It’s all good…Releasing apprehension…

Two years ago today, this elephant seal on Steeple Jason Island didn’t care for our photo taking antics. For more photos, please click here.
This trip to India will be my first foray into testing my “new normal” after having open heart surgery almost one year ago on February 12, 2019. Of course, there’s a little apprehension about the prospect of the long upcoming flights and the busy days in India where we’ll be on a guided tour for 55 days, doing something new and different each and every day.
The past year was spent with considerable down time, allowing me to heal at my own pace, rarely feeling rushed or imposed upon with responsibilities and obligations I couldn’t easily handle.
Now that we’re facing a very long flight of almost 30 hours, this time in coach, not business class, which includes an 8-hour layover and two overnight flights on either end, no doubt, I am a little apprehensive.
Neither of us are able to sleep sitting up. Sure, once in a while we nod off while watching a show, perhaps dozing for five or ten minutes at most. Also, the seats on a plane aren’t nearly as comfortable as a recliner or sofa in any of our past vacation/holiday homes.
It’s odd that this flight includes two-overnight flights. That transpires due to the fact of the various time changes and the 8-hour daytime layover in London. I’m not looking forward to it. Then again, neither of us ever looks forward to flying, mainly due to layovers, lots of waiting and uncomfortable seating.
As for the priority lounge, we’ve decided to check them out once we arrive at Heathrow Airport. We’ve been reading varying reviews on these lounges and feel its important to see what they’re like before spending the extra fees, some of which are close to $200 for the two of us. We shall see.
As for today, we’ll slow down the socializing, although this afternoon, after we’ve done the laundry and packed what we’re keeping into our respective suitcases, we’re meeting up with Eugene and Gene for one final round of buck euchre. 
After playing cards, we’ll head back to our place, to have dinner and do any last minute packing. Although we don’t have to leave for the airport until late afternoon on Wednesday, we’d like to have almost everything handled by the end of today, leaving us free for a few last minute tasks such as returning the furniture to its original positioning and tidying up the park model.
Tomorrow, we’ll post the final expenses for our 82 days in the US in Minnesota, Nevada, and Arizona, which began on November 8, 2019 and ends on January 29, 2020. I’ve already put together all of the numbers but didn’t include the cost for new clothing and digital equipment we’d purchased while here.
Regardless of a smidgen of apprehension, I’m mentally and physically prepared for the challenge ahead, as is Tom. Once we’re settled into our hotel in Mumbai we’ll be greatly relieved to have this long journey behind us. From there, it should be pure pleasure and we’ll share every moment.
Happy day and evening to all!

________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, January 27,2019:

This was an exciting sighting for us, the elusive Nyala which we’d never seen during this past year in South Africa.  From this site:  The handsome slate-brown shaggy coat is marked with white vertical stripes and spots on the flanks. Rams appear more charcoal-gray in color. The rams have long inward curved horns 650 mm (26 inches) and a white chevron on their face. They have a ridge of long hairs along the underparts, from behind the chin to between the hind legs, they also have a mane of thick, black hair from the head along the spine to the rump. Rams weigh 115 kg (254 pounds) and measure 1.05 m (41 inches) at the shoulders. Ewes are much smaller and do not have horns, and weigh 59 kg (130 pounds) and stand 900 mm (35 inches) at the shoulders. Ewes are chestnut-coated with even more prominent white stripes on the flanks. For more photos, please click here.


Finally, a new fitness watch and a bag…7 days and counting…

One year ago, we posted this photo we’d taken in 2013 while on a road trip. Bourke’s Luck Potholes was definitely our favorite photo of the day on our three-day tour of the Panorama Route and Blyde River Canyon. See the original post here.

Yesterday, after completing the post, I headed out shopping. I don’t care to shop for anything other than groceries which I find quite enjoyable. Browsing through any type of department store, makes me cringe. 


I wasn’t this way in my old life, but with my limited wardrobe over the past seven-plus years, knowing I have to toss something from my one suitcase of clothing to maintain the consistent flight approved weight if I purchase something new. This fact makes shopping less than fun.


Over the past three years, I have been using a blue cloth grocery bag as a means of carrying the necessary items with me when we’re going out for an extended period.


On shorter outings, I only bring a lipstick to be stuffed into my or Tom’s pockets. (Many women’s pants don’t have pockets). Now, that my flip-open RFID phone case has space for ID, cash and credit cards, I no longer have a need for a wallet.


