Mardi Gras in New Orleans

It is finally time for the main event. We were so fortunate to get a wonderful house sit in the heart of New Orleans for Mardi Gras! Festivities in New Orleans last for about a month, allowing us plenty of chances to catch the parades and enjoy the excitement of the city.

About Mardi Gras

The lead up to Mardi Gras season actually begins closer to Christmas. According to tradition, 12 days after Jesus’s birth on Christmas, the three kings came to visit him bearing gifts. This day is known as Three Kings Day, the 12th Day of Christmas, or Epiphany. This day marks the first day of the Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations. The last day is known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday (translated into French as Mardi Gras). Traditionally, Christians would feast during this month of celebrations and enjoy the pleasures of food before the lent season began on Ash Wednesday (six weeks before Easter).

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Photo by DANNY G on Unsplash

When in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, the festivities begin about two weeks before Fat Tuesday, with at least one parade scheduled every day. The parades are coordinated and run by social clubs called Krewes. Parade float riders wear masks (it is actually illegal to take them off!) and throw various items to the crowd. The colors of the holiday (yellow, green, and purple) can be seen everywhere throughout the city.

We joined the rest of the 10 million-plus visitors to New Orleans during the peak time, about five days before Fat Tuesday. The first of the super-krewe parades start on Saturday and Sunday, Lundi Gras celebrations on Monday, and the massive amount of parades and parties on Mardi Gras day.

Endymion Parade

We attended one of the most famous of New Orlean’s Mardi Gras’ parades run by the Krewe of Endymion. Rolling their first parade in 1967, the Endymion parade is now one of only three super-krewes and is the largest parade in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Each year they have a theme and celebrity participants. This year’s theme was Wonder Tales of Science Fiction. The celebrity participants included Flo-Rida, Lionel Richie, and Chicago.

Endymion Parade - New Orleans for Mardi Gras

Like nearly every Mardi Gras parade, the Endymion floats throw beads to the crowd. Over the years, the locals and crowds have grown tired of collecting the cheap plastic beads, so many of the “throws” are now more elaborate. There are limited edition beads, plush toys, glow sticks, and more. The motto of the Krewe of Endymion is “Throw Until It Hurts”. They absolutely lived up to that. Many of the crowd standing around us brought large bags to carry all of their collected throws. I wore all of mine and could hardly carry the weight of them by the end of the night.

New Orleans for Mardi Gras - The Places We Live

Mardi Gras at the French Quarter

We took a trip to the French Quarter for Lundi Gras. Less than half a square mile in area, it is the oldest section of the city. We walked through an excellent hand-made mask market, the French market (which seemed more like a typical American flea market), and explored several quirky shops.

Mardi Gras Masks - The Places We Live

Bourbon Street is located in the heart of the French Quarter and is one of the most infamous streets in the city. Even at 2:00 in the afternoon, the streets were packed with people. Above, there were even more people on decks throwing beads to passerbys. We saw several people flash their breasts in exchange for beads. I was very thankful I did not have to do that during the parade; my arms would have been awfully tired!

Bourbon Street, New Orleans for Mardi Gras

Ash Wednesday

The Mardi Gras holiday season ends promptly at midnight on Fat Tuesday. Mounted police march through Bourbon Street and announce the end of Mardi Gras and the beginning of Lent. I was up early on Wednesday to find Twitter packed with comments from tourists complaining they were kicked out of the streets at midnight. These posts were followed up by harsh criticisms from locals reminding the tourists of the local traditions. Out on the streets of New Orleans on Ash Wednesday, people were much more reserved than before.

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Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

As an outsider from both the city and the religion, it was interesting to see the transition from the Mardi Gras holiday of gluttony and revelry, to the penitence and solemnity of the Lenten season. It perfectly reflected my impressions of New Orleans. To me, it was a city of honest character. No matter how strange the actions of people seemed at first glance, I got the feeling that each action had purpose and meaning. Further, it seemed a city of people who were living their lives exactly the way they intended to.

