Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

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Laguna Beach, CA – On a Shoestring

One of the reasons Mark and I have been house sitting for over a year is so we can live “for free”, taking care of people’s home and pets, while they are away. For us, it is a perfect exchange, with quite a few perks, one of which is the variety of places we get to live in. We don’t seek out super desirable locations and make the destination our highlight as many other sitters do, but prefer longer term sits and weekend explorations in each area we find ourselves in. The United States has interesting parks, beaches and cities everywhere!

On the most beautiful day during our three-week sit in Costa Mesa, Southern California, we put on shorts and flip-flops and headed for the beach; Laguna Beach to be precise. Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – January 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 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. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

You now 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. As a matter of fact, I owe the government $1500 for health care insurance in 2016 (and a lot of taxes!), because our income was a bit higher than anticipated. 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! 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 January. Fuel is higher than usual because of our drive to Southern California, and we took some friends out to dinner, but we finally succeeded in spending less than $1000!

Continue reading

House Sit Chatter – Behind the Scenes

A few weeks ago, when Mark and I were still taking care of Herk and a pool in Rocklin, CA, we faced housing insecurities for a period of four weeks. After not finding suitable listings, we were getting a tad antsy, only a couple of weeks out. Would we be homeless between our week-long house sit in Fairfax, CA and two-month assignment in Sebastopol, CA? What would we do for four weeks? We couldn’t afford staying in a motel for that long… Luckily, some other options started to appear.

Bay in Laguna Beach

“Do you think I should apply to that two-week house sitting job in Lacey, Washington?” I ask Mark as I am reading through the assignment again.

“Sure. Why not, we don’t have anything else at the moment,” he replies. “We have nothing to lose.”

“OK,” I say. I write a nice letter, explaining why we would be the perfect sitters for their two dogs and hit the submit button, thinking how an 11-hour drive and weather that is even colder than Northern California are not ideal. Continue reading

IWSG Writing Update – February 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 “How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?”

January has been a month with little progress on the book writing front for me. Mark and I wrapped up a three-month pet sit in the Sacramento suburbs mid-month, followed by a week-long house sit in Fairfax, CA. Then, we drove all the way south, past LA, for a two and a half week puppy sit in Costa Mesa. All that moving around and “re-settling”, plus the care for a 7-month pup always looking for trouble, the attraction of sunny weather to be outdoors and my commitment to writing a few articles, leaves little time to concentrate on writing a book. Sure, my memoir is always brewing in the back of my head, but I have not put down any more words, except for trying to understand what thread I should follow. As I mentioned last month, I could use your help. But first, I’ll answer the IWSG question, since it is somewhat related. Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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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