Nuances of vacation homes…One year ago…Total expenses for 16 nights in Paris…Check it out below!

This cockatoo settled on the fence at the pool.

Only once, since beginning our travels outside the US, did we vacate a property when we weren’t happy with the accommodations. We stayed for a painstaking week while we furiously scoured every possibility to find another affordable rental. Prices were high in Belize during the season, winter in the northern hemisphere.

Belize, located in Central America, had become popular over the prior decade with its relatively short distance from the US making it a popular mid-winter vacation destination. Availability was limited on the more affordable properties especially with our short notice request for occupancy.

We discovered a new beach on a return drive from cairns, Machans Beach which is a modest beachside community the closest beach to Cairns City. Travelers staying in Machans beach usually do so to escape the busy hustle and bustle and a large number of tourists that flock to Cairns and many of the other northern beaches each year. Due to staunch protests from the locals at Machans Beach tourist infrastructure such as hotels and resorts have remained at bay creating a tranquil and unspoiled hippie-style beachside community.
There were several issues with the property, making it inhabitable for us.  The city water was shut off most of the day (a long term, ongoing situation), on for about one hour and then off again. We were supposed to collect water to use for the toilet when the water would be off for the remainder of the day and night.  If we didn’t shower when the water magically came on at an unpredictable time to a dribble, we were out of luck. 

Doing the laundry was nearly impossible. Simple things like washing our hands become a luxury. We felt dirty and our surroundings felt unsanitary. It only took a few days for us to realize we had to leave permanently as fast as possible. 

Although Machan’s Beach has been subjected to substantial erosion that has been rectified by a rock wall and the slow but gradual return of lost sand, there is still plenty of beaches to enjoy and a lush grassy playfield by the beach that is great for playing sports, picnics or spending time with the family.

On top of it all (long term readers, please excuse the repeated story) the no-see-ums were swarming us when there were either no screens or the holes in the few screens were too large allowing the sand flies them to freely enter. It was hot, humid and we wanted the windows open which was impossible. 

I had no less than 100 inflamed sand fly bites making me miserable both during the day and at night. I was unable to sleep for more than a few hours a night for an entire week. 

It was an awful seven days until we finally found a fabulous resort to rent for the remaining two-plus months and quickly moved out, losing our first month’s rent which the owner had promised to refund.

Recently, the completion of the rock wall ended with a well deserved party for the locals who tolerated the trucks coming and going over an extended period as the wall was built.

Of course, we’d never have rented the property had we known of these issues. We weren’t naïve in assuming that living in other countries would be easy. But, we weren’t willing to risk our health as a result of improper sanitation and lack of cleanliness without water. We’d purchased several huge jugs of bottled water at times having no choice but to use it for the toilet and cleaning what we could.

We never saw a refund. What were we to do? Sue them? Did we want to start our world journey with a lawsuit in a foreign country? Hardly.

If you’re interested in reading the story about the fiasco in Belize and seeing the photos from this period, please begin by clicking here.

A lone sea bird at Machans Beach.

That was our first vacation home outside the US. At that point, it would have been easy to pack it up and head back to the US. But, that never occurred to us. We knew we’d encounter some less than desirable situations and we were committed to figuring them out along the way.

If money were no object, we’d run into less of a risk by renting only upscale properties. And, although at times we’ve been able to negotiate some upscale properties, most of our vacation rentals are in the mid-range and overall, very nice with amenities we’ve found to pleasing.

Here in Trinity Beach, Australia, this property has been much more desirable than we’d expected. We’ve learned to keep our expectations at bay and were pleasantly surprised when we arrived continuing to further appreciate it here the longer we stayed. 

Dozens of cockatoos have been swarming the yard over several of the past late afternoons, stopping to check out the pool.

The owners, Sylvie and Andy, have gone overboard to ensure we have an excellent experience and unquestionably, we have. The well equipped property; the cleanliness; their providing additional items we’ve needed; their vacuuming and washing the floors for us every two weeks (while we sweep and dust in the interim) and their warmth and friendliness, all have contributed to a highly positive experience.

When we look back at past vacation rentals, overall, we’ve had great experiences once that first week in Belize was behind us. Now, as we look to Fiji, we realize were in for a totally different way of living than we’ve experienced thus far in modern, abundant Australia.

These birds are very noisy wasting no time in announcing their arrival.

I added a measuring cup and measuring spoons to my next grocery list to include in the box of food items we’re accumulating to ship to Vanua Levu, Fiji.  People don’t bake while on vacation/holiday. We don’t expect there to be a muffin tin, baking papers or lemon extract for our Low Carb Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, one of which we have each night with dinner as the ultimate two carb treat providing us with that sense of a small bread item with the meal.

We won’t have a clothes dryer and will hang our clothes outside to dry as we’ve done in most parts of the world. Having a dryer here has been a rare treat. We won’t have a TV and unable to hook up our HDMI to watch our shows, nor will we be able to watch news which we often have on in the background on a staying-in day. 

The biggest challenge will be not having a car. Mario, the property manager, explained that navigating the steep hill to the property requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle which to rent for three months would be outrageously expensive. He further explained that a highly competent driver will be available for our all of needs at reasonable rates. 

