Blizzard coming…Two days and counting…

Photos from a walk on the beach at the Indian Ocean in Kenya in 2013. For more photos, please click here.

With my cardiology appointment tomorrow morning, I’m beginning to wonder if it could possibly be canceled due to the upcoming snowstorm kicking off this evening. 


If that’s the case, I will have to reschedule another appointment in Arizona where we’ll be for almost seven weeks. We won’t have enough time while we’re in Nevada for only 12 days with so much to do while there.


Yesterday, I hadn’t fully explained what I’d done as a volunteer at my grandkid’s school. As it turned out Camille wasn’t feeling well and was unable to attend so I went on her behalf on my own. I was there for 2¼ hours serving lunches to approximately half the charter school’s students.


My “job” consisted of assisting staff in counting numbers of fruit cups, bagged vegetables, sandwiches, either peanut butter, and jelly or chicken subs and placing them into easy-access containers. 


Once the kids began to arrive to collect their lunches, I provided them with an open brown bag ready to fill with their choices, also including milk containers, plastic wear, and napkins. Often, it required my assisting them in filling the bags and encouraging them to take the little bag of veggies which many tried to avoid.


The kids appeared at the service area based at pre-set times based on their grade. The older the kids, the more time-consuming it became. The two lovely staff members who worked at my side did most of the heavy lifting which greatly helped.


In most cases, the kids were funny and friendly. But what thrilled me the most was the fact that my three grandchildren, Maisie, Miles, and Madighan (who’d brought lunch from home) each stopped by to give their grandma a big hug. That made the experience all the more special.


Afterward, I headed back to the house to finish the day’s post, wrap a few gifts for the kids to open now (with their main gifts yet to arrive for Christmas), choose some clothing items out of my suitcase to bring to Goodwill, and take tags off casual clothing I’d purchased at TJ Maxx.


My original plan hadn’t been to purchase clothing at TJ Maxx but as it turned out when we stopped to purchase the carry-on suitcase, I found a number of items that work perfectly for me, mostly comfy tops and activewear pants and leggings.


It will be cool in Nevada. When we arrive on Thursday, it will be raining (very unusual) with a high of 52F (11C) with a low of 39F (3.9C) definitely cool weather for the wardrobe I already had in my luggage.


When we arrive at Apache Junction a few weeks from now, the weather will be comparable to Nevada. However, both areas are known for sunny days all winter with a strong possibility of warmer temperatures.


Here’s this morning’s news story about the upcoming weather in Minnesota over the next few days:

“Minnesota Weather: November Snow Storm Could Be Biggest In Decade

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A winter storm warning will go into effect for the Twin Cities area and most of southern and central Minnesota starting Tuesday night in what meteorologists say could be the biggest November snowstorm in nine years.


WCCO’s Chris Shaffer says the warning centers mainly on the southern third of the state, including the entire Twin Cities metro area — which the storm is expected to reach by 10 p.m. Snowfall totals in the metro could reach between 5 and 10 inches.


The snow will not impact either the morning or evening commutes Tuesday, but Wednesday morning will be a very different story. The snow will stack up in the overnight hours, but the massive system will clear out by lunchtime.


Heavy winds will bring the possibility of blowing snow on Minnesota roads Wednesday.


The timing couldn’t be much worse, either. AAA expects the second-highest number of travelers in a decade on Wednesday, with 1.6 million more expected this year than in 2018.


Shaffer said that might not be the end of the snow this week, either. Another winter storm could develop after Thanksgiving into the weekend, but that storm could bring snow, rain, or a mix. Thanksgiving’s highs will hover just around the freezing mark.


A Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman said the agency has more than 800 snowplows ready to go, with plenty of salt on hand as well.”


Tonight we’re going out to dinner with Greg, Camille, and the three grandchildren. Hopefully, the snow situation isn’t so awful that none of us can safely make it. We’ll have to play it by ear.


Today at 12:30 pm, I am picking up my friend Chere at her house and we’re driving to the Twin Cities Premium Outlet, located in Eagan, about a 35-minute drive. There’s a Tommy Hilfiger store there where I’ll purchase clothes for Tom. We’ve found the quality of this brand to last the longest over many other brands.


We’ll be back tomorrow, most likely after the cardiology appointment, providing the appointment isn’t canceled due to the weather conditions.


Thanks for stopping by.

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Photo from one year ago today, November 26, 2018:

Suckling lion cub as seen from the fence between Marloth Park and Kruger National Park. For more photos, please click here.

Traipsing around the town…Why visit Atenas?

This morning when I perused through our photos to see what to post, I stumbled across this funny photo showing my hands and camera in the rearview mirror while taking the photo of this rug vendor walking along the street.  Vendors don’t pester passersby, asking only once if interested.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Cattle sheltered under the shade of a massive tree during a sunny morning in Atenas.

Walking through the town of Atenas is quite entertaining.  The endless array of shops lining the streets, many worn and tattered on the exterior but bustling with energetic business on the interior, creating a fascinating peek into the daily lives of “Ticos,” the acceptable and unoffensive nickname for the locals.

Few tourists are to be found when walking through the town although it’s reported there are about 1500 expats in Atenas of its population of about 5000.

Although an older comment, this quote from a contributor on TripAdvisor provides a good explanation about Atenas.  We can’t imagine it’s changed much over the past six years. (See quote below this photo).

A sign announcing a the Patron Saint Festivities from October 14 through 24. 

Re: things to do around Atenas
Atenas is a quiet town, authentic Costa Rica, and it could be used as a home base.

Many “well to do” Ticos who work in San Jose choose to live there and commute. Kind of like folks living in CT and commuting to New York in the USA.
No crime to speak of, lots of farms, some great locally grown coffee. The area produces 5 different varieties, only 3 of which are exported (they save the best for local consumption)
Personally, I really dig it. I used to live in a very busy tourist town here, when I left the coast Atenas is the town I moved to for a time, I was looking for a town that had zero tourism and found it, I then bounced over to Grecia, but now live in between the 2.
IMO an interesting choice but a good one. No tourist crowds, down to earth pricing compared to towns more tourism oriented. Not much in the way of local attractions, Poas mentioned by ex-beachers is probably one of the closer ones, the metal church in Grecia is something to see and not far away, also there is a great little central park full of green parrots in the town center of Atenas. 
If you are looking for an authentic Costa Rican experience then it is a good choice.
Cheers”

This is our kind of town, quiet, interesting, friendly and filled with a variety of treasures that easily keep us entertained and engaged (including many birds) during this extended 113-night stay. 

