The TV is not fixed…Using a workaround…We stumbled on a way to save on groceries and eat like royalty…Who knew it could be done?…

A thick-tailed bush baby enjoying yogurt we left out for her. These larger bush babies aren’t as cute as the little species.

Late yesterday afternoon, the owner of this condo, Zoltan, stopped by to help us get the sound to work when plugging my laptop into the HDMI cord. Zoltan brought a new HDMI cord to see if that was the problem. It was not. We spent at least an hour trying to find a setting or solution to keep us from having to use our JBL Bluetooth portable speaker.

Alas, we didn’t find a solution. However, after making many changes to the settings on the TV, we found ourselves unable to revert to our initial workaround using our speaker. We had no sound using any method. Determined as I was working with Zoltan, I asked him if we could retrace our steps and get our original workaround working once again. That took another half hour.

Finally, we resolved the issue and returned to the original setup we’d been using. Whew! Once we leave here on March 31, Zoltan will have to find a way for other renters to stream shows using their laptops. However, the Samsung TV is a Smart TV, and if I had known all the passwords for the multiple streaming services we use, we could have used the various links offered on the TV.

In most countries, the TV monitors are not Smart TVs, and we haven’t ever used the features provided to get into Netflix, Prime, and Hula, for example. But we are also currently using Paramount+, Peacock, and others. I didn’t feel like going in to change all the passwords, many of which we’d had for years. Many of our passwords are automatically set up by Google, and the system remembers them when we try to log in.

Oh well, we’re back to our initial setup, and we’re okay with that for the remainder of the time we are here another two months. We leave here on March 31. Gosh, the time is flying by quickly.

Tonight, Richard and his girlfriend are coming here to see our place, and then the four of us will walk down the one flight of stairs for the short walk to Luna Rossa, where we’ll have dinner. I made the reservations for 6:45, so we’ll eat later than usual, as we did last night. We are excited to share this lovely condo and its location with our first visitors since we arrived almost six weeks ago.

I wanted to share what we consider somewhat of a phenomenon, although on a small scale, of how we’re saving hundreds of dollars on groceries each month. I know we’ve mentioned this in the past. But this morning, I submitted this week’s online order from Smith’s Marketplace, delivered by Instacart using our Boost membership as described below. (Kroger owns Smith’s):

“Kroger Boost membership fees are $59 per year for next-day delivery or $99 per year for same-day delivery. Both options require a minimum order of $35. 

Boost is part of Kroger’s Kroger Plus loyalty program. Kroger Loyalty program members can enroll in Boost online and pay the fee with a credit or debit card. Members can cancel their Boost membership before the end of their first year by visiting their membership page.”
When we arrived here, we shopped a few times in person to get essential supplies, most of which we’ve since used, except for about $30 in various spices I ordered on Amazon. As shown above, we selected the annual fee of $59 since we plan ahead enough not to need same-day delivery.
As the weeks marched on, I noticed that our weekly/monthly grocery bill now averages about $150 weekly. This is about $75 less per week than we’d spend if we shopped in person at the market. How is this possible? See our list below:

1. The elimination of impulse buying. Also, when preparing the online order, I don’t do so when I’m hungry, which is often suggested for those who suffer from impulse buying.

2. Planning a menu for the week, most often using recipes, and only buying the times needed as indicated on the recipes(s)

3. When running low or out of an item, instead of writing it down, go to the app and enter the item(s) immediately on the list of other items to be ordered.

4. Be willing to eat leftovers not only to save money but also to save time. I often make a recipe we love to last for three nights.

5. Submit the order based on your selected program, either next-day or same-day delivery, to avoid paying extra fees.

6. Pay special attention to coupons offered in the app. We often save $10 to $15 on needed coupon items, but… if the item is not required, don’t add it. Most often, it’s a one-click process to use the coupon, which will automatically be reflected in the total bill.

7. Tips are automatically included in the total price. Stick with the tips suggested by the system instead of paying an additional amount. If you pay more, pay it in cash when the delivery is ordered to avoid the system automatically filtering the higher amount for subsequent orders.

8. Use up your perishables to avoid food waste. It is a rare occasion that we’ll throw out any food. The only exception to that was when we were in South Africa during lengthy power outages (load shedding). We have no food waste with the inverter system in the house we usually rent.

