More fun times with friends in The Villages…

We’ve had a great time with friends Lea Ann and Chuck.

Lea Ann and Chuck arrived at the house exactly at 3:00 pm as planned. It was wonderful to see them. Although we’ve talked and stayed in touch via social media over the years, we haven’t seen them in six years. How time has flown! As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we met them on a cruise in 2017 on a cruise from Sydney to Seattle.

We’d only spent a few hours with them since the cruise was about to end, but the four of us hit it off and stayed in touch. When they arrived yesterday, we picked up right where we left off, and the conversation flowed easily and enthusiastically.

Us, last night at the Blue Fin while waiting for an indoor table with Lea Ann and Chuck.

As frequent world travelers, they both had similar stories to ours, although they have a home in Florida. They thanked us for encouraging them to embark on their travel journey and have spent a lot of time in places we’ve visited in the past. They even stayed in the house next door to the holiday home we rented in a remote area of Bali in 2016, loving the experience we had as well.

We’ll be anxious to hear about their nine-month world cruise beginning in December, which we discussed in yesterday’s post. They are very excited about this unique opportunity.

We get a kick out of customized golf carts.

We sat in the living room and chatted for an hour or so and then headed to Brownwood, where we once again went to the Blue Fin for dinner, a repeat after Friday night when Karen and Rich were here. Since it was Father’s Day and the restaurant was packed, we had a long wait to get a table but sat outdoors on their veranda, having a great time, and each had a drink while we waited for a table indoors.

We were finally seated indoors. It was hot and humid outdoors after the previous day’s rainstorm, and we all agreed that dining indoors would be more comfortable, and it certainly was.

My dinner was a shrimp salad. It was ok. I don’t like curly lettuce like this.

Back at the house by 8:30 pm, we served dessert, and again, the four of us lounged in the living room, telling endless stories of our travels, including some outrageous experiences that are unavoidable during long travels. It was interesting to hear their similar ups and downs, knowing we weren’t alone in the challenges one meets traveling long term.

By 11:30, I started fading and headed to bed, and Tom joined me about an hour later while the three of them continued the lively conversation. I wished I could have stayed up longer. As I write here at almost 10:00 am, Lea Ann and Chuck are still sleeping. As soon as they awaken, we’ll make breakfast.

Lea Ann and Chuck both had the grouper topped with crab and a white sauce.

This afternoon, they’ll be back on the road to return to their home in Dunedin, which is a two-hour drive from here. Once again, we’ve had a fantastic time with friends. In the past 24 hours, I heard from my dear friend Lisa whom we haven’t seen since 2017. On Friday, she and her friend Vicki are heading here for a visit.

Lisa and I have been friends for about 35 years, meeting in the late 1980s. Over the years, we, too, have stayed in touch, and it will be wonderful to see her again and meet her friend Vicki.

We haven’t had much of an opportunity to get together with all of the readers who contacted us. We apologize for this. We assumed we’d have plenty of time to do so, but time has slipped away as it often does. In only 39 days, we’ll be on our way to Scotland. How wonderful that we’re so enjoying our time here and yet, have so much awaiting us in the future.

Be well.

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

My bathroom in the 300-year-old stone house in Boveglio, Italy, where we stayed for three months. Tom took the smaller bathroom in our bedroom. There’s no tub, and the shower is small, but it serves its purpose. For more photos, please click here.

A holiday in the US will be celebrated next Thursday on the day we depart…Baking on a hot day with load shedding…

Tom likes these low-carb blueberry almond flour scones. We freeze them, and he takes one each day to defrost quickly.

We knew that our departure date to travel to Seychelles was on the Thanksgiving holiday celebrated in the US on November 24, 2022. Thank goodness we aren’t flying to the US since flights will be overbooked. Some Americans may sail with us on the cruise through the islands, and perhaps some may have chosen to travel on this particular holiday when they had a few extra days off work. We shall see soon enough.

In our old lives for many years, Thanksgiving was a big holiday for us. It was a busy time with many family traditions surrounding this holiday and Christmas. Over the years, three of our four children had children of their own, after which those family dinner celebrations at our house occurred less and less often as our kids began to create their traditions. By the time we left in 2012 for our world travels, holidays had become less significant to us.

Once we were on our way, we decided not to celebrate US holidays as we had in our old lives. We observe the significance and spirituality of certain holidays, but we don’t create a series of events and celebrations surrounding them. On a few occasions, while here in Marloth Park, we have celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year with local friends.

