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

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

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

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

Gerhard ordered the delicious lamb shank.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well.

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

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

Great memories from years past…

When we “babysat” the pregnant alpacas while the owners were away on the farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand, in 2016, this precious little girl was born. For my birthday, along with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, the owners named this little girl “Miss Jessica” after me. It was the best birthday gift ever! For the post, please click here.

As another birthday approaches, I can’t help but reminisce and appreciate past birthdays, especially since we began traveling the world. The birthdays before that time seem to blur in my mind., except perhaps my 50th birthday in 1998 when we had a big party at our house.

At that time, I spent days cooking and preparing for my own party. Now, 26 years later, I have no interest in cooking and decorating for my own party. Then, of course, since we began traveling, my most exciting birthday was last year, celebrating my 75th birthday, which Louise and Danie hosted at the fabulous Khaya Umdani house and prepared all the food and drinks to perfection.

I will repost the photos from last year’s birthday in tomorrow’s post. This year, on the actual day of my birthday, we don’t have any big plans other than going out to dinner, at Tom’s insistence since he doesn’t want me to cook. Tom rarely cooks, so we would unlikely go that route.

But I am content with tomorrow’s easy plan to go out to dinner. Then, the next day, February 21, we have special plans hosted by Richard, which we’ll share with photos and the story the following day, February 22. I suppose at this point in life, birthdays are as important as when we’re young, but in a way, I see them as an opportunity to be grateful for one more year of our lives. That, in itself, is worth celebrating, isn’t it?

In any case, I don’t have a lot of expectations about my birthday. Texts or phone calls from family are meaningful. And, of course, the many well wishes and messages from family and friends mean the world to us.

Today is laundry day. Amid my walking schedule this morning, the sheets and dark clothes are in the dryer in the laundry room down the hall, and the whites and towels are spinning in the washer, which we’ll hang on the drying rack soon. Tonight’s dinner will be coconut sauteed cod, the one time Tom will eat fish.

To make the fish, I put about ½ cup of coconut flour in a bowl and then two raw scrambled eggs in another bowl. I well-season the flour with garlic and onion powder, Himalayan salt, and coarse ground pepper. First, I dip the patted dry fish in the coconut flour, then into the eggs, and then back into the coconut flour while three tablespoons of coconut oil are heated in the non-stick skillet.

The fish cooks very fast at medium heat, so I keep an eye on it, never leaving the stove for a moment. In the meantime, we will have cooked Tom’s rice, steamed the broccoli, and tossed the salad with homemade Keto dressing. Everything gets done at once to ensure it is all hot.

It only takes about ten minutes to prepare the fish, making this an easy dinner, although it gets the stove top messy, requiring cleaning the glass top as soon as it’s cool enough. Earlier in the day, I’d prepped the salad and the broccoli while Tom put water, salt, and butter in his small pot for the rice. We have an excellent system that works well for us. We have great meals with little prep time for most of our meals.

I am heading back to the corridor for my next round of walking now. It’s a good day.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, February 19, 2014:

The “girl’s lunch” to celebrate my birthday. No one was handy to take a photo of the three of us, so Linda and I were in the first photo. The Buhari Lodge was located on the Crocodile River.
My wonderful friends Linda and Kathy (left to right) lived part-time in Marloth Park. The three of us stay in close touch regularly. For more photos, please click here.

Nuances of dining out that remain with us years later…

This was a meal that hits all points as listed below. While on the Antarctica Cruise in 2018, the chef served lunch outdoors. What a fabulous memory!

We probably dine out in restaurants more than the average couple. Like some other couples, we’ll occasionally order food delivered or buy a meal at such locations as Costco, which only require oven or microwave heating. For the purpose of today’s post, we are focusing on dining in restaurants, memories of which have stayed with us many years later.

For easy recall, we’ll only refer to restaurants since we began traveling the world. In our old lives, we seldom dined out, most often when we planned to get together with friends. When it came to family, they often came to our home for Sunday brunch, dinner, or holiday celebrations.

