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Before yesterdayTravel Taste Create

Housebound House Sitting

25 February 2019 at 19:10
By: Leah

I’m sitting at the kitchen table in El Cerrito, California. Usually, I’d be looking out across the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. This afternoon, the rain is coming down in buckets, and I’m thinking about our previous house sit.

It’s been a wild winter, and it’s not letting up, yet!

I’m playing catch-up with the blog. I’ve been struggling with absolutely horrible internet service this winter. I struggled with this post for ages, and once I finally finished it, we lost internet service (again), and the whole thing reverted to a previous version. I lost a lot of work, and could have cried in frustration. I’m going to give it one more shot.

We left the sunshine and warmth of Palm Springs, and made our way north through California’s Central Valley. The weather forecast was calling for heavy snow, with predictions of road closures and all the other fun that accompanies serious weather. We were making our way to a rural property, so we stopped in town to stock up on essentials, and carried on along the narrow, twisting roads through the hills.

I swear the yellow lines are there just to give the impression of two lanes.

We arrived on Super Bowl Sunday, so after meeting our hosts and the animals we’d be caring for, we were whisked off to a neighbourhood party. Not a bad start!

Rural gigs often reward us with gorgeous views, and this one did not dissapoint. It’s a damned good thing, too. We weren’t able to leave the property nearly as much as we’d planned, so watching the mist and clouds roll by became part of our entertainment.

The day after we arrived, the snow started. We wouldn’t normally be put off by a little snow, but this was something else altogether.

The first snowfall in Puff’s life. So much fun!

As Puff will tell you, 6″ of wet snow fell on top of ice (it had rained a lot before the snow fell). Something like 500 trees fell in the area. Many roads were closed, thousands of homes were without power and telephone for several days. We only lost power for a few minutes, but we were without cell coverage or the internet for days.

After the snow, it rained some more. Then, we had three more inches of snow. Then, more rain, some sleet, more rain, and more snow. It just wouldn’t stop.

There were several days when we couldn’t drive anywhere. We had a big, beautiful home to rattle around in. The kitchen was huge and well equipped, the fireplace kept us toasty, and the animals kept us entertained.

  • Shadow
  • Shitake
  • Puff & Boo

Shadow, Puff, and Boo helped with my quilting projects. Shitake is above being an assistant, thank you very much.

Dog walks took us past the neighbour’s vineyard.

On the days we were able to drive, we managed to visit four of the 70 area vineyards. Not as many as we’d hoped, but they were excellent!

Hiking was also limited. We pretty much stuck to the paved trails. There were so many more we wanted to see, but slogging through the mud wasn’t appealing.

El Dorado Trail with trailheads right in town.
Our exercise regime switched from hiking to shovelling.

Being partially housebound in someone else’s home has it’s challenges. We couldn’t see (and taste) everything we’d hoped, the internet was super crappy to non-existant, and we lost cell coverage regularly.

All the same, we managed to stay entertained, for the most part. We did a lot of cooking and baking, we both did a fair bit of reading, and I started a new quilting project.

Initially shy, the cats eventually spent more and more time with us. Thats what you get when you hang around with them enough.

Isn’t Shadow the most amazing cat you’ve ever seen?

Shitake’s pretty spectacular, too.
Sweet Boo.

If our stay didn’t quite offer all of the sight-seeing and wine tasting excitement we were hoping for, our nail biting departure more than made up for that.

The night before we were scheduled to leave, another storm passed through, leaving several inches of snow in it’s wake. We really weren’t certain we’d be able to get out. Bill, the homeowner, couldn’t make his morning run to town for Starbucks and the paper. He couldn’t even get out of the driveway!

Eventually, things let up, we shovelled once again, and all decided to make a run for it. Lois and Bill, with their all-wheel-drive and years of experience driving in the area, went first. We followed, but only just.

At one point, going up a very long, slippery hill, the truck stopped moving. Just stopped. Our hearts were pounding as we each silently envisioned sliding backwards or, worse, off the road and down the embankment.

You have likely guessed that we made it out in one piece. After decades of driving on ice and snow, over rough logging roads and winter roads on frozen lakes, even after Karen’s driving police vehicles for decades, we agreed that this was one of the most nerve wracking drives ever.

We were lucky to have excellent weather for our time here. We managed to tour San Francisco without rain (or snow), and we’re getting ready to move on tomorrow.

So, here we I am, looking out at the pouring rain, with an eye on the forecast, including the possibility of flash floods. We’re supposed to leave tomorrow. Yup, it’s been a wild ride this winter.

I’ll whip up a little report about our week in El Cerrito soon.
Fingers crossed the storm doesn’t knock out the power!



