Airbnb virgins no more

We’ve avoided traveling in recent years because it can be complicated, expensive and tiring. We’ve opted for stay-cations instead. This year, we decided to try something new in the hope it would make traveling easier and more enjoyable.

Living in the Northwest where several locations in Canada are just a short drive away. We only wanted to go somewhere we could drive to to avoid the headaches of planes and rental vehicles. We chose Calgary because it’s less a tourist destination than Vancouver, Victoria, or Banff. Few people go there in summer, that coupled with the exchange rate in our favor made for an affordable choice that would leave us spoiled for choice of accomodation.

Using Airbnb were found  accommodation with free parking for only USD$45 per night in a cool, trendy suburb within easy walking distance of the city. The place was a new and immaculately clean townhouse with our own private bedroom and bathroom with use of the kitchen. The hosts provided us fantastic advice on local cafes and restaurants that were the hot spots for locals. We traveled with a very small duffle bag and one small backpack between us. Everything else we needed as far as toiletries, towels, hairdryer, etc. were provided.

I made a short video of our room (sans la salle de bains) ….. Check it out! Not bad for $45 per night, eh?  Sorry, couldn’t resist slipping in the stereotypical Canadian “eh.”


This was our first time using Airbnb, and we were so glad we did. We never could have stayed so close to the city in a hotel of similar quality for anywhere near the same price. We were able to walk the beautiful Bow River trail along the edge of the city and take in the sights at our own pace. Having our vehicle with meant we could explore further afield and get around safely after dark. The only preparation needed in advance was to register with Airbnb, to book and pay for the room, then pack our bags and enter the destination in our GPS.

It wasn’t totally without complications. We ran into a bit of a hitch with Airbnb registration process. As they have grown, they’ve increased their security making all users provide sufficient verification of who you are. That’s fair enough. If I’m staying in a strangers home, they have every right to make sure I am who I say I am. It’s they means of proving who you are that posed a bit of a problem for us.

Because we live simply, we avoid using much social media, and a large part of the Airbnb verification process is giving them access to your social media contacts. Without that, we had to jump through a few hoops, but now that we are verified and have received positive feedback from our hosts, all future bookings should a snap.




Working toward my own Independence Day

by Bella Yesterday was the 4th of July. The day when millions of Americans celebrate the approval by the Continental Congress of “the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.”  It is typically seen as a celebration of freedom via independence from the British monarchy. In this modern world, freedom, to me, means something very different. This isn’t going to be political. I’ll save my thoughts on “freedom” in America for another time. This is about the only way to be truly free in the world today, by not having stuff that weighs you down and and imprisons you. So I guess this is about shunning shopping as a way of life, and striving to have only what you truly need. So what do we truly need? Food, clothing and shelter, right? If you really want to be the ultimate minimalist, well, I guess that would be the goal. In our modern society, achieving that isn’t really practical. You’d have to run off into the wilderness and survive off the land with no tools or weapons. Actually, there is an even more extreme example of true minimalism. The Greek philosopher Diogenes took voluntary simplicity far as you can go within a civilization. He lived in a barrel with only a cloak, a stick, and a breadbag. He had clothing in his cloak, shelter in his barrel, and food that he begged for and stored in his breadbag; so even he had a little luxury in keeping his stick as it provided none of the three true necessities. Still it would be hard to be more minimalist than that. Personally, I want to achieve something in between the extremes. I personally like some interaction with others, modern sanitation, a clean and safe place to live, comfortable clothing, access to a variety of foods, healthcare when I need it and, of course, technology. To have these these things, I have to participate in modern society, but it’s up to me how and to what extent I do that, and that’s where freedom comes in. Freedom, for me, is not being held back from doing the things I want to do. I don’t want societal norms to stop me, but more than that, I don’t want to be held back by useless possessions.  If I have money tied up in useless stuff that I then have to store somewhere, I am a prisoner to that stuff. A year ago, I wrote about our 9 goals on our journey to voluntary simplicity which sum up how we are working toward achieving a balance. We’ve made a great deal of progress, on several of these goals. I’ll give you a detailed update in the next post. We continue working toward the day that we can call our Independence Day. That day will be something to truly celebrate.

Urban food foraging and savory and sweet smoothies

by Bella

This is going to be another post about free food. It’s in abundance if you know where to look. There’s even a website to help you find it. Brace yourselves, because this is really cool. It’s called This site shows you where to find fresh fruit and nuts just waiting to be harvested. Just type in your zip code to find what’s available in your neighborhood or city.