In almost every case, when we chose an extended stay over 90 days, we encounter visa issues.  We’re inclined to avoid such extended stays when possible.  But, when we opt for a long stay, we do it for a reason, often to accommodate the next leg of our travels.

However, the time spent here has definitely been worth the hoopla of having to leave in nine days to fly to Nicaragua to get our passports stamped.  Besides, with our five-year anniversary on October 31st, we’ve usually done something special to celebrate…a mini vacation…a special night out, etc.  The two-night stay in Managua will fill the bill.

Don Juan Pharmacy where I purchased a bottle of contact lens solution for US $20, (CRC 11,401) usually priced at around US $7.95 (CRC 4,932).

We’ll be back at the villa on the 30th, most likely staying in and celebrating here at the villa on our actual anniversary date on October 31st.  It will be easy to celebrate in this outstanding property which far exceeds any five-star hotel we’ve seen to date. 

Would other travelers be content in this small town?  Yes, in many ways.  Its central location makes it a good base for sightseeing and if one enjoys traveling on mountainous roads the scenery is exceptional as we’ve shared in many posts. 

Atenas is conveniently located to the airport.  There are seven hotels listed in Atenas, at this link with more in surrounding areas, some modest and unassuming and others more deluxe (none are five-star rated).  Most are well under US $75 (CRC 42,752) per night. 

We’ve heard parrots may be seen in the trees in the park.  We’ve visited several times to no avail.  We’ll keep trying.

There are 39 restaurants listed in Atenas which may be found at this link.  These restaurants don’t work for my way of eating but for most, they’ll be ideal with fresh local ingredients and flavors commensurate with local tastes and customs.

Of course, for those interested in the privacy and convenience of a vacation/holiday villa, nothing can beat this exceptional home with three large bedrooms, each with an en-suite bath, plenty of storage space, ceiling fans and ultra comfortable beds and bedding.  We love the “screening room” with large flat screen TV, surround sound and comfortable seating.

The granite and stainless steel gourmet kitchen with a second “clean up” kitchen is over-the-top with every imaginable amenity and kitchen tool and gadget.   Well, I could go on and on but most of you have read our comments in past posts about how much we’ve loved this property and location.

Nothing is as pleasant as a blue sky during the rainy season.

The downsides are few in this area.  However, if dancing until dawn is your “thing” you may be better off staying in the “big city” of San Jose which has every type of nightlife one can imagine.

Although there are a number of clothing, souvenirs and “sports” shops in town in the area, if shopping is high on your list of priorities, a trip to San Jose would satisfy even the most enthusiastic shopper.  Atenas is definitely lacking in this area.

Also, for the longer stay, one must consider that its best to arrive in Costa Rica with every possible item you’ll need during your stay.  Prescriptions cannot be mailed into the country, although non-narcotic items can be purchased at most of the several pharmacies without a prescription.  Keep in mind that brand names and many common doses for many items are impossible to purchase.

There are many tall trees at the central park.

Shipping supplies into the country will result in long delays due to customs with high tariffs on items that may not be worth shipping into the country with the added expense.  From what we’ve  been able to perceived to date, Costa Rica is very protective as to what enters their country for a few primary reasons.

One, they don’t want any hazardous products entering their country possibly affecting the delicate ecological system.  Two, they prefer to sell locally grown and manufactured products offered by their own vendors.  Three, they are able to collect taxes on locally sold items.

As a result, expats, used to shopping on Amazon, for instance in their former lives, may become frustrated knowing they have to return to the US or their home country to load up on supplies. 

A water fountain at the park.

We particularly understand these restrictions when we realized I’d run out of my one of my regular prescriptions (I take three) while we were here when unable to purchase an alternative in any close proximity to the original dosage.  Thus, I am spreading what I have left, missing one pill every fourth day to no ill effects so far.  This plan will get me to Florida where my prescriptions will be waiting in our box of supplies at the hotel.

I could go on and on about Atenas and will add more information over our remaining days in Costa Rica until we depart on November 22nd. For those considering moving to Costa Rica, we’ll discuss more on this topic in future posts.

Have a lovely day! 

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Photo from one year ago today, October 19, 2016:

In Bali, a large visitor came to call after high tide during the night.  Check out those eyes!  For more photos, please click here.

Shopping online for Antarctica…Quite a challenge…

Ulysses dropped off these tangerines.  Tom will eat them when they ripen.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Tom took this beautiful photo in the early morning as the moon was setting.  Nice job!

Its been nagging at us to get to work to purchase the clothing we’ll need for the upcoming Antarctica cruise.  These days, neither of us cares to shop especially considering we’re stuck with whatever we buy.  Returning items that don’t fit aren’t an option due to our lifestyle.

On Friday, we talked on Skype to a lovely couple Tom had communicated with on CruiseCritic who’d already done the similar cruise.  Al and his wife Donna gave us a list of everything we’d need for the many hours we’ll spend outdoors on the Zodiak boats and standing on ice floes and ice-covered islands.

A quiet side street in the center of town in Atenas.

They suggested the following items:

1.  Waterproof pants
2.  Waterproof gloves with liners
3.  Warm hat
4.  Gator (neck wrap)
5.  Warm socks
6.  Ski goggles
7.  Sweatshirts
8.  Sweaters
9.  Trekking poles 
10. Waterproof backpack
11. Long underwear

There are numerous one-way streets in town.

The cruise line provides a waterproof parka for all guests and also boots all is which is sized upon boarding the ship.  We can keep the parkas but return the boots at the end of the cruise.

We’ve decided to ship all the cold weather clothing back to our mailing service while we’re in Buenos Aires.  They’ll hold these items in our large box until such time as we embark upon some adventures to the Arctic or other cold climates in years to come.

Kids playing at the central park.

