Cold in Arizona this morning…Off to see old friends…Tom’s birthday…Wine shopping…

Even those residents with RVs may have fruit trees such as this orange tree in their front yard.

This morning we awoke to 39F (3.9C). In this tiny house, it only takes a few minutes to heat the entire unit which we did immediately upon awakening. The Phoenix and surrounding suburbs are known for warm and sunny winter weather but it’s not unusual to see temps as low as this on occasion.


After the chill in Minnesota only weeks ago, this is undaunting to us. When we arrived in Minneapolis on November 8th, the temps were well below zero for several days. That was tough to handle, especially when we were still coughing and feeling unwell.



This morning we’ll get on the road by 11:00 am to drive to the Tonto Verde Golf Club in Rio Verde, about an hour’s drive from Apache Junction to meet old friends Vicki and Jerry for lunch at 12:30 pm.


We only met them once in 2015, on the beach in Kauai, Hawaii, while the four of us hit it off so well. We’ve stayed in touch all these years via our posts and email sent back and forth. We are looking forward to seeing the two of them.


We are fortunate to have met so many fine people over the past seven years of world travel. Now, it seems everywhere we travel, we have new friends we’ve made on cruises and via our website that we’d like to see face to face. Having the opportunity to visit with these fine people, make our lives all the more meaningful.


I’ve made a grocery list for Tom’s upcoming birthday on December 23rd, one week from today. With the family members attending his party there will be a total of seven of us. On his birthday, I will post the menu.

Tom’s sisters have lemon and orange trees in their yards. Maybe I’ll make lemon drop martinis for Tom’s birthday!


With this small kitchen, we’ve decided to cook on the grill. He’s asked for one of his favorite cakes, a lemon concoction, an old recipe of my mother’s from many moons ago.


As mentioned in the past I’ve been thoroughly enjoying drinking red wine after a 20-year hiatus during which I didn’t drink at all. There was no particular reason I quit drinking in the ’90s but somehow I lost the taste for it. Instead, I always drank iced tea on most social occasions.
While on the cruise for 33-nights that circumvented the entire Australian continent, we finally qualified for complimentary drinks during “happy hour” from 4:30 pm to 8:00 pm.


It was during this period while socializing with wonderful Australians and Americans we met aboard the ship that I experimented and had a few glasses of red wine. My tolerance was minimal and I could barely get through one glass. 


Of course, as time passed I was able to pace myself to eventually have two glasses spread over the 3½ hour period. After happy hour ended, I’d switched to mineral water and be perfectly content.


After the open heart surgery, both the cardiologist and the surgeon suggested drinking red wine in moderation may be beneficial to the cardiovascular system. 
Now, I monitor how much I drink and strive to stay within the criteria. In the process, my taste buds have re-ignited and I’m on a mission to find the wine I most enjoy.


In this process, organic wine seems to suit me best. With little or no sulfites in organic wine and the fact that no pesticides or chemicals are used in growing the grapes organic wine is particularly appealing.


While in Minnesota I discovered Total Wine, a national wine superstore the only location where I can purchase a variety of organic wines. Although wine is now available in grocery stores in most states, I’ve yet to find more than one or two options for organic wine in any of the grocery stores we’ve visited in Minnesota, Nevada or Arizona.

Oranges, ready for the picking, in the RV park.


Last night, I placed an order online for a case of organic wines and later today or tomorrow, we’ll pick it up in Gilbert, Arizona (only about 20 minutes from here) since it’s ready for pickup. The convenience of placing the order online as opposed to searching through the hundreds of types of bottles of wine in a store is something we appreciate.


This is all new to us. In most countries where we’ve traveled in the remote areas we prefer, such convenience is unavailable. I must admit that conveniences such as this, that we’ve only found in the US are quite unusual to us. 


A lot has changed in the past seven years. In a funny way, its almost as if we’re the ones experiencing “culture shock” when we find so many conveniences while in the USA. As we’d done years ago, everyone takes such ease-of-use situations for granted. For, us, we’re like “kids in a candy store” eyes-wide in awe of what is now available in the US.


But soon, that will all change again as we head to India where, once again, we’ll adapt to the differences which, in that country, will be profound. We’re ready for this high level of adaptation over the two month period.


That’s it for today folks. It’s time for us to leave to see Vicki and Jerry. Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of our day with old friends.


Have a fantastic Monday!

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Photo from one year ago today, December 16, 2018:

A peculiar looking bird isn’t it?  Ostriches are remnants of the prehistoric era. For more photos, please click here.

Omelet in a bag party…Minnesota Vikings Football party today…

Tom’s three-egg omelet after it came out of the bag.

It was a lovely gathering of 18 local residents including Tom’s three sisters, their spouses and us. We can’t believe how welcome we feel with this fine group of people and their social activities, often occurring several times a week.

Jane, our hostess, showing me how the omelets were made. Tom wears his name tag when we go to social functions. Go figure.


With our somewhat isolated lifestyle as we travel the world, this time in Apache Junction, Arizona has become special for us. Also, the opportunity to spend time with Tom’s family with their endless humor and story-telling has only added to our experience.

The items to include with the eggs in the bag per each guest’s preferences.

We needed time to unwind before we head out into the world again. The busy few months including time in Amsterdam, the Baltic cruise, three properties in England, one in Wales and then the cruise from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, required an enormous amount of travel.

There were 18 attendees to the “omelet in a bag” party.


It’s no wonder we were vulnerable to the virus we caught aboard the last cruise. Finally, after over six weeks we’re recovering with only infrequent bouts of coughing. Tom’s appetite has returned. His back is recovering from his twisting incident and we’re feeling relieved to be our “old” selves once again.


