The holiday festivities have begun…Sparse photo situation at present…Losing weight isn’t easy…

The baby bushbuck took cover behind mom when she wasn’t sure what to do when she saw us.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

With the small amount of rain, the bush has begun to green, creating more vegetation for the wildlife.  But, it still has a long way to go to nourish them fully.

We can hear the cars and bakkies (trucks) driving down our road, minute after minute on what is not necessarily a thoroughfare. Our road, Swartwitpens, is one of the bumpiest dirt roads in the park and isn’t the first choice for residents to get to their homes. 

As a result, most of the passing vehicles, often driving too fast are holidaymakers finding their way through the maze of dirt roads when the only paved roads in Marloth Park is Oliphant Street (the main road) and Maroela Road (for a short distance from Oliphant to the municipal park and building).

Why people drive so fast here baffles us. It’s not as if the roads are comfortable to maneuver when passengers bounce around as if on a boat in rapids. In my old life, I’d never been able to ride on these dirt roads.  

Now, with renewed health due to my eating, I no longer have pain that would prevent me from doing so.  For this, I am eternally grateful and maintain this strict diet with relative ease.

Unfortunately, over the next few weeks, we aren’t willing to tackle the traffic on the river roads. Tom is an impatient driver, and it’s just not fun being stuck behind multiple vehicles on the narrow dirt roads.

The lucerne lays scattered about the garden uneaten. The warthogs move it around with their snouts but eat very little.

Instead, we’ll stay at our bush house, relishing every moment we can, even with the few visitors we’re getting right now. This morning was better when we had a few bushbucks, and eight kudus stop by for pellets.  

It was exciting to see the kudus. I told Tom to keep tossing pellets while I went inside and chopped carrots and apples for them. A neighbor stopped by while I was tossing them and scared them off.  Hopefully, they’ll return soon.

Without our usual drives in the park, self-drives in Kruger, and with less wildlife visiting us, right now, our photos inventory is sparse. I know I should take photos when we’re out to dinner and at social events, but once I start having such fun, I forget about taking photos and live in the moment instead.

I suppose in the realm of things, enjoying the moment instead of stopping to take photos isn’t always a bad thing. I will start working on this tonight when we go to Kathy and Don’s bush home for their holiday cocktail party. But, during this time, I’d be wise to take photos of social activities to ensure we have fresh photos for the next day’s post.

And then, tomorrow is Tom’s birthday which, as mentioned, we’re celebrating with Rita and Gerhard. They’re doing the cooking, and all I’m bringing is one of Tom’s favorite recipes, gluten-free apple crisp, which is not low carb.  

Mom and baby stop by for some treats.

I found a low-carb version I’m going to make tomorrow for Rita and me. It has a total of 10 grams of carbs per serving, so I’ll have to carefully consider what I consume for the remainder of the day to stay within my daily allotment of 20 grams.

A while back, I’d mentioned I was trying to lose the 11.34 kg (25 pounds) I’d gained when I was suffering from the now non-existent gastrointestinal issue for two and a half years. Eliminating all dairy several months ago put a quick end to my woes.  

By dropping dairy from my diet and cutting back a little on fat and protein, so far, I’ve lost over 9 kg (20 pounds) with only about 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds) to go to be back where I was when we began traveling six-plus years ago.  

Need I say, I’m thrilled to wear my limited wardrobe without lying on the bed to zip my pants and constantly feeling as if I had to “tuck in” my love handles which have now all but disappeared.  

It’s been a slow process. While I was suffering from the condition, I was constantly eating to stop the gnawing pain in my gut. Sure, I continued eating a low carb, grain-free, starch-free, and sugar-free diet, but one can certainly gain weight if overeating any food.

Mongooses often stop by looking for eggs.

These last few pounds have been tricky. When Tom and Lois were here, we were dining out more often than usual, and the weight was packed on. During their three-week visit, I gained back 2.27 kg (5 pounds).  

Since November 1st, when they left to return to the US, it’s taken me to get back to the point where I was before they’d arrived. That’s slow! However, I stayed determined and on course, day after day.  If I lose the remainder by the time we leave here in February, I’ll be content.

In the interim, the clothing I purchased in the US in 2017 is now too big, and before we leave here, I’ll donate everything that doesn’t fit and purchase some new items when we return to the US in April. Wearing the same clothes over and over again with frequent washings results in wear and tear, and every few years, we must replace some items.

Today, I’m trying to dry a pair of white denim capri pants to wear to the party tonight. Without a dryer, the heavy denim fabric often takes two days to dry in the humid climate. Tom set us a chair in front of the portable fan, and I’m hoping it’s going to dry them in time.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow on Tom’s 66th birthday, looking back at his past birthdays since we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012. 

