Maps, etc. at Cargo in the Pearl District

When I was little, I dreamt of far away places.  I was born in Connecticut and raised in California and the furthest I typically traveled was twenty-three miles from Ventura (Mom) to Santa Barbara (Dad, for a short while) going Greyhound on weekends, with an occasional flight back to Connecticut thrown in.  I knew I would never stay in one place for long once I actually had a say in the matter, and have remained true to form on that account since my late teens, even if all I could manage at times was moving a town or two over.

Twenty years and several walk-ups, tents, basements, campers, truck-beds (what?), homes and estates around the USA later, I find myself living in the Pacific Northwest with Paul.  We love it in our sweet rented bungalow here in Northeast Portland, Oregon.  The past eight months have flown by and we are happier than ever.

Then, out of nowhere, it hits me again.  The Wanderlust.  Perhaps I am just antsy, as I have more free time than most.  I am focusing on projects and hobbies, fun new friends, volunteering, temp work and a barter or two and can’t wait to get started on the raised garden beds out back.  I am finding us local Caretaking Couple gigs and admiring Portland neighborhoods with Paul on weekends.  Still.  The Wanderlust.  That’s all.

PS Has anyone seen the new movie Wanderlust yet with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston yet?  I plan on dragging Paul to see it over the weekend : )



Happy Birthday, John E!

John E and V in 2009

Paul and I met John Erlandson sometime in 2006. John played his music all around Evergreen, Colorado and I knew the songs before I knew the man. I loved hearing him sing and play his guitar at coffee shops and bars, house parties and Chamber mixers, and out on Main Street in front the Wildflower cafe. Below is John playing at the annual Gloamin’ Fest (thank you, Willie for sharing this photo).

John at Gloamin' Fest 2009

I’d heard that John E stood up for what he believed in and sang from the heart (even when he caught flack for it) and that he was always doing stuff to help out others and the community in general (still is). Looking back, I think I’d simply made my mind up that we would be friends, even if I can’t quite remember how and when it actually happened.

At a Cupcake Shop in Boston's North End

When Paul and I hit the road as Caretaking Couple back in 2009, we all promised to keep in touch.  Little did we know then that John E would actually come visit us every year, regardless of where we ended up!  The pic above was taken in early 2010, and is one of my all time favorite John E shots (and I have many).  You can read all about that East Coast visit by clicking here.

Paul, John E and Gary in Chattanooga (Humoring V & Posing in a Brick Boat)

In 2011, John E came to see us in Tennessee, and our mutual friend Gary just happened to be visiting the area as well.  I love it when that happens.  Coincidentally, those are boxes of cupcakes in John and Gary’s hands.  Our excuse (and we have a good one) is that John E traditionally comes to visit in February, his Birthday Month.

John E & Flat Stanley Love Southern BBQ

Oh, and let’s not forget Flat Stanley, who had flown out from Colorado for a visit as well and ended up in just about all of our photos. I kinda miss that little guy.  Yes, we are easily entertained.  Thank you for noticing.

Christmas Crowns (It's an English Thing)

It is once again February and John E’s Birthday…but there is no John E to celebrate with. That is because he came to visit us here in Oregon on Christmas Day. And he brought this wonderful woman with him.  We did a lot of lounging around the new digs, wandering Alberta Street and feeding our faces (it’s a theme).

I’m not going to lie…February without John E feels odd.  We are not sad, though, because this year he is celebrating his Birthday with not only his Evergreen friends (of which he has many) but with Pandora, aka his life’s love.

Singing Love Songs and Eatin' Cheetos (Inside Joke)

So, John E.  This is my Birthday card to you.  One never knows what will transpire in a year’s time, eh, Minnesota?  I have a feeling this is going to be your best year yet.   Happy Birthday, dear friend.  We love you BIG!  XOX Always,

Valynne & Paul


Six Years of Fun and Adventure

I have been doing some reminiscing today, mainly of anniversaries past. Because ours is so close to Valentine’s Day, we always celebrate the two together with something extra special.

We celebrated our first year together by having dinner at the place we met (It was SoHo at the time and is now Rio Del Sol) in Evergreen, Colorado. Yup. We met at a bar, while I was bartending. Hey, ya never know. After dinner, Paul surprised me with a stay at one of the best B&B’s on planet earth, Highland Haven Creekside Inn. We walked from the restaurant to the Gardener’s Cottage in the snow that night.  So romantic…

At Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy back in 2007 *Disclaimer - this is not an Anniversary pic. Paul made me take the adorable Key West pic down. Whatev, Paul!

