Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

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Weekend Fun – A Letter from Lola

While this past weekend the weather was not as enjoyable as the previous one, Mark, Lola and I still had a nice time together. At least that’s what she told her loved ones in Mexico with the following letter. I couldn’t have phrased it better myself! 🙂

California Redwoods

“Hi mom and dad,

I hope you are having a good time in Mexico. While I miss you a lot, I am happy to have remained in my own comfy house. I can lay in my favorite spots, play with my favorite toys, stroll in my favorite yard, bark at my favorite deer, and each time we come back from a car ride or a walk, I am so happy to be home. Sometimes, I don’t even want to leave, because I like it here so much. Last week, when it was so warm, I lagged behind on walks and panted a lot. I can’t believe that these two drag me out into the hills every day! Well, it is kind of nice, but sometimes, I just want to nap.

Grabbing balls at the dog park

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WW – Spring is in the Air

It has been a while since I created a Wordless Wednesday post. Spring is arriving at our current two-month house sit in Sebastopol, Northern California and I am loving it. The blue sky, the warmer temperatures, the sweet blossoms and the colorful flowers… I never realized I loved the visual appearance of spring this much. Must be because we lived in the tropics, void of seasons, for a decade and, really, are not too fond of winter. Which is why we “moved” to California this fall. Compared to last year, when I posted a similar blog  in June and left for Belgium to experience spring, we have no complaints about the change of seasons this year! 🙂

Has spring sprung yet where you live?

Fruitvale Stationed – A Week in the Hood

(Oakland, CA – February 14th to February 21st, 2017)

A little while ago, Mark and I saw a house sit posting in Oakland, California that sounded just perfect. We still had a little gap to fill between our time in Costa Mesa and our current, two-month house sit in Sebastopol, and the listing we were eyeing promised to be “an oasis” in the middle of the city. Mark and I immediately thought back about the time and place we met, a desirable, pedestrian-friendly area of Oakland called Rockridge. Based on the description of this potential sit, it had to be in a similar area. After our one-week sit in Fairfax, we decided to swing by the place and meet its residents on our way south to visit friends, and then continue on to Costa Mesa.

Following the GPS directions, we arrived at Fruitvale Avenue. “This can’t be right,” Mark mumbled, as we drove along the dirty road with cars haphazardly parked and small stores reminding us of the ones in Central America. Continue reading

A Very Important Woman – My Oma

Today’s blog post is a difficult one for me. I have written emotion-laden blogs before, like the one about our sweet, smart and cute dogs Kali and Darwin and the one about my sister-in-law Dru. I never wrote about my dear aunt Monique or my paternal grandma I called meter. Both also passed away while Mark and I were sailing the seven seas. During all those years abroad, I had one massive dread and worry. It had to do with my maternal grandma, my oma, who I loved more and longer than most anyone else.

When I was thinking about this subject, I realized it is International Women’s Day today. Perfect! What better day to celebrate the woman who meant so much to me, my whole life? Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – February 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. 

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 February. It is a much higher than normal month, because we bought two sets of plane tickets for each of us. The first leg will be to Boston the end of April, from where we will both fly to Belgium for a month on May 20th. On the way back through Boston, we just have a short layover, before continuing on to San Francisco. Fuel costs are relatively high due to our return trip from Southern California. The good news is that we signed up for a fancy credit card, which gives us 100,000 points, if we spend $4000 in three months. We are doing our best to make that (high for us) number, and the flights - relatively cheap for what they offer - happily help. 🙂

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IWSG Writing Update – March 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 ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?”

I have about five completed articles in my archives which have not been published. Some of them are a few years old. I’ve sent them to particular magazines (the ones I wrote the stories for) and either got no reply, or once, a rejection.  I have reworked a couple of them and sent them off on different occasions (you are supposed to wait for a rejection before submitting elsewhere, but more often than not, I receive no answer, so after multiple months, I try again with another magazine). The one time I did hear back, it was to tell me that the story was accepted. I’m signing the contract and providing a bio today, actually. Yay! I still have a few articles left that I need and want to re-submit. It is one of the many time-consuming projects on my long to-do list. 🙂

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Completed House Sits: Costa Mesa, CA – January 24th to February 14th, 2017

When Mark and I found out about a 2.5-week house and pet sit in Southern California, we applied to take care of 7-month-old Jaxx and find warmer weather. The owner chose us for the assignment and soon after, we were on our way to Costa Mesa after visiting some friends in the San Francisco Bay Area. We were to stay in her cozy apartment, in walking distance of many stores and amenities.

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Ask a House Sitter – What Do You Do between House Sits?

For house sit assignments to line up perfectly, house sitters have to be pretty lucky. Finding consecutive house sits in highly desirable locations is pretty rare, unless you are able to secure every sit of your choice and all the dates are flexible. Or, you are in an ideal position where home owners consult with you to see when you are available. That would be the dream of all house sitters: having different owners bombard you with invitations, so you can choose which situation and location works best for you. Unfortunately, home owners are the ones to pick from an array of sitters, since the demand for house and pet sitting jobs is higher than the supply. So, what do we do to fill the gaps between house sits?

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Discoveries around Costa Mesa, CA – 10 Things to See and Do

For three weeks, Mark and I took care of a cute 7-month-old dog named Jaxx and a small apartment in Costa Mesa, California. I report on that sit here. We had never visited this area before and gladly drove the eight hours down from Northern California for some warmer, and hopefully sunnier, weather. Well, the weather was wishy-washy, but on the weekends and some late afternoons, we did our best to explore a few sites with our “happy go lucky” temporary pet. And, three times, the sun gloriously accompanied us with 70-degree weather (21°C). Here are the discoveries we made…

My personal discovery of one of Southern California’s missions

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Wordless Wednesday – Against the Odds

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 “against the odds“.

Mark does not like to pose for photos, so whenever I can convince him to be in a photo together, against all odds, it makes me happy, let alone when he actually agrees to kiss me! In some ways, the first photo is an all-in-one, what with it being Valentine’s Day yesterday (we do not celebrate this commercial event, but love each other nevertheless, even on an eight-hour drive from Southern to Northern California through heavy traffic in LA) and the WordPress theme “shadow” of last week.  Be brave, adventurous and live against the odds! 🙂

Love on a beach in Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

Hiking in Point Reyes National Seashore, California, USA

Have you done or seen anything against the odds recently?

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