A 44-year ago memory…Great food and ambiance…

Our waiter took the family photo.

We had a fantastic time at Maynard’s in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka last night with son Greg’s family as we celebrated Camille’s birthday. The three grandchildren were there, and we all sat at a big round table for seven which allowed for easy conversation and laughter.

As was always typical for Maynard’s, the food was great, and the conversations all around were delightful. A few days earlier, Greg and I recalled July 4, 1977, when he and my other son Richard and I took out our first boat on Lake Minnetonka for the holiday experience.

It was fun to be here to celebrate Camille’s birthday with her complimentary ice cream sundae.

It was the first time I’d driven a boat, and the three of us took off from our boat slip in St. Alban’s Bay early in the morning with a plan to make our way across the vast lake, in and out of many bays, to end up at my friend Lynda’s lake house for a 4th of July party.

Our first foray with the boat on the lake that day was to make it the short distance from our slip at the marina to Maynard’s, then called T. Butcherblock’s, so the kids could feed the ducks. It was no later than 9:00 am. Once we arrived at T. Butcherblock’s docks, I somehow managed to dock the boat without banging into the wooden posts and then securely tied it down.

Tom, Miles, and Madighan at the table.

We went inside the restaurant to ask for some stale bread for the ducks that typically swam around the dock, hoping that boaters and diners would toss some food their way. The restaurant staff gave us a bag of old bread, and we meandered back out to the dock to feed the ducks.

My boys, Richard and Greg, then ten and almost eight years old, were thrilled to feed the ducks but not too confident about going back out on the huge lake with their mother, an inexperienced boat driver at the time. I was 29 years old.

Maisie’s Asian salad.

Although I dinged the prop in shallow water, shortly after we left T. Butcherblock’s, we somehow made it to Lynda’s house hours later, albeit slowly with the damaged prop. Once at her house, I arranged to have the prop repaired, and we were soon able to get back out on the lake a few days later. It all worked out, and in those first few days, I learned a lot about boating.

Over the years, I became an experienced boater, upgrading to larger boats as the years passed. My kids spent many summers on the lake with me driving and gained confidence with my skills in time. It was an enjoyable time in our lives.

Tom’s walleye fish and chips. Walleye is a popular fish in the midwest.

Yesterday, being at Maynard’s brought back many memories, especially when Greg recalled that date, 44 years ago, and brought along a bag of stale bread for his kids and us to feed the ducks. After our enjoyable dinner indoors, we headed outside on the pier, packed with partygoers, boaters, and diners to make our way to the water, where numerous ducks and giant carp were awaiting our offerings.

At this point in my life, I wouldn’t normally condone feeding bread to fish and fowl. But, the family tradition was being relived not only for our grandchildren but also for Greg and me. Later, I sent Richard a text to tell him what we’d done, but “tongue in cheek,” he commented, “That wasn’t me.” I reminded him that, indeed, it was him as well. My sons are now 54 and almost 52 years old.

My Cobb salad.

Oh, my gosh…44 years ago. It seems like yesterday. I found myself saying this over and again, “I can’t believe it was 44 years ago!” After we were all done at the dock, we are heading back through the restaurant and out the door to the parking lot, where we all hugged goodbye until we see them again on Thursday evening, our last time together before we depart for Milwaukee and then on to Las Vegas.

Greg, Camille, the kids, and I will all go to the movies together on Thursday evening to see Black Widow. We will have to split up again to say our goodbyes. Tom will return to his sister’s Mary’s home for the usual Thursday night barbecue and catch up with me later in the evening.

Maisie sat next to me as we chatted endlessly.

Today, we made arrangements to see Sister Beth at the nursing home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Saturday and Sunday, after which we’ll head back to Minneapolis, directly to the airport for our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, to see Richard. We’ll spend five days in Henderson, Nevada, and then on July 24th, we’ll begin the long trek back to South Africa.

As we fed the ducks, huge carp joined in on the action.

May your day be filled with pleasant experiences.

Photo from one year ago today, July 14, 2020:

Gina, our property manager in Madeira, Portugal, explained that the number of cloudy days we’d experienced while there in 2014 was unusual. For more photos, please click here.

Another fun evening at Billy’s Bar & Grill in Anoka, Minnesota…

Billy's Bar & Grill, Anoka, MN | Scary places, Haunted places, Places
Here’s a photo of the famous Billy’s Bar and Grill in Anoka, Minnesota, where Tom’s relatives get together every Friday at 3:30 pm, when “Happy Hour” begins.

Yesterday afternoon and early evening couldn’t have been more fun. The second week, we met with Tom’s siblings and other family members at the popular Billy’s Bar and Grill in Anoka. Although it’s a long drive from our hotel in Eden Prairie, the time flew quickly while we chatted during the drive both ways and also when we were with the family at the bar.

Tom is hard of hearing, and when driving in South Africa on bumpy dirt and paved roads, we hardly chat when he can’t hear me due to road noise. Here in the USA, with smooth roads and a rental car with automatic transmission, we can actually talk during a long drive.

Billy’s is a great restaurant and bar. Happy hour begins daily at 3:30 pm, and the food and service are over-the-top for what may be considered standard bar food. But, when the meals are presented and tasted, everything about their environment comes to life. It’s not surprising to see the crowds as early at 3:30 pm, not only to partake of the great prices, free popcorn, and reasonably priced delicious food, but the fantastic service, attention from the in-person owner(s), and general pub-like and lighthearted atmosphere can’t be beaten.

