Part 2…Boating day, Lake Harris and Dora Canal…Note, please, two ten year ago photos…

A heron in the shadows in the canal.

Now that Memorial Day has passed, we’re continuing with photos from our boating day this past Saturday with new friends Linda and Burt and their friends Claudette and Jay.

We had a busy morning today, finishing the documents for our passport renewals that we dropped off at the local FedEx store since today is the last day we’ll have a car. No words can express the relief of having our passport renewal applications in the mail today. It was quite a task to complete all the paperwork.

An egret on a fallen log.

Fortunately, we’re using a company, CIBT,  that states they can get the new passports back to us in the mail within ten days of their receipt of the package we sent today. Here is the cost, per person, through this company for the fees to process the passports quickly:

SERVICE AND PROCESSING FEES (per person for expedited service)

Renew Passport
CIBTvisas Service Fees $499.00
Government Agency Fees $190.00
UPS Next Day Air $53.00
Inbound Shipping Label $57.00
Passport Replacement Coverage $43.00
Fees Summary $842.00

If we didn’t require expedited service, we could have applied directly to the US State Department for passport renewals, avoiding the $499.00 fee for each of us. This is the fourth passport we’ll have received during our over ten years of world travel: ten years, two years, and later four years, and now another ten-year passport.

Picnicking at Lake Harris County Park.

We applied for and received the shorter-term additional passports of two and four years to enable us to mail in a passport when we needed visas for various countries to have a valid passport in our possession while the other was in the mail. We never wanted to be in a foreign country without a passport in our possession while another was being processed. For now, we aren’t ordering second passports for this purpose unless we see a need that we don’t foresee in the near future.

Smiling alligator on a log.

Today, Tom will pick up our friend Karen’s husband, Rich, at the Orlando airport at 6:00 pm. Karen traveled to Seattle from Minneapolis after her son Jack’s wedding to be with a friend going through cancer treatment. That’s just the kind of friend she is!

It was exciting to see alligators which are overall smaller than crocodiles.

Tonight, Rich will have dinner with us and then spend the night. Tomorrow, he’ll drive back to their new home in Bradenton, and we’ll return to using the golf cart for all of our transportation. We’ll do fine with groceries delivered weekly from Kroger and two nights out per week for dinner. The closest village square is Brownwood Paddock Square which takes about 20 minutes to use the golf cart.

As it rolls into summer in Florida, which is in the Northern Hemisphere, it stays light a few minutes more each day until we reach the summer solstice on June 21. We plan to go to dinner early and return while it’s still light. For example, the sun sets tonight at 8:07 pm. This will work well for us. If we’re with people and don’t leave by 8:00 pm, we will be fine driving on the golf cart paths indicated on an app on my phone.

The pier at a restaurant, Hurricane Dockside Grill, is situated near Lake Harris.

Other than Rich coming tonight and a get-together with readers next week, we are ready to start contacting readers who contacted us to get together. If you haven’t contacted us for a get-together, please feel free to contact us soon. We are trying to meet all the readers who’ve reached out who live in The Villages or nearby. We’ve been very busy so far, but we’re enjoying all the social time.

A beautiful view as we maneuvered through the narrow Dora Canal.

Many people approach us and are very friendly and welcoming. It reminds us of Jabula, although nothing will compare to Dawn, Leon, and David welcoming us two nights a week and all the wonderful friends we’ve made in the bush. Plus, we’re having so much fun hanging out with locals at the outdoor bars at many good restaurants.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more photos tomorrow!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 30, 2013:

Umer, our driver, insisted we stop for a photo op in front of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque., also known as the White Mosque. For more photos, please click here

Not my most flattering photo. Tom looked great! We’re standing in front of the architectural scale model of the White Mosque. After we posed for this picture, a security guard rushed over, telling us we could not touch one another in the mosque. Of course, we complied. For more photos, please click here.

Memorial Day observations in the US today…We met and have photos of a World War II vet we met in The Villages…

This is Jim, a World War II veteran at 97 years old. On Friday, we met Jim at the Amerikanos Grille Restaurant outdoor bar in Spanish Springs Town Square.