In conclusion, I’m so glad we got the opportunity to visit this amazing city, especially during that special time. New Orleans has so much history and character even on an average day. To experience what makes New Orleans unique in the throes of one of the most famous American celebrations was unreal. It was a trip we will never forget.


House Sitting in Austin, Texas

After 780 miles (1255 km) of driving from our house sit in New Mexico, we arrived at our next job house sitting in Austin, Texas. This was one we were particularly excited about. Not only had we been wanting to visit Austin for quite some time, but we hit it off with our hosts right away during our initial Skype interview. It came as a bit of a bummer when we didn’t get the job initially, which happens from time to time when you aren’t the first applicant. However, we got a second chance when the other sitter had to cancel. We were so excited we immediately adjusted our plans to fit Austin back in the schedule. It was definitely the right decision.

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Austin, Texas

Texas is the second largest state (behind Alaska) and second most populous state (behind California). It is considered a Southern state and is bordered by New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mexico, and the Gulf of Mexico. Texas’s history is slightly different than many of the other American states as it was held by Spain, France, Mexico, and was an independent republic all before joining the Union. My opinion (based simply on observation) was that Texans are very proud of this history and feel almost more connected to their state than the country as a whole. It reminded me a little bit of the Sicilian saying, “We are Sicilians first and Italians second.”

Austin, Texas, USA. The Places We Live. Map of the USA with Austin highlighted.

We were house sitting in Austin, the state capital of Texas. Although it is only the fourth most populous city in Texas, it is the 11th most populous in the country. Austin is home to a diverse culture of artists, high-tech workers, and students. It even ranks in the top three cities with the greatest population of people identifying as LGBTQ+. Although the adopted motto of “Keep Austin Weird” may not fit with much of the political and religious beliefs held by many Texans, it makes for the perfect place to visit for old-millennials like us. Just check out this Perfect Weekend in Austin post and you’ll understand.

Our Home

While house sitting in Austin, we lived in the neighboring suburb of Round Rock. Our house was a two-story, single family home at the edge of a park. It had three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, two living areas, and an office. Similar homes in the neighborhood are selling for around $250,000. The home was very modern, with nearly all of the gadgets being either automatic or controlled by the family Alexa. We particularly enjoyed the master suite and master bath. I loved the adjustable bed and hands-free lighting.

House Sitting in Austin Texas - The Places We Live

The neighborhood was nice and quiet, with several parks and walking paths just out the front door. A few blocks away, we had our choice of grocery stores and some restaurants. Our favorite was the Salt Lick, a Texas BBQ house that is popular in the area. We waited nearly an hour for a seat, but were rewarded with delicious pulled pork (a faux pas, apparently; we should’ve got the brisket), mac n’ cheese, and baked beans.

Our Family

Our hosts are a young couple from the area who run an amazing, free internet marketing project. We were lucky enough to get to spend an evening with them before they left for their holiday in Taiwan, and had a blast getting to know them and compare notes on our career paths. They are the parents of three well-loved dachshunds: Lucy, Maggie, and Marcy.

Austin House Sitting Pets Lucy and Maggie

I have to start with Lucy because she is the princess of the house. She is a beauty queen who loves lap sitting and sleeping with her tongue out. In the very important sleeping arrangement scheme, she took the head of the bed. I often awoke to her tangled in my hair or sleeping on Josh’s neck.

Austin Texas House Sitting Pet, Maggie

Maggie tries very hard to be the alpha dog. She has all the confidence and ambition necessary, but lacks the social awareness. Maggie enjoys two things: sleeping under blankets, and being alone while she sleeps under her blankets. I enjoyed Maggie very much, but I got the feeling my love was one sided and that she was only letting me pet her out of politeness. Maggie had a special bedtime ritual, getting tucked in under a blanket on her dog bed. By morning, she was under our blankets and snuggled along my back.

