Happy Valentine’s Day…staying happy…staying fit…

Valentine’s Day sunrise photo of the Caribbean Sea taken by Tom this morning while standing less than 10 feet from our veranda.

Heartfelt Valentine’s wishes for all of our family and friends.  This morning, Tom arose before sunrise waiting to take this extraordinary photo for me while I remained in restful slumber.  This is truly the best Valentine’s gift I’ve ever received.  Thanks, my love.

After a fun happy hour last night with our tourist neighbors from Canada, another couple we’ve befriended, we dined on our homemade pizza made using Polish not Italian sausage.  It wasn’t quite the same, missing the familiar spices in the sausage that make pizza so tasty.  Not having eaten all day, we devoured half of it leaving the remainder for tonight’s dinner. 

While grocery shopping a few days ago, I’d purchased a whole coconut, wondering how we’d open it. With my limited way of eating, I was craving something sweet.  The thought of eating fresh coconut got me salivating.

During last night’s happy hour festivities, we asked a resort employee if he could help us crack the coconut. He dashed off, moments later returning with a awe inspiring machete. 

Helpful employee at LaruBeya cracking open my coconut.

In a matter of seconds, he’d split the coconut.  Unfortunately, as an inexperienced coconut buyer, I had purchased one with a crack it in.  The employee explained that the meat would be dry and the milk unsafe to drink.  I had hoped to use it to make coconut flour pancakes. Live and learn.  We dumped the milk placing the two chunks in the fridge to deal with later.

As I peeked in the refrigerator this morning, seeing the leftovers wrapped in foil and the two chunks of coconut, impossible to remove from the shell after trying late last night, a sense of disappointment came over me, such sorry leftovers for Valentine’s dinner and no coconut meat.   Oh well, no big deal.  I tucked it away in my mind to “think about later.”  We had chicken and beef in the freezer and could easily make a new dinner.

After our usual morning coffee on the veranda, checking our email and Facebook, it was time to wander over to the resort next door, Roberts Grove, a five minute walk along the beach so I could work out once again. We darted in and out of palm trees on the scenic walk along the beach.  Me, in workout shoes and Tom, barefooted.  He never ventures outdoors without shoes.  It’s fun to see that he too, is falling into the Belizean way, barefoot and laid back.

Staying fit as we travel the world is important to me.  Its not about “burning calories” which I’ve never found to be effective.  Its about maintaining a level of fitness and well being to ensure my continuing good health, mobility, strength and endurance, many of which dwindle away as one approaches old age. 

Turning 65 years old in a mere six days, February  20th, is a huge motivator for me.  Since we left Minnesota on Halloween, I’ve only missed one week, that horrifying week without water in the little beach house.  Once we moved here to LaruBeya on February 5th, I signed up next door (no health club here) to use their health club at $39 a month, as mentioned in a prior post.

My workout consists of a program I adopted from the book, The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor which extols the virtues of 1000 scientific studies done by researchers at Harvard as to why we need to eat more and exercise less (and smarter) utilizing the concert of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). 

This concept along with the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, not only changed my life, now free of pain except for the testy shoulder on occasion but helped Tom lose 45 pounds which he has maintained after two cruises and many nights of dining out.  I know I’ve mentioned these many times in the past but we would not have been able to travel the world prior to these startling life changes from eating this new way, now 18 months later.

Tom has never had interest in working out.  He’s lost all this weight from diet alone.  Now, living on the beach, its not hard to get in my preferred 10,000 steps of walking per day. I don’t nag or cajole Tom into doing more. Its entirely his decision, one I doubt he’ll choose to make. 

In any case, my workouts continue leaving me feeling refreshed, renewed and energized.  Although I only go to the gym twice a week for short periods, HIIT is an excruciated short period, as little as 10 minutes of torture.  Once done, I wait 3-4 days to do it again, ideal with our current lifestyle.

As discussed many times in this blog, our diets continue to be a source of careful planning and sometimes difficult choices.    Tom had planted himself in a comfy chair in the shade reading a book on his smart phone (we no longer have cell phone contract but use WiFi for data on our phones) while I’d work out.  While standing at the desk at Robert’s Grove to collect the key to the workout room, I noticed three fancy Valentine’s Day menus spread out on the counter.

Thinking about the leftover pizza and impossible to shell coconut in the fridge, I called Tom over to peruse the menus.  Pizza or filet mignon and lobster tail????
Filet and lobster won!!!  We made the reservation for 7 PM tonight, Valentine’s night.  All we do is show up at that desk at 6:45 tonight and the staff at Robert’s Grove will drive us the five miles to Maya Beach to their sister resort for dinner at the Singing Sands Resort and return us to our resort later in the evening.  

Tom washed a boulder and then used it to crack my coconut, making it possible to eat. It wasn’t dry at all.  Tonight’s dessert!

Barefoot and lazy…Easy life…No shoes…

A newlywed couple, we’re dining with tonight took this photo of us.

With the exception of an occasional sick day, I’ve hardly ever had a lazy day. Except for now. 

I have no house to clean (maid service is included). I have no dishwasher to unload (no dishwasher except Tom).  There is no pile of laundry awaiting my attention as a result of no washer or dryer (laundry service, wash, dry, fold will cost us about $50 a month). 

There’s no way we can use this Hobey Cat with our bad shoulders.

Wearing our bathing suits all day, I don’t even have “what to wear” planning until the two nights we’ve decided we’ll go out to dinner, Tuesdays and Saturdays, both buffets (no doggie bags).

Our days now consist of changing the roll of toilet paper as needed, whipping up a mere five easy meals a week, making a pot of coffee in the mornings, tea in the afternoons.  No more multi-store grocery shopping, coupons to cut, trips to Walgreen’s, or stops at the post office. 

No more stops for gas on 10 degree days, hands freezing holding the nozzle.  No more car washes, oil changes, or auto insurance cards to put into the glove box twice a year. No more car.

First time I’ve ever let Tom take a photo of me in a swimsuit. 

No more coffee with friends at Caribou or Starbucks.

