Happy New Year!…No “year in review” this year, but excitement from the past 24 hours!!!!…

Chris, the instructor, and Tom were all smiles with the black mamba while attending a snake-handling class in March 2018. I took the classroom course and the test. I was grateful my job was to take photos and not handle the snakes. See the original post here.

Living in the bush always provides opportunities for exciting and unique experiences. Days may pass before anything pops up, but ultimately, something special happens. In this case, it was more than special. It was terrifying!!!

As we were getting ready to go to Jabula last night instead of our usual Friday night, due to the New Year’s Eve party that we’re attending this evening, Tom stepped out onto the veranda to feed a bushbuck in his bare feet and underwear. (Privacy is easy since we are far from other bush houses and dense bush surrounds us on all sides). It was so hot and humid. He didn’t want to put on his clothes until we were ready to go out the door.

I was busy in the second bedroom where I keep my clothes, freshening up and changing for the evening. I heard Tom let out a “Whoa!”

I rushed outside to see what he had spotted. Fortunately, or unfortunately, (I couldn’t take a photo, nor did I see it. Now, you know what it was when I said it had slithered away. Nothing slithers like a snake.

It was a black mamba, the most venomous snake in Africa, described as follows from this site:

The black mamba has quite a reputation. It is one of the world’s deadliest snakes. It is the fastest land snake in the world and “the longest species of venomous snake in Africa and the second-longest in the world,” said Sara Viernum, a herpetologist based in Madison, Wisconsin. This snake’s potential danger has been the subject of many African myths, and it has been blamed for thousands of human deaths.

The black mamba’s reputation is not undeserved. “Black mambas are extremely venomous and very fast snakes,” Viernum said. They are highly aggressive when threatened, “known to strike repeatedly and [to] inject a large volume of venom with each strike.” Their venom is potentially lethal, and though antivenin exists, it is not widely available in the black mamba’s native habitat of southern and eastern Africa. For this reason, they are considered a top killer in a land where nearly 20,000 people die from snake bites every year, according to PBS’s Nature.

Bite from a black mamba:
Just two drops of potent black mamba venom can kill a human, according to South Africa’s Kruger National Park. “Like cobras and coral snakes, the venom of a black mamba contains neurotoxins,” Viernum told Live Science. She described the venom as “fast-acting.” It shuts down the nervous system and paralyzes victims, and without antivenom, the fatality rate from a black mamba bite is 100 percent. “Fatalities from black mamba bites have been documented to occur within as little as 20 minutes after injection,” said Viernum. “However, most known fatalities have occurred within 30 minutes to 3 hours or longer.”

No doubt, being in close proximity to one of these dangerous snakes is frightening. Although it wasn’t as close to him as the boomslang that visited us last January, as shown in the photo below from our post here,

I stepped out the door to the veranda to discover this scene, a highly venomous boomslang with a frog in its mouth. It was already too preoccupied to bite us! Perhaps the frog in its mouth was a blessing. See our post here.

As for yesterday’s black mamba, it was only a few meters from him but fortunately slithered away in record time. The snake handlers in Marloth Park don’t want to be contacted for snakes spotted in gardens since, by the time they would  arrive, the snake would  be long gone,

If a snake is discovered in the house or on the veranda (as was the case in the above photo), maintaining its position, the handlers can be called, usually arriving in five to ten minutes. Tom saw no reason to call with yesterday’s sighting. But, it certainly reminded us to be more diligent than ever in examining our surroundings when walking to and from the car or anywhere in the garden.

It makes sense to scour the bedroom, checking under the bed and in closets this time of year. Snakes are more active during the hot summer months, which may continue long after we leave Africa.

Last night Tom killed a horrible-looking insect on the kitchen floor before we went to bed, leaving it near the trash can to be swept up in the morning. An hour later, I stepped out of the bedroom to get ready for bed to find hundreds of ants were carrying the insect. It was moved no less than 10 meters in one hour. If I hadn’t turned on the overhead light, I would have stepped on the mess in my bare feet.

Tom then swept it out the door and sprayed the entire kitchen and lounge room floors for ants. This morning they are all gone. Surely, more such creatures will visit us soon, whether it’s freaky insects or snakes. We hope our mongooses, who visited in the dozens yesterday, continue to stay around. They are known to keep snakes at bay since they are resistant to venom. We’ll see how that goes.

Soon, we’ll cook the two beef roasts we’re bringing to the party. The rain has stopped momentarily, the humidity and dew point are still very high, but it’s much cooler today, much to our delight.

May all of our friends, family, and readers have a fantastic and safe New Year’s Eve and new year to come. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing yet another year with us.

Photo from one year ago today, December 31, 2020

This photo was posted one year ago today in the 2020′ year in review photos while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #281. Our guide, Amit, helped Tom fashion a turban required to enter the Golden Temple. I thought it looked good on him. For more photos, please click here.