Although dining out for lunch with my friends was reasonably frequent while I was still working and later, after I retired. When we visit Minnesota since we began traveling the world, I often go to lunch with friends and, most often, my son Greg. In our old lives, while I was still working, Greg and I often got together for lunch at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Kindhu, which closed during the pandemic, which was the case for many favorite restaurants throughout the world.

But, as mentioned above, today’s post is regarding dining experiences since 2012, when we began traveling the world. Except for the time we spent in Marloth Park, we dined out an average of once per week. Per the online app, “Date to Date Calculator,” I calculated how many weeks we’ve dined out in the past 11 years and three months, discounting the many times in Marloth Park where we dined out at Jabula twice a week, especially during the last year.

On average, it was 587 times we dined out. Could we remember all of those restaurants, all of those weeks? Of course not. And keeping in mind that we are the type of people who will often return to a restaurant we particularly love. Thus, if we narrow it down from there, let’s say for the sake of illustration, we’ve dined at 300 different restaurants in 11-plus years, including dining on cruise ships after 33 cruises since 2012.

So, to finally get to the point, what features stand out most in our minds after all those experiences? Of course, the first considerations were the food quality and the service. If we had to list those two factors, we could still recall every restaurant.

But other nuances left a good or bad taste in our mouths (no pun intended) that we can easily recall all these years later, and here’s our list, not necessarily in order of importance.

  1. Food
  2. Service: friendliness of staff and knowledge of food on the menu
  3. Ambiance, decor, and pleasing environment
  4. Choice of menu selections, including options for my way of eating and Tom’s picky tastebuds. (There’s never been a restaurant where I couldn’t find anything to eat, except one local “dive” in Kenya in 2013 and the awful offal restaurant in Buenos Aires in 2018. (See, we do remember!)
  5. Cleanliness of restrooms, restaurant, and food prep
  6. Noise level
  7. Accepts credit cards
  8. Convenient location
  9. Scenery (if dining outdoors)
  10. Comfortable seating: Availability of booths (which we prefer) or appealing seating in pleasing locations within the venue. We prefer not to sit in the middle of the room or close to a service area with high staff traffic.
  11. Cost: We are happy to pay more if the food, service, and ambiance are in accordance with the price
  12. Wine glasses* – see below

What prompted this story was an article Tom sent me this morning regarding how the wine glass impacts the flavor and enjoyment of the wine. See the article here.

For the first few years of our world, I didn’t drink any alcohol. It wasn’t until 2016 that I began to drink red wine once again after a 20-year hiatus. I didn’t quit drinking due to any alcohol-related addiction or problem. I quit due to a lack of taste for it. But on that cruise in 2016, I tried a glass of cabernet sauvignon and again fell in love with red wine.

Now, I only drink one glass at any time, whether staying in or out to dinner. I must admit that the wine glass I’m served in a restaurant is a significant factor in my enjoyment of the wine. I can recall every glass I was served since 2016. Recently, we dined at the restaurant at the bottom of the steps here, and they served me a regular glass instead of a stemmed wine glass.

I asked for a stemmed glass; all they had was a champagne glass, which I accepted. I didn’t enjoy my one glass of Merlot, not because of the wine itself but because of the glass. If we dine there again, I will bring a lovely stemmed glass I’ve been using in the condo, which is the perfect wine glass. There are only two such glasses here, so I will be extra careful not to break it, as I’ve been when I have wine when we stay in.

I won’t do this, but I remember every restaurant since 2016 where I was given a short, stubby glass filled with wine with no other options available.

Of course, all of this and the other points are subjective. We all have personal preferences. It might be fun to list your preferences, which will make you more aware the next time you dine out. In any case, enjoy!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 31, 2014:

We could hardly turn her down when Louise invited us to stay at the Khaya Umdani house for a few weeks in 2014. We’d write about the house, and in return, we wouldn’t have to pay any additional rent, while the Hornbill house would remain our primary rental while we were there. This veranda is where we’ll spend our time for easy viewing of the massive grounds, a combination of the dense bush with a few open spaces for wildlife to run. This shot reminds me of a scene in the movie “Out of Africa,” which we watched a few months ago while in Kenya. For more photos, please click here.