With the fees we’ve paid for rental cars in the past, we can easily use a driver five times a week for less than we’ve paid for the rentals. Most likely, we’ll negotiate set fees with the driver (to include a tip) to various locations avoiding the necessity of discussing the rate each time we go out.

This appears to be an agave plant. Agave sugar was the rage a few years ago. But, now its been found to cause a higher spikes in blood sugar than high fructose corn syrup causing weight gain and inflammation.

Also included in Fiji is daily maid service which is a mixed bag for us. I like running around and tidying up. I don’t even mind cleaning and making the bed, tasks we both share. With daily maid service, each day, we’ll have to get out of the way for whatever time it takes for the maid to clean up. 

Since both of us arise early and are showered and dressed by 7:30, most likely we’ll arrange a set time making it easier for all of us. While living there, my household tasks will consist of cooking and laundry while Tom will continues to do dishes.

The remainder of our time will be spent doing what we love to do; posting here, sightseeing and taking photos, searching for future travels, shopping at local markets, walking the beach and enjoying the tropical climate and the beautiful surroundings. 

Wildflowers growing in the yard.

Some have mentioned, based on personal experience, that they don’t like Fiji mainly due to the poverty. We’d decided long ago to accept the reality of poverty we’ll see throughout the world. 

Although we don’t necessarily live in the poverty-stricken areas, we often shop in the same markets and make purchases from the same vegetable stands and from the same vendors utilizing the products and services offered by these hard-working locals.

Not every vacation home has all the amenities we’d chose in a perfect world. In essence, its the imperfections in the world that ultimately we find the most interesting and its our own imperfections within that world that we strive to improve as we adapt to yet another new way of life.

Photo from one year ago today, August 16, 2014:

Tom’s last dinner out in Paris ended with this banana split. While dining out during the month we spent between Paris and London, Tom ate whatever his heart desired. It wasn’t until we settled into our next vacation home in Maui, Hawaii in October 2014,  that I started cooking again and he joined me in my way of eating.  For the final expenses for our costly 16 nights in Paris, please click here.

There’s always an exception to the rule…I left out an important point in yesterday’s post…Making errors here…

Any comments on the name of these gorgeous lilac flowers?  Notice the blue center.  Wow!

Whatever plans we may make, whatever thoughts we may enter our minds and whatever experiences we may have, there’s always an “exception to the rule.”  The expression is actually “exception that proves the rule” as stated in the following quote:

“Use in English

Henry Watson Fowler‘s Modern English Usage identifies five ways in which the phrase is commonly used, here listed in order from most to least correct.

Original meaning

The phrase is derived from a legal principle of republican Rome: exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis (“the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted”), a concept first proposed by Cicero in his defence of Lucius Cornelius Balbus.[1] This means a stated exception implies the existence of a rule to which it is the exception. The second part of Cicero’s phrase, “in casibus non exceptis” or “in cases not excepted,” is almost always missing from modern uses of the statement that “the exception proves the rule,” which may contribute to frequent confusion and misuse of the phrase.”

A path to the beach in Kapaa.

Yesterday, after proofreading the post, Tom reminded me of something I’d left out of the post of major importance in regard to our experiences with obtaining visas which was an “exception to the rule.”  Now, bear with me if you aren’t interested in visas.  This is less of a story about visas and more about an “exception that proves the rule.”

After he read the entire post while instructing me to correct sentence structure, nonsensical use of words all the while fact checking dates and events, he adamantly stated I’d left out a very important aspect to the story.

A lagoon at the Kealia Beach in Kapaa.

In yesterday’s post I implied, or rather emphatically stated, that we either obtained visas at airports, ports or call or at a train station’s immigration desks or online from a company that provides them.  This was stated incorrectly. He caught it.

We had one entirely different experience shortly after we first left the US, ending up in the country of Belize, formerly known a British Honduras (reminiscent of what we learned in geography class in grade school).  That particular country, unlike most others, requires that tourists obtain a new (or renewed) visa every 30 days.

This playful dog was with a family loving his/her time at the beach.

We posted the hysterical (to us anyway) story about the cumbersome process in order to renew our visas once a month, which was required to be obtained in person.  For our long time readers, humor me for a moment while I explain this “exception to the rule.”

This pale man and woman laying in the sand and sea must be tourists with their pale skin. Hope they took precautions in the heat of the Hawaiian sun. 

In February, March and part of April 2013, we lived in Placencia, Belize on a peninsula, four hours south of the capitol of Belize City.  The little village of Independence was home of the immigration office located a long way across the bay to the mainland.  As a result, we had to travel on a water taxi, humorously called the “Hokey Pokey” in order to get there to apply for our visa extensions. 

We surmised this line in the Kapaa Path indicated the beginning and end of the Kealia Beach.

In the event you haven’t read that story and seen those funny photos, please click here for our original post from February 25, 2013.  In looking back, we still laugh over that unique experience.  It is those kinds of experiences that add a depth of purpose and meaning to our travels that no tourist attractions can possibly provide.

Shallow lagoon at Kealia Beach.

Anyway, the Belize story was yesterday’s exception to the rule.  How I could have failed to mention this escapes me.  Sure, I could have gone back and changed it to include it.  But, once I upload a post, I’m done, other than to correct any of Tom’s bossy mentions of my errors. 

