An exciting birthday surprise!…Wow!…What a thrill!…

The four of us at our table last night. What a fantastic time we had with the two of them.

I know why Tom pushed me so hard about dining out last night. No more than five minutes after we sat down at our favorite window table at Luna Rossa and ordered our drinks, I heard a familiar voice. Gingerly, I turned around to find our dear friends, Rita and Gerhard, standing there with wide grins on their faces and moments later embraced in hugs between. Tom was aware of the surprise and did great keeping it from me.

They flew all the way from the state of Washington, a two-hour flight to arrive on time for our 5:00 pm reservation at Luna Rossa restaurant, down the one flight of stairs for my birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant. Amid giggles and enthusiasm, we all sat down, thrilled to be together one more time. The last time we’d seen them was in September when, again, they came to visit us for dinner and then turned around and flew back to Washington only a few hours later.

Gerhard ordered the delicious lamb shank.

Last night, they had exactly two hours until they had to head out to catch their flight back to Washington to their home. They travel extensively but occasionally spend time with their adult kids and their house near Portland. They recently returned from a cruise to Antarctica, and it was fun to share our mutual experience, although we’d recently chatted at length on the phone.

I’m not one to spend much time talking on the phone, although occasionally, I do so with friends and family. After all, staying in touch and hearing their voices is terrific. We often text back and forth on the phone or via WhatsApp.

Yesterday, I couldn’t have been more delighted to hear from many friends, family members and readers. There wasn’t a single person I didn’t hear from to wish me happy birthday.

Rita had the red snapper with scallops and prawns with veggies on the side.

But, the surprise of seeing Rita and Gerhard was over the top again. They have surprised us on several occasions. A few years ago, while we were at a New Year’s Eve party in 2021 hosted by friends Flo and Jj at their bush resort in Marloth Park, Rita and Gerhard suddenly appeared to surprise us. We couldn’t stop squealing with delight for the rest of the evening. They’d come halfway around the world to be with us and enjoy the bush together for several weeks.

Then, in September 2023, they called to tell us they would join us for dinner only 24 hours before they arrived. They couldn’t surprise us that time since we had to ensure we had a good table at the Green Valley Ranch Spa and Casino and were available that night. They stayed for about eight hours that time, and we cherished each moment.

Last night, Rita and I sat next to each other with Tom and Gerhard at the opposite side of the table. The ambiance, the food, and the service were impeccable. Of course, Tom picked up the tab, and we ate and drank to our heart’s content. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

I ordered the sea bass. Rita and I tasted each other’s fish, and they tasted similar. Both dishes were delectable.

When it was time for them to go, and Gerhard needed to contact Uber for their ride back to the airport, we had time for them to come up the one flight of stairs and see our place. It was fun to show them this lovely condo and all it has to offer.

On top of it all, they gave me a fantastic birthday gift. It’s a new version of a digital insect repellent that they used in Marloth Park, and it works better than any others. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with this gift. They both know how much I love anything electronic and, in the past, have given me several devices of one sort or another. They are so thoughtful.

When they left, we walked down to the lobby with them and waited for their Uber, which arrived in time for them to make their flight back on time.

We walked back to our condo and settled in for the evening, streaming a fun series and enjoying the remainder of my birthday together. How fortunate I am! I am grateful and humbled by the wonderful people in our lives.

I must get ready to go down that same flight of stairs to the nail salon for my first pedicure since we arrived on December 15. Tonight will be another exciting evening; we’ll share photos and details tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, February 21, 2014:

Nomsa and Zeff sing Happy Birthday to me in Zulu. The sign behind Zeff’s head says, “Take risks. If you win, you will be happy. If you lose, you will be wise.” So true. For more photos, please click here.

In awe of all of the love and birthday wishes…

Here we were with Doc Theo, who saved my life, and his lovely wife, Myrtah. We were so happy they came to my party along with the other two doctors in the practice, Doc Mel and Doc Philip, and their lovely wives.

Today’s photos (except the post from ten years ago) were from last year’s birthday party held on February 25, posted on the 26. More photos will be posted tomorrow.

What a day it has been so far, and it’s only close to noon! Family, friends, and readers have been flooding my inbox and on Facebook with heartwarming messages that mean the world to me! How did I get so lucky? Based on the number of wishes I receive, I doubt I will have time to walk today.

It’s okay to take a day off while responding to all of the warm wishes that surely will keep me busy. Exercise for the heart, in another way.

Delicious welcome drinks, including Bloody Marys, topped with a slice of crispy bacon and non-alcoholic vegetable juice. We caught a kudu eating off the wooden board.