Palm Springs Surprise

1 February 2019 at 12:30
By: Leah

One of the great things about travelling is the element of surprise. Palm Springs was never really on my list of places to visit. I kind of always thought of it as a patch of palm trees, populated by rich old white golfers. Sure, maybe there’d be a few slightly younger retirees, and a smattering of hiking trails, but it really didn’t call to me.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a LOT of golf courses, and no shortage of grey hair, but our week in a typical Palm Springs neighbourbood showed me there’s so much more. I think I’m hooked!

It may seem silly, but we really do leave our travel plans pretty loosey-goosey. We decide on areas we’d like to see, then we go where the house sits take us. This year, we decided on Arizona and California. From there, it was up to chance, and chance brought us to Palm Springs.

Chance and a little guy by the name of Benji.

When we saw the opportunity to spend a week in a mid-century modern home with this little cutie, and the almost certainty of warm weather, we jumped!

Being a fairly small city, Palm Springs is easy to get around with a vehicle or by bike. We explored quite a bit by bike without having to compete with traffic. That’s our kind of city!

We were an easy walk to downtown with the shops, open-air restaurants, and the walk of fame, a nod to the days when Hollywood’s stars had homes in the city of palms.

This is something you won’t hear me say very often, but we even enjoyed our evening strolls through the neighbourhood after dark.

The landscape lighting in our neighbourhood was spectacular.

Karen’s parents have told us about the hiking near Palm Springs, but I didn’t realize there’d be so many, and that they’d be so close and so spectacular. With several just a few blocks from our house, Benji got to stretch his legs almost every day during our stay.

On one hike, we came across about a dozen big horn sheep. We kept our distance, enjoying the sight of such amazing animals as long as we could. Eventually, we had to get closer (we had to get home at some point). Of course, Mr. Barky went nuts and off they went!

It was truly amazing to have them dash across the trail right in front of us.

City views from the trail.

You’re almost guaranteed good weather in Palm Springs. I suppose that’s one reason why it’s such an active place. I got a bit too much sun, and now my racoon eyes situation is approaching critical!

Not only are people younger and more active than I expected, but I was surprised to find out how many gay people live and visit the city. Its extremely LGBTQ friendly.

The fabulous architecture, laid back feel, and friendly people made it a very relaxing place to hang out, and not just when I was lying poolside with Benji.

In addition to all that Palm Springs had to offer, just being in a house again made us happy. Spending weeks on end in such a small space was starting to get a bit old.

I ask again, HOW did we ever do it for five months?

From the bedroom, you can see clear through to the bathroom. Looking in the opposite direction, it doesn’t get much roomier. That’s it, folks. That’s the whole thing. Living room, dining room, kitchen, the whole she-bang!

It’s not just the lack of space. We’re starting to lose interest in hauling the damned thing around. My driver’s a good sport (she has to be; look who she lives with!), but she’d rather not have to weave through traffic, manoeuvre bad roads, and worry about the odd GPS whoopsie (squeezing through the extremely narrow streets of old Santa Fe was an unwanted adventure!).

With 27′ of trailer tacked onto the end of our truck, we tend to drive boring old interstates, rather than taking the slower, more scenic routes. It’s just easier, and we don’t end up with a line-up of other vehicles stuck behind us.

With the trailer, we shop at places like Wal-Mart far more than we’d like. We miss out on exploring Main Street and supporting small businesses, because it’s just too hard with the trailer.

Fortunately, we’ve got a few more sits lined up, then a meet-up with friends from home (yay!), so we’ve put the thing in storage until March.

Will there be another big RV road trip some year? Time will tell.

For now, we’re on our way to our next house sit in Placerville, California.

What’s in Placerville? Other than a couple of dogs & cats, I have no idea. We’d never even heard of the place before.

Feel free to give us some suggestions. We’ll be there for a couple of weeks, and we can’t spend the whole time wine tasting! Or can we?



Our House…..

26 January 2019 at 22:30
By: Leah

is a very, very, very small house.

After our excellent trio of house sits in Tucson, we loaded our stuff (do we have stuff!!), got the trailer out of storage, and hit the road.

With over two weeks for what could have been a six and a half hour drive, we did a little dipsy-doodling & back-tracking along the way.

This post is a little longer than usual. Please stick with me. I’m trying to catch up a bit.

One of the first stops on this leg of our tour was Buckskin Mountain State Park. Remembered from our trip five years ago, Buckskin was a revisit with mixed results.

The view after the first few minutes of mountain climbing (hiking).

While we still enjoyed the beautiful Colorado River, quail running through the campsite, and the challenging hikes, this campsite wasn’t all we’d remembered.

Since that first winter in our RV, we’ve racked up miles, gained experience, & learned how to boondock (camp without water or electricity). We’re also more selective about where we want to camp. This wasn’t our dream spot.

