Housesitting is Like a Box of Chocolates

2PMhousesittingislikeaboxofchoclates

House-sitting is like a box of chocolates. There are so many unique opportunities to choose from and you are never quite sure what you’re going to get until you arrive on the doorstep.

It’s been just over 60 days and we are now on our fifth house-sitting gig. Each has had it’s own unique charm. Hubs and I luxuriated for a month in a large home in the suburbs. Next we watched the sun rise over Mt. Hood from a high-rise loft and enjoyed Christmas in the city. New Years day we hiked the “back forty” surrounding our custom built cabin on Whidbey island and took the ferry to go to the movies. Last week we settled into a very tiny no-frills house within walking distance to all of the art, culture, food and drink that Ashland has to offer. We’ve thrilled to glorious snow-capped mountain views, driven through rain, sleet, ice and snow, made good use of the Washington State Ferry System, become best-buds with five fabulous kitties and two lovable dogs. We’ve slept in big beds, small beds, hard beds, soft beds…just call me Goldilocks.  But I haven’t seen any bears. Yet. DottieinLangley Ferryatnight PMmountainview tacomanarrowsbridge

All this adventure and we’re still in Oregon. This was definitely not the plan. We thought we would be soaking up the sun in Arizona by now. Sometimes you make the plan and sometime the plan reveals itself as you go. For once, we’ve been smart enough to go with the flow and let the plan unfold as it will. Not so easy for a habitual planner, but I’m learning to (mostly) let it be.

So do we have a plan? Yes we do. And it’s quite simply this…to sample every damn chocolate in the house-sitting box. We think it’s a pretty good plan.

We’re in Ashland for almost three months which gives us time to experience living like we are locals. Hubs has found a gym and a trainer. Yea! I’ve signed up for yoga, tried a new hair dresser (that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped), settled in to a new afternoon tea place, met a lovely friend Dany who just moved up from California and plan to take a needle felting class at the fabulous Ashland Art Center this Friday. We’ve stocked the larder, located the liquor store and the wine shop and know our way around the food co-op. We’ve met the neighbors and been invited for cocktails. Not bad for the first week. Ashland is our current box of See’s and we’re hoping to sample every buttercream, truffle and nougat that this little town has to offer. Life is sweet!

Cheers!

Nancy


					

Housesitting 103 ~ Get a Backgound Check

Experienced house sitters have told us it is a very good idea to get a background check.  A quick visit to your local police station will earn you a document that says you have never done anything illegal in your home town.  I’m not so sure that would sway my decision to invite a stranger into my home, but apparently it helps.

Since hubs and I plan to take our house sitting adventure to other countries, we thought we should go full banana and get the FBI verified check.  Go big or go home!

So, last October we took a little noon-time field trip to meet up with the roving fingerprint lady.  She sets up in the hallway at various local courthouses and does a booming business inking and pressing fingertips into tiny squares.  Twenty bucks apiece and a few minutes of our time and we’d be out the door and on to a lovely lunch.

Or so we thought.  The indignities of growing old seem to pop up when you least expect them.  Who know that old fingers are DRY fingers and if you have DRY fingers, the cheerful fingerprinting lady cannot get a usable print.  Ink.  Press. Check.  Nope.  Ink. Press. Check. Nope.  I was up first and it was becoming somewhat embarrassing as I was holding up an ever-growing line of 20-somethings who were there on their work breaks hoping to pop in and out in ten minutes.  Well that was definitely not going to happen. Because the old people with the dried up fingers are on re-take number TWENTY!  Finally, all 8 fingers and my two decrepit thumb prints passed muster and she moved on to hubs.  I have to be honest here and say that even though I felt bad for the long line of folks waiting for us to be done with it, I was not unhappy that his fingers were as blurred by time as mine.  The friendly fingerprint lady finally dosed him up with some kind of very thick hand grease and voila! we were outta there.  Cheers were heard from the back of the line.

All we had to do next was fill out the simple one page form, attach our perfectly inked prints, toss in a check for $36 (for two – quite a bargain) and mail everything off to the FBI office in Maryland.   And wait.

And wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

The form clearly stated that with the current backlog, we should not expect anything back for 21 days but to not even think about calling them for 4-6 weeks.

So we waited and then waited again.

I was beginning to worry.  What if our paperwork had somehow gotten lost and our hard-won fingerprints had to be taken all over again?  Do not make me go there.

Finally, last Tuesday, about 4 1/2 months after we started this process, a lovely brown envelope from The Department of Justice arrived in the mail.  I’d passed FBI scrutiny and now had a very nondescript piece of paper to prove it.  And my fingerprints had not been rejected – which really was my biggest concern.

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What about hubs?  He’s still waiting.  I keep asking if there is anything he wants to confess, but he swears he’s clean.

So far, we have not been asked for a police/security background check for any of the house sits we have applied for or gotten, but I am confident that having them will add to our resume and profile.  Proof that we are always willing to go the extra mile.

The other benefit that came out of this experience?  I am now diligent very about hand cream!

We are actively seeking house sits for Summer/Fall in the western US and Canada.  If you know anyone who would benefit from our services, please send them over to our website Global Housesitting Pros.  Thanks for helping us spread the word.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

Top Baby Boomer Travel Blog 2015 Awards

And the winners are… pause for breath-holding… pause for envelope opening …

Well, actually there are 20 winners.  But I am beyond excited to be named one of FlipKey’s Top Baby Boomer Travel Blogs to follow in 2015.  There are some well-seasoned travelers and heavy-hitter bloggers in the mix.  And now me and Just a Backpack and a Rollie.

I’ll take it!

And hubs and I will keep on dragging our backpacks and rollies and sharing our adventures with you throughout 2015.  I’ve been busy applying for house sitting gigs all along the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  And we have some very interesting gigs in the works.

So please click on through to the wonderful post on the FlipKey blog and check out our fellow boomer travel bloggers.  They are all truly an inspiration to me.

And here is our little Award.  She’s not a gold statue, but I think she’s pretty cute.

The Big Float ~

It rains in Portland. It rains a lot!  So when summer rolls around and the sun finally shines its happy light on us, everyone heads for the great outdoors and some fun in the sun – Portland style.  Which is how hubs and I ended up at The Big Float.

Wandering the streets of downtown Portland

Wandering the streets of downtown Portland

This year more than 2,500 souls dragged their pale white bodies, their favorite flotation devices, kids, friends, grandma and in some cases, even their dogs through the streets of Southwest Portland making their way to Tom McCall Waterfront Park to pay the $6 fee that allowed them to participate in one of Portland’s most unique summer events. Continue reading

Camas, Washington ~ a small town gem

Camas, Washington ~ a small town gem and a great destination for a quickie weekend getaway.

welcome to beautiful downtown Camas

welcome to beautiful downtown Camas

A short 25 minute drive from the burbs of Beaverton takes us across the Columbia River into Washington State, land of legal pot for anyone who’s so inclined.  We weren’t there for the legal buzz but, by the end of the day as we wound our way back home we were definitely high on life and small town adventures.

Around 20,000 people reside in Camas and these lucky folks enjoy the best of both worlds – living in a small town within easy access to the big cities of Portland and Vancouver.  It’s about a 20 minute drive to the Portland airport and and easy drive east on Highway 14 takes you further into the Columbia River gorge for all manner of outdoor activities, art festivals, resorts, and wineries.  As they say in real estate – location, location, location.

Last Saturday morning, hubs and I headed out to stretch our legs and shake off the work week (me, not hubs the professional retired gentleman as his newly minted business cards proudly proclaim) with a leisurely seven mile stroll around Lacamas Lake, conveniently located just a few miles from the heart of downtown.  If I lived in Camas, I would definitely own a canoe!  While we walked, we enjoyed watching the lake come to life as the sun warmed the air and weekenders came out to play.

summer fun on Lacamas Lake

summer fun on Lacamas Lake

Kayakers paddled slowly and silently, hugging the waterlily lined shore while happy kids whooped and hollered as they hit the wake behind buzzing speed boats.  A few fisherman tried their luck and even a sea plane got into the act and skimmed the water for a graceful takeoff.

the trail meanders around much of Lacamas Lake

the trail meanders around much of Lacamas Lake

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the path with so much going on but we managed to avoid any walking accidents and made it back to the park and parking lot exercised, entertained and ready for lunch and a self-guided walking tour of downtown Camas.