Tom is off getting a haircut, and soon, I’ll head to the kitchen to make my favorite keto pancake, which I will thoroughly enjoy with sugar-free syrup. Then tonight, as mentioned, we’ll be off to dinner at Luna Rossa, which we’ve come to love, especially with it’s inviting ambiance and overall excellent food. Sure, there was one miss on one meal last week, but we are loyal fans and will continue to enjoy it during our remaining five-plus weeks in Lake Las Vegas.

Many people say they prefer to ignore their birthdays as they’ve gotten older, but I have always been a die-hard fan of celebrating mine and the people that I love on their special day. Just because one is older, it doesn’t mean that a birthday is less significant. One should celebrate each year of one’s life when they are young, for the growth and joys the new year can bring, and when old, for the opportunity to live yet another year, cherishing every morsel life has to offer.

A beautiful gin and vodka bar was set up in the dining room, where everyone could make their welcome drinks.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself reveling in gratefulness for every gift bestowed upon me. These past years, physical gifts have not been a part of my birthdays, but the words and kindness of others have been cherished more than any gift-wrapped package.

Last year, when we had my 75th birthday in the bush, catered by Louise and Danie, and celebrated at their beautiful holiday home, Khaya Umdani, I was very specific that no one brings me gifts. A few couldn’t resist the temptation, and of course, I appreciated their thoughtfulness.

In the back row from left to right, Lorne and Sydney. and Tom. Sinndee, Leon, and Dawn are in the front row from left to right.

But the presence of those 25 guests celebrating the milestone year with me meant everything. And, although today will be a quiet day and evening, I feel equally blessed for the memories that fill my head, with more to come, celebrating tomorrow at an extraordinary event, details of which we’ll share in Thursday’s post.

Yesterday, I promised to re-post some of the photos from last year’s party, which some of you may have missed. or those that easily recall those photos, please excuse the redundancy.

Amid all the rain, Louise and Danie beautifully set up the house and the garden. It rained briefly but never caused issues with the guest’s enjoyment at the party.

Memories are the gifts that life bestows upon us to reflect upon as time passes that fill us with warm feelings of joy and gratefulness. My heart breaks for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease who are unable to recall events of their lives. All they have to reflect upon is the moment, however short and fleeting in their minds. That’s why it is so important to love, cherish, and visit those seniors (or younger) who are unable to recall the past. May we all take the time to make those precious moments for every person in our lives who cannot recall the precious moments of their lives.

Thank you, everyone, and be well.

Photos from ten years ago today, February 20, 2014:

We had a get-together at our bush house for my birthday in 2014. We were all thrilled when many zebras came to call in the dark. Our friend Kathy got up close and personal with him, hand-feeding him pellets. As a hostess gift for our dinner gathering, Kathy and Linda brought us a big bag of pellets instead of the usual wine, flowers, or candy. Nothing could have been more appropriate when we were running low. How did they know we needed pellets? For more photos, please click here.

Great memories from years past…

When we “babysat” the pregnant alpacas while the owners were away on the farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand, in 2016, this precious little girl was born. For my birthday, along with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, the owners named this little girl “Miss Jessica” after me. It was the best birthday gift ever! For the post, please click here.

As another birthday approaches, I can’t help but reminisce and appreciate past birthdays, especially since we began traveling the world. The birthdays before that time seem to blur in my mind., except perhaps my 50th birthday in 1998 when we had a big party at our house.

At that time, I spent days cooking and preparing for my own party. Now, 26 years later, I have no interest in cooking and decorating for my own party. Then, of course, since we began traveling, my most exciting birthday was last year, celebrating my 75th birthday, which Louise and Danie hosted at the fabulous Khaya Umdani house and prepared all the food and drinks to perfection.

I will repost the photos from last year’s birthday in tomorrow’s post. This year, on the actual day of my birthday, we don’t have any big plans other than going out to dinner, at Tom’s insistence since he doesn’t want me to cook. Tom rarely cooks, so we would unlikely go that route.

But I am content with tomorrow’s easy plan to go out to dinner. Then, the next day, February 21, we have special plans hosted by Richard, which we’ll share with photos and the story the following day, February 22. I suppose at this point in life, birthdays are as important as when we’re young, but in a way, I see them as an opportunity to be grateful for one more year of our lives. That, in itself, is worth celebrating, isn’t it?

In any case, I don’t have a lot of expectations about my birthday. Texts or phone calls from family are meaningful. And, of course, the many well wishes and messages from family and friends mean the world to us.