Tom spotted this orange street rod when walking from the parking lot to Billy’s Bar & Grill.

Yesterday, we met owner Paul Justen, engaging in a delightful conversation. In a funny way, it reminded us of our favorite restaurant in Marloth Park, South Africa, Jabula Lodge & Restaurant, where we experience the same ambiance and attention from the owners along with the excellent food, which is unsurpassed by any nearby restaurant.

Billy’s Bar and Grill is located at 214 Jackson Street, Anoka. There’s a huge, easy-to-access parking ramp across the street with free three-hour parking and ample other parking spots nearby. Reservations for large groups may be helpful, but it seems the Lyman family always manages to get a good table with plenty of room for all of us.

The last time we were in the US in 2019, we also joined the family at Billy’s Bar and Grill for their usual Friday afternoon/evening get-together, and we were both thrilled to do so twice in the past two Fridays since we arrived on July 1st. Next Friday, we’ll be leaving for Milwaukee in the morning and won’t be able to join them.

When we were leaving Billy’s Bar and Grill, we noticed a table with a small stack of Billy’s complimentary logo tee-shirts. I grabbed one for me, as shown in the photo below. We left around 7:30 pm and headed back to our hotel in Eden Prairie to stream a few shows and later watch the local news. We haven’t watched TV in over six months! We’ve never even turned on the TV in our bush house in Marloth Park.

This will be a cool shirt to wear in South Africa when the weather warms up in a few months.

Speaking of our bush house, we paid rent while we were away, rather than packing everything and leaving it for other potential renters and perhaps their “germs.” Once we return to the bush, it’s comforting to know that our comfy two-bedroom bush house will be awaiting us and, hopefully, all of our favorite wildlife friends as well.

Then again, we’re looking forward to seeing our human friends as well. While visiting family and friends in the US, our dear friend Kathy (of Kathy and Don) will be arriving in the bush. We hadn’t seen each other in over two years, when we left in May 2019, three months after that dreadful surgery. However, we’ve stayed in close touch during the past two years. I can’t wait to see her in person finally.

Today is a low-key day. Most likely, Tom will visit his brother Jerome while I stay busy working on corrections on my laptop while he’s gone. It will be good for Tom to have some alone time with his eldest sibling. When Tom returns, we’ll head out for dinner, or we may end up doing takeaway since there are so many good options nearby.

May you have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 10, 2020:

A sunny day at the beach in Trinity Beach, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

A wild start to day…All is under control now!…

Mom and baby elephant munching on the vegetation. We shot this photo from the veranda of the Mugg & Bean Restaurant in Lower Sabie in Kruger National Park.

With Louise and Danie coming tonight for sundowners and dinner, when the power went off before 8:00 am this morning, of course, I started thinking of how I’d prepare the food without the use of the electric oven. Everything I’d planned to make was to be cooked in the oven.

As soon as we were up and about, Tom ran out to purchase four bags of ice. When he returned I loaded up the chill box layering it with the perishables from the refrigerator, the items for tonight’s meal, and layered them in the unopened bags of ice, hoping the chill would last longer.

Baby elephant playing with another elephant in the Sabie River.

Also, I placed one bag of ice in a large metal bowl on a shelf in the refrigerator. This has worked well for us in the past as long as the ice stays frozen. I noticed the freezer was doing fine when I had to take out an item and it could conceivably keep the foods frozen for many hours to come.

I considered how I’d cook the main items we’d planned for the meal on the braai, as opposed to the oven, when some dishes simply cook better in the oven than on a grill, with a more consistent and even temperature. The braai would have been my only option and I contemplated the fact that everything wouldn’t be quite as well prepared as I’d planned. Plus, with three main dishes cooking on the grill at once, Tom would hardly have had time to socialize when he was busy tending to the food.

Elephants love to swim, using their trunks as snorkels. They are prolific swimmers.

Fortunately, the WiFi kept working during the outage. Most often it goes out within an hour or two of an outage since the towers run on batteries that don’t last long without electricity. I contemplated whether or not to post today when it was entirely possible, we’d have no connection in no time at all.

Much to our delight, while drinking our coffee while seated at the big table on the veranda, made with hot water that Tom heated on the side burner of the braai, the power popped back on. The way we know it’s back on is due to the fact Tom always turns on the outdoor fan. When the power returns, the fan starts running.

Elephants climbing out of the Sabie River in Kruger National Park.

Immediately, I got to work prepping the meal, warming the oven for the first item of slow-cooked smoked baby back ribs, and prepped the bacon-wrapped, Emmental stuffed chicken breasts. We’ll cook the jumbo prawns when they arrive. With a few side dishes, we’ll be good to go.

Now, while I’m cooling off in the bedroom with a little air-con after sweating profusely in the high humidity, I am preparing today’s post, sharing more photos from Kruger National Park. We can’t wait to return to the park and will do so next week. Our plan is to embark on a self-drive every week, especially on sunny days.

Elephants on the move.

Although it’s the weekend and our visitor count is usually lower than during the week, today was a good start to the day. We’ve had several visitors so far and look forward to more as the day progresses. Once I complete and upload today’s post, I’ll get back to work on prepping for tonight.