Over the past three years, I’ve become tired of using the navy blue grocery bag. With the long and arduous upcoming flight to India, I reconsidered if I actually wanted to carry that blue bag one more time. I do not.


What I wanted to find was a cloth-type bag that can be squished enough to fit under the seat on an airplane and yet large enough to hold what I usually carry with me onto the plane: phone, camera, cosmetic bag, hairbrush, earpieces, and charging cords and a wide array of odds and ends.

(With this upcoming flight, we’ll need to bring along a few toiletries based on traveling for almost 30 hours including an eight-hour layover. In checking information on British Airways, it appears they provide toothbrushes and toothpaste, our biggest concern).


As it turned out, I found the perfect item at TJ Maxx, a black Steve Madden padded, parachute material bag that zips with several pockets, all secure leaving the contents relatively theft-proof. Sure, a thief could steal the entire bag off my arm, the reason I haven’t carried an obvious handbag all these years. This new bag is more of a carry-on type bag.


The next item I wanted was a fitness watch. I’d ordered one online in December and it never arrived. I am now awaiting a refund. If I don’t see it come through in the next few days, I will contact the credit card company to remove the charge, especially since I have an email from the company apologizing for their error in not sending out their product.


After the trip to TJ Maxx in Mesa (a 20-minute drive), I followed the road that circled the mall to the Best Buy store. They had a number of models, but many that included music and Amazon’s Alexa. 


Since Alexa doesn’t work in most countries I saw no need to purchase the more expensive FitBit Fitness watch. I selected the FitBit Charge 3 that suited my needs at a fixed price of $149. I’d shopped quite a bit online over the past week researching models and settled on this particular watch.


Yesterday, while wrapping up the completion of setting up Tom’s old laptop for my use, I also set-up the watch itself as well as the app for the device on my phone, and the computer. 


By dinner time, I had everything set-up and was thrilled with the results. I love my new FitBit. Overnight, last night I downloaded all the photos from my old laptop onto our external hard drive, My Passport. 

Now, I can reformat the drive on my old laptop and offer it to Tom’s sisters, if they’re interested. If not, we will recycle it at a proper facility, as mentioned.


Tom just left for the Mesa airport to pick up his sister Rita from South Dakota who will be staying with Margie for a week. Now there will be nine of us, including Mary and Eugene’s son, Kevin who’ll be leaving in three or four days. It looks like some fun card playing is on the agenda!


Once Tom brings Rita to Margie’s home, we’ll pack up food for me and beverages for both of us. This morning Tom purchased a roasted chicken for me to bring today since they’ll all be having sandwiches and chips.


That’s all for today, folks. We’ll be back again tomorrow with more. 


Have a fantastic Wednesday!

________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, January 22, 2019:

Basket the Bully was feeling sad after his right ear was nearly torn off in what must have been as a result of a fight he most likely provoked. We comforted him with pellets, apples, and carrots before he took his nap in the hay. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…2020…A new year…a new decade…Our travels, a year in review…

At the New Year’s Eve party a few nights ago.

Today’s post is late since this morning we were distracted when we met our new neighbors who moved into the unit behind us. Coincidentally, they are also from Minnesota and it was fun sharing stories with the two of them.

View of hotels along the beach from the ship on our way back to the US in Nassau, the Bahamas from this post.

No doubt, we’ll see them both again soon. The socialization at the park is over the top. No less than three or four evenings a week we are getting together with family and new friends to chat, laugh and share stories.


Socializing is different here than it is on a cruise ship when most passengers are frequent travelers from all over the world. All the seniors (55+) we’ve met thus far are from all over the US, many from the Midwest and other cold climate locations.

Out to dinner With dear friends Karen and Rich for a “thank you for hosting us at your home” at Gianni’s Restaurant in Wayzata, Minnesota. For more from this post, please click here.

A few nights ago, we met a lovely couple from Arkansas while standing in line for the New Year’s Eve party where winter climates are temperate. However, the draw of this simple life is appealing to seniors from all over the country.


And now, as we have rolled into the New Year, with more and more people coming here to stay for the winter, no doubt we’ll meet more residents and like the couple we met this morning, those staying in a rental unit such as ours.

Tom won the last game, Bingo Coverall, winning $200 when we were out to lunch with Karen and Rich where bingo is played at a bar on Saturdays mornings only. He looks tired from little sleep from coughing all night while in Minnesota. For this post, please click here.

Today’s photos, from the remainder of the year, were all while we have been in the US since November 8, 2019, almost two months ago. Being in the US during this time has been great, seeing family and friends.