Today is laundry day. Amid my walking schedule this morning, the sheets and dark clothes are in the dryer in the laundry room down the hall, and the whites and towels are spinning in the washer, which we’ll hang on the drying rack soon. Tonight’s dinner will be coconut sauteed cod, the one time Tom will eat fish.

To make the fish, I put about ½ cup of coconut flour in a bowl and then two raw scrambled eggs in another bowl. I well-season the flour with garlic and onion powder, Himalayan salt, and coarse ground pepper. First, I dip the patted dry fish in the coconut flour, then into the eggs, and then back into the coconut flour while three tablespoons of coconut oil are heated in the non-stick skillet.

The fish cooks very fast at medium heat, so I keep an eye on it, never leaving the stove for a moment. In the meantime, we will have cooked Tom’s rice, steamed the broccoli, and tossed the salad with homemade Keto dressing. Everything gets done at once to ensure it is all hot.

It only takes about ten minutes to prepare the fish, making this an easy dinner, although it gets the stove top messy, requiring cleaning the glass top as soon as it’s cool enough. Earlier in the day, I’d prepped the salad and the broccoli while Tom put water, salt, and butter in his small pot for the rice. We have an excellent system that works well for us. We have great meals with little prep time for most of our meals.

I am heading back to the corridor for my next round of walking now. It’s a good day.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, February 19, 2014:

The “girl’s lunch” to celebrate my birthday. No one was handy to take a photo of the three of us, so Linda and I were in the first photo. The Buhari Lodge was located on the Crocodile River.
My wonderful friends Linda and Kathy (left to right) lived part-time in Marloth Park. The three of us stay in close touch regularly. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Wow!…What a fantastic party!…

Here we are with Dooc Theo, who saved my life, and his lovely wife, Myrtah. We were so happy they came to my party along with the other two doctors in the practice, Doc Mel and Doc Philip, and their lovely wives.

What a fantastic party it was. Louise and Danie couldn’t have made it more perfect with the beautiful decorations, delicious food, and inviting ambiance. They worked hard but seemed to enjoy seamlessly and professionally putting it all together. We have many more photos to share and will continue to post them over the next several days.

Delicious welcome drinks, including Bloody Marys, topped with a slice of crispy bacon and non-alcoholic vegetable juice. We caught a kudu eating off the wooden board.

With lots of catering experience in the past, they knew exactly what to do, never for a moment leaving us wanting for another element when every detail was presented to perfection. I can only imagine a fabulous wedding, anniversary party, or any other special occasion coupled with the bush’s wonder and exemplary services.

Because they are both such great friends, we trusted their decisions on every aspect of the party. Under any other circumstances with any other caterers, I would have had a significant hand in every area of the planning. With them, we could sit back and let them do their magic.

One of several breadboards with delicious toppings.

Adding to the blissfully planned event were our guests. Everyone who’d RSVP’d showed up and made us both feel so special. The lively conversations, laughter, and camaraderie fell into a leisurely pace. Unfortunately, the evening seemed to pass too quickly, and I didn’t get to spend enough time with each of our guests.

Amid all the rain, Louise and Danie beautifully set up the house and the garden. It rained briefly but never caused issues with the guest’s enjoyment at the party.

As mentioned, we’d invited the three doctors and their wives to spend the night. They took off for bed by midnight while we sat around the big table on the veranda. But seeing everyone having such a good time warmed our hearts throughout the enjoyable evening.

Danie had baked bread, and many kinds of cheese were available during the appetizer course.

I felt bad we were all so noisy, having an ongoing great time that by about 1:00 am, we scooted everyone home so our overnight guests could sleep. Tom and I never got to bed until after 2:00 am. We were both wide awake, reeling from the beautiful evening. Finally, we dozed off, not awakening until after 9:00 am, a rarity for both of us.

A beautiful gin and vodka bar were set up in the dining room, where everyone could make their welcome drinks.

With everyone gone today, by late morning, we returned to the party house and collected all the unopened bottles of wine. We supplied about 42 bottles of wine and have about 20 bottles, which I’ll eventually consume over the next many months, sharing with visitors who stop by.

Delicious foods stayed warm in the oven, including meats for sliders and various delicious foods.

I don’t usually drink wine other than the lightest varieties, but I will simply drink less of the regular wines in any particular sitting, perhaps no more than one glass at a time. As a result, we won’t need to buy any more wine while we’re still here in South Africa. Plus, it will be fun to share any of the white or red wines with visitors.

We’d specified on our invitation, “Please, no gifts,” but some brought gifts and cards anyway, every one of which I will thoroughly enjoy and do appreciate.

