When we came back to Bali a few weeks ago, we really hit the ground running. We’ve been very busy, but also creative and productive, and have been enjoying our time immensely. Within one week, we found a house we wanted to live in. It’s a small 3-bedroom house near Ubud, but it’s completely unfurnished and needs some renovation. We signed a lease for 13 years, and have been having fun playing around in Google Sketchup designing what changes we want to make, and also exploring the options for furniture here in Bali, where department stores almost don’t exist and it’s easier and often cheaper to get furniture custom made. It’s been a fun creative outlet for us.
Here are a few pictures of the house.
And here are some rough screenshots of what I’m thinking the house will look like when it’s finished (except for the missing rooftops and plants and the wrong colors, etc). We’ll be knocking out walls, moving the kitchen outdoors, adding a couple rooms, and connecting the two separate houses on the second floor.
When we travel, we’ve all missed having a piano with us. And while piano keyboards have become extremely versatile in the types of sounds they can produce and in their ability to replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano, they are still among the least portable of musical instruments. I’ve wanted to change that for a long time, and I had a dream several weeks ago that inspired me to take some action on it.
I’ve been working on creating a digital piano that folds up small enough to fit inside carry-on luggage. The only other piano I’ve seen that folds (besides toys) is the Vax77, but it only has 77 keys instead of 88, it’s too big for carry-on luggage (it just folds in half), it costs $3,000, and they don’t make it anymore. So I made several sketches by hand and on Google Sketchup and have been working with some engineers trying to take it to the next step. I originally started trying to get it to fold into thirds, but I’m now thinking that fourths will work better, and I’ve drawn a few ways that it could work. Here’s one of them.
I understand that the digital piano market it relatively small, but I’m not doing this to become rich. Like my other business, Music Teacher’s Helper, I’m doing this because I want to use the product myself. Undoubtedly there will be other musicians who are tired of lugging around heavy pianos to gigs or band practices and paying expensive baggage fees to check them when flying (with the risk of having the luggage mishandled or misdirected). Perhaps a Kickstarter campaign can help me see if there will be enough interest to take it to production.
I’ve never done anything like this before, and don’t know what it will take to engineer, manufacture, sell, and support a complex physical product like this. It’s costing me quite a bit already, and the whole thing may never even get off the ground. But I’m having fun and learning a lot in the process. For example, I learned about an amazing technology called polyphonic aftertouch that allows pianists to be much more expressive in their playing, adding dynamic expressions, pitch bends, vibrato, and more to each key individually as you play. It’s an evolution of the keyboard instrument (a handful of keyboards from the 70’s and 80’s had this kind of ability, but very few since). Lately, TouchKeys has come up with a new and very impressive way of handling it. Check it out in the video below. I would love to get technology like this in my folding piano, but I don’t know if it will be cost effective to do it or not. I’ve been in touch with the inventor, and we’ll see what happens.
Dream Tracking App
I also decided to finally go ahead with the idea of my dream app. I created the plan months ago, but I figure now is as good a time as any to make it a reality. It’s like many of the dream logging apps that already exist, where you write down the details of your dreams upon waking. Only this will include reports that analyze your dreams to show you the themes you’re dreaming about most regularly and help you find connections and symbols your subconscious is dwelling on regularly. There’s a lot more I may do with it, but that’s the basic gist. I plan to make a version for both iPhone and Android.
By the way, for those wondering why I’d share all my business ideas publicly before I’ve even created them (rather than requiring you to sign an NDA before I even tell you about the idea, as many new entrepreneurs do), it’s because I realize business success isn’t so much about the idea as it is about the execution of the idea. And even if someone else with a lot of resources and passion and experience came along and made these products before me, then great! Now I don’t have to spend my time and money creating it and I can just enjoy using the product. Just let me know if you’re doing it so I can say thanks and buy one from you when it’s ready. :)
Writing and Playing Music
I’m also getting back into music more again. For months, every time I sat at the piano to play, I would hit the record button. Much of what I played was gibberish, boring, predictable, or uninspiring. But every so often I played something that touched me or was really fun. So I’ve paid someone to transcribe those pieces from midi into readable sheet music for me (since doing that myself would be time consuming and doesn’t sound like much fun). I’ve been working on developing these pieces and will hopefully have some new music of my own to perform soon. I’m studying more jazz piano as well, because I want to get better at improvising using more complex chord structures and voicings. If you know of any good advanced-level jazz piano books or pieces (fun jazzy music to play so I can get the feeling in my fingers), let me know — especially if I can buy it digitally.
We’ve also jumped right back into homeschool with more gusto than ever. We’re working about 3 hours per day solidly with the kids on everything from math and reading to science and music. And we’re all enjoying it, for the most part. It’s fun to see the kids improve and learn about things they’re interested in. For example, Emily is learning html and css through CodeAcademy.com. Marie is enjoying the Land of Stories books. And Aysia is pretending to be a princess and enjoying all the toys and dress-ups that are available in this house we’re renting until the renovations are complete on our other house. Jen’s doing an amazing job with the girls and has found a lot of fun homeschool resources for them — more just keep popping up all the time that make it so much more fun and easy to learn than when we were kids. She’s also working with the kids on designing some clothes to have a tailor make for them, possibly to sell as their own clothing line.
So, we’re doing a lot right now. We’ve even been doing our own cooking. It’s been so long since we’ve cooked big meals and done dishes that last week, the girls really wanted to do them. They were even fighting over who got to do the most dishes, thinking it wasn’t fair if they didn’t get to do as much as their sibling. Unfortunately, that’s over and I end up doing the dishes most days. But starting next week, we’ll be having someone come to make dinners, which will free up a bit more time. There’s a lot to balance — time alone to recharge, time together, time with friends, and more, but we’re loving the routines we’ve set up, and the creativity that’s flowing. We’ll continue taking life one day at a time, and try to be present to enjoy each moment along the way.
