Happy Birthday, John E!

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

Happy Birthday, John E!

Why Portland, Oregon?

Hope you like pictures, because I am finally able to post them again and I have lots to share with you, thanks to my new hosting company, bluehost.  So many friends have asked us what it is about Portland that inspired us to actually stay here and rent a place. I am not sure where to begin, so I am going to allow my pics to do most of the talking.

Indie shops are all over NE Portland.  This is a pic of Wanderlust owner Vanessa with her friend and her hubster.  Other favorite shops of mine include digs (if you love gnomes, you gotta check this place out) and Tumbleweed, where lots of the clothes are sewn by the owner and one of a kind.  Sigh.  I could go on but will save that for another post.

When you live in a cool city, you are more likely to have friends visit.  Not that Nancy and Chad wouldn’t come to visit us elsewhere, but it just helps to live in a cool city.  This is us at McMenamins Kennedy School, an old elementary school that now sports a hotel, pubs, movie theatre, etc. etc.  It is walking distance from us.  Our favorite spot is there is the Detention Room, thanks to the atmosphere and Alex, who tends the bar.

If you love live music, Portland will not disappoint.  Sade played here not too long ago and it was phenomenal.  Our friend Libby came out to celebrate her 50th with friends and we are so happy she included us in the festivities.  This concert was at the Rose Quarter, but there are plenty of smaller venues that host outstanding acts as well…

First Thursday is huge on Alberta Street during the summer.  Twenty blocks are closed to traffic and it is one big party.  Here you see Myrtle singing “You can take my husband, but please don’t take my man” outside the Star E Rose Cafe.  There are jam sessions going on here constantly.

My little sis came out for a quick visit last month.  So happy she hung out with me for a few hours when she could have been hanging out with friends (I am a generation older, after all).  This is her outside the Alleyway.  I can’t vouch for it as we haven’t been in yet, but Em liked the sign.  We had a yummy meal at Thai Noon, which I can definitely vouch for.  Paul and I love it there.

So.  The food.  It is out of this world.  I am not kidding. We are walking distance from deliciousness in all directions.  I do love a good breakfast, and Helser’s has never let me down.  Never.  This pic is of their potato pancakes with creme fraiche and applesauce. Another favorite of ours is Vita Cafe.  I get the huevos rancheros for breakfast and the buffalo tofu wrap for lunch.

What you see here is my favorite burrito joint, La Bonita.  I grew up on Mexican food and it will always ALWAYS remain near and dear to me.  I can make a pretty mean burrito (according to the Brit, anyway) but this place is SO GOOD.  I know, I know, I sell Beachbody products for crying out loud.  The good news is that there is plenty to do here to stay active. Between meals.

This is Aaron, manning the Townshend’s Tea booth at the Alberta Street Fair.  This place has every tea you could possibly imagine. We went to a tea tasting the other day, which was super interesting.  Does that make us tea nerds?  Whatever. Don’t care. Latest addictions = White Rose Kambucha and Roasted Coconut Mate.

And no, I have not lost my love for latte.  There are so many great coffee shops all around us.  I am *trying* to limit my coffee consumption to the weekends.  Caffe Vita is one of my faves on Alberta.  The baristas are great.  I also enjoy fuel cafe and Random Order.  Oh, and I can’t wait to try Barista now that their space has been renovated (there was a fire on July 4th).

Introducing three of the lovely ladies from binks…Holly, Grace and Ally (you are lovely as well, Dan).  This has become Paul’s local.  I am sure it has nothing to do with the binkstenders pictured above.  Yes, I am rolling my eyes over here.  Seriously, though…we love this bar.  Next door is another fave, Siam Society, where it is always a pleasure to see Don.  He reminds me of a young Leonard Cohen. We also enjoy Bernie’s and Bar Lolo.  All of the above are walking distance from our abode.

Portlander’s love their pets and we are enjoying our new canine and feline friends.  Jonny C brought Charlie over for a photo session the other day.  She is a nine month old Beagle/Pointer mix and very sweet.  She sniffed all around, vacuumed the kitchen floor for me, ran up and down the stairs and  otherwise entertained us for a good hour before conking out at Jonny’s feet.

Adorable, I know.  And while we are on the subject…

Allow me to introduce Macey.  I met her at the Alberta Main Street office.  She is the mascot and Sara is her human. I love this pic because I swear she is smiling at me.  She let me follow her around and take several photos and of course my two faves of her are in front of the trash cans and the boxes you see here. Macey prefers to keep it real.