Austin House Sitting Pet, Marcy

I don’t play favorites, but if I did, Marcy would win for our house sitting in Austin. She enjoys cuddles and playing with toys. Although Lucy was always the first to jump on my lap when I sat on the couch, Marcy was shortly behind and made sure to get the prime real estate. Marcy was my little spoon at night. She cuddled under the blankets at my stomach with her head under my chin. My bed feels cold without her now.

Our Work and Personal Development

We’re pretty settled in our routines now and have been able to maintain them well as we move from house to house. While house sitting in Austin, Josh worked on the final round of editing for his book and I worked on my various marketing campaigns. The one new work-related change was that I became a VIPKID Teacher. I now teach English to Chinese students for a few hours each week. It has been a lot of fun and is bringing in some steady money.

VIPKID

It was an oddly perfect stay for cooking. I don’t know what the difference was, but for our entire stay in Austin, every meal we cooked was perfection. We challenged this theory by trying out some new dishes, including an involved cupcake recipe, but still ended up with great meals. I’m not complaining. Everything was just weirdly good.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes - The Places We Live

Our Lives House Sitting in Austin

We took a couple of trips into Austin proper. Josh’s favorite part was the food. This included our crazy delicious banana, honey, and bacon doughnut at Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts, and the street tacos we tried in the SoCo district (South Congress). I enjoyed all of Austin’s street murals and quirky shops. It reminded me a lot of Portland, Oregon, but warmer and cleaner. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend nearly enough time in town to get a good feel for everything Austin has to offer, especially the music scene the city is known for. Guess we’ll just have to go back, dang it!

Keep Austin Weird - The Places We Live

All in all, we had a fantastic time house sitting in Austin. This is hands down one of the best sits we’ve ever done. The house itself was comfortable, the dogs absolutely lovable, and we made some great new friends in the process. Though we’d never really considered living in Texas before, Austin is now in the running for becoming our permanent home. One way or another, we’ll definitely be spending more time in Austin in the future.


The Places We Live – New Mexico

The last leg of our American road trip (#VanLife Part 3) takes us through every southern state on our way to Florida. Our first stop was a house sit for a retired couple who live completely off-grid in the New Mexico high desert with their two dogs. We spent merely three weeks in this desert oasis, but somehow left with years worth of wisdom.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

New Mexico is a southwestern US state bordering Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico. The ancestral home of several Native American tribes, the first European settlers to the area were from Spain. These settlers named the land New Mexico over 200 years before the country of Mexico was named. In the early 1800s, New Mexico became a Mexican territory, but that was short lived. After the Mexican-American War in 1848, New Mexico joined the USA and was later named the 47th state. Now with a population of two million people, New Mexico boasts the highest percentage of Hispanic Americans in the United States and the second highest percentage of Native Americans.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA - The Places We Live. Map of USA with New York and Santa Fe highlighted

Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and has the distinction of being the oldest capital city in the country. It has a semi-arid climate, with cold, dry winters and hot summers. With the pueblo-style buildings and numerous art galleries and craft shops, Santa Fe is well known as a center for arts. It is even one of 34 cities around the world named a UNESCO Creative City for Crafts and Folk Art!

Our Home

Our house sit was located in the high-mountain desert just south of Santa Fe. After driving 30 minutes of rough dirt road, we arrived at a beautiful home with a stunning vista view. It is a small home sitting on 60 acres of wild desert complete with cacti, jack rabbits, and coyotes. If that isn’t interesting enough, this house is completely self-sufficient. High efficiency windows capture and retain sunlight, keeping the house warm even during the freezing high desert winter (though there was also a wood stove for particularly cloudy days, which was quite nice). All electricity comes from a solar power installation,  and the water is all rain caught and filtered.