No more walks to “Poop Park” with the neighbor’s dogs or our own.  Our precious Worldwide Willie died almost two years ago, prompting me to write my first blog, from his perspective, for the remaining 17 days of his life.  (Feel free to read it, hankie handy, if you’ve ever lost a dog). 

“Are we bored,” you ask? 

“No, not at all,” we both say in unison. “Will we get bored?”

“No, not at all.”

After a lifetime of continually running around like a “whirling dervish” (whatever that is), I’m done “trying to do it all.” Tom is done trying to recover from 12-hour workdays, feeling exhausted on his days off, feeling unmotivated other than to do the mundane tasks of home maintenance which he completed faithfully without being asked twice, which he finished with aplomb.

We were happy in that life. Now, we’re happy in this life. But,  it’s coupled with a profound sense of freedom that is hard to describe.  No end-of-vacation blues, no piled up mail to anticipate, no Mondays, back to work.

With nothing to worry about in this simple existence, only occasionally interrupted by a move to a new location, we can focus on the little things; what and when to eat, where and when to explore, with whom to engage in conversation as strangers mull around during our one-hour daily visit to the pool. “Shall we go in the water or shall I continue sitting in the lawn chair reading my online book on my phone?”

Sitting in the lounge chairs on our veranda, we’re contemplating going inside soon to shower and get ready for dinner out tonight at Habaneros with a lovely newlywed couple we met outside, Pam and Jerry.  We’ll all take the short walk down and across the road, dine outside on the water’s edge, the no-see-ums armed and ready for fresh meat, mostly mine. I’m getting used to the sting, the itch, and the three nights of scratching using my newly toughened heels on my legs during the night. 

The bottoms of my feet are toughening-up after being barefoot all day;  walking to the pool, strolling along the beach, stopping at the office with questions (no phones in the villas here). 

Our sweet Belizean maid Gloria mentioned as I was picking flowers this morning, “Miss Yessica  (that’s how they say my name), “You finally get into the Belizean way, easy life, no shoes.”

“Yes, Gloria,” I responded, as the smell of the fresh bouquet wafted into my senses.   “Easy life, no shoes.”

Photos and more photos tomorrow too!…

Such a small pig.  Boo hoo.  It was delicious!

When living in the moment, savoring every morsel life throws our way, it’s easy to become entrenched in the details in such a way that photo-taking falls to the wayside.

Grilled red snapper.
Belizean barbeque chicken and rice. We had the chicken removing the sugary skin, passing on the rice.

So the case here.  Now, on our 6th night of living at the amazing Laru Beya  Resort after having recovered from our horrifying previous week, I find myself mesmerized by the simplest distractions; the sound of a colorful bird singing a song I’ve never heard, a bug-eyed iguana running across the sidewalk, a white hibiscus tree filled with dozens of perfectly shaped blooms, to name a few.

Marinated vegetable salad.

Do we always have the camera with us? No, but we often regret that we don’t. This morning as we walked next door to Robert’s Grove Resort where I had paid $39 a month to sign up for use of their health club, we missed yet another photo op, a perfect scene of a huge sailboat swiftly skimming across the sea. No camera.

Sweet, tender, all-you-can-eat shrimp.
Some kind of rice dish we didn’t try (we don’t eat grains)

We’ll get better at this. Taking good photos is not only the art of selecting an appealing opportunity but utilizing the camera to the photo’s best advance. It’s art. I’m not artistic by any means. Nor is Tom. We’ll get it right.

Although the lobster doesn’t look well-stocked, they continually refilled the pan, ensuring every guest has their share. It was some of the best lobster tail we’ve had.
Belizean sausage, spicy and juicy.  No corn or pasta for us.

Last night at the buffet dinner next door, again at Robert’s Grove Resort (the closest walking distance resort with three restaurants), I remembered to bring the camera.  Before the line formed for the $35 per person feast I managed to get these photos, not perfect but, we hope worth sharing.

Raining for days…

A palm frond we discovered on the drive to Maya Beach

It’s rained almost nonstop the past three days.  With no screens on the windows, the humidity at 100%, the bugs are literally swarming around me biting every few minutes.  Trying not to scratch seems to reduce the longevity of the itching.

Both of us are making a concerted effort to stay cheerful and optimistic. We perceive this period of time as “training.”  Training to learn to live with the bites, the humidity, the inclement weather, the lack of hot water, often no water at all, and of course, the bugs. 

Beach at Maya Beach Hotel

It won’t be like this everywhere we’ve planned to visit, only a few.  In a little over 60 days, we’ll be aboard ship again for over a month.  That’s an easy life.

We had no delusions that this would be one long vacation. However, we hadn’t imagined we’d have this water issue.  Had we known, we would not have rented this small beach house.

Tom at Maya Beach

Apparently, the water problem is due to issues with the city trying to repair the lines.  They shut off the water frequently, not turning it back on for hours, sometimes days. When they finally do, its a mere trickle, not enough to flush the toilet. There is no hot water from any faucet. We showered, washing off our sweaty and bug spray covered skin under the cold trickle.

We have no options to move.  After days of looking, this being the high season, there isn’t a single habitable place for us in any of the decent areas.  Hotels are too expensive and have no vacancies as mentioned in a past post.  We have nine weeks to go.


The golf cart sits in the driveway unattended.  We can’t wait to get out again.  It cleared for a little while yesterday early afternoon enabling us to drive the three miles to Maya Beach to check out some restaurants.  We’ve decided to eat out three times a week. It helps. The Maya Beach Hotel has the top-rated restaurant in the country of Belize, the Bistro.

Making a reservation for dinner for last night we sat at the bar, ordering a soda while perusing their unique menus, anxious to return in four hours to enjoy not only their epicurean delights but the inviting ambiance as well.  There were numerous options befitting our way of eating.  Tom cheats when we dine out, but with apparently no repercussions other than weight gain.  The next day he eats healthy balancing it all out.

Me at the Maya Beach Hotel.  Pockets filled with stuff as usual. 

We stopped along the return drive exploring the side streets, other restaurants, and the lush unusual vegetation. We stopped at the grocery store, miraculously finding a nonstick pizza pan wrapped in plastic, dusty in the back of a shelf, which will travel the world with us. 

