Settling In to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Settling In to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Binks says Goodbye to the Brit

Caretaking Couple officially moved to Santa Fe in October.  We are here on a long-term sit (a year or longer).  The drive from Oregon to New Mexico was an adventurous one, and we arrived just in time for me to help unload and clean before heading off to spend three weeks with family in Connecticut (stay tuned for a separate post).

Our New Neighbors

Sadly, I don’t have many photos to share.  My beloved Canon G12 is now beyond repair.  It was never the same after having broken a fall I took back in Oregon (lots of cracked and uneven sidewalks in Portland), and it finally kicked the bucket for good.  So, the few pictures I have are from my i-Phone.

Original Appliances

We are actually living on a reservation on the outskirts of Santa Fe.  It is full of peace and quiet and we are smitten.  There are horses and cows in the backyard, along with rabbits, roadrunners, lizards, and the occasional coyote.  The house is a 1950’s ranch with an open floor plan and a fabulous fireplace.

Keeping Warm

Our social lives are much different here than they were in Portland.  We had so much fun there, living right off Alberta Street and being able to walk everywhere.  Now, we are doing a whole lot of hunkering.  It feels right.  We’ve been out on the town (in Santa Fe) twice so far, and both times were great.  I will talk about our favorite spots to go and some of the cool people and pets we’ve met soon.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to you and yours!  Love,

Valynne & Paul


Caretaking Couple Loves Key West

Caretaking Couple Loves Key West

Paul and I had originally planned to spend five nights in Key West.  It took us a couple extra days to get out of Sanibel, owing to Hurricane Isaac, so we ended up having three nights instead.  We were a little disappointed at first, but Sanibel was a great place to be stuck in (see our Sanibel post for storm pics).  I think we did a pretty good job of making up for lost time…

The Road to Key West

Paul and I both love driving the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West.  This is the longest bridge I have been over and at times, it seems like it is just us and the water.  Here you can see the old bridge, as well.

Better Than Sex

Our first dinner in Key West was at a fun little place called Better Than Sex.  Yes, we had dessert for dinner, rebels that we are.  What you see here is “Brie cheese and dark chocolate grilled together on sweet homestyle butter bread, served with strawberry prosecco soup for dipping (or drinking).”  SO GOOD.  Paul used a flashlight in order for me to capture this picture as the place is very dark inside.  We marveled at how the waitress could keep a straight face while suggesting such menu items as “rim jobs”.  Tee hee!

Truman is a Regular at Schooner Wharf Bar

Truman is one of the first friends I made while in Key West.  Boxers are one of my favorite breeds.  He seemed to know everyone at the bar!  Key West is very pet friendly, from what we have observed.  Our original plan was to network like crazy and find us a winter sit there, but we were officially offered a year-long sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico while in Sanibel, so we were able to make this trip a bonified vacation.  We *are* accepting inquiries for winter 2013, however!

Truman Bellies Up to the Bar

The first time I went to Key West was with my friend Nancy.  I’m thinking it was at least ten years ago.  We visited the Hemingway Home and I gained a newfound respect for the writer.  He was a chauvinist and I did not enjoy reading The Old Man and the Sea one bit in high school, but the man could write.  He loved his cats (bonus points) and added much to the allure of Key West.  My favorite book of his is The Son Also Rises.  Paul hadn’t been so we spent the better part of the morning exploring Hemingway’s home and grounds.

Hemingway's Typewriter


Hemingway's Pool


One of the 40-50 Famous Polydactyl (six-toed) Hemingway Cats


Hemingway Cat, Showing Off His Paws


Keeping Cool at the Hemingway House

I love old beat-up trucks.  Every time I see one, I wonder what it would take to get it running, and what color paint I would use to pretty it up with if it were mine.  I am going to need a truck to tow my Airstream one of these days, after all.  Hopefully “my” Airstream will become “ours” when Paul falls in love with it as well.  As of this writing, the fascination lies with me more than him.

Banged Up Old Truck in Front of Mac's Sea Garden


Another Old Key West Truck

Paul and I visited the Chart Room back in 2008.  I have no idea how we found it, as it is nestled in a luxury resort.  Paul has a way of finding the best watering holes, so I just go with his suggestions most of the time. We are both “atmosphere” junkies and this tiny spot has plenty of it.

Locals at the Chart Room

We had also already been to Louie’s.  I love trying new places, but since we hardly ever get to Key West, there were a couple of places that needed revisiting.  Just to make sure they were as good as we remembered them to be.  And they were.

