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.
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    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

Even Tinier Home # 9: The best yet! West 6th – Clarksville

I’ve never been much of a city gal. I like being near one and to take advantage of its culture, but I like grass, greenery, and seeing the horizon. So living downtown where parking blows, traffic gridlocks all day, and cement is the only thing that ever touches my shoes, wasn’t really something I sought out.

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Our mini house – To the left is the kitchen and bathroom, to the right the other half of the living room. We’re talking mini!

Now, give me the opportunity to live right on the outskirts – gaining benefits from both sides (neighborhood and city), you’ll find me with my bags already packed. Then again, I somewhat live out of a suitcase so my bags aren’t far from being already packed anyways.

LOCATION:
I’ve had my eyes on Clarksville for years. It’s a historic neighborhood on a hill with cute, relatively modest homes, and is less than a mile away from the bustling downtown. White picket fences still exist here. Even Austin’s original pharmacy and fountain shop is still taking orders. We found an adorable apt studio 1/2 block West 6th street on Blanco.

When I say studio..I’m talkin’ 400 sq ft. It’s amazing how, when a layout is designed well with cubby holes and lots of built-in cabinets, we don’t need a lot of space.

LENGTH:
1 month – extended another 2 weeks because we weren’t ready to give it up. We probably would have stayed longer if it was big enough for Kitty and SXSW didn’t raise prices for vacation rentals 3 fold in Austin. This is the longest we’ve stayed in a home since August 20th.

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Everyday I loved walking past Clark’s Oyster Bar: on sunny days with people sitting outside and enjoying themselves, it felt like the ocean should be steps away.

HIGHLIGHTS:
Walking everywhere, everyday: I could walk to Whole Foods in 5 min. flat. Yes, I timed it. Rounders Pizza: 3 min. Tacos & Tequilas: 8 min. 24 Diner: 5 min. Counter Cafe: 6 min. A big park: 3 min. Sweetish Hill Bakery: less than a min. Clark’s Oyster: :30 seconds. SECONDS. I kid you not. This got me active and enjoying our 75 degree weather (or 27 degree weather dependent on the day).

Cozy: I felt super cozy and safe every time I stepped into our house. Everything was high quality – from the pillows to the throw blankets, soft and comfortable was the trend. Almost every light had a dimming feature. While studying hotels, I’ve been consistently hearing, “put $ into lighting because it changes the entire feel.” I now know first hand how that can make you feel.

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Here’s the grand tour…stand in one spot, spin around, annnnd grand tour over.

Like a hotel: We arrived to a bottle of wine, a welcome note, a personalized “in the neighborhood guide,” books on Austin, shampoo and conditioner toiletries, and paper pads with the home address stamped on them: it was little touches, but made it feel like we were on vacation in Austin. Strangely enough, those little touches gave me more appreciation for this town through the eyes of a tourist.

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Austin coasters – A neighborhood guide – A welcome note, complimentary wine, and a “honor” stash of liquor

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Alta’s Cafe on Town Lake

More walking: Instead of just walking to bars and restaurants, we set out one Saturday to walk across town. We ended up at Mueller BBQ way on East 7th and Pleasant Valley (that is the same distance as walking from Mopac to 1-35 in downtown Austin), stopped at the new Alta’s cafe on the water and walked the Hike & Bike trail back. Another day we walked to Peter Pan golf! Another day to I-35 on the trail.

One very early morning, we woke up to cheer on Austin Marathon runners at the start line. We walked to the Capitol and found it smothered in fog. I’ve never been to a marathon, and I honestly wouldn’t have driven there and dealt with parking. But, it was a 15 minute walk, and it sounded like a cool, different experience. I’ll be honest, I kinda teared up at how amazing it was to see thousands upon thousands of people, of all different sizes and ages, pushing themselves  to reach a goal.

