Tiny Trek – La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

FeaturedTiny Trek –                                                                          La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Daily walks on my sisters favorite park path during her final weeks gave me the space to think, cry and wonder what this life will feel like without her spunky voicemails that always began with, “Hey sis, this is your sister.” Which make me smile because I know this voice by heart.

I booked a trip to Mexico during this emotional time, remembering all the fun we’d had as a family in that beautiful country. A spring trip would be a welcomed break from the February snow shoveling and the impending spring rain and muck. The wet season has created a path to the tiny house that requires skilled leaps to make it to the front door without feet becoming completely soaked and caked in mud.

My growing bridge over muddy water.

The trip began at 4 a.m. in the airport with a passport card that is not valid for air travel. As Anthony Bourdain said, “Travel isn’t always pretty.” This was one of those moments, but we problem solved with the help of a fantastic Southwest agent, rerouted the flights and turned around for a trip back home to get the required passport book. The mistake became a lasting memory of the trip.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is a small village tucked in between the massive resorts of Puerto Vallarta and the busy tourist beach of Sayulita. It is a walkable, cobblestone town with a large marina filled with floating homes of ex-pats and local fisherman alike.

The marina.

After the Pescados y Mariscos festival that filled the town square with food, vendors, music and locals, La Cruz returned to it’s quiet daily rhythms. The vacation rental was exceptional, a small, beautiful compound run by ex-Texans John and Sandra. With only one other couple on site we enjoyed the quiet afternoons around the pool, and the rooftop deck was a favorite breezy spot to play Rummicube, eat fresh fish, and watch the goings on in the town square or the live music from the bar next door.

Strolling thru the town square outside our accommodations.
The exit to the street.
My favorite afternoon spot.

The town is small enough that we’d hear music and start walking, following the sound to little rag-tag bars. The quality of live music here was impressive and we truly enjoyed dancing the night away, supporting local musicians. We rode the local bus to other towns along the coast, enjoying a beach day in Sayulita with the Mexican vendors, which are non-existent in La Cruz.

An afternoon on the busy Sayulita beach.

We had our fill of fresh seafood, the warm Mexican sun, and the time to rest, read, draw and explore. My sister requested her ashes be spread once each season in this first year of her passing, and on this spring trip I left a bit of her in the ocean on a coastline she loved.

Arriving with only a small backpack, the rental owner Sandra asked, “Is that all your luggage?” I explained that our rental space was larger than my entire house, and I just don’t own much stuff. It turns out I still over packed. Coming home to the tiny house has been great. My son enjoyed his time in the tiny, hanging out with his buddies and taking care of Mr. G who greeted me with excited circles of joy.

Happy to see the snow gone, I am watching the flower bulbs I planted last fall emerge and patiently waiting for the ground to dry up so I can resume the final construction push to finish this little house. The small footprint allows my work hours to be cut back to part-time, creating space to finish the house this spring, opening up a summer of hopeful adventures.

The next “Tiny Trek” will be in May to San Diego to celebrate my 55th birthday with a posse of girlfriends that go way back in my history, should be a howling good time.

May you experience the renewed life spring brings in this season of Easter, and happy trekking.

Hillary D.

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

Tiny House Office Space

Tiny House Office Space

I am learning the intricacies of this small footprint experiment, testing my design choices daily and if my thinking was correct. Some design elements are working perfectly, others could use improvement. One item that immediately became cumbersome was the very popular $199 IKEA Norden gateleg table.

IKEA Norden table

This table is a popular choice in tiny houses due to the 3 storage drawers on each end and the ability to expand either side of the table. When both sides are folded down the top only measures 10″ making it a great space saver. When I was thinking about my livingroom space I wanted to incorporate this table into the design. I thought the gatelegs would be perfect for when I needed to work or break out an art project so I made a space for it at one end of the couch

Norden table at end of couch.

The order from IKEA took a long time to arrive so plan accordingly if you are having items delivered from them! This table must be assembled, and while I don’t love putting furniture together this was relatively easy. I quickly learned that this table is HEAVY at about 110 pounds. My thinking was that I would be able to slide it out when I wanted a table to work or eat at. Once the drawers were loaded, it was cumbersome and not something I could easily make work in the space.

Renovation #1 was to put it on casters, which then made it too tall and they really didn’t work very well. Putting felt on the legs worked much better for sliding it out on my vinyl plank flooring. But then I added this rug (which I really, really love) and now it had to be rolled back in order to slide the table out.

Heavy Duty Knotted Runner

From a convenience standpoint this just was not working. Wanting to use what I had already purchased, I pulled the table out, emptied all the drawers and removed one side of the table and a gateleg. I attached these to the wall below my windows and put the casters on my storage ottoman. Bingo! I now have an easily accessible work or eating space with a lovely view.