Now we’re gearing up for leaving the US once again and most likely won’t return for another two years. We have a lot of world left to see and look forward to the next leg of our journey.


As mentioned yesterday, 2019 was definitely the most challenging of our seven years of world travel. We’ll never forget what we went through, but we take the memories with us and hopefully have learned from our experiences as we move into the future.

Our next stop was Nevada, where I had the opportunity to visit my sister Susan. This is her pup, Chase, an adorable little guy. See the post here.

Sure, there’s a bit of trepidation going forward. Will we be close to competent medical care? Are the risks of future issues with my health going to hold us back in any way? We could easily make ourselves stressed contemplating these raw facts.


However, we choose to free our minds from stress and to focus on the good fortune we’ve had in discovering my heart issues in time to avert a possible life-changing event and, of course, our ability to continue on.


Tonight, we’ll lay low and enjoy our delicious leftovers from last night’s successful dinner party. The sisters and brothers-in-law came to our house around 3:30 pm and stayed until close to 9:00 pm. 

It was wonderful to meet up with old friends, Jerry and Vicki. It was amazing to see them so many years later when we’d met in Kauai in 2015. For this post, please click here.

As often the case, the conversation was filled with stories of experiences they all shared about their years of growing up in a large family. They are quite an entertaining group. 


We’re attending another party at 3:00 pm on Saturday by the fire pit. It’s warmed up a bit and when the sun is shining, it’s quite comfortable being outdoors. Tom is picking up Margie at the Mesa airport on Saturday. It will be great to have her back with the six of us.


Have a wonderful day!

_____________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, January 2, 2018:

Last year on this date, we posted “year in review” with this photo of two female rhinos on the trail of a nearby male.  See this link here for more from the date this photo was taken. Click here for the year-ago post.

Part 1…2020…A new year…a new decade…Our travels, a year in review…

In Devon on a farm, Tom had the unusual experience of shepherding 150 lambs. For that post, please click here.

Since we’ve posted so many photos from Africa we’ve decided not to post favorite photos from 2019 that include our time in Africa. Our readers have seen them over and over again. We appreciate your patience and interest.

While in Ireland we got a good shot of this pair of cows, most likely a mom and baby from this post.

Instead, today (with more to follow tomorrow), as mentioned in yesterday’s post (click here) we’ll review where we’ve traveled over the last 12 months. Based on the fact my open heart surgery was in February and we weren’t able to do much during the remaining three months we spent in Marloth park while I recovered thus, the dates are as follows:

January to May – Marloth Park, South Africa 
May to August – Connemara, Ireland (three months)
August – Flight to Amsterdam, where we spent two nights
August – September – Baltic Cruise – 12 nights
September to October – Stayed in four locations in the UK: Falmouth, Witheridge, Devon, England and, Chepstow, Wales, two of which included living in the English countryside on working farms
October – Drove to Southampton, England where we spent two nights and then boarded a ship for a 15-night cruise to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
November to December – Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA to visit family (3 weeks)
November to December – Henderson/Las Vegas, Nevada, USA to visit family (11 nights)
December – Apache Junction, Arizona, USA – the balance of December has been spent visiting family (Tom’s sisters and spouses)

While in Amsterdam wished we could post the identity of all of these amazing highlights on our canal boat tour, but it wasn’t possible as the boat moved along. For this post, please click here.
  • Number of Flights: 5 
  • Number of Cruises: 2 
  • Number of Vacation Home Rentals: 7
  • Number of nights in hotels: 4
  • Number of nights spent with family or friends: 32 (with friend Karen in Minnesota and son Richard in Henderson)
  • Number of Rental Cars: 5 
The opulence in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg was indescribable. See the post here.

Considering the awful condition I was in until October, unable to walk from the surgeries and dreadful medications which I later stopped taking, and then the awful virus we both caught on the cruise back to the US, we traveled quite a bit.

These birds in Tiverton, Devon reminded us of the Helmeted Guinea-fowl we had in our garden in Marloth Park. For this post, please click here.

Now that we are both feeling well, we’re finally able to relax and focus our time with Tom’s family members and preparing for our upcoming trip to India in a mere four weeks from today.

In some ways, it was a good year. In other ways, it was frightening and disheartening. As the year ended last night at midnight when we stood on the dance floor at the party here at the resort and shared a long kiss, we couldn’t help but smile for the New Year to come. 

This is the view from our veranda in Falmouth, England. For this post, please click here.