I don’t enjoy cooking as much as I did in years past, but we certainly love having guests for sundowners, starters, and dinner. In part, I think my diminished interest in cooking is due to the fact I don’t have all the cooking gadgets and serving pieces I had in my old life. Also, it’s often very hot and humid, like today, and sweating in the kitchen has an impact on my level of enjoyment. I suppose that’s to be expected.

Elephants crossing the paved road in Kruger National Park taken through the car’s windshield.

This morning, I spilled a little liquid from the bags of prawns onto the kitchen floor. Immediately, I wiped it up with hot soapy water. Less than 20 minutes later, while I was here in the bedroom cooling off, I could hear Tom busy in the kitchen, spraying with Doom and sweeping.

Apparently, my little spill attracted hundreds of ants from outside, who crawled under the front door to the spot on the floor where I’d spilled. When I asked him what happened, he explained about the hundreds of ants he killed and removed. I apologized for not cleaning the spot well enough, but he didn’t seem at all concerned.

Another Mom and Baby in the bush

This is the bush. It’s hot. It’s humid. And insects of many types are found inside the house daily. The power goes out regularly. The water stops flowing from time to time as it did last week. For many, these annoyances and inconveniences would be unbearable. For us, they are fair and reasonable trade-offs for the things that we do love.

Last night I jumped out of bed when some creepy crawler was walking on my neck. I got up, flicked it off, and then, shrugged it off, content I didn’t get bit. It’s the way it is. The bush. Nature’s paradise. What more could we ask for?

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 10, 2020:

Birdie, contemplating his day. For more photos, please click here.

Pleasant Easter in the bush…What’s on the menu?…Utility and cost of living for us in the bush…

Notice the puffed-up cheek on this giraffe. Aa they eat vegetation, they store it in their cheeks for short periods.

We had a very pleasant Easter in the bush. Many visitors came to call which is unusual during holiday weekends. Last night, at one point, we had nine warthogs in the garden, getting along quite well, although Tiny was chasing Mom, of “Mom & Babies” for romantic purposes, while the two babies tagged along wondering “What the heck” was going on.

Laughter ensued from our places at the big table on the veranda as we watched these peculiar wild pigs interact with us and one another. Each evening when they start arriving around 4:00 pm, (1600 hours) we grab ourselves a beverage and sit back and enjoy the evening’s entertainment. Last night was one of the best.

This wildebeest was the first animal we saw on this morning’s drive through Marloth Park.

By the time they left, our dinner was ready which Tom had prepared on the braai. It wasn’t a fancy or varied Easter dinner as mentioned in yesterday’s post. Tonight’s meal will be a little more interesting; homemade mozzarella stuffed chicken breasts, well -seasoned and wrapped in back bacon to be baked in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. On the side, rice for Tom and eggs for me.

When the mosquitoes became fierce outdoors, we headed indoors to our bedroom, turned on the air-con, and streamed a few favorite shows on HBO Max on my laptop. We use the kitchen’s wood cutting board as a base for my laptop, to avoid it getting too hot while situated on the bed. We’ve learned to adapt to watching on the small screen which we keep fairly close between us.

Several electrical poles in Marloth Park are leaning like this, certainly contributing to power outages during storms.

From time to time, we sign up for additional streaming services after we’ve canceled another. At most times, we have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime and occasionally add another service for a particular show we’d like to stream.

In our old lives in the US, the cost of cable services was no less than  US $234, ZAR 3435, a month, almost 9 years ago. Of that total, US $79, ZAR 1160, was for unlimited WiFi, leaving US $155, ZAR 2275 a month for TV cable service with a few added select services.

We drove down Volstruis to find several giraffes munching on trees.

Now, with whatever streaming services we use during any given month, we usually spend about US $45, ZAR 661, and we’re free to cancel any one of those at any time. (Unlimited WiFi service is included in our rent here in Marloth Park). Soon, we’ll be dropping Netflix for a while since, during those 10 months in lockdown in the India hotel, we watched everything we wanted to see on that service.

Electricity, however challenging at times, is included in our rent, as well as running and bottled water, and gas for the braai. Our only living expenses in the bush consist of rent, groceries, and other supplies, dining out, pellets, fuel and car rental, tips for cleaning staff and servers.

It’s always delightful to spot giraffes.

Living in the bush in South Africa, we spend less than 50% of the expenses we’d bear if living in the US in a similar house, eating the same types of food, dining out once a week, and driving a similar economical car. Then again, what kind of a price tag can we put on the exquisite, daily experiences of being “one” with nature? For us, that is priceless!

Today, we’ll stay put once again with many tourists still in the park for a few more days. Once they leave, we’ll head to Kruger National Park and today, we commenced our frequent drives in the park searching for more and more photo ops which proved successful. It’s a peaceful, low-stress, highly entertaining, and enriching life here in the bush.

We were fortunate to get these shots this morning.

We remain grateful and humbled by nature and the humans surrounding us.

Off I go to work on the treadmill. Renting the treadmill has been another expense of US $40 a month, ZAR 587, but has proved to be well worth it, keeping me moving when I usually work out almost every hour during the day.

Munching on treetops.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 5, 2020:

Not quite sunset, sunny views over the Kenomane Bay in Kauai across the street from our condo in Princeville. Photos today from this post on this date, six years ago. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Late start to post…Busy day in town…What did we spend?…

Fred and Ethel. Fred is lying down. Notice warts on his face and Ethel is standing behind him. She had no facial warts, typical for females.