We were grateful for Al and Donna’s suggestions.  They also mentioned long underwear but instead, I’m purchasing a tall-sized pair of yoga pants to wear under the waterproof pants.  This will keep me warm and be less bulky than wearing jeans underneath the pants. 

Tom never wore long underwear when working outdoors on the railroad for over 42 years even when temperatures were as low as forty degrees below zero.  He stayed comfortable with jeans on the bottom and sweatshirts and jacket on the top.  After all, we’re from Minnesota and know how to dress appropriately for cold weather.

As we walked through the park on a cloudy day.

The coldest periods in Antarctica will be the Zodiac boat rides out to the islands and ice floes due to the added windchill factor from the fast-moving boats.  Once we’re situated, we should be comfortable when the temperature is typically in the “freezing” range but not much less, based on the islands we’ll be visiting.  (We’ve looked up each stop along to way to confirm this fact).

Over the past few days, I finally got to work making my purchases. The only pair of women’s tall waterproof pants in my size (considering the bulk of the yoga pants underneath) was at Eddie Bauer at a cost of US $179 (CRC 102,853), much more than I wanted to spend. 

Grafitti on a wall on the way to town.

For the remainder of my items, I made most of my purchases at Amazon (here on our site at this link) with a few brand new labeled items on eBay.  Besides the cost of the pants, I spent an additional US $250 (CRC 143,650) for a grand total of US $429 (CRC 246,504). 

Had I made the purchases through Ponant’s online shop, I’d easily have spent over US $1,200 (CRC 689,520).  The prices for the remaining items which include all of the above-listed items except the poles and backpack (Tom is buying the backpack since we only need one) and the long underwear which I replaced with yoga pants I’ll keep on hand and wear in the future.

More graffiti on the wall.

Today, as I write this, Tom is clicking away on his computer and just purchased two much-needed dress shirts for the upcoming cruises.  Once I’m done here I’ll get to work with him to help him find his remaining items.

Hopefully, by the end of today, this task will be completed.  Once we receive the package with our clothing in Miami on November 22nd, we’ll take a photo of everything and post it here.

May your day be filled with accomplishments providing you with peace of mind.  That’s what we’re striving for!

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 Photo from one year ago today, October 10, 2016:

In Bali, while on a walk, we encountered this cow.  She said, “What are you looking at?”  “Your beauty and charm,” we replied.  She smiled and we continued on our way.  For more photos, please click here.

A stormy day…Power outages…Credit card frustration…

Across the Bay in Vancouver, we could see the Olympic Mountains.  At first, we thought this was a view of clouds, not mountains.

Yesterday morning, after our usual complimentary breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites country kitchen, we sat in the comfy lounge/living room to work on the day’s post.

With the storm raging outside, we were content to be indoors while the rain pelted against the windows.  It took a little longer than usual to upload the post due to our distraction over the weather, both curious to see what was transpiring on the news.

By 1:00 pm, I was out the door amid a few sprinkles with heavily overcast clouds for my first visit to a Target store for the first time in many years.  Tom desperately needed a new pair of black jeans and has always preferred the basic brand, Wrangler which Target sells.

His old pair of black jeans had developed white lines where they were folded, most likely due to over washing and years of use.  I asked him to come along with me to try them on and he agreed. But I knew how much he dislikes shopping and offered to go on my own.

When I arrived at the Ridgehaven Mall Target Store in Minnetonka, I could tell something was amiss.  Upon nearing the entrance I could tell the lights were out, surely caused by the storm. 

A tall totem pole in Victoria.

Entering the store an employee greeted me, offering a cart and explaining the power outage would prevent the sale of any refrigerated foods and that the current generator wasn’t sufficiently powerful to allow for ample lighting, especially toward the back of the store.

Well, the men’s jeans are located in the back of the store.  Bound and determined to find Tom the black jeans I headed toward the department, my little LED flashlight in hand.  From a lack of recent use, the battery was dying providing only a little light.

Luckily, a helpful employee offered to assist me in finding the correct size in near total darkness.  Alas, we were in luck and found Tom’s oddball size, 36/30 (short for a guy at 6′ feet tall).  I was thrilled, to say the least.  I had little interest in returning to the store on another day.

After rolling the cart around the dimly lit store, I managed to find a few toiletry items, two large handled insulated mugs (our two such mugs desperately needed to be replaced) and a big glass Ball jar to hold our iced tea. (I wasn’t about to drink one more glass made in that toxic plastic bottle Tom had been using in our hotel room).

When I went to check out, my Visa credit card was declined.  There was no reason why this should happen.  I used a different card but felt frustrated.  Immediately upon returning to the red rental SUV, I called the number on the back of the card only to be told, my shopping in the USA was suspect. 

“Was the card stolen?” they asked. Ha!  That’s ironic.  Here I’m using a US credit card in the US and its use is suspect.  Then, they asked for a phone number to verify my identity when their “caller ID” showed my new SIM card number which they didn’t recognize according to my record. 

Pond view from the moving vehicle.

The only number they had in their system was my old cell phone number from years ago.  I guess I never bothered to update it using our Skype phone number in Nevada. 

When I tried to give the rep that number, oh, she didn’t like that.  When I reminded her to look up my account and our world travel with charges from many countries, in addition to many years of flawless payments paying it off each month, she reconsidered, especially when I asked to speak to a supervisor.

In moments, I answered her identity-verifying-questions correctly, she apologized and released the card for use. I supposed I understand they’re trying to prevent theft of the card but it was annoying none-the-less.

A wild deer grazing in a park.

Leaving the Target parking lot I headed to the Payless Shoe Store in the same outdoor mall only to discover a handwritten sign on the door that read, “Closed due to the power outage.”  I returned to the SUV and was back on the road again, this time to return to Macy’s for their huge sale.

As we take every possible moment of free time to shop to replace our old and worn clothing, a trip back to Macy’s was on the agenda for me.  I’d already purchased enough for Tom and a few items for me but now it was my turn to finish it up..

Within an hour, including time in the fitting room, I was done.  I’d purchased six items, valued at $397 for a paltry $94 considering all the discounts the store was offering.  One item was $79 for which I paid $20.  Wow!  With a sale like that, I was actually enjoying the shopping and loved every item I’d selected.

Historic house in Victoria.