No, we can’t totally dismiss what we’ve been through this past year, but we can and have embraced a feeling of gratefulness and good fortune, to have made our way through a very difficult time.

In the rain on the farm in Witheridge, Tom was using the wheelbarrow to bring the wood to Pond Cottage. See the post here.


The party last night was fine. There were a few nuances we could have done without, such as eating prime rib (which was good) with a plastic fork and knife. But, the people we relatively friendly and the two of us had a good time together as always. 

Friends Linda and Ken from South Africa came to visit us while we were in Chepstow, Wales. Here’s a photo of the four of us and here’s the post from that date.

We couldn’t resist staying until the stroke of midnight to hear and sing the traditional song, Auld Lang Syne. Oddly, one of the participants on the dance floor collapsed right at midnight. Shortly after the song ended, an ambulance came to take the poor woman to the hospital. We never heard what had transpired.

The table top is a plain white blank canvas, making such colorful presentations possible while we dined on the ship experiencing Le Lewtit Chef a digital dining experience. For that post, please click here.

Back at our park model (as they are called) by 12:15, we unloaded our bag of beverages and went off to bed. Actually, we both slept fairly well awakening to a new year, a new decade and a new journey we’ll continue with joy in our hearts.


Today, we’re making dinner for the family: baby back ribs, mashed garlic potatoes, sweet corn, dinner rolls, salad, and dessert. Based on time constraints, we’ll continue this post tomorrow. Please check back.


Happy New Year everyone!

_______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, January 1, 2019:

Last year on this date, we posted favorite photos from 2018. This is a two-year-old Rock Hopper Penguin on New Island in the Falkland Islands yet to grow his full plumage when we visited Antarctica.  Please click here for more photos.

Social nirvana into the New Year…

We often encountered beautiful flowers when we walked the neighborhood in Pacific Harbor, Fiji on this date in 2015.

We knew that staying in Apache Junction would provide us with an opportunity to not only to spend enjoyable times with Tom’s sisters and spouses, but also with other resort residents we’d meet along the way.


Yesterday afternoon at 3:00 pm was no exception. When Colleen and Mary were invited to an afternoon “happy hour” of course, they ensured we were included as well.

When we arrived at Sue and Ed’s lovely park home, we were heartily welcomed. The group of eight of us engaged in lively conversation. As the afternoon wore on, word got out and four others showed up, all of whom we’d met at other parties over the past three weeks.


The 12 of us were a lively group and there was no shortage of chatter in the room. How they managed to squeeze enough chairs into the room to accommodate everyone baffled me. I guess groups this size must be a common occurrence with all the socializing.


When we’d brought up New Year’s Eve to Tom’s sibling none sounded enthused to going out to celebrate. Tom also hesitated to plan anything and yet, I’d have loved to go out to celebrate, especially if we could do so nearby.


There’s a New Year’s Eve party planned at the resort, but we’d heard the tickets were sold out. Ironically, last night a couple, Sue and Mike mentioned they were trying to sell their two tickets to the New Year’s Eve party for which they paid $64. They preferred to attend another party at a nearby resort.


The husband, Mike, was open for negotiations on the price of the tickets. He agreed to $50 for the pair. I offered $40. After all, the party occurs in only two days. He agreed to $45. I stuck to my guns at $40 and eventually, he agreed, knowing it would be unlikely he could sell them at this late a date.


Hostess Sue (lots of Sue’s here) suggested we sit with them and hang out with them at the party. We may know a few others in attendance, but this plan was most preferred.


This morning I baked blueberry muffins and just took a huge egg, sausage, mushroom and onion bake out of the oven to bring to Colleen and Gene’s home for brunch for the six of us. We’ll be watching the Minnesota Vikings game from Tom’s laptop on their big-screen TV using our HDMI cord.


Tomorrow, we’ll all celebrate Colleen’s birthday at the local bar and the next night we’ll attend the New Year’s Eve party. It’s quite fun being here. We’re enjoying every moment.

Have a fantastic day, dear readers! Go Vikings!

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2018:

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

Researching the future…We’re behind schedule…


Taking this photo without zoom on this date in 2013 gives a perspective of the small size of this island, somehow appealing to her for its varied vegetation. For more photos from that date, please click here.

Since we arrived in the US on November 8th, we’ve been preoccupied with visiting family and planning for our upcoming two months in India. At this point, we’ve yet to begin booking where we’ll stay after our 29-night cruise from Mumbai to London which ends on May 2, 2020.