I made this low-carb macadamia nut flour bread. It’s a little dry compared to other bread I’ve made. My favorite is made with moist coconut flour. I will cut this up into slices and freeze them, using two thin slices daily for my avocado and egg toast.

But, when in a country. Where we don’t necessarily have many friends, the most we may do is go out for a nice meal at a local restaurant, not necessarily ordering food catering to the traditions of the specific holiday. We are OK with this.

As for birthdays, we’ll be celebrating my 75th birthday this coming February at a bush party. Coincidentally, Tom’s 70th birthday is on December 23. Unfortunately, his birthday is so close to Christmas that gathering enough guests for a party isn’t easy. We’ll do something special that evening, even if it’s only dinner at Jabula with a few friends.

Many of our friends are gone during December to their homes in other countries, and they also prefer to be gone in the hot summer months in the bush due to the heat, humidity, insects, and snakes. We sure understand this. However, this will be the fourth year we’ve celebrated Tom’s birthday and Christmas in the bush.

Another dung beetle and his wife rolled around the garden next to a pellet for size reference.

Also, we decided some time ago not to purchase gifts for one another when we have no room in our luggage, nor is there anything that we would particularly enjoy that is available nearby or online. Postal service is limited, and as we’ve repeatedly mentioned, sending items via UPS, FedEx or DHL is time-consuming, costly, and problematic.

On the few occasions we’ve cooked for Thanksgiving, we haven’t been able to find turkeys or pumpkin pie filling. Our friend Kathy found some small turkeys in Johannesburg or Nelspruit over the past several years, and she brought cans of pumpkin pie filling from the US for the pies. I’d purchased several tins of pumpkin pie spices in the US and brought them here. But traveling with food is nonsensical regularly.

Most likely, I have written about this topic in prior posts. But, after over 3700 posts, it’s difficult not to be repetitive. We only hope that our new readers coming on board may not have read about these topics in the past. The same thing applies to our photos. On occasions, we post a past photo more than once. Most often, we mention this. But the photos we generally post each day are new and have never been published in the past.

Tulip and Lilac have been coming to our garden since Lilac was very tiny. She’s growing fast, but they still hang out together, most likely until Tuplip is pregnant again, when Lilac may be on her own.

Speaking of which, we realize our posts are repetitive in many ways, but as mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible not to be so after writing daily for the past ten years. Let’s face it, life is repetitive, no matter how hard we may strive for unique and exciting experiences. Amid this reality, we attempt to mix it up as much as we can.

Now that load shedding ended one of its four outages today; I am baking a new loaf of my low-carb bread which I use to make avocado and egg toast each morning, a healthy start to each day. Tom doesn’t care for the taste, so I bake other low-carb treats.

It’s time to go to the outdoor laundry room to collect the first two batches to hang on the outdoor rack that Tom always sets up on the veranda when I wash twice a week. Tonight, we’re off to Jabula for dinner and to see Leon and Dawn after their time away to see his oncologist and spend a few restful nights in Nelspruit. They certainly deserve this short break.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 18, 2021:

It was a thrill to see this adorable dark impala at the entrance to the airport. For more photos, please click here.

Oh, what a night!!!…Thanksgiving nirvana…See our menu at the end of the post…

From left to right around the table:  Kathy, Janet, Steve, Don, Louise, Danie, Leon, Dawn, Uchi, Evan while Tom and I shared the end of the table. Total in attendance: 12.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Good-sized turtle crossing the road at quite a pace.

It was definitely a night to remember. Marloth Park friends, all who love the bush and its wildlife, enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal for the first time, except for Americans Kathy and Don.

Thanksgiving dinner on the veranda with friends.

Tom and I worked hard in the heat for two full days to get it all pulled together. No doubt, I did the bulk of the cooking but he washes the cooking dishes; peeled two types of potatoes; helped with the pies; the veranda setup and so much more. We’re quite a team at times like this.

The wine and cocktails flowed along with the lively conversation.

I can’t recall the last time we did a dinner for 12. Surely, it was in our old lives sometime in 2012 before we left Minnesota on October 31st. I’d forgotten how much work it is but the joy of sharing food, wine and conversation with great friends made it all worth it.

On the right, Evan, Uschi, Dawn and Leon.

Fortunately, everything came out well, although, at the last minute with a few items to reheat in the new microwave, we couldn’t get it to work. With time running out to meet the 1930 hrs (7:30 pm) goal of sitting down to eat, I improvised and reheated the items on the stove and all was fine.