Now, minus a few other items, we’re almost done shopping. What a relief!  Starting fresh with new items feels rewarding and elicits more enthusiasm than one might experience by “adding” to a wardrobe, as opposed to “replacing” a worn wardrobe.

Back at the hotel, I raved to Tom about my deals.  He smiled, happy that I’d enjoyed the bargains but in his usual manner had little interest in seeing what I’d purchased.  I suppose for some it’s a “guy thing.”  For others, gender is of little significance in determining who’s interested and who’s not, concerning their beloved partner’s wardrobe.

A short time after I returned to the hotel it was time to meet TJ, Sarah, Jayden and Nik for dinner next door at Grizzly’s.  We had a great dinner together amid idle chatter among the six of us.  We lingered at the table for quite awhile and then, they were on their way after goodbye hugs all around.  Another good family gets together!

Hilltop view of Victoria, British Columbia.

Last night, I began preparing today’s post when we brought our laptops down to the hotel’s living room while watching the Tony Awards on the big screen TV (larger than the TV in our suite). 

As tired as I was, it made no sense to wait to prepare a post in the morning when I’d have grandson Miles with me for most of the day, picking him up at 8:00 am this morning in time to return to the hotel for the breakfast which ends at 9:30 am.

I haven’t decided what he and I will do tomorrow but I’m sure once we chat in the car we’ll come up with a good plan.  Whatever we do, Miles and I will have a good time.  Tom will be gone part of the day to attend a railroad association meeting, returning later in the day.

That’s it for today, folks.  Finally, I’m close to wrapping up the photos from Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia and, I apologize for not taking many photos so far here in Minnesota.  Soon, I’ll be out of photos and will have to get the “show on the road” sharing new and interesting photos of Minnesota.  Humm…maybe that’s what Miles and I can do tomorrow, weather permitting.

Have a good day! 

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Photo from one year ago today, June 12, 2016:

Ants carrying off a dead gecko in Bali. For more photos, please click here.

A great day with a great new friend in Lahaina, Maui…A very scary event on the returning tender…

Yesterday, it was cloudy with a bit of drizzle as Helen and I wandered about Lahaina Maui but weather didn’t hamper the quality of the day.

While situated in the Diamond Lounge preparing yesterday’s post, new friend Helen popped in to say hello.  We discussed the idea of heading to Lahaina on our own leaving Tom behind.  

Craftspeople are often seen working with a variety of wood commonly found in the Hawaiian island.

Tom had no interest in shopping nor walking through Lahaina one more time after we’d visited the popular tourist town on five or more previous visits.  I was thrilled at the prospect of leisurely strolling through the pretty town perhaps doing a little shopping along the way.

It had been a long time since I’d gone shopping with a friend and was excited by the idea especially when there was an “outlet mall” several blocks from the port.  The ship was anchored in the bay requiring tender boat rides to the shore.

Banyan trees in the local park in Lahaina.

Helen stopped by our cabin at 2:00 pm when I was ready to go with a shopping bag, camera, wallet and a few incidentals figuring we’d only be gone until 4:00 pm or so.  The line for the tender moved quickly and by 2:30 pm we were ashore.

The popular tourist town was rife with cruise passengers shopping, dining and reveling in the sights.

After browsing many shops looking for trinkets for the grandchildren Helen and I decided to make the several block hike to the outlet mall especially when we heard there was a GAP store. I hadn’t shopped in a GAP store in almost five years.  Tom and I both needed updates to our tee shirt inventory when many had become worn and tattered.

An old hotel in Lahaina.

It was a long walk to the outlet mall which was very different from other outlet malls I’d visited years ago in Minnesota.  But, many of the familiar stores were available and after so long, it was fun to see them once again.

I purchased 12 items for a total of US $106, mainly tee shirts for each of us and three nightshirts for me.  The three nightshirts I had remaining were practically threadbare after years of wear.

Last time we visited Lahaina in 2014, we also took photos of this art store.

As it started to sprinkle we began the return walk to the port, hoping to get aboard a tender before a downpour.  After we arrived at the port and a 20-minute wait we were aboard the tender. 

Lahaina is often packed with tourists.  This was our fifth visit to this Maui town since the onset of our travels four and a half years ago; twice by ship, three times by car when we lived in Maui for six weeks in 2014.

This particular ship uses their own lifeboats as tenders to ferry passengers back and forth from the ship to the port of call when the port is inadequate for docking.  In most cases, the ride from the ship to the land takes less than 20 minutes but boarding and disembarking can take anywhere from 10 to 20 additional minutes, at most.

It was apparent the seas were rough shortly before 5:00 pm on a cloudy windy day.  We bobbed side to side as the tender headed toward the ship at full throttle. 

Interesting piece of art in a local gallery.

At first, none of the passengers appeared worried or concerned during the rough seas until we reached the boarding and disembarking platform, a section of the ship that drops down to create a flat ramp which usually provides relatively easy access for most passengers.

Historic Hawaiian property under construction in Lahaina.

There were a few passengers using canes and walkers, generally, not precipitating a problem with staff available to assist.  As the boat pulled up to the staging area, the driver was unable to steady the boat sufficiently to pull close enough to tie the boat’s mooring lines to the platform.

As the rough seas escalated, the boat teetered to and fro with such force, it was impossible to gain a firm enough hold with the thick lines to allow a single passenger to disembark.  At that point, the conversation stopped as many passengers had worried and frightened looks on their face.

We’d taken a photo of this tiny theater in Lahaina three years ago.

The boat banged against the metal platform with such force that some of the exterior lights and accouterments were smashed as we banged harder and harder against the platform.  Suddenly, a woman screamed who’d banged her head against the window, asking if she was bleeding. 

I was seated at the window and felt myself flinching and moving to the left each time the boat fiercely banged against the metal structure.  As a boater for most of my adult life, I wasn’t frightened at all, nor was Helen. 

It was fun to go to a Gap outlet store for the first time in almost five years.  I purchased a number of tee shirts for both of us.

Many passengers were terrified and anxious to get off the boat.  It took no less than 30 minutes for the boat to become stabilized enough to allow one passenger at a time to disembark.  One mentioned her fear of having a heart attack based on her level of sheer terror.

