Tom’s trip to Minneapolis for the union Christmas party…And more…

From left: Bill, Terry, Kevin, Jim, Tom, and in the center, Don.

With other topics to address the past few days, I failed to write and post photos about Tom’s trip to Minneapolis on Tuesday, although I briefly mentioned it. He took several photos, which we’re sharing today, which may be of little interest to most of our readers.

But, for those who attended the party, we prepare this post out of respect for their dedicated service to the railroad, which often kept them away from their families and friends during many holiday celebrations. Tom was excited to attend the party for the first time since 2011 when, ten months later, we began our years-long journey to see the world.

Seated, Jerry and close by to the right, Terry and Don.

Many of his oldest friends and co-workers, too many to mention, have since passed away. He realized when he booked the flight to Minneapolis, returning to Las Vegas 26 hours later, that there may not be as many of those old friends that he so well recalled from years past.

There were about 100 attendees at the party, 20% of whom he knew. The remainder consisted of many new hires he’d never known. Representatives of the various law firms that hosted the party were in attendance. Many of his old friends and co-workers were surprised to see him at the party when most knew we’d been traveling since 2012.

A group of partygoers and one of the attorneys in the suit.

Some of his old friends read our posts, and we are grateful and honored. For those who haven’t read our posts, we hope that at some point, they may check us out and travel along with us. But, need I say that we greatly appreciate everyone who reads our posts, most of whom we never knew or met at any time in our lives?

Often, readers write to us as if they knew us. But, over years of reading our almost daily posts, they come to know us. What an oddity it is when we meet people who have read our posts for years and know about everything about us.

A perfect example of this is when our readers, who have since become great friends Marylin and Gary, came to stay in Marloth Park in one of Louise’s holiday rentals, and we met them a few days after they arrived. When we were chatting with them and our dear friends (we met the same way), Rita and Gerhard, Marylin corrected me in conversation when I didn’t recall an event in our world travels I had written in a prior post.

Another group of partygoers.

We laughed out loud when Marylin recalled our travel history after years of reading our posts better than we had. What a hoot! Marylin, you are amazing! These beautiful couples came to see us in Las Vegas the last time we were here, in September 2023, when we came to Nevada to renew our driver’s licenses and stayed at the Green Valley Ranch Spa and Casino.

In any case, friends are important to us in our world travels, and we look forward to returning to Marloth Park in less than six months on June 15, 2024. We’d planned to return on June 1, but our grandson Vincent is graduating from high school in June, and we want to be in Minnesota for that.

They were all having a good time. Food was provided with a cash bar.

A few days ago, I notified Louise we wouldn’t be arriving until June 15, which worked out for her with us staying in the same house we rented in past visits, the Ratel house. At this point, I am counting the months until we return, but before too long, I’ll be counting the days.

We hope your holiday plans are going well and all is wonderful for you and your family.

Don and another Tom…

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, December 22, 2013:

We spotted giraffes lumbering into a front garden on our way to dinner. What a delight! For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…What an exciting location…Weight loss update…

The bar at Luna Rossa, where drinks and dinners are served. This looks fun!

Tom reminded me to mention that the boulevard outside our building is not the same as, or associated with, the Villages in Florida. Instead, The Village in Lake Las Vegas is located outside our unit in this beautiful building, Viera, that we can easily access only steps away.

It’s not so far that it’s hard for me to walk to explore all the shops and restaurants. We walked to the UPS store five minutes from the building this morning. The longest walk was down the long hallway to the elevator to the main entrance, one level up, and then to the store. This morning, I had to mail an envelope, and it was a piece of cake when we didn’t have a stamp or envelope. Less than $2.00 later, the letter was on its way.

This is the interior of Luna Rossa, one of many restaurants in The Village.

Tomorrow, I’ll explain what I was mailing and how it impacts me in the future, which may provide some valuable information for other travelers like us. More and more seniors are choosing to live a lifestyle similar to ours by selling all their belongings and making the necessary changes to live a home-free life.

It has been great with Tom back here after his one-day trip to Minneapolis to attend the annual Railroad Union Christmas party. Much to my surprise, when he returned from his 26-hour time away, he only napped on the sofa for about 20 minutes, while I made a special effort to be quiet and not disturb him. Otherwise, he was his usual upbeat self, and we had a lovely afternoon and evening.

The patio at Luns Rossa which is surely frequented by locals in the warmer months.

Gosh, we love it here. It has everything we could need or want. We can order our groceries online with the order being delivered directly to our door; we can shop for essentials by walking out the door to this building; we can dine out at any of about ten restaurants only steps away, and we can handle anything we may need without using the car.