9. Be willing to freeze uneaten leftovers. Each time I make a more time-consuming recipe, I purposely store a fourth portion in the freezer. Those are when we may have planned to go out to dinner and changed our minds, preferring to eat at home. Also, frozen leftovers are ideal for busy days when there isn’t ample time to make a new meal. Often, on those occasions, all I have to do is make a fresh salad and cook the frozen entree in the oven or microwave, whichever you prefer.

Our food bill may be less than others since we don’t buy unhealthy snack items such as chips, cookies, cakes, and candy. However, if you are trying to save money in these tough economic times with increased costs, it might be a good time to rethink such purchases and put hundreds of dollars back in your pocket.

When we were in the US on past visits, spending up to $250 a week was easy, considering we ate high-quality meats and vegetables. Right now, we are spending an average of $150 a week, although, on occasion, we may purchase some staples from Amazon. Yesterday, I saw Amazon had a great price on garbage bags and zippered gallons for storage bags. I had both items on the grocery app but removed them to ensure no duplicates were purchased. I ordered the two items and received them in less than 24 hours without a shipping fee since we also belong to Prime.

In most countries and other US cities, you can set up a regular online grocery order app that works for you. It’s not exclusively through Kroger/Smith’s, delivered by Instacart.

That’s it for today, folks. Have a fantastic “hump day.”

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 24, 2014:

A pair of waterbucks, posing from afar, across the Crocodile River. Waterbucks do not live in Marloth Park. But they can be seen on the banks of the river on the Kruger National Park side. For more, please click here.

I don’t know where to begin…It wasn’t an easy transition….

Boats tied up on the shoreline.

Sorry, there was no post yesterday. I had run out of steam and simply couldn’t muster the energy to get it done by the time we returned from Manta. We had no groceries when we arrived on Tuesday, and for the second night in a row, we didn’t have anything for dinner.

There was no supermarket, open shop, or restaurant nearby, but we made it through the night without a bite to eat since breakfast. The prior night we arrived in Manta too late to eat, and that’s when the lovely young daughter of the hotel owners went to a little local market to get me some cheese.

I don’t know how to start this post. Shall I minimize the ordeal of the past 48 hours to indicate we are less adaptable than usual? Or shall I, in our usual way, tell it like it is, causing our readers to perceive we aren’t as tough as we used to be? I’ll opt for the latter and tell you exactly what happened.

Sure, we may not be as tough as we were years ago. We’re getting older and have various medical issues, typical for our ages, that impact how well we tolerate certain situations. But the fact remains, regardless of our ages, we still don’t whine and complain during difficult times and forge ahead, doing the very best we can with a good attitude, however difficult it may be at any given time.

Boats along the highway from Manta to San Jose.

Yesterday was one of those times. I don’t know how we got through it, but we did. And now, here we are in our oceanfront holiday home, not quite unpacked but with laundry done, groceries purchased, and a roasted chicken dinner on the menu for tonight.

First, before I go on, I want to preface that the property owner, Igor, who lives in Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), is a fantastic guy. Had he known what would transpire on Tuesday, he would have gone to any lengths to avoid the frustration we experienced. He’s making everything right over the next few days.

Properties on the ocean road.

So here’s how it rolled out. As mentioned in Tuesday’s post, we had a long wait at the gate to Mirador San Jose for Igor’s house manager to arrive. We arrived at 10:45 and ended up sitting in the car with nothing to drink, no bathroom, and turning the car off and on to cool us down in the warm, humid weather on a cloudy day.

At 1:10 pm, I walked up to the guard gate building and explained our plight to the guard. He raised a piece of paper showing our names, that we were expected to arrive, and that Sylvie, Igor’s property manager, was supposed to come at 11:00 am to let us into the property.

Although the guard and I somehow managed to communicate, he even had Sylvie’s phone number programmed into his phone. Immediately, he called her, and she acted as if she didn’t know we’d been waiting there for 2½ hours. Igor had told her we’d be arriving at 11:00, but she didn’t bother to show up.

Flowers at the entrance gate at Mirador San Jose, where we waited for over two hours on Tuesday.

After the guard called her, apparently she lives nearby, she didn’t arrive until 15 minutes later, acting as if nothing was wrong. We both surmised she had forgotten we would be at the gate at 11:00. She spoke no English other than a few words. But we don’t expect people to speak English in other countries. It’s us who has to figure it out.

When we finally got to the property, she handed us a pass to enter and exit through the gate. I asked her many using my choppy Spanish language skills, but she didn’t seem to know the answers to many of the questions, even when I used the translator on my phone.