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Austin Marathon – 7 am with fog engulfing the Texas Capitol

You really do see things in a different way when you walk: I think it’s easier to appreciate the details. Home # 9 stands as the one that really made me start taking notice of the day-to-day beauty in things. The joy that comes from simply smiling at people instead of looking away when you pass them on the sidewalk. Waiting that extra 2 seconds to hold the door open for someone. The beautiful sound of a small water fountain in someone’s yard. The laughing and clinking of glasses at a restaurant…even if you’re not at the table.

This house experience seemed to be a turning point in how I move through my days and appreciate the little things: that’s one ah-ha I plan to always remember.

Onward to our next LifeVenture,
Cierra

Tiny Home #8: Lake Austin Blvd

It’s hard to believe that we are nearing 6 months of living through temporary homes; it feels like we just started! I signed up for 3 months, packed my life accordingly, and fully expected to have our Christmas decorations out by the holiday…or at least figured there was a good chance. I’m having more and more fun as the experiences extend, and when people ask how long until we are ready to “put some roots down,” I honestly don’t know how to answer it anymore. It feels like we are building roots, but they are not ones related to physical stuff.

THIS IS OUR HOME STORY #8:

LOCATION: Lake Austin Blvd across from Deep Eddy Pool and Town Lake
LENGTH: 1 month (longest rental so far)

THE GOOD:

Kitty 'Living on the edge'

Kitty ‘Living on the edge’ – Can you find her?

I could snuggle with Little Miss Zoe: As much as I would love to have Kitty with us at every move, moving a middle aged cat every two weeks seems cruel and unusual. Especially since she loves my mom’s house and Mom is willing to kitty sit. Family rocks! However, us being here a month was long enough to try it out and see how she did. She loved her new home!! Not dissimilar to us, she is a creature of habit; she quickly adapted by the 2nd day. I loved hearing her pitter-patter coming when I opened our front door.

Close to Nature! I don’t typically walk the Hike and Bike trail because parking; I simply go to one of our various hiking spots not downtown. It was such a treat to literally walk across the street and be on the Hike & Bike! I timed it once: 3 min from my door to the trail. Holy amaz-balls. Not dealing with parking for the Trail of Lights was an extra bonus of holiday cheer.

I even joined the “running club” and ran…once. I might try it again.

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Hanging decorations

Surprisingly Christmasy: I love Christmas and I even love Christmas trees more. I was known to leave the lights on and attempt sleeping by the fire in our last house. So, I was preparing to be sad not having much of “Christmas” this year – a tree didn’t make sense and honestly giving a lot of gifts didn’t seem extremely fitting because most of our stuff was in storage. I was preparing to have the Christmas Blues. Then, one day I looked out the window, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? But hanging lights, sparkling the tree like a chandelier.

The decor: We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in 2 homes now that were owned by interior designers. I’m all about home decor and making a really pretty place to get my cozy on. Seeing other design ideas has been so much fun. I am always thinking, “I never would have put those together, but it works!” This particular place was the back apartment for an interior designer’s shop on Lake Austin Blvd.

Our place was upstairs..plus we had use of the great yard, uniquely designed.

Our place was upstairs…plus we had use of the uniquely designed yard.

THE BAD:

Baby It’s Cold Outside: We were here during the cold spell. For you non-Austinites, yes, it actually drops to 20s-30s once in a blue moon. This year was abnormally cold, and being in an old remodeled upstairs garage apartment was…lets just say cold. Very cold. I’m talking I-need-my-snuggie-while-working cold.

No Laundry room: If you would have asked me 6 months ago if I would live in a home where it required me to visit a coin operated laundromat, I would have laughed at you (I actually thought it was ‘laundry mat’ until I just googled how to spell it. So there you go.). We hadn’t been to a laundromat since college, and I gotta say, it was actually fun! It reminded me when you’re a kid and how mundane things were really fun…then you grow up and you think, “why was doing the dishes fun??” With a change in attitude, we made it into a really fun experience together. Not that I need to do it every month. Or year. More on that in another blog, I should note that SuperMom came to the rescue the last week when I visited her house during the holidays, thus I only actually had to do laundry at the ‘laundry mat’ one time. 🙂

Kitchen was the least stocked kitchen thus far. Many of these kitchens are completely decked out. This was not the case: one pan, no spatula, and Solo plastic bowls didn’t exactly make it easy to even cook breakfast. Luckily, the owners were willing to buy all the basics after we brought it to their attention by the 3rd day. It wasn’t the kitchen of my dreams, but it did have a spec-of-a-view of the lake if I stood on one tiptoe and focused hard through the trees. I’ve always wanted a water view. Look at me, just keepin’ up with the Joneses.