Injuries and anomalies in the bush…

This little duiker has his two horns growing strangely. Typically, males have two small horns atop their heads. This one has a center horn and a second horn, growing from the right side of his head. Most likely, this anomaly doesn’t cause him any problems.

Note: None of today’s photos are ours. This morning while getting ready for the day, Tom hollered out to me, “Hurry and come outside!” Not yet dressed, I grabbed a bath towel, covered myself, and headed out the door. But, I was too late. The sighting he was referring to was long gone.

It was Mom and Babies, who originally included three piglets, but now only two, who appeared in the garden with her tail gone from her injured-looking butt, which we’d noticed was looking bad over the past week or so. She lost one of her piglets last week. Whether it was eaten by the lions or other carnivores in Marloth Park or it was injured and couldn’t continue to carry on, surely being left to die.

No doubt, she was aware of her missing piglet. Then, to appear with an injury to her hind end, only days later must have been quite a blow to her. She continued to care for her remaining two piglets with attentive care, and then…this morning, she appears with the two in tow and a missing tail and bloody butt.

This female warthog appears to have been injured by either a snare or a fence.

It’s so sad,  but we’ll never know what happened to her, her piglet, and when and why her tail fell off. Warthog tails are long with a tuft of hair at the end. They use their tails to stand straight up when in the bush to let their family members know where they are. Also, they use their tails for a vital purpose…to swat off flies and insects. It’s constantly swishing back and forth.

How she’ll manage without a tail remains to be seen. But, warthogs have a robust immune system resulting in relatively quick injury healing and are highly adaptable. I imagine she will improvise and alert her piglets to her whereabouts with grunts and other pig sounds.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get outside quickly enough to get a photo of her injury. Certainly, she and the two piglets will return in the next few days, and I’ll do so at that time and post it the next day. In the interim, today, we’re posting a few photos (NOT OUR PHOTOS) that we borrowed from Facebook posts on the Marloth Park Sighting group.

Was this kudu shot or injured? It’s impossible to know.

We often see anomalies and congenital disabilities in the bush, which may in some cases be due to inbreeding. The photo of the bushbuck with the peculiar placement of his two horns is an example of what may be such a case. It’s hard to say fo sure.These magical wild animals are resourceful. We can only imagine how hard life is for them. Many criticize the confinement of wildlife in Marloth Park. Still, in essence, their life here is considerably easier than for those in Kruger National Park, with fewer apex predators in Marloth Park. Of course, the recent five lions in the park have threatened their safety when numerous carcasses have been discovered since the onset of their presence. It’s not as safe as it used to be.

Although our bush home is not necessarily located in the areas where the lions have been sighted, they could easily change their territory in a few hours and suddenly appear in our area, which is a few kilometers from their current hunting ground. As a result, we keep an eye out constantly when we spend our days and evenings on the veranda.

May be an image of food and outdoors
This piglet appeared to have a broken back. Based on comments on Facebook, the rangers came to where it was spotted and euthanized it. So sad to see. Could this have been the missing third piglet of the mom described in today’s story with the missing tail? It could be.

As for wildlife injuries, the temptation is to contact the rangers each time we see an animal with a potentially life-threatening injury. But, there is a cost factor (who pays for the vets?) and a state of practicality. Warthogs seem to be the least likely animals to be provided with medical care.

Bushbucks, kudu, duikers, zebras, giraffes, and others might be offered care and rehabilitation by the vets that service Marloth Park’s wildlife and Wild and Free, Rehabilitate, Rescue and Release, a fantastic organization run by a dedicated wildlife expert and caregiver, Deidre. They rely upon donations to fund the center.

Of course, the Marloth Park Rangers and the Honorary Rangers are highly dedicated, hard-working individuals that strive to keep the animals in the park safe, healthy, and free from harm. We commend all of their efforts.

Photo from one year ago today, December 30, 2020:

Tom’s burger in Palermo, Buenos Aires, in 2018, with ham, eggs, cheese, and beef plus fried potatoes. This made Tom drool when we were in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India, on day #280. For more photos, please click here.

Is it coincidence, serendipity or random?…Unusual encounters…

Please note: The first sentence of the first paragraph is intended to be the caption for the first photo. Due to WiFi issues with many holidaymakers in the bush, I am unable to correct this issue at this time. Thank you.

Barbara of Lori and Barbara (Shark Tank) had what we called “Barbara’s Butt Bush Bouquet” which lasted for quite a while, making us laugh. We met a lovely couple, Marie and Bill, due to our site and a newspaper story about us in 2012. They lived in our neighborhood in our old lives in Minnesota and attended our church in Victoria. They wrote to us a few days ago as they’ve often done, over the years since we left the US.