We have even made a handful of human friends. People say it gets harder to make friends as we get older and I am doing my best to prove that theory wrong.  I met Michelle and her hubster Jeremy (see below) at a bloggers meeting set up by Sara, who I met at WordCamp back in September.  This pic is of Michelle and I at Livewire, which was performed and taped at the Alberta Rose Theatre that night.

Besides being world travelers (sigh) Michelle and Jeremy boast some serious culinary skills.  Michelle has her own blog, Feed Your Skull. Jeremy is a developer and an all around smart and mellow guy.  This is Jeremy with his delicious apple pie at our place on Thanksgiving.  Thanks for all the yummy meals, you two!

Portland is the land of creatives. One of my favorite places (again, walking distance ~ dangerously so) is Collage.  I took an embroidery class there and plan on taking others as well, including bookbinding and encaustic painting.  Getting the nerve up for that last one. They have tons of fun stuff for sale, too, including stamps.  I gave away most of my stamps when we left Cape Cod (Trish, I hope you are using those stamps!) and am rebuilding my collection, one stamp at a time.

I helped out behind the makeshift bar this past Thursday night for a Community Cycling Center fundraiser. This place and the people who keep it going are great. Tomorrow, they will be giving bicycles to over 400 youth across Portland.  Watch this short video by Quin, a twelve year old who volunteers for CCC.

The sense of community here in Portland is strong all around. I took this picture at a recent Occupy rally. This woman gave me a wink afterwards. I know there are a lot of people that disagree with this movement. So be it. I find the people involved to be a huge inspiration.

Portland is about an hour and a half away from the Oregon Coast.  Life was good back in Evergreen, Colorado but I never did get used to being that far from either the Pacific or the Atlantic.  I need an ocean nearby.  We had a couple of weeks off of our sit a few months back and spent some time in Yahats at the SeaQuest Inn en route to the Redwoods. That trip was nothing short of magical.

On our way back to Portland from the coast, I spotted this mother of all busses parked along the road.  Paul turned around so that I could take a closer look.  Since then, I have seen a variety of rolling homes that make my heart go pitter pat.  We love living in a place that celebrates individuality.

So, there you have it.  Just a few reasons why we chose Portland for our home.  If you are looking for someone to take care of your own home sweet home, please let us know.  We are staying local for the most part these days, but have several sitters that we know personally and are happy to recommend.  Thank you for reading, and be sure to drop a line via the comment link ~ we love hearing from you!  Seasons Greetings,



Happy Birthday, John E!

An Overnight in Eugene and Two in Downtown Portland

C'est La Vie Inn

We only had one night in Eugene, which was a bit of a disappointment, but one night is better than none, right?  Paul chose this lovely Victorian B&B, and we were able to walk or take the bus everywhere.  It kind of felt like we were missing out on something – I meant to contact friends beforehand regarding where to go for fun but didn’t, and the businesses were almost deserted owing to Labor Day Weekend.  I wandered 5th Street Public Market for a bit while Paul had a pint or two down the street and we walked to a Thai restaurant around the corner from the B&B for dinner.

Train Village at C'est La Vie

Our waiter, Gabriel at Ring of Fire was friendly and the food and drink was delicious.   Because it was a slower night than usual, we were able to chat a bit with him, and he kindly took the time to recommend a few of his local favorites: The Kiva for their rice pudding and Chocolove selection (btw, Cherries and Almonds in Dark Chocolate is my favorite too, Gabriel), the David Minor Theater for “If a Tree Falls”, Sweet Life Patisserie for the custard eclair and Tiramisu, and Hendricks Park for the rhododendron garden.

Tub Love

We didn’t make any of those places (opted for the tub, wine, and bed instead) but I am grateful for this info and plan on going back to get a better feel for Eugene, a town that is beloved by a few favorite friends of mine.

Backyard Bliss

The backyard at C’est La Vie is absolutely gorgeous and we enjoyed a bottle of red and some cheese outside before bed…comme c’est romantique! The model railroad is charming as well (see above).  There are several cats that stay in the Innkeeper’s quarters and have their own outside playground that looks much like a custom chicken coop (sorry I didn’t get a picture as it was pretty impressive).  I think they may be a wee bit spoiled.

Driving Back to Portland ~ Pull Over Here, Paul!