Yesterday’s party was fun. As usual, the women gathered in one area and the men in another. This phenomenon seems more prevalent in the older generation which doesn’t both either of us. 

Our sister/sister-law Margie showing me how to mix the eggs in the bag.
It’s never that either gender is attempting conversation less suitable for the opposite sex. Overall, I think it’s just a habit developed over generations. Younger people today seem less likely to separate in this manner.
Len, our host wore a fun apron and handled the cooking of the omelets.
I politely passed on the omelet in a bag since I’d eaten ahead of time knowing there would be little I could have based on my way of eating and with my hesitancy about eating something cooked in a plastic bag. 
Host Jane and Len had plenty of eggs. Guests brought along a variety of fillings and breakfast side dishes.

I don’t use plastic wrap or bags to heat foods in the microwave and quietly stuck to my beliefs. However, I never mentioned anything about the bags. Nothing is more annoying than a person discussing the avoidance of foods or smells at a party due to fear of toxicity. 

Giant pots used to cook the omelets in the bags. They cook for 15 minutes after each guest has written their name on the bag.

Although, I had no choice but to discretely admit to my way of eating when offered cheesy potatoes, yummy looking brownies, Christmas cookies, and the other Margi’s cinnamon rolls and other such treats. The hardest item for me to resist was those sticky, gooey, nut-topped cinnamon rolls. 


It was another pleasant gathering and were both back to our little house by 4:00 pm. We had a quiet evening, watching a few shows we’d previously downloaded some time ago. The WiFi isn’t good here so we doubt we’ll be able to stream any new shows.

The other Margie made these yummy looking sticky buns.

Today at 2:00 pm, we’re off to Colleen and Gene’s home where Tom will set up his NFL GamePass connecting his computer to their TV using our new HDMI cord, enabling all of us to watch the live Minnesota Vikings game which isn’t on TV here.


Tomorrow by 11:00 am we’re driving to Rio Verde to meet old friends for lunch. We met in Vicki and Jerry in Kauai Hawaii in January 2015. We’re so looking forward to seeing them!


Enjoy your Sunday!

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 15, 2018:

After Louise had seen our photos of Little coming up the steps to the veranda, we all laughed out loud when he did it again while she and her son Jandre were visiting.  For more photos, please click here

Oh, what a night!…The Minnesota Vikings big win and a date night to boot…

Tom was thrilled to be seated in the comfortable big booth in the bar with me, watching the live playoff game.

I was never much of a football enthusiast.  On the other hand, Tom was born in Minnesota, living and working there all his life up until we left in October 2012.(I lived there 42 years). His passion for football lies solely with the Minnesota Vikings.

In our old lives, he developed what I considered somewhat of an odd routine of preferring to watch the game alone without distractions. I stayed out of his way and didn’t interrupt him with such dumb questions as, “What time do you want to have dinner?”

Besides, he’s never cared what time we have dinner, always leaving the decision up to me, even now as we travel the world. It could be 3:00 pm or 8:00 pm and he’ll never comment one way or another.

As the years passed, those then 21 years we’d spent together (now approaching 27 years), I busied myself in cooking Sunday dinners or other tasks during the three-plus hour period the football game was on TV.

What always surprised me was his lack of yelling, cheering, and booing during the games. He never made a peep. I could only determine the outcome of the game when he walked into the kitchen after it ended with a smile on his face or not.

I was always used to the loud, explosive comments and rampant jumping around of my two sons, Richard and Greg, who both remain loud and explosive today as the games have continued over the years.

Oddly, once we left Minnesota in 2012 to travel the world, I became interested in the Vikings when Tom became a member of  NFL GamePass. There’s an annual fee was from US $99 (ARS 1,848) to US $199 (ARS 3,714) per season depending on the package he chooses.

This annual service allows out-of-the-country-only access for all NFL football games including playoff and Super Bowl games, either watching it live with commercials or waiting several hours to watch it commercial-free. 

They were ready for the first play of the game.

Since Tom likes to spend free time on Facebook, where often the progression of a game is posted, he prefers to watch the game live so he’ll be surprised by the outcome like everyone else. This, of course, depends entirely on our time zone.

The time in Minnesota is three hours earlier than Buenos Aires.  Last night’s playoff game, between the Vikings and New Orleans Saints, started here at 6:40 pm. Next week’s game will determine which teams go to the Super Bowl and will be aired here at 8:40 pm. 

Although I don’t watch every game with him, when often he watches while I do the day’s post, I’ve been paying close attention to what’s transpiring and now consider myself a fan. 

I still don’t ask him a lot of questions during the games but after being in each other’s presence 24/7 these past years, he’s changed his ways a little and will talk to me during the game. I won’t take credit for this. It’s simply due to the fact he can pause the game and readily hit “resume” at any time. But, he still doesn’t hoot and holler. Instead, I do that for both of us.

With my added interest in the outcome of last night’s playoff game, we decided to make a night of it. With the hotel almost devoid of guests again, we asked if we could watch the game at one of the big booths in the bar.  No problem. We didn’t even have to wear ear pieces with no one around.

We loaded up the balance of a bottle of red wine and a few beers for Tom and got comfortably situated at the huge table in the bar, sitting closely side by side in order to watch it on his 15.6-inch laptop monitor. 

I kept my laptop on, open to Facebook while commenting with various friends throughout the world and also son Richard as the game progressed. It couldn’t have been more fun! Tom and I chatted endlessly while he continued to educate me on the finer points of the rules and various plays, some of which I’d never taken the time to learn.

The Vikings won during the last few seconds of the game when I found myself involuntarily, loudly, and explosively expressing my enthusiasm. Nowadays, Tom will talk to me during the game, although I do keep my line of questioning football related. 

