An exciting birthday surprise!…Wow!…What a thrill!…

The four of us at our table last night. What a fantastic time we had with the two of them.

I know why Tom pushed me so hard about dining out last night. No more than five minutes after we sat down at our favorite window table at Luna Rossa and ordered our drinks, I heard a familiar voice. Gingerly, I turned around to find our dear friends, Rita and Gerhard, standing there with wide grins on their faces and moments later embraced in hugs between. Tom was aware of the surprise and did great keeping it from me.

They flew all the way from the state of Washington, a two-hour flight to arrive on time for our 5:00 pm reservation at Luna Rossa restaurant, down the one flight of stairs for my birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant. Amid giggles and enthusiasm, we all sat down, thrilled to be together one more time. The last time we’d seen them was in September when, again, they came to visit us for dinner and then turned around and flew back to Washington only a few hours later.

Gerhard ordered the delicious lamb shank.

Last night, they had exactly two hours until they had to head out to catch their flight back to Washington to their home. They travel extensively but occasionally spend time with their adult kids and their house near Portland. They recently returned from a cruise to Antarctica, and it was fun to share our mutual experience, although we’d recently chatted at length on the phone.

I’m not one to spend much time talking on the phone, although occasionally, I do so with friends and family. After all, staying in touch and hearing their voices is terrific. We often text back and forth on the phone or via WhatsApp.

Yesterday, I couldn’t have been more delighted to hear from many friends, family members and readers. There wasn’t a single person I didn’t hear from to wish me happy birthday.

Rita had the red snapper with scallops and prawns with veggies on the side.

But, the surprise of seeing Rita and Gerhard was over the top again. They have surprised us on several occasions. A few years ago, while we were at a New Year’s Eve party in 2021 hosted by friends Flo and Jj at their bush resort in Marloth Park, Rita and Gerhard suddenly appeared to surprise us. We couldn’t stop squealing with delight for the rest of the evening. They’d come halfway around the world to be with us and enjoy the bush together for several weeks.

Then, in September 2023, they called to tell us they would join us for dinner only 24 hours before they arrived. They couldn’t surprise us that time since we had to ensure we had a good table at the Green Valley Ranch Spa and Casino and were available that night. They stayed for about eight hours that time, and we cherished each moment.

Last night, Rita and I sat next to each other with Tom and Gerhard at the opposite side of the table. The ambiance, the food, and the service were impeccable. Of course, Tom picked up the tab, and we ate and drank to our heart’s content. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

I ordered the sea bass. Rita and I tasted each other’s fish, and they tasted similar. Both dishes were delectable.

When it was time for them to go, and Gerhard needed to contact Uber for their ride back to the airport, we had time for them to come up the one flight of stairs and see our place. It was fun to show them this lovely condo and all it has to offer.

On top of it all, they gave me a fantastic birthday gift. It’s a new version of a digital insect repellent that they used in Marloth Park, and it works better than any others. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with this gift. They both know how much I love anything electronic and, in the past, have given me several devices of one sort or another. They are so thoughtful.

When they left, we walked down to the lobby with them and waited for their Uber, which arrived in time for them to make their flight back on time.

We walked back to our condo and settled in for the evening, streaming a fun series and enjoying the remainder of my birthday together. How fortunate I am! I am grateful and humbled by the wonderful people in our lives.

I must get ready to go down that same flight of stairs to the nail salon for my first pedicure since we arrived on December 15. Tonight will be another exciting evening; we’ll share photos and details tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, February 21, 2014:

Nomsa and Zeff sing Happy Birthday to me in Zulu. The sign behind Zeff’s head says, “Take risks. If you win, you will be happy. If you lose, you will be wise.” So true. For more photos, please click here.

Five days and counting…Packing and cooking…Fun chat with friends…Awful offal…

At first, when this huge platter arrived, we anticipated it would be divine. I tasted almost everything, but I didn’t care for it.

Note: Today’s photos are from the post on January 14, 2018, while we were in Palermo, Buenos Aires. See the story below for details.

Before I meandered downstairs to start my day this morning, I packed all my clothes. I left out a few items for the next few days and a little pile of clothes and compression socks I’ll wear when we travel to the US. I didn’t pack as neatly as usual, but I will put everything away in neat piles once we arrive and settle in the condo.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll start packing the miscellaneous items upstairs, toiletries, etc.. Then, by Tuesday or Wednesday, I will finish everything upstairs and begin to work on the items on the lower level. There’s not a lot on the main floor, just odds and ends we use each day.

These stuffed pig intestines, “Chinchulin,” were the least desirable items on the platter.