It may seem to be a long time away, but in our world, four or five months fly by in a flash, especially when we are having a great time. As much as we’d like to postpone the time it takes to conduct an in-depth search, the time has come for us to get to work.


The hardest part of booking the six months we have to fill between the end of the cruise until the next cruise in November is where exactly would we’d like to travel.


With the Schengen visa requirement that we can only stay in Europe for 90 days out of 180 days it makes sense for us to spend more time in the UK that doesn’t fall into the Schengen requirements. 


Undoubtedly, it makes sense to stay in Scotland (a part of the UK) for a period of time, which neither of us has visited so far. There appears to be a number of available options for the summer months. But, undoubtedly, we’d better get something booked soon.


It’s still hanging up in the air concerning our return to South Africa at the end of the November cruise. But one thing we have decided is we won’t stay in South Africa over the holidays due to increased seasonal rental costs and excessive power outages, especially when there are so many people in Marloth Park. They are experiencing such issues now as we’ve seen mentioned many times on Facebook.


Instead, we’re contemplating getting off the ship a few days prior to the end of the cruise when the ship docks in a port of call in Luderitz or Walvis Bay, Namibia and stay there for a few months while awaiting the end of the holiday season in South Africa. This makes a lot of sense to us.


After the upcoming first of January, we’ll be contacting an immigration attorney in South Africa to assist us in getting the waiver we applied for which has yet to be approved.  


It’s been almost eight months since we applied and yet have no response. Without the waiver, we won’t be able to return to South Africa until May 2024. That’s too far out for any planning at this point.


This morning we visited Mary and Eugene and Colleen and Gene (Margie returned to Minnesota for a few weeks to attend her granddaughter’s wedding on New Year’s Eve). No one seems interested in doing anything out and about on New Year’s Eve, but there are a few activities transpiring in the next few days.


Tomorrow, before noon we’ll get together for the Minnesota Vikings Game at Colleen and Gene’s home where we’ll hook up Tom’s laptop via the HDMI cord to their large TV. I am making an egg, mushroom, onions and sausage casserole to bring for brunch.


On Monday, its Colleen’s birthday and the six of us will go out for happy hour and a bite to eat at a local pub, “What’s the Hell.” It will be fun to celebrate with her as we did over Tom’s birthday on Monday.


Now, I’m off to the market once more for a few items. We’ll spend a quiet day and evening at our place, having dinner and perhaps watching a movie in the evening. We’ve already completed our walk now that the rain stopped.


Happy day!

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2018:

It’s easier for male kudus to eat this way as opposed to bending down with those giant horns.  Wildebeest Willie waits in the background for his turn. For more details, please click here.

Merry Christmas, everyone!…Christmas Eve festivities…”We’ll figure it out”…

A band from Minnesota played country music at the Apache Junction VFW’s
Christmas Eve festivities.

Today’s photos were from yesterday afternoon while we attended the festivities at a local Apache Junction VFW from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Later in the day, we gathered at Colleen’s house for snacks and more entertaining and lively conversations. Four neighbors stopped by to join the six of us.

Although it never snowed anywhere we’ve traveled over the world the past seven years except while we were in Antarctica almost two years ago, somehow being in the US during Christmas feels a bit unfamiliar without snow.

Tom, another year older but still loads of fun!

Arizona, with its usually warm and mild winters, doesn’t quite remind us of Christmastime even with the lights and decorations. Today, it’s raining. Then again, during these past travel years, we haven’t created the ambiance we so well remember of Christmases long ago. 

We have no decorations, no tree, no gifts, no tins of home-baked Christmas cookies. Nor did we send out Christmas cards or gifts other than to our grandchildren.


But, somehow the Christmas spirit fills our hearts and we think of our loved ones far away and may at times, miss the merriment we so embraced in our old lives.

Tom and brother-in-law Gene. Note Tom: always using his hands when he tells a story.
We didn’t include photos of other family members when they prefer not to have their
photos published online. No problem.

We’d be foolhardy to say we don’t miss certain aspects of our old lives. We do. It goes without saying, we’ll always miss our family members and friends. At times, we even miss our old house, the lake, the wildlife, and our wonderful neighbors.


But, it feels as if all of that was a lifetime ago. These seven years have left us drawing upon memories of prior years which is a blur in many ways…not the time we spent with loved ones but the intangible sensations of the Christmas season…the smell of cookies baking; the twinkling of little lights on the tree; and the often falling snowflakes.