We had a blast!  Maybe if they hadn’t won I wouldn’t be saying that so freely.  Most enthusiastic fans don’t say it was fun when their team loses. Now we’re looking forward to next Sunday night’s game, albeit late for us, but we won’t be able to avoid watching it!

Here in Argentina, most are huge fans of soccer is the case in many other parts of the world.  Every country seems to have its own variation of football, soccer, and rugby fans as excited as those in the US and sometimes, even more.

It’s a happy day for our friends and readers wherever they may be celebrating the wins for the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles, (who’ll the Vikings will play next week in their final playoff game), the New England Patriots, the Jacksonville Jaguars, all competing for the position of the two final teams to participate in the 52nd Super Bowl game to be played at the new stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Note: The Minnesota Vikings will make NFL history if they reach Super Bowl LII, becoming the first team ever to play for the title in its home stadium. That’s even more exciting!

Happy day to all, wherever you may be and whatever sport you may follow!       
    
Photo from one year ago today, January 15, 2017:

As we posted our final photos of Penguin, Tasmania we gushed over the charm of this special town and how it whimsically celebrates its fairy penguins. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

Willing to let go?…Minnesota Vikings Football season…A must for Tom to see..

Starfruit only has 6 carbs per fruit.  A little slice of this might be nice in my water.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This morning while we lounged in bed at 6:00 am, the sounds of the early day were music to our ears; cows mooing, roosters crowing, birds singing and church bells chiming.  Magical.

There’s no doubt that traveling the world without-an-end-in-sight has given us both a degree of happiness we never anticipated at this point in life and a purpose far beyond our wildest dreams.

However, life is an amalgam of trade-offs and to accomplish this dream we-never-knew-we-had-until-it-happened…we gave up so much. The opportunity to live this nomadic lifestyle was astounding; on our own terms; in our own time; at this special time of our lives; as retired senior citizens with the financial means (in a relatively frugal manner with a strict budget).

Gnarly tree in the yard.

In the process, each of us had to decide what aspects of our old lives we were willing to forfeit (beyond being with beloved family and friends), as impractical, costly or inconvenient.  Incorporating those items we refused to forgo became a continuing challenge in one way or another.

Years ago, a reader wrote a private email to me suggesting I cut my hair, stop doing my nails and pedicures and dispense with wearing makeup.  Wouldn’t that make traveling easier, they suggested? 

Starfruit that has fallen from the tree to the ground.

I laughed.  Good grief, I gave up having a home, my family and friends, my worldly possessions and a plethora of conveniences to live this life.  Why would I give up who I am and have always been?  I’ve always prepared myself for the day by my standards, on my own terms. 

Why would traveling dictate that I suddenly change my way of putting myself together?  It would be as preposterous as someone who’s never used mascara or lipstick and happily so, to suddenly start doing so just because they’re traveling.  We are who we are and we have the right to be so.

The view of the Central Valley is always changing based on weather conditions.

So what, if every few weeks I do my nails with products I buy from the US and have shipped in our usual box of supplies once or twice a year?  Who cares if I shop at the local market for the cosmetics I now use instead of a department store as I did in my old life?  No one.  Literally, no one cares.

As for Tom, he too, gave up “things” he enjoyed…reading the physical copy of the daily and Sunday newspaper, owning a car, putzing around in the yard, stopping at Super America in the morning for a delicious Super Mom’s doughnut, and most of all…watching Minnesota Vikings football games and following all the hoopla that surrounds it.

A side view of the villa. The outdoor kitchen is located below the veranda.

During our first Vikings season of world travels Tom signed up at NFL Game Pass with a bit of frustration over its inconsistency and nuances yet to be corrected by the service.   We’d written an earlier post on this topic four years ago on August 8, 2013, (coincidentally, almost to today’s date) which can be found here

Over these past years, we’ve written about this topic to some degree each and every year, as Tom deliberates whether or not he’ll sign up again.  The original pricing for the season for only the one team (excluding possible playoff and Super Bowl games) was US $169, (CRC 97,388).

We’ve heard their hilarious clicking sounds and seen plenty of gecko poop but this was the first I’d seen.  Earlier that day Tom spotted the colorful Gold Dust Day Gecko, our favorite as shown in this photo below that we took in Maui in 2014.  

This is a Gold Dust Day Gecko that we found on the wall in the lanai during a storm. He looked at up me as I shot this photo.  Hopefully, we’ll find such a colorful species here in Costa Rica.

Last year NFL Game Pass gave him a special deal when they no longer offered the “one team only package.”  They gave him all the NFL teams package for the previous year’s price of $169, (CRC 97,388).

This year as he prepared to sign up again, he noticed the price had increased to US $199, (CRC 114,676) and he hesitated to sign up. However, he had it set up in their system to perform an automatic renewal.  When he tried after several attempts to cancel the automatic renewal, it wouldn’t allow him to do so.

Finally, he had to contact them to cancel his automatic renewal.  They instructed him to follow the steps he’d already completed to no avail.  Again, he sent them an email, asking he be removed entirely which they did.  Frustration set in.  Was this worth it?

We’ve seen these flowering trees in most tropical climates.  My friend Colleen wrote and reminded me that this is the Africa Flame Tree.  Thanks. dear friend!

On Friday night, I signed up, under my name for US $124, (CRC 71,456) and now he’ll be able to watch all the teams if he so chooses.  Most likely, the price will increase next year under my name, but for now, this is fine. 

(By the way, this service only works outside North America.  We have to turn off our VPN showing we’re in the USA in order for the app to work for us).

Th first preseason game will be on August 10th, this Thursday evening.  We’ll watch it on the 80 inch, (203 cm) flat screen TV in the screening room by plugging in our HDMI cord from his laptop.  With only a one or two-hour time difference from locations where the games will be played, we’ll be able to watch the games live.

