Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!…A new year, a new decade, a new beginning…

On this date in 2013, this foot-long insect on the wall by the bathroom door in the master bedroom made us cringe.  Sleep didn’t come easy the remainder of that night, fearing that the rains of the previous few days may have brought more of these ugly things indoors. Tom, as always, disposed of it outdoors, but of course, didn’t kill it.  For more photos from that date, please click here.

Many times in the past seven years, we’ve chronicled our year in review on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll list where we traveled in 2019 with snippets of what transpired during those travels. 

As our readers know so well, this has been a tough year for us when on February 12th, I had triple coronary bypass surgery with many complications. We won’t get into all of that. 

We’ve said enough and appreciate the patience of our readers who saw us through that difficult time and stayed with us, continuing to read our daily posts. That month I only uploaded 16 posts when I could not prepare posts during the first two weeks after surgery. 

In tomorrow’s post, we‘ll breeze by that period when in May we were “on the move” once again, albeit with a certain amount of trepidation and fear.

Instead, now, we look to the future with hope and optimism that we’ll be able to continue for years to come. But, we’ve both decided over the past few months that we cannot and will not dwell on fear or apprehension of what could happen. 

We could all get caught up in this state of mind, even those in great health. None of us know what the future holds and we can only do our best to maintain good health and a good attitude which ultimately may be instrumental in our quality of life and longevity.

Most of us can look back at our prior year and recall various circumstances causing us to worry and be concerned for ourselves, our loved ones, our circumstances. No one is exempt.

And, most of us choose to move forward, learn from our experiences, good and bad, and continue on the path we’ve chosen for our lives or in some cases choose a new path as we had done over seven years ago. It changed everything.

Rather than New Year’s resolutions, we find it helpful to look back over the past year to determine what we have learned, changes we have made and the changes we need to make going forward. 

It’s highly individual and we cannot imply or suggest that any of our readers/friends follow such a path. But, we find a sense of comfort moving into the New Year knowing we are doing the best we can to maintain a quality of life that brings us both joy and contentment. 

That being said, we wish each and every one of our readers a meaningful and purposeful New Year that fulfills your needs and wishes and brings you joy and contentment as well.

Happy New Year!

Photo from one year ago, December 31, 2019:

Adorable giraffe at rest in Marloth Park. For more photos, please click here 

Another birthday celebration…This time at the bar entitled, “What the Hell”…Finally, rental car issue resolved…

I was painting on the wall outside a sushi restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, on this date in 2017. For more photos, please click here.

Seniors seem to prefer going out during the day as opposed to at night in the dark. I suppose we are no exception. With crazy drivers on the roads at night, many of whom may have been drinking, daytime visibility is beneficial. That’s not to say daytime drivers are competent or sober.

This fact is especially relevant as we approach New Year’s Eve. For this very reason, we were prompted to spend New Year’s Eve at the party here at the resort rather than venture out to any other locations.

Over the years, our interest in New Year’s Eve has diminished considerably. Still, when the opportunity to attend the party came up a few nights ago at a great price, we negotiated for two tickets, it was hard to turn it down. See yesterday’s post for details.

Yesterday, we brought the egg dish and blueberry muffins to Colleen and Gene’s home for brunch. Afterward, we watched the disappointing Minnesota Vikings Game, returning to our house around 3:30 pm with little to do but relax and unwind.

We should have started to tackle prospects for future bookings, but Tom was determined to watch football for the rest of the day and evening once we returned.

I busied myself with a variety of tasks, including making a light dinner at 6:30 pm. This morning before beginning the post, my time has been spent online checking credit card balances for the first-of-the-month payments. 

Since we’re leaving at 1:30 pm to pick up Colleen and Gena (it’s her birthday today) to head to “What the Hell Bar and Grill” to celebrate her birthday, we have little time to get wrapped up in any research for future travels.

This morning, Tom received an email from rentalcars.com, a site we’ve used since the onset of our travels and will continue to use for the best pricing on cars worldwide. They finally credited us for the issue we ran into when we arrived in Las Vegas on November 28, 2019.

When we approached the rental desk at the Alamo airport, we were informed we couldn’t receive the car we’d rented online due to some technical error between them and rentalcars.com.

However, Alamo booked another car for us at an even better price, which we accepted. But, the issue remained to apply for a credit for the car we didn’t get, and Alamo stated we’d have to do so through rentalcars.com.