It’s after 2:00 pm on Monday and we’re having a later start than usual in preparing the daily post. Most likely, I will be breezing through this to be done by 4:00 pm, the time of day that I like to focus on making dinner, relaxing, hanging out with Tom, and watching the animals in the garden. Right now, the only visitors we have here are warthogs, Fred and Ethel.

It was a busy morning. First, we had a 9:00 am appointment at Dr. Luzaan’s dental office. We had our teeth cleaned, after a two-year hiatus and she conducted a full head x-ray to see if the tooth abscess was improved and hopefully gone. No such luck. Although it had improved a little, it wasn’t good enough to “wait and see.”

On Monday, March 1st, we have an appointment with Dr. Singh, the dental surgeon in Malalane when he will decide what needs to be done, most likely the removal of the crown, a comprehensive laser treatment, followed by a new crown. In the worst case, the tooth will have to be removed and since it’s forward in my mouth, I will need some type of a replacement tooth.

Due to having heart disease, I will have to take a mega dose of more antibiotics, one hour before the procedure, whatever and whenever it will be. Yuck. I don’t like any of this. But, who does? Dental work is not pleasant for anyone. Fortunately, my remaining teeth and gums are in excellent condition.

They posed for another photo with Ethel lying down and Fred standing.

Afterward the dentist appointment, we headed to Dr. Theo’s office for the results of some blood work and another exam. He feels my heart is good for now, but there were a few issues with my blood results which we’ll be working on going forward, too complicated to get into here now, which perhaps I’ll address here in the future, none of which are too worrisome at this point. As we age, we often encounter such issues.

Dr. Theo was confident we’ll be able to get the Covid-19 vaccine within a few months. This will give us the peace of mind many of us have been seeking during these challenging times. Of course, getting the vaccine doesn’t mean we won’t have to wear masks, social distance, wash our hands and take precautions going forward. It simply means, if we do get infected, we may not become as sick as we may have without it. That’s what we’re reading so far.

After the doctor, we headed to the pharmacy for a few items and then to Spar Supermarket for a few weeks’ worth of groceries. It’s not that we count out each day’s meals when we shop. It’s just that after all these years of shopping for the two of us, we have been able to gauge how much we need to purchase for a specific period. Today, we spent ZAR 3462.46, US $233.22, enough to easily last until we shop again in two weeks.

We’d expected the bill to be so much more when our trolley was brimming with three bottles of wine, a box of light white wine, laundry soap, a big lighter for outdoor insect repellent candles, and groceries. All of this would have been twice as much in the US.

They were exhausted after the photo shoot and from dining on pellets.

Our dental bill, including both cleanings and more x-rays, totaled ZAR $1265, US $85,21. The two appointments with Dr. Theo, including an ECG/EKG and two exams, totaled ZAR 1471.40, US $99.11. Amazing! Not only do we love South Africa for its wildlife and people, but prices on most services and products are considerably lower than in many counties in which we’ve lived over the years, including the US.

At the moment, we’re cooking a pork roast on the braai with dinner planned for about 5:00 pm. We’ve found that eating dinner earlier is more beneficial to our health when the entire meal is fully digested before bed, preventing any potential intestinal distress or acid reflux before lying down. We rarely eat anything after dinner

Yesterday was a scorcher when the humidity, combined with the temperature, was unbearable. Today, it’s much more comfortable and we’re having no problem enjoying the outdoors. If we can keep the mosquitoes at bay, I imagine we’ll be on the veranda, well into the evening.

That’s it for today, folks. I’m about to go indoors to work on a few side dishes for dinner. All is well. We’re content.

We hope you are content, too.

Photo from one year ago today, February 22, 2020:

We couldn’t have been more thrilled with our private tour guide, Dr. Anand Tiwari who had a doctor’s degree in Hindu idols. He explained he’d done a tour the prior day with guests on the Maharajas Express! What a coincidence and an honor for us! He can be reached here for tours. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #280 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Visa extensions done!…12 days and counting…

Tom’s burger in a restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, with ham, eggs, cheese, and beef plus, fried potatoes.

Today’s photos are from this date, December 30, 2017, while staying in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina over the holidays in a boutique hotel, awaiting our upcoming cruise to Antarctica, sailing on January 24, 2018. For more on the post, please click here.

It was only three years ago, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Tom’s birthday, December 23, 2017, to begin the one-month wait to fly to Ushuaia, Argentina to board our upcoming 18-day cruise on Ponant’s Le Boreal. We’d booked that particular cruise after searching for weeks to find a cruise meeting our major criteria; being able to disembark the ship while in Antarctica to board the 10-person Zodiac boats to fully embrace the true Antarctica experience, up close and personal.

This is where we dined one night, San Serrano Deli & Drinks.

The cost was outrageous for our budget, over US $36,000, INR 2,637,995 but as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, we felt it was worth it. We paid it off over many months, so by the time we sailed, it was paid in full and the only other expenses were those on our cabin bill. WiFi, all meals, drinks, and tours were included in the cruise fare, resulting in few expenses subsequent to sailing.