Today, we will look at the possibility of canceling the upcoming rental cars, after which we’ll Uber to any other locations we may need to visit while we’re here. We already paid for the next month using points accumulated on a credit card. So we’ll keep those reservations since getting the rewards points back is tricky, and we’ll make a point of using the car as much as possible.

It appears this company was no longer in business. We are surprised so many of the shops and restaurants are still in business after the pandemic.

Had we known how easy life is living here, we’d never have rented cars when they are so expensive in Nevada, especially during the holiday season. Since we don’t gamble, we won’t be going to the Las Vegas strip unless we plan anything special.

There are no words I can use to explain how different life is here at this fabulous location than it was only a little over a week ago when we were in Ecuador. We are both cheerful and upbeat, practically giddy, especially during the holiday season. We’ve both caught up on sleep. I now have my refill prescription, and the two meds I am taking for Afib are working well. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

In the past several days, I have been heading to the fitness center down the corridor and doing a short workout to improve my strength and stamina gradually. I do a little more each day and hope to regain my fitness level after failing to do much over the past few years.

This establishment looks fantastic, with a wonderful menu. We’ll try this place soon.

As for losing weight to improve my health, as of this morning, I am down 20 pounds with only five more pounds to go. It’s slow going, but if I can lose one pound a week, that’s fine with me. All I did was cut my portions of low-carb foods down by about 40%. Other than around meal times, at 11:00 am and 6:00; I am not hungry and don’t think about food.

I don’t snack during the day, but shortly after a somewhat light dinner, I have one cup of Greek yogurt mixed with ½ cup cultured cottage cheese and about ½ cup of unsweetened mixed berries. What a treat this is and a perfect way to end the day! I am doing everything I can to improve my health, and the results are already providing benefits.

Of course, good sleep and the low-stress lifestyle we enjoy now are factors in achieving my goals. I bet many of our readers are busy getting ready for the holiday season. Although we don’t decorate the house with a tree and other decorations or bake Christmas cookies and treats, the Christmas season is in our hearts, and we revel in this particular time of year.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, December 21, 2013:

On the way to Nelspruit with our driver, Okee Dokee, she stopped to buy lychee nuts from this adorable girl, who was selling them on the side of the road with her mom. For more photos, please click here.

Merry Christmas Eve…Last night, we never took a single photo during a fabulous evening in the bush….

After spending an hour looking for a suitable Christmas Eve graphic, I gave up. I decided to post this favorite lion photo we took in 2013 in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, truly indicative of the life we live now with lions in Marloth Park and at our doorstep, Kruger National Park. For that post, please click here.

It’s gotten to a point where one can no longer easily find appropriate graphics without paying or signing up for some arbitrary “free trial.” After trying to find a Christmas world graphic suitable for our post, I gave up after a valiant effort, and I decided to post our photo to avoid paying royalties, choosing the above lion shot we’ve shared many times in the past. Sorry for the repetition.

It’s nearly impossible not to be repetitive when we’ve been posting daily for over ten years. This is our 11th Christmas since we left the US in 2012, the 4th Christmas we’ve spent in Marloth Park. Last night, at Jabula, celebrating Tom’s 70th birthday, amid endless toasts and rounds of merriment at the packed bar with every seat taken, with dear friends Louise and Danie at our side with Dawn and Leon joining it, it couldn’t have been more fun.

Being so close to Christmas, Tom’s birthday was somewhat of an inconvenience in our old lives. We’d often make elaborate plans to acknowledge his birthday, but with Christmas Eve the next day, we were always on a mad dash to roll into the holiday from the birthday celebrations.

Oddly, in our old neighborhood, every other house of five on the peninsula celebrated its birthday on the exact same date, December 23. It was our dear friend Chip, the furthest away, Doug in the middle, and Tom. How odd was that? We’d often celebrate together when we could. We are still in touch with our old neighbors, missing the merriment and celebrations over the Christmas season and also throughout the year.

We lost dear Chip a few months before we left in 2012 to begin our travels, and I had the honor of speaking at his memorial service only months before we were ready to depart. It was a sorrowful time. And now, looking back over the Christmases, the fun with our kids, grandkids, friends, and neighbors, it was an extraordinary time.

But, no, we have no regrets and don’t think of those times with sadness and sorrow. Instead, like last night, celebrating Tom’s 70th birthday, we were reminded of how fortunate we were then and…how fortunate we are now. Different? Yes. But, wonderful nonetheless.