When we originally packed, we laughed at the idea of bringing along a pizza pan.  But now, with a desire for a decent homemade meal with the limitations at the grocery stores, we’re grateful we found a pan. Our pizza requires parchment paper or Reynold’s No Stick foil. Neither of these exists in this country. Hopefully, the nonstick pan will suffice. They don’t sell mushrooms in Belize. 

The nicest grocery store near us

There’s little meat in the grocery stores only a few clumps of freezer-burned, frozen packages and literally no fresh meat. The grass-fed meat is all frozen.  We made steak.  It was thin and tough.  We ate it anyway. 

Mostly, the people of Belize eat beans, rice, pork, plantains, fried tortillas, a combination of many cultures. I’ve yet to see any seafood, fresh, or frozen in any of the three biggest grocery stores in the area. Yet, the restaurant’s menus are filled with seafood options.

A house we passed on the road to Maya Beach

On the ride back to the little house, the clouds rapidly changed from fluffy white to dark barreling cylinders.  We barely made it inside the door when the pouring rain returned.  If we were to make our 6:30 dinner reservation, we’d need to leave at 6:10. 

The rain never stopped. Dressed and ready to go at 6:00 PM we decided that we couldn’t risk it. The roof over the golf cart would provide no protection from the high winds and sideways rain. I contacted the restaurant online and canceled the reservation, promising to try again soon.  Today, actually.

Neither of us had eaten all day, not hungry after our huge buffet dinner the night before. There we were, not only hungry but needing to eat.  The tiny freezer held two items, Italian sausage for the pizza (quite the find) and two one-pound packages of ground grass-fed steak in funny skinny rolled packages less than 2″ in diameter.  Taking out the meat, it took but a few minutes to begin to defrost.

The Bistro at the Maya Beach Hotel rated Belize’s Top Rated Restaurant of the Year in 2012.  We tried to keep our reservation last night at 6:30 driving our golf cart the three miles, but were ‘rained out.” Trying again tonight! 

Tom said as I sliced the meat into well-shaped rounds, “Now we know why they serve so many “sliders” here.  They use this same meat!” We laughed.

First, cooking eight slices of bacon in my trusty frying pan, I placed the nine tiny burgers, well seasoned, into the pan carefully cooking them until fully done, more important now than ever. When done, we covered each mini burger with a chunk of sharp cheddar cheese and the cooked bacon. On the side, we had canned green beans made by Goya, a product line familiar in the US. 

Travel Nurse Marsha suggested we eat canned brand name vegetables as opposed to fresh to avoid the risk of waterborne disease and parasites.  The upscale resort restaurants have reverse osmosis systems to protect their hotel guests and customers. We never fail to ask. If so, we feel comfortable eating their cooked vegetables, although we refuse the raw vegetables which may be subject to mishandling, water parasites, and the like.  No salad while here. 

The only sickness we’ve experienced since leaving the US was the flu/cough/colds we contracted on the last cruise. Everyone was coughing. Mine still lingers, improving a little each day. 

We continue to boil a huge pot of water each day for washing dishes, hands, and faces. We drink only purified bottled water, five-gallon jugs for $3 US. Tom pours them into our smaller used purified water bottles, making them easier to handle. Both of us are feeling our shoulders in this humidity.

We fill empty bottles with tap water, keeping three or four large jugs in the bathroom to use for flushing the toilet, being extra careful never to mix them up since they all look alike. 

This morning the water ran long enough to do a load of laundry. A few days ago, it took six hours for one load, today only two. With the rain pelting, we hung the clothes indoors on the surprisingly available indoor clothesline.  I wondered why it was there when we first walked in the door almost a week ago. It will take two days for them to dry. Seriously. Did you ever use a bath towel hung in humidity to dry?  It hurts to wipe oneself! Guess it’s a good way to exfoliate after a refreshing cold shower.

As I write this the rain has stopped, although the dark clouds hover.  Our hope is to leave here at 5:00 PM today to head to The Bistro for a much-anticipated dinner by the sea. Bug spray before we dash out the door. The no-see-ums arrive at 5:00 pm. They have Crystal Lite Martguerita’s.  Hum….

Our costs for 2 1/2 months in Belize….Plus photos…Plus a new mission…

The beach outside our door.

Renting a golf cart is the best thing we could have done!  After the rain stopped yesterday, we decided to go check out some local restaurants for our date night. Although it only goes about 10 miles an hour, we can explore this general area quite easily.  There’s not another town for about 53 miles so we’re best to stay within the approximate eight-mile distance of the peninsula of Placencia.

Around noon, we took off for Robert’s Grove Resort to check out their health club and three restaurants.  Not a golfer, the golf cart reminded me of the motorized cars at Disneyland that I so much loved to drive as a kid maneuvering between the high rubber bumper curbs. The putt putt sound made the ride all the more entertaining.

Wandering into Robert’s Grove, for a moment I wished we were staying there for the entire 2 1/2 months.  Almost a year ago, I checked their prices to discover that they were already entirely booked. Also, at $200 a night plus meals at another $150 a day (we checked their menus), the cost would have been $24,150 plus tips, plus laundry, plus transportation. 

The total to stay at Robert’s Grove would have been around $30,000. Our total cost for the 2 1/2 months in Belize including rent, golf cart rental, groceries, and dining out will be approximately $6800 total! 

After the inspection visit at Robert’s Grove Resort, we made reservations for dinner for their Saturday night buffet. Much to our surprise, they offered to pick us up at our little beach house at 6:45 and bring us back at no charge. We described how to find us as best as we could and planned to be standing on the road at 6:45 promptly. 

In order to drive to Robert’s Grove, we must go through a very poor rough looking town, not unlike North Minneapolis, 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. The thought of a ride in the dark, unlit street in a van, as opposed to a golf cart, was very appealing making the prospect of dinner all the more exciting. We had newfound hope that soon we’d start enjoying ourselves. 

Determined to find more restaurants, we decided to eat out most days while we had either a ride or transportation during the times we’d have the golf cart. At over $900 a month for the cart, we thought we might get it every other week, grocery shopping for the long week stranded in between. Maybe, if dinner at Robert’s Grove was good, we’d have them pick us up a few times in the weeks we were without wheels. This was a plan we could live with.