First, lunch!  We headed to Nuestra Mesa (Our Table) where we savored a leisurely, al fresco Mexican lunch complete with cervesa for hubs and a pomegranate marguerita for moi.  We enjoyed authentic, well-prepared food in a lovely atmosphere and met the owners, Todd and Tania.  We chatted with Tania who shared their story of meeting in Sayulita where Todd, a surfer dude from the US, had opened a restaurant with his buddy and Tania, who grew up in Mexico City, was working in a family-owned business.  It’s a long way from a small beach town in Mexico to a small river town in western Washington, but we’re glad they’re here and we will definitely be back for more delicious tacos and tortas.  And next time I’m trying the grapefruit marguerita.  Olé.

Our bellies happy, we set out for a walk and window shopping along Fourth Street which appeared to be the main drag in downtown Camas.  It’s a beautiful tree-lined street with lots of lovely shops and a few more interesting restaurants worth a stop.  We could have spent way too much time fondling the treasures tucked away in Camas Antiques, but we moseyed on – past the beautifully restored Liberty Theater and poked our heads in for a peek at the charming B&B Camas Hotel.  What a fun place for an overnight getaway!

this shop is an antique hunter's dream

this shop is an antique hunter’s dream

enjoy the first run movies without the multiplex crowds

enjoy the first run movies without the multiplex crowds

A charming little place to tuck in for the night

A charming little place to tuck in for the night

Camas was once a mill town and a large paper mill still sits at the west end of town.  A good wind in the wrong direction and your nose will let you know it’s still in operation!  All was clear on our Saturday visit.  These days, however, although it is a short commute to the “big city”, several high tech companies like Hewlett-Packard and Sharp Microelectronics have set up shop nearby.   Camas is definitely growing.  Let’s hope it manages to keep it’s small town charm.

Sometimes we get so focused on traveling to far flung places and foreign “bucket list” destinations that we forget to explore the hidden treasures right in our own back yard.  Small towns like Camas are perfect destinations for day trips or weekend getaways and they dot the highways and back roads all over the Pacific Northwest.  What are your favorite small town gems?

See you on the road.  Let’s meet up for a glass of vino.  Hubs is buying!

Cheers,

Nancy

Traveling with our Taste buds ~

We love to travel.  We love to eat.  And these days we’re really into walking as a way to discover interesting places to eat. I call it traveling with our taste buds. It’s my theory that if I walk for food, I can pretty much eat whatever I want and not gain (too much) weight.

From farmers markets to cooking classes to sidewalk bistros and street carts, hubs and I have eaten our way across Portland, much of the U.S. and now we’re working on eating our way across the globe.  One tasty bite at a time.

Jamon - a staple in Spain

Jamon – a staple in Spain

A pop-up sidewalk bar just when you need one.

A pop-up sidewalk bar just when you need one.

Learning to cook Oaxacan style.

Learning to cook Oaxacan style.

Walking through a market is a must stop in a new city.

A farmer’s market is a great place to stroll (and sample) in any city.

Always try the local delicacies...at least once.

Always try the local delicacies…at least once.

Buys your tortillas by the kilo - fresh, hot and muy sabrosa

Buy your tortillas by the kilo – fresh, hot and muy sabrosa

Try it...even if you aren't sure what it is.

Be adventurous. Try it…even if you aren’t sure what it is.

We’ve got a lot of traveling ahead of us and a lot of great tastes to explore.  I’m sure some of them will be more interesting than delicious.  Let’s just say that my taste buds have a long way to go before I can truly call myself an adventurous eater.  I’m working on it.  What’s the most interesting food you’ve eaten in your travels?

