Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Month: January 2017

Fairfax, CA: January 14th – January 21st, 2017

Since this was a short house sit, I am writing our experiences as a “Completed House Sit” post.

A couple of months ago, Mark and I came across this one-week house sit in Fairfax while living in Rocklin, CA. While the assignment was much shorter than we prefer, Fairfax is an attractive, up-scale town about an hour north of San Francisco, there were a cute dog and chickens involved and the owners happily selected us as their sitters. Then, about a month later, we received the devastating news that 10-year-old dog Xander had unexpectedly passed away (from the same symptoms as our dog Darwin in 2010). We were shocked about the sad event, but considered the impact and how we would feel if this had happened on our watch. It is the nightmare of every pet sitter! The owners still preferred our involvement, to take care of their seven chickens and have a presence in the house. We obliged.

These chickens are pretty and soft!

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Wordless Wednesday – Graceful

I have decided to post photos (or videos) of past travels in general and our eight year sailing adventure on SV Irie in particular for Wordless Wednesdays.  Also, I can’t manage “completely wordless”, but I’ll try my best at “almost wordless”. 🙂

With thousands of photos and tons of movies haphazardly archived over the years, I can’t easily pick what to post, so I use the weekly prompt of the Daily Post to inspire my Wordless Wednesdays. This week’s Daily Post photography theme is “graceful“.

One early morning, in the bay of Hanamoenoa on the island of Tahuata in the Marquesas, French Polynesia, we saw the tips of wings break the water surface. It didn’t take long for Mark and I to don our snorkel gear and join our neighboring friends in the water to observe the unique spectacle of gentle manta rays feeding on plankton in the bay. Their wing span is wider than our length and their presence was majestic. The four of us just relaxed in the water, while these graceful giants swam back and forth, once in a while touching our bodies with their velvety wings, unwithered by the big, indigestible nuggets floating in their soup. Enjoy this peaceful encounter!

What comes to mind when you think about graceful?

Rocklin, CA: October 14th, 2016 – January 10th, 2017

After every house sit Mark and I finish, I write a quick overview for my “Completed House Sits” category. This allows readers to get a feel for our particular assignments and offers potential home owners insights into how we would function in their home, and care for their sweethearts. It also brings conclusion for me, saying goodbye to our temporary pet(s) and the place we called home for a bit.

For this three-month house and pet sit in Rocklin, California, Mark and I drove across the country and left the New England area indefinitely. I recently wrote about a typical day in our lives as house sitters in Rocklin, so I won’t repeat myself. We enjoyed our stay in a comfortable house with all the amenities we could wish for and in the company of a great pooch.

Herk is a very sweet and cute dog to care for. Continue reading

WW – Ambiance

I have decided to post photos of past travels in general and our eight year sailing adventure on SV Irie in particular for Wordless Wednesdays.  Also, I can’t manage “completely wordless”, but I’ll try my best at “almost wordless”. 🙂

With thousands of photos haphazardly archived over the years, I can’t easily pick what to post, so I use the weekly prompt of the Daily Post to inspire my Wordless Wednesdays. This week’s Daily Post photography theme is “ambiance“.

I relate ambiance with a feeling of contentment and joy. Many times a wonderful ambiance is created when hanging out with friends, something we finally get to do more often these days. The first thing that came to my mind when discovering this week’s photo theme was a campfire. The crackling sound, the woodsy smell, the intense warmth, the constantly changing shape of the flames all create an ambiance I can wallow in for hours.

Check out Terri’s post about this topic on Second Wind Leisure Perspectives. You might recognize some of the characters… 🙂

What does ambiance mean to you?

Things to See in the Northern Gold Country

When Mark and I stayed in Rocklin, California for a three-month house and pet sit assignment, we took advantage of the nice weekends to explore the region a bit. Located in the northern part of the Central Valley, Rocklin lies in close proximity to California’s northern gold country, an area that became famous during the 1849 gold rush. Waves of immigrants, now known as the 49ers, were attracted by the rich soils, containing gold and other minerals, and moved to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada to work in the gold mines. Appropriately named State Route 49 is the primary north-south highway through Gold Country, along which many historic mining communities can be visited.