The drive back to Portland was lovely…although we weren’t quite home yet.  We spent a couple more nights on the road, this time at Hotel Monaco in Downtown Portland.  This was because I had a new job (I say “had” because I have since quit.  Come to find out “job” was a bit of an exaggeration as that would actually entail a “paycheck”).  Anyway…moving along…

Robes at Hotel Monaco

I tried to get Paul to pose for the camera in one of these beauties but no way, no how was that to happen, not even after a few pints at Bailey’s Taproom.  Party pooper.   We met a cool couple at Bailey’s (she is in the band Eisley, he builds custom guitars), and Silas Weir Mitchell just happened to be reading a script at the table behind us.  I actually had the pleasure of being an extra on the set of GRIMM recently and was really bummed that he was not there that day as he plays my favorite character, Monroe.  Mr. Mitchell was also at a Live Wire show at The Alberta Rose Theatre that my friend Michelle and I attended a couple months later.  Fate?  I think not, says the crazed fan.

Eisley ~ Deep Space Tour

Do you have favorite Eugene haunts?  If so, please share with us in the comments section.  We will get back soon. Oh, and Bend.  We haven’t been to Bend yet, but it is hight on the list, so if you have any Bend suggestions, we would love to hear them as well…

A Short, Sweet Sit in Lake Charles, Louisiana

A Short, Sweet Sit in Lake Charles, Louisiana


Lake Charles Sunset

Paul and I were contacted by a couple in Lake Charles who are big into travel and interested in doing home exchanges and possibly taking on some house and pet sits themselves.  We really enjoyed meeting them before they headed off on their vacation. This couple connected us with their friends as well, who had a beautiful waterfront camp that they frequented on weekends. They even had RV hook-ups for their friends and family when they came to visit! So cool. This picture was taken from the camp. What a beautiful spot. Thank you for your Southern Hospitality, Micky and Martha!

Lake Charles Lawn

Paul loves these  riding lawn mowers. He won’t let me mow any of the lawns on our sits. True story. So, here he is…mowing the lawn. We were perched on a rock up on Bear Mountain when we lived in Evergreen, Colorado and didn’t need a lawn mower (the elk took care of random patches of grass). Perhaps he feels he is making up for lost time.

American Alligator

We drove the Creole Nature Trail to Holly Beach and stopped at the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge along the way. This is the first alligator either of us has seen out of captivity. I took the picture from a boardwalk and am not as close to said alligator as I look. I do love a good shot but am not so foolish as to annoy an alligator. Note to Birders: The Creole Trail is considered one of the top ten birding locations in the country, with over 300 species of birds. Three hundred!

Holly Beach Rules

The trail led us to Holly Beach, also known as the “Cajun Riviera”.  We parked on the beach (no wheelies were popped) and walked along the shore, meeting lots of friendly people along the way.

Holly Beach Houses

Almost all of the homes on Holly Beach were rebuilt after Hurricane Rita came through and demolished the area back in 2005. Several families have been unable to rebuild due to more stringent building codes. I move around too much to ever feel complete loyalty to any one place, but it leaves me with a heavy heart to think of those that are displaced and then unable to rebuild on their property, which in some cases has been in the family for generations.

Fun in the Sun

We were fortunate enough to have this salt water pool all to ourselves during the two week sit. What a luxury it was (Louisiana gets HOT in the summertime). Some days we were in and out of the pool several times a day. Rough life, I know.

Grayson Capps Has a story to Tell

Did you know that I love Grayson Capps and the Lost Cause Minstrels?  I discovered them while on a sit for my cousins in Connecticut several years ago.  They had a Netflix account and I watched the film A Love Song for Bobby Long while there.  It is based on the novel Off Magazine Street by Grayson’s father, Ronald Everett Capps.

I fell in love with the imagery, storyline, soundtrack (which featured Grayson’s songs)…everything.  As luck would have it, the band happened to be playing at The Maple Tree Cafe around about the same time, so I went with my friend Kim and it was love at first song.

When Paul discovered that Grayson Capps and the Lost Cause Minstrels would be playing at The Porch while we were in Lake Charles, I nearly peed myself.  I believe Grayson is telling a story about “Washboard Lisa” in the picture above.  Don’t you love it when musicians give you a glimpse of themselves and their lives between songs?

John Milham on drums, Christian Grizzard on bass, Chris Spies on keyboards and Corky Hughes on guitar.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Grayson Capps twice, and both times have been such a pleasure.  The three of us talked about the film and the book his father wrote that prompted it, and Grayson having lost so much of his music and belongings in Katrina, and the passing of Pinetop Perkins.

Grayson & Me

Having the opportunity to experience Grayson Capps and the Lost Cause Minstrels again was the highlight of my stay in Lake Charles. That, and the po’ boys, étouffée and lively conversation at Big Daddy’s Sports Grill.  Oh, and the pool.  Lake Charles was good to us.