In all, it was about an hour from the time the tender reached the ship’s platform until we were all able to disembark.  Throughout the remainder of the evening, a number of passengers chatted about the incident shocked by the experience.

Of course, I’d hoped to make a video of the incident but it was impossible, based on where I was seated.  I attempted to get the camera out of the shopping bag but was unable to hold on well enough to do a video or even take a single photo.


View of our ship from the sidewalk in Lahaina.

During the upheaval, my paper GAP shopping bag had torn and the new items began to spill to the floor. Helen and I scurried to gather the items which she placed into her backpack. 

By the time I entered the cabin it was already close to 6:30 pm.  Surely Tom was at happy hour with our friends on the Promenade deck and waiting for me to arrive.  I hurried to get myself changed and ready for the evening, able to get out the door by 6:45 pm.

Busy day in Lahaina.

The evening was pleasant as usual with my dinner diligently attended to by Belik, the head waiter and my personal food restriction coordinator, who fusses over me more than any other such staff member on any of our past 17 cruises. 

We made a point of mentioning his fine and attentive service to Captain Rick and have already written a glowing review on a mid-cruise survey.  When the cruise ends on May 15th, in six days, we’ll rave more about Belik on the online survey that follows each cruise, which Tom diligently prepares in every case.

A man caught a good sized fish from the shore.

Today, we’re in Honolulu with no intention of getting off the ship.  After many prior visits and tours, we’re content to stay aboard and see the matinee movie in the Palace Theatre at 1:30 pm.

Tonight, we joining another lovely couple for a second “dinner date,” Leann and Chuck, for what surely will prove to be yet another divine evening.  We’re heading back out to sea at 6:00 for the final leg of our cruise to Seattle, Washington. 

Be well.

_______________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, May 9, 2016:

We miss the amazing food prepared by two cooks named Ketut in Bali which included Blue Fin tuna made with a tomato, lemongrass sauce, spicy vegetables with a side of coleslaw.  For more details, please click here.

Yesterday’s trip to a big shopping mall…12 days and counting… No, we’re not staying in the US after the upcoming family visit…

Sign on beach walkway called the Marine Parade from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach.

Our intention had been to visit the huge Westfield Warringah Mall today instead of yesterday but when we heard it could storm today, we decided to go on Sunday. As it turned out, it stormed last night with the first thunder and lightening we’d seen since our arrival.  Today, it’s cool and windy.

Gorgeous beach scenes on a sunny day.

Bob was visiting a friend at a nursing home suggesting he drop us off at the mall since it was on his way.  We left at about 11:30 am after I’d finished and uploaded the post for the day.  It was a warm sunny day perfect for yet another outing.

Although we haven’t had a rental car during this period, with Bob’s kindly assistance and generosity and, the ease of using local transportation, it’s worked out quite well.

Shelly Beach at a distance.

Having loaded plenty of money on two Opal cards (prepaid public transportation cards which we swipe when getting on and off buses and once upon boarding the ferry) using public transportation has been a breeze.  

It was a warm sunny day.  Sunbathers and swimmers lounged on the pristine beach.

Only on a few occasions, a long walk was required to get to and from a bus stop but we haven’t minded.  We’ve seldom had to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes for the next bus or ferry.  It a relatively flawless system.

The huge mall was a combination of outdoor and indoor shops one of which was the first large Target store we’ve seen since Hawaii in 2014.  We wandered through the aisles in awe of all the merchandise.  

Succulents grow prolifically in many parts of Australia.

Will we experience culture shock when we return to Minnesota in 46 days where an “abundance of everything” is rampant in stores, restaurants, and other public points of interest?    By the time we arrive,  we’ll have been gone 1668 days. We anticipate it will be different than we recall.

Australians waste no time taking advantage of sunny days at the beach.

Why did we go to a mall?  We both needed some shirts for the upcoming 33 nights of cruising (with a two-day gap between our arrival in Seattle and boarding the cruise to Alaska when we’ll stay in a hotel in Vancouver).

Recently we’d checked out a number of shops in Manly but were unable to find a single item under AU $125, US $93.79.  It made no sense for us to spend that kind of money on shirts when we’ve found that more expensive items don’t seem to last any longer than the less costly items after repeated washings.

Havana, a restaurant in Manly Beach.

After wandering through many shops, I was able to find several tops while Tom only purchased three short sleeved shirts.  He’s not keen on the new style of men’s shirts with roll-up sleeves.  Why?  I don’t know.  But, he wears what he likes not what I like.  When all is said and done, he looks great when we go out to dinner and on cruises.

Great people watching and strolling along the outdoor mall, the Corso in Manly, a walk we’ve enjoyed several times.  However, we’d never been able to find any clothes at reasonable prices in this popular tourist area.

While in the US we’ll review all of our clothing and decide what we’ll need to add before leaving, shopping at our former favorite stores.  (If they’re still there).

Speaking of the US visit, we’ve been asked many times if we plan to stay after the nine-week family visit.  No, we do not.  We’re booked well into 2019 with future plans to book well beyond that year. 

A P&O ship, a popular British cruise line, leaving Sydney.

It’s not possible to book holidays homes, flights and cruises further than two years out.  As a result, we continue to add to our itinerary as opportunities become available coupled with our desires as what countries we’d like to visit in years to come. 

Lots of activity near one the Manly ferry boats that head back and forth to Circular Quay in Sydney many times per day.

The world’s a big place.  We’ll never run out of ideas.  We’ll only run out of good health and the required “oomph” to continue on at some point.  In the interim, the love of this life and our enthusiasm has yet to wane in any manner.  Even with the health setbacks I’ve had this past year, we’re still confident and excited for the future.

Be well and take care of YOU!

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Photo from one year ago today, April 10, 2016:

One year ago while living in New Zealand we encountered these cattle crossing the road.  The farmer offered to stop the flow to let us drive by but we insisted they carry on, enjoying the view.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Fabulous time out and about…Many new acquaintances…More new photos…


Upon entering the Market @ Franklin we immediately met Natalie who’s  natural bath, skincare and beauty line, Naturally Spellbound, is made with all organic products and essential oils.  Natalie can be reached here

After yesterday’s post discussing our occasional lack of motivation to get out and the fact that it was a blissfully sunny day, we decided to “hit the road.”  With our vacation/holiday home located on a long highway with few outlets to other areas and, not feeling up to spending a few hours in the car, we headed back to Franklin.