We were receiving the credit turned into a convoluted mess of endless email messages and instructions to apply for the credit online (which didn’t work), with a high degree of frustration on our end. We didn’t give up. We kept pressing.

Finally, today, they wrote to us stating the credit will be processed and appear on our credit card within ten business days. Plus, they offered us a complimentary three-day rental next time we use the service by using a code they included in the message. 

We’ll keep checking the credit card and use the code next time we rent a car which should be once we arrive in London in May, after the cruise from Mumbai in April.

Now that we have all of the annoying issues resolved hanging over our heads, we can freely move forward in our planning for the future.

Have a fabulous day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 30, 2018:

Puff adders are commonly seen in Marloth Park. This photo was taken while we were at snake school in March.  Click here for the link to when the photo was taken. Click here for the post one year ago.

Social nirvana into the New Year…

We often encountered beautiful flowers when we walked the neighborhood in Pacific Harbor, Fiji, on this date in 2015.

We knew that staying in Apache Junction would provide us with an opportunity to spend enjoyable times with Tom’s sisters and spouses and with other resort residents we’d meet along the way.

Yesterday at 3:00 pm was no exception. When Colleen and Mary were invited to an afternoon “happy hour,” of course, they ensured we were included as well.

When we arrived at Sue and Ed’s lovely park home, we were heartily welcomed. As the afternoon wore on, word got out, and four others showed up, all of whom we’d met at other parties over the past three weeks. The group of eight of us engaged in lively conversation.

The 12 of us were a lively group, and there was no shortage of chatter in the room. How they managed to squeeze enough chairs into the space to accommodate everyone baffled me. I guess groups this size must be a common occurrence with all the socializing.

When we’d brought up New Year’s Eve to Tom’s sibling, none sounded enthused to going out to celebrate. Tom also hesitated to plan anything, yet I’d have loved to go out to celebrate, especially if we could do so nearby.

There’s a New Year’s Eve party planned at the resort, but we’d heard the tickets were sold out. Ironically, last night a couple, Sue and Mike, mentioned they were trying to sell their two tickets to the New Year’s Eve party, for which they paid $64. They preferred to attend another party at a nearby resort.

The husband, Mike, was open for negotiations on the price of the tickets. He agreed to $50 for the pair. I offered $40. He decided to pay $45. I stuck to my guns at $40, and eventually, he agreed, knowing it would be unlikely he could sell them at this late a date. After all, the party occurs in only two days.

Hostess Sue (lots of Sue’s here) suggested we sit with them and hang out with them at the party. We may know a few others in attendance, but this plan was most preferred.

This morning I baked blueberry muffins and just took an enormous egg, sausage, mushroom, and onion bake out of the oven to bring to Colleen and Gene’s home for brunch for the six of us. We’ll be watching the Minnesota Vikings game from Tom’s laptop on their big-screen TV using our HDMI cord.

Tomorrow, we’ll all celebrate Colleen’s birthday at the local bar, and the next night we’ll attend the New Year’s Eve party. It’s pretty fun being here. We’re enjoying every moment.

Have a fantastic day, dear readers! Go Vikings!

Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2018:

Tom took this photo of two hadeda birds on the roof of a neighboring property. Click here to hear the sounds they make, which result in their name. They are known as the loudest birds in South Africa. For more photos, please click here.

Researching the future…We’re behind schedule…

Taking this photo without zoom on this date in 2013 gives a perspective of the small size of this island, somehow appealing to her for its varied vegetation. For more photos from that date, please click here.

Since we arrived in the US on November 8th, we’ve been preoccupied with visiting family and planning for our upcoming two months in India. We’ve yet to begin booking where we’ll stay after our 29-night cruise from Mumbai to London, which ends on May 2, 2020.

It may seem to be a long time away, but in our world, four or five months fly by in a flash, especially when we are having a great time. As much as we’d like to postpone the time it takes to conduct an in-depth search, the time has come for us to get to work.

The hardest part of booking the six months we have to fill between the end of the cruise until the next cruise in November is where exactly we’d like to travel.

With the Schengen visa requirement that we can only stay in Europe for 90 days out of 180 days, it makes sense for us to spend more time in the UK that doesn’t fall into the Schengen requirements. 

There appear to be several available options for the summer months. Undoubtedly, it makes sense to stay in Scotland (a part of the UK) for a period that neither of us has visited. But, certainly, we’d better get something booked soon.