While we sat at the bar, all of us talking at once and yet hearing every word spoken, I turned to Louise at my left and said, “There is nowhere in the world where we’d have made so many friends and enjoyed such camaraderie and lively conversation at a bar.” Although she and Danie are native South Africans, they are well aware of the magic of all these friendships and their special meanings.

Then, adding the cozy element of being in Marloth Park, a true Paradise on earth, and the commonality we all share with our love of nature and wildlife, it’s a combination unlike any to be found anywhere in the world.

No, we don’t have a Christmas tree or other decorations or the countless gifts under the tree. No, we don’t send out Christmas cards or even Christmas letters. After all, our daily posts contain everything we could possibly have to say about our lives. We leave no stone unturned. You, our treasured readers, know everything about us, almost down to our shoe sizes!

People often ask how we feel about being vulnerable and open about our flaws, foibles, and never-ending errors and mishaps. Yes, that includes some whining and complaining, some health issues, and some unavoidable repetition in both words and photos. What would be the point of our posts being fictional instead of the often harsh reality? We are fine with bearing our true feeling, thoughts and dreams.

As we wrap up today’s post, we want to wish every one of our friends/readers and their families, who celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, and many more (found on this site) a meaningful and memorable holiday season.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2021:

Christmas graphic we posted last year. For the story, please click here.

One last shopping trip…Why can’t we find this item?…Received all of our items from Amazon but one…

Penguin statue on the beach made of a penguin dressed in Christmas clothes and various locally inspired pins and decorations. From our post here on December 6, 2016, while living in Penguin, Tasmania, one of Tom’s favorite places in the world.

With Christmas shopping evident in every store we visited, we thought we’d better hurry and buy the one piece of luggage we needed to pack the clothing we purchased while here in Minnesota after having our bags lost from the fiasco we experienced on November 24, explained in detail in Part 1 this post and Part 2 in this post.

There was no way we’d get a big enough bag for under $100, so we headed to TJ Maxx in Bloomington, where they have quality brand-name luggage at reasonable prices. We also needed to buy a luggage tag when they are rarely included with the purchase of a bag.

We lucked out and found the perfect large suitcase in an obvious color and design that may prevent thieves from taking off with it. As I packed it, I wondered if we’d ever get this bag when we’ll arrive at Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger airport on Saturday, let alone our two missing bags from the fiasco on November 24.

This morning we packed the bag, and my carry-on bag, only leaving out clothes and shoes for tomorrow’s departure and toiletries in travel-approved sizes. This time, I packed pajamas and clean underwear in the same carry-on bag since we knew we would spend one night in the City Lodge airport hotel in Joburg to avoid driving in the dark to Marloth Park from Nelspruit on the dangerous N4 highway.

Everything we’d purchased easily fit into the suitcase and I have no doubt we’ll be within the weight limits. This time, we don’t have the portable scale to ensure that fact but based on the contents, I feel confident it will be fine.

The following day, on Saturday, we’ll fly to Nelspruit, collect the rental car at the airport and commence the 90-minute drive to Marloth Park, arriving around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. We’ll stop at Louise’s Marloth Park Info Centre to pick up the house key we left with her and then drive down the dirt road to our holiday house.

If we’re up to it, we’ll go to Jabula for dinner since we won’t have anything defrosted to make for dinner. Of course, with all the Stage 6 load shedding over the past several days, all of our meat in the freezer could have gone bad. Stage 6 is as follows:

  • 5:00 am to 9:30 am (4.5 hours)
  • 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm (4.5 hours)
  • 9:00 pm to 11:30 pm (2.5 hours)

This is a total of 11.5 hours without electricity in 24 hours. Also, there are severe issues with the reservoir based on chronic power outages. We may not have any water when arriving since our JoJo tank doesn’t pump water when the power is out for extended periods.

Oh well, TIA, “This is Africa,” and that is what we expect upon returning after two weeks away. The temperature will be tolerable at a high of 94F, 34C, and increasing in days to come. At least we have the inverter to run to the bedroom’s fan and lamp and the WiFi router. When we cook by Sunday, we can use the gas burners on the stove, lighting it with a lighter, and also use of the braai on the veranda.

We likely won’t grocery shop until next week after we access the power situation to determine what perishables will survive these long load-shedding periods.

Although two male lions were darted in Marloth Park a few weeks ago and moved to Kruger National Park, two females and cubs have been sighted in the park in the past few days. Warnings continue for diligence and caution when outdoors, walking to and from vehicles, and walking and biking only in daylight hours with added attention to one’s surroundings.