Great evening out at Luna Rossa…Short attention span?…Pigs are smart…

My entree consisted of grilled barramundi, one of my favorite types of fish we discovered in Australia, with scallops and shrimp. Divine!

It was a lovely evening last night when the four of us had a drink in our condo after we gave them a tour of our condo, then walked down that one flight of steps for the short walk to Luna Rossa. We love that restaurant, the quality food, the ambiance, and the service. It couldn’t be better.

Plus, the conversation at our table was lively and animated, with a seemingly endless stream of laughter. The evening passed too quickly, and before we knew it, by 9:00 pm, we said our goodbyes. In no time at all, we were situated comfortably on the sofa, me in my PJs and both of us watching the first episode of Season 4 of True Detective after struggling through Seasons 2 and 3. Season 1 was fantastic, but it went downhill from there.

My side of roasted vegetables.

Tom is way more patient than I am. I want to change to something else if I am not engrossed in a series after the first episode. Tom, on the other hand, will stick it out to see if it improves. When I don’t like it, I play games on my phone and do not pay attention. Admittedly, I have a short attention span.

Once I get bored, I tune out and search for something stimulating to keep me entertained. I’ve never been one to sit patiently in one spot when I have lost interest in the situation at hand. No, I won’t be rude to those engaged in a dull (to me) conversation and will make every effort to appear engaged and interested and pay attention.

When in school, the teacher often yelled at me if I was distracted by a boring topic. I was a straight-A student through high school, but I often felt like I “skated through” by studying well for tests and diligently completing my homework. By doing so, I was able to tune out when I wanted. Also, I always enjoyed writing essays, and good scores on those always added to my final grade.

Tom’s lasagne.

No wonder I have no trouble writing a new post each day. When we do what we love, it’s not complicated.

Since I am this way, it’s not hard for me to spot others who also may have a short attention span, and on occasion, l find myself making eye contact with them, smiling in acknowledgment that we are the same.

Last night, there never was a moment that I lost interest in our lively banter. I was so engaged I was using my hands too much when talking, a habit more frequently seen from Tom, that I spilled the balance (a small amount) of the wine left in my glass. I felt terrible to have sprinkled our guests with red wine.

Richards’ chicken piccata with roasted vegetables.

Today is a low-key day. I am making baby back ribs for Tom, and I’ll have something else. I don’t often eat pork, mainly since I love pigs. Due to my necessary low inflammation diet, I’d never be able to give up meat entirely, but pigs…well, that’s another matter.

We love pigs (warthogs) and look forward to seeing them again.

Tom always makes fun of me for a Facebook site I always follow, “Arthur’s Acres Animal Sanctuary in Parksville, New York.”  Todd, the owner, is a fantastic guy who loves animals, mostly abandoned and mistreated pigs. He has devoted his life to the pigs and animals he rescues that their former owners grossly neglected. Check out his site for a chuckle and some heart-warming entertainment. Go to search on Facebook and type in Arthur’s Acres. This site instantly picks up your mood if you feel out of sorts. It always makes me smile.

Pigs are listed as #5 of the top smartest animals worldwide.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 25, 2014:

On either side of the face are two hanging red-tipped hanging pieces of skin. When the helmeted Guinea fowl moves about, these swing around like dangling earrings. For more photos, please click here.

Correction in yesterday’s post about Medicare, Plan G for foreign travel…

This restaurant, Luna Rossa, is about a one-minute walk once we get down one flight of stairs.

I made an error in yesterday’s comprehensive post about supplement Plan G, which I chose as an adjunct to Plan B enrollment. My insurance agent, Janet Mueller, at jmueller@teameip.com, noted the need to make a correction, which I’ve done on the post and noted today. See below for details:

  • Maximum annual $50,000, with $250 deductible, which pays 80%, on emergency medical services for foreign travel outside the US. Air and ground ambulance are covered. Here is a link with information on ambulance and air ambulance services for Plan G.
  • Tom sure loves bread.

Now that the Medicare information is posted and hopefully clear for those interested, we’re moving on to other topics, such as our first evening out to dinner last night in The Village, one flight down an outside stairway from the hallway on our floor.

