Update on my weight loss…Tom is at his lowest weight ever!…Not me!…

In August, the view was amazing as we sailed away on a Norway cruise.

It’s time for an update on my weight loss. But first, let me tell you about Tom! Since we left Minnesota and he stopped eating doughnut holes and bananas from breakfast at the restaurant at the hotel in Eden Prairie, he’s lost almost 20 pounds (9 kg). On the Galapagos cruise, he was careful with portion control and didn’t eat junk, bread, and excess sweets, although he usually ate a small dessert after dinner each night.

Since we’ve been in Ecuador with limited groceries other than items for breakfast and dinner, he’s been eating two pieces of toast with strawberry jam he’s been able to purchase at the little store down the road, plus a good-sized portion of watermelon each day. Even with that, he’s continued to lose weight and right now is at his slimmest when we first arrived in Belize almost 11 years ago.

For us, weight is about health, well-being, and, of course, being able to fit into our clothes. For me, the past few years, that’s been an issue. When I began recovering from open heart surgery in 2019, I started gaining weight from all the heart medications I was on. By the time I got off of all those drugs, about four months later, I was carrying an extra 20 pounds on me.

Norway was exactly as we anticipated, with colorful buildings and loads of charm.

Few of my clothes fit, and when I had an opportunity to purchase clothes online, I went from a size small to a large. No longer could I wear my jeans and most of my tee shirts when I had a “muffin top” hanging over the sides. That part was about vanity for me. I never liked that look on me. I started buying loose-fitting tops to hide my excess weight.

I tried losing weight in the past four years on many occasions but never had any luck. I’d lose a few kilos and then gain it right back, thinking I could eat as much as I did over 11 years ago, and that was not the case. Sure, I continued to eat the low-carb way, but let’s face it, one can overeat in any way of eating. I was deluding myself that I could do otherwise.

Once the Afib started and I began doing tons of research on possible remedies, one fact I encountered over and over again was that as little as ten pounds overweight could increase the risk of Afib. That, not appearance or clothes fitting, was enough motivation for me to attack this with gusto, and I have done just that.

  • So far, since November 1, when I began to cut back, I have lost 11 pounds (5 kg), with about 13 pounds (6 kg) more to go. By the end of this upcoming week, I will be halfway there. How am I doing it? Eggs, nonstarchy vegetables, a small portion of berries for breakfast, a small amount of cheese and chicken for lunch, and a dinner consisting of whatever protein source we have, with portion control in mind. I can eat all the nonstarchy vegetables I want.
It was one more cruise we knocked off to a location we wanted to see.

Since small amounts of berries are okay on low-carb and are loaded with nutrients, I am especially enjoying these as a treat. We’ve been buying the vegetables, freshly picked berries, and watermelon from Raphael on Tuesdays and Fridays when he comes by around 6:00 pm with his truck filled with organic fruits and vegetables.

I decided to post about this today when I found it helps me stay motivated when I’ve shared it here. You know, accountability. I’ve tried this here in the past with less success, but improving the Afib is a massive motivator for me, much more than anything in the past.

Tonight, I am making a beef tenderloin stir fry with celery, onions, broccoli, green peppers, carrots, fresh garlic and ginger. The seasonings won’t be as flavorful without all the usual spices we have on hand, but we’ll make do and enjoy it anyway. Tom will have his dinner on a bed of rice, and I’ll have mine without the rice.

Previously, we only ate once or twice a day, but here we’ve added a light lunch, as mentioned above, which, right now, seems to work better for me since I get less hungry for dinner. I am committed and will stay on this course until I reach my goal, and then, I will add a little more protein and healthy fats to maintain it.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, November 19, 2013:

At dinner in Diani Beach at Swahili Beach Resort…Tom’s hair still had shampoo in it when the water went off during his shower before we headed out.
Luckily, I’d showered hours before him. For more photos, please click here.

Forgetfulness and aging…A story from long ago changing our lives…

Photo of the railroad guys at the train station.  Year unknown.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This is a Clay Colored Robin, the national bird of Costa Rica.

Two weeks from today, we leave for Nicaragua for two nights, returning to the villa on the 30th.  The next day, October 31st is our five-year anniversary of traveling the world.

When we first began traveling in 2012, we hadn’t imagined we’d last five years.  At that time, we “qualified” our long-term plans by saying we’d find somewhere along the way where we’d eventually settle down or we’d return to live in the US, location to be determined.

