Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Month: April 2017

A Day in the Life of a House Sitter – Sebastopol, CA

Mark and I have been living in Sebastopol, California for over two months with precious Lola. As we are packing up and ready to leave the area, I figure it is about time to write a blog about a random day in our lives here as house sitters. I post this feature every time we do a long-term sit, like at the artist-inspired home with parrots and dogs in Kent, CT, the maple farm with Jenny in Heath, MA and our first stay in Northern California, with Herk in the suburbs of Rocklin, CA. And, just for fun, I also wrote about it during our short time in the biggest retirement community of the world, called The Villages, in Florida.

Cozy fire

Our days probably look pretty much the same as other forty-somethings with full-time jobs and no children, except for the fact that we don’t have to commute and we fill gaps, late afternoons, evenings and weekends with doggy love and devotion. 🙂 By now, once we are settled in a new place, our routine is pretty straightforward.

6:30am: The alarm goes off. Mark opens Lola’s crate and jumps in the shower. I get my own shower created by her licks, accompanied by soft moans and snuggles. It is a nice way to wake up. During the weekends, we leave the door to her crate open and she joins us in bed around the same time. Then, she has two faces to lick.

7:00am: Mark goes to work in the office and focuses on our business, The Wirie. I catch up on emails, house sit listings, blogs, comments and Facebook on my iPad, still in bed. Lola is fed downstairs and let outside by Mark. During the weekend, I get up for this part. She joins me again after her potty break.

8:00am: I get ready for the day, do some exercises and make breakfast for myself. Mark usually eats earlier or later, after starting a wood fire.

8:30am – 12:30pm: We sit behind our computers in our own office; Mark downstairs, I upstairs. Mark calls customers and takes care of random business chores, I write in my memoir or focus on other writing projects or translation jobs. Each time I leave my desk, I have to pet and hug Lola. I have a sneaking suspicion Mark does the same. She is such a sweet, cute dog!

Mark in his office

12:30pm – 1:30pm: Lunch time. We were hoping to sit in the spring sun on the deck for this often, but the excessive rain and cold temperatures did not agree, unfortunately. We eat, drink our tea and play with Lola indoors instead.

1:30pm – 3:30pm: Wirie work for Mark and social emails, reading, researching and other projects for me. Recently: studying for my Massachusetts driver’s exam.

3:30pm – 4:30pm: Loop walk with Lola in the area.

4:30pm – 5:30pm: Winding down and finishing up the work day. Lola has her dinner at 5pm and likes to play with her plethora of toys after it is all digested. More often than not, she chooses the tennis ball.

5:30pm – 6:30pm: We cook a healthy meal and hang out together at dinner. Lola is settled on her couch.

6:30pm – 9:30pm: Dishes, clean-up, picking up the mail if that hasn’t happened yet, maybe a soak in the hot tub, sometimes TV in the form of Netflix or a movie, sometimes reading blogs or magazines, sometimes, just hanging out on the couch, talking about the future. Lola keeps us company close by. When she gets sick of all the cuddles, she retreats to one of her favorite spots in the house: her leather seat in front of the fire, the bed, or the shelf in front of the big office window – perfect for spotting deer.

9:30pm: Bed time.

Rereading this, it looks like we lead a pretty boring life! But, we are enjoying the conveniences and the luxury of a homey lifestyle, still. The highlights are the weekends, when we explore what the area has to offer.

On Fridays, we usually take Lola for a walk at Ragle Ranch Regional Park and let her play with the hundreds of tennis balls at the dog park there.

Once in a while, we walk to our favorite beach at Pinnacle Gulch and when the weather is bad – it has been rainy and chilly often – we go to the movie theater or catch up on chores inside the house.

Every few days, we carry two wheelbarrow loads of chopped wood inside, fill the bird feeders and check the hot tub for maintenance.

Occasionally, we water the plants inside (so much rain has fallen that watering outside is not needed) and start the owners’ cars. And, that’s about it. Mark and I have been pretty happy here, but now it is onward to the East Coast for a few weeks to see friends, family and doctors. We will miss Lola heaps!

Rare sunny day on the porch

Two Full Days in Yosemite NP

Yosemite NP is one of the most impressive national parks in the United States, if not the world. Mark and I visited Yosemite Valley once before with my parents, in 2005, but we had mostly forgotten about its allure. That being said, when we returned to California in mid-October, the park regained a spot on our mental “things-to-do” list. We considered a weekend getaway there during our three-month house sit in Rocklin, but winter was upon us and the dog we were taking care of did not get along well with others, so we pushed Yosemite into a corner of our brains. That was until my cousin Griet and her husband Wim decided to fly in from Belgium for a 10-day vacation in Northern California. They generously treated us and Lola to a weekend in Yosemite.

The family at Tunnel View

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A Week of Sightseeing with Visitors – Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco Counties

On March 24th, Mark, Lola and I picked up my cousin Griet and her husband at SFO, the airport of San Francisco. While visiting us many times on Irie, in the Caribbean and the South Pacific (they also helped us transit the Panama Canal in January 2013), it was the first time they came to the United States. Customs and Immigration procedures took a while, as expected, but once we found each other, their 10-day vacation could start…

The heavy rains paused for about an hour and a half, in which we brought them to a viewpoint over San Francisco and to Fort Funston, an awesome off-leash dog park. Lola had been very patient in the car during the two-hour drive in rain and traffic and the one hour wait at the airport. She loved her reward in nature, our guests enjoyed their first impressions of the city and Mark and I appreciated stretching our legs during a break in the rain.

On Saturday, we revisited Armstrong Redwoods, still as impressive as the first time we came with Lola. Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – March 2017

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, 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 2% 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. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state (we are currently in California), it will be expensive for either of us! Every six months, we have to fly or drive to the East Coast for check-ups. I still pay a small three-monthly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

Here is an overview of our expenses in March. This month, the car brought us above $1000. The total could have been much higher, but our generous visitors,  my cousin Griet and her husband Wim (regulars on Irie as well) treated us to a wonderful weekend in Yosemite National Park, took us out to dinner and contributed towards wine, fuel and tolls. Thank you, guys!

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IWSG Writing Update – April 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 “Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?”

Talking about a current topic… The A to Z Blogging Challenge takes place every April. Last year, I did participate for the first time and succeeded in the challenge. I even picked a theme: “Thoughts on Being a Nomad”. You can read those posts here. After a month of writing and posting every day, the A-Z Challenge finished with a reflection post. I might have mentioned that I started work on a memoir, but I did not promote anything.

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