Another view of low lying clouds in the early morning.

When we spent from 2015 to 2017 in the South Pacific, the time differences were not only different by hours but also by one day due to the International Dateline.  For example, Tom would often begin watching a game around 10:00 am, Australia time, on a Monday as opposed to when it may have been playing in the US on a Sunday.

In any case, he’s good to go this Thursday.  In November, he’ll miss several games when we’re on a 30-day back-to-back cruise in South America.  However, he’ll be able to watch the games on the app after they’ve played, once the cruise ends in Buenos Aires on December 23rd (coincidentally, Tom’s 65th birthday).

Today, we’re planning to head out by taxi around noon.  It appears there’s a Walmart store not too far from here.  My flat iron broke (it lasted five years) and that would be the most logical place to replace it (yep, one of my “necessary devices” even though I travel the world) and hopefully, if they have a grocery department, we can find some whole cream for the coffee.

Enjoy your cup of coffee or tea with us today or next time you have a chance to stop by and read our snippets of daily life “in the world.”

_______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, August 7, 2016:

After narrow two lanes roads in Bali, these wider roads in Phuket are easier to maneuver, especially with less traffic than in Bali.  Phuket wasn’t quite like I remembered it when I traveled there for three weeks, 30 years ago (before Tom).  For more photos, please click here.

Patience is a virtue…Watching football and debate with a not-so-hot signal…Tracking a package halfway round the world…

She said, “What are you looking at?”  “Your beauty and charm,” we replied.  She smiled and we continued on our way.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Coal barge pulled by a tugboat.

If a traveler was content to read and send email and check out a few local tours, restaurants and attractions, the Wi-Fi signal in this distant area of Bali would be sufficient.  For most travelers with the intent of escaping the digital world to some degree while on holiday/vacation, this would be fine.

A pig we hadn’t seen on prior walks.

For us, with our intense use of Wi-Fi including streaming shows at night or as in the case yesterday’s Minnesota Vikings Football game and the second presidential debate, it was hit and miss.

Patience truly is a virtue when it come to waiting for the signal to recover when mid-game, mid-debate we lost the connection on multiple occasions.  In our old lives, Tom would have thrown his hands up in the air in utter frustration refusing to wait, instead turning the whole thing off.  Now, he waits patiently.

Steamy body of water found on a walk.

In this life, patience becomes a necessary element of who we are especially when dealing with “island time” which is a reality of daily life in many parts of the world.  It was only in the US and busy cities throughout the world that we’ve experienced a constant sense of urgency.

“I want it now!” is the mantra of many customers waiting for their coffee at the local barista or waiting at the supermarket to check out as their darting eyes peruse every line wondering which is shortest or fastest with the least number of items in the trolleys.  Rush, rush, rush.

We continued beyond this building to the path on the left.

Not so for this life as we know it.  In most of the quiet areas in which we’ve lived over these past years, there no sense of urgency.  Power off?  No big deal.  It will come back on soon.  Wi-Fi slow or not working?  Find something else to do until it improves.

Chaise lounges aren’t ready by 8 am?  No need to mention.  Wait patiently until they’re done.  Dinner ready too early or a bit late?  No matter.  We’re fine either way.

Waiting for an hour for an immigration check in at the airport?  Nothing can be done.  Wait. Patience prevails.  Spending several hours waiting to board the ship in Vancouver while multiple cruise ships and passengers were backed up at the busy port?  Read a book or play a game on our phones.  No point whinging or complaining.

A narrow path we explored.

This same goes for the recent package of supplies we’re awaiting from the US.  Yep, we sent it “priority express” by the US Postal Service (the only means available to this remote location), paying a premium price for this expedited shipment at US $185, IDR 2,400,930. 

Today is the sixth day since the package was picked up at our mailing service in Nevada, USA.  Here’s the route so far (most recent is at the top):

Date & Time
Status of Item
Location
October 9, 2016 , 10:02 am

Customs Clearance

INDONESIA
Your item is being processed by customs in INDONESIA at 10:02 am on October 9, 2016.
October 9, 2016 , 9:32 am
Customs Clearance
INDONESIA
October 9, 2016 , 9:32 am
Processed Through Facility
INDONESIA
October 8, 2016 , 4:00 pm
Departed
JAKARTA, INDONESIA
October 8, 2016 , 10:35 am
Departed
TOKYO, JAPAN
October 8, 2016 , 7:27 am
Departed
TOKYO, JAPAN
October 7, 2016 , 12:54 am
Departed
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES
October 6, 2016 , 6:38 pm
Arrived
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES
October 5, 2016 , 6:43 pm
Processed Through Facility
ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS) 
October 5, 2016 , 6:43 pm
Arrived at Facility
ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS) 
October 5, 2016 , 5:25 pm
Departed USPS Facility
LOS ANGELES, CA 90009 
October 5, 2016 , 3:53 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility
LOS ANGELES, CA 90009 
October 5, 2016 , 4:53 am
Departed USPS Facility
LAS VEGAS, NV 89199 
October 4, 2016 , 10:02 pm
Arrived at USPS Origin Facility
LAS VEGAS, NV 89199 
October 4, 2016 , 9:24 pm
Arrived at USPS Origin Facility
LAS VEGAS, NV 89120 
October 4, 2016 , 2:37 pm
Picked Up
LAS VEGAS, NV 89107 

A few white chickens.

Tom gets a kick out following package tracking for our average two shipments a year.  Today is the 11th in Indonesia although the one day time difference between the US and Indonesia isn’t illustrated in this tracking process.  

Now the package sits in customs as the officials determine how much tax we’ll be required to pay at the post office when it finally arrives in Melaya Beach, a 10 minute drive from the villa .  We’ll see how that rolls out.