Settling down at some point is no longer a topic of interest or discussion.  We’ve accepted the reality when health fails for either of us (which eventually will), we’ll have to make a decision.  Do we worry that such a sudden decision will overwhelm us especially under the duress of a medical problem? 

Locomotives, back in the day in Atenas.

Not really.  Why worry about a situation over which we have little control other than to take good care of our health and well-being each and every day?  When it happens, it happens.  We’ll figure it out from there.

An important aspect of managing such a situation is predicated on the ability of one of us to be able to make decisions in the event of a medical issue for the other.

In our old lives, at one point, I was concerned about developing memory loss issues as I’ve aged.  Dementia was a common condition on my mother’s side of the family. 

Horn off a locomotive.

Once I hit the age of 50, I found myself becoming forgetful…walking into a room and not remembering why, starting a project and getting sidetracked on another project, forgetting where I’d left off.  These were subtle changes I was embarrassed to mention,  not even to Tom.

In 2011, when I dramatically changed my way of eating from a ‘low fat, low protein, high carb, healthy whole grains” diet to a “high fat, moderate protein, very low carb diet,” not only was I pain-free three months later but over the next several years, my memory improved to an astounding rate, comparable to when I was in my early 20’s.

No longer did I find myself losing things, wondering where I’d left something, or forgetting what I’d done the prior evening.  Was it due to the diet as explained in Dr. David Perlmutter’s book “Grain Brain” or was it due to the fact that in early 2012 I began the 12-hour-a-day process of planning our world travels keeping my brain whirring in a plethora of new knowledge?

Model trains on a shelf.

Dr. Perlmutter included the story of my success with this way of eating on his website as shown in this link here.  We also shared the story in one of our previous posts as indicated here in this link

The smidgeon of notoriety I gleaned from this article only mattered to me in that it might inspire one more individual to embark on this way of eating to improve their health as well.  When readers wrote asking questions, it was so rewarding.

No, this way of eating doesn’t make me exempt from injuries (obviously) such as in Bali when I hurt my spine (fully recovered now) or in developing Helicobacter Pylori from tainted food in Fiji from which I’m still recovering. (It may take a few more months).

Toy truck and more trains on a shelf.

However, being pain-free and regaining my memory has truly been an awe-inspiring result which ultimately allowed us to travel the world and recall the most finite details of our lives of travel.

Plus, it’s allowed me to post our daily stories which require a tremendous amount of recall.  Tom, on the other hand, inherited great “memory genes” and does equally well.  Tom’s mother, at 98 years old could recall names, birthdates, and events of her huge family and her life over the prior 11 decades.  Tom’s eldest brother Jerome, at almost 89, has an equally finely tuned memory. 

Ironically, Tom with the greatest of ease, remembers dates of past and upcoming events, places we’ve visited and our numerous cruises while I recall names of places, people, expenses, and miscellaneous oddball items. 

Coin collection at the museum.

Long ago, when we began our travels, we each gravitated toward that which we’d prefer to recall most readily.  Thus, we can always depend on one another to fill in the blanks.  As we all can recall from our schooldays, we tend to recall topics of the most interest to us.

Each day as it comes and goes, with a bit of serendipity thrown in, we’re left with memories we’ll always cherish as part of this wondrous life we’re blessed to live.

May your day be filled with wondrous memories.


Photo from one year ago today, October 13, 2016:

Workers in the rice fields in Bali.  For more photos, please click here.

Visiting my sister in North Las Vegas…A meaningful and yet sorrowful experience…

The extreme heat creates a cloudy appearance in the desert, fog, blowing sand,  clouds, and/or smog in the valley.

Visiting my sister Susan (four years my senior) was one of our two reasons for coming to Las Vegas during this time in the US, spending time with my son Richard as the other. We have a few friends and a nephew of Tom’s we’ll also see while here.

My dear sister has been lying in bed, unable to walk for the past 12 years, suffering from the same spinal condition I have for which I have no pain after changing my diet in August 2011, almost six years ago.

Once I became pain-free (after three months on the “diet”), and Tom faced retirement, we decided to travel the world “while we can.” At any given time, I could awaken one morning and be faced with the return of the excruciating pain affecting what felt like every nerve in my body. 

We hope to dine at this restaurant when they have several options that work well for my way of eating, based on their menu found online.