It’s still hanging up in the air concerning our return to South Africa at the end of the November cruise. But one thing we have decided is we won’t stay in South Africa over the holidays due to increased seasonal rental costs and excessive power outages, especially when there are so many people in Marloth Park. They are experiencing such issues now, as we’ve mentioned many times on Facebook.

Instead, we’re contemplating getting off the ship a few days before the end of the cruise when the ship docks in a port of call in Luderitz or Walvis Bay, Namibia, and stay there for a few months while awaiting the end of the holiday season in South Africa. This makes a lot of sense to us.

After the first of January, we’ll be contacting an immigration attorney in South Africa to assist us in getting the waiver we applied for, which has yet to be approved.  

It’s been almost eight months since we applied and yet had no response. Without the waiver, we won’t be able to return to South Africa until May 2024. That’s too far out for any planning at this point.

This morning, we visited Mary, Eugene, Colleen, and Gene (Margie returned to Minnesota for a few weeks to attend her granddaughter’s wedding on New Year’s Eve). No one seems interested in doing anything out and about on New Year’s Eve, but a few activities transpire in the next few days.

Tomorrow, before noon, we’ll get together for the Minnesota Vikings Game at Colleen and Gene’s home, where we’ll hook up Tom’s laptop via the HDMI cord to their large TV. I am making an egg, mushroom, onions, and sausage casserole to bring for brunch.

On Monday, it’s Colleen’s birthday, and the six of us will go out for a happy hour and a bite to eat at a local pub, “What’s the Hell.” It will be fun to celebrate with her as we did over Tom’s birthday on Monday.

Now, I’m off to the market once more for a few items. We’ll spend a quiet day and evening at our place, having dinner and perhaps watching a movie in the evening. We’ve already completed our walk now that the rain has stopped.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2018:

It’s easier for male kudus to eat this way instead of bending down with those giant horns. Wildebeest Willie waits in the background for his turn. For more details, please click here.

A perspective from the inside…Aging gracefully…

This photo was posted in 2014 when our family visited Mount Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii. This was my favorite shot of the evening with the backdrop of the glow of the lava.

After a great night’s sleep last night, both of us are feeling well. What a relief! At this point, with the recent virus gone and my ongoing recovery from last February’s dreadful experience, I am feeling better than I have in over ten months.

I prefer not to be overly optimistic and proceed with caution, realizing that some days may not be as good as others. Then again, most of us have good and bad days about how we feel, especially as we age.

Living in this senior community for 18 nights thus far with a total of 51 nights for the duration has allowed us to see how other seniors live; their health concerns; their worries; their relationship issues; and the affordability (or not) of living in this pleasant, modern RV park.

Surprisingly, most people we’ve met have been very candid about their personal lives. Many have discussed their memory issues and health challenges in some detail. 

However, from what we can ascertain, a substantial number of residents are healthy, active, and full of vitality. In either case, no one we’ve met to date appears to judge those with health or emotional issues. Overall, the residents appear happy to be here, many of whom have lived here for as many as 20 years. Sure, some express concerns over the Park’s management, but this is to be expected. 

It’s easy to get caught in the loop of observing management’s handling of the facility and subsequently making comments or observations of how various situations could improve. However, few seem to express these concerns to the corporate office.

The park appears to be well run. It’s clean, well maintained, and has a robust variety of services and activities in which residents may participate or not. Most events result in an easy social experience suitable for singles and married couples. 

Some individuals lost their spouses and remained in the park during the winter months or throughout the year. Tom’s sister, Margie, lived here during the winter months with her husband Charlie, who sadly passed away in 2008, and yet she still spends her winters here to avoid the cold weather in Minnesota.

For her, the benefit of having two of her sisters living here is a big draw as well. Most residents make an effort to make friends in the park with whom they develop close relationships. Fortunately, we’ve had an opportunity to meet many of Tom’s sister’s friends, all of whom are lovely people.

Many residents have homes they return to in the spring, not returning until October, November, or later and leaving as soon as the weather warms in their home states.

The Arizona summer weather can be daunting, for example:
“In Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs, the summers are sweltering and dry, the winters are cool, and it is mostly clear year-round. Over the year, the temperature typically varies from 44°F (6.7C) to 106°F (41C) and is rarely below 36°F (2.2C) or above 111°F (44C). The record high-temperature is 122°F (50C).”

It’s not surprising that few seniors prefer to stay here in the summer months, but many no longer have second homes out of state and, due to affordability and convenience, will stay through the hot summer months.