At times, he sounds appalled by an error I’ve made and even throws a jab of “overly grumpy” at me.  I always say, “You write an essay every day of the week, every week of the year with photos and never make errors!”  Ha!  How about that!

The Kauai Path has numerous pavilions for the enjoyment of visitors.  Once one embarks on the long walk, there are not seating area.  For those, picnicking or preferring to sit, its best to stay in the area closest to the multiple parking lots.

Oh, yes, I make errors and, dear readers, Tom makes errors in failing to find some of my errors. How could we not make some errors.  At times, they consist of sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and line spacing. It goes with the territory or perhaps I should say, “Its the “exception that proves the rule.”

Happy Thursday.  Today is 5% off senior day at the Foodland.  Hummm…

Photo from one year ago today May 7, 2014:

Our time in Morocco was winding down as we were running out of photos ops when many of the shop owners and locals refused to allow us to take photos.  We took photos when the shop owners agreed.  On this date, we were only eight days from departure and we were excited to be on our way to Madeira, Portugal.  For details from that post, please click here.

Final day…Goodbye Belize…Thank you for a wonderful experience…

The sky and the sea offered us a pleasing goodbye this morning. 

Last night, full and content after a homemade meal, we lounged in the cozy living room of our villa with our two friends, Bill from Minnesota and Rene, a citizen of Belize, the general manager here at Laru Beya

While drinking local Belikin beer (I had tea) lively conversation ensued. It was fun learning more about Belize and our guests rounding out the last of new friendships made while here. Hopefully, in the future, our paths will cross again.

We’re relieved to be packed as of this morning, except for a few toiletries, for the morning.

All of our documents are in order. This morning we took care of our bill at the front desk, which was $502.50 for the two months. This includes tours, dinners in the restaurant, cocktails, car rental, beer purchased a few times at happy hour for US $2 each, laundry charges, and tips. Our winter heating bill in Minnesota was almost as much for one month.  We didn’t flinch. 

The simple beauty of the clouds and the sky left us breathless every morning. Today was no exception.

With everything packed a wave of excitement washed over me. Finally! I’ve been waiting for that feeling. Why not be excited with two months of cruising ahead of us, including 13 nights in Dubai? Why not start my usual “jumping up and down,” leaving behind any doubt or negative expectations?

Last night before bed at 11:00, we froze two-liter bottles with iced tea and one with water. With little time for breakfast tomorrow, we’ll stick to a piece of cheese along with a single cup of coffee each, hoping to keep the potty breaks to a minimum during the four-hour drive.  Last time, we only stopped once. 

This final day is ours to enjoy lounging by the pool, taking a final walk along the beach, saying our goodbyes to the staff, dining on tasty leftovers from last night, and finally letting our heads hit the pillows by 10:00 PM with pleasant dreams of our upcoming travels.

Shortly after arriving on the ship, we plan to take photos of our cabin prior to filling it with our stuff and, again a day later, after unpacking while Tom does his “magic” hiding the suitcases in the tiny space.  For the 11 days of our first leg, we’ll unpack two bags each, leaving the remainder untouched to be shipped on the 13th. 

We never tired of the view, especially when the clouds rolled by in many mornings.

Once we have signed up for access to the ship’s Internet service, we’ll be back here with photos and the story of the hopefully seamless transition from Placencia Belize to boarding the Carnival Liberty by tender in Belize City. 

Will we come back to Belize someday?  Perhaps. But, we have a lot of world to see ahead of us. We’ll carry memories of  Belize with us in our hearts and minds forever.

Stay tuned…

A glorious morning…Three days and counting…

Goodbye view! We’ll always remember or we can always check here to be reminded of how much we’ve enjoyed this resort and beach.

After a night of fitful sleep, I awoke at 4:44, wide awake, thoughts running through my mind.  “When does the “motor” stop running?” I asked myself, longing to go back to sleep.

 The gentle sound of the sea at night has been soothing.

Picking up my smartphone-with-no-contract from under my pillow while putting on my spectacles-for-old-age on my eyes, I continued reading the Kindle app where I left off last night. Mindless reading. Not necessarily worthy of mention.

This is the beach we walked almost every day in Belize. We’ll miss this.

Fortunately, it was mindless enough that I dozed off to sleep for yet another hour, dreaming about what I had read.  Oh, yes, clutter my mind with mindless drivel so I don’t go there…my own worrisome thoughts as we near the end of our time in Belize.

As I lay there the second time, contemplating arising, a refreshing thought hit my brain.  No worrisome thoughts are necessary!  I’m a girl (albeit an old girl) that will be cruising for the next two-plus months (except for the 13 nights in Dubai and two separate hotel nights in Barcelona between cruises) and I’ll be looking forward to the following:

1.  No bed to make
2.  No meals to cook or grocery shopping
3.  No dishes to wash
4.  No laundry (perhaps a little hand washing)
5.  No cleaning (only tidying. Tom picks up after himself)
6.  At least one fun dress-up night a week
7.  The ocean around us with breathtaking photo ops
8.  Socializing if we choose, or not
9.  Three pools at which to lounge
10. Movie theatres inside and outdoors (we love movies)
11. Live entertainment if we so choose
12. Educational seminars
13. Ports to visit
14. Tom can drink and I don’t have to drive home
15. Easy access to a fully-equipped fitness center

These are the key points that appeal to me. For Tom, he’s enjoys all the above, except for the health club.  These points drove my mind to a place of imagination.  Imagine, we were living somewhere and were preparing to go on six cruises, almost back to back.  I’d be jumping up and down with excitement.  Tom would be doing his usual smile, enthusiasm tempered with no apparent jumping up and down.