Tom takes care of all the adapters and cords for the digital equipment, packing some in his suitcase and others in the leather computer backpack in case our luggage gets lost again. We don’t want to go through that again after those two incidents we had a few years ago.

When I came downstairs, I made my decaf coffee, adding thick unsweetened coconut cream, and took a moment to sit down to load my failing laptop to savor my coffee before I got to work in the kitchen.

Tonight, we’re having beef tenderloin stir fry with large chunks of green peppers (so Tom can pick them out), celery, onions, mushrooms, fresh ginger, and garlic, seasoned as well as I can with my limited supply of seasonings. I’m making a huge batch, which should last for three dinners, taking us to Tuesday when I will eat my remaining frozen fish, and Tom will have steak for the last two nights.

The few pieces of beef ribs were fatty and chewy.

On Thursday, we depart. It’s great we’ve been able to use most of our food on hand, but we will leave a few items for Maria, the house cleaner when she does the final cleaning after we’re gone. As always, we’ll leave the house in good order.

Yesterday, we chatted on WhatsApp with our dear friends Rita and Gerhard. They are in Buenos Aires right now, staying in the same wonderful area where we stayed for a month in December 2017 and January 2018. We loved hearing they were staying there after our fantastic time in the Palermo district. As we did, they can walk to any of the countless restaurants and pubs and savor the delicacies of Argentina.

We told them not to go to any restaurant that advertises “Authentic Argentinian food” since they usually offer the most unappetizing dishes, mainly consisting of offal. When we tried such a restaurant in Palermo, every item on the menu was offal, with almost every body part of a cow or pig stuffed with something fatty and greasy. We left without eating our meat, besides the few tastes I tried and didn’t like.

I cut the blood sausage in half for this photo. I could tell it contained some grain, but I wouldn’t have cared for it anyway if it hadn’t. You should have seen Tom’s face when he took a tiny taste!

I am much more adventurous with unusual dishes but couldn’t stomach (yes, that too) the feel and look of the dishes in my mouth, as shown in today’s main photo. I took a few bites of everything, but Tom gagged when he took a few tiny tastes of the offal. He did eat the bread, but they served margarine instead of butter. After staring at his plate, he lost his appetite and didn’t bother to eat the fries.

We paid the bill and left, our plates still full of the gross-looking meat. The total bill was $45.72. That was one expensive loaf of bread. Rita and Gerhard got the drift, and they won’t be trying a restaurant offering such foods. They were glad we had an opportunity to warn them!

The bread was dry without butter, and this little pat was definitely margarine, which we don’t eat.

The delightful phone call continued for over an hour. We were thrilled to hear they are taking a 22-night cruise to circumnavigate the partially South American continent in the opposite direction of a cruise we took in 2017, ending in Buenos Aires, where we waited for our next cruise, the Antarctica cruise on Ponant Cruise Line. What an adventure that was! Please see our photos of this stunning expedition cruise if you’d like to see our archives on the ride side of our home page for January 2018.

We are so happy for Rita and Gerhard. As mentioned in the past, we met since they’d been reading our blog and ended up in Marloth Park while we were there. Instantaneously, we became fast friends. After our time in Nevada, we hope to meet up sometime in 2024.

That’s it for today, folks. Have a fantastic weekend, and be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, December 9, 2013:

As we entered the bush braai site, Danie was on the left with a raised arm, and Louise was on the right. They worked hard to host this event, cooking, setting up, and cleaning. Everything was to perfection. To top it off, they appeared in our driveway this morning to inquire about anything we may need. Their hard work and dedication are evidenced in every activity they host and property they manage. This photo and the next were taken before I realized I needed to clean the camera lens. For more photos, please click here.

Cherished visit with an old friend…Info for new booking in Ecuador…But, not photos…Those coming later…

Tom and our dear friend, Sue.

This morning at 10:00 am, we drove a short distance to Friendship Village, a retirement community in Bloomington, Minnesota, to visit our dear long-term friend Sue, whom we hadn’t seen in a few years. No words can express how wonderful it was to spend time with her.

We thought we might stay for an hour or so, but it turned into three hours, and the time passed so quickly that we hardly noticed. Sue and Chip, her husband, whom we also dearly loved and adored, were our neighbors for many years when we lived in Minnesota. Chip sadly passed away in 2012 before we left, and we were heartbroken to lose our dear friend.

The two of them were an integral part of our lives, living four doors from us, and our lives were intertwined in many ways. Not only did Chip and Tom have a fantastic friendship on their own, but Sue and I did as well. And yet, when the four of us got together, which we did frequently, it was magical, with the lively conversations and laughs we enjoyed over the years.