But soon, as we embark on yet another exotic and unusual journey, we find ourselves relieved of such idle meanderings as we imagine the future ahead of us and what treasures it has to bring.

Nothing like an adorable “wiener dog” to liven up the VFW’s Christmas Eve festivities.

No, people don’t understand the powerful hold that the wanderlust spirit has blissfully imposed upon us. We love this life. We’re often asked, “How could you possibly leave everyone you love behind?”

We didn’t make that decision lightly nor do we flippantly consider it now. We hope and pray our family members understand and know full well that however far away we may be, they are always in our hearts and minds.

When I was a child, my paternal grandmother, whom I dearly cherished lived all the way across the country. We only saw her once every five or six years and stayed in touch via handwritten letters and perhaps a once a year phone call. I never loved her any less that she chose to live far away. I loved her all the more.

Many brought “white elephant gifts” to swap amongst each other. It was fun to see some of the funny gifts, including a 10-year-old who ended up with an adult movie that his parents immediately grabbed from his hands.

We can only hope our fast-growing-up grandchildren and adult children feel the same, accepting and loving us just the same. With the availability of the internet, it has been much easier to stay in touch, see their faces, hear their voices, and share their lives.

Life is never perfect nor it is exactly as we wished it would be with all the efforts we’ve made in the world. This past year, was a life-shattering and potentially life-changing experience when I had emergency open-heart surgery in February in South Africa.

Yet, somehow, we made it through. Did we learn something from this frightening experience? With both of us have had many challenges in our lives, as most people do, I can’t say we learned a lot about ourselves we didn’t already know.

The table was filled with white elephant gifts.

But, we did learn one thing often asked of us, “What will you do if something goes terribly wrong?” At the time of these types of queries, we’d look at one another and reply, “We’ll figure it out.”

And that is exactly what we did. We figured it out. Here we are now, only 35 days before departure for India, and we’re braced and ready for this next phase of our travels, armed with the knowledge that we have the motivation, mutual love and determination that we’ll always be able to “figure it out.”

Merry Christmas to each and every one of our family members, readers/friends and all the people we’ve met along the way. We truly feel blessed in more than one way…

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 25, 2018:

Little doesn’t disappoint.  He stopped by Christmas Eve morning and began walking up the steps to the house. I found him on step #3 and encouraged him to eat outside. He complied.  I tendered pellets, apples, and carrots.  He ate the produce and left the pellets thinking about the human leftovers he would be getting elsewhere at a holidaymaker’s houses, maybe chips, Christmas cookies and marshmallows (none of which are good for him).  But, after all, he is a pig and he likes junk food, too. Merry Christmas. For more, please click here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all of our family and friends/readers who celebrate…

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our friends all over the world.

We extend our heartfelt wishes to those who celebrate Christmas and Chanukah. We awoke this morning to Christmas Eve day and with an unusual (for us) activity on the agenda, we’re celebrating once again with Tom’s sisters and spouses.

This morning at 5:20 am Tom bolted out of bed to drive Margie to the Mesa airport. She was flying back to Minnesota for her granddaughter’s wedding occurring on New Year’s Eve and will return to Apache Junction the first week in January.


This leaves the six of us to continue the celebrations of the holiday season which included Tom’s birthday last night with a big meal and the Minnesota Vikings game (they lost) we watched shortly after dining.



I could kick myself for failing to take photos. Now that I’m using my Google 4XL phone for taking photos, I am having a hard time taking time out of the festivities to take photos. I certainly will be taking photos in India soon enough.


But, in reality, life isn’t always about photos. It’s about memorable experiences and those aren’t always captured with a phone or camera. Tom’s birthday celebration was easy flowing, lively and delightfully fun for the seven of us.


So what’s on the agenda today? We’re joining the family for their tradition of attending the local VFW’s annual “Tom & Jerry” Christmas Eve Day party which begins at 1:00 pm, ending around 4:00 pm. 


Neither Tom nor I drink Tom and Jerry’s and most likely one of us will be the designated driver since we don’t care to drink adult beverages during the day. Instead, we’ll have fun with the others enjoying this unusual way for us to celebrate Christmas Eve Day.


As for last night’s dinner, everything came out exactly as planned. Some of the edges of the garlic bread were overcooked but I trimmed them off and it was still a hit. Tom perfectly cooked everyone’s steak medium rare as requested and mine, rare. 


The butterflied garlic butter prawns were delicious and not a one was left behind. At half time, I served Tom’s lemon birthday cake and they all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good meal.