Perfect Night at Louie's Backyard


Romantic Waterfront Dining at Louie's Backyard


Cool Key West House


Michael McCloud at Schooner Wharf Bar

Schooner Wharf Bar was new to us and we went back a couple of times as we enjoyed the music, the drinks and the laid back crowd.  It is mostly outdoor, but with plenty of shade for freckly people like me.

Harpoon Harry's for an Early Breakfast

I love diners, and we were advised to check out Harpoon Harry’s for breakfast.  It did not disappoint.  We actually really enjoyed the food and drink wherever we went, whether the menu was gourmet or down home.

This Bird Rules the Roost in Key West

Key West is a great place for wandering.  It is a small island…no need to rent a car or take a taxi if you are OK with walking or riding a bike around in the heat (September/October in FL is pretty hot).  I just made sure that I had my hat and sunglasses on me at all times.  You will see chickens and roosters all over the island, along with fun little shops like the ones below, if that is your thing.  Paul and I are more foodies than we are shoppers, so I have no recommendations there.  If you have a favorite or two, please share in the comments section.

Seaside Shops

Same goes for cruise ships.  Neither of us has been on one and I don’t see Paul ever deciding to try it.  He is convinced it is going to be a bunch of people who dress funny, gorging themselves on buffets and shopping or playing shuffleboard the rest of the time.  I will have to remind him of the plaid shorts he bought this summer.

Just Arriving

I actually applied for a small liner earlier this year; an educational cruiser that held less than 200 passengers and had guest lecturers of the intellectual variety.  The appeal for me was that I would get paid to travel and meet interesting people from all over the world, and that the liner was small enough to get into ports that the cruise ships couldn’t fit into.  Alas, I was not offered the job.

This is More Our Style

We both love being on the water, but our experience is limited to mainly fishing and touristy boats.  Perhaps we will find ourselves a yacht sit here in the near future…

Musician at the Schooner Wharf

We went back to the Schooner Wharf Bar for our last Key West breakfast and I could not get over how good it was.  How many bars serve excellent breakfasts?  I splurged and had eggs benedict (I give the ham to Paul) and it was divine.  That is saying a lot as I have had more than my share of bennies.  The cardboard plate and plastic utensils didn’t even phase me.  I wanted to talk to this guy but there wasn’t time.  He had his guitar with him and reminded me of Keith Richard.  Bet he has a few good stories to tell.

We did have a chance to meet a couple of interesting characters at Don’s Place and would like to thank Key West Lou for suggesting it.  Sadly, I have no pics of Key West Lou (he was about to go on air so we were lucky to just chat for a few) or Don’s Place (too busy enjoying the locals).  Next time, we will give you more notice and buy you a proper drink at one of your favorite watering holes, Lou!

Leaving Key West

And yet another delightful adventure under our belts.  I love this picture of Paul.  We stayed (for the second time) at the Pilot House.  I don’t have any pictures because we spent most of our time there at the pool, which is clothing optional.  Paul has no problem getting naked (I think it is a European thing).  I am OK with it now, but only with strangers.  Don’t want friends seeing my bits, and I don’t want to see theirs!  Anyway, the Pilot House is a great place to stay.  We had a lovely dinner at Michael’s one night with friends we met in the water.  After a couple of days poolside, it was kind of weird seeing them with their clothes on.

Goodbye, Key West!

Sadly, my Canon has been laid to rest since returning from this, our latest adventure.  I am not enamored with my i-Phone camera, even though everyone else seems to be.  So, I need to figure something out soon as a lack of pictures means a lack of blog post motivation on my end.  If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share with friends.  If I wanted this blog to be all about us I would simply journal or scrapbook, after all…

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

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….

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Simple

WordPress has a weekly photo challenge at The Daily Post.  This is my contribution.


Simply Magnificent


I recently asked Paul what five places he loved most in America so far (he has been here for nine years this coming March). The Redwoods of Northern California made #1.  We will be making a return visit, in the late spring/early summer.  Do you have a favorite camping spot in the area?

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

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,



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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sunset

This sunset photo was taken from our deck at the lovely SeaQuest Inn (Oregon Coast)

The homeowner here in Portland was recently back for a couple of weeks between jobs, which allowed us to do some wandering (we do love to wander).  Since attending WordCamp, I have been following The Daily Post, which has weekly photo challenges : )  When I read the latest challenge, I was taken back to this one particular evening along the Oregon Coast in Yachats. Sigh.

I will be posting a lot more photos as soon as I can.  Our two weeks off were spent not only along the Oregon Coast, but in the Northern California Redwoods as well, and I did my best to capture some of the magic.  What an amazing trip we had.  What an amazing part of the world this Pacific Northwest is.  So happy to be here!

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