Caribbean Sea, thanks for sharing with us!

Can I let go of all of the things that can go wrong in the six hours from leaving here Tuesday morning at 8:00 am until we’re aboard the ship by approximately 2:00 PM? Only six hours, I keep reminding myself. Only six hours. 

“Get a grip!” I tell myself, “Get a grip!”

Last night out to dinner in Belize…Packing…Photos…

Hopefully, our new camera takes better night photos Tom standing outside Mango’s last night.
Last night we went to Mango’s a popular local bar and restaurant with our friend Bill from Minnesota. We headed to Maya Beach, a five-minute drive north of us. Bill has wheels. Tom, Bill, and I headed out around 6:00 PM.
Mango’s menu had several good options.

On the way, we stopped at a nearby grocery store to look for contact lens solutions. No such luck. With only five more nights until we board the Carnival Liberty in Belize City, I’ve decided that if I run out of solution, I’ll sleep in my contacts, using eye drops in the mornings.

 The backside of Mango’s menu.

Once aboard the ship, it should be easy to find the solution.  Most certainly, the tiny drugstore in Placencia village has the solution. As I mentioned earlier, paying the $25 round trip cab fare doesn’t make sense. If each time we run out of an item incurring additional expenses to procure it, the budget can get out of control. That’s a situation we’d like to avoid.

Over the two-plus months we’ve lived in Belize, we heard many comments about Mango’s reputation as a fun spot for locals to hang out at the bar and dine on delicious fresh food cooked to order by their locally famous chef, Rachel Welch

Look at the size of Tom’s Margarita.  Add that smile for a winning combo.  He had two of these monstrosities.

Yes, her name is Rachel Welch, as in the US actress.  Apparently, when people starting talking about her name, she had no clue who Rachel Welch was. By now, she is familiar with her namesake.  It has become a local point of humor. She’s a native of Belize with long dreadlocks and looks nothing like Rachel Welch. Regardless of whose name she similarly bears, Rachel is a great cook. 

Me and my club soda and lime.  Cocktails would be more fun!

I had one of the best meals I’d had while dining out while in Belize. Ordering the special of the day, an 8-ounce grass-fed burger the waitress looked at me in amazement. She looked inquisitively at me asking, “Do you know that’s a full half-pound of meat?”

I chuckled, “Yes, I do!  Bring it on!” She shook her head, surprised by my answer, wondering if, in fact, I’d eat the entire thing. I did.

The quaint restaurant was hopping.

The burger was stuffed and topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, and blue cheese (minus the bun) along with a generous portion of the most amazing sautéed vegetables. Bill and Tom had the same. The total bill for the night was Belize $132 with tip, which is US $66.

The place was hopping with lively conversation with a seemingly constant flow of customers. Looking around while sitting at our three-person table, Tom and I acknowledge that we would have enjoyed coming here on a regular basis. 

However, based on the prices, although reasonable, we could easily have spent US $70 a week with cab fare if we’d stopped in once a week, resulting in an added expense of approximately $800 for our time in Belize. With the added expense we incurred for rent when moving to LaruBeya on February 5, 2013, the money we’d lost on the last property, we had to forego unplanned expenses. 

Mango’s bar, a favorite haunt for locals.

It’s all part of the process. We never want to be in a position whereby we’re overrunning our budget having to “dip into” other resources. At that point, we’d be forced to “settle down” a decision we’d prefer not to make under duress if at all possible. 

Yesterday afternoon, we began the process of printing our boarding passes and cruise documents with the support of LaruBeya’s customer service desk who gladly agreed to print all of our documents on their printer.  Tom felt uncomfortable using our thermal paper portable printer for these documents, me less so. 

With the five sets of cruise documents printed and placed into our “Cruise Documents” manila envelope, kept in one of our two computer bags, we’re good to go. The documents for our upcoming 6th cruise in this time period, scheduled to sail on June 4th, are yet to be available online for printing with 63 days until the sailing. 

If we can’t get them printed prior to leaving here next Tuesday, we’ll print them in the computer center on one of the other cruises. Hopefully, in time the cruise lines will use electronic documents only. The unnecessary page after page of printed material is wasteful and pointless.  Surprisingly, Carnival only required a one-page boarding pass, in itself, progress. 

Now, back to packing.  Instead of packing all at once, we’re doing it in bite-sized pieces each day. This time it’s more complicated than it will be in the future.  After all, we’re packing three large suitcases with belongings we’re saying goodbye to for what may prove to be a very long time. 

As we’ve discovered how difficult it is to find contact lens solution, perhaps I wasn’t so nuts after all, packing a two year’s supply of products we frequently use. At the time, I thought the solution could easily be replaced. Not so the case.

We continue on in five more days.

Winding down at the local health club…Photos of a walk…

The walk under the trees from  Laru Beya to Roberts Grove Resort.