The Market @ Franklin is held the last Sunday of every month in the historic Palais Theatre in Franklin, Huon Valley, Tasmania.  This attractive venue may be rented for weddings, celebrations and other events.

A few days ago we’d spent the afternoon at the Australia Day celebrations in Franklin, Tasmania.  Grace, the alpaca products vendor, directed us to the brick building and on Main Street where on the last Sunday of every month, a comprehensive farmers type market is held.  She encouraged us to attend when sensing we’d certainly get a kick out of it.

As we moseyed along the rows of displays, this display caught our eye, especially after we were offered a sample.

Grace was right.  No more than moments after entering the door of the historic Palais Theatre we encountered Natalia who not only represents her fine products (photo shown here) but also is the organizer of the year round event as shown here:

“The Market @ Franklin



The Market @ Franklin in the Palais Theatre  on the last Sunday of the month all year round. Come along and enjoy a great market day out, and inspect the wares, crafts and fresh produce of Huon Valley’s locals.



The Huon Valley Growers and Makers Market features 30+ stalls showcasing and selling the best produce and craft of the Huon Valley including seasonal fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, jams, chutney, honey, cakes, pies and olive oil, plants, seedlings and herbs, ceramic wooden and textile crafts, jewellery and alpaca products. 
For stall enquires please contact Natalie via email: natalie@simplyspellbound.com.au


After tasting the naturally “smoked” sea salt, we couldn’t resist making a purchase from Smoked Salt Tasmania.


We chatted with Natalie for quite awhile, taking photos of her beautiful display and reveling over this wonderful area of the Huon Valley.  As is the case of many we’ve met in Tasmania their roots started in one of the big cities in Australia’s mainland.

Much to our pleasure we engaged in a lengthy conversation with Miffy and Don, the owners and creators of this unique product, Smoked Salt Tasmania. For more information on the most delicious salt on the planet, please click here. They may also be reached at Facebook: Smoked Salt Tasmania. What a delightful couple!

Many have shared that they’d longed for the less hectic lifestyle of big city life to eventually relocate to Tasmania for a simpler, easy paced life on this remote island.  Less than a two hour flight to Sydney and more to other big cities, many locals have found the move to Tasmania fulfilling in many ways.


There were a few home grown vegetables left but we had all we needed.  We arrived at the market around noon after we’d uploaded the day’s post.

After we left Natalie, we headed toward the many other booths/displays offering a wide array of fine products.  The vendors couldn’t have been more friendly.  Once again, we ran into alpaca farmer and product maker Grace.  Seeing her once again was comparable to running into an longtime friend.




Cute, homemade little felt booties. 


As we continued on our way, it didn’t take long to meet the delightful couple, Don and Miffy, who innovated the delicious, Smoked Salt Tasmania, a bag of which we couldn’t resist purchasing at a cost of AU $15, US $11.34. 


All the displays were set up beautifully and overall, prices were reasonable.


Naturally aged in barrels (without the use any of the popular toxic smoke seasoning or other chemicals) the smoked salt is made using natural sea salt harvested in Tasmania.  The sample we were offered on a little slip of paper sent our taste buds on a frenzy.  I couldn’t wait to get back “home” to use the salt in some way for our dinner.  It was indeed a flavor bursting treat.


More items included in Julia’s display.

Not only did the product excite us but after our lengthy conversation with Don and Miffy they invited us to visit them at their home in Snug.  We just may do that during our remaining month in this area of Tasmania.

After viewing all the remaining displays, drooling over a few food offerings, we headed back outdoors where additional items were offered for sale.  With too many photos for one day’s post, we’ll include the remaining photos in tomorrow’s post.


The homemade cupcakes looked delicious.

Rushing a little today with Marguerite, our cleaner, arriving shortly, we’ll wrap it up for today and see you tomorrow with more.  Cloudy and rainy, we’re heading out for our weekly grocery shopping in Huonville in order to be out of her way while she cleans.

Have a peaceful and yet meaningful day!

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Photo from one year ago today, January 30, 2016:

Many signs and names of towns are were based on the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, the Māori who’s language has had official language status, with the right to use it in legal settings such as in court, since the Maori Language Act 1987. There are around 70,000 native speakers of Maori out of a population of over 500,000 Māori people, with 161,000 of the country’s 4 million residents claiming conversational ability in Māori.” For more photos please click here.

Centre City Shopping Centre…Shopping in New Plymouth…

Tom, outside the shopping mall.

Visiting shopping malls throughout the world has proved rather interesting.  Varying in size and appearance from tiny strip malls in Diani Beach, Kenya manned with armed military checking our driver’s vehicle for bombs and frisking us upon entering the shops, to massive luxurious indoor multi level modern malls such as in Dubai, United Arabic Emirates.

As we entered the mall, it was evident we were in a modern facility.

A nail salon, Regal Beauty Therapist.


We had few expectations for one of the two indoor malls in New Plymouth, the Centre City Shopping Centre. With the relatively small population in the area, under 80K, and the fact that this is a casual area we were surprised by the wide array of shops in the modern building. 

Serve yourself frozen yogurt with a separate unlocked display for easy access toppings.

Recently dining in two of the most “fancy” restaurants in town, like us, most were dressed in khaki pants, jeans, nice shorts and shirts.  Some women were wearing casual cotton type skirts and casual dresses. 

Seating in the food court.

As a result  of the casual nature of this area, the shops in the Centre City Shopping Centre mall located in downtown New Plymouth include many stores selling blue jeans to dressy casual, some cruise wear, mostly women’s clothing of all sizes with fewer men’s stores.

A book store.

The styles that appeal to my needs seemed few but I had little chance to really check as we breezed through the mall. I haven’t been shopping for clothing in a large mall since our three day trip to Boston 17 months ago, to visit family when our Atlantic crossing cruise ended. I have no idea as to current styles, colors, pant/jean design for adult women these days.

Coffee shop with baked goods.

With limited clothing in our possession (as shown in our photos as we wear the same clothing over and over again) neutral is the best way to go.  I only own two items with patterns, both of which are getting ready to toss, as they’ve worn out beyond repair.