That is the reason I so diligently follow this low inflammation diet excluding all sugar, fruit, grains, and starches, limiting my daily carb allotment to 15 grams, fat to 100 grams, and protein to around 65 grams. 

These restrictions leave me eating only grass-fed meat (when available), organic free-range chicken and eggs, organic non-starchy vegetables, and a small amount of full-fat dairy. 

Tom follows suit with me in this manner of eating when I’m cooking most of our meals, as we’re doing now during this three-week stay in Nevada. When we dine out, he prefers to indulge in some starches to supplement his meals, such as a bun on a burger, fries, and rice included with some dishes. 

In years past, when we visited Henderson, we dined at this popular restaurant and meeting spot, Elephant Bar.

I don’t have the liberty even to take a bite of such “luxuries,” and because I’m pain-free, I have no desire to taste any items not included in my plan. I haven’t had so much as a tiny bite of a cookie, cake, or fruit in these past six years. Why take the risk? 

Unfortunately, my sister has chosen to continue to find pleasure in food and, in reality, cannot prepare the sometimes more elaborate dishes that may require time standing in the kitchen chopping and dicing to put together an occasional interesting dish. She has health care helpers preparing her meals, not professional cooks, and they prepare only basic meals.
I understand how food can be such an important aspect of one’s life. As a long-time “foodie,” I may appreciate that fact all the more. As a former avid and enthusiastic cook with an attitude (at the time), “healthy whole grains,” fruits, and starches were good to incorporate into one’s meals.

Years ago, we frequented this popular chain restaurant.  But, with many choices of local establishments, we doubt we’ll return during this visit.

These days, I cringe over how I continued to literally “poison” myself with foods that ultimately caused a rise in blood sugar resulting in an inflammatory response.

This may not be true for everyone. Our bodies are unique in our response to a variety of foods. We see healthy individuals able to eat whatever they want, or a diet comparable to that in my “old life” who continue to thrive on a lower fat, high carb, and high sugar diet. 

There’s no benefit in my “preaching” to my sister on how she may be able to find substantial pain relief over the long haul in following this way of eating. She already knows, having tried it for a year to find her pain too, dissipated considerably, if not entirely. 

A stone marker designating the entrance to the Green Valley Ranch area in Henderson, where we’re located at this time.

Yet, with severe damage to her legs and feet from diabetic neuropathy, she was still unable to walk. This fact would hardly motivate a person to restrict their diet to such a huge extent. A short time later, she returned to the typical American diet (SAD, standard American diet) of high carbs and many sugary foods, starches, and grains. In no time at all, the pain returned. 

Of course, it’s difficult for me to see this lovely woman, a former highly successful businesswoman of the world, who traveled extensively and played a hand in many exciting business transactions, now lying in bed, basically helpless and in pain.

Her beautiful spirit and upbeat demeanor make being with her purely delightful. Few individuals could maintain such a positive attitude with her current situation. Somehow, she revels in the experiences of her long-ago past and seems to live vicariously through the joy and excitement of our world travels. 

One of the roads in The District in Green Valley Ranch where there are unique shops and restaurants.

There’s not one iota of sadness or jealousy in her demeanor when she asks many questions about our world travels. Having owned a major travel agency in her past, she too had an opportunity to travel the world and loves sharing stories of places we’ve mutually visited, only at different times.

On Monday, I visited her for three hours and will head out soon to see her again. The drive to her home is over 30 miles away and takes approximately 45 minutes, considering some traffic on the freeway. 

Driving all the way on Highway 215 seems to be the best route but is a boring drive through the barren desert with not much in the way of interesting scenery. But, once I walk in the door to her apartment and see her smiling face, the boring drive is long forgotten, and all is right with the world.

May your day be filled with events that make your day feel “right” for YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, July 12, 2016:

It was scorching and uncomfortable on the long walk to and around this site, The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…A look at “real life” in the Fijian Islands, often centered around farming…

Today’s late posting is a result of a poor wifi signal which has made posting photos and line spacing difficult.  We apologize for the delay.

This duck’s unusual crown caught our attention. He seemed proud of his facial characteristics.

Once we arrived at Kusma’s house to purchase the eggs, we waited outside taking photos of the various chickens, roosters, and ducks wandering about her front yard. 

We weren’t certain if there were more chickens at the back of the house. We preferred not to intrude asking to see more. There were plenty of chickens, gathering around our feet, pecking here and there, seemingly content and busy in their simple chicken lives.