Within a day of getting situated at LaruBeya, we made our way along the beach to the property next door to us, Roberts Grove Resort, a kitschy, high energy, busy vacation spot entrenched in endless activities and jammed with guests.

One of the three pools along the walk to the health club at Robert’s Grove.

Over our two-plus months here, we’ve frequently meandered next door for dining in their three restaurants, but most of all, for me to use their air-conditioned health club. The fee for non-hotel guests is US $35 a month. At this time, LaruBeya doesn’t have a workout facility.

We duck under the bushes along the walk.

Small, the size of a standard hotel room, the health club is less of a “club” and more a fitness room with a stationary bike, elliptical, treadmill, a universal gym, and free weights. Definitely compact but exactly what I’ve needed to maintain my high-intensity interval training (HIIT) protocol, which I do faithfully twice a week for only 10 minutes each time. 

I use the stationary bike or the elliptical machine at the highest level of intensity, at intervals of 30 seconds for a total of 10 minutes every other time I work out.

This is not an easy 10 minutes. It’s 10 minutes of excruciating work. Ten minutes of groaning, grunting, sweating work. But, then, in 10 minutes, it’s over. Add to that, an effort to walk 10,000 steps per day (not always easy to do in this lazy lifestyle) and my fitness level is improving day by day.

The main pool at Robert’s Grove.

Living in Minnesota, I discovered HIIT last spring while reading the book, The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor I worked out five to six days a week for no less than one hour per day. Not surprisingly, I got into a monotonous routine achieving little results while barely maintaining my level of fitness.

This picture was taken this morning by one of the women I met in the workout room. 

Most of my life, I’ve worked out in a concerted effort to avert the many illnesses that ran rampant in my family history; heart disease, diabetes, joint and spine disorders, and in many cases, obesity. 

The wood sidewalk on the way to Robert’s Grove front desk where I pick up the key to the health club each time I work out.

Not entirely dodging the bullet, I’ve always felt that my exercise efforts paid off, coupled with tight controls on what I ate.  It was never fun and it was never easy. But I plodded along.

The walk along the main restaurant to the fitness room.

As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog, 20 months ago, both Tom and I drastically changed our diet to a renewed level of health and well being, that we’ve committed to maintaining for whatever time we are blessed to have left on this earth. He lost 45 pounds, was able to stop taking seven prescription pills per day, and continues to maintain his weight. (He’d better! His clothes won’t fit if he gains it back.  We’ve already replaced everything once with his weight loss).

The path continues…

It’s not always easy, especially avoiding all sugar, starch, and grains, but it’s rewarding figuring out meals that are both healthful and satisfying for both Tom and me. Tom is less strict than I, enjoying foods that would precipitate illness in me and as I’ve mentioned causing him no ill effects. 

Finally, the tiny workout room at Robert’s Grove, where I’ve worked out the past over two months.

During this morning’s workout, I met three other exercise enthusiasts, two women, and one man, all looking fit and healthy.  I had only encountered two men working out in all my prior sessions over the past two months.  With only one more workout before we leave Belize in six days, I’ll look forward to my workout facilities, aboard our upcoming six cruises over the next two months.

This is the tight interior of the workout room.  I use all of these machines at high levels (HIIT) for 10 minutes.

Working out around the world will continue, no matter where we may be.  If no facility is available, I’ll perform HIIT exercises inside or outdoors at our vacation home wherever that may be. 

Tom, much to my surprise continues to walk with me each day, claiming he’s doing it “for me.” 

For us, flexibility, being active, a healthy diet, some supplements, low stress, restful sleep, a harmonious life, mental challenges, including learning, searching, and discovering, surrounding ourselves with upbeat people, seems to have a profound effect on our health. Throw in a large dose of laughter on a continuing basis and we have our “prescription” for living a full and healthy life. 

Of course, there’s no guarantee for longevity or avoidance of illness.  But for us, it is a guarantee for happiness and well being, one day at a time.

Oh no, water trouble…

This morning, with another sunny day upon us, I took this photo of the various boats available for resort guests to use. They were moved near our veranda over the weekend to make room further down the beach for a wedding.

Late afternoon on Easter Sunday, a notice was delivered to our villa that there were issues with the water supply in Placencia.  The letter asked that we use as little water as possible stating the water wasn’t fit for consumption until further notice.

Oh no!  Not again!  Luckily, we could flush and shower!  That’s a huge relief. 

It was no fault of our resort, we were sympathetic to the difficulty this presented to the staff at LaruBeya with a full house over the busy spring break/Easter week. They dropped off one liter of bottled water to get us through. Last night we received two more liters. Rationing.

Three liters in two days. We usually consume two liters each, per day. It takes over one liter to fill the coffee pot with an equal amount for my tea. As of this morning, there still was no word as to the water being fit for consumption. Soon, we’ll head to the office to check on the availability of more bottled water and ask when the water would be potable. 

Easter is celebrated over a period of five days in Belize.  That time was yet to end, surely having an effect on the water service to the area running properly.