Over the 11 years we’ve been gone, we’ve visited Sue many times, sharing our experiences while we’ve been traveling and sharing details of her life now without Chip and the many incredible experiences the four of us shared for 26 years. It was a delightful and emotional time.

This is only the beginning of many get-togethers we are planning while we are in Minnesota this month. Working out dates and times is tricky, with everyone living fast-paced lives with countless appointments and plans. In our peculiar life of world travel, we don’t experience this fast pace except on travel days when we have a tight schedule.

While we were away, Sue moved to Friendship Village, a lovely retirement complex with many amenities and beautiful decor.

But that’s life in the US and also in many countries throughout the world in the big cities. Tom just returned from an appointment he’d scheduled to get a haircut. He arrived early, and after waiting for 15 minutes, he canceled the appointment and left. I was shocked to see him back so early. When he explained how he was sitting there waiting and how frustrated he became, I understood. We’re not used to waiting for service in locations we’ve been visiting worldwide.

Life has been easy in many countries without crowds and people waiting for their turns. Perhaps we are spoiled. Even driving in traffic is frustrating for us when we haven’t done so for such a long time. We love the remote areas where we’ve lived, often for many months.

And…speaking of remote areas, in about six weeks, again, we’ll be living in a remote location, this time In Ecuador, away from crowds, traffic, noise, and commotion. It’s our kind of lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the photos of the new booking are in a format I cannot download, regardless of how hard I try. Thus, I am providing the link to the listing on VRBO, where, with only one click, you can see the property. Please click on the following link to see all the photos and information.

Me and dear friend Sue.

Please note when you go to this site, you only need to click in the photo area where it says +36 photos, and you will see all the photos. This property is a duplex but based on its remote location, we anticipate the other side-by-side unit won’t be rented often while we’re there. Most likely, we’ll have the pool and the property to ourselves. When we lived in Placencia, Belize, over ten years ago, we lived in a condo with other units attached on each side. It was never a problem for us.

In that case, we had an opportunity to meet and socialize with our neighbors in Belize. Hopefully, if other travelers arrive, we’ll be able to socialize with them as well. We always prefer a single house, but we think this will work out well for us this time. It’s an oceanfront property with a pool and a lovely property. What more could we ask for?

That’s it for today, dear readers. Thanks to all of you for your support and readership of our site. We’re always amazed by YOU!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago  today, September 12, 2013:

Hesborn referred to this as a millipede.  We didn’t bother to count the number of legs. These are harmless, although if walking on a person, they leave a trail of “itchy liquid.” For more details, please click here.

Day 3…Henderson, Nevada…Posting photos from Norway continues today…Exciting upcoming event!…

My fabulous egg white omelet with chicken and cheese, cooked in butter, not oil, plus guacamole and salsa, is a delightful breakfast, keeping me full all day.

We continue to enjoy having a fabulous time in Henderson, Nevada, after last evening’s wonderful dinner at Lucille’s Barbecue with my son and his significant other. It was great to see them again after a two-year hiatus, and the four of us enjoyed a delicious dinner and drinks at the popular barbecue restaurant.

Back at the hotel by 8:30, we streamed a few shows, relaxed, and drifted off to sleep by 11:00 pm, again having a much-needed good night’s rest. This morning, we bolted out of bed, got showered and dressed for the day, and headed downstairs to the Lucky Penny for another fabulous breakfast. With our VIP status with Expedia, we get 20% off on all meals at the resort, and they have several good restaurants.

Today, we’re posting photos from our delicious breakfasts that we’ll have every morning while we’re staying here until we depart on Saturday, September 9, to fly to Minnesota, where we’ll stay for a little over a month until we go to South America. There’s been lots of moving around, but we are okay with all of it, especially after a few good night’s rest to recover. There is no jet lag here!

So, here’s the exciting upcoming event…Our dear friends, Rita and Gerhard, who live in Vancouver, Washington, are flying here to see us tomorrow, arriving around 1:00 pm, spending the day and evening with us, and flying back out tomorrow night. What an adventure for the four of us, and how thoughtful and generous they are to make this short trip for all of us to catch up.

As most of our regular readers know, we met Rita and Gerhard in Marloth Park, South Africa. They were (still are) long-time readers of our site and had come to Marloth Park based on our frequent postings about how wonderful it is. They booked a holiday house with Louise (one we had previously rented), and no more than a few days after they arrived, we met them, and our magical friendship began. Rita and I hit it off like we’d known each other forever, and Gerhard and Tom did the same.

Collectively, the four of us have been a great team, sharing our lives, our crazy travels, and the joys of living off and on in Marloth Park. Soon, in October, they’ll be returning to “our old house” and will be feeding our favorite animals, including Nyala Norman and his lovely family. Seeing their photos and hearing about their experiences in our absence will be fun.