Juan, the snake handler we use, has issued warnings that many snakes have come out of hiding over the cooler winter months and to exercise extreme caution outdoors and indoors. Snakes often enter houses during the warm spring and summer months through open doors and thatch roofs, both of which we have.

Nonetheless, we are excited to return to the bush to see our animal and human friends and return to the lifestyle we so much cherish living in the bush.

On another note, we have been searching for thick neoprene Koozies to hold cold canned beverages and glasses. With the heat and humidity in MP. Koozies are an ideal solution to avoid cans and glasses sweating and drinks getting warm on hot and humid days and nights. The mistake we made was not ordering them from Amazon in time for delivery to our hotel.

We searched far and wide to find these neoprene thick-walled Koozies. Most likely, winter-time in Minnesota is not the best time to find these for sale.

We stopped at several stores in the past few days, hoping to find them. We couldn’t find them anywhere, and finally, we gave up trying. They do not sell thick-walled models in South Africa. We’ve searched everywhere online to no avail. And Amazon can’t send us items to South Africa due to high shipping costs and customs issues. It would take months for us to receive them. We’ll be returning to Minnesota next September and buying them at that time.

So that’s it, folks. We’ll do a short post tomorrow, and then we may not post again until Sunday since Saturday will be a hectic day. But, as always, we shall see how it goes, and if we can post sooner, we will. Often, I write the post on my phone on the plane and can complete it on the long drive back to Marloth Park. Thus, Saturday is a possibility.

We hope all of our readers/friends are enjoying preparations for the holiday season. Have a fantastic day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 7, 2021:

Zoom in to note the difference in size between this massive elephant and the nearby male impala. For more photos, please click here.

Day #274 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Merry Christmas Eve…Scroll down for our Christmas poem from the past…

Today’s poem I wrote years ago is from a post on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013, while in Marloth Park, South Africa. For more details, please click here.

The above Christmas graphic is to express our wishes to family, friends, and readers worldwide. In reviewing the countries mentioned in the above image, we haven’t visited four of these 15 countries: China, Israel, the Philippines, and Norway. We still have plenty of the world yet to see!

Tom was delighted with the endless stream of birthday wishes that came his way via Facebook and email. Many came through our site and my email as well. He appreciated every single kind and generous message. Thank you!

Tom and I never say “Merry Christmas” until the actual “eve” begins on December 24th, which is several hours from now. In our old lives, we were often still reeling from the festivities from his birthday the previous day. This year? None of the “reeling.” Instead, we wait with bated breath for the next 19 days until we know we can depart India and begin the long journey to South Africa.

There’s nothing that could bespeak the holiday season for us at this time. We have nothing planned for today or tomorrow. Instead, we’ll focus on our feelings of gratitude for that which we do have in our presence and afar at this time; the love and friendship for one another, our family, friends, and readers; safety from Covid-19; and of course, the fingers-crossed prospect of leaving India before too long.

As more and more news comes out of South Africa with a rapid increase in new cases, especially from a new strain, we wait with bated breath, hoping the borders stay open for the next 19 days and nights, allowing us ample time to get out of here.

Today, the air-con in the building isn’t working, but it is being worked on, based on a call we received from the front desk. It could take two to three hours until it’s working again. It’s stifling in our room and getting hotter by the minute. I just returned from a fast walk in the corridors, dodging guests talking loudly on phones, without masks, and I’m sweating up a storm.

Midway through my walk, I stopped to send an email to the front desk. They, too, are upset about guests not wearing masks and want us to report any discrepancies we observe, if we don’t mind. They don’t want to get sick, nor do the loyal staff who have left their homes, their families for months at a time to work and live here. It’s unfair for everyone.

Ah, anyway, we’re trying to get into the holiday spirit, and the best way we can do this is through memories of Christmases past. In reviewing which photos we’d post today for Christmas Eve, I stumbled across this poem I wrote in our old lives a few nights before the family arrived for Christmas Day dinner.

I decided to share this poem again today, seven years later. It seems all the more appropriate based on the circumstances everyone is experiencing all over the world. Here you go:


Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Family and friends, sharing holiday cheer

Our plates, all filled with tasty delights

Our appetites whetted, to take the first bites

The candlelight glowing on each smiling face

As we look to each other, wondering who will say “grace”

The words are well-spoken, as hands are held tight

The meaning, so special, this holiday night

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

At this table, we’ve gathered for many a’ years

We’ve enjoyed fancy dinners, some romantic for two

And squeezed in so many, as our family grew

And now, here are our children, adult, and attached

In love with their partners and very well matched

With room at the table, their children are here

As we teach them the meaning of holiday cheer

A few are still missing, there always will be

Their gifts in the mail, not under the tree

We’re feeling their love, across all the miles

Holding back tears, remembering their smiles

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Putting aside life’s trouble and fear

The food and the merriment, the taste of good wine

The joy and the happiness, knowing they’re mine.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow on Christmas Day.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2019:

No photos were posted on Christmas Eve last year other than the above. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our family, friends/readers all over the world. For more on this post, please click here.