We realize that Memorial Day is the observation of fallen soldiers as described here:

“Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. From 1868 to 1970, it was observed on May 30. Since 1970, it has been observed on the last Monday of May. “

It is not the day celebrating veterans who’ve survived wars. Veteran’s Day is in November and is described as follows:

“Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States observed annually on November 11, for honoring military veterans of the United States Armed Forces.”

The day for observing active military service members is U.S. Armed Forces Day, which is not a federal holiday, is described as follows:

“Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May in the United States. It falls near the end of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May (the fourth if the month begins on a Sunday, as in 2016).”

Today, Tom is observing his ex-brother-in-law, Ernest (Ernie) Thorson, who was killed in Viet Nam on April 26, 1970. Each year, he writes a tribute to Ernie on Facebook with Ernie’s photo, which states, “The uncle my kids never knew and the cousins they never had.” Below is a picture of Ernie, who was only 19 years old when he was killed.

From this site, there is information listed at the Viet Nam memorial The Wall of Faces:




PANEL / LINE: 11W/54

DATE OF BIRTH: 05/24/1950


DATE OF CASUALTY: 04/26/1970


COUNTY OF RECORD: Hennepin County



It’s with much sadness that we observe the loss of this young man and extend our love and prayers to those who have lost loved ones in wars. One’s heart remains heavy for a lifetime over a loss of a loved one, never to be forgotten.

Not necessarily in line with the meaning of Memorial Day, which would have been more appropriate for Veteran’s Day, we decided to mention a man we met on Friday night in the bar at the Amerikanos Grille. We met Jim, a 97-year-old veteran of World War II who welcomed us to take photos and share a little about him on our site. We were honored to meet Jim.

Jim and Tom at Amerikanos Grille Bar in Spanish Springs Town Square on Friday evening.

Regardless of his advanced age, he is “sharp as a tack.”  Every evening, he visits Amerikanos Grille to say hello to his many friends. We were thrilled to hear and see that each time Jim enters the bar, everyone at the bar who knows him, claps and welcomes him one more time. It was a delight to see the enthusiasm each time he arrives for one drink and then takes off for his home, as shown in the photos below.

Jim drives his motorized vehicle once he leaves Amerikanos, but while in the bar, he uses a walker. He has a friend that helps him with his means of transportation.

We’ll include Part 2 with photos of our boating day with Linda and Burt tomorrow.

Again, love and prayers to everyone who lost a loved one in war. May today bring you peace and healing.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 29, 2013:

No photos were posted on this date, ten years ago. For the post’s text, please click here.

Part 1…Boating day, Lake Harris and Dora Canal…The differences between an alligator and a crocodile…

After years of spotting crocodiles, seeing alligators in the Dora Canal was exciting.

Boating with Burt and Linda and Linda’s friend Claudette and Burt’s neighbor Jay was exhilarating. No more than 10 minutes into the boat ride on Burt’s newer pontoon boat, we spotted numerous alligators, which were very exciting. It was easy to see the difference between alligators in Florida and crocodiles in Africa.

But, for those unfamiliar with both of these scary-looking and dangerous creatures, we thought it was important to share the differences.

A young alligator was resting on a log.

The differences are listed below between an alligator and a crocodile from this site:

“Although they may look similar at first glance, the most significant differences between alligators and crocodiles are their overall size, snouts, jaws, coloring, feet, and teeth. Take a quick look at how you can differentiate between the two reptiles. The comparison between the American alligator and the American crocodile shows the unique qualities of adults from each species.

Alligator Crocodile
Size 8.2 feet to 11.2 feet long
400lbs to 800lbs
10 feet to 20 feet long
300lbs to 2,000lbs
Snout U-shaped snout V-shaped snout
Jaws A wide upper jaw hides the
lower teeth and overlaps the
lower jaw
The upper and lower jaw are roughly
the same size, allowing the teeth to
Feet Webbed feet allow for better
Feet are not webbed but possess
a jagged fringe
Teeth Roughly 80 teeth 66 teeth
Colors Dark gray or black, with a cream underside Olive green or light brown with a mottled pattern

These differences make it easy to identify an alligator and a crocodile. As with many other creatures, the males are larger in both the alligator and the crocodile, but the crocodile is a much larger reptile overall.”