Deciding against the $39 a month for workout facility at Robert’s Grove due to it not having the equipment I use, we were on our way, tootling down the road to see what else we could find.

Suddenly, a sign appeared, “Luxury Condos for Sale, Coco Plum Villas” as we looked at each other, nodding yes at each other at exactly the same moment. “Let’s check it out.” Of course, we had no intention of buying a home in Belize but thought it would be fun as vacationers often do, in order to get a better feel for an area, to do a bit of house hunting. We wanted to see the more luxurious side of Placencia as well.

Below are photos of the exquisite grounds of Coco Plum Villas.

A man-made lake was the central focus of the development.

A friendly guard waved us through at the gate pointing us to the model, a short distance down the road.  We were in another world.  At considerable cost and design, they utilized the Placencia peninsula on the lagoon side, to build a massive amount of waterways surrounding by nature’s bounty of the area, a variety of palm trees, flowering plants, and trees of unknown origin. Birds were singing and although a cloudy, humid day, it was beautiful.

Another view of the lake.

To see a photo gallery of the area, click this link:

Another friendly young man welcomed us in the model home. It was interesting seeing the model condo, designed and decorated to utilize the space and views of the sea. Priced at $369,000, not unlike a price one we find in any ocean town so close to the water. Fantasizing for a moment, we asked each other, “Could we live here?” as we walked out the breathtaking grounds, the cabana bars, the long dock with a built-in bar at the end, overlooking expansive views of the Caribbean Sea.

Much of the land around the lake was undeveloped.

Tom answered, “The condo, yes, it’s great. The general location, no.” 

I agreed, “There isn’t a grocery store anywhere in the area that would fulfill our needs with the way we eat.”  One would have to have food products flown in and the cost would be prohibitive.  Eating out every meal would become tiresome and costly. For vacationers, for a week or two, it would be ideal.  But not for us down the road.

It then dawned on us that we needed to “reframe our thinking” a phrase used by Tony Robbins, a renowned life coach and motivational speaker whom my eldest son Richard and I made a point of seeing as often as we could, many years ago. His teachings had a profound effect on both of our careers in real estate, with me, retiring over three years ago after over 25 years and Richard still active in Las Vegas/Henderson, Nevada with an illustrious career, still booming in this distressed market. 

A dock to the ocean.

Did we reframe our thinking? How did we do that? We talked.

As we drove away from the condo villas, smiles on our faces, we now realized a greater mission than we previously had dreamed of traveling the world.  At some point, we’ll need to settle down, due to health or tiring from being on the move. 

Where we will live is totally up in the air.  In our year’s long journey, somehow, somewhere, we will find a place that spells “home” deciding to spend whatever time we have left in this world in a beautiful setting (with a good grocery store) whereby our family can visit and feel they are on vacation.  We may do this someday.

With a new mission naturally falling into place, we are rejuvenated, our enthusiasm has been given a burst and we can be at peace wherever we may be.  Thus, as we choose, we can explore real estate at the numerous upcoming ports of call, arranging for a real estate agent to pick us up the pier and show us a few properties for sale.  As a former agent/broker for many years, I often showed homes to prospective buyers, knowing full well that they hadn’t yet locked in an area.  That is what agents do.

Last night at 6:45, we both outside on the dark road as directed waiting for the Robert’s Grove marked van to appear to pick us up.  We figured they’d find us since the Little Cottage was located on their map of Placencia and we gave them the milepost numbers.

Standing in the dark was scary.  Lots of pickup trucks drove by with the bed filled with people sitting on the edges, honking and making noise.  Each time we saw a vehicle go by we had to stand close to the road enabling the driver to see us.  By 7:00 pm and no driver, we had to make a decision. 

Do we go back inside the humid little house and call it a night with nothing defrosted for dinner.  Or, do we take a chance and drive the golf cart in the pitch dark the three miles through the scary town?

As we sat in the driveway in the golf cart contemplating our move, we noticed a golf cart go by with what looked like tourists. We opted to follow them.  There’s strength in numbers.  Driving as fast as he could, Tom reassured me we’d be safe.  My heart was racing.

Along the road, there were about six speed bumps that were raised pedestrian crossings. To cross them, one had to slow down to a snail’s pace. It’s during that time that a potential attacker could have easy access to golf cart occupants. As we sped up after crossing each of the speed bumps we sighed a sigh of relief to again be on our way.

Finally, we arrived at Robert’s Grove Habener Restaurant, the smell of unfamiliar spices filling the air while live reggae music pulsated through the restaurant. Immediately, we alerted the restaurant staff that the driver never arrived by 7:00 pm resulting in our driving on our own. We were pleased to know we hadn’t missed him since she explained he was running late, as much as 1/2 hour. We’d only waited 15 minutes. She called him to tell him we were there since he had yet to arrive to pick us up.

Seated at our cozy white linen-covered table and chairs, we finally relaxed ordering a drink. Tom was anxious to get to the buffet. We’d hardly eaten in days with the problematic tiny stove, the running water issues, the tiny refrigerator with little room to stock fresh foods befitting our diet. 

After a few sips of our drinks, we sauntered to the buffet delighted with what we found:  huge lobster tails, Belizean roast chicken, fried conch (which I couldn’t eat due to the breading), piles of fresh large unpeeled shrimp on a bed of ice, and a whole roasted pig cooked to perfection. Various rice concoctions, salads, fresh fruit, bread, and rolls, completed the buffet along with a full table of what appeared to be delectable desserts. 

I asked the waiter if the water was purified and he assured us it was which is typical for hotels not wanting sick, angry guests stuck in their rooms with the “revenge” unable to spend more money and, in this day and age, writing derogatory reviews.  We felt safe to finally enjoy some ice in our water.

There were numerous items of which I couldn’t partake, but more that I could and I piled my plate twice as high as Tom’s.  The lobster was sweet and tender, the chicken, seasoned the Belizean way was falling off the bone, the sausage was spicy and moist and the pig. Well, I “pigged out.” It was a feast. Tom went back for another lobster tail. I had taken two to start and didn’t go back for seconds after eating my entire plate of food. 