More desserts and baked goods.

As we wandered the multiple level mall, I checked the stores to see if there were any where I’d be able to find a few new items for the upcoming seven booked cruises. 

 Candy in NZ is referred to as “lollie.”  This Lollie Cake Slice looks good. 

While in Hawaii, a year ago, I’d purchased a few new tops for the then upcoming cruise from Hawaii to Sydney.  As mentioned above, a few of those items already show signs of wear and tear making them unsuitable for my taste.

A general merchandise shop.

I made an error in purchasing the remainder of the items in Hawaii that wrinkle so badly they’re unwearable unless ironed each time they’re worn. Next time I shop, I’ll choose wrinkle free items.

Shoes in many styles.

As my eyes darted back and forth from store to store, I could tell Tom was antsy although he made every effort to allow me to peruse.  There’s no way I’d be able to shop with him along, sensing how annoyed he gets in a mall.

Jeans store and chain haircutting shop Tom visited in Australia.

Thus, we decided that during our last month here, he’ll drop me off at the mall, picking me up a few hours later.  The time constraint won’t bother me and hopefully, I’ll be able to find a few suitable items. 

Few men’s shops compared to women’s options.

In no time at all, I suggested we leave. We walked each of the three levels, checked out the food court, stopped in the pharmacy, looked at the “sweets” in a variety of shops as shown in photos (purchasing none) and it was time to be on our way.

Farmers is a popular larger department store.  Prices seem reasonable at most of the stores. 

Each time we’re out, when we return “home” we feel happy to have explored and happy to have embraced the way of life in our current location. New Zealand is special. The journey continues…

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Photo from one year ago today, February 24, 2015:

We were intrigued by the oblong shape of this palm tree trunk at Kukuiolono Park which we visited one year ago.  For more details and photos, please click here.

A diverse and unexpected day out and about…Problems with men’s shirts…Many new photos coming!

It was easy to find the shopping center in Cairns with only a few turn required off the main highway into town.

Yesterday morning, after uploading the post and in an impromptu manner I suggested to Tom that we head to Cairns, the closest big city for a visit to the largest shopping mall within hundreds of miles/kilometers.

We’ve giggled when we’ve seen signs mentioning Australia’s biggest “stocktake” sales, an expression that is definitely Aussie.

We each needed a few items, none of which we’d ever be able to find in the next many months after leaving Australia.  We’d never be able to find our short list in Fiji and receiving packages is the island is outrageous after estimates we received from our mailing service.

Tom needed a new white dress shirt for formal nights on the many upcoming cruises.  Often there are as many as three formal nights on a 14 day cruise.  On longer cruises there may be as many as five formal nights.

In the US, a similar store is called “Bed, Bath and Beyond.”

We’ve learned that we both can get by dressing “business casual,” him in a long sleeved white dress shirt (no tie or jacket) with black pants with his more dressy Cole Haan shoes and me, in a long skirt with any of my tops belted or with a scarf and a bit of costume jewelry. 


Tom asked me not to take any photos of him wearing this same shirt from the previous day.  But, I do laundry every day and he wore this shirt again while trying to wear out a few shirts before tackling the less used stack of tee shirts tucked away in his luggage.  He eyeballed the old fashioned candy in this store, not buying a thing.

Once we’re seated at a shared table with eight to twelve other cruise passengers and have an opportunity to explain our limited luggage, they rest assured we aren’t totally uncouth as they dine with us many wearing their evening gowns and tuxedos. 


After all these cruises (11 so far) we don’t feel uncomfortable in our more casual attire.  However, having a few items to enhance our attire is crucial to feeling acceptably dressed.  For Tom, a proper fitting white shirt is essential.

We noticed a number of these tax preparer kiosks at the shopping malls.  The Australian tax year end June 30th and returns are filed by October 31st.  If a taxpayers uses a registered tax preparer they may apply for an extension which it appears most of these people have done.

The problem with that is the fact that now that his weight is down within 10 pounds of his lowest, once aboard the ship he’s unable to resist the carbs and sugary foods and he usually starts gaining weight on the very first day, no matter how much we walk the decks.  Within a few days his white dress shirt begins to fit tighter and tighter each day until finally it doesn’t fit at all.

The mall is as huge as any we’d visited in the US (except for the Mall of America in Minnesota) including a multiplex movie theatre, food court and undercover parking ramp, referred to as a “car park” in Australia, not a parking lot.

Oh sure, he could curtail his eating.  But, if my way of eating wasn’t necessary for my survival, I’d have no will power on a cruise ship.  Maintaining one’s weight isn’t enough of a motivator to avoid those tempting desserts, appetizers, poolside burgers and fries and ice cream cones in unlimited amounts. 

In my old life, before eating this way, I’d never been on a cruise ship to experience the temptations of unlimited appealing foods.  Although I’ve always been relatively slim, I was always “watching” my weight, occasionally falling prey to sweet temptations. 

Peering over a railing to view a huge book sale.

Now, its no temptation at all when it comes to my health.  It isn’t even about self control.  Its about quality of life.  We wouldn’t be traveling the world if I started eating one of my past favorites, doughnuts, as shown in one of today’s photos.  Doughnuts, pastries, cookies, cakes, pies…in my old life I loved it all frequently baking and struggling to resist excess amounts.

For a Tuesday midday, the mall was very busy as shown here.

Back to the white shirt.  The one Tom had been wearing on the the past few cruises no longer works.  If he lost the last 10 pounds, it would fit perfectly.  It will never work one more time on a cruise. 

The problem in finding him a long sleeved dress shirt is a problem many men have today which may include a smaller neck size, shoulder width and sleeve length and yet possessing a bit of fluff around the middle. 

Before we know it we’ll be in Thailand to experience authentic Thai food firsthand.

I’m not complaining about the fluff.  My only concern is in regard to how that fluff may effect health in the long run.  The same goes for women.  Had I not been on this strict way of eating, I’d certainly have fallen into that same belly fat condition.  Its an age related dilemma that few are exempt from after 60 years of age.

Tom is always shocked by the prices at McDonald’s but its been a long time since he made a purchase.  Price have changed over these past years since we’ve been gone from the US.