The several roosters began to crow, taking turns at the spotlight.  One, in particular, appeared to be the “cock of the walk” strutting about with a sense of confidence we’d only seen in lions, not necessarily in chickens. It was highly entertaining.

Not only were there chickens wandering about the yard, but there were also a few ducks.

A dear friend of mine in Minnesota lived five minutes from us. She had a well-equipped chicken coup, kept suitably warm in the frigid winters. When I’d visit, she’d holler, “Chickens!” They’d come running, making me howl. She also had a few adult goats, two sisters, that would sit on our laps while in lawn chairs in the garden, while we chatted with cups of coffee in hand. Even then, I couldn’t get enough of animals, regardless of their species.

Kusma came outside and Ratnesh introduced us.  She spoke a little English but not much. The overwhelming majority of Indo-Fijians speak Fiji Hindustani or Fiji Hindi. This language developed out of contact between speakers of different dialects of Hindi/Urdu (one of the native languages of India) and their bosses on the colonial-era sugar plantations.”

She shook our hands with a hint of trepidation, looking at Ratnesh, a relative whom she knew well, for his approval. He nodded assuring her we were good. In as few words as possible, I explained we’d be staying here in the neighborhood of Korovesi, (comparable to a suburb) for a total of three months and would like to buy her eggs regularly if that was acceptable to her.

The chickens were nibbling on something in this tin bowl. The contents could certainly be a determining factor if the eggs would be considered organic, although they wouldn’t be “certified” by any means, a process not done here in Savusavu.

As best as I could, I explained that Usi would pick them up for us in the future with the ride too difficult in a vehicle. We didn’t see any cars or trucks in the yards of the houses in that mountainous difficult-to-reach area.

I kindly asked for four dozen eggs, for now, knowing we still had the rough walk back up to the car and Ratnesh insisted he carry them.  We’d brought along the cloth bag we purchased in Kenya that has traveled well, laundering it on occasion and happy it’s worn so well for a $2 purchase so long ago. The four dozen eggs fit perfectly into the bag.

She charged us FJD $20, USD $9.20 which translates to FJD $5.00, USD $2.40 a dozen. Not too bad a price for free-range and antibiotic-free eggs. She may charge the local less, but we were content to pay her whatever she deemed fair.

It looks as if a pair of shorts fell off the clothesline and one of the birds dragged it away from the line.

Whether or not her eggs could have been classified as organic under other circumstances remains to be seen, as described below, for example from the USDA (not necessarily our favorite government entity):

“The label USDA Organic is your best bet when buying chicken or eggs. In terms of chicken, it means that your bird has been fed a vegetarian diet that is also organic and therefore does not include any GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or chemical pesticides.

It also means that the birds must be raised according to organic standards within two days of being born, are not fed any hormones, antibiotics, or drugs, have access to outdoor space, clean drinking water, and be raised “per animal health and welfare standards” according to the USDA.”

The roosters were competing for crowing rights, each taking his turn.

We highly doubt Kusma’s chickens are given hormones, antibiotics, or any other types of drugs. We witnessed the free-roaming aspect when we arrived unannounced to a few dozen chickens and several ducks wandering in the front yard. We noticed a faucet with spring water provided for the chickens and the household. There’s no city water in the area. (We’ve had no problems drinking the spring water, although if in town, we’d only drink bottled water).

We also noticed a large tin bucket filled with some type of feed.  We can’t assume the feed in that bucket was non-GMO. But, pesticides aren’t used in Fiji or, for that matter, in many other parts of the world. Most free-range chickens are fed some type of feed when the immediate surroundings may not provide enough nutrients to produce good eggs. (Kusma’s yard had been well pecked to the bare soil in spots).

We observed this with feral chickens in Kauai, in the thousands or more, skinny and malnourished living off the land, still able to produce offspring and survive. Residents we spoke with explained that many have tried catching and cooking them only to find they’re tough and relatively inedible.

Homes with tin roofs, many worn and old, maintained to the best of the ability of the owners over decades.

Perhaps the bucket a few of the chickens were nibbling from contained Kusma’s leftover food scraps for all we know. Goodness, when I cook each day, I have enough leftovers to feed that many chickens bits of meat and vegetable scraps. We didn’t ask. Many local people don’t have a lot of resources to purchase chicken feed and may easily manage off of what is available in their daily lives or growing under their feet. 