Somehow, we forgot just how small the sites are & how much noise there can be. At our site, it was park rangers driving to and from their residences, and park volunteers scooting around in their carts. Necessary, but surprisingly loud right outside our tin can house.

With power but no water, and at $50 Canadian/night, we decided we’d like a little more. Or pay a little less.

How about free?

We’ve never tried parking at a casino, so let’s give that a shot.

The Bluewater River Casino offers free RV parking, beautiful sunsets, more space than the average park, security, and free wifi in the casino. Pretty good deal! We moved in.

It was a good deal, until the view from our rig went from this:

To this.

Two pictures taken from our door. What happened?!

We knew the Bluewater Parker 250 races were coming that weekend. We didn’t know contestants would be moving in to OUR parking lot the Thursday before-hand!

The toy hauler doors came down and the volume went up.

UTVs, side-by-sides, desert runners. I don’t care what you call them; they are LOUD!

We had no idea we would be parked in the middle of the race staging ground!

Those race contestants had as much right to be there as we did (more, since the casino sponsors the event); we just didn’t feel like being part of the fun.

We spent that evening down at the river, soaking up our kind of entertainment, then flew the coup the next morning!

Hundreds of black birds come to the river to bathe and dry off in the sun every day.

During our second winter in the RV, touring Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and so on, we had our shiny new generator on board, didn’t need electric hook-ups, and started using Boondockers Welcome.

This network (I get no kick-backs for mentioning it) allows RVers to connect online, welcoming each other to park on our properties. We’ve hosted people at our home, and we’ve stayed with people all over the southern US. Some of our most memorable camping experiences have been thanks to this website.

We’ve parked everywhere from city driveways to beautiful acreages with animals wandering around (you know which we lean towards).

Sam, keeping an eye on me, while I’m in his yard.

Near Golden Valley, AZ, Moe welcomed us to her property, so long as we didn’t mind sharing with Sam, the horse, and Cob, the goat.

Mind? They were the main attractions!

Moe says that Sam loves the ladies.

He certainly loved peeking in our windows and door.

I was a wee bit nervous he might try to come in for a visit, and I’m pretty sure it was his hoof I heard on our step at 4 o’clock one morning.

When we weren’t being entertained (spied on) by Sam, we had a clear view of Cobbler, helping himself to a snack just outside our window.

Cob is one big goat. He’s probably nibbling at leaves 6’off the ground!

Of course, a YouTube video is available for the real goat lovers out there.

Through this site, we’ve met some very interesting people. As we were setting up camp here, for example, we were assured it would be a great place for watching UFOs.

We didn’t see any.

With the temperatures remaining cooler than usual, we knew we wanted to get close to the Colorado River. Lower elevation means higher temperatures (prairie girls need to learn these things). With rain in the forecast, we aimed for Laughlin, Nevada. The casinos of mini Vegas held no appeal, but we knew a movie theatre would come in handy on a rainy day. It did.

Across the river from Laughlin is Katherines Landing. We had no power or water, but we had access to laundry (very important), some nice walks, a fire pit, and beautiful sunsets.

The evening view from our site.
Katherines Landing Marina on another cloudy day.

After almost three weeks in our trailer, we were counting the days to parking our house and borrowing someone else’s. We swapped 200 square feet for 2,000, clouds & rain for sunshine & warmth, and horses, goats and ducks for a cute little fella full of personality.

Next up: Benji introduces us to Palm Springs!

Why the long catch-up post?

Wifi was anywhere from non-existent to crappy for weeks on end. At times, there was no connection at all; at others, I could catch up on facebook, but couldn’t google the spelling of a word, let alone upload pictures or write a post. I don’t get it.

I have worked on the blog at public libraries, but that can be a pain in the ass. I don’t need more ass pain. I’m glad you stuck it through to the end.



The Bikes Have Been Parked.

2 January 2019 at 14:18
By: Leah

From our week of glorious weather and ass-breaking cycling sessions, things have come to a screeching halt. The bikes are in the garage, and we’re back to headbands, scarves, and gloves. Grifyn, the beautiful Norwegian Elkhound sharing his house with us, is quite happy. We’re grateful to be his roomies right now, because…. SNOW!!

Not quite the views we were expecting in Tucson, Arizona.

The temperature is hovering around zero, and yes, we know it is much, much colder at home right now, but we sure didn’t see this coming as part of our Tucson experience!

As we walk around the neighbourhood, it’s obvious how uncommon it is to have snow here. Entire families are having snowball fights in their pjs. I even got to hear one guy mansplaining, to his wife, how to brush snow off the vehicle. I’m pretty sure she’d never figure out that complicated stick with a brushey thingmabob on the end of it. What to do? What to do?