We had a lovely time in the restaurant. We went to the Italian restaurant Luna Rossa, a one-minute walk once we got downstairs to the ground level. We’d thought of going to the Mexican restaurant but, at the last minute, decided against it when I’d planned to make beef enchiladas on Monday.

Tom’s delicious lasagne.

Only a few items on the Mexican restaurant’s menu appealed to Tom with some modifications. Most Mexican restaurants serve Spanish rice and refried beans with each entree, neither of which Tom will eat. Taking those two items away from a plate may leave little to eat. As a result, he only likes taco salad with beef, not chicken. Of course, he could ask for meat instead of chicken, but he doesn’t care to ask for special adjustments when he orders off a menu.

On the other hand, I’m always asking for special adjustments for my orders to ensure they are gluten-free, starch-free, and sugar-free. I always tell Tom, “We’re the customer paying the bill. It’s ok to ask for changes, especially if we’re willing to pay for upgrades that may increase the price.”

My mussels and clams in a tasty broth.

Oh well, we each do it our way. He’s a picky eater due to his taste buds, and I am picky only to ensure I don’t eat anything that isn’t suitable for my way of eating. If I didn’t eat this way, I pretty much like everything.

Once seated at Luna Rossa without reservation on a Saturday night, we felt at ease at the table for four with a crisp white tablecloth and lovely table setting. The service was fast and friendly, primarily by older Italian gentlemen with experience. More servers were in the restaurant than customers, but about half of the tables were occupied, which surprised us.

I can always find something to eat in Italian restaurants even when most of the dishes contain pasta, none of which I’ll order. Tom had the delicious lasagne, a good-sized portion, made to perfection. I ordered the mussels and clam in a delightful broth that I finished with a spoon. We each ordered one drink, a brandy and Sprite for Tom and a lovely Merlot for me.

The restaurant was surprisingly busy. We didn’t expect the eateries in The Village to be busy.

The wine glass was huge, and there couldn’t have been more than four ounces of wine in it, typical for somewhat fancier dining establishments. But the drinks and food were plenty for us. Tom enjoyed the basket of bread, which only came with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, neither of which he’d eat. He started eating the dry, unbuttered bread but didn’t ask for butter. When the waiter passed, we asked for butter, and Tom dug into the bread.

Our dinner bill was $98, including tax and tip. We could have easily had two nights’ dinners at Jabula for this amount, including drinks, tax, and tip. At these prices, we’ll only eat out once a week.

The short walk back to our place was refreshing in the cool air at only 40F. As I write here this morning, it’s only 46F, typical for the winter cool desert temps. I love this cool weather in Las Vegas, especially when it’s sweltering in the summer months.

I’m off to take the bedding to dry in the laundry room using the handy laundry app on my phone. As mentioned, we have a washer in our unit but no dryer. We dry everything else on the portable laundry rack we purchased at Amazon.

Today will be a football day. Last night, we watched an exciting game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. No spoilers here if you haven’t watched it.

Have a wonderful Sunday.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 14, 2014:

Baby warthog is sleeping in our yard, while mom and three other babies munched on vegetation. For more, please click here.

Slowly but surely…We’re getting better….

Octomom and seven of her eight piglets, one of which was off to the side. We hope to see them when we return in June.

Today, I am rushing through the post so we can use my laptop to broadcast the last Minnesota Vikings game of the season on the TV monitor using the HDMI cord. After another night of coughing, I notice that my cough is finally breaking up, meaning it’s on its way to being over. Today, Tom said he feels the best since this all started about 12 days ago. I was about three days behind him when I didn’t get it immediately.

This time, I didn’t take any over-the-counter medications I’d used in the past other than Hall’s sugar-free cough drops and the saline nasal rinse. I didn’t even take Tylenol and noticed no difference in getting better. Those products may temporarily relieve symptoms but have no impact on shortening the duration of the virus.

Tom took Vitamin C, zinc, Zyrtec, Tylenol, antibiotics, and a prescription cough pill. We’ll both have had symptoms for the exact number of days. It was an experiment on my part to see what helps and what doesn’t. With Tom’s asbestos-caused lung problem, he needed to take antibiotics so the cough didn’t turn into pneumonia.