Kusma took the Kenya bag from us, entered the house, and several minutes later returning with the four dozen eggs in used crates (which we’ll return) neatly fitting into the bag. It was heavier than one might expect. 
Taking several photos, eggs in hand, we said goodbye thanking Kusma with a heartfelt “vinaka” (thank you in Fijian), and began the muddy trek back up the hill to the car. Luckily, Ratnesh has cardboard for floor mats in his car. We tried getting the mud off our shoes as best as we could on the wet grass, unable to completely do so.
We made it back without slipping or falling and once again were on our way to the village for the rest of our shopping. The cloud cover had returned and the air was thick with humidity. 
These large pots in the window of the hardware store inspired me to stop in to look for a kitchen utensil.
Ratnesh dropped us off at the Farmer’s Market where we could easily scurry about to our favorite vendors finding everything we purchase each time. Then, we made the short walk across the road to the small grocery store for the balance. 

When checking out, I called Ratnesh to pick us up. With disappointment in his voice, he explained he wouldn’t be able to pick us up for another 25 minutes. He was picking up a customer for a ride to the airport.

We’d told him he’s free to take other fares after dropping us off, not asking him to wait for us. We’d anticipate the shopping would take longer but having gone shopping only four days earlier we needed only a dozen items at the grocer. Thus, we called him 30 minutes earlier than he’d expected.

After paying for our food, the clerk told us we could leave our food inside in the trolley inside the AC store while we waited.  The trolleys aren’t allowed outside nor could they make it down the several steps to the street. Hands-free, we stood outside the building for 25 minutes waiting for Ratnesh.

Easily entertained while people-watching, the time passed quickly. I ran across the street to a hardware store while Tom stayed behind. Would they carry a “turner” (spatula) used for flipping eggs? They had some huge pots in the window as shown in the above photo. Surely, they must have kitchen wares.

Houses in the surrounding area.
They didn’t have a turner or any other kitchenware and suggested we try the grocery stores which we’d already done without any luck. There is no kitchen wares type store anywhere in Savusavu.  Why would they when such items are handed down from generation to generation or otherwise shipped when foreigners decide to make Fiji their full or part-time residence? Tourists don’t typically purchase kitchen utensils. 

When Ratnesh returned we head directly to see Helen at Fiji Meats, who was holding two roasted chickens for us after we’d called earlier in the day with the request. They’re delicious, wheat-free, and easier to purchase already roasted rather than using the portable atop our kitchen counter, making the house hot on these hot humid days.   

Once back home by 4 pm, I was busy until dinnertime, washing all the veggies and attempting to make room in the tiny refrigerator for everything we’d purchased. The fridge and freezer are the same sizes we had in Trinity Beach and many other locations.  I’m getting good at this task, somehow managing to fit everything inside, fresh washed and ready to prepare.

Yesterday afternoon, I washed the outside of two dozen of Kusma’s eggs in a  bowl of lukewarm water with a little sink soap.  Getting the exterior clean is important when cracking open raw eggs to avoid contamination.

Taking a better part of the afternoon, I cooked four packages of streaky bacon (10 slices per pack) to make another batch of Tom’s favorite breakfast quiche (crust-less), dicing each slice of bacon into bite-sized pieces, hand grating the cheese, dicing and precooking the onions. Cracking the 24 cleaned eggs, I was pleased not to find a single bad egg.

Unusual marking on this duck gave him the rights for the main photo today.
Baking the egg dish in three batches since I only had the two pans we’d shipped from Australia, the end result was 20 portions which I  always freeze in sandwich bags for three days portions, taking out a new bag each three days to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Tom has this every morning for breakfast. Although I love this dish, I’m never hungry in the morning.

With the leftover cooked bacon I’d diced, I made the Ghee, Garlic, and Bacon Green Beans with lots of spices. I’d carefully washed the green beans but when done cooking the dish while placing it into a container, I spotted a worm I’d cooked in the pan while sautéing the beans. I flicked it away and continued on. We reheated a batch to have with dinner last night and will do so again tonight.

I feel like a farm wife in some ways. Although I don’t clean much, other than after cooking and only hand wash kitchen towels and my underwear, I find myself spending the better part of each afternoon preparing food that may have already been prepared when purchasing it years ago in the US.

The only thing missing from being a real farm wife is the mashed potatoes, homemade bread, and of course, the apple pie with hand-rolled crust. I made those in our old lives prior to eating this way. Instead, now, we have mashed cauliflower on occasion, low carb grain free muffins, and coconut cookies for dessert. No complaining here. It’s all good.