Day #273 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Part 2…Christmas wishes…Chanukah wishes (belated)…Kwanzaa wishes…Boxing day wishes!..

In an old vehicle, Us is located at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as in the movie of the same name. For that post, please click here.

Today’s photos are from the post on March 7, 2020, the date of our 25th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated while in India on a private tour, before the lockdown, with several photos of us from other dates. For that post, please click here.

Are we celebrating Christmas? It’s a distant memory for us. The last year that we celebrated with all the family, decorations, baked goods, gifts, and numerous social events was in 2011. We left Minnesota on Halloween in 2012 to begin our world journey. Do we miss all the commotion?

We’d be lying to say we don’t miss many aspects of it all, particularly the part when we were all together. But, over the last few years, while in Minnesota, Tom and I often found ourselves alone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a reality of the extended families of our three grown children and the creation of their own Christmas traditions.

But, even so, Tom and I created a series of traditions of our own, including special meals we prepared, always steak and lobster on Christmas Eve, and other such special treats for Christmas Day. Our home was filled with the intoxicating smells of scented candles, potpourri, and the burning wood in the fireplace. Christmas music played in the background. Our hearts were filled with the anticipation of seeing everyone soon and enjoying the festivities.

With Tom’s birthday on December 23rd, we added another reason to celebrate and that we always did with aplomb! We often visited with friends, and they with us, on the days before and after the holidays. Of course, our close neighbors played a vital role in adding to the Christmas spirit with numerous celebratory occasions,

And now? Not so much. Over the past several years, we spent two Christmases in Marloth Park, once in 2013 and another in 2018. There was no shortage of parties and celebrations surrounding the holidays, particularly at the bush home of friends Kathy and Don, on their third-floor veranda, overlooking the Crocodile River. The views were exceptional, the food fantastic, and the companionship and celebrations divine.

When it’s just the two of us in any international location, we will prepare special meals, enjoy some low-carb snacks, wine, and cocktails and listen to Christmas music. But, there’s no tree, no decorations, no baked goods, and getting together with locals. When staying in a country for three months or less, it isn’t always possible to make many friends quickly enough with whom we’d spend Christmas.

But, we’re pretty fine during these periods, and we’ve made the best of every day, every holiday, every anniversary, and every birthday finding ways to feel a sense of celebration while on our own, often laughing over the irony of our situation, so far removed from our old lives.

On our way in December 2019 to the Vegas Golden Knights game with son Richard. Thanks, Richard, it was an enjoyable night! Here‘s the post from that night.

With Tom’s birthday upcoming in two days, I racked my brain trying to think of something special for him. He’s been working hard to lose weight, and although slowly, he doesn’t want to “eat cake” and gain it back after all his diligent efforts over the past month. So special food or drink is out of the question. There’s nothing the cooks here could make that would keep him on track. Also, we don’t leave our floor with many unmasked guests here, so there’s nowhere to go, certainly not to the dining room or bar.

I considered buying him some type of gift on Amazon India. But, as mentioned in a prior post, we’ll be unloading “stuff” from our luggage when facing some strict and costly baggage fees, not adding to it. He’s OK with this reality as I am, too, based on his positive attitude.

Our primary concern right now is getting on that flight to South Africa in 22 days and arriving safely and healthfully in Marloth Park in 23 days. This morning, there was news out of Germany stating that all flights to and from South Africa have been suspended. Hopefully, we won’t see such information from India before we can depart.

Have a safe and healthy holiday season!

Photo from one year ago today, December 21, 2019:

With no new photos taken on a year ago on this date, we’ve included this photo from 2013 while on the way to Nelspruit with our driver and dear friend, Okee Dokee. She stopped to buy lychee nuts from this adorable girl, who was selling them on the side of the road with her mom. For the story from one year ago, please click here.

Day #267 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…President of South Africa spoke last night…Holding our breath…

Colorful trees were blooming in the neighborhood.

Today’s photos are from 2015 while living in Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu, Fiji, where we spent the Christmas holidays. For more, please click here.