The music was so loud we could barely speak instead of preoccupying ourselves with our food, the ambiance, and the good feeling of enjoying “being out.” The bill for everything, including our drinks and a generous tip for the attentive waiter, was $78 US, a deal by our standards. We’ll definitely go back again soon. 

The drive back was less scary and uneventful. We now felt comfortable driving the golf cart at night and of course, we’d be as mindful as possible. We can’t spend our world travels being suspicious of every corner, but we can and will be as cautious as is practical and possible.

This morning, I swept the piles of sand off the tile floor in the little house and on the patio, boiled more water, washed off the tabletops and kitchen counters with rags dipped in cold soapy (there’s literally NO HOT WATER in the little house!) hoping the soap would somehow sanitize everything.

At noon, an hour from now, we’ll hop into our golf cart driving in the opposite direction as yesterday, find a restaurant for tonight, and hopefully discover more interesting areas to explore.  We’ll take more photos. 

Today, I received a comment from a reader kindly requesting me to post photos of the distressed areas as well.  Next time we go to Placencia Village, in the next few days, we will definitely take photos and post them.  Thanks, Anonymous.  We’re happy to comply.

We recovered from the virus/cold, we got on the ship. We’re getting used to the heat, my 25 bites are becoming less itchy, the sun is shining, its 80 degrees and we’re good.  Yep, for the moment, we’re good.

We rented a golf cart…

Without a doubt, we knew that living in certain foreign lands would be different from the opulence and abundance we all so well know in the US, Europe, and many other modern-day worlds. 

After all, we sit here with our personal devices, our routers and modems quietly humming in the background, providing us with what truly is a miracle, wireless Internet.

Removed from the reality of the life that may be seen in underdeveloped countries, while we lived in our taken-for-granted existence, makes it easy for us to come to Belize, a country of considerable poverty.  We cringe for the sparse existence of many of the locals.

We may ask, “Why are we here?” We had envisioned a cozy beachside community of one resort after another filled with happy vacationers, basking in the familiar amenities and the warm sunny days. It’s far from that.

It rained each of the past three days, wildly overnight last night with clouds still looming today.  The humidity is constantly high and many properties have no air conditioning such as ours, as the cost is prohibitive and the service unreliable.

The water from the government-owned system only flows occasionally, leaving us pouring water into the toilet to get it to flush, saving buckets of boiled water to do dishes, wash our hands and faces.

The people: lots of seemingly happy ex-pats escaping the demands of what may have been an intolerable life in their home country or simply choosing the adventure of a new life, such as us.  The locals, a mix of many ethnicities, each have their own purported perhaps stereotyped demeanor that others easily assume from what they hear or perceive from a random encounter. 

In any case, they all seem friendly, if not a façade for their desire to sell their wares for desperately needed and deserved income to feed their families. It’s heartbreaking. 

No, we don’t fit in.  We never will.  We’re on the move.  A mere few months doesn’t give one time to embrace their lifestyle, their customs, their limitations. For a second, we wanted to leave entirely to go on in our journey to a more familiar existence, aboard a ship or to yet another country to fill the time until April 9th when we have six cruises booked almost back to back, a luxurious and easy existence we’ve come to love.

The cost to rent a car is over $800 a week and gas is close to $6 a gallon, hardly a feasible expenditure with our budget.  We knew this going in, planning we’d rent a vehicle a few days a week so we could experience the area, grocery shop, and go out to dinner.  We had thought this little beach house was more accessible to the main town of Placencia. Not the case. It’s eight miles. Not exactly a short walk as we’d hoped.

Yesterday, the owner on her way to town kindly offered to drop us off downtown Placencia at Captain Jax’s Resort so we could rent a golf cart.  Deciding to take it for a week, knowing we’d have to take a rickety bus back when we returned it, in order to get back to the little house, seemed to make more sense than taking it for a few days.  Maybe we’ll do it every other week, staying put in between.  It cost $350 US for the week.  I cringed a little, handing over my credit card to be charged in Belizean dollars, a two to one conversion, thus $700.

We rode up and down the peninsula, surprised when it came to the end, all the while expected “the resort feel.”  It never came.  The little town was not unlike a poor town one might find off the beaten path in Mexico, one old colorfully painted building after another, often dilapidated, a few charming properties interspersed.  A handful of restaurants, a few vegetable stands, and two grocery stores, line the main road. 
Delighted to finally have a means of getting around, we explored the area, ending up at the local grocery store, Tom was pushing the cart, while I was scurrying about trying the find the items I had entered into my grocery store app on my phone. Would they have Italian sausage as good as the breakfast sausage we’d found last Tuesday and since devoured? Would they have free-range eggs? 

Would we be able to find the ingredients to make our favorite comfort foods, so much desired right now, gluten-free cheese crust pizza with sausage, onions, mushrooms, green olives using a bottle of low carb pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese? 

We found everything except the mushrooms, not fresh or canned, the parchment paper or no-stick foil that keeps the crust from sticking to the pan.  I’ll use my treasured bottle of coconut oil to grease the foil using the large rectangle pan I found tucked away in the broiler drawer of the tiny oven. 

We froze the meat in the tiny freezer, uncertain if the temperature was cold enough in the little fridge. We had to make a decision, make more ice, or freeze the meat. We froze the meat. 

Our goal today is to drive the golf cart about two miles to Robert’s Grove, a resort hotel that has three restaurants and a health club. Having contacted them months ago, their return email indicated I could sign up to use their exercise room for $39 a month. We’ll check our their menu and I’ll work out while Tom waits for me. 

If only it would stop raining so hard so we could leave.

Its raining sideways, monsoon type rain, too much to ride in the golf cart.  Hopefully, by tonight, the rain will subside and we can go out on a “date” for dinner.  Tom has already lost the weight he gained on the two cruises and we’re looking forward to a hearty meal, prepared by someone else!

Back in Cartagena today…updates..

