Friday, August 31, 2012

Hiking along the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Juan de Fuca Strait

We love to stop at Visitor Centers.  They are usually staffed by helpful people who are not only excited to tell you all about where they live, but they'll clue you in on the best things to do depending upon your interests.  That's how we found out about East Sooke Regional Park on Vancouver Island.  Described in the literature as having "mystical pull" and challenging coastal hikes along rugged coastline in a wilderness setting it delivers on its promise. 

"Mystical" forest filled with ferns and moss

We've spent the last two days hiking in the park and it was spectacular.  The first day was from the East entrance by Beecher Bay and Aldridge Point.  Fairly easy going.  The second day, from the West on the Pike Road trail to Iron Mine Bay and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca was a challenge and lived up to the "rugged coastline" description.
The scenery is jaw droppingly beautiful, from the "mystical" fern filled forest trails to the cliff hanging rocky ledges. If you ever get the chance, go!  

Madrone (Arbutus) tree bark close up in forest
We call it a "Madrone" tree, but believe it is called "Arbutus" here in Canada.
Whatever it's called, the peeling bark begs to be photographed.

This gives you an idea of the West side trail.  Colleen only fell once!

shot of Iron Mine Bay from shore along Strait of Juan de Fuca on sunny day
View of Iron Mine Bay

For more information on the park, go to

Monday, August 27, 2012

Vancouver Reflections

cityscape of Vancouver reflected in building
Cityscape Reflection

Our house sit in Richmond, BC is winding down.  We'll be leaving in a couple of days to take a brief vacation in Campbell River before we start our house sit on Vancouver Island.  In farewell to the city of Vancouver, in which we've spent many hours wondering around enthralled, we wanted to share some of our reflections on the city...

buildings reflected on skyscrapers in Vancouver

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vancouver Street Eats

Street scene montage of Vancouver's food trucks

We’re stuffed…we came across the map of Vancouver’s Best Street Eats and we’re hooked.  Holy guacamole Batman, good food, reasonable prices, alfresco dining in the heart of the city – no wonder food trucks are all the rage in big cities across the country.

Street scene of food truck in Vancouver
Within a dozen or so blocks we could visit all 16 trucks listed on the Best Street Eats map.  Of course we didn’t, but we wanted to!  The menus ranged from gourmet vegan at Lovin Hut to Pig on the Street’s “achin for bacon” inspired chow.  If number of people in line is any indicator then Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck is a Vancouver headliner.  We loved Mangal Kiss’s mid-eastern fare, served wrapped in warm Iranian flatbread with three mouthwatering sauces.  We also couldn’t resist trying PazzaRella’s Napoletana wood-fired pizza.  We’re suckers for anything with mozzarella and basil…

We leave here in a couple of days but figure that’s plenty of time for another trip into the city.  We’re still debating, should we try Japadog’s famous seaweed wrapped Terimayo hot dog or maybe Kaboom Box’s hot-smoked salmon sandwich…then there’s La Brasserie’s beer brined rotisserie chicken in gravy on a buttermilk bun topped with crispy onions…

Vancouver Museum of art steps with crowd of lunchtime diners
Alfresco dining on the steps of the Vancouver Museum of Art

For your own Vancouver food truck extravaganza, download the Vancouver Foodie Tours map with a listing of locations, menus and websites at  Let us know what you liked best!  

If all this talk of food trucks is stirring up a longing to try your own hand at this type of venture, check out this site for some helpful information on the food truck business.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vancouver's Stanley Park

View of Vancouver City skyline across coal harbor with light reflections on water
Vancouver's skyline across Coal Harbor

Puget Sound views along the seawall bike path
Did you know that Vancouver's Stanley Park is larger than New York's Central Park?  It's huge...we know because we biked the park's perimeter seawall path today.