Problem solved!

This solution renders the drawers on the back side of the table pretty much unusable, but I have plans to remove them as well and use them in another location. The drawers on the front hold office supplies. By pulling the runner back a few feet the ottoman on casters easily rolls into place. I can setup or break down in seconds.


I would encourage anyone designing a tiny house to not make all your design decisions and purchases all at once. After living in it, the space will reveal itself to you and how to best accommodate your needs. My lower cabinets have temporary storage in them and I am glad because I am learning exactly what I would like to have under there.

I am happy to report that the house is staying warm and my water continues to run hot as winter finally showed up after January tricked us into thinking it would be an early spring. There have been some big winds on this little hill and you can feel the house slightly rock when the gusts hit. The house made some odd groans when the temps dropped well below zero, but is holding its own in this climate.

The first round of snowfall…and it continues.

“In the midst of winter I discovered that there was in me an invincible summer” Albert Camus

Be Well Friends,

Hillary D.



The blog has been quiet, but life has not.  The final push to rid my mind and my world of excess and get moved into the little house took great effort and exhausted my reserves last fall.  The “trek to tiny” also had a backstory that took center stage as I closed out 2018.

Idaho to Colorado and a roadside stop somewhere along the way.

There were many reasons that seeded this trip to living smaller, taking up less space. But nothing inspired me more than my sister’s journey walking day to day for over nine years with cancer .  She was a constant in my life, there are no memories before her.  Jen is always there; in the backseat, the tent, on the chairlift, the trails, the bike path, splashing in the pool.

Nothing can bring clarity to life like a terminal illness, not only for those that live with the reality, but for those who love them as well.  My heart was speaking that a vastly simplified life would be a blessing when her time was coming to a close.  Shortly after the move to the tiny house was complete, it was time to refocus and head several states over to help her transition to her next journey.

Little Sister 1967

I am home, tucked into the little house looking out over a snowy landscape. It is now, in this strange universe of normality and grief, that I am learning if my vision of a small space bringing contentment was a thought after an extra glass of wine, or a reality. There has been a learning curve.

I am happy to come home to my warm, light filled, cozy home, however Mr. G is having some adjustments. When the kids left, the bird died, and I gave away all my belongings he looked worried that he’d be next. I am confident that I can ease his anxiety and we are going to settle into a lovely life where we’re parked.

Mr G. looks pretty happy this morning as I write.

Having hot running water in the house was a must for me, but I am discovering how little water I can get by with, because dragging the hose out to fill the 30 gallon tank this time of year is a major pain. Having access to the main house has greatly simplified wintertime. Rather than deal with the gray and fresh water tanks, I am finding it easier to fill a gallon jug when I’m in the house and catch the gray water to dispose of. I run the pump and hot water heater sporadically, just to ensure everything is still working properly during winter.

Works for me.

Bill’s generosity of hosting the trek to tiny and access to his house for showers, ukulele sessions, meals, and movies is proving to be our perfect set-up and lots of fun! When gardening season begins and the hose is out all the time I will freely use the water systems in the house, including the shower. Until then this reminds me of camping, when I am often the happiest.

There are several key spaces that were intentionally left undone, I wanted to make those decisions after living in the house for awhile and I’m glad I did. I am now able to design the spaces to accommodate what I actually need, not what I think I need. A deep pantry shelf was not convenient for getting to the back, so I found a simple solution that is working great. It will be fun to watch the other unfinished spaces tell me what will work.

Pantry solutions.

I walk back and forth to the house frequently as I was not able to finish the toilet set-up before leaving. It isn’t the most convenient, but in making the trip to the house I’ve seen beautiful sunrises, starry cold nights and a big mama moose greeting me as I rounded the corner. Until the weather warms up and brings more motivation for home projects I’ll continue to shuffle to the main house in my slippers.

Warm on a cold night.

Thank you for reading, for those who are interested in the process of making changes and trying a new way of life, I will continue to share my trek.

Healing doesn’t have to be extravagant, expensive, or traditional.   Sometimes it just means going to the places that make us feel good.”   Melodee Beattie

She was a gift.

Be Well,

Hillary D.

Stepping Off The Cliff

Stepping Off The Cliff

I stand at the edge of the cornice; the fog is thick so I am not entirely sure where the edge is.  My two friends are on either side of me and we are all tentatively waiting for one of us to jump off the fragile lip into the unknown steep, snowy terrain below.  Suddenly Jay, the most accomplished skier of the three of us leaps.  I see him make one great turn and he is swallowed by the thick white cloud.

My remaining friend and I  look at each other and I’m afraid.  I feel for where the ground ends and the air begins with my ski pole.  Andrea suddenly disappears over the precipice and I don’t hear any cries of distress so I’m sure she is riding the adrenaline that deep snow and perfect turns provides.