Linda and one of her two dogs, Havana and Luna, who joined us for the day.

After we boated past the first canal, where we spotted the alligators, we headed out to the open expanse of Lake Harris, as shown in the photo below.

Once we exited the canal closest to Burt’s home, we reached the vast expanse of Lake Harris. “Lake Harris Lake in Florida 4.5 60 Google reviews Lake Harris is a lake in Lake County, Florida, United States, 31 miles northwest of Orlando. It is part of the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin, a sub-watershed of the St. Johns River. It is one of seven lakes in the Harris Chain of Lakes or “Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes.” Wikipedia Area: 21.54 mi² Surface elevation: 62′ Fish: Northern pike, Largemouth bass, Channel catfish, Blue catfish, White perch.”

We always enjoyed boating, and when Tom and I met almost 32 years ago, we both had boats, and each of us had owned boats for years. It had been a long time since we’d been on a boat on a lake. The last time was on Lake Minnewashta in Minnesota with friends/neighbors Jamie and Doug in 2017. For that post, please click here.

Our captain, Burt who, joyfully hosted us for the day.

Being out on the water on a perfect weather day was ideal. Mother Nature was kind to us to provide a sunny day without high temperatures and a gentle breeze. We couldn’t have asked for more. Burt’s newer boat was comfortable. We each got a slight sunburn but not severe, and we felt no discomfort today.

Claudette and Jay chatted while comfortably seated on the back bench.

We stopped at a lovely Lake Harris park for a lunch picnic. We found a great picnic table sheltered from the sun, and all six of us took out the various items we shared. We brought homemade chicken salad and coleslaw. Claudette had a big package of croissants to share, and the four of them added the chicken salad to make sandwiches, except Tom and I, who went bun-less, as usual.

There’s my guy, Tom, wearing the hat we got on the Maharajas Express Train in India in 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit.

After lunch, we continued on the journey to see the famous and impressive Dora Canal. We had no idea how gorgeous it would be and we will share photos in the next few days. We took dozens of photos, many of which we still have to share.

Me, wearing my African hat.

A special thanks to new friends Linda and Burt for the beautiful day boating and for sharing your favorite spots with us in the exquisite chain of lakes in central Florida.

Be well.

This map illustrates the chain of lakes where we motor-boated in part yesterday, starting at Harrie Lake and heading to Lake Dora, including the famous Dora Canal.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 28, 2013:

Figuring a little warmth and sun might benefit us; we could only stay outside for 30 minutes in Dubai’s windless, scorching heat. For more photos, please click here.

Purchasing supplements in the US…

Tom has been taking this supplement for 18 years to prevent kidney stones. It has worked well for him. If you have kidney stones, please see your doctor for advice on this supplement.

This morning I placed an order for supplements we use, enough to last for the next four months or so. There’s no question about it. It is expensive for most items in the US. When we return to the US in September, we can restock until we return to Marloth Park nine months later, where they cost less.

When purchasing these same vitamins in South Africa, different but reliable brands, we spent about 40% less. The best pricing I could find for brands I trust in the US was from Puritan’s Pride.

