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My Education at EARTH University

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Life is kind of surreal at the moment. On Friday Hazel Dean (my acting alter ego) got to work on a pilot created by one of my all time favorite people ever, Michael McDonald. And yes, it took every last shred of my self control not to say, “look what I can do,” in the tone of Stuart from MadTV after each take.

Merely days before this acting dream come true I returned home from a week in Costa Rica at EARTH University, a non profit school that teaches sustainable agricultural practices and entrepreneurship. I went on behalf of GreenLAGirl (read my first post about the trip here) with a group sent by Whole Foods to experience a week as a student.

I learned a lot during my visit, most of which I will be sharing in future posts. But my real education came from witnessing people living a life radically different from mine, and I will never be the same for it. The first thing I took away from the trip is my responsibility as a consumer. When I choose cheaper bananas over fair trade or whole trade, the difference comes out of the pockets of a laborer in Latin America. After seeing the way EARTH does business, that there is a viable solution to treat workers fairly, protect the environment and still make a profit, I have to wonder how companies and banana lovers alike can justify the savings. But more on that later.

in the banana fields

Rural Costa Ricans live with very little, but according to the Happy Planet Index as of 2009 Costa Rica ranked number one, while the U.S. was near the bottom of the list at 114. This reaffirmed for me why living with less is a worthwhile pursuit. You can imagine my excitement when I found this recent post on TinyHouseBlog. I have been following TinySunHouse for awhile now and I am really excited at the prospect of teaming up and finally making my tiny house dream a reality.

Graduation with my amazing classmates and the President of EARTH

The University threw us a fantastic graduation party. There were a couple of incredibly moving speeches, including one by EARTH President Jose Zaglul in which he told us that EARTH grads are expected to enact positive change in the world, and even though our education was compressed, he still considered us real EARTH graduates.

A reggae band comprised of students played music for us including Bob Marley’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that I had never really understood the song before. I’m an anxious person. I worry about my future, my finances, my career or lack thereof. I’m upset when things don’t go my way. Don’t worry, be happy?!? I’m very worried, and I’ll be happy after I’ve accomplished what I need to, thank you very much.

But for now, I’m on a high of eye opening, inspiring and humbling experiences. From being told by my comedy hero, “Great job young lady,” to spending time with a local farmer who had only his small farm, family and not a care in the world. There is a saying synonymous with Costa Rica. Pura Vida means life is good. And life is good.

Life is good.


Living my dreams before living in them

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If you are reading this and you are not my mom or my grandma, it is likely you were directed here on Monday by a Facebook post by either Tiny House Blog or Tumbleweed Tiny House Company or a pingback (still not sure what that is) from Tiny House Talk. However you arrived here, thank you for your visit, I hope you like what I have to say and continue to check in on my blog on occasion.

Me on Monday

Monday was a very exciting day for me. After years of appreciating tiny houses from afar, it felt amazing to be able to contribute something and feel included by the movement that encompasses my most passionate ideal. I was giddy with excitement and it must have shown because I went on an audition on Monday, and I got the part.

It’s not a big part, but it’s a big deal to me. Over the last few years, following my dreams has been an unforgiving exercise in futility. My agent even commented “you broke your streak!” excitedly through the phone. My lack of momentum had not gone unnoticed by him, but more importantly, it had weighed heavily on me.

But I’m thankful for all of it. A few tough years forced me to focus on what is really important to me. All I could think, (and still can) is how a tiny home would alleviate some of my financial ills and make pursing my passions a little less stressful. I never would have guessed that in a really weird circuitous way, that a tiny house would help me get a part, before I ever even lived in one!

A co-star on a pilot might not change my life, but the opportunity to be a part of something that is important to me, whether it be the tiny house movement, a new TV show, or learning about sustainability makes me really happy.

Tiny House Visit

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It finally happened! After years of admiring tiny houses from afar, I finally got to visit one in person! This beauty, built off of the XS-House plans by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company is the smallest tiny house on the market.

Built as part of the Small Worlds exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art, this 65 square foot home fits snugly into a parking spot. Despite its small size, the XS-House has everything one would need. Two closets stand on either side of the front door, followed by a tiny desk opposite a couch, OK really its a bench, but have some imagination! Then there is a kitchenette (a little counter with a sink and a mini fridge) and a wet bath.  Up a little ladder is the cozy sleeping loft, I tried it out and it was rather comfy.

Could this be my future tiny home?! Maybe! It is up for auction in March, proceeds will benefit early childhood programming at the museum. I am definitely bidding on it, if I win, (fingers crossed!) I will perform a little interior decor magic (I have so many ideas!!!), make it my primary residence, and post video blogs about living in 65 square feet.

An Agent of Change

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I just found an article by The New York Times relevant to what I am studying. Read about why they are calling those interested in corporate sustainability “change agents.”

Green Cars and the LA Auto Show

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photo by Ben Philabaum

That’s me with the Ford Focus 2012 Electric. It has a special place in my heart, because I have been driving the same Ford Focus for ten years. For last year’s LA Auto show, I booked a job for Ford, driving a Focus in competition against a Bentley and narrated by Olympic Skier Jonny Moseley. Unfortunately, every dime I made from that job went directly into ‘Old Bobby to keep her running, but other than that I have had very few problems with her over the years, she has been a dependable girl and I hope she lasts me another decade. But if not, its nice to have a fully electric version of her on the market. Here is my post about The LA Auto Show as contributed to

Free online Doc Streaming with Ed Begley Jr.

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I love streaming movies, but sometimes I think I am missing out on cool Q&A sessions because of my reluctance to put on real clothes and leave the house. Well the future is here. The documentary film Bag it is having a free online screening by the Plastic Pollution Coalition on Sunday Nov. 20th at 8:30 pm EST. The actor, activist and awesome Ed Begley Jr. will be hosting a live Q&A with audience members.

Bag it follows a normal guy who makes a resolution to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. Seems simple enough, right? But this decision leads him down a path that starts in a quiet mountain town (where I used to do theater with the filmmaker!) and goes all over the world looking for where the “away” is that we throw our trash. You will never look at plastic the same way again.

So this Sunday, put on your jammies, pop some corn and stream Bag it!

Tiny Texas House Essay Contest!

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Isn’t she a beauty? The Tiny Texas “Worker House” has been tormenting me for almost six months now since I entered the essay contest in the very first round. Brad Kittel of Tiny Texas Houses created the contest to raise awareness for “pure salvage building” a term for building new structures out of previously discarded materials.

Mr. Kittel’s essay contest was originally slated to end in September, when he would give away the home provided he had 1,000 entries. For reasons that are completely beyond me, that number wasn’t reached, however, he has decided to give away the home in December regardless of the number of entries.

For all you tiny house lovers who are already composing your essay in your head, here is the most important part, the latest count puts your competition at only 350 essays. You heard me. I’ve been on auditions with worse odds than that.

All you have to do is write 300 words or less explaining, “How would owning this Tiny Texas house inspire you?” Include that along with a $50 entry fee and you are eligible for an extra special Christmas or Hanukkah present!

Obviously, the tiny house obsessed part of me doesn’t really want any more entries- I want to win after all! But Brad’s gesture of giving the home away despite reaching his goal is inspiring.  He is so committed to sharing pure salvage building he is even considering more essay contests in the future.

Support this sustainable building practice and enter Here.