A mosque along the highway.

In many ways, living this life of world travel makes us a captive audience.  We don’t always have the opportunity to choose “when” and “how” situations transpire.  We can only choose to be patient, tolerant and accepting.

Somehow yesterday, we managed to watch the entire football game and the second presidential debate streamed from our laptops to the TV.  Both were broadcast at the same time so we watched the football game first (go, Vikings!)  and found a replay of the debate to stream after the game ended.  It all worked out well.

After many days of rain, once again, we’re outside on a clear sunny day.  The humidity is lower than usual along with the temperature.  The flies, after days of rain are plentiful.  We’re content, grateful and delightfully enjoying our remaining 18 days at the villa until once again, its time to go.

May you be content and grateful on this day and always.

_________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, October 11, 2015:

A glimpse of loveliness, flowers growing under the deck in Fiji.  For more photos,
please click here.
 

Tom’s excited…He watched the first Vikings pre-season game…



Lilies blooming in pot in front yard.

With a good Wi-Fi signal in the house in Phuket, we’ve been able to stream a few Showtime series we’ve enjoy, Ray Donovan and The Affair, both gripping and entertaining which we watch in the evenings after dinner.

We signed up for Showtime at Amazon for US $8.95, THB $311 as a adjunct to our Prime membership which we’ll cancel when we’re done with both series, most likely by the time we leave here in a few weeks.


Garden area inside the gate of the villa.

As football season approached, Tom renewed his membership for NFL GamePass, for only US $99, THB $3442 per season which now, as opposed to in the past, includes all the team’s games, playoff games and Super Bowl games. 

To use this app one must watch the games outside the US or use a VPN showing an outside-the-US Wi-Fi connection.  As a result, Tom doesn’t need to use our VPN (Hotspot Shield) while watching since it our point of entry will show we’re outside the US anyway.


House in the neighborhood with gate open.

We often giggle over how we ever figured out all these things.  Many of these apps are complicated to use and don’t work as readily as one expects.  Even impatient Tom has learned to make it all work without any prompting from me.

As a note, using Hotspot Shield provides us with an added layer of protection against hackers as well as showing we’re entering a site from the US.  Some shopping sites we may use for buying gifts for family members show different prices if we aren’t in the US.  Using Hotspot Shield ensures we get the US generated webpage and pricing.


Messy yard in the neighborhood.

All of the above is only relevant if one is living outside the US or their home country.  It can be very confusing.  Honestly, it took us a year or so to get it all figured out and working properly during which time the technology improved as it all became easier to use.

Thus, yesterday afternoon Tom plugged in the HDMI cord  from his laptop to the flat screen TV in the living room, activated NFL GamePass and within minutes was watching the Minnesota Vikings football game which had aired four hours earlier rather than watch it live which when doing so would result in pauses for commercials and half time.

By waiting until after the game is over, he can watch the entire game commercial and halftime free.  Instead of it taking over 3 hours to broadcast each game, he can watch it in its entirety in around 90 minutes. 


We pass by this house on our way to the highway.  Many motorbikes have attached carts such as shown here.

Of course, a decent signal is required to watch an uninterrupted game.  When we return to Bali in a few weeks with its poor signal, there will be numerous pauses during the game as it attempts to stream the contents. 

We had to deal with these frustrating streaming delays when we attempted to stream a few shows while we were in Bali a few months ago.  That’s the way it is.  There’s nothing we can do about it and Tom will deal with it while watching the games in September and October.


Tall house in the neighborhood.

Otherwise, all is OK here.  There’s been no new bombings in the past 24 hours although security is beefed up everywhere in Thailand, especially in tourist areas.  We’ll remain diligent and careful when heading out.

Tomorrow, we’ll begin to share photos from our sightseeing outing from a few days ago as we wind down our remaining 18 days in Thailand. 

Have a blissful Saturday or Sunday, whichever it is, wherever you may be.

________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, August 14, 2015:

Nothing is more exciting for us than spotting wildlife in its natural habitat as was the case in Trinity Beach, Australia when we spotted this pelican.  For more photos, please click here.

Transportation…Another long day without power…VPN tip…Five days until departure…

There are many sailboats in the islands, a choice location for avid sailors.

Three months is a long time in one location without a car.  Oh, I’m not complaining. We’re thrilled with the savings.
Not paying upwards of USD $1500, FJD $3239 per month (as an example in Fiji), USD $4500, FJD $9719 for three months of a rental car plus fuel as opposed to the under USD $300, FJD $648 total we’ll have spent for a driver for the full three months in Fiji provides a huge savings on an annualized basis.

This amount of savings by not renting a car in Fiji was enough to pay for our upcoming cruise in January for both of us, selecting a balcony cabin (as always).  Each time we opt for a driver as opposed to a rental car the savings is generally in this range ultimately paying for most upcoming cruises. 

In 2016, we’ve scheduled five cruises;  four ocean going, one river cruise.  With our love of cruising and the ability to see so much at one time, choosing a driver over a rental car is a small sacrifice to us.

In other countries such as upcoming in New Zealand in January, a rental car is a must with our intentions to tour the two islands.  We’ve found the cost in NZ is much more affordable than in Fiji as is the case in more populated countries.

A sandy beach along the quiet road we traveled.

As we move to the next island of Fiji for 28 days again we’ll use a driver.  The company that we’ve arranged to pick us up at the Suva Airport will also serve as our drivers once we arrive in Pacific Harbour, an hour’s drive from the airport. 

In the new location, we’ll have the freedom (and luxury) of walking to nearby shops and restaurants according to the owner.  I can hardly wait to be able to walk when there. Although lovely overall in Savusavu its been impossible to go for a walk on the steep dirt road up the mountain. 