6 Items: $196.12
Puritan’s Perks Points: 1,961 
Vitamin E-200 iu Mixed Tocopherols Natural
100 Softgels / Item #450 (2 bottles)
Low Dose Aspirin 81 mg
240 Tablets / Item #595 (1 bottle)
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride) 50 mg
100 Tablets / Item #1160 (1 bottle)
MK-7 Vitamin K2 90 mcg
60 Softgels / Item #22011 (2 bottles)
Krill Oil Plus High Omega-3 Concentrate 1085 mg
60 Softgels / Item #34783 (3 bottles)
Ubiquinol 200 mg
60 Rapid Release Softgels / Item #50096 (3 bottles)
Some items were listed as “buy 1, get 2 free.” But the single bottle’s price was higher to allow for the “2 free,” preventing them from being much of a bargain. I didn’t fall for this trickery, but I otherwise trusted this company’s products and decided it was an excellent place to spend almost US $200 on supplements.
Why do we take supplements? Tom takes B6 three times a day but has enough on hand to last with this one bottle added to his current supply until we return to the US in September. After having three kidney stone surgeries over three consecutive years, the doctor told him some people had success with B6. Why didn’t he tell Tom this after the first surgery?
He’s been taking 50 mg B6 three times daily for the past 18 years and has never had a recurrence. I take all of the remaining supplements listed here, which are documented in medical studies as having some benefit to those with arteriosclerosis. I did tons of research to discover these studies and feel confident they may have some benefit.
Besides the above, we both take 2000 mg of Vitamin D daily, and I take magnesium which is also good for the heart. One never knows if supplements are working since it’s too difficult to monitor. Please contact your medical professionals before adding any supplements to your diet in case interactions may result if taken with certain prescription medications.
While in South Africa, with the help of the fantastic pharmacists in Komatipoort,  they cross-checked all the supplements I take with the few prescription medications I am taking, giving me peace of mind. We’ve noticed that US pharmacists aren’t willing or able to provide medical advice.
The pharmacists in the US are behind enclosed areas, and when we asked for assistance, they told me to check with a doctor or refer to the various aisles with over-the-counter products. Every country has its rules regarding how much pharmacists can be involved with their customers. I guess it’s a liability issue in the US, whereas, in South Africa, there aren’t as many stringent regulations and resulting lawsuits.
In some countries, many otherwise prescription medications can be sold without a prescription, as occurred when we were in lockdown in India and I developed a tooth abscess. I purchased the necessary antibiotics to treat the condition by ordering them through the hotel’s reception desk, and they were delivered later in the day, no questions asked.
As for today…it’s movie night, and late this afternoon, we’ll head out to Lake Sumter Landing to the Old Mill Playhouse for the movie starting at 6:00 pm and to meet up with Linda and Burt. We still have Karen and Rich’s vehicle for five more days so that we can drive. Once Tom picks Rich up at the airport on Tuesday, May 30, and returns the car to him, we’ll return to using the golf cart. That’s fine with us.
Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 25, 2013:

This AED 282.45 translates to US $76.91, an excellent price for all these items. For details on everything we’d purchased today, see the list at the end of this post. Please click here.

A strange visitor in the garden…

Excuse the jittery video above. I had difficulty trying to edit it, so I decided to go ahead and post it regardless. Tom was talking to his daughter Tammy in Minnesota while attempting to hold the camera with his free hand, and it recorded their conversation. At least you can get the gist of what he was trying to accomplish.

After being exposed to snakes in Marloth Park, South Africa, it never occurred to us that we’d see much wildlife here. We’d hoped to see an alligator and some exciting birds but never anticipated seeing a snake. we laughed about the fact that we have a snake living in the garden while in The Village, Florida.

The snake likely lives here because the backyard is fenced with cement walls. There are numerous opportunities for it to find food. We’ve seen the snake several times but had only one chance to take the jittery video.

We had a gecko trapped in the screened lanai and could not catch it. There was nothing for it to eat in the enclosed area. We put down water for it, but it was looking fragile. When Carol, Mark, and Tom were sitting at the table on the lanai, Carol was able to catch it and put it outside to hopefully flourish. Between the snake, the gecko, and some birds, this is all the wildlife we’ve seen so far.

It feels good that I don’t have much to do today. Last week, the property manager installed the new computer, and we can now use the printer. We’ve promised to get back to work on our passport application since our online appointment is on June 20, and we’d like to have this done and out of the way.

We have plenty of leftovers tonight, and I won’t have to cook, which adds to the easiness of the day. This morning we embarked on the walk we’d missed for a few days, returned to have breakfast, and then settled in to do the post and some work on our laptops.

Today, I’ll do a new online Kroger grocery order, with the order arriving sometime tomorrow. We only need a few items after grocery shopping often in the past few weeks. I enjoy putting the online order together. Go figure. It shouldn’t be that fun, but it is. It’s one of many things I haven’t been able to do for the past few years, and it’s a pleasure.