Bon Appetit!

Nancy

Tales from the Columbia Gorge ~

Last weekend hubs and I met up with 600+ fellow walking enthusiasts and set out to explore some of the most gorgeous trails in the spectacular Columbia River Gorge.  As I was planning today’s blog post thought it might be fun to share few tales from the Columbia Gorge…

The weather gods were on our side.

The clouds parted, the rain stopped and just when we needed it, the sun appeared.  But not too much.  A little light cloud cover kept us from melting as we officially kicked off our walking season and our first multi-day Volksport walking adventure – the Columbia River Gorge Biennial Classic.  And what an event it was!  These folks have their planning honed to a science.  Thirteen walks, one bike ride, lots of great information, a hot dog lunch and a dinner cruise on the Sternwheeler.  There was truly something for everyone and the little town of Cascade Locks was packed to capacity.  We opted for a room at the Skamania Lodge on the Washington side of the river which added daily crossings of the Bridge of the Gods to our weekend adventure.  Hubs and I met up with other walking friends at Skamania on Friday afternoon and set out on our first walk – an easy stroll into the town of Stevenson for a close up look at the wind and kite surfers.  This area of the gorge is the windsurfing capital of the world and when you stand on the end of a pier in 25+ mile an hour winds and watch these dare devils fly across the choppy water, you see why.

There is always something interesting going on at Skamania Lodge and Friday evening we sat out on the lawn in Adirondack chairs, glasses of a tasty chilled Spanish white in hand and enjoyed a fascinating birds of prey show (so up close and personal that one flew over my head and riffled my hair).

Skamania Lodge - always something going on

Skamania Lodge – always something going on

 

Saturday morning was our big walking day and we chose to hike the Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls loop.  Rated a 3B by AVA.  We had no idea what 3B meant but hubs figured it was moderate as the walks range from 1A to 5C.  Let me say right here that moderate has taken on a whole new meaning!  It started innocently enough.  A little uphill climb to the stunning bridge view just below Multnomah Falls.

Looking down on Multnomah Falls

Looking down on Multnomah Falls

Then up, and up some more for 11 marked zig-zags.  Hearts pumping, thighs screaming No! we went up a little more…and then a little more.columbiagorgewalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we’re on standing on a ledge looking down on the falls.  But wait, there’s more. We left the paved trail and then the packed dirt trail behind and continued up on a very narrow trail composed of tiny jagged granite.  One side dropped 1000 feet and the other side went straight up and I’m clutching ferns for balance.  And stopping to take photos (and catch my breath).  We walked through ancient growth forests, past cascading waterfalls, forded a few streams and were totally awe-struck at the magnificence of Mother Nature.

columbiagorgewalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we started down.  And down.  And it was just as hard as the up.  I saw my life flash in front of me for a brief moment when my feet lost traction on some slippery rocks and I started to slide, but I clutched a branch and all was saved.

columbiagorgewalk4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost back to civilization.

Almost back to civilization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We slowly wound our way back down to the Old Columbia River Highway where we had started our trek 3 1/2 hours earlier.  It was mid-day at Multnomah Falls, one of the region’s biggest natural attractions and on this beautiful first weekend of summer, the place was packed with tourists so we limped to the car as fast as our wobbly old legs would go and headed back to the hot tubs at Skamania.

Ahhhhhh.

Ahhhhhh.

 

 

 

 

That evening, we celebrated hubs’ birthday one more time with a delicious dinner and some of the tastiest cheap wine I’ve had in a long time at a hidden gem of a restaurant, Henni’s Kitchen and Bar, tucked away about 30 minutes further up the gorge in White Salmon.  We enjoyed a specatular sunset drive along the might Columbia arriving at our “home” in time for a nightcap and an early visit with our comfortable beds.

I’d like to tell you that we hiked again on Sunday, but I can’t.  My butt muscles hurt, my quads hurt, my calves were like two sticks and nothing more than a short stroll to loosen things up was going to happen on the walking front. A rousing game on the hotel’s 18 hold putting course and a leisurely drive home completed our weekend walking adventure in the Columbia Gorge.