We became good friends with Marie and Bill, even meeting them for dinner in Minnesota in 2019. Also, they attended our “reader get-together in Minnesota in 2017.

Their recent email read:

Hi Tom and Jess,

We have not forgotten you; we continue to follow and enjoy your daily posts. Our apologies for the long lapse in communicating, though.

We read with great interest your post about being at Jabula and connecting with Rico, whose son was in your photos. I love small world stories, and whenever we have traveled, having a small world experience makes the trip even better. I’ll try to share one experience we had some years ago briefly.

What prompted them to write this particular email was due to a story we’d done a few weeks ago about meeting a man at Jabula for an unbelievable coincidence. His adult son’s photo was on our website when we visited a rescue center in 2014. To see this story, please click here.

Here is Marie and Bill’s message received two days ago, posted with their permission:

“Hi, Jess & Tom,

We and another couple from Plymouth, MN, were traveling by car in France. One day we passed by a winery in Burgundy that Bill knew a lot about. Our friend asked if he would like to stop for a visit. At first, Bill said no because he knew we were behind schedule getting to our next destination. Our friend reminded Bill that he probably wouldn’t pass by that winery ever again, so we should stop. So we did.

As we entered, we learned there was an English-speaking tour beginning soon, so we signed up to join in. We were directed to another building to meet our guide and the two other couples who had signed up. Long story short, the two other couples just happened to be from Victoria, MN, and I knew the daughters of one from teaching. What are the odds of two couples from Victoria, one couple from Plymouth, and we from Chan meeting up by chance and touring together? Amazing! It is indeed a small, small world!

We are sending many good wishes to both of you for the new year. Stay safe and healthy. You are in our thoughts each day.

Hugs,
Bill and Marie”

Barbara of Lori and Barbara (Shark Tank) had what we called “Barbara’s Butt Bush Bouquet.” It lasted for quite a while,

Obviously, Marie and Bil were shocked and pleasantly surprised by running into people from their area in the same way we were shocked to coincidentally have a photo of Rico’s son on our website. That was indeed serendipitous.

But, over the years of our world travel, we’ve met people that oddly appeared before us, again presenting a weird coincidence. We met a woman on a cruise in 2017 who is/was the bookkeeper for Father Bob, from the same church in Victoria, Minnesota we attended for years.

Another big coincidence was when we happened to be dining in a TripAdvisor highly-rated restaurant when we were in Paris in 2014. While spending two weeks in the city, exploring its many unique sightseeing venues, we decided to try the fine dining establishment, when, most evenings we dined at mid-range restaurants.

The restaurant was a historic home renovated in typical Parisian charm with several small dining rooms. At the time, we’d been following another couple traveling the world, whose online story was similar to ours, although they spent a lot of time in Europe, which we did not.

Once seated in one of those tiny rooms with three tables, I told Tom to turn around discreetly. Sitting next to us, engaged in deep conversation, was that couple. We decided not to disturb them. They didn’t know us, but we knew them from their online photos, a book they’d published, and an appearance on a US morning news program promoting their book.

Since that time, they’d stopped traveling when the husband became ill and later passed away. Sad story but a reality for seniors traveling the world.

At that time, Tom and I discussed how uninterested we were in writing books, appearing on TV, and participating in any reality-type TV shows; after receiving some offers, we declined. We didn’t want celebrity and the life that went with it. It’s satisfying enough for us to meet people on cruises who know us from reading our posts whom we’ve never met who’ve greeted us enthusiastically. We are flattered during those situations but humbly decline to make a big deal of it.

Early this morning, Hal and Howie were munching on pellets. Shortly after they left, Broken Horn made a visit.

But, these coincidences and random encounters always fascinate us.

This morning when sitting down at the table on the veranda with my coffee, I commented to Tom, “Gee, lover, we haven’t heard any frogs croaking in days. Tom replied, “No, we haven’t heard a  single croak in days.”

Two minutes later, two frogs started croaking, one in the cement pond and the other in the birdbath. Knowing I was writing this story today, I particularly laughed out loud. Coincidence? Serendipity? Who knows. But it was fun to hear them once again!

May your day be filled with pleasant surprises!

Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2020:

This photo was posted while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #279. Simple yet lovely flower in Penguin, Tasmania, in 2016. For more photos, please click here.

Broken Horn is a celebrity!…Hot and humid today!…Taco salad day with a great recipe…

May be an image of animal and outdoors
    This photo was on the Marloth Park Sighting Page on Facebook to thousands of viewers. Others recognized him. But, I wrote a comment, “That’s our boy Broken Horn, LOL” He is known by other names at other bush houses, but to us, he is Broken Horn, and he responds to his name!

It was quite a night. After days of heat and humidity last night, there was a rainstorm with thunder and lightning, resulting in a power outage lasting for hours. Fortunately, before we went to sleep, the power was restored, and we were able to sleep in the heat with the air-con on.