We have a busy rest of the week planned. We have movie night at Sumter Paddock Landing tomorrow with Linda and Burt. Friday, we’re heading to see Donna, Karen’s mother, who lives a short distance from us, bringing her Chinese food for lunch and having a few-hour visit. Saturday, we’re going on a boat ride and picnic with Linda and Burt on the river.

We’ll likely lay low on Sunday, and more activities will ensue. I still need to call a ton of people on the list of those that have contacted us to get together, but we need a little break from all the activity for a few days before we start booking more social activities.

Do we miss Marloth Park? I think about it many times daily, but we’re both wrapped up in the easy life in The Villages, enjoying the moment. In no time at all, we’ll be back in Africa.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 24, 2013

Check out these cherry tomatoes in Dubai, still on the vines. They looked as if each one had been hand polished. It was a pleasure just looking at them. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…What fun at Brownwood Paddock Square with friends!…

Brownwood Paddock Square, where live entertainment starts daily at 5:00 pm, and sometimes people dance in the square. We plan to return to sit in those bleachers and watch the activity.

After three days and nights with us, Carol and Mark left a few minutes ago to begin their drive back to Boca Raton, Florida, about four hours away. We had a great time with both of them. After lots of cooking and food prep, having an easy day today will feel good with little to no tasks other than washing sheets, towels, and other laundry.

Many people crowded around, taking photos of these two men with parrots on their arms and shoulders.

Last night was enjoyable. After our homemade pizza dinner and salad, we all sat at the table, drank delicious red wine, laughed, and told stories. For the first time since my heart event weeks ago, I drank regular red wine, not low alcohol, and had no ill effects.

I slept enough and felt fine this morning. After sipping a few glasses of the delicious Cabernet Sauvignon over several hours, there was no racing heart or hangover. Now, I know the allergy pill caused the Afib and put me in hospital for three days, four days before we departed South Africa.

Restaurants and other businesses surround the square.

There are few foods or drinks that I can consume with my keto way of eating, and red wine has been a favorite. Not one to overindulge, I can allow myself a bit of red wine when socializing.

There’s a bar at the square for those who want a drink while watching the live entertainment.

We have no plans until Thursday when we’ll return to Lake Sumter Landing for another movie night with Linda and Burt. On Saturday, we are going on a river on Burt’s pontoon boat. We’re looking forward to seeing them and others who’ve contacted us about getting together. But it’s amazing how time is slipping away. We’ve been busy with guests the past few weeks and enjoy every moment.

We’ve had many readers write to us commenting about The Villages and how much there is to do here. Having a car for the next nine days will keep us all the more active since, let’s face it, it’s easier to get around in a car than a golf cart. But we couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on a rental car when we can use the house’s golf cart.

There’s Carol and Mark in front of us as we neared the Bluefin Grill & Bar.

We have all the time in the world and will plan ahead when getting together with others to ensure we are always on time. So what if it takes a little longer to get where we’re going? In a pinch for directions, we can always use “Maps” to get us to where we want to go. Although tricky and sometimes inaccurate, the app on my phone helps with the golf cart trails.

We didn’t know why the dancers were wearing blue robes. Any comments?

Yesterday, I placed an order at Amazon and was curious to see if the package will be delivered directly to the house or the nearby mail station. We shall see how that goes.

A short time ago, I started preparing a new online food order from Kroger. The cart stays on their site for two weeks, but each time I think of something we need, I put it into the site’s cart, making it easy when I finally place the order, knowing I haven’t forgotten anything. I have no doubt we’ll need to place another order in the next week after all the company we’ve had.

Some visitors to the area brought along camp chairs to sit wherever they liked.

The buzzer just went off for the washer. It’s time to load everything into the dryer and start another load. It’s a good day; we’re both content and reveling in every moment.

Be well.

