Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 27, 2017. Quiet day on the lake

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Very nice. Highs in 60s


George spent the day working on income taxes again. Quiet periods of concentration were broken with loud cursing when the computer screen with his carefully inputted info went blank.  We also were on the computer making hotel reservations in Texas, where we will go in a few weeks to visit our house construction, and in Ireland, where we will be in late March.   While George was working on the computer, I read.....and read....and read.
I started, and almost finished The Girl on the Train.  It certainly is not uplifting!  

We received a video from our builder walking us through the house construction, so we could sign off before they do the next work.  It is amazing how fast it is being built.  He hopes to have it finished by March 13, when we visit there.  Exciting!


DINNER:  Chicken soup.  I had made it last week making broth from the grilled chicken leftovers.  Very home-made tasting!  



Monday, February 27, 2017

February 26, 2017. Taxes and movies

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina, on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Cooler.  Highs in 50s


For my daily constitutional, I walked into the town of Davidson for a bit of grocery shopping.  There is a nice North Carolina-based chain grocery here called Harris Teeter.  It's interesting to see how chain groceries compare around the world.  Harris Teeter is one of our favorites.   The worst experience we've had is in Oklahoma City.  We could not find a single grocery stor other than Walmart where I refuse to shop.   There is also a very good organic food grocery here in Davidson with a great craft beer selection.


All of this made me think of supporting local businesses as I walked home.  In our 4 years of traveling, we have really tried to shop almost exclusively in local shops.  We try to buy and eat local foods, wines and beer.  We support independent bars and restaurants.  We have only succumbed to a McDonalds 3-4 times, just to split a senior coffee when we were desperate for a bathroom and/or wifi.  


Back home, George was studiously working on our income taxes.  He spent all afternoon shouting out different figures that we might owe as he calculated and recalculated.  He is happy when we owe, rather than get a refund, as he says that means we have used the government's money during the year.  I understand that logic, but still can't rouse myself to cheer when we find out the amount due.   

DINNER:  Shiitake carbonara.  Really good. One of my favorite recipes.  

Of course, we spent the evening watching the Oscars.  We have only seen one of the movies that was awarded....LaLa Land...which won (then didn't win) Best Movie.  


Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 25, 2017. Socializing on the lake

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Windy, but sunny. Highs in 70s


We went into the town of Davidson, thinking it was the day for the farmers' market, but it is next Saturday.  We then just walked around and browsed in the shops.  It is a vibrant little town.  Several young families were lined up to eat brunch at a popular downtown restaurant.    

Janet and her partner returned to Winston-Salem.  It was so fun having them here.  Right as they left, a former work colleague arrived for lunch and an afternoon of chatting.  She and I worked together at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia when we lived there in the 1990s.  For lunch, I made up a tasty salad.  I had some orzo to use up, and a jar of  mufalletta mix I had bought in Louisiana that I wanted to try.  I mixed these up with some feta cheese for a very refreshing summer salad.  

We have a box where we are keeping the homeowners' mail.  The cats love to check it out and make a bed in it.

The wind really kicked up and we watched whitecaps on the lake.  


We received our weekly update from our tiny house builder with the latest photos.  We plan to go there in mid-March to check it out.
After my friend Susan left, it was very quiet again around the house.  We watched a few of our favorite British shows on PBS with TV dinner trays.  

DINNER:  I found a recipe to use up some of the bits I have in the refrigerator.....a pasta with crispy pieces of sausage.  A sauce with sour cream, garlic, Parmesan and pasta water.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 24, 2017. Fun day with family

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Davidson, North Carolina on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Sunny and warm.  Highs in 70s

  George's sister and her British partner are visiting us.  We chatted all morning, and took a walk around the lake. . The cats were very socialable this morning. They are a bit hard to tell apart.  Here is one....
  And here is the other.
At lunch we went to a brewery nearby.   It is called Ass Clown Brewery.  We use Onstar in our car to help us navigate.  When we called in for directions, the girl giggled and said she could not repeat the name.  She spelled it to confirm that she heard it correctly.  Funny.  It is not far from our house.  Cool place.  They specialize in odd beers, especially sour ones.
We tasted a coffee sour stout (strange), a jalapeño porter (pretty good) and a peppermint coffee stout (not good).  I had my usual IPA which was good.  