However, that one-month in the tiny boutique hotel in Buenos Aires presented some challenges of its own, none of which we couldn’t handle with ease. An included continental breakfast consisting of boiled eggs, deli meats, cheese, fruit, pastries, coffee, and tea got us through the day. With no restaurant in the hotel, each evening, we headed out on foot to find yet another spot for dinner.

Guest started filtering in when it was hot outdoors, although many patrons dined at tables near the busy street.

Due to the fact we prefer to dine by 7:00 pm, our restaurant choices were limited to a degree. Many restaurants didn’t open until 9:00 pm or later. We prefer not to dine so late, especially as early risers having the small breakfast to hold us through the day since we prefer not to eat lunch, resulting in way too much food. With our low carb/keto way of eating, we’re never hungry until the early evening.

That month in the hotel was challenging in some ways, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s. Most restaurants were closed on Christmas Eve and day and also on New Year’s Day. We diligently searched for dinner options for us for those three evenings, but there were none. We weren’t willing to walk the streets at night in the dark which didn’t seem safe or sensible.

We stretched our necks to read this menu on the wall. After a while, a server brought us menus.

Subsequently, we ended up purchasing a wide array of deli meats, canned tuna, and a variety of cheeses to eat at the little table and chairs in the Jacuzzi area in our hotel room. In the end, it all worked out well. We enjoyed a few drinks at the hotel bar (no food available) as we laughed over the irony. We were the only guests in the hotel at Christmas!

We made it through the holidays, looking forward to the upcoming cruise, often laughing over our peculiar situation. That was one long month. But, it was nothing compared to the 10 months we’ll have spent in this hotel. At least there, we were able to go out each day and evening to explore the interesting area, often walking for many miles.

You couldn’t pay me to eat this grilled chicken salad with grilled tomatoes. I need some beef!

As for today, we’re settled down, hoping our new flight will continue to stay in place as it has in the past 48 hours. With only 12 days until we depart, now on January 11th, we’re getting all of “our ducks in a row.” The hotel manager has booked a different lab for our Covid-19 tests on January 10th when the company we’d booked didn’t respond to email inquiries or answer their phone. I sent an email canceling the first company and feel comfortable that the second company booked by the hotel will suit our needs.

Yesterday, after uploading our hurried post, we began the painstaking process of filing for an extension of our now-expired  Indian visas. Whew! What a cumbersome process! The website stated it would take approximately 14 days for approval. Our applications were posted on the 13th day.

Sullivan’s Irish Pub, on a corner in the neighborhood.

If by the time we’re ready to leave, we don’t have the extensions, we’ll have the hotel print the documents and email verification that we did in fact apply. Hopefully, the immigration department at the airport will accept those records at the airport as we depart.

What are our odds of actually being able to leave for South Africa? At this point, it feels as if 50% is fair speculation. We have made a decision that we will not stay in India if we are turned away at the airport. We’ll find another flight to some other country while at the airport and head out. Since everything changes day by day, at this point, we can’t commit as to where this will be.

One of many historic buildings we’d see each time we headed down Gorriti road.

Today, I will start going through luggage to see how I can lighten the load. Tom doesn’t usually care to pack his bag until a day or two before we depart. That’s fine with me.

May you have a good day as we all wind down this dreadful year. Be well.

Photo from one year ago on December 30, 2019:

Painting on the wall outside a sushi restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina on this date in 2017. For the year-ago post, please click here

Day #278 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…15 days and counting…

We’d been warned against purchasing locally caught fish in Fiji when it was often caught close to the shore where bacteria is heavy in the waters from sewage disposal.  As a result, we never purchased any fish during the past four months. I was looking forward to cooking fish once we arrived in New Zealand, our next stop in our journey.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2015 while staying in Pacific Harbour, on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji when visiting the local farmer’s market. For more details on this post, please click here.

It almost feels like yesterday, when we spent the holidays in Fiji five years ago, living on two islands; four months on the smaller island of Vanua Levu and one month on the main island of Viti Levu. In each case, we had exceptional experiences, even during the holiday season.

Dried leaves used for weaving rugs and other items.

Having little opportunity to interact with others, on either island when tourists quickly came and went, every aspect of our experiences was on our own with one or two exceptions; Sewak, a neighbor in Savusavu, and a lovely newlywed couple while in Pacific Harbour with whom we dined out before they left to return to the US.

A particular delight in Fiji was the friendly nature of the local shopkeepers, household helpers, and people we encountered along the way. Some property owners and managers of holiday homes, we’ve rented have made a concerted effort to socialize with us while others are kind and friendly but standoffish to a degree.

Pineapple is a commonly grown fruit in Fiji, often available for the taking in many areas. At the farmer’s market, they mostly sell to visitors, not as many locals.

I suppose it was no different when either of us owned and managed rental properties in our old lives. We maintained a level of aloofness in the event something went wrong and as the owner/manager, we’d have to remain “professional” in the event of any potential issues. We get this.

Of course, those that made the effort, have since become lifelong friends such as Louise and Danie in South Africa. The fact they’ll manage our holiday rental is relevant, as we totally respect and honor the integrity of the business-side of our relationship. The rest is pure friendship and fluff.

Pineapple leaves stripped from the pineapples are used for weaving and decorations.

Louise and Danie will be the first people we’ll see when we arrive and the last people we see when we depart with many more times in between for pure socialization and fun. We can’t wait to see them and all of our other many special friends in Marloth Park, providing all goes well in 15 days.