Last night, after dinner Tom washed all the dishes right away. With the kitchen’s small size it’s imperative we get everything out of the way. Shortly afterward I dried the dishes and put everything away. We awoke this morning to the little house being tidy and back in order.


Living in this small space and yet performing normal household activities requires diligence in keeping everything tidy or a feeling of chaos would ensue. We avoid chaos like the plague.


Speaking of the plague, we’re finally recovered from the dreadful flu that lasted for over six weeks, although on occasion we cough a little. That virus compared to the awful virus from a cruise to Sydney in 2015 that left us both coughing for weeks.


Tom is napping right now. Not a good napper, I am walking on my tiptoes to avoid making any noise and awakening him. Hopefully, he can rest for an hour or two until we leave for the VFW.


We wish every one of our family, friends/readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. May the joy, spirituality, and merriment of the season fill your hearts with love, fulfillment, and hope for the future.


Thank you for sharing this time, all times in the past and times upcoming in the future. All of you are instrumental in the joy we feel as we continue on this journey…36 days and counting…

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2018:

OThe bright light behind us wasn’t the best vantage point in taking this photo. From left to right: Don, Kathy, me, Tom, Danie, Gerhard with Louise and Rita in front. For more photos from his party one year ago, please click here.

Gorgeous scenery all over the world…Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona…

From this site: “The famous fountain in Fountain Hills, Arizona: Built-in 1970 by Robert McCulloch the fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world! The fountain sprays water for 15 minutes every hour at the top of the hour. The fountain uses 7,000 gallons per minute and at its full height, it can reach 560 feet in the air. The plume rises from a concrete water-lily sculpture in the center of a man-made lake. At its full height of 560 feet, the fountain in the center of Fountain Hills is higher than the Washington Monument. It is 10 feet taller than Notre Dame Cathedral, 110 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt and three times as high as Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. The white plume of the world-famous fountain is visible far beyond Fountain Hills. It can be seen from as far away as the Superstition Mountains, Carefree and even from aircraft. The fountain is the focal point for community celebrations and the pride of its residents. If you happen to visit during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, you’ll see the fountain transform to emerald green. The Fountain is extended to its full height on special occasions, for every day viewing the Fountain reaches a height of 330 feet! The World Famous Fountain runs every hour on the hour for 15 minutes from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. every day of the week! This fountain is a celebration of life and water where it is most appreciated – in the middle of the desert.”

Although we haven’t been out sightseeing while here in the US, with little time to do so, it was delightful to drive through Fountain Hills, Arizona, a veritable paradise-like town amid saguaro cactus, desert sands, surrounded by earth-tone colored mountains and man-made bodies of water which soften the harshness which is typical in the desert.


We stopped for photos along the way, in awe of the beauty prevalent in this upscale community of newer homes, gated neighborhoods, fashionable shops, and southwest themed restaurants.


It’s odd driving through the barren desert to stumble across a built-up area such as this. We couldn’t help but gasp over its pristine beauty. However, never for a moment did we wish we lived there. One can admire the beauty without feeling a burning desire to be a part of it.

We had little time to stop before meeting up with Vicki and Jerry and took most of
today’s photos from the car.

We moved along on the highway, leaving Fountain Hills making our way toward Tonto Verde Golf Club where we met up with Vicki and Jerry as described in yesterday’s post here. As stated, we had a wonderful day with the fine couple.


After yesterday’s busy morning with laundry and grocery shopping, I put together a few easy items for last night’s happy hour gathering at our place. I made a chicken salad (with buns on the side), cut up raw veggies for dipping, chips with salsa, a plate of cheese, crackers, and olives along with store-bought chocolate covered eclairs for dessert. 

There are many statues at Fountain Park of famous Americans.

It was a quick and easy collection of items of light snack type foods not requiring a lot of fuss. For tonight’s gathering at the firepit at 4:00 pm, I am making the popular artichoke dip served with Club crackers.


Last night when Mary said she was making deviled eggs, which I’d planned to make, this morning I decided to make something different and headed to the nearby Safeway market, much smaller than the giant Costco-sized Fry’s to buy what I’d need. 


After no more than two minutes in the market, I sensed a frenzy among the shoppers. When a woman approached me with a spiral-sliced ham on sale for $10 as opposed to $25, my ear perked up. 

Could this be Thomas Jefferson?