The place did not offer food except for weekend food trucks, so we came back home and lunched on the deck in the warm sunshine.

DINNER:  Chili and potato salad.  I had made the dishes ahead so I wouldn't have to fuss around with guests.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 23, 2017. House guests

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina on beautiful Lake Norman WEATHER:  Foggy in the AM; sunny and nice in PM>. Highs about 70  

We drove into Davidson for lunch at this pub.  We were pleasantly surprised with $2.50 craft beer drafts.  We split an individual 6" pizza, and still had leftovers.  Cheap lunch!

We ran some errands in Davidson, and returned to the condo to find our monthly mail packet awaiting us.  We use a mail-forwarding service and each month we instruct them on where to send the mail.  It is a bit like opening a Christmas present.  What will we find inside?  Unfortunately, this month, it was filled with past-due notices on my Medicare bill.  The direct deposit option I set up did not work, so the government canceled my coverage!  Now I'm dealing with that.  Argh.  

I did some more work on our Europe trip, emailing the homeowners to get their suggestions.  After our first housesit in Scotland, we will probably fly from Edinburgh to Rome, spend a few days there sightseeing, then drive to our 2nd housesit on Italy's eastern coast, across the mountains.  After that housesit, we will probably take the train to Milan, spend a few days there, then take the train to Paris, then to Brittany for that housesit.  I really enjoy making all these arrangements.  


George's sister Janet  and her friend arrived in the late afternoon, just in time to watch another breathtaking sunset on the deck.  We had a great time catching up.  


DINNER:  Janet brought a vegetable lasagne casserole and garlic bread.  I added some salad.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 22, 2017. Home alone!

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Partly cloudy.  Highs in 60s


George spent last night in Winston-Salem with his brother.  The house here was very quiet with just the cats and me. As a daily "constitutional", I started the day with a walk into the town of Davidson to buy a few groceries.  (George has the truck).  Walking is a great time to think and I thought more about the flights that I was trying to book to Europe.  Our last housesit there is in Brittany and it dawned on me that I should try to find a flight departing from Paris.  

So, back home I cranked up the computer and went to work again on the flights.  I was using Orbitz, just to get ideas of flights and airlines.  The prices wildly spiked up by $500 just in the few hours I was searching.  Then, it occurred to me to contact the homeowner and get her suggestion for arrival and departure modes and locations.  She kindly responded immediately.  Their house in Brittany can be reached by the high-speed train from Paris or by flying to a regional airport.  With that piece of information, I finalized our flights....

  • We will go to south Texas in mid-March to check out our house
  • From there (Harlingen airport), we will fly to Shannon, Ireland
  • We will spend St. Patrick's Day in nearby Limerick Ireland
  • To be arranged.....travel to Northern Ireland, then a ferry to Scotland, and a train to Edinburgh for our first housesit
  • To be arranged.....fly or train to Pescara, Italy for housesit #2
  • To be arranged.....fly or train to Brittany France for housesit #3
  • Fly back to Greensboro, North Carolina from Paris.  Pick up the Airstream and hit the road
Before I could hit the "purchase" button on the flights, I was distracted by a squirrel outside the kitchen window, He was in the trees, munching on the flowers.

I switched gears, and to keep busy, started cooking.  George's sister is coming to visit and I'd like to have some meals prepared.  I made some chili and some potato salad.  

  George returned and we enjoyed the late afternoon.  The owners have a nice hammock to relax in by our deck...
In honor of "National Drink a Margarita Day", we had a drink on the deck and watched the sunset. (This is a fancy "enhanced photo" from George's phone)....
DINNER:  Orzo pasta with meatballs.  Salad.  Black truffle sauce on the side for meatball dipping!      

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 21, 2017. Computer day!

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina, on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Partly cloudy.  Highs in 60s


George had a follow up eye appointment in the town of Davidson, so I rode with him.  He dropped me off downtown and I walked through the town, and back home (about 1.5 miles) for a bit of exercise.


I reallly like college towns.  They are normally small with lots of amenities and character.  Davidson is one of them.  The campus is right downtown and has lots of beautiful old brick buildings.

The little downtown has cute shops and restaurants.

This soda shop is an icon. 

There are a lot of stately homes that are now part of the college.