We don’t advocate one method of treatment over another to our readers. If you become sick, please see your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. I wasn’t ill enough to see a doctor, but Tom was, and thus, our visit to Urgent Care six days ago. We’re both grateful to be on the mend.

Last night’s Low Carb Chicken Pot Pie dinner was delicious, and we’re looking forward to repeating it tonight and tomorrow. This week, I’ll make another favorite low-carb dish, a copycat recipe for a low-carb version of Costco’s famous chicken loaves. This dish is another favorite of ours.

I make smaller portions of these special dishes for me so I can stay on my diet. I am stuck right now, but I continue to work on losing the last six pounds. I never have a cheat day, and I stick to the macros I’ve chosen for losing weight, which consist of fat, carbs, and calories, all of which matter. Over the years, I have found that there is no such diet as “all you can eat.” But, based on my macros, I am seldom overly hungry. I use a free app, Cronometer, to track every morsel I put in my mouth.

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to go to the fitness center to spend a little time on the exercise bike. I had been doing well when I stopped after I got sick, but now, after many days, it’s time to start getting back into it. I did 60% of what I’d reached before I stopped, and between today and tomorrow, I should be back to 100%. Soon, as my legs strengthen, I’ll start doing resistance training.

Last night, based on a suggestion from our dear friends Marylin and Gary (long-time readers we met in Marloth Park and will see again when we return), we started watching The Gilded Age on Max (formerly HBO). We signed up for a one-month free trial and will have it watched long before the month’s end, at which point we’ll cancel the service.

Today, I have to do laundry, make a salad, and work out when Tom takes his 2:00 pm nap. Dinner will be easy when I pop two more mini pot pies in the oven about 30 minutes before we dine. It’s an easy day, which I appreciate at this point.

That’s it for today, folks. We will listen to a podcast about the economy and start watching the Minnesota Vikings game on DZN (formerly NFL Game Pass). We don’t have much hope for them winning or even having a chance at the play offs, but we can hope, can’t we?

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today,  January 7, 2014:

This batch has four packages of lean grass-fed ground beef, referred to as “mince” in Africa. The total cost of these huge packages was US $17.23 and ZAR 183.50. The forward huge T-bone steak is US $3.43, ZAR 36.47. In the rear of this photo are pork chops and lamb chops. Due to inflation, these prices have doubled since we posted this, but even so, the prices are much lower than in the US and many other countries. This meat will feed us for eight dinners, considering our two nights of dining out per week. For more, please click here.

Thoughtful update from reader/friend….Thanks, Bob!…What inspires expats to live in Ecuador…

On the few evenings when it hasn’t been cloudy, Tom has been able to take these sunset photos shown today.

Yesterday, we received the following email from reader/friend Bob, whom I’ve never met but who found our site on Tom’s Facebook page. He attended high school with Tom many moons ago. Bob has been a loyal and consistent reader for several years, and we certainly enjoy hearing from him now and then.

Bob either posts a comment on a particular post or sends us an email with questions or comments, all of which have been very kind and supportive of our world travels and lifestyle. Here is the message Bob sent yesterday, commenting about yesterday’s post found here.

I had written that I had no idea if the vegetables we’d purchased from Raphael’s truck were a good deal or not. With our intent to support local farmers and other local vendors, we weren’t worried about prices when we thought what we were purchasing was within a reasonable range of what we may have paid in the US. Plus, the produce is pesticide-free and organic, based on insects we’ve found on the products.

This shot looks somewhat like a question mark.

If, at any point, we feel a vendor is taking advantage of the fact that we’re foreigners, we’d either negotiate a better price or, in some cases, not purchase if we felt the item(s) were grossly overpriced. Most recently, when we stayed in the US for several months off and on, we didn’t go grocery shopping and had no idea how much prices had increased with recent inflation.

While in Florida for three months, from the end of April until July, we had groceries delivered From Kroger, when there is a possibility prices were slightly higher for delivered groceries. So again, our knowledge of prices wasn’t necessarily accurate.

When Bob wrote yesterday, he so kindly did the research for us, taking our list of items we purchased from Raphael’s truck to his local market, Cub, as described in his message below:

“I read your blog today, and since I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, I went shopping today. I went to Cub Foods.
I did a price shop for you.