The Christmas season is upon the world, and for most, this will be a very different holiday than most years. With gatherings being held to a minimum with COVID-19 restrictions, which we hope people will observe for their safety and the safety of loved ones and friends, it will be an unusual year.

Access to the Qaraniquo river in the neighborhood.

The rollout of the vaccine couldn’t come soon enough. But, from what we’re reading on the news (accurate or not), many developing countries such as South Africa will only have enough to vaccinate only one-tenth of the population, which ultimately won’t offer any global protection to its people and visitors.

This article explains that this developing country cannot afford the low-temperature equipment to store the vaccine at adequate below zero temperatures safely. With this in mind, we doubt we’ll be able to get the vaccine if we so choose while in South Africa. Emerging the virus will continue to rage in the country while we’re there. We’re hoping to remain safe in Marloth Park.

What happened to this tree? It appears there’s been a human intervention.

Last night South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa conducted a speech about the rise in cases. Here is the link to the full text of his speech. In Johannesburg, our dear friends, Linda and Ken, watched the speech on TV and reported the results to me by text. Of course, I was concerned the borders would be closed once again, shutting down tourism, subsequently preventing us from flying out on January 12, 2021.

Thankfully, no such action is being taken at this point. Many of the restrictions imposed by Cyril during the past nine months are again re-enacted as Covid-19 cases rise, such as no alcohol sold over the weekends, curfews at 10:00 pm, mandatory mask-wearing, handwashing, and social distancing in any public venues, shops, restrictions on the number of people attending celebrations, and more, all of which is subject to fines or six months in jail if violated.

Flowering shrubs line the boulevard.

However, we do not doubt that the first time we head to Komatipoort and its overly crowded streets and shops, that mask-wearing will be at a minimum. In that case, we’ll choose to shop in small, less well-stocked shops in Marloth Park as needed. We will drive to Komatipoort for pellets for the wildlife since this purchase enables us to stay in the car while the trunk is loaded with the 40 kg (88 pounds) bags.

We’ll figure it all out, even without the vaccine, and do our best to avoid contracting the virus, taking every possible precaution. At this point, our imminent concern is getting there safely when flying on three flights and going through four airports in the process.

We’d never encountered this particular flower.

Of course, everything could change in the next 28 days when we head to the Mumbai International Airport for our flight in the middle of the night. Suppose gatherings during the holiday season, resulting in even more outrageous increases in cases in South Africa. In that case, Cyril could easily decide to close the borders again, crippling the much-needed tourism business in the country.

Thanks to Linda and Ken for updating me late last night. I couldn’t fall asleep anyway, knowing this speech was imminent at 8:00 pm, South Africa time, and midnight here in India. By 1:15 am, I finally drifted off to a night filled with dreams about Christmas and buying gifts while living in various houses in my distant past.  Hum…

It was only a short walk from our holiday home to the river.

Have a pleasant day.

Photo from one year ago today, December 15, 2019:

We attended a brunch with Tom’s sisters and spouses at the resort in Arizona, highlighting “omelets in a bag.” Here is Tom’s three-egg omelet after it came out of the bag. For more photos, please click here.

Planning Tom’s birthday party on the 23rd and holiday festivities…


Photo from this date in 2013: Of nine members of this warthog family, there are two moms; one with four babies and three babies.  From watching this family almost daily over 18 days, we believe the mom shown above is the mom of the three babies, which, if you look closely, are all nursing. (It’s hard to see the third).  Thus, the baby on which she is resting her chin belongs to the other nearby mom and seems comfortable with this situation.  We couldn’t have laughed more when the fourth baby provided this neck resting spot, whether hers or not. For more photos from this date, please click here.

With Tom’s birthday party in only four days, we’ve begun planning how we’ll seat seven people for dinner in our tiny house. We have four chairs inside, two at the dining table, and four chairs outside, which we can bring in as needed. 

The outdoor table has a glass top, and it would be impossible to bring it inside. If the weather isn’t too cold, we could eat early outdoors, getting the inside table and chairs outdoors. 

The weather forecast predicts 69F (21C) on Monday. Usually, it’s warmest here between 3:00 and 4:00 pm. With the Minnesota Vikings game on at 6:15 pm, it should work well if we eat around 4:00 pm and have “birthday cake” during halftime. 

An easy dinner is planned to avoid spending too much time in the tiny kitchen. Tom will cook on the gas grill while I wrap up the sides indoors. We only have six plates and salad bowls, so we’ll borrow one more of each from the sisters to round it out to the seven of us.