Back home, George packed up and left for Winston-Salem.  He is going to spend a day or two with his brother and sister, helping them with some "Mr. Fix-it" jobs.    My job this afternoon was to start planning our next leg of travel.  We have 3 housesitting assignments lined up for Europe starting March 23, in Scotland, Italy and France.  We finish this North Carolina housesit March 7 or so, so we have a little gap to fill.  I started looking at the calendar and realized that St. Patrick's Day is coming up.  Why not spend it in Ireland!!!????!!!   First, we will fly down to Texas to check out the progress on our tiny house construction.  We will fly from southern Texas into Shannon, Ireland, one of the least expensive routes.  We found an airbnb near Shannon in the town of Limerick.  Limerick, we learned, has one of Ireland's largest St. Patrick's Day parades.  We will spend a few days there, then take a bus to Northern Ireland to visit.  From there, we will take a ferry across the Irish Sea to Scotland, where we will take the train to Edinburgh.  I'm still researching all of this, and have not bought any tickets yet.  I would love to hear from others about any experiences with this.  

This computer work really takes a lot of time.  Poof....the afternoon was gone.  To relax, I made some chicken soup from the bones of the chicken thighs George grilled the other night.  I had a lot of bits of veg to add.  I cooked the stock for hours so I think it will be tasty when we eat it next week.


All alone, I read and watched HGTV.  The cats kept me company.  :-)  

DINNER:  To use up some of last week's leftover grilled salmon, I made a salmon burger with panko.  Not too bad.  





Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February 20, 2017. No tiny houses here!

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Another gorgeous day.  Highs in 70s


We are about 25 miles from Charlotte, but there are planned communities with shops, condos and restaurants sprawled between Charlotte and Lake Norman.  The towns all run together.  Today, we did some shopping in one of the malls in a town about 5 miles from us.  On our way home, we took the scenic route, driving around the neighborhoods with houses that face the lake.  They are humongous.  And, it just seems to go on and on.  I always wonder where so many people get so much money.  Here are a few of the lakefront homes we saw.  Not tiny houses by any measure!!!!!

Most of them have a wall of windows on the back, facing the lake, with a boat or two moored in their private docks.  


Spring continues to be at full bloom.  During the drive, I saw many beautiful trees including this flowering Japanese magnolia.

Back home, we sat on the deck and read.  There are only a few boaters this time of year.  I imagine it gets quite busy in the summer.  

George fired up the grill and we watched the sunset again.  Every evening it is a bit different.


DINNER:  Grilled chicken thighs.  Side of sautéed cabbage.  While shopping the other day, in an unsupervised moment, George bought some black truffle sauce.  (On sale).  I cooked a little pasta and spread the sauce on, just to try it.  Quite delish!  

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 19, 2017. Celebrating spring

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Davidson, North Carolina on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Sunny and beautiful. Highs about 70


It is nice being next to a big city for awhile, as we have several "to-dos" on our list.  One was getting new glasses which we accomplished last week.  Today, we went to REI in Charlotte to return some clothes.  Sometime while we are here we want to visit a Murphy Bed shop to see if that kind of bed might work in our new tiny house.  We received more updates from the builder, with the latest photo showing great progress....

For lunch, we went to a nearby winery.  It is in the country on a little pond with a waterfall.  Very scenic setting.  We had a picnic lunch and sat on their patio, soaking up the beautiful weather.

Back at home, we walked around the lake a bit and stopped at the marina.  It was really hopping.
There is a fancy restaurant there as well as two not-so-pretentious drinking spots.  One is called "The Cottage" and one is "The Cabin".  We checked out The Cottage which is mostly a wine and gift shop.  They sell bottles of wine and there were lots of people in small groups sitting outside sharing a bottle.  We might go there one evening as they have wine and food pairing dinners.  We didn't stop today as it was absolutely packed.  We went over to The Cabin.  We struck up a conversation with two couples who are Airstream aficionados.  Great fun.

Unexpectedly, a jazz singer sang inside and we enjoyed listening to her.

When we returned home, just a few hundred yards away, George fired up the BBQ grill on the deck.  