Even before the snow hit, temperatures had fallen drastically, and we had some rain here and there. That prompted the switch from biking back to hiking. We had (low elevation) places to explore, and an eager companion to bring with us.

Once we got Grifyn in the truck using his handy-dandy old guy ramp, we were off!

What you are seeing, is one very happy dog. In reality, this is an amazingly powerful dog breath producer. Oh, my! The inside of our truck may never be the same.

We found this area, which is part of the Arizona Trail, a network winding 800 miles through the state. Easy access, nicely maintained, mostly well-marked trails, and great views!

It’s going to be interesting to see what parks remain open and which services start to suffer, thanks to POTUS 45’s government shutdown.

The three of us found another Arizona rarity along this trail: water! Someone enjoyed splashing around a bit (add the smell of wet dog to the bad breath, and you’ve got the update from our truck).

We’re hoping that the recent rain and snow will bring desert blooms. Desert plants are funny; they don’t follow the seasons like ours do, when it comes to blooming. A lot of them kind of hang out, being green and prickly, waiting for moisture.

Those dead looking sticks? Those are octotillo. I love them. With the right amount of moisture, they truly transform.

The picture below was taking on our previous trip, several years ago. Overall, it seemed to be a much drier year, but here and there, we’d see glorious bursts of colour.

In a couple of days, we’ll be leaving Tucson. We’ll say goodbye to another lovely companion, pack up our stuff, and head back out on the road. Mrs & Mrs Poppins of the Animal World will be moving back to the RV for our slow, winding trip to California and another new four-legged friend.

Until we meet Benji in Palm Springs, let’s see what kind of fun we can find along the way. Hopefully, snow-free fun!


Get on Your Bikes and Ride!

27 December 2018 at 13:01
By: Leah

So, here we are, still in Tucson. We’re at our third house sit, and we’re loving it! It may seem odd for us to be spending so much time in a city, since we usually lean towards more rural locations, but Tucson is special.
Wherever you are in this city, you’re never far away from fantastic hiking trails and bike paths! We are making the most of it.

Alternate title:
A Bitchin’ Case of Bike Butt!

What’s the whining sound heard along the bike paths of Tucson, recently? Yup, that’s the sound of the Canadian Bike Butt Sufferer. Holy crap, am I out of cycling shape!

For the past couple of summers, I haven’t been cycling as much as usual (my doctor suggested I avoid my bike while we tried to sort out my back/hips/sciatica/piriformis situation). The result of my following that advice: a bitchin’ case of bike butt and my inability to keep up with my Drill Sergeant on Wheels!

We stumbled upon Julian Wash during our first trip here five years ago. It’s just one part of the 120 mile system of trails in Pima County, called The Loop.

Not only are there very smooth paved trails (no frost heaves to worry about here!), with fantastic signage, The Loops features parking at several trail heads, public washrooms, and public art.

There’s even a map of the art.

For those not fluent in desert, a wash is a natural or man-made area that usually looks like a dry river bed or canal. After the infrequent rains, these areas fill with water, providing drainage and usually preventing flash floods. These things are all over the city, and bike paths have been constructed along-side some of them.

We can easily reach the network of trails right from the house we’re currently staying at. My Drill Sergeant has had me out for a few rides of a couple of hours and more miles than I can fathom!

In addition to the painful state of my posterior, these rides leave me gasping for breath and give me a severe case of jello legs. I work my way through the rides, singing the theme song from Rocky in my head & distract myself from my sad physical state by the gorgeous desert scenery. In addition, I’m on constant look-out for errant chunks of cactus.

How would pieces of cactus make their way onto a paved path, you ask?

Let me introduce you to the jumping cholla.

Believe it or not, in the bright sunlight, the jumping cholla can look almost fuzzy. Don’t be fooled. These are extremely spiky. The segments fall off at the least disturbance and seem to fly or jump away from the original plant. Bike tires are no match for their spikes.

During that first visit to Arizona, we made a few rookie mistakes, including riding on desert trails without proper tires. We replaced several tire tubes before we figured out we just weren’t equipped for that kind of cycling.

Since we figured out our limitations for biking, you’d think we would have applied the same logic to walking.

At our previous house sit, while we were looking after Sydney and Ezsti, we were able to walk right out the back gate and walk along a wash. It was so handy, we didn’t think to gear up as we normally would for a hike.

Rookie Mistakes:

# 1: wearing running shoes, rather than hiking boots

#2: being distracted by the gorgeous desert scenery

#3: not carrying a comb or pick.

Why would you carry a comb while hiking?

Karen didn’t notice this baby cholla (maybe 8″ tall) before it was too late.

I had to spring into action to get the shoe off Karen’s foot while she grimaced in pain and balanced on one foot. Then, it was time to operate with a stick and a stone (only one of the little buggers flew off the shoe and into my skin during this procedure).