I am alone and now must make the decision to trust my abilities and my equipment and go for it, or take the safe route and meet up with them at the bottom.  I choose to risk what could be an unpleasant fall and jump the overhang.  As soon as I commit I have the thought that this kind of skiing is for people much younger than me. Suddenly I am airborne and must now focus and relax all at once.  My skiis connect with the ground and it is important to find my center of gravity quickly or I will end up exhausting myself digging out from what will be an epic fall.  I survive the first turn and now trusting in myself I relax and enjoy the feeling of flying downhill.

Life is often much like that steep, blind cornice.  Unknown terrain that requires a measurable amount of trust in order to jump in and fly.  I’ve had many falls and injuries over my decades of skiing and yet the cold air and the thrill continued to outweigh the risk and I would return year after year.  Sometimes I stand on the edge of my life, testing the safety factor for much longer than when I stood on top of that steep mountain. I forget that I can have that same courage in my personal life, I just have to be willing to take the risk, to trust my abilities, and jump into the unforeseen with abandon.

I am at the edge, about to leap into a new way of living, discarding much of what has been familiar for so long.  Just like that memorable day of skiing, this leap is mixed with excitement and fear, but I am ready.  When fear or doubt seeps in, I remind myself that I will have enough.  In 300 square feet I will have running water, heat, a place to store and prepare food.  There is a comfortable spot to read, write, create art or binge on Netflix.  I have a cozy loft to nap with the soon to come rain and snow.  I have enough work and money to take care of myself and also practice generosity.  I have enough.

My Leap of Faith

Be well and live abundantly!

Hillary D.


Storage Wars

Storage Wars

My days have gone into hyper-drive and are pressing me to accomplish goals because long anticipated deadlines are in view.  The youngest graduated high school with high honors, family visited, there was a delightful home stay from my daughter who has been living in New Zealand and has now relocated to Colorado, and my house is up for sale.  All of this adds up to “Go” time!

The goal is to be living full-time in the tiny house by September, which means I want to have the interior as settled as possible.  I’ve lived in homes that were never quite finished (missing trim is always a common thread), and with the size of this house I am determined to completely finish it out.  Since the last blog post there has been good progress.

LifeProof Vinyl Flooring is done.

I built a little entry deck.

A large tree that was threatening the main house came down.

Tiny woodstove is ready to go!

Sink is ready for the plumber.

Happy with my window trim!

I’ve been taking full advantage of the cool weather (hoodies in July!) and working as much as my body will stand because I know once the heat hits I’ll want to kayak and hike in the high country. My latest puzzle piece has been the storage stairs to the loft, which I constructed out of 3/4″ birch plywood. They are proving to be sturdy and solid, and a handrail on the wall should up the safety factor. The last step is designed so that I can sit on the loft edge and my feet hit the stair tread.

Working my way down…still need lots of trim and finish work.

There is a surprising amount of storage in the little house and I will have everything I need and want.  My current home is slowly but surely emptying out and I have been giving many items away in what I call the “Freebie Project”.  The project caught the eye of Sandpoint Magazine and I was invited to write an article, you can read it on the last page of  Sandpoint Magazine here.


I am committed to stay true to the minimal amount of items I choose to keep as I hope to never go through this process again! Eventually someone has to make decisions about what we have chosen to buy, store, and fill our homes and garages with.  I’ve given away almost 200 items and made countless trips to the thrift store.   Dump trips bring the greatest awareness the impact our consumption has on the earth.

The metal pile is two stories high.

Focus, determination and small attainable goals continue to propel me towards intentional living.  The kids and I are all learning lessons about letting go. Letting go of childhood and becoming young adults, learning to parent in new ways, selling the house that has great memories attached to it for an unknown “new normal”.  Letting go of job positions to focus on new work, it is definitely a season of transitions.

May your summer be filled with good books, good food, great company, adventure and a stellar nap or two.

Be Kind to yourself…

Hillary D.


Tiny Spaces, Big Places

Tiny Spaces, Big Places

As my son so aptly stated, “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” We came to the Olympic Penninsula prepared for any kind of weather but were surprised by the vast beauty that would surround us for the next week. I am slightly obsessed with small spaces so we would be exploring the area in a 1988 VW Vanagon, named Pilchuck, rented from the Seattle company Peace Vans.

Pilchuck at Fort Flagler Campground

Since we live close to the Amtrak station that would take us to Seattle we decided to start our adventure by walking to the train, which arrived at 11:30 p.m. Trudging through dark downtown Sandpoint carrying backpacks, luggage and our pillows was funny, until we got to the tiny station, and discovered the train was running 3 hours late. We voted that Mason run back to the house, get the car and we’d sneak in a couple hours of sleep at home.