She explained that by signing up for their online app which I did while I was in the produce department, anxious to pay $1 for a 10-pound bag of potatoes, I downloaded the app and all the specials of the day were available to me, many at ridiculously low prices.


I found myself entrenched in the frenzy. For example; I purchased two pounds of quality butter at $.99 a pound, four pounds of bacon also at $.99 a pound and so much more. Of course, I couldn’t resist the ham which most likely we’ll have on New Year’s Day. It was fun. I’d hadn’t seen a sale like this in years.

Abraham Lincoln with Ben Franklin in the background.

So now, after we’ve finished lunch, our current main meal of the day, I’ll make tonight’s appetizer which we’ll bring hot to the fireside mulled wine party beginning at 4:00 pm this afternoon.


It has warmed up considerably today. Tom is busy opening the blinds and windows as we speak. With the sun shining on our unit, it can get very warm indoors. Right now, the outdoor temperature is 63F (17C) and sunny, perfect for us!

What a fascinating horse statue!

Tomorrow, we’ll return with more new photos from tonight’s event. May your day be sunny and bright!

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2018:

Two males impalas stop by for food and a rare visit. For more photos, please click here.

Laundromat…Farmer’s market…

We purchased five yellow and orange peppers at a cost of $1.99. The red peppers, as
usual are priced higher at $.79 each, still an excellent price.

I hadn’t mentioned we don’t have laundry facilities in our tiny home. As a result, we have to bring our laundry to a large laundry room on the property, too far to walk.


It had been a long time since we’d had to haul our laundry to a laundromat, as far back as 2014 when we were in London for two weeks, staying in a hotel that didn’t have self-serve laundry and only typically expensive laundry service. 

Cauliflower heads priced at two for $1. What a great price!


At that time, without a rental car, we placed our dirty clothes into a wheeling suitcase and headed to a laundromat several blocks away, sitting and waiting for at least two hours while our clothes washed and dried.


Here at Robert’s Resort, we can leave our clothes in the washers and dryers while we return to our unit or take off on another outing. Today, we started the wash and drove a short distance to a nearby farmers market Tom’s sister Colleen had recommended.


Checking on MAPS, the farmers market in Apache Junction, Superstition Ranch Farmers Market is less than three miles. After a very successful trip to the farmers market, we were back in plenty of time to place the laundry in the dryer. Of course, we weren’t worried a bit that someone would abscond with our laundry.

We couldn’t believe the great price on asparagus at the Superstition Ranch Farmers Market.
We purchased two pounds.

The farmers market was one of the best we’ve seen over the years in regard to pricing. We spent a little over $17 for enough to last until the next time we grocery shop.


With Tom’s birthday upcoming in 10 days on December 23rd, I’ve begun planning the menu for his party considering what most appeals to him. I’ll bake a cake and of course, invite all the sisters and spouses. 


We haven’t celebrated Tom’s birthday with his family since doing so in Henderson, Nevada in 2012 when the same group stayed with us in a holiday home we’d rented. It will be fun to celebrate with all of them once again.

It was a wonderful market with plenty of organic fruit and vegetable.
Since I can eat berries in moderation, we purchase, blueberries, blackberries,
and raspberries at $1 for each container.

Today, we plan to continue to work on financial matters and updating our spreadsheet. Over the past seven years, I’ve continued to add our spending and expenses on an Excel workbook with many tabs. 


While in Nevada with an hour to spare, I created an all-new workbook, changing many features we found to be important over the years. Beginning on January 1, 2020, we’ll start using the new form. 


In the interim, I’ll have to add all the bookings and costs to the new form that will transpire into 2020. It will be a time-consuming task but it needs to be done.

There’s a display of Boar’s Head meats but we’ll purchase this fresh-sliced at the supermarket next time we make “unwiches” (sub-type sandwiches with romaine lettuce used in place of bread).

Most likely, tonight we’ll get together with the family. Tomorrow morning, we’re attending a get-together with neighbors for an omelet-in-a-bag breakfast. I’m concerned about what types of bags are used since Ziplock bags leach toxic chemicals when boiled in water or used to cook in a microwave. 


But, this may be one of those times, I just “bite-the-bullet” and go with the flow. We shall see. I certainly won’t say anything at the party and make the hosts or guests feel uncomfortable.

May your Friday be action-packed with delightful experiences!

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 13, 2018:

Wounded was beginning to look a little better but we doubt he can see from his left eye.  He looked thin and weary but we continued to feed him all he’ll eat and we’re sure other residents were doing the same. For more photos, please click here.