Today, we’ll walk down to Mary and Eugene’s place to pick lemons off of her overflowing lemon tree to make lemon drop martinis as we’d made last year at his birthday party, hosted by Rita and Gerhard. We’ll borrow a blender from Mary and a juicer from Margie as well.

My grocery list is complete, and we’ve already purchased the meat and ingredients for the dessert. A quick trip to the market will wrap it up, which I’ll do over the weekend or perhaps tomorrow to avoid some of the Christmas rushes.

On Christmas Day, Mary and Eugene are having a traditional turkey dinner. I will make the side vegetables and possibly a few pies. No doubt, the festivities will be delicious and festive.

Christmas is less about gifts, decorating, or a Christmas tree, which we haven’t done since we began traveling. It’s never made sense living all over the world, nor would be willing to accumulate “stuff.” We send gifts to the grandkids but had mutually agreed long ago not to purchase gifts for the adult kids.

We aren’t particular about Christmas Eve yet. Typically the family goes to a local establishment for drinks and light meals. Surely, we’ll join them this year. And, we’re planning to go to Christmas Eve Mass at a nearby church which starts at 8:00 pm, instead of midnight.

There are many seniors in this area, and Midnight Mass would probably be poorly attended. Let’s face it; most seniors go to bed reasonably early, making midnight a little late for most of us.

Yesterday, at 4:00 pm, we attended the pot luck mulled wine party at the clubhouse. I’d make a double batch of artichoke dip with Club crackers. We had no idea how many would attend, so I assumed a doubt batch would be best. 

Much to my surprise, the mulled wine was delicious and made without sugar. As it turned out, the huge hot pan of the dip was consumed in no time at all, along with all the dishes others had brought along. With the chilly weather, it was a welcomed treat to stay warm.

Unfortunately, we’d forgotten to bring a camera or phone with us for photos. It would have been great to share photos with at least a few hundred people in attendance and live music. Sorry about that!

In any case, Tom’s birthday and the holidays will be meaningful and fun while we’re here in Apache Junction. May all of our readers who celebrate have an excellent time planning their holiday festivities.

Photo from one year ago today, December 19, 2018:

This is one of our favorite pairs of warthogs, Mike and Joe, named after two US vice presidents, non-partisan of course, Mike Pence (current) and Joe Biden (last presidency).  Tom always says, “The VPs are here.” For more photos, please click here.

Christmas parade in the neighborhood…Another fun night with the family!…

Yesterday was Tom’s niece Laurie’s birthday. Instead of a traditional birthday cake, Laurie opted for a fruit tart. She looked good.

After yesterday’s big shopping trip and putting everything away, we feel organized with our tiny house tidy without clutter. It feels good to be settled in for a while. We’ve certainly been on the move for the last several months.

Tom is still coughing quite a bit, but my cough has significantly diminished with only a few bad coughing jags during the day or night. It’s a relief to be on the mend finally. I only hope Tom progresses further in the next week.
Several residents of the RV park decorate their golf carts to participate in the annual.
Christmas parade through the neighborhood.

Regardless of how we’ve felt, we’ve continued to participate in family get-togethers and activities. Last night was no exception when Mary and Eugene’s daughter Laurie (Tom’s niece) arrived with Craig to celebrate her birthday. 

They have a holiday home for about an hour from here. It was a pleasure to see both of them, and all nine of us had an enjoyable time. The evening ended with us playing a hysterical game app on Laurie’s phone called “Heads Up,” a US-only game with questions about US culture. We did a lot of laughing.

This classic car zoomed by during the parade. (I am still learning to use my phone’s camera. Please bear with me).

This morning, we’re returning the rental car to the Phoenix Airport and will be using sister Margie’s Cadillac, which she so generously offered to us during our lengthy stay. This saves us hundreds of dollars. I will follow Tom to the airport while he drops off the car.

From there, we’ll find a restaurant on the return drive and stop for a late lunch. Yesterday, we cooked steaks on the grill around 3:00 pm and didn’t bother making any dinner instead of snacking on some tidbits at Mary and Eugene’s home.

More golf carts came around the corner as we all cheered.

Honestly, with the small kitchen, I have no interest in cooking. Yesterday we’d purchased many items for leisurely meals, things we can cook on the grill with a side of a few vegetables and rice for Tom. Today, we’ll stop at a market to purchase snack foods to offer when everyone comes to our place to hang out. 

For some odd reason, I’ve lost interest in cooking these past few months. In essence, it’s been since I had the surgery last February. Standing in the kitchen for hours holds no appeal to me anymore.

