promise to myself: My mornings are typically my busiest time of the day and I’m not a morning person, so I don’t ever have time to enjoy the mornings. I promised myself I would wake up early enough to really enjoy a morning at least once. It took me a while to do it, but I made it happen: One morning, I got out an old backpack and plopped my computer in it and walked to the Coffee shop super early. I worked outside at and watched Austin wake up. Everyone was so happy! I worked so efficiently that I was able to, by 1o am, plop myself down in a nearby park, lay down in the grass, and simply stare at the sky and enjoy it.  It might seem silly to you morning folks, but I was super proud of myself for making that happen. Morning walk .png
  5. Actually saw the sun rise (another promise to self met): On our last day, we woke up at 5:30 am, had a real breakfast nearby, engaged with each other without cell phones sending us constant notifications, and saw the sunrise over downtown.

    Austin waking up.

    Austin waking up.

 

Until next time, -Cierra

 

Living in a “Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn” in Houston

We’ve been living in short-term rentals for the past 6+ months in Austin, Tx to experience living a little more adventurously. This week-trip took us to Houston, but instead of living in a home, we got cozy in a hotel.

I’ve lived in Texas for most of the past 17 years. I explore the heck out of the Austin area, plus everything in a day-trip radius. And I do mean explore; most weekends have incorporated some form of driving until we find something cool.

When Cary and I decided we were going to spend a week in Houston during the week of SXSW (we needed to for his work, and let’s be honest, the prices for short-term rentals are off the charts in Austin during SX), I begrudgingly started having the typical attitude about Houston: you know, the sarcastic, “can’t wait!” Yeah, I probably said, “Aren’t you jealous; I’m leaving Austin during SX to live in Houston. Awesome.”

At some point during my sarcastic comments, I realized something: I actually don’t KNOW Houston. In 17 years, I’ve driven thru Houston from Austin to Tampa (school) 4 times a year for 4 years, I’ve been to a Jimmy Buffett concert, maybe two baseball games (that I should note were in the same stadium as the Buffett concert), a day trip once in college to a museum, and maybe some passing thru the outskirts to hit the beautiful Texas coast (insert more sarcasm). I don’t really KNOW Houston!!!

So started my determination: I’m finding something cool in this town and actually learning what’s in the big backyard of Austin. No one said I had to come back after this. 😉

HERE’S WHAT I DISCOVERED IN A WEEK: Keep in mind that I was working the entire time, so limited exploring existed:

Hotel Zaza: We weren’t able to find a lot of great short-term home rentals for the week, so Hotel Zaza it was. Darn. For me this was especially exciting: for the past 8 months or so, I have been boutique hotel researching. This is a hotel that pops up in conversations a lot from the boutique hotel world, but I’d never been. This week was one of the best visionary weeks for me this year: a hotel vision I’ve had for a while started to come to more clarity. Awesome blossom! Sitting out and working by the poolside wasn’t too bad either. It was a good reminder of how thankful I am for the job I’ve created that can be done anywhere in the world with good internet.

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Alligators DO exist: I had heard rumors, but when I asked our friends who lived here, I got a response of, “nope. Not true.” Challenge excepted. We had to go :45 min out of downtown, but low and behold, alligators we found! [For those of you wanting to check out the park, it’s called Brazos Bend State Park]

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The city has a big fat green thumb: I always thought Austin was the oasis of Texas when it comes to trees. I was surprised by all the beautiful BIG trees everywhere and lush gardens! I’m not sure why, but I really remembered Houston like Dallas: flat, dry, and bla. It’s actually only two of those things.

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A mini Central Park: I was in the hotel room working on the first day after we arrived there. I had no idea what was in the area, so as lunch time approached, I used Yelp Near Me future to see what was good. Turns out only a few pins popped up in walking distance: one of them was in the middle of this massive green blog. A PARK! A restaurant in the middle of a PARK! This is my kind of Monday lunch break. photo 2 (6)

It turns out the hotel was right near Memorial Park, a 1500 acre beauty in the city. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, and everyone seemed to be out with their kids enjoying the day. I sat under beautiful trees and ate my lunch, watching the smiling world go by.Memorial Park _ 3.jpg

During this LifeVenture experience, that is the single thing I keep noticing being different than before: I notice the green in the trees and how often people smile.

While I have no desire to live in Houston longterm, I do have more appreciation for it. It does make me wonder….what else have I brushed off in life or rolled my eyes about, that perhaps I didn’t have any justification for rolling my eyes at. 

After a short trip to visit my family in California, we were back to Austin for a month and half. I can’t wait to share that story with you next: bugs falling from the ceiling on my head at night and my house turned into a construction zone with no warning.

Home #10: Welcome to the Jungle … And a Barn


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When I saw a barn pop up on our Airbnb searches, I knew we had to stay here. I mean, come on, I did grow up on a farm (kind of); it would feel like home!

Plus, this #LifeVenture is all about finding unique experiences and a barn is definitely that.

LOCATION:
Zilker area off South Lamar.

LENGTH:
5 days. We would have stayed longer, but SXSW was a-knocking; we had to hightail it out of town since vacation rentals recoup a large portion of their expenses in those 10 days. Aka: expensive.

HIGHLIGHTS:
Let the light shine down: There were very large windows on all sides of the house, letting in so much light during the morning, afternoon and evening. I grew up in Washington state where light was cherished. I think I still live with the mentality of “enjoy it while it lasts,” so having sun rays all day made it happy in the barnyard.

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The master bedroom had a wall-to-wall window that looked into a yard surrounded by bamboo.  One night we watched a family of bandits (raccoons) play in the trees for about an hour. They looked kind of like little monkeys. It was almost like we were in Costa Rica (ish)! Or at least our own little zoo.

This window also came in handy for Austin’s  “ThunderSleet” storm at the beginning of March – surely to go down in the books as one of the most bizarre weather events in our city. 2 days of 70s and 80s and then a drop to 24 the next night, creating thunder….and sleet.

Barn home.pngGreen, green, green: This property was mostly surrounded by bamboo and trees – pretty amazing when you’re in the middle of a city. It was so peaceful, which was pretty important considering we had just moved everything and were staying for 5 days to go to Houston for a week, then on a short trip, then back to Austin. Needless to say, that peace kept me somewhat sane.

Barn home 2.jpgRoom decor – room for improvement: While some rooms (like the kitchen below) were super well remodeled, it was obvious other pieces of furniture were after thoughts – probably extra items the owners had. Like the rickety dining room table and dorm room-like 2nd bedroom decor. Overall, it definitely met the standard and was completely fine; it just could have been amazing with a little more designer love.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 6.14.21 PMLike our old home: The kitchen was almost identical to our old kitchen in material (at the house we rented for a couple years). I think I cooked one egg for breakfast and that was the extend of my cooking for those 5 days, but that was one damn good egg.

Overall, this is absolutely a house we’d like to come back and stay for a month (with kitty – she would love the sun)! However, they were pretty booked up, so who knows if we’ll get that chance. Plus, there are so many other awesome looking places that we have to still explore.

-Cierra