Our second Anniversary was spent in the Florida Keys, with Key West being our target destination. Oh, the fun we had! We keep saying we are going to get back. Can’t believe it has been four years already. We stayed at the Pilot House and had dinner at Kelly’s on Valentine’s Day. Sigh.

Anniversary Number Three was spent wandering Denver, Colorado. We went to Tattered Cover (one of our all-time favorite book stores), had dinner at McCormick’s (and drinks in the Cruise Room, which is a bitchin’ Art Deco martini bar) and spent the night at Hotel Monaco. The band Dakota Blonde puts on an amazing Valentine’s Day show every year and 2009 was no exception. Miss you, Robb and Mary!

A year later we were  in Cape Cod enjoying our first official sit as Caretaking Couple. We celebrated by going to dinner at our favorite local restaurant, Mezza Luna. Oh, how we miss Mezza Luna! To hear Frank crooning away while sitting at the bar, eating delicious Italian food, drinking and bantering with Rick and Sherri…another place on our “must get back for a visit” list.

After five years together, we found ourselves on a sit in Tennessee. We drove to Atlanta and enjoyed a decadent meal at Nikolai’s Roof, on the 30th floor of the Hilton. I will never forget the cheese tray that was rolled over to our table that night. That cheese tray just may be the highlight of our six months in Tennessee, truth be told. Anyway.

This year, we are in Portland, Oregon. There are at least twenty restaurants walking distance from us. Paul has made reservations somewhere local, but isn’t telling me where : ) I have to wait until tomorrow night (Valentine’s Day). All I know is that it is somewhere we have not yet been to.  Fun!  I will post a pic of the restaurant he chose later.

Do you have a favorite Anniversary story or destination? If so, please share. In the meantime, Happy Sixth Anniversary to Paul, aka my One and Only. Life with you just gets better and better…XOX,






Interview with Alexis Peterka of Stayhound

Use Your Social Connections to Find Trusted Pet Sitters at Stayhound

A few months ago, I clicked a link to this PBS video on Portland entrepreneurs via the facebook page of Barbara Winter, author of one of my favorite books, Making a Living Without a Job. That is when I found out about Alexis. I contacted her soon after and we have had two great brainstorming sessions over coffee since then. I am excited about what she is doing for the pet sitting community and can’t wait to share this start-up with you…

1. Alexis, in a sentence or two, what is Stayhound?

Stayhound makes it easier to leave your pets with friends and other carers.
Right now we’re helping people connect to trusted pet sitters using their
existing social connections, and we’re working on ways to help you track
and share details about your travels, your pet’s extended family (vets,
walkers, and other carers), medications, feeding schedule, and other important information.

2. Who or what inspired this great start-up?

My own hassles with finding and communicating with pet sitters to care for
my dog, Jake, and cat, Toby. I found myself spending more time interviewing
people I found through online directories than actually traveling! And when
I asked my friends to pet sit for me, I was driving all over the place to
drop off Jake before going to the airport. I knew there were people –
friends, professional pet sitters, and others – who lived closer to me and
I would trust, but I didn’t know how to find that sweet spot of social
proximity and location proximity.

3. What do you think makes Stayhound stand out from other online sitting services?

Trust. I interviewed dozens of pet parents and all of them wanted a better
way to find people they would trust with their animal companions. One told
me that she wouldn’t use Yelp to find a pet sitter because she didn’t
personally know the reviewers – she wanted a word of mouth referral. By
using your existing social connections, we make it easier to find pet
sitters who come with recommendations from trusted friends.

Jake and Alexis

4. What do you believe pet parents really want from sitters/walkers like Paul and I?

No one wants to have another thing to worry about, and when I trust the
person caring for Jake when I have to travel, it’s one less thing to worry
about. That comes from knowing – and liking – my pet sitter, but also
getting email, text messages, and photos of how Jake and Toby are doing. It
makes me feel like I’m with them.

5. What’s in it for the pets?

While all pets are different and many thrive in different environments, I’m
not a huge fan of kennels for Jake. Most kennel and dog daycare owners I’ve
talked to also realize that not all dogs do well in that environment. For
dogs who are more human-identified like Jake, staying with someone else in
their home or having someone stay in my home with him is so much better.
Kennels can also be dangerous for dogs – distemper, dog flu, and other
diseases are always a risk.

On a less tangible level, I believe our pets pick up on our anxieties. When
I feel confident dropping Jake off with someone I trust, he knows that and
feels more comfortable.

6. How have you gone about getting the word out on Stayhound?

Largely through friends and other people I’ve worked with who are
interested in what we’re doing. Partnering with the Oregon Humane Society
to donate a dollar for every pet profile created has been a great way to
get press from news outlets like the Oregonian.