Have a fantastic day as many of us delve into the spirit of the holiday season, wherever we may be.

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2017:

Many of the streets in Montevideo, Uruguay, reminded us of other historical cities we’ve visited. For more photos as the 30-night cruise came to a close, please click here.

Baking Tom’s favorites for his birthday and the holidays…

The humidity made it difficult for the Rice Crispy bars to harden, so I trimmed the edges, placing them in the red bowl as shown. Tom can snack on the edges today after they firm up in the refrigerator as well.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This croc was half the size as the one shown below.

Each year around Tom’s birthday on December 23rd, I ask him what special desserts or meals he’d enjoy for the occasion. This year, we’ll be dining at Rita and Gerhard’s temporary condo at Ngwenya since the Hornbill house wasn’t available for the few weeks at Christmas time when they’d come to Marloth Park without reservations…brave folks…lucky folks…Louise worked it all out for them.

I offered to bring a dessert Tom loves – gluten-free apple crisp made with “real” sugar using both white sugar and brown sugar in the interim. Whatever she’s making is a total surprise to us, and as good guests, we won’t ask.  We do not doubt that whatever it will be, we will love and appreciate it.  

We’re bringing vanilla ice cream and aerosol whipped cream, none of which Rita nor I will eat now that she’s joined me in this way of eating. We’ll stay true to our healthful commitment.

An Egyptian goose standing in shallow water.
For today, I started baking the “sugar frenzy,” which Tom will surely enjoy over the holidays and will abruptly come to an end on January 1st. Most likely, he’ll gain a few kilos (pounds) in the process. 

Let me explain, white marshmallows don’t exist in this area. The only option is pink and white. So, pink and white it was! As for the Rice Crispies themselves (the dry cereal in a box), Tom scoured a few warehouse-type stores on the way to Lebombo while I shopped at Spar in Komatipoort. Miraculously, he was able to purchase two giant boxes.

The first thing I did this morning was getting to work on making the bars. Today it’s hot, and it’s humid after last night’s glorious rainfall, not the ideal conditions for expecting the bars to firm up. In any case, I made three batches of Rice Crispy bars using the two giant boxes of the cereal, 500 grams of real butter, and four big bags of pink and white marshmallows.
A few elephants in the Crocodile River from quite a distance.
When they didn’t fully firm up sitting on the kitchen counter, I stacked them (uncut) atop one another, each batch separated with parchment paper, and placed them in the refrigerator, hoping they’ll firm up enough to make the cutting easier and the eating less messy and enjoyable. The photo above was taken before I placed them in the refrigerator.

Tomorrow night, we’re going to a party and Kathy and Don’s, and she insisted I don’t make a thing. Instead, when we go to their home again on Christmas Day, I’ll be baking Don’s favorite…cherry pie with a handmade lattice crust. We’ll see how that goes in the heat and humidity on Christmas morning.  

On Sunday, Tom’s birthday, I’ll make the apple crisp. I’m making an extra batch to have for Christmas Eve when Tom and Gerhard can dig in once more. That’s a hard one for me to resist. I love it warmed with vanilla ice cream and topped with a hefty dollop of whipped cream. But, that was then, and this is now, and I remind myself that I’m traveling the world due to renewed health from drastically changing my diet. 

As we perused the river for wildlife sightings, finding few, we took a few distant photos on a cloudy evening.
I didn’t eat many sweet desserts in my old life, but on special occasions, I did partake. Now, traveling the world makes every day is a special occasion, and I avoid starches, grains, and sugars as if they are poison. It’s a small price to pay to live this “wonderful life.” (No pun intended. It’s a great Christmas movie).

I’d hope to make a low-carb dessert for Rita and me, but I couldn’t find the ingredients needed to do so. Today I’ll go through my recipes and see if I can roust up a decent dessert item for us girls.

Last night, we headed to Ngwenya for dinner on our own since Rita and Gerhard were busy packing to move there today. Tonight, Tom and I will go to Jabula on our own since they’ll be busy getting unpacked.  

Mom and youngster heading back up the hill after a swim.
We’d promised Leon (of Dawn and Leon, owners of Jabula Lodge and Restaurant) that we’d bring him some Rice Crispy bars, a favorite childhood memory which we’re excited to do.
We’re staying put for the rest of the day until around 1700 hours (5:00 pm). We’ll be off for another fun evening at our favorite restaurant.  
We’ve had one Ms. Bushbuck and “Little” stop by this morning for some pellets, which of course, we provided, happy to see them both. As for the others? They are off and about visiting holidaymakers offering them all kinds of foods, some good for them, some not so much.  
Last night we saw a few crocs at the Crocodile River from the veranda at Ngwenya.
If you had a choice to go where the sweet treats are being offered instead of the dry pellets, carrots, and apples, where would you go?
Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 21, 2017:

Christmas display aboard the ship as we’re nearing the end of the cruise. For more details, please click here.