solar panel in desert

The home has one bedroom, one bath, full kitchen, large living room, office, and reading nook. The outside is spacious and complimented with comfortable outdoor seating. There are no TVs in the house, but the co-op internet is stable and was more than adequate for our work schedule. Our hosts have an eye for art and decorated their home and property with beautiful pieces by local artists. We felt like we were in a secluded art gallery made just for us.

rock bench overlooking desert valley

We took to the self-sufficient lifestyle pretty quickly, with only one major change to our daily habits: our water usage. We began showering less often, and the showers we did take were very short. We flushed only when necessary and washed our dishes in tubs. It took only a couple of days to get used to, but I enjoyed the experience and gained a greater understanding of the amount of water I use in a day… it’s a lot!

Our Family

Our hosts are a couple who have opted to forgo the hustle and bustle of the city for the tranquility of the country. They have owned the home for 10 years and still love it. We were house sitting in New Mexico for them while they traveled to Australia on holiday. We couldn’t wait to hear their stories and see their pictures.

Tess - New Mexico House Sitting - The Places We Live

Our pets for this sit included a small herd of barn cats and two dogs, Tess and Brady. Those dogs were big! I have to admit I was a little nervous about their size at first, but they turned out to be incredibly gentle and loving. They are both excellent guard dogs who enjoy sitting in the snow, chasing rabbits, and wrestling in the living room. I can definitely see why the owners chose to have these two dogs with them out here. They took very good care of us. I’m pretty sure they thought they were our babysitters instead of the other way around.

dog carrying a rope in desert

Our Lives

It was not particularly convenient to go to Santa Fe, as the driveway was extremely rough and bumpy. Thankfully, our hosts provided us with a rough-and-tumble Subaru so Darla didn’t have to take the brunt of it. Still, we chose to adventure to town only every few days. This wasn’t a problem, though, since we enjoyed the quiet and tranquility of the sit. We spent a lot of time working, reading, cooking, and taking long walks. The desert had plenty of new flora and fauna for us to explore and the dogs were fun to watch bounding fearlessly through the cactus bushes.

dog running on a desert path

The sit itself was much easier than I expected. When I first heard the house was off-grid, I had assumed we’d have to put in a little extra daily effort, but there really wasn’t much house work to be done at all. I fed and watered the cats each day, threw seeds out for the birds, and of course took care of the dogs. There were a couple of heavy snow days, but even that offered a great opportunity for some hot chocolate by the fire.

heavy snow in desert

Our Work

Josh finished the first round of editing on his novel while in Arizona. By our house sit in New Mexico, he was sitting on about 180,000 words (30,000 over the recommended upper limit for debut novels). Because of this, he started his second round of edits in New Mexico with a goal to cut at least 10% from each chapter. It was really interesting to watch his struggles and successes with this. I think it really changed the way he looked at his writing.

I made a lot of headway in my social media campaigns for the online fiction writer’s community #WeWriteFiction and was able to catch up on some blog pieces (thank you for your patience). The seclusion also allowed for some great reading time. I finished Titus Fogg by Aaron Piper, a really enjoyable self-published book about a magic kid in the regular world. I also breezed through Stranded by Bracken MacLeod, a horror-scifi about an oil rigger stranded in the ice. 

House sitting in New Mexico was an excellent experience and challenge to our previous views of needfulness. We loved Tess and Brady, our home, the amazing scenery, and the quiet. It was a house sit we will never forget and likely one we will continue talking about for years to come. I love when these sits aren’t just in new places, but require new skills and experiences as well. Up next, check out our adventures in Santa Fe!


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New Mexico House Sitting - The Places We Live


 

Note From Jen

I often have the desire to write a little something about all the people we meet during our adventures. After all, meeting new people is half the adventure, right? This is doubly true when it comes to friends and family. Unfortunately, I’m months behind in my blogging. Not for lack of trying or material to write about, but due to my own mind holding me back. I want these pieces to be as special as everyone I’ve been privileged to spend time with. I want my love for each of the family members I visited or the joy I felt for new friendships to ooze off of the page. It is truly one of those times I wish I were a poet. Sadly, I am not a poet, and this desire to make these posts perfect has caused me to get bogged down and overwhelmed by my writing imperfections.