For those of our readers disinterested in food, we apologize for this extended period of stories about purchasing and preparing local foods. For now, we’ll move on to other topics. Thanks for hanging with us.

For the foodies out there, we often receive comments and support for our discussions about food shopping and prep particularly from those attempting to adopt a more healthy manner of eating. Thank you all for the positive feedback.

Have a fun-filled safe weekend, treasuring every moment. It’s raining again today. So it goes…life in the tropics.

Photo from one year ago today, September 27, 2014:

Rough seas and all, the Captain’s Club party aboard the ship carries on as we continued on course to Hawaii. For more details, please click here.

Part 1…A look at “real life” in the Fijian Islands, often centered around farming…

As we approached this pair atop this table turned away from us while others curiously meandered toward us.

The longer we’ve traveled, the less interest we’ve had in traditional tourist points of interest, other than the often revered scenic beauty at particulars sites and the viewing and photographing wildlife indigenous to the country.

As we shape our “travel personalities” we’ve found a gradual change over time, one in which we’re often unaware until…a scenario is presented to us and we are overwhelmed with a sense of intrigue, compassion, and enthusiasm to gain insight into the lives of the true locals, generations of families working hard to survive in an often difficult environment.

So it was yesterday when we stumbled upon such an opportunity when all we wanted was to purchase fresh, free-range eggs. Since our arrival, buying eggs at the market, we’ve found at least two of each dozen to be rotten like we’ve never seen before. Rotten eggs (black on the inside) are most likely caused by bacteria. 

This is the beginning of the dirt road we traveled to Kusma’s house. Bouncing in the car made it impossible to hold the camera steady.  Thus, a few blurry photos today.

We realize this is a risk when buying free-range eggs from a market when we have no idea how or where they’ve come from or how long they’ve been sitting on the shelves. In asking around, we discovered from our sweet housekeeper Usi, that there’s an egg farm nearby, not necessarily easy to get to. 

Usi suggested we ask Ratnesh to drive us up the mountain to a little village of approximately 60 homes and see Kusma, whose entire family income is derived from the sale of eggs. The thought of being able to add even a tiny bit to that income, purchasing her free-range, chemical-free eggs during our remaining time in Savusavu, only added to our enthusiasm. 

Buying local has been an ongoing objective as we’ve traveled the world, supporting the hard-working local farmers and food producers in our desire for chemical-free, fresh foods befitting our way of eating.

I’d wished we could stop for photos but Ratnesh had to maintain momentum the higher we climbed.

Yesterday, when the sun peeked out for a short period with a downpour predicted in the afternoon, we called Ratnesh to take us to the egg farm and another trip into town for the Farmer’s Market, grocery and meat market. 

It makes us smile at how little we typically purchase at the grocery store, using yesterday’s purchases as an example; bar soap, paper towels, plastic bags, sponges and sink soap, locally made cultured sour cream (used in making salad dressing), canned coconut cream (without added sugar), real cream from New Zealand for coffee, ground coffee (only one brand available), sea salt (we’re almost finished with our Costco container of Himalayan salt) and Italian spices.  

Many items are simply not available here: Parmesan cheese or any similar cheese, grated cheese (we grate chunks of “pizza cheese” by hand); cream cheese; onion or garlic powder (used in many of our recipes); fresh mushrooms, romaine lettuce, parchment paper or a metal spatula, to name a few.

There are approximately 60 homes in this area, Ratnesh explained, many of them his relatives.
Over 40% of people living in Fiji today are descendants from India: See below for details:
“Most Indo-Fijians are the descendants of indentured laborers brought to Fiji during the nineteenth century by the British. In the system of indentured labor, workers (who had been moved to a new country against their will) were forced to perform a job for little or no pay until they earned enough money to buy their freedom. The system was created to provide cheap workers for British colonies after the abolition of slavery in Britain and its colonies in 1833.

The first indentured laborers from India arrived in Fiji in 1879 and the indenture system lasted until 1916. Other immigrants from India arrived in Fiji in the early twentieth century, and they opened small shops in the coastal towns. The Indo-Fijians are part of the South Asian diaspora (a community of ethnically related displaced peoples) that includes the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, Trinidad in the Caribbean, Guyana in South America, South Africa, and North America.”