This morning is so hot and humid that the air is thick and almost hard to breathe. Our clean clothes are already soaked in sweat. The temperature today is expected to rise only to 93F 34C, but the humidity is the killer. Right now, at 11:00 am, based on the dew point of 72 degrees, it feels like 98F, 37C, and will worsen as the day progresses. It will begin to cool down after 6:00 pm, 1800 hrs.

Gosh, we are grateful we are retired and don’t have an outdoor job. We often think of Danie and his crew building houses in this weather. And it’s just the beginning of summer. Knowing that at any point, it becomes too much, we can always go into the bedroom, turn on the air-con and the fan to cool off for a while. We stay only a short time and go back outside or into the lounge room, whichever is cooler.

Kudus in the garden. Pellets are now like a dessert for them, although they are healthy since they have plenty of vegetation to eat.

Ah, enough about the weather! Cooking on the stove is two pots, one with seasoned beef for taco salad and another with seasoned chicken for me. But, it is difficult not to mention it when we’re sitting here in a pile of sweat. Tom just poured me an icy cold, insulated mug of Crystal Lite Ice Tea. What a treat.

I avoid beef, but I love chicken taco salad with avocado. Of course, we don’t use the shell bowl; instead piling the meats atop a bed of crispy lettuce, with sliced green olives, diced purple onions, diced celery, and hand-grated cheddar cheese and sour cream and avocado for me. It’s a perfect meal on a hot day.

Tom is grating the cheese now, and since I got up early this morning, all the other ingredients are prepared and in plastic containers in the fridge. Hopefully, the power stays on so the meat doesn’t spoil. With so many holidaymakers in the park, it could go out any minute, which has already happened several times in the past week since they started arriving.

One Tusk was sitting in the cement pond to cool off.

This morning, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of visitors in the garden. There were several kudus, bushbucks, and warthogs. It was nice to see them after they’ve been away for the past week tending to the new human’s offerings of pellets and some nasty foods they shouldn’t be eating but love anyway.

Kudus don’t know what’s good for them. They eat what tastes good, just like humans. A bushbuck may never have eaten chips, crackers, or bread but love the taste. But, they too are subject to diseases similar to humans from eating unhealthy processed foods.

This is a perfect opportunity to mention that we no longer use taco seasoning packets and haven’t done so for several years. The packages are available here, but they are filled with wheat and chemicals. I make my taco seasoning as follows in this recipe, not my own, but found online some time ago. Here it is from this site:

“Keto Taco Seasoning

Learn how to make your own homemade Low-carb keto-friendly taco seasoning in just a few minutes for a fraction of the price of taco packets!
 Prep Time5 minutes
 Servings 8 people
 Calories 15kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion or onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Add all the spices to a mason jar or large zip-seal bag. Close and shake or stir until fully combined.
  • Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

Notes

Use 2 tablespoons for every packet of taco seasoning called for in a recipe or for every pound of meat with no additional salt added.

The individual serving size is about 1/2 tablespoon. Use 1/2 tablespoon to season 1/4 pound of meat if making individual servings.

Nutrition

Serving: 8serving (1/2 tbsp) | Calories: 15kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 616mg | Potassium: 78mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 849IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 1mg”

I’m still contemplating what dish to bring to Flo and JiJi’s New Year’s Eve party on Friday night. I’d prefer it to be easy in this heat and be able to sit out in the heat and humidity for several hours. That’s limiting. Maybe a dessert, cookies, or bars would be best since they hold up better than any kind of meat or vegetable dish. We’ll see how the weather rolls out over the next few days.

May you have a pleasant day and evening during this holiday-in-between time.)

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #278. Pineapple is a commonly grown fruit in Fiji, often available for the taking in many areas. At the farmer’s market, they mostly sell to visitors, not many locals. For more photos, please click here.

Not many visitors right now with many holidaymakers in the bush…

Tom turned the car sideways so I could get a shot of these giraffes on the road.

We’ve never quite figured it out. Are the animals visiting other homes in the bush for food and pellets, or are they bothered by the noise and traffic and staying undercover? It could be a combination of both. This morning we saw Broken Horn, Gordy, Mom and Babies warthogs, and of course, Frank, who never fails to stop by.

Francolins tend to stay in their chosen territory, rarely, if ever, leaving their immediate surroundings, which is right here in our garden in Frank and his family members. We can always depend on seeing him daily, offering him the Misses and other family seeds and freshwater.

Many have asked, “What happens when we leave?”

They won’t starve. Surely, they’ll often stop by looking for us, but they won’t go hungry. They will eat insects, fallen fruit, and seed, and other pickings they find in their daily scouting of their territory. This will also be the case with the other wildlife who stop here for pellets, greens, carrots, and other vegetable scraps. None of them will starve without our contribution to their diets.