We can barely maneuver getting into Rasnesh’s vehicle, the incline is so steep.  Invariably, the car door is so heavy on the incline, that in itself it’s a challenge to close once inside, the incline creating a darned weird obstacle, dangerous and unwieldy.  Level ground at this point is rather appealing.

Living in Savusavu hasn’t been easy in some ways, certainly not anyone’s fault.  Mario has been the perfect host in a relatively perfect little house overlooking the sea.  The support staff has been ideal; Junior, Usi and Vika, all of whom we adore. 

We highly recommend this resort if the ability to prepare one’s food and the desire to be away from the hotel environment in a more private location is on one’s radar.   In many ways its been ideal for us.

As for the ants, that’s only been a result of our constant need to cook.  Had we only been preparing light meals as most shorter term travelers do, we may not have had so many ants.  It was certainly a result of the constant preparation of food that attracted them no matter how well we cleaned up after we were done. 

A canopy of trees crossed over the road creates a pretty scene.

The refrigerator handle fell prey to the ants if a smidgeon of food was on my hand when I opened the door.  The next day we’d have ants on the handle and the door.  In time, I learned my lesson, washing my hands every time I opened a cupboard or appliance including the microwave, portable oven, the coffee or tea pots or even the kitchen sponge which I sterilized with a minute in the microwave each day.  And still, they came…just less of them for a day or two. 

I have no doubt we’ve eaten some ants regardless of how hard we’ve tried not to.  Then again, there are populations throughout the world that eat ants and other insects so I guess we fit in.  Not necessarily by design.

As for yesterday’s unannounced power outage, I suppose not knowing saved us a bit of anticipation, although we weren’t prepared with lots of ice on hand as we had the week earlier with advance notice.  Two of out the past eight days we’ve had no power and a third day the refrigerator didn’t work for 24 hours. 

My biggest concern is always the food in the refrigerator.  The freezer seems to stay cold for eight or nine hours without defrosting providing we don’t open the door. Yesterday’s power outage beginning at 9:17 am was a total surprise. 

Waiting 30 minutes after the power went off, I called the power company when this time the Internet still worked enabling me to look up their number online.  I was told it was a result of another day’s tree trimming near the power lines as hurricane season approaches.  They estimated we’d have power by 4:30 pm.

Aside from many rocky beaches, there are many sandy beaches in Fiji.

We had a decision to make; do we open the freezer, empty all four of our ice cubes trays into a container to place in the refrigerator or do we avoid opening either door?  We opted to quickly open both doors, remove the ice, fill the plastic container and our mugs with ice placing the plastic container on top of the pan of the uncooked Italian meatballs I planned to cook for dinner. 

We were concerned about meatballs made with beef and pork mince going bad in the refrigerator in seven or more hours.  But our plan worked. When the power came back on at 5:30 pm, the ice was hardly melted in the fridge, the contents were cold and the meatballs were as cold as they would have been with power. 

We had a lovely dinner with the meatballs slathered in homemade red pasta sauce topped with hand grated mozzarella cheese, a side of mushroom casserole (which stayed frozen in the freezer during the outage) and fresh steamed veggies.

The next challenge of the day was Tom’s ability to watch the Minnesota Vikings football game on his laptop.  He’s a member of NFL Game Pass, an app only available to viewers outside the US for an annual fee of USD $130, FJD $281 when Tom only watches the Vikings games.  The fees are higher for full access to all games, playoff and Super Bowl games which he can add on later, if the Vikings are in the playoffs and Super Bowl. 

The games are available live with commercials or a few hours later without commercials reducing the view time to less than two hours.  For some odd reason, last night, when the Internet signal was appeared strong enough to watch, Tom wasn’t able to download the game no matter how hard he tried.  He’d been able to watch prior games while in Fiji.  We had no idea as to the problem.

We can easily envision a life at sea, definitely not a lifestyle that would appeal to us for years.

Frustrated for him, I made what sounded like a hair brained suggestion that he use the VPN on my computer, Hotspot Shield, to show our entry to the Internet wasn’t Fiji but another country we could select in the app.  We couldn’t use the US as the selection with the Game Pass app unavailable for use while in the US.

I started the app, selected the UK as our entry point and he opened to the program for success.  Immediately, the game popped up on the screen of my laptop. 

Not much of a football fan, plus with his preference of keeping the laptop on his lap during the game, I decided to head to bed at 9 pm to continue reading a good mystery novel instead of attempting to watch along with him.

By 10:30, I nodded off, loud game and all managing eight hours of sleep, a first in many moons, only awakening a few times to the sound of pounding rain on the roof, a nightly occurrence of late.

The sun is shining at the moment. The ants are under control.  I’m feeling especially good after a full night’s rest.  Tom’s still grinning from ear to ear over the Vikings win.  Life is good.

________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, December 1, 2014:

On our final day in Maui before heading to the Big Island for the upcoming family visit, we boarded a whale watching boat in Maalaea Bay, the harbor with some of the roughest seas in the world. (Yes, it was! rough)! We never saw a whale and once again, we were disappointed on yet another unfulfilling whale watching outing. Safari luck only seems to prevail on land.  For more details and photos of the scenery, please click here.
 

The advantages of early bookings…Upcoming US football season…Is Tom going to watch the Vikings games?

 

This view could be a tropical island anywhere in the world.

Since booking our last three cruises over these past few months, Tom has noticed those cruise fares have increased substantially: one for US $1100, AUD $1484; the second for US $900, AUD $1213; the third for US $800, AUD $1078, for a grand total of US $2800, AUD $3774. 

Throughout our travels, we’ve often been asked why we book future travels so far in advance. This is the main reason. If booking a venue at a great price, we’ve never been contacted requesting we pay a new higher price.  In other words, when booking travels the lowest price at which we can “lock-in” the price, will hold until the booking occurs.