In the back row from left to right, Lorne and Sydney. and Tom. Sinndee, Leon, and, Dawn are in the front row from left to right.

There’s no way we can thank Louise and Danie for all they’ve done. We can only hope that some of our readers may consider Marloth Park for any special occasion to savor this magical place and have this fine couple help them arrange their special occasion with memories that will last a lifetime.

More will follow tomorrow!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 26, 2022:

This young male kudu is sprouting his horns. So adorable. For more photos, please click here.

It was a fantastic 75th birthday with more celebrations yet to come..

What a great time was celebrating my birthday at Tamborina Restaurant in Komatipoort with Dawn and Leon!

We had such a fun day yesterday on my birthday. Any reason to celebrate is a cause for us to plan an event. Initially, we hadn’t planned to do anything with the party coming up on Saturday, but when Dawn and Leon asked what we were doing, we all decided to go to lunch.

It is always fun to get Dawn and Leon out of the restaurant and able to relax with us. It was such fun spending my birthday with such good friends.

We all decided to head to the Portuguese restaurant on the main road in Komatipoort for lunch since none of us cared to drive in the dark from Komati to Marloth Park. We don’t usually drink alcohol during the day, but we were in a celebratory mood and each ordered drinks with our lunches.

Dawn ate one roll, and Tom ate the rest. How unusual!

They didn’t have light wine, as in all of the restaurants in Marloth Park, so I ended up with regular white wine and slowly sipped on it with lots of ice in the glass, diluting it sufficiently for my taste. Our food was delicious, as shown in today’s photos, and we had fun taking photos of each other so we’d have something to post.

My grilled chicken and bacon salad was delicious.

We always enjoy having time out and about with Dawn and Leon, getting them away from Jabula for social time without the distractions of running the restaurant practically around the clock. Our conversations are always filled with laughter and. profound and important topics and commonalities we share.

I also ordered this little bowl of grilled calamari which was also delicious. Guess who ate my bread?

We hadn’t been to Tamborina in quite some time. The last time we were, there was with Rita and Gerhard a few years ago when we also had a perfect time. Dining is exclusively outdoors; yesterday, it was initially uncomfortable in the heat and humidity. But, once we got situated, pillows under our butts on the wooden chairs, we forgot all about it.

Reminiscent of our ten months in lockdown in India, Tom couldn’t resist ordering Chicken Penne Pasta which he ate every night for eight of the ten months.

The time flew by. After we finished our lunch, Leon suggested we visit one of his favorite bars in Komati, which we’d heard him talk about occasionally, but had never visited. Leon hesitated for us to go thinking it was too much of a “working class” bar for our tastes. But, in Minnesota, we’d often attend get-togethers with family and friends at casual, laid-back bars.

Dawn and Leon both had the fried sole with chips and rice.

We can easily enjoy all types of bars and restaurants as we did while living in Minnesota. We don’t always need to be in an upscale environment to have a good time.

After lunch,  the four of us stopped at a little bar in Komatipoort, Koos se Kroeg, which had these money-sucking slot machines. We didn’t play. We stayed until load shedding started, and it became sweltering in the bar without aircon.

As it turned out, we were the only customers there, along with the owner’s wife, who served us while the owner was asleep on the pool table, as shown in the photo below. Hahahaha. We all had a good chuckle over that.

The owner of the bar was asleep on the pool table.

Back at home around 3:30 pm, 1530 hrs., I finished the post for the day and relaxed in the bedroom with the fan on to cool off. Tom was still too full for dinner (especially after eating five pieces of bread), but my light meal left me hungry by dinnertime. I reheated a few slices of homemade keto pizza to eat while we watched a few shows on my laptop. The mosquitoes and black worms were everywhere, so we didn’t care to be outdoors while I ate my pizza.

I talked on the phone with my sister Julie for about an hour with lots of laughing. Later on, I spent a lot of time thanking family, readers/friends for sending so many thoughtful birthday wishes. It was a great day.

Today, we’re staying home, again eating leftover pizza and salad and enjoying a quiet day in the bush. The sun is shining, the temperature is 90F, 32C, the humidity is only 47%, and the dew point is a much lower 67 today. It’s much more tolerable today than over the past weeks.

That’s it for today, folks. We look forward to sharing more new photos tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 21, 2022:

Danie and Louise were hanging onto our elephant’s tusks. For more photos, please click here.

It will be a wonderful 75th birthday!…Gratefulness is at the forefront….Attack of the black worms…

There are thousands of these black worms on the veranda and in our garden.