No doubt, we’re enjoying our time here meeting new people and spending quality time with Tom’s three sisters and two brothers-in-law. During our quiet time, we busy ourselves with household tasks, research for future travels, and of course, preparing each day’s post.

In only four days, the New Year will be upon us. May you enjoy the planning and preparations for what may be most suitable for you to ring in the New Year.

Photo from one year ago today, December 27, 2018:

Elephants were coming down the hill to the Crocodile River. It’s hot and dry, and water is sparse for them. For more photos, please click here.

A lovely Christmas day had by all…

Me, Tom, and Kathy during the cocktail hour before dinner on Christmas Day last year.

At last night’s Christmas dinner at Mary and Eugene’s home, again, we didn’t take photos to respect the attendees’ wishes. Not everyone feels comfortable having their photos taken and published online.

With 11 guests at the beautifully set the table, all passed and enjoyed the delicious foods. However, I could only eat the ham and turkey, but I’d had a salad earlier in the day.

After dinner, when the lemon meringue, pumpkin, and pecan pies were placed on the table with a large can of aerosol whipped cream, my mouth watered. In my old life, I would have eaten any one of them. But, I resisted after eating my plate of ham and turkey.

I always make an effort to avoid making a big deal of what I cannot eat, preferring to focus on what I can. Of course, others always comment on the lack of starches, grains, and sugar-laden items on my plate, and I state I have an inflammatory condition (so actual) that prevents me from partaking.

The menu consisted of most items included in a typical Thanksgiving dinner; roasted turkey with stuffing (plus lean ham in this case); mashed potatoes and gravy; sweet potato casserole; green bean casserole; white buns and pumpkin pie (plus other pies) for dessert. It has always been a favorite meal for most Americans. (I’d made the green beans and sweet potatoes earlier in the day).

During and after dinner, the conversation was rich and varied as we all easily connected with ease. Nine of the group were from Minnesota and, their neighbors Jane and Len are from Iowa. Eugene’s sister and her husband were in attendance, along with the widow of one of their brothers who’d passed away years ago.

During the day and evening, we had an opportunity to speak to four of our six grandchildren in Minnesota. Also, I spent time on the phone talking to both of my sisters, Julie in California and Susan in Nevada. Tom spent time on the phone with his eldest brother, Jerome. It was a good day.

Today will be low-key. We have leftover green beans and sweet potatoes, which Tom will have with the marinated chicken breasts we’ll make on the grill with other sides of riced cauliflower and salad.

We just returned from a walk in the neighborhood. I must admit I haven’t been doing as much walking as I should since my legs began to improve in October. After all, I could not walk far for over eight months due to the two surgeries on my legs and the crippling medications. 

I know I should have been walking each day since we arrived here two weeks ago, especially now that the awful coughing has ended. We’ve been here 2½ weeks, and the time has come for me to commit to walking regularly.

My fitness device always reads at least 7000 steps a day, but I need to crank that up by walking with vigor on the street, not just going back and forth to Tom’s sister’s homes and moving about the house. 

I’m committed, as of today, instead of waiting to make New Year’s resolutions which I’ve never been one to make, if I need to get something done, no need to wait for the New Year. 

That’s it for today, folks. We hope every one of you who celebrates the holidays had a lovely Christmas day as well.

We’ll be back again soon!

Photo from one year ago today, December 26, 2018:

Kathy and Don do a tremendous amount of hosting guests and always do so with aplomb and ease. For more photos, please click here.

Merry Christmas, everyone!…Christmas Eve festivities…”We’ll figure it out”…

A band from Minnesota played country music at the Apache Junction VFW’s
Christmas Eve festivities.

Today’s photos were from yesterday afternoon while we attended the festivities at a local Apache Junction VFW from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Later in the day, we gathered at Colleen’s house for snacks and more entertaining and lively conversations. Four neighbors stopped by to join the six of us.

Although it never snowed anywhere we’ve traveled over the world the past seven years, except while we were in Antarctica almost two years ago, somehow being in the US during Christmas feels a bit unfamiliar without snow.

Tom, another year older but still loads of fun!

With its usually warm and mild winters, Arizona doesn’t quite remind us of Christmastime, even with the lights and decorations. Today, it’s raining. Then again, during these past travel years, we haven’t created the ambiance we so well remember of Christmases long ago. 