Watermelon $5.99
Broccoli. Head $3.99
Whole cabbage $2.25
Med zucchini  $2.79 
Carrots $1.25 lb
Med Avocado $.77 ea (x 3)
Strawberries $3.99 lb on sale
So you got “fresh from the farm” for half what it was at Cub today.
Enjoy,
Bob”
I was thrilled to see this information from Bob. How thoughtful of him to take the time to check these prices and report back to us. Thanks, Bob! You inspired today’s post with this information and gave us peace of mind, knowing we weren’t overpaying, although in this case, for the convenience of Raphael showing up twice a week at our door, we may have been willing to pay more than US listed prices. Apparently, we did not overpay when Bob explained we spent about half of the current US prices.
Another stunning view.
Considering we’re currently buying food from Raphael and the little market in the gated community, we are only spending about half for groceries of what we’d have paid in the US or many other countries. When we return to Manta on November 22 to exchange the rental car and for my second cardiology appointment, we will grocery shop at a big market and have a better idea of prices in Ecuador.
Over the years, we’ve heard many expats have moved to Ecuador due to the low cost of living, including housing, products, and services. Most residents living in Mirador San Jose are French Canadians who chose to retire here, partly due to the lower cost of living here than in Canada.
The rays streaming down from the horizon are enchanting.
We’ve yet to discover the prices of the houses in this beachside neighborhood. Surely, we’ll hear about that and report back here. However, I found this one listing of a home currently on the market for $189,900s, not directly on the ocean as the holiday house we are renting. See here for details.
Also, here is a link for an oceanfront vacant lot for sale in Mirador, San Jose, priced at $34,000.
That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.
Be well.

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

These huge pods have continued to dry out on a tree in the garden in Kenya. For more photos, please click here.

An amazing encounter with Raphael..Again, it’s the simple things…

Here is the produce we purchased from Raphael last evening. The total cost was US $12.50. I don’t know if this is a good price or not, but since we are grateful to be able to buy these, we are fine with the cost. There are three avocados behind the bag of strawberries and a giant zucchini to the right. We aren’t eating salads right now.

Last night, as we were preparing dinner of pork chops, rice, green beans, and cooked carrots for Tom and grilled fish (unknown type) and veggies for me, we heard Raphael’s honking horn. We couldn’t get outdoors quickly enough to find Raphael with a huge grin on his face while asking how we were in Spanish. We enthusiastically answered, “Bien. Como estas?”

Over the years of selling his fresh farm goods to the English-speaking locals in Mirador San Jose, he’s learned the English translation of all his fruits and vegetables, making selecting our preferences easy when we merely say the names of what we’d like to buy.

We don’t bother to ask prices for his bounties, nor do we attempt to explain why we aren’t interested in potatoes, beets, corn, and other starchy, sugary fruits and vegetables. When he suggests such items, we shake our heads, and he continues to let us know any new items he may have that he didn’t have last time. He comes by each Tuesday and Friday close to 5:00 pm.

I nearly jumped for joy when I spotted a container of blackberries and another with strawberries. With my way of eating, I can have berries in moderation, ½ cup per day. He let me choose those I wanted from the containers, as my mouth watered at the prospect of eating these fresh-from-farm berries.

The berries didn’t look as if they were washed. I’d picked fresh berries in the past and could tell. Since I will be eating them uncooked, we soaked and rinsed the two batches separately in bottled water, letting them sit for several hours. This morning, I put about a ½ cup of the blackberries in a bowl, which I promptly tasted. They were so tart, much to my delight, that I’d have to add a little of my sweetener to be able to eat them.

The fact they were tart indicated they weren’t genetically modified to be sweet, as are blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries in the US and other countries, to appeal to consumers who prefer fruits to be sweet. It was only when I was a kid, back in the 50s, that berries were so tart that my mother placed a bowl of sugar next to them, to which we added several teaspoons to the berries. Then, they tasted good.

Now, in the US and many other countries, when you buy berries, sugar is unnecessary when they are already so sweet they are hard to stop eating. Before I adopted a low-carb way of eating in 2011, I could easily and mindlessly eat a bowl of berries without any added sweetener, munching on them as if they were salty nuts, which also are hard to stop eating.