Fortunately, some of our exercise is much gentler, and far less dangerous, in the form of walking this beautiful guy around the neighbourhood.

Grifyn, the Norwegian Elkhound, is our host until we return to the trailer life in early January. Thanks for the house, Grifyn!



Lullaby of Birdland

21 December 2018 at 10:10
By: Leah

The stars were aligned when we secured three consecutive house sits in Tucson, Arizona. Each is different in terms of the home, neighbourhood, and animals. Dogs and cats are a common theme, there was an invisible (hibernating) tortoise, and then there was the bird. Oh, the bird!

Hour one:
Ezsti, the kitty, is stretched out across Karen. The two of them are discussing the best napping locations. Meanwhile, I’ve been pooped on, and Sydney and I have had a chat about alternate locations for relieving himself.

For Joanne (and anyone who is not a fan of birds): stop right now. Don’t scroll down past the cute kitty picture. The story ends happily, but you don’t want to see the pictures. You don’t want to read this post.  

You have been fairly warned.

Ezsti is one of the friendliest cats ever. When Sydney isn’t in the room, she is all over us, soaking up the love, and reminding us that she requires a great deal of brushing.

Like so many other cats, she seems to be a quilting expert. She provided close supervision.

When Sydney is in the room, all bets are off. Ezsti isn’t the bird’s biggest fan.

He-e-e-e-ere’s Sydney!

Sydney is a free-flying one year old Galah cockatoo. The minute we walked in the door, he flew over and landed on my head. This is still one of his favourite perches.

I don’t mind this.

I do mind what generally follows.

If he doesn’t go for my ears, he goes for my glasses. Heh, buddy, those things are expensive!!

We’re constantly on guard, keeping Syd from our ears. He might nibble, he might squawk, and both hurt. The problem is, he’s so lovable, I have a hard time brushing him off, but I’m getting better at it.

There is no subtlety involved when Sydney wants a cuddle.

Our hosts explained very clearly that Syd is like a toddler with wings. Wow. They could not have summed things up any better.

This little guy is smart and capable of learning a great deal. Even so, he’s only one. Like human toddlers, he wants almost constant attention. He chews, pecks, and generally destroys almost anything he can get his beak on. Also, he poops. He’s partially toilet trained, but once again, he’s only one. Shit happens.

Back to how smart Sydney is.

This little guy has toys, flash cards, and even books. He has special flight training sessions (restricted to inside the house with us), & he’s being taught colours, letters, and a set of commands.

Just like any child, he is also read to.

I suggest sticking to his books.

Sydney is used to going everywhere with his people. He has several carriers, and you know I had to try out one of them!

Karen wasn’t up to taking him to a restaurant or out for shopping, but we did take him for a walk around the neighbourhood. I felt a little silly, but he seemed to enjoy the outing.

Walking the bird wasn’t the strangest bit. The award goes to:

That’s right! This little fella likes to join people in the shower! Sitting on his own perch, he likes having water splashed at him. He gets super excited, fluffing his feathers and, eventually, hanging on the shower door, fanning his beautiful wings. Very entertaining.

My favourite way to give our feathered friend a bit of fresh air every day is to put him in his patio cage while I take full advantage of the beautiful weather this week. Pool time, anyone?

This really is very much like putting your kid in a play pen. He has snacks and toys and is completely safe. I can let my guard down a bit, Karen can have her nap, and Kitty can choose where to hang out.

Why Lullaby of Birdland? We didn’t actually get around to singing lullabies to Sydney, but like so many parents of toddlers, when it came time to putting our little guy to bed, we gave a sigh of relief.

Come on out, kitty. The house is yours, again. We’re ready to serve.



It’s a Marathon

14 December 2018 at 18:59
By: Leah

It’s a little after 4pm.  The dog is sniffing around in the backyard and the cat is winding her way around my legs. Earlier, we’d walked the dog and gone for groceries. While Karen and Picholine napped, Paley and I played in the backyard.

Sounds like a pretty typical day at home for most people.  For us, it’s how we see the world.

When I last checked in, we had moved from one house sit near Trinidad, Colorado to another, this one with a sweet, cuddly kitty named Peanut, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Peanut supervised while I practiced my hand quilting in the evenings.

Of course, while we were in Santa Fe, we enjoyed restaurant meals, walked the plaza, went to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, saw the basilica, went to Loretto Chapel to see the mysterious staircase, and went to the very busy Farmer’s Market.  We even had the chance to meet up with friends for a stroll along Canyon Road, stopping at the gazillions of galleries along the way.  We made a quick trip to Taos, and visited the old pueblo there.  Check, check, check!  Ticking off those “Must Do” items.