Deadman’s Gully is an ideal habitat for crocs.

However, booking airline tickets, car rentals, or vacation homes at a higher price will seldom allow us the benefit of a price reduction which may eventually be posted online. With penalties for canceling and re-booking these types of travel accommodations, we have to face the reality that price changes will occur from time to time. 

We could hear the birds hovering over this area which also is considered a natural habitat for birds.

In booking cruises, it’s different. On several occasions, it’s been to our benefit to request a price reduction on a previously booked cruise as long as it’s before the 90-day-before-sailing window or when the final payment is due. The cruise lines and booking agencies allow one to take advantage of fare reductions. It’s up to the customer to continually check for fare reductions. The agency or cruise line will not do this for the customer.

With seven upcoming cruises booked, Tom has gotten into the habit of checking daily for price reductions. This has served us well over these past 11 cruises and hopefully will continue to benefit us going forward. Ironically, he also notices fare increases as noted above, confirming that early bookings make sense.  

The beach in this area was desolate.

The only disadvantage of booking early for any travel-related event is the usual requirement to pay well in advance, as often as two years before the event occurs. 

Often, when booking certain hotels using the links on our site we get booking perks. Each hotel night we book accumulates points toward future hotel bookings. To date, we’ve received three free nights with more pending, keeping in mind that we seldom stay in hotels for more than one night, except for a year ago when we spent two weeks each in Paris and London.

A safe walkway into the rainforest in Clifton Beach.

Once we’re situated in Fiji next month we’ll begin to work on filling the holes in our schedule when doing so requires the expenditure of more upfront cash and a better wifi connection which we’ve been assured is the case. In the past few years, Fiji has updated their wifi country-wide with a supposed good signal for all residents.

With little heavy rain in these past few weeks, this area contained little water as compared to when we visited a few months ago.

On to another timely topic…Tom’s planning to watch the Minnesota Vikings football games, beginning with the first preseason game when it’s broadcast Sunday night at 8 pm central time. 

He won’t be able to watch the game here until Monday based on the time zone in Australia. If he waits to watch it, he can avoid the commercials but bears the risk of seeing the results online. He can actually watch it live on Monday morning at 11:00 am which most likely he’ll do. Tom is one of those that really don’t like to hear the results before watching the game. 

We’d hoped to see a kangaroo pop out of these woods but no such luck.

While we’re still in Australia he can plug in the HDMI cord into the HD TV to watch the games.  n Fiji, without a TV, he’ll have to watch the games on his laptop as will be the case for all shows we chose to watch while living in Fiji. 

These grill areas are available to any who’d like to use them at no cost. It’s pleasing to see how those who’ve used them, have left them in spotless condition. One wouldn’t find this to be the case in every country.

As many viewers chose, adapting to watching movies and other media on tablets and other small screens is easy. During most of our travels, we haven’t had access to an HD TV (or any TV for that matter) and have easily adapted to watching the small screen.

As for another matter, this morning, when I prepared to shower grabbing a towel off the stack of fresh towels on the floor in the bathroom (we’d filled the intended towel drawer with toilet paper and other toiletries leaving no room for the stack of towels) there sat the largest spider I’d seen since we were in Africa. 

Clifton Beach is a beautiful sandy beach with few visitors.

Sure, I could have gone to grab the camera for a photo, but I feared that it would get away before we got back.  Although I didn’t scream, squeal, or otherwise, I did ask Tom to put on his shoes and help dispose of them.  From reading online it could easily have been the relatively harmless large Huntsman Spider is known to eat household insects. 

The mailman stopped his bike to chat with us!

However, we couldn’t be certain as to the type with literally hundreds of species in Queensland. Tom grabbed the towel with the spider still on it outdoors to the wild area in the yard, shaking the towel to release it. 

We both been surprised by how few insects we’ve spotted indoors in Australia. The biggest annoyance has been  the flies that somehow find their way indoors even though the doors and windows without screens are always kept closed. 

We weren’t sure why these boulders had been placed at this spot on the beach.

This morning, we were awakened once again at 4:51 am from the screaming birds, the Curlews, living in the bush in the yard. It’s like no noise we’ve ever heard in the past.  One would think their legs are being torn off when in fact they’re happily living their lives, most active at night.

Life is unique wherever we may be. Adapting to the differences has become easy and familiar to us. Once we arrive in Fiji, we’ll experience an entirely new range of differences to which we’ll hopefully adapt in no time at all.  We’ll keep our readers apprised of these differences.

Happy weekend to all!

                                               Photo from one year ago today, August 9, 2014:

We didn’t post any other photos than the above on this date one year ago. We were out the door early to head to the Louvre. With such a busy day, we didn’t post until the next day. See the post here.

 

Tom’s online football experience…

The haze in the hills continues day after day with the high humidity.
After signing up at NFL.com in order to watch the Minnesota Vikings games, which we wrote posted on August 8th.  At that time, he had yet to watch his first game.
Last Saturday, after the game had occurred the previous night, he watched the first preseason game.
In his words, “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  I’m not happy that I paid (US) $169 to watch the Vikings games.  Every time there’s a commercial, which has been removed, there’s a black screen. Either I sit there and watch the black screen for the length of the commercial or I can click ahead in either slow-moving, 10-second increments or by using the scroll bar to try to find the spot when the commercial ended.”

With the lack of rain, few flowers remain.

We all know how long those commercials can be. This task is annoying and cumbersome for three-plus hours, definitely taking away from the enjoyment of watching the game. Tom’s expectation in purchasing a prepaid package from the NFL, was that it would be similar to watching an on-demand program minus any intrusion by commercials. 