And now? How is it going? We’re doing OK, relatively cheerful, entrenched in our usual routines, and anticipating beginning to go through our luggage in order to lighten the load when it will soon be time to pack. I am totally prepared to once again, “say goodbye” to many of my clothing items in order to accomplish this daunting task.

Rows upon rows of pineapples for sale for one third the cost as in Hawaii.

Fortunately, unloading a number of clothing items will be easy when many of them were purchased a year ago in Arizona when I was 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, heavier. I won’t be saving any of those in the event of a future weight gain, which I’ve promised myself won’t happen again. With strict luggage weight restrictions, we can’t afford such a scenario as keeping clothing we don’t wear.

While in this hotel, I’ve washed and worn the same two pairs of black stretchy pants that still fit and three shirts that are very baggy. During this entire almost 10 months I haven’t worn a bra (TMI) and dread having to do so going forward. It’s still uncomfortable on my chest from the open heart surgery and may remain so indefinitely.

The look on this kid’s face is priceless as he checks out the big slices of locally grown watermelon at the farmer’s market in Suva. Hope his dad made a purchase.

But, on travel day, I’ll need to bite the bullet to be “appropriately dressed” in public. The only notice anyone took of me while walking in the corridors was as this masked “mean” woman telling everyone to put a mask on, or cover their nose with their mask. I still don’t get why people don’t cover their nose!

That’s it for today, folks. We hope you have a pleasant day as we wind down this dreadful year toward the New Year.

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2019:

With no new photos, one year ago we posted this photo on this date in 2013 giving a perspective of the small size of this island, somehow appealing to her for its varied vegetation. For the story posted, one year ago, please click here.

Day #270 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Replay of fabulous food photos from cruise…

This window box display was a part of the “Favorites” choice on the menu at Qsine on the Celebrity Infinity in 2017.

Today’s photos are from our post on this date in 2017 while sailing on the Celebrity Infinity along the coast of South America, and dining in the fantastic specialty restaurant, Qsine. For more photos not shown here today, please click here.

Sharing these food photos for the second time, under our current situation, is certainly going to be a mouth-watering experience. To think in less than a month, we’ll be preparing and dining our own meals, one of the many highlights of getting out of here.

Tom dined on one of these “Lava Crab” dishes which I avoided due to the flour content. He described it as outstanding.

As we are reminded of the exceptional dinner we had on that cruise in 2017 and how much fun specialty restaurants are on cruises, we wonder when we’ll ever be able to cruise again. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine may be influential in re-starting cruises in some countries, but many poor countries won’t offer such a luxury.

If any of the cruise lines with whom we have five booked cruises into 2022, requires evidence of a vaccine, we may be out of luck. Africa will be one of the last continents to have access to the vaccine. We’ll see how that rolls out in time. If we were to fly to another continent at some point to receive the vaccine, we’d have to stay three weeks for the second dose.

Tom was holding his menu tablet while deciding what to order at the Qsine specialty restaurant while at sea on Celebrity Infinity. There were nine Celebrity ships offering this exceptional dining experience.

Perhaps in time, they’ll come up with a single dose vaccine that will make it easier for those in similar situations to ours. If we decide to continue on our world travels for considerably longer, we’ll have no choice but to return to the US to receive the vaccine. Maybe we can do so next time we visit family, which we’ll do once the virus settles down in the US.

From this report, updated daily, the USA has 23% of the world’s cases and 19% of the deaths. Considering that statistics are being recorded in 220 countries and territories, this is an outrageous number. As we’ve mentioned many times in past posts, returning to the US at any time in the near future is entirely out of the question.

From the “Sushi ” choice were these “lollipops.” Although we didn’t order this option, we loved this gorgeous presentation.

As for today’s photos, our topic returns to food. Yesterday, while I was working on the errors in past posts, of which I’m only one-third of the way through the over 3000 posts, I encountered comments I’d made about a reader commenting that they were sick and tired of my food comments and recipes. Hum, isn’t traveling in part about dining in one way or another?

When most of us travel, one of the first things on the agenda is checking out the local cuisine, booking reservations from highly rated TripAdvisor reviews, visiting local food trucks, cafes, and diners, and also the possibility of the safety of eating street food? How many of us while dining out during a holiday/vacation has entered a grocery store to check out the cultural differences in food, pricing, and at times, to purchase snacks, liquor, or treats?

Many items from the “Soup & Souffle” menu were served “tapas” style, small servings such as these two souffle chefs Chantal prepared for me.

That’s a big part of the enjoyment of traveling. And even me, with my limited options due to my way of eating, it’s still quite enjoyable to dine out, purchase groceries, and to prepare our own meals while living in holiday homes. Oh, well, that was only one reader and I’m sure by now, they no longer read our posts at all, especially after our boring content over the past nine months.

If they thought “food” was boring, how about our frequent comments, whining, and observations about living under these most peculiar circumstances? As our long-term and new readers know, we strive to “tell it like it is” and not pander to those who may prefer a more “fluffy version” of our lives.

The “Taco Royale” presentation could easily have been a full meal for me with its make-your-own guacamole and beef taco salad.