Reaching for a nibble.

Now, with the lush vegetation in every direction, there’s plenty of food for all of the animals. Often, they come here for pellets but only take a few bites, which we witnessed this morning when only a few wildlife stopped by.

At 11:00, we headed to Sindee and Bruce’s home to pick up the salad bowl we’d left, along with a wine glass and plastic container. Since we were already out, we drove along the fence to Lionspruit, hoping by a stroke of luck we’d see the lions that are loose in the park. We had no such luck, but it was worth looking anyway.

On the return drive to our area and bush home, we observed some zebras, impalas, and giraffes, all busy munching on vegetation. Back at the house, I put a pan of skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the oven. Last night, we ate so much of the prime rib, there wasn’t enough left for both of us for tonight’s dinner.

A mom or dad with a youngster.

Tonight, Tom will finish off the prime rib while I’ll have chicken breasts with salad and a few cooked eggs, enough to fill me up. Unfortunately, my formerly delicious little cake went moldy sitting out, and I had to toss it. I still had at least three or four servings left. I should have known better and frozen half of it.

Disappointed, I considered making another one today but decided against it. I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed and couldn’t buy them in Marloth Park. There was no way we felt like driving to Komatipoort for a few ingredients. Perhaps, I will make another sometime in the future.

This morning, Tom finished off his birthday cake and is ready to go back to healthy eating, without any sugar or starch, except for his small daily portion of rice. Since cooked white rice is considered a “resistant starch” that doesn’t get absorbed by the gut (for some people, not me), Tom is able to eat the rice and still lose weight. He only gained a few pounds (2 kg) after eating that entire three-layer cake by himself and will quickly drop it in the next week.

Today is another quiet day. I’ve done three loads of laundry, prepped everything for tonight’s dinner, and have the remainder of the afternoon to be lazy if I so choose. It’s only 1:00 pm as I write this now and should be done within 30 minutes. I love the luxury of not having anything to do other than put dinner together at the end of the day.

May you have a pleasant day and evening as we wind our way toward the end of 2021.

Photo from one year ago today, December 27, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai. India, on day #277. In 2014, at the overlook to Mount Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii, the crowd roared with excitement each time there was a new eruption. For more photos, please click here.

Many photos from our fabulous Christmas Day dinner in the bush…

    The beautiful Christmas dinner table at Sindee and Bruce’s lovely home in the bush. Dawn was taking a photo of Sindee and the serving table, a short time later filled with great food.

Not having an idea of the type of dinner party at Sindee and Bruce’s home in the bush, we kept our expectations in check. We’d anticipated a buffet with guests sitting around the braai in the garden on chairs and benches with their plates of food on their laps.

A starter of prawns, sauce, and greens along with Christmas crackers with treats.

There were eleven of us, five of their family members, and six friends, including us. We were pleasantly surprised and delighted to see the beautiful table setting, adorned with gorgeous Christmas decorations including candles, miniature lights, crackers, colorful napkins, sparkling wine, along an array of crystal wine glasses. It couldn’t have been prettier.

There were many items on the menu that worked for me. I focused on meats and salads. I’d sliced avocados to go with the salad.

The six friends had brought various meats, salads, and side dishes. We’d brought the cooked, sliced prime rib and a large walnut, avocado lettuce salad. It was beautiful. The atmosphere and conversation were casual and engaging, and the hours flew by.

The meats included chicken, our prime rib, gammon (ham), and lamb, all delicious.

We rarely drink alcohol during the day, so I brought along my lowest alcohol-reduced wine with only 5% alcohol (when most wine is typically 13.5% to 14%). Tom brought a few cans of beer, and we sipped on our beverages throughout the day and early evening. We arrived at 11:30 and didn’t head for home until after 6:00 pm, 1800 hrs.

I couldn’t get enough of the lamb on the left in this photo. Tom doesn’t care for lamb, so I never make it.

Once back at our bush house, we put away all of our stuff, got into comfy clothes, and settled in for the evening. Later in the evening, Tom talked to his family members in the bedroom while I sat in the living room, talking to mine. It was beautiful to hear everyone’s voices, including our grandchildren.

Our dear friends and owners of Jabula, Dawn, and Leon.

While I was on my phone in the living room, I couldn’t help but notice hundreds of little bugs and ants all over the floor. At the moment, Tom is spraying the house while we are outdoors on the veranda, tossing pellets to Gordy (short for bushbuck Gordon Ramsey) and giant warthog One Tusk.

The animals aren’t as hungry as a month ago, with the bush now filled with lush green vegetation. They still stop by staring at us for some pellets out of habit. But, once we toss some their way, they eat slowly, often walking away with some pellets still on the ground. However, that’s not the case with warthogs. They’d eat until they burst if they had a chance. After all, they are pigs.