When originally booking the house in Boveglio online comments seemed to indicate that this old hotel’s bar was still open. Unfortunately, the bar and the hotel both closed a while back.

 

This room at the end of the hotel was once used as a ballroom.

One would assume that in this day and age with advanced technology, that this type of issue would have been resolved prior to offering such a package for sale to the public. Will he cancel?  No. 

He’ll continue to watch the game the morning after they’ve occurred with the ongoing frustration associated with this poor system. Isn’t it frustrating enough that the Vikings have yet proven to be the team that loyal fans have fantasized about for many years?

The local residents frequently place flower pot at this neighborhood shrine.

Although not a football fan, I certainly empathize with him over this issue when encountering poor technology by major corporations.

It’s no wonder that we can hear lively Italian conversations and toilets flushing in the tight little neighbor.  All the plumbing pipes are on the outside of the buildings.

Most recently, one of our credit card companies was sold out to a larger credit card company, resulting in the necessity of the customer set up an online account at the new company. Should be easy, right? Oh, no. 

Each day there appears to be a new stack of prayer candles at this shrine across the street from our house.

After trying to create an online account for this card over a period of the past 5 days, only to have the screen require me to enter the same information over and over, I’m left with no alternative but to call. Yes, I can use a toll-free number on Skype without having to pay for the call.  But the issue is the time difference and the loss of my time in making this call. 

Regardless of the drought-like conditions, homeowners continue to regularly water their outdoor plants. With no lawns to tend to, plants fulfill their desire to connect to nature.  Community gardens are within walking distance in which some neighbors participate.

After trying various numbers, I’ve been informed I must call during regular business hours, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, Pacific time.  With this time difference, I must call after 6:00 pm here, a time when we’re busy getting dinner ready with the expectation of enjoying a stress-free evening. Being on hold for 10 to 15 minutes only adds to the frustration.

The vantage point from the road heading southwest.
This is across the street from our main entrance, looking up from the road. In most neighborhoods, homes across the road aren’t located so high up!

Wherever we may be, we aren’t free of the time-consuming tasks of managing our daily lives. There’s literally no way that one can choose to be “off the grid” if they require any type of insurance, banking, handling of their assets, managing their credit cards, and paying taxes.

The road as I returned home from my walk.  We’re located a few doors down on the right.


To my left in the lower level as I entered the house.  The laundry room is located behind the curtain.

Years ago, I heard a motivational speaker say, “Everywhere you go, there you are.” So true. So true.

Walking gingerly is a must on these step stone steps to the basement.  The Homeaway listing for this house clearly stated that this property is not intended for the older population due to the many steps required to get from one end to another down the long hallway and the tricky access to the patio on the right of this stairwell.

 

Giving up favorite pastimes…For Tom, not the Minnesota Vikings…

 

Several months ago, Tom canceled his subscription to the Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper due to its inability to be downloaded several days each week. 

The newspaper was available either from the StarTribune’s own website for almost $1 a day, after an initial $8 for eight weeks offer, or through Barnes and Noble for $10 a month. Of course, he chose the lower-cost subscription. Well, you get what you pay for. Downloading was a frustrating daily task, taking the fun out of reading the paper when it did arrive.

He’s been reading the StarTribune in the late 50s when only a kid when the sports section was a peach/pinkish colored paper. Do any Minnesotans out there remember that?

Thus, as an avid reader of the daily paper, this was a big change for him. I always joked that he read and memorized every word in the daily paper, even the page numbers, able to quote dates, times, and most minute details months, if not years, later.

Easily bored reading the newspaper, I’d ask Tom to tell me the news if a topic caught my attention, to which he did so verbatim, perhaps with a bit of “spin” of which I didn’t object.

Newspaper reading days are long over for him, although the upcoming Minnesota Vikings football season had frequently come to mind as he contemplated the options available for viewing the games quickly after airing on US TV.

Looking online, for apps that may be options was fruitless. Many sites offering “free” viewing of games were a hoax, many of them pirating the games through various means. 

Viewing live TV on a computer has yet to become readily available to the average viewer, although the technology will be available soon. There are various companies such as Slingbox, as recommended by son Greg, that for a fee allow a subscriber to watch live shows.  Unfortunately, such an option isn’t unavailable to viewers when outside the US. 

With our use of Graboid we’re able to download and watch primetime commercial-free shows the day after airing.  But this doesn’t include sporting events, concerts, and special events.

After considerable research, Tom discovered that the easiest, most cost-effective option available to football fans, outside the US, was to subscribe to the NFL’s online viewing program GamePass.

For US $169, he will be able to watch the Vikings all preseason and regular-season games. If by a miracle, the Vikings make it to the playoff, he will purchase an add-on to view those as well. 

Yesterday, he subscribed to the GamePass plan to begin watching the first preseason game which airs live tomorrow (Friday, the 9th).  However, this game will air online at 2:00 am here in Italy, which he won’t be interested in doing. However, he’ll be able to watch the recorded game on Saturday at his leisure. Son TJ made a good point: don’t look at Facebook or the news during the game, if he prefers the outcome to be a surprise.  Good point, TJ!

This particular subscription service is only available to viewers outside the US or US territories. Other options are available online for those who don’t have access to TV or prefer to watch the game on their computers at a later time.

Need I say this Vikings fan is rather pleased to know he won’t miss a game. Not a football fan myself, he’ll be watching on his own, which he prefers rather than be interrupted by my idle chatter. 

In any case, I’m thrilled for him and will provide a quiet, comment, and question free environment during his game viewing.

With modern technology, traveling the world doesn’t have to leave a traveler’s favorite pastime, totally beyond reach, as we see here with Tom’s Minnesota Viking viewing options. 

Go Vikings! I guess.