Sure, this meal we’re sharing today in photos, looks stupendous, and we’d love to be able to savor such a meal now. But, we can’t. Instead, we focus on the fact that soon enough, we’ll be preparing big juicy rare/medium-rare steaks on the braai with a cocktail or glass of wine in hand, sweating up a storm on the veranda, batting off the flies and mozzies, and smiling from ear to ear. Hopefully, in a little over 25 days, when we depart India for South Africa.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2019:

From this site: “The famous fountain in Fountain Hills, Arizona: Built-in 1970 by Robert McCulloch the fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world! The fountain sprays water for 15 minutes every hour at the top of the hour. The fountain uses 7,000 gallons per minute and at its full height, it can reach 560 feet in the air. The plume rises from a concrete water-lily sculpture in the center of a man-made lake. At its full height of 560 feet, the fountain in the center of Fountain Hills is higher than the Washington Monument. It is 10 feet taller than Notre Dame Cathedral, 110 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt and three times as high as Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. The white plume of the world-famous fountain is visible far beyond Fountain Hills. It can be seen from as far away as the Superstition Mountains, Carefree and even from aircraft. The fountain is the focal point for community celebrations and the pride of its residents. If you happen to visit during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, you’ll see the fountain transform to emerald green. The Fountain is extended to its full height on special occasions, for every day viewing the Fountain reaches a height of 330 feet! The World Famous Fountain runs every hour on the hour for 15 minutes from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. every day of the week! This fountain is a celebration of life and water where it is most appreciated – in the middle of the desert.” For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #260 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…The time can’t come soon enough…

We were with friends Lisa and Barry, enjoying one last night together on the ship in a private sitting in the wine room.

Today’s photos are from a South American cruise in 2017, again with friends Lisa and Barry, as we shared an exquisite evening dining in the “wine room” as their guests. For more on the post, please click here. The food and wine were “over the top.”

No doubt, we have a little apprehension about traveling for almost two days when we depart India on January 12th. At this point, we have no idea how comprehensive the precautions will be at the Mumbai airport in the middle of the night, the four-hour layover in Dubai, the airport, hotel, and taxi in Johannesburg, and the fight on the smaller plane for the arrival in Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger airport, eventually picking up the rental car, for the hour-long drive to Marloth Park.

The wine room was filled with rows and rows of exceptional wines.

We can only hope and pray we arrive in Marloth Park on the 13th without having contracted Covid-19. It’s a little scary. With the first two flights on Emirates Airlines, we’ve read they have been taking extra precautions, but we still have to deal with everything in between.

On our own, we’ll be taking several precautions, wearing masks, face shields, rubber gloves, and using hand sanitizer. We may decide we won’t eat on the flights to avoid touching the trays. We’ll change our gloves frequently. Also, we don’t plan to drink many, if any, liquids during the flight to avoid using the bathroom. I’m sure over the next few weeks, we’ll come up with more precautions as we continue to research.

That night, Tom was having a great time, dining in the private “wine room” in the Tuscan Grill with Lisa and Barry.

As for the time between now and January 12th? Hum… challenging. This morning there was a note slipped under our door notifying us of a big party at the hotel tonight and to be prepared for noise until midnight. Also, with the party imminent, our entire floor appears to be totally booked.

While walking this morning we encountered no less than a dozen guests, half wearing face masks and the others, not. In each case, as soon as I could see a guest without a mask, I stopped dead in my tracks to stare at them. If they don’t put on a mask or return to their room to do so, I shout out, every single time, “Please put on a face mask!” Most comply. If they don’t, I turn around and head the other way.

An antipasto board was served to each couple.

At times, I’ve returned to our room when a dozen guests or more are waiting for the lifts, half or more of whom aren’t wearing masks and are yelling and talking loudly. No way will either of us get close to such individuals or groups. Often, guests are leaving their rooms to visit a guest in another room. Even, in those cases, I tell them to put on a mask.

At this point, I don’t care what people “think” of this crazy woman walking the corridors all day, telling people to wear masks. The hotel has told each and every guest that masks must be worn when outside their rooms. When we report a lack of compliance to the managers, they also are frustrated and don’t know what more they can do when they’ve explained the mandatory mask policy to every guest at check-in, including providing them with a printed notice of COVID-19 precautions and requirements.

One of the great wines we enjoyed last night.

We wonder if, after a party like tonight, the staff will become infected when guests refuse to wear masks at parties, weddings, and celebrations. At this point, we no longer go downstairs to pay the bill. We ask them to bring the bill and portable credit card machine to us.

We wear a mask and gloves when processing the bill outside our room door, don’t touch anything but the printed copy, and our credit card, along with two new plastic room keys which we sanitize after we’re done. When food is brought to our room twice a day, we don’t allow the server to enter the room. Tom handles the one tray and stainless steel covered plates of food. We wash our hands again after touching the steel covers and tray.

Tom’s minestrone soup.

This morning, somehow the kitchen forgot to bring our breakfast order. An hour and a half later, they called and asked why we hadn’t ordered. We had. Finally, 90 minutes later our breakfast arrived. We don’t know how this happened, other than the fact that so many guests are here and dining in the dining room and the staff was busy.

The room next door to us has a phone’s notification vibration occurring every 10 to 15 minutes. Hopefully, by tonight the guest(s) will be considerate enough to turn off the notifications on their phones. At least 25 times after 11:00 pm, we’ve had to call the front desk asking them to tell the guest to turn off the notifications. It wakes us up each time it goes off. The walls are paper-thin. Right now, after 1:00 pm, we can hear people yelling in the corridors. I hesitate to go out for my next scheduled walk. Oh, dear.