Logistical nightmare: I lived through it.
Cary traveled to visit Alabama for Christmas & I stayed here for that week. We had a road trip planned for the day he returned. However, because our lease ended one day BEFORE Cary could return, it became a logistical nightmare of moving and attempting to organize our life. The owner wouldn’t extend our lease one day at the rate that was fair in our books, so we had a one day gap where I had no home and a lot of STUFF.

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Fun… not

Here’s how it went: I couldn’t easily carry heavy suitcases down the stairs with my crappy back (& wimpy muscles..but details, details), so 5 days before our lease expired, we had to move all the heavy items I couldn’t move myself. I would then plan to keep necessary items for those 5 days. With Xmas in the middle (meaning needing my overnight bag at my moms for 2 days), laundry that had to be taken care of, and an impending road trip that would require clothes from storage… it pushed this Type A gal almost over the edge. Figuring out what went in which bag for which day for which person was like attempting some type of ridiculous riddle. But, bit by bit and item by item, the puzzle started to make sense.

My baby (zoe) and me

Snuggle Bunny

It made for one confusing Christmas week, but it worked. We got it done, eventually with a smile..ish.

Onward we went: With the car packed and ready to go on Saturday, I picked Cary up from the airport, ran a few errands, and we were on our way to an adventure from Austin to Santa Fe to Taos to Durango to Telluride, filled with brewery and boutique hotel research and discovery.

Our current house is on West 6th street, so if you’re in the area, let me know! I’m digging walking everywhere.

Until next time,

Cierra

Adaptation

This lifestyle has been so eye-opening to the way we, as humans, are wired. I wasn’t set out to learn about myself in this process: really, I wanted to live more in the moment and bring more fun into my life, but I honestly didn’t think much about it being a “learning lesson.”

My "suitcase closet" - My aunt gave me this hanging drawer that easily fits into my suitcase for easy moving.

My “suitcase closet” – My aunt gave me this hanging drawer that easily fits into my suitcase for easy moving.

It took me until the 5th move (about 3 months in) to realize this: no matter the house and neighborhood, within about 2 hours, it started feeling similar to “home.” It didn’t have my furniture I adore; it didn’t have my framed photos I meticulously arranged on every wall; it didn’t even have my precious kitty whom I love, love, love. But it had us.

But during this particular move, I realized it wasn’t just that we had each other. It was that we were adapting to each situation together. Where we hung our jackets, put our keys, and drove home, quickly became habit.

This realization of adaption hit me hard in one funny moment of us moving into this house. I had been craving a closet to hang up my clothes – all of these homes had closets, but we weren’t staying long enough to unpack everything to only repack a week later. So, we get to our new MONTH rental home (the longest in this crazy living experience) and we each have our OWN closet. Excitedly, I began unpacking right away. After about 5 minutes, I noticed I was apprehensive about something…even a little sad. There was this pull to stop unpacking and keep everything right where it was. For almost four months, it had a place after all.

I soon realized I didn’t want to unpack because I had to change! How could I uproot this process I’ve created?! After us having a good laugh about the situation, I decided on a combination of keeping some clothes in the suitcase and hanging some.

Such a silly, small example, but it really opened my eyes to how quickly change can become habit.

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I am now getting a different desire to try more things a little out of my comfort zone and see how quickly it becomes familiar. Even small stuff: driving a different way to the office a few times a week or saying “yes” to a party invite where you will not know anyone. Sometimes these uncomfortable situations allow us to experience something quite comfortable … Once we just try it. 