In order for us to get to Belize by cruise ship, we’ve had to repeat a port of call of Cartagena, Columba, along a similar route on the cruise through the Panama Canal.  We knew this when we booked the two back to back cruises.  Since
we’re using cruises as a “mode of transportation” where possible, this didn’t concern us at all.

We’ve decided to stay onh the ship rather than take one of the over-rated expensive excursions all ofw whichultimately end in shopping which neither of us cares to do.  Weo could wander off on our own but, we heard stories of muggings and pickpocketse nearthe cruise ships ports-of-call. 

Its open season fort thieves when passengers wander off on their own on foot from the pier.

Content with our decision to stay behind, we especially enjoy the time on the ship when
half the passengers are off on the various excursions. 

There’s plenty of seating at the pool where we’ll wander off to shortly to work on our 45 minute a day tan while enjoying the poolside band, mostly oldies from our youth.  They played to the crowd when aboard ship are seniors, like us.

 Last night, we opted for aa late dinner, instead going to the show in the Equinox Theatre at 7:00 pm.

Much to our surprise the entertainer, Jack Walker, a fabulous performer from Las Vegas was on this ship doing the same show he had done on the Celebrity Century.  We’d watched his show two weeks ago!

Upon entering the theatre early to ensure we secured good seats, we stopped him as he entered the theatre to tell him we’d watched his show on the Celebrity Century only two weeks ago to which he was delighted and surprised, apologizing that we’d have to sit through a repeat of his earlier show.

Tom made me laugh, when he said to Jack, “Jack, we’re groupies following you around the world!”
We all belly laughed.

The show was equally entertaining a second
time. Ending at 9:00 PM we were both ready for dinner and sauntered to the Silhouette Dining Room passing through the casino on the

We have yet to waste a dollar on gambling, although it’s tempting when hearing the sounds of the clanging machines. We have a few “Captain’s Club” gambling coupons we’ve yet to use fearful that once we’d lose that, we’d be inclined to keep going.. 

We have a lot of world to visit.  Wasting our funds on gambling seems pointless and foolish.
As we walked though the casino we talked about the unlikely possibility of winning in a casino and the natural human behavior to continue gambling until the “winnings’ are gone.  Its irresistible. 

We only know one person who is continually “ahead” of the game, playing smart poker, leaving the tables when losing, not getting emotional about winning or losing. He knows who he is.  That would not be us!  Thus, we stay away.

As you read this post, you might say, “Good grief, these two are conservative!”

You know what?  There’s nothing conservative about leaving everyone you know and love,
getting rid of everything you own, being car-less, homeless and stuff-less. We’re new at this.  We’ve decided to pace ourselves,  physically, financially and emotionally.  As we experience more and more
v overtime, we’ll spread our wings always striving to make financial, security and physical safety a priority.

Shortly after 9 PM we were seated at a cozy window table for two, white linen napkins placed on our laps as a flurry of servers scurried around us: cocktail waiter, wine steward, waiter’s assistant, tuxedo dressed waiter and then, the head maître d whom we’ve come to know these past few days.

There was little on the menu in the way of appetizers or entrées that fit my strict diet.  The
waiter insisted they will make anything I want.  I opted for an appetizer seafood platter with sautéed scallops and shrimp on a bed of cabbage and arugula with grilled grape tomatoes, again a tangy Caesar salad minus croutons and grilled salmon accompanied by my usual plate of steamed buttered vegetables.  

Tom continues to surprise mebwhen he ordered the seafood risotto appetizer as well as the butternut squash soup  Oh my, all these years I’ve suggested he try new foods, falling on deaf ears.  Now, he tries and enjoys everything put inr front of him.  

Almost every night at dinner, as he spreads his epicurean wings, he asks me if I’m mad at him for
turning down all the fancy foods I prepared for myself   I am thrilled he’s trying them now.

As the dessert menus were handed to us, the waiter in the tuxedo said, “Madame, Chef Xavier has a dessert for you.”

Tom ordered the Tiramisu.  Moments later, the waiter appeared with Tom’s traditional Tiramisu, setting it in front of him and then grinning from ear to ear proudly placed a bowl of low carb, gluten-free, grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free Tiramisu in front of me.

Looking up at Tom from what appeared to be a bowl of pure wonderfulness, we both smiled at the same time. Yes, this is heaven. And yes, it was delectable…

Scary night aboard ship!…

View as we sailed away from the Panama Canal area with numerous ships awaiting beyond the breakwater for their upcoming transit through the canal.

Most likely, cruising is one of the safest modes of travel. 

We haven’t given our safety a second thought until last night during dinner as the ship was literally rolling back and forth, our glasses tinkling at our dining table nearly splashing out their contents. 

Tom and I glanced at each other with a look of uncertainty. We shrugged, returning to yet another enjoyable evening, again sitting next to a new couple engaging in lively animated conversation.  They had cruised many times and had traveled the world extensively.  It was reassuring to hear they’d been to and loved many of the places we plan to visit in the near future.

A discussion ensued concerning our upcoming
cruise to Dubai in May 2013 which they had the pleasure of experiencing a few years ago. This particular cruise offers several excursions in which we’ll surely partake: the Great Pyramids; the Sphinx and Giza.  They advised against paying additional fees to actually venture inside the Great Pyramids, saying that it was a waste of money with the space too small, too commercialized, and outrageously hot.  We take their advice seriously.

We welcome any advice from our readers worldwide as we share places we’ve yet to visit or while we’re staying in a particular area.  Please suggest restaurants, markets, local foods, places to visit and people to see.  Also, if you have knowledge of medical resources/doctors in the area, let us know.  We can’t be too prepared.  Please comment at the end of each daily post to which we’ll respond within 24 hours, once we’re able to get online.

We find ourselves suspicious and cautious of commercialized offerings that make one feel like cattle herded along to awaiting salespeople barking to “buy, buy, buy” which is often the scenario at most ports of call. 

Most of the excursions offered by the ship present the ultimate goal to place the passenger into a “buying” mood.  Most outings end up in some form of a retail area. We’ve recently discovered that most of the
excursions are owned by the cruise lines. Certainly, they are entitled to their profits. But then again, we are entitled to keep our money for our chosen future plans, not trinkets, artwork, local clothing, or jewelry. 