Preoccupied in conversation, I almost missed this shot. Excuse the lack of clarity.

Once we leave the US at the end of January, we won’t purchase groceries or cook for at least three months, two in India and another 29 nights on the cruise from Mumbai to Greenwich (UK). From there, we’ve yet to book anything but will do so in the next few months.

For now, we prefer to settle back and not engage in lengthy and time-consuming research as to what we plan to do once we arrive in Greenwich. We’ll have a little over six months to fill until our next cruise from Lisbon to Cape Town (providing we receive the required visa waiver).

Santa and Mrs. Claus were sitting on the back of this golf cart.

Should the waiver come through, most likely, we’ll spend the six months in and around Europe, where we’ve spent little time overall. As wildlife and nature enthusiasts, Europe, although an amazing draw for most tourists, holds less interest than many other parts of the world.

Now, we’re off to the airport, lunch, and a little more shopping.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Have a splendid day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 11, 2018:

This is Cupid with a heart-shaped marking on her throat. She particularly loved the lucerne we’d purchased for the garden. For more photos, please click here.

A few days relief at last…The value of a good night’s sleep…

A single bottle brush flower blooms in the bush.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

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

No words can describe the relief we feel after the temperature has dropped after the rains of the past 24 hours. Currently, at 10:00 am, it’s a comfortable 25C (77F).

What a pleasant surprise for Tom early this morning! There were three duikers, one male and two females, and two female bushbucks in the garden sharing pellets.

Although the aircon in our main floor bedroom won’t be repaired until after January 1st, we’ll manage just fine if it stays this cool for the next few days. If it heats up to 40C (104F), we’ll be back where we were when the power went out when the company can’t handle the extra load of holidaymaker’s use.

Several locals have made comments on various Marloth Park pages on Facebook, such as “We wouldn’t lose power if you idiots don’t use aircon when it’s hot.”

This is a male giraffe due to the lack of hair on the ends of his ossicones—the pointy protrusions atop his head. The coat has worn down from competition for dominance with other males.

But, the reality is, people will use aircon when temperatures are so high. Many people living and visiting Marloth Park are seniors, have health problems, children, and everyone in between. 

Male elephants are excluded from the family during their teenage years to live and fend for themselves. This is done to preserve the integrity of the gene pool and prevent the male from mating with his siblings and other female relatives.

When the temperature is over 40C, it’s doubtful anyone will be willing to sacrifice being cool, at least at night, when sleeping is nearly impossible. It’s a catch 22.

Plus, you can’t single out healthy mid-age residents to avoid using aircon, so others less fortunate may use it.  That’s not going to happen. Thus, with high temps in Marloth Park right now, the power goes out. Plain and simple.

At times, we’ll see two or more males hanging out together.

It should become more accessible within a week when many holidaymakers leave the park after New Year’s Day. By January 9th, we should be back to “normal” with sufficient power to handle the park’s needs in most cases.  

When we spot a herd or “parade” of elephants, it often comprises a matriarch, moms,  offspring, other females who’ve yet to give birth. and young males who’ve yet to be ostracized from the family.

That’s not to say we’ll be free of outages. Load shedding is supposed to continue in January, but right now, the Eskom website states, “We are currently not load shedding.” We’ll see how that goes.

Three lions were lying…

Last night, I had a great night’s sleep. Although we both awakened many times during the night, I easily fell back to sleep, getting a total of eight hours of rest. On the other hand, Tom was out of bed by 6:00 am and may need a 20-minute nap today. I feel like a new person.

Last night, we decided to go out for dinner, and we showed up at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant without a reservation, although a group of nine of us will be dining there tonight. I was so tired I couldn’t imagine putting a meal together.

A male lion was perusing the area near the Crocodile River.

With the fabulous restaurant booked, we knew we’d be willing to eat at the bar rather than request a table. We arrived at 1700 hours (5:00 pm), and by 1930 hours (7:30 pm), after another beautiful meal, I was ready to head back to our house.

Tonight, Kathy and Don and three friends/family members and Rita and Gerhard will join us for dinner as mentioned above for what surely will be another enjoyable evening with friends.

A male lion on the move.

As for today, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll try a drive in the park, hoping to spot some of our wildlife friends. If there’s too much traffic along the river, we’ll turn around and come right back. This place is all about low stress and a powerful sense of calm. We prefer to keep it that way.

Have a peaceful and calming day!
                                          Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2017:

Tom ordered a local beer while I had a Malbec at La Cabrera Restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, one year ago today. For more photos, please click here.