I even tried jogging Town Lake! I’ve always felt like runners were in a secret club – you know, a club where they actually like to run,and that I must be doing it wrong because I look like a complete dork. Because we are living across the road from the lake, I decided I should try out this new revelation of getting out of my comfort zone in the running department: I jogged and walked from Deep Eddy pool around to the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge, past my old High School and back to Deep Eddy again.  I actually….  (Insert gasp) …enjoyed it. I am totally in the club now. 

I’d like to think that I’m unique and “boldly going” with our living experience, but I am pretty convinced at this point I’m simply rolling with tide. If I can share anything about this adventure so far, which might be useful to others, is that we humans are pretty damn adaptable.

Getting out of a comfort zone isn’t nearly as terrifying as it seems.

-Cierra

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My run led me to one heck of a view.

Related: Read the other blogs from our LifeVenture.

3 1/2 months and 7 homes in…

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference in California and had been moving at such a fast pace for 5 days that, as I was packing to go catch my flight, I realized I didn’t know where home was. Our temporary 3-week lease was about to end while I was traveling, and Cary and I had both been so busy before that we hadn’t found a new rental. I knew he had found a place while I was in LA (he’s good at working last minute magic), but we hadn’t had a chance to talk about it.

If you would have asked me 4 months ago how I would expect to feel about this realization I was having in my hotel room, I would have been filled with anxiety even thinking about. Low and behold, I actually laughed out loud from the absurdity: I was okay not knowing…and was actually excited to arrive back in Austin to a new adventure. The excitement caught me off guard.

Since the last time I wrote, we have lived in 6 homes, some for only a few days because multiple week leases didn’t always line up exactly. Having two ACL weekends and F1 filing up rentals in Austin actually made it quite difficult to find non-inflated prices that were for more than 4 days. Here’s our play-by-play.

Kitty and man

Kitty and man

Home 1: Here’s the blog about our 1st experience.
Home 2
Location: Clarksville
Length: A few days
We were on a vacation and had to find a place with only a night’s notice, but only for a few days. Our friend, who has rental properties, was able to rent us one of his properties for a few days while we made plans. They had chickens!

Home 3:
Location: My mom’s house near Lake Travis
Length: 3 weeks

Mom went away for 3 weeks, and since she has been kitty-sitting, we kitty-sat at her house. After moving out of our 2 year property in Aug, planning my 30th birthday, moving into our 1st short term house, going on a trip to Washington & then Wyoming / Montana (& having a break down or two), having a space of comfort & normalcy was SO what the doctor would have ordered!!!!

I had kitty to snuggle with every night! I miss her so much! I even got “kitty biscuits” each morning.

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Me and kitty

Home 4:
Location: Cuernavaca – about 20 minutes from downtown
Length: 3 weeks

Now we’re cookin’ – it feels like this is when our home-adventure started with some consistency (except we really weren’t cooking because there was no stove or oven.) I should have written an entire blog about this place, but I didn’t get a chance. It was so peaceful and we loved coming home every night.

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The good and the bad:

    • It was beautifully decorated and one entire wall had windows facing the creek. At night, it sounded like a million frogs singing. When the lights were turned off, it was complete darkness. No city lights at all!
    • I had a great corner office with views of big trees and usually no less than one deer sighting every hour.
    • There was no washer or dryer: luckily, I could go to my mom’s and work remotely during the day doing laundry. It wasn’t easy, but it ended up not being too bad.
    • We didn’t have a full kitchen: I love cooking, so I thought this would be terrible. It turns out, there was a Snap Kitchen on the way home: pop healthy food in the microwave and bam! We had healthy dinner with no clean up. We were both so busy during this time, the convenience was nice.  It actually was  unexpectedly relaxing to not wash dishes or laundry at home: it made this feel like a vacation!
    • Even though we were “far out of town,” there was a local bar/restaurant called The 263. It great little hidden spot – highly recommend if you’re out and about in the area.
    • We stumbled upon an amazing park on the riverbanks with gorgeous trees. For us to find a park we hadn’t been to was simply amazing.