Great stuff, all of it (well, most of it), but as I often say, our style of travelling is more of a marathon, than a sprint (it just struck me as very funny that I’m using a running metaphor!).  Keeping up that pace for five months?  No thanks!

We had to travel just over 800 km (500 miles) to our next assignment in Tuscon, Arizona, and 10 days to get there.

Time to mix things up a bit.

When we first started this business of travelling for the winter months, we still had our little buddy, Monster.  We bought a truck and trailer, so she could come along. 

Monster, helping with the crossword puzzle at our grand RV dining table.

Holy, mackerel, that first winter was a learning curve!  I read the blogs of other RVers & we gathered a lot of information from others along the way.  We learned about adding storage, how to conserve energy, how to travel with a cat, when to use state parks and when to sneak into the 55+ private parks, & how to keep the black tank sensors clean (we learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about waste management).  We learned a lot.

We also learned how to live in a tiny space.  We spent far more hours than we’d anticipated in our little 23 x 8′ home.  Only one person can walk around at once.  Nobody is ever far from the bathroom (that can be both good and bad).  When the sun goes down, so does the temperature.  Quickly.  Evenings are long when you’re inside by 5pm. 

Mornings are long, too.  Often, it doesn’t warm up until 9 or 10 in the morning.

During our second year, we had a few stints in condos and a mobile home.  We quickly learned that it was good to break up the time in the RV.

Monster didn’t finish out that second year of travel. We were sad to let her go, but welcomed the new reality of no longer being land-locked.

Enter house sitting!

With our new-found pet-free status, we ditched the RV and started living in other people’s homes.  So much space! We had a good thing going, and I was ready to keep flying around the globe!

Did I mention the long-haul flights? 

There were the flights to and from Australia.  there were the slightly better, but still long flights to and from Thailand

After those, the flying all came to a screeching halt.  My wife, partner, navigator, barista, dog-poop-scooping walking partner, Karen, had had enough.  “Please, could we avoid airports for one year, and just drive south?”

Here we are.  Trailer in tow, and sometimes in storage.  We’re mixing things up, and it’s going pretty well.  

Those 10 days of travel?  Museums and galleries were off the to-do list.

  • strolling around the lake at Elephante Butte State Park in New Mexico
  • watching the sunset, camping outside of Willcox, Arizona
  • walking past the cowboy museum in favour of a teeny park
  • fire watching and hiking at Kartchner Caverns, Arizona.
  • soaking in the scenery, visiting wineries

And this is how we keep the pace for five months: by following a very strict to-do list.

One last item for today: 

  • go to the neighbours’ for Happy Hour.
  • Cheers!


Rocky Mountain High

23 November 2018 at 10:50
By: Leah

Barely an hour after arriving at our first house sit of the  winter, I was already feeling a bit of a buzz.  We were in Colorado, but the buzz I was feeling probably wasn’t what you’re thinking.

Roughly 2,250 kms through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and into Colorado, we finally made it to our first destination for this year’s travels: Trinidad, Colorado.

More accurately, we were at a beautiful home, high above the city of Trinidad, where we would be pet sitting for a few days.  

The view from the balcony, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

First impressions at each house sit are often interesting.  We never really know what the animals, the home, or the homeowners will be like until we arrive. Often, there are little surprises, and this gig certainly had it’s own.

Thankfully, our host came to meet us and guide us up the narrow, twisty dirt road up to the property.  This picture was taken a couple days later, after the ice and snow melted from the road’s surface.  We had been warned about the approach, so, while it was a bit nerve-wracking, this wasn’t the surprise.

From seeing a few pictures ahead of time, we already knew the home would be beautiful and the views would be spectacular.

We met the animals who would keep us company, and got the low-down on personalities.  All adorable, even Katie who mostly kept to herself. Nothing truly out of the ordinary here.  

  • Mishka
  • Katie
  • Lily
  • Maggie
  • Sarah

That buzz I was mentioning?  That was the surprise. 

After our orientation, I was only about half way through a bottle of beer and it was already hitting me.  Whoa.  I’m not that much of a light-weight!

The next morning, we took the dogs for a walk, and Karen and I were both feeling a bit light-headed. I had a headache, and we were both getting dizzy and out of breath.  These flat-landers need an altitude adjustment!

Neither of us had even considered that we’d leave home at about 700′ above sea level and, eventually, climb to an elevation of 7,000′.  Phew, can we feel it!

With this thin air, we’re not getting as much oxygen as we’re accustomed to; bring on headaches and dizziness.  We just feel a little loopier than usual.  Even mild exertion has us out of breath.  We’re walking more slowly and breathing like a couple of couch potatoes!

We’ve been following our hosts’ advice, drinking a lot of water and loading up on iron.  By the second day, I was feeling closer to normal, but the dizziness and breathlessness still hit during our walks.