Oddly, we had three water experiences in the four months since we left the US on January 3, 2013:

1.  January 3, 2013, Celebrity Century:  The afternoon we boarded the ship, our cabin toilet overflowed pouring gallons of water all over the tiny bathroom floor Luckily, the rim in the doorway prevented the water from flowing into our cabin.  The toilet wouldn’t flush.  Maintenance was quick to respond making the repair.  With a weak sounding flush we were tentative about the toilet during the entire 15 day cruise as it “acted up” from time to time, no fault of ours.  Later, we heard about toilet issues on the news regarding the two Carnival cruises with sewage running down the hallways.  One week from today we’ll board the Carnival Liberty with a bit of trepidation, rightfully so.
2.  January 29, 2013:  the little beach house water issues (again a result of local water issues) resulting in our moving one week later to LaruBeya.
3.  March 31, 2013, Easter Sunday:  Toilet works (yeah!), shower works (don’t swallow the water) and don’t drink the water for two or more days, yet to be determined.

Without wheels, we can hardly go to a store to purchase water. Plus, we don’t want to pay as much as $20 plus a tip for a cab when at any moment, it could become safe to drink again. The two-mile walk in the heat to and from Seine Bight to buy water would be difficult while carrying jugs of water. We’re not that fit! We don’t want to ask for more water since we aren’t the only guests here. 

Not soda drinkers and now out of our Crystal Lite iced tea (no water to make it), I have yet to make my hot tea today, a morning ritual after downing my usual single cup of coffee. 

Using a touch of our remaining bottled water this morning to brush our teeth, rinse our toothbrushes, and take our vitamins, we used the balance to make a short pot of coffee.  At least the toilet flushes, we can shower and wash our hands.

This is our fate. The familiar taken-for-granted utilities of everyday life in the US are gone.  Last week, the electricity was out twice, each time for more than a few hours, again affecting the entire Placencia peninsula. The resort’s generators were fired up a few hours later until the service resumed, later in the day.

The cable TV goes out several times each day. Every Sunday morning for years, we’ve made an effort to be up and dressed in order to watch Tom’s favorite show, Sunday Morning. This Sunday the cable was out until the last 30 minutes of the show. In Africa, we won’t have any US shows, only reruns of such shows as the Flying Nun, I Love Lucy, and Hollywood Squares.  We’ll adapt.  

As I was writing this, as Tom was taking out the garbage, Rene the concerned and conscientious general manager, handed Tom four liters of water.   Earlier, I had gone to the office to gently request more, if it was available.  Elated, we’re satisfied that this will get us through today. 

Yesterday, I packed most of my clothes from the drawers and the closet.  Today, I’ll pack Tom’s clothes.  Our bags to be shipped to my sister in LA will be completely packed by Friday.  Tom suggested I include all of my high heeled shoes placing them into the bags-to-go.  They take up too much space anyway Perhaps, I’m getting too old for high heeled shoes. 

I’ll keep two pairs of heels, one black, one to match my fancy dress for formal nights on the various cruises.  I’ll keep my water shoes, boots for Africa, workout shoes, multiple pairs of comfy sandals, and white leather Keds, leaving a total of eight pairs to keep. (Remember, we don’t have a home to go back to repack for the next leg of our trip. That which we have with us).

Today, I feel a little anxious. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. But, old habits, die hard. Tom’s anxious too.  I can tell. He’s worried about our zillion pieces of luggage getting on the tender, out to the ship. I reassure him that soon, we’ll be much lighter. I chose not to worry about that part.   

Instead, my thoughts again swirl around the scary four-hour drive on the Hummingbird Highway. The van’s AC doesn’t reach the back seat and the windows don’t open. I was wrought with fear each time the driver passed a car on the narrow two-lane highway with poor visibility as he maneuvered the winding mountainous roads. The heat, the high-speed drive, the lack of airflow, the bouncy ride in the older van is the part I don’t like. It was a “white knuckle” drive for almost the entire four hours. I didn’t complain. I won’t complain this time either.

I’m running out of contact lens solution, placing a few drops as possible in each space in the case at night.  Unable to wash the case these past few days due to the potential for bacteria in the water, I’ve used bottled water placing the case in a mug in the microwave until boiling, letting it soak for a few hours.

The remaining solution must last until we get on the ship in seven days.  Surely, they’ll have a pricey little bottle I’ll happily buy, enough to last until April 13th, the day we arrive in Miami when we can restock at our planned trip to a nearby Walgreen or CVS pharmacy.

Challenges? Yes. In the realm of life itself, these events are insignificant and meaningless, especially when one looks back at a later time. Very small. But for now, we’ll allow ourselves a little worry and apprehension. Life is filled with a constant flow of inconveniences, annoyances, and apprehension. 

Having left our old lives behind for this year’s long journey surely doesn’t make us exempt from any of the trivialities of daily life.  In reality, we have upped our exposure with the vast opportunities for the “unknown” wherever we may travel.

The sense of relief at the other end is often comparable to making up with a loved one after a horrible disagreement. Its tender, its sweet and one appreciates having survived.  

Happy Easter! Let them eat cake…

Last year’s bunny rabbit cake, chocolate on the inside, fluffy white frosting and coconut on the outside.  The little ones are the baby bunnies of which there were six, for each of the grandchildren to take home.

Our old lives consisted of a series of cakes, gooey, fattening and mouth watering.  Not particularly skilled with small handiwork, the decorating was often uneven, messy and at times, laughable.