 Photo from ten years ago today, May 23, 2013:

Again today, the air is thick, and the sky is overcast. The smog and sand are evident in this photo we took from our rental of Atlantis at Palm Jumeriah. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…What fun at Brownwood Paddock Square with friends!…

Last night it was fun going out to dinner with Carol and Mark at the Blue Fin Bar & Grill in Brownwood Paddock Square in The Villages.

When it was raining hard mid-afternoon, we were concerned our plans for the evening would be dashed since we’d planned to be outdoors for part of the time. Much to our delight, the sun returned shortly before we were ready to leave, and we were off for our plans.

Arriving at Brownwood Paddock Square with the sun shining, we found a good spot in the parking lot and walked several blocks through the square to easily find the restaurant and four open barstools at the outdoor bar. We plopped down comfortably, ordered drinks, and enjoyed lively conversation and people-watching.

Our friends from Boca Raton, Mark, and Carol. They are visiting us for three nights. We’re having an excellent time with them.

For the first time in four weeks, I had white wine, a crisp Pinot Grigio, always one of my favorite white wines. I always prefer red but had decided to start cautiously, not knowing if I’d react and my heart would race. Nothing happened. Checking my pulse on my Fitbit every so often, I noticed that my pulse stayed in the 60s. Slowly I sipped the wine and ended up having a second glass with dinner.

The outdoor bar at the Blue Fin Bar &. Grill. We had a great time enjoying our drinks.

The only problem I ran into drinking the wine was that it caused me to have a fitful night’s sleep. Maybe I should take that as a warning that wine is no longer for me. I can have a fitful night’s sleep without wine. We shall see how it goes in the future.

A couple sitting beside us at the bar ordered this sushi and the other appetizers below.

The dinner was delicious but not perfect, but the service and ambiance were excellent. Indeed, in the next few months, we’ll return for dinner or drinks at the bar. The atmosphere outdoors was lively and friendly. Tom suggested we try new further locations in The Villages while we have a car (until May 30). I agreed that was a good idea. Even after dark, we can always use the golf cart to get to and from Brownwood Paddock Square.

Their bowl of clam chowder.

There were tons of golf carts everywhere in the square, many of which would return to their houses in the dark. It feels incredibly safe here, and we’re not worried at all.

A small rib appetizer was ordered by the people next to us.

With Carol and Mark still here this morning, I made another breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs, onion and bacon bits, and a big side of bacon. I assumed they ate somewhat like we do for some goofy reason, so I failed to buy bread, jelly, pancake ingredients, syrup, and orange juice. When I’d asked if they ate bread or potatoes with dinner and they said they did not, it was the basis from which I assumed they were keto or low carb.

Tom’s dinner of fish and chips. He said it was good, but the chips were a little overdone. I had grilled ahi tuna atop a Caesar salad without dressing or croutons (no photo shown).

Next time we have houseguests, I will be more specific about the foods they prefer with meals. We haven’t had a lot of overnight guests in the past several years, so I’m a little rusty at this. We always want our guests to have access to the foods they enjoy.

Carol and Mark left an hour ago to go to a car museum about a 30-minute drive from here. I was busy doing the post and preparing all the toppings and ingredients for tonight’s pizza and salad dinner. Thus, I was unable to go with them. Tom decided to stay with me offering help with the time-consuming process of preparing this big meal. We had to change our bedding and go to the local post office.

Carol’s dinner of grilled ahi tuna and bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts.

Snail mail from the United States Postal Service doesn’t necessarily come to the house here. There are some items that we need that I am ordering from Amazon. If the Amazon truck typically delivers packages, no problem. They will deliver to us. But, some products at Amazon are sent via other sellers by USPS, which are delivered to the local postal service centers. This was a problem for us since we couldn’t access the mailbox at the service center.

A few days ago,  I contacted the owner, and she agreed to let us use the mailbox as needed for any packages sent by USPS. After Carol and Mark left for the museum this morning, we went to the postal center to inform them that it was okay to receive mail for us. Then, if a package comes, we can pick it up, or they will deliver it to the house between 12:00 and 2:00 pm.

Mark’s ahi tuna, rice, and bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts, with sauce, on the side.