There are no words I can say to express my gratitude for this milestone birthday. Well, it’s a milestone by my standards, three-quarters of a century…good grief. I never imagined this would be my life when I was 75. I’d imagined we’d be living in the US in a senior community of one sort or another, going out to dinner for the early bird special, having breakfast at Perkins or Denny’s on occasion, lots of family gatherings, playing cards, and making a monthly visit to our primary care physician, as most seniors in the US do.

Instead, our physician, Doc Theo, his two associates,(his brother) Doc Mel, and Doc Philip, and their wives, along with many other friends, are joining us for my catered birthday party on Saturday in the bush. My biggest concern is that we have plenty of South African wines and beer to serve at the party, and many animals stop by for a visit. It’s all so fun and exciting.

These worms are caterpillars. But there are way too many of them! Yuck!

This morning our garden was filled with animals. Even Norman stopped by to wish me a Happy Birthday, to which I tossed him “Norman’s lunch.” But, speaking of lunch, in a short time, we’re heading out to meet Dawn and Leon (great friends and owners of Jabula) for lunch at Tamborina in Komatipoort, known for their fantastic seafood.

Since we prefer not to drive in the dark, a lunchtime event was more suitable today, the actual day of my birthday. The birthday party is being held on Saturday, February 25, at the gorgeous Khaya Umdani house, with lots of room for our 28 guests, rain or shine. Our home isn’t big enough to accommodate that size of a group, so Louise and Danie offered this house to us for my birthday. Wow! This will work out well!

Mushroom is growing at the base of a tree in the garden due to the high humidity.

We wish we could have invited more of the many lovely friends we’ve made in Marloth Park, but space is limited, and the magic number was 28, with seating for everyone. We’re bringing our Bluetooth speaker for music, and we’ll be mainly playing oldies from the 70s and 80s. For all we know, there will be dancing on the veranda.

Although the party will be casual, the food will undoubtedly be over the top. Louise and Danie are catering the food and accouterments. They have hosted weddings and other special events and are excellent at this. Of course, we’ll post many photos from the party and hopefully from today’s lunch.

This Big Daddy kudu appears to be sprouting one of those third mini horns between his eyes, the weirdest phenomenon.

Since yesterday, we’ve noticed an invasion by some ugly black worms. They are common this time of the year, but we’ve never seen them until this year. Most likely, they are due to all the rain we’ve had in the past several weeks. Supposedly they are harmless but annoying when they land on us.

Now that my long-haul Covid symptoms are improving, on Monday, I am having a tooth pulled by Dr. Singh in Malalne. Hopefully, he will be able to place a temporary tooth to avoid me walking around with a gaping hole that will show when I open my mouth or smile. I will report how that works out next Tuesday. If it didn’t still hurt, I wouldn’t be doing this! I despise going to the dentist and, even worse, having a tooth pulled.

These dazzle zebras have been regular visitors lately.

Thanks to all of our wonderful family readers/friends for the birthday wishes. Every one of you is so thoughtful to think of me on this special day. You have no idea how much this means to me.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 20, 2022:

Louise and Danie hosted the interaction event for my birthday. We couldn’t believe we could be so close and interact with the two elephants who freely roam in the wild. e photos, please click here.

Happy 70th birthday to my husband, lover, best friend and travel companion!!!…

We were awaiting the flight at the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger airport on November 24, 2022.

Happy 70th birthday to my dear husband. It’s hard to believe he is 70 years old with his lighthearted and adventurous spirit. His boundless energy, good health (he takes no medication), physical strength (he hauls the heavy bags), sense of humor, intellect, playful demeanor, and endless devotion to seeing to my every need are youthful and surprising.

His strong convictions, backed by history, geography, and science, lead to an endless stream of lively conversation, constantly keeping me entertained, informed, and on my toes. Without his input, I wouldn’t have much of a clue as to what’s happening in the world, instead focusing on my own small sphere of influence.

Regardless of circumstances, he always injects humorous morsels to lighten the mood. Even with the most recent events regarding our dashed trip to Seychelles and all the money we lost, he was able to maintain an upbeat attitude, constantly influencing me to follow suit.

It’s not beyond me to whinge and complain under dire situations. Still, his bursts of frustration are short-lived, which I call “overly grumpy,” and are instantaneously followed by good humor and positivity. Without this, I don’t know if I could have traveled the world for over ten years and still looked at continuing on with any degree of enthusiasm.

This photo of Tom was taken at Amazing Kruger View Restaurant in 2018.