The entrance gate to Mirador San Jose, where our holiday home is located.

After she left, we were at a loss  as to how to handle the following comments and questions, which I later posed to Igor on a WhatsApp call:

Sylvie didn’t know anything…if we hadn’t had the gate people call her, she wouldn’t have shown up. Please see the bold print after each issue to see what has been done

  1. Where does the trash go? There’s a bin down the road, and we can dump our bagged trash in the bin any day of the week.
  2. We couldn’t find any of the restaurants or grocery stores Sylvie mentioned. None of the restaurants she mentioned were open, or after reading the menus for the few that were open, we realized most likely we wouldn’t be able to dine out here. All of the food is deep-fried.
  3. The pass to the guard gate wasn’t working. Igor contacted the gate people and got our gate pass activated. It’s working now.
  4. Who will provide more gas tanks when the stove runs out? Igor contacted a guy who will deliver extra gas tanks, and when we run out, he will get him to install the new tank.
  5. The towels in the bathrooms are threadbare. Igor instructed Sylvie to purchase quality towels, which she delivered yesterday.
  6. There were minimal supplies at the house when we arrived…toilet paper…soap….trash bags. Without cash to shop at the area’s tiny shops, we had to drive back to Manta (one hour each way) to find an ATM for cash (they use American dollars here). Then, we found a grocery store and purchased about 80% of the items on our list. The larger grocery store in Manta accepted credit cards.
  7. The water machine wasn’t working. What do we do about bottled water? Igor said we have to leave the big bottle on the sidewalk with $1.25 underneath the bottle, and once a week, the water guy will come by and refill the bottle. What day? No one knows.
  8. Who do we contact for maintenance? We will contact Igor.
  9. There were several bulbs burnt out. Today, a guy came and replaced all the bulbs except one he needed to purchase and then returned in the next few days to install it. 
  10. WiFi doesn’t work upstairs. We need WiFi on both levels. Igor is working with the WiFi service providers to install an additional router upstairs.
  11. I would like to have known we needed to bring a lot of cash when most small-town shops and restaurants don’t take credit cards. Most guests stay a few days. We are staying 79 days, and our need for cash is much greater.
  12. There is no book in the house on handling any of these issues. With these questions answered and mostly resolved, we won’t need a book of instructions. But we always appreciate these books.

    The beach along the road to Manta, taken on our second trip in two days.

Of course, after all these issues arose, I contacted Igor, asking him to call me on WhatsApp, and he quickly responded as usual. He’d since addressed each of the above issues, and they are getting accomplished one by one. Igor has been responsive and supportive and shocked we had to deal with many of these issues. Igor informed us that good help is hard to find in Ecuador.

Once in the house, after doing considerable research, we concluded we had no choice but to drive back to Manta for the cash and to the supermarket. All the local markets are like “Quick and Easy” type stores, carrying soda, snacks, rice, and beans. There’s such a little shop here in the gated community, which we’ll check out today, but I doubt it will carry anything we use.

Large black bird at the edge of the pool at our holiday rental.I will continue researching to find what type of birds these are.

We’ll have to drive back to Manta every few weeks to buy groceries. We purchased as much as would fit in the freezer and only a little bit of fresh produce when they don’t carry what we typically use. Most vegetables were starchy, like peas, squash, and corn. There were no frozen vegetables we would use.

Before dinner last night, we had no water. We contacted Igor, and he said to leave the faucets open to clear the lines of air. We did this, and it worked.

An iguana we spotted at the airport in Quito.

I think we’ll be OK from here. We don’t like the prospect of driving to Manta every few weeks, but we will go check out a meat market in Puerto Cayo, about 30 minutes down the highway. If we can purchase meat, we can go to the supermarket once a month for staples at the same time as returning the rental car once a month. They wouldn’t allow us to keep the car for more than 30 days and put a hold on a credit card for $5,000, the most we’ve ever seen. It’s Avis, so we felt it would be OK, and most likely, they’ll release the hold in a timely manner.

We’re feeling better now that most of these issues are being resolved. Right now, I am having lots of Afib bouts and, fortunately, have medication with me for such an occasion. The side effects make me feel awful, but it’s what I have to do right now.