Apparently, we should have been taking some steps to prepare for this a couple of weeks before we arrived.  I really only thought of that as something you do before going to Machu Picchu or climbing Mount Everest. Look at us learning things!

Trinidad’s History (European Vacation Style)

As much as we could have been very happy to soak up the views and animal love at our house sit, we did venture to town one day to take a look around and to stop in at the Trinidad History Museum.

If you’re really interested, check out this article.  I’m going to whip through a few key points very briefly:

  • Spanish & Mexican traders pass through on the Santa Fe Trail
  • Coal!
  • 1862 – Trinidad is founded
  • 1902 – 13 miners killed in a gas explosion at Bowen Town coal mine
  • workers organize, there are labour strikes fighting the dangerous conditions
  • fires and floods destroyed parts of town, including the railroad station.  
  • 1960’s artists establish an alternative community, Drop City, nearby
  • 1969 Dr. Stanley Biber performs an operation spring-boarding Trinidad’s being called the “Sex Change Capitol of the Word”

If you’ve ever lived in a resource-based town, you know that things can go south pretty quickly.  Mines close.  Jobs are lost. People leave.

 Today, parts of downtown look a little tired and forgotten. 

Boarded up store fronts are a very common sight along Main Street, Anywhere, but Trinidad wasn’t just rolling over and giving up.

In 2015, the city decided to introduce an economic shot in the arm: marijuana.  Crucial to the success of this rebirth was the work of Dana Crawford, developer and preservationist, famous for saving neighbourhoods and down towns throughout Colorado.

Today, not only are there more than 20 marijuana dispensaries in Trinidad, but the historic buildings are being saved, jobs are being created, and tourism is on the rise.

Four of the dispensaries that are part of Trinidad’s Marijuana Mall.

Those wanting to get in on the action have to purchase buildings outright; if they fail or leave, the buildings revert to the City of Trinidad, renovated and ready for the next business venture.  

We were spotting dispensaries even as we were leaving the interstate, but when we got to Main Street, we were really struck by the sight of pot shop after pot shop.  

When we were in BC last winter, we saw a number of dispensaries in West Kelowna.  At the time, officials were pretty much turning a blind eye to the situation.  From a business perspective, I can see why.  I’m curious to see what legalized pot will do for some of the small towns and cities in Canada.

As for that original Rocky Mountain High I refered to, we’re still feeling it a bit.  We’ve moved on to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and are still at about the same elevation.  The headaches have gone away, and we aren’t feeling dizzy, anymore, but after a week and a half, we’re still walking slowly and getting out of breath.  Going up a flight of stairs is a killer. 

It’s just about time for us to move south and find some lower elevation spots.  Arizona, we’re on our way!



Retirement Party!

27 September 2018 at 18:22
By: Leah

Retirement Party! is a quilt I made to welcome our friend, Sharon, to the happy club of retirees.  Remember when I was stalled on the yoga quilt from my previous post ?  That’s when the idea hit.

There would be two main elements: the colour orange, and some of the fun things Sharon will have more time for in retirement.  


Not generally one to use patterns (or even follow directions), I do sort of go off half-cocked with these things.  I hadn’t thought it all out, and sort of stumbled through the project, making and fixing some mistakes along the way.

The first challenge: working with orange.  While it’s Sharon’s favourite colour, it’s also one I’ve always avoided, and I really wasn’t sure what to use with it.  It’s possible that I got a little carried away; the quilt turned out pretty wild, but what the heck, it’s a party quilt!

I used a number of techniques to create the different blocks.  Most were made using machine applique.   Some of the images came from my head, some from online clipart, and some, like this one, were stolen from Sharon’s own facebook feed.

Sharon's pier picture

Matlock Pier is one of our favourite meeting places.

I created the image using Inktense pencils for the sunrise, water, & rocky beach.  The pier’s decking and railings were also drawn with the coloured pencils, then individual pieces were cut out and attached separately.



Including cats was a no-brainer.  Sharon and her wife, Dory, have four cats, and they almost always have a few rescue kitties, as well, that they fuss over until they’re ready to be adopted out.

Click to view slideshow.



This block was approved by Sidney, the lovely boy who shared his house with us in West Kelowna last winter.

I played around with other techniques, as well.  The webbing on the snowshoes and the basketball hoop were created with machine stitching.


To add dimension, I used two different coloured threads in the needle at once.  Who knew you could do that?


Some of the images were created with using just hand embroidery.  I added iron-on light interfacing to the backs of these blocks to secure any loose threads and add a bit of strength.

Click to view slideshow.

Here’s one of my corrections.  I saw an illustration like this on Pinterest (sorry, no idea who the original artist was), and it reminded me of Sharon and Dory (guess which one is wearing the orange shirt?).  I eyeballed it and sketched it out.  At first, I thought it looked good.  Then, I realized something was very wrong with the figure on the left.