Tom didn’t eat my fruit, so today, we excluded it. He savored his giant slab of ham, three fried eggs, hash brown potatoes, and two pieces of buttered. toast with jam. Their coffee and whole cream are delightful, with a full pot of regular for Tom and another with decaf for me.

Gosh, we’re looking forward to tomorrow and the lively conversations, sharing and reliving many extraordinary experiences together, countless surprises, and special parties we’ve had together over the past five years since our friendship began. When we’ve been apart, we’ve stayed in touch, as we have with many of the wonderful friends we made in Marloth Park.

Many other friendships have developed from our readers coming to Marloth Park after seeing our endless stream of photos and love for wildlife, nature, and the fine people in the area. We are so grateful for all of our readers and have loved the opportunity to develop lasting relationships with many of you over the years.

Once we finish today’s post, we’ll head over to the nearby movie theatre to see the three-hour movie Oppenheimer. It’s a special treat for us to go to a movie theatre when often they aren’t available in many countries we visit for extended periods. We can get the senior rate for the 3:35 matinee for $12.50 each.

Tom loves to eat a big tub of popcorn while I settle for a sugar-free drink since nothing works for me at the concession stands. As a result, Tom won’t be hungry for dinner tonight, and I suggested to Tom that we pick up something for me on our way back to the hotel. I can run into Whole Foods or Smiths for a salad, which will suit me.

Well, that’s it for today, folks. We hope you are all doing well, and for our US readers, be safe on this busy Labor Day weekend. We’ll be back tomorrow with more.

Be well.

In reviewing the photos we hadn’t been able to post, it appears it will be very time-consuming and complicated to return to each post and add the photos we couldn’t post. As a result, we are posting some of the photos under the heading of each town over a period of days, which can be found after each new day, listed as Part 1, Part 2 Norway, for example.

Photo from ten years ago today, September 2, 2013:

There was no post on this date ten years ago. It was a busy travel day to Kenya!

The new post with the photos is located here:

Part 2…Unpublished photos from the Azamara cruise to Haugesund, Norway…

Yesterday’s delightful get-together with long term readers…

Tom’s Chicken Pot Pie, which he ordered at City Fire. He’d had this on another occasion, and he liked it. It was covered with dough but included a piece of a baguette—lots of bread.

I regret not taking photos of us with Tracy and Nancy when we got together at City Fire American Oven & Bar late yesterday afternoon. We had such a great time together that the thought of taking photos of the four of us slipped away. I didn’t realize it until after we were back at the house.

It should have entered my mind when I was attempting to take photos of our food, two of which were blurry and I later deleted. Thus, the only photos I have today are Tracy’s flatbread and Tom’s chicken pot pie. Nancy ate a bun-less cheeseburger while I had a nutty salad with overcooked chicken breast. I won’t be ordering that again.

This was Tracy’s flatbread.

No words can express how delightful our few hours with Tracy and Nancy were. As often is the case with long-term readers, they knew everything about us, and it was fun to hear about this mother (Nancy) and adult daughter (Tracy) team who both live in The Villages. Not only were they very attentive and loving to one another, but they were also with us, and we felt like we’d known them for a very long time. We’ll never forget the precious time with the two of them.

Fortunately, Tom had taken the two photos of the signs he spotted outside the restaurant with historical information about Brownwood that is fun to read. As we know, Tom doesn’t take the best photos, but I decided to use the two he took today, albeit lopsided. (There are plenty of incidences where I take awful photos, too).

Their food isn’t that great, although none of the food at restaurants we’ve tried in The Villages has been excellent, except for the Chinese takeaway we ordered when we first arrived. We’ll certainly do that again some evening. We’re cooking our meals five nights a week and eating out on Friday and Saturday nights, as we did in South Africa. It’s a hard habit to break, but we enjoy getting out.

Tom took these two photos outside the restaurant.

We’re staying in tonight and having burgers on the grill (no buns), topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato, and onion. Soon, I’ll make our favorite homemade low-carb ketchup. I like to wrap my burger with all the fixings in lettuce leaves and hold it in my hand, so it feels like eating a regular burger. Tom eats his burger with a fork and knife.

We’re excited to watch game three of the Stanley Cup (hockey) finals on TV at 8:00 pm with the Florida Panthers and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. As residents of Nevada, we are rooting for the LV Golden Knights, who won the first two games. We’ll see how it goes tonight and again on Saturday. If they win the next two games, they’ll take the trophy. That’s exciting.