We were only off the dining time by 10 minutes. It was wonderful to finally sit down and enjoy the enthusiasm of our guests over the unique flavors of the foods.

Each couple got their own roast stuffed chicken.

We’d given each couple an entire stuffed chicken with the many side dishes. After dinner, with all the leftovers still on the countertop, we handed each couple two takeaway containers to fill with their leftover chicken and any sides they wanted to take home for Sunday’s lunch or dinner.

It was fun and playful to see everyone partake in filling their takeaway containers (brought to us from Jabula by Dawn and Leon). It reminded us of the many years we did the same with our family…take home leftovers and a pie.

Homemade cranberry sauce.

The full-sized pumpkin pies were lined up on the pool table ready for them to load up to take home along with their containers. We served a separate larger pie after the meal so each couple could take home a complete full-sized pie. We served whipped cream in the can with the pies.

It was hard for me not to take a taste of everything not only to ensure it all tasted good but, let’s face it, my resolve faded for the night and I actually ate a few items I’d never eat under normal circumstances. At the end of the evening, I even went as far as having a small piece of the regular pumpkin pie.

On the left, a pan of extra stuffing, in the center, sweet potatoes (they are light colored here, not orange).

Today, with no leftover chicken but plenty of all the other sides, we’ll be roasting a “flattie” chicken, chicken livers and a couple of bone-in chicken breasts. This will allow us to have full meals for the next few night’s dinners. I don’t feel like cooking for a few days.

Of course, today, I’m back to my healthy way of eating and will only have chicken, lettuce salad and steamed spinach for tonight’s dinner while Tom will tackle the stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and the homemade dinner rolls (he sure loves these!).  He’ll have pie for dessert and I’ve promised myself I will abstain.  

More stuffing.

Oh my gosh, there were so many dishes. But, leave it to Louise to have arranged for Vusi to come this morning to do the dishes, clean the house and the veranda, putting everything back to its usual tidy and clean state.  

Tom had a hard time leaving the dishes overnight. We always totally clean up after dinner. But, after the two days of 40C (102F) temps and how busy we’d been, he loaded the dishwasher twice after awakening at 5:30 am this morning, lightening the work for Vusi.

Low carb mashed cauliflower.

This morning, I washed all the linen napkins, cleaned the countertops, did two loads of laundry and organized the refrigerator.  All we have to do for the rest of today is to make a salad and vegetables, cook the new chicken and have another excellent evening on the veranda. A nap may be on the agenda since we didn’t get to bed until 1:30 am and both were awake before 5:00 am.

Last night, we had several visitors in the garden but were so preoccupied with our guests we didn’t pay as much attention to them as usual. Tusker made an appearance along with our favorite warthog pair, two males, glued at the hip, Sigfreid and Roy. We can’t tell them apart since they look identical (must be brothers) so we call each of them “Siegfreid and Roy.” They both respond and did so last night during the party. 

Traditional green bean casserole.  Kathy brought the fried onions back from the US!  Thanks, Kathy!

On Friday night when we returned from Jabula, they were both cuddled up in the garden fast asleep. They perked up when we arrived but waited patiently to see if we’d offer some pellets.  Of course, we did as we will again tonight.

As promised, here’s last night’s Thanksgiving dinner menu which we’d decorated and printed a copy of the menu for each couple to review in order to pace themselves:

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Bush
Sundowners with Light Snacks
Roasted chickens
Stuffing with Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions
Mashed Potatoes with Creamy Gravy
Buttery Mashed Cauliflower
Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Pineapple and Cinnamon
Broccoli Salad with Crunchy Almonds and Sultanas
Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onion Rings
Cranberry Sauce
Homemade dinner rolls
Pumpkin Pies
Whipped Cream Topping, if desired

Have a superb day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 18, 2017:

A fluffed up version on an unknown bird Tom captured in Costa Rica. For more details details, please click here.

Yesterday’s pumpkin pie hell!….Thanksgiving celebration today…Pie photo below…

There is nothing that makes me laugh more…”Little” swimming in the cement pond!

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Bottlebrush flowers, along with others have begun to bloom in the park.

To name yesterday’s making and baking of eight pumpkin pies, “pumpkin pie hell” is putting it lightly. The temp was as high as 40C (102F) for most of the day and one thing after another went wrong in making the pies.