DINNER:  Grilled hamburgers, baked potato and cheesy broccoli.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 18, 2017. Brew tour of Lake Norman Valley

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Davidson, NC near Charlotte

WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  Highs in 60s

  Our charges in this new housesitting assignment are two male cats, Caramel and Butterscotch.  They are pretty easy to take care of. They love to nap in the morning sun.
They are indoor cats, but want to escape to the greater outdoors.  We have to be careful not to inadvertently let them out.   George found a "Lake Norman Valley Beer Tour" online so we thought we would go to a few of the breweries.  We found one of the breweries nearby.  I tried their Devil's Gas, a pumpernickel IPA which was surprisingly good.    

We ordered a burger from the food truck and enjoyed the beers outside on the patio.  

Back home, we relaxed, played with the cats, and enjoyed the evening sunset-watching ritual.
DINNER:  I made a pumpkin/black bean chili that was really good.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 17, 2017. Getting settled at our new assignment

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Davidson, North Carolina on Lake Norman

WEATHER:  Very spring-like.  Birds chirping.  Flowers blooming. Highs in 60s


The homeowners left around 9:00, so we are now in charge.  This assignment will be about 3 weeks.  Our responsibilities are to care for two cats and the house.  The homeowners travel a lot and have had several housesitters.

We use a website called TrustedHousesitters.com to find our housesitting assignments.  The company is based in the UK, but the assignments are all over the world.  Each day, I receive an email listing about 20 new assignments.  Some are brief, only 2-3 days, and some are up to one year, but most are for 2-3 weeks, while homeowners take a vacation.  I know that there are other websites doing this, but this one seems to have an excellent reputation and has worked for us.


We took a short drive into the town of Davidson, just across the highway, and drove around the campus of Davidson College.  It is a small liberal arts college with a beautiful campus.  


Then, we took a walk around our condo development.  There are many condos situated on tips of land that jut out into the lake.  This is the view of the front of the house.
The best thing about this condo is its view of the lake.  The entire back wall are windows leading out to the deck.

The area has lots of tennis courts, playground areas, walking paths and even a beach.

Each section of the development has its own marina with jet skis and boats moored there for the winter.
We walked on the boardwalk around part of the lake.  
This is a view of our condo from the marina.

I think we will enjoy this assignment a lot.  We are not far from Charlotte.  The traffic in Charlotte is terrible, so we are going to check out a bus service into the city.  We are also not far from Winston-Salem where several of George's family and friends live.  We can make some day trips there to visit.  The weather forecast is great, with continued spring-like weather predicted.


And, every evening, the sun puts on a show as it sets over the lake.  


DINNER:  Leftover grilled salmon and Asian vegetables that George's sister-in-law gave us when we visited there.  Tomorrow will be time for me to start cooking again.  




Friday, February 17, 2017

February 16, 2017. Starting a new housesitting assignment

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Davidson, North Carolina

WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Highs in 60s

  We said good-bye to George's brother and sister-in-law (and to the Airstream) and drove about an hour to begin our next housesitting assignment.  

The assignment is in Davidson, North Carolina.  Davidson is a college town outside of Charlotte.  It is home of Davidson College, nicknamed the "Harvard of the South".  it is also the location of beautiful Lake Norman.  Our homeowners live on the shore of the lake.   This is the point where they live.....

The lake is pretty calm right now, but can get busy in the summer with boaters.

After getting oriented with our duties, we left the homeowners to do their last-minute packing and explored the area.  We both need new glasses, so found an optical shop for testing and buying glasses.


Back home, we sat in the living room and admired the beautiful sunset.

DINNER:  Our homeowners made us some tasty quesadillas and salad.   

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 15, 2017. Long drive through the USA southeast

LOCATION:  With George's brother and his wife in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

WEATHER:  Rain in the AM; cloudy and cool in the PM.  Highs in 50s


We left Milledgeville, Georgia in the rain and drove through northern Georgia.  As we did yesterday, we saw many trees and flowers blooming unusually early.  We saw lots of daffodils in bloom along the highways.  


We took turns driving as it was a full 8-hour day of driving.  I had to drive through busy Columbia, South Carolina where the alarm started ringing warning about the wiring connection to the trailer.  Unnerving.  Then George handled even busier Charlotte, North Carolina. We made it to George's brother's house about 5:00.  We spent a good hour finding a place to park it and then had to get things settled.  We will leave the Airstream here while we do our housesit in nearby Davidson, North Carolina, and while we go to Europe to housesit mid-March through mid-May.
DINNER:  George's sister-in-law prepared a delicious baked salmon dinner with veg.