Nevada City street scene

Auburn

Barely a half an hour drive from us, Auburn was easily accessible for a visit. The main attractions in town are Old Town, the Gold Rush Museum and Placer County Courthouse, which also contains the Historical Museum. After a quick glimpse of town, we preferred the excellent hiking opportunities in Auburn State Recreation Park.

Grass Valley Continue reading

Then and Now – Yoga

This is my last “Then and Now” post for the time being, and I think it is perfect for Wordless Wednesday as well! 🙂

Then – San Blas Islands, Panama, 2012

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Expense Report 2016

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without being rich. Or even without owning/earning a lot of money. 2016 is the first full year that Mark and I have been living on land as house and pet sitters. This is therefore my first yearly expense overview.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, oat milk for Mark and organic 1% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits starting in 2017. Since December 2016, I have to pay for health insurance in the US. I still contribute in Belgium for health care as well (required to keep my citizenship), which is a small three-monthly fee only reported here. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls.  Accommodation is our best category, because we live totally rent-free and in comfort, wherever we end up. 🙂

Here is an overview of our expenses in 2016. I am surprised at how high our grocery costs are and that owning a car - even a small and efficient hybrid one like ours - is relatively pricey. That being said, we spend way less money on our Prius than we did on our 35' catamaran those eight years. Parts,  maintenance and insurance were sometimes six fold that every year, but living costs when cruising were much lower than on land. While we spent between $12,000 and $20,000 yearly on Irie (2007-2015), traveling all over the Caribbean and French Polynesia, 2016 had us part with $14,614, living a semi-settled life, without having to pay for utilities or rent. It seems like a lot. This year, we hope to do better in the grocery and computer category!

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A Day in the Life of a House Sitter – Rocklin, California

Most of the time when Mark and I do a house sit that is longer than one week, I create a post about how an ordinary day in our life as house and pet sitters looks like. Many of the tasks are the same, but there are always some unique aspects that have to do with each home, area or pet. Past “A Day in the Life of…” posts cover our time in The Villages, Florida, which is the biggest retirement community in the world, Kent, Connecticut, where we took care of four pets for a highly creative and accomplished couple and Heath, Massachusetts, where we lived on a maple farm.

As I was thinking about this particular house sit, I couldn’t help but realize that our days are probably pretty similar to most people of our age living an “ordinary” life, with the main differences that we both work from home and don’t have kids.

This is how a normal workday for us looks like in Rocklin during our three month sit: Continue reading

IWSG Writing Update – January 2017

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing.  Since August 2016, the IWSG offers a particular question as a writing prompt for their members. Answering it is optional. This month that question is “What writing rule do you wish you never heard?”

December has been an interesting month, what with the “holidays” (do writers – or their heads – ever take holidays?) and our time in Rocklin, California dwindling down. During this recent three-month house sit, Mark and I lived in the suburbs of Sacramento. Due to the “boring” surroundings and less than ideal weather, I happily sat behind my computer every day, all day. I worked a lot on my memoir and think about it constantly when away from my temporary desk. Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – December 2016

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without being rich. Or even without owning/earning a lot of money. That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is car, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free and in comfort, wherever we end up. 🙂

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, oat milk for Mark and organic 1% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits starting in 2017. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

From now on, you will see health insurance and costs related to my health care, since we are not in the lowest income bracket anymore and I am not a US citizen. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If something were to happen outside of that state (we are currently in California), it will be expensive for either of us! I still pay a small three-monthly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I will report on in my year report.

Here is an overview of our expenses in December. We really thought we would manage spending less than $1000, despite the holiday season, but, our car needed some work! Thanks to our friends Sue and David from Travel Tales of Life, our eating out category is lower than it could have been. 🙂 Next week, I will post our expense report of the year 2016.

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