It’s now April and I’m still writing about December. Over the last couple of months, I have strongly considered ending the blog due to this major slow down. I turned to my fellow bloggers for advice, and the nearly unanimous consensus was to simply skip ahead and move on. While I understand their advice, I can’t simply skip over my time with family and friends. However, their advice was exactly the boost I needed to keep going.

Therefore, I’m apologizing in advance for any greatly summarized posts. It isn’t because I didn’t have an amazing time at your home or because I didn’t enjoy every second I spent with you. It is because I’m behind and I need to catch up before I’m lost at sea forever.

To all my friends and family whom I visited and met along the way, thank you so much for your love, hospitality, and support!

Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice. BUY NOW! "Finding My Voice, the debut flash fiction collection from J. Brandon Lowry, features 24 stories that explore life in all its complex and messy glory. An experiment in craft and style, this collection also features original artwork and personal reflections by the author. Each tale can be read in ten minutes or less, perfect for today's fast paced world. Love, loss, joy, sorrow, the highest highs, and the lowest lows, all brought vividly to life by an emerging voice in the world of short fiction.


We left the USA for China on January 1, 2018 and since then have had the most exciting adventures of our entire lives. I have never had more fun, experienced so much personal growth, and been more in love. I am so thankful for this adventure and what it has done for our lives. As if I don’t have enough to be thankful for, I am so proud to announce that my special fella has published a book called Finding My Voice. That’s right. Dr Lowry is now a published author!!!

The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Finding My Voice book cover by author, J. Brandon LowryA little over a year ago, I did something monumentally stupid. Having grown tired of my career as a research scientist, I quit my job in order to pursue a new avenue: Professional Fiction Writer. Never mind the fact that I’d spent seven years of my life obtaining a PhD and proudly becoming my family’s first doctor, or that I had all but given up on reading fiction in that time, or that the last creative writing course I’d taken was in high school, or that I was way too old to be seriously entertaining a dream I should have let go a decade before. None of that mattered; I was going to finally take a leap and see if I could make that fantasy a reality.

– J. Brandon Lowry, Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice is a collection of short stories that Josh has been working on over the past year while also working on his first novel. Oh yeah, and traveling the world with me! It has been incredibly interesting for me to see the transformation of his writing style and choices of subject matter. His very first piece, “The Heist”, is “the true story of the one and only time I’ve ever stolen anything“. The story is fun and funny, but he had never told his mother or anyone else about this experience in crime. I felt like it was one of his first experiences as a “real” writer, panicking a little bit that people will see too much of him in his writing. It was an interesting struggle for me to watch him overcome.

Another exciting development for me to watch was how our travels worked their way into his writing. The eccentric aunt character from “The Flavor of Christmas” was inspired by someone we met while traveling. “Light as a Feather” was written when we were in Malaysia. It’s the story of a man who dies and wakes up in the “wrong” afterlife. I found it interesting that the story of competing religions would come about after spending time in such a diverse country surrounded by Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. My favorite, of course, is “It Didn’t Have to be This Way, Ted”, a story I inspired during one of our many hikes in Australia where we were out in the middle of nowhere, but could hear the music of a nearby vineyard.

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J. Brandon Lowry

Picking out an author name seemed like one of those useless conversations couples have in moments of idle musing. It’s a bit like asking, “What should we do if we win the lottery?” I’m not sure either of us really thought it would make much of a difference. However, that first email Josh received starting with “Dear J. Brandon” was a strangely special moment. It’s weird to experience all of these little successes together, like first recognition of “J. Brandon”, first draft in print, first signed copy, first check, and first payout to our artists.

Proof copy of Finding My Voice by J. Brandon Lowry sitting on top of the packaging it arrived in.