The only produce we’ve purchased at the grocery store has been celery which is unavailable at the Farmer’s Market. We purchase no meat or frozen products only buying fresh at the other locations.

One might think, reading here, that we’re obsessed with food. Perhaps, we are. But, a huge part of the lives of locals centers around the production and sale of food products. Why not embrace these foods into our lives as well, when we can’t eat out much due to our diet and, we love our homemade meals using the products that are available?

The beautiful vegetation we see in our yard extends to all areas.

For us, purchasing and preparing food has become of even greater interest than years ago when anyone that knew me knew I was a “foodie.” Just because the types of foods I can eat have changed, my interest and desire remain firmly in place to create great meals providing us with nourishment and pleasure. For most of us, we derive tremendous pleasure from food. Why not enjoy good food as opposed to unhealthy?

Over these past months, watching Tom continually lose weight, a little each month, eating exactly what I eat with the exception of some vegetables, has only added to our combined interest. Seeing his belly shrink month after month, only makes me happy in one regard…perhaps he’ll be healthy and around longer. 

Selfishly, I want him around and free of the health problems often associated with belly fat which also indicates fat wrapped around one’s internal organs. Also, he seems to like it when his pants fit. We don’t have the privilege of hauling clothing in various sizes to accommodate a change in waist size (for either of us).

With clothes dryers an unnecessary luxury in third world countries, clotheslines are seen in most yards.

I don’t give a hoot about the “look” of the big belly, it’s only what it represents that worries me, and hearing him huff and puff carrying our bags when he’s also carrying extra poundage on his body is also worrisome as we age. With the belly gone, his strength and ability to haul the bulk of our heavy bags have only improved.

When Ratnesh arrived and we explained our desire to go to Kusma’s farm for eggs, he hesitated. We sensed this immediately, quickly explaining if he didn’t want to make that drive, no problem. Usi had offered to bring us Kusma’s eggs the next time she walks up the mountain to visit her family who lives nearby. We knew it was going to be a steep drive on a muddy, pothole, dirt road, a challenge, based on what Usi had told us.

Ratnesh thought it over and in his desire to please, he insisted it would be OK as long as we didn’t mind bouncing around up the steep and uneven road. We didn’t mind. We gave him several opportunities to decline.  He turned them all down and off we went. 

This was the first of many goats we encountered in the area.  The only meat the locals eat is goat, lamb, fish (they catch), and chicken. 

I realize we wrote that the drive up the mountain with Sewak as the steepest road we’ve traveled in a vehicle.  Now, we can add, that the road to Kusma’s home was the most uneven, steep, rutted road we’ve traveled on during these past years. Wow! The ride in itself was an adventure. 

Sitting in the backseat by myself with Tom in the front with Ratnesh, I practically hung out the window taking photos. It was impossible for Ratnesh to stop for my photo taking or he’d lose his momentum. We continued on for some time until finally, he parked on a patch of wild grass when we could go no further.

We had no choice to walk up the remainder of the muddy hill to Kusma’s house. There was no way either of us were going to say we wouldn’t walk up the dangerous balance of the hill when Ratnesh worked so hard getting up the hill. Tom hung onto me most of the way with much younger Ratnesh offering another hand over a  few particularly rough spots. 

Finally, we arrived at Kusma’s house after we navigated down this slippery hill, still wet from all the rain.

I could easily have made it up the hill on my own but we’re extra cautious to avoid me falling, which could topple my delicate spine putting a fast end to our travels. We easily recall when the steps collapsed under our feet in Belize in 2013. Click here for that story with photos, if you missed it.

Recalling the hike to the Queen’s Bath in Kauai (click here for the story, if you missed it as well), I knew we could make it. By far, that was much more treacherous. This was a “walk in the park” comparatively. For these young fit Fijians who walk up and down these hills all of their lives, this hike is a normal course of life.

Finally, we arrived, shoes muddy, bodies sweaty and filled with excitement. The level of excitement we felt wasn’t about eggs. It was about being in this tucked away village with Fijians who’d spent their lives in this remote area, often living off the land. Tomorrow, we’ll share the continuation of this story with many more photos including the trip into the village after the visit to the farm.

It’s these types of experiences that make all of our travels meaningful and purposeful; the people, their lives, their love of nature and their surroundings, and their willingness to share even a tiny piece of it with us. How did we get so lucky? 