It’s required that patrons speak to the postal people through the mailbox opening. Quite peculiar. I’d found the key where the owner said she left it and talked to the person through the hole, explaining we’ll receive a few packages while we’re here until the end of July. Now I can rest easy and place my waiting Amazon order. Ah, the little things…

More photos will follow tomorrow from our outing last night.

Be well.

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

There were no photos posted on this date. For the text portion of the post, please click here.

Having a fabulous time with friends visiting from Boca Raton..

Ten years ago today…Normally, big cities don’t appeal to us.  Dubai is unique with its opulence, its wealth, its excess, and its clean, safe streets. See the post here.

Note: New photos coming tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.

I met my friend Carol in 1985 in a bar in Bloomington, Minnesota, the same bar where I met Tom in 1991. No, I wasn’t a barfly, but I occasionally went out with friends after work to this fun establishment that is now long gone. On that particular night, I was there with several female friends.

When I went to the bar to order a drink, I noticed a woman standing there, appearing alone. I asked her if she wanted to join my friends and me at our table. Oddly, we became fast friends under those circumstances and have been in touch since then. She was a commercial airline pilot before she retired about the same time as Tom, over ten years ago. I loved her independence, daring nature, and enthusiasm for living life to the fullest.

We visited her in Florida on a few occasions, where she eventually made her permanent home in a beautiful house on the intercoastal waterway. Once I met Tom in 1991, coincidentally at the same establishment, she also became his friend.

Over the years, she visited us at our home in Minnesota, and since we began traveling, we had an opportunity to meet up with her twice, once when we first began our journey, staying at her home for a few nights, and again in 2017 during a short stint in Florida, while awaiting a cruise.

We could see the entrance to our 91-story building, Elite Residence, in Dubai, UAE, but couldn’t seem to get to it due to construction on all sides. Finally, we found the entrance.

When we knew we were coming to Florida this time, we definitely planned to see Carol and meet her boyfriend of the past three years, Mark, who is a great guy, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed his company as well. Since we don’t have a car here regularly, we planned for them to visit us in The Villages, a two-hour drive from their home in Boca Raton.

It was delightful to see them drive up yesterday afternoon when they arrived before 2:00 pm, and the afternoon and evening hours flew by as we sat around the house, enjoying lively conversation. At happy hour, we sat outdoors on the lanai with a few snacky items and drinks, finally heading indoors for dinner around 7:30 pm.

Luckily, I had prepped most of the dinner the previous day and was able to put everything together, cook the meal, set the table, and be ready to serve when they all came indoors. Again, the conversation flowed easily while we enjoyed our chicken stir-fry dinner with fluffy white rice.

I’d decided to make a stir-fry again since it worked well when friends Karen and Rich were here over a week ago. When guests visit, it’s an easy meal to prep when all the vegetables and chicken can be cut in advance, letting the chicken marinate in Asian spices overnight. Once again, the cake was a big hit.

Tonight, we’re heading to Brownwood Paddock Square for the late afternoon and evening. We’ll be dining at the Bluefin Grill and Bar in the town square after we check out the live band in the square starting at 5:00 pm. From there, we’ll walk to the restaurant, a short distance, for our 7:15 reservation. Of course, we’ll take photos of our evening out and begin sharing them in tomorrow’s post.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago, May 21, 2013:

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, which we’ll visit soon. Our cab driver showed us a video on his phone of the 40-second elevator ride to the observation deck on the 124th floor. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Movie Night in The Villages with friends…Friends coming today for three nights…Medical update…

Tom stood outside the movie theatre moments before we entered.

I made another exact cake I made a few days ago for Wednesday’s dinner guests. I’d purposely purchased two of everything for the cakes. Tom finished it off last night. It was a busy morning with friends Carol and Mark arriving soon, staying for three nights. They are driving from Boca Raton, Florida, and are expected to arrive around 1:40 pm based on a message I received from Carol a few minutes ago.

Before we headed out to the market this morning for ice and a few more items, the cake was out of the oven cooling for the layers of frosting I just added when it completely cooled. Everything for tonight’s dinner is prepped except last-minute cooking and serving.