He makes a great case to which I immediately concur, leaving me reeling with enthusiasm and optimism once again. What a cheerleader he is for this life we lead! But his logical and uplifting spirit always presents a reasonable approach to the many benefits of continuing to live this extraordinary life.

And then there’s the romance part, which he flatly denies he possesses to any degree. His approach is genuine and varied, always keeping me intrigued and fascinated. But it’s romantic to me to have the man I love lavish me with compliments and praise me for who I am and what I do. This happens daily, and I never take it, or him, for granted.

Of course, his demeanor inspires me to be the best I can be. Although teasingly, he often refers to me as “bossy” for my assertiveness, I never take offense, while readily grasping the significance of what such a playfully spoken phrase may imply. I consider if I need to tone down my opinions. Often, I do.

I am as attracted to him today at 70 as I was when I met him when he was 38. I was 43. As a matter of fact, I am more attracted to him now, knowing full well the depth of the person he is after over 31 years of experience together. There is never a day that passes that I don’t appreciate him, our relationship, and our extraordinary lives.

I didn’t bake him a cake with ingredients for his favorite cakes this year, hard-to-find here. But yesterday, I made him a double batch of his favorite chocolate cookies. I’ll happily make them for him again once we shop in Komatipoort and I replenish the ingredients. He is savoring each cookie as if it was a golden jewel. Below is a photo of the cookies.

I placed the chocolate cookies on a plate to take the photo, but there’s no way we could leave cookies out on a plate in this climate with many insects. He loves these., crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Tonight, we’ll head to Jabula for our usual Friday night, this time dining at a table with Louise and Danie joining us to celebrate Tom’s birthday. We’ll arrive at 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs., and we will socialize at the bar until they arrive. With the Marloth Park Info Centre so busy right now, which they own, they may not be able to arrive until an hour or two later. We’ll be well-entertained until they do.

Happy birthday, my love, and a happy day to all!

Happy birthday, Lover! That’s my guy, always with a heartwarming grin, 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.

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2021:

Don’t laugh! It wasn’t perfect! When I frosted the first bottom layer of Tom’s favorite type of cake, German Chocolate, 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 had enough frosting and put too much on the top layer. As it turned out, since I could not get all the ingredients needed to make this cake, it wasn’t as good as in our old lives. But he ate it anyway. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Exciting birthday plans revealed…Please watch our video!!!..This is the fifth time my birthday was spent in the bush!…

Let me start with this. I’d planned on doing a comprehensive post on our elephant interaction yesterday morning at Kwa Madwala, with photos and stories from earlier days when it was open to the public. Today is a brutally hot and humid day with around 90F, 32C, but the dew point is 73. The air is so thick it’s almost hard to breathe, and I’m struggling to get motivated, a rarity for me.

Based on hard times over the past few years and the financial ravages of Covid-19, the formerly famous game reserve has been closed for almost two years. It has become rundown, requiring a massive renovation and restoration. Plans are in the works to bring this magical place back to life next year.

Tom touched the soft velvet-like skin on the back of the elephant’s ear while Louise waited to do the same.

Online is it described as follows:

“This unique hilltop camp is without a doubt the true pride of the Kruger Park south area. In 2000 the neighboring farms abandoned hunting which was very much in vogue and joined the vision in terms of eco-tourism, and the name was changed to Kwa Madwala, meaning ‘the place of the rock’ in Swazi.”

I’d hoped to find a website for the reserve, but unfortunately, their site is no longer active, and there was very little information online to aid in the preparation of today’s post. The guide at the property, one of two that introduced us to the two wild elephants, told a story about the property while I was engrossed in taking photos and watching the magnificent beasts.

Tom filled me in on the details today to help me share the remarkable story of the elephants and how they came to become such an integral part of the property.

Rita was sitting on his leg after he lay down.

There are seven elephants in the herd. Yesterday, we met two of them, a female and a larger male, brother and sister. Two calves were born in the past few years, a few years apart. Years ago, the plan in the area was to cull the elephants due to some economic reasons.

The elephants were rescued and moved to the bush near the reserve and placed in a boma while they were cared for and fed in an attempt to get them used to be around humans. It took over 18 months of loving and gentle care to watch the elephants change from hostile wild animals to gentle giant beasts, suitable to being around visitors and guests of the reserve.

Danie and Louise were hanging onto our elephant’s tusks.

No ropes, chains, or disciplinary instruments were used on the animals at any point. A thoughtful food reward program was instituted from the start, and in time, they associated humans with kindness and tasty fruits, vegetables, and pellets.