This morning we walked, but unfortunately, I am not finding it any easier each day. My legs hurt when I walk any distance, even our relatively short 15-minute walk around the block. I’d hoped I’d see some improvement by now, but there is none. I suppose I need to face the fact that my legs were permanently damaged when they became seriously infected after the heart surgery; veins were harvested from both legs from my ankles to about 14 inches above my knees.

Interesting tidbits about Brownwood.

I will be fine as long as I can walk on the upcoming ports of call visits on our upcoming cruises, including our cruise to the Galapagos. Surely, the tours provided by Celebrity Cruises will be guided, and we will be made aware of how rough the walks will be. We’re hoping I can manage it. Surely, as always, I’ll tough it out and do as much as I possibly can.

Today, I’ve been busy making dinner, doing laundry, and doing a little cleaning around the house. We both slept well last night, and we’re feeling chipper and upbeat, as we often do.

Have a great day and evening. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 8, 2013:

Views of the port in Naples, Italy. For more photos, 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.

Yesterday’s fantastic visit with a dear old friend…Quiet afternoon and early evening in the hotel while Tom was out…

This photo was taken on December 6, 2013, from Marloth Park. See the link here. The bright glare of the setting sun impeded our photo-taking of these elephants across the river. But, we were thrilled to get these. Soon, we’ll see elephants up close when we enter Kruger Park.

When Tom was meeting with his son TJ at a restaurant about 15 minutes away, I decided to see if I could change my planned visit to my dear friend Chere’s home in Eden Prairie. As much as we treasure time with friends, we have prioritized time with our children and grandchildren over all else.

Based on the time he and TJ were getting together, it didn’t leave time for him to pick me up when he’d be done. Nor did I want him to have to rush his time with his son to come to get me at Chere’s home. When I called and explained the situation to Chere, her husband Gary agreed to drop her off at our hotel. Chere recently had knee replacement surgery and hasn’t been cleared to drive.

By 1:30, she walked in the door, albeit a little shaky on her new knee, and we hugged as close girlfriends do. Instead of coming to our messy room with all of our recent purchases piled up, we sat in the lovely hotel lobby at a table with comfortable chairs and sipped on hot tea, and caught up.

It wasn’t as if we had much catching up to do when we’d last got together during our US visit in 2019 (but not when we were here, sick with Omicron last May). We’ve stayed in close touch over the years via text and email and knew what was going on with one another. Plus, Chere regularly reads our posts which easily fills in the blanks of what we’ve been up to.

Chere is a highly educated nutritionist and holistic dietician who has appeared on many local and national TV news stations over the years, as well as speaking as a keynote speaker at countless conventions on health, nutrition, and wellness, often sponsored by large corporations. It was as if we’d never been apart. I wanted more details about her life over the past few years.

There’s something magical about the skies over Africa from what we’ve seen so far in Kenya and now in South Africa, also from this date, nine years ago.

This passion we share for health, fitness, diet, and food brought us together years ago and remained a favorite topic as we share more intimate details of our lives, as girlfriends often do. It was delightful catching up with her. The almost three hours we spent together passed way too quickly.

Her husband Gary arrived to pick her up a few hours later but only after sitting with us for a while for more lively conversation. By the time they walked out the door after warm hugs and goodbyes, it was 4:30, and Tom had yet to return. But my delightful afternoon wasn’t over yet.

The lovely guest services representative, Kelly, at the hotel front desk, poured me a glass of Pinot Grigio, and another great conversation ensued, only occasionally interrupted when a hotel guest needed attention. Again, the discussion was lively and entertaining, and time flew by. Suddenly, it was close to 6:00 pm, and I headed back to our room. I was getting hungry and opened the meat and cheese tray in the little refrigerator for such an occasion.

A short time later, Tom returned, smiling over his enjoyable time with his son, and we decided to forego dinner. I’d eaten enough meat, cheese, and olives to hold me, and Tom said he had two generous portions of popcorn at the bar and wasn’t hungry. Also, we knew we could head to the included breakfast at this excellent hotel at 6:30 am, and we could easily wait for that.

Speaking of this hotel, Hyatt Place in Eden Prairie, we’ve decided to stay here each time we return to Minnesota. The only inconvenience is the lack of washers and dryers at the property. But everything else is superior to the other hotels where we’ve stayed in this central location. Their breakfast is good, the coffee is excellent, and the service is over-the-top.

The hotel had recently been remodeled and is attractive and modern, whereby the other hotels where we’ve stayed in this area in the past are somewhat dated. This seems to be a popular hotel for business people, with efficiency and competitive pricing the norm, typically at $118 a night, a real bargain for this suburban area. When we return in September, we will certainly stay here again.