I grabbed my pencil, shaved about 175 pounds off Dory, and was much happier.  I then gave Dory red plaid pants, and it was perfect!


We count ourselves very fortunate to live near the water. One of our favourite group activities is kayaking, so I had to include that.


Of course, Sharon and Dory’s tandem kayak is orange!


Based on another of Sharon’s pictures on facebook: Dory in her winter outfit.

  I can’t tell you how much I giggled while making this one!


Sidney gave this one his stamp of approval, as well.


Machine applique and hand embroidery were combined for several of the images.  In this one, the swim cap and hair were embroidered.


Skinny Dipping Sharon is one block that made me laugh out loud.

My hope is that this quilt will make a lot of people laugh, and that it will be used so often, it gets worn out.


Sharon, Dory, and I keeping cozy during one of our impromptu pier parties.


Retirement Party!


I love hearing from you, so please drop me a line any way you like.  Comment below, whip me an email, or get the conversation going on my facebook page.




Sharon's pier picture













Let Love Shine

15 August 2018 at 15:30
By: Leah

The yoga studio where I practice can be a bit chilly in the spring and fall.  During Savasana (you know, corpse pose: lying completely still, focusing on your breath), I have trouble focusing on anything but cold fingers and toes.  Clearly, I needed a yoga quilt.

What Does a Yoga Quilt Look Like?


Let Love Shine

In addition to making me stretchie-bendy and strong, yoga offers some life lessons.  Something I work on is the flow of positive energy.   I just think about walking into a room full of happy, excited people.  That energy pours right into me, and I feel the buzz from it.

What sort of energy am I sharing?  I try to lead with love and positivity.  I try.  I’m a work in progress.

My quilt had featured a heart, the design and the quilting needed to represent the outward flow of energy, and  I needed an organic, spontaneous process.  OK, but how to start?

After cruising Pinterest for a bit, I stumbled upon a tutorial for making Pieces of My Heart, by Wendy Williams of Red Thread Studio.  Bingo!  I was off and running.

The fabrics for the top are all batiks and hand-dyed, with some of the hand-dyed being my own.  The pieces are all very small at the start, so I got to choose a lot of fun fabrics.

The quilt is made in two parts; each starting with half of a very small heart.  As successive strips of fabric are added and trimmed, every so often, a rotary cutter is used to trim and refine the heart shape.


20171029_1408177155091442367579437.jpgThe two halves were constantly lined up, fabrics were auditioned, and more strips were added.  At this point, one of the challenges of this technique became very obvious.

Williams gives a warning about this in the tutorial: trimming the strips leaves bias edges.  Sewing seams along the bias involves a lot of loosey-goosey, flexie-stretchie bits (sounds right for yoga, right?).  Moving the growing pieces also took care, as I didn’t want to stretch them out of shape.


I started this quilt on October 1, 2017.  By November 10, all of it’s bits and pieces were packed up and loaded into the car for our drive to British Columbia.

Let Love Shine goes on a road trip!  

My sewing machine wasn’t set up again until our house sit in Comox, on Vancouver Island.  While I often consult Karen during my design process (it’s good to have a second set of eyes, she’s good with colour, and she can make decisions in a heartbeat), this project had a second consultant.

Miss Tala seemed to approve, every step of the way.


Things were moving along very well until I needed one final fabric.  I was in search of the perfect black-purple batik, and poor Karen learned that a person can search a lot of quilt shops before finding that one perfect match.

During this stall, inspiration for another quilt hit my squirrely brain, so my *ahem* focus shifted.  Then, all production came to a screeching halt, while we travelled Thailand for a month.

Eventually, back home, I got the two halves finished, sewn together, squared, and sandwiched (layered with the flannel backing and cotton batting).  The squaring off and sandwiching happened with a lot of help.  What would I do without my quilting groups?


At 129 x 193 cm (51 x 76″), this is the biggest project I’ve quilted on my domestic machine.  Lesson learned: ignore the advice to roll the quilt to fit it through the throat space of my machine.  That roll of fabric and batting became very stiff and hard to move.


My quilting stitches were uneven to say the least, and I ripped out several lines of extremely small stitches.  Not fun.


Simply smooshing the material allowed it to puddle and move freely.  Much easier.  Far fewer bad words.



I managed to get the binding attached the day before setting up our quilt show this past weekend.  Even so, Last Minute Leah employed some quilt show smoke and mirrors.

The back is a total mess, as I still have to tie off and bury my threads!

Good thing it wasn’t a juried show.





On display at the Ponemah Thera-Piecers’ Quilt Show


Let Love Shine

October 1, 2017 – Any Minute Now, 2018












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