We did make it to Seattle and once again carrying luggage and pillows we boarded the Link and arrived at Peace Vans. The company is friendly, laid back and had our van ready and waiting. We received a tour of Pilchuck, the in’s and out’s of driving the vehicle and were handed the keys. As we headed to the ferry, I quickly discovered that these vehicles are a blast to drive and the other VW van drivers giving you the peace sign as you pass only adds to the fun.

If deserted beaches, empty campgrounds and sparsely populated trails are your thing, then spring in Olympic National Park is a good time to visit. With 9 feet of snow still on Hurricane Ridge and a vehicle that chugs up hills at a max speed of 45 we decided to stay in the coastal regions. It took us several days to settle into a routine in the van. Where did everything go while driving, and where do things go when camping? The van had lights, a heater, refrigerator, sink and stove and was fully stocked with everything needed to make a meal.

Westfalia “Kitchen”

Cooking on the provided camp stove outdoors became my preferred method for meals, while the “kitchen” in the van was functional, moving about in that space was cumbersome. At night we would shift all our luggage to the front seats, unfold the upper bunk where the teenager slept, fold down the seats for the lower bed and settle in. It surprised me that the three of us in such close quarters all slept exceptionally well.

I’d flip on the heater to take off the morning chill, make coffee and we’d begin the routine of shifting everything back to travel mode. We loved exploring the beaches, the rainforest, waterfalls and big tree forests. The last day of the trip blessed us with the beauty of Crescent Beach and a pod of Orcas passing by.

Crescent Beach Island

While we truly loved the experience of this vacation, a van conversion will not be in my future, I learned that I prefer my little travel trailer. Having a homebase for several days and exploring from there suits me, the van requires you pack up, so we’d be sure we were done with the vehicle before setting up camp.

Taking a step away from the tiny house and going on a roadtrip was a great idea. Sometimes a big deep breath away is the best medicine. I am back at it now, but, I am able to flip a switch … and viola … I have light!

Let There Be Light!

I also have a shower. The shower took some thought on how to raise it to accomodate water tanks. The resulting design is interesting, I’ll let you know how the bathroom all plays out.

Unconventional in every way…had to get creative.

The plumber is just waiting for me to give him the green light. I am working on kitchen countertops now and I envision myself moving around in the space, with the little wall mounted woodstove (one of my favorite purchases!) set on the wall high enough to see the fire crackling away.

Stove needs to be lowered but I look forward to a crackling little fire.

Making kitchen decisions.

Life is busy, and changing, and what was a vision is becoming a reality. I stood tired in the middle of the floor one night and had a powerful reality that you really can do anything if you want it bad enough. It may not be perfect and it won’t appeal to everyone, bit it truly is my little dream come true.

Continue to be kind, and don’t forget to spend some time thinking in the sun.

Be Well,


The Darkness and the Light

The Darkness and the Light

It’s a beautiful world, one filled with wonder and inspiration.  And then there is the darkness, because there can never be light without the dark.

My small-town community is a profound juxtaposition of the dark and the light.  Every time I leave the house beauty surrounds me. Snow kissed mountains, deep fresh water lakes and rivers. Eagles and moose that surprise me on my daily walks, and people who love and do whatever it takes. Then the sun sets and darkness presides. Darkness has immense “make you wonder” beauty, but there is also darkness that creeps into the daily rythmn of the light.

Two recent suicides have left me digging deep with questions that have no answers.  I truly love my job. It’s not the easiest,  or best paying job I’ve ever resigned the hours of my life to.  If you think parenting is hard, commit your days to education. Commit to showing up and being the adult responsible for satisfying parents and the state that their kids are acquiring all the skills required for educational success. But also bear the weight of the emotional and behavioral turmoil of being human as a teenager. Whew.

The suicide of the father of my son’s friend, and then, a principal of a regional high school really shook the foundation on which I walk.  I don’t take lightly the influence I have on kids I spend approximately 170 days a year with. Almost 1/2 of a student’s life is spent with teachers and administration, meaning the influence is divided between work and home

To have a principal, a leader,  who has stood before their student body to encourage, discipline and mentor, and then take their own life is beyond devestating.  Not just one family is destroyed, but hundreds of families will remember their high school years defined by this one event.

The potential for violence in our schools, upon others or self inflicted, is no joke. Something has shifted in our culture and everyone has their favorite scapegoat. Video games, the NRA, social media, greed, smart phones, mental illness, conservatives, liberals,  illegal aliens, poverty, politics … the list is endless.  I don’t have an answer

This I know to be true, I love my kids, and I love your kids too.

So  stay connected, ask the questions, listen and be kind when you hear the answer.

Shine some light…

Hillary D.