On the Road Again

Next stop?  Amarillo, Texas.  This was a quick lunch break at a Louisiana rest stop.  Quick, because it was over 105 outside.  So long, swimming pool.  It can’t ALL be glitz and glam, eh?

Happy Birthday, John E!

New Orleans, Louisiana 2011 (in Pictures)

Dining Room at the 1896 O'Malley House



Dancing in the Street



Early Dinner at Muriel's



Chandelier Envy



Cafe Du Monde for Cafe Au Lait and Beignets



Beignets Zoom



Who Dat?



No Cover



Erin Rose, NOLA



A Friendly Reminder from the Erin Rose



Sitting at the Bar



Sudden Downpour



House of Voodoo



V’s Late Night Voodoo (Chips)




Throwing Beads




Jackson Square Banana Tree



Rice n' Beans



d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street



Jesus Saves – St. Louis #3 cemetary – New Orleans



Balcony Bikes



Jackson Square in the French Quarter



Enjoying Jackson Square



Marching Band



Too Late For Help




Happy Birthday, John E!

Fall in Provincetown (Part I)

Paul and I had the month of October off (between sits), so we decided to spend more time in P-town before heading south.  We found a perfect little apartment across from Carpe Diem on Johnson Street and rented it without thinking twice.

My October Office

I loved this spot because to me, it felt like I had stepped back into the land of Anne of Green Gables, but with the Atlantic down the stairs and to the left.  Not to mention Commercial Street.  Thank you, David, for a wonderful month in your home sweet home!

One thing Paul and I both wanted to do was spend more time exploring the Cape Cod National Seashore.  I fell in love with the Seashore while reading Joan Anderson’s books, and then the book Master of the Sweet Trade by Elizabeth Moisan, after meeting her at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod.

The Cape Cod National Seashore was established as a National Park almost fifty years ago.  It is the most pristine stretch of shoreline either of us have ever seen.

"A man can stand here and put all of America behind him." Henry David Thoreau

Cape Cod National Seashore

There are eighteen remaining dune shacks along the Cape Cod National Seashore.  It is a bit of a hike to get to them.  I suggest you leave your shoes at the beginning of the trail (which is all sand) and bring plenty of drinking water.  There is a vehicle tour available if you prefer, but to be fair to all of your senses I say hike it.

Province Lands Dune Shacks

The dune shacks started out as homes for rescuers employed by the U.S. Life-saving Service in the 19th century.  If you are fortunate enough to spend some time here (temporary tenants are chosen by lottery), you will be joining the likes of Eugene O’Neil, Jack Kerouac, e.e. cummings, Norman Mailer and Jackson Pollack.

Afternoon on the Dunes

Wild Cranberry Bog, Cape Cod National Seashore

Of course, I would love to spend more time here.  There is a bit of controversy surrounding the shacks and their (in my opinion) rightful owners…thankfully they are on the National Register of Historic Places.  If I understand this correctly, this means they cannot be bulldozed.  Dear Powers That Be, please don’t bulldoze any more shacks.  And please don’t take this magical place away from those who have owned and loved these shacks for decades, if not generations.  Thanks.

Sophie B Hawkins at the Post Office Cafe & Cabaret

Meanwhile, back on Commercial Street…would you believe I had the luck to be in P-town during Women’s Week?  No, I am not a lesbian, but nobody seemed to mind.  There were tons of events going on.

It was such a pleasure to see Sophie B. Hawkins live.  After the show, I was lucky enough to chat with her a bit, buy a CD, and take pics of others with her.  Yes, I wish I had asked Paul to take a pic of me with her…don’t normally care about that kind of thing but I do LOVE her and now wish I had a pic!

Bold Strokes Authors

Every day during Women’s Week, there were readings and Q&A sessions at Vixen Night Club, followed by book signings at Now Voyager Bookstore and Gallery.  What a great group of women authors!  I purchased a couple of books and look forward to reading them now that we have settled in for the winter here on Signal Mountain (TN).  Thank you, Bold Strokes for putting on this great event!

Well.  Here I am, once more realizing that I am going on and on.  Apparently one isn’t to go on and on here in Blogsville…something about the waning attention span of the average reader.  That’s fine, because it is just about dinnertime.

Thank you for hanging out with me….I blog for comments, so feel free to leave one.  As an added bonus, each comment you leave between now and December 1, 2010 enters you into my latest prize drawing : )

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