I found this site thanks to a YouTube video by Emily von Euw of This Rawsome Vegan Life. You can check out the video below to see her foraging food haul from the streets of Vancouver, BC.

My last post was about the kindness of strangers and the wonderful abundance of fresh foods that were so generously shared with us. We’ve been enjoying the bounty for a week now and today I made smoothies, 1 savory and 1 sweet from mostly free, delicious produce.

The weather this last week dropped below freezing at night, so gardeners were frantically harvesting, preserving and in many cases giving away food. Many of my co-workers brought in their excess and put it out for grabs. I received the biggest cucumber that I’d ever seen and several rich red and savory Roma tomatoes.

Spicy tomato and cucumber smoothie – just spicy enough to jump-start your digestion. The cucumber makes it refreshing and hydrating.

Today, I got out the blender and whipped up nearly 2 quarts of a spicy, cucumber and tomato smoothie and 1 quart of a pineapple, banana and coconut smoothie. Note: The pineapple, banana and coconut are obviously not grown in the inland NW US, but were things I had lying about that were ripe and ready to be blended into a delectable combo that I can’t resist.

Nearly three quartz of deliciousness.

Spicy Tomato and Cucumber Smoothie

(makes approximately 2 quarts)

4 cups ripe Roma tomatoes

4 cups cucumber

2 fresh chili peppers (I used Serrano peppers)

2 lemons juiced

salt and pepper to taste

Put it all in the blender with enough water to get it started (about a 1/2 cup), and blend away.

Check out the beautiful colors. They taste even better than they look.

Pineapple, Banana and Coconut Smoothie

(makes approximately 1 quart)

3 cups pineapple

1 very ripe large banana

1 1/2 cups coconut milk

Blend together and enjoy.

The kindness of strangers

by Bella

So on Monday I didn’t write my regular blog post for the week. Can I even call it “regular” since I only just started this blog in July? Well I’m going to call it that. What’s more important than whether or not I can use the word regular, is the reason why I didn’t write.

Jack and I met a lovely couple who showed us around their amazing, 100% organic garden/farmlet. It’s a 2 acre edible garden which was like our dream garden. It would be awesome just to be able to walk out your back door and pick fresh ingredients for each meal. Well that’s what they get to do. They have apple trees, watermelons, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and berries I can’t remember the name of. There are potatoes, every imaginable type of squash, pumpkin, carrots, beets, peppers, beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes and greens, greens and more greens. To top if off they have beautiful, healthy, free-range, egg-laying hens and lavender that they use to make essential oil.

Though we’ve dreamed of having a garden like theirs, when they took us around for a tour, we were excited just to look around and blown away by the colorful and bountiful produce bursting from the trees and garden beds. We had only met about an hour beforehand, but they insisted on sharing their bounty with us, loading each of us up until we couldn’t carry any more.

Maybe this doesn’t sound very exciting to you, but for me, as vegetarian who LOVES raw vegan food, this was a dream come true. If you do love fruits and veggies, I bet the picture of our haul will make you drool. Remember it was all fresh picked. We watched them dig the carrots and the beets from the ground and take the eggs from the nests.  It tastes even better than it looks.

What was even better than the food, if it can get better than that, was the kindness and generosity of strangers.
Jack and I were so moved, that we offered to help them with their garden when they need some extra hands. In our simple lives, we look forward to spending time with people we like and who inspire us. Hopefully, I can share more pictures if they take us up on our offer.

{Note 5/25/15 – Jack has a hernia, so we haven’t been able to pitch in this season in the “strangers’ garden. Hope to do so in future.]

Just let it go: an email to my sister

by Bella

image source:

I’m getting to know my big sister all over again. We’re 6 years apart in age but the only girls in a family of 5 kids, so we were very close growing up. Time, distance, responsibilities, and the modern world caused us to grow apart. Until a few months ago, we hadn’t had any contact since our grandmother’s funeral in 2000.

Recently, she initiated contact with me and we’re writing regular emails to catch up on all that we’ve missed. One thing I’ve noticed is that my sister, though she desperately wants to be happy, really dwells on the past. She and her husband have so many lifestyle related ailments, that I’ve lost track of them all. They don’t seem to make the connection between how they live, eat and think to how they feel.

She wants to know all about me and my family, not just what we do, but who we really are. I have been very honest with her in the hope that by sharing our journey with her, she and her husband will be inspired to make some life changes that will bring them the happiness they so desire. In fact she just told me today that they sold their 2000 sq ft home, got rid of much of their stuff and moved into an 885 sq ft place, and they feel a huge weight lifted off of them. What a great start.