Sindee and Bruce’s two daughters, Mornay and Cyndy.

Today is a quiet day. Yesterday, as mentioned, I made an extra prime rib for us for tonight’s dinner. All we have to do for dinner is make Tom’s white rice and toss the salad with homemade salad dressing. I’m not big on reheating cooked beef, so we may eat it cold, which neither of us minds at all.

Over the years, I’ve tried various methods to warm cooked beef to maintain the level of doneness. But none of those methods seem to work to our liking, getting too well done in the process. We’d rather eat it cold than overdone.

Sindee and Bruce only married a few years, are a delightful couple, and so thoughtful to include us!

After dinner, we each have our cakes. As it turned out, Tom thoroughly enjoyed his German Chocolate birthday cake, saying it wasn’t dry after all. I don’t know if he’s saying this to make me happy. He’d do that rather than have me feel bad that the cake was dry.

Tom plate of desserts; lemon meringue pie and chocolate cherry milk tart. He went back for seconds. Not surprising.

We hope all of our readers/friends, and family members had a fantastic Christmas as we look forward to the upcoming end of this challenging year.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 26, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #276. The countryside in Tasmania certainly reminded us of New Zealand, where we stayed for three months in 2016. For more photos, please click here.

Merry Christmas, everyone…We’re off to a party starting at 11:30 am…

Broken Horn stopped by this morning to wish us a Merry Christmas. We tossed him some pellets, and he was happy!

At the moment two prime ribs are cooking in the oven. We’re taking one of the roasts, sliced, to the party, starting at 11:30 am, and keeping the other for us for a late dinner tonight. South Africans like to start their holiday parties early in the day, often ending by usual dinnertime.

We also made a big salad with pecans, avocado, and lots of fresh veggies, leaving a portion for us to enjoy tonight with our prime rib. Most likely, we’ll be back home long before dark and we’ll celebrate Christmas further by having the prime rib and salad, followed by the special desserts I made for each of us in the past few days.

Last night for the first time in a few years, I had a piece of the low-carb coffee cake I made yesterday and savored every bite. I was reminded of how rare it is for me to eat a dessert and how much I enjoyed the sweetness. I posted the recipe in yesterday’s post here. If you decide to make this low-carb cake, you won’t be disappointed, even if you don’t usually eat a keto-type diet.

Soon, I have to get dressed for the party. It is a dressy-themed party but I don’t have any such clothes, so we will both dress as we always do when we go out to dinner.

May you and your loved one have a blessed holiday filled with love, good food, and merriment. Thank you for sharing this past year with us.

Much love to all.

Photo from one year ago today, December 25, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India on day #275. Last year, I left our floor and headed downstairs to the hotel lobby to take this photo. For more from this post, please click here.

Merry Christmas Eve to all of our readers/friends and family…Tom’s fun birthday evening…

It’s Christmas again, the 10th Christmas since we left for our world journey. It’s hard for us to believe it’s been so long. When we think about how much time we’ve spent held back due to the pandemic, which will be two years in March, it’s an entirely different picture.

While listening to a popular cruising podcast, Cruise News, this morning, we were disheartened by the number of cruises that are either canceling or returning to the embarkation port due to rising cases of the virus aboard the ship. Many countries are forbidding cruise ships from stopping at a planned port of call when officials don’t want to risk more cases being brought into their countries. I don’t blame them.

With ports of call rapidly canceling, cruising may easily take another nose-dive. Yesterday, we got a notice from Costco that the final payment for our April 8th transatlantic cruise will be debited to our credit card tomorrow, Christmas Day. Is it likely this cruise will sail in a little over three months? I’m not so sure.

However, today is Christmas Eve, and our thoughts need to go elsewhere, focusing on the many blessings we have before us and have had over the many years of our world journey. Sure, we have had some challenges, some of which we would have had regardless of where we lived or if we’d traveled or not. They include the loss of loved ones, illness, and ten months in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, along with myriad unexpected events that left us reeling for a few minutes as we decided what to do next.

In each case, we figured it all out and never gave up. When faced with life-changing challenges, this is just like you when faced with life-changing challenges…you figure it out. We are not unique in that way. As the holiday season is upon us, we’re reminded of how fortunate we’ve been in so many ways.  This season, this year, and always, we celebrate that good fortune and pray for a new world for all of us.

None of us are exempt from experiencing the effect of the past few years in one way or another. Many have suffered dearly from the loss of loved ones, severe illness, and loss of financial security. The pandemic has taken a toll on the lives of citizens worldwide, and it’s not over yet.