After yet another elegant dinner and the 9 PM show in the Celebrity Theatre, a nightly event we’ve only missed twice (the first night aboard ship and the Panama Canal night after which I was too exhausted with only two
hours sleep), we headed to our cabin as the ship continued its wild thrashing about in the strong winds.

Tom, bless his heart, can go on and on into the night but then again, he is five years younger than I.  Oh, it’s “hell to get old.” How we used to be able to manage the next day on so little sleep! 

Walking down the long hallway to our cabin, we faltered back and forth between the narrow walls as
the ship continued to sway. I had a particularly difficult time walking in 3″ heels weaving as if I were drunk (I don’t drink).

Once inside our cabin, we turned on the TV to the ship’s GPS station, showing our exact location, wind speed, etc. After checking our email, we decided to try to get some sleep as the ship raced toward our next destination, Cartagena, Columbia, (expected time of arrival at 8:30 am today). We were asleep by 11:30.

At 1:30 am I was startled awake by the sound of something falling off of a shelf in our cabin as the ship
flailed wildly in the sea. Twice, I got out of bed stumbling over our shoes and power cords scattered on the floor to witness the high white waves splashing up the sides of the ship.  On the 8th deck, the floor of our balcony was
covered with water.  I was a bit scared, to say the least.

Tossing and turning for hours unable to fall back to sleep, the sounds escalated around
4 am.  I wanted to wake up Tom during that period.  I couldn’t believe he was sleeping through it all. Finally, I turned toward him and in a whispered tone, I asked, “Are you awake?”

Mumbling, he said, “No, not really.” 

Hesitant to awaken him further I said, “Do you feel the rollin’?”  Hard of hearing after 42 years on the railroad, he said “Did you say “rollin’…rollin’?”

“Yes,” I answered in a louder voice, “rollin’!”

“On the river?” he asked.

“No,”  I laughed aloud, “on the sea!”

Leave it to my guy to make me laugh when I’m scared.  He has a magical way of comforting me with his non-stop sense of humor.  It was 4:00 am. Cuddling up we both wandered off to sleep.

At 7:15 am we were awakened by the loud roar of the ship’s side thrusters.  We were finally approaching Cartagena, Columbia. Bolting out of bed at exactly the same moment we threw back the balcony door drapes, opened the heavy sliding door and this is what we saw.

Downtown Cartagena Columbia.  All the buildings are white.

Again, tonight we’ll dine in the Grand Restaurant to later attend the live show “Groove,” an interactive 60’s party in the Grand Foyer, and then off to the Celebrity Theatre for their last live show of the evening.  Quite fun! We’re having the time of our lives!  Our new lives couldn’t be more fun, rolling seas or not.

Norovirus and the sun…

Last night while dressing for dinner we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker. Inaudible from our cabin, we brushed it off as most likely a promotion to spend money, dismissing our inability to hear it as insignificant.

Last night, while dining in the formal dining room, the Grand Restaurant, comfortably seated by the window at “our table” number two (the best waiter on the planet) with our over-sized navy blue cloth napkins on our laps, we were content. Suddenly, the boat seemed to lurch sideways, rocking from side to side for several minutes.
Tom reassured me, when he noted my obvious concern, that everything was in order and that in moments the ship would straighten out, back on course. Returning to a lively conversation with a lovely couple next to us, we never gave it a second thought.

After dinner, we scurried to the Celebrity Theatre for the 9:00 pm musical/comedy show, a medley of impersonations of past and current “divas.” I was reminded of Simon Cowell berating performers on both “American Idol” and “The X Factor” as to sounding comparable to a “second rate cruise ship act.”

However, cruise-ship-like the performance, we enjoyed every moment, chatting all the way back to our cabin as to the professional performances.  As we entered our cabin we noticed an envelope sitting atop the well-turned down bed.  Hum, we both thought, “another promo” as I tore open the envelope.

Not the case. Inside the envelope was a letter that began:
“January 7th, 2013

Dear Celebrity Century Guest,
During this sailing, there has been a small percentage of guests onboard who have experienced gastrointestinal illness, thought to be Norovirus.”

The content of the letter continued to make an earnest effort to minimize the potential hazards of such an outbreak on board, extol the virtues of frequent hand washing and inform us that attendants will be standing outside each restaurant, restroom, and elevator equipped with an ample supply of hand sanitizer.

We were encouraged to immediately contact the ship’s medical facility for a “complimentary consultation and treatment” should symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea be experienced to any degree.

As a captive audience, we can hardly jump into our car and head far away. Nor can we really stay away from other guests and public areas.  Caution on our part will prevail but, there were 11 days on this particular cruise.
This morning, while attending the second in a series of five seminars on the building of the Panama Canal, its history, its culture, its politics, and its people, an announcement was made before the presentation:  Last night, at dinner time, the ship was turned around subsequently heading to the nearest port of Acapulco to “emergency evac” of an unknown number of sick passengers.

That event was what distracted us during dinner, the sudden turning of the ship, and eventual landing at a pier to drop off the ailing passenger(s) to awaiting medical professionals. Do we need to worry? 

We’ve decided that we will exercise caution by excessive hand washing, avoiding touching our faces, frequent washing of our mugs both inside and out, washing our sunglasses, and making every effort to avoid touching railings, doorknobs, tabletops, and chair rails. 

It’s evident that the ship’s staff is on high alert while we also take responsibility for remaining diligent every step of the way including reminding each other of potential risks.


Growing up in California, sunning has always been a favorite pastime of mine. Living on a lake in Minnesota these past 26 years has provided limited periods of time to lounge in a lawn chair, unpredictable weather a frequent deterrent during the short summer months.

Mindful of the dangers of excessive sun exposure these past few decades, I’ve limited my sun time to a few hours each week during the summer and weather permitting.  Tom, on the other hand, a pale Irish boy, burns easily, preferring to stay in the shade, slathered in sunscreen.

On occasion, we’d lounge together in the row of crisp white lounge chairs that lined our yard, laughing, talking, and taking in the warming effects of the sun. In less than 30 minutes, he’d be a rosy pink while I tanned easily.