Yesterday around noon, when we entered the lavish shopping mall in Cairns,  Cairns Central, finding a new shirt for Tom was highest on our priority list.  We’d seen online that Myer, a department store where we’d most likely find a wide selection of dress shirts.

After perusing many racks and noticing that most of the white dress shirts were marked “slim fit” we were ready to walk out until finally a lovely sales women was available to assist us.  In Australia, sizing is different than we were used to and honestly, we weren’t sure what size would actually work with his shorter sleeve length and smaller shoulder measurements.

Considering that a double sized burger is AUD $9.70, the US price of $7.21 doesn’t seem that high to me.  Is that higher than in the US?

The trusty saleswoman shipped out a tape measure, quickly checked his measurements arriving at a size that would work for him all the way around.  I was skeptical but kept my mouth shut as he tried on a shirt in the Aussie size of 43/86.  Go figure.  We’d never have figured this out on our own.

Hungry Jack in Australia is actually the same as Burger King in the US.

In a matter of minutes, we were walking out the door with a perfectly well fitted shirt with room for “cruise food,” in a carefree fabric that was considered wrinkle free and yet has a quality designer feel. 

At a meager USD $37.08, AUD $49.95, for the fine shirt, we were couldn’t have been more pleased.  He’d easily have been willing to pay twice as much for such a great fit. I suggested he purchase two identical shirts at this price but, weight restrictions always prevail in any of our purchase decisions.

These prices appear considerably less than McDonalds.

At that point we were off to look for a the few items on my short list…how shall I diplomatically say “undergarments,” simply put, panties.  (What a weird word to put in writing!)  I only share this tidbit of information as part of our travel experience.

This donut shop reminded us of Dunkin’ Donuts in the US.

Us girls (and guys) always have a preference for a particular fabric and style.  The last time I purchased panties (ouch) was when Okee Dokee and I headed to Komatipoort in South Africa to a women’s shop in February 2014.  Click here to see that post. 

I purchased eight pairs in South Africa in varying fabrics, none of which will survive one more washing.  The bra I purchased at that time, later ended in a donation pile when it itched while wearing.  Tom suggested commando.  I declined.  No women my age goes commando unless they’ve “forgotten” to include these when dressing.  I’m not there yet!

My mouth watered checking out these donuts.  Tom had little interest in them since he doesn’t like the frosted or sugar coated types.  I’d have eaten any of these in my old life.

As we perused the shops in the vast mall we stumbled upon a shop, Body Cairns, that caught my eye.  My eyes flitted over the wide array of workout wear and also, a table of panties not unlike one would find in a Victoria’s Secret store in the US.  I purchased five pairs and, two Capri length workout/leggings that are perfect for everyday wear as well as trips to the fitness center. 

Here’s Tom’s new long sleeved white dress shirt for which he paid USD $37.08, AUD $49.95.

After paying USD $59.31, AUD $79.90 for all seven items I was pleasantly surprised by the quality, selection and prices, although a little confused by the sizing.  A friendly young women assisted me encouraging me to try on the leggings which I did, happy with the fit.

Purchases completed, we decided to wander through the remainder of the mall, checking out the stores and the food court.  Although I encouraged Tom to have lunch, there was nothing he felt like ordering after his big breakfast at home.  In any case, it was fun to see the shops and fast food restaurants popular in Australia.

Here are my seven item priced at AUD $79.90, USD $59.31.

After leaving the mall, we drove around Cairns on a self directed sightseeing tour for the remainder of the afternoon enjoying every moment even on the cloudy day.  We’ll share more photos over the next few days including a totally unexpected and somewhat peculiar find in tomorrow’s post.

Thanks to so many of our reader friends who wrote to us via comments and email to wish us well with the good health reports.  Your interest in our well being means the world to us!
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Photo from one year ago today,  July 22, 2014:

One year ago, we posted photos of the morphology of the banana tree with progressives photos of a bloom .  Please click here to see these photos.

Thinking, worrying, dreaming about traveling to Africa in less than 6 weeks…

Borrowed Diani Beach photo.  Soon we’ll be able to post our own photos.

In a short time, we’ll be living in Diani Beach, Kenya for three months. It’s hard to believe. All of my life, I’ve dreamed of going to Africa. Tom, not so much. He’s coming around.

As we’ve traveled, anticipating the next location brings many questions to mind, some nagging at us from time to time. I’ve hesitated to do the research again until now, as I did a year and a half ago while planning our travels before leaving the US. At that point, we didn’t necessarily know all of the points of consideration, as we do now.

This could be any of the many photos we took on the beach in Belize.  As we’ve traveled, we’ve found that each beach has its own breathtaking beauty, memorable in its own way.

As soon as my laptop fired up this morning, my fingers flew across the keyboard looking for answers to questions that popped into my head during the night last night when I awoke t 3:00 am, finally able to fall back asleep an hour later with a list embedded into my brain in which to address this morning.

All of the answers to our questions were answered via many websites I found this morning, many more than available when researching 18 months ago.

1.  How is taxi service in the area? The cost? We’ve heard that tourists should avoid driving around Kenya, using taxis and drivers for safety reasons.
2.  Is there a reasonably good sized grocery store nearby?
3.  What is the currency exchange? Is there a nearby bank in order to exchange currency?
4.  Are there restaurants nearby? With it so far to restaurant while in Boveglio, it would be ideal to dine out a few times a week. 
5.  Is there a nearby barbershop for Tom? Although I didn’t find a specific barber, there were references to a few local barbers near the three shopping malls.
6.  Review the facts about our rental property laundry, kitchen facilities, amenities. Now that we have a better handle on what we do and don’t need, its interesting to be reminded of what will be available.

Reviewing these and other links put our minds at ease for the time being. Trying hard not to project or anticipate in excess, in order to live in “the moment.” 

Although I do have a little angst about the 24 hour time period that it will take to travel to Mombasa, Kenya, arriving at 3:00 am, taking a cab for the one hour drive to the house. 

Staying up all night isn’t as easy as it was when we were younger nor is sleeping on a plane. Perhaps, if I “reframe” the scenario in my mind that it is “only one full day” out of a life full of many other pleasurable days with many more to come.