Photo from this date one year ago, September 26, 2014:

It was one year ago aboard the Celebrity Soltice, on our way from Vancouver to Honolulu, that we experienced some rough seas. Check out this video. For more details, please click here.

Wheat, grain, starch, sugar free low carb pizza crust?…Yep!…

Each night, as I make dinner either for myself when Tom works late, or for both of us, I wonder how we will eat in a foreign land.  As I lay out our organic produce, grass fed beef, wild caught fish or free range organic chicken, I anticipate these items won’t be readily available where we are going.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, as of last August, we became gluten free, sugar free, starch free, grain and wheat free and low carb. Whew! Yes, it’s a challenge, but worth it! 

For me, this way of eating has been a huge improvement in blood lipids, including glucose, triglycerides, HDL and cholesterol.  With a family history of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, years ago I became mindful of a healthy lifestyle.  

Over the years I have been able to combat the obesity factor with a careful “low fat” diet and regular exercise while painstakingly sacrificing the pleasure of enjoying my most favorite foods: desserts, with a proverbial sweet tooth.

Alas, all this effort was to no avail. I found myself with heart problems for which I had surgery two years ago, hypertension for which I still take medication and borderline diabetes with spiking blood sugars an hour after eating a carbohydrate rich meal.  How could this be?  I followed the USDA guidelines, MY PLATE and yet, my health continued to decline.

After hundreds of hours of reading the various Harvard, Mayo Clinic, UCLA Medical, Cleveland Clinic, etc., medical studies I, ultimately, ending up reading a book that changed my life forever, “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis about the destruction of the wheat that our ancestors knew, formerly 14 chromosomes, now 44 chromosomes, genetically changed with the intent to increase the world’s wheat production; a faster growing, shorter crop that can withstand the use of Monsanto’s ROUNDUP!  Oh, good grief!

Last August, Tom (who went kicking and screaming) and I both gave up wheat, rice (both white and brown), grains, bread, doughnuts, cake, cookies, pies, grain fed meat, farmed fish, corn, sugar, soda pop, MSG, potatoes, starchy vegetables, and on and on.  Tom has now lost 30 pounds.  I didn’t need to lose any weight, but desperately needed to change my health.  This way of eating did exactly that!  

A few weeks ago, a full round of blood tests confirmed that finally eating healthy fat and eliminating wheat, grains, sugar, starches and reducing carb consumption did indeed change my health for the better.  Tom, now a believer, will enjoy a favorite item from time to time. But I adhere to this way of eating strictly, realizing the risk is too high if I don’t.

Tonight, we’re having homemade pizza made without wheat or any form of flour or starch.  Here is our homemade crust with the recipe which is easy to make.

Homemade Grain Free Pizza Crust
Recipe for Jessica’s Homemade Grain Free Pizza Crust
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 beaten egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a pizza pan with the dull side of Reynolds Non Stick Tin Foil

Mix cheeses and beaten egg in a bowl. Spread mixture evenly over  parchment paper placed into the pan.  If necessary to fill holes, sprinkle a little more cheese. This doesn’t have to be exact.

Bake in preheated oven for about 14 minutes, keeping a close eye to ensure it doesn’t get too brown.  Let cool before adding toppings.
The challenge had been to find a pizza sauce without  sugar.  The best sauce I have found thus far is Rao’s Marinara Sauce, easily found at most grocery stores.  Although pricey at $8.95 a jar, it does make four pizzas, which is less than a standard jar of sugary pizza sauce.
For the balance of the pizza, we like to add one pound of pre-cooked and drained hot Italian sausage, 3/4 cup sliced green olives, one cup, sliced mushrooms and 1/2 cup diced onions, all topped off with about 12 oz. mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, again checking frequently for a perfect bubbly golden top.  We love this pizza!
The question becomes, will we be able to make our pizzas in in Belize, Madeira, Tuscany, Mombasa or Mallorca?  Will we have access to Rao’s or a good substitute, a pizza pan and parchment paper?  How readily available are grass fed beef, free range chicken and organic vegetables?
Will we be able to find sugar free maple syrup for our low carb coconut flour pancakes? Will we be able to buy coconut and almond flour or coconut oil, staples in our diet? What about our Crystal Lite Iced Tea? Liquid Stevia?  Alpha lipoic acid supplements?
If anyone knows the answers to these questions, please comment at the bottom of the post.  Love to hear from you.  Love to stop wondering what we’ll make for dinner!  With our way of eating, it’s been challenging enough!