My filet mignon, cooked rare, was exceptional.

Thanks for listening to me whine again. The time can’t come soon enough. I keep reminding myself, day after day, how much time is left, which as of today is 36 days. I can’t wait for a big steak, a glass of dry red wine, a big bag of pellets, and the blissful companionship of our human and animal friends.

Tom’s ribeye steak was also cooked to perfection.
Tom’s dessert of homemade doughnuts, cherries, and vanilla ice cream.

We hope all of you are holding up well amid the ongoing madness of COVID-19. When will it all end?

Photo from one year ago today, December 8, 2019:

In Marloth Park on this day in 2013, this male zebra stood under the carport for quite some time, watching over the other males. For more photos, from one year ago, please click here.

Day #248 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Happy Thanksgiving to family, friends and readers in the US….

Thanksgiving Images (2020): Download Free Pictures

No photos from a previous post are included today, other than the “year-ago” photo below.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American family, friends, and readers who are celebrating this special day of thanks. For our non-American readers/friends, here’s what Thanksgiving is all about:

From this site: Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia, and the sub-national entities LeidenNorfolk Island, and the inhabited territories of the United States. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Similarly named festival holidays to occur in Germany and Japan. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and Brazil, and around the same part of the year in other places. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.

Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times. The Thanksgiving holiday’s history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurs well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated.

In the English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and in reaction to a large number of religious holidays on the Catholic calendar. Before 1536 there were 95 Church holidays, plus 52 Sundays when people were required to attend church and forego work and sometimes pay for expensive celebrations. The 1536 reforms reduced the number of Church holidays to 27, but some Puritans wished to completely eliminate all Church holidays, including Christmas and Easter. The holidays were to be replaced by specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving, in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts of special providence. Unexpected disasters or threats of judgment from on high called for Days of Fasting. Special blessings, viewed as coming from God, called for Days of Thanksgiving. For example, Days of Fasting were called on account of drought in 1611, floods in 1613, and plagues in 1604 and 1622. Days of Thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705. An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day on November 5.”

In our old lives, this holiday had always been the second most important holiday we celebrated each year, with Christmas being the first. The days of loved ones gathered around our big table are long gone. But, we’ll never forget the love, warmth and good food on this special holiday.

I’d cook for days, making enough pumpkin pies and “leftovers” for each couple or attendee to return home with at least one enough food for another meal and a full pie as a reminder of our Thanksgiving celebration.

But, today, with COVID-19 rampant throughout the US and the world, this year’s holidays will be very different. With tremendous controversy over how many should attend a private home celebration, with restaurants closed and many observing COVID-19 precautions or not, this is a difficult time for all.

In touching base with our family and friends, we feel comfortable everyone will be practicing safe standards in their homes and outside their homes. Nothing would be sadder than to discover more family members who have contracted the virus during the holiday season or, at any time in the future. We pray for our family members and friends as well as for yours, to come through the holiday season unscathed.

And for us? Many have inquired as to what we’ll do today, which is already midday Thursday, November 26th in India. Not to sound as if we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we are doing nothing. Turkey is not served here. No special foods are being prepared and if they were, I doubt many would be befitting my way of eating.

I must diligently continue with my recent reduction in carbs to nearly zero each day, which has allowed several major health improvements over the past month. Thus, if a special dinner was offered, I would only eat the turkey. Plus, Indian cooks wouldn’t be familiar with preparing the typical American dishes, even if we chose to eat such a meal.

Tom is still working on reducing the weight he gained in the first several months of lockdown and continues to eat only one meal a day, a big breakfast which holds him through the day. So, a special meal, unless we’d been able to prepare it ourselves, means little to us at this point.

Instead, we’ll focus on what we are thankful for on this day, as we often do during this challenging time in a hotel room.

We are thankful for:

  • The safety and health of our loved ones and for us, while we maintain the status quo in this confinement now, eight months in the making.
  • Being together to provide love, comfort, and entertainment for each other, every single day.
  • Our health during this lockdown. We were concerned if one of us became ill and had to seek medical care outside the hotel, with COVID-19 raging in Mumbai, it would have been an awful scenario.
  • Ways in which to entertain ourselves with streaming shows, with good WiFi and thanks to a VPN (a virtual private network) that allows us to use Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Being able to mentally escape from the current reality has been exceedingly important during this extended period.
  • Financially, being able to afford to live in this nice hotel for the past 248 days.
  • That this hotel has stayed open during numerous lockdowns.
  • Due to Amazon India, we are able to purchase any supplies we need. Without this, we’d have no choice but to head outdoors where there are massive crowds in the streets.
  • Reordering my few prescriptions. The front desk will call and order any refills for medications we may need and it is delivered within 24 hours, without a prescription.
  • Posting each day and all the amazing concern and support of our family/friends/readers. Thank you all!
  • Laughter, our saving grace…

Please have a safe and meaningful Thanksgiving for those who celebrate and may each and every one of our readers experience love and thankfulness on this day and always, wherever you may be.

Photo from one year ago today, November 26, 2019:

With no new photos posted one year ago, here is a photo we posted from a walk on the beach at the Indian Ocean in Kenya in 2013. For more, please click here.