Egyptian goose standing in shallow water at the river.

First, I must preface, I haven’t made a pumpkin pie since 2011, for our last Thanksgiving dinner in the US (except for last week’s “test pie”). I didn’t have the proper kitchen equipment to make the beautiful-looking pies I’d always made in the past.

In our old lives, we had 14 deep dish Pyrex glass pie pans which I’d collected over a number of years. But, when sending family and friends home with their individual pie, I warned them if they didn’t return the glass pie pan, there’d be no “pie for them” in the future. This worked.

Big Daddies, sharing pellets with each other and the zebras.

Since it makes no sense for us to invest in bakeware, instead we purchased the only pie pans we could find, the tin foil disposable variety. I’d never made a pumpkin pie in one of these except for a few low-carb cheesecakes a few months ago which didn’t present a problem.

The other issue was the Spar market ran out of frozen pumpkin, the only source available. We’d purchased all they had the prior week and they promised more would arrive this past week. Didn’t happen. This is Africa, after all. We get it.  

A very muddy cape buffalo.

We tried a few other markets to no avail. Pumpkin isn’t readily available in South Africa.  Why would it be?  Pumpkin pie is a US thing and it’s not as if there are lots of Americans around here, making Thanksgiving dinner.  

As a matter of fact, the only Americans we know or even talked to in the past nine months are friends Kathy and Don and long-term US residents Rita and Gerhard.

A big male lion a few days ago.

I decided to cook all the frozen pumpkin we had, measure the number of cups, figuring .41 liters (14 oz) per pie. Fortunately, I had a one-cup measure on hand and calculated I could make a total of eight pies. We needed one for each of the other couples (four pies), two to serve after the meal, and two leftovers for Tom. Whew! That part worked out.

But, what a messy operation measuring from a big plastic container filled with mashed pumpkin. Next was the making of the pies. Having no experience with tin foil pie pans, I made all the pie crusts from scratch, eight of them, one at a time, rolled the dough with a giant rolling pin Louise loaned me, and prepared each of the crusts in the tin foil pans.

I believe this is an orange-breasted bush shrike.  Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Well, let’s get back to the weather for a moment. It was a hot 40C (102F) and the pie crust dough was tricky to handle and get into each of the pie tins. Plus, the usually easy part of neatly crimping the edges of the pie crust became nearly impossible. I did the best I could.

Cape buffalo faces.

Once the crusts were prepared I lined them all on the counter and carefully and evenly filled each of the prepared pie crusts with the typically runny pumpkin pie filling I’d made. The problem was when we attempted to lift the filled pies off the countertop to put them into the oven, the flimsy pie tins caused the liquid the spill out.

Mom and baby at the river’s edge.

With Tom helping, with his frustration level as high as the temperature, he devised a transfer system where we could add extras tins to the bottom of the pies, to increase the stability of the pan.  From there, it was a slow and laborious process, I spilled several cups of the filling as a result of my usual clumsiness.

The oven cooks unevenly and without the metal crust edge protectors I usually used, the pie crust edges are uneven and overcooked in parts. But, that’s the way it is in this life, a lack of perfection but an abundance of joyfulness. Not a bad trade-off, eh?

Here are my eight less-than-perfect pumpkin pies for tonight’s Thanksgiving dinner. The pit in the bottom right is low carb with an almond flour crust for Louise and Danie. They also loaned us the collection of serving pieces which will surely come to good use tonight.

Here is the photo of my pies, less than pretty, but hopefully will taste as good as the test pie a few days ago.  We’ll be back tomorrow with more food photos from our “Thanksgiving Dinner in the Bush.”

Here is the giant rolling pin I borrowed from Louise and Danie, previously used for rolling pizza crusts. It’s weighted and very heavy, ideal for rolling pie crusts.  Also, in this photo are the takeaway containers Dawn and Leon provided, who’ll join us tonight, from Jabula Lodge & Restaurant where we had another fantastic dinner last night.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, November 17, 2017:

Tom Lyman, you never cease to amaze me!  What a shot of the classic “Froot Loops” cereal (per Tom) Toucan, technically known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan, aka the Keel-billed Toucan (different than the Toucan in our previous post with the Fiery-billed Aracari Toucan as shown here) taken in our yard in Atenas, Costa Rica. For more photos, please click here.