Come see the gifts we’ve received for Christmas…Tom’s Irish Cream Recipe…Christmas in the bush…

With no Poinsettias for us this year, we revel in the beauty of this flower that we encountered on a walk in the area.

In our old lives, Christmas was a time to celebrate life, family, friends, and the powerful message the holiday season represents for many. There was nothing spared in the preparation of this special time of the year. 

A flaming sky at sunset is a gift.

For almost 20 years Tom made his well-received over 100 bottles of Lyman’s Irish Cream (see recipe below) to give to friends and family while I spent endless hours decorating, sending cards, wrapping gifts (mostly purchased online), baking, cooking, and entertaining.

A baby duiker on wobbly legs warms our hearts.

Each year we’d receive tons of cards, which we displayed during the Christmas season, saving them until the following year. The next year, I’d cut them into shapes befitting the card’s design punching a small hole in a corner, inserting a satin ribbon for them to be used as gift tags. 

A curious baby zebra at our door.
We all have traditions that bring us comfort in their familiarity. As a family, the participants in the traditions, look forward to their implementation with little concern for their redundancy or silliness.
A mama duiker, standing watch.

Last year, we spent Christmas in Henderson, Nevada, renting a spacious vacation home, with 19 in attendance on Christmas Day. It was a memorable time, as we were only days away from leaving the US to begin our worldwide journey on January 3, 2013. 

A Giraffe we encountered on the road on a cloudy day.  Notice the three Oxpeckers (birds) on its neck eating off the insects and one flying off its head.  Seeing this was a gift.

Tom’s birthday is on December 23rd, an unconscionable time of the year for a birthday. Over the years, I made every effort to make it a special time for him as well, wrapping his gifts in birthday, not Christmas paper, planning festivities unrelated to the holidays, often not easy to do. 

A rank of impalas, very sensitive to sound and movement, kept us practically holding our breath when they appeared in our yard.

He shared the same birthday with our dearest friend and neighbor Chip whom we lost a year and a half ago.  Over the years, together with his wife Sue, the four of us celebrated birthdays, times we’ll never forget.

This is the cactus plant from which we took the above flower photo.  In our old lives, our Christmas cactus would often bloom.  This will do as an alternative.

By this time each year, all the festivities were planned, the gifts were wrapped and under the tree, the cookies were baked and placed in colorful tins and Tom had attended or was about to attend his railroad union Christmas party. My various annual “girlfriends only” Christmas luncheons had occurred and all that remained was the sharing of the meals with family and friends as Christmas edged its way in and of course, the always fun-filled gift opening.

A glimpse of the sunset from our veranda.

So, here we are, Christmas in the African bush, the South African bush to be precise, surrounded by nature, a Skype call away from contact with family and friends without a single card or gift, decorated tree, or homemade cookies. 

A joy to behold such beauty.

This is our first Christmas outside the US. How do we feel about that? We don’t feel alone. We’re surrounded by nature. If someone had told me years ago, that I had to forgo all of my usual holiday activities to sit at home without family around us, a tree, gifts, or homemade treats, I’d have gone kicking and screaming.

Certainly no “partridge in a pear tree” we delight in the simple beauty of this bird visitor.

Now, here in Marloth Park at Christmas time and for Tom’s birthday, we are at peace. The thought of all the work we used to do makes us cringe. The thought of being with our adult children and their families next year in Hawaii makes us smile. Yes, we are at peace.

Not quite, “Three French hens,” instead we have three Helmeted Guinea-fowl that visits us daily.

Living in Marloth Park is a gift, God’s creatures all around us, nature at it’s finest. We are thankful that in our senior years we are given an opportunity to engage in an entirely different Christmas season, one that isn’t about our somewhat selfish objectives to “get everything done” based on our own outrageous expectations.

The sun finally came out to reveal the moon and blue sky.  Heavenly.

Instead, we simply watch, wait and marvel as the visitors and lush vegetation surrounds us whether we’re lounging on the veranda as we’re doing at the moment, on a short drive to dinner, on a game drive, a bush dinner, or a walk in the area. For us, this is the gift that keeps giving… and giving… and giving.

Merry Christmas to all.

Tom Lyman’s Irish Cream (Bailey’s)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint half and half cream
3 pasteurized eggs (important for safety)
1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
1 T. chocolate syrup
1 cup whiskey
Blend in a blender for 2 minutes, then add the 1 cup whiskey. Blend for another 30 seconds. 
Pour into a clean glass bottle with tight-fitting cork. (Use your empty wine bottles after they’ve been washed in the dishwasher).
Make 1 1/2 wine bottles, enough for sipping while making. Recipe doubles for more easily.