We finally know our way to the market without using the Maps app. We’re finally learning our way around, especially now that we have a car for the next ten days. Food is expensive in the US, as I’ve mentioned many times in the past. Every quick trip to the store here ends up costing no less than $100.

There are countless bars and restaurants in each of the town squares. Golf carts are everywhere!

Right now, since my heart events, I haven’t been drinking wine, thinking the sulfites in the wine may have been instrumental in precipitating the events, although I only drank low-alcohol wine and small amounts in any one sitting. After extensive research, I found that sulfites in wine may be very high in low-alcohol wine, both white and red.

I’ve always known I was sensitive to sulfites when I had allergy symptoms when eating dried food in my old life, which I haven’t had in the past 12 years. I never had a specific reaction to wine other than knowing that I could only drink a small amount or end up awake all night. I’ve always enjoyed a glass of wine during sundowners or dinner and lately haven’t had any.

Instead, we purchased a bottle of Bombay Gin, and on a few occasions, I’ve had one tablespoon of the gin with a diet tonic and fresh lime. I’ve yet to drink more than two of these gin and tonics for a maximum of two tablespoons in an evening with no ill effect.

Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack and Tequila Bar has half off beer, wine, and margaritas from 3 to 5 daily. This restaurant is located in the movie theatre building. See their website here.

You may say, why bother to drink at all? I’m a light-weight social drinker and enjoy a little something when socializing. However, I still don’t know for sure if the sulfites caused the horrible Afib that put me in the hospital less than four weeks ago and occurred again while on the 17-hour flight from Joburg to Atlanta. I hadn’t had any alcohol at the airport or on the four days after getting out of hospital before we flew away.

As I scoured medical reports online for days, I accidentally encountered a scientific report stating that women over 60 may develop Afib from taking an allergy medication I’d been taking for a little over a month when the events occurred. After considerable research, I wondered if sulfites were, in fact, the culprit. But I continued to research, not 100% sure it was the sulfites.

After digging deeper, I am convinced the prescription non-drowsy antihistamine I was taking was causing the cardiac events. Immediately, I stopped taking the drug several days ago and noticed my pulse has reduced considerably along with my blood pressure in the past few days since the drug is now out of my system.

No doctor has the time to research rare side effects for every drug they prescribe to every patient. I don’t blame the doctor or the pharmacist for such a relatively rare occurrence, which is most prevalent in patients who have asthma, are female, are over 60, and have coronary artery disease, all of which applies to me. I am now convinced that the drug was the cause.

Every afternoon, they have live entertainment, including comedy acts.

However, it’s still vague about the sulfites in wine. As a wine lover, I don’t like giving it up entirely, and there are few sulfite-free wines on the market in the US, let alone in other countries. It may end up being a “trial and errors” process of trying a small amount of wine and seeing what happens. It may have been a combination of the drug with the sulfites. I’ll only know if I try again to drink regular wine in moderation, which I always did anyway.

Do not use my personal experiences as a point of reference. My research found that low-alcohol wine, predominantly white, has more sulfites than regular red wine. If any of this may apply to you, please contact your medical professionals for assistance.

The medical profession doesn’t know everything. Tom always says that’s why they call it “practicing medicine.” We all have the choice to do our own research, not from unreliable non-medical resources and internet chatter but from reliable resources, as mentioned above. Plus, some of us may have a rare reaction to a specific drug resulting in severe consequences.

Many popular chain restaurants in The Villages, such as Johnny Rockets in Sumter Landing.

One only needs to watch the endless commercials for prescription drugs on TV to see the risks many drugs pose to certain people. Most of these warnings are terrifying. And many of these drugs may save lives. It’s up to each person to be their own advocate or, if not possible, to assign this responsibility to a loved one willing to do the work and then present their evidence to their medical professionals, who may or may not agree with the findings.

That’s enough from me today. We’ll be back tomorrow with more and will continue to post with our friends here.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 20, 2013:

This was the final “towel animal” on the bed on our last night on Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas. It was an exciting cruise, and we loved every moment. For more, please click here.