We have no decorations, no tree, no gifts, no tins of home-baked Christmas cookies. Nor did we send out Christmas cards or gifts other than to our grandchildren.

But, somehow, the Christmas spirit fills our hearts, and we think of our loved ones far away and may, at times, miss the merriment we so embraced in our old lives.

Tom and brother-in-law Gene. Note Tom: always using his hands when he tells a story. We didn’t include photos of other family members when they preferred not to publish their photos online. No problem.

We’d be foolhardy to say we don’t miss certain aspects of our old lives. We do. We’ll always miss our family members and friends. At times, we even forget our old house, the lake, the wildlife, and our wonderful neighbors.

But, it feels as if all of that was a lifetime ago. These seven years have left us drawing upon memories of prior years, which is a blur in many ways…not the time we spent with loved ones but the intangible sensations of the Christmas season…the smell of cookies baking; the twinkling of tiny lights on the tree; and the often falling snowflakes.

But soon, as we embark on yet another exotic and unusual journey, we find ourselves relieved of such idle meanderings as we imagine the future ahead of us and what treasures it has to bring.

Nothing like an adorable “wiener dog” to liven up the VFW’s Christmas Eve festivities.

No, people don’t understand the powerful hold that the wanderlust spirit has blissfully imposed upon us. We love this life. We’re often asked, “How could you possibly leave everyone you love behind?”

We didn’t make that decision lightly, nor do we flippantly consider it now. We hope and pray our family members to understand and know full well that however far away we may be, they are always in our hearts and minds.

My paternal grandmother, whom I dearly cherished, lived across the country when I was a child. We only saw her once every five or six years and stayed in touch via handwritten letters and perhaps a once-a-year phone call. I never loved her any less that she chose to live far away. I loved her all the more.

Many brought “white elephant gifts” to swap amongst each other. It was fun to see some of the funny gifts, including a 10-year-old who ended up with an adult movie that his parents immediately grabbed from his hands.

We can only hope our fast-growing-up grandchildren and adult children feel the same, accepting and loving us just the same. With the availability of the internet, it has been much easier to stay in touch, see their faces, hear their voices, and share their lives.

Life is never perfect, nor is it precisely as we wished it would be with all the efforts we’ve made in the world. This past year was a life-shattering and potentially life-changing experience when I had emergency open-heart surgery in February in South Africa.

Both of us have had many challenges in our lives, as most people do. Yet, somehow, we made it through. Did we learn something from this frightening experience? I can’t say we learned a lot about ourselves we didn’t already know.

The table was filled with white elephant gifts.

But, we did learn one thing often asked of us, “What will you do if something goes wrong?” At the time of these types of queries, we’d look at one another and reply, “We’ll figure it out.”

And that is exactly what we did. We figured it out. Here we are now, only 35 days before departure for India, and we’re braced and ready for this next phase of our travels, armed with the knowledge that we have the motivation, mutual love, and determination that we’ll always be able to “figure it out.”

Merry Christmas to every one of our family members, readers/friends, and all the people we’ve met along the way. We truly feel blessed in more than one way.

Photo from one year ago today, December 25, 2018:

Little doesn’t disappoint.  He stopped by Christmas Eve morning and began walking up the steps to the house. I found him on step #3 and encouraged him to eat outside. He complied.  I tendered pellets, apples, and carrots.  He ate the produce and left the pellets thinking about the human leftovers he would be getting elsewhere at a holidaymaker’s house, maybe chips, Christmas cookies, and marshmallows (none of which are suitable for him).  But, after all, he is a pig, and he likes junk food, too. Merry Christmas. For more, please click here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all of our family and friends/readers who celebrate…

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our friends all over the world.

We extend our heartfelt wishes to those who celebrate Christmas and Chanukah. We awoke this morning to Christmas Eve day, and with an unusual (for us) activity on the agenda, we’re celebrating with Tom’s sisters and spouses once again.

This morning at 5:20 am, Tom bolted out of bed to drive Margie to the Mesa airport. She was flying back to Minnesota for her granddaughter’s wedding on New Year’s Eve and will return to Apache Junction the first week in January.

This leaves the six of us to continue the holiday season celebrations, which included Tom’s birthday last night with a big meal and the Minnesota Vikings game (they lost) we watched shortly after dining.

I could kick myself for failing to take photos. Now that I’m using my Google 4XL phone to take photos, I am having a hard time taking time out of the festivities. I certainly will be taking photos in India soon enough.