The female elephant, the first one shown, is 34 years old, and the male, her brother, is 30 years old. We couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more. When the elephants had enough of us, they wandered off after the handler jumped off and returned to grazing in the bush. They are not fenced or chained. What a fantastic experience!

Gerhard and Rita interact with the friendly and gentle elephant.

After the elephants left, Louise and Danie set up a fabulous brunch for us and Rita and Gerhard. There, at the picnic table on the resort’s veranda, the enjoyment of the special day continued with great food, drinks, and conversation. A special thanks to Louise and Danie for managing a way for us to get into this now-closed venue and be a part of this extraordinary experience. The elephants were happy to interact with humans and show off their skills once again. Such amazing animals. Such a fantastic day.

Louise and Danie served a delicious platter of low-carb treats. Even the crackers were low carb!

Wow! It was a fabulous birthday! Tomorrow, we’ll share Part 3 of my birthday celebrations when our group dined at Jabula and had one heck of a good time.

Thanks to our readers, family, and friends who sent me countless birthday wishes. It meant the world to me!

Photo from one year ago today, February 21, 2021:

My birthday last year was also at Jabule with our dear friends Louise and Danie. They have a magical way of making every get-together special. For more, please click here.

Part 1…Exciting birthday plans yet to be revealed…This is the fifth time my birthday was spent in the bush!…

We couldn’t believe we could be so close and interact with the two elephants who freely roam in the wild.

As I write this at 8:30 am, soon at 9;15, Louise and Danie are picking us up in their vehicle to take us to a surprise for my birthday. I have no clue what it is, nor does Tom. When we return in the early afternoon, I will finish this post and share with you what we did.

Tonight is my birthday dinner at Jabula, which undoubtedly will be another great time spent with friends. We decided to host the dinner and tell guests, “no gifts” since I don’t have room in my luggage for anything new. When we arrive at Karen and Rich’s house on March 24, a box from our mailing service will be waiting with some new clothes for me, suitable for the upcoming cruise.

The elephant was managed by the handler sitting on top of her. But, these are wild animals, not ridden by guests or managed with any ropes or chains. Once we were gone, the handler got off her, and she wandered back into the bush, returning only when she wanted treats and attention.

I’d ordered jeans, bras, and tops but still have to purchase a few items while we are in Florida. I need a good pair of walking shoes and dressy shoes for the cruise. The shoes I am walking in now don’t provide the necessary support. Tom needs several items as well.

Well, we’re off for the surprise adventure. Of course, I am taking the camera and hope to be posting interesting photos of what we’ve seen and done.

We’re back. It’s 1:45 pm, 1345 hrs, and we had a most extraordinary time. Louise and Danie outdid themselves, and much to our delight, Rita and Gerhard surprised us and met us at the game reserve. We drove for about 45 minutes in their four-wheel-drive vehicle on a pot-hole-ridden road to Jeppe’s Reef to the currently closed game reserve, KWA Madwala.

On my 74th birthday, I was gifted with an opportunity to interact with elephants in the wild. What an extraordinary gift! Thank you, Louise and Danie.

Several reasons resulted in this game reserve being closed. Still, mainly Covid-19 seemed to have the most significant impact when foreigners weren’t flying into South Africa for such an extended period. It’s only now that the possibility of a grand re-opening has presented itself, as more and more flights are coming into the country packed with holidaymakers looking for safari adventures.

The reserve appeared quiet and like a ghost town. But according to the managers who took the time to come and meet us, they will be re-opening sometime in the next three to six months when it will again become a thriving establishment.

The magic of this exceptional property is that a herd of seven elephants, who roam free in the wild, come into the grounds of the reserve and greet visitors after years of doing so, accepting apples and pellets as treats, allowing the guests to interact with them.

The path we walked in hopes that the elephants would be coming to see us. They enjoy playing with visitors!

Getting the elephants accustomed to humans under these circumstances took years of loving and gentle persuasion, all accomplished with food rewards. There are no ropes, chains, or sharp objects needed to entice the elephants to interact with visiting guests.

Based on the fact that Louise and Danie know the managers well, they were able to gain access to the property and see if the elephants would willingly come to an open area to meet us, accepting apples and pellets while allowing us to be close to them, to touch them and be up close and personal. No doubt, it was a remarkable experience, especially knowing they did so of their own volition.

Based on the festivities of my birthday continuing today in a few hours and my need to get my walking done, I will be writing more about this adventure in tomorrow’s post with many more photos. Tonight, we’ll take more photos of my small dinner gathering at Jabula and look forward to sharing more.