As a vital part of “cruising life,” time spent lounging on the comfy padded lounge chairs by the various pools is both relaxing and enjoyable with some of the finest people-watching to be found. 

With many tropical locations as part of our worldwide adventures, we discussed how we’d manage our sun exposure to avoid the risks while enhancing our exposure to much needed Vitamin D. Besides, a bit of a healthy glow of a tan works well with our skimpier warm weather clothing.

We’ve mutually agreed that daily exposure of a maximum of one hour would not only be safe and healthful but would free us to enjoy other activities if we so choose. Today, day #5 aboard ship, we spent our usual one hour by the pool accompanied by a live band commencing their act with the song, “Love Boat.”

Lying on our stomachs to “work the backside” our faces squished into the navy blue cushions we looked at one another smiling, the little crinkles around our eyes accentuated by our positions, our sunglasses perched atop our heads. Tom asked, “Do you know that song?” as the well-played music blared from the nearby stage.

“Yes,” I laughed aloud.  “I know that song.” 

For a moment, time stood still as we gazed deeply into each other’s eyes, knowing that at exactly that moment we were thinking the same thing. “This is our new life. Not a vacation. Not a trip. But a new life that ends only when we want it to or, when it must end due to unforeseen reasons.

Whether its Norovirus or the hot sun, (soon we’ll be only 9 degrees north of the equator), cautious we shall be, not to the point of diminishing the quality of our experiences but enough to ensure we’ll make every effort to avoid these and other risks that we surely will face in this “new life” of ours.

Our first hotel and restaurant review…


This quaint old fashioned motel, the Sandia Peak Inn Motel run by the most charming woman on the planet was well worth the $100 (plus 13% tax) nightly rate.

Halfway to Albuquerque by 1:00 pm, we searched for a hotel on my Android smart phone during the intermittent times we had a signal. Driving across the barren lands of Texas we expected to settle down for the night around 5 pm after another 525 mile day.

Only one day from Scottsdale, our destination for the next two months until we leave the US, we were pleased that we had traveled about 1300 miles in a little over two days.  

Our original plan had been to take our time getting to Scottsdale by the 4th, the day our vacation condo is ready.  On a whim, the day before we left I called Spencer, the real estate agent, asking if we could get in a day early.  We could. 
Searching for an Albuquerque hotel was slow and laborious, continually losing the connection as we traveled across Texas and New Mexico. Anxious to ensure we had a comfortable place to stay when we were able to connect, I selected an old fashioned motel a few minutes from  Highway 40 in Albuquerque’s Old Town. 

We agreed that the price of $100 for a motel, the Sandia Peak Inn Motel seemed on the high side but the reviews online were astounding, as high as a 9.5 at Trip Advisor.  We signed up online for the $100 king room.  
Delightful Kate, manager of the Sandia  Peak Inn Motel, hugged me when we checked out, moments later running out to our car to hand us a crisp red apple along with well wishes.
No words can describe the delightful property manager Kate, other than “wow.”  She couldn’t do enough for us!  Her charming demeanor and concern for our comfort reminding me of times past.  
The adorable motel and our king room, not a disappointment in any manner, was reminiscent of the 50’s and yet updated with modern conveniences including HD TV, working wireless Internet and a newer over-sized Jacuzzi tub . Our room was spotless, spacious and comfortable. We couldn’t stop smiling over this surprising find. My painful shoulder thanked the Jacuzzi.
Starved by the time we were situated, Kate recommended a Mexican restaurant that we hesitated to consider, based on it’s 9.5 miles from the motel.  She insisted we wouldn’t be disappointed. Easy to locate using “Maps.” we found our way there in less than 15 minutes.  

Kate was right. Garduno’s of Mexico, Restaurant and Cantina was exactly what we needed; an extraordinary environment, fresh succulent Mexican fare, cold beer, and yes, we cheated…all you can eat  homemade crispy corn tortilla chips with lip puckering salsa.  

The atmosphere was astounding, a cleverly designed replica of a Mexican restaurant in a warehouse district with high ceilings and a tasteful decor.  The servers, although busy, were pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu, doing their best to accommodate their multiple tables, mostly occupied by seniors, like us.  

Us old-timers can be quite demanding at times. Tom and I made a pact to make every effort to be gracious wherever we may be, the US or abroad.  The old stereotype of the “ugly American” will not apply to us!

Determined to stay as close to our limited diets as possible, I ordered the shrimp fajitas, skipping the tortilla.  Although I don’t normally eat starchy foods, after a few handful of chips and a cold light beer, my reserve went out the window resulting in my devouring half of the re-fried beans.  It was well worth it!
My fajitas dinner minus the tortilla. Fabulous!

Tom had the tender pot roast stuffed corn tacos, although “Mr. Picky” won’t eat Mexican beans or rice.  What a waste.

After a good night’s sleep in the comfortable king bed, we decided to hit the road early this morning while it was still dark.  

An hour into the drive on Highway 40 we were rerouted to famous Route 66, when a tanker truck overturned ahead of us spewing a dark cloud of some toxic chemical requiring  Hazmat trucks, fire trucks, police cars and ambulances speeding to the scene.  Luckily, we made it safely out of the area with only a half hour delay.

Another productive day of driving behind us, we made it to Scottsdale around 2:00 PM.  We were confused about the time change, referring to our phones for accuracy.  Arizona, (most of it) does not acknowledge Daylight Savings time.

There’s a one hour time difference between New Mexico and Arizona. Plus, the clocks change tonight but, not here in Scottsdale.  In our tired condition, it was difficult to figure out the time. We’ll go with whatever our phones say in the morning.

The last time we changed clocks was the first time I wrote this blog, March 14, 2012.  If you’ve yet to read from this blog from beginning, this date is listed in the archives on the right side of this page.  
Contained in those archives since March 14th, we share with our readers the long process of getting to this point. Today, we are exactly two months from the date of January 3, 2013 when we officially leave the US.  

I deleted the Retirement Countdown Free app on my phone.  We no longer are counting the hours, the days, the weeks and the months.  Every moment will be treasured now that we are free, together at long last.