Last night, we had a fantastic evening at Jabula. Our dear friends and owners at our favorite restaurant had decorated the bar with balloons, a birthday sign for Tom, and put a reserved sign at our favorite seats at the bar. Tom couldn’t have appreciated it more. Of course, the conversations at the bar flowed with ease with plenty of laughter, teasing, and holiday spirit.

Tom wanted to eat at the bar rather than take a table on the veranda, and we never missed a beat as locals came and went, celebrating along with us. By 8:00 pm, 2000 hrs, we headed home. Tom was looking forward to his cake. He let his dinner settle for a while we watched a few shows on my laptop, and then he dug in.

Unfortunately, and much to my disappointment, the cake wasn’t as moist as it could have been. But, Tom, the sugar enthusiast, savored every bite and had a second helping this morning with his coffee. Surely tonight after dinner, he’ll have another.

As a special treat for Christmas, this morning, I made myself a low-carb almond flour cinnamon coffee cake, making a second cake to bring to Louise and Danie this afternoon, who also eat like me. Although the recipe didn’t originate from my efforts, this cake is a favorite of mine. Knowing how good this is, here is the recipe for those who prefer to eat a low carb/keto diet from this site:

“ROBIN’S COFFEE CAKE
1/2 cup butter, softened slightly
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup granular Splenda or equivalent liquid Splenda
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs, room temperature
6 1/2 ounces almond flour, 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream the butter, cream cheese, Splenda, and extracts. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix the almond flour and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture gradually. Pour into a greased 9″ round cake pan. Mix the topping ingredients until crumbly; sprinkle over the cake batter. Bake at 350º 45-50 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and the cake is firm to the touch.

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup almond flour, 2 ounces
1/4 cup granular Splenda or equivalent liquid Splenda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, softened just until pliable

Makes 12 servings
Can be frozen

With granular Splenda:
Per Serving: 286 Calories; 26g Fat; 8g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 5g Net Carbs

With liquid Splenda:
Per Serving: 276 Calories; 26g Fat; 8g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 3g Net Carbs

May all of you who celebrate have a fantastic Christmas holiday. Those celebrating Chanukah, Kwanza, or any other seasonal holidays, may you also have a wonderful holiday season.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #274. For more, please click here.

Happy birthday to my dear husband Tom…German Chocolate Cake making day!!!…

Happy birthday, Lover! That’s my guy, always with a heartwarming grin on his face, even in the pelting rain. Gosh, we love this life!  I took this photo in the rain when we found an overhang on the sidewalk on George St. in Sydney in January 2016.

It’s 9:30 am, on Tom’s 69th birthday, December 23, 2021. It’s hot and humid, and I am taking a break in the air-conditioned bedroom while #2 of 3 layers of his German Chocolate birthday cake is baking in the oven. I can only bake one layer at a time since the oven is too small for two at a time. The kitchen is like a sweat lodge in the Kalahari desert, and I needed a reprieve to cool down.

I set the timer on my Fitbit to 35 minutes, the time it takes to bake a layer. The first layer popped out of the pan perfectly, and I’m hoping the same happens for the remaining two layers. All ingredients come in metric measurements while the recipe is in imperial measurements. I always struggle a little with the conversions, especially when some of my measuring cups and spoons are also metric. After all, we’re living in another country. It’s not like the US here.

It’s the only material gift I could give him on his special day. I didn’t even buy him a card. The only birthday card he’ll get today is one left behind for him by dear friends Kathy and Don (now in Hawaii), which he opened this morning with more of that sh_ _ eating grin on his face. I couldn’t help but smile.

Today will be like any other day. Once I’ve frosted the gooey pecan coconut frosting on the three layers of cake, I’ll take a reprieve once again and finish today’s post. If the cake looks reasonably acceptable, I will take a photo and post it here today. If he says it tastes good after he eats a piece when we return from dinner and drinks at Jabula tonight, I’ll post the recipe tomorrow.

Don’t laugh! It’s not perfect! When I frosted the first bottom layer, it appeared I didn’t have enough frosting for all three layers. So I went a little light on the first one, resulting in none showing in this photo. As it turned out, I did have enough frosting and ended up putting too much on the top layer. My bad. I am sure it will taste good and Tom won’t mind a bit.

Oh, I could so easily go into accolades about my husband on his special day, but most of you, especially our long-term readers, have heard it all before. Long ago, when reading another world traveler’s blog, I read a comment from one of their readers who whined about how she was always saying nice things about her husband, who has since passed away. I’m sure she has no regrets about the kind words she wrote about him.

Then again, it certainly takes unique qualities in individuals and couples to travel the world for years. It’s not an easy way of life, regardless of how exciting and romantic it may sound. My contributions to this union are unceremonious. I don’t complain, fight, stay cheerful, take photos, and do these posts daily.