Halfway through our Marloth Park rental….Another dinner party for six…Back to my old ways?…

From this site“Flapping the ears can express excitement and joy. This sound causes other elephants to prick up their ears and contact the first elephant. In turn, the beating of the ears on the skin can be heard. In hot weather, elephants use their ears primarily to cool down.”  We suspect it was cooling down with temps well into 40C (90F) when we took this photo.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This female kudu was comfortable eating carrots out of my hand.

This evening we’re having dinner guests only a few days before the two couples, Janet and Steve and Lynne and Mick, each takes off for their respective homes in the UK, staying for several months. We’ll look forward to their return!

In the interim, Kathy and Don are returning to Marloth Park in a week, and we’ll certainly enjoy spending time with them while they’re staying at their lovely home in Marloth Park. Linda and Ken will return in June or thereabouts, and we look forward to seeing them soon.

This is how it goes for many homeowners in Marloth Park, primarily based in other parts of the world, returning for one, two, or three-month stints a few times a year.

The first thing we look for when driving along the river is elephants.

Many South Africans have homes in other parts of the country, returning to Marloth as their part-time holiday home. Few rent homes, like us. Most own two or more homes, traveling back and forth between their various properties.

That life never appealed to us. We’ve wanted to be free to travel to wherever we may choose, at any given time. Did we contemplate having a home here, considering how much we love it? Perhaps for one second. 

But then, the thought wafted away when we realize we’re most fulfilled continuing on this path of life-on-the-move, one that works magically for who we are and who’ve we’ve become over these past years. Why change what’s working so well and for which we’re ultimately fulfilled and happy?

We spotted this elephant from the overlook shelter along the river a few days ago.

In the interim, Louise informed us, if we’d like, we can stay in this same house, named “Orange…More than Just a Colour” for our entire remaining year until we board a ship one year from today, March 24, 2019, leaving for the US for another family visit. 

We had a choice to stay in this house or move to another home. But, we like the house enough to stay another year, if Louise and the owners will have us.  We’ve offered to move out for specific periods if they find other renters willing to pay more. We can move on a dime! Louise assures us that’s unlikely.

How do we feel about staying in one property for such an extended period?  Surprisingly, quite good. Many animals have already come to know us and will continue to do so as time marches on. The house is comfortable (we only use the main floor) and has everything we can need.

Could this be a courting male and female?

Then, as we plan visits to other countries in Africa over this upcoming year, we’ll have a place to leave our stuff, packing only what we’ll need for the specific trip. This gives us peace of mind and makes these side-trips considerably easier.

This morning, up and at ’em early, I started chopping and dicing for tonight’s dinner party. Yesterday afternoon, I also did a little prep, making the remainder of today low-key and easy. 

Entertaining in this lifestyle is very different from our former lives. I put so much pressure on myself, planning elaborate meals and setting an elaborate table, often for many guests.

We often wonder about a lone elephant.  Is it a male that has been ejected from the family who now has to make his way in life, finding a mate, to later be off on his own once again?

I plan easy homemade meals that don’t require endless hours of standing in the kitchen in this life. There’s no need to make vast numbers of appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. No one here seems interested in desserts, so I don’t bake as I would have years ago.

The best part is I don’t feel bad about cooking less elaborate meals. I’ve changed so much over these past years, no longer striving to be the consummate hostess, finding simple, delicious meals is ideal in the bush, whether made in a pot or on the braai (barbecue).

The only thing I miss is linen napkins. The paper napkins sold in the area are small and flimsy. Nothing is more admirable than a cloth napkin for guests. I guess I have to let that go. 

Waterbucks at the Crocodile River. 

Soon, we’ll jump in the new little blue car and head to the local market to buy more paper napkins, bringing the camera with us as always, perhaps seeing “someone” special along the way.

It’s a good life here. There’s absolutely nothing that has disappointed us during these past six weeks since our arrival. Often, when people “return,” their expectations are so high they cannot be fulfilled. For us, Marloth Park is more exciting than it was four years ago.

Maybe we’re wiser, more tolerant, and with fewer expectations after what we’ve learned during these past years. We don’t fuss over the heat, the bugs, and the days when few visitors stop by. It’s all a part of living in the bush in this extraordinary place, unlike any other, anywhere in the world. We’re grateful.

May your day find you feeling grateful and fulfilled.

Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2017:

It was four years ago today, on March 2, 2014, that we began posting this feature, “Photo from one year ago today.” a rare moment of a blue sky with rainy, cloudy skies day after day since we’d arrived in Fairlight almost two weeks earlier. For more Australian photos, please click here.