A myriad of views appear around every bend for 5.5 miles.  Vistas away from shore include Vancouver's skyline across Coal Harbor, the Lion's Gate Bridge leading to North Vancouver, and English Bay Beach on the Puget Sound.  Looking to the interior of the park, the bike path views are just as spectacular.  Ferns, Rhododendrons and more than half a million trees, some hundreds of years old, surround gardens, First Nations totem poles, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Tea House and the Lost Lagoon.

examples of totems in Vancouver's Stanley park
Some of the First Nations totem poles at Brockton Point were carved as early as the 1880's
Two Raccoons eating water lilies in Stanley Park, Vancouver
Water lilies for breakfast!
The Stanley Park seawall has to be one of the most beautiful (and easy) bicycle paths anywhere.  And while that is a personal opinion, it's worth noting that the park has been named 16th best park in the world and 6th best park in North America by the Project for Open Spaces so somebody must agree with us! 

view of Vancouver Rowing Club building with seawall and water reflections in Stanley Park, Vancouver
The Vancouver Rowing Club's HQ


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Italy on a Rainy Day

Woman walking along the river in Rome, Italy

Nope, we're not in Italy - yet!  That's next April and something we are so looking forward to. It is one of those plum assignments that we hoped we'd find when we thought about becoming house sitters. But in between dream locales, there are places like Richmond, where we are now.  It's a place that people describe as being "great to live in because it is close to everything..." We think that say's a lot!

It's overcast today in Richmond and looks like rain..but we're dreaming of Italy...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Historic Britannia Shipyard

Britannia Shipyard with flowersWe’re water people.  Drawn to the water – primarily the ocean, although a pristine lake or snow fed rushing river will do in a pinch!  This tendency often leads us to beaches, boardwalks, seawalls, docks, shipyards, boatyards, locks, fish ladders and marinas.  Like bloodhounds we get a whiff of that distinctive briny, fresh, ocean aroma and we are off and running, following the scent to the water’s edge.  When we heard about Richmond’s historic seaport along the banks of the Frasier River we succumbed to instinct.
The Britannia Shipyard is on Canada's National Historic register and is staffed by volunteers and city workers who fight against time and the elements to preserve British Columbia’s oldest seaport.   The seaport’s plank boardwalks were the “sidewalks” of the day for an entire town built on stilts.  From the 1880’s to 1900 Salmon thrived in the Frasier River and Chinese, Japanese, European and First Nations people made a living catching, canning and exporting them around the world.  They built homes, shops, schools, churches and canneries and lived their daily life all above the changing tidal activity of the mud flats.

Homes built on stilts at Britannia Shipyard, British Columbia

Kaisei ship in port at Britannia Shipyard and at sea with full sails
The day we visited the “Kaisei” was in port for the annual SeaPort Festival.  At 151 feet long, with two huge masts, she is an impressive vessel.   Crewed by volunteers from 26 nations, she’s visited 15 countries on peace and goodwill missions.  Sounds like a great volunteer gig to us – where do we sign up?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

House Sitting and Caretaking - What's the Difference?

House in one of the "white villages" of the Costa del Sol Spain
People are often confused when we tell them that we are house sitters.  Frequently, they mistakenly think that we are talking about house trades whereby someone exchanges their home with another person.  Why they usually jump to this conclusion we're not sure - maybe because house exchanges are more main stream and house sitting is relatively not?

Another misconception people have revolves around the difference between house sitting and caretaking.  In general, house sitting involves taking care of someone’s home with the same care that you would your own.  The routine daily chores such as cleaning, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, doing some weeding, watering plants, bringing in the mail and responding to an unforeseen maintenance issue in an appropriate and timely manner can all be part of the house sitting responsibilities that the homeowner entrusts to you.  Special requests may be made as each homeowner has their unique needs but, in general, your obligation is to be a presence in the home and maintain it to the standard in which it was presented to you.  Many homeowners have pets and house sitting often involves their care - feeding, walking, bathing and, in some cases, giving medications.  You may receive compensation for your service or you may not.  The majority of house sitting positions are unpaid.