Today is a quiet day. No family members were available to get together, so we will head to TJ Maxx to buy a suitcase for everything we purchased. We will also stop at the local CVS pharmacy for more of the sinus treatment product I’ve been using that I’d purchased at the pharmacy in Komatipoort. I hope they have something similar here since I’ll be running out by the time we depart. I don’t want to worry about heading to Komatipoort the day we return.

Otherwise, all is well. We’ll be dining out with Greg’s family tomorrow night on our final evening in Minnesota. We’ll head out for dinner since the cost of takeaway is as costly as dining in at some restaurants we like. We begin the long trek back to South Africa and Marloth Park on Thursday.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago, December 6, 2021:

A male impala is on the lookout in Kruger National Park. For more photos, please click here.

Sad and worrisome news about our friend…

Three little piglets, nursing from their mom. I couldn’t get closer, or the piglets would have run off. Plus, I didn’t want the one with the bad leg to run needlessly.

It’s been a rough few months. Our friend Jeff passed away in bed in the guest cottage on September 21. A few days later, our friend Bruce died at his home in Marloth Park. And now, our dear friend Leon has been diagnosed with incurable cancer that no treatment can improve.

When Dawn and Leon spent Monday night staying in our lovely guest cottage for a short getaway, we made every effort to make it a peaceful and restful time for both of them with good food, love, support, and friendship. Little did we know that a day later, Leon would be admitted to the hospital in Nelspruit for a blood clot in his leg, a dangerous condition related to his illness. The next few days will determine what happens from here. Our love and prayers are with him and his devoted Dawn.

Of course, we are worried and devastated.  The party they’d planned for all of their friends for this Saturday has been canceled. Jabula remains open with all of their friends that traveled from near and far for the party, some staying at Jabula Lodge with others staying in other nearby holiday rentals. There is nothing we can do at this point.

Giraffes have been stopping by frequently.

Our hearts go out to Dawn when many friends will be flooding Jabula with the best intentions to eat, drink, eat and support the business. But this load falls on Dawn, David, and her staff with the number of people they’ll have to serve over the next several days.  She will spend as much time as she can with Leon at the hospital while managing the busy establishment at the same time.

In the meantime, we also worry about our friend in Hawaii, praying that he recovers from the terrifying diagnosis that prompted him and his dear wife to leave Marloth Park a year ago. We recall the day we drove them to the airport in Nelspruit, saying a sorrowful goodbye, wondering…

Is it our advancing age and the ages of our friends we love, who are leaving this world for the next, often with the dreaded “C” and other terminal respiratory illnesses? We knew these times would come, as they do for all of us who have been gifted with beautiful friendships and face the loss of many of those friends over time. Most recently, it has been too many in one short period.

We love seeing giraffes in the garden.

Our hearts are heavy while we still attempt to maintain a hopeful attitude for the future. Of course, it’s natural for all of us to question the longevity of our own lives and the potential of contracting some awful disease sometime in the future. No, we don’t obsess about this, but it’s hard not to think about it now and then, especially under these current circumstances.

This morning a light rain passed over the bush, brightening the leaves on the trees as the dust was washed away. After several soaking rains, the bush is beginning to sprout new leaves on the bushes and trees, and the animals can finally eat a little more greenery when it was so sparse the past many months.

In about a month, if the rain continues, we’ll be able to stop ordering lucerne and feed pellets as a treat for our visitors. This morning, chopping a bunch of vegetables, I made a big bowl of scraps for what I call “Norman’s Lunch.” He now knows when I ask him if he wants “his lunch,” his ears perk up, and it appears he has a smile on his handsome face. As do many bushbucks who stop by, Nina and Noah also partake in the vegetables.

This one looked at me when I called out.

Bad Leg, a bushbuck with a leg injury, has spent most of his time in our garden recovering. He’s begun to walk better. We brought food to him each time he visited, where he rested by the little wooden fence. We’d give him a mixture of lucerne,  pellets, cabbage, celery tops, apples, and carrots. It’s lovely to see him improving each day.

There’s a mom with three tiny piglets we’ve seen each day since they were born in Louise’s garden last week. One of the piglets has a very bad right front leg on which he hobbles to keep up with his mom and siblings. She tends to lie down when they visit to give herself a rest from the strain of walking and running. It’s so sad to see, and we hope she heals soon.

Norman was fluffed up when he spotted some Big Daddies in the garden.

Based on the number of warthogs in the park, the rangers and vet don’t spend time or money on warthogs and their offspring. It’s heartbreaking to see warthogs suffering from horrific injuries. But, if they lived in Kruger National Park, there would be no help for them. there either. It’s a sorrowful situation for wildlife.