This is an excerpt from one of my early emails to her. It clearly resonated with her, and I hope that it will cause others to reevaluate what makes them happy. It’s about letting go of not only things, but of bad habits and toxic emotions …

“I’m glad that you’re finding some peace in your life. Desire is the source
of all pain. Desiring love from <others>, desiring to be rid of the things
that haunt or upset you, they all cause pain. It’s easier said than done,

but you *can* just let it go.

I’ve been pretty good at that in recent years, with a few exceptions.
Unless someone intentionally does something to me or my family, I let it
go. When someone is evil, I write them off and move on. It bothers me for a
while, but eventually I get over it, however I don’t forget.

When you left, I missed you, but was never angry at you for leaving. I

The thing that created the most distance between me and the family and me
and old friends is everyone’s strong held (stubborn) beliefs. I don’t want
to tell others what to believe or how to live their lives. I respect
people’s right to live and think as they like. The problem is that I expect
the same in return. It’s the lack of the return part which creates the
problem. Therefore, knowing that my desire to have respect returned and not
getting it causes me pain, So I let it go and, for the most part, have
removed the sources of that pain from our lives. Essentially, it sounds as
if that’s what you were doing when you moved away. I’m just sorry that
other pains plagued you for so many years, but glad to know you’re moving on
and can see that it only hurts you to hold onto it.

So about us. We are minimalists and gluten free, dairy free vegetarians
(I’m mostly vegan),

We’ve spent many years shopping, shopping and shopping like we were trained
by corporate America and the government to do. It made us miserable. Having
to find a place for all the stuff made us even more miserable. Now we’re
paying the price. It took very little time to accumulate all the stuff.
It’s taking ages to get rid of it. We’ve been selling it off and giving
things away, while only buying what we truly need, for 5 years now, and we
still have stuff to get rid of. We’ve finally set a deadline <and we have a goal>

Anything that’s not of any real monetary value or use <has to go>.
The stuff and getting rid of the stuff has become all consuming. We’ve
been doing it for so long now that trying to get rid of it, is making us as
miserable as buying it and storing it did. If we don’t just let it go, it will devour

The healthy, simple eating goes hand in hand with that way of thinking.
We’re cleansing our minds and our bodies. Eating healthy and exercising
gives us clarity of thought. It removes the brain fog, allowing us to
escape the hypnotic affects of the brain-washing that led us down the
consumerist path. It also creates space for new opportunities.”

I’m so proud of her for making changes in her life and really touched that she reached out to me. We’ve reconnected at a point in our lives where we want the same things, freedom and happiness. It’s wonderful to be able to support and encourage one another to achieve these goals.


How to start a new school year stress-free

by Bella

I’m sure parents of school-age kids who are reading this know exactly what I mean about back-to-school stress, both mental and financial. There’s school supplies, clothes, backpacks, transportation to be bought and/organized and schedules to be rearranged. We managed to avoid ALL of this. The transition into this new school year was nearly effortless.

The choices we’ve made for our lives aren’t for everyone so when reading this bear that in mind. We’ve found what works for us. In this case, it’s online high school.

Our teen daughter attends a virtual high. It’s free, she didn’t need any new clothes, no new backpack, and no transportation. She has a laptop computer (the school will even supply this if you don’t have one), a desk, a chair, a few pencils and a notebook. She can even work at her own pace which means that she can finish each semester early or take time as she needs it to do the things that inspire her like playing guitar and going for a swim.

This has been the easiest start to a school year that we’ve ever had. It’s even easier than when I home schooled, because I didn’t have to prepare a curriculum and search for and buy books and supplies.

Online school fits in with our goals, lifestyle and personalities. We didn’t have to accumulate loads of stuff, we saved money, our daughter will have time and we’ll have the money for her to pursue other interests, and she won’t have to be in a hectic and noisy school environment which can make it hard to focus.

There’s always a challenge, and in this case it’s the lack of social interaction. Many online schools offer student meet-ups and activities. We, however live in a remote small town where such meet-ups aren’t really practical. There are other options that we’re pursuing: our daughter volunteers and is considering getting a job and possibly taking dance lessons.Each of these things will give her the opportunity to meet new people and hopefully to make new friends.

We feel very fortunate to have the option of virtual high school available to us, and we now look forward to the beginning of the school year with no shopping, and no stress.