We’re not making millions of dollars yet (more like 10s of dollars), but it still feels amazing having accomplished this goal. And it isn’t going to stop here. As of two weeks ago, J. Brandon Lowry has officially wrapped up his novel! 170,000 words of pure imagination is done and ready for the next step. We’re writing pitches for agents, building his brand as an author, and pushing for traditional publication.

Living the Dream

I know this is a bit of a step away from my usual posts, but traveling the world isn’t the WHOLE story. It’s just one facet of our shared vision for our ideal lives. Our adventures are about the people we meet, the things we learn, and the ways we grow, and I’m so thankful that we are finally able to pursue our dreams together.


Book Banner


Port Angeles – The Places We Live

Our house sitting adventures continue in Port Angeles, Washington! Nestled at the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, this area is full of diverse ecological landscapes. We’ll be spending a little less than a week here watching over a lovely home and three dogs on the outskirts of town. The Olympic Peninsula is also home to one of the largest temperate rain forests in the US, with an emphasis on rain. It’s going to be hard to see everything we want to with such little time, but we’re sure gonna try!

Port Angeles, Washington

The State of Washington is located in the northwest corner of the contiguous states and borders British Columbia (Canada), Idaho, Oregon, and the Pacific Ocean. Washington is a powerhouse in the tech and engineering world, hosting the Boeing assembly plant, Microsoft’s headquarters, and Amazon’s headquarters. This is largely due to the lower cost of living in the Seattle area versus San Francisco, where the median housing prices are almost double.

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Port Angeles is located on the northwestern tip of Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. Long a Native American homeland, the town now hosts a population of nearly 20,000 people with about 2% mix of native peoples. As the name suggests, Port Angeles is situated on the water, and neighbors the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Even more, standing on the shore, one can look across the Strait to see Canada. The neighboring town of Forks, Washington was featured in the popular vampire series The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.





Our Home

We are house sitting for three dogs in a beautiful home just outside of town. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and is 2,700 square feet (250 m²) on 2.5 acres. There is a fully stocked kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry room, garage, and play area. The neighboring homes are ranging around $450k. Our home was very comfortable and well appointed, with lots of artwork created by the home owner, a professional artist.

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The nearest business is a family-owned bar. Of which, the owners and locals were quite the cast of characters, and we enjoyed hanging out and listening to their banter over a pint of local craft brew. A little farther afoot is downtown Port Angeles, hosting a small collection of shops, a harbor, and several parks. We walked around downtown a few times during our stay and sampled many of the local restaurants. Most noteworthy was La Belle Creperie, which served up some amazing sweet and savory crepes like the goat cheese, spinach, and raspberry one pictured above (which now lives very happily in my stomach).




Our Family

Our hosts are a family of four whom we met very briefly. Understandably, they were very excited to head out on their vacation to Disneyland. Therefore, we got quick rundown of the place and sent them on their way. They seemed like a wonderful family and based on the artwork throughout the house, we have to assume a very talented one as well.

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The pets for the week were three rescue dogs: (left to right) Snuggles, Lily, and Danny. Snuggles is a chihuahua mix breed and is the alpha in the house. He hated us for about the first three hours, then decided we might be one of the best friends he has ever had. Hence, Snuggles followed me everywhere and lived up to his name. Lily was a little bashful, but a bundle of love. She enjoyed licking our faces as often as humanly (dogly?) possible. In contrast, Danny was a bit of a loner, unless belly rubs were up for offer, or if Lily was available to play. They were all super cute, fun, and the perfect lap warmers during the cold evenings.



Our Lives

This house sit was very quiet and peaceful. We got a lot of work done, including publishing Josh’s short story collection, Finding My Voice. We were both nearly in tears with the excitement of this accomplishment. Josh is now a “Published Author”! It is so exciting!!!