Let’s face it; Life is hard. There’s no easy answer for those suffering, whether human or animal. We can only pray for the comfort and peace of those dealing with Life’s impossible challenges and do whatever we can to ease those we love in the process.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 3, 2021:

Often, other animals clear out when a Big Daddy arrives. For more photos, please click here.

We had a fantastic 10-year anniversary celebration with friends…Spring is in the air!…

This is starling Vega’s partner. They are building a nest. Female starlings look very different from males, which is not uncommon.

I was so distracted ensuring our friends had a pleasant evening and dinner I failed to take any photos. We apologize for failing to take food and people photos. We have found that some occasions are less about photos and more about living in the moment.  Bear with us during those times.

With a new lucerne bale arriving at noon, the animals came in droves, and Dawn and Leon enjoyed every visitor along with us. Mom and three piglets visited, along with Norman, Noah, Nina, Lollie, Earl, Bad Ear, Bad Leg, and many more. It was a delightful time.

But even more than the joy of the visiting wildlife, the light rain, our bonfire, and our homemade Asian food, the conversation was meaningful and treasured by all four of us. They are such good friends. They are living through such hard times. We are right beside them through the entire process.

This is Vega taking a bath before he meets up with his girlfriend.

The food was, no doubt, a lot of work. Asian food requires a lot of chopping and dicing, organizing spices and sauces, and getting the taste done to perfection. I only  needed to use a recipe for the batter for the fried tenderloin pieces, combining corn starch, flour, eggs, and salt. I wanted to ensure the measurement was accurate for a light, fluffy batter. The rest I knew in my head from past experience.

This had been the first time in years I’d deep-fried anything. But, the meat for the sweet and sour pork must be pre-fried and kept hot while the sauce is stir-fried separately with carrots, green peppers, garlic, and fresh pineapple chunks. The pineapples I purchased here in South Africa look very different from those in the US and other parts of the world.

We love this little bird. I need help finding information on its species.

They are smaller with less “meat” and more skin and dark spots. I was surprised by how little there was after I cleaned the two pineapples. The remainder of the vegetables were fine. The sauce is made using chicken broth, sugar, pineapple juice, soy sauce, red wine vinegar and spices and thickened with cornstarch mixed with cold water for a smooth thickened sauce.

It seemed to take the sauce quite a while to thicken sufficiently. It’s quite a balancing act to deep fry the meat (it took four batches) while preventing the oil from having too many loose bits of the batter and cooking the sauce simultaneously, watching each pot carefully.

Fortunately, I’d already made the fried rice which is a half-day operation, considering I wanted to make a big enough batch to send them home with plenty and to be able to freeze at least a dozen containers for Tom. Each night we can take a batch from the freezer to defrost in the refrigerator overnight for the following evening’s meal.

Another dung beetle and his mate. We now see them every day!

I’d made the spicy prawns and asparagus dish earlier in the day which I easily reheated in the same pot while the sweet and sour dish was cooking. Of course, I made a mess of the stovetop and planned to let Vusi clean it this morning. But, once I looked at it when I got up, I cleaned it myself. We can, but don’t leave dishes and pots and pans for them to clean.

We always do such tasks ourselves, grateful that we have Vusi and Zef to wash floors, make the bed, clean the bathrooms and c the veranda. We try not to make extra work for them.

Hornbill, up in the trolley birdfeeder. He also has a girlfriend with whom he’s building a nest. Spring is in the air! Love is in the air!

Dawn and Leon were comfortable staying overnight in the little cottage on our property. This morning, they came over around 9:00 am for breakfast. I overslept a bit and got up, showered, and dressed at 8:00 am. I rushed to make the egg, mushroom and sausage flan, and banana coconut bread from scratch. By 8:30, I had everything in the oven, but the banana bread takes an hour to bake so we didn’t eat until a little after 9:30. They had an appointment and were able to get out the door by 10:30, after which Tom did the breakfast dishes. Everything from last night’s dinner was washed, dried and put away.

We have fantastic leftovers for tonight’s dinner. Also, I made a keto cheese pie which Tom and Leon didn’t like, but Dawn and I put a good dent in. There was plenty left to send Dawn home with a piece for tonight after their leftovers. Luckily, I made enough of everything so we all could have leftovers tonight. They even took some of the banana bread home for later.

We put an egg out for this monitor lizard, but he never found it. Instead, the mongooses found it the next day and shared it.

Since I don’t eat sweet and sour pork or fried rice, I made a salad to go with my spicy prawn stir fry, and that was all the more prep I had to do today. It is too damp to do laundry since it rained and the clothes never dry on days like this. Tomorrow, will be drier and less humid, so I can tackle that job then.