Keeps fresh for 30 days in the refrigerator.

Green Valley Ranch, Henderson, Nevada check in…

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, to our vacation rental in Green Valley Ranch, a newer community with massive amounts of stores, restaurants, gated communities, and a  mere sprinkling of casinos. 

It doesn’t feel like Las Vegas with its slot machines in every gas station or public building.  Instead, it feels welcoming, safe, and low on tourists.

Entering the single-family home for the eight days we reserved over Tom’s birthday and Christmas, we knew immediately that we were “home.” A fresh smell wafted through the air (love that word!), welcoming us as we maneuvered through the door arms laden with “stuff.”

Unloading my arms onto the living room floor, I ran about from room to room squealing with delight. Each room had its own surprise to behold. 

From the stack of perfectly folded crisp white towels and washcloths in each of three bedrooms, two baths, and an ample linen closet, to the full-size bars of new soaps atop each stack, no stone was left unturned.  

The kitchen, fully stocked with every amenity, had a “working” ice machine, ground coffee, cream, some basic ingredients along with every small appliance we could possibly use.  Three flat-screen TVs, a pool table, stereo, and old fashioned boxed games were available for our entertainment.

The pool, although not heated and an extra $100 a day to heat (it’s too cold here now in the 30s!) has a free-use hot tub (forgot my suit) in a well-equipped yard with high top table, chairs, and a huge newer grill. Too bad it’s not 90 degrees!

The rent for the eight days, although much more than we’ll pay outside the US for most houses, was fair at $1500 which included a $250 cleaning deposit which we expect to get back.  We did the math.  Most likely we would have paid $165 a night for a hotel (including taxes) during the holidays, plus tips, valet parking, plus all meals in a restaurant, and how much lost with easy access to gambling.  Surely we would have spent at least $400 a day for an estimate of $3200.

Staying in this lovely home, cooking for Tom’s party, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day including our guests, our grocery and dining out budget is $1050, leaving us with a total of $2300 saving us $900 or more depending on how much we’d have lost gambling (we don’t usually gamble but when it’s at hand, it’s hard to resist). 

This is the first Christmas in my adult life that I won’t be shopping in a frenzy, wrapping gifts with elaborate hand made bows, baking a wide array of delectable cookies, and of course, decorating every corner of the house. In an odd way, it’s liberating.  We’ll miss family back in Minnesota and we’ll revel in family and friends here in Nevada.  Life is filled with trade-offs.

Soon, we’ll head to our two dentist appointments for our final cleanings, then off to the travel clinic for Tom’s final Twinrix vaccine.  Then, to the grocery store for the ingredients for the lesser amount of baking, I’ll do this year. 

It won’t be gluten-free, low carb, sugar-free, grain-free, starch-free.  It will be delicious, fattening, gooey, filling up this lovely home with smells that remind us of “home.”  I won’t take a taste.  Tom will take off a few days for this special time, his 60th birthday, and some of his favorite treats.

Hum. There’s no rolling pin. What shall I use in its place?

P.S. After writing the above this morning, then rushing out the door to the dentist’s office, I had yet to post it. Upon returning a few minutes ago, it was imperative that I amend it.  We just had the most amazing dental appointment in our lives, a referral from son Richard at Dr.Patrick Simone’s office in Henderson, Nevada.

Walking into his plush, well-appointed office puts me, a dental phobic, instantly at ease. From the elegant, upscale furnishings to the artwork to the well-equipped beverage bar and, the service, impeccable!  Even the restroom was a sight to behold with every imaginable accouterment. 

It almost felt as if we should tip not only the receptionist, but also Terry, the knowledgeable, personable, and thoughtful hygienist.  Instead of the usual hand performed cleaning, scraping away at our gums and teeth, Terry used a laser implement as an adjunct to the traditional cleaning. She used “before and after” photos that were shocking. 

After the cleaning, she performed what she referred to as “sandblasting” the surface of our teeth with a high powered baking soda spray.  The taste was awful.  The result, mind-blowing. My teeth hadn’t been this white since I was a toddler. We couldn’t be happier. 

As we paid our reasonable bill of $226 (for both of us), they thanked us profusely handing us a giant apple pie! Who gets an apple pie from the dentist?  I was thrilled with the bag of dental supplies Terry loaded up for our travel. And then, this giant pie. Wow! 

Need I say that we were impressed?  If you live near or around Henderson or are visiting Las Vegas and a dental situation arises, Dr. Simone’s office is the place to call.

Gee, for the eight days we’re, here in Henderson over the holidays, this does feel like home, minus the grandkids, the grown kids, the friends, the beautifully decorated tree, the elegantly wrapped gifts, the oversized glass jars filled with home-baked cookies, the Santa Bears adorning every corner and on and on.

Life will be different going forward.  Good, but, different.