Tom, on the other hand, has a multitude of fantastic qualities. (OK. Humor me. I couldn’t resist). At the top of the list is his uncanny ability to remain optimistic in the most challenging times and his unwavering commitment to consistently contributing to our day-to-day lives. Next is his magical way of making me feel special every day through loving gestures, compliments, and his playful nature (dare I say sexy?). What more could a girl ask?

Much to my disdain, I sometimes don’t feel well or suffer from some unanticipated malady, let alone open-heart surgery almost three years ago. His contribution, care, and loving nature remain steady, if not escalating, during these difficult times. He never complains during those periods or reminds me of them later. Sure, from time to time, he fluffs his feathers, but I simply let it pass without issue, and moments later, he’s cheerful again, teasing me, smiling and laughing.

The three layers of cake are cooling on the kitchen counter. They all came out of the pan nicely. Now it’s time to make the coconut pecan frosting on the stovetop and then frost the layers. Hopefully, in this heat and humidity, it will turn out well. If not beautiful, I am convinced it will taste good.

Yes, today is a special day for Tom, and it’s also a special day for me. What more can I do to show him how much I love and appreciate him? I am sure I’ll think of something.

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #273. In this photo, taken at Aamazing River View in November 2018, on Saturday night with friends, I cut off the top of his “tall” fluffy hair but I like this photo of my guy, Tom. For more photos, please click here.

The lion situation grows more worrisome for holidaymakers…Warnings are escalating…

Lori and Barbara (Shark Tank) scrounged for a few stray pellets.

The lion situation in Marloth Park is no small matter. The rangers cannot dart them to return them to Kruger National Park. Based on the abundance of wildlife in this relatively small area, compared to the size of Kruger, the lions don’t seem to be motivated to return to their home territory.; Are they making Marloth Park their new home? It’s entirely possible.

Thirty years ago, when there was no fence between Marloth Park and Kruger National Park, elephants, lions, and perhaps rhinos roamed the dirt road here, long before the park was developed as it is now. The more popular Marloth Park became to tourists, houses, resorts, and lodges were built, along with restaurants, shops, and supply stores.

A young kudu already knows “look” and wants some pellets.

Although Marloth Park still has a small-town persona, more and more building is taking place, leaving less and less of the habitat needed by its wildlife. Eventually, if the building of new properties continues at its current pace, in ten years, Marloth Park may lose its appeal when there isn’t enough sustainable vegetation for the diet of the wildlife.

A few carnivore species live in Marloth Park, including leopards, snakes, crocodiles, lizards, insects, mongoose, genet, and more. Over the past decade, few lions have been sighted within the park’s perimeter. The exact number unknown is this current situation with several lions living in the park.

Last night we noticed this post on Facebook, another update and warning regarding the lions. Now, there are even more warnings. The lions have been sighted during daylight hours when they’ve failed on a few nighttime kills. They are starving. Humans can be a ready target if found walking, biking, jogging, and playing outdoors during the day, let alone at night during curfew periods.

Siegfried and Roy, bathing young pigs.

All of us who adhere to these precautions are fearful that we will hear that a careless holidaymaker or their child has been injured or killed by a lion. That would be a pointless loss of life for the humans as well as the lions who’d be euthanized if found.

Plus, such an incident would change the nature of this beautiful conservancy from the blissful observance of nature at its finest to one of trepidation and fear. Also, the economic impact would be devastating if tourists decided to go elsewhere. It’s been tough enough for holiday rental owners, shop owners, and restaurant owners during this past almost two years from Covid-19. Why make this scenario even worse?

This is the mom with the nicely shaped tusks and three babies.

I write this hoping that holidaymakers may read our posts and heed these warnings. We’ve seen children playing outdoors, unsupervised when we have been out and about in the past week. along with joggers and bikers on leisurely rides through the areas of concern.

Specific roads are mentioned where the lions were spotted, But I won’t say those roads here, giving tourists a false sense of security if staying outside those areas. The lions, especially if hungry enough, will freely move beyond the areas where they’ve been spotted.

Here are the appropriate people to contact if you’ve seen the lions. It’s best to call right away upon spotting them before they have a chance to move on. Do not get out of your car. If you haven’t heeded the warnings and are on foot or biking, do not approach the lions or make lion sounds. Immediately and quietly leave the area and seek shelter, calling resources listed below once you are safe.

Contact the following:

Rangers 082 802 5894

CPF/ Nadine 082 672 4545 Gerrie Camacho 082 353 9097,

Ernst Röhm /MTPA 083 626 6309,
April Lukhele: 082 807 1057. Jan Koekemoer 0630537601.
Thanks, everyone, for heeding these warnings. Signing up for the many Marloth Park groups on Facebook can be helpful for updates almost daily.
Be safe. Be well. Merry Christmas.

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #274. Several castles are located in or near the man-made lakes in Udaipur, India. For more photos, please click here.