We had a wonderful 10-year anniversary, doing precisely what we wanted to do…spending it with friends. We have so much to be grateful for and never forget it for a day. And, of course, we have all of you to share our lives and ongoing journey, which picks up once again in three weeks when we take off for Seychelles.  Thanks for all the heartfelt anniversary wishes!

Happy day to all.

Photo from one year ago today, November 1, 2021:

Big Daddy was chewing on the core of a massive head of cabbage. He loved it! For more photos, please click here.

Menu for today’s party for readers/friends…

Persistent little bugger made us laugh!

It’s Sunday morning, and I have a good handle on the food for this evening’s sundowner party for 11 guests, including Rita, Gerhard, and Lee, Marilyn and Gary, Carrie and Jim, Louise and Danie, and the two of us. Louise and Danie had committed to another event but will stop by for drinks.

Yesterday, I cleaned and prepared all the vegetables, and this morning I worked on the other items. It will take about 30 more minutes to prep the balance of the food. I’m glad I made an easy menu that wouldn’t require me to be in the kitchen for hours. Today, there are lots of flies now that it’s getting warmer, and I had to work while swatting them away. We can’t spray in the kitchen since all the dishes, pots, and pans are in open, doorless cabinets. TIA,” This is Africa,” as I always say.

We’re always thrilled to see zebras.

It’s a perfect weather day, no breeze, partly cloudy with an expected high of 90F, 32C. By the time everyone arrives, the temperature will drop to a cool and comfortable level. Surprisingly, I am not sweating while busy since the humidity is low at 32%. The 90F is quite tolerable at this level.

As for the menu, I am happy to share it here:

Sliced, Seasoned Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Spicy Buttered Prawns with Homemade Horseradish Dipping Sauce

Cheesy Russian Sausages with Homemade Mustard Sauce

Ham and Turkey Cheese Rollups

Baked Brie Cheese Wrapped in Phyllo Dough filled with Apricot Jam

Medley of Fresh Vegetables with Three Dips

Fresh Vegetable Platter with Dipping Sauce

Cheese and Crackers

Potato Chips, Peanuts, and Various Crunchy Snacks

We only need to cook the pork, which is ready to go, and the sausages on the braai, before our guests arrive at 4:00, 1600 hrs. The prawns are cooked, seasoned, and plated in a pretty white serving dish with the dipping sauce, chilling in the outdoor refrigerator.

They often walk along the fence, deciding where to stop to beg for pellets.

Once the food is set up for serving, I will take a photo to share in tomorrow’s post. I am thrilled I planned this easy menu since I still have an awful sinus infection. No improvement yet from the two antibiotics, but it’s only been 24 hours since I started them. I don’t expect to start feeling better for at least three days considering I’ve had this since April when we got Covid-19 Omicron.

I stopped working on this post for a few hours, and now, I am done short of cooking a few items before everyone arrives! Done! Done! The plates and glasses are washed and set up outside for our buffet-style meal. There’s enough food that no one will need to eat dinner when they return to their respective homes at the end of the evening.

He was thinking of putting his head between the railing.

Tom has been an enormous help, cleaning, sweeping, doing dishes, washing all the glasses, and cooking, including an endless array of tasks that made this day so much easier for me. I killed most of the flies in the kitchen with a towel snap. There aren’t any flies on the veranda, but they will arrive once we put out the food. Once everyone serves themselves, I’ll cover the remaining food with kitchen towels.

We’re putting a metal bowl of ice under the prawns to stay cold on this warm day. We’ll watch them and the other meats to ensure they remain iced cold. The sundowner tradition is that all guests bring their beverages in an ice-cold chill box since we won’t have room in the refrigerators for drinks other than the wine and beer in the outdoor refrigerator.

“Hmm…this works,” he thinks.

As it turned out, this weekend was another holiday, and the park was packed with holidaymakers. As a result, we’re only seeing a few wildlife visitors today. By tomorrow, they’ll all return and fill our garden with myriad species checking out the pellet situation and responding to our enthusiastic welcoming.

Hopefully, Norman and his family will stop by tonight while everyone is here. He’s already been here a few times today. When they are here, curious tourists driving on our road often stop when they see them, taking photos and enticing them with pellets. It’s not a good idea to feed the animals from a vehicle. It gives them a sense that it’s safe to be around vehicles after so many animals have been killed on the roads. This is a ridiculous practice.

A group of zebras is called a “dazzle.”

So there it is folks…our busy day. We’re so looking forward to this afternoon when everyone arrives. What a magical thing that three of four couples are here due to them reading our site over the years and coming to Marloth Park for the adventures.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 14, 2021:

We spotted this crocodile with its mouth open at Sunset Dam, beyond the Lower Sabie area. Crocs rest with their mouths open to cool off since they don’t sweat. For more photos, please click here.