Further, our non-work time was spent cuddling with the dogs, going for walks, exploring Port Angeles, and the neighboring Olympic National Park. The area is absolutely beautiful! As long as getting wet from the rain isn’t a concern, the nature adventure options are endless. I can’t wait to explore more and see what life is like in this new place we live.


 


The Places We Live – Glendora, California

There are few places in the USA with worse traffic or better weather than southern California. We’re spending the next 14 days just outside of Los Angeles, in the beautiful city of Glendora. Visiting this area isn’t cheap. Thankfully, we have booked a house sit at my aunt and uncle’s house while they visit the East Coast. They have two big and lovable dogs, a stunning garden, and a magazine feature-worthy home. Time to add another home to the list of places we live in Glendora, California!


Glendora, California

Everywhere we go in the world, people know California. Not only is it the most populous State in the US, but they also have the largest sub-national economy in the world. It is home to more famous cities than I care to list, the largest tree on earth, the highest AND lowest points in the USA, and is both the Avocado and Raisin Capital of the World. Way to be, California!

Los Angeles, California - The Places We Live.jpg

Glendora is located in Los Angeles County, about 23 miles (37 km) outside of downtown LA. Set in the foothills, there are lots of trails for hiking and other outdoor activities nearby. Glendora is connected to the Los Angeles metro through the Gold Line at APU/Citrus College. Far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the city proper, Glendora is a quiet community, perfect for retirees or those looking for a slower pace of life.

Our Home

Our Glendora home is a 2,000 square foot, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house built in 1956. It has a large kitchen, living room, sitting room, and laundry room. My favorite part of the home is the green and well-kept backyard, complete with a heated pool. There are several different citrus trees and a small vegetable garden, so fresh produce is never far away. The location is also a plus, in a quiet neighborhood with home prices averaging around $900k.

Glendora Back Yard - The Places We Live

We were provided with a comfortable room, free use of the house, a car, tv and internet, and plenty of food. The perks of staying with family over strangers was not overlooked by us at all. We felt immediately at home and could have easily spent the rest of our lives here.

Our Family

This was a very special house sit as we got to spend some time with family that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Long-time Californians, my aunt is a retired nurse and my uncle is a retired radio personality and local celebrity. They are some of my favorite people to chat with as they have the best stories. Before they left, we spent hours just sitting at the table, talking about the books we were reading and weird medical stuff. It was a real treat. While they are away on a much deserved vacation, Josh and I will be watching their two dogs, JJ and Bella, along with their cat, Skinny Kitty.

House Sitting with Bella and JJ - The Places We Live

Both JJ and Bella have the run of the house with their big personalities and even bigger hearts. Bella is the younger and smaller of the two. She loves sitting in her dad’s chair, playing ball, and patrolling for squirrels outside. JJ is large and in charge. He enjoys swimming in the pool, belly rubs, and playtime on the couch. Skinny Kitty was a bit stand-offish, but we shared a few nice moments together. He enjoys food, naps, and being alone. We loved molding into the routines of these pets and immediately fell in love.

JJ in the Pool - The Places We Live

Our Life

So far, this has been a very productive sit. We have gotten a lot of work done, explored quite a bit (check out our Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles), and have set good routines. We wake up each morning and set to work, a mixture of writing and social media. Then it is time to play ball with the dogs. JJ has some trouble with his hips, so we play some games that don’t require much running, like hide and seek with the ball or fetch in the pool. After lunch, we enjoy a walk in the sunshine or an adventure around town. For dinner, we are still focusing on building our cooking skills and even tried making a new dish inspired by a restaurant we visited in LA (more on this coming up in the next post), Mac and Cheese Pie inspired by The Pie Hole.

We’ve had some great work time as well. Josh published a collection of horror stories that really challenged his writing style. More importantly, perhaps, he wrapped up the final draft of his newest publication, Finding My Voice, a flash fiction collection. He will be working with some of our friends for the cover art and chapter art. It has been a really fun project and we can’t wait to share it with you all!