7. What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

Strangely, introducing people to others who can help them! I’ve never
considered myself an extrovert, but running my own business forces me to
get out and talk to people more than I would otherwise. I love being able
to connect someone I meet to a potential customer or mentor. I recently
spent the weekend at Reed College helping college students work on their
startup ideas and pitch to a panel of investors. I loved being able to help
students the way others have helped me.

8. What can we do here in the sitting community to support Stayhound?

If you’re friends with your clients on Facebook, tell them about us! Anyone
can sign up for a Stayhound account and find out how many of their facebook
friends (and “friends in law”) are already there. There are so many people
who are involved in our pets’ lives, and we’re working on ways to keep all
of them in the loop. We’d love to hear feedback about how we can make that
communication easier for carers and their clients.

Alexis, thank you for taking the time to talk with me and share Stayhound with everyone…you are definitely onto something, here. As always, we welcome feedback and questions from all of you pet parents, sitters, and otherwise curious readers!


Paul’s Favorite Places Here in the States…Part 1(Colorado & Three Coasts)

I made my first visit to the US in 1997. A business trip to New York, Detroit and Dallas while working for EDS, a US based IT company once owned by Ross Perot. My first glimpse of the Big Apple made a lasting impression, but I never once thought that a few years later I would make the US my home.

When Valynne asked me to contribute to the blog and highlight some of my favorite places in the US I thought that would be easy enough, but when you have visited 43 of the 50 states you begin to see the problem.  Anyway, here goes.

View of Evergreen Lake from the Old Digs (New Year's Day, 2008)

Colorado has to be high on my list. Not least because it’s where I lived, happily most of the time, for about 6 years and for the last 4 of those with Valynne. Colorado is scenically very beautiful, a photographer’s dream if you will. I lived in a picturesque little town called Evergreen, approximately 15 miles west of Denver at an altitude of 7,200′ (we were a little above 8,000′, on Bear Mountain). The main feature of Evergreen is the lake and this provides a meeting place for the community with concerts during the summer months and skating in the winter. We have many friends there still and it’s always wonderful to return whenever we can.

Valynne always has a yearning to be close to the ocean and I’m not far behind her, although throughout my life in both Europe and the US I’ve always lived as far from the ocean as you could possibly get, until recently. My favorite oceanside spots, in no particular order are: the California coast between San Francisco and Santa Monica; the Oregon coast; driving from Miami to Key West and having a wild time in same; Provincetown (right on the end of Cape Cod) and last but not least, the Outer Banks in North Carolina and particularly Ocracoke Island.

The Atlantic, as Seen From the Deck at Louie's Backyard in Key West, Florida

I think it was back in 2006 when Valynne and I flew out to San Francisco to attend a wedding in Santa Cruz (a friend of Valynne’s) and then take a week driving down to L.A. stopping at places that had been on my ‘must see list’ for a while. I wouldn’t say I’m a big wedding fan, but this was as good as it gets. The ceremony was held outdoors in a redwood glade at a vineyard followed by a reception amongst the vines. This was also my first exposure to the redwoods…more later. We then headed south to Monterey. Both being avid readers, we wanted to get up close with some of the locations familiar to Steinbeck followers. Things have changed since Steinbeck’s time of course and while Cannery Row has become ‘touristy’, there is still an atmosphere that you can feel.  Also, the Aquarium is a must see…..probably one of the best in the world.

We continued south stopping briefly at Carmel for lunch….think we missed the best bits. Need to go back. We drove through the private estate of Pebble Beach and via the world famous golf course of the same name. If you can afford the fees, this must be a wonderful place to play golf. Next of course, Big Sur. More writer connections if you are a Kerouac fan. The real attraction is the dramatic coast line where the surf races in like nowhere else in the world. Erosion is severly damaging the highway these days, so be sure to check the news reports before planning a drive down highway 1 as long road closures have become frequent.

After spending the morning at Hearst Castle (ostentation at its best or worst, depending on your reaction), we headed for Santa Barbara. Now that is a place I could live if anyone wants to donate a few million to the cause. A perfect place to do a ‘sit’ methinks. Wonder if Oprah needs any help.

Cora's Coffee Shoppe in Santa Monica, 06

We couldn’t drive past Ventura without calling in on Valynne’s family…could we?  Just joking, Valynne and Mum. Our first meeting and I thought it went pretty well…I hope.  Our last stop was Santa Monica where we spent a few days amongst the beautiful people. I guess technically it’s L.A. but it feels like a different world. We hired bikes and cycled along the bike path through Venice Beach and basically had a great time.

More of Paul’s favorite places to come….

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