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02 Jun 2019
I would totally buy that fold-up 88 key keyboard, especially if it had weighted keys and felt like a real piano. I had a yamaha clavinova back in the day (1992/3 I think I bought it) – with weighted keys, and was the closest electronic keyboard I found to sounding and feeling like a real piano. I’m in Costa Rica now, and we will be renting and moving around – and I’m currently without a piano! How soon can you make this? :)
I’d like it to feel like a real piano as well. I want to keep the weight limit down too, though, so it’s portable, and I’m still researching how best to accomplish both. I wish I knew how long it would take, but I’ll be sure to post more updates as I get closer. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who wants this! :)
Awesome, thanks. Enjoy following you and your family! Post more! :)
Well, I know I’m certainly loving all these new developments. :) It’s fun to have some new creative juices flowing around here, and I like how we’re focusing our energy and attention. I’m excited to see where it all leads, but I’m especially enjoying the process along the way. I may have to start using that dream app myself too, once it’s available.
How exciting! You really are involved in a lot of interesting projects. I look forward to updates on each of them.
I’m a bit surprised you took a lease for 13 years. It sounds like you have made that decision of where you want to settle. :-) It looks and sound like such a lovely, beautiful place.
Yes, we love it here in Bali. We probably won’t stay the whole 13 years, and may only be in Bali half of each year anyway, but we’re glad to have a more permanent home base.
This post makes me happy. I love seeing and hearing that everyone in the family is tapping into and exploring, developing, expressing themselves creatively. Honestly – isn’t that one of the best rewards for the life you’ve created for yourself? Can’t wait to visit your new home in Bali. I’d love to see bedspreads, furniture, pillows or window covering with some of the beautiful batik fabrics we all went gaga over in the fabric market :)
And I’d love one of those pianos as well!
just some advice based on experience & friends’ experiences:
not saying not to go ahead with home improvements, but you might wanna really really spend time to go around & meet & talk with others who’ve had any kind of work done already. anywhere in the world there’s bound to be snafus along the way, however, it’s my understanding that in asia time frames are quite extended & once you get something started there’s no telling when it might get finished, or at least finished to a state where it’s functional & usable.
again, not trying to be negative, just fair warning. you might even think of dividing the projects up & tackling them one at a time. the benefit of this is twofold: your place is not completely in shambles should something go wrong (it always does…) and it kind of keeps the general contractor on his toes because if he knows you have the potential to feed him another project somewhere down the line, then he will pay much more attention to the task(s) at hand than he would if you just gave him the whole shebang at once & he is then free to work as he pleases (cuz after all, you’re not going anywhere, right).
Good advice. Yeah, no telling yet when the project will be finished (or even how much it will cost)… Our design plans may even change once the walls are knocked out and we see what’s there. Hoping to have it completed by the end of the year, but we’ll deal with whatever happens. I’m glad to have a knowledgeable contractor from Australia leading the team and keeping the workers on their toes. We’ve known him for a while as a friend, and his work has also been recommended by other friends of ours. I’ll do what I can to speed it along if necessary, but it will be finished when it’s finished, and it will be the right time.
I love all of your ideas. That piano would be amazing to have. I would actually be surprised if there isn’t more of a market for it than you are thinking. Having been married to a “band guy” for 10 years, and knowing all of his other band friends… there are SO many musicians who would love to have a more portable keyboard. It is a very great idea! I am excited to see how it unfolds. (Pun intended.) :)
Your app idea sounds very interesting, as well. I will certainly have to purchase it once it becomes available.
Great job with homeschooling, Jen!! I am sure the girls are learning so much and having a great time.
And I am looking forward to seeing how your house develops over the next few months, and to see it in person, eventually :D Love you guys!
Sounds like you guys are doing great! I’m happy to know that I’m learning right along with Emily on Codecademy! cool! (My long term vision is to have a tuition-free school for women in tech and get involved in middle and high school to keep girls supported in the sciences.)
I have also started to think of ways to get girls interested in getting into development instead of just being a user. You’ll have to let me know if she starts sharing her work on GitHub!
All three of your girls are rockstars! (wonder how they got there) ;-)
Thanks for sharing – another great reason to share your ideas is to get feedback and maybe even more ideas!
You and your family are so inspiring. I’m a single mother of a 3.5 year old, and have been working hard for the past several years to build a life in which I can homeschool, work remotely part time, and travel extensively and live in another country for 1-3 months per year. I really appreciate all that you share about how you are making it work. I find most people think I’m nuts when I talk about doing this as a single mother, but I’m optimistic and enjoying the process of figuring it all out. Thanks for your inspiration!
Thanks for the comment, Mishka, and congratulations on taking the steps to live the life of your dreams. Not everyone will understand what you’re doing or why but that’s okay if it rings true for you. Enjoy!
Wow–so many big new projects you’ve undertaken!! Best of luck with the home remodels, and I hope the keyboard idea can go to fruition–it would be awesome!!! Tell your family “hello” from this side of the world!!!
Thanks Alisa. We’re planning to visit a spot near you this summer — hope you’ll be around as we’d love to hang out with you guys again. :)
I assume there will be a HUGE interest in a light, foldable piano with decent sound qualities! There is a large number of (amateur) pianists who travel for work or pleasure and would like to take an instrument with them… We are just now discussing this in a piano forum again, and it seems like the usual piano/keyboard manufacturers have not come up with any good solutions yet. Which is surprising and disappointing. Maybe you could ask around in the worldwide online piano community to get some support for this?
Yes, definitely. Which forums would you recommend?