This morning, I had my usual bowl of two eggs cooked in a bowl with ½ avocado for breakfast. But this time, I added a small bowl of fresh, sweetened blackberries on the side. What a treat it was! For me, it was comparable to having a fine dessert.

As shown in the photo above, Tom will enjoy another watermelon while I munch on the berries until Raphael returns and hopefully has more berries in his truck.

We’ll repeat last night’s dinner tonight with pork chops (for Tom) and fish (for me), both of which are marinating in the refrigerator. But this time, we’ll add steamed buttered broccoli as our vegetable instead of green beans and carrots. Buying the pork chops and fish at the little nearby market in this gated community and buying fresh vegetables from Raphael makes shopping for food much more accessible than we initially anticipated.

When we return to Manta on November 22 to return the car and visit the cardiologist, we will shop at MegaMaxi, the huge Walmart-like store in the shopping center, recommended by the locals at Kokomo’s last Wednesday night.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, November 11, 2013:

On our first cruise and venture outside the US on January 3, 2013, on the Celebrity Century, an “Old Hollywood” style ship, sailing through the breathtaking Panama Canal. This cruise line and particular ship may remain our favorite, even after many additional cruises. Our all-time favorite bartender is shown on the far right, Juan. What a guy! For more photos, please click here.

Daytime get together with Tom and a few guys from work…Another evening with family…

Last night, grandson Vincent, daughter Tammy, and daughter-in-law Tracy joined us for dinner and trivia at Pizza Luce, walking distance from our hotel.

Tom didn’t order dinner last night when we met Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent at Pizza Luce for dinner and trivia. He could have ordered dinner since he ate the entire plate of garlic bread that accompanied my dinner, as shown below. My guy sure loved bread.

He’s loading up now, knowing eating bread will come to a quick end by the end of the month when we arrive at our holiday home in Ecuador, and I start cooking again. No bread is served with our homemade meals unless we have guests for dinner, and bread is an appropriate accompaniment.

My meatball meal was topped with sugar-free sauce and mozzarella cheese. No pasta. It was delicious.

However, bread and doughy things are popular with meals in Ecuador, so dining out will allow him to enjoy the local flour-laden flavors. We may dine out on Fridays and Saturdays as we’ve done in the past, but that will depend on the foods offered at the local restaurants. We shall see.

At this point, we are leaving the US in eight days on October 11. We are getting everything we can ready for our departure next Wednesday. We both ordered hiking boots this morning after the cruise line reminded us we’d need them for the Galapagos. They will arrive from Amazon by Thursday.

The plate of bread that came with my meal, which I handed over to Tom, knowing he’d love it even though he was still full from lunch with the guys.

Also, this morning, I ordered a swimsuit since a few years ago, we accidentally left all of our swimwear at the top of a closet on a cruise. There were three or four swimsuits I liked, and I had to order one today for the pool at the upcoming house in Ecuador.

At this point, we have everything we need. We’ve ordered quite a bit, replacing worn-out adapters, plugs, earbuds, and miscellaneous items we use. I was thrilled to be able to replace a worn-out pair of white leather Keds slip-on shoes, which are hard to find online.

Also, we took many old clothing items to Goodwill, and if they were worn, we tossed them in the trash, including my suitcase, which was now cracked and unusable. Tom hasn’t found a taker for his railroad memorabilia and is taking it to the Minnesota Transportation Museum, Jackson Street Roundhouse, to donate the entire lot. We’ll receive a tax-deductible receipt for the items.

Vincent’s large pizza.

Yesterday, at 1:00 pm, Tom met up with a few of his railroad buddies at a restaurant in Roseville and enjoyed the time with the guys. Tomorrow, we’ll post those photos.

Besides Tom dropping off the railroad stuff at the museum, we don’t have big plans today. Tonight, we’ll dine out at Champps, where we can always depend on fresh and consistent food. This morning, we had a light breakfast in the hotel restaurant, but my choices are limited. The only things I can eat are scrambled or hard-boiled eggs. I prefer the hard-boiled eggs since I know what I’m getting.