But, in reality, life isn’t always about photos. It’s about memorable experiences, and those aren’t always captured with a phone or camera. Tom’s birthday celebration was easy flowing, lively, and delightfully fun for the seven of us.

So what’s on the agenda today? We’re joining the family for their tradition of attending the local VFW’s annual “Tom & Jerry” Christmas Eve Day party, which begins at 1:00 pm, ending around 4:00 pm. 

Neither Tom nor I drink Tom and Jerry’s, and most likely, one of us will be the designated driver since we don’t care to drink adult beverages during the day. Instead, we’ll have fun with the others enjoying this unusual way for us to celebrate Christmas Eve Day.

As for last night’s dinner, everything came out exactly as planned. Some of the garlic bread edges were overcooked, but I trimmed them off, and it was still a hit. Tom perfectly cooked everyone’s steak medium rare as requested and mine rare. 

The butterflied garlic butter prawns were delicious, and not a one was left behind. At halftime, I served Tom’s lemon birthday cake, and they all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good meal.

With the kitchen’s small size, it’s imperative we get everything out of the way. Last night, after dinner, Tom washed all the dishes right away. Shortly afterward, I dried the dishes and put everything away. We awoke this morning to the little house being tidy and back in order.

Living in this small space and yet performing normal household activities requires diligence in keeping everything tidy, or a feeling of chaos would ensue. We avoid chaos like the plague.

Speaking of the plague, we’re finally recovered from the dreadful flu that lasted for over six weeks, although on occasion, we cough a little. That virus compared to the awful virus from a cruise to Sydney in 2015 that left us both coughing for weeks.

Tom is napping right now. Not a good napper, I am walking on my tiptoes to avoid making any noise and awakening him. Hopefully, he can rest for an hour or two until we leave for the VFW.

We wish every one of our family, friends/readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. May the joy, spirituality, and merriment of the season fill your hearts with love, fulfillment, and hope for the future.

Thank you for sharing this time, all times in the past and times upcoming in the future. All of you are instrumental in the joy we feel as we continue on this journey…36 days and counting…

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2018:

OThe bright light behind us wasn’t the best vantage point in taking this photo. From left to right: Don, Kathy, me, Tom, Danie, Gerhard with Louise and Rita in front. For more photos from his party one year ago, please click here.

Happy birthday to my husband Tom…A special celebration on the menu…

Jandre, Danie, Kathy, Tom, me, Rita, Louise and Gerhard on the veranda overlooking the Crocodile River at Tom’s birthday party last year. (Photo is from the following day’s post on December 24th. Don, Kathy’s husband, took the photo).

It’s a delightfully busy morning as I continue to prep today’s dishes for Tom’s birthday dinner party starting at 4:00 pm today. Yesterday, we posted the menu. If you missed it, please click here.

Thank goodness I managed to get all the chopping and dicing done yesterday. Although the menu is uncomplicated, it still requires tremendous preparation to pull it all together.

All I have left to do today is broil the garlic shrimp, broil the garlic bread, cook the sauteed Portobello mushrooms, bake the potatoes, toss the salad and wrap up the cake, which has been baked and is awaiting the finishing touches. It will be an easy day.

Yesterday we squeezed all the lemons for the Lemon Drop Martinis, and soon I’ll add the sugar and wrap up the mix to which our guests may add either gin or vodka, which I’ll whir with ice in Mary’s borrowed blender.

With limited space, I can’t set the table until it’s time to eat. We’re borrowing a table from Mary which, as it turns out, we’ll have to set up indoors. It’s a very cool and cloudy day with possibilities of rain requiring we eat indoors.

Tom will cook the already marinating New York Strip steaks to order on the grill while getting the remaining dishes ready to be served. No stress here. I’ve always strived to make dinner parties seamless by avoiding being in an uproar for any part of it. 

Nothing stresses guests more when they see their hosts scrambling in an attempt to get the meal put together. We’ve strived to avoid such a scenario preferring our guests can relax and enjoy their time at our party.

I am overflowing with love and gratefulness for my husband. This morning I wrote a tribute to him on Facebook as follows, which says it all:

“Happy birthday to my husband Tom, my travel companion, friend, and forever lover. You always have been a loving and thoughtful partner, but this past year you further proved the “stuff” you are made of when you took care of me for many months while I recovered from open-heart surgery in South Africa and after that. Your love and devotion came through every day and continue now that I am well. This photo was taken when we were in Tanzania in the savannah. Now, my dream life continues with the man of my dreams when in 37 days, we depart for two months touring India. Happy birthday, my love. I love you always…”

Our goal is not to “toot our own horn” here if possible. Still, today I couldn’t help but remind Tom and our readers how fortunate I feel, we feel, to have one another, to be living this extraordinary life, and, most of all, to continue after this trying year.