Oh, what a mess!  We should have turned the air conditioning on for me to make this cake
this morning.  As hard as I tried the decorate it, the Cool Whip slipped off the cake in the heat and humidity.  Hurriedly, I placed it in the fridge with the hope of“fixing” it when it hardens.  The Cool Whip we bought a few days ago must have been frozen and refrozen.  I defrosted it in the fridge yesterday but today it was runny withgobs of liquid at the bottom of the container.  Oh, well, another laughable cake that hopefully will taste great for our guests after tonight’s Easter dinner.

They were always made with love to please the palates of whomever would experience them, invariably to rave reviews in the flavor department amid chuckles on the actual décor.  The design attempt was always playful and at times clever but the execution less so.  This didn’t prevent Tom or any of our kids and grandkids from enjoying them any less.

      Each year on the 4th of July I made this flag cake white cake with Cool Whip, fresh strawberries and blueberries
With our new way of eating the days of baking cakes, pies and various confections has long since wafted away, leaving my love of baking in the dust.  I’ve discovered it wasn’t the eating of the cake that I missed but the preparation and subsequent somewhat braggadocio displaying of my most recent “prize.”

Every year at Easter I baked the bunny rabbit cake, chocolate on the inside, fluffy white frosting on the outside, all covered with coconut, comparable to a Hostess Snowball.  The cake was big enough for everyone to take home a substantial portion (our Tammy always took the tail) leaving us a generous piece to devour over a few days. 

In our old lives, I frequently made this ice cream cake for Tom and I during the summer.  We’d eat the entire thing in four nights!  Piglets.
In my old “low fat” wheat eating days, I’d splurge for a few days while Tom and I hovered over the remains after dinner, graciously deciding which of us should take the slightly larger piece.  I always insisted I had to “watch my figure’ and shoved the bigger piece at him. 
  Ah, once in awhile it was pie as opposed to a cake. This is an old recipe from Tom’s family for butterscotch pie.  Making the filling over the hot stove was challenging but making the meringue was a easy using 12 egg whites, sugar, 1 tsp of cream of tarter

In time, Tom packed on the pounds from my baking leaving us relatively cake-free in our new lives. I counted calories to keep my weight at bay (no  more!).  Since our new way of eating began, he’s lost the 45 pound of cake that had gone directly to his belly. 

Today, he’ll eat cake and again and I’ll send our guests home with a piece for later.  No, I won’t take a taste.  It’s not hard for me to resist anymore, feeling as well as I do. But, its fun to make it, fun to be a “cake voyeur” and fun to share it with others.

   No, I didn’t bake Tom’s retirement cake.  Raven, who worked at the Cub Foods store in Shorewood, Minnesota, made this cake merely with an idea and a drawing I’d given her.  Amazing, job!

Oh, here’s our menu for today, a real mish-mash utilizing foods easy to find here in Placencia Belize:

  • Homemade Crunchy Red, Green Cabbage & Carrot Salad 
  • Tomato, Cucumber and Feta Salad
  • Low Carb Zucchini Lasagna (will post recipe later if its good)
  • Sautéed Buttery Garlic Locally Caught Grouper (thanks Nancy & Roger!)
  • Mozzarella, from Caves Branch Cheese Factory in Belmopan, Belize, stuffed grass fed organic ground steak meatballs, topped with low carb marinara sauce and topped with fresh Parmesan cheese, also from Caves Branch
  • The above messy chocolate cherry cake, hopefully to be “repaired’ before serving.

So today, eat cake, eat Peeps, eat chocolate bunnies and have a wonderful Easter filled day with memory making events and love.  Tomorrow is another day.

No cooking for over two months, beginning in 11 days…

The sun reflecting on the sea created the white line of the horizon.

Something startling dawned on me yesterday as I responded to a sweet email message from my new friend Nancy, who left Placencia, Belize a week ago today. Gosh, I miss her. I wrote that when we’re leaving Belize on April 9th, we won’t be cooking another meal until after June 16 when we arrive in Tuscany, Italy.  We’ll be cruising most of the time.

It was around 7:30 am.

What an odd reality, especially for me, the proverbial foodie, ambitious cook, and hostess. It’s hard to wrap my brain around it. 

Cooking has always represented love to me; creating and preparing great recipes, considering the nuances of a loved one’s dietary needs and interests all the while presenting a mouth-watering array of selections at each meal.

We’ll miss this view that we awaken to each morning.

At the end of each day, I’ve padded around the kitchen, banging cabinet doors, leaving the refrigerator door open too long, dropping morsels of food on the floor, and more in my hair, enjoying every moment of the preparation of the next meal.

I’ve never tired of the grocery shopping, putting the groceries away, chopping and dicing, mixing and stirring, standing over the hot pan or oven to eventually plate the delectable meal, proudly handing it over to Tom to partake.

Yesterday afternoon, around 5:00 pm, there was another wedding here. We didn’t want to intrude, taking this photo from our veranda which was much further away than it appears.   

He seldom comments about the food.  Our routine is that I ask if he liked his dinner when he puts down his fork. He looks at me and smiles, “It was OK.”

If the sound of the “OK” is uplifting and cheerful, he liked it.  If the sound of the “OK” is a monotone, not so much.  I won’t make that dish for him again. Ah, the language of love. He never needs to criticize. He knows it may hurt my feelings. That, he wouldn’t do.