Thank you to many of our readers/family/friends who have sent me heartfelt birthday wishes. I wish there were time to write back personally to everyone for the messages I’ve received in my inbox. But, I assure you, I will be reading each message with appreciation.

Have a fabulous day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 20, 2021:

We wrote in the caption of this photo, on my 70th birthday in 2018, at my party at Jabula with friends: “We’ll always remember this birthday as a special event for both of us; celebrating life, health, our experiences, and the fine friends we’ve made along the way.” For more from that date, please click here.

A 44-year ago memory…Great food and ambiance…

Our waiter took the family photo.

We had a fantastic time at Maynard’s in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka last night with our son Greg’s family as we celebrated Camille’s birthday. The three grandchildren were there, and we all sat at a big round table for seven which allowed for easy conversation and laughter.

As was always typical for Maynard’s, the food was great, and the conversations all around were delightful. A few days earlier, Greg and I recalled July 4, 1977, when he and my other son Richard and I took out our first boat on Lake Minnetonka for the holiday experience.

It was fun to be here to celebrate Camille’s birthday with her complimentary ice cream sundae.

It was the first time I’d driven a boat, and the three of us took off from our boat slip in St. Alban’s Bay early in the morning with a plan to make our way across the vast lake, in and out of many bays, to end up at my friend Lynda’s lake house for a 4th of July party.

Our first foray with the boat on the lake that day was to make it the short distance from our slip at the marina to Maynard’s, then called T. Butcherblock’s, so the kids could feed the ducks. It was no later than 9:00 am. Once we arrived at T. Butcherblock’s docks, I somehow managed to dock the boat without banging into the wooden posts and then securely tied it down.

Tom, Miles, and Madighan are at the table.

We went inside the restaurant to ask for some stale bread for the ducks that typically swam around the dock, hoping that boaters and diners would toss some food their way. The restaurant staff gave us a bag of old bread, and we meandered back out to the dock to feed the ducks.

My boys, Richard and Greg, then ten and almost eight years old, were thrilled to feed the ducks but not too confident about going back out on the huge lake with their mother, an inexperienced boat driver at the time. I was 29 years old.

Maisie’s Asian salad.

Although I dinged the prop in shallow water, shortly after leaving T. Butcherblock’s, we somehow made it to Lynda’s house hours later, albeit slowly with the damaged support. Once at her house, I arranged to have the prop repaired, and we were soon able to get back out on the lake a few days later. It all worked out, and in those first few days, I learned a lot about boating.

Over the years, I became an experienced boater, upgrading to larger boats as the years passed. My kids spent many summers on the lake with me driving and gained confidence with my skills in time. It was an enjoyable time in our lives.

Tom’s walleye fish and chips. The walleye is a popular fish in the midwest.

Yesterday, being at Maynard’s brought back many memories, especially when Greg recalled that date, 44 years ago, and brought along a bag of stale bread for his kids and us to feed the ducks. After our enjoyable dinner indoors, we headed outside on the pier, packed with partygoers, boaters, and diners to make our way to the water, where numerous ducks and giant carp were awaiting our offerings.

At this point in my life, I wouldn’t normally condone feeding bread to fish and fowl. But, the family tradition was being relived not only for our grandchildren but also for Greg and me. Later, I sent Richard a text to tell him what we’d done, but “tongue in cheek,” he commented, “That wasn’t me.” I reminded him that, indeed, it was him as well. My sons are now 54 and almost 52 years old.

My Cobb salad.

Oh, my gosh…44 years ago. It seems like yesterday. I found myself saying this over and again, “I can’t believe it was 44 years ago!” After we were all done at the dock, we headed back through the restaurant and out the door to the parking lot, where we all hugged goodbye until we saw them again on Thursday evening, our last time together before we departed for Milwaukee and then on to Las Vegas.

Greg, Camille, the kids, and I will all go to the movies together on Thursday evening to see Black Widow. We will have to split up again to say our goodbyes. Tom will return to his sister’s Mary’s home for the usual Thursday night barbecue and catch up with me later in the evening.

Maisie sat next to me as we chatted endlessly.

Today, we made arrangements to see Sister Beth at the nursing home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Saturday and Sunday, after which we’ll head back to Minneapolis, directly to the airport for our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, to see Richard. We’ll spend five days in Henderson, Nevada, and then on July 24th, we’ll begin the long trek back to South Africa.

As we fed the ducks, huge carp joined in on the action.

May your day be filled with pleasant experiences.

Photo from one year ago today, July 14, 2020:

Gina, our property manager in Madeira, Portugal, explained that the number of cloudy days we’d experienced while there in 2014 was unusual. For more photos, please click here.