Common Ford Ranch Park – Along the banks of Lake Austin

Home 5:
Location: West Campus / Lamar on Shoal Creek 
Length: 7 days (?)
This was the house I came home to after the trip to LA….when I didn’t know where I was headed until I was at the airport. I have always driven past the condos along Shoal Creek and wondered what they would be like. This condo was an older building, but was completely re-done inside. It was cozy, comfortable, and close to everything. But, it was also a corporate apartment, so it felt a little dry. Cary and I were still very busy; it got the job done and was nice enough. It just wasn’t filled with character.

Home 6:
Location: Hyde Park – Duval and 45th area 

Length: About 2 weeks

The good and the bad:

  • This home was a little on the older side (you know, windows shake when the wind blows and a marble would roll if you put it on the floor), but it had very nice furnishings, bedding, etc and was comfortable.
  • It’s funny the quirky things we are starting to like/dislike about these places: We LOVED having a keypad for entry (this was at home #6 as well). I always, always have trouble finding my keys in my purse – I swear, my purse temporarily eats my keys every day – it was so nice to not have to search for keys and fumble around with them in the dark.

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    Elisabet Ney Museum

  • The home owner really made a point to add in extra touches. Most of these homes include basic needs and maybe some nice add-ons like shampoos and coffee. This particular one went beyond that with lots of yummy tea, a massive spice rack,  condiments, and other small items that I missed having. Because we’ve only been at a house (with a full kitchen) for a few days in a row, we really hadn’t purchased those basics, so we didn’t have them!
  • We took a really nice long walk one night around the neighborhood, just exploring the area. We were taking a short cut and came across a historical building, the Elisabet Ney Museum. It’s right off of 45th and Duval and I had never noticed it before!

Home 7:
Location: Allendale – 45th street (a 2 minute drive from our old home before we started this Lifeventure)
Length: 12 days

Cary was traveling during this time, so our friends were kind enough to let me stay at their house during the very expensive F1 weekend timeframe (living this way can be very difficult during big event weeks!!!!). Our friends were out of town traveling for work, so I got to get cozy in their sweet house. Thanks Karen and Ben! I wish I took a picture of their incredible room that had a barn door, and cool branches hanging from  the ceiling – so cool! 🙂 Karen’s creativity amazes me.

Onward we go!

Today we moved into our new house, and guess what? …pause for drama…We are staying here ONE MONTH! The longest so far. 😉 You’d think I might be sick of this moving around by now, but was filled with SO much excitement when we walked into our new home. Over dinner, we chatted about what unique things we wanted to experience while here. More on that later, and I promise I won’t take so long to write next time!

I have a lot of thoughts to share about this experience and the awareness it is bringing to me! As Thanksgiving rolls around tomorrow, I am filled with so much joy for having someone to explore this world with.

Much love,

Cierra

Why I Will Now Always Make Time For A TRUE Vacation

Moose “hunting” is now my new profession. Read on.

"Hunting" for animals: we made good use of these!

“Hunting” for animals: we made good use of these!

Cary and I make a point to travel a lot in life. We are both self employed, so it gives us an amazing opportunity to see the world & work remotely. Typically, this makes us that much more productive because we know there’s a world of exploring waiting for us. It’s like the ultimate, “you can play after you get your chores done” thing. That being said, we haven’t had a real vacation in a very, very long time. Unplugged wasn’t in our vocab. 

As I neared turning 30, I chatted with him about really wanting to go somewhere beautiful for my birthday and be unplugged. We both agreed it would probably be good for our sanity to literally NOT be ABLE to check email. So, we settled on this: I would visit my family in Washington State for a week, he would spend a week white water rafting in Idaho, and we’d meet up in Montana and see where the road took us that week.