While the term “caretaking” is often used synonymously with “house sitting”, in reality it generally requires a greater level of work on your part. Caretaking positions include such tasks as:

· grounds maintenance, light construction, handyman services
· housekeeping, cooking, shopping, serving meals, chauffeuring and other types of domestic assistance
· helping on a ranch or farm, maintaining an orchard, taking care of large animals, repair or installing fencing
· managing and maintenance of campgrounds, resorts, bed and breakfasts, hostels
· providing personal assistance, managing staff or events
· helping with environmental or other volunteer projects

The Caretaker’s Gazette, a print and on-line newspaper, advertises caretaking positions that range from the standard house sitting duties mentioned above to full time estate management that pays in excess of $100K a year. Many times caretakers are given a place to live either seasonally or for a longer term in exchange for a specified number of hours of labor they must provide during their stay. Some caretaking positions offer nominal pay in addition to accommodations.  We've seen a few ads that even offer benefits!  

Does this 'splain it Lucy?  I think so Ricky...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pet First Aid Training

Do you need an edge over the competition when it comes to writing your on-line profile? Ask yourself - what is the homeowner's main concern and how can I address it in the best way possible?

One thing we learned early on is that while homeowners are looking for a house sitter to provide a secure presence in their home, their major concern, if they have animals, is to find a house sitter who will provide quality care for their pets. 

If pets are involved you will have a better chance of being selected for the sit if you have a recognized certification in pet first aid training under your belt. This training typically includes managing urgent care situations such as accidents, wounds, electrical shock, and eye, foot and ear injuries as well as being able to recognize the symptoms of illnesses and poisoning.  

Courses are provided by the American Red Cross (ARC), the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and the Humane Society. The availability of courses varies by geographic region. We opted for the ARC training course and we were happy that we did. We've always had pets and pride ourselves on being good caretakers, but the training gave us more knowledge and self confidence in addressing a wide variety of situations. It also shows the homeowner that we are serious about our role as surrogate "parents" and truly concerned about providing the best care we can for their beloved pets. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Where did the time go?

Mount Rainier on a sunny day with clear mountain view
Mount Rainier

Two weeks turned into three before we knew it...and all our good intentions to post were set aside as we took a road trip, a cruise, and settled into our latest house sit in Richmond, British Columbia.  In our defense, we didn't have internet on the cruise - well, we could have but we refused to pay .65 cents a minute for it!  

Mount Rainier certainly lived up to its reputation - massive, deceptively dangerous and mesmerizing.  We were lucky to have the most beautiful day to enjoy the park and a clear view of the mountain as you can see.  Wildflowers bloomed in abundance, clear rivers sparkled and we lost count of the waterfalls.  Glorious.

The Alaska cruise with its stops in Skagway, Juneau and Victoria was so much more enjoyable than our first try at cruising Alaska a few years ago when it rained buckets every single day.  Sawyer Glacier was worth the 5:00 a.m. wake-up call and rivaled Mount Rainier in sheer natural beauty.  We cruised along on milky green glacial water while watching blue ice bergs float by...dreamy really.

Cruising to the Sawyer Glacier in Alaska
Cruising into Sawyer Glacier

close up of blue ice berg at the Sawyer Glacier Alaska
The blue of the berg has NOT been enhanced by our  photo software

Ferry sailing in Alaska waters against backdrop of snow covered mountains
One of the many ferry's that sail into landlocked Juneau

Our other ports of call in Alaska were Skagway, the gateway to the Klondike gold rush and Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Did you know that you can't drive to Alaska's capital city because there are no roads to Juneau? 

Steam train engine, Skagway Alaska buildings, rushing river
Alaska's gold rush history comes to life with a steam train trip up the famed White's Pass which had
to be traversed by each miner with 2000 pounds of supplies to reach the Klondike.

Our last stop of the cruise was Victoria, British Columbia, a city that defines charm. Parliament, sublimely gold and blue inside, filled with stained glass, murals and mosaics is one of the most beautiful government buildings we've ever seen. Victoria's other monumental architectural wonder is the Empress Hotel.  We only had a day in Victoria, but we'll be house sitting in nearby Saanich in a few weeks and looking forward to spending a lot more time enjoying and exploring the city.  Maybe we'll even take in high tea...

British Columbia Parliament exterior front with statue of Queen Victoria, interiors of building stained glass, ceilings, Empress Hotel exterior with sailboats in marina
B.C.'s Parliament building with architectural details and the famous Empress Hotel