We picked up lots of brochures for upcoming Volkswalks all over the world.  We’ll be trying a few up near Port Townsend Washington soon.  We love exploring the world at 3 miles per hour.

See you on the trail.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

Bird’s Eye View ~

A bird’s eye view ~ More adventures in house sitting on a vineyard. bird's eye view golden finch

They flitted in and out claiming their time at the bird feeder hanging just outside the big kitchen window.  Some politely took their turn, others muscled their way right in, while a few hovered on the railing below waiting for a break in the action.

Early each morning and late into the evening I perched myself on a stool by the window to watch the show.  They came by the dozens.  Swirling flashes of color – bright lemon yellow, fire-ball orange against midnight black, soft dove grey and warm mottled brown – each a beauty in its own way.  These were the birds who enchanted and entertained me for ten days.

I learned a thing or two from my new feathered friends.  And of course I took a few photos.

bird's eye view morning dove bird's eye view yellow songbirds bird's eye view of a finch in the rain bird's eye view  bird on the rail bird's eye view Spending my time with the birds was a whole lot more entertaining and enlightening than any program on the television.  That I know for sure.

Cheers!

Nancy

Smitten with Chickens ~

Yep.  After a week on the farm, I am officially smitten with chickens.

chicken4

Especially the five ladies I’ve taken under my wing (so to speak) for this house sitting adventure.  I had no idea what beautiful, smart and delightfully entertaining creatures chickens are.  They are feathered comediennes and you can’t help but smile when you interact with them.

I’ve been getting to know “the girls” for several days now.  Each has a unique personality. They are very social and quite talkative.  I am totally gaga over these feathered beauties.  Last night I sat in the grass and tried my hand (with moderate success) at chicken portraiture.  chickens in the vineyard

Every evening I let them out of the chicken pen to wander freely around the lawn and into the edge of the vineyard.  They are lined up and waiting by 5:00 p.m. calling me to hop to it and open the damn gate already.  They make a break and their first stop is usually a nice dirt bath.

DSCN3884

Around dusk I head out to wrangle everyone back into the coop for the night.  My secret weapon is a big bag of Happy Hen Treats aka dried mealworms.  A few hardy shakes of the bag and the girls come running.  They are a sight to behold! DSCN3883 chickens2 chickenbutts2 Spending time with these feathered lovelies has been one of the highlights of this house sit. You never know what adventures life has in store. I am so glad I said yes to this opportunity.

Cheers from the vineyard,

Nancy

 

 

 

House Sitting in The Country ~

I am currently enjoying the best house sitting assignment ever – on a vineyard overlooking a beautiful valley right in the heart of Oregon wine (and farm) country.  On a clear day, you truly can see forever.

For ten days of chicken wrangling, bird feeding, garden watering and loving-up a grey-haired-handsome-boy-kitty named Winston, I am living la pura vida in the hills of Dundee.  I am also learning the ins and outs of rural living.  And, in case you were wondering, life is pretty good out here in the country.  And just a little bit different than this city gal is used to. Not a Starbucks in sight, but the wine is top notch!

The only downside so far?  The Green Acres theme song keeps playing in my head.

And now you are humming it too.  You’re welcome!

I don’t know if the country life is the life for me, but I am savoring every moment of my country adventure.  Here are a few snaps I took the other day.

You know you are in the country when…

Fashion takes on a whole new meaning.

Fashion takes on a whole new meaning.

Maybe they make shoes to go with the outfit?

Maybe they make shoes to go with the outfit?

Making hay while the sun shines.  You've gotta be quick in Oregon

Making hay while the sun shines. You’ve gotta be quick in Oregon

 

So, a gnome wanders into a vineyard...

So, a gnome wanders into a vineyard…

Never seen this in the city.

Never seen this in the city.

farmcountry5

Call now before the sign is covered in weeds.

Yes indeed!

Yes indeed!

And my personal favorite ~

Farmer humor

Farmer humor

Stay tuned for more adventures.

Cheers!