But, this year is significant when we have the opportunity to share it with a part of Tom’s family; three of his six sisters, two brothers-in-law, and each other is usually warm and sunny Arizona.

May you have a fantastic day as the Christmas festivities continue…

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2018:

December 23, 2017:  Happy 65th birthday to my darling husband, lover,  travel companion, and forever friend who has made this special and unique life of world travel possible. Click here for details. For the post from one year ago today, please click here.

Prepping for Tom’s birthday dinner…Here’s the menu…

Photo of the beautiful Crocodile River taken from Marloth Park on this date in 2013. For more, please click here.

Tomorrow’s birthday dinner for Tom is the first big meal I’ve made for guests in over ten months. When deciding on the menu for his birthday dinner tomorrow, I found it necessary to consider several factors: one, the limited space in the kitchen; two, that the various dishes are easy to prepare; Tom’s taste preferences (along with our guests); and limited space for serving a variety of side dishes.

While at the market last weekend, we noticed reasonable prices on New York Strip steaks. They looked meaty with little visible fat, and although the portions are significant, everyone can take a “doggy bag” home if they’d like.

We purchased two packages of five steaks each and separated the seven we’d need for the meal, keeping three for the two of us at some point in the future and freezing all of them. Steak on its own may not be all that exciting for some, so we also purchased a bag of jumbo butterflied prawns. 

Each plate will have a steak and prawns. Thus, the menu rolled out as follows:

  • New York Strip steaks, cooked to order on the grill
  • Jumbo garlic broiled butterflied prawns
  • Baked potatoes with sour cream and fresh chives
  • Asian green beans with light spices, bacon, sauteed garlic, and onion
  • Sauteed Portabello mushrooms
  • Par 30 Salad: a delicious tossed salad from a recipe, in our old lives, from a restaurant on at a nearby golf course. Romaine lettuce, green onions, bacon, slivered almonds tossed in a slightly sweet and tangy homemade dressing
  • Garlic bread, topped with fresh garlic and Parmesan cheese
  • Tom’s favorite lemon cake, infused with vanilla pudding, crushed pineapple, and topped with Cool Whip
The items on this menu that work for me are steak, prawns, green beans, mushrooms, and salad. This is an ideal meal for me and hopefully for everyone else.

We’ll dine by 4:00 or 4:30 pm due to a Vikings game on TV starting at 6:15 pm. All of us, from Minnesota, will watch the game. We have enough chairs and seating to make this work for the seven of us. 

I’ll likely serve the cake at halftime or sooner when everyone’s ready for the final course. I’ve always loved this cake, so I have to remind myself not to lick my fingers or take a single taste.

I decided against serving any snacks or appetizers before the meal when all it does is make everyone complete before the dinner is served. It isn’t enjoyable for the cook to find guests already complete before the main meal is served. And, it’s hard for the guests who wish they had “room” to eat the main meal. 

Today, we took off for the Safeway market for a few last-minute items while drying our laundry. We were back in time by a few minutes before it was done. Returning to the house, we put all the laundry away, and I started chopping and dicing for tomorrow’s meal.

Soon, we’ll juice all the lemons for tomorrow’s Lemon Drop Martinis. We picked all the lemons from Mary and Eugene’s lemon tree in front of their property. Colleen provided a bottle of Sapphire Gin and a bottle of Absolute Vodka to use for the martinis.

After our 3:00 pm main meal today: roast chicken, salad and rice (for Tom) he’ll vacuum all the floors and I’ll wash them. This morning I did some cleaning, so we’ll be all set by the end of the day as I continue to work on the above side dishes. I’ve already finished the green beans and will continue to chop and dice for the salad.

First thing in the morning, I’ll make the cake, marinate the steaks, prep the prawns, potatoes, and garlic bread. I’m doing as much as I can today to ensure tomorrow is easy.

Hopefully, the day will be as warm and sunny as today, with a high of 72F (22C). May you have a warm and sunny day as you plan and prepare for the holiday season.

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2018:
The baby bushbuck took cover behind mom when she wasn’t sure what to do when she saw us. For more photos, please click here.