Tammy’s lasagne.

Soon, when I’m done uploading today’s post, I’ll be heading to a lounge area in the hotel to call my dear old friend Cathy, whom I didn’t get to see this time. I usually speak to my girlfriends from that room so Tom can continue to watch football games and listen to podcasts on his laptop.

I will post the photos from Tom’s afternoon with the guys tomorrow. But that’s it for today, dear readers. Enjoy your day!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2013:

There were no photos posted on this date ten years ago. Instead, we posted about what we needed to bring on our first safari in Africa. For details, please click here.

What a fun day with friends and family!!!…

After our pedicures, my dear friend Chere and I went to lunch at Jimmy’s Kitchen and Bar for a lovely breakfast of ground ribeye, topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions along with a side of green beans or asparagus. Delicious!

It was a lovely day with my friend Chere, the third time we got together since Tom and I arrived in Minnesota three weeks ago. Chere and I have been friends for 25 years and have often stayed in touch in the past 11 years since we’ve been traveling.

It was the last time I’d see her in our remaining 12 days when she and her husband Gary took off on a road trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a dietician convention and won’t return until we’re gone. Chere is a dietician who appeared many times on various TV news shows and conducted countless seminars for corporate clients nationwide. Also, as a Life Coach, she’s had a continuous stream of clients with varied needs that she so well fulfills, leaving them loyal to her ongoing services.

Her beliefs about food are similar to mine, that we each should eat a healthy, lower-carb diet of food in its natural state without pesticides, chemicals and additives, sugar, and starch. Of course, healthy fats are included in her suggested way of eating. As a result of this philosophy and others, she and I always had an indescribable sistership. We have so much to talk about!

This is Jada, who did an equally fine job on Chere’s pedicure at the beauty school. We had a good time together and with the two young women.

The pedicures were fun with the two girls, who will appreciate seeing their photos on our site today when particularly young women enjoy any exposure via social media. I couldn’t resist posting their photos.

After the pedicures, Chere and I headed to a nearby Goodwill store where she had to pick up a variety of hats for a display photo booth at the convention. We got a huge kick out of picking out the wild-looking hats readily available at the store with Halloween on the horizon a little over a month from now.

Halloween brings up special memories, as many of our long-term readers know, since it’s the anniversary of the date we left Minnesota to begin our journey in 2012. As a result, we’ll be celebrating our 11th anniversary in Ecuador at our new holiday home by the sea. What more could we ask for?

Chere dropped me off at the hotel before 2:30 pm, shortly before Tom and I had to drive to Anoka for his family’s usual get-together at Billy’s Bar and Grill. In the next month or so, three of his sisters will head to their winter homes in Apache Junction, Arizona, where we stayed in a holiday “park model” near them in December 2019 and January 2020. (Once the sisters leave for Arizona, the weekly get-togethers at Billy’s will end until next summer).

This is Hazyl, my nail technician at the beauty school in Hopkins. She, too, did a fine job!

We took off from Arizona for India when shortly later, Covid-19 hit. Most of our readers know that unbelievable story when we were stuck in a hotel room for ten months in Mumbai, India, only six weeks after we arrived. Was that ever a memorable experience!

We drove back to the hotel after drinks and dinner with the family (photos to be shared in tomorrow’s post). We watched a few more episodes of Formula 1, again savoring every episode. What a great show on Netflix!

Oddly, we have no plans with anyone for today or tonight, but we did make a reservation at the same restaurant Chere, and I enjoyed yesterday, Jimmy’s Kitchen and Bar, for the two of us for tonight. When we return, we’ll hunker down to watch more of our current favorite show, which is soon ending. We are on season five after watching the first of ten remaining episodes.

We’ll be back again tomorrow with the family photos from last night!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, September 30, 2013:

My dinner at Le Cafe at Lantana Galu Beach, Kenya: Seasoned Grilled Red Snapper with sautéed non-starchy vegetables. For more photos, please click here.
Notice the lack of veggies on Tom’s plate? He requested they be placed on a separate plate to be handed to me. I did the same with my potatoes, handing them over to him. For more photos, please click here.