Yesterday, we hitched a ride to Placencia village for our final grocery shopping trip, taking a cab back when we were done.  I’d made a list, as usual, on the grocery app on my smartphone, reviewing it frequently as we hustle through the store. 

This view as well…

With the Easter holiday upon us, the shelves were well stocked.  There wasn’t an item I couldn’t find including fresh ricotta cheese for a new low carb zucchini recipe I’m making for Easter. I’ll post the menu tomorrow, the recipe after we tried it, to ensure it’s worth posting. You never know. Tom won’t eat zucchini, but perhaps our Easter dinner company (there will be four of us) will like it. I’ll test it on our guests.

After spending our usual $160 at the grocery store, plus another $15 at the vegetable stand and $15 for the cab, we found ourselves well stocked. With plans to dine out twice with new friends, tomorrow night and again next Tuesday, we’ll be left with nine more dinners to prepare. 

Then, I don’t cook again until June 17th, the day after we arrive in Tuscany, Italy, shopping within the first 24 hours of arrival. 

With the upcoming 13 days living in Dubai beginning May 21st, we may not cook.  Instead, we may choose to dine out in order to experience the vast array of extraordinary international cuisine within walking distance from our vacation property. 

It won’t be worth the expense of purchasing spices and other cooking supplies while in Dubai, the only “short stay” of under two months in our upcoming travels. Himalayan Salt, pure, unprocessed, chemical-free salt from the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, is the only seasoning that we pack in our bags, the only salt we use when cooking.

Letting go.  Letting go of people.  Letting go of “things.”  Letting go of that which we know and love is a part of our journey. It’s not all “vacation-like.”  It’s not all romance, sunrises, sunsets and smiling photos.  We miss our children and grandchildren, more than they will ever know. Do we even have a right to say we miss them?  We’re the ones that left. 

All the quotes espousing “living the dream,” all the life-enhancing seminars attended in one’s career, all the wish-fulfillment sayings one ponders in their lives have come to fruition for both of us.  So, we won’t cook. 

We’ve been stood up…Does it matter?…

The sun reflecting on the water this morning.
Every Wednesday morning our cab driver, Estevan, has arrived promptly at 9:00 am to take us to the village to do our grocery shopping, which includes a trip to the vegetable stand.

Arising this morning at 6:30, we hopped out of bed, anxious to start our and tidy up before the maids arrive. They’re scheduled to clean our villa Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 9:00 am. They seldom arrive within three to four hours of 9:00 am, always sweet and apologetic for the delay. We don’t mind. Its the Belizean way.    

Today, windy but cool and less humid.

Also, this morning, we’d invited a lovely couple we met, Lori and Larry, for coffee at 8 am, before we’d take off with Estevan at 9. They have been staying in one of the hotel rooms at LaruBeya and their coffee pot is not quite as good as ours. 

This is their last morning here before moving to the Singing Sands Resort where we’d had Valentine’s night dinner, located about five miles north in Maya Beach, owned by our neighboring resort, Robert’s Grove.  With Easter week and spring break upon us, most resorts are totally booked, including ours resulting in the necessity of Lori and Larry moving to Singing Sands.

Saturday night, we joined Lori and Larry for dinner in the village, riding along in their rented golf cart.  It was a pleasant evening of idle chatter with yet another friendly couple from Canada.  The dinner was mediocre with small portions and no alcohol service so we ended up at a cute little ice cream shop called Tutti Fruitti, a favorite for tourists and locals alike.  

Tutti Frutti: hand cranked - doesn't get any better!
The ice cream display at Tutti Fruitti, a quaint ice cream shop in the village of Placencia.
Looking at the colorful array of luscious flavors, I sighed, knowing this was not for me although I did get a fair share of “voyeur” action watching Tom savor his plastic cup of chocolate chip mint, a former favorite of mine.  Oh, well

Recently, Tom and I decided we’ll only write restaurant reviews here in our blog that are favorable. As we’ve come to know and appreciate the people of Belize, and due to our huge readership worldwide, we feel it is unfair to “bash” a local restaurant, which ultimately may cause them a loss of business. 

There are plenty of other candid reviews online that that tourist can read to form their personal decisions. Who knows? Perhaps it was an off night. Perhaps the chef was under the weather or perhaps, they were running out of food, resulting in the minuscule portions. Why complain? Why fill ourselves with negative energy when there is so much positivity surrounding us?

Another unusual piece of driftwood near our villa.

When this morning our new friends had overslept and didn’t arrive until 8:30 for coffee, with more apologies than necessary, the maids showed up at 8:32 and… Estevan stood us up for the first time as we waited around for an hour fully dressed and ready to go.  We looked at one another and shrugged. Oh well.
It just didn’t matter.

If our van driver doesn’t get us to our ship in time for departure, that would matter.  If we arrive at a vacation rental for which we’ve paid in advance and there’s a vacant lot at the address, that would matter.

But, the rest?  Nah.  We’ve chosen a path in our lives that is wrought with the potentiality of rampant human error, bad service, bad food, late schedules,  document issues, collapsed steps, and more.  How we handle these scenarios defines our depth and breadth of our experiences. 

We chose happiness. Tolerance is the price one pays for happiness. A small price to pay.