It was one of the best trips ever: I unplugged for almost an entire week. My senses were heightened, noticing smells and colors I would have missed before. I felt alive in a way I’m not sure that I have felt since I was a kid.  I wasn’t planning on writing about my vacation here – just our unique living situation. But because our unique living situation allowed us to take a longer trip, it seemed fitting: instead of paying for rent, I bought a plane ticket. baker collageIn Washington, I spent time in the garden with my dad, (He has about a 1/2 acre garden and enough tomatoes to feed a hungry army), got to make loads of dried and canned food, spent time with my fam and had a second Birthday party  (even got sung happy birthday to),  hung out by a river, and finally saw my very best childhood friend’s baby. I love him. I love her, too. 🙂 Pop and I went on some beautiful hikes, one being right behind our house on a road I grew up on as a kid. I thought the road ended 5 minutes away from the house. It turns out, the paved road turns into a gravel road, and the gravel road turns into an old logging road, winding us straight up the hill to magnificent views of the valley below. We even came across an old growth forest and pond. While it was a 45 minute drive, it was still on the same dead-end road that I grew up on and thought ended way before. It was pretty eye-opening realizing something you thought ended your whole life actually kept on going. Makes you wonder. 

North Fork Valley

North Fork Valley

After a week in Washington, I boarded a plane, onward to our wild, moose-“hunting” adventure! (Cary and I really like animals. We were determined to find moose and everything else under the moon.) We started in Big Sky and went on a VERY long 10 mike hike. I didn’t realize the elevation was so high and completely wore myself out. I basically couldn’t breathe. But, of course, just when I thought I couldn’t take another step, the mountain would entice me to go over that next hump….we had to check it out! We ended up scaling a cliff in search of an amazing view, and a mountain goat (because someone had just seen one). Hike from lake We got our view, but the goat hid. Stupid goat. When we turned around and realized what we had just climbed, I think we both breathed a sigh of relief that we both safely made it. Even though the goat hid, we were lucky enough to see a black bear with its baby later on (at a safe distance) and a moose tromping through the woods. Check, check! Two animals off our list! Making it to the top In the span of a week, we saw some of the most magical places we’ve ever seen. Yellowstone was more enchanting than I could have imagined. With about 10,000 thermal features, it has the highest concentration of active geysers in the world….I thought I’d see about 5 hot springs, so clearly I did my research. 🙂 Hot springs CollageBuffalo really do rome free in this area. We saw hundreds upon hundreds. Some of them were in huge herds, and some were loners. One loner happened to be parked on the side of the road, scratching a small tree when we turned the corner. We slowly pulled off to the side of the road and the buff didn’t even care. I think if we reached out to give him a scratch, he would have been pleased. Cary asked to ride a buffalo for his Birthday, and that day was his Birthday. I think that’s as close as one could get…if one actually planned to ride a wild buffalo. Luckily my man is crazy, but not that crazy. We did want to take the creature home, though. Not sure the airlines have a fee for that yet. buffalo collageAfter two days of exploring Yellowstone, we headed on our way to the majestic Tetons and Jackson. It truly was postcard beautiful…everywhere you looked. We visited Mormon Row, a line of homesteads from the early 1900’s. Many of the famous barn photos you see from Wyoming are taken here. 1236729_10100127706816558_229461691_n I now share with you my new profession: moose hunting, aka moose spotting. We spent every afternoon in a ritual: grab the binoculars, head to the riverbeds and wait for movement in the trees. There were signs all over this damn land that said, “moose crossing” or “be watchful of bear” but we had only seen both on that first day in Big Sky and one other moose. We were determined each night and day to find 1) moose and 2) bear. This might sound boring to some, but this was the best damn experience I could ever ask for: searching for huge animals with the backdrop full of beauty. Animals We saw a lot of elk and, on one lucky night, 5 moose. Still no bear. Finally, on our last day, we got extremely lucky and came across a small bear by the side of the road eating berries off the tree! That night ended up being the best of all: as the sun set and the stars completely filled the sky down to its horizon, it seemed that all the animals were coming out to say adios – even the noisy elk and frisky fox friend. 1231662_10100128243530978_232538863_nAlongside seeing unique animals, there’s another somewhat strange huge love that Cary and I share: storms. To end our night, this storm rolled in with all of its glory. It was quite the way to end a true vacation. 

I will now always make time to take true vacations. It’s good for the soul.

Cierra