Last night, we were so exhausted that we made scrambled eggs for dinner. Bacon is basically unheard of in Ecuador. Tonight, we’re roasting two chickens for dinner with rice for Tom. We won’t be eating salads while here or any raw vegetables due to a high risk of illness from the impure tap water. I didn’t even buy celery, one of my favorite additions to various dishes.

I will try taking photos, but it’s been raining since we arrived. Once we have a sunny day and I feel better, I will be motivated to take photos. More on this story in tomorrow’s post.

Be well.

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

Who can be bored in Kenya when the playful antics of our temporary dogs, Jessie and Gucci, never fail to entertain us? For more photos, please click here.

Off to Komati…Lots to do to get ready for company…

We love the colorful heads on helmeted guinea fowl who visit us every evening around 4:30 pm, 1630 hrs., and then 90 minutes later head off in single file into the bush to “go to bed.” Early birds. We laugh every time we see this.

We don’t have many new photos today. I’ve been so busy taking care of travel-related projects or financial stuff and then nursing my aching head and face that I haven’t focused on taking photos as much as I had. I hardly have any photos in the folder on my desktop entitled “Today’s New Photos.”

We’d intended to return to Kruger National Park, where photo ops are aplenty, but bouncing around in the small rental car has held little appeal with the headache. Although I have experienced some relief in the past few days after increasing the dose of the medication, the slightest motion or sudden turn of my head starts it all over again.

When we returned from shopping, these four bushbucks were mainly female, waiting in the garden for us.

I’ve learned that standing quickly after sitting fires it back up again. I am trying to learn to be mindful of such activities to enjoy the pain-free periods for however long they last. This morning, after awakening without pain, I bolted out of bed, realizing I had better get on the ball and get up.

I planned to get up early and clean the main refrigerator, making room for all the groceries we’ll be buying today after my breakfast at Stoep with Rita. Once showered up and dressed, I immediately tackled the fridge cleaning, and 20 minutes later, we had plenty of room for the new influx of food.

Tulip decided to take a rest in our garden.

While doing this, I kept thinking about how much I longed for a cup of coffee but decided to wait until I was done and then reward myself. Alas, I forgot to turn on the kettle, and just like that, load shedding started. Of course, the kettle wouldn’t work, and I didn’t feel like boiling water in a pot on the gas stove, using a lighter to start the gas burner. Yes, we are grateful we have gas burners, although the oven is electric.

When load shedding occurs during dinnertime, which it has done every day so far this week, it helps to use the stovetop to prepare our meals instead of waiting until 7:30 pm, 1930 hrs., to eat dinner. We prefer to dine by 6:00 pm, if possible, although it may be later when dining out.

Any minute, Rita will arrive to pick me up. I have the most extensive grocery list on the app on my phone than I’ve had in a very long time. But with three guests who eat foods we avoid, my goal is to be mindful of what they like instead of what we always eat. So, I will be buying both ways – low-carb; meat, eggs, vegetables, and some high-fat dairy, and also for our guests, the typical US diet of grains, starches, meats, vegetables, and snacks.

I tossed some cabbage out to them. They love the moisture in fresh vegetables.

Tom will come into the market with me, and we’ll use two trolleys. This way, we’ll be able to keep it all straight. I only plan to purchase enough food for four or five days, and then Connie and I can go shopping together, choosing what we prefer to cook and eat. I am sure it will all work out well.

Back from Komati…

Rita and I had a lovely breakfast, after which she dropped me off at the pharmacy to fill my prescription and a few toiletries. When done, I walked the short distance down the strip mall to the Spar and began shopping while waiting for Tom to join me. Our plan worked well; we kept their food and supplies in one trolley and theirs in another. We spent a small fortune.

And then, there were five…

Once back at our place, we brought their food to the cottage, and once it was all put away, we headed back to our house to unload our food into the two refrigerators and the chest freezer. We purchased enough food for five dinners and breakfasts,  lunches, fruit, and snacks for them. Whew!

For the rest of the day, which is rapidly ending, we’ll hunker down and have a nice dinner of leftover mozzarella stuffed meatballs topped with homemade Italian sauce and grated mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, with steamed broccolini and a big salad.

Tomorrow, I’ll make a huge batch of blueberry muffins and a few pans of crustless quiche to share with our guests. The next few weeks will be busy, but we’ll do everything we can to make it seamless and stress-free. Staying calm is of the utmost importance in making house guests feel at ease.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, September 15, 2021:

Broken Horn can’t get enough visits to our garden, even napping when he needs a restful break. For more photos, please click here.